Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hell No You Crazy Bastard

I'm still planning the Mineral Wells trip, my 4th century in as many weeks, and trying to goad others in to it as well.  Jason's response was, "Hell no you crazy bastard, I still hurt everywhere from Saturday."  Jon is falling somewhere between "hell no you crazy bastard" and "maybe".  Success!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It Came Out the Wrong End

The alternate title to this post is "Yelling Into the Wind, Part 2", but the above title has better comedic value.

So it was back to Waxahachie this past weekend.  Of course the weather the entire week leading up to it was nice and calm, but Saturday the winds kicked up just for us.  Another day of stiff south winds blowing in our face.

Ride started with a deceptively easy leg to the northwest.  The wind was at our backs and gave us a nice boost. Off the start we hung with the lead group for about 3 or 4 miles, pushing 25mph.  I noticed Jon lagging a bit, his first real ride in about 4 weeks, and my legs were screaming as well (I had spent 3 hours the previous day in a half squat fixing a machine at work so my quads were killing me).  He and I started slowing and Jason was off trying to catch the leader.

Jon and I caught up to Jason at the 3rd rest stop after he gave up keeping with the lead group.  That was just in time to roll together in the longest south stretch into the wind.  There were 1,375' of climbing, and from my estimates on the climb charts, nearly 1,000' of that were in the first 50 miles.  It's really nothing compared to the real mountain climbs, but for a trio of flatlanders pushing hard into the wind, it was a lot.  Leading up to the 51 mile rest stop was a nice 275' climb.  The 3 of us struggled hard up that 5 mile stretch.

When we arrived at the 65 mile stop we learned about 70 100 milers were in front of us and about 30 behind us.  Leaving there gave us 7 miles of strong crosswind before we turned north again. Interesting, not long after we left Frost, Jason really started falling behind.  His strong start caught up to him in a hard way.  Heat stroke and dehydration were setting in.  Luckily for everyone we were on the easier part of the ride so our energy output was able to be way down.  We took it slow and rolled in.

At one point, probably around mile 75 or so, a couple aggressive farm dogs came after us.  Jon, in the lead, sprayed them with water from his bottle, to little effect.  Jason, pulling up the rear, got his pepper spray ready and hit one of them good.  That lead to the purchase of a bulk supply of pepper spray for literally everyone in the family.  Not long after that, Jon was suckered into a lemonade stand for the world's smallest cups of lemonade.  I'm not kidding.  We each got a dixie cup half full of lemonade.  But it was cute, the two girls, probably around 5 and 8, squealed with glee when Jon handed over $1 for the three cups and told them to keep the change.

Rolling into Waxahachie Jason was really dragging.  Despite downing several liters of water and gatorade, his dehydration and heat exhaustion wasn't any better.  When we get back to the high school where it all started, Jason bee-lines for the port-a-potty moaning about a number 2.  When he finally stumbles back out, Jon asks him how it was.   Jason's reply: "It came out the wrong end."  Those several liters of fluids he had been drinking weren't absorbing, they were just sloshing around in his stomach and eventually just came right back up.

Jason, front, pre-dehydration, and Jon behind
We ate some dinner at the Catfish Plantation.  The fried sweet potatoes were awesome.  Driving home I decided to take a little nap.  I probably should have let Jon drive before I did that.  We were chatting away about something and literally in a split second I was out.  Luckily nothing happened, I pulled off at the next exit and let Jon bring us in.

All told, I think it was a great ride.  There was one point at about mile 25 that had a terrific downhill.  The last 18 miles were very scenic as well.  There were some really nice shady winding roads leading up to the last rest stop.  Despite it being pretty tough with the wind, and taking a lot longer than we planned, it was good.  Up next, 100 miles to Mineral Wells and camping.

Cow Creek brutality ride

This past weekend we rode the Cow Creek Classic.  It starts and ends in Waxahachie, Texas, and makes a 101 mile loop that will bring a tear to your eye.... if you aren't so dehydrated that you can still cry.

One might take a look at the ride information and see that it's hosted by a Rotary club, that it will be going through back roads and small towns, and see the sky banner being pulled through the sky, and think to one's self, "my this will be a wonderful ride!".  But one would be ever so deceived and wrong!

