Weekend at TOSRV

May 12,2014

I went to Ohio in search of adventure this weekend, and I found it in TOSRV, which stands for Tour of Scioto River Valley (pronounced by the locals TOSS-her-ov). I have Lee Kreider to thank for this. You see, through Lee and his Ohio RAAM show (if you’re a fan of RAAM, definitely check it out) I met Lisa Brunckhorst, member of the “Golden Tris,” time station organizer with Lee (Oxford and Blanchester), longtime RAAM fan and future RAAM athlete (look for her on a 4-person team next year!). And then we became Facebook friends and I see a post literally 5 days prior to the event about riding 210 miles in a single weekend. I’m thinking I want to do back-to-back centuries to load some miles in the legs and see how I recover (RAAM being 5 weeks away), so I reach out to her. Turns out she has a spare spot in her hotel room the night before so the deal is set. I’ll race to Ohio after working on Friday and try to sign up day-before (registration being closed by the time I hear of this event).

I had read up on the event, combing the website and other websites, and see there will be 2500+ riders leaving Columbus, Ohio on Saturday (anytime between 7 and 9:30) and making the trek south to Portsmouth, 105 miles. You put your sleeping bag and clothes in a truck and the organizers take it to the destination, where everyone gets a spot on a gym floor. Then Sunday morning, up and at-em, ride back to Columbus. There almost always promises to be rain and headwinds (and judging from the previous week in Springfield, Ohio I don’t doubt the winds), so ride, (try to) sleep on a gym floor, ride back? Seemed like perfect RAAM training trip to me. And the added bonus? Meet a TON of cool people along the way.

Dedicated to Charles Siple

Dedicated to Charles Siple

TOSRV is known as America’s bicycle touring classic. It began in 1962 as a father-and-son outing and grew into the nation’s largest bicycle touring weekend. In fact, TOSRV singlehandedly raised the profile of the bicycle in American life and was the inspiration for many of the mass-participation cycling events so popular today across the country. This year was the 53rd year of the race. What’s super cool about TOSRV is you will see all types of cyclists and all types of bikes there: the touring regulars who will carry all their gear on their steel touring bikes, the bike campers who will eschew a warm gym floor for a tent in nature, the people doing the ride on road bikes (steel, aluminum, carbon, etc) and mountain bikes, tandems (lots of tandems), bikes with aero bars, and sit-up touring bikes. I saw lots of co-motion bikes and my first Rivendell bike (well known in the Randonneur – self-supported long distance rider – circles).

So the night before I get there in time to get a number, and feel a huge victory just in making it before they sell out. People are super friendly at registration, explaining the logistics, and after some Chipotle, I set up my bike and such, then meet up with my roomie, Lisa. We talk RAAM and riding, and you can tell we’re both excited for the next morning. Gameplan for departure set.

Saturday, May 10

At the rainy start

At the rainy start

We get up and pack and have our caffeine – score hotel Starbucks is open early that morning for the racers – and set out to find… rain. Lots of rain. Cyclists are hovering indoors, looking at the radar on their iPhones, and I hear someone say it’ll pass over. I’m not so sure, but hopeful as well. We load our overnight bags onto the truck, make one final pitstop before the start, and then (the rain lessens but it’s not blowing over – this is part of the experience though) we start off. We follow the long line of riders who hit the course to get out of downtown Columbus. I tell Lisa this ride will be “epic” and the rain is part of that. As I’m riding and spitting the salty rain water out of my mouth, at mile 3 I hit a pot hole – boom boom ssssss – pinch flat. I pull over and Lisa comes back. It’s the rear wheel. She holds my bike while I change the inner tube, pump it up and put it back on the bike. I go to check the firmness of the tire against my front… that one is flat too. So we decide Lisa should keep going, and I’ll head back to the start where there were shop trucks helping folks, get a repair, then catch up. As I’m walking back, Dave from Baer Wheels pulls over to save the day. He helps me get the front tire changed, and I ask for more tubes. How many? TWO I say. 🙂 Major thanks to Baer Wheels.

Weather forecast says we might get wet

Weather forecast says we might get wet

On my way back in the rain, I’m smiling on this tour. I see a long line of riders snaking their way out of town. Tough to get lost when you have so many cyclists, all heading out in the rain, all set out on an adventure. Some have done this 5+, 10+, even 25 times! It is adventure. It is tradition. We make it to the first rest stop, 27 miles in, and the volunteers are so welcoming (this is a theme through the entire super well-organized event). And they have Kirkland Trail Mix. I’m not hungry, but it just tastes good. Then off on my way.

The rain fades in the next section and along the way to Chillicothe (the halfway point) I meet up with some riders and we take turns pulling in a pace line. These guys from Paradise Garage cycling team are young and fast, so it’s fun to try to keep pace with them. I notice my Watts are still high hanging on, so loving the 20+ mph pace especially as the headwinds start to pick up. I see Lisa on the way and go to ride with her a bit, but she waves me on and tells me to keep going at my pace, so I do, knowing that if I get there first I can set up our camp.

