Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Taste of Carolina RM 1200 (10/6 -- 10/9)

event: http://tc1200.bicycleforlife.org/
results: https://rusa.org/cgi-bin/resultsearch_PF.pl?eid=8627&esortby=cert
Jeff's recap: https://jlippinbike.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/calendared-1200k-rando-ride/
day 1: https://www.strava.com/activities/1223820303
day 2: https://www.strava.com/activities/1223820266
day 3: https://www.strava.com/activities/1223820246
day 4 before: https://www.strava.com/activities/1223820196
day 4 after: https://www.strava.com/activities/1223820180

My first (and very likely my last) RM. I was lucky to be joined by Jeff L. We shared the driving, and riding with Jeff is always fun. The ride had fixed overnight stops, so it felt more like 4 rides in a row rather than a single long one. To me that was good, as I had no prior experience and could have made a mistake in planning.

There were only 14 starters, including 5 NJ riders (3 of them Eastern PA Rando regulars: Jeff, Bill O. and I). Gil L and Chris S. were there as well.

Day 1: we were supposed to ride up north to VA and then back south. We had 234 miles to cover with 15+K ft gain. The whole stage did not include a single serious climb but rather consisted of endless rolling hills. I decided to tackle the stage alone. There was no benefit from drafting anyway. Again we had a back luck with heat. The locals were friendly and gave me water. I never experienced a real crisis and even accelerated at the end, when the air cooled down. At some point a freight train blocked the road and stopped. Luckily, RR workers let us cross the railways 50 yards up. In the parking lot of the motel that was our destination for the day I caught up with Mark T (RUSA membership #64!!!!). We were first to arrive, 17 h 30 min after start. That was on par with my optimistic expectations (my "very optimistic" mark was 16-30, the normal mark was 18-00, the "very pessimistic" was 21 hrs).

Day 2: we started at 4 am with Jeff and Mark. We rode slowly to first control, where we had breakfast. After that the pace increased. On second control, we saw Metin U, who was riding a fixed gear steel bike! We decided to wait for him, he was quick. The four of us battled headwinds together for the rest of the stage. Not a very neat paceline but it helped a lot. At some point we were passed by the Tonymobile. Gil L sat in the passenger seat looking very happy and gave us water and gatorade. I was tempted to jump in but there was no more space in the van. Finally, we reached the streets of New Bern, our destination city. The nighttime urban riding was really unpleasant. I hit a pothole when I was standing on my left, and that produced some damage and a pain in my left knee. . The pain started to really bother towards the end of the stage, but finally we got there. Again we were the first group at the overnight control. 233 miles, 17 hrs 44 min.

Front to back: Aleksey, Mark, Metin, Jeff. Photo by Tony

Day 3. Only 166 miles, all flat. I debated myself whether my knee was strong enough to complete the brevet. Finally, I decided that if I was to give up that would happen on the course rather than in a hotel room. I started alone late and rode slowly, listening to my knee. After a number of bike adjustments a reasonable setup was found. My ass had to suffer from a low seat position, but that was kinda acceptable. Gradually, the pace increased. That stage include a seashore stretch and a stretch to northwest through the rural plains on NC. The seashore ride was nice and pleasant. I was astonished by the poverty of the rural plains. It could compare to Russian Northwest, but the rural areas there are semi-abandoned and produce almost nothing. In NC, the poor soil is planted with cotton and soy, cattle farms are seen here and there. At noon, the traffic became really intense as local started driving home from thousands of churches of multifarious denominations. I have never seen anything like that. My left knee started to hurt again, which forced me to slow down. Still I arrived relatively early.

Day 4. Only 118 miles, somewhat hilly. I woke up at night well before the alarm, dressed and started my way to the finish. I met Georgi S and Hamid A at the first controle but left before them. Gradually I let the pace increase. I do not remember exactly what happened near Corinth. Probably, I blundered railroad tracks in the morning twilight because of the rain and car headlights. I woke up on the pavement and collected my stuff. The rear derailleur bent and did not function, but that was ok. I continued the ride, but 15 miles after the rear chainstays suddenly fell apart and I had to halt.

I called Tony and told him I DNFed. All other riders were still behind. Georgi and Hamid passed by in about 40 minutes, followed by Jeff. He agreed to pick me up after he had finished. Then came Tony in his Tonymobile van. To my great surprise, Tony let me ride his own crit bike he had in his van. We changed the pedals and tried to adjust the seat to fit me. It did not quite work but hey, there was a bike to ride! I rode to second controle that was just a mile away. Mark and Metin were still there. I managed to stay with them and stopped the clock at 83-50. A happy end at least!

Well, sorta. Orca was a great bike and I spent a lot of time building it.

