The gas bubble (N20)continues to shrink (silver dollar size to penny size) and increase mobility around the field of view. Had the 7-week post-op visit with the ophthalmologist. Healing appears on track although the doc sounded a little disappointed it wasn’t further along. Well, welcome to my world. Down to just one eye drop prescription (2x daily). New question – how long will it take pupil to return to normal size after 6 weeks of atropine? Had a mini eye exam for the left eye: 20-200 (-1) and 20-80 (-2) with the pin hole cover. Field of view is getter brighter, just not clearer. Nearsighted vision is completely rubbish – can barely read anything without the reading glasses. Even a struggle sometimes with them. No change in activity level for the next 4 weeks. Disheartening news as hoped a little more intensity would be possible. Discovered the underlying reason for the irritated eye – developed a dellen which is a thinning of the cornea. Received a referral for a corneal specialist who confirmed the initial diagnosis. Come to find out, the cornea isn’t as smooth as it appears. It has peaks and valleys. One particular peak isn’t receiving the normal amount of lubrication from the tear ducts and is a little dry. Have the pleasure of wearing a temporary contact lens and picking up new eye drops (4x daily). Follow up three days later showed contact is doing its job by trapping fluid and keeping the peak moist. Answer to the dilated pupil condition – at least 2 weeks. Maybe the vision will improve then?
No change to the exercise (hard to all it that) routine: 75’ spinning at less than 110 average HR and no spikes greater than 115 bpm and 2-3 mile walks. Even the spinning was less than rewarding as initially average power (AP) values increased to a peak of 191 W for a 75’ session but then dropped. Able to maintain near 180 W for 45 minute or so but then had to decrease the effort to remain within HR limits. AP for entire rides were now upper 160s-lower 170s.
Returned to the corneal specialist 3 days after the initial consult. Played the silly eye test game. Winner, winner chicken dinner when there’s only one letter on the screen. When there’s more than 2 letters, able to discern the number of letters but not which letters. Again, vision much better when using the pin-holed paddle. Dellen is healing but much slower than expected. Doc removed the temporary contact lens but during the exam, discovered the cornea over the iris has no sensation. Doc poked it with a swab; nope. No blink, no response. Naturally, the condition has a name: corneal hypoesthesia, a symptom of neurotrophic keratopathy. NK is a degenerative disease, the primary side effect of a vitrectomy, of the corneal epithelium resulting from impaired corneal sensation. Naturally it’s considered a rare disease with an estimated prevalence of less than 5/10,000. Untreated, NK can lead to epithelial breakdown, impaired healing, and ultimately corneal ulceration, melting, and perforation). So, how does this condition contribute to the slow/lack of healing of the dellen? Since there’s no sensation where the dellen is, the cornea doesn’t realize there’s an injury and doesn’t activate the typical healing response. Increased use of erythromycin ointment (2x daily) and preferably an eye patch to keep the eye closed and corneal bathed in the antibiotic is the plan for the next week.
75-min spins on Zwift continue although did increase to 90-min for weekend rides only. Able to remain with ride leader Maria at 2.1 w/kg on generally flat courses. HR governor usually spits me out the back of the peloton on long climbs.
Eye was uncomfortable, painful, for the week following the visit. Different than the discomfort post procedure as that was more localize to the cornea. Entire eyeball ached this time. Returned to the corneal specialist for a PROKERA procedure. This involves placing an amniotic membrane on the eye covered by a thicker contact lens to keep the membrane in place to help kick-start the healing process. If that fails to heal the dellen and the lack of sensation continues, the next likely treatment is Cenergermin. It’s a very expensive ($80,000 for a prescription) beta-nerve growth factor. Because of the cost, there’s a lengthy ordering, review, and approval process that can take weeks to complete – but that’s been initiated. Vision is worse with the membrane but there’s no additional discomfort. Quite the opposite actually – no eyeball achiness or any other irritation. The gas bubble continued to shrink it size while increasing mobility in the field of vision with head movement, especially downward. As the diameter of the bubble decreased, the border of the circle thickened and the interior progressed from light to darker shades of purple. A couple days short of 10-week post procedure, the bubble disappeared. No change in perception, vision, or anything.
Will be able to increase the intensity a little (2.5 w/kg) until the next visit with the retina specialist in a week. Update on the bikes: Synapse is repaired but waiting in Shimano to deliver cables to wire the aerobar shifters to the Di2. Supply-chain woes continue as they were supposed to ship 2 weeks ago. Something screwy is going on with the lower part of the headset that may have damaged the frame. Still waiting on Cannondale to come to a resolution on the warranty. The Topstone overhaul is complete and ready for pickup.
Did manage to bake the Missus a batch of buttermilk biscuits before the eye patch. Kitchen time isn’t nearly as enjoyable when visually challenged.
Returned to the corneal specialist for the PROKERA treatment. Used a numbing drop, not sure why as cornea doesn’t have any sensation, laid the membrane on the eye then placed a contact over it. Procedure took maybe 30 seconds – come back in a week. Didn’t feel anything different until a couple of days before the follow-up visit. Felt like an eyelash poking me but there wasn’t one. That went away and replaced by the familiar feeling of a contact on the eye. Seemed positive as previously wasn’t able to feel anything. Follow-up visit was mixed – seems the membrane had gotten out of position (related to the ‘eyelash incident?’) but the dellen was mostly healed. Doc was pleased about that and cornea did have some sensation on the out half but she still didn’t rule out the potential for the $ drops. Still have a greenish mass, scab tissue near in inside corner of the eye (location of the dellen) and pupil remains dilated; no real change 3 weeks after last atropine drop and eye remains ultra-sensitive to sunlight.
Same discomfort 48-72 hours after visit – eyeball aches after all of the prodding and poking at scar tissue. Can’t really take comfort in the achiness as it’s not on the cornea. Sometimes it feels like a good old fashion eye rubbing is necessary. But there’ll be none of that. Keeping the eye lubricated with twice daily application of erythromycin ointment and drops for dry eyes. Learned Visine for red eyes is not a good solution for dry eyes as it primarily acts to constrict the blood flow to the cornea, thus reducing the red eyes. Drops specifically for dry eyes are recommend – currently using Systane.
On the cycling front, Zwift remains the only outlet although it was refreshing to just ride along with Maria, even Coco a couple of times, and completely ignore heartrate. Made the rides far less stressful and enjoyable while lowering the RPE. Even made another trip up AdZ although couldn’t match the plan, it was still the longest, hardest effort since early February.
Kitchen duties returned to normal after the Missus returned from being with her mother as her health precipitously declined and passed away. Nothing fancy but nice to have her back and even an occasional Sunday family dinner with girl child and hubby. Did make Irish Soda bread for but she had to cancel the family dinner as her hubby contracted Covid while attending a wedding the previous week. Just means the Missus and I will have to eat it.
Recovery from the RD continues – just not very quickly. Three-week post-op and Doc allowed easy cycling (indoors only) for 30 minutes in addition to extending the walk to the same duration. Light weights are also permitted but nothing in a supine position. Very happy to be able to re-unite with the trainer. Vision improving and changing. Stitch for the buckle became visible and another source of eye irritation. Doc proscribed erythromycin eye ointment and now back to applying three of the four different eye drops twice a day. As a result, since one of them is atropine sulfate, the pupil is constantly dilated. Top edge of bubble reached middle of visual field: underwater view below and blurry above. As vision in the left eye improves, overall vision suffers as the bubble is now visible and distorts the overall view. Probably not explaining it very well but difficult to describe the effect. Several days later, top half of visual field is much brighter, able to discern finer details, and able to read large font positioned close; below line is underwater, darker, but not murky while peripheral view is blurry. Assuming bubble absorption continues as the top edge of the bubble is slightly below the middle of the visual field and each edge curves downward almost as if the size of the bubble is shrinking. At the 4-week mark, bumped training rides to 45 minutes with average heart rate below 110 bpm and peaks below 115. No change to the 30-minute walks. Gas bubble continues to shrink. At the 5-week mark, top edge of bubble is no longer a horizontal line across the visual field. Able to discern bubble shape with rounded sides and improved peripheral vision. Top of bubble wiggles and undulates with head movement and fills maybe 25% of the visual field. Left eye vision is still blurry and details are far from crisp but able to read the time on iPhone if held about 12 inches from eye. Visual field still has a milky cast – hoping it’s not an indication of a cataract already. The smaller the bubble, the worse the binocular vision; very distracting and headache producing. Also wondering about the long-term impacts of the scleral buckle: does it eventually become imperceptible?
The spring issue of the American Randonneur arrived and I made the Awards List pages for achieving the R-12; riding a 200K (or longer) randonneuring event in each of 12 consecutive months. Accomplished that in my first year as a member but, unfortunately, won’t be repeating that in 2023 as Feb passed without completing any outdoor distance and March will be a carbon copy. Increased Zwift rides to 60 minutes with the same HR parameters. Still no desire to ride outside with current visual deficits although would like to increase the indoor intensity. Forced to lower the power output as the ride progresses due to HR drift. Often end up getting dropped at that point in a partner paced ride and finish it solo; 45 minutes seem to be the threshold for staying with Maria on partner paced rides at 2.1 w/kg. Have to drop below 2.0 to maintain HR target. No change to walking distance although did take a couple of hour walks with the Missus over the weekend.
Had to eliminate another common activity – dental cleaning – due to restriction on supine position. Thanks to the Missus for the heads-up after her experience. Confirmed with the Doc – best if the appointment is rescheduled at least 6 weeks out. Hearing that was another kick in the gut. That much longer before being able to lay on my back?! Bubble will surely be absorbed before then. Learned that the milky view is normal part of recovery process. Bubble continues to shrink – now down to less than a quarter of the visual field. Added another 15 minutes, up to 75 now, to the trainer spins. No adjustment to the intensity threshold. Just past the 6-week mark, a complete bubble is visible when looking down. If possible, while smaller than before, it’s more present in the field of view and disrupts the vision. The buckle continues to be unpleasant. A new feature noticed over the last couple of days is the continued presence of the bubble even when the eyes are closed. Not sure how it’s possible but there are different shades of black and purple that still make the circle visible. It moves the same as when the eyes are open: circle moves to the middle of the visual field as the head lowers. Initially thought RD was creating a super-power: true night vision. Can’t explain the phenomenon but unfortunately it’s not a new visual capability.
Cooked a few new items: chicken chile verde and Costillas a la Riojan (Argentine pork chops with fried egg), dump and bake chicken parmigiana, and sausage, chicken, beans (black, red, and garbanzo), and rice.
