Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gran Fondo

Today was the Delray Twilight Gran Fondo (loosely translated from Italian it means big ride).  It's a mass start event.  The start is somewhat staggered by projected speed, since Kathleen is substantially faster than I am at this point, we opted to ride seperately.  Kathleen rode with the B+ group (~24mph average speed) and I rode with the C group (~17mph average speed).  Since the start was at 7:00AM, we were up super early to be there on time.  It was dark out, here's the scene before the start.

But we got underway about sunrise, here's our group rolling down A1A (the coast road) towards Pompano Beach.

It was a gorgeous morning, mostly sunny, and since this was a sanctioned thing, we had the whole road to ourselves, the motorcycle in the distance is our escort, and there were police at all of the intersections to wave us through and hold traffic :)

Seriously, how much nicer could it get in March?

We even had spectators :)

Here is the A+ (USA Cycling pro license and resume required) group coming back the other way, the route went down to Pompano Beach, then all the way back up to Palm Beach, then back down to Delray for the finish.

Then the A group passed by (27mph average speed)

Then the B+ group (Kathleen is in here somewhere).

Here is more of the B+ group, I was hoping to catch Kathleen in there, but with so many bodies, it was pretty unlikely.

We continued on down to Pompano Beach where there was a rest stop with food and drinks, then doubled back to head north towards Palm Beach.

Sunny skies and police support made it a great time.

Just after this I actually spotted Kathleen coming back the other way (which meant she was at least 15 miles ahead of me at that point), but since I didn't have my camera in my hand and on, I totally missed it.   We pressed on towards the rest stop at mile 42.  More sunny skies and Atlantic Ocean abounded.

 Just after this is where it all went wrong.   We turned into the rest stop at mile 43 (Here's the map of the course) in one of the beach parking lots, and the signage beyond turning off A1A was non-existent, so there was some confusion as to which way to go once we got off the highway.   I turned into the parking lot after spotting the rest stop, but the marshall behind me (she's in the pictures with the blue ribbon in her hair) was going straight (as were about half of our group) and ran into my rear wheel.  She ended up injuring her hand in the fall and had to be driven back.  This really sucked the wind out of my sails, I felt like a total moron for screwing up her day and ride.   That coupled with the fact that I have also been struggling with cyclist's hotfoot which had manifested itself pretty solidly at that point, I ended up heading back.  I cut over to the mainland at Boynton Beach to get a coke and mentally regroup, then pedaled by myself down Highway 1 back to Delray Beach.   I caught up with Kathleen there, she did the whole thing in 2:46 including stops for a 63 mile ride .  Not quite fast enough to win her age group (the ride is timed, everybody wears transponders), but pretty darn quick.   At the finish they had a big party, with food and drink, music, massages, and the like.  I also ran into (not literally this time) the marshall, who called out to me by saying "I beat you back here" with a big smile on her face.  This helped quite a bit, but I still feel pretty crappy about the whole thing.   Kathleen said her group had a wreck at the same rest stop, so maybe the organizers will have a little better signage for next year. We hung around for the podium ceremonies to see if she had won her age group, then back to the house to get cleaned up.  

So a bit of an anticlimatic end to the week, but I learned a few things, and pushed myself a little harder than I would if left to my own devices.   I would like to come back next year and try it again, and to that end, get a bunch more miles in before coming down, besides the hotfoot, my butt started to get pretty sore :), but that is cured by hours on the bike.  Toughens up the butt :)  At any rate, here's my map and stats for the day, it ended up being 57 miles for me.   Now we get to repack the bikes and get ready to head back up to Baltimore tomorrow, it's supposed to be rain/snow on Tuesday, I imagine it will be quite the shock to the system :(

Caught in the rain in Boca

So in our continuing adventures in Florida, we decamped Miami and headed up to Delray Beach, which is about an hour or so north for the Gran Fondo we were entered in.   Saturday Morning we went out for a ride, and since the Gran Fondo runs up and down A1A, we found another route that didn't involve that road.  Instead we meandered around Delray Beach and Boca Raton.  We headed out, and also tried a feature on Kathleen's bike computer that we hadn't used before, which is turn by turn directions.  You map out the ride then upload it to the computer and in theory it tells you where to go.  This turned out to be a bit hit and miss.   Here's Kathleen headed up the bike trail that it sent us up (which was wrong).

Just after this rain began bucketing down, so we took shelter under somebody's front porch until it stopped. Then headed back out to continue our ride.   We swung by a local Costco in search of a plastic bag to stick my camera and phone in, just in case it started raining again.  The nice ladies at the returns desk had a ziplock bag they gave me, and we were back underway.   As I mentioned, the turn by turn turned out to be a little glitchy, luckily Kathleen had also sent the directions to herself at her phone.  Here she is trying to figure out what the hell we are supposed to be doing.

