Here’s something that I did today: I bought a new mountain bike! (And despite the similarity in titles, I did not get rid of the Turner like I did the Outback.)
What I got was a Santa Cruz 5010, though I’m not sure of the exact price point and I don’t recognize the components well enough to evaluate them — 11×1 gearing, adjustable seatpost, the Turner was the pride of the new millennium when it came out, but I feel now like I just traded in a stagecoach for a starship.
Anne and I had gone over to Saucon Valley Bikes for other business, and I thought I would just look at a bike or two, since I was sort of in the market… We got there and there was Renee, who when I last saw her got on my case about getting a new bike. She and Anne both got on me because I obviously was in love with this bike, and we even did a quick singletrack ride from the shop. I came back and said “I’ll take it!” A few things needed to happen but I came back and took possession a few hours later. Tomorrow is the inaugural ride, at Sals, and I’ll make my decision on which bike to ride for the Wilderness 101.
I took no photos (whoops!), but yesterday I rode the Rothrock/Tussey Mountain IMBA epic with Renee, as part of our training for Wilderness 101. I was totally whooped by the end, but it was an awesome day:
The only thing I would add to this is that, though we didn’t have too much trouble with it, we followed this course using a phone app, and speaking now from experience I cannot recommend doing that.
Wet day here, and its also a bit of a rest day, waiting for the oven repair man to show up. So, I’m off the bike for the day, and just in time because I’ve been feeling tired. Tomorrow I’ll be riding the towpath (volunteer work day at the Canal Museum), Thursday I’m meeting Renee out in State College to do some of the W101 course, Friday we’re going to the Wharton Esherick Museum, and then this weekend we go off for a week in the Adirondacks! Whew…
This weekend was a blur. Anne’s mom stayed with us from Thursday, the night of Anne’s concert — by the way, Anne is in a new orchestra, better than the last one IMHO but with the same playful spirit — through Saturday (when we went to a memorial service, and Marie got a ride home from there with Anne’s sister Lorraine). There were many people we knew in the concert audience, including Lorraine and Ray with their grandkids Jonah and Quinn, Toby and Erika with Josiah, Donna and John, and many people from the neighborhood. Afterward, we sat on the porch and sampled our new beer (the Two Hearted Ale clone — verdict: delicious) with John and Donna.
(By the way, I got in a short Towpath ride while Anne was picking up her mom. I only went to the boat club and back, but I was trying to push my heart rate, and ended up with a 15 mph average, better than any towpath ride this year.)
Friday was a quiet day, just hanging out, but I did get in a Sals ride, one where I felt pretty good on the trail.
Saturday was the memorial service for Marilyn, the mother of Anne’s sister-in-law Laura. She’d passed away just recently, and she’d been ill for a long while before that, but before her illness she’d been an incredible woman: vibrant, warm and loving, and a real force of nature and positive force in every life she touched; those were the memories that we celebrated. Afterwards we had a lunch at Joe and Laura’s with much family about, and many friends.
We went out that evening to catch up for a bit with Doug and Lori.
Sunday was the Steel City Enduro at Sals, and I went up to volunteer. I ended up running the start, no clue what I was doing but I think everyone survived, then I walked the course and did a little race-course cleanup after the riders went through. I was out of there by noon or so, so I could clean up and stop by John and Donna’s place for a picnic with their family. (Anne was off dealing with other mom-errands.)
Yesterday I woke up really tired, and it took me a while to actually be awake. Went for a Sals ride anyway, felt pretty good, then came home and took an hour-long nap…
I’ve been trying to work endurance lately, and the past three weeks I’ve been able to get in some decent rides, and I’m averaging over 100 miles a week now. The downside to that has been that my ability to ride intensely has suffered a bit, due to fatigue I guess. I took Monday off after Sunday’s ride, but yesterday’s Sals ride needed to be cut short — I just didn’t have it in me to ride there. Tonight was the towpath, a mid-level effort, and tomorrow is another rest day, since the forecast is for bad weather, and also because we’ll be spending the day in Philly visiting Ben. Friday I may do a century ride, Saturday is the Full Moon Towpath Ride, and Sunday is…? I’ll play it by ear from that point, maybe pushing for longer MTB rides (mid intensity, mid length) for the next week or so.
