Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thank you, Frick Park, for reminding me that I suck.

Frick Park kicked my ass today. Repeatedly. Chris and I went out, since it's the last time we'll get to ride before he packs up and heads to CA. I had to pick up the Combi S from Pro Bikes yesterday (it needs a warranty-covered fork repair, and it's getting a new XTR front derailleur that I bought cheap on Chainlove) so that I'd have it for today.

We headed from his place over to Frick sometime around 11:00. Starting from Frick Museum side of the park, we made our way down the trail that starts near the bowling green. There's this ridiculously steep (to me, in my mtb infancy, at least) section that I finally made it down today, with only one minor slip that led to a little cut on my elbow.

We made our way up to the Iron Grate trail, and that's where the fun started. I took the lead, for some strange reason, and I don't know how or why, but at one point I just left my bike. Dragged that elbow, my shoulder, and my right leg through some dirt. The elbow was the only thing to suffer any (further) damage.

"That blood on your shorts, is that...?"

"Oh, that's just my elbow. No big deal."

We looked around, but couldn't really figure out what it was that caused me to spill. We may never know.

I climbed back on the bike and we started down the trail again. I want to say the rest of that trail went without incident, although I certainly moved a little more slowly. Actually, Chris ripped his Camelbak on a low-hanging tree branch. I'm short enough, and I guess my bike also low enough that it wasn't an issue for me.

I had another nice fall at one point (with no addition maiming), and so I decided that maybe my tire pressure was a little too high (somewhere around 50psi on a tire rated for 35 - 80). I let some air out and we started again. Shortly thereafter I wiped out. Again. On the left side this time (my previous falls had been on the right side, so at the very least, this made the dirt look more even and balanced).

I still have no idea what my problem was, but once we got down to one of the MUPs, I decided that I'd had my ass kicked enough for one day, and we headed back to his place.

It was great to get out on the trails again. The weather was gorgeous, sun was out, riding was nice when I was upright and pedaling, but really, what happened today? I just don't know.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thrift Drug 200k

Yesterday was the Thrift Drug 200k, Western PA's first brevet. Not coincidentally, it was also my first randonneuring event. I was made aware of it by my friend Dan, and once it was determined that my knees were no longer giving me any trouble, I decided to give it a shot.

The morning started a bit ominously. I was supposed to be at Jim Logan (the brevet organizer)'s house at about 6:30. He lives over in Shaler. I live in Munhall. There's something like 17 miles between those two places, and I didn't leave the house until almost 6:20.

I made good time getting to the Millvale exit off of 28, but then managed to get a bit lost. Backtracking and retracing cost me some time, and I finally ended up getting to Jim's house at about 6:55. That gave me loads of time to unpack the car, sign in, get ready, etc... I had really hoped to use his bathroom before we left, but alas, there was no longer time for that.

At this point, I could give you a blow-by-blow of the 129.93 miles that made up my ride (I got a little lost near the end, which accounts for the extra four miles). Doing that would take a long time. Probably almost as long as the 11:40 it took me to complete the ride (9:00:39 seconds of ride time with 2:40 for stops, breaks, etc...). Instead, I'll hit some highlights (and/or lowlights).

The ride started off great. We left from Jim's and made our way into town, through town, and across the Smithfield St. Bridge. From there we headed up Sycamore St. to the top of Mt. Washington. I was pleased to be the first person to make it to the top. Considering how long it took me to finish the whole ride, I now realize that everyone else was just conserving energy for the next 118 miles.

I was able to stay with Dan and Dale (another rider; he was riding this crazy Softride bike) for maybe the first 45 miles or so. After that, they pulled ahead and I just couldn't close the gap. Oh well.

Made it to WV without issue. The two or three miles through Ohio were uneventful. The next fifteen along the Ohio River were really great. Nice and flat, without tons of traffic. I even had a chance to see the nuclear power plant in Shippingport, PA. I didn't even know there was a nuclear power plant in Shippingport. Prior to yesterday, I had never even heard of Shippingport. Turns out the Shippingport plant was the first nuclear power plant in the United States, but it's been decommissioned since 1982.

Miles 75 - 100 were fairly miserable. I turned away from the river and made my way through Rochester, PA. Rochester, as far as I can tell, is one big uphill climb. If I never see Rochester again, I'll be perfectly happy. My granny gear has never seen as much action as it did in Rochester. In fact, after I finally made it through Rochester, I was pretty much broken.

Most hills after that resulted in me dropping down to the granny and the lowest gear in the back. I was just plain broken. Demoralized. I think miles 75-85 took more than an hour. I'd climb at about 6.5mph, slope back down a little bit, and then climb twice as high as the last hill. It was painful.

As if the steady uphill climbs weren't enough the wind was steady and constant, and at no time was it ever at my back. The wind was no friend of mine.

After I finally reached the last controle at mile 100, things were pretty good. There was a three or four mile stretch on Three Degree Road that was exactly what I needed - mostly flat with just a slight bit of rolling up or down. For those few miles I was actually able to stay at about 20mph. It was perfect.

Nothing too terrible after that. As I mentioned earlier, I got a little bit lost in North Park, which gave me a few extra miles that I didn't really want or need. I read my cue sheet and saw that I needed to make the left onto Hemlock. The cue sheet also informed me that I would be crossing Wildwood. Something happened with my eyes at Wildwood, because I got to that intersection, and I swear the sign said Hemlock. I turned left there instead.

Once I realized I wasn't where I needed to be, I checked the GPS on my phone, in hopes that it'd be easy to meet up with where I was supposed to be. No such luck. I turned around and headed back to where I screwed up in the first place. I checked the sign at the intersection. It said Wildwood.

I finally pulled back in to Jim's driveway at 6:40. I certainly didn't crash in a heap as soon as I stepped off of my bike or anything like that, but I was glad to be done. Jim asked if I'd consider doing a longer event, like a 300k, and I told him I'd have to think about it. I'd have to get myself into better shape.

Honestly, I don't know if I could be convinced to ever ride that route again. That's not to say I didn't have a good day, or that I didn't feel good about getting through 125 miles (with no knee pain!) under my own power. It's the longest single-day ride I've ever completed. I'm proud of that. I just don't know that I could ever face Rochester again.

Things to take away from the Thrift Drug 200k:

  • I might need a new saddle. I bought my current saddle after last year's MS-150, and it's been 1000x better than the stock saddle that came with my Portland, but for a lot of yesterday, I felt like I wasn't centered on the saddle, and that I was falling off of the right side. This led to all sorts of nasty chafing on the inner thigh of my left leg. So maybe I need a wider saddle.

  • No knee pain, but my left shoulder was a mess all day. I'm not sure if this more to do with my new stem (110mm, -6°) vs. my old stem (100mm, +10°), or if my shoulder was already somewhat out of sorts from my hockey class on Thursday. I'll need to monitor that.

  • My bike rack weighs a ton. I had taken it off a month or so ago, since I didn't really have much need for it (I work from home now, so I don't really have a commute where I have to take clothes to and from work). I put it back on yesterday, and just the rack (let's not even get started on the pannier full of food, tubes, etc...) made a huge difference in the weight of the back-end of the bike. Needless to say, that was removed as soon as I got home.

I guess that's all for now. I'm taking the day off from riding today.