Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 Coffeeneuring Challenge: Coffeeneuring for Couples


This fall, Heather and I signed up for Mary G.’s Coffeeneuring  Challenge.  The Challenge grows out of the idea that its October and the serious bike riding for the season should be over. Now is the time to kick back and enjoy the pace of fall.  To complete the challenge, riders must ride their bikes to 7 different coffee shops in 7 weekends. The total ride must be at least 2 miles.  Our adventure has some unique challenges. First, Black River Falls has only 2 real coffee shops.  This problem is easily fixable as any place that sells coffee qualifies as a coffee shop.  Second,  almost every place in town that sells coffee is within one mile of our house. We’ll have to take some roundabout paths for our coffee.

Comparing our coffeeneuring outings with reports submitted by other  coffeeneurs, it seems like our coffeeneuring outings were much less focused on bike riding and much more centered on making time for a short, family or couple oriented outings. Over the last few years, I have ridden thousands of miles and participated in dozens of events. The Coffeeneuring Challenge is a chance to slow down and spend some time with Heather (and the girls, when we could talk them into coming along).

 All in all, we had a great experience. We completed the challenge and had 7 great "dates". We made it to 3 real coffee shops, a gas station, our favorite corner grocery store, our downtown café, and a fast food restaurant. Definitely not the typical coffeeneuring experience.

RIDE  1: October 13
3.5 miles.
Cenex/Four Seasons Convenience Store.

On this beautiful fall day, we rode a total of 3.5 miles to the Cenex station for our first run of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. The temps were in the low 40’s and the sun was shining brightly.  The Cenex station is your run-of-the mill randonneur control stop so the start of Coffeeneuring had a similar feel to the end of randonneuring.  The ambience was where the similarities ended, however. Rather than rushing through a control stop, Heather and I had time to sit down and have a long discussion about the upcoming week. I had a cup of classic black coffee. Heather had a French Vanilla with cream.


RIDE 2: October 19
3.9 miles
Alwood’s West Side Grocery

Heather and I took advantage of another beautiful fall day to ride 3.9 miles around the outskirts of BRF culminating in a stop at Alwood’s for a leisurely cup of coffee. Heather had a cup of French Vanilla while I stuck with the classic black. Our coffee stops may not measure up to the hotspots in Portland or Seattle but I bet we spent less for our coffee than most other coffeeneurs. We totaled out at $1.50.  As an added benefit, Gary, one of the owner’s of Alwood’s, and Paul were holding court and kept everyone laughing.


RIDE 3: October 20
2.3 miles

For ride 3 of our Coffeeneuring Challenge, Heather and I decided to ride to Hardee’s for a breakfast muffin and regular, old black coffee. Unlike the first two rides, the weather was a little iffy. Cold and Grey, the feel of winter was definitely in the air. The temperature was in the low 30’s and the ride home was in a steady sleet shower. Not exactly great biking weather, but certainly passable for a 2ish mile ride for coffee.


RIDE  4:  October 26
2.0 miles
Molly’s Rude Awakening

On a cloudy, blustery fall day, Heather and I decided on an afternoon visit to Molly’s Rude Awakening. Molly’s is a quirky coffee shop, wine bar and funk store. We even convinced our 8 year old daughter, Bailey, to join us. 



I enjoyed a cappuccino, Heather had her normal French Vanilla and Baily had a hot chocolate. On the way home Bailey even taught some new bike riding techniques. Lots of fun.



RIDE 5: November 2
2 miles
Country Café

For  our fifth ride of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, we rode downtown to the Country Café for coffee and breakfast. Bailey and Maddie joined us, with limited enthusiasm.  The Country Café is your typical, small town café so of course the coffee options were pretty much limited to black or cream and sugar. Both Heather and I stuck with the black.  We also dove in with full, oversized country breakfasts and rode home fully stuffed.


RIDE  6: November 3
5.5 miles
Mocha Mouse

For ride 6 of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, Heather and I picked the Mocha Mouse, a quirky blended coffee shop, wine and cheese store, restaurant and general freeway convenience store.  The ride through town was sunny but uphill into a steady, late fall wind. We each ordered a latte with a shot of vanilla. As a bonus, we each ordered a cup of the house specialty—beer cheese soup. All in all a relaxing and filling coffeeneuring stop.


