Monday, June 28, 2010

Last long ride before the Transcon

My how fast the last couple months have gone by.  I was prepared to ride two more 100+ mile rides this weekend and then David and I realized Saturday evening that Sunday would be the last full day we would spend together until August 10th!  So,  I ended up riding Friday and Saturday and took Sunday off!

I rode 2 hours on Friday and included some drills and hill repeats.  I wanted to ride 100 miles, but I realized I had too many things I needed to do to/with my bike that had to be done on Friday or they would not be done before I had to ship the bike.  I ended up over at Jim's and got my new wheels and attempted to mount the Gatorskins on them - I couldn't do it and Jim struggled with it!  Back to the drawing board - I may end up just using the Serfas.

Saturday, I went back to Jim's and rode the bread ride.  I pulled my hip somehow Saturday night and slept the extra hour and drove to Ride South instead of cycling over there.  My hip was still sore, but I needed to ride, so off I went.  I started out with Doug on his new CA2, the Paiges on tandem and Keith on an upright.  We were hauling the first 20ish miles to Goshen Springs - I had a 17.5 mph ave going. I also noticed that I had no hip pain - riding outside is just theraputic! I knew I would be slowing down as we would hit the dreaded hills of 471.  I don't know why I hate this series of hills so much, but I do hate them.  Doug and I took off on our own at 471 and old 471 heading to Pelahatchie.  I checked my average again 50ish miles and I was staying steady at 16.5 with the hills.  The day was pretty with blue skies, but it was heating up quickly.  After getting to the Chevron, Doug suggested we head to Shiloh park.  I wasn't excited about it as I am afraid of the dogs on the hills over there.  I had seen emails discussing people being bitten by these dogs and that is the last thing I need.  I have always loved dogs until I realized the damage they can do to you on a bike.  Now on the 'bent, my leg is "big dog level" and very easy to take a bite out of.  Yikes!  Anyway we head to Shiloh park without incident.  The best part of the ride came when Doug showed me how to get to a gas station near Shiloh on 80.  New Perm, here I come!!!

I think I had dropped to  mid 15mph by mile 68, but it may have been higher than that as we had the worst of the hills and heat coming up.  Doug takes me on some great back roads just past the Methodist church on Shiloh rd. We took off on Bugg road and I have no idea where we went from there, but I sure liked the roads.  Very rolling fun hills.  Some were steep and some were just rolling - lots of fun!  We stopped at Dougs house for ice and I took off for Jims alone the final 15 miles.  The ride was adventurous in that I was riding roads that I had never been on - yet they ended up connecting to some of my well traveled roads.  It is neat to ride in new places that are just a turn or two off your normal routes.  After the transcon, I intend to scout out more new roads. 

So, I ended up averaging 15 mph for my 102 miles.  Interesting, this ride had 200 ft more climbing - one climb that had a 10% grade compared to only a max of 8 on my ride last Sunday in Texas.  I was able to take 2 hours off this ride.  It was not quite as hot - max of 109 to max 120 which was probably the biggest difference between the two rides.

So, I am hoping for cool temps on the transcon.  I really think I can ride at a decent pace in temps less than 90.  I am glad I had good results on this long ride.  I do think that I could have ridden much faster and pushed harder on the hills had it not been so hot on any of my last umpteen rides.  But, I am ready!  America - here I come!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Italy day 3 & 4 - Not What I Was Expecting

Well, day 3 and 4 were very interesting to say the least. 

Sharon got in late on Friday night.  I really enjoy her company and we had a lot to catch up on especially all things RAW (race across the west) and RAAM (Race across America) as she had just gotten back from crewing earlier that week.  We did not get to bed until really really late - after 1 am and maybe later.

