Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Middletown 200K - Sunday ride

Sunday, May 24, 2015

With the climbfest Boston 400K on the calendar for the next weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to get in a hilly 200K to test my heart monitor controlled pace on a more challenging route and, hopefully get in safety 200K to keep my monthly streak alive.

I found the Middletown 200K route  on the RUSA site and it seemed to fit the bill. It was a new route for me, but I have ridden in the Lancaster area before and I know the route owner, Andrew M. 

Andrew's routes have always been a scenic pleasure to ride but with no shortage of hill repeats. He emailed that he had intended to do this route as a more moderate ride for the winter, but it ended up being just as hilly as other routes and the ice lingered in the shade so it didn't quite work out the way he planned. The elevation profile showed very few flats and lots of short steep climbs - so I signed up to ride it.

The ride starts in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. Andrew met me in a parking lot of a low key, half occupied, strip mall just a little ways off the Pennsylvania turnpike. He had ridden out to meet me and, with my 6 am start time, that meant leaving his house about just before dawn on a Sunday of a long holiday weekend.

In temperatures just below 50 degrees, we rode off from the main road almost immediately into bucolic farm lands. Andrew explained that we were on the north side of the Twin Valley area riding west along a ridge. To our left, in the distance off to the south, the valley spread out below and, beyond that, stretched  another east-west ridge which enclosed the valley on the south side with a jagged horizon now dark against the early morning sky. The valley contained Lancaster county and it surrounding townships marked by occasional church spires separated by plowed fields and intersecting roads.

The ridge we ride goes through Pennsylvania farmland. A horse drawn carriage is parked alongside a dairy barn with rows of large fans to circulate air. From the front yards of homes, roosters crow at the rising sun as we ride into the day, warming to the task ahead. The plain people, Amish and Mennonites, live here. People, who, by varying degrees, live apart from the modern world, even while living in it.

We almost have the road to ourselves. Andrew tells me that yesterday was bustling with activity as tourists crowded the roads and locally, chores were being done before Sunday. But today, Sunday, is a quiet day. Today the cows, sheep and horses far outnumber the cars on the rolling roads we travel.

The time soon comes for Andrew to leave. He warns me to save something for the end of the ride. Heeding his warning, I continue  on the course riding solo. 

Using the heart rate monitor takes the difficult edges off of the ride. I have it set to an "endurance zone" and the affect is noticeable. I do not deplete myself on climbs but yet I ride faster on the the flats. I am less thirsty and less hungry than I expect. Most of all, I feel almost no sign of bonking. As a result, I can keep riding with fewer stops and less stress. I am encouraged for the longer rides to come.

The pace I ride suits the land. Nothing is rushed. One long horn cattle gazes up from his grazing to stare at my passing.  Horses barely acknowledge my existence. This is how I want to see France.

As the day draws on, I cross paths with those going to and from their houses of worship. Two girls, teenagers in long black dresses and lacy bonnets, glide down a hill on roller blades as casually as if they were out for stroll. I approach a horse drawn carriage and calculate whether I can pass it and stay ahead of it on the long hill ahead. In the back of the carriage, three young children state at me with the same intensity with which I assume the Saturday tourists stare at them. My smile is rewarded with a quick wave and a return smile. There may be many differences between us but we share smiles.

I pass the carriage successfully. The road ahead is open again. I continue to climb toward the finish, rising and falling, on the southern ridge below the valley. The road beneath me has parallel silver white streaks marked by steel carriage wheels and mottled white markings from the shod hooves of the horses that pull them fills the space between the lines. My wheels leave no trace of my passage and the quiet of Sunday along the ridges of Twin Valley fills the space left in my wake. 

1 comment:

  1. Nigel: You are doing the more difficult rides now to better prepare you for PBP. I like that. I also look forward to signing your brevet card on Saturday. .