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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

L-L-L Permanent Nov 6

Reaction of locals in Leasburg NC July 24 (101 F): "How can you stand to be riding in this weather??"

Reaction of locals in Leasburg NC Nov 6 (44 F, damp): "How can you stand to be riding in this weather??"

There is a narrowly defined window considered by most to be "a good day for a ride", something like 65 - 75 F, sunny, and no wind. Venture outside of those parameters, and you open yourself up to be considered at least slightly lacking in common sense.

If possible, it is generally a good idea for those of us seeking the R-12 award to grab the first opportunity each month for a 200K (or longer) ride. Bryan Rierson put out a call for interested riders to join him last Saturday on the Leesville - Leasburg - Leesville permanent, departing in the dark at 7 a.m. The weather forecast was decent, but like all forecasts not infallible. Little showers of rain accompanied me during the drive to north Raleigh that morning. After signing in with route owner Byron, we (Bryan and I) left on wet pavement and within half an hour were into some moderate but steady rain. The temperature was slightly warmer than predicted (40s instead of 30s), but by the first control (Red Mill) we were cold and wet. Bryan attempted to activate some old chemical hand warmers he had, with limited success.

We pushed on, eyeing what seemed to be an elusive patch of lighter sky further ahead. By the time we reached the second control (after climbing those challenging hills on Moores Mill Rd), our feet and hands were closing in on (or had arrived at) numb. However, the skies were starting to look more promising ahead with even some patches of blue visible. Stopping for a break at the Leasburg turnaround, it did appear that the rain was over. We searched in vain for some dry socks in the convenience store, and lunch pickings were limited to the usual shelf snacks.

The return was an improvement - an overall elevation drop accompanied by some tailwinds and warming sun. Kemp Rd ("Rollercoaster Rd") is always challenging. The last stiff climb up Boxelder Dr (that 28T ring was mighty helpful) brought us back to Ray Rd. While waiting at the corner we turned on our lights and saw a couple of cyclists heading down Ray in our direction. "Hmm, it would be nice to get pulled in by them" commented Bryan. We made our turn onto Ray and then I mustered what remaining reserve I had and put the hammer down to catch them, with Bryan on my wheel. I think I only caught them because they were on fixed gear bikes. We enjoyed about a mile of drafting before the two "locomotives" turned left while we continued straight before taking our own left at Howard Rd. Total elapsed time: 10:47 (2:38 faster than the scorcher ride on 7/24). L-L-L continues to rank as one of the more difficult permanents in this area.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hit and run justice in Colorado

Apparently hit and run (cyclist run over in Colorado) is only a felony if you don't have connections.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NC Fall Coastal 600K

The idea of completing a second SR series this year only germinated in my mind a little before Labor Day, when I took another look at events still scheduled in NC and VA. Not being a real risk taker, but thinking maybe I can pull this off, I decided to start with another 300K (already had a couple of extra ACP 200Ks), and go from there. Bob Sheldon of DC Rand nearly talked me out of riding a 400K in the ROMA series, with tales of getting lost in the Virginia mountains. However, he was at the 800K control (Henderson NC, where I was volunteering) of the Labor Day weekend 1000K when he said that, so I chalked it up to Bob's general exhaustion. September came and went with the completion of that tough Seneca Rocks WV 400K, and I was still contemplating whether or not to sign up for Tony Goodnight's last big event of the year, a 600K coastal route. Weather forecasts were looking great, and as Tony posted the initial roster of pre-registered riders, I felt encouraged to join the train that would leave Lumberton Oct 9.

You know I was getting serious when I took the plunge and had a new front wheel with a generator hub built. My B&H Ixon Speed light has served me well (rechargeable Li proprietary battery pack), but a 15 hour run time (low power) just didn't seem quite enough for a 600K at this time of year. Joel L offered me some Schmidt E6 lights he no longer used, so that helped to cushion the expense of the new lighting set up. I got everything installed Thursday pm Oct 7 and took a quick 10 mile ride to check things out. I thought about switching saddles, as the Morrisville - Siler City 200K the previous Saturday had raised another little boil, but caution and common sense prevailed to convince me to NOT switch saddles, simply adjust that B17 back as far as it would go (another 1/4 inch), and tweak the seat angle down just a little bit more in the front. Thankfully these adjustments worked well, along with "Dr" Mike D's recommendation of Lantiseptic.

You would think by now I would have learned not to overpack, but general anxiety once again resulted in carrying too much stuff, especially food. I did off load some of it at the Holden Beach turn around control, where Tony had our drop bags, but I still ended up with about a third of the food (energy bars, gels, nutrition powder) at the end of the ride. Besides the weight penalty, there is the feeling that "I've got to eat this stuff" and you lose out on at least some of the camaraderie of hitting a McD's together (that only really happened once though, and it probably worked out since there were a couple of curious kids outside who may have been inclined to take some liberties with our bikes. I did let them wear my helmet, resulting in a severely out of adjustment mirror that took a while to get back in position).

I got up a little before 3 am Saturday and left Graham at 4:25 for the 2.5 hour trip down to Lumberton. The starting location was very easy to find - just a little ways from I-95 exit 22 behind the Huddle House restaurant. Tony was just pulling in at the same time I arrived, and a few other riders were already there and getting ready. Jerry, Maria, and I had made previous arrangements to ride together but our threesome eventually ballooned into 7 for most of the first half of the ride, as first Mike D (on the tail end of a cold) and Joel joined us, and we caught up with JoAnn F (whose GPS unit was invaluable). The last member of the group was "Colonel Mike" of DC Rand, who had started off riding at a faster clip but had gotten off course a few miles before the second control, and now welcomed the opportunity to join us.

The route - can you spell flat? The biggest hill was the bridge to Holden Beach (crossed it in both directions). Extremely flat rides have their own challenges, like getting off the saddle at regular intervals. Our group did not encounter stiff headwinds, although I understand a couple of the faster riders experienced some less than helpful wind. Generally our rolling speed was around 16 - 17, with a couple of sections (the last 20 miles into Holden Beach and into Lumberton, where we could "smell the barn") when the pace was pushed up to 19 or so.
Let me just pause here and state that a flat 600K under perfect skies and little wind does not translate into an easy ride. "Easy" pretty much gets left in the ditch after about 100K. Enjoyable, fun, and rewarding - yes. Easy - no.

