Thursday, March 26, 2009

A bit more like it

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been feeling like my training efforts have been a bit substandard so to speak. That's not to say that I haven't been riding hard here and there, but the times I'm supposed to be going out for a truly hard ride/race simulation, I've been giving only 80-90% effort and getting done with the ride having some gas left in the tank.

Last night I was lucky enough to get a preview of the new PRC Papa John's route. Its similar to last years Wednesday night route, but with a new start location and some interesting routing to get the group out to the same area as last year. It should be a great time.

Roughly 8-10 of us rolled out from Rassy's and some indecision left myself and Courtney off the front and on our own. We rolled a light or two the others didn't make and even with a slow down on the way out to our loop, we didn't see the pack again. Once we hit the loop which consists of 6.75 miles of rolling hills interspersed with a couple decent climbs, I hammered it. Soon enough I was on my own completely which was fine by me as I wasn't planning on it being otherwise. A good breeze out of the west at 15mph hampered things a bit, but in reality didn't even phase me compared to the struggle from the night before. I was on the cross bike to keep things a bit more challenging and to get some additional seat time in prep for taking it on the Almanzo 100.

The first lap clicked off in 22:05 and I kept on it for another lap finishing out in 22:29. Pretty even considering I was covering almost 7 miles each lap. By the end of the 2nd lap I had hoped to catch the rest of the group, but alas they were nowhere in sight. I was feeling the burn pretty good and satisfied with having put in a good effort. I guess my designation for a good effort is determined by how light headed and slightly nauseous I feel at the end before I start recovering. There was definitely a tinge of burn in the stomach last night and just enough bending around the edges to call it quits. I backed things off a bit and still moved along at a decent clip back to my truck. 31 miles and a shade under 2 hours off the clock. I did meet up with a few riders still chatting back at the shop and talked to them for a minute.

After that, it was off to the nirvana of tacos, beer, and buddies. Tom joined me for some chatting as we chowed on tacos and Courtney showed up a bit later as well since he had a few extra miles needed to finish out his century. A good effort rewarded by some indulgent fueling. Probably not the best solution on keeping myself lean and mean, but you just gotta enjoy the spoils sometimes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The wicked wind of the west

TNWC #1 and #2 are now in the books for the year. What a change since last week. In episode #1 not only did I make it north of Ankeny, but actually made it to the Slater turn before popping off the back. We had a large group that was well mannered if not down right civilized. Even after I fell off I was able to hop in with the B group and rotate through a paceline for a bit and then got dropped again when we turned south, but at least there was tailwind at that point. Temps were in the 60's and overall great. A northerly wind kept the pace pretty mellow as we headed out which I'm sure helped to keep me on as long as I did. Previously, the north edge of Ankeny was my best for sticking with the group. I think a good part of it is that I need more than just the roll through town to really get warmed up.

Last night was a whole different ball game. I was glad for not only the long sleeve jersey, but the long sleeve winter base I had on as well. 50 and WINDY was the name of the game. We had cross tail wind all the way out which meant I knew we'd be going fast out and suffering back. I got popped early on and then caught back up at a stop light before getting dropped again another mile down the road. Such is life. At least I wasn't the first one off so that's an improvement over last year.

I ended up pretty much alone as we headed out of Ankeny and then an A9Y rider hit one of the shortcuts turning west 2 miles before the normal turn. Bratz also tagged in with us and we shared the work into the west wind. We were working hard to maintain low teens even rotating through the paceline as the wind howled at 25+ mph. Once we turned back south to hit Polk City, the wind seemed a lot less wicked. I knew we weren't done yet though as we still had to cross the mile long bridge. We caught a number of other riders who had taken another of the shortcuts in Polk City and formed more of a paceline as we hit the bridge. Just keeping in the draft was a chore as we were buffeted from the front and side. We all made it just fine and turned back south.

Just a mile or so into the south we got passed by the lead group that had run the full loop (we cut off 4 miles). After too much hesitation, Bratz and I gave chase and were actually making up ground as we rotated with each other. Being new to drafting though, Bratz gave it a bit too much gas on his pull and popped off the back when I took the lead. Alone again, I just held my speed to what I could muster and the front group headed off into the distance. Just before the tanks at Camp Dodge another rider passed me and indicated I should hop on, so I obliged and we blew on into the Merle Hay turn. We held up waiting for another group of riders at this point and were joking a bit on how much the wind sucked. We finally rolled back to the start with 2 hours on the clock.