RDE  7: November  9
Coho Café and Bakery, Tofte, MN
2.4 miles


For our final ride of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, Heather and I took some time out of our couples get-away weekend to do a short installment. We travelled to the Bluefin Resort on the North Shore of Lake Superior with another couple. Fortunately, the Bluefin property featured a combination coffee shop bakery and the resort had complimentary bike rentals. Late on Saturday afternoon, Heather and I walked over to the resort’s recreation center and signed out a couple of Trek Navigators. Although I have never ridden a bike quite like this, the fat tires, wide seats and partial suspension were perfect for a coffeeneuring run.
We rode a mile and a quarter up the paved Gitchi-Gami trail along the shore of Lake Superior in the late afternoon light. The temperature was a brisk 34 degrees.  As a special bonus, the sun came out for a few minutes during our ride to give us some beautiful views of the lake through the birch trees. On our way back to Bluefin, we stopped off at the Coho Café and Bakery. I enjoyed a cup of black coffee and Heather had a latte. We also shared a delicious cinnamon roll.

That's all for this year. Can't wait to Coffeeneur again next year.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Endless Mountains Ride Report

Somewhere during the final afternoon of the 2013 Endless Mountains 1240, a partial verse from a song by the Wild Tchoupitoulas (Meet de Boys on the Battlefront) got stuck in my head.

“I walked through fire and I swam through mud,
Snagged a feather from an eagle, drank panther blood.”

Although the EM1240 did not involve these specific challenges, it did offer about all of the challenge I could handle. For 88 hours and 44 minutes, I rode my bicycle, along with 26 other cyclists, through a circuit of Pennslyvania’s various mountain ranges. We had pedaled over steep hills, gradual hills, long hills, winding hills, short hills and every other imaginable variety of hill. In addition, we had dealt with intense humidity, fog, torrential rain, hot sun and chilly descents.

The ride started at 4:00 in Quakertown, Pennsylvania on August 8, 2013. While I have gotten to the point that I am usually pretty confident at the start of brevets, the intimidating reputation of Endless Mountains was in my head.  Ride Director, Tom Rosenbauer, gave a short,  understated speech and set us off with a simple “OK, you can go”.   Actually, I swear he said it twice because no one moved the first time.   Maybe Endless Mountains’ reputation was in everyone else’s mind too. 

(photo: courtesy of Mike Wali)

The opening miles of the ride were more mellow than the other 1200K’s I have done.  Usually, the opening 40 or 50 miles are really fast as people are trying to get off to a quick start. At Endless Mountains, however, most people seemed pretty content to roll along at a decent, but not hurried, pace.  By and large that attitude held as we rolled in darkness through a number of communities near Quakertown, including Coopersburg and Bethlehem .   Almost all of the field held together until the first control in Danielsville, Pennsylvania at mile 35. The control was at a small gas station.  A ride volunteer was there to sign everyone’s card and note their arrival on the sign in sheet. It  was somewhat reminiscent of a group of baseball fans crowding around a star player trying to get an autograph. The small gas station only had one bathroom. By the time the three or four of us who needed to use the bathroom were  done,  the group was gone.

I left the control with Mike Fox and Mark Olsen.  Almost immediately we started climbing Blue Mountain, the first real climb and first of four crossings of the Appalachian Trail.  The climb rose into the cloud level greatly reducing visibility and leaving me soaking wet.   By the time I reached the top I was feeling pretty good about my climbing form. As it turned out, I did climb well throughout the 4 days, but Blue Mountain was probably the easiest of the major climbs.  Descending Blue Mountain was interesting and fast. Without trying, I reached a speed of 48 miles per hour. And I was riding with my hands on the brake hoods, not the drops like you would to achieve an aerodynamic position.

