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Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
I took the day off work today, ironically so that I could participate in the Bike to Work Day activities going on in downtown Cleveland. I did the same thing as last year, making the 22-mile ride up from Twinsburg to Cleveland, picking up a friend in Solon along the way.
What a difference a year has made. Last year’s event was supposed to mark the grand opening of The Bike Rack, downtown Cleveland’s new bike commuter station, but construction had been delayed, mainly due to the building having been purchased by the company also working on the new casino.
Today, The Bike Rack was open and in full swing, with many bike secured in the storage racks inside, and commuters utilizing the lockers, showers, and changing rooms.
On the way into town, we passed through the Slavic Village neighborhood, site of the ongoing construction of the new velodrome, spearheaded by Fast Track Cycling.
Also new since last year is Bike Cleveland, the region’s new unified, better-organized, and better-funded bicycle advocacy organization.
A local bike shop was at the event with an assortment of commuter-oriented accessories for sale. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society had a table set up to promote their local Bike MS Pedal to the Point fundraising ride, with help from National Bike MS Sponsor Raleigh Bicycles.
Cleveland may have quite a bit farther to go until it becomes a cycling haven like Portland, Minneapolis, or Davis. It would be nice to be able to say we’re there NOW, but someday, it will be even nicer to be able to look back and say, “I was there to see it happen; I was there to help make it happen.”
The other day, I made a sort-of last-minute decision to sign up for the Mohican 100K mountain bike race, so today I took the opportunity to test how prepared I am for it physically and mentally by doing two laps of the 25-mile Mohican State Park mountain bike trail.
My mountain bike was still caked with mud from my ride at West Branch State Park a week ago. I had been wanting to clean and tune it up, but had not been able to make the time since then. When I arrived at the Mohican parking lot, I gave it a quick rub-down with a rag to get the major chunks of mud off, and lubed the chain. Both the front and rear disc rotors had gotten a little bent from my flailing in the rock gardens at West Branch. I spun the front wheel a few times to identify the main bent area, and trued it back with my bare fingers good enough that it spun quietly. I did the same with the rear rotor; it still rubbed a little, but it was ride-able.
I kept a good pace for the first lap, not trying to set a record, but quick and steady. The only incident of the day came when I was still pretty fresh, about 6 miles in during a relatively easy section of trail. I split-second lapse of attention caused me to clip my handlebar on a tree. It yanked by wheel sideways, sending me into a Superman fall, following by the bike flying and landing on top of me. I took some impact on my head and right shoulder, giving me flashbacks to a rail-trail in Idaho. Fortunately, most of the impact went to my right forearm, leaving a new bruise and scab on top of the old bruise and scab (more by-products of the aforementioned West Branch rock gardens). The impact was also enough to knock my stem off-kilter and my seat angle tilted way too forward, so I had to spend about 20 minutes on the trail fishing out my multi-tool, and then re-adjusting everything.
I rode a little tentatively for a mile or two following the crash, but got back into the groove after shaking the cobwebs off and getting my nerve back.
I finished the first lap in about two and three-quarter hours (not counting repair time), a typical respectable time for me. I stopped by my car to scarf down a bagel with peanut butter and chug a bottle of Gatorade. This would have been a potential time to decide “Heck with it, I should quit while I’m ahead,” but I didn’t let the thought even enter my mind, trying to keep myself in the “failure is not an option” mindset that I’d need for race day. Only after I started pedaling toward the trailhead for the second lap did it briefly occur to me, “What the heck am I doing?”
Despite the tendency for physical fatigue to cause you to be more likely to make mental mistakes, the second lap passed without any crashes or other incidents. My legs got tired, my feet and back got a little sore, but nothing unexpected. I had to use my granny gear more often than usual, and dab a foot as I failed to clear some of the switchbacks and steep climbs as well as I usually can. I stopped at the 15-mile mark (the second time around) to down a Clif bar for more re-fueling.
I tried to conserve the water in my 2-liter hydration pack so that I’d have enough to last for the whole ride, since there isn’t really a practical place to refill along the trail. Conventional wisdom says that if you’re hydrating enough during physical activity, you should be urinating frequently, and it should be clear or mostly clear. I only stopped to relieve myself once during the whole ride, at about the 16-mile mark of the second lap, and it looked the color of stale Mountain Dew, which probably was not a good sign. I don’t expect this to be as much of an issue during the race, though, as I’ll be able to take advantage of the aid stations for fluid and snacks.
I finished the second lap in a little over 3 hours. I felt pretty beat up, tired, and stiff, but felt like I put in a respectable effort. Despite the parking-lot tune-up, my bike performed admirably. I’m told by race veterans that if you can handle two laps of the 25-mile state park trail, the 100K (62-mile) race course should feel easier. Stayed tuned in a few weeks for a report from the actual race…