101 miles of 20+ mph wind, 90*F and up temperatures, rolling hills, and chip seal.  It was brutal.

The ride kicked off at 7:30am.  It was about 83*F and already windy.  Jason took off with a paceline of faster riders and we didn't see him again for awhile.

We followed a freeway for a bit, but as soon as we turned off the wind was in our face and the pavement turned to chip seal.  We debated with other riders which is worse.  My conclusion is that the chipseal is worse because not only does it slow you down, it also rattles the bike and transmits the rough ride directly to your "undercarriage" (as one rider phrased it).

We caught up with Jason at this rest stop and kept on moving.  Check out his improvised drag parachute he made out of his bib number.

And here's a shot of Dan taken over my shoulder.

As we rode on, our average speed kept going down and our rest breaks became more frequent and lasted a little longer each time.  This is definitely not the way to travel.  Jason was showing signs of heat exhaustion so we kept the pace easy.  We really dogged it in to the end.  We were so long out that the staff was packing up the finish line refreshment stand by the time we got there.  No glory in this ride other than to be done with it.

Almost at the finish line.  We stopped for a photo at this historic bridge.

Peanut Butter

I seem to have pretty good luck with PB&H sandwiches.  In fact, I haven't really used any energy gels since I started using them.  I noticed with gels I was downing them like crazy and getting a quick boost that would die.  I think the bread provides a little longer lasting energy, holds the honey and lets it absorb just a little slower.  Plus the PB has some protein, around 5g per sandwich, which is essential for endurance activities and really important for recovery.
5 PB&Honeys for the Cow Creek Country Classic
Plus the bread provides a convenient carrier.  As Josh demonstrates below, carrying peanut butter in a bag is an easy way to transport it. Eating it from said bag is an interesting proposition.

Mmmmmm.... peanut butttterrrr

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yelling Into the Wind

I rode my bike to Italy!  Okay... it was Italy, Texas, but it was still a heck of a ride.

I had a great theory.  In Texas the prevailing wind is typically from the south, but it usually doesn't get bad until the sun is starting to come up.  Faced with a 60 plus mile ride to the south, I decided to trek out at 3:30 in the morning to beat the wind.  I woke up at 3am, bags packed, 4 PB and honey on white sandwiches ready to rock.  For breakfast I had my usual of grits and brown sugar and this time a PB&H to start the day.  I downed a gatorade from the fridge, loaded my water and Cytomax, and rolled into my drive way.  A blast of heat hit me, the temp held  90 overnight until midnight before dropping all the way to 80 when I started out.

I checked my lights and threw my leg over the seat, turning south out of my neighborhood.  Unfortunately my theory was bunk, I was greeted by a steady breeze from the moment I started rolling.  There was a sustained 17mph wind in my face the whole time, with heavy gusts 25-32mph.

There was only one section of my ride I wasn't looking forward to on the edge of a rougher south Dallas neighborhood.  I figured at 4:30am most troublemakers would be passed out and there was little to worry about.  In fact, sketchiest part of the ride was just before then as I came up to the Mockingbird bridge over the Trinity.  It's mostly warehouse district there, save one all night adult establishment that seemed to have a lot of patrons and stood right before the bridge.  Combine that with some narrowed lanes due to construction and a long straight bridge that invites speeding, and it's really the only place I was nervous.

The Oak Cliff part of Dallas brought on some challenging rolling hills and mostly deserted, but well lit streets.  Desoto was the biggest surprise, Cockrell Hill turned into a nice winding lane through some awesome mansions.  It was a very nice ride all the way into Ovilla, which looks like a small country town.  Not the big big deserted main street that a Texas highway cuts through and forgets, but a little country lane that winds through a few shops.  It was a great place to notice the sun rising.

It was also about the time I contemplated giving up.

This was a tough ride.  I was about 30 miles in, and the wind was just painful.  I knew at that point there was no way I would make the start of the ride in Italy.  I sent Jason a text and told him to meet me in Waxahachie at 7 so I could ride with him to the start line.

