Thursday, September 6, 2007

My plans for the MS-150

The MS-150 is this weekend in Columbia MO and I am planning on riding in it. Last year I did the century route both days. This year I decided to up the ante a bit. I am taking Friday and Monday off so that I can ride to and from the event.

My plan is:
Friday: Ride to Columbia (160 miles)
Saturday: Ride the century route (100 miles)
Sunday: Ride the century route and part of the way home (130 miles)
Monday: Ride the rest of the way home (130 miles)

I will be camping in Columbia so I will be bringing my tent, sleeping bag, and clothes with me on the bike.

The toughest part of the ride is going to be Friday. The weather is expected to include a nasty headwind and 60% chance of rain. It is also the longest day and I don't really have a good bail-out plan. On Saturday and Sunday I will have SAG support. On Monday, I can always call my wife to bring me the rest of the way home.

Of course, this will give me extra motivation to finish. I am going to try and leave by 4 am on Friday and get to Columbia around 6 pm. Even getting there by 8 wouldn't be too bad.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


The 600K was two weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to writing it up. The 600K brevet is 600 kilometers (about 375 miles) and there is a time of 40 hours. The clock is always running. The brevet started at 5 am on Saturday and I had to finish by 9 pm on Sunday. In addition to finishing by the cutoff time, there are cutoff times for each of the checkpoints during the ride. I like to imagine that a bear leaves the start at the same time that I do. The bear travels at 15 kph (9 mph) and if he catches me, I'm done. Now it may seem that staying ahead of a bear that is only going 9 mph would be easy, but remember that the bear never stops. Whenever I stop for food, water, or sleep, the bear is catching up.

The route is available at

The weather report was a little dicey. Scattered thunderstorms were predicted for both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday the winds were out of the SW at 5-10. Sunday, they were out of the W at 15-20. Highs in the upper eighties and lows in the mid sixties. I had been meaning to put fenders on my road bike for a while now and the weather report convinced me to do it for this ride.

The ride started without incident. I stuck to my game plan of starting out slow. I let the fast group disappear into the distance in front of me. The ride starts out heading east towards Pocahontas. For this part, we had a slight tailwind. The fast group never stops in Pocahontas, but I decided to stop to get a snack and use the restroom. I left Pocahontas (24.5 miles) at 6:50. This put about 45 minutes ahead of the bear.

I then headed southeast towards the first checkpoint in Breese. At about mile 40 I caught up to Scott. I had ridden with Scott for part of the 400K (and I had misremembered his name as Chris). We rode the rest of the way into Breese (mile 52) together. As I was about to leave the checkpoint, I remembered that I needed to put more sunblock on. Scott was leaving, but he said that he would ride slowly so that I could catch up. I left Breese at 8:52 (1:40 ahead of the bear).

After I left I passed Jim and Renate. They are an older (than me) husband and wife that were riding together. We formed a mini-paceline and eventually saw Scott ahead of us. Unfortunately when I caught up to Scott, I dropped Jim and Renate.

The second checkpoint was in Okawville at mile 78. After this Scott and I headed east for about 50 miles. This was nice because we had a slight tailwind again. This made up for the time we had been heading south with a slight headwind. We stopped in Irvington, Dix, and Bluford on our way to the next checkpoint in Belle Rive. It rained on us a little bit between Bluford and Belle Rive.

The checkpoint in Belle Rive was at Wilkey's Cafe (mile 140). This is just the type of restaurant that you would expect in a town with a population of 371. The employees there were just so nice to us. "Would you like to sit near the air conditioner, or would than make you too cold?" "Would you like some water?" "Is there anything else that I can get you?" The cliche seems to be true: people in small towns are very friendly. As we were leaving Wilkey's at 4:04, a few other rides were arriving. It also started to drizzle again.

After we stopped at Thompsonville (6:10 pm, mile 167) we could see the dark clouds ahead of us. I told Scott that I thought that the storm would continue to move to the east and we would miss it. I was partially correct. We missed the main portion of the storm but still caught some of the rain as we rode through the trailing edge. Still the rain wasn't too bad.

When we reached Creal Springs (8:04 pm, 190 miles), it was raining a little harder. Several people warned us that it was pretty bad out there. After eating a getting more water. We put on our rain gear and rode east towards the storm. As we rode, we could see huge bolts of lightning crossing the sky in front of us. It was still raining but it certainly wasn't a downpour. I was still hoping that we would not catch up to the storm so that we would stay relatively dry.

Like most of the riders, I had reserved a hotel room in Vienna to spend the night. This was at the 210 mile mark. That would allow me to do 210 miles the first day, sleep a few hours, and do 165 miles the second day. The only downside was that to stay ahead of the bear, I would have to leave the hotel be about 3:30 am.

After riding about 5 miles from Creal Springs we had a choice of routes to get to Vienna. We could either ride along US 45 or we could ride on a bike trail. The organizer strongly recommended the bike trail if we would be riding after dark, so our choice was easy. I had been looking forward to the bike trail as a psychological milestone in the ride.

The trail was crushed limestone, which is better to ride on than gravel but obviously not as good as asphalt. The rain had stopped but we were riding through as wooded area so the trail was a little foggy. The gray fog, combined with the gray trail, made it a little hard to see. With our lights we didn't have trouble seeing the path, it was just hard to see anything else. We tried riding side by side, but the trail was a little too narrow to do that comfortably in the dark. We just took turns leading.

One thing I don't like about riding in the dark is that I can't see my odometer. I did not to see it for navigation because we just had to ride the trail until it ended, but sometimes I like to have some reassurance that I am actually making progress.

The trail must have passed some ponds because at time the croaking of the frogs was incredibly loud. There were also tiny frogs or toads sitting on the path that would hop out of our way as we passed.

As we neared the end, I saw something in the path ahead. With the foggy path and my foggy brain I could not immediately tell what it was. It looked like a rock wall directly across the path. As I got closer I could tell that it was the branches of an enormous tree that had fallen directly across the bike path. I called back to Scott to make sure that he stopped.

