Wow. Sunday was an incredible day for a ride. Clear and beautiful and lots of time spent with good friends for about 210+ miles of riding.
Saturday night Jess and I spent the night at our respective parents' houses to make sure that I got a good night of rest without the interruptions of Sacha. It was a good move. I drank 128 oz. of Gatorade, ate a good deal of pasta, veggies, and crab and took some extra vitamins, potassium, and supplements of condrointin to prepare for over 12 hours on the bike. I'd need the calories and the vitamins and minerals. While I ate my two medium-sized meals of pasta spaced a couple of hours apart, I watched X-Men 3 with my dad...a movie that reaches new levels of mediocrity but was perfectly suited for a nice chilled-out evening.
I crawled into bed a little bit after 9, read some Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and fell asleep by about 9:30 prepared to rise at 4 am.
3:30 am I woke having had a mild anxiety dream about the Wilderness 101. It's a common enough dream for me when I'm nearing a big effort or thinking a lot about what I have to do on the bike to prepare for the 101. The double kicks it in. So has Iron Cross. So did the little Shannock Valley Race last year. Needless to say it involves me metaphorically crawling on my single speed out of the second checkpoint up Greenlee Road. Eric Roman passes me but we are somehow on Greenlee and in a high school gymnasium at the same time with ramps going up that are like the ones in old department stores. It doesn't make any sense but there it is. Needless to say, I stayed in bed for another 20 minutes and then went upstairs to make breakfast of grits, honey and raisins and some coffee.
My dad woke up and we chit-chatted for about an hour before I shoved off for the corner of College and Allen in State College to meet the rest of the riders for the day.
There were a few no-shows that I was really hoping to ride with (Billy, Cerenzia, Joe, Richie and Strauber) but we started with 8 which is a good-sized group. Thankfully, Chip and Steve were there. They aren't big big guys but they have a lot of stamina and are big enough to provide a good draft. Also, Eric Nord, Ray Crew, Jordyn, Kunka, Sparky (world silver medal duathlete) and me. It would be good though Ray said he wasn't doing the whole thing despite my harassment and the promise of rubbing it in Frank's face that we did it and Frank hadn't. I almost had him convinced just outside of Lock Haven (mile 40) but he said that two weeks earlier he hadn't been able to walk after some arduous ride and a foot injury. At this I exclaimed some shenanigans having just come off a broken foot and I attempted a shame tactic but it was for nothing. Ray was turning back after 50 miles.
We rolled out of State College at 5:50 in 57-degrees F weather under partly cloudy skies. Town and campus were so quiet on the roll out. Just the occasional college guy or gal doing a walk of shame and a few cars and garbage trucks. Past the stadium and on the way to Bellefonte we rode through some mini-barrens where the temperature dropped. My sleeveless and gloveless self was a bit cold but it wouldn't last long. But the trip down Seibert Road, a really steep hill down into Fisherman's Paradise was a real chiller.
Up past the Bellefonte courthouse and onto Jacksonville Road we started getting our rhythm as usual. Two guys on the front doing pulls for as long as they like but never getting tired. Sparky and Jordyn are really small guys (125 lbs dripping wet I gather) so Steve, Chip, Eric and I did the most regular pulls at the front on the way up. After the longish stretch of rollers on Jacksonville Road out of Bellefonte, we turned onto Fox Hollow Road, an idyllic pastoral road that rolls along a creek in a hollow (really?). Old farms and a willow trees stand on either side and stream wends and wraps around on the east side of the road and then eventually leads to Cedar Springs and Mill Hall outside of Lock Haven.
In Lock Haven we stopped for some fuel - water, gatorade, a cup of coffee, and granola bars - because there would likely be no more stops before Wellsboro about 60 miles away. Through Lock Haven we rode a by the river and on to Avis where we've stopped before for breakfast. Kunka has famously eaten two whole "Hungry Man" pancakes there. These things are about 14" in diameter. That year he ordered three and rolled the third up and took it with him. Mmmmm. Pancakes.
