For our last TOSRV training ride, Michael suggested we ride Wayne County. He is familiar with the area, we could ride from his house, and we could sucker his parents into a low-budget meal as our lunch stop. (I’m just joking about that last part.) Our plan was at least 80 miles–the true proof that our legs were up to the challenge of 100 miles. If you feel okay at 80 miles, then you can probably do the last 20 to 100. Of course, you might ask, “Why not just do 100 miles as practice?”
Because. We don’t have to. 100 is a lot of work to do when you don’t “have” to. 80 is good enough proof. Especially for people who in the mid-summer don’t even bat an eye at a 50-65 mile rides. In mid summer, anything up to about 75 miles, I would say, does not generally cause a post-ride physical and emotional crash where I just want to snooze the rest of the day away. Anything over 75 starts to become a real exercise of exertion. Of course, this does not take into account a particularly hilly ride. All bets are off then.
I started Saturday’s ride lagging a bit mentally. I had somehow fallen off my sleep schedule during the week which left me totally drained by Friday. I decided (wisely) to lay low at home, watch The Ghost Whisperer and Doll House live (for once), and finish a handwritten letter to Sarah. I then slipped off to bed around 10:30. Woke up at 8am, still tired, and slowly worked my way around the house with breakfast and coffee. I got to Michael’s house around 10:30am and we were off around 11. Which, of course, is sort of a late day, but thanks to Daylight Savings Time, is completely doable. I figured we’d have time enough for early morning starts; for TOSRV, we’ll be rolling down Capitol Square at 7am. Mine as well start on my own time when I can.
The weather at start time was sunny and probably somewhere around 55-57 degrees. I actually ended up switching from the heavier shirt I had on to a short sleeve jersey with a cycling under layer. Good thing I brought that short sleeve jersey because I probably would have over-heated in the shirt I’d originally worn. I had long pants on in which I was comfortable the whole ride.
We rode first into Orrville where we grabbed Smithville Western all the way–yes, all the way–into the Overton Valley and back out. Ahhh! Delicious climbing fun. I especially enjoy this climb because the first time I did it, I fell at the foot of it, and so each successive time I do it, it’s like conquering an old enemy who betrayed me. In Overton, the east end of Smithville Western ends at Overton Road. You then have to jog right then left immediately to get to the western end of the road. This also involves a u-ing turn that is quite awkward to put yourself into–by car or bike. Well, the first time I did it, I was, for some reason, in the biggest ring on my crank. The road immediately begins to incline as soon as you turn onto it. Needless to say, it is not the kind of steepness you want to arrive at in your biggest ring. I had tried to change out to my middle ring, and then to the lowest, but I didn’t have the momentum going to keep my legs spinning, so the forces of Gravity worked, as they always do, and I did the ole “slow sideways topple”–a maneuver famous among cyclists who clip their feet into the pedals. Of course, it happened right in front of car so that there were plenty of witnesses. Whom, naturally, I barked at when they slowed down to offer help. (I don’t take embarrassment well.)
Whenever Michael recalls this event, he explains that he had turned the next corner when he heard me issue a slue of a swear words indecent for children’s ears, followed by the inevitable plunk of the fallen cyclist. Ahh, good times.
To be sure, I started the turn onto Smithville Western forewarned by experience. This time, I turned in the middle ring. Foolishly, I thought perhaps I could start the hill with a few gears into my middle ring. Call it foolish pride, but I didn’t want to admit to the defeat of the granny ring right away. It only took a few feet to realize that this baby was steep and I should probably just admit it and switch into granny right off. Which I promptly did. Michael, who was wisely already in granny ring, recalled to me later that he heard this tha-thunk noise as my chain dropped to granny and he thought I would fall again (my chain’s been slipping a little lately). “Why,” he claimed to wonder, “wasn’t she already in granny?” Foolish pride, my friend, foolish pride.
All said, it was a rewarding climb. It was about as hard as I remembered it, which was hard, but nothing that made me nervous. I ended up “bottoming out” (using the lowest of my low gears) but I actually felt oddly comfortable spinning in it during the better part of the hardest section and didn’t feel that trademark urgency in my veins that bids for the pain to be over soon. I was okay with the level of pain and I could have continued through had it gone longer, which is a comforting feeling when I’m climbing a hill; when I feel like I’m losing my “gas” on a hill, I start to panic which is never good. So I figure the steepness of that hill is just right for my legs, at least where they are at this moment in the season. It only gets better from here.
Even after the initial tough section of Smithville Western, the climbing is not over. You get a slightly flattened out bit at the top that allows you to relax your muscles and increase the gears slightly. Then there some steep but short rolling parts. It’s a few miles before you level out. I think I did a good job on it, especially given that this was not what I considered an “on” day for me. Of course, Michael’s steadily pumping legs had pushed him about a mile ahead of me. Ah, well. It’s a good day if I make it to the top without stopping or walking, I always say.
