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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Athens 300K Brevet

On Saturday I did the Athens 300K brevet.  I thought, yeah, I’m going to do a 300K – no big deal.  Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t done a ride that long since last spring, but I forgot that a 300K really is a big step up from a 200K.  I’ve done this course before, as well as several other 300Ks, but Saturday was tough.  It wasn’t just me, either.  Several other people said the same thing.  Also, 7 out of 21 riders DNFed – 1/3!  Was it the cold?  Was it because this brevet was held earlier in the year than before?  I’m not sure.  But I still had a lot of fun, and it was a great way to ease back into some longer distances.  As always, I am very grateful for Kevin, our Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), and my other fellow randonneurs.

It was a big group, especially for a 300K.  I was happy to have some of my regular rando buddies with me, Andrew, Josh, Julie, and Robert N., plus a couple of new friends, David and Scott.  It was particularly impressive that Robert came out for the ride.  Less than 36 hours previously, he had gotten back from the Tour of Tasmania – a 1200K brevet!

The temperature was around freezing when we started.  I’ve ridden in plenty of cold weather, but I had a different, weird experience that morning.  Even with my heaviest winter riding gloves, I usually have some numbness and/or pain in my fingers during the first part of a cold ride, but it goes away as my blood flow regulates the heat I produce while I ride.  The first strange thing on Saturday is that my fingers went through several cycles of cold/warm.  When we got to the first convenience store, I went inside to go to the bathroom.  After being in the store a few minutes, my hands started to really hurt.  I’ve experienced this before as my cold hands have begun to warm, but this time the pain was excruciating!  As I stood in line for the cashier to sign my brevet card, I felt nauseous, and then I got really lightheaded.  I bent over and propped myself on an ice cream case.  I thought, “Am I dying?”  More importantly, “Will I be able to finish the ride?”  Concerned, Julie checked on me and encouraged me to come back outside and stand in the sun.  I got my card signed, went outside, and sat on the curb.  The debilitating lightheadedness passed, and I felt completely like myself again.  Thankfully, I didn’t have any further repercussions for the rest of the ride.  Strangely, Andrew had a very similar reaction to mine.  We discussed it as we rode and concluded that we must have warmed up too quickly from the cold, like a glass container that shatters when it’s transferred too quickly between cold and heat.  I think it had something to do with blood pressure, too.  I have relatively low pressure.  One time my doctor asked me if I ever get lightheaded when I stand up, and I replied yes, sometimes.  He said that the best way to fix that is to not stand up so quickly.

All of us were glad as the day warmed up noticeably after that.  We continued our journey on the beautifully sunny morning.  We were averaging a little over 15 mph.  Although this is significantly slower than, say, Peach Peloton, I was enjoying the manageable pace and the opportunity to talk with my companions.  Besides, I didn’t want to overcook it.  David, who was doing his first 300K, started complaining that the group was riding too slowly.  I told him that we were just right; we still had 200K to go!

Soon we came to the most interesting control of the day, the Georgia Guidestones.  Although I have visited the Guidestones several times before, they always intrigue me with their mystery, even eeriness.  They consist of four large granite slabs in a radial pattern with a smaller slab in the middle and one on top.  It’s reminiscent of Stonehenge.  The granite was quarried locally.  In fact, nearby Elberton is the Granite Capital of the World.  No one knows who designed or paid for the Guidestones.  Whoever it was apparently wanted to leave a positive message with those who visit.  On each side of the four outer granite slabs, ten guiding principles are engraved in eight languages.  Here's a sample:

The Guidestones might bring to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey or – for those with a darker bent – the apocalypse.  I simply take it at face value; the Guidestones have advice that we all would do well to heed.

Our next stop was Richard B. Russell State Park.  Kevin met us there with some much appreciated water and snacks.  As a bonus, I scored a free magnet at the park office!  I’ll always take free cycling swag.

I suppose I should clarify what free cycling swag I’ll take.  In 1995 my husband I did the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG).  That year it went from Rome to Augusta.  One of the overnight stops was in Elberton.  As all the wonderful Georgia towns do, Elberton rolled out the red carpet for the BRAG cyclists.  One of the events that night was a raffle.  When they held up a parakeet in a cage, I had a feeling that they were going to pull my ticket.  Sure enough, I won the parakeet!  Since that wasn’t practical for me to carry on the ride, they gave the parakeet to a local person and gave me a substitute raffle prize, a nice coffee table book on the history of Elbert County.  And no, I didn’t have to carry that on my bike.  BRAG has 18-wheelers to carry the riders’ bags.

