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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Middle Georgia Epic (Partial) Pre-Ride

For today's Peach Peloton we pre-rode the course of the Middle Georgia Epic, a 200K mixed surface race that will be next month.  Actually, most of us rode a shortened 84-mile course (5 hours and 11 minutes of ride time was enough for today), but Stony and Van did the whole thing.

We gathered at The Blue Goose, a terrific bike hostel in Irwinton where the race will be staged.  Robert and I are used to driving some distance to the start of Peach Peloton, but it was a novel experience for most of our buddies.  We had an additional riding friend today, Don from Athens, who had seen the Peach Peloton post on Facebook about the pre-ride.

The weather was as good as it gets in January, or lots of other months for that matter.  It was a beautiful sunny day with little wind, and temperatures ranged from the low 50s to mid 70s - a far cry from last week's Peach Peloton.  We started out with arm and leg warmers but shed them pretty quickly.  Let's hope the race itself has as good conditions!

Knowing that the route has paved and unpaved sections, we all had cyclocross bikes or at least souped-up road bikes with wider tires.  Several people treated it as a recon to determine which bike they want to use for the race.  The final consensus was that a cyclocross or mountain bike is necessary.  You'll see why in a moment...

I headed out a few minutes before the guys because I assumed they would pass me.  Sure enough, they caught me after only five miles.  We rode together for about another mile, when we hit a significant dirt section.  As I expected, they dropped me.  I have a hard enough time keeping up with my teammates on paved roads.  Dirt roads are even harder because the drafting effect is much less pronounced.  Robert came off the back, too.

My Garmin had been beeping every 10 seconds or so since I started.  It kept saying that it was recalculating the route.  I tried several adjustments as I rode but finally had to stop.  I couldn't handle the constant beeping all day.  The only way I could get the beeping to quit was to end that ride and start a new one.  I was annoyed that I would have to combine two Strava files to make my single ride, but that's a first world problem.  I'm just grateful there's an easy on-line program to do that.

Robert and I started rolling again and soon encountered the toughest section of the route: super thick muckety muck.  In fact, we caught the other guys because it was so thick that it seized up our wheels.  We had to scrape off gobs of mud to walk/ride through about a quarter mile section.

Robert is less fond of off-road riding than the rest of us.  He was afraid the route would have lots more of this, and so he turned around to do several hours of paved riding on his own.  I decided to soldier on with the others.  That was the worst of it, but we did stop for another wheel scrape down:

Between the technological glitch with my Garmin and slogging through the mud, it was like the Jetsons meet the Flintstones:

Happily, I pretty much kept up with the guys after that.  The route surface mostly alternated between paved sections and easy-riding, smooth dirt sections.  There was a gravelly section or two, and we did go through one short section of squirrelly, dry, loose sand, which was the second most difficult part of the route.  Other than single track, we encountered about every possible type of riding surface - more variety than I have ever experienced in a single ride.  That just added to the epic-ness!

Knowing that we would be in pretty remote areas for a number of hours, I made sure to carry plenty of food and liquids.  We went through only a couple of towns.  The first was Montrose, where I stopped briefly to take a picture.  This was a pretty good Jesus pun that I hadn't heard before:

At mile 40 we stopped at a different church for a water refill.  From there, Stony and Van continued on to do the full 200K.  Cal, Cody, Don, and I stuck with our shorter route.  About six miles later, here came Robert!  He had taken a different route and backtracked until he met up with us.

We approached Allentown and had our one store stop of the day at mile 59.  This was a winning combination:

And we're riding here in Allentown

I hope I can find these limited edition peanuts again.

The route was a big lollipop with the first and last 14 miles as the stick.  Robert took a different, paved route when we got back to the stick to avoid the second venture through the extremely mucky section.  Amazingly, it was much less treacherous on the return trip.  I wouldn't have believed it would have dried out noticeably since the morning, but I didn't even have to get off my bike the second time.  There were still really bad sections, but we picked decent lines.  I'm not sure what was up with all of this.  The last rain I remember getting was about 12 days ago, and so it's not like an overnight shower evaporated.  Oh well, at least I know to be prepared for rough conditions in this section during the race, and I hope we don't have significant rain right beforehand.

