August 30, 2010

Pressure's off.

Well, loyal readers - I pulled the drain plug on the second R-12. I hate typing that: you gotta know that much about me - but, this was the right choice. Too many things started coming up that made me have to make choices that I didn't want to make. Not that I owe exhaustive detail on this, but the kicker was September itself - a lot of family holidays and kids sports games eliminated weekends. Those are easy choices: I refuse to put my cycling goals ahead of rooting for my kids on the sideline, or holding a video camera at a recital - my life, and my cycling, will be around when they are grown: but they'll never be this age again. The only other open weekend houses my wedding anniversary. 'Nuff said. Without the family, the R-12 means nothing.

I pulled it off in 2008 with much more careful planning, I'll be honest. The weekends were easier and there was less happening at work - but I was on it. Heck, even earlier this year was easier than the last six weeks have been. With more kid activities this year and more stress with new responsibilities at work, something had to give. Trying to plan the rides, reschedule after reschedule, missing opportunities to ride with other rando guys at the last couple brevets of the year - it was becoming just another stressor, instead of the fun and release they're supposed to be. Finally, last minute over-riding priorities finally conspired to make this - todays August R-12 requirement - fall through in the twelve hours prior to launch.

So it goes. I do not consider the first six rides of 2010 a 'waste'. I still finished them, still had a blast, still rode some great routes with some awesome people. That's worth plenty...and at the core, the rides I've shared with friends - rides of any length, to be clear - they're worth more to me than a medal. I can toss all the medals and ribbons into a box and chuck 'em all in the attic, and I've still had an awesome time riding.

But, yeah... I'll still pursue randonneuring. It's the niche I fit in to, and I love it. ...and I'll probably start up another R-12 run after things calm down. In better times and with better planning, it keeps me focused on staying active, staying fit - but hey, pressure's off for now.

Instead, today I rode to Baldwin City, KS and back - something I haven't done in years, but this time on probably five miles worth of gravel, taking roads I'd never considered before last weekend's gravel 40-miler. Not a bad day.

Fitness, the route, I don't think that today's 200k would have been a problem - but we'll never know. I'll be back. Couple things I DO know I haven't done in a while: a 400km and a 600km brevet. And, the grandaddy 1200km....
Goals are good - you know me. No announcements yet, but focusing on an SR series for 2011 wouldn't be a bad thing.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

August 27, 2010

Two up.

A busy lifestyle can be hazardous to your health.
I've been busy.  REALLY busy.  As a result, I've been eating like crap.  
Stress?  Probably.  
Eat like crap, feel like crap.  Garbage in... you get the idea.  I feel horrible lately.

Time to wise up.  

Actually, it's time for a mini-vacation.
A vacation from the ordinary... road, that is.
In pursuit of R-12 number 2, this time I head north to Weston, MO. via KCK and Leavenworth.  This route is a bear, hill-wise... at least, it is compared to what I normally ride.  Especially when compared to my commute, which is effectively flat.  So, if I recall correctly there is something like 6,000 ft. of climbing on the menu.  That oughta loosen the legs a little!

Only five days after that it'll be September 4th, which puts me in Liberty, MO for another 200km ride to Platte City and back via Edgerton, Camden Point and Plattsburg. 
It's a great route - the first route I ever rode as a brevet, and still one of my favorites.  Hilly.  Yes.  Probably another 6-7K feet of climbing spread out over countless rollers. 
That one is an organized, official brevet -- visit the KC Ultra-Cycling for more information on registering if you wanna come out.
One of my favorite sections of that Liberty route would make a killer time trial:  Plattsburg Road from highway C to I-35.  Only if they could close the road to cars, though.  Still... shudders.  
"Favorite" is a relative and subjective term, however... while I do love this particular section, it's a downright evil way to wrap up a 200km ride.  

