Sunday, March 18, 2012

Potapsco Patuxent Chesapeake - and more

Saturday was Fleche training day.  Mike C, Jack N, and I, comprising 3/5 of our Fleche team: Chain Reaction, completed the new Potapsco Patuxent & Chesapeake 210K (PPC) permanent Saturday, then stretched our mileage after finishing the perm to test ourselves a bit for the Fleche next month.

The Fleche in mid April each year is notorious for dodgy weather.   In that sense, yesterday may not have been an ideal training platform as the weather was, well..., ideal.  We started with temps hovering around 50 and warmed to the low 70s mid day.  A little lingering ground fog burned off quickly as the sun rose.  Early afternoon saw a touch of South Easterly headwind approaching North Beach, which simply made for a nice tail wind after we departed North Beach.  After the fog burned off the sun was bright and I had to apply sun block to my arms, ears and face. According to the calendar spring is still a few days away!

Thanks to Gardner D we now have a RUSA permanent that starts within easy cycling distance of home for most SPP members, 4.5 miles in my case.  PPC drew inspiration from 2 of SPP's favorite club routes to Ellicott City and to North Beach and combined them to create a 200K permanent. From that simple concept, Gardner did the very detailed home work, documentation, and pilot rides required to build a turn by turn cue sheet, select appropriate control points to allow riders flexible start times, adjust to optimize for bicycle safe roads, and get the distance as close as possible but not less than 200K.  Thank you sir, and to all volunteers who have put in a similar effort to build up RUSA's great selection of permanent routes.

From the start in Severna Park it heads up past BWI airport and then NW to the Potapsco State Park and follows the beautiful Potapsco river valley to Ellicott City.  The river is running low right now with little spring melt to feed it since we got almost no snow this winter. That makes this a great time to see the evidence of prior flooding and high water.  The pattern of downed trees, very large rocks, brush and a few odd steel tanks in the flood plain is impressive.  I wouldn't want to be too close when the river is running high with tropical storm runoff or other big event.  Just a mile or two out of Ellicott city Mike C flatted but otherwise the first half of the trip was uneventful.

In Ellicott City the route climbs out of the valley and there are a few miles with some stingers to get your heart rate up before heading back to the airport and then south towards Crofton.  We opted to stop at the Caribou Coffee in Crofton even though it's not a required control.  At 47 miles we were ready for a short break and the next good opportunity for a fueling stop without detour would be North Beach in another 40 miles.  Besides Caibou serves a really really good breakfast sandwich.  It was sunny, we ate outside.

Southern Anne Arundel County is just a nice place to ride. Out of the congestion of the greater Baltimore - Annapolis region, this is scenic farm land and rural communities. The living space is more dense than it is, say west of Frederick, Md but its well out of the city and feels open, traffic is light enough for comfortable cycling. In the spring sunshine it's really a treat.  Before we knew it we were in North Beach and stopped at Sweet Sue's Bake Shop for our second meal of the day.  They make great sandwiches and wraps.  It was sunny, we ate outside, again.  I told you, the weather was ideal.

Then we were on the final leg for home.  Our only drama of the trip was Mike C's double flat when he hit a small pot hole at about mile 100 on this leg. Fortunately he didn't go down and there was no apparent damage to the rims, just two pinch flats.  If you're counting, that's three flats for Mike on the day.  Yes he set out with three spare tubes.  This was about making sure we are ready for Fleche, he is.  So I started to work on the front wheel while Mike tended to the rear wheel (his bike, he can get his hands dirty).  While kneeling to work on the flat, I developed a sudden cramp in my hamstring and handed the wheel of to Jack to put the new tube in.  All the while the three of us were in stitches after someone made a joke.  At a rate of three tubes per hundred miles Mike would need 7 or 8 tubes to ensure successful of Fleche.  In Mike's defense, I was in front and didn't see the pot hole until the last second.  I pointed to it but he had little time to react.  However the incident high lights the good spirits we enjoyed all day.  It was just too nice out to let anything get us down.  More importantly, we were all riding steadily and feeling good.  We were doing what we set out to do for the day, validate that we are ready for an even bigger ride in a few weeks.  That if we continued to eat and drink correctly we could just keep going and that we were ready to handle any likely setbacks or interruptions.

