Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tip #7 - First 600 km Tips

A 600 km is about riding for a full day, sleeping a few hours, then getting back on the bike.  This is the last step before riding grand randonnees.  Since we don't offer 600 km brevets in Pittsburgh, you are likely riding with another randonneuring group, perhaps for the first time.


  • You aren't in Pittsburgh any more.  Be sure to know the local interpretation of the rules for bike inspection.
  • Know something about the route before you get there.
  • Learn how to read the cue sheet.  Practices differ.
  • While it is helpful staying in contact with the group of locals until sunrise, ride within your limits. 
  • Pace yourself so you feel good after riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles.
  • Have a plan for eating and restocking at a diner if there are diner controls..
  • Rest does matter.  Just keep it short.
  • Have a plan for the sleep stop - have a drop bag.
  • The night before the night before is the traditional night to be sure to have good sleep.
  • Observe and learn from others around you. 
  • Enjoy riding in the wee hours.  
  • Wear your Pittsburgh Randonneurs jersey.


      You aren't in Pittsburgh any more.  Be sure to know the local interpretation of the rules for bike inspection.
      • In Eastern PA in particular, Tom Rosenbauer has liked to see both headlight and taillight attached to the frame, plus at least one spare for each.  
      • Use solid on red lights at the start and when riding in groups.
      Know something about the route before you get there.
      • The cue sheet is the official documention of brevet routes everywhere.  It used to be the practice for organizers to distribute cue sheets and not GPS routes.  The plus side of getting only a cue sheet and you want to use a GPS is that you review the entire route when programming it.  This always helped me a lot.  Though now I do mostly display tracks and just follow along the line.
      • I've always use routing GPSs - Garmin Etrexes and Dakotas, rather than bike computers for navigation.  If something goes wrong with a GPS route, the next most comforting this you can have in a GPS is the location of the next control.  If it is just displayed on the map, at least you know you are going in the general right direction.   My most recent Etrexes allows me to route to a city or address.  If I don't have a route or track file, I'll sometimes have the GPS route to the control.  Even if it is wrong guessing the route, it displays the names of roads it wants you to turn on, as well as let you know if you are going in the right general direction.   
      • Here is a pre-smartphone tool I use.  I print out the small route profile from the bottom of a map.  I mark the control locations.  I notate distances between controls.  This lets me get perspective on a leg.

        Learn how to read the cue sheet.  Practices differ
        Different organizers format cue sheets in different ways. Be clear where the elements of "after miles x, turn y onto road z."  I always try to run a cumulative trip mileage on a bike computer as well as keep track of current leg mileage on a bike computer.  That gives me two ways to navigate if I get confused.  

        While it is helpful staying in contact with the group of locals until sunrise, ride within your limits.
        People generally take it a bit easier before sunrise.  And there are locals or experienced people that likely know the area better of you.  Hanging with a group helps to get to sunrise in reasonable time without fussing on navigation.  Don't worry much about other people unless they ask for help.  Everyone has their own issues to deal with in their own time.

        Pace yourself so you feel good after riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles
        After riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles, hopefully you surprise yourself on occasion how good you feel.  One way to do that is pedal uphill and coast downhill.  Recharge your bodies on downhills.

        - Have a plan for eating and restocking at a diner if there are diner controls.
        Particularly if your 600 km is in eastern PA, you will probably have a diner or two as a control.  Arriving at a diner isn't the time think about what to order - thinking may be hard.  Some easily digestible food - scrambled eggs and pancakes, mash potatoes, apple pie and ice cream, milk shakes.  Order first, then use the bathroom.  Perhaps ask for pitcher of water to refill your bottles.  Think about what you will be eating over the next 50 miles or so.  Generally I carry snacks and drink mixes for a control like this.  Tip crazy well so the waitresses like randonneurs.  You probably made a mess.

        Rest does matter.  Just keep it short
        • Once you get beyond 400 km, you can't keep moving forever.  On a 600 km, there is generally a planned rest stop.  Many rider try to keep this stop to a few (2-4 hours) or less on a 400 km.  Enough to eat, shower, prepare supplies for the next, sleep an hour or two.  Some riders skip the sleep stop - if the next day is there and back they look haggard whenever I see them.  Some do sleep more. Eat first so it starts digesting.  If you have enough muscle ache to keep you awake, take an over-the-counter pain pill an hour before the control so you can relax and rest.
        • Out on the course, if you start to have trouble keeping your eyes open or you really need a break, lay down for a power nap.  Benches and concrete are the preferred locations.  It shouldn't be too comfortable.  Plan how much you are laying down for - perhaps 15 minutes.  I haven't really heard of people oversleeping power naps.  If you've kept time in the bank by leaving the sleep stop early, then oversleeping a nap is hard to be a problem.
          Have a plan for the sleep stop - have a drop bag.
          • Think through what you are going to do at a sleep stop.  Perhaps eat a little, take a shower, put on clean riding clothes to sleep in, refill drink bottles and restock your bike, change batteries.  Set your alarm.
          • Have all you need for the sleep stop organized in a drop bag.
          • If you rode after sunset with someone, they are perhaps are a good candidate to leave with,
          • Don't be discouraged if others are leaving while you are arriving.
          • You can get by with minimal sleep on this night.  If you aren't fast, 1-3 hours of sleep is enough.  I usually try to get on the road perhaps 3 hours after arriving.  Leave yourself a few hours in the bank.

