Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gila River Valley 200k

Every year, I try to get out to a brevet in a different area. I feel that the exploratory notion of randonneuring can’t be met if you just keep doing the same rides, year in and year out.  The Gila River Valley 200k came up rather quickly, but seemed like a good idea to get out to for a fast 200K in new area.

This ride is relatively flat.  It doesn’t climb more than 200-300 feet at a time over 5-10 miles.  The challenge with this ride is the wind.  Apparently the wind in Phoenix is a little unpredictable, and this year’s ride was no exception.

Prior to the ride, I got in touch with some of the local riders and one of them, Gerry, offered to put me up for a couple nights.  His wife made me feel like I was staying at a resort – thick, soft towels; shampoo and soap set out in different locations; and she even left me some dental floss!  Thanks Sandy!

I arrived later than expected on Friday night (I didn’t realize there was a time change), and we were up at 4:30am to hit the road.  Not a problem…I had been sleeping well the week before the ride so I was fresh even at the early hour!

I wanted to ride this one fast – my goal was to beat 7:30 – and set a new, personal best for myself.  I knew several of the riders who would be showing up. Gerry was on his Bacchetta CA2.0, David B. was on the CA2.0 we built up for him last spring, Carlton was a familiar face from some of the PCH events, and Lonnie Wollf from Utah kept me company for a few miles in our January 200k.

Since I wasn’t expecting any fast descents, I went with the most aerodynamic set of wheels I had – a set of Zipp Firecrest 404s with a wheel disk cover on the back.  I didn’t bother with any lights and kept the bike as uncluttered as possible.

It was cold at the start!  My Garmin read mid-30s, but I think it was really in the low 40s.  From the get-go, we were off like a cannon.  I lead the paceline with Gerry and David right behind me for the first 8-10 miles.  The sun rose and it started warming up as we headed south towards Sacaton.  The first 25 miles flew by, but David and I stopped to pee and the lead group got away from us.

The first climb (if you can call it that) was outside of Sacaton.  We could see one or two riders ahead of us, and as we crested the climb we passed both of them.  This was the first part of the course that was “scenic”.  You need to understand, Dave and Gerry prepared me for looking at dirt all day. Actually, I have found that as I have gotten older, I appreciate the desert more and more, and I found this course quite beautiful.  The cactus waved at us in their variety of contorted shapes, hawks combed the skies for some breakfast, and tumbleweed frequently rolled across the road.

After the brief ascent, we bombed down into Casa Grande to the second control (the first was the start line).  At that point, we caught up with the lead group, and we all proceeded out together to discover the wonderful pavement in and around Casa Grande.  In a word, it sucked!  We left town and started heading SE on Main St. on rough pavement and into a slight headwind out of the east.  We tucked into a paceline, but it seemed rather dis-jointed.  It kept breaking apart and I couldn’t figure out why.  After a brief pull for a couple miles, I settled in the back with Gerry and Dave.

We finally arrived in Eloy, our third control at mile 51.  I had a quick snack and then hit the road with five other riders – Carlton, Clint, Michael, Steve, and another rider whose name escapes me.  We were heading due north and I took off.  A few miles down the road, the group caught up with me and I pulled us along at 23mph for about 4 miles.  We then started rotating pulls, but I noticed that every time Clint or Michael got to the front, the speed picked up to 25mph.  This started getting old as our speed bounced back and forth, making it hard for the riders in the back to stay with the group.  Dave and Gerry, who has also caught up, fell off the back rather quickly due to the frequent changes in speed.

A note about riding style – a brevet is not the same as a hammerhead club ride.  Experienced ultra riders know how to pace themselves.  There is no jumping anytime someone passes someone else – if riding in a group everyone tries to work together to minimize effort so the whole group goes faster.  Sometimes, local club riders come out for 200k events, and the conflicting mentalities can cause problems.  It’s not that either group is “right”, rather it is just different styles of riding. When I was pulling the group at 23mph, I was riding at an easy 130-140w, a pace that I could keep for many, many hours.  Pushing up to 200w to stay with the group was a quick way to lose energy and end up burning out.

