Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

December 30, 2008

Here comes #12

This Thursday - New Year's Day 2009 - 7:30AM - The All's-Wellsville 200K
(KCK-Ottawa-KCK)

This is it! Number 12. Stay tuned!

December 29, 2008

Countdown to January.

Had another less-than-stellar weekend of snacky food and crap at mom's house. I even made several haphazard efforts to warn myself not to over-do things, but alas - it's the holidays.
I think I have this notion of things truly beginning after the new year begins, but I'v ebeen doing well behaving during the week. I dropped two pounds last week... but, a little more than half of that came back over the weekend. Not too bad, but typical. Me and food - we love each other. Then I snap and kick food out. Then we make up, and I invite food back into the house again. It's a bad relationship.

Speaking of counting down to January, I tell ya... only two more days of 2008, and that means the beginning of a 31 day countdown to get my LAST, FINAL, ULTIMATE battle against distance in the pursuit of the R-12 Award. At least, my first R-12.... Still torn on whether or not I'll go for #2 immediately beginning in February, seeing that March, April and May are gimmes with the approach of Bob Burns' Brevet series. Still, I don't know if it's the right goal to pursue -- I kinda like the sound of my home-before-noon, play the field, chase some racers plan of fitness and speed for 2009. There's something appealing about "going for two", but there are other challenges for me to face, and there aren't any points for going for consecutive R-12s.
I think the accomplishment will be enough to carry me thru 2009, and then we'll see if it's an appropriate training ramp-up for some big, yet-to-be-announced ultra-distance goal for 2010.
Tejas may still be around, but there is also Fireweed, Balltown, Iowa 24-Hour, and Furnace Creek.
Money and time will tell.... actually, for the more expensive ones, it'd have to be 2012.
Course, we'll all be dead by then if the Mayan's get their way. Ugh.

Training continues, and I'm pleased to announce that my heart-rate coach already thinks I've under-rated myself. I started at a level....well, it doesn't really matter since it's all relative, so we'll say that I rated myself a level-1, and the coach popped up after this last workout and recommended I be bumped up to level-2. I declined...I want to give the current level a little more time to work. It'll probably bug me again in a couple days, but I was boosted up a little by that news from my wrist. Pretty neat fitness toy. Just got finished with a 60 minute cardio session today, where I worked on hill-climbing. Yikes... that felt good, though. Reminds me of those long Saturday mornings in the gym back in '03. Part of the success of that year is starting to come back into focus. It wasn't a fluke: it was long sessions in the gym on top of normal riding. I'm coming back, one piece at a time. I'm already starting to fancy putting STI shifters on the Trek 450... he,he,he...muahhahahahaaahhh!!!!!!

Tour De Shawnee 2009, anyone??? Get it ON.

More to come this week, as I continue to plod through winter's grip. A good commute yesterday on the Crudwell, but I founf the front chainring bolts had backed themselves off a LOT... scary, and glad I caught it in time. Loctite Blue to the rescue, and a lot more torque. Plus, a nice new chain to replace the who-knows-how-old chain that came from the old Steamroller running gear parts box. Thousands of miles on it, easily, but it worked. Now, a nice fresh one takes it's place, and the chain tension is much better! Still loving this bike - the easy spins home are fun, and stress burning. Today, upper-50's for the high? Weird.... weird..... weird weather continues.

stay tuned...

December 24, 2008

Inner Child ... engage!



Fresh snow on one of the unswept paths here at work.
I left my mark. I took this shot on the way back after getting food.
Hopefully someone will get a laugh out of it... or, then again, maybe not.
They'll just frown with disapproval because they work in a cubicle.

You can see in the upper left of the photo, someone realized what was happening about halfway down the walk, and then looks like they either joined my footsteps... or got lifted off into space by an alien craft. Or they fell over sideways and the campus grounds-keepers already had picked up the carcass.

Remember to have fun at work. Lest you get hijacked by aliens.

Too much, or not enough?

Not a whole lotta ice, but enough to make walking around the office courtyards yesterday an adventure in balance. The roads, largely, were clear - which would have been good had I ridden.
I think this is the perfect segue into new years resolutions.... wake up earlier, relax more, make the bus stop at the very least. There just isn't an excuse good enough any more to make my mental justifications hold any water lately! It's fantastic outside, and even though it was still lightly misting on the way home from work last evening, I had the car window down. Yeah, yeah.... the commuterDude DROVE again, but the wife has taken ill, so I picked up her RX and a vaporizer on the way home, and was home quick to relieve her from kid duty. It all works out.

I'd say I'm acclimated, though - 33 degrees and "freezing fog" felt just fine with the window down, rolling along with fIREHOSE in the CD player. Even 20 degrees feels downright warm, and the prospect of doing a 200K in this stuff doesn't bother me that much anymore. Heck, the first week of January - unless this jinxes it - is looking like a slight chance of rain and highs in the mid-40's. I can deal with that! That's AWESOME! Of course, down in central Texas it'll be 66 degrees... but, I'm leaning towards sucking it up and saving the time and gas money -- sorry, Ort! I've got a couple of offers to have company on the January 200K, one Spencer and one Jeff Winter, perhaps -- and possibly more, not sure. The motivation and team mentality is really helping me keep focus on the prize -- one-to-go, and a possible draft, conversation, and maybe even a new route up north of town? I'm actually EXCITED about a January 200K! Back in July, I was outright worried about this winter!

Day three of Heart-Rate Training is feeling pretty good, because it's a rest day --- but I have a deepness in my lungs that feels good, a slight soreness in my legs from the elliptical machine's more aggressive setting. Today is a scheduled rest day. I've been tossing and turning about what to do when summer comes along, and I'm hankering riding EVERY day again. Right now it's been easy to stick to a program because I've been slacking on actual riding. Here's my thinking: The fixxie doesn't HAVE to be relegated only to winter riding. With it's ridiculously low gearing, high-RPM, minimal effort drivetrain it's almost like not riding at all. Of course, the heartrate does rise on a hill, but that can be tendered I imagine. So, I can ride that bike on "rest" days, and maybe take the bus in the AM, even in summertime, to keep the miles off my legs. My fear is over-training, but the built-in coach should prove invaluable in this regard. It will, however, mean a little silliness: I might be commuting on the fixxie wearing the heartrate monitor: the ONLY reason, to make sure I'm not pushing TOO hard. By then, perceived effort should dictate - but the one thing I REALLY like about this upscale HRM is that built-in coach: just in the past two days, I haven't EXACTLY hit my workout targets... in fact, I've pushed too hard. As a result, it completely re-wrote the rest of the week's training schedule. Today is a rest day, same as it was on Monday, but what changed is Friday and Saturday. Thursday now is a very light day, only 45 minutes duration. Friday was a more intense day, but now it's a full rest day. Saturday has been downgraded to moderate and for only 45 minutes. As new workouts get logged, the plan constantly changes. It's pretty neat, actually. In fact, if I decide to slack off, say on Saturday, it knows that I didn't log anything, and will probably take away Sunday's rest day until I get the right workout back in.

There is a thought, and I will be hitting some fitness forums and such to find out, about not including any of my bicycling in the plan. Now, this could be dangerous because my "coach" won't be able to accurately tell me if I'm training too hard, etc., but considering that my system has been idling and very slowly putting on weight over the past couple of years. The way I'd been eating, I should be heavier -- but the bicycling I have been doing has maintained me to a very slow gain, instead of ballooning. Also, the longer endurance rides don't have the same effect as they used to. So, stands to reason possibly that my efforts could be logged under "normal activity" -- say like if I had a very physical outdoor labor job. If I was in THAT boat, I certainly wouldn't be logging my "workouts" around a job site, or that (say if I was a mail-man) that I'd walked 10 miles that day. That would just be my normal routine. From that perspective, I could choose whether or not to count the commuter part of my cycling, right? If I know I'm going to be taking it easy, I COULD log a ride home as my "light" day, or conversely use the afternoon ride as an opportunity to do a hard hour, if the "coach" called for it, and save a trip to the gym. In that same sense, I could just ride to get to work, keep the sweat down, and go into the gym that same day to log a prescribed workout, and then take it easy on the trip home, or take the bus. Can I have both, or do I risk undoing something? Based on what I've read of the "coach" software, there are many more parameters it's tracking on my cardio system -- respiration rate, cool-down and warm-up durations to-target, etc. -- apparently, if it works, it should be able to tell after a few minutes if the current workout is going to gain me anything, and adjust on the fly. So, overtraining shouldn't be too large a risk - in theory. I don't want to over-train, or under-train. In my post-30-year-old position, I've already noticed that things are harder this time around than they were when I was ramping up in my mid-20's, towards my 2003 fitness level. I want to succeed, and if it means wearing the heart-rate belt on a commute, so be it. I'm trying really hard not to self-justify here -- if anyone's got an opinion or counter-theory, I'd love to see it in the comments.

So far, so good - however. I'm confident enough to feel that if I'd ridden to the bus stop, and then the 11 miles home tonight, I wouldn't have wrecked anything -- but I'm not 100% sure.
In any case, instead of talking about it all year - which is what 2008 seems to contain as a recurring theme - I have data, and direction, and focus - all leading towards a 2009 of DOING, instead of TALKING.

December 22, 2008

Winter blues, but looking up...

I'll be honest, I've been lying low this last week. With the best intentions have come a lot of snooze button action and excuse making, but with the holidays upon us - well, I've been getting pulled from many directions. Come here and help with this, then run over there and help with that, be home on time after work, pick up this kid and that, go deliver this -- in warmer conditions and better roads, none of this would be a problem on the bike - save for picking up the kids, which have now outgrown the kiddie trailer. Still, it was all too easy to get talked into the car. This car-free winter thing -- well, it's gonna take a lot more planning and tenacity: more than I've had the mental patience to deal with lately. I've watched the bus come and go, frustrated - but you gotta do whatcha gotta do sometimes.

