Sunday, February 25, 2007

A mixture of experiences

Well, the 400k was Saturday (at least for me as I am helping out on the real event next week). I didn't get a whole lot of sleep the night before so I was drowsy already at the start. Not a good thing. I pulled into the lot at 5 to 4 at the same time as Mike Sturgill (he was doing the same thing I was, just a lot faster ;) ). First thing that was noticeable was that it was COLD outside. I am glad I brought all my warm gear, the only thing I could have brought that I forgot was shoe covers as my feet got cold.
Mike Sturgill didn't have a receipt yet so he took off to go get one while I finished getting my gear setup. I passed him while he was in CIrcle K getting a receipt but he soon caught up to me and passed me. I would see his taillight ahead of me down through Eloy but That is the last place I saw it. Other than the bitter cold it was actually a nice morning. Winds were low and there wasn't any traffic to speak of. It was a good morning to just lean back in the seat and ride.
I managed to get through Milligan and Picacho without getting caught by a train. I was surprised to make it to Picacho peak still under the cover of darkness. Usually it is getting light when I get here. I guess it is due to the fact I was about 20 minutes ahead of what I usually arrive at coupled with the fact we are running this a few weeks earlier this year. All in all it was a little depressing to ride out of Picacho in the dark. I don't know why it seemed that way it just was. I was a good ways down the frontage road before the first crack of dawn happened and then I noticed a funny sign I had never noticed before (or maybe it didn't strike me as funny before)

"Hey Natasha! Where we find top secret Missile Base to kill Moose and Squirrel?"

"Boris Darling! Look, there is sign showing way to top secret Missile Base!"

But seriously, isn't it just a little obvious to name a road "Missile Base road"? Or maybe that is just a decoy. Hmmm. Anyway, I was in Marana before the sun peaked over the horizon and the day was going ahead of schedule. I didn't really have to stop anywhere other than to take pictures so I just kept moving on up to Saguaro national park.

"Master Rando Ninja!"

Turning up onto Sandario road there were some Balloons flying about. I was only able to catch two of them in a frame at a time so here is the best picture of those.

Balloons over Marana High school

Recalling last year I enjoyed climbing Sandario road without nuclear headwinds. I was doing great on liquids and things so I decided to forego the stop at Picture rocks and push on to Mission road. I stopped to snap a picture at the edge of Saguaro National Park and moved on.

The Brevet Mobile at Saguaro National Park

I did really well gearing down through the next hills to make sure that I didn't go out of zone 3 on the heart rate this time. It saved the day in the end since other problems would make things difficult later on. At any rate, it was really nice to have extra energy riding through the Tucson mountains and not having to recover through that whole section.

The south end of the Tucson Mountains

On mission road I took my first rest stop at the Circle K that is a control on the return on the 600k. It was nice to sit and take a break for a bit.

I steeled myself down for the long slow climb up Mission road to Helmet Peak which I think looks more like a lazy dog laying down but oh well. I stopped near the top to snap a picture of an interesting shack I always think I should get a picture of every time I pass it.

Love shack, baby love shack. Tin roof! Rusted!

And to the Victor go the spoils

Interestingly enough I didn't get my highest speed of the day coming down Helmet Peak road but I did get up to 35mph. I was still feeling pretty good here and made good time going down La Canada. I stopped at the gas station next to the Frontage road and bought some chips and gatorade (which I think started my problems). After finding the correct entrance to the frontage road after almost going on the freeway I was on my way (I think they have realigned the frontage road to go west of the Gas Station now instead of east of it but maybe I am just remembering things wrong). The Arivaca stretch is where things started to get rough on me. I was having some stomach problems and I just wasn't getting the energy I needed out of my legs. On one of the hills my chain over shifted down and Ripped my headlight off the front of my bike. I was able to secure it but then the same thing happened again down the road. But using 2 of my last zip ties I was able to get it on there again and soon I was over the climbing. I have to confess to something here. I uh, broke the speed limit twice heading into Arivaca, I came cooking into town at 40 mph in a 35 and 28 in the 25.

