Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Middle Georgia Epic 2018

The 2018 Middle Georgia Epic did, indeed, loom epic in my mind as it approached.  Last year I had a great race and a great time, but it took a whole lot out of me.  I've ridden lots since then, but it's mostly just been time on the bike.  Because I've had a good bit of work stress in the past year from a job change, I haven't done as much focused training in recent months.  Therefore, I didn't have the same effort in me for this year's Middle Georgia Epic.  I decided simply to ride the best I could.  But isn't that all any of us can ever do?

On top of my usual nervousness before a big event, I went into the race fairly fatigued.  The day before, I had helped with the Atlanta Metro chapter MATHCOUNTS competition.  MATHCOUNTS is a nationwide middle school math competition program that I have volunteered with for years.  I'm the state coordinator.  The Atlanta Metro chapter has a new coordinator this year, and I didn't want to simply throw her to the sharks, especially considering that hers is the biggest chapter competition in the country!  It went very well, but anything involving 300+ middle school students is an exercise in controlled chaos.  I had a couple of long days helping prepare for and executing the competition, and then it took me three hours to get home Friday evening due to extra heavy Atlanta traffic.  So, already stressed and revved up on adrenaline, I suppose I did well to get almost seven hours of sleep before the race.

In the morning I made the hourlong drive to the Blue Goose, a fantastic bike hostel in Irwinton, GA where the Middle Georgia Epic was staged.

The Blue Goose now has a blue goose!
Temperatures were forecast to range from the upper 50s to mid 70s throughout the day, and after some seesawing, the chance of rain settled in at 20% - it doesn't get much better for February racing.  I didn't envy Robert, who opted for a road race in Greenville, SC, where it was raining with temperatures in the 40s.

I'm used to packing for long rides as compactly as possible, but still I was amazed at how few supplies I needed: my Garmin with the route uploaded, two large bottles of water mixed with Skratch Labs powder, and four Clif Bars.  I stuck the unwrapped Clif Bars directly into my jersey pockets to minimize hassle during the race.  I planned to stop only once, at the mandatory SAG halfway through the race, where I could refill my bottles.  After checking in at registration, I was ready to race!

I enjoyed seeing teammates, rando buddies, and various cycling friends from Atlanta, Milledgeville, and Warner Robins.  As we gathered at the starting line, my friend Jean gave me a big hug and said that she was doing the 100K.  Whew!  I had figured she would be some of my biggest competition in the 200K.  But Anne was back.  She beat me last year.  She had also done a 12-hour race the previous weekend, and so I thought she might be even more formidable at this year's Middle Georgia Epic.  Oh, well - I reminded myself that I was there to do my best, and at the very least, I would have a fun day on the bike.

We got our first taste of dirt about two miles into the course.  The fastest guys pulled ahead very quickly, just as I anticipated.  I rode at tempo, knowing that I shouldn't go too hard too early.  It was going to be a long day.

The first little stretch of dirt didn't last long before we had another couple of miles of pavement.  Several other riders and I started clumping together; maybe I wouldn't have to ride by myself all day after all.  My cyclocross bike felt good under me, particularly with its brand-new chain, but something was making a creaking noise on every pedal stroke.  I was embarrassed that it was likely annoying the other riders around me.  I jiggled my shifters and brake levers, hoping to make the creaking stop.  It didn't. hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!  It was just like The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.

Eventually, the creaking did subside.  By the way, today before I wrote this race report, I pulled this out to reread The Tell-Tale Heart:

I found this gorgeous volume at a used book sale several years ago.  The pages are edged in gold, and it's in mint condition.  Quite a find for the approximately $2 I spent on it!  Anyway, back to the race...

We were approaching what I knew would be the most challenging section of the race - six miles of heavily rutted dirt roads that are difficult even when it hasn't rained.  As I turned off of the pavement, my riding companions continued straight.  They didn't know about this short cut-through road, even though it was on the official route.  I didn't have any illusions of staying ahead of them (including Anne!) for the whole race, but I didn't mind being on my own as I made my way through the tough section.

