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

Jeff's description:


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....

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