Salisbury Beach

Salisbury Beach
Thank You Katie, Mary, Caitlin and Brian

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank Yous

First and foremost, I want to thank Mary. It hasn’t been easy living with someone who gets up at 4:30 every morning to ride his bike, then works a 10 hour day and comes home looking for dinner. I haven’t been much help for the last six months, and she deserves better. She’s earned some help from me and I pledge it.

Whatever I do, I am wired to be passionate about. But I wasn’t born with anything resembling athletic talent. I owe thanks to the teachers in eighth grade who put me in remedial PE because I couldn’t due a pull-up. And I owe a big thanks to coaches Fairchild, Jamison and Mercer in High School for encouraging hard work on the football field and in the shot-put ring. I think that they probably knew that when I goofed off in PE and they made me run laps, they were really rewarding me and not punishing me.

When I started cycling in my mid twenties, Don Peterson, the President and Coach of the San Jose Bicycle Club was a huge help. In spite of the fact that I showed no potential to go beyond being a mediocre Category 3 rider, he spent as much time with me as with any of his potential superstars.

But as far as preparing for this trip, there are three people who need to be singled out:

In my 40s and 50s, I became a couch potato, until I started swimming daily when I was 56. I lost weight, and redistributed the weight that I had, but I soon realized that I wasn’t as good a swimmer as I thought I was, until I discovered Terry Laughlin and Total Immersion. Terry’s teachings centered on mindfulness (“No Brain, No Gain”), and he breaks the art of swimming into several interconnected parts. After several months of determined drills, I emerged with a totally redesigned stroke, and made impressive gains for several years. Terry and I exchanged some e-mails, but I don’t imagine that he realized how profoundly his teachings impacted me. I celebrated both my 60th and 61st birthdays by swimming 15 miles.

One day, three or four years ago I idly picked up a book while waiting for my Jamba Juice smoothie. It was Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. After a couple of minutes I said to myself “OMG, this is Total Immersion for Running”. I bought the book and sent a note to Danny remarking on the connection and I got a nice note back from him (and from his wife Kathleen) telling me that he and Terry had realized how much they had in common and regularly shared training tips. I read both Chi Running and Chi Walking and, although I have not put as much mindful effort into running and walking as I have into swimming and cycling, the point had been made: every body part is connected and you have to think of what each one is doing in isolation to see the effect that it has on others. But I still had no idea that the teaching principles of Terry and Danny could be applied to cycling.

And finally, last fall when starting my preparations for Fast America, I saw a Physical Therapist, Curtis Cramblett (Revolutions in Fitness). After fitting me for orthotics, he showed me that the foot pain that I was having was not due to poor orthotics, but to swelling of my leg (residual from a blood clot after a foot operation about five years ago) and he recommended compression socks (which are now my signature fashion statement). He then showed me how improper compensation for various asymmetries in my body was leading to muscle aches; something in the way he was describing things prompted me to ask “Have you ever heard of Danny Dryer?”. He went to the bookshelf in his office (his garage) and pulled down Chi Running and told me that Danny was bugging him to write a similar book for cycling. The exercises that Curtis prescribed for me were a big help in preparing for my ride, even though they had nothing to do with the muscles normally associated with cycling.

Terry, Danny and Curtis: Thank you for providing me with the tools to reach my physical potential. I have no end goal; it is the journey that counts. When someone asks me “What do you think about while swimming 15 miles in a pool or riding your bike for 10 hours?” I can honestly answer “Lots of stuff” because of you. You have in common a passion for what you do and a selfless desire to share and teach what you know.

Of course there are others, like the staff of ABB, Mike, Karen, Judy, Jim and Jay; my colleagues at work and in the SS/L Cycling Club and my friends at SJBC (and in particular Phil, who is always full of advice); but I want to reserve these thanks for Mary and the teachers who have made me what I am.