The ride definitely wasn't as easy as lying on the sofa eating bonbons, but it was fun!  I think that's because of my particular combination of riding experience: randonneuring and significant dirt road riding.  I paced myself well and have no qualms about the full 200K.  I'm looking forward to the Middle Georgia Epic race itself.  I hope it goes as well as today.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Riding in the Cold

This past weekend is likely to be the coldest riding I’ll experience this winter.  We might get a few Peach Pelotons that start in the upper 20s to low 30s, but usually the temperature climbs to at least the 40s.  So, Saturday’s ride, with temperatures ranging from about 29 to 37° (with 10 to 15 mph winds) was about as bad as it gets.  I guess the cold took a lot more out of me than I expected.

Middle Georgia was right at the southern edge of the snowstorm moving across the state.  Fortunately, neither Jasper County nor Bibb County got any snow or ice.  Peach Peloton was a go!  The original route was to the north, but Robert changed it to a southerly route to Fort Valley.  That turned out to be unnecessary, but it’s better to be cautious.

Robert and I were the first to arrive at the start of the ride.  We wondered if we would be the only ones, but soon thereafter a few of our stalwart teammates showed up: Cal, Cody, and Van.  Stony met us on the route since we rode by his neighborhood.

I wore my balaclava for the first time this year.  I had forgotten that I can’t keep it totally covering my nose and mouth because my warm breath fogs up my sunglasses.  I pulled the front piece down below my chin and managed much better, and the rest of my head stayed relatively warm even though my face was exposed.

After one turn at the front, I realized that I should stay at the back of the peloton.  We didn’t seem to be going inordinately fast, around a 19-mph pace, but I had to work pretty hard simply to hang on.  The cold was taking its toll.  In addition to the usual effort of trying to keep up, my body had to expend significant energy to stay warm – a double whammy.  I doubted that I would be able to hang with the guys for the entire 93 miles, and so I started considering shorter alternates.  However, there weren’t really any shortcuts until the store stop at mile 55.

In the meantime, the guys dropped me at about mile 42.  Despite my protests, Robert insisted on staying back with me.  A highlight of the ride occurred while it was just the two of us.  A pickup trucked loaded with beautiful looking turnips – roots and greens – passed us.  Fortunately, nobody fell off the turnip truck.

We caught back up to the rest of the group at the store stop in Knoxville.  Robert and I took a very brief break and got back on the road before the others.  A few miles later, I turned on Hopewell Road at Musella while Robert continued on the official 93-mile route.  Although of course I missed his company, it was a relief to go at my own comfortable pace without worrying about slowing him down.

I pushed on and finally made it back to the end.  My total distance (84 miles) wasn’t extraordinary, but it seemed like a bigger feat, again likely because of the cold.  I changed clothes and sat in the car drinking the hot apple-cinnamon flavored Skratch Labs that I had had the foresight to bring in a thermos.  I didn’t have to wait long for the guys to get back; they rolled in a few minutes after I got settled.

Yesterday I was going to do an easy dirt ride for about an hour and half.  The temperature was similar to Saturday, highs in the 30s, but it was a bright, sunny day.  I wasn’t exactly relishing the thought of getting back out in the cold, but as the previous day’s ride had shown, it would be manageable.  Then, Robert presented an alternate plan: movie spin!  It had been several years since we did a Sunday afternoon movie spin at Jordan Engineering.  As Robert put it, five hours in the cold the day before was enough for one weekend.  We invited our spin class friends to join us, and we were glad that Ann did.  She probably wishes she hadn’t…

Robert and I rarely watch movies (well, me anyway), and on the few occasions we do, we usually have a hard time figuring out what to watch.  Robert was leaning toward a newer release, but the first few we considered weren’t available yet on iTunes.  I made a suggestion or two, but he didn’t like those.  Finally, we decided on The Lobster.  The premise sounded entertaining, and it was billed as one of the best movies of 2016.  2016 must have been a horrible year for movies.

