Thursday, November 17, 2011

DC Randonneur's Eastern Shore Flatbread 200k - A windy day on the fixie!

photo by Christine
 There was a lot of buzz about the Flatbread 200k   This late season offering by the DC group features a pancake flat tour of the eastern shore.  There were several New Jersey riders intent on going, most were talking about undertaking the ride on fixed gears.  It all sounded like good fun to me.  I didn't give it much thought. I would go and the fixed gear would be my choice of ride. 

On Saturday morning at 7am sharp a field of 79 riders took the start from the Good Guys Sports Bar in Centerville, Maryland.  From our local group Katie, Christine, Ron, Barb and Nigel were in attendance.  Ron and Barb would be one of many tandem teams in attendance while Nigel was attempting the ride on his recently acquired Raleigh fixed gear.

After a pretty chilly start the sun began to warm things up quickly.  Upon leaving the information control at only 8 miles into the ride I started to feel quite comfortable.  I rode for a bit with riders from home.  Nigel was anxious to test himself on the fixie and picked up the pace putting a gap on us.  I asked Katie and Chris if they wanted to catch him.  They said they were out for a more leisurely tour.  I slowly closed the gap to Nigel.  We were joined by another rider, on a Rivendell, named Steve.  We established a nice three man pace line which helped with the ever increasing wind.  A fourth rider tagged on as we were passing by.  He worked the rotation with us until Nigel took a mighty pull, which effectively burned the guy out.  He fell off the pace, and was gone.  On a subsequent effort by Nigel, Steve began to falter.  We decided to  keep him with us, easing up to let him hook back on.  We continued to the 50 mile point where Steve opted out to stop at a coffee shop. 

Steve with Rivendell at dolce bakery    photo Daily Randonneur
The two of us continued on taking only a brief bathroom break prior to the first official control at mile 61.  The wind was really getting serious.  Although, more than not it was favorable.  We were doing very well time wise to this point.  We caught up to a small group at a stop sign, riding in to the control with them. At the control, in Slaughter Beach, I suggested to Nigel that if we keep close to the same pace, and the stops brief, we would be done before dark.  He was game to give it a shot.  Neither of us may have realized at that point how hearty a challenge it would be.  The wind factor would take a dramatic turn for the worse.
The Pavilion at Slaughter Beach         photo by Christine
Immediately upon leaving the control we turned dead into a very strong headwind.  The area was quite open with zero wind block.  The next control in Milton was only 10 miles away, but it felt much further.  I watched my computer display read between 11 to 12 mph.  Nigel was showing the first tiny signs of faltering, although he was still taking pulls.  I tried to subtly convey to him to just let me pull.  One of the things I'm suited for is grinding through the wind for indefinite periods of time.  I believe it to be a by product of riding a higher than average amount of mileage over the past three years.  I'm happy to pull a friend through a windy section, or an entire ride if the situation requires.   We reached the control and opted to keep it brief.  The purchase of a pack of gum for me and Fig Newtons for Nigel got us the necessary proof of passage receipts.  We were quickly on our way.  Back into the wind. 

The next control stop in Bridgeville, Delaware was 18 miles away, most of it into a ferocious headwind.  Once on the front I would stay there, trying to give Nigel some relief.  Although, he did sprint past a couple of times to take a turn.  There were a few wooded sections which provided a much appreciated break from the relentless air currents that gusted to 40 mph at times.  We slowly pass by riders who were too weary to bother jumping on the back.  Wind can be mentally fatiguing as well as physical.  It dampens one's spirit to the point that pedaling the bike becomes robotic, totally absent of mental function.  The mind retreats to a safe zone, separating itself from the misery the rider is enduring.  In this way the function can be maintained for long periods of time.  Certainly by no means a happy experience, but it becomes manageable and sustainable.  The final turn to the control is reached and for a brief period the air is still.  I'm welcoming the break and purchase a Gatorade, something I rarely consume.  The sugary liquid will provide some much needed energy, at least for the short term.
Nigel on the Raleigh One Way (right) Me (left) photo by MG
True to our plan we leave the control quickly.  We have 40 miles left to cover, much of it into the wind.  The grind continues, but somehow feels a little less ominous due to the more frequent appearance of wind blocking surfaces like buildings, trees, etc.  I'm able to keep the speed up to 14-17 most of the time.  The strain of riding the fixed for considerably longer than he is used to takes its toll on Nigel.  At one point he drops off.  When we re-group he suggests I go on without him.  Since we have made it for about 100 miles together it seems wrong to separate at this point.  I ease the pace and he settles back in.  We ride this way for awhile which seems comfortable and efficient.  We are joined at an intersection by the DC tandem team known as Felkerino and MG.  With them are a small group of "klingons" taking advantage of the enhanced drafting properties of the tandem.  We join the fun and are soon making our way at 19-23 mph for long stretches of road.  This goes on for quite some time.  It is not easy as the spin rate needed to maintain this speed with 70 gear inches is substantial.  But, given the choice between the present situation and fighting the wind? This will end sooner. We'll take it.  I marvel at the skill and strength of the tandem team pulling us along.  They are navigating seamlessly with both captain and stoker snapping photos for the two blogs they maintain, all the while efficiently spinning the pedals.  They are highly experienced, working in perfect unison, and seemingly enjoying themselves.

