Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011 - Hello 2012

Well another year is winding down and I feel compelled to join the trend. To summarize the year gone by and look forward to next year.

Here are the goals I published in my last post of 2010 and  a quick note on how I did.


  • Ride 9000 Miles or more for the year - Completed! - I rode 9018 miles this year!  It was no slam dunk.  I set a schedule for myself recognizing the trend that winter weather would restrict mileage somewhat and I would have to double down during the warmer months with more daylight.  But I fell way off my schedule early and spent every month from April on trying to catch up.  I didn't get back ahead of my year to date schedule until the Boxing Day 200K on Dec 26th.  But I did make it, including a big final push of 872 miles in December!
  • Get my weight down under 200 lbs - FAIL! - I'm now about 10 - 15 pounds heavier than I was this time last year.  I completely lost site of this one. My diet lately has worked strongly against this goal and I think my training / riding efforts will require more focus on intervals, non-bike exercise and the like if I'm to succeed here.
  • Take and publish more pictures while riding - Partial Credit - I did better with this early in the year than I did later.  I flirted with capturing helmet video but found it very time consuming to edit and publish.  My thoughts on the blog have also changed and as I wrote less this was also affected.
  • Spend more time with my family on and off of the bike - Partial Credit - I specifically had in mind taking my two youngest sons on more bike excursions both long and short when I wrote that.  I'm taking partial credit for this one though it didn't work out as expected.  Zach (age 10) spent much of the year with his arms in casts so his biking opportunity was quite limited and that made biking with Erik (age 8) tough due to the effects of sibling rivalry.  But I've been more active with the Cub Scouts and attended more sport events than ever.  Like most families we can always do better, but I feel good about the year.

A quantitative analysis might yield a net score of 2 / 4 or 50% for that, which in most endeavors isn't very good. But I actually feel pretty good about the year.  Here are a few highlights not noted above...
  • I completed my first 300K in May.  The Frederick 300K was a big milestone for me.  I'd stretched at least 50% further than my previous longest ride and I finished with enough gas in the tank that I could envision even further distances.  I felt like it validated all the lessons I'd learned riding the R-12 the previous year.  Prep the bike, dress correctly and above all keep eating and drinking correctly and I can ride on for incredible distances.
  • In October I combined two events in a 24 hour period for a total of 226 miles or 363K.  With 6 others we rode the Eastern Shore Reversed 200K perm starting at 7 pm then headed north to Salisbury for the Seagull Century at 7 the next morning. 
  • These and other big days on the bike have improved my confidence.  I no longer approach them with a sense of apprehension. But rather of deliberate preparation.  It's a good feeling.
  • We've cemented our team assignments for next year's Fleche.  In April I'll join 4 others in a 24 hour team ride with a minimum distance of 360K.  That simply wasn't a realistic plan until recently.
  • I RODE MY BIKE 9000 MILES THIS YEAR!!!!  - I'm psyched about that so it bears repeating.  :-)
  • Another child has left the nest.  Our son Justin left this fall for his freshman year at The College of New Jersey in Trenton, NJ.  We now have two in college and they are both thriving. The four younger ones still at home are also doing quite well.  As much fun as I've had on the bike, that is the most rewarding thing of all.
So yes, it's been a pretty good year.  To Tivy, Taylor, Justin, Morgan, Jessica, Zach and Erik - I love you all and am proud of every one of you.  Thank you all so much for your support.

As for 2012,  here are a few things I plan to do next year:
  • Complete the Fleche successfully in April.
  • Complete the Supper Randonneur series of rides: 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in a single calendar year.
  • Loose this darned gut once and for all.  I will get my weight down to 200lbs.  Most of it needs to come off this winter and early Spring to support the Fleche and S.R. rides.  It's simple, less weight will take less energy to haul up the hills. These rides will confront some significant climbing. Diet and training will get serious focus the next few months.
  • Figure this blog thing out. - I need a new vision and theme for the blog.  I'll still report on the big rides, but a mile by mile log simply doesn't hold my interest any more and I can't imagine it makes good reading, even for my friends who are too polite to say so.  Some ideas I'm kicking around: product reviews, movie and book reviews, and a few more posts around themes like lessons learned commuting, fueling strategies for long rides, pointers for new riders, etc.  These sorts of things would serve to summarize my experiences and learning the last couple of years and just maybe, be useful information for others.  I would welcome any suggestions you care to offer.
Here's wishing everyone a safe and prosperous New Year in 2012!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A full day of cycling fun...

I've written before that one of the best things to come from cycling these last few years is all of the new friends I've made along the way.   Yesterday I got to know two more friends a bit better and then celebrate the year with a huge group of them.

About 10 pm Friday I found an email from Ed (The Daily Randonneur) and Mary (Chasing Mailboxes) that they were going on a pre-party century ride leaving out of Crofton; just a few miles up the road from home. As I'm still in the hunt to finish the year with 9000 miles, it seemed like a great step towards that goal, the weather forecast was clear and cool, and a day with a small group sounded like a good time.  I wrote that I'd meet them at the start.  I gathered a few essentials, laid out the clothes and went to bed.

I intentionally arrived at the start at Caribou Coffee early. I love their breakfast sandwich and wanted to be sure I had time to enjoy one.  As I came out of the shop Ed and Mary were busy unloading the bike (they were planning to ride a tandem) and getting ready.  Then Mary walked over and admitted she'd forgotten her helmet... doh.  We contemplated a quick dash to my house to fetch a spare, called a few other club members who lived even closer to see about borrowing one and finally determined that the K-mart 2 miles in to the ride would be the quickest option.   I'm not ashamed to admit I took a little too much pleasure at Mary's expense teasing her about the Sponge Bob or other cartoon helmet she might end up with.  After the helmet crisis was solved (plain white or grey?, no Fred here) we were on our way.

