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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Take The Long Way Home

Davies & Hodgson ask the question, “Does it feel that your life’s a catastrophe when you look through the years and see what you could have been, oh what might have been, if you’d had more time?”


I won’t quarrel that the tune by Supertramp is a catchy one, but sometimes the long way home is the one that lets you see and learn lots of new things about yourself and about the world around you. Like, you can gear down and find a steady pace into a headwind, or that if you stay within yourself, the extra miles and climbing are a reward, not a punishment.

The year ended on a high note with a gathering of cycling friends for today's morning ride. The day started out warm for a 12/31. 52F when I left the house, deciding to pedal to the start to add the miles and the climb. It was still cool enough for long sleeves (the Woolistic Visconti birthday present from last month), with a short sleeve wool (Swobo Tee) base layer under it. A light wool cap (sort of hound’s-tooth check in colors that go well in AL) Fox River wool socks and Ibex knee warmers under Smartwool shorts. The Wool – Microfiber Giro long finger gloves which also came last month were prefect for the weather.

Left to right, it's Jeff, John, Pete, and Tom


Here we are heading out of Millbrook. Jeff is resplendent in a wool Rapha jersey and Steve (not in this picture, but see below) is rocking a Wooly Warm by Rivendell jersey as well. Wool, it’s spreading! There was sunshine and a light tailwind outbound. We stopped at the usual store stops and had more than the usual # of dogs come out at us. None were super serious, all were irritating. I snapped a picture of this lab barking from the safety of the roadside. He retreated after hearing Max’s bell.

We spent a little time at each stop, something that Pete’s son Zach was not thrilled by when he rode with us on Tuesday. I don’t like to stay too long, but with a bunch of 50+ year old men, it’s a good bet that someone needs a bathroom. And we all like to give that saddle region a break. I suppose I’ll never be a training racer, more a tourer. The roads have room for both. I like to get a banana at the “The Boys Store” to go along with the grain breakfast bars I eat at the other stops. And some sugar free Fuze Tropical Punch. Frank introduced me to that drink and I like it as a change up from the Propel that is usually found in my water bottles. In between, we tried to get some pictures. Tom is trying to get his to work. Steve offers assistance.


Heading north from the store, we crossed Lake Jordan and then turned west on Possum Trot before turning south into the breeze. While we were at the store, you could see the clouds coming in to herald the 100% of rain for tomorrow, and the wind both shifted and strengthened. Before we got it full on, we had to climb a 12% grade because, well you know, it was there. One rider was a little rusty having been out all of 3 times this year and he was laboring up the grade on his compact double. For the 1st time I can remember, I thought to myself, “no big deal,” I’ll just go back down and ride up again with him. I think that’s a way to measure one’s progress. Can ride what you once walked up? Does the prospect of giving back hard work in elevation gain sound like an opportunity to stretch your legs instead of a prison labor camp sentence? I’ve always preferred hills to wind, but have come to actually enjoy climbing. Can’t say the same for wind though. That’ll be another mile marker on the way, I suppose. We pulled back some 20 miles  into a very stiff wind. Mostly at 13 – 14 mph. It was tiring. We got a bit strung out in this phase and somehow John got separated from us. He was between Max and Jeff, and when Jeff showed up, there was no John. We assumed he chose to return home by the way he came, and we went on. John emailed later to say he had been dropped on a “no drop” ride. I feel bad about that but still don’t know how it happened.


Steve asked to bypass the Marion Spillway with its “Rough Riders” pavement ( so we went a different way. With 38mm tires and a steel frame, I didn’t mind it, but others might find it very abusive to bikes and bodies. My highlight of the day was finding myself in the lead on Ceasarville Road and cranking along for a brief spell at 29.7 mph on level ground. I switched the Garmin to heart rate monitor and when it started to rocket skyward, I dialed it back and got behind Steve for a spell. It was heady while it lasted though!


So, over 100 rides this year, almost 4,000 miles. 163,000’ of climbing, and lots of great memories. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and blessed 2011. May all your winds be tailwinds.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve

An early Christmas present arrived today. Instead of the very windy weather forecast earlier in the week, we were blessed with calm air, abundant sunshine and reasonable temperatures for this time of year. 30s at the start and about 50F at the end. 7 of us gathered at a convenient corner and shoved off a little past 9:00 AM. We didn't have to wait to connect to Tom this week. He was there before I was. JOHN was the latest arrival, but was welcome when he made it to the parking lot. Steve is now fully persuaded in the power of wool, so slowly but steadily, the movement of merino through the ranks of club riders continues. He had a baselayer and  Wooly Warm jersey on, and expected Santa to bring Wooly Warm tights to go along with them. I have them too, and love them, although I decided they were TOO warm for today and wore a lighter pair of Pearl Izumis over my Smartwool shorts.

