Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Populaire Ride For May

I got my monthly Populaire ride in on 5/26. The starting temp was 91 with a 20% chance of rain. Still gunning for that P-12 in NEO.

On Friday, I decided to arrive at work extra early so that I could get the 103k ride in and be home by 7 PM. Just my luck, that the boss called off so I had to stay extra late incase anything went wrong with the IT systems. My parents also asked if I could let their dogs out on the way home, so my plans of being home by a decent time were completely shot.

I hauled major #$% outta work and got to the CVNP as quickly as possible. I quickly got my bike setup and packed very minimally due to the heat and the slight chance of rain. Since receipts are required at every control on permanents or populaires per RUSA regulations, I debated for a moment what to blow my money on at the BP station. Ultimately, I decided on one of the most horrific things ever created by humans for humans - twinkies! On the way out, a strapping young lad asked "Hey man, what do you ride?', to which I replied "A crappy Giant OCR! How bout you"?  "Cannondale for life!" he replied. We both laughed and I was off, while other customers there thought we were mentally ill. Don't all good riders own\owned at least one Cannondale?

There were lots of people out exercising on the Tow Path and Valley View parkway trails with the warm weather. I made pretty decent time to the halfway control given the wind and hills. Also throw in the fact, this the first ride on this route for several months that I didn't get a flat on the way out; it looked like street sweepers finally got the road debris cleaned up. All of the drivers I encountered were extremely nice allowing me to cross intersections first even if hadn't.

About 20 miles in, the skies were starting to get darker and the wind was picking up.  

As I climbed off the bike to head into the gas station to get Gatorade and my card time stamped, the heavens opened up and unleashed a world of &%$#. While standing in line (6 people deep), I was getting cold from the A/C being cranked. When I got back outside, I was shaking slightly with the cooler rain coming down and from being chilled inside. "No problem" I thought, "time to put on the arm warmers on". As I went to get them out, I discovered they were never packed. Sigh. I refilled my bottles and was starting to shove off when a young lady in a mini-van stopped with her window wide open in a torrential downpour to ask if I needed a ride back to town. I replied "Are you kidding?!?! This is awesome riding weather"! Obviously my shit eating grin gave away the fact I was completely miserable but to stubborn to actually quit. She laughed and made me promise to be very safe.  Immediately after leaving the half-way control, there is a very steep downhill that was scary due to the reduced effectiveness of the brakes while wet. I made a mental note of getting disc brakes on the next bike. Any one want to buy a 'lovely' lightly used Giant OCR?

Within a mile, another two women pulled up next to me while riding asking if I need a ride back or a place for temporary shelter. All I have to say is that women in North East Ohio (more specifically Berea), are all sweet hearts.  After about three miles into the return route, the same lady who initially offered me a ride while in the gas station parking lot was riding next to me insisting I get in the car due to the weather and non-stop lightning strikes. Very sweet lady looking out for the crazy guys out riding in severe storms.

I wasted no time in getting back avoiding any and all stops. Road imperfections and pot holes were impossible to detect due to the amount of water on the streets. All the runners and bikers vanished with the storm except one couple standing underneath a bridge trying to wait out the weather (hiding on the left side).

There was not a soul riding except myself. Some  riders make fun of bikes with fenders- say what ya must, but they sure are nice during heavy downpours! I had an experience when I was younger riding in the rain with glasses on and still had a piece of gravel stuck in my eye. This resulted in an emergency room visit to have it drilled out - so it's fenders for me. There is also a long rapid descent on Snowville Rd heading back into the valley that can be frightening on a dry day, but was quite concerning on Friday.

Once I was about 8 miles from the finish, I had made it outside of the direct storm area but was still well within the lightening strike zone. I wasn't overly concerned about it since I was in a valley surrounded by trees and hills, but still didn't waste time in getting back. 

Despite the weather and my bunions still causing extreme pain, it was a fun day out on the bike. Immediately after arriving, I called wifey who was thrilled that I had got back safely and had been very concerned about the lightning. Here's a couple pics facing the direction I was just at with various lightning.

After getting my bike remounted, changing clothes and letting my parent's dogs out, I finally arrived home at 10 PM. It was a very long day, but ended it on a high note with a few Yuenglings.

Next task at hand, the Ohio 600k. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

400k Brevet: Ashland-Lake Erie, Part II

I was pleasantly surprised  that all three cars who passed during this time checked to see if I needed further assistance as well as a man who came out of his house to offer up a spare tube or air pump. There are a lot of awesome people down in Loudonville! As usual, the Amish folk were out working hard and waving hello also. This stretch was only 49 miles and I thought roughly 55-60 ozs of Gatorade or water would be enough, but I was getting dangerously dehydrated from the heat and hills.  I was close to completely out of fluid with a good 15 miles to go to the control with no place to get fluids. I had completely stopped sweating for long while, had horrific cramping, very nauseous and was getting weird heart palpations.

At this point, quitting was not an option and I was very strongly contemplating pulling a Bear Grylls, when literally two minutes later I found a lady painting on the side of the road. I asked if she knew of any nearby stores even if they were out of the way. She said "No, there aren't any. You look like you need some water!" Out she pulled several bottles of ice cold water. I told her she was an angel  and thanked her for the water.

After arriving at control #4, I was feeling horrible from the heat and  from an injury called a bunion (problem #3: )on my pinkie toes that was causing excoriating pain. I just recently found out what a bunion is from a friend who is a nurse and how severe an injury it is (or could become). I stopped at a McDonald's and had a Big Mac meal while sitting in the A/C to get my core temp back down. I had my shoes off to make the bunions feel better. I called wifey to see how the girls were doing and to calm my mind with all the bad things that had transpired thus far. After a 30 minute prolonged break, I proceeded on and was soon joined again by Rich. We rode the complete second half together. Periodically stopping to rub my bunion and to refill water bottles. I was also experiencing a lot of digestive issues which I normally don't have since I was eating a lot more vs. drinking my powder mix, so riding in general was just uncomfortable.

