Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March R-12 Noximixon 200k! The Final Chapter!

Photos: Top - Mrs. Al supporting her husband at the Lambertville Control.
Bottom - The two finishers reflecting on a good ride.

I vowed to jump on the first decent weather day in March to complete my R-12 Series.  As luck would have it I would not have long to wait.  The first weekend of the month was predicted to be dry with temperatures ranging from mid-thirties to upper fifties.  I contacted my friend, and R12 riding companion, Al alerting him to the intended Sunday 7am start.  The proposed route was the newly approved Noximixon 200k, designed and owned by my friend Paul.  Al was agreeable with the plan. 

We meet at the Southfield Shopping Center in Princeton Junction a little before the scheduled start.  It's just prior to 7am and the shopping center is very still.  The coffee shop and pharmacy open at 9am.  The food market opens at 7am.  We agree to use the market as our start location, waiting at the door for them to open.  By the time we make a purchase, get documented, and use the rest room, it is eleven minutes past the hour.  I've come to accept a late start as normal for permanents..

Princeton Junction to Lambertville - 26 Miles

Once underway I feel the chill of the morning.  The temperature is a little under 35F with a slight wind.  I'm somewhat underdressed for the current conditions, but it is a very clear day.  I'm confident the sun will warm the air considerably in an hour or two.  I can manage some temporary discomfort.  It beats having to lug a bunch of uneeded clothes around the route for the majortity of the ride. After a few miles we cross US 1 and enter the town of Princeton.  It is eerily quiet at this hour as we pass by the University buildings.  With little to no traffic we are out of town in no time, headed for Pennington on some very nice roads.  With the sun shining, the pleasant scenery and the smooth roads it is a great day to be on a  bike. So far the route is mostly rolling.  However, once we reach Pennington we encounter Poor Farm Road, a fairly steep climb with nice scenery to look at on the way up.  Upon reaching the top Al places a call to his wife to coordinate her meeting us at the Lambertville control with energy drink bottles which were inadvertantly left at home.  Phone call complete we descend the back side of the hill.  The nine miles left to the control are a mixed bag of flat, rolling, and hilly terrian. Valley Road and Goat Hill Road are the final two lumps. The Lambertville control is a flexible one allowing the rider a choice of establishments.  We choose the coffee shop on Bridge Street.  Al's wife is there waiting when we arrive.  After a coffee and muffin we depart headed for PA.  I notice we are leaving with not much time to spare.

 Lambertville, NJ to Richlandtown, PA - 31 Miles

A few blocks past the the control we reach the bridge to New Hope PA.  Riding across the 1/2 mile span is not permitted.  As I'm walking I notice the wind has picked up.  Unfortunately, the direction will not be in our favor on this leg of the route.  I was hoping to pick up a little time to give us a cushion in the event of a mechanical, or other problem.  Given the increased wind and the terrain in front of us that doesn't look likely.  After negotiating the downtown area of New Hope we start with some gentle climbing, with a few steep kickers mixed in.  We pass through Lahaska on Street Road, which features a very steep little climb that I recall falling over on when passing through on the recumbent.  With the ability to stand and leverage the pedals I have no such problem today.  Although, it does take significant effort. We pass through the small little town of Carversville continuing our uphill trend.  Finally, the terrain eases up for a bit allowing us to pick up some time.  We contend with some rollers, and another sizeable climb on Route 313 at Quakertown at which point  we've reache the route's namesake, the Noximixon Resovior.  The remaining roads to the Richlandtown control are quite pleasant.  Were it not for the wind it would be perfect. We arrive at the 7-11 control with little time to spare.  We agree to keep the stop brief.  But with the temperature increase, now mid-fifties, we need to make clothing adjustments, as well as take in some calories.  Our goal is to leave in advance of the control closing time, even if only by fifteen minutes.

