Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hiking & Biking in Savoy State Forest
Riding the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
Sunday, August 21, 2005

Savoy hiking & biking photo slideshow

So let me describe a good summer day: buzzing along a paved trail at 14mph, the sides of the trail lined with blooming wildflowers. Off to the left is the Cheshire Reservoir, the incredibly blue waters rippled by the breeze that keeps it from being too warm. Green mountains rise up on the other side of the water. The sun is shining, the clouds are white and fluffy. I guess it doesn't get much better than this...

After finishing the race I changed into dry clothes and headed to a different part of the park to do a little riding. The drive was slow... the roads in the MA state forests are typically poorly maintained, and this was no exception. Lots of up and down made me question the wisdom of riding, but I wanted to give it a shot. At the parking area I discovered that there was a path to a waterfall, Tannery Falls, and hiked down to see them. A very nice hike - lots of cool gorges leading to the tallest waterfall in MA (I found the latter out this morning on-line.) Very pretty and very cool. (And best of all, I was the only one there... which was good timing, because it got pretty busy by the time I got back to the parking lot.)

After hauling myself back to the parking area, I hopped on the bike and rode off to see Balance Rock, a big boulder which is, as you might guess, balanced on a small base. Ended up pushing the bike about half the distance - lots of uphill. At that point I wisely decided to forgo extensive mountain biking in the park, and not-so-wisely decided to ride the 1.5 miles back to the car along an off-road trail. Mostly downhill - cake, right? Unfortunately, I lack the skills and courage it takes to blast down steep technical trails at full speed, which is what you need to do to stay on the bike. So the "ride" back consisted of ride a minute or two, push the bike for a bit, and repeat until arriving at the end. Guess I need to work on the ATB skills a bit more - no mountain bike races in the near future for me!

After that, drove to Pittsfield and after grabbing a bite to eat, hopped on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail between Lanesborough (just outside of Pittsfield) and Adams. About 11.5 miles of zipping along a paved path,which turned out to be mostly a gentle downhill grade on the way out(that became apparent on the ride back... the gentle uphill grade was much more noticeable!) Fantastic weather and generally a great way to end the trip!

Then of course I had to leave the beautiful Berkshires and return to Albany... but at least there was a hot shower waiting for me! VERY much needed after 4.5 miles of trail running, hiking half a mile or so, 3 miles of trail riding, and 23 miles of paved riding...

By the end of the day, my legs were fried, my back was sore, and my butt was sore - and I was definitely smiling.

Savoy Mountain 4.5 Mi Trail Race

Sunday, August 21, 2005

2005 Savoy Trail Races Results
Savoy Trail Races info

Savoy Trail Races 2005 photo slideshow

So let me describe a good summer day: buzzing along a paved trail at 14mph, the sides of the trail lined with blooming wildflowers. Off to the left is the Cheshire Reservoir, the incredibly blue waters rippled by the breeze that keeps it from being too warm. Green mountains rise up on the other side of the water. The sun is shining, the clouds are white and fluffy. I guess it doesn't get much better than this...

Getting over to the race was a bit of an adventure. Following the advice of Mapquest, I took a new route to NW Massachusetts, only to discover that one of the roads was closed due to a bridge replacement.Fortunately, I had my maps with me, and it was easy to find another road... which then proceeded to take me up one of the steepest, longest mountain drives I've ever been on. It left me VERY thankful we hadn't been riding that road last weekend, or I'd still be out there, trudging along. (Once I got into North Adams, MA, there was still more climbing to do before reaching Savoy Mountain State Forest.)

Arrived at the very nice starting area, the North Pond recreation area in Savoy Mountain State Forest. Did all the usual prep work, and then it was time to run the race. The trail was gnarly, twisty, muddy, root-and-rock laden, good and technical. Lots of uphill, and a fair amount of downhill. LOADS of fun (I'm actually serious about that... I've got to be in shape to do the 20 miler next year!) and the race field was small enough that I was alone on the trail most of the time (though occasionally I could hear the two people behind me.) I pushed but not all out - similar to a tougher training run - and finished in 54 minutes,which amounts to 12 min/mile. Not bad at all, especially after being laid up for two weeks with my calf injury.

photo courtesy of


No more "events" for August... September begins a big push, with the MHCC Century Days, the Pfalz Point 10 mile trail run, and possibly the Jordan Alpine Classic (an 8.5 mile trail race.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 18, 2005

Good news:

I can run again! I'm taking it easy - no real speed work, since I think pushing hard for speed is what messed up my calf muscle - but I've done some short runs over the past week and it's been OK. It's really nice being out on the trails again.

Bad news:

Went out on my mountain bike the other night and blasted around the Columbia Circle section of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve for almost 2 hours. That was FUN. Unfortunately, at one point I stopped and moved a fallen tree off the path... and now my back is killing me. So no riding for me for the immediate future, which means the Lowlander Century Ride is off - it costs too much for me to sign up for it when I might not be able to do it. I'm bummed - I've been looking at doing that ride for months now - but I'll replace it with something a little closer to home, probably a Mohawk Hudson Cycling Club ride during their Century Weekend in early September. Don't know that I'll be up for the full Century ride, but maybe I can do the Metric Century or the Half Century. Either way it's a whole lot cheaper and not nearly as long a trip.

