Kick that Rut, the 2016 Version

At the beginning of the year I don’t make resolutions so much as I try to do something about the ruts I’ve fallen into. This is known in the Felkerino-Gersemalina household as the “kick that rut right in the butt” examination.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

As adulthood continues on (thankfully!), ruts become a problem, it seems, as I try to figure out this living thing. Someone recently told me the trick to aging gracefully is not to die from the neck up.

In 2014 I realized I had spent too many years solely riding the bike as my main form of fitness exercise.  That was entirely justified, I figured, as I loathe gyms and my attempts at swimming are laughable.

I was a runner in high school and college, but had dropped it long ago in favor of cycling. Like, 30 years ago. So last year I decided to buy some running shoes, a GPS watch, and see if I could get my legs back in shape. Plus, MG and my daughter DF were running and I was sort of jealous.

It took a long time of mixed walking and running just to be able to run continuously without knee pain, and then run three miles. I finally got there in early March, finishing a 5K. My next goal was a 10K in the fall, which I accomplished in October.

For the year I managed 353 miles over 101 runs and didn’t ruin my knees.

My goal this year is to stick with it and run a 10-miler or half-marathon by the fall. I’ve enjoyed running again, expecially the contemplative aspect, so I expect to get there.

The other rut last year was planning my cycling life around the quadrennial Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K randonnee. I had gone the last four times dating back to 1999, with MG joining me in 2011 on tandem. It was a lot of fun, if exhausting.

We decided that it was an event we’d sorely miss in 2015 — FOMO, it only comes once every four years, and all that.

Yet we didn’t feel like flying to Paris just for a four-day event that we’d done before, and spending a ton of money and blowing two weeks of vacation in the process.

We took a pass and tandem toured for the third straight year, this time for two weeks in Montana and Idaho. That was right for us, though we really missed being there with all our fellow randonneurs in France.

On the other hand, Missoula was cool and we loved visiting the Adventure Cycling Association HQ.

We’ll try to go to PBP in 2019.

This year? We’re going to tandem tour again, likely two weeks from Sacramento to Portland via the Adventure Cycling Association’s Sierra Cascades Route. After riding the past summers in Colorado and the northern Rockies, it’s time to see other mountains by bike.

We’ve heard great things about Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake and the whole route. Plus we know some coffeeneurs in Portland and hopefully we can meet up before we return home.

We’re also going to try to put in more winter miles than last year, when circumstances and weather got in the way. To that end, Mary and I signed up for the Bike Arlington (Va.) Freezing Saddles challenge.

It runs from Jan. 1 to the beginning of spring. You get 10 points for each day you ride (1 mile minimum) plus a point per mile. They put you in teams weighted with both high- and low-mileage riders, so there is some friendly competition.

The competition is based on data uploaded to Strava, so we’ve both fired up our dormant accounts and linked our Garmin accounts. Last year I captured every bike ride, run and fitness walk on Garmin via GPS, so I’m in the groove.

MG is going to have to start using her phone or Garmin watch more than she has, but she’s already liking the “kudos!” you get from Strava.

I’d like to get 600 miles a month through March. We’ll see how that goes — my fallback is 150 miles a week when certain events don’t get in the way.

We’re also going to ride the DCR Fleche this year after skipping last year. We’ve glommed onto a new team and plans are being made with a certain English gentleman who loves to draw up routes, so stay tuned for more.

This weekend MG and I rode our first rando ride of the year, the easy RaceYaToRocco’s 102mi/165K RUSA permanent from Frederick, Md. to East Berlin, Pa. and back. Here’s a map and our GPS data.

It was hard to get up early, drive an hour to Frederick, and start out in the cold — I’ll acknowledge that up front. Getting in the base miles now means we’ll have more fun on the spring brevets and the fleche, though. Plus, we like riding in the winter once we warm up. Tandeming is always fun with MG.

Cold and damp, let's ride a century

Cold and damp, let’s ride a century

The weather was dreary to start — cold mist, in the 30s — but dried out mid-day, though the day was quite gray and foggy.

If you're wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

If you’re wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

The ham-and-bean soup at Rocco’s Pizza was a welcome warmup and tasted great. The folks there have been and always are nice to us randonneurs, and Saturday was no exception.

Rocco's, the randonneur destination

Rocco’s, the randonneur destination

We also had a nice visit at Gravel & Grind bike and coffee shop in Frederick before driving home.

We took the Co-Motion Java touring tandem, and it rode like a champ, comfy and confident. Nothing daunts that bike.

One tough randonneur

One tough randonneur

The new go-faster Spectrum tandem rides nicely needs a bit of tweaking next Saturday back at Tom Kellogg’s place in Pennsylvania before we’ll put it to hard use. Once I finish outfitting with the final bits I’ll write up a post with lots of flattering photos.

Today it was unseasonably warm in DC and I got out for a Freezing Saddles ride with Ted N. and we met up with Ian F. on Hains Point. I was tired but it was fun and we saw MG while she was out and her run.

MG, Ian and Ted

MG, Ian and Ted

If you too are riding more this winter, keep up the good work and let us know in the comments how to follow you on the social media.

