Thursday, February 11, 2016

Open your ears

When I ride (or do household chores, or yardwork, or really just about anything) I like to listen to audio books.  On occasion I’ll listen to music, but I’ve always been drawn to reading and audio books allow me to “read” while doing other things.  Call it multi-tasking. 

Obviously when I do something like riding while listening I only use one ear bud – just wanted to assure everyone I was being safe. 

In reading the rules to the Rocheport Roubaix (my first bike race) they clearly stated no earbuds or listening to anything AT ALL.  This was a 34 mile ride so I was a little worried about how I was going to manage to get through such a long time span without audio entertainment.  I decided to try a bit of riding sans earbuds to see if I could manage.   I learned a few things.

For starters – it was nice to really hear the things going on around me.  What I had been missing were the therapeutic sounds of the tires rolling down the road and the oddly satisfying clicking sound of my rear cassette.  It was also far easier to hear the others I was riding with and to converse with them. 

I’m kind of a loner when riding and now know that riding with others can be pretty nice!  Especially on long distances where things are more likely to go wrong.  Also being able to encourage other riders and to be encouraged has an enormous positive effect. 

It kind of reminded me of when I did my first 5K years ago.  My sister-in-law ran with me and she would encourage me to keep going with the phrase, “Push, push, push”!  To this day I still here her saying that to me on any ride that requires lots of stamina and endurance!

Another thing that happens when you stop adding in audio noise to your long rides is that your brain really starts working in amazing ways.  Heck – that’s the reason I started this blog.  I wanted to document the many things that came to my mind during my riding.  By not being distracted with an audio book while riding I’ve been able to notice parallels between obstacles found while riding and obstacles I’m encountering during my day to day life.  For instance, how symbolic a simple Detour becomes. 

Will I quit listening to audio books or music while riding?  Probably not all the time, but I think I’ll leave the audio entertainment at home at least once a week to see what other kinds of things my ears pick up.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My First Bike Race Done

A few months ago I heard about a bike race happening in Rocheport, Missouri on January 31st called the Rocheport Roubaix.  I have ridden in and around Rocheport before.  Once before to be exact when a group of coworkers/riders invited me to join them on a Katy Trail ride.  We rode about 50 miles on that beautiful fall day and that was fairly early in my riding career so I figured I could easily handle a 33 mile bike race in the same general area.  Ah, great expectations - how they set you up for big surprises!

First off - none of the course was on the Katy Trail.  For a little background, the Katy Trail is a rail line converted to a bike trail.  It runs about 270ish miles across Missouri and as it is a rail line trail it is very flat.  Maybe a 5-6% grade at most.  I know now that due to the time of year the Katy Trail would have had it's own challenges.  It is almost 100% gravel and with the thaw we've had the past few days it would have been very messy and hard to pedal in.

Back to the race.  So the starting line was located in the center of Rocheport which is a very neat little community south of Columbia, Missouri.  I got there plenty early (as I tend to do) and it was fun walking around and seeing the anticipation of all the riders readying themselves and their bikes for the race.  The race had 15, 33, 50 and 67 mile options.  I wavered between the 33 and 50 mile options and in the end decided that due to the time of year 33 miles would be challenge enough for me.  I registered on December 25th and it was pretty cold outside and I think this helped me make the wiser decision.  It could have been pretty nasty yesterday - thankfully it wasn't!

I saddled up a few minutes before the start and decided to hang back in the pack so as not to get plowed over by more zealous riders.  The race started with a nice long uphill climb.  I was quickly reminded how hilly Missouri is.  There was some nice pavement sections so at least I didn't have to struggle with the gravel and the uphill climb right off.  I might have turned around had that been the case!

The route was all small country roads and highways.  Probably 40-50% were paved.  The rest was hard packed gravel and it varied between very bumpy and dry to very smooshy and gooey.  And the hills!  I had to dismount several times and push up some of the hills.  This usually happened when I cross chained and the chain popped off the rear cassette.  Once this happens there is no fixing it and riding again till you get to a nice level point to restart.  One hill will forever be etched in my memory. It was paved and allowed me to hit a top speed of 37.7 mph.  I was flying!  But then at the bottom it veered right and suddenly the pavement ended in a swamp of gooey muddy gravel.  I was sure I was going to fly right off the bike.  But I managed to stay on and the next thing I know - I have to dismount and push again as I lost all my momentum in the mud.

I managed to finish the race in about 3 hours and 42 minutes.  The total miles ridden was actually 34 and I burned almost 4000 calories.  And I saw a new animal on the ride - a great big black and white pig.  I thought it was a big dog till I got closer.

I learned a few new things.  I think I need to work on fueling for such long distance riding.  I know it isn't uncommon for long distance cyclists to continue to snack on fast acting carbohydrates.  The diabetic in my is leary of doing that, but if I am burning that much I should be okay to consume more carbs than on a normal day.  Also the Boy Scout in me (I was never an actual scout but I act like one in that I try to be prepared for everything) needs to lighten up.  And by lighten up I mean I need to carry less stuff with me.  This race was well supported.  There were cars patrolling the route and delivering mechanical support if needed.  I was packing 2 spare tubes, a variety of tools and spare batteries for everything.  I could have easily dropped the bike weight by 10 pounds or so and it would have made the climbs a tiny bit easier.

Would I do it again - HECK YEAH!

Just in case anyone wants to live vicariously through me - feel free to watch my video of the race!

And here are a few pics from Race Day.

 My Post Race celebration meal!