Back to the brevet…

We pedaled on, enjoying the day.  The next control was in Royston, home of baseball legend Ty Cobb.  It was an open control, and we picked a good one, thanks to Julie.  As we rode through downtown, she noticed Granny’s Farmers Market.  It had some good looking produce and some other locally produced yummies.  Among our group of six, we bought two loaves of peach bread and three bags of Amy’s Burmese Peanuts.  The peanuts were deep fried (like Spanish peanuts in a can) and seasoned with ginger and garlic.  The little pieces of garlic were especially delicious!  We sat out on the sidewalk tearing off chunks of peach bread and scarfing down peanuts.  Great bike food!  We ate our fill and carried the leftovers in our bike bags.

David partook of another delicacy from Granny’s Farmers Market: chocolate milk.  Not just any chocolate milk, but locally produced, unpasteurized chocolate milk.  Now, chocolate milk is an excellent drink during or after a long bicycle ride.  Also, I’ve had delicious, unpasteurized chocolate milk from a farm near my house.  But I wouldn’t drink an entire half gallon during a ride!  I couldn’t even drink that much if I weren’t on the bike!  Yes, that’s what David did.  A few miles after Royston, David started complaining that we were riding too fast.  This is the same guy who had complained that morning that we were riding too slowly.  I guess he had to drop back from the rest of us due to a gastrointestinal milkshake.  I hope he wasn’t too miserable.  Even so, this is now definitely part of Audax Atlanta lore.  We look forward to embellishing it over time.

The next segment was the hardest part of the ride for me, from about mile 125 to 150.  I think that’s where my body was wondering why I didn’t stop at 200K.  But I kept pushing – that’s part of endurance riding.  Then, we came upon an oasis!  Our randonneuring friend David Nixon, who didn’t do Saturday’s brevet (not David of the chocolate milk), set up an extra rest stop near his farm at about mile 133.  It was most welcome – thank you, David!  This was on the longest stretch between controls, about 38 miles.  That may not sound very far, but that part of the route also has lots of rollers that seem more challenging after riding for so many hours.  David’s hospitality gave me just the boost I needed to get to the next control in Jefferson.

At the control in Jefferson, we had some more peach bread.  It wasn’t quite as tantalizing as when we first got it.  Bike food gets rather wearying after a while, but you have to keep eating.  Sometimes it’s a matter of simply figuring out what doesn’t sound too icky at the moment.  Fortunately, I had a good energy level for the rest of the ride.  Maybe I was better regulating my fueling, or maybe my body finally decided to go along for the long ride.

We stopped at one more convenience store before the end.  As we rolled up, a jolly looking fellow with a full, whitish beard was standing outside the store smoking a cigarette.  He looked like Santa Claus’s younger brother.  He asked if we had come for the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, pointing to a hand-drawn sign on the door.  That actually sounded quite delicious.  I told him we’d be ready for it in about 18 more miles.  Then he asked if we were riding a long way or just locally.  Perhaps it was delirium from having ridden 175 miles, but I couldn’t help but break out in Johnny Cash’s, “I’ve been everywhere, man.  I’ve been everywhere, man.”  Grinning from ear to ear, he said he had that song in his big rig.  I love crossing paths with these fellow travelers on life’s road.

Our group of five was ready to pull out for the final stretch when Andrew noticed that he had a flat tire.  Bummer.  He tried fixing it, going through several tubes and checking for debris in the tire, but he never could get it to hold air.  Sadly, we decided to call Kevin to pick him up, and the remaining four of us would finish the ride.

Andrew's tire was flat but his attitude wasn't!

It was a real team effort to make it to the end.  Julie had a front light for her bicycle, but she had forgotten her usual helmet light to help her read the cue sheet.  I figured, no problem, I had the map on my Garmin.  This worked perfectly until my Garmin battery died at mile 181.  Scott had a light to see his cue sheet and started calling out the turns.  Then he broke a spoke; we all crossed our fingers that he would make it to the end as he snapped, crackled, and popped.  Then my front light went out!  I’m really still a newbie when it comes to randonneuring, at least on the longer distances.  I used to have two good front lights but lost one in the community shuffle during RAAM last year.  I didn’t expect to have to ride in the dark more than a couple of hours on Saturday and assumed that my one remaining front light would suffice.  I do have a dynamo wheel hub, which I got with 400K and longer rides in mind.  I’ve learned my lesson, though; from now on I’m going to use my dynamo on 300Ks, too.  Fortunately, I had plenty of light to see thanks to the front lights of my three remaining companions.  Julie made the astute observation that we should have borrowed Andrew’s lights as backup.  D’oh!

