Sunday, September 15, 2013

No rest for the wicked

I still needed one more ride to finish my R-12 award so I decided to do a 200K on Saturday. With the MS-150 I haven't had a day off the bike for almost 2 weeks. I decided to do the Cape Girardeau and Back route. Miles warned me that the route was hilly but I wasn't worried.

There was construction on I-64 so I started the ride a little bit late. It was a little chilly at the start but I decided to leave my jacket behind. I knew it would warm up later.

I had a little trouble at the information control at 15 miles. I texted Miles and I got back on track. This meant the I had did not have much of a time cushion for the rest of the ride.I got the the Dongola control (mile 40) at 10:30, 45 minutes before the cutoff.

I got to Cape Girardeau (mile 65) at 12:45, 1:15 before the cutoff. I was making up time but still didn't have the amount of cushion that I would have liked. There were a few reasons that I was not going as fast as I would have liked to: I was still tired from last week. The route was hilly. Much of the route was very bumpy. This meant that after fighting up some of the steep hills I had to ride the brakes on the way down.

I also managed to miss a few turns. I can't blame any of my mistakes on the route sheet. They were just due to a lack of concentration. Fortunately none of my errors were very large and I was able to get back on course within a few minutes.

My second visit to Dongola (mile 91) was at 3:00 , about 1:40 ahead of the cutoff. By this point I was not worried about finishing time, barring a major mechanical failure. After eating and resting for 30 minutes I still had 5 hours to finish the remaining 37 miles.

I wasn't trying to set any speed records. I wasn't even trying to limit the amount of time I spent in controls. I just wanted to finish with as little trouble as possible.

There were still a bunch of hills to climb but nothing insurmountable. When I turned onto route 37 for the last 10 miles I was surprised by how much my speed increased. I think I averaged 18 mph in this section with no help from the wind. The smooth pavement and the lack of huge hills made things a lot easier.

I finished at 6:30. I was more tired than I expected but glad to have finished the ride and my R-12. That is the last of my cycling goals for this year so now I can start looking ahead. My goal for next year is to do a 1200K ride.

Monday, September 9, 2013

MS-150 Day Two

As predicted it started raining about 3:30 am. Nothing severe, just enough to let you know it was there. It was still warm. I never even got in my sleeping back on Saturday night.

I ate breakfast and was hoping to get on the road at 7:00 when the routes opened. I was still planning to do the 100 mile route on Sunday. Just before 7:00 I heard that they were delaying the start by at least an hour. I waited inside the hub when a large storm cell moved through.

Because of the delay I decided to only do the 75 mile route. I went back to my tent to get my cell phone and let Helen know. When I got to my tent I discovered that it had apparently tried to roll away. I hadn't brought the stakes to stake it down so a large gust of wind had sent it rolling. Even with my clothes and sleeping bag in it. Some one had seen it and removed the poles so that it wouldn't catch the wind. This was a good idea but it did make it difficult to get things out off the tent since it was now flat on the ground.

This was also very discouraging to me. At this point I felt like just going home. Fortunately this wasn't an option because Helen was still in Kansas City. I called her to let her know what was going on. She said that she was about to have breakfast and start packing up. I told her that I was going to ride the 40 mile route and that she she should head towards Columbia and soon as she was packed.

At 8:00 I started on the 40 mile route. It had stopped raining briefly. A friend of mine who was planning on riding couldn't ride because of a bad back, but I met his wife on the route. We road together for a while. At some points it was raining so hard that it hurt your face.

At 12 miles she took the turn to go on the 100 mile route. I had decided that I was not going to feel about only doing 40 miles. Every time it started raining I felt good about my decision and every time it started to clear up I was second guessing myself.

I was by myself most of the route. I didn't stop at any of the rest stops because I didn't need anything. I started seeing more people once I joined back up with the 20 mile route. By the time I finished around 10:30 the day looked like it was going to clear up, but it was also going to get hotter.

After I got done I dug fresh clothes out of my tent and took a shower. After Helen got there to pick me up we packed up the tent and headed home.

MS-150 Day One

I had participated in the MS-150 three times before, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Each time I was a part of the Anheuser-Busch team. In 2009 I decided not to participate because I wasn't sure that I would still be working for AB in September. In fact I didn't get laid off until October.

Some other people at Asynchrony were planning on doing the MS-150 this year so I decided to do it as well. There was not an official team or anything.

Helen picked me up from work on the Friday before and she dropped me off at the campsite in Columbia. She then drove on to Kansas City to take the kids to the Renaissance Fair. It almost dark as I was putting up my tent. Fortunately some people offered help in putting it up so it was not too difficult. It's a pretty easy tent to set up but you do need someone to hold up the middle while putting the poles in.

My plan was to ride the 100 mile route each day. I woke up early on Saturday morning and ate breakfast. I started the ride at 7:24. I decided that I would try to ride fast at first and see how things went. Since I was only riding 100 miles, I figure that even if I burnt out from going too fast, I could just rest a while and continue.

I was flying along early in the ride. I rode with some fast people, chatted a while and was doing great. I didn't even stop until 35 miles in. I made my second stop at 55 miles. At this point it was starting to get hot. After this the route turned back towards the south and the wind that had been helping me all morning was now a headwind.

The next 15 miles were probably the hardest part of the ride. I was by myself for most of this section. It seemed like all of the other people on the 100 mile route were either ahead of me of behind me. I stopped at the next rest are at 70 miles and had a nice long rest in the shade. I was drinking a lot of water and trying to eat enough to keep my body going. You could tell it was hot: there were lines for water but no lines for the porta-potties. It reportedly got up the 96° on Saturday.

I decided to stop at the two remaining rest stops at 80 and 90 miles. At this point the 100 miles route had joined back with the 75 mile route so there were more riders. This made me feel better. At each stop I drank a lot of water and refilled my bottles. That ice water tasted so good.

During the last 10 miles I saw a lot of riders waiting on the side of the road. I don't know if they were resting, had mechanical problems, or were waiting to be picked up. There were SAG vehicles patrolling the route so I knew that they would be taken care of.