Richlandtown, PA to Milford, NJ - 18 Miles

Back on the road with our small time margin in hand we immediately feel the difference with the wind.  Now blowing more in our favor.  I'm encouraged that we may be able to pick up a little time on this leg.  Once again the road selection of the route is excellent.  There is almost no traffic for the first ten miles.  We deal with a few good sized rolling hills which present no problem as the wind, stronger than ever now, is aiding us.  Quickly we are Route 412, which leads us to a climb I've been dreading, Center Hill Road.  I climbed it before with Paul while accompanying him on a cue sheet test of some of the route.  It goes better for me today than the prior time.  Perhaps knowing it was coming helped.  Or, more likely riding the Salsa in lieu of the 'bent was the difference. I didn't even use the triple.  I wait a bit for Al at the top of the hill.  This is his first encounter with this bump and wisely he is climbing it conservatively.  We regroup and undertake the descent to the river.  Which is fast, twisty, and features an abrupt stop at the bottom with a hard right onto Route 32.  We then parallel the river for the next 2 1/2 miles, crossing back over into New Jersey at the Milford Bridge which brings us right to the control, a Citgo Mart.  We are 35 minutes in front of the cut-off.  

Milford to Ringoes - 20 Miles

We are underway having spent 20 minutes at the control.  I know the roads pretty well on this section and am hoping to make up a little more time.  The first few miles to Frenchtown are flat, add to that the wind and we manage a nice pace.  Coming out of Frenchtown we turn onto Horseshoe Bend Road which featrues some short steep climbs.  This is followed by Rt 519 in Kingwood which is basically rolling terrain as are the remaining roads to the Ringoes control.  I notice on the cue sheet that a bank ATM is an optional control should one decide to pass up the deli, which is listed as the primary control.  I convince Al that we should use the ATM through Ringoes to pick up some additional time. He consents providing we spend at least five minutes there giving him an opportunity to stretch.  Upon arrival I handle getting the two bank reciepts from the ATM while eating half a pb sandwich from my pack.  Al stretches out his fatigued legs while waiting for me.  The stop takes us less than 10 minutes.  We depart with 40 minutes in hand.

Ringoes to Kendall Park - 19 Miles

The first section of this segment is on Wertzville Road which takes us across US 202.  Wertzville features more of the rolling variety of hills.  I am quite familar with it having ridden it countless times.  With the wind still in our favor we should do well over the next 4 miles.  I start doing some mental math to project a finish time.  I would like to see us come at 12hrs or less.  That leaves us about 2 1/2 hrs to cover the remaining 30 miles.  Although there are a couple of substantial climbs ahead of us, and we have over 100 miles in our legs, I'm thinking we can make it. Once again I confer with Al laying out the plan.  He is tired, but agrees to give it his best.effort.  In a short time we turn off to the right to face Lindberg Road a sizeable climb up the Sourland Mountan Ridge.  After grinding our way up the two mile hill we have about nine miles of downhill and flat terrain.  Using this to our best advantage will be paramount to meeting the goal.  We do well descending our way down the other side of the ridge.  We then head east on County 518.  With the wind mostly at our tail we maintain a nice pace. I am feeling good at this point pulling us along at speeds between 18-24mph.  We quickly reach the US 206 crossing followed by our turn onto Canal Road and an abrupt climb up Old Georgetown Road.  This being the last major hill between here and the finish.  We both give it a good effort putting the climb behind us without losing much time.  The control, a CVS, comes up quickly.  We clock in at 5:56pm leaving us with 1hour 4minutes to make it to the finish.  With sunset just a few minutes away we need to switch to night gear and full lighting as well as document our passage through the control.  We depart at 6:11pm leaving us 49 minutes to cover the distance and document our finish time.

Franklin Park to Princeton Junction  - 12 Miles

My recollection of the roads on this part of the route are that of the flat and flatter variety.  Although, when we turn onto New Road just a few hundred yards from the control it is somewhat of an uphill for at least two miles. Once past that point it is mostly flat, save for a couple of little bumps.  I'm giving it a good effort with Al hanging right with me.  It's fully dark now which makes the going a little slower.  Navigating in the dark is trickier as well.  I'm not familiar enough with the route to know the turns without the aid of the cue sheet and street signs.  Fortunately, both have been quite accurate so far.  A navigation error at this point would put the goal out of reach.  I take the extra time to pay close attention to the cues and road signs until we are at the point where I know my way.  That point comes up on Plainsboro Road with about 3.5 miles to go. With no further need to navigate I pour everything I have into turning the pedals.  Al falls back at one point.  I ease up a bit to get him back on my wheel.  I announce when we are on the final road to the finish.  We have a little more than a mile to go.  Al gives everything he has rocketing out front and almost dropping me in the process.  I focus solely on spinning fast and smooth for the next few minutes.  Then the shopping center appears on our right.  We are in with a couple of minutes to spare.  The documented time is what counts so we fly up to the entrance of the same supermarket we started out from almost 12 hours ago.  We run to an open register, each grab a pack of gum, I ask the lady for a receipt, while blinding her with my helmet light. In my rush I neglected to switch it off.   She hands the slip over and I look at the time stamp printed on top, it reads 7:00pm exactly!  Boo-Ya!


