ADK Double – Bliss + Misery = Blisery?

Morning sun in Charlotte, VT
Morning sun in Charlotte, VT

So close and yet so far. A challenging new route from last year. Supposedly less climbing. New roads, some of them dirt. No GPS, a simple printed cue. Lack of cell phone coverage in the mountains. Rolled from the house @ 4:30 am. Made poor time on the flats to the NY side of the lake. Recharged and refilled water at the Crown Point Campground. First bout of misery when the stomach and GI distress hit – worked hard to try and eliminate a repeat of my Boston 400k – stayed a bit longer at my first stop to settle the tummy and text the family.

Creek Road
Creek Road
Abandoned... along the first stretch of dirt.
Abandoned... along the first stretch of dirt.

Into the terrain north of Paradox Lake. Climb climb from the Champlain Valley – then navigate on a few unsigned dirt roads. Bliss was climbing this morning – feeling strong – making back time – and hitting the dirt. Then a question about navigation. No phone signal – continue bombing down this dirt descent and hope it drops me out where I need to be – only 60 miles into the double?

Northwoods dirt...
Northwoods dirt...

Sound of a truck – pickup with VT plates.

Yeah, this will go there – you’re crazy to do it on that bike!, I’ve ridden all over here on my mountain bike… and don’t slow down too much – lots of deer flies out…

My first navigational hero – in the right place at the right time.

Perfect timing to continue rolling down a great great backwoods descent. Lane and a half at most for the best parts. Posted on both sides of the road – but creeks, trees, the sound of water. Upper wetlands, beaver ponds. A bit of gravel and washout. Views to unnamed (to me) mountains. Nothing in the road surface that I haven’t seen before on the IF – but most folks wouldn’t consider riding dirt on skinny 28s (more like 26s) with a light load. Dropped out on NY 74 just east of Paradox Lake – just where I was supposed to land. Into the campground for stomach distress round two – and to top off bottles. Enjoyed cold and delicious spring water in an empty tent site. Washed the face. It was starting to get hot. Down from Paradox to Schroon Lake on NY 9. Into the general store for a proper lunch, enjoyed sitting in the shade on the porch. Stomach feeling better, behind schedule. Terrain ahead. Hydrated. Electrolyted. All systems seem to be sorting themselves out. Text the family with update #2.

The IF after reloading the H2O.
The IF after reloading the H2O.

On to Hoffman (Mountain) Road. Climb climb climb to Olmsteadville and NY 28N. All paved, with a few short rolling descents. Navigation question again – sign says to turn, cue says to press on. I turn. Doubt it for the next 10 miles. Two cars pass. Quiet paved road. Isolated. I pop out onto a busy(ier) route. Sings pointing to I87 and another town do not compute. Pull out the smartphone. No signal. Climb or descend? Sun is directly overhead – and my guess is to climb. UPS truck coming down the road. My second navigation hero arrives in a brown ensemble with mirrored shades. Just up the road, follow to the left, through the blinking lights. North Creek is the next town to hit on 28. Perfect.

Hoffman Road
Hoffman Road

Roll into Olmsteadville. No cell signal. Pick up NY 28N south(ish). Then on to North Creek and over the Hudson. No cell signal for texting the fam – so I roll on with a view of Gore Mountain. No easy convenience store on the main drag for water… but I’m packing three bottles (two full), temps in the 80’s, and only 17 miles to the next town. I gamble and roll north on NY 28, following the Hudson. Five easy miles with quite a bit of traffic, enjoying the view along the river. Then the ‘slower traffic’ lane appears. Long climb ahead. Temp hits 86. Water drains very quickly. Third bottle pulled from downtube. About 8 miles of up. 4 to get the bulk of the work done. Topo claims 4-6-8% but the VDO claims some of 9-11% thrown in. Nothing as steep as the previous climbs – but this road leaves one exposed to the big rigs and camping rigs and the sun. Not fun, the slowest 8 miles in recent memory. Water tapped out with 4 miles to town.