My pace dropped 1.5 MPH from last weeks average. and I'd gone 4 miles less. My muscles ached when I got done, but nothing major. While I know I'm in better shape right now that at any point ever before, I'm starting to have this annoying habit of trying to keep some gas in the tank at the end of the ride. I remember numerous rides from last year getting back to my truck and having to fight the urge to hurl if I breathed too deeply. I'm actually staying with the group easier this year with less effort, but I still think maybe I should be pushing harder to stay with the group and hammering through the entire ride rather than keeping something back. TNWC is supposed to simulate a race effort so I should be giving it my all, I just haven't made it click yet.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Weekend rewind

Shooting back to the weekend here since there were some bright spots of note. Friday night we took off to Kansas City to visit some friends. With Bone Bender having been moved to April 18th, we had all ready scheduled to go down and stay so we just kept our plans. Luckily the construction on I-35 in downtown KC wasn't nearly as bad as expected and we still made it to our friends place on time even though we left over an hour later than we anticipated. From there it was a quick turn around to a killer BBQ joint called Oklahoma Joes. Great food and cheap for the amount of food you get. We met up with a few old friends that are holdovers from my car racing/playing days and had a great time catching up on things. Back to our friend's house after that where we put Corley down for bed and then killed some time with a few drinks and playing a couple games before hitting the sack.

Saturday had us up at a relatively tame hour and off to breakfast to join up with another couple friends that couldn't meet for dinner. Chatting and catching up ensued as usual. On leaving the restaurant we got a great compliment. The friends that we stayed overnight with made the observation that we'd done a pretty good job of raising Corley in regards to her speech, manners, and general disposition when paired up against the other 2 kids in her age range that had been present at the meals. Made Miranda and I pretty proud.

After we bid our friends adieu, we headed off to Union Station in downtown KC. We hit the Science City which is similar to our own Science Center, but personally, I thought this was way cooler. They had a larger variety of activities and just cooler things in general for the kids to try their hands at. Corley had a ball checking out the various attractions.

After Science City, we finished wandering around Union Station and headed over to Crown Center which is connected by skywalk to do some shopping and grab some lunch. While at Crown Center, there were definitely a few things of interest. There was an OZ display going on celebrating some anniversary of the movie release. It was crawling with people, but we managed to wiggle our way through. Corley thought the trees were pretty interesting.
There also happened to be an anime convention going on at one of the connected hotels. There was every type of costume you could imagine and what appeared to be an overload of scantily clad underage tweener girls and a number of older-creepy guys. You make the call, but I think one group probably attracts the other. I didn't have the stones to straight up stop and shoot some of the costumes, but I'm sure you can imagine.

The afternoon was really nice when we headed out so we opted to walk outside through a couple park areas on our way back to the car.

A few short hours later and we were back at home grabbing some much needed rest from the beginning of the weekend.

I got up early Sunday to join a few roadies for a "zone 2" ride out towards Van Meter. Apparently Zone 2 is code for kill it as long as you can and then back it down a bit from there. As we hit the hills out towards Grand on UTE rd, I thought seriously the coffee and bar I'd had for breakfast would be making it's second appearance of the morning. Luckily we swept through a housing area to take a look at Tony Nichols latest project house and I got my wits back about me. After that it was mostly a game of sitting in and watch Tony show off. The highlight of which was him passing us uphill while pedalling with 1 leg, showoff.

After almost 2 hours in "zone 2" it was time for something a bit more relaxing as I met up with the gravellers for a jaunt out on the Booneville loop. The pace was much more mellow as we rolled out and having been properly warmed up all ready, I hit the hills with a little more gusto than the rest and got to Booneville with enough time to make a quick pit stop at Waveland West.

MMM, warmth, gravel, and sun. How could you not be smiling?!
I parted company at this point needing to head back in time for Miranda to get to work. I cranked up the wick a bit and managed to add a full MPH to my average by the time I got back to the truck. 60 miles and a shade over 3 hours of riding for the morning. I was one happy camper.
Not one to waste a gorgeous afternoon, I took Corley out to the park for the first time this year. It took me forever to find the park entrance since I'd only ridden to it before, but eventually we made our way in and she played for close to an hour before we packed it in. A great way to cap off the weekend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TNWC tonight

RDS5K is meeting at Grounds for Celebration at 5:15ish. Can't say as to the rest of the group of riders as the original BW location has been mentioned along with thee old Targhetto building on Euclid at the rver bridge. See you soon, though you may think twice once you figure out what the video is actually in reference too...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some things I learned

If nothing else, the race this weekend put into perspective some definite gray areas for me. Lucky you, the reader, I'm going to put them down in no particular order and let you sort them out.

