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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tailwinds, 2011

It's far from an original idea to remark on the year coming to a close each December 31, but it's something that feels right to do this year.  Despite my whining that I haven't ridden at all this Fall, the truth is that even before today's 2011 Swan Song Ride, I had logged more miles than in any prior year. The average ride length is about the same as last year, and my snail like pace of late is pretty much on average for me this time of each year. As is the extra 15 lbs I seem to have discovered around the mid section. I joined RUSA this year, #7107. If I get my legs back, I'll be doing Alabama Randonneurs events several times in 2012.

Like any year, this one has had its ups and downs. I still find myself missing cycling buddy Tom, who died in August.  I expect him to crank past me on the uphills in the big ring as he was wont to do, black leather Harley-biker streamers sailing in the air wash behind his saddle. I miss penpal and fellow pen collector-friend Mike, who passed away in March, but whose excellent biographical fiction work "Hunting With Teddy about the wilder West days of the 1st president Roosevelt was published posthumously.
Hunting With Teddy 

 Work was hard this year. The 4th consecutive year of a weak economy making it tough to sell products and even tougher to make any margin on them. Wages have stayed pretty much fixed and no bonuses the past 3 years. Too many people sitting around wanting to cut the same sliver of pie. I'll avoid politics completely here and say only that our failings as humans are at the root of it. Some of the people that I have been praying for in terms of recovery from serious illness are not doing well.

There are plenty of ups too. We continue to enjoy the garden that Sharon had installed back in July. There are still pink camellia blooms on the bush, and the scent of Tea Olives greets me every morning.   I've met some new friends in both the bicycle and fountain pen worlds, and feel closer to the several guys I ride regularly with than in years before. Other people on the prayer list are doing well and providentially good circumstances have happened to a number of those I know and care about. I'm thankful to have a job that I usually enjoy doing, and knowing that we start 2012 with a couple months of work in hand, with strong prospects for additional contracts to come in. If December ends up okay, we'll end the year in black ink for a change. A nice change. We welcomed Alisha and Kael in our family when Alex and Alisha were married in August. They have quickly won our hearts and are truly our daughter and grandson by every measure that matters. Need to get Kael (5 yrs) on the bike I bought him though!

I entered the technological era this year. First Sharon gave me her old iPod and I discovered making playlists and downloading songs from my youth that I was sure I'd never hear again. "Break Song," "Soul Sacrifice,"  and 'Travellin' Shoes" all made the playlist. (Can you tell me the artists without Google?) Then Sharon got me a Kindle Fire and I couldn't believe how much I like reading on it. Books, social sites and email, as well as mobile based versions of news sites and papers. It streams TV and movies too. Wow. What a great gadget that thing is. It prodded my interest in reading books again and I am plowing through them after doing little more than crosswords for the past few years.

Just today, I finally figured out how to put a course map on my Garmin Edge and ride the course on a bicycle.  Sharon has become very understanding, even I might say supportive of my desire to pedal a self-moving-vehicle across the highways and byways. And buddy Jeff gave me a GREAT Kanji character decal for a bike that says in Japanese, "self moving vehicle"  or in other words, "bicycle."  Way too cool for a bike, it will be framed and hung.  There are of course numerous other good things that came about for me in 2011.

Yesterday, I got my Rivendell frame set back from the painter. I used Airglow, in Washington, GA. The compliments on the paint job are already rolling in. The rebuild will be done some time in the next couple of days, with a new green saddle and bar tape to pick up the green lines in the decals. I thought about changing brake levers from Shimano to Tektro, but if it ain't broke...
Here is a frame only pic.

I went for night rides last week and this. An IXON-IQ headlight is working really well, and a deal for a used set of Dinotte 400L rear lights should work out in the next week. Night riding is pretty neat. Beats doing laps around the block which is my usual Winter routine.

This morning was clear and cool (39F) and with my usual pals busy, I hoped for some others to come out and ride. No one did, and so I ended the year with a solo ride of 44 miles. It was pretty out and I ignored the Garmin and just pedaled for enjoyment. The result was about 1,750' of climb (iirc) and a typical average pace for me. No dog issues. I peeled off the Rivendell Merino Skin tights and a long sleeve Woolistic jersey 1/2 way through, continuing on in a wool tee and shorts. I had wool socks on and Keen shoes which were fine even when it warmed up. The Giro wool blend gloves came off though. It all packed in the Kelty Hydration back pack just fine. The handlebar tube held food, cell phone, wallet. A tool wrap was under the saddle.

Wherever our rides take us in 2012, I hope that we remember that the world is much bigger than just us and what WE want (whatever that is at any point in time) that we ride safely, and get to list all the important doings of 2012 a year from now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boldin Dam Solo Ride

I posted a 45 mile local ride for this morning. 4 of my usual buds checked in to say that other things stirring and would not be riding. A couple of maybes from the club Face Book page were no shows, perhaps due to the 36F displayed on the thermometer. I pedaled from home to the start point and when no one else came, I decided this might actually be an okay thing. I changed the route along the way on a whim, which I couldn't have assumed possible in a group, adding a few miles, and a detour to Boldin Dam. It's at the south end of Lake Jordan and has a small hydro-electric generating station. The warm water and turbulence from the turbines is apparently good for fishing, as I saw several line casters taking advantage of the public area provided by Alabama Power.

I started out the ride with an un natural fear that I couldn't ride that far. It's mental of course. My legs still work. That was a good enough reason to go and ride, if only to prove to myself that riding is no different than it ever was. I was on my most comfortable bike, and had no faster riders that I would have to strain to stay up with. Despite being cold, it was sunny out and an inviting morning to spend time in the saddle. I wound my way out of Prattville through the old community of Rocky Mount. Not much there besides an no longer used cemetery and a bed & breakfast, which looked cute in the early light.

I packed 72 oz of Propel Zero and a couple of grain/nut/fruit bars so no store stops were needed. I did pause a few minutes when I was hungry, but since I wasn't pushing the pace, I had more fluid than I would need. I got serious about low fat vegan eating this past week, and I have to say I do feel better, innards wise. Sharon keeps track of timing on these things, but I seem to recall that a significant cholesterol drop should be measurable in a couple of weeks.

I wound my way through Elmore, and the huge swath cut through the farms and woods for a new gas pipeline is now rich green with winter rye grass. Here is my Saluki with some organic methane gas producers visible in the field behind. As it happens, neither the piped gas or the puffed gas is suitable to power the hound dog.

The wind was in my face most of the way out, coming from the NE at about 8 - 12, with gusts of maybe 15 coming off the open fields. This was okay as it would make a nice tail wind coming home. Right. Wishful thinking. Anyway, I made my way up towards the Slap out store along the original route posted and saw a sign for the Boldin Dam. I'd never been to it, so I took the road.
The dam parking lot provided the 1st rest stop where a Clif bar fueled me up and a tree in the adjacent woods (this is out in the middle of nowhere) was also useful.

