Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cranburry 200k - Practice Ride

This 200k was on The NJ Randonneur's calendar as a practice ride. Sandwiched between the Princeton 200k and 300k it was an opportunity for those considering the 300k to get some additional mileage. With its light amount of climbing it would serve the purpose quite well. I had spent much of the week training in the hills so this ride seemed like the perfect way to finish off a good week of training.

It was a cool 48 degrees as we gathered at the public parking lot in the quaint town of Cranburry, NJ for the 7am start. However, the cool weather was to be very short lived. The day was to reach a high of ninety. This being the first real heat of the season. The jackets worn by everyone would soon find their way into the packs. Riders were asked to choose between an A/B group and a C group. Each group would have a ride leader to set the pace. It was not a requirement to stay with either group, as we all were handed cue sheets, it was just an option. Jud Hand would lead the faster group and Laurent Chambard would set the more mild pace. With a bike named Mellow Yellow it seemed appropriate to line up with slower riders. About 12 bikes were present in total two of which were couples on tandems. I represented the only recumbent.

The two groups departed precisely at 7am with the faster group quickly riding away. Laurent was setting a steady 14mph pace to start out. The moderate speed felt good with the cool temperature. After a few miles I started feeling strong and broke off the front. After about a mile at the faster pace I spotted the A/B group up ahead. I amped it up a notch to catch them. It took another mile and a red light and I was with the fast group. At the faster pace I was starting to work up a sweat. The temperature had come up quite a bit in a short time. I needed to remove a layer or two to keep from overheating. After riding a bit more I pull off and stop to adjust clothes and add sunscreen. This all takes a bit of time during which the C group rides past. Back on the road I work to regain the slower group. Once there I settle in to the comfortable pace for the remainder of the miles to the first stop. Interval training over for now. Our route would take us to the Jersey Shore, the first contact point being Union Beach. Our initial stop was at the Burger King, 28 miles into the ride. After a brief respite we head out for the next leg which will include some climbing in the Atlantic Highlands.

Both groups leave the stop at the same time. I opt to stay with the C riders as we will soon be in the hills. Mellow Yellow doesn't like hills, at least not the upward sections. In about 10 miles we hit the climb of the day which takes us to the top of Mt. Mitchell. It's not a bad climb at all, it goes on for awhile but is never too steep. A nice rhythm is maintained the whole time. At the top there is a small park with a scenic overlook. The view is amazing looking over the water to the skyline of New York City.

With hills out of the way for now we continue south crossing the inlet at Rumson and turn towards the ocean. We hit the beach at Sea Bright turning south again to pass the shore towns of Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Deal and Asbury Park. While riding alongside the ocean it is actually quite chilly with a stiff off shore breeze blowing ocean cooled air across us. This chills us quite a bit as well as hampers our speed. We are grinding along mostly as about 12mph. No matter, as the scenery is nice and the area is bubbling with activity. New Jerseyans flock to the shore on any warm day. Out furthest point is Bradley Beach which is about half-way, 61 miles, into the ride. We have a scheduled stop at a convenience store/gas station, Hess Express. A packaged muffin, corn chips and Gatorade fulfill the nutrient requirement for me. Soon we are back on the road headed inland for the trek back to Cranburry with one more scheduled stop along the way.

After a few miles heading west we are away from the cooling effects of the ocean. I'm off the front of the group again. Something about heading in the direction of home always motivates me. Immediately it begins to feel quite hot. I'm wearing a light wool long sleeve under layer by itself and I am no longer comfortable. I'm thinking about the light weight short sleeve jersey buried in my pack. Before long I have to stop and change. With the proper garment in place I set out to catch the other riders who passed by while I was stopped. Once back on I stay there for a bit before becoming restless and pushing off the front again. One of the tandems and another rider come with me this time. We split up when the couple on the tandem stops for water. The other rider Husefa Irfani continued on with me. Husefa is training for the Death Ride in California. A 120 mile affair with 20,000 feet of climbing. As we are chatting we ride past a turn. We realize our mistake as we come to a major highway intersection. Fortunately, it is only about a mile back. A couple of bonus miles never hurts. Soon we are at the control. The tandem is there having gotten past us while we were off route. We are there awhile and just about ready to leave when the rest of the group makes it in. I decide to apply a little more sun screen so the tandem and Husefa head out. I assume I can catch them since I'm only a couple of minutes behind when I leave. But, that was not in the cards.

