The first 200K of 2006 is history in Kansas City, and it was a good one – for training.
The ride started off in a completely new location (for me) and a new route, also. However, the plus was that I had ridden nearly every mile of the route before, in some fashion or another. Starting in KCK, near I-70 and 435, and riding through Bonner Springs, KS via Edwardsville, to Linwood on old K-32, along the river and railroad tracks – which I loved – and on some really good roads. A smarter ride for me, pace-wise, I resisted trying to stay with the tandem, and the second pace-line that managed to bridge the tandem later in the morning. Turned out to be a quality move, as a wrong turn on their part had them catching Del and I a second time on the way to Linwood. Their higher speed, but navigation error, put us at the first control at the same time anyways, around 8:20AM. It was a very short ride to the first control, only 22 miles, so we made short work of getting our cards signed, and headed out again with haste.
I ended up running out of water on the road to Wellsville, about 45 minutes out of our next refueling opportunity, so I had to start chipping away at my half-a-day fuel supply, which resulted in some stomach discomfort – but it was better than dehydration, from which I might not have recovered. That resulted in one of my problem/solution statements outlined below. If I’m gonna do these rides without a camelbak, I have to think about fuel differently – powdered solutions are really good for races on a looped course, but for these rides, my immediately previous blog entry speaks even louder TODAY than it did when I first wrote it.
In fact, the big lightbulb came on a couple of times today: the reason I consistently don’t drink enough is BECAUSE I try to carry all my fuel in the other bottle – which is mixed too thick to be used for hydration, because I have to drink even more to digest what’s in the fuel bottle due to the osmolity of the mixture.
It’s a self-inflicted catch-22.
We finally hit Wellsville after riding the entire length of DG1061 - something I never thought I'd do on purpose - and it was food time – cashews, chocolate milk and a desperately needed water-refill – plus a handshake from a guy I work with during the week that lives in Wellsville (!) – and we were off again, on the way to Ottawa. The temperature was really getting up there now! An AWESOME day, so far.
After an hour or so, we were finally on K-68, heading west for the final jaunt into Ottawa, and the half-way point. I am really starting to despise this highway. Lot's of truck traffic, and many many more drivers that even a few years ago. Before I got frustrated about the road, however, we noticed that we (Del and I) were getting reeled in by a couple of riders. Del joked, “it’s okay, it’s probably only Spencer and his friend on those fixed-gears”, totally joking in his sardonic-witted way (which is why we get along so well) – and the sad, sad part was, with a “ding” of Spencer’s brass bell, Del was right. It was the two fixed gear riders. Last year, I was fixed-gear number-three, and now I was – for half a second – completely regretting my retreat back to having gears on the bike. Their strokes were smooth, purposeful, and they were putting distance into us rather quickly. Spencer, the true randonneur, on a bike equipped with racks, wood fenders, and Gilles Berthoud bags front and rear -- a VERY nice rig, and certainly not as "race-oriented" as my mount of choice -- and it was immediately apparent (again) that it's SO much more about the rider, rather than the bike, on these events.
This is certainly NOT a race – brevets never are – but I was feeling like a REAL loser. As Del reminded me later, as I went through a wave of self-justification on the road BACK to Wellsville – when we got caught AGAIN by them – that the best equipment is the equipment that is best for YOU, speaking to me. Yes – when I went to fixed gear before, I didn’t slow down – I was good at it. But, in 2003 I was really good at gears, too. I’m still in transition, and training mode – Spencer did the Last Chance 1200K on fixed in October last year. He’s in PRIME shape – and a VERY strong individual; not just a strong rider, but a strong PERSON. While it’s super-easy to instantly compare yourself in a derogatory way to those that pass us on the road, it’s important to put things in perspective. While Spencer very likely finished first today, I at least finished, and after today’s training perhaps I will be faster at the next ride. Whether I would have been riding fixed or free today, I would have been just as wasted at the end. Spencer and his friend were simply stronger today – if he’d been on a geared bike, by-crackey he’d be just as strong. If I was on fixed, I’d be just as slow as I was when he passed me. After all, we’re all riding only one gear at a time – you’re either strong, or you’re not.
As much as I want to be back in that fixed gear fold, I’m not changing anything about the bike until next year. I’m committed to my goal, and I will see it thru, with gears. However, if I haven’t seen any improvements that I can attribute to HAVING gears by the end of the brevet series, I may well switch back to fixed. If I’m suited to it, why fight it?
