The Long Way Home

From a cycling standpoint, I’ve had an interesting year so far.  I haven’t racked up as many miles as in previous years, but aside from last year, I have done more long rides than ever before.

This has been in part motivated by the fact that my friend, Andy, is riding in the Lotoja Classic 2016, a 200+ mile ride from Logan, UT to Jackson, WY.  In order to help him prepare, another friend, James, and I have gone on several long rides with him this spring and summer.  The longest of these rides was still 80 miles shorter than Lotoja, though, so hopefully our efforts paid off!  All of these rides might sound crazy (at first they did to me as well), but once you’ve ridden 30 miles, 50 doesn’t seem crazy anymore – then you ride 50, and 75 doesn’t seem crazy anymore.  So it is really a matter of perspective, and if you don’t set a limit for yourself, then your definition of “crazy” can slowly creep towards the ceiling.  I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an endurance athlete of any sort, but I guess I dabble.

Anyhow, getting back to the point of this post…

Rachel and I planned to travel to CT this past weekend for our friends’ wedding.  BUT… Rachel needed to travel before I could.  When we settled with the fact that we would be traveling separately, the first thought that popped into my head was, “I wonder how many non-highway miles it is between my office and my parents house…”  The answer is 115, and I had made up my mind.

I started riding after work on Thursday at 6PM, thinking (optimistically) I could finish around 2AM.  So my optimistic plan involved only 25% of fading daylight.  I knew this getting into it, though, so I brought extra lights and an extra battery for recharging and hoped my system would last.

The Mass Central Rail Trail was a pleasant surprise but, after it got dark, left me feeling very isolated;  I was looking forward to the open road again.  Later on, my GPS tried to take me on other dirt roads, but I eventually detoured around any of those in the interest of time, because they tended to be difficult to find and not smooth.

Traffic was not a concern for any of the ride because of the timing, but I spent most of my time on quiet country roads through farmland and forests.  This was my first solo century ride and because I was alone, also my longest ride with the least amount of time spent resting.  Most of my eating was done while riding, except for when I finished everything in my jersey pockets and needed to resupply from my panniers.  I made one stop in Gilbertville, though, for food and drink at a Cumberland Farms.  While there, I happened to talk with a local who was cruising around on a custom electric bicycle with old school retrofitted lights.

Sunsetting

Rachel had been keeping tabs on me all evening/night to find out when I wanted to be picked up – I am assuming that the frequency of her calls and texts was increased due to prodding by my mother.  It was very kind and generous of them, but I was determined to finish what I started, despite having to work from home tomorrow.  She conceded and went to sleep at 11:30PM, at which point I was 75 miles into the ride, finally getting into somewhat familiar territory.

Blurry sign

At 12:30AM, I rolled through Springfield.  I had been looking forward to the rest of the ride, because I knew the route, but was slightly anxious about the big climbs to come, already feeling a bit low on energy.  I succeeded in pedaling up Mountain Road for my first time, after 2AM.  Then, after a bit of easy pedaling and coasting, I started the last climb, to West Hartland.  It wasn’t hot, but the air was damp. Apparently, I fell short in my attempt to rehydrate and/or replace saIt, because I felt the occasional twang of muscles cramping; fortunately, they didn’t persist.

Surprisingly, the only person who asked what I was doing or if I was okay was a guy driving past while I chugged up that final climb. Expecting this to happen throughout the ride, I had to laugh as the car slowed, just as I was about to cross the finish line. “Are you alright?” “Yeah, I’m good!” That was it, and he disappeared around the corner. Nice to see someone took the time to ask, at least.

Moon over intersection

A few minutes later, I rolled into the driveway, it was 3AM.  I slipped inside, trying not to wake anyone, had a bowl of cereal, some fruit and plenty of water before showering and getting to sleep.  With a rehearsal dinner and wedding to come this weekend, I told myself to sleep in until 9AM, which at that point was only 5.5 hours away.

By the time I finished this writeup, Andy had already ridden the Lotoja Classic.  He and the 4 others of his group finished the ride in roughly 11.75 hours with an impressive average speed of 17.5mph.  More information about his ride can be found *here*.  He reported that it was a fun (most likely “fun” type 1.5, according to this article) experience with impressive scenery.  That being said – he’s not sure he would enter into the lottery again next year!  If he does, though, I hope he lets me know…