I'm about a mile out and working hard when a viscous cross wind gust blows my cue sheet right out of the clips and into an adjoining field. I am able to recover it without too much effort. Back on the road I Resume my pace this time grabbing onto the cue sheet every time I feel the wind gust. After another mile the route has me turning into the wind and it basically remains that way for the last 30miles. Although there are a few small hills to break up the monotony. I never do catch the other two bikes as I stop a couple of times to alleviate a case of hot foot. Where the ball of my left foot feels like it's on fire. That is new to me as are most of the aches and pains I get from riding this different style machine. I grind through the wind to the finish at Cranburry checking the time as I hit the parking lot. I'm in at 11hr 30min. Almost two hours faster than my Princeton 200k finish. I remembered riding this exact same route two years ago. It was run as a night start 200k called "The Shore by Night". Once home I checked the results, I had finished the route in 10hr 24min riding at night. There are a lot of variables, but it's safe to say I was faster on the traditional DF bike.

This week I logged over 25o miles on the bent. Many of them in the hills of northern New Jersey. I successfully climbed some tough extended climbs. Successfully meaning I didn't fall over, walk, or get hit by a car while swaying around uncontrollably. There is no doubt that I'm improving quickly. With the 300k only a week away for me the question is; will it be quick enough?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PA Fleche - The chronicles of team "Stealers Wheel"

I’d been looking forward to this ride with much trepidation. This is my third successive year on a fleche team. So, essentially I have a good handle on what the ride is like. But, this time I committed to take part prior to knowing that my choice of mount would be a recumbent. After last Saturday’s skin-of-the-teeth finish on the 200k, I was thinking that maybe my presence on this ride would prove to be a hindrance to the team. My four teammates are all strong competent Randonneurs, on the new bike I would not be their equal. I sent the captain, Paul Shapiro, an e-mail detailing my concerns and offering to drop out of the ride for the benefit of the team. Paul responded writing that given the nature of the route (largely a flat South Jersey course) he felt that I would be able to manage it. If after starting the ride I found it was tough going I could always drop out along the way. With a bit of a knot in my stomach I agreed to take the start. Vowing to myself that if I felt I was hurting the team’s chance of a successful experience I would drop out.

The weather was stunning as we gathered at the shopping center in Princeton Junction for the Friday, 11:00am start. All of us agreed that this was indeed a very civilized hour to begin a long ride. My teammates were: Paul Shapiro (C), Jon Levitt, Todd Kerekes and Ron Anderson. Our team name is “Stealers Wheel”. After getting our brevet cards stamped at the Rite Aid and posing for the traditional team photo we all headed out for the first leg to New Egypt. I felt fine keeping in step with the moderate pace that was set for the early miles. We enjoyed the view of the countryside, the perfect weather and the camaraderie of the team. There would be no hills of any consequence for many miles to come and the light wind was mostly at our backs. Life was certainly good.

Our route would take us as far south as Ocean City, NJ before winding its way back to the northwest for the finish at the Youth Hostel in Quakertown, PA. Tom Rosenbauer, (PA Randonneurs) was RBA for the second year in a row. We have all come to appreciate Tom’s tireless efforts providing randonneuring events for the region.

The day would just get nicer as we smoothly transitioned deeper into the southern regions of the state. The temperature was in the upper sixties, our packs bulging with the warm clothes we did not yet require. The long sleeve jersey I was wearing, along with thin wool under layer became too warm in the afternoon. Having no room left in my rear pack I improvised by laying it on the huge recumbent seat and tying the sleeves around the back. It made a spiffy seat cover. I was able to ride comfortably wearing only the icebreaker long sleeve under layer.

