Saturday, December 29, 2012

Festive 500: Flat Tire Edition (Stage 5)

Flat tires are never welcome events, but changing a tire in 25F weather is particularly unpleasant. In this case, my old Michelin tire was so rigid and hard to remove from the rim that I thought two tire levers might not be enough to get the job done. A task that typically takes 5-10 minutes stretched to 30. On the positive side, not one but two people stopped to see if I needed a hand, one going so far as inviting me to use his workshop. I have decided to immediately stop denigrating all people who drive pick-up trucks: some are apparently quite nice.

Riding rarely feels quite as good as it does immediately after fixing a flat and this was certainly the case today. I took off with renewed spring in my legs and enjoyed the crisp morning . . . until it began to snow. I like snow just as much as the next guy, but on a bike, it's not my favorite condition. As snow began to blanket the roads, I was unable to spot the black ice and slush I'd been avoiding up to that point. As a result, my speed fell even lower, yet I was glad to log another 38 miles towards the Festive 500 before the full strength of the storm arrived.

Today's ride: 61km
Festive 500 total: 310km

Festive 500: Black Ice Edition (Stage 4)

Clearly, the person who thinks this bridge path has been cleared of snow is not a cyclist. This was just one of the many spots I had to portage my bike on today's Festive 500 ride as a result of leftover snow and ice along the route. Honestly, the black ice on several of the roadways was far more concerning, but I kept an eagle eye on the surfaces and made out just fine. The defensive cycling routine wreaked havoc on my time today, though.

I decided to ride my commuter bike today since it holds up better against road salt than my Indy Fab. I do wish I could run wider tires, if not studded snows on this baby, but sadly, there is barely clearance for the 25mm Conti GP4000s I have on there now.

I designed a lovely route today that kept me on main roads with generally large, clear shoulders and gave me the pleasure of a double river crossing: once on the Rhinecliff Bridge (above) and the other on the Mid-Hudson Bridge (top) since the Walkway Over the Hudson was closed due to icy conditions. With just three days remaining and 252 kilometers to ride, it's time to get busy!

Today's ride: 101km.
Festive 500 total: 248km.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Festive 500: Storm Headed this Way (Stage 3)

Another quick, cold ride today between packing one set of house guests off and driving to the airport to fetch another. Did I mention a storm is coming? Looks like tomorrow may be a wash for outdoor riding, with snow and freezing rain forecast for much of the day. Sure hope I can get a 200K in some day this week, but it's looking more challenging with temps just barely breaking the freezing mark each day.

On the positive side, I was much warmer today wearing my toasty Ibex wool neck gaiter. Next time, though, I really do think I need to break out the balaclava.

Today's ride: 54km.
Festive 500 total: 147km.

The Festive 500: Christmas Edition (Stage 2)

The roads were a bit slick this morning after a light snow fell over night creating a White Christmas for families throughout the Hudson Valley. By time I got out, the snows had mostly melted, but the salt and sand remained on road surfaces, so I chose to ride my commuter rather than my nicer steel bike

At just 27kms, today's ride was a small drop in the #festive500 bucket. Tomorrow does not look a whole lot better as I need to shoot down to Laguardia Airport in the middle of the day to pick up my daughter's friend who will be staying with us for the week. So with two days behind me, I'm 94kms closer to my goal.

Today's ride: 27km.
Festive 500 total: 94km.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Rapha Festive 500: At Dawn We Ride! (Stage 1)

It's that time of year again. As the days slowly lengthen and 2013 peeks it's head around the corner, it's time to begin base training in earnest and the Rapha Festive 500 is just the incentive I need to get off the couch and ride, ride, ride.

This morning, I set an alarm and suited up while enjoying a hot cup of coffee and rolled out just as the sun was rising over the Hudson River for my first Festive 500 ride of the season. Let me tell you, I was wearing at least one layer too few this morning. 20F is COLD! But as they say, if it were easy, it wouldn't be a challenge, now would it?

Last year was a hoot. One of ten final contestants in the final Facebook vote for a new Trek Madone, it was thrilling to the final end. Needless to say, I did not wind up with the Trek, but it was exciting nonetheless. This year, the Festive 500 has over 12,000 starters. It will be interesting to see how many make it to the finish.

