Monday, March 28, 2011

Pittsburgh Randonneurs 2011 Spring 200K

Tom Hovan, with his Potter-esque balaclava-induced forehead seam. Chillin' at the Midland Subway controle, roughly 70 miles into the ride.

Short Version
125.3 miles, ~14.5 mph rolling average, ~7000-8000 feet of climbing, no mechanicals.
Starting temp: 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Yeesh.

Long Version
Well, it wasn't the warmest 200K I've ever ridden. However, with multiple layers of everything, Lake boots, and a firm belief in my own invulnerability to cold, riding in almost any temperature is possible. We shan't discuss the difference between "possible" and "advisable".

Starting at Jim's place in Shaler, we headed through town to the West End, then up Noblestown and into Carnegie. After a brief jaunt through retail hell on 50, we peeled off onto Thoms Run, then Presto-Sygan to Millers Run all the way to the first controle in Avella. The climbing around Hickory was unaccountably a bit more imposing than I recalled (perhaps because I'd only ever experienced it in a car), but, all in all, it was a very nice first leg. Bob Kerr, who had volunteered to keep an eye out for us during the event, showed up in a van laden with innumerable bags of cookies...a fine bonus.

From Avella, we struck out for more northerly climes...heading up to Burgettstown, we picked up 18 through Raccoon Creek State Park, then 168 until we finally plummeted down to the river and the shadow of the nuclear cooling towers at Shippingsport. Our second controle was just across the river: the Subway in Midland, a classic stopping point for various rides in the area.

After briefly retracing our path, we took 68 through Beaver, Rochester, and Zelienople to Evans City. (Cyclists possessing some familiarity with the region will recognize that this is not exactly the flattest possible route.) We all survived, however, and, after a brief stop at the Evans City Uni-Mart clone, enjoyed a mostly flat transit to Mars (the town in PA, not the astronomical body or the cranky deity).

On the classic Mars-Evans City Rd segment, I had an amusing experience. A car full of young whippersnappers (perhaps early 20s) began blowing their horn , pumping their fists, and cheering as they approached in the opposite direction. Then, the words penetrated my mildly addled brain: "YEAH! Recumbent! Yeah!" Although I certainly could have misinterpreted their demeanor, it appeared to be honest enthusiasm. Says something about the market penetration of these funny bikes that A) youngsters actually recognize them for what they are and B) seem to believe that they are something other than dork chariots.

In general, I'm pretty pleased with this new version of the route. The Millers Run--> Avella leg was very pleasant, and the northbound stretch to Midland, while a bit trafficky in spots, was still enjoyable. I'd like to come up with a controleable-within-reason alternative to the Rochester-Zelienople-via-68 segment at some point,'s a bit mean for 80+ miles into a ride.

Lessons Learned
  • Lake boots do a wonderful job of keeping one's tootsies warm. But, fortheluvvaBuddha are they ever heavy over long distances.
  • It is indeed a brilliant idea to try to thaw one's frozen water bottle by placing it inside one's wind jacket. Unless, of course, it is an insulated bottle...said insulation works in both directions. (Pro tip: tuck the bottle inside the jacket or jersey BEFORE it freezes next time.)
  • It's okay to utterly lose control over one's caloric intake once in a while. I completely forgot about any form of metered, measured intake after the first 30 miles or so, and just went with whatever my body asked for. In hindsight, that may not have been sustainable for much beyond the bounds of the ride, but it seemed to work well for a 200K. Every ride doesn't have to be managed to a fare-thee-well.


J Doncevic said...

Whew. Wanted to do it, but it required sterner stuff than I could offer. Interested to hear how the compact crank worked. My guess is that your top end speed suffered on the flat sections with only a 50t, such as on that stretch near the ship'g power plant?

Reddan said...

Heh. I was moving slow enough that I never really noticed my top end speed. There were a few stretches where I was pushing high 20s, but I don't recall ever spinning out.

I was only in my highest or lowest gears once or twice on the whole ride, which implies that the gearing was pretty much perfect.

So, I'm pretty happy with the 50/34.

squesen said...

Nice ride report. Figures the one time you have a rolling average under 15 mph I'm not riding. :( If it's so cold that my bottles freeze, I'm out.

Reddan said...

@sarah: There was a whole flock of turkeys chillin' by the side of the road down on Thoms Run, too. They looked pretty torpid from the cold, though...

TomH said...

The cold weather suppressed their desire to attack us. Just to taunt them, I had a turkey sub for lunch.