Returned home after spending 2 weeks with the parents. Dad continues to make solid improvement in spite of the OT/PT staff neglecting their responsibilities but that’s a whole other topic. Mom continues her slide down the Alzheimer’s/dementia spectrum and unable to grasp the requirements for Dad to return home. Each is lost without the other but the disruption to the daily schedule is far more impactful on Mom.
Completed the 2023 Tour de Zwift and even initiated a few threshold/VO2max interval workouts. Neglecting those energy systems for most of the past year is very evident when attempting to return to that effort. Started prepping for the initial PBP ramp-up and the middle of the month includes Vuelta Puerto Rico and the final two events of NEFL’s Brevet week.
However, a rough first two months of 2023 took a precipitous turn for the worse (never been a fan of the saying, “can’t get much worse,” because it invariably can). Sometime between finishing a trainer workout and heading into the office, lost nearly 90% of the vision in the left eye. No pain, no traumatic event, warning or anything. Fine one minute, not so much the next. Couldn’t feel anything different but vision was like looking through an opaque water bubble. The only visible portion of the visual field was the upper left corner. Don’t know what I was thinking but should’ve reacted differently and much quicker. Any loss of vision is considered a medical emergency and should have immediately gone to the ER. Instead, went to work, purchased some eye drops and thought the issue would resolve itself overnight. Wasn’t better the following day, still no pain or discomfort, but able to make an optometrist appointment for Saturday. Again, warning klaxons should’ve gone off in my head but all was silent as the day progressed and even prepared a delicious family dinner – lamb chops with a fig sauce, scalloped potatoes, and roasted asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. Dessert was a margherita cake. Everything was quite tasty!
The plan for Saturday was to head to the local bike shop to retrieve the Synapse following the optometrist appointment as it was time to head south for 5-6 weeks of cycling time on Tuesday. Well, that plan was quickly squashed when the prognosis was delivered – retinal detachment. Kudos to MyEyeDr for coordinating a follow-up same day appointment with an ophthalmology practice that specializes in repairing retina detachments. Headed straight to the second eye appointment for the day as the year’s cycling calendar slowly crumbles to pieces. Detachment confirmed as 3 tears were identified.
Learned lots about a medical condition that never even considered. Tears are far more common, about 10% of the population with many not even knowing it, while the year detachment rate is only 1 in 10,000. There are 3 types of detachments with rhegmatogeneous being the most common. Aging causes the vitreous to change consistency and shrink or become more liquid. The vitreous can separate from the retina and pull hard enough to cause a tear. Left untreated, the vitreous can pass through the tear into space behind and push retina away from the layer of blood vessels at the back of the eye. Permanent blindness can result if not corrected. Spontaneous detachments are not uncommon but warning signs include floaters, black spots in field of vision, flashes of light, and blurry vision. Risk factors include the following: aging (> 50), previous detachment in one eye, family history, extreme nearsightedness, previous eye surgery (cataracts). Count me in with 3/5.
Corrective procedures include pneumatic retinopexy: gas bubble to replace vitreous; vitrectomy: removal of vitreous and replaced with air, gas, or oil bubble. Eye will produce vitreous over time and the air or gas bubble will be absorbed. Oil must be removed later; and scleral buckle: a band of rubber, plastic, or silicone sewn around eye to change shape of eye – pressing it against the eye wall. Lucky me, had all three (N20). The air or gas bubble requires maintaining a face down position for as much of the day/night as possible for a week or more to help ensure the optimal position for the retina to reattach. Air or gas bubble also precludes air travel as changes in atmospheric pressure could cause the eye to burst. Doc was considerate and only required 7 days. Comfort Solutions provides devices – similar to a masseuse chair and ancillary pieces for the end of the bed or sitting at a table that facilitate the position without placing a strain on the back of the neck muscles. Not very comfortable and certainly not enjoyable way to spend a week. A bonus accessory is a hinged mirror that allows for TV viewing in a face down position.
Lots to digest after the quick introduction to retinal detachment. The initial plan of picking up the repaired Synapse changed to a photo opportunity and instructions to have the fork painted the same color. Looks pretty sharp – and it’s one of a kind! I wouldn’t be traveling or riding my bike any time soon. Vuelta Puerto Rico and the last 2 events (400K and 600) of the NEFL Randonners Brevet Week were crossed off the training calendar. Barely hanging on was the Golden Falcon 1000K and Florida GF while the Cloverleaf 1200K seemed feasible. Surgery was scheduled for Monday and additional recovery details would come afterwards.
Procedure lasted around 2 hours and everything went well – actually had 7 tears. Scary stuff. No activity for the first week – face down position as much as possible; sleep on right side only. Prescribed two different eye drops, anti-nausea pills and Oxy. Walked out with an eye guard and lots of white tape; a different kind of pirate. Eye pain wasn’t an issue but sore, raw throat from the anesthesia was the bigger problem. The Missus unboxed and assembled the masseuse chair – primary position for the next week and the long week commenced. Initial post-op was the following day when the patch, eye guard, and tape were removed. First look was a little surprising considering the procedures – swelling was minimal; more like a lazy eyelid. Eyedrops were the only ongoing treatment; other than a reminder about being facedown as much as possible. Time passed slowly and the face down position increased the swelling and closed it completely. Even the right eye became a little puffy. Doc was pleased with the swelling – an indication the posturing direction was being followed. Prescribed a couple more eye drops and a round of steroids to reduce the swelling.
The days seemed interminable; tried to work some but not very effective or productive. Not a comfortable position, couldn’t concentrate, and reading wasn’t easy. Climbing on the bike, even the trainer, wasn’t an appealing activity. Finally, the 7-day face down position ended and felt more like a human. Returned the torture chair to Comfort Solutions. What a name – like placing a pillow on a bed of nails. Comfy now? The swelling reduced and eye re-opened; now with a red ring around the iris. Upright position also meant a little activity was allowed – an easy 15-20 walk once a day. Made steady progress – actually able to see, ironically, in a face down position. Similar to opening the eyes underwater. Clearest when looking straight down and images get progressively blurrier as the head is raised. Entire visual field is visible and able to discern number of fingers being displayed in a face down position. Not enough acuity to read or distinguish fine details but much better. The underwater clarity line slowly raised, passing the number of fingers displayed test when head is almost in normal, forward-looking position. Scrapped PBP and all of the qualifying events leading up to it – NEFL Brevet week, Golden Falcon 1000K, FL GF, and NVR Cloverleaf 1200K. Just too much uncertainty with the recovery: no outside riding until gas bubble is absorbed; potential for additional procedures depending upon restored vision, likelihood (near certainty) of cataract development and subsequent removal. Almost a return to the exercise withdrawal, borderline depression feelings that followed the guardrail incident. Primary difference this time is the unknown. TPF recovery was confined to waiting for the bone to heal. Once done, no real concern of relapse or spontaneous breaking. Not the same with retinal detachment.
In addition to the 20-minute walks, short drives are allowed as local laws are 20-40 vision in at least one eye. Depth perception is nonexistent and adds a little challenge to routine tasks. Still able to maneuver around the kitchen and even added a few new items to the menu: salmon Nicoise with orzo and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. No, they were not part of the same meal.
Began the year recovering from a nasty virus, both home test and Walgreen’s NAAT were negative for Covid, forcing a couple days off then easing backing into Zwift land. The Missus contracted full-blown Covid and had to make a trip to OH to deal with her mother’s failure to thrive and memory loss. She’s no longer capable of living by herself. That whole elder medical care industry is a complete mess.
Dropped the cracked Synapse off at the local bike shop for stripping and pick-up by a local carbon fiber repair shop. Still haven’t received any response from the Cannondale rep regarding a replacement frame so decided to have it repaired. Apparently, repairs will make the break site stronger than original.
Rib soreness returned, both in the back (late Aug Skyline tumble and 3 rib fractures) and front (impact from elderly driver turning into me) and potentially compounded by nasty cough that accompanied the new year virus. Established a new indoor pain cave for inclement weather in FL using the Zwift Hub as the smart trainer. Less than half the price of Wahoo Kickr and works pretty well. Started and completed 7 stages of the 2023 Tour de Zwift but kept it mostly low-mid Z2 efforts. Elevated HR response continued through first half of the month.
Made return trip to FL – no vehicle issues this time. While taking the Cannon off the trainer and placing the rear wheel back on, discovered a broken spoke on the Hed wheel. Wouldn’t be using the primary randonneuring bike, 2017 Cannondale SuperSix Evo (Cannon), for the weekend rides. Didn’t have any other rim brake wheels in FL. Will have to fix that shosrtcoming depending upon how long it remains the randonneuring bike. Remounted the front light and handlebar bag back on Wili and loaded it in the car. Forgot to take the rear light off the Cannon but thankfully had my secondary light on the back of my helmet. Would only need the lights for a little over an hour as the 300K started at 0600 and the 200K at 0700. Saturday was cold and windy. Rode with Recumbent Man and 2 others for the entire day. Temps were in the high 30s but had a 15+ mph wind which pushed us to a 20.8 mph average for the first 95 miles. The return took about an hour longer and the 3 of us took turns behind Recumbent Man as he pulled us back. Legs definitely lost endurance over the last half of December and first week of January. Sunday was a colder start for the 200K but didn’t feel as cold as the wind was much more mild. Had navigational challenges early on – within first 3 miles, Garmin route indicated a U-turn. Realized the error but had to climb the steep hill twice (rear cassette is only 11-25) and put me at the rear of the group. Ended up catching everyone but Recumbent Man was just departing the turnaround spot as I rolled in. Entire ride for both him and me were solo efforts. Garmin Edge died at the last rest stop with 21 miles to go. Had to use RideWithGPS but for whatever reason, didn’t have any turn-by-navigations so had to have the phone in hand or frequently place/remove it from the handlebar bag. Not a very enjoyable last 20 miles. Front derailleur needs adjustment as the rub in certain gears was very irritating. Successfully completed the ride and enjoyed the post ride pizza! Received bad news 15 minutes before start of 200K – Dad fell and fractured his right hip, shoulder, and 3 ribs along with a collapsed lung.
Spent the last week of the month in OH juggling parental assist, work, and Zwifting. Good thing PBP isn’t until August as unable to continue building fitness as planned. Completed the initial Zwift ride in the detached, unheated garage (balmy inside temp of 40°) and then remembered the basement. Forgot the basement? Access is from the outside only, like a storm cellar. That is heated and a much better environment. Mostly Z2 efforts with a slow return to threshold and VO2max intervals.
The only photos are a new pasta casserole (southwestern chicken pasta bake) and the x-ray depicting my father’s new internal hardware.
