I got back from the Mardi Gras 200k weekend at midnight last night. What a great weekend!
Dianne and I drove down to Dennis' in Mandeville Friday afternoon. We were fortunate enough to get one of the bedrooms. Dennis and Maria are always great hosts. I was really surprised to see all the people when we got in. Doug (Brandon), John (Memphis) at Pat were already there. We also had two very unexpected guests, Ron and Jack from Topeka, Kansas! John brought a friend, Alan from Memphis and not long after we arrived Matt (Virginia) showed up. Steve showed up much later bringing our total riders to 11. We had jambalaya for supper and king cake for desert. It was colder and we were more tired than last year so we skipped the parade and I think we were in bed before 10.
Saturday started early with a 4:15 wakeup call. Getting up that early did allow me to get my stuff together leisurely. The early temp was definitely in the 40s. For some reason, I miscalculated my clothing requirements. Last weekend we rode in a constant temp of 57 and I was cold the whole time. It was supposed to warm to the mid 60s, but I really did not do a good job of adjusting the clothes. I started out with shorts, arm and leg warmers, ss jersey, vest, jacket, reg socks. Once outside I realized I needed another layer. I went back in and put on a wool underlayer and changed to wool socks. I really worried that I was over dressed at this point. That wool underlayer is really warm. I hate having to take off my underlayer later in a ride when it gets too hot, but I was afraid that I would need it. I think my earlier miscalc came from not thinking about the lack of sun for the first couple hours. Anyway, I am very glad I wore the wool underlayer. I would have been miserable without it. I also had my new buff - very good investment. I will probably wear it alot.
We took off for the ride start at 5:45. The ride start is 6 ish miles from Dennis' house. It really was cold. I was stupid and although I had two pairs of shoe covers and two pairs of toe covers, I did not wear any of them. My toes were numb by the time we arrived at the ride start.
Ride Start to First Control:
We got to the ride start without any problems just before the official start of 6:30. We were off by 6:35. Amazingly, the whole group stayed together to the first control. Pat likes to ride Audax style and the bigger the group, the harder it is to ride together. I think it is difficult with more than 4 or 5 cyclists as it is too hard for a faster rider to adjust their speed to the slowest rider. In most cases there is a big difference is speed between the fastest and slowest. Since I am one of the slowest, I can really see how this falls apart. It can be frustrating when I am faster than anyone in the group to slow down for them as I think it is much easier to ride the speed you are accustomed to - especially when there is a 2-3 mph average difference.
Sometime during this first 30 miles particularly somewhere between mile 19 and 30, I thought something was wrong with either my legs or my bike. I was sluggish, my legs felt heavy and I could not "spin". At first I thought I had a flat or a break was rubbing, but I really couldn't find a problem with either. I could not get my heart rate up either. I really was afraid it was me, but did not want to admit it. The last two weekends I saw great improvement in my cycling. I am still very slow averaging 12-12.5 mph on longer rides. But, I really felt good, like my endurance was back. One thing I have always been able to do on the recumbent is accelerate. I can take off really fast and put a gap on others in a hurry. I could not close a gap to save my life Saturday. My legs were just too heavy. I did work out really hard on Thursday and just decided that I over did it, even though I never had any leg soreness Friday. I started letting it bother me. I tried to be positive. We were averaging 13.5 mph at this point, much better than I had originally expected, so I had to take pleasure from that. Maybe that was why my legs were heavy. We did get to the first control 30-45 min up.
First Control to Second Control:
I was ready to leave the control pretty quickly. Since I was the slowest, I tend to try and leave first and let the others catch up with me. I was unaware that Matt had a broken spoke, so Pat, Dennis and Steve stayed back to help him. The others rode off with me. 3-4 miles later, I had to take off a layer. The sun started to come out and warm things slightly. I still had on my underlayer, but took off my vest,jacket, and gloves. At this point, I was dropped and would not ride with anyone for a while. Unfortunately, I started to beat myself up. What had I done to screw up my legs? I worked out really hard on Thursday. I started taking race caps. I did not stretch Friday. I did not think it was the race caps, because I felt good other than my legs. I was alert and seemed to have energy, but I just could not make my legs go. I allowed myself to get negative and decided that I would not be doing the 300 in two weeks. This is one of my biggest problems. I was truly preforming better that I had the previous two weeks, yet because I was not preforming at the level I wanted to, I started going mental. ARRRGH!
Doug, the Kansans, Dianne all waited for me at one of the turns. Pat, Matt, Dennis and Steve all came up behind after messing with Matts wheel. One weird occurrence, we were all honked at and buzzed by a black pickup. This attitude is typically rare in LA. They are normally the nicest people to be around. At the corner, we had pulled off waiting for the others and a lady stopped and told us we should be riding on the bike trail - some 30 miles behind us! Dianne told her that we had the right to ride on the road and the lady started cussing us out. She had kids in her car and one of the others pointed out that she should not act that way in front of her kids, she replied that it was a free country and she could do !#$%#%# what she wanted in front of her kids! Poor kids, I am sure they will become upstanding citizens too! The weird thing was that we were all pulled over out of the road in the parking lot. We had been cycling single file when on the road and the traffic was light enough that we would not have even held anyone up at all. Sheesh!
