Sunday, June 3, 2012

All hail ...

One week out from Granogue and then, a week later, The Stoopid 50, so I pretty much planned this weekend around time in the saddle. And for the most part, it was mission accomplished.

It became clear during my Yin Yoga class (when I noticed out the window that the rain had already arrived) that it was not going to be an off-road ride on Saturday. That was okay -- I really haven't spent a lot of time on the road this year, so it would be a nice change of pace to get out for a long road ride for a change. (Moreover, Joanna and I took her friend Lindsey to dinner for her birthday on Friday night at Molly Maguire's, and after a few big beers -- in part to celebrate the first ever NY Mets no-hitter! --  it was nice to have the option to start a little later!)

Friday night's pre-ride prep
So I headed out 10:30 Saturday for a road ride. Originally, I planned to repeat a ride to center city Philly from back in January. But on the spur of the moment, I decided to head in the opposite direction instead. I wanted to do some climbing and knew that I'd get that by heading toward Ridge Road above Perkasie. Once I hit the ridge, I decided to keep going toward Bethlehem along Route 412. Way back when I finished school, I used to commute form my place in Bethlehem to my office in Doylestown and I always took Route 412 to 611. It's a pretty cool drive, so I figured it might make a nice ride. And it turns out that was true.

One of the sights along Route 412 ... cows and, uh, other cows

I rode all the way to Route 78 just past Hellertown before cutting back toward Quakertown. I briefly considered going over the mountain through Lehigh's campus, but I could see some gathering clouds in that direction and decided I didn't want to risk being caught out on top of the mountain in a storm.

As I was heading back toward Quakertown, I took a turn onto Flint Hill Rd. I'd never been on Flint Hill before, so I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Flint Hill is an apt name - don't know anything about the Flint part, but Hill is spot on. It started with a climb and around every bend it seemed that climb just continued. And I mean, for a long while. A steady, long ascent with a near constant pitch that went on for a few miles. It wasn't super steep or even the longest climb I've done, but it was tough just the same because it twisted and turned a lot and I had no idea what was coming around the next bend, and it seemed to be that the answer was always "more climb".

I eventually crested (just past another aptly named road called "Highpoint Rd") and then rode a few more miles through Richlandtown before taking a break outside one of many farms I passed during the day.

Sitting on the side of the road, having a snack, and watching the beautiful lack of traffic.

I finished off the ride with about 85 miles. I was a little surprised it wasn't more. I was really looking forward to seeing the total elevation gain on the day, but unfortunately my Garmin seemed to be corrupted -- it just hung up when I tried to upload. Oh well, it certainly felt like a good climbing day!

Probably the best part of the ride was the fact that my legs felt great all day -- I still had the same pop at mile 80 that I'd had pulling out of my driveway. Oh - and I "discovered" a new energy supplement. When I stopped to refill my bottles at one point, I didn't see any regular energy bars, so I grabbed a Snickers candy bar. It not only tasted great, but it seemed to give me a discernible bump in energy. I've never been a big fan of candy, but it's nice to know that I may be able to add a bar as a "treat" during longer rides or races without costing myself real energy.

So after Saturday's ride, I planned for an off-road ride at Blue Marsh on Sunday. I kind of kept the mileage open-ended since I wanted to wait and see how I felt Sunday morning. And I felt pretty good right from the start. The only issue I had was the trail itself. Blue Marsh used to drain pretty well, but lately that seems to have changed. Not sure why -- but two days after the last rain, there were still plenty of areas of standing water on the trail. This was sure to slow me down since the mud at Blue Marsh is always of the wheel-sucking variety.

I decided shortly after starting that I'd go for just one big loop on the day. It was too messy to go for multiple laps in any reasonable time, and I wasn't in the mood to slog all day anyway.

But it turned out that even my one lap plan was going to be impacted by something I never expected.


When I started the ride it was sunny and bright, and the forecast for the region had called for possible rain for the day, but not until much later in the afternoon. But as I exited the woods on Old Church Road, the skies were suddenly darkening, and I could see a storm approaching from the west. I had to make a quick decision, and the obvious choice was to cut short the climb over Blue Marsh Ski Mountain and start heading back. The storm seemed to be approaching fast, so I figured the best I could do was minimize the time I got caught in it. I didn't feel much like getting soaked with a downpour.

I picked up the trail at the 21 mile mark (after coming out of the woods at 14 miles) and stayed ahead of the storm for all of three miles. It hit - and hit hard - just before the 24 mile marker. Only I was wrong about one thing - it wasn't just rain, it was hail. And everything seemed to go from calm to torrential in just a few seconds. There was really no warning drizzle or anything like that.

As it hit, I had just crested the last short climb before dropping out to 183. But I had to stop and seek some shelter under a tree because the hail was so brutal it was actually like a snow squall and the temps had dropped down into the 50's at the most. I got so cold so quickly that I lost my breath - kind of like when you jump into a cold pool for the first time. I was having trouble catching my breath and shivering like crazy, so I decided to stop and try to wait it out a bit. As I was standing there, I could see piles of hail gathering all over the place. It was surreal.

Eventually, the hail/rain slowed down and I was able to remount and drop down to the road. When I got to the road, I saw another rider who'd been caught in it as well. We chatted briefly about how awful it was and then he said his car was less than a mile away and if I wanted a ride, he'd be happy to take me to my car. I thanked him but decided to finish the ride on my own. I had only about 5 miles to my car, so it wouldn't be to bad, or so I figured.

The rest of the ride was okay but an absolute soaked mess. I was covered in mud and soaking wet when I finally reached the last two climbs, and they were brutal to ride on the Misfit -- I couldn't get any traction in the ruts of running water so I had to stay down in the saddle the whole way. It kind of sucked, but I was still glad I rode it out.

I finished with about 23 miles and ten extra lbs of soaked clothes and mud. I didn't have my camera with me to take any pictures of the hail, but I'm not too sorry about that. It might have been ruined by the rain if I tried to use it. It was really quite a squall while it lasted. The hail itself wasn't huge, and i looked for an online photo that approximated what was falling on me. It pretty much looked like this:

So the weekend as a whole, I got over 110 miles. It would have been nicer to get about 120 or so, but considering the weather issues, I think I'm happy with the way it went. Freezing moments aside, I felt good pretty much all weekend.

One other goal I had for the ride today -- I was testing out my new 2012 Bontragers RXLs:

Oooo! Shiny!
A quick report: great fit and very comfortable. I always have a break-in period with new shoes, but aside from having to adjust the velcro straps once today, these felt great from the start. The adjustable heel cup fit snug and I had no play at all. I noticed the difference on climbs almost right away - lots of power transfer from the very stiff carbon sole. Very happy with these (although it was depressing to see how dirty they got in the rain!)

So this week I'll be tapering back to get ready for Granogue. I think I'm as ready as I can be. No real expectation for a finish in this race. Just want to manage my effort. That'll be tough enough. This is going to be the longest single ride I've had on the Misfit so far, so no matter what else it is, it'll be a real learning experience. Should be fun!

Almost forgot ... by request, here's another update on how someone else spent his weekend:

He really is a remarkably consistent performer, isn't he?

Until next time, cheers!

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