Monthly Archives: March 2012

Utilitaire 12: Winners Announced! Finally!

The Utilitaire 12 was all about celebrating everyday errands and cycling trips. Utility cyclists have figured out ways to use our bikes, our legs, and our own steam to live various aspects of our lives, carry stuff from point A to point B, and get things done. I think that deserves some recognition.

People rode to haircuts, Goodwill, bike shops, the dentist, movies, museums, concerts, basketball games, the post office, FridayCoffeeClub, and libraries. They coffeeneured, lunched, dined, attended various volunteer and community meetings, and went grocery shopping. They even rode to bike rides (meta-utilitairing!). People took photos and diligently filled out paperwork.

Utilitairing with the Burley Trailer

I’m still not through synthesizing everyone’s utilitaire adventures. Once I do, I’ll be back to share some of what I learned from people’s experiences. In the meantime, it’s time to announce the successful Utilitaire 12 challengers and to also recognize those who may not have completed 12 utilitaires, but made a valiant run for it.

Participants represented four distinct countries: Canada; England; Germany; and the United States. Utilitaires took place in nine ten states, and the District of Columbia! The field split evenly between women and men. All told,

  • 15 individuals completed the Utilitaire 12; and
  • 9 10 participants earned an honorable mention.

Of the 15 who completed the Utilitaire 12, six also  completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge I ran late last year. Keith Snyder, the editor and publisher of Ride, will be providing five of these six individuals a copy of his book. Ride is a collection of short fiction stories about bicycling. I’ve yet to read it, but it is on my ebook wish list. Thank you, Keith!

Winners and honorable mentions will receive a special Utilitaire patch. This heart-shaped embroidered patch with the image of the world inside of it captures the essence of the Utilitaire 12 for me.  Love for the bike, dedication to cycling to useful destinations, and seeing the earth from the perch of your saddle. And from a practical point of view, it affixes easily to bike bags and panniers.

Utilitaire Patch

On to the winners and honorable mentions!

Coffeeneur and Utilitaire 12 Champions

BikesNCoffee Control Card

Utilitaire 12 Winners

Biking to work through the blossoms

Honorable Mention

Big congrats to everybody who made the Utilitaire 12 such a resounding success! I’ll be in touch to deliver everyone’s prizes.

Thanks again to all who participated and those who followed our journeys. It was great fun!

Utilitaire to be Announced Tomorrow!

Waylaid again… because I became an aunt. Wahoo!

A Utilitaire Prevented me from Posting the Utilitaire 12 Winners

I intended to announce the Utilitaire 12 winners today, but Felkerino’s and my double whammy utilitaire to dinner and the grocery store kept it from happening.

Utilitaire to the grocery store via Arlington Cemetery

I don’t want to give the Utilitaire 12 short shrift so I’ll be doing a longer post about it tomorrow. I will give you this teaser, however.

  • 14 individuals completed the Utilitaire 12; and
  • 9 participants earned an honorable mention.

Additionally, six of the 14 who successfully completed the Utilitaire 12 also came out winners during the Coffeeneuring Challenge I ran late last year. Special bonus prize!

D.C. Public Library designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

In almost unrelated news, did you know that Tuesday was the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe? Thanks to Pedal ‘n Purl’s utilitaire to the D.C. Public Library, I learned that Mies was the library’s architect. Pretty cool!

Until tomorrow!

In for a Penny, In for a Pound. Of Fleche, That Is.

While some people ride brevets throughout the year, Felkerino and I tend to do most of our of brevets during what we call the “Spring Season,” which basically consists of the four-brevet Super Randonneur series and the Fleche.

One of the big kickoffs to spring is the Fleche, as it is usually one of the first events on the D.C. Randonneurs ride calendar and, compared to brevets, seems slightly lower key.

For those unfamiliar with this strange ride with some historic significance, the Fleche (French for arrow) is a 24-hour team cycling event. Audax Club Parisien started the Fleche in 1947 as an homage to French rider Paul de Vivie, Mr. Velocio himself.

