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

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.

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