Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fleas and Trees 200k

So, after finishing my Uncertain Times 200k, I head to Canton TX to meet Sharon and Jeri for the Fleas and Trees 200k. We were all sharing a motel room - think girls slumber party and instead of talking about guys all we talked about was cycling and cycling related stuff like food and supplements and good neat stuff like that!

We left 20 min or so before the ride start and met about a dozen others in the parking lot. Dan and Gary were doing the 300 and the rest of us were doing the 300. There were 4 recumbents - all CA2s! Peggy and Steve Petty, Daniel Schaff and mine. It was neat to see how everyone's bike was set up. I want to change my light mount and get a one armed bandit and also consider adding another water bottle mount and a head rest. The other riders were Sharon and Jeri, Richard, Mark M. Well, that is only 10 people, my apologies if I am forgetting anyone.

We hit a hill right off the bat. I am not fond of routes that have hills on the get go. No time to warm up! However, I get caught up quickly as there was a navigational issue! After yesterday's navigational challenge, I am convinced that today's short cue sheet would be much easier to follow. I was lucky to recognize that we had a quick right turn before a 12 mile leg. Just about everyone missed this cue. So, as they checked it out, I turned and Jeri and I were now in the lead - HA! I did not stay in the lead for long!

The first part of the route had small rollers. My legs were a little tired from yesterday and I figured I would need my 15 miles to warm up. I did get to ride with a handful of others but as I slowed on some of the hills, the pack moved on without me. However I could still see Sharon, and I thought Daniel, ahead of me in the distance. I was able to get some power and a good downhill to catch up with them to find out it was Peggy and not Daniel with Sharon! Oh how fun! Peggy is one of the better bent riders that will one day do RAAM as a team. She has ridden in Sebring and the Hill Country 600k and is a really good cyclist. I sure wish I could ride with her strength as I know I could do the full Transcon with her speed and power.

The ride for the most part was very uneventful. I wish I had my camera as it was beautiful. Picture long relatively smooth roads (baby bottom smooth for Texas, light chip seal for Mississippi) lined with gorgeous black eyed Susans. There were several farms along the way with cows, horses and donkeys. At one intersection there were several horses kicking up their hills and running and playing. On another farm there were precious colts/fillies running alongside their mothers. Another farm we saw an albino Turkey! It was not a goose or a swan, so what else could it have been?

As we ride, we are talking. This is so foreign to me! I ride mainly with guys since Dianne broke her leg. It has been over a year since I have ridden with Slow Spokes, so I am in cycling heaven riding with two girls that could have left me for dead hours ago. Neither really wanted to push the envelope today and were content riding slower on my behalf. We talked about nutrition, and other rides and other friends and Pac Tour.

Eventually we hit the substantial rollers on the route. As my bike computer is still not working I don't know what grades we are climbing, but they felt like they were in the 6% area (after the ride, Steve checked his garmin and said that there were several in the 10% range). I did start falling behind on the longer rollers. It was getting hot and I was still having problems with both my front and rear derailleurs. I could not get my rear to stay in my 32 tooth and my front would shoot over the top and hang on the crank arm if I did not catch it properly. I know this was hurting my speed as just waiting for the chain to make it to the big ring the others would be a few bike lengths further ahead of me. Then having to stop to put my chain back on the ring caused me to loose more ground. I know it sounds minor, but doing that over and over had to have caused me to loose more ground than me just being slow! I did not get angry or anything, I just hope when my new shifters come in they will fix these problems. About that time I hear the dreaded gunshot. This time I know exactly what has happened even before all the air has leaked out of my tire. The rear tire has exploded and is shredded for about 2 inches. All I can do is smile, as earlier in the day I took my spare tire out of my bag to leave in the car and then I changed my mind! So I have a used, but not shattered wheel to put on my bike. For those of you that aren't cyclists, we always carry extra tubes, but only recently have I started carrying extra tires! I am lucky that someone passing me alerts Sharon and Peggy that I have a flat and they turn around and come get me. By the time they get to me, I am rolling the tire over the rim of the wheel. Peggy wants to practice putting the back wheel on so I let her. It probably took more like 15 minutes to change the entire tire, but I was still pleased that I can do it and had the spare tire to use.