We did the relatively flat 1/3 of the route 1st, which was fine. I prefer to tackle hills on warmed up legs. I say "relatively flat" because that section included two 9% climbs. But it was flat in between them. Just before we started to climb for real, we grabbed a rest and regroup stop at a stop sign.

As you can see, the leaves are gone from these trees, although surprisingly, many still have their very dead and no longer pretty leaves attached to branches. At this point, we had gone up a total of about 300' in 16 miles. Since we finished with 2,100' we had a LOT more ahead of us. I have not been climbing as much as I need to since our Cheaha trip, and Joe and Michelle both said they too were not climb-ready, so it was a good workout for us. Tom, Steve and Frank are all strong, while John hurt a little going up, although he was plenty fast on the flatter sections. John in fact had a spoke break soon after this rest and had to SAG it back to the cars. A good Samaritan gave him a lift, although he had someone to call had that not happened. Steve wore our colorful tights today. It seems someone always does. I'm glad that we rode, these folks are always good to be around. Joe and I keep trying new bike tweaks. His Sam Hillborne now sports Paul Canti brakes and Maxy Fasty Tires. I tried to talk him out his now out of use Pari-Motos but no dice. He had a new handlebar bag and bar tape as well. Joe does bar tape well, including the twining of the ends. I do bar tape sloppy, but it works. I had an Ebay crankset on which I liked a LOT. An Ultegra 52/42/30 triple, it is smoother and quieter than the stock Sugino XD was, and I like that 42 a lot better than the Sugino 36 middle ring. Yes, I'm limited to about 30 mph in a 52/12 as far as pedal ration goes, but I can barely turn that, downhill! I don't see where I need a 53/11, ever.

I'm off most of next week, and will try to get a few more rides in. I'm about 140 mi shy of 4,000 for the year. It COULD happen!

Tailwinds and Merry Christmas to you all.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

BBQ at #22

This weekend was not shaping up for anything exciting in the way of a bike ride. Joe, Max, Ray, Pete and Ron all for one reason or another had to be elsewhere. I saw Frank's note on my FaceBook wall saying he would be "in available" for a ride, and B's translation services rendered that to say he would also be personna absentia for a ride. There were a couple of rides posted for eastern Montgomery County, leaving from the John Hall Store (an old country store, refurbished and reopened a year or two ago. Now cyclists can go INSIDE to use the bathroom pre-ride!) both a 30 mile light ride and a 40 mile "150 max HR" ride. I had to ask Bill T to tell me what 150 meant to him in the way of MPH. For me, 150 is what I get when climbing a 15% grade. I can't hold it all that long. 135 is more like my avg HR. But then, I'm more than a few years older than he is. In the end, I purposed to do a core exercise routine early and then catch the light ride, and maybe add another loop at whatever pace felt good. It was a pleasant surprise to hear from Frank late Friday and find out that he meant to say he was "in" town and "available" to ride. As always, he wanted "at least" a metric and whatever option had more hills. Beyond that, it was up to me to map a route. "See you at 9:00 AM Saturday."

I threw up a club email invite to the hastily conceived plan, but did not expect much response. Jean got a particular encouragement to attend, but was not heard from. When I arrived at the store, only Frank was there. It was just Bill and Sam for the 150 HR ride as well. By 9:00, the air was 44F, but humidity was high. I put on a wind jacket over double layer wool, assuming that the jacket would come off at the 1st rest stop. It did, but only to let some sweat dry out. Then it went back on and stayed that way. It never felt warm all day, and with a brisk east wind, it was downright cold when pedaling into it. An old country boy was firing up a BBQ smoker along the side of the store. I saw Boston Butts and sausage links laying out on the grill. The chef said they'd be for sale come lunch time. Since we figured to be back around 1:00 PM, that sounded like a great idea to me.

The trees were largely still holding their leaves, but are well past their color prime. Still, there was a niceness to the scenery. Recent cold weather has taken the green out of the grass, and a definite feel of winter is creeping into the landscape. We saw a number of hawks up close today, low flying, and hunting for a meal in the scrub. We rode at decent pace most of the day. Store stops were at 18, 41, and 52 miles. Total stopped time including momentary snack bar pauses at corners was less than an hour. The pavement in Bullock County was atrocious. The idea crossed my mind that I should take a fat tired bike on this ride, but I really wanted to pedal Louise today. Here she is:

Rivendell Rambouillet

She's wearing 37mm tires in this picture, but actually only has 28mm rubber on presently. They're Conti Ultra Gatorskins, and have given about 3,900 flat free miles so far, but I should have changed the tires, or ridden the Saluki or Road Standard bikes, which have much more supple tires on. So, my dental fillings felt well rattled for two sections of 6 - 8 miles each, but otherwise, it was a great ride. The Sun didn't stay out long enough to make us feel warm, but it came out often enough to make it enjoyable scenery-wise. We saw Bill and Sam out on the roads twice, heading in opposite directions as we were, and while at the 3rd store stop, a long line of club racers went zooming past us on US 80. None looked familiar to me, but they were at a speed and distance that made recognition difficult. They greeted us enthusiastically, and we returned likewise. Patty was rumored to be tearing up and down the hills in our area, but like Nessie, she's tough to actually verify a sighting of. Speaking of hills, we climbed 2,062' of them on our way to completing 64.93 miles in 4:17 for a 15.1 average. As I like to say, "Within the advertised Range." Frank was a tad faster, as usual. We met a solo cyclist back at the cars, but he had no real interest in a club ride. Nice enough, but heavily scheduled already. What was even better was that we found the BBQ ready to eat! We each got some fresh pulled pork, Frank with bread and sauce, and yours truly without, and it was excellent. Despite my posting that this ride did not include a food stop, sure enough it did have some great food!

The early morning exercise went well. My usual exercises of chin ups, sit ups and push ups. Pull ups have migrated to alternate days along with planks. So all in all, a pretty kick butt kind of day exercise-wise. It was also the 22nd ride this year of 100 KM or longer. Pretty neat!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting My Legs Back Under Me

Although I rarely get sick, I was saddled with some malady making the rounds for about a week, two weeks ago. Feeling better for the 1st time last Saturday, I tried to ride but had to cut it short and only did 16 miles. Sometimes it just does take longer to get back to 100% I suppose. Our Saturday ride this week was a hilly 38 mile route that Frank and I have done a few times and enjoyed each time. I figured I could ride to the start from home and add 14 more miles and some more hills, and that's what happened. Joe emailed to say he was out of town, and no word from Frank, so his attendance was not expected either. Ray may have been away too. Ron keeps his whereabouts a secret that even Wiki-Leaks cannot expose.

Pete and Max pedaled over to our house early, and the 3 of us headed from here over to Prattville High School to meet Steve. As far as I knew, he was the only other rider coming. as it happens, that was a bad assumption. Max was wanted elsewhere, so his ride was strictly to the school and back home. Pete and I met Steve and we headed out on the 38 mile route. On our way to the school, we came upon 2 runners heading towards us on Powell Rd, a man and a woman. We were moving along smartly, and I was just about to pass them when my brain registered, "Derek & Kym!" I've never met either, but they sure looked like their pictures on! When Kym yelled, "Bruce!" that sort of solidified my thinking on the subject. One of these days, we'll actually shake hands, but in the meanwhile, we all encourage one another through postings on our workout reports.

After considering the wind, which was light, I decided to do the hills first, since we would be heading home into a slight headwind. That is the reverse direction from the way the it's marked on MapMyRide, but I knew where I was going. Always like to tackle the tougher stuff on fresher legs, so that was the plan. With most of the climbing behind us, we paused at the Old Kingston store and noticed 2 riders coming from where we were headed. We waved as they turned north on CR 21, not recognizing them. A minute later they turned around to come and say hello. "Is this the Saturday morning club ride from the High School?" they asked. Oops. It was Tom and Joe. Tom rode with us once a few weeks ago on a beginner ride, but Joe was unfamiliar to me. Not so with him however. "Hi Bruce, we rode together about 3 or 4 years ago on the Tour Autauga. You were on a Riven-dale bike or something. It was very cool looking." Wow. I pointed to the bike, 'There it is," embarrassed not have an equally good memory, but pleased Joe remembered. They had been at the high school, but at the other end of the parking lot and we did not notice them. Oh well :( Maybe we'll get another chance to try something together.

The ride from there was supposed to be relatively downhill, but a very stiff headwind came up and made it seem like a lot of work. I will say that at mile 37 (of my 54) I had a distinct awareness of everything feeling "right" again. Breathing, metabolic rate, leg muscles, cadence, were all in sync for the first time in maybe 3 weeks. It felt GOOD. I actually picked up my pace as we went and climbed stronger at the end than at the beginning. Steve was riding well steadily throughout, while Pete did well for longer than before on the hills before easing back a tad. For a guy who worked hard to get just 12 miles about a month and a half ago (returning to riding after being off a long while due to illness), Pete is really coming on strong.

The Giro long finger gloves that Alex presented me with for a BD gift work very well. Wool blend shell with light fleece lining. The 37 F temp was handled by a Joneswares base layer under a Spot brand jersey. Ibex duo wool shorts and Wooly Warm tights below. Due to damp air, I started the ride with a buff on my neck, but pulled it off at the 1st store stop. It actually warmed to 60 by ride end, and I unzipped the jersey, but left everything on, including a Rivendell wool cycling cap.

Stats: 54 mi, 2,861' feet of climb, 14.6 avg. I needed this ride, and was glad to have had it.


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