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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Athens 200K

Note: Last December I took up a new type of riding, randonneuring.  It's a long-distance style of riding that began in France and Italy about 100 years ago.  The most common type of event is the brevet, which ranges in length from 200 km (about 124 miles) to 1200 km (about 746 miles).  (The most famous brevet is Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200K held every four years).  A brevet is not a race, but it has a time limit, and you have to stop at designated checkpoints along the route.  Camaraderie and self sufficiency are emphasized.  I ride with the Audax Atlanta chapter of Randonneurs USA (RUSA), whose Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) - i.e., ride coordinator - is Kevin Kaiser.  This is my ride report from the Athens 200K this past April.

Yesterday’s 200K was terrific!  We couldn’t have asked for much better weather, could we?  As always, thank you so much to Kevin for organizing everything and to everyone who provided support.

My ride was more food focused than usual.  That’s because my brain malfunctioned Friday night before I went to bed; I set my alarm clock about 30 minutes later than I should have.  When I woke up, I realized that I should have been leaving my house right about then!  After a mad dash to wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on my kit, I was out the door in 15 minutes.  Fortunately, I had packed all my gear in my car the night before.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to pack all of the food I had intended to bring.

I like to bring most of my own food because I feel like I get better nutrition that way.  Good fuel = better performance.  The original plan was to bring a turkey and cheese sandwich, a cut-up apple, two Clif Bars, and two hard-boiled eggs, which I planned to supplement with a few purchased items at the controls.  I had boiled the eggs the night before and placed them in a Ziploc bag in the fridge, and so I just had to grab them.  The Clif Bars were with my packed gear.  I didn’t have time to prepare my sandwich and apple, though, which meant that I had to buy more food on the road than usual.  I did have the presence of mind to grab a third Clif Bar and two bananas.  On the drive up, I had a Clif Bar, a banana, and the two hard-boiled eggs.  Breakfast of champions.

When I was little, I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries.  Nancy, ever the good citizen, always drove “only as fast as the law would allow,” even when she was pursuing some ne’er-do-well.  I sort of followed Nancy’s example, driving as fast as the laws of physics would allow while avoiding the po po.  I managed to arrive a few minutes before everyone rolled out.  However, by the time I parked up the road, unloaded my bike, and got myself organized, I started about 10 minutes after the group.  This doomed me to a day of solo riding.  At least I was up for the challenge.

The one thing I forgot in my frenzy to get out the door was the Heed that I prepared the previous night.  Heed is a sports drink with protein as well as carbohydrates; both are important on our endurance rides.  It comes as a powder that you mix with water.  At least forgetting my two bottles of Heed wasn’t catastrophic; I simply bought a few bottles of Gatorade at the first control.  Also, the Heed didn’t go to waste.  I called my husband later in the morning and suggested that he use them on his ride yesterday.

I try to eat something about every hour and a half.  Around mile 75 or so, I’m ready for some more substantial food.  This generally corresponds well with whichever control is the lunch-ey-est.  Of course, yesterday this was the McDonald’s in Eatonton.  When I ordered a Quarter Pounder, the cashier looked at me like I had 3 heads. She sniffed, "We don't serve lunch until 11:00 A.M." (It was about 10:30.) Having already been on my bicycle for about 4 1/2 hours, I just assumed it was lunchtime.  Whatever - on a brevet, one doesn't dine; one fuels.  So, I got a sausage and egg biscuit and a Coca-Cola Classic.  Breakfast of champions Part II.  By the way, I never drink full-octane Coke any other time, but I’ve found that the sugar and caffeine at my lunch stop works very well for me on brevets.

After all that Gatorade and Coke, a little while later I was ready for some good old, plain water.  As you know, there aren’t any stores on the route between McDonald’s and the next control .  Not a problem, though.  I simply used the old cycling trick of stopping at a country church.  I was grateful that New Enon Baptist Church on Godfrey Road had a working outdoor spigot.

