Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

February 29, 2008

Upcoming madness in March

Just putting this out there --- this is the time of year to base build, for you racer-types… and really, it’s beneficial for anyone that likes to ride. It’s a great way to look at things like the MS-150, and KNOW that you have the distance in your legs. It’s great if you are getting ready for a long, multi-day event or tour. It’s good, too, if your only goal is simply to push yourself a little more than the average cyclist does. It’s brevet-time!

This year, the usual stack of brevets starts the with 200K, which begins and ends in Kansas City, KS. – details can be found on the KC Ultra Cycling webpage:

http://kcbrevets.blogspot.com

As you’ll see once you click to it, there is another 200K in April, and the weather might be a little warmer by then, yeah – but also know that second 200K is a lot hillier! The distances go up from there, if you find the 200K level challenging, and find yourself wondering – like I did many years back – “what’s next? Can I go FARTHER?”

So, come on out! Check the webpage for details, RULES, and sign-up. It’s a couple weeks away, and this first one is definitely relaxed, slow paced, and for the scenery and for the thrill of getting some miles in early in the season.

Also note, that you don’t HAVE to follow the schedule now --- while I HIGHLY recommend the higher attendance and superbly well-run events that Bob B., our RBA, puts on, there are other events that you can choose your ride-date on, called Permanents – I have been working on a route all winter, and finally got it approved with the RUSA folks – you’ll find information about it on that website as well – if you are interested in riding it, let me know, or contact our permanents coordinator, Spencer K.

Either way, consider this your official friendly invite to come out and explore with me and others what life is like on the other side of the Century mark! Cheers!

It’s a trip…. It’s got a funky beat… and I can bug out to it!

February 27, 2008

March cometh...

Let the bells ring…. MARCH is coming!
Quickly to follow, daylight savings time! Thank goodness …. Standard time is for chumps.

Tomorrow, it’s time to get started again – a long layoff from the bike, partly due to weather, partly due to the Texas 200K from a couple weeks back. Ok, mostly due to the weather not cooperating. As I was reminded by a friend from St.Joe recently – whom also finished the Arrowhead 135 this year, I should mention – the sloppiness of the roads is relative. I haven’t done too much this year to fill up the “I’ve-had-worse” folder – in fact, this is the first year that I’ve ever traveled to a warmer clime to get an early brevet in – even tho most of that was to see a friend, it should be noted that I didn’t exactly leap back into the saddle once I arrived home! This winter, as the news tells me, has been one of the sloppiest, wettest ones in over a decade, so I suppose we were due for it – but I didn’t use much of it as an opportunity to honor my north-of-the-Arctic-Circle heritage.
I’ve been playing it safe, I suppose -- nothing wakes you up in the morning like a near-miss with black ice and a trash truck! Ah, yes – there was that one morning, dressed in Bantha skins I took to the streets when it was +9 degrees, but that was a one-shot deal. This boy is ready for warmth.

I’m done with cold. Cold is dumb.

So, basking in the RELATIVE warmth of 40 degrees today, I feel pretty good, but I’m not sure if I’m just gonna wait until March actually begins, or start immediately getting back to the business of re-earning my moniker of “CommuterDude”. It’s a heavy weight, sometimes, knowing in the back of my head that I have NOT commuted to work in a while. There’s a guy – Crowbar – that sits only a few seats down from me that has been commuting, nearly daily – except for really icy mornings where the roads are beyond un-safe. It’s hard to hear him get all the questions and disbelief from co-workers that I used to get – I’m not jealous, mind you, it’s just interesting that only a few years ago that was me, and the last couple of years I’ve been full of excuses and stuff. I’ll get it back. I need to get it back – gas is just ridiculous. It’s solidly over $3.00 a gallon now for weeks, and it’s stupid. I honestly don’t know, however, where people will learn to stop – the demand is higher than ever, it seems. It’s just not going to stop until it’s 1973 all over again, and pumps start actually running out of fuel to give. That will be an interesting day, I tell you.

Man, I’m rattling here, aren’t I? I look to this weekend, and the promise of a flirt with 60ºF, and I start to look at the ride calendar and find it hopelessly bleak-looking. None of the regular weekend rides will probably start up until later in March, maybe April even. There are the usual faves like Longview, and I may just have to head east. That’s always a good one. There is a new local one in Olathe, the Bike America Ride from the new Bike America location at Santa Fe and Clairborne, but I haven’t been able to contact the ride organizer for a while now, which makes me wonder about it. Whatever I decide upon, it’s clear: the road is calling – I have had the bug for a couple weeks now, since returning from Texas, and the weather & my schedule have just not been meeting up. The first 200K of the KCUC season is on March 8th, and even though I already have a 200K in my legs this year I still feel like it’s probably a good idea to maybe get some spinning in – duh. I’m actually shocked how LITTLE the Texas ride affected me, after the fact. Yeah, it was hard to get thru, but perhaps the fitness center time and such has really paid off in ways that I can’t yet SEE on my body, or see on the scale. It wasn’t a speed record, no – but I had almost no post-ride fatigue like I would have expected from so much time OFF the bike before such distance. Not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, I’m keeping on it, and this cyclist will be leaner and trimmer by this time in 2009, fo-sho.
It feels good, and it’s far better than wallowing in shoulda’s and Twinkies; that version of the ‘Dude, which has been hanging around these pages for about 8 months, is dead.