After 15 hours and 23 minutes, we finally made it back to the Spring Hill Suites where we had started.  That was the longest a 300K has ever taken me.   And this was even with Julie doing her best schoolmarm impersonation, shooing us in and out of controls as quickly as possible. (Alas, I never got to eat my can of sardines!)  Later, I learned that the last riders to finish were nearly 3½ hours behind us, which is quite a spread.  That’s another indication of the difficulty of the ride.  By the way, Kevin wasn’t at the end to meet us because he went to pick up a few guys who were hanging out at a pub in Jefferson.  If I had known that was an option, I might have been tempted!

Andrew was back at the motel.  He and I chatted with the receptionist, who was collecting our signed brevet cards for Kevin.  We told her about riding for 15+ hours in the cold and wind, David’s lactic escapades, Andrew’s flat, etc.  She just shook her head as if to say, “You poor, crazy people.”  The more she shook her head, the more Andrew and I tried to convince her how fun it all was.

Following several huge years of cycling (A Year of Centuries, my first R-12, RAAM), at first I didn’t think I’d have a big cycling goal this year.  However, toward the end of 2015 I decided to go for the Super Randonneur (SR) Award this year, given by Audax Club Parisien, the randonneuring world headquarters club in Paris.  The SR Award requires doing a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K in the same calendar year.  I’ve already completed a 200K and 300K.  Next up: the Augusta 400K – in only two weeks!  I’m glad for the Athens 300K to start getting me mentally prepared.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flowered-y Bikes

A friend of mine on Facebook particularly loves flowers.  Occasionally, she posts on my timeline a lovely picture of a bicycle surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The bicycle is always some kind of easy pedaler, maybe with a basket on the front – definitely not a racing bike, but who cares?  It’s so charming the way my friend shares these photos with me.  Here’s a recent one:

This past Sunday afternoon I did a little gravel grinding on my cyclocross bike.  When I got back home, I momentarily parked my bike next to some daffodils that are just beginning to bloom.  The scene was a lot more rustic than the pictures that my friend sends me, but I still smiled because it made me think of her:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tundra Time Trial

Today was the Tundra Time Trial, the first race of my 2016 season.  Surge Sports always does a great job putting on this event.  And - as usual - the Tundra lived up to its name.  Brr!

This was the 13th year of the Tundra TT.  It used to be held on the Silver Comet Trail, but that got a little too dicey with the pedestrians and other cyclists.  Several years ago, Tundra was moved north to Adairsville.  That was a great course.  Then, two years ago it moved to another good route in Cumming.  Last year Surge Sports wasn't able to host the Tundra, and so Reality Bikes took the reins and held it at the Cumming course again.  This year there was some discussion about which organization would host Tundra.  They finally decided to have Surge Sports take over again with the usual February race, and Reality Bikes will host a different time trial in Cumming in July.  I'm glad it worked out this way because I welcome an additional time trial on a rather skimpy Georgia racing calendar.

Surge Sports moved Tundra to yet another location this year: north Coweta County/south Fulton County.  It's a familiar location to me.  Today's course was almost exactly the same as the short TT course in the Peachtree Bikes TT series several years ago, hosted at Serenbe.  It's an excellent area to race or just ride.  Known as Silk Sheets, metro Atlanta cyclists love riding in this low-traffic area.  Not only have I raced TTs here a number of times, but also I've ridden some of the same roads as part of the Silk Sheets 200K brevet.

By the way, I have a funny story about riding in the Silk Sheets area.  The Peachtree Bikes series also had a longer TT course that was a big rectangle, about 22 miles long.  I had done this longer time trial about four times before I did my first Silk Sheets 200K.  The brevet course intersected the TT course at the northwest corner of the TT rectangle.  As I approached this intersection on the brevet from the opposite direction from which I had raced through it, I noticed a monstrous house right on the corner.  Although the house is seemingly impossible to miss, I had never seen it during any of the TTs!  That just goes to show the intensity of racing at threshold power.

