Saturday, September 29, 2007

Riverride

KILMARNOCK, VIRGINIA

I left the house at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Kilmarnock for the 2nd Annual River Ride. We met at a YMCA Camp and I was on the road at 7:45 a.m.

At 7:46 a.m. the phone rang. It was a referee wanting to know the rules for his U10 matches at 9:00 a.m. Now maybe that wouldn't have been so bad but yesterday I included in my weekly message to referees not to contact me for answers you can find yourself. I explained to the referee the rules, briefly, and then instructed him to find and print the rules himself. Just one day to myself with referees or coaches calling. Is that too much to ask? Grrr.

This ride was much different from the Blue Ridge Extreme Challenge. That ride had a mass start at 7:30, this one did not. Actually, I learned later there was a mass start at 7:30 for those who wanted it. I just couldn't get there in time. But it wasn't required. Riders after 7:30 departed when they wanted so we all straggled out on our own. And I was there by 7:30 but certainly didn't see much of a mass start.

One bank clock displayed the temperature in Kilmarnock as 48 degrees although it was in the mid-fifties when I was ready to go. I had on a jacket and a backpack (Camelbak) so I could remove the jacket later. Just before I started I noticed a young lady in a tank top. I thought if she could go sleeveless, I surely could get rid of the jacket. I took off the extra clothes and went out in just my bike jersey. It was chilly but not too uncomfortable and it would warm up into the high 70s during the ride.

I rode the first 10 miles solo then stopped at the first food stop (Shiloh). I needed to keep my energy level high although hated to use the time to stop. This ride was to be important to me. I am still experimenting with nutrition both before and during the ride and needed to monitor what I ate.

Funny thing about these rides. If you catch someone, you are, by definition, faster than them so you probably don't want to ride with them. Likewise, if someone catches you, they are faster and you normally wouldn't ride with them. But I had three high school kids go flying by me and in an instant I decided I would "catch their wheel." I accelerated and fell in behind them and then there were four of us.

I don't know that they were too skilled in using pace lines as one guy seemed to do all the riding up front. Eventually I went forward to take a turn pulling. And one needed to. It was a gorgeous day but very windy. On the flat terrain it seemed we were always going into a head wind (someone explain that to me someday) and the leader up front works about 30% harder than the following riders.

We rode together for about three miles when three other guys went flying by. They were probably in the early 30s. I couldn't believe it when the high schoolers jumped on their wheel. I almost got left behind by the quick acceleration but soon there were seven of us in a line just loving life as we past a scores of riders.

Image I wanted to capture but couldn't: Seven riders in a straight line and I was on the rear. I could only see the guy in front of me but the low rising sun made for a beautiful silhouette of seven riders on bikes. What great shadows. I would have loved to have sat up and been able to snap a photo but obviously couldn't.

We rode together for about 10 miles when one of the high schoolers dropped off. As they were discussing whether or not to slow and wait for him, another dropped and then the third. And I thought they would drop this old guy! I was disappointed because I thought I might ride with these guys for most of 90 miles. I saw them briefly at the next rest stop (Heathsville, Mile 28) and then never again.

I rode solo most of the way to the next stop. I passed a few guys along the way and was in visual contact with a rider from Kenya. Not too far from the Morattico rest stop (Mile 50) I was passed by three guys in a line riding hard. I decided not to chase them and then a woman went flying by and said "those assholes are going so fast." I said "you can ride on their wheel if you want, I'm not." I think she was with them and was upset they were dropping her. But within a half mile or so I was riding on her wheel and we went into Morattico together.

Morattico was very pretty. It's hard to believe that the Rappahannock River here, which it borders on, is the same river that flows through Fredericksburg. Here is it quite wide just a few miles before it runs into the Chesapeake Bay. The rest stop was at a town museum. I visited the very small, and quaint, post office. The postmaster saw me and said "we don't even have a bathroom here. We have to go next door." I guess she saw a stranger in bike clothes and assumed I wanted to use the restroom. I didn't. Since I work at USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., I enjoy meeting some of our workers.



The run in to Morattico was a stem, one of two on the day, and I only saw about six riders on their way back out. But when I left I saw a number of riders going to the rest stop. I must have been ahead of most riders.

The routes weren't well-marked. I say that because if I have doubt that I'm on the right road then they're not well-marked. At some intersections there were small arrows pointing direction. The ride consisted of four loops, and depending on which ride you had to choose the right arrows. If you didn't carry a course map, and I didn't, you had to remember that we started with pink then went to green, then red, then orange, then red, then green, then pink.

In other words, if you came to an intersection that had both green and red arrows, you had to remember which one to take. They weren't marked "Century - right" and "Metric - left." Sounds confusing although now once I'm home thinking about it a simple way for century riders was every time we came to two colors, take the new one. Of course, that worked only if you could remember which one you were on. Sounds simple now but it wasn't so much out on the road by yourself.

I was on my own after Morattico and turned down a two-lane highway. The pavement was great but I couldn't see anyone in the distance or behind me. I started doubting that I was on the right road and pondered just packing it in for the day. After 10 miles on my own I came to an arrow and saw a sign for a ferry. I had remembered this as a feature and gladly rode to the ferry. When I arrived they were loading. It held seven bikes and two cars. There was a water stop there and I was told they were finally glad to see some riders. I was only the 12th rider to come by out of 150 or so registered century riders. Everyone really was behind me.

