July 6, 2006

Eight Days to Meltdown

It's coming up awfully quick, and after this weekend's last-dicth effort to get mileage and training, I'll be on a nice, steady taper of easy rest rides. Mmmmm....tasty.

Unfortunately, I'll be drinking about a gallon a day of water and popping electrolyte tabs to stay hydrated for the onslaught of weather that awaits to the south of here.

I'm a lot smarter about it this year than I was LAST year - that's for certain -- and I'm really not that nervous about the prospect of riding for 12 hours with peak temperatures in the low 100's again, as it appears to be shaping up that way.
I've got a good plan - I just need to really stick to it this time around, and really minimize my time off the saddle.

Can't WAIT!!!

Had an EXCELLENT training ride with Ort last weekend -
This was the Weston Ride - formerly Andy's, now George's -- and either way, a first for me. I still consider this a little odd, especially after we drove up to the park where the ride starts, and I realized how close to home it really is for me. I shoulda done this ride a LONG time ago. Today was an off-day for the official ride, so it was just Ort and me, saddling up for 57 grueling miles of heart-pumping hills and thrilling decsents!

Wyandotte County Lake Park is a magical place -- if you are a cyclist, that is.
Nestled and still untouched by progress, this is a bigger lake park than Shawnee Mission Park, and why I always qualify statements about Shawnee Mission Park -- it's a tough ride, and (arguably) one of the toughest training venues IN JOHNSON COUNTY. Compared to Wyandotte County's park, however, the road circumnavigating Shawnee Mission Park might as well be flat. The seven-mile lake road at Wyandotte County Park is not only about 75% longer, but is at least twice as hilly, and each hill steeper than the last. It's a ridiculous circuit. Thankfully, today, we were only riding a short portion of it.

We leave the parking lot, and head northwest towards the exit, but we first climb a couple of nasty rollers, and enjoy some gnarly drops that curve and twist every which way, making it hard to remember which direction you're headed. Eventually, after a near-wrong turn on my part, we are on the way out of the park, and heading west towards Old K-5. K-5, or Wolcott Road, is a storied highway, part of the old Leavenworth Military Road, and it winds northeast for a while, passing under I-435 an along the Missouri River for a while, along the old Missouri Pacific rail-line - which I think is probably run by BNSF nowadays. There is a lot of history that has rumbled past these hills, as we roll past Lakeside Speedway, some abandoned DOT buildings, and old hills with livestock grazing.

We continue under the ever hotter sunshine until the hills begin, and they pitch up rather sharply and twist up around bend after bend - this is the way highways USED to be built, and it's a cyclist paradise. Very few cars interrupt our journey, as we click thru the gears and push up the stiff grades. With the wind at our backs, it's a perfect morning.

We pass thru Lansing, past an old prison, thru old neighborhoods with stunning late-1800's era homes, right turn to ride thru the VA hospital grounds and past the old governors' mansion - this is truly a city that time has not touched. Even the roads are quaintly 'out of date', with old rusty grates and crumbled curbs everywhere - occasionally there is a new patch of pavement, but not often.

We take a right at the church, and careen down a monster hill, past more houses, and then past a cement plant onto another flat at 2nd Street, and thru old Leavenworth's industrial area, with its old brick buildings and steep streets. We fly past the city market, and up another rise onto a old, high road that faces over the Missouri river into a massive valley. This is the western bluff of the river, on Esplande Street - 130 year old houses line only one side of the street here, all facing east -- can you imagine THIS being your front yard; a seamless view of the trees and valey over the river, and nothing in sight to the east for miles? I can imagine the original owners of these houses, sitting on the front porch at sunrise, seeing much the same thing I was marvelling at to my right, as I rode along. The modern safety bicycle hadn't even come along yet! Only inches under our tires, beneath carefully overlaid asphalt, was likely the original brickwork that paved these old roads.

A quick bend in the road, some climbing, and there it was: the Metropolitan Avenue bridge that crosses into Missouri, a gorgeous, simple double-span suspension deck, respendant in powder-blue. We rode hard to get across in good time, but the view was spectacular and I couldn't help staring off into the waters below, as a few cars patiently waited for us to cross safely - a far cry from Johnson County traffic!

Soon we were making our way east on Mo-45, towards the little town of Beverly, this time with the river on our left. This is the kind of riding I really look forward to - there were a few cars here and there, but they were simply on their way to somewhere else. To the left, right, and in front of me was nearly nothing - just endless fields of crops spreading across the fertile valley, and high bluffs and hills shielding the whole of the big valley. We traversed the RR tracks after about 4 miles of solid flat, good-shouldered - where I pulled out a decent pull at about 23 MPH. I hope I can bank on that in about a week!

