Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year In Review

It was a good year. I first climbed on the bike in 2009 to loose weight and improve my general fitness. By the end of 2009 I'd done that in spades, shedding over 50 lbs and surprising myself by twice riding > 100 miles in a single day on my hybrid.

Entering 2010 I was hooked. I had a new touring bike, the Surly Long Haul Trucker, and had joined a local club, the Severna Park Peloton where I was making friends and learning to broaden my horizons with regards to what was possible. I started commuting to work on the bike on a regular basis.

I didn't however quantify my goals for the year back in January. I didn't have a specific mileage in mind, or any awards I wanted to earn, I just wanted to continue the fun and the improvements in my general health and fitness. I was introduced to Randonneuring by the SPP and it proved to be a very good outlet for me to channel those objectives. Long distance rides with the goal to finish in a set time period. It's not a race but it requires you stick to a schedule, and no SAG vans, you must be self sufficient and resourceful on the road. The rides are completed year round in all sorts of weather. The rider must judge for himself what is safe and what is realistic based on the conditions he finds and his fitness, experience, and level of preparation. These are many of the same attributes that have always attracted me to sailing as well, especially when going offshore for long periods of time.

I wanted to give it a try. So I did that first 200K brevet back in January with Chris Lane. It was 17 degrees at the start and we never saw the warm side of freezing all day. The wind was in our face, hard much of that day. We finished cold, exhausted and excited to be done on time. You can find that first ride report in the archive links to your left. It was called the Tappahannock 200K.

The sense of accomplishment was almost euphoric. But the level of commitment and logistical challenges to repeat it 11 more times on a monthly scheduled seemed completely unrealistic at the time. So of course I did it anyway. Every month I found a way to make the time and get me and the bike to the start. Rain, heat, wind, snow, I saw it all through the seasons of a single year. Sometimes by myself, more often with one or more partners.

In between I kept showing up in the mornings riding with SPP or meeting Chris and riding to work. The miles started adding up to really big numbers. My heart, lungs, and legs all grew stronger as my stamina improved.

I learned how to dress for cold weather, and warm, how to eat so the fuel would last all day, how to fix things when they broke, and I started to appreciate that I hadn't yet really tested my own limits. I also saw some beautiful countryside. I never ventured more than about 150 miles from home. But I rediscovered how beautiful Central MD, Pennsylvania, Virgina, Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay really are.

There are some goals I have not accomplished this year and some things I'm resolved to do differently. I have yet to ride an event longer than 200K despite plans in September that came within a week of fruition before the logistics fell apart. I haven't lost nearly enough weight from all of this either. I'm still obese by any reasonable standard, and with all of the miles I rode and the calories I've burned this year, that's very disappointing. But I kept shoveling it in so the weight has yet to come off. I didn't take nearly enough pictures. I see a lot of neat things and pass a lot of great countryside on the bike. But I don't often slow down and record what I see, despite the ease of modern digital photography. Time on the bike has also frequently become time away from my family. I want to change that too.

But the best part of it all has been the new friends I've made and the many interesting people I've met along the way. That will certainly keep me on the bike for years to come. Some of those friends I have yet to meet in person. I'm not the only guy using a bike to pound himself in to shape and writing about it. I've met a few others online chasing the same goals and am grateful for their support. It's been every bit as helpful and inspiring as the folks I see almost daily on the road.

This year I rode 8500 miles, earned an R-12 medal from RUSA, and made many new friends. I'm thankful for all of that and quite satisfied.

There are so many people who have earned a sincere "Thankyou" or more from me. If you take the time to read along, then you can count yourself among them. But I must single out my wife Tivy Binnix and our six beautiful children: Taylor, Justin, Jessica, Morgan, Zach and Erik. I love you all and am so grateful.

In 2011 I will also do more:
  • Ride 9000 Miles or more for the year
  • Get my weight down under 200 lbs
  • Take and publish more pictures while riding
  • Spend more time with my family on and off of the bike
Please make a point to stop by the blog to follow along, or better come join me for a ride. Have a very Happy New Year everyone. I plan to.