As we started zigzagging into Coolidge, we could tell that we were going into a stiff headwind out of the east on a very gentle ascent.  I tried staying with the group, but the bouncing paceline kept dumping me off the back (I stayed in the back position so that the DF riders could get the most advantage from the draft – there was no use having me in front given the wind, but I did offer).  I finally decided to ride my own ride and let them go.  The wind had knocked their speed down to about 12mph, while I was going about 11mph, and I watched them disappear slowly down the road.

I didn’t really know how long this wind/road would last, so I just settled into my pace and kept riding.  I expected Dave and Gerry to catch up any time, but they didn’t.  I even stopped for a few minutes to try to pet some horses.  It was warming up into a gorgeous day and I intended to enjoy it at whatever pace I was riding.

The route finally crossed Pinal Pioneer Highway and a mile later, I made the turn onto Diffen Rd. that put the wind to my side.  The course slowly started descending to the next control at mile 85.  The cactus through here started taking on more interesting shapes and the views across the valley were spectacular!  All too soon, I arrived at mile 85 and met up with Thomas, one of the local volunteers who was signing brevet cards.  We chatted for a couple minutes – apparently he spent a lot of time in California doing brevets in the 80s and 90s – and he told me the fast group was only about 10 minutes ahead of me and that Dave and Gerry were 3-4 minutes behind me.  I waited a little longer for Gerry and Dave, but they never materialized.  So I bombed down the mountain, past the Arizona State Prison, into Florence for a quick stop at the Circle K to refill bottles.  The lead group was there and I left with them.

The next 25 miles became a race.  Given the slightly downhill terrain and tailwind, I quickly passed the group, figuring it would be an easy ride back to the finish.  When I saw two riders chasing me, I knew exactly who they were.  Soon enough, Clint and Michael were on my tail, drafting and working to stay with me.  After the first five miles of having them draft without pulling, and getting turn directions from me, I was getting a bit upset.  The course was now zigzagging again, and at every other turn we were either in a cross wind or head wind. It was easy to tell how hard they were working by looking at their open mouths in my mirror as they tried to keep up (keep in mind, I was pulling 130-140w and just moving along nicely).  It was rather entertaining to watch them slowly catch up, at which point I would bump it up to 190-200w for a minute or two and they would disappear again behind me.   I didn’t know if I was going to have to keep this up for five or 25 miles, so I made sure to ride a pace that I could keep indefinitely. After 20 miles of this, they pulled ahead of me and pulled off the road. I assumed someone needed to pee, but quickly turned around to check on them.  They had a flat tire and the tools to fix it, so I continued.

Since the “race” was over, I slowed way down to about 100w and tried to just enjoy the scenery for the last 15 miles.  We were riding through farmland and it was fascinating to see all of the horses, sheep, cows and crops (I didn’t realize that south Phoenix was a farming community).  About five miles from the finish, I nearly stopped at a county fair – the signs advertising fresh pie sounded great after my 7-hour diet of fruit and water.  But I continued on and soon arrived at the finish.  I was the first rider in at 7:27.  The three other riders from the lead group arrived at 7:32 and Clint and Michael arrived at 7:36.

After chatting for a few minutes, Clint and Michael (who were really nice guys) and I went over to the Cantina for some food and drinks.  I had the food, they had the drinks!  We hung out waiting for Gerry and Dave, chatting about the ride and just enjoying a sunny afternoon.  Dave and Gerry arrived at around 8:12 (Gerry beat his time from last year by over 30 minutes – yeah!). We all agreed it was a great course and a great day and I look forward to riding with this group again soon!

Gerry and Steve both wrote excellent ride reports.  Check them out here and here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A couple of good questions from a customer

As the race season picks up, I get more and more questions like this coming through my inbox.  Read on, but please be advised that it gets a bit graphic about external catheters. If you are going to Sebring, have a GREAT race! 