MG and Felkerino at the ocean        photo Daily Randonneur
Life remains good for our fortunate little group until we encounter a bridge which is covered with fresh gravel.  We break apart each rider picking their own line.  The tandem, with its wide tires,  rolls through unaffected.  A gap is opened between them and the group.  I take up a sprint bridging the gap.  The other klingons also quickly get back into the line.  I take a long look back and notice Nigel is not among them.  I spot him about 50 yards back.  He doesn't have enough snap left in his legs to close the gap.  He graciously motions for me to go on. While the pace line was fun I prefer to finish in the same company I'd been with all day.  I peel off the line for the final 12 miles with Nigel.  We quickly orient ourselves to the cue sheet and resume our slower, yet efficient pace to the finish.  We arrive at 4:20pm, with a considerable margin to darkness.  Our time was 9hrs 20min, which was a 200k PR for Nigel and a fixed gear PR for me. 
New Jersey's Ron and Barb on the purple Burley  photo Daily Randonneur

Katie (left) working her way to the 5,000k award photo by Christine
 The Good Guys Sports Bar was a nice spot to rest and replenish while we waited for other NJ riders to finish. It was a party atmosphere which grew exponentially while other riders arrived.  A perfect ending to what will be remembered as a perfect day on the bike.        


While it is nice to strive for goals and to achieve, I find it is equally rewarding to revel in the accomplishments of others. While devouring a veggie pizza I enjoyed chatting with Nigel who was obviously pleased with his fixed gear debut.  Sometime later I enjoyed seeing Katie at the finish, which put her past the RUSA 5,000 kilometer total for the first time.  Many riders I know have reached new heights this year.  It speaks well to the supportive nature of our group.  We are not individuals solely out for our own gratification.  We motivate and encourage each other.  The camaraderie works wonders.  In my opinion, the respect and support of fellow riders is far better than a chest full of shiny medals.  Although, there is no reason why one can't have both.  Enjoy!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

K Hounding - The ongoing quest for kilometers

Posing for a K-Hound photo after the Great Adventure ride (10/2)
 As I've confessed to before, I am a mileage addict.  Along those lines I've focused much of my late season activities on the K-Hound award.  The K-Hound Club, as it is known, was established by the Lone Star Randonneurs of Texas.  These folks gained a reputation for racking up impressive mileage and RUSA kilometer totals year after year. In an effort to motivate others they established the now coveted award.  It is available to RUSA  riders everywhere.

To be recognized as a K-Hound one must accumulate 10,000 kilomters of RUSA sanctioned brevets and permanents. The closest I'd ever come was in 2010 with a total of 6651 K.  Although, in the 2010 season I'd logged a total of road miles exceeding 12,000.  I reviewed the results of the riders with the highest kilometer totals in the nation.  What I learned is these folks did very little unsanctioned riding.  Most of their bike time was spent on brevets and permanents.  The Randonneuring groups with the most K-Hound riders had lots of local permanents to ride.   With the 100k variety being a popular method in the accumulation of sanctioned k's.  With that I established two 100 kilometer RUSA permanent routes starting within three miles from my home.  In the past I was always going out for unsanctioned rides of 60-80 miles.  This season I would make those rides count by frequenting these permanent routes.  Soon other 100k routes became available in the area and for variety I would ride these, along with some longer permanents as well.  On October 2nd while riding my Great Adventure permanent, in the company of  a few friends, I rolled past the 10,000 kilometers.  My total of road miles were almost 11,000.  I had improved my ratio of RUSA kilometers over prior years by the frequent riding of permanents.

To keep myself motivated I will attempt to reach a total of 13,000 RUSA kilometers and 13,000 logged road miles.  Also, I will continue to chase the P-12 and R-12 awards.  With the P-12 concluding in December and the R-12 in March.  These goals are important to keep me on the bike when the weather in our region becomes less cycling friendly.  I'm not a fan of cold weather, but through practice I've learned to deal with it.  Fortunately, I will not be alone.  I have friends chasing the same goals.  I look forward to their company and the motivation that comes from sharing common goals.