The road leading in was Ottoman Ferry Road and the ferry crosses the Western Branch of the Corrotoman River. It has to be one of the shortest rivers in the world but it is pretty wide where we crossed. It was a treat to take the ferry to the other side. This marked 63 miles covered.


Two riders went ahead, one visited the porta-john, leaving four of us together. We began a climb, described as a three-mile climb but after Blue Ridge Challenge, I can't remember anything other than a slight uphill. A husband and his wife were in front (in the picture above on the ferry), followed by Thomas, then me.

I first started talking to Thomas on the ferry. He had been behind me and I was surprised he made it to the ferry when I did. I found out that he lives in the Virginia Beach area but was originally from Kenya. Thomas was good at sitting on people's wheel and he gladly rode the third position in our line of four.

It was windy and it's always hard to set the pace for the freeloaders behind. After a while I rode to the front and told the husband that I would set pace for them since he had been doing all the work. I fought the wind and kept going. After half a mile I came to a new color and we turned. I was surprised to see that I inadvertently dropped the husband and wife and was pulling just Thomas. And we would ride together the rest of the way.

Mostly I pulled but Thomas took some turns up front as well. We were a team. We stopped at Irvington (Mile 80) not realizing this rest stop was only two miles from the lunch stop at White Stone. We didn't spend long at lunch, the live bluegrass band helped encourage us to leave sooner, and we headed for the last 24 miles.

A large portion of this was out on the peninsula to Windmill Point where the Rappahannock empties into the Chesapeake. It was very windy out here. On our way out we had passed a family coming back and we did overtake them after we turned around. This really was a highlight. The father piloted a 3-seat Co-Motion tandem with his two young daughters aboard. They looked to be about 5 and 3 years old. The younger one was slumped over sleeping, her head across her folded arms. But her feet were clipped in and her legs were still peddling. Priceless. The mother rode behind and she pulled a Burley trailer with a one year old inside. Sleeping.

At 100 miles, my century, I came in at 5:58 riding time and an hour more total stop time for rest breaks and the ferry crossing. My average speed was 16.7 which is what one needs to ride a 6-hour century. The total distance on the day was 104 and I could celebrate with ice cream at the finish. And a shower at the campground.

I waited for the family of five to arrive to talk with them although I didn't ask any questions. I should have.

It was a nice ride although I enjoyed the support and terrain of the Blue Ridge Challenge more. This was too flat for my taste although the wind made it a challenge especially when I wasn't in a line which was most of the day. I think I would rather climb for much of the day than ride on flats in such wind. I don't know if I would do this one again but it sure was a beautiful route.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting Buzzed

MONTCLAIR, VA


I did a stupid thing yesterday afternoon. Much of my riding around Prince William County is on the bike paths which follow the new roads in the county, particularly on Rte 234. But I need to take local roads to get there and Waterway Drive through Montclair is one of them.


Waterway is four lanes, two in each direction, nice grassy median strip with trees and with curbs -- no shoulders. There is no place to move except in the gutter. On my way down Waterway towards the stop sign at Avon/Northgate, I was doing 34 mph, just one mph short of the speed limit. Still, some cars insist on flying by so we know they're speeding.


Just before the road leveled out I was buzzed by an black SUV who got dangerously close. I didn't respond with profanity or gestures. I just kept going. But as I approached the four way stop sign, both our through lanes were backed up seven to eight cars. I quickly came upon the line of cars and was able to move past them on the right to get up to the stop sign. Here the road does open a bit so there is a quasi-shoulder.


I had slowed and as I approached the front of the line was the SUV. He saw me coming and swerved sharply to the right. Slow speed mind you, as everyone was queuing for the stop sign. But he tried to go all the way to the right and cut me off. I did put out my hand and slap his vehicle. But then, here was the stupid part, I passed one more car then turned around.


Something said not to take this anymore. Clearly without thinking I went back and pulled in front of his vehicle, basically daring him to run me over. Standing off my bike in front of the driver's side headlight, I said to him, and his three passengers, "Play nice out here. You have a nice car and future ahead of you (he was probably in his late teens or early twenties and probably showing off for his friends) but if you kill one bicyclist you can be charged with manslaughter, lose everything you have, and spend a few years in jail. Just play nice."


In retrospect, it was stupid because he could have gunned it and run me down. Except there was a car in front of us. I sort of felt protected because of the number of cars around. But then came the surprise. He didn't say a word. I don't know if anything sunk in or not and will never know. But it was 70 degrees and many drivers had their windows down. The people in the car beside him cheered me. "Alright! You tell him!" And the car behind his were cheering too.


For a brief moment, people were glad to see a bicyclist stand up to an idiotic driver. I went through the intersection before him then wondered what would happen when in the next 200 yards when he got his chance to pass me for a final time. I didn't give him that chance. I turned into the next driveway simply to let him pass without confrontation before resuming my ride.

Cousin Floyd

WOODBRIDGE, VA


This does not make sense. The arbitration decision in the Floyd Landis case just was released with a 2-1 decision against Floyd. The panel ruled that the French lab did not follow World Antidoping Guidlines in testing Floyd's samples. They further ruled that "if the practice is continued that future results would be overturned."


Huh? So future results by the same lab using the same flawed procedures would be overturned but these ones would be accepted?


To the uninitiated, after bonking on Stage 16 in the Tour de Farce, Floyd rode away to a victory the next day. While he was hailed as having ridden one of the great races ever, the truth was he rode well -- but not like Superman. The teams that should have organized early and chased failed to do so which allowed him to open a nine minute lead on them.