Time to get on with business again! Fun! Rides! LIFE!

I feel charged up --- and I’m really ready to ditch February:
Bronchitis, strep throat, stomach flu (twice), snot, headaches, sinus problems: This February, the hardest month for anyone in this part of the country to get through, was especially hard this year. MAN, I’m ready to feel better, and for my family to feel better!
It’s been ROUGH! Finally, we are all well – or at least on the mend here… I have the last touches of a stomach thing that is finally letting go. Just in time. Man, I love vitamin C…. sometimes, it’s just not enough. Freakin’ public school system… germ-pool, more like. ANYways…. No-one’s fault – it’s sick season, and I’m ready for that to be OVER.

I have my 217km RUSA-sanctioned permanent route approved and posted now, also, and that feels good – after Bob’s brevet season wraps up, I am considering using it to keep the gander up when time permits – helping that, Bob’s got a few other 200K’s off in the distance summertime, which is new – and VERY welcome, and I’m excited about that as well. I think that I’ll be sticking it in town this year, so it’s nice to have a good calendar of rides coming up, plus all the usual local favorites that are always a treat.

I might also…. Hmmmm….. well, maybe….. I haven’t decided yet….
Nice teaser, eh? Crud, I don’t know --- this is very much gonna be a fly-by-the-seat year, just have fun, and ride lots. That’s my 2008 motto.

If it isn’t fun, don’t do it… and if it IS fun, by all means, enjoy it like it’s your LAST ride, because that’s how life should be lived. Smile, sing, laugh, and pedal hard when you can – revel in the hard times, because they are defining, but always remember that when the hard times come, it can’t be THAT bad…because you’re still on a bicycle.
Ahhhh… the open road CALLS! Bring the spring rains, wash clean the sand and salt of winter! Bring the shorts and throw away the heavy jackets! Ahhhh……

Dude, WHO ELSE IS READY FOR SPRING?!?! Bring it on! J J J

February 21, 2008

Song of the Week - 2/21/2008

Pink Floyd - Fearless

Talking OLD Pink, here... from the Meddle LP, 1971.
The tune is fantastic, the recording magical and near perfect, and the sense of triumph it envokes at high volume is magnificent.
I find it especially appropriate, for those that get lost in the music like I do, to also post the lyrics. Not written for cycling, but certainly appropriate for it. Find it, listen. If you're lucky enough to have the LP, dust it off and give it a spin. On this cold Kansas night, I have visions... and I wait for spring to challenge me.
Lyrics... credited to Roger Waters and David Gilmour:
You say the hill's too steep to climb
Just climb it
You say you'd like to see me try
Climbing
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb
The hill in my own way
Just wait a while for the right day
And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
I look down
Hear the sound of the things you said today
Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd
Smiling
Merciless, the magistrate turns 'round
Frowning
And who's the fool who wears the crown?
And go down in your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down
Hear the sound of the faces in the crowd....

February 11, 2008

R-12 pt.1 -- Third Time's the Charm

Welp, I finished the Texas 210km ride Saturday! Explaining the title, after two DNF's in the Lone Star state - both at the Tejas 500 - I finally officially finish a ride in Texas! Yeah, it's about 1/4 the distance of Tejas, so the curse of the 500 isn't totally lifted -- but, that only means that I have to train four times harder than normal to finish (well) at Tejas 500. Will I try again this year? No. I'm taking the year off from really nasty, big goals -- and per previous post information you may already have read on this blog, you wouldn't know about it even if I was -- so there. :) Nice try, tho.

More details to come later tonite (2/11) as I settle in behind the keyboard and recall some of the finer points of one of the toughest 200K's I've ever ridden. There is something about Texas, me, and riding. Let's get to it...

First off, let me say that the randonneuring spirit in Texas is as big as everything else in the state. One of the most popular rides here in the metro KC area is over at Longview Lake, a recreational club ride, and one of my favorites. Often times during the peak summer months, Saturday morning will see about 55+ people attending for one of three loops of up to 38 miles. It's a great time, and a lot of people to ride with from all levels.

