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Page 3 | Brian W. Ogilvie

Success! of a sort, at least

May 4, 09:29 PM

I was disappointed at having to scratch myself from the starting list for the 200K on April 24. So I decided to ride a solo 200K on May 1, just to prove to myself that I could do it and that I wasn’t using my injury as an excuse for chickening out of the brevet.

Highlights (or “Executive Summary”)

I made it within the allotted time frame had this been a sanctioned brevet. I felt reasonably good by the end, despite some evil hills. And I took a few pictures over the course of the ride.

Now, for the gory (or boring) details….

The Route

As much as possible I wanted to follow the Berkshire Brevets route for the Shelburne Falls 200K. But I wanted to start from home. That meant cycling southwest to Easthampton. I missed a couple of small hills by doing that, though I compensated somewhat by beginning the ride by going up and over the shoulder of Mount Warner. After heading to Northampton via the Norwottuck Rail Trail, my planned route took me down Route 5 to the Manhan Rail Trail, then along Pleasant St., Route 10, and West St. to Oliver St., where I would pick up the official route. I would ride that up to Shelburne Falls and then through Colrain, Mass., Halifax, Vt., and Charlemont, Mass., back to Shelburne Falls. Then it was down to Williamsburg and back to Easthampton. I would split off from the brevet route at Loudville Road, head downtown, and then follow Route 10 back to Northampton.

Getting started, and temporary companions

My goal was to hit the road by 8 a.m. But I lingered over breakfast and the paper and then puttered around a bit. It was 8:25 when I rolled down the driveway. A quick up and over Mount Warner, then south along Route 47. The rail trail took me west and across the river.

At the traffic light to cross to the new trail extension, I ran into a group of 7 or 8 women who asked for directions to Maple Street. They had a small route map for a ride north into Whately. But they had confused the Norwottuck Rail Trail with the Northampton Bike Path. I explained to them how to get to the latter, and then followed along. They were faster than I wanted to go but after one of them dropped a chain, I moved to the front and chatted a bit while she fixed the chain. One of them asked how far I was going to ride. I replied, “125 miles.” “And how much have you done so far?” “Six miles….”

After leading them under the railroad viaduct on North St., they peeled off right and I waited for the light and headed south. A short flat ride and I was soon at the Manhan Rail Trail. Few people were on it, fortunately. I chowed down on the first Clif Bar of the day, then left the trail. Passing the Eastworks building, I decided it was time for a pit stop (two cups of coffee…). I also filled up my bottle and picked up a couple 20-oz bottles of “low calorie” (dilute) sports drink. A few more miles and I was at the official route.

On new ground, briefly, and the first hill

That took me on the first unfamiliar stretch: Oliver St. and then Park Hill Rd., up a short hill and past cattle farms. At Florence Rd. I was back on familiar turf: I headed north to Pine St., then through the center of Florence and north on Maple St. Maple merged with North Farms Rd., and then the fun began: the first serious climb of the day. It wasn’t long but parts were very steep. Near the top I paused to photograph a fence made out of old bicycle wheels.

After that, the next ten miles were a breeze: a slight climb on Mountain St., then a descent, with a slight climb in the middle, to Whately. I ate another Clif Bar. After Whately I was on unfamiliar roads again: North St., mostly flat with one nasty little rise, and then S. Mill River Rd., also mostly flat. That ended at 116 and the climb, at first gentle and then steeper, to just east of Conway. Then a quick descent into the town center.

From Conway, I started north on Shelburne Falls Rd., which I had driven before but not cycled. I passed Poverty Hollow, named by people who had no use for euphemisms. I knew a hill was coming in a few miles, and I was not disappointed. Down into the low gear for a mile…. After that, some rollers, gradually trending downward, took me into Shelburne Falls, where I arrived about 12:10 p.m.

From Shelburne Falls to Shelburne Falls

I paused for an obligatory bike photo next to the Deerfield River, then crossed the river for a quick trip to the grocery store, where I acquired Gatorade and a turkey sandwich.

After lunch on a bench outside the tourist office, followed by another pit stop, I headed north on Route 112. Though I had driven 112 before, and the stretch of Route 2 that I would later hit, for the next 37 miles I was on new cycling ground. The road rose gradually through Colrain; then I crossed the border into Vermont. There was a 19th-century boundary post in front of a lovely garden; I chatted for a moment with the owner and her friend, who were out tending the plants. The gradual rise continued, steepening somewhat in places.

Just after the halfway mark, I turned left onto Route 8A (Stage Rd.) and nearly wept. There was a mean hill there, the meanest, it would turn out, of the whole ride. The first half mile was 12%. And though I had been eating and drinking continuously, I felt low on energy. Shifting down into my granny, I gritted my teeth and headed up. And stopped for a rest. And headed up again. After a couple more pauses, I made it to more level ground. The climbing would continue, but not as steeply, except for one further spot where a small dog tried to give chase. Fortunately, he didn’t want to go up the hill either. Unlike me, he didn’t have to.

