Sunday, December 31, 2006

Years in Review and in the Future

The plot below shows kilometers per year bicycled for the past 4 years. The exercise log software that came with the Polar HRM, along with the download of stats from the monitor, make this and other information fairly easy to keep track of, even when the HRM is in the shop for new batteries and other(?) periodic maintenance.

Mileage is down since the job change of two years ago; but, not fatally so. Exercise time is more stable over this period.

Cycling goals for next year include completing a Brevet series, and accomplishing and enjoying the long ride from Portland to Glacier National Park. Fitness goals include the ever popular and always elusive mass reduction, and generally increasing speed, flexibility etc.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mystery Frogs

I received these older Speedplay Frogs with a used Mountain bike from a local bike shop. The Speedplays were taken in trade for some low-end SPD's. It turns out that the configuration of these pedal attachments (to the cleats, which weren't included with the pedals) is different enough from current pedals, that my Speedplay Frog cleats don't fit. If anyone out there has cleats for these pedals, or a historical note on this version of the Frogs, please comment. Some differences between these and the current models include:
  • No injection point for grease -but, an O-ring on the thread side of the pedal to keep the elements out.
  • No ridge on the plastic body.
  • A different color (brownish) on the plastic body
  • The older pedals have a hole in the middle (in which you can see a tube containing the pedal spindle) - the newer ones don't have the hole.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tangible Bike Related Goods

Seven or so years of semi-serious biking have passed, and as I was riding in to work with Nat, talking about cooking and food, it occurred to me that I hadn't bought a bunch of bike-stuff this year. It had accumulated. The bike. The cold-weather gear. Lights. Stuff (panniers) to hold stuff (work clothes). It's configured and now I just ride it. Good simple fun. Here's a picture:

Lot's of accumulated lessons hanging on the bike. Here are some:
  • Reflective tape is good; learned that while riding (in a truck) behind multiple cyclists one night. Those with reflective tape were visible. Just lights was not nearly as effective.
  • Fenders keep it cleaner.
  • It's much much much better to carry stuff on the bike than on the body.
  • That Specialized saddle really does keep body-parts from going as numb compared to other saddles I've used. And it seems durable (maybe not Brooks durable; but, year 3 and still going strong).
  • The cheap, plastic, yellow water bottle holder does work to hold an insulated coffee cup (good on the morning commute). The bike-coffee guy didn't lead me wrong here.
  • Flat-proof tires are the way to go on a commute.
  • LED lights are pretty good; two of them pretty much do the job w/o a lot of battery changing.
The only down side to the accumulated and applied experience? Limited tinkering options other than routine, preventative maintenance. Must be time to build up a tourer, or maybe a speed bike.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Prosser -Grandview-Sunnyside Bike Path - Route Scout

Well, you can see, from the vantage of I-84, a bike path as you drive between Sunnyside and Prosser. It's there, more or less parallel to the interstate. So, we put the bikes in the van and go see if we can find the Prosser end of the path to get a nice ride on a winter-ish day.

We find it. Park the van at the rest stop in Prosser, get out the bikes and start: head out (right turn) of the rest stop (so you're heading NW). Stop at the intersection, and straight across to Wine Country Road. You can see bike path off to the left of the road, and if you just keep pedaling, the path is available on the right in a few hundred yards. Lots of dogs in the yards near the start, all nicely corralled.

The path is a little rough at first. No glass. No visible tackweed. The occasional horse-apple. It's dripping rain and we wander on. We're biking through an agricultural area, but not the growing season. No one is on the path at all. No water in the irrigation ditch that we bridge over. We quickly get to Grandview; advertised population 8705. The bike-path puts you on what appears to be the main street through town. Nice looking town with plenty to offer a Randonneur. We keep riding, and see the path resuming off to the left. Cross over and head to Sunnyside. On this brief stretch the path is furnished with park benches, water fountains and ornamental trash recepticals. There are signposts that count down the mileage to Sunnyside, and we're there. We follow the path through town, looking for the end. Plenty of candidate food stops. The traffic lights respond quickly to our punch of the button for the pedestrian crossing. And then the path ends in a park and ride in Sunnyside, at the intersection of the Yakima Valley Highway and N 16th Street. About 21km from Prosser to Sunnyside. We turn around (into the wind) and ride back.

