Monthly Archives: April 2012

#30daysofbiking Roundup

For the past couple of years, I have heard about the social media cycling phenomenon known as 30 Days of Biking. The point of the activity is to ride your bike every day in April. Then tweet, blog, or share it somehow on the interweb. Pretty simple, no?

#30daysofbiking Panda Shot

I decided to join in the fun and began the month of April with gusto, tweeting pics of my rides and tagging them with the #30daysofbiking hashtag. I even began a flickr set.

Work got busy, the brevet season kicked in, and my organized approach to #30daysofbiking went right out the window. I continued to participate, but not as tweetily.

I commuted with Felkerino:

Felkerino by the Lincoln

Took a few panda shots:

Every day is a good day for a panda shot

Rode with the zombies:

Bike lane zombie

Spent some time riding with the D.C. Randonneurs:

Living the randonneur lifestyle on the DCR Fleche

Warrenton 300K Brevet with Christian, Rick, and Felkerino

And I certainly can’t forget one of my favorite bicycling destinations, #fridaycoffeeclub:

Friday Coffee Club

Departing from Friday Coffee Club

I tracked my miles and days of riding, and my totals for April ended up as follows:

  • 26 days of biking
  • 894 miles ridden
The riding fell out into the following activities:
  • 1 fleche (238 miles);
  • 1 300K brevet (189);
  • 2 centuries;
  • 19 commutes; and
  • other miscellaneous stuff.

I’m happy with that. I took four days off the bike because I didn’t feel like riding and figured why fight it. I ended up walking those four days instead, which I’ve also heard is good for you :).

Most of all, I enjoyed 30 Days of Biking because I liked checking in on the rides of other tweeps and bloggers. It’s cool to see where we all ride and how we use our bikes, be it for transpo, utility, sport, or a mix of all three.

D.C. Randonneurs Warrenton, VA 300K: In Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall

Now that I’ve caught up on sleep, uploaded my photos, and enjoyed a brilliant sunny warm Sunday I can say I truly enjoyed Saturday’s  300K with the D.C. Randonneurs.

George, Christian, and Rick on the Warrenton 300K

This brevet, which starts in Warrenton, Virginia, is a rolling course that traverses some beautiful Virginia farm country. Full ride description here. It actually reminded me of Paris-Brest-Paris terrain. No major climbs, but enough hills to make you feel like you got a good workout.

Our day was mostly cloudy interspersed with cameo appearances of sunshine, light rain, and varying temperatures between 40 through the low 50s throughout the day.

I won’t take you on a cue-by-cue of this ride. Instead, I’ll hit the highlights so that you can get about the rest of your day.

  • The Urge to Quit

The day started out innocently (and early!) enough. A 5a.m. rollout from Warrenton, which at first is more descent than ascent. Our tandem zipped along spiritedly until around mile 40 where we stopped to delayer and soon after I began to have a rough time of it.

I tensed up and began to feel overwhelmed about the ride. We had only gone 40 miles. We were never going to get there. AND we were going to get rained on.

I was definitely viewing the world with a glass half empty mindset.

Bye bye friends! An early stop on the Warrenton 300K

I then thought about quitting, which I NEVER do. I totally believe that when I start an event, I commit to doing everything I can to complete the event. I also go into it believing that I will finish. It’s self-defeating to start with anything less.

Somehow on this ride, though, poisonous thoughts entered my mind.

I’ve been doing these rides for almost eight years now. What’s the need to do another one?

I have nothing to prove. It’s not that nice outside. What would be the harm in bailing? I’d still end up with 80 miles on the day. That’s not a bad day on the bike, is it?

Those thoughts FREAKED me out. They had no place on this ride. My head was not in the game. I was in no physical pain or discomfort. I was simply lacking in desire, with 150 miles to go in the ride. Great.

We took a short break for a coke and a bite of food. Felkerino kept steadily steering us forward, I pedaled through, and gradually I started to feel better. Our pedaling picked up a rhythm, and by the time we rolled into the first control at mile 65, life was looking up.

I was fully engaged in the ride again and my brain sent me no more distracting and unhelpful messages about quitting. Thank goodness, or it could have been a long day out there.

After the ride, Felkerino told me he thought I’d been bonking, but I’m still not sure. I think that I did not adequately prepare mentally for the day. Food for thought. (Get it? Bonking? Food for thought? Ha ha!)

