First Brevet of the year

Hey folks, it’s been a while since I have blogged. It’s been an interesting first 4 months of the year. I looked over my last blog and my goals I set for this year. Of the six, four are already a bust. The two that remain are completing the P-12 challenge and Super Randonneur (SR) series. I have also added a new one, complete the first ever International Devils Week.

The Huron Chapter of Ontario Randonneurs, Canada, along with the Detroit Randonneurs, USA, is hosting a week long series of rides: Monday a 200k, Tuesday 300k, Thursday 400k, and Saturday 600k! It is coming up fast: it starts on Memorial Day. The 200k and 300k are both in Windsor, Ontario. The 400k Brevet starts in Port Huron, Michigan, while the final 600k starts just west of Detroit in Canton.

Well, part of this new challenge is NOT counting it towards the initial goal of getting a SR, so I still need to get a complete series of rides in for the first goal. Saturday I completed my first ride of the year in the quest for the first SR, the 200k.

I was planning on riding the Indiana 200k Brevet the previous weekend. As part of my prep work the night before, I looked at the weather report again. Mind you, the ride goes on no matter what, the only thing that cancels a ride is ice. The weather called for 100% chance of rain. I was down with that, I love riding in the rain! Crazy, I know, but what can I say… But I also saw that there was a 100% chance of thunder. I concluded that when Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, he was NOT telling us to offer ourselves up to the Randonneuring gods as human lighting rod, so I opted to bail on the ride.

It turns out that the Detroit Randonneurs had a 200k Brevet the following week (this past weekend) so I signed up and started making plans. There is only one reason I didn’t ride in the Ohio 200k earlier in the year: it was the distance it was from home. I have this strange quirk, I HATE, simply HATE paying for a hotel room when it is just me. It seems like a huge waste of money for a bed for one night when there is a perfectly good piece of ground somewhere that simply needs a tent to make a good place to rest. Thus I decided I would camp.

Only owning a 9 person tent, I borrowed a friend’s 2 person tent. I was at the camp ground with everything laid out on the ground trying to figure out how to put the tent together, in the dark! Well, some texts, some pictures, and a phone call or two and before I knew it I had a place to sleep for the night! I fell asleep quickly and slept well! I woke 15 minutes before my alarm so was able to ease into the day. In short order everything was back in the Bug and I was off to brevet.

I love it each time I camp, this time has inspired me to do more of it! I think I will start looking farther from home for Randonneur rides!

Stopped for some breakfast and headed to the start. There where 10 of us riding the 200k and another 5 riding the 300k. The weather was GREAT. The two days leading up to this I was living in constant downpour of rain 5 hours south in Cincinnati. But it was dry and sunny up in Lansing. A bit cool, it started out in the low 40’s, but otherwise everything was perfect! For this out and back route we where blessed with a wonderful 16 mph tail wind… to start…

Last year in the spring I rode the Indiana 200k. I walked away very discouraged. I went in with high expectations and was sorely disappointed with my finishing time. A bit later I hired a coach. He trained me on how to properly train and get fit. I have continued that training on my own since that time and added a power meter which has enhanced the training even more. So this year, heading out on my first Brevet, I knew I would be on the faster side of the riders.

While I tried to pace myself, I failed… I started off a few moments after others because I had to stow away my camera after the group picture, but within the first mile there where only two folks in front of me and I had not turned on the steam yet! Within about 2 miles I was side by side with Greig. We chatted for a few minutes, about 30 minute in he stopped and said he would catch up with me.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

There is great truth in the say ‘the Devil is in the details’, because he is! I say we chatted, but truth be told, I felt like I was doing all the asking of questions and he was answering to being polite. As I rolled on solo, my mind goes where it always goes unless I keep control of it. The mind is a funny thing, while it is part of us, it isn’t, all at the same time. There is a very good reason why St. Paul instructs us to take every thought captive.

What my mind told me was: “Sam, you are bugging this nice gentleman and he stopped simply to get away from you! You wanted to ride this ride at your own pace, so simply ride!” As he stopped, I increased my speed to my solo riding pace knowing more than likely I wouldn’t see him until a Control. Of course this was all a lie, which would slowly be revealed to me over the course of the whole ride.

