This past week had some good rides. After my century with Tom on Sunday, I had put in five four shorter rides this week. I went out on my SS on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday to get my legs in good working order. The Monday and Saturday rides were just what the doctor ordered too - active recovery.
Though Tom and I didn't lay down a fast pace by any means (about 17-18 mph for 6 hours) and had only minor climbs the whole day, a century is still the kind of ride that is nice to take it easy after. So Monday was just a go-play day. I went up to White's Woods and and cranked around for an hour-and-a-half or so to keep light on the pedals. Actually, I didn't keep too light because I threw in a few rounds of some short steep climbs to keep up on the power riding, but not so much to stress my muscles out.
Additionally, I found a found a bangin' downhill that parallels a natural gas pipe down the side of the mountain. It must be a about 35-45 degree downgrade for a couple hundred yards on loose-ish dry dirt. Ass-well-behind-the-seat stuff that keeps me on my toes. At first I wasn't sure about it and near half way, the pitch went a little steeper and ahead I could see some larger loose rocks and a log running paraallel to the hill and so I took a short stop to assess, remounted by using a nearby tree as a holding station, and then continued down. All was well at the bottom and I felt confident that even though I've been off the SS for 5 weeks, I could still handle it. It's the little "extreme" things that can be a test of mettle.
Tuesday I went to Roaring Run in Apollo, PA.
It's a beautiful place with some great waterfalls and twisting diving trails. When the trails are well-maintained, they are pretty fun to take. Not now. They are engorged with knotweed which is a fast-growing species that looks kind of like elephant ears and it encroaches on everything. The upper section was boggy and overgrown, preventing me from really getting any speed and the lower section had the same problem in parts...and it seemed that those parts were always inconveniently placed where I needed either lots of vision or momentum. Combine that with some nasty thornbushes in sinking muddy corners and I had a few wrecks and just got a bit frustrated being in muddy bullshit. Not every ride is a winner.
On a cooler note, the Roaring Run Watershed Association folks have put in some new footbridges over the creek so that the "upper" and "lower" sections of the trail are connected and no longer require wading. Thanks!
Thursday was another SS day with nothing remarkable to report.
But Friday I took a 70-mile ride with big some bigger climbs and several of them. Our friend Kim came over and hung out with Jess and Sacha and Jess and I agreed I could have longer ride. I started out with a roll toward Creekside, a frequent destination because it is the rural juncture of Route 110 and Route 954. The warm-up was good; the temperature was in the high seventies; I was well-rested and well-fed. From Creekside I picked up the pace toward Tonoma and tried to keep good tempo on the rollers. Still not confident I can maintain a high pace the whole time, I restrained myself a bit. All was well, and I crossed 119 and started toward Clymer.
Getting into Clymer is a good time because I climb Cemetery Road - the first real climb of the day (about 30 miles in) - and then it dives fast and loose into the hovel of a town. From there, it's a quad-busting calf-crushing climb to the east to get up on the opposite ridge. Every cycling spot worth spit has a "wall" - some kind of 10%+ grade hill that makes you work work work even if you are in your granny gear - in my case that would be a 39x25.
Let me explain. The first number is the number of teeth in my little chainring where I pedal: 39 teeth. The second number is the number of teeth on the cog I'm using on the cogset located on the hub of my rearwheel. It is the ratio between the two, how they relate to the diameter of my wheels, and the length of my cranks that determines how hard I have to pedal. The closer the ratio to 1:1, the easier it is to pedal. The bigger, say 3:1 or 5:1, the harder it is to push.
I climbed the whole thing in my 39x17! It was a hell of a grunt but well worth it. At the spring I paused to get some fresh H2O and kept it up. At the top I knew that my form was returning from the month off the bike...really satisfying to know that.
After the evil wall, it's a series of rollers and then a descent to Yellow Creek State Park. Turning back to the west, the wind hit me full-force in the face. Wind is generally a killer. I never like it unless a tall guy like Strauber, Fred, or Dave Hill are in front of me. Then I have a free ride. But not Friday. No shelter from the wind until the next big climb of the day, a one-and-a-half mile ascent that takes me by signs for deer processing, abandoned lawn mowers, bad lawn ornaments and NO TRESPASSING signs. It's a rural delight.
After that, it's another pair of long climbs - one shallow and one steep. The second longer and steeper climb to the hamlet of Luciusboro is one of my favorites. I put it into high gear and did telephone poll drills (seated for two at a high tempt and standing for one at a higher tempo and one gear harder).
Then it's a high-tempo seven-mile gear mash on a false flat rail trail to home. It's a good way to end a ride with the lungs, heart and legs all working hard.