Maybe next year I can try for the Lowlander...

Being injured sucks!!!


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Greylock Half Century Ride
Saturday, August 13, 2005

Greylock Half Century Ride 2005 photo slideshow

Greylock Century Ride info

Well, THAT was a bear. Truth be told, I was using much stronger language to describe the experience while it was happening yesterday... fortunately only when there was no one around to hear me, which was most of the time.


The darn ride T-shirt, which is a white T with the Century ride elevation profile on the front. Yuck!


OK, this could take a while. Be assured, once I'm done griping about the ride, I do have some good thoughts about it.

I had to leave around 6 AM to get there in time, so that meant getting up at 4:30. Bleah. Went to bed early and listened to the rain, wondering if I would be riding after all (if it had been raining steadily I'd have gone, picked up my goodie bag and shirt, and come home.) In the end, went to sleep around 1 AM and woke up every hour after that until it was time to get up at 4:30.

All went smoothly that morning and I started riding at 7:45 AM. Fairly cool morning, if a bit humid, but a good start.

6 hours later I finished. Blazing hot and tropical humidity levels.

50 miles/6 hours = 8.3 miles per hour. My usual average is 12-14 mph.

Everything was going decently until I hit the base of Mt Greylock. At that point I had a 3 mile climb that I just don't have the legs or gears on my bike to ride... so I pushed the bike for 3 miles uphill. Got a break for a few miles when the road levelled off, but then had another 3 miles uphill to push the bike. So by the Greylock Summit I'd been out for 3 hours and had spent about 2 of those hours hiking uphill lugging my bike. My legs were NOT happy about that. In addition I was drenched with sweat, and the humidity meant it had nowhere to go. My cycling gloves were so wet they squished when I squeezed my hand down on the handlebars.

At the summit I was lucky enough to meet the food & drink person as she was getting ready to leave and refilled my Camelback (water backpack.) She also let me know that the next food/water stop was 25 miles away, which made me glad I'd lugged lots of food and fluid with me (despite assurances that we would be very well taken care of and there would be tons of supplies out there.) Rested briefly, chatted with a fellow who was dropping out because the Greylock climb had destroyed him, changed into a dry shirt, and had a very pleasant ride down the mountain (other than worrying that my brake cable would snap and I would, well, crash and die. It's a very steep descent.)

After that I had a hot, exhausting plod (err... ride... but slow and plodding!) to the next rest area. Virtually no shade the whole way, and my legs were pretty much shot from the 6 mile uphill hike I'd done. Got to the rest stop and, no surprise, the person was gone (good thing I saw the previous one as she was leaving and refilled my water, huh?) To add insult to injury, just beyond that was another 1 3/4 miles of steep uphill where I... yup... pushed the bike. Then I had a fairly easy ride down into town, followed by another 1/4 mile uphill push the bike session, and a relatively easy couple of miles back to the car.

So by my estimates I rode for about 42 miles and hiked uphill for 8. The 42 may be off... my bike computer said I'd done 54 or 55 miles by the end, but maybe it was mis-calibrated.

All in all, I finished (didn't have a choice, really - that was the only way to get back!) but it was a pretty miserable and somewhat demoralizing experience. The Lowlander Century ride is 1 month away, and I have no idea if I can complete it... even with a two more long rides squeezed in (a 70-ish miler, and hopefully one even longer, around 85 miles or so...)

I am also NOT impressed with how "well" they took care of the riders. At the start I filled out an emergency contact card... which was totally useless, since after the summit they had no idea where I was, I had no way to get in touch with them, and there was nothing to ID me as a Greylock Half Century rider. (The gal at the summit actually stopped and asked me if I was as she was leaving the parking area. Earlier someone with another group ride that was going on at the same time in the same general area stopped and asked me if I was part of their ride.) The only way to get a ride back to the start if you were injured or had mechanical problems would have been to get to the food/drink areas, and clearly THAT wouldn't have worked for me. They had no one driving sweep, unless someone came through long after I was done. (Had someone pulled up and asked me if I needed a ride back to the start on that later 1 1/2 mile uphill slog, I probably would have said yes... I was pretty exhausted and miserable.) And since there was no check-in at the end, they don't even know that we all made it back. Maybe they do a better job keeping track of the Century riders... I know that's the main focus of the ride, and I only talked to one or two people who were doing the shorter distance.)


I finished! Made it to the end entirely under my own power.

My walking pace was about 3 mph. That means I walked for about 2 hours 40 minutes and rode for about 3 hours 20 minutes.

42 mi / 3.3 hours = 12.7 mph! Not bad at all, given the heat and humidity, 3 hours of sleep, and destroying my legs on the hike up the two steep portions going to the Greylock summit.

