Monday, December 29, 2014

Bautista Canyon

Ah, Bautista Canyon.  A storied ride among our club friends.  It seems every time we head out there, we end up with more adventure than we bargained for.  It's a great training ride - about 90 miles with 4000+ feet of climbing.  A good bit of it is flat, and even the canyon climb is pretty gentle.  The only steep-ish parts are Redlands Boulevard in the beginning and then Lamb Canyon near the end.  For this, you are rewarded with a 20 mile mostly downhill run to home.  So whenever we are approaching a century or other long ride, we schedule Bautista Canyon as a warm up ride.

About a year or so ago, we were on the way out there when the weather started looking iffy.  NO MATTER.  We are pressing on.  By the time we turned for home, the west was definitely looking gloomy.  No way we are escaping the rain, I think.  It started to drizzle as we climbed Lamb Canyon.  It was definitely raining (and cold!) when we had to stop in Beaumont to fix a flat.  All of us huddled under a big oak tree, trying to stay warm while Roger helped Vic with his tire.  The ride back down San Tim was an all-out cold shower.  Everyone was soaked to the bone and freezing, to boot.  Except Vickie.  Vickie was sporting a brand-new GoreTex jacket and she alone was not suffering!  Oh, well.  As Mark Friis is fond of saying, "those are the epic rides that you remember."  Yes, we do!

Then, on our next trip out there, Chalmer went down on the way into Hemet.  Yikes!  Just hit a crack near the curb and that was it.  By the time the ambulance came for him, the air was pretty much out of the rest of us.  We continued on to the Taco Bell in Hemet to get a bite, but no one wanted to go all the way to the canyon.  We limped on home with Chalmer on our minds.

So, we really had not completed a successful trip to Bautista in a couple of years.  I suggested it as a good way to ready ourselves for the brevet this coming Saturday.  Roger posted the ride and a few of our friends decided to ride along.  Chris and Jeff were new to the ride; they had never gone out that way before.  We decided, as a concession to the expected cold, to start at 9:00 am.

I woke up at 6, worried that we had left the start too late.  Days are not long at this time of year.  I figured if it took us 6 hours to do the ride at 15 miles an hour, that's a full six hours in the saddle and that alone would get us to 3:00 pm.  A few short breaks, a quick taco stop, maybe a flat . . .  it would not take much for us to get into the darkening hours.  I decided that we would have our headlamp, and since this is training for brevets that might go all night, I guess that's okay.

But then - we get ready to head to the coffee shop to meet our friends (8:50 am) and the back tire is flat.  Slow leak, as it was fine Friday night.  So Roger decides we should ride down there and fix it at Stell's, because he does not have time to change it and get us there on time.  This feels a bit odd to me, but I do understand.  At least we will be able to let them know what's up.  As he's changing the gear in preparation to taking off the back tire, it locks up.  What's that?  First things first:  he changes the tire (oh, Stell's no longer has the tire pump out there - I guess someone took it!)  Then he realizes that the bolt holding the rack on has gone too far through the brazeon and is hitting the small chain.  So we have to ride home to adjust that.  Let everyone know we'll be stopping at our house on the way out.  Yeesh.

So we get back home, I get out the pump to make sure we have plenty of air in the tire, he fixes the bolt, and I swing my leg over the bike . . . wheeesh!  Tire is completely flat again.  Oh, come on!  I go back in the house to get a couple more tubes and throw them into the back satchel.  It just might be that kind of day!  Roger changes it once again, pronouncing the second tube defective right out of the box.  Finally we are off - at 9:30!  I offered headlamps to the others, just in case, but they were confident we would be back before dark.  Me - not so much.