          -- The night before the night before is the traditional night to be sure to have good sleep.
          • Make sure you are well rested the night before the night before.  This gets you through the next 2 nights.
          • The night before a 600 km I get to sleep perhaps by 10 PM and wake up at perhaps at 2 AM or 2:30 AM.  The first think I do is eat breakfast so digestion starts and bowels move.  Check your equipment out so you don't have to stop in the first 10 minutes.

          Observe and learn from others around you
          • Both on the upside and downside.  What people do that you can emulate, and what perhaps not.  You'll see bikes and gear of a lot of experienced randonneurs.
          Enjoy riding in the wee hours.  
          • Most of us don't ride in the countryside, particularly between midnight and sunrise.  It is actually quite pleasant once the world quiets down.  Do try to ride with other riders at night - I am a poor role model here as I am a lone wolf rider
          Wear your Pittsburgh Randonneurs jersey.
          • OK, this one is optional.  But think of wearing home club jersey at the start or end.

          My first 600 km was in Eastern PA out of Quakertown.  Eastern PA has beautiful routes, but they are mountainous.  At about 300 km getting back to a town, an experienced randonneur overtook me.  He was short batteries, so I was able to restock him.  We rode together (i.e. i followed him) the rest of the evening.  We rode out together after a sleep stop of perhaps 3 hours.  Most speed differences among riders happen in the first day.  Most people cycle at about the same pace on the second day..  

          This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

          Monday, April 27, 2015

          Tip #6 - First 400 km Tips

          A 400 km is about as far as randonneurs typically ride in a day.  A 400 km is about learning that you can ride the first day of a grand randonnee.  It is also about riding further than you ever thought possible in your pre-randonneuring life.

          • Carry your own toilet paper. 
          • Don't trust cars.
          • Shivering at night is a bitch.  Carry appropriate clothes for when you are worn out.
          • Just keep moving.  No it doesn't get any better.
          • Riding in cool rain is pleasant with the right equipment. 


          - Carry your own toilet paper.
          • Not every you stop has toilet paper in their bathrooms
          • I generally keep small rolls designed for camping in the bottom of one of my bags
          • Sometimes you have intestinal problems in the middle of nowhere.  Or at least somewhere you don't have access to bathrooms
          - Don't trust cars
          • I pay attention to all cars passing me.  In the daytime they typically move over.  At night they typically let up the gas (and/or move over) when they first see you.
          • If I am on road with a bad berm and high speed traffic, between 9 PM and 1 AM I sometimes pull over and stop for passing cars. 
          • After 1 AM cars are often more cautious about unexpected stuff on the road - like you.
          • Once in them middle of the night I head a car manual shifting repeatedly on a road they could probably see me.  I got off the road.
          - Shivering at night is a bitch.
          • My body has poor thermal regulation when I am tired and sick.  There are nights it's been 60 F, and I left a control with leg warmers, arm warmers, vest, balaclava,and gloves to avoid shivering (I was pretty sick).  As my body warmed up, I took most of these off.  Repeated at each stop.
          Just keep moving.  No it doesn't get any better.
          • Actually, it may get better.  But you have to get through the sufferfest to get there.  At least I often recover from bonk or heat late in the day.  But you can't wait it out off the bike.  So just keep moving and accept your fate.
          Riding in cool rain is pleasant with the right equipment.
          •  Wool is magic.   I can't wear it over 75F.  Below that it is magic.  Particularly 45F to 60F and wet.  When it is cool I wear wool bibs.  I wear or carry a wool jersey.  I have wool arm and leg warmers.
          • Nominal waterproof shoe covers are light enough to always carry.  Water sloshing in shoe vents is bad.  Your feet still get soaked with shoe covers.  But it takes longer and is more indirect.
          • Having gloves that are warm when wet is important too.  I have a green pair fleece gloves I've carried for over a decade when it is too wet for glove liners.  I used to have an ultralight pair of waterproof mitten shells, but I lost one.  Dan B reports success with surgical gloves under other gloves.
          • The how and why of fenders
            • Water sluicing onto feet from your front tire really sucks hour after hour.  If you have only one fender and mud flap, have a front one.
            • Keeping manure and giardia cysts off water bottles on wet country roads.
            • Keep bottles usable longer on trail riding.  If you are on a limestone trail more than 10 miles, your bottles get gunked up fast without fenders.  