The next climb named Fox Gap is apparently well know to randonneurs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and was markedly harder than the climb over Blue Mountain.  The Fox Gap climb was approximately 2 ½ miles long and tended to get steeper near the top. At one point I tried to stand up, but the wet ground was steep enough that my rear wheel slipped. I remember thinking that I had never experienced that on a road bike before.  A volunteer met us in the fog at the top of Fox Gap with a secret control and some water. Mark and I paused for a photo while waiting for the rest of the group to catch up.


I promise I’m not 3 feet tall. It just looks that way for some reason.

The ride briefly crossed into New Jersey by way of a pedestrian bridge over the Delaware. Apparently we didn’t stay in New Jersey for long because the next control was in Port Jervis, New York. At least I think we were in New York. For most of the first day and a half of the EM1240 I wasn’t exactly sure what state we were in. The control in Port Jervis was at a diner that was crawling with customers. Our group decided to order just enough so the staff would sign our cards. We then dodged across the street to a convenience store to load up for the upcoming miles.

Leaving Port Jervis, we rode up the Delaware River along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.  The scenery here was very pretty with nice vistas of the River and surrounding bluffs.  The presence of the bluffs meant more climbing and there was no shortage of climbs on the section to Glen Spey, New York. At Glen Spey, we controlled at an ice cream shop. I loaded up on an unconventional meal of ice cream, potato chips, and Gatorade. That’s the kind of a meal that can only sound good to a randonneur! Leaving Glen Spey gave us one of the only extended flat stretches of Day 1. However, the Olsen brothers decided this was a good time to ratchet up the pace. Our group of 5-6 motored along the Delaware and Lackawaxen Rivers at  speeds near 20 miles per hour. I enjoyed the scenery on this stretch which included a Roebling one lane bridge. Apparently, this bridge was once a bridge for a canal over the river.   Also in the same area was the Zane Grey Museum. No one was interested in my plan to stop and pick up a novel for the overnight stop.

Our group split up at the final control of the day in Carbondale, New York. After Mike and I had finished eating, other members of the group wanted to hang around for a while and eat some more. We decided to press ahead over the final 35 miles and get to the overnight control. The final 35 miles turned out to be the hardest of the day. Although there didn’t seem to be as many big climbs, the whole section was constantly up and down. The uphills were a slow grind and the downhills were plagued with bad pavement and potholes which resulted in slow speeds. Overall, this resulted in a feeling that time was flying away from us. We arrived in Hallstead, Pennsylvania at 11:45 after putting in 224 miles.

Other than a short shower on leaving Carbondale, it never rained on Day one. At least, I don’t think its rain if you climb up to the cloud and pull the water out manually.


Mike and I decided to leave  at 4:00 am on Day 2.  As we crossed back over the Susquehanna  River (and back into New York), the weather was warm and humid.  The rain we had been expecting still hadn’t appeared but we wouldn’t have to wait long.  As we were riding through Endicott, New York, we got caught in a torrential downpour. Because it was warm and we had been wet for most of the last 24 hours, we didn’t bother to put on our raincoats. This morning rain would create a problem that almost ended my ride but I wouldn’t realize it for several hours.  The morning’s ride was over gently rolling terrain which  let us move along efficiently and start banking some time.  The free ride ended as we approached Towanda, Pennsylvania. The road was becoming gradually hillier. Also, there was a section of roadway that had was closed because of a washout. The organizer decided to stick with the route, so we had to do a brief Rando steeplechase maneuver to haul our bikes over 2 rock and dirt barriers onto an empty roadway.

Mike turned out to be much more graceful in this move than I was. I almost fell on both ends of the closed road.


The next two sections were two of the most frustrating miles of the EM1240. We were under the impression that  these sections were relatively easy. However, they turned out to be made up of miles and miles of oversized rollers. Two roads in particular stand out,  Southside Road and Route 414. Southside Road had the look of gently rolling road. However, as I rode it, the darn thing never seemed to actually go down. It seemed like we would climb 150 feet, descend 50 feet and start over. By the time we got off this road in Canton, I was getting pretty worn out.