The tree looked like it had fallen recently, probably in the storm that had just passed. Neither of us had packed a chainsaw so we considered our options. It was not possible to go around it because the branched extend for quite a ways in both directions. There were also lots of bushes, trees, and mud blocking that option. We eventually decided to go through it. This involved climbing over, under, and through the branches while carrying a bicycle. This was not easy and took us about 20 minutes.

After making our way through the tree, we only had about a quarter mile to go to reach the end of the bike path. That meant it was only a mile or so to the hotel. On the way, we stopped to buy some food at a convenience store. I bought a coke, some chips, and a sandwich to eat once I got to the hotel. We reached the hotel (213 miles) at 10:19 pm. This was later than I had hoped for but I would at least be able to get a little sleep. Scott noticed that his rear wheel was out of true. Something had probably happened to it when he climbed through the tree. He loosened the rear brake so that it wouldn't rub.

We later found out that the fast riders made it though before the tree fell. The riders behind us decided that it was impossible to go through the tree so they backtracked a couple of miles and walked up an embankment to get on US 45. We also found out that the riders ahead of us and behind us both got totally soaked at some point during their rides. We were lucky enough to thread the needle between the storms.

The front desk told us that they would have a continental breakfast set up for us at 2:30 am. I though this was very accommodating of them. When I got to my room I realized that I had left my sandwich sitting on a ledge outside of the convenience store. I had neglected to put it in my bag. Oh well, I had the chips as well as some other food that I had packed in my drop back. I took a shower, ate my food, and went to bed. I got about three hours of sleep from 11:30pm - 2:30am.

In the morning, I had some cheerios and Scott and I were back on the road by about 3:18. The bear kept going the whole time we were sleeping so we were only a few minutes ahead of the bear at this point. This is why we had to build up a lead yesterday.

The first leg this morning was heading east but it was early enough that there wasn't any wind. It was still foggy which made things a little disconcerting. There were times when the road looked flat to me but I was going at least 15 mph without pedaling so I was obviously headed down hill. There weren't any turns for the first twenty miles so we didn't need to worry about navigation.

In Anna we stopped for second breakfast (5:00 am, 235 miles, an hour ahead of the bear). Scott was a bad role model and had a microwave sausage biscuit. I followed his example and that wasn't a good idea for me. The biscuit just sat in my stomach for the next hour or so.

After that we were in the hilly part of Illinois. Yes, there are hills in Illinois--they keep them in the south. A little bit after Anna we turned north towards Alto Pass. Now in Colorado, a name like Alto Pass would involve several thousand feet of climbing. This wasn't that high but it was still a long stretch of climbing. Once we reached the top it was quite beautiful. The sun has just come up and we were riding past some orchards. I sung a few lines of "Oh what a beautiful morning".

We reached Murphsboro (mile 261) and stopped at Hardee's for another breakfast. When we left Scott's back tire was flat. Scott suggested that I go ahead but I stayed to see if I could help. I was hoping it was just a slow leak but while replacing the tube we saw that the rear wheel was damaged. Scott again suggested that I go ahead, so I did. There wasn't much I could do but I was afraid that Scott was just getting rid of me so that he could quit with nobody watching.

I later found out that he got it fixed enough to ride to Pinckneyville where his wife met him with another bike of his. According to the rules, you can only receive support at designated checkpoints so he had to make it the 24 miles to Pinckneyville.

I left Murphsboro at 8:00--less than an hour ahead of the bear. As I rode north towards Pinckneyville the wind started to pick up. I was coming out of the west so it was a crosswind, but I knew that I would be headed into it soon enough. I stopped Pinckneyville (285 miles) for about half an hour. I left at 10:00am, an hour and twenty minutes ahead of the bear. Now I was headed directly into the wind. It was very difficult-in some parts it was a struggle just to go 10 mph. Eventually I reached Eden for a brief rest (303 miles, 11:37).

I stopped in Coulterville for more water and then continued towards Okawville. In once section I got to ride east for a few miles. After I turned, I wondered where the tailwind was because I didn't feel it. Then I realized that I was riding at 15 mph in still air. The wind was directly behind so I didn't feel anything. In this section, someone was driving the route checking on the riders. I said I was doing fine and asked if anyone was still on the route behind me. This is when I found out what had happened with Scott. I also found out that Jim and Renate and a couple of other riders were behind me. At this point I realized that I had more respect for the riders who were behind me that the ones who finished ahead of me. It might be easy for the fast riders (or not), but I know the people behind me were working harder than I was.

I reached Okawville (mile 329, 1:46 pm), which is my favorite convenience store in the world. I felt like I was only 50 miles from the finish. This meant that I should be done in 4 or 5 hours. Okay, 4 or 5 hours doesn't sound good so don't think about it. I should reach New Baden in an hour or so. You should never think about how far it is to the end, just how far it is until the next stop. I left Okawville at 2:28, an hour and 40 minutes ahead of the bear. This section was heading into the wind again.

As I neared New Baden, I saw some riders from the "flat as a pancake" century. The odd thing is that I rode that ride last year for my first century (100-mile ride) ever. In one year I had gone from riding 100 miles to riding 375. I stopped at New Baden and Scott caught up to me. A friend of his was riding that last section of the ride with him. We headed out for the rest of the ride together.

By this point I was pretty tired and my hands, butt, and back were hurting. In the hilly sections earlier I was in the drops going down the hills which puts more pressure on my back. On the bright side, it takes some pressure off my hands. The ride was taking its toll on me but I knew I could keep going.

We made one last stop in St. Jacob (358 miles, 1:50 ahead of the bear) and the headed for the finish. We had talked about stopping in Marine but we decided to just keep going. When we got to Fruit Rd we were headed into the wind again but being so close to the end kept our spirits up.

We finished at 6:50 pm. Our time was 37:50, so we finished with two hours and ten minutes to spare. I didn't really think about it until after the ride was over, but it would have been possible for me to fail at this ride. I also know that I would need to be in better shape to do a 1200K. I'm not going to Paris so I don't need to worry about it this year. If I ever want to do a 1200K I am going to have to do some training.