If you are local to DC, see you out there!

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Suburban Breakout 100K

Banned in pubs …
A report in which I recount stories of smoking cyclists, lost orienteers, and English “tanning.”

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Is it a bike rally? No, just an audax.

There’s something a little unsatisfying about an audax that starts with the coordinator emerging from the cafe serving as the start and finish controle, taking a long drag on a cigarette, blowing out a cloud of tobacco smoke, and saying, “Well: Off with you, then!” But that’s how the Central London Cycle Touring Club Suburban Breakout ride started in the north London neighborhood of East Finchley, under drizzly skies and temperatures more typical of early April than late June. Rolling toward Hertfordshire up Great North Road through the high streets of North Finchley, Whetstone, and Chipping Barnet, it bursts into the countryside between London proper and Potter’s Bar, finally diverting from busy A roads north of Potter’s Bar.

(No mid-ride pictures, given the rainy conditions).

Onto the quieter roads, I caught the tail of a group of four others, including one American woman Naomi and her English partner, Keith. With another English bloke, Roger, pulling us along at 20 mph, I was happy to sit at the back and enjoy the ride through the forested dips around Newgate Street, the windy downhill through farm fields at Bayford, the crossing of the Lee Valley at Hertingfordbury and then over the hills in Hertford, the county’s seat. After a bit of rolling, the terrain finally settled down into the narrow, hedged lanes and farm fields north and west of Hertford.

We found ourselves leapfrogging with a pair of fellow audaxers, one on a mountain bike and one on a road rig, always moving substantially quicker than us but always, it seemed, behind us. Naomi informed me that one of the pair was a top mountain bike orienteer.

“How can he do that and always be lost?” I asked.

“He makes up for his navigational errors with radioactive speed,” she said.

Well, this is Britain, and they do things their own way, I suppose.

On through the scenic villages of Sacombe, Dane End, Haultwick, Wood End, and Ardeley, on ever-narrower farm tracks with hedges creating blind corners every few hundred meters, it seemed, we worked our way toward the halfway controle at Cottered. Along the way, we picked up a ponytailed, German-accented rider named Oliver, helmetless, wearing a NY Yankees cap and riding a blue Lemond, who we spotted checking out a map. He tagged along with us for awhile, then bolted ahead periodically, only to stop and check a map again, where he’d resume riding with us. Perhaps he didn’t understand the purpose of the cue sheet.

Riding into Cottered, we could hear a voice on a loudspeaker, and as we pulled into the center of the town, quite a few people milling on the streets. What was this? Spectators for a randonnee? And not even a very long one? But no: It was the village’s summer fete, and we happened to be its spectators.

While I found a secluded bush, fellow members of my grupetto hit the food stands for bread pudding and burgers. I was content with gel and liquid food. We pushed on, past a historic, Dutch-influenced windmill, through more rolling terrain, a few uphill false flats and wider roads, through Walkern, Watton, Datchworth, Bramfield and Cole Green. Roger and his partner dropped off the pace, so soon it was Keith, Naomi, Oliver and me. Passed once again by the lost orienteers, Oliver tried to hold their wheel, but we soon found him at another roadsign, looking at the map.

“They got lost again. I think I put them back on the right path,” Oliver said. “But I couldn’t stay with them.”

As we approached Letty Green, we could see clouds darkening ahead. “I think we’re going to get wet,” Keith said.

“I think I’m already wet,” I said.

At Letty Green, we could hear the downpour approaching a few seconds before it hit. I grabbed my gilet out of a back pocket and put it on, but then Oliver pointed us toward a tree that gave us some shelter. We waited out the rain for a few minutes. A pair rode past us, possibly a father and teenage son, who shouted, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” Mine was all wet, and wanted to be dry.

In a few minutes, the rain eased and we were back on the road. We crossed the Lee River once again, and did the big climb back out of the valley into Essendon, where the final info control was (symbols on the pub at the top of the climb: Well, there were two, but the answer our coordinator was looking for was “Rose & Crown,” not “the Candlestick”). Oliver was feeling energetic and so was I, so we charged through Essendon and back to the Great North Road, where we turned south and headed back toward Potter’s Bar. Somewhere along the way, we passed the father and son duo, and although they caught up to us at the one stoplight in Potter’s Bar, we were smelling the barn.

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How you get a tan from riding in the English rain.

Along the way, the liquid food had left a small cramp in my stomach, and I began dreaming of a plate of beans and toast back at the cafe. Our intensity rose as we chased through the countryside, finally coming to a halt at the first stoplight in Chipping Barnet.

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Oliver said.

At the next light, I attempted to paddle through the gutter past a stop car, but clipped my hand on a wing mirror, sending me clattering to the pavement. I sprang up quickly with apologies to the driver, but knew there would be a bruise (there is, left leg, right above the knee). Back through the suburbs we rode, finally arriving back in East Finchley somewhere around 2:15.

The rain had eased enough for tables to be set up outdoors for muddy cyclists. Nobody was smoking and the lost orienteers were long gone. I ordered a coffee and that dreamed-of beans on toast.

(GPS data here.)