I did an awesome, and fairly long, MTB ride in Jim Thorpe this past Sunday. It was a beautiful summer day, and Anne and I went up to Mauch Chunk Lake; she did a long run on the Switchback and then visited her mom while I did my thing over Pisgah and Broad Mountains. I didn’t realize it until I was pretty far along — Mountain Bike Weekend is 11 years dead and gone — but this would have been the right weekend for my annual JT Epic.
Ride stats: 27.49 miles in 5:56 (3:53 actual moving time), 2996 feet of climbing, 2387 calories burned. This doesn’t quite meet my old criteria for “epic” status (40 miles / 8 hours), but I’ll definitely call it a “solo mini-epic,” and like I said, it was a beautiful day: warm and sunny and breezy, really a perfect day to spend in the woods.
We got up to the lake just about 11:00, and both started not long after, Anne taking off a few minutes before me — I had to stop and take a few pictures of the lake before I left, it was just amazingly beautiful. The pictures I took don’t really show it, but it was a pretty windy day, and the lake had whitecaps on it at times, but in the meantime the sky and lake were blue and the mountains were green…
My plan was to take the upper switchback over to the Wagon Road, pick up the Rhododendron Trail and take that down to the RR tracks, and get up Broad Mountain via Rt 93 and the old James’s Run Challenge. From there I’d do some backing and filling to find myself at the Uranium Road, then I’d take Pine Tar back to the Broad Mountain jeep roads and down the Bear Trail to the pipe crossing and back via the RR tracks into town, where Anne would pick me up. I was budgeting four hours riding solo I was avoiding the more difficult, riskier (and slower) trails, and figured my pace would be quick enough. I set out after Anne about 11:15, caught up with her at the intersection of the Upper Switchback, and we went our separate ways from there.
There were a number of times on this ride when I was surprised by how much I liked some trails that I normally don’t rate highly, or ride much; the Upper Switchback was the first of these. It was beautiful, with mountain laurel blooming along both sides, with the mountain rising like a cliff on the left (and dropping like one on the right), and the little ribbon of brown dirt disappearing into the greenery.
After a while I noticed something else too: there was a lot of noise in the air, and I finally realized I was hearing a brood of locusts. I had no idea that there even was a brood hatching now, but there they were, or at least I could hear them on the hillside, in among the mountain laurel.
I’ve always loved these guys, remembering them from many summer rides on this same mountain, and here is where I realized that I was essentially riding on what would have been Mountain Bike Weekend — it was always some time around Father’s Day, when the mountain laurel was in its glory and the locusts would be singing their song, which I liked to think was a familiar sound, and already ancient, when the dinosaurs heard it. In years when a brood hatched, you almost had to shout to be heard on the trail, but this wasn’t as crazy loud, and when I stopped I didn’t see any flitting about nearby. I took a few pictures of the blooms and continued on my ride.
I crossed the cliff, rode to the top of Pisgah Mountain and down the Wagon Road (where I had my first “real” crash on a bike, more than 25 years ago), and picked up the Rhododendron trail behind the playground. Rhododenrons and mountain laurel are pretty closely related, at least in my mind, but these guys were nowhere in bloom — it was just a dense, dank jungle trail, though it seemed to be in good shape and get quite a bit of use. Eventually it dropped me down to where I crossed Rt 209.
This next section didn’t look like it got any use at all; the last person on it might have been me, on my last ride through here, years earlier. I had to do a bit of bushwhacking to get to the RR tracks but from there it was pretty easy to follow, out to Rt 93 and up Broad Mountain.
About halfway up the Broad is where I picked up my next trail. I pulled into the Game Lands lot just next to the jail and decided to take a break and a photo opportunity. I took this picture in the general direction of where I just came from; the closer mountain in the background (on the right) is Pisgah, the further one is the one with the fire tower (you can barely see it but it’s there if you look) south of town, and you can see East Mauch Chunk, the upper part of Jim Thorpe, nestled between the two. Once again I was surrounded by locusts, but this time you could see them everywhere — they’re the dark blobs in the sky in this picture. I suspect that they’re attracted to the bright colors of bike jerseys, and soon they were landing all over me, singing for a second, and taking off. The first time it was pretty alarming, I’d forgotten how crazy and loud each individual song can sound. Then I got used to it, until I realized that they were all really horny, and singing to me… It took a little work, but here is a selfie with one of my many admirers.