          My first 400 km was in Eastern PA out of Quakertown.  Eastern PA has beautiful routes, but they are mountainous.  I started to have pain in my left knee around mile 76.  After the turn around point up in New York, my knee hurt to bad I couldn't put any downward pressure on my left pedal.  Tom Rosenbauer (RBA) came upon me, asked how I was doing.  He happened to be carrying one over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory pill.  He let me have it and rode off.  After an hour or two the pain in my my knee lessened.  Several hours later I was almost pedaling normally again.  I arrived off the road perhaps around 1:30 AM.  After the ride, I had a professional bike fit, which eliminated the knee pain going forward. 

          This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

          Saturday, March 21, 2015

          Tip #5 - First 300 km tips

          A 300 km is the first real stepping stone into ultra riding for most riders - it is the longest ride they have started.  It involves riding in darkness at least a bit, and it is long enough that most people have time to bonk and recover for the first time.   Or at least bonk and endure.

          • Riding collectively is different than group riding.
          • RUSA rules on lights and reflective gear are herd knowledge about staying alive.
          • In the dark, randonneurs typically slow down and ride together. 
          • Experience riding through a bonk or some pain.
          • Riding for 15 hours is a week worth of work-outs - taper!
          • Pre-inspect your bike - tires, brakes, etc.
          • RBAs do what they do to help riders succeed.
          • There is no SAG.


          - Riding collectively is different than group riding. 
          • Randonneurs often do ride in groups.  With some exceptions, they don't worry about group integrity.  People come, people go.  Everyone has things to deal with on their own timeline.   Practices change a bit after dark. 
          • Keeping another rider in sight is a form of group riding.  To keep someone in sight without going crazy, you have to really suppress the "cheetah sighting the gazelle" syndrome - automatically wanting to catch.
          • It's amazing when you ride between two controls and never see a soul. Then at the next control, you overlap with a group of rider that are literally just minutes before and after you on the road.

          -  RUSA rules on lights and reflective gear are herd knowledge about staying alive. 
          • You can either view the RUSA rules on reflective gear as bothersome, or you can view them as the herd knowledge about staying alive in low light situations.  Don't cut corners:  Stay alive.
          • Tail lights should be on solid red as a courtesy to other other riders.  Blinking lights make it difficult for riders behind you to see.
          • Your tail-lights should not be aimed where other riders eyes normally are if you are riding in a group.
          • Blinking tail-lights are illegal in France.
          • I generally ride with 3 or 4 tail lights.  One is an emergency backup.
          • Redundancy is good in lighting!

          -  In the dark, randonneurs typically slow down and ride together. 
          • Randonneurs typically start riding together after dark for increased safety.  I do so less than most.  In Eastern PA there is a group that builds as the last riders are swept up on the road. 
          • People that meet at the last control before darkness often start riding together.  It is a courtesy to have the conversation if people want to ride together or not.  Our last leg on the Kitten and Puppies 300 km utilizes several busy highways - including Rt 51.  Do band together for safety on Rt 51.  
          • Most randonneurs put on reflective gear and night wear at the last control before dark.  I like to wait until sunset - it keeps me from overheating - and gives me a reason to stop.  Any low light situation any time of day - have your lights on and reflective gear on.

          - Experience riding through a bonk or some pain.
          • 300k is long enough that people riding it for the first time are likely to bonk at some point.  Except in randonneuring, most cyclists stop when they bonk.  Learning to ride through a bonk is a new experience for most.  Eat, take it easy, and you will recover.
          • Ditto you may well have some pain and get an hour or so to wonder about the wonders of modern medicine as you wait for Aleve or similar to take effect.
          • I need to take a longer break every 100 miles or so.

          - Riding for 15 hours is a week worth of work-outs - taper.
            • Even if you are on a high volume workout plan, you likely aren't exercising more than 15 hours per week.  A 300 km or longer is literally a week of workouts in a day.  And if you are new to it, you exercise every muscle you have as find creative ways to keep going despite some muscles being exhausted.  If you've never ridden this distance, the best thing you can do is to give your body a rest for a week before and let it fully heal and recharge. 