Saturday morning, the ride start temperature was a cold-for-Texas 40 degrees, and there were at least SIXTY people lined up for either of three distances offered that day, 200, 300 and 400 kilometers. Most of the riders were signed up for the 400K. REALLY. I was shocked... it was like July at Longview Lake. Absolutely crazy.

I say that it was cold-for-Texas, because they just aren't used to temps like these, even though the daytime high was forecast for the lower 70's, it was just a chilly morning, and there was a lot of cold weather gear, seriously, like balaclavas and lobster gloves for the conditions - which just made me smile to myself. I finally pulled out the balaclava a couple weeks ago when I rode to work when it was 9 above F in the morning. 40 degrees for a start temp was almost a heat wave for me! In fact, the temp in Olathe at the time was about twelve degrees, so I was just happy as a clam to be in Texas. There were some hearty souls that apparently only looked at the daytime high temps, and dressed for the future. One gent was dressed in a short sleeve jersey, arm warmers and shorts - and that was it, no ear protection, no gloves. He was visibly shivering, and complaining openly. Interesting. Sometimes I wonder, honestly, and I risk getting flamed badly if this guy happens to read this post - but man, this same guy was on a jet-black 2008 Trek Madone 5.9 with full D/A, a seat bag the size of a film cannister, one water bottle, and proceeded to outwardly panic when the ride organizer announced that for the 400K - which he was riding - you would need two post-cards to mail from the two unmanned controls. He freaked out –

"what's a postcard? A postcard? What does she mean?" He wasn't kidding. He grabbed his brevet card out of one of his back pockets, and motioned to it. "Is THIS a postcard, you mean I need two of these? Why do I need two of these?" He had a glassy, wide-eyed expression on his face as he scanned the crowd around him for some sort of validation. I was speechless. So were many of the dozen or so folks looking on with me. Uhhhhh.....dude? I mean, he looked older, fairly intell.... nevermind, he's riding an all-carbon Madone with 20c tires for a 400K. Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing a light on his front end, either. I was a little confused, personally. He got the help he needed, but the rest of us were kind of flabbergasted.

"What's a post-card?" quickly became the quote of the day.

Anyhoo... after that little issue blew over, we were off into the early morning light. Ort and I paired up, as it would stay for the day, for a day of good base building. I was looking forward to the practically flat course, the promise of a tailwind in both directions, and some sunshine. The massive pack set off, and the speeds were nice and moderate in the 15-18 MPH range, as promised. It wouldn't last.

There is something about the pack, the BIG pack... it happens at Longview Lake every weekend. Invariably, someone goes off the front, even if by only a few meters. We reel him back, instinctively. It happens again, the speed comes up a little more. Again. A little more speed. Before anyone knows it, the conversation has stopped and the entire world is going 25 MPH blowing sports drink all over themselves and gasping for more oxygen. Today, especially in the rando crowd, it happened a little slower, but ended up the same way. My base-building promises were eclipsed by the fact that after 9 miles or so, I realized that I was hanging out with Ort in the second group that was all pacing off one of the two tandems in attendance. I look down at my speed, and it's 26. What the...? Typical. Dude, slow down! About the time that Ort and I said out-loud that "we are going WAY too fast.", and "my goal is only 15 MPH average today, man.", someone with a racing background and legs to match was off the left, off the front, and up the road. Some chased. The tandem Captain shifted gears, the pack answered, and the pace went up again. Did Ort and I stay back? Nooooooooooooo, of course not!!! WHA-BAM!!! We shifted and slugged it out on the next "climb", catching the suspect -- who wasn't even winded. He was riding within HIS pace, what was OUR problem? Idiot-boy lives on -- I was primed for action. No serious riding for months, no base mileage -- yeah, let's drive to Texas and have an anaerobic adventure and blow choad on the shoulder, man! Treat!



This repeated for a while, and I was surprised to learn that all of this winter so far wasn't a complete waste. Yeah, I didn't have much road-time, but the fitness center really helped, and while my technique was rusty and my spin a little square, I was keeping up and staying in fairly reasonable cardio territory. But, then, the pinnacle "attack" came, the tandem was flying, the ex-racer was chasing, so I chased him along with three other more-than-worthy Texans, and proceeded to blow myself up about a mile later. Ort catches up and congratulated me on getting it out of my system, which is code for "have you found out how stupid you're being, yet?"
I smiled to myself, mainly because I couldn't talk yet. Yikes. Ok, on to the business of --- oh yeah... base building. Doofus.

We paired up again, the faster bunch reformed and proceeded safely out of striking distance. One other guy joined up with us for a draft, and we three started to make our way along at 15-18 MPH, as promised. Perfect!

