Sunday, May 30, 2010

Return to Lake Placid

Yesterday was a low point in my cycling for this year.  I decided to ride the hilly loop in Gatineau Park in preparation for my upcoming trip to the Pyrenees.  It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and I decided to skip the 14 km ride each way to the park in favour of driving there for the first time and just doing climbing.  After I unloaded the bike, I headed uphill and felt pretty good until, at 14.3 kms and 350 m of climbing, there was a loud bang and my rear tire simply blew off the rim.  I use Hutchinson tubeless tires which, when flat, can be fixed temporarily by installing a tube, or can even be gingerly ridden on.  In this case, the bead that holds the tire flush with the rim seemed to have failed completely and the tire, with or without a tube, would not seat properly.  I used up two CO2 cartridges, and that of a passing cyclist, to no avail.

It has been an odd Spring in Ottawa and I have been able to ride without the clouds of pestilential blackflies buzzing around.  As I stood sweating in the sun, I discovered another plague: horseflies, and swarms of them.  Unable to get the tire back in working condition, and bitten repeatedly, I decided it was time to take off my shoes and start pushing the bike back to the parking lot.  Several cyclists offered to help but there was nothing to be done.  I thought I would try to get a lift from someone driving an SUV or pickup truck, but my hitchhiking attempts were for nought.  I saw a small car approach and it stopped beside me and the driver offered me a lift.  She was driving a hatchback, so we loaded in the bike easily and I was soon back to my car.  It would have been a very, very long walk and I was most grateful to my Good Samaritan.  After getting home and replacing the tire, I spend the rest of the evening putting AfterBite onto the dozen huge bites on my arms, knees and even my right hip, where the fly bit right through my cycling shorts.

So it is much nicer to think of pleasant rides, such as the one I did two weeks ago today.  This was a Return to Lake Placid to ride the Ironman Course.  After the success of last year’s expedition, I once again offered the ride up on our United Way auction at the office and had another eager taker.  Eric and I had a few beers in the weeks before the ride and I found him to be good company.  A beginning triathlete, he was keen to ride the course and we were hoping the weather would be as good as promised.

It was indeed.  After a 7:00 am start, we reached Cornwall pretty quickly (although not too quickly–police cars were after speeders all over the place, both in Canada and the USA) and fortified ourselves at that fine Canadian institution, Tim Hortons, with doughnuts, before crossing what must be the worst-paved bridge in North America.  A second, better bridge took us into the United States, where the border guard asked us a surprising number of questions.  He was doubtful when we said we were going cycling in Lake Placid since he only saw Eric’s bike on the hitch rack, and I opened the trunk so he could see my bike there.  He wanted to know how we knew each other, where we worked, when we were last in the United States, and if we had been convicted of any criminal offences.  It must have been a slow morning for him but after satisfying his questions, we drove off into the Akwasasne Mohawk Reservation, where the casino guarantees “Winners Every Day!”  Passing this opportunity by, we drove on towards Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.  It was a sleepy Sunday morning and we made good progess.

After parking in the big municipal lot we used last year, we got changed and rolled out.  I discovered immediately that somehow I had mis-downloaded my file for the GPS, so the directions ended after only a few kilometers.  However, the course is a very easy one to navigate around and since I recalled all the landmarks from last June, it was pretty easy to do the loop.

Leaving Lake Placid proper, we rode out on Route 73, which was not nearly as bad for traffic as last year, although I am always nervous about the number of pickup trucks, particularly those towing trailers.  We stopped to take some photos of the Olympic skijump before continuing onward, climbing gently and then getting a screaming descent down into Keene.  We stopped to celebrate the first leg of the ride at the Cedar Creek Run Bakery & Café, where we enjoyed some appallingly sweet pastry and coffee–perfect.  Then we turned onto Route 9N, heading towards Upper Jay.

We saw a few other cyclists out, and passed a couple of older gentlemen as we cruised along in the wonderful sunshine.  Of course, we did not neglect sightseeing, and photographed a buttercup yellow house as well as an impressive stone house built in 1829.  Eric is capable of taking pictures from a moving bike, something I don’t have the confidence to do, but we also felt unhurried enough to stop where we liked.  One of the other cyclists passed us, and then we came upon his friend in a parking lot and chatted for a bit after he was kind enough to take our photo.  We offered to tow him up to his friend but that didn’t work very well as he lost our draft as soon as we came to the first small hill.  By then his friend was coming back, so we did not feel too bad about this.

Turning left just before Jay, we began to climb gently again and caught up to two more cyclists.  One was wearing a Bike Colorado jersey and I talked to him about that ride, which he was training for to do this year’s ride.  He told us that the Lake Placid Ironman course was probably going to be changed slightly due to bridge reconstruction so after stopping to take some photos of some fishermen on the river, we turned right and followed the detour signs, hoping to match the Ironman course as closely as possible.  On this deserted country road we rode side-by-side for a while and, of course, this had to be the only moment some idiot in a speeding Pontiac decided to drive along, leaning on his horn as he caught up to us.  I cannot imagine why anyone on an essentially traffic-free and quite wide road would feel the need to do this but I suppose he thought he was teaching us a lesson of some kind.

Our detour required us to drop down to the river and we joined the original Ironman course, following it for what was probably the right distance into the woods.  On the return,we took a short break next to an old one-room schoolhouse that had been in use from 1863 to 1949.  It had an enormous stove inside and was in great condition, but the farm surrounding it looked abandoned, although all the grass was cut.

Retracing our steps, and after the steady climb up from the river, we found ourselves again in Wilmington and followed Route 86 back to Lake Placid.  There was more climbing than I remembered, although the rushing Ausable River next to us cheered us on, and the fly fishermen waved their greetings.  At one stop, we chatted with an ornithologist from the local college who was a falconer and was trying to look at perergine falcons on the cliffs below Whiteface Mountain.

We were both slowing down noticeably but the promise of the finish in Lake Placid and the opportunity to drink beer spurred us on.  We arrived in fine fettle, and after getting changed, repaired to the Lake Placid Brewing Company for beer and dinner, sitting on the roof deck.

The drive back to Cornwall went quickly, although clearing the border to get back into Canada took a while as the traffic was backed up for half an hour.  We got back to Ottawa by 8 pm after a very fine day out.  If you have the chance to ride this course, take it.  And as to the triathletes, who do the course twice (after swimming 2.5 miles and then having enough energy to run a marathon after the bike ride), all I can say is “Chapeau!”



1 comment:

Lily on the Road said...

Sounds like a perfect day despite the customs fellow.

I love Lake Placid, albeit I'm not ready for the hills yet....maybe after RLCT.