Thursday, April 30, 2009

Prepping for Warrenton

Gee, it'd be nice if I could bring myself to prep bike and gear earlier than late the night before I leave to drive across multiple states.

The plan: Owen to Camp Grandma, then down to Virginia and the Hampton Inn in Warrenton. 300K departs Saturday morning at 5 AM. Crash in Warrenton Saturday night, then pick up Owen and return to da 'Burgh on Sunday. Should be fun. :-)

Heh...and Chuck-n-Crista, of the DC Randonneurs, have kindly scheduled a Sunday century to depart from Warrenton, "really convenient for
randonneurs who stay over in Warrenton Saturday night after the brevet!" I'm tempted, sorry to say...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday morning commuting blues

April is the cruelest month, indeed. :-(

I can contentedly ride in ice at 30 degrees, or in squeaky powder at 6 degrees; why, oh why, does blattering cold rain at 45 degrees cause me such angst?

To be honest, a big part of the problem is my outer layer. I've got one of those nominally waterproof/windproof shells with the zip-off sleeves; works great for dry or misty weather, even a slight drizzle, but turns into safety-yellow sodden cling wrap in steady rain. Something about the wet plastic sticking to me, with pools of water retained and sloshing in the folds of fabric under my elbows, drives me to the edge of road rage. I think that repeated washings have worn away much of the water resistant goodness...unfortunately, given the amount of (and corrosive nature of) my sweat, it ain't like I can just hit the interior with Febreze once in a while and call it good.

Ah well. Beats driving in rush hour traffic.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inaugural Pittsburgh Brevet: Thrift Drug 200K, 04/11/2009

First off, let me just say, from the "I hate driving AT ALL to ride, much less across the state" perspective: W00T! to local brevets.

Results, including group photo that really shows the glamourous rando lifestyle in its best light ;-)

Short version: 10:45, 125 miles, 4(!) mechanicals, headwinds and crosswinds for ~ 75% of the ride.

Long Version:
So, I got up early on Saturday, shoveled down some oatmeal and Earl Grey, and staggered out to the garage for a 6 AM departure. What's that, you say? Doesn't the ride begin at 7? Well, yes, but I'm being an (arguably) utter dumbarse and doing the ride-to-the-ride bit. No big deal: after all, I was a good do-bee the night before; packed everything, lubed the pivoting bits on brakes and derailleurs, cleaned and lubed the chain, etc. (Foreshadowing: see anything missing from this list o' prep?) A quick 10 miles to Jim's place in Shaler, marred only with a bit of early-ride knee tenderness, and I was meeting and greeting with the other hardy souls.

Bit of a mixed bag, as brevets tend to be: Jim Logan (our local Pittsburgh Randonneurs RBA), Matt Settle (RBA of ROMA), David (veteran of BMB, Cascades 1200, etc.), and myself all had prior brevets under our belt. Alan, Shane, and Jon, all first-time riders, had been participating in some of our prior distance rides; Dale, of the Mt Lebanon Caffeine and Cycling Club ("Mostly Old Guys in Tight Pants"), and George, of the Susquehanna Valley Velo Club rounded out our merry band.

We rode as a group for the first ten miles or so, in order that out-of-towners not get too horribly lost in dahntahn Pittsburgh. Made the climb up Sycamore (Alan charging to the lead), paused briefly for photos and info controle at top of Mt Washington, and we were off! Alan, Dale, and myself were feeling frisky, so we rapidly left the group behind. We set a nice, moderate pace through Carnegie and out to Sturgeon, then climbed up to Potato Garden Road. At this point, the near-continuous headwinds and crosswinds were starting to wear a bit, but we continued more-or-less undaunted down to the Buckboard Station for refreshments and our first manned control. A bit of dawdling, and Jim and Shane caught up with us as we were departing.

The nice gentle climb up 151 was acompanied by the first mechanical; Dale's tire blew, so I did the noble (hah!) thing and played workstand for his Softride whilst he did the inflation thing. Jim and Shane passed us by at that point, after making sure we were okay and taking a couple of incriminating photos.

From there, the delightful passage on Rt 30 down to Chester, Chaney's Sunoco, and the Worlds Largest Teapot was uneventful. The long descent into Chester did provide a graphic demonstration of the force of the wind, however; my usual coastdown speed on that hill is right around 40 mph or thereabouts; I was doing 32 this time. Have I mentioned the headwinds? If they were hurting me that badly, I shudder to think of my upright brethren...

Burning along Rt 68 on the flat bit of the route, I suffered my first mechanical, an delightful insta-flat. Taking a look at the tire, I was appalled (and more than a little embarassed) to see just how worn the casing had become; that tire was ready for the trash, not for an additional 70 miles. Okay, these things happen; swap out for a fresh tube, start inflating, then start swearing. The fresh tube wasn't holding air either! Upon inspection, the nominally new tube had a thin patch worn through on the side; logic would indicate that, at some point, I had changed out this tube, folded it away neatly, and utterly forgot to patch or replace it. In hindsight, that was probably sometime early last year, as it's been a long time since I had to change a tube. Anyway, I threw on a patch, and (with sinking heart, but buoyed by Alan's gift of a spare folding 23c tire "just in case") I continued on my way.

