RTC on LSD: Touching Massachusetts

That’s LSD as in long slow distance, you.

Forgive me in advance, please. This isn’t going to be my most elegant post–it’s 8:30 at night and I’m still working, and I sadly did not get around to taking too many pictures.

On Tuesday, two-thirds of your RTC bloggers–John S and I–went for a ride that crossed Dutchess County, entered Connecticut, and then headed north to Massachusetts and then back.

The day started out wet and cold–in fact, if I hadn’t been obligated to meet John at the pedestrian bridge across the Hudson, I might have stayed in bed. I initially left the house in just a light long-sleeve jersey, bib shorts, and a light rain jacket, but quickly turned around and put on a real coat, some legwarmers, and a lot of embrocation. A quick 15-mile trip from my house to the bridge, where John S showed up precisely on time.

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From there, we headed north and then across Dutchess toward Pine Plains. I vaguely recognized the termini of some of the roads we passed, and I realized later that they were part of the Brewster-New Hamburg classic. I crashed at precisely 0.5 mph while climbing when I encountered a deep patch of very soft sand.

John had to be home much earlier than me, so he turned around and returned home via a different route at about mile 50. That left me to face the first real challenge of the day solo: WInchell Mountain Road.

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On the plus side, the day got progressively nicer over time.

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Now, I thought that was a challenge, but it was nothing compared to what was coming up. After crossing into Connecticut, a left turn led me onto Factory Road, which ultimately turns into Mt Riga road and then to Mt Washington Road. A source of some confusion because I hadn’t turned on my GPS and was looking for Mt Riga–and, of course, none of the roads were clearly marked. And then the real climbing began. I am not ashamed to say that at this point I was tired enough to get off my bike a few times. It was getting hot, and when I unzipped my sleeves, I found that my elbow was bleeding from my earlier crash.

The rest of the ride was largely uneventful, which was great because I had a slowly growing contusion on my hip from my uncoordinated fall earlier. But not entirely uneventful: As far as I can tell, I took a wrong turn around mile 100. Because I’m stubborn and refused to retrace my route, I ended up navigating by cell phone back to Poughkeepsie, where I wandered around for more miles than I care to admit in the not-so-nice parts of town trying to find where the bike path crossed at grade so that I could get back across the Hudson.

All in all, a successful, beautiful ride that ended up (with getting lost) at 138 miles. After all, you’re not really having fun until you’re so tired you don’t know how you’re going to make it home!

Here’s the route, for those of you are interested, just keep in mind that I didn’t ride anything past mile 100 or so.

Finally–I’m considering making Tuesdays my day for regular 100 mile+ rides. I’ll publish the routes in advance, and if you want to join me, let me know!

(Just FYI, if you haven’t read through all my posts on the blog: I’m slow, I like to stop to take pictures, and I like a good meal. So no worries that it will be a hammerfest!)

John

medicalwriter.net

Shining Up my Saddle, Snake is Gonna Rattle — or — The Back is Back

[Note: don't miss John F's invitation to ride this coming Monday, September 15!]

John S here. Remember me? I used to post ride reports on this blog last winter. I’m back!

springtown

Sun getting low over the ridge, looking west from Springtown Road.

Where have I been, you ask? Mostly I’ve been training and racing. I haven’t wanted to post race reports here. To be honest, it’s mostly because I hardly ever have photos to go with the story, and nobody cares about anything on the internet unless it has pictures.

But, I can recap. My race season went as well as I could have hoped for. I upgraded to cat 3, which in the Northeast generally means you are good enough to race with the pros, but not good enough to beat them. The highlight of the season was winning at Crybaby Hill, which is one of the top crit races in the country. There’s a jumbotron and everything!  I also had a decent finish at the NY state masters road race championships, 8th place in the medals competition.  The winner was a 7-time national champion, one of those guys who’s just at a different level.

Now the road racing season is over, so I’ll be posting ride reports again. I will probably do a couple of cyclocross races just for fun, but at age 46 I don’t feel that I can maintain top racing fitness year round. Fall and winter are for taking it easy and preparing for the spring races.

The only event left on my calendar is the Gunks 10,000. My buddy Larry hosted the first version of this ride last year, and he’s doing it again. It’s a ride all around the Shawangunks, just over 100 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing. It’s styled after a fondo: mostly a friendly group ride, but with 10 climbing segments defined on Strava. Larry crafted a really nice trophy out of a chunk of Shawangunk conglomerate, with a plasma-cut cyclist silhouette climbing up the side. The rider with the fastest combined time on all 10 climbs, which adds up to about 2 hours of climbing, gets his name added to the trophy, which lives at the Bicycle Depot in New Paltz. It’s like the Stanley Cup of the Gunks. The Gunky Chunk!

