"This bodes poorly" he observed clinically, while writhing on the floor of the Quality Inn's finest suite.
Thus began my day, the morning of the Eastern Pa 400K. I had set the alarm for 3:15 AM, as well as requesting a wake-up call for 3:20. Due to my uncanny powers of self-waking, I bounced out of bed at 3:00 on the dot. Full of vim, vigor, and general enthusiasm, I bent to snag my sandals; then the back spasm hit. And I collapsed like a tree under assault by methamphetamine-crazed beavers. I'm not normally prone to back problems, so this was an unpleasant surprise. Luckily, the spasm eased after a mere couple of minutes, and was reduced to a low-grade ache for the next few hours. I still have no idea why it happened, but devoutly hope this does not become a regular feature in my life.
Once the muscular misery had run its course, I got dressed, checked out of the hotel, and drove over to Tom's house for checkin and breakfast. As usual, oatmeal, bagels, bananas, and granola bars figured heavily into the pre-ride fueling equation. Tom reviewed a couple of minor cue sheet changes, and cautioned us with regards to a couple of the descents and less-well-maintained roads. Then, we set out into the pre-dawn gloom for the first leg to Cherryville.
I followed my new strategy to the letter; start with the fast group and try to keep up through the first controle, then find my own pace at the first real climb up Blue Mountain Drive through Little Gap. This helped me get nicely warmed up, as well as avoid early-morning navigational blunders, before dropping back a bit to a more comfortable pace. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.
At this point, I must note that the one and only true irritation of the ride became manifest; somehow, in my tinkerings earlier in the week, I managed to shift the chainline just far enough inward that the return line was rubbing on the plastic chain keeper under load. This became MADDENING, as I could both hear and feel the power loss on every serious climb. I still have not figured out what I changed to produce said effect; however, to give away a bit of the plot, it obviously didn't hamper my performance that much.
From Cherryville, I rode more-or-less solo to Water Gap and the bakery controle, where I found myself tempted by vast quantities of cannoli and chocolate chip cookies. After giving in to temptation in truly epic fashion (no, I will not reveal how much I actually ate; suffice it to say that I, who do not embarrass easily, am embarrassed...), I crossed the Delaware via the I-80 pedestrian bridge, then set off up Old Mine Rd through the Delaware Water Gap. Scenes of natural beauty abounded; deer bounded 'cross my path; and millipedes, in biblical-plague quantities, bound me to a less-than-straight path through the park. To expand on the theme, let me just say that the 'pedes ranged in size from a mere inch to 8-inch monsters as thick as my tire, dripping with fangs, pincers, and a hunger for cyclist flesh.
Tom came out on his bike and accompanied me through a portion of the Gap; for some strange reason, he chose to peel off before the descent to 615 and the associated climb back up to Millbrook Village. I ended up riding with/near Guy Harris for much of the remaining leg to Hainesville; said leg was fraught with anticipation of turning around so that the fairly enthusiastic/vicious headwinds would become assistive tailwinds instead. A quick grilled cheese at the Flat's Deli controle, and Jim Logan, Guy, and myself were back on the road. The first sight to greet our eyes was Old Glory flying proudly and directly along our line of travel, indicating that yes, indeed, we had a nice strong tailwind to speed us along.
I decided to pick up the pace a bit; knowing that the climb up Old Mine to Millbrook would slow me down significantly, I figured that taking advantage of the prevailing winds and smooth new asphalt on 615 would be wise. Of course, the climb up Old Mine was not nearly as dreadful as I recalled, probably due to my choice to forgo all machismo, drop to the granny, and trundle up the hill at a stately and steady pace. Once past Millbrook, the Water Gap is pretty much a gentle descent with a few rollers all the way back to I-80, so I took full advantage of my recumbent's aerodynamic properties. Another crossing of the Delaware, and some coffee and pie a la mode at the Water Gap Diner controle were my reward.
Back through Cherry Valley and up through Wind Gap, I began to notice a bit of fatigue setting in. Not so much physically but mentally, as distinctions between "bear left" and "turn left" became harder to draw; for that matter, distinctions between "left" and "right" were getting fuzzy. Time to break out the big guns; Expresso Love Gu packs with the extra caffeine. Thus fortified, mental acuity sufficient to get me to the farmer's market controle was achieved.
I blush to admit it, but at this point, I've begun to lose track of the thread of events. I recall providing Joe, Jim, and Andrew with a couple of good strong pulls on 519; I also recall some pretty, yet monotonous segments of railway frontage road on the way out to New Hope and the penultimate diner controle. Friendly waitress, tasty muffins, and slightly surreal conversation with assorted fatigue-plagued randonneurs figured into the picture somehow as well. Frankly, all I recall clearly at this point was a strong desire on every one's part to bring it home by midnight. So, we formed up our pack for the final 45-mile push back to Easton; I did my best to lead us astray at one point, but wiser heads prevailed. Several long flat stretches, a few rollers, and a couple of moderate climbs later, and we were back at Tom's house, with an elapsed time of 18:40. I was delighted, in an out-of-focus sort of way, in that my goal for the ride was 20 hours; less than nineteen was fantastic.
Summary: Great weather, great route, good fun, and yet another 100% completion. I'm really curious to see if we can get 100% for the 600K as well.
Accomplishments: First double century, longest ride ever taken, 253.1 miles with rolling average of 15.6 mph.
- My pre-ride fueling strategy of eating like a pig for a week was a poor one. ESPECIALLY the heavy steakhouse dinner the evening before. While delicacy forbids details, let's just say that my digestive system was the focus of a great deal of my attention for the first half of the ride.
- I already knew this, but did it anyway. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER perform serious maintenance on the bike without taking it for a shakedown ride BEFORE the primary ride. I got off lightly with 253 miles of rubbing chain; it could have been so much worse.
- It's probably time to break down and put a rear rack on the P-38. It would make cargo handling significantly simpler, as I could use my existing stock of bags and panniers, rather than jury-rigging a diaper bag as a seat back bag.
- I did suffer from a bit of hot foot on the balls of my feet for the last 60 miles or so; it was tolerable while pedaling, but clipping in was agony. I don't know if I need to change something, or just deal with it; maybe break down and resort to painkillers if necessary.