Saturday, March 8, 2014
Whenever I think of the month of March, the phrase "in like a lion, out like a lamb" enters my mind, often accompanied by memories my mother's voice. Growing up in the Northeast, March has always been a dramatic transitional month between winter and spring. This year, though, the month has not only come in like a lion, it also challenges the imagination to think that anything lamb-like is remotely around the corner. Last week, temperatures hovered in the teens and low-20s after we awakened each day in the single digits. To be honest, with a solid covering of snow and ice in every direction, it feels a lot more like January or February in these parts.
That said, the calendar tells me that in just three weeks I'll be clipping in for my first brevet of the season and while my training is a bit off, I could not be more excited. There are several 200K options on the calendar for me in that last weekend of March and I certainly hope that something more lamb-like than the current weather is in store for all of us who chose to begin the 2014 brevet season this month.
Despite the arctic visuals, during today's morning ride, I enjoyed temperatures in the balmy low-40s and actually felt the warm air fill my lungs with the hope of spring. No longer was I forced to take shallow breaths to avoid the shock of frozen air, and this alone seemed to put a direct and dramatic spring into my legs.
What are your riding plans as winter finally recedes into memory?
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I write today with a a heavy heart about two fellow randonneurs who were tragically struck while riding a 200K permanent in Maryland last week. To makes matters worse, the assailant abandoned the riders to die on the side of the road at the site of the crash. Fortunately, emergency crews were notified and both riders were taken directly to hospitals for treatment, one by ambulance and the other by helicopter.
The investigating police department was quick to post the notice above on Facebook, which you should read and share if you have not done so already, especially if you live in the Washington DC area. While unlikely to bring the perpetrator to justice, there's always hope that someone out there may be able to connect the dots. Here is a link to a full article in The Washington Post with additional details.
Gauging from the story and from photographs posted online, the accident occurred at what appears to be a fairly common location, a bridge where the road narrows and the shoulder disappears. We've all been there before. There are steps to take, but no manner of reflective gear, lighting, hand signals and "taking the lane" will fully protect you from the negligence of a driver of a two-ton SUV.
This accident certainly stirs memories for me as I recall the long, painful road to recovery after my own particular run-in with a car. In my case, though, I was fortunate that the driver of the car that hit me did not leave the scene and took full responsibility for his actions. As a result, the medical team came to my aid quickly and his auto insurance company delivered on their commitments to my care.
Please join me in sharing the news of this terrible accident and in offering support to the victims and others who suffer from similar tragedies. I hope that our two sisters in randonnering will recover quickly and completely from this terrible crash and that they and their families get the support they need along the way.
Beyond this particular crisis, we all need to engage in whatever it takes to reduce the incidence of vehicular cycling accidents. Ride your bicycle often. Call your representative. Write a letter to your local paper. Riders of bicycles have just as much a right to use our nation's roads as do drivers of automobiles. We will not live in a civilized society until everyone acknowledges this simple fact.
Monday, January 27, 2014
It's hard to believe that it's been over three weeks since my last post. While I wish I could say that it's because I've been riding outdoors so much, that would just not be true.
The unseasonably mild weather during this year's Festive 500 gave me the illusion that accumulating base miles would be a piece of cake this year. Not so fast. Despite my interest in logging long, early-season rides, recent arctic temperatures have held the northeast hostage over the past several weeks and show no signs of abating. I know, I know, it's winter. There's really no surprise that it's cold and snowy in late January, but when the thermometer doesn't climb above 20F for several weeks in a row, it tends to take the wind out of your sails as far as early training goes.
In order to build a strong base, I'd like to log a minimum of 10 hours on the bike each week including at least one 50+-mile ride. In the context of limited sunlight, ice, snow and work, this is not as easy as it appears. So indoors we must go. This Saturday, I dragged my trainer, my laptop, my speakers and my bike into the dining room and rode with Coach Troy Jacobson through one lap of the Michigan Ironman bike course and, despite my whining, it was a pretty good workout.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
The Festive 500, like all good long rides, was a bit like life in microcosm. There was joy, there was disappointment. There was anger, there was humor. There were parts that exceeded my expectations and parts that fell short. There were the plans and there were the modifications to the plans.
