Monday, April 25, 2011

The Rest of the Route

So, I got the "report" from Jeff Bauer and Jeff Sammons (no relation) for the lower 100 miles of the Cookeville 400K. (I'm thinking of calling this the "Pissing and Moaning 400K" -- how does that sound?)

Here's what they said, with additional stupid comments inserted by me. It's my blog, so I get the last word. Nyah-nyah-nyah.

Sammons: We encountered two road closures. At the intersection of Old Cookeville Road and Burgess Falls Road (166.3 miles), there was a short detour around the construction. Jeff elected to run the blockade and walk over the road construction, but I would recommend the guys just take the detour next weekend. The other closure was at TN-111 (186.9 miles) after climbing the mountain. The road on the other side of TN-111 was blocked with concrete barriers, but that didn't stop Jeff either. We just climbed over the barriers and kept going. I would suggest the guys just turn left on TN-111 and ride the short distance down to control #8 and the intersection of TN-111 and Spring Street. At that time of night, there is hardly any traffic on TN-111.

Bauer: Agreed. The concrete barrier wasn't difficult to portage over, but it might make more sense to follow TN-111 so it's easier to find the Shell station.

RandoBoy: They were working on the Old Cookeville Road/Burgess Falls Road intersection when I scouted this route in January from the car. I'm going to change the route sheet to include the detour, since faster riders might hit this spot during daylight, and local law enforcement may look askance at portaging cyclists.

For those who aren't sure where this is, it's just before you get to Sparta. I'm assuming that the traffic in and out of Sparta was not a problem for the Jeffs. Riders who like to eat regularly may want to get some food there, particularly if it is getting late.

As for the second road closure, I'm going to change the route to turn left on TN-111 and go straight to the control. The added mileage for the other detour will make up for the lost mileage here. It sounds like this will alleviate some of the potential confusion for riders coming in to and leaving Spencer.

Sammons: The climb up Yates Mountain is two miles, not the one mile climb indicated on the cue sheet. Jeff and I walked almost the entire way.

Bauer: Actually, the cue sheet says "steep climbing next mile", which is correct. The early part of Yates was much harder than the latter -- though we were probably too tired to notice.

RandoBoy: Yeah, the worst part is definitely the first mile. Once you get to the cemetery, it eases a bit. Of course, you may have to stop, dig up a corpse, and steal it's legs. They will be fresher than yours at this point.

Sammons: We got all turned around trying to find Control #8 (Spencer) and also leaving town. So you might caution the guys to pay attention coming and leaving town.

Bauer: Spencer was a bit confusing at night even though we both had GPS units.

RandoBoy: I got turned around in a car scouting the route, and I wasn't even sleepy then. Leaving town, pay attention to cue sheet. As Jeff says below, look for the Sheriff's station (and the post office, if you get to the control after midnight and need to mail a post card) as the cue that you are leaving town the right way.

Sammons: And finally, the sign for Laurel Creek Road (193.5 miles), actually says Laurel Cove Road.

Bauer: Actually it was the sign for the Creek that said "Laurel Cove". We didn't see the road sign.

RandoBoy: Again, follow your cue sheet. There aren't that many roads out there, so if you check your mileage at the top you should be okay. The turn for this road is not marked, but it is just before the bridge that goes over the creek.

Bauer: Leaving Spencer, we did not see the sign for TN-30, but once we located the Sheriff's Dept., we just descend down that road. (This was actually a climb on my first infamous TN fleche.)

RandoBoy: If you are on the route, the Sheriff's department will be on your right. Just past this, the road banks to the left and you begin what would be a really fun descent in daylight. Since most riders will get there in the dark -- and there's barely going to be any moon this weekend -- it will be less fun.

Bauer: I would recommend offering dual start times of 5 am  and 6 am, with brevet cards printed for each. This will give the slower riders a better option to reach the Spencer control before it closes (Jeff and I arrived at 10pm with a 5am start). It will also make the ride easier to support, as this would cluster the riders closer together.

RandoBoy: I like this idea. The 5 am starters will need lights and reflective gear when they leave, while the 6 am starters won't. Since the route returns to the hotel, everybody would be able to grab their night-riding gear at that time for the southern 100-mile loop ... unless they think that they can do the entire ride in daylight. Riders who like to go "fast and light" will probably opt for the 6 am start.