The Hudson
The Hudson
Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain

Parched I double down on water at the Stewart’s in Indian Lake. Enjoy a chocolate milk shake with vanilla creme wafers. Stomach seems to be doing much better. 110 miles of the cue in the bank (+7 bonus). 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m 2 hours behind schedule. 24 to Speculator. Down nearly a gallon of water, refill. Check the phone – still no service. Debate a long distance call from the pay phone and then roll on. Make the turn southward towards Lake Pleasant and Speculator. Scenic overlook – stop for a snap and to check the phone. 3 bars – but no connection. Worried that the fam will be worried – its been 6 hours since my last text. Roll south to Speculator on NY 30. Gorgeous road for most of the 24 miles. Views to Indian Lake. Camps great and small dot the roadside. Too many ponds and creeks and upper wetlands to count. Mountains abound. Stop in at the Lewey Lake state campground to use the facilities (GI again), wash my face, and top off bottles. Rolling south again with 4 miles from town I see a cell tower and stop. Finally a signal. Voicemail and a call to a very relieved wife. The fam has been worried and is about 40 minutes away in the rescue wagon. I’m beat and running well behind – putting me after midnight to finish the double century. I roll on to Speculator, make a quick stop at the convenience store and slowly roll west out of town. Somewhere along NY 8 Jen finds me and we call it.

I logged 140 miles, 7 of which were bonus to fetch water or to track down a missing cue, or in one case find the end of the road and figure out where to turn next. I spent an amazing 3 hours off the bike during the first 200k – which contributed to my slow schedule but helped with my stomach issues.

Bliss is riding in the mountains (even though I’m not a strong nor fast climber) under blue skies with puffy white clouds on a perfect (if a bit too warm) summer day. Misery is a slowness in the legs, lack of sleep for several nights prior, a stomach glitch I can’t seem to solve on longer rides, and a route that needs a bit of work to balance the beauty with the pain and the traffic. And I’ll have to verify the climbing. Online mapping shows less than last year – but it might be packed into tighter and steeper groups – which certainly hurt in the heat. Or the online maps can be wrong…

Aside from the disappointment of not completing the full solo double – I’m thrilled that I spent the day on the bike surrounded by the mountains and lakes of the north woods. And the fam was thrilled that I simply lost all cell reception for the better part of 6+ hours, and was safe and slowly making my way. A SPOT device is in my future… from the most amazing wife in the world.

Sunday Dirt

Heading for the Roscoe Bridge.
Heading for the Roscoe Bridge.

Three of the usual suspects got some mixed riding in this Sunday. An absolutely stunning day after weeks of rain and gray – blue skies, mild temps, and the dirt is in fine condition. I logged ~52 with a ride to the start. Patrick bailed 30 miles in as his IT and knee are still giving him trouble from his recent 600k. Part of our route is on the upcoming Celebrate Champlain rides – a century, 200k and 300k that I am organizing for the Quad festivities here in Burlington.



With the exception of a few local spins along the lake I’ve been off the bike. We have ramped up our Bakfiets mileage these last two weeks… and I feel we are just getting into our summer rhythm of farmer’s markets, lakefront festivals, and utility riding. The rain cover will be handy this week!

Wool is my new Wetsuit – Post 300k Thoughts

For the most part I was happy with my 300k preparation, route, and equipment choices. Looking back I would opt not to carry the rain cape for a mid-summer ride and rely on an extra wool layer or my lightweight ‘breathable’ jacket. I was worried about cold rain and temperatures changing in the mountains. The waxed cotton cape came in handy for 10 minutes during the final push to the finish – but otherwise was a heavy choice as it rode on the front rack for 170+ miles.

Wool is my new wetsuit. I wore an Ibex jersey and carried a woolie base layer that came in very handy. I would have also worn my Ibex shorts – but I had a very bad seam issue on a previous 300k (seam + anatomy + 300k = pain pain pain). I am excited about the addition to the Ibex line of bib shorts – and hopefully I’ll get my hands on a pair to see how they perform. I’m hoping the bibs keep the seams playing nicely with my anatomy.

