Erie Canal Ride 2016

Parks and Trails New York produced another fantastic ride from Buffalo to Albany for over 650 riders. We rode 400 miles in eight days, July 10 through July 17. This year I was joined by my son Eric and the focus of my ride was different. This was my fifth time on this route, my fourth with PTNY, so I changed my focus a little to keep it interesting.

When the route was new to me I spent time to stop and to take photos. This year I concentrated on keeping my moving time and elapsed time close and on improving my average speed from previous years. My plan was to ride a little harder. I had a great time at it and I achieved my goal. This was the best bicycle tour of my life because I felt great while doing it and because my son was with me.

In the process I changed my approach to performance nutrition. Our primary concern was hydration, particularly since the temperature was in the 80s and 90s for much of the ride. I learned a few things from my son. After watching Eric hydrate, I realized that although I hydrated in the past, I wasn’t drinking enough. Rather than waiting to hydrate at rest stops, I began to drink water every couple of miles. At rest stops I concentrated on replenishing electrolytes using sports drinks.  I found that personally I performed much better and ended each day with more energy. I even was able to ride up the notorious Canajoharie hill to camp at the end of one of the days, which I have never done before. I also managed to avoid the afternoon energy crashes and low energy days that I have experienced in the past.

We ate balanced meals for breakfast and dinner, but didn’t snack much during the daily rides. I think that we had lunch twice during the tour. Eric skipped the snacks because he is young, very fit, and always on a mission to get to camp. One of the reasons that worked for me was that I was also getting into camp in late morning or early afternoon. The timing of snacks and lunch was not appropriate for me. For example, I was getting to the afternoon rest stops in late morning. That would put lunch in the mid-morning someplace, which wasn’t going to work.

Eric and I met some great riders. One of them was Eileen, a seventeen year old who may have been the best cyclist on the trip. She wasn’t riding a road bike. She had a hybrid with straight handlebars. She didn’t even have handlebar extensions, just straight bars. She wasn’t wearing spandex like the men she rode with. She wore shorts and a loose top.

We encountered her on the first day out of Buffalo. Eric and I were behind her, pacing for ten miles or so, moving along at around fifteen or sixteen miles per hour. Two guys passed us on road bikes, moving two or three miles an hour faster. She took off behind them. Eric moved out and tried to stay with them, but gave up after a mile or so and fell back.

On the run from Clyde to Seneca Falls through Amish country, six or eight cyclists on road bikes went motoring past us and she was among them. One of them at the rear of the pack said, “Jump on!” It wasn’t going to happen. They were moving far too fast for either of us.

She was such a standout that she received a mention at the party on the final evening of the ride.

Another pair of great riders, husband and wife Tom and Chris from Vancouver, Washington, pedaled a Co-Motion tandem that they bought used for $1600. We first met them when they breezed past us on the trail like we were standing still. Personally, I have never seen a couple power a tandem that well before. After the Erie ride, they planned to attend a tandem rally and ride a couple of hundred more miles.

A shout to Larry from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to Mike from Cape Cod, and to John from Rochester, New York. Larry rode a recumbent bicycle and Mike a recumbent trike. From the point of view of their bicycles, they couldn’t be more different than Eric and I. They were all close to my age, Larry retired, Mike in the cabinet making business, and John self-employed and retiring in December. We had a few meals with them and often were neighbors in camp.

Eric and I met lots of other people. We arrived in camp early enough each day to get a front row seat at the Information Tent. We were often asked for information because the information staff usually didn’t arrive until two o’clock. We were quite honest about our qualifications. It was also fun to watch people arrive in camp since the Information Tent was always set up at a prominent place near the camp entrance.

At the final camp in Niskayuna we were sitting under an empty canopy at the Information Tent when Meegan, the PTNY Director of Development and her son began setting up to sell ride swag. At the kickoff meeting in Buffalo, Meegan announced that she had never ridden more than twenty miles before. She and her son made it successfully all the way to Niskayuna, 373 miles from the start. She was responsible for recruiting the commercial sponsors of the event that provided a significant contribution to PTNY. I was impressed with her dedication to the PTNY mission and her decision to join the ride for the experience. The event is the largest fundraiser for PTNY each year.

We arrived in Albany early Sunday morning, before the luggage trucks. The final leg of the ride was only 27 miles from Niskayuna to Albany. I was sad as always that it was over, although looking forward to my own bed and home-cooked food. It’s become my benchmark ride each year. I love it enough to do it again and to support PTNY with donations. Having Eric with me made it special. Next year maybe the grandchildren will join us? Stay tuned.