My friend Benny took some great photos of the route.  This one shows some of the most technical part:

Dan Rather helped me get through this section.  I'm not kidding!  Recently I read his book What Unites Us, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  One chapter is entitled "Steady," which is one of his favorite words.  When he was a boy, Rather had rheumatic fever.  His father comforted and encouraged him during the long recovery with the single word "steady."  Rather also describes the reassuring steadiness of various U.S. and other world leaders during war and other troubled times.

I already knew that a steady pace is necessary to successfully complete an epic-length ride or race.  "Steady" also helped me here to keep calm and ride on.  Some of the muddy ruts on the racecourse were like mountain bike single-track.  I'm not a very good technical rider, but I had to pick a line and go with it.  I found that the key was to keep my momentum and to ride...steady.

I made it through the mud and got back to the pavement.  I was approaching the end of the lollipop stick to make a big loop southward.  See you again this afternoon, super-duper muddy section!

Shortly after I started the clockwise loop, here came my friend Jake - on his road bike!  I had passed him on the muddy section when he was changing a flat.  Jake is an excellent rider, but the unpaved sections proved too much for his choice of bicycle.  I didn't get to draft off of him for very long before he got another flat.  I would have been glad to give him one of my spare tubes, but the ones I use on my cyclocross bike are too big for skinny road bike tires.

Because the Middle Georgia Epic is about 75% on unpaved roads (including hard-packed dirt, loose sand, gravel, and of course mud) and 25% on paved roads (some good quality and some shake-and-bake), one tricky thing is selecting your type of bicycle.  Do you ride a mountain bike?  That gives you the most wheel clearance and, thus, the best chance of getting through the muddy sections as quickly as possible.  However, a mountain bike is a lot slower on pavement.  A road bike is faster on pavement but much more prone to flatting off-road, as Jake experienced.  For me, a cyclocross bike is the best choice because it pretty much splits the difference on advantages and disadvantages.

A group of six or eight riders caught up to me, including my friend Andrew, Anne and her husband, another woman, and a few other guys.  We had significant paved sections for a while.  We started a rotating pace line, the perfect way to simultaneously maximize speed and conserve energy.  It struck me how the Middle Georgia Epic encourages skills across several cycling sub-disciplines, from mountain biking to road riding.  Nevertheless, it quickly became apparent that several in my group were not roadies because they didn't know how to execute a rotating paceline.  They would surge as they got toward the front and then not fade back.  Still, I've seen worse rotating pace lines.

The woman I didn't know introduced herself as Kay.  She was so friendly, saying how good it was to see other women cyclists doing an event like this.  I totally agree.  She was riding very strong, and I could quickly discern that she was a force to be reckoned with for the day.  Even more impressively, she told me that this was her first gravel/off-road race.  I told her that she picked quite a challenging event for her first one!  Kay said we should cross the finish line holding hands.  I just laughed.  I'm pretty Kum Ba Yah otherwise, but when it comes to games and sports - Trivia Night, cycling, etc. - I want to dominate!  If Kay and I were still together at the end, I knew I would ride as fast across the finish line as my tired bones would allow.  (Foreshadowing alert...)

A few miles before Eastman, we had a slight detour.  We were supposed to cut through on a dirt road between two main paved roads, but we couldn't get through.  While in transit, a double-wide had managed to get stuck on the dirt road, blocking the entire path.  The driver advised us to go back to the main, paved road and take the next right, putting us back on course.  He sure did look stuck.  As hard as our day might have been, I believe he was having a harder one.

We checked in as required at the SAG stop in Eastman, approximately halfway through.  I was surprised that I didn't have to go to the bathroom; I would have to guard against getting too dehydrated.  I ate a few bites of Clif Bar and nearly gagged.  Then, when my riding companions started eating bagels spread with peanut butter and bacon, my stomach really turned.  Normally, I would totally understand such an odd combination of ingredients, but I was uncharacteristically not hungry mid-race.