Today's forecast called for clear skies and temperatures in the upper 20s to lower 30s.  Yikes.  My first thought was to forego wearing a skinsuit and simply dress for warmth.  I was thinking bib tights, a base layer, a long-sleeved jersey, and my Georgia Neuro team jacket, which is great for such low temperatures.  Robert advised that I would be too warm if I raced in my jacket.  Instead, he recommended that I borrow his old long-sleeved skinsuit and his long-sleeved base layer with a windproof front.  Then, all I had to do was add some knee warmers.  (I still wore my other planned cold weather gear, including heavy-duty gloves, shoe covers, and a hat under my helmet.)  Robert was right; I was actually pretty comfortable temperature-wise while I was racing.  Besides, as I wore his old Security Bank skinsuit with the striped sleeves, I was reminded of Waldo, as in Where's Waldo?  Except Waldo had turned blue in the tundra-like conditions.

Although Robert has given up time trials to focus on road races, I'm grateful for all of his previous tutelage in time trial logistics.  I checked in, pinned on my own number, set up my trainer, and had plenty of time to warm up before my start time.  Maybe it's having a little more race experience, or maybe it's just getting older, but I didn't feel nearly as nervous before my race as I have in the past.  Or maybe I was just too cold to notice.

I resumed TT training about six weeks ago.  I've done intervals once a week, usually on Sundays.  The only problem is that Peach Peloton is on Saturdays.  That means that my power has been way down on TT practice days - conflicting training goals.  Oh well, I guess my TT training was adequate because I was able to hold an average of 211 W today.  I was shooting for 210 W.  When I've really been focusing on TT training, my threshold power is 215 W.  So, I was definitely satisfied with my power output today.  Incidentally, my average speed was 20.8 mph, a little less than I expected because of the wind.  This is a good example of why power is such a better metric than average speed.

Being familiar with the course really helped me.  I knew that the portion on Hutcheson Ferry had a few punchy climbs.  Climbing is my cycling forte; therefore, I tried to use it to my advantage.  I rode as hard as I could up the hills, hoping to pick up a few seconds on my competition.

I finished safely (always my biggest goal!), and I felt like I rode well.  I changed out of my race clothes and waited for the results.  Somehow I forget every year that standing around waiting for the results is always a lot colder than the Tundra race itself!

Now able to switch out of race mode, I enjoyed visiting with my TT buddies: teammates Tina and Tony, brother-in-law Robbie, Chad, Ronnie, and Pete.  Also, I was glad to meet Angela from the Sorella team.  She has just started racing; it's always good to see more women in cycling!

Pete and I outfoxed Robbie.
The race organizers and officials had to work through some snags in the timing data, but at last they sorted it out.  I was thrilled to place 1st in the Cat 4 women! (finish time of 27:35)

Robert's (early) Valentine to me was some Chuck Taylor high tops.  Best. Podium. Shoes. Ever.  (even better than the lime green sandals that I wore on the state championship podium a few years ago, but that's another story)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


About once a week I run.  Although running is barbaric, it's good cross-training, it lets me fit in a decent workout when my schedule is busy, and it keeps me from killing myself during the two 5Ks I like to support each year (the Athletes Helping Athletes 5K to benefit Southeastern Greyhound Adoption and the Deer Dash 5K here in my town).

Being primarily a roadie, I always feel rather slow when I ride dirt roads.  Running seems even slower.  I feel like I ought to be zipping down the road like I do on my bicycle.  I ran at lunch today.  Despite feeling fine physically, it was like I was running through molasses.  Maybe it was just a warp in the space-time continuum.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pine Mountain Challenge

We rode to Pine Mountain and back, and it was a challenge.  Thus, the Pine Mountain Challenge was aptly named.  As always, the Pine Mountain Challenge was tough but fun - the best cycling combination.  I'm always a little sad to see the winter training season end with this annual grand finale.

The ride started from its usual location at Gordon State College in Barnesville.  As Robert and I drove into town Saturday morning, we stopped at McDonald's for a bathroom break and for coffee for Robert.  As I waited for Robert to get his order, I noticed a group of older men hanging out and having breakfast.  They looked just like the group of older men who meet every morning in Monticello and probably every other small town in America.  One of the men was wearing a hat that had the words "FBI" and "JESUS" on it with some smaller words in between.  It was like a gothic detail from a Flannery O'Connor story; I just had to know what the other words were.  I couldn't decipher them from the few surreptitious glances I made, and so I walked a little closer.  By that time, it was pretty obvious that I was staring.  I said, "I'm sorry.  I'm just trying to read your hat."  The man wasn't offended at all.  In fact, the whole group was quite jovial and started poking fun at each other the way longtime friends do.  Here's what the entire hat read: "FBI Firm Believer in Jesus."  Kind of creepy and hilarious all at the same time.  I love the South.  Even though this man's brand of Christianity isn't the same as mine, I felt a kinship with him.  In the words of Sting, "It's a big enough umbrella..."