This is about the point in the ride where depression and fatigue began to play a serious part. After turning north again onto Tennessee Road, we began to notice a shift – in the wind. We all knew that we’d have a headwind from the south all morning, and we tailored our pace accordingly – but the big bummer came on the road back, where the wind – which was not supposed to shift until midnight that night – decided to shift to blow out of the northwest. While not a total headwind, it was certainly not a tailwind, like everyone expected. With a layer of clouds forming, and the stiff cross-headwind blowing, I was beginning a 2-hour low-spot. This was also happening right at about the 80-mile marker, which used to be an old “mileage-wall” of mine, and this year it was back. My legs and resolve began to suffer. I remembered all the things I had read over the past year, and put them to practice – just do what you know makes you feel good. I ate a little, and I drank a little, made sure I had electrolytes, and simply pedaled, stretched, relaxed my shoulders and neck, and tried not to get too gloomy. This WILL pass. Wellsville is not too far away. I watched as Del and Danny (whom also caught us eventually) started to make headway up the road.
I didn't feel nearly as bad about Danny passing us up -- Danny finished FOUR (count ‘em, FOUR) 1200km rides last year – he can pass anyone he wants to!!! Del was feeling good enough to hang with him for a bit, but, thankfully, started looking back for me – letting Danny go, he slowed a bit, matching my pace. For the entire distance of DG 1061 highway, Del stayed about 1/8-mile ahead of me, and as I occasionally checked my position I knew I was keeping a good pace – not getting any closer, not dropping back any, either. Just pedal. My full bladder let me know that I was hydrated enough, no cramps, just a bad-patch, mentally perhaps, that I had to pedal through. No reason to panic, no reason at all to consider the “q”-word.
We reached Wellsville, and I had a V8, some more water to fill the bottles, and some more nuts.
Oh yeah -- Note to self: Pop-Tarts are NOT like “big Fig Newtons”.
After pedaling nearly the entire length of DG1061 again, we reached a convenience store at K-10 highway and 1061 in Eudora, and thank goodness Del turned in. I was prepared to pass it up and move on to Linwood, but I’m really glad I didn’t. After a bathroom break – still hydrated! – and some food, including REAL Fig Netwons (I’m back, baby!) I was ready to get back to it. Del, also recharged, flew back out onto the road, and I had enough to follow along – it was a few miles of big-ring fun, when I felt the fatigue come back a bit. Time to slow up a touch – but where was Del?? Turns out his knee issue was coming back – not a good thing. We reached the control at Linwood, and checked in for the last time – the next stop, the END of the ride!
Hooked up with Jeff, a PBP’03 finisher, and we would spend the rest of the ride with him, recounting stories and telling tales – the BEST part of randonnuering! Del, even with the bum knee, was setting a solid pace, and Jeff and I were really not able to reel him in until some of the longer hills came up, and only then because of the knee problem.
Later on, a wrong turn made things worse, as I realized we were wrong after a LONG downhill. We climbed back up, Del more slowly, and continued on the right path again. Sorry, man. this sparked another solution-point, outlined below.
A couple hours later, we were thru Basehor, and on the way back to KCK on Parallel, past K-7, under I-435. It was a long slog back on Parallel, mainly from lack of the “foreshortening” that comes with a completely out-and-back route – this portion was new, so it was seeming to take longer. For the first time since much earlier in the ride, I was feeling good again, past my “wall” issues – it’s a funny thing, but I felt better at 113 miles than I did at 85 miles. After a few more miles, we were FINALLY back at the hotel. 10 hours and 30 minutes, we were done!
Certainly not my best performance -- more on-par with 2002 rather than 2004 - and certainly slower than 2003 by FAR. But, I'm just getting started, and there's another 200K in two weeks for good measure.
A lot learned, and DOCUMENTED this time – and the highlights of what I need to do differently in two weeks are outlined below:
SADDLE: I was really getting tired of my saddle Saturday, but it could simply be lack of exposure. After all, I haven’t spent more than a couple hours on the thing since September. I'm going to ride my same-old saddle again this coming weekend, possibly a metric. I adjusted it EVER so slightly nose up (precisely 1mm nose-up) to keep me on my sit-bones, and not my softies – I noticed that despite the perfectly level saddle position, I was sliding forward a lot, even with the handlebars raised. With zero-knee issues, however, I'm not messing with fore/aft positioning on the saddle, just angle - which, at this slight of a change, shouldn't do anything more than keep me rotated back. Didn’t have any saddle sores this time, but a lot of tissue tenderness and inflammation – and that was after the half-way point, which is why I’m thinking: that’s really early in a ride to be uncomfortable. It's possible I just don't have my brevet-backside broken in yet, so - again - I'm not changing saddles - furthermore, I found that when I made the adjustment it aligned perfectly with an old marking I had previously made on that seatpost - which means that's where it was LAST year. Should be good now. Special thanks to Jeff for the Chamois Butt’r loan. Saved me from serious pain later in the ride.
