May 26, 2009

Peugeot PR-10 is up for purchase

It's back on the block: If you know of someone looking for a little hunk of cycling lore and history, this is your shot - pass the word:

View listing here.

Truly has to be seen to be appreciated - I can't believe I've had the willpower to not ride this thing, honestly. It's gorgeous. Mention this web-page, and receive the "FOCD" discount. Kansas City deals preferred, unless you are willing to pay for heavily-insured shipping.

May 22, 2009

The Got-Off-Work-Early Me-Time ride

An awesome day, and the surprise of getting released early in the afternoon, I take advantage of the fact the wife wasn't expecting me until 5:00pm anyways, and the kids were occupied, to take a free pass and take the LONG way home.... like over three times longer.  I Actually hit the drive way about 15 minutes earlier than I normally would have had I left work normally, so it worked out perfectly!  

An awesome day, so I revisited the original Dark Side Ride "Prospectors" route, which meanders over into Missouri via the Tomahawk trail, south on Mission Road to 133rd, over to old 150 highway in Martin City - lured by barbecue scents blown on the stiff SE winds.  139th, east to Prospect, and south to 195th, over to State Line, 199th, and finally taking a rest at Metcalf and the Stillwell Grocery and BBQ joint.  

Hotter than I expected, and it really hasn't been that way this year yet - at least, not from the saddle for an extended period.  Standard commuting set-up only has me with one water bottle, too, and I was slacking on hydration.  Doy.  How many different ways must I learn this one?  Hahahaha!  At least I didn't bonk or pass out.  Stillwell came just in time, and I recovered nicely.

Right about the time I was leaving the Grocery, a couple of - well, people I just got finished ranting about a little down this page - came up the road, and proceeded to roll right thru the four-way stop at Metcalf.  Geeez... what to do?  Cervelo.... you know, I take back my desire for one of these, possibly.  There seems to be a stigma growing.  Ugh.  Actually, I quote Lance and retract my last statement:  It's not about the bike.  

With their Zipp wheels and sleeveless jerseys, man they looked fast -- and to be fair, they were fast.  With fenders, flaps, full panniers from work - well, let's just give this a try, eh?  Hammer on!  Reaching 30 mph felt flippin awesome with the slight downhill and SE wind certainly helping - and while I started to slowly, ever so slowly, reel back a little distance as they worked together and drafted off one another, there just wasn't enough road to catch up before my scheduled turn at Antioch.  Time to do something that they won't... gravel!  191st Street, some hills, and then the pavement runs out -- to Renner, move gravel, and finally back in the Olathe.  Ahhh.... 45+ miles for the day, a little worse for the wear with the dehydration bout, and a touch of sunburn - not too bad... Ahhhh.... a good way to start a three-day weekend!  

I hope you all enjoy yours!

May 21, 2009

Addendum: Rant of Spring.

Perhaps I'm a gutless idiot, but I can't offer up a rant telling people they're going it wrong without offering suggestions on how to do it RIGHT.  So, here you go:  

The above article on Commute By Bike, I found very informative - and it highlighted a way that I was doing it "wrong" - riding too far to the right DOES cause problems, causes a "squeeze", and can be more dangerous.  This, as I stand corrected, seems to make sense why some cyclists I've witnessed might not alway be hugging the curb-line - they're claiming the lane.  Now, I think this needs to be tendered to to automobile audience of the moment, and should be used as a guideline, not as a fist-on-the-table rule.  If someone is giving you a hard time on the road, give them more room to pass.  This is also shown in the video link on Kent's Bike Blog.  I think the learning curve for a lot of motorists around here is kinda steep, so I've been playing 50/50 with this guideline - staying to the right, but not SO far to the right that I have nowhere to go.  Could I do better?  Absolutely - and it's got me thinking about tomorrow's commute already.  I'm not perfect, and I'm okay with that.  I think most of us ARE doing a fine job, and things have gotten better over the years.  Diligence pays off, however, and I encourage even seasoned cyclists to take a look at these links, and offer your commentary, feedback, experiences - positive or negative.  I opened this can, after all.  Talking about it helps us all benefit.  

Thanks for reading!

Your rant of the Spring

I gotta tell ya, a conversation with a fellow "dude" at work today confirms what I was suspecting:  Seems like every year, as the weather warms, I begin to get less respect from motorists on the road.  How can this be?  I can't begin to tell you how many of these types of rants that I've started writing, and then delete.  I just don't know how this kind of post helps -- I'm trying to glorify cycling, invite people to it, garner relationships and grow community among cyclists - and I don't think getting on here and complaining about "other" cyclists does any good.  I don't know if it makes any darn difference, so it ends up being nothing more than a "getting it off my chest" forum.  You're all gonna do what you're gonna do - and chances are, the offenders aren't even reading this blog.  I just wish the message was pervasive and resonant enough to wake up the ones that need to hear it, so I ask respectfully of my readers that if you see behaviors that need to change, say something.  You can tell friends anything, right?  If they take it the wrong way, well, perhaps the friendship was as genuine as their riding skills.  I have to take that risk, also.  

Year over year, there are blog posts, news article comments online - most recently about Bike to Work Week - and the majority of them are anti-cycling.  It's surprising to me that as a cyclist, seeing what I see out there on the streets, that I have a very hard time disagreeing with some of the posters.  Honestly, people are people:  they are writing what they are writing because of an experience they had.  Can you fault them for that?  The fact that it happened is the unfortunate part - because if we were all doing it correctly, those posts wouldn't be there.  If there aren't any cars around to see what you're doing, I don't care WHAT you do.  If there are cars ANY-where around you, though, behave!  If you're holding up traffic, running stop signs, blowing red lights, riding on the wrong side of the road, riding all the way up the right-hand side of a line of cars to get to the stop-sign (as if being on a bicycle grants you permission to jump to the front of the line), stopping in the middle of the road at an intersection to get something out of your seat-bag, riding 15-abreast on Lamar with a line of cars behind all of you because it's "the wacky Wednesday-night hot-dog ride", or you're out there otherwise being stupid, with witnesses in cars behind you that are going to bottle up that frustration and take it out on another cyclist down the road later on, then you're just plain doing it wrong.  I'm not sorry about it anymore - with regards to the rules of the road, there is "right" and there is "wrong".