Bauer: I spoke with the manager at the Spencer Shell and they always stay open until midnight, i.e. never close early. If a rider misses this control, there are some soft drink vending machines a little further down the road.

RandoBoy: When I scouted the route, I spoke to the clerk at the store, who said that they close early if nobody's coming in. From this, I think we can assume that the store will be open until midnight ... but only if the boss is still there.

Thanks, Jeff and Jeff, for this helpful information. Of course, more thanks go to Jeff than Jeff, since Jeff really helped out when he said that thing to me on Saturday, while Jeff just got on my nerves ... I'll leave Jeff and Jeff to fight over which Jeff is the good Jeff and which is the bad Jeff. Equal congratulations go to both Jeffs for being the first riders to successfully complete the Pissing and Moaning 400K. Hopefully, we can run this route again next year or the year after, and I can finish it myself with more pissing and less moaning.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

You're In Trouble Now

I need to start this post with a disclaimer and an explanation.

First, the disclaimer. This post is going to discuss bodily functions. It's a bodily function that all animals perform. If you're queasy about that, go read Fat Cyclist or BikeSnob. They tend to stay away from such distasteful topics.

Still here? Okay, then, now I can give you an explanation. It's regarding the title, and it's a way of broaching the subject about which I gave the above disclaimer. You see, I had to DNF on a 400K this past weekend because I was having urine trouble. Get it? You're in trouble ... urine trouble ... pretty funny, right?

Look, I told you to go over to Fat Cyclist.

Saturday morning, Jeff Bauer and Jeff Sammons (no relation) pre-rode the middle Tennessee 400K, starting from Cookeville. Even though my doctor advised me against riding anything over 100 miles for the next few months, I really, really, really wanted to ride it. Why?

  1. I designed the route, and how could I let anyone else ride something that I had not been able to do?
  2. It's really pretty, with quiet roads and good pavement, but just enough challenge to keep the masochists entertained.
  3. I wanted to be able to write a blog about it, which the folks riding it "officially" next weekend could read to prepare.
We rolled through downtown Cookeville in the dark. with light traffic as folks headed off to work. The sun was coming up as we passed through Dodson Branch, heading for the bumpy descent down to the Cumberland River Valley just out of town. Although a chronic saddle sore had kept me off the bike the entire week, I was feeling very strong. This, and the fact that I knew the route, enabled me to get all of the first county line sprints on this stretch of Hwy 135.

(Okay, sorry about the "saddle sore" thing in the paragraph above. I didn't give you any warning that there were more intimate topics coming ... my bad. Unfortunately, it plays into the story later, so I needed to mention it. Again, it's not to late to click over to Fatty's site.)

After we skirted the edge of Gainesboro, we rolled along the Cumberland River for a few miles. Jeff B. was riding his fixed-gear bike, since he plans to use that for Paris-Brest-Paris this year. At this point, the route was familiar to him, since it follows a 200K permanent that I designed last summer, but have not yet submitted to RUSA. The roads were new to Jeff S., however, but even the normally taciturn Tennessee RBA considered them scenic.

The strong winds from the south pushed us briskly along here, and soon we were climbing back up to Red Boiling Springs. Leaving town, the steep climb around a bend in the road caught Jeff S. by surprise, causing him to drop his chain. This gave me the chance to grab the state line sprint as we crossed briefly into Kentucky for the Gamaliel control.

We now turned southeast, and the wind made the next leg a little more difficult. We worked hard on busy TN-52 E, passing through Moss, TN (home of Honest Abe Log Cabins) and then re-crossed the Cumberland River back into Celina, TN. The day had warmed up by now, although the wind and moderate cloud cover kept the temperatures feeling pleasant. We opted for the Dairy Queen at this open control, and on the way there we passed a buggy of local Amish farmers doing their Saturday shopping.

After a quick milk shake, we continued out of town on TN-52 E. The crosswind continued to buffet us, but we still made good time to Standing Stone State Park. This part of the route was new to the Jeffs, and they enjoyed the descent down to the old stone bridge.

