Me and Michael at the end of the 100-mile route. All smiles!
I pre-registered for Cleveland Touring Club’s Sunday in June a few months ago. Not that I needed to, as day-of registration was available, but I was in the midst of my spring blues and I just felt like registering for something that wasn’t TOSRV. I’d wanted to do this ride and for some reason or another in the past, I never got to hit it, despite the fact that the ride starts in Burton, which is only an hour from my house.
Originally, I had signed up for the 62 mile route with the thought that just because a century option was offered for a ride, it did not mean I had to do it. I was going to cool my “mileage Nazi” jets and just relax at a metric century. No loss of pride in that, right?
Well, Michael decided to ride Sunday in June with me. And the next thing I know, he’s taunting me with doing the century route. I told him that if the weather was right and I was feeling good that day, then sure, I’d ride the century route. I hadn’t planned on it, but, oh well. I do like the challenge of a century. It’s “fun” to push myself for those miles since usually 60-75 miles is not really something I’ve got to push myself to do, unless I’m having a completely crappy day or the route is especially hilly. Centuries are about the only thing that makes me love to hate riding.
Upon my arrival to the start location, I learned that Burton is on the top of a hill. You know what that means–the end of the ride is uphill. I think someone (perhaps Michael) had tried to warn me of this prior to the ride, but I must have only been half-listening. I must admit that the view from the parking lot was beautiful, with rolling distant land all around. I actually kind of felt that claustrophobia of being on the summit of a mountain, for all of the Burton town square is literally on the summit of a hill taller than the surrounding landscape. I probably should have zapped a picture with my camera phone–it was way cool.
I don’t know if it was because I’d had to get up at 4:50am (to eat breakfast and get ready for the ride with enough leeway time for the drive to Burton) or the night of nervous dream-fretting I’d had (about a variety of things going on in my life right now), but I was in a cruddy mood at first. I wasn’t sure I was “in the mood” to ride, let alone 100 miles. I just wasn’t feeling the “excitement” of the moment. But the sun was shining, I’d already paid for the ride, and Michael was on his way, so I was not bailing. I was just worried about my general lack of enthusiasm, which made me wonder if this were going to be one of those days where I hated every moment of riding.
The map in the registration packet revealed to me that the route consisted of three loops, all of which started in Burton. The first loop was roughly 25 miles and all rides took it. There were multiple ride options–25, 50, 62, and 100. The second loop had two routes on it–one for the 62 and 100 routes that was roughly 34 miles and a smaller cut-off route of roughly 25 miles for the 50 mile riders. The third loop at 40 miles was just for the crazies who dared the century. Each loop had one rest area in it with Burton serving as the second rest stop for riders doing more than 25 miles. This was a very interesting structure for a ride to me–I’d never done anything like it before. I was a little incredulous at first until I realized that each of the loops was different and only really crossed each other at some points. In a way, I wonder if always returning to your start-end point made the ride easier to endure.
The temperatures were a little chillier than I liked at the start–perhaps lower sixties–which made the first descent out of Burton cold. It didn’t do much to inspire me to enjoy the moment. However, somewhere within that first loop, I found my groove. And what an interesting scenic adventure that was! Again, I found myself astonished by the beauty of Ohio back country, all of which seemed singularly original from the other areas of back country I’ve discovered. I don’t think you can look at a region of Ohio without noticing its distinctive beauty.
The literature for Sunday in June proclaimed a nice ride through Amish Country, which Ohio has a lot of in almost any area where there’s farming going on. I’ve taken a few other rides through various Amish regions of Ohio, but I’d have to say that I never realized this particular part of Geauga County was as Amish as it was. Going to college at Hiram, I saw my share of Amish people–always a buggy parked outside of the McD’s in Garrettsville and occasionally you’d find one ambling along Route 88. And Roscoe Ramble also takes you through Amish country located in Holmes County. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Amish people as I saw on Sunday in June. Maybe it was because it was Sunday and, I assumed, all of the Amish on the streets were making their way to church in the early hours of the morning of our ride. I really don’t know what Amish do on Sundays but I’ve always assumed they treat it in the old school manner of “The Lord’s Day” meaning rest and relaxation after the morning worship. And I may be right since later in the day, I saw some Amish girls on bikes and roller blades.
Forgive me if I sound ignorant or racist. I’m not suggesting that Amish people should be gawked at and treated like a tourist attraction. To be honest, I’m totally fascinated by their culture, despite some negative feedback I’ve gotten from people in the past about how the Amish don’t care much for us “gentiles.” In some part of my restless heart, their lifestyle looks romantic to me, even if the only option for a woman is to become a mother. Sometimes in this complexity of every day life, I feel it would be relaxing to forsake all technology and join a lifestyle that looks, at least on the outside, a bit simpler. It’s a romantic idea, of course. I am sure they’ve got problems like everyone one else…
Anyway, it was enchanting to hear the sounds of hooves rhythmically clomp-clomping on the road as buggy after buggy went by and to see lines of families with children taking in the beautiful day as they strolled to where-ever it was everyone was going (church, I assume). I felt a little naked in my bike tights before all these people who were so properly attired head-to-toe in clothes. I hope they didn’t think me obscene (I’m sure they probably did). At least they were friendly and waved.