I digress.
400km in a five day window plus commutes makes for an interesting challenge, and while I don't want to make it official or try to stretch myself too thin (too late?), that will make for a nearly 350 mile week.
I think, however, and I know I've said this a dozen times or more in the life of this blog -- it should kick off a nice metabolic shake-up, just in time for fall. 
I managed to get most of the way to my goal weight this season, and there is still cross-training to be done to help hone things -- but it's been a good year.
Now, all I have to really do is start eating RIGHT again, and find another way to deal with stress at work instead of visiting the corporate cubicle candy fairy.  
Come holiday season around here there's enough candy in convenient "snack size" in this joint to start a Mr. Bulky franchise.
Beer?  Octoberfest?  C'mon.... just a TASTE.  Yeah, I'm not giving up on anything - but I am limiting myself to single servings within any 24-hour period and ensuring I stay active.
This combination of efforts, I hope, leads to a fall/winter 2010/2011 wherein I *don't* gain a ton of weight.  With age, it's just too hard to work it off the following Spring - so it's time to eat right and stay active all year.  That won't always mean cycling, but there is a lot out there to do.  Combined with a return to advancing my personal education, kid stuff, and maintaining two jobs - well, I certainly won't be sitting still.

So, stay tuned for two ride reports for the 2nd R-12 run, editions seven and eight, nearly back to back. 
The calendar pages are getting thinner, and thoughts will soon turn to challenging weather, careful planning, and crossed fingers.
I don't see myself with the budget or means to travel to warmer climes if something blows in - and what a bummer to have to flush potentially 11 months of rides come December!
These summer-time brevets and permanents have been harder than the first R-12 run from 2008, and I expect that trend to continue in the last quarter of 2010.
Honestly, not even October is a "gimmie"... we'll see.  Not that I didn't "earn" the 1st R-12... regardless of weather, I still had to pedal all 1,500 some miles of it.  But, this year - it might be a stretch to assume I can get all 12 rides in the same general geographic location.  

Hey, look.... December 31st is a Friday, and January 1st is a Saturday.... a mid-winter three-day weekend with back-to-back 200km permanents may be in store... wrap up the whole thing in 48-hours time!
Heck, I may schedule that NOW.  

Thanks for reading , and stay tuned!

August 23, 2010

No excuses.

There are far too many excuses in my life.
It's too far. It's too hot. There won't be any showers. There's nowhere to park. My tires are too skinny. My tires are too wide. I don't have fenders. I have fenders. I have gears. I don't have enough gears. I have too many gears. It's the wrong geometry. I don't have this, that, the other.

Honestly, I need to adapt a new mantra: "don't have excuses... have reasons."

Reasons are legit - excuses are, well, excuses. "You can't compete in a technical mountain bike ride on a racing bike shod with 23c tires" - that's more of a "reason" to have a mountain bike, lets say. Just about everything else I can think of, I can debunk: You can't time trial on a mountain bike? Sure you can... you just won't be as aero as the guy with the TT bike. You're still riding a bicycle against a clock. Simple. I've heard myself say I can't ride Dirty Kanza, because I've got the wrong bike... as if there were such a thing. At the time, perhaps I just didn't know better.

In this world of niches within niches, it's actually become more difficult to "just do" anything. There is an advanced and specialized piece of equipment for just about everything you can involve yourself in these days, and for many it can turn any would-be endeavor into an excuse festival. Sometimes it's better if you DON'T know about gadgets and gizmos. What you don't know can't hurt you... but what you don't know can't hold you back, either. Skipping a camping trip because you don't have the correctly-rated sleeping bag, for example. So it goes, to my discredit, I default to the formula that because I don't own "x", I can't do "y".

There are innovative people in the blogosphere that have come up with really cool stuff to solve unique cycling problems... and sadly, I'm not one of them. One of my favorites in this category is Kent Petersen, and if you haven't read his blog - you should. Can't afford fenders? Can't find just the right handlebar bag? Fine... make your own. Kent does this. I tend to stare blankly at the wall, and wish....which eventually leads to making excuses. I once stood in the garage and mentally talked myself out of riding a 600km brevet, on the notion that I couldn't carry enough fig newtons. A LOT of that is confidence, yes. This I know. No matter how many ridiculously long rides or strings of long rides I do, there is still a tiny part of me that screams "you can't."