I woke up with a splitting headache.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have woken with a headache.  It was pounding.  But, I need to ride and so I get ready and get on the bike.   Daniel Schaff joined us for the ride.  Automatically, I could tell I was not going to have a fast day.  The first 9 miles or so are a gentle incline and I was suffering.  I managed to make it to 8 mph going up small inclines and maybe 12 on the downhill.  My head would throb when I would try and push.  Since I was not familiar with how to handle headaches on the bike, I just kept going!  I told Sharon and Daniel to go without me as I was going to be too slow and it was going to be too hot - forecast 97-100 degrees.  I finally made it to the first control (still had some time in the bank) and bought Tylenol.  I sat outside of the store on the curb for at least 30 minutes sipping on Sustained Energy.  I started feeling better.  However, as I was sitting on the curb I noticed that my tire was warped.  It had some sort of bump in it and was definitely looking weird.  Since I have had problems with my tires - 2 catastrophic blow outs since January, I was not optimistic that this tire would last long.  As I was feeling better I continued to the next control. Within 4 miles I heard the all to familiar sound of a gunshot going off behind me - the tire blew!  The tire has a hole the size of my pinkie right in the middle of the rubber.  I walked up the hill I was on trying to find shade to change the tire.  Unfortunately, the shade was behind the fence line.  I quickly change the tire - contemplating whether I should continue or go back.  Since I have now had 3 catastrophic flats - 2 in one month, I was not excited about continuing alone without a spare tire.  It was already hot and so I bailed.  I wanted to go on, but I did not want to get stranded in the middle of no where.  So, I headed back.  I actually was feeling pretty good, hot, but good.  The countryside was really nice with mesquite trees, cows and goats.

I made it back through Milford, TX again and here is the sign about the grouches:

I stopped at the Milford Cash Grocery for a bite to eat and some cold water.  The gentleman behind the counter was one of the neatest guys.  He was obviously bored and in need of company.  I bought a burrito and cold water and sat and talked to the guy. I mentioned that I liked the Welcome sign.  He told me that every year they nominate and elect a grouch!  They get a plaque and everything!

I make it back to the hotel and get my recovery drink of chocolate recoverite mixed with a McDonald's mocha frappechino.  I then took my ice bath and took a 3 hour nap!  Ice baths are really good for cyclists as it helps reduce the inflammation in the legs.  After talking to Michelle, my coach, she thinks that the headache may have been a precursor to heat exhaustion and she was glad that I took the ice bath to lower my core temp.  It sure felt good and I normally hate the ice bath.

Sharon and Daniel end up struggling on their ride with different issues - Sharon being tired and Daniel having mechanicals and they do not finish their ride until 12am.  I was able to get them Subway for supper as all the good food stores close at 11.  So, once again, Sharon and I are up waaaaayyyyy too late.  We were not asleep until after 2 and maybe 3. 

We decided to blow off the Prairie Hill Round Up and do an unofficial Jailhouse 200k.  That way we could sleep in a little and not worry about the controls.  This was a good and bad decision.  It was good as we were able to ride for fun and not worry about how much time we were spending at the controls.  And it was bad for the same reason.  Typically, I take 10 min or so at a control.  Just enough time to go to the bathroom, refill my water bottles and get back on the bike.  Occasionally I will sit down for a few minutes for a bite to eat, but I do try to keep moving.  Well, we took at least 30 and maybe even 40 minutes at the first control.  Plus, neither of us were putting up a stellar pace - we were definitely on the slow side, but we did get to talk alot.

We left the first control in Abbott and headed for Valley Mills.  This is the part of the ride that I only got to ride for a couple miles yesterday.  And this is the prettiest part of the ride.  Oh, it was glorious.  There was a lot of corn fields and the headwind was present - enough to keep me comfortable.  It made me think about the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner.  I can tell you that I love riding my bike so much, that I don't mind riding endless miles of corn fields.  Now this may change in a few weeks when we ride in the Plains!  The hills were lightly rolling - very recumbent friendly and I was able to settle in and get pretty comfortable.  There were no signs of yesterday's headache and although slower than I would have liked, I felt good and was having fun.  Eventually, we cross the Brazos river and the terrain changes to bluffs instead of corn fields and we pass a pecan grove as well.  All very serene.

