Monday, July 25, 2011

Road Pixie and SpinBob flirt with Thor while IronK and the Super Domestique meet Captain America

Origin Story:
I've been looking for a good moniker for Bob for an age, then I saw that there was a new species of sponge called Spongiforma squarepantsii and it hit me, SpinBob! The perfect name considering the fact that he has the fastest cadence of anyone I know.

The Epic Begins
This ride had all the makings of an superhero epic, 2 significant others, a ride that started at 8:00 PM and 2 unlikely heros who just couldn't make it through the Hawkeye to save their lives.

Road Pixie actually tried to make herself feel better by going out and surveying the RUSA site to review the things she had actually succeeded on this year.  To her great surprise, the 5000K medal was a mere 300k off.  Surely a good omen about the upcoming Rochester 300k Brevet?  This was a comforting thought.

The PBP gurus of Minnesota (at least one is in the Charley Miller Society) came up with the brilliant idea of starting this ride at 8:00pm which is the end of the 90 hour start group in PBP.  Every ride in the US seems to start in the AM,  but starting a ride at night is subtly different.  They sweetened up the ride by making it a climbing-fest: the beautiful, yet deadly Apple Blossom Hill up the bluff of the Mississipi, the long Money Creek Hill, and Vinegar Hill, a descent with a near-180 degree hairpin at the bottom.  Just the ticket for a night ride.

Since the princess was still packed, I resolved to take everything with me that I would take at PBP.  That wasn't a problem since rain was all over the forecast along with high heat an humidity.  One doesn't often consider it being too hot at night, but it can be....

IronK and I drove down and got a room for her to share with the Super Domestique (Bob's significant other).  I considered riding to the ride which is about 100 miles, but rejected that idea when I realized it defeated the purpose of a night start to a brevet.

The 4 of us met early to discuss PBP logistics and visit.  During this period, we discovered that Bob's cat had stolen his shorts right out of his bag (really, that's the theory of why there weren't there).  Fortunately, Eriks Bike Shop was close and soon Bob was sporting some new threads (all heros have to wear spandex you know).

There was a pre-ride dinner at Fazolis, home of the never ending salty breadstick.  The temperature was in the high 80s with nasty humidity so I ate 3 of them.  Nice to actually see some of the Minnesota Randonneurs.  At this point, the spouses decided upon seeing Captain America (like we're not heroic enough riding 200 miles in the dark?) and took of for the air conditioned theater (note on the Red Skull, I don't care what the super serum does to make you more of what you are, if I expected to become a super hero and woke up with a shriveled red face, I'd be pissed too).

In the final check, I discovered I had not packed gloves.  Oh well, this was to be a ride without them.  I also decided to do the Euro thing and ride without the medival chest tyranny also known as the sports bra.  Hey, this was practice for PBP!  We suited up and went to the start.

There we found a miracle had occurred.  Renee and Ed were there so I would not be the only female on the ride.  Hallelujah!  I had some nice words with Martin and others and soon we were all off into the sauna that was the night.  I decided to go ahead with the super serum and popped a bunch of Sudafed to make my lungs invincible (hey, it's not just for meth anymore); it kept me awake too.

The first 20 miles to Stewartville were pretty uneventful.  Nearly everyone took off and Bob, myself, Renee and Ed were on our own.  Bob and I inadvertantly cruised off without the other two, oops.  Well, you can't have everything.  As we came into Stewartville, fireworks went off; I'm sure they knew heros were coming in advance.  Between Stewartville and Chatfield, the first control, we were making good time and I unzipped my jersey to stay cool; it was dark, what's the harm?

Okay, the harm came in Chatfield when I walked into Kwik Trip nearly topless.  I'm sure my visit will not be forgotten by the horde of locals that were there for some reason, but I still had more actual fabric covering me than Wonder Woman does.  I zipped up, bought my chocolate milk and hid by the dumpster; this was one Kwik Trip.

We left Chatfield and began climbing a short hill on CR40 when another rider passed us going back to Chatfield.  This turned out to be someone who had been wiped out by riding that 100 miles to the start.  He made the most of things by returning to the Walmart start, buying a lawn chair and some refreshments and hanging out in party mode in the parking lot until the end of the ride.  A unique solution to a sticky problem.