This brings me to this weekend, and gravel roads....vs. my brain. 'nuff said? Perhaps.

In uncharacteristic fashion, instead of defaulting to my pile of excuses for not going on a ride that I REALLY wanted to do, I instead just suited up, sent a text message to a friend that knows the territory, and headed south on Murlen Road. Upon reaching 175th Street, instead of turning left or right, I went straight. Straight to where the pavement ends.

Backtracking a little, I don't really know WHY I still have this hangup surrounding my "road bike" vs. gravel. Thinking back to the bike-camping trip I took last year and the awesome gravel ramble Randy led me on, I did a 15-miler on mostly gravel and had a decent time. No falls, no nothing... but, perhaps I chalked it up to something else. Maybe I forgot the feelings, maybe I didn't spend enough time to truly get comfortable. I remember feeling relieved to get back on the pavement, though.

Earlier than that, Ort and I once tore up a fairly hilly and lengthy chunk of gravel road while taking part in the 2006 Lone Star Century.. a short-cut to head-off a sizeable peloton. A short-cut that didn't pay off, but led instead to fond memories and countless smiles and stories about "that time when we..."

So, let's call this latest run a "re-education".

The first few miles, a little tentative. I found myself trying to stay in the tire ruts. I found myself braking on downhills. When an oncoming car approached, I tensed up and came to a stop near the ditch. I had images in my head of being perfectly balanced right up until the moment the car would pass me, wherein I'd lose footing and fall right into the path of a tire. I found the first concrete deck bridge a relief. I stopped after crossing 191st street to take a photo...

...but it was really to take a break. In retrospect, look how perfect that gravel is! These things take time, though.

Finally, a mile-long section of pavement between 207th and 215th streets.... odd, but there it is.
Gravel started up again at 215th... "ride loose..."

By the time Randy caught up to me at 223rd street, I would stop a couple more times to relax and reset. I think Randy catching up to me was a good thing... some of the personal pressure was off and I could observe the riding style of someone that had far more gravel under their wheels than pavement. His riding style typifies relaxed, patient, confident... I took notes, took a following position, and adjusted. A few miles, and I was settled a bit. "This isn't so bad...." Even a dog darting at the road didn't faze me much, and eventually I was doing things the same way I'd do them on pavement: grabbing a bottle, taking a rolling picture, the like.

Taking a rolling picture was probably not the BEST thing I could have been doing, though I'm happy with the results:

Here's Randy rolling south on Somerset Road near 250th Street, right before crossing the grade of the Union Pacific RR.

Seconds before I took this picture, I was fumbling with the zip-lock baggie, blind, inside the back pocket of my jersey. Inside that same plastic baggie are my credentials: driver's license, insurance cards, debit card. In the process of getting my phone out to take a picture, I inadvertently and unknowingly removed and discarded my driver's license and insurance card out onto the road behind me.

Still, I managed to pull off the requisite half-panda head-shot.
Actually, if I squint hard enough I think I can actually see my DL and insurance card sitting on the gravel behind me... ok, maybe not. (I really tried, just out of curiosity, but they're lost in the pixelated image noise.)
I.. am... Sparticus.... muahahahahahaha!

A Traditions, or Century Farm - basically a farm or piece of property that has been held by the same family since staked. Something to be proud of.

Randy, and the 100-year-old bridge.

Yep, and it didn't hit me until later on when reading up on about this one, which was built ca. 1910. Wouldn't it have been weird if the day we rode here was the bridge's birthday? Hard to tell, tho... on these smaller bridges, the actual year isn't usually posted... at least not anywhere you can safely get to it. Welders and iron-workers often leave their marks on things... but I wasn't about to go swimming to find out: a three foot long gar was trolling about in the grim waters of Wea Creek, while we watched... like an evil, tiny submarine...

From here we continued east on the road in the background, which curves a bit and goes up a wicked little hill, popping us out at New Lancaster Road for the final jaunt south to K-68.

I'm told, upon reaching the highway, that I need to someday just keep on riding south on the other side of the highway. I may have to do that someday...