Last ride of 2010

The biking year for 2010 ended on a high note.  11 of us set out from the RB for Friday breakfast.  It was 29 deg and dark.  There were still patches of ice on the trail where no sun has made it through to clear it out since the day after Christmas.  But 11 hardy souls turned out anyway, as we always do, to enjoy the sunrise, breakfast and some great camaraderie.

Jerry and I split from the pack in Annapolis to join other friends for breakfast at Chick n Ruths then rode back up the trail in time to see the 7:30 crew heading out to enjoy the same. 

8500 miles on the year, the R-12 award complete, many new friends, and a significant improvement in my health and fitness.  Other goals have been left unmet, creating an opportunity for 2011.  But I'm happy with how this one turned out. 

I'll publish my reflections on the year more thoroughly this weekend.  Thanks for following along.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No Ride Today

A slight case of "too much itis" when I woke up this morning. I had a great time at the sailing team's Christmas Party last night. But I think that 4th or 5th glass of wine might have been tainted. The result... rolled over and went back to sleep when my alarm went off. So 500 miles this month is now out of reach but 8500 for the year is still in my grasp if I behave myself tonight and ride in the morning.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Breakfast Ride

Several of the bike club are taking the holiday week off. So instead of just a quick Wednesday lap we rode down in to Annapolis and had breakfast at the Big Bean.   More of the same planned for tomorrow and Friday.

The weather was hovering right at freezing when I set out this morning so I dressed accordingly and swapped the studded tires (heavy, slow, but oh so secure on ice and snow) for the my normal touring tires and set out to meet them.

At  breakfast we called Clint to harass him about not joining us, his excuse was a business trip. He does that others frequently so it was his turn.  After we ate, no one really wanted to leave.  We lingered over breakfast for a while and finally set out for home.

The southern end of the trail was not completely thawed out from Sunday's snow so our route included Ritchie Hwy for the last few miles to town and the return leg.  The shoulders there were well cleared with only a few piles of salt to dodge.

A great start to the morning.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mosey Monday - first ride of the season with snow tires

I put the studded tires on the bike last night in anticipation of wet / icy conditions this A.M. The blizzard passed east of us and we got less than 2 inches of snow. The weather guessers were right, this was a big storm, but it kept them on their toes trying to predict it's track. The Eastern Shore of MD got considerably more snow than we did.

The roads were mostly wet with many patches of dry salt encrusted pavement and a few side street with snow and ice. The Schwalbe winter tires have little carbide steel studs that grip remarkably well on ice and a bit of tread that is useful in very light snow cover like we had this A.M. They are heavy, and loud on bare pavement, but they feel sure footed when heading in to unknown conditions like today.

It got out the door a few minutes later than intended so I followed the expected track of the riders in reverse and met Dave P on Light Street Rd about a 3/4 miles south of the RB. It was just the two of us and we enjoyed the brisk morning.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pre-Blizzard Ride to B'more

The forecast for Dec 26th snow fall has been rather chaotic leading up to this morning. I was disappointed at the prospect of 6+ inches and the chance it would cut down on biking opportunities this week. My mileage for December is way down and I'm planning to push it back up a bit this week.

So I was glad to see the club email chatter last night suggesting a 7:30 ride this morning to beat the snow. Committing to join friends is often the best way to discipline my self to actually get out of bed and clip in on a cold morning. It worked. Janet, Clint, Bryan and I had a great ride up to Bonaparte's Cakes and Pastries in Fell's Point.

Every time the club headed to B'more the last year it always seemed like I had other commitments and couldn't go. So I was glad when Clint suggested we head north instead of going to Annapolis. Entering Baltimore from the south requires passing through some of the grittier neighborhoods in the city. We followed side streets parallel to MD-295 until we got to the city incinerator plant. A bike trail from there took us the M & T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, then through downtown to Fells Point. I wouldn't try to navigate those neighborhoods alone or in the dark, but in a group during daylight they provide a reminder that life offers different challenges to different people.

It was a fun ride. The overcast sky and north wind made sure we appreciated the coffee shop when we got there. Gardner lives nearby and when we called, he quickly agreed to meet us there. So the 5 of us enjoyed great service, good pastries and coffee while we recounted our Christmas stories.

On the ride home the first light flurries of the day's snow fall started. I'm glad to report as I write this Sunday evening that it looks like predictions of Snowmageddon appear over blown. 1 - 3 inches now looks likely. I mounted the studded tires today and plan to ride in the morning.