We left Lumberton at 7:30 and traveled in a northeast direction to Clinton and then south. The City Pier at Southport served as an information control, and we elected to stop at the Cape Fear Restaurant in Southport for a sit down evening meal. The restaurant workers thought it incredible (one lady kept insisting we were just joking with her) that we were on our way to Holden Beach that night, and would only be there a few hours before continuing back to Lumberton. Much caution was urged as we departed in the darkness. As we traveled down NC 211, I brought up the rear of the pack - no one wanted to ride behind me with that super bright Dinotte taillight. I felt I was providing increased visibility for us, as traffic was a little heavy. Not too far from Holden Beach, JoAnn flatted, and I mean really flatted. She picked up what looked like a 2.5 inch wood screw that stuck right into the rear tire and had to actually be screwed out of the tire. No one had a 650 tire, but Jerry provided a tire boot and with JoAnn's spare tube she was soon back in business. The mosquitoes had a feast at our expense - I counted 50 to 60 wounds just on myself. It was good to get rolling again. Tony was waiting at the Gray Gull motel, and reminded us that we had to ride out to the pier (3 mile round trip) and get our control cards signed before returning to the motel. Grunting up the bridge over the Cape Fear River is not the most pleasant thing to do when you are looking forward to getting a shower and some rest. Maria did great and I fell off the back as she, Jerry and Mike powered up the bridge for the return to the motel. Mike went on with the Colonel and JoAnn to the next control at Sunset Beach, where he planned to get some rest. JoAnn and Colonel Mike were going to ride straight through. Jerry, Maria and I got cleaned up and agreed to get up in time to leave for Sunset Beach by 0445, picking up Mike D along the way. I managed to get a couple hours of sleep, waking around 0320 thinking I had overslept. The alarm went off at 0415 and it didn't take long to get our stuff together and take the drop bags over to where Tony would find them. It was a little chilly in the early morning darkness, so arm and leg warmers as well as a jacket were good to have. Sunset Beach was a comfortable 20 miles away and Mike met us at the pier for a wake up breakfast of coffee and grilled cheese.

Watching that glorious sun coming up on a clear coastal morning, with some early fog, is a wonderful experience. Traffic is still light, and the previous day's aches and pains seem to be at least temporarily forgotten. We ducked into a McD's another 6 miles up the road for a second breakfast, and then settled into getting some mileage behind us. Mike and Jerry did the lion's share of the pulling, and Maria was third. I basically slacked off until the Boardman control, when I commented that the sidewalk looked pretty inviting as a place to take a nap. Jerry and Mike nixed that idea, saying what I needed was to get out of the sleeping car and start pulling our little train along. So it was up to the front as I pedaled away my drowsiness.

I think we were in Bladenboro when we were met with bells, lights, and railroad crossing arms coming down. Oh no, you mean we have to stop?? A long freight train proceeded to thunder past, shaking the ground. There's something about being outside, right up near a moving train that you miss when just sitting in a car at the crossing. The excitement was over in a few minutes and we were on our way, taking a break (Elizabethtown?) for a sit down meal at an Italian restaurant. By the time we arrived at Roseboro (mile 338), anticipation was building in everyone. The closing stretch was upon us!

What would a brevet be without a little taste of bonus miles? Leaving the Roseboro control, we turned right instead of left and went about half a mile up 242 N, instead of 242 S. A little bit of a roller in there made it interesting, but we all took it in stride and were soon back on course. Jerry kept us motivated with regular updates on how many miles were left. Mike suggested we stop at Tar Heel to put on night gear, and we took a break at the store's inside seating for a final recharging (chocolate milk, Dr Pepper, and cheese crackers for me) before throwing a leg over the saddle and hitting the road (just 15 miles to go!). We left Tar Heel at 6:45 with the goal of making Lumberton by 8 pm. I wasn't looking at the clock when we pulled in to the parking lot, but based on our pace I'm sure we made it with a comfortable margin. Tony was waiting there (napping?) in his truck, and it was great to offer our congratulations to Maria for completing her first SR series. Tom and Mary Florian drove up shortly and we joined them (after a cursory attempt at cleaning up) at a Mexican restaurant in the same shopping center. I hung around to try and get a little bit of "sleep" (facing that 2.5 hour drive back to Graham wasn't real comforting). Branson, who rode 300K but left Holden Beach at 8 am, pulled in on his fixed gear around 10 pm. I took off right after that, leaving Jerry and Branson to drive back to Holden Beach in Jerry's car. I believe Joel (rode back to back 300Ks) wasn't far behind. My return trip was uneventful and I was alert.

A great 600K, with great riding companions. Thanks to Tony for organizing the ride.

Apologies for my extremely limited set of photos. Maria and Mike took a much more comprehensive set. I need to get a smaller camera that easily fits in a jersey pocket and is "at the ready."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seneca Rocks WV 400K

This brevet would have to rank as one of the toughest rides I have done. I rarely get off and walk, but on the return trip to Front Royal VA from Seneca Rocks WV, walking up some of the steeper climbs was a regular occurrence. Memories of my first (unsuccessful) attempt at the Assault on Mt Mitchell haunted me, yet I never entertained the idea of quitting. What was I going to do on Wolf Gap at 1 a.m. with no cell coverage - ask a bear for some help? Dismounting and walking can actually relieve stress, and moving forward at 2 mph is still making progress. I kept telling myself that there had to be an end and to push through the temporary discomfort of being wet, tired, alone, and sore.

Matt Settle (romabrevet.org) is running a late season set of brevets, all featuring the beautiful mountain scenery between Virginia and West Virginia. I noticed this new 400K scheduled for Sept 11, and since I felt reasonably fresh (had only ridden a few 20 milers since the 300K Aug 28), decided to go for what was advertised as a "challenging" route (as opposed to the "very challenging" 600K coming up Sept 25). Challenging is an understatement. For starters, the ride kicks off at 4 a.m. (Matt seems to like these pre-dawn start times). The Super 8 motel in Front Royal is very close to the beginning of the Skyline Drive, and served as our meeting place. It was a small group of 3 (Chris Mento, Joel Dillon, and myself) decked out in arm and leg warmers, vests, and jackets for the rather cool (for early September) morning. Temperatures started below 50 and didn't rise much for another 3 hours. Chris stopped at a 7-11 a couple blocks from the start and I waited outside while Joel pushed on without us.

Chris and I rode the first 100K together, and then I couldn't stay with him on one of the climbs so it was at the turn around in Seneca Rocks before we saw each other again. I stopped for a leisurely lunch of a deli turkey sandwich and Pepsi at the Yokum's Vacationland store in Seneca Rocks. Returning through the Monongahela National Forest to Petersburg WV, the McD's beckoned and I loaded up with another sit down meal. It's pig out time! Next stop was the control at the Moorefield Sheetz station, where extra water was purchased as there would be no services for the next 57 miles.

I gained a new appreciation of mountain gaps - there is Edinburg Gap and Wolf Gap to test your endurance. Howards Lick Rd through Lost River State Park also provided some tough climbing. This is an out and back course, so the screaming downhills on the outbound half are a mixed blessing. It was dark on the return (after leaving Moorefield WV), so descents were marked by heavy braking and extra caution. As I was on one climb, a vehicle came down the hill slowly and the driver called out that there was a bear on the road and to be careful. So I turned all my lights on (backups and all) and started making noise - ringing my bell, yelling, anything to avoid surprising that bruin. I dismounted and walked, carefully scanning the area on each side of the road. No sign of a bear (thankfully).

I was expecting some rain showers after nightfall, and was not surprised when rain started around midnight. It continued pretty steadily for the next 5 hours. I was alone for the next several hours and was just starting down Wolf Gap when I saw Chris stopped on the side of the road. He had lost two hours trying to second guess the cue sheet. I was glad to have some company for the last 40 or so miles. We took a break to get a steaming cup of coffee at the penultimate control (Bo's Express) before starting the climb back over Edinburg Gap, and we rolled into the Super 8 parking lot with about 25 minutes to spare. Matt was there with some welcome sandwiches and sodas. Joel had finished a few hours earlier.