Near the finish there was a photographer. At an earlier photo station I think I was behind another rider so I wanted to be by myself here. I sprinted for a bit to get some separation. I guess someone behind me took this as a challenge and started to sprint for the finish. I decided that I had to respond so I stood on the pedals and started hammering. I managed to cross the finish about half a bike length in front of him. We were both doing over 30 mph at the time. I finished at 2:47.

After the ride I knew I still needed to rehydrate. I kept eating and snacking until dinner. I made sure that I ate a lot of dinner and had full water bottles to take back to the tent. I didn't want to wake up in the middle of the night hungry and thirsty.

Before going to sleep I put the rain fly on the tent. There were supposed to be thunderstorms moving into the area.

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 200K

I was looking at the my choices for permanents for my August R-12 ride. I wanted to do a route that I hadn't done before. I considered doing a 300K but I didn't want to spend that much time on a ride. My wife is getting a little annoyed by how much I've been gone.

I decided on Miles's Project 145 route. It was the hilliest of the 200Ks in Marion. I had ridden part of the route before. The 300K that I did in March followed the same  route from Creal Springs to Metropolis.

The weather on that Saturday was forecast to be in the mid 80's with very high humidity but very little wind. I started the ride at 7:00am in Marion. After about 20 miles I got onto the Tunnel Hills bike trail. I am not a big fan of this trail but it was in good condition. It was also easier because I got on the trail at the high point and there was a very slight downhill for most of the time I was on the trail.

The section from Vienna (where I got of the trail) to Metropolis is fairly hilly. But it seemed easier than it did in March. This could have been because my conditioning got better or because I reached these hills earlier in this ride.

 I reached Metropolis (mile 42) around 10:30. I was making a pretty good pace and was hoping to finish under 10 hours. I figured nine hours would be out of reach because of the heat, humidity, and hills.

Most of the next section was on Illinois 145, which is where the route gets its name. I had not ridden on it before and I did not like it. It is hilly and has no shoulder. Drivers seemed to not worry about oncoming traffic when passing me. Several time cars crossed a double yellow line to pass me near the top of a hill. I was scared that they were going to get themselves killed if another car came over the hill as they passed me. Fortunately it didn't happen.

The second control was in Mitchellsville (mile 93). I took a break and had a slice of pizza and a coke. I also bought another bag of ice for my camelback. I did not buy any water this ride, just ice. After this control I backtracked for a short distance and then got off of 145. The hills here didn't look tough but they sure felt tough. Maybe a was just tired.

I made a relatively quick stop at the next control in Creal Springs (mile 112). This just left the last 15 miles. I finished at about 4:30 for a nine a a half hour time. I felt good but I might have been a touch dehydrated. After all the riding I've been doing, a 200K should be a piece of cake and this one was.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I get by with a little help from my friends

I needed another 600K to complete my goal of completing two Super Randonneur series this year. there was not a 600K in St. Louis this year. I had already done the one in Kansas City. The one in Marion was two days after the 400K that I did so that was out. Bob Booth suggested that I ride the Great Lakes Randonneurs 600K with him and Michelle on July 13th. This fit in well with my plans so I decided to do it.

I drove to Delavan, WI on the day before the ride and checked into the hotel. Bob lives in Madison and drove up after work. Michelle could not make it due to one bike being damaged by a landslide and the other falling off a bike carrier on the highway.

The ride started at 6:00 AM. There were at total of 16 riders, 11 doing the 400K and 5 doing the 600. Bob was very familiar with the route so I let him set the pace and do all the navigating. We let the rest of the group pull ahead of us (with the exception of one rider who fell behind us). At each control we kept seeing the people in front of us. They would be leaving as we were arriving.

Wisconsin is very pretty. Looking down at the farms from the tops of the hills made for some beautiful scenery. Unfortunately we had to climb each one of those scenic hills. At one point, as we were entering a valley, we were able to go about 2 miles hardly pedaling at all. Climbing out of that valley involved climbing 900 ft in about 2.5 miles. A few steep grades but mostly just steady climbing.

As always, I spent more time in the controls than Bob would have preferred. There was a ferry crossing at 135 miles where Bob was bonking a little. We didn't take the first ferry and waited for it to come back again so that we could rest a little.

The route was actually a 400K loop followed by a 200K loop. That meant that we could sleep a little at the hotel where we started and not need a bag drop. We made it back to the hotel at 3:03 AM. Bob mentioned that this was his slowest 400K in a while. I told him that 21:03 might be my fastest ever. I later check and found out that I did a much flatter 400K in 2007 in 20:37. That was before my accident.

We set our alarms for 6:15 but we both woke up before then. We were back on the road a little before 7.

I have to admit that I was a little slower on the second day, both on the bike and in the controls. For me this was one of the toughest ride that I would do this year. For Bob it was a warmup for London-Edinburgh-London in a couple of weeks. Bob never complained though. Keeping a good attitude is part of what makes him such a good rider. Also he's really good at turning the pedals.

I was hurting as we pulled into the penultimate control, 28 miles from the finish. My feet hurt and my seat hurt. I think that my feet hurt from all the grinding on the climbs. My lowest gear was not low enough.

I told Bob that I was going to take some snacks in case I needed to stop and rest on the last leg. I didn't want to stop but I needed a backup plan. I wasn't worried about finishing because we had over 6 hours left. I just didn't want to slow down Bob too much.

The last leg was painful. I would occasionally stand to take some pressure off my seat but my legs weren't strong enough to do that for very long. We finished at 6:10 PM. This was a personal best for me at 36:10. This was also not an easy route. This completed my second SR Series for the year.

This was the last long ride that I have planned for the year. I still need to do a 200K in August and September to earn an R-12 Award. I'll also be doing the MS-150 in September.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Marion 400K

I did my second 400K of the season earlier this month. This was part of Miles's Bare Bones Brevet Week. I was only doing the 400K.

I drove to Marion on Tuesday night and stayed in a hotel. The ride started at 6 am on Wednesday. Originally there were supposed to be 6 riders doing the 400. 2 riders who were coming from out of town canceled their trip. Two other riders who were planning on doing the whole series decided to skip the 400K. That meant it was Jim and me doing the ride. Ned also started at the same time but was doing a 200K.

