Monday, June 16, 2008

As if my taste in bicycles wasn't unusual enough...

Deena was "kind" enough to snag a Sun 24" unicycle off Craigslist for my b-day.

I still think she did it 'cause she wants me to have to embarrass myself while she takes up riding a two-wheeler again ;-)

Thanks, sweetheart. I think...

Anyone know how to ride one of these things? (Begins browsing YouTube...)


1) Attended the RBR Rally last weekend; good fun was had by all, except for Jay, who ended up with an enraged rodent (chipmunk or red squirrel, depending on observer) in his lap while on his trike. T-shirts along the lines "I got 'Munked at the Rally" are in the works for next year...

2) Brought home a new toy; Rob has loaned me an Optima Baron to test for suitability as a go-fast bike. (Above picture is image of actual bike, but lacking Aerospokes and the fire-engine-red tailbox I'll be bolting on as well.) It's kitted out nicely, all Ultegra and X-0, dripping with carbon fiber, and a set of Aerospoke wheels. I'm still not sure how well I like the Aerospokes, as they are flippin' heavy, but I must admit they do look snazzy. First impressions, absent real data due to lack of cycle computer: compares well to my P-38 on overall speed, faster on the descents and significant aerodynamic advantage once speeds get into the low 20s, climbs surprisingly well. Funfunfunfun bike; my first experiment with a low racer.

3) Apparently, Deena's gotten me a unicycle for my birthday. Heh. That's gonna be an adventure...I never guessed my first fixie would have less than the usual complement of wheels...

4) I've taken the plunge and signed up for the Eastern PA 1000K. Might as well make my randonneuring rookie year a memorable one...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 PA 1000K is Open for Registration, plus Musings on Purpose

Details here...

...and I'm seriously considering it. Even though it's called the "Endless Mountains" edition.

It's interesting...I was recently asked what I get out of this, other than "lots of climbing and a pat on the back". It's a good question indeed, and I really don't have a good answer, or at least not an inclusive one.

To some extent, it's a chance to prove to myself that I can overcome adversity (albeit self-imposed). It's almost a form of exercise, wherein I'm strengthening my resolve and my willpower, much like physical exercise strengthens my muscles and bones. (The logical comparison between this degree of exercise of my will and, say, muscular bodybuilding to the point of becoming musclebound does not escape me...)

On another level, it ties into fatherhood. I want my son to be able to look at his dad and see someone who's willing to do something different; to see someone who takes joy in life through doing, not merely surviving; and to be UTTERLY appalled by his old man wearing bike shorts and tight jerseys in the presence of his friends. I hope that, even if the specifics of the hobby do not interest him, the willingness and necessity to self-motivate are applied in whatever he chooses to do.

Heck, some of it is simply ego gratification. Whether it be external or internal, the recognition of an achievement shared by very few people in the world is quite intoxicating; and, much like other drugs, you have to take more and more to get the same effect as you become acclimatized. This is readily apparent in my case; even thoughts of RAAM qualification, which would have been laughable a year ago, now seem (almost) reasonable.

I dunno...not really sure if I've answered the question, even to my own satisfaction. Let's sacrifice precision for accuracy:
I do it because I like it, and because I like myself better for doing it.

Update: Heh...and then I read this on Veloquent not 2 minutes after posting my meanderings...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PA 600K: Water Gap Edition/"Turkey Hill Edition"

Short version
377 miles, 14.5 mph rolling average, 32:40 elapsed time, two insults, one hurled bottle, Super Randonneur status achieved.


Long Version
On Saturday, June 7th, I clipped in at the unholy hour of 4 AM for the Eastern Pa Randonneurs 600K brevet. Eight of us rolled out at the start; familiar PA faces like Joe Brown, Matt Farrell, and Guy Harris; Rob Welsh, from the 200K; and new companions Dan Barbasch, John Dennis, and Bob Olsen.

