Saturday, May 24, 2014

Training for a 200K Brevet

After doing 30 Days of Biking during the month of April, I began training to ride a 200K brevet at the end of May run by the Minnesota Randonneurs. The 200K is the first in a series of brevets (200K, 300K, 400K & 600K) that I hope to do this summer in preparation for riding the same distances next year in order to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015, (official PBP site) probably the most well-known randonneuring event in the world and one that I have dreamed about doing since living in France for six months in the 1980s.

My training plan for the 200K was to work up to riding at least 100 miles on a single day by the middle of May and then taper off with some shorter rides. After riding over 55 miles on May 4, my next long ride was 77 miles on May 10.
There were still patches of snow on the sides of the road.
I started my ride from home with Ethel, a friend and Ski & Tea buddie. Charlie met us at Mosquito Brook Road where we then continued on back roads to Cable. Mike & Iras met us in Cable, where Ethel turned around and headed back to Seeley. We road Lake Owen Drive to Drummond and then back to Cable via Blue Moon and Cable Lake Roads.
Iras rounds the bend onto Blue Moon Road.

Once we arrived in Cable, it was time for a relaxing break and refueling with food & drink at Rivers Eatery.
After starting the ride at just before 9 a.m. I arrived home at about 6 p.m. with nearly six hours of that being riding time at an average speed of 12.9 miles per hour.

On each of my rides my goal has been to maintain an average speed of at least 12 mph. Each of the brevets has a set time limit in which you must complete the distance in order for the brevet to officially count. For the 200K brevet, the time limit is 13.5 hours. Not counting for stopping time, I calculated that one would have to ride the distance at an average speed of at least 9 mph to finish in 13.5 hours. Thus, my goal of riding at a speed of at least 12 mph average and faster if I was able.

After looking at the weather forecast, I chose May 18 for my 100-mile ride from Hayward to the Delta Diner and back, the "Delta Diner Century." I started the ride at just after 8 a.m. and, once again, Charlie met me for the ride to Cable. Mike, Iras and Phil met us in Cable.

In the week prior to the ride I made a couple of adjustments to my bike, changing the saddle to one that I thought would be more comfortable and flipping the stem in order to raise the handlebars a tad higher for a more comfortable riding position. I also wore a new pair of Bont shoes that were custom made and require a bake in the oven to mold the carbon fiber to one's feet.
Half way through the 100-miler at the Delta Diner
At the 80-mile point, I was feeling better than I did a week earlier. My adjustments to the bike had made an improvement in my comfort. But at about 30+ miles into the ride I began to experience hot spots on my feet and at each stop thereafter I removed my shoes to cool down my feet. Toward the end of the ride, we made a stop at the Namakagon River where I dipped my feet in the cool waters. (Thanks to Charlie for accompanying me the entire way on both the 77- and 100-mile rides!)

I arrived home just before 8 p.m. My riding time was 7 3/4 hours at an average speed, again, of 12.9 mph. Total elapsed time was 11 1/2 hours meaning, if I had been doing the ride officially, I would have had another two hours to ride another 20-25 miles. (I wasn't paying close attention to break times like I will on the official ride. The Minnesota Randonneurs 200K brevet is actually 125 miles.)
Yesterday, I did a 65-mile ride from Hayward to Stone Lake and beyond. Ethel joined me for most of the ride (about 40 miles) and Mike rode to Stone Lake and back. It was another perfect day for a ride with temps reaching the mid 70s and no noticeable humidity.

On shorter rides during the past week we once again enjoyed seeing Painted Turtles warming themselves on logs.
The trees are finally leafing out in all their green splendor. The other day, we noticed a porcupine high in a tree probably dining on fresh green leaves. After a long winter, I imagine the porcupine was quite happy for such a meal. Here are four photos as I zoomed in with my camera more and more.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Signs of Spring

Even though Spring "officially" arrived back in March, it hasn't felt like Spring here until recently. Spring peepers are one of the first signs of Spring that I eagerly anticipate. Their joyful sound is a delight to hear. Another sign that I await is the first sighting of Painted Turtles on ponds and lakes in the area.
One of my favorite rides passes by a number of small lakes where, once the ice has melted and warm enough weather has arrived, Painted Turtles can be seen hauled out on partially submerged fallen trees or logs. I saw the first Painted Turtles this Spring on May 8, three of them on two different lakes.
On Sunday, we saw over 30 Painted Turtles on four different lakes. On one log alone there were 17 turtles crowded next to each other. I tried to quietly and stealthily get a photograph but, even though I was a good distance away, they still spooked and slid into the water before I was successful. However, I did manage to photograph nine turtles on another log nearby.
And another joyful sign of Spring is the birds that are newly arriving, like the Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, one of my favorites. I spotted the first male Grosbeaks on May 8 and, the next day, the first females as well as the first Baltimore Orioles, both male and female. Interesting that the Oriole is so orange in color and loves oranges!

