April 18, 2011

Bike Week is coming

May is a strong month for local utility-cycling and commuting in KC - and, yeah-yeah... it's on all the news lately and people are running it into the ground ... but, for-real folks... since I started paying attention in 2002 I haven't seen the press that gas prices are getitng lately.  $3.50/gal in February is downright frightning.  $3.80/gal was seen this morning in Olathe.  Regardless of what the barrel prices are doing, I doubt it will drop much.  We may not see sub-$3.00/gal gasoline ever again.
Economically, on a personal basis where it matters, it's going to be a tough summer.
Jump on a bike for your short trips and your daily commute to work and you could end up saving $100 a month, easily.  If you're finally thinking about getting on the bike to save some money this year, these are events you'll want to attend, and you should definitely bookmark these webpages.
This May BikeWalkKC is teaming up with partners across the region to present greater Kansas City's 6th annual Bike Week May 14-22. This is your opportunity to sample all things bicycle-related around the metro area. Whether you're into racing, bike commuting, mountain biking, fixed gear, or just want to learn how to get around town safely – we have something for you. Learn about our fun events at www.bikewalkkc.org
If you want to be more confident bicycling on city streets you should consider joining BikeWalkKC's Spring Smart Cycling series to learn more about traffic skills, bikes and the law, hauling cargo, and maintaining your bike. Check out www.bikewalkkc.org/educationIt's a great value at $65 for the full five class series, or just $20 per individual class.
These classes are more in-depth than the free versions offered in recent months, and they culminate in the League of American Bicyclist's Traffic Skills 101 certification.
Twitter: @CarFreeKC
Finally, volunteers make things happen:  BikeWalkKC has a few volunteer opportunities left to prepare for Bike Week.
Please contact sarah.shipley@bikewalkkc.org to learn about them.
This is a great time to get started!
(Reposted with permission)

April 12, 2011

Monday Night Special

A big part of the fun of riding is the experience of meeting others, and chasing the ones that you didn't meet.

I'm lucky enough to live within a mile of a popular Monday evening bike ride, and with the temps JUST right and homework already done with the kiddos – it was a good day to give it a shot. I suited up – even pulling out the terrifically rancid retro jersey for the first time since probably '06 – and made my way up the road to the ride start.

I met a couple of nice folks that were out for the first time that year and one gal that was on her first group ride EVER. That was cool to see. In attendance were some ole faves – the usual suspects like DK and Nan and Foster, Gene, and a bunch-a others that I recognized but didn't have names for… one, though, stood out: Jamie, I think, from east of town--- at least, back in the day he'd show at the Grandview rides, and more memories popped up of the Tour de Shawnee "long course" days of '02 and '03; a strong, *strong* rider. It was a BIG group… which isn't saying much since I usually ride alone, and generally consider 12-15 people to be a "big group". I need to get out more.

I love the energy at the start of a ride – even a casual one like this one. Laid back, but still with excellent ride guidelines laid out by the leader for the new riders, and even introductions around the group…including the introduction of another "Keith" in the group, riding a really nice looking Panasonic. You simply don't see too many of those anymore. It must be the name… something deep in the fates that leads people of our name to steel and lugs, and classic geometries. Ok, it's probably just a terrific coincidence, like November 5th, 1955 being the space-time center of the universe.

I started out with low expectations of myself. After finally figuring out the last few tweaks of my personal fit and being able to ride pain free for a couple weeks now, I've been carefully spinning and looking for opportunities to begin ramping up intensity and mileage again. Wouldn't necessarily happen tonight, with such a short course – but, hey, it's "butt time".

The ride start was slightly staggered, with the fast bunch rolling out about a minute ahead of the rest of the riders. Another thing I like about the group ride…. The "bike show" of it: a parade of really cool equipment that I sell and service, but can't personally afford yet. I may walk that line of knuckle-dragger, lugged-steel, crotchet-back gloves and tan sidewalls… but, SRAM Red and Zipp 404s on a Tarmac SL3 still give me the same goose-bumps that a Ferrari 599 does, or the new Caddy CTS-V, or a Porsche GT3-RS. Sure, sure… it's not about the bike. In the same way that I'd climb just as fast on an SL3 as I do on the Kogs, I'd probably put that Ferrari in the shrubs just as fast as I'd stuff the van in a hot corner… but, OH… for the chance. Something about the wicked headwind that awaited us at the turnaround made the prospect of 404's, no fenders, and an aero helmet kinda "necessary".

