Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Soft Like Kitten, Stubborn Like Mule

In 1987, as a young naive randonneuse, I headed off to France to attempt PBP. For various reasons, I ended up starting the event on a brand new bike, with somewhat untested equipment. It didn't go well, and I was initiated into Team Randonneé Abondonneé. You may have heard the AAA advertisement, "Someday you'll break down and join AAA." Well, I'd might suggest that folks may be playing it too safe and aren't really pushing their own boundaries enough, if someday they don't eventually break down and join Randonneé Abondonneé (RA)!

And I'd even go so far as to say that becoming a member of Randonneé Abondonneé can be a great opportunity, as lessons learned from the experience really stick with you more than anything you read in a blog! And in the years since my initiation into RA, I have applied lessons learned on that ride to many parts of my life, not just cycling.

The critical equipment lesson for me in 1987 was regarding tires. I learned to check very carefully for more than one hole when you have a puncture. I was at the end of a paceline when I rode through a very recessed manhole cover, and ended up with multiple holes in both tires, all of which I didn't find until several punctures down the road. The second lesson was that folding French tires may not stay seated on rims without a hooked edge. Guess what kind of rims were on that new bike? My spare tire would not stay on the rim, and I ended up with almost a dozen punctures in the first 100 miles before I finally figured this all out. In the meantime, I had decided to quit and sent my riding partner on his way. But then another rider came along and convinced me to give it another try and keep going. And sure enough I didn't have another puncture.

But lesson number two came later that evening, when the second wave of starters caught up to me. One of the riders from that wave had been staying at my hotel in Paris and we had done some riding together prior to the event. He was surprised to find me so far off pace. We chatted a while and I told him of my woes, but that I was confident now that I had resolved the problem.

He wasn't so confident and spent the next few miles trying to convince me to quit, with tales of what if...

His words got into my head and I stopped and turned back, soon checking into a hotel and really calling it quits. The next day I headed into the next control and hung out, waiting for friends to come back through, eventually riding all the way back to Paris.

I have DNF'd a few other rides since, but never again because I listened to negative words, either from others or those in my own head. Randonneuring is 90% physical and 90% mental with a little luck thrown in. The physical part we can train for. The mental part requires a different type of training, but being prepared for those negative thoughts can make a big difference in the outcome. And knowing when to ignore the naysayers and when to listen because their advice is sound is a big part of the mental game.

It a tough call for others too. Where to draw the line at encouraging and when to point out a danger or risk. It's a 100F and the rider is not sweating and not eating and speaking incoherently - this is likely a time to intervene and try to help. But otherwise, my attitude is to encourage and provide positive feedback, and that's how I want to be treated.

I'm often doing rides that are stretching my comfort zone, either in length or hills or pace or temperature. Make no mistake, I'm riding because riding a bike is fun. But sometimes it's also difficult or challenging, and I get great satisfaction from overcoming an adversity, or accomplishing a goal.

Maybe I just need those endorphins! But this is what makes me a randonneur. And it's why I keep coming back after more than 25 years. This blog post actually says it far better than I ever could.

So anyway, regular readers know that a few weeks ago, I had another DNF - when I broke my collarbone 4kms from the end of a 200km ride. For a few seconds, I thought I could finish the ride, and maybe I could have walked to the finish within the time limit, but I took the easy option of a lift to the end and a lift to the hospital.  Soft - like kitten.

I opted for surgery the next day and thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, along with 6 screws and a plate, and some good painkillers, I was soon able to move around and do normal daily things like tie my shoes and wash my hair.

The doctors told me to keep active and had me start Physical Therapy a week after the surgery. I quickly had full range of motion back in my left arm. But the recovery wasn't so miraculous as to allow me to take part in what had been a big focus for my season, Green Mountain Double Century, 6 days after the accident. John and I had been planning to ride the tandem. But I put on a brave face, and sent him on his way to ride a single bike with his teammates.  I moped about after he left, but my friend Dena, got me to go out for a hike on the Saturday. It was a bit painful, especially when I was caught off-guard and flinched when a deer leapt across the trail in front of us. But it was a lovely day and not one to spend inside being depressed.

The next day, I sent email out for my weekly Tuesday ride, announcing a substitute leader, but saying I was hoping to be back soon. I got a reply back from someone who really doesn't know me at all. He suggested I should take up Bridge.

I saw the doctor that same Tuesday, and he again warned of the risk of falling and potentially doing more damage, but also suggested I ride in a controlled environment like the bike path. I pointed out the open roads were far safer than the bike path, and took it as a green light to get outside. We got out for another very short tandem ride the next day.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a daredevil. But I couldn't take anymore sitting around and doing nothing, and riding the bike was really no riskier than walking downtown. Heck I almost got run over while walking to PT by a rude driver in a Staples truck while I was in a marked crosswalk with a green pedestrian light.

