Friday, April 30, 2010

Biking - Around Schroon Lake

Today was forecast to be a sunny day in the 70s with light winds. With no riding at all for the past week, it was time to get out for some serious miles. I had originally intended to do a 40-50 mile unloaded ride with some climbing, but a Taconic Hiking Club ride that was postponed from yesterday had much more appeal. We planned to do a 26-mile fairly hilly ride (1,400 total feet) around Schroon Lake, in the eastern Adirondacks. Because of the low mileage, I decided to do this ride fully loaded and get in some climbing.

We left the boat launch at the southern end of the lake around 1030, heading CCW, and had a pleasant ride along the east shore of the lake, with the still-snowy High Peaks in the distance.

Then the climbing began., the source of the map above, registered a 17.2% pitch on the first climb up from the store at Adirondack. Yikes! I was in my lowest gear, and made it up with some difficulty. Then there was some less steep and generally rolling terrain with some smaller climbs before we reached the base of the biggest one shown above. Though longer, this one was much less steep, and was not a problem at all.

Heading down the hill on the other side, we reached scenic Alder Brook. The sky was very blue, both above and reflected in the water.

At the end of Alder Brook Road, we turned south on US9 and reached the village of Schroon Lake, where we stopped at a Stewart's store and had lunch. It was clouding up now, and we all put jackets back on before continuing south. The ride down US9 was gently rolling with a wide shoulder, and was quite pleasant. We reached the cars 3.5 hours after we started, and all agreed it had been a great ride.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Golf - Camillus Country Club

Tough day on the links today. Holly needed to be in Syracuse for a church-related conference, so we decided to stay at my mother's house, and I would play golf with my brother while she went to her conference. We would be playing at Camillus Country Club, a hilly layout that I probably haven't played in at least 30 years. On the plus side, it's pretty wide open, and errant shots are usually playable. But not always...

The course was in beautiful shape, and the greens were like lightning, a fact that took some getting used to. It seemed like I found a lot of the minimal trouble that was available, but there were a still a few highlights. I chipped one in, though not for anything like par, and also made a couple of longish putts and had a few pars. But I think two things killed me. First, this was the hilliest course I had played in some time, and the odd stances may have caused me problems on many shots. Second, this was the first full-length 18 holes I had played since about the early 1990s. For the past couple of years, I've been playing 9-hole full-length and 18-hole par 3 courses, but both of those involve far fewer shots to mess up. The second nine today was worse than the first, and I was tired and could feel I was fighting to remain focused on every shot. Instead of averaging bogey golf as I have been, today was more like a double-bogey day. But finishing with a par is always a good thing, and I'm sure I'll keep going back for more. After all, this was also a very early season struggle.

It was a good outing, and Walt and I got to spend some quality time together and catch up on family stuff. It was also a beautiful spring day to be outside, before the upcoming 3 days of constant rains.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Biking - Another loaded training ride

Today started out sunny, mild, and calm, so I planned to get out for another ride with everything loaded on the bike. My original thought was a 22-mile loop that started out with an 8-mile climb, and total climbing of 1,600+ feet. But I just wasn't sure I had quite the legs yet for doing that with all the extra weight. So I settled instead on a 32-mile relatively flat (600+ feet) loop from Schenectady to Amsterdam and back along the Mohawk River. What I hadn't counted on was a northwesterly wind at 15-20 mph, gusting close to 30. And Amsterdam is due northwest of Schenectady. The climbing loop might have been a better choice.

The 16 miles to Amsterdam was like one long climb because of the headwind. I had trouble maintaining even 11-12 mph, and actually had to drop to my small front ring on a couple of the normally easy minor rollers on NY5S. The bike definitely catches a lot more wind with the bags hanging on it. And then, of course, there's also the gravity factor. That part of the ride was a character builder.

Crossing the river into Amsterdam and heading back southeast with a tailwind, I clicked into the big ring, sat up straight, and enjoyed the ride. I probably averaged 16-18 mph, and had a couple of stretches going well over 20 with little effort. It was like a totally different ride.

So of the three kinds of rides I need to be doing right now (short/hilly/loaded, long/flat/loaded, long/hilly/not loaded), today was of the 2nd variety. Eventually, I'll need to get to long/hilly/loaded, but that's for another month down the road.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Biking - New York State Bicycling Summit

Today was the NYS Bicycling Summit, sponsored by the New York Bicycling Coalition.

