Sunday, February 28, 2010

Running with the Big Dogs

Today SiR held their 100k Spring Populaire. A Populaire is a brevet that is free and open to the general public. Populaires are basically the Randonneuring open house to get new members.

Populaires usually draw quite a few people, especially when held on a day with great weather. At the start I noticed that there were a few of the fast riders there, guys like Jan Heine who is almost always the first to finish a brevet, and Chris Ragsdale who won one of the top endurance events in the country last year, the Furnace Creek 508. These guys are endurance cycling monsters who could keep up with just about anyone.

I decided that since it was a relatively short ride, it might be a good time to try staying with the lead group, to see what life is like at the front of the peloton. I generally tend to finish brevets in the second or third group which is often quite a ways behind the lead group, so I figured I could stay with them for at least a short while. And if I completely blew up 20 miles into the ride, it wouldn't be such a big deal to limp along for 40 miles to finish the ride.

Out of the gate the lead group was cruising along at 25+ mph on the flats. It was fun to be part of that, but I knew right away I wouldn't be able to keep up that pace for 100km. Sure enough, about 12.5 miles in we came to Montreux hill which climbs several hundred feet in a couple miles and during that climb I got completely chewed up and spit out the back of the lead group. So, my time with the elite riders was brief, but it was fun. At the top of the Montreux climb, I could still see the lead group a couple hundred feet ahead of me but I knew that catching them would mean burning every match in my book with 50 miles still left in the ride. Not a smart strategy, so I let them go.

There were a couple of other riders that also fell off the lead group at Montreux and the three of us ended up working together for most of the the rest of the ride. In the last five miles or so that small group dropped me too, so I rolled into the finish alone. Still, it was a fantastic ride. It's great to finish a ride like that with absolutely nothing left in the tank; it lets you know you really gave it your all.

I finished the ride in about 3hrs 40-something minutes. This was a pretty hilly ride, with over 4,000ft of climbing, so I felt pretty darn good about finishing in under 4 hrs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In which I don't get lost or crash and the sun shines the entire ride

On Sunday I rode my February 200km permanent. With sunshine and temps in the 50s by the time I finished, I had to keep reminding myself that it is indeed still February, and whether or not that big city groundhog back east saw his shadow, we still have months of crap weather ahead of us. But the start of the ride was pretty February like. The thermometer near Marymoor on the way out of town said 30 degrees.

I rode the Redmond - Carbon Glacier permanent. I chose the route because I wanted something with easy navigation and not too much steep climbing. I decided to ride this one on my single speed bike just for "fun."

The route is a straight out-and-back that heads almost directly toward Mt. Rainier from Redmond. Then when you're almost there, you turn around and head back along the same route.

View Larger Map

I dressed with the assumption that it would be warming up as the day progressed. That turned out to be true, except that it didn't really get warm until over halfway through the ride, so I had frozen fingers and toes for the first five hours. The Carbon Glacier Ranger station is up at 1,700 ft. and deep down in a valley, so it was still below freezing when a got there with plenty of frost on the road and ice on the puddles.

This was really a nice route without a lot of traffic and some interesting scenery along the way. Like the Mowich Mall. (I guess "mall" has a slightly different meaning if you live in Mowich. Do you think the Mowich teenagers hang out here?)

And the Wilkeson cemetary was beautiful with frost still on the grass. It was also a sobering reminder to keep my eyes open for frosty patches on the road lest I end up road kill.

The climb up Highway 165 to the Carbon Glacier Ranger station is gradual enough that it's not a problem at all on a single speed.

I hadn't seen this guy in a while.

A glimpse of Mt. Rainier from Enumclaw.

(In my very best Eeyore voice) Nice barn. A bit drafty.

Overall the ride was uneventful in the best possible way. I never got lost. No flat tires or other mechanical issues. I felt good the whole way. Didn't waste too much time hanging out in convenience stores.

