Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

March 29, 2006

The Liberty 200K - Postcards from Hill Country.

It was shaping up to be another rare morning, as riders from all walks of life and schools of cycling-thought began getting ready, zipping up wind-vests, checking tires pressure, and carefully folding cue sheets; all the familiar and distinct sounds of the readying randonneur.

I love those sounds.

It was the long-since-heard voice of Dale, from Iowa, recounting tales from the some 400K, somewhere. The sounds of Bob Burns answering last-minute questions while pouring over the pre-reg sheet, the sounds of clattering plates and hot coffee being poured into waiting cups inside the Liberty Perkins. This was going to be a good day. In fact, the temperature was about 10-12 degrees warmer than we’d all expected, and the fog from the previous-nights forecast was nowhere to be found. In wool and lycra, we were ready for a ride. A long ride.

It was a familiar cast, many faces from years past, and many new ones, too. Spencer was there on his magnificent fixxie, Del on his gorgeous Lemond, a gent on a REALLY nice Rivendell Romulus, replete with fenders, racks and lights. Some really nice racer hardware was present, as well, making this another who’s-who of cycling in Kansas City – racers looking for a solid base-building day, randonneurs looking for another solid SR series, and classicists out for a good days’ jaunt on their pride-and-joy machines.

And, once again, me – trying to be everything at once on my Bianchi, out to once again distance myself from my checkered physiological past, and test once again the bounds of my mental toughness, and rebuild last years’ fitness-lost.
I was a little more prepared this time out, having learned a thing or two, and having remembered what had worked for me in the past. The route was familiar, but the cue sheet was fixed to the handlebar stem, and even though the back-pockets were relatively empty at ride start, I had food at easy reach in a new-fangled goodie stasher bag, up front. I had even made a seriously fool-hardy choice, something that I knew better about, but for some reason was willing to risk today:

A new saddle.

...well, not TOTALLY new – evident in my LAST blog entry, I was at a saddle crossroads, of sorts, and had settled on a Brooks Team Professional saddle to see if it would be the magic bullet I had been looking for. After about 6-hours of time on the trainer with it, and countless micro-adjustments, I was VERY, VERY pleased with the performance, but I knew better. But, over the days leading up to the ride, the scepter of yet another 200K on my previous saddle was enough to make me jump.

I mounted the seatpost carrying the Brooks onto the Bianchi, and crossed my fingers.

“Here goes nothin’…”

With that, the ride began...

The first part of the ride was pretty hilarious – at least for me, Del, and the “Spinergy guy”. Seems that we were the only ones that took the correct turn on the first part of the cue sheet, literally about 100 yards outside of the parking lot!
A little confused, and half-wondering what was going on, Del and I continued checking and rechecking the cue sheet, trying to make sure that WE were correct. Yeesh. We went on trust of previous years, and the fact that no matter how much second-guessing we performed, we were indeed on Kansas Avenue.

The Spinergy guy, in training for PBP ’07, was looking really strong. He kept darting up the road, and then Del and I would catch him stopped, checking the cue sheet, or adjusting something on the bike. We’d pass him, only because we’d caught up – and then later on he’d pass us right back because he was faster. Dang. Of course, I knew what I was doing here… training, too, but really rebuilding. After a really lackadaisical end-of-season, and THREE occasions of complete burn-out last summer, I had become a really poor, poor rider. In fact, on several occasions, I think the “me” from 1998 would have beaten me, flat out.

Sure, I had my moments – but they were short lived. We’re talking about a solo century at 19.2 MPH average, and then a 20 mile ride where I bonk the next weekend. It was pathetic – and a clear sign that, perhaps building up over the course of two years, I was burnt-out. Severely.

I took on a new philosophy for 2006, and – so far – it’s paying off well. So far, even though we were only about 10 miles into the ride, I was actually making a fair run at holding Spinergy-guy’s wheel. It would not last – but for the first time a LONG while, I felt the strength coming back. After seeing him step-up the pace a few too many times, I backed off into a normal, more-realistic-for-me, 200K pace. It was gonna be a long day, and reminders from two weeks ago had me thinking long-term. This was about a ten-times-hillier ride than two weeks prior, also.

Time to conserve.

Unfortunately, because of the wrong turn by 90% of the pack, and Del’s smarter-than-me pace, I was alone. Mile 12 – yikes. After turning around a couple times, I didn’t see Del’s bright yellow jacket anywhere, or anyone else. There was no catching what’s-his-name, so I was alone. I didn’t really want to be alone for the next 115 miles, but it was shaping up that way – despite the fact that in the back of my mind I knew I’d be swept up by some of the talent later on in the day, assuming they turned around at some point. I turned off of State Route “H”, and began to weave west towards Cameron Road, crossing Mo-92, and US-169 highway, and heading north towards the Jesse James Farm. Thankfully, Missouri wised-up and repaved some of these really badly neglected roads in the last couple years, making for a pretty nice ride – which was especially good since I was still relegated to 23c tires by my Bianchi’s tight clearances. The hills began to show up for the fun, too, though pretty shallow and evenly spaced for this early in the ride – the fun part comes much later.