Team Velo Espresso Gelato (c) Bill Beck

Typically completed over Easter weekend, the Fleche must be at least 360K in length. Teams may have separate points of departure, but all arrive at the same destination point after their 24-hour adventure. Historically, groups had to ride point-to-point routes, as opposed to loop routes, but that has changed over time. Another original concept of the Fleche was for teams to challenge themselves to cover as much distance as possible.

Some teams still ride point-to-point routes and try to cover ambitious distances during the course of their Fleche, throwing in some significant climbs along the way. Others stick close to or slightly over the 360K distance, traverse moderate terrain, and complete loop courses. A loop course simplifies transportation to the start and designing a mellow-ish route close to the minimum distance generally allows for a slightly more leisurely pace and any mechanicals along the way.

Fleche teams can be composed of three to five bikes, and at least three bikes have to finish in 24 hours in order to receive an official finish. Because it is a team event, teammates must start and finish the ride together.

Since I started randonneuring in 2006, I’ve participated in four Fleches. Three of the four have been on my single bike, one was on tandem, and each one has been with a different team. Two were point-to-point routes and two were loop courses.

I look forward to the Fleche each year because it emphasizes several things I like about bicycling. Camaraderie. Food. A scenic journey that offers both a physical and mental challenge.

Team Uncorked (c) Bill Beck

I’ve completed each of my Fleche rides in various physical and mental states. My first ride, with the Randonnettes, I had no idea what I was doing and was the slowest member of my team, which slowed the team down, too. While my teammates were patient about my lack of speed, my inability to ride easily with them stressed me out.

When I rode a with the Gray Ghosts, I was in pretty good shape and well-matched in terms of pace with my fellow Fleche-mates. The only hitch in that ride was when a teammate and I went off cue for a total of 6 or 7 miles, causing us to almost miss dinner. Oops.

My third Fleche outing, as a member of Team Uncorked, came after an 18-month hiatus from randonneuring and resulted in some difficulty in maintaining speed and energy throughout the ride due to a lack of overall fitness. There was some unpleasant vomiting toward the end as a result, but I did officially finish with my team.

Two years ago, Felkerino and I rode a Fleche together on tandem with two other cycling friends and had a great time laughing, caffeinating, and eating our way around the Mid-Atlantic. Team Velo, Espresso, Gelato. That about sums up that ride, though I don’t recall any gelato.

When I consider Fleche participation, I now try to make sure I keep in mind the following things:

  • Point-to-point courses are not my favorite. While they are the most fun to ride and I definitely feel like I’m on a real journey as opposed to a big 24-hour ride-about, the logistics of getting my bike and me to a starting point about 200 miles away is a pain. Loop courses simplify this aspect of the fleche.
  • I want to cover at least the minimum required Fleche distance, but I don’t need my team to win the region for kilometers covered on a Fleche.
  • Undulating terrain is perfect for a Fleche. Hilly, unforgiving terrain? Not so much.
  • It’s all about the 22-hour control.

About that last point. No matter how you ride your Fleche, all riders must control in somewhere at the 22-hour mark of the ride. If you don’t get, you get the big DQ (disqualified, ahhh!).

After the 22-hour control, riders must pedal at least 25 additional kilometers before they complete their ride. At 24 hours, at least three bikes from the team must finish and have covered the minimum 360-kilometer distance.

Team Velo Espresso Gelato. Time out for lunch. (c) Bill Beck

During my first Fleche, I had no comprehension of the 22-hour control. I just thought we needed to make it to the end of our route by the time 24 hours passed. I was so uneducated then, ha! Now I know that the 22-hour point of the ride is the one point that matters.

When I rode with Team Uncorked, my lack of conditioning (and vomiting) caused a bit of a delay at the 22-hour control. Because of that, we ended up finishing the ride at a different control than the official finish, about three-five miles away from the official end of the ride. While acceptable to finish at an alternate location, teams still must cover at least 25 additional kilometers over the final two hours. We finished just over the nose of the minimum distance.

I’ve heard many people extoll on the upsides of the Fleche, but they aren’t all a pedal through the park. (Did my modified pun work? No, I didn’t think so.) Good base level fitness is required to keep your Fleche from becoming a ride of desperation (see my Team Uncorked writeup).

The weather can be… well, you know. See this writeup from our friends in Severna Park for an epic weather tale.

