Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An update and a request for suggestions

It's less than two months until we leave for France, so I'm getting pretty excited.  Here's an update on the arrangements I've made so far:
  • Plane tickets from Phoenix to Paris, by way of Philadelphia (using US Airways points to save about $2400)
  • Car rental for the first week to get us around France, down to the Pyrenees, and back to Paris
  • Rental apartment in Bagneres-de-Luchon for a week (although we will probably only be there two or three days, it was cheaper than a hotel)
  • Five nights in a hotel in Paris
I think we have a pretty good plan for the last week of the trip, but we have about 4 days where we don't have any specific plans but do have a car to drive around in.  I think it might be cool to make our way down to the Pyrenees along the eastern part of France.  This way, we might be able to see the Alps and possibly the Cote d'Azur before we get to the Pyrenees.  Another option would be to go to Normandy, and make our way down the western side of the country.  I'm not sure what's there, but I imagine there'd be some cool stuff as well.  We could also head straight south through the heart of France, stopping at sights along the way.

Anyone with suggestions on what to do with 4 days to get from Paris to the Pyrenees, I'd love to hear them.

My first accident...

First off, I did not get hurt at all, and my bike was undamaged.  That said, it was still pretty scary as it happened.  Here's the story:

Last Saturday I was out for my long ride and heading back home.  I was coming to an intersection and had to stop for a red light.  I was in my bike lane, and everything was normal.

After a minute or two, the light turned green for me, so I checked both directions and headed across the intersection.  As I was approaching the center of the intersection, I noticed a car in the right hand turn lane that looked like it might not be stopping for red light before making the turn through my lane.  I tried to slow quickly but was did not want to leave the bike lane as I did not have any idea what was coming from behind in the regular traffic lanes.

Sure enough, the old lady in the car apparently didn't see me and rolled right on through the red light and turned straight into my lane.  At this point I had no choice but to either get hit by her or veer out of the bike path to avoid her, which is exactly what I did.  I was now pretty much right next to her, and thinking that she would surely see me and slow down to avoid me, but I was wrong.  Instead, she kept coming through the bike lane and into the right-most car lane, basically barging into me from the side.

At this point I was really scared that she was going to push me over to my left into a lane of traffic to get run over by another car, so instead I figured I'd lean into her car to stay upright.  My right pedal surely dented her door as she continued to push me into the right-most car lane.  I actually watched as my whole bike skidded diagonally sideways, but I managed to grab onto the roof of her car and stay with the wheels under me.

At this point, I was basically 12 inches from her, clutching the top of her car with my right hand for dear life and rolling along at the same speed she was going.  It was at this point that she finally noticed my and came to a stop.  I got off my bike and got my composure, but I was surprisingly less freaked out than I thought I would be.  I had not been hurt, and a quick inspection of my bike showed that it was unharmed as well.  I was most concerned about the wheels since my guess is they were not designed for this sort of thing, but they both spun true.

The lady said she saw the two cyclist that were standing on the sidewalk waiting for the walk sign (that seems like a description of pedestrians with bikes), but she did not notice me actually riding my bike through the intersection.  I guess that just goes to show that there can be more than one group of cyclists out at any given time and at the same intersection, so don't stop looking after you see the first group!

After I got home, I noticed that I had finished my ride with the grime from her filthy car door all over my leg:

And looking at this photo, I realize there was one thing was damaged during my "crash": that dark smudge of dirt on my brand new Smartwool sock didn't come out completely in the wash.  I guess I should have gotten her insurance information.

Oh well...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

French study update

I've been doing my French study for about 3 weeks, and I'm just about ready for our trip.  Well, actually, I'm ready for our trip if the only things I need to use French for are the following:
  • asking someone what time it is (my watch doesn't do metric time)
  • asking someone how much I owe them (in Euros or dollars!)
  • asking someone if they'd like to eat or drink something with me (I'd better make some friends there quick!)
  • asking where something is (as long as they only tell me it's here or down there, I'm cool; any other response and I'm screwed)
  • telling someone I don't understand (I foresee using this a lot)
  • telling someone I speak a little French (technically true) or a lot of English
  • telling someone I'm going to have dinner at their house tomorrow night (again, I will need to make some friends)
I've got a couple more months, so there's still hope, but I'd better get on my horse!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bike upgrade

I bought some new tires for my bike last week, and finally got them on my bike yesterday.  I replaced a set of Continental Contact tires 700x37 with a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Racer 700x35 tires.  These new tires have a really thick thorn resistant layer built in, so I removed the thorn-resistant tubes and went with standard tubes.