Great service at Bonaparte's. Photo courtesy of Bryan Nelson
From Biking 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Ride with the best bike club around.

Enjoyed a wonderful Christmas party at the Provenza's last night with nearly the entire peloton and their spouses. Wonderful to see what everyone looks like in real clothes, instead of lycra, spandex and baclavas. On the whole, they dress up pretty well. Congratulations to Clif Dierking being named rider of the year. Well deserved.

But of course we decided that wasn't enough so we gathered again this morning for one of our favorite excursions: breakfast in Annapolis. A lovely morning with 15 of us pedaling through the chill just after dawn. It really is a great group.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sailing Down to Solomons - R-12

I completed my 12th 200K ride yesterday to earn my R-12 award from the Randonnueurs USA.For 12 consecutive months I've ridden a 200K permanent route or brevet sponsored by RUSA. When I started my first one in January, 2010 I had no intention of actually doing this 12 times, sure that I couldn't possibly work out the logistics around work and family commitments, let alone survive the physical tests it would represent. But here I am the morning after completing the whole series to tell you about. I'll write up another post in the next week or two summarizing the year and what I've gotten from it. Now let me tell you about yesterday's ride....

A week ago the forecast showed Friday the 17th would be a great riding day. Temps starting in the upper 20's and warming to the low 40's, sunny, clear with calm winds. Nearly ideal conditions. Earl's been itching to do his first 200K and I needed my 12th. Saturday would likely result in a solo ride so I suggested to Earl we do it and Clint chimed in that he'd like to join us to start his 3rd consecutive R-12 series, ride number 25 in a row! We all contacted the Route owner, Crista Borras and registered for the ride on Monday.

Well the forecast slowly deteriorated through the week. Thursday saw a front come through that dropped 2 - 4" of snow all along the route and now the high was forecast to barely reach 32. But at least the winds were still supposed to be calm. It's already past mid month and I need this one to finish the 12 month series. Skip a month and you start all over again. The snow stopped a full 12 hours before the scheduled start. So I put my faith in our public servants on the road clearing crews and wrote to Clint and Earl Thursday evening that I was still determined to ride.

On the radio driving to the start, I heard that Anne Arundel County decided to start school 2 hours late and Calvert County had decided to close schools for the day, both decisions based on the road conditions and bus transportation safety. But of course we would stick to our plan and ride on through both jurisdictions.

We all arrived at the start nearly 30 minutes early, plenty of time to get a coffee, reattach front wheels and other accessories removed for transport, and otherwise prep for the ride. Chris Lane met us at the start by car to wish us Bon Route and to briefly discuss post ride celebrations. Chris finished his R-12 on a solo ride a week earlier and we felt we owed ourselves a pat on the back.

At 6:03 am in the dark with temps around 22 deg F, we did the hardest part of the whole ride, we clipped in and started pedaling. 6 miles later we stopped to change our first flat. Earl's front wheel was going soft. We stopped under a street lamp, standing in the snow and dealt with the flat. We couldn't find a sharpie in the tire so we mounted the new tube and crossed our fingers.

Next came a spectacular sunrise. The first few miles head East South East so the sun rose right in front of us and really was beautiful. We stopped at the top of a small rise where the pink sky was framed over a farm field and Clint snapped a picture. See the link below for all of Clint's shots of the day.

Once we turned south on MD Route 2 the shoulders were mostly ride-able. There were patches of slush that occasionally required us to ride in or very close to the travel lanes. But in general we were able to use the wide shoulder on Rt 2 and stay clear of traffic. At mile 25 we stopped to fill our bottles with warm water at a gas station convenience store. The temp had warmed all the way to 25 degrees and everyone was feeling well.

At mile 37 we stopped at a Starbucks and each ordered an egg sandwich and coffee and took a few minutes to thaw out our fingers and toes. The staff and customers all though we were nuts. 3 guys on bikes riding over 100 miles in the freezing cold with questionable road conditions.... Yeah when they put it like that it did sound a little nuts.