Back outside the market we ask the shopping cart guy to take our photo.  He graciously agrees.  Taking one with my digital camera, as well as well as another with Al's I-phone.  I'm happy to have the R-12 behind me.  It's been a worthy goal and has kept me motivated during the off season.  The permanent rides were especially enjoyable.  I've developed a new appreciation for their value as flexible and fun alternatives to calendar brevets.  Eight of my twelve R-12 rides were permanents.  All started and finished in New Jersey.  Not a bad thing considering two years ago there were none available in the state.  The Noximixon 200k is a very welcome addition.  I look forward to riding it again.

As for Al he is rapidly becoming a full fledged Radonneur.  He has completed three official 200k's this year, one fourth of the way into an R-12.  He is planning to be at some of the calendar brevets this season.  How far he takes it will be up to him.  It would not surprise me to see him undertake a 300k or longer before the season wraps up. 

My focus is now on completing a Super Randonneur Series and a 1000 kilometer.  I'm hoping to do so on an upright bike.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

February R-12 - NJ Transit 200k - Revised Route

Photos:  Top - Jon trying to stay warm waiting to depart Budd Lake.  
Bottom - Al with a grim look of determination preparing for the next leg.

I'm starting to get the hang of this R-12 deal. I watched calmly as two major snow falls came through the area leaving over two feet of heavy snow on the ground. Fortunately, the January R12 ride was in the books before storm number one showed up at the end of the month. Storm number two was very early in February, leaving me optimistic about my chances of getting a break later in the month. None the less, I spent some time on the RUSA web-site researching permanents in the warmer climates. A permanent in South Carolina looked particularly inviting. I admit to being seriously tempted. However, before making travel plans I had a bit of an epiphany. I reasoned that earning an R12 might be a sweeter accomplishment if done in one's own back yard, dealing with whatever nature dishes out. Perhaps the real challenge is picking the right opportunity, the right route on the right day. I've become quite proficient at analyzing the weather with quick links to and NOAA on my laptop. I've kept any non-work related commitments to a bare minimum keeping myself free and ready to go when opportunity comes knocking. Having gotten this far into it I've decided to make it or break it at home.

While waiting for the road conditions to return to some semblance of normal. I did three things. Shoveled snow, rode my indoor trainer, and worked on changes to my permanent route. The proposed new route would start/finish in my hometown, instead of Raritan. Also, proposed were some significant changes to three of the segments. I submitted the changes to RUSA for approval. The approval was granted and coincided with a reasonable weather outlook for Sunday 2/21. Given that the route would need an initial test ride it seemed prudent to ride the February R-12 on the revised course. My friend Al agreed to ride it with me despite an epic battle with the old route still fresh in his mind from the prior month. In addition, my buddy from the Bronx, Jon, would join us. Jon would be working on an R-13, or a second R-12.

Sunday morning at 6:30am I departed home on the Salsa Caserole for the less than three mile ride to the new start at Mountain View Plaza. It was the first time I ever rode to the start of a brevet from home. The temperature was in the upper twenties with a light wind from the west. My legs were a little stiff from the commute the day before. I'd only logged 75 miles the prior week and no road miles the week before. I was feeling a little under prepared for a hilly 200k. None the less I was mentally determined to get around it somehow. I arrive at the plaza and immediately spot Al behind his SUV preparing for the ride. Jon arrives moments later. We stop at the convenience market at the corner to document the starting time of our ride. We get underway about 10 minutes passed the 7:00am starting time, which seems to S.O.P. for Permanents. I've not done one yet where we departed on time.