We enjoyed a nice sunset on Lake Erie while traveling from Vermilion.

Night riding was slower due to navigation by bike lighting, and that  we may have been a little tired (although you wouldn't hear us say that to anyone we met). Here we are arriving at the Huron control. Just one more 54 mile stretch to go.

There was periodic talking while finding the correct turns. Most of the noise was from the wind, animals running (deer, raccoons?) in the woods, dogs barking or either of us yawning. The temp held close 50 but felt considerably lower when hitting lowlands with heavy amounts of fog. My friends and family often ask "How dark is it when you are biking out there at night?" Granted the ContourRoam isn't great with night photos, but it looks a lot like this. Also note, that after a couple minutes riding in the dark, the eyes adjust well to what light is available.

At about 12:30, Rich asked if we could stop for 5 minutes to rest and so he could eat something. We stopped at the corner of Main St. and Route 60 in New London. Rich was hunched over by a trashcan while eating and I was laying against the building with my shoes off so that the dreaded bunions would temporarily feel better. A couple cars went by giving us funny glares. One car in particular stayed at the intersection for a solid 2.5 minutes before leaving. As we were mounting our bikes and starting to pedal, a cop car came zooming up and was closely watching us. I'm guessing that the one driver called us in for suspicious behavior. After all, how often do you see some people hanging out on the sidewalk in a very small town at almost 1 in the morning?

We finished at 2:01 AM with Rich doing a lead-in to Motel 6. Indeed a long day. 

For one last piece of comedy gold: Rich blew by the hotel's office and went straight back to his car. I chased him down and let him know that he needed to go back. Rich replied "Why!?!?"  "Because you need to get the final signature and time stamp."  Rich: "Oh! I'm so tired! Thanks!"  I took a quick shower in Bob's room and then slept 3 hours in the Subaru. It wasn't the most comfortable place to sleep, but I could have probably slept on the sidewalk just the same.

Given all the things that went bad and dealing with numerous injuries, my performance wasn't pretty, but the brevet got done.

Four riders had to drop due to dehydration. Completely understandable given the terrain, heat and if the rider's nutrition wasn't perfect.

400k Brevet: Ashland-Lake Erie, Part I

The Ohio Randonneur 400k brevet took place last Saturday following the Ashland-Lake Erie route. The route starts in Ashland and proceeds South through the hills. The Northern part after Wooster is relatively flat up to Erie and back down to Ashland.

I debated prior the brevet whether or not to participate since I still had swollen fingers and ankles from a day long martial arts tournament I did the weekend before.  Ultimately, I decided that if I always had to wait for ideal weather or how I felt, there wouldn't be that many "perfect riding days".

15 riders started the brevet with two being from out of state.  The weather forecast was a high of 86 and an overnight low of 50 with no predicted rain. The starting temp. was a comfortable 55.

For this ride, I started with shorts, a short sleeve jersey, arm warmers and an ultra thin pair of wool gloves. I also attached a ContourRoam camera to my handler bars for taking video.  I packed leg warmers and a light weight wool shirt as a base layer if the temp got cold. When compared to other randos, I tend to carry more gear. Per the Spring 2012 Randonneur magazine, I definitely ride by the "two is one and one is none" rule - so I was carry redundant lighting, 3 tubes, etc due to the route length and crappier road conditions in Amish country. I have a very loving and understanding spouse when it comes to biking, but if she had to drive a couple hundred miles to pick me up and then back to get my car because of a basic failure that could have possibly been avoided…...…………..well, it's just better to carry that extra stuff than to find that out!

Promptly, our group departed at 5 A.M. As you can see from the pictures below, it was quite dark. At the start there are a couple gas stations, a Denny's and the hotel for some ambient light. After a half mile and a periodic semi truck passing, there was no light other than the lighting on the bikes. For reference, on the truck picture I was maintaining a speed greater than the posted speed limit :)

Problem #1: About seven miles into the ride, I realized that I forgot my water bottles. The sad part is that I packed them in my gear bag, but neglected to transfer them to the bike. The first control was not until mile 30.  I am the type of rider who carries their own powder mix because I know exactly what agrees with my body and what is needed to keep nutrition levels high. Given that the heat was going to be near 90 degrees and the first 125 contained all the hills, this was a pretty bad situation. I immediately stripped my arm warmers and gloves to force myself to stop sweating.

At mile 19.5 was an information control at Pleasant hill dam. A rider there kindly asked "Hey, did you happen to leave your sun glasses here?" I replied while laughing: "No sir, but if you asked if I forgot my water bottles like a dumb ass - the answer would be a resounding yes!" Another rider (Rich) near by overheard me and offered up a small spare bottle since he was carrying a second large bottle and a camel pack. I had reservations because I didn't want to short someone else over my mistake, but Rich insisted I take it. It was a short bottle (guessing 12-14 oz), but any form of hydration is better than none.

The sun rise was gorgeous. Note in the second picture that you can see arm warmers. I had them pulled down like wrist bands to wipe the sweat and to keep me cooler until reaching the control.

After reaching the first controls, I bought several bottles of Gatorade and inhaled a bottle of Orange juice. After getting my control card signed, I again thanked Rich for his bottle. Rich asked if he could hang with me. I let him know that I was really intending on pounding hard to the next two controls to cover as much ground as possible before the heat so he decided to ride more casually. The next 90 miles was just a lot of hills. The beginning part of this route was the same as the 300k but in reverse. Small, long, steep, gradual, rollers - every type of hill imaginable. Problem #2: I was already feeling partially dehydrated since I hadn't consumed as much fluid as I normally would have and the fact I couldn't mix in my powder due to how skinny the Gatorade bottle neck was. Also, it was very difficult to drink while trying to unscrew the Gatorade caps while climbing steep hills or descending fast.