 At the Canton control, one of the other riders in the EM1240, who happened to be from Pennsyvania or New Jersey said that we would really enjoy the nest section and that there was minimal climbing. Instead we got around 11 miles of Route 414. Route 414 was very difficult for me. I would grind my way up one half mile climb at 4 or 5 miles per hour, descend the other side at 40 miles per hour and start over. Additionally, the road was winding, with little shoulder and with a steady stream of oversized pickup trucks and flatbed semis cruising by, seemingly inches from my left arm.  The trucks all seemed to be involved in the oil and gas industry although none of them slowed down long enough to fill me in.

Just as we finished Route 414, it started to rain. As luck would have it, we were just on the edge of Liberty, Pennsylvania, where we had previously decided to take a 5 minute break to stock up on water and snacks. By the time we came out of the little grocery store, Liberty was experiencing a full on deluge. We ended up waiting for about a half hour. We finally gave up and rode off into the rain, about 10 minutes before it stopped. The final stretch of this leg was through the beautiful Pine Creek State Park to a well deserved meal in Waterville.



I had one of my worst stetches of EM1240 between Waterville and Lamar. I don’t remember a lot about this stretch other than that I bonked fairly badly about half way through. I was out of energy and having a hard time maintaining any kind of pace at all. I am sure that I was struggling to go 10 miles per hour at times.  Mike graciously refused my offers to go on ahead to the control.  Additionally, my whole body was starting to hurt. Especially painful were my feet. Each hard stroke felt like I was stepping on broken glass.  Somehow, I managed to pull myself over the last climb and coast into the Flying J at Lamar. My strategy was to eat everything I could get my hands on. I ended up with a meal of a cheeseburger, a bowl of loaded potato soup, a bag of potato chips, a candy bar and a bottle of coke.  It must have helped because I thought the next section was one of the most interesting and fun legs of the entire ride.

Everyone had been warning us that the climb out of Lamar was a monster and really hard. Although they were right it was awesome. We left Lamar in the dark and started climbing almost right away. Although it was pitch black, I got the sense that I was climbing up a really beautiful gap. I could hear a rushing stream to one side and the woods were filled with the sounds of some other wildlife, I think it was some kind of tree frog or cicada. The first 3 or 4 miles portion of the climb was generally gradual and winding. We then rode out onto a plateau with a small settlement. The stargazing in this area was amazing. The stars were bright and the Milky Way filled a large section of the sky. After riding on the plateau for several miles, and passing a stream of amish buggies with rando-style taillights, we made a couple of corners and started the second portion of the climb. This section was much steeper and difficult. But the stars were still out and it was a beautiful night. We then rode another 25 miles, including a long, gradual descent into the second overnight at Lewisburg.  442 miles down.

As we got to Lewisburg, it dawned on me that my feet were hurting because they had been in wet socks all day. When I pulled my socks off, it looked like the entire bottoms of my feet were covered by a giant blister. Unsure of what to do, I slathered each foot with Lantiseptic, put on fresh socks and went to bed. When I woke up, my feet were a million times better. They had this weird shine to them, but they didn’t hurt and I could put weight on them again. I thought up a new slogan for Lantiseptic. “Lantiseptic---its not just for backsides anymore!”  

Day 3 got off to a slow start. Mike and I decided to skip the hotel’s free breakfast and go to the McDonalds about a quarter mile away. We got there right as it opened at 6:00am. As we rolled out of town, Mike got our only flat of the ride.  All told it took us about an hour to cover the first mile of day 3. Neither Mike nor I had a lot of energy, so we made pretty slow progress on the morning of Day 3.  Early on the route featured a series of tough but not huge climbs. We made steady but slow progress over the hills. We finished the early portion of the day with numerous crossings of  the Juniata River in and around Mount Union, Pennsylvania. By now the temperature had risen and several riders were showing signs of struggling with the heat. At the Sheetz in Mount Union several randonneurs were hanging out trying to load up on food and fluids. As there was no seating, most of us were sitting on the floor near the ATM to take advantage of the air conditioning.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the highlights of the EM1240 was only a few miles away.

