May 15, 2012

TOSRV Double Half Century Recap

Over the weekend I participated in TOSRV (Tour Of the Scioto River Valley), pronounced, well, I have no idea how it's pronounced. I heard people say it as toe-serve, tah-serve, and too-serve*. So, it seems no one really knew. The full TOSRV is a two day cycling event covering 210 miles, riding from Columbus, Ohio to Portsmouth, Ohio (at the border with Kentucky), it's a double century. The half TOSRV (what I did), starts half way and ends half way, at Chillicothe (pronounced chill-ih-kaw-thee, this one everyone was certain of). The organizer's math is a bit off though, because the half TOSRV is actually 110 miles, not 105, but hey, those are bonus miles, right? This is one of the first organized cycling tours I had done in several years and I have to say I was impressed with its size and organization.

I packed a lot of stuff. I realized, as I was packing for the trip, that it is far easier to just roll out of bed in the morning, look outside, put on appropriate clothing and then go cycling than it is to plan for a cycling event half a week out. Being springtime I also wanted to be sure to cover all meteorological possibilities. After all, if I were to get to Ohio and then the weather forecast changed (as it can in spring) I'd be out of luck if I hadn't packed what I needed for the unexpected weather. So, instead of thinking hard and planning ahead I just packed a ridiculous amount of stuff:

  • Cycling shoes
  • Cycling socks
  • Multi tool
  • Spare inner tubes
  • CO2 cartridges
  • Tire levers
  • Rag
  • Chain oil
  • Bike lock
  • A pack of gels (Gu's and PowerBar)
  • A pack of mini PowerBars
  • A pack of Stinger Waffles
  • Two containers of Muscle Milk
  • A water bottle
  • Gatorade powder
  • Biking pants
  • Jersey
  • Gloves (both full fingered and fingerless)
  • Skull cap for under the helmet
  • Ear warmers for under the helmet
  • Tri Suit (for some reason I use this instead of bib-shorts, maybe because I'm cheap)
  • Long-sleeve jersey
  • Arm warmers
  • Towel
  • Rain shell jacket
  • Cycling jacket
  • Assorted toiletries
  • Headphones (for after the bike ride)
  • Phone charger (of the solar persuasion)
  • Cycling glasses with multiple lenses
  • Yoga mat (the woefully inadequate padding for under my...)
  • Sleeping bag (55+ degrees rated)
  • Extra sports bag
  • Camel bak backpack
  • Compression socks
  • Kindle (for after the bike ride)
  • Ear plugs (best $0.50 ever spent)
  • Tire pump
  • Oh, yeah, and a bike...
This was, obviously, a ridiculous amount of stuff to pack for just two days of cycling. I have to agree with Fatty. Bike gear is a gas that takes up the space allowed. 

Day 1
A typical view on TOSRV
Amazing weather set the tone for an upbeat and optimistic start in Chillicothe. After riding a few miles I began to realize that I've been riding the same few routes over and over again for the last couple of years. It was very refreshing to get some new scenery. The rolling foothills of the Scioto river valley were a beautiful sight. The terrain reminded me of the Huron River Drive loop that I make regularly. It was just the right mixture of flat lands and rolling hills with a few short but steep hills to keep things interesting.

The path was marked very well with arrows in the road. There were arrows even when you didn't have to turn. Just there to reassure you that you haven't accidentally missed your turn and ridden an extra 10 miles. The markings, however, were almost superfluous. As it turns out 3,000 people make a pretty good crowd and it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without passing or being passed by a fellow rider. In fact, most of the time there was a full peloton within sight.

Every few miles and at most major intersections there were volunteers or local police watching over people and to help if anything should happen. In some of the small towns people would gather outside their houses and ring cowbells or cheer as we went by.

I was so excited to be out in such great weather with such vast and unexplored amount of road in front of me that I had a tough time pacing myself. I kept looking down at my bike computer and realizing that I had been doing nearly double the speed I had targeted. I eventually settled down and just followed a group that was capable of proper pacing. Four hours and 3,921 calories later I arrived in Portsmouth.

I arrived in Portsmouth! (no, I didn't crash, I'm just stretching)

After arriving in Portsmouth I set up camp in the local high school's gym. 