Floyd knew if he won the stage he would be tested. It would be foolish to cheat. Floyd stood up like a man and at every opportunity maintained his innocence, all the way to the Court for Arbitration for Sport. They were especially annoyed that he had the balls to fight the charges and not only found against him on June 30, 2008, but also fined him $100,000. How dare someone question their authority.





I met Floyd in January, 2007. He came away as believable to me. For full disclosure I have to mention that I am a genealogist. I trace some of my ancestry to a Landis family in Lancaster Co., Pa. in the 1700s. Floyd, of course, is from a Mennonite family named Landis in Lancaster Co., Pa. However, I have traced some of Floyd's lineage and have yet to make a connection. Cousin or not, I believe him.


A real analysis of the data is at Trust But Verify. Another good blog is Free Floyd Landis.



AUGUST 17, 2010 -- Well, aren't we all the fools? In May at the Amgen Tour of California, Floyd, after being denied entry into the Tour, followed through with his blackmail threat and claimed that he and Lance Armstrong were dopers.

In January, 2007, Floyd made his rounds proclaiming his innocence and asking for money from people like me. And I gave. Twenty five to attend his stupid Evening with Floyd event. Then $50 and $25. And I bought his book. And it was all a lie.

Floyd - I want my money back.





February 29, 2012 -- It continues. And it's going to continue.

I don't want my money back. Floyd lost his best friend, his wife (who may have been his best friend), his family, his house, his money, his integrity. He can keep my money.

I have my own theory. I believe Floyd was innocent of using artificial testosterone. I suspect when he heard he was caught he thought "oh crap" but when he realized it was artificial testosterone, he fought that. In the end, they wore him down and he eventually confessed to being a doper - at least using blood transfusions.


I think he speaks the truth about doping in the peleton but he lost his credibility by not confessing when he had a chance and down is discredited at every chance.


And we have found no genealogical link between us. Floyd is not my cousin.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Charles Town WV

CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA

It was eight and one half years ago that we first drove Bethany to Shepherdstown, WV to tour Shepherd College. The trip to Shepherdstown and Charles Town seemed so far. But it would become a trip we would make many times as both Bethany and Ashley attended Shepherd College (now University).

We had a picnic at Bethany and Andy's place today. For the second time this year, I decided to bike to Charles Town instead of drive. It is getting lighter later and I couldn't leave home until almost 7:00 a.m.

My route took me up Minnieville Rd to Delaney Road where I sprinted and reached 42.3 mph crossing Neabsco Creek. I always have to break 40 mph there. I followed Delaney to Ridgefield Rd then to the Prince William Parkway. I took the Parkway to Manassas then followed Sudley Road past Manassas Mall and Manassas Battlefield. After passing the battlefield I turned right on Gum Springs Rd which immediately becomes Loudoun Co. I followed Gum Springs Rd to Braddock Rd then turned left on Braddock Rd.

Braddock Rd becomes a washboard dirt road in the woods for about three miles. It is very rough riding. One of my water bottles flew off here causing me to stop for a minute. Braddock Rd connects with James Madison Hwy (US Rte 15) which, thankfully, I only had to ride for one mile to Gilberts Corner. At Gilberts Corner, US 50, I turned west on 50 and followed it about a mile and one half past Aldie.

After Aldie I turned on Snickersville Turnpike a delightful almost traffic-free country road which cuts a neat northwest diagonal. This is the shortest way to Charles Town.

Maybe traffic was lighter than normal because the Hibbs Bridge is out. On the run in to the bridge I reached my high speed for the day - 43.1 mph. I was flying. But the bridge was closed and I had a decision to make. Turn around and take a 10-mile detour or ford the Beaverdam Creek with my bike. I was able to carry my bike over the creek and continue on. I went as far as Airmont then turned north through Round Hill where I went under Rte 7. I followed the road north and came to Cider Mill Rd which connected with Rte 9 west of Hillsboro.

Route 9 is a major road and connects Loudoun Co., Virginia with Jefferson Co., West Virginia. It is two-lane, 55 mph road which crosses the Appalachian Trail at the state border but with no shoulder. I had no problems on Rte 9 and climbing the mountain was painless and quick. I like this route because the descent into Jefferson Co. features some very technical curves. On the first set I rounded one at 41 mph. There is a second climb before a second descent which then crosses the Shenandoah River.

Total mileage was 70 and took me just under 4 1/2 hours at an average speed of 15.5 mph. I arrived at Bethany's and was able to "relax" by jumping in their pool. Sweet!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Getting Dropped on the Group Ride

NOKESVILLE, VIRGINIA


Embarrasing. The definition is getting dropped on your group ride. Yea, it happened to me.


We met at Nokesville Park on Sunday for what was to be a "BB" ride with the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club. The BB pace is about 18 mph which is what I ride solo, or think I do. In theory, I should be able to do a little faster in a group. The BB ride is one that goes off at 16-18 on moderate roads and 18-20 on flats. I do that solo. Even though I hadn't ridden with them I wasn't worried about the pace.


My biggest worry was shaved or not shaved. Been reading and talking with a lot of folks about shaving my legs. It's not for aerodynamics although if one feels faster they will probably tend to ride faster. But it's for that nasty thing called road rash. Not only does the shaven skin clean up and bandage better after a crash but I have read reports where the hair on the skin will peel the skin back like a banana unlike the shaved skin. Yuck. Anyhow, with trepidation I revealed my hairy legs and pretty much was in good company. I didn't notice any shaved legs amongst us.


