Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
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:
Sunday, July 17, 2011
An information notice for this ride was posted our bike club FaceBook page and it seemed like something I might want to try. Sylacauga is less than 90 minutes north of here, and I like to ride in some new venues each year, to get out of doing the same old thing. As it turned out, 5 Montgomery area riders went up to attend. We saw some folks from Birmingham and Auburn as well. That left very few locals on the ride, as total show up was less than 60, according to the event staff. Since 2010 saw only 37 riders, this was seen as a step forward. Threatening weather probably dissuaded others from coming, which is too bad, as the people there did a nice job of organizing and supporting the ride.
We drove through rain to get to the start. Joe and I carpooled with Max and our bikes got plenty of water in the back of Max's truck. No rain at the parking lot though, and as I often do, I carried my no-rain talisman on the ride: a rain jacket. It worked. We never had a drop fall on us, despite riding over still wet roads where showers had recently passed by, but prior to our getting to those particular points on the route. I left the camera in the truck, not wanting to risk getting it wet. The route was clearly marked and the cue sheets were thorough, but I never needed to look at mine.
The toughest climb was about 3 1/2 miles out from the start, and it was not very difficult. Beyond that point, there were plenty of rollers. I never used the small chain-ring, unlike some of our local rides around here. Rest stops were spaced 17 -- 20 miles apart and had friendly volunteers and enough stuff to satisfy most tastes. I packed Sharon's Blueberry Oat bars, but also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some pecan sandies along the way. The weather was a mixed bag. Temps were in the 70s all day (very cold for July in Alabama) but humidity was near 100% which drenched us in sweat. A stiff headwind the last 10 miles back was bothersome as well. The clouds kept the Sun from broiling, but the overcast took some of what was probably a pretty ride away.
I skipped the mid week rides this week to allow a saddle sore to heal. Last Summer, I had to see the doctor when lymph glands upstream from the swollen area were getting tender, and he provided both injected and tablet form antibiotics. This year, I was able to lance the thing open and drained it twice a day, changing the bandage and applying more Neosporin each time. After Monday, the swelling went down every day. By yesterday, I was willing to try it out on a ride. It was fine for a while, but began to get a little sore by the 2d rest stop (33 miles) so I opted to cut the ride short to 43 miles, rather than take the other fork in the road for 65. Max looked at the sky and opted to join me. What turned out to be really sore was not that saddle issue, but something new for me. The muscles right under the sit bones were really aching. These could be the gracilis and/or hamstrings. Whichever they are, they were very sore yesterday from being sat on and while better today, are still tender. The saddle sore is fine this morning. It continues to shrink and did not swell at all from use yesterday.
The roads from Sylacauga to Weogufka were really nice. I would like to ride them again sometime. The roads after Weogufka (between rest stops 1 and 2) were very rough and it was more tiring keeping control of the bike on bouncy descents than it was to pedal more slowly uphills. The jack hammering at times was just awful. After rest stop 2, the roads were much better once again.
I tried a new hydration pack insert in the Kelty backpack for this ride. I really like it. Easier to fill than unscrewing a cap, and you can attach/detach the drink tube while the pouch is full of water. Also, it reverses for cleaning. Very nice. I got mine on sale at BlueSky Cycling.
It does hold the stated 70 oz (or other size you may buy) but no more. The screw cap styles can be overfilled. I regularly get about 80 oz into the 70 oz bladder that came with the Kelty.
Joe showed up on the custom Ti Seven Axiom, but with a 12 - 29 rear cluster, a Selle Anatomica leather saddle and rocking a Zimbale canvas bar tube! Just paint some lugs on the frame, will ya Joe? :) He's only about 1/2 the man he used to be, so he can add a few grams to the bike set up and still fly! Max was pulling strong as ever. He likes to think when he rides. In other words, his mind wanders. We'll be trundling along nicely at 17 or 18, and woosh! He's gone at 20 - 22 where I cannot follow. Uphill a couple of times like that. Generally, we noticed that while we were often passed on the flats, we kept passing the same people on just about every climb. We would have gotten further in front of them, had the climbs been longer or steeper. Our mid week hill rides certainly help us to climb better. Joe was way out ahead with the fast boys and Bill R rode with Chris W of the Comp-Velo squad. Joe said he dropped off that lead pack after the 1st rest stop, and one of the pack leaders (3rd fastest on the day, resplendent in a Mellow Mushroom team kit) said the group dissolved when 9 dogs converged on them from both sides of the street. Some guys sprinted, some stopped, some reached for spray cans. It was mayhem. We never had any dog issues ourselves. Maybe 3 or 4 dogs showed interest in us the whole day and they all stopped at the ringing of our bells.