I mentally calculated that if I returned by the normal Sunday relaxer route, I'd finish at about 50 miles, and so I went back that way. Lots of dogs today on Hogan Rd. I yelled at 3 sets of two as I made my way. No real problems, but annoying, and would have been trouble had I been daydreaming instead of paying attention. It was disappointing to turn South on Hogan from 111 and discover the wind shifting so  that it was now blowing from the SE to S and harder than before. Good practice for staying in a manageable cadence and gear though. No one to draft behind so I settled in and just pulled steadily. It felt good. The Garmin says I ended up with 81 rpm avg (I've been working on getting my avg up for most of this year, instead of pumping in the low 70s) but I looked down and saw 85 - 95 a LOT. I was noticeably less tired than when I've tried higher RPMs before too.

I ran into some friends in a church parking lot, as they were getting ready to watch a local parade and we stopped to chat for a few minutes. Donna told me that her son Daniel loves to ride and at nearly 8 yrs old will soon be ready to come out on one of our kids rides. His little sister Emma Grace told me all about her bike too, which she said is green like mine. :)

The second snack stop was in beautiful downtown Elmore at the city park. You can just about see all of it in this picture. Really.

While my moving average was only 13.2 (1 to 1.5 mph might have been lost to the headwinds) my total avg (for rando calcs) was a decent enough 12 mph as I needed only very brief stops to eat and stretch.  I'll keep that in mind when I plan my next RUSA effort.

All in all, a good day. The bike worked well. I cruised along Rucker Rd and chatted with God about the things on my mind and the folks whose situations are concern for me. That was time very well spent. All wool all the time was the order of the day. Swobo tee under an Ibex L/S jersey above, wool boxers, Jonesware shorts and wooly warm tights below. Fox River sox and a Riv cap, along with Giro wool blend gloves. Addidas Samba leather soccer shoes kept the feet cozy.

Proof I was out there today:

And a Saluki level view of the typical scenery we went by.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

12th Month already?

December 1 has made its sneaky way onto the calendar. Where did the days go? In like manner, where did my enthusiasm for riding and exercise go? I'm not sure if this is just a stouter dose of my frequent November blues (I felt it coming on stronger this year than in several recent ones) or the effects of a persistent infection I now know is related to a tooth which is soon to be extracted, or if I'm just too close to 60 years old to be as sprightly as I once was, or if that "plant-strong" diet that Rip Esselstyn extols ( ) lacks what my body needs to run on. In other words, MEAT and MILK :).

I'm still riding some, but no longer have any hope of being able to keep pace with my friends. I like to be on a bike though and that's good. I rode Last week both on Thursday and Friday. Thursday was a solo run with some measured pace but steep hill climbing. I enjoyed it very much. Even when my rear derailler started jumping into taller gears as I was straining up a 12% grade!  I pulled off and whipped out a tool kit to restore some "gription" to the friction shifter, and all was well. I did a 40 ish mile ride with the pals in Friday and while they loafed along, I was really straining. No core engine power there right now. A pretty day to be out, but less enjoyable from the sense of trying to stay afloat, if you know what I mean.

I was blessed with the opportunity to preach a sermon last Sunday. (email me if you want the video link) I got as much or more from the prep as the congregation did, I'm pretty sure. I was emotionally spent afterwards, and the weather was wet, so no ride. It was good to force myself to remember who is in control of events and that things happen either by His active will or by His consent. It can be very sobering to consider all the needs in teh world today, or even just some of the ones closer by. I've been praying for some friends of late and some people I don't really even know well, but whose lives have become important to me. Praying for others has a way of making them and what they face important. We shouldn't be afraid to feel hurt for the pain of others. It's better by far than nameless, faceless statistics. My current prayer partners include a woman recovering from breast cancer chemo/surgery, a woman striving to get well two full years after a leukemia diagnosis, a wonderful penpal who has just written me to say his wife has stage 4 cancer, a couple from back home in FL who are trying to adopt children, a CO cyclist friend who spilled on a mountain side downhill ride and nearly died, and still faces lots of recovery work, a local cycling friend I've just learned has cancer, and there are several others. I'm missing my friend Tom who died the same weekend that my son was married, from a lung infection that I still don't know the details of. I hadn't thought of him for a few weeks and then bam. There he was again.

Work has been stressful. 3 years of lean times will do that. Hopefully, that will improve, and we'll all dig into new challenges and feel reinvigorated. For now, some folks there are really getting under my skin. The reverse is probably true as well.

Hope to enjoy some rides this weekend. Will bring the camera and at least post some new pictures. 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Prattville 129

The Alabama Randonneurs had their 300K brevet yesterday, and it started and ended at Prattville High School (Go Lions!). Much of the route came from suggestions of Jeff Feet and myself, based on our many Saturday morning rides over the years. Organizer Steve Phillips tweaked things to get the control spacing right and conform to RUSA guidelines. The counter clockwise direction resulted from the lack of a decent shoulder on the northbound span of the bridge over the Alabama River. Clockwise would be a better direction for this ride. We had 4 out of area riders come over and Joe, Frank, Max, Ron and me from the local environs. Counting Steve (who did not ride due to recent surgery) there were (4) PBP finishers and (4) 1st time brevet riders. Frank has prior RUSA ride experience, up to 400K

We met in the dark at the high school and briefly shook hands. We spent more time checking out the other bikes.

Here are Maile & Gary from Wash DC area.

I packed it all, including the kitchen sink. Next time, I pack less. Here's the Saluki ready to go:

Joe got a call during the pre-ride briefing. His daughter went into labor with his 1st grand child. He headed back home to get Grandma and take her to the hospital for the happy event. I know Joe was looking forward to BOTH events, the baby and the brevet. I can understand why the brevet did not win out. Max and Ron were late arrivals. Max says that no matter how early he starts, he just can't seem to get his stuff together and get out of the house on time. He didn't get all his stuff together this time either. Water bottles were left at the house. He arranged with his wife Debbie to bring them to our 1st control, and he had his Camelbak pack which would be plenty until then. Ron pedaled up and signed in close to the start time, got his card and was off before the rest of us. We went by him a short time later, but that's typical. Ron rides at a very steady pace and tarries almost not at all at rest stops. We often leap frog each other on rides, as we ride more quickly, but stop longer to rest.

The ride to Hope Hull was very pleasant. The winds were not strong at 1st and were from the side. The Cat 5 climb up Wetumpka St got us warmed up (46F at the start) nicely, and there were only highway overpasses after that for quite a while. The early sun made crossing the Alabama River very pretty.


The leaves are starting to show nice color as you can see. We made good time to the 1st control. Everyone was able to get there under the time limit, including Max who picked up a safety pin and punctured his Gatorskin tire. He SAYS he yelled at us to stop, but neither Frank nor I heard him. We waited for him at the control and re connected. Here I am getting my card signed. "My name is Armstrong, Lance Armstrong.." She wasn't buying it though.

Here are some riders snacking before leaving.


