Thursday, May 1, 2008

Century ride

Last Sunday I joined Dan and Jim for most of Dan's proposed 200k+ ride. I should say upfront that this was an ambitious ride for me in a big way. Prior to this ride I had a total of about 260 miles on this bike and I would increase that by nearly 50% in a single ride. It is the longest ride I've done ever, and the first truly long ride I've done in several years. I was also riding with a couple guys who totally out class me in the fitness and base mileage departments. Jim rode PBP last year, and Dan has been training for a complete brevet series this year. Fortunately they are also really nice guys and were very encouraging. I appreciate that.

I started by riding down to the science center to meet Dan at 6am. I hit my highest speed to data on the way down Marshall at 48mph, but otherwise it was uneventful. We meandered out to Freeport road, crossing the river a couple times along the way. We met Jim at Trizilla and then stopped down the road at a GetGo for restrooms and last minute food selection. There was a bit of confusing following that since the road we had planned to take off of Freeport was closed, but Jim knows the area and was able to get us around without a hitch.

We started out with a short climb and then a nice long series of rolling hills as we passed through Rural Ridge and the surrounding areas. I was feeling good at this point and was probably pushing the hills a little harder than I should, a fact that would catch up to me later. This section ended at a nice downhill and then a moderate climb up Sun Mine road. As would be the pattern for the remainder of the ride, the guys vanished up the hill while I plodded along. Typically for the first half or so of the ride, they'd shoot uphill in front of me, and I'd catch up on the downhill and maybe pass... wash rinse repeat. I expected Jim to climb well as he was riding the lightest bike by probably almost 10 lbs and it's not a recumbent. What surprised me was how well Dan climbs on the p-38. Jim and Dan stayed together on just about every climb of the day.

We continued along until the first stop at about 40ish miles at a sheetz. This was welcome for me, I was starting to get a bit of toe numbness and I just really needed to walk around for a minute or two. I was also starting to feel that I was pushing a bit too hard on the hills and my knees were starting to complain a little.

We continued through Butler and north. Made a 5 mile wrong turn near one of teh Rt 8 crossings that took us through some gorgeous country through which we unfortunately had to back track. My knees were starting to make their complaints heard loud and clear at this point and I was getting worn out by the pace I was setting. We took another short pee break by the side of the road once we set ourselves right here.

Thus began the section that goes around the north edge of Moraine State park. IMHO this is some of the most beautiful country we encountered in the ride. It's also a series of unrelenting rollers that just trash your legs. I was starting to find a better pace for myself tho and that helped a lot. I just needed to climb at my own pace and use my aero advantage to try to catch up when the road went flat or down. We had hoped to stop for lunch at the Cooper Lake campground but it was closed. I stopped and popped a couple ibuprofen to calm the knees and we continued on. A few more rollers along Rt 19 and we stopped for lunch at a gas station with a subway.

I was looking forward to the long descent into Ellwood city at this point. A few more climbs later and we finally found it. A nice longish downhill run followed by several more miles of gradual altitude loss. This combined with lunch brought my energy levels back up nicely. I felt good as we rode river road and turned onto 588.
I was riding my own pace and not trying to keep up with the guys. I had no problems on the flats but once the climbs started I just let them roll out of sight and did my own thing. 588 has one moderately diffucult climb before you cross the turnpike for the first time. We made a quick stop at a gas station at the top. Then more rollers to brush creek road (which is REALLY nice) and onto 989. Jim made a stop at a kids lemonade stand which they thoughtfully set up for passing bikers.

At 989 and Lovi I decided to part company with the guys and go to my wife's Uncle's house in economy instead. I was still feeling good, but I knew I didn't have another 30 miles in my legs. I'd rather stop in good form than hit the wall. Unfortunately this decision meant riding up Dunlap Hill on 989 to get to Conway Wallrose. This hill is of the devil. It's narrow with no shoulders (well craters with loose gravel when you are lucky), it's probably about 12-14% ish in grade and is sustained for a while. Oh and you have pickup trucks doing 50mph about a foot off your left shoulder.... not my idea of a good time. Oh well, I got up it and rode down Conway Wallrose for a mile or so to Uncle David's house. Still feeling good.

Total distance: 111 miles
Average Speed: 14.0 mph

A few general observations: I need to just work with the speed profile of my bike. It's slower going up and faster going down. Trying to force it to do otherwise is just asking for problems. This hasn't been a problem for me until this ride for the simple reason that I've not ridden with anyone else for any significant distance.

The fact that I can jump on this bike with almost no base mileage and do more than a century without any real problems is remarkable. I would have been crying in pain on the side of the road at about mile 50 had I tried this on my df bike. The fact that I wound up with a respectable if not blazing average speed is equally remarkable. For city traffic and such this bike is fair. A bit worse than an upright in the nastiest conditions (potholes, mostly) but a fair performer. For real distance riding, I can't imagine ever going back to a traditional bike. There are still improvements I can make for the next bike (better frame stiffness, mesh seat perhaps...) but it will be a recumbent.