Saturday, March 31, 2007

Part 3 Lon's First Cross Country

Day 3
Leaving Wheeling, West Virginia I entered into Ohio. The worst of the mountains were behind me. I continued on Rt. 40 toward Columbus and I was looking forward to the flatter roads of Indiana. By mid morning a slight breeze started from the west. The drudgery of a headwind was slowing my pace as much as the mountains yesterday. I wasn’t thinking about riding to California. I was just riding from town to town.

Navigating across the country was very basic by current Race Across America standards. Our crew didn’t have a pre scouted route listing all the turns in each town. My dad had made a overview of the route with the turns listed only when we needed to get on a new highway. My route was Rt. 40 to Indianapolis, Indiana, then Rt. 36 to Springfield, Illinois, then take Rt. 54 across Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Then get on I-40 to Flagstaff, Arizona to Rt. 89 south, then Rt. 60 west before getting on I-10 into Los Angeles. We were able to cross the remaining 2,500 miles of America with only six turns. Or so it seemed on our route sheet.

As it turned out our crew did a great job of following the road signs as each highway made dozens of turns and merges with other routes in each state. At times the lack of route details was a little frustrating, like the day against the headwinds in Ohio. I was standing and grinding against the wind wondering how far it was to the next town and a chance for some shelter from the wind. I waved the following support car up along side me. My mom was navigating in the passenger seat. I asked her how far before I arrived at the next turn or town and relief from the wind. She began looking at our route on the AAA Map as the support car dropped back behind me. After ten minutes I waved the car up beside me and I asked my mom again how far it was to the next turn or town. She said “’s just a ways”. That remark pretty much summed up our degree of route details across the country.

As we proceeded across the country I tried to memorize the route. I knew I would need to return on the same roads in a few weeks. I made mental notes of the intersections, bridges, direction of the wind on the flags and most importantly the distances between the towns. Our crew was also documenting new route notes for the return trip. During the whole westward crossing we would only be lost twice for about 30 minutes. On the return trip we stayed on the correct route the whole way. We were learning as we went of how to race across the country. We made our share of mistakes but by the fourth day we were now in a good routine.


Part 2..First Cross Country

The reality of riding across the country was starting to sink in by the second day. Even though I had trained by doing many fast double century rides and even some 24 hour events over 400 miles, I was not ready for the pounding pace of cross country riding. I remember getting back on the bike the second morning and riding up the hills on Rt. 40 through Frostburg, Maryland and Uniontown, Pennsylvania. These were the steepest and longest hills I had ever ridden. My 42 x 21 gear wasn’t enough. It was now Monday morning and I asked the support crew to go looking for a bike shop and find a 13 x 26 Suntour Ultra-6 freewheel.

A couple hours into the day our motor home was set up beside the road. It was time for breakfast. I stopped and my mom had made me a big plate of french toast. I welcomed the chance to sit down and eat. Most of my meals during the first week of the Double Transcontinental would be full plates of food eaten inside the motor home. It would not be until we had traveled almost 2,000 into New Mexico that we refined our pace and efficiency to eat most of my meals on the bike.

As I coasted into Frostburg, Maryland on Rt. 40 I had a strange sense of Daja vu. I felt that I had been there before doing the same thing. I then remembered a dream I had when I was about 16 years old. I had told about that dream to my parents and Susan years later of how I got interested in cross country riding. In the dream I was on a cross country trip. I was coasting down a steep hill of the eastern mountains with one hand on my hip and my upper body turned slightly to the left. During the dream I remember that I was at total peace with the bike and the fact that I would be riding across the country many times. My bike was white in the dream. I bought a white AMF Scorcher 10 speed bike for $69 later that summer in 1974. I always remembered that dream, even though most dreams disappear in a few hours. Riding into Frostburg made me realize dreams do come true. I was tired today but at peace on the bike. This was just the start of many more strange experiences that would evolve during the Double Transcontinental.

