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.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

100 Miles in One Beautiful Day

Yesterday I rode 100 miles with the Shut Up and Ride Club and we all agreed that there was no better way to spend the one sunny day we get in West Michigan in November.

The hub of our ride was The Good Earth bagel shop in Holland, where we stopped for comestibles and warmth in between loops.
The first loop was 30 miles south to Saugatuck and back, which is done weekly by this group and called "The Bagel Ride." As you can see from the photo below, we move along in a double paceline at an easy speed. 
After a quick bite at the bagel shop, most of us headed north to Grand Haven for the next 45 miles. We found the wind and got a little more serious about drafting. 

As you can see, the sun was shining. After passing by the lakeshore,
 we stopped at a coffee shop that had a very cool sign:

Then yet another loop to complete our 100 miles. No better way to spend a day.