The good: No cramps (leg or stomach), no mechanical issues, all new scenery, no dog bites
The bad: Cursed at twice by motorists, bike is dirty again

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Brevets

The 1000K riders took off at 7 am this morning from Greensboro (at least one 200K and a couple of 300K riders among them) under almost clear skies. I will add more to the blog as the ride progresses, but will have limited exposure as I will be focused on areas between Greensboro and Henderson. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from check in last night and the departure this morning.

9/4 0800 UPDATE:
The 600K group started at 7 am, with several 200K and a few 300K and 400K riders. As of 9 pm last night, there were 3 DNFs from the 1000K. Tony reported that the first group reached Fayetteville (approx 400K into the 1000K ride) around midnight. Today's temperatures should be more moderate than yesterday's (the high temperatures contributed to the cramping suffered by those who decided to end the ride).

More pictures have been posted HERE

Now it is off to Fayetteville to deliver 600K bags and pick up 1000K bags, then on to Henderson with the second set of 1000K bags.

LAST UPDATE (timeline 9/4 through 9/5)
I picked up John Guth at the first control after Fayetteville, and we had plenty of time to chew the fat due to a 40 minute traffic jam on I-40 near Clinton.
We stayed the remainder of Saturday (9/4) at the Henderson control (Scottish Inn), and Maria drove up from Raleigh after work on Saturday to help at the control. Thank you Maria! Your coffee was much appreciated by everyone. The first riders came into Henderson around 1:40 am on Sunday and the last group of three arrived a little after 2 pm. DNFs were up to 6. Patty from Flemington NJ drove in sometime before noon in her "mobile motel" (motor home), bringing us the latest updates from the "back third" of the riders. John Guth was now rested, rehydrated, and raring to ride the last 200K with his wife Nancy.

Ian Hands was suffering some bad right knee pain, and had removed his shoe cleat to try and get some relief. I drove down the road to Wal Mart (the Henderson phone book doesn't list a single bike shop in its yellow pages) to try and purchase some cheap flat pedals, but the store was all out of them and the clerk wouldn't let me buy a set off an assembled bike. So it was over to Lowe's for a roll of duct tape and some scrap wood in an attempt to fashion a temporary flat pedal out of an SPD. By the time I got back to the Scottish Inn, Rob D and Ren had arrived and gotten a shower. Ian was icing his knee and refueling. Meanwhile, Tony called to tell me Kevin K had decided to bail out at the control after Henderson, and needed a ride back. So I picked up the remaining drop bags and cleared out, leaving Patty to give any final help to Rob, Ren, and Ian.

Kevin and I got back to Greensboro around 6:20 pm and thankfully none of the first riders had departed yet (they got in about 5:15), so drop bags were available for pick up in time. Tony was at the control (Best Western) and had plenty of food set up in the room. I hung around for maybe an hour, so missed the opportunity to congratulate the final riders in person.

Congratulations to everyone who completed their first 600K or 1000K. All of the pictures I took have been uploaded HERE

Thanks to Tony G for the great amount of work he put in to bring this set of rides to the NC brevet calendar.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Greensboro 300K pre ride

Saturday August 28 was a day for a solo birthday ride, as I had arranged with Tony Goodnight (western NC RBA) to do a pre-ride of the 300K route (one of several brevets planned for Labor Day weekend). The rides will all start and end at the Greensboro Airport Best Western located off Thorndike Rd where NC 68 intersects I-40. I arrived a little before 7 a.m. and parked in the bank parking lot across from Best Western, then had my control card signed at the hotel desk. A fog bank settled in about 10 minutes after I left, and I was glad to have the new Lightman xenon strobe mounted on the back of my rack.

The first 200K will be shared by most of the rides, and takes you north to Virginia via Belews Lake, with several miles on Pine Hall Rd. Dillard and Sandy Ridge are a couple of the communities on the route. I noticed a bit of overlap with some of the roads used for the return leg of the Sauratown 200K, and possibly a little of the Danbury 205K permanent. The route turned north into Virginia on Route 8, and then headed west toward Dry Pond rather than continuing to Stuart VA. Although there was only a few miles of riding in Virginia, what there was turned out to be hillier than other areas. My left pedal began squawking like a loose fan belt on one of those hills before getting to the control at Dry Pond. The lady at the store kindly provided a can of WD40 and with a couple of squirts where the pedal body meets the axle (Candy C eggbeater), all was quiet again. After leaving Dry Pond, the route turns south along some back roads before entering NC and rejoining 704 near the Dan River, west of Route 8.

Several miles on 704 eventually brought me to Madison, where I took an extended break to have a late lunch (2:30 pm) at Wendys. There are several eating places to pick from. After a few turns, I was going back toward Belews Lake and would rejoin Pine Hall Rd before ending up in Walkertown. At the Sheetz control (intersection of 66 and 158), a man hobbled up with one arm in a sling. Turns out he is a cyclist, but had taken a nasty fall when he went over an unseen speed bump. He was lamenting having to wait another few weeks before he could ride again.

The Best Western was about 15 miles to go, but I was running about an hour behind my projected time (still had plenty in the bank). I was hoping to get back to Greensboro around 5 pm and it was more like 6:15. This was a convenient place to get my reflective stuff on and refill water bottles before heading toward the Randleman area. I turned on lights about 7:15 as I was going down Guilford College Rd. It was right at 9 pm when I found Coho Bicycles (no sign, I just looked for the address and also remembered there was a church across the street). I guess Chuck has a dog and it started barking when I stopped at the church. Nina came out to see if I was ok and kindly refilled my bottles. This was the turnaround point, although the return route to Greensboro is slightly longer. As is usual with me, night navigation is more of a challenge. The helmet light helps with looking at road signs and a cue sheet, but it is very hard to see the computer display without stopping (even the low power setting of the light washes out the computer numbers). However, with a little patience and double checking, I made it without any bonus miles! Thanks Tony for an excellent cue sheet.

Not surprisingly (it was around 10 pm), the little control store in Julian was closed. I recorded the time, then hung around to eat something and take a break. A couple of sheriff's deputies pulled up and asked if everything was ok, and where I was heading. I think they were relieved to hear I was on the final 25 miles. The rest of the ride was through familiar territory (I have often ridden in this area with the Alamance Bike Club), so night navigation was no longer an issue. It was about 12:30 am when I rode up to the Best Western.

There was great weather for the ride, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone later this week when the scheduled brevets start Friday am. For more pictures see Greensboro 300K.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yanceyville Ramble

The turnout for Saturday's (Aug 21) Yanceyville Ramble was a record, based on what is listed on the RUSA website for this permanent. About half the group collected in Cracker Barrel off Cole Mill Rd. in Durham a little after 6 a.m. for some breakfast before gathering outside to kick off the ride at 7. Branson is acting as the 'stand-in' permanent owner for John Morris. A thanks to Maria Falbo (Yville Ride), who in her quest to conquer every NC permanent this year helped to renew interest in this route, and rode it earlier in the week.