On the weight-loss and return to "training" front, I jumped and made a purchase - a decent HRM (Heart Rate Monitor). I'm hesitant to give a review on it, because I haven't used a whole lot of these. The last time I cared about heart-rate, I had a Polar S10 or something really cheapy - but even then it was kinda cool. Of course, back then I don't really remember what I was looking for in a HRM or a training regiment. I was thinner, faster, and i imagine my gadget-freak alter-ego was playing that card a little, moreso than the racer-wannabe cyclist alter-ego. I'm so far disconnected to the advances in technology with regards to THESE devices, a review wouldn't be productive. I can say that these things have come a LONG way, and I was able to afford a few price points higher than the previous model. The features are robust, but not dizzying, and I'm happy to learn after a lot of hemming and hawing and research back and forth between several models and designs that I found the right one for me. The model information isn't important, but some of the features are worth mentioning:

There is an interactive coach built in, which doesn't require a PC to utilize. While a computer interface IS available, I felt it overkill for my purposes. The watch itself will hold 15 previous workout results, a "workout" being a data file that consists of averages of heart-rate, time spent in particular zones, cool down time, warm up time, laps (if you do that kind of thing) etc. There is an option that I might play with in the future that allows you to pair the watch unit and heart-rate sensor belt with a bicycle speed sensor - something that might pair well with the Trek 450, since it's something of a 200K and below "training" bike, if I had to categorize it. I don't anticipate gaining anything valuable with 12 hours of heartrate data from a 200K ride, so I doubt I'd even wear the thing on the Kogswell or commuterbike for that matter. That view might change, because of the coaching software that's built into this watch.

Today was my first workout, and when I was done it stored all the information as it should. When things become interesting is when the "virtual coach" comes into play. Using existing sports medicine methodology, it takes my parameters like age, weight, height, avg heart-rate, respiration rate from the first workout, my general fitness classification (based on a chart in the setup manual), and creates a five-day workout plan for me, based off that first workout. The first workout acts as something of a base-line, and specifically based on what I did in the gym today it is recommending tomorrows workout be lighter, and for a shorter duration, it's set Wednesday a little higher intensity but for shorter duration, and Thursday is a rest day. Friday rounds out the week with a recovery workout. Apparently, after a couple weeks, the thing eventually creates an even more precise target plan for me, based on cumulative data that it keeps for a six month time-frame. So, as I improve, it tailors workouts to help me maintain and continue to grow fitness. Considering how pathetic my numbers looked last night, with regards to resting HR and such, it's apparent that I needed this little helper more than I'd thought. The work is still up to me, of course, diet and continued adherence to the plan, but dude, this thing will beep at me and remind me that I haven't exercised in a couple days if I slack off, and consequently adjusts all the days that I need to "make up", with more intense workouts to get me back on track. Sure, when I brevet and such, it'll likely be a keep-it-simple approach with perceived effort on my side... but that method only works if I know my body - and I've really lost touch. My resting pulse isn't where it used to be, my recovery rate isn't where it used to be - and try as I might to ignore it, that, along with weight, is why I've lost performance on the road. Pushing too hard when I should have been resting, resting too much, and generally just idling on permanents, not pushing myself hard enough. The end result, lost fitness. Can I get it back? Yes. With the right execution, and the right tools. I know myself, though - have to be careful not to flood myself with numbers; but when I spend 30 minutes in the gym, at least I'll know that I might actually gain something from it. One small step. Don't think too much -- just follow the plan. It's certainly better than no plan at all.

Back to the midwestern weather picture, a wintry mix is forecast for tomorrow, snow Wednesday, but an extended vacation from work starting Thursday, so that will be nice. I'll have to see how I'm able to behave away from the fitness center, and around the holiday food. No sense waiting until new years... I've started a more sensible approach to food, finally, and so far, so good.

Still looking towards January, and picking that one magic weekend -- that one DAY if it comes down to it, to get number 12 on the R-12 run! I'm excited to wrap this one up, but the weather... the temperatures alone are enough to make me shudder at the notion of 10-12 hours out in the winter air. This morning the garage thermometer read +1.4ºF. Yeesh... of course, the high of 19 sounds pretty inviting, actually. It's all acclimation, and I have the gear.

Stay tuned...

December 15, 2008

The bottom drops out

Here's a case in point for weird midwestern weather, and how difficult it usually is to commute or rando this time of year.

Sunday at 9:00am... 60 degrees, pleasant SW winds.

Sunday at 10:40am... 44 degrees. Not so pleasant NW wind.
Sunday at 10:45am... 40 degrees.
Sunday at 11:00am... 36 degrees.
Sunday at 11:30am... 25 degrees.
Sunday at Noon... 19 degrees.
Sunday at 7:00pm... 12 degrees.

Monday at 5:00am... 2 degrees.

Unfortunately, I'd fallen asleep before I removed my wet outer cycling layers from the washer, so I ((gee, what a bummer)) decided not to ride.
Missed the bus, too. Ugh...

Tomorrow, snow... but it's so cold that the snow will actually be manageable, instead of having the usual inch of ice underneath it.
This winter, I have a feeling that some personal commuter temperature records will be broken! Yikes!

Stay warm, KC-area riders. It's suddenly very REAL out there.

December 12, 2008

Can you see me now?

I'm a big proponent of the "geek factor" when it comes to winter visibility.
If your winter bike (or, summer bike, for that matter) doesn't show up like this, it's time to make some changes for the better.

I ain't braggin' I'm stayin' alive, ya'll.
Go geek -- reflectivity is IN.



The panniers are back, also.
I've decided that having a bag on my back this winter isn't the way I wanna roll.
Short errand, sure thing -- but anything beyond a couple miles and, well, the summer pannier use has spoiled me. Just can't go backwards.

I'm ready --- big weather forecast for Sunday night into Monday. I'll be rising early to beat the traffic, and enjoying the challenge!

December 10, 2008

Bike-n-Bus

Well, only last week was the maiden voyage on the Crudwell, and good thing I got that dry shake-down run in! It was just in time.
Last night, winter arrived with a brute force hit of stiff north winds, plummeting temps, and blowing, icy snow. Yesterday, I elected to try my hand at JUST the bus. That was a mistake, it turns out. Rather - my patience was tested. Instead of riding, I wanted to kinda examine how the buses were going to flow, and if my plans for the Strang Line park-n-ride were going to work. So, I drove (yikes, I know) to the park-n-ride, and rode my 2nd bus to work. It was a nice ride, and I felt good knowing that I had not only saved gas, but I wasn't going to have to battle the roads with other drivers when the weather came.

But the weather, she came down hard.

I left my cubicle at 4:30 to catch the 4:45 bus. 4:45 came... went..... then 5:00pm... I called the dispatch office to get the "duh" report: yeah, they were running late. No specific updates available on individual routes. Suddenly, my developer's mind was alive with thoughts of GPS tracked buses and public access mobile web-gadgets that would let you know how far away the bus really was, or if you'd already missed it. Hmmm... Unfortunately, my thoughts were not enough to keep me warm. I stood, semi-sheltered, and watched as the parking garages emptied -- frustratingly dominated by single-occupancy vehicles. Oh well... the cause can wait. I'm freaking cold, and I have no soap box out here. Instead, I bee-bop a little to my Palm Centro's MP3 player, and wait. And wait. And WAIT.

It's 5:45.... one hour.... this is good acclimation training for my January R-12 ride, right? You bet.... wind is gusting, cards are thinning out.... Oppps! There goes Crowbar, suited up, and riding northbound in the fresh powder!

Below is the best shot I could get off on short notice -- it would have been neat to get a shot of him directly across the street from me, but between cold fingers, and a slow Palm OS, this is the best I could do --- I was lucky enough to get his REALLY bright blinking taillight ON a blink, though! If nothing else, this pictures looks how it felt outside.



The bright red dot is him. I know -- GREAT picture. ;)

So, that took my mind off the cold for a little bit. But, then, I was back. This acclimation training is dumb. Toes? Are you there? Yeesh...
6:00pm.....
I am exchanging broken text messages with Crowbar, who already made it home, and my wife - just keeping her aware. An appointment in Lees Summit calls me, and calls me off because of the weather -- which is good, because I'm not getting home any time soon! 6:17pm, the time for the LAST bus to arrive here... another call to the weather line, and the dispatch office is closed. Yikes. No voicemail, but earlier they assured me that all buses were out, and will complete their routes. Man, it's gotta be BAD out there. I was wishing I'd brought my bike, and by then had decided that if I ride the bus, my bike will be with me. Period. I'd have been home by now, probably, with this north wind howling.

7:00pm....
7:15pm.... no more cars at work.... I can still feel my face, which is good....
7:20pm....

"ok, honey, just come and get me -- just be careful!"
The wife finally talks me into letting her come to get me. My thoughts being if it's this bad for the BUS, then her and the kids don't need to be coming out in it!
I hang up, and start to walk inside.... and yet, there is something nagging me...
I turn around... nope, no bus....

I walk some more... turn around... nope.... bah, it's not coming! Go inside, warm up, wait for the wife to call back...

I'm about fifty feet from the door to my building, about 1/16th of a mile from the bus stop itself, and I hear it.... "psssshhhh" the release of air brakes.

"MOTHER...... HEY!!!!" But it was not effective. Didn't get his attention... too far away.

Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up. Murphy lives.

Oh well.... tomorrow, bring the bike, control your own destiny....
At least in the evening...

December 9, 2008

Tricks of the sport

I sometimes get questions about how I do these things, how I can stay comfortable in colder temps for really long exposure times, why don’t I have bags full of stuff, and what are some of the little tricks I use. Well, one’s personal randonneuring solutions are, well, personal – but sharing them is a great way to inspire some of your own concoctions, solutions, and hacks. After all, it took me years to get where I am now, and I’m still making changes here and there; thus the importance of keeping some sort of log, blog, spreadsheet or journal. I’m always referring back to my own notes when I need to remember if something worked or didn’t on such route, etc. It’s a constant process. There is no fit-all, but here are some quick hits from these more recent, cold rides.

Wool. I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it until the day before I’m buried. Wool. If you own only ONE piece of technical cycling gear, and you have the money --- or have the time to track down a good deal --- get something woolen. Primarily, make it your jersey, and probably a long sleeved one. While wool does really well in warm temperatures too, if the knit is correct (I’ve worn wool upwards of 80 degrees, comfortably.) wool really comes into its own in the environments where it is naturally gifted. Look at the coast of Scotland. Wet, cool. Anything 60 degrees and lower, wool on your core is perfect for rides that start cold and stay cold. You can avoid those “hour-8 chills” that synthetics suffer from. After a long time in the saddle, synthetics just get clogged up with salt from your sweat, and while you never really notice in warm weather, in COLD weather they start to lose their wicking ability – and then they get cold because they essentially can’t hold warmth anymore. It can’t be denied any longer: a couple years ago only a few random companies were making wool for cycling, and it was usually boutiquey and ridiculously expensive “retro” stuff. Nowadays even mainstream companies like Pearl Izumi and Specialized have top-of-the-line technical jerseys in their 2009 lineups that have at least some wool in them. Why? Naturally, it has the widest temperature comfort range of ANY fabric, period. Look at suits; fashion aside, you can wear the same business suit in the summer for a wedding and later in the fall for a holiday event – and generally be comfortable in each instance. Wool is naturally versatile that way. Further, unlike anything else in nature, wool maintains 85% of its insulating properties when it’s wet. What does that mean to a cyclist? If you get sweaty on a December ride, you won’t fall into hypothermic shock when you stop for a snack. If it rains, you don’t need the rain jacket immediately to keep from getting chilled to the bone, if you even need it at all. Wool is it. Period. I was once a non-believer, too, but if you are going to be out in 35 degree weather all day long, sun-up to sun-down on a bicycle, you need wool. It will change your ride.