            - Pre-inspect your bike - tires, brakes, batteries, etc.
            • Make sure your tires are solid and don't have foreign objects embedded in them.  Make sure you have sufficient brake pads, especially if the day is going to be very wet.  Make sure you have working batteries in your lights

            - RBAs do what they do to help riders succeed.
              • It took me a while to learn this.  Yes, RBAs enforce the rules to ensure the integrity of what we do.   However, being a successful RBA is about helping people succeed rather than fail.  RBAs are looking to enforce the rules in ways people succeed.
              • If you forget to document a control, don't panic.  One approach is to always get a receipt from all controls with name and date/time.  Another is to have several witnesses that saw you at the control.
              • Everyone is cheering for you to succeed.  And the slower you are, experienced riders know you have it tougher and respect you for it

              - There is no SAG.
              • We run with minimal volunteers.  We don't schedule SAG.  Your RBA rides events, so it you wait for me, you will have to wait a long time.  Arrange for your own SAG if needed except in extraordinary circumstances.

                About Jim's first 300 km:
                Dave Lampe pieced this together from my comments: my first 300 km was rather epic, in a "crap happens" sort of way.  My first 300 km was in DC.  It was two weeks after my first 200 km, and I hadn't fully recovered yet.  I had steel fenders, and tire rub blew out a sidewall (Fortunately I was very anal at the time on doing what people on randon said, and was carrying a spare tire).  It was a hot day and I wilted.  I arrived at a control at 4 PM.  Not only was there a gallon jug of water on the picnic table (the universal randonneuring sign the water is available to share), but there was suntan lotion - Most other riders had been there many hours before - early enough that the sun mattered.  Then a rider rode up and said:  "I'm usually the last rider on the road - what is your name, so I can report I saw you?"  After sunset, I was reading the cuesheet with a headlamp for a first time.  I learned you don't have peripheral vision with a headlamp  and I rode off the road into a fortunately soft grass covered ditch.  But I did get a second wind after dark.  Not only did I catch that last rider on the road, but a women.  At that time I had no desire to go to PBP (my goal had been Boston-Montreal Boston - but there never was another BMB).  The women was riding at my level; she had a goal of PBP.  She was just taking it one step at a time.  I rode after dark with her.  She helped inspire me to want to do PBP.

                This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

                Tuesday, March 10, 2015

                Tip #4 - First 200 km Tips

                 Welcome to randonneuring.  More than anything, a 200 km is about learning that 100 miles (a century) is not a magic number.  You can go any distance you want.

                More than my other tips, I'll be quoting dogmatic randonneuring tips in this post.


                • Pace yourself. 
                • Be responsible for your own navigation.
                • Eat regularly.
                • Carry the equipment you need in the 300 km, 400 km, and 600 km.  Make sure it survives 200 km.
                • The slower you are, the faster you should control through if you want to see other riders.
                • Keep moving.
                • Keep time in the bank.


                - Pace yourself. 
                • Experienced randonneurs ride at the same pace at 4 AM as they do at 10 PM.  Or for a 200 km, at 7 AM and 5 PM.
                • I've learned that if we over-extend my heart early (zone 4 - over 150 bpm) for the first 2-3 hours of a ride, my average heart-rate declines for the rest of the day and I never recover an upside in heart rate.  If I stay in zone 3 early on, I can hit all heart zones as needed most of the day.
                • The ride out Rt 51 to the first control is nominally flat, but we climb onto the plateau after that.  Don't over-extend on the flat.
                • Don't pedal downhill.  Recover.  Even when you don't need recovery.  That's what anciens do.

                - Be responsible for your own navigation.
                • Even if your plan A is to keep someone actually navigating in sight, keep track of turns yourself with your cue sheet and cyclo-computer.  
                • If you can't see the cue sheet at all times, that is a problem.  Fix it.
                • Losing your cue sheet is a problem.  I did that on my first 200 km.  Mount it where it doesn't get lost.  Carrying a spare cue sheet is prudent.
                • A GPS can help relieve stress, but don't always believe it.  Use to help advise at turns.
                • Be safe, but often you can walk around bridges closed for work.
                • Do team up with other riders.  However, if you want an experienced randonneur to stay with you, explicitly ask.  We are used to everyone being self-accountable.  It is especially ok to ask another rider for help if you are impaired or having navigation or equipment difficulties. 

                - Eat regularly.

                • I eat breakfast before starting out.  Generally 2 or 3 hours before leaving.  For a 4 AM departure, I may eat main breakfast before going to bed.
                • I  normally carry two water bottles for sports drinks and a camelbak for water.  That normally gets me between controls spaced 50 miles apart in typical weather (typical grand randonnee conditions).
                • It's hard for me to leave the house without enough food on me and my bike for 50-100 miles.
                • Do eat what you take on the bike.  It took me several years to eat what I started out with.
                • On the Kittens and Puppies 200 km, if I've been dropped on Rt 51, I might skip refueling at the first control, to get out in front of the other riders.  I carry enough to do that.
                • If you feel like you can't go on, stop and eat something.
                • If I have something that hurts, I may take Aleve.  It  takes about an hour to take effect on me.  
                • I find that taking electrolytes really help me keep my strength up and avoid cramps.  The bigger you are, the more likely you are a fan of electrolytes.

