2016 Cycling Year in Review

Well, it’s mid December and I am about to head north to my company’s annual kick-off meeting and holiday party. This means my cycling year is wrapping up. This year has been an amazing year of learning, failing, succeeding, falling and achieving beyond my wildest imagination!

As a follow of this dude named Jesus, I am told that I only really have to do one thing: repent and believe. An amazing cliché… we hear it all the time, repent your sins and believe in Jesus. Ya, ok, whatever, I screw up all the time, if I really lived by that I would spend my whole life repenting and I would never get to the believing. I don’t even know what exactly to believe!

Well, it turns out there is a bit more to what Jesus said in Mark 1:15 (NIV) “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” The real question is this: What is this good news? Well, there are two very simple parts to it, which, let me tell you, are the two hardest things in the world to believe!

  1. You are loved infinity by The Creator! So much so he knows every hair on your head! While you are the child of your mother and father, the Creator wants to adopt you, IF you will let him! He wants YOU in his family!!!!
  2. You will screw up and The Creator will ALWAYS give you another chance, there is simply no end to the chance the Creator will give you because of how much he loves you!

This has been my journey my whole life and especially this year in cycling. As I blogged about in January, I set myself a very lofty goal: Ride a specific double century route every month of the year. I failed in that goal back in April and May simply because I lost my faith (The Faithless Cyclist). With the success of this one goal, I would have also achieved two secondary goals:

The Randonneuring  R-12 and the Ultracycling Year Rounder.

Despite losing my faith, I was still able to succeed in these two goals despite the failure of the bigger one. Well, faith/belief is a fickle thing; in May I failed at the Randonneuring R-12 as well. It was the last weekend of May and I was 30 miles short of completing my 200k for the month but my foot was hurting (that shoe issue). And with everything else going on, I decided that it was too much, all these goals and for what? I figured that if I DNFed I could really step into the failure that I am (which I know is a lie, but really, really hard to believe!) and this passion for these crazy goals would subside. In other words, I lost faith YAHWEH had given me this passion for a reason and figured that if I screwed up and failed, YAHWEH would give up on me, take away the grace, thus stop pressing on me to do these crazy rides!

This, of course, was not the case. June I was back out there riding the double century and restarting the R-12. I have been faithful since June so I’m now at R-8, in four more months I will have this elusive R-12! (I have started and stopped about 3 other times.) All in all, I can very much relate to Jesus’s words, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” It is SO simply, and so NOT easy!

In 2015 I rode 4000 Randonneuring kilometers and I thought it would be cool to get 5000km this year. Mind you, I shot for 5000k last year and came up short while at the same time failing the 3rd attempt at the R-12. Well, upon completing my December Populaire Saturday, I achieved 6000km this year! I am simply amazed! What is really scary is that reflecting back, it doesn’t look that hard. Isn’t it amazing how quickly the memories of the pain evaporate? I think that is more grace from God, personally!

What has brought me the great highs and the great lows this year is a goal that still eludes me, the Tour to Toronto. In the past I have mentioned my goal of cycling 595 miles from home in Cincinnati up to home office in Toronto. My company has an annual kickoff meeting followed by a holiday party the second full week of December every year. This three-day tour was due to start on Saturday, but what officially killed it was weather, up north they got a lot of snow and it was really cold.

I say officially because the truth be told, I threw in the towel twice before the weather sealed the deal. Both times for the same reason I failed the double century goal: I simply lost my faith, my faith that The Creator gave me this crazy passion for a reason. I am a firm believer that one of the core ways in which our Creator works is by pressing passions into our hearts which we simply cannot escape.

Let me clarify here, when I say ‘our’ I am not referring to ‘Christians’, but ALL of humanity, regardless of their belief system. I have this crazy far-fetched idea that God actually loves all things he created. There is one of the many passages from the Bible that push my thoughts that direction:

Romans 2:14-15

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

One of the ways I read this passage is ‘the law’ is the passion the Creator presses into our hearts, the only question is do we follow that passion or not? Back in June when I was inspired to reignite my dream of riding the Tour to Toronto, I sought out a cycling coach and found Coach OB, who I hired in July.