Unfortunately, he was stuck at an emergency at work, so I pushed on to Italy.  It turns out the second cool part of the ride was just ahead on the Waxahachie Creek Trail.  It's about 5 miles of paved trail, similar to the White Rock Trail.  It's a little more twisty and curvy, so not really a high speed bike trail, but good for a gentle ride.  I took the historic Rogers Street Bridge across to Hwy 77 for the final 15 mile jaunt into Italy.

This was perhaps the hardest part of the trip, big hills running parallel to I-35 with the relentless headwind pushing me back.  I could only laugh as I crested one giant hill and started down the backside - the wind was blowing so hard I could only get up to 15mph while pedaling downhill!  At one point, thinking I had to only be a mile or two from Italy, I almost lost it when I came up on a sign that said 6 miles to go.

Somehow I pushed on, showing up about 8:30.  It was right at 60 miles on my computer and it showed my average speed as 12.5mph.  5 hours to go 60 miles.  Ridiculous.  Demoralizing.  I was planning on an easy pace of 15mph and contemplating pushing a little harder so I could rest a little longer before the final ride.  No such luck.

When I met up with Jason my energy lifted a little, it's always nice to have a companion on a long ride.  I refueled with a PB&H and filled my water bottles, then we struck out an the 40 mile course 45 minutes after the official 8am start time.  The first 6 miles weren't bad, heading generally east with the wind at our right side.  I had hopes that maybe the worst of it was over, that is until we turned south again on FM55.  That turn met us with another 20 miles of 20mph winds in our face.  Pushing your hardest to eke out 6mph up a hill really makes your efforts feel futile.  There were several times I almost lost it since the wind was coming at a bit of an angle trying its hardest to blow us over.  I needed a few stops on that side of the loop, I was going on 7 hours in and it was really catching up to me.

At 75 miles in (15 for Jason) we stopped at the top of a hill, I know I was really looking beat.  Jason turned to me and asked if I wanted to SAG it in.  As appealing as a long rest and and a ride back sounded, I just thought, "No way!  I'm 75 miles in, 75% done, quitting now would be ridiculous!"

It was a good thing to.  We hit the rest stop at mile 21 and then once we turned north again, at mile 24 on the course (84 for me!), we really started to cruise.  We easily held  20mph for most of that section.  It was really funny to me that Jason and I were by far the last people to start the course (well, us and one other guy from Fort Worth - though his accent was more Gomer Pyle), yet we consistently plowed past folks, even into the wind.  I was shocked to find people at the first rest stop and even more at the second.  We started 45 minutes late!  Once we turned north we just hauled, it was a great feeling.  We pushed right through the last rest stop at 31 miles (92 for me!), it was still swamped with people. I'm sure a lot of people were on the 50 and 63 mile loops so we were probably catching them, but the fact that I was on 90+ and passing them was amazing, especially after the ride I had.  I cooled off the last few miles and kept it around 15-18mph, a nice easy pace to roll in on.

Back at the finish line we had an icy cone and found the showers.  I didn't enjoy the irony of the beer we had in the parking lot until I noticed today that one of the main benefactors of the event was MADD.  Jason drove back and we stopped at The Mecca for a few plates of fried food.  Something about chicken fried steak, eggs and hash browns sounded terrific.  Somewhat surreal, zoning in and out a little from exhaustion and still feeling the thrum of the wind, it still hit the spot.  

After 85 miles of a 20mph headwind I came home and crashed on the couch while the kids watched reruns of The Muppet Show on DVD.  I'd stir occasionally when Animal would scream onto set.  

On the ride I was thinking it was probably my least favorite century so far.  It was certainly the most challenging mentally, and the first where I seriously considered throwing in the towel., and there were several reasonable places to do so where everyone would have said, "Yeah, I don't blame you."  I knew I could have pushed just a little harder and shortened my time, but it would have killed me in the end.  The hard part was knowing the wind was destroying my speed.  I resigned myself early in the ride to just living with it and not being pissed off.  In the end, there was nothing I could do about it.  I had two choices: give up and go home, or figure out how to deal with it.  While it was crazy hard, and consistently grueling, yelling into the wind does no good and it's pretty cool to say that I rode to Italy.

