Sunday, September 13, 2009

north shore century


My first attempt at a 100 miles solo ride began in a scatterbrained fashion. I left the house without my helmet, gloves or glasses at 6:10 am, I got my key out of my seat bag turned around and got those. So I'm off at 6:10 am for Evanston, headed up Kedzie to the North Shore Trail. The streets of Chicago are a beautiful thing at the crack of dawn. If this pic was at all in focus, you'd be able to tell what I was talking about, but here is a delightfully empty Kedzie Ave:

Got to the registration at 6:45, picked up my packet and hit the route. This was a start-whenever-you-like ride, so there were just a smattering of people (total riders was not more than 1600 for all distances, so it was pretty mellow altogether).

After riding for a few miles, one nice fellow rider (thanks buddy!) finally let me know my seat bag was open. Turns out that after I got my key back out to get in the house and get my helmet, etc. I had left it open. Nice move dude. The only thing that made this not a total disaster was that I did not put my little ziploc with ID, credit card, cash and house key back in the bag after I got it out to get in the house. It went in my jersey after. Now, I can put a lot of stuff in this bag, it's fairly large (and has a tendency to swing when I ride, my friend Ryan is reminded of these when he sees it swinging)

At any rate, I just ended up losing half of my "food" stash (quotation marks are meant to indicate doubt at the proposition of calling things like GU and Clif Shotblocks food, but you get the idea. Fortunately my multi-tool, tubes and cartridges were all still in there.
I was annoyed nonetheless.

It was quite a brisk morning out there. low-ish 60s and super duper moist and overcast. By moist, I mean I had dew all over me like I had been sitting in someone's yard overnight. It was a good 2-ish hours before the sun began to make a meaningful appearance. I got in a little 3 person line early, that turned into 4 and we were motoring along at a pretty good clip until the delightful roads of the "North Shore" intervened. For some rich "villages" and suburbs, the greater north-of-Chicago area has some of the most bootleg roads in this part of the state. I mean, REALLY, many of them make Chicago's average road look pretty nice, and that is not an easy feat. I had already hit a couple of large bumps that almost caused my seat tube mounted bottle cage to spit out it's large, rather heavy bottle of gatorade, but had managed to catch it and put it back. Going around a corner up in Glenview or somewhere at about 18 mph, it finally popped out again and did a neat trick of flipping over into my rear wheel, popping open and disgorging it's contents all over my wheel. I stopped, bent my bottle cage into a tighter grip, put the empty back in, realized that whole mess had also knocked my chain off, put that back and began to try and claw back to my little group, but the moment had passed. I ended up passing a couple of them later no longer working together. Ah well. We went for a while on this nice path that looked to me to be brand spankin' new. The Skokie Valley bike path (?)

Check out the fresh sod and freshly tarmac with newly painted lines. Nice!!

When the sun finally came out about an hour later, I realized I had also forgotten to put on any sunscreen. I hereby resolve to make a list for future rides.
1) Zip up your seat bag, you dumb****!
2) Bring your helmet, etc.
3) Put on sunscreen
4) Make sure you have tight bottle cages.

I'm sure I'll think of some more things once they too go wrong.

At the first rest stop around 30 miles, I found that there were ample power bars, shot blocks, etc. and a nice gentleman volunteer went to his car and got some ancient 15spf sunscreen for me too. I left there feeling much better. Jumped into a line with a couple of guys that just came up around me and rode the next 25 miles with them. This was at a burning pace (for me at least), averaging about 23/24 mph. It definitely helped my average, but it was killing me after that much time. They stopped for a moment, I carried on and they passed me shortly after never to be seen again. This was around the time we got to the lake shore at Kenosha. It was a pretty scene up there.

I slowed my roll considerably after the blistering speed of the previous stretch as things also seemed to begin to be much more slightly uphill and headwindy than before. Puttered along around an average of 16 for a while though after another rest stop I had a bit more of a second wind and got moving again okay.

What else can I tell you? Crappy roads, a few nice ones (mostly in actual nice neighborhoods, I think that's the other side of NIMBY, nice roads IMBY!). Went through a bunch of places I kind of recognized, Glencoe, Fort Sheridan, finally to Wilmette and back down into Evanston. I pulled back into the registration zone at 105.5 miles for the ride, done in 6 hours, 15 minutes.

More ride stats:
Ride time (excluding stops): 5 hours 48 minutes
Max speed: 27.3 mph
Average speed (excluding stops): 18.1 mph
Average speed (including stops): 16.9 mph
Fun quotient: 2.5 of 5 (would have been a lot more fun to have a buddy out with me, roads were killing my lower back)
Total mileage including my ride to and from Evanston: 127!

A personal best time-wise anyway. I think this may wrap it up for the road riding "season" such as it was. Methinks I'll not repeat this bone-jarring event again. The roads at the Coal City Century were like butter overall compared to this, and that's including gravel sections and all. Pay for some roads North Shore!!!

