TOSRV is a unique ride. It has more of a hippie vibe than that of a traditional event or Gran Fondo. Case in point is the start time. There isn’t one. You go when you want and finish when you finish. “Groovy, baby!”
Typical to our TOSRV modus operandi, Russ and I planned on rolling Saturday morning at 6 AM. That meant loading the SAG wagon that Sandy (Russ’ wife) would drive by 5:15. This meant yours truly would be up at 4 AM.
For the past 54 years, TOSRV has started and ended in downtown Columbus. Last year (which neither of us rode) TOSRV broke from tradition and moved the start/finish to The Heimat Haus south of Columbus in Grove City. They also altered the route (here’s the route: MapMyRide) so in many ways TOSRV56 would feel like our first.
Friday night we picked up our ride packet, discussed Saturday departure details, then headed our separate ways. I went to bed early, hoping my parent’s air mattress would be merciful on my lower back, and even took a sleep aid. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I wasn’t nervous; I was excited. I drifted off to sleep around 11:30 PM.
My alarm buzzed at 4 AM. Adrenalin made up for my lack of sleep but time would tell if this would affect my cycling. I checked the weather on my phone and had my first, “Oops!” All week, the Columbus weather forecast called for temps to be in the 70’s-80’s so I didn’t pack my tights or my lightweight thermal top. Today, temps would be in the 50’s with mist and a north wind for most of the day. What irked me the most is that I had plenty of room to bring my cold weather gear, and as a former Buckeye, I know Ohio weather can turn on a dime.
I weigh 153 lbs and get cold easily, so in order to survive the day, I put on 2 pairs of socks and 2 jerseys. I was also thankful that in TN, I tossed in my old, yellow nylon cycling jacket at the last minute.
I got to Russ’ home on time and loaded my gear into the SAG: small cooler with post-ride recovery drinks; duffel with street clothes, toiletries, extra kits (for the rain); Advocare products; extra food; my Dad’s lightweight jacket (since it’s cool.) I mentally checked off everything, making sure I had everything in the SAG for the evening while at the same time making sure I had what I needed in my car to start the ride. Worse case, I’d see the SAG at our lunch stop in Chillicothe, about 45 miles away. Little did I know I’d made another, “Oops!”
Zip & Roll!
We arrive at The Heimat Haus and start unloading. That’s when I discover my other SAG packing blunders.
- My extra cycling shoes didn’t get loaded. The idea was that if my first pair got drenched Saturday, I’d wear this old pair Sunday. All I could do now was hope it didn’t rain Saturday. Roll on…
- My backup spare inner tube and bike wrenches didn’t get loaded. I was okay with this muff; I always carry a spare inner tube in my rear bike bag, and as far as the tools, I figured if anything major happened, TOSRV SAG would help plus Russ had some of his in our SAG. Roll on…
- My Nike tennis shoes COULDN’T be loaded since I wore them to drive to the start. The real “Oops!” was not packing an extra pair in TN that I could designate to the SAG.
# 3 was the most troubling because I had to either leave them behind and be without street shoes in Portsmouth, or carry them on my bike for 45 miles. I chose comfort over form and tied them on.
Next, I donned my yellow jacket only to discover the zipper wouldn’t budge. “Oh yeah, that’s why it was tossed in the garage and hasn’t been used in years!”
I needed the extra warmth so I kept it on, but I must have been quite the site on the ride: yellow jacket billowing like a sail, blue shoes over the bars… Tennessee Redneck Bike Club!
Learning to Ride Together Again
The first half of TOSRV is flat, so with the wind on our back, we kept a good pace (17-18) rolling south. The foggy mist peppered glasses, bikes, and clothing, but didn’t totally saturate us, and in many ways was refreshing. Russ & I hadn’t biked together for 30 years, so it took a few miles (at least for me) to get into a rhythm. Russ is a touring god, with countless TOSRV’s under his belt as well as conquering RAGBRAI a number of times. Russ isn’t into racing, although he’s got enough power (watts) in his legs to hammer, so he likes to ride side-by-side and talk. Conversely, I’ve been training with racers so I either lead or draft, keep conversation limited to “On your left!” and have the mindset of GSD (“get shit done.”) Since I didn’t come to race or set a PR, I adjusted my style to work better with Russ’ and we had a great time together.
Food & Such
Our first rest stop was at Circleville where they had the quintessential bike food: peanut butter, bagels, trail mix, oranges, bananas, Gatorade. We snacked, refilled bottles, then rolled on.
Lunch was at Chillicothe and this was also where Sandy would meet us with the SAG. And let me just say that after years of TOSRV & RAGBRAI, they have mastered SAG! More on this later; I was just excited to finally unload my Nikes!
Based upon my previous TOSRV’s (back in the 80’s), I expected lunch to be a duplicate of what was served in Circleville. I was pleasantly surprised to see vats of homemade potato salad, pasta salad, deli trays, as well as the typical food one would expect. And since potato chips are my “new” food of choice on long rides, I loaded up!
TOSRV is also noted for having HAM radio operators stationed along the route, as well as police, state troopers, EMS at key intersections. TOSRV56 didn’t disappoint in this aspect, either. It’s always comforting to know that if shit hit the fan, help is close by.
Once out of Chillicothe, the next 15-25 miles had some hills. Nothing like Tennessee but some rollers with the one exception being the “surprise!” climb on the detour around Lake White. What made this a challenge was:
- Angle. The road with the climb was perpendicular to the main route so you couldn’t get any speed to help you ascend. According to MapMyRide, this short segment was rated a Cat 5 climb.
- Pitch. I’m horrible at trying to guess gradient, but for me (a descent climber) I was in my easiest gear and out of the saddle.
- Road condition. Beat to hell & narrow! You couldn’t find a good line anywhere, and
with all the divots and moisture on the road, you couldn’t get traction.
- Traffic. It’s not only a bike detour but for vehicles as well. Try navigating a climb when a 4X4 is coming down.
- Gravel descent. Yep, right at the bottom where the 90 degree turn (with stop sign) sat. Brakes were screaming.
Once up & over, I loved the route around the lake; very picturesque region with gentle climbs through wooded areas. But since this was a new road for us, and I hadn’t checked it out on Google or MapMyRide, we road conservatively in case they had another bitch climb in store for us.
Thankfully the worst was over, and after what seemed like hours, we were back on the old route: Highway 104.
Day 1 Finish
After the hills, the remaining route was flat into Portsmouth. By now, the sun was out, wind was from the south, and temps were in the high 80’s. My legs felt strong, as did my cardio, but my neck was killing me, my right butt was numb, and at the 85 mile mark, I got a bad case of hot foot. When Russ wanted to stop at a convenience store, I was elated. While he went in to buy liquids, I sat, took off my shoe and massaged my sore foot.
We set out once more and finished the day with 108 miles with average pace at 16 MPH. We celebrated at the Portsmouth Brewing Company then drove to our hotel. Here, I’d be introduced to Lucy, but I’m getting ahead of myself! 🙂