So for the say, Louise (the Rambouillet) and I did 43 miles at 14.7 mph and climbed 1,897'. Cadence was 79, a little slower than I would like. I'm still working on that. Good times with the guys. None of us won the prices raffled off, and I passed on a Tee shirt (only 2010 and only XXL) but we would probably do that ride again especially on a nice day.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Usually I am by myself. One year, Bill R came along, another year, Roger B rode with me, but only to the 1/2 way point. From there he took a more direct route back. Imagine my surprise then when 8 other riders showed up today to do the ride! Frank, Joe, Tom, Steve, Chris, Gabriel, Russ, and Max all opted in for the outing.Max was not quite ready when I came by to get him, so we ran just a few minutes late to the start point, a BP station. We ran even later as I was 4th in line at the single hole bathroom, and had to wait for 3 old men to get themselves, err, ready. You might ask, why I was in that line, and yes, I'm an old slow guy too. The group gathered, and you can see Frank already has his fists held high like Rocky on the steps in Philadelphia.
Left to right, the others are: Tom, Chris, Russ, Gabriel, and Joe
I stayed with the group for just a little bit. I pulled for most of the first few miles, which helped :). I was doing 16 - 17, and Russ pulled up alongside and asked if this was "the pace." I said yes, and he pulled in front of me to take a turn at the pull. Of course, within 300 yds, he was cranking 20 mph, and I pulled out of the line and dropped off the back, allowing Max to close up the gap. Everyone was quite happy to trundle along at a quicker step. For me, the ride is better if I don't get too tired early on, and I just stayed at the same 16 - 17 pace all the way up the steady 1% grade to Independence. Thanks to the bright Dinotte tail light on Frank's Bilenky, I could keep the peloton in sight most of the time. The same thing happened after the store stop. Here, in time lapse photography is how the 1st 1/2 mile went:
Actually, I wasn't ALWAYS the last rider. Most rides are like that, with riders slowing to rest and then speeding up when hey have legs again, so all of us moved around in the ride order at various times. Generally though, some riders like Steve & Tom ('Hammer Time") and now Chris & Russ were up front, with Max and Frank more in the center and Joe and I more toward the back. But, like I said, it varies during the ride. And no one really cares, either.Gabriel was with us for the 1st time, and expressed pleasure at the route, if not the roasting heat and drenching humidity. It really was hot today, and adequate hydration and electrolytes for cramp prevention were a must. Gabe hasn't found his rhythm with us yet, but he will. He certainly fit right in with us. Lugged steel frame too. The 1st Peter Mooney I've seen and it was a clean looking layout. (http://www.peter-mooney.com/) Speaking of lugged rides, Joe was astride his Sam Hillborne and I on Louise, the Rambouillet (both from Rivendell http://www.rivbike.com/) Frank's bike was welded steel, and the other guys were on aluminum or carbon.
Everyone made it to the Statesville Store, which was our only scheduled stop with available water and food resupply. Leaving there, we navigated the flat-lands long the long lazy bend in the Alabama River, turning back on the hilly CR 15 and then the even hillier CR 9, which features the toughest climb of the ride, in my estimation. I mentioned to the others that it was a "nice little pitch" and was being tongue in cheek. I hope no one took me too seriously and then was surprised by a long 9% - 10% climb!
Ha ha. Very cute fellas. Fortunately, all the hornets were at an away game today and none bothered me or the bike. While we waited, a local in a pick up came past, tail gate down and truck bed low to the ground from the heavy load of fence posts and lumber in back. He asked if we were okay and we said we were, and just waiting for a friend to fix a flat. Not long after, he drove back by, with Chris's bike in the back with the lumber, and Chris in the passenger seat. Very nice of this kind stranger to help us out!At this point, Gabriel had started to feel cramps and opted to take Al 14 directly back, cutting about 10 miles off the ride, and most of the remaining hills. Not all though. The rest of us went back on the route and navigated the rollers north of the main road in pretty steady fashion. Frank lagged a little on the hills and we waited for him in what sparse shade we could find at the corner of CRs 9 and 45. When asked how he was, he replied that he has been better. It was getting VERY hot, and baking in the sun while trying to help Chris may have dampened his drive for the day. It would mine, I know. Just a little way further and Max, who was about out of water, stopped at a hole in the wall church from a denomination we were not familiar with. Some sort of holiness church. Max tried to get a hose spigot going, but to no avail. Just as we were about to give up and head on, some people came out of the church and greeted us warmly. Frank asked if they had any water we could get and they went and brought us out a bottle each of COLD water! Talk about your basic Divine Providence for sure!
Not long after we left there, I took a swing from my hydration pack and discovered it was empty! Good thing we got some water. The rest of the way back was uneventful. Mostly downhill from there and when we hit the BP station, Tom, Russ, and Steve were relaxing and reliving the points of interest on the day. We said our goodbyes and packed up, and headed home.
Despite, heat and Sun, humidity and hills, a bit of headwind, and coarse roads, this goes down as a good ride. 53.31 miles, 2,432' of climb, and 14.6 mph avg pace. Russ and the other quicker riders averaged in the 17s.Couple of away rides the next two weeks. The Marble City Metric next Saturday in Sylacauga, AL and then the initial EVER Alabama Randonneurs Populaire. Yes, Alabama and Randonneur now both can be used in the same sentance. Who'd a thunk it? Which bike will I take? What wool will I wear? Where are all my savvy Oregon biking pals when I need them for advice?
Whatever rides you do, whenever you do them, Tailwinds!
