Monday, January 30, 2012

Miles with Miles

All winter I've been anxiously anticipating the 2012 randonneuring season. Could I ride a 600K Brevet this year? Heck, could I even ride a 200K?

While the winter has been extremely mild so far, we've still gotten our full allotment of snow, which melts, then turns to ice. Riding on the trainer in the garage is fun, but there is still nothing like riding outside, like all of you folks know.

So, having gotten my "American Randonneur" magazine in mid-January, I poured over the 2012 Brevet schedule, and low and behold, there was a brevet in southern Illinois. Sponsored by the Little Egypt Randonneurs. I knew better than to expect desert-like temps, but the forecast was for a high in the mid-40's, so I sent an email to Miles Stoneman, the Regional Brevet Administrator for the Little Egypt club, and I headed down there on Friday night.

Early the next morning, we met in Marion, IL, and rolled out exactly at 7:00am, or maybe 30 seconds later. The group waited for me to take my front wheel off and turn it around. I put it on backwards, which isn't a big deal, but my bike computer wouldn't work. Miles asked if I had anymore bike repairs I'd like to do and right there I knew it was going to be a fun ride.

Unfortunately, my ailing camera battery finally died, even though I charged it all through the night. With numb fingers I pulled it from it's little bag I mounted on the bike stem, turned it on, and got the freakin' "Change the battery pack" message. Not having to worry about taking pictures, I at least was able to enjoy the scenery and the company.

I was able to talk to each of the 4 other folks on the ride. Ben was new to randonneuring, like me, and he lived about 2 hours away. He is probably one of the nicest people I've ever met. He seemed especially concerned when I would drop back a bit from the pack. Kevin drove down from the Chicago area for this ride, and Bill drove over from Louisville. My 6 1/2 hour drive didn't seem like such a loony idea after all.

I believe I was greatly out-classed riding with this group, but I pulled up my big boy shorts and toughed it out. After 35 miles, Ben, Bill (the other Bill, I'm not writing in third person), and Kevin worked their way ahead, and I knew better than to keep up. I spent a good bit of last year discovering where my red zone was located, and I went beyond it a couple of times trying to keep up with these guys on some uphills. Miles was up ahead also, riding not too far ahead.

Riding alone is what I do much of the time, though I was hoping to be able to ride with folks on this ride. But a sunny day in January with no ice on the road was good enough. It was about to get better.

Big Oak on Brevet Photo by Miles Stoneman

Once we got to DuQuoin, 57 miles into the ride, the 3 faster riders were waiting for Miles, then me, to catch up. It was good to talk to someone again, so I tried to make as much small talk as I could before everyone took off again. We all left in a group, and I decided to try to keep up. Miles yelled out to the three faster guys, "it's ok, you can go ahead and ride your 25 mph", and the 3 quickly picked up the pace and they gradually grew smaller up ahead in the distance. After each turn, they got farther ahead, their red and orange jerseys eventually becoming indistinguishable from oncoming cars off in the distance.

Little Egypt 200K Riders at 1st Control Photo by Miles Stoneman

DuQuoin Control - Big Oak's Arrival Photo by Miles Stoneman

No matter, for Miles was still riding with me. I was hoping he was tired, but I think he took pity on me. For the next 68 or so miles, he talked the entire way. Even uphill, he never seemed to break sentences in order to breathe.

Last season, I remarked how it is possible to get to know someone while riding silently side-by-side. This ride, I realized it's possible to learn infinitely more when riding side-by-side with someone talking. Talking most of the way. Miles talked at length about why he organized his group, spent time mapping out a full brevet series, plus a bunch of permanent rides. He talked of how he was honored to have given Johnny Bertrand, one of THE founders of Randonneurs USA a ride in his car. He encouraged me to map out some routes and submit to RUSA for establishing permanents in my area. Biking is very important to Miles. But of all the things Miles said, what struck me most, and what told me the most about him, was how excited he was in anticipation of teaching his grandson how to build a Pine Wood Derby car tomorrow (Sunday, the day after the brevet).

