Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alone in a Crowd: Montour/GAP/C & O Tour, June 2009 - Part 2

At 9:00 AM the trip to DC began. Riders gathered at the starting point. In this photo, second from the right is Spinnaker, the ride organizer. 

We headed down a steep hill about a mile to the trailhead, and we were chugging along the Montour Trail. I wasn't maintaining as fast a pace as last August, and I chided myself for not spending more time preparing. In particular I needed to do some riding with a full touring load. Well, I'll have to ride myself into shape, I thought. 

We paused for photos at Imperial and to regroup. Spinnaker's plan was to keep everyone together for the first day to make sure all riders successfully navigated the detours on the trail. The riders with their backs to the camera are Bike Forums posters "Robow" and "Joel2old."

"VT_Speed_TR" and his rig.

The policy of regrouping every few miles continued, with mixed results. I felt too much time was being spent on rest stops. While I frequently need to dismount, I keep the time spent to the minimum. At one point I apparently misinterpreted a cue from another rider and took off before the rest of the group. This did give me the advantage of being able to spend time at McDonald Trestle, one of the most scenic spots on the trail. And I could photograph riders crossing it. In the photo below, ALHanson is in the lead, followed by Joel2Old.

Bike Forums poster JAGraham was running SAG on a limited basis for us, and she provided drinks and snacks about 25 miles out. At 32 miles Bike Forums poster and Montour Trail advocate "DonMccarty" provided hot dogs, soda, and water. In the photo here, Robow takes a red-hot from DonMccarty.

By now I was starting to have physical problems. Standing around for what seemed to be forever was causing my muscles to start stiffening up. I had my first attack of cramps a couple of miles from the 'hot dog stand.' I stretched the legs and moved on.

The detours around the unfinished sections of the Montour are difficult. In August last year DonMccarty transported me around them. This year I had to ride them, and walk portions of them. 

As we reached the on-road portion of the trail along Piney Creek the trail leveled out, and I plugged along in the afternoon heat. From trying to keep up with the group I was neglecting hydration - I didn't want to stop to drink. Even the sole remaining extended stop I had - providing a spare tube to a novice riding with us - I didn't take the opportunity to drink. 

Eventually we reached the trail end and picked up the on-road Steel Valley Trail in Clairton. VT_Speed_TR and Joel2Old contemplate the plant across the road.

My second, and more or less continuous, attack of cramps took place about six miles from Boston, our night stop. First it was the inner thighs. Then after that subsided it was the quads. Then my left hamstring. I drained what was left of my water and swallowed a potassium tablet from another rider, and plugged on. The cramping was completely avoidable - at the risk of delaying the group I should have peeled off to any of the stores in Clairton or Glassport and purchased Gatorade, or indeed any drink. Unfortunately I was suffering from the belief I needed to match other riders, and I turned what could have been a pleasant echo of my August 2008 tour on the same trails into a death march. 

I arrived at the Yough Shore Inn about 20 minutes after the last rider. I drank, showered, drank again, arranged to rent a room instead of camping as planned, drank some more, and joined the group for a nice dinner at a place across the river. I fell asleep about midnight.

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A Taste For The Woods: Alone in a Crowd: Montour/GAP/C & O Tour, June 2009 - Part 2

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Alone in a Crowd: Montour/GAP/C & O Tour, June 2009 - Part 2