I'll confess to a bit of weather-related trepidation; the forecast was calling for highs in the mid-90s F, with humidity somewhere in the "inhalation == blowing your nose backwards" range. (Sadly, the forecast weather materialized exactly as predicted.) I had decided to replace my customary third water bottle with a 70-ounce Camelbak bladder in a bag behind the seat; although the extra weight seemed excessive, the thought of blowing up 200 miles in due to dehydration was less appealing.

The first three segments were comfortably familiar from prior PA brevets; a hop to Cherryville and the first of five Turkey Hill Minit Market controles, followed by the usual climb through Little Gap and run through Cherry Valley to Water Gap and the bakery; then, finally, the Delaware Water Gap park route to Hainesville and Flat's Deli. By this point, Rob Welsh and I had decided to stick together for the rest of the ride, as our paces and personalities seemed compatible; besides, we were the guys riding (or at least owning...Rob brought a tasty Rivendell Rambouillet upright on this one) recumbents and wearing SPD sandals, so just naturally meshed well.

From Hainesville, we briefly retraced our route, then headed to the Dingman's Ferry bridge and a fairly villainous climb up Raymondskill Falls. This climb was notable not merely for the sun, which was in full blowtorch mode, but for the numerous occasions where we *thought* we were done, but were rapidly proven sadly mistaken. Eventually, we made our way across the NY border to Barryville; Tom showed up with magic socks (long cotton socks filled with ice) to drape across our necks in a surprisingly effective cooling technique.

We made our way back down the Delaware Water Gap, this time on the far side via River Rd (a welcome change from Old Mine Rd). A quick stop in Water Gap at the diner, and a chance to say hi to Tom and to Steve Scheetz, then we were on our way towards Bloomsbury and back to the hostel at Quakertown.

After some fantastic lasagna, a shower, 45 minutes of horizontal meditation, and a clean pair of bike shorts (aaaaah, luxury!), we set off again at about 12:30 AM. Heading out Ridge Rd towards Lancaster, we encountered our only true unpleasantness of the ride; a couple of shouted epithets involving the burning hatred we engendered, and a suggestion to acquire a car, were followed by a poorly-aimed bottle hurled from the window. Luckily, no harm was done, and we were quickly off the main roads.

I discovered the joys of severe fatigue on the leg from Gilbertsville to Morgantown that night; only Rob's company kept me moving, especially up a certain Shed Rd (2 miles long, moderate grade, at 3 AM). Once day broke, I was okay, but that feeling of dozing off while pedaling was quite unpleasant.

From Morgantown, we made a fast out-and-back to the post office controle at Blue Ball. A quick meal at the Windmill restaurant, then we set off for the final legs home. We pulled back into the hostel in the early afternoon, the first finishers with a comfortable time of 32 hours and 40 minutes. More lasagna, showers, clean clothes, and handshakes all around wrapped up my first brevet series in sterling fashion.

Once again, thanks go out to all who've enabled me in this obsession hobby. Tom, thanks for some great routes, and as pain-free an introduction to randonneuring as could be hoped. Rob, thanks for the company, the conversation, and for helping a rookie get through his first overnight. Steve, Maile, and Len, thanks for taking on the volunteer duties that let the rest of us play.

Most of all, Deena, my love, thanks for supporting me in this whole cycling thing...I couldn't do it without you.

