Saturday, March 31, 2012

Race Day Photos

Crossing the finish line.

I volunteered to help out on Jayhawk Classic this weekend. I worked with a few of the young fellows that are on the KU Cycling Team, and a few of the lads work at the local bike shop as well. All the police had to be on duty for Lawrence--KU Basketball team was playing a final-four game (which they miraculously won) on a Saturday night, and all the downtown bars and pubs would be full of revelers.

So I went out to Perry Lake, where I had ridden just a few weeks before, and offered to do whatever was needed. I had a pretty good time and got a few photos for you. Also, I threw out my back, mes amis. Not good with the 300 coming up April 7th--I was pretty worried and had to resort to some powerful pain killers to shake the agony. Now all I can do is test ride in the evenings with my Dynamo Hub for the brevet. I wanted to help out the KU Cycling Team, and also wanted to get out and move around to get the back loosened up.

Teams start showing up about 8:30 in the morning.

Getting registered for the races.

I was pretty surprised at how young everyone looked--and how many young women there were too. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and there was a friendly-party type atmosphere. The day was also beautiful--and no wind! That was good because the wind beat me to a pulp when I rode out here only a few weeks before.

Lead car and the pack on the Perry Lake Dam.

My job was to be on a corner on wave a flag in the direction the riders needed to go. Seems simple enough, but unfortunately Gentle Readers of This Blog, I was posted on the busy corner where people pulling boats and bringing ATVs were entering the lake area. So what I had to do was stop cars, trucks, and motorcylce riders so the racers could zip around and through the corner.

For the most part, it was easy and people didn't mind stopping. The pack would ride over the bridge, and then within about three minutes be flying around a blind corner. I really had to time stopping the cars just right so they wouldn't be suddenly merging with about 60 riders going about 30 mph.

Everyone was pretty chill. There was one woman who did not want to stop and was going to try to go around me just as the group went through. Luckily I kept her from going ahead as she would have collided with the pack. She said she's had enough of this bike stuff and turned did an awkward tire squealing U-turn. I wanted to say something but kept my mouth shut. As I said, everyone else was understanding and polite--it was the weekend and nice weather, and no one seemed bothered waiting less than a minute while the riders went past.

Iowa State Cycling Team at the Start/Finish Line.

At that corner, I was not really in a good position to take any photographs, but I got a few when I drove back up to the start for the lunch break.

Kansas State fielded a pretty good group.

University of Kansas Team was the host team--like I said, this was more like a beach party than a bike race.

The Minnesota Team was the power-house today.

After lunch, many of the volunteers abandoned the event, but I said I would stick around and help out--hey, these guys work on my bike and help me out all the time! Why would I leave them when they need me the most?

I was on a different corner this time, Gentle Reader of This Blog, and so was able to get some photos for you of the team time trails!

Click on the pictures to seem them bigger...

A team comes down the hill from the start and now races over the Perry Lake Dam.

Coming up on my corner where I waved them to the right.

K State.

University of North Dakota had a good team and strong riders!

University of Iowa.

Iowa riders setting up for the turn.

KU Team looking good today.

I'm glad I went out to help on the course. It got my head cleared after a few days of having to take strong pain killers. I was outside, the air was fresh and clean, and I found my self really admiring these young men and women as they did their best for their schools.

At the lunch break I was talking to one of the racing officials--as she noticed that I was one of the few "Grown-ups" about the young racers. I told her I was a brevet rider, and you know, Gentler Reader, she smiled and said, "Oh yeah--you guys! Now that's some real riding!" so hey its nice that someone recognized and appreciates randonneuring.

Allure Libre! Bruce

Sunday, March 25, 2012

200 Things About Riding a 200 KM Brevet

On the 200 kilometer Brevet.

I rode the 200 this past weekend in 10 hours and 10 minutes, pulling into the controle at Shawnee, Kansas, just after 5 o’clock. I made it, Gentle Readers of This Blog—but as you know, it was not easy. I did many right things but then I made some errors that could have cost me. The mistakes I made were right at the first and then right at the last—the rest of the ride went well and I’m pleased.

First up I started packing and getting my gear together during the week. It has been a year since I rode a brevet, and that brevet was back in Arizona—a 200 that I’ve ridden many times. This Kansas City Brevet would be all new—new people, new course, and new challenges. The unknown would be the weather—it had been raining for days, and the forecast was finally for sunshine on Saturday. Still I wanted to have everything I’d been buying up since January for tough weather conditions—new gloves, rain pants, booties, etc.