About 5 miles from the turn around, Steve, Daniel, and Mark pass us. This puts them about 10 miles ahead of us. We finally make it to the turn around and are only a hour or so ahead of time. Sharon asks if I would like to share a burger even though I normally just do Hammer products. I emphatically say yes as my dinner did not stay with me and my Hammer is hot and gross! We cycle up a block and go into Swimmers, a local hamburger joint. Although the restaurant is very slow and it eats into are slim margin of a lead, the three of us are ecstatic to stop and eat on a brevet and we continue are conversations of RAAM, RAW and all things cycling. The burgers were great and hit the spot!

I head out a little before Sharon and Peggy knowing that I would be slower than they are. It takes them 5 miles to catch me which made me feel pretty good. But, we were heading into the substantial rollers and it is really really hot now. After a while I top a roller and Sharon and Peggy are waiting for me in the shade. As I roll by, I tell them it is too hot for them to wait for me and to keep going. We ride together for a roller or two and then they continue to put space between us. Several miles down the road I pass them waiting for me again. I tell them again not to wait, but at this point the worst of the rollers are over and I am able to keep up with them better. There are still times I get dropped, but I was able to keep up better. We continue our conversations and they genuinely seem happy to be riding slower and don't mind riding with me.

We stop in Mineola for an unscheduled break at a gas station. Fortunately for us there aren't many people in the gas station as we make it our personal rest stop. We each get something to eat and drink and take up residence on the floor of the first aisle. About the time we get comfortable, Peggy's husband Steve and Daniel drive up. They are finished with the ride and have back tracked looking for us. Now, we have a party! We all tell our stories of the days ride. Jeri apparently had a tough day and had turned around early. Richard had overheated and stopped to stand in someones sprinkler. We laughed at that as when we all went by the yard being watered we all wanted to get out and run through the sprinkler! We commented that we were surprised that Gary and Dan had not passed us yet since we stopped for an hour for lunch and low and behold, they pull up and join our rando party!

We all take off shortly for the 30 miles back to the ride start. It has cooled down some and the roads are not as hilly. We continue our conversations and realize that Sharon and Susan Reed have just started emailing each other about food allergies. It is truly amazing to me how small our "rando/ultra cycling" family is. We all know someone who knows someone we know!

Sharon comments that she sees my progress, but asks if I am truly ready for my Transcon. I have to answer that I know I am not fast enough. I know that it will be a struggle. My goal it to ride everyday and sag if I have to. I want to have a good attitude through the whole ride regardless of the challenges I have to face. I hope to get to see the neat things along the way and take pictures and experience the United States of America by bike. I hope that my endurance will help me through the days and days of riding and that the faster people won't be as fast every day. There are only 6 days of climbing over 5000 ft and I hope that I can ride strong on those days and keep up on the days with less climbing. Regardless, I have been blessed with the opportunity to take this trip. A 30 day pass to ride my bike! No, I am not going to be as fast as I wish I were, but it doesn't matter as long as I do my best and have fun doing it! PACTour Northern Transcon here I come!

Thank you Sharon and Peggy for a delightful day on the bike. I will always remember this day as a great cycling day!

Uncertain Times 200k

Here is my ride report for my ride Friday in Longview, TX. I will post a report for Saturday later.

I left work at 4 pm Thursday afternoon to drive to Longview, TX. It is only 4.5 hours from the house. I figured I would do the ride alone as no one had come out with a firm commitment and as I suspected all the maybes turned to nos by the time I left work. That was okay and I was not upset about riding alone. I knew I would get to ride with Sharon on Saturday. I believed she would ride with me and keep me company on our ride, so mentally I was okay riding alone on Friday. Plus it had been a long time since I had ridden a new route alone and had to do all of the navigation. I was looking forward to it actually.

