Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day

With Sharon off to Clearwater for a 2 week work stint, it was just Alex and me this weekend. The two of them collaborated however on a Father's Day gift for me. My back is often very stiff after standing for a while on a hard floor, such as when I teach each Sunday morning at church. They gave me a cushioned kitchen mat to stand on! How thoughtful :) We're doing a combined summer class in the sanctuary, which is carpeted and therefore better for standing on, but in the Fall when we move back to our regular class room, I'll be happy to have it.

Our Thursday hill route saw one new rider, Max. He's on a mountain bike and keeps up just fine. Which tells me he'll be screaming fast on a road bike, should he ever get one. I've suggested he at least put some slicker rubber on that Gary Fisher for now. Yesterday, he showed up for the Father's Day "relaxer" ride and said "I've got one of those cycling shirts now. I really like the pockets in the back." And he's ALREADY a strong rider. Wait till he gets to know more about how to ride!

Saturday, I thought about showing up at the regular bike club ride, and emailed Dan & Vanessa to ask about water stops on the way. At their avg pace (17 - 19) I'd need lots of water. Dan mentioned there would be a couple of stops for fluid replenishment, and I could check with someone else who knew the route for turn instructions, should I get dropped. He was suggesting ever so delicately that I might be too slow for this gang. Now that hills and wind trouble me less, I have been working on pace. I can hold 22 - 24 mph, but only for a few miles. 18 is really my upper comfortable limit, to avg that, the club riders often are well above that point. I took Dan's subtle hint and decided to ride myself up north of town. I did post it to the club and heard from a couple of interested parties. 68 miles, 3,300' of climb and rest stops every 15 miles. Pretty country too. Riding to the start from our house would add 12 miles, to make a nice 80.

As it turned out, only Roxy was able to join me. I pedaled away from our garage at 6:15 AM and headed over to Millbrook, one town east of Prattville. The new paving on our main drag was like butter to ride on. It didn't last long though, as I turned onto regular old stuff at the traffic light. Roxy came up and got ready and we headed off at 7:00. Mindful of the forecast for very warm temps in the afternoon, I suggested we do the route clockwise, and get most of the hills done early. The route roughly is alternating 1/4s of hilly and flattish terrain. By the time it got hot, we'd have only the last flattish section to do. Roxy didn't really care, hadn't looked at the route and said he was going to tag along wherever the Rivendell was pointed.

I don't like to climb on cold legs, but the easy cruise from home had warmed them sufficiently that I did not mind the immediate 10% grade up CR 009 across from Wal-Mart. We wound our way up to Old Kingston, stopping at a store on US 31 but not needing to rest at either Posey Crossroads or Old Kingston. That made for a long haul when we finally pulled into "Bubba's" Pit Stop Gas just outside of Marbury. Roxy had a couple of bike issues going on. His front shifter was able to shift into his small ring but not out of it. A new cable was recently installed, and it may need some further tweaking. He threw his chain off once if I recall as well. Nothing major at any rate. With the 13% grades we climbed, that granny gear was an item he wanted at the ready. My bike worked really well. This was the 3rd outing on the new 38 mm Pascenti Pari-Moto tires. They have swelled some in girth due to the very supple walls, and the outer diameter has therefore dropped so that they are almost the same OD as 32 mm Grand Bois Cypres (on the Nashbar). While the tires are now just BARELY fitting inside the chain stays, they do not rub at all and they are easily the most comfortable while still fast tires that I have ridden to date. (The Rivendell was built for 700mm tires. Using 650B tires allows fatter models to be used, with a bit less outside diameter. They also lower the top tube of the frame and let me straddle a larger size frame. I prefer to ride the largest frames I can fit on, as they are more comfortable to me and handle better. Where my normal size frame for 700 size wheels is 50 cm, the Rivendell, or "Elrond" as I sometimes refer to him, is 54.5 cm in size.)