Climb after climb, and a few random dogs taking chase later on, and I was nearing Kearney, MO. I was feeling REALLY good at this point, and my fuel choice for the first half of the ride (nothing but Fig Newtons) was working out REALLY well. This was an experimentation that I’d also previously alluded to in past posts, and it was working nicely – good, steady energy, and no stomach distress. FIG BARS, baby! I figured out a rotation of one fig bar about every 10 miles was a perfect balance – but in the grand scheme, that’s really far short of the amount of calories I probably should have been taking in. Still, I never really felt a deficit of energy during this part.

After Kearney, rode up the highway a piece and continued east, eventually ending up at State Route “C”. This is the only highway section that really makes me want to write a letter to complain to Bob. I hate this highway. Looking at a map, I’m sure it’s a necessary evil for these northern routes, but MAN… traffic is relentless, taking advantage of the lack of state patrols, taking liberties with the speed limit, and there’s no shoulder. I nearly get clipped into the ditch by a truck and trailer. Nice.

“…not gonna die today…” I hunker down near the road’s edge, and count the kilometers until I can turn off. Ugh. Another fanatical motorist whizzes past, coming over a blind hill. This makes me feel GREAT. Not soon enough, the turn for State Route “W” arrives, I check my six…and check it again, and turn off. Whew. Time for a little solitude on these back roads. After a few more miles, I start nearing Smithville Lake, and suddenly there is Spinergy-guy, again – from the rear? A wrong turn, and back-tracking, and he’s passing me. Dang. At least he’s consistent! We chat it up for a few miles, but at this point the fatigue is beginning to build – which, looking at my bottles, had nothing to do with lack of hydration, and in retrospect had more to do with caloric shortcomings. Maybe TWO fig bars every ten miles? – I couldn’t keep his wheel for very long at all.

With the lake spreading out around us, gulls sweeping to and fro, and the gentle breezes giving way to warm sunshine, it was an excellent place to be on a bicycle. Wow. A few hills later on, and passing another arm of the lake, we approached the turn for “F”, and a jaunt north through little Trimble, MO. The Spinergy-guy and I traded positions on the road for a short spell, usually until I tired-out again, and then I would watch him distance me up the road again. After another short run north on US-169 Highway (which was more well-behaved than “C” had been) we turned east again on “Z”, for the final run into Edgerton – the unofficial resting place, perfectly positioned at the 45 mile point of the ride. At this point, a larger majority of the pack was beginning to catch up to me. Spinergy-guy was out of sight, and probably not planning on stopping at Edgerton, but I HAD to. It’s the neatest little gas station/c-store I’ve really ever been to. Has that flavor of small-town, his-n-hers bathrooms, an old tile floor, and usually a good beer special on the wall. Chocolate milk and fig bars for me. Perfect. A short break, and I joined up with Spencer, whom had slowly but surely caught up to me, along with everyone else in the wrong-turn pack.

Spencer and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things – we finished the 400K together last year, both on one-cog – which was a real binding point, the brotherhood of the single-ratio riders. The shared appreciation for lugged steel doesn’t hurt the conversation either. We pedal out of Edgerton, and turn north onto “B” highway, passing up Del – wow! There he is, motoring alongside the Romulus rider – we exchange hellos, barely, as we grunt up a particularly large hill. The “fun part” was beginning.

Spencer and I motored along, chatting about lugs and bags and personal quirkiness when it comes to riding, and then turned west on State Route “E”, a gorgeous chuck of pavement that leads into Camden Point, MO. I love this highway – well, it’s more of a love/hate relationship, really. The hills are enough to put you sideways, but they are so much fun n the downhill side, some to the tune of 50+ MPH. It’s a BLAST, but the tradeoff is the relentless grunting of the uphills. Spencer and I begin to drift apart – he’s stronger today, too, and I’m still in the conservation mindset. After a few miles of pain, Interurban Road is upon us, and a long, steady respite from any climbing at all. It’s really flat – probably not perfectly flat, but very flat compared to what we just rode over. After an endless flat section, the right turn towards the west comes at route “HH” – which, I have affectionately referred to in the past as “Holy Hell” road.

