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Dancing up the hills

That 300k was kind of "oof." I drove out to Nebraska City at 4:30 am yesterday, through heavy rain - remnants of a thunderstorm. The rain continued through the early legs of the ride, soaking us through and making me incredibly glad I'd remembered to pack along my wool long-sleeve shirt. I found myself wondering, which is worse: riding in cold rain, or in heavy wind. Both together can be ugly.

Towards the beginning, I found myself out in front, so I paused at the top of one of the hills to take a photo of the riders coming up behind me:

Coming up the hill

We spent a healthy bit of time camped out in convenience stores, like so:
Breakfast Bar

This was a coffee-and-donuts stop.

Eight of us showed up for the 300k, twice as many as for the 200k, and it was a good bunch of riders. People were pretty relaxed and happy to hang out at the controls for a bit, and things were fairly freeform in terms of riding alone or with other riders. I drafted behind the guy on the left a fair amount on the way out. Riding behind tall people is great:
High-quality seating for lunch

The RBA, pictured in the middle, rides a fixed-gear bicycle, and charged ahead through the hills on the way back, finishing about five minutes ahead of me. I rode with the other two guys a fair amount on the return ride as well. They were great and totally laid-back, swapping stories and pointing out that there was no need to hurry, we had plenty of time to finish. It was interesting to hear how their experiences with riding in Texas compared to mine (universal disgust for chip-and-seal roads). There was a 10-mile stretch along this 300k that featured scraped pavement, reminiscent of the chipseal, but altogether it was not nearly so bad - just had to be survived.

We paused for a kolache snack break in Wilber, NE, on the return route. I can't seem to escape the Czech influence in the US!
Wilber, NE

But I will freely admit that kolaches taste amazing in the middle of a brevet.
Buying kolaches in Wilber

There were lots of interesting little sights along the route, like these "Hay Minions" (still haven't seen the cartoon these are from):
Americana, Nebraska Style

It was also funny to notice a tallbike parked out in front of someone's house, in the middle of the Nebraska countryside:
Americana, Nebraska Style

Parts of the return ride started to feel brutal. I waited slightly too long before eating lunch, so then I ate too much and it took a long time to digest. Not good when one needs extra energy when the weather cools down and headwinds need to be faced. Most of us stopped at a non-control convenience store in Sterling, about 50 miles from the end, for a snack break. Food there was better from my perspective than food at any of the convenience store controls. I downed a tray full of deep-fried cauliflower, and a tray full of mini cheese sticks. I resisted the urge to buy anything off of their liquor shelf. Only middling options at best, anyway.

The total amount of climbing on this ride was approximately the same as the amount of climbing on the 200k, which put it lower than what I can expect for Paris-Brest-Paris (30,000 feet of climbing over 1200 km, so, there should have been around 7500 feet of climbing instead of just 6000). I think there was more wind, though. The last 15 miles or so were tough, featuring some sizeable hill-lumps plus headwinds, which meant it wasn't possible to build up momentum on the downhills to charge up the uphills. As on the 200k, I made myself get up out of the saddle on many of the hills for ~10-20 pedal strokes, telling myself I was dancing with Froinlavin up the hills, to distract myself from the fatigue and discomfort. Hills just have to be taken one at a time, and helped to ride them in the dark so I didn't have to see how many more loomed on the horizon. I am grateful, though, that Nebraska highways have mileage markers, because the markers give me a way to tick off the distance as I ride along in the dark. Texas farm roads don't have mileage markers.

I need to keep working on standing to climb up the hills. It seems to put too much pressure on my knees, and contributed to my problems with the 2011 PBP. I am more of a "masher" than a spinner, so I tend to shift into a harder gear so I can keep smooth pedal strokes going when I stand and climb. I probably have atrocious posture or something. Hard to say. I am especially wondering whether there are activities other than rollerblading that I could do to help strengthen leg stabilizing muscles, because I suspect that would make the biggest difference. Maybe running stadium stairs. Time to pack in the running shoes with work gear.



( 8 remarks — Remark )
Apr. 27th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC)
Sounds like overall, this brevet went well! Glad you had a congenial group to ride with.

What really helps with leg stabilizing muscles is focused leg work that gets to all the muscles in the leg - pilates, controlled weight training, and squats on a bosu ball all come to mind.

And yeah, walking hills never hurts.
Apr. 27th, 2015 01:59 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I don't have a bosu ball, but I've got a full-sized ball, and I'll bet one-legged squats with the ball against the wall will accomplish something comparable!

I'm really grateful to be around riders who are happy to ride together and socialize, but also happy to ride solo for periods. It's nice to mix things up!
Apr. 27th, 2015 04:00 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a satisfying day. Did you have a late night drive back to Lincoln? I don't know exactly the situation with your knees, but the saying is: "the knee is the middle child between the hip and the ankle". Perhaps that's more relevant to situations with your feet on the ground, such as walking or running. But for sure you want balance in the way your quadriceps tendon tracks across the knee joint. Alignment of the knee can be strongly influenced by the hip, especially hip abductors.... In your "spare time" ;>), I encourage a session or two with a sports medicine PT (or athletic trainer). With all that the PBP entails, good idea to set yourself up for success...
Apr. 27th, 2015 02:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Tx!
Mom, by this point I have that expression drilled into my mind, which is a good thing, I think! :-)

One of the key aspects of having a "bike fit" done is ensuring proper knee alignment on the bicycle. But I think that people generally check for that while a person is riding in a seated position, not while standing. So I might have to do further investigation and talk to people about riding while standing. And you are absolutely right about the importance of setting myself up well - I don't want a repeat of 2011, and knee problems were a big factor on that ride!
Apr. 28th, 2015 02:26 am (UTC)
A fixie on a 300k?
Tough rider indeed.
Apr. 28th, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
This guy rides 1200k's on his fixed-gear! Says his gearing is somewhat on the low side, but I don't remember what it was, specifically. It was pretty incredible to see him charge up the hills, then work his way back down the other sides. He's been riding like this for well over a decade and has become well-known in certain circles.

It made me feel like I had no excuse to stop pedaling. :-D
Apr. 28th, 2015 03:09 am (UTC)
He isn't known as Fixie Dave, is he?
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
Hmm, don't think so...he's mentioned in this article, by another fixed-gear rider who rode with him for a bit:


Hmm, I need to sit down a read through this whole thing as I start thinking about how to manage the controles for PBP!
( 8 remarks — Remark )

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