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).