Joel, Henry, Branson, Mike D, Jerry, Tim, John O, Lynn L, and I were treated to some clear skies and slightly reduced humidity, though temps heated up in the afternoon to around 90. The first 'competition' was to find out who could post the highest speed down the long, curving hill on Pleasant Green Rd. I don't recall if there was a clear winner, but 41.6 - 41.8 was the range for the top speed. Branson on his fixed gear was at an obvious disadvantage.

I dropped off the back of the peloton around 25 miles into the ride, but the main group was still in Yanceyville (46 miles) when I arrived a little before 10. Joel had been keeping Branson company behind me and the three of us would play leap frog most of the day. A two mile detour due to Corbett Ridge Rd being closed turned the total distance into 133 miles, although Joel decided to try out his cyclocross skills on the way back and hoof it across the construction area (new culvert).

Today was saddle experimentation for me - the Pro Stuff online shop in Boulder CO offers a demo program for Selle SMP saddles that just costs the round trip shipping amount. I tried out the Evolution model and had to move it back about an inch at the Yanceyville return control. I believe I'll return to the Brooks B17 for now.

It was good to see Gilbert Anderson at his Yanceyville shop. He still likes to 'blame' me for getting him started with Moultons, as I brought an early model ('85) space frame Moulton to him about 10 years ago to sell on consignment. Gilbert decided he wanted it, and the rest is history. That AM7 (single chainring and 7 speed freewheel) was what I used on a couple of the Assaults on Mt Mitchell in the late 90s.

Another great day for a permanent. Thanks Branson for setting up the ride.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Little Switzerland 400K Brevet

That 12" diameter chocolate chip cookie in the picture is a giant version of one of the cookies my wife made for some earlier brevets. Don't worry, though, I didn't/couldn't eat it all by myself. The rest of the office staff was glad to partake. I still needed a 400K to complete my first SR series, and I began making plans about a month ago to ride one of the brevets that RBA Tony Goodnight organizes in the western half of NC. Tony had a whole set of brevets - 200, 300, 400, and 600 - available on the July 4 weekend (take your choice - they run concurrently), and thankfully a welcome break from the high temperatures came just in time.

I decided to do some reworking of the gear system on one of my bikes, since I have never really liked that big jump in the front chainrings (compact 34/50), and I was ready to switch out the brifters for some bar end shifters. This enabled me to go from a 10 speed cassette to a 9 speed, and drop the useless (for me) 12T cog, while also making it possible to use a 30T large cog. Another case of "less is more" as I now have more usable gears. Part of the changeover was to go with a 46T outer ring, giving me a range of 30 to 93 gear inches. Perfectly suited for a mid 50s randonneur more interested in finishing than suffering knee pain.

Enough gearhead rambling. This is supposed to be a ride report. Believing that getting a good night's rest was important, I drove to Salisbury Friday after work and spent the night in a motel. Saturday a.m. I arrived at Windsong Bicycle Shop around 5:30 to sign in and take care of the usual final preparations. Oh, and to throw in some more controversial material, I mixed up some Infinit nutrition powder (custom blend that just came last week). Hammer fans, take heed (pun intended). There were still some Hammer bars and Endurolytes in my food stash, as it's not good to make a major change in nutrition on a big ride. Never did use the Endurolytes, however.

Weather was perfect (the last time I started a brevet from Salisbury the temperature was in the mid 20s), and there was a good turnout. Nine of us were going for 400K, with maybe half a dozen tackling the 600K (including Wes Johnson, Woody Graham, Tom Florian, and Phil Creel). Another Tom from Virginia was riding the 300K to Erwin TN. We all gathered to receive Tony's final instructions and have our group picture taken. Everyone just kind of straddled their bikes, looking at each other, until Jerry announced "Somebody's got to start this thing" and took off. The first 47 miles to the control at Taylorsville were virtually flat, but as is normal, small groups soon formed. I lost the main group at 11 miles when the route turned left onto US 70. When I arrived at Taylorsville, Woody was just about ready to leave the control. I would see him only one more time, at the next control in Lenoir. The 400K and 600K routes divide a few miles past Collettsville, with the longer route turning north to grind up 181. Tony didn't cut the 400K riders any slack, though. I took his advice and refueled/rehydrated at the Colletsville store, as it was another 30 miles to Marion and there was plenty of climbing (Adako Rd, Fish Hatchery Rd, and Lake James Rd). While plodding up Lake James Rd. I caught up with the tandem of Lowell and Cheryl Grubbs from Virginia (DC Randonneurs). They had DNF'd a previous 400K due to mechanical issues (broken rear hub axle), but now had an all new wheel with a bullet proof Phil hub. We weren't sure about the right turn on to Hankins Rd (mile 111.8) as there wasn't a sign and our computers both read a few tenths less. We went about half a mile further and then decided to go back and ask some people who were selling some food at the corner. They confirmed that it was Hankins Rd and it wasn't long before we were at the Marion control. Unfortunately, Cheryl misplaced her sunglasses while in the store and ended up purchasing another pair. Thankfully the sunglasses have been recovered and will be returned to Cheryl shortly.

Marion was probably the hottest part of the ride. We left there about 3:30 pm and had some rolling terrain along a four lane (NC 221/226) for a few miles. Traffic wasn't bad and there is a decent shoulder. NC 226 turns left at a light and becomes a two lane road without much of a shoulder. Slightly more than a mile later, NC 226A begins and the traffic quickly dwindles, as most vehicles take the shorter, but MUCH steeper climb up 226 to the Parkway. However (see warning sign to truckers), 226A is still a challenging climb. It may not be as steep as NC 80 (further west and arguably the toughest section on Assault on Mt Mitchell), but it is several miles long and relentless. There was an abundance of shade from the leafy trees, but I still pulled off 3 or 4 times to rest and refuel. Lowell and Cheryl must have a low gear around 20 inches, as they were spinning but just managing about 3 or 4 mph. We regrouped at the information control - a couple of dogs came out but I applied the "Vance anti-dog venom" - just rang my bell furiously. It worked! We recorded the date from the sign, hydrated, and then clicked back in for the final 5 miles of climbing to Little Switzerland. I arrived at Switzerland Cafe in time to join Neil Fleming (Audax Atlanta) for an early dinner, and Cheryl and Lowell trooped in maybe 10 minutes later.

Neil and I proceeded up a short climb and then a sweet exhilarating downhill to the Big Lynn Lodge, where Tony had a room reserved. It was good to get some water, clean up a little, and reorganize our stuff for the next section. There was still about 90 minutes of daylight left, but it was cooling down. On came arm warmers. Neil rode away from me on the first climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I wouldn't see him again until Collettsville. It was on the longest of 3 climbs (I think about 5 or 6 miles in length) on the BRP that I felt like screaming "When is this bloody hill going to end???!!!" Frustration, not exhaustion. Well, obviously it did come to an end, and there was another fantastic downhill that was a nice reward. I had reviewed the route earlier, and knew that a good portion of it followed NC Bike Route 2, so that was helpful when it came time to exit the Parkway and find NC 183. This was a good point for me to pull off, don a reflective vest, and set up my lights. I had recently purchased a Dinotte taillight (after being so impressed with the one Ron used on the Morrisville 300K and 400K), and put it in "slow flash" mode to conserve the battery pack. That light, along with a couple of other Cateye taillights served me in good stead coming down 181 in the dark. Cars and trucks gave me a wide berth. I could only think (just a little, as I was having too much fun) of poor Maria and other 600K riders grinding up 181 in the heat of the day.

