Tag Archives: CTC

Crush The Commonwealth 2016

4 May

Ahhh #CrushTheCommonwealth … my love/hate relationship with this event started way back in 2010 ( Part 1 / Part 2 ) . It was the first year I ever owned a road bike and was talked into doing the ride by my two close buds. We were so under-prepared it’s actually scary to think about… we had the worst lights imaginable (think crappy cateye AAA blinkys & free harbor freight bicycles lights), no rain/cold weather gear, and my longest ride to date was a single 50mi flat ride to Valley Forge via the SRT. Flash forward 7 years & 3 more CTC adventures later and I was back in the same boat. Two buds were opting to tackle the Philly to Pittsburgh CTC route and easily convinced me to jump in the mix. This year I actually had a bike and bags that would be quite perfect for a rando event. Unfortunately work had been nuts for the last month or so with 65+hr weeks yielding almost no riding at all prior to Friday morning. at least I had fresh legs.

After grabbing dinner & beers Thursday night I finished packing my bags and tried to go to bed. I woke up at 4am Friday morning very excited to see it dry-ish outside. I got myself together, kitted up, and rolled with Blake down to the Liberty Bell. We got there a bit before 5:00am and took a quick gander around. I think there were about 28 starters this year. We saw Brett and quickly found out that, YES his 3rd bottle cage now matched his brown bike, but there was ZERO ounces of water in any of those 3 bottles. No worries… we’d fill them up along the SRT, hopefully.

At 5:05am we were led out by the tandem for the neutral start. We cruised through the city and to the Kelly side of the SRT hearing sweet brags of touring/bikepacking/rando adventures from years past. The three of us (#teamvegan) stopped and filled Brett’s bottles on the SRT, then hurried up to catch the group. The tandem wished us luck at Falls Bridge and we did a slow cruise through Manayunk making sure everyone got onto the tow-path. Once we got from the towpath to the SRT at Umbria, Brett sat at the front doing his thing. The pace was fast. Faster than my legs wanted, thats for sure. There was probably 8 of us or so at this point: Brett, Blake, Gavin, Tom, Ponytail QCW guy, and his buddy who wasn’t doing CTC but continued to ‘go off the front’ for some reason, Mike a randonneur from Brooklyn, and myself. We made fast work of the SRT portion and jumped off to hit Bike Route S.

The next X amount of miles were a blur. The pace was fast and we were all taking pulls. The plan was to skip the stop in Morgantown (50miles) and make it to Lancaster (75mi) to fuel up. About 40mi in Gavin, Tom, and QCW guy gapped us a bit and we kept doing our thing at a solid pace. We ran back into them in Lancaster as we were heading to our food/drinks/bathroom stop.

As we were leaving the stop we ran into Brooklyn rando, Dave, and another guy. We all ripped together just as it started sprinkling. It wasn’t too bad so I didn’t want to get into my rear bag for rain gear yet. As the miles clicked on the rain kept coming and after a bit I was wet and more importantly my feet/shoes were soaked. Oof! It was 45F out, it was raining, I was sitting in a paceline getting a face full of spray next to a very busy rt462 where I could kinda see out of my glasses. During this time all I could think was ‘Shiiiiii I have another 300mi to ride in wet shoes?!’ We all trudged along not talking much, hugging the shoulder of the road hoping our blinkies were doing their jobs.

At mile 100, we made it to York and after passing through town we got off the busy rt462 and onto rt234 and we were able to relax a bit and get into a groove. Our plan was to make it to Chambersburg (155 mi) next for a pit stop but the rain/wet hands/life had us make an extra stop at a Rutter’s right before Heildersburg at rt15. We grabbed some food, bought some AWESOME gloves, ate some pickles, and Brett even got yelled at by an older man for talking with his mouth full. He also gave us the news that 2 other cyclists were up the road about 30mins on us. We then got back to it and pedaled west.

