Monday, December 24, 2012

December 200K

For this month's 200K I decided to ride a permanent in Memphis. I made arrangements with Alan, the route owner, to do the ride on December 23. I was happy to find out that some other riders would be joining me.
The weather report for the day of the ride was for a high of 56 and a 30% chance of rain. At the 7 am start it was 45 but dry. I had spent some time before the ride debating what to wear. I decided on a long sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey, tights, wool socks, winter cycling shoes, shoe covers, and gloves with liners. I also packed my new rain jacket and balaclava.
There were three of us on the ride: Alan, Terrance, and me. Alan told me that they typically end up separating on the road and then regrouping at the controls. This sounded good to me. We rolled out of the Qwik Shop in Arlington a little after 7. We were heading generally north so the wind was probably helping us. We reached the first control (the Gilt Edge Cafe at mile 31) around 11. Everyone was doing fine so we did stop to eat. I took off my gloves but kept the liners on. From here we headed east. We had a short pause in Covington to regroup. From here we headed southeast to Mason. The wind was becoming more of a factor.
We made it to Mason (mile 54) a little before 11. Terrance reached the control first, followed by me, and then Alan. We got something to eat and then headed back out. It has started drizzling so I put on my balaclava and rain jacket. I would be wearing these for the rest of the day.
We had separated again by the time that I reached I reached Somerville (mile 73). This was not a control but it was one of the last places to eat for a while. I stopped at McDonald's for about 15 minutes. Fighting the wind was difficult and I needed a rest. The bad part was putting my damp gloves and balaclava back on and heading back in to the rain.
I headed towards La Grange and wondered if I'd see the other two riders. I assumed that they were both in front of me. By this point the rain had finally soaked into my socks. I was totally wet but I was working hard enough that I wasn't cold. The high for the day did reach 57 but that was at 10:45 pm. I think that it was under 50 for most of the ride. I did catch up to Alan as he walked up a hill. He was having trouble with cramps. I got to La Grange (mile 89) at 2:30 and I ended up waiting for Alan because I was confused by the info control.
Heading west out of La Grange felt a lot better. I wasn't fighting the wind any longer. I caught up to Terrance at the control in Moscow (mile 98). There was a laundromat right next to the control and he was drying some of his clothes. I was still wet, but I wasn't cold so I did not bother. Alan ended up drying some of his stuff when he caught up to us too.
Moscow was the last control so we just has 30 miles to go. We left around 4 so I was hoping to finish by 6:30. As it got darker I tried to stick with Terrance because he knew the route. I didn't want to have to deal with reading the cue sheet. I also noticed that my headlight wasn't as bright as usual so we stopped so I could put fresh batteries in my headlight. It had been on most of the day and was wearing down.
Some of the last section was on hilly, curvy, 2 lanes roads. I was glad to have all of my reflective gear on. Most of the drivers were good but one or two passed us on blind curves.
Terrance and I made it back to the start at 6:18. Alan rolled in about 5 minutes later. It was a little tougher ride than I was expecting due to the weather, but it felt good to finish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 200K

