Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pay It Forward

I rode the bike to work this morning and then left the office at 4 to ride to Annapolis for the Wednesday Night Sailboat Races.  I've never done that before, but wanted to try it to see how tight the schedule would be.  Sailing will continue every Wednesday until Labor Day. I'd prefer it no longer represent a reason not to ride to work on Wednesdays.  I need to leave the office right at 4 to make it work but it's manageable.  It helps that it's a net descent from the office to the waterfront in Annapolis.

On my way to Annapolis about a half mile south of the Ranger Station on the B&A trail I could see a crowd ahead and as I approached I could see a cyclist sitting on the pavement who was clearly the center of attention.  I slowed to ask if they needed help and didn't receive a firm "no thank you" or "we're fine", so I stopped.  The rider was wiping blood from several scrapes and seemed a little dazed.  The others gathered described him swerving to avoid a turkey vulture or other large bird.  It looked to me like the swerve caused his front wheel to drop of the pavement, probably with some speed on.  There were a lot of gawkers but little was being done to help the poor fellow.

He had several scrapes, the worst on his left elbow.  I didn't see any scrapes on his helmet, and he indicated he did not hit his head.  I asked him to look me in the eye, follow my finger and give me his name and the date. I'm not en EMT, Paramedic or Doctor and these tests are certainly not conclusive but by now he seemed quite alert. No odd dilation nor any evidence he was still disoriented.  I broke out my kit bag and asked the lady standing next to me to treat the cut on his elbow with antibiotic and a bandage.   I encouraged  the rider to see a doctor when he got home in case he had  bumped his head, I was still a little concerned that he initially seemed dazed though he quickly snapped out of it.

I turned my attention to his bike.  He had  flat front tire. He was not carrying a spare tube and the one I had was too big for his skinny tires.  We found two small tears in the tube and patched it with the stick on patches I was carrying.  Re - mounted and inflated the tire. It seemed to be holding.  We shook hands and wished each other a good day. He promised to have his wife check him over and implied she is a medical professional of some sort.  He then resumed his trip north.  I continued south and still made it to Annapolis in time to catch the boat despite the ten minute stop.

Sometimes it feels really good just to help someone who needs a hand.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

DCRand 400K - Had to abandon

Well that certainly wasn't how I wanted the 400K to go.  It was HOT yesterday.  Some riders with thermometers built in to their computers reported temps as high as 100 deg F.  For the first 73 miles from the start to Shippensburg, WV I felt good and was pleased with how the day was going.  I made it up and over the first big climb at Snickers' Gap without incident.  By 10:30 when I rolled in to the control at Shippensburg it was getting hot and I knew I needed to eat and cool down, but I was confident.  I loaded a sock with ice to wrap behind my neck and ate half a sandwich then set out for Hancock, at mile 110.

But things began to steadily deteriorate from there.  As I rode to Hancock I got hotter and hotter and slower and slower. The ice in the sock lasted the first 15 miles but it was a 37 mile leg.  I found some shade around noon to take a short rest, eat the other half of the sandwich, apply fresh sunscreen and take stock of the day.  My pace was slowing even on the flats and descents, and I was feeling more and more fatigued. I ate more snacks, drank more water and even had to stop to relieve myself, a good sign that at least I was staying ahead of dehydration.

When I finally rolled in to Hancock at about 1:30 I felt completely spent.  I stopped at Subway and had a six inch sub and two bottles of gatorade.  Most importantly I cooled down in the air conditioning.  I started to feel a little better.  The next leg leaving Hancock was the most challenging with steady, steep rollers and one big climb before Shippensburg.  The hottest part of the day was just beginning and those who had ridden the check ride a week prior reported little shade.  If I recovered sufficiently to make Shippensburg I'd likely arrive feeling as bad or worse as I did pulling in to Hancock and would still have 90 miles left for a successful finish.  From Hancock I was confident I had another 50 miles in my legs, but I was not confident I had the whole ride left. I decided I was better off using my remaining energy for the day trying to get back to the start at Frederick than proceeding with the ride. Google maps showed that a direct route to Frederick was likely another 50 - 60 miles.  A combination of trails and roads close to the Potomac river should get me close to the start with minimal climbing before I had to break from the river to reach Frederick.

Then Dave S who was also recovering at Subway mentioned that he was considering abandoning the ride as well.  Dave lives near Frederick and his son Matt was available to help.  We hatched a plan to ride the Western Maryland Rail Trail to it's South Eastern terminus. Flat, shaded, smoothly paved,  It would be nothing like the route in front of us if we continued the brevet.  From there we could pick the up C & O canal toe path for a few more miles until Matt could meet us.  He would be coming up I-70 on a parallel track in the opposite direction.  It was simply matter of choosing the exit where we would all arrive at about the same time.  We might have 30 more miles to ride and both felt up to it. So we set out.  It turns out Matt made better time than expected heading our way and we only rode another 10 miles to the rendezvous.