Fortunately, miles of downhill and level road followed, marred only by potholes and a few sharp corners. I munched on part of a Clif bar when the road permitted. I crossed over the newly renovated Bissell covered bridge, then joined Route 2 to head back east to Shelburne Falls. Though heavily traveled, the road was in good shape with decent, clean shoulders, and it ran right next to the Deerfield River. I passed a few tourist traps and arrived back in Shelburne Falls around 3:50 p.m.

Heading back south

This time I stopped for a proper meal at McCusker’s Market, where I got a BLT and a bottle of GUS soda. Bacon and mayo might not have been ideal for someone who still had 41 miles to ride, but I inhaled the sandwich and soda. After stretching for a bit, refilling my bottles, and calling home quickly, I hit the road again at 4:25.

The climb out of Shelburne Falls wasn’t too bad, other than a nasty stretch shortly before a thrilling descent on the hill I had labored up several hours before. I hit nearly 45 mph, and that was without tucking in to reduce wind resistance—possibly a personal record. A quick trip through Conway, and then I was headed uphill again. This would be the last nasty climb of the ride, and I felt great when I conquered it. Downhill past the Northampton Reservoir, then the rollers of Webber Road, to rejoin Mountain St. in Williamsburg.

I followed that to Haydenville, then took River Rd., Reservoir Rd., and Chesterfield Rd. SSW to Sylvester Rd. I munched a few Clif shot blocks for further sustenance. Then south into Easthampton, until I turned left onto Loudville Rd. and left the brevet route. After making it to downtown Easthampton I picked up Route 10 north.

The last few miles home

I was ready to be home, but even readier for something scrumptious, so I pulled over when I saw that the Tasty Top was still open, rumors of its demise notwithstanding. I got a kiddie-sized creemee (New England argot for soft-serve ice cream). No wonder kids these days are fat: it was bigger than the medium Dairy Queen cones of my youth. I ate everything above the cone in about half a second, it seems, then got back on the bike.

A quick trip through downtown Northampton, followed by the Norwottuck Rail Trail to Route 47, and I was only a few miles from home. The hills on Huntington and Breckenridge felt ten times nastier than usual, but I made it over. I was so ready to be home that I braked going down Breckenridge instead of building up speed and aiming for a new record. I made the sharp turn onto Mount Warner and pulled up in the driveway, standing out of the saddle as I coasted to a halt in the garage. It was 8:05 p.m.

The aftermath

I had a glass of milk as a recovery drink, then took a shower. Man, did that feel good! Then a few slices of frozen pizza from Trader Joe’s. I wasn’t terribly hungry, to be honest. After savoring a bottle of IPA, I went to bed, where I slept fitfully. I’ve learned in the last couple months that I don’t sleep well after long bike rides, so I wasn’t surprised.

The next day I had minor soreness, especially around the outside and rear of my left knee, perhaps due to my preference for extending my left leg for support while coasting. I took a couple ibuprofen tablets over the course of the day. By Monday I was still a little stiff but otherwise feeling fine. Monday evening’s 14-mile ride started out stiffly but I loosened up after a few miles. It’s Tuesday as I write and I feel fine.

Time and distance

I left home at 8:25 a.m. and returned at 8:05 p.m.: 11 hours 40 minutes total. My actual ride time was 9 hours 55 minutes, for an average moving speed of just over 12.5 mph. My overall average, including stops, was 10.7 mph. I had calculated when the controls would open and close had this been a real brevet or permanent, and I arrived at them on time. So although this ride was not an official event, it proved to me that I can do a 200K brevet within the time limits, on a hilly course in the Berkshires and their foothills.

Food and drink

All told, I ate three Clif bars, half a package of Clif shot blocks, a turkey sandwich, a BLT, and that “kiddie” size creemee. I drank half a gallon of Gatorade, a 12-oz bottle of GUS soda, and five 24-oz water bottles. Aside from some minor indigestion, I felt fine, though in hindsight I should have eaten a little more in the first half of the ride. Had I done that, I might not have been so disheartened by that hill on Route 8A in Vermont….

I lost 2.5 pounds over the course of the ride, which means that I was eating and drinking enough not to get dehydrated. I gained them all back the next day as I recovered and rebuilt my muscle glycogen stores.

What next?

In the short run, I decided that my other responsibilities, combined with lack of training (related to those responsibilities), preclude a 300K this Saturday. Otherwise, what next deserves its own post.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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On the disabled list...

Apr 24, 08:54 AM

Thursday evening I banged up the outside of my left knee. I was hobbling around on foot Friday, and while I felt OK on the 6-mile round trip ride to work, standing up and pedaling out of the saddle was painful.