The ride took 8 hours 20 minutes, which is the fastest I've ever done a permanent. That probably has less to do with fast riding than not getting lost and not hanging out too much in convenience stores.

Next weekend is the SIR Spring Fever Populaire which officially kicks off the 2010 Randonneuring season here in Seattle. That means this was probably my last permanent for a while since we have a pretty full schedule of brevets for the next few months.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cougars and Rabbits

One of my riding goals for this year is to spend less time riding. That's going to be a challenge since I'm planning to ride in the PBP in 2011 and the more official ACP sanctioned miles (kilometers actually) I ride, the better my chances are of getting into the PBP. So I'm trying to maximize the official Rando rides I do while minimizing the unofficial training rides. But it's tough to do those long brevets without any training so my strategy is to make the training rides short but intense.

Yesterday I did one of those short but intense training rides. It was about 50 miles with 3,450' of climbing. That works out to about 69' per mile. Anything over about 55' per mile is what I would call "hilly" and makes for a good workout. Here's what the elevation profile looks like:

I rode from home out toward Issaquah to the base of Cougar Mtn, rode up and over Cougar Mtn, and then did a quick loop around Mercer Island on my way home.

On my way around the Mercer Island loop, I came up behind a guy in full team kit. I saw him look over his shoulder and see me when I was about 100 ft back. There's nothing better to keep you hammering on the pedals than having a rabbit to chase down. Even better when they know you're chasing them and they want to make a race of it. As soon as he saw me, he picked up the pace some so I was no longer gaining on him. So I picked up the pace a notch. It took me about 5 minutes, but finally I closed that 100 ft between the two of us and immediately passed him. If it were really a race, I would have sat on his rear wheel for a while to rest a bit before attacking, but I was out more for exercise than the race so I just kept hammering past him. So of course he grabbed my rear wheel and hung there for a couple minutes and then passed me. I let him get ahead a bit and then chased him down again. We traded places a couple more times before finishing the loop. Each time one passed the other, we gave a friendly nod and a smile. I'm not sure about him, but by the time I finished the Mercer Island loop I was pretty gassed, but it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Demonstratin' My Mad Skillz

January is the third month of my bid for an R-12 award. So, to keep the R-12 ball rolling I rode a 200k permanent by myself on January 24th. It was a good thing that I decided to ride this one alone, because it ended up being a comedy of errors that would have been pretty embarrassing if there had been any witnesses.

The route I chose starts in Leschi and heads around the north end of Lake Washington to Redmond on its way out to North Bend. The route then comes back to Lake Washington and continues around the south end of the lake with a short detour out to Maple Valley.

It was cold and mostly clear and the sunrise was glorious as I headed north along the lake. Even though I was shivering it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Good thing I forgot my rain coat because I hate hauling that thing around with me when I don't need it.

As I was leaving Redmond heading toward Novelty Hill, I rode through a wall of warm air. I watched the thermometer on my fancy-schmancy bike computer jump from 32 to 46 degrees in about 2 minutes. And then the wind started to blow and the sky almost instantly turned black and angry. Before long it was raining. I spent the next couple of hours mostly riding into a nasty headwind and driving rain as I worked my way out to North Bend. The rain continued to come down for the rest of the day but luckily the wind let up a bit.

So, my weather forecasting abilities aren't much, but how about navigation skills? On my way to North Bend, first I rode right by two of the controles, the second of which I didn't notice until I was about 5 miles farther on down the road. I also made more wrong turns than I could keep track of. I noticed most of the wrong turns pretty quickly so they didn't cost me too much time, but still extra miles in the driving rain sting a bit more than sunny day extra miles.