Participants log rides on Strava, which is a bit more complex for me than I'd like since my Garmin eTrex Vista HCx is not one of the supported devices and I need to upload my tracks to ridewithgps before uploading them to Strava. Despite the added steps, it's actually pretty fun to follow the thousands of other riders from around the world enjoying this "festive" challenge.

It was a modest start with only 67km logged on day one. Too much going on today for a longer ride. The local forecast has a likely snow storm making it's way into the Hudson Valley by Thursday, so this could be interesting. It's not too late to sign on. Complete rules can be found here.

Today's ride: 67km.
Festive 500 total: 67km.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goals 2013

As we creep toward the end times, I designed a training plan for 2013 on the off chance that the world does not cease to exist tomorrow. If 2011 was my year of RECOVERY and 2012 my year of REDEMPTION, then 2013 will be my year of RETURN; return to the level conditioning I had achieved before the accident. It's been a long haul, but with each ride, I feel more like my old self on the bike. What I need now is some fine tuning and consistent rebuilding. To achieve these goals, I'll need to improve flexibility, strength and endurance.

Here are my specific goals for 2013:
  1. Ride a full SR series.
  2. Complete the Gold Rush Randonnee 1200.
  3. Achieve a strong finish in the Saratoga 12-hour race. It would be great to exceed my personal record of 226 miles.
  4. Rebuild my general strength and conditioning (core, upper body, legs)
  5. Practice yoga regularly to improve flexibility.
  6. Earn a second R-12 medal.
It's time to build a base. To that end, I plan to throw myself into the Rapha Festive 500 Challenge next week by logging over 500 kilometers between Christmas and New Year's Eve. More information at this link.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Considering LEL in 2013? Just do it!

Mike D. heading towards Scotland

As one of the thirteen US riders who participated in London-Edinburgh-London in 2009, I've been asked with increasing frequency whether I'd recommend this next edition to others. In a word, YES! Run, don't walk, to the LEL website to learn more about the registration and preparation process for 2013. You will not regret it.

Completing LEL is one of my greatest achievements on or off the bike. In 2009, my third year of randonneuring, I'd never ridden an event over 600K. At 1400K, LEL was a significant step forward, but the slightly more generous time allowances, general camaraderie and outstanding level of event support made the ride seem remarkably manageable. Sure, there were some hills involved and several sections were fairly grueling, but overall the ride was a blast. Below is a short segment of the official LEL 2009 film by the irrepressible British rando-filmmaker Damon P to give you a little flavor of the magic. You can see me at 1:30 wearing a black jersey climbing Yad Moss.

How does one prepare for LEL? 1) Ride lots of miles, 2) Buy quality rain gear, 3) Ride more miles and 4) Set up your bike for comfort. The most challenging aspect of my ride involved travel logistics. Getting to LEL is not harder than most other events, but I had never flown with a bicycle before, nor had I traveled by public transit in a foreign city while schlepping a 50 lb. bike case. For those of you experienced with these joys, it will not be a problem.

There is no better, more cost-effective or enjoyable way to see Britain. If it were not for the cost of airfare and incidentals, I'd sign on again. All randonneurs should ride this event once in their careers.  I'll be riding a domestic 1200K in 2013 and saving my nickels for PBP 2015. To learn more about my experiences on LEL 2009, read my ride report.

Any questions? Just post them below in the comments section.

Up next: honing my goals for 2013.

Monday, December 3, 2012

And finally, the R-12 medal!

Some goals are harder than others to realize, which makes their realization that much sweeter. Such was the case with the R-12. The RUSA R-12 medal is awarded to those cyclists who ride at least one 200K event in each of twelve sequential months. Miss one and you start over again. The R-12 is not an easy award to capture and at times it seemed like the cycling was the least of my concerns. Life just gets in the way. Between family and work commitments and errant snowstorms, this can be one challenging accomplishment. Between July 2011 and June 2012, though, I put my mind to it with a near single-minded determination. The R-12 was the perfect compliment to my return to randonneuring. I began with the NYC 200K, my maiden post-recovery brevet and ended with the Central NY 400K and the Westfield 600K, my two longest rides since the accident. In between is a tale filled with joy and redemption. The individual ride reports (below) bring me right back. Just yesterday, after two of the busiest months I can recall, I rode a 200K permanent with a few friends. Who knows, maybe a second R-12 is in the offing?