“HH” is a hodge-podge of really fast downhills, grueling uphills, corners and sketchy pavement that makes the hills on “E” only a few miles earlier look sorta tame. The interesting thing is that they are all optical illusions: for some reason, they don’t LOOK steep, but you know they are instantly, as momentum is drained, gears run out, and legs protest loudly. My quads wanted to jump right out of my skin on the aptly-named “welcome to Platte City” hill, which pitches up violently and then drops you like a stone on the downhill side as you careen towards grade-level with I-29 – only to pitch upward again for the final haul up to main street, high on the bluffs on the other side of the interstate. It’s crazy – but at least the worst is over, for the first half of the ride. A left, right, and right, and the Casey’s marking the half-way point of the 200K is here – and I’m pooped.

There’s already a good number of people here, sitting on the curb munching on whatever, mixing up whatever and just relaxing. There are more smiles than frowns – so it’s a good day all around, it seems. I proceed with the brevet process, grabbing wallet & brevet card from seatbag, and heading inside. Two quarts of water, a big bag of cashews, a pint of Chocolate milk, and a Mounds bar. Mounds bar? Nothing offending on the label, and darn-skippy I was gonna burn it off later. A strange choice – one that even *I* questioned AS I grabbed it, but wow – it tasted and felt good. Narf, narf, narf, a few mumbled words, and gulps of water ensured, after the card was signed and safely returned to the seatbag, and I sat down for a rest and refuel.

I gotta tell ya – up to this point LAST year, I was hating my saddle, cursing the hills, and wishing for a ride home. But today, I was right on the mark with last year’s time – my card got signed at 11:25am, which was pretty good --- it was no 9:57am like in 2003, but one thing at a time, dude. Speed comes later.

Del and Romulus-man rolled in after a few minutes, looking pretty good – but Del was complaining about the knee issue again. Man, Del can’t catch a break this year – I’ve never before witnessed something standing in the way of a man’s passion like this before, and I was having sympathy pains. Determined to carry-on, he went through the routine, too, and returned to the parking lot with a slice of pizza and a determined look about him. Another bathroom break, and in less than 20 minutes we were back on the streets again, heading west out of Platte City, and into destiny.

Feeling superhuman with my gut-full of chocolate milk and Mounds, I took point, and held it for the first 10 miles back out onto the route, up 371 highway all the way to State Rte. “U”, which turned back into “E” near Camden Point (yes, again) – at this point, I didn’t really feel my pace slow down, but my pull was appreciated, and I was passed up by the four I had been pulling – well, three… where was Del? I scanned the horizon behind me, and came up dry… crud. I’m not sure what I would have been able to do, but I really wanted to turn around and ride back, a few times. The reality of it is, at some point, each man’s battle has to become his own – and Del was fighting his right now. All I would have been able to do was watch in powerless frustration. Short of a shot of morphine and a 2000mg muscle relaxer (neither of which I had on me), there was not much I would have been able to do. But I still felt badly.

The monsters of Camden Point came howling again, and eventually – after much struggle (did these things get STEEPER?), I arrived at Route “EE”, heading north out of Camden and into oblivion. I sat and waited for Del for abut 10 minutes again, and then rode on. Sorry man…

“EE” is a roller coaster – up, down, up, down, up, down – for about seven miles, and not one hill is really noticeably steeper than the previous – they just come at you in succession. Then, the big dome of the KCI Doppler radar site, and then comes highway “Z”. This is another roller coaster of a road – but with more flat sections, and a few steepies as you mosey back east towards Edgerton. Traffic is pretty good, but more remarkable are the way the skies were shaping up – the mostly cloudy morning had given way to partly cloudy skies, and brilliant sunshine. Ahhhhh… the headgear came off, and glove liners were stowed – the temps had made it into the mid-50’s, and it was shaping up to be a fantastic day for riding…. And, shhhhhhh! Don’t tell ANYONE, but there isn’t any wind….!
Flags hung dormant on their flagpoles for the first time in “I can’t remember when” on this ride. This usually turns into an epic struggle to gain ground despite the gale, but today, nature was calm – and the day was as pretty as a postcard.

Feeling fantastic with my fuel choices back at Platte City, this hills were being checked off with more fervor now, and with fewer gear changes. The first half of the ride was relegated to fig bars every ten miles, but for the last half I was playing with Hammer Gel again, and I could definitely tell a difference in my performance, which, at 80-miles in, should have been degrading. Quite the contrary, I was feeling a strength coming into my legs that had been absent for months. Edgerton came again, quicker than expected, and I dismounted for another quick break and refuel. Sure, I was making more stops – but I was feeling good because I was eating and drinking enough – if the tradeoff was more bathroom breaks and re-fuel stops, so be it! It was better than slogging along in misery!

After a brief break, it was northbound on Route “B”, up towards one of the hard roads of the ride – Missouri State highway 116. Whoo, baby… home of the BIG hills. But, this year – it was either the successful fueling plan and hydration that helped, or the comparison to the hills in Platte City that really flattened the 116 hills for me – I floated up and down, up and down, and eventually reached – earlier than expected, US-169 – crossing over to the same road, Mo-116, but a newer version of it, with shoulders and graded pavement that resulted in less-steep, but longer, hills. Unfortunately, there is a reason this highway was improved, because the traffic is definitely there to support it. Contrasting to getting passed only a few times in the past 20 miles, I was now getting whizzed-past by all sorts of traffic, all making a bee-line for Plattsburg to the east. That’s okay here, though – nice shoulder.