  • Good Company Makes all the Difference

Our early miles were spent with Bill B. and Kelly, who are always amicable company. And I even got a meta-randonneuring shot of Bill taking a picture of Felkerino and me before we all parted ways.

Meta-Randonneuring Moment: Bill B. taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

Shortly before the first control, Felkerino and I began to criss-cross with George W., Rick of North Carolina, and Christian. Solid steady riders, easygoing, and pleasant to ride around. We chatted about bikes, Grand Bois tires, food, and weather. Sometimes we rode quietly in each other’s company.

650B Attack

It’s just lovely when you end up lopping off brevet miles in the company of others that share your enjoyment of cycling.

  • Oh Sun, How I Love Thee

This ride had some sun, lots of clouds, and a little rain. And not much wind, yippee!

It’s much easier to tackle a long ride on a warm sunny day. Fortunately, the sun came out enough throughout the day that I did not feel totally abandoned by it, but most of the day was cloudy.

A sunny spot on F.T. Valley Road

I also got to use my rain jacket some. I do love my rain jacket (Gore Tex Paclite), but like leaving it in the Carradice as opposed to wearing it much.

It’s surprising how much the sun can lift my spirits. Whenever it peeked out, I found myself reaching for my camera. That’s why my photo set makes our ride look deceptively sunny.

  • Dogs!

Lots of canine buddies who came out to meet and greet…

Hi, buddy!

Hi buddies!

And one who definitely looked like he wanted my leg for dinner.

EEEEEEEEEEEKK!!!

  • D.C. Randonneurs Brevets are Beautiful

Sometimes I can’t believe how close I live to such natural splendor. The Blue Ridge, Skyline Drive, historic battlefields, and the Catoctins. We’re so lucky!

Our club offers such beautiful rides, and yesterday’s was no exception.

Thanks to everybody who made it a good day! Oh, and Felkerino did a writeup, too. Check it out on The Daily Randonneur.

Urban Commuting: the Invisible Cyclist

Today I decided to take a post-work commute home through the White House Plaza across 17th Street and over to Georgetown.

Those of you familiar with this area know that, for drivers traveling east-bound, Pennsylvania Avenue T’s into 17th and the White House Plaza. The only traffic crossing drivers’ paths at 17th and Pennsylvania is either pedestrian or cyclist.

Riding along on the Surly LHT

As I exited the plaza and made my entry to cross 17th Street and continue onto Pennsylvania, a car approached from the opposite direction (at the T) to make a left. We both had the green light to go and the pedestrian signal indicated at least 10 seconds before the light change.

Something about the speed of the car gave me pause, and I touched my brakes as a cautionary measure. The car never saw me and bulldozed its way through the intersection right in front of me. I stood eyeball to eyeball with the passenger, and just shook my head as they zipped past.

This situation recalled a piece of advice someone had shared with me once. I think many cyclists have heard it. “Act like you’re invisible.” I don’t really agree with it, but I get the point that it’s trying to make.

I don’t think cyclists should act like they’re invisible, as this mentality has the potential to put a cyclist in a vulnerable situation. There are times to take the lane and act as visible as possible.

However, it’s also important to be cognizant that some people (particularly, people who are driving cars and SUVs and other vehicles that can possibly kill you) simply do not see people on bikes.

Today’s traffic scare wasn’t a super-close call, but close enough that it amped up my heart rate for the next hour or so. I rode extra-cautiously and burned in anger toward the driver. I had the green light and just as much of the right of way as did this driver. They should have been looking out for cyclists. GRRR!

Don’t they know the White House Plaza area is a main thoroughfare for cyclists? That we have rights to the road, too? Does this person have no respect for my life? I was ticked.

Whatever. Ultimately, I know I did the right thing by being aware of the driver, sensing that they wouldn’t stop, and grabbing the brakes. Infuriating? Yes, but I avoided getting hit and nothing bad happened.

The ride ended up being one of those reminder-type rides.

  • Remember commute trouble spots.
  • Remember that drivers don’t always yield to cyclists, even when it is supposedly the law.
  • Remember what’s important, i.e., my personal safety.

Sure, I could have pressed through the intersection, but it would have ended up with me being struck and who knows what else. I have no interest in my epitaph reading “She had the right of way.” I much prefer one that says something like “She was a good friend to people (and zombies).”

Brevet Season: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

With my first 2012 ACP 200K in the books and the D.C. Randonneurs fleche coming up this weekend, I concede that brevet season is upon us. That time of year where I start to burn the candle at both ends and try to act like everything is all part of my regular routine.