They were not that crazy about the climb back up from there, however. Also, I had placed the information control in the park at the end of Beach Road, so after we climbed all the way back up from the water, we then turned and headed right back down to it.

After a curvy descent down, we rolled along the edge of the water through a lovely primeval forest.

After passing the "beach" and the lodge there, the road continues along a quiet stream for another mile, and then climbs beside a waterfall up to a pond.

Just past this, the pavement of the road ended. We rode another tenth of a mile to the information control, which is a sign at the intersection of the dirt roads there. We stopped to write the answer to the question on our cards, and I took the opportunity to pee.

But, I couldn't.

Now, I'm a 52-year-old male. I watch television, so I've heard of things that can keep a 52-year-old male from peeing. But, for all of those 52 years, whenever I wanted to go pee in a quiet spot in the woods, I've been able to pee in a quiet spot in the woods. Only somehow, Saturday, standing in front of the information control sign ... I couldn't pee.

So, I did what I've done with most of the troubling physical ailments that I've encountered in my life: I ignored it. Physical maladies either get better, get worse, or stay the same, so ignoring them has always been a valid solution for me.

Mounting up to retrace our route back out, I soon caught up with the Jeffs again.

To let you know how cruel this route is, if you look really hard in this next picture, you'll see that stone bridge we crossed over. Yeah, that means that we did climb all the way back up, just to turn onto a road that made us go all the way back down to get some information off of a sign. Then ... yeah. Back up.

I was still feeling very strong and climbed out pretty quickly. Just before I got to the road, my bladder was insisting I give it another chance, so I pulled over and gave it the good old college try. This time, I peed a little, but then it stopped. And when it stopped, it hurt. I'm talking "hurt" in a way that only special parts on people can hurt.

After saying a loud "Ouch," I opted for more ignoring. So I rode on up to the top of the hill and waited for the Jeffs.

I had been drinking a lot on this stretch, and decided that drinking more might help. This is typical guy thinking. If a hose is plugged, we turn the water on higher, thinking that it will blast loose whatever impediment is clogging the stupid hose. I knew that blasting this impediment out of this hose might be very painful, but would it really hurt more than the constant bladder discomfort? Also, I wanted to finish the ride, and this was slowing me down.

I quickly killed one of my bottles, and mentioned to the Jeffs that we should stop at the Hillham General Store for more fluids. By the time we got there, I had finished my other bottle, so I bought a Gatorade and a water and filled up everything, and then drank what wouldn't go into my Camelbak bottles.

After all this, I really wanted to pee, but they didn't have a public restroom. We quickly rolled out, heading southwest on TN-53 S, getting more of a headwind than on any other leg of the ride so far. About a mile down the road my bladder was begging for a break, so I told the Jeffs to go on. I pulled over to try again, only to be rewarded by another dribbling/stabbing-pain episode.

Sighing, I mounted up again and started to hammer to catch up. And thus began a pattern that repeated two more times as I worked into the wind on this road. I would put my head down, ride hard, and then get a phone call from Bladdertown. "Yo, RandoBoy. Need to stop soon." Then I would start looking for a quiet spot, still hammering, until I could pull over and ... nothing. Or, to be honest, something less than satisfactory, ending with a very unsatisfactory pinching pain.

When I hit the end of TN-53 S, the Jeffs were waiting in the shade. At this point, I had to admit to them that there was a problem. Although I could probably finish the ride with regular stops to attempt to pee, I would have to do it alone. If they stayed with me, it could imperil their chances of finishing in time, and if I continued to ride, they would continue to ride with me. Since Jeff Bauer still needed this 400K as a qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris, I could not take the chance of my problems becoming his.

Heading towards Gainesboro, I told them what was going on, and that I had decided to abandon and head straight back to Cookeville. As they continued west, I went to the local Dairy Queen, where I rested with a hamburger and another milk shake. After a half-hour break, I stopped by the restroom and was rewarded with a happier bladder ... followed by the stabbing pain.

I then got on busy Hwy 56, discovering only then that the really hard wind was coming straight out of the south. After 15 miles fighting this gale on the wide but rubbish-strewn shoulder, I returned to the route on Buffalo Valley Road. I was back at the hotel about 4 pm, where I enjoyed a nice hot shower, changed into street clothes, and drank three diet root beers. The fluid did what fluid does, but that, too, did pass. The pain was still there, however, and stayed with me for the rest of the night.

