This weekend's 200km brevet was my first in almost a year. There was a lot of nervousness tied to the fact that I haven't had time to ramp-up properly to the distance at-hand. I'd ridden a few 70-mile rides and a few 50-mile rides here and there between September of '10 and mid-June - but nothing that would generally, on paper, qualify someone for a 200km brevet. Honestly, ANYone can do this distance - anyone can start from any bank of training and make the distance - it's a matter of how you'd feel the next day. For me, however, because of what halted my R-12 run last year and the aches and pains and mental struggles that followed, I wasn't sure if a new injury was waiting somewhere out beyond 80 miles, or what.
This WAS to be a 300km, and I was committed to riding it - but the rising Missouri River, the temps, and the very exposed 300km route out to Fayette, MO and back is closer to a full double-century than it is a "300km" route. Last week, Bob Burns pulled the plug on it and reverted to a 200km route, closer to home and away from the water. While I had only planned to ride as far as Glasgow and turn back for my own personal 200k, I'm glad it worked out this way so I could actually "count" the ride from a RUSA perspective. The heat would still be a factor - but, it'd be a shorter day with an early start.
I literally sprang from bed at 2:30am with the first alarm ring. Haven't done THAT in a long time, and it struck me: well, at least the passion and drive is back. Let's go see if the legs are here.
On any other day I would have ridden to the ride start - it was close enough, maybe a 10-to-12 mile jaunt - but I wasn't taking any chances on this one. The van was packed and I was a dress-n-dash, turn-key away from being out the door. A quick breakfast, grabbed bottles from the fridge, out. On the way.
This route is excellent - I hadn't really had time to preview it too much, the way I usually like to do, but a quick read of the cue sheet was enough. Almost every road was familiar, either part of another brevet or part of another club ride. The Tour De Shawnee, a couple of the Dark-Side Rides, the old Lone-Star Century, the Baldwin City Blast, the Ottawa 200k, and various other training routes... it was almost like, how come *I* hadn't thought of this route?? This made navigation super easy and cue sheet needs were few. Still, there were plenty of miles of pavement that I'd simply never ridden before; hats off to Robert Lee for this one... excellent work!
We climbed up the first big rise of the day, which was right out of the gate on Renner Road headed south and up over the top of I-435 near Midland Drive. What a way to start a ride, right? I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the group ride. It'd been months and months. Cool early morning breezes, chatting about this and that, headlight beams dancing about. I love that.
We cleared the construction near 87th street, and continued west where 87th turns into 83rd west of Shawnee Mission Park on a long, gently curved downhill. The moon was up, no bugs, and no cars. Bob Burns and I chatted it up for a few miles talking about routes, hills, the heat, how things have been over the last year, etc. Was good catching up. Caught up with a lot of folks on the road; Kent, Spencer, Robert, Karen, etc., etc. Folks I hadn't ridden with in a long time, it seemed.
The magic of the route continued as we linked onto the Dark Side Ride route that goes out to Desoto, KS., down a fast, steep hill. We rolled onto Cedar Creek Rd, where it eventually meets old 95th street underneath K-10. This, "the hook", is one of the last magic roads in Johnson County. Doesn't really GO anywhere unless you live here, or are on a scenic drive or bike ride... which, of course, makes it PERFECT. This meanders under K-10, and picks up to becomes 95th street after crossing a really neat one-lane truss bridge and climbing up some decent hills. I've never seen this road during the day, come to think of it --- it's always been a late-night affair. I love this road. We continue west, past the Kill Creek Road, past the rock quarry, and onto what becomes 103rd street...and I think "old K-10", even though it's not signed as-such.
On to pass Clearview City and uncharted road for me - although I'm sure at some point many moons ago I drove here in my car for some meandering reason I can't recall. It was to my fresh eyes that I marvelled at the nice road, the quietness of Clearview City, and the gently increasing glow of sunrise over my left shoulder. We silently slipped through the eastern edge of Eudora, past a great old late-fifties Cadillac and the neat old houses of the main north-south drag, and arrived at the first control at about 5:45am.
Made quick work of the control, which would be the theme for the day. No sense waiting for it to get hotter, I suppose - it was tolerable at that moment but things were still getting damp with sweat, and the sun wasn't really even up yet. Waters were refilled earnestly, ice topped off, bananas consumed, and fizzy tablets employed into waiting bottles.
