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Another Century

So, as promised, here is the full write-up on my 100-mile (actually more like 105-mile) bike ride for the Food Bank of Western Mass.

Will Bike 4 Food took place just over a week ago, and I showed up bright and early.  I arrived at the Food Bank’s headquarters in Hatfield at 6:30am.  It took a little time to park, get my gear onto my bike, and check-in, but I still had plenty of time to get some food (they had bagels, pastries, and fruit).

I also had time to take some pictures of the foggy start:

foodbanksign

foodbankfog1

foodbankfog3

Unfortunately, my camera stopped working while I was taking these.  It seemed to run out of power.  I tried swapping in the batteries from my headlight, but it still would not respond.  That left me with only my (old) iPhone to take pics.

The ride was due to start at 7:00 for those riding the century route.  There were apparently 37 people signed up for that route, but only about 10 of us were in evidence at that time.  They ended up actually sending us off at 7:10, though I saw 1 or 2 riders who took off earlier on their own (I later found out that about half of the people signed up for this route didn’t show up to ride – maybe some of them had knee problems?).

I got ahead right away of the other riders I started with, though I didn’t expect that to last.  We actually started climbing the first hill just 2 miles into the ride, and most of the other riders passed me pretty quickly on the way up.  While climbing this hill, the fog lifted and the sun came out, though it remained chilly for a while.

The ride progressed west at first, heading through Whately on some roads I wasn’t familiar with, eventually making our way to Williamsburg center.  We then headed north through Conway and into Ashfield, on the same road that I’d ridden just the previous weekend.  By this time, there was another rider hanging out by me, a young guy named Jack who had come up from Springfield.  He was a little better on hills than me, staying at least a little ahead of me during the long climb to Ashfield, but I did slowly catch up.

The ride turned off that main road soon after entering Ashfield, and I was once again in unknown territory as we headed further west, and climbed up some more.  We were soon rewarded with a sizable downhill, though it was steep and curvy enough that I had to lay on the brakes (Jack was more daring and zipped ahead without braking).  After some mostly level riding, we got to route 112 and went south just a bit, then west a couple more miles on route 116.

A turn to the north on a side road soon brought us to the first rest stop, at the westernmost point of the ride.  I almost didn’t realize that it was the stop as we approached – I saw people in green t-shirts by a farm and thought there was some 4H function going on.  It was the place to stop, though, and I happily had some trail mix and refilled on water.

fbwaterstop1

From there we went north a bit more, then started back east toward the town center (we were still in Ashfield).  On this leg, we passed a point that had been on the first Food Bank ride, where I’d seen a big cairn of stones by some power lines.  The cairn was no longer there – who knows when it got dismantled.  Maybe it just fell apart over time.

We passed through the center of Ashfield and headed northeast on some of the same route as in the Bikefest ride, but then angled a bit more southward into Conway, and then went south to Conway center, where the second rest stop was located.

fbwaterstop2

We knew there was at least one cyclist behind us, and some volunteers who were driving the route (in case anyone needed roadside assistance) confirmed that there was exactly one cyclist behind us.  She arrived while Jack and I were at this stop, and left before we did, so from that point we were in the back of the century pack.  Fortunately, it was not a race.

After this I was familiar with just about every road that took us back to the Food Bank.  We headed straight south out of Conway (up another moderate hill) down into Whately, and then headed eastward back into Hatfield.  Somehow I got far enough ahead of Jack that I lost sight of him, and he arrived at the Food Bank a while after me.  I got there right at noon, and was halfway done with the ride.

I took advantage of this stop to use the bathroom, then got a little more food, and ended up heading out for the second half close to 12:30.  I knew the remaining portion would be less hilly, so I still had some hope of getting back by the 9 hour mark, even though the first part had taken me almost 5 hours.  The riding was certainly flat for quite a while, as we headed north near the river, through Whately and Deerfield.  We got to the next water stop around 2:00, and that was located at the beginning of the bike path in the northeast corner of Deerfield.  The route then followed that path across the river and much of the way toward Turners Falls.

Before actually getting to downtown Turners Falls, though, we turned and crossed the river again into the east part of Greenfield, and climbed a gentle hill up to, and across, Route 2.  There was a bit more of climb after that, and then we rode into the town of Bernardston.  The ride was still fairly easy, but I was getting quite saddle sore by this point, and sometimes needed to stop and rest just to get off my seat.

Just a little ways into Bernardston, the route went west along a side road, and then the one big climb of the second half began, with the road rising and rising into the town of Leyden.  This was where I really slowed down, as I didn’t have a lot of energy or strength for the somewhat steep climb.  I had to stop and catch my breath almost right away, and I told Jack not to wait for me.  He pedaled on and was quickly out of sight (spoiler: I did not see him again the rest of the ride).