The first loop ended with a quick, steep climb on Route 700 (or the bike path, if you chose, but also just as steep) into Burton. Because I’d found my spirit in the middle of that first loop, and now that I was but 25 miles into the ride with fresh legs, I just felt wonderful after that climb. I passed a tandem and two stocky men in their 40s. Yay me. Michael, as usual, passed young and old up the hill and was already getting off his bike when I rolled into the parking lot of the park.
I was completely energized and full of spunk for the second loop, which was even more scenic than the first. This route took us north of Burton with a rest stop in a beautiful park called Big Creek State Park that I’m definitely going to have to check out for hiking some time. I saw two hiking paths venturing into a green wilderness and, despite the fact that I was enjoying my ride, I had the sudden desire to hike. The road we took to get to the park was less than desirable–posted 45 speed limit on a narrow, extremely pot-holed surface with rolling terrain. Needless to say, I took it gingerly, afraid to let out the speed without complete foresight as to the location of each pot hole. So I was “Nervous Nelly” on some of the downhill grades.
The route looped through the center of Chardon, another city I’ve actually never visited, but just the sort of quaint little town you enjoy rolling into on your bike. A little trafficky, but nothing horrible. We passed a tandem that did not have fixed pedaling (one rider could stop pedaling). I contrived of ways I could torture Michael if he had such a tandem. You surely would not want to piss off the stoker on a tandem such as this! People always joke to Michael when we ride by that I’m not pedalling, but there’s no way that I could stop pedalling on his tandem (and most tandems for that matter).
The hill back into Burton on this loop was more gradual. I passed a bunch of people this time, including a man with a saucy jersey featuring the country of France. So imagined that he figured himself to be a hot rider, wearing a jersey suggestive of the Tour de France. Maybe not, though. Maybe he’d just gone to France. Regardless, I felt pretty good about passing riders, even though that’s not the point. I am good at slower climbs since it’s much easier to distribute my energy.
I’d like to note here that I’ve been having a lot of post-ride knee pain which I’ve been told is because I’m probably pushing too hard of a gear on hills. On Friday, after my commute from work, my left knee was actually throbbing for a few hours. I had, in fact, tried to push a high gear on Truxell, as for some reason I’ve convinced myself that if I can do Truxell in my middle chain ring, then I will become better on hills. I didn’t end up completing it in my middle chain ring, but I didn’t go down another gear at one point, even when I knew my legs wanted me to. I am sure this is where the source of that pain originated.
So, anyway, I told myself to “experiment” on this ride and liberally use the granny gear when I felt it was warranted. No need to push myself in the middle ring just because the hill is actually a small, steep bump and I’ve got it in my head that I shouldn’t need to switch out of the middle or big chain rings. (Lately, I’ve also been making use of the “half gear” that keeps me in my big ring because it makes the lowest two gears work without that “click-click-click” sound of not really being in gear.) On a ride of 100 miles, I decided, I needed to take it easy and keep my legs fresh. Turns out that everyone’s advice was right–using the lower gears when needed did completely prevent knee pain. I had none whatsoever during or after this ride. So my “ride it hard” philosophy has gone back to just taking hills at the gear I need at the time. I guess eventually I will be able to gear them higher at a faster cadence merely from having done them enough. Progress is so damned slow!
Upon completely the second loop we were at 62 miles. This was our lunch stop. And let me just say, this ride had THE BEST lunch food on any ride I’ve ever done EVER. The. Best. Offered in the buffet: pasta with red sauce, chicken in marinara sauce, and meatballs!! There was salad, too, of course. And garlic bread! Just what I needed before embarking on the final 40-mile loop. I tried not to fill up too much–pasta and then riding immediately afterwards could probably make you feel weighed down over the last miles–but I ate enough to stop the hunger and every bite was DELISH. Literally. Yeah. I can’t say enough about this wonderful meal. I couldn’t believe how much this delectable meal revived me. When I took to my bike for the last loop, I was completely refreshed.
In fact, I have never felt so good on a century before in my life. I enjoyed every minute of my time on the saddle, for the most part. I didn’t bonk as usual at 80 miles. I didn’t even start staring heavily at my computer’s mileage tracker until about 95 miles. I have never felt so relaxed on a century–no internal pressure from my inner voice or external pressure from other riders to hurry up and get the ride done faster. I didn’t care that the only rest stop on that loop closed shortly after we left, nor did I worry about the ending point in Burton being deserted. I think this was mainly due to the pact Michael and I made the week before that we would take this ride at our own casual pace and not try to overdo ourselves. This mind-set made all the difference in the world. I just felt as though I were out on a pleasant country ride that went on for miles and miles. Maybe, too, it was the fact that the miles were only taken in small loops that circled back to Burton every time. Either way, I felt fantastic for someone riding 100 miles.