Anyway a few days later, I got my bike back and finally got out on my own. I was very cautious, and certainly had to fight my own demons and fears to ride. But I did it, and I even managed to ride past the site of the accident. Stubborn - like mule.

We got out for another tandem ride over the weekend. Standing is a bit awkward, and I am a bit achy in the evenings, but it's no different on days when I ride versus those when I don't. So while I'm slow and avoiding hills, I am at least smiling and riding.

So I sent out an email that the Tuesday ride was on! In a slight concession to the heat wave and my own recovery, it would be shorter and flatter than usual. Ten folks joined me. But the same know-it-all who suggested Bridge got even more aggressive in telling me all the what-ifs, and that I shouldn't be outside on a bike.

Soft - like kitten, might not have been his first impression of my response. But the lesson I learned in 1987 was to drown out the negativity. And do what your body can do.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 :: 2013 edition

I've often observed that the most difficult ride and race reports to write are those about rides and races that went perfectly smoothly. It seems that every story worth telling  features a protagonist or two overcoming a great challenge or three on their way to a conclusion that is in doubt until the last breath.

While I can't promise a story with an ending of that magnitude, the 2013 edition of the Dirty Kanza 200 certainly didn't lack in challenges. Starting and finishing in the town of Emporia, Kansas, the race traverses 200 miles of gravel roads through the nearby Flint Hills. While your mental image of Kansas may conjour up visions of vast plains or, dare I mention it, a Yellow Brick Road, it doesn't apply to the Dirty Kanza route. Instead of endless flats, there are countless hills to admire and continuous gorgeous scenery to be endured. However, speaking of "endless flats," the Flint Hills are renowned at providing those too. The original inhabitants of the area, The Great Kanza Nation, made arrowheads from the flint that abounds in these hills, so tyres need to be chosen with care.

The Ride Studio Café Endurance team of Matt Roy, David Wilcox and yours truly had tossed around the idea of doing this race for several years. The planets aligned to make this possible in 2013 though, when team captain Matt worked some sponsorship magic and arranged support from Seven Cycles, SRAM components, Clément tyres and Rapha clothing. Thank you all for your generosity! Unfortunately though, Matt's PhD graduation ceremony ended up being the day before Dirty Kanza, so he had to opt out.

That left David and I catching the flight to Kansas City on Thursday, with Fixie Pixie Pamela, who very generously gave up a weekend to cater to our every whim. It was pouring rain as we landed, which promised interesting conditions for the weekend's race, as it appeared to have rained every day that week too. We seemed to bring good weather with us, though, as it cleared when we left the airport and the trip to Emporia went smoothly. Once at our motel, our brand new bikes went together quickly. Yes, being the experienced riders that we are, we were doing all the things we would recommend against anyone else doing, such as starting a gruelling 200 mile race on new bikes!

Next up was cramming for our weekend examination. We hit the road again, this time heading to the Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, coincidentally located on Massachusetts Street in the town of Lawrence. The shop is owned by (now) four time Dirty Kanza winner, Dan Hughes, and they were hosting an informational evening about the race. Not only that, but last year's women's champion and endurance racing legend, Rebecca Rusch was in attendance too, so there was a wealth of experience and information to tap into. Incidentally, Rebecca will be running a 100 mile dirt road event in September - Rebecca's Private Idaho - which promises wonderful cycling and scenery.

Friday morning saw us taking a trip into downtown Emporia to sign on for the race. We were blown away by what awaited us. Virtually every shopfront on the Commercial Street featured a bike and race related paraphernalia, while Dirty Kanza flags fluttered in the breeze. Signing on took place in the beautiful Granada Theatre, a classy touch. Everyone we met was tremendously welcoming and bubbling over with enthusiasm. What a treat!

I traded in my Seven for the softer ride of the Steel Wool machine

So far, so good. David and I had received a map of the first 50 mile leg when we signed on, so we decided to check out some of that, before a racer information meeting later in the day. Pamela, meanwhile, went shopping for supplies.

A couple of miles took us out of town and straight onto gravel roads. It quickly became obvious that the opening miles would be "interesting," with 660-odd riders in the 200 mile race vying for position on narrow roads, punctuated with frequent 90 degree turns. Also quickly apparently - although perhaps "quickly" is the wrong word - was that my legs felt terrible. I could only put it down to all the travelling the previous day and the warm temperature - this after cycling in snow in Vermont just a few days ago! - and hope for the best.

@the_wilcox saves a turtle

Saturday morning, and the real test, came all too quickly. Seeking some pre-race caffeine, David and I found ourselves in line at Granada Coffee with organiser extraordinaire, Jim Cummins. Jim was very excited about this year's route, explaining that the race would be using some private roads for the first time, which would enable a nicer flow to the route.

