The Last Brevet of the Season

Big thanks to Theo for offering this pic.

Mt Hood.  Photo by Theo Roffe


The OR RandonneursBikenfest” 200k has been running now for about 6 years.  I’ve had the pleasure of going these last 2 years and I’m hooked.  The landscape just over the Cascades is wonderfully different than that of the wetter, western slopes-coastward.  Dry, alpine and high-desert feels that transform you into another world, so close to home. The Bikenfest’s route changes every year and that keeps it interesting and it’s a wonderful way to welcome the fall, with the leaves changing a bit sooner, especially at higher altitude. It’s often drier, however this year we’ve had a most welcome Indian Summer that looks as though it’s going to end this weekend.  And, it’s the last ACP event of the year.  One last bang, one last push to get in the miles.

Even though I sort of did it “off the couch,” the ride itself went well.  I’ve been working too much and taking care of things around the business as well as some projects that I’ve neglected at the homestead.  Even still, I awoke early, got my things together (i usually do this the night before, but my wife distracted me with dinner and wine) and packed the bike into my buddy Bill’s car.  On the way out to Hood River, we got a flat tire on hwy 84 and set a record for removing bikes, changing the flat and then reloading the car.  We still got to the start in time, but in my haste, I left my wallet and phone safely in Bill’s car.  I didn’t realize this until the group got onto hwy 84 (this year’s alternative to the path that runs adjacent to the highway because of wildfire closures)  What a sure-fire way to ensure a finish: no money, no phone to call it in.  Either that, or turn back early, but since I was on a freeway, the idea of going the wrong way was not in the books.

The route headed east to the Dalles and then made its way into the ranchlands southeast of the Dalles.  Gently rolling hills of wheat, grazing cattle and the occaisional horse back rancher combined with the occaisional spectacular views of Mt Hood created a magnificent setting to a grand finale of a ride.  The miles passed quickly for the first half and I caught the lead group as they were wrapping up their stop.  Theo loaned me a $20 and I got enough provisions for pretty much the rest of the ride and headed out, hot on their heels.  I stayed with Theo, chatting and ultimately realizing that I was pushing too fast, since he was trying to catch up to Dell S, who in turn was trying to catch up to Vincent S.  I cracked about 6 miles outside of Dufur, at the start of a lengthy climb.  I suffered up the next 14 or so miles to very near the top. Stopping too much and grinding up an otherwise very pleasant grade.  Towards the top Susan and Kevin caught up to me and kept me company on and off for the final miles to the summit and onward into Parkdale.  They arrived in Parkdale before I did and I missed where they had stopped for a late lunch.  Keeping my stop brief, I left town before them and didn’t see another rider until arriving at the finish, just a bit over 10 hours after the start.  Not bad for little mileage this year and for having about 8500′ of elevation over the 200k course. Now it’s time to focus on shorter rides that are more convivial and exploratory, likely involving a coffee stop or some such luxury.  During the coming seasons is when I start dreaming of new rides, new adventures and improvements in gear.

I hope this autumn and winter find you all well.

Flèche Report, 2011

Another successful flèche is under our belt.  Robert, Chris, Dylan and I teamed up to see how far we could go in 24 hours.  We had a blast.  We were heckled, rained upon, fought sleep and told way too many bad jokes.  We collaborated on a story that you can read over at the Cyclos Montagnards website.

Personally, I want to do more 24 hour rides this summer with friends.  It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a long ride.

The Road to Recovery.

Well, Knee surgery (repaired meniscus) went off without a hitch.  I started cycling again this week and it feels great to get the blood moving after sitting on the couch for most of the last 6 weeks.  I lost about 2 inches girth on the affected leg compared to the other one and that looks kinda weird, but it will come back.

Jan Heine posted something over at his blog about preparing for the 2011 season here.  I pretty much outlined what I’m doing on my last post, so I’m not going into that here.  I would like to add that Physical therapy has me doing many things that improve core strength and hip flexibility, something I think is important for any cyclist.  I feel its important to note that core-strength doesn’t mean sit-ups as that only addresses a different set of singular muscles.  Core-Strength is about the equal balance of your body’s trunk muscles.

