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, April 30, 2018

A 234,527-Smoot Ride

On an 18-hour bicycle ride you can cover a lot of conversation topics as well as a lot of distance.  My rando buddy Ian and I often talk about technical stuff.  (He's a scientist, and I'm an engineer.)  Somewhere along the way on last Saturday's brevet, I told him about the smoot, a nonstandard unit of length.

The smoot is named for Oliver R. Smoot and came about as part of a 1958 fraternity prank at MIT.  Several of Smoot's fraternity brothers used his height to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge between Boston and Cambridge, MA.  Painted markings are still on the bridge.  In one of history's best ironies, Smoot later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The day after the brevet, I calculated its length in smoots.  We rode 234,527 smoots.  That's 400 km or about 248 miles.

A 234,527-smoot...er, 400K...brevet is a big undertaking, regardless of the circumstances.  It's particularly a challenge because it's the longest brevet distance I can do without taking a sleep break.  So, to call this past Saturday's 400K easy would be misleading.  However, my excellent riding companions - Brian, David B., David N., Dick, Ian, Jim, and Julie - made it about as painless as possible (of course, pain is relative), and they definitely made it enjoyable.  Also, a huge thank you goes to the organizers/supporters: 
Kevin, Jim, Joe, and Neil.  I appreciate all you do to make our brevets fun, safe, and smooth.

I opted to drive from home rather than spend the night at the hotel where the brevet started.  The Athens brevets are some of the closest ones to me, about an hour's drive.  I got up at 4:00 AM, left half an hour later, and arrived about 30 minutes before the 6:00 AM start.

The route was mostly an out-and-back course between Athens (technically Watkinsville) and Augusta (technically Evans) with a few small offshoot loops.  14 of us headed out.  We rode for about an hour before the sun came up.  It was cool to start (comfortable with arm and leg warmers), but the forecast predicted a high in the 70s with little chance of rain - beautiful riding weather!

Everyone loves Julie because she has one of the most generous spirits you'll ever encounter.  Her cheerful banter with several other riders reminded me of the first birds in the early morning.  Nevertheless, I was more inclined toward Brian's approach - not much talking until the sun came up as I settled into the day's rhythm.

Once I got going, I chatted with David B. as we rolled through southeastern Athens.  He told me about his daughter, who is a competitive ice skater.  How fascinating!  She even competes nationally.  I had no idea there are any real ice skating opportunities in Georgia.  I love learning about people's various interests, particularly unexpected ones like this.

Several hours later, we passed a sign at a fire station advertising BBQ chicken that would be available later that day.  Too bad our timing was off!  David N. and I critiqued the good BBQ chicken we've had.  Now, the kind we were talking about has little to no sauce on it.  It's chicken cooked over an open pit, usually in large quantities.  It seems to be a specialty of Methodist men.  There's just something about that way of cooking it that's uniquely delicious.  I've never had any in a restaurant like that.  David said that if we had some BBQ chicken, I could put it under the bungee cords on my bike bag:

Fellow randonneurs could come by and pull off a leg or a wing during a brevet.  David said he would call it Bungee Chicken.  I think he's onto something!

And to think that at the 300K two weeks earlier, some of my rando buddies had been teasing me about my large bicycle bag.  A guy we talked to outside of a control that day had called it Yogi Bear's picnic basket.

Well, anyone who laughs at my Yogi Bear picnic basket won't get any Bungee Chicken.

By the way, the day before the 400K, I saw this video:

Jones BBQ and Foot Massage

I can't decide if this is the most hilarious thing I've seen in ages or if it's brilliant marketing strategy.  This would be perfect for randonneuring: some good protein and a nice foot massage to ward off hot spots.

Although I didn't get any BBQ during the 400K, I did get one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time.  The halfway point of the route was at a shopping center in Evans.  We had several food options.  I went to Publix and got one of their already prepared deli sandwiches.  It had turkey, some kind of cheese (provolone maybe), a spicy salsa spread, and fresh spinach on a delicious, chewy baguette.  It was way better than any Subway sandwich I've ever had.

After lunch, David B. and Jim dropped back, leaving the other six in our group to ride together the rest of the way.  It was fairly uneventful except for the tiny staple that flatted my back tire between Thomson and Washington.  With kind help from Dick and Ian, I was back on the road pretty quickly.  Thank you to the entire group for waiting for me!

We had conversation throughout the day, but there was plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts, too.  I couldn't help but wonder at the difference in approach between Tuesday Worlds and a 400K like this.  Tuesday Worlds has so much intensity over about 35 miles.  I start with the A group, hanging on for dear life with my chest exploding until I get dropped, then usually getting picked up with the B group, which can get rather squirrely.  In contrast, on Saturday's 400K we rode steady, steady the entire time - no surges or attacks whatsoever because they would unnecessarily use up valuable energy.

I do some interval training to work on intensity and speed, but it's really hard to ride well for both racing and endurance.  At last week's Tuesday Worlds, one of the B group guys said, "I can't believe you get dropped from the A group with as much riding as you do."  He doesn't understand these different types of riding.  I wouldn't even bother to try to explain to a non-cyclist.

As the hours ticked away on the 400K, I definitely got fatigued, but it was manageable.  Sleepiness became more of a factor during the final few hours.  At the last control on the route, a convenience store 12 miles from the end, I got a Mountain Dew.  The caffeine and sugar gave me just the boost I needed to push through.

Neil greeted us at the end and even had pizza for us!  I ate a couple of slices and headed home.  I did get a little sleepy on the drive, and so I pulled over for a 30-minute nap at the Morgan County landfill.  That did the trick, and I made it home safely.

I felt relatively good yesterday, but a three-hour afternoon nap felt even better.  One unanticipated effect of the brevet showed up this evening during my regular Monday weight lifting session.  I've been doing squats immediately followed by box jumps.  I didn't feel much difference on the squats, but tonight it was harder than usual to jump up on the box.

Believe it or not, I'm already kind of looking forward to the next brevet, the Dublin 600K on May 19.  That one will be 352,736 smoots.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hog, Wild(!) Ride and Greyhound Crit

What a beautiful post-rain shower ride!  The sky turned blue, forming a pastel backdrop to the waxing, gibbous moon.  All the vegetation was lush, spring-green after so much recent rain.  The privet - non-native, invasive species though it is - smelled wonderfully fresh.  A bluebird flew by, brilliant in the early evening sunlight.  I thought that was going to be the highlight of my ride until about 30 seconds later, when a wild hog ran in front of me! It ran away before I got a picture.

Here's a picture of Allie instead:

She greeted me when I got home. She loves running beside me while I do laps around our circular driveway. I call it the greyhound crit.