Friday, June 29, 2012

Lake Gaston 210K NC to VA out and back


I figured that since I was going to be vacationing with my wife and kids for 10 days, and going to be in another state, I would get a permanent in, and in the mean time get a state or two more towards my "American Explorer" award, which is cycling at least a 200K in at least 10 states. Once this is achieved in a RUSA cyclists lifetime, they can get a metal plaque that state magnets can be added to, with the goal of "filling the map"!

This is set up as a goal to accomplish over a number of years, I am going to try to accomplish it in my first year as a RUSA randonneur, since I have finally committed to giving up the goal of a Super Randonneur award for the year, because of scheduling difficulties, and the fact that it would mean I would have to drive back to NC twice in the next few months, to ride 240+ miles, and then 360+ miles in likely high temps and heat, I thought it would be more logical to try for that goal next year. Riding severely fatigued and dehydrated can lead to accidents, as well as other problems, and I don't need to be stupid.

I decided to do this particular ride because it includes two states, NC and VA. I already have rides in NY, PA, and NJ, and have looked at some more rides closer to home that include WV, and MD, so I wouldn't be "wasting a state" by riding in a state that would overlap. I am hoping to get some other states later this year.

I contacted the route owner, this is the person who builds the route and is in charge of it, and he told me that he would be out of town when I was here, but I was more than welcome to do his route, and also recommended a route out of Raleigh owned by a friend that was a loop as an alternative. I am not a huge fan of out and back routes, but he told me that his route was a little more rural, and I always prefer a route with less traffic involved.

I decided to do the route on Monday morning, since that was the second full day of our vacation, and it would assure I was more rested and better prepared for the ride, without cutting in to too much of our vacation time. The weather promised to be in the mid-90's, with humidity near 60%. It was warmer than I had ridden before, and though I wanted to ride my Fuji, since it was a bit flatter of a course, I went with the CoMotion because of more water bottle holders. This proved to be a very wise choice.

I started at 6AM, trying to get as much ground covered as possible before the heat set in. I brought a stocking with me to make an ice sock for later in the day, and traveled light. Water bottles were filled, and I brought 6 mini PayDay's with me, and 4 baggies of INFINIT Endurance powder that I put in the 3rd water bottle that sits under my downtube just in front of my pedals, one for each segment of the ride. I grabbed an orange juice at McDonalds to get my receipt and card signed and got rolling.

It was a foggy morning, with 100% humidity, but also 73 degrees, so I wasn't complaining. My glasses fogged up quick, and I took them off. About 8 miles out of town I saw a sign for "Bailey - 9 miles", so of course I had to stop and get a picture. As I got back on my bike I noticed about 30 little round "seeds" on my legs. Shoot, are those ticks?  That caused another quick stop to verify that they weren't in fact ticks, they were seeds of some kind, but they bothered me for the rest of the trip, as I would look down, and there would be more on my legs from cars kicking them up as they passed.

These rides all have time limits, both too fast and too slow.. You can't get there too early or too late. The first Control, 37 miles into the trip had a 7:58 opening time, and a closing time at 9:56. I was doing well, with my stops and starting slightly after 6 and I pulled into the stop and got my card signed at 8:10, which was after getting my water, and chatting with one of the locals about what I was doing. He had seen "another fella" doing this a few weeks back, and was aware of where I started from and where I was going. He followed me out the door, and I filled my bottles and got on my way. I had 4 dogs chase me on the first leg, and was thinking it was going to be a long day, as the dogs can cause you to "burn matches" that you may need later.

This segment promised to be prettier, with more remote roads, and a 1 mile long lake crossing as well as crossing from NC to VA. The open time for the next control was at 9:30, and I arrived at 9:50, so I was still going strong.

It was starting to heat up now, and I should have filled the ice sock here, but I wasn't feeling uncomfortably hot, and thought I'd be OK. About 3 miles down the road, I realized I was wrong about that, between the heat and headwind, it was going to be some real work. I had made it to the midway point in 4 hours, it was possible to finish in 8 theoretically, but I knew immediately that wasn't going to happen, and was hoping to finish between 9 and 10 hours total.

