Monday, April 28, 2008

04/27/2008: 200k, plus a bit

As a means of prepping for the Eastern PA 300K in a couple of weeks, I went into this ride with one real goal: push myself a little, but finish up feeling strong. This worked out pretty well, as I was suffering from naught more than a little tiredness and some hot spots on my left foot at the end of a nominal 135 miles. Assuming I watch my hydration and nutrition as well as I did on this ride, I'm feeling pretty confident about the 300K.

The route was a bit of a hodge-podge; Freeport Rd, Russelton Rd, 908 Ext, Sun Mine Rd, Saxonburg, Butler, skirting Moraine to Cooper's Lake, Portersville, Ellwood City, Cranberry, Red Belt, Orange Belt, and Mt Nebo. This does not include a couple of detours; Gulf Lab Rd closure and a bit of cue sheet confusion on Sunset Drive. More on that later...

I left my place around 5:15, and plummeted down the hill to my friend's house for a brief errand of pet maintenance. Met up with Tim at the Science Center, then made our way over to Freeport Rd and caught up with Jim by Trizilla. A brief stop at the Giant Eagle Get-Go down the road for supplies and restroom, and we were off on the ride proper.

Side note: We made a fairly unusual riding group, as our steeds consisted of : Jim's carbon-fiber high-zoot Madone, with a Brooks B-17 (!) saddle; my production P-38 recumbent, festooned with lights and bags; and Tim's well-executed homebuilt dual big wheel stick recumbent. All we really needed was a folder and a British racing trike to complete the set...

Side note 2 : it became apparent that my cyclocomputer had lost its' mind, when it began stubbornly insisting that my average speed was 28.5 mph, and that I'd already covered over 800 miles. After a few failed attempts at rehabilitation, I gave up and turned it to face away on the bars; makes navigating in unfamiliar territory all the more interesting, when you don't actually know how far you've come at any given moment. Good practice for primitive way finding, though.

The original plan called for hopping off Freeport and picking up Gulf Lab over to Russelton Rd; however, it turned out that Gulf Lab had been shut down for construction. Fortunately, Jim was familiar with the area, and knew which side street would become Russelton Rd (Pearl, IIRC). A leisurely climb up Russelton was followed by the delightful descent down 908 Extension to Bull Creek, which led to the climb up Sun Mine Rd. (I might add that this climb was not nearly as bad as I recall; guess I'm not as much of a wimp as I used to be.) Sun Mine eventually becomes Westminster all the way up to 228; it's a set of moderately tough rollers, but is good fun to ride.

At 228, we jogged left over to Saxonburg Rd, then meandered through Saxonburg proper to find Butler Rd. More rollers ensued. We stopped briefly at a Sheetz (corner of Freeport Rd and Butler Saxonburg Rd), then dropped into downtown Butler and over to New Castle Road. A quick right on. and decent climb up, Mercer Rd, and we had left town again. Eventually, we picked up Sunset Drive, a nice little frontage road paralleling Rte 8. Unfortunately, this nice little frontage road had a bad habit of crossing Rte 8 on-grade repeatedly, which kind of robbed it of the traditional benefits of a nice little frontage road.

Even more unfortunately, one of the crossings led to a different road completely (Swamp Run Rd), with Sunset bearing off to the right in highly inconspicuous and unmarked fashion. Even MORE more unfortunately, I, in my bid to win the Christopher Columbus Award for Excellence in Navigation, specifically disregarded the more level-headed members of the party (i.e. both of them) when they pointed out the "No Outlet" sign on Swamp Run that should have given me pause for thought, or even *gasp* provoked map consultation. So, we found that Swamp Run (eventually becoming Chestnut) is an absolutely charming road, with the unfortunate disadvantage of ending in a pile of rubble deep enough in the backwoods that the strains of banjo music and screams of panicked canoers could be heard. That's where I checked the map, and found that yes, indeed, the road went no-where from here; in fact, our location on the map was surrounded by what looked remarkably like swamp markings, thusly discouraging the idea of striking out cross country through Moraine.

Once said navigational mishap was corrected, the rest of our ride through the wilds of Butler County was quite nice. We made our way through the town of Liberty (in theory; I don't actually recall any town, but maps don't lie, right?), then swung by Cooper's Lake Campground. The camp store was closed, so we hopped over to Rte 19 and stopped for lunch at the Subway/convenience store a mile down the road.

Picking up 488, we made our way down to Ellwood City, enjoying the welcome loss of elevation as we came down off the plateau. From there, we joined the traditional Wheelmen Fall Rally route to Brush Creek, then paralleled the Turnpike until we took 989 into the backwoods (such as they are in Cranberry). Jim and I parted company with Tim at Lovi Rd, as he decided to continue on 989 and visit his aunt in Economy.

Lovi Rd to the Red Belt to Ambridge to Sewickley was familiar enough that I registered very little; according to Jim, I ended up hammering pretty hard on the Belt, but, due to lack of computer, I didn't notice that I was pulling at 23.5 for several miles. Heh. I love the Red Belt in that stretch.

From Sewickley, I had gotten a bit sadistic when route planning; rather than the time-honored tradition of return via Coraopolis/Neville Island/McKees Rocks Bridge, I decided to wrap up the route with the dual climbs of Blackburn and Mt Nebo. This is a truly spectacular idea after well over 100 miles in the legs. But, again, training for brevets and all that...In any case, the final climbs were completed without undue agony, mostly because the gear range on the P-38 goes pretty darn low, and I have no shame about plumbing the very depths of said range.

A quick cruise along the ridge via Roosevelt, and we descended to The Street of Many Names (AKA Center/Church/Division/California/Lincoln/etc). I peeled off in Brighton Heights (coincidentally, the return route went two blocks from my house...wonder how that happened?), and Jim continued down the hill.

Lessons learned:
  • I really like the Hammer Heed electrolyte drink; far less cloying and sweet than Gatorade or Powerade.
  • I need to experiment with Perpetuem for the longer rides; I keep hearing glowing reports, and should really see if it works for me.
  • (Also nutritional) I'm noticing that my stomach starts flipping a bit with heavier beverages as the weather gets warmer.

The route (official, that is; the Gulf Lab detour, and the extra couple of miles on Swamp Run and Chestnut, are not included).
Good fun...I think next weekend will be a nice, easy metric, so as to let the legs store up a bit of energy for the 300k.

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