About 55 miles in, Sharon and I are both getting really hot and she is really tired.  We start looking for a place to stop and rest.  We finally come upon the Coyote Community Center and take a 20-30 min rest on their covered patio.  The breeze kept up cool as it was about 10 degrees cooler in the shade  - my computer read 96 in the shade!  Funny, but it 96 was much cooler than what my computer was reading in the sun (the high ambiant temp for the day ended up being 120 degrees - topping my July 4 2009 high of 118!).  We both stretched and Sharon took a short power nap.  I found a hose and we scavenged some water to top of our supply before we started back towards Valley Mills.

It takes us 7 hours to get to Valley Mills and I know we stayed there at least 30 minutes and probably more.  Remember, since we don't have brevet cards with time cut-offs we are not paying any attention to the time.  Oooppss!  Before heading back we investigate a little home town grocery store.  I wish I had a picture of it as it had a neat mural painted on it.

So somewhere in the next 25 miles, Sharon asks if I have my lights.  I told her that I had my Dinotte, but I left my back up light in the car since we surely would not need lights on a 200k on the longest day of the year!!!!  Well, Sharon had thought the same thing.  She did not have any lights!  At our current speed, it would take us until 10 pm to get in - 1.5 hours of dark to ride in.  Not good.  We discussed our options as we rode back to Abbott.  One of the options and the one that made the most since was trying to hitch a ride back to Italy.  It would be pretty bad for us to get back at 10 even if we still had lights as I still needed to drive back home.  Yuck!

Well, Sharon started picking up speed when we hit two longish hills (or I slowed down, or both!).  By the time I got to Abbott, Sharon had already picked us out a nice young guy with really colorful tats to take us back to Italy!  We loaded up the bikes and DNFd an unofficial 200k!

Like I said - It was an interesting weekend!  Not what I expected, but one of the more enjoyable weekends I have had.  I love riding in Texas and can't wait to get back!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Italy days 1 & 2

Ok, I am not promising to blog everyday on the transcon.  It is not necessarily easy to do.  I tried unsuccessfully last night to get signed on in my motel room.  The room advertises that it has free wifi, but they lie!  I am downstairs in the "lobby" which is a Grandys writing this now. 

First, I should explain Italy Texas.  It truly is in the middle of nowhere.  The Italy Inn is probably 20 room over a Shell (Texaco?) Station.  Grandys and McDonalds is on either end of the gas station and the motel is the second floor.  Nothing fancy - relatively inexpensive and convenient to about 1/2 a dozen or more perms and brevets.  Across the street is another convenience store, Pizza Inn, and a Subway.  On the other side of the interstate, there is a Chevron with a Sonic and BBQ joint.  Dairy Queen is across the street from that.  Add one or two neighbor hoods and a deserted "square" and you have Italy Texas.

I got in Thursday at 3 and met George Eliozondo for the 65 mile Taste of Italy perm at 4.  It was hot and windy!  High close to 100 however the humidity was much lower here than it has been at home so I did not feel the heat as bad. 

Took this pic of a field of sunflowers on our way to Corsicana:

The ride was pretty uneventful.  I enjoyed Georges company.  We had ridden together in 2007 and 2008.  He just started back riding after taking a few months off.  This ride was one of his first rides back in the heat so we took it slow for his acclimation and my "don't need to do too much before my 300k on Saturday".  The route was gently rolling and one I wish we had in our backyard.  It was very low traffic and fairly scenic.  The chip seal was of the Natchez trace size and even had some smooth pavement peppered in.  We saw a really nice buffalo/bison that i will try to get a pic of Sat or sun.  I also could have sworn we saw a purple cow.  It was tan but it in shadows it really looked lavender  .