Being careful to make the left turn from 181 on to Brown Mountain Beach Rd (Adako Rd), I was maybe a quarter mile down the road when a couple of state troopers slowly drove past me and then pulled a U turn 100 yards ahead. Uh oh, I thought. However, they proceeded back toward 181 without stopping. Neil told me later that the troopers had set up a DUI checkpoint. As I got into Collettsville, there was a massive amount of traffic trying to exit what looked like the end of some fireworks display. I happened to be stuck behind an old Mazda van in bad need of a tuneup. After my lungs had taken all of the unburned hydrocarbons and associated filth they could stand, I maneuvered past the van and waited my turn in line. No sooner had I turned right onto Collettsville Rd than one of the troopers directing traffic started yelling at me to stop. I pulled into the store parking area and he came up all flustered, obviously trying to control himself. "You will stay here until I tell you to go!" He claimed two other bikers had almost caused a wreck further down on Abington Rd. Okay, no problem. The store was just closing, but had a Coke machine outside and a nice wide set of steps to take a break. The arm warmers had to come off, as they were soaked. I was so glad I had put in a light jacket, as that was just the ticket right now. I would keep it on for the rest of the ride. By now the time was about 10:30 pm. I had been there maybe 5 or 10 minutes when Neil was similarly pulled over and instructed to stop. I thought he was ahead of me but we had crossed paths at the top of 181. It wasn't too long (another 10 minutes), before the traffic had thinned out and the troopers gave us the go-ahead. I was surprised they didn't at least ask what we were doing out riding at that time of night, but they were cool and just said to be safe.

Neil and I pretty much stayed together the rest of the ride, so it was good to share those pre-dawn hours together as we hit the Lenoir, Taylorsville, and Troutman control points. I was really hungry when we got to Lenoir (about 11:30 pm), so we went to a Wendy's after having our control cards signed. It had to be one of the slowest Wendy's I have been to. The restaurant (inside seating) was closed, so we had to go through the drive through line and eat outside. Neil discovered his rear tire was flat as we were about to leave (better there than out on the road), so he got a new tube in and we were off. We rode a little with John O. and Tim, regrouping at the controls. John and Tim had stopped at Sonic in Lenoir, which was probably a better choice. The name "Old Mountain Road" sounded intimidating (between Taylorsville and Troutman), but the 17 miles were among the most pleasant of the ride. Very quiet and gentle terrain, as we rolled along in the comfortable darkness of early morning. Before long we had left the penultimate control at Troutman and had the final 25 miles into Salisbury. As we watched the sun breaking through and a few cars beginning to appear, I was thinking the drivers probably thought we were just starting out on an early morning ride, not realizing we had been up all night and were returning from the mountains.

I would like to express my thanks to Tony for organizing and supporting the ride, and for the volunteers. Your help is much appreciated.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tour de Cure 2010

The Tour de Cure is a nationwide fundraising event sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, and consists of one or two day supported rides in May or June. North Carolina has a single two day event that has run from Cary to Southern Pines and back for the past two years. Obviously not a brevet, but this year's heat and humidity ganged up to make it a challenge nonetheless. I went for the century route (103 miles) on the first day (June 5), and returned via the slightly shorter route. It was supposed to be 77 miles, but my missing a couple of turns resulted in 92 miles. Although there were plenty of rest stops (roughly every 8 or 10 miles), I skipped most of them until the second half of each day, when necessity forced me to pull over at every other stop to replenish water bottles and get a cold wet washcloth on my face. At one point, as I was dismounting I caught my right calf against the end of my pedal. No big deal I thought - that's happened before and it's nothing but a little scrape. I looked down, and did a double take as I beheld a good sized egg (see egg on calf). There wasn't really any pain, so I put some ice on it for a few minutes and it calmed down. Near the end of the second day, I was swinging my leg over the bike after taking a break when one of the worst cramps I've ever felt took over my right thigh. People in their air conditioned cars at the intersection must have wondered what kind of an idiot was making faces like he was trying to grind steel between his back molars while frantically stretching his leg out. In spite of our best efforts (plenty of Endurolytes, Heed, water, etc.), it seems like muscle cramps are something that hot weather cycling brings out. Unfortunately, there were a few riders who had to sag in due to cramping that could not be alleviated.

This was a great event and it was good to see some new riders, some of whom were doing their first century.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Morrisville 600K

With only one 300K to my credit, and no 400K (see previous post where I volunteered rather than aggravating a 'saddle interface issue'), I might have been a little presumptuous in deciding to throw caution to the wind and send in my 600K registration to Alan. I felt I had a good base of mileage in 200K rides, a few of which had quite a bit more challenging terrain than what I would encounter on the 600. The temperatures were forecast to be reasonable (mid 60s to mid 80s), which is critical as mid to upper 90s can totally drain me. A further encouragement to go for this 600K was the fact that several other fairly new randonneurs (I think all of them had completed the series up through the 400K) were also going, and I was pretty confident I would find riding companions at the same pace.

Preparations were a bit more thorough than usual (added Tums and Tylenol; extra zip lock bags to keep everything dry; twice as many Hammer bars and Clif bars; 3 tubes instead of 2; bagel and peanut butter sandwiches; extra lights and batteries; improved cue sheet holder). With rain showers likely, I opted for wool jerseys and wool socks. The drop bag shuttle (choice of White Lake or Wilmington) was a big help.

