Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tour of Southern Anne Arundel

Set out this morning at 04:00 with Dave, Matt and Alex to ride the new RUSA populaire route that Dave put together: Tour of Southern Anne Arundel.  The route is essentially the northern half of the Sailing Down to Solomons 200K permanent.

I signed on because at 102K (63.5 miles) the distance was exactly what I needed to round out 1000 miles for the month of July.  I did it!!  The others were looking for a slightly longer workout and the early start suited all of us to beat the heat and allow time for the rest of the day with family, church, chores, etc.

At 04:00 we beat the heat and the traffic.  The first half to Chesapeake Beach was entirely in the dark.  We set a crisp pace and with no traffic could ride 2 x 2 and talk while we rode.  We arrived at the turn around just in time to see a great sunrise over The Bay.

Matt took this shot along Fairhaven Rd just north of Chesapeake / North Beach.

Sunrise over The Bay. Courtesy of Matt Kisner

About half way back I picked up a sharpie in the rear wheel. Otherwise the ride was without incident. It was Alex' first RUSA event, it put me over 1000 miles for July and capped a big week with 281 miles in 7 days.

After we got home I took my two youngest sons out to celebrate. We had breakfast at the The Breakfast Shoppe in Severna Park. I had a 3 foot stack of pancakes, a dozen eggs, and a pound of bacon. Well not quite, but I was famished and enjoyed a hearty meal, then came home and took a nap. A good Sunday all around.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I need goals. If there's not something I'm reaching for I quickly revert to a sleepy couch potato.  On the way to work this morning I cleared 850 miles for the month, which is the goal I set for this month when setting my "schedule" for the year.  Of course not all months have gone so well.  I set out in January to see if I could ride 9000 miles this year.  As I write this I'm still 620 miles behind schedule for the year.  So with this month's quota out of the way. Every mile I ride the next three days makes up for miles missed when I wasn't being so diligent.  The stretch goal now is to get to 1000 miles this month and see if I can do it again next month (the Aug plan is also 850 set at the beginning of the year).

This morning I saw Dana Dobbs.  He was on his triathlon bike spinning and ensuring it was correctly dialed in for a race this weekend.  He's looked after me often at the bike shop and I understand from my nephews he is quite a stern task master as a teacher at Broadneck High School.   Good guy and easy to root for when he competed in the Hawaii Iron Man last fall.

This evening's ride home wasn't has hot or humid as I'd feared.  I took the Dicus Mill route again, the descent is much nicer when sure footed on dry pavement.

Tomorrow is the Friendly Friday ride with SPP to breakfast then to work and finally home in the evening. Should be close to 60 miles and take a nice bite out my last 118 towards 1000.  Can I entice Earl to ride with me to the office in the morning?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The longest mile....

Is from my bed to the bike.  Once I've conquered that, the rest of the day usually goes well.

Didn't commute in today as tonight is sailing and I can't make it from the office to the dock in Annapolis in the hour allotted if I do it by bicycle.  So I enjoyed a morning ride around the river instead.  Cool, clear, no haze and the humidity is pleasantly low.  Shame this won't last. Forecast says we're headed back to the 3H's this weekend. Hot Hazy and Humid.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peer pressure

Last week I noted that consistency is key to success.  Then promptly took 4 days off the bike; ugh. Plenty of excuses: it was HOT, I was on vacation and didn't want to get up early, the kids wanted me to spend time with them....    and one could easily have served a little cheese to go with all of that whine!!

I find peer pressure a useful tool to help achieve consistency.  At the beach on vacation, I had a wonderful time with my family, but no cyclists in the bunch to apply the gentle nudge (or violent shove when needed) to get me on the bike. On the contrary, the extended family beyond my wife and kids thought I was nuts riding as much as I did.  I'm back home now and riding with friends it's a little easier to find the motivation; like this rather pointed reminder (challenge?) from Earl.  Thanks.

I got another surprise when Chris sent me an email suggesting we ride home together and join the other SPPers at Squizitos tonight for dinner.  He had ridden in to the train station to catch his train to work and we'd be going the same way anyway.  Good to catch up.