The path would work fairly well for part of a Brevet - and amounts to a touch over 21km from end-to-end.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

SIR 300km 2003 - one from the vault

The ride description is here:

Assorted nuts: not sure why I was doing this ride; had done a ride sponsored by SIR in March, and had barely finished in the allotted time of 13 hours (something like 30 minutes to spare); due to this slow time, I abandoned the thought of completing the 200, 300, 400, 600km series in the spring. This ride in July served as part of a fallback option for completing the series later in the year. Such a series is a qualifier for some interesting rides: Paris-Brest-Paris (also see here), Boston-Montreal-Boston and the Rocky Mountain 1200.

The Rocky Mountain 1200 is an interesting stretch goal; fantastic scenery, a familiar-yet-foreign land, and a really long bike ride. Figured I’d investigate the series this year; and if I completed it, I’d qualify the RM1200. It seems that a typical time for a 200k is about 10hours, and 300k about 15hours. I was going for that time. That’d mean being finished by 9pm. I’d worked out that a 14mph average while riding, combined with about 5 minutes of rest per hour, would do the trick. This all goes under the heading "Best Laid Plans".

It’s less than a two hour drive to Ellensburg. Checked into the hotel; for some reason I felt compelled to schlep the bike in by the back way. Next I drove the first part of the route. The route out of town was very straightforward. It would be the same route back into town.Looking at the summaries of the times for the first 4 SIR rides this season; a 10 hour time for a 200k is “typical”, and a 15 hour time for a 300k is also typical. I’m impressed that the approximate relation of 5 hours=100k holds up at 400k also.

Leg 0:

Got up, applied sunscreen and went out for breakfast. Had breakfast at the truck stop by the interstate; extremely greasy (note: I've never gone back). I was the only customer. Back to the hotel to change into riding garb and bike the less-than 1 mile over to the Super 8. Met the ride organizers Terry and Erin (assumed spelling). Chatted briefly. They seemed kind of wiped; they’d ridden the 300k on July 4th. Terry described the wind, and that there was one other rider for today’s ride. Jeff. A couple of gentlemen working through the weekend 600k showed up and took off after some conversation. They’d had about 1.5 hours of sleep, and had 200k to go today. Jeff and I took off; he’d cased the route as well. We got out of town together quickly. Note: Jeff has a write-up of this ride as well. His write-up is a lot funnier than this one. Practice Practice Practice.

Leg 1: From the hotel w/ Jeff until part-way up Blewett pass.

Jeff stopped for water, I pressed on and up; the Camelback is great for long rides. A lot of wind; all the time. Altitude gain. Pilot error in the use of the HRM. Jeff and I traded pulls. The weather changed completely after the descent to the intersection of 97 and 970; cool (low 50s) and calm. Coincidence of the ride: Jeff and I were born in the same hospital in Tulsa. Didn’t see him again till near the end of the ride (around mile 170; as he was heading into Cle Elum and I was going the other way). Jeff’s going to ride the Paris Brest Paris ride this year; so for him, this ride served as a tune-up. Talked about the kids and where we’d lived.

Leg 2: Up Blewett pass.

Just pedaled. It was slow; but, very early in the game. Lots of sweating. The pass isn’t exceptionally steep; but, had to work pretty hard to get up it in a reasonable time. Near the top; Kline and Brenda drove up to drop off Kline. Brenda said some encouraging words. They were staying at a campground at Ingalls Creek. Kline went up the last mile or two; then we blasted down the other side. The spirit of the Randonneuring game is that I can’t use outside assistance. We took that as no drafting (that is, I couldn’t draft Kline). I confess to taking a piece of licorice (red). The company was very welcome.

Figure 1: First leg. The first part is not accurate due to significant “pilot error”. It’s missing about an hour and about 7 miles. It was windy. The second is reasonably accurate. The brown line (altitude) goes up to the top of Blewett pass. The altitude numbers are almost accurate. The pass is about 4100 feet high.

Leg 3: Blewett pass into Cashmere.

It was just plain fast. I felt I had a lot of time to make up from the crawling done against the wind and uphill (sometimes together). Started down fast, as there wasn’t a lot of shoulder at the top; and the less time spent on the road the safer. Pressed fairly hard. Talked some with Kline; but, basically was just pushing. Went by the campground that Kline, Brenda and the boys were staying at. We kept on. Hit highway 2 and turned right towards Cashmere. Went along the Wenatchee river; very nice. This was continuing downhill so our speed remained high. Had to find the Red Apple market at Cashmere and get someone there to sign my card. The card, always part of a Brevet, is used as a record that the ride was completed in the time-period. I
almost forgot about the card more than once, as I was more interested in the ride. It turns out that the Red Apple changed names. Went into the grocery store, I asked whether it used to be the Red Apple and the extremely young person behind the counter went back far into her memory to say “Yeah, I think so”. Good enough for me. Bought some water and a sandwich, then Kline and I went vagrant outside the store and ate our food while customers filed in and out. Filled the various water bottles and headed out toward Leavenworth. We saw Jeff as we headed out. I pointed him at the ex-Red Apple.