There are some sick, twisted individuals in this world to come up with some of the plot points in The Lobster.  It was one of the least enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen.  Some things are worse than riding in the cold.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bike Food

Yesterday Robert snapped this photo of our bike food stash:

That ought to last us a day or two – ha ha.  We do go through bike food faster during the wintertime because we both ride Peach Peloton every Saturday.  During the rest of the year, I’m the primary consumer of bars, etc. because of randonneuring.

Clif Bars (front center) are our staple.  I buy them at Kroger in Macon near my office, sometimes even making a special trip to get them.  It’s worth it because Kroger has the largest selection (about 12 flavors) at the best prices I’ve found ($1 to $1.25 each).

We’re nuts!  For peanuts and peanut butter, that is.  The pack of peanuts (bottom left) is from the Deer Dash 5K a couple of months ago.  Running is barbaric, but at least this is a good consolation prize.  The peanut butter crackers (top right) are probably left over from Robert’s and my BBQ Bass Bicycle Ride last June.

I haven’t tried the Skratch Labs chews (bottom right), but Robert likes them.  Bars are easier for me to maneuver than chews when I’m on my bicycle.  I do like Skratch Labs drink mix, though (not pictured).  We switched from Heed about six months ago because Skratch Labs has more electrolytes.  As a bonus, Skratch Labs is also less sweet.  Actually, it’s almost salty, which can be more palatable on a long ride.

The Journey bars (top, second from left) are part of our recent foray into more savory bars.  I wouldn’t bother getting them again.  The coconut curry flavor is just so-so, and as I described in a recent Peach Peloton report, the pizza marinara flavor tastes like an uncooked Chef Boyardee pizza kit.  I haven’t tried the sesame ginger flavor yet; maybe it will be better.

I tried an Epic bar (top left) for the first time on my New Year’s Day 200K brevet.  It was delicious!  It was a nice bit of protein, too, containing bison and bacon.  Interestingly, it also has cranberries, which round out the flavor nicely.

I can’t believe I haven’t tried the Init bars (top, third from left) yet.  They have dark chocolate, cherries, and cashews.  Robert says they are really good and not too sweet.  I’ll have to take one on Peach Peloton this weekend.

Occasionally, I’ve mentioned fueling in my ride reports.  I generally eat something about every hour and a half on rides that last three hours or longer.  For 200K’s or longer, I try to eat as much “real” food as I do bike food.  This might include fruit, nuts, a sandwich (pb&j, cheese, or turkey), hard boiled eggs, or sardines.  Our bodies really are machines, and good fuel means better bike performance.

Nom, nom, nom.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Promised Land 200K Brevet

The Audax Atlanta group typically has a 200K brevet on New Year's Day.  This year it was the Promised Land 200K.  I signed up, ready to get my new year of cycling off to a good start.

The Promised Land 200K begins in Evans, GA (near Augusta).  Some of my regular rando buddies, who mostly live in the Atlanta area, initially talked about wanting to do the ride.  However, they changed their minds as the day approached, not wanting to drive that far on New Year's Day.  Unlike me, maybe they were able to stay up to up until midnight.  If you can't stay up to see the new year because you have to get to bed early for a brevet the next day...you might be a randonneur/randonneuse.

Three of us hardy/foolish souls showed up at the start: Neil, a new guy named Graham, and me.  Honestly, I wouldn't have been surprised if I had been the only one.  The forecast called for 100% chance of rain.  At least the temperatures were mostly in the 50s.

