Monday, April 25, 2011

Band Of Bents 2011 Fleche Report

Mike, Dan, and Larry, of Band Of Bents 2011, happy to be at the finish. Hero pose on dork in middle can be attributed to severe sleep deprivation and/or goading by onlookers. Photo by Christine Graham.

The route (copied from Larry Graham's original)
The Bacchetta forum thread (includes John Foote's late-night photos on page 2)

Short version
  • Successfully completed first fleche.
  • 248.6 miles, ~ 14mph rolling average
  • 1 flat tire, moderate sunburn
  • 1 team member bailed out in St Paris.
  • 70+ miles of headwinds (Harpster to Sidney) sustained 15-20 mph, with bursts 25+. Ouchie.

Long version
Flush? Flesh? Waazat?
A Flèche is a 24-hour team ride, with all sorts of arcane rules. Although I've done many other randonneuring events, the flèche has never been one. So, when Larry Graham (co-owner of Calvin's Challenge, member of Team Bacchetta) put out the call for an all-recumbent flèche team practically next door in Ohio, I couldn't pass it up. Besides, riding 250 miles in 24 hours sounds like a great way to taper before Crush the Commonwealth, right?

-Westerville to Marion (Mile 43)-
The day dawned with the unfortunate discovery that the hotel in which I was staying didn't open up their lobby for coffee until 6. So, uncaffeinated, grumpy, and bleary-eyed, I loaded up the car and drove over to the Bob Evans to meet the rest of the gang. Larry and Christine Graham were there in short order, as were Rick Armstrong, Mike Griffith and his wife (whose name I have unforgivably forgotten, but shall always adore for being "she of the bag of delicious jellybeans" later in the ride). Larry and Mike's respective spouses had volunteered to provide support services...a fine and kind thing indeed.

Shortly, we rolled out. The roads were wet, but temps were already groping towards comfortable. With the exception of a slippery-as-ice metal grate bridge, the initial leg to the Bob Evans in Marion was quite pleasant and uneventful. Once there, we sat down for a proper breakfast, operating under the theory that it's better to be well fed and slow than speeding on our way to Bonksville.

-Marion to Harpster (Mile 60)-
After our delightful breakfast, we headed out towards the bustling metropolis of Harpster. A quick hour or so (and the beginnings of some stiff headwinds...note the mileage, dear reader) and we had arrived at the Backwoods country store. Friendly staff, limited selection of food, and a cop who pulled up and jokingly inquired as to how many kilos of drugs we were smuggling on those bikes were the high points of the stop.

-Harpster to Russell's Point(Mile 108)-
Sad to say, the headwinds did not diminish. Our average speed plummeted: we frequently found ourselves barely maintaining 10-11 mph on the flats. By the time we reached Kenton, several of us were due for a break, so we invaded the local Wendy's burger joint.
To add to the joy, weather reports out of the south were becoming gruesome...damaging winds, torrential rain, plagues of locusts, rains of sulphur, etc. Given the fact that we'd eaten all of the time we'd banked earlier, and that there seemed a strong prospect for weather-related debacle, we decided to call in for better forecast and plan for a reality check once we reached Russells Point. If it looked like we couldn't complete in time with some degree of safety, we'd need to throw in the towel.
Once we got to the McDonalds in Russells Point, things started looking up. The headwinds continued, but the forecasts for the southern areas to which we were heading looked promising; thusly, we chose to soldier on.
This was yet another demonstration of the "avoid quitting by committing to go *just* to the next stop, and see how things look then" works wonders when things look grim.

-Russell's Point to Sidney (Mile 132)-
Aside from the ever-present headwinds, the only excitement in this leg was immediately upon leaving town: due to recent rain, the lake was running high, and the lakeshore road had been closed due to flooding. 'Twas passable by bike, but only just; two more inches of water, and the road would have been completely invisible.
Once we got to Sidney, the prospect of finishing on time started looking less remote. We needed to travel 88 miles in the next 8.5 hours, to make the 22-hour controle time cutoff. So long as the weather cooperated, and we didn't have any serious mechanical issues, all should be well.

-Sidney to St Paris (Mile 152)-
Finally, the wind had died down. (Of course...we would shortly be turning east, when it would have helped us, so of COURSE it ceased!) We were all rolling a bit slow and low-energy, but the leg was uneventful.
Once we arrived at the controle (the Valero in downtown St Paris), Rick decided to throw in the towel. His wife picked him up, and the remaining three of us proceeded onward in slow, low-slung, and stately fashion.

-St Paris to Yellow Springs (Mile 181)-
(Here's where fatigue really started setting in for me, so my memories of the rest of the ride are a bit, uh, disjointed...)
Along the way to Yellow Springs, we were ambushed by paparrazzi, AKA John Foote. His skills with the camera were enough to get some half-decent pictures, but nothing was going to make us look perky at that point...
However, we were certainly interesting sights to the denizens of a couple of bars that we happened to pass. The first, featuring a cast of interesting characters engaged in intellectual discourse on a rickety balcony, erupted in a cacophony of utterly indecipherable drivel, all of which came from one individual who had apparently been chasing the magic grape for much of the evening. The second, in Yellow Springs proper, at least included courteous-if-slurred invitations to stop and bend the elbow for a few.
Regardless, we got to the BP gas station right before it closed at midnight, refueled, and hopped on the bike path for our leg to Xenia.

