Some things I learned on my longest ride to date this year:
- I’m in better long distance shape than I’ve been giving myself credit for. Yes, I’m still 20 pounds over my ideal event weight, and I had a tough winter with adjusting to fatherhood and medical issues – but I’ve dropped 22 pounds since the holidays and I’ve been consistent on the bike for the last 3 months. Cruising speed needs to come up – but overall ‘get it done’ at all costs stubborn endurance is there.
- I (will always) need to improve my climbing speed. I’ve been holding off on adding too much intensity to my workouts for fear my ‘base’ wasn’t large enough. I think I’m there. Time to put the hurt on 2 days a week with tempo and hill work, saving my weekends for the long stuff. Irish Hill, Bolton, and short bursts up Depot St. – here I come.
- Nothing really hurt. There was no time on the ride when I needed to stop and solve fit or contact point issues. I had some minor saddle irritation that was helped with a change into fresh shorts, my hands were good with minor numbness if I hung out in any one position for too long, and my feet were comfortable (if wet) for the entire ride.
- Clif Shot Bloks – sometimes they work, sometimes they upset the tummy. This ride I think they were part of my distress climbing to Killington. They gassed me up on the 200k as well – a ginger ale solved that issue. These will move from ‘go to’ to ’emergency only’. I downed 2 packs of these within 30 miles of the end – knowing we didn’t have time to stop for real food and they do work…
- Clif Mojo Bar – Peanut Butter Pretzel – I discovered this on my solo 300k through the Adirondacks last year. Winner for overall best bike food – tastes good and stays down. Four of these propelled me over the 24 hours – I could have used another two.
- Lantiseptic Skin Protectant – it is a rear ends best friend. Of all the potions, creams, and goop that I’ve tried – this stuff works. Yes – I’m trying to get away from padded shorts on long rides – but if its wet, and if I’m uncertain about comfort, setup, conditions – the Lantiseptic goes on. Add a bit of Assos to the pad – and I think I have a winning combo.
- Acorn Boxy Rando Bag – a great addition on the Mark’s Rack. It was nice having access to food, arm warmers, camera, etc. – all right up front. I did not do enough navigating to need the map case – but it does get wet inside, and as I learned on the 200k – it does not fit an 8.5×11″ cue folded in half. I had to tri fold and clip the edges. Not a deal breaker – but a bit of a pain. I liked the map case on my Ortlieb more – I might have to retrofit some snaps to the Acorn. Not having a decaleur (VO is still out!) didn’t affect things all that much – with a rando load of food and clothes up front the bag was stiff enough using the cord ties to the handlebars. Not ideal – but workable.
- Acorn Medium Saddle Bag was a great addition to the rear- we carried extra clothing (bulk) – and having the luggage to do it made the ride that much nicer. I kept my tools, spare tubes, mini first aid kit, and night riding gear tucked away. I had more room if needed, and the rear flap can snug over a jacket or base layer. There are also rings for lashing to the outside, and the leather tailight clip is just perfect – couldn’t ask for it to be in a better spot. I think this will be a perfect bag for 200k and century rides – and currently is still on the bike.
- Edeluxe – what a light. Not sure what else to say. Glad I dropped the bills for it. Rain, country roads, high traffic roads, 30 mph descents in the rain at night on country roads – it does it all. I ran it in senso mode with the overcast skies and can say for sure that it is bright bright as I watched one of my teamates roll up at dusk. If the rack comes off, the light will go back on with my Terracycle mount. It is too convenient and bright to keep off.
- Ixon IQ – I lent my battery powered Ixon to Jim – it was bright enough – but he complained of descending in the rain. Not sure if he ran it full blast or if he needed to fine tune its position (something I did with my Edelux mid ride) – but I’ve found that in a winter of town use and spring mornings on the rando bike it is very serviceable as a do all light. Not quite as bright as the Edelux – but damn near close if you don’t want to run a SON hub.
- Reflective gear – It works! I love my Cactus Creek vest with all around visibility and pockets in the back, and I will probably pick up some Riv ankle bands (even though my jogalites probably work fine).
- Planet Bike SuperFlash – I mounted a ‘stealth’ to my rig this spring – absolutely love it so far – and having dropped behind my teamates on some climbs in the rain – it really does stand out – whether in blinking or steady mode. I’ll be adding a second for the 400 and 600k.