Distance                                 3,472.75 miles
Time                                        224 hours, 8 minutes
Total Climbing                        109,467 ft. (20.7 miles)    (average of Garmin Connect & Strava readings)
Average Speed                       15.5 mph

Average Daily Dist.               112.02 miles
Average Daily Time              7:13
Average Daily Climb             3,531 ft.

Wind                                       Lots & Lots
Rain                                        Some
Heat                                        Western half
Cold                                        Eastern half   

Longest day (time)                 Day 4 Wickenburg to Cottonwood, AZ 9:20
Longest day (distance)          Day 28 Warren, OH to Dunkirk, NY
Fastest Day                            Day 11 Tucumcari, NM to Dalhart, TX 21.7 mph
Slowest Day                           Day 4 Wickenburg to Cottonwood, AZ 11.8 mph
Shortest day (time)                Day 13 Liberal to Dodge City, KS 4:08
Shortest day (distance)          Day 22 Springfield to Tuscola, IL
Magic day                              Day 19 Marysville to Warren, OH
Worst day                               Day 9 Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM
Best Milk Shake                    (tie) Candy Shop in Batavia, NY and Sonic somewhere in Missouri

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 May 2011 Fast America Day 32

25 May 2011
Fast America Day 32

Amsterdam, NY to Keene, NH

Mileage:                     125.49 miles
Riding Time:              9:00     Riding Speed 13.9 mph
Total Time:                 9:45
Climbing:                    7510 ft.
Flats:                           0

Another beautiful day with lots of miles and lots of climbing ahead of us. Three of the slower climbers (myself included) left about 20 minutes early. The day started with a 9% climb right out of the hotel and I found myself in the lead on the road; and I was the first one in to the first SAG stop 40+ miles later. This was before the two long sustained 9% climbs through Vermont’s Green Mountains as we traversed Vermont from Bennington to Brattleboro.

We hit more climbing at mile 110 and I handled all of this without a problem. The 7500 feet of climbing was the most in about 3 weeks and it is clear that I am a different cyclist than 3 weeks ago. After 9 hours in the saddle, I sailed the last three miles downhill into Keene ready to do it all over again.

I met Mary in Keene, along with her cousin Barbara and family and my cousin Claire. Mary had reservations at a great restaurant (thank you for the recommendation, Katie!) and we all had a great time. Keene is far and away the nicest town that we have stayed in since Palm Springs and a good place to prepare to reenter civilization.

Tomorrow the beach. The day starts with some serious climbing (let’s see if I can do it two days in a row) and then it is mostly downhill after mile 40 or so. The day ends in a logistical whirlwind, as everyone tries to get their bikes all packed up for shipment and get ready for the banquet at 7:00 PM. Although the riding has been pretty much as I had expected, the emotions have been much more overwhelming than I had expected. I hope that the readjustment goes OK; I know that it will be difficult.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

24 May 2011 Fast America Day 31

Liverpool, NY to Amsterdam, NY

Mileage:                     121.56 miles incl. 2 bonus miles
Riding Time:              7:09     Riding Speed 16.9 mph
Total Time:                 8:00
Climbing:                    3003 ft.
Flats:                           0

Today was a beautiful day. I started out with about 9-10 riders and the speed was slowly notched up, including a heart awakening 9% grade right after the start. I soon found myself with the first group of five riders but I decided to sit up and let them go at mile 10. That was  mistake because I immediately forgot about a turn and got two bonus miles before I got on track. The rest of the ride was strong, and I feel good and ready for the climbing tomorrow.

Jay, one of the staff, got Little Chris last night, but they did not get to the hotel until 4:00 AM. Chris has a cracked vertabra and the doctors would not give him permission to ride, or to drive for that matter. He has relatives nearby and they will help him get home. We understand that he is very upset about not being allowed to ride. We concluded that since we had already done 3,000 miles, and cost-to-coast can be done in 2,500, that he gets credit in everyone’s eyes for completing the trip.