I was the 1st to ditch my jacket. I was also the only one (I think) wearing wool. The clothing all worked out really well for me today. Up top was a short sleeve wool tee under a long sleeve wool jersey. Below were wicking briefs (non padded) an unpadded pair of wool shorts and a wooly warm unpadded tights. Cap was a Synaptic Cycles woolie. Gloves were wool blend Giros and thick wool socks inside (and here was a wow discovery for the day) Keen shoes (Kelona model, a street shoe) on Grip King platform pedals. The shoes are light weight, ergonomic with a big toe box and airspace for good circulation. No wet socks, hotspots, etc. Loved it. At the start, a Showers Pass yellow jacket was on top, but it went in the saddle bag at this 1st stop.

At Hope Hull, a few miles south of the control, we turned east, and into the wind. It blew harder than we were expecting. Some of the blasts coming off cleared farm fields were like climbing tough hills. Frank separated out ahead of Max and I, and eventually there was some space between me and Max as well. Both of them were were good riding company and it was just my weaker legs at work. Here you can see Max close by, and Frank accelerating away. Below that, a picture proving I was at least enjoying the ride. It also shows another great find of the day. For $6, I got a DOT spec reflective vest at the local industrial supply store. Light, comfy and VERY visible. They also had good over-glasses sunshade/safety glasses there.


We slogged into the wind for about 34 miles. There were some breaks when we ran north or south and only had it as a side wind. On one of these cross wind legs, we passed a huge arts and crafts show in the village of Pike Road.

Eventually, we reached our lunch stop at the John Hall Store in Cecil, 70 miles out. It was crowded inside as they run a smoker all morning in order to have BBQ to sell at lunch. 

The locals are mostly farmers and I was behind a father and son, wearing real spurs, who obviously did that kind of work for a living, and were not just still in Halloween costume.

Frank had a BBQ sandwich for lunch followed by a slice of pizza for dessert. He wonders why with this purple Under Armor shirt and his yellow Sam Allen belt on people were honking and yelling at him today.

I tanked up on Powerade Zero and we waited for Max. Seems that they forgot his order. Of course that was after he was sure he forgot his wallet, until Frank said "Look in your Camelbak. " Sure enough, there it was. He ate something, I don't remember what, got a refund for the unfilled order, got some fluids and we got a talk from Ride Organizer Steve that we were needing to be careful about time in controls. We were on time, but not allowing enough margin. That made me realize that I needed to let Frank and Max go on ahead of me. My total avg. pace was 10.2 mph (including stops) which is over the 9.5 mph min, but I knew with cold and hills ahead, I would probably slow down even more. My moving average was the same 13.4 mph I do on almost all my longer rides, but I needed the time off the saddle. It's just how my engine runs. Frank took off for Tallassee and I floated my plan to Max. He suggested we try for Tallassee too. We loaded up and moved on out as I did feel a little better after eating. It was into the wind again, but the wind seemed to be shifting. After 5 miles when we turned north, and INTO more wind, I told Max I was going to turn around and get a ride home. I was just going to be too slow and did not want to miss a cut off later in the evening.

I texted Sharon, and she came to get me at the store. It's a 30 minute drive from home and I was 20 mins away by bike so when I got back to the store I only waited 10 minutes for the car to show up. The 5 miles WITH the wind were sweet though. Sharon didn't mind coming to get me, which I very much appreciated.

So, I ended just under 80 miles at 13.4 moving and 10.2 total pace. 2,100' +/- of climb. Max finished his first Brevet, and I am very proud of him. He & Frank had just 20 minutes to spare, which tells me that I would have missed it for sure. Ron missed the cut off time at control #6, but decided to finish the ride anyway, and then pedal home. I'm proud of him too. Frank was expected to do fine, and he did. Way to go big guy. Congrats to Grandpa Joe and thanks to Steve for putting it together. I did not need the night stuff for the ride but the portable lithium recharger did work fine on the Garmin and also does cell phones. Well worth having and very light.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

I wonder if I can do this

The "this" is a 300 Km brevet next Saturday. This will be my 1st ever attempt at anything over a century, and I am both excited and experiencing a healthy dose of reservation. The keys will be pace, pace, pace. And, nutrition, hydration, and comfort. And a fully charged cell phone in case I need to call for a bail out. :)  We test rode the hilliest section of the route today as an out and back. That is, we ended up with about 4,235' of climb in just 48 miles. The 300 will have 6,900' total in 187 miles. I was slow, to be sure, but finished ahead of where I would need to on that section of the brevet. I also was not dead tired, or out of gas at the end. I could have just kept plodding along, which is fine by me.

The ride today saw 7 riders meet at Stuckey's, but 1 just pedaled up from Prattville to see us off, and then turned around and returned. 6 of us continued on. Ray also pedaled up from town (about 23 miles), did the ride, and pedaled back. Strong ride, pal. Here we are getting ready to go: Left to right, it's Frank, Max, Larry, Ron and Joel. Ray is trying get his frozen plumbing out of the bib shorts and use the stores non frozen plumbing. Yes, it was cold. My solution was wool boxers under wool shorts, under wooly warm wool tights. No freeze ups, if you get my drift..

 Here I am a little later. By 10:30, it warmed enough to ditch the jackets. Below is Max's very cool adaptation of a solar battery charger to run his Garmin. I'll be using either an Energi pak, or plug mine in when we stop to eat.

 Here is a typical view for most of the ride. Fall foliage starting to be very pretty and steep rollers. Most were 6% - 9% grades, a few were 10% - 13%. The ride had 3 cat 5 climbs.
 As we crossed the Coosa River, I caught the sunlight glinting off the water, which was rippled from the very brisk breeze we rode in today.
 Here is about as ramshackle a store as I've ridden by. The fuel pumps are long gone and the proprietor lives in a small trailer next to the store. They did have working plumbing (always a consideration for a group of 50+ year old riders) and Propel Zero, and a decent little grocery inside. This was in Kellys Crossroads, which is literally a description of the place. This is ALL there is to it.
 The country NE of the river is quite hilly and some of the rock was blasted away to make the road grades more manageable. It makes for a very scenic drive  or pedal.
We got back to the cars around noon, and headed on home. Frank has loaned me a higher power headlamp than the one I have. If the rando bug bites, I'll get my own.

We're talking about a pre-ride dinner on Friday. The couple coming down from DC says they won't arrive in time. They are stopping in Atlanta to do a 200K the day before. Oh geez. Real rando types, you know? Don't know about the guy coming in from SC. So we locals will go have a hearty meal somewhere, and encourage one another. The ride starts at 7 AM on Saturday with 3:00 AM the following morning as the limit.  LynneF, if you're reading, any advice/encouragement/offers to fly out and pull for me will be appreciated...

At least no snow is forecast...


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pintlala 75

I've been getting psyched up over the 300Km Prattville Brevet coming on 11/5. As a "where are my legs these days?" check, 4 of us rode 75 rolling miles yesterday morning. The idea was to stay at a steady pace and not go too fast. I was the slowest of the group and turned in a 13.5 avg which is faster than I need to be to finish on time. Counting breaks, I used 85% of the allowed time for this distance. Biggest issue was leg cramps for me on hills. At about mile 50, I found myself in too tall a gear for a 13% grade but hammered it anyway, which caused true pain in both quads. Then, there was that vibrating feeling in my lower legs that says, "you need to drink more!" I blame Joe of course. This steep hill was NOT on the route, but when he sailed past a turn, we had to go this way to get back to where we needed to be. Joe rode with a bent derailler hanger and only had this outer 2 or 3 cogs available. That seemed to make no difference to him. He had, but never used, his granny up front. Like me, he did the entire ride on the middle ring. His is a 36 and mine is a 42. You know, since I never use the 30 on this bike, I may as well put a 53/39 back on in place of the 52/42/30. Nahhh..