Hydration and Nutrition notes:
This new method of carrying nutrition and hydration supplements is fascinating, and I am happy to be riding right now in the midst of this kinda of "advancement". Things are smaller, easier to carry in quantity, and the containers themselves can be recycled in a lot of ways. I'm talking about the roughly 3cm round tubes, about 10cm high, that carry these "alka-seltzer" style effervescent tablets that turn regular water into a sugar-free sports drink. A couple years back, the closest we got were these little foil packets that Badgerland passed me once that were a single serving of sports-drink powder - but these new tablets go even farther, are more portable, and don't take up as much space per serving. The plastic sleeves they come in are great in the parts bin for things like organizing bolts, anything small that you want to organize. The fizzy tabs for hydration worked perfectly all day, water tasted good - so I drank more, more often. I carried a small baggie with some Hammer Endurolytes as well, just in case. I never cramped... though I would get close, towards the end of the ride. Hydration-wise, the day went far better than expected - partly because of the delivery, partly because I separated nutrition and hydration, giving me more water to work from - and then primarily because of fear: I knew it would be hot so I drank more, sooner. I averaged about 1.5 bottles per hour during the ride, culminating in (as best as I can figure) about 350 oz of water consumed.
In the same category are the "new to me" Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem Solids, which follow the same idea. They don't dissolve in water, you just eat them like a giant semi-hard candy. Of course, "candy" is probably the wrong word, because it's Hammer Nutrition we're talking about: same endurance fuel they are known for without simple sugars or other goop, but manufacturered into a super-compact tablet that completely replaces having to carry and store endless baggies of powdered supplement. If you are riding self-supported, these are simply perfect. They are stored in the same kind of plastic tube container, so basically I can ride an entire 200km brevet and all of my hydration and fuel needs fit into a single jersey pocket. I have to credit some of today's ride success to these things, as normally I'd be mawing down fig bars, pretzels, chips, crackers, whatever I can get my paws on - which all work just FINE for millions of riders. For me, however, I could definitely tell a performance difference in the consistency of how good I was feeling, how I was pushing, and levels of fatigue using the Hammer Solids compared to my past rides. I've always been a Hammer guy, but took a break. Now, I do believe I'm back to something that works well for me. Supplemented with other variety foods at the controls, I didn't get bored with them, either. Perpetuem powder in the past had a tendency to upset my system, but that has not been happening with these new Solids, after four longer rides with them and finally this brevet. So, I'm sold.
My distant-past hydration and nutrition successes were linked back to the theory of keeping hydration and nutrition separate, i.e., if you have a powdered fuel mixed with water in a bottle, the "liquid" in that bottle doesn't really count as hydration as far as your system is concerned because the majority of the moisture contained in it is used for digestion. This is why large quantities of commercial sports drinks with sugar content often backfire after many hours of continuous use on the bike (for many reasons; I'm simplifying here). When I used to run powdered fuels as my primary nutrition I'd use one bottle for dry powder storage, and the other to mix and drink - I'd then have a Camelbak for plain water supplemented with Endurolytes or similar. Despite success, the Camelbak ultimately proved too hot and uncomfortable for me after XX hours, so I'd ditched it and went to one bottle of hydration and one bottle of nutrition - with zip-top bags of powder (formerly carried in that other bottle, and the Camelbak storage space) now fitting into a giant saddlebag like a Carradice, or overstuffed into in my jersey pockets when the Carradice was retired. I eventually forgot this rule of separation and would effectively be running too light on both nutrition AND hydration as a result for many rides ever since. After re-reading some old journals and ultra-distance articles recently, it seems I've figured things out again - and these new, hyper-compressed fuel tablets have me back on track. Yes, some of the hydration I take in has to be used to process the dehydrated, concentrated fuel I'm taking in - but, in practice it has not been an issue and an especially good test was the heat of the day on this ride.
Though it doesn't make for epically dramatic, edge-of-your-seat reading, hydration and nutrition was utterly perfect, with nothing standing out as "I wish I'd have done" this or that. It seems that I may have finally learned from all of those past mistakes. Brilliant!
Back to the ride...
