Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Quest for 12,000 miles - True Confessions of a Mileage Junkie!

Rolling past 12,000 mile on Boss Road, Ringoes, NJ

On October 18th I casually rolled through my 10,000 mile of the year.  At the time I was riding my Salsa Casserol on the top of the Sourland Ridge with my buddy Al.  It represented my highest single year total ever. It occurred to me that I still had more than two months left in the year to accumulate more mileage! How much could I add to what already was my most?  I took a minute to run the math through my head then announced to Al that I would strive to reach 12,000 miles by the year end.  He thought it was kind of crazy (maybe even silly) but wished me luck anyway.
Al joins me for a brief roadside celebration

I've noticed that from a cycling perspective we have become a less is more culture. There are scads of articles published promising you can be faster and fitter than ever before by doing a half-hour lunch ride.  Or, you will climb like Alberto Contador by riding your indoor trainer just two hours a week. We can monitor our heart rate, watts output, elevation gained, cadence, speed, distance, average, maximum, all while being guided by GPS. Train smart and ride less is the theme of our time.  Our busy lives demand that our leisure activities be as efficient and productive as possible.   But, all this efficiency leads me to ask one burning question. What if you simply love to ride?  What if spinning the pedals at a smooth comfortable pace for hours and hours brings you to a level of peace and serenity to rival transcendental meditation? 

For us it is the act of cycling that is enjoyed.  The more the better.  Speaking for myself it is indeed an addiction.  Fortunately, unlike most addictions there are positive paybacks for extreme exercise.  Weight control being one of the most visually obvious ones. I've been able to binge on an entire box of multi- grain crackers, washing it down with a quart of applesauce as a between meal snack and continue to maintain a healthy 158 pounds year round.  I've not considered whether eating is my motivation to ride, or riding is my motivation to eat.  No matter it all works out in the end.  The good news is my food cravings lean towards healthier vegetarian fare and not Whoppers and fries. I typically breeze thorough my annual medical physical with a pat on the back from my doctor.

The down side to riding a lot is lost time.  Time one can never get back.  Much of it solitary.  Not unlike the alcoholic, or workaholic, the cycling junkie has much to make up for in lost time with family.  Is it too steep a price to pay for such self indulgence?  Or, is there some payback in the form that time spent with family is better for one whose addictions are satisfied?  The fact that my loved ones are supportive leads me to believe the latter may be true.  The day I find that to be wrong is the day I'll make the necessary adjustments to balance the scales.  Even tipping them in favor of those who my indulgence has been unfair to.

In the meantime,  I mostly choose to pay heed to the voice inside me that calls out for more.  I write this as I am about to go on the ride that will take me past the 12,000 mile mark.  Today being December 11th.  Twenty days from the end of the year.  Will the voice then say go for 13,000?   I hope not.   
At the computer blogging and searching for the meaning of life

Early this morning I wrote the above.   The photos were added, my thanks to Al, after the 65 mile bike ride that would bring me past the desired goal.  It was a great December day to be on a bike.  Although on the cold side this morning, there was no wind and some sunshine.  My friend Al accompanied me as we worked our way to Lambertville,  a quaint town on the Delaware River.  We met my wife and a family friend at Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant on Bridge Street for a slice of great tasting pizza.  After which we undertook the 32 mile return trip through Stockton, Seargentsville and Ringoes.  I felt great pushing myself up the rolling hills of Hunterton County.  The melancholy feelings of this morning were a distant memory as I realized for the millionth time that bike riding is really a lot of fun.  The inner voice was quiet.  A fully satiated beast.  At least for the time being. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December R-12 - Stillwater 200k Retour - PA Randonneurs

Paul and Jon at the Portland Diner before the start
  The quest for the coveted R-12 Award becomes considerably more challenging as the transition from fall to winter is felt full force here in the east.  The PA Randonneur group holds a brevet every month to accommodate the R-12 hopefuls in the area.  The December ride was scheduled for the first Saturday of the month.  Unfortunately, so was the coldest, most wind blown day of the year.  I had committed to a number of friends that I would be there for sure.  In fact, I was expecting two riding buddies to meet at my house so we could all drive up together in my Chevy Van.  My high level of enthusiasm for the ride left me like air from a punctured tire when I checked the online forecast the day before the ride.  The starting temperatures were predicted to be in the mid-twenties accompanied by 15 mph winds.  Trying to find the bright side it at least was not expected to snow, sleet or rain.  But, more on that later.