Riding all night can also tire a person out. I hate to admit it, but this no-sleep-til-the-Fleche-ends has gradually become more of a factor for me as I age (shh, don’t tell anyone). It takes me several days to recover from the sleep deprivation as well as sleep schedule confusion brought on by a 24-hour ride.

As I mentioned, though, Fleche events don’t always involve vomiting and they can be super-fun. I think there’s something inherent about the magic of the Fleche construct that lends itself to great stories.

All teams have names and people have come up with some great titles. And people love to come up with great Fleche puns for team names, too (see here, for a good example). Tee hee!

Team members stick together and finish together. You can really get to know people. Because you are most likely covering fewer miles over that 24-hour time span than if you were doing a brevet, you can sometimes move along more leisurely than a brevet. Night riding is a bonding experience and, if the weather cooperates it can be sublime. Seeing all the teams at the finish is a blast, and food after 24 hours of riding really tastes awesome!

I’d love to have a few more miles in my legs for this one, but overall I feel pretty good, and I’m excited to join team Table for Five’s 2012 Fleche adventure on April 14.

There’s so much good stuff to share about the Fleche that I’m sure I’ve overlooked something so please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences to the comments. Thanks to Bill for all the photos of rides gone by, and I hope to see some of you at the D.C. Randonneurs Fleche rendezvous point!

Cherry Blossom Photos Friday

Life has been busy and full.

The cherry blossoms in D.C. have prettied up the city so that I’ve been spending as much time as I can indulging in their beauty. Who can sit inside and scribble when it’s so gorgeous outside? Not me!

Instead of narrative, I thought I’d share some text-lite moments from this week with you.

A relaxing Monday morning moment with the Surly and the cherry blossoms by 17th and Constitution.

My friend and I thought we should start a photo company. We’re going to call it Cheesy Monument Photos, Inc. Taken Wednesday around midday.

In other news, the zombies visited the blossoms. They did not understand the cherry blossom hoopla, and moaned about how they were too pink, too fluffy, and too sunny for their tastes. Life is hard for the zombies.

Thursday morning fog at Independence and 15th. A cyclist taking a photo of a cyclist taking a picture of the Monument and blossoms. META! They were stunning today.

“I’m grabbing the Jefferson Memorial. Take that, cherry trees and tourists!” Zombies can get so upset by sunny spring days and flowers. Taken Thursday afternoon.

Everybody was on Hains Point Thursday evening. Cars, roadies, tourists, and Felkerino. We all were treated to a gorgeous big orange sunset, and the roadies even let Felkerino draft them for a few minutes with his SimpleOne. What a day!

That’s all the news from your local cherry blossom blog station. Next weekend, more utilitaire goodness comes your way. Winners announced!

Did someone say weekend? Why yes, please!

When All’s Right with the World

Sometimes, not that often, everything shakes out perfectly.

Felkerino and I launched from home early to enjoy the peak of the cherry blossoms and avoid some of the crowds. Thanks to the lightning and thunderstorm earlier in the morning, we had most of Hains Point to ourselves.

Pre-work cherry blossom ride

Midway through our blossom-canopied lap, who should run into us pass by, but fellow commuter Rick B. He was riding carbon, but had no qualms about altering his pace to chat with us.

Around the Point with Rick and Felkerino.

Today was a peak day for the blossoms and they did not disappoint. Nonstop beautiful!

A work interlude interrupted my day, but after that ended I headed back to the Point for afternoon laps. Due to this being a certain day, I decided to ride my age. During Operation Ride My Age, I serendipitously met up with my friend Michael H., who kept me company for two or three laps. The miles passed easily with the good company.

After we parted ways I practiced my shadow panda skills, which I believe are underdeveloped. They still need work, but I liked this one. It’s a seasonal shadow panda.

Seasonal shadow panda

I then popped off a few of my favorite on-bike photos, the danger panda. Oh I love thee, danger panda.

Danger Panda on Hains Point

Felkerino met me and we rode through the cherry blossom fans up to Northwest for dinner. On our return, I successfully completed Operation Ride My Age and we stopped at the Hirshorn.