Eye protection. There’s almost no excuse anymore, and you don’t have to go insane. Even those $10 Oakley knockoffs at CVS will suffice – but get that cold air off your eyeballs! It will keep tears at bay, it helps keep your focus, and helps keep your comfort high. I had to pony up for prescription sunglasses, and one of the best investments I made in that regard was getting Transitions lens treatment. May not be the best solution for ALL cyclists, but for randonneuring, it’s been a real help. I used to carry two pair of glasses on the longer brevets, 300K and above, just to help wit the sunshine and glare during the day. At night, of course, I couldn’t see anything. The Transitions lenses have come a LONG way if you haven’t looked into them for a while – they are absolutely, completely clear. Can’t even tell they are “special”. As soon as UV light hits them, however, they darken up QUICK. It’s terrific for rides that start before dawn, last all day, and go back into the night – and this time of year, that’s almost every ride you’ll do.
Also, I don’t really know if there are “nerves” on your eyes, but kinda like your other extremities: if they are shielded, you feel warmer and more comfortable overall. The furthest extension of this for cycling is something like a pair of ski goggles, but that’s a little much unless it gets below zero. But, a good pair of large, wide coverage, wrap-around sunglasses can make a LOT of difference in your randonneuring experience.

Lip Balm. It seems “girly” and silly, maybe, guys – right? Trust me. There is something comforting and relaxing about having a nice glaze of peppermint flavored protectant on your lips. With all the labored breathing, snot, drool, sports drink that comes across your mouth during these cooler rides, your lips will be cracked and bleeding in no time at all. Cold air blasting across your face only makes it worse. And, a common theme in randonneuring: ANY pain or discomfort is a fatigue multiplier. Even if it’s “only” raw lips, it can put a small mental spur in your game that can lead to a slower pace and a less-than-optimal mental outlook on the ride. It weighs nothing, it’s cheap, small, portable, and available at every c-store on the planet. It helps. Slather it on at every control, and stay in the game.

Lantiseptic. This was mentioned once a few years back by “Cap’t” John Ende, rando-guy supreme and holder of many distance awards and such. After reading about it in American Randonneur back then, I had my local Walgreens order me a tube. It was $4.79 for the BIG size, and I still have some left from that original tube today. That was easily 2004, if I remember right. Anyways, you use this REALLY thick, tenacious stuff in place of your usual “Chamois Butt’r” or other saddle cue-all, and your ride experience will improve. It stays on in the rain, it stays on after 400K, and I haven’t had a saddle sore to speak of since. It works very, very well, and it’s cheap. One of the guys that finished PBP in the lead group in ’07 is the poster-boy for this stuff now, for cyclists, and he apparently didn’t have to re-apply it after 750 miles, and 70% of that was in the rain – with no fenders, judging by the photos. It’s good, and it stays put. I’m not saying Chamois Butt’r or anything like it is bad stuff – but for LONG days where you don’t want to carry a whole tube of something along with you, Lantiseptic is IT. I do carry some along with me, just in case: here’s how: you know those fancy little 0.5 oz tins of hand salve, Carmex or lip balm? I wait until I’m out of one of those, clean it out, and reuse it for Lantiseptic or similar. Fits in a seatbag, takes up very little space, and is leak-proof.

Pack light. You can use the little tins mentioned above for emergency pocket change, a Fiber-Fix spoke, a SRAM Powerlink, some zip-ties, or anything you like. Even on this last ride, I trimmed by seatbags down from two, to one – with roughly the same stuff inside, just by revisiting the packing method I was using. Yeah, I’m a little obsessive about this, but over time it’s been something that keeps me tinkering. I’ve learned the hard way more than once that there is a definite limit to how LITTLE you should carry, but there was definitely a time when I was carrying too much. While it looks like I’m only going out for a short club ride, I always start each ride with the same necessities. Some of them I’ve (knock, knock) never had to use before – others, I finally got the chance to grin ear-to-ear feeling exceedingly glad that I’d packed them. Specifically, the FiberFix spoke: it sat un-used in my seatbag for nearly two years before I “got the chance” to use it – if I hadn’t had it, it would have been a ride-ender, and I’d be talking about having just finished R-12 requirement number TEN, instead of eleven. It takes up almost no space, works perfectly, and there simply isn’t any other way to rig up something in a pinch that will bring a broken wheel back into true on the side of the road. $10.00. I will never ride without one again, whether or not I ever break a spoke on the road again. My seat bag has a number of these little miracles that occasionally need to get called into service, and yet my seatbag requirements keep shrinking. My personal goal is to run a regular seatbag, but to be prepared for just about anything that would potentially end a ride. A secondary goal, save the back pockets for clothing and food. No phone, no pumps, nothing “hardware” in the jersey. At the beginning of my last ride, inside a single Pearl Izumi “tailgate” seatbag, I had:

• Two tubes
• 8 patches
• 3 tire boots
• 4 zip ties
• A SRAM powerlink
• A Crank Brothers chain tool (w/ std spoke wrenches built in)
• 4mm Allen wrench
• 5mm Allen wrench
• QuikStik Tire lever
• Emergency space blanket
• 3 feet of electrical tape
• Fiber Fix spoke
• Spare standard spoke nipple
• Spare Mavic spoke nipple
• Mavic Ksyrium spoke tool
• Victorinox micro pocket knife w/ scissors
• A Safety pin
• Presta-to-Schrader valve adapter
• Two spare AAA batteries
• One short and one long spare shifter cable
• A re-purposed eye-drop bottle ½ full of w/ spare lube
• 2 feet of strong thread
• 1 – M5 bolt that will fit just about anything on the bike
• 3 lucky rocks my kids and I found on the bike trail
• 1 lucky Japanese coin that the Warbird gave me
• Palm Centro PCS phone
• Debit card, Driver’s license, insurance cards
• RUSA Permanent card for the ride

Without any modifications to the bag itself, and sometimes a LOT of modifications to the items inside, it all fits, and it zips closed without a struggle. Modifications to the contents? You betcha.
Just like your own setup is personal, so should your tools be. While a lot of manufacturers make a GREAT multi-tool, I personally maybe want only ONE part of it. The chain tool I use came off of a much larger multi-tool. I took it apart, and I only carry what I need. After all, individual Allen wrenches take up far less space than the multi-tool that contains them, and often offer more leverage and better accessibility to weird angles or tight clearances on the bike. I hold them together to prevent rattling with the electrical tape I’ve packed. Another example; the Mavic-specific spoke wrench is HUGE, intended for shop use: I took a hacksaw to it, and made it big enough to use – but small enough to take up about 1/8th the space it normally would. It takes some staring, thinking, and asking – “why is this designed this way? Will it still work if I make it smaller?”

It takes time to pare down your existing kit, and this is definitely not the same kit I carry for commutes – but for compactness, low-weight, maximum effectiveness and preparedness to weigh ratio, I ensure each ride started is finished unless the absolutely unthinkable occurs. Anything beyond that, and it’d probably be a DNF anyways. Pay special attention to the electrical tape, tire boots, zip ties, the thread, and that one spare bolt. It’s not much, it weighs almost nothing – but it’s adaptable to nearly ANYTHING on the bike that could come loose, break off, or rattle. You can’t carry a spare bike – but you can fix just about anything with the right stuff; just enough to get you to the next control. You can fix it correctly back I the garage. This goes back to the mental game, too: if you develop a rattle or a click 100 miles into a 400K, it can drive you INSANE. Annoying sounds can also be a fatigue multiplier. If you’ve got something in your bag that can quiet it up, you get a feeling of accomplishment and inventiveness that can boost your mental game for the rest of the ride – AND the noise is gone, too! It’s a ride changer. That inventiveness and ingenuity is the core of the randonneuring spirit. Never saying “that’s it, I’m done.” When something breaks, but instead sitting on a lonely roadside in the dark fixing that loose saddle rail or destroyed tire with three feet of electrical tape so you can finish the last 60 miles of a 600K --- that’s part of what makes a randonneur. Pack light, but pack purposefully.



Tis’ a flesh wound! Let’s finish this ride!

That’s all I’ve got for you for now – hopefully this will rattle your cage a little and start the inventive juices flowing so you can bring your own unique randonneuring set-up into view.
As always, questions are welcome.

Tailwinds…

December 7, 2008

R-12 pt.11 -- Hill hath no fury...

Finally able to sit down at the keyboard after fighting off something intestinal (again?) these last 18 hours, let's get this started: I think I hit the recovery food buffet a little too hard last night or something. Anyways... nothing but a vague headache now, so I'm still pounding water and electrolytes to get back on track. Yeesh what a weekend!

The biggest thing I can take away from this weekend's permanent:

ONLY ONE TO GO.

There are nearly 300 million people in the United States.
There are currently only 147 people listed as having earned the R-12.
In one month, I'll (hopefully) be number 148.

I feel pretty darn proud of that. It's hard to be humble, because this hasn't been easy... and getting number 11 proved it to me. Pending the coming weeks and the holidays fast approaching, I knew that weekends were going to be scarce, and I knew that eventually the weather would NOT cooperate. "Good riding weather" becomes a VERY relative term this time of year, especially in the midwest. Weather changes on a dime, and even the local National Weather Service office admits, sometimes forecasts have to be updated hourly when winter approaches. Will it be sleet? Will it be dry? Will it be windy? NO, it'll be 50 and sunny... and the next day might be 14 degrees at dawn, with flurries. Planning a bike ride? Good luck to ya.

Noah and I got lucky, relatively speaking. As I went to bed Friday night, the temperature was actually rising after the sun had fallen. Weird. When I woke up it was still 40ºF. Very weird. Unfortunately, I had watched all week as the hourly graphs pushed back my plans at a miracle run. The mystical double tailwind. Monday, it looked possible. By Friday, the wind was going to shift too early -- and it did. WAY earlier than expected. In fact, only 15 miles into the ride. Honestly, if I'd been alone, I might have cashed it in if I'd had less riding on it. MIGHT.