I got them mounted yesterday (after one tube got ruined after it was pinched between the tire and the wheel) and went out for a short ride last night.  I was really happy with them.  I checked them out on the scale and they actually shaved 1.1 lbs. off each wheel, and that lower weight, combined with less rolling resistance let me go about an extra mile per hour at least.

I am pretty happy with this upgrade.  Not only is my bike faster and more fun to ride, it gives me hope that on a true lightweight bike I would really be able to go.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bike MS Day 2 Report

I guess I never gave a rundown of day 2 of the Bike MS, so I suppose I'll do it now.  Basically, it was a pretty low key day, just 50 miles, not super hilly, and just a good fun ride.  The weather was considerably nicer the second day, although it started a bit cold and cloudy, it got much nicer as the day went on.

I think a lot of the day 1 riders chose to sit out day 2, so it was a much smaller crowd on the start line on Sunday than it was on Saturday.  It was also a pretty relaxed send off, as the organizers pretty much said "Go" while a lot of riders weren't even at the start line, but I don't think anyone was too upset about it.  I certainly wasn't, and took a few extra minutes getting ready before I rolled out.

The course was MUCH better marked the second day, I suppose because they weren't playing it by ear so much.  The first day I spent a lot of time wondering where I was, but this was not a problem on day 2.  We rode north out of Cottonwood, and did some climbing at the beginning, but then turned east and rode down into Oak Creek Canyon.  After hitting the bottom of the canyon (it's pretty, but I'm not sure it's a canyon!), we did some moderate climbing for a while until we got to the turn off for the 50 milers.

I fueled up there and turned north again.  It turns out this was a section of road that I'd been on the previous day, but this time in clear weather and going the other direction.  We climbed for about 5 miles, then the road turned down and we flew down about another 5 miles or so.  These were the longest descents of the day, and I knew that I would have to climb them later, so while I was having fun going down, I kind of worried about going back up.

After a bit of additional climbing, we hit the third rest stop and the turn around for the 50 mile route.  I grabbed some food, used the Honey Bucket (as we call it in Seattle) and got back on the road.  I'd met a woman earlier who was about my speed, so we rode along together for a while chatting, but after we hit the hills she left me behind as I hauled the Long Haul Trucker slowly up the inclines.

I was really pleased that I was really handling the hills well, so I guess my training must have paid off.  In addition, while I was a bit sore at the beginning of the ride, I was nowhere near as bad as I was after day 1 of my last Bike MS in 2009.  I guess I'm getting a bit more fit.

After a few more miles, we came back to the second rest stop where we'd turned north for the long route.  I loaded up on Whoppers (hooray, Whoppers!), topped off my bottles and set out.  Not long after this we hit the steepest climb of day 2, and while it was pretty steep it was not very long.  When we crested that hill, we came out onto a long flat stretch where you could really see quite a ways.  It looked a bit like this:

After taking this picture at Mile 34, it was back on the bike and heading toward home.  After about another 3 miles I met up with some other guys going about my speed, so I grouped up with them and got in some pretty fast (for me) group miles.

At mile 42, we basically turned right into town and I thought they'd measured the course wrong because it seemed we were heading to the fairgrounds.  However, we rode right past and tacked on extra 8 miles in order to hit the magical 50.  By now, the layers I'd worn for the cold morning were starting to be come to heavy, so I shed some clothes.  On top of that, the whole outbound part of the loop was a long false flat that just kept going and going.  Every intersection, we were looking and hoping for the sign that said we were done going out and were heading back, and after a number of disappointments, we finally did make the right hand turn.

We headed back into town up and down a rollers, and eventually made our way back to the fairground and the end of the ride.  It was very exciting to see the finish, and I was pretty happy to have finished for the day.  I wasn't super tired, but my legs were starting to feel the effects of the last couple days, and it was starting to get way too hot for what I was wearing.

So that is it: I'd ridden 130 miles in 2 days which was not my record, but still pretty good considering.  In addition, I'd survived day 1 of the 2012 Bike MS which will surely go down in history as one of the most remembered (and hated) days in Arizona cycling history.

I did learn one very important lesson at my last Bike MS: bring a towel.  This is exactly what I did, and was able to use the portable showers to get myself cleaned off after the race.  Then I went to the food tent, got a hamburger and a hot dog (thanks, Sam's Club!) and actually sat outside enjoying the weather and talking to some of the Discount Tire riders.  Finally, I packed up and drove back to Scottsdale and the big weekend was over.

Will I ride the Bike MS again?  Yes, definitely.  I might do this one, or possibly do the one in Texas with people from my company who ride there.  We'll see.  Either way, I can say that the 2012 Arizona Bike MS was definitely a ride that I will not soon forget.