We had not planned to stop at the museum, but a new exhibit drew us to it. Song 1, by Doug Aitken. While the exhibit officially opens on March 22, somehow we got a sneak peek. Surreal, perspective-altering, creative, and wonderful. I felt like I’d received a gift when I saw this piece. If you live in the District, you must go.

Song 1, by Doug Aitken

Song 1, by Doug Aitken

Some days the city chews you up and spits you out, sucking casually on your bones like they were toothpicks. Other days, it whispers sweet nothings and convinces you there is no better place to be. Today, all was right with the world and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Run Like You Stole a Pot of Gold: the D.C. Rock and Roll Marathon

2012 Rock and Roll Marathon Bib and Finisher’s Medal

This past Saturday I left the bike in the Dining Room Bike Shop, laced up my Montrails, and headed out to participate in the D.C. Rock and Roll Marathon. I like this 26.2-mile course because it stays within the District boundaries and traverses all of its four quadrants. In addition, it is a rolling course with a few actual hills along the way.

The course is a double loop, which I did not like in the past because it makes it tempting to throw in the towel at 13.1 miles. I also have a love/hate relationship with the fact that the course passes my house at around 16 miles which, depending on my state of mind, can be a tempting time to end the run.

Two years ago when I ran this course it was known as the National Marathon. It was a much smaller event then, which was one of the reasons it appealed to me. I was unprepared for the throngs of people running this year. I think now that it has become a Rock and Roll event it’s gone big time. Around 21,000 people registered for either the full or half-marathon distance, with 3,129 people completing the full marathon and 16,291 doing the half.

Oh well. I’ll put up with the crowds. I still prefer a local run that does not require me to take a road trip or drive a car.

Metro opened early for runners, and we were immediately treated to a train breakdown. Welcome to Washington! Fortunately, the delay only lasted 20 minutes or so, and the runners waiting with me all made it to the start in plenty of time.

Participants were sent off in waves and it took about 25 minutes after the official clock started for my wave to cross the start line. Thank God for chip times, or whatever those things are called now. D-tags or something.

For the first 13.1 miles, the race was shoulder to shoulder. I stuffed my headphones in my ears. Sometimes I feel that wearing headphones and listening to music detracts from the run experience, but with all the people and crazy energy around me I preferred to stay insulated from the crowded running madness. Since I am a middle-of-the-pack runner, I never long for company, whether I like it or not.

For the first half of the marathon, I spent a lot of time enjoying my tunes, managing my speed, banking miles, and trying to find real estate to run. I didn’t talk to anyone except #bikeDC tweep @ebooksyearn, who was out spectating in the Northwest quadrant at the 8-mile mark or so.

As I mentioned, the marathon course is a double loop and I was so excited to see all of the half marathoners peeling off toward the finish just before mile 13. Bye bye crowds! The runners thinned noticeably and I felt good about being out. The sun shone warmly and the spectators were out in full force.

I have never run either a Rock and Roll Marathon or a run on St. Patrick’s Day and it really was a party. We started amid a wave of green interspersed with other colors. Many people dressed up, including spectators. I had several moments where I wondered who was more of a spectacle, the people running or the festive people outfitted in green and carrying posters who were out watching and supporting us.

Because I had not trained sufficiently for this marathon (my longest long run was 12 miles. Yes, I’m serious!), I left the camera at home and dedicated myself exclusively to completing the race. I did not need any distractions. Instead, I took a lot of great photos with my mind cam.

One enthusiastic spectator waved a sign that read, “Run Like You Stole a Pot of Gold!” That was my favorite of the day. Another sign said, “Dig Deep,” and had drawn shovels on it. Still another noted that “Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever.” I recalled those messages whenever I felt down, especially late in the run, when I suffered a side stitch and a low moment. The wall, I think some runners call it.

The day went smoothly up until we passed my house. I was so worried that my legs would autopilot me back home, but they didn’t. I continued on the marathon course. Good job, legs. I told the group around me, “We just rode past my house.” Yes, I said rode. The runners gave me a pat on the back for not going home.

After noodling around Fort McNair, we passed the Washington Nationals Stadium (miles 18 and 19) and then padded over the bridge to Anacostia to run the next few miles.