I'm going to be off the bike for about a week and a half starting this Thursday as I leave town to make a new album in Kansas and play a couple of shows with Kid Congo Powers. Probably ready for a little extended recovery time anyway.

In other cycling news:

WAY TO GO VALVERDE! He looked to be cracking on the final climb of the Vuelta's stage 14 today, but then just found the extra gumption to actually extend his lead with no help from teammates. Way to suffer dude, my hat is off to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

the week ahead...


Going to ride the North Shore Century solo this coming Sunday. That'll be another first. I guess it should end up at a solid 200km as I'm going to ride up to Evanston and back too. Does this qualify as epic?! Probably not... Personally epic?

I reckon I need more riding buddies around here. I only have one who will tackle such rides with me and he's going to be out of town. The next closest one is in Houston, TX (Doh!). Anyhoo, I'm considering trying to make my own gels as per the cycling tips blog. Can homecooking save me from eating soylent green? We shall see. I am sort of addicted to these Honey Stinger natural energy gummies, but I bought a gross of them a while back, so I'm still "holding."

I have been pretty beat up over the last week since the HHH ride. My knee was in pretty sketchy shape after, and then Friday I came down with some pretty harsh lower back pulled muscle action. Was walking like a crippled old man Friday night, Saturday day, feeling a bit better Sunday and finally felt pretty human again today. Did my first two days in a row off the bike in quite some time (since May?). Got back on the iron horse today for a 30 mile ride around with my lady and JBI today, but I better put in another good solid 50 before Sunday I would think.

Got to go see a man about (hopefully) saving my deformed front wheel (see last post) tomorrow. It's not turning out to be easy to find a couple year old Mavic Ksyrium front wheel in black thus far, so I'm going to go to a straight up posh shop tomorrow and see what sort of tricks they may have up their sleeves for getting a pretty severe hop out of a low spoke count wheel.

I'm in the midst of building up a 29er now. I would say "this just in" or some such, but I've been putting this mess together for some weeks now and just not sharing about it. I found a guy on a roadie forum selling a very well-kept On One Inbred frame with a smattering of parts still attached for the low, low price of $150 plus shipping and it just tripped my mental "buy order" to put one of these together. Another guy with some Bontrager disc wheels, another with a White Bros. fork (so cut down it just BARELY fits, but thanks to a really short headtube, I think it fits nonetheless. Who needs to cut their fork down that low?!? Just use a few spacers and flip the stem for the love of God!), and I'm pretty much in biz. I'm waiting on a rear derailleur now, but I think it'll be here in a few days. Here are some pics of the beginnings of a (hopefully) fun offroad bike slash crappiest part of unplowed-streets-winter bike (I can put my Nokian ice tires on this thing in a few months. A few short months....... (sigh)


plus this:

equals this!

I'm beginning to learn some ins and outs of hydraulic disc brakes which is kind of making me shudder with recognition of my car tinkering past. I don't miss prying back disc pads, brake fluid, etc. but I guess once I get all this crap together I can just enjoy some quality braking.

There is an embarrassment of bike racing on the interwebs right now. The Vuelta is in full swing, dudes started coming unhinged in the mountains just today. Also, the considerably less dramatic first stage of the Tour of Missouri happened today as well. Mark Cavendish is the 90s Chicago Bulls of cycling, not a terribly exciting afternoon of watching to see who's going to win a flat stage that he is riding in. Great sprinter, but makes for a pretty boring finish to some often boring (flat stages) overall days. Chalk up another vote for losing the radios (Thanks team Motorola!).

Finally, from the same blog as above, I had to repost this (Thanks Rebecca!):

(I want it to happen to me!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

hotter 'n hell 100


Hotter 'n Hell 100 special report!

First off, I'll just spare the suspense and say IT WASN'T HOTTER 'N HELL! I mean, none of us really have any way of knowing how hot it may be in hell, but I'm thinking mid-80s is a little on the low side for the fiery home of eternal damnation.

Anyway, here's what happened:

After the Coal City Century ride of the previous Sunday, I cleaned and packed up the Look and shipped it off to Austin on Monday.

My 'ol right knee was a bit on the aching and tender side after that ride. This knee used to give me pretty regular mild-ish problems, I played soccer with a compression sleeve on it for years, but it has been behaving rather well for quite some time. So, though I was disappointed, it wasn't a big surprise.