The upshot: I’m not doing the 200K brevet today. I’m disappointed but I have no interest in making a minor injury into a major one. It’s a beautiful day, so I’ll go out for a shorter ride and see how that feels.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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April 11 ride report: 102 miles/167 km to Vermont and New Hampshire

Apr 17, 11:55 AM

Last weekend I did my final long ride before the April 24 brevet. This weekend (or the Monday holiday, Patriots’ Day), I’ll do a 40-50 mile ride to keep my legs in shape and then taper to the event day.

My first century: solo, 102.4 miles, 5300 feet of climbing

Having done a hilly 80-miler on April 4, I decided to aim for a relatively flat ride north along the Connecticut River for my first century. Since much of the ride was on familiar ground, I should have known better…it turned out to involve some 5300 feet of climbing. (Route map here. Again, underestimates the total climb.) But I survived.

The first 30 miles or so were fairly flat. Technically, my ride was not entirely solo: Jennifer came with me for the first 18 miles. We set out from home, climbed to the crest of Mount Warner Road, and then headed down Route 47 to the Norwottuck Rail Trail. We took that into Northampton, then followed Damon Road and Route 5 to Hatfield, where we headed to the historic town center and then north along the river. I grabbed a Snickers bar and some sports drink at a convenience store. In Whately we stopped at the town athletic fields to eat the bag lunch we had prepared; a baseball game was going on.

A couple miles further north, Jennifer headed across the bridge into Sunderland to make her way home (13 more miles, for 31 total), and I headed north along River Road in Deerfield. At this point I began to hit some of the rolling hills that would characterize the ride: with a few exceptions, most of the hills involved 50-200 feet of climbing, but do that often enough and you end up climbing a lot. I took the new bike bridge from East Deerfield to Montague and then the Canalside Trail into Turners Falls. From there, I crossed the river and encountered the first of three serious hills: a short but steep climb from the river. Then it was downhill into Gill, followed by rollers until I crossed Route 10 in Northfield. I went up a very steep but very short hill and then caught Route 142, which took me along flat and gently rolling terrain to Brattleboro, Vermont. There I picked up some more sports drink.

At Brattleboro I took Route 9 across the river into New Hampshire. Here I encountered the second steep hill, climbing from 250 feet to 800 feet above sea level, along a busy highway (fortunately, it had wide shoulders). I then coasted downhill a ways until turning south on Route 63 toward the center of Chesterfield, N.H. A slight climb through a forest brought me there. I stopped to eat a Clif bar and to call home and indicate that I’d be back a little later than planned. I was now 62 miles into the ride and I thought I had done all the hard climbing. I was wrong.

Half a mile later I began to climb again in earnest, from 750 feet to 1150 feet in three quarters of a mile: an average 10% grade. Having already completed a metric century, I was going VERY slowly up that hill. The road then dipped again and climbed back up to 1150 feet. After that, the reward: a four-mile descent next to Kilburn Brook, at an average 4% grade, that brought me to the Ashuelot River and the center of Hinsdale, N.H. From Hinsdale I followed Route 63 south as it rolled up and down toward the Massachusetts border. In Mass. I climbed up into Northfield and then continued south.

At Pine Meadow Road I left 63 and followed the river, and the new Franklin County bikeway, to French King Gorge. Pausing to admire the bridge and collect my forces, I crossed the Millers River on a bridge now restricted to foot and bicycle traffic and attacked the last hill, a 225-foot climb out of the valley. Then it was home free for the last 19 miles across Montague to Montague Center, then along Old Sunderland Road to Falls Road in Sunderland, back via Route 47, and finally a little loop around Mount Warner. I saw deer in the twilight in Montague and found that my dynohub and LED headlight provided more than sufficient lighting. Though I was tired, I found it easy to roll at 14-16 mph on flat, familiar roads, and I actually increased my average speed slightly.

The aftermath, and looking ahead

I was pretty worn out when I got home, but a shower refreshed me and I was able to have dinner (which Jennifer had kindly prepared) and relax for a bit. As usual after a long ride, I slept fitfully, but I wasn’t feeling too bad on Monday morning. For the first time in a couple months, I had delayed-onset muscle soreness after the ride, from Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning, but that didn’t keep me from cycle commuting Tuesday nor from a 19-mile ride to Leverett on Wednesday.

I think I have my eating and drinking plan figured out for the 200K. A decent but not too fatty breakfast, a light sandwich around lunch, Clif bars or the occasional candybar every hour and a half or so in between meals, and plenty of sports drink should do the trick. There’s no shortage of convenience stores on the 200K route. I might take a couple of packs of sports gel just in case.

Based on the century, I’m not going to do a fast 200K. I did 100 miles in 8:10 ride time, for an average speed of just over 12 mph (19.7 km/h). That did not include stops. I stopped for just over an hour, but 35 minutes of that was during the beginning part of the ride. If I can go 20 km/h during the brevet, and keep stops to 30 minutes, I’ll finish in 10:30; the event starts at 7 a.m. so I should wrap up by 5:30 p.m.