Lessons Learned
  1. Companionship for the late-night hours is a Good Thing™. Without Rob's encouragement, I would have been a space-blanket-wrapped fetus (or a giant silver burrito, whichever) off the side of the road by 4 AM.
  2. Along the same lines as previous, I need to hold onto enough presence of mind when fatigued to do *something* to combat the dozies; from experiments later in the second day, simply chewing on a peanut butter and cheese cracker helped immensely. My mistake lay in doing nothing but continuing to turn the pedals.
  3. Fatigue aside, there was no appreciable degradation of riding ability after the first 200K or so; this is another Good Thing, and correlates to my observations on the earlier brevets.
  4. I ate fairly lightly on the day preceding the ride; this may well have correlated to feeling significantly more spritely for the first two segments, which was particularly noticeable while climbing Little Gap on Blue Mountain Drive. Not to say that I climbed STRONGLY, but I wasn't nearly as much of a wimp as the last two times.
  5. Mostly due to Rob's good example, I spent much less time at the controles than previously. I'm sure I picked up at least an hour on the first 400K, due solely to greater efficiency in that area.
  6. Camelbak bladder in the seat bag was a good decision. I never ran out of fluids (came close a couple of times!), but also never had to ration myself. Given the weather conditions, this was crucial to my success, if not my very survival.
  7. Rear rack and trunk bag was more convenient than prior jury-rigged seat back bag; however, i think I want to invest in a trunk bag with the small panniers that can be unfolded from the sides.
  8. Lighting: I need to work out better (or at least less disruptive to my night vision) lighting for reading cue sheets. Having the white LED head torch was great for reading cues, but meant that I could barely see my surroundings, eve with the DLumotec and E6 lamps running full blast. I also should experiment with placing the primary LED lamp on the fork.
  9. Once more, I carried a camera and didn't take a single photo. That's just dumb; expensive dead weight is not helpful.
Questions to Ponder
What's next? The PA 1000K at the beginning of August? A 12 or 24 hour race experiment? RAAM qualifier? A domestic 1200K?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Upcoming PA 600K: Turkey Hill Edition

Perhaps "oncoming" would be a better description.

Details here, map and elevation profile here; in short, 373 miles and almost 28,000' of climbing. BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

The legs (usual caveats: not official, use at own risk, subject to change, do not remove under penalty of law, do not operate heavy machinery after following, etc.):
Weisel Hostel(Quakertown, PA) to Turkey Hill (Cherryville, PA)
Turkey Hill (Cherryville, PA) to Village Bakery (Water Gap, PA)
Village Bakery (Water Gap, PA) to Flats Deli (Hainesville, NJ)
Flats Deli (Hainesville, NJ) to River Market (Barryville, NY)
River Market (Barryville, NJ) to Lake Wallenpaupack Cafe (Hawley, PA)
Lake Wallenpaupack Cafe (Hawley, PA) to Water Gap Diner (Water Gap, PA)
Water Gap Diner (Water Gap, PA) to Citgo (Bloomsbury, NJ)
Citgo (Bloomsbury, NJ) to Weisel Hostel (Quakertown, PA) (Sleep control)
Weisel Hostel (Quakertown, PA) to Turkey Hill (Gilbertsville, PA)
Turkey Hill (Gilbertsville, PA) to Turkey Hill (Morgantown, PA)
Turkey Hill (Morgantown, PA) to Post Office (Blue Ball, PA)
Post Office (Blue Ball, PA) to Turkey Hill (Morgantown, PA)
Turkey Hill (Morgantown, PA) to Turkey Hill (Gilbertsville, PA)
Turkey Hill (Gilbertsville, PA) to Weisel Hostel (Quakertown, Pa)

In keeping with my newly institutionalized traditions, I of course made further modifications to the P-38; can't actually be consistent between brevets, now can I? This time, however, it's a low-key mod; I added a Blackburn rear rack, as the repurposed diaper bag I was using for a seat-back bag was just not cutting it. The rack mounting was a bit of a jury-rig, as I didn't take the time to fabricate a proper attachment mechanism for the upper rack supports to the P-38's seat support, but instead just bent and brutalized the existing rack mounting straps. I'll make it good later, I swear. :-)

Weather forecast is concerning me a bit; highs in the mid-90s, and humid, which is weather I've never ridden in for more than 100 miles or so. I'm gonna melt, especially given that the year up to this point has been cooler than usual and I'm utterly un-acclimatized to the heat. Oh, well...just gonna do my best. Come to think of it, the heat will be strong motivation to keep riding through the entire night, so as to avoid the worst of Sunday's heat.

Ah, well. Need to pop out during lunch and grab some Gu packs; aside from that, I'm pretty much packed and ready as far as I can tell. I'd like to get in one last ride before packing up the car tomorrow, but I don't know when/if I'll have the chance.