At any rate, I figured I'd better keep to something resembling training during the week. The Tuesday after, I met up with my friend Joe who was in town for the day with his bike and did a nice mellow 30-ish miles with him from River North to Hyde Park and back before going to work. It actually made my knee feel a bit better. Took the day off on Wednesday, which was our travel day to Austin. Wednesday night I reassembled my bike at my brother's house and went to bed. The missus and I had Thursday to go and have some fun, so we rolled out on our bikes around midday to do some shopping/eating, etc. As I rolled my bike across the floor towards the door, I noticed to my dismay that my front wheel was pretty terribly out of true. I just sighed, loosened the brake and headed to The Peddler bike shop down the street to see what the situation was. In a nutshell, the situation was that UPS screwed up my wheel, which is not a cheap wheel (Mavic Ksyrium Elite, black even). Tom at The Peddler took a crack at it and basically got it back in true vertically (forgive any improper terminology here), but radially, it had a pretty significant hop in it that he could not do anything about. Kind of a bummer, made even more so by the fact that there wasn't really visible damage. They must have just plopped something heavy down on my flexible bike box and done a nice little job on that poor wheel. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I paid for that whole pristine wheel set, the price of replacing the front one, so after a bit of poking around on the internet, I realized I was going to have to just see how it went and worry about it later. After riding about 20 miles on it that day, it did seem like it would get me through the ride on Saturday, so I decided to stop worrying about it.

Myself and my friends R and J packed up a rented minivan from Austin Friday afternoon and got on the road around 4pm, about an hour later than we were hoping. Registration as well as the spaghetti dinner we had prepaid for ended at 9pm and it was about 5 hours drive to Wichita Falls, so it was going to be tight. We stopped at Czech Stop in West, TX and picked up some kolaches for easy fueling in the morning. We ended up in a big rush as we headed into Wichita Falls. It was around 8:45 when I took an exit that said "Downtown" which turned out to be poorly signed or poorly interpreted by me. Either way, after a 5 minute trip in the wrong direction, I punched the name of the local coliseum that was the epicenter of activities into my phone and got going back in the right direction. We figured we were screwed, but that we'd go ahead and give it a shot as one of us was not pre-registered and the other two of us needed to pick up packets anyway and doing this at 5am or so didn't sound ideal.

I pulled up to a parking spot at the Kay Yeager Coliseum that was hilariously great. In Chicago, I wouldn't have been able to get within a 1/4 mile of the door of a place like this, but here I pulled up into a space right on the circular drive about 30 yards from the entrance. We raced in and found that things were still humming along nicely, so we were able to register, pick up packets, and even make it into the spaghetti dinner at the coliseum. This place had an active ice rink inside and we got to feast on a styrofoam plate full of overcooked spaghetti and iceberg lettuce salad in an almost empty 55-ish degree cavern. Yum! Still seemed like it'd beat driving around looking for food at 9-ish pm.

After the dinner, we headed over to our local accomodations. The organizers put together those in need of lodging with local folks who are willing to host for a modest fee. We found ourselves about three blocks from the ride start in front of an old garage turned into a lofty sort of hangout space with about 5 other riders. Our hosts for the evening were Linda and Keith. The place was comfortably appointed with a ping-pong table, Wii, cold water and ice, air mattresses and other bedding. Showers were some PVC piping al fresco jobs set up out in the driveway area. They were actually pretty nice. Also, we had the pleasure of getting some puppy kisses from our mascoté for the night, Xena!

Sleep was crappy (is it always before a big ride?). Every little sound woke me up. Another thing that woke me up was when my lovely wife forgot I'd already be well asleep and called at 1:20 in the morning, sending me into hyperventilation practically. If anyone knows how to make an iPhone only make the alarm sound, please comment below! I think I managed a poor 4 hours altogether. The upside of which is that it tends to be a relief to finally get up and get on with it!

Ate some kolaches, showered, stretched, dressed and we were rolling out to the start by about 6:50am. Here is the scene:

After a really tinny rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (through some little high-school type PA horns), there are a very well-executed Air Force flyover of some F18s or something in the "missing man" formation, which I'm told was for Kennedy (way to go TX if so!). They drop a little sonic boom right over the top of us and we were off. Well, by off I mean, we began to spend the next 10 minutes watching the 5 to 6 thousand people in front of us begin. If I ever do this ride again, I'm definitely cramming up the very, very, very front. When we finally began moving, it was this curious little scooching situation, half of folks were clipped in with one foot, sort of skateboarding along with the other, and the smarter ones (I eventually woke up and got on board with this group) just got off and walked their bikes. After a few hundred yards of this, we finally were able to go fast enough to sit on our bikes, just barely though. Judging by the bib numbers we saw, there we close to or better than 14,000 riders at the start of this. I believe many of them were 20, 50 or 70 milers, but thousands and thousands were certainly going the distance. We rode along in a claustrophobic fashion after finally reaching speeds of 15-ish mph. There were a steady stream of fast traffic on the left and people inexplicably dropping bottles about every 50 yards or so. Lots of shouted warnings and such, a few single person wrecks and flats starting within the first mile. Whose bike is in such crap shape before a ride like this?! I guess lots of them.