Right now the weather for next weekend promises to be cool, with lows in the 30s and highs in the low 60s. There may be some rain. We’ll see how things go!

Brian W. Ogilvie


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April 4 ride report: 80 miles/129 km in the Berkshires

Apr 12, 07:04 PM

As I approach my 200K brevet—less than two weeks now—I think I’ve done all the long-distance cycling I need to do well. The last two weekends I did progressively longer rides. I’ll describe them in this and the next post.

April 4: Into the Berkshires

I designed this ride to give me practice riding hills. How much practice, I didn’t quite realize! My plan, which I realized, was to head up Route 47 to Sunderland, cut through South Deerfield, and then follow Route 116 to Savoy, take Route 8A south to Windsor, and then return home via Route 9 to Leeds and then the Northampton Bikeway and Norwottuck Rail Trail back to 47.

I set out from home with Jennifer and we rode together as far as Old Amherst Road in Sunderland. I then went through South Deerfield, took a slight jog on Route 5, and then joined Route 116 as it went up towards Conway. I felt good going up the steady but never too steep climb to Conway. This couldn’t be that hard!

The next hill, from Conway to Ashfield, sobered me up. The hill was never very steep, but it went on for 10 miles. In Ashfield I was ready for a rest, and I had a bean, rice, and lime burrito at Elmer’s Store. It was Easter Sunday so they didn’t have fresh food. The burrito turned out to be a mistake, as it sat in my stomach for the next 4 hours, putting me off my feed and making me rely mostly on sports drinks for the remaining 56 miles. I don’t think the burrito was bad, but it had been made ahead, the tortilla was a little soggy, and it was probably too much fiber for endurance cycling.

The town center of Ashfield is about 1,250 feet above sea level. I knew that the highest point in my ride was just over 2,000 feet (2,025, to be precise), so I figured I’d need to climb another 800 feet or so, plus perhaps some rollers. And I knew I’d climb a lot going out of Ashfield. I did: another 300+ feet. What I had not counted on was then descending those 300 feet, regaining them, descending again, and regaining them before getting to Savoy. On Route 8A I climbed a couple hundred feet and then had a series of rollers before hitting the highest elevation of my ride on Route 9 at Windsor.

Fortunately, from there it was mostly downhill, often thrillingly so, from Windsor (elevation 2,025 feet), crossing the East Branch of the Westfield River several times, through Cummington, to a low point of around 900 feet near the Goshen line. On the way down, I stopped at the Old Creamery Grocery and Deli in Cummington, for a pit stop and some sports drink. Were it not for that damnable burrito I would have had some ice cream or a muffin! I then had to climb nearly 500 more feet to Goshen Center. Then, finally, it was almost entirely downhill to the Connecticut River, with only a slight climb on Huntington and Breckenridge roads before going downhill, making a sharp turn, and pedaling the third of a mile back home.

Between miles 50 and 60, as I was dealing with the effects of a lead burrito in my stomach and the fatigue of a lot of climbing (for me), I was wondering why I was doing this and whether I could face a 200K (125 mile) ride in a few weeks. The last twenty miles, though, were pretty easy and left me feeling better about long rides. The same pattern repeated in my long ride the following week.

On getting home, my altimeter indicated that I had climbed a total of 4,700 vertical feet., the mapping and logging website I use, indicated much less, but their algorithm tends to smooth out rolling hills, including some significant ones, so I trust the altimeter.

In the end, it was a good ride. I saw snow in Savoy and ice on the roadcuts in Cummington. The route map gives more details if you’re interested in the twists and turns, though again, if you use the “show elevation” feature, you get a pretty good route profile but the total elevation gain/loss severely underestimates reality.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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March training update

Apr 3, 04:09 PM

New milestones in March, and at the date of this writing, only three weeks until my 200K brevet. Yikes!

March results

I basically met my training goals in March, as I did in February. Two early March training sessions were on rollers; otherwise, I was outdoors, in good and bad weather.

  • Week of March 1: 25 miles outdoors during the week, and 21 on rollers. On the weekend I did a 21-mile ride with Jennifer Saturday, then a 45.8-mile ride by myself on Sunday.
  • Week of March 8: 40 miles during the week, and a 50-mile ride on the weekend.
  • Week of March 15: 43 miles on Tuesday and Sunday; due to a trip to New Haven on the weekend, I did my long ride—62 miles, a metric century—on Wednesday (we were on spring break). It was the first week I have ridden more than 100 miles since last summer.
  • Week of March 22: 38 miles during the week, and a 71.5-mile ride on the weekend.
  • Week of March 29: I’ll report on this week in April, since the bulk of my riding was done Thursday through Sunday, April 1-4.