The couple of people I chatted with were really nice.

I carried plenty of food and drink with me... even if I hadn't refilled my water at the top I think I would have had just enough to make it to the end. For once my tendency to overpack has paid off!

I also learned a valuable lesson - no more biking up mountains on long rides unless I have (1) dramatically increased the strength of my legs, and even more importantly have (2) acquired a bike with gears meant for steep mountain grades (ie. at least a triple chain ring, and probably a 9 or 10 speed cassette rather than the 7 speed I have now. Of course, that's at least an $800-$1000 investment, so that's not happening anytime soon...)

And I learned that I will probably never again do either Greylock ride, because I don't like how they take care of the slow riders. Or rather, how they didn't take care of at least one of them yesterday.

The Lowlander does have a significantly nicer profile that Greylock... there are some climbs, and I may have to push the bike occasionally, but it looks a lot more doable... maybe.

Lance Armstrong can retire with nary a worry, since it is clear I will never challenge his dominance in climbing mountain roads on a bike.

I finished! (and my legs don't feel too bad today... I even contemplated going for a run...)

Oh, well. Lessons learned, I guess.


Next up is the Savoy Mountain 4.5 mile trail run next Sunday (great, the M word again.) I'm hoping that will go well... I could really use an event to pick me up after Indian Ladder and the Greylock Half Century.


And just to show that I am truly crazy... I now realize that if I do ever get a bike with proper gearing for that sort of climbing (and get my biking legs in shape for it) I will probably do one of the Greylock rides - just to prove to myself that I can. (shaking head sadly at own foolishness.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Riding the Ontario Pathways Trail
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

photo slideshow

Ontario Pathways Trail info

Ann and I visited the Ontario Pathways Trail last summer, on the way home from a trip to visit her family. We found a wonderful set of cascading waterfalls less than a mile from the Rt 96 trailhead and spent a while wading along the ledges. In the end we walked to the first road crossing and found the trail to be very peaceful. (So I knew I had to come back on my bike...) As I researched the trail a bit more, I learned that one of the features further down the trail was a redecked 300 ft long, 40 ft high railroad bridge. That I HAD to see!

The trail was originally two different railbeds. The west-to-east segment, between Canandaigua and Stanley, was built in 1851 and changed hands several times. The south-to-north segment, from Stanley to Phelps, was part of the Sodus Point & Southern line, built in 1873. As with many of the local railroads, the primary business was carrying coal. By the 1950's these lines were dying out. In 1994 Ontario Pathways Inc was formed as a nonprofit organization and purchased these two segments from the Penn Central Corporation for the purpose of developing trails for use by the local communities. This was done in cooperation with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and in fact was the first land conservancy project the RTC took on. Since then the trail has been a work-in-progress involving the cooperation of many organizations, individuals, and communities, since much of the work needed has been done by volunteers. They've done a VERY impressive job, too - approximately 20 miles of the 23 mile length is open. (Much of the preceeding information comes from the RTC's excellent guidebook Rails-to-Trails: New York.)

Anyway, enough history lesson. I unloaded the bike at the Rt 96 Trailhead just outside of Phelps, and rode the shady path as far as I could... which unfortunately was only a couple of miles, before I hit a big "trail closed due to trail work" sign. Tried taking the road for a bit, but found that to be a thankless task - it was all uphill, on my very heavy ATB, with knobbies! In other words, I worked very hard to go a very short distance in a very long time. So I zipped back to the trailhead, hopped in the car, and drove down to Orleans. In addition to being a convenient place to get back on the trail, Orleans is also home to the only steam-locomotive-era wooden water tower along a NYS railtrail. (It's listed on the National Historic Register. Unfortunately, I was out of film by the time I got back, so I don't have a picture of it... I'll just have to go back next year!)

Hopped back on the trail and rode along the ridge overlooking the creek (the same one Ann and I had waded in, back along the earlier section of the trail.) After passing through some fields and more woods, ended up at a fairly high redecked bridge which was partially blocked by a fallen tree. Unfortunately, the next bridge had not been restored, so I had to hike the bike down to the road and ride pavement until I could pick the trail up again, about three miles. After that I bounced down the trail into Stanley, where I hopped on the segment heading toward Canandaigua and, about half a mile later - SUCCESS! I was at the Really Big Bridge. While the view wasn't as unobstructed as I'd expected (I guess some of the branches grew back after they did the redecking and took the pictures I'd seen) it was still pretty darn impressive, especially considering all the actual work was done by 34 volunteers in about 7 hours (planning the project and pre-assembling the three redecking sections took a bit longer than that... but apparently it was worth it in the end.) And by virtue of figuring out how to use the timer on my camera, I was even able to get a picture of myself on the bridge.

After that it was just a long, hot trip back to the car, with a stop for something cold to drink in Phelps and then a long drive back to Albany. Maybe next summer I can ride more of the Ontario Pathways Trail - including the section they were working on this year!