Hamid, Georgi, Jeff. (Source)

Mark, Metin, myself (Source)

Organization: Tony G is a great guy. He is a racer and a very accomplished randonneur. He knows what it takes and goes the extra mile to make things work. He threatened us with secret controls but none was actually encountered. Nevertheless, Tony and Jeff swept the course regularly and knew where we were. The course was diverse and fun to ride. New Bern area was unpleasant but I guess this depends on the local geography and could not be entirely avoided. The registration was announced kinda late, so if you plan to go, better be flexible. Overall, a great event.

Hillier than thou 2017 (9/23/2017) century

Strava KOM/QOM list: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6dp82di4s6ZZ1NpcmpJUkdEbG8/view
my ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/1200455160

Well, here comes the [in]famous HTT. Last year I could not participate and that made me try the Falls Classic and start randonneuring.

HTT is not really a randonnee, but just a century ride that includes the highest and steepest paved climbs of northwestern NJ. The essence is however the same: a rider has to cover the course, pass through controls (sure there were tons of opportunities to cheat) and there was a time limit implied: we were informed by email that if we were still on the course 10 hrs after the start, the broomwagon would pick us up. I do not know at was time that threat actually materialized.

HTT used to be a time trial race, then was converted to not-a-race with a finish protocol, cups and medals for not-winners. This year, there was no protocol but a mere  Strava segment list. Every rider was supposed to record his/her own ride and upload it on Strava. Then the times spent on eight "big" climbs were summed up, ant the riders with the lowest sum became KOM/QOM. It was quite obvious that many riders specifically concentrated on those segments. I did not even know what exactly counted. The Strava thing is very contrary to randonneurs mindset. During a brevet, the clock counts even your sleep, not just those special moments when you tackle something steep.

The 2017 route was not particularly steep, but the overall climbing tonnage was impressive, 13.5K feet (4km) according to my Garmin. There was no Bloomsbury climb or Shire rd, but Fiddlers elbow, Colemans - Bikel, Wester - For Farm and other nasty little climbs were still there. The road was marked pretty well with pavement arrows and roadside signs. Nevertheless, confusion began very early into the ride, as the GPX file provided by the organizers did not read properly on many riders devices, including my Garmin. As a result, a large crowd missed a turn and did a couple of extra miles as a result. That crowd did not include me, because I (as always) was late at the start and  as a result was already riding in a gruppetto behind the main field, so we were warned. After the introductory hills and flats, we came to the main dish: Harmony area. Colemans was the first steep climb. Fiddler Elbow had to be taken right after controle/stop #1 and was approached from Roxburg Station. I cried at the top but kept going. Many riders had to stop. Then came Fox Farm and Iron Bridge. I reached the second controle 4 hrs 10 min after the start. Half of the course, including all tallest and steepest climbs, was already behind.

The weather however was very harsh and soon 85 degree heat started to take its toll on my notherner's body. At mile 63, I came to the point where I stashed my sandals and a wrench under a bridge. My feet were so unhappy that I decided to change. Sandals are not made for HTT, but they are not as painful in hot weather as my Sidi shoes. Efficiency fell further, but I kept plodding forward. Walked about 100 feet of Mt. Lebanon rd due to a cramp, and finally stopped the clock exactly 10 hrs after the start.

Well, not a great ride, to be honest. Bad luck with the weather, but I did it. The new/old Orca turned to be very comfy despite a racing frame. A really cool bike.

7/22/2017 Hawks Nest 200K Brevet

results http://parando.org/PA200k_Results170722.pdf
my ride https://www.strava.com/activities/1153941088
ePA Rando recap: http://parandonneurs.blogspot.com/2017/07/ride-summary-hawks-nest-2017.html
Jeff's recap: https://jlippinbike.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/200k-calendared-bike-ride/

Nothing to write home about, July has never been a great month to me, my riding is light, my form is down, the weather is too hot. That randonnee also fell on a pretty hot day and forced me to wear sandals. Almost the entirely route was familiar (to be hones, too much water gap this year). I rode alone for the most part. Tried to stay with Chris M, Gavin B and Jimmy A. but couldn't, they dropped me on every little hill. I managed to get back on flats and rollers. Got dropped again close to finish, stopped the clock at 8-20. Not bad though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Eastern PA 600K brevet

results: http://parando.org/PA600k_Results170610.pdf
report: http://parandonneurs.blogspot.com/2017/06/ride-summary-water-gap-600-new-holland_12.html
my ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/1034458396
Jeff's recap of last 200K: https://jlippinbike.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/200k-calendared-rando-ride-6/la
Early spring brevets recap: http://alwayseasygear.blogspot.com/2017/04/spring-rando-season-recap.html
Mountain blue 400K recap: http://alwayseasygear.blogspot.com/2017/05/mountain-blue-400k-eastern-pa-brevet.html

Well, the ACP SR series completed, the first half of the season is over. Now I can slack of a bit and change the riding regime. In July, the preparation to the Hillier-than-thou starts and possibly I will "taste the Carolina" with Jeff L.