-Yellow Springs to Xenia (Mile 191)-
Trail. Trail. Trail. Headlights?!? On trail? Local sheriff was cruising the trail "because there had been some burglaries in the area." Ooooh-kaaaay; why enhanced public safety required driving on the bike trail was beyond me. Of course, many things, such as complex navigation, basic arithmetic, and, indeed, much in the way of intelligible discourse, were beyond me at that point.
We finally arrived at the Speedway in Xenia. Deserted upon arrival, it rapidly filled up with a horde of raucous youth, most of whom were too baffled by our alien appearance to even do more than venture the occasional sidelong glance. Ah, least we may have broadened their horizons. Onward to London!

-Xenia to London (Mile 221)-
Trail. Trail. Trail. EDGE of trail! Wobble. Trail. Trail OTHER EDGE! Thankfully, we had banked a bit of time at this point; so, a mile or two short of the 22-hour controle, we stopped in a sheltered picnic area, and I collapsed into an immobile pile of carrion for 30 minutes or so. (Per Larry and Mike, I was snoring almost instantly.) After a refreshing power nap, we made our way to another Speedway for our penultimate controle at the 22-hour mark. Almost there...a mere 25 miles to go.

-London to Columbus(mile 246)-
I blush to admit that I recall almost nothing of the final 2 hours. We got to Bob Waddell's house a few minutes early, peeled off several soaking-wet layers of foul cycling togs, and pigged out on sundry breakfast goodies until it was time to drive back to Larry and Christine's place.

I slept for the 30-minute car trip back to Larry and Christine's place...there, they were kind enough to offer me a shower and a cot on which to nap. After the shower, I was feeling fairly awake, so bid Christine (Larry was sleeping the sleep of the just) a thankful farewell, and leisurely drove back to Pittsburgh.

Lessons Learned
  • With regards to nutrition, I used Camelbak Elixir tabs in the Camelbak bladder; all other nutrition was via more-or-less real food, rather than Perpetuem or similar liquid fuels. Seemed to work well at a brevet pace, so I suspect I'm going to transition my liquid fuel regimen to be used solely in races.
  • Power naps: still an excellent option when the drowsies set in. I have not yet found a reliable way to perk up when I start getting really drowsy; a good 20-30 minute nap goes a long way towards getting me back into semi-working order. I intend to use that technique this coming weekend on CtC.
  • My fitness level is pretty good overall; aside from inability to keep my eyelids open, I felt strong for the entire ride. This tells me what a good sustainable pace should be.
  • The live-blogging thing seemed worthwhile...I liked it for retrospective purposes, and the kids liked getting remote Daddy-updates. I shall continue for a while, methinks.

CTC 2011 To-Do

1) Service the filthy pile of rust that was a bike before the Band of Bents Fleche.
1a) Replace front/rear brake pads
1b) Replace frayed front shift cable
1c) Tune up rear shifting, check cable and housing for wonkiness.
1d) Roll dice to determine if rear tire should be replaced. (Somewhat worn tire==more fender clearance==less rubbing grit on limestone trail, new tire==less chance of flats. Chronic low-grade annoyance versus potential serious annoyance...)
1e) Adjust front derailleur to eliminate chain rub.
2) Format/print general cue sheet, probably based on the one Tom put together (Overview of major roads is worthwhile, just in case signs go missing.)
3) Review packing list, repack sundry bags.
4) Bag up post-ride care package with clean civvies, shoes, and whatnot.
5) Confirm sleep arrangements.
6) Confirm travel buddy arrangements.

At the moment, the long-range weather forecast looks quite promising all the way across the state. I think I'll stop checking it now, so as to preserve some illusions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Band of Bents 2011 Fleche - Preliminaries and Premonitions

I'm siting in the Baymont Inn & Suites in Westerville, Ohio. Just finished re-lubing the bike, after a delightful 3-hour drive in drenching rain washed away every bit of previous lubricant.

Tomorrow, I meet Larry, Rick, and Mike in the parking lot of the nearby Bob Evans, so that we may set off on our Band of Bents fleche. This is my first flèche, so I'm rather looking forward to a new style of endurance riding. Shouldn't be too ghastly; we've got a solid 24 hours to cover 360 km, so I'm not terribly concerned with pacing or my ability to keep up. I am, however, a bit concerned over the weather; it's been a darn wet and violently stormy spring, and the forecast for tomorrow isn't exactly a stellar departure from the norm. Ah, well...what can possibly go wrong? (And yes, I just heard a peal of thunder...excellent timing, Whoever Is In Charge Of Weather. Thanks!)

Also, I'm experimenting with some form of real-time ride blogging; mostly just planning on occasional snapshots and position updates, but I want to see if I can better preserve the flavor of the ride this way. So, take a look at; with any luck, I may remember to actually post a few times as the ride progresses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ah, sweet variety...

Vik just posted a set of snaps from the BC Randonneurs Eau de Hell Week 600K. Some nice setups indeed.

I always love checking out the different rigs people put together...everything from utilitarian tourers to high-zoot titanium road bikes, a single handlebar bag to matched sets of luggage, battery-powered headlamps to dynamo lighting systems that cost as much as many decent bikes...

Actually, the part I find most interesting are all the little tweaks and hacks and unique mods that people come up with. You very rarely see two rando rigs that are terribly similar, even if they derive from common retail ancestry. ;-)