This part of the route was pretty, as we spent a lot of time in a park area. However, it is also when my side stitch cropped up, and my mind reminded me about my lack of long run preparation and started yammering at me about all the other fun things I could be doing that did not involve running a marathon.

Felkerino was off doing a 200K with the D.C. Randonneurs and I wondered if he might be having more fun than I was.

My place slowed, then transitioned to a walk. At mile 22, I felt pretty down about my physical state. Then I pulled out my headphones, looked around, and felt the sun and breeze on my face. It was an awesome day to be outside and so special to be doing a marathon. I wasn’t hurting, just a little tired and depleted.

The sweet feel of the sun and wind, and the fact that I had run 22 miles sank in, and my side stitch dissipated. I picked up my pace again, plugged back into my headphones, and prepped for the final hill up Minnesota Avenue. This street offers a long gradual climb at around mile 25 that makes a runner feel like the marathon finish is truly earned.

We passed a couple of bands, and some cheerleaders from local schools that shouted marathon-specific cheers. They were so cute and I thought it was great that they’d adapted their cheers for us. They included helpful phrases I turned into mantras for my last two miles. “You can do it, just put your mind to it!”

With my side stitch gone, spirits lifted, and the finish so close, I felt like I zipped through the final miles. That wasn’t true, I was running 10:30 miles, but I felt good.

The crowds encouraged us in and I finished in 4 hours, 40 minutes. It wasn’t a fast time (I’m not a fast runner), but I was happy with it. I finished injury-free and in good spirits.

Up until the week before the marathon, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the starting line and seriously considered riding a D.C. Randonneurs 200K brevet instead. After shelling out my ridiculous entry fee ($90 or so), though, I decided to dig in and try to earn the t-shirt and finisher’s medal. I’d been doing lots of cross-training including shorter runs, weight training, and other cardio so I felt I had the base fitness to do the run without too much discomfort.

I don’t consider myself much of a runner, but I really enjoy mixing up cycling with other activities and events.

I like the marathon distance because it takes less time than a 200K, but feels like one heck of a workout and it works my muscles and body in ways that are distinct to cycling (as my quads are currently reminding me).

Also, despite the crowdedness of these events, it’s a rush to run 26.2 miles and have people cheer you on the whole way, especially when faced with a low moment. Someone’s smile, clapping, and words of encouragement– You can do it! Looking good runners! You’ve got this!– can provide a much-needed energy boost. That’s an awesome feeling.

Link Love Monday: Spring has Sprung Edition

Hope you escaped outdoors to enjoy some of the amazing weekend weather. Yowza! Welcome Spring!

Felkerino amid the Cherry Blossoms on Hains Point

I’ve been doing a little blog catch-up reading and found some good things to share. I couldn’t wait until Friday so they’re going up today. Please enjoy.

  • Biking in Heels, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, just happened to be walking by as Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington was getting under way. Perfect timing! This ride starts in Massachusetts and ends in D.C. for the National Bike Summit. Our own #bike DC commuter and Surly Troll owner, Pete Beers (Pedro Gringo), is participating in the ride, and he appears in one of her photos. Like I said, perfect timing!
  • Tales from the Sharrows shared a few ideas about behavior to consider while commuting. I’m on board with all of them, though I’m still mulling over his comment about the overuse of bullet points. What? I love bullet points!
  • Will Bike for Change (or Pie) recently blogged about the failings of Street Smart, a pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign in the D.C. area. Good stuff here.
  • A helpful piece from Commute Orlando about how and where to cycle when trucks are in your midst.
  • Sue Macy, the author of author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flats Tires Along the Way), is the keynote speaker at the National Women Cycling Forum in D.C. on March 20. I wish I could attend, but I’m hoping to attend the reception at Busboys and Poets. See you there?
  • Photographer Gregg Bleakney recently had some of his aerial cycling photo work published in Paved magazine. (Some of you might remember Gregg from The Daily Randonneur Randonneur Photo Contest.) Super cool shots.

I don’t know about where you live, but the commutes in the District are a little bananas lately. Breathe deeply, take time to smell the flowers (achoo!), and ride safe!

Utilitaire 12: Final Day!

Today, March 16, is the FINAL day for completing the Utilitaire 12. If you’ve been participating in the challenge you are probably well aware of that, but just in case it escaped your mind and you still have a utilitaire pending, today (Friday) is your day!