- Wool, it works – I had a combination of jersey, arm warmers, and shorts. The main (and only) regret on this ride was not carrying an Ibex Woolie base layer. I missed it when the sky was sprinkling and it was cool. The arm warmers I carried were too warm… from now on I’ll be carrying or wearing a thin wool layer.
- Shower’s Pass Elite 2.0 – was absolutely perfect when the temps dropped below 55 or so. A bit too warm when it was in the 60’s. Perfect for getting rolling in the cold rain – but I found myself shedding it during the night (it stayed in the 60’s). I wore it through the last 25-30 miles as it was raining buckets and the temps dropped 10 degrees.
Flèche NE 2009 was a windy and wet affair. Our team of three departed City Market in Burlington on Saturday at 8am. We left with partly cloudy skies and a wind out of the south – southeast. That wind would never stop – and the partly cloudy would turn to full cloudy, then rain, then deluge, and finally cold wet monsoon.
Our route took us through Richmond, VT and we made use of the recently opened bike and pedestrian ferry. I’m fairly certain we are the only flèche team to include a boat ride. We rolled some familiar roads to Middlesex where we stopped at the wonderful Red Hen Bakery. One of the bakery owners was on one of the four teams from our great state – we chatted with his wife while enjoying second breakfast – and then fought the wind pretty much all the way to Warren. We rolled through Granville Gulf on Rt. 100 – a beautiful stretch of road that includes waterfalls, roaring creeks, prime moose habitat, and several ponds. Dropping down from Granville we opted for a lunch stop at the Rochester Cafe. Sitting outside with our bikes we answered a few questions of a bewildered local roadie.
The stretch from Rochester to Killington was tough for me. The wind picked up and we pace lined the best we could in rolling terrain. My stomach started shutting down – even water was hard to swallow. By the time we reached the climb up to River Rd. I was in distress – my teammates up the road (making it look easy) – and me crawling up the grade in a 32×29 and wishing I had something lower. I recovered a bit on the long descent into Bridgewater Corners as we had to pace line downhill into a really stiff breeze. I was feeling better but desperately needed a restroom – both gas stations had ‘out of order’ signs, and I was preparing to trek into the woods when Jim managed to find an open shop and was waving me across the road. Many thanks to the snowboarder / mountain biker / adventure dude with the electric motocross bikes shop for letting me make use of his facilities…
Feeling better we started rolling up towards Ludlow for dinner. The route took us along several lakes and was dotted with summer camps and cabins. We rolled into Ludlow only about 10 minutes behind schedule at 6:40pm. We had hoped to build up some bank time – I had thought we would have an hour or more in the bank by Ludlow – but the wind and weather took its toll early on. Tacos Tacos called out to Jim so we ordered up some grub at a hole in the wall Mexican place. We kept the stop short – and rolled out on 103 now 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Rt. 103 is a wide shouldered and moderately traveled road. After a short climb and quick 5% descent the road steadily drops toward the Connecticut River valley. At times we were cruising at 16-18 mph three up and chatting while safely tucked to the right of the 8 foot or larger shoulder. Due to a math error it took forever to get to our turn on Pleasant Valley Rd. A short burn on 103 turned into a bit of a panicked slog as I misread the cue and completely screwed the math while reviewing notes over our dinner. When we finally did reach our road we were running in full night gear – reflective vests and ankle bands, headlights, and blinkies and heading into some climbing in the rain. The road took us over some mild terrain – and the frogs were out singing a full symphony. It was an inspiring way to climb – mother nature soaking us in water and sound.
Pleasant Valley Road dropped us into Saxtons River for a post card control. We were now a full half hour ahead of schedule – but we had the toughest stretch of road ahead. We dropped the postcard at 8:51 and headed for Putney, VT via Westminster West. I’ve ridden this route dozens of times when I lived in Putney – I knew the road well enough to warn my teammates that it wouldn’t be easy. The skies opened up by the time the first 11% grade hit… and the conversation turned to ‘How far to the top?’, ‘When does it stop?’. The road is a series of climbs stepping up to a high point above town. We worked those miles in the dark, with frogs leaping across the road and a few cars passing us with care – as I’m sure we looked alien rolling up the road at 10 pm in the rain. The road eventually returned the effort of the climbs and we dropped directly into town and rolled to the West Hill Shop for the first of our 2 hour stops. At this point the photography essentially ends – wet, cold, hungry, focused on the task at hand.