We all stayed together for a little while. I really needed to pee, but we were in an area that did not lend well to relieving ones self. I was really getting hot and holding it became a real issue. It was frustrating me beyond belief. That is the other issue with Audax cycling. It does not lend well to the individual needs. If one person stops then they all do and not everyone needs to pee at the same time. I finally could not stand it! I stopped, peed and took off my base layer. I put on arm warmers and my vest as it was still cool, I just did not need the wool anymore. Once again the guys waited at the next turn. However, when I got dropped again, only Pat and Steve stayed with me. I would fall behind them and continue to bash myself. Pat waited for me at the last turn before the control. 1.6 miles of rolling hills that should not be a problem - however, I was in my granny granny gear the last half mile. I just had no energy. At the control, Steve asked how I was feeling. I told him I was doing okay, just a little disappointed that I was sluggish this weekend.
Second to Third:
I stay on a totally liquid diet on the long rides. So, it does not take long for me to be ready at the control. Once I had my bottles ready, I went on ahead. The Kansans and Tenns were ready before I was and left before me. My legs really hurt all over at this point. Not excruciating, but I was not comfortable. I rode several miles by myself and then Dennis caught up with me and then Doug and Steve. I really like riding with these guys. Funny story: Pat and Steve concocted a plan to zip tie a 20lb weight to Dougs bike. Little did anyone else know, but they also slipped a small disc 5 lb weight into his bike bag. He found the 20lb weight without a problem, but never suspected the 5 lb one. He only found it when he was packing his bike after the ride!
While riding alone on the stretch before Dennis caught up with me, I did a little soul searching. I want to be an endurance cyclist. Not everything is going to be perfect. I am going to have times that don't work out the way I want them too. My attitude must stay positive. I was still riding at 12.8 mph - better than any other weekend. We were an hour or so up. The weather was nice. I am riding my bike. I was with friends. Shut up your whining. Put your big girl panties on. Although my legs still hurt, I was going to have fun. So when the guys and Dianne caught up with me, I had fun. We pretty much rode together for the next 15-20 miles.
Once we reached the 13 mile stretch, Dianne, Dennis and I skipped a bio break and got out in front of the others. Dianne was riding like a bat out of hell. She has always climbed better than me and she was putting major distance between the two of us. By now my knees were really hurting the left knee was hurting really bad behind the knee and the right hurt on top and behind. I occurred too me that I had moved my seat Friday morning. The longer I rode, the more I decided that I had not tightened the seat bolt tight enough. I was going to wait until the next control to stop and look, but it finally got the better of me. I found a good place to stop and pulled off. Darned if I wasn't right! My seat was about 4 inches from where it should have been. I got really lucky here and Steve and Doug showed up to help move the seat! Eureka! Once the seat was moved, I could spin! I could accelerate! My legs were still tired, and my knees still hurt, but, hurrah, I have a reason that my legs were so heavy!
Third to End:
The rest of the ride I felt much better. I was able to hang with the group. Issue 2 popped up its ugly head just before dusk. I had been riding with my Ixon all day. I turned it off at the ride start as I did not think I needed it anymore. At dusk, it would not come back on. No worries, I had spare batteries. We put them in and after a little prodding, the light came back on although I did not have it aimed right. I realized I did not pack my backup light. Thats what I get after being off the bike for so long. This is a really good reason for Audax riding. When riding in a group, the others can pick up the slack of those that may need a little help, in some cases the group can provide the draft, the light, the upbeat in attitude, the properly applied kick in the pants. All in all Audux riding in the right combination is my favorite way to roll.
The ride continued successfully with our group staying together for the rest of the ride. We finished 12 hr and 3 minutes into the ride. I can't find our official finishing time for last year, but I am pretty sure we were slower but took less time off the bike. I am fairly certain that we ended with a better time.
No hot foot!!!! This is my first long ride with the Specialized shoes with arch support in combination with the Crankbrothers Acid pedals. Whoo Hoo!
Being able to come back with a better attitude after lunch!
Perfect fueling - 5 SE+2H to the turn around control, Hammer bar for lunch, 5P for the next 18 miles, 3 SE +2H to the end.
Things to remember:
Bring back up light
Don't go negative
Bring warmer clothes, just in case
Back at Dennis':
We all gathered back at Dennis and Maria's for a shower and supper. The Kansans had to leave to get back home, but the rest of us were able to stay for dinner - a most wonderful spaghetti and meat sauce and chick parm. For desert, we had homemade banana pudding - a wonderful end to a great day! After dinner, we packed up and headed to Pat's.