The trek to the south would involve 104 miles of mostly flat terrain. We would pass through New Egypt, New Gretna, Egg Harbor City and our furthest point of Ocean City. The spring scenery was especially enjoyable as we passed through the Pine Barrens, went by cranberry bogs and enjoyed views of ocean inlets and bays. We crossed over two long bridge spans as the sun was getting low in the sky. Our arrival at the Wawa Market in Ocean City came just as daylight was yielding to the darkness. The temperature in concert with the sun was also taking a rapid plunge. Hot foods and coffee were the theme of the hour as we prepared for the cool weather we would face on this next leg.

Adorned with lights and reflective gear we set out to cover the forty-three miles to our next stop in Hammonton. Although the Silver Coin Diner was an unofficial stop, a non-control, it would prove to be a life saver. We were really feeling the drop in temperature riding out of Ocean City. It was a solid twenty-degrees cooler in just a couple of hours. I was reasonably prepared for a cool overnight with a medium duty jacket, glove liners, medium duty gloves, light weight shoe covers, and light wool skull cap. My gear should be quite adequate for temperatures down to 45 degrees. Perhaps it was the rapid cool down that was throwing us off because we were all real cold for the next few hours.

During every ride of any serious duration there always comes a low point. I reached mine on this segment. I was quite cold having left my warmer gloves and shoe covers in the pack thinking that I wouldn’t need them until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t stop thinking about how cold I was. We rode past a turn by just a few hundred feet and needed to turn around. It was in a busy intersection so making the u-turn would have been tricky for me on my upright bike. I’ve found the recumbent to be an absolute bear when it comes to low speed maneuvering. When I finally determined a break in the traffic I attempt the turn only to hit my foot into the sharply turned wheel. The effect was a sudden flop to the pavement (note to self; do not pedal while attempting a sharp turn). I’m normally not one to panic, but there were a string of cars bearing down on me and I’m intertwined in this crazy bike. I’m trying to scoot off the roadway while still on the ground with only limited success. One of my feet are un-clipped the other is still stuck in the pedal. Thankfully, the person in the car leading the pack recognizes there is some kind of problem and brings the vehicle to a quick stop. I’m grateful that this is one driver who must have skipped the Friday night happy hour at the local gin mill. Safely to the side of the road with bike and rider intact I re-join my worried team mates and continue on.

The diner was a welcome sight to the five of us as we quickly left bikes outside for the warm respite of a table for five. Blueberry pancakes and hot coffee complimented the environment for me. We spent a good amount of time warming up. It was nice to feel all my fingers and toes again. It was about mid-night so I was hoping that it wouldn’t get too much colder after this. Before setting out for the short 15 mile ride to the next official control, in Berlin, NJ, I added the shoe covers and full gloves.

The next section was cold, but thankfully short. The overnight temperature reached a low of 42 degrees. It was a very clear night with little wind. Tolerable conditions but none the less we all felt quite chilled. The gloves and shoe covers took the edge off for me. My core felt chilled but not to the point of shivering. I tried to shift my focus away from being cold and did my best to enjoy the nice roads Paul had selected for our route to the north.. After a brief stop in Berlin we would continue north crossing the Pine Barrens for the second time, this time in the dark. I enjoy the feeling of remoteness this area brings about. I felt quite sleepy at one point and decided to have a real coffee at the next stop which would be Pemberton. I drink decaf in everyday situations and only drink real coffee when I am about to nod off on a long bike ride. My system is quite sensitive to it since I almost never have it. The twelve ounce serving of regular black coffee brought me to full alertness. I felt confident I could stay awake for the rest of the night.