Leaving Eudora, we headed south on Douglas County highway 1061 towards the intersection that would eventually lead us through to Vinland, KS. I reeled up Spencer and another rider along the way on 1061, into a slight headwind - just riding my own ride, pacing my own pace - another method I was going to try-on for the first time maybe ever... as opposed to the "kill-kill-kill" tactics of previous years. This time, I decided to also try to learn from conventional wisdom and try for an "even-split" between the first half of the ride and the last half. Normally, from the gun I'd go out for a good chase - trying to pull back someone like Jeff Winters, who can even-split a ride with a 20mph rolling average. So, I'd go out with a 19mph average for the first half of a ride, and then watch it fall into the 14's by rides end - with fatigue, exhaustion, cramps, and general misery to follow. Again, getting back to my old formula - ride within myself. If I want to get faster, train for it when you don't have 12 hours to go. Short? Fast. Long? Go steady, even, and ride within myself. Let people go. Don't chase the tandem.
So, I stuck the cruise control on, and settled in for some scenery and a long, long steady climb into Baldwin City and the next control. The Col du Baldwin! Yesss, it's Le Tour time, baby - and though Phil and Paul stayed out of my head on this ride, the exploits of Voekler and Jens Voigt were still fresh in my head from watching recorded coverage of this years Tour', so I had a little mental inspiration on the way up the grade - with a terrific view of the valley below and a magnificent sun getting slightly higher in the sky above. Arrived at Baldwin City a few minutes before 7am... more water, a quick wash of the face and ready to depart again. Another trick employed that clearly others around me prepping for PBP were clear on: fast controls! First witnessed to absolute efficiency in Texas with the LSR group, storm the control, sign cards, water, restroom, food, fill bottles, go go GO GO! All in one seamless melee of activity and flurry, it seemed like everyone was back on their bikes and rolling out before I'd even gotten my brevet card out back then. So, today, don't RUSH... don't forget anything... but be purposeful, keep moving, use the restroom, know what food and drink you want to grab, pay, get card signed, and get out. Spencer has this one down, and I tried to time my moves against his and practice being efficient at the controls. Keeping the legs moving is a good thing and I never got that bodily "groan" of getting back on the bike after cooling down too much.
After Baldwin City, Spencer and I rolled along together for a little bit chatting about the weather and the possible promise of a rogue thunderstorm later in the day - watching as a beautiful line of thunderheads to the west was slowly coming apart. Compared to how they looked while on DG-460 earlier (my favorite piece of road anywhere around here), they had really become disorganized - so, fenders or no fenders, the rain was not to be today. It was a picture-postcard view, though, as we rolled over the large hill that overlooks south-western Douglas county. Brilliant green fields cast against a cloud-dotted crystal blue sky, the sun on our left, daylight moon on our right - and a lot of good road ahead.
Shortly after crossing through LeLoup, KS, the tandem and Kent, (and me still being terrible with names)... so, Karen and "Cap't", KCBC jersey... dangit... Dave? Terry? Dr. Amazing... I dunno. yeeesh. ...pulled up alongside me, and proceeded to pass. I like riding along with this particular tandem, as Karen always has a good story to tell. We all chatted for a bit, but the anti-headwind express was focused on getting to K-68. I latched on for a bit, but reminded myself: stay on your pace, its a long day... so I backed off, and settled back into my tempo. It was good enough to stay maybe 1/2 mile behind them, sometimes catching up, sometimes losing ground - but it was working. I watched them turn onto K-68 westbound to Ottawa, and I followed shortly after.
Ahhh, K-68, and shoulder-duty. This highway, fortunately, isn't the constant battle that a US-highway usually is, but I could do without the truck traffic from the distribution center about halfway across this run. After reaching the Ottawa city limits, I came across the tandem group again, but not in the way I would have expected: the bikes were huddled around a roadside lightpost, and the riders were all dismounted and wandering around in the middle of the road, their heads tilted down as they scanned the road surface for something dropped or lost. Huh?
I pulled up, dismounted as well, and added my bike to the parking arrangement as Karen revealed the curious reason for the stop, at about the time I noticed she was holding the saddle of her stoker's position of the tandem in her hand.
The seatpost clamp binder bolt let go, sending Karen's saddle and associated parts all over the roadway. We never found the bolt, so Karen limped it by sitting on the rack pack for a few miles, after Kent scoped out a lumber yard where they secured a bolt and nut arrangement to allow them to continue the day. Crazy! Only a few months earlier, the captain's seatpost itself snapped off at the frame -- so it's been an interesting year for them, parts-wise! After hearing they were set up and ready, I took the "too many cooks" approach and let the three finish business while I headed on down the road to find a restroom and resupply near the south end of Ottawa. My intent was to hit the Casey's store right upon reaching city limits and take the cue-sheet recommended Prairie Spirit rail-trail detour through town, to avoid traffic - but I took the main drag instead. I did the downtown stop/n/go for about 3 miles until arriving at a gas station for my stop. Not a control, just a resupply. After that, the unknown! I'd simply, usually, turned back for home at this point in Ottawa - but today, we'd be heading south and out of town.