When I completed the 600K in October I accomplished my goal for this year: to complete a Super Randonneur series. I am hoping to get back into as good as shape as I was in 2007. That year I did a SR series as well as doing a century every calendar month. I decided to do that again. I had decided to try for an R-12 award. This means I must do a 200K (or longer) brevet or permanent every month for 12 months.
Fortunately for me Miles had a 200K brevet scheduled for October. I decided to do this ride as the second month for the R-12. Miles had suggested that everyone ride together and enjoy ourselves. The ride started at 6:30 am on Saturday. Due to poor planning on my part I showed up right at 6:30. The other riders (Miles, Ben, and Roger) waited for me to get ready and we rolled out at about 6:40.
It was a little chilly at the start. There was still frost on the grass in the shade. We stayed together and average about 15 mph. I would have liked to go a little faster to warm up but it was nice riding in a group.
The first control was at 30 miles. We may have spent more time than necessary here but everyone was feeling good. The next control was in Harrisburg at 59 miles. We rode a short distance on the Tunnel Hill trail. While we were on it we were interview by someone for the Rails to Trail Conservancy. At this point it had warmed up so I took off my tights and jacket. You could not ask for better weather for a November ride.
The next control was in Marion at 80 miles. The only hilly section of the ride occurred just before this. This spread us out. Ben, who was on a fixed gear, was in front. I was next, followed by Roger and then Miles. Miles was not feeling his best and was worried about slowing us down. He left Marion quickly to gain some distance and to hopefully allow us all to finish together.
The section leaving Marion had the most turns of the entire route. There was a 12 mile section with 19 turns. In comparison the previous 21 miles had 4 turns. I surprised myself by taking the lead and handling the navigation during part of the section. Usually I'm lazy and let others handle the navigation.
We caught up to Miles when we reached Christopher. He left shortly after we arrived. Roger left while Ben and I were eating pizza. Leaving Christoper, there were 16 miles before the next turn. I set the pace at about 16 mph. I wanted to catch up to Miles and Roger so that we could all finished together. I kept an eye on Ben behind me to make sure that he wasn't dropping back. I needn't have worried. Ben kept right up with me. We caught up to Roger and Miles at about 11 miles from the finished. We all traveled together and finished in 10:57. We ate together before heading for home.
I felt strong the entire ride. I think that going slower in the early part of the ride kept me from burning myself out. It was also fun to finish the ride with some great people.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My goal for this year was to complete a super randonneur series (a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K). I did the 400K on June 9. I was planning on doing the 600K on June 30 but called off the attempt after a seeing the predicted high of 108. That was the last chance to complete the ride in Saint Louis so I looked for other opportunities.
Fortunately for me, Little Egypt Randonneurs had a 600K scheduled for Oct 6 in Marion, IL. I decided to do the ride but I had some concerns as the date got closer. First of all, I completed the 400K in 24:28. This is well within the 27 hour limit but did not leave as big a cushion as I would have liked. Secondly, the only other time I had done a 600K was in 2007. That was a difficult ride and I was much lighter and in much better shape then. This route is also hillier than the one I did in 2007. And finally, after the 400K the only long ride I had done was 76 miles on a social ride in August.

It was raining cats and dogs on Friday but the weather was supposed to dry out for the weekend. It was, however, supposed to be colder. Lows in the upper 30's. I packed my thick wool socks and winter cycling shoes. I picked up my rental car on Friday after work and drove to Marion. I got to listen to the Cardinals beat the Braves on the radio during the drive. I checked in my motel and got about 5 hours sleep before getting up for the 5am start.

Three other riders were at the start (Bob, Michele, and Larry) and one rider (Ned) would start slightly later. I had ridden with Bob on the 200K and 300K in Edwardsville. Miles gave us our final instructions and we were off.

The route south out of Marion is fairly hilly. Since it was cold I like the climbs better than the descents. It gets cold descending at 37 mph when its 42 degrees out.

I made a quick stop at mile 34. The first control was at mile 56. I got there at 8:50. I made another stop at Tamms at mile 71. I talked for a few minutes there with a 70 year old cyclist who had never owned a car. I stopped again at mile 89. Bob and Michele passed me there so I caught up with them.

We reached the next control (mile 113) at 1:53. It started raining for about 15 minutes before we reached the next control. We stopped to put our rain gear on. Fortunately the rain was almost over by the time we reached Sparta (mile 157) at 6:07. It had completely stopped by the time we left.

We got to the next control at Okawville (mile 185) at 8:48. On the Edwardsville brevets I tend to linger here because it is such a comfortable place to stop.  Bob and Michele were disciplined enough to eat and get moving in about 15 minutes. I could tell I was slowing them down at this control so I tried to hurry up.

Michele was short on sleep before the ride had started. She was almost falling asleep on the bike before we reached Dix. We stopped a couple of times for her to take a 5 minute rest.

The overnight was at Dix at mile 219. Miles was waiting for us there with our drop bags. he also brought food because there was nothing open. The rooms had microwaves so I heated up a cheeseburger and tomato soup that I have bought in Okawville. I guess one advantage to cold weather is that things won't go bad in a few hours. I thanked Bob and Michele for riding with me and told them that they didn't have to wait for me in the morning.

After a shower and some sleep, we were back on the road by 4:20. Miles was waiting again with more supplies when we got to the first control (mile 247) at 6:43. I made some estimates about what time we would finish if we maintained a new speed of 12 mph. These were hopelessly optimistic because we did about 10 mph on the second day with the stops.