Control #3 was at a Shell\Subway in Loudonville. I took about 15-20 minutes, to eat a foot long meatball sub, cookie sand refill the bottles, reapply sunscreen and adjust gear. On the way out, I bumped in Rich and some guys again. At some point soon after control #3, I popped a tube on the rear wheel. Not really a problem but just a part of biking. It had been a long time since replacing either tube, so it was kinda expected. This is what the ContourRoam looks like when you are changing the tube and forgot to turn off the video at the previous control.

Part II tomorrow...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finally! A Camera!

I finally decided on a camera and purchased a ContourRoam.

Here are some of the nice features: the camera is waterproof up to a meter for 30 minutes, supports recording HD video up to 30 fps (720 and 1080), auto photo mode (snaps a photo every 1, 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds), has a mic, is light weight and can be mounted to my helmet. The camera is small enough that it can easily be mistaken for a helmet light. There is also a laser pointer that can be turned on to help with mounting the camera in the ideal location.

Another nice feature is there is only one external button on the camera, which is a slide button. When turning the camera on, it will automatically start recording or taking photos non-stop until it is turned off. Also, when the camera is turned on, it beeps once. When turned off, it beeps twice. This makes it so the user is fully aware if the camera’s state without having to look at it directly.

The not so great parts: when recording video, the quality is 11 MP; but when taking photos, the quality is only 5 MP. The camera settings can only be changed via a computer. There are literally no external buttons other than the ON\OFF slide button.

I picked this over the GoPro mainly because of the size difference. The GoPro isn’t like really massive, but it’s pretty big to wear on a helmet. You’d look like a space explorer ready to be an alien’s next meal in a Ridley Scott movie. The GoPro could be static mounted to like the handle bars or the frame, but then the camera would only face one way - so I would probably miss a lot of things during a long ride. If the camera was static mounted, it would probably make my bike a big target for theft. The GoPro does have better quality video, but I wanted something easily manageable on those really long day(s) in the saddle.

Hopefully, I’ll have some videos or pictures to post in the near future. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Last weekend I participated in “The Danville Express” fleche which consisted of traveling 255 miles from Danville, IL to Columbus, OH in a 3 man group under 24 hours. The weather conditions were not ideal, but we had a great time. I've been working on a summary that I will post later.

This Saturday is Calvin's Challenge which has become an annual ritual in our family. This year, instead of racing I am doing to be a pace doggy and a wind shield for my wife and Kevin so that they can attempt to get their personal best for mileage. Both are pretty motivated and determined to break their records. Anne is changing from a hybrid comfort bike to a Catrike Expedition. The other two guys I rode with on "The Danville Express" will also be there supporting other teams. A couple members of our regular CC crew couldn't make it this year due to injuries, so they will miss out on the always perfect riding weather!
This week I am not specifying a weight goal again because I’m doing Calvin’s Challenge. After the fleche, I was one lb under from the previous week. Next week was supposed to be an off week for me from ultra distance. My martial arts instructor has me about 85% convinced that I should participate in a tourney the following weekend, which will probably require a quick cut next week –sigh! So much for slow and steady. Please don’t call me next week, because I’ll be a miserable bloke during the cut (the memories of wrestling come to mind).

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Weight Challenge - Week 1

My goal for week one was 2lbs and I dropped 3. Woot! No public humiliation this week. This week's goal? I have a 24 hour ride this weekend, so no goal. I won’t attempt to lose anything, but probably will.

Great, But Overlooked Bike Products

Here’s a short list of some awesome bike products that are often unknown, overlooked or may not be ‘main stream’……….. yet!   These are great products created by individuals vs. mega athletic companies.

First up:
Fiks reflective bicycle wheel strips
Ever see Tron and the light cycles that are used in the grid? Part of what makes the light cycles so cool are how the wheels are illuminated.

Fiks strips are pieces of reflective stickers that are attached to the non-braking portion of bike wheels to form a circle. Fiks are available in six colors for 700c and 29” wheels (smaller wheel sizes are coming soon). For the price, it’s another one of the cheap things you can do that will drastically increase your riding safety at night on in poor weather. When light hits the wheels from the side, the wheels take on a light cycle look. Nick has a great product and incredible service out of Pittsburgh. Subscribe to his Twitter feed for sporadic coupon codes.

Next up: RoadID
RoadID is a suite of products designed around the concept of being able to provide critical information about yourself to first responders in case of an emergency while in participating in an outdoor event. How often do you go out running, biking or hiking and carry your driver’s license or health insurance card? What if an accident occurred that rendered you unconscious? Do you have any life threatening allergies to drugs? Do you have a rare blood type? Do you have a specific medical history that a doctor would need to know about prior to performing emergency procedures? Would you want your family notified immediately?

RoadID offers necklaces, anklets and wrist bands with a stainless steel tag which can be engraved with any information that you would deem important if an emergency were to occur. Commonly engraved items would include: name, date of birth, city + state, emergency phones numbers, allergies, medical conditions, insurance # and provider and motivational phrases. The tags come with a lifetime warranty. There is also an interactive version which still has some engraved text, but also includes a website and toll free number that first responders can use to get even more information that the user specifies like health insurance and policy numbers, exact medical history, etc. The company is in Kentucky and operated by Ed and Mike Wimmer.

If you’d like to get one, here’s a coupon code for you: ThanksJon13862645 The code can be used 20 times in the next 27 days starting from today. The code is good for $1.00 off any order.
Another nice thing that the RoadID guys do is donate a portion of every single order to charity. There is a drop down in the ordering process for you to pick one (or leave it blank and one will be randomly selected). How cool is that?

Next: JerseyBins
JerseyBins are basically zip lock bags on steroids. Anytime riders are doing long distance rides or tours, they typically protected their gear by using bags of some kind. Zip locks are handy, but don’t hold up well to the elements. Prior to getting JerseyBins, I was using going through a lot of zip lock bags in a year to hold stuff like my wallet, keys, cell phone, etc.