Gator originally came up with the Promised Land 200K route.  He was in charge of the brevet on behalf of Kevin, our RBA.  Kevin still showed up at the start, which was a good thing.  Gator overslept!  Not a big deal.  We waited a little while for Gator but finally headed out at 7:47, 17 minutes late.  Kevin said that Gator would meet us on the road, and we would get credit for the delayed start.  Fortunately, Graham and I had the route loaded onto our bike computers, and Neil had printed his own copy of the cue sheet.

For a little while I rode with Graham.  It's always fun to make a new cycling friend, and he had the novelty of riding a recumbent.  We rode together for the first 15 or so miles.  Eventually, I started pulling away from him on the climbs.  I had vague ambitions of finishing in about nine hours so that I could get home to cook Robert's and my traditional New Year's Day dinner of black eyed peas, grits & greens, cornbread, etc...

Interestingly, only the first two miles and last two miles of the Promised Land 200K are in Georgia.  The route is primarily in South Carolina, and much of that is in Sumter National Forest.  The roads have little traffic anyway, and it likely was even lighter than usual because it was Sunday and a holiday.

The birds were my main companions, especially the buzzards.  I passed a group early in my ride and wished them a happy new year.  I don't think most people do that.

The first control was in Edgefield, quite an attractive town.  My favorite part was the large turkeys placed around town and painted in various artistic styles.  Gator and Katelyn met us at a convenience store and gave us our brevet cards and cue sheets.  The brevet card was most important, but I always like to have a cue sheet as backup to my computer.  Gator recommended the chicken at the next control in Promised Land.  Yes, there's actually a town by that name!

Promise Land Grocery was the control.  They had fried and baked chicken.  Gator hadn't said which kind of chicken.  Both looked good, but I decided to splurge on the fried chicken.  It was as good as advertised.  Juicy and flavorful, it didn't even need any hot sauce.  The workers were really nice, too.  This is definitely worth a stop if you're in the Promised Land.

I continued my ride.  My average speed was  lower than I expected.  The climbing wasn't that much greater than at home (about 58 ft/mile vs. about 50 ft/mile), but between that and the fairly rough surfaces of the roads, it was enough to slow me down noticeably.  Also, at 134 miles, the total distance was slightly greater than many 200K's.  I soon calculated that it was going to take me longer than the nine hours I first anticipated.

I didn't worry, though.  Despite the bleakness of the day, I found the quiet roads through the national forest to be peaceful and meditative.  The day was overcast/drizzling the whole time.  I wore my low-light sunglasses with the yellow lenses, which made everything significantly brighter.

My sunglasses reminded me of a broader truth: life is how we choose to look at the world.

Sunset was approaching.  Happily, I had a front light, an extra rear light (my first one lasted the entire ride!), a reflective vest, and reflective ankle bands.  I hadn't assumed that I would finish before the sun went down, which turned out to be a prudent call.

My Garmin battery died about seven miles from the end.  No problem there - I used the Strava app on my phone to record the remainder of the ride.  Later, I combined the two files into a single ride.  If you ever need to combine Strava files, just do a Google search for Gotoes.  It's easy to use.

The last few miles seemed to last forever!  Although I didn't have the route on my Garmin available anymore after the battery died, I had only two turns left.  The first one didn't come and didn't come.  I kept climbing and kept climbing.  I didn't remember going downhill so much at the beginning (must have been talking to Graham), and so I started worrying that I had missed a turn.  I pulled over and checked the cue sheet.  Just to make sure, I pulled up Google Maps on my phone.  Sure enough, I was on the route, and my turn was only about a quarter mile farther.  It's easy to get a little discombobulated in the dark after riding 125+ miles!

At last I made it back safely to the starting point.  Kevin greeted me and finished my paperwork.  I changed clothes and started the drive home.  When I got home, it was too late to cook New Year's vittles, and so I saved them for tonight.  I hope that doesn't mean that Robert and I will be a day late and dollar short in 2017.

Ride on!