After another seven miles or so, Plattsburg, and another “mandatory” rest-stop, perfectly placed for tired riders. Not an official control, Dale from Iowa said it best:

“every-time I don’t stop there, I regret it at the end.”

He’s right. The crux of this 200K is really the last 20 miles. People forget the endless stress of the return to Route “C”, and the endless grind of Plattsburg Road, and finally the torture of Glen Hedren Road in the last five miles. As if the length and breadth of the ride wasn’t enough, a fair chunk of it’s total climbing comes in the last 15 miles alone! At least, fatigue would make it seem that way.

I refueled again, gulped down my 4th pint of chocolate milk, and set out with full bottles and good fuel in the tank. This last 22 miles was going to be FUN, dang it!

And, it was … despite a few more “get on the shoulder! – oh wait, there IS NO shoulder!” moments on Route “C” – Bob, are you reading this? Add a few more miles, and get us off this road! – once I finally got to Plattsburg Road, things were good – no cramping, not a lot of fatigue, and a fair amount of big-ring fun thrown in on the down-hills for good measure, I practically sailed home – it was thrilling to finish the ride this way – oh yeah, and in nearly complete comfort: remember that possibly fatal mistake that you should never-EVER do, but I did anyways?

The saddle?

Brilliant move. Seriously – I would really advise AGAINST it, but I rolled the dice and installed a nearly brand new saddle which I’d never ridden on the road – trainer only – and took it on a 200K. It was fantastic. Not only were all the pain problems of the old saddle solved, but I was actually able to just SIT. This is a difficult thing to put in perspective, but while riding, your weight is shouldered in sections, by your arms, your legs, and your backside – you’re never really SITTING all the way on the saddle. By this notion, many racing saddles are really not meant to be SAT ON for very long – you are leaned forward, pushing with your legs – and therefore the saddle really isn’t doing much. This is why saddles which normally feel good at 50 miles end up feeling horrid at 150 – because you eventually get tired of holding yourself up, and you just want to SIT. For the first time EVER, I was able to just SIT – where previously, if I wanted relief I was STANDING on the pedals because I wanted to get OFF that old saddle.
The Brooks Team Professional – FOR ME – is great! It was a risky move, but no saddle sores, no chaffing, and good comfort – all day long. To be fair, sitting on ANYTHING for 9 hours is going to hurt a little bit --- but the Brooks felt as-good at the end of the ride as it had at the 20-mile marker. It’s quickly becoming the best cycling-money I’ve spent, next to my Shimano sandals. It’s that good.
Forget the weight, and give Brooks a chance.

After the best downhill in the entire world _ that last one before the end of the 200K, and finally at 4:35 PM, I rolled into the Perkins parking lot, with my 200K complete! Wow. Not a stellar performance, certainly not my best, but respectable. I’ll have to look at the stats for comparison, but I think mile-for-mile I was no slower or faster than I had been last year, with only one gear. What does it mean? Nothing, really – it’s all riding, no matter what the method – I had FUN today, with the benefit of being finished, I could now call it “fun”… because it truly was. The weather, the feel of the bike, finally breaking my ties with engineered nutrition and still having a good stomach and fuel day; all around – a good ride! Not even Spinergy-guy reminding me how well I’d finished in 2003 would take away from the day’s result – okay, maybe a little. I really didn’t NEED the reminder, but yeah – my speed and fitness has slipped, but I know why I’m here: rebuilding. After the end of a long journey with equipment and fueling strategies, I am finally back at a place where I can just RIDE – and with that comes the notion that one might ride a little faster, just to push himself… so, now that the base is in place with two 200K rides in a month, maybe it’s time to start up those “try and stay with the pack” rides, and see if some of that spark can come back.

For now, though, as I put away my equipment, peel off layers and sip down my “recovery” chocolate milk – pint number five, courtesy Perkins – I’m happy.

Very happy.

March 22, 2006

Steel and Leather

No, no -- it's not the title of Judas Priest's latest album.

Although, it'd be a good one.

I digress. Maybe not – “Hellbent for Leather” would be a good working title for an article on Brooks Saddles, don’t you think?

I’m quickly becoming a Brooks fanatic. After about 60 miles of random rides and indoor trainer sessions on the Team Professional saddle, it’s breaking in nicely – and it’s quite cozy. For those on the fence, well, I won’t push too hard. It's personal.

It took me, honestly, a VERY long time to get here – for lots of reasons. Some valid, some petty. I’m only mildly concerned with tossing away the petty reasons at this point – mainly weight.

