Monday, April 30, 2012

Doing the North Shore the hard way

IronK's surgery was a big success and after 6 days of complete agony in the hospital, she came home.  Of course, the day she came home, I finally gave up on the strange cough I was having and saw my doctor.  Could it be a cold?  Nope, pneumonia.  Fortunately, there were antibiotics.  But it was a good thing that mom came for the week so that she could take care of both of us.

So having finished up my antibiotics and gotten back to work, I started considering riding again.  Nothing like a DNF to really motivate you.  I had these 3 new permanents approved - all part of a 600k I have been designing for years.  I wanted to ride the middle section from Moose Lake to Two Harbors.  So I called up GearBob who did the 300k Groundhog Day Fog Festival with me.  The weather was supposed to be pretty nice, clearing and in the 50s.

First, neither of us could afford 1 minute off work.  Second, GearBob is doing a R-12 (come to think of it, I might be too) so April 29 was the day to do this if we wanted to keep that goal alive.  My lungs pretty much felt like a pile of sludge and I was still coughing, but it was supposed to be a pretty flat ride.  What could go wrong?  So we had to get to the start in Moose Lake (about 2 hours from the Twin Cities), do 230k and drive back in one day.  So we set it up for me to pick him up at 6 for a 9 am start.

That worked great.  We got to Moose Lake at about 8:30 and pulled out right on time.  The day was a grey one, one of those deceptive days that makes you overdress.  We had to stop after 2 miles to shed clothes.  I always learn a ton when I ride with GearBob, he knows more about bicycles than just about anyone I know and with my new frame on the way, there was no shortage of topics.  From Moose Lake, our route took us 37 miles up the Willard Munger State Trail, which is a beautiful trail that winds its way through the north woods to Duluth.  This area is a different climate than 2 hours to the south and the trees were only just beginning to budd out.  Many tiny flowers on the forest floor were emerging and the spagnum moss was about the greenest thing around.  Throw in tamarack swamps and giant basalt boulders and a bunch of wildlife and you get the scene a little.  Being so early, we were just about the only people on the trail.

We got to Duluth around 11:30 and headed up through Duluth to the control.  Duluth is a very old city and West Duluth may not actually have any good pavement.  But it does have cool mom and pop shops that are fun to see and it has San Francisco style hills.  We followed the route that was given to me by a local, but which I had not ridden.  As we got to the top of Superior Street, we gazed in fear at what lay ahead. 

The planned route had us going over a road suspended over the interstate with no shoulder, one way around a blind turn.  Traffic was moving at around 45 miles an hour.  Bob just stopped dead in his tracks.  No way we were going over that.  To the right was a pedestrian bridge, we took that in the name of safety. Bob recalled riding in Duluth years earlier and thought we could get around the bad section.

So we descended on the Superior Hiking Trail and found all sorts of fun stuff.  Restored trains, Canal Park, and a very nice path along Lake Superior.  We took copious notes, still looking for where we could get back to Superior Street.  Duluth sits on a hillside and is cut in half by interstate 35.  Navigating is a challenge. 

But the Lakewalk Trail was empty and we had a nice run up the shore.  Suprise!  The trail ended at the control.  We had avoided certain death and found a very scenic way to see Duluth.  This was a big win for GearBob, he's a touring nut at heart.

At the control, we grabbed a very quick bite.  There was a strong north east wind blowing and Two Harbors, the turnaround, was 24 miles away.  We enjoyed riding through Kitchi Gammi State Park and the many very nice sights on Scenic 61.  We would have enojoyed them much more if we hadnt been struggling to make 11 mph.  Bob was bonking by the time we hit Two Harbors and a prolonged chow session at Culver's Custard was long overdue.  Happily, a tailwind back was our reward.  Sunset on Superior is beautiful.

By the time we returned to the Duluth control, it was dusk and the lights went on.  The trip back to the Munger Trail was much quicker than the meandering way up and we finally got back to the trail as real darkness set it.  RBA Rob was concerned about having riders "climb" out of Duluth.  We cruised up the "hill" at about 13-14 mph and I just got over pneumonia - we decided that hill was giving it way too much credit.  Mound?  Pile?  Bump?  Those might be better terms.