In stark comparison to last month's -- more like two weeks ago's -- permanent on the Border Patrol route, I was actually feeling strong and ready. Still no results to speak of at the scale, but the workouts of the week left me feeling charged up, instead of sickly and drained. Carboplex was back in my water bottles, and I just love the way this stuff goes down: literally, like WATER, compared to Sustained Energy. No protein component to worry about, and no simple-sugar mixing hazard. Not that I was gonna pound a lot of sugar anyways, but you get the idea --- FREEDOM. Plus, as an added bonus, it packs lighter and takes up less room in the back pockets.
Along with some caffeine-charged Hammer Gel Espresso flavor, MAN - I was feeling awake, ready, willing. The new helmet light was proving to work pretty well (more on that in another post, perhaps - a great new product from Blackburn called the Flea), and most importantly I could feel a difference in helmet weight since the switch to it. Also, the bike was working pretty good --- except I think I might have left my last chain on a little too long... the brand new chain was installed, and this was the first ride on it -- and those first couple miles, well, a little auto-shift, a little "groaning" feeling... like perhaps there was a little fitting to be performed, perhaps at the cassette cog level? Ugh... no stopping it now... 130 miles of hills coming, and it's get fit to the gears one way or another.

Renner Road at night -- interesting. Surreal. I really like this road -- one of the first road rides I ever rode was along this stretch, and with all the other development out here, I really like the fact that Lenexa hasn't taken the torch to some of the scenery yet. Off to the west are the same pristine fields that have been here since land was first divided up. Too bad it's dark... Noah and I are chatting it up, spinning along, having a good time of things with the last breath of tailwind we'd get from the south today. Soon, the hills were going to start, so it'd be okay -- despite the grades, at the very least sometimes they can block the wind.

Soon, we're bombing down the fabled Renner Hill that is a favorite part of the local Tour De Shawnee course, onto Holliday Drive, right before a morning freight makes its way east just past the trees farther down the slope of the riverbank. The wind coming across the river stings the eyes, though -- it's colder down here, no doubt about it. Peering ahead through my own tears driven by wind, Noah and I make our way along Holiday Drive - another sorta surreal landscape since construction wiped clean the old, rutted, twisty country lane that used to be back here. All the trees are gone, and only the giant sloped face of the landfill to our south remains. As we roll by, my eyes catch the eerie dance of a purplish-blue flame coming off of a fairly low smokestack attached to a small out-building. Something is getting burned off, that's for certain, and Noah and I confer and think it's probably methane - likely pumped out from under the landfill itself, and burned off on these flare towers. What's interesting to me, in this day and age -- seeing an open flare like that... isn't that kind-of 1970's mentality? Yeah, the spooky, silent, deep purple flame looks cool - probably isn't even visible during the day... and sure, it's cheap -- but part of me wonders how many homes they could power in northern Shawnee? I'm not gonna get all weepy and green, but crud -- at least be selfish and use that to heat something like the security out-buildings, instead of just burning it off.

And since the last update, I received good news from an anonymous commenter:
Thanks!

Just an FYI comment from a Shawnee local... Deffenbaugh does have a methane plant at the Johnson County landfill so some of that gas is used for energy. Here's a link to an article from a few years ago in the local paper:
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2004/aug/04/methane_recovery_effort/


Heat.... mmmmm.... it looked nice and warm, that's for sure, as my attention turned back to my wind-bitten face.

We approach the triple railroad tracks and the intersection of Holliday Drive and Wilder Road, one of my memories that few seem to remember. There is no cornerstone, no cemetery, no markers or any kind. The little town of Holliday, KS., which used to sit here at this point, long before Defenbaugh's needs extended this far west, is long gone. But, I still remember that old guy that used to sit on his porch and watch life happen, and watch the busy trains on their way to and from Kansas City.
The below is a snippet from the Blue Skyways website:
"Holliday, a village in the extreme northern part of Johnson county, is located on the south bank of the Kansas river at the junction of two lines of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R., 11 miles southwest of Kansas City and about 13 miles north of Olathe, the county seat. It has a money order post-office, telegraph and express facilities, general stores, and in 1910 had a population of 150."

It was transcribed to that webpage from documents published in 1912 based on census data. The town is long gone now - sadly nothing of historical significance to help it's fate aside form its loose connection to Cyrus K. Holliday, for whom the town was named I assume - but I remember driving here looking for spots to watch trains back in high-school, and I assure you - it was there. I have a feeling that lone old man on the porch I saw was the last resident, because only a few years later that home was empty. Makes me wonder. The interesting thing: the name 'Holliday' is still searchable as a place, and shows up on Google Maps. It's nothing more than a stand of trees next to a railroad bridge. But, as I try to include on all my bike routes, it's a small piece of Kansas history.



We continued on, up Wilder Road heading towards K-7, thankfully on the upwind side of the river now, and with a few hills to help block the breezes. At least finally the sun was starting to show its face, VERY slowly, as the clouds and night sky began to get tinted with a vague pinkish purple. Pretty cool. On to the rough pavement of Theden Road. I like this road -- another example of "let's just leave this part alone for a while" land, still safe (for the near future) from the bulldozer and the property developer. Diving down to an OLD set of railroad tracks, which used to head north to Leavenworth, with another spur heading to Euroda. This road is old, and the 5-ton limit truss bridge that spans an old creek is older (above, snapped on the return). But, it wouldn't be a C'Dude permanent route without some sort of old, nasty pavement included. Soon, K-7, the first river crossing of the day, and K-32. Finally a little tailwind again, pushing us east towards 86th Street, which I promptly overshoot. A quick u-turn corrects that, and we're back on track. Unfortunately, the flat terrain of K-32 is over with now, and the road begins to talk a little. 86th street, and pretty much ANY street leading north away from the Kansas River is NOT flat. The best thing about hills, they tend to warm you up. State Avenue, I-70, and finally QuikTrip at 83rd and Parallel. The first control.

Some quick work getting cards signed, refilling water bottles, and buying anything that might equal more push and more heat, we were soon ready to head out again. The run to Weston was ahead, and the wind was not getting any lighter. Noah and I, recharged for the road, headed north on 83rd Street to Georgia Ave - a deceptive little road, one I'm still not sure why I picked for this route. As if there weren't going to be enough hills today, Georgia Road pitches up to at least 17% grade right near 91st Street, leaving you a heaping mass of heavy breathing guts and sore legs at the top, right before dumping you onto a fast downhill leading towards Leavenworth Road and Wyandotte County Lake. Interestingly, as I prepare myself and Noah for the hill, I completely forget that this stretch is far worse on the return.

The scenic glory of Wyandotte Lake park is next, and the hills are muted by the glorious overlooks and the waterfowl that are bustling about. I happen upon a gaggle of Canadians that take flight as I approach - magical. Loud. The road here is twisty, exciting, challenging. Unfortunately, it's also here that the distances between myself and Noah begin to spread out a little, which is something that happens on every randonee I've ever done. Eventually, the terrain has more of a say in who you talk to that you do. Exiting the park, it's more surrealism on the roads of Kansas. I have YET to see ANY other cars on this next four mile stretch of road in the five times I've ridden this stretch. Weird. Of course, shortly afterwards, we are off of 93rd Street, onto Wolcott Road, or K-5 highway. This is another route up to Fort Leavenworth, and was designated part of the Frontier Military Scenic Byway system a decade or so ago... but it's clear that the military would have probably used the alignment closer to where US-69 is today. With these hills, I can't imagine hauling munitions or supplies by horse and wagon. Yikes. As the flat section ends near today's Lakeside Speedway, alongside the tracks that lead to the Fairfax plant, the hills begin in earnest. At first, a gentle rise, but eventually more rollers and grinders that demand attention away from the scenery up here, which is spectacular. Rolling hills, farms - it's nice. This section of road tends to be something of a time warp, I've found - and today is no exception. Even though it's only 8 miles, I've spent time here wondering if I'd EVER see the other end. Noah and I stopped a few times to rest here and there, to rest and recoup along the way. Instead of being a fun little jaunt, this was turning into a real struggle for Noah, and questions about whether or not there were 80 more miles in the legs came up. Territory I've been in before, for sure. At that point, the only person that could answer that question was Noah, and so I kept my mouth closed. At least when it came to these point in my riding past, it always seemed like the other guy that was trying to talk me back onto the road was saying "blah blah blah", "it's all in your head", "you'll be fine." -- well, it never had the desired result on me. I'd hear the words, and then my own internal dialogue would jump in, telling me "no, it's not just a few more miles - this sucks". I'm kinda of the "do unto others" mentality, and so I deemed it best to just not say much on the subject. After all, these things come in waves. Eventually, someone will speak up and say, "okay, guys - I need a reason to still be out here, please." Then I'll start talking. But only if I think it'll help. But, I do offer what I can -- electrolyte tabs, hammer gel, ANYthing that might make the difference. I try my best to hold back and provide a draft, but the hills are really bad in here and the gaps open. It sucks, not being able to do anything. If there were 30 people on this ride, then things might have been different - but I wasn't about to leave a rider out here alone today.

We finally made it in to Leavenworth, traversed downtown, and made our way to the big blue bridge to cross the Missouri River into the Show-Me state. MAN, the crosswinds coming across the big bridge, probably 60 feet off the water, dude ---- glad there was a guardrail at certain points. We crested the bridge and made our way to the Mo-45 spur, and finally a rest from the wind. A NICE tailwind. I tried hard not to think how difficult this section was going to be on the return, but I couldn't help it. We made the information control at Route 45, only a minute before an empty coal train would blast past us at open throttle. Pictures transmitted, we rested for a bit and then faced the demon. The wind.

Route 45, towards Beverly, MO (another forgotten blip on the map) was only three miles, but I assure you it was a HARD three miles. Board flat, no features. The opposite bluffs seem to do nothing but help concentrate the wind in this valley that stretches between Beverly and Waldron, towards Parkville. Considering a long time ago, we'd be in a foot of water, that gives you an idea - this i nothing but a huge flood plain. There's nothing to block the wind except our bodies, and better yet it's more of a crosswind than a true headwind, which makes drafting along this shoulderless highway pretty difficult. There aren't a lot of cars, which is good - but still. The buffeting, the constant roar in my ears, I can't tell if my efforts to help draft Noah up this stretch are working or not. If I turn my head, I fear being blown over. Instead, I maintain the best 10 MPH pace I can muster, focusing on nothing but my computer readout --- 9.8, 10.2, 10.6, 10.7, GUST.... 9.3.... PUSH! 9.9, 10.3.... for what seemed like an eternity. It was only until the sun peeked through the thick clouds that I realized my shadow was alone on the road. Where was Noah? I peer back, and there he is... just a dark spot on my peripheral vision. I slow the pace, and eventually he latches on again. Then there is the incredible urge for evacuation -- all the good hydration chose HERE to make itself known, which made the pushing into the wind all the more difficult. Good gravy..... this is DUMB. But, I knew we were close. Only perhaps 5 miles from Weston, from warmth, from a cozy chair in a tiny cafe, and hot food, excellent coffee... I started to eat those marvelous breakfast hashbrowns in my head... I could taste the peppers, the onions, the melted cheese.... the coffee.... PUSH! another gust drops my speed into the 8 MPH zone.... push!!! back up to a comfortable 10 MPH again. Finally we reached Beverly, MO. and I pulled off to find a building, a signpost, ANYTHING to empty the bladder. This was stupid. Torture.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH......