It was warm at the start. This was the 9th month towards my R-12 and this was the first ride where I wasn't wearing wool socks at the start of the ride. I brought tights and a rain jacket with me but never ended up needing either one.

We ran into a little trouble around the 60 mile mark. We stopped to decide which way to turn. Jim thought that were should bear right. I said "Good, because if we go left we'll end up underwater." So we went right. About a half mile later, the road went underwater. There were a lot of cars park on the road there. According to a couple we met, people had been parking the cars and taking boats to get to their houses because of the flooding. The also told us the we could ride our bikes on top of the levee to get back to Old Route 3.

We rode back to get to the levee. It had a gravel road on top so we started riding. I only made it about 100 yards before I got a flat. I was worried that this was going to be a recurring problem on the gravel but it did not happen again. After about 3 miles we made it back onto the route.

The next challenge was the Tunnel Hill bike trail. The crushed limestone just seems to slow you down. It is certainly better than gravel but the trail seems to go on forever. The route followed the trail for about 50 miles.

By the time we left the trail at mile 150 it was starting to get dark. We knew that we would not get to Wayne City (mile 192) before the convenience store closed at 10:00 so we decided to stock up in McCleansboro (mile 173). On our way to McLeansboro it started to rain a little. We were skirting around the edges of a storm that was passing through. Luckily for us it never rained hard enough that that we need to put on any rain gear. It also stayed fairly warm.

We stopped briefly in Wayne City even though everything was closed. We had to sign each other's brevet cards. I needed a break so we stopped again in front of a post office in Belle Rive (mile 208). Nothing was open but I ate some of the food I bought in McLeansboro.

The final stop was in Benton (mile 232). We both tried to rest for the final leg. I may have dozed off briefly but Jim got a good nap. The last leg was only 20 miles and it was starting to get light. We are feeling okay but we certainly weren't setting any speed records. We finished at 6:25 am.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Packing for a 600K can be tough.  Especially one without a bag drop. I needed to have clothing for highs in the 70's and lows in the 40's. This is what I decided to take:
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • short sleeve jersey
  • long sleeve jersey
  • long sleeve base layer
  • tights
  • regular cycling shoes
  • shoe covers
  • balaclava
  • rain jacket
  • thin socks
  • wool socks
Other than the rain jacket, I wore everything that I took at one time or another.

The ride started in Grandview, MO. I had a little trouble finding the starting location but I called Bob and he told me where it was. There were 5 other riders: Spencer, Dan, Joe, Rod, and Steve. We rolled out at 10 PM in good spirits.

Rod fell crossing some railroad tracks. He was in pain but able to continue. We made it to the first control in Paola, KS (mile 41) at 12:49 AM. We got something to eat and were back on the road at 1:10. We were stopped by a sheriff somewhere in Kansas. He had gotten a phone call about "bicycles riding all over the road, some with lights, some without." Obviously he could see that all of us had lights. We told him what we were doing and he wished us good luck and told us to be careful.

That is what usually happens when I encounter the police on these rides. They wonder what we are doing. They usually think that we are crazy (we are), and they warn us to be careful (we are). They are polite and friendly. I've never had a bad experience.

Later in the ride, Joe broke his chain. Someone else had a chain tool and a quick link but the quick link was for a 10-speed chain and Joe had a nine speed. Fortunately, Joe was able to push out a pin and use it to fix the chain.

We reached the second control in Butler, MO (mile 97) at 5:22. The sun was starting to come up which made me feel less sleepy. We were still moving at a pretty good pace. Back on the road at 6:10.

On the way to Appleton, Joe's chain broke again. This time Steve gave him a chain pin to repair it with. We reached Appleton (mile 121) at 8:03. There were no services for the next 52 miles so we needed to stock up. I shed some clothes and put on sunblock here. I used the last of the sunblock that I had and planned to buy more at the next control.

This was the toughest section of the ride. It started out hilly and then got hillier. Many of the hills required grinding up in the lowest gear. I can't believe that Spencer was doing this ride on a fixed gear. The only advantage that we had was that we generally had a tailwind. Steve was not able to keep up and fell behind the rest of us. I know that it is more difficult to ride solo but everyone has to ride their own pace. I was also worried that I was the next weakest link.

We reached Humansville (mile 173) at 12:03 PM. This was a longer stop because we were so tired from the hills. Unfortunately the control did not have any sunblock. Back on the road at 12:44 and at Weaubleau (mile 182) at 1:22. It took us 15:22 to do the first half of the ride. That is a decent time for a 300K, we had just a little over 24 hours to do another one. I did find sunblock here. We all took a nap in the shade for 15-20 minutes and got back on the rode at 2:04.

We saw Steve headed the other way a little while after we left Weaubleau. This section was easy because we were headed south and the wind was out of the north. It had picked up too, just like the weather report said. We reached Humansville (mile 190) again at 2:35. We loaded up on supplies and headed back out at 2:45.

Now we had to face the tough section again. This time we had a headwind. In fact the wind had picked up so we had a stronger headwind than the tailwind that had helped us earlier. I did okay on the extremely hilly section where were headed west. Once we turned north I had more trouble keeping up with Dan, Spencer, and Joe. I seem to deal better with hills than with wind. Rod had already fallen off the back, and I kept falling back on the windy parts and catching up on the hills. Eventually I lost sight of Joe and stopped to rest and read the cue sheet. After 10 minutes or so Rod caught up and I followed him. About a mile later we found the other three resting outside a church. If I had know they were going to stop I would have kept going to catch them.

We rode together for a while and then Dan and Rod fell of the back. We reached Appleton (mile 243) at 8:05. The wind had died down some, and my legs still felt strong, but I was feeling sleepy. This was no surprise since I had been up for over 36 hours and had ridden almost 250 miles. If there had been a motel in Appleton I probably would have slept there. At 8:05 Spencer, Joe, and I were back on the road. I wasn't about to fall asleep on the bike but my brain had shut down everything else it seemed.

We reached Butler (mile 269) at 9:50. I got a motel room, took a shower, and went to bed. I set my alarm for 3:00 AM, but I woke up at 2:30 and just decided to get up. The 5 of us were back on the road at 3:40.

