Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 season coming into focus

With the click of a mouse yesterday - or, more accurately, with some frantic tapping on my phone - the 2013 season suddenly snapped into focus. As we sat eating noodles-to-die-for at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe after a foggy spin out to Chelmsford, Pamela reminded me that registration for the Dirty Kanza 200 had opened that morning. Matt Roy, The Wilcox and I had tossed around the idea of participating this year, but we hadn't fully committed to it yet. I knew that registration had filled in 2-1/2 hours last year, so a combination of noodles and mention of registration caused a sudden adrenaline spike. To make matters straightforward, Matt and David were in Madison, Wisconsin, supporting Mo in the Nation Cyclocross Championships (where she finished 7th - way to go, Mo!). There followed some frantic texting and frenzied attempts to break my own Bikereg and Paypal passwords (not having logged in to either account on my phone before). Gene & Co. were kind enough to not kick us out into the chilly fog while all this was going on and (not so) soon, the deed was done!

In particular, this now means that late May and June will be very busy. We are running DROVES again in Vermont, the weekend before Dirty Kanza. That, in turn, will precede the Green Mountain Double by two weeks. And Ride Studio Cafe are cooking up something special later in the month too.

I hope I can still see this clearly at the end of June...

I woke on Sunday morning to a weather forecast promising positively searing temperatures for January in New England. One of my big challenges in the Dirty Kanza will be dealing with high temperatures, so I thought I should begin my heat training straight away. In time honoured early season tradition, Pamela and I rolled out our fixed wheel steeds this morning and cruised over to Ride Studio Cafe for a quick shot of espresso flavoured PEDs before hitting the road for real.

While Pamela set her sights on another culinary destination, I decided to get really serious and do something that vaguely resembled training. I clipped in and aimed northwest, for some rolling hills. However, while the weather forecast temptress had lured me out of bed (it's funny how temptresses work the other way in the cinema, but I digress. I'm trying to be serious, after all) the actual conditions were rather more prosaic.

The combination of recent snow and today's sweltering 4C/40F temperatures led to another day of fog and sloppy road conditions. However, slop beats ice and slush any day, which meant that some of my favourite roads in Westford, Tyngsborough and Dunstable were ripe for riding.

Riding fixed breeds a full appreciation for all aspects of road topography and scenery. I really didn't stop to take photos because I was a broken man!

In keeping with the serious theme, I'm going to sit back this evening and work on my Training Philosophy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 - In Review

2012 was an amazing year for me on the bike. Due to a lack of any type of weather that would normally pass for winter in New England, I logged a lot of early season bike miles, and then just kept going. A Strava climbing challenge in March and April saw me accumulating some big climbing numbers, and well...  I kept going with that too. By the end of the year, I'd clocked up over 18,000 miles and over a million feet of climbing. My only resolution for 2013 is to do less! This should actually be an easy resolution to keep! Check back in January 2014 to see if I did!

But it wasn't numbers that made my year on bikes an amazing one. It was the new and old friends that I rode with, the cool places that I explored and the spectacular scenery that I encountered along the way.

The lack of a proper day job and a very understanding spouse, Fear Rothar, made it possible for me to do a lot of exploring by bike last year.  Using a cool tool, created by Jonathan O'Keeffe, I was able to overlay all my rides for the year on a single map. While I did ride back and forth to Ride Studio Cafe enough for Google Now to decide that I work there, I also managed to cover a lot of other ground in eastern Massachusetts last year.

I also got out to the Berkshires as well as up into NH, Vermont and Maine.  (I also did some riding around the Finger Lakes in NY and near my Dad's place in NC).

We spent a week out in California in March.

And flew to France to tour the Cevennes for a couple of weeks in September

Things really started to get fast and furious for us in May.

The fleche team, Misguided Angels with Dena Cohen, Norm TenBroek, Dave Cramer and me, rode from Provincetown, MA to Portland, ME.

DROVES came next as Fear Rothar and I christened our brand new tandem.

Then Dena and I had a great time on the dirt roads of southern Vermont riding the Green Mountain Double Century.  We followed that up by doing our first ever tandem ride together the following weekend at the Rapha Gentlemen's Race, with Dena, Patria Lanfranchi and Rebecca Fetner stepping in at the last minute when half our original team was felled by injury.

July saw us (Fear Rothar and me)  riding the tandem on the GranHundo and then I put some of my climbing training to use on Newton's Revenge. August was very busy with Quadzilla and a few hillclimb races, including Ascutney, Equinox and Mt Washington, which went well for me, and gave Fear Rothar something to write about!

Burke, as always was great fun. We then did a new dirt road event around Mt Kearsarge, before heading off to France.

Dena and I hopped on the tandem together for the Great River Ride. And then Fear Rothar and I took part in a very fun stage race put on by RSC, called the Fall Five.