We started seeing Thor pounding around with the lightning hammer on the horizon between Chatfield and Rushford.  Big bursts of light would illuminate the clouds and I was happy I had ample rain gear.  It seemed almost for sure that the storm behind us would eventually catch up.  We rolled into Rushford at 12:06, which I was very happy about.  Mike Aeling, our former RBA, was there with Gatorade and I hadn't seen him all year.   He was optimistic about the weather. "The storm is passing to the north, you will maybe see light rain". We stopped to chat about 20 minutes where he gave us all the advice one comes to expect from one's elder superheros: thank you Miyagi-San.  Others left before us and we would up being 20 minutes behind them for the rest of the ride.

We cruised onto the Root River Trail at about 12:30 and were careful of the debris caused by 3 weeks of state shutdown and innumerable storms.  The lightning continued to light up the sky.  Was Thor keeping his distance because he was intimidated or were we just too stealthy?  The fact that we had 10 lbs of rain gear was surely a ward.  It was also on the way to La Crescent where the army of frogs showed up.  SpinBob had previously been assaulted by them on the Iowa 600k.  I made lots of turns staying away from them.  Just before La Crescent we got a tiny glimpse of the moon, then were hit with about 10 raindrops.   The wind was very strong in our faces but that was all the thunder god could cough up for the night.

At La Crescent, we chowed down since there hadn't been anything but PowerAde at the last control.  It was here that we noticed that not only was there an army of frogs, but an army of mayflies.  Thankfully, the army of mosquitos sat this one out.  I did spy a banana outside the Kwik Trip covered with mayflies, obviously dropped by one of the other riders.  But a banana is a banana and I figured when we caught up, I could heroically hand it off to its owner.  We took off after 25 minutes and started through town towards Apple Blossom Hill.  It was here that we saw the sign of a lifetime; a sure sign that Stephen King had moved in to town.

 Yup, I actually turned around and got off my bike to take this photo.  It's for real.  There is a Church of the Crucifixion and this is their summer festival; research afterwards told us that, at the time we were in a stitch over it.

Apple Blossom Hill really wasn't that bad, a long tempo climb and the fabulous twinkling lights of LaCross/LaCrescent were worth it.  I stopped to take pictures and just gaze down (the pictures stunk though).  It was a quick 10 miles to Nodine which we made very good time to.  We didn't see anyone we knew and I decided that since I had hauled the banana up the hill, I deserved to eat it (it was much riper after an hour in my hot pocket anyway).  By 4:00, we were cruising back to Rushford.

All epic tales have this middle section where things look bleak.  The first setback was an encounter with Chipseal, nasty villan, for 6 miles just outside Nodine.  It sounded like we were riding on glass and had a pretty severe drag.  Not horrible, but enough to make you work that much harder.  We paused to make sure we hadn't picked up tar at the end.  Then we had a huge downhill on MN76 but were again slowed by the even worse supervillan, Bad Pavement.  I would have loved to fly down the hill and cruise through the beautiful valley, but instead I settled for gripping the handlebars and playing dodgem with potholes and cracks.  Happily, no one was injured and Martin the IronRando says the road is being replaced this year.

We arrived at Money Creek just as it got light and that was really nice because the climb is really beautiful.  Of course, it is a mile long and about 6-8% too (sort of mini Mt Lemmon).  But we were happy at the top and by the time we were at the top, morning was in full swing and the birds were singing.  The descent down Vinegar Hill was fun too, especially the hairpin turn; much more fun in the light than the dark.

At Rushford, the 200k mark, we finally sat down for a little longer stop and had a good breakfast.  Many were pretty awed by us riding all night (must be the spandex too).  We also brushed our teeth, a small act that can really feel good after a gallon of sugary drinks.  I took a rare self photo that didn't make me look like a troll either.
Road Pixie in non-troll form
We left for our last 100k at about 7:30.  After Money Creek, the Rushford Hill didn't seem to have nearly as much bite.  We were also alert enough to spot some pot plants growing along the road.  SpinBob also revealed his alternate life as a master gardener (though he didn't garden pot plants) - every good hero has a couple of good alternate identities.