Taking Jim's word about how well the route would flow (and, to get ahead of myself just a little, he didn't exaggerate), we lined up in the 12-hour group. The start is self-seeded, by expected finish time: 12-14 hours, 14-16 hours, etc., outside the Granada Theatre.

We must have also seeded ourselves by region, as we ended up beside Alby King from Rhode Island, with whom we traded notes and gallows humour while The Cowboy Junkies' "200 More Miles" played inside my head:

Jim sent us on our way with a flourish, with the first few (paved) miles, leaving town, neutralised. Then we took a sharp right onto gravel and the race was on! These opening miles were reminiscent of racing at Battenkill, but with rougher roads on which the only really viable lines consisted of two wheel tracks. The skilled cyclocross racers and mountain bikers were obvious as they found alternative lines and moved up the pack. Despite a crash, perhaps just five miles in, things weren't as sketchy as I feared they might be. A solid pace undoubtedly contributed, as the front of the pack thinned down quite rapidly.

The road conditions were a factor in thinning the field too. Roughly 10 or 15 miles in, we rounded a 90-degree left-hander onto a farm track, finding ourselves faced with innocuous looking mud. Our first inclination was to plough through but the locals all immediately hopped off and ran around it in the fields to either side. Those who did attempt to ride through found themselves bogged down in thick, clingy, peanut-butter mud. Clipping back into the pedals was difficult too, our shoes have acquired a coating of thick clay.

Lesson one: Pay attention to the locals.

Several more muddy sections followed, thoughtfully interspersed with fords to wash off some of the mud.

Lesson two: Don't follow the wheel in front of you too closely when entering a ford, unless it's a really hot day, perhaps!

Several miles further on, as we swept around a right-hander, I thought we must have another ford coming, when a bystander yelled out, "You're going to get really wet soon!." However, I was in for a treat as this led to a full-on river crossing, knee deep with a strong current to boot. A big crowd cheered us on as we scrambled through the mud on the far side. I was loving it!

Lesson three didn't become apparent until I had a shower that night: Don't experiment with a new, lighter version of your favourite sunscreen on your first day with bare skin in several weeks. That new sunscreen got washed away during the river crossing and the dust that later collected on my legs wasn't as effective as factor 60...

David and I managed to keep track of each other through all this, although I was doing most of the tracking. @the_wilcox was flying, leading the pack, while yours truly was suffering from the early signs of death - rigor mortis [of the legs]. I was a little baffled. The pace was certainly fast given that we would be covering 200 miles that day, but I wasn't breathing hard or otherwise obviously working too hard. However, I couldn't afford further navel gazing and instead made a mental note to watch out for further signs of death, like bodily decomposition (with apologies to Father Ted). In the meantime, I tried not to get dropped by surges on hills.

I was still with the lead group, of perhaps a dozen riders, when the first checkpoint materialised, on the appropriately cobbled streets in the town of Madison. We had covered just over 50 miles/80 km in a little more than 2 1/2 hours, but I had decided that was enough for me. I informed Pamela and David that I needed to ride at my own pace and that David should press on with the leaders.

I didn't mess around though, and left town with eventual winner, Dan Hughes. Indeed, I will hereby claim to have propelled Dan to the win, as he appeared to drop his chain on the climb leaving town, and I gave him a quick push so that he didn't lose momentum.

It was with mixed emotions that I watched the lead group pull away. I knew it was the right thing to plough my own furrow, as it were, but it went against all my competitive instincts. I tried to concentrate on enjoying the gorgeous scenery instead. However, it became obvious that the lead group continued to get whittled down, as I picked off a steady trickle of riders who had been dropped.

I eventually struck up a conversation with Colin Mahoney, riding for the same Sunflower Outdoor and Bike team as Dan Hughes. Colin had gone to school in Dartmouth, in New Hampshire, and was interested in riding the Green Mountain Double Century. It is a ride which I refer to as "The Beauty and the Beast," and I filled him in on its gory and glorious details. In return, he informed me we were now on the biggest climb of the race, Texaco Hill, this at about mile 70.

Along with the good company and expansive views, this was memorable for another reason. All of a sudden, as if someone had flicked a switch, my legs started to feel good! The planets seemed to come into alignment at the same time too. We took a left onto a narrow, rugged farm track and David appeared, as if by magic.

There followed a wonderfully fun, twisty, turny, undulating section with several fords. One of them hid a hole though, which I didn't clean elegantly, causing me to jettison a water bottle. Stopping to retrieve it, I was passed by Rebecca Rusch and a Carmichael Training rider. I latched on, but not without asking myself if it was a good idea, as the Carmichael rider was riding like a man possessed. Just as I was wondering if he could keep up that pace for 200 miles, we caught back up to David and then, poof! the Carmichael rider was gone, perhaps puncturing, but I'm not sure.