The next stretch leads you to Michaux State Forest where there was a debate if we could fit some single track into our adventure but we thought it might not be for the best. Instead we followed along bike route S on rt30 and into downtown of Chambersburg. This section of rt30 is almost always really hectic and can be stressful depending on when you get there. We stopped at the Sheetz in town and grabbed food. Brett and Blake ordered up burritos and I opted for liquid calories and junk food. The next push from here to Breezewood is a long one (50miles ~ 4hrs of ride time) and there isn’t much between the two towns other than the abandoned turnpike. In my opinion getting to the abandoned turnpike in the daylight is KEY. For 1) its much more interesting to go through the tunnels when its light outside and 2) picking lines on the shitty pavement is slow going if you’re depending on lights.

Leaving Chambersburg is about as much fun as coming in on rt30. Eventually you branch off to rt75 in Fort Loudon which leads you to a fun sustained climb through Cowans Gap State Park down to Burnt Cabins. From here to the abandoned turn pike its just roller after roller with a few steep kickers throughout. Eventually you will make it to a ‘T’ in the road where Bike Route S turns right, but to get to the abandoned turn pike you take a left onto Pump Station Road. (if you need a fill up here you can continue right and go to the Sideling Hill Service Plaza). You then head down Pump Station Road and will see a hill of white rocks on your right, and right after that there will be a small driveway on the right which will lead you to a few jersey barriers / the entrance to the turnpike. You are then on broken up false flat pavement for the next 9mi with 2x tunnels to travel through. It then pops you out of a rock/dirt descent. I fell victim to wanting to ride the descent which was kinda fun I guess BUT then while not paying attention in the gravel parking lot I proceeded to double flat on a sharp rock. Sweet! I was more than pissed as Breezewood/Sheetz/FOODZ were just over the hill 1/2mi away. After a helping hand from Blake/Brett we changed the flats and rolled into town only to find that Blake got a puncture as well. We limped to Sheetz and I helped him change his flat.

By this point it was 7:45pm / 205miles in and it was dinner time. We decided to take a long break here and change some clothing out. In the next 1-1.5hrs we became ‘those’ people. We sat in the cafe while nice families ate dinner and we were there with no socks on, paper in our cycling shoes, drying/cleaning our toes with napkins under the table (sorry!!). After the cleaning sesh, I go grab some more food, drinks, and heartburn tablets (for the inevitable) and run into Brett whos talking with a guy who was planning on doing CTC. He couldn’t make it this year but is siked to see us in Breezewood so early and throws out the old record time that I know is going to get smashed this year due to NOT CRAZY HEADWINDS! We hang out some more, go to roll out and run back into Dave who wants to join up. We hang out some more in the front of Sheetz and get ready to roll.

We leave Sheetz, make the left onto bike route S and within a minute Blake realizes the flat change on his bike needs to be re-seated due to a hop. We stop and adjust that as Dave continues to roll. We spend 10min messing around with that in the dark and finally get back to it. We eventually catch back up with Dave and continue in the night. During this stretch I started to get really tired out of nowhere… sure it makes sense, you’ve been riding all day, 200+miles in, didn’t get much sleep the nights before, yada yada, but ive never had this happen before in years past. It was more than odd. It was the same sensation on a long road trip driving where its hard to keep your eyes open… but this time it was on the bike. It actually got pretty bad at points but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it other than trying to stay engaged by talking to both of them, and the occasional ‘SHAKE YOUR HEAD REALLY FAST’ or slap yourself in the face trick.

On top of that I had forgotten how shitty the section from Breezewood to Sommerset was. Usually its cold and dark… theres about 60miles and 5000ft of climbing and to top it off every so often there will be signs for # of miles to Sommerset and you will see a sign 10minutes later and it will have the exact same mileage on it somehow… oof! Be mentally prepared, it can be a bummer. The good news is after you climb and climb and climb some more, you will descent to the oasis known as Sommerset and there will be a Sheetz waiting for you. This stretch can also be scary due to time of night and number of drunkards out on the roads. We were pretty lucky and only got buzzed once the entire trip.

We were at the Sommerset Sheetz (265 mile) for quite a while getting our heads on straight. We got some food, and like normal people do, posted up on the floor near the register. I did the only thing I could think and crushed a Redbull and filled my bottles up with Coke. It was around 2am at this point and I got to listen to the townies discussing where they thought we were from, what we were doing, and why we were sitting on the floor. I even got to watch Blake/Brett try to take a nap sitting on said floor. We were there for ~1.5hrs before heading out with Dave who had made it there just a few minutes before.

