RTL Qualifier with CRASH - Philadelphia

Kyle DeMilner - Ride The Lobster Qualifying Ride Report - Day 1 - March 15, 2008

Start Time: 9:00 AM
I arrived at Valley Forge National Historic Park a little before 9:00am, did some stretching and double checked the map for the connecting path to the Schuylkill River Trail. Before I headed for the connecting trail, I had to find the nearest bathroom. Valley Forge is full of nice rolling hills so it was a good warm up to the bathroom and back. After the little warm up ride, I checked my gps to add a waypoint and found it to be completely useless, despite the new set of batteries. If I did manage to turn it on, it wouldn’t stay on long enough to enter a point. Most of the time it just showed flashing vertical lines. I was a little frustrated by it, but I couldn’t fight with electronics all day, I had to get riding.

I headed down the hill and crossed the street to the connecting path. This was a very narrow walking bridge over the Schuylkill River along the very busy route 422. I come out to the trail head of the Schuylkill River Trail to some smiles and stares from fellow morning trail runners. The path was nice and wide, smooth pavement through a nice cool wooded area. The trail was fairly busy which kept me motivated to keep moving. Some cyclists would ride next to me and make a comment or ask a few questions. I was encouraged by the feel of the pavement and found it very pleasant to ride on. I was thus surprised to find the trail changed to rough packed gravel once I hit Oaks. At first I thought I had taken a wrong turn but kept on moving forward and soon saw adequate signage for the Perkiomen Trail. The gravel was certainly tougher to ride on, but it was still fun. I took fairly frequent breaks to swig some Gatorade and munch on a cliff bar.

After a good 3 hours of riding I hit Spring Mountain. The ascent wasn’t quite that bad, but my legs were already starting to fatigue a little. I filled the quiet woods with squeals from my brake as I managed a nice controlled decent down the 12% grade. I continued my progress, battling some head winds, some soreness in the saddle, and some muscle fatigue, but I made it to the Crusher Road trail head in Perkiomenville at around 1:00pm. Thanks to the trail map I had and the frequent signage along the trail, I figured I had ridden about 30 km. My new iphone proved very valuable as I was able to enter some estimate numbers into the ride calculator to see if I had ridden far enough.

I took a little lunch break, called my brother Max for some encouragement and headed back. This time, Spring Mountain proved a lot tougher. I didn’t start my braking soon enough on the descent and had gained too much speed to start braking controllably. The trail was paved for the descent and I decided to ride it out, pedaling very fast to keep up with the momentum of the wheel. I had just reached the bottom where the trail levels out into a covered foot bridge where I started to relax a little too quickly and went flying over the front of my unicycle. My left hand and my right shoulder took the brunt of the impact, my shoulder taking on the duties of slowing me to a stop as I skidded along the grooved concrete. After inspecting my wounds and getting over the anger at my own stupidity, I pressed on, with a noticeable pain in my left knee.

After the crash, the ride home was a lot tougher and certainly more painful. I wasn’t sure I could make it out riding again for day 2, but I knew my wife, the veterinary nurse, would take good care of me if I just acted like a wounded animal. When I got back across the river to the Valley Forge Park, I questioned my decision to park where I did since there were nothing but hills between the connecting trail and the parking lot. I made it to my car, bruised, bloody, but proud and accomplished for finishing my 1st half of my qualifying ride. The wife started up a hot bath for my arrival and I headed home at about 5:25pm

Total distance: 71.178 km
Ascended: 588m
Descended: 588m
Gravel: 49 km
Wind: 13 km
Final score: 181
Carryover: 32.75

Kyle DeMilner - Ride The Lobster Qualifying Ride Report - Day 2 - March 16, 2008

Start Time: 9:20 AM
Just getting out of bed for the second day of my qualifier was tough. My legs were very sore from the crash and riding the previous day, but I knew I had to get out there and ride no matter what. This qualifier is basically to prove that you can suffer long distance on a unicycle. Since I have the least amount of long distance experience on my team, I definitely felt that I had to prove myself and get out there.

I parked in a different lot at Valley Forge to I could avoid climbing any hills at the very end of my ride. It was raining pretty steadily, but I was heading east on the Schuylkill River Trail, towards Philadelphia, which I knew would be mostly flat and paved. The rain was more obnoxious and miserable than I expected. After riding in it for just an hour, I called my brother from the refuge of an overpass and expressed my distaste for the rain. He had no sympathies for me after riding for a month through New England during one the rainiest monsoon seasons on record. I don’t know how he did it, but after just an hour riding in the wet stuff, my respect for that kid multiplied by a thousand. (www.unicyclemax.com)

I couldn’t take my breaks as frequently while it was raining since dismounting would usually leave my seat open to getting soaked by the rain and that would make the seat discomfort worse. So I tried to take my breaks whenever the trail went under a major highway or regional railway. The trail towards the city was very straight and flat as expected, but because of the rain there were very few people out running or biking and it made the ride feel very lonely. Again, I sympathized with my brother for his 720 mile solo venture through 6 states.

Once I hit the city, the rain tapered off a little bit, but it was still too cold to take of my rain jacket. The trail through Manayunk was unpaved and took me through a graffiti-covered ghetto along the river. I took some cool pictures through this section but tried not to stop for too long. After the waterfront section, the trail hits downtown Manayunk and moves to the sidewalk along Main Street. This was a little awkward competing with runners and watching for cars pulling in and out of various parking lots. Eventually the trail pointed me in the direction of Kelly Drive which was a nice ride. I could have taken it all the way to the Art Museum which would have made for a great photo-op, but my knees were killing me among other parts. I decided to turn around and head home.

The ride back westward traded the rain earlier for some fierce headwinds.
It was actually harder to ride in than the rain, but at least I could stop a lot more frequently and give my knees a rest. I stopped almost every 2km for just a minute or so. When I finally made it closer to the Valley Forge Park, I stopped and looked at the map to estimate my mileage. I knew it wouldn’t really be enough, so I rode past the Valley Forge trail head to do the Audubon Loop in Oaks on the Perkiomen Trail. I had ridden past the signs for it the previous day and knew it would be fairly low impact.

Finally, after riding over 60km, I was back in Valley Forge heading to my car when I noticed a rattle in my water bottle cage. I stopped to check it out thinking the screws just needed to be tightened, but to my surprise, the mounts broke off and the whole thing came off in my hand. I’m sure my crash from the day before had weakened the welds, but I was still surprised to see them break off completely. I threw the cage in my pack and headed to the car. I got back around 4:30pm, hit the bathroom, called the wife to have her start a hot bath again, and headed home, looking forward to some recovery time and healing.

This was definitely the hardest, most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done, but I felt great for accomplishing it. I’m looking forward to riding the lobster even more than ever.

Total distance: 64.9 km
Ascended: 155m
Descended: 155m
Gravel: 6.5 km
Light Rain: 4 km
Heavy Rain: 10 km
Wind: 20 km
Final score: 154

Calculating tools used:
Google Earth

And since I know all love seeing carnage, he’s my shoulder a few days after the crash on day 1.

For the full set of photos from my qualifier, check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyleska/sets/72157604234058268/


Well done.

Hope your wounds heal quickly.

Long ride, long story short: you’re ready to RTL

Wounds heal, glory lasts. “If you’re going to be a bear,be a grizzly.”
See you in NS in June.
William Dockrill
media coordinator RTL