This event was held in Albany, and it seemed like a good place to have a big bicyclist turnout and show of support. It was supposed to be a nice day, so I got on the bike and headed for Albany, about a 17-mile ride each way. I mostly followed my old bike commuting routes from when I worked in Albany, and aside from rush-hour traffic and the cool temperatures, it was a pleasant ride.

We all locked up our bikes in West Capitol Park, where they were attended while we went inside to hear the speakers and talk about the state of bicycling in the state of New York.

Despite the seemingly sparse attendance, and the harsh budgetary realities of the times, I came away with the feeling that not only is bicycling alive and well here, but that various advocacy efforts are actually making themselves heard, and things are on an improvement upswing. It was heartening to say the least.

After the speakers finished, several state legislators and some of the speakers joined us for a mass ride around downtown Albany and through Washington Park. And from there I headed back home, after a somewhat uplifting morning.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Golf - Hillcrest Golf Course

First time out this season. Will be playing with my brother on Saturday, so needed to find out where I stood. He'll need to spot me MANY strokes. 3 pars, 3 bogeys, 2 doubles, and one triple. Only 16 putts, including a 25-footer. Hitting most woods dead straight - now that's different! Same score as last time out here last year, so pretty respectable for this early in the season.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Biking - 21 miles loaded, with hills, wind, a dog chase, teenaged yokels, and a rush-hour roundabout

Over the weekend, I finished a first cut at my TransAm packing list, and got everything packed, weighed, and loaded on the bike. The total comes in around 45-50 pounds, plus 2-3 quarts of water, so between 50 and 55 total. Not too horrible. Today, I took the bike out for what was intended to be a test ride, to see how things balanced and how the load handled in general. It was going so well that I threw that plan out the window. Though it predictably handled like a truck, the ride was smooth and manageable, with no shimmy or any other issues. This now became a training ride.

I decided to try my usual climbing loop up Grant Hill Road, with its maximum 13% grade.

After turning west onto Old State Road, a small dog gave chase, the first of the season. Fortunately, it was a flat stretch, and the heavy bike responded well to my kicking things up a notch or two. When I first started up Grant Hill, my front derailleur wouldn't drop me into the low ring, so I backed up, tweaked the limit screw, and restarted. All was fine now, and I made it up the hill with one cog to spare, though it's a relatively short climb. At the top of the hill, the wind came into play for the rest of the ride, though it wasn't as bad as on many previous days. With local schools now getting out, there seemed to be a spate of young yahoos yelling obscenities or leaning on the horn, but I just gave all of them friendly waves and no fingers. The last challenge was a busy roundabout at Curry and Carman Roads. I've done this one several times, but never at this time of day. I was able to merge, fly on through, and wave to those waiting to enter. All it takes to get respect is to give a little yourself.

It was a good ride, and though I still need to cut some weight, I think I'm close, and this current configuration worked well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bike, yard work, bike, bike....

Is there an echo in here? I already used that title. Today was the last nice day before several days of cool wet weather are headed our way. Like last time, Holly needed help with some yard work, and I needed a ride, so we compromised. I biked to her house, helped her out, and then we went for a short ride together in her area. After that, I biked back home, for a 37.5-mile outing. It's looking now like I just beat the rain, which is about to move in. This was a very strong ride, and it felt good. The old legs are definitely whipping into shape.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Biking - Mohawk River Bike Path, lunch, and a tour of Schenectady

Another nice day, and this time without the wind! The Taconic Hiking Club had a bike ride scheduled for today, and since these are always low-key affairs, usually including a lunch stop, I signed up. The plan was to ride from the Colonie Town Park along the Mohawk River Bike Path to the "Little Italy" section of Schenectady, where we'd have lunch at Civitello's, home of great pastries and sandwiches. It's a bit over 30 miles R/T, and only a few hills along the river.

When we got to miles 13 and 14 on the map above, between Aqueduct Road and Anthony Street, the "Trail Closed" signs really do now mean CLOSED. There was heavy equipment at work there, and we sheepishly made our way past them and continued on. At Maxon Road, we followed the signed detour to Nott St. and then wound our way down to North Jay and "Little Italy". Our group of 11 had to split up, with some sitting outside and others inside, but the food was all we'd hoped for.