The metric century, as I reported earlier, was a challenging ride for me, with about 3500 feet of vertical elevation, much of it in a long stretch along Route 9 from Williamsburg to Goshen. The 45-mile ride on March 7 also had a lot of climbing. My March 28 long ride was fairly flat. Still, the hills seem to be getting easier.

Goals for April

  • Continue to maintain my base
  • Increase my long rides: 80 miles on April 4, and a century on the weekend of April 10
  • Do a couple of hill workouts in the weeks of April 5 and April 12, in hopes of building up some additional strength
  • Do a shorter long ride a week before the brevet, and taper after that
  • Ride the Shelburne Falls 200K on April 24

After the 200K—maybe a couple days after it—I’ll decide whether it’s worth registering for the 300K on May 8….

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Last long March ride

Mar 29, 04:40 PM

I’ll post a March update in a couple of days for anyone who is reading this blog (mostly for myself!). Just a brief note on yesterday’s ride. There was a stiff south wind, 10-15 mph, so I decided to go south and then come back north. I decided on a 25-mile ride to Westfield (50 miles round trip), partly along the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton, and partly along some back roads in Easthampton, Holyoke, and Southampton. The last five miles or so were on Route 202. Indeed, the winds were strong and in my face for much of the way out, but it was nice having them at my back on the return. After doing those 50 miles I was joined by Jennifer, who rode with me from Hadley to Look Park in Northampton and back, mostly along the Norwottuck and Northampton bike paths.

It was cold and cloudy all day, with highs in the mid 40s. And for the last half-hour on the way back from Look Park, we were riding in light rain. My generator-powered headlight (IQ Cyo R Senso Plus) worked well to keep us visible to oncoming traffic and, as the sun began to set behind the gray clouds, to light the way (though it was still twilight when we got home).

I ate two Clif Bars, a Snickers bar, and some corn chips during the ride, and drank a 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade and about 8 oz. orange juice, in addition to a couple bottles of water. I didn’t bonk, and I didn’t have indigestion, so I think I have the eating part down. Still, the shortest brevet is 53 miles more than I did yesterday, so there may be nutritional surprises in my future….

Brian W. Ogilvie


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My first metric century

Mar 21, 05:36 PM

Because I was going to be out of town for the weekend, I rode my first 100K ever on Wednesday, on a route that was partly familiar, partly new. It was around 60 degrees in the Connecticut River valley where I started (150 feet above sea level), down to the upper 40s/low 50s at my maximum elevation of around 1600 feet above sea level. There was still snow on the ground up there. My ride took me across the river, then gradually uphill (1-2% grade) for around 8 miles, then uphill at a slightly steeper grade (3-6% with a few steeper sections) for the next 5 miles. The wind was in my face too! Then it was down a bit and up for a few more miles. I then had an eleven-mile descent into the picturesque little village of Shelburne Falls, on the Deerfield River. I stopped there at McCusker’s deli and grocery for a blueberry muffin and some chocolate milk. After that, I took unfamiliar back roads with a couple of short but grueling climbs, one of them through shallow but viscous mud. The climbs might not have been so bad early in the ride, but at that point I had worn out my climbing muscles. Fortunately the next part was a thrilling descent—on an unfamiliar road with a hairpin turn. I was happy that I had adjusted my brakes recently. From there I was on roads that I had cycled or driven; the last 18 miles were pretty easy physically, but it took some self-discipline to keep going.

I had an enormous sandwich about an hour before starting out, and I ate one Clif bar and drank a 20-oz bottle of Dr. Pepper during the ride, in addition to the muffin and 8-oz bottle of chocolate milk. By the end I was feeling hungry; I probably should have had another Clif bar around an hour after leaving Shelburne Falls.

I took a few photos along the way. (The shot of my bike shows the fine wheels that Peter White built for me last fall.) The route map is also online.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Long rides so far this March

Mar 14, 11:58 AM

A mid-month report: I’ve been keeping up with my self-imposed schedule for training, including a mix of commuting, after-work rides, and long weekend rides.

March 6-7: 21 + 45 miles

Saturday, March 6, was a warmish sunny day. Jennifer and I decided to take the rail trails from Hadley to Look Park in Leeds (Northampton) and back. From home, we rode over Mount Warner and then down Route 47 to North Lane and West St., where we picked up the Norwottuck Rail Trail. At the end of that trail we crossed Damon Road and followed the extension to its end on Woodmont St. A short jaunt on North St., King St., Finn St., and State St. took us to the Northampton Bike Path, which we followed to Look Park. We did a tour of the park and then rode back along the trails to East St. in Hadley, then north to Rocky Hill Road, Breckenridge, and thence back home. It was about 21 miles total.