I also needed new tires as the back tire on the Mighty Trek was bald from Celebrity Spin Class. The two local bikes shops in town had sold out on almost every tire in stock. All that was left were a set of Continental Hard Shell 28mm—I could have bought the 23’s—but what I really like are the 25 mm Gator Skins but there were none. So I went ahead and bought the 28’s (they were expensive, mes amis--$117.00) and glad I did as they worked fine.

I rode a 68 mile “dress rehearsal” out and around Perry Lake last post—but I changed over and added my Caradice Bag for this brevet—there would be no drop bag service like on Susan’s brevets—and no wraps either I’m sad to say. This brevet was get your cue sheet and your brevet card and off you go. The weight would be a little bit more but not much. I could carry everything I needed but not too much stuff all crammed in one bag—so I had room for an extra empty water bottle—just in case, and room to stow my arm and legs warmers. I also brought just basic “legal lights” if I was to drag this ride out late—but turns up it was a cold and foggy morning and I needed those lights for the first hours until the Sun burned that chilly grey patch away.

Okay—the start, mes amis. It was very dark and the lights of the Phillips 66 –slash-Subway were not on. But riders were gathering and I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to get any kind of information as most of the guys I talked to when I was there had never done these brevets, and none of them knew Bob Burns or Spencer Klassen. So it was a bit confusing but I finally found Mr. Burns and checked in—Bob Burns is a legendary brevet rider—an ex-military officer—and stone deaf they told me later. But he managed and got everybody set up. I guess what I’m saying is that things were a bit unorganized and the regulars indifferent. If somebody would have said, “Hey Bob is over there and that’s where you check-in.” That would have helped a lot of us new guys out.

We started and I did not know this but the first half mile was a huge climb. I don’t know what happened but my heart rate, within the first quarter-mile, if that even, shot well up over my max which is 172—it was like 180 and I was thinking I was going to blow a gasket! I thought I was going to puke then die! It was confusing and scary and I felt like I had a gaping wound such that I was rapidly bleeding to death—or something! So pulled my butt over the side and slowed down and put it in the third “Mt. Lemmon” ring, if it wasn’t there already—and tried to get my heart-rate down—and tried to calm myself down—while everyone appeared to drop me. What had I done? What about all my training? Not even the first mile of this brevet and I am dead!!!

Head clearing and vision coming back—I got to the top of the hill to see everyone gone. Sweat dripping down my face and breathing hard, suddenly something must have re-booted; the heart-rate was normal—I was taking deep even breaths—I was still alive… Then blast off and I was tearing down the road at Celebrity Spin Class Speed. Within a few miles I was catching up—then in a pace line. Then advancing to the next pace line—then the next. Finally I found myself riding with the boys from St. Joe at a good clip, still thinking about how I freaked out at the start of this ride.

When I pulled up a few miles from the hardy and friendly boys from St. Joseph, Missouri, I saw two riders up ahead and just kept them in my sights and followed. When we were out of the twists and turns of the suburbs, I slowly picked up my pace on a long stretch of “country-fried” road to gain on them. I was feeling good—my heart-rate was in perfect sync with my cadence,
and I was gaining on the two randonneurs ahead of me. As I was about 50 yards behind them, a big German Shepard, fiercely sprang from the tall grass and lunged at me—but rather than yell at him—I said, “Good Boy! How ya doing?” and he suddenly was like a happy puppy and just wanted to play. I slowed down so he could joyfully run beside me—because that’s all he really wanted to do was run and play. I gave him a pat on the head and was off.

When Brian and Arils had heard the dog, they slowed up—wondering if I had made it past that farm in one piece. They were very glad to know that said dog was friendly and we had a light-hearted encounter. Brian and Arils, both from St. Joe’s as well—were happy to have me along, and I must say Gentle Readers I hung with them for almost the entire ride as their pace was strong and I was just able to push myself and keep up.