At this point, I decided to try something new in my arsenal: Specialized arm "coolers". Seems like a good scam... like actually COVERING your arms on a day where the last bank thermometer read 94ºF and it wasn't even 9 o'clock yet was going to be a GOOD thing? After a few years of marveling at photos of the late, great Jure Robic on RAAM and other various riders on Furnace Creek and runners on Badwater wearing sheer white coverings on their arms and legs through Death Valley and such, it struck me that they might be onto something. After all, assuming the fabric is not insulating and holding heat onto your body, you're effectively putting your arms in the "shade". The bright white should reflect some of the sun's energy, also. These "coolers" boast a SPF rating of 50 - which doesn't wash off or fade with laundering. With sweat, however, the theory is that you benefit from evaporative cooling as you ride along - and you never have to hassle with reapplying sunscreen. Worst case, take them off and chalk it up as a few bucks I'd probably have wasted on something else anyways. On they were pulled... and trust me, in that heat it just felt WEIRD pulling on what initially felt like arm WARMERS. They ended up working out quite well, however, to my surprise.
Finally traversing the rest of Ottawa's endless string of stoplights I finally made it onto clear pavement with US-59 stretching out before me. Good shoulder. Kinda reminded me of Oklahoma with the reddish aggregate. Only a few miles south and I'd be at the halfway marker - suddenly it felt like a much longer ride, for some reason. There is something about riding on a big US highway shoulder: I feel slower. Maybe it's the traffic whizzing by. Maybe it's the feeling like you'd rather be on a quiet back road somewhere. Maybe it was the headwind. Maybe it was because for the first 3 miles it was all uphill - but in that sneaky, US-highway kinda grade. A little downhill respite and then it would roll uphill again. For only a 5-mile stretch, it was a little weird. Finally, Princeton, KS. and the halfway point!
Checked in at about 9:12, with Spencer and (sorry) "the guy he brought with him" already resting up and finishing their halfway breakfast/lunch. There was a local sitting there too with coffee and a smoke and they were actually talking about cycling stuff: Hotter n' Hell Hundred in Texas, the "whole Lance thing", and more... a little incongruous coming from a gruff-looking local driving a Dodge dually diesel pickup. He took a long drag off his cigarette as the conversation turned to John Brown highway (our next road) and the state of the road surface. Bob Burns had warned about gravel there - which didn't concern me and Spencer too much considering our choice of equipment. There was a detour provided, but we eventually decided to follow the local's advice and give the original route a try. Bag of Fritos chips and a quart of Powerade Zero - lime goes down smoother than a cold Fosters - refill of bottles, little more chatting with the local guy, and it was time to move. Right about then, the remainder of the group pulled up - the tandem with fixed seat clamp, Robert on the recumbent, and the rest. A quick chat with Karen and then Robert, and I mounted back up for a solo run at John Brown highway to Osawatomie, KS. Spencer and company had left already so I'd be in the big middle gap on the road. Five hours and change to the halfway - not bad. Of course, I know myself all too well - and the day was only getting hotter, so I was prepared to take things nice and easy. No matter what, at this point I was going to be on my longest ride in a year in the next section with no idea how my body was going to respond. So far, so good - no protest from anywhere, which was awesome - but what lay ahead I didn't know. Drink, and find a sustainable pace. That would be easy - as I wasn't going to be able to catch what I couldn't see and Spencer had left a while ago. No chasing.