As the support car went shopping for a new freewheel at a local bike shop, I just kept riding on Rt. 40. We were pretty relaxed about keeping the support crew near me and they would catch up to me later. I was by myself riding through town when my rear tire punctured with a loud pop. I inspected the tire and found a large piece of glass had made a one inch gash in my tire. There was no way to repair the tire with even a boot or new tube. In a way I was relieved. I would use this opportunity for a nap. I took off the wheel and laid my bike down near the residential sidewalk under the shade of maple tree. I was comfortable on the soft grass and maybe fell asleep for a few minutes. I was awoke by my support car stopping by the curb and yelling. They thought I had been hit by a car. I said I was fine and showed them the tire. We put on a spare wheel and I was riding again with new energy after my nap.

The crew had found a 13-26 freewheel and I changed wheels again. I wasn’t riding that strong and I needed the lower gears. It started to rain in the late afternoon. We entered Wheeling, West Virginia and splashed through the flooded streets. It was nearing sundown I was thinking about stopping for the night. All three of our support vehicles were waiting at a wide spot on the side of the road in a residential area. The owner of the house where we had stopped came out and said he had been expecting us. We had no idea who he was. He introduced himself as the president of the local Lion’s Club. He had heard about the Double Transcontinental Record from my local Harvard, Illinois Lion’s Club. I had given a bike talk to them about my plans and we were using the Record Attempt as a way to raise money for the National Lion’s Club eye glasses program. Wheeling is a big city and it was just by chance that we stopped front of the Lion Club’s President’s yard. We talked for 15 minutes and he gave us directions of an RV park in the area. I had only ridden 200 miles today from 6:00 AM to about 8:30 PM. I was really tired wanted to get out of my wet clothes and sleep in a dry bed tonight.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

My First Cross County Ride

I have been at PAC Tour Training Camp in Arizona the past five weeks. Many riders have been asking about training for the a cross country tour, or the Elite Tour or even RAAM. Thinking about what it takes to get ready to cross the country made me remember some of the training rides Susan and I used to do to prepare for transcontinental rides.

My first cross country ride was in June of 1981. To get ready I wasn’t just preparing for a coast to coast ride, but for a 6,000 mile adventure from New York City to Los Angeles and back to New York. The record was 36 days set by Victor Vincente in 1974. I was hoping to do it in 28 days. I was naive about what it took to cross the country. Being naive was probably a good thing. I would not have attempted the Double Transcontinental Record had I known what I was getting into.

I grew up in Illinois. I had been to Colorado, but not any further west than the Rocky Mountains and not any further east than Ohio. I visualized riding the mountains of Pennsylvania by training on the 50 foot high rolling hills near my home. Most of them could be climbed in 20 pedal stokes. I didn’t have any idea of what it took to climb a mountain for miles at a time at a 9 percent grade.

I started the Double Transcontinental from the New York City Hall at 3:00 AM. I rode through Harlem and remembered there was a song about a Rose from Spanish Harlem. That was all I knew about Harlem. I hummed the song as I rode out of Manhattan with a fair amount of excitement and anticipation about the next 6,000 miles.

Good bike lights were rare in 1981. I needed a bike light even though I had a support my Dodge Omni car following me. For a bike light I had a large plastic camping flashlight taped to my top tube that used six D-cell batteries. Within a few blocks from the start of the ride I hit a manhole cover. The lens popped off the headlight and all the batteries spilled on the street. Within two seconds I could hear the crunch of the support car tires smashing the lens and batteries to pieces. So much for having a headlight.

I rode for about an hour through Brooklyn and came to the Varazano Bridge crossing into Staten Island. It was still plenty dark when I reached the start of the bridge. I could not ride my bike on the bridge because of the six foot wide expansion joints. My support car said they would meet me on the other side of the bridge and I could walk on the sidewalk. The Varazano Bridge is a huge mile long bridge over the New York Bay similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransico. I started walking and pushing my bike along the guardrail. I would have ridden on the sidewalk but it was really dark and I wasn’t sure what other curbs and joints were hidden in the shadows. I missed my big camping headlight. A few homeless people slept under the massive towers and beams and didn’t notice me walking by. I remember looking at the lights of city and oil refineries in the distance. It was really a beautiful night for a walk. I thought how strange it was to start a 6,000 mile bike ride with a 20 minute hike.