After lunch, to avoid the closed section of the bike path, we cut though Union College and the GE Realty Plot, up through Old Niskayuna, across Balltown Road on Baker Ave., and rejoined the bike path near the GE R&D Center. It turned out to be a very pleasant route on residential streets with little traffic.

It was a pleasant relaxed 31 miles with a great group of friends, and very hard to believe that we actually did over 1,000 feet of climbing!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Biking - Enough with the wind already!

Woke up kinda sore and tired this morning after yesterday's ride, but as the morning went on, I started feeling better. With another sunny day, and nothing apparently required of me in the "office", I decided to get back in the saddle for a somewhat shorter ride. My original thought was a flat 20 miles, but that changed to a 20-miler with a climb of Grant Hill Road in Guilderland. After I started, the incessant wind came up yet again, this time at 15-20 mph from the northwest, and not as bad as yesterday. The climb up Grant Hill went well, and I was feeling strong. Dropping down to French's Hollow, the Normanskill had receded significantly from the last time I was here a few weeks ago. Today's ride puts me at just about 300 miles for the year, not a bad start, and well on my way to the 1,000 I'd like to have by July when I leave for the West Coast.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Biking - The windy Glenville hills

Today was another sunny cool day, with the winds forecast to be somewhat less than yesterday, so it seemed like it would be a good day for a ride. The reality turned out to be a west wind at 15, gusting in the mid-20s, so it was a good day NOT to be doing long legs to the west. I chose a generally north-south loop, starting at Schenectady Community College and heading north to Charlton. Turning west there for a relatively short distance, I wound my way over to West Glenville, climbed up Ridge Road, screamed down Washout Road to the valley, and returned across the river along the bike path. I found this route in an old copy of 25 Bike Tours in the Hudson Valley, by Howard Stone, and had ridden it a couple of times before.

This turned out to be a much tougher ride than the numbers (34 miles, 1587 total feet of climbing) would lead one to expect, mostly because of the relentless wind. Though it was mostly westerly, there was a definite northerly component, and much of the climbing was in a generally northwest direction, in a much lower gear than in previous rides on these same roads.

I stopped for lunch at the Charlton General Store, where I had a very nice wrap and a big lemonade. The worst of the climbing (and wind) was yet to come, and I needed the fuel. After fighting the wind all the way to West Glenville, the final 1.5-mile climb up Ridge and Washout Roads was rewarded with a long (3 miles) and fast (37mph) descent back down to NY5 in the valley. Crossing the river at Lock 9, I headed east, with the wind, back to the crowded Mohawk River Bikeway, where nobody today seemed to know the meaning of "passing on your left". Need to avoid this route on weekends and stick to the roads!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Walking - Exploring 4 local state forests

The warm temps of earlier in the week are a thing of the past, but today was a bright sunny day. So despite temps around 50 and gusty winds, Holly and I set out to explore some places we hadn't been before in all our years of living here. New York State has pockets of state forest all over the state, and we chose a few close to home to see what they were like, always with future XC skiing in mind as well. Since I'm on the committee that's updating the ECOS publication "Ski Tips", it was also a good opportunity for some "boots on the ground" trail map verification.

First was Petersburgh State Forest, south of Cobleskill. This forest used to have a fire tower atop Petersburgh Mountain, and the roads leading to the tower were unplowed in the winter. The area was listed in an old copy of "Nordic Skiing Trails in New York State", published by NYSDEC. We arrived to find the road driveable all the way to the summit, and the fire tower gone, replaced by a couple of communications towers. Not a great place for a walk today, and not great for skiing anymore either. So we moved on.

Next was Charleston State Forest to the north. Though we'd skied here several times this past winter, we'd hardly put a dent into its 20 miles of trails. Since we weren't sure what awaited us in terms of trails at the next two stops, we stopped here and walked some unfamiliar trails for an hour or two. The sun through the tall pines made for great scenery even though we were deep in the woods.

Moving on, we next headed for Rural Grove State Forest, to the north and west. The map for this one didn't hold a lot of promise, showing just one unplowed road running a couple of miles through the length of the parcel. As we drove by, we saw that the road was wide and driveable, and was no doubt a major snowmobile corridor in the winter. So we didn't even stop.