                - Carry the equipment you need in the 300 km and 400 km.

                • Mount your lights and make sure they stay on.  At least one frame mounted headlight and one frame mounted taillight. Redundancy is highly encouraged.
                • Ditto on fenders.
                • Most randonneurs ride with their ankle reflectors on even in daytime.  It also helps tag us on the road to each other.
                • If you have generator lights, run with them on in daylight to be better seen.  It is generally worth it to keep a taillight on all day too (Planet Bike blinkies run 3 days on two AA's).
                • Have enough tubes and ways to inflate them.  Perhaps a tire, depending how much you trust your tires.  Enough tools to make small adjustments.  If yo don't carry a chain tool, carry a spare link.  I've broken chains twice on randonneurs (I didn't have a chain tool either time - Stef bailed me out one time).

                - The slower you are, the faster you should control through if you want to see other riders.

                • I've always played the game of turtle and hare. I've been the turtle.  Often in my career I've overlapped hares on the road by controlling through faster.
                • Note to hares:  Don't get anxious when you see a turtle leaving before you.  It is a social thing to do.
                • I like there-and-back routes because all riders get to see other riders on the road.  Even when I was the last rider on the road, it raised my spirits to see other riders on the ride as we crossed paths. 
                • One reason to try not to be last is that there is someone behind you that can help you if needed.  That day I controlled through at Al's Corner after being dropped on Rt 51 was a day I broke my chain.  Stef was behind me with the biggest multi-tool ever.

                - Keep moving.
                • It's amazing how far you go if you just don't stop.
                • It you looking for a reason to stop, find something else to do.  Whether a nature break or adjust something, that helps to pace the stop.  Do things you can't do moving.
                • It is ok to walk.  If I feel I can't climb anymore, I'll sometimes get off the bike and walk for the distance of say two telephone poles for a break.  Admittedly, I watch my mirror so people don't see me.  However, it is within the rules to walk.  I once walked the last 3 miles or so of a brevet (up a mountain), when I had a chainring bolt loosen and jam. 

                  - Keep time in the bank.
                  • I always try to leave controls at least an hour before control time.

                  -  Other comments
                  • No one is accountable for anyone else, but everybody should look after everybody else.  Note where people are on the road before you and after you.  When you cross paths with another randonneur on the road, short conversations about typical rando topics are typical.  They help people check on each other. 
                  • Don't feel bad about imposing on strangers for help.  I've walked into car repair shops 80 miles from home, told the rando story, and borrowed tools for repairs
                  • Tell the truth about how you feel if it the topic comes up.  Don't whine.  But it is ok to express how you really feel.  
                  • An old rando rule of thumb if something will heal within two weeks, don't let it worry you.
                  • Most things heal within several weeks.  If you hit an exception, know it.  But most ways you can hurt yourself on an ultra do heal.  
                  About Jim's first 200 km
                  My first 200 km was in Ohio, with a motel start.  I arrived the night before, and saw the casual camaraderie during check-in.  Outbound we hit a bridge out, so we had to pass bikes down and up a 3+ ft concrete embankment and and cross a stream.  I carried my cue sheet in a jersey pocket and lost it - so I had to borrow one.  Close to the turn-around point, we had a heavy and cold downpour.  I remember a female ride talking about the value of carrying a dry set of riding clothes - I typically have carried a spare jersey and shorts since that ride.I finished the ride.

                  This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

                  Wednesday, February 11, 2015

                  Tip #3 -Boy Scouty and Girl Scouty Stuff

                  Part of the original blog request was that I comment on "boy scouty" types of tip.  Just as good "girl scouty" tips too.  So here goes.

                  What worked for me:
                  1. The number #1 thing that makes riding in the rain more pleasant is fenders.

                  2. Never pass up water.  Especially when an RBA is standing by the side of the road passing out water.

                  3. Travel as heavily loaded as you need to.  I never was truly sorry for carrying something.  I have been truly sorry for not having things.

                  4. Metal fenders are the work of the devil.  Not only are they heavy, but I blew out a sidewall on my first 300 km from fender rub.  Plastic fenders cause fewer problems for me.

