Monday, July 18, 2011

The Solo Century Strategy

OK, show of hands here. Who out there wants to do a 200K in triple-digit temperatures?

Anybody? Hello?

Lately, in middle Tennessee, that's what we've been getting. Not all day, mind you, but about noon the "feels like" temperature is going to cross over to 100 F (-42 Kelvin, for my Canadian readers).

For normal humans, this is inconvenient. For randonneurs, it is death.

Well, maybe that's overstating it. What it really means is that we either 1) do brevets at weird hours, like starting at 6 pm and riding a double century overnight down the Natchez Trace so we finish the next morning before it starts to get hot, or 2) ride the rollers or trainer inside for eight hours, or 3) not ride and slowly let the endurance that you built up riding in sub-freezing temperatures during the winter leech out until you are incapable of doing more than a measly metric.

Hmmm ... maybe "death" isn't too strong a word.

A lot of my friends -- particularly the guys that are going to Paris in August -- have been choosing option 1. I keep having conflicts of one type or another, usually involving me being out of town for the weekend. Since I didn't ride the rollers or trainer much during the winter, I refuse to resort to that now, so that I have been choosing option 3 the past weeks.

Fortunately, I knew that I was going to spend two weeks at the beach this month, and knew that I would be able to get out and ride long a couple of times then. The first week, I was going to hang out with my brother, John, and my mom, and the second week RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter would join us. Fun in the sun!

But, as you have probably already deduced from my above use of the future imperfect (or is that the past pluperfect?), my plans went to spit. My brother and mom had something else come up, and I needed to do some things around the house, so the two weeks at the beach turned into one week of vacation in town, followed by one week at the beach. Of course, when life gives you lemons, you've got to trade them for limes and take them to the beach to drink with an icy alcoholic beverage. When life gives you a week at home with errands to run, and your endurance cycling fitness has fallen precipitously, you've got to go do a couple of solo centuries.

Now, everybody knows that the shortest brevet is 200K, or roughly 125 miles. But if you can ride 100 miles by yourself -- or, really, anything above 85 miles -- you can go out and do a 200K. I call this the Solo Century Strategy.

I couldn't get to a lot of the house things Monday, and had been forced to blow most of the weekend doing other house things, so when I awoke at 5 am I decided that this was a good day to knock out 100 miles before lunch. Twenty minutes later, I was on the road.

It was a balmy 78 degrees as I headed down through light early morning traffic in to Franklin and on to Long Lane, past the Williamson County agriculture center, and past the now-thick cars looking to get onto I-65 at Peytonsville Road. I wanted to see if Henpeck Market -- the penultimate control on my Dog Meat Permanent -- was open again. As I rolled in just before 7 am, a little over 20 miles into my ride, the place was hopping.

It was completely remodeled, right down to the menu. They no longer have the Tomato-Basil soup, which Peter Lee used to love. They also don't have all of the fresh-baked goods, nor the excellent pasta salad. I was kind of bummed by these changes.

Instead, they have an ice cream bar, and pizzas and hamburgers. I ordered a short stack of pancakes with bacon.

Things change, and you've got to be able to let go of the old stuff and try the new. I'll always miss the old stuff, but I would be willing to ride back to Henpeck Market for more of those excellent pancakes.

From there, I continued west towards Leiper's Fork, taking Bear Creek up towards Theta before turning back south on Sycamore to Johnson's Hollow Road. It was getting hot, and I had 40 miles in, so I picked up the Harpeth River Ride route in Burwood and on to Thompson Station. I topped off my bottles with ice, then headed through Bethesda, over Pulltight Hill, and up to College Grove. I filled bottles again, then went east and north via Rocky Glade, Hill, and Patterson, before turning on to Rehobath Road.

There are some roads that are worth the trouble it takes to get there. Rehobath is one of these. The Patterson end of it was great, but at the other end it comes out on Murfreesboro Road where there is no shoulder and two lanes full of fast cars. Knowing that there was just under a mile of that up ahead, I still had a great time rolling down the smooth pavement of Rehobath and through the gentle shady descent on this lovely quiet lane.

At the Almaville Market, I again topped off my bottles with ice before rolling on to Independent Hill. The heat and my lack of conditioning was getting to me as I climbed this road towards McCanless, promising myself that the break that I would get with the gradual downhill trend on Sanford Road would be worth the steep pitches. It was.

I had met my minimum mileage before I got to Nolensville Road, so I stayed on that up to Brittain, Waller, and then Concord Pass. The bike computer hit 91 when I stumbled off the bike into my garage back home, just past noon. After a shower (and a brief collapse on the bed, forced to a painful end by a nasty leg cramp), I checked the weather online. It was 104 degrees.

Maybe next time I'll just do the overnight double century.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Random Tour Thoughts

I don't know very many cyclists that don't follow the Tour de France every July. It's the world's biggest bike race, although I don't find it as interesting as many of the spring classics. Most of us could never ride as fast as those professionals do, and probably wouldn't even be very comfortable packed into the tight peleton. I know that I would hate to do one of those climbs through a tunnel of people cheering in my face, throwing water on me, and so forth ... but I guess it's better than having somebody throw tobacco spit on me.