In short, we ended up skipping the first 3 rest stops and not stopping until mile 40 so that we could pass up about maybe 3000 or so riders and get into a more sane grouping on the road. During that stretch, we began to see a couple of what I imagine were some coronary incidents with ambulances screaming up the road from the other direction, etc. One funny incidental scene at one of these sorts of episodes found several hundred riders get off and walk for a hundred feet or so and being out in the middle of pretty quiet nowhere, it sounded like some weird tap dance army hearing all the various horseshoe sized cleats clopping in approximate unison.

We were doing a nice 17-ish mph average during most of the ride. After our first 40 mile stop (featuring some really friendly country dogs serving as county ambassadors!), we stopped again at 60, then at 70 and 80 too. The rest stops featured long lines at the bathrooms most of the time and plentiful cut fruit along with a lot of chipper volunteers filling bottles with Gatorade and water. There was amusing scenery amongst the riders along the way with some wacky recumbents and a couple of guy in some bootleg land-speed-record type torpedo contraptions. Lots of fancy, fancy bikes, lots of fancy lycra and whatnot too.

Throughout the ride, I was holding up pretty good in terms of legs, never really felt too thrashed, my butt and feet were doing pretty great too. I made the risky move of wearing some new (to me, but slightly used) SIDI genius shoes I had bought from a guy online and ridden once for about 30 miles, but luckily they worked out just great, super comfy. My right knee was pretty tender, it had been since the Coal City Century. I had taken a couple of Celebrex pills that my brother had which I think helped with the inflammation, but I ended up wearing a compression sleeve for about 40-ish miles, which made everything feel quite nice, but was a bit rash inducing after a while.

Every time we hit nice pavement (and there was plenty of it that was not particularly nice...big, clunky, pebbly, ashpalt as the road grade for maybe 30 to 40 of the miles) I noticed the hop in my front wheel, whup, whup, whup, whup. I fear that it's basically shot, but I also knew it would make it through the ride.

At mile 63 (?) we came to HELL'S GATE!! This was the much ballyhooed cut-off point (I think you had to do that distance in 6 hours or something to not get pulled, not too difficult). Talk about an anticlimax! It consisted of a freeway underpass with a sign and an inflatable hulk guy. No flames, no fake flames, c'mon people! What about some of those things that blow the streamers upwards?! Something...

At one point, we came upon some guys around mile 75 giving away fresh cut watermelon. We made a special stop for that, thanks guys! Keep in mind, it never got above around the mid-80s, I barely sweated a drop all day long (though I am a light sweater, but still!).

Around mile 92, we came onto a big wide highway shoulder headed back into Wichita Falls. It was on a slight downhill with a tailwind and I found myself going around 21 and just feeling like it was effortless. All of a sudden, since we were within about 10 miles and had been riding pretty conservatively, I thought it'd be fun to just go for broke and make a little personal race of it for the last 8-ish miles. I ramped it up to a good 27-30 mph for the next few miles, really fun stuff! I was flying past hundreds of people and was surprised I didn't poop out at these speeds. Maybe it was the GU gels I'd been snacking on here and there during the day. I did end up hosing myself down with water on a few occasions, it was a big help. I did not realize that the whole time I was blasting along, my buddy R was madly chasing me down! I thought I was just running a little personal time trial, but it was actually a mad race. I didn't even let myself look at the odometer for about 3 miles and when I did, I thought "you'll never finish at this pace!" During a few windy/slight uphill stretches, I did some down to 19-24-ish mph and it ended up being a full 10 miles to the finish for just over 102 total. However, only one guy passed me in those last 10 miles, I drafted off of him for about a 1/2 mile the first time, passed him again on a giant freeway overpass that was the last big climb before town and was passed again by him in the last half mile, but I don't think he'd been going like the devil for 10 miles either! It was a lot of fun anyway, I think I kept up a 24-ish mph average for that last 10.

Came through the finish, went over and stood in some blasting water and about 1.5 minutes later I ran into R and found out he'd been within shouting distance of me a few times! Probably would have gotten creamed were it not for the element of surprise at the "start" of our little race. Here's me looking, perhaps not as fresh as a daisy, but not TOO bad:

Got some nice finishing pics of J who kept a more sane pace the rest of the way through about 10 minutes later.

After gasping and standing around and watering up for a bit, we rode back to our humble abode, ate some pasta, drank a beer, packed up and headed back to Austin. Final times:

Total ride (including stops): 6:48
Ride time (excluding stops): 5:51
Total mileage: 102.8
Max speed: 35.5 mph
Average speed (while moving): 17.54 mph
Average speed overall: 15.1-ish mph

I felt really good after this ride, not at all as devastated as the first on the week before. We drove back to Austin and had a tremendous feast and margaritas at El Si's and I got some good sleep!