Of course, the nasty notion of defeat often creeps up, and then one starts to self-guess, wonder. Beyond all reasonable notions of good training, nutrition, virtue and self-control, the questions come up. "You know, we can try and bridge if you want to..." gets muttered. Gear levers are felt up, and eventually shifted... heads lower...the pace is lifted out of the basement.....

KILL!!!!!

I don't know if I'll ever grow up and just be a nice, controlled rider. Man, that paceline up there about a half-mile looks awwwww-ful tasty..... LETS GET EM!

Ort and I, and the guy following us, began to try and reel in the pack that was ahead of us. I went first, punched out a wicked 27 MPH on the flat... which I held for a paltry minute or so before I started to slow down to about 22MPH, and then 21.... the Ort passed me, clearly showing that he's ridden a few of these lately (this ride marked the FINAL 200K he needed to complete his R-12 goal, so his last 200K was less than a month prior, and he's getting faster all the time.) Finally, the third guy in line passes me up, and they pair up and begin to really make progress closing the gap to the next group. I was out on my own, but gutted out a now-consistent 22 MPH pace, head down into the slight headwind, and making up ground on the slow-n-steady train. Showing my Ullrich, as it were.

Finally, I bridge... but my intent is to get to the front of the line, and as a bonus, I see a stop sign coming up --- attack! I stand out of the saddle, and sprint for it - and make it to the stopsign before the rest of the group. Big deal.... Yeay, me! I get a "good job" from Ort, and a buncha confused looks from the rest of the group -- after all, dude, this ain't a club ride, so chill out. These rando guys down here in Texas are fast by design and exposure, not to make some kind of point. Like, I come from Kansas to conquer your brevet! Silly Viking notions. Go pillage somewhere else, Kansan.

Back to business, after having lit my last match on that grand little stop sign stunt, I was finally ready for some solid base-building.... errr, damage control and limping? Ort, again showing that he was as much a part of the Texas rando vibe as he'd just proven by bridging and still being able to think coherently, was sticking with the paceline after the turn. I was all smiles at my conquest, and I would get to enjoy the glory like most great warriors with minimal brain-power do: alone. The group began to - faster than before - advance up the road, along this really big stretch of SR-31. I was utterly alone.... just me, my shiny Trek, and a big wide shoulder, and truck traffic, and thankfully: no one catching me from behind to rub it all in. At least I hadn't slowed down THAT much. I began to sing songs in my head, wonder where in the car I'd left my brain, and why my Sustained Energy cocktail had stopped working. My stomach was hurting a little bit, like - I wish the next control were here right now kinda pain. Awesome! I began to think about things like soda crackers and Pepto Bismol, and watched as the colored jerseys and spinning legs of the pack ahead of me turned into a little tiny caterpillar of color and wiggly motion...smaller, and smaller, and smaller...... Hmmm.

Where am I?

I realized too, that I hadn't looked at the cue sheet at all. Did I HAVE a cue sheet? Ort was gonna stay with me today.... uh oh. Welp, follow the road, and slow down --- someone will catch me, surely.

Just then, Ort began to pull back from the pack he was in.. so the colorful caterpillar up the road began to look more like a millipede that had dropped someone off at the library. Then that little yellow friend began to get bigger.... and bigger... Hey, it’s a guy on a bike! Then the guy on the bike disappeared again, around a bend. I went around the bend, and didn't see him anymore. Great. Uhh.... keep going. It's not like I've never been here before, and I'm in a totally different state or something....

THERE!

The first control. BATHROOM!!!!

20 minutes later, my card was signed, a few layer shed, and fig newtons engaged. My old friends. Tasty. Effective. Good for at least 30 miles in most cases. Time to GET IT ON!

This time, however, Ort and I would indeed stay together. In typical Texas fashion, the run to the first control marks the end of the fun stuff, and the beginning of the "ok, get real: there's xxx amount of miles left, and we have all day to do it" thinking. I was totally ready for some of that, and had been for the past five miles. Ready to roll, we headed out of Dawson, TX., and headed south towards Mexia. Pronouced like muh-HEE-uh, by the way. Nothing says "you don't live here." like butchering a local town name. mecks-i-uh? uh, no, city-boy. I look easy to kill today.

Texas natives can smell foreigners of all flavors.

We cut across the car-wash -- vitally important -- and head back onto the route, as I said before. Riding now was a cozy 15-17 MPH pace, and I was happy to have cleared my gut and gotten some good food into me. I started to drink more, too. I've found that I am basically a one-trick pony: if I'm going to ride fast, I can't hydrate. Too much going on. If I want to hydrate, I have to maintain a slower pace. That way, I remember to do it. Weird. So, from the first 28 miles of speed I was a little short on personal liquids, and began to make it up in earnest. We stopped in Mexia, not a control, but a great rest area. I had more water, some Red Bull (helps the mental game, sugar-free of course), and some Gardetto's Mustard pretzel rods.... freaking AWESOME. I felt charged and ready. But, we blew a good 40 minutes here, and watched as the last riders on the 200K route passed by on the road nearby. Time to get moving!