Which brings up a point – is this trip a goal or a process? For me, it is a process, which will end in two days. Yesterday I found myself daydreaming while I was riding about arriving at the beach. Tears came, unbidden, to my eyes. I think that they are tears of joy for the accomplishment, but more fundamentally, tears of sadness that it will soon be over. We took an informal poll last night at dinner – no one said that they wanted to do it again, but when asked: “Would you like it to continue another week?” everyone said “Yes.”

The ride today was along the Mohawk River, essentially the eastern part of the Erie Canal. It featured a long climb out of the valley to get ready for tomorrow’s climbs. It was about 10-20 miles N of the route that I have taken many times in the past by car, so I got a slightly different perspective.

I had dinner with my cousin Karen, who just got back from 100 miles of hiking in England. It was good to see her; she went through some trying times last year and I am glad that I could see her under good circumstances for us both.

Tomorrow I see Mary, after an absence of 33 days (the longest we have been apart in over 40 years). I hope we recognize each other.

23 May 2011 Fast America Day 30

Batavia, NY to Liverpool, NY

Mileage:                     122.07 miles
Riding Time:              8:07     Riding Speed 15.0 mph
Total Time:                 8:45
Climbing:                    4011 ft.
Flats:                           1

I had a wonderful dinner with Jini and Verne last night.

I am writing words in the blog today that I hoped I would not have to write. We had a serious accident on the road today. My siblings on the road know me as “Big Chris”. “Little Chris” is Chris Cullum, from San Diego. Little Chris is usually the first one finished with the day. He rides solo, and very competently, and we do not know him well since he gets dinner from Subway and eats in his room every night. This morning, I was the first one out of the gate, and the first person to pass me was Chris. Three or four others had passed me when I arrived in the town of Avon at about mile 23.

At that point, a road with a Yield sign merges from the right. My understanding (which comes from Ed, who was about 50 yards behind Chris at the time) is that a car came through the Yield and hit Chris head on. When Ed got there Chris was up and walking about, but his helmet and his bike are totaled, and his face was bloodied. The second driver on the scene was Mike, in our support van, and I understand that the driver who hit Chris kept saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t see him”.

Bottom Line: Chris spent the day in the hospital in Rochester, NY having a battery of tests. As far as we know, there are no long term injuries, and he wants to finish the ride. As I write this, an ABB person is picking him up at the hospital, and also picking up his new bike.

Moral of this story: I feel an obligation to anyone who reads this to preach safety. Since I was not there when Chris’ accident occurred, I cannot have any comment on it specifically. But please, when you enter an intersection, negotiate with the other driver(s) by trying to make eye contact. I am sure that the driver who hit Chris is extremely remorseful (she was very distraught as I passed her). But there is also the a_____e that deliberately pulled in front of me at the last instant a couple of days ago with the epithet “This is a road, not a bike path”. He probably thinks that he won because he put me in my place. But I slowed down (cursing him all the while) and let him win. Please pick your victories.

The rest of the day: I was on home territory today, as most of the route was on US 20/NY 5 which is the road that I took every weekend the semester that I worked in Buffalo while attending Cornell University. I don’t think that anything has changed in 40 years. The route skirts beautiful Seneca Lake in Geneva and we had lunch in historic Seneca Falls (cradle of the women’s suffrage movement). After lunch we took off towards Syracuse, through a beautiful park along the Erie Canal, and then along the shore of Onondaga Lake where we shared a bike path with lots of in line skaters. I even slowed down to enjoy the scenary.

One more day before tackling the Green Mountains of VT and the White Mountains of NH. One thing that I have learned counting down the final miles of the last 30 days is that there is always a motel at the end and not to get too impatient; 8 hours in the saddle is a long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

22 May 2011 Fast America Day 29

Dunkirk, NY to Batavia, NY

Mileage:                     84.41 miles
Riding Time:              5:13     Riding Speed 16.0 mph
Total Time:                 5:45
Climbing:                    2529 ft.
Flats:                           0

As Mike suggested, I made this an “Active Rest Day”. I just took today nice and easy and still made it to the hotel in Batavia by 1:45, including a milk shake stop a mile from the hotel. The last four days of our trip are all about 120 miles, and the last two also have 7,000+ ft. of climbing, so this was a day to prepare for the home stretch. It was a gray day, constantly threatening rain, but only a few drops materialized.