4 other riders (including Jim and Rebate) finished behind us. I was glad when I found out that they finished. I don't know how many riders started (15-20?), but 12 riders finished.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Plans for the 600K

Don't chase the rabbits
One of the problems that I have had on the brevets so far is that I start off fast and then slow down. I think this is because I enjoy riding with the fast group. This didn't seem to hurt me too much on the 200K or 300K, but it was definitely a problem on the 400K. My plan for the 600K is to start off with a pace that I can maintain (and then actually maintain it). This means no chasing rabbits.

If I need a rest, rest on the bike
Another problem on the 400K was that my stops were too long. I did a good job on the 300K keeping my stops short. I need to try and do that on the 600K. No resting when I stop. If I need to rest, that means that I have been pushing myself too hard. I need to go faster by going slower. Fewer miles per hour but more hours per hour. Going 16 miles an hour for 2 hours does me no good if I need to rest for 45 minutes afterwards.

Don't run out of water
I ran out of water on one section of the 400K. This should not happen. I should always have extra water. Since my stops will be short, I shouldn't worry if I need to stop more often. On a hot day, it is almost impossible to rehydrate while riding. I need to make sure that I don't lose hydration--or at least make the loss as slow as possible.

No big meals, eat lightly but often
I still haven't worked on what I should be eating on these rides. I haven't tried any of the endurance meal replacement drinks like Perpetuem or Spiz. Here is what my research on exercise nutrition is telling me:
  • 250-350 calories per hour, don't try to replace all calories burned
  • Simple carbs take too much water to absorb
  • Mainly complex carbs
  • Maltodextrin is a complex carb that is absorbed very quickly
  • Some protein is good
  • Not too much fat
Unfortunately, I don't know of a food generally available in convenience stores that meets all of these criteria. I guess I'll have to wing it. I am going to try to avoid soda.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

400K Brevet

The night before the 400K was my daughter's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Once that was over and we got the kids to bed I could start getting ready. I did not get to bed until 11:00. My alarm clock went off a short four hours later. Tom came and picked me up a little before four.

On the 300K I learned that I needed to eat and drink more before the first control. My goal on this ride was to empty both water bottles by the time we reached Breese at 51 miles.

It was a little colder than the 300K, but there was no mist this morning. I counted 20 riders at the start. I wore my jacket but no tights. The start of the trip was uneventful. we rolled out as a group and the pace was fairly easy for the first few miles. Once we left the bicycle trail and got onto Fruit Road we started to go faster. The pace still felt comfortable to me. Eventually I looked around and saw that we were down to 6 riders.

After about an hour I started to hope for a break. I was feeling fine, I just needed to use the facilities. Fortunately some other people had the same idea so we stopped for a pee break just before we got to Pocahontas.

The winds were out of the southwest so we had a tail wind as we headed east. After Pocahontas we turned south and had to deal with a headwind. I was still feeling fine and I even took a turn pulling.

We reached Breese at 7:41. My water bottles were just about empty so that was working according to plan. 11 minutes later, we were on the road again.

Stage 1 stats
Stopped 7:41 - 7:52
51.80 miles
19.3 mph
18.7 mph (including stops)

The route continued generally south. I was starting to feel a little tired but I was hoping to hang with the fast group until Okaville. When it was my turn to pull, I took a short turn and only pulled for a little over a mile. The next person in line was the guy in the Hammer Gel jersey. He is an incredibly strong rider and pulled for quite a way. I was getting tired so I had to drop off the back. A little while later I saw him finish his pull. I decided to see if I could catch up to the group. I was close to catching up when they stopped for another break. Unfortunately I dropped off the back after another few miles at about the 70 mile mark. I caught up to the group at the Okaville checkpoint but did not even try to join them when they rolled out.

As I was dawdling (yes, I do tend do dawdle when I stop) another rider rolled up. I waited around for him to leave so that we could ride together.

Stage 2 stats
Stopped 9:15 - 10:01
26.47 miles
19.1 mph

Running Total
5:01 hours
78.27 miles
15.60 mph (including stops)

Jim told me that he was wanting to finish before 9:00pm. This meant that he was way out of my league. We road and talk for a while and then I sensed that he wanted too ride by himself. I pull out in front for a little while and I kept expecting him to pass me. He was content to follow along a hundred yards back or so. He would occasionally catch up and we would talk for a bit. We eventually reached Pinckneyville together and we both stopped at McDonalds. I told him that I would be stopping for a while so he should not worry about waiting for me. I had started to feel a little tired.

Stage 3 stats
Stopped 12:55 - 13:51
46.97 miles
16.20 mph

Running Total
8:51 hours
125.24 miles
14.15 mph (including stops)

I was alone again for the next section. At one point I had to ride through a cloud of smoke from a farmer burning off one of his fields. I made one wrong turn which I blame on a misleading road sign, not the route sheet. The route sheets have been excellent for all of the brevets I've done so far. John Jost does a great job. I also ran out of water before I reached the next control. This was surprising to me because it was only twenty miles between stops. This was also my slowest stage. By the time I reached to checkpoint I was feeling dehydrated. I decided to spend as much time as I needed at this control to get back on track.

While I was resting and drinking Ray pulled in. He had skidded in some gravel and gone down. No road rash but his knee was hurting. He got his card signed, refilled his camel-bak and was read to go a short time later. I was ready so I rode out with him.

Stage 4 stats
Stopped 15:30 - 16:13
22.01 miles
13:34 mph

Running Total
11:13 hours
147.25 miles
13.13 mph (including stops)

I rode with Ray for a while but he was having trouble getting up the hills. I ended up dropping him. This section of the route had a lot of hills. Going down one hill I did 35 mph without pedaling. To cyclist from Colorado this is nothing, but for Illinois that is a mountain.