So just over 40 miles on the day; and I feel great.  G'night all.

Monday, July 25, 2011


First day back at work was rather uneventful.  That's a good thing after two weeks of vacation.  This vacation was the least disrupted by work, that I've had the last few years, very nice. Had a great time at the beach with the kids, sailing, swimming, and of course biking.

Rode to work and back.  Took a new route home, WB&A --> Burns Crossing --> Dicus Mill Rd --> Benfield.  Adds a mile or so to taking WB&A to Tompson and over to New Cut.  Not sure how I felt about the winding decent on Dicus Mill on wet pavement as there were showers earlier in the afternoon.  But I think it will do to add a little variety occasionally.  Gonna try and stretch the ride a little both ways this week and see if I can't crack 1000 miles for the month.  May have to ride a century this weekend to make it work.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Le Tour

I'm not a racer and I don't find Le Tour de France to be compelling enough to hold my attention for three weeks.  So I didn't tune in until the last couple of days.  The crash highlights were macabre and I wish all of those injured a speedy recovery.  But I gotta give Laurens ten Dam props for getting back on his back after his crash in stage 14.  A great example of rule 5 in action.

 Congratulations to Cadel Evans and to the Schleck brothers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Randonneuring Is a Team Sport

Randonneuring is a Team Sport and I'm fortunate to belong to one of the better teams around; the Severna Park Peloton.   Randonneurs USA (RUSA) emphasizes friendly camaraderie and that is absolutely the most appealing aspect of it to me.  But in my experience it often goes beyond that.

Any randonnee is by definition a long ride and will test the randonneur's readiness and preparation.  This includes his fitness, his equipment and a simple checklist of important things to bring along.  In temperate weather a 200K brevet can be a wonderful way to spend a day.  Fall colors or spring blooms show off nature at it's best in the mid-Atlantic region.  Throw in a couple of good companions and you have a recipe for a fantastic day on the bike.

But most of us aren't content to only ride on nice days.   We layer on some additional challenges to test ourselves.  Sometimes we fix the date for a brevet months in advance and short of extreme storms (or sometimes in spite of extreme storms), we ride in whatever weather Mother Nature provides that day: rain, heat, cold, wind, whatever.  Or we set out to repeat the 200K once each calendar month for 12 consecutive months in pursuit of the R-12 award.  This also forces us out on the bike throughout the year in periods of long daylight and short, in months when the temperatures average in the 20s or the 90s, an R-12 award winner has to confront it all.  We ride longer events that can stretch the adventure over several days with little time for sleep (did I mention each randonnee has a time limit?).

Randonneurs can and often do ride alone. Such adventures provide their own sense of satisfaction.  But in report after report, you'll read that when the going get's tough, camaraderie progressed beyond friendly banter.  It was those friends, team mates, that got everyone through the day when it might have been tempting to call it quits, or when the right tool or spare part repaired an otherwise catastrophic mechanical failure.  Sometimes we plan in advance to complete the event together and choose to stay together when one or the other member needs a break or a hand repairing a problem on the bike.  Other times these teams form spontaneously on the road as riders with a similar preference for a comfortable pace find themselves together.  Regardless of how they form, I find they are essential to the successful completion of many radonnee events when the circumstances become challenging.  Officially, each rider signs up and commits himself to take on the challenge (and the risk according to the waiver we sign) alone.  We don't formally obligate ourselves to look after one another.  Yet we often accomplish so much more together than we could alone.

My first brevet in January, 2010 was probably my coldest and toughest day on the bike I've ever had.  But Chris and I had agreed in advance we'd stick together.  Smartest plan we ever made.  I couldn't have finished that one alone. As my first event, a failure that day might have kept me from even trying again.