The next day I decided to go out for another 25+ miles to make my 45-mile training goal for the weekend. I headed up toward Leverett and then Lake Wyola, torn between turning around (which would have made for a 28- to 32-mile ride) and heading north to Wendell. The lure of the unknown won out, so I headed north, and up, to Wendell. There I headed west toward Mormon Hollow Road, where I had a thrilling descent that was my reward for the climbs—over Cave Hill, up from East Leverett to Lake Wyola, and then up even more to Wendell. I took my camera with me; pictures are on my Flickr site, and the route map is here.

Overall I climbed 2900 vertical feet, according to my cyclocomputer, the vast majority of it between miles 4 and 22. Not bad preparation for the Berkshire Brevets.

March 13: 50 miles in cold rain

The week of March 8 I commuted 4 days and got in one post-work ride of 12 miles or so. Riding after work should be easier now that daylight saving time has started. The weekend was forecast to be lousy, though: temperatures in the low 40s, rain, and strong winds. Nonetheless, I suited up on Saturday morning and went out for a ride. I decided on a 25-mile loop to Montague, up Route 47 and back on Route 63, with options for bailing out and doing shorter loops at several points. When I started, it was raining lightly and the wind was against me. Around mile 14 the rain let up and the wind was helping me out; I was feeling OK except for my cold toes. I got home, had a snack, changed shoes, and set out again, intending to do the loop again but leaving open the possibility of bailing out. The new shoes weren’t much help: in fact, they left my toes feeling not only cold and damp but also numb. And it started to rain again. But I finished the second loop, feeling tired but content. I didn’t take any pictures, but the route map is here.

Coming attractions

We’ll probably go down to New Haven next weekend to visit a friend, do some work at Yale’s library, and see some sights, so I’ll probably do a long ride on Wednesday. It’s spring break, so I won’t do as much commuting, though I do have a meeting Tuesday.

Six weeks to go until the 200K brevet. I’m on track to be prepared, though I need to do some speedwork if I want to finish much ahead of the limit. My goal is to average 20 km/h including stops; right now I’m just a little over that on my long rides—but without stops.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Back to commuting

Mar 14, 10:30 AM

March has been mild so far, and I’ve started bike commuting again as of March 1: four days each week. One day I wimped out because of the weather and one I was recovering from hard exertions the previous day. Mostly I’ve been riding my normal 6-mile round trip from home to my office, but a few times I’ve gone further, including a ride up to the Renaissance Center, which involves a stiff climb. That day I wished that my commuter bike had a lower low gear. It currently bottoms out at 28.5 gear inches.

I like commuting this time of year. When I set out in the morning the temperature has been in the upper 30s or low 40s. I wear my regular outfit, slacks, dress shirt, and sportcoat, with a reflective vest. I’ve been carrying a jacket but I haven’t needed it. There’s still a lot of sand on the shoulders, but my Breezer commuter has good fenders and an enclosed chaincase.

I’ve seen hawks and a wood duck on the ride in, though it’s too early for the sheep and alpaca to be out at the UMass farm. Hopefully the formerly vernal pool, now year-round pond, on Maple St. will attract a heron or egret.

Now that we are down to one car (the other was totaled after a bizarre January parking lot flood), I’m hoping I can bring myself to commute in the rain. After riding for nearly four hours in light rain yesterday, 15-20 minutes won’t seem so bad. But the trick will be keeping my work clothes presentable.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Photos from Feb. 27 ride in South Carolina

Mar 3, 10:44 PM

A set of snapshots from my 42-mile ride on February 27 is online now at Flickr. Enjoy!

Brian W. Ogilvie


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February training update

Mar 1, 10:28 PM

Things are slowly warming up, and I’ve continued to build up mileage. Too much of it has been in the basement, but more and more I’ve steeled myself to ride outdoors. The unseasonable weather has helped: not that it’s been much warmer than average, but there has been less snow than in years past, so I’ve found it easier to do long road rides.

February results

I was able to keep to my training goals during this month. I even started riding outside, with a 31-mile outdoor ride on Feb. 13, a 35-mile ride on Feb. 20, and a couple of rides in and around Charleston, SC, on Feb. 25 and 27. Still, I put in a lot of miles on rollers.

  • Week of Feb. 1: 30 miles during the week, 25-mile weekend ride
  • Week of Feb. 8: 35 miles during the week, 31-mile weekend ride
  • Week of Feb. 15: 40 miles during the week, 35-mile weekend ride
  • Week of Feb. 22: 12.5 miles during the week, 42-mile weekend ride

As I’ve noted in earlier postings, the rollers did not prepare me for hills, but otherwise, training on them has given me the stamina for long rides outside. It has been exhilarating to roll through the Massachusetts countryside again. And though the week of Feb. 22 was a low-mileage week, I compensated by walking a lot in Savannah, GA, and Charleston.