I was starting to feel bad by the time I reached the next control in Sparta. I had been drinking but I hadn't eaten since Pinckneyville. Nothing in the convenience store looked good. While I was dawdling (again) Ray rode up. Another rider, Chris, rolled in a little bit later. Ray was worried about stiffening up if he stopped too long so he left fairly quickly. I eventually decided to find whatever food seemed least disgusting and eat it. I ended up eating a Slim Jim. Even to me, this seems weird.

Stage 5 stats
Stopped 17:54 - 18:34
27.33 miles
16.24 mph

Running Total
13:34 hours
174.58 miles
12.87 mph (including stops)

Chris and I rode out together. He knew I was feeling bad and talked to me to keep my spirits up. He also pulled almost all the way to the next checkpoint. As the sun started to go down I felt much better. We also had a tailwind, which helped.

We stopped to put on our reflective gear as we neared Okaville. I was really looking forward to getting to the Gas Mart at Okaville. It was a checkpoint on each of the brevets and on this one we stopped there twice. I had been there just 11 hours ago and it felt like a homecoming. After that checkpoint, everything would be familiar.

We reached the checkpoint around sunset and thanked Chris for the pull and told him not to bother waiting for me. I was going to rest, eat, and be ready for the last fifty miles. I put on my jacket as soon as I stopped so I wouldn't get cold.

Stage 6 stats
Stopped 20:29 - 21:14
28.92 miles
15.09 mph

Running Total
16:14 hours
203.50 miles
12.54 mph (including stops)

It was full dark by the time I left the checkpoint. I made sure to have all my required lights and reflective gear on, as well as the extra blinky lights that I have on the front and rear of my helmet. I had never ridden in an area with no lights whatsoever so I was wonder how my headlight would do. I had no problems. While the headlight was not bright enough for high speed, I was in no shape for going fast anyway.

Out in the country, away from the city lights, the stars are very bright. The moon was only a crescent, but it seemed bright as well. Venus was very close to the moon that night as well. Another source of lights was the hundreds of fireflies that lined the roads. I had never seen so many.

I was enjoying riding at night but I was not used to navigating in the dark. With my setup I cannot see my route sheet or bike computer unless I stop. I missed one turn and went about two miles past it. I then had to turn around and ride two miles back. After that I stopped at each turn to verify the distance to the next one.

I stopped at the Shell station in New Baden. Someone (I think it was Chris) had mentioned that this would be the last place that would be open this late at night. While I was there, Tom rolled up (this is a different Tom than the one who has given me a ride to the last two brevets). The clerk told us that another rider had come through with road rash on both forearms. The had fallen in some gravel. I wonder if this was Chris. Even though I wasn't dawdling (honest!), Tom was gone before I was done.

Stage 7 stats
Stopped 22:29 - 22:40
17.87 miles
14.30 mph

Running Total
17:40 hours
221.37 miles
12.53 mph (including stops)

I caught up with Tom a few miles later. I could see his flashing rear light for quite a ways off. He told me that he was afraid of cramping up if he stopped for any length of time. Tom was riding a little slower than me but I decided to ride the rest of the way with him. Having two people look at the route sheet was probably safer. We were both very tired.

It was getting colder. I had brought tights with me but it didn't seem worth it to put them on. I was wishing that I had brought full fingered gloves. My hands were starting to hurt and the cold wasn't helping. My butt was hurting too but we were almost done. Tom complained about his legs hurting.

At one point, a skunk crossed the road right in front of me. I was so glad that I didn't hit it.

Once we reached the bicycle trail, I felt like we were practically done. There were still 4.5 miles left but I felt good now. Tom and I were so tired that when we stopped it was difficult to start pedaling again without falling over. We reached the last checkpoint at 1:37. It felt good to be done. It was the first 400K for both of us.

Stage 7 stats
Finished 01:37
35.58 miles
12.05 mph

Running Total
20:37 hours
256.95 miles
12.46 mph (including stops)

My friend Zac picked me up. He had agreed to this when he thought I would be done around 11 or midnight but he came and got me. When we got near my house he said he was hungry and wanted to swing by Del Taco. Since that is my traditional post ride meal I readily agreed.

After I got home and ate I decided that I was too filthy to sleep. I took a shower which helped me feel much better. I slept until 11am.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike To Work Week

It's bike to work week and Zac, one of my coworkers, decided to try commuting by bicycle on Thursday. He has been talking about riding to work for a while but had never done it before. He doesn't ride much, if at all, but he has a bicycle. It is a mountain bike with knobby tires so it is not ideal for commuting, but he can always upgrade later. The commute is about 9.5 miles one way.

He doesn't live that far from me so I offered to ride to his house and then ride with him to work. Since this was his first commute, he was a little disorganized. He couldn't find his water bottle. I told him that we could stop on the way and get some water but he didn't think that it would be necessary. Since his bike doesn't have a rack, he has his change of clothes in a backpack.
After the first block, I told him to stop so that I could pump up his back tire. It was almost completely flat. The front wasn't much better so I pumped that one up too. There were two hills that Zac was worried about. The first one cam at about the 2 mile mark. He slowed down but he made it up without stopping.

After about 4.5 miles Zac said that he needed to stop and get some water. We pulled into a gas station and he bought a bottle of water and we rested for a bit. I offered to carry the backpack for the rest of the trip and he handed it over with much resistance.
We stopped to rest before the second scary hill. We had just gone up a fair sized hill and we had a decent downhill before "Mount Sappington". Zac wanted to carry as much momentum as possible from the downhill. Zac was a little worried about making up the hill but I assured him that he could do it. It was an effort, but he made it. We stopped at the top and Zac nearly collapsed. We rested a while and finished off his water.

We weren't done yet, we still had a couple of miles to go. There were some rolling hills remaining but we were past the worst of it. When we finally pulled into the parking garage, Zac was quite happy to be done.

I didn't reset my bike computer when we got to Zac's house so I don't have his exact stats. I'd estimate 9.5 miles in about 50 minutes rolling time.

