that some ominous dark clouds had formed. All day we had been facing a wind blowing west to east. I figured if my luck would hold, the brewing storm would blow by me as I headed in the opposite direction and would then be able to sneak behind it once I turned toward the north at the next control stop at Letchworth State Park. For the next hour, I gradually gained elevation and kept my eye of the storm. By now, the dark clouds had turned into a full-fledged rainstorm and I could see the valley getting pounded, but so far it was dry where I was. Just as I was approaching the top of the last hill, I begin to feel a few drops. Nothing major, it was just a light rain. At the next turn, the cue sheet indicated that it would be full run out downhill for the next five miles. This was even noted on the cue sheet with "Woo-hoo!!" I turned the corner I begin the descent. It was a relatively high traffic road, but it had a nice wide smooth shoulder. Just as I topped out at over 40 mph, the skies opened up. What was a light rain was now a torrential downpour. Even though I was going directly into the wind and rain, I was still maintaining 40 mph, making each raindrop feel like a tiny bee sting. I though about taking shelter on a porch or in an open garage, but by the time I saw something, stopping was out of the question. All I could do was hang on until the bottom of the descent and hope the rain was ease up. It did lighten up as I rolled into the town of Nunda, where I stopped and put on my rain jacket so I wouldn't get chilled. While stopped, two riders caught up with me. They were two 20-year local riders (Andrew and Justin) out on their first ultra cycling event. We ended riding together the five miles to the next control in Letchworth.
The Letchworth State Park control was at mile 183 and we rolled in right before dusk. Rather than being manned by the ride volunteers, we had to find a plaque and write down on our control card the year it was dedicated. Finding the plaque was easy enough; it was behind an inn at the overlook above a massive waterfall. The awkward part was that we had to ride through an outdoor wedding reception to get there. By now, the wedding guests must have been used to riders coming through since no one said anything or asked us about the ride. We rested at the overlook for a bit and by now the rain had stopped. I decided it would be more comfortable to sit in one of the lounge chairs on the porch of the inn. I must have been exhausted because I fell asleep almost as soon as I sat down even though the wedding guest were coming in and out of the door next to me and the music was blaring from the outdoor tent.
I probably dozed for a half hour, but it completely rejuvenated me. By now, it was dark, but at least the rain had ended. Both Andrew and Justin were a bit reluctant to start riding again. Neither had brought a rain jacket and both were somewhat chilled. However, I saw that we had to climb for a while to get out of the park and knew that would warm us up quickly. We had also been told that there would be a secret control somewhere in Geneseo, just 22 miles up the road. After climbing for the first mile or so, the route turned fairly mellow. We remained in Letchworth for 14 miles after leaving the control. During this stretch, the rain started up again, but it was light and did not last long. The only eventful occurrence was a single deer that darted in front us. The three of us stuck together and we arrive in Geneseo around 11:30 pm. As we passed a gas station convenience store, we heard voices call out. It was the secret control. We were now at mile 204 - officially, the halfway point - and had been on the road for 17.5 hours.
At this point, Justin decided he had had enough. It was probably a wise decision. Still, completing a first double century over the terrain we had covered in harsh conditions was to be commended. Fortunately, there was another rider who had also DNF'ed at this control. He was waiting for his wife to come pick him up and offered Justin a ride back to Ithaca. Andrew and I hung out at the control for about a half hour. While we there, a teenaged girl walked up to us and offered all the loose change she had. She thought we were on some kind fundraiser. No, we told her we were doing this just for fun, which probably confused her even more. Still, we accepted the change and gave it to Karen, who was manning the control, to help with the cost of putting on the ride. At this control, I decided to fill my water bottles with Perpetuem, a liquid food powder mix by Hammer Nutrition. Even though it had been available at the earlier controls, I was reluctant to try it. The cardinal rule is never try anything new or make changes to your diet during an event, since you never know how it will effect you. Still, Gatorade was no longer cutting it and the energy bars I had been eating all day were getting stale, so I was willing to take a chance. Shortly after midnight, Andrew and I got back on the bikes and hit the road. Next stop - Canandaigua.
The leg to Canandaigua was all choppy rollers, but no major climbs. It was slow going, but this was primarily due to the fact we were riding in the middle of the night. Still, I felt strong. Whoa - the Perpetuem works! We were now heading due east. Up ahead, we kept seeing flashes of lightning, but heard no thunder. The sky above us was clear, so it was likely we were behind the storm. We were obviously chasing it, since we would occasionally hit a road where it had recently rained. At any point, Andrew could have probably ridden my legs off and I let him know that he did not need to hold back and ride at my pace. For him, it was no big deal since he did not like riding alone. Just outside Canandaigua, we hit probably the worst part of the ride. For about a mile and a half, the pavement had been recently stripped for road construction, turning it into a washboard surface. It was so bumpy, it was almost impossible to control the bike. Fortunately, it didn't last long and we arrive at the control about 3:15 am. Here we had hot mac and cheese and potatoes waiting for us. Mark was also there and had also decided to call it a night. His house was only about 12 miles away. We also learned that a couple of riders were only about an hour ahead of us and there was still five or six behind us somewhere.
We left the control after about 45 minutes and headed to Auburn, which was the designated hotel stop. It had long since become obvious that we would be getting no sleep that night. The route to Auburn was the flattest section of the entire route. On average, riders were covering the distance of 45 miles in about three hours. Unfortunately, I made a directional mistake leaving town and we ended up going about a mile and a half in the wrong direction. After realizing the mistake, we backtracked and picked up route again. At this point in the early morning, the lack of sleep finally began to hit me. My head started to bob and I was seeing double. It's not a good state to be in when riding a bike. Fortunately, I had been prepared for this eventually. I had once been told that chewing gum would keep you alert. This was one of the last minute supplies I had purchased at the Wegman’s. I popped a