Shortly after leaving the control, we climbed a long climb only to immediately turn a corner and descend back to the river we had just crossed. We then immediately turned and started climbing Sugar Grove Road. Someone had painted the words “Oh My!” on the roadway immediately after the corner. The road was beautiful as we climbed up a valley along a rushing creek. The first couple of miles were relatively gradual and lots of fun. We then turned a sharp right hand corner and the road seemed to be hanging vertically from the sky. I was instantly forced into my lowest gear, a 39 x 33. I was standing, going as hard as I could and moving at speeds between 3.5 and 4.5 mph. I wasn’t alert enough to clock the distance on this climb but I’m pretty sure it was about 2 miles. After the steep section, we had a couple more miles of uphill trending road before getting to a secret control. As we rolled in, I was absolutely pumped. That was one of the most amazing and hard climbs I have ever done. I was thinking that the ride organizer should have a volunteer at the top of the climb handing out medals to anyone who climbed the hill without stopping. The first hill was after the secret control was a different story. I tried to pedal up a tiny, gradual hill that could not have been more than a quarter mile long. Unfortunately, there was NOTHING in the legs. I almost ground to a stop. Fortunately, my legs did recover some over the next few miles.

My second major bonk of the ride came a short time later on Route 26 into State College. I was tired enough that I found the traffic to be absolutely annoying. We were on a steadily rolling road with about an 18 inch shoulder and lots of traffic. The more tired I got the worse it seemed. By the time we got to the last big climb of the day to an overlook above State College, I was in a downright foul mood. I was slogging along at 4 or 5 mph and struggling to keep the bike stable enough to stay on the shoulder as a steady stream of cars sped by.  My mood got even worse when the group I was in somehow cruised past the control and coasted another 2 miles before realizing their mistake. I should have caught the mistake myself but I was in pretty bad shape. A valuable lesson learned-no matter how tired you are or what size group you are in, every randonneur has to pay attention to the cue sheet. Like in Lamar, I employed the rando cure for a bonk, buy every kind of food you can get your hands on and eat as much as possible. I think the meal was beef jerky, potato chips, coke, and a candy bar. I would have added a sandwich of some sort, but the store didn’t have that option.

The rest of the days ride back to Lewisburg was pretty uneventful. A few miles of rolling hills, a late night informational control and a long gradual run back into town.  We decided on 4 hours of sleep.

The start of Day 4 saw Mike and I back at the McDonald’s for a déjà vu breakfast.   Our timing was perfect because the Olsen group rolled by just as we were pulling out. For most of the next 25 miles, we rode in a group of 9 riders.  Much of this section was flat along the Susquehanna River so being in a group let us make really good time.  By the time we did the long, gradual climb along an abandoned coal mine the group was reduced to Mark, Mike, Bill and I. Mark and Bill decided to stop for an early lunch. Before leaving them, I asked Mark about the upcoming climb I could see on the cue sheet. Bill’s response was that it wasn’t a big deal. “You probably won’t even notice it.” I would remind Bill of those words later.

As we rode through Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, there were lots of detour and construction signs. I became a little concerned about whether we were on the right course so I stopped and asked a pedestrian if this was the right way to Highway 645. She confirmed we were on the right road but added “but I don’t think you want to ride your bike there.”  Within a couple of miles, the road went from gradually climbing to straight up. Another rider later told me that the climb was 1.75 miles long with grades between 14% and 18%. I had everything I could do to keep from tipping over. At the time, I wasn’t very happy about having a climb this hard show up at mile 700 of a 770 mile event.  I certainly noticed the climb!

The remainder of Day 4 was filled with more climbing but no huge mountains. As promised by past riders, the climbing continued right into Quakerstown. There were two mile long climbs in the last 15 or 20 miles of the event but they were generally pretty manageable after all we had been through. The ride ended with an 8 mile section on a busy highway to the hotel. The first half of that stretch was pretty dicey with lots of traffic and a non-usable shoulder. The second half kept the traffic but added a nice, paved 10 foot wide shoulder.

I arrived back at the hotel with Mike at 8:44pm on Sunday for a total time of 88 hours and 44 minutes for the 1240 kilometers.