The traffic count multiplied probably six times over in the next two miles that led to the Louisburg Cidermill. I don't know if I've been here since maybe 2006... at least, not that I can remember. Maybe it was '07? A while. I was happy to find that not much had changed. I visited the restroom, grabbed a cold Lost Trail Black Cherry Soda. This is where I discovered my DL and insurance was missing... and my mind raced for a few minutes.

At least I don't NEED it, technically... although riding without ID crossed my mind, and I absorbed a couple tips from Randy, which reminds me that I really need to invest in a Road ID. It's a long overdue purchase, and I'm doing it tomorrow. I'm out here enough, I deserve it.

The ride back, I thought about the two places where I'd taken my phone out of my pocket to take a picture, and Randy and I planned to scan the roadside for the discarded cards. My worst fear was that I'd fumbled them at the bridge on 267th street, and they'd fallen between the boards, into the creek... and probably into the gar's maw. Hmmm... fish for dinner...

My only regret for this ride is that I didn't have as much time as I needed to turn it into a true "ramble". I had started off in the right spirit, slow and easy, stopping, taking pics, and enjoying. I still ended up enjoying, but dinner plans had been pushed up since I'd left the house - something I found out luckily enough while exchanging texts with the wife when I discovered I'd lost my DL. Time to pick up the pace a little... and, certainly, no more photos on the move lest I lose the rest of my stuff.

We still found time to stop along the way, and checked out another old bridge that someone was lucky enough to have as part of their private drive. This one had a larger structure, and was really interesting looking... more here.

After that, I picked up the pace a little bit and before long we were back at the railroad tracks where I'd fumbled the cards... and sure enough, there they were. The DL has a nice divot pressed into it from where a truck ran over it, pressing it into the gravel upon which it had rested. Kinda neat, having a scar with a story... even if you are just a driver's license.

We had to leave at 4:15pm.... and it was nearly 3:00pm when we'd left the Cidermill. Upon reaching 183rd Street, I looked at the clock one last time and honestly wasn't sure if I'd make it. I bid farewell to Randy, as this was his "exit", and started to work my way north in earnest. There was a lot of gravel to be covered still, and whether I had the legs or not had yet to be seen.

The phone rang in my back pocket at 3:57pm... and while I normally stop to take calls I choose to answer, I knew who it was, and what they were wondering - so I took it on the fly. The wife promised a change of clothes, a cold bottle of fresh water and an open garage waiting for me. I was at 173rd Street, back on pavement, and hammering. I don't know if I've ever transistioned from bicycle, to shower, to car in such fast time. I hit the garage at 4:07pm, I think, and left a trail of cycling gear behind me as I made it to the shower, did the best I could, dressed, and met the family in the car in record time. Shortly after that, dinner.... ahhhhh....

Not a bad afternoon, I must say...

So, verdict? Is there more gravel in my future? Absolutely. This was my longest foray onto the rough-stuff yet, and I'm beginning to get hooked. The history, the lack of traffic, the bridges... it's like I blinked and didn't realize I was still "in town". I indeed plan on making gravel a bigger part of my riding. Sure, I've lived here a while. Sure, I've ridden here for a while. Sure, it may be that I've probably ridden a large percentage of just about every possible paved route leading to and from the neighborhoods I've lived in over the years of my cycling.

But, there's more to discover... and the bike underneath me never even flinched at the idea.

No excuses. Get it on.

August 21, 2010


I like a "recognizable brand", so I put the old webpage banner picture back up.  It's more representative of the kind of riding around here, and there is a long history to having that picture around.  Makes me smile when I see it.  The other one was kinda cool, also a picture that makes me smile when I see it - but the foray into graphic design gave it a little too edgy of a feel, and this blog is anything but edgy.
So, I changed it back!  

The Liberty - Avenue City brevet went of this morning without a hitch, but I was not in attendance.  I trust my gut:  too many things happening this weekend that hinged on the wife having easy access to a car, and that notion that is always there - self-imposed, I might add - that the car is wasted sitting in a parking lot, 40 miles away, while I ride... well, it's never sat well with me.  I suppose that makes me a pretty good partner in marriage... she never has to say these things, it's me that internally freaks out and adjusts plans.  When I have solid transportation of my own for bicycle transport, the Avenue City route will still be up there.