I went out with the slow group – but quickly found myself out front for the first pull of the evening… which was kinda cheating since we had a wicked tailwind on the outbound. A couple random riders popped out of residential, perfectly timed with our groups passing – so even with the large number of riders we had at the parking lot, we were gathering riders along the way, too. As we worked south, I jockeyed a little with a few riders, dove into the first roundabout, and found myself at Ridgeview. A few hills later, and I found a target on the road: a bright yellow vest, maybe ¾ mile distant.

If nothing else, it was time to test the body a little – just to see if the trials of the last month were finally to rest. First sign of a twinge, back off. So, I shifted once, and settled into a maintainable rhythm on the gentle rollers of Ridgeview road. So far, so good… a hint of freewheel from behind me, and I completely forget it's a casual ride. Those old, quiet embers that have been lying in the bottom of the fire pit for months and months… there is a hint of heat. It's almost automatic.

...and dangerous.

Playing on the analogy, fire is good… but it can get out of control. I've learned this all too often. Open up the dampers too far, and you'll be out of wood in a heartbeat. I've got to ramp back up slowly, no matter how much I want to swing open the taps and see where the edge is. Lots of year left… make sure the legs are there.

Cows. Train horns to the west. The golden sunshine. Birds. What a NICE evening! Tempering the fire, I remind myself that this is just a casual ride. The fast group… gone. But, for some reason that yellow flash that I was catching up the road, every once in a while, was taunting me. The taps open a little farther… feels good.

I'm passed from behind on a flat… but a hill comes, and I answer back. The climb opens up and steadies towards 199th street, past the high school. Still feeling good… almost "strong". Not even a glimmer of discord… tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles… all seeming to line up and fire without protest. I can almost forget and just PUSH. 199th comes, and the yellow vest in the distance is a touch closer.

This is normally the turn east… but I take the longer course, and south head towards 207th (not realizing that the actual long course heads west to Woodland Road first). 207th Street… Looking south over the finally-green fields and big dream-houses east of Spring Hill, I feel a little tightness in my right leg, below the knee on the outside of the shin….but that's it… a ½ mile, and it fades – even feels like it releases – and my shadow on the road ahead of me is an image of pistonic spinning action… no hip rocking, good posture… feels right… looks right…. Push harder… I reach Renner, and I am half-tempted to head straight onto the gravel and make my own route back… but the personal test of reeling in that yellow vest calls again. Rising the next hill, he's a tiny bit closer still. Push….

That turn north reminds me how I got south so quickly… blam, headwind. Personal goal now: keep it up. No numbers… no idea what my outbound average is, don't care… just "keep it up". The echo of that tailing freewheel was there again at 199th, and at 207th…. Try to hold it off. Don't turn around…. Don't think… push. For the first time in forever I wasn't preoccupied with cleats, or knees, or anything… that felt nice.

After transitioning from Renner to 199th and then Lackman, the target was close enough to touch… but my small goal of reeling him in before 191st was just out of reach. Ended up being Gene, which was cool – we talked for a bit, and rolled right up on the second group of riders just as they were pulling out of the fire station. That fire simply wouldn't go out, though… for some reason I was very motivated to keep up the tempo into the wind and see if the legs would scream. One rider broke off and up the road towards the big downhill on Lackman, and I gave chase – sitting on his wheel for a little bit on the last part of the climb, right as four riders from the fast group caught us up. Downhill fever, even into the wind it was a rush.

Loosely organized, the pack really didn't' get together by the time we reached 183rd street – but, I wasn't really looking for a pack anyways. Reluctantly, but still focused on testing myself, I pushed a bit harder and started up the road on my own. I checked myself… if I saw shadows on my six, I'd take my turn and pull off. If not, it's on me – more test for the "new" legs. I mashed into the wind, uphill, towards 175th street, crossed, and made my way to 167th – and upon turning, there was nobody behind me. Confident they'd turned at 175th, I had a bit of an invisible challenge on my hands to try and beat them to the re-joining roundabout at Mur-Len – but the effort was taking its toll. I came up short by maybe ¼ mile… as I approached the intersection, I watched as they rolled through. And, somehow, my tempo increased.