I can tell you that the rest of the ride was the three of us taking turns drafting—but it was mainly Brian who did all of the work. He was strong, and when Arlis would tire she would drop back and I’d follow him. I ate lunch with them at the half-way turn around controle, and with all their friends from the rest of the St. Joe’s group I had met and ridden with so far. One thing about Brian and Arlis—they didn’t waste any time at the controles—it was get in get out. I grabbed what I could and shoved it in my face. One thing that really worked were these things called shot blocks, by Cliff Bar. Each one was about 100 calories, with about 6 or 8 shots in a pack. They were easy to squeeze out of the wrapper and eat. I had two packs of them and they certainly kept me fueled—just enough—and kept me from bonking a few times. I did not eat enough mes amis, and as the controles were so fast, I didn’t buy enough. I also didn’t want to waste a lot of money—things were expensive! Better to take more with you than buy it.

I should have eaten more at the turn around, Gentle Reader of This Blog—but good thing I didn’t. Everyone had bought these little personal pizzas, and they looked good. I looked around where people got them but I never saw them. This was luck because on the way back Arlis was not feeling so well—so they had to drop back to rest; I rode on ahead.

I want to tell you that all of our spirits sank when we realized that we were going to have a headwind coming at us from the North. This is very rare, mes amis, there’s always a tailwind pushing you back. Well that was not going to happen. And the wind was getting stronger and now I was out there on my own and it was hard. After a few miles going up and down on smooth rollers, I saw the St. Joe’s Boys up ahead. They had pulled out ahead of us at the turn
around controle—and it looked like I was gaining on them. I pushed it up a few notches and I was getting closer—but the headwind stronger. I had to slow it down and eased into a little town (can’t recall the name) and while trying to figure out the cue sheet, Brain and Arlis were coming up behind me, so I waited for them and we rode together.

The thing I did right was ride with Brian and Arlis—the other guys were too fast for my anyway. I like riding with Brian and Arlis because they were steady, and I have to say that in a headwind it is good to be in pack and get some draft to save energy… We would need it because the whole 60 plus mile back were rough in that head wind. At times we started to spread out and I struggled to stay with Brian. At one point I think Arlis had to pull back the pace and slow up to recover. I pushed on ahead.

With my spin training and weight training now at the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center on my lunch hour at Haskell, I felt like I was able to ride often 16 to 17 mph in the headwind. When it was really hard, like toward the end of the ride with the last eight miles or so, we could all of us only ride 9 to 11 mph—mes amis it was that brutal!

All that work and all that pushing in the headwind, and by myself—I suddenly had to pee real bad. When you’re kind of in the suburbs of somewhat affluent Kansas City, Kansas, you can’t just pull over and check the tire pressure if you know what I mean. Finally I saw a gas station right before one of the last turns on the cue sheet, like at mile 109—and I stopped to take a leak. What I didn’t do because I wanted to save time, was buy some more food and fill my water bottles—that was a mistake! I was hungry all right, and I had about half a bag of Doritos—and had those. I had a few shot blocks—and I had just over half a water bottle left on the Mighty Trek. I should have got more water.

The last miles were the toughest, Gentle Reader—Brian and Arlis had ridden past me because soon up ahead I could see them. It took some time, but finally I caught up with them when they had to hold for a stop light. We were back together again and I was able to recover in the pace line. The wind was bearing down and we slogged our way the last six to seven miles back—each time having to crest yet another hill top—it was relentless, mes amis. And my water supply began to slip away with each much-need gulp. I was down to my last 100 calorie shot block. But there was no way we were stopping!

Finally—yes finally we were pulling into the controle at the finish. I turned my card in, uttered a few sentence to Bob Burns who was at the controle talking to riders—and with my few last gasps of what energy I had left, I got next door to the Subway and got me a Cold Cut Combo ordered up. I cannot tell you how beautiful the Coke-Cola tasted as I drank it down. It was like the movies where some poor bloke, after crawling through the desert, is at the oasis of cool water—he is saved! That was me.

I should have got water and a bite at my stop at mile 109. The last 16 miles were hard and I almost about dropped to the pavement. I would have had to stop—tried to recover with only miles to go—while the clock ran away. Instead I just barely made it to the last. But I did make it, Gentle Reader—I made it…

The 300 is April 7th and that’s not far away. It seems like the ink here’s not even dry and its time to roll to the start. Many said they want to ride it but have not signed up. Arlis says she’s signed up but Brian has not. Whatever this means is that I may or may not have people to ride with. I’ve got the 200 under my belt and now there’s the 300—186 miles—to ride with my dynamo hub. It works but there’s gonna be that drag on the wheel. And then I heard that the 300 has lots of hills.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, mes amis—with no photos this time I thought I’d give you the details best I could. Cheers!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dress Rehearsal for a Brevet

The Mighty Trek at 8:30 am Saturday morning.