At 10:46 we made a long stop (45 minutes) in Harrisburg (mile 295). Bob was willing to make a long stop because the next control wasn't for almost 50 miles. I put some sunblock on my face but I thinkl that I had already gotten a touch of sunburn. The next section was on the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail. This is a rails to trails conversion which means that it is fairly flat but the surface slows you down. Bob kept up a steady pace and we eventually made our way through it.

We got to the last control (mile 341) at 3:40. I was feeling tired and again offered to let Bob and Michele go without me. Michele said that since we had ridden together so long that it would be a shame not to finish together. This made me feel good because I had been feeling a little guilty about slowing them down.

We were feeling confident when we left because we knew we had plenty of time. We had about 5 hours to finish the last 35 miles. We took the climbs slowly. They did not even seem that bad when compared to the energy sapping trail from earlier. Michele started to up the pace the last mile or so. I still had plenty of energy to keep up. I think that my slight sunburn was affecting me earlier. I seemed to have more energy once the sun started to go down.

We finished (mile 376) at 6:45. I thanked Bob and Michele for helping me. I also thanked Miles for organizing a great brevet. He also has a write-up on his blog.

Clock time 37:45
Stats from bike computer:
Distance: 379.88
Time: 27:44:48
Avg speed: 13.6
Max speed: 37.0

I was worried about my fitness but that wasn't a problem. The biggest problem that I did have was soreness on my seat. My hands were also sore. My feet hurt too which is unusual for me. This might have been because this was the first time wearing the winter cycling shoes this season.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I was checking the weather report on Friday so that I would know what to wear for the 300K on Saturday. Things did not look great: rain and upper 50's to start, warming up the upper 70's later, and strong winds out of the south all day. At least I would have a tailwind on the way back.

I was a little confused by the brevet schedule so I emailed Jon to make sure that there was a 300K scheduled. I must not have been the only one confused because when I got there, everyone else was doing the 200K. This meant that after the 200K riders turned around at Okaville, I would be on my own for the last 100+ miles.

There were only 5 riders: 3 recumbent riders, Robert, and me. It was not raining at the 7:00 start but we knew it was coming. Two of the recumbent riders did not try to keep up with Robert and me, but the other one, Leonard, did. It was sprinkling off and on at this point. Leonard and I stopped briefly in Pocahontas (mile 24) and Robert kept going. We had to put the hammer down to catch up to him. Even so we didn't catch him until about mile 33.

Even though we were heading south we had a tailwind. Apparently the front that was coming through was causing the wind to change. Another thing that the front brought was rain. By the time we got to Breese (mile 51) at 10:10 we were soaked. We did not stop for very long but it was long enough to cool down. By the time we left I was cold for the first time on the ride. Fortunately, it did not take too long to warm back up.

We got to Okaville (mile 78) a little after noon. The rain had let up so while we were wet, we weren't dripping. Even though my jacket was wet, I didn't take it off. I did not want to have to put a cold, wet jacket when I started up again. I said goodbye to Robert and Leonard when they left. I rested a little longer and set out on my own at about 1:00.

The first part of the ride was easy enough, just head east until Hoyleton (mile 93). Then the route turned south again. The predicted wind had shown up and I was headed straight into it. There were brief periods when I would ride west but it was primarily south. During this time the sun cam out and I took off my jacket and tights and put on sunblock. Finally I reached the southernmost point of the route (mile 111) and turned west. I just hoped that the wind would still be there when I headed north.

I got to Oakdale (mile 121) at 4:45. I was pretty worn out from fighting the wind so I spent almost an hour there. I called Helen and told her that I expected to finish around 11 or 12. Originally I had hoped to finish in 15 hours but I realized that it was not in the cards today.

Now that I was headed primarily north, things got easier. I stopped a few miles before New Baden to put my reflective gear back on and turn on my lights.Shortly after this I missed the turn onto Airport Rd. and had to backtrack about a mile. The mistake was all the more surprising because this part of the route was the same as the 200K I rode two weeks ago. Of course, that was in dylight with other people. I am not used to reading a cue sheet by myself at night.

I got to New Baden (mile 151) a little before 8. I called Helen and told here that I expected to finish around 11. She told me that I didn't need to call her when I finished. After I left New Baden my routing mistakes continued. This time, I thought I had missed a turn and backtracked a mile to find out that I had been going the right way. After this I became paranoid about checking the route sheet all the time. Needless to say, this slowed me down.