Flats repaired the rest of the ride was uneventful  After signing in at the finish control we headed to Squisito's, a pizzeria right on the B & A trail, for a couple of slices of pizza.    It was a nice evening and we enjoyed our third outdoor meal of the day.  Jeff S stopped by with his son to say hi.  After dinner we headed out for some bonus miles.  Ideally this would have been a night ride through scenic Annapolis and Bay Ridge.  But the pubs and bars of Annapolis were enjoying a perfect storm:  St Patrick's day fell on Saturday with great weather.  Every rookie drinking driver in the state would be out on the roads. So instead we opted to stick to the trail and ride a lap around the airport.  Not as exciting.  But our last task was to ride in the dark while a bit tired after a full day on the bike.  We needed a sense that our lighting and batteries were adequate and feel what fatigue and dark do to our own attention and reaction times.

We still felt strong and competent on the bike.  Mission accomplished.  We headed home for the night.

Thanks again to Gardner for the work to put this permanent route together.  It's a fun, scenic ride.  Every randonneur will enjoy it. Those of us who live near by will appreciate the convenience and likely come back for more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Utilitaire 12 of 12 - Hat Trick!! (including grocery store)

Date: 3/16/2012
Destination: Giant Foods, Severna Park, MD
Miles Completed: 7.3 miles round trip.
Learned / observed: The peepers stopped peeping as I approached. Never happened before.
Dark Ride: Yes, on the return home.

Hat Trick!  Three utilitaire stops in one ride:  The Bank, Office Depot and Giant Foods!!  I'll take credit for the grocery stop as I've already used two non-grocery store visits.  All squeezed in before dinner on the last day.  So that's it.  The Utilitaire 12 challenge is done.  All I have to do is complete my Utilitaire control card and turn in on Sunday.

My Popeye diet of spinach green salads for lunch and dinner has gone very well this week.  The ham I'd been dicing up to include with the spinach greens and other vegies was exhausted by the end of the week so I went to the  grocery store to get some chicken breasts which I'll grill up on Sunday so I can dice them in to my lunch salads for next week.  Also got some eggs to be hard boiled and diced as well, and a proper plastic bowl with lid, which will serve as a nice upgrade from the zip lock bags I've been using.  My average cost per lunch meal this week was about $3 vs the $12 - $15 I often spent eating lunch at the deli's and eateries near my office.  So I ate healthier lunches, stuck with it for the dinners each night because I felt so good, and spent a lot less money.  Why didn't I start doing this sooner?

I like to print my cue sheets and control cards on card stock.  I'll be riding the new Potapsco Patuxent Chesapeake 210K permanent tomorrow with Fleche team mates Mike C and Jack N.  Then we'll pause for dinner and continue in to the evening for another 40 miles or so to practice some night riding in preparation for next month's Fleche.  I was out of card stock so the Surly also took me to Office Depot in order to be properly prepared tomorrow with my cues on stiff cards instead of flimsy paper.  It's the little things that give me peace of mind while riding.  I'm looking forward to riding this route as fellow SPP member Gardner D developed it specifically so we'd have a route that starts close to home.  I can ride the 5 miles to the start, no car required.  No unloading bikes from racks and fitting bags, lights and computers at the start.  It also helps the weather forecast is awesome. Wish me luck..

The Surly and the shopping carts, all beasts of burden, found a connection at the Giant.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Utilitaire 11 of 12 - Pharmacy (non-Grocery Store)

Date: 3/15/2012
Destination: Rite Aid Severna Park, MD
Miles Completed: 33 miles round trip.
Learned / observed: The old Lucky's Market by Elvaton and Jumper's Hole Rd has been torn down. 
Dark Ride: Yes, early in the morning.

It's been been beautiful weather this week and spring flowers are in full bloom. So are warnings about high pollen counts.  I haven't felt too much yet, but I decided I should be ready before riding our fleche training ride this Saturday.  Planned distance: 160 miles.  So I rode to Rite Aid this evening after work to stock up on fresh supplies of Zertec and Benadryl.  

Along the way I saw that the old Lucky's Market by the trail had been demolished.  I rode by there this morning too and didn't notice that it was gone. Were they that quick? Or was I so engrossed in conversation with Bill C that I missed it this morning?