For the better part of the day the wool jersey did a perfect job of keeping my temperature balanced. I added arm warmers for a descent and wish I had brought my knee warmers – but even after repeated downpours the wool performed as advertised. I shouldn’t be surprised – I’ve been wearing wool gear since I moved to VT – and have never been let down – be it while sweating on the XCBC skis, the snowshoes, or winter runs. It was impressive to have a garment perform through 16+ hours on the bike in rain, clouds, rain, clouds – all while absorbing sweat and retaining a comfortable temperature. If I were to redesign the jersey I’d add a fine blended layer to the inside to cover the zipper @ the throat – as the feeling of metal annoyed me. I’d also play around with a stouter blend of fabric to reinforce the pockets. While I had no structural problems with the pockets they seemed to stretch out and hang lower and lower as the day went on. Near mile 120 it seemed my food stash and camera were bouncing off my saddle as the jersey stretched under the weight. After a gentle washing everything is back to normal…

I rigged the bike with my Carradice Barley (with a Bagman) and a Nitto Mark’s Rack. On the rack I rolled my rain cape and eventually my undershirt. I also used it for extra hydration – carrying a bottle of water when needed. The rack is overkill for a supported brevet – but I am planning to use the rack for some bike camping. In the Barley I had an extra Ibex woolie, a pair of lightweight hiking shorts, arm warmers, energy food (a bit too much), my ‘brevet’ purse with phone, ID, credit card, etc…, my glasses (I wore contacts all day), spare lenses for the Oakley’s, spare set of batteries, DanoLite, Petzl e-Light, spare bulbs for the E6s, zip ties, 2 tubes, patch kit, tire boot, ultralight first-aid kit, multi-tool, hex wrenches, tire irons, and Fiberfix spoke. On the bike I carried 2 water bottles (I have room for a third) and my Lezyne pump.

The stem held my VDO MC1.0+ computer and my cue sheet holder. The cue holder is made from a small sheet of thin plexiglass and a recycled Honjo fender strut. The strut is zip tied to the stem. I used some heat shrink tubing (Radio Shack) to keep the strut from scratching my bars and stem. My cue sheet lives in an Aloksak baggie, clipped in by 2 binder clips.

I didn’t have much time to test the Mark’s rack. With the relaxed geometry of the IF and the middle of the road trail on the fork the bike handled well. I encountered some shimmy no-handed while not pedaling as I approached speeds north of 26 mph. Tucking my knee to the top tube settled the bike. I couldn’t get a consistent repeat on the shimmy speed – some smooth roads induced no shimmy @ 28 mph, while rougher roads induced the shimmy at slightly lower speeds. The wind was variable throughout the day – and I’m sure this adds to the equation. Adding my E6s also seems to have added a place for drag to occur – and I noticed with the cape, rack, and lights the bike is a different beast than when it is naked. No complaints from me – I’m excited to get more gear up front for a fall S24O to the mountains.

I had a few sections of tummy trouble. Clif Bars and Luna Bars caused distress, Clif Shot Bloks and Sport Beans seemed to be neutral and worked fine so long as I could eat them. I really enjoyed the salty Mojo bar – I think I’ll be adding these as a staple. Poweraid is disgusting – I’ll avoid it at all costs. Ginger Ale is a staple for settling my stomach.

My rear end did fairly well. I swapped the Brooks Swallow for the B17 just a week before the ride. I’d had some minor irritation in street clothes on the Swallow and I knew the B17 was good for a century without a pad or bike specific shorts. I opted to wear my Pearl Izumi bibs at the last moment – they worked well and for the most part played nicely with my saddle. I used 2 applications of Lantiseptic – my new found magic potion. The only issue I had with the shorts is the seaming around the pad. I grew uncomfortable around the mile 170 mark and couldn’t slide around on the saddle as much as I liked. When I arrived at the finish a look in the mirror revealed what looked to be an iron on version of the pad – on my rear end. The very edges of the pad at the far end of my bottom were etched into my skin. I’d never had this problem before – previously I would get bruises on my sit bones or irritation between my thighs. I’m not sure what to make of it – perhaps the constant rain did me in… or I need to try a 300k in street clothes. It was painful for 2-3 days – but liberal applications of Bag Balm did the trick. I do not foresee it as a show stopper – but I’ll continue experimenting.

I ate:
2 Clif bars
2 Luna bars
1 Mojo bar
6 packs of Clif shots
4 packs of Sport Beans Jelly Beans
1 bag of salty potato chips
2 PBJ sandwiches

I drank:
12 large bottles of water
1 Canada Dry ginger ale
1 bottle of Powerade (disgusting!)