It was only 18 miles to the next Wawa at Hamilton Township. This would be the sixth and final Wawa Market on our route. Southern New Jersey abounds with them. They are quite useful as control stops as they have a wide variety of hot and cold foods, water, sports drinks and good coffee. At all the stores the staff were also very friendly to us. They happily signed our brevet cards, asking questions about our ride and wishing us luck. Paul was a bit concerned about our time here and suggested a brief stop. We would leave with daylight just beginning to show. Skirting to the north of Trenton headed for the Deleware River at Washington’s Crossing, the terrain would make a gradual change from virtually flat to slightly rolling as we crossed US 1 in Lawrenceville. Our next stop was designated our twenty-two hour control. The control was a restaurant in Lahaska, PA. Our hope was to arrive with enough time in hand for a sit down breakfast before our 9am departure and the twenty miles to the finish. Shortly after crossing the highway, Paul had a flat on the rear tire. The tire itself was damaged beyond help thankfully a spare folding tire was carried with him. He asked that Ron, Todd and I continue on to the control while he and Jon remain to change out the tire and tube. I’ve seen Paul change flats on other rides and he is quite proficient at it. I am confident they will be back on the road shortly. The three of us continue on to the control. We are just a few miles from the river crossing and I am actually enjoying the rolling terrain. After over 200 flat miles the extra resistance on the pedals feels good to the leg muscles. At Washington’s Crossing we are required to walk our bikes over the bridge after which we mount up and head north along the river on PA 32. This six mile stretch next to the river is pleasant but slightly uphill the entire way. Our pace is moderate but we have enough time in hand so there is no concern. We will have about an hour at the restaurant before the required 9am departure. After turning off Route 32 we have a few miles of up and downs before arriving at the control. We make it there just a few minutes after 8am. Already it is starting to get warm. Todd heads in to get a table. I remain outside readying myself for the final leg, Ron does the same. I stow all the cold weather gear pushing my rear pack to its maximum. It takes less than ten minutes in which time Paul and Jon arrive. We enter the restaurant and join Todd at a nice large table. The place, called Sweet Lorraine’s, is actually quite nice. A waiter brings us glasses of water with lemons floating in them. Our order is efficiently taken and soon I am enjoying the best breakfast I’ve ever had on a bike ride.

With breakfast food settled in we set out at 9am for the final section. My teammates are adjusting their clothing for the warm temperature so I start out a couple of minutes ahead knowing they will catch me on the hills shortly. The first ten miles to the finish are actually quite hilly. And one particularly steep climb just a couple of miles away from the control on Street Road (didn’t know you could call it both) causes the bent to veer sharp left headed off the road. I can’t get it to correct so I have to clip out. After doing so the steepness of the hill won’t allow me to hold the bike upright with one foot down so I take another flop over. Suffering no more than embarrassment I upright the bike, walk up the remainder of the hill and start out again. More hills present themselves as I turn off onto Aquetong Road. My team mates catch me as I am slogging up one of them. I know I will be slow on this hilly part so I tell them to keep their pace. I will meet them at the end. Should time run out for me they can earn the fleche. The rules allow for as few as three riders to finish. They refuse to do this telling me we will finish together as a team. What I like best about the fleche concept, and being on a great team, is that no one thinks individually. It’s a one for all and all for one concept. My team was supportive of me undertaking the ride on the bent despite the potential that it could make things riskier. So far I felt as if I had not been a burden to them. Now the best I could do was minimize the impact of my slower climbing pace by working hard especially on down hills where I could make back some of the time. Of course, there is a head wind that makes this a little harder, but we get through the ten miles of hills with adequate time to cover the remaining miles. There is but one final hill to face on Route 313. It’s a tough one, but we all make it up in good form knowing there is only about two miles left, mostly downhill. We are all together as we make the turn off the highway onto the road leading to the Youth Hostel. Paul makes the turn and has another flat on the rear tire. With less than a mile left he opts to ride it in on the flat. We make it to the Hostel with ten minutes to spare. Tom is outside to greet us. His enthusiasm for our success is contagious. We are tired but quite happy as we pose for the traditional finish team photo.