I had to rest a number of times heading up this hill, and even walked my bike up one short bit that felt too steep to pedal up.  When I was on a plateau near the top, a car full of volunteers drove up and let me know that the next rest stop (which would be at the bottom of the hill) was closing up, but that they would leave some fruit and water for me.  I managed to make it up the last little bit of hill, and then had a nice long downhill ride.  I got to the water stop, and this is what was left:

fbclosedstop

Actually, there had also been an apple.  I ate that before I took the picture.  This stop was in the parking lot of an elementary school:

fbclosedstop2

I think this is still in the town of Leyden.

From here I was a little unclear on which way to turn, as the school is at a T-intersection.  I didn’t immediately see street signs, and there were no left  (or sharp right) turns indicated on my cue sheet.  Most intersections had been marked with little arrow signs to show which way the route went, but there weren’t any here.  I ended up making a left turn and riding a mile or two before beginning to doubt that I was going the right way, as I still didn’t see arrows, so I doubled back to the school.  This time, I did see a street sign, and figured out that what I was calling a left turn, they were calling “continue onto X road” because of the angle of the intersection.  So, I had originally gone the right way – it was just going to be 5 or 6 miles before the next turn after that.  I went on, covering the same ground again.

By this time it had already been more than 9 hours that I’d been riding, so I was just hoping to get to the end before dark.  I headed down the road, still sore in a few places, and saw the same volunteer car pass by me, checking up on me.  Eventually I was back in Greenfield, and took the next turn, and soon got on a bike path along the Green River that I had never ridden on before.   It is a nice little ride, though this path is only a mile or so long.  On the path, I passed a black cat who was intently focused on something moving in the nearby underbrush (a chipmunk, perhaps?).  I didn’t take any more pictures, because I just wanted to make as good time as I could.

A little more climbing after downtown Greenfield took me to Deerfield, and more familiar roads.  And there was yet another little climb just after I crossed the Deerfield river (I had to walk my bike up 2 more inclines – ones that would have been no problem to ride up earlier in the day).  By the time I got into Whately again, it was getting dark.  Fortunately, I had my lights with me, as I’d used them in the fog when the ride started.  I continued as quickly as I could, still needing to rest frequently, and finally got back to the Food Bank just after 7pm.  There were still a few volunteers there (waiting for me to finish, as I was the very last rider of the day).  I felt a little bad for making them stick around, but everyone was cheerful, and thanked me for doing the ride, including the Director of the FB.  There was no food left from the after-party, but they had saved me 4 cups of beer (which were of no interest to me, though, as I don’t drink).

After calling home, I walked to the car (which was a ways away from the FB building), then realized my car key was still on my bike (which I hadn’t brought to the parking lot), so I walked back to the building to get the key.  A volunteer then offered me a ride back to the car, which I happily accepted, tired as I was.  I got the car, loaded on the bike, and headed home, where I pretty much ate some dinner, showered, and fell asleep.  I was exhausted and sore, and it took much longer than expected, but I did get through the whole ride.  And the next morning I felt much better (9 hours of sleep can do wonders).  I felt refreshed, and my legs were only a little sore as I headed to work (not by bike).

 

Posted by seaking on 10-09-2013 at 11:10 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

A Soggy End to an Otherwise Nice Day

Before I do my long post recapping the Food Bank ride, I have one more post about a training ride.  This one is also an organized ride, though – as I did the 2013 NCC Bikefest the weekend before the Food Bank event.

As I did last year, I registered to do the 72-mile route in Bikefest.  Fortunately, unlike last year, I suffered no knee problems.

It promised to be a sunny day, with no rain predicted.  I got to the start area with 15 minutes to spare, and I ended up having a little more time, as the ride kicked off 10 minutes late.

The route was the same as last year, so I pretty much knew what to expect.  It was sunny almost from the get go, so it wasn’t too long before I was able to remove my long-sleeved and long-legged outer layers.  I also impressed myself with my hill-climbing, as there is a long climb heading from Williamsburg up to Ashfield, and my clothing change was the only time I stopped while heading uphill.

There’s a long, fast downhill section that takes one to route 116 in Ashfield, and then another climb up toward the town center.  Once past that, there’s some ups and downs, but mostly downs, as the route heads east into Conway and then North up to Shelburne Falls.

The first rest stop is in Shelburne Falls, at the Lamson & Goodnow knife factory:

lgfactstop

Here’s the view behind the place:

lgview

They had mini-muffins, which were a nice item to have for a morning break.

From there, I had no trouble with the little bit of climbing up to or on route 2, though the route goes through some more heavy hills on its way to Greenfield.  I had to rest a couple of times in this section.  There is some nice scenery up there, though:

shelbfield1

shelbfield2

What also makes this portion a little dicey is that there are a few sections of downhill riding where one has to make some quick turns.  I had to lay on my brakes a bunch, especially for a long downhill section of road with a hairpin turn just as one is getting to Greenfield.

In Greenfield, we headed south, and quickly came to the second rest stop:

greenfldstop

Complete with a bagpiper:

bagpipeshade

At this stop they had PB&J sandwiches, which I recalled from last year, as well as fruit and granola bars.