The stretch from Sommerset to Rockwood/the start of the Great Allegany Passageway (GAP) is only 8miles but has a few kickers along the way. Those three were more than excited to hit the limestone rail-trail but I knew better. It seems fun in theory, no cars, no climbs, nice scenery, but its SO MONOTONIS and it seems to go on forever and ever. The original plan was to stop in Connelsville which would be almost exactly halfway between Sommerset and Pittsburgh 55mi/~4hrs. Unfortunately for me the super dark, unchanging riding environment got to me and neither the redbull or coke or candy was enough and I got back into the dozing off game. By this point we had covered probably 30 miles from the last stop and it was ~5am. I told the guys I needed to stop and rest. I was hoping that plus daybreak would get me through the next 90miles. Based off mileage, I thought Ohiopyle should be ~10mi away and knew they had a park office that was always open right on the side of the trail that we could sleep in and grab water/use the restrooms.

We pushed on for another 30 minutes and finally hit Ohiopyle still in the dark of night. Unfortunately for us my plan failed and the park office that has ALWAYS been open before was closed. Fuuuuu. Whatever, I parked my bike, took off my helmet and laid vampire style on a picnic table. I wanted to put a jacket on but didn’t want to unpack my rear bag so I said F-it, set my alarm for 20min and proceeded to passed out within 15seconds. Dave pushed on while we were sleeping.

I woke up to my alarm, on top of a park bench, in the middle of the GAP trail with the sun rising and thought, ‘holy shiiiii Im cold.’ Lesson learned, a kit isn’t enough to keep you warm when its 45F out even if its only 20min. I went to wake up Brett who was smart enough to cover himself in a rain jacket at least. He yelled for me to go wake Blake up first and turned back over. I went and poked at Blake to wake him up next. I took a few artisanal panoramic photos on the bridge while we waiting for Brett to get up. It was slow going at first after the wake up but the sunrise + a little sleep made me feel like a new person. Brett thought the opposite and told us it was the worst decision hes ever made or something to that degree.

At that point we decided we were going to push on… From Sommerset à Pittsburgh = 115mi, no refill water/food stops. Gavin and myself had done that back in 2012 (recap here) and I remember how cracked we both were at the end. Hopefully this time was different but there were plenty of places to stop along the way if needed. It just a bit hard to force yourself to stop and eat when A) all you want to do is be done and off your bike and B) eating sounds like the worst thing in the world. Usually around this point I feel like im going to throw up constantly/have heartburn/hate life. At least for me, liquid calories were still working well and going down the hatch quite easily.

For the next X mile life is a blur. My knees hurt just enough, my brain is cloudy, but im wide awake and that feels great! I think with about 50miles or so to go we spot Dave on the side of the trail. We stop and talk for a bit and hes packing him rear bag (again) and he tells us to go on and he’d see us at the finish in Pittsburgh. Blake, Brett, and myself push on and start to pick up the pace a bit. The end is near and its amazing what happens when your body senses that. I do a little mansplaining and tell them were going to paceline it out for the next 20miles and get this thing done.

We eventually make it to the end of the trail and start seeing people. The section from the end of the GAP trail to Homestead is a bit confusing if you’ve never done it before. KEY: print really great directions because you will be very tired and the last thing you want to do is get lost/tack on extra miles. Luckily ive done exactly that before so I knew better and printed a good cue sheet for this section. They followed me and we got off the GAP, through McKeesport, and back onto the trail heading to Homestead.

It felt like we were hammering it. Passing youngersters and ladies/gents on cruisers left and right. Some may have called us Pathletes that day but we just wanted to be finished. We got to Homestead and routed behind the Bestbuy/Lowes/etc and tried not to get crashed out by the other Pathletes. We continued on the path, hooked a right over The Hot Metal Bridge, then a quick left onto The Three Rivers Heritage Trail aka The Jail Trail. We were all giddy and the pain from all of our ailments vanished on the last 4miles heading into town. We got to the end of the trail in downtown Pittsburgh and Brett somehow spotted Lauren (our ride) who was sitting in traffic and was actually on her way to the fabric store since I gave her an estimated time much later. We crushed it down Fort Pitt Blvd and hooked into The Point State Park. We had to opt for a photo on the outskirts since the festivities for the Pittsburgh Marathon/5k were going on there. We smiled hard for the camera and were all more than excited to make the dream a reality. It was 11:45am on Saturday ie 30hours 45mins of total time to Crush the Commonwealth.