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.  –  Mark 9:41

I thoroughly enjoyed my ride and finished strong.  As a bonus, my husband and our friend Chad rode their bicycles from Monticello to the SpringHill Suites.  Chad’s wife Kathy met us, too, and the four of us went to downtown Athens to watch the Twilight Criterium.  We caught the later races, including the pro women’s and men’s races.  I’ve been to Twilight and other crits before, but this pro men’s race was amazing.  They went incredibly fast, and, unfortunately, there were several crashes.  We were standing behind the outside barricade on Turn 4, where the worst crash of the night occurred.  One racer was taken away by ambulance.  (Prayers that he and the others are OK.)  As I told Jeff Dilcher, this made me so glad that I’ve traded mass-start races for randonneuring!

I hope this wasn’t too much rambling about nutrition on rides, but it's such a critical part of our sport.  I’d love to hear anyone else’s input.  Also, I hope some of the 600K riders give us a report.

Betty Jean

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Power Intervals

Note: The following is a collection of writings that I assembled for my church's 185th anniversary celebration this year.  Church members were invited to submit artwork illustrating our understanding of one of the "pillars of faith" that we had established.  I stretched the definition of artwork to include writing, and the pillar I selected was Transformed by Grace: A People in the Hands of God.

Power Intervals

By Betty Jean Jordan
One of my delights in life is to look for – and discover – God in the everyday.  God is always with us; one of God’s names is Emanuel, after all!  The tricky part is to have clear enough eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to discern that presence.  Sometimes God is noticeable in the not-so-obvious places.  I particularly love to see God during one of my favorite activities, riding my bicycle.
When I train for time trials, I often do power intervals, maintaining a certain power (wattage) for several time segments with a short rest in between.  It’s pretty intense, and I confess that I generally don’t focus on spiritual matters at those times.  Fortunately, I also do a lot of longer, slower endurance rides – perfect for some power intervals of a different kind.  We can be transformed by grace anytime, anywhere – even on a bicycle!  Following are some writings about my rides over the past few months when I have seen that we truly are a people in the hands of God.
…“In him we live and move and have our being”…
Acts 17:28
January 4, 2014
It was the coldest Peach Peloton (winter training ride) in quite a while, certainly the coldest thus far of this season.  I wore my heaviest-duty winter riding gear, including tights, a windproof jacket, shoe covers, and my best winter riding gloves – all of which are black.  The coup de grace, however, was the balaclava, which I use only on the coldest rides.  Covering my whole head and neck, it left just my eyes exposed, which, of course, I covered with my sunglasses.  I looked like a Ninja in a cycling helmet.
Our Peach Peloton organizer had planned a 100-mile ride.  I knew that I couldn’t keep up the guys’ pace for that distance.  Therefore, I mapped out a shorter, 83-mile route for myself, which worked very well.  About half way into my ride, I turned off by myself and said goodbye to the guys until we met again at the parking lot.
Around mile 50 I got to Barnesville.  I was ready for a store stop.  I found a convenient convenience store and parked my bicycle outside, leaving my helmet next to it.  I bought a bottle of Gatorade and some Cheez-Its.  The salty crackers tasted especially good after the sweet Clif Bars I had already eaten during my ride.  I stood inside the store while I refueled, enjoying a few minutes of warmth.  Even though I pulled down the mouth covering on my balaclava so that I could eat and drink, I’m sure I still looked pretty odd standing there in my cycling getup.  If nothing else, what crazy person would be out riding on a day like this?
That’s when he walked in.  He may or may not have been a homeless person, but either way I could tell that life had put him through the wringer.  I waved hello as he walked past me.  The thing that struck me most was his hat.  It was a very large, brown, leather stovepipe hat.  No, really it was shaped more like the Mad Hatter’s hat.  I have no idea where one even buys such a hat.  I was so tempted to ask him to take a picture with me.  The Mad Hatter and the Ninja – wouldn’t that be great?  However, I didn’t want to offend him, and so I just continued to munch on my Cheez-Its.  Then, as he walked by me on his way back out of the store, I waved again to him and smiled.  Wordlessly, he looked me in the eye and placed his fist over his heart.  I don’t know exactly what he was saying, but I felt connected to him in that moment.  Perhaps we are on very different paths, but he and I are compadres on this same journey of life.
So Great a Cloud of Witnesses
February 16, 2014
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.
Hebrews 12:1
Today I rode on one of my favorite Jasper County roads, Fellowship Road.  It has excellent pavement, very little traffic, and beautiful forests on either side.  There’s something about riding down this road that makes me feel especially connected to the land.
On a lovely, warm Sunday afternoon several years ago, Robert and I took another bicycle ride down Fellowship Road.  We passed a small church; I believe it was an A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) church.  Jasper County, which has a population of only about 14,000, is dotted with dozens, maybe hundreds (really!), of rural churches like this.  Some are simply relics from previous generations, but at others, people still meet, even if it’s only once or twice a month.  The congregation at this A.M.E. church was gathered on that particular day; we heard gospel singing well before the church building came into view.  African-American churches tend to meet for much longer on Sundays than do white churches, at least in the South.  I’ve always been glad that I come from a faith tradition that gets me out of church by noon on Sunday, freeing me for an afternoon of cycling.  To me, it’s just moving from indoor worship to God’s outdoor cathedral.  Even so, I have great respect for others’ approaches to worshipping God, and I have to admit that deep down I desire the strong sense of community that my African-American brothers and sisters seem to find so much more readily in their churches.
