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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Injustice of Speed

It happens to me at least once a year.  The need... for speed. 

"Talk to me, Goose."   Shortly after that, I find myself in the garage, starting silently at my bike and some of the old frames ​resting in the storage room.  Blast.  
Here we go again.

Stuff that hangs from my bike suddenly looks out of place, heavy, as aero as a​ fallen​ log, bulky as a bag of leaves.  Why does this happen?  Why is the bike the first place I look for speed?
I think we all do this, as cyclists, once in a while.  For me, the goal is to get out of the garage before I get the tools in my hands.  At the worst of times I had managed three complete bike builds in one weekend, the last one being the re-rebuild of the bike I'd started with.  See, Ieventually listen​ed​ to reason... b​ut only after swapping parts across three frames. 
 Exhausting... and time better spent riding, instead of thinking and lamenting.

I find myself, however, at a unique crossroads now.  The Kogswell has been static for a while now, as I've managed to calm the restlessness of the past.  The repeating cycle of winter bike projects has, meanwhile, freed up the old Trek 450 frame set​ (again)​ - which IS fast.  As I think further about my plans for Dirty Kanza next year, I begin to wonder if I'm asking too much if the Kogs...  

​then...rhetoric ensues....​

Would the Trek be a more fitting choice for dedicated randonneuring?  Would fenders fit with my new fave tires?  Why did I get rid of that 27.2 Thomson seat post? ​ Would it allow me to repurpose the Kogs into more of a commuter-steed / gravel grinder?  Would the headaches of fit-matching two bikes again be worth it?  (Crud, I only have one good saddle...)

One more item on the wish list pushes the notion into the budget-improbable category.  By the time I make my plans, the result is a pricetag bigger than that awesome-looking, complete, ready-to-ride Surly CrossCheck I found online last week.  Grrrrrrr.....  Cycling is not a cheap hobby, and I prove it to myself time and again, despite my best efforts to repurpose old parts and legacy frames, I'm not getting exactly what I want, and I have still spent money I don't really have.  As much as I love OLD steel, NEW steel starts to make a lot more sense.  As fast as the Trek would be for rando, it's wheelbase is too short for even my small panniers to avoid heel-strike - and it won't do double-duty with larger tires like the Kogs.  

Why am I so dead-set against keeping the Kogs around?  <-- always="" else="" grass="" green="" he="" i="" is="" says="" so="" somewhere="" the="" thinks="" why="" wondering="">

It isn't.  It's STILL not about the bike... and on an email chain last night, another riding buddy came crashing to the same conclusion in his garage.  It's truth... and it's out there.

The wrenches are safe, as are the bikes.  
The budget for a new rear wheel will remain earmarked for a REAR WHEEL... as opposed to redundant parts to support a 2nd bike, which I ultimately won't keep in service.

Speed, the injustice it does to us cyclists every season... 
 I need.... (lighter, faster, tricker, newer, shinier)

The bags aren't the problem, nor is the flaking paint, nor is the ancient quill stem.
The problem is the engine remains in need of a tune-up.
This shoulder needs to heal... I have work to do.

Justice is served.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guest Post: Glen R. - "The Ride From Hell"

The Central Iowa 300k - a.k.a. The Ride From Hell
By Glen Rumbaugh 

Ok it wasn't that bad at all; I only listed as the Ride from Hell so you'd read it.
It was a dark and stormy morning, or so they said it would be. It did look like we would get wet Saturday when we were receiving our ride safety briefing from Iowa RBA Greg Courtney.  Yet, as we rode east out of Ames toward the dark rain clouds, the rain ultimately disappeared and, later, so would the clouds. 

The summer Iowa events are run on a single weekend, allowing riders to pick their preferred distance, and allowing those same riders to share miles with other riders doing other distances.  Twenty-two riders started: eleven doing the 200k, five for the 400km, three for the 600km, and three for the 300km.  You can see the benefit of the multi-ride instantly:  three people tackling 600km makes for a lonely day...but being able to start the ride with over seven times that number is neat.  