It was cold and getting colder. I ended up wearing everything except the rain jacket. When we stopped in La Cygne we saw at sign that said 33°. I was glad that  I had just bought new shoe covers to help keep my feet warm. We spent some time eating and letting our feet warm up.

At 7:50 we got to Paola (mile 326). We got are cards signed and then went to McDonald's for third breakfast. We met up with Steve here. He had gotten to Butler after us and left before us. It was getting warmer so I shed some layers. We left at 8:20. After a little while Dan and Steve fell off the back.

The last 20 miles or so were a little frustrating. There was more traffic on a Sunday morning that there was when we left on Friday night. Also the hills seemed to have gotten steeper. It felt like we were almost done but still had a couple of hours to go.

We finally finished at 11:15 (mile 367). It felt good to be done. Dan and Steve finished not too much later. It was a good ride and I felt proud that I kept up with the "big dogs" this time (unlike the 400K). Actually, anyone who finishes a 600K can be considered a "big dog" in my opinion.

I ended up stopping twice on the drive home to take naps. I certainly did not want to fall asleep at the wheel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Done with the 400K, getting reading for the 600K

Sometimes it seems like writing the blog post about my rides is harder than the ride themselves. Once again I am writing a report of a ride just before my next ride. I guess this is also a side effect of doing so many rides this year.

I did the Kansas City 400K on April 27. The weather report called for less wind than the 300K but rain at the start. It was about 45° with a light rain when we rolled out at 6:00. The rain kept our speeds down so I didn't have to worry about burning out early. Even so we made a good pace until our first stop in the Burger King in Cameron (mile 45) around 9:00. This wasn't a control, just a good place to grab breakfast.

The first control was in Pattonsburg (mile 73). I was a little late leaving this control, but I figured I could just catch up to the main group. I was hammering hard but I could not seem to close that last quarter mile. I caught up to Spencer for a little while but he later joined the main group.

Another rider fell off the main group. This was Steve who I had met briefly at the 300K. This was his first 400K. We ended up riding the rest of the route together. The next control was in Lamoni, Iowa (mile 117.8). We saw one rider here who made it to the turnaround and was on his way back. We decided to stop briefly here and make a long stop on the way back.

On out way to the turnaround we saw the rest of the riders who were ahead of us. We made it to Davis City, Iowa (mile 124.3) before 4:00 PM. This means that we had done the first half in less than 10 hours. This put us on a pace to finish in 20 hours but I knew we would be slower on the way back.

Steve and I rode back to Lamoni (mile 130.8) and had some pizza. When we left, I was feeling strong. I little too strong because I kept leaving Setve behind. I slowed down because I wanted to have someone to ride with.

We got back to Pattonsburg (mile 176.6) before 9:00PM. We were averaging 10 mph (including stops) since the turnaround. This pace would have as finishing around 4 AM. That would be 22 hours which would be fine with me. When we left the control it was Steve's turn to slow down for me.

Unfortunately we made a wrong turn somewhere near Winston. We ended up going 5 miles in the wrong direction before I figured out that we had done something wrong. We figured out our mistake and turned around. Steve seem to be a little deflated by this, or maybe he was just tired. After we got back on the route, we stopped at a c-store somewhere near Winston for about 30 minutes.

As we neared Cameron Steve told me that we was about to fall asleep on his bike. I told him that we would stop and let him try to take a nap. We had plenty of time so no need to take chances. I had heard about one of the riders talking about sleeping in the Walmart in Cameron (mile 203) on a previous ride so we decided to stop there.

We each lay down on a bench in vestibule of the Walmart at about 12:45. I don't think Steve actually slept much (I did not sleep) but the rest did him some good. After 30 minutes we got back on the road.

It was starting to get foggy. At first there were only patches in the low areas. Later, it was everywhere. It wasn't thick enough to be dangerous but it was disorienting. It was also wet. We made one more stop at a closed gas station to swap out batteries. I was very impressed with Steve's headlight and decided to buy one just like it.

As we neared the finish Steve was getting tired again. We swapped Airplane quotes to stay awake. In the last bit I pushed our speed a bit because I wanted to finish in under 24 hours. The time limit is 27 hours so we still had plenty of time. We finished in 23:58.

Being sleepy was the biggest problem on this ride. That's going to be a bigger challenge in the 600K which I'll be doing today. It starts at 10 PM on Friday. That means that there will be two nights of riding.

Since I've never done a ride with a nighttime start I'm not sure what to expect. My tentative plan is to ride the first 268 miles in 22-24 hours. That would put me in Butler, MO  at 8-10 PM Saturday. I can sleep in a motel until 2-3 AM and still have 11-12 hours to finish the last 100 miles.

Of course I might have to take naps at other time which would cut into the cushion. I might decide to take several shorter naps instead. I haven't done this before so I'm going to have to play it by ear.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Great day for a 200K

Today was a 200K in Edwardsville. This was my first ride in the St. Louis region this year. The weather forecast called for sunny skies, high of 56°, and light winds. I decided that this was going to a fun ride. If people wanted to go fast, I would go fast. If people wanted to go slow, I would go slow.

My wife dropped me off at the Edwardsville start about 6:30 for the 7:00 start. John Jost (the RBA) was there on his recumbent. The other riders were Bob Booth, Scott (who I had ridden with in 2007), and Jim, a recumbent rider that I hadn't ridden with before.

It was still chilly at the start so I had my big gloves, jacket, and shoe covers. We rolled out right at 7:00. We stay together for a little while but then Bob and Jim started to pull away. I decided to stick with them.

We were all feeling good so we did not stop in Pocahontas (mile 24.4). We figured we would be able to make it all the way to Breese before we need to stop. Jim was going a little faster than I would have gone but nothing that Bob and I couldn't handle. The flat route was ideal for a recumbent (imagine that, a route designed by an RBA who rides a recumbent, that is really good for recumbents). :)

There was a mild wind from the NNW that was helping us along. Occasionally we would turn to the west and get a sneak preview of the slight headwind that we would face later. We got to the first control in Breese (mile 51.4) at 10:12. I had some hash browns and chocolate milk. The hash browns turned out to be cheesy hash browns which tasted really good but were a little heavier than what I was looking for. We were back on the road at 10:31.