I reeled up one rider, but the other four were working together seamlessly. The fire was re-stoked… but I just didn't have enough saddle time to pull it off, and the red traffic light at 159th clinched it. While the immediate and tangible victory of latching back on to that group was out of reach, I was still smiling. No matter where the motivation was coming from, the body – finally – was in agreement.

Part of the magic of the group ride is the huge variance in ride experience.

Those faster riders… it was just another fast ride (at least from my vantage point), or maybe even a cool down from weekend racing. For that gal that was riding her first group ride ever, the experience was of personal bests, a new mileage frontier shattered, and beating the sunset. For others, it was something different. Each riders internal dialogue, their firsts, the new beginnings, last ride before "x", seeing good friends, or even just justifying the burger and beer afterwards… cycling is something different for everyone. Everyone there last night has a different story - some spoken, some held.


No, it's not 100 miles at that pace... not yet.

...but, somehow, I feel like I'm "back".

April 7, 2011

From the Archives: The 2004 Larry Schwartz Memorial Tinbutt 12-hour Meltdown

7/24/2004 – The Larry Schwartz Memorial Tinbutt 12-Hour Meltdown Journal

Friday, July 23rd –
The Day Before…

6:00pm After a full day of checking out the little town with my family, who came down to see it, too, I am ready to settle in at the hotel room, put last minute touches on the bike, add water to the endless bottles of Sustained Energy and Hammer HEED blends I have ready for the event, and get to sleep.

6:02pm I hit the hotel lobby, and the check-in desk for Tinbutt -- I meet the organizer, Don, who seems really familiar to me for some reason -- I grab my packet, chat a bit, and seeing no-one else in the lobby yet, I proceed to make my way back up to the room, when Sam Baugh walks in and recognizes me from MV24 last year - we chat it up and talk about the weather moving in and how it will affect tomorrow, etc. It was good to see a familiar face, but at the same time it was sinking in that now there was no hope for a high overall placing.

6:20pm Back in the hotel room, I mix drinks, continue bike prep, and pin my rider number on my jersey, and begin hear the thunder outside. Grrr...downpour -- crazy for July -- reminds me of severe weather in April up in KC.

7:45pm I head downstairs to check out the rain, and hit the NWS website in the internet 'box' they have set up at the hotel - I frown at the results of my glance. Oh well -- I wanted a challenge. I check BJ.com, and see Kincannondale was planning on hitting the hotel to get his packet --- uh, DUH ON ME... I shoulda just hung out there for a bit longer. Missed him.

8:05pm I try to relax with a movie, can't sleep - worry too much, and then finally lay down and close my eyes. The big day, wet or dry, is only hours away...

Saturday, July 24, 2004
Tinbutt time.

4:00am The alarm goes off, and I am out of bed like a shot. It's still raining. Shower, and one final run to the hotel ice machine to top off the cooler and the water refill jugs. Even though water is provided at the event, it's not in my car -- extra walk = extra time burned. I am dressed and ready to roll...but I don't have to leave just yet.

5:00am The rain stops, almost on the nose of 5:00am. Time to rack the bike and roll. The dry window won't last, based on the radar, but it's a good thing to start dry! I hit the dark streets of Stillwater, and head west on 51 to Redlands Rd., then to the park. Sam Baugh beat me there, and he and crew are getting the canopy set up, tables, etc. I pull in as close as I can, and pop the trunk, put Phish's latest in the CD deck at low volume, and get some things ready to run.

6:00am More and more people start showing up, and the atmosphere is GREAT. Howdys, 'mornings, etc... I love a ride start. It's one of the reasons riding an organized event is so cool. Tons of different people, different bikes, different pre-ride routines, all unfolding in the parking lot..as the sun gets a little higher in the sky - only to be blocked by clouds that would eventually only break enough for me to see my shadow three times in the next 12 hours. A familiar jersey makes it's way across the street -- inside that jersey is Kincannondale -- the man, the legend - we finally meet! He's a lot taller than I thought he'd be. No matter. We set up our stuff, talk shop, talk bikes, talk weather, talk BJ.com -- Tammy shows up -- it's awesome to finally put names and faces and handshakes together... the internet is truly an amazing thing. In the throes of pre-race jitters and routines, people seldom can take the time to meet new riders, &; if Bikejournal.com didn't exist, we would have never met otherwise. Slantz, are you getting all this??? You are revolutionizing the cycling community. Two cyclists, hundreds of miles apart, show up in the same park for a race, and pick up talking just like they were in the forums. Awesome.

