Friday, July 26, 2013

The Start Of Something New

Today was a special day for commuting.  Not because it was raining.  Not because it was my 133rd day commuting this year or that I just crossed over 3000 miles.  Not because it is Friday and I may take Monday off.  No, today was special because my wife joined me on my ride in.  More accurately, I think I joined her because she was going to ride in with or without me.  I decided to get up about 1/2 hour earlier and ride in with her.
Looks Familiar

Me a few days ago
She had commuted to work several years ago on commute another way day but has new found interest in biking.  The plan is that she will ride a few times during the week when life doesn't get in the way.  Of the days in the summer to start commuting, this one was kind of bleak but the ride wasn't too bad.  We did the 12.5 miles in about 45 minutes.
I have to share my bike parking.  Plenty of room for 2.
I Love You Biker Girl!

Riding in the Rain - 102

I could start with "Riding in the Rain - 101" but that's pretty simple: Get on your bike when it's raining and ride it.  This will be more of an advanced course.  It could also be called "Riding in the Rain Without Being Miserable".  I realize that grammatically there can be only one most important thing but when riding in the rain it turns out that there are several.

Attitude: The first most important thing is to embrace riding in the rain.  If you go out with the dread of getting wet you are already defeated.  I usually ride with headphones but on a nice rainy day it's nice to unplug and listen to the sound of the rain falling.  Traffic free back roads are the best place to do this.  Unplugging also avoids the Fried Ipod Syndrome.  Despite the fact that they are intended to be used for sports (That whole iPod / Nike+ thing), iPods aren't even remotely, minutely or incidentally water resistant.  Trust me, runner-girl is on her 4th 5th.

Bike: Fenders are the second most important thing.  Getting wet from the rain is nice, getting a mouth full of sprayed up road grime is not.  Attitude can overcome the lack of fenders if you get caught in an unexpected downpour. Other than that any bike will do, just make sure to lube the chain more often.  Wider tires are better than narrow ones.  Riding a road bike in the rain works fine but braking will be significantly reduced.

Clothing: Above about 65 degrees I tend to just wear a shirt and get wet.  Below 65 usually wear some kind of rain gear.  My favorite is the Showers Pass: Club Pro Jacket.  It's quite waterproof, vented, visible with pockets for a decent price.  You can spend a lot more and not get any more functional and you can spend a little less and still get wet.  Below 45 I like to wear a long sleeved wool base layer under it because that wet nylon sticking to your arms gets clammy.  For commutes above 45or so degrees I just let my legs get wet.  For colder rainy commutes I do have some Showers Pass: Storm Pants to keep me warm. For anything but the coldest riding they are usually wetter on the inside than on the outside. (Your temperature thresholds will probably vary, I tend to be cold on rides and would rather be warmer at the risk of being too hot)

Shoes: Wet feet and the shoes that are wet the next time you put them on are my least favorite thing about riding in the rain.  Admittedly, this is an area I haven't come up with a solution yet.  I've tried the plastic bag method:
This Does Not Work!
without any success.  Somehow (probably through wicking) the shoes get just as wet with the bags on as they would without them.  I think I'll explore shoe cover options.  I'm thinking Showers Pass: Club Shoe Covers the brand hasn't done me wrong yet.

Gloves:  This is another area with mixed results.  There are gloves that keep the rain from getting to your hands, of course, your hands sweat so much that the rain would be an improvement and they take FOREVER to dry.  Otherwise, there are some decent gloves that can delay your hands from getting wet.  I've found that Lizard Skins Blizzard gloves, although horrible in the cold in my opinion, are pretty good in rain from 40-60 degrees.  They seem to be discontinued so you're on your own.  On warm rainy days I just skip the gloves all together. 

Head: Another most important thing is wearing a hat with a visor under your helmet.  It keeps most of the rain off the front of your glasses and all of the rain off the back of your glasses.  This was one of the simplest improvements to comfort I made for commuting in the rain.  Glasses to keep rain out of your eyes are almost a must.  I prefer glasses with a hydrophobic coating like Typhoon Optics Mariner.  Speaking of glasses, it helps to keep a dry (or at least not sweaty) tissue or towel in your rain gear pocket for wiping glasses.  Actually it helps for any ride.