The next part of the ride was up what remains of the James’s Run Challenge, a difficult uphill trail and probably the hardest part of my day, but beautiful, and shockingly lush considering the hardscrabble look of the ground. More mountain laurel, more locusts, and now a whole lot of ferns and pines too, and then I was at the top. I cut through James’s Swamp and picked up the Deer Path. The Game Lands people have made a real mess of this area, with heavy stone put on the jeep roads, and big sections bulldozed or burned out (actually I’m OK with this one), but the Deer Path was in relatively good shape, and also looking beautiful, more woods and pin oak, but also big regions carpeted, under the canopy, only with ferns — it seemed you could see for miles. It was a surprisingly park-like look. (I happen to like trails best when they get some use, but not a whole lot. This way they are easy enough to follow but the surface stays pretty pristine and the vegetation stays tight to your sides. Most of the singletrack I rode today, but especially the stuff on Broad Mountain, was in this condition.)
Eventually I came out at the power line right-of-way, and stopped to take a break. Here is where I looked at the time (maybe 3 hours in), noted that I was way behind schedule and decided to do a bit of reconfiguring. I decided to skip Shovel Head an the Uranium Road, and just use the Deer Path Extension to get to Pine Tar, and I texted Anne saying I would probably be more like 5 hours (after her run she was going to hang out by the lake for a while then visit her mom in town, and she would pick me up at the end of my ride). While I did all this I noticed how different the power line area looked compared to everything else I’d seen so far to I snapped this picture.
Deer Path Extension came up next, and this was the second big, pleasant trail surprise of the ride. There were a few branches blocking the trail — which I attributed at first to lack of trail use, but then noticed a lot of dead looking small trees everywhere, not sure what was going on — but on the whole the trail was in great shape, covered in mountain laurel blossoms, and way more fun than I remembered. I was actually left wondering why I always ride past this trail to do the Uranium Road instead.
This eventually brought me to the Pine Tar intersection, where I took my last photo of the mountain laurel. (By the way, up here on the flat top of Broad, you could hear the locusts in the distance, but they seemed to mostly be on the slopes rather than the flats.) Pine Tar turned out to be all that I remembered (and then some), but I managed to ride most, but not all of the difficult spots — I surprised myself making some, and I surprised myself not making some. I was getting a bit tired.
Much of the stuff after Pine Tar was uneventful, mostly just jeep roads (with that stupid ballast covering them), but I id get to bump into two separate groups of hikers, somewhat turned around and miles from where they should have been (Glen Onoko). I was glad to help them get back on track.
Eventually I came back to James’s Run Challenge, and I took the turn for the Bear Trail, which was actually much easier to follow than the last time I’d been there. Over the old ruined dam, drag the bike up the cliff-like bank and onto the trail, and I was on my semi-last leg. Down the hill, over the pipeline — one big regret is that I didn’t take a picture, it was perfectly framed by the creek and foliage — and then I was back on the RR track, texted Anne one last time, and (miracle of miracles) I had a tailwind all the way back to town. Anne was waiting at the station when I arrived.
My original plan for this week was to do two 75-mile rides, Tuesday and Thursday, and then take it from there. Tuesday turned out to be quite a bit shorter and, what with a lunch break and afternoon thunderstorms, so my training hopes were set on the Thursday ride. My plan was to get up early and do go over Blue Mountain at Little Gap, then take Mountain Road to Little Gap and head home from there.
I got up fairly early, but then procrastinated fairly heavily — in my defense, there was a pretty strong wind blowing, and I was hoping it would abate, but by 1:30 I was done with everything else I needed to do (we’re talking gardening chores here, the subject of its own procrastinations), and the wind was still whipping so out I went anyway.
Turned out, the wind was pretty bad, somewhere around 17 mph and it was a headwind, but I felt good and strong if not fast, and once over Little Gap it was a tailwind, albeit somewhat blocked by the mountain. I now felt like superman, cruising uphill with very little effort. My mileage was 25 at the top of Blue, and it was 40 at Wind Gap.
…And then it was 60 miles and I was home. To my surprise, and despite some backing and filling — frankly, I got myself a bit confused, OK lost — it was actually shorter to get home from the “far” gap than the “near” one. I’ll have to study on this more with a map…
Stats: 63 miles in 5:15, 4112 feet of climbing, 2078 calories burned.
