Monday, June 25, 2018

Ready as I'll ever be

Life is filled with lists as I prepare to embark on the PACTour Northern Transcontinental Cross Country Tour:
Start: Everett, WA Saturday, July 7, 2018
31 riding days 3,569 miles 115 miles per day
Finish: Rye Beach, NH Thursday, August 8, 2018

Bicycle tuned up? CHECK
Spandex aplenty? CHECK
New bike shoes & gloves? CHECK
Remaining need-to-buy list less than 5 items? CHECK
Training regimen on track? CHECK
Weed eating under control? lawn mowed? potatoes weeded? critters captured? er, um, ah...

Well, there are still a few days left.

The training goal is keep increasing your maximum distance week on week. I've been training with Paul Williams, my Trail Buddy, gear researcher and future roomie for the tour. The last two weeks have been a hurried crescendo to reach the "200 miles in under 14 hours" line-in-the-sand drawn by the seasoned PACTour folks.

Two weeks back we rode to the ice cream shop for a cold treat after a hot day. The shop was Tony's in Gastonia, and we were careful to take a more circuitous route so we could chalk up 150+ miles getting there. And there were some hills.

The thing about mileage goals is that they can be even harder than they sound --- even when they sound like wayyy too much. A man has to know how much climbing was done over those miles. Our customary Western NC hilly rides offer an average of 1000 ft ascending for every 10 miles travelled. Averaging 15 miles per hour on those slopes is real speedy for us seniors. 500 ft of climbing over 10 miles is still tiring, but keeping the average speed up is easier. 250 ft or less per 10 miles is flat land or at least feels that way when you come from the mountains.

So the ride to the ice cream shop came in at that middle tier - 9000 ft over 150 miles. However we'd done several over-100 mile rides, some with more climbing, so it was a reasonable step up. Gastonia NC however lies on the lowlands, lowlands that are not particularly foresty, and it was a clear day. One of my training goals was try to increase my tolerance for riding in the heat and that ride certainly fit the bill. I cooked. But Paul didn't melt so he pulled me the last 30 miles to our sweet reward. 16.1 MPH average while moving, 11+ hours overall.

Since our bikes have to be packed & shipped west this week, last weekend was our last chance to both meet that line-in-the-sand and shake out our equipment and practices. We choose the Silver Comet - Chief Ladiga bike trail from Atlanta GA to Anniston AL, which is a 100 mile long rails-to-trails route. Mostly rail beds, so you know what that means: flat! Or something tilted slightly off flat, which you realize as your legs start to hurt after 10 miles of 1% uphill grade. We did an out-and-back for 200 miles, lunch a double cheeseburger at the Anniston Sonic where we were plied for donations to the local baseball team which is GOING TO STATE! A worthy experiment - I don't think I'll reach for the double cheeseburger lunch again anytime soon, as the lingering taste of cheeseburger all the way back to Atlanta has quenched that fire to stone cold.

This time the weather was rainy and thankfully it wasn't one of those "am I sweating or is that rain?" kind of rains but it was actually cool. And that bike trail is 80% shaded by overhanging pines and hardwoods. So this time I got to repay Paul for his aid into Gastonia on the final miles into Atlanta. 16.9 MPH average while moving, 13.5 hours overall. And I was begging for more, or at least thought that was a good joke.

It turns out that cyclists get a pretty good service from riding on the same tarmac with automobiles: the road gets swept of dirt and debris. Bike trails not so much... After riding for several hours in rain or on rain-soaked surfaces we could honestly say we proved our grit both figuratively and literally. The only disrobing I did before entering the hotel shower was to empty my jersey pockets. Shoes, socks, helmet and lycra all partook of the warm deluge.

Going out of town also gave us a chance to shake out our packing, co-habitation and to expose a serious level of and lack of organization on Paul's and my part respectively. I'm motivated now! Saturday morning we got to practice getting up before dawn and hitting the road at first light. Except it took 20 minutes longer than that. I'm going to set it up so I can get into my bike kit in the morning like a fireman dons his duds.

Here's the info on the bike route. Good place to go if you want to avoid cars and hills. It'd be damn pleasant in the fall.