My patch of floor at the Portsmouth High School gymnasium

Panorama view of the "TOSRV Hotel" at the Portsmouth High School gymnasium

Day 2
I woke up at 5am to the sound of rain on the roof of the gym. It wasn't supposed to rain. I looked at the weather on my phone. "Maybe it'll pass", I thought. Nope. It was sprinkling now, but expected to be showers and heavy rain as the day progressed. Rain all day. Good thing I had packed my rain gear even though the forecast didn't call for rain. See, packing ludicrously can pay off.

Sprinkles turned into light rain.

Since I was already up and the weather was only going to get worse over time I packed up and hit the road. Maybe it was because it was 5:30am, or because it was so soon after having ridden for so long, or the excitement from the novelty of the ride had washed away, but my body just went into muscle memory mode and this day pacing was not a problem at all.

Light rain turned to showers.

Before I knew it I was already at the 25 mile food stop. I stepped into one of the porta-potties and attempted to text my wife, who was to pick me up in Chillicothe. I was, after all, a few hours ahead of schedule. Usually when I'm biking in the rain it's while commuting to work. Usually while commuting to work I use my amazingly water resistant Ortlieb panniers to carry my stuff. This was not a usual commute to work. This is when I realized that I had overlooked the fact that my camel bak backpack is not water proof. Everything I had, everything around me, was wet. The text I was composing had many spelling errors because the screen kept thinking I was typing a few characters over from where I was pressing because there were several drops of water on it. My attempts to wipe the screen off only made things worse. I could not dry the phone off because I had nothing dry with which to dry it. The wetness of the situation was total and all encompassing. I repacked the phone in the center of my backpack hoping that would at least slow the water down and keep it from sitting in pools at the bottom of the bag.

Showers turned into heavy rain.

Seeing people at the side of the road fixing flats was not an uncommon sight. You have to assume that with 6,000 tires a few are statistically destined to give out over two days of riding. About five miles from the end I spotted a frustrated looking fellow at the side of the road trying to fix his flat. This time, however, when I asked the customary "all good?" question instead of responding with some variation on "yup", he replied with, "No. Do you happen to have air"? I was nearly done. If I stopped I didn't know if I would be able to get my body to start moving again. If I were the one on the side of the road with a broken CO2 inflater, I'd hope someone else would have the decency to assist me. Damned morals. I stopped. For the next five minutes I talked the guy through changing an inner tube and let him use one of my CO2 cartridges. He was polite and grateful for the help and I left feeling good about a deed well done. I even managed to get back in the saddle and pedal the last five miles.

The goodies from TOSRV

Lessons Learned
I considered this to be something of a dry run for PALM (Pedal Across Lower Michigan) tour, which is coming up in the end of June, so I was keen on noting any lessons learned during this much shorter multi-day tour. Here are some:
  • Earplugs are a wonderful thing for falling asleep when there are hundreds of people around you.
  • One can run over an unnerving number of worms during the course of riding 55 miles in the rain along side a lot of farm land. 
  • A yoga mat and thin sleeping bag is not a substitution for proper bedding.
  • The battery pack from my solar panel worked great for charging an iPhone overnight.
  • Plastic bags should be added to the ridiculously extra-long list to keep things that are packed in the camel bak dry when it rains. 
  • The iPhone is amazingly water resistant (see lesson learned above).
  • Even when it's the only thing around for 20 miles, McDonalds is not a good breakfast substitute.
  • If it is going to rain all day, full fingered gloves would probably protect ultra-pruned and raw fingers better than fingerless gloves. 

*Note from Joe: I just heard from the TOSRV officials that the official pronunciation is "Tah-Serve". Mystery solved!


  1. Wow!! What an experience! Thank you for sharing all the details of the ride. PALM here you come.

    1. Yeah, and PALM should be a lot easier now that I have a tent :-D


  2. Debbie GMay 21, 2012

    Congratulations on completing the ride, Joe! Too bad the weather did not cooperate. That was a fun re-cap to read, thanks for sharing!

  3. AnonymousMay 25, 2012

    Joe - I'm the frustrated looking fellow you so graciously helped just outside Chillicothe. I just want to thank you once again for your kindness, patience and tolerance for someone who had more challenges changing a tire than should have been expected - especially since I now know you were so near the end of your ride. I looked for you at the Chillicothe stop, but the odds were not in my favor. I still owe you a beer (and a CO2 cartridge) should we ever bump into each other at another cycling event.

    1. Wow, cool! How was the rest of your ride? Hope it went well. I hope we do bump into each other again - I look forward to sharing a beer :-)