Arivaca Mercantile

After getting food and my card signed I sat down and realized I felt like crap. For a minute I thought I had caught one of my kids colds. I was dizzy, my stomach hurt, and I had really bad Gas. If there had been a ride there I probably would have DNFd but there wasn't and I figured since I didn't feel as bad while I was riding the only thing for it was to get back on the bike (it was around 3:30 by the way). Just down the road the chain overshifted (I really need to adjust the derailleur one of these days) and the light ripped in half. It was a good thing I wired the 4 LEDs in two parallel series as one of the wires was severed but the other one (on the side of the light that broke off) was still attached. So I used a zip tie to hold it on and figured I would figure something out before it got dark and I should be to Robles Jct well before dark. I wasn't counting on the headwind that I encountered when I turned north. Between the headwind and the stomach thing I was only able to keep 13-15 mph so it took me a lot longer to get to Robles and I hit a pretty low point mentally in here too (funny how headwinds play with your mind). Sunset caught me about 5 miles outside of Robles Jct so I put my helmetlight on and aimed the remaining LEDs as best as I could until I could use Electrical tape from the store to fix them up. Robles Jct has to be another of my favorite stops as it also has a table (like La Palma except this table is a little less improvised). The store actually also sells Picaddilly pizza. Now I know, if you were having stomache problems you likely would not think pizza was the best idea but it looked so good and I just couldn't resist and it turned out to be just the thing I needed. Incidentally I think most of my problems came from mixing Gatorade (uses Fructose) and Maltodextrin as fuel sources. I think in the future to allow for variation in Drinks I will go with Water and Gatorade and solid food. I just can't drink one thing for over 14 hours straight.
Heading out of Robles Jct my energy picked up and so did my speed. I managed to stay up at 18-19 for most of the rest of the ride with drops down to 15 along the frontage road in a few places.
Along Sanders road I had two dogs come at me. When I yelled "stay" one of them stopped. The other one came over and started circling me, I couldn't figure out what he was doing, and then It occured to me he couldn't figure out a place to bite me since my legs were up in the air and butts were for sniffing not biting in the eyes of a dog. So I moved on and left him puzzled in the darkness behind me.
Between Marana and Casa Grande I kept fantisizing about stopping and sleeping in a hotel room either in Picacho, or Eloy, even off of Peart rd in Casa Grande. I was extremely Drowsy. I hadn't been able to catch up on sleep too much the week before and Friday night I got to bed late due to having to get everything ready since I hadn't had time Thursday or Wednesday.
I kept telling myself I was almost back though and kept pressing on. I managed to miss the trains at Picacho/Milligan this time around (which was good because it was FREEZING out there). The ride to I-10 from Eloy was long as always but surprisingly enough the victory lap from I-10 to the end seemed long too due to the fact that I was really tired.
After getting a receipt from a Scary looking guy at the circle K. No, lets pause a minute on the scary looking guy. This guy was a dead ringer for the scary guy in the jail cell with Fletch if you have seen that movie. I mean if I was an armed robber and walked into this Circle K to rob it I would turn tail and run as soon as I saw this guy. Anyway, he was nice enough, just had the perfect looks for a convenience store clerk on graveyard shift.
So I get back to my car thinking what a wonderful thing it will be to fire up that heater and go take a nap at the rest area. I prop the bike up against the car, unlock all the doors as I don't want to have to take the keys out and turn the car off while loading my bike up. Put the keys in the ignition and twist, and nothing happens. "No no no no no, this can't be happening" I think. Of course it was. My battery was dead due to my radio deciding that today was the perfect time to break and not turn off (snd due to the dome light being on all day I am informed by Mike Sturgill). In case you were wondering how likely it is for a very peculiarly dressed person who is very visible to flag down a car in the middle of the night in Downtown Casa Grande, it is not very likely. The police department said they couldn't help me other than calling a tow truck. The nearest help would be walmart 3 miles away. I was seriously pondering trying to get a car battery in my seat bag (I think that would be a bit too much for it now that I am in my right mind again). When I thought I would have another go at flagging somebody down. Lucky for me a Mother and her daughter (the angels of mercy) came cruising through the parking lot and passed me but then I think they saw my bike and assumed that I was probably still a weirdo but a harmless one. I had Jumper cables, they had a running car, and we were back in business in 5 minutes.
So, since I had also been fantasizing about hamburgers all the way up Jimmie Kerr Blvd I pulled around the corner and, I am ashamed to say, pulled in to Whataburger and ordered the Angioplasty special. Yes, the triple meat, triple Cheese, with a large fry, and I washed it all down with a quart of the Strawberry milkshake drink I bought at Circle K. At the rest stop down the road I fell asleep setting the alarm on my watch and woke up 2 hours later totally disoriented with a watch that was all screwed up since I had been holding the buttons for 2 hours. After that I managed to make it home OK but I think that is the tiredest I have ever been.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