Monday, May 5, 2014

50-Mile Ride and a Curious Yellow Bike

Yesterday was the nicest day we've had in a week so I had to take advantage of it and do a long ride. My goal for the first week of May is to do a 50-mile ride. We started out by riding to Iras & Charlie's and then continuing on to the Farmstead Creamery & Cafe, part of North Star Homestead Farms, for lunch. If you haven't checked this place out, you should definitely do so if you ever visit Hayward. Support your local farmer!
Chippewa River, looking north.
After lunch, Mike returned home while the rest of us continued our ride in an easterly direction, toward the Chippewa River. The river level was quite high from all the runoff.
Chippewa River, looking south toward rapids with standing waves.
After crossing the river, we rode on in search of a small "grotto" or shrine along Moose Lake Road that Iras had spotted on a previous ride. Before long, we came upon it.
The structures in the foreground appear to be made of cement,
in contrast to the stone structure in the background.
Iras points to what looks like a castle turret.

Next to this "shrine" of sorts, was an old building that looked in disrepair but was  architecturally interesting.
And across the road from the shrine I spotted a curious yellow bicycle, decked out with a large red reflector attached to the handlebars and a chainsaw woven through the spokes of the rear wheel.
The frame and the rims looked like they had been spray-painted yellow.
Most curious of all, was the sign that was tie-wrapped to the top tube of the bicycle.
The sign reads: "Hayward Lite Unit #1. For official emergency use only. Authorized uses: Responding to fire calls. Forestry field use when gas exceeds $3.10/gallon." Curious indeed. I don't think this bike could be ridden very far, judging from the condition of the rims and tires.

By the time I returned home, I had ridden nearly 56 miles.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

30 Days of Biking - Day 30

Thanks to all who've been following along with my 30 Days of Biking in April! I've appreciated your support and encouragement. It's been great fun to share the experience with words and photos each day.
Special thanks to Iras and Ethel for joining me on my 30th day of riding. It was great to have their company on the ride. After yesterday's snow storm, surprisingly, even the back roads we took were clear of snow and slush. Fortunately, we encountered only light rain during the ride.
Along our route we passed cows with young calves curious about our presence
and a flock of turkey vultures that alighted on top of an old barn.
At the end of our ride, we stopped for a cup of coffee at Backroads Coffee & Tea.
And to my delight and surprise, Iras presented me with a special memento to commemorate my 30 Days of Biking, a Sara Balbin bike sculpture adorned with words appropriate to the experience.

Onward to May and, let us hope, an improvement in the weather. My next endeavor is to successfully complete a 200K (120 mile) brevet in 13.5 hours or less at the end of May.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

30 Days of Biking - Day 29

Who would have thought I'd be riding the fat bike again on April 29?
This is what it looked like when I went on my short ride this afternoon.
I rode to New Moon, a local bike shop about a mile from my house.
The snow was coming down so hard it was almost white-out conditions.
Chris Young, one of the New Moon owners, brushes snow from the sign.
Mike came by the shop to check out the Borealis Fat Bikes
and then snapped some shots from the car as I was riding back home.

Monday, April 28, 2014

30 DOB - Day 28

As I was riding to the library this afternoon in the pouring rain, I thought about all the creatures who live out in the elements without the benefit of shelter that we humans take for granted. Riding in the rain makes me appreciate the comforts of a warm, dry home and the convenience, comfort and ease of being able to jump in the car to run an errand if I so choose. But my ride in the rain also made me think about the fact that choosing to use the bicycle instead of the car on a bad-weather day is really not so unpleasant as many people probably imagine it to be. As I was leaving the library and about to pedal off on my bike, a person said to me, "You're brave."
Dressing properly for the rain and temperature certainly helps to make the ride more tolerable and enjoyable, as well as having a bike equipped for the rain. My waterproof helmet cover, gloves with their waterproof covers, Endura rain jacket and rain & windproof pants, and my Bog boots all worked together to keep my head, core, hands and feet warm, dry and comfortable. Fenders kept my clothing free of road grime and waterproof panniers kept the items I was carrying protected.
 On my ride home, I stopped at Lynn's Custom Meats & Catering
for a couple of dinner items.
 Another rainy day that feels more like Juneau than Hayward.