Once again, failure to provide more frequent updates have resulted in a single entry to summarize 6+ months of rides and food; both of which have new additions. Still haven’t completed the write up of the fantastic Bicycle Adventures excursion in WYMODAK. Did spend some time with the parental unit, two different times actually. It was great to be there but also a little sad as Mom has started the cognitive decline of short-term memory loss. Still able to cook for them – nothing extravagant or fancy but they appreciated it.
Also discovered new roads and completed two different Ohio randonneuring rides: Cleveland-Amish-Devo 200K and Wooster-Amish Reverse 200K. Each event only had a handful of other riders and once again, covered most of the distance solo. Absolutely amazed at the number of Amish folk riding e-bikes. It was largest concentration of them I’ve ever experienced with all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders riding them.
Substituted normal mid-year ride of Autism awareness fundraiser Bike to the Beach with the Blue Water International Gran Fondo (BIG) in Sarna, Ontario, Canada. Added a new country to the list of places cycled. Initially blamed the border crossing on failure of rear derailleur to shift but turned out to be a bad, recently changed 2032 battery. Great ride! Being in the lead group earned a motorcycle escort the entire way. Rode with some very strong ladies.
Experienced a minor, physical set back near the end of August. Early on a friendly training ride with a great group, overlapped wheels on the initial climb on Skyline out of Front Royal and crashed. Wasn’t going very fast and managed to tuck the left shoulder and mostly landed on upper back/shoulder blade area. A little tender but finished the ride without too much discomfort. Shared muffins with the rest of the crew and drove home. Chatting with the family after meal of grilled burgers and twice-baked potatoes, not thinking anything about it, I sneezed. Swear I heard a crack and the pain knocked me out of the chair. Managed to shuffle off to the living room to lay on the floor. Back pain sky-rocketed from a very manageable 2 (10-point scale) to a screaming 10. After a short conversation while remaining in a supine position with the Missus and girl-child (who also happens to be a licensed Physical Therapist, DPT), decided to head to the ER. About 4 hours later, after X-rays and a non-narcotic injectable (Toradol), that worked wonders on reducing the pain, learned ribs 5, 6, and 7 were cracked and minimally displaced. Conjecture was the crashed caused the fracture and the sneeze created the displacement. Also discovered my helmet was cracked. Off the bike for a couple of days, limited to the trainer for the next 3 days, completed easy home 30-mile loop, then a 200K on the following day. Needless to say, the Missus and Girl-child were not enamored with the decision.
Crossed Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)/C&O Canal ride off the Bucket List and did manage to post a summary of that adventure on the blog. Completed the Northern Virginia Randonneuring (NVR) NASA 200K and Warrenton-Gordonsville 300K as bookend rides to the GAP/C&O in September. The NVR Shippensburg 400K was delayed a week due to derecho-like conditions but able to complete that in early October. Scheduled an early return to FL to complete the Pine Island 1000K. At least able to ride with Recumbent Man for that event. Conditions were significantly better than the last foray to Pine Island – no howling wind and rain this time.
Enjoyed FL time with the Missus for a bit and scheduled a couple of Randonneuring events in TX. Yes, a new state to add to the list. Initial plan was airline provided transportation, but Hurricane Nicole disrupted those plans and ended up driving to Houston for the Columbus-Brookshire 400K. Selected this event and a December ride near Austin thinking temperatures would be mild. Very wrong on the first one. Houston was cold (in the 40s) and windy. Experienced navigational challenges, rode off course (missed a turn) and began early return trip before realizing error. As a result, went long, 444K, caused the Missus to assist with staying on course as new Garmin Edge nighttime colors aren’t very distinguishable for old eyes and then panic when iPhone battery died and she lost ability to track progress. Ever resourceful, she called 3 different Houston area police departments, found the right jurisdiction, and fenagled a “wellness check” that was executed while eating and warming up with a cup of hot chocolate at a gas station about 25 miles from the finish. Didn’t finish that ride until after midnight – 18+ hours to complete the event. A new PR for longest time required to complete a 300K!
Ended the year with a nightmare and vacation. Purchased a new bike to be the primary wheels for randonneuring events. Enjoy riding My Cannon (2017 Cannondale SuperSix Evo) but limited to 25 mm tires. Amazing how much frame geometry and ‘standard’ tire sizes have changed in the past 5 years. Purchased a new Cannondale Synapse – when comfortable with a given manufacturer’s product, why change? I’ve ridden bikes made by Trek, Giant, and Wilier (have one) but none of them are as comfortable to me as Cannondale. Didn’t even ride it Rode it before heading south to FL with the intent of flying to Austin for the CBD 600 in Georgetown, TX. The transmission in my 2014 Ford Escape died just across the GA border in the large metropolis of Pooler. Managed to make it to a garage who confirmed it was the transmission – error codes for gears 2-5. The garage didn’t do transmission work but was familiar with a shop that did and they would pick up my car. Luckily, Pooler is only 8 miles or so from the Savannah/Hilton Head International (presumably Caribbean Islands) Airport that had several rental car companies. Temporarily misplaced my driver’s license and learned having the physical card is required to rent a vehicle. Even filled out the information on-line and had proof my license was in good standing from VA DMV still wasn’t sufficient. Uber’d back to the garage and searched the car again. Found the license wedged between the center console and driver’s seat. Uber’d back to the airport (same driver) and completed the rental car reservation and drove back to the garage in a Ford Edge. Transferred the contents of the Escape to the Edge, went across the street for dinner, and continued the drive to FL. Destination reached about 7 hours after planned arrival time based upon departure time that morning. What a day. But wait, the story gets better. Spoke with Jimmy from Vidalia Transmission the following day and learned it would take about 10-14 for a new transmission to be delivered. Seems Covid interrupted the supply chain and workforce that increased the timeline.
After a couple days of riding (61 total miles) the Synapse, packed it up in the SC-ICON soft sided travel bag and headed to the airport. After an uneventful flight, retrieved a rental, loaded it, and drove to the hotel. After dinner, (Tex-Mex, naturally), unzipped the bike bag to reveal a severely cracked left seat stay. There would be no CBD 600 for me. All kinds of emotions and none of them positive – incredulous, angry, dejected, depressed. Immediately filed a claim with Delta Airlines. Informed the ride leader of the Heart of Texas Randonneurs that I wouldn’t be joining them for the 2-day ride. Several other members suggested renting a bike from a local shop and two riders offered the use of their spare bike for the event. Wasn’t mentally prepared to ride 600K on an untested bike but did commit to riding the second day which was also a separate RUSA-sanctioned event, Dime Box 250K. Able to review each of the offered spare bikes: Bianchi with Campagnolo components and Volagi with Shimano Ultegra. Intrigued by the unknown American bike manufacturer (2010-2016), chose the Volagi for the weekend. Rode part of the first day’s route but turned around early and finished with a 100K ride. Intended to ride the Dime Box route with the rest of the group but threw that thought out the window after covering the first ~10 miles at a 14 mph pace. Must admit, the Volagi was rather comfortable. Nice to have additional hand positions with the aero bars. Finished the ride well ahead of the others and placed the bike in the truck of the ride leader. Although the weekend didn’t go nearly as planned, still able to achieve the RUSA R-12 award (completing a RUSA sanctioned event of at least 200K for 12 consecutive months). Completed 6853K, a Grand Randonnee, and a Super Randonneur Series (ACP brevets of 200, 300, 400, and 600K) in first year of randonneuring.
Returned to FL and waited until the Escape was repaired. Did take 2 days off the bike in the first 3 weeks of December but also completed the Tour Of Pinellas County 200K (which counts for PBP qualifying), and a frustrating Uber experience, and run in to by an older driver on the second to last day in FL. The rear wheel picked up a short, fat screw that sealant couldn’t plug (mostly my fault as there was insufficient sealant in the tire. Have to refill every 2 months in FL versus 3 in NoVA). Ordered an UberX (XL wasn’t an option) and a Toyato Prius showed. Messaged the driver before arrival that I had a bike with a flat, rear tire. Upon arrival and noticing the bike, driver walked to the rear of the car, opened the hatchback, shook his head, mutters no room, closed the hatch, got back in the car and drove away. Order another UberX and 20-minutes later, a Nissan Sentra shows up. Removed the front wheel and it fit in the trunk with the rear seats folded down. What a fiasco. Certainly colored (ugly shades and outside the lines) what was intended to be a short, quick recovery ride. The senior driver incident occurred about 5 miles from home on a multi-laned road with a bike lane. Generally have a favorable wind on this road and this ride wasn’t an exception. About half a mile short of turning off the heavily trafficked road and moving around 25 mph, a small white pickup truck slowly pulls up alongside and before he’s fully passed me, turns right into a mini-strip mall. Grabbing a bunch of rear brake which causes the bike to fish-tail, I manage to extend my left arm and push against the right quarter panel to prevent a more serious impact with the truck. The bike goes down and my chest lands on the handlebars. I quickly stand and raise my arms to signify WTF? The driver begins to pull into a parking space, stops, backs up, and proceeds through the parking lot and turns onto a cross-street towards the road he turned from and hit me. I clipped into the pedals and rode straight at the truck. I mimic rolling down the window which he does and I ask, “Do you have any idea what you just did? You hit me when you turned into that parking lot behind me!” He looked down then back up and said, “Sorry. Are you hurt?” “It could’ve been a whole lot worse. I have no idea how you didn’t see me. You probably shouldn’t be driving.” He muttered again about being sorry then I just road off and made it home. Bruised the left front ribs (likely the same ones fractured in Aug) and earned a candy-cane shaped strawberry on my inner right thigh. What a bad month of cycling!
Finally, 26 days after leaving the car in GA, a new transmission was installed and ready for pick-up. To be honest, wasn’t aware the transmission repair shop was so far away from the engine repair shop where the car was left. Vidalia is about 85 miles from Pooler and potentially adding 3+ hours to the normal 12 ½ – 13 ½ hour drive back to VA. Able to convince Jimmy with $200 to place the Escape on his trailer and follow me to return the rental back to Enterprise. After an initial nonhelpful response from Delta, they did reimburse their maximum liability, $3800. It doesn’t come close to covering the replacement costs but will look into having the frame repaired. A very expensive final month of the year: new Cannondale Synapse cracked, $5200 for new transmission, $2100 for 4-week rental, bruised ribs and scraped handlebar tape and brake lever on the Wilier.