Peaceful Easy Feeling
Eight of us rolled out of the college parking lot, followed by Jennifer Cain, who very graciously drove the SAG vehicle for us all day.  Thank you, Jennifer!  Stony joined us several miles into the route, riding from his home in Lizella.  (Those of us who rode from Barnesville did a total of 126 miles, but Stony did somewhere around 175 miles!)  Daniel also joined us later, riding from his home in Thomaston.

The weather during the first weekend in February, when we usually have the Pine Mountain Challenge, tends to be beautiful.  Saturday the temperature was mostly in the 40s and 50s, and the sky was a brilliant blue.  Add some glorious woods and rivers, and that's winter riding in Georgia at its finest.

Knowing that it would be a challenge for me to hang with the guys, I sat in for the entire ride.  Before Daniel joined us, we had an odd number, and so I just enjoyed chilling on the back of the peloton.  The guys were chatting with each other, adding a pleasant, murmuring backdrop to my reverie.  We averaged about 21 mph for the first 50 miles, and I barely felt like I was putting out any effort.  I knew that wouldn't last forever, though.

"P" is for Power
The first hiccup in my ride was only about an hour in as we approached pee break time.  I was really starting to need it.  When Stony said, "I'll be ready to stop whenever somebody calls a pee break," I said, "I hear ya!"  Then he suggested that I call it.  So I did.  Whoa!  The peloton stopped immediately!  Riding past the others to find a secluded spot, I joked, "I have the power!"

My dominion didn't last long.  It's always a challenge to pee quickly because I have to dash into the woods while the guys just pause by the side of the road.  Wintertime can be especially challenging.  Saturday I had to take off both my jacket and my jersey to be able to pull down my bib shorts.  As I stumbled through the brush back toward my bicycle as the guys were riding by, Robert joked, "Are you lost?"  I said, "Not all who wander are lost."  Of course, my gloves had to be finicky as I tried to put them back on.  I went as fast as I could but saw the peloton getting farther and farther away.  At last I was ready to go again and took off.  Fortunately, Jennifer had hung back in the SAG vehicle and helped me motorpace back to the group.  Just what I needed - an exhausting L4 effort with more than 100 miles to go!

The Climb(s) up Pine Mountain
I was still feeling fairly strong after several hours.  We decided not to stop at the store in Shiloh around mile 57.  I was fine with that because I had plenty of food and drink to last until our lunch stop at Dowdell's Knob, about 18 miles farther.  It was no picnic getting there, though.

I knew that an attack zone was planned for the climb to the ridge along Pine Mountain.  Not surprisingly, I got dropped at the attack zone.  I just kept pedaling as strongly as I could.  Jake added a bonus to this year's route.  Once we got to the top of Pine Mt., we descended and rode through a beautiful part of FDR State Park that I had never visited before.  The bonus was that we had to climb back up to the ridge a second time.  As if once weren't enough.  Oh, well, I just put my head down and powered my way up again.

Once I got back up on the ridge, it was still six miles to Dowdell's Knob, and it wasn't flat along the ridge.  Jeff Kahley and I rode the last few miles to the lunch stop together.  The road from Highway 190 to Dowdell's Knob is only a moderate climb, but it seemed pretty hefty after the two climbs we had just made up to the ridge.  And it seemed to go on forever!  But at last we made it to the rest of the group, who had already arrived.

Dowdell's Knob
Dowdell's Knob was a favorite picnic spot of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he visited his Little White House in nearby Warm Springs.  It's easy to see why he took such solace here (photos never do justice to the view):

We ate lunch at the overlook.  I had made sure to label by lunch sack because I didn't want anyone to steal my sardines:

I can't carry crackers in my jersey because they would get smashed to crumbs, but thanks to the SAG vehicle, I got to have saltines with my sardines on Saturday.  Fancy!

This was our only real stop of the day, and so I had to soak it up:

You’re Getting Very Sleepy
The plan was to stay together the rest of the way, riding two up.  I resumed my position at the back of the peloton.  Shortly after our lunch stop, I started getting really sleepy on my bike.  Not fatigued, but sleepy – like I could lie down by the side of the road and take a nap.  This has happened another time or two on Peach Peloton after a stop.  It must be my blood redirecting to my digestive system after I eat.  I haven’t noticed this sleepiness after eating during randonneuring events, and so I suspect the intensity of Peach Peloton has something to do with it.  Fortunately, I have been able to fight my way through it and feel (relatively) normal again.