Saturday, November 24, 2012

Terrific Meet-up With MG and Felkerino: DC in Style

DC-rando celebrities Felkerino and MG.
One of my favorite things about the randonneuring life, other than the hills, headwinds and rain, is all of the cool people you meet along the way. Having crossed paths with DC rando superstars and bloggers extraordinaire MG and Felkerino repeatedly in the cyber-randoneuring world, it was fantastic to arrange a spontaneous meet-up during my brief stay in DC this holiday week. I've long been a fan of The Daily Randonneur and chasing mailboxes d.c blogs and have participated in MG's famed Coffeeneuring Challenge for the past two years, but with the exception of the time these two came upon my lifeless body being loaded into an ambulance back in 2010, we have not yet had the pleasure of spending time together in person.

On a Thanksgiving visit to my sister-in-law's home in Maryland this week, I learned that my brother-in-law has long wanted to try out a door-to-door commute via bicycle along the famed C & O Canal towpath all the way into his office on Capital Hill, so it did not take much coaxing to arrange the details. On Black Friday, we arose before dawn and hit the road as the light filtered in through the trees that surround his suburban home in Germantown, MD.

Historic lockhouses line the canal. 

Like many long distance canals in the US, the C & O was the result of a (in this case George Washington's) great and audacious idea that was sadly eclipsed by the arrival of the railroads before it was ever able to fully function as a commercial conduit linking the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River. Fallow for many years, the C & O towpath has been restored and repurposed as a fabulous recreational environment that runs all the way from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. Note to self: it's even possible to ride all the way from DC to Pittsburgh, PA by connecting with the Great Allegheny Passage trail. This time around, my brother-in-law and I took in 25 miles of the park from Riley's Lock to Georgetown.

This year's Coffeeneur Challenge awards and a serious Cup o' Joe.
Once I arrived in Georgetown, MG and Felkerino and I met up at the Baked and Wired cafe right at the end of the C & O. Over a steaming cup of black coffee, in a surprise awards ceremony, MG presented me with not one, but two, delightful awards to commemorate my Coffeeneur Challenge achievement. The button was designed by none other than Seattle rando Joe P., whose audacious idea first launched the Coffeeneur Challenge in 2011. After enjoying some coffee and congenial conversation in the warm morning sun, we headed off to explore the city. Our first stop along the way was the amazing BicycleSPACE shop where you'll find gorgeous Pashley bikes alongside colorful Surly, Brompton and Linus machines. In addition, if you find yourself in the nation's capitol with a need for a commuter bag, light or Brooks saddle, this is the place for you.

Seeing DC in style with Felkerino on my sister-in-law's 1987 Jamis. Photo: MG
As I wiped up my drool, it was time for a bite to eat, so off we rode to find a delightful sandwich shop in central DC where we swapped stories of teenage children, bike commuting and plans for 2013. Time flew by, as it always does with friends, and soon it was time to meet up with my wife and kids, who had traveled in by Metro, at the National Museum of American History.

The Roy Lichtenstein show on through January is well-worth the visit.
After a glance at our nation's past, we took a quick spin through the wonderful Roy Lichtenstein show at the National Gallery. Here are a few more pics of the day from MG's photostream. So, goodbye, MG and Felkerino. Thanks for your wonderful hospitality. You've left me with fond memories of my trip to DC. Next time I'll bring my rando bike and we'll enjoy an even longer ride.

Goodbye, Washington!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Shoulder Season: Catching my Breath While Planning Ahead.

I do so enjoy the cyclical nature of the calendar. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I find working in schools so comforting. It's also why I'll likely never be able to leave the Northeast where the rhythm of the seasons is predictable, provides variation and allows for built-in reminders to rest and rejuvenate before heading off into another period of training and adventure.

In the waning months of fall, I alternate between enjoying short bursts of riding with periods of planning and rest. Ever since the RUSA calendar was published last October, I've been toying with event options for 2013. The shorter, cooler days of fall also align well with my body's need for rest after a long, hard season.