As it was, that was pretty much the last problem we had.  We actually made great time.  We did not stop on the way out to Hemet, coming in just under two hours elapsed time.  That's probably a record.  We told the others that once we hit the canyon, they should go on to the end and then regroup and turn around without us.  We'd make a turn once they came back the road.  We were only 3/10s of a mile from the end when they caught us, so we were making reasonable time on the climb, as well.  Another quick stop at the Taco Bell for more water and then we were off again, this time heading to Lamb Canyon.  The winds were with us this time.  We flew - at least until we hit the climb.  Again, we'd told our friends that they could head on home if they were concerned about the light, but we made it to the top of the canyon about 2:30 and they were waiting for us.  Why not?  Everyone loves trailing the tandem down San Tim!

At this point, it looked like we would probably make it home by 3:30.  I was pleased.  We had one more mechanical - Steve flatted out in the canyon - but even with that we were back to Stell's by 3:45.  On the computer, we averaged 15.3 mph.  But of course, that's not what counts!  I figure we should take a start of 8:50, since that is when Roger and I headed out.  So just under 7 hours for 90 miles, or a touring average of 12.8 mph.  Just exactly what it needs to be!

The last question:  when we got back for some beer and pizza, would I have been ready to rest for a bit and then go another 35 miles?  That's what we will learn this Saturday!  I know when I woke up this morning I was not thinking that I felt like doing 200 miles.  But hey - sometimes you feel better once you get back on the bike and start those legs turning.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Touring average MPH versus rolling MPH

Since I started riding, I've kept stats on various aspects of my performance.  It started because I was training to complete a century, and the sessions each week with Team in Training got progressively longer, with suggested mid-week workouts to increase our fitness and strength.  So it was very natural to have that material as a record of my progress:  I put the miles and time on my calendar as a way of tracking progress toward the goal of completing the Tahoe Century in early June.

Of course, once I completed that event (somewhere, my time and average mph is recorded) I was hooked.  We did some additional riding on our way home from Tahoe - I think we climbed Conway Summit from Bridgeport (elevation is naturally written down somewhere in my early log book!) and on it went.

Some years, I have kept meticulous records of all my rides, as I am part of that group that rides often and long enough where it begins to be something of a binding topic of conversation:  "Are you going to hit 10,000 this year?" (Not me!  That's Jim James's goal!)  Other years, not so much.  Roger has all this on his computer because we use a Garmin when we ride and he downloads all the stats after we get home.  He usually asks, as we are approaching the end of a ride, "what's our average?"  And usually, I reply, "14.5 mph."  Or something very close to that.  While we are lately creeping up a bit, and yesterday came in with 15.4 mph, I'd say that tandem, pretty much any day of the week, is going to do the hills and valleys around here at just about 14 to 15 miles an hour.  Anyway, this all brings me to the question, "how fast do you have to go to complete PBP?"

I've done some noodling to figure out how we get through 1200 km in 90 hours.  Since my brain runs better on "English" than metric, I have translated the kilometers to miles.  1200 km = 744 miles.  When we did our bike tour up to Lake Tahoe and back, we rode over 1200 miles at an average of 12.5 miles an hour.  That was fully loaded, with 52,000 feet of climbing.  So I figure that is a safe value to use as our PBP average mph.  We can surely make that if all we are carrying is toiletries, tools and a couple changes of bike clothes.  (And the odds are that we can go faster, as our training rides here in Redlands show.  But more on that later.)

The wonderful thing about that particular rate of speed is that it requires you to spend just about 60 hours riding your bike, and leaves you 30 hours for resting.  Over the four day period, it seems pretty workable.  We would get 7 to 8 hours of rest each night, and we should still be able to come in under the 90 hour time limit.  That's what I am banking on.  I just don't see the point of riding through the darkness, and it really should not be necessary to do much of it.

Anyway, this is how I am trying to approach it:  ride a reasonable pace, stop every hour to stretch a few minutes, stay rolling for two-thirds of the day, and get off the bike altogether for the other third.  That seems doable to me.

