Saturday, December 29, 2012

Festive 500: Flat Tire Edition (Stage 5)

Flat tires are never welcome events, but changing a tire in 25F weather is particularly unpleasant. In this case, my old Michelin tire was so rigid and hard to remove from the rim that I thought two tire levers might not be enough to get the job done. A task that typically takes 5-10 minutes stretched to 30. On the positive side, not one but two people stopped to see if I needed a hand, one going so far as inviting me to use his workshop. I have decided to immediately stop denigrating all people who drive pick-up trucks: some are apparently quite nice.

Riding rarely feels quite as good as it does immediately after fixing a flat and this was certainly the case today. I took off with renewed spring in my legs and enjoyed the crisp morning . . . until it began to snow. I like snow just as much as the next guy, but on a bike, it's not my favorite condition. As snow began to blanket the roads, I was unable to spot the black ice and slush I'd been avoiding up to that point. As a result, my speed fell even lower, yet I was glad to log another 38 miles towards the Festive 500 before the full strength of the storm arrived.

Today's ride: 61km
Festive 500 total: 310km

Festive 500: Black Ice Edition (Stage 4)

Clearly, the person who thinks this bridge path has been cleared of snow is not a cyclist. This was just one of the many spots I had to portage my bike on today's Festive 500 ride as a result of leftover snow and ice along the route. Honestly, the black ice on several of the roadways was far more concerning, but I kept an eagle eye on the surfaces and made out just fine. The defensive cycling routine wreaked havoc on my time today, though.

I decided to ride my commuter bike today since it holds up better against road salt than my Indy Fab. I do wish I could run wider tires, if not studded snows on this baby, but sadly, there is barely clearance for the 25mm Conti GP4000s I have on there now.

I designed a lovely route today that kept me on main roads with generally large, clear shoulders and gave me the pleasure of a double river crossing: once on the Rhinecliff Bridge (above) and the other on the Mid-Hudson Bridge (top) since the Walkway Over the Hudson was closed due to icy conditions. With just three days remaining and 252 kilometers to ride, it's time to get busy!

Today's ride: 101km.
Festive 500 total: 248km.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Festive 500: Storm Headed this Way (Stage 3)

Another quick, cold ride today between packing one set of house guests off and driving to the airport to fetch another. Did I mention a storm is coming? Looks like tomorrow may be a wash for outdoor riding, with snow and freezing rain forecast for much of the day. Sure hope I can get a 200K in some day this week, but it's looking more challenging with temps just barely breaking the freezing mark each day.

On the positive side, I was much warmer today wearing my toasty Ibex wool neck gaiter. Next time, though, I really do think I need to break out the balaclava.

Today's ride: 54km.
Festive 500 total: 147km.

The Festive 500: Christmas Edition (Stage 2)

The roads were a bit slick this morning after a light snow fell over night creating a White Christmas for families throughout the Hudson Valley. By time I got out, the snows had mostly melted, but the salt and sand remained on road surfaces, so I chose to ride my commuter rather than my nicer steel bike

At just 27kms, today's ride was a small drop in the #festive500 bucket. Tomorrow does not look a whole lot better as I need to shoot down to Laguardia Airport in the middle of the day to pick up my daughter's friend who will be staying with us for the week. So with two days behind me, I'm 94kms closer to my goal.

Today's ride: 27km.
Festive 500 total: 94km.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Rapha Festive 500: At Dawn We Ride! (Stage 1)

It's that time of year again. As the days slowly lengthen and 2013 peeks it's head around the corner, it's time to begin base training in earnest and the Rapha Festive 500 is just the incentive I need to get off the couch and ride, ride, ride.

This morning, I set an alarm and suited up while enjoying a hot cup of coffee and rolled out just as the sun was rising over the Hudson River for my first Festive 500 ride of the season. Let me tell you, I was wearing at least one layer too few this morning. 20F is COLD! But as they say, if it were easy, it wouldn't be a challenge, now would it?

Last year was a hoot. One of ten final contestants in the final Facebook vote for a new Trek Madone, it was thrilling to the final end. Needless to say, I did not wind up with the Trek, but it was exciting nonetheless. This year, the Festive 500 has over 12,000 starters. It will be interesting to see how many make it to the finish.