1) If you're aware of the weather conditions and start the race when its ugly, be prepared to suffer long and hard for your foolishness. I'm sure most of us racers heard from someone this weekend that we were a bunch of crazy fockers to be out there racing (let alone riding) on a day like Sunday. I thought I was pretty well prepared, but the weather gave me a hard kick in the junk that I won't soon forget.

2) Waterproof/resistant shoes can just as easily turn into watertight containers. I didn't think much about water running down into my shoes other than knowing it would happen and trying to keep it from happening for at least a little while. I didn't realize once it entered, it wouldn't be able to escape due to lack of venting on the bottoms of my winter shoes. Luckily I didn't end up like this. Granted it was nowhere near as cold down here as up in Alaska, but cold extremities for extended periods of time are no joke.

3) My gloves even when sopping wet kept my hands from going numb. Even though I was planning on them resisting the water more than they did (going to treat them to some water repellent soon), my gloves did a good job of keeping my hands from going past the point of just being cold and were actually relatively speaking "warm" or at least not as cold at a few points even after they were soaked to the bone.

4) A waterproof shell is an amazing thing. I was soaked over roughly 75% of my body. However, my core was toasty and sweaty (but not overly so) and my head was dry thanks to a couple great pieces of equipment. The main piece was my Pearl Izumi jacket/shell that cost me way too much when I bought it, but has repaid itself in numerous conditions. The 2nd piece was my choice to go with a wind/waterproof fleece balaclava versus just a hat. The sleet on course really drove this point home as I was able to pull it up covering almost my entire face during the nasty descents where ice pellets ricocheted off us at 30+ mph.

5) My amfib bibs did a great job of keeping my legs warm, but seem to have gone beyond their usefulness in the water repellent role. I might try hitting them with some water repellent spray, but for the most part, I think they're used up in that area. They still do a great job of keeping me warm enough even in extra nasty conditions. I've ridden them down to zero degree windchill with just bib shorts underneath and still been comfortable enough that I didn't think about needing another layer.

6) Be prepared for your bike gear to turn into a crappy mess when done and possibly using up some of the parts. Upon tear down and inspection last night I noted both my bottom bracket and rear derailleur were pretty trashed (moreso than the rest of the bike). The derailleur can be cleaned and greased enough to remain in service, but I think the bearing on the BB are too toast to do anything other than limp along so it will be getting replaced. Additionally, the shifter cables were coated inside the housings in a fine layer of wet gravel dust. My right hand still has a charlie horse from the amount of effort it took to upshift as the race wore on. I thought it was just my hands getting cold at the time. Other than that, the bike was covered in a fine layer of crap, but nothing a good washing couldn't cure. The chain and cassette will both need worked over in the solvent take and I might eyeball the chain for replacement too pending how it looks once cleaned and lubed.

7) Be prepared for the conditions as much as possible when selecting your ride. In my case, it was unprepared with my bike choice. Had I been home on Saturday, I would have had the opportunity to check out the gravel conditions first hand and would probably have brought the cross bike. I think I could have knocked a solid 20-30 minutes off my time on the cross bike with the condition of the gravel. As I was guessing, I opted for the safe choice and missed the mark. Better safe than sorry, but in this instance I should have been able to put home field advantage to use. I rode gravel 4 days before the race including some of the race course. I knew how concrete the base was before the rain, I just didn't know how much softening the rain had done.

8) If you're going to listen to music during a race like this, at least have the forethought to put together a long ass playlist that won't need to be repeated multiple times to get you through the course. As I couldn't reach the IPOD on my arm other than to hit play or skip, I had no way of moving to another playlist unless I wanted to stop and strip off my jacket and that wasn't happening.