                  5.  What have I promised myself to always carry (at times when I didn't have them)?
                            - Shoe covers
                            - Lightweight coated nylon emergency mittens
                            - Lights.  I had a really bad experience once on a club rally scouting ride getting stuck after dark without lights.
                            - Rainlegs if slightest chance of under 40 and rainy.   See separate note below.

                  6. What's the most important lesson from Antarctica that I use on brevets:  How important the top of the head, the hands, and the feet are in regulating body temperature.  Balaclava, liner gloves, shoe covers.  Both in putting them on and taking them off to regulate body temperature.

                  7. What else do I always carry on long brevets:
                            - A flask of Hammer Gel.  In the early years, it was my food last resort when I couldn't stomach anything else.  Now it is a bit of treat.  I only carry Apple Cinnamon flavor.
                            - A balaclava, liner gloves, arm warmers.  Probably  knee or leg warmers too.
                            - In the past, I always carried one more piece of clothing than I think I needed.  I cut it closer now.   After 20 hours on a bike, 60 deg at night feels a lot colder than when you are fresh in the morning.  If there is a heavy dew at sunset, you can get drenched even without rain.  A dry jersey sometimes feels good.

                            - Perhaps 3-4 tubes and two ways to inflate them - pump plus CO2
                            - Two supplements - electrolytes and short chain amino acid pills.  Though salt packets from fast food or convenience stores will work just as well as the former.
                            - Enough food to get to the next control.  I use solid Hammer Perpetuum for times I can't get other types of food.  Often, I will stick to Perpetuum for perhaps the first 6 hours of a ride, then I shift to good sports nutrition from convenience stores. 
                            - Equivalent of 4-5 bottles of fluids.  Water in a camelbak.  Over 80F, I put ice in my camelbak so it is an ice sock.  I use Hammer Heed to start.  At controls, I generally fill my two frame bottles with the higher calorie Gatorade.
                            - At least two tail-lights.  Usually 3 or 4.

                            - A backup for my headlight.  With modern lights, this is sometimes my headlamp.  However, if your main headlight is out and you need to change headlamp batteries, you need a light to see that.  Perhaps a tail light in worst case.

                  8. I prefer a rear rack and an "unbag" rather than something like Carradice handlebar or seat bag.  By unbag I mean a lightweight mesh bag and cargo net I use on a rear rack.  I can put wet stuff on the offside and keep dry stuff in plastic bags on the inside.   If I want to carry more stuff I put at least one small pannier on. I just took off my expensive titanium rear rack and replaced it with in inexpensive aluminum one with a much better platform.  I use a small inner triangle bag to carry snacks, supplements, butt cream, batteries, sun-tan lotion.

                  9.  What butt cream do I use for butt sores? Calmoseptine "A Multi-purpose Moisture Barrier Oinment Which Protects, Sooths, and Helps Promote Healing of Skin Irritations From:  urine, diarrhea, perspiration, wound or fistula drainage, diaper rash, minor burns, cuts, scrapes, chaffing, and itching." That is what the single use packets say.  At nursing home conventions (when I worked at AccuNurse), the supplier always gave away envelopes of samples.  Stings when it goes on on chaffing.  Works for me.  Once every 12 hours or so  I don't know what I'll do when my supply of samples run out.  I don't use it as much as I used too.  The leaner I am, the less butt issues I have.

                  10. What is one the thing I wished I started using years earlier?  Aerobars.  Not so much for the aero part (though they are good for that too), but to give another point of contact and position to take the weight off of the feet, butt, and arms.  I didn't think aerobars would be a net gain in hilly Pennsylvania.  But they are.  I get low both starting on hills, as well as on shallow descents.  And on flats of course.  Aerobars are illegal in France.  I guess they never forgave Greg Lamond. 