In December, 2010 I was down to my final month to complete the R-12. The weather is always suspect that time of year and daylight is a scarce commodity.  I was dreading the prospect of riding a 200K alone in such conditions but I had to finish the challenge.  I reached out to the team for a hand.  Clint and Earl answered the call to join me on a wet snowy morning at 6 am, well before dawn.  Schools were closed because the road conditions were deemed unsafe for bus travel. But we rode anyway.  I successfully completed my R-12 that day and celebrated the event in fine fashion that evening with friends.

In May of this year I was attempting my first ever 300K ride.  The weather was near perfect.  The challenge this time was pushing on 50% further than I ever had.  Three of us formed our team on the road.  My team mates that day were both PBP veterans, Nick and Justin. I was the rookie in the group.  But once we settled in together, their encouragement made the extra miles glide by without a problem.

Yesterday Earl Janssen and I teamed up to ride Eastern Shore Reversed 200K permanent.  This was Earl's 8th month in his pursuit of the R-12 (he started on that same snowy December ride).  July is another challenging month to complete a randonnee. It's usually HOT and humid.  Yesterday lived up to those expectations.  On paper the course from Wallops Island, VA to Cape Charles and back looks like one of the least challenging available.  Flat as a pancake it is estimated to involve only 500 ft of climbing.  We joked about the "hill" coming up if we could actually see a dip or rise of more than a 5 - 10 feet.  When I first rode this route last October it went as expected.  The weather was near perfect, temps between 60 and 72 deg F the whole day, low humidity, and a light Easterly breeze (cross wind) to help keep me cool.

This time we saw a high temp over 98 deg F and humidity over 90%.  The wind was negligible until the very end, when a light breeze lifted from the North, a slight headwind.   We started at 6 am hoping to cover as many miles as possible in the cooler parts of the morning and minimize our exposure to the toughest conditions.  But the heat would inevitably come at the END of the ride after we'd already been at it for a hundred miles.  By noon it was simply oppressive.  We finished successfully by working together, encouraging each other, and being smart enough to recognize the conditions were stressful and required prudent breaks. We also covered a LOT of ground quickly in the first part of the morning by alternating the lead every 5 - 10 minutes and drafting behind each other.  This let us hold a 19 - 20 mph pace early before the day got too hot and further cut our subsequent exposure to the tough conditions later in the day.  A solo ride in that heat would have been torture, and a good candidate for DNF (did not finish). 

These are just a few examples of the teamwork I enjoy so much while biking.  Poke around my blog and you'll find other examples big and small.  But it really IS why I keep riding.

Earl has also posted his thoughts about yesterday on his blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Consistency is the key

I've known for a long time that consistent training and exercise is the key to consistently improving performance.  And "performance" in this context can be loosely defined.  What's your objective: weight loss?  improved stamina and health? ride 1 mph faster on average?  Chances are most of these will improve in unison if you train consistently.  I've not been very consistent the last couple of months and it's been gnawing at me.  I've encouraged new riders who ask for my input to ride every day.  "20 miles per day will do you more good than 40 miles every other day." Is the how I try to explain.  But if you check out my Garmin logs you'll see that it's been rare that I string more than 2-3 days in a row on the bike since the 30 day challenge back in April. 

This morning two friends reinforced this point for me.  I don't think they had me specifically in mind when the sat at a keyboard and noted their thoughts.  I'm a hundred miles away on vacation and haven't seen or ridden with either in over a week.  Though I do have plans to ride with Earl tomorrow.  Yet there it was on Earl's blog this morning.  Later Jeff would post similar thoughts to club mailing list about how poorly he felt getting out of bed and how much better he felt after riding this morning, noting also that he hadn't been consistent lately.

So I'll be paying more attention to how many days each week I throw my leg over the bike.  Today makes three in a row and I have a date with Earl for a 200K tomorrow, so of course that commitment will be plenty of motivation to get me up and moving for number 4.  Thursday will be the true test.  I need to get up and put in a light 20 miles + Thursday to work off the lactic acid from tomorrow and to keep my own commitment to consistency.