6:55am It's GO time. Don shouts, and I move to the line. Kincannondale has someone take a picture... I shoulda brought MY camera!... hope it's a good shot! The ride announcements come --- and they are PERFECT, lighthearted, but informative -- for anyone running their first race, they are spoiled with this guy -- compared to other event's I've run in, the pre-race feel was spot-on, and every question was answered, every detail explained. No questions left. Time to ride!

7:00am The park ranger starts us, and the battery is inserted into the official race clock. The fun begins! The peloton exits the immediate start area, takes a short uphill, a hairpin, and a right turn, then left, right, left, left, left -- (whatever!) -- DEER! Two small doe prance from the brush & across the road... very neat. It's HUMID. My glasses begin to fog over. The pace comes up quick -- looks like I'll have to find a spot. Sam, myself, and three others - a John from California, and a Dave from Texas - plus one unidentified rider on a white Trek 1400, start to work hard and soon we have split the bunch and are on the way out of the park and down the nasty-looking hill on Airport Rd. Just like Kin had said, just find a line -- it's scary fast, fun. We turn onto Redlands.

7:05 - 8:00am This is an absolute blast. It's insane how fast we are eating up the road. We are at OK-86 in a heartbeat --- well, several thousand heartbeats, actually -- this pace is putting me more into race-range than all-day range, as far as HR is concerned -- might as well enjoy it while I can. In typical fashion, it seems I've gone out too hard -- we hit Bronco Rd., and I proceed to enjoy a winter and spring of nothing but hill training on my commutes. It's a BLAST, this road, slightly reminiscent of Johnson Drive in the KC area, but not as steep... well, maybe not as steep in a few sections! This is good terrain, and by lap 5 it will really start putting the hurt on people - and me. Sam, John, Dave, 1400, and me are back at McMurty Park before 8:00am - incredibly, we have completely surprised the race organization - we hit the line faster than they (or I) expected to. The hole-punch doesn't work, so a magic marker is employed instead -- bottles are exchanged, but I am good for two laps per car-stop. Time to roll again!

8:00 - 9:00am We are hitting it hard again -- so much for my theory of "one fast preview lap, and settle into a reasonable pace" -- we are hammering again, and I'm feeling fresh enough to take my share of mile-long pulls. Then, air became thicker and thicker -- wetter -- the brim of my cycling cap suddenly lets loose a droplet onto the surface of my sunglasses. Errr.... here we go. Rain! It's not nearly as bad as some of the downpours I've ridden in on the way to or from work on any given rainy day, but it will certainly be longer in duration. Thankfully, it's a warm rain -- but the paceline spray and the assault of 65 MPH traffic right next to us on OK-51 is making things pretty sloppy. To 86, then back to Bronco - but we manage to sweep up two of the non-competing riders on the route -- after only one lap? -- impossibly, our second lap is nearly as fast as the first, but we have lost one rider -- 1400 is not there at check-line. This pace is crazy -- but it's worth a shot...unfortunately, I have to stop to get fresh bottles at the car. Sam, John and Dave are off and up the road before I can even get the trunk open.

9:00am - 10:30am The third lap hurts me. The rain is slowing now, to drizzle, but the wind is picking up slightly. After getting fresh fuel, the fast pack is out of sight. I hammer thru the park, taking risks on the wet pavement and sharp curves, trying to catch them - but to no avail. I hammer the hills on Redlands, but they are long, and my reserves from two 20-something MPH average laps are running short. The fresh fuel helps, but I fear it is too late. I hit the long uphill that is immediately after the turn onto OK-51, and the tank reads empty. I can see the three up the road, but there is no more shove in the legs. I abandon to the small ring and watch them crest the hill, which is the last time I will see them for a while. I limp the rest of 51, then 86, and Bronco Rd. now is enjoying a little bit of a tailwind - I muster thru the hills, and hit the park for the end of lap 3. That stunk. Time for lap four.

