Septembers Ride to Russells Point

Yesterday I rode my Mason-Indian Lake Randonneur route, more commonly known on this blog as my monthly double century. I am thinking of renaming the route…

When I shared with my coach months ago that I would stop at Burger King for lunch before returning, he advised me to find a Subway (or similar) place. I found one on Google only two doors down, but… In July I went to the next building over, saw a little drop that was no fun to deal with in cycling shoes and then a building that had no sign on it and didn’t really look like much of anything. Mind you it faced north, I was looking at the west side of it. It was too much trouble to explore any further, I had already cycled 107 miles and I wanted food! Yeah, I was lazy! It wasn’t until after the August ride someone that knew the area reconfirmed what Google said: That building really WAS a Subway. Sure enough, it was! I would have never guessed and the way the streets are laid out I would have never gone exploring for it if someone had not told me it was there.

$100 hamburger is aviation slang for the excuse a private pilot might use to go for a flight. The concept involves flying a short distance (less than two hours), eating at the restaurant in the airport, then flying home. Back in the day the $100 referred to the cost of renting a light general aircraft like a Cessna 172.

Entering Amish Country

While the control point in Russells Point is any store, this Subway is so close but so unobvious, I am thinking of changing the route to make that the primary control point and with that giving the route a new name. My first thought is the Double Century Subway. I am open to suggestions!

About the ride itself, it was one of pure and total faith. The official start time has always been 5:30 (when riding solo), so the alarm was set for 4am. Come midnight and Mother Nature comes knocking. I’m back in bed, but for the world I cannot sleep. I do believe I saw the 1am hour hit before I finally fell asleep. Thank goodness for oversleeping, because I did get about 3 hours and 45 minutes of sleep.

It was from the night before, lying in bed, wishing to be asleep that the faith kicked in. Unlike the past there was no doubt that I would ride Saturday, regardless of the amount of sleep I had, it would be done! Yeah, I overslept the alarm, but there was no free will in that, I remember turning off the alarm at 4am, then getting up at 4:45 realizing I was a bit behind schedule. The downside was the oatmeal with Whey protein power wasn’t in the cards. Well, I got dressed and hit the road after eating two quick breakfast bars. I left the start at 5:37. And those 7 extra minutes will play a factor…

If you are asking: But Sam, it’s only you riding, why not just delay the start a bit? That is a GREAT question. The way Randonneur Permanent works is you declare when you are going to start the ride. You have an hour from that time to begin the ride. In my case I declared 5:30, I have until 6:30 to get underway. But here is the catch: The clock starts ticking, regardless, at 5:30! (Yeah, I’m the route owner and I could print a new Brevet card that started at say 6 or 6:30, but that really isn’t in the spirit of this sport, so I try not to do that.)

There is a second reason I won’t change the time. It makes it harder. I live in a world of great luxury. I write this blog sitting on a big soft chair with my legs up in a nice house with the AC going, football on the TV. I think of the struggles the vast majority of men, women, and children have faced since our beginning and I have an amazingly soft life!

Let us compare that to Jesus’ story. Short version: God becomes man to save all of humanity. You would think that this god would be born to a great family with all the means to lead folks, but no. God choose to be born to a peasant family and live 30 years among the poorest of the poor. Why? Because he came to sacrifice for us… There is something about suffering that is good for the soul. We have two choices: we can either choose how we will suffer, or God will choose it for us, but we ARE going to suffer <grin>

I have chosen the suffering of always having an official start time on this ride of 5:30am. My delayed departure of 7 minutes will result in a touch of unintended suffering <grin>

I did pay for the lack of sleep, the first two hours I felt like a complete slug! An hour into the ride it is still dark and I am clueless to the stats. Then my phone gives me the verbal hourly report when I am climbing the first big hill. Normally I am already over the top and on the Little Miami Scenic Trail within an hour. I learned that I am moving at just over 14 mph, so I was right… I simply was not able to get my legs spinning! Once on the trail I try to turn on the steam and it starts to kick in, finally!