The last 6 months also saw new recipes and meals (casseroles, muffins, desserts) added to the list which will be presented pictorially as opposed to verbally. Spent the final 5 days of the year in Mexico City visiting our son, seeing some of the local sites, having quite the gastronomic adventure, and not riding a bicycle; only completing 2 days of the Rapha 500. Food pictures mostly as I wouldn’t be able to describe them anyways other than most were definitely not traditional Mexican meals but can say they were all enjoyed. Even tried new things: crickets, whole soft-shelled crab, and octopus. Visited Xochimilco (not really worth it), Coyoacon (quant old-town and cathedral, Teotihuacan (definitely worth it) and lots of walking (Chaplutepec castle, Angel de la Independencia, Polanco, Anthropology Museum, Centrico Historico). Ended 2022 and began 2023 with a bad virus (negative Covid test results with home test and Walgreen Rapid NAAT. Glad to still be Covid-free (5 total Moderna shots over 20 months) but still felt miserable.
Headed south for the first of three nearly consecutive monthly sunshine cycling (and WFF) camps. Didn’t leave NoVA soon enough and had the pleasure of being present for the biggest snowfall in quite a while – nearly seven inches of heavy snow. Must say, not a lot of fun. Another, smaller snowfall was forecast for a few days later but that would be after my departure date. Primary purpose of the initial camp was to lay the groundwork – base miles – in preparation for randonneuring events. Additionally, registered for three official events: two 200K brevets and one 300K brevet.
Plan was long rides, century +, on each weekend day with easy 90-minute recovery and 50–60-mile rides during the week. Received a handlebar bag for Christmas and experimented with storage of gels, bars, and powder in the three different places now available (handlebar, seat, jersey). Also incorporated different food options – PBJ sandwich, thick ham chunks, Fig Newtons and SiS’ Energy Bakes. Refueling will be critical during 7-14 hour cycling days and relying only on SiS and GU gels may lead to unpleasantness. Long rides always necessitate 4 water bottles, 2 on the frame and 2 behind the saddle: two filled with plain water and two with SiS Electrolyte powder.
Completed several solo 120+ mile rides without much concern. Found that taking more frequent breaks, 4-5 versus 2-3, appeared to reduce both physical and mental fatigue. Actually stopped and ate my PBJ sandwich at the Historic Downtown Kissimmee Lakefront Park overlooking Lake Tohopekaliga (or Lake Toho) on one of the rides. As there’s minimal elevation changes in central FL, Z2 efforts equate to mid-19 mph averages. Depending upon wind speed and direction, averages will fluctuate.
First official randonneuring event was the Tavares – Polk City 200K Brevet. Start point was Wooten Park about a 60-minute drive from our FL retreat. Roll time was 0700 so it was a moderately early morning but not dreadful. Stayed overnight in Tavares as the 300K the following day had an 0600 start. Who knew but Tavares is America’s Seaplane City, at least that’s what the signs proclaim. As proof, there were several seaplanes, on the water and parking lot, at the park. Sunrise on the lake was very peaceful. Sign-in, introductions, etc. was all before sunrise. Quickly discovered that there was one other newbie – the remaining 20+ riders had various years of randonneuring experience, many of them successfully completed the holy grail of randonneuring, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), and most knew one another. The cyclists came in all shapes and sizes (but not colors) with bikes to match: road, flat bar, recumbents. So, randonneuring events are not races, but are timed, without SAG support or organized rest stops. Instead, there are control points which may be informational (e.g., posted business hours of the establishment at the address serving as a control point) or a place of business that will stamp and/or initial your brevet card. The intent is to provide verification that you successfully rode to each of the control points (or at least visited each control point) and annotated the brevet card appropriately (i.e., arrival time at each control point, answer to an informational control point, and stamp or initial at a standard control point). Self-supporting is the primary theme – carry what you need or plan for refueling stops along the way. Fortunately, many of the control points are at gas stations or other business that offer food and drink. Ensure your bike is in sound condition as there won’t be an on-site mechanic. Cue sheet format also varies – some leaders only make paper cue sheets available so know how to create your own gps file while other leaders offer both digital and paper variants.
It was still dark at roll time so everyone had head and tail lights on, steady light. Apparently blinking lights are frowned upon. On-time departure and easily made my way towards the leading cyclists. Grupettos hadn’t developed yet as it was a long string of solo riders. Took an early photo detour at the Port of Mount Dora for what? Yep, a mini light house. By the time I returned to the road, my position in the group was much further back. Blew by the first information control but took notice of the construction material used for a mailbox. Yes, Clermont does have hills – rollers mostly, but lots of them. The area had the most cyclists not participating in an organized event I had ever encountered in FL. Small and large groups, solo along with 2- and 3-person groups. Quite amazing actually. Eventually caught up with a mixed group of fairly strong riders – not really sure how I caught them as they set a pretty decent pace. They rotated through leading while I just stayed in the back sucking wheel until the next control point – just around the corner from the southern terminus of the Van Fleet Trail.
I departed the control point before the group I was riding with as they had just obtained drinks and food and weren’t leaving for a bit. Setting off solo, a 5-mile TT effort on the trail enabled me to catch up with the lead group where I stayed for the duration of the ride. As most of my previous rides were solo efforts, it was truly a pleasure to ride with others. The rest of the 200K passed quickly while fatigue wasn’t an issue. Rolled back into Wooten Park a little after 2 pm – not quite 6.5 hours to cover the 200K (shhh, the distance was a little short but don’t tell anyone). Made the final entry on the brevet card and slipped it through the cracked window of the organizer’s truck. Changed out of the cycling attire and had a couple of beers and chicken sandwich with the other members of the group. Went back to the start area and listened to other riders as they finished and turned in their brevet cards. Weather forecast was taking a decidedly negative turn and many folks who originally planned to ride the 300K the following day decided against it. There would be a much smaller contingent – maybe as many as 10 or a few as 4.
The hope, not really a sound plan as the results are outside of your control, was to get as close to the turn-around as possible before the winds shifted to a rather stiff, easternly flow. Initial forecast called for wet and wind. Back at Wooten Park around 0430 for the Tavares – Pine Island 300K Brevet. Weather stayed dry until a couple minutes after the 0500 start time. Started with a few sprinkles off and on for the first hour or so. Only 5 of us departed at the designated start time and it would spend the next 12+ hours with Recumbent Man who has a long history in the recumbent industry and actually has his own line of bikes. The weather wasn’t a factor until 90-minutes in and then it wasn’t much fun for the next 45 minutes. The rain wasn’t pleasant but the wind was brutal. Crossing the Little lake Harris Bridge was the worse. It was dark, raining, but the wind was relentless. Didn’t feel like there was much pitch to the bridge but the expanse was completely exposed to the conditions and Mother Nature wasn’t going to lose an opportunity to demonstrate her potential. Recumbent Man slowly pulled away as my speed dropped to 8 mph but effort increased to 3 w/kg. Finally crossed over after 20-min of stinging rain and buffeting winds (ok, felt that long but was only 4 minutes). By 0930 the rain had stopped completely and the sun even make a brief appearance. Had a little over an hour of mostly headwind before reaching the turnaround at Pine Island. The causeway still showed evidence of flooding as mud and plant debris were prominent and a short section still had one lane covered with an inch or so of water. The park at Pine Island was closed so we stopped for a bit outside the locked gate before heading back. The first four controls (3 different establishments as one location was both an out- and return-trip) were now shuttered businesses; likely victims of the pandemic. Thankfully, the event organizer was waiting at the third control and we were able to replenish our liquids. Learned that one of the riders who started at 0500 stopped for breakfast and waited out the worst of the rain and a group of 4 started once the front moved through.
Recumbent Man is quite a strong rider and I shamelessly sucked his wheel on the return trip. Had no energy to take periodic turns leading and the rollers were a struggle. He just chugged along and would soft pedal until I caught up. Was flabbergasted to learn his power output was 60-70 watts less than mine to maintain a similar speed. We’re fairly close in weight be significantly less aerodynamic drag on a recumbent. Never truly felt like a full tail wind heading eastward but it certainly wasn’t a headwind either. Final frustration was Wahoo Roam battery depleted as we left the last control – mile 149. Rather disconcerting and a little anxiety provoking to ride the final 37 miles without map, speed, distance, or any other ride data available. Definitely needed to find a solution for battery life as there were other, longer rides (400K and 470K) rides on the calendar. We departed Wooten Park in darkness and we returned with lights piercing the gloom although we arrived just past dusk about 12.25 hours after leaving. A total of 186 miles in just under 10.5 hours of moving time. The other riders weren’t expected back for another several hours. Quickly changed into warmer attire as temperature was dropping and the wind continued to blow. Walked across the street to O’Keefe’s Irish Pub and had dinner, fish sandwich and fries, with Recumbent Man.
Not a terrible first experience with Randonneuring Brevet’s although consecutive days of riding more than 120 miles is more challenging than consecutive century rides.
The following weekend included a drive to Gainesville for the GCC Horse Farm 200K Brevet. A more civilized start time for this ride but temperatures were much cooler than in central FL. The high never reached 55° with a brisk breeze. Less than twenty folks showed up at Depot Park for the 0700 departure. Didn’t recognize anyone from the previous weekend’s Brevets out of Tavares. Most of the first seven miles were on paved trails; first the Downtown Connect Rail Trail then the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Once the route turned on to the roads, seemed like everyone was a number: two-digit, three-digit, with and without cardinal and ordinal prefixes, and -st, -rd, -th, or -nd designations. There were even a couple of gravel (sand really) sections that also had numbered names. Have no idea if there was an over-arching naming plan or strategy but there didn’t seem to be any glaringly obvious explanation. Regardless, the mostly rolling roads fronted numerous horse farms. Conversely, there were also roads that seemed to serve no purpose as there were no homes, businesses, farms or any other reason for establishing a given paved route. The paved description was overly optimistic in many places. In fact, the gravel roads were in better condition than several of the bituminous thoroughfares. The day’s ride would be a mostly solo affair as there was no contact with any other participants after the first control point at mile 19, except one gentleman I passed around the 80-mile mark who was completely lost. He didn’t have a GPS and was using a paper cuesheet. Refer to my previous comments about numbered street names and add that not every intersection was adorned with a street sign. Returned to Depot Park around 3:15 after covering 125 miles in 7.5 hours. After the two weekends and 3 brevets, confident I could survive a Grand Randonee and completed the reservation for the Treasure Cove 1200K in May.
Finished the January FL training camp after cycling for 1,586 miles in 87:19 and expending over 44,000 KJ including my first 3 Randonneuring Brevets.
Returned to primary residence for next 2 ½ weeks and spent most of the cycling time inside on Zwift. Did complete all 8 stages of the Tour de Zwift. Absolutely no motivation to ride for hours on the trainer. Unfortunately, only able to ride outside twice with one of the rides being gravel.