After Avis we took a slightly different route than we have in the past, staying on West Side Rd. that parallels Rte. 44 on the other side of the river but doesn't have the traffic. Here we said by to Raymo and kept a good pace by getting on some super-backwoods road and then on the rail trail the whole way to Waterville. The trees and river hugged us on one side and the sheer face of the mountain on the other.
Past Waterville we got some headwind and Steve, Chip and I started doing more and longer pulls. Eric tried to hang in there but the wind started getting to him and Sparky and Jordyn couldn't do much up there so they hung on and drafted for a long time as we passed Little Pine State Park and crossed a beautiful late-19th or early-20th century steel bridge near English Center.
Once we got onto 287, Sparky and I started singing Duran Duran and some other nonsense even though we had started the biggest climb of the day. He and Chip took up the front positions leading Steve and I by about 20 to 35 feet the whole three-mile climb. The other guys stayed back, conserving their energy, either unsure or unable to keep up. But we regrouped at the top and took the long and bangin' descent into Morris where Steve took the town sign sprint the bulk of which I had taken earlier.
Following 287 we turned off onto Dean Hill Road so that we could descend again into Wellsboro. Sparky and Chip once again took off up the hill and I trailed a bit behind with Steve falling a bit and the other three taking their time. Eric nearly walked it. I was kind of wishing I had a 25 or a 27 on my cassette because Dean Hill is really really steep. Like 18%. Ugh! But the flat at the top was a nice reprieve even though a headwind awaited us. But Steve, Chip and I just kind of lollygagged until we got to the rollers and the descent at which point I let the throttle out and housed the rollers to win the Wellsboro town sign.
Mmmmm. The Wellsboro Diner. Pancakes. Eggs. Sausage. Coffee. Usually I get the rice pudding but I was so damn full that it was no use. The best part was that Rich O'Neil, Strauber and Alcorn had hauled ass after leaving State College 50 minutes later than us to arrive fifteen minutes after us. They only stopped once with no pee breaks either and so we had three more strong guys to haul ass back with us.
After eating entirely too much food and being mantastic in the diner, we headed out on Rte. 660 for the Pine Creek Gorge rail trail. The climb on 660 was almost the worst thing ever as the sausage I had eaten was fighting me to the near death and I was quite concerned that I was going to lose some lunch. Alas, it worked out and by the time we got to the gorge I felt more or less human and we housed the gorge trail with Strauber, Richie and I taking the biggest pulls but Strauber really taking it up to the next level and Richie pounding it home. We covered the 18 miles from the trailhead to Blackwell in about 40 minutes...on a rail trail. Nord said we were going 27 mph on average. Yeah!
After Blackwell, we hopped on 414 through Slate Run and Cammal. Back at Waterville we hopped on the rail trail again to do the reverse of what we had done that morning. Once again, Richie housed it on the rail trail and we pushed the pace almost the whole way home. Nord and Alcorn were hurting (Alcorn was hung over) but hung on as Strauber, Steve, Chip, Richie and I did the lion's share of the work at the front and nearing the end on Jacksonville Road before Bellefonte I could feel the difference between me and Strauber, Richie, Chip, and Sparky. I had had a broken foot and no racing and they have had some racing in their legs. So when it came time to play hard hard man and do an attack at the top of a hill four miles from Bellefonte, I had just like 1/2% too little to jump on and got dropped and I watched a 10' gap become a 100' gap and then 100' gap become a 500' gap as they worked together and I tried to catch up to no avail. I was heartened though to have put more than 500' between me and everyone behind me so my fitness isn't bad...just no consistent high end.
The final climb up Seibert Road was a trial as usual and Richie took it followed by Straub and Chip and then me. The final sprint of the day was won by Straub and at the moment we went under the 322 bridge I bonked. 208 miles in I just faded out. But as I reached into my back jersey pocket I found the eucharistic love of a Nutrageous bar. It was double the love and redemption of any food ever and within 3 minutes, all was well for the 210+ miles with just two to go.
I can't wait for the 101.