The Gunks 10,000 includes three climbs west of Ellenville that are not technically in the Gunks, though you can see the Gunks from there. Today I set out to ride those three climbs, along with Ferguson Road, a steep dirt climb to the top of the southern ridge. I didn’t plan to do the whole Gunks 10,000 route, but the ride did turn into a bit more than I anticipated…

I started from home and worked my way east, immediately crossing the very northern tip of the Gunks on Mountain Road in Rosendale. Then south toward the town of Accord, eventually ending up on Tow Path Road. This is a spectacular, long rolling winding road that follows the rocky Peterskill creek along the western rim of Clove Valley.

The rocky bed of the Peterskill Creek.  The creek is actually running down the long crevasses in the rock.

The rocky bed of the Peterskill Creek. The creek is actually running down the long crevasses in the rock.

Just for fun I rode hard up Lawrence Hill, a steep dead-end climb that has just been paved. There would normally be a nice view of the Catskills from the top, but we’re just past the lushest part of the growing season, and the trees are top-heavy with overripe leaves.

Then up Stony Kill road, another five star country lane, and across route 44/55, which separates the northern from the southern ridge, and also marks the boundary of what I think of as my home riding area. South of 44/55 means a long ride.

South of 44/55 also means entering the town of Wawarsing, which is a significantly different demographic from the towns along the northern ridge. It’s a noticeably poorer area, and road conditions are frequently atrocious. I like a bit of pavé as much as the next guy, but historically you can count yourself lucky if you can navigate Foordemoore and Berme Roads into Ellenville with all of your fillings in place. Foordemoore Road, though, has just been PAVED OMG WTF LOL. It’s a long, gradual descent, and I was laughing out loud rocketing down the creamy new blacktop. The elation ended at Berme Road, though; it’s been patched a bit, but still a tooth-rattler.

Berme Road leads past a couple of prisons, a major industry in this part of Ulster County, and into the down-at-the-heels town of Ellenville. I know a number of interesting people who live in Ellenville, and I’m sure it has its hidden treasures, but to an outsider it mostly looks like a bunch of boarded up storefronts punctuated by billboards pleading for support for a big casino project, stuffed into a very pretty area between the highest part of the Shawangunk ridge, and a steep highland that forms a pedestal for the southern Catskills.

Once through Ellenville, finally I had reached the three climbs I came for, all leading up the escarpment of the highland, across a narrow valley from the ridge. Wintish Road was the first climb, over a mile and very steep, with sections well over 15% grade. At the top was a rewarding view back toward the ridge. 

To the far right in the photo is Sam's Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge, and not coincidentally the top of the longest climb in the county. That climb, South Gully Road, is part of the Gunks 10,000 ride, but I didn't get to it today.

To the far right in the photo is Sam’s Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge, and not coincidentally the top of the longest climb in the county. That climb, South Gully Road, is part of the Gunks 10,000 ride, but I didn’t get to it today.

After doing another parallel climb back to the same viewpoint, I entered terra incognita; I’ve never ridden further south along this side of the ridge. (On the other side, I’ve ridden all the way down to New Jersey.)

The next 10 miles, miles 29-39 on my ride, were absolutely top-notch, brilliant single lane forested roads, descending and then following a rocky stream for a while and overall very enjoyable riding. I love riding new roads. 

Sandburg Creek outside of Ellenville.

Sandburg Creek outside of Ellenville.

Then came the Budd Road climb, a 2+ mile stairstepper that turns to dirt and gets steep enough that it’s hard to stand without breaking the rear wheel loose. I made a decent effort on this climb, and the previous two. Not race pace, but aiming for a threshold effort, just on the happy side of where you start to feel like the fuse is burning.

Budd Road finally topped out and was immediately followed by a straight, smooth, very fast 3 mile descent. I was doing about 40 mph for most of the way down, and thinking, thank god I didn’t bring carbon wheels today.

I went back up to the top of the ridge on Ferguson Road, a dirt and beat-up pavement climb of over a mile that was quite a bit steeper than I remember from the last time I did it. There’s over half a mile at 12% average grade. By this point I had over 5,000 feet of climbing in my legs, much of it at a moderate effort level, but I wasn’t feeling too bad.

I’ve had chronic lower back pain for over 10 years, and normally at this point in a ride my back becomes a significant throttle on what I can do. But a month ago, at the recommendation of a physical therapist, I set up a standing desk in my office, and the results have been magical.