Today's 30 miles was fun.  I know I have a big day tomorrow so I set a shorter goal than the last few days and I watched my heart rate, shooting to keep it under 130 with a nice consistent cadence.  It's exactly what I'll need on the flats of lower VA shore tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wandering Around Lower Slower DE

Southern DE often goes by the nick name "Lower Slower Delaware".  The economy of the area is split between agriculture and beach tourism.  I'm obviously here participating in the later.  The exact origins of the nickname will likely never be known.  Some visitors use it derogatorily (sp?) when things don't live up to their hyper charged lives back home.  Cell phone service can be spotty, convenience stores aren't open at all hours, there is not a fast food joint on every corner, business can still be done with a handshake for many services.  These and other aspects of life here can be either infuriating or endearing depending on ones perspective. My family and I keep coming back for vacation because we love the place.

Today I rode through the shore towns of Slaughter Beach, Prime Hook and Broadkill Beach.  They epitomize this less hectic lifestyle and they are lovely. Mostly residential strips along the beach with only a small general store to acknowledge commerce of any type.  Specifically I was looking for a control point that could be used in Slaughter Beach to develop a randonneuring permanent route of at least 200K based on Chip Adam's annual "Flat Bread" brevet.  The brevet runs at a scheduled time when we know businesses will be open to provide a receipt and initial our control card as "proof of passage" to the riders passing through.  A permanent route is ridden at the rider's preferred schedule so the means for establishing passage must be flexible enough to accommodate a rider at almost any time of day.

The general store in Slaughter Beach is open 8 - 6 pm six days a week, closed on Tuesdays.  Similarly the Broadkill store is open 7am to 6pm seven days a week.  The Broadkill store also by the way makes a delicious chicken salad sandwich.

So open businesses in these little strips may not support riders at any hours.  We'll have to either route the ride away from the beach to the larger "metropolis" cities of Milton or Milsboro where one can find a Seven-Eleven open all night, use an "Information Control" that asks the rider to answer a trivia question he could only know if he was actually there, or may be in spirit of Lower Slower DE we could simply restrict the perm hours to days / times when these establishments are open.  We'll see.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To the Beach!!

Had a great ride to the shore yesterday.  Things started looking up Friday evening.  I was checking off "to do's" at work at a furious pace so I could be away and be reasonably sure I'd be unmolested by my electronic leash (mobile phone) while I was gone.

Then I got a text from Chris asking if I'd like some company for the first few miles of my trip to the beach.  Now a good afternoon was looking great.  We set a plan and met at the Park N Ride at Jones Station Rd and Ritchie Hwy at 05:00 on Saturday morning.  Chris drove us over the Bay Bridge, even obliged me and stopped for coffee and a breakfast sandwich on the way.

We clipped in at the middle school in Stevensville at 05:45 and set off.   It's been a while since Chris and I had a chance to ride like that it was fun to catch up.  He stayed with me as far as Centreville then had to turn back for home and get ready to host the celebration of his parents-in-law 60th Wedding Anniversary!!  Happy Anniversary Mr. and Mrs Smith!!

The rest of day solo was wonderful.  As the sun came up and it warmed up an odd thing happened for Maryland in July...  the humidity fell!  The haze cleared and it got to be downright pleasant as I toured the corn fields of the Eastern Shore and Delaware.

There was a very light breeze from the north.  Just enough to appreciate it whenever I came to a complete stop.  Last year when Dave made the trip with me we had much hotter and more humid conditions.  We also didn't plan our water supply correctly for the rather long stretch from Greensboro, MD to Milton, DE without passing a convenience store, gas station or other easy water supply.  Eventually we simply stopped at a home and were treated wonderfully by the lady of the house.

This year I enjoyed more mild conditions though it was till warm, with temps above 80 deg F most of the day.  In Ridgley, MD (5 miles before Greensboro) I topped off the camelback and three water bottles.  I was now carrying over 3/4 of a gallon of water. I was prepared for this stretch even if it was a touch cooler.  It worked out just about right.  I was down to less than half a bottle by the time I rolled in to Milton just after 11 am.  