Community Meeting Utilitaire (FridayCoffeeClub) at Swing's

People have through March 18 (that is, midnight in your area or before I wake up on the 19th) to send me their paperwork.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and seeing all the different types of riding people do in lots of different places. I also added some new blogs to my regular reading list.

As of this post, I’ve received eight submissions and I look forward to more in the next few days.

Zombies in the Bike Lane

Wishing everybody a great weekend, and all the best to those getting out for brevets this weekend!

Bikes to Like: John R.’s Surly Long Haul Trucker

If you regularly read this blog, you probably know of my great affection for the Surly Long Haul Trucker. My Surly has proven itself to be a comfortable, reliable companion that doesn’t talk too much and will always offer to help carry my stuff.

This past year I met John R., who writes the thoughtful and engaging Porta-John blog, and is also rides a Surly for around-town riding as well as century rides. His bike has a beautiful setup and is in my favorite color Truckachino. Of course, I had to ask him if he’d guest post for me. As you can see, he said yes. Thanks, John!

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I ride a 58cm Surly Long Haul Trucker decked out in the truckaccino color, SKS fenders, a Brooks B17 “Imperial” saddle, Jandd and Nashbar racks, and Acorn Boxy Rando and Medium bags. I bought it in April of 2010 at Ace Wheelworks in Somerville, Massachusetts, as a present to myself for successfully passing the Professional Engineering licensing exam (which I hadn’t actually taken yet – thankfully I passed!).

John and the Surly LHT at the D.C. Randonneurs ’12 Populaire

2. Where do you ride it?

Before I moved to DC in February 2011 I generally rode through the northern suburbs of Boston with occasional commutes to my office (If it wasn’t 46 miles round trip, I would have commuted more!). Over the last year I’ve ridden through DC a lot to explore the rich history and culture of my new home, including exploring new shops, bars and restaurants in different neighborhoods, educational trips to monuments and making new friends along the way.

I also really enjoy riding the Anacostia Tributary Trails and through southern Maryland. With any luck I’ll be able to do a handful of commutes to/from work in Tysons Corner this spring and summer.

The Truckachino Surly Long Haul Trucker

3. What do you like about your bike?

The quality that I most appreciate from my bike is that it serves nearly every function that I can imagine, and does all of them reasonable well. Weekend tours, centuries, riding around town, getting groceries, exercise – it is well equipped to handle all of these things. In fact, since I have had this bike I’ve gone from owning 4 bikes, to 2 (and one is rarely used). Don’t mistake me, I would love to increase the number of bikes I own, but given my limited storage space it is a pleasure to have an all-in-one bike like the Surly.

Another look at the Surly LHT

4. If you had to describe your bike in one word, what would it be?

Fun. This bike allows me to explore, to challenge myself, to spend time with friends, and turn mundane errands into adventures. Who could ask for anything more?

5. Fenders or no fenders and why?

Fenders, though I can count on one hand the actual days that I’ve been riding and needed them.

Editors note: Uh oh. Now you’ve done it!

6. What is one of your favorite memories with this bicycle?

I’ve had a lot of great memories, but the one that immediately comes to mind is 4 day, 3 night tour Kate and I rode in the fall of 2010 from Plymouth, MA to Provincetown, MA – along the entire length of Cape Cod. We shared a lot of ups and downs on that ride, hills became mountains under our loaded frames, high heat and not enough water, uncomfortable campsites – but also cold beers and ice creams, seafood dinners, and spending time together motivating each other to keep pushing on and sharing an experience that we won’t forget anytime soon.

7. Does your bike have a name? If so, what is it?

I suppose that my bike is called “the Surly” pretty often, but I wouldn’t consider that a name.

The only bike that I’ve played a part in naming was a Jamis Coda called “Shelby”… named because “Shelby comin’ ’round the mountain” – she sure as heck won’t be comin’ over the mountain!

8. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

My Acorn Boxy Rando Bag. It has space for nearly everything, it looks good, and is well constructed by folks right in the USA.

The delicious Acorn Boxy Rando bag

9. If your bike could talk, what is one thing it would say to you?

“Ride me more.”