Back to FL for another 300K Brevet and 100-mile Dirty Pecan gravel (more dirt and sand really) ride. Returned to Gainesville for the Hart Springs 300K. Stayed at the Quality Inn which is very much a misnomer as it was actually anything but. Somehow the reservation was for a smoking room – was told the hotel was sold out and no ability to change. However, upon check-in, was able to switch to a nonsmoking room. Apparently there were cancellations but the parking lot did not seem crowded. A sign in the lobby informed patrons that the hotel had stopped serving breakfast in January 2022. Really? Made it through 2 years of the pandemic but then stopped? Strange. Start point was a small strip mall next door but no parking allowed in the lot. Recognized a few familiar faces as everyone gathered for the 0500 departure. No Recumbant Man today as he was off competing in the 12-hours of Sebring (how far can you ride in 12 hours).
Still experimenting with bar and saddle bags – purchased a bigger saddle bag but it didn’t fit well attached to the behind the saddle water bottle cage. Improvised by using a bungee strap but still wasn’t the most secure. A few miles in, someone from behind mentioned something fell out of the bag. Stopped to investigate and being mostly unknown – no one else did. Wasn’t sure what dropped out but assumed it was a couple of gels. Later discovered it was both of the CO2 cartridges. Good thing I didn’t need additional air in the tires! Secured the bag the best as possible and TT’d it to catch up with main group. Around 20-mile mark, hit a pothole, bump or something and both rear water bottles jettisoned – turned around to look for them. It was still dark, as the first 2 hours were, used the headlight to facilitate the search. Eventually found both but the lid to one was broken. Required a 9-mile TT to catch up with lead group of 7 others. Riders from the group kept dropping and eventually rode solo for a stretch. Returned to a group of 3 others after stopping to refill the water bottles and finished 11:36 hours after starting: 10:01 hours to cover 185.4 miles, 3,051 ft of elevation, 18.5 mph avg, 6373 kJ. Weather was significantly better than the previous 300K!
Concluding event on this stay was the Dirty Pecan in Tallahassee. Available distances ranged from 50-200 miles. Briefly considered the longest distance but wisely selected the century route. Brought the Topstone gravel bike down specifically for this event. Dry and sunny conditions for a gentlemanly 0800 start time. It was a good route, not much traffic on the paved sections and virtually no vehicular traffic on the gravel or sand. To be honest, never noticed any pecan trees but then I didn’t stop to actually look. Would’ve enjoyed the ride much better if there was less sand or had a different set up. A couple of the long, sandy stretches were just brutal. 33mm tires with 37 psi wasn’t the right call. Sand was deep and soft. Lost track of the number of times all momentum was lost and tipped over. Initially it was somewhat amusing but the humor had completely vanished during the last 6-mile stretch. Needed a mountain bike or 2-inch wheels and probably 20 psi. Forced to walk long stretches as unable to remount and get going again. Fun meter was most assuredly pegged. This wasn’t cycling but someone’s idea of a very poor joke. At least the final stretch was on pavement but added at least 45 minutes to the duration of the ride/fallover/walk event. Failed to mention it was a completely unsupported event: no mechanics, no rest stops with refreshments and nothing at the finish line. To be fair, it was certainly advertised that way so it wasn’t a surprise. Nearly 7.5 hours later, completed the 104 miles, 3,530 ft of elevation; 15.1 mph avg, 4349 kJ. Roam indicated a moving time of 6:52 but don’t know how much walking time was captured. Want to return for this event but bring different tires!
Return to NoVA for more 200K and 300K brevets, hillier versions this time. Reality is far different than the plan as weather didn’t cooperate. Mornings were chilly – below 40° – which ruled out morning rides and temps didn’t get comfortable until mid to late afternoon. Neither of these conditions were suitable for work or good riding as traffic became an issue. Didn’t participate in the first planned event, don’t even know if it was held, as it snowed in that day. Severe motivation challenges riding around Makuri Islands on Zwift watching the snow fall. Not feeling 3+ hour indoor rides so did mostly ~2-hour rides incorporating longer tempo/threshold intervals.
The first northern randonneuring event was the Warrenton 200K. It didn’t necessitate a hotel stay but did require an early departure from the homestead as it was nearly an hour’s drive away; thankfully start time was 0700. There were only 6 other riders which meant another long, solo effort. Jettisoned a water bottle from the saddle cage riding over rough pavement on a short, steep descent within the first 7-8 miles. The other riders caught and passed me by the time the water bottle was retrieved. Frustrating that all water bottles don’t have the same dimensions. Not referring to the number of fluid ounces a bottle holds but the diameter or circumference differences. Some bottles fit snugger than others. Will have to continue searching for a remedy to cure ejecting water bottles. The route covered a fair bit of familiar territory in Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, and Madison Counties. The route very nearly went by a parcel of property in Hume that we considered buying. It did go past the start/finish point of the Tour de Madison ride. Overall it was a pretty good route; more climbing than the ridewithgps file indicated but no real climbs per se, just lots of rollers. Covered the 127 miles and 10, 721 ft of elevation in 7:41 (7:04 of moving time), 18 mph avg, and 4,965 kJ.
The following weekend was the Warrenton 300K. Start time of 0500 meant departing home around 0330. Intent was an early bedtime but after noticed major differences between the gps file and the cue sheet. Began editing the gps file to match the cue sheet until the app locked up – dummy me hadn’t saved the changes so started over. Eventually gave up the effort and went to bed around midnight. Who needs sleep the night before a 300K ride? A few more riders than last week showed up for the start with some being repeat customers like me. Country roads in the wee hours of the morning are really dark. The first 30 miles of the route was mostly the same as the 200K the previous week but felt different in the dark. Failed to bring lighter lenses for the sunglasses so rode without them until sunrise. Knew there’d be a price to pay as wind wreaks havoc on my eyes – look like a stoner after a weekend binge. Purchased ball bungee cords to secure the water bottles in the saddle cages. They work. Too well. No pulling one out on the move. No concern about launching one though. Used the power cell to keep the Roam and PowerBeats charged. Have to have gps and music! Again, more elevation than the gps file. Also rode through two different snow squalls. Not a fan of snow in late March. Don’t drink nearly as much in cooler temperatures. Need to pay more attention to hydrating as still expending the same amount of energy. Concluded the ride with the last 12 miles or so into a headwind. Not a nice way to end. Finished the 186 miles and 16,085 ft of elevation in 11:23 (10:32 of moving time), 17.7 mph avg, 7419 kJ.
The week after that was a change of pace: the Appalachian Journey (AJ) Duo-Long Doggie Gravel Race. As the name implies, it’s a 2-person race, mostly on gravel roads, down in Floyd, VA. Data file from ridewithgps was grossly inaccurate both in terms of percentage of gravel (20% vs ~80%) and elevation (9K vs 13K). Teamed with another rider from the local bike club and spent the weekend in Floyd. Made the 4-hour drive down on Friday to be ready for the 0700 start. Teammates were supposed to stay within 15 minutes of each other but the organizers wouldn’t know until the finish line. It was a little chilly to start, 39°, but no wind. The climbing started early and continued all day – crossed the eastern continental divide twice as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Initially headed east, into the rising sun which reduced visibility. Gravel riding, for me, is mentally exhausting, as well as physically demanding. The technical (and sketchy in several places) descents, steep and rutted ascents required constant vigilance to select a manageable line to stay upright. I failed once early on and went down softly on a right-hand turn going from pavement to gravel. Recovered quickly and didn’t lose too much time. A couple times later, attention waned on climbs and drifted too far to either side of the road and forced to clip out to prevent unintended entrance to the surrounding forest. Pitch was too steep one of the times and had to walk uphill a bit until able to remount and resume pedaling. The course had more pitches exceeding 20% in a single ride than ever experienced. If Roam gps data was accurate, there were more than a couple stretches greater than 30%. Things were going well until just before rest stop #2 (we didn’t stop at the first one) at the 34-mile mark. Teammate got a stick stuck in the chain and snapped it (the chain, not the stick). While he tried to fix, I proceeded to the rest stop to inquire about mechanical assistance. Sorry, none to be had but they were fixing pancakes. Naturally had to try one – quite tasty! Extremely fortunate that a couple stopped, had a quick link, and was nice enough to give it to my teammate. Easily lost 15-20 minutes for the repair but we weren’t in it to win. Must say the food offerings were not just the typical cycling event fare but each one we stopped at had unique offerings. Even had a thimble-sized shot of moonshine and baked potato wedge upon cresting one of the climbs. Around the 80-mile mark there was a 50-ft river crossing where water was above bottom bracket height. Too murky and wide to carry the bike across so we stayed to the left and made it across. Absolutely despise, wet, cold feet. First time using a camelback for fluid replacement. Much easier to drink on the go without worrying about grabbing a bottle. Also didn’t have to worry about launching any rumbling over bumpy terrain. There were many strong female riders – a couple were much better at descending. Had spectacular views up, over and around the Blue Ridge Mountains. We finished the 110 miles and 13,582 ft of elevation in 9:56 (8:45 moving time), 12.6 mph avg and 5986 kJ. We finished 6th in the over 40 category. Not too bad. It was probably the most challenging cycling event to date. The route had everything – long climbs, short steep pitches, 40+ mph descents, smooth, sketchy gravel, frozen puddles, a river crossing, and great rest stop offerings. The soup, cornbread, cookie and beer at the end were pretty good too. It’s definitely an event to keep on the calendar.
Last spring biking escape to FL for this spring was the next weekend. Initial plan was to drive down with the Missus and stop in Atlanta to catch a Braves game. Work conflicts delayed her departure (on the positive side, she was now flying round trip as opposed to driving/riding along with me) a week. I executed the plan solo. First time to Truist Park – pretty nice but weather wasn’t, mid-40s and windy. At least brought the winter coat along. Braves won although the bull pen almost blew it. Continued the drive after the game and arrived early in the morning. Plan was for this to be the last big mileage push in preparation for the Treasure Cove 1200K in May. Plans don’t always work out as intended. Came down with a bug of some kind that knocked one weekend out and went to Disney’s Hollywood studio the next one. Well worth it to spend time with family. Still cycled 720 miles over 17 days averaging 42 miles/day which includes two days off. Also, able to host another NoVA cyclist for a day who was down at Disney to support his daughter at an international cheer competition.