10:30am - 4:30pm After lap three, it was clear it was too late to do anything about catching the leaders, and also apparent that any plans I had for an overall placing - or a age division placing for that matter - were out the window with the fun of the first two laps, and my consistent inability to stay focused on the long-term when running these kind of events had taken its toll. At MV24 last year, however, my strong spring brevet base allowed me to keep up a ridiculous pace for 4 laps of a 55 mile loop before popping. Today, it took under 50 miles to snuff the candle. Lap 4, 5, 6 and 7 were all roughly the same; singing songs to myself to take my mind off the lead in my legs, keeping a mental log of the junk amassing in the shoulder of OK-51 -- it was as if that section would never end, even though it was only 6 miles long. I'd count off the debris: metal bar.... Enervitene pouch.... french fry tray.... black plastic 'thing'.... blue plastic 'thing'.... rusty metal.... bridge.... cemetery sign.... 86.... yikes. Bronco Rd., the advertised hard section for the day, turned into the promised land with the stiff tailwind -- I practiced my rhythm while the breeze helped shove me back to the park for the end of Lap#7; but I was spent, tired, yawning, achy, mentally spent -- and really not liking my shoes very much -- missing my SPD sandals -- especially since I'd spotted John from California wearing them and realizing that on these rides, it doesn't make much difference -- I could climb just as easy on either platform, but I should have chosen comfort. Speaking of John... there he goes: with Sam and Dave, still together! I've been lapped by the group I started with. I was done.

4:30pm Sam yelled out over his shoulder at me as he flew past -- "ya'llright?" -- and John, "What happened?" -- I didn't have an answer for either... I was smoked, and the final nail was in the coffin's lid. I continued on at my own pace, limping back towards the park, watching the proud threesome, the one that last year I could have been a part of, disappear up the road --- I'm never skipping the brevet series again! --- By the time I made it back into the park, there was Sam again, coming back out after checking in, looking like he'd just gotten started - strong, focused, smiling, and with a thumbs-up as he passed again -- "Keep it up, man" -- he knew as well as I did what had just transpired, but still words of encouragement -- a true class competitor! Unfortunately, the mental battle had already been played out, and "keeping it up" was out of the cards. I reached my car, opened the trunk, took the seatbag off the bike, took off my shoes and helmet, and sat down. 5:00pm The interesting thing about mental battles is that casualties can always be brought back to life, and the battlefields redrawn. Over a 30 minute period of self evaluation, second guessing, and watching other riders come in, plus checking the time sheets, I decided that it would be better if I tried to get all that I could. I had only taken maybe 15 total minutes off the bike up to my 30 minute 'rest' session, so I had time for one more lap. But not without help -- I popped a couple ibuprofen for the arches of my feet and the general achy feeling I was having, and started to put my shoes back on. Then my helmet. Soon, I was back on the road for my NEW last lap. Ryan, the other member of our age group, already had this one well in the bag having scored an extra lap, so I was shooting for second place -- since there was no third place competitor in our group, there was no hurry. Just FINISH this. After all, a great rider once told me -- winning isn't everything...finishing is. Even though there were no DNFs handed out for the route, it was silly of me to cash it in at 7 laps when I clearly had enough clock left for 8 total. I hit it pretty good - much of it was the ibuprofen talking for me, but it felt good to not hurt so much, and finally have some push back in the legs. As an added 'bonus', tho, the headwinds from the NW shifted a little toward the north, solid, with drizzle again. I traversed the long ribbon of OK-51, hit 86, and slogged my way thru more drizzle and howling winds. July??? Whatever! Bronco Rd., I felt fabulous - so much better than the previous 4-5 laps, that is. I climbed my way back into the park, and BLISS - there was the line!!! I hit it at...ughh.. who knows until I get a *real* stat chart like KIN has posted for his stuff... but in any case, that was it. No clock left for another lap, so 176 miles it is... Not bad for having no base mileage - but I know what I'm doing next Spring -- I've already started it, here today === the mileage I got today will provide the base I need to have a terrific winter/spring campaign -- after which, NEXT year at Tinbutt, I will just maybe be able to stay in that lead group all the way to the finish, just like Sam, John and Dave --- at a little before 7:00pm, they three crossed the line together with 11-laps, and 242 miles. Fantastic!! Definitely something to work for. Always someone better -- but the important thing for me, am I better than I was LAST time? I can ask that of myself next year, and hopefully have a positive answer. With the driving, this has been a long weekend... but I'm back on the bike tomorrow AM for a commute and coffee run, just to see how the legs feel, and to work out some of the stiffness. Then, find a way to increase daily mileage -- by the time this rolls around again, who knows... might be a better personal result... until I have done all that I can for MY own performance, I can't compete with those heavy hitters .... but it was such a thrill to have pulled and paced with them for the two laps I managed. Unforgettable... Tinbutt: Looking forward to next year!!! Kincannondale: Awesome to meet you -- next year, dinner, or a day-before training ride, eh? Stay on it, man --- like the last guy said: you are in an elite group already: over 80% of ALL cyclists have no desire to ride beyond a century, nor will they... cheesy as it may sound, pushing yourself to hit that mark makes you a winner, no matter what color medal they hand you. With a little healing and retrospect, I think you'll see it. Trust me -- I go through that each time --- never ask an ultra-rider/racer if they'll be back next year RIGHT after a race. They'll say 'no' -- but it's amazing how fast you hit the websites looking for the next challenge after you put a couple of days past it...