We hung for a bit and rode over to Lauren who very very graciously offered to pick us up… Seriously the best part of the trip was knowing we didn’t have to box bikes on the greyhound or Amtrak Sunday morning. It was a game changer! We changed clothes on the sidewalk and packed up the car. We were getting ready to roll out when we saw Dave rolling in on his way to The Point. We talked for a few minutes and said our goodbyes. Next stop was food and no better place that Spak Brothers for some Pizza, Wings, Steaks.

We crushed some Za’ with plans of staying the night to hang out in Pittsburgh but the marathon had foiled our plans. Lauren decided to drive us sleepy/smelly/weirdos home even though she had just driven there earlier that morning… again cant thank her enough. We slept for an hour or so then BS’d in the car the rest of the time. Overall it was a ‘fun’ day and a half and one more experience that I will never forget with two close buds who I couldn’t have finished without.

What I learned this year:
Not having headwind from PHL -> Pitts is a game changer
My bikepacking bags from Rockgeist worked out awesomely. Having bags that you could reach into while riding was amazing. The only issue was I had too much space to pack items and because of that I overpacked a little bit. I will say it was a bit hard to pack for 45F-55F temps and potential downpours throughout the day/night.
Having someone pick you up is amazing
We stopped a ton. Its hard not to but if your goal is to crush, limit the amount of time at each stop as much as possible
Oh, I also learned that Brett sprints for county lines… literally every county line he sprinted for from Philly to Pittsburgh BUT I was able to catch him off guard and got the only one that mattered, Pittsburgh!

Strava:
Elapsed Time: 30h45m
Moving Time: 24h18m
Off the bike time: 6h27m
AVG Riding Speed: 15.7mph
https://www.strava.com/activities/562298412/overview

Stops:
Lancaster – Crappy Turkey Hill w only 1 bathroom
Heildersburg – Rutter’s
Chambersburg – Sheetz
Breezewood – Sheetz
Somerset – Sheetz
Ohiopyle – Slept for 20min on park benches

Cue Sheets:

Cue Sheet PHL to Pitts 4_26_16//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Cue sheet GAP to Pittsburgh//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Bike setup: Lynskey Cooper CX + Bikepacking gear from Rockgeist

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Lancaster County
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Chambersburgh Sheetz!

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1st year I did this Jamie/Ben/myself were stuck here trying to figure out where the turnpike was… brought back good/bad memories 🙂

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Abandoned turnpike

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Tunnels!

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Sommerset Sheetz

 

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The GAP at night…

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Sleep time

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I almost forgot the phrase of the trip was A-O River which we yelled out repeatedly on the GAP trail juuuust incase.

 

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IMG_0096The Point!!

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Crush The Commonwealth 2012

1 May

Ahh Crush the Commonwealth… still the most agony and enjoyment I’ve ever had in any one ride. The race is ~400 miles across Pennsylvania where it swaps start/finish locations between Philly and Pittsburgh. This year we started at The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and ended at the Point in Pittsburgh. There’s no pre-reg, no race fees, no support, no prizes, no nothing. The route isn’t too confusing. You start with a neutral roll out through Philadelphia, jump onto the SRT, take that into Valley Forge, pick up bike route S until the abandoned turnpike, get back on bike route S in Breezewood, get onto the Great Allegheny Passageway (GAP), try not to die of boredom on the trail, then try to make it to Pittsburgh without getting lost.

I hadn’t thought too much about CTC this year until a week and a half before when a friend brought up the idea of doing the ride. We talked about it a while at the bar that night and decided to cruise it this year and have some fun doing so. From then on I was scrambling to get my ‘touring’ bike together. I put a few spacers under the stem, put the Carradice bag on, and even swapped out the road pedals to mtb pedals for the first time. As we got closer to Friday the weather was calling for some terrible weather and we started to double think our plans. Riding in cold is one thing, but mixing in rain/snow is a whole different ball game. I could tell there was a chance he wasn’t going to be making the journey as he had a ton of stuff on his plate and was getting ready for a cross country bike trip in the next couple weeks. I was already mentally preparing for a solo ride but was hoping for the best.