Final tune-up was the New Oxford 600K; a two-day event nearly splitting the distance evenly with northern and southern legs starting at the same point in Sterling, VA. Day 1 covered mostly familiar roads north through Leesburg, VA and Frederick, MD onto New Oxford, PA and return. Start time was 0400 and while the initial route wasn’t new, experiencing them in the darkness removes most of the familiarity. Couldn’t understand why so many houses seemed to have all interior lights on at 0500? What gives? There were about a dozen other riders but nearly all of the ride was a solo effort. Temperatures weren’t bad but still had a light jacket, knee warmers, gator for the head, and full fingered gloves. No major climbs but all of the ups and downs add up over 300K. The control point for the turn around was the Déjà vu Coffee and Bakery in New Oxford, PA. Had to try a muffin, and a new flavor at that: apple peanut butter crumb. Not too bad but a little dry and the crumb had an odd taste. Route wasn’t a complete out and back as the return trip to Frederick was different. Completed the 198.53 miles (new longest ride) and 13,792 ft of elevation in 13:09 (11:43 moving time), 16.9 mph avg, 7746 kJ. Spoke with the event organizer for a bit about the next day’s ride. Mentioned previously that randonneuring brevets are not races but they do have time limits. They are (in hours and minutes, HH:MM): 200K (13:30), 300K (20:00), 400K (27:00), 600K (40:00), and 1000K (75:00). That meant the cut-off was 8 pm on Sunday to complete the remaining 177 miles. Apparently, one (or more) of the other riders talked about departing shortly after finishing the first leg. That was crazy talk. Why? Choices were get a hotel room locally or head home (~40 minutes away) and sleep in my own bed, start at 0600 and finish well within the proscribed time. The event organizer looked at me like I had two heads. My thoughts were why intentionally sleep deprive yourself when there’s plenty of time to finish at a leisurely pace. Guess that’s just not the way it’s done. Will have to have more detailed discussions about other unwritten rules and strategies/approaches for PBP. Decided to go home, have a good dinner, sleep at start early the next day. Self-imposed start time kept changing but eventually settled on departing the house around 0130 and begin the ride upon arriving at the start point. The Missus was surprised, but glad to have me home but mentioned crazy, whacko, out-of-your-effing-mind, and other phrases when informed of the next day’s plan. Primary reason for leaving so early was an effort to finish before rain came. The turnaround wasn’t an issue but the start/finish was expecting rain in the afternoon. Not the preferred conditions to conclude a 600K event. Regardless, started the southern leg of the 600K at 0215. Another first – longest time riding in the dark. On the positive side, sunrise in NoVA is about 40 minutes earlier than FL this time of year. Warmer starting temps even though beginning nearly 2 hours earlier. Long sleeve base layer, knee warmers, very thin arm warmers, and light, long fingered gloves. Route went through South Manassas, Linten Hall, Bristow, Fredericksburg to Woodford and back. Less elevation than the previous day but Fredericksburg was much hillier than expected. Legs weren’t overly pleased to be riding again and head was a little foggy due to insufficient sleep. But, good practice for Treasure Cove and ultimately (potentially) PBP. Generating 3 w/kg was a peak effort and unable to maintain it for any appreciable amount of time. Climbing out of the saddle was even less effective. Any incline exceeding 7% felt like an HC climb. Some type of event set up was underway in downtown Fredericksburg headed south. A few hours later on the return trip discovered it was a road race. Just leaving the downtown area, a long line of kids, probably 8 and under, came barreling around the corner running down the home stretch. Have no idea of the event distance but pacing strategies ran the full spectrum. Had a bit of a head/crosswind on the way down but knew it would become a tail/crosswind on the return trip. A lot more coasting and soft pedaling today. Had the longest stop at the final control point, a Sheetz gas station, a mere 23 miles from the finish. Refueled with water and G2, finished the last half of my PBJ sandwich and had a banana nut muffin. Mine are much better. Learned several new things standing outside the store eating and refilling my water bottles: GrubHub makes deliveries for Sheetz; CBD Chew Pouches are a think, and; Sheetz offers French Fries monthly subscriptions. Endless fries for $9.99 a month with one caveat – orders must be 2 hours apart. Suppose it’s not a bad deal if you live close to a Sheetz and the fries are good. Felt the freshest during the last segment of the entire day. Unclear if it was the ingestion of calories, favorable wind, or knowledge the end was not quite in site but not very daunting either. Wind really pushed headed up Loudoun Country Parkway. Felt the first patters of water droplets around 1:00. Evolved into a light drizzle by 1:15. Thought that would be the extent of the rain as it appeared to stop headed east on Waxpool. However, the heavens opened up shortly after the turn onto Pacific for the last 2 miles. Actually stopped and pulled out the Gore ShakeDry rain jacket that was stuffed beneath my jersey all day. Didn’t want to end the ride drenched. Finished the ride around 1:30, covering the 177.5 miles and 9,196 ft of elevation in 11:15 (10:04 moving time), 17.6 mph, and 6,295 kJ. Again, not a race but finished first in 33:30; 6 ½ hours under the time limit.
Another interesting year has come and gone (nearly). Covid continues its unwanted presence in new variants – delta and now omicron. Just wonder how much of the Greek alphabet will be introduced to the general public. Fortunately, the immediate family has remained free of the virus with all of us being fully vaccinated and boosted. Although the missus is currently recovering from flu symptoms (test came back negative). Could take a lengthy detour and provide comments to the Covid situation – testing, variants, non-vaxers, mask mandates, etc. but not appropriate here. Let’s stay focused on what matters: cycling and food (in whichever order you prefer).
Spent time at our southern retreat in Nov and Dec, with the Missus and without. Really becoming less and less tolerable of the cold and would greatly prefer to winter down south. Used to prefer cycling outdoors in almost any temperature as long as the roads were clear over spending time in the garage making puddles on the floor during a Zwift or TrainerRoad workout. Not so much anymore; done with having frozen water bottles – not to mention feet and fingers. Latest change to the indoor setup was moving inside down to the basement. The Missus is now able to park her car in the garage for the first time since we bought the house back in 1997. She’s very happy that her windshield scraping days have ended. The basement isn’t too bad – more temperate than the garage which has its pluses and minuses. Purchased 2 4’ x 10’ 3/8” pre-cut heavy duty rubber rolls (each weighs 88 pounds) and a Kickr Headwind fan. Shipping charges on the rolls were half the price of two rolls – hefty indeed! The Headwind is overpriced (same as the stand/table) but does an excellent job, on 100%, of preventing puddles. We’ll see how it performs on rides longer than 2 hours. May have to procure another and set it behind the trainer for a simultaneous head and tail wind.
No new routes during the first stint in the Sunshine State but able to ride outside everyday without any snivel gear. Covered 419 miles and almost 2,700 ft of elevation (don’t laugh, it’s Florida) over 8 days.
FL pics from the bike:
Nothing overly exciting on the food front although did make my first loaves of brioche bread. Apparently, the best breads are those that take 2 days – various rise times and temperatures before baking. Also made roasted garlic Tuscan bread. Did have fried gator along with a flight of craft beers at Keel and Curley Winery not to mention several standard meals and a Friday stop at the roadside hotdog vendor and two different trips for milkshakes at Parkesdale Farm Market; they do more than just strawberry in off-season.
In between Sunshine state trips was mostly Zwift rides with a few exceptions; a cold and windy Black Friday ride with several other hardier local riders and a 6-hour solo venture on Skyline Drive of 94.5 miles and over 10K feet of climbing.
Back to sun and flats for an 18-day solo trip. Discovered several new routes headed east, southeast, and southwest. Beginning initial exposure to 200k and 300K rides in preparation for the Grand Randonees in May 2022. A total of 1,112 miles with 5 rides exceeding 100 miles including two 200K and one 300K rides. The 200K rides weren’t too bad as many hilly centuries take about the same time (6 hours) as a flat ~125 miles. The flat 300K was the longest (distance) ride to date: 186 miles in 9 ¼ hours, at 20.2 mph and nearly 6800 KJ. The feet were the biggest problem; not really hot-foot type sensation but more of a neuropathy-like tingling. Regardless, long day in the saddle but still have another 100K to go for Day 1 of the Treasure Cove. Luckily I know someone very knowledgeable about training plans who’s generous with his time and created a training regimen that will definitely contribute to a successful experience.
FL pics from neighborhood walks:
The Missus and girl child once again tag-teamed to make a treasure trove of Christmas cookies. This year they added two new ones: ginger molasses (very good) and GF red velvet (not so much), and; modified one, fudge, for a definite improvement. Not that previous years’ versions were bad, they were extremely challenging to remove from the bakeware and were nearly 2 inches thick. Every bite was a mouthful that wasn’t the easiest to chew.
Ended the 2021 cycling calendar by completing the Rapha Festive 500 with 630 Km over 8 days from Dec 24 – 31. Actually completed the 500 Km with just using the 6 outdoor rides thus meeting the traditional standard not including virtual rides – so take the Si!May 2022 be a better normal as it will certainly bring new baking experiences: received a cast iron Dutch oven, proofing baskets and the book Flour Water Salt Yeast: The fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish.
Spent considerable time debating whether or not to include the story in the blog but it has had a tremendous impact on my life (the Missus’ too) and influenced cycling goals and aspirations. Besides, my blog, my rules. So, it was the 2019 racing season and I was competing in the local USA Cycling Time Trial series. There was supposed to be a total of 6 races over 5 different courses ranging between 28K and 31 miles in the series. Extremely familiar with one of the courses but others were unknown. The plan was to ride each course prior to the actual event as route familiarization lessens the mental anxiety associated with the race. Well, successful recon performed at all sites, even the route that was subsequently canceled, except for one. Correct. Except for the one that led to the guardrail incident. Did review the RideWithGPS file and knew there was a descent around the 5-mile mark but nothing else noteworthy in the file. What could go wrong, right? Answer is – a lot!
Sure enough, descent started around 4.5- mile mark and picked up quite a bit of speed. Too much speed. Near the bottom of the descent was a sweeping curve to the left. TT rim brakes aren’t known for their stopping power and unable to successfully navigate the turn. Rode the guardrail for a bit then, crash! Next I knew I was laying on my back, in the wood line, on the other side of the guardrail. A cursory inventory of the damage revealed a clean, nearly 5-inch long laceration on the inside of my right forearm. The flap of skin was laid back, exposing all the things one isn’t supposed to see – tendons, ligaments, radial artery. Also had a puncture wound in upper arm apparently caused by impaling myself on 1-inch diameter stick. Never lost consciousness and thankfully didn’t have to wait too long before a course official discovered me and called 911. Mildly uncomfortable getting strapped to the backboard when the EMS team arrived. Experienced a new pain in the right leg when feet were positioned to allow straps to be tightened. Annoyingly, had to keep repeating my name and the Missus’ contact number while the EMS made several attempts to contact her and let her know where they were taking me. The Missus was out for her run and she had a few, nonspecific voice mails waiting for her upon her return to the house. Meanwhile, I’m off to the largest full-service hospital in the area.