Figure 2: From the top of Blewett pass down into Cashmere. I had to work hard for the speed.

Figure 3: Cashmere to Plain. I’ve mentioned to Polar that another piece of data to capture is the wind. This whole @#$()*( leg was against the wind. The elevation gain is kind of like 1.5 Webber canyon rides.

Leg 4: Cashmere to Plain.

It was more uphill-and-against-the-wind. It wasn’t going to be pretty, scenery-wise, till we got towards Leavenworth. So, we went up and out. Backtracked for awhile and then got beyond US97. Ducked into Leavenworth and headed North up the Chumstick (<- not a pretty name) Hwy. More uphill-and-against-the-wind. #$(*()*. I was hoping that the trees would block the wind. They probably would in the forest, but not on the road. We eventually had to climb a minor pass. Kline pointed up where the road was going. I said something fatalistic and kept on pedaling. Eventually got a little further, looked up again and said “I guess I can do that”. Did it. Headed down. It was a rapid, curvy descent. The tar used to cover the cracks in the road was kind of slidy, so we both avoided it. Had to hit the brakes pretty hard around one bend and then into Plain. Got the traditional gallon-of-water and a Frappacino (one of those cold, bottled things). Kind of a gastro-intestinal gamble; but, I’m a coffaholic and went for it. It was good. Also had some peanuts; mostly for the salt. We sat; reloaded the water carrying devices, and continued.

Leg 5: Plain to Ingalls Creek.

Ran into Terry and Erin. Kline was kindly and properly paranoid about not even looking like he was assisting me, much less actually assisting me. They mistook him for Jeff. An easier run. Very pretty as we went down into Leavenworth. Had to blast over a couple of narrow bridges. Had a mishap; nearly a crash. I hit a rumble strip; didn’t even see it coming, and darted to the left. Kline had to hit the brakes fast to avoid me. Kline mentioned Prey’s fruit stand again. It’s a recommended place to stop for apples. We’d both each bought pumpkins there at various times. Back up hwy 97. Slowish. Went by a place where someone does the chainsaw carving of logs. I decided against picking one up as a souvenir. Stopped at the convenience store across from the campground. Kline had his left shoe’s cleat stuck in the pedal. I went into the store alone. Got a V-8. Some water bottles. Reloaded. Figured I needed the salt. I think it helped greatly. Said goodbye and headed on up.

Figure 4: Plain to Cle Elum. The big peak is Blewett pass. There was a lot of work in there. The scenery on the Cle Elum side of the pass seemed to agree with me even better than the fine scenery on the other side.

Leg 6: Ingalls Creek to the Summit of Blewett Pass.

Ouch Ouch Ouch. Gave myself permission to arrive there by 6 (would have preferred earlier). Tried to have a gel every 30 minutes, stay hydrated and keep pedaling. Stopped part-way up for a nature break. Good to get off the bike. Stuff was numb. Resumed. Had to ride on a gravely shoulder about the last mile up. Hit the top around 5:55. Stopped. Dug out the cell phone to call home. Probably didn’t sound too good. Chatted and signed off. So, I figured that I’d gone about 200k, and had done so in 12hours. That sucked; same time as the 200km. Months of training and no basic improvement measured; my body had learned nothing. And, at that speed, I’d be done in about 6 hours. Midnight. That also sucked. Ate a bar. Realized I was hungry, so I ate another. Drank some and headed off down the pass.

Leg 7: Blewett Pass to Cle-Elum.