Letting go of this ride means no Super Randonneur series this year and ends my monthly string of 200K+ brevets since last October at 7 and so will reset the clock on the prospects of a second R-12 award. This was also the first big ride I've ever had to abandon.   I'm disappointed to see these goals slip away this year.  I'm confident I made the right decision at the time for the circumstances I was confronted with.  But it also means my training and physical readiness for this event and the subsequent 600K in a few weeks simply weren't as ready as I believed.  So I have to revisit those goals and my training approach to decide how best to reset them.  Stay tuned to this channel for more on that later.

Many thanks to Dave and Matt for the assistance when I needed it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

400 K Brevet This Weekend

The plan: ride 400 kilometers (250 miles) across four states in one day. To get credit for an official finish from RUSA I need to finish the ride in 27 hours though my goal is to finish in 24 hours.  If I can finish rides of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in a single calendar year I am eligible for the Super Randonneur award. I hate that name, it sounds silly, but it is a meaningful riding achievement and a goal I've set for myself this year.  I completed the 300K in April.  The 200K is a distance I've completed almost two dozen times. I respect the effort, but it no longer intimidates me.  But I still have to participate in one of a limited number remaining on the schedule this year.

The 400K this weekend is intimidating but only 15 miles longer than my previous personal best, on the Fleche April 15th.  The weather this Saturday will be hot mid day but otherwise well suited to a long day in the saddle.  The 600K (375 miles) is only two weeks away. THAT one is a little scary.  One reason I will push for the 24 hour target this weekend is to test myself for the 600K. The 600K has a 40 hour time limit. I'm quite sure I can't go 40 hours without sleep.  If I finish the first 400K of the 600K in 24 hours I could afford myself a 4 hour nap and still have 12 hours left to finish the last 200K at the same pace I rode the first 400K, makes sense, right?  The 600K route also conveniently returns at the 400K point to the same hotel where it starts to afford riders exactly this option while keeping the logistics easy.

To do all of this I have to up my game a bit from the 300K in April.  I started out the 300K low on sleep, low on fuel and slightly dehydrated. I bonked 100 miles in.  I can't make the same mistake this weekend.  I've focused this week on sleep and hydration.  I've backed off my recent riding mileage a bit to rest my legs and I've tried to eat a healthy balance of carbs, protein and vegies every day.  I don't plan to have any more alcohol until after the ride is finished.   I will force myself to bed early tonight and again tomorrow night.

I'm also stripping the bike of redundant gear I just haven't needed on Fleche or the 300K.  The forecast temp range from 66 - 92 F means I don't need to carry much in the way of spare clothing.  Leg and arm warmers in case it's a little cooler overnight on some of the hills and a very thin rain vest in case I get caught in a thunder shower.  A sock with a plastic bag inside will hold ice on the back of my neck during the heat of the day.  Lighting, tools and spare parts all got a thorough review this week and the kit trimmed of things I never use or could make do without. For instance CO2 doesn't save the need for a pump so it's staying behind.   The reduced bulk will avoid the need for any sort of rear luggage and associated support fixtures. EVERYTHING will fit in my bar bag.  The tools will ride in a plastic bottle with a wide mouth in one of the bottle cages (I carry a camelback and don't really need two bottles either).  Even the amount of food I carry will be reduced slightly, I've finished every ride so far this year with a couple of granola bars left in the bag from start to finish while I eat other fare purchased along the way.  So I'll keep eating off of the economy and carry a little less.

In all I estimate I've shed 5 lbs of gear from the load I carried on fleche.  That doesn't sound like much for a 250 lb guy riding a 30 lb steel bike.  Bicycling magazine recently published an article on rider body weight. A coach quoted in the article estimated the cost of excess weight at 15-20 secs / mile / lb. while climbing.  I realize I'm stretching to apply a racing performance metric like that to static bike and gear weight. A lb of body weight is more than just the energy required to lift it, but also the cardio vascular efficiency and other variables in athletic performance. And I'm no racer, not evening an aspiring one.  But lets assume our apples and oranges weigh about the same for a minute.  I'll be on an uphill slope at least 1/4 of this ride if not more.  At the conservative end 15s/mile/lb x 5 lbs x 62 miles = 1 hour 17 min of time saved. If it buys me half of that, without leaving me feel stranded without something I needed, it will have been a worthy exercise.  The route tomorrow is estimated at 15000 feet of climbing.  Not extreme over that distance, but a respectable workout.  Fleche was just over 14000 feet, though it looks like this weekend I'll be spared some of the extreme grades we saw on Fleche.  And don't worry, I'm still carrying two spare inner tubes, my 900 piece multi-tool and spare spokes.

Okay I just let slip the real opportunity here, I weigh 250 lbs.  I'm sure more than one attentive reader is thinking "loose some 20 - 30 - 40 lbs of body weight and you'll really fly up those hills". Of course that's true. But today's post focuses on the here and now preps to complete the 400K this weekend.  Stay tuned for more this summer on my battle with the ballast.

Here are a few links describing the event and route:
  • MG and Ed, the official organizers, rode a check ride over the route last weekend. MG's report is here.
  • The official cue sheet and riding instructions from DC Rand are here
  • A map provided by fellow rider George M from two years ago is here. There have been some minor changes but it gives you a feel for where we're going and has a topographical profile too.
Wish me luck!