The "wrong" behavior has a consequence - even if that consequence is not delivered to the offender.  At 35 MPH, a motorist is going to pass you and get away from you quite fast - and with each passing mile the event in question - however insignificant it may have seemed - will get replayed over and over in that driver's head, and they're going to talk, text, Twitter, Facebook, blog, whatever about it for days afterwards.  Other people get into cars after hearing this story - which may potentially be overblown - and they're going to come upon another cyclist.  A cyclist that is minding their own business, potentially doing everything RIGHT.  Without warning, people are gonna get hit, gonna get stuff thrown at them, gonna get yelled at, and are gonna get hurt and possibly killed.  There's no excuse for letting this happen.    

Where in the world did anyone get this "by devine right, I will take this entire lane, and ride any flippin' way I please" mentality come from?  When someone yells "car back", how come you don't move over to the right and single up?  WHY?  What's the reason?  I have never understood this, after 11 years back on the bike.  You're riding in traffic, on a bicycle, and you're essentially no more protected or respected than a possum or squirrel - totally venerable, utterly unprotected, and no-one cares about you.  I've heard stories of cars swerving to avoid a DOG, and hitting a cyclist as a result.  If that doesn't tell you the REAL pecking order, I don't know what does.  A thin layer of spandex is the only thing protecting you from serious hospital time.  Your helmet - well, assuming you wear one at all - is not going to keep you safe.  That thing underneath it is supposed to do that.  Common sense.  Self-preservation.  The only thing that is keeping you safe and alive, ride after ride, is the WAY YOU BEHAVE.

Racers.  Ah, racers.  Tell me;  what kind of performance-enhancing drugs does someone have to inject to get the nerve to do - and I'm not making this one up:  laps up and down Blackbob in Olathe, between 151st and 143rd, on a Cervelo, wearing a CSC jersey, NO helmet, taking the entire lane in the process - sometimes the inner-most lane, and causing people to have to brake wildly as they dart across lanes to circle around again from the median, without looking, without slowing, at 4:45 in the afternoon - practically rush-hour?  Thanks a WHOLE lot, man - I appreciate it.  Noting the bicycle type and jersey configuration, it's certainly the same notion that gives expensive luxury-car and SUV drivers the notion that the speed limits and turn-signal laws don't apply to them:  divinity by purchase price.  When did suddenly NOT wearing a helmet become vogue again?  I guess we need another pro-peloton rider to die to reinforce the notion that your skull isn't bullet-proof?  I suppose that's okay, actually - in keeping with the tone of this commentary, perhaps I don't want you wearing a helmet, after all.  Good luck to ya.  

Yesterday, I end up standing at an intersection, trying to convince on-coming traffic that it's REALLY their turn to go, because they're just sitting there waiting for me to run the stop sign.  That indicates to me that the common perception out there has shifted enough to have drivers expecting the wrong behavior.  So, by consequence the correct behavior becomes the exception.  A month ago, that wasn't happening.  Hand signals are being misconstrued as inappropriate hand gestures - because somebody on a group ride, somewhere, flipped off a guy in a car -- then, days later, that same driver gets behind me when I'm about to turn left - and my arm comes out.... what's he thinking?  What does he think I'M thinking?  What's he going to do?  Am I the last straw for him, even though I was only signaling a turn?  Thanks again, whoever you are, group rider.  I mean, at what point do we stop talking about this and just throw up our arms and start riding down the middle of I-435?  Just get it over with.  I want to die in traffic - that's how I want to go, by howdy.  Did your mommy not hug you enough when you were a kid?  Do you honestly just not know how to ride in traffic?  Did no-one teach you?  If you're having a problem with cars, did you ever wonder if it was you?

Honestly, it's the state of the nation.  It's the state of Johnson County cycling.  "Me, me, me."  It's MY road, it's MY workout, it's MY triathlon training, it's NOT my problem, I'M fast enough so I don't have to obey the rules and guidelines, and there's more than ten of us out here so the stop signs must just be a suggestion.  Wake-up:  The world is NOT a closed-course.  The freaking police aren't even on our side, guys - c'mon!  Leawood, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Olathe - You know WHY?  Because we're doing it wrong!  Why are they going to waste time protecting and serving cyclists if we're always the variable?  If cyclists were consistent and followed the rules, then maybe the authorities would get on our side and start punishing drivers for acting out.  No-one cares about us, guys - I'm serious.  I just want to make it home to my wife and kids safely after each ride.  I don't know what some of you are thinking or doing, but if you're getting hassled by drivers it's time to ask yourselves "what could I be doing differently?"  Oh, silly me... that takes a sense of humanity.  It's about "you", I forgot.  There are no consequences, there is no such thing as Karma, and drivers will forget about what you did as soon as they are a mile down the road.  "Oh, no - they had to wait ten extra seconds because they had to pass me" --- you know, I've heard that, and I've said that;  but, really, their perception is what's real to them at that moment.  Why make it harder than it needs to be?  Ride safe, ride smart - the rest takes care of itself, TRUST me.  You don't have to take every opportunity to remind motorists that you have a right to be on the road.  GET OVER.  Let them pass.  Don't run the stop sign.  OH, sorry -- you might have had to wait ten extra seconds.  Go ahead and run it.  Especially in a group - I mean, why think for yourself?  Everyone else is doing it, right?  

Arguably, you could say the entire purpose of this post is to shape up everyone else so that *I* have an easier time of things.  Sure, that's part of it - I'm a big boy, I can take it just fine.  I work in corporate America:  I know what it's like to take the brunt of someone else's screw-up - but I'm tired of doing it from the saddle, too.  Yeah, I've screwed up plenty - but I learn from it, change the behavior, and move on.  I'm actually trying to ride by the rules, to play it safe, and to not cause a fuss - I'm trying to do my part, and ride to the right, and make it safe for cars to pass me, just as they have a responsibility to pass me safely.  I get in line with the rest of traffic when approaching an intersection, and I've NEVER been yelled at or honked at for doing it.  Honestly, it doesn't happen to me that much - I had stuff thrown at me once in 2003, and I had someone get out of a car up the road to yell at me once in 2001.  That's it, in nearly 70,000 miles.  As a business analyst and statistics nut, that tells me a clear result:  I must be doing okay.  However, again, it seems to happen every Spring when it's finally warm enough to get those that don't do their part back out on the roads - it gets a little more tenuous for everyone.  So, no, it's not really about me:  it's the stories I hear from other cyclists that bother me - tales of bottles hurled along with obscenities... why is it happening to them?  There has to be something happening to warrant it, and it needs to change.  I'm fighting and yelling for ALL of our rights - and, more importantly, so are our advocates fighting for bike lanes and safe bridge crossings and Katy Trail connections.  Essentially what you have is someone standing up on the floor in Topeka or Jefferson City, on your behalf, telling someone with a coffer of tax money that "we've earned it" and "we'll make good on it", and then you ride the way you do?  Shameful.  Those that would do it "wrong": shape up, do your part, or hang up the bike - it's that simple.

