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Archive for July, 2010

Nashville 90 + 10

Monday, July 12th, 2010

On Saturday, I rode the Nashville 90 route with the Bloomington Bicycle Club. By the time I got home, I was looking at 98 miles on my odometer. I rode around the neighborhood for a few minutes to get to an even 100 miles, thereby completing my third century ride. Here’s the ride, not counting my trip to/from the ride or my trip around the neighborhood.

This was a lot different from my other two century rides, since it was a club ride. For some reason, I was struggling more to keep up than I should have. My legs just didn’t have the juice to keep up, or even to sustain the pace we rode at last week. I haven’t figured out why I felt so sluggish. That problem was exacerbated by a lack of planned stops: only two in the whole 90-mile ride. I did find a couple of other riders who were riding at a similar pace to ride with, but I still had to push it to keep up.

The route was quite beautiful, and had a nice mix of hilly and flat sections. I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked, because riding was intense.

We started out riding south on IN 446.  We were moving at a good clip, but some conversation was still possible. I spoke with a couple of interesting people. 446 took us toward, and then across, Lake Monroe.

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After crossing the lake, we climbed up the hill on the other side. The group started to become more fragmented during the climb.

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I did pretty well on the climb but shortly thereafter, dropped off the back of the faster group. That was fine, I didn’t really intend to try to stick with them for the entire 90-mile route anyway. When we turned onto IN 58, there were a few other riders going a more comfortable pace, so I tried to stick with them. Overall, the first 30 miles of the ride just flew by.

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However, around this time I was nearly out of water. There had not yet been any planned stops. At about mile 35, we rode by Kurtz, which has a perfect opportunity for a stop, but we rode right past it. I thought about stopping, but figured I should stick with the group. By this time our group was down to me and two other riders, Charles and Doug. We turned onto IN 135. It turned out there was a stop at around mile 40, so I didn’t have to wait too long, but this meant that within the first 40 miles I was already a little dehydrated. Also, we had trouble finding the stop. Not a good way to start a long ride.

I tried to rehydrate and eat the best I could. I had a little trouble because I was trying to use mostly Clif bars and gels, rather than normal food, an experiment that didn’t work out well for me. Real food works much better. But, it’s better to reinforce this now, than during the Ride Across Indiana next Saturday.

Once we were back on the road, I still had to push it a little bit to keep up. But I knew that if I fell behind on my own, I would end up going much slower. It was worth it to push it a bit. And this was supposed to be a training ride anyway, so I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

135 is absolutely beautiful, there are a few hills to climb but often it skirts the edge of various fields with lovely views, sometimes from above.

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Eventually I started lagging behind. For a while I thought about catching back up, but as it got hotter, I got slower. I was trying to eat, but I’m used to stopping to do so. On these club rides, stops are rare. As I slowed down, I saw a hawk sitting in a creek bed, and a lizard ran across the road. Pretty wild!

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Soon after that, I stopped to douse my head in water and eat something while standing still. This short break in the shade helped significantly. I got rolling again and when I got to the intersection of 135 and 46, I saw that Doug and Charles were waiting for me. We rolled into Nashville together, where we found the lunch stop at mile 65 or so. Doug didn’t want to eat lunch, so he went on ahead. He said we’d probably catch up with him, but we never did.

Charles and I rode on, I encouraged him to go ahead at his own pace if he wanted to, but we continued riding together for a while. It turns out he’s interested in doing gravel rides, it was great to meet another local rider who shares my interest in mixed-terrain rides — or “adventure rides,” as he calls them, perhaps a better term.

The climb out of Nashville was tough, but after that, Helmsburg Road was wonderful,  relatively flat and shady. As we made our way back toward Bloomington, I could feel my energy level falling. We rode across Lake Lemon, and the climb up South Shore Drive was really rough for me. It’s always a hard climb, but I was running out of steam. From my perspective, it looked like Charles just flew up the hill. We regrouped at a church to refill our water bottles. At this point I let him know that I was going to be really slow the rest of the way, and suggested he go on ahead. He did. It was fun to watch him take off into the distance as I struggled to get my legs going again.

