Month 3 of my quest for the P-12 Award

Riding up Oregonia Road from Lebanon to Oregonia.
Riding up Oregonia Road from Lebanon to Oregonia. (by Toshiyuki Nemoto)

(This year I have taken up Randoneeuring, a long-distance cycling sport.  What I find so Christ like about this sport is the lack of competition, either you finish or you don’t.  This allows the stronger folks to come along side the weaker ones and help them finish.  I am currently starting small and trying to the P-12 award which means you ride at least one 100km to 199km populaire route every month for 12 months.  Here is the story of my P-3 from Sunday)

Last week I put a shout out to the Ohio Randoneeur group to see if anyone would like to join me on my quest for my P-3.  Since I didn’t get any takers for the Up & Down the River, I opted to ride Toshi’s new and improved Lebanon-Xenia Populaire in reverse.  It was a logical switch because I live in Mason, thus the warm-up ride was only 11 miles as compared to the 24 to the Up & Down the River route.

While the high for the temperature today was in the low 60s, it started around 34, so a little warm up was very much in order!  After starting out I warmed up quickly.  Two doors down from the start is the Lebanon McD’s.  I got there early enough to stop in and have a bagel.  There is something so very charming about McD’s during the breakfast hour, all the older gentlemen who gather and hang out.  In a small town like Lebanon, I got to witness not just the older gentlemen, but men of all ages catching up with one another.  In our fast-paced world today, it is always refreshing to see folks slow down a bit and simply hang out with one another.

When I pulled up to the start at 8:50am Toshi was graciously waiting for me.  We exchanged all the paperwork and still had a few minutes to catch up.  As 9am rolled around, I rolled out.  First up is a ride up Oregonia Rd.  I am cycling along, daydreaming.  I look up and 60 feet up is Toshi with his camera, clicking away.  I was and am simply thrilled!  It is the first picture of me on a RUSA ride, a true blessing from Toshi.  Thanks man!

He took the picture in the first 4 miles of the route, which starts off with a 250 climb.  This climb is SO worth the effort because a mile later you get one of the most beautiful 250 descents anywhere between Cincinnati and Zenia.  The hills on both sides are beautifully wooded and very scenic.  One of the things I really appreciate about this descent is that it is fast, but not so fast that it is scary.  Once at the bottom of the hill, there is still another half mile or so of road before one has to stop, so you really have a great opportunity to enjoy the speed you pick up in the downhill.

The normal route takes you up the LMST to Zenia and then to Jamestown where you hit the back roads back down to Oregonia.  I choose to ride it in reverse, something Toshi allows on all his routes.  I opted to do this due to the fact that the LMST is a LONG slow uphill all the way to Zenia.  I thought I would leverage that hill on the way down towards the end of the ride, rather than riding up it early on.  There are a ton of reasons why this turned out to be a true blessing from God.

The first blessing normally looks like a curse.  Riding it in reverse, the climb out of the valley back to the highlands is on the west side of Oregonia.  It is a .4 mile climb of 202 feet, and according to RideWithGPS three-quarters of it (.3 miles) has a grade starting at 8 and staying around 10 and 11.  Well, yesterday I switched out my 11/32 cassette for an 11/23.  Going into this hill I totally got that I might have to walk the last part, but I was flat determined to cycle to the top.  On RideWithGPS it looked like the first part would be reasonable with it getting harder towards the end.  It turns out it was the other way around, that first bit was just crazy, but once I made the 90-degree turn into the final .3 miles of the hill, it seemed to ease up a bit and I know I would make it.

First blessing of riding this route backwards:  Getting to try out my new cassette in climbing this hill.  These are the hills I HATE going down, they are simply too steep.  Then add the 90-degree turn in the middle and stop sign at the very bottom, thanks but!  I find it far more rewarding to conquer the hill on a climb then holding onto my breaks praying they don’t fail me!

Next the route goes along the east side of Caesar Creek State Park, which on any normal day is just breathtaking, but today being a Sunday I got some horses for company.  About twenty or so Mustangs blow past me.  Not the hooved type, the Ford type.  My dad had a 1965 Mustang convertible, so getting to see a range of new and old blast by me was simply wonderful, each one gunned it too, love that sound.  Oh, each and every one of them was very respectful of the solo cyclist. (If anyone knows this gang, let them know I said thank you!)

Next blessing: If I rode the route the other way, I would have totally missed this pony express.

At around 18 miles into the route, it takes you away from Caesar Creek area.  At about 21.5 miles, I am coursing along Hackney Road and had just passed Hurley Rd when I ran into two houses.  Next thing I know three dogs are running towards me just going crazy!  I have one of those Air Zound horns and let it rip!  Good thing, too, because the dogs where coming at me from the front and the 105 decibel horn stopped them just long enough that I was able to get ahead of them and sprint away.

This was the third blessing of the day.  The reason was just past these two houses was a 75 foot drop, which was great to use as a get away from the dogs.  If I rode the route the normal way, I would be out of breath and tired when faced with these dogs, thanks but no thanks!

The rest of the ride to the first control was what we have come to love and expect in this area, occasional hills from 30 to 70 feet, nothing all that difficult to deal with, but enough to make for a challenging ride.

The final blessing of the official ride was the LMST.  From the first control point all the way back to Oregonia was mostly downhill where I was able to go all out.  There is something really wonderful about a long fast run where the grade is mostly around a negative one, it is just a blast!

I then found myself back at the Oregonia Road to climb up that hill which was such blast coming down.  It is a long one, so I was wondering how I would do with that 11/23 cassette.  Here is what I found very interesting on this hill, but also throughout the day.  I don’t like staying in the lowest gears on hills, the main reason being that when the hill gets even steeper, it’s nice to have one more gear to go.  So I found myself constantly shifting up one or two gears when I could.  This resulted in using my 21 and 19 teeth cogs rather than 28 and 25 of my older 11/32 cassette, which resulted in faster climbs.  I simply find it amazing what our bodies can do when we don’t give them a choice!

The route ended with that 250-foot descent back into Lebanon, which was long, fast, and very refreshing.  I signed in at the finish at 3:09pm.  But my ride wasn’t over yet, home was still 11 miles away.  It turns out I had 82 miles for the day, so I texted my wonderful wife that I was going to stretch it out to a full century.  About 3 minutes later I got a text:

Where can I intersect with you? I’m dressed and read to go!

I cannot think of anything more wonderful then to have my most amazing wife join me for the last leg of this beautiful day of cycling.  We hooked up about 5 miles from the house and rode for another 15.32 miles.  What first got me thinking of riding the route backward was to have my wife join me on the LMST.  It worked out SO much better this way.  It was simply an amazing day of cycling!