It's that time again, kiddos! Ride report time! Yea!
This time out, I traveled north toward St. Joseph, MO., and just west to Elwood, KS. for the Kickapoo Two 209km ride, so named as it crosses the center of the Kickapoo Indian Nation Reservation along its route between Elwood and Wetmore, KS. A terrific route, full of wide open sky, big vistas, glacial hills, river valleys, old railroad beds, and small towns still holding onto life on the big NE Kansas prairie. It's some of the best riding in the region, in my opinion - and when I lay in bed at night and dream of riding, it's often the wide open spaces along routes like this one that I think about first. Good stuff, worth the drive.
August... hot, muggy weather is usually the norm in Kansas and Missouri, but, this year? It's been interesting - and almost a year to the day since last year's visit to the Kickapoo Two route, a year that saw a start in record-low temps almost near the freezing mark, we began the ride with cooler-than-normal temperatures and low humidity... it was almost chilly! I decided to tough things out, so I left the arm warmers in the car - but it was strange enough to again have to pack such things in August. Proof, the old adage about randonneuring when you start a ride far from home: pack EVERYTHING! You really never do know!
Thank goodness for time stamps... the photos below are in chronological order, far as I can gather. Many of them stand on their own merit and take the mind down memory lane without much effort - but, I'll still add some words here and there. I tried a few new things along the way, and ended up having a terrific time re-finding some of my boundaries with regards to calories vs. mileage, effort vs. recovery, big gears vs. small ones, and the like. Especially in light of my post prior to this one, I'm moving forward and playing with things that I haven't shaken up in a while, just to see what's what. Complacency doesn't yield gains - and while most would remain content settling into a cozy rhythm... well, it's just not my style, I guess. Besides being good for the soul, it's also fairly logical to assume that - even in something as seemingly finite as mathematics - occasionally there arises a better (or just different) way of doing things. Yes, it's still "just" riding a bike - but, the smaller accessory concerns do add up. I'll get to some of that stuff in time, below.
Because of the low light, and the fact that the route begins on US-36, which is slightly busier than the surrounding roads which make up the rest of this route, there aren't many photos from the early miles - once off the highway and back on the small roads, we stop at Troy, KS. - not a control, but a perfectly-placed stopping point on the road west. Like most small Kansas towns, it's got a great story - despite what it looks like today. Buried under concrete and asphalt lay a rich tale, some of this is highlighted on the historical marker I snapped farther down this post - another epiphany of the new, personal attitude adjustment, and the ease of which I can extract the camera from the new saddlebag, I finally got a picture of it - and many other things along this ride - despite having passed it maybe eight times now, between this route, and the White Cloud route which finishes along the same stretch. I'm happy about that - because each shot really can say 1,000 words... and you all know *I* usually say way more than that. Hah.
Despite the proclamations of the previous post, I am who I am - and that's ... wait... Popeye? Robin Williams... ugh, what a horrible film... (--see? already happening.)
The dude writes how he writes... wow, third person? really? Dude....
OKAY... You get the idea. Heeeeere we go!
|After Troy, KS. and a quick break, we headed out onto old K-7 into the growing sunlight of an awesome August day. Last time out I had a feeling this was the old alignment of K-7, originally sweeping right past Troy on its western edge, and searches for old road maps confirmed it. One of these days I'll put together a links-list of old map research sites, for those interested - but often it's just Google to the rescue. I find the Google Earth time-travel option especially helpful here. We rolled past the grand old Mt. Olive Cemetery - est. 1856 - after realizing - as time inevitably marches on - the county had just finished removing the old sweeper curve from the intersection of 180th and Last Chance Rd., which is one more progression toward the old highway slipping further into obscurity. I get hung up on this stuff because I love history... and I find it interesting that in some places you can actually see - clearly - the old wagon wheel ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, and on satellite view you can easily follow 150 year-old railroad alignments, the tracks and locomotives of which are long gone; but, in other places you can't even tell where entire towns once stood, or - to wit - the old alignment of this highway. Old K-7, just a couple short strips of pavement that go "nowhere", for me - somehow - still hold a tiny bit of mystique.
