May 31, 2006

Catching up again

It's been a while since my last post, so I figured it'd be a good time to get myself back up to speed. In more ways than one, it seems, actually.
I don't even think I wrote much about the Lone Star century, which was like two weeks ago!
Wow -- I need to get back on the horse here... but that just shows you how busy life has been lately.

Anyways -- the Lone Star Century went REALLY well, considering the tumble and roll that spring has been to date. It turns out that, yes - even if you're just slogging along on a century back in April, you DO get something out of it, if you rest up. Rest I did, and I came back a little stronger. Started out simply enough, with a ride over to Ort's place to meet up, and then we both departed for the ride start a few miles away. The parking lot was CHOKED with riders, and the registration line was long -- a good sign for the club! I renewed my membership right there at the stand, while I was at it!

A quick reveiw of the map saw some interesting changes to the route, but nothing any worse than what I'd ridden before. Saw K-man, Atul, and Akil in the crowd, a lot of familiar faces, shook a few hands, and shortly after that we were off and riding! The sky was grim looking, but compared to last year I don't think anyone was complaining -- it was nearly 90º at the ride start last year!!! THIS was gonna be MUCH better already!

Ort and I hooked up, and started our assault. This was training - nothing more. For some reason, tho, our legs and spirits didn't get the message -- speeds were already up, and we felt surprisingly comfortable doing it --- the tailwind was helping, of course, but even a tailwind is useless if you don't have the push in your legs.

Motoring along, remembering and promising against the events of last year's ride, Ort and I spun the cranks and enjoyed the scenery, climbing a few hills and spinning out the long stretch of 151st Street near New Century Air Center, watching the marathon runners run their race. It was a rare day - the legs feeling fresh, the air fresher, and the skies opening up to a crystiline blue hue. Awesome time to be a on a bike.

A quick stop at Vinland after some more miles and some amazing vistas in the clear air, we were off again, this time into uncharted territory - the new part of the route! That hill to the west of Vinland is just as long and steep as it looks! Yeesh. It seriously reminded me of Colorado, and as I was recalling those days in 2002 climbing some mountain pass, I shifted and found myself out of gears! Dang.... spin! Spin! You have gears -- use them! It's hard to get out of "single-speed" mode, sometimes, but the recent conversion BACK to gears was beginning to pay off.
Up and over, I was actually enjoying the hills again, and revelling in the chance to enjoy the other side of them as well, with a nice rest and a little coasting.
I may not be as pure as the purest purist, but I'm enjoying my riding again - and that's all that matters!

After a few, maybe five, miles on US-59 highway (yeah..... THAT one) we finally turned onto the continuation of DG460 toward Clinton Lake -- this is a great piece of road here, but it's frequented by many cars, and it seems that in the only third year of riding this ride, the traffic count has gone WAY up out here. Frustrating, but understandable, as not just people on bicycles have cabin fever this time of year. After a few more miles, Ort and I pulled into the Clinton Lake SAG for another break. Stiffness was setting in, and my previously 'favorite' new saddle was beginning to give me some issues. Hmmm. The good news, I was finally learning from all of those past lessons, and was drinking PLENTY of water, supplemented with electrolytes. Further, a return to a successful formula always throws hindsight in my face. Fig Netwons? Well, they work great on brevet, but today my old friend Sustained Energy was along for the ride, and I felt AWESOME.

After our break, we were off again, this time to the splendorific hilliness of the Lone Star Lake area, about a dozen miles to the west. This, last year, was the deciding point --- there is something about popping, bursting, bonking, simply reaching a point of absolute fatigue that is quite dramatic when viewed from the outside. Not unlike a supernova in deep space, something that should burn steadily and brightly suddenly runs out of fuel, and several chain reactions begin to collapse. When this occurs, a rapid outward expansion of gasses causes the dying star to burn even brighter for a short time, before the conversion is finally complete and the giant globe of gas simply explodes. This is pretty much what happened to me last year -- I had a miracle moment on some of the hills leading up to Lone Star park, leading a strong pack for a few miles at a terrific pace, and shortly after I collapsed into my saddle a heap of gribbling goo - staying pretty much that way until the end of the ride, 50 miles later.

