Thursday, January 24, 2013

Second January Century Attempt

Today was the day I made my second January century attempt. The way things were shaking out with my schedule, it was looking like this was my last chance, too. Had to make it a good one.

I ended up hitting the road at 8:16 am, about 30 minutes before my last attempt. In addition to leaving at a better time, the temperature was more favorable this time around. At my time of departure, the temperature was about 29 degrees, and it was actually sunny. It was shaping up to be a good ride.

I had no idea where the hell I wanted to spend the next 100 miles, so I started to head toward my favorite surface: gravel. That is, to the north and east. I did about 15 miles of gravel before I decided that I didn't want to spend any more time slogging through gravel. Typically the gravel of western Weld county is pretty firm and allows for good speed, but not today. I was having a hard time cruising at 14 mph. Once I got back on pavement, I saw an immediate improvement in my speed. This convinced me that gravel was out for the day.

At this time I decided upon a destination: I would take the Poudre Trail all the way to Greeley. As I had never been on it outside of Fort Collins, I thought today would be a good opportunity, since I am not in the shape for a lot of elevation. After getting to Windsor, I spend some time trying to find a trail-head, but no such luck. I ended up stopping at the library to get some directions - found out I was only a few blocks away from a good place to get on.

For the first 45 miles of the ride I was feeling great. It was before noon, I was making good time, and my legs were feeling fairly fresh. Most importantly, it hadn't gotten too hot yet, so I was also comfortable.

The trail surface was in very good condition for its entire length from Windsor to Greeley. Every bump or hole in the cement had spray paint indicating it would be fixed in the future. I was not expecting such a well cared for trail. Most of the trail follows right along-side the Poudre River. This provided for a very scenic ride. In addition to the river providing scenery, looking to the west provided a great view of the mountains.

When I got to Greeley I had hoped to explore the city a little bit, but the path disappeared into the city. I figured it wasn't worth my time to find what I was looking for, so I doubled back to head home. It was pretty interesting to ride over cattle guards on a bike path. This was a first for me. Gotta keep these guys in somehow, though.

The last 30 miles ended up being quite the drag. As good as I felt for the first 45 miles, I felt that bad for the last 30. But I was eventually able to slog home. I hope to be in better shape for the rest of the centuries for the year.

Miles: 100.38
Riding Time: 6:36:51
Elapsed Time: 7:45:00

Sunday, January 20, 2013

First January Century Attempt

I had decided right around New Year's that I wanted to attempt the Century-A-Month Challenge. After looking at my schedule for the month, it looked like Saturday the 12th would be the best day to attempt my January century. Looking at the weather forecast, I learned it was going to be the coldest day of 2013 up to that point. The forecast was calling for a high approaching 20, with a low of about 7. No worries, I thought, I'll just look that much tougher when I actually complete it.

Since I had previously commuted in temperatures as low as -4, I didn't think it would be that crazy to do 100 miles in warmer temperatures. I guess I forgot that my commutes were only 6.5 miles, and how cold I really was on them.

I began the day by leaving the apartment at about 8:15 in the morning, 15 minutes later than I wanted. Not a big deal. After I got my bike ready for the day, it was 8:25. Then I was having MAJOR issues clipping in. It was so bad I almost gave up and went back to bed. Took me about 10 minutes to be able to clip in, and that was no easy feat. It wasn't for a couple hours that clipping in became easy again. Not a good start.

Hey look! - this is where I biffed.
Once I got moving, though, things were going pretty well. I had a 14.5 mph goal in mind for the ride, and during the coldest part of the day I was exceeding that. That good feeling didn't last very long. At about mile 15 I was riding on a bike path in Boyd Lake State Park. There was a light dusting of snow on the trail, maybe a 1/4 of an inch - just enough to give the path a nice coating. I took a corner too fast, as if it was a clear summer day. Down I go. Nothing major, just slid out on the drive-train side of the bike. All I got out of this was a bit of snow on my pants, and a lesson reinforced. Not a good first hour and a half of the ride.

My plan was to do about 55-60 miles before I stopped home, ate lunch, and warmed up a bit. But because I under dressed my feet, I had to take my break after just 46 miles. My toes were so numb it was as if I came from the doctor's office. I spent about 45 minutes at home getting warm and eating lunch. Changed shoes, too.