Although the sleepiness went away, fatigue from exertion started to affect me.  We approached Cove Road, where the guys slightly ramped it up.  At about mile 94, next to the big satellite dishes, I finally had to back off.  I waved Jennifer in the SAG vehicle around me and told her to stay with the front group.  Even though I would be riding the rest of the way by myself, it was worth it to be able to go at a manageable pace.  Robert later told me that if I had hung on for just five or ten more minutes, I could have stayed with the group the rest of the way because they finally sat up.  Maybe.  But I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that based on the usual Peach Peloton m.o.

Solo Riding
I plodded on, not worrying about my speed but simply trying to ride steadily.  About 108 miles in, I decided that a five-minute break would do me a lot of good.  I stopped at a church where I had tried – unsuccessfully – to get water three years ago during the Pine Mountain Challenge.  This time, I had plenty of Gatorade.  I just wanted a safe place to get off the road, and the grassy area next to the church fit the bill.  It’s amazing how much that brief break helped.  By the way, later I noticed on the Strava map of my ride that I had stopped right next to Buzzard Mountain.  If I had lingered too long, the buzzards might have mistaken me for dinner.

The remaining miles dwindled.  With about four miles to go, here came Robert in our car.  He knew better than to try to convince me to stop there, but he was very thoughtful to follow me the rest of the way back to Gordon State College.

Back at the parking lot, I changed into warm clothes as quickly as my tired bones would allow.  Robert drove us to Jonah’s, a decent pizza place in Forsyth that was on the way home.  It may not be IVP (Ingleside Village Pizza in Macon, our very favorite pizza place and one of our team sponsors), but Jonah’s got the job done.

When I got home, I took a nice, warm shower and changed into flannel pajamas and my robe.  Even so, I still felt chilled.  Robert said he felt the same way.  We attributed it to our bodies starting the repair work after our hard effort.  It was a luxurious feeling to know that I would be able to rest and sleep for the next 12 hours.

I'll be ready when Peach Peloton season rolls around again next November.  Peach Peloton may be tough, but it is so worthwhile – yet another way that cycling is like life.  And I’m grateful to have such great companions along the way.

My Peach Peloton Peeps
Front (L-R): Van, Stony, Robert, me, Jake, John
Back (L-R): Cal, Daniel, Jeff K., Cody

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Picky, Picky

There's an old business adage:

Good, cheap, fast - pick 2.

A friend just shared an article that postulates a similar reality for life in general:

Work, sleep, family, fitness, friends - pick 3.


Although this article was written from the perspective of an entrepreneur, it really applies to most working Americans.  I'm fascinated that someone has summarized the reality of modern life so succinctly.  People - women in particular - have deluded themselves into thinking they can have it all.  It's just not possible with the constraints of a 24-hour day.  I don't even have kids, and I never feel like I have enough time.  Ironically, being able to frame life in this pick-three structure gives me a sense of relief.  The key is to decide which three are my biggest priorities.  My life choices to date have pretty much decided that for me; now, I just need to embrace it.

This is non-negotiable for me.  My career gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and Robert and I enjoy a lifestyle that requires two incomes.  After having to lay myself off from my own company at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2009, I discovered that too much of my self worth was defined by my work.  Nevertheless, I truly enjoy the problem solving and service to others that engineering affords me.  I plan to keep working for at least a couple more decades.

Although I'd like to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, I think I do pretty well to get at least 7 hours of sleep on weeknights and usually 8 hours or more on weekend nights.  I simply can't function well with much less than this.

All of my family live more than an hour's drive away from me.  I would love to see them more, but it takes at least half a day to have any kind of decent visit.  Robert's parents live right around the corner.  I don't even get to see them as much as I'd like because I commute about 35 miles one way to work, but I'm grateful for the time we do get to spend together.  In addition, to me family also includes the tasks necessary to keep Robert's and my household running smoothly (e.g., cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping).  I do many such tasks daily.  Even so, I'll probably always feel inadequate regarding the time I spend with family.

Yes, I prioritize this.  I average about 10 hours of riding per week, year round.  Exercise - cycling in particular - makes me healthy, relieves stress, keeps me emotionally balanced, and is just plain fun!

Interestingly, RAAM intensified the pick-three reality.  For five months before RAAM, about all I did was train and work.  It was worth it for the short term, but it definitely wasn't sustainable indefinitely.  The training time commitment - and expense - are the reasons I doubt I'll do RAAM again, even though it was a blast.  I'll reconsider if I become independently wealthy.

