The last hurrah

With TOSRV as the first chapter of the cycling season, Lorain Wheelmen’s Red Flannel ride is the last chapter of every season–the last registered ride listed in Ohio Bicycling Event Calendar. For two years in a row, the weather has been agreeable enough for me to make it out there and, both times, I’ve decided to ride it on the tandem.

I think I enjoyed the ride this year more than last. Maybe it’s because I feel I’ve really hit a cycling pique this year. Not only have I done more miles than I’ve ever done (and a good 1,200 miles more than I did last year), but I have completed seven centuries, totally pulverizing last year’s record of four. Folks, let me spell this out for you: 700 of my 4,400 miles were completed on seven separate 100 mile rides! One of which, mind you, I did amidst a week in which I was riding 50-80 miles per day. It stuns even me. I didn’t know I was capable of this kind of madness.

Another great milestone this year is that I’ve overcome my fear of some hills–Boston Mills, Hines Hill in the Valley; Liberty Road on the Fall ‘N Leaf ride. I even started contemplating attempting Oak Hill Road, which I’d previously told myself I’d never do, and I want to even climb the feared Martin. Somewhere along the line this year, I started to lose my fear of toppling sideways on a tough hill because I was going too slow and could not release my feet from the clips in time. I’ve proven to myself that when the situation gets tough or desperate, I am perfectly capable of clipping out fast. I’ve had a couple of chain drops on a hill where I was able to clip out and fix the situation, and then continue on my way without walking. I think I’m getting less fearful… except on those twisty, winding downhills… Oh well, I guess it’s less laughable to be scared on a downhill–where real serious injury could occur–than low-speed climbing uphill where the only injury is to your pride (and maybe just a little bit of surprise when you find yourself suddenly on the ground).

To be honest, I love climbing hills. And I’m loving it even more after this year. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you make it to the top of a really tough climb. A feeling of having conquered something. This year I slayed a lot of dragons by forcing myself outside of my comfort zone to successfully complete a climb I feared. Conquering fears and taking on new challenges is the spice of life. Do one thing every day that scares you, goes one of the lines of a favorite song. And it makes me a better cyclist.

The Red Flannel has a few little steep hills. My memory of the ride last year was a little fuzzy–I only remembered two hills and there were, in fact, a few more. I would describe the ride as beautifully scenic along mostly traffic-less roads with a few hills thrown in to keep it interesting. It’s not overly hard. So we had a blast pushing ourselves a little harder than normal to maintain a 17.1 average–fast enough to be proud at breaking a new record, but slow enough to still enjoy the ride (we didn’t need no stinking paceline). Last year, incidentally, we finished this ride with a 16.4, which is still pretty damned respectable.

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At the lunch stop in Milan

The weather was a bit chilly at start, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I’m proud that I finally started to figure out exactly how to dress for rides in the fall. I don’t get it perfect every time, but lately I’ve been managing to wear just enough clothes. I’ve found that it’s best if you start out slightly chilly because once you start riding, you’ll warm up. If you start out comfortably warm, you probably don’t have any “breathing” room for air once the workout starts and you will inevitably need to remove clothes right away. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between feeling cold and chilly before you start. It took me awhile to figure out the difference.

The sun came out, but it still only got to just over 50 degrees. Which, in a way, is almost perfect riding weather in the fall. I prefer to ride in 60s and above, but if you’re not going to get that, the 50s are the next best thing. And sun–even if it isn’t making things warm, it’s much more pleasant to ride in the sunlight than overcast skies.

We stopped in Milan–the lunch stop–to get a picture in front of Thomas Edison’s house. I bet many of you out-of-staters didn’t realize that Thomas Edison was born in Ohio. Not everyone here is a meat-and-potatoes bumpkin!

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Mars Girl and tandem in front of Edison's house of birth in Milan, Ohio.

It was such a pretty day, which is really what I was trying to convey in also capturing a picture of the historical marker.1101091136

We encountered many of our fellow ABCers–TDB, Tom W, Randy, Lori B–as well as several other people who we habitually encounter on various registered rides all year such as Maureen who was part of the XOBA team this past year and is the incoming director. I asked her if her routes were going to be as sadistic as Walt’s (the former director) and she assured us that there would be a few challenging hills but no direct abuse like we endured on the Millersport to Loudenville leg this year. She admitted that the route may have been overkill (which is the route Walt planned). So I’m thinking that the beer tour in 2011 might be a little tamer… but definitely not easy. I can’t wait!

A group from Toledo was there. I got to catch up with my friend Sue R and meet her daughter, Becky, who lives in Portland. Re-acquainted myself with Hubert with whom Sue and I rode the Flatlanders Tour and I lusted after his orange Orbea. Becky–that lucky gal–got to borrow one of Hubert’s spare Orbeas… I was so jealous! I think the next time I go to Toledo for a ride, I’m going to conveniently forget my own bike… I have it from Becky that the bike is every bit as sweet, smooth ride as it looks.

Anyway, it was a fine way to wind down the season. And though I can’t call the season officially over yet because it has not snowed, I can’t say that I’ll be as frequently on the road as I was. The cold and dark are making the idea of riding less enticing. However, I may don some warm clothes, my front and tail lights, and head out into the night for a few evenings.  But soon I’ll have to turn in the pass to recreation center that I won at my church auction and confine myself to the doldrums and torture of indoor exercise. And maybe I’ll have to put my Giant on the trainer too… Soon it will be time to take out the skis and snowshoes…

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2 thoughts on “The last hurrah

  1. “I’ve found that it’s best if you start out slightly chilly because once you start riding, you’ll warm up. If you start out comfortably warm, you probably don’t have any “breathing” room for air once the workout starts and you will inevitably need to remove clothes right away.”

    Hmmm, that’s pretty much the exact same thing a bike store employee (I don’t remember which bike store now) told me about two years ago when I was looking for some cooler-weather riding clothes ;)

    Did you say something about XOBA 2011 and BEER? I think I hear Jeff starting to train now….

  2. Actually, I can’t 100% claim that bit of advice as my own… I was taught it in my hiking class at the Colorado Mountain Club… However, I have found it to be true for any outdoor athletic endeavor. It’s just how chilly you should be at the start of the event that differs. For example, I like to be a little chillier when starting a hike than I would be when starting a bike ride. On a bike ride you have to account for the wind you will be creating when you move… whereas when hiking, you don’t get air resistance since you’re just walking… So you can afford to be just a tad chillier because you’re going to warm up a lot more quickly than you would on a bike. It takes practice, I think, to get the “feeling” right.

    As for XOBA 2011, it is a beer-themed one indeed. I’m looking forward to doing it. Start training now!

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