A little after 5 pm, the Jeffs came in. They had suffered on the constant rolling hills between Gainesboro and Granville, and then on the tough climb up to Chestnut Mound. I got them sandwiches from Subway and beer from the package store as they cleaned up and prepared to do the "lower" 100 miles of the route. We ate as I packed up, and I made them promise to give my loyal readers a report on the remainder of the route. They rolled out into the late afternoon, just as the wind was finally calming, and I got into the Watzzwagen and drove home.

The Jeffs finished the ride successfully, returning to the hotel at 4:30 Sunday morning. Jeff Sammons posted his GPS track here. It ended up being just under 15,000 feet of climbing, thanks to a lot of ups and downs in the first 130 miles, with one good long climb up to Spencer. I was really looking forward to going up on that plateau via Yates Mountain Road, beginning at mile 183. If you look at the elevation profile, you will see why the Jeffs ended up walking the first two miles on this road.

As to my physical ailment, while we were eating our sandwiches Jeff Bauer asked if I had been sitting differently on the bike today. It was then that I realized that I probably had been, mostly to accommodate the inflamed saddle sore that had plagued me that week. This was what had probably been irritating my plumbing, so that the only solution to the problem was just what I had done: Get off the bike. Sure enough, by Sunday morning things were back to normal, and I was even able to do a 40-mile recovery ride with RandoGirl.

I'm glad that my problem wasn't the result of something really bad, but bummed that I didn't get to do my route. I had been looking forward to it as my ultra-cycling swan song for the year, since I will probably limit myself to just 200Ks from here on. The fact that I wasn't able to do this really pisses me off.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing Favorites

We all have favorites, be it dinners that we like best, songs we put in playlists on our iPods, or children that we treat better than the others (you know who you are). If you're a cyclist, you've got a favorite route ... one that you may not necessarily want to ride over and over for eternity, but one that you go to more often than others.

Cyclists in middle Tennessee are pretty lucky. We've got some great spots in which we can ride. I've done most of them, but my favorite area is down around College Grove and Bethesda.

For one thing, it's only about a 20-mile ride from my house, on a nice fun route. (By car it's about 10 miles, but who wants to drive a car to a bike ride?)

Also, it's got perfect roads. There are hills if you want them, with shady climbs up and fun descents down. When you tire of that, there are flat roads meandering along pretty creeks, or beside fields of cattle, corn, and horses. There are a couple of bumpy roads, but they are definitely the exception rather than the rule. Most pavement is pristine ... almost scarily so. As if somebody with a lot of money or a lot of political pull is setting things up, and any day now a bunch of subdivisions will be built there and ruin it.

There are stores that are easy to get to, staffed with friendly folks serving good food ... maybe even great food. The College Grove Grocery has a bakery, and makes some of the tastiest stuff you ever want to put in your mouth. The Bethesda Market has a great bench out front, where you can sit and rest a spell before heading back out to climb Pulltight Hill ... again.

Add to this the fact that everybody down there is friendly. Cars pass nicely, and they wave at you (using all of their fingers). Folks out working in their yard and children playing all call out "Hey" and "Good morning." You feel ... welcome.

Sunday, I lead a ride out that way. We started out going east to Rockvale, then down through Versailles to skirt the edge of Murfreesboro. We stopped briefly at the market on the corner of Midland and Midland-Fosterville, where it had warmed up enough to peel off a few layers of clothing.

We took a few new roads from there, eventually passing south of Eagleville for another brief store stop. The roads had all been nice and flat so far -- perfect for the two tandems in the group. We then turned onto Floyd Road, which I had not been on in a few years. The pavement was smooth, the climbs easy, and the scenery gorgeous.

RandoGirl was riding strong, getting ready for Three-State Three-Mountain next month. I just wanted to get in about 100 miles to see how my hip was doing, and keep some tune in the legs for the upcoming 400K.

At this point, the route got back into some old favorites. Flat Creek. Choctaw. Giles Hill. Comstock. We stopped again at the market in Bethesda, running into a small group of racers that I know, and then came back via Pulltight Hill.

