Friday, August 17, 2012

MN Adventure, Part 3: 125 Miles of Hills

After finishing 125 miles in 7:37.

Tim Marks is my hero, and he knows it.

This is a bad thing, for at least a couple of reasons. The first is that Tim seems to need to exhibit his cycling prowess in front of his adoring fans. The second is that I feel the need to prove to him that I'm actually worthy of riding his wheel.

The plan was simple: I would accompany Tim on his regularly-scheduled Saturday training ride. Jill, as usual, would be his rock-solid and uber-organized support team. I had the option of riding as many or as few miles as I wanted to, and then I could throw my bike and self into the support van and switch allegiances for the duration of the ride.

Of course, I wanted to go big,  or not at all (and I was wearing my lucky socks, after all).

And so, I'm proud to say that this was the longest one-day ride I've ever done, and I'm especially pleased with myself because of the elevation grade of this route.

The ~8000 feet of climbing over the 125 miles doesn't really give an accurate picture. It was mostly rolling, with some 'Death Valley-like' climbs (5%- 7% over a couple of miles - my favorite kind). But there were some 'monsters' thrown in to keep things interesting. Tim's designation of these was a bit haphazard. He told me that there were 5 'monster' climbs; I counted more like 9. And in between, the relatively easy 9% grades didn't even register a mild warning.

One of the highlights of this ride, besides the company and the incredible scenery (no, Tim, I'm not talking about your ass...) was the conversation. Or, lack thereof. I told Tim that I wouldn't be chatting, since I needed to conserve energy.

But that didn't stop him from imparting some of his own wisdom. Tim had some favorite sayings, I found:

#1: 'What's in the forecast? PAIN!" (This before every one of the 'monster climbs')

#2: (Also pre-Monster) "If you believe in any god or religion, I would start praying right now".

#3 (My personal favorite): "When are you going to shut the fuck up?"

I finished the ride elated, and maybe more than a bit surprised. And eternally grateful for Jill and her ready supply of cold drinks and encouragement. She's the one who told me to 'go for it' after Tim left me at a crossroads, without a clue which way to go. Once I was back on track, though, it was all over.

If finishing this ride weren't cool enough, Jill and Tim's neighbors were holding their annual block party/rib feast. We showed up just in time to grab a huge plate of food and down a few (many) beers.

Thanks to Jill and Tim for an amazing weekend! I love you two, and can't wait to see you in DVNP in February 2013!

(And GOOD LUCK, Tim, on your 3rd Furnace Creek 508 race. ROCK IT!!!)

Click here for all photos from this trip, on Flickr.

MN Adventure, Part 2: Urban Cycling MPLS

On the Stone Bridge, over the Mississippi

Somehow, Minneapolis has learned to be bicycle-friendly. The downtown area boasts bike lanes, rental bikes, bike parking, cyclists of all stripes, bike shops for every taste. It was eye candy for a Clevelander.

Jill and I left her home north of the city in the early morning, sharing popular highways with the work-bound traffic until we got to the bike route system that traverses downtown MPLS and vicinity.
Vending machine with bike stuff - great idea!

Our goal: a visitor's intro to Minneapolis. Jill was an excellent tour guide, choosing routes that would highlight bridges and locks on the river, the arts district, architecture, cool neighborhoods, and great local color. We stopped at 2 bike stores: Freewheel and The Angry Catfish (known for its fat bikes, a MN creation - and where I bought a pair of badass socks).

We rode at least 40 miles, stopping once for a late morning second breakfast at Anodyne, and then later we stopped for good (and drinks!) at Psycho Suzi's.

Urban cycling is nothing like road riding. It's really kind of stressful. You're always on guard for car traffic, there's a lot of starting and stopping and dodging and weaving - but the payoff is worth it.

MN Adventure, Part 1: The Reunion Tour

My long-awaited visit to Jill and Tim , on their home turf north of Minneapolis, proved to be an unforgettable weekend.
Farmer's market in downtown MPLS

The Bianchi arrived a day before I did, and so shortly after getting into town and having a coffee with Jill, Tim roped me into his Thursday training ride, on one of his typical afternoon routes.

'The Shrine'
'Typical', for Jill and Tim, is a little different than what I'm used to. And so, on Thursday afternoon, Tim and I rode out for an 'easy' 70 mile loop that included a 25 mph headwind all the way out. And that was just the first day. I was nervous.

Jill met us about 5 miles from the end of the ride, with ice water in fresh bottles. Is Tim really that spoiled? Turns out that, yes, he is - and Jill would prove herself to be not only the strong cyclist I knew her to be, but the world's greatest domestique. Ever.

Thursday night ended wtih plenty of beer, homemade bruschetta, and a plan for the next few days. Jill and I would ride into town tomorrow (Friday) to do some sightseeing, and then on Saturday I would ride with Tim on his typical weekend training route. Jill, driving support, would let me throw my bike in the car whenever I decided enough was enough.
Jill taught me how to make bruschetta. I taught her how to make a gardener martini.

I was ecstatic to be hanging out with Jill and Tim again (seems stupid that friends from the midwest only see each other once a year, in Death Valley). And I was looking forward to whatever adventures awaited me, whether or not I was ready.

Click here for all photos from this trip, on Flicker.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Long Ride Ruminations

The bottle says it all...

We got off to an early start, Neil and I, so we could take advantage of the still-shady morning and the fleeting coolness. I had a long ride planned for today, to get ready to ride with Jill and Tim next weekend, and the Ohio Gran Fondo in early September.

I like to ride solo, for a lot of reasons. I like the feeling of disappearing for a while, unreachable. And I don't necessarily like to have to hold a conversation with anyone, especially when I know I'll be out for hours and hours.

 But you would never know that from the chatter going on between my ears.

I wish I could somehow turn it all off, just stay in the moment, Zen-like. I guess that's not how I'm wired, though, and so there's always something running through my head all the time.

The 4+ hour stream-of-consciousness included these neural firings:
  • Can't wait to see Jill! The day I met her, we were riding past the Opera House in Death Valley when she belted out one single,  perfect note. And so I asked her to sing when we were back there again this spring:

  • But how in the world am I ever gonna be able to keep up with that beast Tim??
  • How good is that watermelon I just bought yesterday gonna taste later? (Answer: REALLY good!
  • I'm hearing voices again. Wait, it's just Jack it's Lemmy...and...Ian Astbury???
  • What goes good with a Founder's All Day IPA? (A big ol' heaping plate of smug satisfaction after an 80-mile ride, that's what!)
  • I remember the last time I did an unsupported solo was the unforgettable  road to Rhyolite...
  • I wonder if I'm gonna run out of water before I get back to Bolanz...
  • Who would I not mind having along with me today? What would we be talking about - or would we be talking at all?

  I'm hoping to do this ride again sometime before the end of August. Any takers?