Inside the Hostel we enjoy snacks, beverages and a hearty portion of Tom’s homemade lasagna. Paul manages a nice nap in one of the upholstered chairs. An hour after our arrival a second team comes in, The Cumberland Cruisers from south Jersey. We know this team from last year’s fleche. Also, their captain Walt Pettigrew is a friend. We recognize Rick Lentz from NJ Randonneur rides as well. Their four person team all finished together.

Summing it all up this ride worked out great for me. The team concept differs from other brevets. The camaraderie is stronger which adds to the enjoyment of the ride. There is no feeling of isolation as there are four others working with you to achieve the same goal. We covered 400k this year, 40k over the minimum distance. The route was not particularly challenging, nor did the weather present any real problem. The challenge as I see it is covering 400k so early in the season. I was very pleased to have managed the ride while still adapting to the recumbent. Maybe there is hope for this season yet.

A special thanks to Tom Rosenbauer for his dedication to this event, and, to my teammates for all the support and encouragement.
Team Stealers Wheel at the Finish in Quakertown, PA.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Princeton 200k - A dose of humble pie!

April 11, 2009

My trip to the mid-west is over. I did not make it to the brevet in Ohio, which is probably a good thing. I took Mellow Yellow on the trip, but only found time for a 30 mile ride. My return came about sooner than expected due to a family issue at home. Departure would be on Thursday and I was needed home for Easter Sunday. A light bulb went off in my head. Suddenly, I was plotting an aggressive driving plan to cover the 1200 miles in about 30 hours. The purpose of the plan was to put me home on Friday afternoon in time to get ready for the Princeton 200k to be held on Saturday. I drove 900 miles on day one stopping at a hotel for a few hours sleep (kind of like a 600k). I had my lap top with me and signed up for the ride on one-half hour before the cut-off of registration. The weather report was somewhat concerning calling for periods of rain with temperatures in the fifties. On the positive side it was a ride I was used to. Of course not on a recumbent. The difference would prove to be staggering.

I covered the remaining 300 miles the next morning arriving home just after noon on Friday. Plenty of time to get my gear together for a potentially rainy ride the next morning. By dinner time I was all packed up with everything loaded in the van. It was only a twenty minute drive from my home to the start so a good nights sleep would fit nicely into the plan.

In the morning I noticed no rain had fallen overnight. The temperature in the high forties seemed quite manageable. Still no rain as I undertook the check-in and final preparation for the ride at the Princeton Forrestal Village parking lot. Just as all the riders lined up waiting for the go signal, from ride organizer Judd Hand, the rain drops started lightly falling. After some final instructions Judd started the ride in two groups to relieve the congestion on the tight roads leading out of the Village. Group one was designated the fast group; 10hrs or under predicted finish. I had done a sub 10hr 200k once, a couple of years back, but it was not going to happen today. Ten minutes later the rest of us were sent off headed for the center of Princeton and the first climb of the day up the Great Road. I was riding along with Todd, a fleche team mate and riding buddy. The first seven miles was moderate terrain which would include some city like riding through down town Princeton. We would then climb up out of the town on the famous Great Road headed for Hopewell and a more formidable climb up Rileyville Road. I was definitely riding a bit slower than if I was on my DF bike, but Todd didn't seem to mind hanging back with me and chatting as we rode. I remember this ride from last year as being quite hilly. There are a few formidable climbs, most notorious being Adamic Hill Road in Holland Township, interspersed with numerous lesser climbs. The effect of the continuous up and down is a slow steady pummeling akin to taking a rhythmic beating by a skilled boxer. I manage the Rileyville climb without using the small chain ring. However still slower than if I was on my Salsa upright. Todd was ahead of me on the climb by quite a bit, but there was a sizeable decent after the climb enabling me to catch up to him. The bent descends like a rocket. It would go like this to the control in Frenchtown which was at the American Legion Hall. The rain had really intensified, we arrived wet and cold. The hot soup and coffee provided by the volunteers helped knock off the chill, at least temporarily.