JerseyBins are constructed of fairly thick vinyl and the seams are double sealed. The bags also support using touch phones while in the bag which works quite well. There are four sizes that all fit within the rear pockets of a bike jersey. Bike clubs, sponsors and businesses can order bins with custom designs printed on the front side. Despite the bins costing more than zip locks, they last a very long time. This is yet another “made in the USA” product with great service. These bags would also be great for people who hike or camp.

Last up: Gomadic
Gomadic offers a variety of chargers for electronic devices. The chargers can run off small batteries like AAs. Great, but who needs that Jonny Rando?

A great example of when it’s needed: you are out doing a long distance ride or tour with a Garmin Edge which typically has a battery life of around 10-12 hours; at which point you are either riding without GPS or stopping some place to recharge it; and hopefully you remembered to carry your 110v charger too!  With a Gomadic, you can put the charger in a stem bag, plug the USB mini-B cable into the Garmin while still on the handle bar and it will recharge while you are riding. Your ride time is basically indefinite, assuming you carry some AAs with you. One set of batteries will last a very long time.

Gomadics also support switchable tips on the chargers. Older electronic devices typically use a mini-B port, newer phones use a micro USB port, tablets vary across the board and Apple has their own thing going. Gomadic offers a plethora of tips. You can use all the tips with the same charger eliminating the need to have five different chargers with you on a trip.

Since owning my Gomadic, I’ve had one tip go bad. This is due to the fact that pretty much every long distance ride I did last year was in the rain and the tip got corroded due to moisture exposure. I replaced the tip and everything is dandy again.

Despite not being a true ‘made in the USA’ company, they have a great product, lifetime warranty and awesome customer service.

Disclaimer: I do not receive compensation nor have I received any freebies from the above companies. However, if someone would like to send me any sample or test gear – I would happily accept and review it accordingly (with a disclaimer stating such).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ashland-Mohican 300k - The Saga Continues...

Indeed, the Rando gods were keeping things interesting for us. Again, riders traded "travel safe" farewells.  Within one mile of leaving the control, we turned onto Hill Street. To say that Hill Street contained a hill would be a misnomer. For a good while after this control, I felt quite ill. I think it was just the combination of a head cold and continued exposure to the cold weather was just wearing on me. Bill was able to keep me in good spirits. It was also becoming a frequent habit to get to the top of the hill, stop, clear my glasses and continue. Bill was also having a couple bouts with cramping so he started taking Endurolytes. Halfway through this stretch we were talking a lot less because it was loud due to the wind and rain, the roads had a lot of cars and even though we both had fenders - the water was jet spraying pretty far back.

We eventually arrived at control 4 in Loudonville. By now, we had been through Ashland, Medina, Coshocton, Wayne and Holmes counties. After a while, it just all becomes alphabet soup. My GPS stated in was low on battery power. Prior to leaving the control, I hooked my portable AA charger to it; good thing I just put brand new batteries in it the night before. Bill took my queue sheet to put in his handlebar bag map pocket (his was yet another casualty due to the rain). If the GPS croaked, we could fall back on the queue sheet exclusively. When getting our control cards signed, the female cashier asked "Why in the world would you decide to ride today"? I replied "Sometimes we are just given dates, and it's up to us to show up or not. We decided to show up and make the best of it". The lady replied: "You poor souls. You keep warm and travel safe ok"?

Just prior to leaving, Toshiyuki and crew arrived. Just to make sure the Rando gods still loved us, Bill asked again "Are we done with the hills now"? Toshiyuki with a grin said "No. There is a pretty nice climb out of Mohican coming. Big hill". Everyone traded the traditional "travel safe" which applied even more now due to the continued rain, slick roads and the remaining day light was rapidly disappearing.

My AA battery charger was totally geeking out my Garmin. It was turning off and on non-stop, so I put the charger away. We turned onto State Rt 97 and found the "big hill". It wasn't so steep that the lungs were bursting, but it was large and steep enough to just make things drag out even longer. We arrived at the information control which was Pleasant Hill dam. Instead of trying to get our brevet cards out and take a chance getting cold again, we both agreed to memorize the answer and promptly moved along. It was about this time that the rain actually stopped and we remained dry for the remainder of the day. The temp also was just starting to go up a little as well. Remind you, this was about 8 PM.

We made a quick turn through Perrysville in which a guy yelling out of a jeep said "Hey! Hey, I need to talk to you"!!! I stopped and turned around to see who was talking and was preparing myself mentally for something bad. Normally, when I hear someone yelling out of an automobile, I generally just keep moving and try to avoid any possible conflict.
Driver: "Is there a bike marathon going on or something"?
Jonny Rando:  "There is a group of us doing a 188 miles. We will end up by 250 and 71".
Driver: "Holy shit. I saw a group of guys coming out of Mohican".
Jonny Rando: "Yeah, that's our group too"!
Driver "Wow, I never see people riding up that particular road. You guys are crazy! Good luck and be careful ok"!
Jonny Rando: "Roger that, have a good night".

With my GPS unit dangerously close to completely dying, I would get to the next turn as soon as possible to keep us on the correct path. Bill was keeping track of what road we were currently on incase the GPS died and we had to rely on the odometer. At this time, the sun was long gone and there was no moon or star light with the cloud coverage. I counted at least 5 frogs I ran over. It was impossible to dodge them all - they were simply everywhere in the Mohican area and they appeared mesmerized by our headlights.