The music I heard on that earlier day was beautiful and almost otherworldly, kind of like something from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?  As I relished the feel of the sunshine on my face, the rhythm of my pedaling, and the companionship of my favorite riding partner, the music lifted my spirit.  I remember that music every time I ride my bicycle past that spot.  Or at least I think I do…
Did it really happen?  Some months later, I rode by and discovered that the church had burned down!  I was heartbroken for the worshippers who had met there.  Over time, vegetation has overtaken the burned-out remnants.  The average person wouldn’t know that a church was ever there.  After today’s ride, however, I know that that gospel singing was real.  I know because I heard a different joyful sound: the calls of hundreds of upland chorus frogs all along the roadside near the old church site.
I love frogs.  I have a CD that teaches you how to identify Georgia’s various frog species by their calls.  Although I haven’t learned as many calls as I’d like, I’m really good at identifying a few species, including the upland chorus frog.  This frog sounds like rubbing your fingers along the edge of a comb.  The males send out their mating calls from mid to late winter.  Especially with all of the ponded water from recent rain and melted ice and snow, I wasn’t a bit surprised to hear so many upland chorus frogs today.
I’ll hear frog calls coming from a particular patch of standing water, but as I come right up on it on my bicycle, the frogs cease their singing.  You hear the frogs, but you never see them – like the wind or the Holy Spirit.  Ethereal and miraculous.
Truly, we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.  Whether it’s a gospel choir or a host of upland chorus frogs, God’s people and God’s creatures can’t help but sing glory to God.  Alleluia!
Changing a Flat
March 20, 2014
With this being the first day of spring, I most certainly was going for a bicycle ride.  Creation must have been ready for spring, too.  The combination of the lavender redbud blooms, white pear tree flowers, and green pine trees was striking in the lovely, early evening sunshine.  (I love Daylight Saving Time!)  I could hear an occasional late-season mating call of an upland chorus frog.  One of the zillions of benefits of cycling is to help me be in the moment.  It’s a good discipline.
For today’s route I chose an out-and-back down Goolsby Road, a rural Jasper County ride right near my house.  Although Goolsby Road is a regular part of my Frankenbike (cyclocross bike) rides, I don’t often ride my road bike on it.  Goolsby has a pretty rough surface and a fair number of potholes to dodge.  Frankenbike’s heavy duty tires can handle it with no problem, but I have to be more cautious on my road bike, which has much narrower tires.  Still, I thought Goolsby Road would be a nice variation for today’s road ride.  When I got to the end of Goolsby, I added a little extra mileage, riding on Fullerton-Phillips Road, Jones Road, and Dumas Road.  Jones Road is particularly beautiful and smooth, and I hadn’t ridden on in quite a while.
I reached my turnaround point and headed back toward home.  As I returned up Goolsby Road, I was cautious as I approached the bridge over Cedar Creek.  One time I was riding my road bike over this bridge and got a pinch flat at the rough transition between the asphalt road and the concrete bridge.  Today as I approached the bridge, I slowed down and carefully avoided any big bumps.  Yahoo!  Then, right in the middle of the bridge – whoosh!  I don’t know what I ran over, but my rear tire went flat immediately.
Over the years I have had an occasional flat tire, but I must confess that I’ve always relied on others to change my tire for me.  I ride primarily with men, and of course they always chivalrously volunteer to change flats for me.  Once or twice I’ve gotten a flat when I was riding by myself, like my previous flat on this Goolsby Road bridge.  At those times I’ve simply called Robert to come get me.   My system has worked pretty well, but recently I have taken action to be more self reliant.
Changing a bicycle tube isn’t really that hard, but it’s a skill that takes practice.  Certain steps can make the process a lot easier and faster.  A few months ago Robert gave me some refresher training.  Perhaps fortuitously, Robert had gotten a flat on our ride the previous weekend, and watching him change it reminded me of the steps.  Today I was going to change my own flat!
Remove wheel – check.
Use tire tool to loosen one side of tire – check.
Remove damaged inner tube – check.
Inspect inner wall of tire for sharp object that may have caused flat – check.
Place new tube inside of tire – check.
Work loosened tire back onto wheel – check.
Place CO2 cartridge on tube stem and inflate tube – check.
Place wheel back on bicycle – check.
It may not have been the fastest tire change ever, but I did it!  I was ready to roll!  Or so I thought…  Before I could even get back on my bicycle, I heard it again – whoosh!  Man, was I bummed.  I didn’t have another spare tube, and so I still had to call Robert to come get me.
Later, I learned that whatever I ran over actually put a big gash in my tire, which punctured the new tube when I inflated it.  So, I wound up having to replace both the tube and the tire.  The damaged tire wasn’t something I could have fixed on the road, but at least I had changed the tube correctly!
Cycling, like life, is not without its risks.  A few bumps, flats, detours, or even crashes are inevitable.  The important thing is to carry the tools you need to handle the difficult situations.  Also, some roads are better to travel than others.  In fact, some roads should be avoided altogether; sometimes you learn that after a mistake or two!  The good news, however, is that we can always count on God to be with us all along the way and to see us safely home.