We head west and south for a little while before turning west towards Okawville. This is a deceptively long 9 mile stretch. The Gas Mart in Okawville used to be my favorite convenience store in the world when the long rides out of Edwardsville would stop there twice. Last year the Shell Station in New Baden made a strong effort to take the top spot. We got to Okawville at 12:11 and noticed two things: the Gas Mart had become a Circle K, and they had taken out the two booths that used to be there. We bought our food and sat outside to eat it.

We left Okawville (mile 78.3) at 12:44. There was a headwind now but nothing too severe. We took turn pulling but Jim's recumbent did not provide too much help for us upright folks. I pulled ahead a bit as we neared New Baden. There is one mile stretch on a busy road there so I did not want to slow down. Once I turned onto Ruth Schoolhouse road, I soft pedaled and waited for Jim and Bob to catch up. I eventually saw them behind me but it seemed to be taking them a long time to catch up.

When they did, Bob told me that his legs were tired and that he would need to ride slower for a while. He told me and Jim that we could go on without him. I told him that it was a nice day and that I didn't mind slowing down a bit and enjoying the day. Even though the tables in the New Baden Shell Station (mile 92) were calling to me, we decided that we could make it to St. Jacob before we need to stop.

It was finally reached the predicted high temperature and I was feeling great. I wasn't on a mission to set a personal best so slowing down just made the ride more enjoyable. We got to St. Jacobs (mile 107.6) at 2:55. We took off our jackets and enjoyed the sunshine. I texted Helen and told her that she should pick me up at 5:00. While we we snacking, we saw Scott ride by. He waved, but didn't stop.

We rolled out at 3:18. About 5 miles later we caught up to Scott as he pulled over to the side of the road. His left crank had come off the spindle and was hanging from his shoe. With the help of an Allen wrench and a rock, we were able to make a roadside repair (I supervised the operation).

I got a chance to talk with Scott and before I knew it we were back on Fruit Rd. I was still feeling great and was almost sad that we nearing the end. The four of us finished together at 4:44. I had a great time and still felt strong. Helen was already at the parking so I didn't have to wait.

After I got home, I played soccer with the kids for a while. I was tired but not exhausted. It was nice to have a local ride that did take up the whole day (or more).

Bike computer stats:
Time: 8:20 (9:44 clock time)
126.82 miles
Avg: 15.2 mph
Max: 26.0 mph 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kansas City 300K

It's been a week and a half since I did my 300K in Kansas City. I guess I'd better blog about it before I do my next brevet.

This was my first brevet in the KC region, and oddly enough it was also my first brevet in Missouri. All of the St. Louis brevets take place in Illinois. I was look forward to meeting Keith Gates (aka CommuterDude), who told me he'd be there.

The start of the ride was in Oak Grove, MO. This is about 3.5 hours from my house so I planned on spending the night there before and after the ride. Traffic was a bit of a problem leaving St. Louis so I didn't get to the motel until about 10. At least I got a fair amount of  sleep before the 6 am start.

I was a little confused about where the start was. The cue sheet said it was the Econolodge (where I was staying) but the start was actually in the Walmart parking lot across the street. Fortunately I saw another rider and asked him.

There were about 18 riders at the start. This is bigger than the rides that I've done lately. There was a lot of wind that morning. It was blowing out of the southwest so it would be helping us for the first half of the ride. After the turnaround things would be tougher.

The ride started at  a pretty good pace. After a while there were about 9 of us in the front group. The pace might have been a little faster that I would have gone otherwise but I didn't want  to drop off yet. I chatted with Keith a little. He was riding his green Kogswell. That is a nice looking bike.

The first control was in Higginsville (mile 26.7) at 7:45. I bought an empty package of hash browns and an empty container of chocolate milk. At least they were empty after I waited in line to pay. We were back on the road about 8:00 which is a pretty good time for that size of group.

The next stop was in Marshall (mile 58.2) from 11:05-11:15. This was not a control but it was a good place to resupply. the group has spread out a bit but I was still with some other riders. I still thought that the pace was too fast. At one point while I was thinking this, I realized that I was in the very front, so I slowed down.

When we got to the flat section near Glasgow, I realized that I was pushing myself too hard. I didn't want to fall off the front group. I knew that I was burning myself out but I just couldn't let up. Eventually I did slow down but the damage had already been done. The hilly section between Glasgow and Fayette was just a grind. By the time I got to the turnaround (mile 97.3) at 12:45 I was feeling pretty tired.

I spent almost an hour at the control. I finally got back on the road at 1:40. The hilly section that hurt be coming in was almost as bad heading back. The flat section by Glasgow was worse. Now we we headed into a monster headwind. It was a struggle to stay above 10 mph. I got to Slater (mile 122.3) at 3:55. This means I averaged just over 11 mph for this section. But when you factor in the 30 minutes I spent in Slater I was only averaging 9 mph.

The next stop was in Marshall (mile 135) at 5:40. At one point during the section, I calculated that I needed to do 7.3 mph to finish by the cutoff. This seems easy but when I left Marshall at 6:00 I would need to maintain 7.5 mph. This means that I was losing ground. Fortunately the wind was supposed to die down soon.

When I left Marshall at 6:09 I was riding solo. The other two riders were not ready yet and I didn't want to lose any more time. There weren't any turns for the next 24 miles so I wasn't worried about getting lost. The wind did indeed slow down when the sun went down. In Corder, I made a left on V. I decided to take a short break on the side of the road. I thought that some other riders might catch up but none did.

This is where I got lost. Somehow I thought that I was already on AA. On AA I was supposed to go 4 miles before the next turn. This meant that that I missed the right turn onto AA after 2 miles. Unfortunately, by going straight, the road I was on turned into AA. This meant that when I saw some signs that said I was on AA I though I was on the right track.

After going 4 miles (2 miles past where I was supposed to turn) I could tell that I had done something wrong but I didn't know what. I turned around and head back. My tired brain brain figured out that since I was on AA, and that I had made a left to get on the road I was on, and I was supposed to make a right on AA, that I had made a wrong turn at the last turn.