At one point, Bill slipped off the road and went into a ditch. Bill must be made of granite, because he quickly popped up without a scratch on himself. The bike and it's zip tied fender was also in good shape. There were two times that we took a wrong turn while the GPS was shutting it self off. I could get it back on just long enough to realize we took a wrong turn, prompted by a quick "what the F$&#!", we quickly backtracked. In total, we did an extra 3/4 mile in the last stretch which wasn't bad considering. We finished at 10:02 PM. While getting our card time stamped, the lady at the Motel 8 assured us that our entire group was completely mental and that we should all have our heads examined.
We rode to the back of the motel to where Bob's room was. We had been instructed to slide our cards into a weatherproof envelope that was taped to the door and to sign a sheet so that Bob would be aware of who arrived back safely since the weather was going to be bad. The envelope and sheet was missing?!?! What the hell?!?! I look into the window and what do I see? Bob is watching TV and drinking Yuengling. Upon intensive interrogation, Bob stated that his common sense overtook his desire to ride in the cold rain. At least someone in the group was thinking correctly. Since Bob was back, it was possible to take a shower prior to heading home. It felt great since I smelled and looked like utter death. Bill and I both headed home vs. staying over night at the hotel. How good is Bill's endurance? After 16 hours on the bike, he was driving home to Fort Wayne which was just over a 3 hour drive.

At the end of the day, 12 of the riders ended up completing the brevet.

Post ride thoughts:
  1. Despite not being an overly impressive time, one has to consider the weather, terrain, dangerous road conditions and the fact that we both had pretty rough periods in which we didn't feel great. It was fun to ride with the likes of Bill and other fine randos with whom we kept bumping into throughout the day\night at the controls.
  2. It would have been impossible to ride a three wheel recumbent on this route due to the condition of the roads in Amish country. I'll have to use the road bike to finish this series since the remaining rides build off this route.
  3. Dare I say, the entire day there wasn't a single bad driver or rude person and the Amish are insanely polite.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ashland-Mohican 300k

Forecast: 44-64, some chance of rain\thunderstorms late in the day, winds 5-7 MPH from the South.

There we were again, lined up at 6 AM ready for another day of Randonneuring love. It was a toasty 40 degrees and overcast, but most importantly dry! 34 riders had preregistered for this ride and 18 showed up. The chosen attire for the day was vastly different among the battle hardened Randonneurs. Most riders had tights on while others wore shorts. Some wore hats and gloves and others didn't bother. Some were starting the day with rain gear on, even though it wasn't raining yet. A gamut of riding gear and all the riders were enthusiastic to start the brevet.

I debated heavily that morning with what to wear. The day before, the temp got up to 60 and it felt quite warm. I was concerned that if I wore tights and long sleeves, I may overheat during the day. I went with my gut instinct that the Rando gods were probably going to be upset again - therefore it would probably be wet and cold. So for me: it was tights, lightweight hat, wool base layer shirt, a short sleeve jersey and gloves. I brought rain gear, but didn't wear it during at the start. For this 300k brevet, I brought my road bike to help get my sit bones readjusted to the saddle for the Fleche coming up at the end of the month. For added fun during the ride, I arrived with a slight head cold and slightly pulled back from cross training.

Bob gave us the pre-ride rundown on the forecast, road conditions, secret control (yeah right) and reviewed a couple last minute cue sheet changes made the night before. Without further adieu, we were off. Within the first 1/4 mile there was almost a massive pileup. I have found it to be 'the norm' that the riders who lead at the very beginning of a brevet typically have absolutely no idea where they are going nor where the first turn is. Result? They instantly slam on the brakes at the first traffic light or street crossing almost causing total carnage. My advice? Even if you have a GPS unit or are familiar with the area\route, simply hang back for the first mile or two and ride in safety - don't be an early causality. Anyways…………..

Within the first couple of miles, I found Bill with whom I had rode a part of the previous 200k. He was again in good spirits and we did some catching up since our last ride. About 10 miles in, I noticed a gorgeous rainbow during the sunrise. I pointed it out to Bill who was also impressed by it. We continued on together to the first control in New London and made great time. We weren't pushing hard and the terrain was slightly rolling. We stopped just long enough at the control to get our card signed and we were immediately off again. As we left the control I thought, "Boy, today is gonna be an easy day".

After leaving the control, we were joined by a third rider named Andrew. We took brief turns in the lead breaking the wind. One of our bikes was making a screechy noise for a good while. Bill realized that one of the bolts on his rear fender had completely fallen out. We checked his wheel and the fender wasn't dragging, so we agreed to wait and fix it at the next control. During this time, Andrew had pulled away and when we started getting some larger rollers. It was also about this time, it also started raining pretty good; so much for the late afternoon\early evening showers. I donned my rain gear and it felt frigid. The temp was hanging right at 44 degrees. Feeling the cold, I decided to speed things up prior to reaching the next control to get warm. At some point relatively close to control 2, Bill and I became separated.

After arriving at control 2 in Wooster, I was immediately greeted by a RUSA guy who was the "secret control". Bob wasn't joking on the secret control?!?! Apparently it was too wet and cold to sit on the side of the road, so he came to the gas station to sign our cards. By now, it was a little before 10 AM. I was still making OK time and not pushing it effort wise. Just prior to leaving the control, Bill arrived and commented that he didn't see me at one of the turns and went the wrong way for a mile or two. I waited for Bill. I figured it was pretty ugly out and hanging with Bill would be more fun than riding by myself. I checked my grab bag of parts I carry to see if I had a spare bolt that would fit Bill's fender. No luck. We checked the fender again, and it was def. not dragging. We traded "ride safe" farewells with some Randos heading in as we were leaving.

Soon after leaving control 2, something became very obvious. There was a lot of hills. Big, little, steep, long, roller, mammoth and every other type hill that the Rando gods could conjure up. It was apparent that reaching our next control at 112 miles wasn't necessarily going to be the ultimate riding test ever, but it wasn't going to be a speedy event either. At one point, the rain stopped for about 20 minutes. I told Bill, "I'll meet you at the top. I'm gonna take this rain gear off because I'm pouring sweat now". Within 3 miles, another thunderstorm hit that was pretty fierce. I was still feeling warm and figured I'd just ride it out until I get to cold or the storm ends. A couple miles later the rain was intensifying combined with the wind, it was becoming incredibly cold. I told Bill to keep going that I was going to put the rain gear back on. He said that was a great idea and did the same thing. While stopped, we noticed that the remaining bolt on his fender also fell out and that the fender was starting to drag. We took some plastic zip ties and "attached it" the best we could. I'm convinced that inside of every Randonneur rider is a boy\girl scout dying to come out.

