Monday, August 3, 2015

Vacation '15 ...

Sooooooo … it's been a while. I'd like to say it's for a good reason, but the fact is I just kind of got away from the whole blogging thing for a while. I certainly haven't lacked or material this year. In fact, I've been doing so much that I just didn't really have a lot of time to devote to writing about it. I'd like to change that. The truth is I like doing this blog. I don't care if cycling bloggers are disappearing left and right. I do this because I like the idea of having a record of the rides and events so I can look back on them later when I am too old or too broken to do this stuff.

So without getting too deep into it, here's a quick update of what has gone on this year. I'll do it in pictures to save myself a few thousand words …

This past winter, I hired a good friend of mine, a really talented graphic artist, to help design my very own kit. Then a new friend from Death Row put it all together for me. Turned out pretty great!

In April, I competed in the Leesburg Bakers Dozen for the third time, and managed a second place with 17 laps in just over 13 hours. 
In June, I did my most important race of the season - the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K  Leadville Qualifier, where I took the SS win and won a place in the Leadville 100. I deferred my entry until next season so my wife will be able to join me at the race. This was my only real "goal" for the season, so it felt pretty awesome to take the win.
After the Leadville Qualifier, I did the Rothrock Trail Mix. I don't have any pictures from the race, but it was one of the most - let's call it "educational" - races I've ever done. I had a decent race overall, but there was a really long rock garden section at the end that broke me. I was sitting in fourth overall until that spot and then another rider who I'd passed on the climbs was just way, way, waaaaay better than I was in the rocks. It taught me that even though I ride rocky trails on a semi-regular basis, "rocks" and "central PA rocks" are different things altogether. My final position was 6th, but that's a bit suspect. There was a rider who I passed who never passed me again and yet somehow finished ahead of me. So … whatever …

My next race was the Stewart 45 in July. All in all, I can't complain about how it turned out -- I finished in 9th place out of 22 or so, despite having another rider run into me the day before during my pre-ride that caused a nasty crash that broke both of my brakes off, and ultimately left me with a broken hand. And on the morning of the race, I woke up with a stomach issue that left me pretty dehydrated. I was good on the first lap, but then suffered the rest of the way and faded from 4th down to 9th. It was one of those days when just finishing felt like a moral victory.

And that brings me to last week, my vacation week, and a bike packing trip I'd been planning for the last six months or so. About a year ago, a buddy of mine and I decided we wanted to ride part of the Erie Canal Trail in NY. At the beginning of this year, I decided I was actually going to ride all of it. But the logistics turned out to be a much greater obstacle than I anticipated.

My plan was to ride from my home to the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and catch an Amtrak train to NYC and then another to Albany to ride west to Rochester, where I'd meet my buddy for the last leg of the ride. But it turns out that Amtrak requires you to box your bike for all trains in the east. That left me with a different plan: I would drive to Rochester, ride east to Albany and then turn around and ride back to Rochester in time to meet up for the last section. That meant riding the entire length of the Canal Trail twice.

Ultimately, it wasn't to be. There were two things that made it unfeasible and I ultimately turned around to make it back to Rochester before I was able to get all the way to Albany. The first thing was the trail itself - every time I reached a city, it more or less disappeared and I had to navigate my way through city streets to re-connect to eh other side, This happened in Syracuse, Rome and Utica. Syracuse was especially nasty - there was one road that was incorrectly marked on my guide map, and I spent at least 25 minutes searching for the right route.

The second thing that made it tougher than expected was the heat. Or I should say, more specifically, the sun. It was brutal. The heat was really high and the dew point even higher, but the real killer was the sun itself. It felt like there was nothing filtering it all week. Three days into the ride, I was already trying to ride only int he morning hours to avoid heat stroke.

For the week, I ultimately did just under 500 miles and covered the distance form just west of Schenectady all the way to Niagara Falls. It was a nice trip, but I definitely could have preferred to do it later in the year. A few photos …

At the start in Rochester ...

One of many boats along the canal

Trail Bridge ...

Some off-trail scenery ...

A typical trail section ...

Crossing one of the rivers ...

A rare section of single track ...

Early morning on the trail ...

One of the many road sections ...

The Falls ...

The Falls at night ...

The best Pumking I ever had … they rolled the glass in cinnamon!
The riding itself wasn't super hard, but with the heat and the navigation made it a tough week. Still, I had fun out there. Figuring out how to manage all my gear and all that was a real learning experience, and riding long distances day after day was pretty cool. By the third day, it felt pretty natural. I'd like to do more rides like that, but perhaps more of a mountainbike feel than this ride - there was just too much road on this one. Maybe next year I'll try to do one of those hut-to-hut rides or something. 

So that's a rough update of the year so far. I glossed over a lot, but I think I hit the highlights. I'm going to try to stay more up to date from here out. I've got the Fair Hill 50 and Shenandoah coming up and I'm trying to figure out whether I'l be able to swing some other events this fall. 

Until then, see you on the trails!

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