Tour de la New Orleans
After breakfast (piggys and cinnamon rolls), we headed out to New Orleans. It was much colder and windyer. I wore my wool jersey and all the other paraphernalia from yesterday. We started out to the levy at 9:30. I did not bring any lights since they really weren't working. My legs were very sore and my left knee hurt really bad. I was doubting if I could do the whole ride, but what the hell. Fortunately, the worst of the pain would wear off with distance. It would rear its ugly head after an extend stop (lots of these), but overall was okay.
Okay, I hate riding in traffic - the traffic that the car passes you in your lane without giving you any space. I had a really bad occurrence of this December 2007 and still have not fully recovered although I am really trying to get better about it. St. Charles was bumper to bumper cars, but Dianne mentioned that she wanted to ride in the garden district. Pat ever the pleaser, would not deny. I voiced my concern to Pat who all too well knows my fear and he indicated that if were too much, we could always turn off. This ended up being one of my two favorite parts to this ride. The traffic was heavy, but it was either slow enough for us to ride between cars, or when available, we rode in the "parking lane". The morning parade crowd was gathering and we became the parade! It was spectacular. We had a lot of stop a start and dodging between people and vendors, but the crowd really reacted to our bikes. All over you could hear - look at those cool bikes! People were all dressed up with Mardi Gras colors and there were ladders and these neat seats on "stilts" set up for kids to sit in to see the parades. While waiting for the parade to start there were vendors selling color hats and boas and food. Doug had a hat Maria had given him and he put it on while we were riding slowly in the crowd. Although chaotic - it was a complete blast. We attempted to eat at Cafe Dumond, but the line to wait was at least an hour long. We walked over to City Grocery instead and at a muffaletta. Doug, Dianne and I split a whole one.
The Award Ceremony:
From City Grocery we cycled down Chartes to somewhere just off the quarter. Steve stopped us all and stood on a loading dock of a deserted building to make a grand presentation. Apparently, he had been disturbed at getting away with the awful joke that they(?) played on Doug the day before. They(?) assumed Douggy would find the weight much earlier in the ride and discard it along the way. Well, since that did not happen, Steves conscience got to him. He had taken the weight home, painted it, glued a medallion onto it and turned it into the nicest, yet heaviest, medal I have ever seen. The ACP should ask him for his expertise in designing the next medals in 2011! He then wrapped this medal very nicely and presented it to Doug. We were all able to sign the back of it. The best part of all came with the realization that now it was a really great keepsake, Doug had to haul it another 30+ miles back home!
Meander was the name of the game for the rest of the day. We meandered to the lower ninth ward where the damage was the worst after the dams broke after Katrina. The area is seeing slow progress. Brad Pitt has sunk 2 million (?) of his own money into revitalization of this part of the city. The houses supposedly were designed to be green. They were definitely interesting. We then headed out to Algeriers(?) to see the Jean Laffite battlefield. From there we rode out to eat again. The original dining choice was closed so we found a suitable substitute. After filling our guts again, somehow Doug was able to let air out of Steves back tire. While waiting for everyone to get gathered up at a gas station, they lead Steve into a discussion of his tires and how difficult it is to change the back tire of a recumbent. Minutes later, we are back on the road stopped at a light and Steve realizes that his tire is running flat. He crosses the road against the light and heads to the ferry well before the rest of us cross. When we get to the ferry, he has already started changing the tire. Doug does not hold out on Steve at all and shows him his valve stem cap. Steve's face was priceless. The dawning of the trick was absolutely perfect! We were able to board the ferry and Steve was able to finish fixing the tire on the ride. The best thing to come of this trick was the realization that my pump no longer works.
At this point it was getting late and we knew we needed to get back to Pat's. Doug, Dianne and I were leaving to go home and it looked like it would be midnight before we got back. However, the challenge was to get back through the parades. Traffic on Canal was completely bumper to bumper gridlock. Steve had a good idea to go on this back road near the street car/train line. We were able to get to Tchopoutulus (?) without a problem. We did have a police car catch up with us and hurry us out of the area we were in. We were able to travel "chop-a-two-lus" street pretty easy until we ran smack dab into the floats lining up. This was phenomenal! People in costume with all sorts of commotion. We were weaving in and out of the crowds, stopping and starting, darting around bands and parade goers. It was so exciting. It would have been fun to have been able to stick around to see the parades since we were in the middle of them, but alas, we had to get home. It was dark when we hit the levy and neither Dianne nor I had lights. Pat and John stopped at a store off the levy and we attempted to continue to Pat's on our own. I really learned a lesson about not having back up lights. I really could not see unless I was really close to Doug. Pat eventually caught back up with us and lead us home.
What a great weekend - somewhere close to 195 miles! I should eclipse my 2008 cycling miles sometime in March! WHOO HOO! WHAT A RIDE! I really appreciate everyone being so supportive. Thanks to Dennis and Maria and Pat and Cindy for putting us all up. And thanks to Pat for being such a great RBA and providing such a great cycling weekend!