                  11. What rituals do I have? 
                           - I stop at night when I need to read cue sheets.  I usually enjoy the break, and peripheral vision doesn't work with a headlamp on.  (I rode off the road on my first 300 km into a ditch).
                           - Since I used to be the slowest rider, I learned to be the fastest to control through.  In the early years I ate on my bike.  I'm more lax than I used to be.
                           - Consistent nutrition, I take an electrolyte and short-chain amino acid pill every 30 minutes (after first hour after a meal).  When running on Perpetuum tablets, I eat one every 20 minutes.  That gives me so something to 5 times and hour.  At some point I knock it off and eat what my body wants.
                          - Put on suntan lotion on the bike.  It gives me something to do.
                          - Always eat breakfast.   Although sometimes I eat main breakfast before I go to sleep.  If I don't eat breakfast, I bonk sooner and harder somewhere between hours 6 and 12.  I try to eat at least two hours before the start so I have a better chance my bowels move.  (also good for digestion not interfering with riding).
                          - When I get them, I only eat breakfast sandwiches as meals.  Sometimes I'll get them made at Sheetz, but I'll usually grab an egg salad sandwich from the grab section. Eggs, bread, and mayonnaise are easy to digest.
                          - Drink chocolate milk at controls.  Until I want caffeine and then I drink Coke. I start to crave orange juice if my electrolytes are low.
                          - After 15 to 20 hours on the bike, I eat whatever amuses me the most.  Sometimes ice cream.  Al's Corner carries chocolate pudding.
                          - Always ride assuming I am impaired by lack of sleep.  Cause when you are impaired, you don't know.   So I ride by one set of rules.  I descend slowly and carefully. I never trust shadows to be just shadows.  I never descend faster than I can see a safe stopping distance.
                          - When possible, keep another ride in sight.  Two riders are less likely to go off course IF they are both navigating.  Either ahead or behind you.
                          - Don't pedal downhill!  Recover.
                          - Ride at the start of the day the way you will be riding at the end of the day.   Don't go into deficit early.  Ride your own pace.
                          - Taper before big rides.   My tapering is unsophisticated.  I take 1-2 weeks off.  Let your body fully heal and recover.

                     12. What piece of clothing do I love the most?  My Kucharik wool bibs (when it is less than 70 deg).  To be clear, I found Kucharik wool clothes not to be always long lasting or well fitting.  But their bibs fit me magically well, and they are comfortable riding in cold and rain. They never feel like a wet diaper to me when wet.   (In warm weather I wear Santini bibs).

                   13. What is my geekiest piece of bicycle clothing?  My rainlegs.  They are coated nylon rain chaps that role up into a belt.  Key to comfort for me in downpours under 45F.  

                   13. My raincoat is too warm until it is down to nearly 50F.  So I wear or carry wool clothes instead.  A spare wool jersey if I am not wearing one.  Wool arm warmers.

                  14.  I don't tolerate heat well.   Over 80F degrees I have to take my cycling cap off and socks off.  Both bicycling helmets and shoes are meant to vent (if you don't block the vents with clothing).  I'll go from two bottles of Gatorade to one, and use one bottle dowse myself occasionally.  Note that having some fresh water on the bike is always good either if you get road rash or something gets gunked up.

                  15. Why do my handlebars look so fat?    Early on, I had lots of hand pain (as well as pain everywhere else).  My bars have two layers of gel tape over gel bar cushions.

                  16. Walkable shoes make like easier.   My first randonneuring year, I rode all rides including PBP with Speedplay road cleats.   They make walking more difficult and they could be fouled in mud easily.  I washed them out with Gatorade more than once.  I switched to Speedplay Frog walkable cleats for both randonneuring and club riding.  I don't really notice the difference in performance, and walkable, non-fouling cleats are great.

                  17. Feet swell.  My feet swell on grand-randonnees.  In my first two years, I lost 2 big toenails dying from compression in too small shoes on grand-randonnees.  For me Specialized mountain biking shoes have extra space around the toes.  Having shoes sized for swelling also leaves room for cold weather socks when needd.

                  This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it.

                  Sunday, February 1, 2015

                  Tip #2 - Training as a Lifestyle

                  I went from a club C rider to de facto senior athlete over about a decade.  While many people can "just ride", I've always found it useful to work training into my lifestyle. I'm writing this note now (in the nominal off-season), because the nominal off-season has always been key to me advancing my fitness and riding.

                  What worked for me - Summary:
                  1. Have an annual calendar of activities that adds up to an annual training plan.

                  2. Use the off season to work on weaknesses.  For me, that has been  fitness.

                  3. Minimal indoor equipment and body-weight training, slowly accumulating various accessories.

                  What worked for me - Detail:
                  1. Have an annual calendar in activities that adds up to an annual training plan.  Elements that I  use or have used.
                  1. Ride an ultra once a month.  For years I used the UMCA Year-Rounder  to encourage me to ride at least a century every month.  You can only get so far out of shape if you ride an ultra every month.  RUSA has it's own program - R-12.  Or just find friends like Dan Blumenfeld and Stef Burch that like to regularly ride ultras too.  Riding an ultra in a day gives you many of the benefits of a week of workouts - especially with our varied Western PA terrain.

                  2. DD scouting rides - They are actually a two month emphasis on strength endurance intervals.  Meaning repeats of 5+ minutes at or above aerobic threshold.

                  3. Participating in a club weekly ride and weekend rides.  When I joined the WPW, there wasn't a weekly ride convenient for me.   So I started my own in Harmarville.