It was about this time that the course started to head westward - and into a simply brutal headwind. I was now part of an impromptu foursome, consisting of David, Rebecca and a Salsa rider. I commented on how the wind was making it difficult to hold a conversation, only for the Salsa guy to reply that he had a great conversation inside his head!

Perhaps 10 miles from the second checkpoint, in the town of Cassoday, we hit a really tough section, with a challenging mixture of steep hills and a savage headwind. The Salsa rider and I pulled away a little, and I thought we could wait up at the top of the hill. A definitive top never came, though, so we rolled on together to the checkpoint. He introduced himself as Jay, and I eventually joined the dots and realised that this was none other than endurance and adventure racer legend, Jay Petervary. What an honour! We worked well together, reeling in another couple of riders before we reached the checkpoint, and Jay suggested rolling out together. I said I would wait for David at the checkpoint, but, as it turned out, I should have paid a little more attention to what Jay did...


David arrived shortly after me and Pamela efficiently took care of our watering and feeding at the checkpoint. She also passed on good wishes and instructions from Directeur Sportif, Matt, who was following the race closely back in Boston. I was carrying Matt's Spot Tracker, so both he and Pamela could see where we were at any point and Pamela was tweeting up a storm, keeping our legions of adoring fans up-to-date on our progress.

However, we were about to learn Lesson Four - pay attention to train schedules.

Too late, we heard a rumble and turned around to notice a long train approaching and about to cross the road we would leave town on. Jay, on the other hand, must have noticed it a little earlier that we did and we watched him clear the crossing before the barriers came down. It passed quicker than I feared, only taking about 2-1/2 minutes, but it seemed to last forever. It did give us some time to oil our chains, however, so all was not lost.

David and I started off again with Rebecca, enjoying a brief tailwind section, but we soon found ourselves alone. That didn't last for long though, as we caught Joe Fox, a one-time third place finisher. Joe had run the Boston Marathon with his sister six weeks before and they had crossed the finishing line just minutes before the first bomb went off, happily escaping unhurt.

We took a left onto another rough section and the status quo was restored - yes, more headwind. Unfortunately David hit a rock hard and got a pinch-flat, so we lost Joe. In the time it took us to get rolling again, we were passed by three riders, Rebecca, Velonews' Chris Case and the Carmichael guy (Jim Lehman, I think).

That gave us some good motivation though, and we worked very hard together on the next section. We caught both Chris Case and the Carmichael rider, over more climbs made tougher still by the ever present headwind. I suppose our slow speed gave us time to admire the beautiful scenery, but I think we could have appreciated it just as much at a higher speed!

We found ourselves alone once more, but about to be reminded of Lesson Four. Or, perhaps, this was really Lesson Five - watch out for bizarre town names. It was with no small amount of disbelief, as we passed through the town of Bazaar, that we spotted another level crossing up ahead - with a long train approaching again. This can't be happening! The next 2-1/2 minutes pushed the limits of the space-time continuum, as time appeared to stand still. Doctor Who, where were you when we needed you?

As it turns out, though, this may have been time well spent. I studied the map carefully while praying for a change of direction which might give some relief from the headwind. That wouldn't happen until just outside the next checkpoint, but I did notice that we had a right hand turn coming up soon. That would transpire to be a turn that many people missed, so it is actually conceivable that every cloud has a silver lining!

Silver linings were not obvious at that moment, though, as a group of half a dozen riders caught us just as the train passed. While we set off at a good clip, Chamois Butt'r rider, Andrew Chocha, not only stayed with us but also attacked hard on several hills. We had a little back and forth going on for a while, but we did manage to get away from Andrew at some point. We then caught up to Roctane ride, Yuri Hauswald, who had been riding with the leaders, Dan Hughes and Daniel Matheny, until he punctured. Yuri seemed very happy to have us for company as we steamed into the third checkpoint, in Cottonwood Falls, with my much anticipated tailwind. 152 miles/244 km down, in 9:31 hrs., with "only" another 50 miles/80 km to go.

Pamela excitedly told us that only two riders were in front of us - what, only two? - with JayP, not too far ahead of us, despite our trainspotting habit. The final map indicated that we still had another 25 miles/40 of northwest headwind awaiting our predilection, before we would finally swing east and south towards Emporia - WITH A TAILWIND!

We rolled out of the checkpoint with Yuri but soon found ourselves alone yet again. This section included a gorgeous road with grass growing up the middle, reminiscent of a wee Irish boreen, perhaps one of our favourite sections of the entire route.

We could occasionally see Jay up ahead of us, silhouetted as he crested a hill. Try as we might, though, we didn't managed to reel him in before the finish and he rode into a well deserved second place. We came in 2-1/2 minutes later - yes, that number again! - crossing the line together in joint third place, to a deafening welcome. Commercial Street had transformed into a huge block party and we were determined to use what energy we had left to join in!

Results from the 2013 Dirty Kanza can be found here.