Hillsborough to Summit - 28 Miles
This first section features significant changes. The route now starts about eight miles further to the south. We use a north east approach to the Watchung Mountain Ridge and join the original route quite a bit further to the east than before. The initial 11 miles features mild terrain as we ride next to the canal on Weston Canal Road to South Bound Brook. We then cross the Canal and the Raritan River into the town of Bound Brook. We cross US hwy 22 which brings us to the first significant climb of the day, Morning Glory Road. With fresh legs the climb presents no problem and serves to warm us up. Once at the top we join the old route which follows the lower part of the ridge through Warren and Watchung to deliver us to our second major climb of the day, Sky Top Drive. Again, we have no problem negotiating the three mile ascent to the top of the ridge. Once to the top we quickly reach the town of Summit and the first control at the East Side Deli. The deli is a waiting place for landscape crew workers. The food there is Spanish/Mexican. Jon enjoys a piping hot tamale. I would have tried one but it was not the vegetarian variety. I settle for half a PBJ and a Gatorade. Al, also passes on the cuisine eating a Cliff Bar. Soon we are back underway,

Summit to Budd Lake 33 Miles
This section is unchanged, which some will consider unfortunate given as it is arguably the toughest leg of the route. A relentless succession of sizable rollers serves to take a severe toll on the riders energy level. There is no let up until the control at Budd Lake is finally reached. Additionally, there is generally a head wind. True to form the wind is present today. I notice it most just as I crest the top of a hill. It feels like my brakes are rubbing holding me back. The miles are ticking off quite slowly. About half way to the control Al says that he is considering abandoning the ride at the Budd Lake control. It's kind of a deja vu moment as he made a similar statement on this section last month. I tell him that he doesn't have to decide now, he can wait until we get there. He says he would like to call for a ride in advance so he doesn't have to wait too long to be picked up. Jon encourages him to give it a few more miles before making the call. He agrees with this plan. The topic never comes up again. As we near the control Jon amps up the watts dropping me on one of the bigger hills. I'm feeling beat up and do not even give a thought to chasing him. Al has fallen back a bit so I wait up for him at the next turn which is about a mile from the control. We roll in together both of us happy to be at the Dunkin Donuts for a much needed rest. Jon is waiting for us at a table inside. After a coffee and bagel I, for one, am feeling much better. Al seems to have recovered as well and prepares to continue. I take a photo of Jon and Al outside the store as we prepare to leave. The wind chill is making us feel quite cold.  As the photos show no one has a happy face at this moment.

Budd Lake to Hampton 25 miles
This leg of the route is unchanged to the point the information control is reached at Changewater. With rested legs we undertake the few remaining hills which come about right away, then the terrain eases for awhile. It is a short 17 miles to the info control. We make pretty good time having no knee breaking climbs to contend with. We find ourselves in front of the church at Changewater. We provide the required information on the brevet card and prepare to follow the new eight mile section of the course to Hampton. I had fully intended to come out and ride this new stretch while waiting for RUSA to approve the revisions. Unfortunately, with the distance from home, and the relentless bad weather, I wasn't able to get it done. So, the three of us would be test pilots venturing into the unknown. I'm hoping the roads I selected using Google maps are at least paved. Jon decided at this point that he would pick up the pace to the finish as he needed to be done at a specific time. Knowing we would not keep up we say goodby. I was glad that he could ride with us for as long as he did. Getting back to NYC on a Sunday night is no easy deal. Immediately after leaving the church we hit Forge Hill Road which is quite a climb. I would estimate at least a 15% grade. Fortunately it is not terribly long and it is nicely paved. As an added bonus it has some scenic value. It's a keeper. We watch as Jon motors up ahead. I marvel at his climbing ability and energy level. The rest of the route to the Hampton control is mostly flat, or downhill, and features nicely maintained roads. Jon is still at the Tiger Mart/Dunkin Donuts when we pull in. He is just preparing to leave so we say goodbye once again not expecting to catch back up to him on the next section. Al and I spend a leisurly half-hour refueling and resting at this control. There are still some big climbs in front of us and I admit to feeling sub-par at this point. None the less we end the break and depart headed for the town of High Bridge.