It was a beautiful day, sunny, cool, and light breeze. All of this conspired to keep my jersey dry, so I never felt that I was using much water. When I got home, the fluid tally was 78oz in 75 mi. I need 1.5 oz per mile in this kind of weather, so I was almost 1/3 under. Hence the issues 2/3 of the way out on the route!  This is not the first time I have failed to drink enough. I will have to chart it and make sure I drink certain quantities by certain mileages on any longer ride if I want to avoid cramps. It made me slow up the hills, but didn't do too much on the flats until the very end. I actually had to pull over and take a brief rest just a mile and half from the finish.

Max and I carpooled down, and we met Joe and Frank at the start. Ron pedaled from Prattville, but just to see us off before he turned around to pedal back. He still had a nice distance himself, about a metric I guess. It was about 51F and wool arm warmers and long finger wool blend gloves were appreciated. Once the Sun rose, temps began to climb, and at about mile 18 when we made our 1st store stop, the warmers came off and the gloves were swapped for short fingered ones. I didn't need a base layer under the Swobo jersey. Un-padded Joneswares shorts today too. They generally were fine, although the edges of the saddle center slot were annoying after 40 or 50 miles. For the long ride, a non slotted saddle will be used. No padding though.

It was a delightful morning for a ride. Recent rains have most growing things looking good. Either still green or starting to show Fall colors. Plenty of livestock out in the grazing fields and all the local canines came out to bark for us. None were a problem, but you never know. The route included some pretty stretches that we rarely get to ride on, as there is a section of about 30 miles with no store stops available.  We made one slight route deviation because Joe, fresh from his assault on the 12,000' of climb at 6 Gap, was floating way out ahead of us and sailed past a turn. We ended up back on the route, and the mileage ended up being about the same so all was good.  Made my annual mileage goal with this ride and there is a chance that some more miles will be added yet this year! This was also the 20th metric or longer outing for 2011. 4 more are needed to make goal. We climbed about 3,000' and except for the one steep up, it was all rollers. An endless series of rollers...

Grandson's birthday party here next Saturday. I am advised that I should plan on attending. Maybe an early Am ride to test the light kit out is in order....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Rides

This past Saturday was SUPPOSED to be the 200K brevet up Chandler Mtn to Horse Pens 40, with Steve Phillips and the Alabama Randonneurs. THEY had a great ride.

Then I was reminded that I had previously committed to wrangle mountain bikes at the Coosa River Challenge the same day! This was my 3rd year helping at the event, where 250 - 300 lunatics do a trail run, mountain bike course and kayak to complete a very different sort of tri. There are "skills" along the way, like rappelling and  compass based land navigation along with some action through mud. It's sort of "Basic Training for Marines Meets Sports." Anyway, our 3 man squad (sometimes with much appreciated helpers, othertimes without) moved all the bikes to and from the cycling venue for that leg of the event. 6 UHaul van loads or maybe it was 6 1/2. I forget. We worked from 4:45 AM to about 3:00 PM. We rested while the bike race was in progress. Here's a video from last year's race to give a bit of the flavor:  I had a great time doing this as it turned out. I enjoyed the company of my Van driver, Steve Sievers. A quiet, unassuming guy, this is the 3rd year we've worked together on the ride but the 1st we really spent any time talking. He always says he wishes he had time to ride more, etc etc. So after a while, I noticed a little tattoo over his ankle, a dot over an M. What's that? I asked. Oh that's from when I did an Ironman. The first one. (He's done it twice, both after he turned 50). You know, a full marathon run, a 112 mi cycle and a 2 1/2 mile swim. What everyone does....

So of course I mentioned RANDO to him. He was also open to the idea of a steel bike for long riding comfort! My kind of guy. Well I enjoyed other stuff we spoke of too. Like his son is a missionary in China, and he was interested in what reformed theology was all about. Then his mom shows up with PB&J sandwiches and a sweet elderly lady I know from church appears with a boatload of cookies! It was really over too soon, if you ask me.

Now with a month until the Alabama Randonneurs 300K brevet, I need to ride regularly. I'm planning on 75 miles or so on Saturday morning, and we'll see how that goes. I had been wanting to ride the Rivendell Road Standard for the long ride, but the painter (Airglow) is waaaayyyyy behind. I finally heard from him saying that he hopes to start my frame next week or so along with a Falcon, but the chances of getting it back and re building the bike in time are slim. I sent it off in mid June with the promise of a 6 - 7 week turn around.  I will probably ride the Saluki over the Rambouillet then instead of the Road. The fenders and fatter tires on the Hound Dog may come in handy. Not to mention that 26 little ring. Speed is not needed on a rando ride, just steady as she goes.

No ride this Sunday; it's the weekend I spend a little time visiting at a prison nearby. I dislike going intensely and I certainly would not go if I didn't know it was a command and not a suggestion (to remember those who are sick and in prison). Prison is a place you just don't want to be at. Which means that it is good for me to go, to have my comfort zone shaken up and so on.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn Equinox

It's official. Fall is here. The fact that mornings are much darker than they were just a few weeks ago makes that point clearly. The Prattville rides ended for me a month ago, although a few others who have sufficient flexibility in their schedules are still getting in a ride here and there. Lately, I am thinking in terms of riding longer distances at slower paces. Two Saturdays past, Max and I added a 20 mile loop of town to a hilly 45 mile club ride to make it a metric or more. Then Sunday, without beginners along, Frank and I pushed the pace and distance on the Sunday ride instead of doing a relaxer.

In a couple of weeks (10/8), the Alabama Randonneurs will have a 200K ride from Birmingham up Chandler Mtn in Steele, and back. The climb is about 2 miles at 7% avg grade, iirc. I'm bring a triple with a 26 granny, that's for sure. It will be my longest ride yet, but I am motivated reading about others doing long distance with seemingly no real trouble - as long as pace, nutrition and hydration are carefully managed. If the 200K goes okay, then in November I plan on a 300K which starts right here in Prattville. I helped design the route, along with Jeff and Steve (who test rode it this past weekend).

As it happened, another friend, Bill, and I drove to Opeika this past Saturday and rode the Johnny Ray Century to benefit Parkinson's Disease care and cure research. A new ride for me, but Bill has ridden it before. Nice roads for the most part and nice people all through. Here are some pictures, all taken by Bill Felky the event photographer.

Before the ride, we ran into fellow Montgomery area riders Phil & Anita Jones. They have the right jerseys for a ride 20 miles from Jordan Hare Stadium. Then a picture of the coolest SAG wagon ever. Yes, the Boxster.

 Clockwise from the left: Double checking the route on the maps, Bill cruising along, an enjoyable not-quite-a-paceline.