We headed off on the roads around Nokesville and soon were in a single file pace line. I think very early on we dropped a rider. I'm not sure because I didn't have time to look back. We were flying too. The average speed was 22-23 mph. One by one I moved closer to the front as the leader moved off the front and drifted to the rear. Even at this pace it wasn't too hard to keep up.


At mile 14 there was just one rider in front and he too peeled off. Now I was left to pace the group. I did not want to let anyone down by pacing at 16-18 mph and I kept the speed up. Way up. We were going about 24 mph and I was pushing it. After a half mile I peeled off and made my way to the back of the pace line. Having been worried about leading the pace line in my first ride, the guy in front of me said it wasn't that bad.


Now I was letting the pace line pass me and as the back reached me he said to me "that wasn't so bad, was it?" I didn't respond. I was in the red zone. I tried to slip in behind him but had let me pace drop too much and the line went flying by. For about 10 seconds or so I tried to bridge the gap but they were 10 yards, then 20 yards, and after a minute, 100 yards ahead. I was losing ground.


For the next couple of minutes I tired to hold the gap but soon realized I screwed up. That was my first attempt at riding in the pace line and it was obvious to me that I slowed down too much. I kept visual contact for a while and even witnessed one of the early pace leaders get dropped too.


I thought I would catch them at the one rest break and reached for my cell phone which was beeping me with a waiting message. After listening to the call, I reached for my cue sheet and discovered it was gone. I had no clue where I was or where I was going.


Well, that's not entirely true. Give me the sun and I can pretty much figure out my way back. I saw the sun and knew to follow the roads north. I did very little backtracking until I got close to the start. I had ridden about 15 miles with the group and would solo home for what was going to be almost 25 more. I would have been better off just turning around.


What was amazing was that as I got close I remembered the turns but none of the scenery. I was even doubting if I had been on the same roads. The focus in the pace line is the wheel in front and not the houses or farms along the route.


I later contacted the race leader and he apologized for the ride coming off way too fast. He said shortly after I was dropped it actually splintered into four separate small rides. Maybe that was to make me feel better. It didn't.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mount Evans

IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO

It was difficult finding a place to rent a good road bike in Denver but I settled on 240 Ski and Bike in Idaho Springs, CO. They didn't have true road bikes but they basically had road bikes with straight, not drop down, handlebars. I drove out I-70 to Exit 240 at Idaho Springs and was there by 8:15 a.m.

It was a beautiful morning and just a little cool. A great day for riding. Temperature was maybe around 60. I wore a long sleeve Under Armour base layer (cold) then my Mt Washington/Newton's Revenge jersey. Bike shorts.

We had to agree on terms for the bike. A decent time to the summit, according to Bicycling magazine was 3.5 hours. Of course there's the ride back too. The salesman at the shop looked at me and said "you look like you're in good shape so you should be able to do it in decent time. I'll put you down for five hours and call it four."

I left Idaho Springs for what was to be a straight shot to Mt. Evans. I wasn't sure how far it was and stupidly, was afraid to ask. I had read 28 miles but wasn't sure if that was one way or round trip. I also read it was 14 miles. Of course it's both, depending on whether you start at Idaho Springs or at Echo Lake.

As soon as I left Idaho Springs I crossed I-70 and immediately began climbing. I saw a sign for Mt Evans Fee Area - 14 Miles and hoped that it was 14 miles to the top of Mt. Evans. I pictured a plateau and even thought that perhaps the road continued down the other side.

The road up started pretty easy especially the first six miles. Unfortunately, there are no elevation markers except at the major mileposts. I think I would have liked to know every time I went through another 1000 feet. There were no flats for the next 14 miles.

The route was through Arapaho National Forest and was absolutely gorgeous. I thought many times about dismounting to take photos. But wanting to make good time and the absence of a good camera made me soldier on. I had just two bottles of water with me and every mile when I saw the mile marker I took a drink as I tried to ration the water I had with me. I wasn't sure if I was climbing 14 or 28 miles and that affected how, and when, I drank.

Mostly when I ride I catch other cyclists and the few times I am passed it can be demoralizing. Around the seven mile marker I was passed by a cyclist. Then around Mile 10 I was passed by two more guys. This was getting old. They were seemingly telling me how old I was.

I didn't have a computer on the bike but had started my watch. I had started at a 5-minute/mile pace but did not expect to maintain that as the grade increased and the air got thinner. The elevation at the start in Idaho Springs was 7,524 feet (2,293 meters).

At Mile 14 one reaches Echo Lake. Here the road parallels the lake for a quarter mile and is dead flat. The flat pedaling was a welcome relief. It was a an accomplishment to reach Echo Lake and the entrance to Mt Evans. Here also was Echo Lake Lodge. And store.


I caught the two cyclists who passed me as they had stopped for a rest. I borrowed a bike tool to lower my seat. It had been too high which prevented me from getting into a good cycling rhythm. I also learned that they were with a group and were the only two who could go off the front. The rest couldn't keep up with them so at least they didn't pass me.

I went in the store and bought another bottle of water for the next 14 miles -- to the summit of Mt. Evans. This would be the only stop I would make and I wouldn't call it a rest stop. It was necessary to fix my seat and get more water. Total time off the bike was only three minutes. Riding time to the lodge had been 99 minutes.



