I Went Back to Ohio
I wasn’t planning on repeating last year’s Akron Bike Club “Absolutely Beautiful Country” century. It was a really nice ride, but it’s a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh, which makes for a lot of driving on top of a 100-mile bike ride.
Selfies on the River Styx
Level crossing delay
However, having spent much of the first half of this year away from home, I was really under-trained and in desperate need of fitness before all the big summer rides. And with Inna still out of town, there was no one to inconvenience.
But the biggest reason to go was the weather. A week-long heat wave broke on Friday, leaving us with a delightfully temperate weekend. Sunny and less humid, with little wind, it was perfect weather for a long ride, so…
During the drive, I noticed that almost all of Ohio’s roads are straight north-south or straight east-west, with very little variance. It made me wonder why they didn’t just name their cities by map coordinates. So if Cincinnati was called “A12” and Columbus was called “F5”, then you’d know that to get from one to the other you’d have to drive 5 units east and 7 units north. Seems like it would be a lot more efficient in a place like Ohio, since—with no diagonals—that’s just the way the roads work anyways.
Kitting up in the Copley High School parking lot, I discovered a packing mistake: the pair of cycling glove’s I’d brought were both right hands. The guy parked next to me offered to loan me a pair, but I demurred. Going bare-handed wouldn’t be any major discomfort, I thought. No big deal… If anything, it might hide or even out some of my characteristic cyclist’s tan lines.
At ten-to-seven I was in the saddle, dropping lots of riders in a desire to work up some body heat to ward off the morning coolth. Eighteen miles later, I stopped to get a selfie in front of the sign for the village of River Styx. It’s probably not an auspicious thing, crossing the River Styx with 82 miles still to ride…
Speaking of stopping, about 35 miles in I caught up with a couple riders who were stopped at a level crossing while a big freight train rolled by. Fortunately, the end (of the train) was near, and I was only delayed about three minutes.
About one-third done, I was already experiencing some physical difficulties. I was obviously undertrained and not ready for the distance, even on a flattish course like this, and by the end of the day my legs were cramping up. My knees were complaining loudly, thanks to inflammation picked up while on my recent meditation retreat. I was also having difficulty swallowing due to an undiagnosed throat irritation. The day eventually heated up, and on the last, 15-mile segment, I was so blown that I had to stop for a brief roadside rest before finishing.
This was countered by the excellent work done by the organizers at the rest stops. Twelve miles in, riders were offered donuts. At the halfway point, small sandwiches piled high with cold cuts and cheese. At Mile 70, the Dalton Dari-ette offered free ice cream! And all the stops had ice, which for me is always key.
I finally rolled back into the high school at 2:15pm. I had enjoyed the Ohio countryside and the beautiful day, but I was glad the suffering was finally over, and happily looking forward to getting into an air conditioned car for the drive back to Pittsburgh.
Pulling the bike out of the car trunk at home, I noticed that the plastic mounting tab for my Di2 electronic shifting junction box had broken. That’s an annoyance, since I’d just purchased and installed a new mounting bracket for it.
But more troublesome—though less costly—were the implications of spending seven hours in the July sun without gloves. The rest of my body has long-since adapted to sun exposure, such that I didn’t suffer any ill effects of going completely without sunblock; however, my hands have always been shielded by gloves, and the sensitive skin on the back of them isn’t seasoned to strong sunlight and got thoroughly sunburned. Lesson learned!
Nonetheless, I’m glad I went, and (mostly) had a good time. There aren’t many century rides to choose from here in Pittsburgh, and I’m happy to participate in and support those few that remain.
But whether I’m ready and willing to undertake another century happening weekend… We’ll see how well I recover!