May 18, 2009

An awesome week on tap

I'm excited to have put some serious projects behind me, and while the rest of the month is still a little hectic I think things will be okay - barring any major surprises.  
Of course, now that I've SAID THAT OUT LOUD.... yeesh. 

Weather-wise, this week looks to be really, really nice.  It's kinda sucky, however, that I've decided not to ride the 600K this coming weekend - because the weather is going to be nearly perfect.  It would make that long, difficult ride a lot easier to manage - but I think I'll start the day with a considerably shorter ride, and then offer my support to those that ARE going to ride it.  I've received a barrage of emails asking what my problem is, why I'm not riding the 600, etc, etc, etc. - so I suppose I'd better outline that before I invite another onslaught of messages.  I feel really good, really strong, and things went tremendously well for the 300 and 400K's, but I need a break.  I need to stop stressing about it for a while, and start to clear off my calendar.  I'm trying to do TOO much - and that's my call to make.  Can I do a 600K?  You betcha... and I was considering riding it straight through for the first time this year -- but there's always next year.  Time away from the kids, the wife, working SO much, handling so many problems for people, house issues, just staying on top of the freaking lawn-mowing.  Crud... things could be a LOT worse, and sure:  maybe a 600K is just the kind of vacation I need.  Honestly, I just want to choose to sit down, and have a vacation from just about everything linked to "responsibility".  A nice, SHORT ride, on my terms, with no clock -- that sounds nice, and I can be home and hang with the family.  In a couple more years... let's see:  34 months, not that I'm counting.... I'll be able to have a clear calendar, and fewer worries, and then the multi-day events will become more do-able.  It's not a matter of "can't" --- it's a matter of "shouldn't".  So, there ya go.  

That aside, I'm exceedingly happy with the numbers I've achieved for myself this year so-far.  The 300 went well, the 400 went well, and I think that's a great start towards a potential 2nd R-12 run.  On the same vein as just a moment ago, however, I'm not putting too much pressure on myself to keep it going - but it's nice to have something month-over-month to plan for, keep the spirit and the fitness up.  I still have to make some runs at the Border Patrol route and see if the weight loss to-date equates to a faster time on that course.  Things like that are helping keep the rest of the cycling season in perspective for me.  Littler things like the Cider Mill ride in August perhaps, the Tour De Shawnee - some of the old faves that I haven't ridden in a few years -- lots to choose from.  For now, commuting and just keeping it low-key, fun, and energetic.  

Temperatures this week look really good, and while I SHOULDN'T be using the weather as an excuse to "do the right thing" with regards to alternative transportation and "green" thinking, it helps.  It's been a while since I've had a free-enough calendar to get a solid five-day work-week on the saddle.  Something always seems to come up, and it may yet happen - but for a Monday, I feel pretty optimistic.  Might even take some pictures on the way home today, spice things up and recharge the Picasa page.  Enjoy!

May 16, 2009

Sorry folks

I just couldn't make it to the swap meet at ACME this morning -- but I still hope YOU did, and gave some of those fine folks some business.  Hectic work schedules are taking their toll, I didn't have time to get anything priced this week, and with my 2nd job, I would have had time to get there, set up, break down, and leave for work.  Nice.  Anyways -- I'll be offering up C'Dude Deals on this page with possible links to Craigslist to get some of this stuff moved -- stay tuned. 

May 11, 2009

Nice to meet me.

The Leon 400K Report:

I rose on time, leapt from my slumber and hit a hot shower to get ready for what would certainly be a long day.  How long, I had no idea.  Coffee on the back porch, and that familiar clang of windchimes around the neighborhood, the rushing of wind through leaves all around.  Wind.  My old foe.  Even on the drive north, I could tell the wind was putting up a good fight.  I arrived at the Perkin's in Liberty at 5:00AM, and exited the car - immediately greeted by the cool wind, and began to shiver while I talked to Bob Burns and got my registration straight.  After unpacking the car and preparing the bike, my post from last ride was right on the money - pack everything, right?  Good move, because I promptly took everything out of the bag one by one and donned it.  A friend on Facebook nailed the notion:  it's very odd indeed that a mere month ago 60 degrees would have been considered nice and warm... and that morning at 47ºF reading on the bank thermometer across the way was confirmation enough that it was downright COLD.  Not the coldest 400K start, but still.  Perkins opened at 5:30, and I was quick to rush inside to warmth and the requisite pre-ride restroom break.  Some toast and jelly, and soon Bob was rounding people up outside.  Time to ride. 

A good showing, and a lot of the usual rando-crowd - Dale B., Jeff W., Jack R., Spencer K., Steve B., Kent F., Karen, a tandem couple from Colorado (word is getting out!), Alex, Danny "Clink", the yellow Litespeed, a recumbent, and (crud.... one mental casualty I'm missing one name.)  I'm getting better, I promise I'm trying. 