Here is what is interesting, when you put some skin in the game; when you back thoughts with actions (aka shell out big bucks each month for a personal trainer) it becomes much easier to stick to it! The best thing I did all year for both my faith and my cycling was hire Coach OB. While my commitment to Tour to Toronto faltered, never did my commitment to the training. It has been an amazing learning and growth experience!

When I first hired Coach OB, I recall him making a comment about how it wasn’t possible to ride the double centuries without training. I don’t recall what he said exactly, all I recall was that it really pushed me back on my heels for a second. God immediately brought to the forefront of my mind a conversation that changed me in the most fundamental way. And with that memory, I understood what Coach was communicating to me.

This conversation was with a dear friend who was my pastor at the time. There was a little tension in my life, well, actually a lot. He made the statement that “you cannot live that way”. Oh, man was I offended! What flashed into my head was, “I WAS living that way and doing just fine, thank you very much!” I proceeded to tell him that! He then corrected me and said: “Sam, yes, you are living that way, BUT that is not how God intends for you (or anyone) to live. You are living in a storm and Jesus is and continues to invite you into the Garden of Eden, you simply have to follow him”. In that moment my whole perspective on the world was forever changed.

This was EXACTLY what my coach was saying. Yea, I was doing the double centuries every month, but in such a wrong way that I was living in a storm for days afterwards. It would take me about four days to fully recover. I didn’t ‘get’ what Coach was saying at the time, but thanks to the change in perspective God gave me through my friend, I understood what Coach was saying.

Today, I do ‘get’ it and I got to witness both sides of it this weekend. This past Saturday I road my final long ride of the year (I think, have not done the double century this month and still might…) with my friend Scott. Through the summer Scott’s focus was on more important things than cycling. The end result was he didn’t do much cycling, ok, I am lying, he didn’t do ANY! With full knowledge of this fact, in October I invited him to join me on restarting the Randonneur P-12 challenge, which is the easiest of all the challenges since the rides are normally between 100km and 120km (64-80 miles). The first two months things went as we both expected: he was out of shape and paying for it in the last 20 miles of the 70 ride.

Saturday, due to extreme cold (20~34 F/ -6.6 ~ 1.1 C) he was paying for it after the first 30 miles of the 72 mile route! My take on the way Scott was feeling at the end of those 72 miles was much the way I was feeling at the end of the double centuries before Coach OB, and proper training. I, on the other hand, departed for my last 12 miles home and felt GREAT.

It wasn’t until I was home, showered, and kicking back on the sofa that I realized the effect the extreme cold had on me, too. My legs felt fine, like they could ride another 300 mile, but I had zero energy. I was totally spent in a way I have not felt in a very long time!

In reflection it has made me ponder: Did the Creator KNOW the weather would not be favorable, knew that while I would have the legs, I would not have the stamina to pull off the Tour to Toronto? Thus allowing my faith to falter enough that I would be at peace with it today? That does seem like a very graceful thing to do, who knows, could be…

Since July Coach OB has been my cycling Jesus, showing me the way to the cycling Garden of Eden, that of actually being fit! Man is it a nice place to be and I am finding all sorts of new ways of making sure I stay there. For example, I am developing a passion for something I thought I used to hate: running!

It HAS taken work, but here is what is so wonderful, it isn’t work anymore, it is FUN! I remember early on I thought I would HATE being on the trainer inside. At first I wasn’t a big fan of it, but now I get the HUGE benefit of it and actually look forward to it. The benefit is I don’t have to worry about going up or down hills, stoplights or stop signs, I am able to dial in the heart rate and cadence I want and GO for the period of time I want to go for! It seems like work has turned out to be very enjoyable.