The Low Country

I took my Bike Friday Express Tikit with me to South Carolina and Georgia. In Savannah, I just set it up and rode it around the block a few times to adjust the saddle and the derailleur. Back in Charleston, I used it to ride the 12.5 miles from the airport to our B&B after returning the rental car we had driven to Savannah after arriving in Charleston. I always find the Tikit to be terribly flexy after my Long Haul Trucker, but after a few minutes I get used to it. The ride from the airport went through some ugly industrial stretches, but as the sun was setting even a warehouse next to a railyard could take on a hint of beauty.

The real pleasure of the week, though, was my 42-mile weekend ride from Charleston over the Ravenel Bridge, through Mount Pleasant to the Pitt St. jetty, then out to Sullivan Island, Isle of Palms, and back. There was a stiff 15-20 mph west wind that helped me somewhat on the way out and then fought me on the way back. The ride was flat, other than the bridges, but often picturesque. In Mount Pleasant I saw a number of shorebirds, and along the islands there were stunning vacation homes, some traditional, some harmoniously modern, and some just plain weird. I’ll post some photos on Flickr in a few days.

(Update, 3/3/10: photos are now online.)

The Tikit felt fine for the ride, though I do miss a lower gear after being out for a few hours and facing the combination of a stiff headwind and a steep bridge. I’m still considering a New World Tourist with a triple or compact double, especially if I want to do a 600K brevet on a folder this summer. I’m not sure the Tikit would feel that good after two days in the saddle, even if the saddle is my Brooks Champion Flyer!

Goals for March

In March, I plan to:

  • Work up to 50+ miles during the week: a base of 30 miles, more or less, commuting to work, and two additional training rides, one devoted to hills and one to speedwork. If I want to get faster for brevets, I need to work on speed. And the series I’m doing isn’t called the Berkshire Brevets for nothing….
  • Continue extending the weekend rides from 45 through 70 miles, with some hilly stretches.
  • Take it easy the week of March 22, so I don’t overtrain.

Check back next month for a training update; more often if you want the occasional ride report.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Warmer and longer

Feb 20, 08:29 PM

It was warm today: above 40 F, and it was sunny until around 2:30. I got in 35 miles: 13 with Jennifer on a familiar loop up to Plumtree Road in Sunderland, and then another 22 riding up to Leverett and back. On the first part we had sun and 10-15 mph winds from the northwest. On the second part, the clouds grew thicker, the temperature dropped, and the winds picked up and shifted more toward the west. Of course I was going west on the way back….

Last week I was overdressed, especially on top. I swapped out the wool jersey for a lightweight wicking one, and replaced the rain jacket with a VERY bright yellow breathable jacket. The result was much comfier, despite the wind.

This week I put in 75 miles total—40 during the week on rollers. Next week we’ll be in Savannah (GA) and Charleston (SC) for a one-day vacation followed by a conference. I’m taking my Bike Friday Tikit (folding bike) but I plan to take it easy. After increasing my mileage from 55 to 75 in the last three weeks it’s time to ease off for a week. Still, I hope I can get a good long ride in next weekend before we come back.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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Long ride: 25% of the (shortest) distance

Feb 13, 03:10 PM

Today’s long ride was just over 50 km: 51.14 km, or 31.78 miles, to be exact. That’s a quarter of the shortest brevet distance (200 km). It was also my first ride outdoors since the first week of December, which was preternaturally mild, and my longest ride since the 42-mile loop to Conway last Veterans’ Day.

Old stomping grounds

I took a familiar route, through North Amherst and Leverett Center, then down to Montague Center, past the Book Mill, and back along Meadow and Falls Roads. I extended the ride a little at the end to make sure of hitting 50 km, since my cyclocomputer was not working for half a mile or so after stopping for a red light. (Note to self: consider replacing the wireless computer with a wired one.) I track my rides on, and I’ve put a map there if anyone is interested in the details.

The ride had a total climb of about 1050 feet, mostly in the first third or so. It soon became clear that the way I’ve been training on the rollers has really not prepared me for climbing. Other than that, though, it was a nice ride, and I finished with the feeling that I was ready to stop but that I still had reserves I could tap.

Staying warm and more or less dry

The outdoor temperature was just above freezing, and the wind was blowing around 5-10 mph from the northwest with occasional gusts. I started out with the following gear:

  • bike undershorts with a gel chamois
  • Smartwool base layer (top and bottom)
  • tights with a light fleece lining, held up by red LL Bean suspenders
  • wool jersey with a zip turtleneck
  • lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Smartwool socks
  • cross training shoes (I use platform pedals with PowerGrips)
  • neoprene shoe covers
  • full-finger mesh/leather gloves
  • polypropylene glove liners, worn over cycling gloves
  • Gore-tex balaclava (I didn’t wear the mouth and nose cover)
  • helmet (helmet cover stayed in the saddlebag)

The shoe covers came off after about 7 miles, since my feet were getting warm and sweaty. The Smartwool socks kept my toes toasty for most of the ride, despite the damp, though I would have put the shoe covers back on around mile 27 had I been planning to keep going for another half hour.

