Tuesday, December 9, 2008

R-12 Complete! … a story of fragile knees, bike fittings, orthodics (finally!), & eventual success

Last January, I started working on an R-12 without even knowing it. Cecil and Lynne announced they were gonna ride the Scio Covered Bridges permanent that month, and then I figured that would be a good mid-winter challenge.

And an interesting challenge this R-12 thing has been (as is randonneuring in general). The whole experience, like my knees, feels fragile. In addition to a less-than-strong “motor,” (especially in relation to my weight), I kept having to baby my legs, careful not to stand in the pedals too much. Initially (several years ago), bicycling was prescribed as therapy for knee problems that materialized when I tried to train for a marathon. Nowadays, I sometimes need treatments to address bicycle-related soreness.

The R-12 could have gone by the wayside many times this year. I was a flat away from not completing the Clatskanie-Cape Disappointment permanent last February. A new saddle kept me sore and slow during Seattle’s Chili-feed 200k in March. I was the last finisher in every 300k I entered (one in April and two in August), and came in 8 minutes under the deadline in Seattle’s “3 Passes” 400k. (Thanks to organizer Brian Ohlemeier for sticking around till 8:00 AM on that May Sunday morning!)

Clearly, by the time September rolled around, I was committed to completing an R-12. But I was less than confident about finishing the “Desert Rivers” 600k scheduled later that month. So I rode an “insurance” 200k (the Skyline-Vernonia permanent) on Labor Day (along with Cecil and Joshua). Even on that ride, my knee problems flared up, which furthered my lack of expectations about being able to finish a 600k three weeks later. So I adjusted my goal … it became to do some riding on day 2 (something I was unable to do on my first two attempts at that distance).

I was discouraged enough on Labor Day to schedule another visit to a bike fitter. So I tried River City (the shop that sold me my LeMond). The fitter there (Dani) used a different approach than I had experienced before … namely … the use of inserts in the shoes!! Of course, she did all sorts of other cool measurements (I had to lie down on the treatment table for some of them) and adjustments (like shortening the stem). But the inserts were major. They allowed my knees (especially the right one) to travel in a relatively more vertical plane. They also allowed me stand up in the pedals more … and challenge the epic headwinds during the 2nd day of the “Desert Rivers” 600k.

Don’t think I had yet recovered from the 600k enough to ride October’s Bingen Bikenfest 200k very fast; I was still slower than the previous year. And inclement weather kept speeds down during the “Prairies & Wetlands” permanent on Veterans Day. But after some more bike-fitting refinements from Dani (on my fendered cross bike) and a steady stream of commutes over the Sylvan Hill, I started feeling more optimistic about my legs and knees. Maybe this R-12 thing would actually happen!

stopped in Dayton
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

And last Saturday, December 6th, it did!

Nine of us cyclists showed up in Newberg by 7:30 AM. The first job at hand (after checking in at the Thriftway) was to get Highways 99 and 18 to Dayton over with. Eight of us regrouped in Dayton. (Kevin had fallen behind with the first of many flats.) We settled into our own paces (except perhaps for Washingtonian speedsters Kramer and Vincent, who seemed quite happy to ride with the rest of us for much of the permanent).

I rode with Lynne most of the way to Dallas, with much of our conversation centering around handmade bikes and equipment. It became apparent how little capacity I have for some details (like the model names of different Schmidt hubs).

I met up with Sal at the Safeway/Starbucks in Dallas. That is the most uber-friendly coffee dispensary I’ve ever been to. The proprietor sent someone out to guard Sal’s and my bikes while we shopped or went to the restroom and then ordered espresso drinks.

Sal and I met up with Lynne as we left Dallas, and I followed them for the next half hour or so. My favortie line of the day came from Sal when he was talking about his PBP experience: "There are old French women there on beater bikes who'll whoop your ass!" Oh boy, something to look forward to in 2011.

North of Rickreal, I got a “first wind”, and took off through Amity, leaving Sal and Lynne to a more chatty pace. I caught up with Cecil near Dayton (she had just finished a roadside sandwich), and then again strove to get Highways 18 and 99 over with quickly. (Cecil’s technique.)

Most of us regrouped at the Thriftway in Newberg. ‘Twas interesting to see how content John and Vincent were to hang out there with the rest of us … not the customary hurried demeanor of faster randonneurs.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker

The group met up with John Henry and Joanne (and their beefy Cannondale tandem) as we departed Newberg. We separated a bit somewhere along French Prairie Rd, and I ended up tagging along with John and Vincent to Gervais. The two of them promptly pulled ahead leaving Gervais, as I settled in to a customary slower pace.

break in Newberg
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

In Mt. Angel, I beelined to the local public restroom, checked in at the US Bank ATM, and decided to take off right away back towards Newberg … for two reasons:

1. I wasn’t hungry (yet)
2. I wanted to maintain a more “relaxed” pace, something that would be harder if I left with everyone else.

I fully expected to be passed in Gervais, as that’s where I ended up eating, and adding layers of clothing. But it wasn’t till 10 miles later (on Arbor Grove Road) that John Henry, Joanne, Kramer, and later Vincent passed me. John Henry and Joanne pulled the train back into Newberg. Amazingly, I was able to more-or-less stay attached. We arrived at the Coffee Cottage in Newberg at 7:50 PM, 10 hours and 20 minutes after our morning departure.

textured sky
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Shortly afterwards, Cecil did her customary check-in at Nap's Thriftway, as did Lynne and Sal a little bit later.

Unfortunately, the speedy Washingtonians (Kramer and Vincent) had to head straight back home. The rest of us (plus Kevin, who ended up riding 100+ miles despite 5 flats) repaired to the Newberg Burgerville, where we celebrated our successful R-12’s over sweet potato fries, milk shakes or hot chocolate, and some other non-customary food items.

R-12 celebrators ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Weather was most excellent, even though the temperature was a bit nippy initially. All in all, a fine and encouraging ride with good and interesting people. For what more could one ask?

Cecil's blog
Lynne's blog
Vincent's blog
Kramer's blog (includes video)
my pics


beth h said...

Bill -- congrats on your achievement!

Like you, I've discovered that keeping my stops VERY short and efficient means I don't have to totally kill myself to make it within the time limit. Now, if I can find a way to transfer that usefully to a 200k, I'll be all set.

..::thousands cheer::..


tangobiker said...

Thanks for your comments, Beth!

I totally appreciate that randonneuring is more about finishing than racing.

However, it would be nice to ride just enough faster to not worry about control ending times ... and in the longer distances (600k+) ... take longer naps!!! (assuming the body's otherwise willing).

Yes, I'm working to pare down my stops, particularly on brevets. But it's more difficult on permanents (especially ones like last weekend) cuz 1) the rides feel more like a social events, and 2) you're more dependent on one another, being as there are no monitors or control workers.

I'm optomistic we'll see you finishing a 200k before too long ... AND living to write eloquently about it!