Saturday a.m. it was still dry as 33 riders (a new record turnout) assembled at Morrisville Square for the 6 a.m. departure. We enjoyed dry roads for the first hour or so before light rain started. The rain showers continued steadily for another 2 or 3 hours, and then the sun broke through and dried things out. The remainder of Saturday was pleasant. I rode most of the time with Mike O, Lin Osborne, Ian Hands, and Al Pacer (from Wilmington). Mike and I took off from the White Lake control together, heading into the 40-odd miles of 'desolation' of NC 53 and NC 210 that joins White Lake with the Hess control point on 117. Mike dropped off in about half an hour to take a break and try to work out some cramps. I waited for him at the intersection of 53 and 210, but when Ron came by in about 10 minutes I decided to go on with him. Four or five of the faster riders were on their way back even before I got to the Hess control, and a few more came in while I was refueling there. Mike arrived looking less than his best, and said he was just going as far as Wilmington, and urged me to not wait for him. So I took off on my own (lights on by now - 8:30 or thereabouts), and found the Wilmington control around 9:45. My original plan was to clean up in Wilmington, eat and get a couple hours of sleep (split the 600K into two 300K rides). I remembered how wiped out I felt after my first 300K, and figured I would feel the same. Wrong. I ate some pizza and fruit that Jerry had set up at the control, took a shower, but could not sleep. I was too wound up, and it would have been better to just shove off and keep riding. I left word with Jerry to wake me at 12:30 or when Gary and Sara (who hadn't yet arrived) were ready to leave, whichever was first. I think it was about midnight when the knock came that Gary and Sara were ready, so the three of us headed off into the Wilmington night together. I really appreciate their companionship and help in night navigation, as they are both 600K veterans. We refueled at the inbound Hess control before turning our lights toward White Lake. The next 46 miles along 210 and 53 are pretty quiet and I was battling trying to stay awake at 3:30 a.m. We pulled over at a closed store to break up the monotony as well as eat and drink. After resting on the bench for a few minutes, it was time to get going, so we plodded on until the welcome lights of White Lake came into focus a little after 5 a.m. We found the flashers Mike D had put on his car at the motel, and saw several bikes parked along the wall by the room, as well as Lin Osborne camped out on the sidewalk. Mike D was asleep on the couch but was soon up to make us some hot sandwiches and a cup of latte, in addition to the signing of control cards. Branson, who had arrived in White Lake around midnight, was soon up and off. We all took some shut eye for about 30 to 45 minutes, and then it was up to refill bottles, slather on sun screen, and refold the cue sheet for the next segment to Stedman. Mike assured us that we probably wouldn't encounter rain until late afternoon. However, only about 30 minutes after leaving White Lake the familiar rain showers began. Lin, Sara, Gary and I took turns in a paceline for a few miles, and then I began to feel the start of bonking (I should have eaten something at the motel just before we left). I elected to pull off at mile 268 where the route turns off Highway 242, and get my teeth into that second peanut butter and bagel sandwich. As a result, I rode solitary for the next hour as I endured the punishment of Turnbull Road. I think Turnbull would be ashamed to have his name associated with that sorry excuse for a road.

Gary and Sara had pulled off at the convenience store at the corner of Stedman-Cedar Creek Rd, and by then I was ready for a break again so joined them. Rain showers were continuing off and on as we left for Stedman and the next control at mile 291. A few other randonneurs, including Bryan and John, were already there. We refueled again (my choice of food varied as the ride progressed - I remember pizza, turkey and cheese sandwich, ice cream cone, ice tea, Coke, water, gatorade, pretzels, hamburger and fries, and coffee. Not to mention what I brought with me - energy bars, bagels, endurolytes, etc.). Sara, Gary and I continued to leap frog with Lin and Al Pacer pretty much for the rest of the ride. At one point I thought Gary and Sara had left me for good when they blasted down the hill into Angier, and I elected to turn left into the McDonald's (where Lin was already inside) for a break. I took a leisurely stop for a meal with Lin, and told him about my rather unpleasant left foot pain (it was getting very difficult to expend the force to clip in due to the tenderness right on the ball of my foot, and climbing while standing was impossible). Usually I don't have foot issues, but as I talked to Lin, we remarked how endurance cycling puts a lot of wear and tear on us (physically and mentally), as well as being hard on equipment. I don't know if riding in rain soaked socks, which softened the normally tough calluses, contributed to the foot pain, but I was almost afraid to pull off my sock that night, wondering if I would find an ugly bruise. However, there was no external sign of anything, and today I am just about back to normal.

Al Pacer joined Lin and I as we left McDonald's, and we stayed together briefly until they left me on some of the rolling hills that were now going to be our challenge for the final 40 miles. I saw Al and Lin a couple more times on New Hill Olive Chapel Rd, but was on my own pretty much from Angier to the finish. Thunderstorms and a little lightning came up for the last hour, so I was pretty drenched by the time I got to Alan's house at 7:20. I thought that I was behind Sara and Gary, so was surprised they were still on the course. Lin, Ron, and Vance arrived within 15 minutes. Another thunderstorm with a heavy downpour was making its way toward us, so we took off for the Morrisville Square before the sky fell out. Rain was coming down as bikes were loaded, and then it was back to Alan's to recover our drop bags.

I would like to thank Jerry and Mike D, who manned the 300K and 400K controls with plenty of food and encouragement, and Gary and Sara who are encouraging and wonderful people to ride with. I could not have finished this event without your example and experience. Congratulations to all participants.

Vance has an interesting report here. See Geof Simon's report here. And don't miss Keith Sutton's here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Penultimate Control - Morrisville 400K

The Snow Camp store serves as the next to last control point on the 200, 300, and 400 Morrisville brevets, and since I was still nursing a boil I decided the better part of wisdom was to serve as a volunteer rather than possibly end up as a casualty needing assistance, or at best trying to ride the last half of the event standing on the pedals. The store closes at 9 pm so I offered to hang around and sign/stamp control cards until the last riders came through.

The first group of randonneurs came in a little after 8 pm, and were all business as they quickly refilled bottles, grabbed some food, and prepared for night riding. Jerry and Mike D cautioned me that it could be a long night as some riders were 45 or 50 miles back.

Wes rolled in about 20 minutes after the lead group had taken off. I admire his tenacity as he was struggling with leg cramping issues. The first "distress" call came around 10 pm - Sridhar called to say he had abandoned but needed a ride from Seagrove back to where he had parked his bike in the woods somewhere on Flint Hill Road (the passing motorist who gave him a ride didn't have room for his bike). So I started down the road to Siler City but within 2 miles a group of 4 riders appeared, necessitating a turn around on my part. No sooner had I returned to Snow Camp but Sridhar called again to tell me Maria had picked him up at Seagrove and they were on their way to retrieve his bike. Sitting tight at Snow Camp, I continued to sign cards, give out V8 and snacks, and wait for Sridhar to call when he got back to Siler City with Maria. Meanwhile, Mike O drove up with Byron, bringing the last of the pizza. It was good to see them. Another group of riders including Joel, Branson, Keith, and Glenn also arrived. Mike was in contact with Alan, and eventually decided to drive back to Siler City with Byron and pick up Sridhar and his bike, then take the shortest route to Morrisville.

My mode of operation was to sit in the car and wait for riders. When Ron arrived on his recumbent, I opened the door only to set off the car alarm. I'm sure I startled Ron as I frantically tried to silence the pulsating horn and lights. It probably only lasted 10 seconds but it seemed like 15 minutes. Ron wryly commented "What a way to be welcomed to a control." This was a rental car and I think I had pressed the lock button on the remote while inside, then used the door lock to get the door open. I'm still pretty low tech when it comes to auto electronics.

Martin (skiffrun) rode up around 2:30 am, followed a few minutes later by Sara and Gary. Martin said that it had been a tough day from the outbound Siler City control, and he needed to stop every 10 miles for a short break. The three of them left together just after 3 with the goal of arriving at Alan's house at 8 (and they made it!).

Congratulations to everyone who participated in this demanding ride.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Calvin's Challenge 2010

Saturday May 1 was the 19th annual Calvin's Challenge, a 12 hour bike race in central Ohio (Springfield, near Dayton) hosted by the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA). Richard and Joel Lawrence put the bug in my ear about this event a few years ago, even offering a space in their van, but it wasn't until this year that I actually signed up. My wife and I drove up on Friday (a 9 hour trip counting a stop for lunch) under perfectly clear skies. Those blue skies would quickly disappear during the night, to be replaced by the gray clouds and rain typical of central Ohio in May.