At least my bike handling skills are rock solid. I've been riding seriously for about two years now and in that time I've never crashed. Impressive, huh? About 14,000 miles without ever making contact with the pavement. So, if you're going to break a streak like that you might as well do it on the day you "decide" you don't need your rain coat and it starts pouring, and the day you can't seem to follow a route sheet to save your life, right? Sure enough, as I was rolling through suburban strip mall hell near Issaquah, I came around a turn a little too fast and hit the brakes a little too hard on pavement that was a little too wet, and before I knew what was up I was down. Luckily the part of me that hit the ground first is the part of my body with the most padding. It hurt but did no real damage to me or the bike, so after a couple of minutes of loud cursing I got on the bike a kept going.

Eventually I rolled into the finish at the Leschi Starbucks, cold, wet, bruised and annoyed by my lack of navigational skills. The wrong turns and missed controls added about 12 extra miles to the route. Not too bad considering. Still it made for one of my slowest 200k rides ever at just under 10 hours to cover 139 miles. But as I sat there at Starbucks drinking some expensive and delightfully hot coffee reflecting on the ride, the pain and suffering was already starting to evaporate from my memory. It's amazing how for me, even a miserable ride makes for a pretty good day.

Cascade 1200

I signed up for the Cascade 1200 a couple of days ago. Honestly, my palms got sweaty just filling out the online registration form and confirming the PayPal payment. The Cascade 1200 is a 1200 km "grand randonee" put on every two years by the Seattle International Randonneurs. It generally follows a pretty mountainous route, crossing the Cascade range a couple of times with plenty of other ups and downs along the way. I've done a couple of 600 km brevets now, still a 1200 scares the heck out of me. But since my long term goal is to ride the PBP in 2011, I suppose I'd better get comfortable with the idea.

Between now and the start of the Cascade 1200, I'll be riding a full SR series (200k, 300k, 400k and 600k brevets) so I should be in decent shape when it rolls around at the end of June.

I'm Back!

Sorry, my blog has been down for a while. And some of my old posts are gone. Call it technical difficulties… Anyway, I didn't quit riding while that was going on so I'll probably do a few posts over the next couple days to catch y'all up.

First, some thoughts about my riding in the past year. I’ve been keeping a log of my cycling over the past couple of years. It’s nothing too fancy, just an Excel spreadsheet with the date, miles, time and a brief description of my rides. I’m pretty religious about entering every ride, unless it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or a ride around the block with Adam on the trail-a-bike. I realize I’m a little late for the whole year-end recap thing, but like I said, I’m doing some catch up blogging here. So, here’s what my year of cycling looked like in summary:

I rode on at least 248 days in 2009. In total, I covered about 8,018 miles which is 2/3rds of what the average American drives in a year. I drive a lot less than the average American, so I’m guessing I racked up more bike miles than car miles last year. (Maybe I should keep track of car miles next year so I can compare.)

About 3,383 miles (42% of the total) were covered in my daily commute to and from work, or running errands on the way. I went into the office about 230 times during the year and 192 of those commutes were by bicycle. The rest were using public transportation.

I have both single speed and multi-speed bikes. I generally do my commute on the single speed, but sometimes ride that one on recreational rides too. Overall, 3,922 of my total miles (49%) were on a single speed or fixed gear bike.

Of my recreational rides, 25 were between 50 and 100 miles in length and 15 were over 100 miles. How long was my longest ride? It sort of depends on how you define “ride.” I did two 600k brevets both of which extended over more than a day, so I’m not sure whether to count each of them as one ride or more. Both were somewhere around 380 miles and I completed the first one in 28:50 and the second in 33:45. My greatest distance covered in 24 hours was a little over 300 miles covered between 6 am on June 13th and 6 am on the 14th on the first 600k brevet.

Okay, here’s the statistic that makes me feel a little bit sick: I spent over 533 hours riding a bike last year. Whoa, that’s a lot of hours. That’s 22 days on a bike. In my defense, remember that about 2/3rds of that was time spent commuting to and from work, and my commute doesn’t take much longer by bike than it does by bus. Still that leaves 180 hours last year that I could have spent curing cancer or inventing a better mousetrap or something more useful. Did I mention that one of my resolutions for the new year is to spend less time bicycling?