Stopping for a break like that is a mixed blessing. It was so cold we needed to warm up and we needed the extra fuel to stay warm. But muscles stiffen up and it takes a few minutes to get loosened up and back in to a rhythm once underway. I also noticed a slight wobble and that my rear wheel was out of true. It wasn't severe and I suspected a popped spoke. As a touring bike, the LHT has very stout 36 spoke wheels and they can roll without one or two. I kept pedaling and made a mental note to inspect it at the next control stop.

At Solomons we rode through the town and found the information control at the University of Md research center. Solomons is a great little village on the Patuxent river. It started life as a fishing town and there is still a sizable fleet of commercial watermen there, but it has also enjoyed some gentrification in recent years with nice restaurants and shops opening up to server the tourists and a number of well healed residents who've moved in for the easy access to water recreation and gorgeous views. Even with the cloud cover at the time, the river looked great.

At mile 60 on the north side of Solomons we took another break. Bagels and hot chocolate this time. I also addressed the rear wheel, it was indeed a popped spoke. I learned last time I tried to repair one myself that over correcting for a bad spoke is worse than doing nothing. So instead of replacing it, I made only small adjustments to the adjacent spokes to make the wheel run a little more true and avoid rubbing the brake. That was the last I had to mess with it the rest of the trip. I suspect crossing the rumble strip along the shoulder of MD 2 southbound caused it. The vibration those strips induce is rather severe.

Shortly after we left Solomons heading North the SUN came out! It felt great and Clint announced we'd reached the high for the day 33 Deg F! (from the thermometer on his bike computer).

At mile 70 Earl's front tire was going soft again. This time we had sunlight to work with and found the sharpie. A bit of wire had worked through the tread. My needle nose pliers proved useless to grab it as the ends have become splayed and don't close all the way. But Earl had a straight pin and we used that work it out. We also found and removed several other stones and bits of glass lodged in the tread waiting to cause havoc. After all of that was removed and we booted the tire where the wire poked through we were ready to roll again. The state trooper parked on the same side street where we stopped never once asked if we were okay. But we made a point to wave to him as we left anyway.

The sunny ride through the rolling hills to North Beach was fun. I was slowing down a little on the climbs but I really enjoyed the sunshine and that's the most scenic part of the trip. In the bright sun, the Chesapeake Bay was a beautiful blue. We saw 3 large bucks inside the fence where the road is adjacent to a US Navy installation. Other deer were spotted several times as well. Then we saw our only dog. Not a threat, this one had a Frisbee in her mouth and wanted us to stop and play. Unfortunately we knew we were on a schedule and had to pedal on.

The town of North Beach had it's Christmas best on for us. The tree and other decorations at the town dock were really neat. Then we pulled in to Sweet Sue's coffee shop for more hot chocolate and another snack.

Departing Sweet Sue's we had to confront the hilliest part of the route and we knew that the great sunlight we'd enjoyed the last couple of hours would fade. We'd done almost 100 miles in the could and were really ready to be done. But had to press on this last section.

A few miles past North Beach we hit our only really bad section of road. It had not seen a plow or much sunlight in the thick forest since the snow and was covered in hard pack white snow for most of a mile. We slowed, rode with one foot unclipped and picked our way through as best we could. No spills and once we were past it we didn't see any similar conditions again. Actually, I think we were quite fortunate with the road conditions considering the snow the day before.

At the last information control at Tacaro Farm we answered the trivia questions about the lawn jockey and turned on our lights again as the sun was now fading fast.

Now it was time to press on the final 25 miles to the finish. We did, in the dark as the temps fell. All those dark rides in the morning with the SPP 05:45 club paid off. All three of us had plenty of prior miles in the dark and proper lighting equipment. So while I can't say I enjoyed that part, it went by uneventfully.

Finally we turned on to Davidsonville Rd for the final 3 miles to the finish. Flashing lights ahead where the police were gathered at a home for some kind of incident kept traffic to a crawl which I think was a blessing for us. That stretch was one lane in each direction with no shoulder and would have been rough with heavy traffic at full speed. Past the police action it opened back to two lanes and we had no more issues the last 2 miles.

Suddenly there it is... a 7-11 sign never looked so inviting. Client and Earl slowed and let me pass to lead our little peloton in for the big finish! I'd done it, R-12 was complete. It felt great.