 We had 1 recumbent and 1 trike in the field. Where's that trike rider's helmet?  The nest to last rest stop in Lafayette, Al at a fire station. One of the volunteers noticed the Rambouillet because he has a Riv custom. I invited him to try the Rando rides coming up. Also a few nice remarks about the wool jersey. It was very comfy all day. Warm enough early on and not too hot later.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11th Weekend

Events came together so that riding happened both days this weekend. Buddy Jeff was wanting to get off the sidelines and put in some more miles (he SAGS, photographs and otherwise helps out when he is not up to the ride itself) so we picked a route that was doable with just enough challenge that he could feel himself reaching to attain it. We test rode a 45 mile section of the upcoming November 300K and when I posted the ride, was pleased to have several other throw in with us. Newish cyclists Ashley M and Glen W, long time - no see due to surgeries Dennis R, Rob A and Frank M  all came out to join us. Club Lite was scheduled to leave a half hour before us from the same venue, but when I pulled up at 15 past, they were all still milling around the parking lot. We decided to pull out together and ride the first 12 miles together before they split off for a shorter and flatter balance of the ride. Of course, the LAST rider to show up was the one I set this up for. See if you can figure out which rider it is in this picture.

 Hint: His Berthoud randonneuse is still on top of Jeff's car..  In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that it was not QUITE 7:30 (the appointed hour) just yet.

The ride itself was gorgeous. 57F when we started, warming to the low 80s by the end. Sunny all though. I remembered the Coppertone so no sunburns! This was a controlled pace exercise for me. I deliberately set up planning to stay as close to 13 mph as I could and then just my energy level afterward to see how I might attempt the 200K and 300K rides in the next two months. As it turned out, actual average pace was 13.2, and I felt barely winded at all. The ride was finished, all stops included, by 11:30, and that takes in a few pauses to wait for others to catch up at hills and a store stop. At that pace plenty of time on the clock to make the controls. The roads were rural and quiet. Here, Jeff shows us he's still "got" it.

 The store stop was interesting. As the only action in the area, the variety of services offered was, err, interesting. For example, right by the BBQ sign, was this advertisement:

What conclusion would YOU draw about the provenance of the pulled pork plates? And, where some places keep a dog on duty for guard work, this place went a different route.

All in all, a nice outing. Later in the afternoon, Sharon & I took a spin around the block as well. She expressed an interest in riding again, so I pumped her tires back up and hope she gets in some laps during the week.

Sunday was just a good all around day. I enjoyed bringing the lesson from Jeremiah 2, the sermon was outstanding (on repentance) and had some 9/11 themed notes connected to it. We had a lunch following in the Fellowship Hall and had some interest in our vegan goodies. Sharon brought hummus (made with garlic and cayenne - yum) to spread on seasoned flat bread and a rice/craisin/stuff salad. I changed into casual riding clothes once we got home and drove over to the park. Just not enough time to get there by pedaling. Barbara-Ann and Larry were there (beginners who asked for the ride) as well as neighbor Russ and his delightful 8 yr old daughter Jenna. Russ is re-deploying to Afghanistan soon so this was a good opportunity for them to get in a ride together. Both of them are competing tri athletes, but they race in different classes. :) Surprise visitors Phil and Shirley H from church came by and joined us (delightful company!) and Ron and Ray pedaled by and rode the outbound leg with us. When we turned to come back, they continued ahead to points further on.

Originally planned for 10 miles, at the 5 mile turn around, Jenna opted for 16  total when I asked for a show of interest. The adults immediately agreed and so we went to the Elmore store before taking a break and turning back.

Just a GREAT day with nice folks and lovely weather. Jenna decided on 9/11 that since 9 + 11 = 20, she wanted to get in 4 more miles, so she and Russ added that on at the end of the ride. I like her logic...


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Helena Populaire

When Bill R opted out of this ride (I am very familiar with the notion of "discretion is the better part of valor"), that left Joe, Frank and me to represent the Montgomery area at the Alabama Randonneurs Helena 145K (90 miles) Populaire. The weather report showing temps in the 90s, and 13 mph winds with gusts to 33 did give me some pause too, I confess, but Joe shamed me into going. "Just get behind Frank," he said. That's easier said than done, Joe. We packed up the bikes and high tailed it out of Prattville at 5:30, making it to Helena by 7:00. The ride start was 7:30, and only 11 riders registered. I think only 9 showed up. The morning was pretty and the air was calm. We actually got about 20 miles into the windward leg before it started gusting. The plentiful hills did a good job of providing some relief, although we had to climb the stupid things of course.

The first control was 31 miles out, but I needed a bathroom stop before that, so Frank and I peeled off the train at 16 miles and used the facilities at a C-store. We still made it to the control with plenty of time to spare. We grabbed a snack and re-filled our water supplies and then headed off on the middle (hilliest) third of the course. As we came into Jemison, we saw the lead group heading out. Joe was with them. As it turned out, Joe was the first finisher back on the day. Too bad the last finisher had the car keys. :)

Coming out of Jemison, we picked up a tail wind for a while which would have been really useful on a flat surface. It didn't help much on the hills. Nothing as steep as we ride here, but plenty of them and some very long ones. One in particular seemed to go on forever at 7% - 9% and about 1/2 way up, I called back to Frank that I was pulling off in some shade for a little break. The Sun was baking and my HR was getting too high. The G-rated version of his reply was that he was in complete agreement with my plan. Of course, I was even more toasted having left the sunblock in the kit bag in the car and having none on my skin. We did get some overcast later which helped tremendously. Unfortunately, the overcast was from tropical storm Lee which also brought some "PITA" head and quartering head winds.

More of an issue was the atrocious road surfaces we encountered in two or three places for many miles. Bone and teeth rattling, and bike damaging. Coming down a steep hill on a warped and patched road is the pits. The coup de grace was the un marked rumble warning strips before a stop sign that could easily cause a wreck. I assured Steve, the ride organizer, that the 300K in November that I am mapping (with Jeff Feet) here in Montgomery will have no such pavement. It was on one these stretches that Franks rear wheel had a pinch flat and we stopped to change it. After getting the wheel off, he set out to beat Mike Munk's record of 30 seconds for a tube change. A couple of minutes later, and the tire still on the rim, I offered to get my pry bars. They did the trick. (Steel beads are a pain to get off bare handed). Frank changed tubes and borrowed my seatstay mounted Topeak pump to pre inflate the tube before using his CO2 infaltor. Pump, pump, pump. Nada. "You sure this thing works?" he asked. He then just put the CO2 inflator on and let it seep in, and then full blasted it. Aha! The problem was the spare tube had a leak! No probelmo, Frank carries two spare tubes. Rinse, lather, repeat. And as it happened, the same result. Another leaky tube. Oh oh. Also 2 CO2 carts gone. We used the Topeak to pump up the original tire and were able to see the pinhole. I sanded it, Frank applied glue and then a patch. Voila! The pump pre inflated it, and the last mini CO2 cart got it up to high pressure. Then he fought with the brake that wouldn't open up and admit the wheel replacement. And a bungie cord that almost ensnared the spokes. 45 mins later, Munk's record was still safe. I looked at my watch. "I hope we finish on time, but if we don't I'm still glad we came to ride. "Why wouldn't we finish on time?" Frank asked me. Well, we missed two turns and added 6 more miles and we lost 45 mins here, and now we have a headwind. And since Steve likes to add hills for "interest" to his routes, I knew the final 12 miles would not be flat.