Hi Dana  

I have a Bent Up Cycles Aero bag I can put two bottles of water in, but for a century ride, I need more water. Do you have any ideas how I can carry more?  I’m thinking about riding the century at Sebring on Feb 16.

I rode the Suncoast bike trail last sat - 86 miles – and I had to stop 6 times to pee and only had water for fuel.  How do you ride long distance and carry enough water and how do you take a leak while riding? I lost about 15 min stopping and only had an 16.8mph average speed. Those guys at Sebring will kill me.

Some guys use a hose and I don’t know how to do it.  Do you cut a hole in your shorts and let the hoses go down along shorts or along seat?

I won’t have any help so I have to carry enough water to make it back from the 50 mile turnaround at Sebring.  Do you have any ideas?

Sincerely, RS

Hi RS,

In my experience, many recumbent riders have to pee during the first couple hours of riding.  I guess it is something about the recumbent position that puts pressure on the bladder – I’m not sure, but I know that I will have to pee once or twice in the first 1.5 hours of a ride.  If you are one of the riders that have this issue, there isn't much you can do about it...

Catheters work for some, however, they are not 100% (they can come off and then you have wet shorts).  They fit on like a condom with a hose coming off of the end.  The hose runs down your shorts and then hangs at your side as you ride.  If you go this route, make sure to route the hose on the left side so you are not peeing on your chain.  It also takes some practice, so try it before the event.

Sometimes, if you are riding with a group, everyone may agree to stop together.  Another suggestion is to bolt off the front to get ahead of the group so you don't lose so much time.  However, you have to tell the group that you are doing this. Otherwise, they may take it as an "attack" and try to keep up with you.

Finally, at an event like Sebring, there are going to be many groups racing down the road.  If you lose your group at a stop, just jump on the next one that comes by.

In regards to hydration and nutrition, it is imperative that you have some sort of plan - you cannot ride 100 miles on just water.  There are a variety of powders out there - Hammer Nutrition and Infinit come to mind.  If you are going to try any of these products, race day is NOT the day to do it.  The general rule is you should be consuming 200-300 calories per hour.

Personally, I prefer real food.  I fill each side pocket of my jersey before a long ride - one side gets a mix of raw almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, and if it isn't too hot, some chocolate chips.  The other pocket gets filled with dates.  I can carry 900 calories this way, which is enough to get through a fast century.  I may also stick a piece of fruit or two in my bag.

For an event like Sebring, you should really try to get someone to support you.  Bring some extra bottles with you and ask someone if they don't mind bringing extra bottles out to the turnaround point so you can grab them.  Everyone is pretty friendly there and you shouldn't have a hard time finding someone to help.  Just make sure you know what kind of car they drive and where they will be.  The turnaround is generally the worst place to meet, as everyone else is there.  In 2010, we had our crew set up about a mile before the turnaround.  That way, they saw us as we came by and could get our stuff out.  We then stopped at the car on the way back to get our stuff.  This was a great opportunity to drop off clothing and pee as well.

I hope this helps.  Have a great race!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Carbon 406 rims are in stock!

We have some beautiful new rims in stock!  The 50mm deep 406 carbon fiber rims weigh in at 306g each - lighter than most 406 aluminum rims!  They are 26mm wide for a comfortable rim.  We currently have 28h and 32h hole in stock, but can also get other drillings.

Pictured above are two wheels we just built for a customer.  The One of the left will be going on the front of an Optima Baron, and features a Chris King disk hub in black, DT Swiss Champion spokes in black with silver brass nipples, and our 50mm carbon fiber rim.  Beautiful!

The second wheel features a Chris King R45 hub with radially laced DT Swiss Champion spokes.  We went for some alloy red nipples for a bit of bling.  What do you think?  We will be building a matching rear wheel with an 88mm deep rim, matching hubs, and black Sapim CX Ray spokes.  The pair will be going on a Catrike Musashi.

Let us know what customer wheels we can build for you!