Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Irene's Epic, Wintry Windsor Wanderer 210km!

Speaking of R-12s, I too am striving to achieve the award. My clock started in July.

Congrats to Steve, Michelle, Mike and Bob....I wanna be like you. Being in the R-12 wanna-be club, we get creative and daring about getting out in the colder months.

On Thursday, February 18, one day after Steve and Michelle got their 12th, I decided to go out and ride the Windsor Wanderer 210K counterclockwise. When I got up at 6am and found no snow on the ground and a partly clear day, I thought I should go for it because the forecast was for some flurries in the afternoon and upgraded for more snow thru the weekend. With nothing prepared for a long ride, I quickly ate and threw all my stuff together, dressed for a cold day and got a crack of 8am start. If I didn't get out on Thursday, I'd just have one more week in Feb. to gamble and wait for decent weather and clear roads.

The ride started out at 28 degrees and warmed up into the low 40s for about an hour, then things started going bad. As I headed out from Platteville to make the northward trek to Windsor, the wind before the storm started up. Some nice, long straight stretches going north into the steady 20-30 mph headwinds. Heck, if I weren't out riding today I'd just be at home fretting about when I'd get a chance to ride before the end of the month. By the time I hit the store in Windsor, the storm had moved in, so I grabbed a quick bite to eat and refilled bottles, and headed back out to my anticipated tailwinds. Just as expected, I had a WONDERFUL tailwind along with blizzard conditions. How bad could it be (I was about to find out), anyway? Fifty miles to go, I'll be home in no time with this tailwind. Wheeeee, I was cruising southward in a whiteout. Every time I took a westward turn, the wind and snow would push me into the road, so I'd have to lean into the wind and brace myself to keep upright and stay on the shoulder. I was glad to have ridden a few of the permanents and brevets that go through this territory because a lot of the street signs were starting to get frosted with snow and becoming illegible. With the cloud/snow cover, I had to turn the lights on early, around 4pm.

Stopped under the I-25 bridge to get out of the driving snow and try to get a drink. There was so much frozen mud on the bottle lids that I couldn't (and didn't want to) drink out of them. Upon stopping, I could see that the water was frozen anyway, and the perpetuem was looking like slurpee. So, not being able to eat or drink since Windsor, I was getting tired. Just 20 miles to go, I can do it. Who in their right mind would give up after 110 miles? Just keep moving.

Turned off of the I-25 Frontage road and headed west onto Hwy 52. Good shoulder in the dark, lots-o-snow, and making forward progression when I hear a car slowing, then pulling up next to me. Window down, it's a sheriff's car with a woman's voice asking if I need help. No thanks, I'm good. "OK", she replies and drives off.

Got to the Erie convenience store at Jay and County Line Rd. and decided to stop to use their restroom and try to defrost my bottles and get a drink. I must have looked pretty pitiful because the clerk asked if I was getting anything beside the cup of mocha (from those great self serve machines). When I said no, he said it was on the house and I was welcome to sit down and warm up. Now I'm ready to finish the last 12 miles. When I step outside of the store I see how fierce the blizzard is and thought it was really crazy weather to be out riding in. Now I can see that the bike is covered in frozen ice/mud, the brakes are encased and adding to the friction on the wheels, with derailleurs frozen the bike was stuck in one of the lowest gears, unable to shift anywhere (at least it was in low and not hi), I was unable to clip into the pedals (ice blocks in my cleats)...EVERYTHING was frozen on the bike and it was about 10 pounds heavier (according to my husband). At the finish, I wouldn't be able to turn my tail lights off because they were covered in ice...2.5 days later, they were still on the frozen bike and blinking away in the garage.

Riding down Jay Rd. with 2 inches of snow on the pavement and blinded by the whiteout, I crept along in low gear. The bike headlight started flashing red, warning that the batteries were about to die. Stop at Hwy 287 because there are some good street lights at the corner in an otherwise very dark night. Sort of quick battery pack change and I'm off again. Everything takes so much longer when you're hands are freezing.
Home stretch for sure...can't crank the slight downhills because I'm stuck in a low gear...patience, patience...at least I can pedal the flats and slight rises. Yessss, I'm finally at the edge of Louisville!! Got lost in the neighborhoods before the finish..took a turn too early and added an extra mile or so before arriving back at the start. 135 miles and 12 hours later, I'm done. SWEET finish and a good story out of it.

This was the hardest 200K I've done, so it felt good to complete it. That's how we (randonneurs and randonneuses) are, we want to COMPLETE the ride.

And that's how I got my February ride. Wonder how March will go?

Thanks for reading this epic tale.

Irene Takahashi

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Looking for a Flèche Team or Team Members?

Interested in riding this year's Flèche? As in past years, ours finishes on the second weekend in May. Remember that each team's route and roster are due by April 15.

People are asking: how do I look for teams to join, or riders for my team?? This year let's use the Colorado Permanent Brevet Riders Google Groups list. Just express your availability or team plans and hopefully everyone can hook up!