The final 37 miles were some of the most awesome night riding I have ever done.  Being on a bike trail with zero traffic and barely a street crossing, we could almost ride without headlights.  Eventually we turned them on to scare the deer, who were everywhere.

Bob had some issues with his hands in Carlton and while he waited, I cooled down too much.  Coughing set in and I inhaled my inhaler.  But it was concerning; cold air has always been an asthma trigger.  Once I got moving again I was much better as my core reheated.

We finished in 12:30 and tossed the bikes in the back for the trip home.  We eventually stopped at McDonalds, but it was still past midnight when we got back to the Twin Cities.  The following day, I had to drink more than 2x more coffee than usual.  I was so happy to finish this ride; it was a big deal to finish something like this even when I wasn't at my peak.  It gives me hope for the Cascades.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Put this on my Tombstone: Don't eat meat the night before your brevet

I had really looked forward to the Tombstone.  I've been trying to ride the freakin' thing for years.  I suppose my streak was bound to continue...

I had to DNF  after 50 miles. Sure there was wind, rain, cold temperatures (hey, I could have stayed in Minnesota for those in April), but those who have read this blog know that I am way tougher than that.  My DNF fate was sealed at dinner the night before the ride. First, there was a pre-ride dinner put on by Susan R, who was running the ride in the abscence of Susan P (Susan is apparently a common name among the randonneuses of Arizona, I know 3).  I love a good pre-ride dinner, you get to meet all the people that you may or may not see on the ride.  Everyone was having steak (it was at a steakhouse) but I just could not get into the idea of a steak the night before a brevet.  So I went for a burger.

It was really very pink looking when it showed up.  Lovely hindsight says I should have sent it back, but it tasted okay; I was probably toast on the first bite anyway.  We finished up and chatted, several people were doing their first 600ks including a couple of recumbent riders.

This being Arizona of course it was freezing and raining at the start.  At least 3 people DNS'd due to lack of rain gear.  That's always sad.  They were from out of town and it's a long way to come.

I had perfect clothing and a good plan in place. I climbed up Gates Pass feeling fine and got into the first control about quarter to 8. Wasn't hungry, grabbed some chocolate milk and took off right behind another rider who I dont think saw me. I got up Mission Road and felt a little dizzy, but put it down to the winds. As I turned onto Helmet Peak Road, I started getting nauseous and halfway down I had to stop for about 5 minutes as I lost the contents of my stomach on the side
of the road. I got to the Shell station at I19 and lost it again in the bathroom, but felt marginally better. Got some Pepto and sipped some water and got Gatorade figuring I was going to have to soft pedal for a while. I ate a couple of fig newtons too thinking I probably needed to start in with calories too.

About 5 miles up Saghaurita, I lost the pepto and the water I had gotten down. I tried some Gatorade and immediately lost it. At this point, the rain started back up and Ryan, Illyssa and Mark caught up. I must have really looked bad, Ryan stayed while I called for help and suggested I coast back down the hill to the Shell Station. It took an hour of pedaling to get back to it going into the wind. I passed the 2 recumbant riders and was going to wave, but was beset with cramping
and it might have came out more like another gesture (sorry guys).

Susan R gave me directions to a hospital. IronK was trying to see caverns in a park about an our away.  I called her sounding absolutely horrible.  The response I got at first was a snippy, "it's not a good time, I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow".  I was really quite taken aback and came back with something like "gee, puking my guts out on the side of the road in the rain is not really a good time either".  Then she paused and profusely apologized.  It seems all the throwing up made me sound like my sister (who was coming down the next day and smokes).  We all got a big laugh, especially my sister who eventually heard the story and came back with "gee, if I'm ever stuck on the side of the road throwing up I know who not to call!".   Needless to say, IronK came to get me post haste and take care of me.  Classic salmonella.

Well, this pretty much crushed my confidence.  4 days later, IronK had to have lung surgery for a resurgence of cancer.  I still had high hopes of riding again in April, but then I managed to get sick while she was in the hospital.  We shall see when I ride again....