See you next year!

April 6, 2011

Happy New Year

Yeah, yeah.... it's *APRIL*. I know.
Honestly, though, I prefer more of a seasonal approach to the "new year", rather than the traditional calendar-based dictation.
The first buds on the trees, the sunrise happening to the north of any east-west street, first honest thunderstorm... stuff like that.
After a really weird March, and a sorta gloomy start to April... well, I think we're here.
NOW I can get started. Perhaps that gives me a whole quarter of slack compared to the rest of the world - but whatever.

Yesterday, I started work from the home office, and then rode into the big box later in the morning.
A good commute... short sleeves, bare knees. Temps feeling really nice. Ahhhhhh....

A little tailwind push, little spin... and a lot of smiles. Although... the bike trail felt like a rail trail with all of the fallout from a monster hailstorm that blew through Sunday night.
Twigs and branches everywhere... clang, crunch, snap.... and, it relieved me of my usual "on your left" chanting. I need to reinstall the bell.
Another sign of the new year, modern man re-emerges from his hibernation and takes to the trail system - usually with companion, or companion pet...so more efficient rear-approach signaling is essential.

The ride home, even with spring's usual wicked-headwind, was equally nice. Kept it in easier gears and just spun up the hills and enjoyed life around me.
That gave me a chance to witness a little bit of what I can only describe as "rolling history": nearly to the point where I wished I would have had the gall to stop him, and ask a few questions:
Rounding a tree-lined corner, I came upon an older gentleman riding his bicycle. Not uncommon for the bike trail, after all - but this encounter was different.
Instead of the usual tennis shoes and flat pedals, casual cruising, hi-rise handlebar'ed hybrid scene, this man - at least in his 70's if not an octogenarian - was riding what appeared to be a long-low, traditional lugged steel bicycle - the angles of which called out names like Mercian or Hetchins, though I could not see a label. Heck, it could have been a Schwinn World Tour and it still would have been utterly cool.
Instead of a tee-shirt and jeans or sport shorts, this tall gent was wearing an honest-to-goodness, horizontally-striped, wool jersey... and not a reproduction from what I could tell, as it had the kind of look to it that only comes with time and use, despite being well cared-for.
He donned calf-length socks, and what looked like old-school touring shoes - the kind with the triangular cleat of yesteryear, before Look came onto the scene.
He looked comfortable - but was leaned over like he was riding straight off the lithograph of an early 1910's Tour de France poster.

I did the full double take - and smiled. Epically "cool", in the best definition. Ex-racer from the 60's? Local legend out for a spring spin? Even at his obviously advanced age, he still looked lean and ready. He also looked like someone that would fit well with a name like Jean-Luc or, Rene, or maybe even Bernard or Octave. Bold. Classic.
Rat-pack and slick-hair classic, from a bygone era that is sadly slipping away; perfectly fitting the role of wool and lugs, wherein he'd spend the afternoon thrashing his mates on a tough climb, and later he wouldn't at all be above enjoying a pipe full of Perique and a pint of bitters.

If nothing else, he might have had a good story or two...
I'll let the mystery of imagination tell the rest of the tale -- but it was a rare encounter...

Nice day today.