Years past I tapered my daily bike commute to work in order to keep fresh legs. This year I wasn’t even positive I was doing CTC so I rode all week in order to make sure everything was dialed in. Wednesday night came and we were still on the fence and agreed to decide at the last possible moment, i.e. Thursday night. After seeing that the forecast still called for rain, I borrowed a pair of rain pants from a friend (thanks Ted!) Thursday after work and that sealed the deal that I was in. Later that night I got the text that I was expecting, my buddy wasn’t going to make the ride. I grabbed my iPod shuffle and threw it in the bag before trying to go to sleep. After tossing and turning for a while I got to sleep around midnight.

I woke up a bit after 4:00am Friday morning and hurried to finish packing up my stuff. I can never eat breakfast in the morning so I drank a bit of greens powder, threw the lights on, clipped in, and cruised down to the Liberty Bell. I was amazed at how many people were at the start already. Didn’t anyone see the brutal headwinds predicted for Friday? or read the sub-freezing forecast for the next day with chances for rain/snow?? or the general suckiness that this ride can become???! I’m only kidding as it was great to see so many new and old faces out there. I think there were 25 starters this year! We all talked and BSed a bit before it was time to head out.

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One thing I’ve learned for this ride is to get with the pack at the very beginning that you want to ride with. The only way to know what group would suit you well is to talk with people, figure out what kind of pace their thinking, what kind of stops during the day they’d like to do, and how far they’d like to make it before resting or pushing on. Obviously things rarely play out like you expect, but its good to have a rough idea.

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We rolled out around 5:15am and followed Max through the city, past city hall, down the parkway, around the art museum, and onto Kelly Drive. We cruised the newly improved Manyunk tow path (which is smooth even for skinny tires) and onto the SRT. After the second fork at Conshohocken the flag was waved and people took off. The Tressler brothers sprinted ahead and a second later there was one chaser. Myself and 6 or 7 others ramped the speed up a bit but nothing too wild and continued on our way loosing sight of the other three within minutes. I liked seeing the brothers there that morning and once they took off, I knew there would be no chance of catching them. Any small bit of pressure to try and ‘win’ was off our shoulders. We could relax, get into a good rhythm and grind out the miles.

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We cruised out in Valley Forge together taking turns at the front. The head winds had started early and weren’t supposed to die down at all that day. The longer the group could stay together, the better we could fight against the 15-20mph constant headwind. At times it didn’t feel that bad, but other times you would realize you were pushing your small ring on the flats… always a bad sign. As the number of miles grew, the people in our group dwindled.

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Our first stop was the Sheetz in Morgantown for a quick bottle refill. Making good time is highly dependent on how quick you can get in and out of these stops. After 10 minutes or so we were back on the road. We saw a few people from the original group trickling in as we were leaving but pushed on with hopes of making good time.

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The stretch to the Lancaster area was brutal. It’s very scenic with rolling hills but also very open with no trees or buildings to block the winds. Even with the head/crosswinds we were keeping a reasonable pace (a bit under 16mph), but we were all worried that the extra energy used during these miles would come back to haunt us later in the day. We made another quick stop before York to refill bottles and regroup a bit. The next question was to stop at Roburrito’s in York (~100mi) or to hit the Sheetz. I might have pressured to group a bit into a shorter stop at the Sheetz as I had goals to get to the abandoned turnpike with some sort of light.

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Hard to tell but you can get a sense of the wind if you look at the clothes on the clothesline.

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Guess its almost October.

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After the stop in York, we continued on with the next stop being Chambersburg (~150mi). At some point during this section there was a road detour. We decided to take detour which took us over some sweeping hills and west one to route 30 for a bit, then back north and onto the route. At this point out group of 4 dwindled to a group of 3 with the extra hills. Paul who had been looking strong until then, started to burn out. The headwinds stayed constant and the temperature was holding in the mid to upper 50’s. I had on long tights, an under amour baselayer, and full finger gloves on the entire time.

