Monday, May 28, 2018

Paul's Big Ride

In a few days, DRR founder, member #1, and emeritus Regional Brevet Administrator, Paul Whitney, will set off on a new challenge in the 2018 Trans America Bike Race, a 4,300 mile, self-supported, endurance bicycle race from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. You can see the route on RWGPS, there's a Facebook group, and you'll be able to follow Paul's progress (and all the other riders) on the official tracking site. Meanwhile, we interrupted his preparations to bug him with a bunch of questions...

Why the Trans-Am?

Lots of reasons. Primarily it’s a bike ride with interesting features. One is that the Trans-Am passes through a wide range of geography and parts of the country that I've never seen. Another is that it is an extremely challenging (for me) bicycling event that has obligated me to train better than Is typical for me. Also, it's my 60th birthday present to myself.

It's an incredible luxury and privilege to be able to participate in this event. I appreciate Julie's support for this event, and my friends, family, and employer for their support and understanding. Finally, I've done a lot of training miles with Norm and Gary - thanks!

Do you have a race strategy? Daily distance goal? What finish time would you be pleased with? 

Yes. I plan to ride 12-14 hours per day (this time includes stops for lunch etc) at a moderate effort. Maybe with a 'rest' day somewhere in the middle. I'm hoping this translates into 200-250km per day, and finishing within 30 days or so. But, the effort and duration will set the distance per day and overall completion time. My primary goal is to finish the event in good health. The duration and effort constraints have some basis. The hours-per-day are similar to that used recently in attempts at setting the max-distance-bicycled-per-year. The effort level is also similar (maybe a little higher). Finally, my training suggests that an effort of about 110 beats per minute is sustainable by me for multiple days.

A final constraint: I will be back at work July 9th.

How have you prepared? Do you think randonneuring is good preparation for a ride like Trans-Am?

I set up a weight training approach that has had clear benefits for my overall cycling power, and also has hopefully mitigated any tendinitis issues that I might have otherwise had. I've also focused most recently on multi-day, typically four days in a row, blocks of long rides.

Randonneuring might be good preparation for rides like the Trans-Am. The distance and self sufficiency map over directly - I think. Relative to randonneuring - I'm looking forward to less 'paperwork' related with controls, and also planning on getting good nights sleep - a benefit (for slower riders like me) of not being on a randonneuring timer for multi-day rides. However, I’ve done fewer rando miles this spring - they haven’t been consistent with my training schedule/goals.

Spotted in the wild on a recent DRR brevet.

What are you most looking forward to?

Riding my bicycle across the country with few other distractions!

Least looking forward to?

Not sure I have anything here. I expect the weather to be good and then bad. Both are welcome and interesting. Maybe a minor concern about coffee - I'm hoping there's enough.

What will be the biggest difficulty?

There are minor bits of logistics along the way related with water/food/shelter. The heat can usually be avoided by not riding certain times of the day. There are unknowns regarding how well the body holds up. And as always, I have to keep an eye out for traffic - especially non-commercial vehicles. The commercial drivers are almost always very careful with bicyclists. Thanks truckers!

Hotels or ditch-camping?

Mostly hotels. I will try the camping approach at least once. It could be great.

What do you plan to eat? Favorite grab-and-go convenience store nutrition options?

Whatever's available. I'm hoping for one or two sit-down meals in a day - I think that gets easier once the route clears the Rocky Mountains. Convenience store chow: assorted candy bars, sports bars, nuts, chicken gizzards, corn dogs, other fried food stuff...

Contemplating nutritional options at the Cougar Cafe, Benton City.

Inevitable nerdy gear questions:
Tell us about your bike? All modern? Disks? Electrical shifting? Carbon fiber? Titanium? Lighting?

Modern. The frame is a Lynskey gravel frame - that one not because there's off road riding but because it fits wide tires, is light, and apparently sturdy. My experience suggests it’s a fast bike relative to my others. A Brooks Cambium saddle, drilled out to save weight (or my prostate). Velo orange seatpost. Aero wheelset (carbon rims) - they’ve been fun! Tubeless tires - I’ve learned that glass slits aren’t sealed well by the liquid. Hutchinson tires. SRAM electronic shifters and hydraulic disc brakes. Thru axles for the hubs. FSA handlebars.

Thanks to Mike Armstrong at the local trek shop for bring it all together this winter.

Lighting - a Son dynamo hub for a SON Edelux 2 front light. Standard Planet Bike blinkies for the back (two of them). A Light and Motion rechargeable light for the front. That light will serve as my daytime running light in blink mode. One of the rear lights will also always be on in blink mode as well. I have a Princeton Tec EOS light on my helmet as a headlamp and, if needed, yet another running light or headlight.

Paul and Gary analyze the subtleties of tubeless vs. tubed tires for riding winter brevets. 

GPS devices have become essential for navigation on these kinds of events. What are you using? How will you keep it and any other electronics alive?

Using a Garmin 1000. I’ve preloaded it with both gpx and tcx versions of the course.  A backup is my phone - Galaxy S7 (which is also my camera). The phone has a mode with a battery life of more than a day. Assorted formats of the course are available on the phone even without cell service. I’m considering making a list of key towns on paper - if all the electronics fail I ride town to town. I have 10,000 mAh battery for charging. Also a charger for the SRAM bits and the phone/garmin. All use micro-USB - so minimal cables. Also a Spot GPS to track me.

What else are you carrying and what are you carrying it in?

Sleeping gear - pad, bivy, bag liner, puffy jacket and wool cap.
Rain gear - jacket, pants, gloves, shoe cover, helmet cover
Sun gear - sleeves, leg covers.
Cold gear - knee warmers, arm warmers, gloves, plus some of the above sleeping and rain gear
Standard cycling kit - shorts, jersey, cap, gloves
Safety gear - helmet, mirror, reflective ankle bands, plus lights and reflectivity to TABR specs
Hygiene - toothbrush, paste, floss, tp, nail clippers, hair trimmer
Health - antibiotic ointment, Ora gel (for saddle sore pain relief - I’ve heard that works...), sunblock, zit cream
Bonus - essential amino acid caplets, pen, paper
Repair - multi tool, tire repair (tubes, boots, patches, levers, pump), fiber fix, small leatherman, quick link for 11speed chain

The above are all carried in standard bike packing bags: that funny looking rear bag, a handlebar bag, food pouch, and (small) bike frame bag. Mostly Apidura for no particular reason. Also a CamelBak as a giant wallet and water bottle.

The gear selection is in part driven by hypothetical extremes - avoiding hypothermia, heat stroke, and cars. Much of the gear was in hand due to years spent randonneuring.

The entire setup w/o water or food weighed in at 37 lbs last night. That probably won’t change much before the race.

Any non-essential luxury item?

Ear-buds.





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