My friend Al and I load our bikes on the rear rack of the van in the darkness of my driveway as we wait for Paul to arrive. I could have sworn I saw a car drive by the house with a bike on top a few minutes ago.  Just as I was questioning whether I was having hallucinations the car drives by again.  After the third lap I call Paul's cell.  He states he is having difficulty finding my house. After clarifying the location he arrives in moments.  We load his bike and gear into the van and we're off to Portland, Pa, some 65 miles away on the other side of the Delaware River.  We arrive at the ride start, the Portland Diner, in time for a hot breakfast. 

Portland, Pa to Lafayette, NJ - 30 Miles

The oatmeal is so tasty that we start the ride about 15 minutes late.  The main group is well underway as six of us leave the diner together in full daylight. Our group consists of Jon, from NYC, Walt and Dawn from southern NJ and the three of us central New Jerseyans.  We are out of Pa in the first mile by crossing the river on a pedestrian bridge.  My winter gear is working well as the cold 25 degree air temperature is so far not penetrating.  The first section is over fairly mild terrain as we head towards Lafayette, NJ.  There is some wind to deal with, but nothing devastating.  After 17 miles we reach an information control, which is a Post Office in Middleville, NJ.   There are a good number of riders there.  We answer the required question and start to move on.  After about 1/4 mile Al realizes he left his cue sheet back at the stop.  I wait for him to go back for it while the rest of the group moves on.  Once back underway All and I have now taken over the Lantern Rouge position.  That is except for Tom the RBA who started the ride even later than we did.  He catches up to us shortly after the info control and rides with us for a bit.  We pass a couple riding together on one of the larger rolling hills.  Tom slows up to chat with them for a bit. The control is reached in just a few miles.  It is a quaint cafe where we regroup with Paul and the four other riders we started out with.  We sit together sipping hot coffee.  Jon, Walt and Dawn who have been there for a bit get the urge to move on.  We agree to meet up with them at the next control.  We depart about 10 minutes later.

Jon and other riders at the Middleville information control
 Lafayette, NJ to Great Meadows, NJ - 24 Miles 
Leaving the control one immediately is faced with a steep little kicker.  The occasional snow flake is seen flying by propelled by the ever increasing wind.  The temperature remains low as the sun has only peeked out from behind the clouds on a few occasions.  So far the cold and wind are manageable as we traverse over more mild terrain.  Compared to other PA Rando offerings this route is quite tame.  Some of the roads become familiar to me as we pass through Pequest amd Johnsonburg. We ride by the farms of Allamuchy Township on Alphano Road.  There is a drag strip nearby that I frequented many years ago during the muscle car era.  I expected to be miseraby grinding through this day and am surprised to find that I'm enjoying myself.  We arrive at US Hwy 46 and head east to the convenience store control ahead.  Jon, Walt and others are just getting ready to depart. We decide to make quick work of the stop so we don't get cold.  I refresh my water and perpetuem and am ready to go.  We are back on the road headed west.