In all I had a great ride. I feel I prepared well mentally and would have loved to have had more time to focus on physical conditioning for climbing. It feels great to be back in the long distance saddle again… the ride was a huge confidence booster leading up to the D2R2 – and inspiring to plot and plan rides for this fall – and for 2009.

OneWay300k – Ride Report

Ever since journeying through the ADKs to visit Vermont, or camping at Lake Lila – I’ve wanted to do a long ride through the mountains. This trip would give me the opportunity – and it would also allow me to test the fitness I’ve been working to regain since I last partook of the long distance riding – back in 2006 when I successfully rode a 200, 300, and 400k – and DNFd on the 600k. I was living in southern Vermont and enjoying the rides of the Boston Brevet Series.

We routinely drive the route from Burlington to Utica to visit family. Typically we take the Charlotte Ferry and head over the mountains on Rt. 74 and connect to the Northway. Depending on weather we would then follow Rt. 8 through the ADKs or head south to the NYS Thruway. I modified our driving route by stitching together some quiet roads heading out of Burlington, followed by a climb to Paradox, NY off the main path along Creek Rd. Next time through I’ll add in a few dirt roads I scouted on this trip. From Paradox the route is easy – Rt. 9 south to Loon Lake followed by Rt. 8 nearly all the way to Utica. At the very end there are a few turns to avoid the ‘interstate style’ Rts. 8/12 south into town.

View Larger Map

I prepped the bike by getting my newly replaced (warranty) SON dynohub wired up to my E6 lights. I had also recently cracked my rear Honjo fender – so in the mail was a replacement from Velo-Orange. Add to the mix a long awaited Bagman Sport from Harris and a Nitto Mark’s Rack from Rivendell and I had my hands full wrenching. At the last moment I decided to swap out my tires – the tread on the Conti-GP 4 Seasons would have easily lasted – but I didn’t want to take any chances. I debated switching brands and trying something new – but I opted for the tried and true. Continental GP 4 Seasons have treated me well – so I added another pair of 28’s to my collection.

The first leg of my route is a flat to rolling ride south through the Champlain Valley. A quick ride into Vergennes, VT and then south and over the Crown Point Bridge to New York. I made a bathroom and water stop at the DEC campground just over the bridge. I started rolling at 4:15 am and left the campground by 6:20 am.

Somewhere in Charlotte, VT

The sun was rising over the Green Mountains

Crown Point Bridge – let the climbing begin!

Heading up and out of the Champlain Valley would now begin – I started the climb to Paradox – up Factoryville Rd. to Creek Rd./Rt. 2. Creek Road followed a beautiful creek – up and up into the woods and mountains. I passed along several ponds and then arrived at Rt. 74. A right turn and some busy miles later I arrived in Paradox. I made a quick stop for water at the Paradox DEC campground and headed towards Schroon Lake.

Along Creek Rd.

Creek Road – up and up…

Eagle Lake

Paradox, NY

The IF @ Paradox Lake Campground

I rolled through Schroon Lake and past Loon Lake turning west on Rt. 8. Jen was somewhere en-route. By the numbers she would have met me somewhere along Rt. 9 between Schroon Lake and Pottersville. She got a late start, and I was rolling ahead of schedule. Somewhere near Johnsburg I stopped to check my voicemail – worried that she was lost on the route – and she was. She had made a wrong turn off of Rt. 8. I had been holding off on water and lunch as I knew she was close – I didn’t want to chance running into the only general store along this stretch and miss her. This put me climbing up 11th mountain – out of water and unable (or unwilling?) to choke down anymore calories. My stomach was a upset with the constant stream of energy bars and ClifBloks. I pedaled on – and after stopping for a picture at the 11th mountain elevation sign I saw the flashing of car lights and a friendly toot from the horn. Jen surprised me with PB&J sandwiches – a treat that helped sort out my stomach. She also loaded up on water – so I topped off my bottles and headed out. I was hoping for a nice steady descent to digest my lunch – but the stretch to the Rt. 8 / Rt. 30 merge at the Sacandaga river was work – a rolling downhill that offered minimal respite from the climbing. My lunch stayed put and by the time I reached the bridge and the climb to Speculator I was feeling strong again. I gave up most of the elevation I gained on the climb to 11th mountain – I now had to climb nearly the same distance to Speculator. 7 miles @ 4-5%, with some false flats and a consistent rain pouring down. Jen met me again in Speculator – she had salty chips and ginger ale waiting for me – and I managed to sneak a kiss to our snoozing little one. We conferred on my final route choice and set up cell phone ‘worry times’ – and she was off to dinner with her folks while I rolled another 100k+ into the oncoming weather.