Onward we progressed. I began to notice a couple things about Amish country since we were biking through it. For one, the roads are completely torn up from the horses and buggies near the shoulder of the road. I'm talking large holes and huge crack lines in the road. Pretty dangerous, especially with the slick wet conditions. All of the Amish we passed said hello and waved. Another is, that the horses pulling the buggies are easily spooked by passing bikes. After realizing this fact, I was going well into the oncoming lane (with no traffic or course) as to not scare the horses. Last, the Amish don't appear bothered by severe weather. Out of all the Amish people I saw in the rain, only one pair of girls shared an umbrella; not sure what good it was doing given the rain was coming down side ways. None of them had jackets nor rain gear and they were just simply walking or traveling in the rain. Remind you, Bill and I were freezing.

We finally reached control 3 after making several wrong turns in downtown Coshocton. GPS units don't work well in cities especially in really bad weather. There is a huge amount of delay and you'll typically overshoot a turn by several streets until the GPS unit catches up. We decided to stop and have lunch. The control was a Marathon with a Subway inside. Bill stocked up with fast food items on the gas station side while I decided to wait for a meatball sub at Subway. I was just in luck that it only took 15 minutes to get it because there was only one person working. Sigh, so much for wasting time at controls. Since I had time to spare, I checked my phone to see that the temp was now a whooping 45 - woot! I also sent a quick text to my wife letting her know that I was ok and still riding. While eating, Makoto and Toshiyuki arrived at the control and were taking time to eat as well. On the way out, Bill asked "Are there many hills coming up". Toshiyuki grinned with a gleam in his eye and said "Many, many".

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Picking An "Action Cam"

So wifey and I were watching an episode of Fear Factor Sunday night when we noticed that the contestants were wearing both the ContourRoam and the GoPro cameras. These are the exact cameras I have been researching extensively for weeks. Both have their pros and cons regarding size, battery life, and video\picture quality.

Anyways, back to Fear Factor. There was a challenge which involved the male contestants being tied to a windmill arm that was spinning. At the bottom section of the windmill arm's path was a pool of water in which the contestant's head was completely submerged for a couple seconds. Immediately as their head surfaced, their team mate would shove a rotten bull testicle into their mouth so that he can attempt to spit the rotten testicle back into a glass bucket on the down swing of the windmill arm on the opposite side. I know what you are thinking, "WTF Jonny Rando? Is this possible"? I can assure you that it is.

Copyright 2012 NBC - Fear Factor, Episode: "The Bees Are So Angry"

The cameras did appear to take quite a beating throughout the episode, but remained functional and the bull balls looked pretty clear in 1080 using a GoPro. I don't plan on catching any bull balls myself while doing rando rides, but I would expect heavy down pours will riding and wanting to get some photos.

So hopefully this week I can finish making up my mind on which camera to get.

Lack of Motivation in 2012 - Week 1

I'm gonna start my new program out relatively easy with a whooping 2 lbs! Woot!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lack of Motivation in 2012 - Part Deux

For the first part, refer here...

Overall, the program was a resounding success. No participants missed weight and maintained their goal weight for the length of the program. It helped that everyone in the group is a hard ass, so there was major smack talking and peer pressure: "Hey Mark, can't wait until Monday so you can pay me that 5.00". "Hmm Jon, you're looking over weight today, might want to log some more laps". There were a couple of really rough weeks. One week I came down with the flu over the weekend and was running a fever of 102+. It made logging miles over the weekend extremely difficult. I was so ill, that I came to practice, weighed in, and immediately left. Another week in particular was brutal just because a lot of critical family obligations came up that drastically limited training time - which meant adjusting calories and doing intermittent fasting to boost the metabolic rate more.

I maintained my goal weight until Thanksgiving, which was several months after the program had ended. I kept doing 200ks until December which helped a lot. All of the other participants immediately started to regain weight after the program ended. I'm back up to my race weight from last year, but heavier than my lowest point last year after the weight loss challenge.

Other than the people on the swim team, my doctor, and my wife, no-one has a clue about my actual weight. Why? Various members of my family traumatized me about it during my childhood. When doing a mile in 4:27 and a 5k in 16:20, I still didn't look 'skinny enough' to them; IE: my height wasn’t greater than 6'2" and weigh less than 180. At that time, I was instead 5’10” and 155 with 30” thighs. I have carried a lot of mental baggage for my entire life regarding my weight. I saw that Fat Cyclist was doing a weight loss challenge because he got a spot on a TV show and wanted to drop some lbs. Unfortunately, by the time I found out, they were already a week in and it was too late to join in.

So to get myself re- motivated for the year, I going to follow a program similar to that the swim team came up with last year with a new penalty: if I miss weight, I post it on the internet. I know what you are thinking, big whoop Jonny Rando! For the people that really know me, this is a major deal. Wifey about crapped her pants when I told her my idea and that I was dead serious with committing to it, because she knows firsthand how mental I am with my weight.

Revised Rules:
·         Monday weigh-ins.
·         Weight loss has to be in whole lb increments until goal weight was achieved (unless a caveat occurs).
·         Penalty: if I miss weight, my weight will be posted. Don't worry, wifey will be doing monitored weigh-ins and is cold hearted. If I miss weight and don't post it, she will with zero regrets. She will keep the program honest. If weight is missed, I will continue to post each week's weight goal and actual weight - in which case I'm sure all my family (sigh!) and friends will take the time to call and 'encourage' me for more motivation.