Geat Meadows, NJ to Milford, NJ - 30 Miles
We turn quickly off US 46 onto Cemetery Road.  Once again I find myself on familiar roadways.  Much of this area is traversed by our NJ Rando rides.  We join Rockport Road near Port Murray and come across a bike club ride with about 10 hearty members out for a thirty miler.  I have a brief discussion with one the group about the merits of chromoly frames.  She was riding a Soma Smoothie and commented on my Salsa Casserol.  We cross SR 57 onto Point Mountain Road and follow the Musconetcong River to Asbury.  We seperate from the bike club at the SR 31 crossing.  There are lots of infamous hills in the area, but so far this route avoids them, keeping us on easier rolling terrain.  That is until we reach West Portal where we turn on SR 173 and climb up to start of Tunnel Road which is a 2.5 mile climb.  I've undertaken this climb before and never found it to be too tough.  I rather enjoy the many twists and turns on the way up.  It never gets too steep, but it seems to go on for a long time. I settle in and maintain a steady pace with Paul leading the way.  At the summit we wait for Al who is taking it a bit more conservatively.  Upon regrouping we turn onto Sweet Hollow Road which features several miles of gradual descending.  The sun is making one of it's occasional appearances making the downhill run enjoyable as we don't get too chilled.  We re-join the Delaware River at Milford, NJ and arrive at the Pizza Shop control which marks 84 mile point.  Jon and Walt have already made it through having apparently picked up the pace.  Dawn is just getting ready to leave with another small group of riders.  We decide to get a late lunch here before moving on. 

Paul and Al at Pipilo's Pizza in Milford, PA

Milford, NJ to Portland, PA - 40 Miles
Appetites satisfied with Pizza and Pasta we depart for the final leg of the ride. We have a little more than an hour of daylight remaining.  The wind has kept up and I'm a bit worried about getting cold once night falls.  The terrain to the finish is mostly rolling with a few medium sized kickers thrown in.  We work our way to Asbury where we decide to pull off at a convenience store to put on night riding gear.  Taking no more time than what is needed to accomplish that we get back on the road.  As I try to pedal away one of my cleats comes loose and my foot is flailing about as I pedal.  I try to clip out, but the cleat won't release.  I pull off to check out the problem.  Paul and Al stop with me.  I get the cleat out by removing my foot from the shoe, then using a leatherman tool to force the cleat to release.  One of the two screws has fallen out of the cleat.  The remaing screw is halfway out.  Paul thinks of the idea to use a screw from a water bottle cage as a replacement.  We tell Al to move on while there is still some daylight to ride in.  We will try to catch up to him after we get things worked out.  After some fiddling around getting the make shift screw to seat properly I'm able to clip in again.  It's nearly dark when we resume riding.  We lost about 15 to 20 minutes on the repair giving Al a very healthy head start.  Paul and I make good time for the next five miles and I spot Al's tail light way up ahead.  Thinking it will take a good amount of time to make up that ground we keep up the pace.  After only about a half mile I notice the blinking tail light appears to be stationary.  Al is stopped at the side of the road.  We quickly get up to his location to find his helmet light has gone out.  Needless to say reading the cue sheet is giving him a problem.  With Al in tow we continue on to Belvidere where the river crossing back into PA awaits.  Once across the bridge we are only 10 miles from the finish.  The wind is still strong, but we are fortunate to have a fair amount of wind block working for us in the form of a cliff which is on our left side with the River on our right.  The steepest climb of the day comes as River Road makes an abrupt turn.  For the first time of the day I need to use the granny gear.  After the relatively short, steep climb we work our way through the 4 miles of easy terrain to the finish.  After loading the bikes on the van we head into the diner for a bite to eat.  Al has something to celebrate as today's ride marked his twelfth 200k in as many months earning him his first R-12.     


Overall it was a successful and fun day for the three of us.  Not to mention the 21 other Randonneurs who completed the ride.  Once again the PA group accomplished a 100% completion rate.  A regular occurrence on Tom's brevets, even on the hillier routes.  This route is ideal for winter riding.  With just the right amount of climbing to help riders stay warm.  All but one of the controls featured indoor seating allowing us an opportunity to warm up before tackling the next leg.  I was happy we decided to partake.  

*Three more rides to go for my second R-12
*105 miles more to reach 12,000 road miles for this year!

Stay tuned!