Monday, August 30, 2010

Yesssss! (Part 1)

Finger Lakes region, upstate New York

I got back from my bike trip in New York a few days ago and I'm already wishing I had just stayed up there (and not just for the glorious weather). The trip kicked my ass and frustrated the hell out of me at times but it was something I definitely needed.

The guy who put all this together, Eric, was a tent buddy of mine from the summer long, cross-country bike trip I had participated in a few years before, Texas 4000 for Cancer. The night I flew into Rochester, another tent mate of ours from that trip and his girlfriend were also stopping into town for the night before heading on to Canada, and then back to their jobs in South Korea. Holy crap, it was awesome catching up with those guys, especially since the last time I saw either of them was at Eric's wedding a couple years ago. Ahhh memories. And since this was evidently an unofficial T4K reunion week, I also found out that a couple from that trip is getting married and November, and Eric and I just missed by a few hours seeing another guy from that year who was passing through Rochester the day we were heading back into town.

Back to the actual bike trip... There were 6 of us who did the entire ride, one more who joined us for the last few days of riding, and Eric's wife came out and camped with us on our rest day. We would start on Sunday, end the following Saturday, and spend the time in between cycling and camping and even doing a little hiking in the Finger Lakes region. In addition to Eric and I there was Brett from Austin who did the original Texas 4000 ride and knew Eric and Shawn from another long distance bike ride they had done on the west coast, Eric's sister-in-law (her boyfriend was the one who joined us later), and 2 brothers from Texas who's connection to Eric and his wife I can't remember so I won't bore you with it.

Despite us starting in a drizzle that turned into a steady rain at times, the first day was pretty awesome. Like I mentioned in the last post, this was the longest distance I had ridden in a couple years, but I felt good. Our campsite that night was absolutely gorgeous, right along a river in the middle of the woods, with our own mini falls right by the campsite. It was it's own adventure just getting into and out of that campsite (had to cross that river earlier on) and those mini falls gave me my first injury of the trip (scraped up arm and huge bruise on one hip) when I slipped trying to change levels.

I busted my ass on those tiny little falls.

The second day started on a massive uphill (once we had hiked back out of the forest and crossed the river again)... that I didn't even attempt to climb on the bike. Screw that noise, I've been living in one of the flattest cities in the US for almost 4 years now and didn't want to wear myself out before the day even really started. I figured I knew my limits, and this hill was past them right now. Unfortunately that wasn't the only hill I found myself walking up. On the flip side of that, we also had some massive downhills that I dominated to the tune of 42mph.

As an aside, I really want to race Brett downhill sometime when we're both on decent bikes (he had Eric buy his for him in Rochester and pretty much his 1st time riding it was the 1st day of the trip) and not loaded down with extra gear. He was the only one who could really keep up with me on the descents... but he was actually pedaling while I was just tucking in an letting gravity and momentum do it's thing. One of the joys of being as compact as I am for my weight, is that I'm like a human ball bearing on downhills. I can tuck in real tight and gain a lot of speed in a short amount of time. This also helps me slingshot back over most or all of an uphill that closely follows a downhill. Unfortunately for me, that glorious 42mph descent was followed by the last 5 miles of that day, which was an almost constant, steep uphill, with the last bit of it on a rocky path leading to the campsite. It took me so long to finish those last few miles that the sun was setting on me as I finally made it into camp and I had to set up my tent in the almost dark.

Day 3 didn't start out much better, with about a mile of climbing once we got out of the forest. After that however, we mostly just saw rolling hills that didn't pose much trouble along the first of the finger lakes. This day I started getting really frustrated with having to walk my bike up the steeper longer hills. I knew I had nothing to prove, to myself or the others, that I was a bit out of shape and that I have barely seen a hill on a bike since I left Austin. I also knew that I was going to finish this damn trip with all my gear and under my own power whether I was on the bike or off it. But all that time off the bike was starting to weigh on me and, no lie, it was a little soul-crushing.

The next day was the shortest of the trip and mostly easy with the exception of 2 things. One, there was a deceptively long, steep, uphill that (surprise!) I had to walk up most of. In addition to the frustration, all this walking was really starting to hurt. The weight of my bike and gear (which actually wasn't that much, about 25lbs), the awkward angle I had to hold the bike at while walking it, and the cycling shoes which made it impossible to walk normally all combined to start giving me a nasty case of shin splints. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do at the next bad hill if it bot hurt to walk and ride my bike.

The other major set back for me that day was waking up to discover I started my period. With a fucking vengeance. Now, this wasn't completely unexpected. I knew I'd have to deal with this at some point on the trip, but I thought I still had another day or 2 before it started. Upstate New York does have bears in it, and I bled over, well, pretty much everything in my tent. Not a good combination.

Not this bad, but close.

And now I'll take a TMI moment and say, for women who do any sort of long distance biking or hiking or camping, menstrual cups are a godsend! They last longer than a tampon, and you only need one, versus an untold number of pads and tampons. Added bonus, no waste you have to hike out with you!

Anyways, while I was cleaning up and waiting for the rest of the group to wake up and get the day started, I decided I would stop in the last town before our campsite that night, grab a cheap hotel room, launder all my shit, and cramp and bleed in peace for one night. I told everyone it was my contribution to helping us not get eaten by bears at night. The next morning I would bike that last 10 or so miles to join the rest of the group at our rest day camp site.

The rest of the trip to continue in Part 2 when I get home from work.

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