 I did it yet again... I don't know WHAT it is about highway H headed out of Liberty, or the thrill of being with a group instead of solo, but I ALWAYS do this.  Hey, look ... someone's riding fast!  Get 'em!  Even though time and time again, I know what the price is for that move... but, interestingly enough that price is slowly becoming more speed at distance.  Today, however, it's a move I'd regret for many, many miles.  Move #1, there is a mileage error in the cue sheet that the four of us up front realize at the 9.9 mile marker... knowing the turn off this road for the 200K is normally at the 12.1 mile marker, and on Google Maps (my usual preview source) the prescribed turn was AFTER this point.  So, we rode on, slowly, and looked and looked - and we passed a road with no road-sign... which was THE road.  Did we turn?  No... "that can't be it..." - but it WAS it.  Cut into the hills of Excelsior Springs, miles later, we got directions back on-route, and rejoined the correct road, with bonus miles in the tank.  Ugh... not what any of us wanted, but hey... it's early.  The problem now, nobody knew who was behind us, who was in front of us.  For the trio of Alex, Steve and Jeff, however, this was not a problem.  They make up time by simply riding a WHOLE lot faster than I can (yet).  Before even a half-mile has elapsed, they three were advancing up the road towards whomever was up ahead.  Little did I know, it was Spencer, Danny and friends - I think.   Honestly, at this point, I knew that I was probably in for another long solo-mission on the roads of Missouri.  For now, and for the next 55 miles, we'd be on ONE road with no turns.  Welcome to US-69 highway.  Sounds forbidding, but really with Interstate thirty-five SO close-by, there was not much traffic to speak of on the highway - a nice surprise.  Still, this would prove damaging as the day progressed:  part of my mental tool kit for dealing with these rides is checking off the turns - and for this ride there simply weren't that many of them.  

We passed a little gas station at Lawson, MO., and I quickly stopped to regroup myself, hit the head, and get more water.  Note to self:  the third-water-bottle trick I'd used for the 300K was a GOOD idea, and for some reason I took the notion from this route that since there was a C-store every 20 miles on average that I'd just tough it out on water storage.  That's one of the things I'd change about this one.  I just like having the surplus, as opposed to completely running out.  Feeling that burst of air from the water bottle as the last drops of water are blown past thirsty lips is one of the most harrowing sounds in long-distance cycling when you are still miles from the next stop - especially with my tendency to process water so fast.  It happened more than a few times, and I remembered how nice the 300K went and smacked myself, mentally. 

After emerging from the c-store restroom, I had no idea who had passed by, who was where, or what -- all I knew was, I had to ride to Pattonsburg and get my card signed.  That's it - that's the next move.  Just pedal.  And, so, I did.  The next 25 miles, I was alone, pedaling up over hills, along the highway.  I don't remember too much about that part other than the fact the WIND began to annoy.  Thankfully, along came a threesome of Dale B., Kent and "Yellow Litespeed", catching me up.  Always a pleasure to ride with, and a gentleman, Dale invites me to hop on.  I do.  Those following 25 miles were FAR easier.  Thanks, guys!

We ride and ride, northbound, fighting the wind, fighting chills, fighting hunger and fatigue, dodging pavement anomalies, and finally we arrive in Cameron, MO.  It's not a control, but it's a chance to stop and regroup, physically and mentally.  "Three hours is plenty," says Dale, and we find a Burger King near US-36 and stop for a break and a bite.  REAL FOOD.  This is something that I don't normally engage in on these rides.  I'm usually the guy that is laden down with powdered fuel, drinking happily from control to control on my steady, predictable, and easy to handle "engineered nutrition" plan.  It's seldom failed me.  However, due to a pre-ride blunder involving me not reordering my trusty Carboplex, I was flying on very little on-board food.  I had a back pocket dedicated to it - just munchies, stuff to sustain me between controls.  Peanut butter crackers are the norm here, since they seemed to work okay on the 300K.  Thankfully, I did have enough Carboplex left over from the 300K to stoke the bottles for the first leg of the ride - which effectively has got me to Cameron.  The wind requires a lot more energy to pedal through, so intake was up.  With both bottles already diluted from the stop in Lawson earlier, I was running on Carboplex vapors, and was starting to feel it as we climbed the hills going thru Cameron, up to the ridge on-which US-36 rests.  Us four rolled up, dismounted, and headed inside for the feast.  Egg and cheese "Croissanwich" tasted like pure heaven.  The lights came on a little - being a vegetarian, it's hard enough finding the right fuel at a c-store that won't give me problems yet still provides enough protein and calories - but, this good, hot food was perfect.  I highly recommend it.  I just have to remind myself not to go TOO crazy... you want to be satisfied, not FULL - be careful not to overload the system and cause issues down the roadway.  It's all personal, all open to YOUR experimentation - I can't officially recommend anything here.  What works for me works for me.  The breakfast sandwich was a great idea, tasted AWESOME because it was earned, and provided the lift I needed and the fuel to get me to the control at Pattonsburg - which was still 27 miles away.

The four of us continued to work well together, taking pulls, managing the hills and the wind along the way to Pattonsburg - we passed thru Winston, near Altamont, and reeled in another rider about 10 miles shy of the control, and hooked him onto the paceline.  About this point, Dale could "smell" the control, and the pace came up - unfortunately, not everyone was able to keep up.  I tried a couple times to get our new fifth rider back up to the pack, but it just didn't work out - the hills were taking their toll - and so I found myself in-between riders, solo again.   Thankfully it didn't last long, and I arrived at Pattonsburg for the control, and more food.  

There is something to be said for backup plans, and my old nutrition plan, and arriving at a control later than other groups in these smaller towns.  After realizing that the pizza in the hot case was already gone-thru, I opted for a pre-packaged bean and cheese burrito, which went down really, really well, and sat good for hours to come.  Tired, I answered a phone call I'd missed from the wife, ate my food, and started to get ready to go again.  We'd caught up with the next-fastest group, and arrived in time to see the leaders on the road, Jeff and company, getting ready to depart - so, really, I was making good time.  The only variable was how long they'd rested.  I made as-quick of work of the control as I could, but eventually opted again to wait for the rider that was behind me to be ready in hopes I'd have someone to ride with.  Unfortunately, pacing is what it is, and after a couple hills we were separated again.  This time, I'd be alone for a WHILE.  A LONG while.