This too was darkness....

Decided that this morning was the morning to do the Usery Pass rede up to the parking lot before the dam at Saguaro lake and back as it would give me long hills like Helmet Peak, and also some rollers similar to the ride up to Arivaca so although it would only be a 34 mile ride I figured it would at least have the stuff I need in it. To add icing to the cake I got off at 5:40 am in a pleasant state of predawn darkness. Nature determined that I needed a little extra training and supplied a rather brisk headwind to make the hills a little harder. From my house it is a continual climb up to Usery Pass resulting in an 800 foot elevation gjain. It starts out easy just as Mission Road does heading to Helmet Peak road. Then it slowly steepens and soon you are going under 10 mph (at least when there is a spanky headwind). I was hoping to give my lights a good near 40mph test heading down the back side of the pass but dawn was just peaking over the hills as I entered the final 4 mile slog of the climb. I notched my light down a tad and noticed I could see the road far ahead a lot better. Guess I had my light set a little high, good to figure that out before the 400k. By the time I reached the top I had shed my gloves and unzipped my jacket. It was getting light but not so light I couldn't see the effectiveness of my headlight which did just fine near 40. My hands without gloves on the other hand got quite cold. I had to put the gloves on when I got to the bottom of the hill. Figuring that since it was winter the boat traffic would be light I turned East and headed back towards Saguaro lake to ride the rollers for awhile. I made it back to the turnaround pretty quick and was happy there was facilities there as searching bushes and vegetation for a place to go is no fun. By the time I got back on the road again I had cooled down unfortunately but managed to warm up again fairly quickly. Arriving back at Salt River Recreation I determined a climb back up Usery Pass would likely be better training for me than the Thigh Master of a hill "King Kong" . It is a lot closer to the Mission Road climb so I figured I would get the extra climbing in for a total of over 2000 feet. Climbing the backside of Usery Pass I saw a rider up ahead who I was approaching from behind. I couldn't believe I was actually gaining on him. After a bit he started to walk. As I went by I asked if he needed help and he said no. Heading back up the hill I thought of the first chapter of "Heart of Darkness" where the captain says "This too was darkness" Implying that England was once a wilderness to others such as the Romans, comparing it to deepest darkest Africa but many years previous. I pondered on how I used to think the 27 miles around the Usery Pass Loop from my house was an insanely long bicycle ride and how I had to walk up Kong that first time I tried it, indeed "This too was darkness".

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Odes to Randonneuring

Ok, don't laugh at me gentle readers (to borrow a term from Bruce Chandler). I don't claim to be any sort of Poet but do enjoy laying down a verse or two once in awhile and hear are a few about Randonneuring-


The freedom of the swift, is the joy of life,
To quickly glide along down the road,
Is enough to calm the troubled soul,
And temper the descending strife,

To pedal a ceaseless rhythm, approaching zen,
Flying like an eagle, over the ground,
Stroke by stroke through,town after town,
And stopping for respite, now and then.

To be free from walls, and tiny spaces,
Randonneur glides, cross fields and lands,
Working their magic, as fast as they can,
Moving in time to far off places.

The Randonneur

A Light in the darkness,
An arrow in the rain,
Across the desert starkness,
Perseveres through pain.