I got to the Motel after 10:00 and was in bed by 12:00 - later than I would have liked, but my ride was set up for 7 am, so I would get a decent amount of sleep. At the ride start, I notice that my bike computer had crapped out. The last two weekends the display started fading out. You could still see the display, but it was really light. I tried to trouble shoot it but once I got the computer inside, it worked properly and I could not figure out what was wrong. The battery was only 3 months old. So, here I am at the start of a solo 200k on a route I have never ridden (nor had anyone else) without a bike computer. Great! Fortunately, I had brought my Garmin. The only problem with it was it was supposed to be for back up only. I have not used it in 2 years since I have been doing routes that I know or routes that were marked and sagged. So, I kinda forgot how to use it properly as a bike computer and not a gps unit. I could not have made it without the gps portion of the unit.

Right off the bat, I make a mistake. The cue sheet said to cross HWY 259 and continue east on Bar K Ranch Rd. I assumed the road I needed was at the light. However, there was another road parallel to the road at the light that I did not see. So, fortunately, the next cue should have been at mile 1.4. As I did not have a working computer, I had no idea how fast or far I was going. I reached an intersection that did not match the next cue, so I stopped to check the Garmin. I was not on the right road. Although in total it was only 4 miles, it took me 36 minutes to get back on the right course. I ended up going with school traffic and that slowed me down drastically. So, I now try not to go mental with a 36 minute "penalty" and 126 miles and 7000 ft of climbing to go. Fortunately for me the route is beautiful and has a lot of turns so I am paying attention and not thinking too much! The first 27 miles have a good mix of rollers, shade, lightly traveled roads and great scenery. I get to the first control and I am up 1.5 hours. Wow! I did much better than I would have thought! Locals at the control were very nice and very curious - probably stayed at the control longer than I should have as I was having a good conversation with all the older gentlemen on the porch of the store. This control was in Uncertain, TX. A very pleasant community near Lake of the Pines. I would like to go back one day and stay in the cabins. Headed out as the temps started to climb.

The cue sheet became less detailed at this point. I really had not picked up on that fact, but truly the cue sheet started lacking details. It was completely missing a cue at one point. Fortunately with the gps and common sense I was able to figure out which way to go. I know I was on course as I could stop and remove my computer to see the elapsed miles. Made a non-control stop to make sure I had plenty of water. I was really getting hot now. Came to the first cue that was incorrect. It gave detailed directions to turn on old hwy 729 and that the road was unmarked. Well, the directions appeared to be for old Hwy 726, but was there an old 729 up the road further? Fortunately, a check of the gps revealed that there did not seem to be an old hwy 729. I continued for the several miles mapped and came to a corresponding cue and decided I was right to turn on old 726 instead of trying to find 729. Come to another missing cue and surmise after much deliberation which way to go. Rolled through very pretty country side with nice lakes and fishing opportunities. The traffic has been very light all day. Finally made it to the control just up an hour now. At the control, I am very hot and very hungry. Hotter than I have been in a long time. As I am debating on what I can eat/drink that won't make me nauseated, I see a grape Nehi! Oh, I have not had a grape Nehi in years! I can't wait to open it. I pour it over ice and take a big refreshing gulp. Oh, it was soooo good!

The first cue out of this control is wrong. It says to veer right when it should have been veer left. The road becomes awful. It would best be described as paved dirt or Shattered Clay Pot Chip Seal. There are truly large pieces of broke clay pots imbedded into the chip seal. The terrain is steep short rollers. The downhills are bone jarring and actually vibrate my headlight loose. I stop to fix the light when this pack of angry wolverines, erh, dauchsands rush me nipping at my hills. I can't get my light tightened while doing the doggie dance, so I jump back on the bike to try and drop the weenie dogs cursing all the way. It is at this point I get to another "missing cue" when I realize that I am on Nasturtium street instead of CR 1649! I am pretty certain that I know that the original cue sending me down this way was wrong. But, I don't want to have to face the Cujo/dachsands on my back to retracing my steps. I also try to find the best way back on course. The road I am currently on was not even on the GPS, so finding my way back would be a challenge. Fortunately, a lady drives up and I wave her down and she points me in the right direction. I don't think I am too far off of my original route nor have I added many if any bonus miles. I finally get back out to 1649 but have to now decide what direction to turn to stay on course. Fortunately, I choose correctly and continue to the next control without incidence, or so I thought. Apparently, on a long fast descent I loose my cue sheet. I still have 17 miles to get back to the control - yikes!