It’s well documented that I seriously went through a weird, weight-weenie sorta phase, largely driven by marketing, and the fact that I’m very impressionable sometimes.

When I first started riding, weight was EVERYTHING, and so was racer-culture. My first road-bike ride of any length was in the Fall of 1998 – and I had no idea whom Jan Ullrich was – hadn’t yet heard of Lance – but the trend of racy road bikes and skinny tires was already apparent in my local bike shop, and that’s all I had to go on. Even back then, I’m not sure there was any steel present in the shop – except maybe a few tigged touring frames from Trek on the back wall, looking very heavy and awkward with their racks and fenders. In a room full of Ferraris and Porsches, was it any wonder I didn’t think twice about the Volvo wagons in the back row?

Cutting to the chase, I had weight to lose off my body, but I was finding myself NOT buying a certain saddle because “255 grams is too heavy”. Looking back, it’s like – MAN, you’re an idiot. I also had my handlebars about 5 inches below the saddle nose. There is a picture I have hanging on the man-room wall of me, finishing the 2001 MS-150 on that bike.
I’m smiling – but I can remember why: It was because I was done riding – not because I had enjoyed the ride. That day started out with 50º rain, and I didn’t have a lick of rain gear, or even cool-weather gear with me. I stuffed plastic bags under my jerseys, under my helmet, in my shoes. No fenders, and a REALLY uncomfortable position on the bike, and mud-choked Look cleats from walking around at the deluged rest-stops. Misery. Fenders? Wool? A better bike fit? HELLO???

Sadly, this trend continued – the light-bulbs didn’t even come on after THAT ride. Since I’d had nothing to compare it to, a century ride like that was GOING to hurt, and I was just going to suck it up, 20c tires and all. Yup – I rode a century on Rolf Vector wheels with very few spokes, and 700x20 tires with 135 PSI in them. On an aluminum frame. With a stem that was too long, and too low, and on a 235 gram Flite saddle. In case you’re getting the wrong impression here, that’s an example of what NOT to do…. If you would rather ENJOY the ride, that is. All those things have a place in the racer world, and the triathlon world – neither of which I was a part of at the time, as much as I pretended to be. Make no mistake, the Warbird and I did have a stellar first day on that particular MS-150, however, which I think is still my PR for a century – so we WERE fast…. but I don’t think it had very much to do with the way my bike was set up. The ‘bird was fast because he was always fast – and I was fast because I was drafting him. Period.

Cut to 2002’s brevet series ‘bout six months later, and I was STARTING to learn a thing or two. What was uncomfortable on the MS-150 was downright PAINFUL on brevet. I swapped things out like stems, switched to fatter tires --- ugh, 700x23 this time…. Bold move, ace. A step in the right direction, albeit a very small one. Things got marginally better.
…But not enough to help me finish a 400K that I basically had in the bag. I was just DONE riding, with only 40 miles to go, and the last control completed. You couldn’t have paid me enough to get back on that bike that night. Even the Warbird said it, as he hefted my bike onto his roofrack after picking me up at 255th and Who-knows-what road: “Man, for an aluminum bike, this thing is a tank.”

A few weeks later, I had bought, second-hand, my first lugged steel frameset. A rough, but solid, Trek 720 from about 1982. The lights FINALLY came on. Slowly, the bars started to come level with the saddle, and eventually I had a Carradice bag instead of a seat-pack the size of a silver dollar. Baggage notwithstanding, the whole package – even with fenders – was lighter than that racy road bike I had ridden before. Making things better, my focus changed to ME – and I became a weight-weenie of a different kind by skipping desserts and that “corn-dog for the road”. It helped a LOT.

After a TON of experimentation, and nearly a dozen framesets later, I’m close to finally being “done” with trying to find “it”. I’ve recycled more bikes and parts in the past few years than many would ride in a lifetime, all to get to that utopian “perfect” set-up (for me). With the purchase of this Brooks saddle last week, it’s like the end of a very long journey of personal trial and discovery – yet, at the same moment, the beginning of an even longer journey that starts in the saddle of a bike that fits its rider. I finally hung up that 235 gram saddle, and replaced it with something that is infinitely more comfortable – and the fact that it weighs twice as much didn’t even faze me.

With leather and steel beneath me, I can finally focus on what’s in front of me.

March 20, 2006

Anyone got a snow-plow for rent?

Another weekend of training passes by, and the next 200K ride looms in the very near future. Let’s review:
Last entry, I had a few problems to solve, and I’ve come up with solutions for most of them so far.