April 2, 2011


Interesting weekend so far, and it's only half over.
I rose SUPER early ... like 2:15am ... and got ready for a long, slow ride to Pleasanton, KS and back on the Free-State Border Patrol permanent route, card-in-hand.  Full intent, to ride all 217 kilometers of it, at a very low, small-ring only effort, for base miles.
The injuries of the last seven months fading into the background finally in the last week after final "eureka" tweaks, I'm glad I decided not to try my hand at a very hilly Liberty-Platte City brevet last weekend.  Part of me REALLY wanted to be there, but the issues and the weather just didn't portray it being a good time.  I'd made the right choice... as much as I hate missing one of Bob's rides.  Heck, as much as I miss riding with PEOPLE.
Makes sense that I'd plan a solo ride at such a ridiculous hour, right?  Part of it is the magic of a late/early night ride:  stars, solitude, peace.  The other part is being back home with some day left.

My spring-bounce out of bed at first alarm was indication, subconsciously, that I still have a passion for riding.  I'm not burnt out, that's for sure:  I was ready - even at the ghastly hour, to get moving.
Food, shower, dress, 1st control, and away!  I didn't see a SINGLE car for the first 18 miles.  I *love* that!
The skies were clear - for the first time in what seems like weeks.  Not balmy, not the "beat-the-heat" kind of pre-dawn temperatures I'd prefer - but upper 30's to mid 40's aren't bad.  It was - as sometimes happens on these early starts - warmer when I started than when I got home.  
Oh yeah... that deserves explaining.

Though I didn't see a car in 18 miles, I did get some reminders from my right leg about taking it easy.  Not full-blown pain, but reminders.  I have a knot or lump in my right thigh, outside part, below the illiotibial band (thankfully) that I believe is a tweaked or partially torn hamstring... er, help me Google, not the biceps femoris?.... but the... uh, okay - doesn't matter.  It hurts "here" (points to leg).  
There is some bruising beginning to surface - so whatever I did to it during last week's likely-too-vigorous training session must've been deep, and more intense than I realized.
It's getting better, though.  Slow, easy progression, stretching, and doc's advice are being continued.  Being told to take it easy is better than being told not to ride at all.  He even agreed to the distances involved, so long as I didn't push anything too big.  Cool, I can fly with those orders.
When I've got no indications of pain or residual anymore, I can give it the beans again.  Heck, I always go out too hard, so this is better training than I was doing for myself ANYways.

The reminders were enough to give me pause, however.  Knees?  Fine.  Ankles?  Fine.  Most everything was "fine".  However, by the time I reached Louisburg, KS under the heavy blanket of this moonless morning I was beginning to think... "you know, if something DOES flare up, wouldn't it be wiser to stay closer to home?"  The control card felt heavy in my pocket, but I began considering playing my first DNF at a permanent... and my first DNF at a RUSA or ACP event since 2002.  I had a DNS last August when all this injury and life-commitments mess began.  So, at least this time I STARTED.  AS I was pondering all this, I saw the road closed signage and slowly blinking amber beacons clustered against the horizon near 295th street just south of Louisburg, and that was enough for me.  Even with teh signed detour provided and maybe only a handful of bonus miles on tap, there was no sense fighting it when my body was still fighting back.  Last week was too early...those hills north of Liberty would have torched me until June with my lack of preparation this year.  This week, I was better prepared, but still bordering on impatience and pushing the issue.  March just wasn't in the cards... April... ok, the first weekend in April...  maybe wasn't either.  

Last post I recalled the March 2010 Border Patrol, where I basically came off of 2009 with zero randonneuring events since February and came off of a longest-ride of 100 miles in September '09 at the MS-150 to a full 137 miles in March 2010, right out of the gate after nothing than commutes for training.  Classic "dude"... heck, it's what this blog was founded on:  using commutes to train for long-distance rides.  It worked last year, and I survived the ride and went on to ride 5 more in succession.  But, this year, since September of '10 my longest ride is barely 100km, not 100 miles... and commutes?  Well, because of the injuries, there haven't been that many since October.  Arguably, all the driving I've done made the injury worse because I never worked-it or rode-it out.  Diving right into brevets with such little base... foolish.  Not as young as I used to be, and I need to get back up to that distance again carefully this time.  

Smart choices, finally... against the classic "dude".  As if this blog wasn't tiresome enough, now I'm becoming sensible?  Yeesh.

Surely not. 