Chris again met us at the finish and then we all proceeded to Hellas for dinner, beer and stories. Several other SPP club members came out to congratulate us.

I've been remiss this week not posting a congratulations note to Chris Lane. He finished his R-12 the prior week while riding alone in on a route in rural southern Virginia. We tried several schemes to ride together for the final R-12 ride but couldn't synchronize our schedules.

The dinner was a great time to congratulate each other and celebrate with friends.

I can't thank Clint and Earl enough for joining me. Riding this one solo in the winter conditions would have been brutal and probably would have tested my ability to get it done under the time limit. I've made some great friends on the bike in the last year.

A few links:

North Beach, approx 94 miles, courtesy of Clint Provenza

Note: My garmin battery died a few miles from the finish. The actual distance is 128 miles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

5:45 with SPP

5 of us met at the Rusty Bridge at 5:45. Temp was around 21 deg F, winds WNW at 17. All standing water had long since turned to ice. Light snow flurries covered the ice and made it look like grey paint in our head lights. I actually thought it was paint at first as there is a lot of utility work going on along the trail these days. Then I noticed Earl's tire was leaving a track in the "paint". It was a light dust of snow on top of black ice. Otherwise the flurries were not accumulating. These patches were small but quite slick. Coasting over them while avoiding the brakes, turns or trying to pedal to accelerate lets momentum work as it should, a body in motion on the bike just keeps going in a straight line.

It was really quite fun to meet up with the gang for a quick ride this morning. Earl, Clint and I are going to ride the Sailing to Solomon's 200K this Friday. Earl has Friday's off and the forecast is about as good as we can hope for in December. Should be above freezing, clear and light winds all day. So Clint and I have each managed a day off as well. It will be Earl's first official Randonee, it will be my 12th and for Clint number 4987.... I think. I'm very much looking forward to completing the R-12.

Another note on wardrobe. Last Friday I ditched the wind jacket in favor of extra layers of wool and tech fabrics that wick moisture and was pleased with the result. This AM it was at least 5 deg cooler and quite windy. I did essentially the same and it worked quite well.

From the inside out:

  • Perl Izumi Amphib Winter Bibs - the bib portion has a light fleece lining and come up to the middle of my chest.
  • 200 weight icebreaker wool base layer - long sleeve
  • 260 weight icebreaker wool base layer - long sleeve
  • Short sleeve summer jersey
  • Long sleeve Perl jersey with a light fleece lining

For gloves I wore the day glow yellow SealSkinz gloves and a pair of oversized summer short finger gloves with padding outside of the SealSkinz. Also a great combination. The wool Defeet liners down to about freezing then switch to the SealSkinz below freezing.

On the head I wore a balaclava and an Underarmor winter skull cap under my helmet.

I plan a similar combination for the 200K Friday. The number of wool layers to be determined at ride time based on the temp. I definitely think the jacket is relegated to wet weather only at this point. I'll carry it in the trunk bag in case we find our selves stopped for any reason while out in the open it will serve as an extra layer to keep warm when the engine's not running if I need it. But wearing it over the wool, even below freezing seems to lead to a lot of damp wool.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Breakfast Ride

Great ride this morning. 7 of us set out from the Rusty Bridge for Annapolis to have breakfast. Clint had his bike decked out with LED Christmas Lights. As soon as I get access to the pics I'll add a link. It was quite an effect.

I always enjoy Fridays. Besides a great ride with friends, I have additional pals who meet at Chic N Ruth's deli on Main St. This morning both groups were well attended. My brother Justin, Franklin Bowen, Mark Paepcke, and Jerry Rush joined us who are not often regulars. Jerry gets extra points for riding his bike all the way from Catonsville.

Talk at C n R focused on tomorrow's Army Navy football game which several of us plan to attend in Philadelphia. It should be a close game with Army enjoying it's first winning season in a decade. I'm very much looking forward to it.

The other big thing I'm still working on is getting my final ride done for the R-12. Right now i have my eye on the 18th, and Clint said he may join me. That would be great to avoid riding alone. But the 10 day forecast on Wx Channel says the 18th may be dreary and wet. So I'll follow the forecast as it gets closer and try to pick a dry day the 17th or 18th. Earl might be available to join me on the 17th. As a pastor, he obviously works most weekends and Friday is his traditional day off.