At Chatfield, we made a 5 minute stop and called the rando-spouses.  At this point, it was a bit after 9:00 am and we only had 35 miles to go.  One more climb out of Chatfield and we cruised through Stewartville very quickly.  Then we hit a huge headwind (about 20 mph) that was with us for the rest of the ride.  It slowed us a bit, normally we would have cruised along at about 18, but it held us back to about 13-15.  The rollers on CR22 in Rochester were somewhat of a surprise to SpinBob, the last time we went through, the drunk drivers must have been distracting him.

Dramatic Finish to A Cheering Crowd
It was just before noon when we rolled into the Kwik Trip to the applause of RBA Rob and the spouses.  Nearly 16 hours, 14 hours of actual time in the saddle.  Not too bad considering the conditions.  I felt great until I got in the car and started lounging.  Then a wave of fatigue hit me like a wall of bricks and I slept all the way home.  I had gotten up at 5:00 am the previous morning so that makes 32 hours of continuously being awake and active.  Had I kept going on the bike, I could probably have gotten at least another 100k in.  That would have made about 36 hours of continuous action.  Gives me confidence for PBP.

On the happy side, I loved having no gloves.  My hands never had any numbness or soreness the entire time (which is unheard of).  I will bring them in my bag, but I am going to try riding without.

Renee and Ed got lost but still finished the ride a few hours later.  So the only one not to finish got a new lawn chair as a consolation.  I will be seeing everyone in 2 weeks for the AV400k.  My last long one before PBP.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When not to ride

This weekend is the Hawkeye 1000k.  I had really wanted a 1000k ride under my belt before PBP and Bob was going.  Though the Cascades it isn't, Iowa is a pretty state and I looked forward to this ride a lot.

The first thing to go wrong was 6 days before the start, Sunday I discovered my bottom bracket had bad bearings.  Not good.  I rushed it to the bike shop where they assured me it could be fixed by Tuesday (drive to Iowa was Thursday).  Then on Tuesday, I came down with some kind of colitis leading to spending 1 day curled on my bathroom floor in a ball; I also found out I had another bacterial infection in my lungs and sinuses, time for antibiotics.  Wednesday, I roused myself in the afternoon to pick up the bike.  Alas, the new BB had backordered.  With 2 hours until close, I frantically drove around town trying to get a new one.  Finally found one, got the bike back and fixed at 9:00 pm.  I had also now used up the remainder of my sick time and was burning vacation being sick.  I still felt a little queasy and weak and realized that I was probably dehydrated.  I was desperate to hydrate so we drove to Iowa with lots of water.

Got to Cedar Falls and had a challenging birthday dinner for IronK.  This was planned since if my stomach was bad enough to cramp before the ride started, it was going to be a bad thing.  Weather report was forecasting a heat wave coupled with high humidity.  The heat index on 2 days was going to be 100-115 and that is in the shade.   I slept somewhat poorly, waking up on the verge of my stomach cramping.  I finally rose with Bob at 4:00 am and had breakfast.  It nearly reappeared.

At that point, I realized that my stomach was not going to be 100% for the start of the ride and neither was I.  Melissa, Super Domestique, and IronK both pointed out that Paris is the goal this year, not Iowa.  I could do some serious harm to myself if I couldn't absorb the water and electrolytes I needed on this ride. 

Sometimes, you have to acknowledge, however painfully, that the cards are simply not in your favor.  I recently berated a friend for going on a 70 mile ride while ill during an excessive heat warning.  He wound up sick as a dog for a week.  I was not going to put myself in that situation with no sick time left and only 5 weeks before PBP.  The next 3 weeks are my final weeks for training, not for recovering from this ride.

So I pulled the plug before the start.  I hauled IronK out of bed and into the car in her pajamas.  I just couldn't bear the thought of watching everyone else ride off without me.  We drove off before the riders left at 5:00 am.  It was a hard, but correct choice.  I got back and took it easy and am feeling much stronger, though the stomach still isn't totally chipper.  Gary has a new bike and so tomorrow we will beat the heat on my 100k permanent.  I can test out my equipment then and enjoy the time on my bike instead of baking on it.

