So as you may have noticed from some of my previous posts last week I was scheduled to do the River to River Bike Ride last Saturday. I did the ride and on a scale of 1 to 5 I would give the ride a 3.5.
The trip started out Friday night with me driving up to Pennsylvania for the ride. I stayed at the Weisel Hostel. It was a great little hostel and since I arrived there at 10 p.m. with the sole intention of sleeping the $17 price tag couldn't be beat. My guess (from the looks of it) was that this was a fairly historic building that had been converted to a hostel. It's part of a state park in Buck's County and was nice and quiet and for a Friday night pretty empty (I had the whole male dorm to myself.
I rolled out largely on time and ended up at the church where the ride started at roughly 7:00 a.m. It was a show an go with a 7:00 a.m. start for the century portion of the ride. When I got to the lot there weren't a whole lot of cars there. Since I didn't really know boo about the ride I was wondering if it was a much smaller ride than I expected. It turned out that it was a good size ride (460 riders) but few of the folks opted for the 100 mile route. This was even further born out when it was largely just me and the guy I rode with on the second loop for the second 50 miles of the ride.
The course for the ride was designed as a figure-8 with two 50 mile rides one heading for the Delaware River and the other heading for the Schuylkill River with lunch in the middle.
The first half of the ride was pretty good. Unfortunately in the first couple miles I got lost twice. One of the suggestions I would have for the organizers is that they enlarge their road markings. The paintings on the road were just too small and I missed them on a couple occasions. And use a color other than white - white is just too easy to miss. The first time I missed a turn I was in a small town and figured it was probably laid out in a grid format so if I made a left I would run into the road I had missed getting onto before with a right and then a left. This went well and I was pleasantly pleased when I got to the bottom of a big hill and found the road I was looking for and didn't have to climb back up the hill.
The second time I got lost I have no idea where I missed the turn. I ended up at a big T intersection with no turns painted at the corner. Fortunately I was able to whip out my blackberry with google maps and figure out where i could pick up the course again. I actually missed picking up the course again but when I saw 4 riders head past me in the opposite direction I figured I should turn around and follow them. Smart call.
I actually ended up riding the rest of the first 50 miles with that group of riders. There were a very nice group and rode at my pace. The first 50 miles were nice. It was largely on wooded roads and kept the heat under control. Which brings up a good point to note - while it certainly wasn't the hottest day I've ever ridden in (that would be the hellish 50 states ride in DC two years ago) it wasn't the best riding weather ever. According to the weather service the average temp was 73 degrees with it topping out at 83 during the hardest part of the ride at 1pm. We also had an average 75% humidity and decent winds at 8 knots. This is really par for the course for July/August riding in the mid-Atlantic, but it does take a toll on you after a while.
The first half of the ride was pretty uneventful. It was relatively flat with a couple hills here and there - one coming right after the covered bridge pictured on the right ("Look at the cool bridge - CLIMB CLIMB CLIMB).
The rest stops were well stocked and I was able to to chow down on some yummy fig newtons - THE cycling food. We got back into to lunch at mile 50 and I think most folks felt pretty good. I grabbed a PB&J and some ice tea and we got ready to head back out.
One of the riders from the group I had been riding with had told his buddies that he was going to ride the first half with them and then do the second half at his pace. He invited me to head back out with him for the second half of the ride. We rolled back out and set out to finish the ride. Tim was a local and was able to give me all the insight on the local landmarks we were passing - including his daughters' high school and middle school and his house. I actually turned out to be great to ride with him because he was able to give me advanced notice of the coming climbs and where things were flattening out. He's a very strong rider and had clearly been putting in more miles than me lately, so I ended up sitting on his wheel a fair bit of the ride.
The second half of the ride was definitely more challenging than the first half. There were a good number more hill climbs, the road was less shaded and it was hotter. I'm certainly glad I did the full 104, but it was definitely dragging ass for the second half. The midway point of the second half had a nice stop at a canal along the Schuylkill - which reminded me alot of the C&O expect the path along the canal was paved. We rolled out of here and headed back towards home.
With about 20 miles left we picked up a group of guys who were doing the 100 and rode with them for a while. Unfortunately one of the riders would run up to the front ahead of everyone and then drop back for a friend and then run up. The guy never really pulled but just ended up getting out in front. The fact that he almost ran me into a ditch because he couldn't hold a line didn't endear him to me either. By and large though the last 25 was fine and just a struggle to pound out the final miles. I just kept focusing on how far we had to go to get to the end.
One thing I was a bit concerned about was that I did start get cramps occasionally around mile 85. I suspect it was dehydration and a lack of electrolytes so I need to remember on long hot rides in the future to focus on getting the chemicals into my body.
Centuries are nice because you have a nice round number to aim for 100 miles. Turns out that this ride was 104 miles. I figured this out when we hit a pit stop somewhere around mile 94 to refill water and asked the guy how far we had to go and he gave us the heads up that it was 10 more miles. The miles past 100 are terribly demoralizing. Regardless of how you feel they seem to feel 10 times harder than the same miles right before 100.
All in all I would say this is a good ride. I might go back again. The area was fairly scenic and the roads weren't too heavily traveled. The people were super nice and things were well organized. Lunch at the end was hot (in a good way) and very yummy (local gourmet restaurant catered it). On the downside the weather took its toll and the street markings were a bit lackluster. I would also make sure that I keep my post-Tahoe riding up before I do it again next year. In the month and half between Tahoe and River to River, my longest ride was 48 miles. If my fitness had been a bit higher I might not have been dragging ass so much on the second half.