When we reached Deatsville Hwy at mile 45 of the route, Roxy & I did a quick weather consult. Our consensus was it was HOT! and we opted to take the right hand fork rather than the left. We sliced about 10 miles off the course that way. So Roxy made it back to the car with a metric in hand and since I still had to ride back home, I tallied 73+ for the day. Our change in plan turned out to be Providential as not 15 minutes after I put the bike in the garage, a lightning bolt cracked nearby, the heavens opened up and we had high winds and driving rain. It didn't last too long (long enough to green up all the grass though) but I would NOT want to be riding in it at any time, much less when I was already tired from pushing against the headwinds which it turned out were generated by this frontal system. I was losing gas in my legs on that last section coming home anyway, and realized from the goosebumps on my arms (in 97F blazing Sun) that I had core temperature issues. I pulled into a shopping center parking lot and went into a restaurant to have a LARGE ICE COLD Diet Coke. Talk about the pause that refreshes! The left over ice went into my water bottles. Something about 100F+ propel just isn't very thirst quenching, you know? Being inside for a few minutes let me get cooled down as well. Feeling ready to go again, I pulled out and finished the ride normally.

There's a definite difference in my riding from last year to now. If nutrition and hydration/electrolytes are managed properly, I can pedal a longer way without problems. I like that. I was also not tired when I got home, or the next day for the relaxer ride. When work pays off, it is very satisfying, and encouraging to reach for more.

For Father's Day, I intended a casual mostly flat ride of 32 miles. I was surprised that 7 other riders came out, and we hadn't gone far before one of them had a flat. He had only changed a tire once before, and did not know how to use tire bars. We had a quick review on the road for general benefit and then we were back on our way. A little while later, I was told we had lost a rider. It was T2. I went back a mile+ to check on her but she was no where to be seen. I knew she had gone out the day prior and suspected when she got to the first hill, her legs were rubbery. That turned out to be the case, and she left a Vmail on my machine. So, a couple of extra miles and lots of sweat as I raced to catch back up with the main group, except for Ray who came along with me to see about Terry.

I held a steady 13 mph pace into a brisk wind, which the new riders behind me said was okay for them. One, on her 2d ride ever, struggled with hills, until she finally got the hang of the front derailleur and found her granny ring. Coming back with a tailwind and mostly downhill was more fun of course. The new folks got all happy footed and cranked. I was not into a race so I did not try to catch them. I'm glad they had fun. Curtis and I brought up the rear at a respectable rate. I ended with a 14 avg, and my heart rate average was HIGHER than on the long hilly ride the day before. NOT relaxing, but it was good fun regardless.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

"We Shall Overcome"

The song, "We Shall Overcome," has become synonymous with the annual festivities at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. These mark the civil rights era events which occurred there. Selma is close enough to ride to, and it seemed like a nice idea instead of another Saturday club ride from one of the two venues used. I floated the idea on our Thursday hill drill and both Joe and Frank seemed interested. Did some homework, located a potential eating establishment for a mid ride meal, and posted the ride to the club. Surprisingly, I got a fair number of responses. Ray emailed me to say that he would come. Mike, Michael, and Robert were strong maybes. Ron wrote that his free time precluded going all teh way, but he would join us until our 1st rest stop in Autaugaville. As it turned out, it was Ray, Frank, Joe and I with Ron for the 1st 1/4 of the way.