Either way I'm looking forward to getting it done, if I get to ride with one or more partners that would be a big bonus, and hopefully threading the needle around weather events.

An interesting article has been circulating recently about Layering Tricks for cold weather cycling. It points out that a jacket is no substitute for proper layers and the jacket may not actually be necessary. I've been riding lately with my ShowersPass Elite 2.0 jacket over a jersey and a wool base layer. The Elite 2.0 is a great jacket. Wind proof and water proof and breathes better than any similar jacket I've worn. But breathing better doesn't mean it breathes sufficiently. I'm a big guy and I perspire a lot and with this or any jacket outside of my base layer(s) and jersey I found (again) that the perspiration built up and other garments become quite damp. Then of course when I slow down, I'm susceptible to getting chilled.

This morning I followed the formula in the article and was pleasantly surprised how much less moisture I retained in my clothing. I put on a 260 weight IceBreaker wool base layer, a jersey and a long sleeve Perl Izumi jersey that is slightly heavier than a normal jersey. It worked wonderfully. I might add one more very light wool layer beneath the rather heave layer I wore today, but the concept worked well. The Elite 2.0 will certainly come out at the first hint of rain. In cold conditions on longer rides it will also likely ride along in the trunk bag so I have a layer to add if I have to stop for a flat or other issue that might leave me exposed to the elements without the engine running.

I've already learned this same lesson last winter. But I had to live it and read it again to get it to sink in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Winter

I know that the solstice is still more than a week out but two days in a row now I've ridden in the mid or lower 20's and it's COLD.

I met 9 riders this AM at the Rusty Bridge for the SPP 05:45. It was 21 degrees setting out and since it was still dark, the temp continued to fall. It takes us a minute in these conditions to recognize one another as we're all so bundled up that nothing is visible except eye goggles and a nose poking through the mask. Puddles are frozen, road hazards that might be inconvenient at 50 deg if they caused a flat mean risking frostbite and chills while dealing with the problem. Yet this intrepid group still musters every weekday morning and rides on. I always enjoy it when I join them rather than ride to work and will probably do so more frequently as the temps keep falling and the evening ride home becomes a bit less appealing.

Tomorrow we ride to Annapolis for breakfast. Always a great time.

GarminConnect seems a little off this morning, I'm having trouble getting in to load the ride. I'll post the track later when it's back up to speed.

Late Post: here's the track.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Route - New Ride Partner

Bill Cunningham, a fellow SPPer, wrote me over the weekend and suggested we ride to work together this week. Traveling Monday and Tuesday, today was the first opportunity. We met at the RB at the leisurely hour of 6:30 and rode together to the airport. He works at the Northrop Grumman plant about 2 miles from my office by bike.

It was chilly but we had a good ride. Always helps to set a date with a ride partner to make sure I actually get up and get on the bike. When the whistle blew we even managed to synch up again for the ride home. Bill showed me a new route home that avoids the dodgy part of the trail behind the Marley mall, is more direct than my West B & A route, and only has one congested intersection to negotiate. Not a bad option. You can follow the details by clicking the map below.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Riding

Not exactly what I'd planned. I had hoped to be celebrating that my R-12 was done about now. But it became apparent Saturday afternoon that getting things for work under control while traveling Monday morning, and meeting home commitments AND riding another 200K on Sunday wouldn't all fit. So I had to pull out of Sunday's 200K. Disappointing but it couldn't be helped.

I did enjoy a nice ride Saturday morning with SPP to Annapolis for breakfast and Sunday afternoon around the river with Chris. But the R-12 will have to wait a couple of more weeks.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Evening Ride

The weather this morning was atrocious. Heavy wind, heavy rain, nasty. My day at work was about the same. So when I got home and the skies were clear, I was ready to blow off some steam. An hour on the bike riding up and down B&A trail seemed just the the answer and I feel much better thank you.

There was quite a bit of small debris and leaf litter on the trail from the big winds that accompanied today's cold front. But no large branches or other big obstacles. Also a few wet spots that might lead to ice if we get below freezing tonight. The forecast on calls for a low of 33 deg F. So we'll see.