God takes people (a coach, a pastor, a boss, a spouse, a friend) that have walked a way of truth and then puts them in charge of others to show them the way. God does this to each and every one of us. The only question is this: Are we going to be willing to submit to these folks or not?

What I am finding is that when I do submit, the most amazing things happen. As far as cycling I have mentioned some of them, but there is one more that I am simply amazed at: In the world of the Ultracycling the rides for the Year-Rounder (YR) Challenge only count if they are at least 90 miles. I was pretty sure I would be able to earn the 3000 miles Gold Award, but the 5000 mile Platinum Award seems like a pipe dream. Upon completing my 100 mile ride Saturday I earned Platinum. There is also a Who’s Who award that is the top five Platinum riders in each of the four YR divisions. I am currently ranked 5th in the personal long division (rides of 150+ miles).

Last Saturday was my final 150+ mile ride and I finished it feeling as strong as I started it. Back in January I would have been feeling it for days, Sunday I only felt it a little, and by Monday I was felt totally recovered (well my legs felt fine, but from what I understand cardo takes a bit more time to recover and it isn’t as obvious when it is fatigued). My amazing improvement is all due to be submitting to the Jesus God sent me and I submitted to: Coach OB!

As 2016 comes to a close, I don’t know what 2017 holds for me. I am setting what feels like smaller goals, I have a feeling it might be because God it going to have me take the new experience of good solid discipline and have me start applying it to other areas of my life then just cycling.

The only cycling goals I have right now are these:

  1. Finish the R-12!
  2. Continue on the P-12 with Scott
  3. Race in my first Ultracycling race, the Bike Sebring 24 hour time trial
  4. Run the Flying Pig Half Marathon
  5. Complete a Super Randonneur series
  6. Ride a double century every month

Considering all I have done this year, it seem pretty easy compared to this year, but maybe that is exactly what is called for in 2017. Mind you, I still have my CRAZY bucket list:

Time will tell:)

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Whenever I am weak, then I am strong

6am start with Hugh
The 6am start at UDF with Hugh

Well, my quest for the ACP Super Randonneur (SR) is completed. While I hoped to do the SR in Indiana, I DNF’ed (did not finish) on the 600k due to my feet and returned two weeks later to the Detroit 600k to complete the series.

So while I still have the P-12 Award to go this year, I started to ponder… What is next? I had the first three months of the R-12 under my belt so I figured I might as well continue that, as well. As a refresher for the non-Randonneur, the P-12 Award is achieved by completing a Populaire (100k~199k bike ride) at least once a month for 12 straight months, while the R-12 is achieved by completing a 200k or longer ride for 12 straight months.

I planned to do a 200k Saturday, July 11, that started 5 minutes from my house, then I saw Hugh’s email to the Ohio Randonneur mailing list asking if anyone was interested in riding Toshi’s Loveland – Shawnee State Forest 310k Permanent. I have been eyeing this route of Toshi’s for a while now. I cycled in the area of the Shawnee State Forest once last year and found the area simply amazing. It is a totally different world then what we have here in the big city of Cincinnati. So I adjusted my plans to ride with Hugh.

Going in, I knew it was one of the tougher rides Toshi has to offer. As Irma drove me to the 6am start, the light fog we drove through was an omen of the other challenges ahead. This is the second time I have cycled through fog. The first time was last year with Irma. We were up high enough to see the THICK fog in the valley and like a duff, I allowed us to descend into the abyss that was the fog. Once I realized that I could only see 50 feet (not a big deal at 12 mph) and cars could only see 50 feet (which was a HUGE deal, when they’re moving at 25~35 mph,), I got the two of us turned around and back up into the clear as quickly as possible! This time Hugh and I could see 250 feet pretty well so while it was far from ideal, with our vests on and taillights on, cars had enough visibility to see us.

I would have never imagined that riding through fog would be worse than riding through rain! The fog condenses on your glasses in the finest of fine droplets and just sits there blocking your vision. You can see the road fine, but you cannot read the cue card to save your life! What a pain! The fog cleared by 8 or 8:30.