I had very little idea how far up the road Spencer and the "middle" group were, but I knew that I couldn't see them cresting any hills - no specs of bright yellow or the flash of sunlight off of a helmet to be seen.  The scenery was breath-taking, though.  The rains of April have painted the landscape up here a brilliant green as far as my eyes could see - and I smiled a lot about that, but the distraction was always temporary.  It was getting warmer, and layers had come off at the last control - so I was enjoying some late spring cycling in lighter clothes, but the wind... man.  Constant.  No shelter.  No treeline, no ridge, nothing.  Very little coasting, even on moderate downhill sections.  There were hills near Bethany that were interesting, and a long, steady climb up US-136, upon-which US-69 overlays for a while before turning north again.  I stopped in Bethany at the Casey's that would serve as a control on the return, long enough to refill my bottles and take a nature break, and then it was back to business.  More peanut butter crackers, too, although the burrito lunch was still providing the push I needed.  I worked my way out of Bethany, and continued north.  At this point, I'd wondered how upset I'd be with myself if I'd just turn around and start back home.  The lack of turns, the constant fight against the wind, and being upset with myself for getting lost - which set the tone for missing riding with a group - taking too long at the last control, etc., basically letting the groups get away.  It's hard to chase something you can't see - but that's essentially what I kept telling myself:  push.  They are just around the next bend.  Mentally, however, after dozens of bends later and no result, I was getting frustrated.  Some people get mad at it, and it makes then push even harder... for me, it becomes brood, it slows the legs, and saps the spirit.  I let it happen too easily.  KEEP PUSHING.  I tell myself over and over that the next hill is one hill LESS until the turn-around.  I tell myself how nice things will be after the turn-around, with a near guarantee of a tailwind the entire trip back south.  The occasional dog jumping from a front porch was the only thing that lifted my pace, however.  It was just steady, steady slogging north... chipping away at it, one pedal stroke at a time.  Drink, eat, pedal, repeat - and try not to think.  I don't remember much else from this section.  

Crossing into Iowa was anticlimatic, as a result.  I was too whipped to really "leap up and down" about it, mentally.  I stopped and took a picture, and took a leak.  A little for Iowa... a little for Missouri...  ni-iiiice.
Re-mount, and ride.  Even though this was a good sign, a sign that I was getting closer, I couldn't relax yet.  I wasn't at the turn-around.  I remembered something in my head that Spencer told me back in January:  "Whenever I make it to the halfway point, I know I'll finish the ride."  I repeated this over and over in my head.  Legs?  Strong.  No cramps.  No issues.  I was drinking enough, and I stopped at the Casey's in Lanomi, IA to top off the bottles again, which were empty upon arrival - so hydration was good.  3:24 PM.  I was climbing strong, in large gears - even standing up to do it, as opposed to just sitting and spinning as easy a gear as I could get away with.  Physically, I was on-form and having a good ride -- but mentally I was suffering.  This "wasn't worth it", "this is dumb", and "I wonder if the wife would even consider driving up here to get me - would the scolding be worth it?"  Ugh.... keep pedalling.  

The next section was interesting - I find it hard to say this, but the GOOD PAVEMENT OF MISSOURI was behind me as I rode from Lamoni to Leon, IA.  I think the highway there is in a state of transistion, and my attention turned to dodging monster shoulder drop-offs, pavement joint break-ups and cracks, and sloppy asphalt fill.  Traffic was acceptable, and I was finally starting to feel closer to a turn-around, physically and mentally.  Keeping my mental tank topped off was the fact that on this out-and-back route, I had not yet seen the fast bunch headed back south.  Despite my mental struggles of the last 60 miles, I wasn't exactly poking along considering I had been doing solo battle with the wind, where others had enjoyed a group and a draft.  Perhaps I was coming back to form, after all?  My average speed wasn't too horrid, even though the last section's average speed was a paltry 12.38 mph because of the wind - but, overall, my spirits started to lift as I assessed the total information.  It was right about 4 miles from the turn-around that I saw the fast trio come around a bend, headed south - still looking fast - but, again the variable being their rest-time, who knows how far "behind" I really was.  Not really the point of all this, I told myself, but I smiled to myself none-the-less.  That means, potentially, the middle group was still at the control! 

They were - but, just like at Pattonsburg, they were wrapping things up.  After riding in, and apparently looking as smoked as I was thinking I felt (again, all mental), I got the advice to get some calories on board, and I'd feel better.  All true.  I ordered up a cheese sub from the lunch counter, had some famous cheesy potatoes bites, a Coke, some Powerade Zero (Gatorade-style quenching refreshment and electrolytes, withOUT the high-fructose corn syrup and potential stomach upset the old "G" can give.  Probably the BEST thing to show up in c-stores since... well, beer.) and some pop-tarts for the back pocket, for later.  I ate like a c-store KING, and so-far I was not paying any price for my lack of engineered nutrition.  Perhaps a little consistancy - and as I'd find later, I think there really is something to be said against high-fructose corn syrups and such in the food I was eating:  even the PB Crackers have some of it.  I think after a certain number of hours, your muscles - sure, they'll still burn it - but they "know" the difference.  I seem to run-out too fast as the day wears on, and HFCS is not something you want to run out of on a ride like this, because the bonk is tougher.  I think it makes you hungrier than you might really be, and it's not "pure", "natural", "good" fuel.  It works, but there IS better.... like that cheese sandwich and potatoes I had.  More than anything else, THAT real food was what would get me all the way back to Bethany, MO.  Upon emerging from inside the Casey's, the now nine-strong middle group, complete with the Colorado tandem, was gone.  Alone again.  I ate at my own pace, and rested my head, repeating my mantra:  it's only going to get better from here.  But, in the back of my mind, I knew what time it was.  I'd arrived and had my card signed at 4:50pm.  We'd left the Perkins in Liberty at 6:00am, and it was 5:02pm when I left from Leon, IA.  Eleven hours.  Into the wind.  Heck, that's a respectable 200K time, really!  But, I still had to ride allllll that way back.  Every inch that I had come, I had to cover again.  My spirit needed a tailwind, and thankfully I was given one.  

The next three hours were simply brilliant.  I took on a new mental technique, and started resetting the "trip distance 2" counter on my computer every time I saw a new highway sign that, for example, would say "Eagleville: 7 miles".  I'd watch the smaller number, and check it off as a small victory -- the tally of each small victory resulting in another small step towards finishing the war.  I should have done this on the way UP, but it's not always within our control what kinda of tricks dawn on us, and when.  But, it made the resulting leg back to Lamoni quite fast... fast enough to start raising the total average speed a few tenth's of MPH at a time, ever so slowly.  Feeling the wind, and feeling inspired with a new goal, things really started coming around.  Thinking that part of my success from Leon to Lamoni was Coca-Cola-related, I stopped at the Lamoni Casey's again, got another 12 oz. can, slammed it, and hit the bathroom again.  It was now 6:07pm - what had taken me an hour and 16 minutes to cover I had just polished in about an hour - most of it east-west without the true tailwind yet.  I knew that I was wasting time stopping, but it was all towards that new goal:  catch the middle group at the next control, and stay with them.  After all this nonsense, there was no freaking way I was going to ride solo all through the night, all the way back to Liberty.  Despite the mental hardships of the previous few hours, it was now time to work.  6:17pm.