Felkerino on the 2012 Urbana 200K

Yes, it’s totally normal for me to get up at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday for a 200K, and then get up early the next day to ride another 50 to 100 miles.

Yes, it’s run of the mill for me to ride my bike for 24 hours straight over the weekend and then show up wide-eyed and alert at the office at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Yes, it’s business as usual to try to keep up with my regular weekday gym schedule despite the uptick in weekend miles. Why am I so tired? Hmmm… who can say?

Yes, I always feel this hungry. Are you going to eat that Peep or what?

Our brevet steed: the Co-Motion tandem

I enjoy the brevet season so much, yet it does make me dig into the reserves. I’m not one of those people that’s built for these big efforts on a regular basis.

It’s challenging to commit to the long rides (300K and longer) and not experience some constriction. We still have jobs, family, and other things (do I need to mention laundry again on this blog?) that demand care and feeding.

In some ways I think it helps that Felkerino and I ride the brevets together. We know first-hand the demands and fatigue that the brevet season can bring. On the other hand, we both get worn down by the exertion of the long rides and we have been known to feel frayed by our efforts.

I hope to be able to keep up some semblance of blogging during the season (somehow I’ve found a way to make it work in the past), but I know the most important things for me are: family; rest; training; food; bill-paying; and doing well at my j-o-b. Other things will take a back seat until our brevet goals are met.

If you’re out doing the rides this year, I’ll look for you on Twitter, Facebook, and/or the blogosphere. I wish everybody a healthy season of cycling. See you on the road, my friends.

400K Route Scouting in Pennsylvania

This weekend Felkerino and I headed into Pennsylvania to check out some roads for the upcoming D.C. Randonneurs 400K that we agreed to organize. It was a gorgeous day on the bike and I’m glad to have ridden farther out than my usual D.C. to Poolesville, Maryland loop.

Orchard country on the outbound

Our route took us from Emmitsburg, Maryland, into Adams County, the Michaux State Forest, a brief passing through Caledonia State Park, and up to Newville, Pennsylvania.

We then rode back through the Michaux State Forest into Pine Grove Furnace, climbed out of Pine Grove Furnace and reversed through the orchards to our starting point in Maryland.

About our Ride

Saturday was a gorgeous day to be a bike rider. While windy, the sun was toasty pleasant, and our route kept us sheltered from much of the direct headwind. The return trip? Tailwind tailwind tailwind.

Having traversed many of these roads only on the 400K, it was a nice change to do them on a normal century ride. My legs were fresher, and I wasn’t watching the sun go down.

Our ride also toured a bit through torture orchard country. The rows of fruit trees and early blooms popping out on the branches against the backdrop of big hills and greenery were quite picturesque, and they helped ease the pain of the grinding terrain.

A last shot of orchard country before my camera bit the dust.

I would have more orchard photos to show you, but my camera took an untimely tumble on a 40 mph downhill toward the later miles of the ride. Thus ended of my visual ride tale, though I have a fairly decent set of pics on flickr. (Yes, they say that camera, a Sony TX-5, is drop proof, but not quite that drop proof.)

The toughest climb of the day had to be the climb up 233 to Shippensburg Road. While most of it is a manageable grade, I totally forgot about the one pitch where Felkerino and I have to stand in the granny for an interminable amount of time while I wonder at each pedal stroke whether I have another one in me. I won’t forget that rise when we’re back doing the full checkout ride.

A Note on Ride Organizing

Felkerino and I have organized a ride in the past, the well-known Warrenton (aka Old Rag) 200K. Organizing a 200K is much easier, as it takes place over 13.5 hours, starts later in the day, and riders don’t travel as far.

A longer event, like the 400K, is more intimidating because: the event starts much earlier and ends many hours later than a 200K event; people have up to 27 hours to complete the course; places to fuel throughout the route become much greater considerations; and rider fatigue becomes more of a factor.

In previous years, our 400K route passed through a sub shop in Newville, Pennsylvania. However, that business closed and we were out scouting alternate options so that riders can still control in that same general area and our route can be preserved.

I’m happy we’re taking on this new challenge of organizing the 400K, as it provides a different lens on brevets. Sort of a “behind the scenes” perspective. One of the first things I’ve noticed is that, the challenges of our economic times are much more noticeable in smaller towns.