For hip flexibility, I also like to include the “grok squat,” especially during pauses on long rides.  I think I’m also going to take up running soon.

What about your plans and training for next year?

How to Train for a Time on a Brevet?

I’ve recently been in touch with a few people asking about how to train for a brevet.  Some of this questioning is based around speed, but since speed only comes with experience, I wanted to start this off from the ground up, so to speak.

First, you need some way to build base miles. Once you build some base miles it is of this riders opinion to do a number of 200k’s and couple 300k’s in the first years of randonneuring.  This allows you to find solutions for difficult things such as feeding, hydrating, managing time at stops, etc…  I’ve been randonneuring for about 4 years now and at this point for me, training means riding my bike to and from work year round.  Currently that trip is about 7 miles each way.  That results in about 70 miles biked per week.  This is before I run errands, go meet friends after work for a cocktail or snacks, or any weekend riding.  For me, this is a pretty good base from which to build longer mileage on.  If we are using the Spring brevet season as our goal, I like to start adding longish weekend rides about mid-December.  Somewhere in the neighborhood 100k gets me out long enough and yet, not too long that I feel like the short days of winter are encroaching on my social life during the holiday season.  I also try to go out when the weather’s not too bad during these winter months as it helps my mood to enjoy at least some intermittent sunshine.

By the end of February, after biking on average per month about 450 plus miles, I start concentrating on longer rides.  The Spring Brevets are perfect for this if I stick with the plan of commuting and adding a longer ride every few weeks or so.  About the time the 200k rolls around, I’ll start working on things like hill-climbing.  Basically, at this point in the season, for me I just push hard on the hills en route to work.  I try not to shift out of the gear that I’m in and just drive hard up the short hill.  This little effort pays dividends after a few weeks.  I notice that my ability to climb is greatly increased and my stamina for longer hills is much higher.  I also seek out hilly routes during the longer weekend rides.

Next, I start to get more disciplined.  There is a hill (actually, an active volcano within the city limits of Portland) that I try and work into my commute once or twice a week.  This adds negligible distance, but the added hill-climb, while putting out a hard effort, continues to increase my climbing capabilities.  I might do this once at high effort, or I might do it 2-3 times, depending on how I feel.  Even just once at a time, I notice the difference in the coming brevets.  I usually work this into my commute, but its close enough that if I just want to do a little weekend riding, this will suffice.

I could get more disciplined than that and do something like Tabata Sprints.  Next year is PBP and I hope to ride strong, so I’m going to need to be a bit more disciplined.  In the above link, the excercises are geared towards running, but the concept could easily be translated into cycling training.  From my limited understanding of the subject, these high efforts, followed by brief rest, then repeating, essentially triggers a reaction in your body’s neurology that shows there are higher demands being placed on the body than before.  The body, in sort of a “hey, I’ve got to improve if I want to survive” reaction then uses the available energy stores to develop a stronger, more efficient response to the demands being placed on it.  This works out to more stamina, higher output, and stronger riding.  Resting and recovering afterwards is equally as important as doing the strenuous excercise.

Of course, doing anything like this, it’s important to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.  Talk to your doctor before going hard near your heart rate’s capacity.

If you have a goal of completing a Super Randonneur, then you can use the above and get through it pretty well.  If, however, you have a late summer 1000k or 1200, then you can’t stop at the 600k.   The endurance from doing distances is already built in, so its even more important at this point to work on speedwork.  Couple this with a few longish rides at maximum effort and your body realizes its efficiency stores.  It’s important not to over do it and you should get adequate rest between maximum efforts to let your body recover and grow.

So, to wrap-up, work on distance endurance (base mileage) then work on hill-climbs and speedwork. Don’t worry too much if the first brevets aren’t as fast as you’d like them to be.  Speed will come with experience.  In stead, just enjoy the riding and the new friendships and take mental notes of what needs to change the next time around.

Anyone else wish to chime in with training tips for brevets?

