Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Clean Bill of Health

Today my orthopedist examined my hip to determine whether I have any signs of the avascular necrosis (bone death) that develops in 30% of femoral neck fractures when blood flow doesn't adequately reach the ball of the femur. Avascular necrosis strikes within two years of an initial fracture and results in the need for a total hip replacement. So, I'm displaying no symptoms, feeling great and emerge from the visit with a clean bill of health. The doctor doesn't want to see me again. We're leaving the screws in, we're leaving the rods in, I have no more surgeries on the horizon.

I can't tell you how relieved I am to know that a total hip replacement is not in my immediate future! With no physical restrictions and no need for physical therapy, it's time to train and rebuild my strength, endurance and flexibility like an athlete and not like a patient.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Coffeeneuring Challenge: Cup #1

Seven coffee shops in six weekends. What a great idea; just as the season is winding down, Mary G. threw down the gauntlet on her Chasing Mailboxes blog by creating the Coffeeneuring Challenge to keep the motivation high and infuse local economies with a little rando-currency. The only trouble is, this year, I'm gearing up as most folks are down shifting. Nonetheless, I love the idea, so with one part of my mind focussed on the elusive R-12, the other part can ease up and smell the coffee.

My Coffeeneuring Odyssey began today with a quick solo spin over to New Paltz to the Mudd Puddle Cafe.

26 miles, one steaming espresso. Now I'm off to the Woodstock Film Festival, gotta run.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Catskill Climbfest 200K Permanent (Ride and Storm Damage Report)

At 6:45 Sunday morning, Don N. and Andrey B. and I met up at the Rosendale Stewarts to make final preparations for our 200K ride through the Catskill mountains as the sun peaked its head out of the trees and cast a golden hue all around. As a newly-minted PBP ancien, we were eager to hear all of Andrey's tales of adventure. Also, since the three of us have not ridden as a group in the year since my accident, it was a great reunion to ride again on this route we all love so much. It was just like old times.

We had to make some route adjustments in the wake of Hurricane Irene and were not completely sure that all the roads we planned to ride on were open, but we were hopeful and enthusiastic on this most gorgeous fall day. The climb out of Rosendale through back roads to the Ashokan Reservoir appeared unscarred by the storm and the view across the water to the Catskills high peaks made us eager to get up into the mountains, yet we had to make our first detour on the way to Palenville to avoid a washed out bridge.

After taking a few photos, we were back on the road and arrived at the first control for coffee and muffins within minutes. We found that there was a lane closed for repairs half way up the savage 23A climb, but other than a general lack of fitness, I did not suffer anything unusual. It was on the descent into Phoenicia, though, that the storm devastation became more obvious. Pavement was ripped up, trees upended along the river, debris caught high in tree branches and several bridges were washed out.

We knew from our research that Frost Valley-Oliverea Road was out of the question. It will be some time before the 50 ft. chasm is healed. This video below will help you understand why we didn't just walk around. More coverage of the damage on that road can also be found here.

So instead of heading north from Phoenicia to Frost Valley, we road south towards the Ashokan reservoir and Peekamoose Road, which we would need to take west rather than east as we normally do on this permanent. This would involve a climb that none of us will soon forget. As we began our long ascent, we began to notice more severe damage along the riverbank beside the road and after a few miles, came upon a sign that read "Road Closed: Local Traffic Only." The sign was a bit ominous, as we were riding on the only route open to the town of Grahamsville and the 4th control, yet we pushed on. Each time we rounded a turn we'd see orange traffic pylons ahead and imagined them marking the "end of the road" for our permanent. Soon it was upon us, the dreaded 25% climb known locally as "the wall."

At the top of the climb, we paused for a brief moment and after acknowledging that the major climbing was behind us, headed off to the Grahamsville Deli and lunch.  What lay ahead looked more like the result of a bombing campaign than a rain storm.

With both sides of the road crumbling off into the abyss, we could see why the road was labelled "closed." While down to one lane in many spots, we were able to navigate all the way through the valley, though, and did not need to turn back.

In Grahamsvile, we ordered chicken salad sandwiches all around and after a brief rest departed for the loveliest stretch of road I've been on in some time. The road that hugs the east side of the Rondout reservoir (55A) is shaded, beautifully maintained and smooth as ice. To make matters even better, most of the final 35 miles were downhill making our return quite enjoyable indeed. After about 10 hours of riding, we landed back in Rosendale safe and sound. It was great to ride with Andrey and Don again after so many months and it was great to see that while the storm brought destruction to much of the region, the process of rebuilding and recovery was in evidence everywhere.

Next up: the Vermont Fall Classic 200K out of Burlington on October 1. Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Catskill Climbfest 200K Permanent: On Track

After getting a little help from my pal Andrey, doing some on-line research and making a call to the Grahamsville Deli, I've determined that road conditions over the second half of the Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent route look passable or re-routable. Not only that, but the weather forecast is just about  ideal with clear skies and temperatures in only the mid 60s. What a relief!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Surveying the Devastation - Catskill Climbfest 200K Pre-ride

After doing some online research and hearing quite a bit about the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Irene in the Catskills, I thought it wise to actually previewing the Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent route before riding it next weekend with a few friends. I set out early this morning after filling up my new Prius for the first time at the first control and was astounded to pay only $29.00 for a full tank of gas. Yowser!

The first leg of the route was just fine. It was not until a few miles before the first control that a downed bridge made the route completely impassable. I found the asphalt surface of the small bridge totally washed away with only a one-foot wide wall remaining along the north side. I looked good and hard at this and decided that it probably wouldn't be the best idea to cross it with a bike on my shoulder and cleats on my feet. Luckily, I located a circuitous alternate road that only adds about four miles onto the route to cross that 15 feet of stream.