April 5, 2014
My child, keep my words
    and store up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live,
    keep my teachings as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 7:1-3
Cycling can be very meditative.  Sometimes a particular Bible verse or passage will come to mind while I’m riding.  One time I started thinking about how a particular person had hurt me.  I thought I had forgiven the person, but for whatever reason, the pain resurfaced as I pedaled.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:21-22
These familiar verses came to life for me on that ride.  Maybe I wouldn’t ever forget the person’s wrongdoing, but I realized that every time I remembered it, I could release the hurt to God, not letting it take control of me.  I had a new understanding of forgiveness.
My cycling contemplations aren’t always so profound, however.  I think that God has a terrific sense of humor, which is why the Living Word sometimes reveals itself to me in rather quirky ways.
For several weeks every spring, the pine pollen really bothers my eyes.  It doesn’t affect my breathing, thankfully, but the large grains make my contact lenses very uncomfortable when I’m riding my bicycle.  Usually, I just tough it out, squinting and letting my eyes water.  Occasionally, however, it gets bad enough that I take my contacts out mid-ride.  Maybe I should invest in some prescription sunglasses (I need sunglasses even more than I need my contacts when I ride my bicycle), but I’ve never bothered.
Today I conducted an experiment.  I rode in the Journey Ride for Autism, a charity ride in Macon.  Instead of waiting for the inevitable pollen pain, I decided to take my contacts out before the ride.    Thus, I rode the entire 100-mile route half blind.  It worked pretty well; I think I only ran over one thing that I would have seen if I had had my contacts.
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:5
I ride with mostly guys.  Spending several hours at a time on our bicycles, we take at least one “nature break” during our rides.  The men have it easy; they just stop on the side of the road in a wooded area and answer the call.  On the other hand, we women have to be a little more discreet.  I ride a little ways ahead of the men and find a private bush.  I always laugh to myself and pretend that I can’t look back or else I’ll be like Lot’s wife at Sodom and Gomorrah.
But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26

