Pedal the Lakes
Summer’s last gasp was provided by the Labor Day weekend Pedal the Lakes century. It capped four consecutive weekends of hard riding that began with the Mon Valley Century, continued with the very challenging Every Neighborhood Ride, and peaked with back-to-back metric centuries in the Tour de Red Belt and PedalPGH.
I was up at 5am for the 90-minute drive to the start up in Mercer County. After a consistently hot August, the September nights have started cooling off, and the ride set out at a chilly 51°. I began with a jacket and arm warmers, removing the former at the first rest stop and the latter at the second as the day warmed into the 70s.
With little wind, the weather was just about perfect, and allowed me to ride with a much lower heart rate than I’d have in hotter weather. Especially since most of the ride took place in exposed farmland, on chipseal surfaced roads that ventured across the state line well into Ohio.
Another thing that kept my heart rate down was the unexpected flatness of the course. At 32 feet per mile of climbing, it was by far my flattest ride since moving to Pittsburgh, and an extremely pleasant change, which allowed me to produce a more regular average speed.
On the other hand, I was pretty anxious about navigating the route. Before the ride, the organizers didn’t bother posting GPS tracks or a cue sheet, and when I wrote to request them, their response was essentially “Go fuck yourself”. I did manage to download routes from two previous years, but those proved worthless because they had completely changed the route this year.
At the start, riders were given only a high-level overview map—not even a cue sheet!—and told that the route had been arrowed. In the end, I managed the ride, but went off course twice. I saw several others go off course, and every rider I talked to had been afield at least once. There’s no excuse for that kind of contempt for riders who are paying you to ride the open roadways.
The change of route allowed us to reach four lakes (Conneaut Lake, Mosquito Creek Lake, Shenango River Lake, and the Pymatuning Reservoir) instead of three, but we saw very little of any of them; I’d been looking forward to riding the 2-mile causeway that crosses the reservoir, but their new route didn’t go anywhere near it.
Given the preponderance of farmland we rode through, I mused that instead of calling the event “Pedal the Lakes”, it would have been more accurate to call it “Pedal the Fields of Manure”, but that might have been a marketing error.
Overall it was a really nice day. The lack of heat and hills made it quite a manageable and pleasant ride. Starting out with a little bit of knee pain, I didn’t kill it, but rode solidly and well. I covered 105 miles in 7h15, which is a reasonable time, given the extra time I spent at rest stops.
That completes my seventh century of the year, which is a vast improvement over last year’s record-low four. Seven isn’t a record (9 in 2014), but it ensures that I end the year with more than my average (6.3). It’s the last organized century on my calendar, so any others will be ad hoc/solo efforts.
I haven’t planned any solo centuries, and if I’m going to attempt the Dirty Dozen ride, it’s time to start training for that by doing short, ridiculously steep hills. We’ll see how things progress in that regard, but after two centuries and three very hilly metrics in the past four weeks, right now I’m looking forward to taking a little bit of a rest!