Back on the route, I found the climb up 23A uneventful, but halfway up the road is reduced to one lane for storm repairs but is currently passable and not congested. The descent into Phoenicia revealed increasing damage as I neared the town itself. The floodwaters have receded and the river now rages at a less destructive level, but storm damage and high water marks can be seen in all directions. The town of Phoenicia itself did not look as ruined as I feared and most of the shops appeared open for business, including the popular favorites Sweet Sue's and Mama's Boy.

Route 28 was also reduced to one lane and I watched a large crew working hard in the light rain with all sorts of heavy equipment to repair the 1/2 of the road that was swept off by the (misnamed) Esopus Creek. Driving north, I passed a convoy of eight or nine US military transport vehicles bearing heavy excavating equipment and noticed more of the raw destructive power of water all around me. I noted the "Road Closed: Local Traffic Only" sign as I turned off Rt. 28 onto Oliverea-Frost Valley Rd., but pushed on with some hope that perhaps the roadway was either just a mess or passable by bike further up.

This road and the surrounding land must have been an outrageous torrent of river last week judging from the damage. I crossed an emergency bridge constructed within the past week to span the gap of about 30 feet of air and noticed that Oliverea Maple, a local sugar shack, and it's adjoining residential property were completely destroyed and condemned. The sign next to the front door revealed that not all of he owner's humor had been washed away with the floodwaters.

Just beyond this home, I noticed bright yellow sheriff's tape crossing the roadway barring any further progress. I parked and walked about 75 yards to see a gaping hole in what was once a smooth road. Like much of the Catskills, Oliverea-Frost Valley Rd is the only road that cuts through this clove (or valley). Rerouting is going to be a challenge. With a little luck, though, a reroute through a different clove should be possible. I'll have to check out the passage on that one tomorrow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My One-Year Anniversary D2R2 Adventure

When I determined that I'd be unable to participate in PBP this year, I thought about which other epic events I might use as goals in my recovery and return to endurance cycling and the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee (D2R2) immediately popped into my mind. D2R2 has grabbed my attention for several years, but it's never quite fit into my schedule. The Rapha Continental boys had even made a film of their effort. It's a ride no self-respecting endurance cyclist should miss. This year, the ride fell on the day following the one-year anniversary of my accident and we had no family or work commitments on the calendar. With 412 preregistered riders on the 180K loop, it was going to be a fun day.

I rolled into Deerfield, MA around 9:00 pm on Friday and quickly set up my trusty old 2-person tent and attempted to sleep. With a 6:00 am rollout and a full day of climbing ahead of me, I wanted to snag as much rest as possible. Needless to say, I tossed and turned more than I would have liked before nodding off. I woke up with the dawn, changed into my cycling kit and rolled over to the food tent to savor some amazing organic French roast Peruvian coffee (these are some classy folks) and half a bagel with cream cheese. Riders who left before 6:30 were offered the opportunity to record frame numbers and rollout times in a spiral notebook at the start to time their rides. The sound of bagpipes echoed throughout the valley as a young guy played to send off riders in time trial rather than mass start fashion into the glow of the foggy sunrise. 

D2R2 is truly a unique event. It has a reported 16,500 feet of climbing over 180K, 70% of which are comprised of dirt carriage roads. Knowing that before starting was helpful, but nothing could really prepare me for the experience of riding on dirt roads at such steep and relentless pitches. D2R2 included (by far) the most challenging single day of cycling terrain I've experienced. Much of the challenge involved marshaling technical climbing and descending skills more common to mountain biking than the road riding I'm used to. Luckily, I was rolling on a set of 30mm Grand Bois tires inflated to only 75 lbs which helped stabilize my bike and dampen vibrations considerably. Every now and then, we'd cross a few miles of pavement which simply felt like riding on butter. In fact, I wasn't at all bothered by the extra bonus miles I picked up on paved roads along the way. It was like recharging.

The rest stops were welcome ports along to the way with cold five-gallon bottles of water propped on ingenious gravity dispensers. I filled up at each chance I got and took advantage of the Hammer Heed powder in various flavors along the way. The first check point at mile 36 was placed at the top of a serious slog of a climb which made it all that much sweeter. My pace on the ride was much slower than I expected. Going into the ride, I thought: 110 miles + 16,500 feet of climbing = 8-10 hours of riding. When I looked at the clock after the first hour and saw that I'd only ridden 12 miles, I realized this was going to be a LONG day.

All in all, D2R2 lived up to my expectations. I'm pleased that my legs and lungs held up and, while my time was nothing like I'd hoped it would be, I did not roll in DFL. Luckily the weather held for most of the event, but a light drizzle started to fall in my last hour or so of riding. Tragically, Hurricane Irene followed close behind and many of the roads we enjoyed on Saturday no longer even EXIST after the rains and floods of Sunday's storm. Reports of several feet of mud on the field we used for camping and eating and complete roads such as Green River Road eroding away to nothing are enough to send shivers down your spine. Ride founder and organizer Sandy W. worked with BikeReg to set up the Green River Village Restoration Fund. Riders and interested parties can donate to recovery efforts online until September 11, 2011. Money will be used to rebuild the lovely community park we used as a lunch stop on the banks of the Green River. Fortunately, the historic covered bridge (above) is still standing but the park next door is toast.

Next up on my calendar: a local 200K permanent in September and then the VT Fall Classic 200K brevet out of Burlington in early October which includes plenty of hard pack dirt roads. I may have developed the passion for a new flavor of suffering. Perhaps this will also be the year to snag that elusive R-12 award after all.