I set up Louise, the Rambouillet for the trip, by swapping the skimpy tool roll for a large Acorn saddle bag. Hot and sunny was the forecast so a number of items were packed, that don't usually come along. Sunscreen, a sports towel, enough cereal grain bars and propel powder for the whole trip, in case none was found at store stops. Also packed a bike lock, clickstand, tools, and a camera. The 37 mm Paselas came off and the original issue 32s went back on. I was unsure about the bike, as it now has a regular road double, instead of the original compact triple. I decided to have faith that I could climb all the hills without a little chain ring. After all, why are we doing hill drills twice a week, if not to get better at, anyone, anyone? HILLS!! The bike worked great. It was as comfortable at the end as at the first. WHile my legs were tired when we were done, my butt was NOT sore and my body was not beaten up. It's a great frame design and really perfect dimensions for me. I only had a 6 speed freewheel today and I don't think I ever used the biggest cog. Any trouble I had was staying up with the speedwagons who interpreted my post about "touring pace" to mean 18 - 20 mph. In the end, I hung on until I got tired, then dropped off the back until I felt recovered. I often closed some of the gaps on hills, but not always. A couple of times, they took a shady break along he way and let me rejoin the group. I think what was most tiring for me was not the pace they pushed, but the way they pedaled. Frank is fairly consistent although he gets sudden burst of energy and surges ahead, but Joe and Ray are interval cyclists. They pedal hard, speed up, then rest and slow down. That wears on me, since I get in a groove and need to stay at about the same speed all the time. I don't race downhills, and I try not to slow much going up them. It's not a bad thing, it's just our styles are different. It certainly didn't stop me from enjoying this ride immensely. Being alone in the back let me ride as I would without company and that worked fine too. No assist with wind that way, but it's a trade off I could handle.

Frank had "Colonel Mustard," his custom Bilenky, Joe was on his custom Seven. Ray rode a Trek I didn't catch the model # of, and Ron was on his SUV. (a MTB converted to touring duty. He can carry EIGHT water bottles on that thing in mounts placed everywhere they'll fit. I still haven't divined how he has an under/over handlebars set up of two totally distinct handlebars. Very interesting!) Here are Frank and Joe getting ready and my bike is leaning against the car.

I was excited about the trip all week. This morning though, as the "weather alert" icons popped up to tell about near 100F temps expected, and Frank wondered how "flat" this ride really was, I had a few second thoughts. You might see that in my expression here. Or maybe  I'm feeling the jokes coming my way about doing this ride in this heat in WOOL.

We headed off on time anyway at 7:00, and made it to our rest stops in good order. The roads were in good condition for the most part and we arrived in Selma at about 9:30. We went up on the bridge and heard a few horn honks (surely they were just saying hello to out of towners?) and here is the obligatory Bridge shot.

A second mission was to eat a meal here, and my original recon selection of The Downtowner was closed for the day. A quick pedal around brought us wafting aromas of BBQ, so we pulled in at the "Rib Master" on Alabama Ave. Owned and operated by Rena (pronounced Re-Nay), she tells you to be patient and get really good home cooking. All from scratch. We had breakfasts and they were indeed as she said. A small place, we had to shoehorn ourselves in there.

Rena says modestly that she has the best ribs in Selma. "I season 'em real good before cooking and start with good meat. It falls off the bone when I cook it." Her kids help in the store and none of the locals we saw in there were in a rush either. They all were patient, as were we. She got nice tips from us, and she deserved them. Here's momma Rena at work on the grill:

Brunch took about an hour and then we headed back. It was hotter than on the way out, with a quartering headwind that was more a cooling help than a pedaling hindrance. It was drier as well, so perspiration was more efficient. Hot though.  We expected to be back around 2, and we were pretty close to that. I showed almost 75 miles total and a 15 mph moving average, which was "in the advertised range." the others will have slightly higher avg speeds. We climbed over 2,000' but not the 3,000' Frank saw on MapMyRide (web glitch, it later showed 1,500')

 The Swobo jersey was especially good in the afternoon, when it was almost dry any time we were riding. In the morning the wet air prevented any drying out to occur. ZOIC shorts with the padded liner were excellent below. No grabbing at the skin when wet.

 There were a couple of funny moments along the way. At rest stop #2, Ray went behind the store to use a tree (no public facilities avail there) and was stung by a wasp. Good thing it got his hand, you know? He cooled it off with ice, and then on a suggestion from Frank, put some down his shorts. Frank meant some small pieces, but Ray shoved a huge block in there. He was very macho for a few minutes until he experienced, in the words of George Castanza, "Shrinkage!!"