I left the lodge and started towards Mt. Evans and immediately came to the main entrance. I was prepared to beg my way out of the three dollar entrance fee for having "suffered enough already." Indeed, I had told the other cyclists that I read one could beg their way out of the fee by stating that you were only riding to the summit then turning around and coming right back. I didn't have to. The ranger said he could waive the fee if I told him I was going to ride the summit then immediately come back down. I assured him I was.

As soon as one leaves the fee station you see the sign for Mt Evans.

Almost immediately one begins climbing. There are two quick switchbacks then another two in about one mile. But then the road straightens out quite a bit until the final ascent.

Ahead on the first switchback I saw two riders. By the time I rounded the switchback I saw just one remaining with a rider much further up the road. I finally caught someone! I slowed as I passed trying to make conversation. This gentleman was from Evergreen, Colorado and it was clear he was going too slow for my pace. I was on pace for a three and half hour climb and didn't want it to take longer. Plus I knew the road would turn up in anger later.

In a few more minutes I caught the second rider. And we began to ride together for a while. At a certain grade we seemed to have the same pace. But on a lesser grade, maybe 3-4%, he seemed to be a little stronger. When the road turned up I would pass him. We didn't discuss it but we took turns leading each other. And it worked.

Somewhere about four miles into this road we passed the tree line and entered a treeless alpine environment. For those miles we stayed with one another. Around Mile 10 (24 total) we reached Summit Lake (12,830' or 3,911 meters) and here the road turned down. It was paved but very rough. My new friend knew the road and took off down it. I struggled to keep up. It wasn't steep but a gentle downgrade although the road was rough. Winter freezing plus spring thawing and refreezing had buckled the road in many places and left pot holes in others. I didn't want to crash out being stupid.

After passing Summit Lake we started climbing the final section of the day. Only 1400 more feet (427 meters) of climbing. By my calculations the grade kicked up to 9-10%. Here the switchbacks start in earnest. I think there were 14 of them. I went ahead of my new cycling friend. I saw him as we turned the next couple of switchbacks but after a while lost contact. I don't believe that either he or his friend made it to the top.


I kept climbing higher. The switchbacks kept getting closer, maybe 200 yards or so between each turn and the grade seemed to increase with each one. I was trying to keep a steady rhythm as I pedaled but the legs were burning and sometimes it felt better to switch to a bigger gear and stand. But as I did I noticed that I no longer could stand long without getting light-headed or dizzy. Best to sit on the seat and tap away.

It was painful but always a good pain. Physically. Mentally it was tough because it was easy enough to turn around. I tried to focus no more than 100 yards ahead. Once above the tree line you can see that road climbing forever. If you allow yourself to look too far ahead surely you will want to quit.

I did frequently look back at the road just traveled. When I looked next to see if I could find my cycling partner I saw see another cyclist. And he was slowly gaining on me. Except when he caught me, he was a she and she pedaled right by me. That was enough to defeat me. But it didn't. I figured that I would do this ride once in my life and may as well dig deep to find the energy to continue.

I kept banging through the switchbacks, and getting close to the summit, saw a mountain goat. I wasn't about to stop and take a picture because I don't know if I would have got going again. But a car was about 25 yards behind me and I pointed to the goat. They stopped to take pictures.

I had a hard time determining where the climb ended. It just seemed to climb forever. Each time I made a turn I hoped I could see the top but when I looked up, always a bad idea, there seemed to be more road as far as I could see. But when I looked again I could see more switchbacks but this time they were crowded with people walking. No cars. No bikes.


I was there. I rounded one more switchback and could see the small parking lot. I found the energy for a sprint if you could call it that. Out of the saddle I pedaled hard for the last 50 yards. Then I coasted home in the parking lot.

I pulled in and talked with the young lady who passed me a few minutes earlier. She is from Colorado and rides for Whitman College (Washington). I think living at altitude helps and so does being young. She said it doesn't help but she will understand in about 30 years. It helps.


(Note: Upon returning home I Googled Whitman College only to discover that Whitman women won the NCAA Div. II national title in 2005 and 2006 and finished third in 2007. No wonder I got smoked although it wasn't that bad. One of their riders, Mara Abbott, just won the USA Cycling National Road Championship at Seven Springs.)

I dismounted and immediately became dizzy and looked for a place to sit. I can say that climbing at altitude was no problem for the lungs. Can't say that they were burning nor that I was gasping for breath. I think I held something back from my effort all day as I wasn't about to give 100% effort (sprint) then not have anything left. I didn't know how much to ration so I kept the steady pace going during the climb. But I never felt sick or out of breath. Cramping was never an issue so my hydration plan was at least adequate. But I was very lightheaded once I was walking.

I saw down and took in the view. Probably could see for 50 miles although that view lasted about three minutes. Out of nowhere a cloud moved in and all of a sudden one could see about 50 feet and that was it. And the temperature dropped as well. The temperature was in the low 40s when I arrived at the summit but quickly dropped when the clouds move in.

Most cyclists had jackets on as they descended and I had brought my warm weather gear. I was surprised that my jersey was wet with sweat since I never felt sweat dripping off my face or arms. But I hard worked hard and knew it was time to put my jacket on. And after no more than five minutes resting it was time to descend.