With the double caution of the tentative limbs and the road closed, I took it as a sign and turned around for home.  Difficult as it was for me to leave those next few control boxes unchecked on my card, I gave myself confidence knowing that I was leaving them blank only for NOW.... at the benefit of LATER.  With a slight, slight tailwind now I turned for home - tail only slightly tucked.  This was planned as a possibility from the gate... but I hadn't actually considered that I'd be smart enough to prevent myself from heading farther and farther south towards the hills which might have gone against my bodies' healing efforts.  Instead, I turned on my phone's internet radio player and allowed a faint back-pocket ooze of ambient down-tempo tickle my eardrums against the wind noise of my forward movement, while I consciously kept the revs high and the speed low.  No cars, no dogs, no traffic, and no weight on my shoulders whatsoever.  I made the driveway before dawn, after picking up a few groceries at the corner c-store for a post-ride breakfast with the family.  A metric before dawn?  Not a bad way to lose a little sleep, in my book.

By the time I got home the pain - or any echo of it - was gone.  Who knows what might have happened later - but, why dwell?  Sixty miles is plenty, and things finally feel pretty good.  Don't push your luck... next time, 75... then 85-90 miles.... then, I've got my May permanent scheduled already - and I will be ready.  Instead of being wrung-out and exhausted from going too long too soon, I now faced the day just as fresh as if I'd not missed a wink of sleep.

Then, later, something amazing happened.  

Back when I started riding as an adult in '98, and especially after the bug bit me really hard, I was pretty confident that my wife wasn't going to ride with me.  It just isn't her thing.  She knew I loved it, but she didn't really "get it".  I was cool with that, because as is the case in most marriages you just don't have exactly the same hobbies and interests as your partner.  That's normal - and like any guy that plays golf or flies model planes or goes fishing or hunting, cycling has always been just "my thing".  No worries... but, yeah, it'd have been neat.

About a month ago, I got an email from the wife while sitting at work, which read:  "Just wondering:  what would it take to get that other bike working?  I think I am ready to try bike riding."

I read that email maybe four or five times before the words really made any sense, considering the source.  It wasn't April 1st when I read it, so that couldn't be it. 
Suddenly, sitting there at my desk, I began to day-dream; and I could see very clearly the scene opening on a long piece of rural highway, who-knows-where.  The sun has just started to rise and there is a pinkish/orange glow filling the backdrop and I can hear birds just waking up and singing... and then I hear a few clicks of gears, and see a puff of foggy breath from behind the crest of a hill as a lone tandem appears to rise from behind the hill against the disk of the rising sun...  60 miles to go on the last morning of the local 600k brevet.... dude, and wife-of-dude still hammering it out.... (shudders)
Then I snapped to.  Easy, dude.... easy.
Reading that email, I think I was less excited about her saying "yes" to our first date.

Today, after cleaning up that small-sized mountain bike, tightening the bottom bracket, fresh chain lube, saddle adjustments, tutorials on shifting and how it works, the difference between coaster-brakes and hand-brakes, airing the tires, fitting her first helmet - the usual preparations - we all piled into the family box and headed to a quiet stretch of bike trail.  Today was her first bike ride since her childhood.

The interesting thing about destiny and fate, whatever you wanna call it:  I honest-to-goodness didn't plan this and only realized it an hour ago when I replotted the route to show her what she'd accomplished.  Today's ride took place on exactly the same trail as MY first adult bicycle ride in 1998.  When we got in the truck to "go to the trail" I just kinda went that direction... not sure why any other stretch of trail wouldn't have worked, like Monticello Park or whatever ... but I picked 87th Lane and Woodland Road.  It was there, from that same parking lot, that I'd ridden my Trek 820 mountain bike for the first time since losing weight, and after about six miles I'd realized that I was pretty tired - but had forgotten that I'd have to ride all the way back to the car.  That ended up being a tough 12-mile ride.  Today, I watched my wife take her first, shaky pedal strokes on that same trail.  

It's pretty cool... and that's far too lame a way to describe it, because I can't find better words.  The kids showered her with praise and support, and I was beaming.  She may not polish off any brevets in her lifetime, but she's tougher than I am - and I'm immensely proud of her.  More importantly, I could tell she was really proud of herself.   She wants to ride again.  My next couple of LBS purchases won't be for me.  That's cool.

This afternoon's bike trail ride blew this morning's permanent-attempt clean out of the water.  

It's not something any randonneur plans for, the DNF... and it's certainly hard to make "not finishing" into a GOOD thing... but I'm SO glad I DNF'd today.
Today was a very, very good day.