Inflation issues that related to storage have been solved with the addition of a frame pump to the arsenal, which freed up a lot of space in the already-small seat bag I’m using. Now I can leave home the mini-pump, and the two inflators and air-chuck, which are better suited to semi-supported, shorter, club rides and commutes. Now, I can get a few other items out of my back pockets and into the seat bag, and after a few trial runs it’s very apparent that I can get a full load of high-pressure air into my tires with minimal effort. I’m really not sure why I never previously considered one of these wonders, but now, especially with the pump-peg on the headtube of the frame, it seems I’ll have one of these in the arsenal from now-on. Very handy, doesn’t weigh anything, and doesn’t interfere with operation of the bike at all.

The food-storage issues were also one-step closer to resolution with the addition of a stem-mounted bag that can hold, well, just about anything. A little more “aero” than a true handle-bar bag (like THAT matters), it hold just enough Fig bars to get me between controls in style, and I don’t have to break stride too much to reach for the back-pockets anymore – much less fishing for them underneath multiple layers of clothing without reducing them to inedible crumbles. There’s nothing quite as gross as sweat-soaked Fig Newton dough in your back pocket. Yuck.

The Cue Sheet Clip is mounted, also – looks fancy, and purposeful, and ready to help guide me through the turns of a couple completely unknown brevets later this spring in Oklahoma and western Illinois. Weighs nothing – solves a ton of navigation issues!

So, I’m totally ready for the 2nd of two 200K’s this weekend to shake everything down again. After a few short training rides this weekend, however, we are ready to roll!

Uhhhh….maybe.

After a nearly record-breaking weekend of March 11th/12th, the weather has taken a turn for the worse, and as I write this my office window is being battered by 25MPH east winds and sleet/freezing rain. Winter, at least for this week, is back and she is ANGRY. The forecasts indicate that all said-and-done, we should get about a foot of snow up in the area where the next brevet is to take place, and only a few days of melting temperatures forecast between now and then.
Yes, randonneurs are hearty people, by definition – but I’m wondering how much gusto I have for this ride, knowing that I already have a 200K in the bag, and that’s all I really need for the SR series I’m shooting for.
Temperature-wise, it’s on-par with the 2003 version of this same ride, where the morning temperature was about 26º, warming to barely 45º - and a touch of snow for good measure right near the end of the ride. That was actually FUN, but looking back now, I don’t see HOW I had that kind of fun. It’s that regression – during the ride itself, there may be some hardship, but AFTERWARDS it always seems more fun that it probably REALLY was. I dunno – it’s those pre-ride jitters again, and I just wouldn’t be “me” without those jitters!

Regardless of the forecast temps, however, there is something to be said for road conditions – brevets are rain/shine events, but to be fair, unless you live in a southern-tier state, they really aren’t held during the winter.

(Watch, someone from Manitoba will chime in and bust my theory now.)

The rural highways of Missouri are ALREADY the worst in the country (for real, and documented), and that’s when they are DRY. With snow-pack, snow-melt, black-ice patches to watch for – this could be a ride that might actually tax the limits of the brevet clock! How badly do I want it???

We shall see…

Sure wishing I had a way to get fenders on the Bianchi now, though – that’s for certain.


Also notable: the issue of saddle comfort came into scrutiny again this weekend.
The 200K on the 11th really reminded me that I need to log more saddle time closer to the big rides next season, but also that the padding in my trusty, seven year-old Selle Italia Flite Trans-Am saddle was about shot.

Luckily, I always keep a spare of ANYTHING that I like or that works for me. Including saddles.

Many years back I wrote something to the effect that “If they ever stop making Continental Ultra 2000’s, I’m buying a case of them…” --- well, I didn’t have a CASE, but…. You get the idea.

Anyways, this is a saddle they stopped making many years ago, also, as trends in racing and technology change, so too changes nearly everything you might currently like. If you wear it out, you have to start over with something new. I didn’t want to do that, so about 2 years ago I searched and searched and found ANOTHER Flite Trans Am saddle, and snatched it up. While old faithful remained on my seatpost, the backup laid in wait at the top of the “spares” shelf in the garage, wrapped in its original plastic.

So, after the pain-fest of the 11th, I decided – “ok, it’s the SAME SADDLE, only newer… might be time to swap em out.”
And so I did – and the evidence was clearly there – there was practically nothing left of the original Flite saddle, and it was bent downward in a distinct “U” shape when viewed from the side – wow. A bunch of hairline cracks on the underside also indicated that I either needed to lose some weight, or that time, ozone, heat, sweat and miles of pounding do indeed take their toll, eventually. This saddle was only a few months away from snapping and sending my onto the seatpost below. Youch.

I swapped it, after measuring and taking angle numbers, etc, and proceeded to ride it for a while – Ahhhh… much better. At least, for the first hour it was much better. The same tissue areas that I’d damaged on the 11th came flaring back up again after a little while, and I started to take stock of the issue. I was seated firmly on my “middle”, not really on my sit-bones, like they say you are supposed to. Hmmmm… A few tweaks, and life got better – but part of me wondered about a more dynamic change.