I kept my pace very reasonable over the next 28 miles, making sure that I didn't over-exert too much, and trying to stay cool. There was little shade, and the temps had popped to 90 degrees in no time. Each hill was work, even though they were really very slight grades. I was just concentrating on how much fluid I was taking in, and taking it reasonable. I  drank 2 bottles of INFINIT mix (27oz bottles) in the first 65.5 miles, and probably finished another 27 oz bottle of water. I also ate 2 of the mini paydays. I was starting to feel full, which was a bad thing. I was also starting to feel very hot. Over this next 65.5 miles the Garmin said that the temps got up to 104, I don't think that was the air temp, but I'll bet you with the road heat, it might have been pretty close. I know I thought a couple of times about letting a little air out of my tires because I was concerned with the heat that they might pop, but they held out. I stopped a couple of times for photo ops crossing Lake Gaston, the NC state line, and  for a pile of what I at first though was a HUGE snake hit by a mower, but went back to see it was a bunch of alligator gar someone had thrown in the ditch.

I got to back to the middle control at 12:10, got some water and ice, and filled all my water bottles with only water, and filled the stocking with ice to hang around my neck and try to keep my body temp down. I only had 37 miles to go, but knew it was going to be painful. There were some long stretches of nothing but sun and rolling roads. No stores to stop and fill my water, so I had to plan accordingly. You can see in the following photo with my bike, the panty hose loaded with ice that I put around my neck.

The final miles were in fact tough. I stopped 10 miles in to fill my bottles, and again at 20+ miles in. When I stood after filling my bottles at the 20 mile stop, I had to grab the wall to stay up from being a little woozy. I had gotten to the point of overheating, and was having trouble consuming anything, including water, but was thirsty, so forced it down. The final 10 miles were tough, with just cranking the pedals becoming quite the task. I averaged under 10 mph, and was stoked when I saw the sign for the Cracker Barrel in the horizon ahead, knowing it was next to the McDonalds that was the final control.  A little further on I saw the Hampton which hosts the parking lot which you ride through to get to the finish. I rolled in slow, and was damned happy to be done. The receipt from Mickey D's said 3:34, so 9 hours and 34 minutes.  I was dreaming of under 9, and if it had been cooler I might have made it.

I am glad I did the ride. It was an eye opener about riding in the heat, which CAN be done, but you have to ride smart. I do know that coming back to North Carolina at the end of July to ride a 400K, and then again at the end of August to ride a 600K is out of the question.

I also found out between the ride and writing this report that another good friend, and guy I rode with a couple of times earlier this year died in a ride in Virginia. It was a major event. 2000 participants, and it's a multi-day tour. Mark Hogan who was a gentle giant of a man was riding with another guy I have ridden with a few times, Blaine Chamberlain, and Mark was crossing railroad tracks, and fell. He was wearing a helmet, but the impact with the road caused too traumatic of head injuries for him to survive. He was another guy in the 60 year old range. In fact I rode earlier this year with Mark Hogan, Mark Sheehan, Bill Fischer and myself on an 80+ mile ride around the southern tier of NY.

During my first ride with Mark H. I was lagging behind, so when we crested a hill, I told the group to go on ahead, and I would finish on my own. He refused to leave me, and said we all ride together. He was a great man, and will be dearly missed. What a great guy.. It's just not fair some times.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Letchworth 300K - June 2nd

OK...  So this ride is actually not called "Letchworth 300K" - it's called 300LR-1, but what kind of fun is a name like that?!

Friday night I drove from work to my parents house in Caledonia, and stayed within 1 hour of the start. The ride start time was scheduled for 6AM, so this would give me a bit more sleep and a chance to catch up with my parents, which is always a good time, and alot of laughs. I got to sleep around 9, and headed out for Ontario NY for the start.

I arrived at around 5:30, and got everything prepared to ride. 4 riders were there including myself.  Ride organizer Peter Dusel (left), and two others, Al (blue), and John (yellow).. John had tried the same ride a couple of weeks earlier and DNF'd, so was bound and determined to get it done this time. Check out those tires on Johns bike! 45lbs... Man - that has to be some rolling resistance, but a cushy ride.