The route did have 3 miles of construction where the road was just dirt.  It was actually a better surface than the 13 miles of clay pot seal on the Uncertain Times perm.  However, I did slip in the loose gravel on the way back through and took a tumble.  I cut my right calf and bruised my left quad, but otherwise I was okay and the bike was fine - dirty, but fine.  We ended up riding an hour and a half or so in the dark getting back in at 10:20.  I don't like riding at night, but Geo stayed with me and we rode pretty strong at times.  It was very peaceful and I felt safe until we got within 3 miles of the end of the ride.

Today's ride was to Mt. Calm a 75 mile ride out and back to Dixie's Little Stop.  This too is a ride that I would do a lot if I lived here.  I rode this route with Greg "Akigreg" Gross.  He rides a Rans long wheel base bent.  He is much faster than I am but stayed with me for the first 1/2 of the ride.  We talked about all things bike on the ride out to Mt Calm. The was in the 70s at the ride start with a pesky 20ish mph head wind almost the whole way out.  The wind, hill and chip seal combo was really slowing me down.  Fortunately Greg understood and was patient.  We both commented that the tailwind would be nice if it weren't going to be hot on the way back.  For those of you who don't know, cyclists love tailwinds except in very hot weather.  The tailwind creates a vacuum and you are not provided any cooling from the wind in a tailwind.  So with the temps climbing close to 100, the ride would be VERY HOT on the way back.

Dixie's is a small "Ma & Pa" store/restaurant that has been run by Miss Dixie for the last 26 years.  I was fortunate to actually get to meet Dixie as she was behind the counter when we got there.  Here is the pic:

Dixie's is known for their fried pies. They even have a proclamation from the State of Texas saying they had the best fried pies in Texas! I can't eat sweets on the bike in the heat, but I could not pass up buying a cherry fried pie and carrying it back with me.  OMG that pie was great!  I really wish I had another one right now.  If you are ever out at Dixie's make sure you get a fried pie - they have a dozen or so different flavors.
I told Greg to go on back without me.  I knew he was faster than me and I did not want him waiting for me in the heat.  And it was hot.  My computer read 115 at one point - that is the ambient temp coming off of the pavement.  I could tell at times I was moving much faster, but I could also feel my skin burning.  I stopped twice on the way back to put on more sunscreen and one of those times bought more water and ice.  I was glad I was riding alone as I got to just look and ride.  I missed this great sign - make sure you read the small print at the bottom:

Well for some reason I can't get the pic to load.  I will try it again later.  Anyway, it said "Welcome to Milford, Texas home of about 700 nice people and 2 or 3 grouches!  LOL!

All in all the day was really good and really hot.  I just hope and pray these temps don't make it up north or I am going to be in big trouble.  With the wind and heat I barely averaged 13 mph which is a definition of  "ride in sag van".

I am apprehensive about my 300k tomorrow.  190 miles in 100 degree heat is doable but I don't want to have Sharon waiting on me in the heat.  AND I don't want to ride alone at night.  I may only ride out 75 miles or so and let Sharon ride faster without me and hope that she catches back up with me before nightfall.  I will be happy to finish the ride in 18 hours although I should be able to do it in 15.  I just don't think 15 hrs is possible with 20+ mph winds and 100 degree heat.  We will see..

Oh, since it will be late when I get in tomorrow I doubt I will blog until Sunday or Monday.

Hope yall are having nice weekends and I hope it is cooler where you are!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Playing with pictures

Okay, I have a new toy for my trip. We bought a netbook. I will be taking it with me on the transcon. I hope to be able to blog daily and upload pictures to it while on the trip. I just have to learn how to do it! So I am going to practice posting pics.
Here is a pic of my 2 year old grandson, Aidan:

So that is one pic so lets see if I can post another one.  Here are some pics of my trip to the Long Leaf Trail:

Llama on Long leaf Trail


 Pretty flowers

Okay, that doesn't seem to hard!  So lets hope I can keep up with the blog while on the trip!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Last weekend in New Orleans before the Transcon

I had a marvelous weekend in New Orleans. I had a blast riding with my best rando buds. I have ridden more miles with Pat, Steve and Dennis than any other randos. I really love riding with them and this weekend was really special for me knowing that they as much as anyone have supported my crazy idea to ride my bike across America.

