Randonneur: Review of the Blackburn Flea front and rear LED light set. (what replaced it, and what I want to find - or make.)
Commuter: The year-end Review of the Axiom Typhoon panniers.
I have to reiterate here: there is something magical about a night ride. Its turning into my favorite thing to do. The stars come out, the moon plays in the clouds, and the traffic dies. The sounds of trains, dogs, and the hum of chains and conversation and tires against the silence of nightfall. Love it. The mystical fog and the cold valleys made this ride especially neat.
On the return, Crowbar and I took caboose-duty, helping out someone that was along for the ride and chopping up his longest ride EVER to date. The man is "DB", until another nickname sticks, and his passion as a newbie is inspiring. The subject matter flowed from tires to passing cars to fatigue to commuting method, and all the while we pedaled along and watched the sights pass by. It was pretty cool, and it reminded me of things long-since taken for granted. While it was hard to let the fast-pack go on ahead, it was also the first time in a while where I didn't have a single care about the clock. For a few miles I'd pedal along in solitude, then I'd drop back and join the conversation for a while, then find myself falling back into my own pace again.... Slow up, u-turn, rejoin. For a few brief moments here and there, I felt like I was at the end of a long brevet.
Reminds me that I haven't ridden a proper rando-ride in a while, and how the MS Ride is just around the corner: a perfect springboard to a 200k permanent. A friend's comments recently put in perspective my accomplishments. Brevets aren't for everyone. Neither are rules. It was nice on Friday to not have to worry about signatures and time stamps... but I've grown to revel in the rules and the goals that come with randonneuring, more specifically what those rules and requirements have done for me. Surely I'd still enjoy cycling just as much if none of it ever 'counted', if there were no medals or time windows... but a big part of me does hope it all counts for something. Maybe I need it to? In the last twelve years I have reshaped myself and gained a strength I never would have imagined possible back in the day. For who I've become, I think I need those rules... that chase... that occasional 24-hour race. I don't think its for anyone else... not trying to best anyon
e or prove anything ... I think part of me just needs to have some sort of official validation. Perhaps part of me always will.
What's interesting is that in the past six months I have really allowed myself to enjoy stuff that doesn't fit on the official rando chart. I've had a blast, and part of it is found partially in being comfortable in my own skin finally. Maybe I still don't know who I am, precisely, but being a randonneur definitely helped get me closer to an answer. Of that, I am proud - and its made the rest of my life easier to live, easier to enjoy.
I've tried to limit my references to cycling lately, in certain circles, because I don't want to become a predictable, crashing bore, but I supposed it is the niche I fit into. Its better to wait for someone to ask, like during the ride. As I listened to the questions of DB while I rode along, I felt like I'd passed on something to a new rider who is just beginning his journey... A journey that I started only a decade or so prior. I dunno, maybe I think too much: but it did get me thinking about what things were like when I'd just got started. Cycling has become such a big part of my life, I really - seriously - have no clue what I used to do to pass the time ten years ago.
I must have been really bored. It really gets into you, this whole 'car-free' thing. Life does not become easier, but I think I almost prefer this. Even at the late hour, even with the offers of rides, the chill in the air. I really just preferred to be on the bike. Not to prove anything or best anyone. I just feel right. Its slowly becoming "who I am".
Coming soon.... CommuterDude, the Movie.... For a long time I've wanted to chronicle a week's worth of commutes and edit it down into a tolerable mini-documentary on what its like behind the scenes. What happens when I leave my desk in the afternoon and walk off with my panniers in-hand? Well, I'm putting a storyboard together, and you'll get little tastes here and there, coming soon.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Ort announced his intent today, also, and his return to the bike, which I have to say is extremely exciting. I can't lie: while our friendship is stronger than the bike, it was always weird not 'talking shop' this last year. Further, while he has always extended the offer to crew, it would have been up to me to get started on training and planning. Hard to be objective now, as I write this, but before this morning Tejas was the last thing on my mind. Now that the spark of friendly competition is back in play, I'm super motivated to give this monster race another run.
Things are coming into place. After two years of damage control, things are beginning to turn in the home camp that will, if budgeted and planned appropriately, come together nicely. The Warbird (aka the Trek 450) had been built up, and then stripped down again due to financial circumstances - and now it almost seems possible to have a proper road-race gruppo installed on her again in time for this event. Even if that doesn't pan out, the Kogs will do nicely in race trim again. Race wheels, perhaps, would be nice. Honestly, though, equipment concerns are not the limitation here. It's been me. Since January, however, I'm finding my stride again. The weight is almost all off, and the climbing is getting better each day. The 400km ride into Iowa back in May, upon further reviews, was a stronger personal ride than I'd originally thought: not a speed record for the distance, but specifically the best I'd performed *after* 200kms into a headwind, solo: the hammerfest from Leon back to Bethany to catch the next group on the road proves to me that there is a foundation in place for speed-at-distance again. I'm beginning to see smaller benchmarks bested, certain personal climbing times are getting closer and closer to falling. The old "gosh I wish it was 2003 again" dialogue is gone. There are some more tests to take: Metcalf, from 159th to 199th. The Tour De Shawnee doesn't have a 47 mile loop this year, sadly, so I may never know if I'd have Fancher's number this time out, but the opportunity of a closed course hilly time trial is appealing. Johnson drive time trials loom in my memory...from Pflumm to the ballfields....dude, the old tests are running in my head. This time, however, carefully balanced with good, steady state rides. The commute streak will continue, to eliminate excuses and reasons to hang up the bike because things have gotten 'tough'. Mental toughness. Late night permanents to build after-dark speed, focus, and to learn how to keep the sleep deprivation boogie-man at bay. Then, use the tough Bob Burns series of brevets to ramp up, with personal-best attempts at the 300, 400 and 600km level, straight through in spring 2010. Finally, keep that edge all next summer: heat training, hard short rides, and late night permanents - keep family impact at an absolute minimum with late night rides, commutes with a plan behind them, and self-inflicted distances up to 400k if possible on loops: to build the mental game even further and become immune to seeing the same terrain over and over. I've got my recon, my man on the inside: Get course recon from Ort, and build a 26 mile course that mimics it. I know the Tejas course first-hand, but its all new starting this year. The old loop I know by memory from 2006 and 2007 is gone, which is good and bad. The good: no demons, no worries about counting how many times I've passed the lime plant. This time, a clean slate. The bad: the unknown. The increase in climbing per lap. I can only use these as opportunities. No stressing about what I can't possibly know. Just hone the edge, and bring it. More upper body work, for strength to support better performance and endurance. Better nutrition, something that is already giving benefits. Using the goal to improve my quality of life. I love this part, literally giddy at the keyboard, talking it out, envisioning the successes unfurling.... I was super excited today, sending off at least four emails talking about this. I've got that spring in my step again... A goal.... Ahhhh.... A goal..... life, all around, is good.
It's only 13-months away... It's perfect.