Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pedal For Paws Charity Ride

At 4:45 AM of the morning of Pedal For Paws, a ride to benefit Forgotten Felines, the alarm went off, the new-to-me (it's a replacement for the original one, whose shutter button broke) DroidX ringing off its default alarm tone, increasing gradually in volume (which isn't a default setting). I somehow knew it was about to go off so I must have been slightly awake.

Which is hard to believe because the day before had stretched out a bit longer than I expected. I worked a full day first, then rushed home to get ready for Saturday's ride. Throughout the day the Missus would call and update me on things.

One of the major things?

Bring my bike.

With an incomprehensible exhaustion setting in after Interbike (I sat on the stairs at home one evening and woke up a bit later with a curious Riley looking at me from two steps up), I'd only managed to move my bike bag about eight feet since I'd gotten home. I had some serious motivation to move that bag eight feet - a corner of our garage accumulates water efficiently, and I'd placed my bike bag square in the middle of that spot. With extreme downpours daily for a bit, I had to move my bike.

In other words, in the almost-week that went by, I'd gotten the bike moved eight feet.

Now the Missus was saying that it'd be a good idea to bring the bike. SOC was really looking forward to doing the ride, and he thought I'd like the ride too. We'd do the 50 mile loop (which encompasses all the other loops) as a sweep team, to check for stragglers and such. I'd need a bike for that.

First, though, I had to pack clothing, bike gear (the important stuff of which I realized, after some searching, was in the bike bag), and...

Change the cat litter.

Sexy, right?

I'd gotten some more Tidy Cat this week. The green version is my current favorite, and, based on which one the cats use first, is the cats' favorite too. The orange is a close second, with the light blue the bulk filler that the cats like. The dark blue doesn't do much for me or the cats and they chose light blue over the long-available red.

(And get the clumping kind in bins or jugs, not the clay version in the bags.)

I used about 30 lbs that night, a bit more than usual.

I finally assembled the bike, perhaps not perfectly, with the idea that we'd have 20-30 minutes to get ready for the ride. I knew I'd need to check the bike quickly before the ride, but, running out of time, that seemed to be enough.

I tossed everything in the car and headed down to Ride Headquarters. Although not raining too badly, it was still wet out. Ride HQ sat very close to the Wednesday night ride loop, and I knew I could make some good time in dry weather.

Wet weather...

The tires (Michelin Pilot Sports, bought used, and used by moi for an additional 25k miles already) worked fine. No hydroplaning, no uncertainty, and lots of stability.

With my DroidX's shutter button working, once again I could use it as a dash cam. My standard modus operandi is to record until I stop driving, think about any "incidents" that might have happened, and if nothing happened, erase clip.

What I didn't realize is that each time I took a call, it'd shut off the cam. It takes a few clicks to find and erase a clip, and I didn't have that click freedom while driving. The Missus was trying to coordinate meeting for dinner, my drive, and Ride HQ tasks, and she kept calling to check on my progress. Therefore I slowly ran out of available memory.

The last call ended with me about 18 minutes away from our meeting point (diner near Ride HQ). I had 17:34 of memory left on the MicroSD card. I made it my goal to make it there before I ran out of memory.

16:52 later, I'd parked the car. I hit the shutter button to stop recording.

We handled a lot of last minute preparation once back at Ride HQ. The SOCs' enthusiasm was refreshing, although I didn't act it that night. For me the night before an event is very business-like, not very pleasant, just get things done, get to bed as quick as possible. The SOCs were keen on not just holding a good race but also being good hosts to us guests.

We turned in, me so exhausted I barely remember getting into bed.

Although I knew Saturday would be a long day, I didn't realize just how long.

It started when I got in the car and started it up.

It started up fine, but the tach went immediately to 1500 rpm and then to 0. All the idiot lights on the dash stayed on. The headlights wouldn't stay on, blinking on and off randomly. The engine alternately revved up and bogged down, with something telling the engine to speed up or slow down.