I will follow up with an equipment post in a few days.

Do Not Make Important Decisions

198 km into a 202 km permanent, my ride came to a sudden unexpected end. I had slowed and signaled to my two riding companions for the left turn ahead. The corner is tight, and I was taking the (left) turn wide and aiming for the far right side of the road. Sadly, the cyclist coming from the other direction was not taking such precaution. He came around his right-hand corner at high speed on aero-bars and was on his far left-hand side of the road, taking an arc directly through me. I was going slow already and braking hard, but his line was on a direct collision course. The impact was from my right and I fell hard on my left. Instantly I was on the ground and clutching my collarbone, with the realization that Green Mountain Double would go on without me the following weekend.

Up to this point, I had been having a great ride. The Redemption Rock Ride we were doing is a very challenging and hilly route that includes a climb to the top of Mt. Wachusett. This route is one that I have tweaked to near perfection to take in some lovely quiet roads and views on the way to and from Mt Wachusett, the highest point in Eastern Massachusetts. It is a popular destination for local cyclists, with a notable climb and magnificent views from the top.  The CRW's Climb to the Clouds is a favorite summer challenge for many local riders, and takes in a route that many folks seem to routinely follow to get out to the mountain. Naturally, I take very different, off-the-beaten-track roads to get there and back. It's music to my ears when someone says, "I've never been on this road, and I live a mile away." Back in the spring, I began working to turn this route into a 200km RUSA permanent. In April, a few friends joined me on Marathon Monday to ride the proposed route and get some info controls. We had a gorgeous day for riding, but there was still snow on the mountain road, so we passed on climbing all the way to the top. At the end of the day, one of the riders commented that it was the toughest 200km he had done, since his first 200km. I took that as an endorsement!

I later did a shorter version of the ride with a ...gasp... remote start, to check out an alternative road in the middle of the route and to get the info control at the top of the mountain. But it has been a busy spring, and I hadn't actually ridden the full route myself since it was approved as a permanent. So Sunday was the day. I've been working with Ride Studio Café on the Highpoints ride, and we decided to use this route as a training ride for folks planning to do Highpoints. It would be a good test of fitness, gearing, and proper tire pressure and width. Like the Highpoints route, it has some classic Massachusetts potlumped roads, a nice section of hardpack dirt, along with a wee bit of climbing, so riders should figure out if they might want lower gears or fatter tires.

We had a magnificent day. We split into two groups, with the "permanent" riders going off together. We had a good stiff headwind heading out, and lots and lots of climbing. Shortly after reaching the furthest outbound point, we stopped for a quick lunch at then headed around the backside of the mountain along a lovely stretch of hardpack dirt before approaching mountain road from the south. Once inside the park, we headed up to the top along the one way road, passing quite a few folks walking up.

At the top, we found loads of hikers who had climbed up along various trails, so we had lots of folks to cheer our arrival. The new tower seems to be a big hit. We stopped long enough for the obligatory photos and pressed on - enjoying the lovely smooth pavement on the descent.

The route back has some more great views, but what is truly amazing is all the descending. There is one more sharp climb to get over the Justice Hill ridge, and then it seems you just go down hill forever. And we had the elusive tailwind. The day was just perfect.


I was thinking about all my upcoming rides. Next weekend: Green Mountain Double Century - a 200 mile ride on dirt roads in Vermont - on the tandem.

It seems like my new fixie, the Café Loiterer, and my new All-Roads, the HoneyBees, have been getting all the attention this spring. The fixie had been christened on the fleche and would get an specially machined adapter for the hill climb gearing installed in a few days, so I could take it up Mt Washington next month at Newton's Revenge. I've had the All-Roads out on all sorts of dirt roads since I picked it up in early April. And I had planned for it to make appearances at the Gran Fundo, D2R2 and Kearsarge Klassic.

In fact this was the first time I'd had Tinkerbell (my coupled and geared Seven) out in a while. Tinkerbell was to get some more action on Highpoints, and had performed flawlessly on this ride. Both she and I were ready!

But for GMDC, Fear Rothar and I had planned to ride the tandem. Fear Rothar has done GMDC a couple of times with the RSC endurance team, and Dena and I rode GMDC in a sane fashion last year. When Dena had to bail on me due to her impending motherhood, Fear Rothar and I decided this would be a fun event to do on tandem.  Our tandem is perfect for it, with the plush tires and low gears. Plus we revel in taking on a ride that folks just don't think is good for a tandem! So this was to be our big tandem ride for the year.

And I was feeling fit...

So as I lay in the road, with one foot still clipped to the pedals, I let out a few choice words for my fate. I felt the bone snap as I hit the ground. I reached for my collarbone and could feel the grinding of the shattered bone. I've broken a collarbone before. I knew exactly what was up.

For a split second I thought I could get up and ride the final 4km. I'm a randonneur, dammit! Finish the ride!

