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