I am writing this report about a week after the event so my thoughts on the Endless Mountains have mellowed dramatically. However, even a week later, the word “relentless” keeps coming to mind when I think of this ride. There are very few sections of this ride which don’t feature lots of climbing. The scenery on the route is first rate.  For most of four days, I enjoyed the sights of deep, wooded valleys, mist covered mountains, beautiful rivers and streams, and rolling green farmlands.  Although this ride was brutally hard, it was also very rewarding. I think I felt better about finishing Endless Mountains than about any other ride I have ever done.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Day 3 in the Books

Today's ride was 190 miles and took 18.5 hours. Highlights were an insane climb on Sugar Grove Hill that went on for about 6 miles with 1--2 miles steeper than Rose Hill in BRF. Other highlights included wearing my Badger jersey through State College and multiple crossings of the Juanita river.
Tomorrow looks doable. Starting around 7:15.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 9, 2013

Road near Pine Creek State Park

Pine Creek, PA

Day 2 summary

Today was supposed to be an easier day. Most of the day was gentler terrain but there were a couple of sections of extreme rollers. These were a Half mile long descents followed immediately by a steep, steep climb of the same length. We got caught in two heavy showers. As a result my feet are in bad shape from being in wet shoes all day. I think they will be ok by tomorrow. We plan to get 3.5 hours of sleep and leave by 5:45. Tomorrow is about 190 miles with lots of tough climbs. We now get extra time so things are looking pretty good to complete the ride. Bed time.

Sent from my iPhone

Fly down- grind up!

Raining hard. Waiting for a bit

Friday, August 2, 2013

Endless Mountains Followers Guide

This year's 1200K adventure starts on Thursday, August 8th at 4:00am in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. As I have done for my past 1200K's, I will be posting as much information as I can during the ride for anyone interested in riding vicariously through the mountains of northeastern Pennslyvania.  I will try to post as often as I can but it will depend a lot on how my energy levels hold up.

Endless Mountains is 770 miles long with approximately 60,000 feet of climbing. To be an official finisher, I need to finish by 1:00am on Monday, August 12th.

I will be using my SPOT locator during the ride. To check out where I'm at, follow this link:

There is lots of information about Endless Mountains at the official ride website.(

Link to the route map:

The route profile looks intimidating to say that least:

There is also an official rider tracking site at this link:

I've trained pretty hard to get ready for Endless Mountains. By the end of the week, we should know if its enough.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BRF Randonneur Weekend

This past weekend the Minnesota Randonneurs made their second annual trek to Black River Falls for a full weekend of brevets and socializing.  As a prelude to the weekend, Rob, the Minnesota RBA came in to town on Friday afternoon. We did a brisk 30 mile ride on one of my favorite training loops.  We had a good time but the real fun was on deck for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturdays options included a 300K (188 mile) loop through Pepin or a 200K (127 mile) loop through Coon Valley. I opted for the 300K as part of my training push for the Endless Mountains 1240K randonnee. Six other riders also thought the 300K was a good idea. Seven riders decided to do the 200K route through the Coulees to Coon Valley.