The initial shock soon wore off and discomfort levels increased until an IV was inserted and goodness started flowing. To be honest, don’t recall all of the activities upon reaching the hospital, relocating to gurneys, x-rays, and other triage actions. While the forearm wound was being stitched close, learned my leg was broken. Didn’t pay too much attention until one of the nurses indicated I was being admitted for an overnight stay. Turns out it was not just any break but a tibial plateau fracture (TPF). There would be no cast. Scheduled for surgery the following morning to have an external fixator (Ex-Fix) applied/installed/attached. At some point The Missus, girl child and fiancée made it to the hospital. The Missus was a wreck and devastated to see me lying in bed with my forearm and leg all wrapped up.
A TPF is a break or fracture in the top of the shin bone and are graded on a 1-6 score. Ever the high achiever, mine was a grade 6 but non-displaced. Additionally, there was no damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, meniscus, or skin. The only visible sign was a small mark just below the knee – the impact site of the guardrail. While there wasn’t any collateral damage, there was still significant trauma to the area. The Ex-Fix is used to allow the body to begin recovering from the trauma, naturally clear out the impact site, and most importantly, reduce the risk of infection following the actual procedure to fix the break. My Ex-Fix consisted of 2 bolts attached to the outside of my femur and 2 bolts attached to the inside of the tibia. Two titanium rods connected the bolts keeping the bones properly aligned. The 4 bolts protruded about 2.5 inches through the skin. A little gruesome thinking about, slightly nauseating looking at it, and rather painful feeling it. Extremely fortunate to have an excellent orthopedic surgeon on staff. The Missus would be driving me 2+ hours one way for every follow-up visit. Pain was intense but nothing a combination of dilaudid and oxy couldn’t handle although only had the former for the first 24 hours. Bad nights’ sleep were just beginning. Discharged from the hospital after a two day stay. Mobility was a learning process and would make friends with a walker. Sat in the back seat, sideways, for the drive home. That was not a comfortable trip. The Ex-Fix would be part of me for the next 16 days and only the beginning of the non-weight bearing time. As the head of the bone isn’t as hard as the shaft, any load placed on a TPF risks worsening the fracture or causing a displacement of a bone fragment. Then things really get ugly.
Good to be home. Neighbors helped the Missus bring two of the recliners from downstairs up to the living room where I would spend most of the next two weeks. What followed was not an experience I would wish on anyone. Truly miserable and not even possible without the assistance of the Missus. Thankfully, had both short- and long-term disability insurance through my employer so didn’t have financial considerations hanging over my head. Spent most of my days on my butt reading (sci-fi/fantasy) but not much tv viewing. The Missus stayed home from work a lot to provide care and company. The skin around the ex-fix bolts had to be cleaned every day and new gauze applied. Showering wasn’t an option so wash cloth or shower wipes with an occasional hair washing in the kitchen sink. I could relocate from the living room to the bedroom with a walker but that was about the extent of it. Bathroom activity wasn’t enjoyable. Had a portable, collapsible commode and urinal bottle. Using bathroom toilet was a little too strenuous as it sits much closer to the floor compared to the portable unit. One legged squats were never a favorite and adding the extra weight and anxiety of the Ex-fix didn’t improve the odds of successful execution. Sleep was another issue. Diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in 2011 and prescribed a CPAP machine for treatment. Behavioral modifications were ironic and laughable – stop smoking (don’t), lose weight (good one), exercise more (you’re kidding, right?), reduce alcohol consumption (then what would I do with my wine cellar and Hopsy?), position therapy (sleep on your side; umm, I have this contraption screwed into my leg the kinda makes that impossible). The CPAP machine exacerbated my Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and Restless Leg Syndrome. End result: OSA treated but still not sleeping. Once asleep, movement disorders usually weren’t sufficient to cause wakening. However, waking up within 90 minutes or so of falling asleep created problems and kicked the movement maladies into high gear. The only way to stop the unwanted activity is to stand for 10-15. Unfortunately, that remedy was no longer an option. Oh, the pain also would ratchet up at night. Sometimes the oxy was effective, other times, not so much. Welcome to my nightmare. Daytime napping wasn’t an option as that would further contribute to the nighttime sleep dilemma. Normally PLMD and RLS restrict their impact to the sleeping hours but since my activity was basically zero, they decided to make it an all-day affair. Having your leg twitch and spasm uncontrollably while titanium rods are attached to bolts drilled into your bones for the express purpose of keeping the leg properly aligned is not a pleasant experience. Enjoyed several all-night twitch fests with the Ex-Fix. The Missus was nice enough to sacrifice her night’s sleep so we could both watch my legs do the horizontal dance.
Finally, the day came for the corrective procedure – plate and screws (referred to as the dragon tail) inserted to keep the tibial head together so it could heal. Early morning procedure meant making the 2+ hour drive the day before and staying at a nearby Hampton Inn. Have stayed at dozens of locations across the county and usually have an uneventful experience. Well, must’ve been some local event because the hotel was full and loud. Elevators were barely big enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The procedure was supposed to be an out-patient one with hospital discharge occurring on the same day. Well, body didn’t respond well. Blood pressure remained low and on the short shuffle to in-room bathroom, nearly passed out on the toilet. Check-out was delayed a day and the Missus stayed with me the entire time. Although she was able to secure a room for herself the second night as she didn’t get much sleep staying in my room – nighttime medicine deliveries, recording of vital signs and the monitors repeatedly going off because it didn’t like it when my heart rate dropped below 42 bpm; a very common occurrence during sleep. Successfully passed the blood pressure test, maneuvered to the restroom, and shuffled around with the aid of a walker. Also had a brief tutorial in the use of crutches as now the non-weight bearing clock could actually start: 90 days and counting.
Leg was all wrapped up in a knee immobilizer so still had to sit in the back seat for the drive home. Had to keep the knee immobilizer on for one week. Returned to my normal position in the living room recliner. Far more mobile without the Ex-Fix but recommend staying off one leg (you can even pick which one) for a couple of days. Amazing how tiring it gets only standing on one leg. Post procedure pain wasn’t nearly as bad as after the Ex-Fix but wasn’t a picnic either. Sleeping still wasn’t much better. A week eventually passed and able to remove the knee immobilizer and begin range of motion (ROM) exercises. Simply astounding at the loss of flexibility after just over 3 weeks of not bending the knee. Normal knee ROM range is 0-135° while functional ROM (amount of movement needed for daily tasks) is 120°. Don’t know starting point but left leg flexion was 155° and extension was 185° My guess is active right knee ROM (unassisted) was 45° and active assisted (muscle contraction and pulling heel towards buttocks) was certainly less than 90°. Such a long way to go.
Spent a fair bit of time over the next 3 weeks in the recliner and sitting on the floor doing active assisted exercises to increase range of motion along with dorsi/plantar flexion of the ankle. Ten days post-surgery made another 2+ hour trip for a follow up and removal of stitches. Had increased active ROM to a little more than 90°. Beginning the 4th week following surgery, had a physical therapist come to the house 2-3 days/week to work on ROM, strength and perform lymphatic massage. One of the other side effects to the initial trauma and subsequent Ex-Fix and corrective surgery is swelling in the ankle and foot. However, in my case it was ankles and feet. Even the non-injured leg experienced the symptoms. Thankfully, I was allowed to get back on the bike – trainer, only. The therapist thought I was crazy when walker-shuffled out to the garage and climbed onto the saddle. Used a modified triathlon transition approach to clip into the pedals: slipped the left shoe on my foot but had the right shoe already clipped in. Secured the left shoe then swung the right leg of the saddle to rest gently on the shoe. Slowly and gently eased the foot into the shoe and off to the races. Not quite. Started with a single 5-minute session and gradually increased to two 15-minutes daily (morning and afternoon) sessions over the next six weeks. To ensure minimal resistance while pedaling, the chain was removed. Now that will force concentration on a smooth pedal stroke. Over that same time period, reached 154° of passive knee flexion (full range of motion), 135° of active knee flexion (still a work in progress), and full ROM at the ankle. It wasn’t easy, required daily work, there were tears.
The next follow-up was 9 weeks after surgery. X-rays revealed the bone was healing but cracks were still visible. Asked the Doc if the chain could be back on the bike. His response, “I don’t care what you do on the bike.” The Missus’ response was classic. Her eyes got real big, she stood up, and forcefully said, “You don’t know what that means to him.” It was humorous to watch the Doc backpedal (no pun intended) on his statement. He revised his comment to, “Well, you could do what I would do on the bike.” Which I promptly responded, “I don’t know what that means.” We kind of came to an agreement that I wouldn’t get crazy, but he still had no idea. Made promises to the Missus that progress would be slow and steady. Progress was steady, maybe not slow but ramped from 30’ to 60’ over the next week then started Zwift “D” rides.
The 12-week post-surgery date finally arrived and weight bearing was allowed. Learning to walk again. Tend to take advantage of the little things. Girl Child, a physical therapist, and the Missus offered support and encouragement as the first steps in nearly 3 ½ months were taken; with the assistance of a collapsible cane (more on that shortly). Thinking about all of the actions necessary for a regular gait was a little overwhelming at first: knee lift, extend, heel strike, toe off. Didn’t limp too badly but couldn’t be helped. A little discomfort and loss of strength not to mention the incredibly shrinking thigh circumference – about a two inch girth difference between left and right.
First outdoor ride was 12 weeks and one day following plate and screw surgery. A teammate and friend agreed to chaperone since the Missus wasn’t too keen and the first outdoor ride being solo. Riding was easier than walking but hard to do one without the other. Solution was a collapsible cane broken down and placed in one of the jersey back pockets. The conundrum with cycle was which foot to keep clipped. Normally I keep the left foot clipped when coming to a full stop. Maintaining this routine meant clipping in and out, leaning to the right and then balancing on right foot at stops, and then a slight push-off with recovering leg to get started again. Tried both ways and wasn’t very comfortable either way. Ended up staying with previous routine – just very gently and slowly coming to a stop.
Completed a small group 70-miler (detour forced and extra 10 miles) withing two weeks of the first outside ride then it was no turning back. FTP was 90% of pre-crash number four weeks later. Have yet to reach previous mark (4.1 w/kg) but training focused shifted as COVID-19 pandemic arrived a few months later. Not sure I’ll compete in road races any more but still have TT goals.
Gravel is now a part of the training. A little before gravel riding started, began to experience knee and lower leg discomfort. There was never a time I couldn’t focus on the leg and feel the plate. Then walking started aggravating the leg with a return to ankle and foot swelling. Although it was never a consideration after the surgery, the orthopedic surgeon said everything could be removed after a year if it became a bother.