9) If racing in weather where nutrition is going to be needed to finish the race, make sure it's easily accessed. I eschewed putting a bento bag on my top tube due to the ridicule I've received in the past from several other racers. Granted, in some cases its definitely a bit overkill, but Sunday it would have shined. As it were, I ended up spending precious energy and time stopping to get nutrition and additionally not spreading it out as much as I should have. I bonked and recovered a couple times during the race and all I really needed was a gel or shot of something a little sooner than I took it on, but I didn't want to stop and get it out of my jersey pocket which would involve stripping a glove off, rummaging under my shell, and probably stopping or slowing to a near crawl.

I think that's probably enough lessons for now, but it covers pretty much everything that I vividly remembering being a point to think about during or shortly after the race.

Bone Bummer

Race postponed until the 18th of April. Definitely a bummer as it runs up on top of the opening salvo in the IORCA series, but alas, it is what it is. I'm sort of relieved as it gives me a bit more time to tweak things and un-tweak others (namely my left leg).

My bike was a mess when I tore into it last night and definitely wasn't going to be fun to clean up and service just to trash it again this weekend. I'll take some time to do some serious spring cleaning now and stay off the bike for another day before getting back on track. I'm hoping to get healthy enough to hit TNWC starting next week and hang onto the Q group (inside joke).

I'll try to put something together over lunch reviewing the various thoughts and things I learned after CIRREM.

Monday, March 09, 2009

CIRREM recap

What a way to kick off the race season. CIRREM was a kick in the nuts to say the least. I remember thinking a couple of times throughout the course that if I made it back to the finish and had enough energy, I wouldn't mind sharing that kick in the nuts with Kent or Jed who organized this suffer fest. OK, so it was all in good fun, but the thought made me smile a bit.
I made it down for the free breakfast burritos and other goodies provided by the Cumming Tap, but a late night run back from Omaha left me running on about 4 hours of sleep all told. I wasn't quite up for stomaching a burrito though so I managed to eat half a cinnamon roll and half a Clif builder bar. Not exactly the breakfast of champions or the hopeful endurance racer, but it was as best I could do. We gathered about 25 strong for the start of the race in the rain and slop at 9 AM. While it was raining steadily, the gravel was in better than expected condition with a solid base and overall it was pretty firm considering the 1.5" of rain we'd had on Saturday.

Right off the bat I didn't feel that buzz in my legs. I stayed with the lead pack for about a mile and then slowly worked my way backward until I was pretty much last man standing. I knew it would be a long race and as I warmed up the engine, hopefully I'd real in some of the people that cooked it right out of the gate. I kept the pace reasonable and slowly I did real in a few people. the most notable thing in my mind was where I was gaining ground. Rolling the downhills and flats I maintained, but on the hills I seemed to gain the majority of my ground. I really think I'm a pretty weak climber, but my sitting down and cranking the hills seemed to garner me a lot more speed than those climbing out of the saddle.

Around 15 miles in, I noticed the rain starting to seep into my shoes as it drained down off my legs and into the neoprene cuff on my winter shoes. Nothing much I could do, but wait for the inevitable cold and sogginess to set in. By 20 miles in, I had water literally sloshing inside my shoes. The nice thing about winter shoes is they're really well sealed on the bottom side. The really bad thing about winter shoes is they're really well sealed on the bottom side. I now was riding in two partially filled canoes with water sloshing back and forth on each pedal stroke. By mile 25, my feet had settled into being uncomfortably cold and nearing numb. I'm not sure where they actually went numb, but I just remember noting that it felt like I was pedalling with two solid boxes attached to the bottoms of my legs. Its a great feeling I tell ya!

Somewhere in here Dennis suffered a crank failure and a couple of us stopped to phone some roving support to get back to the bar. I also passed Chris down from Rochester fiddling with a dropped chain on his fixie. Both would make opt out of the race and head back for the warmth of the Cumming Tap. I would be lying if I didn't say thoughts of pulling out were in my head for a solid 3/4 of the ride. I'd make deals with myself and then renegotiate every few miles until I finally got close enough to the end that I knew there was no reason to quit. Through to this point, we'd been having bouts of rain, sleet (feels great on 30 mph descents), and chunk rain/snow mix along with the varying winds.

A nature stop about midway up a rise put me off the back and chasing again. Trying to pee when your hands and various other parts of your body are approaching critical levels of cold takes a while. I think I lost close to 5 minutes stopped before I could get moving again. I took the opportunity to suck down a gel and got back on the bike feeling much less bloated and overall in better spirits. I could still catch glimpses of the large group ahead of me as we'd hit long stretches of rollers where they'd be a hill or two ahead of me. I was slowly closing in again.