1.       I want to reach a new *healthy* low. Therefore, I'm not going to specify an actual goal weight and will go off how I feel. When I announce my goal has been reached, the final # will be posted. To keep the weight off, I will continue to post it each week after.
2.       If there is a week where I get ill, that week will be null and void. I'm not talking about some sinus drainage or a sore throat that I can just skip the week. I'm talking about cases like the flu, food poisoning, etc. Something so severe that training is or almost impossible and dropping weight would have adversely impact my health. In 2010 and 2011, I neglected to dial back training while being sick and ended up with shingles three times. So that's the reason for this improvised rule. Shingles is absolutely horrific! A 2% allowance will be allowed from the previous ending weight (no repeated weeks of compounding 2% in the unlikely event that an illness last weeks).
3.       As an athlete that tends to go hardcore, I have sustained some injuries over the past several years that will require surgery this year (currently in the process of getting surgery dates). So during those week(s) in which I have surgery and post-op recovery, obviously I won't be able to lose weight or train. A 2% allowance will be allowed from the ending weight (again, not compounding allowances).
4.       Any weekend where there is an ultra distance race or brevet ride, no weigh-in on the following Monday. Why? Because to survive ultra distance you must eat and drink a lot. Nuff said. If you don’t understand, you probably haven’t done ultra distance events.

So starting next Monday, I will post my first goal for # of lbs to lose that week.

As I am writing this, I am having second thoughts about committing to this and why the hell am I doing this to myself? It is time for me to confront my weight fears and deal with something that has haunted me pretty much my entire life.

As Tallahassee once said, "Time to nut up or shut up!”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lack of Motivation in 2012

This year compared to previous ones at the same time, I find myself lacking motivation in general. Since I'm not competing in any spring races this year, my desire to go out and do anaerobic efforts, threshold tests, hard efforts, etc has been waning. The weather has been all over the place. Its 68 one day and 37 the next - so my desire to ride in rainy 40 degree weather has been limited as of late. I'm not saying that I'll be out of shape to do my brevet rides or that I'll be unable to pull lead as expected at Calvin's for my teammates. I'm still on par with my New Year's resolutions - it's just that I'm just missing that spark to go the extra bit while training. It feels like I've been training without a focused purpose to improve upon.

Last year, was a stellar one in various ways. My best goal last year was reaching my lowest race weight since H.S. Realistically I probably am the worst example of a long\ultra distance athlete. I am built like a football player and am completely opposite of your stereo typical ultra-thin, no upper body mass bike racer. After my races were done last year, I got to an even lower weight with a bit of motivation.

A group of us have been swimming together for years on a fitness swim team. The team is made up of various adults aging from the low 20's to the upper 40's. Last Spring, one of the swimmers was complaining that they just could not lose the last 10 lbs that they wanted to drop. Several of us commented that we "had a couple" we'd like to lose also. As a group, we decided to brainstorm over the weekend on ideas for a weight loss challenge and for punishment(s) incase a participant didn't make weight.

The following Monday, teammates mentioned things like "if you don't make weight, you can't swim that night", "sit out for some of the practice", "wear a goofy swim suit", or "you have to swim an extra 500 meters". I openly stated that I thought not allowing a person to swim at all or for a portion of the practice was awful because that would directly contribute to the person probably gaining more weight. I was also against the additional 500 meter idea we had a couple teammates who have rotator cuff surgery due to swimming stress\intensity already.

My suggestion was simple: "If you miss weight, you pay a set financial penalty to everyone else in the challenge". After the gasping, pretty much everyone stated my idea was absolutely horrible. I replied "maybe, but would you miss weight? Let's talk about it again on Wednesday to have a couple days to think about it and agree on which idea we like the most then".

On Wednesday, shockingly, everyone went with the financial penalty. As a group, we also instituted the following rules:

  • Each participant had to pick a final goal weight to be at after 4 months.
  • Monday weigh-ins. Why? Because the majority of people stated that they overate on the weekends with family, parties or at social events.
  • Weigh-ins at the pool before practice with the entire team present. Why? Pressure cooker and to keep everyone honest.
  • Each participant picked their own goal for that week. The reason for this was that we weren't on the biggest loser and each of us was already fit. How many biggest losers could swim 3-5k meters on day one?
  • Weight loss had to be in whole lb increments until goal weight was achieved. Participants could not pick 2.5 lbs, but either 2 or 3lbs.
  • Financial loss: if a participant did not make weight and was not at goal weight: a $5.00 penalty was to be paid to each participant in the group. If the participant had already reached goal weight and missed weight (meaning the participant has to maintain their goal weight), the penalty was 10.00 per person. This was done to curb rebounding when participants made goal weight.

So Jonny Rando, how did you guys end up and what the hell is this all about? That's a story for another day….

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mid Ohio Lakes and Rivers Tour 200k

Forecast: 42-57, overcast, with clouds clearing in the early afternoon. 0% chance of rain. Winds N\NW 5-7 MPH.

The first brevet ride for the Ohio Randonneurs of the year had over 55 registered riders. Rumor has it that the route was based off an old Dave Buzzee permanent. The brevet overall was relatively flat and very scenic. The route started and ended at Alum Dam and included: crossing the Hoover Dam, seeing the Hoover reservoir, traveling through some of Alum Creek State Park, Delaware State Park and Big Island Wilderness areas. Before we proceed any further, I should address something. Yes, I rode across Hoover Dam. No, not "THE Hoover Dam". There are multiple Hoover Dams in the U.S., just like every city probably has a Main St.

The morning started out a tad chilly at 40 degrees, very overcast with a good breeze coming from the Hoover reservoir. While waiting for the ride to begin, I sat in my car because I really don't care for the cold; as in I hate riding in weather below 50. Several riders were standing in close ranks while talking to retain heat. One couple were standing and covered up with a large blanket, while another couple stayed in a hugging formation to stay warm. Once we were about 10 minutes from the start, I ventured out to join the other randos who were lined up around our fearless leader Bob's car. I had the opportunity to meet a nice fellow from Fort Wayne and Paul with whom I got to do part of a 600k in NY last summer.