While I had started my stopwatch and looked at it climbing to Echo Lake, I forgot to look at it again to measure total time to the summit. I thought it was about 3:45 but I reset it to zero to clock the time back to Idaho Springs.

I looked forward to what could be a 28.5 mile descent coasting all the way. But my body was tired and aching from the climb and the thought of throwing my bike in the back of someone's pickup truck was even more inviting. But there were no offers.

I headed down 50 yards to the first switchback, turned then went another 100 yards and knew it was cold. Temperatures may have been in the high 30s. I pulled over and pulled on my leg warmers and went to the full finger gloves. When I restarted I quickly started following a car descending and had to brake for him as he was cautious. For a lightheaded cyclist, which I still was, it was much safer to follow someone who was being reasonable. When the body is tired is when one loses focus and makes stupid decisions, sometimes tragic.

The drops off Mt. Evans were huge. There are no guard rails the entire way and in some sections even the roadway had buckled and dropped off. If one were to ride too close to the side of the road, despite pleas from ignorant drivers to do just that, it would be too easy to hit a section of road that simply disappeared. And so would the cyclist. My focus was 100% on the road and I never looked down at the large drops I was riding next to. To look down would make me more dizzy.


And I was cold. My legs were shivering uncontrollably and so were my arms. My chest was tight as I was fending off the cold. I knew this was the beginning of hypothermia. I wanted to go faster to get off the mountain as quick as I could but also knew the faster I went the colder it was.

I followed the car to Summit Lake where the road becomes somewhat straight for one mile. Even if one could coast through this section one had to be very diligent in watching the road hazards. But passing Summit Lake this road has a rise to it for about a mile. I reached down for energy to pedal some more and it was very difficult. But I knew that I would only have to get past this section before beginning my descent the rest of the way.

I think there was yet another section to climb, not difficult mind you, just a pain in the butt and legs after all the earlier climbs. But once I passed it I was out of most of the switchbacks and on better road. I switched into a bigger gear and started pedaling. I had shaken the extreme cold and wanted to go fast -- as fast as I safely could that is.

While I was pedaling I allowed myself to be caught by two guys descending. Whether or not they were the two that passed me going up, I don't know. I didn't see them at the top. I didn't have a road bike with 23cc tires and couldn't descend quite as fast. I was descending about 40 mph and they were going a couple mph faster. As they passed I picked up my paced and followed their line. I figured they knew the road and how fast they could safely take the turns. It helped following them. My total time descending back to Echo Lake was 42 minutes which included the slow sections at the top and the climb by Summit Lake.

My pacers pulled off and went into the lodge. I started the descent past Echo Lake then down to Idaho Springs. This truly was downhill and while one could presumably never turn a pedal the entire way the speed couldn't have been that great either. There were technical turns that I had to slow down for but I was still moving at a 30 mph pace. How do I know that? I was timing the miles as they were ticking away at two minutes every mile.

It hurt to pedal but I wanted to get off the bike as soon as I could. I missed my Trek Pilot carbon bike and could feel every bump this aluminum Scott bike hit. I kept the pace up celebrating every time I passed another mile marker sign. There was another reason to hurry back. It was raining too. Lightly, but still raining.

Mile Marker One went whizzing by and I could see Idaho Springs ahead. It was easy to find the last remaining energy to pedal across I-70 and into the parking lot at the bike/ski rental store. I had rented the bike for four hours and although I was outside the four hours the manager graciously told me I didn't owe him a thing more.

I thought about what I had accomplished. Mt. Evans. For some, one of the holy grails in cycling, at least in the U.S. The highest paved road in the country. Very high altitude. Although I was passed on the climb by some cyclists, the only people who succeeded at this climb are incredibly fit and are true cyclists. And I think every one was younger than me. While there may have been four that passed me on the way up, that was four in 28 miles and all were in great shape. And did I mention young?

I immediately said to myself "never again." I accomplished it and don't need to try it again. However, I wouldn't rule it out either. I don't think I would plan a trip to Denver to ride Mt. Evans but if I was in the area again, who knows?









___
Photo Credits: The road ahead; Looking down at switchback: Ken Kifer's Bike Pages (used with permission)
Mt Evans sign; Observatory in distance:
Mark Boyd's Mt Evans Page (used with permission)
Barry with eyes closed -- Whitman College cyclist. They can pedal but sure can't take pictures; Barry with eyes open -- Park Ranger. The only reason the first picture is displayed is to illustrate how quickly the weather changed. It went from sunny to limited visibility in about three minutes.
Mt Evans Auto Road Sign; Echo Lake: Barry

Saturday, July 14, 2007

USA Cycling Championships

CHAMPION, PENNSYLVANIA

The USA Cycling National Championships were held over a two-week period at Seven Springs Ski Resort. Answering a call for volunteers I contacted Rachel Shaffer, the Seven Springs volunteer coordinator three weeks before the event. She gladly accepted my offer and told me she would use me Saturday and half-day Sunday. I hadn't heard anything from her so I contacted her midweek to simply ask when and where we meet. She emailed we and said that we would meet at the Center Lobby at 7-Springs Saturday at 7:00 a.m.

I left my parents' place in Friedens shortly before 6:00 a.m. for the 35-40 minute drive to the ski resort. I arrived around 6:40 a.m. but did not see a volunteer check-in, something I certainly expected. I did see some folks with orange vests on and figured I should have one as well. A 7-Springs bus was leaving and a couple of cars followed. I jumped in my car and followed as well. The bus drove out to Trent and then at certain intersections of country roads either stopped to let someone off or the people inside waved to a volunteer already in place.