We could not have asked for a better day. Temperatures were comfortable, only rising to the upper 70's, and winds were light. On the 300K, a group of 5 formed right off the bat and ended up riding the entire day together. I rode with Mark O., Jerry C., Jerry H., and Hall S. We had a nice, uneventful day riding over the undulating roads of western Wisconsin. The total route included somewhere around 8,000 or 9,000 feet of climbing. As usual, the Harley motorcycles were out in force along the River Road, just to keep things interesting. At various points in the day I seemed to be approaching a bonk, but managed to eat and drink my way through it each time. Our group ended up rolling into the finish, which was conveniently located at my house, just before 8:00pm for a total elapsed time of 13 hours and 54 minutes.
Heather and the girls had been working hard all day and has an awesome party set up to greet finishing riders. There was a big spread of food, pop and beer. The girls also made a Welcome sign congratulating riders.
By the time our group finished the 300K, the 200K finishers were enjoying beer, burgers, brats, and stories from the road. I think everyone had a lot of fun spending hours talking about our sport and whatever topics popped up. For me personally, there are other riders that I normally only see at the start of a ride before the power away from me.  The chance to kick back and talk with these Randonneurs  was lots of fun.
Sunday was a whole new day. To start with I only got about 5 hours of sleep because I didn't think it was right for the host to not be awake to greet the final 300K finisher. I ended up getting to bed shortly after midnight.  I had entertained thoughts of switching to the 100K cruise option for Sunday but Mark O., who is also signed up for Endless Mountains, persuaded me to ride the 200K route instead. Not even a forecast promising widespread rain could dissuade us.
As it turned out, our Saturday group (minus Jerry C.) reformed for the Sunday ride. We started on a nice, cool morning that stayed dry through the first 40-ish miles. Fortunately a light rain started just as we arrived in Foster for the first control. As we were getting ready to roll out into the drizzle, the thunder and lightning started. A quick look at the radar on my smartphone showed a large, ugly storm bearing down on us. We voted 3-1 (Mark will ride through anything) to wait around and monitor the weather for a while. Within minutes, it was raining hard enough to pull cars off the interstate and fill up the gas station. Once the thunder and lightning stopped, we left Foster, even though it was still raining hard.  All told, we had a 55 minute control.
The rain continued for the next 50 miles or so, before the sky finally lightened and the sun came out. I actually seemed stronger as the ride went on. By the time we got back to BRF, I was riding better than I had all weekend. Hopefully, that's a good sign for Endless Mountains.
   Endless Mountains starts on August 8th in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. The ride is reputed to be one of the hardest 1200K's on the calendar, featuring aroung 60,000 feet of climbing. I feel like I have done everything I can do to be ready. Now we'll have to just give it a shot and see what happens. I plan to post updates to this site throughout the ride (at least as long as I stay coherent). I also will be using the SPOT locator to update my position to anyone interested in following along.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Another 300k, Another Windy Day

I signed up for the Great Lakes Randonneurs 300K to be ridden on Saturday, May 11th. As the day approached the weather forecast started looking familiar. The weatherman said we could expect temps in the upper 50's or lower 60's. The problem was winds, like 20-25 mph winds from the west-northwest. Not exactly good news on a route that travelled west and northwest for the first 101 miles.

At registration, I ran into long-time rando friends, Bob Booth and Michele Borugher. I decided it would be fun to spend the day riding with, and catching up with them.
The first 45 miles to the Broadhead control. Bob, Michele, and I spent lots of time sharing stories from our recent road adventures and mingling with the riders doing the 200K which shared the route to the first control. We arrived in Broadhead to find a convenience store swamped by randonneurs.
The ride from Broadhead to New Glarus got WINDY and hilly. The combination of hills and winds dropped out average speed to some very pedestrian type numbers. Several times wind gusts dropped my speed to 5 or 6 miles per hour and we needed to pedal down all but the steepest downhills. By the time we arrived in New Glarus at mile 72, the tank was in deparate need of refueling. Someday it would be really nice to arrive in New Glarus without feeling like I've been run over by a truck.
The trek from New Glarus to Barneveld was more of the same. Big hills, big winds, and dwindling energy. I felt like I was approaching a bonk when we finally arrived in Barneveld at mile 101. We arrived just 60 minutes before the close of the control. Fortunately, a long, refueling break and a switch to tailwinds was just what the doctor ordered.
The trip back to Delavan by way of Oregon and Edgerton was largely uneventful. Our group did pick up Andrew C., who rode the last 75 miles or so with us. We finished at 12:24 am for a "blistering" 300K time of 17 hours and 24 minutes. That was my slowest time for a 300K by a substantial margin. At the finish, super-domestique, Melissa, was waiting with a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada.
 All in all, it was a fun and challenging day.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brevet Season ..... sort of

As I sit writing this it's snowing like crazy here in Black River Falls. We probably have 3 inches on the ground and it looks like it's not going to let up for a while. This has been one crazy "spring". However, even with the protracted winter, there have been chances to get out on the bike. To this point I have just over 500 miles in for the year. I've also done both of my 100K permanent routes and have completed a 300K brevet (admittedly, that one required driving to Kansas City). In other words, the "spring" hasn't been a total loss.