I had been worried that the wind would die down once the sun went down. Luckily, it was just as strong as ever. I had a little bit of bad luck between St. Jacob and Marine (about mile 169). My rear tire went flat and I had to change the tube. This was my more difficult because the ground was a little muddy and the only source of light that I had was my headlight.

It took about half an hour to fix the flat. I did not find anything in the tire so I'm not sure what cause the problem.While I was working on it a couple of people stopped to ask if I needed help. One gut even offered to take me to Edwardsville. I thanked him but told him I had everything under control. People do seem to be nicer is small towns.

After that there were no more problems. I finished the ride at 11:41 for a time of 16 hours 41 minutes. The route sheet said 187 miles but with my wrong turns I rode 194 miles.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I've often said that I should be able to roll out of bed and ride a century with no preparation. I put that theory to the test today today when I rode the Saint Louis Randonneuring 200K. I had not ridden a ride other than my commutes since a 23 mile ride in September.

The weather was perfect: the ride start in the mid 50's and ended up in the mid 70's, with not too much wind. I was riding my Lightspeed because riding my fixed gear would have been a little too ambitious. At the start of the ride I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of serious riders. I did not expect to be able to keep up with the fast group today.

The ride started in Edwardsville at 7am and the first few miles are on a bike path. After we turned onto Fruit Road, there were 10 people in the lead group. As expected, the pace was pretty hot, about 20 mph into a 5mph headwind. One rider dropped after about 7 miles, and I decided to drop off about a mile later. When I later stopped to take off my jacket, the rider who dropped before me (Bob) and another rider (Ed) caught up to me. We rode together until Ed stopped in Pocahontas (mile 24) and Bob and I continued on.

Bob is a very experienced randonneur who did PBP last year. He also does multiple 600K rides per year. He drove down from Madison Wisconsin to do this ride.

We got to the first checkpoint in Breese (mile 51) a little after 10am. I had eaten a pop-tart on the way and I ate a payday bar and drank some chocolate milk while we were there. Ed caught up to us while we were there and the three of us left together.

About 8 miles before Okawville, Ed either got faster, or Bob and I got slower, and Ed rode off ahead of us. Bob and I got to Okawville (mile 78) a little after noon. I ate a ham and cheese sandwich, some potato chips, and drank some bug juice.

As we left the checkpoint, we were headed west so we had a little bit of a tailwind. We were still making excellent time. We did not stop at a C-store in New Baden (mile 92) where I usually stop because we were both feeling pretty good. This feeling didn't last that long for me and I started to slow down. I told Bob that I wanted to stop in St. Jacob (mile 107).

When we got there I had a slice of pizza and a Pepsi. I had given up soda for Lent but I said that I could drink it on long bike rides. The ride qualified. I had wanted a soda in Okawville but I didn't drink one. Now I needed one. I felt a little bad that I was slowing Bob down. When another rider passed while we were stopped, Bob asked if he minded I he caught up to that rider. I told him to go and that maybe I would catch him on the road.

I left St. Jacob about 5 minutes after Bob did. The sugar improved my performance considerably. I must have been on the verge of bonking. I was riding by myself for a while but at about mile 114 I saw Bob and the other rider in the distance. I finally caught up to them around mile 118, after we had turned onto Fruit Road.

About mile 120 we saw a group of 5 riders coming up from behind us. I did not think they were part of the 200K because anybody moving that fast would not have been behind us. After they passed us I told Bob that I was legally required to chase them. I am like a dog; if something is running away from me I chase it.

After I caught these riders they told me they weren't part of the 200K. This was already obvious to me because we were doing about 24 mph. I stayed with them for a couple of miles until it was time for me to get back on the bike path.

I reached the the finish at 4:07. Bob and the other rider rolled in 3 minutes later. I apologized to Bob for sprinting away but he just laughed it off.

My final stats: 9:07 clock time. All other stats are based on rolling time:
Dist: 129.19 (cue sheet distance was 126.64)
Time: 7:43:30
Speed: 16.72 mph
Max speed: 27.92
Avg cadence: 76

If you're wondering why I list the foods that I ate on the ride, it's so I can read this later and figure out what I did right and what I did wrong. This time I did not eat enough while I was riding and I almost bonked.