I am grateful for the various friends I have had throughout my life.  However, I've never been one to simply "hang out."  Usually, I'd much rather read or do some other solo activity.  These days, my closest friends tend to be my cycling buddies.  To a great degree, I combine family, fitness, and friends because Robert is an avid cyclist, too.

I've come up with a balance that suits me about as well as possible.  Marilyn vos Savant in Parade magazine once put it something like this: I love having 10 times more things to do than I can possibly accomplish.  That way I can pick and choose what I want to do.  If I had only enough things to do to fill the time that I have, I'd be stuck doing those things.

Now if we can just be gracious enough to accept that every person might prioritize any three of the five life areas.  There's no one right answer.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Georgia Neurosurgical Institute Team Training Camp

This past weekend my Georgia Neurosurgical cycling team had its annual training camp.  Epic riding, good eats, and a great time with my teammates - Bill, Cal, Cody, Jeff, Robert, Tina, Tony, Tyler, and Van (we missed you, Robyn!) - what a bright spot in the bleakness of winter!


Back in September my team started planning our training camp.  We picked the last weekend in January as the date and Chattanooga as the destination, a combination that was somewhat a roll of the dice weather-wise.  We won!  The weather was great, particularly for midwinter.  Temperatures ranged from the 40s to 60s during ride time both days.  On Saturday the sun shone in a deep blue sky.  Sunday was cloudy but still quite pleasant for riding.

The Crash Pad

Chattanooga has become a happening destination for outdoor recreation.  It draws hikers, rock climbers, and even triathletes with its inaugural hosting of an Ironman last year.  We cyclists like the challenge of the climbs surrounding town.  Chattanooga has built on these natural amenities by revitalizing its downtown with great restaurants, arts, and an overall energized vibe.  Right after my team decided to go to Chattanooga, my friend Jimmy Deane posted on Facebook about a hostel called The Crash Pad.  It turned out to be the perfect place to stay for training camp: inexpensive, basic, and hip.

The Crash Pad has mostly bunk beds plus a few private rooms.  The bunks are quite comfortable, featuring blackout curtains, a shelf with outlets, a light, a fan, and a lockable storage area underneath.  Linens are provided.

Each floor has a men’s and women’s restroom.  The restroom is very clean and has two stalls and two showers.  Towels and washcloths are provided, but you do need your own soap.  I forgot to bring some, but I was able to buy a bar of fancy, good smelling, handmade soap for $1 from the front desk.

Do-it-yourself breakfast is included in the price.  A staff member sets out locally produced eggs, artisan breads, and various spreads.  The fully stocked kitchen is also available for cooking any time of day.  The kitchen counter has these cool cycling "fossils":

Other hostel amenities include free Wi-Fi and computer access, free parking, and an outdoor pavilion area with a gas grill and fire pit.  They even have $2 bottles of (good, i.e., craft) beer available in a big refrigerator.  Conveniently, you get a bottle opener on your keyring, along with a fob to access the building and sleeping quarters and a key to your bunk storage area.

The Crash Pad is located in the Southside neighborhood.  This used to be a very run-down part of town.  You’d never know it now with all of the activity, energy, and refurbished buildings like The Flying Squirrel bar.  The Flying Squirrel is right next door to The Crash Pad and has the same owners.

We didn’t go to The Flying Squirrel this past weekend, but Robert visited it with some college fraternity brothers last summer.  He said it really gets going about 10:00 PM (when we serious cyclists are going to bed).  I suspect that some of our hostel mates spent time at The Flying Squirrel.  A young woman with blue hair talked with Ginny (Tyler’s wife) on Saturday morning after the team left for our ride.  Blue Hair had stumbled in around 4:00 AM.  We tried to be considerate of others in the hostel, but a certain amount of noise is inevitable in the common bunk areas.  Apparently, the cleats on our cycling shoes woke her up as we left the building around 10:00 AM.  Blue Hair asked Ginny if the cyclists were going tap dancing.

The Rides

Of course, the rides are the focal point of training camp.  Having spent a month in Chattanooga last summer, Jeff, a.k.a. Stony, planned our routes.  They were challenging, to say the least.  But that’s what training is for!  I had a great time.

Although Stony, Van, and Cody were able to get to Chattanooga early enough to ride on Friday, the first chance that all of us had to ride together was on Saturday.  The main route that day was 101 miles, but several people planned shorter options.