So at the control when I realize I have lost my cue sheet, I comb the store looking for where I may have misplaced it. It is no where to be found. I start trying to figure out how I am going to get back to the ride start. I think about calling Sharon or George but decide that is probably not going to help and then I realize I have my trusty GPS unit programmed! So, I start out for the last 17 miles of the ride.

It is on the next 13 miles or so that I decide that I am tired of being on the bike and only because of the absolutely awful road surface. Once again I am on "paved dirt". There are huge chunks of rock and "clay pot" dotting the road. It is impossible to hold a line and the large rock and pot holes are bouncing me everywhere. I pray to God that the road surface on the transcon is not like this. If so, I won't make it far. I was very worried that I would completely ruin my wheels and maybe even my frame the ride was so rough. I sure wish I had wider tires for this part of the route. On the pleasant side, the road is completely shaded and the scenery is nice. I finally get off of the paved dirt roads and hit just normally Texas boulder seal. What an appreciation I now have for the nice smooth boulder seal surface - never again will I complain!!! BTW, those of you that have ridden the north Natchez Trace chip seal or the chip seal surface of the spillway bike trail, if you hate those roads, do not even think about riding in Texas!

I finally pull up to the final control/ride start and I am very pleased. It has taken me 12 hours and 45 min. 1 hour and 45 min longer than I had hoped. However, I started 30 min late from my first navigational mistake and I am guessing I had an hour of navigation slowness trying to make sure I am on the right course. Additionally, the course had 7000+ feet of climbing. I really don't know where the climbing came from as I would have guessed that the route only had 4000-5000 ft of climbing.

Great ride, Great scenery, Great adventure, and only mild discomfort from the crappy paved dirt roads!

Better weekend - May 14-16

Had a pretty good weekend - a few ups and downs, but as I sit here I feel good about it.

Thursday - I blew off my drills thinking I would be doing a 200 on Fri and 300 on Sat. Plus my inlaws were in town. The guest room was clean, but the "randonneur sleep over" room was not. So I cleaned it up in anticipation that I would have a friend spending the weekend riding with me. Thursday night she called and cancelled - bummer!

Friday - I rode my Roosevelt 200k completely alone and had my best 200 time ever - 9 hr 52 min. This is about 30 min faster than my best time on this route and almost 2 hours faster than my Jan time (I did have a flat in Jan). It was really hot the entire ride, but I just rode my bike and had a good time. I was very pleased to finally have a 200k come in under 10 hrs.

Saturday - everything was screwed up from the get go. I was pissed that I had to ride alone. Sometimes I just get tired of myself on these long rides. As I am loading my car to go out to a new route at 6 am, I notice my dog is acting very funny - well miserable. I believe she is sick so I stay home and wait for the vet clinic to open at 9 am. While at the vet (dog has infection and although still miserable is on meds and will be okay), my daughter calls and needs help. I am still in the bike clothes I dressed in at 6am, but I go help her. 2:30 I finally head out to the ride start just hoping to ride until dark. I get there to realize I don't have my cap. I have to wear a cap for the visor under my helmet. It helps to keep the sun (and rain) out of my eyes on the bent. Oh well, I ride without it. 3 miles into the ride it starts raining cats and dogs (come to find out I am in a yellow band of rain on weather channel). It is raining so hard that I can't see through my glasses and I can't keep my eyes open in the rain without the glasses. I only make it two more miles before I decide to hell with it and head to the car. That was the hardest rain I have ever ridden in and was very glad to get out of it after only 8 miles. Thought about riding from the house after the rain died down, but by the time I got home I was done. I did put my two Dallas routes for next weekend into my Garmin. That should help save time next week. I am disappointed that I only rode 10 miles, but it just wasn't happening.