As I said I drove to Kansas City for the April 5th 300K starting in Oak Grove, Missouri. I had made plans with my friend, Spencer, to come down and join him and his gang for this ride back in January. At that point I figured we would have a fairly normal spring and I would have plenty of base miles in to get through an early season 300K. OOPS! The week before the ride I waffled back and forth on whether it made sense to spend 8 hours each way to do a ride that I was in no way prepared for. In the end I decided to just and give it a shot. I figured that when I got dropped, I would just slog in by myself.

I arrived in Kansas City the night before the ride with a grand total of 260 miles for the season. Not exactly a large base for a 194 mile ride. Waking up the morning of the ride, the wind was immediately evident. Not breezes twinkling the leaves, but real wind. When I checked the Weather Channel the winds were listed at 20 mph at 5:30am. This was the kind of wind that was pushing shopping carts around the parking lot and knocking over bikes.

Nineteen riders lined up for the 6:00 am start. The ride was to ride generally east for 95ish miles and then return by the same course. On the way out the wind was mostly a cross wind. This was the kind of cross wind that made it hard to control the bike. I found it was nearly impossible to take a hand off the bars to eat or adjust clothing. I rode with Spencer across the Missouri River and out to the turnaround in Fayette, Missouri in reasonably good shape. As bad as the wind was on the way out, the main talk at the turnaround was about how hard the return trip was going to be. Spencer and I joined up with 4 other riders for the start back. As predicted the wind was a real force to be reckoned with. Crossing the 7 or 8 miles of the Missouri River floodplain, I really struggled to keep moving over 10 miles per hour. There were several stretches where I was topping out at a speedy 8 mph. At the controls, the local riders were trying to keep their spirits up with the encouraging news that the forecast called for the headwinds to drop to 18mph at 4pm or 5pm or was it 6pm. In any event, the winds did not really drop significantly until it got dark around 9pm.  We did finally finish as a group of 6 at 11:02- for a 17 hour and 2 minute time. Thats a really slow 300K, but given the conditions and the lack of training, I was pretty satisfied.
Part of the crew enjoying the rando lifestyle in Marshall, Missouri.

On Saturday, April 13th, I decided to ride my Whitetail Wander 119K permanent. This ride is one of my favorites for a good, hard ride when time is limited. I waited until 11:30am to let things warm up a little bit. The temperatures never did get very warm. I think it was about 31 degrees when I started and got up to around 35 for a high. Throughout the day, I had periods of strong (not Missouri strong) headwinds, short sleet showers and the occasional snow flurries. Not exactly a great day to be out on a bike but I did get a decent workout in.
This is my bike parked near Lake Lee in Millston. At least the ice fishing shacks are off the lake. Real Spring can't be that far away.

I ended up finishing the ride in 5 hours and 44 minutes. Thats a pretty slow time but it's still early.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back - - - Looking Ahead

The New Years Holiday provides a great chance to look back at the adventures of the year gone past and look forward to the challenges that await.
Looking Back

2012 was a great year of cycling for me. I finished the year with 5615 miles, 3 more than last year. Its kind of funny that I could ride two full seasons and without planning it at all end up with almost exactly the same number of miles. Additionally, I finished 2012 with 6312 kilometers in RUSA sanctioned events.  The highlight of my cycling year was a successful completion of the Shenandoah 1200K in June. As I detailed at the time, the ride was a tour of the mountains and beautiful backroads of Virginia. Other highlights of 2012 included the first ever ACP sanctioned brevets held in Black River Falls, Wisconsin and my first serious foray into ride organization as the Director of the Upper Midwest Fleche Get Together held in May.

Looking Ahead
2013 promises to just as interesting. Early on New Years morning, I was among the first to register for the Endless Mountains 1240K ride to be held in Eastern Pennsylvania in August. Apparently, my post-Shenandoah statements about never riding another mountainous 1200K didn't register. It could be that I have a serious case of randonnesia. In any event, Endless Mountains is probably the only US grand randonnee which can legitimately claim to be harder than Shenandoah.
I am also setting a goal of 5500 total miles and at least 5500 kilometers in RUSA sanctioned events. Stay tuned!
Happy New Years!!