All in all, this challenge provided me with just the kick in the pants I needed to jumpstart the new season. It felt great to ride longer, harder and farther than I would have without the peer pressure involved with 30,000 other nuts trying to ride at least 500 kilometers over the course of eight winter days. It does a body good to go a bit too far, especially where training is concerned. I'm proud to have completed this challenge for a third year in a row. Would I have liked to have ridden 1500 kilometers like some other lunies? Sure, but I'm glad I have a family that needs and wants me around.
Over the course of eight days, I saw some beautiful houses, but my favorite by far is the one I live in myself. There's no greater feeling, after a long, cold ride, than returning to your own warm, cozy home.
Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 29, 2013
While Gilded Age robber barons were erecting massive estates along the Hudson River and throwing parties that cost more than most people earned in a year, a quiet man named John Burroughs (who also built a lovely home on the west side of the Hudson) snuck up to this rustic cabin and wrote some of the most influential works on environmentalism to date. I could not think of a better site to visit on my recovery day than Slabsides, which sits high on a rocky outcrop about a mile from my own house. Burroughs is not very well known these days, but he was one of the most highly regarded writers of his generation. His influence on others such as John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt was significant. Legend has it that TR sailed the official presidential yacht up the Hudson and walked up the hill to meet Burroughs at this cabin, irritating Frederick Vanderbilt right across the river to no end.
Today's recovery ride reminded me of that wonderful feeling that comes from riding too far. After several months in which I rode about 100 miles per week, five days filled with 270 miles creates a feeling that is both pleasing and hard to describe. Onward ho!
Saturday, December 28, 2013
I made a few more stops in my quest to visit the major Hudson Valley estates during this year's Festive 500 Challenge. Today's weather was a huge improvement, so I chose to celebrate by riding a full century that began and ended at my doorstep. In between, I rode up the west side of the river until Catskill where I crossed at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and then found my way back home on the east side of the river crossing on the Walkway once again. This path placed me in the neighborhood of both Thomas Cole's Cedar Grove and his student Frederic Church's famed Olana masterpiece. Not surprisingly, both of these pioneering landscape artists of the Hudson River School chose to live in houses with spectacular views of the river as well as of the Catskill Mountains.
Olana sits amid 250 acres at the top of an imposing hill just south of the town of Hudson. Cedar Grove, on the other hand, is a much simpler affair right on the edge of town across the river in Catskill.
The third stop on my journey today was Clermont, an estate once owned by Robert Livingston who was issued a patent by the British crown granting him the privileges of manor lord over 160,000 acres from the river to what is now Massachusetts. It's hard to imagine how feudal life was in this region before the Revolutionary War, but it was.
As for riding, it was a great workout on a glorious day and my legs are definitely feeling the results of 400 kilometers ridden over four days, but that's what base training is all about, isn't it?
Friday, December 27, 2013
Ah, what a difference 10F and a little bit of sunshine makes. After a dismal ride yesterday, I bounced back today with a 50-mile ramble through some lovely countryside along River Road in Dutchess County north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
Like many Hudson Valley estates, the grounds at Montgomery Place are free and open to the public year-round, while the mansion itself is open for tours during the spring and summer months for a fee.
Just north of Montgomery Place is Bard College, which boasts one of the nicest college campuses in the country. It feels a bit like entering a magical land filled with gorgeous building both old and new, all of which appear completely in their element. The Fischer Center, for example, designed by Frank Gehry, is a remarkable performance space both inside and out.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Caught in a snow squall, fingers numb, glasses fogged, energy sapped, crunching along at 2/3 my average rolling speed, today's ride was decidedly not as festive as the one I took Tuesday. While I clocked in at 50 miles on both days, today's loop was filled with reasons NOT to ride rather than the other way round. I rolled into the town of New Paltz after covering 34 fairly desolate miles of apple orchards and I could take the discomfort no longer. I popped into the public restroom at the Water Street Market to warm my extremities and to call home to explain my delay. The break breathed new life into my legs, but halfway home I popped a tube and suffered through a sub-zero change on the side of the road. I'm sure tomorrow will be better. It has to be!