February 29th (the day before day 1): Weather forecast predicts 5-10 inches of snow with highs in the upper 20’s Fahrenheit. Decide to postpone qualifying ride until the following weekend, March 8-9.
Day 1 - March 1st: Wake up expecting to spend a good portion of the morning shoveling snow. As I head out the door at around 9am, I realize that horror-of-horrors, the weatherman was wrong!!! The overnight snow accumulation is less than 2 inches, and the temperature is near 38. Heck ya… I’m doing my ride this weekend!
My riding plan was to coker along some beautiful bike paths that follow both the Hudson river and Mohawk river. With snow encroaching on the roads, I wasn’t keen on doing much street riding. The first 5 miles were fantastic. I rode the Corning trail up to Watervliet and took a short break to watch ice flow down the Hudson. During the first portion of my ride, I met some bicyclists who were out enjoying a sunny winter day. The woman approached me and said, “Can I ask you a question… is there something going on?” I wasn’t sure how to answer that, but she noticed my puzzled look and continued. “My husband and I haven’t see a single unicycle in years, and today we see three.” At first I think the woman has obviously been drinking because even though I’m a pretty big guy, there’s no way I could be mistaken for 3 unicyclists. Then it dawns on me. Steve and Roland are out doing their Day 1 qualify as well. I explain to the couple that we are attempting to qualify for RTL. Satisfied with the answer, they both wish me luck and we head our separate ways.
The next portion of my ride was on the roads through Watervliet as I head up to Cohoes for the Mohawk Trail. I notice the wind start to pick up, but the sun is still out and I’m really enjoying the ride.
As I reach the Mohawk Trail, I realize things are going to get tough. The trail has not been plowed. For the next 5 miles I’m out of the saddle crunching through the snow going up hill. I’m hoping beyond hope that the trail will be cleared once I reach the next town (Colonie).
No such luck. I reach the “Welcome to Colonie” sign, see more snow on the trail and mutter a string of expletives at how my luck seems to be changing. Why didn’t I just wait one more week?
At the first opportunity, I jump off the trail and blindly ride through some neighborhoods as I try to orient myself. Because I was planning to ride the bike path the entire day, I didn’t bring a map with me. I’m not going to ride back the same way I came in. It was just too brutal. So, I decide to climb up out of the river valley toward the sound of traffic. Why don’t these streets tell me they are a dead-end before I get to the end?
I finally get dumped out onto a road with some light traffic and I see another road about a 1/4 mile away with even more traffic. Two kids come walking by and I ask what road is that up ahead. “That’s the highway,” answers Beavis. “I realize that. Do you know which highway,” I ask. “Route 9,” says Butthead. “Is it 9, or 9R,” I ask? “Don’t know,” says the duo. Ok… I flip a coin and head away from what I latter realize was 9R. Maybe not the smartest move, but a few miles later, I realize where I am. Unfortunately, this knowledge comes with a price from the gods. The sun quickly disappears and the next thing I know, I’m riding through a snow squall on an unprotected road. Que the cold front.
The next bit of my ride was a struggle to not get blown off the uni and find my way back to the Corning trail from which I started my ride. After numerous wrong turns, I come upon Watervliet-Shaker road. Good sign. Watervliet-Shaker ought to take me to Watervliet. It’s worth the gamble. A couple of miles down this road, I’m back in familiar territory. The rest of the ride was smooth albeit cold. When I finally got back home, I was feeling pretty good about finishing day 1.
Day 2 - March 2nd: Steve calls and asks if I’d like to join him and Roland for our Day 2 ride. I graciously accept, happy to have some company. For day 2, we decide to ride the Corning trail back and forth until we meet our mileage quota. Day 2 starts off cold and blustery, but the smooth trail and riding partners makes for an enjoyable day. Everything goes great until about 20 miles in when my right knee starts hurting. I let Steve and Roland go and take a short break. I’m starting to get cold and change into some dry clothes. The warmth of fresh, dry layers is enough to energize me for the final push. With my right knee still hurting I use my left leg to power the uni and the right one is just along for the ride (thanks for the advice Steve). I still have about 6 or 7 miles to go when I see Steve and Roland coming back for their final leg. They shout out some encouragement… I grit my teeth and crank. Wen I finally finish, I sink down into my car seat and let the relief wash over me. I’m qualified!
Mileage: 37.5 miles, 60.4 kilometers
Elevation: 2,821 feet, 860 meters
Objective Rating: 132
Subjective Rating Adjustments: 8km MUni (deep snow riding), 30km Strong Winds, 30km Extreme Cold.
Subjective Rating: 204
Mileage: 34.6 miles, 56 kilometers
Elevation: 3,690 feet, 1,125 meters
Objective Rating: 195
Subjective Rating Adjustments: 20km Extreme Cold.
Subjective Rating: 222
Photos from the ride can be seen here: http://gallery.mac.com/perrywoodin#100155