March 28, 2017

Getting up to speed

SO, I can’t just NOT post anything, right?
Okay, maybe… with a return to the rigors of academia I’m effectively getting the creative life squeezed out of me, but, occasionally I suppose inspiration will strike.
For now, I’m filling in some big, big gaps - all of which has to be reduced to bullet points.
There’s just too much material to tackle otherwise, and I’m trying to avoid the whole TL;DR effect.  (Finally, right?)

Yeah, these aren’t “bullet points” in the traditional business sense... it’s me.  Puh-lease.
So, on that, let’s work on getting back up to speed -- what you missed, in 12 brief snippets:

  1. Things began to dilute around July of last year; work got real busy, life got busy, and there was a LOT of riding going on ... so much so that writing about it much became a big chore.  Before long a massive mental backlog began to amass, a lot of which was brain-dumped into a huge blog post that would eventually end up accidentally deleted.  Lacking the fortitude to re-conjure all of those miles and words, I simply stopped.  It has literally taken almost exactly this long to return to the keyboard with anything much to say with regards to ride reports
  2. There were a few bright spots, however - there are ride reports posted from May, where I tackled my first distance runs at gravel, and for June for the Mighty Peculiar and Old KC Road rides; the growing theme, however, had been the heat.  While May wasn’t bad, June’s rando rides were met with humidity and high temperatures which would begin to do wholesale damage to my performance and recovery.
  3. Dirty Kanza 2016 found me acting again as crew chief for one of our local boys, Steven W., who achieved his goal of finally finishing this beast of a ride.  Good memories from early June, I’m looking forward to the day when I can finally commit to seeing this great event from the saddle, instead of the sidelines; but, man I have to say ... there is something awesome and satisfying about crewing, and I can’t think of a better event for which to volunteer - this, also, was the first time the heat really became a factor in 2016; while Steven finished well, my experience in the pits saw many strong-looking riders bowing out from dehydration and exposure.  It was to be a rough summer
  4. July became the tipping point:  Josh and I, having been focused on heading north to Nebraska for Gravel Worlds, continued to ramp up the gravel riding at distance - but, more than anything else, the heat became the real opponent - the surface almost didn’t matter.  After a brutally hot Mighty Peculiar in June, and a hot 100km on the Old KC Route in late June followed by countless 100-degree (F) commutes, the July 100km for Belgian National Day turned into a suffer-fest and study in dehydration and fatigue.  Finishing with only minutes to spare on an otherwise benign 104km route was a bit demoralizing, but, we knew it was “good training”.  Only a week later, Josh and I headed back out into the summer furnace for 201km of gravel from Olathe to Mound City and back ... an epic journey that rightly deserves its own, full blog post.  July 21st - possibly one of the most difficult finishes I’ve personally logged, I limped to the final control and obtained my last receipt with only eight minutes left on the clock; dehydrated, cramping, dizzy, and sore beyond belief; upon arriving home I laid on the cold garage floor reeling from what was surely heat stroke, cramping badly at any attempt I made to rise to my own feet.  I didn’t feel quite right after that ride for over a month.  DId it have to be that bad?  Hard to tell - I do not want to over-dramatize things, and I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes with nutrition and hydration, and the fact that it was a gravel ride likely had little to do with the outcome; but, I captured a screenshot of 109-degrees near Louisburg late in the ride.  Sometimes, it’s just plain hot - and I probably wasn’t taking great care of myself, but, also fact:  the combination of dust, heat, and sweat created a briney, sunscreen chemical laden runoff which - literally - ruined my cycling shorts.  I’ve never had a ride go quite like that.  Huge props to Josh for finishing under his own power, when a phone call would have been the easier choice.  Despite not making the final control time cut-off, he still pedaled it back home which is saying a lot.  This guy just doesn’t know how to give up, and that’s huge.  Hats off, in a big way - because, truth be told, under a tree somewhere on New Lancaster Road, I had my phone out and was staring down my wife’s text message avatar.  Hadn’t been there in a while, that’s for sure
  5. Still knocked backwards by the late-July gravel 200k, Gravel Worlds was far too easy to skip.  Didn’t go, didn’t happen - and I’m using it as motivation to continue to train and practice until I get “there” - wherever “there” may be.  The level of fitness apparent in my peers is impressive - and until I can knock off a gravel 200k with the same relative ease as done on pavement, I have no business signing up for ANY event.  Not going to make it a big deal, or a “must-do” - but, at this age in my life if I’m going to get serious I need to just do it.  The time for carrying around extra body weight and doing these rides, but then complaining about ‘being slow’ are in the past.  I don’t want to squeeze the fun out of what I’m doing - because I still have a great deal of genuine fun on long rides - but, I can’t be complacent anymore, either.  The “solution” I’m seeking has almost nothing to do with how long I’m at at a control or not, nor how much my bike weighs, or what sort of tire I’m running.  It has everything to do with my body, how much I should weigh for my height, and how I treat myself.
  6. While I did log an August 100km ride, there was no August 200k and no September 200k, and no October 200k... and barely any commutes to speak of during the period.  July punched me out, but hard.