I stopped at the top of Ferguson to stretch my hamstrings and back very briefly, maybe 30 seconds, and there was no real pain at all. I had planned to just head back at tempo along the base of the ridge, but I felt fine, so why not do a bit more climbing.

I headed up the ridge again on Cox Road, now coming from the east side. I was just riding tempo at this point, and the climb was over before I knew it. Looking now I see that it’s over a mile at 8% average grade, which is a totally legitimate climb, but there were a number of flat sections and to be honest I was so surprised at not feeling bad so far into the ride that it hardly registers as a climb in my memory.

Back down the ridge at high speed on Route 52, then about 15 miles of rolling riding along the base of the ridge.

gertrudes Nose

Looking northwest toward Gertrudes Nose, a prominent viewpoint on the ridge and a fine destination for a day hike.

I was feeling good enough that I figured I’d go over the ridge again, so I took South and North Mountain Roads up towards the Trapps. These are two of my favorite roads in the area, with a distinctive Gunks feel, rolling through oak and hemlock forest.

Past the Brauhaus and over the ridge again at the Trapps. I stopped at the newly rebuilt scenic lookout spot near the top to stretch for another minute.

The Near Trapps from the scenic overlook on 44/55.

The Near Trapps from the scenic overlook on 44/55.

Once over the top, I rolled down Clove Valley Road, a glorious 5-mile rolling descent through a gorgeous valley with constant views of the ridge rising above. We’ll do this road the other direction, as a climb, in the Gunks 10,000.

The Coxing Kill creek, off Clove Road.

The Coxing Kill creek, off Clove Road.

The Outback Slab, a relatively remote climbing destination on the back side of the Gunks.

The Outback Slab, a relatively remote climbing destination on the back side of the Gunks.

About halfway down Clove Valley I noticed that I had over 8,000 feet of climbing in. Twice more over the ridge would put me over 10,000. Why not? I was feeling fine, really amazingly good considering the efforts that were behind me. Nothing at all was sore, not my back, not my legs, no saddle or foot hot spots. Everything was so copacetic that it almost made me worry if something was wrong with my brain, or my nervous system.

So, two laps up Mohonk Road. To me this is the iconic Gunks climb: 2 miles starting at 4% grade, steadily increasing to 12%. According to Strava, I’ve climbed it 116 times in the past three years. For these two laps, I was taking it very easy, just spinning up the climb in 34×28, for my 77th and 83rd fastest ascents out of those 116. (The slowest of all was last fall, when I paced my son up the climb at the slowest speed physically possible without falling over.)

Looking toward the Catskills from Spring Farm, at the base of the Mohonk Road climb.

Looking toward the Catskills from Spring Farm, at the base of the Mohonk Road climb.

After the second ascent, I finished the last of my water. Only two bottles for six hours in the saddle, which is sort of ridiculous. It was overcast and cool for most of the day, just perfect riding weather. I stopped at the Mountain House golf pro shop at the summit, to defile it with my nasty sweaty self, and treated myself to a coke.

The flat homestretch down Springtown Road went by in a flash. I was only doing 16-17 mph, but still pedaling circles and feeling good. The shadows were starting to lengthen as the sun got lower over the ridge to my left… that’s the photo at the top of the post.

When I got to my driveway, my Garmin showed 9985 feet of elevation. Well, that wouldn’t do, so I passed by my house and rode about 100 yards back up Mountain Road to put a punctuation mark on the ride. The final total was 93.1 miles, 10,066 feet.

By the numbers, this was the hardest ride I’ve done all year. I’ve done longer rides faster, and rides with more climbing, but not this combination of distance and elevation. Yet somehow there was zero suffering, and even the next day my legs and back felt fine. It is amazing to me that a simple behavior change — standing instead of sitting at my desk all day — can have such a dramatic effect, not just on my back but on the whole system. If you’ve got back troubles, trying out a standing desk for a week or two could be a low cost experiment with a big payoff.

93.1 miles, 10066 feet of climbing.

93.1 miles, 10066 feet of climbing.

 

- John S

A Simple Plan: Monday September 15 2014

It’s time to get serious. If anyone wants to join me, this is the plan for next Monday (unfortunately, I’ll be at a meeting this weekend!) Note that I accidentally routed part of this on the Appalachian Trail; I’ll fix that before departure. My place, 8 am. Bring lights because who knows what is going to happen.

PS: See the comment from Spencer, who knows Northern Dutchess better than me–apparently I picked some good roads!

Edit: And here’s the actual plan. Not routing over the Appalachian Trail did wonders for the length (10 miles less) and amount of climbing (minus 1500 feet). Now it’s just an ho-hum average ride.