It was good to see Richard and Joel, as well as Tom and Mary Florian while going through rider check in Friday night. My rest was interrupted around 1:15 a.m. by the front desk, calling to alert me to a possible vehicle break in of a red Nissan Frontier. Great, I thought - what's in it? I had taken everything out, including the stereo faceplate. Turns out it was the other red Frontier, not mine. However, that pretty much nixed the rest of the night as far as getting any sleep. Right around 6 a.m., the rain began falling steadily, though thankfully it never turned into a downpour. Riders began lining up for the mass start about 7:15, and we were off at 7:30 on the 50.5 mile loop. The goal is to ride as many complete loops as possible, and then switch to a 7 mile loop for whatever remaining time you have before the 7:30 p.m. cutoff. The short loop does not open until 3:30 p.m. Riders could stop at the two rest stops (main staging area at Shawnee High School and another halfway around the long loop), or anywhere on their own, but the clock continued to run.

There were classes and categories for just about every kind of bike and rider - male and female, 10 to 83, tandems, recumbents, HPVs, even a couple of highwheelers. The rain stopped around 11 a.m. but the wind continued so there were some sections with stiff headwinds. The routes were mostly flat, very low traffic back roads. Moderate temperatures (65 to 75 F) prevailed.

Congratulations to Mary Florian for coming in first in her class. Joel and Tom (both veterans several times over of this event) each took home a "Non-medal Medal" for completing the UMCA "baseline" of riding at least 200 miles in 12 hours (they both had a comfortable margin). I did just surpass my own goal of 160 (161) so I left feeling like the mission was accomplished.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Volunteering on 300K

Volunteering was a great experience, though my only 'repair' was giving Mike D an M5 cap screw and washer to replace one that had vibrated out of his front rack. As I covered the last 60K in the rain and darkness (checking on rider progress), it gave me a better idea of what shows up to motorists. Taillights are critical - the more the better. I agree with the RUSA requirement of a reflective vest or sash, but they are not that effective due to the fact that light doesn't reflect too well (back to the motorist) off a surface that is not perpendicular to the ground, and randonneurs don't ride sitting bolt upright. They work for traffic patrolmen because those people are standing or walking, not leaning over a bike. The reflective leg bands and safety triangles mounted vertically on the back of a rack pack are excellent.

Congratulations to everyone who rode and it was great to meet some new people. Photos can be seen here

Monday, April 19, 2010

Morrisville 300K Pre Ride

When RBA Alan Johnson put out a call for volunteers to pre ride the Morrisville to Seagrove 300K with him on Saturday April 17, I thought it would be a good way for me to accomplish a goal of starting and finishing my first 300. My schedule won't allow me to ride in the brevet on the 24th, but I will have some time in the morning and late afternoon/evening to volunteer.

We met at Alan's house a little before 7 am, and after some last minute shuffling of bags and double checking of night riding gear, we were off. The weather forecast was excellent, with only a 10% chance of rain and temperatures ranging between 47 and 77. By the time we reached the first control at Snow Camp, the sky was looking very overcast, but the extent of our rain was maybe 10 tiny drops we felt as we rode down to Siler City. As the day wore on, the clouds disappeared completely. Mike O met us as he was driving home after doing a 44 mile ride from Siler City to Erect and back.

The 100K Siler City to Seagrove out and back route was the new part for me, and I couldn't help being thankful we were not traversing the climbs in 20 degree hotter temperatures, as those who rode this brevet last year had to endure. After taking a break for lunch at the Seagrove turn around, we enjoyed some downhills and tailwinds back to Siler City. Lights and reflective equipment came on at Snow Camp (left around 7:30 pm), and we made the 50 odd mile trip back from there to Morrisville in one shot, arriving right around 11 pm after dodging a couple of wild turkeys and an opossum out for some nocturnal wanderings. One dog gave us some excitement - it sounded serious and I could only hear it as it chased after us.

This was just about an ideal way for me to get in my first 300K. Near perfect weather, riding with a veteran RBA who knew the route cold, and our riding speeds are very closely matched. I need to get comfortable with using a helmet light - I could read road signs but found that I had to tilt my head down too far to read the cue sheet, and I could barely make out the display on my bike computer. This may require changing where I position the cue sheet and also trying the low setting on the helmet light - medium may be too bright to see the computer display.

Thank you Alan and I'll be looking forward to seeing everyone this coming Saturday for the official 300K brevet (Snow Camp and Siler City controls).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Danbury 205K Permanent - solo

With the NC Fleche absorbing a good number of the regular randonneurs this past weekend, I opted to go solo and try out John Bovine's Danbury 205K Permanent on Saturday April 3. Riding solo has the advantage of knowing that you are truly riding your own ride. If I feel like taking a break somewhere besides a control, I take it. Although that kind of independence is generally true for randonneuring (not Audax), let's face it - if you are with a small group or even one other rider, you are less inclined to split off. That said, I still prefer having a few people to share the ride.

John met me at the Citgo in Whitsett a little before 7 a.m. with the control card, cue sheet and last minute instructions. The route is an out and back that follows a northwest direction through Guilford and Rockingham counties before the turn around at the Stokes County seat of Danbury, close to Hanging Rock State Park. I would characterize this ride as challenging as it has a lot of rolling hills. The real hurdle was Phillips Road off of NC 772. One section of about a quarter mile long sports an 18 percent grade and I contemplated getting off and walking, but forced myself to get up it by repeating the cycle of standing for 10 pedal strokes and then sitting for 5. I have a compact crank (34/50) and a 27 tooth rear cog, but it was still a struggle for me.

On one part of Phillips Road I encountered a gentleman stopped on the other side with a Windsor touring bike. I pulled over to inquire if he needed anything, and learned he is 70 and is working on getting in shape. His bike was outfitted with some nice Ortlieb panniers on the back and a homemade rear view mirror bracket made of a long piece of PVC pipe. Another mile down the road I heard the sound of a couple of dogs tearing across a yard and hitting the pavement behind me. Fortunately I was going down another little hill so outran them handily. On the way back from the turn around, I was prepared with Halt! spray and nailed them. If a dog stays on its property and barks, no problem, but once it gets on the road after me it's open season.

There is a very enjoyable 7.5 mile stretch (River Road) that follows the Dan River just after crossing it. Traffic is heavy and extra care required in a couple of spots - about 3 miles along US 158 west of Reidsville and a couple of miles of Summit Avenue adjoining US 29. In both cases the shoulder is non existent - the pavement ends immediately to the right of the white stripe.