But within seconds it was very obvious that this was not going to be possible. Drew and Dan helped get me out of the road and onto the grassy triangle.

Drew called his wife Geneen to come rescue us. Dan got the contact details from the wrong way cyclist. Geneen arrived and took us back to RSC, where Rob and Ariela took great care of me. We used an inner tube to create a makeshift figure eight to try and relieve some of the grinding. A pack of ice to the shoulder and then a ride over to Mt Auburn Hospital followed with Rob looking after me, as a customer, Beth, drove us over.  Fear Rothar met us at the hospital.

A picture is worth a thousand words... 

So, apologies for those looking for Fear Rothar's Dirty Kanza report. He had it 80% written when he got the call. It's still on the way. But it may be a delayed a few more days. He's been looking after me.

I got some good painkillers at the ER, and instructions to follow up with my orthopedic doctor. The next day, I was given the option of surgery. I said "yes" before the doctor had completed the sentence. When I broke my other collarbone 16 years ago, I was not offered this option, even though I begged. I had pain for about 6 weeks, and couldn't move my arm for 8 weeks. Then when given permission to move, it took another 4 to get range of motion back. I really don't understand why doctors consider this acceptable! I had to have help with everything. They all talk about how collarbones just come back together and heal, but honestly I don't think anyone who says this has endured the torture. 

The first time it was on the right side and I am right handed. In fact, I am so right handed that I had to buy an electric toothbrush because I couldn't even brush my teeth with my left hand. Fear Rothar was hopeless trying to help me wash my hair. I had to go into a salon a couple of times a week. Showering was not much better. I had to buy shoes with velcro closures, and elastic waist pants and button up shirts. At least it was winter, so I just missed out on some hit and miss chance of x-c skiing, but it was brutally cold that year, and whenever I'd try to go for walks, I would get chilled and I would shiver and the bones would just grind. There weren't strong enough pain pills to deal with this. All these memories came flooding back, and I didn't care about the risks of infection or general anesthesia or scars or lumps or anything. Just put the plate and screws in and let me move my arm please. 

The instructions that came with the painkillers said "Do not make important decisions." Well, so far, it seems that I made the right important decision in opting for this surgery. I am now able to tie my shoes, and dress myself. I still am wearing button up shirts, but I am moving about almost like a normal person. I can't braid a ponytail yet, but can do two pigtails!

I'm hoping to get on the back of the tandem at some point. It was heartbreaking last weekend to send Fear Rothar off to ride GMDC on his single bike with the RSC endurance lads. I really didn't want him to miss out on the adventure, so I insisted he go. We'll just do some other ride on tandem this year instead. 

BTW, I had to give Fear Rothar the combination to the chair lock so he could help me for a while. So his DK200 report and the details on the new bike are still incomplete, but as soon as I can manage it, I will lock him back into the chair so those posts get done.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 - the crew perspective

Fear Rothar announced back in the winter that one of his big targets for the year was to be Dirty Kanza, a 200 mile gravel road race, based in the Flint Hills of Kansas. This was to be the premiere event for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance team, with their new Seven Cycles bikes, with SRAM gear,  Clement tires and Rapha clothes.

DK was on my calendar too, but only marked as a weekend where I'd be on my own at home and outnumbered by demanding cats. Matt, David and John would be off racing and Mo would be crewing. But then Matt finally finished off his eight years of work on his PhD this spring, and decided it might be nice to actually attend his graduation. And after all the sacrifices one must make when a partner takes eight years in pursuit of a PhD, Mo wanted to be there too. So this is how I found myself crewing at DK200.

To be honest, it did get me out of riding a brutally hot 300km in Massachusetts that weekend, so it turned out not to be such a great sacrifice afterall- that is until I saw all the glorious photos of the scenery from the pro photographers out on the course, and decided I may want to ride it next time.

Fear Rothar has absolutely committed to getting his post up this weekend about riding the event, as well as the post about his awesome new Seven Cycles bike. I will leave him chained to a computer, while I go out riding on Saturday to ensure this!

We got home from DROVES late Monday night, and it almost felt like going to work when I had to set an alarm to get up and out the door for my Tuesday ride. At least the weather was nice, and we had a great ride, since that would be my last ride for almost a week. Wednesday was non-stop, with errands, concluding with a massive bike packing party at Matt and Mo's. Mo loaned us her double bike case and wheel case, allowing Matt to very efficiently pack John's 5 day old bike and David's brand spanking new bike- built less than 24 hours before - with one set of wheels into the single case - for one $75 baggage charge. The 4 wheel case was within the baggage size limits - and would go for free - Southwest still lets two bags go for free! This allowed us also to take a third (Matt's) set of wheels.  We shoehorned this and two more suitcases into the back of the Tardis - uh I mean Honda Fit - which we planned to take to the airport the next morning.

