Ridden the third weekend of September, and never posted to the Clydesdale/Athena Forum until now. This was my final training ride before the century I rode the following weekend.
Saturday was my last long training day before the MS ride on the 29th. On the two previous weekends, I felt disappointed to not ride my planned 100 miles, although logging rides of 68 and 76 miles respectively is still a decent accomplishment. This time I decided to not aim for an arbitrary number of miles, but just to ride longer and better than I had ridden before. With that thought in mind, I headed for the Audubon trailhead on the Schuylkill River Trail.
I arrived later than I had at first planned. I was going to meet JT, a fellow MS 'rookie rider' and Bicycle Club of Philadelphia member who I had met on a hill climb in the Brandywine Dog Daze ride in August. We first planned on meeting at 8:30 to ride to the Art Museum and back, but he had a conflict that was going to delay his arrival until noon. Wanting to log as many miles as possible, I arrived about quarter to nine and was rolling within a few minutes, riding up and down the SRT and back to kill time.
JT was lucky he was delayed. The morning was overcast and muggy, with occasional rain showers and severe ponding on the trail. Soon both the bike and I were dirty, and my white-background Team Copaxone jersey had the tell-tail "skunk stripe" from trail mud. Below Norristown there was so much water on the trail that after I rode through a deceptively small-looking pool I needed to pull over and wring out the insoles of my shoes.
I was back to meet JT at 12:20. At this moment the grayness lifted and the sun came out. He unloaded his shiny new white Fuji road bike as I tried to wipe mud off my grimy Trek. "Great," I said. "You look like an ad in Bicycling magazine, and I look like a report in Dirt Rag."
And down the trail we went. JT had purchased a new bike, and had lost ten pounds since the Brandywine ride in August. He looked very 'serious cyclist' on the bike, but once I got over the "I'm not worthy" inferiority complex that takes charge of me when riding with a 'better', we seemed to hit it off. We alternated pulling and drafting down the trail, stopping only twice for water. It took only a little over two hours on the clock to reach the cafe at Lloyd Hall, near the Art Museum. After lunch, we turned back for what promised to be an uneventful return trip.
That promise was soon broken about a mile past the Art Museum. "Sprong!" I heard come from my rear wheel. I stopped to discover a broken spoke. JT turned around and helped me pull it out. The wheel had become out of true, and we had to adjust the rear brake to prevent it from rubbing. Fortunately, the bike shop Human Zoom was along the return trip, and JT guided me there. 20 minutes and 25 dollars had me on the road again.
Unfortunately, while the problem was quickly addressed, I now have consider why the spoke broke. I have 450 miles on the bike. And more importantly, about 240-250 pounds of rider on the rear wheel. I know riders over 300 pounds often get reinforced wheels with additional spokes. Am I too heavy for the bike? Have I been riding it too hard? Or is it merely a quality control issue with the stock Bontrager wheels? JT tried to push such thoughts from my mind as we rode towards Audubon.
Once back, JT loaded up his bike and headed home, while I headed back down the trail. I had logged 77 miles and change, and I wanted to break 80. I had reached 82 when darkness and insects forced me back to my car. So I reached my goal for the day, set a new personal record, and rode with minimal physical problems. Yes, I had some back pain, but little more than I normally deal with daily. I was tired, but no more than a person should be after riding 82 miles. I managed pacing, hydration, and fueling better than I had before. It wasn't a century, but I was pleased about it. And the legs could have done more had I asked them. Riding a hundred miles is as much about believing you can ride it as training. And I believed.
I stopped at a WaWa on the way home. An older, sedentary looking couple buying potato chips stared at me as if I was from another planet. A six foot tall, 240 pound fellow in a smelly, grimy bike jersey and shorts probably would stand out anywhere aside from a bike ride. But what did I care? For the first time since I began riding in December 2006, I KNEW I could ride a hundred miles. And now that I know it, I'm going to do it this weekend.