The interesting thing about this ride is that Zac is where I was just a year and eight months ago. The 9 mile commute nearly wiped me out that first day. When I first started riding, I was intimidated by the hill on Sappington Rd. That's why I named it "Mount Sappington". Looking back at that it amazing to me how far I have come in less than 2 years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

300K Brevet

I would have liked to have gotten plenty of sleep in preparation for the 300K. Unfortunately, real life intruded and I was a little short on sleep all week. Since the ride started at 5:00am, I was guaranteed not to get enough sleep the night before.

I was fairly confident about finishing the 300K—barring a mechanical problem. The 200K took less than 10 hours so that meant there were more than 10 hours left to do another 100K. I was hoping to finish in around 14 hours. Since the route was 186 miles I also planned to do enough bonus miles after the finish to make a nice round double century (200 miles).

Tom picked me up at 3:50am to head over to Edwardsville for the 5:00 start. I was glad that Tom was giving me a ride so that my wife would not have to get up to drive me to the start so early in the morning. Once we arrived, I put on my reflective gear. It wasn’t very cold, but it was damp so I decided to start out wearing my jacket. We started rolling at 5:00. I did not get a count of how many riders there were, maybe 15 to 20.

The first part of the route was the same as the 200K. It was dark and foggy so all I could really see was the other riders and the area of the road illuminated by our headlights. The fog made everything damp. One of the other riders commented that this was the wettest ride he had ever been on where it wasn’t actually raining. After 20 minutes or so, the paced started to pick up. I knew that I would not be able to hang with the fast group for the whole way, but it’s nice not to have to worry about navigation, especially in the dark. There was one brief detour at about mile 26 when whoever was in front started to follow the 200K route rather than the 300K route. We got this straightened out quickly and were back on the road. A little while later, I took advantage of another brief stop to take off my jacket.

By this point I was looking forward to the first checkpoint in Breese so that I could use the facilities. Then I looked at the route sheet and noticed that while the first checkpoint was in the same place as the 200K, the route was different so it was at mile 51. I managed to hang with the fast group until the first checkpoint. By this time we were down to 10 riders. This checkpoint was a convenience store and there was a sign on the door: restrooms out of order. Drat. It was amazing to see how quickly a group of riders could get their cards signed, buy food, and refill water bottles. I also learned that the phrase “Is everybody about ready to go?” actually means “goodbye”. I was a little late leaving the checkpoint, but by drafting behind anther rider in a Hammer Gel jersey, I was able to catch back up to the main group. Total time at the checkpoint: 8 minutes.

We continued at our 20-mph pace towards the second checkpoint in Okawville at mile 77. I was having trouble keeping up after a while. The guy in the Hammer Gel jersey was pulling and he was strong. I was starting to fall back and then had to work to catch back up to the rider in front of me. I really wanted to hang on until the second checkpoint, but I decided that I wouldn’t be able to last. It also wasn’t fair to the riders behind me. I dropped off the pack at mile 75.

I did meet up with the group at the checkpoint, but I told them not to worry about waiting for me. I knew that I couldn’t keep the pace so I took my time at this stop and said goodbye to the other riders. I figured that I wouldn’t see them again. I also knew that it was unlikely that any of the riders behind me would catch up to me, so I would be riding the next 109 miles alone.

The route branched from the 200K route again at this checkpoint, so I was into the great unknown. The route sheet was very good (with one exception) so I had little trouble navigating. The route sheet was also good about telling where you could buy food as well. Of course, for this to be useful, you have to pay attention. There were services marked for New Minden at mile 88 but this soon after my last stop I didn’t need anything. I did not notice that the next services were not until mile 120.

In Hoyleton, I made my first navigational mistake. The route sheet said to turn right at a hardware store onto county road 11. I saw a lumberyard, could that be what it meant? There was no county road 11, so I kept going. Before long, I was out of Hoyleton so I turned around and started looking for county road 11. Eventually I noticed that the route sheet said count road 11/Main St. I saw a sign for Main Street and then noticed the hardware store, which appeared to be out of business.

At mile 108 I passed a cemetery. I looked at the tombstones and noticed that one of them said “Bonk”. I was a little short on water, but I certainly hadn’t bonked yet.

I made it to Oakdale (120 miles) and started looking for the third checkpoint. The route sheet said “General Store”. I rode all the way through Oakdale and saw two candidates: the “Oakdale Market” and the “Country Kitchen”. I tried calling the RBA on his cell phone but I was out of range. I went into the Oakdale Market and bought some supplies. I asked if any other bicyclists had been through. Nope. Then I asked if the clerk knew what the General Store was. Well, the Country Kitchen used to be a general store. Okay, I headed over there and that was the place. Or it least it was the place that all of the riders ahead of me had gone. This was the furthest point south and the last checkpoint. I was pretty proud of my progress so far. This was almost 200K and it was only 12:38 when I got to Oakdale. This meant that it only took 7:38 to do almost 200K. Two weeks ago the 200K had taken me 9:23.

I stopped again in Lively Grove 8 miles later. I wanted to top off my water and to re-apply sunblock. I should have done this sooner since the clouds had cleared out a while ago. It had also warmed up into the low 80’s. I went into the grocery store and bought some water and snacks. I asked if they had a bathroom and was told it was outside next to the gas pump. I went out and saw it: an honest to goodness outhouse. It’s times like this that make me glad to be a man.

I was feeling tired at this point and was wondering why. Was I dehydrated? Not eating enough? Sunburnt? This was now the longest ride I had ever done but I don’t think that was the problem. Whatever the cause, I had at least a slight bonk. My brain was definitely not working at peak efficiency.

I made another stop in New Baden at 155 miles to drink a coke and get more water. The route had already joined with the 200K route so I was back on familiar ground. I made another stop at 170 miles. I bought more water and called my wife to let her know what time I expected to finish. When I left this stop I manage to head east on US 40 instead of north on county road 13. The first thing I noticed is that there was a headwind. Then I realized that I didn’t remember riding on a road this busy on the 200K. After about a mile, I figured out that I was on the wrong road and turned around. Since I was planning on doing bonus miles after the 300K, this detour did not get me down. It just meant that there were fewer bonus miles that I needed to do.