Pretty soon, after more of the same long, tiring, FLAT, SR-422 highway shoulder -- gee, I wish I could coast -- we arrived at Groesbeck, TX.... a dimension of sight, of sound... of mind.... you've entered....

The Broken Spoke Zone....

What the....? After miles and miles and miles, I finally broke a spoke - here. Pulling gently into the Double D Food & Fuel station in Groesbeck, out of the saddle, coasting, and not hitting really ANYthing, one of the spokes on the rear non-driveside just gave out, near the hub of all places. Weird.... REALLY weird. A clean break, right at the control. The rear wheel popped quickly out of true, and rubbed the rear brakes hard. Well, at least this was a planned stop! And, this might as well be a plug for a product: I was very happy to know that deep inside my trusty seatbag was a FiberFix replacement spoke. Made of an aramid material with a unique cam-lock fastener that screws into the existing spoke nut at the rim, it's a ride saver, and worked PERFECTLY -- EVEN with my proprietary-design, special spoked Mavic Ksyriums. There was a little investigating to be done, but come to find out the spoke attachment at the rim has an internal brass threaded sleeve that the FiberFix cam threads right into, just like a regular spoke nut. Perfection. I was back on the road in no time, actually, and with minimal fuss.
Strike that.
I got my wheel fixed, alright... got my card signed... and got my food purchase rang up....

But, this is Groesbeck, TX.... a desperately small Texas town.... very close to Waco, TX..... ah, I can see your eyebrows raising now.... mmm,hmmmm..... we close to Waco.... it's....

The Broken Spoke Zone -- a strange and mystical place where the forces of nature and the un-earthly combine to accelerate metal fatigue just enough to stop your travel, and just long enough for the locals to smell the guy that "ain't from these parts".....

Just then, the peace of the spring like day was pierced by the gentle whirr of an electric wheelchair. "Excuse me, gents... how are ya'll today?" Oh, crap.

"How far you ridin'?"
"You like bar-b-que?"
"I know YOU like barbeque, boy."
"What kind of bike is that?"
"Ya'll in real good physical shape for this kinda thing, aren'tcha?"
"You know I built a lot of these roads ya'll'r riding on t'day."
"Back in '64....."
"Back in '73....."
"Down in my basement...."
"I got arthritis REAL bad....wanna see?"
"You aware that January is NOT really the first month of the year?"
"Ya'll know Jesus is the one, right?"
"You like Barbeque?"
"I'm gonna run for mayor...will you vote for me?"
"I know ya'll like barbecue, now..."

AHHAHAHAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
RIDE AWAY! RIDE AWAY!

Just as we got back onto the road, and I was starting to get images of bad barbecue and unpaid dental bills out of my head, I had almost forgotten that we were in Groesbeck, TX....

"Excuse me, I know ya'll are ridin'....but can you stop a second?" In near doppler effect, someone had stopped their truck on the shoulder, and was standing next to it, waving Ort and I down - right in our path. Oh......crap.

What fresh hell is THIS?

"My wife and I are just bicycle NUTS, and I was wondering if you had the name of the organizer of this here ride, and how I can get in touch with him -- because I want to make sure you have someplace to stop, and I want to set it up for you... FREE OF CHARGE."

Emphasis on the BIG selling point at the end. Ooooo-Kay... let's forget that this is 2008 (I think) and there are convenience stores EVERYWHERE that we can hit... and this is a set route that already has us stopping at one.... let's not even get into THAT. I didn't talk. My lack of deep-south accent, or attempt at a fake one, would probably prove fatal. Ort did the talking, while I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone else that might have been nearby.
Ort gave him the name of the organizer -- it's hard to tell; the guy was probably thinking he was being sneaky by waving tasty candy in front of us kids so we'd give up where our Pa worked, so he could in turn complain that we'd somehow trod on his daisies at some point. Didn't wash with me. I was envisioning some sort of Silence of the Lambs scenario, where this guy and his wife REALLY like cycling.... I mean, cycl-ISTS, as-in we have a collection of them in our basement, and I was the out-of-towner that wouldn't be missed for a couple days. CAN WE GET THE CRAP OUTTA HERE, PLEASE?

About then, Ort rode past me, muttering "don't make eye contact, just go, just GO...."