Steve likes to throw in funny little quirks. For example the second control was "Whitney's" store. Only there is no Whitney's. We stopped at McWright's because it was at the right mileage (and as far as we knew where we were supposed to be) and got the clerk to sign our cards. And called it good. To be honest, the last section was not super hilly, it just seemed so because I was low on salt and my muscles needed babying to avoid cramps (which I did successfully)

Frank was great company as always and I was pleased overall with the ride. I averaged 13.7 for 95.4 miles and 5,818' of climb. I'd keep that average and slow down early so I could go stronger later next time, and add electrolyte to the water. I drank 250 oz which is fine. Also, I did not eat enough. 3 "Trio" bars (date/seed/nuts) and two small packs of cookies was all I had.  The Saluki behaved very well, and I had no saddle soreness at all. My sides hurt from the pounding on rough roads, but lacking a suspension frame and fork, there was no cure for that.

Yes, I AM looking forward to my first 200K next month up in Birmingham.

Ride Pictures

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Closing Season 6

Last night was the final ride of this year's Prattville ride series. This is the 6th year (iirc) that I've been posting these, but I did them solo for a couple of years before that. Hard to believe that I've worked here in Alabama for over 9 years total now. Been in Prattville for 8 of those, and spent a year and some up in the Gadsden area working for the same guy. We had a very nice turn out. Russ, Joel, Frank, Chris, Steve, Chuck, (new guy) Larry, Jeff, and Joe all motored up and down the hills at about 18 mph. I was just under 15, which is quick for me on this course. I felt good and was steady on the climbs and that was what I came out to accomplish. I know the Bike Club had its Summer party last night too, but I'd rather ride. I do attend the Christmas party to stay in touch with people I never see on the roads up here, but wasting a perfectly good ride opportunity? Nah.

It was a great season overall. Lots of new riding friends came along, while others dropped out of the group. Mostly that was due to class changeovers at Maxwell, but sometimes people just moved away, and in one case, we lost a friend who passed away. Very few rain outs, no crashes, and lots of good training. I can't wait for April to come around again. In the meanwhile, my bike needs a good cleaning and some new cables along with bar tape. Probably time to try a different saddle on it, just because. I may go from brown back to black. Or stay with brown but change the bar tape to match. Oh, the possibilities!

I'm a little anxious about this Saturday's Populaire. It's a moderately hilly 90 miles over roads
that I have never ridden. I'll take the Saluki. It is a French (650B) rando style bike, but tweaked to the Rivendell (English influence) design philosophy. It's comfy and has a 26/34 combo avail if my legs get too tired going up those hills! I'm sure it will be fun though, and if I survive, there is a 200K next month and a 300K the month after. I might become a real Randonneur. For now all I have is an RUSA member # and a 108K Populaire to show for it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Up & Down Week

By "up & down" I don't refer to the rolling hills we so often ride here in central Alabama. The reference is to the emotional highs and lows that have been coming along, and as I write this continue to do so. It's been just over a week since I last rode, which seems like forever to me. Silly of course, to sit here wondering if i can even make it through the usual Thursday route planned for tonight after work. I skipped the ride last Thursday to lend a hand with Alex's wedding preparations. Sharon had been pulling hardest on the oars and was getting frazzled. Staying home and helping her was the obvious best thing to do. Friday, I took a day off from work and drove to Birmingham to pick up 2 out of town wedding guests, then came back to see what else could be done. Saturday started early. I met the wedding planner and her helper at the reception venue at 6:30 AM and we started to set that place up. I hauled a lot of supplies and materials around, making numerous trips to get and relocate needed items. Wedding pictures started at 2PM and the wedding itself at 5:00. The reception followed, and at 11:00 PM, Sharon and I loaded the last of the stuff to be put away into my car and took it home. Alex and Alisha and some friends had left to continue their celebration in a cozier venue. Somewhere in all that, there was time to jump out and mow the yard too.

Sunday morning, I picked up 3 guests at 6:00 AM to drive them back up to the Birmingham airport. I also collected various tuxedos to return that afternoon back in Montgomery, and I stopped at the state prison for a ministry visit with someone I have been going to see for about a year now. While the focus was on getting everything done that needed doing to make the wedding a happy time for the bride, groom and guests, I was keenly aware of the sense of loss I felt. My little boy was a man now, with his own wife and a little boy (hers) that he took in his heart as his own. My job as a dad had passed a milestone. Now, I am "Poppy," and I recede as a parent, while Alex steps into his new and larger role. It is how the world works, and I have always pointed towards this day, but I am saddened none the less, while at the very same time joyful that my child has found the love of his life and has nothing but potential in front of him.

It was Sunday morning while I was on the road that I received a message from Frank that our good friend Tom Wright passed away at 6:00 AM. Tom thought he had the flu a few weeks earlier and saw a doctor. A few days later he felt much worse and went to the hospital where he was admitted. Originally diagnosed with bilateral viral pneumonia, he seems to have succumbed to acute respiratory distress, cause unknown. Needing an oxygen mask at first to get his blood oxygen levels up, he moved to sedation and a ventilator for, I guess, about 2 weeks before giving up his grip on earthly life. Joe & I saw him about a week after his 1st admittance and he was alert, wearing a mask, and happy to see us. That was the last time I saw Tom. Tom first started riding with us (with his pal John) last winter. He became a regular on our rides (2 or 3 times a week) and progressed as a rider very quickly. The bike bug bit him hard and he loved our time in the saddle. He was a guy you just liked right away. Genuine to the core, and his loss is really affecting me. Here he is in colorful tattoos and jersey, with Frank and Pete at Fat Girl's BBQ:

The visitation is tomorrow evening and I'll be there. There is a memorial service as well on Saturday, but I may ride instead. I had already comitted to a volunteer cycling event in conjunction with the DOT and I know that Tom would say "Go and ride!" if I could ask him.

Tom wasn't the only loss in my sphere of connections last week. A dear little girl who I learned of through a cycling friend passed away from a childhood brain cancer after a batlle of more than a year. i had been praying for her and following her ups and downs through the regular updates her mom left on the Caringbridge web site. In like manner, an acquaintence from our Plant City Fl days also succumbed to cancer. I still get prayer list emails from our former church back there and I followed and prayed for this gal as well.

Work is less fun these days but harder if you don't get there to do it, so I'll sign off for now.


Monday, August 15, 2011

A Week To Go

Our (only child) son Alex will marry the love of his life next Saturday, and immediately make us grandparents, as bride Alisha comes with 4 yr old Kael. We are delighted and excited to have them joining our family, but it will be a BUSY week in the run up to the big day. Even so, Sharon posted on FB that she will try to let me get out for the Tues/Thurs rides. Only 2 more weeks of those before we end them for the season, so that will be nice, if it happens.

