You Have To Earn It

Green River Road in late August. There is no better place to be riding your bike, but you have to earn it.

I completed my second D2R2 yesterday under beautiful blue skies brushed with wisps of white clouds. The cycling and weather gods were certainly shining down on Deerfield MA. If you don’t want to read the whole story, skip to the end for my summary.

The day started off badly, though. I spent Friday night in a local hotel so I could guarantee myself a good night’s sleep. Earlier in the month, I contemplated camping in the field at the start point, but soon dismissed the idea because I did not want to wake up hot, sweaty and poorly-rested for the ride. That was probably a mistake, since the camping accommodations looked perfectly acceptable and the weather was fine for tenting under the stars. The hotel experience was going well until Saturday morning when I was getting ready for the ride.

I was in the bathroom, sitting (yes, it’s important that I tell you I was sitting) when a cup of water dumped onto my head. I thought, “This is odd,” and looked up to see water dripping out of the light fixture overhead. Not only was it dripping, but there was a puddle of water in the dome covering the light bulb. I was subjected to a couple of good sprinkles before I pieced together what was happening and moved out-of-the-way. This, of course, complicated my morning, as I now had to report this to the front desk and figure out what to do if the hotel staff needed to open up the ceiling while I was out riding. I did what any good renter of real estate does: walked away and went to the ride, hoping that the hotel would figure out a solution**

{** They did, in the form of comp-ing me one free night}

At the starting field, it was the usual chit-chat among riders comparing tire widths, brakes and other gear selection. I noticed, almost right away, a lot of people riding rando-style bikes with miniature front racks and handle bar bags. A fair number of riders chose mountain bikes, while the majority were on road bikes. Some 650b, though I have a hard time recognizing the difference unless someone points it out to me.

Bike porn

The start of D2R2 is somewhat inauspicious. You grab some food and then ride through a starting corral with timing mats to record your start time. No fanfare or speeches. Although there are starting times for the different routes, they seem to be nothing more than suggestions so you don’t arrive at a rest area ahead of its scheduled opening. I rolled out at precisely 9:00 am. Events like this pose a social challenge for me. Most of the people I ride with on a regular basis have no interest in D2R2 because it’s either too far away or on dirt, which scares them off. Coming from Long Island where there are few “major” climbs, I’m not a strong climber which means I cannot keep up with some people who I occasionally ride with who might be interested in this type event because they’d either leave me behind (not so social) or be forced to wait for me (not enjoyable for them). As such, I land up doing this ride solo looking for clusters of riders moving at my pace.

Last year, I went out with a group moving way too fast for me and I was panting before Old Albany Road, the first steep dirt section. This year, I was lucky enough to start with a group that meandered at a leisurely pace for the first 4.5 miles, allowing everyone to warm up before getting down to work for the day. Make no mistake, I still had to walk on a section of Old Albany, but at least I was not hyperventilating and over-heated like I was last year.

First climb

Walking is demoralizing. Walking is really demoralizing when you have a new, lighter bike and you have been training all season by looking for hills to climb. Yet walk I did in exactly the same sections I did last year. In some cases, I lost traction in dirt sections and realized I’d roll backwards if I did not dismount. But mostly I realized that I could move faster and stretch my legs if I walked rather than grind my way up the steepest sections of dirt. I’m indebted to Jan Heine for one of his blog posts on the subject of walking your bike. I kept thinking about his post, reminding myself that walking does not amount to failure. As in Jan’s post, I often passed riders on the descent making up some of the time I lost to walking.

Riders climbing

By the time you arrive at the lunch stop on the 100k route, you’ve covered about 37 miles and 5000 feet of climbing. more than half of it on dirt roads ranging from luxurious to hair-raising. You work hard for the lunch but the reward is the glorious cruise along Green River Road as you digest. As I had in the morning, I managed to hook up with a group moving at my pace, which for Green River Rd. was about 18 mph. We passed the riders doing the 40 mile route, including several parents with small children. I wondered when I will be able to bring my kids to D2R2.

Lunch bridge Lunch crowd

The last sections of the 100k route have two notable components: the stairstep climb up to Apex Orchards and the gnarly descent down Hawks Road. As I did last year, I broke the Peckville Road climb up into sections, stopping to catch my breath and rest my legs in between sections. No sense arriving at the top too tired to eat the peaches.

ApexFrom Apex, it’s a few miles of rollers on and off dirt until you come to the finale, Hawks Road. The pre-ride briefing email refers to this section as the last “opportunity to launch yourself into the scenery.” It is not terribly steep but the condition of the road is very poor, with rocks the size of softballs and patches of sand. I felt uneasy with 28c tires and disc brakes and had to stop a couple of times to find the safest line of travel. Maybe it would be better on a fat bike or ATV. Next year I may pick a route that avoids this road.

Cows

From Hawks, it was smooth sailing to the finish line and lots of great food. Luck was with me a third time, allowing me to hook up with a group of 5 other riders for the last few miles. We finished at a brisk pace.  As much as the suffering feels unpleasant during the ride, finishing strong always returns a smile to my face.

Summary points:

1. D2R2 has to be experienced to be understood. Stop reading about it. Go do it.

2. The ride is tough. Some sections could be called unpleasant. I can do it. You can too.

3. D2R2 provides a healthy dose of bike porn: gorgeous rando bikes, handbuilts, titanium tandems, stuff you rarely see at other events.

4. People say there is no market for road disc brakes but I saw a slew of them this year.

5. I was chased by a dog for the first time. Just before Hawks Road. Maybe it was a warning.

6. Camping looks like an attractive way to save money on a hotel.

7. Mountain bike or road bike? Both have advantages and disadvantages. Maybe next year  I’ll bring the 29r mountain bike for lower gears and better traction.

8. The D2R2 crew put on an outstanding event.

That’s it for the ride report. Time to reintegrate with my family.

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About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
This entry was posted in Bicycling, Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to You Have To Earn It

  1. That’s me in the second photo on the left, wearing the green Flyers jersey. This was my first non-local cycling event–I live in Astoria, Queens by the way–which I did with my brother who lives in Deerfield. I was hit by a car over two years ago and disabled from Cycling–and working, or even sitting in a chair for more than thirty minutes. Both my knees were rebuilt with cadaver parts and titanium, and I had work on my spine and right foot as well. Up until this experience I was wrong about two things: I thought I was much further along in recovering my athletic ability, and until I saw a photo my brother took of me at the start I had no idea that I had become OBESE. It was a real awakening which urged me to work harder on regaining my strength and size, so I’m doing a photo project where I take a picture of myself in cycling clothes every week to track my progress.

    The scale means nothing, and riding anywhere on Long Island the stats in terms of average speed and such mean nothing because we simply don’t have challenging terrain here. Photos are really effective.

    Thank you so much for the photo. I will add it to my collection of comeback photos and we will see that next year I wont be the slowest guy on the tour. And maybe I’ll leave that mountain bike at home and ride something more appropriate as well.

    • robertkerner says:

      I’m glad you found the picture. I took a picture in the same place last year (https://robertkerner.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/still-enjoying-it/). It’s a place that makes me walk because I cannot motor up that incline without either hyperventilating or grinding my knees down! So I stop and take a picture rather than blow up. Fitness is all relative and the only thing that matters is self improvement, so your plan to use pictures as motivation sounds pretty good.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that no amount of riding on LI can prepare one for D2R2. The Bloomin Metric in May/June is a nice intro to climbing but unless we;re riding in Westchester or CT on a weekly basis, we’re not going to have enough hill-climbing under the belt. I may try some rides with the Westchester Cycle Club to get more climbing experience.

      Good luck and safe travels.

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