Our final ride ever was to World's End, except it wasn't because the world didn't really end. However the Festive 500 did almost do me in!

Despite claiming exhaustion after that last Festive 500 ride, it was as if someone hit the reset button when the ball fell in Time Square to welcome 2013, and I was happily out riding again on New Year's Day, with renewed passion.

It's been fun for me to look back at last year and see how much we packed into 366 days. What will 2013 bring? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Festive 500 - 2012 - One for the Books

We coordinated with the great folks at Ride Studio Cafe this year to put together a series of rides, based from the Studio, for the Rapha Festive 500.  This was actually my selfish way of ensuring that I would have some company as I tried to complete the challenge. And it worked. We had fabulous turnouts for most of the rides, with everyone else showing better judgement than me on the cold rainy day. It was really nice to see such large turnouts, despite the seasonable weather this year. Last year, we suffered a snow drought and while we had some very cold rides, we didn't have any good epic snowy photos. I wanted to get a few snowy shots for this year, and routed a few of the rides by ice rinks, so we could at least get "Zamboni snow" shots if we again failed to get any natural snow. But that proved completely unnecessary. We had snow on the ground Christmas morning and got quite a bit more more as the week wore on.

Our first ride on Christmas Eve saw a crowd of about 40 riders head out from RSC to climb up Brimstone Lane followed by lunch at Panzano in Southboro. More on this ride here.

You can imagine how popular I was with those riders who hadn't studied the route profile ahead of time!

The crowd at the top, plotting their revenge.

For Christmas Day, we hosted the ride start at our house, about 8 miles south of RSC. We made our best attempt to emulate the RSC experience with espresso drinks and hot porridge. We had an inch or so of snow overnight that put off a few riders, but had 4 hardy souls ride to the End of The World and back.  Read all about it here.

We rode along the carriage roads at World's End, taking in a nice view of Boston

We then embarked on a fruitless search for an open coffee shop on the way back!

The day after Christmas again saw a good crowd at RSC to do the ride to
the Lost Lake Roller Coaster, with lunch at Fihlo's Cucina. The day started out with bitter cold temperatures, and it was surprising to see so many brave souls. They must have liked all their Christmas presents and had nothing to exchange! More details on the ride here.

Bitter cold, but dry conditions for the exchanging-day ride

Riding past a frozen lake on the way to the lost one!

Great displays of holiday spirit!

The forecast called for snow overnight Wednesday, with clearing by mid-morning on Thursday. We had only rain overnight in Watertown (what else in Waterown), so I failed to realize quite how much snow had fallen just a few miles away. Still the temperature was almost balmy when I rose on Thursday, and I have all this rain gear that would be a waste not to use, so I headed out for the 10AM start. No one else was foolish enough to join me, so I decided to do a slightly shorter ride than the one we'd advertised. As I got further out, the rain came down harder and the temps plummeted, and I finally came to my senses. A long break to dry off and warm up with soup saw my hands recover enough to continue to home. By the time I arrived, it was positively pleasant out! Read more here.

I switched the planned rides, for Thursday and Friday, to avoid potentially snowy conditions at higher elevations, but more importantly to head to one of my favorite cafes, the Blue Moon. This was the real theme of the week. All the rides had great lunch destinations, and the Blue Moon was a hit with everyone. All the details here.

What the Festive 500 is really all about

A few trails on skinny tires

Saturday was to be the big ride for the week. We had special Rapha guests, coming up from New York, and had planned a 105 mile ride out to Mount Wachusett with a few good dirt sections just for fun. But the forecast for an afternoon snow storm had us scale back to Bolton Flats, and the timing worked out quite well, as everyone was home by the time the snow started to fly in earnest.  We did encounter some snowy roads at the western end of the route, but everyone kept rubber to the ground. More here.

Quite the crowd braved cold and forecast of snow. (Photo taken by Rob Vandermark)

Derrick live-tweeting the roads conditions for the folks in the slower group! (photo courtesy of Neil McInnis)

Photo Courtesy of Henry van den Broek

The 2 inches of snow predicted turned into about 8 inches on the ground. We were a bit late for the start by the time we shoveled a path up the driveway, but the one hardy rider who came out, waited patiently for a delayed start, and put up with a shortened route. The fact that we took in a great lunch complete with cupcakes helped. Probably my favorite day on the bike for the challenge.

Finally some good winter riding conditions

The final day was a ride up Harold Parker State Park. By this stage, I was well over the mark, but I wanted to attempt every ride. Besides the sun was out! More here.

It was a great way to finish off the year, with a bit of motivation to burn a few calories and ignore the less than ideal weather.  It was great to be able to make use of my cold and bad weather gear and bikes! Thanks again to Rapha for the challenge and special thanks to Ride Studio Cafe for helping me get some riding companions for the week.