But from here it was only a few miles back to town. I made it and took a meandering route home, as I intended to keep riding until I could get 100 miles on the odometer. I neared home and still had two miles to go, so I rode around the neighborhood until I hit 100 miles. It was very rewarding to a three-digit readout on my trip odometer again!

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I did a few things wrong on this ride. First of all, I should have paced myself better. I was trying to keep up with the club, so this was a problem. I’ve been doing club rides for training, and to experience a different side of cycling, and I wanted to stick to both of those goals. However, ultimately, I pushed too hard. I finished the ride, but I was really having a hard time toward the end.

Second, I had trouble eating. This is normally not a problem for me, but I was experimenting with more Clif bars and such; I usually use them somewhat but aside from lunch that was all I ate. At times I just couldn’t choke them down. That said, some flavors are better than others. Also, the lack of stops meant trying to eat on the bike, which I’m not very comfortable doing.

The flip side is that on a few recent rides, I’ve had success with “Endurolytes” electrolyte capsules. I take about two capsules every hour and they really do seem to help with electrolyte replacement. This also frees me up to experiment more with food and beverages, since I don’t have to depend on a drink for electrolytes. In practice, I still usually use one bottle with water and the other with some kind of sports drink.

Ultimately, this was a good ride, but overall it was more of a workout than it was fun. I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked, or take photos, or explore. I just rode, intensely. This is not what I’m usually looking to get out of my rides, but in preparation for RAIN, I think it’s a good thing. Also, I did manage to get to know some other riders, which I enjoyed.

It’s hard to believe RAIN is this weekend. I feel pretty good about it, though, because I know that Bill and I will pace ourselves better than I did on this ride, and I think I have nutrition/dealing with the heat figured out well enough.

A scenic summer ramble

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I had Monday off for the holiday. After Saturday’s 80-mile hammerfest and Sunday’s mountain biking, I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic, so I thought a slower-paced ramble with lots of photo opportunities would be ideal, and put together a couple of rough route options of roughly 25 and 40 miles. The routes also had me exploring some new roads. When I got to the decision point, I was still feeling a bit sluggish, but I was having too much fun to stop, so I went for the full 40 or so miles. Here’s the route I ended up riding. As you can see in the elevation profile, it was VERY hilly, never flat for very long at all.

I’ve been enjoying the red lenses in my new sunglasses. I tried to replicate the effect in my photos. It’s not perfect, but it gives you some idea of the experience.

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I turned onto Duvall Road; it was my first time riding on this road. It parallels Koontz for a while, where I rode recently. This road had some nice rolling hills and views of some fields.

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Then the road turned and met up with Koontz, where I had a tough climb. I just took my time and didn’t push it too much.

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I made my way over to Evans Road, which had more rolling hills, but mostly it was downhill and had some wonderful views from the top of a ridge.

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I went up to the small town of Stanford in search of water, and found some at the fire station.

Then I went back to explore the rest of Burch Road. It had a few significant ups and downs.

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I saw a nice gravel road or driveway, not sure which, but I did not stop to explore.

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I reached the top of a ridge …

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… but almost immedately, I plunged down a steep hill, into a cool, shaded valley.

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I was hoping I would stay on flat ground a little bit, but the road climbed back up again very soon.

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I reached a ridgetop, with more fields. It was flat-ish and lovely … though hot, with very little shade.

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At the bottom of a hill, I found a disgusting pond covered in a thick layer of green.

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And, of course, then had to climb back up.

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I stopped again on the next ridge when I found a small but steep gravel road going off to the side. There was a gate, and it was open and didn’t have any “No Trespassing” signs or anything. I didn’t take the time to explore this time, but I wonder where that goes, and who owns it. It looked too steep to ride, possibly, anyway.