Miles and Big Oak at Thompsonville Control Photo by Miles Stoneman

The riding from DuQuoin on was much easier, as the wind was now at our backs. In fact until the final 9 miles, the wind was either directly behind us or quartering behind us. Soaking up the brilliant, Southern Illinois sky, I felt invigorated for much of the second half of the ride. One of my favorite sounds is rolling rubber bike tires on pavement, and my favorite sensation is balancing on a riding bike. I was filled to the brim with both sound and sensation. It was only when I started to feel punky when I realized I needed to suckle on my Perpetuem-bottle, or eat a candy bar. Then the joyful feeling would quickly return.

Although the final 9 miles was mostly into the headwind again, I was sad to roll into Marion, for the ride ended too quickly. I figured I would at the very least get a long ride in. What I got was a lot more - to be outside all day on a beautiful January day, to ride in a place I'd never been before, and to ride with people who like biking as much as I do.

Ben, Bill, and Kevin At The End in Marion, IL Photo by Miles Stoneman

I especially enjoyed Miles' gracious company, and the effort he made to put this ride together. Miles wrote up a great ride summary. Click here to read it.

Happy riding!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Brevet Today

Little Egypt 200k. Next 57 miles into the wind, next 50 with the wind. Life is good!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shovel Time, Then Saddle Time

I spent quite a bit of time liberating the drive and sidewalk from the blanket of snow which fell last night.

This afternoon, I rode the blue Trek on the trainer for two hours. I'm gradually building up time on the trainer, mixing in some high-intensity sessions.

I'm hoping this will translate to better (I.e. a bit faster) outdoor riding this year. But the bottom line is: I need as much saddle time as I can get to make some of my longer rides possible.

My iPhone makes longer rides possible. I simply download a bunch of podcasts (mostly from NPR), and ride away. I can't deny, however, there are many times I want to stop.

Happy riding!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January Ride

Today wasn't as warm as the last couple days, but the upper 30's with light wind and sun is a gift for early January. I got out my Trek 500, put on new Shimano 105 pedals and a new Ultegra rear dérailleur. I haven't ridden this bike since October, and felt great flying down the roads on it again.

I'm looking forward to many good rides this year. I'm hoping to complete a full Randonneurs series this year. I've not been doing many outside rides longer than 20 miles at a time ( except for today's 30), but I've been steady at using the bike trainer and running every other day. Indoor stretching and strength exercises hopefully will get my upper body in shape enough to handle the longer rides.

Anyway I hope it's warm where you folks are.

Happy riding!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Great Warm Day

The temp reached 50F today, with light winds and bright, sunny skies. It felt and even smelled like spring. I only wore my winter jacket over my office shirt and blue jeans.

I did wear long underwear, which was nice and toasty in the morning, but very warm for the ride home. But since my commute is only 3 miles, it wasn't bad at all, even though I did ride a few more miles just because it was so nice.

Tricross commuter and my Trek 710 on the trainer. I dearly love them both. I ordered a new rear derrailleur for the Trek 500. Will post soon my plans for that bike. I love that bike equally as well.

Still trying to figure out posting with the iPhone. Computer's in the shop, and may be some time before it can come home.

Happy riding!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bill Oak Lambert's photostream


I'm trying something different for this post. Our lap top is on the fritz, so I set up a flickr account and am posting directly from flickr.

The photo is of the Polar Bear Plunge yesterday at Johnny Appleseed Park. The bike club held it's Chili Challenge bike ride, which I rode.

We set off from North side Park at 1:00pm, and immediately the four speed skaters and KMart Dave were off the front. Not wanting to get separated and lost, I and about 15 other sheep followed Dave and the skaters, only to find out when we caught them that no one knew where they were going.

By that time, we lost contact with the main group and the true leader, Fat Tire Phil. No worries, however, as we worked our way over to Johnny Appleseed Park, with 20 minutes to spare for the Polar Bear swim at 2:00pm.

One club member, Rob, rode his bike to the swim, then jumped into the water, and ran 3 miles back to the start. Very impressive, but that is understandable from him. He's a horse on the bike, and try as I might, I can't keep up with him.

Anyway, we had an enjoyable rest of the ride with the main group, occupying Fort Wayne's streets for another hour and a half.

As in past years, I've not made any resolutions, with the exception that I hope to ride more.

Happy New Year! I hope each of you has a great year filled with many miles.