The ride on the Mississippi River Trail last Fall whetted my appetite for longer tours, so I am sure this won't be the last meander. Just this afternoon, Sharon mentioned needing to make a trip to IKEA in Atlanta for laundry room cabinets. "Hey, how about if you drop me off in Anniston, and I come up on the Chief Ladiga - Silver Comet Trail and meet you there?" You know, thinking outside the box, right?


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back To The Future

Our Prattville Hill group had a good outing on Thursday after work. I got pensive emails and texts from other riders concerning the likelihood of T-Storms interfering with ride plans, but decided to just show up. If it was raining when I got there, I'd go home, otherwise, we would ride. The weather worked out fine and we had a good outing on one of the prettier circuits we use. When we were done, I felt good. A couple of the guys asked about my Saturday plans and I said I'd like to do another metric. It sounded good to them, and so we met yesterday at the old John Hall Store in remote Cecil, AL and rode for 62.5 miles. As on Monday, we encountered high humidity with heavy overcast early, giving way to bright Sun and scorching heat later. A time or two we came upon an area that had just been rained on, and was now in bright Sun. The steam coming off the pavement was incredibly stifling. Of course it's hot in Alabama in June.
  Sweat was a real issue on this ride, and I chose not to wear a cap under the helmet. Better ventilation that way, and I pressed the helmet down a few times to squeeze the water out of the padding as we went along. I wore a Rivendell/Woolistic jersey and it handled being drenched quote well. Rivendell's Boosucker shorts over a pair of ZOIC liners handled things down below as well. Boosuckers are bamboo seersucker and handle being soaked way better than cotton does. I had Defeet wool socks and Vetruvian sneakers on and they were very comfortable on MKS Sylvan touring pedals. Also, I didn't walk like a duck off the bike.
  We made 3 store stops and they were all needed. The 2 bottles I could carry aboard Elrond (a '95 Rivendell Road) would not begin to handle my re-supply needs. I ended up getting 4 bottles on the road plus the 2 I brought. Each had 1/4 tsp of salt added. That's about 2 oz of fluid/salt solution for each mile ridden. It worked as nary a cramp showed up. I also ate a breakfast cereal bar at each rest and added some salted peanuts at two of them.
  The route featured a range of pavement and continual rollers, except for the middle 5 miles which had 4 actual hills to climb. Not bad though and less climbing than on Monday's ride. The new Pascenti Pari-Moto tires are outstanding. This is the 2d outing on them and they were really comfortable, track well in corners, and are fast over rough stuff. I couldn't stay with the two fastest riders very long. Pace lining was good when they were at 17 - 19, but when they kicked it up to 20 - 22, I got winded quickly trying to stay with them. They spent most of the day at 20+, so I generally rode solo. Coming in towards the end of the ride, one rider was feeling a bit spent, so I got in front of him and offered to pull. He was happy to accept and we cruised in the final 4 - 5 miles at 15. Overall, I had a 16 avg, which is also what I had in the hills on Thursday. I know that sounds slow to the rest of you all, but it's fast for me. Recent years have seen me peg 13 - 15 as my range and that has been what I average consistently. When we started doing hills this season, I was in the 13.5 area. 16 is what I was doing back 5 years ago, and it is very satisfying to be able to get there again. I was not sure I ever would. Not just that, but after neither ride was I worn out and ready to nap. That's different too. It's taken a year of diet and exercise to get to this point, and when something takes time and effort, it is just appreciated a little more.
  So, climbing is better for me than it was, but I still need to work on getting my level pace up a tick or two. After the ride and a shower and lunch, I polished up today's Sunday school lesson. (I'm beginning a 6 week section on Covenant Theology. Then I get a 6 week break!) When that was done, there was still time and interest in bike maintenance, so I cleaned and oiled the chains, brakes, and derailleurs of 3 bikes. Capped the day off by sitting on the back porch and watching a T-Storm move in later on before heading on in to bed. Just a really good Saturday.

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