Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Great Adventure 112k Permanent - A Very Cool Ride

A very frozen central Jersey corn field

With snowy and frigid days far outnumbering the moderate ones scheduling any kind of ride is a chore.  None the less, for the second weekend in a row I would find myself getting together with a small group to ride a permanent.  With a snow storm having blown through just two days prior, add to that a frigidly cold weather forecast, there was a lot of doubt about our ability to follow through with the plan. As the day approached the roads were clear enough.  Although, it would be bitterly cold and windy.   The one redeeming factor would be sunshine.  Four of us stayed committed to the ride which was the 70 mile Great Adventure Populaire, an out and back route from Hillsborough to Jackson. 

Left to right: Paul, Al, Joe and Chris at the start
The riders, all regulars of the NJ Rando Brevets were Chris, Paul, Al and myself.  To give the temperature a chance to rise out of the single digit range we began the ride at 10am from the Mountain View Plaza in Hillsborough.  Our starting temperature was 17F with a wind chill factor of 9F.  The wind was blowing strong from the north.  I chose my fixed gear bike for the flat terrain and dug out every wool layer I could find.  I wore five upper body layers, three head covers, tights over leg warmers, Lake winter cycling boots and lobster gloves.  Chemical warmers wedged into gloves and boots would help keep the digits from suffering.
Heading out on the first few miles

After a few photos our band of heavily dressed riders departed to the sound of cheering (courtesy of my wife who had driven me to the start).  The wind was mostly in our favor for the 35 mile stretch to Jackson meaning that the return trip would be mostly into the wind.  At least it was predicted to be somewhat warmer in the afternoon with a high temperature around 25F.   The roads on the route were largely clear, although we had to dodge the occasional icy patch.  In some of the open areas snow drifted onto the roads, but only in a few spots.  With the sun shining it didn't feel all that bad, I would even venture to say I was enjoying it.  With the wind pushing us along and no big hills to climb we arrived at the Jackson Premium Outlet Mall in good time. This being our halfway point we took the opportunity to refuel.  The food court was a warm refuge from the elements.  With sandwiches, pizza and other offerings there was something there for each of us.  After a relaxing lunch we headed back out for the return trip to Hillsborough knowing that it would be tougher than the ride out.
Enjoying the warmth of the Jackson Outlet Food Court
The wind didn't feel all that bad as we made our way through Millstone Township and Monroe.  There was a fair amount of wind block around in the way of wooded sections and small hills.   It was the approach to Plainsboro, just after Cranbury where we were the most exposed.  With open farmland all around us we got the full brunt of it.  Those were some very unpleasant miles.  Everyone was fairly grim at that point, most especially me.  It was bone chilling cold and I was suffering from a crushing headache, which I later discovered was the fault of an over tight helmet.  All the head covers I was wearing were causing my helmet to cut off circulation to my head.  I had thought it was from the cold.  Once we reached Monmouth Junction we had more protection from the wind.  Moving forward became less of a grind.  We were only about 10 miles from the finish which raised my spirits a bit.  After crossing the canal at Griggstown we were very close to home.  We kept a steady pace to the finish despite crossing some more exposed areas for the last couple of miles.  We pulled into the finish in just over 6 hours total.  The second half having taken more than a half hour longer than the first half.  I removed my helmet at the mini mart and my headache went away immediately.  That's when it finally dawned on me what was wrong.  After completing the mandatory RUSA paperwork Paul offered to drop me off at home.  I rode my bike over to his car to load up when the urge hit me to just keep riding for the 2 1/2 miles to my house.  I thanked him for the generous offer and kept pedaling back the way we had come.  With the wind at my back, I felt great. 

Paul with a warm smile

Al leads the way (except Chris who is ahead taking the photo)
Chris' two rides. One is a fixed gear (fueled by popcorn)


Chris was definitely the spark that got the ride together.  She wanted to begin a round of P-12 rides this being number one.  She didn't let the less than ideal conditions scare her off.  The rest of us followed her lead.  Paul, undecided as to the P-12 award now has the first one in the bank should he later choose to go for it.  Al and I both have a 100k Populaire on the books for January that was completed on New Year's Day relegating this ride to the status of just for the fun of it. 

Only two years ago it would have taken a team of horses to drag me out in similar conditions.  I never cease to be amazed at how adaptable we can be.  Riding in the cold conditions one for riding in the cold.  At this point a 30 degree day feels balmy.  Having said that my next brevet is to be a 300k in Florida, where most days this month have reached above the 60 degree mark.  However, should there be a sudden cold snap I'm more confident that I can deal with it.

Stay warm!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent job under tough conditions. Look forward to riding the route.