One guy hung back to have a mechanic look at his bike, and a few others we had been riding with had dropped off a little while before the SAG stop.  Therefore, only Kay, two guys, and I continued on together.  

A few miles before the stop, my eyes had started hurting from some dirt that got in them.  It was difficult to see.  I tried to let my eyes water, which often does the trick in the middle of a ride like this.  It wasn't working this time.  When we got back on the road after the SAG, my eyes felt worse than ever.  I finally had to stop to rinse them out, letting the others continue.  I knew that I probably would never catch up to Kay, but I had to alleviate the pain in my eyes.

A simple rinse didn't help the first and second times.  Finally, I had to take my contacts out, storing them in one of my bottles with a little water still in it.  (I've had to come up with solutions to problems on the bike before, but this was a first!)  I put that bottle on the less accessible back bottle cage and decided to drink only out of my front bottle the rest of the day.  After taking out my contacts, I obviously still couldn't see well, but at least I wasn't in pain anymore.

It was a unique experience to continue riding without my contacts.  Fortunately, most of the roads, even the unpaved ones, weren't too big a challenge.  I took in the beautiful sights in a rather dreamlike state on the warmish February afternoon.  The sun shone blue-grey behind partly cloudy skies.  Black Angus cows grazed in fields of rye.  Even though their forms were indistinct, I still marveled at the lovely black and green contrast.

Allentown was just past 100 miles.  I needed some more water and figured I could find a church with a spigot.  Sure enough, there's a large church in downtown Allentown - no outdoor spigot, though.  I didn't have any better luck at the fire station around the corner.  Danville is only about a mile farther.  The third time was the charm; I found a church in Danville with a spigot.  (I was glad for the hose that made the spigot easier for me to spot in my semi-blind state.)  The water wasn't exactly clear, but beggars can't be choosers.

I had about 20 miles to go.  Those were the toughest.  I had felt OK up until then, but fatigue began to set in.  My mind was messing with me.  Had I lollygagged too much?  I started looking over my shoulder, expecting to see Anne coming up behind me.  I tried to pick up my seemingly molasses pace.

As I approached the lollipop stick of the route again, I mentally braced for my second bout with the super-duper muddy section, this time with reduced vision.  My biggest priority was safety.  I took the downhills slowly, and I did my best to pick a good line through the difficult sections (steady...).  I emerged safely again and put my head down for the last six miles.

Several miles of pavement, the last bit of dirt, and the final few paved miles through downtown Irwinton.  I turned into the Blue Goose and crossed the finish line!

I heard several people cheer, but I was so spent that I could barely acknowledge their support.  It took me about 15 minutes to change clothes, retrieve my contacts from my water bottle, and get a plate of delicious pasta and salad that the Blue Goose had prepared for the racers.  I plopped down on the patio next to some other racers and felt like I wouldn't move for quite a while.

Kay had finished about 25 minutes ahead of me, and I learned that Anne had DNFed shortly before the SAG stop in Eastman.  That was it for the women in the 40+ category for the 200K.  I forget that we're rather rare birds:

When I got home, I had a restorative shower and made some popcorn for Robert and me to eat while we watched Star Trek.  (I'm embarrassed to say that I've never seen the original TV series before, but Robert is getting me up-to-speed.)  I went to bed early and got a good night's sleep.

This morning I felt rested yet fatigued - that unique sensation after a hard cycling exertion.  The Middle Georgia Epic was tough but fun.  That seems to describe so many of my most memorable bicycle adventures.  It's also a pretty good description of life in general.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

West Side Ramble 200K Permanent (a.k.a. The Starkers Ride)

Beau, Georgia's official weather prognosticator, predicted six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day a few days ago.

I was sad but not surprised about Beau's prediction.  We've had a colder than usual winter.  Yesterday's West Side Ramble 200K permanent was yet another cold ride of this long winter.  However, the camaraderie was warm.  I got to ride with some of my best rando buddies: Andrew, Brian, Dick, Ian, Julie, and Wayne.