And work, I did.  Starting to wonder - in spite of the HFCS questions - if engineered nutrition was anything to worry about ever again, I hammered along the miles without any hint of consequence from my day's dietary choices.  I was focused, relentless, with the wind my new ally.  Towns that I had struggled to get to were now flashing by at speed.  "I will not ride alone tonight ... get to Bethany".... over and over.... 

7:44pm.  I arrived at the Casey's in Bethany, MO.  From Lamoni to Bethany, an average of 19.2 MPH.  Not bad, and mission accomplished:  There was the middle group, still on the sidewalk - and I had made up enough time that they were still sorta midway in their control prep, getting ready for the next leg, instead of ready-to-roll out.  I asked what they were doing, what their plan was, and rushed inside to grab a couple things and get my card signed.  Of course, there is one local guy in line that wants some weird chew that isn't stocked currently, five dollars on Powerball, and a pizza to go - all for the one cashier that's working there.  I'm standing, and waiting, and standing, and waiting - and I can see the activity outside on the sidewalk -- cyclists AND bikes are moving about, and I know the writing on the wall.  Crud....  then Clink peeks into the store:  "you plannin' on being here long?", to which I replied that I was hoping to catch a group back in if they didn't mind waiting -- WHEW... thank goodness.... Danny went back out, spread the news, and the flurry of activity stopped.  Time to make good.  Customer gone, I got my card signed, food paid, out the door, extra layers from the morning off the back rack and back on my body, while eating, Kent offered up a refill on my bottles which saved a trip back inside, and someone took my trash and deposited it for me -- it went off fast, and hectic, but I didn't want to make the group wait.  Success!  We all rolled out of the Casey's together, and for the first time in 100 miles I was finally not alone, I took a deep breath, and relaxed a LOT.  Eighty-six miles to ride, and the sun was getting low.  Time to move. 

Because the road is so long, there are no turns, and at night things become quite featureless, the last part of the ride seemed to take forever.  Being with a group now, I had conversations and pack dynamics to keep my mind off things - just eat, drink, and pedal.  A couple hours later, Kent flatted and we all got a little bit of a rest - local sherriff stops by and provides some extra light so the repair can be made.  I call the wife and kids and say goodnight... still a long way to ride, as we're only just south of Pattonsburg ... 65 miles to go?  Yikes... don't think too much.  You're not alone.  9:05pm.

We all regroup again, and roll out.  And that's pretty much how it went for miles and miles and miles.  Little towns and houses were checked off, occasional dogs in the distance let us know they were awake and watching us.  The big nearly-full moon came up, and we actually howled at it.  We're all nuts.  I love that... 

10:26pm.  Winston, MO., another C-store... the first one in hours, it seemed, and we stopped for food, warmth, and rest.  Nine miles later, we're in Cameron, MO., another control, and we stop again for rest, food, warmth, more layers.  11:18pm.  Our pace was still good, but we were all taking longer and longer breaks, and no-one was really complaining about it.  Plenty of time to get back, with a 27-hour cut-off.  It was getting chilly, and everyone was wearing everything they'd brought with them.  It's strange, I didn't bring my third water bottle, but I DID bring a thin thermal head-and-face cover (balaclava?) and had it in my back pocket all day.  I'd done that occasionally in the past - ever since the '05 400K which got so cold at night - because if you can cover your head you WILL stay warmer - plus, you just never know how cold you are going to FEEL, despite the temperatures.   I was happy that I'd had at least remembered to bring that little gem... I folded it over itself once and turned it into a watchcap, just enough to cover the ears - and combined with my cycling cap, for the rest of the ride I was perfectly cozy.  There are others that are real soldiers; strong, strong people:  one guy with no warmers, maybe a vest, no full-finger gloves that just rode along in the upper 40's without so much as a complaint.  Other people had to give him a hard time just to get him to acknowledge he was sorta wishing for a jacket or some warmers.  His "kung fu" is strong.  

After Cameron, more of the same.  Eventually we rolled out of town, and continued south.... south............ south.  Yeesh.  Thank goodness for nearly PERFECT pavement, and light traffic, and a nice moon-lit night.  It really was, despite the growing fatigue, the concerns about water, etc., a great night for a bike ride.  It's just too bad it took ALL DAY to get this this point.  Ahhhh, I take that back... you have to take the bad to appreciate the good.  A few things that are probably over-used, but relevant:  that which does not kill you makes you stronger - true.  Pain is temporary... glory lasts forever - true.  Adversity is like a strong wind - fight it long enough, and it strips away everything and reveals who you really are.  Nice to meet me.  I was encouraged to find that after 130+ miles into that headwind, I turned right around and fought hard to get back to Bethany in time to ride with a group, stayed focused on that goal, and made it happen.  In the face of such a long road back, knowing what I had just experienced on the way up, I am proud of the fact that I stood up on the pedals and kept right on pushing.  After I turned around, the notions of quitting never came to mind again.  I'm pretty happy with that.  

If you're going through hell, keep going.  ~Winston Churchill.

