Thursday, March 28, 2013

Barry-Roubaix 2013 Recap

To read other racers' accounts of the 2013 Barry-Roubaix, you might think that this was somehow a 'fun' race. You would be wrong; it was not. Those other racers are either lying or crazy.

There is very little about this race that I could say I actually enjoyed.

It was cold. Roads weren't so much 'gravel' as they were stretches of potholes or sheets of ice. The first turnout onto the dirt may have actually been the surface of the moon. It was a wasteland of things that had rattled themselves off of bikes and riders: water bottles, whole sandwiches, whole sets of teeth. Surprisingly, I was OK with this part.

In spite of the irritatingly-ubiquitous advice, I was unable to keep the rubber side down on the iced-over parts. Once I got tired of all this falling on ice, I stopped to let more air out of my tires (advice given to me by people who know, and that I should have paid attention to before the race started). This helped me stay upright on ice, but 1/4 mile later the worst of the icy roads ended, and I was riding mushy tires on pavement. No, I didn't pinch flat. But don't think that thought didn't cross my mind.

I just wanted this race to end, honestly. "One and done" was the mantra that kept me going to the finish line.

Of course, these kinds of events are always better when they're over (or as a friend of mine likes to say, 'It's not fun until it's done!'). The gathering of friends and teammates all weekend (and at the beer tent, in spite of my craving to get out of the cold and into the nearest hot tub), was not to be missed.

So, there you have it: 36 miles of never again. Unless, of course, I can somehow learn to ride a bike on ice. Then I might consider this for next year.

Emily, Angie, Kris, Me, Dave (with a spike sticking out of his head), Julie, Vicki, and Billy.

Flying to the finish line, and to the beer tent!
Note the flat tires. I would be surprised if I had 20 psi in them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Probably not a bad idea to change my race goals now...

Barry-Roubaix update:

Some re-routing of the courses will be necessary because the recent cold/wet/snowy conditions have left a number of the roads ice-crusted and treacherous. Like this, presumably:

So now would be a good time to change my race goals from 'finish in 2 hours' to something more realistic.

Here, then, are my race goals for the 2013 Barry-Roubaix:

1. Get to the beer tent before it closes.
2. Finish with the same bone count as when I started.
3. Remember that the worst rides make for the best stories.

For all my teammates and friends racing this weekend, best of luck, ride well, have fun!

Angie and I out for a training ride this evening on the towpath, to test our bikes and gear for the cold, muddy conditions we expect on Saturday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My 'Happy Place'

I'm alone.

The desert sun is high overhead. The winds are starting to pick up, just a little.

I'm poised at the summit, looking over the Valley spread out far below me. The salt pan shimmers like a mirage. Dust devils swirl somewhere miles away.

I aim toward that long, flat horizon. Tuck position, back flat. Invisible to the wind, the crosswinds that could knock me sideways, if they could only see me.

The road roars beneath my wheel. Sleek black ribbon of twists and dips, whatever it brings me I'll accept.

Click up, pushing hard on the cranks in my attempt to reach escape velocity. I could probably do it,  but I've run out of gears. All I can do is up the cadence, legs burn in a good way.

I'm flying.

I'm back now, in the so-called 'Real World'. My annual indulgence/escape/challenge/whatever-necessary-thing-it-has-become is over for this year. But when things get a little too real here, you may see my eyes glaze over, my attention take a momentary break. Please, just give me a minute. Let me go back there - I won't be long. You know exactly where I am.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Stats

Recap from my week of cycling in Death Valley National Park:

# of ride days:                                     7 (consecutive)
# of hours on the bike this week:        30
Distance covered in those 7 days:       446 miles
Longest distance covered in one day:  147 miles
Total elevation gain:                            29,000 feet
Average speed over the 446 miles:      14.8 mph
Top speed (descending Hell's Gate):    41.2 mph
The soundtrack in my head:

Why I'll be back again next year:
Because there's nothing like pushing yourself to the edge of your limits, and realizing you're not even close.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The road to Hell's Gate is paved with good friends and plenty of event support

March 3, 2013

CorpsCamp is over, the Death Valley Spring Century is history, and I haven't had a lot of time to update my blog this past week.

That's not a bad thing. Camp days are packed. If you're not on your bike (which you are, for hours and hours every day), then you're probably getting ready to ride your bike, fueling up to ride your bike, cleaning up after riding your bike, re-fueling after riding your bike, talking about riding your bike, or sleeping. The days fly by. It makes you feel like you've entered some kind of time warp.

Sitting around the Furnace Creek Ranch fire pit with friends and fellow riders turned out to be a regular (and favorite) evening event. Here's where we all can be smug, talk trash, toast our accomplishments, and tell stories* with people who appreciate how hard it is, truly, to ride a bike in Death Valley.

Jill and Tim, and he's sporting a  super-cool T-shirt!
Because riding in Death Valley isn't like riding anywhere else, or at least it's not like riding at home in Northeast Ohio. An easy 34-mile round trip somewhere back home might take a couple of hours, but an early morning out-and-back to Badwater from Furnace Creek, although still only 34 miles of flat to rolling, takes longer and feels, well, different somehow.

Maybe it's the too-cold-then-too-hot mornings or the prickly dry desert air. Maybe it's because the flats are all false and the winds are always there, whether you feel them or not. Maybe the awesomeness of the Valley simply causes something deep inside you to slow down - just a little - because you can only absorb so much of it at one time.

 This was my best CorpCamp experience so far. The weather was perfect: the wind gods appeased (maybe because Jason brought his stunt kites and was hoping for some wind. Fickle wind). I rode farther, ascended higher, descended faster, climbed stronger than all my previous Camp years. And I did it in great company.
Angie and I at Hell's Gate. HELL YEAH!!!

And now all that's left is the screaming 35+ mph hour, 10-mile descent back to Hwy 190...

*We give special treatment/pay rapt attention to the Furnace Creek 508 Race vets, whose stories are often very colorful and maybe even a little crazy. Here's Steve 'Protoceratops' Barnes, captured for all eternity:

I'll have more post-CorpCamp/Spring Century blog updates soon. I promise.