A brevet is scheduled for the 24th of this month, but because of a work commitment, I won't be able to do that ride.  So, I was glad when others started asking about doing a permanent yesterday.  After a fair amount of discussion, we settled on the route, the West Side Ramble.  It starts in Stockbridge and makes a counterclockwise loop to the southwest.

When I got to the Kroger parking lot in Stockbridge, our starting point, I was pleased to meet Charlie, a randonneur I didn't know.  He was leaving at the same time as the rest of us but doing a populaire (100K ride).  He's from California and has a goal of riding a populaire in every state.  Georgia is his first one east of the Mississippi River.  Bonne route, Charlie!

We seven doing the permanent began at 8:00 AM, a rather late start time among our Audax Atlanta group.  I wasn't complaining, though; it allowed me to get up at a slightly less uncivilized hour than I do for most of my randonnees.  On the other hand, it was also about the coldest part of the day.  It was only about 30 degrees when we started.  However, the forecast called for a high of 50 and sunshine.

Several times early in the ride, we saw beautiful murmurations of starlings.  Starlings are a non-native, invasive species, but they still look glorious in their shimmering waves of flight.  Isn't murmuration a cool word?  Ian and I thought it might be the word of the day.  However, the word of the day turned out to be much less dignified...

Our first control was in Senoia, a small town that recently has gained renown as the filming location of The Walking Dead.  I've never seen an episode, but it was still interesting to see the gated off section of town where the apocalyptic scenes are staged.

We went to Crook's Hit-n-Run, an unfortunate name for a control:

As we sat on the curb in front of the store having some refreshment, we chatted among ourselves.  Someone asked me if I had brought my usual sardines.  Why, yes, I had.  They are a great protein source on long rides, but I was saving them for later.

My sardines reminded Andrew of a story.  Several years ago he and his wife were on vacation in Spain.  He really wanted to get some grilled sardines, supposedly a local specialty.  However, they had a hard time finding a restaurant that served them.  After an Internet search on their phones, they finally found one restaurant that had grilled sardines.  There was only one way to get to the restaurant, though: through a nude beach.  So, we all laughed as Andrew described having to get his grilled sardines by walking through all these people who were starkers.  Isn't "starkers" a great word?  Andrew and Ian are both originally from England.  Sometimes they use the most marvelous British English words.

Several others also had nude beach stories.  It seems they all were presented with opportunities to partake but declined.  They also commented that a lot of people who do partake would be better off keeping their clothes on.

I have a sort-of experience in this genre.  When I was about 14, my family took one of its usual vacations, probably to see my grandmother.  While we were gone, our neighbors got our mail and kept an eye on the house.  When we got back, Mr. Neighbor asked my mother where we had gone.  She told him we went to a nudist camp.  When she later told me about her joke, I was mortified!  Of course, just about everything mortified me when I was that age.  By the way, when my mother told Mr. Neighbor about the nudist camp, he said, "You know, I've always wanted to go to one of those."

Thus, "starkers" became our word of the day.

It turned out to be a fortuitous choice.  Because Wayne is the route owner of the the West Side Ramble, he is familiar with the roads and a few nearby points of interest.  He asked if we wanted to ride about an extra mile so that we could see Barbie Beach.  Well, of course!

Barbie Beach is in Turin, GA.  Coincidentally, the Barbies are all starkers.  To the far left in the picture is the Egyptian god Set.  We thought it might be Osiris, but after I did a little research later, I discovered that it's actually Set, Osiris's brother.  Set appears to be the bouncer at Mort's Bar.  By the way, the drink special at Mort's Bar is Sex on the Beach.

The owners of Barbie Beach graciously set out a Ziploc bag full of information sheets about Barbie Beach.  I took one to read later:

Any locals who don't like Barbie Beach are just totally un-fun.  I am a little confused, though; the 2006 Turin Olympics was a winter Olympics.  Beach volleyball is a summer Olympics sport.  Whatever - that doesn't detract from the kitschy coolness of Barbie Beach.