It was good to finally have one of gravity and the wind on my side for a change. Made good time at a relaxing heart rate. Just pedaled. Sang some (still need to learn more songs). And arrived at the potential bail-out point. I’d been thinking of heading straight to Ellensburg, essentially taking a DNF (Did Not Finish), getting home in the light while still getting a good long ride in. One way to deice would be to spit in the palm of one hand, hit the spit with the other, and depending on which way the majority of the saliva went, I’d chose my direction. But, it was kind of windy so I figured that wouldn’t work. I didn’t want to toss a coin; since that would mean stopping, dredging one out etc. So, when I got to the juncture, I looked UP at the Ellensburg option and up at the Cle Elum option, and decided that less climbing was good. Even better, a little up the highway they claimed about 12 miles to Cle Elum. That clinched it. It was against the wind; but, again I pressed on. The climb was small. About 6 miles later I stopped to eat again. Still trying to pound the gels regularly. Continued on into town. A couple of miles later I saw where I’d eventually by going to Ellensburg and smiled. I’d have the wind all the way back. Encouraged, I drove hard to the Safeway at a whopping 10 mph (against the wind). Pushed on into Cle Elum, looking for the Safeway. At the end of town there was a small hill (kind of
like Carmichael hill). The Safeway was up there. So, up it is. Got there. I was looking to get the card signed, have a gel, get some end-of-the-ride power-aid (expensive, but, palatable. Figured I needed to drink) and another V-8 (salt is good). Grocery stores are big; I gave up on my detailed shopping list and settled for another Frapacinno. It was about 8pm, sunset was at 9pm. So, I dorked up: put on the reflective vest and ankle bands. Turned on the lights and
booked out of town at 8:10.

Leg 8: Cle Elum to Ellensburg.

It was fast. I had the wind. It tended to be downhill. It was fast and I felt good to be going fast. While I’d had the goal of a 9pm finish, and the then the dark thought of a midnight finish, I had enough speed and push to go for a 9-something finish. So I went back through town. Hit a red light and some green lights. And I was on out of town. Waved to Jeff as I turned off towards Ellensburg and he headed towards Cle Elum. Then the route moved onto a lightly trafficked highway along the river. It was great. Good views of the river. Great speed! The pounding-down-of-the-gels seems to have paid off. Saw another bicyclist heading the other way. Saw a semi-truck parked on one side of the road and an SUV on the other. And maybe saw a handful of cars. And there was plenty of river flowing by. Some birds. I had no actual power up the hills. It’s an odd feeling that I often get at the end of long rides; enough juice to keep going in the flats, but, nothing for the hills. Thankfully, the uphill stretches were never long. Got into town; had the route down thanks to the driving practice. Got to the Super-8, knocked on the door and turned in the card. The time was 9:35. Much better than I’d thought I’d achieve while at the top of Blewett.

Post ride: Got cleaned up. Watched the Tour de France prologue rerun. Gold Bless OLN. Lance looked un-skinny; not a good sign for the mountains. I had some numbness still; never had been that bad before. Showered. Went to dinner. Stomach was a little off. Had most of a chicken sandwich and, of course, all the fries. Ice tea and some tomato juice. Back to the room and to sleep. Awake at 3-something in the morning for no particular reason. Some weird move on HBO. A professional killer (ex-FBI). Lots of double-crosses. I sure hope I didn’t see the whole movie. The tour started at 6:00am. I started packing, loading the car during commercials. Snagged a continental breakfast; started home around 8:30. Not too far to home.

Pros: Good training. Good countryside. I live!

Cons: Not many people out there. Numbness. Some joint soreness.

Figure 5: The last leg. Tending downhill. Had the wind. Got the HR up to a pushing-level.

Figure 6: Overall ride summary. The big spikes are Blewett pass (both ways). That’s a pretty high average heart rate for me over that duration. Note: the time axis is not accurate, as it doesn’t incorporate stops and the missing hour.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pasco to Pullman - altitude profile

This is the altitude profile for the Pasco-Pullman permanent. The horizontal axis is the time I took for the ride. The text along the horizontal axis marks (in order) my house, the start of the ride on Court Street, the beginning of the Pasco-Kahlotus highway, the city of Kahlotus, Washtucna, Colfax, Pullman and then my overnight stop. You can't get around it, it's uphill. But, the longest semi-steep climbs are only 300-400 feet.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pasco to Pullman - RUSA Permanent 184

RUSA, the organization in the US that helps to coordinate and promote a type of long distance bicycle riding, has created a class of rides known as Permanents; see Any RUSA member can submit a candidate route, and any RUSA member can ride them 'for credit'. I've started putting together candidate routes in Eastern Washington, and this is the first.

Route Description:
This Permanent route runs from Pasco (Washington) to Pullman. The route starts under the I-182 bridge on West Court Street in Pasco. There's a small number of parking spaces there; but, even more parking just across the river in Richland at Point Park (full name: Columbia Point Marina Park), and a bike path over the river to get to the start. Getting to the start, you head southwest on Court Street and bike on through Pasco. Tough tires are advised; there's a good bit of roadside glass and some tackweed.