Bridging the Gap

I first started writing about riding as part of a personal project I had in 2013 called A Year of Centuries.  For this project I rode one century (100-mile ride) each month on behalf of 12 different charities.  It was a way for me to express my gratitude for the recovery I had following a serious crash in a bicycle race the previous year.  During A Year of Centuries, I rode my bicycle in all kinds of beautiful places around Georgia, and I met so many terrific people through the charities that I focused on.  I thoroughly enjoyed documenting everything through blogging.  When it was over, however, that was it.  A Year of Centuries was one of the best experiences of my life, but I purposely set it up to have a definite beginning and ending.

I've missed writing about riding!  Although I've written a few things about my cycling adventures in recent months, it hasn't been anything regular.  That's what spurred me to start this new blog.  For completeness (and in case I want to reminisce in the nursing home), my blogs over the next few days will be the miscellaneous ramblings that I have written thus far in 2014.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sickly Smoothie and Smooth Sax

Even the most seemingly ordinary bicycle ride sometimes turns out to be not so ordinary.  Yesterday I went for a long solo ride (about 50 miles roundtrip) to Juliette, Georgia.  Juliette was made famous as the filming location of one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes.  The Whistle Stop CafĂ© is a real restaurant that opened when the movie was filmed, and it’s done very well ever since.  In fact, the tiny locale has quite a thriving tourist business thanks to the restaurant plus shops that offer products ranging from honey to wine to antiques.  Since Juliette was my halfway point, I decided to visit the coffee shop for a smoothie.

I actually like the heat, but it definitely was noticeable yesterday.  After relatively cool temperatures recently, yesterday was more like the hot, sultry Georgia summer that we all know and love.  That smoothie sounded better and better as I pedaled along through the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge.

At last I crossed the Ocmulgee River, entering Juliette.  As I approached the railroad tracks, I saw – and heard – something that made me do a double take.  A dude in a bathing suit was standing on the side of the road playing a saxophone!  I slowed down and considered stopping.  However, I was really ready for that smoothie, and I so I continued on to the coffee shop.  More on Saxophone Dude in a moment.

I eagerly entered the coffee shop.  I thought I remembered from a previous visit that peach was one of the flavors.  Yes, there it was on the menu!  Maybe it’s because I’m a native Georgian, but I absolutely love peaches.  They are my favorite fruit.  I could hardly wait to experience their fresh, juicy deliciousness in my smoothie.  And where better to have such a treat than in this quintessentially small Southern town during peach season.  The girl behind the counter proceeded to make my smoothie.  Then, the horror…

She pulled out a jar of store-bought peach preserves from the refrigerator!  I was too wimpy (or too thirsty) to back out.  To add insult to injury, she gave me (and charged me for) a large when I had asked for a small.  Oh well, at least it was wet and cool and had some calories for the ride home.

I sat in the shade outside, drinking the smoothie and hoping to hear Saxophone Dude across the railroad tracks.  I caught a strain here and there, but the AC unit outside of the coffee shop mostly drowned it out.  I got back on my bicycle and headed toward home.

As I crossed the railroad tracks and approached Saxophone Dude, I had to stop this time.  He didn’t play anything I recognized, but it was lively and happy.  It was as if he had all this music inside and just had to share it with the world.  I was grateful to be there to scoop up a little of it.  When he finished his song, I applauded, and he smiled.  The smoothie had given me some fuel for the body, but the music gave me fuel for the soul.  Expect adventure.