All the dash lights on, tach at zero, engine revving and stumbling, at o'dark o'clock.

It was my nightmare - my vehicle dies on the morning of the event. Luckily we had started with four vehicles, four drivers. With one knocked out, the other three went on. I Googled and checked things for a good 30+ minutes, but realized that this was either an ECU reset or a bad sensor.

SOC returned back to Ride HQ to pick me up. We'd be marking the final part of the course. After I disconnected the battery (to reset the ECU) we set off to check the course and mark the final bits of the 50 mile loop.

Now, for me, when I do charity or group rides where I have to follow cue sheets or route markings, I get really stressed.

I had a hard time describing this until I came up with an imaginary visual reference.

Think of it this way. When I ride on a course that I don't know, I have a stress bar, like a bar that extends sideways. As I ride, the stress rises. When I see a route marking or sign, the bar resets.

Straightforward, right?

The more intersections I pass, the further the bar registers. Uphills, it registers a bit quicker. Downhills, a lot quicker (because I'd have to climb back up if I missed a turn).

My philosophy when marking a course is to keep the stress bar low.

Of course practical considerations apply here. For example, it'd be really unstressful if the route had a line painted on it for the whole distance. My stressbar would never budge from zero. But 50 miles of painting a stripe... that's a bit much.

Likewise, putting a sign on every telephone pole would be great too, with a stressbar that never registers, but, again, 50 miles of signs on telephone poles... that's a bit much too.

We worked with a somewhat limited number of signs, tried to make things good, but when marking a route early in the morning, versus marking it when parking lots are full and parked cars spill out into the roadway...

Next year we'll keep my stressbar close to zero, I promise.

We headed back, our "we thought it'd take 2 hours but it really took 4 hours" course checking recon drive making us late for everything.

Kitted up, SOC and I joined a very patiently waiting Hob and Dorothy.

After a small square of brownie, a tiny cookie, and a half bottle or so of lemonade, we set off on a memorable ride. Memorable for a number of reasons.

First, as anyone that's put on an event knows, there's a lot of stress involved. Riding is a great way of dealing with said stress. It was a great ride with great weather and a perfect way to rid myself of said stress.

Second, I hadn't ridden with Hob or Dorothy for a while, and both have gotten much, much stronger in that "while". It was interesting to see the difference in strength but also good to ride with them for the companionship. There's something special about the bonds you create when you ride with someone on a long-ish ride. Although 50 miles isn't long to Hob or Dorothy (they recently did 150 mile rides), it's long enough to build some of that bond.

One of the moments - Dorothy had been pulling on a hill at a pretty good pace, me just behind, with Hob dangling at the back. Suddenly, checking back, Hob announced that SOC had disappeared. We'd dropped him.

We all eased up. I looked at Dorothy.

"You must have been like, 'Finally!' when Hob said SOC dropped off. Now we can go easy."

We all grinned.

In actuality SOC took a call regarding the ride, so he eased up so he could talk to the person sensibly.

Third, since we all have some sense of group etiquette, we never had any "moments" where someone does something stupid and everyone else looks around with the "who invited them?" look on their faces.

Fourth, since we all race, and there were a few town line signs here and there, we ended up doing some very impromptu town line sprints.

During the ride I found the limits of my hurried bike assembly, in the dark garage. First I had to put the Cane Creek Speed Bars on before we even started. Then, during the ride, I adjusted my stem twice and my bars once. I had the bar tilted up just a tad too much, making the drops uncomfortable, and the stem had sat in a permanent crosswind angle to the left. I fixed them both but it took a couple tries.

Hob commented that my constant bar fiddling reminded him of Eddy Merckx adjusting his saddle in the Worlds (I don't know if anyone knows but he was never comfortable on his bike after a terrible crash early in his career - I mention it here). And, this morning, when watching a seemingly unrelated link on YouTube, guess what I found in the sidebar?

Yep, the clip.