We all began together riding in a nice line East from the hotel. The faster riders, doing both the short ride and the longer rides soon pulled away. Some would be caught later as they burned their energy early on.  When the routes split in the town of Nevada I met a rider from Minneapolis who was also attempting the 300k.  His name was Vincent D. and he spoke with a definite Minnesotan accent. He reminded me of two of my normal riding buddies, Keith and Steven: very cerebral, funny and some times a little odd.  Most riders, when approaching dogs, prepare for a sprint, yell loudly, and grab a water bottle to use as a weapon.  Vincent, instead, says "...puppies!" in a slightly childish voice, then stops and attempts to befriend them. If i did such a thing I would come away with a few less fingers and more holes in my body than I need.  Vincent has been a RUSA member (#3071) for several years, went to Paris in 1987, and had just completed another R-12, riding several perms during the winter in Minnesota.  At the first control we met up with Dan P. from Springfield, Mo.  Dan has ridden several of the Kansas City area brevets including the 100 and 200 this year. Dan reminded me of another buddy, Terry, because they both have a nice steady pace and enjoy their rides regardless of the extra time. Dan would be right there about a mile back, just in view, as Vincent and I would crest hills or make long slow bends in the road. The three of us continued riding together to the second control. 

Much of this route was the same as last years 600 so it looked familiar to me. At the control I bought water only since I was carrying my own food. This time I was following the advice of the "no meat athlete", Mat Frazier, who runs 100 milers.  That's runs.  He recommends getting energy from fruits like dates, cherries, bananas, apricots, and some protein from nuts or legumes. This worked well for me the entire time, with the exception of how sticky my fingers got. Vincent had his own food he called his second breakfast. He had made sushi the night before and was eating this as fuel. At first I thought this strange, but think about Alan Lim and his feed zone cook book. Most of his meals use rice as the base so maybe sushi will be on my menu in the future!  Dan pulled a Gary and bought a sausage & egg sandwich.  He said the ever-present Iowa 'Kum-n-Go' stores were pretty much the same as all the Casey's back home. We continued to the third control where Vincent & Dan decided to have a leisurely, sit-down lunch, so we parted ways never to see each other again during the course of the ride.

The Raccoon River Trail was busy this day: lots of families enjoying the weather, groups of women and surprisingly a lot of "cat trikes".  The trail, one of many area 'rails-to-trails' conversions, provided a good place to ride for two reasons: it was shaded, and, there was no wind; both because of the many trees. I remembered this section from last year and enjoyed it both times. I was able to let my mind go and enjoy the scenery but it left me wondering why we don't have more trails like this at home, of course the answer is always MONEY.

The next control came quickly and I noticed that my ride was going really fast at this point.   When I started I had hoped to finish at midnight, and now it looked more like I'd hit the barn at 10:00pm!  After navigating some back roads I came to the town of Woodson, IA., where the High Trestle Trail begins - another great rail-trail.  If all these rail-trail sections have you thinking that Iowa's brevets would happen too slowly, you'd be mistaken:  compared to popular KC-region trails like the KATY and Prairie Spirit's crushed limestone surface, all of these Iowa trails are paved with concrete!  Fast and smooth - just like a road, but no cars to deal with!  Woodson is
also where the 300, 400, and 600km routes meet back up for the ride back into Ames (the finish).  Last year I missed this turn twice because I couldn't find it easily in the dark, which added some bonus miles.   Since I was here in the day light this time I could easily see the trail with the old train depot marking the spot.  No bonus mileage this year!

The town was having a festival on this day and I thought about hanging around for awhile, but I also knew what waited up ahead.  Last year it was dark as I approached the High Trestle Bridge but the lights had already been turned off since it had been after midnight. This year I could see the bridge but the lights were off because there was still day light!
Ack!  Sometime I'll ride this bridge in the dark with the lights on!!!  After the bridge it's a short ride through several tunnels to my favorite spot, the Flat Tire Lounge.  The lounge was crowded again this year; lots of bikes hanging on the racks, very few cars.  The beer was great, the cool air felt nice, and I enjoyed one big laugh when a group of 20-something girls came in, hair done-up fancy, prom style dresses on.  Then came the big announcement, that the "wedding party" had arrived.  The bride was dressed in a short white dress with blue sequins, and she looked a little worse for the wear.  That was my cue to get moving; and, anyhow, o
ne beer was all I dared this year: the sun was too hot and I knew traffic would be picking up as I got closer to Ames, only about 30 miles away.
Beer finished, carbs reloaded, I headed on toward town.

