Now, really. How can you resist a title like THAT?
Since being befriended by Cheap Cyclist several years ago, I have enjoyed finding opportunities to get back on the saddle of my classic 10-speed bike (aka Lazarus) and pedal my way through landscapes. We have had some truly wonderful experiences. We have also had some rather unpleasant encounters with limitations, jointly and individually. These are generally documented here (this blog) and/or there (his blog).
However, due to life circumstances, including job changes for both of us and large-scale relocation for me, we have not shared a stretch of pavement in some time.
Since relocating 7 months ago, I took one opportunity to ride. That ride, so far only disclosed in my Map My Ride feed, was uncomfortable, to say the least. I’ll chalk it up to “topographic differences” between the Hoosier State and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That ride also resulted in a flatted rear tire, a painfully simple thing to remedy, but a thing that took me until the last 7-10 days immediately preceding this current event to resolve. So, no doubt, your math and common sense skills shriek with the response, ‘What the *?@! were you thinking signing up for a 30-mile ride without preparation or any riding in the past 7 months?!”
Cheap Cyclist and I even discussed this very concern. We both agreed on the following:
- This event NEEDED ridden
- it wouldn’t be pretty
- But, it could be done
- it would, one way or another, create a lasting memory
But first, a word from our hosts/non-sponsors:
This was an inaugural event for Troegs. Final tally was 700+ cyclists, individuals and 4-rider teams, traversing their choice of 15- or 30- mile courses through Derry Township and beyond. The 30-miler included a trek through the quaint village known as Mt. Gretna. (Ride map and Elevation Profile are included below) Due to the number of riders, there were block starting times, two waves of 30-milers starting 30 minutes apart, followed by a the 15-milers 30 minutes after group start #2. Upon arrival, it looked like this:
Registration had been completed online, and the event was billed as Sold Out. At the moment captured above, Rider Group #1 had departed. Things were well organized (for the most part) and efficient. Cue sheets and maps were available. Two local bike shops were on-site for last minute tweaks and fixes. There were also (3) ride leaders and one ride follower (besides available SAG vehicle support).
I did my best to stretch and took a place in Group #2, which started ON-TIME. Group starts always seem a bit iffy to me, particularly with so many bodies/vehicles starting off going UP and to the RIGHT of a curved, paved driveway. But, away we went. I focused VERY HARD on not torching myself early and just starting an easy spin which left me alone and behind the pack, but…meh. It’s NOT a RACE (well, unless it is or you make it one). I was feeling pretty OK, despite the warm temperatures and escalating humidity.
Then, I got into the first bit of a climb, at about 5.5 miles. And my lungs felt like they were involuntarily adjourning this ride, abdicating their role of sustaining my life. I executed a controlled dismount along the side of the road and proceeded to support my doubled-over torso on Lazarus while controlling my breathing. This felt bad.
It must have looked worse, because TWO riders stopped to make sure I was OK, one even politely suggesting I could still exercise the 15-mile option. I thanked them profusely for their grace and kindness, and assured them I would continue my pursuit. I managed to gather myself and get back up and spinning after…well, I’m not really sure how long I stood there, but it was long enough.
There were no other major stressors through the next leg of the journey. Beautiful scenery, warm temps, other riders coming and going. However, I dared not stop and try to take any photos. I couldn’t be sure my body wouldn’t try to rebel again.
At approximately Mile 13-13.5, the Rest Stop lay waiting. Yes, it is painfully obvious that this is NOT a “halfway” point, but given the course, it was as close as they could get. It was set up in the parking area of the Mt. Gretna Trailhead of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, and it looked like this:
Volunteers tending this site were kind and helpful. Some discussion was had among riders present and volunteers that the next portion of the ride may be the “ugliest” as far as climbing, etc. goes (check the profile below, specifically between miles 15-22). The nicest thing the volunteers could offer was “Its mostly in shade, though.” Um…yay?
Again, I struck out on my own, at my pace, already quite satisfied I seemed to have put that initial distress behind me, and resolved to get through the remainder of the course. I refilled my water bottle (note: not plural), had some snacks, stopped by the “comfort facility” and away I went.
Well, they didn’t lie. It was much cooler and shadier along this stretch that wound through some portion of State Gameland before emerging into Mt. Gretna proper. Along the way, I found myself accompanied by a couple of other riders who were enthused, but also appeared to be struggling. On one incline. I decided it was in my best interest to dismount and walk. One of my companions noted this and said, “I was just thinking about doing that.” I replied, “There is no shame or judgment here.” With that, they dismounted and walked a portion.
Again, let me say, the scenery was delightful, but I could not find myself wanting to photo document as frequently. This stretch could probably best be described as an “infomercial” for long, rolling hills. Each time we thought we had achievd a reasonable summit that might provide some relief…”but WAIT! There’s MORE!” During one of my ambulatory phases, I stopped mid-hill (approximately) and took these up/down road shots:
This stretch was indeed tough. I was beginning to feel muscle strain in my thighs and calves, and I was trying to manage my riding to minimize the impact. However, it seems it was made a little worse by the intermittent bouts of walking.
There were a couple of really amazing elevation drops that my bike computer SWEARS allowed me to hit 38.5mph, if even for a few brief moments. Thrilling!
My ad hoc riding companions and I got separated due to my measured riding. Between the muscular stuff, the heat/humidity and my lack of adequate hydration, I became pretty slow and hampered. But…I kept going. What else could I do? (OK, yes, I COULD have called for a SAG vehicle, but…c’mon! I was learning a life lesson here, or something).
Somewhere along the final 3-4 miles of the course, I stopped and took this:
I bore down and gutted out those last miles. I knew I wouldn’t finish STRONG, but I was confident that I would finish. And I did. When I arrived back at the brewery parking lot, the post-ride events were in full swing:
- Three food trucks
- Live music
- (2) free beers with the ability to purchase more
- Swag giveaways including (2) brand new bikes (one cruiser, one hybrid)
Before I could even consider my free beer, I downed two bottles of water. Eating seemed out of the question. I felt like an anomaly among the other revelers, as I felt completely gassed. I stayed long enough to learn I didn’t win any of the giveaways. Then, I gathered up my stuff and pedaled (yes, pedaled) back to the factory outlet parking lot where we had been asked to park (approximately 0.5 miles). I loaded the car and headed for home.
This was an EXCELLENT event. Bikes and Beers has been doing this for a few years, so they seem to have a good handle on things. All routes were CLEARLY marked. Most things were well organized, although I found the some of the post-ride aspects not that helpfully communicated or self-evident. No big deal in the bigger picture. Maybe its because I was a bit worn out.
The $50 entry fee seemed a little steep at first, but the funds raised stay in the area of the host brewery and go toward improvement of bike paths, bike lanes, safer crossings, etc.
I really can’t believe I hadn’t heard of these events before, but now I will keep an eye out for them. There are currently at least (4) other events within 2 hours drive-time (two near Philly and two in Maryland).
Find one. Ride it. #getoutandride