27 April 2008

almost, and then some

Saturday was the day. Long-awaited, much-anticipated. I missed last year's start to the brevet series, coming as it did on the heels of the adult onset of asthma. Lat year, by the end of April I was already dealing OK with the breathing, but I had lost way too many training miles to reasonably consider doing the April 200k. This year I had 4 100-mile weeks in, and the week leading up to this ride I got in 97 of my planned 100 "warm-up" miles. Almost.

10 days before this ride, I learned that a friend and his buddy were going to try this ride for the first time. I had planned to ride alone, simply by default. So I wheedled my way in on a ride and 2 cycling partners. Jeremy and Pat are recent gung ho touring cyclists - and they have really gone after what is my favorite way to cycle. (But I just never get out that way anymore.) So I knew they would be serious, well-equipped, probably pretty strong, but that they wouldn't press the tempo too much.

Any day is a good day for riding. Saturday held its share of surprises: after a string of 70-degree days during the week, Friday night brought rain and thunderstorms. Saturday was cold, overcast mixed with mostly sunny, and WINDY! How windy was it? With the wind at the back, and us going 25mph, we could still feel the wind at our backs. That's windy? How windy was it? It was blown-off-the-road windy. It was smallest chain ring pedaling downhill windy. But I get ahead of myself.

A quick check of weather.com late Friday evening gave me the chance to add a few bits of clothing to my bags: long gloves, balaclava, rain jacket, and an extra pair of socks. All of which were put on in the windy upper 40's temperatures at start time: 7am in Delavan, WI. No, it wasn't raining, and it didn't rain, but I needed that extra layer as a wind break. About half-way between the 1st and 2nd controls (check-in spots), with the sun out and the wind sort of at my back briefly, I thought it was warm enough to shed the balaclava, gloves and rain jacket. Well, I often leave the first item just around the neck if I don't have a turtle neck on. The short gloves turned out to be OK. But taking the jacket off was a big mistake. Big mistake. I put it back on a few miles down the road ... that wind just wasn't allowing the sun to "stick."

The mid-point of this out-and-back ride was 65 miles and change. The route was basically a series of roads headed west and north from Delavan to Verona, WI. The northerly roads had a slight cross-wind effect, where you felt the wind but also felt you were getting some help. But the westerlies were into them. WSW at least, and as already noted, clearly higher than 25mph. Gusts much higher. 14 of the final 16 miles were directly into this wind, in 2 stages: 7.7 miles (1 mile respite headed north) and 6.2 miles. "Disheartening" Jeremy called it. "Bitter" and 'brutal" come to mind. I was not alone, I'm sure, in vowing I would never ride like this again.

Two years ago, when I reported on this ride, I noted how much I hate hills. Let me amend that. I hate wind!

Naturally, on the turnaround, this all changed. The wind became our friend. The all-too-brief respites from the wind on the way out (short sections headed north) became manageable slogs against the wind on the way back. And those long hauls into the westerlies, turned around, turned to some exhilarating stretches returning. At the Kwik Trip that was our turnaround rest stop, I know I was on the verge of dehydration. (Believe me, I know dehydration! click here and scroll down to "don't estimate - calcumate!") I took care to drink, drink some more, and eat a variety of fuel. And with the kindly assistance of this glorious wind -- which had been my enemy just minutes before -- the body recovered.

Not to say that one feels rejuvenated at the end of a 200k day. Actually, at 127 miles, this is a 203k ride. And then some. But at least this time I could dream of attempting a 300k ride. Two years ago I got back in the truck with every intention of giving up cycling all together!

Jeremy and Pat proved to be excellent cyclists, and good companions. We did not stay together on our ride west, though Jeremy and I had spells together or in the same group. But in Verona we stayed until Pat was ready to go, and we 3 hung together all the way back to Delavan. Indeed, though I have the most miles of training rides, they did get in first. And special kudos to Pat, who, I learned, had only about 24 miles of riding this spring, and did this ride on a brand new bike, complete with a stiff leather saddle! Now that is awesome.

23 April 2008

The century before the double century

It's time to see if I can do this thing!