Having spent the vast majority of my life in Ohio, I have this very negative view of Michigan. I think it all started when I was coming of age. I living in Columbus, home of OSU Buckeyes where I learned to love football. In that era I learned why all birds fly upside down over Ohio… to save it for Michigan. Well, this is my second ride up in Michigan and it is simply beautiful! The Brevet took us from Lansing down to Ann Arbor and the whole thing was just breath taking. I am glad that the I am finally starting to learn the truth about this state! It makes me look forward to Devil’s week all the more!

As I was riding along, I had one of those moments: The light was perfect, the road dipped a bit and turned into the sun, with the trees beautifully lite. I thought to myself, “That would make a GREAT picture!” Then it hit me: Sam, you ARE a photographer with a nice camera, stop and take the picture! So I did!

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The route took us into Ann Arbor on Huron River road. It is one of those simply perfect cycling roads. It is covered in trees and has very minor rolling hills next to the Huron River. The hills are mostly 30~50 foot range with very wide lanes, four lane worth, but it was only a two lane road. On the way into Ann Arbor I must have seen 12 other cyclists going the other way. When the route turned off it went up to climbed this little hill into this wonderful neighborhood. The lots were heavily wooded. What I really loved seeing was how they managed their yards. In Geneiss 2:15, one of my favorite passages, it say God took man and put him in the Garnden of Eden to work it and take care of it. I really got the sense that is what these homeowners were doing was learning what was natural to the land in which they lived. Thay worked it to the true natural beauty that God intended rather then ripping everything native out and laying down a big green lawn. This was a reoccurring theme through out Ann Arbor.

I hit the turn around control at Subway. Ordered a sub, and ate. As I am wrapping up Greig walks in. One of my dark sides that Randonneuring really brings out in me is my lack of confidence in social environments with strangers. Still under the impression I am more of a pest than anything, I am polite but distance, as not to be any more of a bother than I naturally am, or at least that is what I am telling myself. Besides… he was coming in, I was about to head out. I am simply continued to go about my business. As I was finishing up repacking for the return trip, he came out. Nothing really was said, so I simply continued doing my thing.

The info control was about 8 miles into the return trip at the top of a hill. I am of the nature to stop and fill out the info control question right on the spot since the odds are I will forget the info by the next Control! I had another da moment: Man, those tulips would make a pretty picture! So I wiped out the old Sony a6000 and click another shot. As I did so, Greig passed me, he said hi as he rolled passed.

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When I got to the bottom of the hill I ran into Greig checking his cue sheet. While the route was an out-n-back route, there was about 16~17 miles of it in Ann Arbor which was a little loop. We where at the end of that loop and ready to head back on Huron River road, but… We both have the Garmin Edge 820 and it doesn’t do so well on out-n-back routes. It was telling both of us to make another loop. I was not new to this area. This part of the ride was on the first segment of both the 400k and 200k loops of the 600k I rode back in 2014. As I came up on Greig he told me his Garmin wanted him to make another loop. I laughed as I passed and said mine did too, but I wasn’t game. I turned right and headed back.

Well, I was back on this wonderful cycling road, cruising along. It had been a while since I checked to see how far back Greig was, so I was just enjoying the ride when all of a sudden as I climbed this hill a gentleman on a mountain bike and his lady friend on a road bike pass me. I think to myself: That is a GREAT way to get a workout with someone slower, ride my mountain bike! Well, I am a big boy and big boys tend to go down hill very fast, so before I knew it I am passing them again. The yoyo with other cyclists on the road gets under my skin, especially when there are only two groups. I also know that I am not going full steam, so… I turn up the steam! Once I think they got within 15 feet of me, but with each downhill I increased my lead and charged up the next hill fast enough to continue to take more of a lead!