Location pinpointed we continued on the El Rio Trail towards Boca Raton.  It reminded me a lot of the Gwynns Falls, but that trail never looks like this in March.  Nor is it as flat :)

Once in Boca we meandered around some interesting neighborhoods, one side of the street would be fairly normal suburban houses, the other side (that backed to the water) would be enormous mansions.

We ended up in a park, where this dude was hanging out.

I shot that picture while Kathleen consulted the phone again to figure out where we were/supposed to be going.

We headed back up towards Delray Beach after that.  On the way back we passed these ducks in the river, not particularly exciting, except it appeared that one duck was standing on the other ducks back.

It turned out that the lower duck of the pair was in fact a fake, which made it a little less weird.   Then it was back to the house to get cleaned up and head into downtown Delray for some lunch/dinner and the Criterium races that were happening that evening.   First on the agenda was the amateur mens race.   These five guys broke away early.

Then the field chased them, pretty much for the whole race.   The eventually reeled in all but two of them, who went on to get first and second, leaving only third place for the peloton to contest.

Next up was the women's pro race.  The ladies were pretty darn speedy, and kept the field together for the whole race, which ended in a bunch sprint.

We were camped out across from the pits area.   With this type of racing the pits are neutral, SRAM provides that service, so if any of the riders have an issue they can pull in to get help.  The race officials will allow you one lap to get help without penalty (about a 1:20).  Here one of the ladies is getting a new rear wheel to remedy a flat suffered during the race.

It got pretty busy at times, at this point there were three gals in getting service.

Then it was time for the Pro Men's race.  These guys were fast!

I shot a little video with my camera, the three guys go by off the front, then the Peoloton follows them about 20 seconds later.

We watched for a little while longer, then headed back to get some sleep, our start time the next morning for the Gran Fondo was 7:00AM

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shark Valley Everglades National Park

For today's ride we packed the bikes up in the rental minivan and went out to Shark Valley Everglades National Park.   There is a 15 mile loop through the Everglades there that you can ride on.   So we did just that, and saw a lot of amazing wildlife along the way.

Birds (no I don't know what kind)

Juvenile alligators

Adult alligators

Teen Alligators

Another kind of bird, check out the yellow feet!

Mama alligator

Rigght to her right about a dozen baby alligators

A scenic view of the Everglades

Another kind of bird

More full sized alligators

A different view of the Everglades

A big alligator

The tram road through the park.

Another bird

Kathleen :)

The tram, it's 25 bucks a head to take the tram out to the observation tower.

An adult alligator in a kid sized pool, I told it that it was too big for the kiddie pool.

On the other side of the road was this one in another smallish pool, just the eyes were above the waterline.

These purple flowers were all over, this one has some sort of a bee in it.

Trees bleached white, not sure what causes this.

All in all a very interesting ride, I had never been to the Everglades before, it's truly a different world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First ride of our awesome bike vacation

So it's been a long time since I had a vacation, I believe I touched on that here.  But finally I am having one.   Kathleen and I packed the bikes into Trico Iron Cases and flew down to Miami.  Here's what Kathleen's bike looks like in kit form in the case, just before I closed it up.

At any rate, this morning we popped the cases open and rebuilt the bikes, Kathleen shot this pic of me while I was putting them together.

Then it was off into the 80 degree and sunny weather of Miami for a ride.   Here's Kathleen following me along through one of the neighborhoods.

And going down the road, apparently Florida doesn't have mandatory helmet laws for motorcycles.

We rode across town and over the JFK Causeway to Miami Beach, this is Ocean drive in South Beach.

Then it was back across Miami Beach, but on our way we passed this park with this killer climbing tree.  Made me wish I was 10 again.

Then it was back across the Venetian Causeway to the mainland.

I noticed this bit o' art on a piling while we were waiting at a light.

We headed south towards the Rickenbacker Causeway which leads over to Key Biscayne.   The climb on the causeway is a Strava segment, so Kathleen decided to go for it, she is the tiny blue dot up there.

Once we got over to the other side it was all beaches and palm trees.

We made it to the developed part of Key Biscayne and stopped for a snack.

Then it was time to head back.   I really can't say enough about how welcome this weather is, it's been a long crappy winter in Baltimore.   We actually got another 6" of snow last Monday.

Here's the view of downtown Miami from the causeway coming back.

Then it was back to our groovy little cabin in Miami that we got through Airbnb.   It's a tiny little private nature preserve in the middle of a neighborhood, we have a little cabin there.   If you look hard you can see the river that the property backs up to on the left side of the picture.

After 40 miles it was time to get cleaned up, then into Miami Beach for dinner at Sazon.   I have gone there a couple of times when down here working, so I wanted to share it with Kathleen.   So this is just our first day, barring weather we should get 3 more rides in, including the Delray Beach Twilight Gran Fondo on Sunday.