No mechanical issues or flats - I've been satisfied with the Specialized Armadillo tires that I put on late last year. I got back to the Citgo station at 18:19, certainly not a great time but considering the terrain I was satisfied with my total time of 11 hours 19 minutes. Thanks to John Bovine for setting up the permanent and coming to pick up the route card at the end.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Howling for Grits Again

Saturday March 27 still had some of that winter cold lingering around, at least until 10 a.m. or so. Five of us (Jerry, Joe, Sridhar, Wes, and myself) met at Farrell's Store for a 9 a.m. start on Jerry's permanent populaire. Temps were in the upper 30s, forcing us to lug around some extra clothing and gloves that could be pulled off as the mercury rose. Jerry, Joe, and Wes rode away from Sridhar and I on the first major climb (Lystra Rd), and things pretty much stayed that way for the entire route, other than regrouping at controls. Wes was on his almost new Coho that he had Chuck build with S&S couplers for ease in transport to next year's PBP.

The historic Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro suffered a major fire earlier in the week, but our General Store Cafe was open for business and makes a nice midpoint control for lunch. The 3 fast riders had already ordered their food by the time Sridhar and I arrived, but they had to wait until last to actually receive some grub. "Slow and steady" apparently won out.

The ride was good other than having one yoyo in a black pickup deliberately pass us close and then use his windshield washer to give us a little sprinkle.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Black Creek Permanent 3/20/2010

I had proposed riding this 200K permanent in mid February, but one of those frequent (for 2010) NC snowstorms killed that idea, so I was glad to see that Mike O had posted a request for riders to join him last Saturday. The weather was beautiful, although I'm glad that I wimped out on the side of caution and wore my "lobster claw" gloves. Those who suffered with half finger biking gloves had a miserable hour or so at the start of the ride. My little rack pack from Performance was enough to hold the gloves and a light jacket, as well as some leg warmers that I took off around 10 a.m. at the first control.

Seven of us (Mike D, Sridhar, Lynn, Dean, Alan, Mike O and myself) met at Wakefield HS for the 7:30 a.m. departure. After a few miles I found myself alone, riding behind the fast group of Mike and Lynn, and ahead of the others. The second group caught me at a long light and we stayed together the rest of the way. Well, almost the rest of the way as I had a minor bonking attack with only a few miles to go. Not sure why, as I ate what I usually do on a 200K, and drank more than normal including a couple cans of V8 juice at controls. Oh well, a convenience store was nearby so I exited the group and replenished my food and drink. I caught up with Sridhar about half way up the last hill as he was taking a break trying to work out some leg cramps. I wasn't paying close enough attention to the road signs at the top of the hill and took the right onto 98 instead of crossing and going to the OLD 98. Time for some "bonus" miles, but after I had gone about half a mile and not seen the left for Falls of Neuse I figured out my error and went back, just in time to catch Sridhar, who had followed me, from going too far down the hill.

Mechanical issues were limited to Sridhar dropping his chain and Dean breaking a spoke. I thought I had included a FiberFix repair spoke in my kit, but must have left it at home. I did remember a spoke wrench, and Alan gave a quick roadside tutoring session on wheel truing. Dean nursed that 23 spoke rear wheel another 84 miles but I understand he is looking into some sturdier wheels for his next brevet.

A great day to ride, and I'm one more brevet closer to an R-12. 9 more to go!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Howling Grits" Populaire

Jerry Phelps recently put together a permanent populaire that he named "Howling Grits", and four of us (Dean, Sridhar, Jerry and myself) met Saturday January 23 at Farrell's Lakeside Store near Farrington Village to add to our mid winter training miles. Jerry lives only a few miles from the start, but somewhere between his house and the store, he lost my card and cue sheet so offered me his own. There was a control about every 10 miles which I suppose is part of the idea of a populaire, as they are designed to "break in" new randonneurs and not get them too discouraged wondering when the next control point is going to come up.

Temperatures started out a little brisk (around freezing) but not quite balaclava level, although keeping the top of your head and ears covered was important. We took off down Lystra Road, and before long encountered "Col du Lystra", a nice little challenging climb. I remembered this hill from a charity ride last summer (Cup n Cone Tour). The route overall had a good amount of climbing (1500 ft according to the RUSA website).

The roads were wet at the beginning due to rain the day before. This is when fenders are nice to have - they don't do a lot of good in a downpour but are helpful afterwards. I used my bike with fenders - the other one doesn't have enough clearance for them. I discovered some handy "Sheldon Nuts" during the process of mounting the fenders (named after the late Sheldon Brown who suggested them to Quality Bike Products). These move the fender bracket out from under the fork crown/rear brake bridge if you have side pull brakes with recessed mounts, and allow for better up and down adjustment as well as not having to remove the brake caliper to remove the fender.

We stopped at the General Store Cafe in Pittsboro for lunch (sorry, grits are not served on Saturdays), and the terrain was a little less strenuous the remaining 30 miles. About a quarter mile from the end, with Farrell's Store visible in the distance, Jerry was about 100 yards ahead of us. I heard Dean say "Let's reel in Jerry" so the three of us shifted to our next higher gear and went after him. Dropped him, no. But we all did turn in to Farrell's together. There were several other cyclists out enjoying the sunny skies and mild afternoon temperatures. I remarked that this would be a good training ride for Maria who says she needs to work on hill climbing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kerr Lake Permanent

Jan. 16 was much more tolerable temperature wise than the 2nd, with temperatures ranging between 32 and somewhere around 50 degrees. 10 of us took off from the start north of Raleigh at 7 a.m. and basically followed NC Bike Route 1 north toward Virginia. We crossed the dam and circled Kerr Lake before returning to NC and Bike Route 1. This was my first permanent, as well as first time on this route though a part of it was included in the Ride Between the Lakes century that used to be held every October (it started in Warrenton but it has been several years since the ride was offered).

I enjoyed seeing some new faces (new to me, since I'm the newcomer). Gary Shaffer lost a screw from one of his shoe cleats at the half way point, so he was forced to leave his left shoe attached to his pedal the remainder of the ride (with only one screw holding the cleat on, kicking your foot out in the normal way to disengage only causes the shoe to pivot). Made for some interesting times getting off and on his bike. Congratulations Gary for finishing the ride in less than ideal circumstances. Last night I decided to check my own cleat screws and discovered both of the left screws were loose and one had backed out one turn! I believe I'll throw in a spare cleat and some screws for the next brevet.

It was time to turn on lights by about 1645 (I could see the road and cue sheet fine, but with dusk coming on I wanted to be visible), and I finished up around 1730. It was a great ride and I look forward to many more. Thank you Mike for getting the ride organized, and to the other riders who made this enjoyable as well as challenging.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kicking off the new year

2010 has started here in central NC with mostly fair skies but below normal temperatures. Greensboro Velo Club hosted a Polar Bear Ride on Jan. 1 - initially I thought I would go for 61 miles but decided to go on the "medium" route of 41 due to obligating myself for a 200K brevet the next day in Salisbury NC (north of Charlotte). With tooling around Greensboro before the ride started, I ended up with 46 miles. Temperatures dropped into the 20s and the wind picked up for Saturday's (Jan. 2) brevet. The seven of us participating had a strong tailwind the first 60 miles down to Mt. Gilead, and paid for it coming back. I finished around 7:40 p.m. with the aid of lights and reflective clothing. My thanks to Keith Sutton of Virginia Beach who waited for me at the last two controls and helped immensely in navigating.