From that point on, there wasn’t much in the way of climbing to do, just distance to cover.  The ride does cover some more pretty areas, though, like the bike bridge over the Connecticut River (between Deerfield and Montague):

bikebrctriver2

Looking downriver:

bikebrctriver1

Last year, the third rest stop was in Montague, but they moved it farther along this year.  It was located in Sunderland center, just before we were to cross back over the river:

sundstop

That location is right behind a convenience store, at the intersection of routes 47 and 116.  Food was the same here as at the previous stop.

I was getting a little tired and sore by this point, so I had to stop and get off the bike a bit more frequently, just to give myself a little relief.  Still, things were going fine as I headed down through Whately and into Hatfield.  I did notice that it started getting awfully cloudy, though.  Just as I was passing through Hatfield center, it started to drizzle.  I hoped that it wouldn’t rain any harder, but soon it started to do just that.  There was never a torrential downpour, but a steady rain started up and continued for 30 minutes or more.  It was down to a drizzle again as I headed back toward the beginning of the ride, and had pretty much stopped by the time I finished.  I was plenty wet and cold as I ate at the after-ride barbeque, and was really glad when I finally got home and could get in a hot shower.

Other than the rain, though, things worked out great, and I felt ready for the bigger ride to come.

 

Posted by seaking on 10-06-2013 at 10:10 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

A Lot Longer

For some reason, this entry could not be posted when I was at the Food Bank, so I’m posting it from home.

I did finish the ride, but it took 12 hours, which is considerably longer than my time of 10.5 hours from 2 years ago.  More detail on the ride will be in a longer post in the next couple of days.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Slooooww

Well, I’m not going to do the whole ride in 9 hours. I still have 20 miles to go. The hill that we had to climb was just killer. The road mostly climbed for over 2 miles, and my climbing muscles don’t have a lot of strength left.

I’ve come down from the hill now, and am at another rest stop. Must continue on.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 03:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Bike path!

I’m 2/3 of the way done now. In Deerfield at the beginning of the bike path to Montague. We now get to follow the path to Turners Falls.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Halvsies

I’m just over halfway at this point, having finished the first loop. The second loop promises a lot less climbing, so hopefully I’ll still make my time goal. They started us off at 7:10, so I’m shooting for being back here at 4:10.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 12:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Stop the second

I’ve reached the second stop, in downtown Conway. We’re 40 miles in, and it’s about 14 miles to the Food Bank, where I’ll start the second loop.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 10:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

First stop

I’ve reached the first rest stop, and am about 26 miles into the route. There was a lot of hill climbing in the first half, but I expect things to get a little faster after this.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 09:09 am
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Starting in Fog

I’m at the Food Bank HQ, and will be starting in a few minutes. It’s foggy and cold right now, buy those will change.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2013 at 06:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Central Trail

Readers will recall that, last year, to celebrate my 40th birthday, I biked to Boston and back.  On the way out there, as well as on the way back, I rode on a small section of what will eventually be the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail, running the length of the state.  The section I was on runs from Holden to West Boylston, just north of the city of Worcester.  What I wasn’t aware of at the time, but realized earlier this year, is that there is another, longer section of trail that I had passed somewhat close to.  That section runs through the towns of Barre and Rutland (further to the west than the West Boylston section).  I decided earlier this month to ride out there and ride this section of trail.

I began the same way as my Boston trip had, heading east through Amherst and Belchertown, then into downtown Ware. I took a slight detour on the way, going through the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir reservation, riding across Winsor Dam:

winsdamalong

Here’s the view north of the water:

quabbinsun

And looking south I could see rather a large number of geese below the dam:

lotsogeese

Back on the main road (route 9), I passed a swampy area, and as often happens there, I saw a heron:

heronnearquab

Once in Ware, I then headed north into Gilbertville, and went farther north than I had last year, in order to head east on a more direct route to the bike path.

The route I took was not very hilly for a while, but eventually did require a bunch of climbing of me, and then went downhill for a long stretch right to the beginning of the trail in Barre.

What I had not realized was that this section of trail (about 5 or 6 miles total) was not paved.  It’s mainly finely crushed stone/gravel, with a few sections that are almost dirt trail.  Here’s what the surface mostly looks like:

wachpath1

It is a very pretty area that the trail passes through.  Here are some of the water areas:

wachwater1

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The trail even does a bit of climbing and falling.  There are a couple of tunnels under roads:

wachtunnel1

wachtunnel2

and a bit that heads between 2 rock walls:

wachpath3

I took longish rest when I got to the end in Rutland.  At this end (and only this end) of the section is a MCRT sign:

rutlandmcrt

Here’s the path seen from that end, just before I started back:

wachpath2

Riding back was a bit quicker to get to the western end of the path, and I then went just north and picked up highway 122 so that I could have a more hill-free ride home.  I did make fairly good time getting back, completing the whole trip (85 miles) in less than 8 hours.

 

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2013 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

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