My fundraising for the Keystone Country MS-150 in July bagged me an unexpected bonus: Entry in the Cook Forest River Ride.
Disaster struck as I went to get dressed. I grabbed the only clean bib shorts I had and discovered they were the ones with knee covers. It was chilly but not enough for those.I thought about wearing a dirty pair but that would be gross. Better to be too warm. I had gone out to the car to check to make sure those were the only clean ones remaining on this trip. They were. My fashion choice also slowed me down on leaving the hotel.
Last night I checked the time and distance to the start and determined it was a 30 minute ride from the hotel. This morning it was a 42 minute ride. Not sure what happened but I came into Cook Forest running a little late.
I went to registration, passing my cousin, Kay Walborn, briefly saying hello. Got my swag (t-shirt) and took it back to the car. Riders were queued up. I went to the back of the group but lost Kay. I just couldn’t find her.
I started dead last then started making my way through a couple hundred riders trying to catch Kay. I stopped for a couple photo ops but generally kept going.
The course follows the Clarions River for 17 miles and some riders would do a 35 mile out-and-back. We turned across the river then started climbing. I saw a rider up the road and didn’t think I was gaining on him but eventually passed him. On the top I was by myself.
At Mile 30 I pulled into a rest station. And Kay was getting ready to roll out. She waited for me to grab some water and 1/2 banana. She was shocked I was behind her. She thought the entire time I had taken off ahead of her and she was trying to catch me.
We had been hammering the route trying to catch the other. We were probably never more than 3-4 minutes apart on the road at any time. We rode well together. I had a big advantage in going down hills (weight) while Kay had an advantage going up the steepest hills. One topped out at 22% according to my Garmin. I could not hold her wheel on that climb.
We passed a rider struggling and I told him he had just been passed by a 69 year old woman. She was kicking his butt. Mine too.
Back at Cook Forest they has served up a nice luncheon for us. We ate and then headed back home. Not sure I would do this ride again but it was quite nice. And great weather today. Kay said that was a first.
This was a two-day event held July 23-24. The route was from Hollidaysburg to Penn State University as the official meeting site was the Penn Stater Hotel.
We rolled out at 7:00 a.m. in waves. I was in the third wave. The first mile or two was sorting out faster from slower riders and getting in with the right pace. For a while I was sitting in with a guy on a recumbent and his friend, who was riding with his bib straps undone. I was going to say something but figured if his friend never told him then maybe he rides that way. Later I saw him at an aid station and they were pulled up.
Once on Reservoir Road I was pedaling a comfortable pace when a group of about eight riders came by. I jumped in with them. The pace was a little higher than I wanted but I was committed and didn’t want to drop out. But two riders did. Then a couple more. Then two more. And just like that, I was out in front by myself.
We rode through Roaring Spring to our first aid station at Ritchey’s Dairy. I wasn’t there long and head out through Martinsburg. When the one traffic light turned green four riders went in front of me and I was right behind them. We were riding the same pace and I was sitting in. I was willing to do some work but two guys were pulling and the other two were sitting in and I was behind them. I enjoyed a free ride to Williamsburg to the second aid station.
Ugh. I wasn’t feeling well and spent more time at the aid station than I wanted. Once one the road I rode solo and picked my way through the riders. We rode up through Spruce Creek to Camp Kanesatake, a Christian camp in Spruce Creek. Lunch was served and was delicious.
As I got ready to roll out I noticed the group of four that gave me a free ride was rolling out too. I made a conscious decision not to sit in with their group and I really didn’t feel like riding at any pace other than my own. I let them go up ahead.
The next 14 miles were surreal. I saw no one up the road and, occasionally, looked back to see if anyone was gaining. I was all alone. There was an occasional turn marking to let me know I was on the right road and/or someone at an intersection.
I did catch a glance at someone about a quarter mile up the road. For a while I wasn’t gaining, and the road, with curves and forest, made it difficult to see anyone. Eventually, about 13 miles in, I saw I was gaining and recognized the rider as the one woman in the group I was with earlier.
I thought when I caught her that I would offer to ride with her to Penn State. She was struggling. When I did catch her I chided her group about dropping her. Before I could tell her my plan, we came upon a rest stop. Never got her name but she splits time between Bedford and Boulder so we talked Ride the Rockies.
A group from the Blair Bicycle Club rolled out together and we both jumped in for the ride to Penn State. I talked with some of the riders and we kept a reasonable pace for the final 13 miles.
At the Penn Stater I showered then took a shuttle to downtown State College and grabbed something to eat. When I was done I made a a phone call back to the hotel and I was picked up within 12-15 minutes.
A delicious breakfast was served. I was in line to leave by 6:45 a.m. and was in the second group to roll out. Like yesterday, the first couple of miles was just sorting out different riders’ speeds.
I talked to Tina Kunstbeck who was wearing an awesome Kick Cancer kit. And then I was riding in Tina’s group. For 45 miles.
At the first aid station we rolled into together but I was not about to presume that I would ride with them. They rolled out then 30 seconds I left. I didn’t think I would catch the group of four but I did. Although we hadn’t been riding a pace line before we began in earnest.
One of the guys asked me how old I was. I told him 61 and he said “I sure hope when I’m old I can ride as well as you.” That made me giggle. I think it was a compliment.
We arrived at the third rest stop which was also a lunch stop. I went inside and got lunch and discovered my group had rolled on. Oh well. No malice intended and they may have even tried to find me before leaving. But it was all good.
I like to take pictures. I missed three good photo ops today while riding in the group because I was not free to hit the brakes and take a photo. Now I could.
I rode ahead to aid station four in Bellwood. I was alone. I did not catch anyone and two riders briefly caught me but I passed them back.
After the Bellwood stop, a group of five caught me and I joined in. We rode to the finish. The only obstacle of having a real good time today was the four to five miles in Altoona. City traffic.
I arrived back and was able to shower at the school (Hollidaysburg High School). We had lunch at noon which made that 10:00 lunch stop unnecessary which is, I’m sure, why my group kept rolling after a quick water break.
It was a good ride. I rode carrying a name on my back – I RIDE FOR _______* – and only two people asked me about my name. My take is this is mostly a local ride well supported by riders, but many without an MS connection. In that way it was much different than my cancer riders. I had hoped for more of a discussion but oh well. It is a great cause and I’m glad I rode.
* There was a name on my back. But I am not displaying it on the Internet. If you really need to know, come ride with me.