At one point the bus pulled over and a woman, Rachel I discovered, got out to talk to the people in the car behind the bus. Then I pulled up beside her and introduced herself. She replied that I was late and she already filled all the positions.

I started to do a slow burn. I had driven from Northern Va. to volunteer. I didn't have a second car and had rented a car just to volunteer for this event. And Rachel explained that she simply used the same volunteers she has been using all week. She didn't need me. But she said she would give me a t-shirt.

Big effing deal.

I pulled out a copy of the email she sent me in which she wrote my reporting time was 7:00 a.m. She looked at that and then stated that she could use me back at Swiss Mountain (7-Springs) and that I would "at least get to see the course." I figured that was a "nothing" assignment and indeed when we reached 7-Springs, after dropping off all the real volunteers, we stopped by some condos about 50 yards off the main road. She told me to keep the cars from the condos off the course and that maybe I could help the policeman on the main road.

Uh, there were no cars at the condos. No one was parked there. I was to guard an intersection of an empty parking lot. What a bogus post. I immediately went out to the main road and told the policeman I would help him. I put on my silly orange vest and we waited for the first activity.

The policeman had both police and race radio and I can't imagine being stuck on the course with no information. Throughout the day I would have updates of where the riders were.

The 17-18 Men started at 7:30 from the ski resort. It took perhaps 10 minutes for the peloton to leave the resort and climb the hill by the golf course. A State Trooper led the procession over the hill followed by 7-8 motorcycles. As they crested the hill, all but 5-6 of the riders were still in the peloton, which started with 175 riders.

As they descended the mountain road it was foggy and cool but visibility should have been no problem. There was some moisture on the road from the morning fog. The peloton flew by sounding like a swarm of bees. Just as quick as they crested they were gone. We then waited for the 15-16 Men group to come 10 minutes later and they didn't. We waited some more and still no group.

They were to race on a "lollipop" course. The stem, about 8 miles, would go out to a loop, of about 8 miles. The 17-18 Men would go first, followed 10 minutes later by the 15-16 men. The older guys would do three loops on the course before returning while the younger guys would do two laps. Once out on the loop there would be numerous riders, of both age groups circling.

Still, the 15-16 men didn't come by. The first indication of a problem was around that time a fire truck from 7-Springs went screaming down the hill. Soon a number of ambulances and police cars went racing down the hill, just out of sight of our vantage point. We started to hear bits and pieces coming from race radio and knew something was bad. Later we saw two life-flight helicopters circling above.

The bad news was more than three dozen cyclists were injured. The 17-18 race went on but the 15-16 race was held for a couple of hours.

The following article appeared on the KDKA website:
Dozens Hurt In Seven Springs Cycling Accident
(KDKA) SEVEN SPRINGS

Two people were flown to the hospital and dozens of others were hurt after an accident at a biking event in Somerset County. "It's unusual to have a wreck but when you do it usually involves a lot of riders," Steve Gottlieb, a cyclist from Alexandria, Va., said. Witnesses say two cyclists bumped into each other causing a chain reaction collision, involving approximately 37 participants. "As soon as I hit them I flipped over the handle bars and landed on top of my head," Logan Von Bokel said. "I got some road rash on my arms, but most of the pain right now is in my back and my neck." Emergency officials say two people were flown from the scene with serious, but non life-threatening injuries. USA Cycling declined comment accept to say there was an accident. Von Bokel says he plans to heal and ride again. "Crashing is always a possibilty in bike racing - it's just something you have to learn to accept," he said. (© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Anxious parents soon came out the road and wanted to drive down to the crash site. We couldn't allow the cars on the course but some walked the 1/2 mile down to the crash. Later, a bus went down to bring the lesser injured riders back. Some came walking back on their own. Some had been attended to, evidenced by the bandages on their bodies. I met a couple riders coming back. One carried two pieces of his bike. He actually thought it was pretty cool.

The leaders of the race had gone through and were unaware there had been a crash in the main field. The winner of the day was Ben King, of Charlottesville, Va., who simply destroyed the competition. His winning time was 2:23.05 and the next three finishers, Nick Bax, Cheyne Hoag, and Danny Summerhill, were all 7:41 behind. Coming in the 18-20 positions at 8:47 were Jose Blanco, Taylor Phinney, and Ryan Zupko.

Once the riders were safely out on the road, I was able to ride a little on the course. I rode out to Trent then on the way back met up with three women from Team Cheerwine. I chatted for a while with Chrissy Ruiter (pictured left) from Bend, Oregon. All the women seemed very nice. On the rollers I was keeping up fine but don't know if I could have stayed with them all the way up the 3-mile climb. But then I clunked a gear shift and it about threw me. The chain caught and just stopped. I was still pedaling. They passed on by and I circled back down the hill to shift. By then I lost 50 meters on them and never regained it. But we were soon at the top of the Seven Springs hill.

Once the women 17-18 got rolling I was surprised when only 14 crested the first climb. I thought that was a breakaway but was more surprised to learn that was the group. Well, 15 of them. The winner on the day was Lauren Shirock at 2:21.22 (two loops). Sinead Miller was second at 2:00. The mens 15-16 winner (also two loops) was Nathan Brown coming in at 2:03.07.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mount Washington

PINKHAM NOTCH, NH

It had been my dream for some time to climb mountains like the riders in the Tour de France. In researching all the great climbs and how to get to Europe to ride them I discovered something I didn't know. In the U.S. there is road that is often considered tougher than any on the Tour.