Communities that once had a gas station and a restaurant now have no restaurant and maybe a gas station that operates fewer hours per week than in the past. Places we could once count on as a control are no longer a going concern.

Downtown Newville, Pennsylvania

The dilemma ride organizers face is how to effectively navigate sticky wickets like these and still pull off a great route.

Do we run a staffed control and, if so, where? Do we stick with the same route and go without any services for a long stretch? Do we re-route to a larger community that might have more traffic yet offers more services?

Going through all this forethought makes me appreciate the work that the D.C. Randonneurs organizers and volunteers have done to make our rides beautiful and successful. And Felkerino and I are not even coming up with a new route; we’re just re-routing a small segment of it. Route design is truly an art!

I think our club prides itself on good courses that cross lightly traveled roads, and well-spaced controls that meet riders’ needs (food, restrooms, and a place to regroup if needed). As we plan and prepare for our 400K out of Frederick on May 26, Felkerino and I will keep all of those points in mind so that everyone can have a great ride.

Randonneur Rewind: Another Take on my First Year of Randonneuring

It’s hard for me to believe that I completed my first Super Randonneur series in 2005. That seems so long ago, yet it doesn’t feel like I’ve been randonneuring for that many years. Time is flying!

As the brevet season kicked off for Felkerino and me this past weekend, I started feeling a little nostalgic and excavated this post out of the archives.

It’s a first-year reflection on randonneuring as well as the touring rides Felkerino and I did with the well-known duo of Chuck and Crista. The highlight of that first year in 2005 included completion of the SR series as well as a bike tour to Niagara Falls with Chuck and Crista and friends, where we averaged over 90 miles a day. With bags!

I shared a couple of other posts of my early randonneuring days previously, but thought you might enjoy this one, too.

My first full year of riding with the D.C. Randonneurs is coming to a close. Thanks to falling in with this crowd, I more than doubled my cycling miles from last year, completed my first full brevet series, cycled up hills I previously believed were only for cars or pedestrians to scale, and made some new friends.

Living the life in 2005. (c) Steve and Lynn

Riding this past year has helped me see my world in a new way. I find riding a bicycle has made my environment more vivid and interactive.

Felkerino and I  spied hawks and bald eagles, we crossed the Appalachian Trail multiple times, and during our tour from D.C. to Niagara Falls we even saw a black bear.

I have felt the grade of a hill in my legs, befriended and fought with the wind, sweltered in the heat, and throbbed in pain in the cold. I recall a brevet where I watched the moon set, the sun rise, the sunset, the moonrise, and wondered whether that was crazy beautiful or simply crazy.

I scrutinize convenience stores and gas stations in new ways. I’ve learned that 12 packs of pop or beer and large bags of salt can also serve as rest stop furniture. I am now a huge fan of gas stations/convenience stores with seating areas and clean indoor bathrooms.

I discovered that some places serve coffee unfit for human consumption, which has made me appreciate the rare find of good coffee on the road.

I love it when we are at rest stops, people ask us how far we are riding, and we get to tell them “100 miles (or more)!”

People parceled out various comments or tidbits of advice throughout the year. They shared precious gems like, “GET OFF THE ROAD!” “It’s too hot to be riding your bike,” “It’s too cold to be out on a bike,” “Make sure you drink plenty of water,” and “You know they have cars now, right?”

Others told me stories of friends who rode across the country on a bicycle or participated in charity bike rides. One lady told us that we were “fit, not fat” for riding our bicycles.

I experienced the kindness of strangers in unexpected ways. When Ed and I broke our free hub eight miles into a cold weekend winter ride outside of Frederick, Maryland, a man in a pickup stopped as we were walking dejectedly back to the ride start and offered us a ride back. He carefully stowed the tandem in the back, we clambered in the front cab with him and his puppy, and he delivered us back to the car safe and sound!

During a December century we flatted at the 80 mile mark, and at least four people stopped and asked if we needed help or wanted a ride. (I thought a ride was a great idea, but Felkerino was having none of that!)

And of course, the randonneurs have been great support whenever I have had a mechanical. Just last week, Steve Ashurst and Lynn Ho stood faithfully by while we—alright, Felkerino– fixed a flat that occurred during the last four miles of our ride.

Riding tandem with Felkerino has made for lots of fun riding, both because I am never wanting for company (mostly a good thing), and because people really notice our tandem, the two seated machine of love and acrimony.

My final observations are a potpourri that has stuck in my mind as the year has passed.