Tour guide Wayne pointed out another oddity along the route.  Near the square in Greenville, GA is a house that used to be a jail.  We didn't stop for a picture, but it's pretty interesting.  It even has bars over some of the windows.  And if you'd like to have it for your very own, you're in luck - it's for sale!

Over the next few miles, Brian started feeling pretty badly.  He's usually about the strongest rider in the group, but he told us not to wait for him.  Several people in his office have been sick, and so maybe he picked up their germs.  That's rough.  A 200K is hard enough when you're feeling well.  I'm sorry he had to struggle through the rest of the ride, and I hope he's feeling better.

We got back comfortably before sunset.  Also, Brian rolled in just a few minutes after the rest of us - yea!

Even though it's missing a few letters, it's ironic that I drover through here on my way home:

When I got I home, I took a nice, warm shower and then started cooking dinner for Robert and me.  He put on some music as he always does in the evenings.  Usually, I don't have a particular request - whatever he picks usually suits me quite well - but last night I did have one: Barenaked Ladies.  Or, for the time being, Starkers Ladies.  I enjoy old and new music of many types.  I had heard of Barenaked Ladies but had never listened to them.  I like their music!  So, as a bonus after a thoroughly enjoyable ride, I discovered a great new-to-me rock group.

I'll be glad when the weather is more conducive to going starkers.  In the meantime, I'll still ride on!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bicycle Math

My Reddit Connection (a.k.a. Robert) passed along this cool example of bicycle math:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Peach Peloton - Kaolin Country

Today was a regular Peach Peloton day.  Unfortunately, Robert couldn't go with me because he is recovering from the flu.  So, I headed to East Macon by myself to join my cyclopeeps.

Peach Peloton starts at 9:00 AM.  When I arrived at the starting location about 8:45, the only others in the parking lot were Stony and Chad Madan.  "Laws, what am I getting myself into?" went through my head.  But I got ready to ride regardless.

Within minutes, Allen, Cal, Doug, and Van also joined us - still quite a formidable group.  I was determined to ride my best, but I always prepare for the possibility of getting dropped.  I had uploaded the route into my Garmin, and in general I'm very comfortable with navigation.

With an odd number of riders, the group stayed in a two-up formation with me drafting on the back right.  I stayed there, letting the fading rider get in front of me as he came off the front.  The guys don't mind me forgoing pulling, which is just as well because it's my only hope of hanging for the whole ride.

Although the total amount of elevation gain was moderate, there were a few punchy climbs.  Often, the guys on the front rode up these hills harder than they should have, at least from a group riding standpoint.  (Remember, if your goal is to maintain a cohesive group, focus on keeping your power consistent, not your speed.)  Several times I found myself riding at about 150% of my threshold power up these fairly long climbs.  I recovered quickly each time, but I was concerned that these efforts would take too much from long-term energy reserves.  However, all I could do was keep riding as consistently as possible, maintaining that blessed draft.  The longer I could hang on, the better training it would be for me.

The route took us through Gordon.  As we left the city limits, a speck of dirt from the road got in my eye.  It was painful, but after I let my eye water for a few minutes, it finally felt better.  Ah, the legacy of riding in kaolin country...

We turned onto the Fall Line Freeway, which is also Georgia Highway 243 in this area.  We were riding along in Wilkinson County when I noticed a county line sign for Baldwin County.  Interesting, I thought; I didn't know we would be riding in Baldwin County today.  Literally about 10 seconds later, there was another county line sign indicating we were back in Wilkinson County.  Huh?  That really intrigued me, and sure enough, the Fall Line Freeway goes through a tiny corner of Baldwin County in that location.  About 450 feet to be exact - I measured it on Google Earth:

The red arrow indicates the 450-foot stretch in Baldwin County.
About half way in, we had a store stop in Irwinton.  We opted for the Red and White mini market instead of the Chevron.  The Chevron is halfway down a big descent, and we would have had to climb back up to get back on our route.  I'm glad we went to the Red and White because I got to see this inviting sign:

As we continued on, Cal started cramping.  He hung toward the back with me.  One time I took a turn in the two-up formation, riding next to Chad.  Chad is always very amiable on Peach Peloton.  I get the impression that he chats with you to try to take your mind off the pain.  It worked for me.  He told me about an interesting sounding book about the local kaolin industry and said he would let me borrow it.  That was all I could handle, however, in the two-up formation.  I resumed my trusty drafting position at the back.