I think we got to the Sheetz around 4pm and hit quite a bit of traffic coming through Chambersburg. As we rolled in we met up with Matt who went off the front with the brothers at the very beginning. After grabbing a naked juice, couple drinks, and filling up the other bottle with tap water, I went outside to enjoy a Laura Bar from my bag with everyone. Paul who had dropped from our group during the last stretch told us he was going to hang around for the next group so Joe, Gavin, Matt, and myself went on our way.

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‘Free range’ veal…

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I think we all were in pretty good spirits around this point as we made it out to Cowan’s Gap. At some point Joe had fallen behind but not too far as the three of us took in the scenery. The climb up is actually pretty nice. It’s long but gradual with no steep kickers in between. We saw a slew of boy scouts going to camp at the top as we made our way down the decent to burnt cabins. It was getting closer to dusk at this point but I really wanted to make quick work of these miles to get to the abandoned turnpike in some sort of daylight. The stretch from Chambersburg to Breezewood is a rough one. By that point you already have 150+ miles in your legs, there’s a good amount of climbing, and the last 10 miles of turnpike can be painfully slow, dark, and cold.

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We made it to the abandoned turnpike during twilight. We stopped to take some photos/videos before turning our lights on and getting ready to navigate the labyrinth of usable pieces of pavement for the next hour. We talked and enjoyed the new scenery but we had been out for a couple hours and the tunnels were cold. The three of us were ready to get to Breezewood, relax a bit, warm up and get some dinner.

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We finally hit the end and debated whether or not to ride down the dirt incline on the outskirts of Breezewood. I took the front and gingerly walked down the path in order to keep us from breaking any collarbones. We rolled under the turnpike, down the hill, and to the Sheetz. By the time we got there it was fully dark and I was freezing! My goal was to stay away from Sheetz food as it only leads to heartburn for me but the tempature overcame me and I found myself clicking through the touch screen menu just to see what they had. Ahaah, Burritos?!! I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad idea but I needed something warm and a bean and rice burrito sounded great. I also got a hot tea to warm myself up and took my food back to the table ready to gobble it down. When I got there I saw Gavin with a pint of ice cream he was shoveling down… ice cream? It was freezing out, I mean it was almost 32F out and something cold sounded good to you??! I was amazed but I should also point out that he had been riding in shorts with no knee covers or tights and I believe fingerless gloves until that point. On the other end of the spectrum was me holding onto my hot tea for dear life. He said it had something to do with his euro heritage, I summed it up that he was a tougher man than I.

After spending a while in Sheetz eating, recovering, charging our phones/Garmins, and wondering where Joe was we started to get things together to roll out. We checked the weather one last time, temps under freezing, chance of rain, with the only plus that the winds were dying down. I put on everything I had, tights, under amour long sleeve, SS jersey, rain paints, rain jacket, ear warmers, and cycling cap and was ready to hit the night. I also grabbed some Advil and Tums and shoveled both down. Both my knees were killing me since around 60miles in as I expected they would and I was anticipated the heartburn. This was my first time using any pain medicine and I have to say I liked it! Right as we were heading out Joe came through the door. We talked a bit then went on our way, I think it was about 12am or so but I forgot to click start on my Garmin until I realized later.

Warming up at first wasn’t a tough task as are cores were still warm from Sheetz especially with the climbing throughout the route. We made it pretty quickly to Bedford with good morale. I pointed out a couple places and we cruised through. At some point Matt asked about the Sheetz/Hotels in Bedford. I guess he thought we were going to stop or they were along the route. We sat and talked a while about if he wanted to go back or push through. It did not seem like he wanted to make the next push to Somerset but backtracking also didn’t sound enticing. He ended up pushing forward with Gavin and me through the 40+ hilly miles to Somerset.