As for the ride, it went very smoothly. The first significant problem was a lack of riding partners on Saturday. Sean C. was too fast and the rest of the field fell off the back way too early. I made a difficult decision to try keeping up with Sean, and actually it was the right thing to do. I even caught up with him after he dropped me on the slopes of Blue Mountain. Last time I saw him at the i-84 intersection control (he went on and I stayed there for 10 min to relax my feet and repack my stuff). The crisis came just before the Old Mine rd climb with water food and morale running low, but I was saved by Len Z, who held a secret control right there and had water, bananas and even ice cream! After that I felt fine and finished in 17:40. Kinda reasonable, although my target for the day was 17:15.  I slept well and had no particular plan or target for the next day, but enjoying time with Jeff, Greg and Rudi (that is, our Fleche team). The heat was thoroughly unpleasant for a northerner like myself, but everything went quite well. The bike worked just fine, no mechanicals or even flats!

Nice scenery: Roebling aqueduct and Hawks Nest. I expected more from the town of Port Jervis though. Amish on their bikes and carriages returning from churches on Sunday were cool too!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Not a race

Before the start of Cranbury 200, NYC-Princeton Rando organizers told us at least half-dozen times: “This is not a race!” Their recap of Englewood – Port Jervis brevet pretty much sounds like that of a Giro stage! I am fine with either. The point is, if there is a final protocol with times listed, the factor of competition for speed cannot be eliminated, whether you want it or not. Englewood – Port Jervis was the ride I would have really liked to join, but it overlapped with the Mountain Blue. Their post-ride report contains a lengthy complain about the weather. Well, the weather was not perfect, some rain and cold. But… Just imagine an average NJ summer day with +30 deg C temp and 70% humidity and ask yourself whether the weather on 5/20 was truly that bad.

Mountain Blue 400K Eastern PA brevet

GPS data: https://www.strava.com/activities/998936655
Results: http://parando.org/PA400k_Results170520.pdf 
PA Rnndo ride report: http://parandonneurs.blogspot.com/2017/05/ride-summary-blue-mountain-400.html 

My first 400K. Everybody was telling me that 200K and even 300K brevets are somewhat similar to regular long rides, but 400K make a qualitative difference. I did not know what to expect and merely hoped to stay with Gavin and Will, but they were not there.

I tried to enjoy riding with Sean C as long as I could without burning myself out. It lasted way shorter than I hoped L At control #3 I waited for the next group and teamed up with Eoghan. We worked well, but just after we crossed the Lehigh, my carbon seatpost started to crack below the clamp with loud sounds. The seat finally gave up with only 10K to Wind Pap. The town boasts a bike repair shop that was unfortunately closed, but Advanced Auto Parts located a couple of miles up the road was open, and they had what I needed: a hacksaw blade, sandpaper, epoxy, and duct tape. I killed an hour in a pizzeria to let epoxy harden, moved the seat forward to reduce tension and rode back to the course. Wind Gap ascent without a seat, overly cautious attitude and uncomfortable setup after the repair slowed me down. But the seat survived till the finish line and the rest of the ride went smoothly.

Was 400K qualitatively different? In some sense it was actually easier: the ugly impatience I experienced during Water Gap 300K brevet never came during Mountain Blue.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Rando season recap

I am a beginner in the Rando world and still a beginner cyclist (4th year and not that much riding to be honest).  Yeah, brevets are not races. Sorta. But: I do not doubt my ability to finish a moderate 200K or a 300K or a 400K brevet within the limit (unless  it is a version of Hillleir Than Thou extended to that distance). There is no reason to stay behind.  It's that simple: one needs to ride with better riders to become a better rider. So I try to push, chase, and ride ahead when possible. So far ....

Lackawanna 200K on 3/25/17

The forecast promised a warm sunny day. In reality, snow-covered valleys of northern NJ were really cold. In the beginning I kept with the front group with Chris Enrico, Chris M (who came from Ma), Jeff and Patrick G. The pace was pretty vigorous. By the end of first major climb (Sweet Hollow, cat 3, mild gradient), there were only 3 of us in the front. I dropped out after the second control due to mechanical problem that eventually made me turn off course to car and bike shops, but returned to the course and completed the brevet. I had to pedal mostly on right side in fear that the left crank arm may fail. I did not even clip in on the left and walked some steep little hills because of the crank.
Scenic, calm roads. I had never been near the Lackawanna cut-off and Paulinsky viaduct before. A truly impressive construction of that time!