In other news, I made something delicious:

John

medicalwriter.net

Mr Bates

Coming soon. My new winter bike.

I’m building it with modern components, including mini V’s. Campagnolo, of course (I’ve had quite enough of SRAM, and Shimano is sadly difficult to shift in winter gloves). Apparently has enough clearance for 32-mm tires–perfect for a winter bike. I should mention that it has been respaced, and the brake bridge moved, for 130 mm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Short Review: Giordana Exo Bib Shorts

Part of being a dedicated cyclist is putting together kit that works for you. For years, I’ve ridden with Assos bibs–the old ones with the orange insert, and jerseys from various companies, including Rapha, Giordana, and others. I’m especially fond of the “Body Paint” jerseys from Castelli. I won’t wear Assos jerseys because (ready for some TMI?) they chafe my nipples horribly.

There, I said it.

Plus, I’m officially boycotting Assos since I went online to buy my annual two pairs of my favorite sock.

Assos Sock

They used to be $28. Ridiculous, I know. But two pair a year isn’t going to break the budget. Now? $61. Combined with their ridiculous marketing I’m done with Assos.

Once you put together something that works for you, it’s tough to deviate from the tried and true. I mean, who wants to put on a new pair of bib shorts for the first time before a 50- or 100-mile ride?

I’ve had a pair of Giordana Exo bib shorts in hanging in my “bike closet” for a few years, but I’ve never gotten around to wearing them. On Saturday, I ran out of clean bib shorts–tough to do since my 8-year collection now consists of about 10 pairs. I had to choose between some ancient Assos half-shorts and the Giordanas. I put on the half shorts and couldn’t deal with the lack of shoulder straps. So I put on the GIordanas. I’ll spare you a picture of my magnificence in bibs, this’ll have to do:

Giordana Exo

I set off on a 50-mile ride, expecting serious pain, especially since the pad on the Giordanas is paper-thin. That turned out to not be the case. In fact, they worked beautifully. Not even a trace of an ass-ache, even after 15 miles of bumpy gravel and tree roots on a road bike. The grippers gripped and the shoulder straps held everything nicely in place (unlike the newer Assos bibs with the blue pad. One word: wedgie). I should note that they are considerably longer in the leg than most bib shorts; if you’re vain and place a high value your razor-sharp farmer’s tan (ahem, I mean cyclist’s tan), this may be an issue.

The lesson to be learned here is more padding does not necessarily equal greater comfort. My old Assos orange pad and newer Rapha bib shorts all have thick diaper-like pads, and they are somehow less comfortable than the Giordanas.

Off for a few days of meetings. I’ll have another route written up for you shortly by Sunday, though!

And finally, Macs would like to say hello.Mix

John

medicalwriter.net

Up and Over the Ridge

On Friday’s ride, I decided to abandon all pretense of planning and just go where I felt like going, with a strong preference for riding roads I hadn’t taken before. This is how it ended up:

Friday 8-29

All in all, a  satisfactory ride. In fact, I’d categorize it as worth the trip if you’re coming up from the city and want something shorter (50 miles) that does not require extraordinary effort or fitness.

I’d never headed north on Albany Post Road. It’s quite beautiful.

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But the highlight of the first 15 miles was Guilford Road. Again, not a road that I’d had a reason to take until now. If you’re planning a ride on the east side of the ridge, make sure you include this road. Click on the first and second picture below for full size and you’ll see what I mean.

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On Guilford, you’ll head up a short but steep climb onto 44/55, where there is a delicious German restaurant called the Mountain Brauhaus if you want to eat hearty. I really love this place–we go to dinner there at least once a month. And we’re not alone, because it’s always packed. If you have a large party or want to eat there during prime dining hours without having to wait an hour for a table, call ahead.

There’s a deli across the road, too.

This is the hairpin about 1/5 of the way up the climb over the ridge. This road has a real alpine feel. The only other place (relatively) nearby where you get this sort of feeling is on the climb up 23A north of Woodstock (talk here, route here).

7Still climbing…the next day my wife and I went back over the ridge (in a car this time) to visit some friends in Olivebridge. I mentioned that I had climbed up this the day before, and she said “…and that’s why I always say that cycling is the sport for people who hate themselves.” I really feel like this is a pretty easy climb, though.

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About one-third of the way up, there’s a parking lot on the left. Stop there for a great view.

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My original intent was to head all the way over on Route 44/55, but as I passed Clove Road I realized that I had never gone down that way…up, yes. But not down. So I turned right on Clove Road. I should also mention that my original intent was to take Undercliff Carriage Trail (at mile 9), and return on Old Minnewaska Trail, which joins up with Clove Road–and from there I was supposed to go back to 44/55 to continue. I got on the trail just past the bridge at mile 9, battled tree roots and head-size boulders on my road bike for 1000 feet, and then got spit back out on 44/55. I don’t know what I did wrong.

