Sunday, April 17, 2016

Barry Roubaix March 16,2016

First time in this major race for me. The field was huge-thousands of participants. We started in waves according to our distance, gender, and age. I was in wave 11, which started 20 minutes after the first wave. Just lots and lots of bike riders. I knew several people in this race but really only saw a couple of them. This photo is of our wave.

The weather was warm and sunny-starting in the 60s and ending in the 70s. I felt pretty good because most of the faster, younger riders started ahead of me, there weren't too many people passing me other than groups of fast women who must have started in later waves. There was constant traffic but mostly I was passing slower riders. That made me feel pretty good about myself even though my actual speed wasn't really much faster than the other races I did this spring. The finish winds through Hastings on paved roads so I had a little sprint out with someone else to the finish, which I won. Of course with so many different waves, there is no way to know if someone you're riding with is even, behind or ahead of you. The Sager road stretch was interesting. I did have to stop and walk a couple of times there, but due to the fact someone ahead of me stopped and there was too much traffic to go around them. I might have been able to ride that stretch the whole way if there were no other riders nearby. I finished 1033/1475 overall with an average speed of 14.71, 48/80 in my age group. This will be my last gravel race of the spring season. I'm a little disappointed in my results. I'm actually more than one mph slower in average speed compared with past races. I haven't had a chance to train much due to the situation with our business staffing, which will get worse before it gets better. But, even a bad day on the bike is better than a good day anywhere else. I just like to get on my red bike and ride it for all I'm worth.

I think two equipment choices helped me. I kept my Clement MSO 40mm tires instead of going with my narrower (and theoretically faster)  LAS tires. Much of the gravel had been worked up and loose, probably due to the amount of traffic ahead of me and the dry conditions of the course. It hadn't rained all week so the roads were dry and dusty-really making the Paris-Roubaix reference realistic. So I like the wider tires on loose gravel-more secure. That allowed me to push a little harder, maneuver around people even though I had to get onto looser gravel and stay on the saddle in the soft sand. I also changed my gearing to a 50-34 front crankset and 30-12 rear cassette. This lower ratio allowed me to spin while remaining seated on most of the hills. This is a faster way to climb for me, and I think it helps prevent  my quads from cramping. Trying to decide if I should keep this smaller crankset on the BMC or switch it back to my Surly, which I now am using as a Rando bike. 

Manchester, TN 200K Permanent April 2016

A trip to the Nashville area for a conference and Ruth's SR board meeting gave me an opportunity to complete my April Permanent in southern Tennessee.

I abandoned my planned March Permanent in Michigan due to a combination of weather (very windy, cold and wet), a malfunctioning Garmin and a poor choice of equipment-I went with my Gunnar road bike in order to go faster, got my first flat tire 10 miles in, got chilled changing the tube, turned around and went home. That was March 27 so I had no alternate days to recover. Lessons learned-make an attempt earlier in the month, use the tried and true Rando bike, buy a new memory chip for the garmin.

Anyway, the weather was a little cool for Tennessee but considering the snow in Michigan at the time I still felt lucky. Still felt like spring in Tennessee.

Overall I really enjoyed this ride, on my BMC with my dyno hub and lights and full fenders. There were a few smatterings of rain but nothing really too serious. The route took me up two mountains with switchbacks and the occasional grade above 10% which I walked. The gearing on my BMC isn't extremely low-36X30.

I did have a rather major mechanical issue with the chain falling off the back of the rear cassette and jamming the freewheel body against the hub, causing the chain to dangle down close to the spokes whenever I coasted. I rode through Monteagle (with a brief stop to give Ruth a kiss, since she was meeting at Monteagle inn, which was right on my way) and stopped at Woody's bike shop in Suwanne. He had to completely disassemble the rear hub/freewheel in order to un-jam it. That put me behind schedule for completing this ride during daylight so I'm glad I went with my lights. Here's a photo of sunset taken from a bridge that crosses Normandy Lake. 

Lowell 50, April 2016

One of the main factors in this race was the weather. The race started in sun with temps in the 30s with a stiff west wind. By mile 24 we here headed into a snowstorm with dropping temps. While the roads never were frozen, I spend a lot of time in a pace line which I attempted to hold together as we were in the open areas of the last half of the race.