Remember that voice I heard back when Greig initially stopped, “ride your ride”. Well that is what I thought I was doing, lie! By the end of Huron River road I noticed my right thigh was bothering me just a little and I was also burning up! I stopped to adjust my clothing and as I expected Greig passed me. A number of miles later I saw Greig stopped at another turn and I passed him. I got the next control and got what I needed to go inside. As I started to head for the door Greig show up!

As we roll out of the control a few minutes later, my thigh continued to bother me, but not too bad. With only about 27 miles to go I keep riding hard into the 16 mph head wind. But about 17 miles out the thigh changed from a not too bad to bad enough! I opted to stop riding hard into the wind and save my legs for the coming weekends (one Brevet each weekend until Devils Week). With 6 miles to go, I stopped for the final picture of the day. The clouds had really rolled in, in a very dramatic way. As I was stopped Greig passed me again.

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I had been thinking for a while Greig was ahead of me, he had passed me a while back when I made a quick stop to get some food out of my bag. But it turned out he took a wrong turn.

Well, I finally got to the finish as Greig was packing up. As I started to packing my stuff up he came over and very warmly said his good byes and told me it was good riding with me. And I heard this very loving, kind voice say, “Sam, maybe all day long you were wrong about being a pain, rather you might just have actually been a pleasure. Next time have more faith that I (Christ) truly am in you and you are truly in me.”

I learned two very important lessons, one in which I will act on and one I will need to relearn and relearn:

A) I learned I cannot ride 200k and longer rides as hard as I ride a 100~150k ride, or at least not yet. This weekend I am doing a 300k and I am going to try to pace myself better as not to fry my thigh like I did. Today, two days later I am fully recovered and 100%, so we will see.

B) I need to have more faith that Christ IS in me and I AM in him. That I am not, by default, a pain, but am someone folks actually want to hang out with. Living in a culture and loving a sport that really encourages individualism make it all that much harder, which is why it is so important to have a good community around you.

It will be interesting to see what God has in store for me in the 300k this coming weekend and the 400k next weekend. It will be a learning experience that is for sure!

A Mid Summer Ride to Russells Point

I took Friday, August 5, off to ride the August monthly double century up to Russells Point and back. Irma was out of town and I figured I should get the ride out of the way when she was out of town so I can maximize the amount of time I get with my most amazing wife, she returns the following Sunday and I wanted a day to rest in between.

I was really looking forward toward the ride. In my last blog I mentioned that I was hiring a cycling coach, we have been working together since the beginning of July. With 5 weeks of coaching under my belt, I was looking forward to seeing how things change.

It all really started at the beginning of July. Coach looked at my cadence and saw how amazingly low it was and made that the first project. My average on July 1 was only 51 rpm. After about two weeks of working on it I realized that I no longer had to really focus on keeping up the cadence, it was just naturally staying in the high 70’s, low 80’s. There have been two things I have done: focus on spinning faster and stop coasting down hills. Within three weeks my average was up to 70-75 rpm. A week after that it became really easy to end a 1-2 hour workout with an average of 80+ rpm.

It is climbing hills where the increased cadence really shows itself. In the past I would simply grid up hills at 60~65 rpm. Now on the same hill, in the same gear, I find myself spinning at 85~100! I would have though it would be harder, but it feels SO much easier!

So for Friday’s ride I set some goals for myself: average heart rate of 130+ with a cadence of 80+ for the whole ride. I started off at my normal 5:30 am and hit the road. Within 15 minutes the averages where hit, so now I just need to maintain…

I must say, the ride up to Russells Point was great. One of the things I am doing differently now is that I don’t look at my speed, only heart rate (HR), cadence, interval HR average, interval cadence average, and distance or interval time. I was feeling so good early on I kept my eyes open for some pretty pictures.

As I have said in the past, there is a chunk of the ride that is on a beautiful bike path. I have a love/hate relationship with the path. When it is just me, I LOVE it. When it is filled with parents, kids, dogs, and cats all going 3 mph every 8 feet taking up the whole trail, my peace is interrupted. Mind you, they have very right to be there and I am very glad they are, it is my issue not theirs that my peace gets disturbed:)

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Most of the trail I am on is remote enough and/or it is early or late enough that it is pretty quiet, but on this beautiful morning some folks in the Corwin area decided to hit the trail too.