When we were riding home yesterday (42 miles, 2200 feet of climbing, 15.4 average mph!) I started thinking about this plan.  I realized that calculating the miles we would cover each day based on an average mph like we usually calculate could put us in trouble.  That is, we have set the computer so that it stops recording when the bike is stopped.  We only count the time we are moving.  This is our "rolling mph" on a bike ride.  But obviously, we do stop.  We stop all the time.  We stop at traffic signals, we stop to take a break, we stop for water.  If we are touring, we will stop for meals.  So I realized that it's probably pretty important to get a sense of what our "touring mph" is.  That would be the average number of miles covered while you are out on the bike, including all your stops.  For instance, when did we make it back to the coffee shop yesterday?  Take the total time, divide by the miles.  That is the value that matters for this long-range cycling.

Of course, I was just thinking about this, and I didn't make note of the time.  But it's fairly consistent that our group will go out and do a 40 mile ride and be back by 11:15 or 11:30.  That would be around 13 miles an hour - good enough for my model.

To test my math, I took another look at my notes.  You have to be able to do 200 plus miles a day.  I've figured that would take 16 to 17 hours "on the bike" - which is the term I am using for that part of the day that we are dressed, rolling out, and not stopped to shower, change and sleep.  But that 200 miles, at our historical "rolling mph" of 14.5, will only require something under 14 hours of rolling time, the way we usually track it.  That will leave us with two hours for the stops, water breaks, refueling, etc - and result in the "touring average" of 12.5 miles per hour over the entire period.

Ya gotta love math!  There is just something so comforting about being able to calculate stuff, and know that your numbers do not lie.  I can sleep comfortably at night, knowing that we'll have time during the day to eat and rest a bit, as long as we continue to be able to ride 14.5 miles an hour - on average - while the wheels are turning.  And that doesn't seem too hard to imagine, at all!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Number 10228

Today I filled out the registration form for the January 3rd 200 km brevet presented by the PCH Randonneurs.  So I guess I am committed to that one, at least.  Roger registered us with the RUSA group - that's the Randonneurs USA, I guess.  My number is 10228.  I think that number is going to be very important to me this year!

Thinking that you might be wondering, what is this "randonneur" business, I figured that I should explain.  I don't really know myself, to be honest, so I had to look up the word.  Randonneur - said, "did you mean LANDOWNER?"  No, I didn't.  Let's try again.  Hmm. There is a translation feature on the site.  It's a French word, I suppose, so go French to English and I get:  hiker, walker, backpacker.  That's not exactly what I'm looking for, I think - since it says nothing about a bike. But I guess that's the gist of it.  A randonneur is a traveler.  One that travels about and takes care of him or herself.

On to Wikipedia.  God I love that site!  Here's what they have to say about it:

Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined "controls" (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. A randonneuring event is called a randonĂ©e or brevet, and a rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur.[1] [2] The international governing body for randonneuring is Audax Club Parisien (ACP), which works with other randonneuring organisations worldwide through Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (RM). Randonneuring is popular in France, and has a following in the NetherlandsBelgiumUnited KingdomAustraliaUSACanadaBrazil and India.

Okay, so there you go.  After we complete the January 3rd randonee, I will be a randonneur!  Goodie for me!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A journey begins

Yesterday I took the first step on a journey that may end with a triumphant return to Paris after cycling 1,200 kilometers from Paris to Brest and back again.  What, you say?  Ride a bicycle 1,200 km?  To what end?

Well, it goes like this.  Since I have known him, certainly well before we had any sort of romantic interest in each other, I have known that Roger rode the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) bicycle tour.  It came up in some conversation when we were working together; why I knew about it I cannot tell.  He's described it more than once as one of the defining achievements of his life.  He accomplished this feat in 1987, and trained for it again (possibly 1991?) but broke his collarbone shortly before the ride and could not make the trip.  I think maybe that missed opportunity to ride it again has been an un-reconciled key jangling about his pockets for the last quarter-century.