Well, 26 months after the corrective procedure with plate and screws, everything came out. Slicing the nicely healed scar back open, a local orthopedic trauma surgeon performed the out-patient procedure. It was quite the hardware selection. Rather shocking actually. Took a few days off, more than initially planned as the level of discomfort was greater than anticipated. Brought back a lot of memories – most of them unfavorable. At least weight bearing activity was permitted immediately although did use a single crutch for a couple of days. No running (sadly stopped that due to other reasons), swimming (not since the last sprint triathlon in 2017), or plyometrics for a few weeks. Didn’t miss the feet swelling and likely increased the leg strength/girth/balance disparity that still remain two years after the guardrail incident. Back on the trainer 3 days afterwards and promised the Missus I would remain indoors for the next two weeks. Finally paroled to outdoor riding just in time for the final organized ride of the season, The Great Pumpkin Ride. It’s the only organized ride that I stop at every rest stop. Because, each stop is full of pumpkin flavored goodies. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made a continued unwanted presence by significantly reducing the quantity and variety of mileage bonus snacks. Not complaining, too much, because they were all good. October was intended to be the recovery month and it continues to be but looking forward to new cycling adventures in 2022. Will give randonneuring a try – 1200K (non race, largely unsupported) over 4 consecutive days. Why not? And another Bicycling Adventures tour – WYMODAK, a ten-day trek across Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota.
The Missus and I have always made a point to celebrate birthdays with the celebrant selecting the dinner meal. Due to school, work, sports schedules, and day of the week, the gathering was often held on a different day either before or after the actual birth date. Not quite an unbirthday but not the real date either. This time it was the Missus’ birthday that was celebrated late but the meal prepared by the boy child was worth the wait. The only preference provided was a juicy meat with a sauce. Apparently, it was sufficient guidance as once again, the 3-course meal was exquisite. The appetizer was home-made amaranth crackers and toasted, sliced baguette bread with white fish, white beans, and sumac dip. The first course was a scrumptious turnip greens salad with walnuts, cherries, and an orange vinaigrette. The main course was roasted duck breast with cherry sauce, green beans with duck egg aioli, wild rice, and sweet potato biscuits. Dessert was a very tasty chocolate pots de crème. He never ceases to amaze me with his culinary creativity. Many of his dishes require multiple steps or even days of preparation before serving.
Added a new fruit flavor to the list of muffins: pear and walnut. Took a few liberties with the recipe based upon my vast (nearly yearlong) muffin baking experience. Used a combination of bartlett and Anjou (red) pears. Didn’t realize peeled pears are a little slimy. Fun fact: pear skin has double the amount of fiber compared to a similar sized apple. Also added butter and more wheat flour than called for in the recipe. Yogurt was called for but couldn’t find pear yogurt although both Yoplait and Tillamook (never heard of) make it according to a Google search. Used plain Greek yogurt instead. Recipe also called for putting the walnuts in a food processor but didn’t want walnut dust. Started with walnut nuggets and used a rolling pin over the bag to break them up a little but not pulverize them. Tasted pretty good.
First post in many months. Not really a case of writer’s block but as time passed, just seemed a little daunting to cover all of the things that continued to happen in my world of cycling and food. I can say without any reservations that 2021 is a year of bikes and muffins. Why is that? Well, I’ve added three bikes to the stable without retiring any existing one. First bike purchased was a new, primary road bike – a Cannondale Hi-Mod SuperSix E-TAP (SRAM Red 12-speed) Disc. Quite the challenge to find kits, helmet and shoes to match the lavender but I managed. Second bike took up permanent residence in our Florida vacation home so I’m no longer forced to drive with my bike if I want to ride while spending some time in the sunshine state. There weren’t any Cannondale’s available so now I have a Wilier Cento 10 SL (red/black) with Ultegra Di2, ENVE Foundation 65 wheels, and Quarq power meter. The color scheme was much easier to accommodate. Finally, I’ve wanted to dip my toes in the gravel world but had my sites only on the Cannondale Topstone. Finding one was a long-time coming. First, Cannondale shuffled their line-up and the 2020 model (Topstone Carbon with SRAM Force E-TAP) wasn’t available in 2021. The only E-TAP model in 2021 was the Lefty. Eventually found a Topstone Carbon 5 in California (thought I had one from North Carolina but that fell through) and had it shipped to me. Had the local bike shop swap out the Shimano Ultegra GRX mechanical drivetrain for SRAM Force AXS E-TAP (12-speed). It’s a rather fetching shade of dark purple. Photos are posted on the Bikes I Ride page.
Needless to say, I’ve had ample opportunity to ride all three bikes this year. While CV-19 has once again eliminated most racing opportunities (I refuse to enter Criteriums), nearly every organized ride on my wish list was held. Some events had rather anemic rest stop offerings but I usually carry my favorite stuff. The plan was to add new states to the list of places I’ve cycled and even a new country – Canada. My list of planned events through August are listed below:
Gran Fondo FL
long weekend in Asheville, NC
Redbud Ride – London, KY
Ocean to Bay Century – Fenwick Island, DE
Six Pillars Century – Cambridge, MD
Agony in the Alleghenies – Covington, VA
Tour de Madison – Syria, VA
Storming of Thunder Ridge – Lynchburg, VA
Horsey Hundred – Georgetown, KY
Triple Peak Gran Fondo – Winchester, VA
Phoenix Challenge Skyline Double Century – Front Royal, VA
Loudoun 1725 Gravel Grinder – Middleburg, VA
Absolutely Beautiful Country Ride – Copley, OH
Gran Fondo National Championship – Asheville, NC
Bike to Beach (Autism Awareness) – DC to Dewey Beach, DE
Teeuwen Memorial/VA Age-Graded TT Championship – Chesapeake, VA
Reston Bike Club Century – Reston, VA
The year started with a couple of stays at our FL vacation house. The first trip was with the Missus while the second trip I hosted another rider from the same local bike club. The second trip lead to my first Gran Fondo experience. Who even knew there was a San Antonio, FL? If you’ve never participated in one, the format is a little different from a USA Cycling sanctioned race and an organized full or metric century ride. There are multiple distances offered with various names and distances but the Gran Fondo is always the longest distance. Regardless of the distance, the event has time sections. Overall and age-group placings are determined by the cumulative time completing the timed sections. The overall time required to cover the entire distance is not a factor. As a result of the format, placing well is significantly influenced by the strength of the group of riders around you. A strong group enables a fast time over the timed segment while saving energy due to the benefits of drafting. Granted, hilly or climbing timed sections greatly reduce the drafting affect. Unless the entire timed section is a climb, a strong group still offers energy saving opportunities because you can hide from the wind and practice wheel sucking skills. On the other hand, you could be one of the stronger riders in the group and do a majority of the pace setting or pulling while the group follows in your slipstream. Certainly not the optimal scenario. Surprisingly the FL Gran Fondo route had over 3500 feet of climbing in just under 96 miles. The elevation was predominantly rollers but still more than expected. Probably more surprising was doing well enough in my age category to qualify for the National Championship category at the Asheville Gran Fondo in July.
Most of the organized rides were new ones for me but there were also a few repeat rides. Did add a new state to the list. Actually spent two different weekends in Kentucky riding the full century one day and the metric version the following day. Too much time has passed to summarize each event but I enjoyed most of them. The only ride on the list that was canceled was the Solstice Ride. It’s a 3-day event from Westport, CT to Montreal in Quebec, Canada. It covers 400 miles and 22,000 feet of climbing. Another victim of Covid as the Canadian border was still closed in mid-June. It’s on my list for 2022. Had a blast in Asheville and riding Mount Mitchell and stopping at George Hincapie’s hotel. Thunder Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway was cool but the climbs in the Triple Peak Gran Fondo and Skyline Double Century were brutal. Even managed a trip to visit my parents while also completing a new century. Unfortunately, it rained for most of the ride. The only sanctioned race was the Teeuwen Memorial TT. It was the first time back on the TT bike outside and first TT event since the unfortunate incident with a guardrail back in 2019. Finished first in my 5-year age group (3rd in the standard 10-year age group). Won’t dwell on the fact I thought the distance was 20K, not nearly 21 miles. Reading is fundamental and I epically failed on that one. Summary totals for the events include 1,961 miles and 126,346 feet of climbing.
The next cycling adventure is on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail along the eastern part of Lake Erie and much of Lake Ontario. My sister is providing SAG support and my parents volunteered to come along as well. The plan is to provide daily reports of that trip so stay tuned and come back in September.
Now for the year in muffins.
Muffin baking took on a life of its own this year. What started as a fun hobby turned into just a bit of an obsession. Searching the web for new recipes consumed just a bit of time during the evening hours. Even encouraged the participation from the Missus and children by picking new flavors. Amazingly, didn’t make a bad batch – except for the time I left the melted butter in the microwave. The key is finding a good recipe but made several adjustments along the way: adding matching flavored yogurt makes a difference; most recipes don’t include enough fruit; substitute half oil ingredient with apple sauce; cream cheese filling can be included in many flavors; if milk called for, can use skim, whole, buttermilk or even half-n-half and heavy whipping cream. Interestingly, can’t always find canned pumpkin and fresh rhubarb has a very small availability window. Now have quite the collection of muffin tins: large, standard, mini, and square but the preferred size is the large tins. Even included a couple of gluten free flavors. Below is a list of flavors made:
Banana – with either walnuts, chocolate chip, or peanut butter chip
Bran – with raisins
Cheesecake-stuffed French toast
Chocolate – with chocolate chips and or peanut butter chips
Cinnamon crumb cake
Cranberry orange with glaze
Gluten free cinnamon raisin
Gluten free blueberry
Gluten free chocolate chip
Gluten free Nutella
Ham and cheese
Hearty ham and cheddar cornbread
Lemon poppy seed
Nutella-stuffed cinnamon sugar
Pumpkin and cream cheese with pecan streusel
Pear and walnut*
Sour cream and chives
Whole wheat, oatmeal, and raisin
* haven’t made yet but on the list
Also had a minor family celebration as we all sat down together for dinner in early May for the first time in over a year. To commemorate the occasion, we had suckling pig with homemade apple and raisin stuffing with roasted parsnips, fondant potatoes, and creamed spinach. Desert was a gin and tonic loaf.
The summer is winding down with Labor Day nearly upon us but I have one last cycling adventure just around the corner. I’ll be able to add another state to the places I’ve cycled and scratch the itch of my inner pharologist. Stay tuned if interested…