John Brown Highway. While I don't know if there is anything spectacular about the road itself, historically, it's a far better name than some random county-assigned number. At first, I started laughing at the notion that this might be "gravel" -- no offense to Bob and his warning, as it's all relative: someone with high-pressure 23c tires would definitely be hating life on this road; but I have to thank Randy Rasa and a fair amount of gravel rambling over the past year or more for my perspective now; this was a fantastic road! Instead of gravel, it was really just chip-seal that hadn't quite firmed up - but it wasn't bad. Seventeen miles to Osawatomie. Settle in. This is one of those sections of road that I'll likely remember for a long time. It was quiet, farmland on either side - and really not much to see. It best describes the way I feel about randonneuring. In my minds eye I can see a wide-angle vista from a hilltop, waves of heat rising off the surface - and a barely distinguishable figure of a pedaling cyclist emerging into the frame. The sun was high and I was feeling good - well fueled, content. The only problem with these kind of perfect randonneuring roads is that feeling of "wow" when you have to stop. Like, when the vista is so neat I reach into my back pocket to grab the camera phone and fumble it. I'm a bit of a knuckle-dragger when it comes to bicycle stuff and it shows in my choice of technology. My trusty Palm Centro (you still have one of those??) once again proves that it's tough enough for a 17mph drop onto chip-seal - no problems. I decide to leave photos for another day, although after a 6-mile long gradual climb the over-the-shoulder shot of the road behind me woulda been sweet. A swig of water and I'm off again - utterly alone on a giant plateau.
Getting hot... but feeling surprisingly good. The bike and the body feel dialed, like I'm dropped right into the bike - harmony in motion.
Surprisingly quick, I start to recognize road names and I begin checking off the miles to the next town.... Pressonville Road...and the new intersection created to help prevent accidents on a blind hill. Then, I pass Bethel Church Road - which is gated off... and I wonder why. In fact, along John Brown highway, there are a couple minimum-maintenance roads signed - making me wish the clock wasn't ticking. Another time... I pressed on into Osawatomie, finally, and made my way to 6th street and to the Casey's in town for resupply. Not a control, but a welcome stop for sure. Caught up to Spencer and company there again - but we were all making quick work as the Paola control was only a dozen or so miles away. It was about 10:45am now. This is an excellent route - things that Karen had highlighted earlier in the day like the density of c-stores - evenly spaced enough that you don't feel like you're riding "in town" - makes it perfect for a hot day like today, as well as for a winter permanent route. Suddenly, I can see another R-12 formulating.
On the road to Paola, KS. is where I noticed that is was getting VERY hot, possibly crossing 100ºF for the first time that day. In the three miles leading up to the Casey's there it seemed the heat suddenly took on another flavor. I had been hydrating very well, almost turning it into a game with the clock. Early in the ride it was every ten minutes, take a swig. Then it became every five minutes. At this point, however, it was almost comical as I repeated in my head that every time I'd look at the clock, it was a good time to drink. 11:03? Good time for a drink. 11:07? Good time for a drink! 11:14? You guessed it... hey, bartender.... and on and on it went. Water was coming out now almost faster than I could put it in, so the first couple Endurolyte tabs were called into service. More uncharted road lay ahead as a Union Pacific train flew past just beyond the treeline to my left. 6th street turned into 327th street, which then brought me to Old KC Road on the southern end of Paola, and finally it became Silver Street with the next control in sight at about 11:20am. Bob Burns was there - having turned back at Eudora (per his plan) to get the van and meet us at the last control. It was welcome! Cold water for dousing the cycling cap felt great! Checked in with Bob and Spencer soaking up the air conditioning - although I didn't see any bank signs on the way in, it had to be much hotter now. More riders came in, the group that'd caught up at Princeton, with red faces and empty bottles. It was getting real out there. Robert Lee was MIA at this stage - and that was a harrowing sign: because he had designed the route we knew it wasn't because he was lost. Bob drove the route backwards to check on him. Time to push on -- more water, more fizzy tablets, cookie, and a 5-hour energy to stoke the engine a little. Ready to roll.
At this point, it wasn't even noon, more like only 11:35am -- I was thrilled, with only 30 miles or so to go, the ride that I'd started with expectations of finishing in under 12-hours "hopefully" was turning out to be a relatively fast showing for me, for the first time in ages. I had dreams of finishing before 2pm suddenly, but quickly dismissed them as too ambitious: easy, remember your pacing! NO need to rush --- last control checked off, and 6 hours to finish? In.. the... bag... just take it easy and don't die of heat exhaustion. Thoughts of the usual National Weather Service verbiage of "avoid strenuous activity" during the Excessive Heat Warning the whole area has been under for over a week now gave me a nervous chuckle. Yeah, right...