There was an interesting event at the first control. As I mentioned, I DNF’ed the Indiana 600k due to a tailor’s bunion on my right foot. After seeing a doc about it Friday and lots of stretching of the shoes, I figured I would give them another try. Well, at the first control it was clear that the pain was rapidly returning, so much so that something needed to change. The end result was I did what I should have done back in Indiana: cut a hole in the shoe to relieve the pressure. Once done, the shoes didn’t give any more problems! I have custom shoes, baby!

After the second control we quickly got to the Shawnee State Forest. Toshi has you enter the Shawnee State Forest with the highest single climb of the whole ride, a 1.5 mile long climb up 515 feet. This climb simply blew me away…

Last spring, when I would climb 177 feet up a local hill that is pretty steep, my heart rate would climb to about 168 bpm. It would feel like it was about to explode out of my chest. I would have to stop on the hill and let it come down a LOT before continuing to cycle. Then 40 feet farther up the hill would be a second stop to rest again before getting to the top.

When I hit this hill Saturday I knew it would be long and get pretty steep towards the end. It turns out the last third of the climb my heart rate was over 168 bpm, for around 6 minutes! While I knew I was putting in a lot of effort, it wasn’t until I actually look at the heart rate monitor that I realized my heart rate 170 bpm ~ 172 bpm!

In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul says, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” I stop and ponder, what I have done to be able to go from about to die climbing a 177 foot hill to climbing a 515 foot hill with a fast recovery? Well, the way I see it, all I had to do was say yes to the hardships of cycling. Then take a few days off and abide in the Lord. It is only through his amazing healing and restoring ability, my body, my legs, my heart come back stronger and ready for more. I love the little quote:

How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.

All I have to do is say yes to the hard stuff, and boy was Saturday hard, but when it is over, I simply need to bask in God’s glory and he restores me. It is really the whole gospel in a nutshell: trust in the Lord, say yes to the crazy daring things he puts on your heart, and trust when it is all over that when you abide in the Creator, he will restore you. In the end, your character will be one with God’s and that restoration will be resurrection.

Well, the ride continued through the forest and it was simply wonderful. For those of you that are not cyclists, there is great peace in climbing moderate hills for long periods of time. What I love about them is that you are going slow enough to be able to take in the surrounding landscape. This is in contrast to racing down hills at 35~45 mph where you are simply holding on for dear life! The gentle climbing in the forest was pure peace!

Once I came out of the forest, I was a touch low on water. I saw two gentlemen talking in their large garage and leveraged a technique I learned from the Indiana Randonneurs: ask locals for water. They were kind enough to offer me a bottle of nice cold water! I asked them if there were any more hills before I got to West Portsmouth. The younger one said there weren’t. He said that I should just keep going until I hit 74 and turn right. I shared with him that I thought there was one more big hill, so he took a look at my cue sheet. I think his eyes almost popped out when he saw the route Toshi picked for us. He said, “Yeah, with that route there is a hill. You will have to walk that one!” It didn’t surprise me a bit, though I hoped he was wrong… but he was not wrong, I walked the end of it.

On the way in to West Portsmouth the killer steep part is longer then the return climb leaving. It was one of those hills that was long enough and steep enough for me to have to stop walking the bike multiple times to catch my breath. Here is the crazy thing, my heart rate was only in the mid 160s when I felt like I had to stop. Why is it I can cycle into the low 170s but I cannot walk? If you have any insight on that, I would love to hear it!

The whole ride through the forest was the highlight for me, both before and after the control in West Portsmouth. On the way back home was when the true wonder of it hit me: the long, long slow and easy climb to the top of one of the hills, taking in all the sights and sounds. You are moving slow enough to be really quiet, so you can take in the surrounding environment (well there is that annoying huffing and puffing, but that is a minor detail.) Once you reach the top of the hill it is a long, long ride down. When you have slow climbs like that, the descents are also not too steep, so they last longer and are not at all scary. I give a big thanks to Toshi for finding some really wonderful routes through the forest! It was simply very peaceful and fun!