Better. Back on the bike.

As if the wind wasn't bad enough, as soon as we reached the face of another bluff to block the wind, the hills started up again. We would have to climb 250 feet up to State Route JJ in the next mile, not to mention another 2 miles of climbing just to get to Weston itself. Noah holds the quote of the day... "why does everything around here have to be so freaking STEEP???" I dunno... I'm the moron that decided THIS would be a good permanent route. Ugh. Something nice and flat sounded really good right now. Finally, FINALLY, we reached the Weston Cafe - nicely nestled at the bottom of a HUGE hill, which we'd curse after lunch. Until then, however, we had made it, with 14 minutes to spare. Granted, last month I'd have a pretty rough time of things, and I honestly didn't want to cut things so close again - but today, the hills, the wind, it was hard to avoid. We got our cards signed, got our receipts, and THEN sat down to eat something. The clock was ticking... but I wasn't going to just rush back out of Weston after all that slog. FOOD. FOOD. FOOD.



A grilled swiss cheese and fries, two cups of coffee and some water later - man, I was feeling good again, but I was also getting those full-body chills from the effort of the morning -- just like my body was letting go of something that had been building up for the last 64 miles. The coffee here, I just can't describe how good it is. It's definitely small-town diner, and they've gotten new coffee cups since the last time I was here - but the flavor is the same; full, rich, mmmm-mmm good. The sandwich is awesome, the fries awesome --- man, everything was good - even the strawberry jelly packets I was treating like energy gels. Sluuuuurp! Ahhhhhh... Look on, mortals. Look on. Noah is decidedly less droid-looking than I am, but we're clearly both cyclists - and the stares are there. In my REALLY bright yellow jacket, smelling of wool and chain lube, fancy tights and shoe covers -- I was lookin' GOOD. That's right ladies: couple of hot guys in the corner. Holla. Actually our waitress was pretty nice, not too bad lookin', didn't give us a hard time - it was a nice meal, and a good experience. Considering last time I was up here, the place was practically empty (because it was a Friday morning) - today it was chock full of antiquers from all parts of the midwest, which I found amusing. Heck, even Santa Claus stopped and said "hi" and asked a few questions about our bikes and lights. And, of course, Weston the Cat was there, too. He seemed to remember me. Nice cat. I like Weston -- but I like the locals more than that touristy aspect of it: but anything to keep a little town like that going, I'm okay with - lest it go the way of Holliday.

After finishing our hearty meal, we depart - roughly an hour after arriving, it seemed. It's easy to kill time in that restaurant, but we really needed the rest. After coming back out, the rest was officially over at the first hill leading out of town. Freaking crazy -- not even gonna wonder too long how people get around here in the winter. EVERY road thru town has a nasty grade. We're out of Weston, finally, amid a flurry of traffic that would make Oak Park Mall jealous. My favorite. Rampant shoppers behind the wheels of SUVs. Most from out of town. Florida tags, Nebraska tags, Ohio, Illinois, etc. - "great" drivers. Maybe I WILL ride this ride on a weekday again. Yeesh. After getting free of town, I stop to delayer a little. The tailwind is feeling nice already, and the sun is out - yeah, it's only 42 degrees, but it feels NICE out here. Stuff comes off. Feels good!

Finally, we get a little repayment on our slog towards Weston. Back on MO-45, the long downhills await, and a nice long flat back towards the 45-Spur leading back to the big blue bridge. This is where the fun began, one of the only fun parts of the day, really, from a riding perspective. Noah and I pushed the gears, bombed down the hills at top speed, and cruised along at 23 MPH on the flats. Passing thru Beverly in a flash, we're back on the part of the road that was such a pain with the headwind, but the tables were turned -- and a little treat was making it's way up the railroad tracks on our right. A fully loaded coal train, lumbering along at about ... hey, cool... about 23-24 MPH.... taking point, I began to lift the pace. Enough dawdling, it was time to make up some clock and chase me down some train! Goal? Get to the crossing at 45 spur before the end of the train did.... GAME ON! I lifted, and managed to get up to about 27, managing to hold it in the stiff tailwind. This was AWESOME... not too hard, but not easy either... I knew I had to save something for the coming hills, but it felt like this ride was finally turning around, as I was sure Noah was right behind me, enjoying things as well. I managed to check off three rail cars.... almost four..... and I can see the crossing ahead, with a line of cars waiting. I might make this! Ugh... then I hear the engine inside the pusher locomotive start to spool up, and then the clack-clack of the wheels over the rail joints begins to increase. Time to work! Alas, the tank was almost dry again... all of the slog had definitely taken some of the gas out of my reserves, and right when the road began to roll upwards JUST a smidge. Soon, the engine came into another throttle notch, and I could hear the pusher getting closer even as I had the intersection and grade crossing in sight... I at least wanted to try and get there before the crossing gates began to lift, that would count, right? But it was not to be -- SNAP! My cadence broke, and my speed dropped -- whooof, there he goes! No matter what the advantage, you just can't beat 4400+ HP, and that's just the engine at the back of the train! But, I managed to make it to the crossing before the last car that was waiting to cross made it through! Oh well... it was cool to unload and push the mark a little! Heaving breath, I stopped on the other side of the tracks and waited for Noah, whom I dropped in the process of getting so excited.

Together again, we began to ride back up 45-spur, and, unfortunately, back into the wind. Though, with a tree line on the north side of the road, it wasn't too terrible. Still, I would have preferred to have left the last of the wind back in Weston. After what seemed like and eternity, and after trying to once again shield Noah from the gale, I arrived back at MO-92, looking west to the bridge, and looking back for Noah. Things were getting rough back there, I could tell, but he was being a trooper. We joined back up, and proceeded west on 92, hoping to make quick work of the bridge - but Noah announced he was dropping back again to poke along over the grade. That's cool - I'd meet him at the next turn.

Together again, and back on the Kansas side, we began to move back south through Leavenworth, and it was unfortunate that the damage was done -- Noah was having a hard time of things, which stinks. Been there, for sure. Finally, nearing the VA hospital, we talk about it, and he cuts me loose. I gotta tell ya, if it hadn't been for the R-12, I would have just opted to stay with him as long as possible. I hate leaving someone out on the course, like I said before - especially when it's only the two of us. If there were 12-15 riders still behind us, I'd know he'd be in good hands, but in efforts to grow the sport and offer encouragement, I always try to stick with the riders that come along on these. There will always be time for personal sprints and such, but today was supposed to be a group effort. I felt a little guilty there, but Noah was right on the money. If I didn't get moving, I wasn't going to make it back to the QuikTrip store by 3pm. As we're discussing this, it's 2:00pm on the nose. Uhhhh... and without my cue sheet, and not normally having to worry about it, I honestly at that point had no idea how far away the QT store was.... and I had an hour to get XX miles? No matter the distance, it was time to step on it if I was going to capture December's R-12 requirement.

Unfortunately, the information I didn't have would have scared me. The fun-run following the train, and the last few miles of stop and go were taking their toll on me. What I had ahead of me was 16 miles, exactly. In that 16 miles were 20 hills, with a maximum grade of 16% in the last 3 miles, and a total elevation gain of 1375 feet. A nice little ride. I had an hour, and this was mile marker 80 for the day.

The next 16 miles, I worked harder than I probably had in months, maybe years, on a bike. I had my computer screen locked on time of day. I knew the course. I knew what was ahead, and I pushed as hard as I could. Each new hill seemed harder than the last, and each downhill was a study in masterful aerodynamic tuck after slamming the biggest gear I had on the bike to get a running start. I gulped water when I could, I tucked and pushed on the flats -- the LONG, torturous flat along side the railroad tracks. I entered Wyandotte County Lake park, and didn't remember at all how steep those hills were. Grunting in my shortest gear, gasping for air, I pushed. I felt bonk-ish, I felt dizzy at times, and felt like I wanted to puke others. But I pushed. The clock kept ticking by -- time was not going to wait for me to finish this ride. Time didn't care if I had the R-12 or not. It was all me. 2:39pm.... 2:43pm.... I'm finally reaching the end of the hills in the park, but 91st Street and Georgia Road lay ahead... WHY, OH, WHY DID I SPEC GEORGIA ROAD FOR THIS ROUTE???
2:47pm, I'm gasping for breath at the top of 91st Street, and I drop onto Georgia Road, accelerating down the massive grade only to be reminded that coming BACK was harder. The entire course from the VA hospital back to this point trends upwards, gaining more elevation than is lost along the way. I feel it everywhere. The grade is so steep that my front tire skids sideways across the pavement as I grind out the only gear I have left. 2:49pm... "crap.... I'm not gonna make it..." I mutter to myself..."BS, dude, c'mon, man, PUSH, not today -- you're not going to lose this today... DO IT!!!" I let out a groan rolling over the top of the hill, and there is no rest -- just a flat road ahead, I shift and try to push harder... less than a MILE, c'mon!!! MOVE! Inside my bag, my phone rings... I know who it is, and I'm immediately EXTREMELY hopeful that my computer clock matches the clock on Noah's phone, and the clock on the register inside QuikTrip. GO GO GO GO GO !!!! 2:53pm, I round the corner and fly into the QuikTrip parking lot, leap off the bike (something I don't normally do, nor gracefully) and rip into the seatbag getting my perm card and money, dash inside, and thank GAWD there is no line at the register!!! I thrust my hand at the candy rack and come back with a Reeses PB cups 4-pack -- "that it for ya?" "yeah, scan it, please..." I am literally shaking, my legs quivering, my lungs aching, even my arms are weak. MY receipt reads 2:54pm. SIX MINUTES TO SPARE. Holy........ I then apologize to the clerk for my rush, as he remembers me from the morning, hours earlier. It's all good, and realizing where I had come from and what time it was now, even though I had pushed the mark closer than I'd ever done, he was still impressed, dumb-founded that someone could have ridden a bicycle from there, to Weston, and back, in 7 hours including stops. I felt completely destroyed, inhaling the PB cups after calling back Noah and just about bursting into hysterics. Okay, seriously, dude... can we stop seeing how closely we can push the time limits??? PLEASE???!!?!!?