Finally, we continued a little further north to Yatesville Falls State Forest, actually a sub-unit of Rural Grove. Again, we found a driveable 1.2-mile road all the way to a turnaround near a stream passing through a gorge. Though there was really nowhere else to walk, we were expecting to find "Yatesville Falls" here based on the name, and we were not disappointed. It was hard to believe that we'd never heard even one word about this place, though there were (trashy) indications that it's popular with the locals. We'll need to return here sometime when it's REALLY running.

It was a cool but beautiful day, and we covered a lot of ground, and also made good progress on verifying some trails we hadn't seen before. So many places, so little time...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Biking - More Wind and Some Hills

It's apparently another slow day at "the office", and today's bad weather is holding off until tonight, so I headed out this morning for another ride. I didn't want to be gone too long, but wanted to make it worth it, so I did a shorter ride with some climbing today. Anytime a road leaves a river valley, it will involve some degree of uphill, and we have no shortage of such climbs around here. I chose a fairly easy one today, whose maximum pitch was only 8%, and not for all that far. I managed that one with 3 cogs to spare, thought it was admittedly wind-assisted. Dropping back down NY160 to Pattersonville, the headwind kept my speed in check, and I only hit 36.5 mph. I really didn't want to repeat some earlier 45 mph descents of these hills anyway. Back in the valley, I had more headwind all the way back to the start, for a 21.7-mile ride with 970 feet of climbing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Biking - An Easy 30

Though I'm currently consulting on two separate contracts, nothing seemed to be happening today, and it was forecast to be sunny and near 80 degrees, for the first and last time in several days. So I put up the "out of office" message on email and hit the road.

At this point, I'm still more interested in pushing my distance limits than cranking up the hills, so I did a relatively flat/rolling 30-mile clockwise loop that I used a lot last season.

Not long after I made the turn and headed back west, a big west wind started to blow, making that part of the ride harder than it should have been. Overall, I felt pretty good, so 40 miles is the next goal, whenever we get a nice day again and I'm not otherwise busy.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bike, Yard Work, Bike, Bike

Another sunny day near 80! Holly wanted to get out for her first short ride of the year, and also needed help with some yard work. Meanwhile, I wanted to put on some miles. So, I biked from my house to hers, spent an hour in her yard, went for a short relaxed ride with Holly, and then biked back home. All told, I got the 35 miles I wanted, and Holly got in everything she wanted. The day turned windy once I got to her house, so the ride home had a pretty good headwind, as well as some minor climbing (though the day's total was a surprising 1,100 feet!) It was a good workout on another beautiful spring day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hiking - Moreau Lake State Park

Sunny and near 80 degrees today! We don't get many of those in early April, so Holly and I got out for a short afternoon hike. We headed for the backside of Moreau Lake State Park, south of Glens Falls, along the Spier Falls Reservoir on the Hudson River. The ridge above the reservoir has miles of trails, but we settled for the short 0.8-mile climb to the rocky overlook shown below.

It was a beautiful day to be up high, but shade was hard to come by with the trees not yet leafed out.

The view included the reservoir directly below, and other small mountain ranges in the distance.

More toward the northwest, we picked out Hadley Mountain and Round Top in the far distance beyond the old International Paper smokestack in downtown Corinth.

This was a short drive and an easy climb of 400-500 feet, a good way to start the season.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Biking - Relaxed 30-mile River Cruise

After several days of rain, and over a week of cold, today was the first day of a nice stretch of unseasonably warm and perfect weather. I didn't feel like tackling any monster hills just yet, so decided to bump up the mileage a little and ride from Schenectady to Amsterdam and back along the Mohawk River. The Mohawk was running high after all the rain, which added some interest to this otherwise nondescript route.

It was a little cool (50-ish) and cloudy when I left Schenectady, but the skies began to clear and eventually the sun came out full-force. I took it easy today, choosing a long-distance touring sort of pace, and used lots of gears, even on this relatively flat ride. I got in 33 miles in about 2:30, and even felt pretty fresh at that point, having expended very little real effort. I'll need to focus on getting that up to 50 miles and 4 hours in the saddle, and alternate those rides with some hills. Then I'll add the extra weight and continue both. I'm hoping to have 1,000 miles in by the end of June, and they'll need to be quality miles to prep me for the trip to follow.