I went back the whole 4 miles (2 miles past the turn in the other direction). If I had made a right her I would have been on BB so I knew that wasn't right. I rode on MO-20 for a while to see if there was another right later on to AA (there wasn't). I finally came back to the the turn onto V and figured out what I did wrong. I had ridden about 9 bonus miles and several riders must have passed me.

Now that I was back on track I was extra paranoid about making wrong turns. I finally caught up to another group of three riders in Higginsville (mile 166 + 9) at 10:10. I got something to eat and joined up with them when they got back on the road at 10:32. They told me that there were only 2 more turns in the route at that they were both T intersections. I told them that I would have a 50-50 chance of making the correct decision at each one.

Some of the hills were very annoying. The roads were a little rough so you could not blast down the downhills in the dark. But you still had to work hard on the uphills. I fell back a couple of time but the other riders waited so that we could finish together. We finished at 12:47. Only a little more than an hour before the deadline but we weren't worried.

It was a tough ride but there were some great people there so I had a good time. I plan on returning for the 400K in a few weeks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 300K

This month's brevet was a 300K starting in Mt. Vernon, IL. The route was the same as February's 200K except that it went further before turning around. The turnaround point for the 300K is in Metropolis IL (just across the Ohio river from Kentucky). Miles warned us that route between Vienna and Metropolis was hillyand that it was tougher on the way back.

The weather report called for a high in the 50's but rain in the evening. The snow was not supposed to hit until Sunday. I wasn't too worried about rain. I just wanted to get back to St. Louis before the snow made driving difficult.

There were 5 of us riding. Joe (from the 200K) was doing the 177K. Joining me on the 300K were Bob and Michelle (who rode the 600K with me last year), and Glenn (who was on a fixed gear). I did not get a chance to talk to Glenn much because he and Joe pulled away from us fairly soon after the ride started. We saw the at the first turn when they missed it and had to back track. We also saw them later when the made another navigation error.

Bob, Michelle and I were riding at a comfortable pace. We had a tailwind for the first half of the ride. Since we were feeling good we did not make and stops before the first control in Creal Springs (mile 55). We saw Joe headed back a little before this. At the stop I had a slice of pizza and a coke. We made another brief stop to shed some layers at the Tunnel Hill bike trail.
The Tunnel Hill trail follows an old railroad line. From where we got on the trail to Vienna was about ten miles but was slightly downhill most of the way. The surface was harder than it was last fall but it still slowed us down some. The road between Vienna and Metropolis lived up to its billing. It seemed we were always climbing or descending. I descended faster than Bob or Michelle because I'm the heaviest. We would split and regroup but we stayed mostly together.

We got to Metropolis about 2:30. We hadn't seen Glenn and he had not reached the control. We later found out that he had gone the wrong way on the bike trail and decided to call it quits. He probably would have had a tough time on the hills on a fixed gear. We got back on the road about 3. I estimated that since the first half had taken us about 8 hours, the second half would take about 9. This would have us finishing about midnight.

Miles had warned us about one climb in particular. It was steep enough to make me wish that I had lower gearing to shift into. It was tough, but none of us needed to walk it. A later descent had me coasting at 41.7 mph.

The trail was more difficult when we headed back because the slight downhill was now a slight uphill. I was happy to see be back on some hills when we got off the trail. When we got to Creal Springs it was getting dark so me put on our reflective gear and turned on our lights. Shortly after we the control we had to stop and put on our rain gear. The rain would continue off and on for the rest of the ride. It never rally rained hard so none of us had any complaints. It could have been a lot worse. I was not eating as much as I felt I should but I wasn't feeling hungry. I was not feeling sick but I felt like my body was warning me that if I gave it something that it didn't want it would give it right back.

We made one final stop in Thompsonville. It was not a control but it let us split up the last 55 miles. While we were there a policeman who stopped at the convenience store warned us about shift change at the coal mine. He urged us to be careful. As it turned out, we were on back roads and saw almost no traffic.

It should come as no surprise that we were very tired when we reached the end, but I don't think any of us were totally spent. Bob and Michelle invited me to sleep at their hotel room so that I wouldn't have to drive back sleepy. I gratefully accepted. The snow wasn't supposed to hit St. Louis until the next morning so I figured that I could beat it.

We tried to load the bikes onto my bike carrier but Bob's bike after putting my bike and Bob's bike on there was no room for Michelle's. Miles gave Michelle a ride to the hotel. Bob and I went to Kroger to get some food. I also tried to buy a beer to celebrate but I found out that grocery stores in Jefferson County Illinois can't sell beer.

After some food and a shower we all got about 4 hours of sleep. After a little more food, I thanked Bob and Michelle and headed for home. I was tired but not sleep so I wasn't worried about falling asleep at the wheel. I made it home just about the time the snow started so I didn't have and weather issues. I think that this ride went very well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Birthday 200K

I needed a 200K in February to continue my quest for an R-12 award. Fortunately, Miles Stoneman had scheduled a 200K brevet for February 9th. That also happens to be my birthday.

The brevet started in Mt. Vernon, IL. This is a little closer to St. Louis than Marion so I got to sleep until 4:30. I've gotten used to packing so I was on the road at 5:00. I got to Mt. Vernon about 6:30. As I pulled into the Huck's parking lot Miles waved me down and showed me where everyone else was parked. He also showed me what he had in honor of my birthday. Miles had had cookies made my picture on them. He used a picture of me from the end of the 600K in October. He gave cookies to all the riders and let me take the leftovers home afterwards.

There were four others riders for the 200K: Roy, Bob, Joe, and Mike. Miles was doing the 100K. It was about 35° when we rolled out. The 5 of us on the 200K route stayed together for about 10 or so miles but eventually split into three groups. Roy and Bob were off the front and Mike dropped behind Joe and me.

Joe was using a GPS for navigation. Unfortunately the batteries gave out about an hour into the ride. I told him that I would navigate and make sure that we didn't get lost. I had replaced the bike computer that I had lost in January. Joe also wanted to finish before dark so I set a 5:00 finish as my goal.

After a while, Joe's feet started getting cold. He said that he wanted to stop to put his shoe covers on. I told him that I didn't mind stopping but that was a convenience store coming up in about 5 miles. He decide to wait until then.