This was the first time I've ridden with a couple on a tandem and me, no other cyclists along.  The first thing I found is my usual group dynamic was reversed.  My excess ballast around the waist usually lets me descend a little quicker than my svelte companions and then I struggle to keep up with them on the subsequent climb. With  the tandem it's just the opposite, they have the weight and power of two but the aero resistance of one rider and fly down hills. But they climb at a more scenic pace, taking time to see what's around them. So they'd zoom ahead on the descent and I'd slowly reel them back in on the next climb. (But let's be clear, Ed and Mary are both fitter and far more experienced than I am, I have no doubt they could have left me if they were in a hurry and so inclined.)

As the miles rolled by we rode side by side where traffic and room would tolerate it and visited about all sorts of things.  A few sea stories from my Navy days, ride plans and goals for next year, holiday and family plans coming up the next few weeks.  The virtues of wool clothing on a cool day, hoping the sun would peak through the clouds.  I got a lesson in the mechanics and merits of the disc brakes they use on the tandem and we talked about other recent rides and plans for those coming up.

At mile 40 or so we came on a closed road where it dipped to cross a small marshy creek.  It appeared it had been washed out during the tropical storms of late summer and early autumn and had yet to be repaired.  Ed took advantage of the pause to adjust the rear derailleur on the tandem while Mary and I assessed our chances of fording the stream around the washed out road.  We concluded the gap was just a little too wide to get across in bike shoes carrying a large tandem, especially since the garmin showed a detour would only be a couple of miles. It didn't seem it was worth risking a turned ankle or dropping a bike in the creek.  I'll put up a link to the pictures, Ed and Mary take lots of great pictures, when they get them up.  But pics won't convey the unique aroma of that particular valley. I counted three deer carcasses by the side of the road all right next to that washout.   All of them had ribs exposed but also still had some skin and other soft tissue left. I suppose it's possible they drowned in the flood, but I suspect someone dumped them as road kill or left overs from poaching.  Either way they were quite ripe.  It was the only unpleasant part of the trip.

The cue sheet had lunch built in a little past half way at mile 58.  The detour pushed this out another couple of miles.  By the time we got to Jerry's subs, I was hungry.   An 8" cheese steak sub and fries hit the spot just right.  Then the final push to home.  We took an option on the cue that cut 9 miles from the total as we lost a few minutes at the start and a few more with the detour.  Even so I had 96 miles on the day.   About 10 miles from the finish we had to make another detour around a washed out section of Patuxent River Rd.  But by this time we were back in familiar territory and I saw it coming before we rode down to the actual washout.  So that detour cost little if any distance.

I love that tired, accomplished feeling at the end of a big ride.  This one ended at the same coffee shop where we started.  A large hot cocoa made with white chocolate REALLY complimented that sensation well.  We exchanged high fives and hugs and then parted company while we got ready for the SPP annual Christmas Party a few hours later at Clint's house.

Ed and Mary joined us at the Provenza's home for the party. There were about 60 people in attendance. The club party is always full of great food, great beer and great people.  One of the traditions for this affair every year is recognizing one rider for big accomplishments on the bike and contributions to the club and the sport.  The 2011 rider of the year was Bryan Nelson. In one year he finished the R-12, the Super Randonneur series and completed the fleche as part of the SPP team.  Well deserved.

But we also surprised Clint. He was unanimously acclaimed Tete de Peloton which I'm assured translates as Leader of the Peloton.  THAT recognition is well deserved and very long overdue.  He was completely surprised.

It was great day with the many friends I've met on the bike the last few years and fun time to get to know two of them a little better.


Friday, December 9, 2011

'TWAS The Night Before Christmas - Revised by USMC

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF A FAR DISTANT LAND.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN'T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
'SANTA DON'T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.'

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I WEPT FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.

I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, 'CARRY ON SANTA,
IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.'

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
'MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIEND,
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.'

This poem was written by a Marine.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A charmed life....

Wow what a nice morning!  I set out at 7, the thermometer read 32 deg F and the frost on the windshields of the parked cars suggested it was really a little colder.  Weather.com forecast it would warm quickly once the sun got up.  So I layered on two thin wool base layers, my riding jacket, vest and balaclava.. all the things I need to stay comfy at or just below freezing.

I met the SPP at 7:30 as usual and 10 of us rode downtown for breakfast.  The sun was rising bright and clear.  A little blinding even on sections of the trail where it runs Southeast, directly in to the rising sun at this time of year.  Crossing the Naval Academy bridge the sun was downright brilliant.

Breakfast was fun. I struck up a conversation with a couple from Toronto. He's in town to take a 4 day class at the Annapolis School of Seamanship and learn to clean up the "gremlins" (his word) in his boat's electrical system.  She asked about how to find a tour of the Naval Academy while he was in class.  Nice folks.

Being the weekend and a nice day, someone ordered a beer with his coffee and bagel and soon half the peloton had either beer or spiked their coffee with a shot of Bailey's (that's what I chose).  So it was a festive breakfast to say the least.

Stepping back outside I found Weather.com was right. It was warming nicely.  I shed the baclava and the jacket, opting for a cycling cap with ear flaps and the vest.  Love the Ostrich handle bar bag. Easy to stow the spare clothes.  Had a nice conversation riding back with Chip Adams then got home just as the pancakes were coming off the griddle in our kitchen.  Sometimes it's quite clear I lead a charmed life!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Progress, slow and steady

First two days of the December push went well, 97 miles so far this month.

Year to date: 8243 / 9000 miles.

Remaining for 2012 goal: 757 miles.

Stay tuned to this channel for regular progress updates.