We rolled out together and headed for our first stop in Canadaigua 30 miles down the road. There were some slight rollers, and the wind hadn't picked up much yet, so it was a nice ride. I felt great, thinking hell, it's only 160 more miles! No problems, right? We stopped at the park across from the Hess Station Control and got our cards signed and were on our way.

Next stop would be Naples - Bob and Ruths diner, which was only 25 miles further down the road, so we headed down the East side of the lake, up on the "scenic route". We continued down the road together, and the wind picked up some, and the rain spit a little bit along the way, but all in all, it was still quite decent.  We rolled in to Bob and Ruths and got our cards signed at 10:15. When we came across the bottom coming into Naples, the wind was something. It was a cross wind, but you had to lean sideways into it riding, not looking forward to hitting the hilltops climbing out of Naples to Dansville, and then Dansville to Canaseraga. I was shaking from the cold, so decided to keep rolling, but stopped long enough to get the "legit" Naples photo with the grape vines in the background.

Interesting thing about the cold and dressing appropriately. If you're doing it right, you're going to be cold when you stop, but when you're rolling you should be comfortable, which I was. Of course sweating and getting the clothing soaked doesn't help a bunch, but I have no idea how you're going to ride and not sweat. At least not me.

I got going just before the others, and saw them in my mirror as I got back on the bike after taking the picture. As I stated earlier, I felt great, and had a dream time of 15 hours. I figured with the wind, if I could do the first 100 miles, and get to Letchworth (102 miles) by around 8 hours, I should be able to do the next 90 in another 8 hours as there was less climbing and should be a strong tailwind. The hills out of Naples are decent. Some long climbs, but nothing really horribly steep. Then you roll downhill into Dansville, and go through town, and out the other side to climb up Ossian Hill Rd. One thing I have learned is that long ago most roads were named, and when they were named the vehicles were a bit different than now lets assume, so, when a road has the name "Hill" in it, there is very likely a good reason.. This was no exception. It's a 2.5 mile stretch climbing over 600 feet, then when you think you've topped out, it still gradually climbs, but by this time, you're "on top" with farm fields around, and nothing to buffet the wind, and I couldn't get up over 6 mph for probably a 5 mile stretch..  I kept pedaling towards Canaseraga, expecting at any time to have this long downhill stretch, but that never happened. I figure that Dansville must just be a low spot, so when you take that long fast ride down into Dansville, there's only one way to get out, and thats climbing...

Once I got to Rt 70 in Canaseraga, it was only about 8 miles to the next Control point. There was some wind, but the woods on the right side do a pretty good job keeping the breeze under control. I rolled into the "Seager Farm" control at around 1:30. I was just over 90 miles into the ride, and had been on the road for 7.5 hours. If I was hoping to keep up this pace, I really needed to keep rolling, but I sat down, had some rice cake, a swig of gatorade, and some pretzels that they had there. As I was standing to get going again, Al and Peter came up the road. I hopped on my bike and said "hey" as I was pulling out of the driveway.

The next stop was behind the Glen Iris Inn in Letchworth State Park. It was what is called an "info" control. I needed to write down on my card, how many acres the initial donation was, which could be found on a large plaque overlooking the falls. I spent more time here taking a good picture of my bike and trying to upload it than finding the answer and was quickly on my way again.

Right out of the parking lot you start climbing.. There are some short steep climbs in Letchworth, and I believe this is where I made the biggest mistake of my ride. I was doing OK for time, and was really trying to make the whole ride in what I figured now might be a possible 16 hours, but I knew I would have to keep moving. The second half of this ride appears on paper to be less hilly, which it is, as far as long climbs go, but it has alot of rollers, and I didn't take them at a reasonable enough pace, and didn't allow myself time to recover. I wasn't even through Letchworth when I started feeling sick, and that feeling that I wasn't absorbing anything, including water. Even drinking water was making me feel sick.. This wasn't good. I did have time to stop and take another photo though - make the most of it, y'know!