And so we did.... get me the freak OUT of this town. Our pace was suddenly a little more robust, as we occasionally checked our backs for a black pickup truck, an angry mob, or a surprisingly fast electric wheelchair.
After our adrenaline wore off, we were back to a reasonable pace -- which meant another reduction in overall speed as Ort began to talk up the one big hill on the course, to prepare me for it. The anticipation was killing me. This next section to the next control was 29.5 miles, and it was the LONGEST 29.5 miles I think I've EVER ridden. Yes, the big hill DID come, and go, but the section leading up to it was like 16 miles long, and flat, and exposed --- oh, and the wind shifted to meet us in the face, as it had done the last time we had turned. The promise of a tailwind was looking bleak. At least it wasn't a gale. But the flatness of the road was taking it's toll, and my pre-occupation with repairing my spoke -- which, by the way, was holding up perfectly -- had prevented me from really getting any calories into my body. I was drinking enough, but there was nothing in the tank but dust. Yeeesh.... I was feeling downright BONKED after about 16 miles, and there was still a long, flat way to go. FLAT. F_L_A_T.

F
L
A
T

"Ort, I'm tired of pedalling" I sounded like a meek five year old, asking if we were there yet.

This blows. I swear, the next time anyone back in JC,KS says "man, I hate hills, I'll take a good flat route ANY day", I'm gonna kick them in the teeth. This SUCKS. Let's see....I think I'll try THIS gear for a while. Nice... I think I'll coast... NOPE! CAN'T COAST! SUCKER!!!!

The promise at the next control was pie. GOOD pie... I hearken back to the Cooky's Diner ride of along time back with the Warbird between Pittsburg, KS and Golden City, MO.... ahhhh, that was a good ride.... HOT, flat.... but not ALL flat.... and AWESOME pie. I was in for a treat today, and a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, memory lane is FLAT.

"Want some pie?" "Too bad, keep pedalling."

Ahhhh..... Mt. Calm, TX. Where the men are strong, the women are chain-smokers, and the children can't keep their hands off of ANYTHING in the freaking store. Dixie's Little Stop, in Mt. Calm -- not exactly like Cookie's Diner, but the pie was freaking AWESOME... and I'm not sure, but I think I got a nicotine buzz off of it, too. Maybe it was the leftovers from my near-bonk on the road TO it, but it hit the spot, and I could feel the sugar pulsing through my veins after a few minutes. I was back, baby. Food was served all around, Ort having a BBQ beef sandwich.... all that talk back there in Groesbeck must've triggered a hankerin' for it, I reckon. (See, Texas is wearing into me by this time in the ride.) I had a Coke, and some Gatorade, too, and took off my base layer ---- it was 75 degrees+, as promised, and the morning dress was just too much. Finally comfortable, and full of good fuel, it was time to head out again...

Somewhere along the way, the time-warp was catching up. It was 2:30PM! The math was starting to look bleak, and I had brought my headlight down to the ride with me, but hadn't bothered to put it on the bike. After all, it's only a 200K -- but I was forgetting that this wasn't one of BOB'S 200Ks, as-in, it wasn't MARCH yet, and the sun was still gonna set in like three hours -- and we had 38.3 miles to go to hit the finish! Uhhh... that doesn't sound like much, but over the course of the last 93 miles, our pace had dropped from a morning high of 18.7 MPH at the first control, to around 15.2 MPH now. Based on that, it was really not looking too good, and even though I was fueled up - it was really too little, too late -- my legs hadn't been this far since October, and I was feeling the lack of saddle time. This next stretch, too, was flatter than the last, and included one section of 23.7 miles on the SAME ROAD. Good gravy. A long, exposed section of highway, with a good shoulder, ZERO trees, no protection from the wind --- which, had shifted AGAIN to meet us in the face AGAIN. Yeah, really. We'd have to average 12.7 MPH is all, but that was feeling like a tall order.

As I pulled out of the control with Ort, I could tell this was going to be close. I pushed with all I could, and managed to sit right around 15 MPH - but it was hurting. Ort was digesting his food, and was able to manage about the same pace, but I knew it wouldn't last -- he'd hit a point where he would get into a groove and start accelerating. I could only hope that I could hold his draft. The slog began.