I collapse to the sidewalk and inhale the peanut butter cups, and they taste OH, SO GOOD.

I doesn't really get any more exciting than that, so the rest of the ride isn't really worth a mention, in my opinion.
After a fifteen minute rest at QuikTrip, and MORE food that just those Reeses cups, I mounted back up and traversed 86th Street Southbound, again, steeper on the return that on the outbound. The route seems to stack up that way, overall -- it's worse on the way back. You have to climb Renner's biggest hills coming south from Holliday Drive, then coming from creek-level all the way up to pass underneath Shawnee Mission Parkway, and finally crawling up over I-435 near Midland Drive. All steeper than the opposing grades on the way out. As if fatigue wasn't enough, I've managed to create a route that is harder on the return, and every passing mile I was glad I was still inside the time check. All I had to do was get back to Olathe's 7-Eleven by 6:28pm, and I was good. Darkness came as I made it to Johnson Drive and Renner, and I caught green lights at 119th and 127th streets after making it back past Bass Pro. The home stretch, fresh pavement on Ridgeview south of Santa Fe, and smooth sailing back to 151st and Murlen, where I enjoyed a chocolate milk, getting my final receipt at 5:57pm. A nice, comfortable 30 minutes to spare this time... better. But it's time to hit the house, and I poke it home with chocolate milk in the bottles, and my MP3 player blasting a Kings of Leon tune into the open air. December is done.

Thanks for reading...

The goal for January, get to a control TOO EARLY.
I know how lucky I got, make no mistake --- even something so much as a missed shift would have knocked a hole in my pace. A flat? That would have been disastrous. A fall, a slip, a dog, ANYTHING could have taken those six minutes back from me. Next time, no more risks! I can still be nice, but Noah was right -- I had way too much riding on this, he had a route sheet and a cell phone. Just go, don't look back!
It's nothing personal. It's my own fault for waiting too long to jump - but, you know, things worked out. I either finished, or I didn't - and finishing is everything.

December 6, 2008

December is in the bag...one to go!

succcccess!!! what a day! What a WINDY day!! Epic tale coming soon....lots to tell. December is complete. I sleep now. ONE LEFT...... eyes turning to Texas? Or brave what Kansas might hold? stay tuned...ride report coming in couple days....

December 5, 2008

Maiden voyage to job#1 on the Snowbeast

First long commute on the Crudwell, Snowbeast, whatever you wanna call it.
Wow. First off, 22 miles on a 48 inch gear with a max speed at 100 RPM of about 13.5 MPH…. yikes.
That’s a lot of spinning. But, it’s very low intensity spinning, which is nice for recovery – and having some semblance of an “off season”, so I’m sticking with it. After all, with traffic lights and such, it’s only turning out to be a touch slower than when I commute on the regular bike with gears. It’s all about consistency, and the only real bummer is the inability to REALLY enjoy a tailwind and gear up for some speed.

Couple of things that ABSOLUTELY need to be changed, however: flat, straight bars, are for short distance off road use… at least from my perspective. You all know from reading here how long I can stay on a bicycle. The flat mountain bike bars on this steed are a killer. After only about 7 miles, I was experiencing the same hand numbness as I started to feel on day two of the 600K. Yeah, really. One position, no options, and my wrists at the wrong angle… those flat bars HAVE to go. I should be able to procure a set of road drop bars this weekend, and that will take care of that issue. Yeah, it will look a little odd…. But I don’t care: it’s a commuter, not a pure-bred mountain bike, and I don’t really plan on doing anything offroad. If I DO, well, way back in the early 80’s, all mountain bikes had drop bars anyways, right? Just look up some old Ned Overend photos, and there you have it… so, I’m not making a hybrid, I’m a revisionist. Yeah. Whatever.

The saddle… in fine beater-maker tradition, the saddle I’m running was a dumpster-pull. I cleaned it up, verified it was in one piece and ride-able, and had the local Rabbi re-certify it as Kosher. But it’s freaking uncomfortable. I hearken back to when the Warbird was saddle shopping in the early days of our first Ms-150 run, and he stumbled upon a Selle Italia Gel saddle… in fact, actually, now that I recall things, I think it was stock on the Trek 2100 he’d bought… anyways, it was, as most stock saddles are, utter crap. It had this HUGE bulge of “genuine gel” in the center of the saddle – which was supposed to provide damping, but instead made it feel like you had a gel-covered rock shoved up into your perineum. Trash. The Selle Italia Trans-Am came into play, and changed everything. I followed suit, and I’ve been riding the same saddle ever since. Brooks, flex-wing this and that, Carbon whatever – I have yet to find ANY saddle that is as comfy and durable for ANY price. If anyone mentions “Selle Anatomica”, I’ll have to beat you senseless, after I point you to Ort of Texas’ blog. Trash. Horrid customer service. I digress.

I think once the initial “this is as fast as I’m going to go” realization hits home, this will be a productive winter of commuting. Already, even though I took today off to rest up for tomorrows 203km ride, I feel acclimated to the cold – it was 12 degrees when I stepped out of the garage this AM, and it really didn’t feel that bad.

More to come – most likely the RUSA ride report for this weekend’s fun!

December 3, 2008

T-Minus 48 hours

It's fast approching the weekend, and another permanent cometh. This time, I feel a sort of vindication....well, sorta. I've not made any giant weight changes yet, but I do feel more prepared for this one than I did the November edition. This time I've got Carboplex in my corner, and a bit more focus on a long-term goal (more on that in future posts). For now, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the R-12 run, number 1. While I will likely take 2009 off from a second R-12 attempt to focus on speed at shorter distances, I can see myself using the R-12 as a great way to ramp up for bigger things and bigger goals, like a big 1200km grand randonee, for example. But, for me, for '09, after the spring brevet series I plan to focus on shorter rides and an attempt to get some speed back. For now, the focus is on the weekend. I'm excited to spend some miles with Noah again - he's coming along for the day - and it will be good to see this route again. Scenic, interesting, it should keep my mind off the chill that will be in the air. It will be less windy, which is welcome news - and so far, dry. But, I'm not too concerned if that changes.

To help my mental game, I've also done something I haven't done for almost two years: I cleaned the Kogswell. Aside from wipe-downs occasionally, the only thing that's kept her clean has been the rain. I used to br a freak in this area, but I've saved that for the Trek and other restoral projects lately. This used to be common brevet-prep, though: a clean bike, for a clean brevet. It's like showing up to an F1 race in a dirty Ferrari....its just part of the routine: arrive clean, get her dirty. Of late, say....November, October, June, May, April, March....I've taken the kogs directly from commuter service directly into permanent and brevet service. No biggie - bikes are meant to be ridden, not cleaned - and the stuff that counts, mechanically, has always been something I attend to regularly anyways. But, this time, for that extra little dose of "good luck" for the coming weekend, I've given her the full cleaning.

It's a pretty bike, if I say so myself -- can't take too much credit for that other than the assembly, but I do like how she looks. It's one of those things, now that it's all clean, new rubber on the front wheel, the flim of almost two years of commuter/brevet duty removed - it's ALMOST like, "man, WHY am I commuting on this thing?" Come springtime, I'm sure I'll be back on it for sure - but for now I have a few months to spend on the beater. By contrast, anything looks pretty sharp by comparison. I haven't ridden a beater this "nice" since "IT", the Univega, way back when.

So, a clean bike, a clean path ahead -- the countdown begins towards another 200+ kilometers of goodness! Bring it!

December 1, 2008

No-Man's Land

THAT friends, is the name of the cardio zone that I've been riding in for over a year now. I've boned up, done the homework for a fair portion of the weekend, broke out the old posts, re-read the old training bibles, busted out the old heart-rate monitor books (next purchase, perhaps?) and have re-educated myself on HOW to get into shape again. Yeah, as opposed to beefing about it for months on end on this blog and to anyone that will listen, it's time to put the science behind the talk.

Today marks day-one of the official "check yo-self, boyeee!" training.

Episode one, the return to the fitness center. You're paying for it - whay aren't you USING it? Yikes. I once found out much the hard way that unless you are a fully conditioned elite athlete, it's quite difficult to control one's heartrate on a bicycle ride. Yeah, you can find that perfect stretch of flat road where only wind resistance and effort dictate the output of your cardiac muscle, but around here those are hard to come by (yes, even for Kansas). Once upon a time I wore a heart-rate monitor (HRM) for a few rides, and found more often than not that staying in the fat-burning range was nearly impossible for any extended period. I set the target range once for 65-75% of maximum, and at the end of a three hour ride I found myself "in-zone" for a whopping 18 minutes. Good job. :)
It's harder than it sounds -- at least it WAS.

So, cut to today, I have learned from that experience and decided to maximize the most of my training -- QUALITY, not quantity -- and that means HRM training inside the walls of the gym. This isn't a bad thing, considering the snow has already come to the area, so it's a good excuse to stay inside where its warmer and drier. First stop, a quick warmup on the exercise bike. I hate exercise bikes....unless you can bring your own saddle, which you can't here. Still, I tollerate it, juse to get a baseline. The goal today, try to get into the fat burning recommended zone of 65% of maximum, which the computer says for me (based on age) is 120 BPM. Easy enough. But, to say that my body is used to cycling, and perhaps it's not as effective on me as it used to be, that's an understatement. It took five minutes just to get UP to 120 BPM, and I was spinning like mad to keep it there. It's hard to tell, without wind resistance and rolling resistance - but it seemed like a lot more effort that I normally put into riding (on a flat). Yeah, if there had been hills involved, PING - I woulda been right up there pretty fast. But, on the stationary bike, no wind, no road -- MAN, it was like stirring a bowl full of air. Maddening spinning. The machine keeps telling me that it will adjust resistance to keep me in the zone, but the minor changes I can feel don't seem to do it. Wow.... okay... this explains a few things.

So, I finish out my 20 minute spin-fest on the bike, and move over to what was recommended to me - the total-body elliptical trainer. I've always been a little leery of these contraptions - although I've heard good things about their benefits. The running, and the thoughts of joint damage from running too much while overweight, has me worried. Yeah, the cardio comes up REALLY fast, and stays high - but I always feel like hammered Jello afterwards, and my joints end up being a little sore. I can't risk any damage, seriously -- I'll run on a track again when I get back into the 160 lb. arena. Until then, this thing seems interesting, this elliptical machine. I step on... and it's like skiing, gliding... interesting... OH wait, I can use my arms? Cool... I "turn off" my legs and pull along with my arms... ZING! Heart rate comes up to taget, and beyond.... OK, *NOW* we're starting to see where our strong points and opportunities are. Very cool. So, I can give my legs a rest here, work my upper body in what is something of a rowing machine, curling motion - all while focusing on keeping my heart rate in a fat-burning zone.