In the shot above, mystical highways behind me, I decide "it's time" - into a headwind, and up a gentle gradient of 2-3%, I ramp up the cadence and shift up through the gears to begin working on tearing myself down a bit. Glen provided the shot above of me making some headway before turning west onto K-20; which is quickly becoming one of my favorite roads. It's a good mix of hills and long flat sections - time to stretch the legs and find out how long those zebra-cakes from the Troy c-store will last.
|Near the intersection of K-20 and K-137, after a nature break and catch, Glen and Gary are now close-at-hand - and after a couple more attempts to keep my pace slightly higher than normal, the zebra-cakes begin to fade. We group up here and there, approaching Everest, KS. Another shot from Glen's camera, highlighting the effectiveness of the neon ankle-bands, RUSA reflective vest (which is quickly becoming too warm), and the bag-mounted reflective triangle. Overkill, perhaps... but I like the idea that I stick out like a road-worker, and the up-n-down motion of the ankle-bands is hard to ignore from the rear. The clouds and haze of the morning are beginning to burn off, and the first big beads of sweat are rolling down my back - largely the vest's fault, I suppose. It's a great morning for August... not too hot. Traffic? What traffic? I love this highway!
It only took a scant seven miles to cross the reservation, and I couldn't help but suddenly hum a few bars of a Midnight Oil tune. I'd like to think I would have gotten on nicely with Wendell Phillips. If we knew then what we know now.
|Later on K-20, one of many curves and jogs, overlooking endless fields of green under terrific skies. Gary and Steven are on their way - head east, young men!
|A bit later, compared to above panoram, we pass the old barn under partly cloudy bliss.
|Low-angle self-shot - full sun, clear skies, and the promise of cold drinks at Troy driving my pedals.
|Along Old K-7, mile marker 224 still standing in the roadside weeds and grasses - forgotten by time.
|The tall oak sculpture at the county courthouse in Troy - shot by Terry B.
|Plaque detail from above. Artist Peter Tosh has created one large carving of this type for every state in the county - or, is at least in the process of completing that goal. Troy represents his work for Kansas.
|Historical Marker, along US-36 east of Troy, KS. Another place where I finally decided to stop and get a photo for once!
As promised.... drum roll:
The boring post-ride notes, with some embedded tips/tricks/approaches to various rando-related topics:
The biggest lesson here for me, and anyone advancing through seasons of brevets could potentially back this up: what worked last year may not work at all this year. Don't be afraid to change the formula, experiment - if it doesn't work out, switch back, and maybe try something different next time. If things ARE working, probably no need... but, especially when it comes to nutrition, step one: stick to the plan. Step two: don't be timid about changing the plan if it stops working!
For me, nutrition-wise, I started the ride with the usual cocktail I've called the "mix", in heavy rotation since last year's RAAM. Consisting of about 80g of Carbo-Gain maltodextrin powder and a single GU Brew electrolyte effervescent tablet per 25oz. bottle, mixed with plain water. The resulting "mix" contains a good electrolyte profile of bicarbonates, to prevent acidosis in the bloodstream, and roughly 300 calories of complex, long-chain carbs, with roughly the precise amount of liquid water to allow clean digestion AND provide a surplus for hydration and sweat replenishment. This is terrific for supported events, as we used it for Alex last year (modified ingredients for his individual needs, and using an electrolyte source other than the GU product).