Moving down the highways,
Through hour after hour,
Passing endless byways,
Rationing his power.

Sitting aside a rainy road.
A rider fixes his broken steed,
He keeps his tools amidst his load,
To use in time of need.

A tired soul at end of day,
Pedals slowly along the streets,
moving feebly along his way,
the end of brevet he greets.

Sometimes I dream

Sitting under a flouresent glare,
I gaze out the window and ponder,
How I wish to be out there,
on my bike, to pedal and wander.

My attention outside the window,
Has on an ocean started to drift,
To roads beyond the city glow,
Where troubles and joy, slowly rift

To ride! Amid the cactus and hills!
To glide, cross valleys and plains,
To ride the rollers and endless rills,
forget my sorrow, and soulful pains.

Yet trapped behind a reinforced wall,
I must bide until the time arrives,
To cast off the malaise and pall,
freeing my bike down endless drives.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Well I forced myself out onto the road again this morning and had a nice commute in. It was one of those commutes where the birds were singing, the sun was shining, and the construction was almost done so the roads were smooth in some spots. I didn't have my mp3 player and for some reason I kept getting blues tunes stuck in my head. Of course, one variation of which was the "Randonneur Blues". Overall it was a good ride, even if it was a bit bluesy.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Going Crazy.

Well, I have been sick this week and really wanting to get back on the bike. A fear of repeating last years coughing sickness has kept me off the bike though. I suppose there are worse weeks to get sick than a rest week after a long event though so I suppose I will live with it and take one of my sons out for a good ride on the trail-a-bike if I am feeling better in the morning.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Lesson learned again

Well, as the lads in spinal tap say, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you some more. This was a good ride all in all but had a rather long low point in the middle. Let me start the report in the morning of Saturday the 3rd.
I managed to wake up on time but spent more time at home than I had planned so it was a bit of a rush getting to the starting line on time but I managed to do it. I even had a few minutes to sit and shiver at the start for a few minutes on my bike waiting for the start. This was the first official ride the mighty K2 generator light would see (as well as the shimano 3n-71 generator). I was really happy with the way the wheels held up as I had built them myself (the backwheel needed to have a new rim put on it as a pothole gave it a bit of a thump).
It was a chilly morning, I had frost on my car but the bank's temp gauge in Casa Grande said 37. In any case it was to be a chilly day mostly (with the exception of gates pass of course). Right after we started Bruce pulled up alongside and we had a nice chat until my stupid water bottle fell out and I had to stop and go back (I would battle this most of the day until I had a "Well Duh" moment and fixed the problem). By the time I retrieved my bottle I was in the back of the pack and my heartrate monitor was reigning me in saying I was working too hard. I have to admit I did pretty good until we got to Tom Mix on listening to the little taskmaster. In the meantime it was quite a sight at the back. Everyones reflective clothing made them look like reflective ghosts floating along.
Things of note approaching Coolidge was the road of eternal stench, which was pretty bad. After the stench I saw a cloud up ahead and I thought to myself, "wow it is so bad it is visible!". Turned out it was just fog though and the stench was gone. The fog was fun as my headlamp looked like a light saber shooting out into the night. Someone behind me had an HID and similar to the effects at Fantasmic in Disneyland I saw a projection of me pedalling up in the fog. It was a pretty cool effect to see my shadow out pedalling ahead of me on the fog. Last year at this spot I was shivering uncontrollably but this year I was nice and toasty. Pedalling at the back but nice and toasty.
Turning onto Coolidge/Kennelworth we found a detour which was easily breached. I was pleased to note that on turning onto the Pinal Parkway that the sun was not up yet (it would rise a few miles from Tom Mix) as last year the sun was already up a ways when we got to this point (in all fairness though I had Broncitis last year so I was taking it easy).
It was in this section that the first earworm of the day started in my head (earworm is a song that gets stuck in your head) I had been watching the rider in front of me's reflector and it just started.
Triangle man, triangle man, Triangle man hates particle man!
They have a fight, Triangle wins. Triangle man.
Randonneur man, Randonneur man, Rides on the road as fast as he can,
Takes a sip of something gross, randonneur man.