The second half started out as well as it could. I hit the road again at about 1:00 pm, and it was as warm as it was going to get for the day. This good feeling lasted about 20 miles. After that I started to get very cold very fast. On top of being cold, I was becoming physically exhausted because I hadn't been riding much for the past month. By this point my cruising speed had slowed to barely 14 mph. And that was pushing it. But I was at about 70 miles, so I just told myself "only 3 more 10 mile segments." Wouldn't have normally been difficult to finish, but by this point it took all I had just to stay on the bike.

At about mile 77 I decided I was going to stop at a 7-11 to get some hot dogs and Gatorade. Once I left the bike path, I noticed my back tire was a little wider than normal. I stop and notice it's completely flat. I had the stuff to change the tube, but by this point I was too demoralized and cold to have the will-power to change the tube. In a lot of ways, I was glad I flatted, because all I could think about was giving up. I'm not sure how I would have handled 23 more miles of fighting the urge to give up. I walked to the 7-11 where I waited for my wife to pick me up as I ate two hot dogs.

Total miles: 77.49
Riding time: 5:30
Elapsed time: 8:20

I later found out from Colorado State's weather station that the temperature at 8:30 am was 7 degrees, and the high for the day was 15. It snowed lightly a couple of times and the wind was blowing fairly hard for parts of the ride. This was probably the most difficult physical feat I have attempted, just because of the added difficulty of the cold. I learned that maybe, just maybe, I should try to pick a day with more favorable weather instead of settling for looking tough. As it stands, that was my second longest ride, but that small victory feels hollow.

I was planning on making my second attempt for my January century yesterday, but I was not able to. Instead I had to settle for 41 miles before and after my engagement. There are only two more days in January that I do not work - the 24th and 31st. The weather will be beautiful on the 24th, so I have high hopes that it will work out. 

Welcome to My Blog

The purpose of this blog is for me to discuss in great detail the esoteric things that I do. The focus of the blog will be on any adventure that I have with my bike, since that is my current obsession. I have been riding a bike since I was a kid, but only recently have I become more serious about it.

2011 was my first full year of bicycle commuting full-time. It was a very satisfying year of cycling, and I learned a lot. Very few of my total miles were non-commuting. Just south of 90% of my miles were what I call replacement miles - miles for which I rode my bike for a purpose: commuting to work, getting groceries, visiting a friend, etc. Looking at the spreadsheet, there was really only one long ride that I did for pleasure, not book-ending a day at work. This was a 63 mile ride sometime in June (okay, the 25th). I thought I was going to do a lot of long rides like that one, but that was it. I ended the year with 3,004 miles.

2012 was a much different year. Because of a recent move and job change, my commute went from 12.8 miles round trip to 1.29. Initially I set a mileage goal for the year of 2,500 miles. Based on the first two months (220 miles combined), this seemed pretty realistic. Then I did over 600 miles in each of the next two months. I didn't do 600 miles/month for the rest of the year, but did finish the year with 4,225 miles. The makeup of these miles were very different than 2011. Beginning in April,  I really increased my long distances frequency. From April to August, I averaged 34, 45, 64, 52, and 41 miles per ride in each month respectively. Only 11.5% of my total miles were replacement.

I ended up with 17 rides greater than 50 miles (after two ever previously), including three rides 70+ miles and one century. Additionally, 42 rides between 30 and 50 miles. I was very happy with these numbers. I had exceeded all my expectations for mileage and learned a lot along the way. But I want more for 2013.

Goals for 2013 are as follows.

  • 5,200 total miles. I really like the idea of 100 miles/week,.
  • Century-a-Month Challenge.
  • All-gravel trip to the Pawnee Buttes.
  • Ride to and get a card at every library within 50 miles.
  • At least one other multiple day, self-sustained tour.

I don't really see having a problem with getting 5,200 miles, based on what I did (and didn't do) last year. January, February, and December were weak last year (306 total miles). August was pretty weak at only 203 miles. Now that I think about it, the entire summer was just okay. Although I did a lot of long rides, I didn't ride with much frequency. Between June, July, and August, I totaled 17 rides. During the three prime months of the year I only rode 887 miles, when I could have easily done double that. Because I left so much on the table during so much of the year, I should be able to hit 5,200 pretty easily. The other goals we will see about. But no matter what happens, this will again be a landmark year of cycling for me.