We stopped in Thompsonville (mile 32) at about 9:15. I bought a coke to drink then and some pop tarts for the road. We were back on the road by 9:30.

The route was an out and back. It went south from Mt Vernon to Tunnel Hill and then returned along the same route. Thompsonville was not a control on the way down but would be on the way back. Creal Springs (about 8 miles before the turn around) was a control on the way down but not on the way back.

As we got close to Creal Springs, I discussed our strategy with Joe. I wanted to have a longer lunch stop. We could either do that on the way south, or make a quick stop to get our cards signed on the way south and then have a longer stop on the way back. Joe said that it would feel better to stop after the halfway point and I agreed.

We stopped long enough to get our cards signed in Creal Springs (mile 55) a little after 11. I also took off my balaclava and outer gloves. It had warmed up to the day's high of about 45°. We then continued on to Tunnel Hill. This was the only really hilly portion of the route. I had only used the big ring in front so far in the ride so I decided to tray to make it through the ride without shifting into the small ring, A couple of miles before the turnaround we saw Roy and Bob coming the other way.

We reached Tunnel Hill (mile 63) at just before noon. This meant that the first half had taken 5 hours. If we kept up the same pace on the way back we would be done by 5. Of course fatigue would make it more difficult, but we had a secret weapon. We had been riding into a slight headwind all the way south so we would be able to enjoy a light tailwind on the way back.

It did feel noticeably easier once we turned north. A couple of the hills challenged my resolve to use only the big ring but I stuck with it. We got back to Creal Springs at 12:30. I had a slice of pizza and a coke. We were back on the road just before 1:00. We were both feeling good.

We got to Thompsonville (mile 93) at 2:30. I had a snack and bought some more food for the road. We left about 2:45.  I told Joe that if we maintained 15 mph the rest of the way we would finish before 5. We still had a tailwind so this looked like it was doable.

On this last stretch I was trying to set a good pace. Joe fell behind at times but I never let him get out of sight. I asked him if he wanted to slow down but he said I was doing fine. I think that he was feeling a little tired. Some of the roads on this route are a little bumpy but the last 14 miles were really smooth. Our speed increased at this point.

We finished at 4:51. Miles was there to welcome us. I was happy that we made our self-imposed deadline. I think that the ride could not have gone much better. The weather was great, I had someone to ride with the whole way, and no mechanical issues.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lots of miles in January

I was curious what my mileage total for January would be. I knew it would be a lot because I rode 2 200Ks (even if only one counted). The total was 512 miles. This is a record for me for January. In fact, since my accident in 2008, I have only had three months with more than 500 miles. These were the months when I did my 2 400Ks and my 600K.

When I looked back at my logs to confirm this, I was surprise to find that I rode 465 miles in January of 2007. 2007 was my highest mileage year. I rode at least one century every month, an SR series, and that crazy 520 mile long weekend. I also rode group rides on many weekends.

I would love to get back to that level of fitness, but that will take getting back to that level of motivation. I did not miss many commuting days back then and still did weekend rides. I was finding excuses to ride instead of excuses not to ride. Riding 200Ks on consecutive weekends shows that my body is capable, I just need to get my mind in shape.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

200K Second Attempt

I took my wheel to Maplewood Bicycle on Monday night. They called back on Tuesday to tell me that they problem was a broken axle. They gave me several options for repairing or replacing the wheel, but I remembered that I had an unused rear wheel in my garage. It was the wheel that used to be on my Salsa until it was converted into a fixed gear.

After the disappointment of failing on the 200K I decided to try again this weekend. Since I already had three consecutive months (Oct - Dec) towards my R-12, I did not want to have to start again at zero.

Originally I had planned to do the ride on Sunday. A.J. had a chess tournament scheduled for Saturday so I was going to be taking him there. As I looked at the weather report, I saw that Saturday was expected to have better weather: colder than Sunday, but dry. Then Helen reminded me that A.J. would not be going to the chess tournament because he would be going to a friend'd birthday party.

I quickly rearranged my plans. It felt like I didn't have much time to mentally prepare myself. But, I've always said that I should be able to roll out of bed and ride a century. I picked up the rental car on Friday. I packed up most things on Friday night. I also made sure that the bike didn't have any flats.

I left my house a little later than I would have liked, but I made it to the start with plenty of time. Miles was even there to see me off. It was cold but not horribly so. I had thought about wearing three layers on my torso (base, jersey, jacket) but decide to go with two (base, jacket). I had my thick tights, gloves, and balaclava on as well. I was not wearing my shoe covers at the start which proved to be a mistake.

The ride started of smoothly. Since I had ridden the same route just a week ago I did not need to consult the route sheet as often. I did notice ice forming in the mouthpiece of the Camelbak. I figured that it must be 20-25°F. I used the tricked of blowing air into the tube to keep it from freezing.

After a while my feet started to get cold. I had put some inserts into the shoes to help with insulation but they seemed to be making the toe box just a little too tight. This might have been reducing circulation to my toes a little bit. Of course, not wearing my shoe covers wasn't helping. I did not want to stop to put them old because I was afraid the rest of me would get cold while I was stopped.

By the time I got to Benton (mile 20) my feet were painfully cold. I stopped for about twenty minutes to give them time to warm up. I took out the inserts and put my shoe covers on. After that my feet were fine. I think it had also warmed up a little by then.

Today the wind was about 5 mph out of the north. This means that I would be fighting it for the first part and hopefully have a tailwind for the second part. It was certainly not blowing as hard as it was last weekend.

I got to the first control (mile 49) at 11:15. This was 30 minutes later than last week even though I started 20 minutes late then. What a difference the wind can make. I was not worried about time. I was maintaining a good average speed and I would not have to worry about the wind later.

The problem with cycling on a cold day in balancing being warming with being too hot. When I arrived at each control I was slightly damp from sweat. I put my gloves and balaclava on the bike to dry while I went inside. Then I would take off the jacket to dry off the base layer but I would get chilled. Since I was doing well on time, I decided to wait and warm up before leaving again. Another option would to make each stop shorter so I would not have time to cool down.