This year was quite different. Instead of imploding, I was actually feeling quite good, using the gears, using my breathing, feeling the terrain and calling on cardio to take up what the legs would normally be doing ALL of on a fixxie. With Ort close by, we traversed a few hills, and slowly made our way up,up,up to the entrance to Lone Star lake, and my favorite downhill -- and my least favorite stop sign -- in the whole of Douglas County. After climbing for nearly 15 minutes, it seems, this is the first major downhill and a good chance to rest, but resters beware of the T intersection with stop sign and blind run-ups at the bottom! Making matters worse, even if you are lucky enough NOTt to encounter crosstraffic, there is that ever-present patch of sand at the corner. Ugh. It's a 40+ MPH downhill, and a slam-on-the-brakes stop at the bottom!

After that, we're inside the park! Like every lake-park around here, it's HILLY. Seven or Eight good rollers later, we're at the rest stop, perched at the top of a big hill. Thanks! :)
In keeping with our solid schedule, I was ready to work at a little refuel, micturation, and a quick return to the highway to keep the legs fresh. My saddle wasn't feeling as good as it probably should, but I was ready to get back to work! Part of my problem was the deadline I had set for myself, which was providing a good motivation -- last year I would have been calling for a ride at this point!

Almost 15 minutes to the nose, Ort annouced his readiness, and we mounted back up and headed out.
It was gonna be a long slog back into a steady, but thankfully light, headwind - but I was still feeling fresh and strong (for once) and the water bottles were now filled with a fresh, cold dose of Sustained Energy in one, Carboplex in the other. I was ready to work, and for the first time in a long time, my body was ready, too.

Pulling into the wind - another first in a while - I led Ort and myself back east on a quest for steady and controlled speed -- speed being relative, as I still managed to get swept up by quite a few small pacelines with hard-core equipment and riders in them. Still, I was not concerned, because compared to where I was only a couple weeks eariler attempting the 400K, this was a HUGE improvement. Much like the long slow bloom of spring occuring around me, I felt like I was finally coming to life again. The push was there when I needed it, my HR was controlled, and my legs felt just a steady burn from the effort. It was starting to feel like old times again, as the miles ticked by and the pace remained fairly constant - all the way up to US-59 again.

At some point along the way, I had lost track of Ort, but I was not really wanting the feeling to drop, so I motored on, uphill, into the wind, back up the long downhill that I'd flown down about 90 minutes earlier. Steep, but not unmanagable, I chose my gearing and started to turn it over. A little ego hit, a fast paceline passed by on the left, making me long for a lighter bike, lighter body, DC motor, something... but I was managing okay. Eventually, the hill crested, and the rather dangerous intersection of US-59 and DG458 was upon me. I'm certain many people wrote letters of disdain about this particular part of the ride -- this is a dangerous turn to attempt in a CAR - bicycles are legal here, but I've never seen anyone attempt it, and now, here I was. Just like anything else - be calm, be predictable, and make your turn quickly and safely. BE SEEN. If you don't think they see you, they DON'T.

Turn completed -- whew....

Back towards Vinland, at last, and down the Colorado hill into the Vinland Valley below, I managed to catch up to a guy on .... I can't remember ... some race bike or another, with newer components, who was kind enough to exchange a few pulls with me here and there, but then turned up the heat right at the end near the rest stop -- I was feeling pretty good, but not nearly good enough to pull off a mock sprint to the SAG. Maybe in a few months. Yeesh... another stop to release some toxins, and refill bottles -- the hydration was finally becoming second nature, and it was making a difference in everything - energy, outlook on the ride, etc.

A quick scan of the horizon for Ort, and I was off again - under the clock again. Time to try and work it out.
Back in very-familiar terrority of eastern Douglas and western Johnson County, it was time to possibly cut this thing short and make that deadline -- after all, I was not terribly concerned with the landmark of the start/finish line, and I was getting a century-plus either way -- chomping up the last of 458, and even getting a little rainfall, the big steel steed and I made it to 151st Street, and then cut off near New Century Air Center, to 159th Street via the north loop road or the airport, and back east until I was home again, with about 15 minutes to spare! Most notable, the finishing push was not - again, for the first time in a LONG time - a death march. I felt a push all the way into the driveway, and was even off my bike and ready to put things away quickly, grab a recovery drink - instead of just laying prone on the garage floor, wondering when my heartrate was going to come back down. A welcome change, and definitely a feeling that I'm starting to catch up to the rider I was only a few years earlier.

It's official -- it's gonna be a GREAT summer!

Next steps: rest off the 111 miles from the Lone Star, start the commuter platform on gears and get more cadence training, and begin the ramp up for Tinbutt in July.

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