Warm and relatively dry with full bike shop at our disposal we tweaked some cranky bikes, adjusted lights, repacked gear, changed clothes, snacked, and took a nap. The rain poured down on the metal roof. Websites were checked for weather. Phone calls made to wives and girlfriends. Stretching, coffee, and then dressing for and heading out into the weather. We rolled about 8 miles to the Dunkin Donuts in Brattleboro, thankful that the chain smoking workers were gainfully employed and the coffee hot. Answering their questions was fun… and the eggy cheesy bacony croissant was just what I needed to warm and perk up. We were now running well behind our ideal schedule – and we knew that our second planned ‘rest’ stop would have to be cut short.
Rolling through southern Vermont brought back many a memory – cruising through town brought back memories of after dark training rides as well as sessions at the local pub enjoying a good pour of single malt. We rolled through Brattleboro to blinking yellow lights and crossed into New Hampshire on Rt. 63. Our next stop was a friend’s garage in Northfield, MA for another ‘rest’. We worked hard trying to make time and arrived about an hour off our planned pace. Craig had the coffee ready to go – and staged the garage with air mattresses, warm sleeping bags and towels. I caught a half hour of sleep before my phone alarm went off. I made the mistake of taking off my wool jersey before I crawled into the warm bag – putting it on was not fun – cold socks, cold shoes, and now a cold jersey. We suited up in rain gear and took off for Amherst and our 22 hour control.
Rt. 63 was tough. We had over 180 miles in our legs and we’d been on the road for nearly 20 hours. The rolling climbs slowed us down and we struggled to stay warm and not overheat in our gear. As the sun came up we were still struggling with the terrain – what seemed like endless rollers – wondering if we would make it in time to pause for the 22 hour control. The 22 hour control is unique to the flèche – it requires all teams to stop and verify their location. As 6am drew near we went into pace line and time trial mode – we needed to find a convenience store, ATM, diner – any place that we could verify time and location with a receipt or business stamp. I crested a small roller and saw the glow of 2 ATM machines in the distance. 2 minutes to go and we pushed hard – and in the same little plaza a 24 hour Cumberland Farms! We warmed, ate, and waited in line behind a fellow checking and purchasing and checking and paying out hundreds of lotto tickets. 10 minutes later we were on the road again – heading into Amherst proper. Again in ‘get it done mode’. Two hours to go, and we needed another 20 miles.
Rolling through a college town on a Sunday morning was uneventful except for two gents who appeared to be doing the walk of shame home from some late night festivities. The sun was well up, the rain just starting to pour down, and the strength of our Edeluxe lights apparent by the blinding gestures and yelling they made in our general direction. Mumbled obscenities ensued, and we were in and out of town – heading into commercial road strip mall city just as the rain reached its peak flow – buckets fell from the sky as we made our way to Northampton. The road was covered in a wave of water. Potholes disappeared. Cracks swallowed wheels. Our speed dropped but we pressed on. Fenders were practically useless as there was so much water coming down it didn’t matter that we were in rain gear, fully fendered, and wearing wool base layers. We were now soaked to the bone wet, cold, and an hour away from reaching our goal. We poked through Northampton, Easthampton, and Southampton as the clock ticked away – and with 4 minutes to spare a likely 24 hour control appeared on the horizon – the glorious ‘All In One Store’ in Westfield, MA. We rolled in, picked up receipts, and breathed. Done. Finished. Epic.
226 miles, approximately 12k of climbing. 17 hours in the saddle. 1 1/2 hours of ‘sleep’.
Our Vermont team for Flèche NE 2009 is ready to roll. We met up with our return driver (an original teammate who had to drop out of the event) tonight over pizza and a few beers, rigged a roof mount bike rack to fit in the back of the cargo van, and talked gear and rain and gear and getting wet and wind. Our team is down from 5 to 3… but we plan to roll on. 225 miles, approximately 12,000 feet of climbing. Forecast has been sketch all week.