At 32 miles, we stopped at Michael’s parents to partake of turkey sandwiches, potato chips (don’t hurt me, blog fans, I needed the salt; I normally don’t even eat potato chips), and macaroni salad (okay, okay, I know that’s not health food either). We were also provided entertainment by Baxter, Michael’s four-legged brother, a miniature Schnauzer. Side note: I’ve been obsessed with and wanted a mini Schnauzer since my best friend first introduced me to the breed in 2006. I think that I will probably end up getting one of these dogs eventually, when I’m ready to make the commitment to get a dog (which is almost as much of a commitment as deciding to have children, really, as much time and energy as dogs require). I think mini Schnauzers look like muppets.
After food, rest, and dog tussling, we shuffled off into the afternoon sun to continue on a 20 mile loop further south from Michael’s parents’ place. The route was generally rolling with a few smaller steep hills, but nothing as significant as Smithville Western. I had taken a picture of Michael rolling ahead of me on one of these nice scenic roads, but I guess I didn’t hit “Save” on my phone because I can’t find it. (Maybe I’m out of room on my phone, should probably delete some pictures off of it since I use my phone for cycling photography.)
Overall, I was not feeling at the peak of my cycling. I felt a little over-tired and I know I was not spinning at my normal rate. In fact, when we finished our loop and headed back towards Rittman through the Overton Valley, I had a 13.5 average. Fortunately, Overton Road is fairly flat and we rode several miles along it, exiting the valley the easiest way–a gentle climb on West Salem Road to Burbank. With the wind at our backs for the remainder of the ride, we managed to bring my finishing average to 14.1. Whew!! Getting me to a 14 average saved myself a lot of grief as I would have undoubtedly spent the night beating myself up for being so slow.
We ended up in Seville at just under 80 miles with two options for finish in Rittman: a long slow climb up Seville Road (which I’ve done more times than I can count) and a stepped steeper climb up Krabill. The thing about Krabill is that it ends just mere feet from our ending point; Seville, however, brings you to Acme where you make a right angle and a few more miles to the ending point. I chose Krabill. It seemed like more work for quicker pay-off. And, besides, it turns out Krabill is less busy with traffic and, really, not that bad of a climb, even 80 miles into a ride. So I was ultimately satisfied with the decision to take this route back. We finished with 84 miles (though, admittedly, there was one round of riding up the street to tap the mileage off at 84 as it came in at just over 83 and, you know, we like even numbers).
I was beat at the end of this ride. However, I completed it and that’s the important thing. At no point did I even think I would opt to bail (not that I could–I’d pedalled myself out so far, the only way back was pedaling back, no SAGs on your own rides). I feel that I’m ready for TOSRV, especially since all the rides we did, I realized only during the last mile of Saturday’s ride, were much harder than TOSRV’s 105 mile route. None of the hills on TOSRV are even close to the steepness of the hills we climbed on any of our training rides. We did the hills on our training rides to build up our muscles and because, honestly, we just love hills. Call us sickos. We probably are.
Also, the night before TOSRV, I plan to be at least sitting in a bed at 9:30. I will try not to consume any alcoholic beverages (um… but if we go out for Italian for dinner, maybe one glass of wine) the night before. I will have a good night’s sleep and I will wake up cheerily to face the day. Um. Well. Maybe not. I don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver. But eventually I will become cheery because it’s the first registered ride of the season!
And the current weather report for Columbus on both Saturday and Sunday is proclaiming sun and 60-70 degrees! If that really happens, that’s hardly a TOSRV. But, hell, I don’t care. The challenge is still 105 miles this early in the season. For two days. Nothing to scoff. Although, the nice weather means no one will bail on the ride, so it will probably be a bit crowded… And it doesn’t look like we’ll snag one of the cushy hotel rooms at the Portsmouth Ramada this year so we’ll likely be on the co-ed gym floor with all the surfs and peons.
Just for comparison, I checked my mileage sheet for last year and I had about 480 miles going into TOSRV. This year, I’m going to have close to 700 (I plan to ride tonight and Wednesday but no other days this week after that since I don’t want to ride myself out before The Big Ride). So I’m confident that I will have a great ride this year. Even if Mother Nature does decide to throw some rain or something my way. That’s TOSRV.
And, really, I’m impressed that I will probably have close to 1000 miles by the end of TOSRV. This early in the season, that’s pretty damn impressive (for us folks who have lives and a day job). And I thought with the hard winter we had, I was going to be behind schedule. Perhaps Michael is right and I am on my way to a 4,000 mile year.
UPDATED LATER: Nope! I don’t need to sleep with the masses and surfs on the gym floor! Michael just called and we scored one of the coveted rooms at the Ramada!! Whew-hoo! *doing happy dance* Save the gym floor sleeping for XOBA, ba-by. And tent sleeping for the MS 150. I’m grooving TOSRV in style. There’s a Damon’s attached to the Ramada so it’s the prefect one-stop shop for overnight accommodations. Hotel room, community hot tub, and then dinner. I’ll be asleep by 9:30 on Saturday. Ahhhh! (NOTE: The Ramada is really the only hotel in Portsmouth… and the waiting list is long… but we got moved up since we used a room last year… we just lucked out last year in getting a room.)