To keep R-12 going - a reasonable goal - I have scheduled some time off work during the week about 2-weeks from now... maybe a little less than that.  I'll be turning north, and riding the WMGM 200km permanent.  This is a tough one, quite hilly, but beautifully scenic - looking forward to it, as I haven't ridden it since December of 2008.  Back then, it was an exercise in time management and almost - by three minutes - cost me a re-do.  I have fond memories of that ride, because I was not in the best of shape, it was cold, I was tired, and up against the ropes of time... and barely managed to pull it out.

So, this weekend it's football practice (which I just returned from), mowing the grass, fixing a couple things, and hopefully still managing to get out on the bike for a while.  It's warm... ok, almost hot.... but quite a nice, clear day.  Might as well ease away some miles in slow, easy, fat-burning mode.

Thanks for reading!

August 18, 2010

Number 7, on deck

This time, for R-12 run #2, we're headed from Liberty, MO to Avenue City, MO - which is close to St. Joseph near US-169.
It's a tiny, tiny little "town" that seems to have slipped into obscurity... not much there on the map, but I like it that way.
Hoping to see some nice countryside, and see/ride with a few familiar faces along the way.  

I've had "doubts" about finishing this R-12 run.  
I've already GOT one -- so what exactly AM I doing?  Sometimes, honestly, I don't have the foggiest idea.

With regards to other rides, I'm finding I'm doing the same thing I did in 2008:  saying "no" too much.  As a result of having very little free time, transportation issues, and a guilty conscience, I'm saying "no" to a lot of fun looking rides.  I haven't done anything for the August edition of DSR.  There are a couple neat opportunities coming up in September and October, and I already fear that I'll say "no" to those, after having invested the time into more than 50% of this R-12 run.  Even for the R-12 itself, I can't experiment with different routes or new scenery because I don't have a way to GET anywhere.  This weekend is an ultra-rare exception, and until I get my own car - well, I'm taking the chance and going up north.  

I know, car-free, etc... it's the right thing to do, but in this town?  Okay, I'm going to say it:  I need a car.  I won't use it that much, and it'll probably just sit in the driveway and rust... but I need a car.  The way life is, even in better times, I can't ride four hours to participate in a 200K.  I can't ride a 200K to participate in a 200K in Topeka, no matter how badly I want to.  Yeah, car-pooling... but, when riders of brevets and permanents often finish hours apart, it's hard to tell the family that you can't come home because "Joe Rando" (your ride home) bonked at the halfway and is limping the last 50 miles.  I can't sit in a Perkins that long when I know I don't HAVE to.

The only ACTUAL organized ride/event I've participated in this year was Sunflowers-to-Roses (S2R) last weekend... I rode the last three miles of it, only because it was on my commute route to work.  Granted, it was kinda cool and I forgot what intersection or part of town I was in; it seemed like I was on the MS-Ride or something... cyclists stretched out behind me, and in front of me... I haven't experienced that in a while, and in retrospect I should have ponied up the entry fee and just ridden the whole thing.  Hard thing to do on a weekend where you've worked 13 hours, and that Sunday morning is the only time you'll see the wife and kids... the decision there was more than financial.

Work is getting nutty, and kids fall sports are going to be in full gear very soon.  School has started up, and schedules are ever tighter.
Seems the only thing on the calendar is trying to figure out when to get in the next five rides before the weather turns.
Which, really... just thinking about routes and dates is like taking a miniature vacation every month.  Even if it ends up being just another scenic trip to Pleasanton, KS., it's something to look forward to, to plan for, to help keep the weight and stress from getting the better of me.  As the wife tells me, it's good for me... and she's pretty much always right.  In a roundabout way, I have little doubt that my monthly rides are good for her, too:  makes me easier to put up with.