Saturday was a shorter (41 miles) but hilly route that one of the frequent riders requested. I last was on this one in March, so it was a good choice for a change of pace. Speaking of pace, mine was pretty slow. Just under 14 mph, but even that was 1/2 mph faster than back in March. Did I say there were some hills? AND a broiling hot Sun and drenching humidity. 160 oz of fluid sweated out, as soon as I drank it, or so it seemed. One the other guys along said he needed a 3 hr nap afterwards. That would have been nice, I tell you. I did some quiet things for a bit when I got home, but then took hedge clippers out and gave the profusion of Star Jasmine along our entire back fence line a haircut. I think picking up all the trimmings was hotter work than the cutting. Good thing I waited till after that was done before getting a shower. I would have needed another one as I sweated almost as much as on the ride.

Here are 3 fully lugged steel bikes on the ride. My Rambouillet ("Louise") with her pals Peter Mooney and Serotta. This was a mid ride rest stop in Tallassee, AL. Who'd a thunk you'd see this trio in the boonies of the deep South?














Here are Gabe (on the Mooney) and I cruising after coming up over the 1st big climb on Rifle Range Rd. Yes, that's merino wool you see. :)













Sunday was a version of the no stress relaxer ride that we often do. Ten showed up for the ride (Max, Deb, Amanda - fashionably late, Jeff, Rick, Joan, Rob, Jim, Holly, and Rob) plus Phil who came by looking just as he did in his 1960's college days on a Schwinn Varsity, but who opted to go pick up some items at the store instead of coming along on our outing. Most of us did 20 miles, although 2 cut it shorter. Not as hot as Saturday, and a lot more sociable. I passed out some MS Bike Ride flyers and a couple of folks showed some interest. Hopefully, they'll have fun if they go down to the beach ride next month. As you may recall, I did the north Alabama version this year, but I have been to the beach edition several times before.

I'm not planning on riding next weekend, but you may see some ruminations on how having your only child leave the nest makes you think about lots of things in life. I pray that God blesses Alex, Alisha and Kael richly and that they learn to lean on Him. It would be nice if 1 or more them decided to ride a bike too.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Between

I'm in between rides at the moment. After all those July road miles, Max and I hit the rocky, rooty, gnarly ribbons of dirt running through the woods at the Swayback trail in Wetumpka last Saturday. I have never been so thoroughly sweat soaked in all my life. Yes, it was hot and humid, but what a workout it was hauling that old B-stone MTB (no shocks, but triple butted fully lugged steel frame) up and down the steeps. We only did 7 miles +/-, but we sure felt well exercised. Max tried out his new "Stealth" bike and I tried out some aerial acrobatics. Well, not intentionally anyway. Going up a steep slope, I was silently congratulating myself on how much leg I was getting into the pedals when the front tire bounced up off a root. As the rear wheel continued on its path, the front circled up overhead and I found myself with a clear view of the open sky. Then THUD, on my back and the bike fell too of course.

Max asked if I was okay, and I had to take inventory 1st, before I could answer. Both wrists were sore, but didn't seem broken. A thumb tip was bruised up pretty good. Yeah, I was okay. After a minute of rest, I decided it was time to end my day on the trail. My wrists would not stand more hammering from the profusion of bumps these paths offered. We made it back and I nursed my hurt right hand in my lap on the way home. There was some swelling, but by the next day, both wrists were fine and my thumb, while still not better, is improving each day.

Max was correct in his parking lot observation, "You know, we're not spring chickens anymore." He meant, I am sure, that we take longer to heal and that we need to be more careful in the 1st place. Yeah, yeah. This was my 2d outing on an MTB, ever and it was way better for me than the 1st was. I'll be back :)

So, no road miles on Saturday, but there was a good relaxer ride on Sunday afternoon. 34 miles. With no beginners aboard, we moved at a Club Lite pace, and I really enjoyed it. I pulled almost the whole way, but it was good exercise without straining. Good cadence the whole time.

Last night I mapped out a route idea for a 300K brevet in November, which will start here in Prattville. The Alabama Randonneurs have a 145 populaire in Sept , a 200k in October and then this one. I won't believe in my legs to do it until I do it. Than, I'll know I can do it. Do 20 hrs (or less. That's the time limit including food/rest stops) all told on a bike ride. You know? I'm already telling myself to slow down on this ride!

With our son's wedding coming up on the 20th, my riding will fall off over the week leading up to it, as I tend to other duties, but will pick back up again afterwards. August is sort of teh in between month. In between how I have been riding lately, and how it looks like I may be riding in the months ahead.

I'm also about 2 months into eating only veggies. So far, pretty good.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

503 in July

That's miles and it's the most I've logged for the 7th month, ever. Not Herculean by a real rider's standards, but I'm pretty pleased with it. The YTD total is also my max ever, as well. While my moving average is just a bit slower than last year, it is faster than 2008 or 2009 were, so what movement there is, is in the positive direction.

Yesterday (Saturday) Frank and Max joined me for a randonee style ride to Clanton for a stop at the Dari-Delite. We did this ride last July and it was just as enjoyable this year. Ron put in cameo appearances at Bubba's PitStop in Marbury and again at the Dari-Delite, but generally he followed his own travel plan for the day. A new to the area rider named Charlie showed up at the start, based on the ride post. When I emphasized the nature of the ride and expected pace (which I did after one look at him and his ride) he thanked me but opted to hop back in the car and head off to other possibilities.

The ride was really uneventful. Very humid, and hot so I sweated a LOT. The Joneswares merino jersey and Ibex wool shorts handle being wet very well. No issues there. I got a little overheated towards the end of the way back as the sun came out and broiled us, but a passing shower providentially provided cool refreshment just when needed, and did not develop into a true downpour until well after I made it home and had showered and changed. Total was 72 miles, 3,355' of climb and a 14.7 avg pace. I rode the Rambouillet and it behaved very well all day. It is running a SRAM 8 speed rear these days. They were on closeout at Bluesky for $9.98. How can you go wrong? I got 11-32 and it works just fine in place of the original equipment Ultegra 12-27 9 speed. With 8,000 mi or so on the bike, this is the 1st replacement cassette needed.

Today after church, I met Max & Deb, Rob and Nicholas and we picked up Rick along the way. Glen came out with his bike, but forgot his shoes so he was just there to say hello before heading back home. Here they all are:

Although clouds were in the area most of the time, the rain cells moved around us and never hit us. Our destination was the Boy's Store in Slapout, but we stopped along the way in both directions as needed. The only excitement of the day was when a large spaniel-retriever looking mix ran out at Rob and sideswiped his bike, nearly knocking him over. As soon as I rang the bell however and yelled at him, he made a beeline back to his own yard and huddled in the doorway. Rob was only slightly rattled, more than anything because it caught him by surprise. He was unhurt and after a moment was ready to carry on. It was the longest ride to date for Rick, Rob and Deb, the longest in a while for Nicholas and a good relaxer for Chris (who rode the Blazing Saddles Century in West Georgia yesterday) and Max & I after our own hot and hilly outing yesterday. Max did the ride on his new mountain bike which tended to equalize his pace to Deb's more closely. 33.7 miles at 13.4 with only 583' of climb. I resisted the urge to loaf at low cadence, and geared to maintain a good HR. Avg was 78 RPM.