This loop went through Middlefield, and then started down the familiar territory of Route 88 towards Garrettsville. I wondered how long we would head in this direction–if we would, in fact, end up in Garrettsville. However, the route turned us off before we hit Route 305, and we ended up, to my delight, in Hiram Rapids, my favorite scenic town along my favorite road to lead rides, Winchell Road. I stopped to snap the picture of this little tiny town’s church, which I think I might have taken a shot another time in the fall once.
At this point, another ABC rider I call “Speedy Mike” (because he’s generally a hammerhead, but a really nice guy despite) caught up with us. He proceeded accompany us the last ten miles of the route, riding our speed and chatting the whole way. We’d eaten lunch with him earlier, but figured he’d be way ahead of us at that point. Turns out, he missed a turn and went two miles off route before he realized his mistake, which added four miles to his ride by the time he doubled back.
Of course, the last stretch was not without some hills, mostly of the “looks easy but is hard” variety–slow climbers that really abused the legs. The roads were beautiful, however, and generally without traffic. I decided I could use some of these routes for future rides I might lead with ABC. They were completely pleasant and with the weather so cooperative, I did not mind all the work my legs were now starting to protest.
By this point in the day, it had gotten quite warm–maybe 75 or so degrees–so I was wishing I’d worn a sleeveless jersey. I did have the foresight to wear my Keens, however, so overall I was comfortable. I just couldn’t stop musing how beautiful the weather was… It’s too bad that we’re supposed to get a bunch of rain the rest of this week. Bleh.
Anyway, we ended up on a road that ended at Route 87 just below Burton (in fact, I passed this point on my return home after the ride). We were at about 95 miles, so I was not surprised when we were routed about a mile down (hill) 87 to another side street that looped us back upwards, eventually, into Burton. I was glad that the route-creators understood the need of century riders to complete an actual 100 miles. I’d much rather the route be over 100 than under the promised mileage. The last thing I want to do after nearly 100 miles, is ride around a town trying to get that last one or two miles in.
The route actually brought us to 102 miles. There was a hefty climb along a quiet side street that ended at the last half mile into town that we’d taken in on the second loop. Once we crested the hill, we found ourselves again in “downtown” Burton, heading towards the town square. I felt great, but was glad to be done. The last hill had made me aware of the fact that my leg muscles were nearly cooked and I did not desire to climb anything else.
When we rolled back into the park in Burton, the place was almost completely cleared out. We’d learned at the rest stop on the last loop that only about 50 or so of the approximately 500-700 riders were on the century. Even still, most of those people, being faster, had probably completed the ride earlier. But who cares? I don’t aim to break speed records, just finish the ride. Our stats were not too bad: ride time of 6:56’12 and 14.7 average. I’ll take that! Actually, our ride time was better than both days of TOSRV where we had over 7 hours with 14.0 and 14.1 averages. So obviously we’re both in much better shape.
And I felt good, to boot! Not completely deflated or out of energy. I felt like I’d done work and my legs were definitely a bit stiff, but I really felt pretty good overall. I decided that to celebrate this success fully we needed to get ice cream in town. Usually Michael is the one pushing to stop for ice cream and usually I do not partake. This time, however, I felt I owed it to myself. Yeah, I’d had a few cookies at the rest stops early on in the ride, but I didn’t have more than two and I did not eat any after the first loop. So, really, I probably had worked off those cookies if you figure that you burn about 554 calories per hour, as I’ve been informed on CC’s blog. And, anyway, I decided that I owed it to myself to eat an ice cream cone after 100 miles.
Fortunately, there was a little Italian restaurant that sold homemade ice cream on the square. I got mint chocolate chip–my favorite–in a regular cone; Michael had cookies-n-cream in a dish. Boy, at 75 degrees on a sunny day after 102 miles, the ice cream sure hit the spot! I know, I know. This is why I don’t lose weight. I get it. I own it and accept it. I did promise myself I’d eat a small dinner, which I did, enjoying the last container of white chili I’d made and froze a few months back. I washed it down with one–only one–beer. No wine. So I didn’t eat all my calories back, I promise.
I was pretty energetic the rest of the day until about 9pm when I started falling asleep on my couch. I went to bed and struggled to wake the next morning in my century-induced coma. I was minimally sore–just delightful tightness to remind me I’d done a lot of work the day before. Still, I didn’t push it by riding yesterday, just basked in the glow of having enjoyed a great ride. My cycling helmet off to CTC and their wonderful Sunday in June ride! It definitely ranks among my favorite rides, matching the likes of the Marietta River Rendezvous and Mad Anthony River Ralley. Way to go, CTC!!