I had hoped to enter the Mount Washington Auto Road Hill Climb scheduled for August but the Hill Climb registration filled up in 20 minutes on February 1. That opened a second race, Newton's Revenge, sponsored by Louis Garneau (they have some great clothes!) to be held on the "lucky" date of 07/07/07.

The climb up Mt Washington is tough. Just under eight miles, it averages 12% grade and tops out at 22%. If the road isn't tough enough, it also features the world's worst weather with very strong and unpredictable winds.

My daughter, Ashley, agreed to go with me and on Thursday July 5, I picked her up from her new in-laws where she had been spending the week in Bethany Beach, Delaware. We started the day by taking a brief walk in the ocean. We drove to Windsor Locks, Connecticut. On Friday we continued to tourist mountain town of North Conway, New Hampshire. After checking in to the hotel, we went out to the race start. I was the second rider to pick up a race packet at the Mount Washington Auto Road.

I carefully watched what I ate (pasta loading) and made sure to get a good night's rest. Morning came soon and we were out of the hotel by 5:45. Anticipation was in the air as we drove out to Mt. Washington.

We arrived by 6:30 a.m. -- cars needed to go up the mountain by 7:00 but there was something wrong. The sun covered the valley but many people seemed to be leaving. The view of Mt Washington was gorgeous. Sun blanketed the mountain except for the clouds that covered the summit. Stunning.


One problem. Inside those clouds were 70 miles per hour winds, 40 degrees which translated to a wind chill of 27 degrees, and zero visibility. The race was canceled.

It was surreal. Although there was a rain date of July 8, I had not envisioned staying. It was too far home. Our plans were to drive back to Connecticut after the race on Saturday then continue home on Sunday. I was greatly disappointed. But Ashley said "Dad, we have to stay and try again tomorrow." I thought I had imposed on her enough to come with me and be my driver off the mountain but she was insistent that we find a way to stay.


We didn't know if we could work it out with the sold-out hotel but then decided to take some time to think about it. We drove to Jackson across a covered bridge then waded in a mountain stream. We took a train ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad and were able to work out another night at the hotel.


We had met a wonderful woman at the Discovery Weather Center in North Conway who encouraged me to ride Hurricane Mountain Road -- a beast of a climb. I struggled for air and for legs as I crept up this mountain road. I'm not sure if the ride was to give me confidence or to break my confidence. It turns out that the average grade was a monstrous 18%. As soon as I got back to North Conway I went to a bike shop and asked if they could change my gearing. But it was too late since they would need to order parts. Doubt crept into my mind if I had low enough gearing to complete the race.

Looking down Hurricane Mountain Road -- towards Maine.
17% Grade

The first message we saw Sunday was at 4:45 a.m. that they were checking the condition of the auto road. Winds had calmed to 30 mph and the temperature was 45. It looked promising.

On our drive back to the mountain we saw two cars off the road. Ashley said they must be looking at a moose. While my goal was to climb Mt Washington, her goal was to see a moose. Sure enough, the cars were pulled off because there was moose eating by the side of the road. We joined them and Ashley got out and much too close to the moose to take pictures. The trip was a success. We had our moose.

We continued on to the mountain and it started raining. I wasn't too worried about riding in the rain since I exercise all winter long outdoors. Getting wet would not bother me. We arrived and parked by the big tent anxiously awaiting the departure of the cars to head up the mountain. Then we learned the race was canceled. For good.

Anticipation and adrenaline were the order of the day Saturday. When it was canceled Saturday it was like a giant balloon having all its air sucked out. Not so on Sunday. Not nearly as much air went back in that balloon and when it was canceled for good it was simply time to go home. We had 700 miles of driving ahead of us.

This venture started as my sole reason for going to Mt Washington was to test myself against the mountain. The mountain won. Twice.

But all in all, I spent four days with my daughter that I probably won't get to again. It was not a wasted weekend. Actually, I loved it. Wish I got to ride but spending time with my daughter, meeting other riders, and seeing a moose -- it was all good.

Because my anticipation wasn't as high as Saturday the disappointment wasn't as great either and we just headed back home in the rain. Although we left behind temperatures in the high 50s and rain we were reminded we were close to home when we stopped at a rest area in Maryland and it was 97 degrees.


Since the race my registration has been rolled over to next year's event -- July 12, 2008.

___
Photo Credits: Ashley Snow except for the picture of Ashley -- That's by Barry
(1) Mt Washington in the morning
(2) Ashley
(3) Barry
(4) Looking down Hurricane Mt Road
(5) Marty Moose

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Red Rock Canyon

BLUE DIAMOND, NV

A very wide two-lane road with equally wide shoulders, it was only 10 miles from Las Vegas but could have been 100. I found McGhies Blue Diamond Bikes which rented Trek Bikes. 

I asked the owner how to get to Red Rock Canyon. The bike didn't have a computer. He simply sized me up and said ride for 30 minutes then turn left. At 8 miles or 16 miles per hour, mostly climbing, he was right.

The road turned up and my breathing labored. I was surprised to see that the scenic road within the park was almost a mile high.

It made for a nice downhill ride going back. I saw two wild burrows, or I saw the same one twice. Not sure. But it's a great way to spend a day in Vegas.