Morale was getting low as was the temperature. My nose had been running non-stop for the last 100 or so miles and was annoying me to no end. Matt was in the pain cave and ever hill (which there were plenty of) were taking their toll. My knees hurt severely but the legs themselves felt pretty good. The majority of the climbs I would stand and crank to use the quads as much as I could so that the knees took less abuse. This approach worked well but had me waiting at the top of climbs, sweating a bit, then cooling down just in time for the next fast decent. As the hours went on the miles to Somerset seemed to barely wind down. It felt like we would pass signs that would say 19 miles to Somerset then half an hour later, 17miles to Somerset… It was getting bad.

On one of the steeper climbs Gavin dropped a chain and went down. The mental and physical fatigue mixed with the darkness and the lack of ability to know where up is really takes its toll. He seemed alright and we trudged forward through the mountains. My lights were going low but I was in no mood to change the batteries in the cold. I did a bit of squinting during the fast downhills and turned them to low during the climbs. As we came up to the last climb I let them know we were almost there and Gavin and I pushed forward looking for the oasis over the mountains known as Sheetz!

We finally made it there ~4am and took shelter on the floor while waiting for our food to be made. Matt made it there shortly after and looked exhausted. I think we all ate for a bit and he went on to find a hotel for the night. Gavin and I decided the best idea would be to push through the night with the forecast of rain later in the day. We stayed at Sheetz for an hour or two, I’m not really sure but the manager seemed to hate us. She didn’t hate every one, as she seemed very pleasant to her regulars. It is interesting riding through the night. You first encounter the people coming from the bars that will honk or open the throttle on their diesel track past you to surround you in a thick black cloud but then around 4 the drunkard turn to hunters/fishermen getting ready for their daily excursion. After trying to get warmed up and get mentally ready for the task at hand we geared up and got ready to fight the sub freezing temps around 5:30am that morning. Again I put every article of clothing on I had as I knew it would be rough until the sun came out.

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Not even sure what this would mean?

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It’s about 10 miles to Rockwall from Somerset where you pick up the GAP trail. Now the GAP sounds fun after you’ve been climbing endless hills/mountains but I knew better. I didn’t let Gavin know but I hate the GAP. Its so monotonous and boring, plus it had been snowing up there the week before so I was positive the trail would be soaked, and it was. The first part of the trail seems to stay wet and is more of a dirt constancy which slogs your speed down dramatically. When the trail turns to crushed limestone it does a better job of draining the water but you can still feel the speed sucked from under you.

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Around this time the sun started to rise which tends to heighten moral as well as warm things up. I think mentally we were in some other place so as the sun came up we stopped and took off layers. I was down to my tights and long sleeve base layer with just a short sleeve jersey for a while. After 20 minutes or so I realized I was freezing and looked at my Garmin that said it was still in the low 30’s… What the hell were we doing shedding layers??! We stopped and proceeded to put all the layers back on and determined that we were stupid.

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The goal was to cruise on the limestone path at a comfortable speed and get done whenever we did. We had no time goals, no expectations, we just wanted to finish. At some point on the trail we saw rustling to the right of us and saw a black bear trample out of the woods and run (luckily) the opposite way down the trail then bust a hard left. We both stood there shocked. It was too cold to even try to get the camera out of my jersey pocket in time, but it was one of the highlights of our day. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a bear in the wild before… After doing some bell ringing and whistling we proceeded down the trail. I think I told Gavin to turn on his borrowed GoPro incase I got mauled.

We hit Ohiopyle and instead of stopping to fill up or get food we continued. By this time both of us could barely hold anything down food or drink wise. I felt like I was on the verge of throwing up all the time for some reason. Not a good sign when you still have 80miles to ride.

We kept a constant pedal going with random pee and layer stops throughout the woods. We talked about stopping in Connelsville or one of the other small towns but never did. The thought of food was terrible and taking more time to finish didn’t see like an enjoyable option. At this point the left knee felt alright but the front of right knee was collecting fluid and hurt to the touch. My butt had been hurting for a while but I realized at some point my bibs were sticking to me, ie open sores. Every bump hurt, ever pedal was worse than the last but we were on the last leg of the trip and there was nothing to do but finish.

Gavin and I made small talk most of the trail sitting next to each other trying not to die of boredom. Talk of beer, bikes, our Mediterranean and vegan diets, beer, travel, work, and more beer kept us out of our own heads for a while. I seriously couldn’t imagine tackling that entire stretch by myself. Thank god Gavin was a super nice guy, great to talk to, interesting, and could tolerate my nonsense, random noises, and general tomfoolery for the entire trip.