Our finish locale is Louisville as usual, a bit different from the provençal scene of lavender fields below - traditional finishing locale of the Flèche Velocio - dreamily conveyed by the ACP:

... but we look forward to finishers from all teams sharing a hearty breakfast at the Blue Parrot!

-jle (veteran, Team Prairie Dog and Team Deer With Headlights)

Friday, February 19, 2010

New R-12 First-Timers!

As the flurries fall, it's great to see new faces in the R-12 pantheon. You earn the RUSA R-12 Award by riding a 200km-or-longer randonnée for twelve consecutive months. "It's harder than it looks!" is the common refrain from many R-12 awardees, on up to the president of RUSA.

It's even harder when you live where it's wintry in winter ... like Colorado! If you demur on that cold, windy weekend early in the month, you may be facing a late-month snow-flurry adventure! A special commendation, then, to these riders:
  • Steve Le Goff and Michelle Grainger (February)
  • Mike Fox (January)
  • Bob Barday (December)
Here are Steve and Michelle finishing off their Platteville Poke-Along permanent yesterday:

... while Mike Fox climbs Weld Co. Rd. 8 on his initial R-12 ride last February, the Windsor Wanderer:

... and last but not least, Bob Barday, dodging not snowflakes but raindrops in this photo (courtesy Philippe Battu) at Paris-Brest-Paris 2007:

These géants de la route join other local R-12 awardees. Crazy people or just very persistent? If nothing else, a 200k per month is great endurance conditioning, and a chance to ride with fellow all-season randonneurs. Tempting?

For now, helmets off to Steve, Michelle, Mike, and Bob!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Drake Doubleback - a new Brevet and Permanent!

For the April 200k brevet, there will be a new course featuring a spur up Big Thompson Canyon to Drake. It's now also been approved as a Permanent, the Drake Doubleback, in case folks would like to check out the course between now and then, which I did on February 13.

The Big Thompson Canyon Narrows are the most dramatic part of the canyon:

... giving way to the more open landscape you also see in the Poudre Canyon:
Turnaround is at the junction of US-34 and the Glen Haven Road, featuring the River Forks Inn at Drake:
As you exit back through the Narrows, the landscape opens out ...
... and you cut through the snowflecked Hogback (hopefully not snowflecked in April, but you never know):

The second half of the ride provides plenty of panoramas, including this one from Rd. 13, a Permanents favorite, en route to Platteville, de rigueur for Plains Perms:

This route aims to provide some relatively mild early-season climbing, with plenty of canyon scenery to inspire and distract. If you think you might enjoy a preview, let me know and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February off to a Fine Start!

While rain has relentlessly buffeted the West Coast and the Gulf, and the East Coast's snowfall would make Colorado ski areas envious, we've continued our frosty but rideable winter.

Fresh back from an end-of-January 200k a week ago, the "usual suspects" put in another great effort to start off the month. Ken "KC" Heck said he'd like to ride the Kersey Kick, and was joined by John Klever, Leslie Sutton, Jane Yant, and yours truly.

Oh, and Bob Barday rode the first few miles with us before branching off on the Windsor Wanderer perm (which went great, by the way).

It's important to get back to basics at this time of year. This includes uncomfortable moments where you say to yourself, "This, too, will pass ... I hope!" - in this case incipient frostbite starting out. The rubric that randonneurs "travel on their stomach" is also a rando value, illustrated below.

Here, Jane, John K., and Leslie tuck in to the repast the Kersey Texaco has to offer, everything from Cheetos (the orange-yellow food group) to their wonderful home-made burritos (the tubular food group):

In true rando form, you'll see the gang is relaxed but ready to go, jackets and helmets in place. A good lesson for us all. Unaccountably, the group had tailwinds or quartering tailwinds all day, despite changing directions on a regular basis in order to finish back where they started. How strange is that? But no one was complaining.

At the finish, KC celebrates a victory over the frost and short days:

Meantime, Leslie presents John K. with the savored Dark Chocolate Achievement Award:

... and everyone, still garbed for a day that didn't warm up all that much, celebrates a finish with the sun still gleaming!
John K., Leslie, Jane, and kindred overachievers are headed down to Texas Hell Week in March. We can only imagine they will arrive tough as nails and ready for miles, based on these rugged 200k's!


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Magic of January Rays!

Why are these folks looking so happy, though huddled together? It's because (1) it's a bright, sunny January day, whose rays take the edge off a frosty start for our ride, and (2) because they eschewed a route that included the shadowy, arctic, creek-chilled, and icy-patched Lefthand and James Canyons.

John Klever instigated this fine execution of the Platteville Poke-Along 205km: John on the left joined by (L-R) Jane Yant, Leslie Sutton, and JLE (as whiskers):

There was time for conviviality at the Lyons Diamond Shamrock. The store entrance is north-facing, in shadow, but smart randonneurs have sidled around to the side, to find life-giving photons!

At the south-facing entrance to Sandy's Convenience Store, Leslie demonstrates another important rando principle: multitasking! Leslie is simultaneously stretching, resting her eyes, maximizing her vitamin D absorption, and eating her sandwich.

Hopefully we can enjoy a few more brilliant, wind-free days before the spring snows move in!