I'm quite pleased with my accomplishments in 2012. In June, I completed my first R-12, having worked hard to maintain the consistency of monthly long rides that has eluded me in the past. The exceptionally mild winter helped to be sure. I am also very pleased to have completed my first Super Randonneur season since my 2010 accident. With each successful event, I became more confident in my ability to perform as a competent randonneur. While I was disappointed with my speed and climbing agility throughout the season, I look forward to making solid improvements in both areas next year.

So looking ahead to 2013, my largest goal will be to complete a 1200K with strength, speed and determination. As always, my work schedule is marked by feast and famine. Unable to take extended time away from school except when classes are not in session, there are three domestic 1200K events available to me next year: the Gold Rush Randonnee, the Big Wild Ride and the Endless Mountains 1240K.

For a variety of reasons, largely based on our family's summer schedule, I've chosen to ride in the Gold Rush Randonnee in late June. With my sister and several good friends living in San Francisco, the trip West will bring fun and adventure on several levels.

So I'll continue to enjoy the upcoming week of rest before ramping up my 2013 base training immediately following Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Coffeeneur Challenge Ends: Veterans Day Edition (Ride 7)

A tasty banana nut muffin and a black coffee at the Fresh and Easy Cafe in Kingston.

I completed the 2013 Coffeeneuring Challenge today by taking advantage of Rule #16, which allows for a qualifying ride on Veterans Day (observed). This enabled me to get in a great ride on a beautiful day, pay my respects to local veterans and learn more about my community. My ride began at the Toyota dealership where I dropped off my Prius for servicing. I grabbed my bike from the back and pedaled over to the Fresh and Easy Cafe for a muffin and coffee before heading out to visit Hudson Valley veterans from wars past.

Stopping at three graveyards within 10 miles of my house, I found quite a few gravestones from the 19th century, several of the which identified soldiers who fought with the 20th Regiment of the NYSV. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that this was a volunteer regiment during the Civil War comprised of German "48ers," refugees from the revolutions in 1848 who found a home in America and joined the Union cause in large numbers to expand the rights of working people and stop the spread of slavery into the western lands.

This man lived to the ripe old age of 88.
A comrade lies just a few yards away.
This soldier died in battle in 1865 at age 23.

And so it goes. Another great year of coffeenuring comes to a close. Thanks, MG, for your vision and enthusiasm. What a fun way to enjoy the waning light and mild weather as we head into winter.

Ride 7 by the numbers: 10 miles, 1.5 hours, 1 coffee, 1 banana nut muffin.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coffeeneuring in The People's Republic of Rosendale: Ride 6

A mixed berry scone compliments my hot coffee. 

Today the arctic winds swept in from Canada to give us all a little taste of winter, yet my new Rapha long sleeve jersey was more than adequate to the task of keeping me warm and toasty throughout my midday Coffeeneuring Challenge ride to The Alternative Baker. This great local bakery moved to (The People's Republic of) Rosendale several years ago from Kingston and the new location is much more suitable. Rosendale is a fun little Hudson Valley town filled with odd and interesting shops, galleries and restaurants. Directly across the street form the bakery, one finds the Rosendale Theater Collective, formed several years ago as a community-supported venture when the previous owners retired. Today's ride was short but refreshing.

Red cafe tables make the scene.

In the People's Republic of Rosendale, there's always something interesting nearby.

Ride 6 by the numbers: 22 miles, 1.75 hours, 1 cup of coffee and 1 mixed berry scone.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Coffeeneuring at the Night of 100 Pumpkins: Ride 5

Each year in the village of New Paltz, The Bakery, a small locally-owned coffee shop hosts a Halloween extravaganza known as the "Night of 100 Pumpkins." Children and adults alike contribute original pumpkin designs that are judged in a wide range of categories. This year, due to Hurricane Sandy, the event was postponed until this evening. After the sun sets, the candles are lit and the drumming begins as Bakery employees distribute free baked treats and hot apple cider. I decided to pop over to New Paltz this afternoon to get a peak at the entries and satisfy the requirements of my fifth Coffeeneur Challenge ride of the season. I enjoyed a hot cup of french roast coffee and a seasonal pumpkin-oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Below are a few of my favorite contest entries.

Ride 5 by the numbers: 25 miles, 1.5 hours, 1 cup of coffee, 1 pumpkin-oatmeal chocolate chip cookie

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Coffeeneuring Before the Storm: Ride 4

Not my favorite cup of Joe this season.