I hope the rental car has more room.
And just in case you are wondering, we did get a rental car just large enough for three people and all this gear.

Anyway, this post is from the crew perspective - and it's going to be a bit stream of conscious style, as I've compiled tweets, texts and various photos I took along the way. If you followed @fixie_pixie on twitter over the weekend, you'll already have seen most of this.

sevencycles coming back together for endurance team at

The next morning, we tried to find breakfast. It was surprisingly difficult to find anything remotely healthy..

Slim or maybe more to the point, not so slimming choices for breakfast in Emporia 

before we headed over to registration where we spied quite a few interesting bikes

A few bikes at checkin

Knitted bike at
We wandered around downtown Emporia and found the bike shop, and the most amazingly calm shop cat...

Don't tell Cocoa and Izzi .
Next up, the lads headed out for a shakedown ride, while the crew chief got down to business, filling the gas tank... Well once I found the latch there in the door to open the gas door!

Rental cars! Where is the latch for the gas door?
Then it was off to Walmart for supplies...

I bought a large cheap cooler, which I left by the ice machine at the hotel after the event, marked with the word FREE, in hopes it wouldn't completely go to waste. I also got cereal, yogurt, milk and juice for breakfast, as well as water, a few salty things like chips and v-8, bananas, some caffeinated drinks, water, peanut butter, bread, and some beefy jerky for me. The boys had brought out various ProBars and Bonk Breaker Bars, Scratch Labs mix, and Perpetuem mix. But my experience crewing over the years, is that the rider will grow tired of what they've got and ask for a sandwich, or when it's hot they just want salt. And of course the crew needs munchies. Whatever was left at the end would be eaten over the next day. I've watched @the_wilcox eat. I had no worries about throwing stuff out!

Anyway, while I was shopping, the boys were busy saving a turtle...

I headed back downtown, where I saw this jeep returning from doing some course marking...

An indication of course conditions?
 I found more crew supplies...

Now I'm ready to crew.

And as I walked through town, it became obvious that the whole town welcomes DK!

Emporia, KS welcomes

RSC Endurance@RSC_endurance:
Just in time for , welcome to the RSC Endurance team Twitter page. We are , &

Follow along with the team at the with LIVE satellite tracking:

Matt and Mo's spot tracker was very helpful for me to have an idea of when to be on alert at the checkpoints, as well as letting friends and family and fans watch their progress throughout the day. Definitely recommended for events like this where crew meets riders at designated points, rather than following.

Start of . team looking sharp in kit


doing some tweeting of their own!

team rolling at . Thx

Then it was off to the coffee shop for me - a few moments to relax, before driving down to Madison

pamela blalock@fixie_pixie:
Loitering over coffee before heading of to see team at ckpt 1.

The first checkpoint in Madison.

Collin, extraordinary crew for Dan Hughes and Rebecca Rusch, with a prime spot at the corner by check-in. Experience shows!

Hurry up and wait! Crew At checkpoint 1. Come on boys

Follow today, she's crewing for team at Dirty Kanza in Kansas today & sending updates. Good luck team!

halfway to first ck at . Rolling on tires

in with the first group. looking strong. making sad noises. But in and out quickly

Less than 10 seconds at checkpoint 1, as the boys rolled up, tossed out bottles, got fresh ones and more bars, and picked up the map for the next leg. Fear Rothar said he felt awful and The Wilcox should feel free to roll on. A few texts back and forth between me and MM Racing and we both knew that Fear Rothar would get his mojo in the coming miles and the lads would work together as a team. No worries! 

Next up was the long drive to Checkpoint 2. This involved heading back to Emporia and taking the interstate down to Cassoday. Somehow when I created the GPS track, I doubled back on myself, so as I was driving down, the GPS told me to exit at Cattle Pens - what an interesting name for a town, I thought. When I got to the exit, it was a dirt road off to actual cattle pens! And then the gps route headed back to Emporia. A quick check of the map showed I should keep heading south! Good thing I didn't just blindly follow the GPS!

The wind was pretty strong driving down, and the SUV was putting up a fight. Poor lads. Unlike New England, there is no shelter from the wind here!

Yippee. I got to the ck before them! According to spot, the team are about 75 miles in. It was v windy on the highway.

riding may not be easier, but it's got to be less stressful than crewing.

The drive was long and after they made such good time to the first control, I was a bit stressed about getting to the second control in time. Once there, I checked the Spot Tracker and realized I had plenty of time. They were fighting the headwind, and some hills now, giving me lots of time to mix up bottles and prepare their musettes for the next leg.  I was all set and hanging out by the check-in tent with the two bags.  Now I could just tweet and check the spot, and take photos and tweet some more until they came in...

The lads are easy to spot in their red jerseys from . . Keeping them cool.