Eventually we made it to the end of the trail but not before almost going insane. We hadn’t eaten in probably 4 hours, barely had anything to drink, and to be honest we didn’t care. We were both running on E and a bit sheer will power. We made our way off the gravel and onto some old trail that ran on the side of the train tracks. This helped us bypass the majority of downtown McKeesport. We quickly jumped back on the main road in McKeesport right before the T just to jump back off on the new and nicely paved pedestrian trail that would lead us into Homestead. The asphalt was freshly laid and the bridges were steep, but the surrounds looked a bit ratty. We made it into Homestead and got overzealous and rode across the first bridge we came to, The Homestead Grays Bridge. Instead of being smart and just going back, we took this route and continued. At this point it started sleeting on us and I was cursing Pittsburgh. I always get lost in Pittsburgh, I hate it, seriously. Of course we hit relentless steep climb after steep climb going this route before we made it to Second Ave in Hazelwood.

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After hitting Greenfiled Ave we checked our maps to figure out how to get on the Jail Trail and that was it. I put my head down, forearms on the flats, and took a pull. It was nice seeing other people out and about but we had no time to dillydally. We wanted to be at the Point and be done already. As we got off the trail and onto the road, we could see it. We were there. We cruised in to the park and saw Gavin’s family and friends waiting. We talked for a couple minutes then remembered we needed to call Eric the organizer. I left him what I thought was a legible message, it wasn’t. We got in at 2:30pm that day with a total time 33:15.

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After saying our goodbyes I called my buddy and asked if I could come grab his keys and work and sleep on his floor till he was off. After grabbing his keys I headed off to Polish Hill (yep hills…) which took me up climbs that I wouldn’t want to do on a good day. The knee was shot, the butt was in pain, and I could start to feel the achilles starting to act up. I eventually made it to his house where it took me forever just to get a shower going. I couldn’t think or do anything right.

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The girlfriend called and I had to tell her I could only talk after a long shower was complete. I lurked through his cabinets, put some pasta on and tried to talk on the phone for a bit. I found some peanut butter, garlic powder, salt, and Redhot and threw it on top of the pasta. It was great to have a warm meal. At some point I checked the blog to check how people were doing. After reading a couple post I noticed the Tressler brothers had dropped out… I wasn’t expecting that at all. I gave Gavin a call to tell him the news but he was sleeping. I was happy about our accomplishment and passed out a few minutes later.

Later that night I wanted to hang out but I was worthless. We cruised to a pizza place so I could get dinner/lunch for the next day; some veggie wings and cheesesteak. It was good. We hung out for a while; I clicked on the alarm clock for 6:00am and went to bed around midnight. I’ve never slept so good on a floor as I did that night. Thanks Bill for letting me crash at your place and use up all your hot water!

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I rode the couple miles down to Amtrak where I got a ticket and got the bike ready for the giant box. All you have to do is turn your bars, take off your pedals, and if you have a longer stem you might have to turn your bars down. After getting the bike boxed, I saw Max walking in. We got everything ready and headed for the train. Amtrak is SO much nicer than Greyhound especially if you’re on the tall side. We both had a row to ourselves and talked about the ride before taking a nap.

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There is a quick stop in Harrisburg were we jumped off to find a bite to eat. We stumbled upon a bar where there were some more than interesting folks and I grabbed a Budweiser 40 for the ride home. We talked, drank, and shot the shit a bit before Max got off in Exton. I cruised to 30th Street Station then jumped on the MFL back to my apartment. It was a good weekend but I was exhausted. I was excited to sleep in my bed again as it felt like I had been away for forever. The thought of ‘never will I do this again’ are still ringing in my head but like years past, in a couple of weeks you’ll only remember the highlights of the journey.

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Garmin Data via Strava:

Combined Garmin File:

CTC 2012 FULL

Part 1 Philly to York
Part 2 York to Breezewood
Part 3 Chambersburg to Breezewood
Part 4 Bedford to Somerset (I forgot to start the Garmin in Breezewood)
Part 5 Somerset to Pittsburgh