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Thursday, May 26, 2011

PA 600K, 5/21/2011

Last Saturday morning at 4 A.M., 25 of us set off for the Eastern PA 600K, which was really a great, challenging & scenic ride. Although humid most of the day, I stayed mostly dry, with the exception of a 30 minute down pour after lunch. My plan, before the ride started, was to sleep for 2 hours or so, or maximum of 3 hours before being on the road again, which would occur after 400K, and arriving back to the starting hotel. Within 30 minutes of riding, I was already asking a few of my Rando friends, "what is your sleep strategy", and Bill Fischer indicated that he planned to ride through the night, and right away I agreed to join  him, as usual...., so much for planning. After an easy start and likely 10 of us riding into the second control together, Bill & I decided not to stop for breakfast at the 2nd control, and off we went. A few hours later, Gavin Biebuyck caught up with us, and the 3 of us rode the next 22 hours together.

I had ridden with both Bill & Gavin a few times this year doing the PA Series, with this being Gavin's first year as a Rando, and being a very strong rider. Bill is a veteran of many years of Randonneuring, and many events, and I have learned a lot from him during the past several months. We all worked well together, and I have to say that it was a real pleasure riding with them during this event.

What else have I learned this year? Well, I blew up my 2nd Garmin again on this ride, although I was able to get it going temporarily back in the hotel when I plugged it in, but when I got back outside, it wouldnt read any satellites. When i turned it on again a few nights later ready to call Garmin, it was working again. I like the Garmin 800 if it would work, but it is proving very difficult to use on long rides and i still havent figured out yet if the problem is charging from my E-Werks with the light on, as it seems to work fine with the light off during the day, or just long routes, even though I broke the 600K into 3 separate routes, and this broke down again, the exact same period, with 10 miles to go before finishing a 400K distance. Strange, but true.....

Thoughts....this was my second 600K, the first being last year doing the NJ 600K, when we started at 10 PM, and it was down the NJ shore, during the summer. But while riding throughout back country Lancaster during the middle hours of the night, I am amazed to see so many people staying up late into the middle of the night, or out partying in their yards? True, I am getting old, and then again, I can only imagine how strange it seems to see 3 riders cruising by in the middle of the night on bikes...

When life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door.......? When Bill, Gavin & I pulled into our 2nd to last Control at 5:30 AM after riding through a peaceful, calm night with the stars shining, the sun was starting to come up, and I was already starting to feel great about knocking off those final 64 miles and being done well before 11 AM. Within 5 minutes of our departure, the fog & wind rolled in, and the next 41 miles to the next control were really brutal for me, especially as my mindset had just changed to being so positive with the sun shining. As I had no Garmin, and didnt want to ask Bill or Gavin what time it was, when we arrived at the next control, I thought at best it would be 11:00, and was pleasantly stunned to learn when my card was signed, that it was "only" 9:15. Once we got started again, the last 22 miles were less painful. Total time for the 3 of us, 31 hours 20 minutes.

I really enjoyed riding with the NJ Randonneurs last year, and I will certainly do more rides in NJ, but I cant say enough about the job that Tom Rosenbaur-Eastern PA RBA does with these rides, truly the "Gold Standard". His rides are very challenging, very well mapped out, supported, and he encourages all of the riders. I can not say enough what a great job he, and all of the volunteers do, and I want to thank everyone. Even though I live in NJ, I will volunteer for some events next year, and I look forward to more PA events, and i would encourage anyone else in the area to come out and enjoy the fun.

Lastly, as I write, I am now 2 weeks away from The Shenandoah 1200K, and I have to say, i have had some second thoughts during the week, especially as I just learned today that there are only 10 riders signed up for the brevet. I have trained hard, and put a lot of thought into this, and I intend to do a little riding this weekend, enjoy our shore house for the first time thus far this year, do some drinking with my friends, and make the final decision by Monday.

Until my next update, thanks for reading, "Keep on Truckin"

Gavin, Bill & myself, back in the hotel after the finish! Tired, but Happy.......

Sunday, May 15, 2011

PA 400K, 4/30/11

The PA 400K is 2 weeks behind me, and was a very enjoyable event. A group of 36 riders set out from The PA Randonneur home base hostel at 5:00 A.M., and soon, a group of 7 of us, started riding together, and we stuck together almost the entire day. We were fortunate to have nice cool temperatures throughout the day, upper 60's to low 70's, compared to the low 90's that they had for the same event last year, which really must have been brutal given the amount of climbing on the ride, especially the first part of the ride.

I needed to finish a 400K this year, as my requirement to ride in The Shenandoah 1200K in June, so after having already ridden 2, 200K's and a 300K event this year for training, my goal for this ride was not to push too much, and I really enjoyed the company throughout the day of the group that I rode with. We finished at midnight, 19 hours total, with several more "relaxing" rest stops for food.

One of the things that I did learn on this ride, which was "better now than later" was that it is true that if you load a long route into a Garmin Edge 800, or probably earlier models, it can cause the unit to crash. I had no problem loading a single 300K route into my Garmin, and had wanted to break the 400K into 2 routes, but I was away on business most of the week before, and used a route that someone had already loaded as a full 400 route, in order to save time. I almost made it, but the unit crashed with 10 miles to go. I will say though that whenever I have needed to call Garmin to ask any questions, they have been great, and they said that they would replace the unit, which I am hoping to receive this week, before the upcoming PA 600K next weekend, which will be my final preparation for the 1200K. (Yes, I have already loaded up the route into 3 segments), and I may only charge the Garmin during the day from my E-Werks charger. Again, much of my second year is still about learning and gearing up for the June ride.

I feel that my training has gone well, although I probably need to get some weight off in the final weeks, as I feel that I have slipped a little of late.

I still do not attempt to take any pictures during these rides for some reason, but I am going to paste a link from a fellow N.J. Randonneur Shane Beak, who I rode with all day on the event, and is not only a real strong rider, but very adept at taking pictures all day. This is a slide show that he entered on the PA Randonneur message board.

Thanks for reading, and until the next time, "Keep on Truckin"               

Tour of The Batenkill

Life events, family & work have had me very busy of late, which has cut into time available for my new blogging hobby, but I want to get caught up a bit on a dreary May Sunday afternoon.

Over a month ago, my son & I drove up to participate in the Tour of The Batenkill race in Cambridge, N.Y. My son had been registered for a long time, and I was on a long waiting list, but was lucky to get in with a week to go. The entire event was an amazing experience, very well organized, and tremendous volunteer support throughout the entire 64 mile route, with a lot of fans as well. In my Group of 50, Cat 5 riders, all group went off in 10 minute intervals, I was in a group of ten after the first big hill, then proceeded to drop my chain on the next climb, couldn't get back to the group ahead, and rode solo for 24 miles before finally getting picked up by 2 strong riders from my initial group. Of course, this all speaks to my lack of racing skills and knowledge, but Jeff, Rob & I rode the rest of the race together, and really helped to push each other and make up some time.

Although The Batenkill race has been around for a long time, and is very well known, these type of races are become so much more popular, and I can see why they are so appealing, and spreading. I really dont like Crit. racing at all, although I do enjoy going to my Son's races, who was just upgraded to Cat 3 today. I look forward to a return to The Batenkill again next year.