The guys changed to a single paceline.  I stayed toward the back but occasionally moved a space or two up.  As long as I could keep drafting...

We were supposed to have an attack zone toward the end of the ride (not that I would have participated).  I don't think we really had an official one - to me, the entire ride was rather an attack zone - but that designated portion of the route still was challenging.  I was at my limit.  At one point I literally called, "Uncle!" but somehow continued to push.

The guys eased the pace (a little bit!), and we rode the last five miles.  I was exultant that I stayed with them the whole way!

It really is a great group of cycling friends.  I appreciate so much their camaraderie, the way they challenge me, and their encouragement.

After the ride I stopped at a nearby Subway.  I ate my sandwich at the restaurant and went to the restroom before the drive home.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I had a big glob of black makeup under my eye from when it had watered to get the dirt speck out.  The woman behind the counter at Subway must have thought I looked pretty pitiful.  I'm glad I didn't tell her I had just ridden my bicycle 90 miles; she would have thought I was crazy, too.

Ride on!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Surreal Twilight Ride

I taught classes in Augusta all day Thursday and half a day Friday, spending the night there.  Therefore, it seemed simpler to make Thursday my off day this past week instead of Friday like usual.  When I got back to my office mid afternoon on Friday, it took me longer than I expected to take care of a few pressing tasks.  Therefore, I had time for only a quick ride late Friday.  It was worth it.

As I headed out into the descending twilight, my surroundings were surreal.  The temperature was in the high 50s, much warmer than the previous week.  It had rained off and on the night before and most of Friday, but it had started to clear a few hours earlier.  The setting sun back-lit  the streaky cumulus clouds, casting the entire outdoors in a bluish grey.  The whole scene had a uniquely beautiful, surreal quality.

Some of the surreal-ness may also have come from my having been awake since 3:00 AM.  Insomnia had struck, and, unlike usual, I never did get back to sleep.  I didn't feel tired as I rode, but my subconscious did seem to be poking through my awareness.

I passed a neighbor's house.  About six crape myrtles stood sentry at the end of the driveway.  Having been pruned over a number of seasons, the trees had longish trunks with numerous bare, spiky branches extending skyward.  They looked like banshees.  I felt a silent scream begin inside.

As I rode the dirt portion of my route, I thought I heard a far-off airplane.  Then, I realized it was my tires making a faint whooshing noise in the semi-peanut buttery mud.  A few upland chorus frogs sang in puddles of standing water, precursors to the symphonies we'll hear in only a few weeks.

Cows chewed their cud contentedly as I rode by, watching me more out of curiosity than fear.  A deer darted across a pasture.  In the gathering dusk, I tried to discern the varied colors in a trio of donkeys.

Back on pavement, I passed a giant oak tree, bedecked with mistletoe, silhouetted against the last western light. I'm pretty sure I spied seven druids dancing in seven time.

A few miles later, I turned into my driveway.  The sky was just getting dark enough to see the stars that welcomed me home.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cold Weather Riding Tips from the Athens 200K Brevet

We get cold snaps here in Georgia, but the current one is one of the longest ones I can remember.  Usually, lows in the teens or twenties might last for a few days, but we've been in the grip of unseasonably cold winter weather for a week now.  Yesterday's forecast scared off about half of the 15 people who had signed up for the Athens 200K brevet.  Not me, though.  (ain't skeered)

It was 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!) when we rolled out.  Brrr!  The high for the day was about 40 degrees.  I suppose it takes a certain kind of person (what kind, I'm not sure) to willingly spend nine hours in such temperatures.  Really, though, the hardest part was getting started.  Isn't that true for so many things in life?