The picture below is Clove Road. A little tough descending near the junction with 44/55 because the road is rough for the first few miles.

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Some guy’s collection of burl? I’m not sure if they are there for their sculptural qualities or to sell. Or maybe they are for giant-sized aquariums?

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A couple more of Clove Road.

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This one reminds me of an Alec Soth photo. I’m no Alec Soth but 1 out of every 100 of my photos is decent.

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And a fierce hunter stalking a…cow and a chicken.

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I’m sure my co-blogger is familiar with this road, as he lives nearby. I didn’t test the road sign’s assertion.

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On the way back, I decided–again on the fly–to take the bike path back, because I hadn’t yet been on the trestle over Rosendale. The deck of the trestle is warped pine, and feels unsafe on a bike (although I am sure it is completely safe, right?)

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The view from the trestle down into Rosendale is worth the risk.17

And finally, the bike path. Lovely, but 11 miles on the path on a road bike is a little much for even me–it can be rough in some spots. No need for the full-squish mountain bikes that many rent to ride the trail, though….I just think it would be more fun on my cross bike with 32-mm tires.

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And…home. I just realized I never posted a picture of my wife’s teeny-tiny Boulder. Don’t laugh at the setup…the choice was either setting up the bike as shown or buying her a children’s bike.

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If you’re planning just one trip to the Catskills for a cycling adventure, do it in September or October. It’s amazing out here. Saturday, September 13 is Gardiner Day and Sunday, September 14 is Taste of New Paltz. I don’t know wassup with Gardiner Day, except it apparently involves horses and fruit pies. On the other hand, Taste of New Paltz is a major event with lots of good food. Come on up!

One final thing occurred to me…you could also do the route in reverse (which I mapped for you here), which would get you to the Mountain Brauhaus in time for an early dinner. And if you’re looking for a way to ride this route without the bike path segment, let me know.

And that’s all for now! I will have a review for you later this week.

John

medicalwriter.net

Pine Bush

Yeah, it’s that time of year where I start to develop late-summer emaciation. You know, the kind where everyone thinks you’re suffering from some awful wasting disease,* but you’re actually in such good shape that a “casual” 50-mile ride after work seems completely normal.

I’m afraid that I’ve consumed many pints of Ben & Jerry’s in an apparently futile effort to keep from losing that last 6% of body fat–no “healthy” food is doing the trick. If anyone has tips beyond the disgusting peanut butter/protein milkshakes and copious amounts of ice cream I’ve been consuming, please do let me know.

So…yesterday I only had time for a 40. It was actually supposed to be about 30 miles, but I spaced and ended up going partially over the ridge. When I emerged from my fugue state, I was in a different county eating a couple of slices of truly awful pizza.

Anyway…a route and some pictures.

route-5806739-map-fullThe images below are from Farmer’s Turnpike. This is a good way to avoid descending on 44/55 (about mile 3 on the Ride With GPS map). The last time I descended on 44/55, an idiot in a camper passed me with only inches to spare. He also had the temerity to honk at me. This all happened while I was going 40 mph–or about 5 mph over the speed limit. In any case, avoid 44/55 if you can.43You’ll see a lot of pictures of the ridge in this post.

187625A farm outside of Pine Bush.

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And no matter how long or short the ride, if I pass the Shawangunk Grasslands Reserve, I always stop for a few moments of contemplation.

1112More to come. I finally have a working camera! Also–a few weeks ago I sadly lost my Exposure Toro light, which has served me well. I hit a big bump on a descent and it flew off my handlebars…and down a cliff. I had failed to ensure that it “clicked in”. Anyway, better the light than me! So I got a new Exposure Strada, which comes with a remote switch so you can choose between low and high beams. Review coming soon.

A brief complaint: For some reason, Exposure has decided to partner with Ibex Sports, thus the new “Exposure USA” website. Why they’ve done so is a mystery to me, because the US website is one of the most embarrassingly half-ass things I’ve ever seen. If I was the folks in the UK, I’d be irritated, to say the least, that I’d put my US marketing in the hands of amateurs, particularly as I remember the international site being quite well designed and useful. I imagine after they lose a chunk of their business they’ll be looking elsewhere.

*At a recent meeting, a famous gastroenterologist (yes, there is such a thing) told me I looked like I have celiac disease. I was like, no dude, it probably has something to do with the 200-300 miles I ride every week.

John

medicalwriter.net