Notable about the rest of the bike position – NO SHOULDER PAIN, no knee pain, no back pain, no neck pain, and only a little arm stiffness from the saddle-sliding issue above – DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE BIKE or POSITION!
STORAGE: I found myself running out of back-pocket room, and this was NOT a logistically difficult ride. The temp at the start was warm enough to not have to wear a lot of extra layers – so, if I do a ride where I *DO* have a lot of extra layers to shed, I'm not going to have anywhere to stow them! However, I want to maintain minimalism, and not retreat to an uncomfortable Camelbak or huge Saddlebag, like last year. Solutions: #1) sew extra back-pockets on that lightweight vest - which will only do good if I want to wear that vest ALL DAY LONG. If it gets warm enough to shed that vest, then I have to also shed everything in THOSE pockets, and I’m back to the original problem again. #2) A small stem-mounted “Bento Box” style bag for gel flasks and food: easier food access while riding, allows spill-over from seat-bag if needed, keeps back pockets open for clothing-only storage, instead of shared use for powders, pills, food, etc., AND clothing, like yesterday found me doing. I’m also more likely to eat enough if the food is really easy to get to – so might solve a few problems.
Nutrition: Had one of those epiphanal moments on the road to Wellsville, as I realized that I had solved one problem, but created another. The “solved” was the fact I was FINALLY drinking enough while riding. The new “problem” was that I didn’t have enough plain hydration material to support that new habit. The other water bottle was clogged with calories, and after polishing off bottle number 1, I drank too much of bottle number 2, and squandered calories that were supposed to last until the halfway point. This is what caused my problems in Oklahoma last summer – when I was dead-set on doing two-laps per set of bottles – instead of taking in enough water, I DIDN’T drink enough because I wanted to save the calories I’d mixed and make it last. Had I done that today, I would have suffered the same dehydration fate. So, calories and hydration – like Bob always said – should be separate. I need to get my calories from FOOD on these rides. I need to, also, make sure that I maintain protein intake; part of my soreness later in the ride was lack of exposure, but I need to see if it repeats on the 200K in two weeks -- because I abandoned Sustained Energy early in the ride, it's possible that there was a little muscle cannibalization happening - but I'm not certain. I was probably not getting enough protein at the controls, so I need to keep watch on that issue. Chocolate Milk is my friend!
Ride quality: not a factor of tires, possibly a factor of front wheel's radial lacing of spokes. I’ll be riding the Liberty 200K with the Schmidt hub wheel, which is laced 3-cross, and might take some bite out of the bumps. Keeping handlebar Cateye light as a backup for 400K and above, and mounting up the generator light. I'm not going to try and squeeze 700x25c tires into the Bianchi frame - the 23c's are fine, assuming the wheel is, also. I really miss the Continental Ultra 2000’s ride quality – not convinced these Specialized models ride as well, but they did a good job. Not sure Continental’s new “Ultra Sport” tire is as-good as the Ultra 2000’s it replaced – but also not willing to trash the Specializeds with so few miles on them.
Inflation: I was taking up a LOT of seat-bag space with my inflation solutions. They were good solutions: 2 inflators, air chuck, and small mini-pump would have allowed for fixing 2-3 flats up to max pressure - and infinite flats after the inflators ran out to acceptable pressure. I have decided to take advantage of my frame-builder's insight, and utilize the pump-peg that is brazed onto the headtube -- a good frame pump, like a Zefal, will eliminate the need for the inflators, as well as the mini-pump, freeing up a lot of seat-bag space for other stuff that was also taking up back-pocket space.
Map-clip on stem: After two wrong turns, one worse than the other and one ‘good-catch’ on Loring, I'm going back to what worked before: a small binder clip, a small rubber pad, and a good zip-tie on the stem to create a cue-sheet clip. Cue sheet in plastic bag for weather-proofness. This puts it out there, in front of my face, and will prevent guessing about distances. I grew tired of reaching back to get the map every few minutes because I couldn't remember the distance to the next turn. Granted - Liberty will be the same route as always, but St. Louis and Oklahoma will be completely foreign. I need that cue sheet where I can see it. Clip and zip-tie weigh nothing - solves a lot.
There ya go! 200K down, 1500k to go until the series wraps!
It was excellent TRAINING – but I’m certainly glad that THIS ride came before the Liberty 200K – if I had experienced a day like today on a ride with more hills, like Liberty, it would have been a much worse day indeed. Time to place a few orders, and see what happens in two weeks!
It’s good to be back in the randonneuring spirit! I absolutely LOVE this stuff!!!