Stony, Tyler, and Robert - ready to ride!
Georgia Neuro on the road
We headed north toward the Cumberland Plateau.  The first major climb of the day was along Suck Creek.  It lasted about five miles and had about a 7% grade.  That’s too steep to suck wheel, but I definitely was sucking wind.  I hung with the front guys until about the last mile up the hill, when Stony attacked.  This guy is a mo-chine!  Everyone regrouped at the bottom of the descent.

At about 38 miles in, we had a store stop in Dunlap (store stop photos courtesy of Robert):

The Stony Grinder: the pain is real
Bill and Cal
Me, Tony, and Tina
Cody, Van, and Bill
After the store stop, Tyler took a shortcut back to The Crash Pad.  He wanted to spend some time with his family, and he also volunteered to be our chef for Saturday night.  Soon thereafter, Bill, Tina, and Tony also headed back.  Cal, Cody, Jeff, Robert, Van, and I forged on.

About 53 miles in, we had our second big climb of the day over Pitts Gap.  It was about three miles long and had grades as steep as 17%.  I climbed well and was actually the third to the top!

Riding a century is hard enough.  Riding with the big dogs like Stony is even harder.  Throw in a couple of monumental climbs like Suck Creek and Pitts Gap, and that’s about all I’ve got.  I didn’t doubt that I would make it back, but it got harder and harder for me to keep up with the group.  Stony suggested a three-mile addition to the route, an out-and-back to a hang gliding area that has a water source.  I opted out of the addition, figuring that I could find water at a fire station or church, if not another store stop.  Robert sweetly accompanied me.  Even with the significant headwind on the return trip, my ride felt much more manageable the rest of the way.  By the way, I’m very glad I didn’t do the extra mileage; later I learned that it included another steep climb to the hang gliding area.

The long descent off of the Cumberland Plateau was welcome relief!  As my elevation decreased, the words of that great 1950s classic “The Great Pretender” played over and over in my mind.  The thing is, I kept singing it to myself as “The Great Descender,” and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what the real title was.  My brain had been pretty well fried in the Stony Grinder.

I woke up at 7:30 on Sunday morning, refreshed from a nine-hour sleep and feeling ready to ride again.  My body was fatigued, however, because I was working hard even on the warm-up as we left downtown Chattanooga.  Actually, everyone but Stony seemed to be feeling the same way, but we hammered anyway.

Sunday’s route headed south into Georgia, near Cloudland Canyon State Park.  One of the guys had told me that there was one climb, but it wasn’t anything like Saturday’s two climbs.  He lied.  Sunday’s climb may have been slightly shorter (about four miles long), but parts of it were stupid steep – approaching 20%!  Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I made it up.  I just ground the pedals and focused on the moment at hand, not thinking about how much farther I had to go.

Because the route was long and skinny, it was easy to shorten it.  Cody, Robert, and I did just that, taking a shortcut after the steep climb and subsequent descent.  We rode about 50 miles instead of the full 75 miles.  That was plenty for me.  Besides, that let Robert and me get home to our dogs sooner!

Good Eats

We kicked off the festivities on Friday night at Alleia, an Italian restaurant within walking distance of The Crash Pad.  Bruschetta, Caesar salad, and gnocchi with kale and chicken sausage gave me lots of good fuel for the coming rides.  In addition, Robert and I splurged on a great bottle of wine – Montepulciano, a variety that we don’t get to have very often.  By the way, I made the restaurant reservation for our group, and I put it under the name Mario Cipollini.  Heh heh.

For Saturday night’s dinner, Tyler got us going with an appetizer of sausage he made himself from wild hog.  It was delicious!  I enjoyed it with a glass of wine as I kicked back around the fire pit with my teammates; I can’t think of a better way to wrap up a good, hard day of riding.

The main meal included pork chops that Tyler cooked on The Crash Pad grill, baked sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, broccoli, and bread.  I made a salad, too.  We hadn’t specifically planned for dessert, but we got to have some anyway thanks to Tina and Tony, who brought a king cake.  It is Mardi Gras season after all!  Also, we go not just a cake, but a whole party in a box:

I donned the mask and distributed the beads and coins from the box.  Then we decided that Cody, our new team member, should wear the mask as initiation:

King cake season begins with Epiphany on January 6 and ends on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the big celebration before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the reflective season of Lent.  The king cake always has a plastic baby or other trinket to represent the baby Jesus.  I got the piece with the baby, which means I have to buy the next king cake:

Yep, there's the baby
What a great weekend – now on to racing season!