I headed out of Letchworth towards Geneseo, and stopped in town at the mini market to try to find something I could keep down, and fill one of my water bottles. I bought a Dr. Pepper, and a bag of those little chocolate chip cookies, ate 3 cookies, drank half the bottle of pop, and felt worse.. Screw it, time to keep going.  I stopped in the middle of town, at the bear statue, and took another shot of my bike - looks like I am in France!

This was the last picture I took for the ride. When your ass gets dragging like that, you don't care much about anything but finishing..  I will say that I looked for other photo ops, but nothing jumped out.

Into Canadaigua, the last stop before the end before 9:00. Just 28 miles left.  I was a hurting unit. Al and Peter pulled in 5 minutes after me, and Peter got me straightened out on my nausea.. I hadn't eaten or drank much of anything since probably 2:00. I was pretty badly dehydrated, and craved the fruit smoothie I grabbed, but couldn't drink it, too much acid.  Peter said that I really needed to go empty my stomach. I was shivering so bad I was shuddering, and this was inside the Tim Hortons.. Anyways, I took Peters advice, and immediately started feeling a bit better. I got some chicken noodle soup (much needed sodium), and some water, and felt like I was ready. We all got our reflective gear on, lights going, and I was shaking again, so got on my bike, and got going again. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I heard the bell on Johns bike ding, as he was pulling in.

I was ahead of Peter and Al by only a few minutes, but they made a wrong turn and ended up further behind me than expected. The last part is fairly flat with some small rollers, but thankfully it's a nice stretch, and I slowed to let the others catch up, didn't seem right to finish the ride alone after these guys sat around and helped me out at the control giving me the pointers I needed to feel better.. With about 15 miles left I saw the lights coming up behind me, and we rode the remainder of the ride together. Talking some, and enjoying the night. We pulled into Peters driveway, and the final control at 11:40PM, just 17 hours and 40 minutes after we had left.

According to the Garmin, I spent 15:56 minutes in the saddle pedaling, which means just over 100 minutes of off the bike time. I climbed over 9100 feet - not my most climbing for a ride, but with the fatigue you get on the longer rides it seemed plenty. I burned about 8000 calories, and according to the scale lost 5 lbs since Friday morning. By Monday morning I had gained 3 lbs back, and was likely still dehydrated, so am still working on getting the rest of the fluids I need - oh yeah, and the rest I need. I had very little saddle discomfort until around mile 180, and then not enough to bother me all that much.

Not sure what the next ride will be for me, at least the next long ride.  We have a couple of busy weekends, and a family vacation coming up at the end of the month, then the Boilermaker the second weekend of July, so, sometime after that.. Was hoping to maybe try to sneak a 400K in, and maybe even do a 600K this year, getting me my Super Randonneur Award for the year, but I am not sure that will be happening, we'll see.

The only other two things to mention.

1 - Peter and his wife told me to stay at their house for the night, and when I told them I was heading out, they said "get going then". Peter said it will be about 25 minutes after your butt settles into that car seat, and you're going to have a horrible time staying awake. He was right. The clock on my dashboard said it had been 26 minutes when it was all I could do to stay awake. Even coffee didn't help much. I will make alternate plans next time I do any ride over 200K.

2 - We lost a friend in cycling on Saturday. Not one of the four in my group, but a guy I had ridden with earlier in the year. His name is Mark Sheehan, and I enjoyed riding with him, and talking with him about his recent retirement - actually, at the time it would be his future retirement. He had left NYSEG to take vacation before coming back for a single days work to retire back in February, and was home for a few days from a year long house rental in Florida where he, his wife, and his doberman were going to spend a year and check things out. He had worked very hard the previous year, we talked about my goals, about his goals, what those goals had been, and what his plans were. About riding with his wife, going to Fredericksburg, TX to ride some long ride down there, one day with his wife, and another on his own. About a lot of different stuff..  He was out riding Saturday with a group, and pulled his bike off the side of the road and died. I am not positive about the details, but that doesn't matter. He died doing what he loved.  I found out from a friend today that he had over 3000 miles in this year already. He was loving his retirement. I am sorry he didn't get to enjoy more of it, and am sorry for the loss for his family. Goodbye Mark. It was nice riding with you. I am glad to have known you.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking."

Arthur Conan Doyle