Sunday - met Nancy my triathlete friend on the south trace for a ride. It is supposed to start to rain at any minute, so I am prepared with my cap, rain jacket, arm and leg warmers. She only needed to do 50 miles and a 1 hour run so we parked the cars and did a 25 mile out and back. We did that leg in 16.4 mph. She then started her run and I went back out for another 50. About 10 miles into my ride it starts raining - yes! I wanted to make up for yesterday and get a good couple hours rain riding in. However, the rain is light and only lasts 2 or 3 miles tops. I keep my jacket on knowing it will start back and downpour soon. I get to my turn around still with no more rain. I take my jacket off knowing that as soon as I do, it will start raining again. Dang it, I rode the entire 100 miles with only a slight 3 mile rain. Darn, I was ready for it too. I did the second 50 in 15.7 mph. I don't know what time we started for sure, but I think I did the whole 102 miles in 7 hours or less. While riding with my friend, we did not pace each other, but did "intervals" up the hills where I would try to stay with her. We would also play "rabbit" where one of us would go out in front a ways and the other had to chase. I pushed pretty hard with her on the hills. My legs were heavy at the start like always, but then they would warm up pretty good. I tried to push myself while I was riding alone, and although I was pleased with my average, it still wasn't as fast as with her. I would have ridden longer but David wanted to go to the movies later in the afternoon

Surprising, I feel great right now. My legs are slightly tired, but don't hurt. I have a lot of energy without having anything out of the ordinary to give me a spark.

Next weekend I will be doing 2 back to back 200s. The first will have over 7000 ft of climbing - all rollers - not sure how long or steep or anything, but all rollers. The second 200 will also be a lot of rollers, but not as intense as the first days. Not sure what the feet climbing will be. I will want to ride Sunday afternoon, but I don't know how much time I will have.

Mental Weekend May 7th and 8th

Well this weekend is coming to a close. I am tired and hope to be in bed by 9.

I have been really short on sleep so Thursday night I decided to sleep in an extra hour before getting up Friday morning and driving to Vicksburg. This meant I would only have time for 3 loops in the park. None of the laps were stellar. I was tired on the first lap, had the best results on the second lap and felt the best on the third lap, but by then there was more traffic in the park and I did not get the benefit of any of the fast downhills. This is good training though as it is harder to start the climbs with a dead start to a rolling start. My legs felt good, but I am just generally tired - not getting enough sleep. The temps hit 91 on the third lap and I remembered how tough it is to climb in heat. Since the weather is so whack right now, it will be interesting to see if it is hot on the Transcon or not. I should be heat acclimated better than most.

I drove down to NOLA at 3 pm. I was really excited as I haven't ridden with my NOLA bent buds, Pat, Steve and Dennis since February. I was really excited about showing them how strong and fast I had gotten. The route was Franklinton our 4500 ft 200k that I have done several times. It is one of my favorites, but also one of my most challenging. Why it gives me problems, I don't know. We rode the route in reverse for the first time and I liked it, but with all my training I expected to kick butt. My expectations were to ride with Pat, and push the pace. All 4 of us wanted to do the route in less than 10 hours and I really thought if the conditions were right, we could possibly pull off a sub 9 hour ride. I really thought I would be so fast and so strong.

Well, I fell off the pace in the first 5 miles. I just did not have a lot of energy. I think it was more from lack of sleep (4-6 hr) a night for the last week than from my ride on Friday. I really rode bad. I stayed mental for the first 70 miles. I would try to snap out of it, but it would not last for very long. I doubt that I am truly fast enough for this tour! I am afraid Susan will want to sag me every day! It was awful. I would go over all my positive sayings that normally motivate me - but nothing was working. Plus, the temperatures were climbing into the 90s. It takes a bit to get used to how your body feels in the heat. I really don't know what is worse, the cold or the heat. Probably the cold as I will still ride no matter how hot it gets. We finally stopped for lunch at mile 70 and I decided to eat (I normally stick with Hammer all day). I had jambalaya (we were in LA and I can't pass it up) probably only 1/2 a cup but it was delicious! That was the kick in the pants I needed. I rode very well for the rest of the day. I hung on in the paceline on the 8 mile flat but windy section and stayed in decent range on some of the longer rollers. At the last control,at mile 106, I bought a payday and ate it instead of sipping on the SE and it gave me another spark. The guys weren't ready to leave when I was, so I got to play rabbit which is my favorite thing to do on a ride. I held them off for only 5 or 6 miles, but it felt good. I even charged a hill so they would not pass me until the top. I paid for the sprint, but my mind was back where it needed to be. I was having fun again! We did the route in 10 hr 28 min. This was the first time we did it in reverse, so we have no true comparison, but we did it 20 minutes faster than our best time on the original route.