Somewhere around this time, the fingers on my right hand started feeling very weak. It was actually difficult to shift. I also freaked out briefly because I though I had reset my bike computer. The elapsed time had gone back to zero. After a few seconds I figured out that it rolled over after 10 hours.

The last 20 miles were hard. Every small hill seemed to take a lot of energy to get up. I was very glad that the route was so flat. It also helped that the last 10 miles or so were headed west so I had a tailwind. It got to the point where I was thirsty but didn’t feel like drinking. I made it to the finish with a time of 13:07. I saw that the fast riders had finished about two hours ahead of me. With my detours, I was at 193 miles. I decided to ride back out on the route for my bonus miles. I did not see any other riders, but it would have been surprising if I had. I made it back to the start and my wife arrived to pick me up a few minutes later.

Can I do the 400K? Well, even though I bonked pretty hard at the end, I had plenty of time. If it were the 400K I would have had 14 hours left to do another 62 miles. I am certainly going to attempt it. I realize that the routes here are very flat and I would have more difficulty on a hillier route. But for my first brevet series, I’m willing to take it easy.

Final Stats (300K)
193.17 Distance (miles)
10:52 Rolling time
13:07 Clock Time

Double Century
200.42 Distance (miles)
11:23 Rolling time
13:49 Clock Time

Saturday, April 21, 2007

First Brevet (200K)

I just finished my first brevet and I had a great time. My wife dropped me off in Edwardsville at 5:30am. I registered and talked to some of the other riders. It was about 50 degrees at this point and I thought about taking off my jacket and putting it in may trunk bag but I decided to keep it on.

At 7:00, John gave us our final instructions/pep talk and we were off. There were several turns in the first few blocks, but I just stayed with the group. Then there were a few miles on a shady bike path. It was several degrees cooler here and I was glad I kept my jacket on. The group was still warming up and riding at about 15mph. I would have preferred to go a little faster here to keep warm.

Then we came out into the open and started riding on farm roads. These are great for cycling because they are flat and have very little traffic. We had a headwind/crosswind but even this wasn't too bad because we could look forward to a tail wind on the return leg.

The speeds slowly crept up as we reached Pocahontas and turned more directly into the wind. There were some pretty strong riders in this group and I was having trouble keeping up even though I wasn't pulling. Even though the pace was too fast for me I wanted to stay with the lead group so that I could hide from the headwind. The disadvantage is that, at least for me, it is harder to eat and drink enough while riding with a fast group.

Finally, at about mile 38, I dropped off the back of the group. I managed to keep them in sight until almost the first checkpoint at mile 41. They were still there when I got there but I decided not to join back up with them. I figured that I would just get dropped again. As I was getting ready to leave, two more riders showed up. They had been delayed by a flat tire. I decided to wait for them so that we could ride together. I also let one of them use some of my sunblock.

After we left the checkpoint, I could tell that they were stronger riders than me. I let them pull and I did most of the navigating. After about 8 miles I said goodbye and dropped off the back again.

At 63 miles, I felt that unmistakable squishy feeling that meant that meant that my rear tire was flat. Being alone means that I had nobody to help me fix it, but it also meant that I didn't feel like I was slowing someone down if I changed it too slowly. I was very methodical so that I was sure to find the cause. That last thing I wanted was to flat again after a few miles. I found and removed the sharp rock in the tire that had caused the flat. I was a little surprised that no other riders passed me during the 20 minutes or so that I was fixing the flat. One car did stop and ask if I needed help.

It was only about 5 more miles to the second checkpoint. The fastest riders were long gone but there were still a few people still there. As I got something to eat and refilled more water bottles, more riders started trickling in. Had I been trying for a fast time on this ride, I blew it by spending too much time at this checkpoint. I was just enjoying hearing people talk about their experiences as they came in.

Shortly after I left the checkpoint, I passed two women riders. This would not be the last time I saw them. I stopped for more water at mile 90 and they came into the convenience store while I was there. I was feeling a little tired after that so I also stopped at mile 106 for some chocolate milk. I think that I was feeling the effects of the sun at that point. Fortunately I had the benefit of the expected tail wind.

Later I saw a pair of riders in the distance ahead of me. It seemed to be the two women I had passed earlier. I spent the next 40 minutes trying to catch them. I kept wishing that they would speed up so I wouldn't see them or slow down so I could catch them. I finally caught up with them about 5 miles from the finish and we rode the rest of the way together. My time was 9:23 on the clock, 7:02 rolling time.

On this ride I learned that I need to eat and drink on the early part of the ride. In the first 2 hours I did not even drink one full water bottle. The question is how to carry enough water conveniently? I have two water bottle cages, but this won't last that long on hot days. I don't really want to use a camel back. I could carry more water in my trunk bag but I'd have to stop to get it out. Maybe a water bottle cage behind the seat?

I also ended up with a little bit of sunburn on my face and my upper arms. I think that my sleeves rubbed away the sunblock on my arms. I need to remember to reapply.

I spent over two hours off the bike on this ride. On the longer rides, I will need to be quicker when I stop. I will need to build up a buffer for rest/sleep stops.

Overall I am very pleased with my first brevet. I finished and felt good.

124.81 miles
7:02:03 rolling time
9:23 clock time

Sunday, March 25, 2007

March Century

One of these months I'm going to do a century in the first half of the month. It just seems like weather and scheduling make me put off the century until almost the last weekend.

I prepared for this ride by going to a friend's house and drinking beer and eating pizza until after midnight. That's carbo-loading, right? I got up the next morning before 6 and was on the road by 6:30.

My original plan was to take the long way out to Sunset Cyclery in Chesterfield, do their ride, and then add on as many miles as needed to make a century. Unfortunately, Sunset's website was not up to date and the ride that I thought started at 9:00 actually started at 8:00. Oh well, another solo century.