Ames wasn't too bad for a Saturday evening: light traffic, cycle paths and bike lanes made the ride feel safer.  Finally, I saw the hotel and the final check point ahead!  I checked in at 8:08pm; 14 hrs 8 min after I'd started.   I can never figure out how I can ride longer rides faster than the shorter rides!  Something in my head, I guess.  All the 200k riders had finished before me but none of the other riders.  I had dinner at the Pizza Ranch, drank another beer and then went to bed.   Later I found out that Vincent and Dan P. had come in together at about 10:00pm;  15 hours and 48 min.

I don't know if I'll ever get to go back to Iowa again, but I still need to see that damn bridge lit-up in the dark; but, Vincent had talked about the rides in Minnesota.  ...Rochester is only another hour away...hmmm... maybe I'll try there next year or the year after.  It would give me another state toward the American Randonneur Challenge and would be a great road trip: any takers???

See you on the road!
- Glen

Two streaks buried - for the right reasons

It bears mentioning that the shoulder surgery I underwent this week - as expected - created a welcome 'reset button' for me to press, despite some bullheaded notions about keeping a streak of streaks going.  The June visit to the Archie Bunker route marked the completion of my fourth R-12 run - but, these four were not achieved back to back, so the importance of keeping a month to month run in play sorta lost its importance a while ago anyhow.  There aren't any points for that sorta streak, even when it comes to the new Ultra R-12 prize RUSA.  I'll likely get started on run number five later this year, instead of my original plan of riding a July 200 sometime during the first three days of the month and then foolishly trying to continue it with another 200 by the end of August; and risking injury.  The personal pressure is off - which is good, as the shoulder repair turned out to be more involved that originally excepted - which means I could be down for longer than I'd thought.  Sure, it woulda been great to get "one more ride" before going under, but, it feels a lot better knowing I got nearly everything around the house finished and can truly rest.

Same goes for what would have been my first P-12 run:  I let June slip away without grabbing what would have been 100km ride number four.  Even thought those P rides are "only" 100km, it's still something requiring time and planning to squeeze in each month.  With the newly created conundrum of getting June's 100k, and then July's 200 *and/or* 100k rides logged prior to surgery day, and getting the house projects wrapped up before I'd lose the use of an arm, AND tying things up at work.... Too much! 

So while I don't really owe anyone an explanation as to why I suddenly went from gung-ho to killing two streaks, I still felt it notable - if only for my own future reference.  Middle aged sensibility and practicality won the day - because I'm not paid to ride my bike, that's for sure!  Further, while it indeed sounded like fun to try, that sense of being rushed would surely have made some of it feel too much like "work."  At that point, why stress it?  None of it is that important!

Now with the calendar and my mind clear and truly reset, I can focus on staying healthy and recovering.  I've got a ton of videos and other writer's blog posts and articles to catch up on, and no looming deadlines hanging over my head.  I'm not taking any more 2nd or 3rd jobs, I'm looking at school again in the coming fall, and I'm sure riding will find a place in three also, in addition to ride planning and working routes.

For now, I've got the cruise control set, and I'm not making any plans.

Wishlists...?  Ha...that's another thing!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reprise: A Last Chance Story (feat. Mark Jilka)

By Karen Winterhalter; 

The Last Chance at 1,200 & 1,000 kilometers

  We left at 3:00 am in the only rain Denver had seen for 2 months. I was very cautious of the white painted stripes on the road; they attract oil, and can be very slick. My goal was to get out of town without getting lost. The rain continued off and on all day for the first 250 miles. At the first checkpoint (70 miles), we were already losing people. Having a support car is not always a good thing.  See car, get in car, quit.