Saturday is my first ACP brevet in two years. Until last week, I thought I would be riding alone. Then after choir one of the basses asked me about the Randonneurs brevet, and we found that we were both registered. Naturally I wheedled my way into making it a 3-some. (Jeremy and Patrick are touring buddies and co-workers.)

At the end of my solo ride last Saturday, my outdoor miles were at 400 for the season. My goal for this final week of prep for the brevet has been to cover 100 miles before Friday. Another century week. The English century week before the metric double century day with the 200k ride out of Delevan, WI.

If tomorrow works for a longish ride into the office, I will have my first century by the time I get home for supper. Then Friday off the bike; Karen and I will spend it in the car instead, with a day trip to visit her parents in Michigan. A late return (and some significant furniture moving at this end, at that end, and again at this end) will mean a short night's sleep.

Saturday will begin around 4am, continue with a 4:30am start to Delevan for a 7am brevet start time. The 200k route will take us through a couple of small towns, north and west a bit (as I recall it) to Sun Prairie, then back pretty much the same way. We are allowed 13 hours on the clock. Two years ago Tav and Jon and I logged 8 cycling hours ... I have a feeling that this week our total time will be significantly longer. And that is something I welcome! Give me a decent day, and leisure pedaling, and good company, and someone else driving home.

18 April 2008

The Ride that wasn't, then was

My Saturday morning riding buddies inspire me, each in their own way. Jon B. in particular inspired me to re-think when I can get in miles. He has long commuted to his job, from Batavia to Glen Ellyn, through much of the year. This is no easy feat through the traffic-sodden west suburbs of Chicago. Now Jon is preparing for the 24-hour challenge, so he is building more miles. And how does he do this, with a busy FT job and a young family? Well, he has added his riding time before his commuting time, on occasion leaving his house at 4am and arriving at work after completing 100+ miles!

Well, says I, I have lights for my bike. I should try riding early. And so, 2 days ago, I set out to do.

I checked the hour-by-hour report on weather.com, and then mapped a route on Google maps based on the fairly stiff wind that we were getting through the night and would continue during the ride hours. I laid out my clothes, and go things ready for an early start. Set the alarm, then of course slept terribly for excitement, and hearing the wind howling.

But I rolled out of the driveway as planned at 5:30am. (Hey, I'm no Jon B!) One mile down the road I realized that I had left without my helmet. I have ridden with a helmet for 26 years ... one never takes off without one - especially in the dark?! So I went back and started over. Three miles down the road I reached for a drink ... no water bottles. After a helmet, hydration is my highest riding priority. On my planned 50-mile ride I would not come across a place to buy sport drink or bottled water, for at least an hour; which is too long for me.

At this point, I realize that this was not going to be the morning for my first early ride. So I decided to just do one of my casual loops and call it a bad start to a good idea. When I pinged a rock, I naturally thought "what if I flat?" And then realized that I had won the trifecta of forgetfulness ... because I had forgot my pump, too; the third item that is a "must" for a long, solo ride. Well, I didn't need it (or the water, or probably the helmet neither). And I determined to not let it ruin my day. I finished my 12 miles and, since I had already planned to go into work late, treated myself to a leisurely hour or so of reading in our sunroom.

The next day, which was supposed to bring rain, showers, and possibly thunderstorms, turned out to be gorgeous. Warm, slightly overcast sun, and almost no wind. Naturally there was no way I could take time away to ride. (It is a fallen world, after all.) But this morning, ah this morning I gave the early ride another shot. And having learned from the incomplete ride 2 days ago, I got off at 5:30 with everything I needed. And I got in 53 miles, at 16.7mph average, in 3 hours 10 minutes. Now, that's worth getting up early for!

12 April 2008


So, winter just won't stay away from Chicago. (Not that I'm complaining. Light snow sprinkles today are nothing compared to the 7" Minneapolis is supposed to get ...) To make sure I got some riding in this week, I set off on Friday at 8:30am. It was 60 degrees, and was only going to get cooler through the day. Sun was out, and the wind over 10mph from SSW - predicted to change to SW by noon.