Since I was near Creve Coeur park, I decide to join up with my St. Charles-Afton loop. Since I already had extra miles, I figured I could cut out the bonus miles at the end and come out not too much over a hundred miles.

I was using my brand new handlebar bag. I was hoping that this would reduce the number of stops that I would need to make. It seemed to be working out fine. The first 80 or so miles passed relatively uneventfully. I realized that my route would be longer than 100 miles and estimated that I would end up at about 110.

After crossing into Illinois and turning south, I encountered a moderate headwind. Nothing too bad, but it seemed to be slowing me down more than I would have expected. When I reached the old Chain of Rocks bridge, I was feeling a little bit nauseous and wasn't drinking enough. I stopped on the bridge for about 20 minutes. I continually took small drinks of water to try and settle my stomach. After resting I decided that I felt as good as I was going to feel. I was a little worried about my prospects for the 200K next month because I had only gone 90 miles and was feeling whipped.

I found salvation a few miles later at North Riverfront Park. As I was riding through, a ice cream truck appeared. I bought a Klondike bar that was quite possibly the best ice cream that I ever had. This energized my enough for the rest of the ride. While riding through downtown St Louis. I noticed that I felt much better in the shade than I did in the sun.

I decided to stop for a recovery meal at Del Taco. This is only about a mile from my house, and it's on the way home. I had a bacon cheeseburger, french fries, and about a gallon of soda. Please keep in mind that this was for medicinal purposes. By this point I had figured out why I felt so bad. I had been riding all day without sunblock. I hadn't needed it yet this season and, since it was dark when I left my house, I hadn't even thought about it. I end up with a pretty bad case on my arms, and a milder case on my face and legs.

The first 80 miles were at over 18mph. I end up with 112 miles at 16.5mph which, considering the sunburn, is not too bad. I learned something that should help on the brevets, and that is one of the reasons that I am doing these rides. So I guess this was a successful ride.

Monday, February 19, 2007

February Century

I decided that President's Day was going to be my best chance to get a century in this month. I had the day off work and the weather was predicted to be warmer and dry. The only problem with the forecast was that it was supposed to be windy. I used a similar route to the one I used last month. I'm not planning on riding this route every month but I want to get the route perfected.

I wanted to start around 7, but I had trouble getting moving in the morning. I did not start until 10. The ride started of great, there was a lot of wind but it was a crosswind for the first part of the ride. When I got to Creve Couer park, I left road to get on the multi-use paths. I had to walk my bike across several icy patches where the snow hadn't melted yet. The real problem was the Page Avenue bridge. There is a bike lane that is separated from traffic by a concrete wall and chain link fence. Unfortunately, when they plowed the bridge, a lot of snow ended up on the bike lane. Even with the warmer temperatures, the snow had not had a chance to melt. I ended up walking most of the way across the bridge.

After the crossing the Missouri, the wind was in my favor. I hit 30 mph on flat ground without even trying very hard. At one point I was cruising at 26 and I wasn't even in the drops. Of course I knew that I would have to ride into this wind later.

After crossing the Mississippi into Illinois, I was headed into the wind. It was rough. There is a mile long gravel section on the Confluence trail. I don't like it under the best of conditions, but with a 25mph head wind it was brutal. I averaged about 7mph through that section. For the 30 miles that I was dealing with the headwind I had about a 14mph rolling average.

As it got later the wind started to die down. Of course this didn't seem to happen until I turned so that I wasn't head directly into the wind. The was a new section of the route that I hadn't ridden before. It was hillier than I expected so I'll have to decide if that section makes it into the final route.

I had one slight negative on the home stretch. When I was just I had some idiot yell at me to "get on the sidewalk". The ironic thing was that this on a road that has "Share the Road" signs every 1/4 mile. I was headed downhill when this happened so I started chasing the car. There's never a stoplight around when you need one so I didn't catch them. I don't know what I would have done if I had caught up to them. By this point I was too tired to get angry so I probably would have just pointed out the signs.

One thing that I learned on this ride is that I need to find a more efficient way to eat while I am riding. I feel like I am stopping too often to eat. I am looking at getting a handlebar bag to make it easier to eat without stopping.

101 miles, 7:52 clock time, 6:38 rolling time.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

January Century

I had challenged myself to do a century a month, but I resisted signing up for the Bike Journal contest until I had at least done the first one. I was rapidly running out of weekends in January, so I decided that the last Saturday would be my last chance. The weather Friday would have been perfect, but unfortunately I had to work. The weather lived up to the forecast–upper 30’s with 15mph winds.

My route would start at my house in Saint Louis and head northwest to cross the Missouri River into St Charles. From there I would head east through St Charles County and cross the Mississippi River into Illinois. I would then head south, cross the Mississippi again and go though downtown Saint Louis. Finally, I would head west towards home. I mapped out the route on and it said it was 85 miles. I figured that would give me some buffer for wrong turns. If I came up short, it would be easy enough to add on miles at the end.

Because of the temperature and the wind, I was concerned about getting cold. My commutes can be much cold than this, but they only last about 40 minutes. Being out for 8 hours is quite different. I’ve noticed that I am more cold tolerant that most people, but I wanted to have options. Here is what I decided to wear. Torso: Craft long sleeve base layer, Short sleeve jersey, and Illuminite jacket. Legs: cycling shorts, Amfib tights. Feet: thick wool socks, Sidi winter cycling shoes. Hands: Specialized winter cycling gloves with liners. Head: helmet. In my trunk bag I brought a balaclava and a long sleeve jersey.

I left my house a little after 7:00. The good news was that since it was Saturday morning, there was very little traffic. The bad news was that the first part of my ride was directly into the wind. After only a couple of miles, I saw the bicycle archaeologists from last week headed in the opposite direction. I waved, but this week I was on a mission and did not have time to see what they were up to.