The front group of riders had 6 in it, and of them 4 already quit. Leaving the checkpoint, my feet were cold even with produce bags on them. I lost my balance and fell in the driveway. With blood running down my leg, I rode on knowing the rain would wash it away.

The car pulling the trailer with our drop bags in it was at the next checkpoint. I quickly got my rain pants out of my drop bag and put them on. The volunteers even made hot chocolate for us. Many of the riders bought gloves at the store. I put a grocery sack on over my new wool KC Randonneur jersey, then my rain coat and reflective vest. Ralph Rognstad and Dan Pfaff from Springfield, Missouri arrived at the store as I was leaving. After this many hours in the rain, it felt really cold. People were getting flats from thorns, and then I got one. After a bit of a struggle, suddenly Mark Jilka rode up with a better pump. This act of kindness would be repaid later on. Marty from LA, Mark J., and I rode on in the darkness to the motel in Atwood, Kansas.

Sleep break ended up being too short.  The staff woke me up an hour earlier than I'd asked. There must have been some confusion on whether we were using mountain or central time. Anyway, I got less sleep than I wanted.

A cold predawn start, up hill, of course. Soon we were stopping in Oberlin, Ks for breakfast. I rode off with Marty and Gary from Vancouver to my turn-around point in Phillipsburg, Ks. The others were riding 1,200 km., so they rode an additional 128 miles!  I rode back to Oberlin just after dark. My light's battery started going dead and I had to keep stopping to adjust the beam. The beam is off centered, which makes it is very hard to ride in a straight line. Then the fast guy comes up behind me. Again the Randonneur riding friendship takes place. I am sure Tom had noticed my difficulty staying awake after riding 420 miles. We arrived together at the motel early in the night, 10:30 pm. Then I make a fateful mistake, eating a good sized bag of crystalized dried fruit.  Use your imagination.

The third day of riding was tough: my Achilles tendon was sore and my neck was getting stiff. I discovered, after the ride, that my handlebars had slipped downward. People had more flat tires, and some stores closed before we got there. At the start of darkness, I think I am seeing toilet paper floating across the road like the ribbons in rhythmic gymnastics. I repeat this at the closed store where half of the riders are.  Mark screams, "Karen needs a blanket and sleep!" Some volunteer support people were kind enough to buy food for all of us, and even make sandwiches. Ralph and Dan were kind enough to wait for my half hour nap to end. Then we rode off into the dark together. The shoulders of the road out by Last Chance, Colorado are wide. This is to accommodate the delivery and service of the many wind turbines which have been erected in the area.

I realized my neck had become increasingly sore, and I could not lift my head up high enough to see more than 15 ft ahead. After stopping about 5 times on some long fast downhills. I called Ralph on the phone, who was just ahead of me, and told him and Dan to go on without me. The road had no traffic on it, and my ride to the finish was going to be slow. It turned out slower than I thought it would be with many stops to stretch my neck, and I had to slow down on the long down hills. Then the wind decided to make my ride to the finish more challenging: a strong headwind picked up: no big deal. Ralph called at 3:45 am to make sure I was okay. Things then got a bit more hectic as my neck got worse and I became dangerously sleepy. At this point, eating 3 caffeine gel packs in a row did nothing to keep me awake. 45 minutes before my time limit for the ride was up, I panicked. There was a split in the highway around the finishing town, and I was not sure if I was going the right way. I called Ralph again, and he assured me that I would make it in time.  I did!  Ralph, Dan, and myself all finished our 1,000km ride ending in Byers, Colorado. The other riders had another 110 miles to ride the next day.
Mark Jilka finished his first 1,200km ride. The toughest part was the first day in the rain. The Last Chance Ride this year had a 50% dropout rate. 15 riders finished. 100% of the Kansas City Brevet riders finished. We represented one forth of the finishers. Way to go KC! 

A week later, I am in the amnesia period: which is the time it takes after the ride to think you had a good time on it.

Karen Winterhalter

(For Mark)