I just found this post that sums up my experience.  The guy destroys his bike in a fall on the Tour de France and tears himself up in the process, stitches and broken ribs, etc.  The SAG wagon pulls up and asks "Do you want to just get in?"  He says, "Oh no, I don't need YOU!" and then relates "But there I am with blood spurting out of my left elbow and no bike."  He eventually catches up to his team by riding a junior bike (awesome photo of him riding a tiny yellow bike in the post) and gets his own spare bike.  The best part is he relates it all to a story about Conan the Barbarian, surrounded in a village by an army of thousands and his reaction is "Oh man, it's going to take days to kill all these people!"

It's not a matter of "if" I can do it, it's a matter of "how".  This started as a journey that would be "hard as hell with an uncertain outcome".  A year ago I would not have thought I would be 700 miles into this adventure, and now I'm contemplating whether I should ride or drive to Waxahachie next weekend for the Cow Creek Country Classic.  That will be 3 centuries in a row with a 4th planned the week after.  Hoping I'll be recovered enough to push through!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Collin Classic

One more bib on the wall!  I did this as another split ride, partly on an official ride route and partly my own route to make up the balance of a century.  

I started out a little later from my house than I wanted, leaving about 5:10am.  I was a bit nervous because I was trying out some new roads I had never been on for the route to McKinney North HS.  The Preston Ridge Trail turned out to be pretty nice, my only complaint would be the number of small roads to cross.  I was able to keep a pretty good pace, though, and it was a pretty smooth ride.  Probably overall better than street riding with traffic lights, potholes and rough pavement.

A big surprise was Coit turning into a county road between Eldorado and 380.  The first part was dirt, which was relatively smooth riding, but also full of ruts and dips and loose areas.  The second half was graded gravel, which was nice and flat, but a very rough ride.  I'd take the dirt road over that any day.

I made it to 380 and turned east, pretty pleased with my overall time, when about 2 miles in I caught a roofing nail in my rear tire.  It tore it up pretty bad, punching the tube about 5 times all in the same area.  I figured I would try a patch first and switch the tube at the start line if it didn't work.  I snapped the tire off and smeared the tube with some glue.  While it was drying I contemplated which was worse: the dog across the field that looked like it really wanted to, and could, jump its fence to check me out or the jerks that thought it was fun to speed up while zipping past me.

Patch and dog in place, I made it to the start gate in plenty of time and without further incidents.  The 32 mile route of the Collin Classic was a nice scenic tour east of 75.  My only complaint was the start being all at once.  It was a mass of people and the first 3 miles I don't think we got above 10 mph.  Once we broke from the crowd it was a terrific ride with some decent hills.  Josh and I stopped at the second rest stop at a church.  I was a little irritated when a guy tried to tract me, it was just inappropriate.  I'm hot, soaked with sweat, and some guy is handing me religious lit instead of ice water.  Whatever, the rest of the volunteers were great.

We took our time on the hills going back in, I've been working hard to keep my HR under 170 and Josh has a bum knee.  Caught up with Jason and had a beer back at the finish line before continuing my solo trek south.  I took a bit of a different route home, which was good and bad.  It was a lot hillier!  Hardin had some major hills going through giant house country club land, and going west on Stacy/Main was no better, lots of rolling hills.  

I took a break at my friend John Richardson's house, near CCCC, and caught up with them for a while.  It was a needed break after battling the south wind and hills for 90 minutes, and good to catch up with friends at the same time.  The remainder of the trip was uneventful and slow.  The south wind was brutal as usual, really wear you down.  I developed a terrible cramp in my left foot when I was on Arapaho at 98 miles in.  I ended somewhere around 107 total miles, my longest ride to date.  

Total I consumed about 10 to 12 liters of water and energy drinks.  The heat really saps it from you.  I have a food formula that really seems to work.  I start with Malt-o-meal or grits, 1.5 servings, with a healthy dose of brown sugar and two slices of white toast.  On the ride I take 3 PB and honey on white sandwiches and a few things of homemade energy gel.  I go through a couple liters of Cytomax/Gatorade in addition to straight water.  That combined with keeping my HR lower seems to have really improved my recovery time.  

Oh, and that flat tire - well it held all the way home.  Went to move my bike the next day and it was dead flat.  Maybe it was just sad it wasn't rolling anymore.