And if that wasn't enough, R-12 is a goal... and sometimes just sticking to a goal is enough. 
It's cheap, it's healthy, and it clears the head.  What else SHOULD I be doing?

Can't think of anything... so, ride it is.  

With a new vista over each hill on this before-unseen route coming up in a couple days, I think it will become clear - the answer to "why".  
Even if I can't express "why" in words.

Stay tuned for a ride report and some photos... within which I'll probably rediscover the reasons why I love randonneuring and hopefully convey those feelings in 50,000 words or less.

August 6, 2010

It's coming...

Cue dramatic music...

The 2nd not-so-annual commuterDude cycling garage sale! Oh, baby!
It's not "virtual", it's real, and really in a driveway and really near a garage.

Rearranging said garage last weekend I caught myself... "where did all this stuff come from?!"

For some reason I once again found a whole lotta bike stuff to unload, and I don't have the energy or spare time to c-list it all and try to arrange deliveries with all that's happening with life and schedules. It's a hassle for the buyer, ultimately.
Plus, I missed the big annual swapmeet at El Torreon (Spanish for "The Torreon"), so I have to kinda goof this together.

I'm working on inventory right now, and will publish a list to those that are in, or will be in, the Kansas City area on the date of the event. Lists are available via email, so feel free to pre-RSVP if you like.

Swap-meet style pricing. Priced to move. The owner is on vacation, and we've gone crazy. No reasonable offer will be refused. Do you have a job? Do you have 99 dollars? Then, you're approved! Oh, whatever. You get the idea!

Timeframe? I'm not in a hurry... are you?
No, really - I'll pick a weekend before life gets really nutty, and post it here.

Pre-sale to friends-of-the-show, so watch your email.

It's hot, go drink something.

August 5, 2010

Where did summer go?

I guess, officially, it'll be hanging around for at least another six weeks - but, still:  the kitchen table is loaded with school supplies again, and people are already wondering when the public pools will be closing.... didn't they JUST fill those up??  Time flies when you are:  

A) having fun
B) busy as ever
C) getting older
D) yes

and, so I find myself in August again, somehow - and riding a bike back and forth to work, looking MIGHTY sharp heading out of the office in the afternoons in my blaze yellow and tight pants.  I finally succumbed to the self-imposed modesty police, and started wearing baggies on the walk into the building.  I can't wear them while riding without having them randomly un-mount my frame-pump for me - usually at the worst possible time, like when crossing an intersection, or climbing a hill.  I may just suck it up and stick the smaller "mountain-bike" pump into one of my panniers, and save the frame-pump for the weekend tight-pants rides.  I dunno.  I can deal with the looks from people, but I can feel the human resources noose tightening lately at work, and I'm not in the mood.  It's a blessing in disguise, really:  I like the way baggies feel on a fast downhill, even though they tend to be awfully warm in weather like we've had lately here in KC.  Rivendell was marketing some "MUSA" pants at one time, but I can't afford their wares, generally.  I'm still saving up for that wicked-awesome Boure wind-vest that has the back pockets.  Among other things.

Hot.  And Humid.  Yeah, yeah.... compared to Florida perhaps it's not that bad, but it's been cooler in recent years until a few weeks ago.  I don't think we've touched 100 quite yet on the official thermometer at "the airport", but the digital readouts around my house say otherwise, and the heat index was barely OUT of the 100's earlier this week.

Still, I'm smiling --- good riding lately, despite the morning mop-up after arriving at the office.  Six weeks, however, and thoughts will turn back to knee warmers, perhaps.  It can still get hot in September around here, but there is always that mystical 24-hour period where summer finally folds and throws down the cards.  It'll be 102ºF when a front will move through, it'll drizzle for three days, drop to the mid 50's... and that'll be all she wrote until Winter comes.  Watching it happen is pretty cool.  Watching the leaves change afterwards is better.  Watching both happen from a park bench along the local trails is something special.  The warm glow from an Octoberfest ale in the garage afterwards wraps it up nicely.  

... it's the thoughts of which that keep me cool on these hot, bright, sweaty summertime rides in the plains.

Stay thirsty, my friends.