The hot off the torch being ridden by the team are scorching up the road.

team on with hydraulic disk brakes and 11 speed on tires at . Soon at ck 2

Too many devices. Touching the screen on the macbook air only results in fingerprints!

Air for maps, iPad for internet, music and spot tracker, phone for GPS, photos, tweeting, texting and phoning!
Yes, I did have loads of devices to both keep me entertained and in touch with the outside world. Somehow I thought I might have time to work on the blog, but I had too much nervous energy to do that. Obviously I did a lot of tweeting from this checkpoint. I also talked with lots of other crews and some local folks who had come out to cheer on the riders.

66F and 22mph wind in Cassoday.

1 Jun
Essential crew supplies
I even got a retweet from Jelly Belly Cycling on that one. I wonder if I can get some help with my addiction - not a cure, just a bulk supply of cinnamon jelly beans!

Positive thoughts to and at , nearing Cassoday

1 Jun
Wispy clouds at . A mild breeze.
Mild breeze wasn't quite the truth. It was pretty brutal - and either a headwind or crosswind for about 75% of the time. At least they's pick up a few minutes of relief right after this checkpoint before turning back into it.

Dan wastes no time getting through Checkpoint #2
There was a wee bit of confusion after the first three came in. Someone asked one of the checkpoint folks if everyone would come there, and she said only red and yellow that green and orange would go up the road. What? They don't all use the same checkpoint? Musettes in hand I ran up to the other parking lot, but saw no red tent, so I ran back down. The gal then said, they check-in here, but we send them up there to see their crews. Arrg.  Here was where red and yellow had an advantage over others, since the orange and green lot was about 1/4 mile away off route. I was just planning to swap bottles at the check-in tent. If they needed more, they could go to the car, but this was to be quick. Fortunately I hadn't missed them while running back and forth. 

team rockin the kit at

 However, as we were swapping out bottles, we saw the train crossing the route up ahead. It was a long one, so they spent a wee bit more time, drinking from the extra bottles and took a few seconds to apply some more chain lube. Then they rolled out as they saw the end of the train. Fear Rothar reported he was feeling much better (as we had predicted). But he had harsh words for the wind!

about 5 minutes behind 3 lads out front. Thru ck 2

feeling better. Wicked windy. will pull next leg!

Wicked windy at . Cool and cloudy now too

guys say please and thank you. So easy to crew for and

I kid you not. While I heard other stressed out riders bark at their crew, these guys are gracious and polite - an absolute pleasure to crew for them!

Next up, the drive to the third checkpoint. This was short, easy and not at all stressful. I pulled in and found a parking spot right across from the tent. I washed bottles, and refilled the musettes. Next time I must remember extra water to wash bottles, as well as paper towels to help clean them off before putting them back in the cooler. I continued tracking their progress with the spot tracker. I also noticed the temperature had dropped, and it was getting overcast. The winds just seemed to get stronger though.

spot tracker says are halfway through this leg

3:09 first rider in ck 3 at
Dan Hughes wastes no time, as he is in and out of the third control in a few seconds.

2nd rider 3:23 at ck 3
Jay Petevary comes through checkpoint 2 in 2nd - also without wasting any time.

3:29 thru ck 3 in 3rd

Next up was my boys in 3rd, after another delay with a long train crossing and a puncture. Apparently a few folks got lost on this leg due to a missing course marker. The approach to the control was a bit confusing as well. 

3:54 group with Rebecca

Send tailwinds to and for final 50 miles. Rolling on with and

Guess what direction the team are going right now?

crew can relax now. It's up to the lads who are looking mighty fine in their lightweight red jerseys...

Red jerseys match the red components. Go and on those fast tires

And let's not forget those awesome frames. Thx

Hang on lads. The tailwind is coming up soon.

Of course the wind is dying down now. . rockin' round Kansas gravel roads
Doctor . The force behind team. Thanks for giving me this great opportunity today

Doctor attended his graduation... Priorities... Thanks for all the tips today.

More cowbell.... More tailwinds

Send and all the energy you can. In the home stretch.

C'mon more cowbell

and in Americus. Flat and tailwind. Gogogogogogo

6:03 Dan Hughes wins again. Looks too fresh

Less than 3 miles for

Crossing I-35

6:22 second place - Jay Petevary

And one minute later the lads came across in 3rd

declares intent to ride tandem next year!

V. grateful thanks to@fixie_pixie for crewing!

a pleasure to crew for such gracious riders. And thanks for the short day.

Endurance tweeting... A new sport

Congrats Team 3rd at Dirty Kanza ! (David Wilcox) & (John Bayley) flew with Clement MSO 40s

well represented at

Happy to be done

Kansas rocked their world

: Brothers in arms. and cross the finish line together (tied for third overall) at

in the books. & I finished tied for 3rd place overall. Help me raise $5,000 for

And again, thank you to all the sponsors
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