Headwinds. Crosswinds. Headwinds. Cars with cameras pointed at me, preumably due to novelty value or as evidence for later prosecution. More winds. Lots of winds. I thought that stretch of 68 was supposed to be a nice, fast, easy one...must remember to apologize to other riders for this route choise. On second thought, maybe I should avoid them for a while...

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. Due to my flat, plus a couple stops to push some air into the slowly deflating tire, and, eventually, to throw a tantrum and replace it with Alan's spare, I was riding solo for the latter half of the ride. I'd given up on my hopes for a sub-10 hour time, and had replaced them with a goal of feeling strong at the end of the ride. As it turned out, I was the second rider in after Jim, and was feeling a lot better than on the identical ride last week. The 300K in three weeks is not looking too daunting at this point. CTC, on the other hand...

Lessons Learned:
  1. CHECK YOUR FRICKIN' TIRES. That about covers it.
  2. I did a better job of hydration and nutrition this time around. Still had a couple of unnecessary stops for fluids (time to dig out the Camelbak, methinks), but I believe paying better attention to such things helped my overall ride significantly.
I'm out...time to deal with colicky infant. My tolerance for adversity gained through randonneuring is coming in handy as a parent...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

(Not baby-related) Thrift Drug 200K Scouting Ride

The route

Short Version
  1. The route designer should be strung up by his pawls. Oh, wait...
  2. Didja know there's a big difference between riding, say, 105 miles, and 150 miles?
  3. The only person to harass me was a soccer mom. The rednecks, frat boys, and bikers (of the Hells Angels style, that is) all thought I was a righteous dude with legs like rocks (direct quote from aforementioned bikers.)

Long version
Left the house bright and early to do an official Volunteer Ride™. I'd agreed to pre-ride the route for next weekend's Thrift Drug 200K, the first official brevet in our region; the idea of riding 10-ish miles, then riding 126 miles, then riding 10-ish more miles, two weekends in a row, seemed like such a good one.

Made it to Jim's house in timely fashion (ok, only 10 minutes late for the start), grabbed packet with brevet card and materials for the controle stores, and was off. Bombed back into town, climbed Sycamore, and made it to the top at the exact cutoff time for the information controle. Realized that, given how close Sycamore was to the start, it's only 44 minutes to get from Jim's house in Shaler to the top of Mt Washington; this sounds like a good way to DQ riders mighty early :-(

Down Greenleaf to the Circle, then up Noblestown through Carnegie, Oakdale, and down to Sturgeon for a postcard controle at the post office. Amazing how well hidden a small-town US Post Office can be.

Up Finks (Run) Rd to Steubenville Pike, then over to Potato Garden Rd. As happens every time I ride Potato Garden by myself, I encountered a blue heron...starting to feel frighteningly totemic. This time, Mssr. Long-Legs was fishing rather than flying, but honored my passing with a piercing stare from his beady birdy eye.

151 to the first manned controle (th Buck Board Station), then up to Rt 30 all the way into Chester, WV, and the second manned controle. (Incidentally, no sooner had I crossed the West Virginia Border than I saw three-count-'em-three roadkill deer in the space of 50 feet. Huh?) Across the Ohio River to East Liverpool, OH, and began the long trip on Rt 68.

Okay, here's the "kill the route designer" part. 68 is relatively pleasant up through Rochester, but gets a little suckful from there to Zelienople. It really, really, really wears on ya after the first 20 miles or so. For future reference, I need to make sure that any routes I design at least take the riders OFF the same frickin' road for a break every 10-15 miles.

Anyway, all 30/40/felt like 60 miles of 68 passed relatively uneventfully. Stopped in Evans City for a bite to eat, then headed up the hill to Browsndale Rd. And then all the strength left my legs. It wasn't a full-on bonk, but was definitely a close cousin. I still had my spin, but had no power whatsoever; any grades over about 5% had me crying for my mommy and groping for my granny. [Edited to add: That didn't sound quite right, but you know what I mean.] And I still had 40 miles to go...oy vey.

Gulped some gels, swallowed some voodoo electrolyte pills, and drained one of my bottles of Heed, then kept on plugging away. I never bonked completely, but never really felt particularly good. That was less than fun; while I'd been on track for a sub-10 hour time for the 200K, this slowed me down a lot. I ended up crawling back to Jim's in something like 10:40; not bad, but that's a significant time hit for the last 30 miles of a ride.

Lessons Learned, Pithy Observations, Etc.
  • I'm glad I'm training out the pain now, rather than waiting for the 300K or CTC.
  • Once more, proof positive that it does get better (or at least not always worse) if you just keep turning over the pedals.