At the checkpoint the group in front of me were stopped to warm up and catch some nutrition. I gave them my number and after digging out a half clif bar and a gel to eat along the way, was back on my bike in just a minute or two. I opted to keep moving and eating in lieu of sticking around with the group. That decision probably saved me from DNFing as just after I left, the group collectively decided to head back towards the start and meet up with Sumpter's lady driving the big black van of salvation. I mistakenly thought the one person I was decidedly racing against was part of the group I'd just passed. Kurt Benson and I have had some fun going back and forth trying to beat each other at a few various races and were engaged in some good natured smack talking during this race as well. In my haste to leave the checkpoint, I hadn't noticed that he'd kept right on going as well. I also made a 2nd mistake at the checkpoint. I'd opted to run with only 2-16oz bottles for the race and didn't take advantage of the refill station. I'll get back to this later.

From the checkpoint on we really suffered the hills and wind even more. A push up the monster hill on Old Portland road was the biggest grunt of the course, but it was the 5 mile stretch headed due north shortly after that where I hit the wall. I finally got off the bike with numb feet, cold hands, and little energy to walk a short stretch. I could see a few riders at varying points up in front of me and wondered if they were suffering the same as I. I also got passed by a way too energetic Kent along in here somewhere and wondered how he'd gotten behind me. Sucking down a gel as I walked, I felt every so slightly better and hopped back on after walking about a 1/4 mile. Eventually, as I rolled north, I realized I was indeed picking up ground on at least one rider in front of me. By the time we'd turned east again, I was pretty close and eventually caught up to Ben who was suffering mightily on his fixie and walking a number of hills. We chatted for a bit and I learned Kurt was actually up the road at this point and I resigned myself that he was in better shape for the day.

We were somewhere around 10 miles left to go when I began to bonk again, I was running dangerously low on water and even lower on energy. I snuck out my last bit of food in the form of a pack of sport beans I'd grabbed from the schwag table at sign up. Never having tried them before, I was pleasantly surprised to find they gave me a nice shot of energy and I was back to chasing for a bit. Up ahead, I could make out a figure all in black. There was my rabbit. Kurt was moving about the same pace as I was, but again, I made up time on the uphills. Ever so slowly, I gained ground on him and caught back on.

Regardless of the suffering throughout the course, the real fun was the last half hour. Kurt and I duked it out for a semi-climactic finish. I caught him a couple miles out of town and rather than attempt to kill each other pushing the pace we reached a gentleman’s agreement to find a suitable sprint point close to town and go from there. Kurt, ever the showman, decided to make it more interesting by wiping out hard not once, but twice inside the last 3 miles. He dropped a wheel off into a crack on a nasty wooden bridge flipping over the bars and apparently didn’t think he’d done enough damage at that point and opted to have me roll over a couple various body parts as I attempted to miss him. Holding to the agreement, I waited while he got himself back together and we let that sneaky Ben Shockey slide past us. I also have to give some major ups to Kurt's chase crew for refilling my bottle at this point as I was out and sinking into a stupor fast.

From there we determined the turn onto 25th street would be the start of the sprint (if you can call 7 tenths of a mile a “sprint”). I did my best to drop him off my wheel as we headed up a slight incline since that seemed to be my strong point of the day. Alas, I had nothing left in the tank and he gritted his teeth determined we would be sprinting it out across the Cumming Highway to the tap. As we both stood up to hammer the last hundred yards he later told me he was attempting to give me the old slide job and cut me off. A slight miscalculation on his part (only by 5 feet or so) had him bouncing off my back wheel and skidding across the highway leaving me to finish out the sprint wondering what the hell just happened. We finished close enough to DFL to taste it, but alas, we weren’t quite that lucky.

I finished 10th, Kurt 11th, and one final finisher rounded out 12 of the 25 starters. 13 DNF's so I feel good just having completed the ride. I did walk away with some pretty sweet schwag in the form of a case of Off Kilter Ale courtesy of Olde Main Brewing!

All in all I great day to suffer on the bike and damn was I glad when it was done. I'll post a few more post race lessons and thoughts a bit later on.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Stretching the legs a bit

Took off on an early ride yesterday thanks to the ladies at PRC. We headed out from East Village towards the wilds of Altoona and beyond. The plan was to roll through a lap of the Altoona Road Race course coming up April 4. All told I think 12 or so of us rolled out around 3:30 including birthday girl Keely and her dad. Funny, we had 3 Rick's on the ride (myself, Keely's dad, and Mr. Noyce).

