|Al stands by Big Red after setting the fastest time for the route.|
We set up to do the ride on the Saturday at 9:00am. In the back of my mind was the idea that we try to set the fastest time overall for the route. Of the ten rides recorded to date the fastest time was 5 hrs and 42 minutes set by three local riders the prior weekend. I took the time to mark our cue sheet with the time we would need to arrive at each control to stay ahead. With the hilly profile of the route I considered it a lofty goal, but it was worth trying. I presented the idea to Al as a non do-or-die concept. If we fall short, so be it. No brooding about it. We would just give it a fair shot and be happy we tried.
As predicted March 5th was indeed a nice day. We had light tail winds all the way to the Califon control (33mi). Although, the hilly terrain from Stanton Mountain (18mi) onward took away much of the benefit. We arrived at the first control a few minutes ahead of the pace, but we took some time to make clothing adjustments. The day was warming fast and hills were looming ahead. Neither of us wanted to overheat.
We worked our way through the rolling terrain, and the big climb up to the Round Valley Resorvoir. Then descended to the boro of Lebanon. After which came the several mile climb up Cokesbury Road. Arguably, the most difficult of the route. We fared well keeping a steady rhythm all the way up. After the back side of Cokesbury was descended we then took on the steep kickers of Cokesbury-Califon Road. We alternated between standing and seated to break things up a bit. For our first time on steep terrain it went quite well. We were in control of the bike the entire time. After a final steep kicker up to Route 513 we arrived at the Califon control two minutes beyond the time needed to stay on pace.
We made quick work of the control stop and headed out to 513 East for the five mile leg to the info control at Long Valley. We kept a good steady pace despite some cross wind. The terrain was mostly flat and pleasant. Our arrival at the Cycle Craft bike store was ahead of pace by a few minutes. I then became cautiously optimistic of our chances at the record time. We quickly got back out on the route making the turn south on Route 517. This section is fairly tandem friendly, despite one long climb. The only problem is the wind had picked up considerably and we were into it for the next 13 miles to Whitehouse Station. We kept a steady, although somewhat slower, pace through the headwind to the big climb. The stair steps of the climb seemed to last forever, but knowing it is the last upgrade of any consequence helped us to keep pushing. Shortly after came the big downhill. The strong wind gusts had minimal effect on the stability of the tandem. We had fun pushing our biggest gear down the two mile descent. Our arrival at Whitehouse Station had us five minutes ahead of the pace. We gave back that margin, and then some, by using rest rooms and refreshing water for the final 16 mile leg.
The last section consisted of rolling terrain and small hills. With one eye on my watch and the other on the odometer we concentrated our efforts. I would put all I had into the pedals on the upgrades to keep from too much speed erosion. At the top of each rise I would feel Al kick in like a turbo-charger allowing me some recovery. This worked well, although it still wasn't clear we would make it. None the less we kept it up. We worked as a team keeping the goal in sight and not giving up. Once we made the turn onto East Mountain Road with four miles to go it became clear we had a good chance. Both of us put everything we had into those last miles. Our arrival at the finish was in 5 hrs 38 minutes, which was the new fastest time by four minutes.
Setting the course record for a Permanent Populairre doesn't really turn the cycling world upside down. In fact, there is no place such data is even posted. The information exists only in my filing drawer, where all the paperwork for my permanent routes are stored. It is only of importance to the players involved. And, at that, of only minor significance as our sport is non-competitive. The three riders who's time we bested may not have even been trying for a fast time. They could have set up lounge chairs at every control and kicked back while enjoying a leisurely cup of tea before setting out for the next stop. It is in this light that we set the challenge and accept the result as no more than pure fun. A motivator to help us do the best that we can. Not a comparison to the abilities of others. It's my hope that when someone comes along to ride the route faster than we did they derive as much pleasure out of it as us.