With new Conti 28mm tires, a map of Perry Lake, and my newly acquired Super Powers, I head out to unknown country to put in some miles before the first KC Brevet, Gentle Readers of This Blog.

I have to tell you I spent way too much time fiddling with details Friday night. I had butterflies because I realized there was a ton of stuff not ready that I had to get done, second it might pour rain at anytime during the ride the next morning and most likely all day, and third I didn't want to ride too far or not far enough. This was a dress rehearsal for March 24th. What I really wanted to do was sleep in--but I'm glad I worked out the little things the week before.

Lawrence's grain elevator at the end of the Farmer's Turnpike--my landmark for the return trip home as it will come into view about 10 miles out.

I didn't respond or throw my hat into the ring when the emails started up about when and where my friends from Celebrity Spin would meet up. It would be a fast 30 mile round-trip ride to Lone Star Lake and back--at a very fast pace. What I need is a brevet-type ride at brevet speed with brevet miles. This was going to be an all-day ride, rain or shine, with all of Sunday to recover if need be.

"My name is Jesse James and I want to sell YOU a car!"

Jesse and Frank James rode into Lawrence in August of 1863 as part of Quantrail's Raiders, and took part in the murders of 150 men and boys, as well as looting and burning the city to the ground. I don't think I'd want to buy a used car from those guys--wouldn't feel right...

11 short and fast miles to Perry on Hwy 24.

Shoulder on Hwy 24 riding West toward Topeka, KS.

Many local riders will not ride on Hwy 24 and you can see why--the shoulder is just that, mes amis, shoulder-width from cars going by at 65 mph. Its the same way heading East up to Tonganoxie. I'm early and there's little traffic--what's really rough is that for most of this 11 miles there's a gusty cross-wind such that I have to lean into the lane to keep from being blown off this narrow strip of road.

Farms along Hwy 24. The good people of Kansas are considerate and give me plenty of room as they pass.

Some stretches of Hwy 24 with a wider shoulder. Gives me a chance to take some photographs.

The wind is brisk but its not a cold biting Winter Wind, Gentle Reader. This wind has the smell of dark rich earth and it caresses rather than kills. It has a touch of winter chill but like I said there's that warm close embrace, like a kiss from an Irish Lass on St. Patrick's Day!

Spring is happening in the heart of this place!

The soil is dark and rich, smells moist like chocolate cake!

Historic Robinson Farm.

Right as Hwy 24 makes a sharp turn and heads West, there's this old place on the ridge. I found out that it was the homestead owned by Governor Robinson--who would be the first "Free State" Governor of Kansas. My Great Great Grandfather wrote in his journal about going to hear Robinson speak about Statehood--this was January of 1858.

Where Hwy 24 turns West toward Perry and on to Topeka.

You can't tell from the photo but I've climbed a few miles up to this point where 24 turns and heads West. A few times going up this stretch of road, I've heard simi-trucks with their engines straining--I try to get up to here so they can pass with plenty of room. Lawrence is South and to the left. The Kansas River runs along the tree line way in the distance, Gentle Reader.

It appears that there's not much left of the aging Generation that has farmed this landscape for decades--I wonder if there will be a New Generation to live and work this land in the future?

No-frills sign department for Jefferson County, mes amis.

What turned out to be a poor substitute for a map of Perry Lake.

I was given this map by a woman at Celebrity Spin Class and she works at the Corps of Engineers HQ and explained the route to take--she said from Lawrence, around the lake, and back to Lawrence would be about 60 miles. That's a good pre-brevet ride distance.

Old farm house where grandma and grandpa probably still live.

First leg of my ride around Perry Lake!

I am feeling thirsty--hmm? Maybe I should drop in and say hello!

These are back country roads and in pretty good shape. Just rolling farmland with homesteads. Once the lake was built by the Corps of Engineers, probably for flood control on the Kansas River, lake homes and vacation-type homes came into fashion.

Over the long lake bridge.

I spent a good deal climbing from Hwy 24 up onto these ridges. I got to the top of that hill you see on the far right, then ahead of me a fast descent over the bridge. There were no cars behind me or in front of me, so I sailed down the road at 39 mph! When I got to the bridge, the wind was strong and gusty--it was a little scary. The thought of being blown off the bridge and into the lake was not in my plan today.

More climbs and then fast downhills. No traffic today--it was like I was the only one around for miles and miles!