                  4. Spring brevet series.  These certainly provide base miles.  You learn endurance by doing it.

                  5. Use an annual goal (now usually a grand-randonnĂ©e) to force me to sharpen my fitness.  Usually 4 to 8 weeks of in season training (depending on how hard the ride is).  I also use these events to strongly encourage myself to lose weight.  I've suffered by not being prepared in the past.  That is sufficient motivation to get me training and dieting with enthusiasm.

                  6. In recent years I used the 12-hour Calvin's Challenge as well as RAAM qualifying at the Tejas 500 to motivate me to ride faster.

                  7. Along the way, I used events like the MS150, the WPW Fall Rally, the Mon Valley Century, and many other local rides to form a string of annual rides. Several years, I rode the MS150 to Lake Erie, then rode back again on Sunday and Monday.

                  2. Use the off season to work on weaknesses.  For me, that has been  fitness.
                  1. I had a twofer win in 2004.  I wanted to transition from a C to B club rider, so I looked for a mid-winter century to force me to advance. Instead, I found 8 centuries at Gator Hell Week.   I also found Cyclo-Core from Graeme Street - when I started Graeme had two CDs.   Graeme combines on bike training with core training and yoga.  He's developed many variations of training plans over time - the one I look to now is his Cyclo90 H.I.T if I am looking for training structure. I still use his workouts year-round as needed and they are the content of whatever training I do.

                  2. Since I never commuted, I start my outdoor riding early.  Normally the week when the clocks change.  Lot's of people wait until April or May.  Ride yourself into fitness before other club riders get out.  Note - commuting is among the best training you can do.  Kudos to those of you that commute.

                  3. The last three years I've been using the heart-zone based indoor training from Cycling Fusion (Gene Nacy) January to March.  Training like was a racer was new to me, but helped me speed up.  Gene's software keeps me more honest than I do when managing my own workouts.

                  3. Minimal indoor equipment and body-weight training, slowly accumulating various accessories
                  I started out indoor training with a bike trainer, a yoga mat, perhaps a yoga ball, and Cyclo-Core and Cyclo-Zen.  I did body weight work-outs for many years.  I slowly accumulated a roll-out wheel, a medicine ball, 5-25 lb nesting dumb bells, and 45 lb dumb dells.  The latter are for endurance squats, getting prepared for the Dirty Dozen or other climbing using Cyclo-Endure.  I've never had a gym membership.  Two years ago I splurged on one of Cycling Fusions surplus indoor training bikes so I can train will power in the off-season.

                  This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it.

                  Friday, January 30, 2015

                  Tip #1 - Endurance Fitness is Cool ... Hang in there.

                  From: Jim Logan []
                  Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2013 11:22 AM
                  Subject: Fitness is cool ... hang in there

                  Short version:
                  A time capsule message to send back to riders who struggle with riding ultras now as I did in 2007.

                  Back when I started riding brevets in 2007, I thought a lot about comments about endurance and the body’s reaction to ultras I read on randon that didn’t seem to apply to me.   And since I lived 5 hours from the nearest series, everything I learned about riding ultras I pretty much learned from randon.  After riding myself into endurance fitness over the years, I found my original hypothesis correct.  The bodies of people with endurance fitness do react differently than an ex couch-potato riding into fitness – how my body reacts to recovery both on and off the bike is different now than 7 years ago.

                  Bottom line – endurance fitness is really cool.  It took me 3-4 years to obtain it.  This is a time capsule message being sent back to riders in their first year or two of ultra-riding, for which it is doesn’t feel natural, you are only finishing with a goal-focus and grit, and you wonder if it will ever get better.  As long as you use the suffering to spur you to training and education,  I can say yes.

                  One metric – how long it takes my body to recover from long brevets:
                  2007 – three weeks
                  2008 – two weeks
                  2009 – one week
                  2011 – days

                  Another metric is distance to first pain meds.  My progression was something like this:
                                  2007 – 75 miles
                                  2008 – 125 miles
                                  2009 – 400 miles
                                  2011 – only to sleep

                  The pain medication metric is analogous to how long it took my body to start to irrecoverably break down in some way.  Except my body broke down after 600 miles in 2011, though I didn’t need pain meds for riding that year.

                  While I learned the mechanics of sports nutrition early on, it took 4 plus years to feel sports nutrition, and make it a natural part of me.  Ditto for equipment choice becoming a non-issue.  Ditto for training.

                  There are some lucky people for which ultras are a natural experience and who’s first reaction is to post wonderful travelogues about the countryside and people you encounter.  This post isn’t for you.  This post is for riders who focus the entire ride is on the minutiae of surviving to the finish.  That while it never gets easier, it does get more familiar, and your body does learn how to recover better as the years go by.

                  Happy new year and happy riding.

                  Jim Logan
                  Ancien 2007, 2011
                  RAAM qualified 2012