More of the same all the way back into Excelsior Springs, and finally a huge check-mark off the list as we crossed the citiy line: we were within 20 miles to ride.  Slowly we navigated the streets and empty intersections of Excelsior and found the little road we were supposed to have taken 19 hours earlier - well, the little road *I* was supposed to have taken, that is.  Everyone else in that fine 9-person group had made all the correct turns.  After a quick break, people started to "smell the barn" and we all broke apart into mini-groups and started making our way back southwest on highway "H" towards Liberty, each at our pace.  It's odd, in all the time I've passed over this road, I'd never ridden it IN to town before;  the return route was always back into Liberty from another direction.  It's a neat road - sorta eerie after dark, not a lot of traffic, as usual.  Nice.  I finally got up the nerve to check the clock on my bike computer -- okay, not TOO bad... 1:53 AM... so, we're not going to finish before Perkin's closes at 2AM.  That was a small disappointment, because part of my focus for the last 30 miles was a nice, hot stack of pancakes, coffee and juice, maybe some hashbrowns.... with cheese....  OH LORD that would have tasted GOOOOD.  Still, I knew there were other 24-hour food options, but I really kinda wanted that pre-2:00AM finish to work out.  Maybe next time.... yeah, yeah.  Mentally, I decided that this is probably my last brevet of the year over the 250km mark - the verdict is still out on that one, but I need time to recover, rest, and forget.  It's Tuesday, and - going back to nutrition again - I know there is a difference:  when the engineered nutrition folks claim you will "recover faster", I think I know what they are talking about now.  While I don't think I'm damaged - I'm sore from the RIDE, not poor bike fit or anything - I can almost 'feel' the toxins in my leg muscles.  I've been drinking a LOT of water these last 72 hours, that's for sure.  Some of it might be from the effort itself - because even though this one was mentally exhausting, there was a killer headwind which I fought alone for nearly 100 miles solo, this was still my 2nd BEST finishing time for this distance.  Not by leaps and bounds, but it should be noted that the other 400K times were on *shorter* courses.  I showed 263.7 miles at the finish of this one, really making it a 424k ride, and the Grandview and "East" rides are right around 252.  Despite all the hardship on the way up, and all the extra rests on the way down, I managed 20 hours and 35 minutes.  I can handle that.  Rolling time was around 17 hours and change ... numbers aren't in front of me.  So, my goal of a real rando test, on a new route, with a lot of unknowns, no engineered nutrition to "boost" me along, borderline dehydration because I was dumb and didn't run three bottles, and getting lost at the beginning - well, I'd say I passed.  Not sure what that really means, what it "gets me ready" for, or whatever - but I'm a happy randonneur, that's for sure.  I got my card signed and handed it to Bob Burns, who was back in the parking lot checking on people, at 2:35AM on Sunday.  Done.  Done.  DONE.  Verdict is still out on the 600K at this point - honestly, this year, it might be too much.  Can I?  Yes.  Should I?   mmm.....  

I can only say this now:  Saturday was a great day.

After ALL that, how can I say that?   People have asked me, and it's hard to describe.  Basically, it's a great tool for life - at least it is for me - to absolutely get the snot kicked out of you once in a while.  With time and distance, you see yourself for what you really are, what you can handle, what you are made of.  There is little else left in this world that gives a person that feeling, honestly, the way it was MEANT to be given.  Quite literally, this sport gives back everything I throw into it.  People can say I'm nuts all they like, shoot me looks, comment on the outfits, the bags, the helmet - but I know myself.  I know what I am, what I can do, what I'm worth.  For me, it involves a bicycle -- but it's not really about that.  I could just as easily walk or jog a ridiculous distance, and accomplish the same thing.  But, to be able to look over your shoulder and say, "I rode to freakin' Iowa from KC on a bicycle.", it's like... what ELSE you got, life?  It may not be all sunshine and roses, for sure, but you'll know what your limits are - you'll probably surprise yourself and find that your limit is farther out of reach that you might have thought.  Everyone says the same thing to me:  "that'd KILL me," or "I can't do THAT." - BULL.  You should have seen me in high school;  if *I* can do this - then anyone can, and I really mean that.  No, you don't have to do exactly what I do - but, do SOME-thing, anything - spark it, find it, REACH.  You, and your very soul, deserve it.  I think it's part of the human condition:  strength through suffering, finding importance in your family, your faith, your self;  the latter of which doesn't have to be "selfish" - know thyself, right?  

When you're hungry, tired, it's dark, you're frazzled from passing traffic, spooked by charging dogs, you've had a flat tire, you're out of water, it starts to rain, and then someone says, "only 70 miles to go" - and you can find a silver lining in that???  You're ALIVE.  Relish it.

May 10, 2009

424 kilometers, success...!

I'm cooked fairly well - so there won't be much in this post, only to say that I finished.
A true randonneuring test-of-will.  Over the years these rides "got easier" because you know the routes, you know what to expect, you know landmarks, and you can check off the turns one-by-one.  This route was totally new, and there were very FEW turns... 42 miles between turns in one instance.  This makes it harder, mentally; FAR more difficult than the distance alone would indicate.  

But, despite the horrendous headwinds out of the northwest/east, with no shelter, no respite, and hills after hill after hill, I made it to Leon, IA after about 10 hrs, 45 minutes.  On the return, speeds came up, and I managed to catch the next-fastest group before leaving the control back at Bethany, MO.  From there, the sun dipped, and we all rode back together - the long, long slog into the night.  Bouts with dehydration, walking a thin line of bonking nearly all day (more to come on that point) and mentally being exhausted, frustrated, and hollowed out - overall, well, it was one of the most challenging rides I think I've ever ridden -- moreso even than the 600K, no lie.  Even with the extra kilometers over and above the Grandview 400K and the "East" 400K, we managed to pull out a 20 hour, 35 minute finish -- that includes stops.  By way of comparison, the best time I'd ever managed on the other two 400K routes was 18 hours, and that was in my faster days.  Usually, it's a 21+ hour adventure, and those routes are solidly 252-254 miles apiece.  So, with bonus miles, a sub-21 hour ride on THIS route... considering how I FELT... not bad.  Rolling time was on the order of 17.5+ hours, for an average of 15.1 MPH.  I'll take it -- not a land speed record, but dude... the road up into Iowa was long, and difficult -- and then coming all that way back.... yeesh.  I wanted to throw in the towel probably six seperate times - seriously - and that's usually not my bag. 

Again, more to come when the dust settles.  Lots to tell.  
Today will be spent rehydrating, and recovering, while I make mothers day as nice as I can for the wife, since she lets me go out and do these nutty things.  Thanks, honey.... 

Stay tuned... 

May 8, 2009

The Final Prepwork

Within 24-hours of the big ride start, the brain is working overtime.