Of course I stopped at the Dog Fish Head brewery in Milton where they have a tasting room that is always serving free samples of their latest brew.  Even before lunch they were open and happy to serve me as I was wearing one of their jerseys.  I generally avoid bike jersey's that are commercials for someone else's product, but the art work on the DFH makes it look like there are beer bottles sticking out of the back pockets, it's a classic.  And I really enjoy many of their beers.  They are constantly experimenting and offering new ales.  Yesterday's tasting featured their Namaste, which they describe as a Belgian-style white.  Very tasty.  If you roll in to the tasting room with their jersey on and announce you pedaled 80 miles to get there, they treat you well!!

While enjoying the tasting room and visiting with the employees and other visitors, I got a text from my eldest son that he was already on the way to Lewes in my truck.  So after a tasty samples at DFH I decided lunch could wait until I finished the final 12 miles.  I met Justin and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Irish Eyes pub on their deck by the canal in Lewes.  Then we checked in with realtor to collect the keys to our rental.  After unloading the truck I carted my umbrella and a towel across the street to the beach where I enjoyed a cool dip and a refreshing nap on the beach.

Vacation has started out very well!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blogging Again

A New Approach

Hello and thanks for stopping by.  I took some time off from the blog the last month or so to re-consider what I was trying to do and say.  I probably won't be posting daily summaries any more:  I rode my bike today, I went to work, I stopped and got a bagel.  It was getting dull to write about and I can only imagine how it read if you weren't there. I read and enjoy blogs that DO summarize daily activity.  If one writes well, the routine can be compelling.  But I don't see myself as such a gifted communicator.  So my posts will be a little less frequent.  I'll keep the mileage tracker up to date and I'll write a post when I have something I think is worth sharing.  Big rides, periodic summaries of my activity, and observations from the road.  I may wander in to other aspects of life off the bike too: family, work, and maybe even a few thoughts on the dysfunctional drama that is U.S. national politics (gasp!)

With this new approach I've gotten my own web domain: and I even set the background to a photo I took myself.  You're impressed, right?

A slow month in June.

In my athletic endeavors, June fell short of my expectations.  I only biked about 500 miles, I ate too much and packed on a couple of pounds. The goal was 850 miles and to loose a couple of pounds.  No excuses, I just lost focus.

Mixing It Up

But I have started mixing up my activity.  Dave is a long time friend, all the way back to our days as Boy Scouts and team mates on the High School track and cross country teams.  He's an accomplished marathon runner and tri-athlete.  Now he's coaching me as I take up running for the first time since college.  He's helped me devise a training plan to get ready for a 10 K race in September, The Dogfish Dash

Biking has helped me develop good cardio vascular conditioning; and my legs have grown significantly stronger in the last two years.... for turning the pedals.  I can ride for a 100 miles with minimal breaks.  But running for even short intervals causes muscles and tendons to ache that I'd long forgotten.  It'll be an interesting summer getting ready for the Dash.  I'll write about that a bit more in another post.

To the Beach

This week I'm wrapping up projects at work and getting ready to head with my family to our annual vacation at the beach.  I'm very much looking forward to that.  Like last  year, I plan to ride from home to the shore after packing the vehicles.  Tivy and our teenage son Justin will drive the gear and young ones down and meet me there Saturday afternoon.   Just two more days in the office, then freedom!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

America the Beautiful

Today I escorted my sons and a couple of the other Cub Scouts from Pack 858 as we rode our bikes in the Severna Park Independence Day Parade.  It's the quintessential small town parade: fire trucks, small businesses, politicians in convertibles, MS Maryland made an appearance, churches, bands, sports teams and of course the Scouts.  Several thousand people turned out to watch.  We had fun celebrating the birth of our great nation.  There was a picnic at the park where the parade ended with hot dogs and snow cones for the kids.

It was just a fun day for all of our neighbors to come out and celebrate what's right with our country.  We have some big challenges ahead.  As we debate different approaches to those challenges and competing visions for our country's future, let's try to remember that we are all neighbors and let's try to keep in mind what we were celebrating today.  I think we'll be  just a little bit stronger for it.