The other factor was that I really didn't feel that well. All week I felt winded and light-headed with any exertion such as climbing a flight or two of stairs. Must be fighting off something. Felt the same on the initial major climb which is the steepest and longest one of this race. Seems like an average speed of about 14.5 mph is the best I can do this spring.

Finished 101/162 overall at 14.52 mph. 14/29 in my age category. The only photos of interest I took were a before and after of my bike, which was very muddy at the end, due to the wet roads.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Melting Mann-First Gravel Race of the Year

I celebrated the first day of spring with a gravel race called "Melting Mann." This race started in the small southern Michigan town of Vandalia and wound through the surrounding countryside on mostly hard-packed gravel roads. Here is a photo I stole from their FB page of the starting queue with their mascot Yeti.

The weather was excellent for March: clear, sunny and cold-in the lower 30s at the start. Overall, it was a positive experience. I really had a great time and am happy with my result. But I do see room for improvement.

The positives:

This was the first race with my new BMC  bike, with new Rolf prima wheels and Clement MSO 40mm tires:

Lots of cushioning because of the frame design, carbon seat post and allowance for wider tires. Compared to my heavier Surly, the weight difference really helped me get up those hills. The "wider than recommended" tires were really, really nice: they helped smooth out the bumps and I actually felt comfortable sliding around on the loose gravel or soft sand.

The course was fairly smooth, mostly hard packed. Here's a photo I took during a time of where I had to slow down to get rid of some lactic acid:

Beautiful roads, beautiful weather.

I also stayed for the awards ceremony and had some food and beer with everybody. The gravel racing community is really friendly and has a very low, virtually nonexistant "AH" ratio, compared with other flavors of bike racing, in my opinion.

The room for improvement:

One of the main reasons I race is that it gives me a clearly measured, objective result that I can use to measure my efforts to improve. My goal has been to finish above 50% of all participants. I can then consider myself "above average" and this helps to bolster my fragile ego. The actual result was 152nd place out of 219 so not so good. I was basically under-trained. But I do think the 50% goal is within my reach. My average speed was 15 miles an hour. In order to hit my goal, I should have been at 16 miles per hour average. I think the faster pace is attainable. Let's see how I do at the Lowell 50 in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Northwest to Nashville 200K-Experience is the teacher of all things

It was the cold, it was the east wind, it was the hills, it was the south wind. At mile 65 I was continually looking down at my rear cassette because it felt like I was pushing too high of a gear ratio. But no, creeping along in a very low gear I passed some flags which confirmed what I was refusing to accept as reality: I was headed South and the flags were flying straight out towards me. The wind, in my face for most of the North-East, 53 mile trek to Nashville had shifted and would challenge me for the remainder of my trip.

Then my legs informed me they had had enough of hill climbing. My price to pay for refusing to ride indoors and keep my conditioning up this winter.  It hurt to go any faster than a soft-pedal pace, and when I needed them to get me up one of the numerous Barry County hills, they began to twinge as a for-warning of a total ride-ending spasm.

Then "The Voice of Reason" got into my head: "You should abandon now, you are only at the halfway point and if you keep going your legs will give out completely. Then you'll have to wait for Ruth to come and get you for that car ride of shame. There's a good chance she will get lost on these god-forsaken back roads while you curl up into the fetal position and hypothermia sets in." You know, that voice. Usually a symptom of bonking.

Anyway, I kept going. Kept eating at the controls, Felt a little better, then a little worse...etc. Another 200K Permanent in the books. Beautiful course-from Portage, past Brook Lodge (a lot of memories there,) then onto much of what I recognized as the 24hr challenge course leading to the small village of Nashville, MI. Then back around Gull Lake to Plainwell south to Kalamazoo. Actually enjoyed the ride through Kalamazoo and Portage in full darkness.

Nashville, MI-Remember, it's the journey, not the destination.

So, what did this experience teach? Besides the usual need for better training, more weight loss, warmer clothing; which I always resolve to do but rarely follow through.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Welcome back blogger, wherein I describe my first 200K Permanent of 2016 in Norman, Oklahoma

It's been a while. Since this blog is mostly a way to record my bicycle experiences and read by mostly only myself, I am re-starting posts here for 2016.