The old Lucky's Market is gone!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Utilitaire 10 of 12 - Grocery Store

Date: 3/11/2012
Destination: Giant Food Store Ritchie Hwy Severna Park, MD
Miles Completed: 5.7 miles round trip.
Learned / observed: Wow - Spring is here a few weeks early.  Hundreds of folks out walking, jogging, biking and enjoying the bright Sunday sunshine.
Dark Ride: No

To save a few pennies and discourage my worst instincts to select less nutritional fare at the various eateries around my office, I've decided to try taking my own lunch to work this week.  So I headed to the local Giant today to stock up on a few things I would need for the venture. What a glorious day out too.  Wish me luck with my new lunch menu plan.

Fig Newtons fit perfectly in the Ostrich Bar Bag with room for
a couple of bags of greens on top.
Bananas fit well in the Ostrich saddle bag with room for
 a bag of greens.
Salad greens in the saddle bag

Friday, March 9, 2012

Utilitarie 9 or 12 - Pick Up Tailoring (store not Grocery)

Date: 3/9/2012
Destination: B&B Cleaners 51 West McKinsey Road, Severna Park, MD 21146
Miles Completed: 57 miles round trip.
Learned / observed: AA County has finished repair on the trail near Jumpers Hole Rd and Elvaton Rd.  It's been washed out for two years. Great to have it back in place, no detour!!
Dark Ride: Yes, early morning and late evening.

On the way home from work I stopped to pick up a pair of trousers I had left at the cleaners to have the legs hemmed.  Now I have a proper Cub Scout leaders' uniform for my new role as Cub Master of Pack 858.

The Surly does dry cleaning

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Utilitaire - 8 of 12 - Bike Shop

Date: 3/4/2012
Destination: Bike Doctor Arnold
Miles Completed: 2.3 miles round trip.
Learned / observed: Bike Doctor is open until 5 on Sundays, just made it.
Dark Ride: No

The day after a wet brevet is bike hygiene day.  So I cleaned the road grime off, then went to the bike locker to fetch a tube and restock the on-bike spare after changing a flat yesterday.  That's when I discovered I was out of tubes and CO2.  Fortunately, BD Arnold is only 1.1 miles away, just right for a quick utilitaire, and I had just enough time to get to there for a couple tubes and CO2 before they closed.

'Cause you know Mr. Murphy and his laws would strike if I tried to commute to work tomorrow without carrying spare tube.

It's always an adventure

Yesterday morning I completed a 200K ride with Janet, Gardner and Dave.  The Repast at Rocco's route starts in Urbana just outside of Frederick. From the start it runs north to Emmitsburg then North East to East Berlin, PA for lunch at Rocco's Pizza, a traditional neighborhood pizzeria, nothing fancy just good pies.  Then doubles back on the same route to return to the finish.

In the last couple of days leading up to the ride, the forecast showed the weather front that had caused such devastation in Indiana and other states with tornadoes would pass through Friday night and in to Saturday morning casting doubt on our plans.  But as it got closer to ride time, assured the rain would pass early Saturday and we could expect sunny skies and west winds of about 15 mph most of the day.

So the four of us set out a few minutes after 7 and was spot on, the rain stopped after about 10 miles.  Then I flatted at about 14 miles in.  Wet pavement causes bits of glass to cling to tires.  New tube installed we enjoyed the clearing skies and the ride to East Berlin was uneventful though we could tell the wind was building steadily at our backs as it cleared.

After lunch the skies were clear, the temps unseasonably warm for early March and the wind was blowing quite a bit stronger than 15 mph, I estimated closer to 25.  The leg to Emmitsburg was a long 30 miles with that headwind.  Every flag we saw was standing at attention and waving furiously.

Then the route turns south and it became a crosswind. Nothing looks quite so entertaining as seeing three of your friends listing to starboard as they try to keep their bikes tracking a straight line in a strong cross wind. Sorry I couldn't get picture of that but I couldn't spare a hand for the camera or I would have been blown off the road myself.

2 miles from the finish a closed road forced us to improvise our final route back in to the finish and added one or two bonus miles.

A short summary of my last few 200K rides.
  • In January, a friend had to pull out of the ride at the half way point due to worsening lung congestion. (A course of anti-biotics and he was fine in a few days).
  • In February, wet weather and challenging urban navigation made for a late finish and some chilly riders.
  • In March, we found much stronger headwinds than expected.
It seems lately there's always some unexpected adventure every time I set out on one of these rides.  I have another ride planned in March that will be closer to 300K as we get ready for the Fleche, then the Fleche itself in April with a team of 5 riders; 360K and 15000 feet of climbing in 24 hours.  I'm looking forward to more adventure.