After that, we motored north for more of the same, flat, good roads -- it really reminded me of Mississippi Valley 24-hour race back in Illinois - farms, and really long flats. It was easy to transport myself back to 2003 again, hammering along a perfect road, with a little help from the wind. Ort and I were making excellent time, and really enjoying the endless supply of sun, and just plain-ole good riding.

The days of the flats would not last, however - after passing under the main highway and thru the little burg of Beverly, we were once again climbing. We made our way farther north, and past Weston Bend State Park, which Ort tells me makes WYANDOTTE park look flat (yeeeesh!) - and on up to the intersection of Mo-273 and SR JJ, the latter of which we take west, towards Weston. It's a tough series of narrow roads later, which took us up, up, up into Weston proper, and then DOWN, fast into downtown -- and WHAM, we were there: the Weston Cafe.

This is an OLD building, which used to be a saloon at one point in the late 1800's, but was now a burgeoning local eatery. The place was about half-full of locals, sipping coffee, talking about the weather, the crops, the neighbors. It was instantly relaxing, aside from the fact we were both dressed rather garishly compared to the jeans and t-shirts around us. Still, the locals didn't pay much mind - I got the impression that cyclist were not uncommon up here - good hills, and not that much traffic.

We ordered out breakfast, and I was surprised at the sheer quantity -- I ordered the #6, which is the vegetarian hashbrowns, with a side of a biscuit. Ok, I'm thking hashbrowns - like maybe a 6" around side order of hashbrowns. I got TWO POUNDS of steaming potatoes, mixed with onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms - all fresh, and mounded with melted cheddar cheese. It was AWESOME..... but it would have made a better POST-ride meal!

Afterwards, I was ready to ride.... ride right home for a two-hour nap.
I was FULL, and I felt it with every pedal stroke, every climb after we got back in the saddle.

We made our way back out of town, and after nearly an hour off the bikes it really may not have mattered what we'd eaten. We were stiff, completely cooled-down, and all just before the biggest of the hills leading out of town again -- torture!
We made it back to the main highway, and then had to fight the headwind that was waiting for us all morning - we struggled and pushed until I was practically out of gas, and not very convincingly I managed to pull Ort for a bit on the way back to the RR tracks for the turn west towards the river again. Another rest as we waited for a fully-loaded coal train to pass by, and then we picked it up again.
Ort, obviously not as affected by his breakfast of one pancake and a two-egg omlette, was pulling strongly, all the way back to the main road, up and over the bridge, and through a green arrow left-turn back to the Kansas side, and K-7. I burped up a few different variants of breakfast, fianlly getting past the fullness of it all by the time the first of the big hills was upon us again. Thankfully!

We wound our way back south and west, and eventually even the wind didn't seem that bad as we both got warmed back up and into a rhythm again. My legs seem to have found themselves, too, on a a few of the hills winding back into Lansing, up to the church again, down thru the VA hospital (where we passed up some kids riding their bikes, too - a good day to be out), and back out onto K-5. This was gonna be the hard part, as Ort announced out altitude and what we had yet to achieve for the day. Whoof...

I shifted, and settled in for a few hundred feet of UP at a steep pitch, then down again at top speed, then up, down, up -- curve left hard, then right, up, down -- this is a GREAT road, but Man the heat was coming up, and the headwind wasn't helping much. Fully unzipped, sweat dripping, It was time to get some benefits out of this ride.
I managed to get past the very last of the hashbrown coma and started to tempo climb the last of the big hills, going into red-zone a few times, feeling the burn and pushing past it when I could. Exciting downhills provided a little rest, and then repeat - HARD. This was tougher than any 22-mile loop Tinbutt had to throw out at us, so it was time to make it hurt now so we didn't have anything to complain about later. After the hills were past us, and sooner than expected, we were back on the long straight flat leading back towards old K-5, and back to Wyandotte Lake Park again, where more hills awaited us. With temps up in the 90's again, this ride was ending JUST in time, as we flew over the last of the big hills in the park, and ended up back at the lot again.

A GREAT ride.... and excellent training - I'm defintely coming up here to do this again!

But I'm skipping the hashbrowns.

Sadly, this was probably the last ride Ort and I will have together (unless we ride THIS weekend, that is) before he moves to Texas. It's been a good run, man.
See you in Oklahoma!

Hope everyone had a good 4th of July -- mine was pretty relaxing, and ended the day with clear skies, a little less humidity, and some great fireworks with the family. Ahhh..... always a good time.

Talk to you all soon!

The next report should be the Tinbutt Ride Wrapup report when I get back!

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