A ride that is more difficult than anticipated is like paint remover.
That realization came to me yesterday while out on a 102k RUSA Permanent. Several months ago–4 to be exact– I set for myself the goal of completing the RUSA P-12. The P-12 is basically a competition with one’s self, a work of personal achievement. A rider completes a RUSA Permanent of at least 100 kilometers every month for 12 consecutive months.
A Permanent is nothing more than a fixed route “owned” by a RUSA member. You tell the owner when you want to ride, complete some paperwork and ride. During the ride, you have to prove that you completed the route as planned and within certain time parameters. To do that, you collect information or receipts with time stamps at control points along the route. At the completion of the ride, you send your proof to the owner and he or she credits your results page on the RUSA site.
I’ve been doing these rides since August. At first they were meant to prepare me for a 200k brevet before the end of 2015, but that plan fell through due to work and family obligations and the fact that no one runs brevets much after September in the NY area. Then I realized that riding a 100+k per month was a good way to stay in shape over the winter. Most of the rides have been relatively flat as I worked on building my endurance for longer days and, ultimately, rides of 200k and longer.
To many this may seem like “what’s the big deal about getting to 200, that’s not so hard.” But I am a product of circumstances, like many of you out there. I work all day, 5 days a week. On the weekends I may have one of the two days to ride, and the second is for domestic affairs. My ride options on that one day consist of:
- Go solo. I’m usually not inclined to ride around my own environs for 4+ hours alone. Boring!
- Go out with the club. That brings its own baggage, not the least of which is that most of the rides end around 45-50 miles and traverse the same damn roads year after year.
- Pack up and go somewhere completely different; for example, a RUSA permanent in another region
Hitting 200 requires some planning and adjustment of schedules. I know enough not to just go for 200 without easing into it, hence the RUSA Permanent rides.
Yesterday’s route was the closest to my home yet, a mere 30 minute drive to Yonkers which, for those not familiar with NY, is just across the border from the Bronx. It also showed the most elevation gain compared to the other routes I’ve ridden although I never quite trust the elevation declarations on the RUSA site or RidewithGPS. My plan was to ride light and fast on my Seven, leaving the heavier fender-equipped bike at home. One look out the window, however, convinced me that the heavy bike would be making the trip. It was dreary, chilly and drizzling; therefore, having fenders and a place to carry a rain jacket and spare gloves would be valuable.
Approximately 45% of the route followed county multi-use trails (MUT) through lower Westchester. Some may scoff at riding on a MUT, but when it’s foggy and the roads are slippery I’d rather be out of the way of the automobiles. I made good progress up to Kitchawan, then crossed this picturesque MUT bridge.
Immediately after the bridge, I began a dastardly (to me) climb up to the first control in Yorktown Heights. When you haven’t been doing a lot of climbing, a 2.2 mile climb at a noticeable grade really gets your heart and lungs going. I have no idea, by the way, how to assess grade percentage either with my eyes or a GPS route. Maybe I’m better off!
Most of the 3350 ft of climbing were in the back half of the route. A fair amount of climbing out of low points, like the Croton Aqueduct building pictured above. And the route finished with two steep climbs up streets in Dobbs Ferry and Yonkers. It was definitely more climbing than I was prepared for in terms of fitness and preparation.
At some point I stopped to take a breather and munch some candy and realized that I had completely shut out the outside world. I wasn’t thinking about work, family, bills, the next bike I want, the new stove we need……nothing. I was completely focused on riding, turning the pedals, paying attention to the road and traffic. Focused on the next turn, how many miles back to the start, will I need to put on the rain jacket for the last 6 miles.
It occurred to me then that a ride that is more difficult than anticipated is like paint remover. It strips away everything. All you can do is focus on turning the pedals and the road in front of you. Nothing else matters for that time.
It’s a good feeling.