Once out of the forest we were finally on 74 for a long time, 16 miles. The road was nice. I remember driving it a few years ago and it felt a lot worse in the car then it did on the bike, but I am learning that is normally the case: What looks really up and down, back and forth, and in the end painful when in a car is actually a pleasant ride on a bike. On the flip side, some of the steepest hills don’t feel that steep when driving up them! My only issue about 74 – and it is a minor one – is that it is a relatively busy road.

Hugh at McDonalds in Peebles
Hugh as we packing up at the McDonalds in Peebles,

Hugh and I finally found ourselves at the Peebles control around dinnertime so we had some chicken wraps from McDonalds. Peebles was where the ride started last year that gave me the deep appreciation for this area. It was nice being back in the area, or so I thought…

Normally I like to do my homework on the route beforehand to know what to expect. I failed to do that this time. I was expecting a somewhat easygoing ride from Peebles back in to Loveland. While we didn’t see any hills as long as we did in the forest, we did see some steep ones! It felt like there were 20 hills of a grade 10 or greater. I toll Hugh that at the next grade 10 hill and I was DNF! Ok, so it wasn’t 20 hills, more like two or three, but at 140 miles into a ride with nearly 8000 feet of climbing, one hill like that feels like 10! While I did NOT mean it, I did check every evil hill after that, not a one exceeded a grade 8.5. I wonder if God heard me 😉

I must admit by this point I had turned really, really sour. Hugh summed it up perfectly when he reflected that all randonneur have their moments when they fold in on themselves. There is nothing like having someone there who can empathize with you. (Side note: that is a BIG reason why The Creator limited himself and became man in the form of Christ. So that he can empathize first hand with us.)

At about my lowest point I told Hugh that if I could see him, I would chase him. He was gracious enough to stay close enough through the rest of the hills that I had my rabbit. Mind you, I was so very folded in upon myself most of the time I had no desire to chase, but it was his mere presence that made all the difference. Knowing that I wasn’t alone out there.

The art of simply being present is mind blowing. I think that’s because it makes zero sense. We think we need to do something, but more often than not we don’t, we simply need to choose to be present. I remember one time I was helping a friend learn how to use a web application. I didn’t know it much better then he did and I really wanted him to just explore and play with it for himself. What I found was that simply being present gave him this confidence to go and explore. I sat there quietly and just enjoyed the thoughts going through my head and was simply present so that he could ask questions or seek affirmation. He really did all the work; all I did was be present. It seems it was like being a lifeguard, building confidence for my friend. Knowing I was present seemed to empower him to go and do things he wouldn’t do on his own.

I don’t fully get how Hugh’s presence pulled me:I simply know it was because of his presence that somehow, despite being totally folded in on myself, I was able to push though.

Here is the worst part, it was NOT a physical issue. I knew it wasn’t. We left the last control shortly after dark, about 9:15 and I pretty much took the lead and rode all-out the last 25 miles. I simply wanted the ride to be over with!

Now, two days later, I am reflecting on the amazing forest and wonderful hills, and am blocking out the hard parts. I think that is a God thing, too, personally. Otherwise I don’t think anyone would continue to do the impossible if God didn’t win us over with his love!

I did learn a few things on this ride:

  1. I truly, truly love that part of Ohio. I hope to, in time, cycle farther east in Ohio then West Portsmouth, maybe some micro adventures!
  2. While nothing is going to stop me from the P-12 Award, I am not going for the R-12. It isn’t what God has planned for me.
  3. And finally, I will be back to ride this route again this fall when the leaves are changing. Well, it might not be this exact route, I would like it to be as much about photography as cycling. So I might try to hook up with some folks who are also both avid touring cyclists and photographers and have a three day weekend of it or something. Time will tell!

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!