"Did I check this?"  "Should I check that?"
It's like peeling an onion... things like a seat binder bolt, something that hasn't been touched in months, hasn't made a sound, hasn't slipped - suddenly.  It's hard to describe, but for some reason I sometimes feel the need to perform maintenance on things that don't need any attention.  I used to be a lot worse about this - but sometimes that feeling is still there.  It's like peeling an onion:  you clean off one thing, and pretty soon you have the front end taken apart to make sure the headset isn't going to explode.  Well, that was the OLD me - I don't take it to THAT level anymore.  Leave well-enough alone.  If it's not making noise NOW, wasn't last week, wasn't last month.... 250 miles probably won't change things.  Check it off the list and move on.  Lube the chain, sure, and make sure nothing has worked LOOSE - but don't go on a torquing-bolts spree the week of a "big ride".  If you break something in the process of acting dumb in the garage, you may not have time to get a replacement - not to mention the extra stress you just piled on yourself.  In a sport where success is 85% mental, why make it harder on yourself -- I ask myself.  Leave well-enough alone, within reason:  if it's something you DO NOT want to have to fix on the roadside, it's worth investigating - but do it the week prior, not in the days prior.  Things tend to be okay if they haven't been an issue in the last few rides leading up to a brevet or permanent.  

Keeping that in mind, I did do a couple quick and easy things that have been overlooked for -- egads, a year?  I hadn't pulled the seat-post for a long time - that was the biggest rule-breaker I performed last night - probably shouldn't have, but it cleared my head.  No rust, no issues - so I simply wiped off the old grease, applied new, stuck it back in, and tightened it down again.  Done.  Walk away!  A few drops of lube on the cables, rub the crud off the wheels, check the tires for anything that might be working it's way into the casing and get it outta there, visual inspection of this and that. Keep it simple... but make sure you won't be fixing anything on the roadside other than a flat tire.  Good, regular, routine maintenance goes a LONG way -- you'll notice and replace stuff long before you have to think about "catastrophic road-side failure".  I'm big on regular maintenance. 

Aside from equipment concerns, there are storage and clothing concerns.  I slapped a couple of bungee cord loops on the rear rack last night to hold the third water-bottle in place.... something that I MAY not even need to carry on this ride, and I'm still debating that notion.  With a c-store nearly every 20 miles, and no miracle powder coming along on this event, I may just have to stop for supplies anyways... so why carry the extra stuff?  Of course, I probably will anyways - it's just a bottle, after all.  Later in the day it will probably have extra layers of clothing like warmers and my wind vest bungeed to the top of it anyways.  That's what becomes a larger concern as the distances increase:  clothing.  On the 300K distance, assuming your pace is good and the ride starts early, you are only concerned with surviving the first part of the ride in cooler air.  After the sun comes up, you can generally ride the rest of the day without worrying about putting anything back on later.  On the 400K, you're nearly guaranteed (unless you're SUPER fast) to finish well after dark.  After a day in the sun, and a day's worth of pedaling and fatigue, you will get cold during the last 40 miles of the ride.  It's amazing how chilly even 70 degrees can feel after you've ridden 200 miles, and it gets me every time.  If the temperatures drop into the 40's, like is forecast for tomorrow night, then you need to keep those extra layers around.  BUT, I'm hoping to balance back pocket real-estate with comfort this time by lashing them to the rear rack.  On the 300K the extra weight in the rear pockets made my jersey sag a lot, and while it was tolerable, I'd rather not be bothered with it.  I want to "save" that space for food, the cue sheet (which will likely be needed this time out), and just not have to worry about fishing around between layers to find "X" in my jersey.  Get that stuff outta the way, and ride light.  I plan to have wool arm warmers and knee warmers, a wind vest, full-finger gloves and the multi-use jacket on-hand.  All very packable, useful stuff, but not crazy.

That's all for now ---- look for the ride report next week, and updates from the road in-between!

May 7, 2009

Swap Meet is a'comin' 

May 16th
Come out EARLY for the best deals - I'll have a table there, as usual, and I'll be cleaning out the garage.
I've grown tired of Craigslist and the waiting game, so it'll all be on the table - literally. 

I'll have a GORGEOUS 1974 Peugeot PR-10 for sale.  Come see it.  The restoration of this bike was talked up on this site a few months ago, and I'm tired of looking at it in the garage.  Make an offer.  You really oughta see it, at least:  finding an un-futzed-with, original French sport-tourer like this with all-original spec - well, after this, I'll probably not see one again in my lifetime.  They are so quick to be turned into fixxies or otherwise updated with (arguably) better stuff than Simplex and Stronglight.  This one is exactly how it was sold in Holland in '74.

Aside from that, I'll have a few crank-sets, a fork (someone else's), a set of mountain-bike fixxie beater wheels, a set of fenders, some caliper brakes, a couple stems, bells, gently-used tires with a lot of use left in them, derailleurs, assorted taillights, a small-kids' bike (ages 3-4, girls), more.
I'll be there from sun-up until about 9:00am.  Anything that doesn't sell - crud, it'll probably be donated to ACME - (aside from the Peugeot, of course).

Be there.  There are always some quality vendors there from the local scene, and a lot of small surprises and grab-bins from other folk's garages.
Good coffee and pizza across the street and Pi and Grinder's.  Come-n-see.

May 16th - NEXT Saturday.  

May 2, 2009

400km... to IOWA and BACK... May 9th

I'm really excited about this one --- not since 2002 has KCUC ventured onto a totally new route for this distance, and this time it's a doozy.  Same mileage as usual, of course, but we're turning our sights northward.  On of my old road-trip dreams from high-school was hopping into my '76 Buick and driving the entire length of US-69.  While I was able to accomplish most of this to the SOUTH, I never went north for some reason.  Now, decades later, I'm doing it on a bicycle.... whodathunkit?  Yep, yep... living where I live, crossing the KS/MO state line is not a big deal at all... but this?  This will be a first for me, and I can't wait!

It's a challenge, yes, but the time limits are long -- if you're looking for a challenge, and you're trained-up, come out and join us for 252 miles of pure brevet pleasure in the northern Missouri contryside!  Treat it like a tour, and you'll be fine... nothing says you have to finish these things fast.  

Next weekend:  May 9th, 6:00AM start.

Visit the KCUC website for more details and stuff.

Day of the ride, watch this page for some sort of social networking page updates as I make my way... still picking my favorite, tho Facebook Mobile really made it easy on the 300K.  Stay tuned!  

Hope to see you there, hearty randonneurs...