  7. Beginning to feel again like I should do SOMETHING, November’s 200km came with mild temperatures, but a LOT of wind.  Terry and I battled strong headwinds down to Pleasanton on the Border Patrol route and almost timed-out on the road to the halfway control.  In a time of change, it was the last time we’d visit the old halfway control; their last day of operation as a new Casey’s opened for business a couple hundred yards to the east.  With the wind at our backs, we managed to make up time easily and finished on quiet roads after dark.  I didn’t consider it a “Streak starter” at the time, only that it had been nice to knock out a “good weather” 200km in November, since I’d had to drop the previous streak in August last year
  8. After the November 200km I’d become keen on trying to do a double-streak of a 100 and 200 kilometer ride each month – something I’ve since gotten over:  after the November 200k, though, it seemed like a good way to work on going a little bit harder and treat the 100km distance more like a time trial.  As a result, on the Old KC Road route, I managed to grab a “fast for me” result – only missing my 2014 group paceline performance on the same route by a handful of minutes.  Other differences, as the final control on the 2014 ride had been manned and “instant checkout” in nature, compared to “wait for receipt after eating” this time around, all-told I possibly recorded my best time on that course.  This was helped tremendously by Steven W., who – after enjoying one of the fastest seasons of his riding career – was happy to tow me along for a great deal of the distance.  It was rainy and breezy, conditions I seem to enjoy – and the cold brew afterwards was a great prize (yeah, beer... I’m not going to torture myself!)
  9. December’s 200km came late in the month on a whim that a rapid succession of a December permanent and the upcoming New Year’s Day 200k would result in a mini-streak, basically knocking out the toughest months of the year for long rides.  Heading out with Paul T., complete with Xmas tree and sleigh bells attached to his bicycle’s rear rack, we tackled the Princeton Roundabout nicely.  I began to take some notes here, as well, noticing that my own speed and efficiency had fallen off a bit.  While some would call this phenomenon “winter”, I began to look for opportunities to improve caloric intake, hydration, and how to squeeze more speed out of myself in the closing miles of longer rides – instead of each ride devolving to a death-march - a lot of this came alongside the aforementioned personal promises of looking after myself - much of what I seek can be traced back to what I’m putting into my body in the first place.  (Yeah, still had a beer after this ride, too -- all in moderation, friends.  This time I didn’t enjoy 10 lbs. of fried foods along with it.  ...only 4 lbs.  LOL)
  10. Only a week later, the New Year’s Day 200km ride was upon us - and while I hemmed and hawed about it in the comfort of my car’s heat at the cold start line, I ultimately made the correct choice for 200km to keep the streak going (as opposed to the also-offered 100km option that day).  In strong company with John M. and Spencer K., and thankfully with John nursing an injury (lest we never see his wheel again after mile 15), we enjoyed a nice day out on the Princeton Roundabout route under brilliant skies and passing clouds, capping off the day back at Barley’s with Spencer for another great post-ride brew... I could get used to this.  Rewards are good!  That whole moderation thing still in-check... waking up the next day, legs feeling fresh like I hadn’t even performed anything beyond the strain of walking the dog.  Nice!
  11. February, finally it appears that the toughest months of the winter season will provide just enough of a window of opportunity to grab the monthly R-12 ride without much hardship... but, it’s Kansas: if it’s going to be a mild temperature, it will be windy.  Very windy.  This time, Paul and Gary came along to enjoy another stab at the Border Patrol route - first heading directly into a strong southerly wind (18-22 MPH with higher gusts), which still felt lighter than the November gale Terry and I had endured a few months prior.  At least my speed was firmly in double digits -- now that’s progress!  We three traded pulls here and there in the usual disorganized randonneuring sense, and reached the halfway control with time to spare.  The trip back north was to be a tailwind charged adventure, and Paul - looking fit and on-form - appeared to shot from a cannon after turning north on LN-1095.  Gary and I caught a brief glimpse of him leaving the La Cygne control just moments before we managed to arrive there.  Paul would ultimately finish a full hour prior to us, and we didn’t exactly dawdle on the return leg -- all in all, a great day on the bike, and February firmly in the bag
  12. March has brought a bit more enthusiasm and opportunity; but, still I found myself kicking the March date downstream a couple times.  Anxious to knock it out on the 6th, plans changed.  The 20th came, but, I had fallen ill.  The 27th... icky weather... but, no more month left and no more opportunities!  If I’m going to do it, it has to be NOW.  That was yesterday.  Amid a mishmash of self-talk I ambled out of the garage and started at a “traffic-friendly” (and yet, sleep-friendly) 8:30AM to grab the March requirement, amid what I will call “aggressive drizzle” and a nice northerly tailwind (which I’d come to curse later, for obvious reasons).  Back on the Border Patrol route - not what I’d wanted, since variety is a good thing - but, necessary under the circumstances.  Still, could be, could be starting all over now!  After reading a great article on the trials of achieving the Ultra R-12 award (see RUSA’s webpage), and the whole concept of R-120 (!), I’m inspired to keep the streak going.  Granted, talk to me in 12 months and see how life has allowed this - but, really, it IS possible.  Sometimes “possible” is all I need.  