  • People really can talk for hours about disc brakes.
  • Wearing wool does not prevent a person from developing unseemly body odor.
  • If a person says they are only going to wrench the bike for 10 minutes, it is seldom a true statement.
  • The descriptors “epic,” “scenic,” and “lovely” are really secret code words for “hilly,” “hilly,” and “more hilly.”
  • Just because you bought it during a rest stop doesn’t mean you should add it to your regular grocery list.
  • When the temperature is 18 degrees outside, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad day for a ride… for some people.
  • There is nothing sweeter than a good pre-ride cup of coffee, a rest stop cup of coffee, and a post-ride cup of coffee.

D.C. Randonneurs Urbana 200K: Feels like the First Time

Alec, Eric, and Mike on the Urbana 200K

Ride summary: Ride the rollers out of Urbana. Whee! First control in Union Bridge, Maryland. Pedal pedal. Climb 77 in Catoctin National Park. Climb. Climb climb climb. Descend. Grind through the rollers out of Smithsburg. Stop for a couple pics. Pedal through the fragrant countryside. Whoah, stinky! See eight cats in someone’s driveway. Eight! Control in State Line, Pennsylvania. Eat half a sandwich. Hello rider. Hello rider. Hello rider. Pedal pedal pedal. Kemp’s Mill Road, a friendly zippy stretch. Control at KOA. Hello Lowell. Hello Severna Park. See end of cooking show about brownies. Depart control. Mosey to Sheetz. Eat an almond butter and jam sandwich. Drink a latte. Meet up with fleche teammates Lane, Mike, and Eric, as well as Scott G. and Alec. Chat and laugh. Ride. Information control in Antietam. The question is… just kidding! It’s a secret! Ride ride. Bonk. Battleview Market control. Eat chips. Contemplate life. Pedal pedal pedal. Trego, bleah. Climb climb climb. All alone with Ed. Gapland finally! Lane waited. Thanks! Descend whee! Pedal pedal pedal. Eric waited. Thanks! Marlu Ridge the easy way! Group ride with Mike, Eric, Lane. Chat. Listen to Mike. Fingerboard. Slog slog slog. Finish. Photo op by Bill. Pizza pizza pizza. Yeah.

I’ve never had a lot of love for the Urbana 200K, even though it was the first brevet I ever rode. It’s a good ride and an honest challenge, but for some reason I have always found it somewhat unkind.

It’s a pretty hilly course, and doesn’t offer too much reprieve. It also doesn’t offer too many food stops along the way. That’s not a big deal, I’m not hoping for Zagat-rated dining during my brevets, but I think all of the climbing on the route and the limited places for food make for a tougher ride.

Hanging out at Earl’s Market on the Urbana 200K

This was my first ACP brevet of 2012, as I missed the other D.C. Randonneurs 200K two weeks ago and ran the D.C. marathon instead. I worried about my conditioning, but it ended up being fine. The ride was hard, but my body held up well physically. My emotional state throughout the ride was a little different matter, and directly correlated to my food intake.

This was probably my hilliest ride of 2012 to-date, and I did not eat enough to get through it. I had a hard time eating any breakfast before the start. I brought along two almond butter and jam sandwiches, which I ate, as well as two Clif bars and two packages of Clif shot blocks that I gnawed on throughout the ride. I also bought (and ate) two bags of potato chips.

Gapland Road and the War Correspondents Memorial on the Urbana 200K

While that might be enough for some people, it didn’t seem sufficient for me. I made it to the midpoint of the ride without too much fatigue, but after that I found myself ebbing in and out of bonklandia for the remainder of the day. The ironic aspect of my bonking, though, was that I lost my appetite and nothing sounded tasty. Then I felt weepy and began emotionally imploding. Thank goodness this was just a 200K.

Lessons Learned:

  • I always feel like I’m starting from square one when I do my first ACP brevet of the year. Maybe next year I won’t feel like such a novice.
  • The Urbana 200K course is always tough.
  • Food is your friend, especially on hilly rides.
  • Crying is no way to spend a bike ride.
  • Felkerino has a lot of patience.
  • Getting in with a good group helps the miles pass, even (especially?) on the more unforgiving segments.
  • It’s just bike riding.

I took pictures. Want to see them? I believe they mask most of the discomfort, bleariness, and fatigue I experienced. Smiles everywhere! Just click here.

P.S. Sorry for the Foreigner reference. I just couldn’t help myself.