What was also interesting - once I got into the heart-rate zone for fat burning, it was hard to stay there --- on the DOWN side. In other words, as soon as I engaged my arms, it shot up 10 BPM. Return to the legs, it would drop. Okay, can you say body imbalance? No WONDER the bike wasn't working anymore! Conditioning? Check. Overall fitness? Errr.... no. This is good data.

Yeah, too many numbers -- we've been here before. I've run the gamut from not having a computer on the bike, to having one of those fancy Polar HRMs with the built-in cyclo-computer, etc. I've found a balance now with the bike - granted for brevets and perms, I need urn-by-turn mileage if for nothing else than confirmation of the route - but HRM on the bike, I'm not going back to that. I'll continue to enjoy the ride, and ride by feel --- but what the numbers in the gym will do will re-program my head to be able to recognize when I'm pushing too hard, and when I'm not pushing hard enough. Gains are needed, and that's the way. I can't keep training in no-man's land, without good recovery, and without gains. I'm just tearing myself down, and my fatigue level lately reflects that. Any idiot can ride 200k... am I riding a SMART 200K? Am I training, or merely surviving it? Am I pushing a pace, or just wallowing in the 15 MPH range.... or the high 13 MPH range??? The lights are coming on.... let this be a lesson to those that would simply pile on the miles and eat like your caloric needs never change. "Training" is sometimes good. It doesn't mean that I have to stop enjoying the rides. Some people's bodies can do this - but mine can't. I have to dig out of the rut or I'll be the most accomplished 235 lb. randonneur in the nation. Don't want that.

Mentally, emotionally, let's talk about food and portion control. While I have my HRM baselines drawn in the gym today, and I have something to start gauging improvements from, let's talk about nutrition. I'm terrible at it. While food has always been a go-to for me with regards to stress and comfort, I managed to successfully put that part of my psyche to bed back in 1997 with a successful Weight Watchers run, and subsequent 100 lb. drop. Since then, stresses in life have been harder than ever, and I think I dealt with a LOT of it - including my father's passing - with food, and - er - drink. I've always enjoyed beer, but I think I've drank more in the past year than ever before. Clearly, just changing up the training game won't fix everything - so I have to get myself straight again in the consumption arena. I don't need as much food if I've become that efficient on the bike, and I don't need to "load" as much. I can still enjoy an occasional brew, but these six-pack weekends need to stop. I've said it before, but it's a real issue. I don't think that I "NEED" it, certainly -- I'm lucid enough to realize that. I'm not self-medicating. But it's a caloric load and a metabolic hit that I need to curb and reserve as a treat for a well-behaved week, or bi-week, or month...if at all. The same way I wouldn't eat a pan of brownies in one sitting, so should it stand that I shouldn't drink my fill just because I "want to". I have to start asking myself what I want MORE. We're talking about more than just cycling -- we're talking about life quality, overall health, also. This transcends the bicycle. If I was doing NOTHING else physically, the way I'm behaving with regards to food and drink are not responsible, ultimately. That is an important component of my problem - and it IS a problem. One could start the whole "life's too short to limit oneself..." argument. Well, I'll give the same answer that I gave myself back in 1997 when I was heavy. "...life will be a LOT shorter if I don't change something." This is the reason otherwise "fit" people drop dead from heart attacks during 5k's and mountain bike rides. It's gotta be the total package for best results. I'm getting too old for sub-par results.

So, I don't have any witty close to this whole discussion -- only that this is one step, realization, in a long path back towards what I ultimately deserve and want. I deserve to be healthy. I deserve to be successful. My kids deserve a healthy father, as my wife deserves a healthy and happy mate. It's finally time to wake up again, and start doing my part. I'm worth the effort.

November 29, 2008

Reality

It's not just an illusion - I've undergone a lot of changes. The last two years have been hard on me, clearly -- and it's time for changes - big changes.

Summer 2003:









Spring 2006:









Summer 2008:









NO more games.
The winter weight challenge begins tomorrow AM.
Strong or not, I'm seeing shadows of my wedding pictures, and I'm not likin' it.
More to come...

November 28, 2008

Dark Side Ride III - Remembering the last summer nights

Recalled from the mental archives - this ride took place October 25th.

Or, early fall nights, perhaps.
As sure as Orion was rising on the eastern horizon at the end of the ride, somewhere close to midnight on 175th Street near Lone Elm, I knew that this was the last time that such a nice evening ride was going to be possible. Only a few hours later, the wind would shift, the clouds would come in, and the temperatures would drop. Looking into the crystal eastern sky that night, it was like saying hello to an old friend, in Orion, and saying a quiet farewell to summer, all at once.

Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the best of times for our tandem riders that night - struggling with their third flat of the evening on a troublesome rear wheel (still not sure what the prognosis ended up being on that). Terri and Dave are troopers, though -- forgive me if I botched the names! They continued to be in good spirits even after finally catching up to us at Lone Elm. We had made the best of the situation: good riders, good conversation, and a lot of good tips exchanges on tubes, theory on tire mounting, pump use, inflator choices, etc. It really was an interesting time for everyone there.

Earlier in the evening, I was pretty happy to see all the people show up. There was Badgerland, Noah, at least three Dave's, ugh -- forgive me, guys and gals: it's been over a month: it's surprising I remembered that I'd forgotten to post about this ride! I remember faces, that's for sure, and something about Nine-Toes.

** stepping out for a second, after re-reading Noah's post on this ride - it was a ride of double names... we could almost call this Dark Side Ride the "Evil Twin" edition: Randy (nine-toes), Randy (Nine-toes friend), Mike, Mike, Badgerland, Me, Noah, Dave, and finally Dave and Terri on the tandem. Say it with me now... oh, there's... Randy Randy, Mike Mike, Dave Dave, Terri, Noah, Badger.... la, la, la, la.... *** Back to the tale as I recalled it:

We met up at the new Price Chopper, 159th and MurLen. Coffee is a fine tradition on these night rides, and so I ran inside and got myself a big peppermint mocha for the occasion. Noah arrived in style with a full thermos of Roasterie Nitro coffee --- FAN-tastic stuff. There was a slight chill in the air - but not too bad: perfect coffee sipping weather however, and I was enjoying nearly every drop of brew. You know, I call myself a commuter - but really, if you are looking for quality advice and a REAL day-to-day commentary on commuting, Noah is your man on the street - check out his blog, here. That's the second time I've linked to his page, for a reason: always a good read, and very consistently posted. I'm a little scattered, and really most of my posting has taken a real randonneuring slant of late. I look at a lot of Noah's posts and I get a sense of nostalgia for those first couple of years when I started commuting -- a lot of that stuff is still buried on this page, way back in the archives, but it's always good to get more than one approach to commuting. There is no one-size solution, and I've even been asking him for advice on a few topics lately. Let me tell you, Olathe to Overland Park is one thing - but he's doing the Lenexa to KCMO grind -- that's a different commute, lemme tell ya. If you don't find what you're looking for here, pay his page a visit, fo sho. One of the reasons I mention this at all was because of the thought that pops into my head every time I see Noah at a ride -- there is NO-ONE I've met that USES their rear rack to the fullest like this guy. On a summertime Night Ride, I think last year, he showed up with a 2-liter full of ice water to supply us along the way. This time, a full thermos of coffee. Panniers, etc. - this guy knows how to live from the saddle. My panniers usually stay home for these rides - but why? Sometimes its just nice to have some stuff along! Why not?

Anyways, back at the Price Chopper parking lot one by one the riders show up - a quick discussion about the route, which would later prove nearly useless, and we're off. We head south on MurLen; for the first time in a long time it's actually open to traffic. The long downhill and semi-gravel pavement are gone now, replaced by a gentle curve in the road that sweeps around some topography and passes near a new school. Later, a new bridge replaces the old one-lane potholed bridge that I'd stuck my foot into way back in March on R-12, pt.2 - I kinda miss the quaint rural feel of it, but I won't miss the death-defying descents into the unknown that dip always provided. The semi-steep uphill is now graded out more gently, the bane of nearly every road around here in the last decade, it seems. Nothing interesting anymore, all graded flatter, smoother. Sometimes, in the dark corners of my mind, I even miss the drop-into-hell that was Mission Road at between 151st and 159th Streets. While that is still a grunter of a hill, it's not as bad as it used to be! Murlen falls to the transit's beam, and is made tame for humanity. Ugh. So be it - it's still a hill that will make you shift.

From there, we slide over to Ridgeview Road - the first re-route since I keep forgetting that not everyone on a bicycle appreciates gravel roads in the dark! Opps. So much for the easy rectangle shape of the route! Ridgeview is okay, though, another rural-esqe road that hasn't quite caught up to the rest of Johnson County quite yet. Next stop, 183rd Street, passing the Ensor Farm and approaching the railroad tracks, and the first train of the evening! A long freight rumbles by as we stop at Woodland to pick up two more riders. Nine-toes is there, making it across before the train arrives - and his buddy is on the other side of the train, HID headlight blazing between the passing railcars. Time for another re-route, dude! Woodland has been freshly bouldered-up with new gravel, and again: you can't ask the 23c crowd to smile along trying to navigate THAT junk in the dark. Not a good idea! This is the punishment the REST of the riders have to suffer through because of my hasty planning, having thrown this route together only two days before in a panic. It's always best to have a route in mind BEFORE announcing the ride! Ugh. Knowing they'd be caught, the tandem decides to take off back for Ridgeview while the rest of us wait out the last of the freight train and out last rider.

All as a big group again, we begin to head back towards Ridgeview to catch the tandem, light blazing, taillights flashing happily into the night air. It's a touch chilly, but not bad -- but the extended stop at Woodland makes me pull my windvest's zipper higher once we begin to roll again.

This is the best part of the ride -- pace comes up, groups form a bit, and conversations begin to flow. Introductions are made - introductions that, while some have trouble with names (like me), seem to stick. I don't know if it's the rampant passion I have for cycling that makes my brain especially conducive to recording nearly everything that goes on, but I can recall verbatim conversations, smells, the bikes I saw, what the pavement looked and felt like, from rides dating back nearly ten years now --- simply re-reading a blog post takes me back, and other times I don't even need the written words. I can transport myself back, and I remember nearly everyone I've spoken to along the miles. Sometimes I can't even remember what happened in the last staff meeting at work, but I know what kind of water bottle so-and-so was using on that one ride in June 2002. I don't know if it's like that for everyone, but there is something about cycling and my brain that just clicks. They say that a bad day on the bike is still better than a good day anywhere else - and I believe it. I hear introductions being made in front of me and behind me, and I wonder if those riding along have the same feelings that I do at those moments.