In between preparations for Hurricane Sandy and dusk this evening, I squeezed in a quick Coffeeneuring Challenge ride to the closest coffee shop I could find that I've not already visited this season. I'm a big fan of Stewart's Shops as controle points on brevets and permanents because they're almost always open, have great clean bathrooms and a range of cheap food options including a great selection of ice cream. They are not exactly destination coffee shops, however. I couldn't be choosy today, though, with a huge storm on the way, so Stewart's it was going to be after spending several hours preparing the basement and patio for the potential ravages of Sandy.

The Headless Horseman - Voted #1 Haunted House in the Northeast by MTV

Ride 4 by the numbers: 16 miles, 1 hour, 1 cup of coffee.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Coffeeneuring Starts the Day off Right: Ride 3

With yet another busy weekend day ahead, I decided to get out early for a quick ride along the Hudson River to Kingston for a fresh cup of coffee at the Dulce Cafe located in the city's fashionable Rondout district. With two of my friends riding one of our area permanents today and the weather simply ideal, it is all I can do to keep my focus on work, which is where it is needed as I begin hosting a four-day reaccreditation visit at my school this afternoon. Thankfully, the Coffeeneuring Challenge gave me the push I needed to ride despite the busy schedule.

The foliage is in peak form today along this section of the river.

Tugs pushing barges upriver are a common sight.

Signs of fall are everywhere.

Ride 3 by the numbers: 18 miles, 1.25 hours, 1 cup of coffee.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Coffeeneuring in a Hurry: Ride 2

While the fall is typically a time to slow down, this October I feel like I'm traveling relentlessly at high speeds. With a bar mitzvah and wedding on the same day in two different states, I squeezed my coffeeneuring ride in while the house was still asleep. I awoke before dawn and crept downstairs to suit up in my full winter kit. We had the first hard freeze of the season last night and temps still hovered below freezing as I clipped in. Climbing the hills behind my house got my blood flowing and warmed me from the core.

I enjoyed a quick 12-mile loop which included a stop at my beloved Apple Bin Farm Market for a hot cup of coffee and a few pieces of fresh rugelach. Sadly, the warm apple cider donuts were not yet ready.

Ride 2 by the numbers: 12 miles, 55 minutes, two pieces of rugelach, 1 coffee.

Monday, October 8, 2012

When Randonneuring Leads to Coffeeneuring: Ride 1.

A warm cup of joe and a classic black and white at the Mudd Puddle.

Fall is in the air; the leaves are changing colors, a long sleeve jersey feels just right - it must be time for the annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. Created last year by the inimitable MG over at the Chasing Mailboxes blog, the challenge is to ride to seven coffee shops over the course of six weekends. I had hoped to complete my October R-12 ride today, but with my son's bar mitzvah later in the month and a large work project looming, I opted to inaugurate my coffeeneuring season with a quick run to New Paltz. The Mudd Puddle is one of my favorite cafes and their freshly roasted coffee and tasty black and white cookies never disappoint.

The restored church at the Huguenot graveyard in New Paltz.

Ride 1 by the numbers: 24 miles, 1.5 hours, 1 black and white cookie, 1 coffee.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rando Bling, Worthless Trinkets or Something More?

Is it bling or are they trinkets? My kids give me such a hard time for buying randonneuring medals, you wouldn't believe it. They always smirk and giggle when one arrives in the mail. "How much did you pay for that one, pops?" Since rando events are so lean, the finishers medals are generally not included in the registration, so if you want a medal, $8.50 it is. It wasn't until recently that my kids got the point that one needs to actually finish an event to be eligible for a medal in the first place. In an age when people get awards just for showing up, I understand their cynicism, but these medals mean more to me they think.

I don't typically buy medals to acknowledge all of the rides I complete. On the contrary, I only have three sets of medals, each from a different commemorative year denoting something special in my randonneuring life. ACP unveils a new design with each edition of Paris-Brest-Paris, so medals change every four years. I earned my first set of medals (from the 2004 - 2007 collection) in 2007 during my first year of randonneuring. The next set I purchased in 2010 to mark my fastest brevet series to date when I finished three out of four brevets within 60% of the allowable time. The third set (above) I purchased this year to commemorate my first successful brevet series following my accident. Unsure that I could still cycle for 400 or 600 kilometers straight when I began the season, these medals remind me that I am back in action and able to ride long distances without pain or suffering.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The NYC 200K: Wrapping it up!