For the most part we kept the pace at a decent tempo though I kept trying to push the hills just to see how my legs would respond. There really isn't much climbing on the way out to the course with the exception of a couple smaller hills and one slow climb at the edge of Pleasant Hill. We regrouped at Four Mile School and took off from there enjoying a pretty decent cross tailwind. After pushing a couple hills early on, a group of 4 of us broke out and kept the pace up as we followed the loop. We hit a pretty crazy crosswind and then headed back into the headwind as the course looped around. I hadn't been on the course before so the hills were a bit of fun for me. I could definitely envision the damage some people with climbing legs would put on the others during the race. I even managed to pop the other 3 off the back on the final climb up to Vandalia where I pushed the pace to purposely test myself. Strangely enough I felt good at the top and opened up a small gap at the same time.

After that, we regrouped and rolled back to the school working on some drafting techniques with the tri-guy who stayed in the front group. A quick break while we waited for the main pack and a few more minutes chatting and we headed back to town. Keely treated us all to some massive rice krispie treats in honor of her birthday and thanks to her mom and dad. We gorged ourselves for a few minutes and rolled ourselves back to head home. 2 hours and a shade over 30 miles on the bike all while enjoying 75 degree weather in early March! How could you ask for much more?

Just a friendly reminder for those interested in gravel: CIRREM is this Sunday. Hope to see you there and enjoying some suffering out on the course.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

It was a f#$%ing beautiful day!

... and it should be another awesome one today! I can't wait to get out and ride.

Met up with Chad, Squirrel, Conlan, and Gov for our ration of gravel yesterday. Squirrel opted for some easy putt putt action since he's still recouping. The balance of the group followed my lead (the fools!) and we headed on the gravel south of the airport hooking up with old Army Post before hopping onto the Great Western off of 63rd. We actually headed back south again up a mowed path that runs perpendicular to the Great Western and ties into the gravel running east/west at the top of the hill. A nice little shortcut that kept us off of 63rd. At the top of the hill is a parking area and we found a couple "parking" or more correctly, f#$%cking their brains out in the front seat of a SUV. I'm sure it was a little midday rendezvous of a nefarious nature, but hey, who am I to judge. At least they were enjoying the day as much as we were!

We wound our way towards Orilla and further south on a stretch that is getting ready to be converted to tarmac (what a shame). The headwinds out of the south were fun, but nothing major as the beauty of the day was hard to beat. As we topped a nice steep paved hill Conlan, Chad, and Gov opted to head back while I kept on cruising for a little more mileage. I worked a little further south before turning west and heading into Cumming. The gravel was absolutely beautiful and I cranked up the pace with a cross tailwind. You can't tell I'm enjoying the day, can you?!

I briefly considered finishing out the loop by heading over to Booneville just north of Cumming, but alas the sun was still getting ready to head down, so I opted to cut my enjoyment back short and work back east to Orilla. I did make a strategic decision and added the hilly loop portion of the Ritual Ride onto my route by working down to Walnut Woods drive and doing the soccer hill climb. I was starting to get gassed by the time I worked up to the top of it and headed back to Waterworks and onto Conlan's house where I was parked. 2.5 hours in the warm sun with just shy of 38 miles ticked off and I was a happy camper. I'm headed back out at 3 for another day of soaking up the sun. At least it seems to make coming in to work at 5 in the morning worth my while!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Dirt is hard

Or at least harder when it's frozen solid. Tired of spinning away and going nowhere inside, I headed out early on Sunday morning. As most of my fellow partners in crime are prepping for the sunny skies of Tucson this week, I didn't think anyone would be interested in several hours of cold riding so I headed off alone. On Saturday I tried to get a 2 hour ride in on the trainer and was finding it so monotonous, I hung up the towel after 70 or so minutes. I'll post more about that later as I have some thoughts on training that are starting to creep into my head.