We arrive at 199th Street, and another Dave - we'll call him Trek 5900 Dave (ok, that's kinda long) Or was it a Madone 5.2? I can't keep up. Anyways, Dave and me chatted it up about RUSA, long-distance riding in general, etc., as he was unfamiliar with the oft-touted "article 10" of the RUSA rules - which are specifically about nighttime riding. We talked about brevets, permanents, and the R-12. We talked about lights, reflective gear, and he regaled me with tales of the "old days" in Iowa when the object of the game was NOT to be seen at all when riding of commuting. Man, I sort of remember a time like that up here - riding home at night without any lights at all! It's remarkable how the sport has evolved, but the consensus remained that rural Iowa will probably always be rural Iowa, unfortunately, with regards to bicycling. About this time, we were finally crossing US-169 near Spring Hill, onto the "other" 199th Street, towards Gardner, KS. It was at about this time that folks would begin to get frisky. The hills were coming.

I'm not sure if we had a little bit of a tailwind or a headwind, or any wind at all, really, but something began to get ahold of the group. Trek-Dave started to lift up the pace, and the two mountain bikers in the group, Nine-Toes and Friend (still can't remember) began to chase up. Badgerland joined in the fun for a couple miles, and eventually the pack began to spread. This was new territory for me - riding solo for so long, not having anyone to chase, I started to wonder if I could do it - catch Dave? Even only a few days ago, my doctor and I had begun talking about a rebuilding plan, how to get back to form, and why cycling had "stopped working". I needed to take things up a notch. I began to forget I was on a leisurely group ride, one that I'd organized. All I could focus on was Dave's fading taillight. I drafted for a few minutes, then pulled alongside one of the riders that was also chasing (on a mountain bike, I might add, in case you forgot! Fast guys!)

"something got ahold of him..." I said.

"Yup, he's getting harder to catch..."

Still, I was starting to feel that small voice, pushing me a little. Might as well give it a shot -- after all, 199th isn't getting any flatter! With that I began my advance, slowly, surely -- like the diesel I'd become. Certainly not a sling-shot move, but more of a slow crawl up through the RPMs and gears. Yeah, the Kogswell isn't lighting quick anyways - not really what it was designed for, but I have to remind myself constantly that it's NOT about the bike. This bike was underneath me when I pulled for three miles at 24 MPH at last year's MS-150. I can do this. Unfortunately, we're talking about Dave here... and as someone would say later, "if Dave doesn't want to be caught, he's not going to get caught." Understatement.
As if he was watching my every move from a mile up the road, I would sprint up hill - practically into puke-zone, and I'd look up and he'd be just as far away as before. Knowing I was heavier and on a heavier bike, I'd take full advantage of the descents with my falcon-like tuck position and drop like a bomb on the other side of each hill - look up.... and he seemed exactly as far away as before. Whatever I was doing, he was doing it better. MAN ALIVE. Eventually, it was surely a losing battle. My heart rate was up, and so I knew I was doing myself some good -- but over the last few months of doing NOTHING but slow commutes and 200+ kilometer rides, speed work was not faring well. Every other breath (read: sucking in of air) resulted in a frothy whitish hocker on the pavement. It was like cleaning out the air tanks or something. I was reaching to tap my reserves of deep cardio, only to find them essentially full of cobwebs - and it felt weird. No choice - let up before you pass out. But, this is still good work -- the more I poke into this territory, the better I'll be at staying there effectively. But, catching Dave -- not tonight.
I had managed to drop everyone else, but probably because they were actually trying to ENJOY the ride that was supposed to be enjoyable.

Eventually, Dave let up about a mile east of Gardner Road, and we waited -- rather HE waited and I continued to gasp for air -- while the rest of the group caught up from behind. It was neat seeing all the headlights, the mix of HID, LED and halogens, coming up the road towards us, under a canopy of brilliant stars. What a night!

After a regroup, it was time to roll onward towards the first and only control (er, break) on the route, at Edgerton. We managed to get past another couple of big hills, crossed over I-35, and descended into Bull Creek Park knocking on Edgerton's back door, finally crossing over another two sets of railroad tracks before arriving at US-56 highway - just in time for a fast freight stack train to pass behind us at top speed. Thankfully, the trains out this far are cruising fast enough, so we won't be separated from the group for long -- as another split forms along the way.

Finally at Edgerton, it's restroom time, Fig Newton time, and Nitro Coffee time courtesy Noah! Mmmmmmmm, tasty!!! It warms the spirit and speeds away the chills - nice! A touch more than halfway done with the ride, it's soon time to get moving again before the chills catch back up. The thermometer is dropping!

We head back out onto US-56, westbound, towards a road that I hadn't been on in a long time, Edgerton Road. Back in the days of starting a lot of rides at the New Century Air center, this road was a staple of many C'Dude routes over the years - but I must say this is the first time I'd ridden it in reverse after dark. Thankfully, no surprises: it looks like every other road after dark around here. Dark. Taking the place of blinding road glare is warm conversation, this time I'm up front chatting it up with Nine-Toes, a quality guy, racer from what I can gather - a lot faster that he's letting on to be on this ride, that's for sure, simply based on the people he knows and rides with. We find out we have a mutual friend that works at the bike store with me, which is cool -- small world of cycling! Along the way I'm checking out farm houses, oil derricks squeaking in the night air, and dogs in the distance - even a plane passing overhead and a lonely train horn way off in the distance, possibly the same one we had pass us earlier, based on the pitch. Soon, we're at the turn at 175th Street, to head back east to Gardner - but after a few folks look around to count riders we realize we're down a couple folks. Seems like the tandem and Trek-Dave are missing? Uh oh... flat? Mechanical? The rest of us decide to stop up at the municipal airport just up the road a piece, and wait.

The lonely sweep of the airport beacon, and the ghostly glow of our red taillights bouncing on the pavement, plus a slight breeze - that's all that accompanies our conversations as we wait, and wait ... nearly to the point where we start to wonder about riding the route backwards to find out what happened - and then there they are, headlights coming over the last hill. Whew... and came to find out it was a flat, unfortunately, on the tandem -- all good now, however, as we regroup and soldier onward. But, within two miles the tandem signals again that the rear tire has gone soft. Uh, oh.... never a good sign, but a sure sign that either something has pinched, or something that was in the tire before is still there. The difficult part comes after finding nothing in the tire, nothing in the wheel or on the rim strip, not even finding the hole itself to try and patch things; we all offer up spare tubes, and the tandem captain (also Dave?) produces a smartly-carried spare tire, a brand new one. That ought to put THAT issue to bed!
Before long, we're on the road again - and what a solid group, despite the coming chills and the cooling down of muscles, no one is concerned about the clock - we all just hang around until we can ALL ride together again, no worries.

But, it is getting late, and I decide to cut the more scenic old 56 highway section out of this ride, to save about six miles or so. We continue straight through Gardner, down main street, past the Tumbleweed Saloon (nice joint, full of bicycle lovers, apparently.) and onto what I still call the "new bridge" that goes up and over I-35. We pass one of those saloon-goers (alleged) that has been pulled over by the local authori-TIE, pass the Waffle Heezay (which sounds and smells pretty good for some reason!) and on towards 175th Street on the other side of the highway, with the good shoulder. It's still a great night, and traffic is actually mild. I'm enjoying things, and Badgerland, Nine-Toes and friend are advancing up the road, lifting the pace. I've already done my fair share of that action, so I pull out the Phone/MP3 player and put some tunes on the open-air speaker. (I'm still not a fan of cycling with headphones on... but the MP3 players that have a small speaker work nicely. I can hear some music, and if a car approached from the rear I can still hear it, along with anything else around me that might make noise.) The group widens out a little, and everyone seems to be taking their own pace on this last long stretch of open road back towards Olathe. Ahhh.... and there is Orion coming up. What a night - could be a touch warmer, but hey, it really doesn't matter at times like these. With "My Baby" by Big Shark Jackson playing on the shuffle, I'm pedaling along, glad I'd stayed up for this one.

Unfortunately, the tandem wasn't having as stellar of a night; a third flat! Seeing that they weren't coming up behind us, everyone started to stop at Lone Elm -- after all, this is the spot where Nine-Toes and friend said they were going to peel off for home anyways, and we'd even shaken hands already and said our goodbyes, but as they stopped, I felt compelled to also - everyone was looking back up the road, watching for the extremely bright HID lights that the tandem and Trek-Dave had running. We weren't seeing them again.... ugh. Finally, there they were ... whew! At least they were still moving, but upon arrival they announced that technically they were already working on the fourth flat -- a quick repair, and again by the time they reached us at Lone Elm it was going soft again. Nine-Toes offered his truck, and the tandem team accepted, turning us all loose for home - their ride was over. Still, they reiterated how good of a time they'd had, regardless - this was their longest night ride, and despite the flats it was a blast! It was hard to leave them on the roadside like that, but we knew they were in good hands with a ride home only minutes away.

Noah, myself, Badgerland and ... ugh, guy who's name I can't remember in the red and white jersey (Mike?) crud -- we continued east on 175th, arrived at US-169 again, and Noah and I were lucky enough to have been looking slightly upwards as a really bright green streak of a meteor blazed a trail across the sky from south to north. Amazing sight... lucky... Badger and Mike were making good time, but I was getting spent at this point -- tired physically and mentally, a long day and a long night, and a hard chase down attempt earlier, I was ready to be done, that's for sure! Noah and I made our way back to Murlen, north to the Price Chopper, and said our farewells to Badger and Mike, and then we made our separate ways homeward, Noah back to Olathe Medical Center (see his blog for details on that, from his report on this ride) and me back to mi casa. What a night! 1:00AM almost... I can't recall, but it was LATE.

I slept well that night, let me tell ya. Big changes came with the weather only a few hours later, and I woke the next morning to gale-force north winds, plummeting temps, and cloudy skies. What a change... but what luck we found. I couldn't have planned the weather portion better. The route? YEAH, I probably could have worked that out better, but it was still a good time.

Warmer weather, I'm hoping and looking towards 2009 for Dark Side Ride IV.
Always a treat, if you weren't a part of this one, you should consider coming out. It's a rare experience, indeed!

Thanks for checking in...

The first snow is coming to the forecast as I type this up -- it's late, and I can't sleep.... but this coming week may bring the first snow commute and then later, this coming weekend, is the 11th edition of the quest for the R-12 award... stay tuned!