Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Second Century AT (After Trek)

One century was not enough. And now I'm calling everything AT because it's a whole new ball game with the 2.1. Everything BT (before Trek) was just a warm up. That beauty is some way to fly!

So I'm a sucker for punishment. From out of who-knows-where, a notion occurred to me to take a little solo distance ride while I'm on vacation. Great idea. No pressure to get back by such-and-such a time, no worry about getting called to work about 87 miles from home, just me and the mileage. But where to go, where to go?

How about around another lake? Sounds like a possibility. I've ridden the old Harley around Cayuga a zillion times, how about let's pedal it once? And just like that, a plan was born.
Load up on Gatorade and Clifs, pump up the tires, pack my tool bag, plug in the iPod and point the Trek north.

The weather was a little iffy right out of the gate. The NWS guys advertised a 70% chance of rain but clearing later on. I'm game for that so I was on the road by 8 AM under clouds and fog. Funny how fog sometimes gets thicker and darker until you really can't tell the difference between the mist and rain. Less than an hour out, I noticed it was a lot thicker and darker and very much like rain. In fact, it was definitely rain. The world on the other side of my shades disappeared.
Fortunately, it didn't last too long and dropping down the valley to the foot of the lake put me under the worst of it. Not the most auspicious way to begin.

I made a short stop downtown to get my hair buzzed at my sister-in-law's shop (nothing like getting something productive done while I'm at it), then off and running again. The ceiling lifted a little and the rain quit but still looking pretty dreary. I dispensed with the sunglasses on the way out of Tiny Town. The lake came into view and started drifting slowly by on my left as the long climb back out of the valley got underway. So far, so good.

The first misadventure caught me at about mile 30. I'd been grinding along up a steep little dip, gritting my teeth at that right shoulder of mine that always gets sore after a few hours on the bars. Why not pause for a stretch, a drink and a couple ibuprofens to take the edge off? Pick a spot and pull over...Uh...why didn't my left foot unclip? How about pick a spot and fall over? Why is my world rotating leftward and earthward? This can't be good. My right foot finally popped loose and in a desparate attempt to avoid eating tarmac, I jammed it between the front tire and downtube with big chainring teeth embedded in the calf. Now this is fun!

The good news is, the bike never hit the ground so it doesn't really count as a crash. The bad news is I was now equipped with a fresh row of greasy bite marks leaking red stuff down the back of my leg and into my shoe. And alcohol wipes burn like crazy. Well, my shoulder doesn't hurt as much but I needed that ibuprofen a little more than I did. Back in the wind after a bit of first aid and Gatorade. I just hope ProLink chain lube is a good antiseptic.

Still pushing a pretty stiff north wind, I eventually dropped down to lake-level at Aurora and met up with Chris, her niece and our younger son. They'd followed me out with the van so I could take a look at Jessica's new Diamondback and sort of fit it up for her. She'd bought it the day before and couldn't wait long enough for me to get home and put it on the trainer to have a look. So instead, they put it on the rack and brought the bike to me so she could ride it ASAP. The big-box where she got it didn't even bother to put air in the tires or raise the saddle once she paid the tab so nothing was right. She's a shiny-new rider and all this is pretty much from scratch for her but it seems like they could at least show her how a presta valve works before they kicked it out the door. It was kind of a quick-and-dirty, close-counts setup done in a parking lot but it was more than the store gave her and at least its rideable. I needed a break anyway and they restocked my bottle cages before we took off in opposite directions.

By now, the sun was peeking out and raising the temperature as promised and the humidity was creeping up along with it. The road along there is an endless series of little dips and dives which means you don't get much of a break anywhere for a lot of miles. It was a preview of things to come. The north end of the lake eventually appeared and I took a little breather at the lock where Cayuga connects to the Erie Canal. I've lived around here all my life and never seen this. Guess going a little slower isn't all bad.

But if I wanted to get home before Thursday, I had to keep rolling so it's back on the blacktop and around the turn at the top of the lake to head south. I'd been anticipating that the wind at my back would help a lot on the return leg but I didn't count on the hills. It turned out to be a long, gradual climb with only minor variations for what seemed like a week. The breeze coming from behind did give me a little boost but it also meant I didn't have much free air conditioning to keep me dry while I chewed my way back up to the top of the ridge.

Somewhere in there, a yellow jacket zoomed in, bounced off my helmet visor, lodged under the strap in front of my right ear and before I could grab him, buried his stinger in my cheek. He must have been a healthy one because it felt like somebody punched me. And alcohol wipes burn like crazy. My eye sort of puffed shut for a while and teared until I couldn't see past the forks. Somewhat less than ideal but eventually it cooled off and calmed down to where I had binocular vision again. I guess between the sweat and alcohol, the venom didn't have a chance. It took my mind off the sprocket holes, shoulder ache and saddle burn. More ibuprofen.

I eventually got up on the hilltop and in the nick of time, an ice cream stand appeared. I'd had about enough hot Gatorade for a while so a break in the shade and a cone fit the bill nicely. I managed to speak coherently enough to order and chat with the owner while I soaked up some of their conditioned air. Leg burn was becoming a significant issue but the cold vanilla and cool air took the edge off enough to clip in and push on.

From about mile 85 all the rest of the way down the lake, the short climbs and drops just ran together. This was the same stuff I was doing earlier in spades. It turned into an endless exercise in gear changing. The cables were stretching out and shifts were a little harsh but the lake kept moving slowly along on the left. The bonk was lurking just around the corner so rest stops got more frequent and cruising speed dropped quite a bit. My saddle had seemingly developed fangs and there wasn't really any spots left on the bars that didn't come with stiff shoulders and tingly fingers. At one lightheaded pause, I foolishly decided to swab some more grease, dirt and blood off the chainring gouges in my calf and just about passed out when I tried to stand up. Note to self...don't do that quite so fast when you're already loopy, stupid. And alcohol wipes REALLY burn. Finally, there was no more lake, just road and the last 20 mile leg to home was all that was left.

I know this part from riding it many times in the past and I know that it comes equipped with several climbs including one wretch called McMillan Hill. This thing's just steep enough to get your attention on a good day but normally isn't that big a deal. It's about 2% and only a couple miles long, just gear down a bit and grind it out. Having 112 miles already behind me when I hit it this time made it a very big deal. Granny low got used all the way to the top and I thought my legs were going to burst into open flames. The old bonk was drafting right off my back tire and gaining.

By mile 119 I was pretty well done in. Just about everything hurt at this stage of the game and the world was going by very slowly. About then an orange jersey appeared headed toward me and there was Chris, returning the favor of coming out to meet me and riding shotgun into the finish. I needed that extra boost of having a cheerleader and found enough in the old legs to make almost 20 mph for most of the last five miles. I don't know if I'd have made it in without my escort.

We hit the driveway ten hours after I left and that put away another record distance. It was a long day but worth the trip. I keep pushing, finding out what an old guy can do and surprising myself. True, a lot of my parts are pretty sore as I write this even after a stretch of sleep but this too shall pass. I outran the bonk-monster one more time despite a close race at the end and with any luck, will always stay just one pedal ahead.

Now where do I go from here? Two lakes? Who says you get smarter with age?

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