Originally, I had offered to volunteer at this early fall edition of the NYC 200K, but as my chances of completing a full SR series began to fade, Jon (the organizer) and Katie (the RBA) were most agreeable and understanding of a last minute change of plans. As a result of their generosity, I was able to bag a required ACP 200K and with it, one of my major goals for 2012. At the start of the season, I wasn't quite sure I still had it in me. Would I be able to ride 400K and then 600K without debilitating pain after the accident? I could only answer this question by riding. As it turns out, I was able to complete a pain-free brevet series without too much trouble. 

Riding with Laurent and Leroy, RBAs emeriti
Early Saturday morning, I was off the front and feeling great as we crossed the George Washington Bridge as grey storm clouds began to form. Missing a critical turn within the first five miles of the ride, I found myself descending and then re-climbing over 800 ft of unnecessary hill. The silver lining, though, was a chance to ride with a few old friends along the way. I sure hope that I'm riding this strong when I'm 85 years old! Heck, I hope I'm able to ride, period. Leroy is a legend, there's really no other way to say it. Would you look at those legs? That's right, people, 85 years old!

So with this brevet, my 2012 cycling season has officially kicked into low gear. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, comes at such a great time. As the school year begins, the days grow shorter and the evenings cooler, and it's a time of reflection on the year behind and hope and goal setting for the year ahead. Next year, I plan to push this recovery one step further and add a 1200K to the line-up. Wish me luck. I eagerly await the 2013 calendar of events due out within the next month.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Climbing through the Devil's Kitchen: Platte Clove

As I wrote in my last post, I decided to forgo D2R2 today to spend the weekend with my kids since my wife is out of town. One of the big events on deck was a birthday party my son was invited to in Woodstock, so I seized the opportunity (while he and his friends were stalking each other with Airsoft guns) to ride a quick 45-mile loop through the heart of the Catskills. In honor of my friends riding in D2R2, I decided to take in the diabolical "Devil's Kitchen" climb through Platte Clove to feel a little burn. It's been a few years since I've ridden Platte Clove and I was also interested to see if I was still able to make it to the top without walking [I am].

For those of you not familiar with the Catskills, Platte Clove is one of the most remote and hard to access sections for hiking, but there's a seasonal road cut into the side of the cliff that drops off over a thousand feet without much in the way of guardrail protection. The photo (above) that I snapped with my phone on the way up does not do the clove justice. The Devil's Kitchen climb was featured in the 1990 Tour de Trump stage race and a number of the pros reportedly had to walk several sections. The road itself climbs 1200 ft in just 1.4 miles and hits grades of up to 17%, so there's not much in the way of rest as your heart and lungs scream for mercy. 

Much of the road is mercifully shaded by trees, yet dynamic views are possible all throughout the climb. At the top, the road levels out a bit and more expansive views of the Catskill high peaks are available on a clear day like today. There is also a large Bruderhof community nestled into the side of the mountain and I greeted a plainly dressed family out for a stroll as I crested the top of the hill. The Bruderhof is a fascinating Christian utopian sect that fled Nazi persecution during the Second World War. Not only do they live in community, but they also share all wealth and do not believe in personal possessions. No custom road bikes in that garage.

After a short spin through a lovely high valley, I passed the Hunter Mountain ski area and enjoyed the ten mile descent into Phoenicia along Route 214. Once in Phoenicia, I checked the time and hammered all the way back to Woodstock, fearful that I might end up being "that dad" who picks his kid up 30 minutes after the party ends. Luckily, with a gentle wind at my back, I covered the distance in very good time and was even able to change into my street clothes before heading in for a slice of ice cream cake. Here's a link to the route. If you're ever in Woodstock with a bicycle and a few hours on your hands, you could do much worse than this.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When DNS = Definitely Needed by Someone.

As an endurance athlete, it's important to look for subtle signs that your body may not be ready for a big event. The same is true for the subtle signs that your family may need you more than you need to ride your bike. I realized as this weekend approached, that signs of the latter were growing more apparent.

