This morning at 7:20 AM I left the Audubon Trailhead on the Schuylkill River Trail in the company of two fellow MS City to Shore riders. The destination was Manayunk. about 16 miles SE. Normally such a ride would follow the SRT through Manayunk to its end down at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (25 miles), but a run was scheduled downtown that morning and we decided to avoid the congestion. I kept up with my companions through the first 2/3 of the ride down, but I needed to get a drink, so I pulled over and I was dropped. (Due to balance problems I can't grab a water bottle while riding.) I caught up with them at the turn around point, after a big climb into Manayunk. My speed for the first 16 miles was a 13.23 average. I didn't mind, since the temperature when we started was cold enough that I could see my breath, and despite my long sleeved jersey and tights over my bike shorts (the same tights and jersey that appear in my Bike Forums avatar) I was chilled. After a minute, we started back. They dropped me within two minutes and I didn't see them again.
At Spring Mill, 20 miles into the ride, I pulled over and consumed two blueberry toaster pastries in a nod to the Bike Forums 50+ Blueberry Pie Ride. I was back in Audubon by 10:00 AM. Having secured 32 of the desired 100 miles, I plotted my next move. Finding a men's room took priority. After some searching near Audubon, I decided to head to Betzwood in Valley Forge Park, the next stop on the SRT. Having 'un-hydrated' and refilled my water bottles, I continued south.
At Norristown, seat of Montgomery County, I turned off from the trail and took the connector route to the Norristown Farm Park. The Farm Park is a working farm run by the county on land formerly owned by Norristown State Hospital. The connector required me to ride in traffic through Norristown Borough about a mile and a half. It was well-worth the hassle of dealing with motorists, since the seven miles of park trails had some rollers, which made a nice change from the nearly-flat SRT. And since I live in farm country myself, I felt at home riding with rows of corn on both sides. I'll have to go back sometime.
After a few miles, and some walking of hills, I turned around and headed back to the SRT. Once there, it was on to Conshohocken, where I purchased more Gatorade from a small store in a converted train station. The woman who runs the place loves cyclists, and there's always anywhere from three to a dozen riders gathered on the benches in the little courtyard outside the store. Once again I 'un-hydrated'.
Having emptied me and refilled my water bottles, I noticed I was both hungry and feeling queasy from a lack of real food. It was 1:00 PM, and I hadn't had anything aside from two toaster pastries, two Cliff Bars, and water mixed with Gatorade since breakfast seven hours before. I rode into Conshohocken and picked up a turkey sandwich from a gas station, along with a small bag of pretzels. The trip for real food was almost more trouble than it was worth, since I had to ride on Fayette Street, the 'main drag' in Conshohocken, where it crosses the entrance ramps for Rt. 23 and the Schuylkill Expressway, the main highway from the suburbs into Philadelphia. I hate driving the 'Sure-kill', and I didn't like riding near its mouth.
Fueling done, it was back south to Manayunk. I was at 52 miles. I knew I wasn't riding 100 miles today. But 75, as suggested by MTBLover here on Bike Forums, was doable. As I reached Manayunk I decided to ride the Canal Towpath, but once I reached it and rode about a mile I realized that gravel wasn't the best choice of surface for my bike. So back I went up the trail. I rode part way with a family of three on Huffys. They were amazed that I was riding 75 miles that day, and that my bike was so fast compared to theirs. One of the group was a ten year old boy, and he and I had an extended conversation on bike repair. At Spring Mill I showed him my tire pump and multitool.
By now, I was tired. I was dismounting every five miles or so to drink. The temperature had warmed up to about 75 degrees, and I was still wearing tights and a long sleeved jersey. My back had begun to bother me at about mile 30, as usual, and as usual in the same spot, beneath my elevated right shoulder. My legs were sore, and my left hamstring and hip flexors were annoyed at what I was asking of them. My left knee was sore. And my butt was complaining each time I sat on the saddle. Leaving home without any of what cyclists call "Vitamin I" (Ibuprofen) wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done. But I pushed on.
North of Conshohocken I turned onto the connecting Cross County Trail in an attempt to add miles and ride fresh pavement. The CCT travels about a mile and a half through some wooded areas before it enters the retail district of Plymouth Meeting. Not having the desire to go shopping at IKEA that afternoon, I turned around. On the way back to the SRT, I rode with one of my fellow members of Team Copaxone. Ken, a five year veteran of the MS City to Shore, gave me tips on pacing myself for the ride, and we talked about our team captain. As always, I gave Dan credit for making a cyclist of me, as well as for bringing me onto Team Copaxone. As we approached the SRT, Ken said goodbye, 'dropped the hammer', and I was back alone on my homeward journey.
I stopped again just south of Norristown and left a voice mail message for my team captain and bike mentor Dan, advising him I'd just hit 70 miles, set a new person record for miles and speed, and that I was going for 75. Back on the bike, back up to Audubon, and I arrived at my car with 75.03 showing on the bike computer. A few trips around the parking lot brought it up to 76.30, and I called it a day. I had toyed with attempting 80 by riding a couple of miles down the SRT and back, but I was tired, and there was nothing left in my legs and my water bottles.
So the ride was a mixed bag of results. I set new personal records for speed - 11 MPH over 76 miles, with much of the ride being considerably faster; distance - 76 miles is 7 miles further than my previous longest ride; and stamina - not that there were many hills, but the hills I did walk were because I needed to give my butt a break, not because I couldn't climb them. I didn't get 100 miles in, but 76 is certainly respectable, and more than I ever thought I'd be able to do. (When I took up cycling and was signed up for the MS ride in January, I thought 25 miles was the most I'd be able to ride in September.) 100 miles in two weeks is certainly within belief, and within my grasp. And more importantly, I partly redeemed myself, in my mind, from my "failure" on the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia Scenic Schuylkill Century the week before. Success and failure mean different things to different people. If my ride was a soft bike tire, some would say it is half-flat, and some would call it half full. I'm sure some folks think my 76 miles of a century was a failure. I don't.