Since I was fine with a long stop I had a slice of pizza and a soda at the the first control (just like last week). I spent about 30 minutes there. If I was racing myself from last week he would have been about 30 minutes ahead of me.

The turn south onto Log Cabin Road is at the halfway mark. I got there at about 12:45. Now I was only about 15 minutes behind my last week self. I'm not sure where I passed him but it would have been not too far ahead. The wind had slowed down but what little there was was at my back.

This is the longest stretch between controls (41 miles). There aren't even any services available for 33 miles. I maintained a good speed through this section. The only problem that I had happened about 6 miles from the Thompsonville control. As I was getting a snack out of my handlebar bag, it knocked my bike computer off its mount. I heard it hit the pavement and bounce. I stopped and spent about 10 minutes looking for it but I couldn't find it. It probably ended up in the weeds by the side of the road.

Losing the bike computer would have been a bigger deal if I hadn't just ridden the route. It is often useful to find turns by looking at the mileage. I also like to come up with math problems for myself while riding like: "What time will I finish if I average 10 mph the rest of the way?" or "What average speed to do I need to maintain to finish in time". If those numbers start going up, I know I'm in trouble.

I got to the Thompsonville (mile 90) at 2:40. At this point I was an hour and 45 minutes ahead of my last week self. I had a snack of soda and potato chips and rested for about 30 minutes. I put my reflective vest back on in case I didn't reach the next control before dark.

I got to to Creal Springs (mile 113) at 4:45. I spent about 15 minutes here. The sun was starting to go down so I turned on my lights. There was still enough light to read the cue sheet for the next 5 miles or so. It was starting to get colder but I didn't think it would be worth it to put on more clothes.

I got back to Marion at 6:08. I was happy to finish. Month #4 was in the bag. I was never really worried on this ride but last week taught me that things can always go wrong.

Sunday morning I woke up to freezing rain. I was so glad that I rode Saturday instead.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

200K DNF

I did not finish (DNF) my 200K yesterday. Actually, I did finish. I just didn't finish within the time limit. It's disappointing but hopefully I can learn from this.
The route was the Log Cabin Permanent. It starts in Marion, IL and makes a clockwise loop. It is a permanent route which means that it can ridden at any time with prior arrangement with the route owner. I had contacted the route owner, Miles Stoneman, at the beginning of January and arrange to ride it yesterday.

A rider who had done the route before called it "...a good route, especially if the wind isn't out of the south."
I had arranged a 7:00 am start for the ride. My plan was to get up at 4, leave before 5, and get to the start before 7. I packed everything I needed the night before so that all I would have to do would be to load the car and put the bike on the carrier.
I wasted some time in the morning, but I thought that I would still leave before 5. When I got my bike I noticed that the front tire was flat. This put me behind schedule and I did not start the ride until 7:20.
It was still cold at the start, but it was predicted to warm up into the mid fifties. The wind was supposed to be around 20 mph out of the SSW all day. Both these predictions would turn out to be accurate.
The ride started out great. The first 50 miles head primarily north so I had a tailwind almost all the time.I made a quick stop in Benton (mile 20) to get some food and shed some layers. I saw a bald eagle fly overhead near there. Later I passed Rend Lake and took some pictures.
I got to the first control (mile 49) at 10:45. I had a slice of pizza and a soda, and relaxed for a little while. Everything was still going great but I knew that the hard part would be coming soon.
At 12:30 I reach Log Cabin Road (mile 63). The next 50 miles would be heading south and I would have to fight the wind the whole way. On the bright side, it took me 5.5 hours to do the first half so I had 8 hours left. All I had to do was average 8 mph (including stops) to finish on time.
The wind was as bad as I feared it would be. There usually wasn't anything to stop it. Sometimes a gust would make me feel like I had come to a complete stop. Event the sound of the wind was mentally draining.
It was around this time that I started to notice a problem with the rear hub. At first I thought that it was a shifting problem where the chain was jumping from one gear to another.
At mile 75 I made a mistake reading the cue sheet. I was supposed to make a left on Ewing Road but I had skipped over that line. I thought I was on an 11 mile section so I wasn't even expecting a turn. I did not notice my mistake until I stopped to take a picture. By that time I had gone about 2.5 miles past my turn. At least backtracking was easier because I got a tailwind.
I got to the next control (mile 90 (mileages here do not include bonus miles)) at 4:26, just 14 minutes before the cutoff. This means it took me almost 4 hours to go 27 miles on the route. Even counting the bonus miles I was only going 8 mph. I knew I would have to maintain 10 mph to finish it time. I put some layers back on and tried to get going as quickly as possible.
It was getting dark which makes reading the cue sheet more difficult and I was paranoid about making another mistake. I was also very concerned about finishing on time. The route was getting more hilly and the problem on my rear wheel was getting worse. Sometimes the cassette would spin forward without spinning the wheel. I had a problem with this wheel before, but I thought the bike shop had fixed it.
I got to the final control in Creal Springs (mile 113) at 7:15. A few minutes after the cutoff. Even if I had made it, I knew that I wouldn't be able to make the final cutoff. I had to keep riding though. I didn't have any other way to get back to my rental car. My phone ran out of batteries at this point.
The rear hub got worse. When starting up, or after coasting, I could sometimes make several revolutions with the pedals before the freewheel engaged. I started to worry that it would fail entirely, forcing me to walk the rest of the way. The last
I finally reached the end (mile 128) at 9:15, 45 minutes after the cutoff. It was frustrating but I was glad to be finished. I had a snack and the packed everything up for the drive home.
My plan was to charge up my phone using the USB port on the stereo of the rental car. Unfortunately, that USB port did not provide enough power. I ended up stopping and using a pay phone in a rest area a little north of Marion.
The easiest problem to fix would be getting to the start early. That would have saved 20 minutes right off the bat. Not getting lost would help too, but I can't guarantee that won't happen again.
The wind was the biggest problem but that is obviously out of my control. It's just something that has to be dealt with. I don't know what I could have done to prevent the problem with the hub either.
I think it was a combination of factors that lead to my DNF on this ride. I just have do better next time. I also have to decide if I want to do another 200K this month to keep my R-12 streak going.