I told them first. It was on the New Orleans 300k in March of 2009 that I announced that I was going to do the cross country. At that point, PAC Tour had not finalized the true course and it would change multiple times over the next few months, but that did not matter. Steve and Dennis listened intently as we rode along to Sorrento. I told them worse case scenario is that I would train hard, lose weight, and just become a better cyclist. Well, it looks like I have achieved the worst case scenario and everything else is the gravy!

I completed three rides over the weekend. Friday I did the Crab Shack 100k and then added miles on the levy to get to 101. Saturday, Pat and I met Steve and 3 potentially new randos for a 107k populaire. We added enough miles for me to end up with 98 for the day. On Sunday Steve and Dennis showed up at Pat's and we did the Ponchatula 200k.

For the most part the rides were uneventful. All of the rides are on the levy at one point or another. Right now the levy is flooded and home to more different kinds of ducks and duck like birds than I have ever seen.
I have been able to" identify a couple of them.  The Mississippi overflow is home to wood ducks, black bellied whistling ducks, yellow crowned night herons and many other ducks and marsh birds I still need to identify.  One of my favorites is a dark blue or deep purple marsh bird with a light blue beak.  I can't find this one on any of the bird identifing websites.

My Friday ride was fun and gave me 40 miles of rain - some pretty heavy.  This is the first rain I have ridden in this year!

Saturday, Steve, Pat and I met 3 new randos for an intro to randonneuring 107k ride.  Erin, is getting back into long distance cycling and is an accomplished touring cyclist.  Sharon is new to long distance and cycling in general.  This ride would be her longest ever.  Evan is a young guy that can easily ride long distance and do it fast.  He needs a little guidance to become a good randonneur, but I don't doubt that he is capable of doing the longer rides without a problem.

We start the ride on time and within a couple miles I  hear the most awful sound a cyclist can hear.  Evan went  down!  Fortunately, he hit the edge of the levy and fell into the grass.  He had a small scrape on his elbow, but was not hurt otherwise.  The fall however rolled his tire. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

408 miles, 5 lamas, 2 emus and a lawn mower race'n track!

What a great weekend! I guess I would define a great weekend as a weekend that no matter the challenges, you can look back on it fondly and look forward to riding again.

I will admit that there are times now that I get tired of riding my bike. There are times that I really don't want to look into the future past my Transcon to new goals. But, that said 24 hours after a weekend of riding 408 miles in 4 days, 268 of these miles completely alone, I can't wait to ride again! 39 more days before I start the Transcon. I can do this! Slowly, but I can do this! LOL!

Anyway the highlights of the weekend:

Friday rode the North Trace from my house starting at 5 am. Traffic was light. I was thinking too much at the start of the ride. When you know you have 125 miles ahead of you it is much easier not to think of the miles. It is one reason to ride with others so you don't have too much time to dwell in your own company. I intended on riding to Kosciusko and back. Much to my delight, at mile marker 130 I notice new pavement. David told me last September that the Trace would be smooth paved from mile marker 130 to 160 by year end 2010. Well, they have finally started. They have paved from mm 130 to 135 so far. The pavement from this point to mm 192 is chip seal. Not Texas chip seal mind you - baby bottom smooth in Texas definition chip seal, but teeth rattling nasty chip seal by a Mississippians definition. The distraction of the new pavement really made me feel great. As I approached the construction I decided to turn around and not mess with the guys working. Plus, I did not want tar junk on my bike. I also had no desire to ride over chewed up chip seal as the road was ground up for a couple miles. The day was very uneventful from that point. I rode to mm 105 and then back to mm 135 and then home. At the bike trail at mile 124, I was at a 15.7 ave and had an elapsed time of 9 hr and 4 min. This is an unofficial PR for me for this distance!

