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October 27, 2013

Riding the Hill 'N' Dale Hundred

First, I want to thank my wife (C) for supporting me--both with moral support and physical support--for doing this ride. If she didn't agree to drive me up and convince me that she would be happy to entertain our daughters in the middle of Nowhere Ohio on a cloudy, windy, 40-degree day, I'm not sure I would have done it.  Knowing I had a ride to pick me up in a bad situation far from home was extremely comforting. I'm extremely grateful for the support C gives me even when I have a hard time finding confidence in myself.

And thanks to my mother- and father-in-law. They were generous enough to meet the girls in nearby Lodi to help entertain their granddaughters.  Just mentioning "Nanny and Jagee" is the magic password to transplant two young girls from cozy beds at 7:30 on a Saturday morning into cold car seats.
Yesterday I participated in a ride called Hill 'N' Dale Hundred organized by Swallow Bicycle Works of Loveland, Ohio. A route of 100K (~62 mi) was mapped around Mohican State Park area, starting at Pleasant Hill Lake reservoir. This was marketed as a "choose your own adventure ride"--an unsupported jaunt where only a map and cue sheet were provided. More or less: every rider for him/herself. A few weeks prior to the ride, when it was announced, I realized it miraculously fell in a weekend on which we didn't have prior plans. The day I decided this was a fun idea I suspect it was 70-degress and sunny and I wasn't yet sick with a cold. This was the ride I've been wanting to do all year long.

Up until the moment I strapped my bike to the car I had unsuccessfully tried to talk myself out of the trip. In the days before the ride, temperatures plummeted, rain clouds took up residence, and I was coughing up loads of phlegm while binging on a smorgasbord of honey-infused tea, Ricola drops, and generic Tussin. At 7:31 am on the day of the ride, I told C I had decided not to ride. Without hesitation, C dismissed my lunacy. She reminded me of the alternative: staying at home all day without plans. That was all the motivation I needed.

We hurriedly woke the girls and packed for a day trip up north. Coffee from Starbucks (a grande bold coffee with an added shot of espresso for me) and breakfast from Tim Hortons were bought and we bolted up the highway. C and the girls dropped me off at the start point around 9:45am. The reported temperature at this time was about 38-degrees. Winds of 23 miles per hour accounted for a wind chill of 28-degrees. The sun peeked out as if to jump start our internal engines. A group of about 16 (?) of us bumbled around until everyone was mounted on their bikes.

To my delight we rode together as a pack the entire time. We would get spaced out slightly, but generally met up at points of interest or after nasty climbs. Grey clouds and increasing wind really started to break me. Around mile 20 I broke the news to a couple riders that I would be breaking away from the group at an alternative route on mile 30. I called C and told her of my plans, noting also my phone was low on battery [great planning!]. It was a fortuitous decision made not too soon. Around mile 23, I'd guess, we exited pavement for gravel back roads. Up hills no less. Pure brutality. Forsaking the group, knowing I'd be splitting off soon anyway, I walked my bike up two major gravel hills and cruised down their other sides. That's not to say I didn't try to bike up them, but my thighs started to spasm at the extreme effort so I opted out. My eyes began splitting time evenly between the terrain ahead and the odometer mounted on my stem.

The road on which I deviated from the planned route at least promised to drop me off in the town of Perrysville. Knowing I was nearing places of business was comforting even though the hills were long and car traffic was increasing. After a quick stop at a gas station I attempted to rejoin the planned route but was stymied by what appeared to be a wall of a road ahead of me. I literally couldn't see the top of the hill obscured by the trees in front of me. I shouted an expletive and backtracked to yet another alternate route that appeared to circumvent the damned hill. What I didn't account for was the exposure to winds in the openness.  I pushed hard against incessant headwinds, stopping at a farm to eat a Snickers bar.  To my chagrin the thing was FROZEN hard. I made it to an inviting gas station that sat at a major intersection but I decided to keep moving forward. That is until--while trying to coast down a hill--I was hit with such a gust of wind I said "F*ck it" and hobbled back humbly to that store.  I grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk and sent C a text to tell her where I'd be waiting. I was slightly disappointed that I didn't quite finish the ride, but was proud that I was able to participate in such an adventure. I biked about 42 miles, averaging 11 mph (with a maximum speed of 33 mph), over a total time of 3hr 44min.

I looked back at the weather data from Saturday. It was reported that at Mohican State Park, a high temp of 45-degrees was reached at 3:05pm. Wind speed was recorded as 27 mph, gusting up to 48 mph.

What I wore:
Long-sleeve merino wool baselayer
Short sleeve cycling jersey - I stashed one of 4 water bottles
Mountain Hardware Epic rain jacket (never took it off)
Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves
Bib shorts
Pearl Izumi thermal knee warmers
Tall wool cycling socks
Toe covers (worn over top of my cycling shoes, purchased the day before the ride)
Buff-style neck warmer
Cotton cycling cap
Giro Reverb helmet

What I ate:
3/4 of PB&J sandwich
Shot Blocks - one pack
4 Water bottles
1 Snickers
1 packet of Scratch drink mix
(+ 1 bottle of chocolate milk to celebrate)

1 comment:

  1. Wow - That sounds like a tough, tough ride.. well written man. As I sit here in Hawaii, I could feel the chill hitting my bones. Congrats on the ride!