And now ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation and edification, the first day of spring will be followed immediately by the first day of summer

Warrenton 300K
April 12 2014
15 hours, 2 minutes.

I eased my tired body back into the plush molded plastic and pulled out my phone. From behind the counter came the cheerful shouts of the dedicated Hardees chefs de cuisine preparing a fine gourmet repast. In seemingly no time at all our food arrived.  I took out my phone and quickly texted my partner that I had made it as far as 136 miles into the 190 mile ride and hadn’t died yet.

I looked up. In the time it had taken me to fire off the briefest of texts my riding companion had finished his entire hamburger.

That was lesson #37 in a day of lessons learned and re-learned.

Eat faster.

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What is the furthest you’ve ever biked?

Recently, I’ve been waxing. . .hold on, hold on, settle down, not that kind of waxing.  Sure, I shave my legs but I do it the old fashioned manly way!  No, I’ve been waxing nostalgic for my first real season of triathlon training, the lead-up to IM MOO.

One of the things that I noticed in so many of the people I was training with, and that I’ve seen in so many of my team-mates since as they have trained for their first Ironman (TM), is the palpable sense of discovery and achievement created by distance.  A sizable percentage of people undertaking their first Ironman (TM) have not previously biked the kinds of distances that you need to bike during training.  The rides themselves may be brutal or slightly less brutal, hard or not quite so hard, but at the end of every ride, people are standing around in the parking lot and it is slowly dawning on them: I just rode the furthest I’ve ever ridden in my life.  And for a while, the next week brings a new “furthest,” and the week after that yet another milestone.

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The Last Piece of the Puzzle

I can see you!

I can see you!

Actually, the title of this post is a lie.  If you are a cyclist you know there is no end to the puzzle; there are always new gaps to be filled, new pieces to add.  I may, for example, have in the past occasionally mentioned my lack of matching leather bar tape once or quince.   But I finally added the last major set of components I need for Gypsy Rose to be fully ready to rando: a full-scale lighting system.

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Wet and Wild

Lumbarton 200K, February 1, 2014

Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned before, during, and after a recent brevet in North Carolina:

  • There is apparently no infrastructure budget in North Carolina.  This would make sense, since this is one of the many “No taxation with representation” states.  But the result is that many rural roads are pretty bad.  There were some parts of the ride that were like riding over a cattle-stop (and remember, I’m riding on 35mm tires at about 55psi).  There were other places where there were miles and miles of perfectly regular cracks which produced a monotonous ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk . . . I will never complain about Virginia roads again.
  • The back-country roads are filled with trucks the size of aircraft carriers, all of them beating the crap out of the roads for which there is no infrastructure budget.
  • North Carolina features some of the nicest truck drivers I have ever encountered anywhere.  All of them gave me a wide berth, and when the weather packed in, some of them actually slowed down as they passed me to avoid showering me with water.
  • Speaking of weather, apparently in North Carolina “chance of showers” in the weather forecast means “four hours of driving rain.”
  • North Carolina has some of the best behaved car drivers I’ve ever encountered.  Especially out in the rural areas, not only were the roads refreshingly free of people hurling abuse or actual objects or trying to assure themselves that their horn still worked, but like the truck drivers, almost everyone gave me a wide berth.  Moreover, people waited patiently to go around cyclists (well, I assumed it was patiently, there was no aforementioned horn play) whether we were in a large group or, incredibly, even when I was riding as a singleton.
  • Dunn, North Carolina is the “Dump Truck Cab Capital of the World.”  Proof positive that it is sometimes better to be nothing than something.  But it does make you think.  Somewhere out there in America there is a “Toilet Cistern Ballcock Capital of the World” just waiting to be discovered.
  • A large number of North Carolina vehicles are apparently sold without working headlights.  Driving rain, reduced visibility, none of those extremely well behaved drivers passing me (coming and going) seemed to feel the need to actually use their lights.  Maybe all North Carolinians are equipped with enhanced vision.  But it does sort of raise an interesting question.  If we cyclists are being good road citizens and doing all in our power to make ourselves visible with multiple pieces of reflective gear, none of that really does any good if there is no light to reflect.  It made me wonder what happened when it got dark: “Hey, the light has disappeared.  But that’s OK.  The Lord My Savior will keep me safe.”
  • I found myself becoming fascinated with the North Carolina rivers that we crossed.  They all appeared dark, tortuous, overgrown and mysterious.  Much like the state of my soul by the end of this ride.

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An Open Letter to All DC Residents Born North of the Mason-Dixon

Buried Bike

For the true Northern Cyclist, a minor setback. (Photo by Jason Persse, Creative Commons Licence)

We get it.  You are tough.

Where you are from, when it snowed, the only vehicle that could get into your driveway was one of those giant machines that Metro uses to bore train tunnels.  As a kid you used to dogsled all the way to Hudson Bay just to pick up the local paper.  And your schools never, ever, closed.  For example, there was the great blizzard of ____ where the entire school was buried for six whole months and the only thing that happened was that the kids got really, really good at their multiplication tables.

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It’s a Whole New World. . .

gasp. . .cough. . .splutter. . .

OK, that attempt to imitate a Disney tween singing voice might have been ill-advised.  But it is certainly an apt description of my experience thus far with randonneuring.

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Words to Ride By

The language that we use to talk about bikes treats them as filled with personality.  Bikes are lively, sprightly, twitchy, springy, relaxed, stiff, and eager, to use just a few of the adjectives that crop up regularly in bike reviews and casual post-ride conversation.  It is a thing we humans seem to do, attribute personality to inanimate objects (a category that also includes many people) with whom which we spend a lot of time.  But bikes are like cars in that we invest them with much more personality than other everyday artifacts like an office chair or a flat screen TV (both objects with which I probably spend about the same amount of time as my bike).  Bikes literally and metaphorically take us places; as such they are not simply extensions of our personality (or attempts at counterbalance; cycling certainly has no shortage of guys (usually) and gals (occasionally) who are obviously over-compensating for something).  Rather, they have often helped to shape our self and personality.  Sometimes those changes are obvious (the most recent issue of Bicycling has an impressive series of stories of people who lost dramatic amounts of weight through biking), sometimes they are more subtle, reflecting a new level of confidence or calm.

Yet this tendency to see our bikes as imbued with personality is countered by another cycling trend: riders’ willingness to de-personalize both themselves and their bikes visually.

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