Usually, when RandoGirl and I watch the Tour, we watch it on the DVR. We record the morning's live feed, and then fast forward through the commercials (the dog that buys insurance is very cute this year, and the song is catchy, but after the 10th time in one hour anything gets old). We also fast-forward through the flat stuff, and the commercials that masquerade as features (George Hincapie did not look sincere when he was talking about Easton wheels) and anytime Gogo talks. I'm sorry ... I know that he raced with Kent Bostick, who is kind of local, but Todd Gogulski makes me uncomfortable. He's like the buck-toothed guy at a party that is trying way too hard to make the pretty girl like him. He knows he's the new kid there, and that (unlike Paul and Bobke) he never raced the Tour himself. He seems to know what he's talking about, though, and will hopefully someday get over his inferiority complex.

I've also been watching the Tour this year on my iPad, using NBC's Tour de France All Access app. Last week, I had it on a few days at work, mostly just listening while I "worked." It's the same stuff that they show on Versus, but without the commercials (the dog ones -- you still get the George-loves-Easton ones). There's not much Bobke, which is a bummer, but for that you have to watch the evening show.

What did we ever do before the Internet?

The downside of all this access is that we obviously have too much media on the road with the riders this year. Between motorcycles and cars hitting riders, we also get too much film of riders starting to relieve themselves. Every night, you get a shot of some riders pulling over to the side and Phil says something about how somebody may be in a bit of bother, and then they turn to the side of the road and start to pull down the front of their bib shorts, and the camera moves away just in time. I even saw one guy in a breakaway actually move to the side and -- still riding -- begin to pee. This is why you never touch a bike racer's saddle without putting on nitrile gloves first.

Speaking of television cars hitting cyclists, I'm not really happy with the way that they're dealing with the one that hit Juan-Antonio Flecha and (by proxy) Johnny Hoogerland. Everyone seems fine with the driver's excuse that he had to come over to avoid hitting that tree, but watch the footage and you'll see that there are trees all along that side of the road.

So, he's "surprised" that one tree might come a little closer to the edge of the road? And, rather than maybe scrape the side of his car, he decides to whack Flecha instead? I just keep thinking about the thousands of times when I've been passed by a car in a blind curve, and I've wondered then, "What if there had been a truck coming the other way?" Would the soccer mom with two kids in the back choose to test the collision claims on her Range Rover, or would it be "Bye-bye, RandoBoy."

Johnny Hoogerland seems willing to turn the other cheek (the one that didn't get 20 stitches from barbed wire), but I'm afraid that the car-driving population will watch this and think, "Well, he got through that all right." I'd rather that the car-driving population watch this and think, "From now on, I will make sure that the road is clear before I begin to pass a bicyclist."

A man's gotta dream.

As to the race itself, it's been fun. Contador looks like a spoiled brat, and I'm kind of glad. Paul and Phil talk about his "bad luck," but you make your own luck. Lance won seven straight, and maybe some of that was good luck -- he didn't have any flats during that stretch, but how much of that was due to using the right tires at the right pressure and not riding over broken glass? Lance prepared. He test-rode the course. He had a great team -- both on and off the course. And he had the right equipment.

It's a poor carpenter that blames his hammer. Don't throw your bike into the ditch.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ten Questions

One of the keys to becoming a famous blogger is to post at least once a week. As one of the tallest ultra-cycling bloggers in middle Tennessee, I must apologize for falling short of the mark last week. I have two excuses:
  1. I've been really, really busy.
  2. This busy-ness has kept me from riding, which is kind of what this blog is about. Since I didn't have any cool rides to write about, why waste your reading time?
Nonetheless, irregardless, and avada kedavra in perpetuem, there have been a few things going on lately that I could tell you about. In the interest of brevity, however, I'm going to use the literary device known as "Ten Questions with ..." to tell you about them. Bicycling Magazine regularly does this to interview luminaries of the cycling world -- or daytime soap opera stars who recently completed their first t-shirt ride -- because it requires no face-time and can be done via an email exchange with the soap opera stars publicist.

For today's column, the part of soap opera star will be played by RandoBoy (RB). Bicycling Magazine is BM, of course. This explains why every edition has an article telling you how to "Lose Five Pounds Fast," since the magazine is mostly crap.

BM: Hey! What is that supposed to mean?

RB: I mean that people should go ride rather than sit on their butts reading about this great ceviche recipe made by a chef who used to be a Cat 5 racer. You want to lose weight? Stop carrying around some stupid magazine.

By the way, that counts as one of your questions.

BM: Wow. Okay, then. Why have you been so busy lately?

RB: Well, work's been a little busy, but mostly it's house stuff. We've got some major projects going on there.

BM: Can you tell me more about them?

RB: No.

BM: Why not?

RB: Because they're secret. You're running out of questions.

BM: Why didn't you do a blog about Memphis?

RB: I did. The one about not riding most of that week so Max could race Saturday.

BM: But why didn't you write about the race afterwards?

RB: Well, Max barely avoided a crash going into the last kilometer, so he ended up in 18th place. I didn't want to write about that -- it just sounded "whiney."

BM: But didn't he win the time trial?

RB: Yeah, he did okay there.

BM: Okay?! He finished with an average speed over 30 mph, right?

RB: Yeah, but it was just four miles.

BM: Still, that was much better than last year, wasn't it?

RB: Last year, Memphis was his first time trial. This year, he had a time trial bike, the helmet, more experience ... all that stuff.

BM: So, why didn't Max write a blog crowing about it?

RB: Because it's only funny when he barely wins something. It's much more funny when he loses and makes excuses. When he actually does something that lives up to the name "Max Watzz" then ... well, it just isn't as funny.

BM: Well, who died and made you the king of comedy?

RB: Sorry, but you've used up your questions.