In any case, after 70 minutes, I knew I needed to be outside to get properly motivated. Sunday dawned with a blue bird sky and unbeknowst to me, below zero wind chills. I headed out on the 3 hour tour route knowing that I could cut it short in a couple different spots in case I wasn't maintaining a quick enough pace to roll it all in my 3 hour block. I was a bit excited as I had mapped out a route that would leave me rolling new stretches of gravel and exploring a bit more of the local countryside while still being within the safe confines of being semi local to home in case the need arose. I imagine that I'm not unique in the fact that there are probably hundreds of miles of roadway within 10 miles of home that I've never explored.
I added a dirt road loop that Brian had taken me on last summer during our exploration down to Summerset. It looked like this during the summer: (oops guess it's time to upgrade my flickr account as it's more than 200 pics back!). In any case, at that point in time it was a rut laden treacherous stretch of road where we had to pick our lines through ruts 1-2 foot deep in spots. I guess I was expecting something a bit better for the winter, but as you can see, that wasn't to happen.

This is actually the more rideable section of road. Beyond the hill behind my bike in the top picture was a mass of solid ruts spanning the entire width of the road requiring full concentration to navigate including walking a short stretch or two. However, I navigated that section just fine, but my luck soon ran out as I botched moving from one rut to another shortly after I stopped to shoot these pics. One second I'm upright and moving forward, the next I'm still moving forward, but now I'm sliding along my left hip and shoulder. Ya, dirt is hard when it's frozen! Ouch. No damaged to the riding gear and bruises will heal so off I head again.

Just before rolling into Summerset park I came across thousands of geese setting on the ice at one of the conservation areas. It was cool to see so many of them just hanging out in one spot.
I also managed to catch a nice tailwind at this point of the ride. Though I was routed mostly east/west today, the few sections heading south were tempered by sucking it up as I had to roll north into the wind. Amazing how much stronger 10-15 mph winds feel when they're piggy backed on 10 degree temps. I began to notice as I rolled west that the right side of my face and my right foot were getting increasingly cold. Not much to do at this point but soldier on.

I stopped to consult my map a few times, but for the most part the route was pretty easy to follow. I had one major run in with a pack of 3 dogs just south of Norwalk that got my heart pumping a bit. As I rolled up to the house, 3 medium dogs came running and barking straight at me. I didn't try to out sprint them and opted for the loud voice and yelling at them. Luckily they stayed just far enough back for me to roll past without getting nipped. A few other dogs barked and showed a little attempt at giving chase, but nothing major. It had been so long since I rolled through the countryside, I'd almost forgotten about dogs.

Around 2 hours in, the cold was starting to get me down a bit. For the most part I was staying pretty toasty, but my cold toes were nagging as they'd go from cold to seriously cold, to almost numb and then back to cold again. Seeing that I was going to be running way over time if I rolled the additional 3 miles into Cumming, I headed back north at Orilla catching some pavement before I logged back onto the gravel that runs just south of the golf course on old Army Post.

It was on this stretch I had an almost oh shit moment. After reading too many blogs about crazy guys doing crazy things on their bikes in way below zero temps, I tend to be a little more mindful of my own vulnerability when riding in cold temps. I had no idea what the temp was other than I knew it was as cold or a little colder than I'd ridden in before when I factored in the wind. As the gravel passed under the 65 bypass I stopped to adjust my IPOD armband as it was slinking its way down past my elbow and beginning to bother me. I pealed off my jacket noting the solid layer of frost I'd been building up under it (nothing new) and pulled off my gloves as well. My hands had been comfortably warm all morning and were actually a bit damp with sweat, again nothing new. I got the armband adjusted and put the coat back on. Now time for the gloves. Oh shit, my left hand had stiffened up in the cold air and nearly become immobilized in just a minute or two. With a sweaty inner liner to my gloves and barely able to wiggle my fingers, I literally yanked the glove down over my hand to get the glove back in place. I was amazed at how hard it was getting the glove back on and felt lucky to get it on when I did. I realize I wasn't really in any major danger of losing an appendage to the cold as I had a number of alternate ways to heat it up, but it brought the risk involved with cold weather riding back to the forefront of my attention.

By now I was 2.5 hours in and ready for home. I rolled back in jumping on Army Post to head back to my place and got home with just over 3 hours on the clock and 37 miles down. Not a barn burner pace by any means, but it was good to get out and suffer for a bit. I'll need to draw on that this coming weekend when I head out for CIRREM. I'm short on long distance rides and though I know I can get it done, I need to know that I can put up with a little suffering too. I hope to see a number of you there.