After about 15 miles, I reached Creve Coeur Park. Here I left the road and got on a multi-use path that circles Creve Coeur Lake. I am not that crazy about riding on multi-use paths so I went fairly slowly. There were a fair number of joggers and dog walkers. The park wasn’t crowded, but I wasn’t expecting to see anyone in this weather. In one of the more isolated areas of the park I saw a buck and a doe crossing the path in front of me. The reason I come through Creve Coeur Park is that there is a trail that crosses the Missouri River alongside Page Avenue. This is a new bridge and it was designed with bicycles in mind. The bicycle lane one the bridge is totally separated from car traffic by a concrete wall. After crossing the river, I was at a parking lot for the Katy trail. I would not be riding the Katy today, but I did stop briefly to have a snack. At this point I had ridden 21.6 miles at 15mph rolling speed.

From there, I went through St. Charles and into St. Charles County. Since I had turn to the east, I no longer had a headwind. This part of the ride is also very flat so my speed increased. This is the part of the ride that I had never been on before so I was a little concerned about getting lost. There weren’t really a lot of roads that I could make a wrong turn onto, but I would have rather had some signs that told me that I was still on the road that I though I was on.

After about an hour, my speed suddenly dropped to zero. I was still moving, but my bike computer said I wasn’t. Since this was how I was planning to measure my century, this would be a problem. I stopped to see if I could figure out what the problem was. The problem was easy to find; the spoke with the magnet was on was broken. The wheel still seemed be true, so I moved the sensor to a different spoke and continued on. At this point I had traveled 44.6 miles. Since my last stop I was averaging 18.7 mph.

At the next convenience store, I made a brief stop for some chocolate milk and a candy bar. Next I crossed the Mississippi River on the Clark Bridge into Illinois. The Clark Bridge is also fairly new (1993) and has bicycle lanes that are separated from traffic by a 5-foot wide buffer zone. Even though the speed limit is 55, I feel very safe on this bridge. On either side of the bridge I noticed a lot of people watching the eagles. This time of year you can see bald eagles in this area. I saw some in the trees but I was too far away to get a good look at them.

After crossing the bridge, I headed south on the Madison County Transit Confluence Trail. I am a big fan of the Madison County trails. The only complaint I have about this trail is that there is a section about a mile long mile long that is gravel. I saw someone on a bicycle that was looking for deer antlers. After that I saw 6 wild turkeys next to the trail. Later a pair of cyclists who were headed the same way passed me. I sped up to talk them for a little while, but I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace so I said goodbye and dropped back. While riding on the trail I noticed that my glove liners were getting sweaty. I took off the shells and just used the liners.

Just before the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, I decided to stop for lunch at Hardees. At this point I had covered 65.5 miles. I had average 16.6 mph since my last stop. Once inside I took off my jacket and noticed how sweaty my jersey was. I had been so worried about being too cold, I did not notice that I was getting too warm. Since I wasn’t moving anymore and my clothes were damp, I became quite cold even though I was inside. I was shivering and put my jacket back on. I think that I learned an important lesson about long cold weather rides.

After lunch, I crossed the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge back into Missouri. This bridge was built in the 1920’s is now only open to bicycles and pedestrians. From there I headed south on the Riverfront trail. This took me almost to the Arch. My original plan had been to head west towards home but I needed to extend my ride to make it a full century. I decided that to continue south and follow the route that Maplewood Bicycle uses for their Tuesday night rides. I also decided that I would stop at Maplewood Bicycle to get my spoke fixed. Getting the spoke fixed took about 40 minutes. I still did not quite have 100 miles so I added an extra bit on my ride home from there.

Final stats
Distance 100.04 miles
Rolling time: 6:02
Clock time: 8:19

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adventure with the Bicycle Archaeologists

I was headed to Maplewood Bicycle's Saturday morning ride. I got there a couple of minutes late and there was nobody there. Either the ride started exactly on time or the weather (upper 20's) scared everyone off.

On my way to the bike shop, I had seen a couple of riders headed perpendicular to my path. I turned around to see if I could catch them and join up with whatever they were up to. Fortunately, they hadn't made any turns so I was able to catch them in a mile or so.

When I reached them, I saw that they were both on nondescript mountain bikes with flat pedals. They both seemed to be older than me (I'm 40). I asked them what they were up to and if I could join them. They introduced themselves as Dave and Rand and described themselves as bicycle archaeologists. They were on their way to do a bicycle tour of Sunset Hills. They had a book about Historic sites in Sunset Hills and an itinerary that was actually designed as a driving tour. They graciously allowed me to join up with them but warned me that they would be going slow. I didn't mind that, I thought that it would be more fun to do a slow ride with other people than a fast ride by myself.

Since my office is in Sunset Hills, the first part of the ride followed my daily commute. I was able to show them a couple of tricks that I use to avoid some of the busier streets. I was also able to help them find the starting point of the tour. They had turning directions, but no map. I was glad that I could help out since I was a stowaway on the ride.

The tour was pretty interesting. At one point we stopped to look at a house that was built around a log cabin. There wasn't really anything to see from the outside. As we were looking, the owner came out. One of the people I was with asked him if there really was a log cabin inside. He told us that there was but there were only a couple of places that you could tell. He then invited us in to show them to us. I was really amazed at how friendly he was to us, three total strangers. I can’t help but think that if we had arrived by car he might have been a little more defensive.

We saw some other interesting sights on the tour. Apparently they do these tours every weekend. We ended up cutting the tour short because we all had commitments for later that day. Before we parted ways, Dave mentioned that he was a major investor in a Saint Louis tourist attraction (I’m not mentioning which one so that I don’t reveal Dave’s identity). He gave me a free pass for my family and me.

When I got home and told the story of my adventure to my wife she asked, “Can you just go up to any group of people and join them while they are riding?” I thought about it for a while and said, “You can always ask, and I imagine most people are going to say yes.” I think that’s one of the neat things about bicycling. You can easily meet other people and talk to them. You can’t just casually start talking to people in cars. My day certainly did not turn out like I planned, but what happened was a lot more interesting.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Goals for 2007

A century a month.

Finish a 200K Brevet
Finish a 300K Brevet
At least start a 400K Brevet
If I finish the 400K, attempt a 600K Brevet.