Court Street ends, and bears right becoming 1st Street. Follow that till you do a left on Lewis Street. This part of the route can be seen here. Follow Lewis Street; this street becomes the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway, as seen here. The route to Pullman is simple enough from this point: The Pasco-Kahlotus highway takes you to Kahlotus. When this road ends, take the right turn to Washtucna. Enjoy the hospitality of the Java Bloom in Washtucna (on the right, just before Highway 260 runs into Highway 26). Open 7:00am to 7:00pm. Then a right (East) on Highway 26 to Colfax, and then South to Pullman. This adds up to about 211km.

Support notes: Between Pasco and Washtucna (about 100km) there are no services nor water. For me, this distance is about 5 hours, about 4-5 energy bars or equivalent, and two large water bottles plus a camelback of water. Pack for yourself accordingly. The services are somewhat better from Washtucna to Pullman, with a convenience store in Dusty (open 7am to 7pm Mon-Sat) and a fair number of options in Colfax.

Cell phone: No coverage between Pasco and Colfax.

Weather notes: often the wind is from the WSW, so going from Pasco to Pullman can be done mostly with a supporting tailwind; especially in the summer and fall. I don't think I'd attempt this route in July (or anytime the high is expected to be above 90F). I also don't think I'd recommend attempting this route in the dead of winter. It'd be cold up high. And, I don't think I'd attempt the route when the winds are expected to be above 20mph. It's dusty out there

Football notes: There's a lot of traffic from Washtucna to Colfax to Pullman on Thurs/Fridays before a football game, and before the start of semesters. I'd avoid this route then.

Ride Report:
I test-rode the route this Friday (a great weather day, and WSU is playing in California this weekend). My plan was to ride to Pullman and stay the night at my daughter and son-in-law's apartment. I packed accordingly, with two small pannier's on the back, adding probably 12-15 pounds of weight on the back of the bike. Some of it is overnight and non-bike clothes to wear in Pullman; and the rest is a few more pieces of bike garb (in case it gets cold (it will)).

Starting Friday morning at 8:00am put me going through Pasco after anything that it might have approaching rush hour traffic. The traffic did keep me on or near the shoulders (and the glass and tackweed); but, I'm running with 700x28 Specialized Armidillo tires, and just run through it. Brushed off a tackweed at one point and pressed on. I managed to miss the bear-left where Lewis Street crosses over the Highway; but, the dead end was a good clue and I went back and got the turn. Some agriculture traffic (and UPS trucks?!) on the highway early, and even when the shoulder disappeared into gravel. But, it didn't last long and soon I was mostly alone on the P-K highway. Except for the hawks. The sounds of hunting kept me out of the corn fields for a nature break. Managed to gain some elevation; before that saw an asparagus field going to seed; lots of fall colors. There's a nice, short, steep climb up some switchbacks. And then I'm up. The P-K highway is nice for biking. Then it ends, with a fast downhill to Kahlotus. I lost a pannier at the start of the downhill; must not have clipped it on completely. I heard it fall, stopped, turned around and saw it bouncing nicely on the highway. Went back, secured it to the bike and headed on down. Then to Washtucna. There's a nice view of a canyon for awhile, and then you're in it. The traffic's still light and the bike rolls into Washtucna. There's a public restroom in the park on the left. I head on to the Java Bloom. Coffee. A sandwich. Gatoraide and water. I had a couple of energy bars remaining; enough to get to Colfax.

There's water in the desert. A river along the highway from Washtucna (Cow Creek?). And some graffiti on the rocks, and signs suggesting which law might be broken in constructing such graffiti. The shoulder's good and I take in the terrain. More hawks. Crows. Cattle working in and around the water. Side roads that need to be considered for variations on this ride. And then to Dusty. The road narrows but, in exchange for that and the chip seal; you get very smooth asphalt and hills. An hour later I'm in Colfax. I leave a message on the home phone (I live again!) and then call my daughter (I'll be there in ~90 minutes). Backtrack into Colfax, looking for a convenience store. Found it. A Starbuck's magic can of caffeine and calories (pound it down), and some Donette's (never travel by bike, after 100 miles or more, w/o fuel). It's dusk. The reflective ankle bands and lights are all on. Full dorkage. I head out. A block later I stop and put the windbreaker on over everything (Camelback included). It's getting cold. South to Pullman. And uphill. It takes awhile longer than estimated. It's dark. Cold in the valleys. And then I'm there.

Almost a twelve hour adventure; eleven of them on the bike.