After registering for D2R2 back in the spring, my wife was invited by a dear friend to spend the weekend in preparation for an upcoming wedding. Sure, I could pull in some favors to set up a network of convoluted plans involving sleep-overs in all corners of the Hudson Valley, but was this really the best solution?

So rather than hammering over the dirt roads of western Massachusetts, I'll be spending the weekend with my kids. We'll fill our time with laughs, chores, a friend's birthday party, driving lessons, a movie or two and maybe even some ice cream. My son and I will even get a training ride in to prepare him for the NYC Century's 55-mile loop that we'll ride in a few weeks. 

As my kids get older I realize two things: 1) they need me more than they let on and 2) time passes very, very quickly.

Sometimes DNS means "definitely needed by someone."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Catskill Climbefest 200K - Torrential Downpour Edition

Everyone was happy and skies were blue at the end of the day.

At 6:46am, I rolled into the Stewart's parking lot to find five other riders making last minute preparations for a day of riding in New York's lovely Catskill Mountains. It was a group assembled through happenstance and social networking. The field was geographically eclectic. Local randonneur Brian drove down from Woodstock to the start, while NJ Rando stalwarts Jon and Robin drove up from NYC and Bob up from eastern New Jersey, but it was Susan from Portland, OR who earned "the rider from farthest away" award as she clipped in on a trip back east to visit family.

Earlier in the week, the weather forecast called for the possibility of severe thunderstorms, so plans for Saturday were somewhat tentative until Friday when things began to look a bit less dire. We agreed to assemble before 7:00am so we could enjoy a full day without concern for lighting come evening. It was not a day in which anyone was looking for a personal best time, so we happily enjoyed the scenery and leisurely stops at controles along the way.

At the Ashokan Reservoir.

The weather at the start was grey and mild with high humidity and dry pavement. We enjoyed the long gradual climb to the Ashokan Reserviour where we found the Catskill high peaks disappointingly shrouded in clouds. This is normally a great spot for a preview of the serious climbing that lies ahead, but undeterred, we pedaled on. Our small field split at the base of the first climb with Susan and Brian hanging behind for a quick rest and the other four of us waiting until the top to pause. The climb is fairly long and affords some delicious views of several precipitous drops and the base of the Katterskill Falls. The clouds cooperated and dropped a fine mist of light rain onto us as we climbed, and mercifully the rain was not heavy enough to warrant putting on a jacket.

After the first serious climb up route 23A, riders are treated to a lovely long descent into the town of Phoenicia where several shops offer up treats that range from pizza to bar-b-que to baked goods. The bad weather that held off through our controle stop soon deteriorated with a downpour of Biblical proportions that lasted over 60 minutes. The four of us passed the first 30-40 minutes of this storm under a tree until we spied Brian and Susan bravely hammering away through the deluge. This got our attention and we were soon off in hot pursuit.

Avant le deluge.

The six of us were reunited as we turned off Route 28 at the town of Big Indian and began the long, gradual climb up Slide Mountain which boasts the highest peak in the Catskills at 4,190 feet. While the  road that climbs to its trailhead is not the highest road around at 2,400 ft, it does include a nasty stretch of severe grade that really gets your attention. Committed riders are rewarded with a lovely rolling stretch of road though the remarkable Frost Valley afterwards, though.

After enjoying Frost Valley, we descended into the town of Grahamsville, a village that appears somewhat forgotten by time, were we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a deli that serves as the penultimate controle along this permanent route. The staff at the Grahamsville Deli is always welcoming and seemingly happy to see us. Each of us ordered a lunch of some type and after filling bottles, we were off for the final leg of the journey. The gorgeous ride through the high valley near Peekamoose Mountain is mostly shaded so the afternoon sun did not feel too oppressive. The decent down Peekamoose is remarkable and enjoyable with a brief 10%-12% drop mixed in with a long gradual 5%-6% stretch. In fact, one of the great pleasures of this permanent route is that after about mile 105, it's almost all pretty much downhill with a few small rollers to keep you awake.

We rolled into the Stewart's parking lot happy and refreshed despite the nasty storm that punctuated the day. Bob's iPhone even dried out enough by Sunday morning to send me a few photos of the ride.

Enjoying the post-ride glow.

Next up: D2R2 next Saturday in Deerfield, MA.