Back on Old KC Road it was easy to start checking off the miles as I rolled into the home-training radius. Hillsdale came quickly, where I reeled up Spencer and company again crossing the railroad bridge before 255th street. Karen on the tandem and crew caught up, and I made a half-way attempt to latch on for about a mile until folding back to my own pace. Kent and "KCBC guy" were putting on a good showing and quickly were 1/2 mile ahead, perhaps more. I'd pull some back on the climbs but they'd go again. Every once in a while I'd peek up to check their progress - but kept the willpower against chasing. Hard to do - but the consequences were too great. Drink, pedal, drink, pedal, eat, drink, pedal. We made quick work of Spring Hill, and then 199th street. I was holding a good pace, holding my position - as the "lead group" were staying just in sight, maybe 3/4 of a mile up. Then, some relief - reminding me how exposed the route really HAD been all day, we reached the trees lining Ridgeview Road between 191st and 175th streets -- sweet shade!!! Then, adding to the break, some clouds moved across the sky between us and the relentless sun. It's amazing... the temperature seemed to drop 15 degrees, but it was only an illusion. A few miles later, and the heat was back on -- but it was a nice, very welcome break. Making our way along, Bob passed by in his van - a highly dedicated RBA, indeed. I was suddenly thrust back in time to the Mississippi Valley 24-hour race where course marshals would drive the route, pull up alongside a rider and ask for status with a thumbs-up. If you didn't thumbs-up BACK, you got stopped and checked for signs of trouble. It was a hot day then, too... but this was hotter, more humid here. Bob pulled off at 167th, quickly re-positioned and rolled down the window with a thumbs-up extended, and I replied to the positive. Feeling good despite the miles and the heat, I think I might have actually been smiling. I noticed Robert Lee in the passenger seat, looking beat - but comfortable - very glad to get confirmation that he was okay.
Back into Olathe, and home turf... it was pretty difficult to swing through 159th street and NOT turn towards home... air conditioning, cool shower, real food, a nap.... no, keep going! Traffic lights conspired to allow me to regroup with the tandem and Kent and company, and so it was now a good group to head back through Olathe traffic and make our way over the last ten miles or so to Shawnee and the finish. What a day!
The hills of Renner Road began to show me that despite best efforts, I still might have been a few liters "off the pace" with hydration - just the slightest feeling of tightness in the quads and right calf made it clear: navigating through town, traffic and the stop-light rally had interrupted my drinking routine. Knowing the miles were falling and that the water was far better IN me than ON the bike I downed the rest of one bottle and started on the second in earnest right near the K-10 crossing. A few strokes, problems resolved. Considering the heat, I'll take that result - normally at this point I'm limping home on caloric deficit and smoked legs... today, I was feeling quite good! I returned to nearly constant drinking until the last bottle was drained, right around the 2 miles to-go mark near 87th street after navigating the nearly constant string of roundabouts on Renner north of 95th. Time check, and it wasn't even 1:30?? Holy.... my initial goal of a 4:00pm finish was LONG checked off, and it seemed that my Paola vision of a pre-2pm finish wasn't so daft as I'd thought! I even paused for a moment in my pedaling as we passed a road-side family lemonade stand under a big shade tree... almost stopping, but deciding that I'd come back afterwards. (it was tasty!)
Big smiles, and the final big downhill back over I-435 where we'd started the day in the dark less than 10 hours ago, we rolled in as a group around 1:35pm. Me beaming with a faux Cavendish move, tossing my bike across the "line" - 7 hours 45 minutes rolling time roughly, and a 16.3 mph average --- heck, I'm thrilled, as little as the numbers matter, honestly, it felt good to come out with a good showing. The feelings of nervousness from the last year, in one, giant dump, just fell off my shoulders onto the sidewalk in front of the c-store. Inside, strong A/C, food, drink, and Bob collecting brevet cards.
Jolly good to be back -- an EXCELLENT day.
Looming on the horizon on August 5th is the KCUC 400km tune-up for PBP... and I think I'm going to skip it. As good as I am feeling as I write this a week later, I'm completely confident I can do it - but I'm keeping my ramp-up slow. Awesome as it would be to pretend that nothing happened last year and I'm all "fixed", doubling the mileage load too quickly is a recipe for repeating the over-use injuries, perhaps. I'm biding my time for next spring's brevet series for the really long stuff... and if the urge strikes me there are a couple 300km permanent routes available, too. All in good time -- but I feel like I can start that once-a-month long-distance routine up again. That's a good feeling, lemme tell ya!
Songs stuck in my head:
Oddly, I can't remember ANY songs in my head... not sure why that is.
Stay tuned for the next one, stay hydrated, and thanks for reading.
I'm gonna go kick up my feet and watch some 'Tour coverage on DVR!