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.