11th Mountain, Rt. 8 – not the hardest climb on the route – but this was the most isolated and mentally longest stretch of the ride.

Jen snapped a pic…

The bridge over the Sacandaga – this is where Rt. 8 and Rt. 30 begin the climb to Speculator.

A self portrait – feeling much refreshed from the rolling descent and the return of some energy!

I had it in my mind that after I arrived in Speculator I would have a much easier time with the terrain. I was mistaken and will remember to use Topo to plot routes before I head out the door. Nothing in the ADKs is downhill. Everything trends upward. Mentally I was preparing for an easier ‘downhill’ run… but I had quite a bit of climbing to do before I could enjoy any descending. I had a fast few miles to Lake Pleasant, then some rain and more climbing. From the river crossing to Piseco the road was fairly busy – so I had the blinkies blinking as the rain came down, and took my fair share of the shoulder or the lane. For the most part I traveled on good road surfaces. There were a few sections that were a bit sketchy – with the pavement crumbling and the shoulder disappearing – but in general I was pleased with the room I had to ride comfortably. As I drew near Poland, NY the weather changed again – the temperature seemed to drop and the clouds rolled in. I swapped my undershirt for a long sleeve woolie and refilled bottles in someone’s front yard. What sounded like a NASCAR broadcast was booming out of the front door of the doublewide – the residents seemed to pay no heed to the cyclist stripping to his bibs on their front lawn in the pouring rain. The end of the ride was to be a death of a thousand cuts by countless rollers – spin up to 28 mph, grind down to 7 – repeat and repeat. It was encouraging that the landscape began to look familiar – West Canada Creek was following by my side, and town and street names came to mind from memory of dozens of car trips through this stretch.

Crossing West Canada Creek

I’ve just finished a century, in the middle of my ride…!

A bit of sunshine…

…followed by some weather moving in.

I arrived in Poland, NY on schedule. Made a quick phone call to give Jen a status update, downed PB&J #2, and rigged for night running. I still had plenty of time before dark – and was hoping to be well into Utica proper before I needed my lights. As I rolled out from the Stewart’s there was a single clap of thunder and the heaviest rain of the day poured down. I didn’t know how long this would last – the sky was far darker than previous and I didn’t want to chill with the night coming on. I donned the rain cape (I carried it all this way!) and gritted my teeth for a soggy 12-16 miles to the finish. The rain didn’t last long – it drizzled out as I climbed Shermerhorn Hill. The sun was setting and the view crystal clear… when I checked traffic behind me I caught a glimpse of the most incredible rainbow I’ve ever seen. I pulled to the side and stood slack jawed for about 20 minutes as the light changed and the intensity of the colors increased. To passing traffic I must have been a sight – a strange creature on a bike in a cape, blinking lights, pointing at the sky with his camera. Oncoming traffic had a view – but only a few folks stopped. I hope the balance at least noticed the wonder before them.

The camera cannot do the intensity of the colors justice…

Refreshed and inspired I pedaled on – up and up again to Walker Rd. only to have my dreams of a long downhill into town dashed by countless rollers. I plotted a poor route to avoid traffic, and called Jen to arrange a convenient meeting place. I debated riding door to door – but that meant an extra 10 miles through town, as night and the rain was falling. Depending on my route I could have added another 10-12% grade within 2 miles of the finish… it would have been an exclamation point on the day – and it would have put me over the double century mark.

I accomplished my goal of riding a 300k through the mountains – and instead of pushing on through traffic and rain and darkness – tired and mentally spent – I gladly met my wonderful wife and the car for the final miles to my inlaws.

Summer Evening

I smelled summer on my evening ride. Highs in the 70s during the day and that sweet smell of summer as evening cooled the air. We’ve a long way to go before summer is in full swing – but today we got a taste. I rode out to Shelburne and back on an easy ride exploring some backroads by the bay and returned after dark.