Lights: Use them!  These aren't the most important thing if you don't mind getting hit by cars.  Otherwise they are strongly recommended.  Rainy days are dark, driver's visibility is impaired by wet windshields, Etc.  I like NiteRider USB rechargeable cordless lights.

Cargo: Unless you have known waterproof panniers or bags I recommend ziplock bags.  Everything goes in a ziplock and then it goes in my pack.  Reuse them over an over.

Other Considerations: Sealcoating, chip seal, railroad tracks, manhole covers, crosswalk paint and some other things might as well be ice when they get wet.  A sudden loss of all traction isn't' fun.  My elbow and leg did slow me down as I skidded across the pavement but the friction took its toll or a wet ride last year.
This isn't the only skin I lost, but it is what I can show.

So get out there and get wet!  You've heard of "Dancing in the Rain" and "Singing in the Rain" take the next step and start "Riding in the Rain".   Life's short, Enjoy the Ride.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge 2013

It's amazing how one event can be so empowering and humbling at the same time.  As most people that read this blog know, I bike a lot; 25 miles almost every day except on the days I decide to ride longer.  I ride on roads and trails and ice and snow.  I ride at -20 degrees and +90 degrees and in places that almost everybody I know wouldn't.  Let me tell you, most of the people in this race bike more.

The course?  I think I realized the magnitude of the course the next day sitting, looking out over Sebago lake.  To ride around Sebago on the roads is about 42 miles.  So this ride was liking riding around Sebago taking only trails and going to the top of every hill around it's perimeter except the hills were higher.  63 miles is a long offroad course!
Chilling in the campground the night before.
We got there in time to set up camp and enjoy a beautiful evening and night.
We got to preview the course.  (see below)
Actually, the course was kept pretty secret until the day of the race and at this point I had no idea that I would be riding to approximately where the red arrow is.  In fact pieces of the course were kept secret from me even during the race.
And some of the more amazing trails around the outdoor center.

If you ride, these are some pretty spectacular trails to do it on.  All are maintained by the Carrabassett Region NEMBA and the proceeds from the race go back into the trails.
The view right before bed
Ready to get the best night's sleep possible in a tent.
Fresh and Ready to Go
Race morning was pretty uneventful until the race started.
I started with the novice class.  In retrospect, this was a mistake for several reasons.  First, starting with 4 other people is just kind of lame feeling.  Second, my overall place at the end of the race put me closer to the front of the next highest class than the back of it so it really was a group of my peers.  Most importantly, if I had been riding with a group of other riders I wouldn't have got frickin lost!  When I say lost, I don't mean lost because I was in contact with the course arrows the whole time but there must have been a loop off the main trail to some singletrack that I missed because about 6 miles into the race I was in the lead and the pros were catching me.  I corrected my position by waiting until all of the other riders passed and the members of my original start group showed up.  At this point I figured I was just racing myself and would get a DSQ but the race director decided that my remedy was fine and my time stood.  Sorry Josh but the signage was a little lacking.

Looking at the Bigelow Mountain Range From the Top of Sugarloaf
Back on track, it was time to find out what this race was all about - pain.  The first major climbs were up Sugarloaf mountain.  The final ascent was under the chairlift and everybody walked, at least everybody around me.  My bike computer said I was doing 1.7MPH and my heart-rate monitor said 171.  If I new that you just multiply speed by 100 to get heart rate I could have ditched the monitor.  After the climb came a black diamond downhill section.  This section was the most technical of the race with plenty of rocks just waiting to separate a shoulder, shatter a collar bone or at least bash a shin.  After a few unintentional dismounts I escaped with the latter.
Kelly met me on the course somewhere.
With the first climb and descent behind me I came across a cute photographer taking pictures on a dirt road climb somewhere around mile ??? 15, maybe, ish.  From here there are no more pictures until the end and the next few paragraphs will be about me explaining how tired I was.  (so you may want to skip ahead.  I'll post some in-race pics if they get posted on the CBCC site.)