Working hard in the winds.

With my heart-rate monitor, I was surprised to see that my cadence was in the 90s and my HR in the upper zone 3 areas--but I wasn't riding fast. I was really fighting the winds, and my jersey was always wet with sweat. For a few stretches I slowed down my cadence and let my heart rate fall to lower zone 3 and into zone 2. It was like I was fighting a losing battle against the head winds--I felt like I needed to take it easy or I'd quickly wear myself down.

Winter Wheat is ready.

The wind was picking up, mes amis, and the rain clouds were moving quickly over my head, but no rain fell. I made a quick stop in the very small village of Ozawkie, Kansas just to eat a Cliff Bar and check my map. Ozawkie is a post office and a Casey's store--gas, beer, and cigarettes.

Big power pole.

An old farm that has more modern buildings, so its probably a farm still in business.

As I leave town, I see The Ozawkie American Legion Post--with a Patton Tank on duty.

Perry Lake.

As I make my way through the country side, Perry Lake is all around me. There's little patches of green--tiny flecks of emerald starting to sprout out of the dull brown and black. If the Sun would just come out I think every living thing would awaken before me! You can feel this ebb and flow everywhere--you can smell it in the air. This is how it is riding a bike all day on a Spring Afternoon!

This is the way back, mes amis...

Heading South back to Hwy 24. Hwy 92 I was told not to take and I know why because it was very narrow. So now I'm on West Lake Rd and this is where I will face a 25 mph headwind all the way back to Hwy 24... for 30 miles...

Golden fields--amber waves of grain--but man o man the head wind, mes amis!

Bon jour la bon jour!

This was a pretty tough stretch with the wind showing me no mercy.

I did not take 237 South because it looked narrow and the wind was kicking my ass. I decided to follow an unmarked road that looked like it would get me down by the lake and give me a break from the wind. I'm happy to report that this was the case. There was no car traffic and the road was fast and quick through the trees. I made up for some lost time.

The shore line of the lake. Calm and peaceful.

The trees blocked that wind from the South. Also was quiet--the wind roars in your ears and my ears are still ringing a bit as I write this on Sunday evening.

I some how make a wrong turn and miss the road over the dam.

The map of Perry Lake I had didn't have a lot of detail, and there were few signs and road markers. I climbed some steep roads and then ended up here at this look-out over the dam.

The look-out was a dead-end so I had to turn around and head back. Because I couldn't figure out which road to take, I ended up behind the dam on a shit road and then on Thompsonville Rd which seemed to be an old tractor road. But finally I was on Hwy 24 mes amis!

On the Farmer's Turnpike and making good time back to Lawrence.

At Perry (the town) I traveled South into the headwind, and rode quickly through Lecompton. Crossing the Kansas River at Lecomton was frightful, Gentle Reader of This Blog--the wind was whipping me all around, there was traffic, and the bridge over the river is narrow and has no guard rail on either side! It would be easy for some Redneck to bump me off and over the bridge--seemed like some good 'ol boys that passed me in their pick'em up trucks were tempted. Anyway, I got the Hell outta Lecompton and pedaled hard East on the Farmer's Turnpike.

This farmhouse marks the end of Farmer's Turnpike--now got to limp back home to the Little House. First have to meander through part of an old Lawrence neighborhood.

What's going on?

So there's cars parked everywhere, mes amis. Its like San Diego--every single inch of space is taken up by cars packed in like sardines. In fact the whole city was packed full of cars as I started seeing green tee-shirts and and red haired maidens. Holy Shit, but its St. Patrick's Day happening right now and there's a parade going on.

Unknowing car drivers that, like me, don't know this are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic while a cop is getting everyone turned around.

I'm able to jump on a back street, but its jammed with people and cars--hundreds of people. Everyone looks pretty mellow and happy, and believe it or not I see lots of red haired girls--very pretty ones. I ride past a float and all the Irish girls wave and smile!

Really I just want to get home--I'm married to a half Irish, half Navajo girl so Gentlemen--a wagon load of Fair Irish Ladies is too much. I'd be sitting up there on the float with them singing and smiling--waving to the poor blokes that can only stand on the sidelines...

This car beamed--"Hey Look at me! Check me out! I'm green!"

Ride is not complete with out a few blocks on the bricks back to The Little House, mes amis...

68 miles--A good day's work!

Wish me Luck next week on my first 200K!

Cheers! Bruce