Chillicothe - Halfway point

Chillicothe – Halfway point

Wonderful bike shop support

Wonderful bike shop support

Chillicothe is the lunch stop – and there is everything from sandwiches to fried chicken and soup, and again sweet volunteers. Not one for a huge stomach on a long ride, I head on.

This next segment is so much fun, rollers and some short hills shake it up a little bit, and the farmlands are gorgeous. It’s now dry with dry roads, and I end up meeting a guy named Mike (also is known as “Bike Daddy”) riding a bike with aero bars and going at quite a clip. He and I pair up to get to the 3rd checkpoint at ~ 75 miles, and I have a blast talking to him. At the stop, I’m back at that Trail Mix, talking with Mike and Tom and learning they’ve been doing this for years. (Also had I heard about the horsey hundred coming up in Lexington?) Mike tells me his age and I don’t believe it. He rides like a beast. All smiles. So many people.

Our camp

Our camp

All smiles, I’m back on the bike, time to get to Portsmouth. On this segment I meet up with a train of super nice riders from Michigan (Joe and Keith – who know Chris, a friend from Pittsburgh) and Northeast Ohio. Now the train is going full-blast and we’re powering into the wind at 22-23 mph into Portsmouth. Talk about fun! And man, these guys are powerful. We see the bridges in the distance, and know we’re getting there. There’s a sprint for the town sign, and then we roll into the finish, everyone saying how fun that was and hoping we’ll see each other the next day.

I go to the trucks and grab Lisa’s and my bags and get to the Life Center. Again, volunteers are amazing (shout outs to Otissa and Lil). I set up my sleeping bag and her air mattress next to a woman who asks me to set up next to her so we have a “non-snoring section.” How she knew I didn’t snore, no idea, but it worked. I went to change out of my sweaty kit, and looked in the mirror to see someone who looked like they’d finished Paris-Roubaix – between the rain, tire changes, and dirt on the roads, I had my fair share on my face and legs. And I smiled. Best shower ever? Yeah, it’s up there.

Sizzling dinner at Toro Loco

Sizzling dinner at Toro Loco

Lisa arrives just before the downpour hits Portsmouth, gets changed and we hit up Toro Loco for dinner. We here there are awesome spaghetti dinners at local churches, but with my gluten issues, I have to head elsewhere for sustenance. Sizzling fajitas to fuel for the next day, and then back and ready for bed at like 8PM. Crazy.

Sunday, May 11

After a pretty decent (better than expected) night’s sleep on a gym floor with 100+ fellow cyclists, people start stirring around 4:45, and lights go on at 5:30AM. I’m up at like 4:30 ready to start my day and hungry. Lisa and I pack up, I have my UCan and an Amrita bar (HUNGRY) and head out. This time flat tires don’t slow us down, but a slow freight train does put an early hold on our forward progress. Yet to me, trains are soothing. I take in the foggy morning, and the sound of the train, excited for the day, and eager to see how the legs will behave today. I know I’ll finish, but how strong, and how fast can I go? What will it be like to load the legs with back to back centuries after a workout the Friday prior?

Starting out on Sunday

Starting out on Sunday

We make a stop at Tim Horton’s for hot coffee and breakfast and are off. I’m loving riding with Lisa to the first time station – er rest stop. RAAM on the brain and I’m calling them time stations. We’re going at a nice easy clip, and not into headwinds. At the first stop I’m ready to keep going (have a long drive back to Pittsburgh) so I move on. I hit the gas to Chillicothe where I find my buddies Joe and Keith and the rest) from yesterday. Super excited we talk for awhile, they ask me if I’m training for any events, so we talk about RAAM and the craziness of it, and what these guys are planning for the year (both avid mountain bikers, Keith will do the MTB endurance triple crown that includes Iceman).

Our group then sets off again, this time clipping along faster 23-24 mph to get back home. The fog has blown off and sun is out by the time we get to the 3rd rest stop. Ah, more trail mix. I treat myself, we snap a group photo, and we are on our way. I loved riding with those guys and hope we meet again someday. They also said “When you win RAAM, make sure you give credit to the TOSRV guys who got you ready,” and I smile. Not only are they great riders, but all so nice too.

The ride back is in SUNSHINE and warm – kind of unheard of for TOSRV, but we take it. That and riding with new friends makes for a really great morning. Pacelining and echelon forming to break the wind as we go through the beautiful Ohio countryside.

We roll into Columbus, and the ride winds down. I chat with Joe about upcoming rides and races, and then everyone thanks each other for a good ride, and goes their separate ways and waves. We pick up our gear, and like that the weekend is done. Lisa and I talk on the phone as she and I are now driving our separate ways back home, and feeling pretty excited that we both finished the ride (and feel pretty good as well). Wow, what a great weekend it was!

Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, and local townspeople who made this a great event.

Had a BLAST "riding the train" with these guys for the final 50

Had a BLAST “riding the train” with these guys for the final 50

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