Saturday I got up and rode over to Ride South to meet the bent riders for the bread ride. Jim does a good job getting variously skilled cyclist riding their bikes. It is mostly for bents,but a fair number of diamond frames show up too. He makes a couple loaves of bread that are ready for us when we get back in - complete with syrup, and different jellies.

I could tell that I did not have the recovery I would have liked from the night before, but I wanted to get in as many miles with other people as possible. I rode the better part of the first 30 miles with Bill Mendenhall. I think he is on a Corsa, but I could be wrong. He and I match up really well and I hope that we can ride some more in the future. I hope to talk him into doing more distance too. He works alot, and we all know that work can really interfere with cycling. At about mile 30 I broke off with a Diamond Frame, Brian, to get extra miles. Brian is a former racer and a great young guy. He could have had 200 miles to my 90 miles in the time it was taking me on the hills. He wanted extra miles and to ride with someone and although I was slower than he was, he was patient and rode with me. The neatest thing about our ride is that he took me down a new road and pointed out a LAWN MOWER RACING COURSE!!! Only in Mississippi. I would really like to see it in action. Well, not really, but it was pretty interesting. On the way back to Jim's, I ran out of water. In the heat this was not very good. I cut my ride short to get the water and was probably dehydrated. This may have affected my Sunday ride. Great day, great friends, great roads, great bread with strawberry jam!

Sunday I got up early to head to the Long Leaf trail in Prentiss, MS. It is a rails to trails that runs from Prentiss to Hattiesburg - 40 miles one way. I wanted to do it twice. I was not feeling very good from the time I got up. I wanted to leave at 5 and left at 5:20. I wanted to be on the bike at 7 and was on the bike at 7:30. I was very tired and just did not have any energy. I knew it was going to be a tough day. Less than 25 miles into the ride I became nauseated. I battled with the upset stomach to Hattiesburg where I was able to buy Cheez-its, one of my favorite on the bike foods. By mile 60, I was feeling much better. It was getting hot, but I no longer felt sick. One of the greatest parts of the ride was the Llamas and emus. There is a farm with the odd creatures that I have passed a few times before. The animals/birds have always been too far out to really get a good look at. On my way back past the farm there were several llamas right at the fence line and an emu walking toward me curiously! Really neat!

Once back to the ride start I unpacked my picnic lunch of cold chicken pasta, cantaloupe and grape soda. I started drinking the grape sodas last weekend in Texas, don't know why they give me energy, but boy a cold grape soda tastes great. The whole lunch was fabulous! The rest of the ride was uneventful. I knew with my sluggishness at the beginning of the ride that I could not get my 160 miles but I stayed on the bike until 7:30 for a full 12 hour day. I was really pleased that I did not go mental, figured out my nausea and overcame it and picked up speed over the last 50 miles. However, when I got home I just knew my legs were shot and I did not know how I would ride on Monday. I just needed 40 miles for my 400.

So, Monday, I had planned on meeting Diane back out at Jim's for the Memorial Day ride. I was really excited about riding with her. We hadn't ridden together since the Friday before 3 State and I was looking forward to riding with her again. Right off the bat I rode off and realized I did not have my helmet on. Dianne and Bard waited for me since we were the only ones doing the longer ride around the rez. I rushed back for my helmet and then we were off. I immediately noticed that I felt great. My legs were rested and only on some of the hills were they sore. I would have still be slower than Friday, but most likely faster than Sunday on the ride had I been going all out. Fortunately, I just planned on riding until noon for my 40 miles and to ride with Dianne. She is really getting back into her pre-broken leg form. It won't be long before she will be spanking me up the hills again! We ended up on the new bike trail that now makes a nice 11 mile loop on the Rankin county side of the Spillway. Very nice! As I only had 36 miles at the end of the loop, Dianne graciously stayed out and rode the loop with me to get my 48 miles. What a great day!

So, 408 miles for the weekend, 1196 miles for the month and 3135 for the year. Sad thing is that I have 3135 miles for the year and the Transcon will do 3410 miles in 30 days! So in 5 months I still have not ridden the miles I will do in one month!!! Yikes!!!