The ride was, thankfully, uneventful except for the cold, which was eventful enough.  Our favorite sign entertained us at the control in Madison:

As Wayne put it, if you got this at a gas station, it would be like playing ptomaine roulette.

Wayne also had the quote of the day.  As several of us were riding across a bridge over a lake, we saw a small fishing boat out on the water.  Wayne said, "I bet it's cold out there."  It reminded me of something having to do with a pot and a kettle.

It seems appropriate that that evening when I got home, I cooked fish and chips, using a beer batter on the fish.  (This was already on the night's menu.)  Additionally, I cooked while wearing my pink flannel pajamas with the bicycles all over them.

After successfully completing an admittedly challenging long winter ride yesterday, I'd like to encourage other cyclists to ride outside even when it's cold.  (Riding inside gets old, doesn't it?)  Here are some tips I've picked up over several winter riding seasons:


High-quality cold-weather riding apparel is key.  I'd certainly rather ride when it's 85 degrees and sunny, but I've found that with proper clothing, even subfreezing temperatures are manageable.  And note that your cold-weather cycling clothing doesn't have to be bulky.  Some of my rando buddies thought I must be cold because I wasn't wearing parachute pants and a Michelin-Man jacket.  That wasn't the case at all.

Upper body: I wore a long-sleeved thermal base layer, a fleece long-sleeved jersey, and my team cycling jacket.  On top of all that, I wore my fluorescent yellow ranndonneuring vest.  The vest was really for visibility, but the extra lightweight layer certainly didn't hurt.

Lower body:I wore my insulated bib tights.  They are so warm that I didn't need any other layers on the bottom.  Remember that your leg muscles are doing most of the work, which goes a long way toward keeping you warm.

Hands: Fingers and toes are the toughest things to keep warm.  Even with good covering, usually they will be cold for the first few miles until your circulation revs up.  Robert gave me a super-duper pair of winter riding gloves for Christmas.  Although I already have a warm pair of cycling gloves, their design is very poor.  If I have to take them off (a given at rest stops, etc.), the lining gets turned inside out, and it can be very difficult to get them back on.  The new gloves eliminate this problem.  Yesterday I added a pair of disposable, plastic food service gloves under my cycling gloves.  This helped a lot.  I've also heard of other randonneurs using latex or neoprene gloves.

Feet: If you're going to do a significant amount of cold-weather riding, consider getting insulated cycling shoes.  They are even more effective than shoe covers.  Yesterday I wore wool socks and my insulated cycling shoes, and I didn't have more than some short-lived toe-sicles at the start of the ride.

Miscellaneous: A head covering under your helmet is a must.  On regular winter days, I usually wear an ear-warmer headband and a cycling cap.  Yesterday was so cold that I went full-tilt with a balaclava.  It covered my whole head and mouth.  I can't pull it up over my nose, however, or my sunglasses fog up.  Yesterday I also added a neck warmer, a relic from my snow skiing days back in college.  Now it's a nice addition to my cycling gear repertoire.

Food and Liquids

I was fairly comfortable yesterday, but I forget that the cold makes you use so much more energy.  Therefore, it's particularly important to consume enough calories on a long ride in the cold.  I really could have eaten more than I did: two Clif Bars, trail mix, sardines in Louisiana hot sauce, and a bottle of chocolate milk.  I got additional calories from two bottles of Skratch Labs powder mixed with water, and I refilled with Gatorade at the convenience store controls.

It's also nice to have a hot beverage at the end of the ride, like a thermos of coffee or tea for the drive home.  One time I got some samples of Skratch Labs recovery drink mix that you put in hot water; it tasted like hot apple cider.  I ought to order some more of that.


So much of cycling is mental, particularly in endurance riding.  Maybe the same approach works for adding distance as well as acclimating to the cold.  Just as a newbie cyclist would build up to riding a century, try riding in successively colder temperatures.