To ride as we do requires not only physical prowess, but wisdom and understanding about just how difficult this sport is.  Any ride over 100 miles is a big deal not matter how many 200ks you have done.  You must always respect the distance or face the consequences. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wisconsin Hills 2: The Hills Strike Back

A bike has died this day.....

I have now done this permanent 3 times and each time there is just something new.  I'll bet that when Gary put it together, he had no idea that it would go so far as to destroy his bike.  Of course, he does also note that whenever he rides with me, he has flat tires, exploding tires, and now a destroyed bike.  These things just don't happen when I am not there as a witness (could it be a new lesbian super-power?)

Hills of Wisconsin is a great ride.  126 miles and 7,000 ft of climbing including some long tempo climbs, gargantuan rollers and some semi-short things that just make eyes get really big on the approach.  I've gotten much better at climbing since riding this ride.  Totally worth driving an hour to get to the start.

On this particular day, Gary was letting me use his mighty cool generator hub.  I had been thinking of getting one, but wanted to get a feel for what the drag would be like.  So even though it wasn't a night ride, we strapped it on anyways.  I think proceeded to forget to inflate my rear tire and wondered why all the drag was on the rear instead of the front - oops!

It was supposed to be a very hot day so we left early.  That meant me leaving my house at 5:00 am for a 6:00am arrival and a 7:00am start.  There had also been some road closures so we were testing out new detours (I'm sure we will really appreciate the road closures once they are open again, just not now).  As previously mentioned, having 60 lbs of pressure in the rear tire made me feel like I was riding with a sandbag on my rack and we went along at an average of about 14 mph for the first 30 miles.  Oh well, at least I got a better workout.  The temperatures were in the 70s and it was quite pleasant.  Since Cty Q is gravel, we had a new detour (the previous detour was now under construction) and it was quite nice, passing through the town of Downing and down a nice winding, hilly road called 130th St.  Everything is incredibly green this year since it seems to rain more often than not.  We got to Knapp and I used my frame pump to get some more air into the rear.  This really improved things.  It was about 9:30 and we had a slightly longer stop than normal.

CRQ from Knapp has a 19% climb right out of the control.  It's one of those grin and bear it hills that makes me appreciate thigh muscles (all of them).  At the top, we cruised along until we ran into another rider out for the morning.  We stopped and had a nice chat for about 20 minutes, he and Gary had mutual acquaintances.  It rained for about 4 miles, but the rain was warm and we didn't even bother with rain gear. At about 11:45, we pulled into Downsville, somewhat of a side trip, but there was a cafe worth having lunch at.  At least, it might have been if their kitchen hadn't turned out to be a serial operation.  Really, we didn't plan on spending an hour there.  Some riders from the TCBC were on a Wisconsin Hills Ride from Spring Valley so it was nice seeing lots of bikers around.

I always enjoy the ride up to Menomonie along the river and consider it to be a highlight.  Devil's Punch Bowl State Park is there and is always worth a glance.  It was starting to heat up a bit and I needed to fill bottles.

Just outside Menomonie, we started up a little hill.  Gary was ahead of me and I dropped back to find a better line on some rough pavement.  There was a loud bang and suddenly parts started flying out of the back of Gary's drivetrain.  He skidded a little and executed a brilliant roll off the bike.  I rushed over and found he had barely a scratch on him.  There wasn't even a scuff on the bike.

Of course, that didn't mean that the bike wasn't a goner.  It died long before hitting the pavement.  The rear drive side dropout had shattered causing the wheel to go off true, catch the derailleur in the spokes which wrapped it upwards until it struck and cracked the chainstay.  The spokes, to give them credit, bent but did not break.

We stared and then got out the phone.  Gary called Debbie, hereafter known as Rando Spouse, since we were really only an hour from his house.  We walked the bike back to the corner and waited until she appeared with a new bike.  By this time it was 4:00 pm and we were pushing the time limits.  But back on the road we went.  We cruised along the new detour (since N is under construction) with a brisk tail wind to assist.  Up through Knapp we went and up a nice new hill to Wilson and along 100th Street to Burkhardt.  We made it in plenty of time, which was pretty cool, all things considered.   Rando Spouse even had really yummy food waiting at the finish.

On a happy note, Gary was able to negotiate a warranty/discount on a new bike! 

The Bike is dead, Long Live the Bike!