Jim got me new pedals, but we concluded that my shifter is responsible for  my front derailleur problems; the shift to the large chain ring is now working perfectly, but it is very difficult to get it to go to the small one.

In other news, Lasse tied me in the flat competition, with his 12th, a “hotel flat” that he discovered this morning. You will note that the two heaviest riders are tied for the lead.

I’ll be meeting my next cousin, Jini, along with her husband Verne, for dinner tonight. I remember meeting her at her house in very rural Rochester on a snowy winter day years ago, when her kids had all gone cross country skiing out of their back door, and feeling jealous of her family’s lifestyle!

We made the news as we passed through Canton, OH on Day 27; Canton is the home of “Ohio Bob”, one of our riders. There are three good pictures, one of Bob, one of me in my San Jose Bicycle Club kit, and one of me completely out of focus as I am being out sprinted up a hill by Daryl and Manny:

Fast America Day 28

Warren, OH to Dunkirk, NY

Mileage:                     138.80 miles
Riding Time:              7:50     Riding Speed 17.4 mph
Total Time:                 8:30
Climbing:                    2732 ft.
Flats:                           0

Well, there was no reason for me to worry about 138.8 miles. What a great day! I said good bye to arm warmers, leg warmers, vests, jackets and full fingered gloves. We went due N to Lake Erie; the temperature threatened to get into the 80s,  but then we hugged the Lake Erie coast for 80 miles (NE) and the temperature dropped into the 60s. Not many hills and I maintained 18-20 mph for the entire time (you will note that the speed in the official stats is a little lower; due to navigating through a couple of towns with stop lights, etc.).

We left Ohio (terrible roads), went through NW Pennsylvania (pretty good roads) to NY where the shoulders are wide, debris and pothole free. Dunkirk is SW of Buffalo, not known as a garden city, but May on the shores of Lake Erie is very nice (January is not!).

Bottom line: a beautiful day, wire to wire (I’m in the bar, where I just watched Shakleford win the Preakness wire-to-wire. Thank God I do something safe like riding my bike; that looked pretty scary).

I took my bike to “Mechanics” for the first time tonight. I’m glad I did; I thought that Master Mechanic Jim could fix it up in 2 minutes but:

1.   The front derailleur is marginal. In order to shift onto the large chain ring, I have to overshift and the chain comes off (when it comes off on the outside, you can coax it back on w/o stopping). I’ve been putting up with this for awhile, but the tolerances are incredibly tight and we can see that the derailleur cage has rubbed on the right crank arm. I think that we have it OK until the Atlantic Ocean, but something will have to be replaced after that.

2.   For a few days, I have been aware that something is wrong with my right cleat/pedal engagement. We figured out that the part of the pedal that engages with the cleat has chipped a piece off. Jim is going to figure out if we can take a slight detour tomorrow to find a bike shop in suburban Buffalo to get new pedal(s) (we assume that you cannot buy just one!). I don’t know if I can take a detour on tomorrow’s incredibly difficult 85 mile day. That’s a joke, my motor’s in very good shape. Speaking of detours; several of the riders are mapping out routes to go to Canada and/or see Niagra Falls. They are complaining that tomorrow’s ride is too short.

My bike issues may seem piddling, but they do illustrate the rigors of this trip. Many of the riders have had worse; we’ve replaced two bike frames and several wheels. Make sure that you are prepared for the worst if you try this on your own.

The hotel (Clarion) is on the lake and out of my room I have a view of the marina and an endless expanse of blue. Life is good.

Note: Today was beautiful, but not quite magical: refer back to my comments on Day 26. Day 26 was magic. I’m a muggle, so I cannot conjure magic. If it happens every day, then it isn’t magic. Remember your magic days, and treasure them.

I’m in NY! On to familiar roads through Batavia, Liverpool, Amsterdam and southern VT. I can now count the days on one hand.