It was raining quite steadily as we mounted back up for the second leg of the ride. I was shivering as we pedaled back out to the route. To add to the misery the wind from the north was picking up and we were smack into it for much of this section. After a few flat miles we hit some rolling terrain which helped us warm up. This would be a prelude to the big climb of the day, Adamic Hill, which was just a few miles ahead.

Soon we made the turn onto Mount Joy road. I knew from memory the big climb was one turn away. Once the turn is made it quite quickly pitches up to about a 16% grade. I dropped into the granny gear and started up only to have the bike make an unintentional sharp left. I still was not proficient at managing steep climbs. The bike gets very squirmy and I have yet to figure out how to prevent it. More moderate climbs of say 10% grade work okay but the real steep pitches still give me problems. I almost fall over here but manage to get a foot down at the last second. Considering my options there is no way I can get started again on this steep section. Returning to the bottom, although not all that far, didn't seem appealing either. The rain momentarily had stopped so it would be a nice day for a walk. I manage about 2.5 mph pushing the bike up the hill. That's only about 1 mph slower than riding. During the walk up I'm longing for my Salsa or Felt. I've climbed this hill numerous times, although it's a tough climb I've never had to think about walking. As I near the top I see Todd and a couple of other riders returning to the route from a wrong turn at a fork off. The cue sheet lists a bear left at fork to remain on Adamic Hill Rd, but who can think about reading when your legs are screaming. Actually it worked out well since Todd arrived at the information control, an old windmill at the top off the hill, just moments before me. As we continue on the rain resumes having only given a brief respite during the climb. Twelve miles remain until the control at the Asbury Deli, the farthest point of the route and the half way mark. The rain and wind remain constant, again we arrive shivering. Judd is here to check us in. He tells us a number of riders have packed because of the conditions. If I don't find a way to warm up I could be joining them. I do an internal inventory on my condition and come to realize that my biggest misery is my hands. They are cold and wet to the point of being numb. Especially the right one. The recumbent uses grip shifters which are difficult to work with numb hands. The Seal Skinz gloves I had on were soaked through, not a great endoresement for water proof gloves. I had packed a spare pair of glove liners and medium duty winter gloves in my pack. The half-way point seemed like a good time to break them out. They would help immensely. I would count on the upcoming hills to warm the rest of me.

We reluctantly leave the warmth of the deli to undertake the next segment which will bring us back to the Legion Hall control in Frenchtown. A fairly large climb looms ahead in the first mile. It should warm us up. We hit the climb and I go for the granny gear starting the grind up. I make it about half way before I start feeling the warning signs of leg cramping. A few more turns of the cranks and now I'm in a full seizure on both legs. Again falling over is a distinct possibility. With the cranks so high off the ground it is not easily to get a foot down quickly, especially when the legs are locked up with cramping. Somehow I save myself additional pain and embarrasement by keeping the bike up. I've got both feet on the ground but am paralyzed by cramping. It takes me a minute to get to the point of getting a leg over the bike and start the long walk up the hill. Todd comes back down the hill a bit to look for me, I tell him he better move on alone. I am now worried that my hampered pace will prove inadequte. For the first time ever on a 200k I am in danger of running out of time. We left the last control just before the closing time. I'm giving some thought to abandoning here, but this would require a rescue from home to the very farthest point on the route. I decide to continue to the next control and evaluate things there. The walk up the rest of hill done I enjoy a fast down hill section, although cold. At the turn part way down the hill I come across a secret control. The volunteer marks my brevet card and wishes me luck. As I continue on I take heart in the fact that there were a number of riders still at the control when I departed. There is only one hill left that requires me to walk, a short steep kicker, the rest I am able to climb, albeit slowly. I'm not sure when it happened but the rain seems to have stopped. The temperature has climbed into the fifties and I begin drying out. Most of the riders from behind catch up to me. I leap frog a few of them passing them on down hills and being passed on up hills. With no more steep hills in front of me to the control I stay on the bike using easy gears to keep from cramping on the rollers. I ride into Milford which is just a couple of miles from the control. There are only three riders behind me, and not far behind at that. Taking a bathroom break at the Citgo relegates me to the final position. A couple of miles of flat riding and I am approaching the control. Todd is on his way out and asks how I'm doing. I decided then that I am going to continue on. I am into the control about twenty minutes before closing time. I'm planning a quick ten minute stop. With the continued absence of rain I am dry and warm. One less thing to worry about.