My bike is (over)loaded. Route double checked and cue printed out (although I can get us through the first 150 miles+ from memory), lights checked, clothes laid out, wet gear at the ready. Camera in a baggie, already on the bike, with a memory card and a battery. Rider needs to sleep – but I’m hitting it early tonight – usually I’m up late fretting. 10:30 pm is a good night for me – especially before a big ride.
Less than a week to the NE Flèche 2009. Our team is down to 3, we swapped some gear and ran through a pre-ride checklist last night. Brevet cards have arrived. Final route tweaking and gear selection is ongoing. Hoping for mild temperatures and sunny skies. Night shakedown ride will happen this week.
I’ve been putting off the rigging of my Edeluxe for some time – the Ixon IQ I run for short rides is plenty bright and has good run time – and comes on and off the bike quickly for errands and stops around town. Our Flèche is two weeks away – and I’ll need all night light – so I finally broke down and clipped the wires to the proper length and got the Edeluxe up and running. The light is simply outstanding – test runs in the morning and on the MUP late at night have really impressed me.
Mounting the light has been a bit of an adventure. I use a Mark’s Rack for my rando bag up front. The Mark’s Rack doesn’t have any fittings for front / low light mounting (save for the goofy tab on the end of the rack). Previously I ran dual E6 lights from the lowrider bosses – but with only one light (the brightness of the Edeluxe easily surpasses dual E6s running full steam downhill!) – I want to minimize wheel shadow as much as possible. I purchased the fork crown mount with the light but can’t run it with the bag, debated the lowrider mount, thought about mounting it euro style to the skewer, and purchased a Terracycle mount that works on the fork. None of these felt right (the Terracycle mount comes closest – and if I remove the rack this will be the system I use).
Rummaging through my parts bin I came up with what should have been obvious – use the spare bolts that come with the struts for rear mounting the Mark’s and get the light just below my bag. To do this I had to track down an M6 coupler nut – an email to a friend brought a link to McMaster-Carr (and plenty of time browsing all the cool hardware they sell). I had hoped for the coupler in stainless – but the black oxide variety is the proper length to keep the light tucked under the bag with enough clearance to the strut. I added lock washers towards the strut and a serrated washer towards the light. After some positioning play all seems well. Plenty of light, minimal wheel shadow, and so far rock solid. The mount will get a good workout this weekend – the usual suspects are planning 75 miles of dirt – 3 long and steep climbs, 3 covered bridges, views to the Green Mountains, ADKs, and the lake.
The usual suspects have built a solid team for the Northeast Flèche 2009, have scouted, mapped, and controlled a route, and sent in our application. The ride is patterned on the Flèche Vellocio that has run in France since the late 1940’s. The modern ACP Flèches USA is a 24 hour team randonneuring event that takes place each spring with groups of 3-5 randonneurs embarking on rides of a minimum of 360 kilometers over a period of 24 hours. There are subtle rules about control points, brevet card verification for proof of passage, two hours maximum stopping time at any one control, and the need to document your location at the 22 hour and 24 hour mark.
The spirit of the ride is simple – head off into the day (or night) and keep moving as a team for 24 hours. Most routes are designed as one way ‘arrows’ targeting the regional destination where all teams meet. The Northeast rides have historically ended in Westfield, Massachusetts – teams from Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire all point their wheels to this location. Routes are devised by each team – so groups may try to get in as many miles as they can, while others ride the minimum required for certification (note that everyone gets ‘credit’ for the same 360k). All savor the time on the bike and the chance to tell the sometimes epic tales that come from being in motion through day and night in all weather over varying terrain.
We’ve called our route a ‘Green Mountain Ramble’. We plan to leave from Burlington and head south along Vermont Route 100 to Ludlow (passing through Waitsfield, Warren, and Killington). After dinner in Ludlow (and as night falls) we climb to Grafton and then cross into familiar territory at Saxton’s River and on to Putney where we will have a planned two hour sleep control at the West Hill Shop. As the moon rises we head into Brattleboro, cross into New Hampshire and flow down the Connecticut River Valley to Northfield, Massachusetts (for late night coffee at a friend’s), Amherst for breakfast, and then on to the finish in Westfield.