I tried to keep the stop at Tom Mix as short as possible. I filled my empty bottle and ate a bannana and I was off (after getting my sweaty card signed of course (sorry Susan)).
I will admit this was my stupid section of the day. I kept on getting beeped by my heartrate monitor (which was really set at more of a 200k pace anyway) and I should have slowed it a bit but didn't I would suffer from Oracle jct to Trico as a result of this. It was a good climb though, I had dug out the MP3 player and had quite the collection of tunes on there most of which were good for climbing.

This years route featured a bit of a change in that the Tucson control was now at a house. I made good time cruising down from Oracle jct. and found my memory of the route changes was pretty good as I got to lunch. My legs were starting to scream for mercy around this point and I really should have ate more. I did eat some but I didn't do enough to recover. The lunch stop was very nice. A tired randonneur is not picky as to his accommodations, but a nice control, a really nice and clean and well stocked control, well, that is high style.

I am afraid that a bannana and a cookie at lunch were not sufficient I discovered as I tried to soft pedal to get my legs to be happy again. I would work my way up Silverbell dreading the coming climb that I knew was ahead as my legs were not happy in the slightest. I managed to coax a bit of a recovery out of the legs by the bottom of Gates Pass but it was soon gone again.

I admitted trouble and used my granny gear most of the way up Gates Pass but refused to concede victory to the steep section and so blew my heart rate out muscling over it to stop and recover at the top. I am proud to say I did not walk, though I did have to rest (no use damaging my legs and energy worse than I already had. Around here Dave Lennen caught me as I stopped for a picture of the beautiful sight of a wonderful descent down the backside of gates pass.

Heading down to picture rocks Dave and I would start exchanging turns for the rest of the ride (although I think the majority of the pulls goes in his favor). It was a long slow slog riding over to the Trico control and we had quite a bit of miles put in in the 11-13 mph range. I think I hit my lowest low at Trico, and finally did something about it. You basically know you are having a pretty good bonk when you are sitting in a dirty gas station restroom feeling dizzy and you start thinking that the nasty old floor looks like a nice place to just lie down on and sleep. Needless to say I downed a Strawberry milkshake drink and some nuts and gatorade and really went all out on stoking the furnace. The result of which was that by the time we hit the frontage road I was starting to perk up and our speeds jumped up to 17-18 mph. I did make a note that this year it was wonderful to realize that the sun was still high in the sky unlike last year wear it set on us at Marana.

With my newfound energy the stretch went pretty quick actually. It was very nice to pedal this section in the light. Though it was still open we didn't stop at Dairy Queen opting to move on to La Palma. Riding up the stretch to La Palma was gorgeous. The sun was nosing down to the horizon and I was watching our shadows pedal across the fields to our right keeping time with us in ever lengthening strides.

The Gothamesque metropolis of La Palma soon greated us. I kid about La Palma's small size but of course, among all the controls it is the most welcome and includes a table and chairs (nevermind the fact the table is an old cable spool and the chairs are old bent metal chairs). I have passed many pleasant moments of rest and reflection at La Palma and this day was no different. I bought a chocolate milk, some doritos and gatorade and prepared for the final leg as the group of riders just ahead of us pulled out.

Well, after loading the bottle full of gatorade, packing the Aquabats into the MP3 player ( good fast music to keep one moving and a little humor to relieve suffering) Dave and I set off into the embers of the recent sunset. It was just beautiful, I mean an amber glow over sillouetted mountains on the horizon, a smooth road, a good draft, what more could a person want?

We ended up pulling in just after seven for a time of 14 hours and 23 minutes, 12 hours and 41 minutes of riding time. This beats last years time by 6 hours, and my best time by an hour and 20 minutes. So even with a pretty good bonk it wasn't a bad ride. I did get the opportunity of welcoming others into the finish line after I finished as Susan had to go pick up someone who got sick in Marana (I guess there are worse places to get sick, but if I had my choice, I think it would be La Palma, then again, if I was sick in La Palma I think I would have to be pretty sick to want to quit at La Palma though).