Again, the descent down the far side was a blast, followed by an easy climb on Arno, which led to a long, gentle descent almost all the way to Owen Hill Road. A left on Pinkston, a right on Arno-College Grove, and we were back at the cars. RandoGirl and I had earned the homemade brownie that we got from the Grocery.

It don't get much better than that.


You have one more day to sign up for the 200K of Nowhere, which will use many of these favorite roads of mine. To do this, you have to sign up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere, so that LiveStrong gets some money to fight cancer. That's the disease that killed our friend, Peter Lee, in whose honor we are doing this ride.

If you want the great Fat Cyclist swag, and if you want to fight cancer, sign up now. If you can't do this, you can still come out and ride the 200K of Nowhere ... but you won't get the neat t-shirt and race plate, and you won't be entered in the drawing I'm going to have for even more swag.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quick! Sign Up!

I'm a dodo head.

Fortunately, Alan Gosart, isn't. He just sent me an email saying that he had signed up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere ... which we ultra-cyclists in middle Tennessee will be doing as the 200K of Nowhere.

How could I have forgotten this? Well, it's been a really busy morning at work. And the air-conditioning at home went out last night. Since we just had temperatures this past weekend in the 90's, that's a major concern.

But, mostly, I'm just a dodo head.

Alan saved me (again). I was just able to go out and sign up, so there's still space. I also signed RandoGirl up. She and I rode much of the route just yesterday, and we were surprised at how pretty it was, the great pavement, the low traffic, and the nice people.

So, if you want to come join us on May 21 ...

This is a great chance to have fun, ride with nice people, honor Peter Lee, get some neat free stuff, maybe win some other neat stuff, and pitch in $85 to fight cancer. And if none of those ideas appeals to you, then you're a dodo head.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Singlespeed Song

It was a beautiful morning for biking in today. The wind had died a bit, and it was just cool enough to need light tights and a jacket. It was the kind of day when you find yourself writing a song to sing to your bicycle.

So, here it is.

Singlespeed (key of Kwikset ... or maybe Yale flat)


Singlespeed! Singlespeed!
You've got all the gears that I need.
You don't have a cassette or derailleur.
No lousy shifters that will someday fail you.

Singlespeed! Singlespeed!
My cadence-agnostic steed.
Let everyone else spin up the steepest road,
While 48-16 makes my knees explode,
Or I'll cross-train into a "walking" mode,
Because I've got just one single speed.

Well, I was riding through the park just the other day
When I came upon some cyclists who'd come out to play.
They were all wearing last year's Tour de France team kits
On new light plastic bikes, they thought they were the s**ts.

I thought I'd join them for a while, just an easy spin.
They took one look at my bike and all begin to grin.
We took a left and started down a long descent.
They shifted up, I couldn't shift, and so away they went.


(Kazoo solo)

Sometimes friends ask, "Don't you miss having a choice?"
I tell them, "Sometimes, but I don't miss the noise.
I don't miss hunting for the right gear heading into the wind.
The right gear for me is always the one that I'm in."

Maybe long climbs with gears would be a little less work,
Particularly on some routes that we have (thank you, Durk!).
But I've done climbs with and without gears often enough
To know that it's how you attack the hill that makes it so tough.


(Bassoon solo, fade out)

Maybe I've been living in Nashville too long ...

Reminder: Set Your Alarm on Monday!

I've gotten loads of replies regarding the upcoming 200K of Nowhere. If you want to join us -- and get as much neat swag as possible -- then you will want to sign up for Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere.

Since I want to get money to LiveStrong (I don't care if he doped or not! The foundation still does good stuff!), then I am using Fatty's ride for my own insidious needs. You give $85 to Fatty, and he gives it to LiveStrong. You get the tax break, lots of great swag from Fatty, and some pretty good swag from me, too. All of this to honor our friend, fellow randonneur Peter Lee, who passed away last November from cancer.

So what's the downside? There is none! You just need to be sure to go to the following site as early as you can on Monday, before Fatty's "ride" fills up:

You may even try going to this site, just in case Fatty doesn't put the link in himself, and hunt around for the right place to sign up:

As soon as I hear that sign-up is available, and where it is, I will post a blog entry here.

Or here.