Hard to believe that August is already here. In 3 weeks, my daughter-in-law to be will lose the "to be" part, and she'll join our family. She brings with her a darling 4 year old who has already endeared himself to us. I wondered how I would do as a grandfather. Am I old enough for the part? Judge for yourself. We're watching (for at least the 20th time) "Mickey and the Beanstalk"


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leeds Populaire - Alabama Randonneurs

Our little Prattville detachment of the Montgomery Bicycle Club has been flirting with the edges of randonneuring for some time now. When Joe asked me what the difference would be between this Populaire and our normal Saturday rides, I answered, "Not very much." For those less acquainted with the term, it's an open road, land navigational style of riding that has as its purpose covering long distances within certain time limits (not too fast, nor too slow) and managing all aspects of the ride yourself. There are no organized rest stops or SAG vehicles and the routes are not marked. As you might tell from the name, it has its origins in France and it is slowly growing in popularity here in the USA. The shortest normal distance is 200Km, but as an introduction to the style for potential new members, a 100Km "Populaire" is often conducted. Many of us ride "metric centuries" at least a time or two during the year, so the distance is not too tough. It's a chance to see how this style of riding works and if we want to pursue it at greater distances.

I first heard of this ride in an email that organizer Steve Phillips sent to the club. Alabama and Randonneur were not normally used in the same sentence, so it was a surprise to see that Steve was trying to get some momentum going for the idea. He also posted it to our club Face Book page and while there were 5 maybes, in the end 3 of us made the drive 90 minutes north to set out from Leeds, Al on this new adventure. Unlike organized metrics such as the Marble City ride we did the week prior, this would have no T-shirt, prizes, or ice cream giveaway (which I passed on anyway) at the finish. It was also only $2, and that to pay for the "control card" or travel record we would each be using.

We (Frank, Joe and I) met at our usual rendezvous in Prattville at 5:15. All the bikes and gear fit in my car, so we took it up, stopping only just outside Leeds to hit the bathroom and purchase anything else we needed. Joe likes to travel in street clothes so he used the bathroom not only for its intended purpose but to switch into riding attire. It was during this part of the day that his ride cost multiplied by a factor of 10. He confided to us in a whisper later at lunch that he inadvertently dropped a $20 bill into the bowl and was actually willing to try to fish it out, however the the motion of his hand set off the automatic flush cycle and it was sucked down instantly. (note to self: have any money from Joe checked by a dog with a sensitive nose before touching) Of course, we told Joe that his secret was safe with us. Right.

We arrived in Leeds on time and got our control cards. I also signed up to be a randonneur with the umbrella group RUSA. Frank is already a member. Looking around, we had the only 3 true classic randonneur style bikes there. Plenty of racer style stuff in carbon and titanium, a sprinkling of rolling Barcaloungers (recumbents) and a pair of tandems. Organizer Steve was on a steel Masi single speed (which he is taking on PBP this year I understand. Paris-Brest-Paris is the ultimate randonneur event, and has to be qualified for in order to enter. It's 1200Km. Here are some of the riders getting ready.



And here we get our pre ride briefing from Steve.


There were about 2 dozen riders and we set off promptly at 8:00 AM.  The roads were wet from recent rain, and the air was wet from near total humidity, but a cloud cover kept temps to bearable levels, and my fenders kept road spray off my feet. They didn't help much with the rooster tails coming up from other bikes though and I chose carefully who to ride behind and at what distance. The group stayed together for only a few miles, with the racer types rushing off to be the 1st ones back. By the time we arrived at the 1st "control," a store, they were about ready to depart.

The store clerks at each stop were gracious about signing our cards with the time of our arrival. The cue sheets were noted with the open and close times, and the stops were around 15 miles apart, so we knew we had plenty of time. We also generally made a purchase/used the facilities so these controls were just a formalized version of our weekend store stops at about the same  spacing. Here are the speedy people at the control.

The ride was generally very scenic, and while there were plenty of rollers (adding up to about 2,800' of climb) none of the hills were individually as tough as what we ride here at home. I recall 9% as the steepest incline. We rode up a 20% er just this past Tuesday and get 12% to 15% most of the time we ride.

Steve pulled up at the 2d control and we asked him to take a picture of us:


Here are a few on the road shots.

Joe behind a local area rider:

Here I am coming up an interstate overpass and a sneaky side shot that Steve snapped while I was apparently working harder than he was.

Anyway, the Sun came out which made the air drier, but also made the air HOTTER. I ended up drinking 2 1/2 oz per mile which is a LOT for me. About 10 miles from the finish, I really lagged and it hit me that I still had a pretty full hydration pack. Pulling off the road at a stop sign and then again under a tree, I quickly had 25 oz and felt immediately better. No cramps or muscle strains, just fatigue, which was certainly manageable. Frank had other problems though. He has been a little off his racehorse pace the past couple of rides (good news for me, as it means I don't have to ride solo so much) unlike Joe who was way out ahead of us (and has been since he's shed 54 lbs and has the legs of one who rides everyday - which he does) Well, Frank dropped his chain (not in between his cogs this week, thankfully) and while replacing roadside, was stung by a wasp. You can see the red area on his leg here:

We pedaled through a number of small communities and on a mix of smoother and less smoother less smooth roads. Here's a house I liked and it's even for sale (tough commute to work though from here). Ashville, Al
And the old County courthouse. The county styles itself as "older than Alabama."
The route was a lollipop style, so that we went out, made a loop and then returned the last stretch the way we went out. A headwind had picked up, naturally, which as Frank noted was nice to help dry us off, but it did slow us down a hair. Except for Joe of course. He had was changed showered and reading the newspaper in his lawn chair when Frank & I made it back to the cars.
Perhaps I exaggerate a hair. He had his shoes off and was sitting on the car bumper. We were in fact not even the last finishers! Close, but not last. We had plenty of time left anyway, and it was not a race. The figures for the day are not dead accurate as our Garmins did not behave well. I'm logging it as 67.76 miles, 2,890' of climb, and a 15.4 moving average with 4:24 ride time and 5:29 total time (7:12 was the limit iirc)  Having signed on as a randonneur at the start of the day, this ride will "count,"  whatever that means. It was $20. I would have given them Joe's $20, but wrote a check instead. :)
After we got back we toweled off and pulled on T-shirts and headed for some food!  Frank had the number 246 in his head and couldn't get it out. Like when you lose 4 toothpicks from a 250 box...  We pulled off in Pelham at the Cahaba Vallet Rd exit (# 246!!) and found a Ruby Tuesday, which served up some lunch. Plenty of cars with mountain bikes on the back were in the area as nearby Oak Mountain was seeing plenty of activity. Tons of traffic on I-65 too, and not sure why, but we made it back in fine fashion. A great day, and I'm sort of eager for the next outing. Speed is NOT my thing, and to a degree, speed does not matter for this version of the sport. I guess I need to find a 200Km Brevet and see if my legs will do it! Maybe when it's a hair cooler though.
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