Windy Ridge 600 or was it RAMROD

Sept 11 2009, Friday. I awoke at 08:30, my typical time, got out of bed and did my usual routine of coffee, cruising the internet, and munching. What’s different about that day is I needed to get ready for the SIR Fall 600k. Format and print route sheet, last minute packing and weather checking, ad infinitum.

My nerves were hitting me pretty good, I had been nursing a head-cold for about the last three weeks and I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to pedaling 375 miles after biking about 28 miles to the start. Nine PM start. As in, I had all day to ruminate on how I was feeling, the amount of climbing and anything else that wandered into my mind. Mentally, it was a bit of a challenge. Usually for a morning start you have an opportunity to sleep to pass the time so you’re not worrying about what you’re about to do.
Packing was interesting. I would be riding to the start in daylight, a first, and it would also require that I have all my extra clothes, all my calories, all my spare gear etc… to fit into my handlebar bag and seat bag. It was a challenge to get all that into about 15 liters of space.
12:00. I was at the Amtrak Station in Portland a bit later than I had hoped but still made it in plenty of time to catch the train, check my bike, and settle into my seat. I tried napping a bit but only managed probably about 5 minutes or so. Arrived a few minutes late into Tacoma and lost a Stainless Steel water bottle after forgetting it on the train for a few minutes. Oh well, its a good thing the most common way to find water these days is in its own container.
Traffic was interesting leaving Tacoma. Most drivers were courteous but there were a couple of instances that reminded me that people often forget social graces when it comes to cyclists. I’m not a living being capable of being harmed, I’m just an object that is in one’s way. Nothing major happened, just little things that make you wonder what people think about when they see their fellow human on a bicycle.
Enumclaw, WA was smaller than anticipated. On the way to, I was thinking about what to eat and invariably passed by several places that would have been very serviceable but I passed them all thinking that Enumclaw would have more to offer. I settled on a decent, but expensive, pizza place and got more than my fill. I still had a couple hours until the start, so I went into the Safeway to grab my last minute shopping needs and an Americano from the Starbucks.
21:00. Just after some pre-ride announcements and a bike inspection, fourteen riders were off into the night. The pace was great, I was at the front with Dan Boxer, chatting away as we rotated with the other riders taking alternating pulls for the first 50 miles or so. But about then is when I started feeling fatigued. About then is when the climbing starts. I backed off the pace and very slowly realized over the next 25 miles that I was in no real shape to do this ride. Sure mentally I was fine. I just couldn’t make my body feel the same way. I did make it to Paradise, which was a lovely climb on a beauty of a grade, but my body protested the whole way up. My damn head-cold was showing signs of still fighting my immune system. The climb, in spite of my general fatigue, was perfect. Hearing the rushing river beside me at times and at others, seeing the half-moon lighting up Mt Rainier were well worth the effort. At Paradise I decided to call it in. But I kept going on the route. I arrived at Backbone Ridge just as the sun was coming up and to see Rainier in that light, with the splendid colors and just the sheer texture of the mountain were inspirational. Well worth it. Eventually I pretty much did the RAMROD route over Cayuse Pass and into Enumclaw. I counted about five 20 minute catnaps and about 17 hours total to complete the 250 kms back to the hotel in Enumclaw. 15 hours of sleep, several beers and a few finishing riders later, I was feeling better.
In the hotel, I got to chat with Jan Heine, Kole Kantner and Ryan Hamilton, a real highlight of the trip. After breakfast with Jan and Kole, Kole and I set out to make the 75 km trip back to Seattle. The time passed quickly with Kole’s company and went great except for a minor navigational error that left us on a dead end into a quarry and a stiff headwind as we approached Lake Washington from the Southeast. I was meeting my wife and expecting a night on the town, Kole was headed home.
While I find it a bit difficult to manage to actually eat solid foods during long rides, afterwards I have a voracious appetite. We went to Feierabend, good German biers on tap and fried food. Then back to the hotel for a nap and an evening at Caffé Presse. I enjoy the meals that are met with good conversation and a very leisured pace and this meal was no exception. Given the time, all major meals of the day should take several hours to get through, but alas, we have our obligations outside of eating.
All in all, a wonderful weekend, even if it didn’t go as planned.