True to plan I am out of the control quickly. I have a bit more than four hours to finish 38 miles. If I don't stop at all a ten mile per hour rolling pace would get it done. This section is billed as the easiest although I can think of at least three pretty good climbs off the top of my head. The first of these, Ridge Road, presents itself almost immediately. I am determined to climb it. I've had a little rest and should be able manage in a light gear. I climb it slowly and am passed by most of the remaining riders. The terrain stays flat for about five miles and then comes a tough hill, Oak Grove Road, which I climb up part way and walk the rest. I notice that walking doesn't offer as much relief as before, my knees have tightened up causing some discomfort. While off the bike I put on night reflective gear and my helmet light. I'm not expecting to get in before dark. At the top of Oak Grove I then have a nice fast descent into the town of Flemington. I hit 48 mph on the down hill. All the roads are familiar to me here as I ride this area all the time. While waiting at the traffic light to cross Rt 31 I review the remaining route counting the hills in front of me. There is really only one significant climb left, Lindbergh Road, but even the less significant are challenging to me today. Manners Road comes to mind with four good size rollers within a two mile section. I'm vowing to stay on the bike the rest of the way. No walking, no breaks, just ride the remaing 23 miles to the finish.

Manners Road comes and goes with me riding the whole time. I'm adjusting my climbing technique a bit to use slightly larger gears with very slow cadence. The stress to my legs seems a bit less this way. The two mile climb up Linbergh to the top of The Sourland Mountain Ridge comes and goes and again I ride all of it. Just a couple of miles of rollers on the top of the ridge and then I'm descending Hollow Road. At the end of Hollow I now have twelve miles to go and about an hour left. With mostly flat terrain in front of me I should make it. Normally I would be extremely confident, but I am now feeling down right awful. All my muscles are as tight as piano wire. My glutes hurt so bad that every minor bump is excruicatinly painful and my knees are doing their share of complaining. On top of everything my stomach seems to think that throwing up would be a good idea. Well, it would just have to wait because at this point I did not want to spare the time. I'm riding at 20 - 21 mph for awhile on the flat section, but soon realize I can't sustain it. I settle for 15-17 for the remaing five flat miles. Then I try to maintain 8-10mph on the gradual climb into the little town of Kingston. From there it is only a couple of miles, mostly down hill to the finish at Forrestal Village. I'm in full darkness with all lights and reflective gear displayed. I get to the final traffic light at College Road and I hear someone excitedely yelling for me to keep coming. I couldn't see my watch, but I knew I was tight on time. I turned into the parking lot and headed for the small crowd (3 people) gathered there. Judd is there and tells me that I have finished with four minutes to spare.

With my brevet card signed and my finish offical I am now faced with the final task of packing up to go home. No easy proposition since I can barely move. I'm surprised I feel this bad. In fact, I never remember feeling this horrible on any other ride. The different use of muscles is much more impactful than I would have ever thought. I was told that the adaptation from uprights to bents could take up to a year. I am just now beginning to believe it. Finishing the ride barely under the limit, as the Lantern Rouge, is a humbling experience. While I was never a real fast rider I was considered by most to be fairly strong and competent. I never had to consider time limits before as I was always way under them at all the controls and the finish. During the short drive home I began to think that maybe I am being to ambitous. Making this change without modifying my goals for this season could be the wrong play. Perhaps a better plan is to respect the change and work toward gradual improvement. Basically, pushing my big plans off until next season rather than shredding myself and perhaps facing much disappointment in the process. A little soul searching seems in order here.