Now, most of you – assuming I wrote it here – probably remember my brief stint with the Brooks B-17. Didn’t work for me. Not even close. However, there are several other – often pricier – models in the Brooks stable to pick from, so I started up the research again. Talk about a ROCK in the saddle business, Brooks has never wavered from their formula, despite fads, racing culture, trends and fashions – only recently have they tried to garner some of the weight-weenie market by offering some of their saddles with titanium rails to save weight – but nothing else about those saddles deviates from tradition. Sufficed to say, EVERYTIHNG can and probably will change – but with a track record like Brooks, and through several buy-outs and take-overs, they have maintained their quality, and scope. Also, as a semi-traditionalist, I really like what they do and stand for, so naturally I’m compelled to own one, even if I don’t end up riding on it. That Honey-colored, copper-railed beauty of a B-17 ALMOST ended up just hanging on the shop wall – a real masterpiece of craftsmanship. But, alas, it was eventually sold off.

Cut to today, a Brooks Team Professional model calls my name – it specs out nearly identically to the Flite saddle, only it’s about 2cm wider at the heel, and – of course – doesn’t have the anatomic cutout in the middle. However, despite the scare of yet another “you’re gonna ruin your soft parts!” scare-tactic article referenced in RR37 this month, I am following all the right rules that would prevent the problems that everyone warns us about. My handlebars are only ¾” below my saddle height right now. If my bars were 6” below, like is the racer fashion, then yeah – I might have some numbness, but common! So, I sprang for it. I’ll report back on whether or not it ends up being the solution I was hoping for, but after a couple hours on the trainer on this thing this weekend, I’m fairly convinced that not only is it a TON better than the B-17 I’d tried before, it’s also a TON better than the Flite Trans Am.

For that kind of comfort, I’ll carry the 10gram plastic bag in the seat bag in case it rains. Boo-hoo.

I’ll write again after this weekend’s 200K – assuming I can get up the gumption to go!

If anyone from the Platte County public works happens to read this post, please pass it on that we’d really appreciate it if you could plow and cinder the roads near Camden Point, MO.

Thank you in advance.

March 13, 2006

The Kansas 200K - Epiphany in motion

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!!!

March 9, 2006

The season begins with self-discovery.

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated the blog, so I’m taking a few minutes here to bring it all into focus.

It’s been a nightmare week at work, which has REALLY affected (more than anything) my ability to sit down and type this thing out. So much has happened, and is about to happen, so hopefully this won’t get too drawn-out.

In the last update, I was pulling the Bianchi down from the garage wall and rebuilding her, and that process is complete.
After the first 60 miles of riding her again, it was immediately clear that I’d made the right choice. What a fantastic ride! Down-hills are thrilling again, corners are cherished, and even just plain-ole pedaling the flats is a smooth, clean, flawless joy. The right frame for the job, and a terrific mix of components to pull it all together – I’m ready for anything this year.

Commuting? The CrossCheck is splendid looking in its commuter-gear. Not a terribly fancy bike to begin with, it looks BETTER with larger tires, fenders, lights and a true purpose, rather than looking like what I was asking it to do, which was nearly everything – the skinny tires belong on the Bianchi, not this tank – and that’s perfectly okay. The scary thing is, I’ve managed to get gears back on that bike, too – so I have a three-bike stable, with two of them geared now; which is perfect for more uniform training, and for more control over my destiny when it comes to being late to work or something – big ring, hammer it out! The single-speed, while perfect from a maintenance-free perspective, really didn’t lend itself towards that.

...AND the best part: if it’s really, really sloppy outside on a weekend ride or brevet, I can eliminate my excuses, pull down the CrossCheck and ride along with only one-less gear than the Bianchi has.

The stable is more well-rounded now.

The funny part is (I can laugh now) that this is pretty much exactly how it was a year ago – when I first started tearing things down and questioning what I had going on. Ugh… but if I hadn’t done it, I’d never have known – now that it’s recorded for the ages here, I can rest and just RIDE.

Oh yeah, and rounding things out is the Steamroller – now ready to go again after a brief rest on the shelf. Not sure what I’ll use it for, but there are a lot more urban and messenger-style rides happening downtown these days, so I can potentially see a fun use for it coming up.

SO, NOW WHAT?