Things are working out pretty well this week, weather-wise: Anne and I rode yesterday, down to Quakertown for lunch and back (we saw Scott S lunching at the cafe, and Lori P joined us for a coffee), enjoying a lot of good weather and about 10 minutes of storm along the way. Today I took as a rest day, and did my first stint volunteering at the National Canal Museum while the thunderstorms rolled through, and tomorrow I’ll be doing a road ride up and over Blue Mountain. Timing is everything.
I’m feeling a bit tired right now. Anne and I did the CAT/BikeSmart “Calypso Bike Day” at Calypso Elementary this morning. It’s really fun to watch the kids, some of them diffident at first, lacking skill or confidence, come to enthusiastically ride the bike course over and over with their friends — you can actually see them become better and more confident, even stronger, as they ride. My job was to sort of referee the course, and get the kids to stop at the stop signs we had out — not an easy task sometimes, but the kids do pick up on “who’s turn it is” at the intersections, and kid-land social pressures usually take it from there. Totally fun, for them as well as me, but keeping tabs on that chaos eventually left me feeling frazzled. It was over at noon, and I helped pack up and put things away and was home by one-thirty or so: hot, tired, over-stimulated and sunburnt, I came in, took a shower and napped for three hours.
FYI: At the end of the day we quizzed the school principal and found that the school was named for Calypso Island, a small island in the Lehigh. The more you know…
A little bit of suppression in there, as I pushed it a bit on yesterday’s ride: I did Sals first, then afterward I did a towpath ride. Total mileage was only about 33-34 miles (took me about 4 or 5 hours), but I was pretty depleted when I was done. Today, I feel like I’ve been beaten with sticks…
The thing is, I am down to the final push. The Wilderness 101 is late July, meaning it’s about 6 weeks away, meaning I have one more month of training and preparation left to get ready — and I really feel like I could use three or four. An ugly win is still a win though, and a weigh-in is still a weigh-in, for all that suppression, and I am starting to feel like, with the proper choice of goals (“just finish the race”), this thing will be difficult but no longer impossible.
My next big tasks are to incorporate longer (much longer) rides into my training — nothing crazy, but we’re talking road centuries and the like. I also have to start working on my on-bike nutrition, this will play a critical role in both the training and the race.
I also need to spend a shit-ton of money: I need new pedals, new cycling clothes, and I may get a new bike. I have a month…
So I decided to start doing some longer rides, and I would work my way into doing that with longish road rides (working up to century-plus mileages), and yesterday was my first attempt. My original plan was to follow a course I made on the Garmin site, one that takes me over Blue Mountain at Little Gap, then along the far side of the ridge on Mountain Road and crossing back for the return at Wind Gap. My total distance would have been about 66 miles.
I got the course loaded on my Garmin, but then when I tried to use it I couldn’t read the map or directions while riding — my riding glasses are about 5 prescriptions out of date — and while I know the general way, I forgot or didn’t realize I’d created this particular course with a non-standard start. Ride up the street — BEEP! — stop to scrutinize the directions, 50 yards and off course already! Followed directions to get back on course, loop back to the house — BEEP! — “congratulations you’ve finished the ride!” WTF?
Turned off the course and started over, going the way I already know and everything was fine after that. I took it fairly easy too, doing a lot of coasting on the descents; my heart rate wasn’t all that high except when climbing… There was a fair amount of climbing, eventually, but that was the point, and eventually I ended up in Danielsville at the base of Blue. The south side isn’t too long or brutal a climb, but I took a break when I got to the top — and that’s when I got a good look at the storm clouds blowing in on the other side, and felt the suddenly-chilly wind picking up, in that way that comes just before a thunderstorm.
Change of plans: I didn’t want to drop down into the storm and spend the rest of the day being dumped on, so I turned around and dropped back down the south side, and took the most direct route home. I pushed my speed up a bit, because I was now literally racing the storm — I was right on the edge of it, and it was moving about the same speed and direction as I was; every time I relaxed I’d end up getting wet. (It really caught me once, when I got stuck in traffic behind a school bus dropping kids off, but then came several long fast downhills back into sunny weather.) I got home and pulled into the yard just as it started spitting again.
Total distance: 50.15 miles, a little short of my original target but my legs were telling me this distance was plenty. Total time was 3:48 for an average speed of 13.2 mph, nothing to brag about but OK for an easy ride. Total ascent: 2904 ft. Total calories: 1618.