Monday, July 4, 2011
Like many others, I keep records of my rides, and sometimes look to see how I did over a given route from one ride to another. Harder to quantify is how a ride feels to me. Today's ride was no special outing performance-wise (which only became apparent after coming home and downloading the Garmin) but it felt really good. Instead of mashing up the hills, today I spun. In 95F heat and strong Sun, I spun in low gears, but I spun. I often looked down and saw #'s between 16 and 20 on the cyclometer MPH readout. At the end of the ride, I was coming in at 17.5. I was not all spent energy-wise after the ride. No cramps, and when I tired along the way, recovery came fairly quickly once I slowed down a bit. I drank 180 oz of fluids on the ride of 70 miles (and just after when I drained the balance of the Kelty hydration pack in the parking lot).
Just 4 of us today. Frank, Tom, Joe and me. Joe looks like a shadow of his former self, having dropped 50+ lbs, but looks very fit. He brought his Rivendell Sam Hillborne again today and I was on my Rambouillet. They look good together. Frank said he wasn't feeling super perky, but managed to pull away at 20+ mph on several occasions. Tom was fast, like always, but he would double back a time or two and rejoin us. Calm air early, but a stiff breeze later, first from the West and then the South, so we had it in our faces in two directions. Un fun. Plenty of climbing and some of the hills have not seen us and our bikes in some time. I first rode this route in May 2008, but only rarely since then. It's a great workout if you are in shape, not a fun one if you're not.
We had fun with ice today. Frank, as usual, bought a jug of water and a bag of ice at Bubba's Pit Stop in Marbury. After some cajoling, we got Joe to (shades of another rider on the Selma ride last year) dump some down his shorts. That lasted less than 5 seconds. He found it less comfy than the other guy did, I guess. Frank got Tom to put a few pounds of it down the back of his (Frank's) shirt, and Frank found that very comfy. Picked up his pace on the bike immediately.
We also got into a discussion of whether we should wave cars around us when the road looks clear ahead. Being courteous vs. being open to lawsuit in case all does not go as planned. No definitive answer on that one yet.
I wore an old US Postal red/white/blue jersey to mark Independence Day, and the later dark blue/yellow team shorts to note the current TdF underway.
Hope you enjoyed your ride wherever it was. Did it feel good? Regardless of fast or far you rode.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
When you ride the same roads all the time, it can get boring. For this holiday weekend, I chose one route we haven't done in a while, and put together a new one which was a different mash up of roads we have been on before at one time or another. The Long North Hills ride, which we'll do on the 4th will be a great work out and fill the entire morning. The Town & Country ride we did yesterday was shorter, and featured a fair amount of flats, where higher pace could be maintained. High pace doesn't really matter for me. It seems my engine has a speed governor of about 19 mph. Anything over that really tuckers me out. Under that and I am Okay for long periods of pedal turning.
We started near my house, and rode over to the next town, Millbrook. Passing through the Main Street area and city hall, we headed on towards Elmore, then Deatsville, Posey Crossroad, and south to Prattville, where we finished the bulk of the ride with a stiff cat 5 climb (our 2d of the ride) up a lovely street in the historical district of downtown. Hopefully, everyone wasn't so intent on the climbing effort that they missed the pretty architecture and lawns. 50 miles, and about 15 mph avg for me.
I stayed with the other riders for about 1/2 the time. When we neared the Elmore prison complex, I had to drop off the back and slow down a little. I rejoined the group at a store stop, but again fell back to a slower pace after a while. Hopefully, these intervals with the stronger riders will help me to get faster too, for those times that I choose to motor along more smartly. I was pleased to note that muscle and lung recovery was more rapid upon slowing that I used to experience. Makes sense given what I'm eating these days.
It's now two full weeks on a vegetable diet, and I feel pretty good. I like the food, and I get to eat enough that I'm not still hungry after meals. My weight which initially jumped up a few lbs, has dropped back to where it was when I started it. We took our son and his fiancee to dinner at Ruby Tuesday last night and I stuffed myself silly. A full bowl of spaghetti Squash, zucchini and marinara (272 cal) grilled zucchini (45 cal) grilled green beans (41 cal) and a plate from the salad bar with spinach, butter-head lettuce, edamame, sliced mushrooms, slivered carrots, broccoli fleurets and fat free balsamic vinaigrette dressing (low cal, lots of nutrient). I've cut coffee consumption by 1/2 or more and may take a stab at lowering the diet soda intake. Am I healthier? I think so, but don't really know. While most of what I've read supports the work of Campbell (The China Study) there are those who dispute his methods, analysis and conclusions from statistical (not philosophical) grounds.
For example this: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/03/the-china-study-a-formal-analysis-and-response/
Campbell exposes himself to this sort of critique by failing to present a dispassionate scientific position. Instead, he calls Robert Atkins "an obese..snake oil salesman." which is not true either. He was a cardiologist who died after a fall on an icy sidewalk. Campbell fails the serious scientist test in his reporting in other cases as well. A pity, as what he presents IS worthy of our consideration.
Well, time to get ready for church and whatever the rest of the day has in store. Looking forward to wearing my old red white and blue US Postal jersey tomorrow. Reminiscent of the pre-doping scandal days of the TdF and Independence Day.
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