Participants log rides on Strava, which is a bit more complex for me than I'd like since my Garmin eTrex Vista HCx is not one of the supported devices and I need to upload my tracks to ridewithgps before uploading them to Strava. Despite the added steps, it's actually pretty fun to follow the thousands of other riders from around the world enjoying this "festive" challenge.

It was a modest start with only 67km logged on day one. Too much going on today for a longer ride. The local forecast has a likely snow storm making it's way into the Hudson Valley by Thursday, so this could be interesting. It's not too late to sign on. Complete rules can be found here.

Today's ride: 67km.
Festive 500 total: 67km.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goals 2013

As we creep toward the end times, I designed a training plan for 2013 on the off chance that the world does not cease to exist tomorrow. If 2011 was my year of RECOVERY and 2012 my year of REDEMPTION, then 2013 will be my year of RETURN; return to the level conditioning I had achieved before the accident. It's been a long haul, but with each ride, I feel more like my old self on the bike. What I need now is some fine tuning and consistent rebuilding. To achieve these goals, I'll need to improve flexibility, strength and endurance.

Here are my specific goals for 2013:
  1. Ride a full SR series.
  2. Complete the Gold Rush Randonnee 1200.
  3. Achieve a strong finish in the Saratoga 12-hour race. It would be great to exceed my personal record of 226 miles.
  4. Rebuild my general strength and conditioning (core, upper body, legs)
  5. Practice yoga regularly to improve flexibility.
  6. Earn a second R-12 medal.
It's time to build a base. To that end, I plan to throw myself into the Rapha Festive 500 Challenge next week by logging over 500 kilometers between Christmas and New Year's Eve. More information at this link.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Considering LEL in 2013? Just do it!

Mike D. heading towards Scotland

As one of the thirteen US riders who participated in London-Edinburgh-London in 2009, I've been asked with increasing frequency whether I'd recommend this next edition to others. In a word, YES! Run, don't walk, to the LEL website to learn more about the registration and preparation process for 2013. You will not regret it.

Completing LEL is one of my greatest achievements on or off the bike. In 2009, my third year of randonneuring, I'd never ridden an event over 600K. At 1400K, LEL was a significant step forward, but the slightly more generous time allowances, general camaraderie and outstanding level of event support made the ride seem remarkably manageable. Sure, there were some hills involved and several sections were fairly grueling, but overall the ride was a blast. Below is a short segment of the official LEL 2009 film by the irrepressible British rando-filmmaker Damon P to give you a little flavor of the magic. You can see me at 1:30 wearing a black jersey climbing Yad Moss.

How does one prepare for LEL? 1) Ride lots of miles, 2) Buy quality rain gear, 3) Ride more miles and 4) Set up your bike for comfort. The most challenging aspect of my ride involved travel logistics. Getting to LEL is not harder than most other events, but I had never flown with a bicycle before, nor had I traveled by public transit in a foreign city while schlepping a 50 lb. bike case. For those of you experienced with these joys, it will not be a problem.

There is no better, more cost-effective or enjoyable way to see Britain. If it were not for the cost of airfare and incidentals, I'd sign on again. All randonneurs should ride this event once in their careers.  I'll be riding a domestic 1200K in 2013 and saving my nickels for PBP 2015. To learn more about my experiences on LEL 2009, read my ride report.

Any questions? Just post them below in the comments section.

Up next: honing my goals for 2013.

Monday, December 3, 2012

And finally, the R-12 medal!

Some goals are harder than others to realize, which makes their realization that much sweeter. Such was the case with the R-12. The RUSA R-12 medal is awarded to those cyclists who ride at least one 200K event in each of twelve sequential months. Miss one and you start over again. The R-12 is not an easy award to capture and at times it seemed like the cycling was the least of my concerns. Life just gets in the way. Between family and work commitments and errant snowstorms, this can be one challenging accomplishment. Between July 2011 and June 2012, though, I put my mind to it with a near single-minded determination. The R-12 was the perfect compliment to my return to randonneuring. I began with the NYC 200K, my maiden post-recovery brevet and ended with the Central NY 400K and the Westfield 600K, my two longest rides since the accident. In between is a tale filled with joy and redemption. The individual ride reports (below) bring me right back. Just yesterday, after two of the busiest months I can recall, I rode a 200K permanent with a few friends. Who knows, maybe a second R-12 is in the offing?