Don't get me wrong - I can make myself ride in the cold, but I'm glad this next week's forecast calls for highs back in the 60s.  Ride on!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mondial Ride

Today was a prime example of one of the main aspects of randonneuring: camaraderie.  I had the privilege of riding with Cynthia Van Der Wiele as she earned the Mondial Award from Randonneurs USA (RUSA).  This award is given to people who complete 40,000 km in RUSA events.  That's about the circumference of the Earth.

Seven of us rode together to celebrate Cynthia's achievement: Andy, Cynthia, Dub, Joe, Neil, Wayne, and me.  Wayne organized the ride, the Red Caboose Populaire.  A populaire shorter than a brevet, typically 100K.  Our route today was just over that distance, 64 miles long.  It was my first populaire.  Not that I've never ridden that distance before; I just haven't done it under the auspices of RUSA.

Joe was so thoughtful to make this sign for Cynthia and bring a globe for her photo opp at the start of the ride.  Fortunately, she didn't have to ride with the globe.

All of the brevets that I've ridden have been in the allure libre style.  In allure libre riding, each rider rides as fast or slow as he/she sees fit, as long as he/she finishes within the designated time limit.  We rode today's populaire in the audax style, as randonneuring was originally done.  In the audax style, everyone stays together.  This certainly seemed appropriate as we all wanted to support Cynthia.

It was cold!  We started with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s, and it never got above the low 40s.  Everyone was dressed adequately, but it's amazing how much energy the body expends just to maintain its temperature.

The route had just two controls besides the start/finish.  The first was a convenience store at mile 31.  Wayne made special note of the sign in the window advertising batter fried shrimp.  Mmm...seafood from a convenience store...

As I rode next to Cynthia toward the second control, I asked her about her randonneuring experiences.  She joined RUSA in 1999 and is no. 608.  Today we have more than 11,000 members.  It's really cool to meet someone with such a low RUSA number!

She said that when she started, there weren't permanents and populaires like today, and so you couldn't accumulate mileage as easily.  She certainly has racked up the miles over the years, however.  She's done Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) four times, twice solo and twice on a tandem, and she's done five 1,000Ks.  And of course there have been numerous 200, 300, 400, and 600KS.  Cynthia definitely exemplifies another important randonneuring trait: dedication.

We passed a field that was strewn with deflated Christmas inflatables.  Cythia aptly noted that it looked like a Civil War battlefield with Christmas characters.  Coincidentally, we saw this while riding on Dixie Highway.

A short distance farther, we reached our second control, The Caboose in Rutledge.  An old caboose has been attached to a building to make a delightful sandwich shop.  The seven of us, along with Cynthia's husband Chet, had a light lunch.

Neil had calculated the exact spot that would mark Cythia's 40,000th km.  It was just four miles from the end.  Of course, we had to stop for another photo opp:

Eastville, GA - the perfect place to reach 40K

L-R: Wayne, Cynthia, Dub, Joe, Andy, and Neil
We pedaled to the finish, where Chet greeted us with some sparkling wine to celebrate!

If I'm going to spend a day in the cold, I can't think of a better way to do it.  Congratulations, Cynthia!

A Personal Bonus

About a week ago, I checked my Strava mileage for the year.  It was 8,817 - pretty close to 9,000, but I decided to let it go.  Then, on Wednesday Wayne posted about the Red Caboose Populaire.  Hmm...with those 64 miles and the 82 miles on Saturday's Peach Peloton, I would need only 37 more miles to get to 9,000.  I could do it!

I did my regular Thursday ride, selecting the Forest Service fire tower as my destination.  That out-and-back-route gave me 26 miles.  I needed only 11 more.  Therefore, I rode my bicycle to and from work on Thursday and Friday.  Riding my three-mile commute those four times was just enough to push me over the top.

Everything went according to plan - yea!  Chad even gave us a few bonus miles at Saturday's Peach Peloton.  I didn't mind - they were insurance.

So, I'm very happy to have met this last-minute 2017 goal, but I'm even more happy for Cynthia.  Ride on!