I would often start rides with two complete bottles of "mix", and would then replenish each at controls as I'd drink through them. This worked pretty well for a while, but, the last six months or so I have been teetering on the edge of taking in too many calories while riding. Explained: the "mix" is designed to be the sole caloric vehicle for the rider. Occasionally, usually before a period of rest exceeding 30 minutes, real food can (and should) be added. In MY case, I decided not to carry as much powder along with me, and to eat more real food at the controls. Unfortunately, I forgot about the "less powder" part, and kept a modest rotation of "mix" in play, just to keep things "topped off." The result was bloating, gut cramps and general lethargy. Sometimes my head is really thick in some places, and thinner in others - but, it took me a while to realize that I felt much better while riding when I would JUST eat at controls, or JUST drink the "mix." For the last three rides since Iowa, I have tried a progressive experiment: on the July 200k, I simply halved the amount of "mix", putting it only in one bottle, and leaving the other as plain water. Things improved markedly. For the next ride, I began to also wonder if I'd been taking in too many electrolytes, and perhaps not enough of others that are missing from the GU product (compared to what, I'll get to.) I then halved the GU brew component, and - even under hard efforts in hot weather - didn't cramp. I also noticed more predictable nature break intervals with no indication of retention or excessive toxicity - to put things politely. Now, I know I can't ride on plain water alone, but, I began to wonder if the expense of the bicarbonate-based GU tablets had been worth it, and re-examined my previous go-to in Hammer's Endurolytes: which is the "what" I'm comparing the GU to. Still, as a matter of backup plans, and the GU not taking up a lot of space, I'm still carrying some along in the saddlebag - but, plain water in both bottles, food at controls with supplemental items in "as-close-to-food-as-possible" form, like Bonk Breaker energy bars and Hammer Gels, remain in the saddlebag also, for on-road intake, as needed, and endurolytes as conditions warrant SEEM, so far, in this short timeframe, to be working out pretty well. The "mix", nothing wrong with it at ALL, to be clear - but, I needed to choose: either real food, or "mix" - but not both. That was proving to be too much. If I reach a point where food isn't available, or I can't find anything I want to eat, I can carry a couple baggies of "mix" as a stand-in. In practice, however, I'm still not keen on carrying oodles of baggies for fuel - no matter how consistent it might prove. At the end of the day, I prefer variety, and a lighter load on the road. So, this ride was to be the first return to, aside from one bottle at the start, on control food only, and plain water. If nothing else, I won't miss the sticky hands, bottles, and bike frame after rides... nor will I miss the pre-ride prep of scoop, measure, bag, repeat. I'll keep a few on hand, but six baggies will last five or six rides, not five or six controls. And, epiphany... on a REALLY hot day, plain water really goes down well - even compared to just water and GU Brew without the maltodextrin. Imagine that. Added bonus on a hot day: a squirt of water down the back, over the head, onto the quads.... AHHHHH. I've missed that. So, this is the new "plan", for now.
When it comes to simplifying and demystifying some of the nutritional tricks of randonneuring, it helps to keep things simple and try to do experiments like this in controlled environments, on familiar routes, and when you know you're in good health. There are enough variables in play with food! The market is loaded with TONS of sports-related nutrition, and a lot of it is terrific stuff, but, it helps to know what you really need. Sometimes it's McDonald's fries, sometimes it's Sustained Energy... play around, and don't be afraid to "mix" it up (he,he). But, make sure it's sustainable for you: will you get tired of that same-ole energy bar on a 600k? Variety can be a ride-saver - shop the aisles, know where everything is at the c-stores you frequent, though we all know they are all quite different sometimes, even within the same franchise. It takes time to key in to your body's signals, and figure out what it's hungry for... even for the supposedly "experienced", like me. Keep track of your no-no's list, also: there will be mistakes. Just drink plenty, and the bad times will fade, the next control will come, and you can switch back to that which works well. Keep it simple, repeatable, and flexible. There is nothing wrong with powdered, engineered nutrition other than the need to carry and mix -- but, look at the 80's: there's nothing wrong with bananas and water, either. Find your inner rando, and ride to eat.
The Scattered Observation's Bonus Photo:
|A recent training ride finds this, an old, repurposed schoolhouse (?) along 191st street west of US-169 in southern Johnson County, KS.
Thanks for reading!