Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Tour of the Hamptons

Did the Tour of the Hamptons century ride yesterday. Great weather and a large, fast peleton made for a good ride out on Long Island’s south fork. I had been off the bike for two weeks, trying to get my “running legs” back in time for the Wineglass Marathon. Before this weekend, I had run 9 out of the previous 10 days, and only skipped the one day because of a late night getting home from work. On the last run (Friday morning), I started getting some calf pain and felt a bit drained. With the century on Sunday, I did I nice group ride with the Brands crew on Saturday to get used to the bike again and give the legs a break from running.

I had plans to ride with the Early Birds group at ToH, as I do every year. This was the first century ride I had ever completed, back in 2003, and I’ve done it every year since. Had a quick breakfast at home and drove out to Southampton for the 7:30 AM start. It was great to see everyone there from both the Brands team and the ‘Birds. Our big group pulled out on time, I’m guessing we started with 40-50 riders.

We had our first flat at mile 5, but that was it for the day! A pretty good statistic considering the large group and the mileage. As we got warmed up the pace gradually ramped up from the high teens to the low/mid 20’s. And it stayed there, on the mostly flat roads out to the first rest stop. Everyone’s legs were still fresh with just 35 miles in, so the stop was a quick one and we soon departed for the second leg of the ride, out-and-back to Montauk point.

We made short work of the hills out to the lighthouse, the group staying mostly together. It got really exciting at the turnaround when we got the tailwind. Forty riders, single file, 36 MPH = AWESOME! At the second rest stop, we had 57 miles logged and took a little more time to give everyone a chance to refuel. Heading back west now, we got into some rolling hills for the next 15 miles. At this point, my recent lack of riding seemed to become apparent and I got dropped off the back around mile 70. I was on my own for 7 or 8 miles then hooked up two more riders who also dropped off the main group. We worked together for another few miles to the final rest stop at mile 84. We were pleasantly surprised to rejoin the big group there!

With 20 miles left, we resumed at a good pace. Hitting some more hills, I started to yo-yo off again along with 6 or 7 other riders. When the road flattened, I dug deep and went into time-trial mode and bridged back over about ¼ mile gap on my own. After that, there were no problems hanging with the group for the rest of the ride. So, 104 miles at a rather brisk 20.4 MPH average.

Turned out to be a great day for riding, and a welcome chance to reconnect with my EB friends. I think the Massapequa Bike club has finally perfected this route, eliminating the busy Noyack section that put us on a busy narrow road with lots of annoyed drivers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Highlander 2010 Ride Report

Rode the Highlander Cycle Tour, once again, in upstate New York's Finger Lakes region. For the last few incarnations, they have been changing the route each year. For 2010, they turned the ride into a double metric century and visited two of the Finger Lakes, Canandaigua and Keuka. Still 10,000 ft. of climbing though (although one rider I met on the route said it was more like 11,000 ft., according to his GPS).

Great weather this year, a chilly start at 45F, but it gradually warmed up to 72F by the afternoon. Last year we missed out on some of the great views in the area due to heavy mist that hung around for most of the day. This time, lots and lots of sunshine. Hardly any wind, so just about ideal conditions. Two benefits of the dry roads: first, no flats this year (I also put fresh Gatorskins on the bike a couple of weeks ago), second, I could really bomb down the descents, over 50 MPH in two sections!

After a pre-ride breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, I left Corning at about 5:30 AM for the ride to Bristol Mountain. I picked up my ride number and joined the other riders in the chilly pre-dawn to put the bike together and get kitted up.

The weather was great and as the sun rose over the hills (and we starting climbing over the hills) things warmed up nicely!

We started climbing right away and within the first 20 miles or so we had already hit three testing climbs, the third being Gannett Hill. Here is a photo of some riders cresting Gannett.

As a bonus, there happened to also be a rest stop on top of the hill.

The Highlander is a challenging ride, but the payoff is riding through some magnificent scenery and breathtaking views. Photos cannot possibly do it justice, but here are a few examples:

As I got to Hammondsport and started climbing around Keuka Lake, the air was sweet with the smell of grapes ready for harvest.

After a steep climb to Bully Hill Vinyards at mile 64, I met up with my family who were spending the day in the area buying local wine, picking apples, sampling grape pie, and getting ice cream. Here I am with my nephew Brian and my daughter Tina.

Cruising around Keuka!

Another meetup at mile 80, just before heading out to the bluff:

From mile 90, after the climb to Skyline Drive at the end of the bluff, the miles and the climbing began to tell on the legs a bit and I really began to focus on conserving enough energy to get through to the finish. Climbing in really low gears, keeping the legs spinning. After a much needed final rest stop at mile 110, and a final long climb up Greisha Rd. I made a fast descent to the finish back at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort.

Again, I met my family there and they kept me company while I picked up my swag bag (including a bottle of local wine!), changed into civies, and had the included post ride meal and slice of grape pie. We sat outside and listed to a blues band for a while, enjoying the beautiful day.

No question, it was a hard ride, but I really like the new route. We'll see what they have in store for next year.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Late Season Plan

Had a nice summer of riding and running. After the disappointment of missing the LI Marathon with my calf injury, I focused on the bike for a while. I got reacquainted with the Brands group and now have found that everyone has upped their game! I used to look forward to this ride as a Saturday warm-up before the intense Sunday Early Birds. No more! Although I haven't been there every week, there has almost always been a strong break going away on the LIE service road at the first hill. Really fun and an opportunity to stretch the legs. More importantly, a friendly and supportive group of riders.

Also have been making sporadic appearances at the Mineola bike club's Sunday rides. This has been a nice alternative on Sunday mornings. Usually I would do around 20 miles solo, ride the 10 miles to the ride start, do the club ride, then a few more miles solo back home. Put all together, its a nice 60-80 mile ride with the hard climbing sections on the North Shore. Again, a nice bunch of riders, too.

Really enjoyed the couple of times I tagged along with Mike W. to the Little Neck (Triangle) ride. We rode to Little Neck (yes, there is a triangular-shaped park that is the official meeting point) to start with the earlier, slower group. First few miles is quite slow as everyone chats and catches up, but the intensity gradually increases as the ride heads east. By the time the group heads north to the hills, its game on! Seems a little safer on this ride than the Saturday AM full-bore race ride that I used to do a couple of years ago.

On the running front, there have been ups and downs. Waiting now for an upswing (I hope). I suddenly realized at the end of July that the Wineglass marathon was approaching in two months and that I'd better start to actually train for it! I found an 18-week training guide and devised my own modified version of it, starting at week 10, hoping I had preserved some fitness from my early season training. I actually ramped up pretty well, after 5 weeks I ran a 20-miler! We went away for a family vacation for a week but I was able to do some early morning runs while away, including a 10-miler.

Now for the down swing! I broke training and did a 40 mile bike ride last Saturday, my normal long running day. Tried to run the next day and and ended up pulling my calf muscle again after just 3-4 miles. Oh no, not again! It wasn't as bad as last time so I figured I would rest it for a few days and then pick up the training plan again. Rode the bike 3 days, then tried to run. Made it through 3 miles but I think I made the injury worse!

Decision time. I have the Highlander century next weekend, so I'm planning to take a whole week off from running and put my efforts into the bike until after the Highlander. This may not turn out to be such a bad thing. After yesterday's and today's ride, I am realizing how much cycling fitness I've lost with all my emphasis on running this past month.

I'll have to see how quickly I can get back into the running groove after next week. I will only have 3 weeks until the marathon, one of which is supposed to be a taper. Not ideal by any means, but there is no real alternative. Gotta try!