That first hour and a half was just torture, but it was purely mental, physically I was fine. I just knew I was riding very, very slow and I had hoped to have a Personal Record (PR) ride. The goal was to get in before 10pm, normally in my solo rides it was 11pm or later. What was so rewarding was that my faith never wavered. At no point did I ever give serious consideration to quitting. As I talked about in my February ride I had so much doubt that I would have bailed had the first control not been 60 miles into the ride. Not this time, I knew I would ride it to completion.

Upon analyzing my ride results, it turns out that I had some serious speed going into that first control. Out of the first control is the first real hill of the ride and I had a PR climbing that!

An odd couple

Ah, but the Devil never rests! Now I am in the Ohio Plain of cornfield, mostly riding north. I notice that it felt windy, aka strong headwind, but when I look at all the grass and trees around me to get validation, I don’t seem to see indication of a strong headwind. So I assume it is just me being sluggish again. About 2 miles from lunch there is this one little windmill that spins like a crazy man when it is windy. It wasn’t going as bonkers as I had seen it, but it was most definitely on the move! Now I don’t know if you believe in the Devil or not, I do. I think these are the tricks he plays with us. We see and feel the truth right there, but somehow he whispers doubt into us, getting us to think lies. Needless to say, there was quite a headwind going up, which meant a GREAT tailwind coming home.


For the longest time I have claimed to dislike Subway. While eating lunch I realized why I made that claim, it was all Dad’s fault, he spoiled me too much! I remember many a day trip with Dad where he would make the most amazing cold cut sandwiches, far better than you can get anywhere else in the world! Out on a wonderful day trip we would stop for lunch and have this wonderful meal! Come many years later, folks expect me to go into Subway, or any sub place and drop $5~$8 on a sub that is a million times lower quality than the amazing sandwich I could have if I made it like Dad? I think not!!!! As I sat there eating my very yummy Subway sub I realized that I was not about to carry a cooler on my bike and with that I realized, Subway isn’t all that bad 🙂

My way home was GREAT, maybe the best ride home yet from Russells Point. It was great weather and most importantly I had a wonderful tail wind. I don’t watch my speed, I simply knew I was flying! As I neared Xenia, my normal dinner stop, I decided to mix it up a bit and not do a formal dinner. It was a time issue, I wanted to finish by 10pm and that was within sight!

As I got close to Xenia I remembered that UDF (a local chain of gas station/convenient store in the area) had these little sandwich wraps. They were yummy and quick to consume, so I stopped there and was able to keep the stop down to about 20 minutes, which I have learned is about the minimum stop time at a control.

Then I headed the final leg home. It is always a fast leg because half of it is on the trail that is all a bit of a downhill. I blow through there, climb the hill fast enough to get my second best time on Strava (the hill I was way too slow on in the morning). Then I hustled through Lebanon. Once I was back in Mason, I had a very good idea of the time it would take me to finish. It was 9:48, but the end was about 20~25 minutes away!

I knew there was absolutely no way I could pull off a finish by 10pm, I simply am not that fast! I gave up, but what was funny is that my legs didn’t! Despite them being a bit tired, I noticed they were kicking into gear again. I rolled into the finish at 10:05:)

Remember how I departed 7 minutes late? If I had left on time, I would have been back by with two minutes to spare! Actually, there are a LOT of if’s that could have shaved off the 7 minutes, a whole lot of ifs! All things considered, such as early on when I was moving like a slug I figured I might end up with another 1am finish, this was a GREAT ride. I didn’t meet the crazy-hard goal I set for myself, but I did get a Personal Record for the ride of 16:35!

Here is the best part of the whole ride: I am at the finish, get off my bike and look up… What do I see? The most beautiful woman in the world, my wife Irma! Turns out that she had been keeping an eye on my via the iPhone Find My Friends, when walking the dogs heard some cars doing crazy, teenage like things, and thought she would come meet me at the end. That was simply too cool! A perfect ending to a simply delightful day!

For those of you that like numbers: My coach and I use Training Peaks to track and monitor my progress. Back in the spring when I was riding these my fitness score was around 38.5, today it is around 92, a 2.4x increase in fitness, man do I feel the difference too!


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!