Fin

The Gunks 10,000 happened.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

Let’s back up a bit. Last year my friend and teammate Larry thought up a ride that would do almost every climb along the Shawangunk Ridge, totaling over 10,000 feet of climbing.

In my memory, I was involved in the very first spark of the idea, maybe during an on-bike conversation with Larry. But I think that’s just how memory works. Ten years from now, when the Gunks 10,000 is bigger than Burning Man, there will be hundreds of cyclists who were part of the original conversation that birthed the Gunks 10,000, and thousands of cyclists who participated in the very first incarnation of the ride.

Photo: John Cullinan

Photo: John Cullinan

In fact, in 2013, only 6 cyclists were there for the first Gunks 10,000 (or “G10K” as those of us in the inner circle, friends of Larry (FOLs), call it). I wasn’t one of them, although I did go to Larry’s house for beer afterwards.

Larry's yard.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry’s yard. Photo: Andrew Williams

This year was different. Last Sunday was the second annual Gunks 10K, and 24 cyclists showed up. The day was perfect, the route was gorgeous, and the event went off perfectly. It had the distinct feel of something that could become a much bigger event in the future, if Larry decides he wants to go that direction.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

The expectation at the start was that the ride would split into two groups: one racing, and one at Sunday-ride pace. On the first big climb of the day, a 2-mile 8% classic just a few minutes into the ride, it became clear that just about everybody had come to race. Despite my intention of keeping my own effort throttled down to a level I thought I could sustain for 6 or 7 hours, adrenaline got the better of me, and I put down a personal best on the climb. Pathetically, that personal best was demolished by over half the riders, with the fastest guys beating me by almost 2 minutes.

The day went on like that. The fastest 5 cyclists were all legitimate climbing specialists, including, as it turns out, two former Tour of the Catskills GC winners, and a former New York state masters road race champion. And this despite the fact that Bicycle Depot, my own team — the home team — had two of our best climbers cancel at the last minute, one with the flu, and one with a hamstring injury.

While the skinny guys duked it out at the front, the rest of us settled into our own grooves and enjoyed the beautiful day. Larry and I started our own little competition with one another, which would end with him beating me by 6 seconds out of 2 hours of timed climbing. By the time the 6 1/2 hour ride was over, Jonas from Brooklyn had opened a 22 second gap over his buddy Pablo, to claim a permanently engraved spot on the Gunky Chunk, the handmade conglomerate-and-steel trophy. Larry and I were 18 minutes back, right about midpack; the slowest finishing time of all was only 36 minutes back, which is really not much, considering the epicness of the event.

I predict Larry will be turning people away at the next G10K.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Mid-ride break at Lake Minnewaska.  Photo: Larry Chapman

Larry himself.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry himself. Photo: Andrew Williams

Gunks 10,000 route.

Gunks 10,000 route.

That was last Sunday. Yesterday I rode with a friend up to the groundbreaking for the Kingston Point rail trail. Ulster County has an ambitious plan to connect all of the various defunct rail lines into a network of multi-use rail trails, with a hub in Kingston. Some pieces of the puzzle are farther in the future than others, but there is real progress happening. This will be a Good Thing.

On the way home I had to stop to photograph this ridiculous Mount Doom sunset.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Continuing the trend this morning, the weekly Bicycle Depot team cyclocross ride was somewhere between “breathtaking” and “whoaaa.”

Sky Top.

Sky Top.

Copes Lookout.

Copes Lookout.

See you next time.

- John S

Return of Rene

I took Rene out for a 20-mile shakedown spin today–it’s been over a year since the last time I rode this bike.

RIMG0123

Fop chariots are very convenient for late fall, winter, and early spring because there’s enough space for changes of clothes and lots of food. I have a few 200-300 mile rides planned for this fall, and there are few places to stop at 4 am in the middle of the Catskills for a snack. The Berthoud lunchbox and generator-powered lighting are very convenient for all-night rides.

Although I feel slower because I can’t feel the road through the 38-mm tires, I seem to be at least as fast, if not a little faster, on this bike than on my narrow-tired bikes.

John

medicalwriter.net

Local Events: Field + Supply Arts and Crafts Show in High Falls

I know this blog makes me sound unidimensional (bikes). Or perhaps bidimensional (bikes and pets). But I do have other interests, one of which is design.

On October 11 and 12, Field + Supply will be holding an event that is intended to “modernize and elevate the traditional arts and crafts fair” in High Falls, a small town to the north of New Paltz. Some of my favorites will be there, in particular Asher Israelow, among others. Plus BBQ and oysters!

The website provides driving directions…for some reason, though, they did not provide a GPS cycling route. I can’t imagine why.

Never fear, here’s how to get there from Poughkeepsie by bike.

If you don’t want to take the bike path, this is the way to go. Or at least this is the way I’d go:

That’s 52 miles, with the first 2.5 and last 5 miles on dead flat, paved bike path (trust me, it’s better than riding on 299). Twenty-five more amazing miles to High Falls, eat BBQ and buy cool stuff (presumably they’ll ship it to you), and return via a very pretty 20 miles route to Poughkeepsie. The route passes my house, which–according to my blogging colleague John S–much resembles a door stop. You’ll know it when you see it.

Just as a note, at around mile 38.5, you may not be able to take a right because it leads right into a religious community. If that happens, just take 213 one more mile and take a right on Cow Hough and you’ll be back on track.

If you want to take the bike path, here’s an easy route. 39 miles of bump and grind:

Unfortunately, I’ll be in Boston on Saturday for work, but I will be attending on Sunday. I’ll ride there, of course!

John F (aka the slow John)

medicalwriter.net

The Plan: Tuesday, September 23

So here’s the plan for Tuesday, September 23. 110 miles, around 6600 feet of climbing. This should be very significantly easier than last week’s distance ride–after mile 52 there is a distinct downward trend to the route.

If you want to join me, let me know. 7 am, my place. Just as a warning: a 110-mile ride with me tends to be an all-day experience. I’m slow and I stop for pictures and food!

The following Tuesday I’ll be doing a shorter ride (only 94 miles) with lots of gravel that is routed through Poughkeepsie–an easy place to meet if you are so inclined. Plus, if you start from Poughkeepsie you’ll only have to ride 64 glorious miles.

John

medicalwriter.net

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.

1

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.

2

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

4

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