We rode and rode, and after about five miles looked back --- all the motivation Ort needed was about 1/2 a mile behind us, the slower group was catching us. We'd been trudging along as a pair all day, and the two behind us were proving more consistent, and had gained a third rider to assist. Ort was having none of it. He shifted, I shifted and tucked in behind him - it was on. The approaching darkness was motivation enough, but not finishing last was more-so. We worked. Rather, ORT worked: for the next 28 miles, I was in no-man's land, staring at Ort's rear wheel which was about 4 inches in front of mine. Hands resting over the brake levers just in case, I took on the role of wheel-sucker. It was all I could do, as brief forays into the headwind -- which was increasing -- sapped all my power in an instant, and dropped me into the 11 MPH range. Not good enough, I ducked back behind him. At other times when the road pitched up slightly, growing a little less flat in the final miles, I would drop off his back wheel entirely and fade into the 9's. I'd get inspired, and remember how to spin: engaging my hamstrings, I was able to accelerate back up to him -- but other times I would slog and slog and resort myself to knowing that there were no more turns to make, and I would let Ort go on without me so I could silently finish at my own pace. Lights or no lights, I was not going to stop. I had a taillight, as always, and I would have to hope for good night vision and no serious pavement maladies -- but as soon as I'd get this formulated in my head, I'd look up to find Ort had lifted the pace and drifted back to me to re-engage the draft. He, in short, is the man. Undaunted by the wind or the clock, he was going to make sure I was going to finish with him. He was the strongman today, and I can only hope that this is the beginning of my long march back to being the kind of person that can return the favor someday -- physically, today, even though the guilt for not taking a pull was growing inside me, there was no way I could have. I got occasionally bolstered enough to try, but the wind beat me back down, and back into Ort's draft again. I had to play the game, or I was going to be unable to hold the pace I was drafting in, and would have to send Ort up the road alone.

One small town at a time, and one nature break later, and the group that Ort set out to escape was no-where to be seen. He'd put a huge gap in place, and by consequence was getting us within striking distance of the final control. As the sun touched the western horizon, we dipped below the ten-miles-to-go marker.... this was going to be close, but it was going to be legal, too. The general rule is, if you can't read your bicycle computer readout, or your wristwatch, it is "dark", and lights are required. Finish without them, and you are DQ'd. I felt stupid for not installing the headlight, but for some reason I thought that this ride would be far easier. The extra 10km wasn't helping --- this was technically a "200K", but it was really 210K, or about 133 miles. If this had been a true 200K, we'd have been done... but the road still stretched out ahead of us, and Ort still pulled magically strong, and we were within visual confirmation of our target -- the dead flat nature of the route sometimes has an advantage, because when you are within 5 miles of your next control, you can actually SEE it. The faint elevated sign of the truck stop was looming ahead of us, and the light around us was fading fast.

PUSH!!!!

Hold that draft.... it was starting to hurt, and if I'd been alone, I'd have been DQ'd for certain. There was no way, even as the wind began to die a little with the last light of sunshine fading, I was completely toasted. Ort was consistent, strong, and willing, and we finally made one last left turn, and crossed one last four-way stop, arriving at the last control at 6:21 PM -- and I know because I could still read it on my bicycle computer display. FANTASTIC!

My first successful ride finish in Texas!
Don't let 'em fool ya.... they may not have a real 'winter', but these guys design a tough route.
And I though to myself, after all that flat spinning and pounding chip-seal, and my sore backside from lack of distance exposure for many months, there were people turning on headlights and continuing on, into the night, for a full 400K. These guys down here are nuts.

For me, the base building is indeed in full effect -- as I write this my sitbones area is still sore, my legs a little weak -- but my kung-fu is getting stronger. I am breathing deeper... and despite whatever surprises my midwestern winter will hold, the first of Bob's 200Ks here in KC is coming up in a month, and I will be MORE than ready. Because it won't be flat, the roads may actually be BETTER, and I've actually got some sort of training in!

Observations: While riding along, it was pointed out to me that there were several abandoned railroad bridge structures spanning several small creeks in the area nearing the end of the route. I pondered that some of it might be the old Rock Island railroad line, and sure enough after arriving home and researching it, I found there was a lot of history on those old bridges. I found online a copy of an old Texas railway map dated 1891. Near Mertens and Milford, TX., along what would become US-77, specifically the last section leading into Italy from the south lies the remains of the original M-K-T line, or The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. Aka, the Katy, as in the Katy Trail up here! It goes on north and east to cross thru Waxahatchie, TX. intersecting with the old Red River & Southern RR, and the Houston & Texas Central Railway. A LOT of small Class II railroad history there, and those bridges over the old creeks date back to at least 1870, possibly earlier, as the Katy itself was an incorporation of several smaller railroads that were in operation shortly before that time. The bridges likely have dating plaques on them, but the trick is getting to them from the road, so that might have to wait for someone more ambitious than me -- and someone not pushing the clock towards darkness! I guess I paid attention when I was reading up on this stuff, because my original notion was correct --- the MKT was purchased by Rock Island in 1975, roughly, and was run until Rock Island collapsed into bankruptcy in 1980. All of the lines were pulled up and recycled, but the bridge structures remain.

Thanks: If it wasn't apparent earlier in this post, special thanks to Ort -- there is nothing more endearing than a 25+ mile pull, and I appreciate it. I would not have finished without your selfless suffering into the wind. You and your family's gracious hospitality is greatly cherished, and I look forward to the time when we can ride together again.

