An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lucky Deuce Gravel Crusher

It’s been four days since the end of the Lucky Deuce Gravel Crusher, and I’m still shaking off the effects of the ride(s). In fact, just yesterday a little in-home project had me sitting on the floor for a bit, which led to my back seizing up for the rest of the day. It’s still sore today.

So how was the ride? Let’s start with day 1…

In a word, brutal. And I was the one that mapped it all out. Okay, I’ll admit that event day was the first time I had strung it all together into a single ride. And in fact the first time I’d actually ridden some of the course (I had driven it, but that’s not the same thing). Not only does time dull the pain, but not doing the whole course at once gives one a skewed idea of just how hard it is… So I was going into it maybe just a little less blind than my ride mates.

In any case, after a dozen miles lulling us into a false sense of security, the climbing start in earnest. And that in steep grades. I had a 34/32 low gear, and was unceremoniously dumped into it early. Let the grinding begin. And then, once you think you’ve hit the top (at 15 miles, with a short downhill to seal the illusion), we take a sharp right and hit the REAL climb. A cruel pitch even longer than the one on the Elbe ride, and just as steep. I ended up walking a portion of it, and have no shame in saying so.

But the views from the top (at 22 miles) and along the long descent were fantastic. It’s funny how dropping altitude, and the attention it requires, makes one wish for flat ground, or even a little uphill. Relief comes at 32 miles, and more when we hit pavement again at 34.

The stop in the raging metropolis of Malone, at the “post office” (an outdoor drop box and PO Boxes against the side of a mom-and-pop shop) allowed for restocking the water and fuel stores, then we were off again along Highway 12, being buzzed by every truck in the county. Yes, Russ, there IS a law that every truck must haul a trailer, apparently.

And then the precip started. A drizzle that quickly became a vision-sapping heavy rain, and almost obscured the left turn back into Capitol Forest (39 miles). Let the climbing re-commence.

Insult on top of injury. This climb was long. And steep. And long and steep. With occasional respites of less steep. One seeming top-out at 44 miles, and then another onslaught at 45, with the actual summit at 48. That’s right, 9 miles (give or take, mostly take) of ascent. But what goes up must come down, and the next 8 miles was a series of drops and declines that had me on the brakes or letting it fly. Once again, by the time I hit the base of the gravel and onto pavement, it was a massive relief. Funny how we come to a ride like this for the gravel, and then feel so relieved to be off it. Two more miles of paved descent and back to the highway.

Turning off the highway at mile 60 and onto the backroads seriously decreased the baud rate of input, and a sigh of relief was audible. Little to no traffic, no terrain to deal with, an easy cruise to the end. Beer and snacks followed. Glorious.

After chillin’ away the evening and as good a night’s sleep as I could muster in unfamiliar surroundings, I arose for day two.

Though I was a little more familiar with the route and terrain for this ride, I had never done any of the spur out to the Brooklyn Tavern. I told myself that if I were the only one riding, or if every one else who showed up was tired or not up to it, I’d skip the spur and do the shorter route. Turns out I was the only one to show. But I was prepared for the full meal deal anyway.

Similar to day one, there’s a good 10 miles of pavement to warm up on before the first gravel sector. But this time there was more paved climbing, hitting at just over 8 miles in.  A nice, freshly graveled road awaited, with a closed gate (so no danger of motor vehicles). But up it went right away. Not as long, but every bit as steep, followed by some gentle rolling, and then a long descent to 12.5 miles. I hit rain (or it hit me) just as I approached the final uphill, put on my arm warmers and vest for the descent, and eventually sought shelter under a tree to wait out the worst of the rain.

Actually, the worst of it was all the tall grass that was bent over the sides of the gravel road soaking me as I rode through it. Close to the pavement, I came up behind two riders on horseback, and they showed signs of skittishness as I approached. I stopped, said a hello, waited for the horses to calm down, then walked my bike past. They, too, had gotten caught in the rain. We wished each other well and went on our own paths. By the time I reached the pavement, the rain had quit, and warm temperatures returned rapidly.

A short paved section brought me to the second gravel sector, with much more climbing in three stages, but also more pleasant gentle rises and falls over the six miles. This road was also gated, as the winter past had required ditching across the lane to prevent washouts – peaceful, nice surfaces. Four short get-offs for the ditching and the final short rise back to pavement had me back in civilization. Though this was an eight mile stretch of off-tarmac, it went by quickly.

While I didn’t go out to the Brooklyn Tavern, I did go out the spur part way, a couple miles to where the route departed the main roads, about 13 miles short of the Brooklyn. I felt guilty for not making the full trek out to the destination, but also knew that to do so would have meant at least another 2 hours of riding, and likely 3 hours or more total. I made the decision to turn back there and get to the end of the ride, paved the whole way.

The finish of day two follows much the same path as the final miles of day one, so familiar landmarks goaded me to push it in to the end.

Thinking ahead to next year, I see no reason to change the routes at all. Yes, they were hard (more so on day one), harder than even I expected, and harder than I had characterized in my info to other riders. But with some more accurate advertising, I think that more crazies would be attracted to make the event next year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Okay, I've been riding with some regularity for a good 35 years now, and it seems that this particular thing has been happening much more frequently this year than any other time. So far -- knock on wood -- I've never hit pavement because of a motor vehicle (I have due to other cyclists, however).

Here's how it plays out... I'm riding along a straight road, maybe going past a strip mall, nearing a driveway, intersection with no stop sign, something like that. A motor vehicle will pass me with its right turn signal flashing.

And then it just stops.

Now I don't know if it's just waiting to get a good shot at me as I pass, or being nice and letting me by -- I choose to believe the latter. And I appreciate the gesture of being attentive to others safety.

But it makes me wonder just what reasoning is going on here.

My thoughts are two:
(1) What makes this driver think it's a good thing to stop dead in the road with traffic coming up behind?
(2) If that turn was so close, why even attempt to make the pass?

Sure, I've had people burn past and almost flip the car trying to make the turn without causing me to T-bone their side panels, and it's almost always a large pick-up slurping a good $1.00 worth in fuel in the process. I just laugh.

But the ones that stop? I mean, in the first thought above, all it's doing is increasing the chances that one of us will get rear-ended.

And in that second thought, I have to wonder what was so important that the potential 3 second delay of waiting behind was unbearable, which then turned into even LONGER because... I don't know, maybe they think everyone on a bike is tootling along at the standard DUI case of 5 mph and thinks traffic law is for someone else. Then they realize too late that I'm going a bit faster than that and OH CRAP! I'm not gonna make it!

I've talked with a few of them at times, and the usual answer is "I couldn't tell how fast you were going." Really? Then, again, why would you attempt the pass? Are you in the habit of venturing into a situation like that where you couldn't tell how fast traffic was going?

What I end up doing in every case is staying behind the car and waving them through the turn. I refuse to put myself where they can't see me and risk them taking the turn as I'm passing. Sometimes it turns into a bit of a standoff, but I'll pull into the lane behind them if needed. That usually gets the message across.

It's just something I don't get. But then it seems common sense has left the building. Along with common courtesy.