Could I stay in front group with Chris & Chris all the way to the finish? Probably not. But overall, I showed a pretty good form and I was satisfied with my conditions.

Bottom line: (1) “Ambitions approach” worked well (2) never take a bike that recently underwent major repairs to a brevet. Test it on several long rides, tighten/adjust whatever needs work. Those brevets put the equipment to serious tests. Whatever can break, will break.

Eastern PA Fleche 360K on 04/09/2017

Recap: That one came unexpectedly: 2 people pulled out from the Fleche Mob team captained by Rudi Mayr, and Jeff asked me to step in. I agreed. The route was relatively flat and easy, though there was a nasty stretch with a strong headwind and deceiving road signs on rt 35 that forced us to ride in the middle of a highway. I hope I made a good addition to the team: worked in front, detected the source of electrical problem in Rudi’s bike (the only breakdown we had during the entire ride) and pointed wrong turns on the course. The teamwork was very good for a team formed in such a haste.
The day weather was very good, the morning was really cold however.  Greg who did not draft suffered most and was very tired in the end.

Bottom line: the introduction to all-night riding went well. The semi-paved Glass house - Mt Misery stretch full of holes and puddles was the centerpiece. A ride within a ride. Not sure whether I will be riding Fleches again. It is a fairly complex ride that needs organization and planning.

Delaware Water Gap 300K on 4/22/2017

Recap: That was my first 300K. The course was quite challenging: although there were only 3 significant climbs, there were almost no flat sections. I spent first half chasing: first, I had to stop dues to a small mechanical and had to chase the main group. I attacked from that group to chase the leading trio and surprisingly, the great lamp from Rudi’s bike lit my way from behind! Rudi stayed with me and we eventually caught up first with Jeff and then with Sean and Dale. First big climb followed the first control point. At the top, I was 20s behind Sean and 20s ahead of Dale. Dale caught me after the descent, but then I went ahead in a futile attempt to close the gap to Sean. I saw him briefly at the second controle and never again.

After Controle #2, Dale and I chased Gavin/ Jim / Will who left about a few min earlier than us. We caught them after Digmans ferry. That group of 5 remained almost till the end. At some point Dale experienced problems with his bike and dropped out. Soon after we crossed the Riegelsville bridge, I left the group and rode to the finish alone. I arrived 5 min before them and stopped the clock at 13.20. The weather forecast grossly deceived us. We spent the bulk of the day under rain. I was very cold, covered in mud, felt miserable and wanted the thing to end. But, as far as my form is concerned, everything was reasonably well. The bike also worked just fine. 

A wonderful, really scenic ride

Cranbury 200K on 4/29/17

Route https://ridewithgps.com/routes/4264395
Ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/965235249
Jeff's description: https://jlippinbike.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/200k-calendared-rando-ride-4/
Results: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6LO4oBYIKcaVDFVRlZjX3lyaWs/view


the ride started warm calm April morning. The roads were wet after night thunderstorms. The group was really big (71 rider), which is remarkable even on a flat Princeton area course. I noted  Ian Mangion, Will Olsen, Mary Foley and Tru Tran.

The first rider ran in that morning was Jeff, and we ended up spending the entire day together. After the start, Jeff accelerated in an attempt to form a fast group. Ian Mangion (a chess expert and an ex- captain of a rival GSCL team) joined with a friend of his. Soon I lost my  headlight and had to turn back. I never reestablished contact with them. All other riders fell back from the very beginning and we did not see any of them until 2nd control.

Jeff recognized that the two leaders were treating the ride as a 200km TTT and basically invited us to join. He declined and dropped from the group. The duo continued, but I was able to catch up with Jeff. We were doing pretty well, but later 30 deg C heat made out feet hurt a great deal. That caused longer and more frequent stops to let our feet relax. During the last stop (20km to the finish) two other riders passed us. Both Jeff and I had weak moments during the ride (first Jeff then I) but we remained patient and arrived to the finish together (5th and 6th) stopping the clock at 8:20.

Outcome: to my surprise (a very unpleasant one!) the ride was much more difficult than expected! The course was short and flat; in the beginning we were strong and fast. Sure the temperature quickly rose during the day, which is especially unpleasant to a northerner like myself. Sure I had a flu in the beginning of the weak. I had to skip all riding as a result. Yet, projecting this ride onto Blue Mountain 400K --- I will end up DNFing.

It appears sandals are the only option that would allow avoiding foot pain, although the response is worse in the sandals. And yeah, probably I should ride in the heat more often to get used to it....

Friday, February 17, 2017

Disappointing GSCL game vs Lev Z.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nothing to see here

 I create posts on chess and cyckung here because FB does not allow embedding such content. Instead, I have to post links on Rutgers chess club page.