So I set off west and south, hoping to ride out 30 miles more or less, on and off, into the wind ... then sail home with the wind at my back! Good plan, and it worked surprisingly well for about 21 miles. Out through Fermi lap and Batavia, then south on Deerpath Rd. The westerly streets were kind of invigorating: the wind was more south than west, so as long as I could stay on the pavement (not a guarantee, it was quite gusty) I could keep up a pretty decent pace. I sort of dreaded the turn on to Deerpath, which is basically a direct N/S road. But there again, I was more pleased than put out by the progress. I should have known what was coming.

Thinking that I would head west get my miles in that direction, I turned on to Talley Road, when WHAM, it was obvious that the wind had shifted and I was now getting it full blast. This stretch of about 2 miles was the toughest slogging I can recall on flat dry pavement. Riding it solo was a bummer. At one point I "drafted a farm house" ... it was uncanny, getting relief from the prairie wind by a lone farm house in a sparse stand of trees; but there is no mistaking: for about a quarter mile there was a distinct respite from the wind. Then back at it until Bliss Rd. And was it ever!

At Bliss, the wind was nearly directly at my back. From an all-out effort to maintain double-digit speed headed west on Healey, within a few hundred yards headed north on Bliss, I was hitting about 25 mph. And so with little exception, I had a great ride for my return leg.

My hoped for 60 miles ended up just under 50. When I got back to Winfield I thought I'd make a loop around and come in from the east, down MacArthur to my 'hood. By this time, I was thinking what a wimp I'd been, and could it really have been so difficult to keep going west out there by Sugar Grove? Well sir, when I turned onto MacArthur headed west the wind again hit me full force, and then I remembered.

And it really was OK to cut the ride a bit short, the better to ride solo another day.

It would have been a good day for a group ride; or even to have a partner to trade pulls into the wind. Oh well, we ride when we can. Which this morning, it was commonly (and wisely) felt that we couldn't. So instead of heading out for our 7am jaunt, we met in a toasty restaurant for a hearty breakfast and talk of bikes and life. And that is really OK, too!

08 April 2008


Dr. Oliver Sacks has sat in my pile of books since Christmas. A gift from Kathryn, it is something I probably would never have picked up on my own. My 3 oldest kids had all read an essay in The New Yorker that appears in this 2007 collection of essays by noted author/neurologist.
Musicolphilia: Tales of Music and the Brain kind of freaked me out for the first couple of weeks. Part I: Haunted by Music is a fascinating collection of the brain's capacity to expand or (truly frightening) limit one's musical perception and appreciation. But the collection on the whole is a tremendous display of the amazing human brain, specifically as it relates to musical phenomena.
Some of it is fairly technical - though even then Dr. Sacks has an extraordinary talent for communicating to laypersons. Thus his impressive list of well-known titles: Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and An Anthropologist on Mars, just to list 3 titles with which I was familiar before receiving this gift. I'm not sure I will take on any of the other titles on my own, though I'm sure that if for some reason I had to they would be engaging and entertaining reads.
Lately I have taken to saying that my adult children take me places I'd never go on my own. Thanks, Kathryn, for this trip to my worst fears ... and the glories of the brain.
Well, then I took Kathryn some place she'd never go on her own, either. To Lou Mitchell's for breakfast. Gotta love Lou's. That is it's own adventure, the same last Friday as it was 25 years ago ... with the exception of the late lamented Lou.

Tour of California

Well, time has lapsed. And in any case, I could hardly have written better about this amazing trip, than Chris has. So, simply by way of intro:
After watching the ToC via the internet in its first two years, this February I went out to take in a few days of professional cycle racing with my first-born. It is pretty cool - the Tour arrived in CA the year Chris did. He is in his 3rd year as a northern Californian, and this is the 3rd Tour. I had never seen professional racing live. This is an interest that we are enjoying together.
Chris' cycling is largely commuting (and he gets over 1,000 miles per year that way alone!). Mine is more recreational on the serious side, but far short of competitive cycling. We had a blast.
See his fun report on his own excellent blog. (And how nice - his title is a nod to this lame blogspot)
And photos, too, for Days One, Two, and Three of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. Chris had to limit his day Four because of my flight plans, but he did catch the end of that Stage Three in San Jose.
Great trip, great way to spend some vacation days, great company, and a sure bet for an annual repeat!