Well, over the past month and a half, while BikeJournal members have oft wondered “what ever happened to the Dude?”, I have been busy, flying under the cycling radar in the cross-training sector. I have logged over 75 miles in runs on the road and the treadmill both, have benched, curled, dead-lifted and squatted, focuses on abdominals and the core, and done a lot of low-level cardio. The result is a slightly better-fitting suite of dress pants, and a more stable climbing platform when I’m out of the saddle – which is a huge improvement over the sorta “flailing around” climbing I’ve done in the past – which is pretty much why I’ve always been a faster SEATED climber than I have been a standing climber on the bike. Also, a stair-running routine at work during lunch, while raising a few eyebrows from my co-workers, has raised my LT a little bit. While I don’t have the heart-rate numbers to back it up, I can tell an improvement – week one saw me reaching the 8th floor severely winded and with a lot of lethargy in the legs, and five minutes ago it found me running PAST the 8th floor by mistake because I was warmed-up and ready to hit the ceiling. Definite improvements! Running up 8-floors will tend to do SOMETHING good for your health, and I’m a big believer in it now. Sure beats sitting at a desk, waiting for the afternoon to come – a little exercise in the middle of the day never killed anyone.

In the logistical arena, I’ve spent a good amount of time DE-thinking last year’s brevet approach.
Last year, while it was good to be prepared and kind fun having the Carradice bag along for the ride, I’m taking a more minimalist approach to brevet riding. Sure, even the fast riders tend to show up at the 400k with a Camelbak and a rack trunk – but for the 200 and 300K rides, I’ve decided to stick with simplicity. After some careful shopping, planning, and some lessons in miniaturization and space-management, I’ve managed to carry MORE than I did last year, in a smaller space. With one large-ish seat bag – about 4”x4” at the back end, and 7” long, I have managed to pack about 25 items. Some of these include a Fiber-Fix emergency spoke, tire boots (which circumvents carrying a spare tire), two tubes and six patches, inflators AND a pump (on the theory that I’ll get most of the way there with the mini-pump, and get max pressure with the inflators, instead of relying on one or the other), a good tire lever, a flashlight, spare batteries, chain tool, zip ties, a multi-tool, vitamins and electrolyte tabs, and enough space left for my PCS phone and brevet card. How did I get it all in there? Well, Jandd makes a terrific little seat bag with lots of pockets and potential – and there is still space on the seatpost for my taillight. The only thing I have to carry ON me is food and spare clothing, which is what back jersey pockets are designed for. I’m not sure what I was thinking last year, but I know I’m even more prepared than I was last year, even though on the surface it appears that I’m carrying FAR less stuff. I LOVE THAT.

For the longer brevets, I’ll start running into food storage issues – so the Camelbak might come along for the ride at the 400K and above mark – but I’m not sure yet.
I’ve ridden with folks that have carried VERY, VERY little, even up to the 600K distances. Reviewing my notes, and the habits of others, I’ve noticed something that is smacking me in the face.
I have been letting my fuel choice dictate my packing FAR too much in the past.
While I am a prisoner to Sustained Energy, and its DON’T MIX WITH SIMPLE SUGARS law, others are simply eating WHATEVER strikes them at the controls – and carrying VERY little of it with them from home.
While I struggle trying to figure out where I’m going to put all that extra powder for the mileage at hand, now-famous riders have completed 1200K rides carrying almost nothing of their own supply. They hit a control to get their card signed anyways, right? Let THEM supply the fuel! Stuff a few items down your trap while you are there, pocket the rest for consumption over the next few miles, and you’ve taken in enough fuel to last until the NEXT control, and so-on.
I watched a guy last year complete 200, 300 and 400K rides on fast food and c-store stuff -- and there is no reason why I can't enjoy the same flexibility, while still staying within my own personal guidelines for nutrition.

It’s helping me realize that there is a time and a place for certain things --- Sustained Energy in this case is WONDERFUL FUEL, and I recommend it to ANYONE ---- that is performing a long ride, with SUPPORT, or on a LOOP.

If you are racing a 12-hour on a loop, keep it in a cooler, with a jug of cold water, and remix your bottles after each lap – you’re racing, and don’t have time to worry about what might upset your stomach, and you need consistent energy for your intended result. Use the formulated fuels, the powders for that stuff, and you’ll have GREAT success!

For brevets, however, the only goal – no matter what your personal intent – is really only to FINISH. You know what works for you, food-wise, from training and snacking at convenience stores – why should a 200K or above be any different? Know your body – know that you are getting a good mix of carbs and protein and fat – and electrolytes, too. Avoid simple sugars, but don’t be DICTATED to. If you make a mistake, food-wise, learn from it – the stomach discomfort will only last a few miles, and you’ll be fine again – and wiser for it. But, getting anxious about how to carry scoop after scoop of engineered nutrition on an UN-SUPPORTED ride only sets you up for frustration. It's okay to carry some, as a guaranteed good-source of fuel, should the worst happen – and if controls get too spaced out – but let the controls hold your grub. Cashews, fig-netwons, corn chips, etc. Get your card signed, buy some grub, hit the road with full bottles, and full pockets – and stop trying to figure out how to carry 200+ miles worth of powder, dude. Just RIDE.

I’ll update again after the 200K, this weekend! The first step towards a season FULL of big goals!
Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!