More to come stay tuned.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Too much too late

April 1st 2009,

I'm totally thrashed! I've been a little tired the last couple of days and today I had a touch of a sore throat when I awoke. One of my riding buddies, Al, called me yesterday looking to ride today. The weather was to be outstanding, mid-sixties and sunny. There was no way I could resist. I'm scheduled to leave early tomorrow morning for the 200k in Grove City, Ohio. It would be an eight hour drive on Friday for the brevet on Saturday. I was feeling very nervous about being under prepared, so when Al called I talked him into what I now consider a pretty silly plan.

My being wasted and depleted is a result of the ride I devised for Al and I. We would meet at my house and ride the thirty miles north west to Hampton. There was one major climb on this section; Sand Hill Road in Flemington. Also, there were many less significant climbs as well. We arrive at Hampton and stop at the Tiger Mart for coffee and a bagel. I'm noticing I don't feel so spiffy and Al comments that I don't look so good either. The plan was to leave Hampton and turn east passing Spruce Run Reservoir into the small town of High Bridge. Once through High Bridge we would attempt the biggest climb of the day up Wilson Ave and Herman Thou Road. Then there would be lots of up and down until Oldwick. Then the terrain would moderate as we worked our way through Whitehouse Station, Raritan and home. Total distance 70 miles. But, I wasn't feeling so hot and Al said he was feeling a little burned out as well. We discussed our plans and decided that we might as well do the big climb outside of High Bridge, but the change would be to then turn around descend back into High Bridge and jump a train to Raritan. The train ride would eliminate 25 miles and a good number of hills. From the station in Raritan it would be an easy 10 miles of flat roads to the end.

I had every intention of following the plan to the letter until we reached the top of the big hill. I was amped that I could make it up on this bike without getting off and walking. I remember earlier in the year having to walk my fixed gear on a section of it. Al reminded me that we should turn around here and head back down to the train station. It was the smart thing to do. Neither of us were feeling particularly good and we had climbed the big one. It would be reasonable to follow the plan. Only I had to be stupid and talk Al into riding the rest of the way with me.

I had kind of forgotten just how many climbs would present themselves from this point to Whitehouse. As we were grinding up yet another knee breaker I confessed to Al that we really should have taken the train. The miles ticked off ever so slowly but eventually we were in Whitehouse Station. We stopped at the deli for some more calories and fluids. I downed a quart of Powerade, a coffee and a bran muffin. I told Al that there is no way I'm doing a 200k in two days when it seems like a good idea to ride a train part way through a 70 mile ride. I'm just not adapted well enough to the recumbent yet.

We had twenty miles left. Ten to Raritan and ten more to home. The terrain would be significantly less difficult. We would have to deal with nothing more than mild rollers from here out. Of course as our luck was going we would up hitting a bridge that was out and suffered through a 3 mile detour on a busy highway to get back on track. But, finally we were in Raritan and headed for the barn. Of course as our luck was going the winds would pick up here and not at out backs. We would deal with a head wind for part of the time and a cross wind for the rest. When we made that final turn into my driveway it felt like the end of a tough 400k.

Later I would review my log book in an effort to understand why I was so burned out. I counted back the last seven days and had ridden 210 miles. Normally, that would not phase me as in peak season I'm logging 250 to 300 consistently. But, this is early season and most of the weeks prior show 100 miles or less. Increasing mileage by 100% is not recommended. I will pass on the 200k brevet this weekend. Maybe trying a permanent the next weekend. I should be recovered by then, and I'll need the training for the upcoming fleche. This season is happening too fast.

Stay Tuned!