The Worlds from Ole Ritter's film "La Course En Tete"
The piece played after the finish one of my favorites.
And, no, I don't know what the piece is.

The bar adjustments helped. After missing a good half dozen of the town line sprints, I quickly snapped up three in a row (including two, pretty close together, for the same town!). I liked the second sprint the best - as I took off I could hear someone mutter, "Son of a..."


Don't worry, the whole karma thing comes into play, just like it always does. The third sprint, along with the tremendous all-day pace set mainly by Hob, put paid to my legs.

I came off on the next little bump, literally a bridge hill over some road or some tracks, my quads furiously trying to cramp. I couldn't push down with straightened legs so I could only pull up when seated. I could stand if I kept my legs really bent and not for very long.

That means, for those of you keeping score, that if I stayed in the saddle, I could really only pull up (and my hamstrings started to go from all that pulling up).

If I stood, I had maybe 10-15 bent-leg pedal strokes before my quads went.

I kept coming off, the weakest of the quartet, with SOC playing dutiful teammate and waiting for me repeatedly.

Thankfully we had gotten pretty far before my legs gave out, and SOC and I were close enough to watch Dorothy take the last town line sprint.

(I think we all took three each, which would have been interesting. If anyone took more, it'd have been Hob - it seemed that he took mercy on us after taking the first few sprints.)

After the ride I felt pretty stunned, like someone whacked me in the head with a non-marring mallet. I wasn't hungry, I was more sore than I've been in a while, and tired from everything.

We got back to Ride HQ. I reconnected the battery in my car. I saw exactly what I saw in the morning. Called AAA. And my car got taken away in a flat bed.

When the driver was chaining down the car, I realized my car looked exactly like one of those drag race cars I see every now and then.

"Hey, my car looks like a race car now!"

The driver looked at me.

"Fast and not so furious?"

I could only laugh.

"Fast and not so furious"

Apparently he'd raced a similar car in Englishtown, NJ, one of the biggest drag race tracks on the northeastern part of the US. His car made literally three times the power of mine though (mine is stock).

The Missus, doing the money stuff, gave us the good news. The ride had raised a lot of money, with a lot of riders showing up. With no previous numbers to work off, we'd underestimated the interest and actually ran out of all sorts of stuff. Next year we'll be better.

Overall the day was excellent, with great volunteer turn out, great rider turn out, and even (I didn't want to say this until it was public knowledge) our own TJ dressed in a Sylvester suit! I didn't realize who it was until long after the ride. So, TJ, sorry if I didn't recognize you, although that black and white outfit was quite distinctive.

To cap off the day we went for nice simple dinner. I was really tired, nodding off even on the way to the restaurant. During dinner we talked about the ride (of course) and how we could make things better for next year. To capture my hard working enthusiasm, SOC snapped a classic shot.

Dreaming of winning another town line sprint

That about says it all.

Thanks to the riders, volunteers, and donations that helped make the first Pedal 4 Paws ride a success. And a big congrats to Mrs SOC who came up with the idea over a year ago (!) and made it work.


Rebecca H. said...

It was great riding with you yesterday! I'm starting to recover, I think ... :)

Il Bruce said...

I got myself off course and still had a great ride. I was very impressed with the volunteers and FF people.

The area is really beautiful and the pavement was as dream compared to what i ride up here in the Biggest Little.

Thanks for all the effort. i hope to see do it again next year.

Aki said...

D - Great riding with you too, especially when you dropped SOC and when you won the bonus town line sprint.

B - We'll work on marking better next year. Glad you enjoyed it. The area is pretty amazing for riding, it really surprised me the first time we rode around there.

Anonymous said...

It really was a treat to ride with you! Riding with a group of strong, talented, and friendly people takes a good ride to a completely new level.

Aki said...

h - I can only speak for myself but I think you were riding, I was following. You pretty much pulled the first loop. Heh.

SOC said...

Awesome day, awesome ride. Made all the better by the great (dare I say "Awesome"?) company. HOB's monster pull along the shore was a great bonus!