Hampton to Bedminster 24 Miles
This section of the course is unchanged. It features some flat terrain passing by the Spruce Run Resevoir then gets pretty gnarly for about seven miles after that. I'm not feeling tip-top on the first few miles and am worried about the big climbs. I've had some leg twinges, which for me is genrerally a warning that leg cramps are not far off. We turn onto Route 31 for a few hundred feet before turning off on Creegar Road, which is a short steep kicker. We then descend into the small town of High Bridge. We pass through the downtown area and head for the biggest climb of the day, which is Wilson Ave. I'm nervous about getting up this hill. If I'm going to cramp this will be where it will happen. As I make the turn and see the steep pitch to the roadway I drop into my lowest gear. My intention is to climb very conservatively. Al gets ahead of me and is climbing at a faster pace. I block out the impulse to try and stay with him. I have to let him go and concentrate on keeping myself together. I make it up about halfway when my left inner thigh cramps up. I manage a quick dismount and immediately begin walking. The muscle continues to cramp while I'm walking up the hill. I see Al make it over the top of the hill as I continnue my painful trek up. Once I am almost to the top I remount and begin spinning in my easiest gear, the muscle finally relaxes. I start down the descent knowing full well that the road pitches up once again shortly. Herman Thou Road is the second phase of this climb. Same road, different name, similar elevation profile as the first. I have the same trouble with cramping only this time it's less painful when I walk up the last section of the hill. I take that as a good sign. After another descent I meet up with Al. He's been waiting at the next turn. There are still two more climbs ahead of us. Neither as severe as the twin hills of Wilson and Herman Thou, but sustantial enough, especially given my situation. We quickly make the turn onto Haytown Road, the first of the two remaining hills. As soon as I hit the upgrade I gear way down spinning up the hill as gently as I can. I make it to the top without cramping. Next up Cokesburry Road, the final climb of the day. I use the same technique and have a similar cramp free experience. I now know there is nothing else ahead that can hurt me. With plenty of time still in hand I'm feeling confident of a finsh. The remaining few flat miles to the control pass by quickly. We pull into the Burger King just as daylight is leaving us. A short break for coffee and apple pie and we are back on the road for the final leg.

Bedminster to Hillsborough 16 Miles
The roads on this final stretch are unchanged to the town of Raritan. From the Burger King control we head south on Country Club Road for seven miles into the small train station town of Raritan. We pass by the Quick Check Market, which was the former start/finish control.  The revised route then continues south along the river into Hillsborough Township.  With the exception of a couple of small hillocks the terrain is mostly flat to the end.  I'm feeling fully recovered and am pulling us along at a nice pace. It is fully dark and there is little traffic.  The temperature is falling, but I'm still feeling comfortable. There are only a few turns and a few miles left to the finish.  I check the time noticing we have a chance to finish in under 13 hrs.  I tell Al I would like to pick it up a bit for these last few miles.  He admits to feeling pretty beat up but agrees to give it a try.  I take the front and notch it up maintaining between 19-22mph.  I'm surprised at how good I'm feeling despite working hard I'm in no distress.  Al hangs in on my rear wheel right to the finish where we pull up in front of the Pizza Shop.  Our finish time is 12hr 58min which is more than a half hour faster than our time last month using the old course.  Inside Joe's Pizza we collect Jon's brevet card which he left in the care of the counter guy and order a couple of slices.  Jon finished in 12hrs picking up almost an hour on us in the last 40 miles.  I send a text message to my wife letting her know we finished and I'll be home soon arriving the same way I left.......on my bike.

Overall I was pleased with the newly revised NJ Transit route.  I think the spacing of the big hills was better and the removal of the ridiculously difficult Ludlow Station climb was a plus.  Although I wasn't able to make all the hills today without walking I will on a good day.  The cramping was disturbing but I'm prone to it hilly when I haven't trained enough.  It might have helped if I kept up with the Endurolyte tablets that I normally take at each control.  I took two at the first control at Summit and accidentally dropped the container spilling all the pills on the ground.  None the less, I will make an effort to ramp up the training and get back to consistant commuting.  Hopefully, there won't be too many more winter storms to contend with.

Eleven down - one to go.  Stay tuned!