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.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Saturday I rode my first Brevet. At 200 kilometers (actually 128 miles) this was the longest ride I have ever done in one day. Yet this is the shortest distance offered by Randonneurs USA.
It took me just a little over 10 hours to complete. Since this sport is not about racing, what matters most is that I finished inside the time limit of 13.5 hours. There were many who finished ahead of me, and many who finished behind me; we all get equal credit.
The Start Meeting 6:45am

As this picture I snapped during the pre-ride meeting shows, Central Wisconsin was sunny, cool (high in the mid 50s), and very windy. More about the wind later. There were a total of about 50 riders on this day, but rode mostly in small groups of 2-5 riders which broke up and re-formed throughout the day. As the day progressed, we spread out according to our preferred personal pace and the sight of other riders became less common, except at the designated checkpoint locations. I rode the last 40 miles entirely by myself, not able to keep up with a group of three ahead of me but not wanting to slow down for the group of two I knew were behind me.
Besides turn-by-turn directions printed on a cue sheet, we each received a Brevet Card: 
This card needs to be stamped/initialed with the time at each checkpoint. I took a picture of mine after it was completed because I don't have it in my possession just now. This card is being sent to the Audax Club Parisien (another French term, which may be appropriate since it is in France) for official entry into what I like to think of as "The Book." This book must be very large, since the club was founded in 1904 by Henri Desgrange, who also founded the Tour de France. It will be mailed back to me after they add yet more French words to it. I will call it a souvenir.

There were two things I learned on this ride: First, this is an eating contest. The body can perform on it's own stores of blood sugar at the level of exertion required for about two hours. After that it must use whatever you eat during the ride. If you wait too long or don't eat enough you will experience a rapid decline in blood sugar which we call "bonking" (or maybe I should say "le bonk.") Having done this to myself many times in the past, I can say it is a form of suffering. Besides the obvious decline in energy, your body becomes racked with pain-my back, neck, butt, and arms all demand that I stop riding. Your mental state also deteriorates: poor decision making, despondency, and an overall pissed-off attitude ensues. So it is important to eat enough to keep your blood sugar up. The problem is, your stomach doesn't always agree with the high-carb, high energy stuff you keep cramming down into it. So you can experience 'gastro-intestinal distress.' Most of the conversations with other riders are about what they have, are, or will eat. This seems to be a trial and error process that is unique to every body.

Second, in the words of Gilda Radner, "It's always something. If it's not one thing it's another...." Saturday was about riding into the wind, especially during the last leg when we were tired. This was a stiff east wind that slowed my pace from it's typical 15 mph to below 10. I remember looking up to see a flag flying straight out with it's halyard slapping against the flagpole. I was beginning to feel le bonk but also felt queasy, so it was a mental challenge to keep going. And there was a detour I had to follow on a separate map off the cue sheet, which was new to me anyway. So that was a challenge. But future brevets will have their own challenges: rain, heat, lack of sleep, navigating in darkness, more wind, mechanical breakdowns, etc. It's about having the perseverance to finish each brevet within the time limit.

So my future plan is to attempt a 300K on May 30, also in Wisconsin. This distance may well involve some riding after sunset, so the appropriate lights and reflective gear is required. In June I hope to do a 400K, which means basically riding all day and almost all of the next night. My goal is to do one event of at least 200K each month for the next twelve months, qualifying for the R12 award. After that, maybe I will attempt some of the very long 1200K events that are held throughout the world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

First Solo Century Ride of the Year

After three attempts in March that I cut short to save my toes, I have finally completed my March Century. Lunch at Country Fare Restaurant in Grand Junction was my reward. The RUSA 200K Brevet in Wisconsin looks possible. Then I can change my Facebook status to "Randonneur*"

*Randonneuring: Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount. When riders participate in randonneuring events, they are part of a long tradition that goes back to the beginning of the sport of cycling in France and Italy. Friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spent a Lot of Time Here in March

Cold, snowy, more cold, more snow. Somehow I managed over 500 miles though.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Five Reasons I am Smiling

1. First day over 20 degrees means I can still feel my toes

2. Two days since the last snowfall means the gravel roads are hard packed and smooth.

3. I have a new Fred (that's biker speak for super dorky) mirror sticking out in front of my glasses.

4. My water bottle hasn't frozen solid yet. 

5. My knee doesn't hurt any more. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

The View is Worth the Climb

If I look tired it's because I had just climbed about 800 feet up a snowy gravel road on a bike that has only one gear, and that gear is a little "tall." I am on the back side of the hill that is Bittersweet Ski Area. The whitish hill way off in the distance is Timber Ridge ski area.

Sure felt good to get outside though, and the today was a lot less windy than yesterday. Today's ride wraps up January at 412 miles. Not really where I wanted to be, but the weather was a factor-I hate riding indoors on my trainer.