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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.