Yesterday, I got up really early (about 4:30) to drive out the Blue Marsh Lake to ride with Tim & Craig. The early start was Craig's idea, but I had no problem with that. I was planning on sticking around after our ride to fit in a second lap, and so the idea of starting early was fine by me.
The whole plan started out inauspiciously the night before. As I was getting the Misfit ready for the ride, I noticed that yet another spoke had snapped. This has happened a lot to both the front and back wheel (I blame this on poor craftsmanship in the initial build of the wheel since I built it myself.)
When I spun the wheel, it had a slight lilt to the opposite side, which I figured would only get worse on a 60 mile ride. And since it was after 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon, the shop was closed and I had no spokes at home to do the fix myself, so I had to make the decision to leave the singlespeed home for the first time this year. That sucked, since the whole point of my training right now is to build miles on one gear. But whatever -- I had just had my OCLV tuned up this weekend, and it was ready for a ride, so I wasn't going to bail when I still had a perfectly good rig to ride.
So I was up early and on the road before 5:00. On the drive out, it was raining pretty hard out near Collegeville, but I could tell it was clearing up on the horizon, so I actually figured the rain was a good thing (it's been really dry here lately so a little rain might just settle some dust on the trail.) Tim and Craig pulled up a few minutes after I arrived, and we all got ready to go. Of course, there was one slight delay to the start, but anyone who's ever ridden with Tim knows, this is something you have to expect ...
Bowels cleared, we started out. Right away, I decided I was actually pretty happy to have some gears for once. There's a lot of climbing at Blue Marsh (about 3,000 feet pr lap) and it felt nice to spin the short steep climbs that hit you in the first few miles.
The conditions were pretty much perfect. I led the ride pretty much the whole way, which more or less means I played the role of official spider web sweeper all day. And there were a lot of them. At one point, we stopped for a moment and Craig noticed that I had a ton of webs hanging off the side of my helmet and even one spider along as a hitchhiker.
We were a few miles into the ride when Tim mentioned that the day before, he had done a 14 mile training run at the Trexler Preserve in the Lehigh Valley. Tim runs ultra-races almost every weekend, and is currently preparing for a tough run at Trexler, where there is a ton of climbing on very steep hills. The dude is an absolute hammer -- to go from a tough half marathon run in the heat the day before to a 30 mile loop at Blue Marsh first thing in the morning (when he hasn't been on the bike most of the season) is just amazing, and you would never know he'd done that run -- he was still rolling strong. The guy is tough as shit.
It was great to ride with those guys, and we finished our loop in just under 4 hours, counting stops. If you haven't ridden there in a while, you would need to stop a few times -- the climb up the back of the old Blue Marsh Ski Area alone can wipe you out. It just feels like it lasts forever and it's very steep and technical in a few parts. But it was all good and we did the full loop and were done around 10:00.
Once we got back, I said goodbye to the guys, loaded up my Camelbak and gels and head back out. I figured that since I was on the gear bike, I'd push my pace on the second lap and see how I feel. I always judge the ride at Blue Marsh by where I am after my first hour. There are a few tough climbs early (including the loose, rocky one at 7 miles.) So I generally consider it a good day pace-wise if I am a or past the 9 mile marker one hour in. I figured I'd apply the same thought process to my second lap, which meant I was shooting for a high pace after finishing 30 miles already.
I passed the 9 mile marker at about 55 minutes, and was actually pretty close to 10 miles five minutes later. I still had the big climbs ahead, but that was a good pace for a second lap. I kept the pace up as long as I could, and to save my legs, I did walk part of the big climb this time around. On the other side of the climb, I picked it up again, and had my fastest five mile split of the day at about 12 mph from the Blue Marsh Ski Area back to the road crossing. The last few climbs of the day admittedly hurt a little, but in the end, I matched my best lap time ever on that second lap finishing in just about 3:10. Total ride time for the day was 7 hours. Total miles read 56.5, although it was probably a bit more corrected for weak GPS signals (the loop is supposed to be just over 29 miles, which would have put me a bit over 58 on the day.) That was a great day, and it was an encouraging training ride. I still have lots of miles to ride, and I need to repeat yesterday plus more on the singlespeed, but all in all it was a great way to spend a holiday weekend!