So yesterday I took advantage of a trip Ruth was taking to Norman Oklahoma by tagging along and signing up for a RUSA Permanent. Permanents are published courses that can be ridden any day, instead of on an appointed date. There still is a set of control points that the rider needs to pass through within prescribed time limits. These are approved by RUSA (Randoneurs USA) and published on their website. There are many Permanent courses all over the US, so this is a good way to find good cycling routes when you travel. Provided you want to cycle a minimum of 200 kilometers, which is about 125 miles for you silly Americans who aren't metrically minded.

So thanks to Mike Schmit, who developed and published this 200K ride called the "Rollercoaster 202" and originates in Norman, Oklahoma. There is a little pre-planning required to get the paperwork set up, and once you set a date, usually you are locked into it no matter what the weather. This wasn't an issure for me because I only had the one day available to do this ride anyway.

Wednesday, January 20 was forecasted to be in the upper 40s, so I packed accordingly. Unfortunately, I did not note the overnight low that was forecast. I started the ride at about 7 am when it was 25 degrees. It did not get above the freezing point until about 11am, and my feet were not dressed for sub-freezing weather-I was thinking 40s. Lesson learned, the hard way. I made an unscheduled stop at a small cafe in Wanette because the pain in my toes was interfering with my ability to pedal, which was kind of slow anyway. This place was interesting, I was the only customer there without a bib overalls and a beard down to at least the third button down from the collar. A TV was set up on one table showing a re-run of "Pawn Stars" that was the focus of everyone's attention. Despite my being a little out of the ordinary, I was welcomed and treated with the most friendly manner. Oklahomans are really nice people.

Anyway, after my toes started really hurting as an indication that blood was circulating through them, I set off again. Within the hour, the temp warmed up enough to allow a normal bicycle riding mode and I was treated to this highlight of the ride, an old railroad bridge that had been converted to part of the road system, albeit a narrow part.

This was at about 11 am at mile 46. Things smoothed out a a more normal ride after that, with the average speed picking up from about 12 to 16-17 that I would normally do. There was even a total of about 4 miles of gravel roads on this ride, mostly hard-packed through cattle grazing lands.

The roads were in good shape, and the drivers were amazingly courteous. Often they would hang back about 20 ft waiting for a clear section of road to pass me, always staying at least 3 feet away. What is is about Michigan drivers who seem to think only cars belong on roads?

Monday, May 19, 2014

My run to the Border

Today I rode 130 miles south in an 'out and back' to the state line. Here I am with my trusty 'Kind of Blue' bike at a sign that says Ind ana, which we can assume is Indiana. My route was mostly along lightly traveled rural roads from home south of Allegan, through Bangor, Dowagiac, and then Niles. From Niles the state line is just a few miles further south. 

On the way, I saw many interesting things. A wetland in the early morning:

Many apple orchards that were in bloom ( good to see no frost damage:)

And something for my toolbox:
While I do occasionally look at the passing scenery, most of my focus is on the road surface about 5-10 feet in front of me. I'm looking for glass shards, potholes, stones & rocks, etc. I often see many interesting things that have been cast off from passing cars. Some of the more common things I see on just about every ride:
     -clothing, both adult and children's. Often it is underwear. I won't even attempt to explain.
     -beer and liquor bottles. Drinking and driving remains a popular pastime despite legal ramifications. 

Some of the more unusual items I have seen in recent memory
     -iPads. I have found two in the past 6 months. Cracked, wet and unusable. 
     -Today I saw a beehive tray with honeycomb attached. No viable bees though. 
     - D avenue near the Kalamazoo river was littered with hundreds of watch batteries.

I wondered if this business exits on the googler  (the aptly named 'Field Plumbing Heating':)

This ride will be my last long one before I attempt the 300K (185 mile) Brevet in Wisconsin on June 30. I would have liked to go a little longer, but overall the 130 miles went smoothly with no major pain in my hands, feet or butt; the three critical points of contact on long rides. My eating/energy level was good also, as I learn what and when to stop and eat along the way.