I know I will have bad days on tour. I know I will have to sag - hopefully not too much. I just want to go out and have fun. Yesterday was a good day as it was the first of two rides with climbing of 4300 and 4900 ft back to back in a while (I don't think our climbing was that bad back to back at camp). I did deal with mental for the first time in a while. I rode two days in temps that reached 90+ and remembered all the things you have to adjust and deal with in the heat. I got in 126 miles and ended up with a positive memory of the day!

I guess I will have a lot of mental days between now and the Transcon. I guess I will just have to deal with it when it comes up. It is too late now to back out as I have paid for it in full and my travel insurance won't cover cold feet!

One of the things I keep in the back of my mind is an interview of one of the contestants on Biggest Loser. She was a 300 lb 20ish year old talking to her mother before she started the show. She turned to her mother and asked, "What if I can't do it?" Her mother paused and then answered, "What if you can?" That has really stuck with me.

We don't know what we are capable of if we don't reach for our dream.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

3 Geographical Regions 3 Substantial Inclines (3 States 3 Mountains)

I had an absolute blast on this ride! Just like last weekend, watching the weather forecast was a no-no! They had it completely wrong! Supposedly there was a 70% chance of all day thunderstorms. I needed the rain riding/descending experience so I decided to go ahead and do the ride anyway. Well, it did not rain one drop and it never threatened. It was very humid and I was as wet with sweat as I would have been had it rained, but it never rained. I am not looking at any more weather reports before rides!

I was impressed that there were several recumbents on this ride. Not sure how many did the whole 100, but there were at least 6 bents all of which would have had to go up and over Suck Creek Mtn which is a 6 mile climb. One of the bents was Shannon from South Louisiana. He and I met on the bacchetta web site. Additionally Chattanooga goes all out for the cyclist on this ride. They have police at all lights and major intersections the entire ride. They even covered a section of diagonal railroad with a thick rubber mat to keep the cyclist from wrecking on the tracks!

I was very pleased that I was able to get up and over Suck Creek without stopping. I was worried about making the time cut-off for the 100 miles so I did not stop at the rest stops except to fill my water bottles. There are a lot of easy rollers between Suck Creek and the cut off, so I made it to the split without a problem. I was definitely in the back of the pack, but comfortably at the front of the back!

Sand Mtn was a bit more challenging than Suck Creek. It is only 2.8 miles but it is nothing but switch backs. A couple of the switchbacks were really difficult to maneuver as you had to make a really sharp turn at a much steeper incline. The first sharp left hand turn, I just could not muscle up and ended up almost falling over. The next really sharp right hand turn I would have made it up except that a car decided to pass me ON THE TURN WHILE I WAS TURNING! I realized that if I kept going I was going to get hit as there was not 3 inches much less 3 ft between us. As the car began to pass and I came off the bike I hollered in frustration apparently loud enough for the driver to hear me as it was only then he stopped to make sure he had not hit me! Jerk! After that incident I was able to finish the mtn without a problem.

The next 20 miles are my favorite. Nice rollers, nice pavement. And then you get to the foot of Burkhalter Gap. There is no roll into this mountain. There is no roll into any of the mountains, but you have to come to a complete stop at a stop sign before heading up this bad boy. I was able to climb part of it and I walked part of it. I am pleased that I have gotten pretty good at starting back on a steep incline. I don't know if I will ever be able to ride over the top of the darned thing, but I will definitely try again next year! The final 15 or so miles is also just rollers ending with a scary fast downhill with lots of traffic. I have gotten better and more comfortable at descending - thank goodness for x-eyed brakes too!

So which ride is harder? Cheaha or 3 State? I am not really sure, they are both really challenging. Cheaha has steeper climbs more along the likes of Burkhalter, but you can roll into most of the climbs. The really long sustained climbs at 3 State were very tiring. Cheha's climbing is concentrated in the middle 50 or 60 miles whereas the worst climb of 3 state is at mile 80. So, I think I need to try them both again next year before I make my decision!