Product recommendations: FiberFix spokes -- get one. Seriously. $10 and it will save YOUR ride someday. The wheel was still true enough to not rub the brake pads on either side of the caliper, and it's been packed up and put back in the seatbag for next time - totally reusable.
Do it. Mine sat in my seatbag for two years before this happened, it weighs nothing, takes up zero space, and is absolutely a life saver when a spoke breaks. Nothing else will work, unless you want to carry actual spokes along.

The bike: this was the FIRST ride on the Trek 450 after the rebuild. The longest I had ridden on this bike before heading south for this ride was THREE MILES. Big risk? I wasn't worried, as the fitment was matched as closely as possible to the Kogswell. But, there are always growing and adjustment pains -- for me, there were none. It's perfect. The only pains I had were expected, and totally from lack of saddle time. Even the learning curve to downtube shifters was only a few miles long, and by the end of the ride I was a pro, shifting either lever with either hand, depending on the situation, and got to the point where the reach didn't upset the line of the bike while rolling along -- early shifting was sometimes accompanied by a little shimmy from the handlebars, but one I learned how to isolate the shoulder drop and slight rotation of the arm, I had it licked. An excellent platform.

The tires -- the 23c's days may be numbered. YEah, I enjoy the lightweight, racy look - but the ride quality was just not that grand, especially on Texas' aggressive chipseal. I'll probably not go too crazy, but Specialized's All-Condition Armadillo Elite 25c tires are larger than your average 25, have excellent flat protection and treadlife, and will soften up the ride quality without hurting rolling resistance or speed. That's the only upgrade I think the Trek needs -- but part of it, again, might be relative to saddle time, and my opinion could change.

An EXCELLENT ride, and a great time.... the only bummer was the 1,000+ mile drive time to get to it. It'll be a while before another long road trip, and most of my post ride fatigue was exacerbated by sitting in a car for eight hours after only a couple hours of sleep that night. I made it home in time to spend the morning with the kids, so it was worth it -- but my next brevet will be a lot closer to home, for sure.

Time to go to sleep.... thanks for reading. Stay out of Groesbeck, TX.

G'night!

February 5, 2008

The Great Teacher lay silent.

Sheldon Brown: 1944 - 2008

Dear Harris Cyclery friends and customers,

It is with heavy hearts that we convey to you the news that Sheldon Brown has passed away. Our thoughts go out to his family at this time. The cycling community has lost one of it's most passionate members.

From http://www.harriscyclery.com/

I actually got the treat of talking at length with Sheldon Brown on the phone once, and while I was probably one of hundreds that he spoke to that day, it was pleasureable, informative, and he took something like ten minutes talking with me about something so trivial I can't even recall what question I had at the time. It was probably something I was over-thinking, but he was patient and as enthusiastic about the possibilities as I was. I feel lucky to have spoken with him, probably the most prolific cycling enthusiast and writer of our time. There was no-one more passionate, more skilled, more helpful - he will be dearly missed, indeed. Nearly everything I know about cycling theory, science and practice I learned from his webpages. May those writings live on as a testament to his legacy, forever. Rest in peace, great teacher.

If you never have, I HIGHLY encourge you to read everything you find here: http://sheldonbrown.com

February 2, 2008

Is that the biggest state in the Union, or are you just happy to see me?


Welp, this year I'm shaking things up a bit by heading south for the winter.... well, for the weekend, anyways; getting a jump on Bob's regular brevet series, by heading south to Texas.
Land of the big stuff.

Land of LSR.

Land of too many brevets and permanents to count.

Land of opportunity.

Yup, pack a lunch, because we're headed to Italy. Texas, that is. Yes, Italy, TX., home of the Italy Texas 200km permanent bike ride (that's RUSA Permanent, for those joining us late - http://www.rusa.org/)

Time to get to base building in a serious way, and beat the local brevets by about one month.

The first 200K up here starting on March 8th, so this will be a great opportunity to break in the freshly built Trek, and fine tune the body a little before another punishing SR series begins. It's better than nothing, considering that I haven't (pauses to look at BikeJournal.com) ridden much at ALL since probably October, and even then it wasn't anything more than 40 miles or so. That scares me a LITTLE BIT, but, it should be okay - because it's just base building, and I'll have plenty of time to recover.

Plus, it's not like I haven't been active at all -- I just don't have any "road" time. Some careful hours with the tape measure should put to rest any growing pains between the new steed and the Kogswell, so I'm not too concerned there -- but I'm hoping the last eight weeks or so of hard training in the fitness center will translate to a descent ability to hold pace with those that don't HAVE an "off" season. I'll be riding with people that have continued enjoying nicer weather ever since Tejas and PBP, so it'll be interesting!


Anyways, wish me luck, and talk to you on the other side!

Lone Star!