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Soon the road became Mount Zion Road and I came upon one of the best views of the entire ride as the road turned and the view opened up to a valley in front of me, hills in the distance, and fields in between. I was enjoying myself immensely. My recent fast group rides have been great for training purposes, but this is why I ride.

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After a lovely trip down that hill, I explored some more new roads, taking Lee Philips Road to Snow Road. I should mention that throughout this entire ride, the pavement was abysmal. Tons of potholes, rough patch jobs, sand, gravel, and other debris on the roads. My road bike did fine with all of it. It would have been smoother on the Trucker, I’m sure, but the hills would have been even more punishing.

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Soon, Snow Road became Popcorn Road and now I was in somewhat familiar territory.

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I didn’t take many photos during the next leg of my ride because I’ve photographed it before, and it was getting very hot and I wanted to get home before the hottest part of the day. I stopped in Harrodsburg for food and water, then backtracked to Ketcham Road, where I have ridden before a little bit, but wanted to see more.

Ketcham continued the pattern of endless ups and downs, with a few more nice views, to boot.

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In this next shot, you can see the Victor-Oolitic quarry. I have stood/ridden right across the top of it, on previous rides. In fact, I had been there on Saturday. It was interesting to see it from another angle.

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Soon I reached Fluck Mill Road.

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I found my way home. Along the way, I saw a beaver standing near Clear Creek. I don’t see beavers around here very often, so that was a great way to end the ride.

This was a fantastic ride. Thanks to the heat and all the climbing, it wasn’t quite the low-key ride I had thought about beforehand, but I enjoyed riding at a slower pace and making good use of my camera.

Mountain biking at Brown County State Park

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Sunday provided an excellent opportunity to go mountain biking with Dave at Brown County State Park. I’ve been more focused on road biking this year, partially by choice and partially because with the massive amounts of rain we’ve gotten, there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to hit the trails. It felt great to go mountain biking again.

It was a hot day, somewhere around 90 degrees, and comparing being in the woods versus on the road on a hot day is interesting. Each has its advantages. In the woods, it’s shady and cool, but it’s also more humid and lacks the airflow of a faster ride on a road bike. Either way, you’re going to be hot.

Dave and I rode nearly all of the trails in the park, at a faster pace than usual. I felt strong despite riding 80 miles on the road the day before.

This was my first time this year to ride the Hesitation Point trail, which I sometimes shirk because I think it’s intimidating. It is hard, with a climb of over 2 miles, and a lot of technical features, but my fear is really residual from my first couple of years riding, when the trail was just barely doable for me, and not a lot of fun. Now it’s overall very doable, but I forget that sometimes. And the better I get at riding, the more enjoyable the trail becomes. I loved it.

I also did better on the Walnut trail than I expected, especially on the way back, when I pushed it more uphill than usual. It felt great.

The trip down Hesitation Point on the way back was a blast. I made it over a couple of rock gardens that I wasn’t sure I’d clear, and there was a family trying to make their way down the trail. They were stopped right by a dropoff, pushing their bikes. They moved aside so we could get through but that dropoff spooks me sometimes. I tackled it with confidence and did just fine. I was worried I’d wipe out right in front of a couple of kids. That would’ve just been fantastic.

It felt great to hit the trails again, even if it was hot. We rode a bit over 16 miles, and they were hard-earned miles. Actually Dave rode more, as he got there earlier than I did. We took some trails the short way so didn’t actually cover every bit of trail in the park.

I didn’t take much time to take photos, except a shot of the view at Hesitation Point, and a frog we saw sitting on a log in the pond on the Aynes loop.

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I’m still loving the 29er. It rolls better overall, and I feel faster on it in general. However, this time we rode some tighter, twistier bits of trail. While I still did fine, I could feel that the bike was a little less nimble than my old mountain bike. It took a little more effort to bob and weave through the trees.

As for me, I am in better shape than I’ve been in a couple of years, so I feel strong on the bike. But because I haven’t done much mountain biking this year, my bike handling skills were a little rough at times.

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