This latest run at the Border Patrol had me trying some new things learned over the last couple of brevets with other riders present.  Discussions about fighting fatigue and dilution-based dehydration (almost hyponatremia, but not quite - just low on electrolytes due to too-dilute of a solution), and “smarter calories”.  Things like Snickers bars.  I mean, they’re EVERYWHERE - at least in the realm of c-stores, and yet, I’ve never had one during a ride.  I know what they ARE, mind you - but, in the context of seeing if they’d work for me on a ride?  Heck no, that’s “candy”... right?  Well, I tried one, and BANG... that’s good cycling food, dude. At least on that day, at least at that milepost.  Knowing that I have WAY more options at the stops solves a few problems:  less hauling around powdered nutrition that may not be doing me any real good, and less c-store aisle paralysis.  The bigger my list of “food that works”, the faster I can get out of a control knowing that I’ve got good energy on-board to make it to the next one, and so-on.  

Same with hydrating... I’ve noticed a lot of “camel-like” people just sipping water on hot rides, never complaining about cramps or fatigue, where -- by comparison, and especially when looking back at July ‘16, I’m guzzling water and trying to stay ahead of a hydration curve that I can’t really beat.  Now, it’s not HOT yet... so I have to continue to practice this carefully... but, this notion of maintaining an isotonic environment.  I’m glossing over the science here, because you can read a lot about it elsewhere... but, my theory involves not really hydrating correctly when I should be, not recognizing the warning signs, and not acting accordingly.  It’s tough to do in practice, when it’s hot and one isn’t feeling well, which is why so many people get themselves into trouble when the temperature skyrockets.  I’ll be approaching hot weather rides with a bit more intelligence this year, to see if I can remedy some of the issue that derailed my efforts last year.  

So, there you have it... you’re up to speed, and so am I.
Back into a steady streak, enjoying commutes when I can, and revelling in the nice springtime weather.
No complaints, really.  

Stay tuned... while the post frequency is likely to remain low for at least the next couple of years while I remain involved in worthy pursuits, I’ll at least try to keep up the occasional post and ride report.  

Enjoy spring!  Riding weather is here!

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