Update: Some pics are available.  I don't own them so I won't post them here but I can tell you where to look in case you wanted to buy them ;)

We rode through some of the hiking trails in the Bigelow Preserve.  There were a ample  rest stops, all well stocked with friendly people.  After the next stop came the 5 mile climb up a gravel road in the sun.  At one point I looked down to see that I was managing a whole 4MPH and thought to myself "I'm going to be doing this for over an hour".  It was also around this point where I realized that the pickles I had at the last stop, although great for salt replenishment were making me burp pickle flavor for I left them on the side of the road.  Mental note, no more pickles.

From the top of the climb (what we were on top of, I'm not sure) there was some very remote and relatively easy single and doubletrack riding for quite a while intermixed with muddy spots and the occasional water crossing that helped to clean off me and the bike.  This is about the point where my body started revolting against me.  Although my muscles still had energy to pedal they were no longer in my control.  I started getting leg cramps on the inside of my thighs and other places.  These aren't the kind of cramps that you can push through but the kind that can lock your leg up so it no longer moves and you have a solid painful clenched muscle.  The only remedy was to get off the bike, if possible, and ease them out.  The cramps are aggravated by stressing the muscles more than they are currently being stressed which includes the act of dismounting so if it was not a climb I just slowed to a crawl and kept my legs moving.

At the next rest stop I started popping salt tabs and bananas to try to get my electrolytes in check.  After a few miles it seemed like my muscles were mostly under my own control again, mostly.  The next 10 miles were OK with only the occasional cramp.  At the last stop I popped a few more salt tabs, ate as much as I could hold and pressed on for the last 6 miles of "Bliss" (according to the rest stop people).  "Bliss" was some windy singletrack through bar width trees that normally would have been really fun riding but required more concentration than I really wanted to give this far into the race.  The other half of "Bliss" was the rail trail that was pretty blissful but a slight but constant uphill. I'll suspend with the rest of the race details.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard the word "cramps", well, I'd probably only have about $2-$3 so that's not a really good money making scheme...But people were cramping up left and right and either slowing to a crawl or dropping out of the race.
I was more covered in mud than this but the river crossings cleaned me off.
Overall Stats:
Distance: 63 Miles (Time corrected for 1-2 lost miles)
Time: 7:46:14
Fluids Consumed: Over 3 gallons, based on approx 3 fillings of a 120oz hydration pack & 20oz bottle with silk amino acids, Gatorade, coke or anything else with sugar & caffeine
Food Consumed: As much as I thought I could hold including 3 power bars, 2 bananas, 2 gels, 2 pickles, -2 pickles, PB&J and more.
Calories Burned: I'd estimate right around 6000 based on a little under 800/hour for me at that pace.
Salt Tablets: 5
Weight Loss: About 7 lbs, 5 are still missing over a day later.
Equipment: The bike (GT Sensor 9er Elite) did awesome!  I was a little concerned that I was entering a race of this magnitude with this much climbing with a bike that was a little on the heavy side.  

Second Place (Out of 2)

Results: I'd have to say I did really good overall.  The novice class was too small to really tell place but if the novice and sport categories are combined I would have come in 8th out of 20.  I'm not sure if my slight re-route improved my overall time because I didn't have to ride a part of the course (it was a flat part so not too energy sapping) or if it hurt my overall time because I waited for people that were going slower than I was to make sure I was riding with the right pace group.  Overall, I'd call it a wash.

Soundtrack(In My Head):  The Zac Brown Band: On The Day That You Die
"On the day that I die,
I wanna say that I,
Was a man who really lived and never compromised.
And when I've lived out my days,
Until the very end,
I hope they find me in my home, a guitar in my hands.
I hope they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands"
I wasn't sure if that was because I was living live to it's fullest, or if I was going to be found dead in the bottom of a ravine with a mountain bike still clipped to my feet, or if it was because I just saw The Zac Brown band last weekend.  Except he didn't play that song. It wouldn't have been so bad if I could remember all the words.

So, am I going to do it again?  Most likely.  Oh, and am I going to ride to work on Monday?  Heck Ya! It's supposed to be a beautiful day for a ride!

(Post a comment if you made it through the whole blog and didn't just look at the pictures)

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 5 Seasons

Finally, my nine month project comes to a close.  I bring you the five seasons depicted in six pictures.

Early Spring

Late Spring


Early Fall

Late Fall