I probably could have ditched one of the wool top layers; they were getting rather damp toward the end. A higher-tech, breathable jacket would also have helped. Still, I was pleased with my overall comfort level. The temperature was about 15 degrees F lower than on any of my previous long rides, and I arrived home with just a few cool spots here and there.

Still, I hope it warms up soon!

Brian W. Ogilvie


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I hope it warms up soon!

Feb 7, 12:46 PM

I rode 25 miles yesterday on my rollers. BORING! Next weekend the high is supposed to be above freezing; I think I’ll pull out my neoprene shoe covers, tights, gloves, balaclava, etc. and try an outdoor ride.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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January training update

Feb 6, 11:08 AM

It’s been cold here, other than a freaky warm spell when the high temperature reached the 50s and there was a torrential downpour that flooded my car in its parking lot at work. I’ve been training for the brevets on rollers in my basement.

My training plan

In my training, I’m trying to balance the need to build up a good mileage base with the need to not spend all my free time on the bike. My plan is as follows:

  • Commute to work daily (6-mile round trip) or ride the equivalent on days I don’t commute.
  • Do two additional rides during the week, totaling about 20 miles: one focused on hills and one on speed.
  • Do one long ride on the weekend, working up to 100 miles two weeks before the 200K brevet.
  • Every 3rd, 4th, or 5th week, cut back the weekday mileage to give myself a rest, while keeping the long weekend ride.

Hopefully this will give me a decent base, some hill and speed training, and experience with increasingly long rides.

January results

So how have I done so far? We got home on January 9 and I started on Jan. 10 with a 10-mile ride on rollers. Then as follows (again, all on rollers):

  • Week of Jan. 11: 30 miles during the week, 10-mile weekend ride
  • Week of Jan. 18: 35 miles during the week, 15-mile weekend ride
  • Week of Jan. 25: 22 miles during the week, 20-mile weekend ride

My speed goal for the brevets is to average 20-25 kph (12.5-15.5 mph), not including stops. I’ve been riding at 12-13 mph on rollers, with an average heart rate around 150 bpm, but TruTrainer’s website suggests that the resistance at that speed is equivalent to c. 16-17 mph outdoors on a flat road with no wind. On the other hand, on my 42-mile loop ride to Conway last Nov. 11 I averaged 13.25 mph with an average heart rate of 150, so unless my hill and speed training pay off, I might end up riding at the slower end of my target range.

Goals for February

In February, I plan to:

  • Build up my weekday mileage to 40 in the third week
  • Ease off in the 4th week while I’m out of town
  • Continue working up to a 40-mile long ride

Check back in a month to see how I did!

Brian W. Ogilvie


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My New Year's Resolution for 2010

Jan 10, 05:51 PM

I’ve made one New Year’s resolution for 2010: train for, and attempt to ride, an ACP-sanctioned brevet series in the spring and summer.

ACP stands for “Audax Club Parisien,” a French bicycling club that sanctions long-distance, non-competitive rides that are called brevets (pronounced, à la française, as “breh-VAY”). A series consists of four rides, each progressively longer:

  • 200 km (125 mi), with a time limit of 13 hours and 30 minutes
  • 300 km (187 mi), with a time limit of 20 hours
  • 400 km (249 mi), with a time limit of 27 hours
  • 600 km (373 mi), with a time limit of 40 hours

There are also 1000 and 1200 km rides. Every four years, the ACP organizes the famous Paris-Brest-Paris brevet, a 1200 km ride that leaves from the western suburbs of Paris, goes to Brest on the Atlantic coast, and then returns to Paris. The slowest riders have a time limit of 90 hours, but there are also starts for riders who seek to do the ride in 80 or 84 hours.

The next PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) is in 2011. To qualify for it, riders must complete a 200 to 600 km series in 2011, ensuring that they are in good condition for the ride. However, registration will be limited, and priority will go to those who have ridden long distances in 2010. I’m not sure I want a shot at PBP; heck, I’m not even sure that I am up to a 300 km brevet yet. But if I am even considering it, I should ride a full series this year, both to find out whether I enjoy it and to increase my chances of getting a spot if I decide to enter PBP.

The English name for the sport (pursuit? madness?) of riding brevets is randonneuring, from the French randonner (to roam). The rider is a randonneur (or randonneuse), and the same word is often used to refer to his or her bicycle.

I plan to update this blog with training notes and ride reports. The first event I plan to ride is the 200 km ride starting in Westfield, Mass., on April 24. I can do the 300 km and 400 km rides in the same series, but if I decide to try the 600, I’ll have to do one in Britain when I’m there in late June.

Brian W. Ogilvie


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