With about 2-3 minutes from the launch, Bob gave us encouraging words of wisdom like to stay warm, ride carefully, turn your lights on if returning late and to ride fast so he wouldn't have to sit in the parking lot until 9:30 PM. Bob also told us that if we returned prior to him, to have a bystander in the park initial and time stamp our control card; in which case a rider asked: "If I'm on a tandem, can my co-rider accomplish this for me, or do I need to find something else. Snicker, snicker.” Despite the cold temps, no one lost their sense of humor. With a smile and a quick reply, Bob states "smart ass! Let's go!" and we were off.

This would be my first attempt at a 200k with my new Catrike 700, so I wanted to start off a tad slow to help guarantee a finish. If for some reason a rider has a bike problem or doesn't have the ability to finish physically, it can be incredibly difficult to talk someone into driving out 50-100 miles to pick you up and return you to the start. Given I was riding a tadpole, this would probably be 10x more difficult (because who has a car large enough for a tadpole bike) and I wanted to make sure I left ample energy in reserves.

Purposely starting out last and remaining there for a long while was quite humbling. For me, I enjoy riding a traditional road bike and powering through hills and extended efforts at higher speeds; so this was a big, big, big change for me. After a few miles, I caught up to and rode with a nice group of guys including Paul and Bill with whom I was talking to in the parking lot. Soon after joining the group, we reached our first control which was an informational control. The question was "What activities are prohibited at Hoover Dam?” Any guesses on the answer? Apparently, sledding, skiing and snowboarding are not prohibited. I generally don't want to see anyone break the rules or get hurt, but if there is a 2 planker out there crazy enough to ride down that, I will gladly watch. Any volunteers?

After writing our answers, we got to ride across Hoover Dam which was pretty cool. The dam has 4 gates about waist high. My riding partners had to very slowly ride around the outside of the gate posts with what little room was left on the sides. Seeing how I was on my sporty new Catrike, I simply rode under the gates - ftw!

Around noon we reached the second control @ mile 58. To our delight, the temperate really warmed up to a toasty 42. Good thing that we all underdressed for that projected high of 57. When getting off the bike, my feet felt odd. I assumed it was from having my feat elevated for several hours riding a recumbent. I didn't think much about it really. Some riders got their card signed and moved on, others stayed to warm up and eat. As the day wore on, the riders and groups spread further and further apart. One thing that did not change was the weather. Did I mention I hate the cold and dressed relatively light for the expected high?

I spent most if not all of the afternoon riding solo. Being on the Catrike really allowed me to ride in comfort and just enjoy the scenery, albeit, at a slower pace. Now if I only had that new camera which would auto take photos for me while riding, hmmm. I did debate several times taking my phone out and attempt to take some moving photos, but my hands were feeling cold. Around 3 PM, my left knee was starting to bother me. It felt like a tendon or ligament pain. I haven't been experiencing any pain during training rides, so I think at the previous controls when my feet weren't feeling all there, I may have twisted my leg and not realized it. It did make the rest of the day quite long since I had to slow the pace down even more.

Leaving the last control heading back to the start, I got twisted up leaving the wrong way. It happens. You're a little tired, have a sore knee and want to eat some real food. A couple minutes later, I was back on track and working on tackling the last 13 miles. I had maybe 4 miles left when I experienced my only idiot of the day. A car pulled up behind me and laying on the horn non-stop. He stayed back there for a solid minute before passing slowly (still holding the horn) while shouting sweet nothings to me. It bothers me some drivers act like this. I have found overall, since riding the tadpole vs. a road bike, drivers tend to be much more compassionate by not beeping horns, screaming and leaving ample room to pass. I don't know what to accredit this too exactly, but that has been my experience with the bike since last fall. With this particular driver, there is no way the driver couldn't have seen me (if this was the driver's issue?) because I had a red strobe light on all day and since it was getting close to 6, I had also turned on a solid red tail light as well. This particular section of road was also quite straight with long visibility, so I believe the person was just being a jerk.

I returned to the dam where some of the other guys had recently returned and were chatting. I finished in 9:43. Nothing to write home about, but with brevets, it's about adjusting to what you’re given and simply finishing within the time frame.

I offered my bike up to several people who had commented it looked fun to ride throughout the day, but didn't have any takers. I think everyone was tired of riding for the day and probably a tad cold :)
I talked to Tim for several minutes about our upcoming Fleche ride. We are on the Danville Express team and will be heading cross state from Danville, Ill back to Ohio. Part of the reason I decided to join this team is because I have done rides with Tim A (the capt.) and Tim C. Both are laid back and strong riders. I specifically remember last fall Tim C. talking about the Fleche team that he was on for 2011 and how the team was constantly arguing as the day wore on. Both of the 'T's are laid back and drama free which is how I like to ride, so I am quite confident it's going to be a fun first fleche for me.

After getting back I immediately started changing prior to getting my bike and gear packed up. After taking my shoes off, my feet (even with the socks on) felt completely frozen. After removing my socks……… "Holy bad weather forecasting Batman, those are purple feet!" A couple of my toes were bright white and the rest of my feet were purple. Here's a dandy photo with my crappy Droid phone.
Purple Foot
The purple looks more red in this photo, but believe me, it was dark purple. I knew I should have worn my Lake winter shoes! Better to have hot feet than freezing feet. I also checked the weather and the high for the day hit 44 with no sun. Yes, my index toe was shattered in the past. Pretty sexy right?
All day Sunday my left knee continued to hurt. I'll be milking it out for several days and will be transitioning back to a road bike for the 300k and Fleche rides later in the month. After that, back to the tadpole to hopefully finish off the brevet series.