Anyway, he's mentioned the ride to me more than once.  "Wouldn't it be cool to do the PBP on the tandem?  It would be the experience of a lifetime."  I don't know.  Sitting on a bicycle seat for 16 hours straight, then getting up to do it again the next day, and the next?  I didn't think so.  When these conversations would occur (it may be too much to call them conversations, but for want of a better word, that's what I'll use) I would protest.  No - I do not want to ride all night.  No - I do not want to sleep in a ditch.  No - I do not want to ride nearly 750 miles in a stretch.  No, no, no.

But, he would say - you have 90 hours to do it.  It's not a race!  We could do it.  We would just need to keep a steady pace, and train, and it would be so cool.  And of course, he is right.  He has always been right about that.  Sort of like running a marathon.  I know I could run a marathon.  I just don't want to.  The very thought of putting one foot down in front of the next for 26.2 miles destroys my will, wearies me beyond hope.  It's hard to imagine that I could ever, would ever drum up the enthusiasm needed to train for a marathon.

And that's sort of how I have felt about PBP.  I know that we could do it.  Maintain a reasonable average pace - 13 miles an hour or so while rolling - and then space out the remaining hours for rest. Come in to the finish in 89 hours and change.  No sense speeding around, losing sleep, riding through the night.  It's pretty simple, really.  Just glue your ass to the seat and keep pedaling 15 to 16 hours, rest for 7 or 8, then repeat three times.  Simple!

So here is what happened.  One of our cycling friends here in Redlands mentioned PBP sometime last summer.  "It will be held in 2015" Bob said.  Uh-hmm.  "Wouldn't it be cool to go do it?"  Bob said.  Uh-hmm.  Roger said sure, they could train to do it.  I'm in for the ride-along.  Annie and I could tour the country side while Bob and Roger numb their fannies for four days.  Then Roger says "We could do it on the tandem."  But he is talking to Bob.  Not me.  And I thought, no - no one sits on that tandem with my Roger for this event but me.

So I ask him to do some research.  Put a schedule together.  Show me what it would be like to get ready for this, to do the brevets.  What would we have to do, what would be have to give up to do it?  I won't eliminate the possibility of going out of hand, but I'm not committing, either.  Educate me.  And then I can decide.

Well, you would think that he'd have gone off and put something together, but you know - I guess he figured that I was just puffing smoke because he never did any of that.  And instead, we began to talk more seriously about one of our other cycling dreams:  riding across the country and back.  That's where my head has been for the past 6 months or so.  I'm thinking ahead, beginning to imagine the packing, starting to figure out how to relinquish duties here in town so that I can be on the road for six months or more next year.

Then, about a week or so ago, Roger got an email from an old cycling pal of his.  He'd run into someone that they used to ride with, and got to thinking about doing PBP again.  He needed Roger's help to secure the loan of a bike that he felt he'd need to have in order to inspire himself to train and complete the ride.  (Must be some bike!)  Anyway, wouldn't it be fun to go over and do it together, one last time?  So here we go again.  I reminded Roger that he'd never gotten me any information on the brevets, or the training - and this time, he came up with the goods.

To qualify for the PBP, you must complete a series of increasingly long brevets (which are bike rides, and no, I don't know why they are called that.)  Anyway, there is a southern California cycling club that is offering the first length, 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) on January 3.  So I say why not?  I will do the first brevet with you.  Then we'll see what we think.

I've done lots of century rides, so I figure I can hang in there another 25 miles and do the 200 km.  We have plenty of time to complete it - something like 12 hours.  It's around here, on roads I have ridden before.  And we are planning to do a century with our pals on January 17, so we are going to be ready, anyway.

And so, yesterday, I rode on my own bike when the club went out.  I figure this will be better training for me.  We did about 53 miles I think.  Lamb Canyon route.  It's got about 3,400 feet of climbing, so that's about half of what this brevet will entail.  Plus a few extra miles to boot.  I had two flats, darn it - and Roger and I got separated, so I had to rely on friends to help with the second change.  But that's part of what the PBP is about.  You rely on your own resources, you get help from friends, you figure it out.  And all the while you just keep those legs turning, turning, turning.

And so, we are off!