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Since it is rails to trails route along a river, a lot of it has trees on either side. This makes for the most picturesque scenes when the sun is low in the early morning or late in the day. There are times I do NOT want to stop and take a picture because the moments are so brief, so magical, I want to just go as fast as possible to soak up as much of the scenery as possible! I have also learned as a photographer, capturing the moment simply doesn’t do it justice, either.

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Well, I rolled into the first control 30 minutes faster than ever. Then I rolled in an hour sooner at the 92 mile control. What really blow my mind was my hourly report on distance and time. I use Cyclemeter iPhone app to record my rides. One feature of it is that it will announce stats. I have it configured to tell me average speed and total distance after every hour of rolling (not total time). After 6 hours I had ridden 99.9 miles! Later I would learn it was a 7-hour century, including stops. One of my goals is a 12-hour double century, so the fact that I am already only an hour away from a 6-hour century is killer cool!

I rolled into Russells Point around 60 minutes ahead of my best time! Lunch time! In the past I have noticed how sluggish I have been on the way back until it got past 5pm. This could be due to a whole host of reasons: the heat of the day, what I am eating for lunch, my body just hits a low point. This time around I thought I would mix things up a bit. Coach asked me to go to Subway or similar place, but I went looking for Subway last month and could not find it. So I stuck with Burger King. This time, though I opted to forgo the fries and only get a grilled chicken sandwich.

After a short break I headed out. A couple things hit me right off: It wass hot out, within seconds I was acclimated because the first step outside is always a shock to the system. The next thing was the wind… As I have said before, I can be really clueless at times… I had a tail wind all the way up and didn’t realize it. It was not very strong, but just enough that when heading into it, I felt the decrease in speed.

I know a lot of non-believers that take the stance: I only believe what I can see for myself. What I have learned is that while we all see many things very clearly, we are ALL blind to some things. Thus we all must depend on others to help us see those things. One of the things I am realizing that I am really blind to temperature. I walked into the wall of heat and though, “Oh, it is warm out here, cool, let’s go!” I knew the high was only 91 degrees, I have ridden when it was 100 and that was hot, so I simply thought that 91 would not be too bad. Needless to say, I was wrong!

One of my big take aways from the ride is to stop relying on what I feel and respect the truths of others: Riding when it is 91 degrees with 100% humidity, clouds or no clouds, it is VERY HOT and I will need to drink a HUGE amount of water.

I never ran out of water and I did make stops between controls to get more water when I needed. But I conserve water far more then I should have and I think I paid a heavy price for it! The first extra water stop was at this bar right on the route. When I walked in at 3pm there was nobody really there, no AC. I asked for water and got tap water. 2 minutes after I stopped I was off again. Once on my bike I tasted the water and it wasn’t much to my liking. Since I had another full bottle from Burger King, I favored that and didn’t touch the new bottle (which I should have!).

Mind you, this whole time I was still not a believer; I didn’t believe it was all that hot. The only reason I stopped for water is because of my personal policy: Under no circumstance do I ride more than one hour with only one full water bottle. The next stop was somewhere between sixty and ninety minutes away. I was down to one bottle, so I stopped, what I failed to do was actually drink the water!

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Turned the corner as I approached Kiser Lake and there stood two horses.  The owner was coming up behind me to bring them home.

 

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Once they knew capture was inevitable, they headed home on their own.

I continued to stay ahead of my best times as I pulled into St Paris control (135 mile) and continued to be oblivious to how hot it really was… I downed a Powerade, topped off my water, and headed out. Ten or twelve miles later as I started to get close to Springfield, about half way to the Xenia control, again I was running very low on water. The route goes through Springfield but doesn’t go through the best areas. The idea of leaving my bike outside unlocked wasn’t very appealing considering my goal was to ride ALL the way home, not walk the last 60 miles:)

 

2016-08-05 17.22.48-2I was still about 3 miles outside of Springfield when I come up on a light. Something (God?) actually motivates me to actually SEE this business I had passed a dozen times. It is one of those soft serve ice cream places and they are open! Considering they are still really country it is an ideally safe place to stop!

I walked in with one thing on my mind: Get water and keep going. But the AC and the site of ice cream was so very seductive! Needless to say, after ordering my ice cream I headed back out to my bike to get money. In the summer, when they are open, this might become a regular stop from now on out!

After a dinner stop at Subway I was back on the bike trail. The route would be either downhill or flat until getting off the trail to climbing a hill to get home. Then it happened, I was most definitely a bit fatigued, but the old heart which had been beating at 128 bpm with a cadence of around 80 rpm my heart rate starts to drop. First it drops to 110 bpm, then to 100, and finally down to 90! What???? With the same effort (cadence) my heart rate bottomed out at 88 bpm!

Heart Rate Drop Aug 5, 2016

My heart rate monitor is Bluetooth so I checked the battery level, 68%. I felt fine, my chest was fine, it made no sense. While riding on the trail, I use Siri to txt both Irma and the Coach. Irma contacts my son-in-law who is a nurse. I quickly had a list of questions about possible symptoms. I didn’t have any of them. By the time everyone started to come up with ideas my heart rate was back to 128. Coach recommends next time it happens I take my pulse independent of the monitor. Once he learns that I have about 35 miles to go, he recommends I take a 10-minute break and monitor my heart rate during the rest to see if it is matching with the monitor. I stop and download an iPhone app that uses the camera to measure pulse. It is spot on the monitor I am wearing. After 5~10 minutes I head out, but…

The official route is the shorted distance but involves climbing two hills, 350 foot and 100 foot. I had been looking forward to the climbs, but not anymore. There is an alternative route which involves a staying on the bike path and riding a few extra miles.

Both Irma and Coach agreed with my idea of adding some extra distance to avoid the climbs. Finally, I got off the bike trail and I had one hill to face, not much of a hill, about 75 feet with a grade of 8%-9%. I started up very slow and steady. About half way up I started to feel the faintest pain right where the heart is located. I am sure I have had that a million times before, but I was so focused on any issues that this amazingly faint pain jumped out at me. I am sure I could have continued to climb, but I only had another 25 feet to climb over about 200 feet. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry, so I walked it. The rest of the ride home was slow and easy!

I reached the end of the official route at 11pm. While it was thirty minutes slower than the month before, all things considered, it was wonderful to get there! It happens that the official end is at United Dairy Farmer’s. It is a gas station/convenient store local to the Cincinnati area. One of the things that makes them really unique is their own ice cream. I had a large mint chocolate shake, which just HIT the spot! One and four tenths miles later and I was home!

Once home, knowing I was a bit thirsty, I had a glass of water. Than a second! Before I knew it I had about four in my system! It was about that time I realized exactly how hot it had been that day. I am never this thirsty at 11pm after this ride. Maybe one or two glasses, but not four! To top it off, overnight I woke up with cramps twice which was relieved each time with another big glasses of water and some electrolytes.

When morning came, I did some searching and found the following article “My Heart Rate Drops During Workouts”. There is a lot of interesting info in it, but my main take away was that my heart rate very well could be caused by lack of hydration. Monday morning I scheduled an annual physical with my GP which came back all clear. He told me that what I experienced is one of the mildest conditions of heat exhaustion and dehydration. He is scheduling a basic stress test to make sure it isn’t anything else.

All in all, it was a GREAT ride. The record-breaking ride up was amazing! I used to think riding really fast was overrated. Now that I am starting to actually get faster, I am realizing it is so NOT overrated at all. After finishing this ride as late as 1:10am, the prospect of finishing it by 10pm or earlier is really cool! But the best part of the whole ride was the next day. In the past, when I was only riding every few weeks, I was simply beat into the ground the next day. The following day, Saturday, I felt good. I attribute that 100% to the training Coach has me doing.

My goal for next month: a 6-hour century! Given my normal start time of 5:30, I want to hit the 100 mile mark by 11:30am.