Finally I arrived on the other side of the bridge in Staten Island. I met my support car and we continued into New Jersey. The sky was getting lighter as we headed into the first of the eastern hills. I was riding my bike with 13-21 six speed Suntour freewheel and 52 tooth single front chainring. This was my favorite bike back home in flat Illinois. I had ridden it on a sub nine hour double century a few weeks earlier. It wasn’t so fast in the hills of New Jersey. I remember stalling out on one of the first of many climbs that day. I had a spare TREK bike on the support van roof with 42-52 chainrings and 13-21 freewheel. I got on the TREK and rode all the mountains in a 42 x 21 low gear. I was learning what mountain grades really were. I asked the crew to go to a bike shop and buy some lower gear freewheels with a 13-26 combination.

I made pretty good time riding through Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. By the end of the first day I had ridden 275 miles before sundown. Our motor home went to a campground to park for the night. I ate dinner in the RV and went to bed. I would start riding again at sunrise. It never occurred to me our our crew to ride into the night. We were all naive about lay ahead for the next 5,700 miles.

To be continued....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No Shoe Pain

Some riders have asked me how or why I have evolved into moving my cleats further back on my shoes. Here is the story....

It is interesting it has taken riders 20 years to start believing that moving the cleats back will help hot foot without sacrificing power. In the 1986 RAAM my feet were so pounded during the middle of the race I needed to get off my bike and walk at times. After 2,000 miles I arrived in Memphis and had my crew go and buy some BMX platform pedals. I put on my tennis shoes and my natural pain free foot position was pedaling on my arch. At that point in the race I didn’t go any faster but I was much more comfortable.

The next year Pete Penseyres and I were training for the Tandem Transcontinental. I started to feel the affects of hot foot returning as the training miles reached 300, 400, 600, 800 miles per week. I knew I had to fix my shoe problem. Aerolite pedals were new on the market. It was easy to mount them with drywall screws installed from inside the shoe. On my first ride I remember that my feet were pain free for the first time in years. It took me a few tries to get used to clipping in the new position but it felt natural by the second day.

During our 6 months of training we were being tested by Randy Ice with VO2 Max tests. We were riding a crude Monark Ergometer and I could not use Aerolite pedals. During my January tests I used old style toe clips and straps. During my May tests I just rode on gym shoes on flat pedals and pedaled on the middle of my foot. My tests showed I was 10% more fit in May which should have been due to the training. However my watts of power did not decline from pedaling in the middle of my foot.

The real test came during the Tandem Record Ride. I was wearing old style $29 thin leather cycling shoes with leather soles. I had thin Odor Eater pads inside the shoes. My feet felt great the entire ride averaging 383 miles per day. I am sure moving the cleats back 1 inch was the reason my feet felt better.

A side effect of moving the cleats back is that pedal float is not as important. I have had no knee problems the past 20 years even while riding my single speed bike across the country over fifteen times.

It is also common to have hot spots on the bunion sides of your toes. It is okay to cut small vertical slashes in your shoes similar to fish gills. Usually 3-4 slashes 1/4 inch apart over the pressure point will allow the shoe to flex enough to avoid the pain.

Also make sure your shoes are big enough. For example: Going from a size 44 to a size 45 for hot weather helps the swelling problem.

Also bring 2 pair of your favorite shoes but of different brands. Change them everyday even if they feel fine. The pressure points will be slightly different between the two pairs and that will help the inflamed areas to recover on the off days. Bicycling doesn’t have to hurt. My motto on long rides is “No Pain, No Pain”.

Heat Training

Heat Training for the Elite Tour
by Lon Haldeman

Since most Elite Tour rider are either riding indoor trainers or shivering though freezing outdoor rides it is hard to imagine ever being hot on a bike ride again. During the months and weeks before the Elite Tour one of the biggest factors of completing the Elite Tour will be the ability to ride in the heat. During the Elite Tour it will not just be hot during the desert. It could be burning hot and humid all the way to Savannah. During our last 1999 Elite Tour in July everyday topped 100 degrees. The only relief came from a series of rain showers in Tennessee when the cool drizzle increased everyone’s speed by 2-3 mph.

1. What is “Heat”?
I define “Heat” as any temperature 20 degrees warmer than what you are used to. I’ve seen riders come to Arizona Desert Camp from Boston in February and have trouble riding in the heat when it is only 75 degrees. If you have been training in 90 degree temperatures, then 110 degrees will feel hot.

2. How can you prepare for the “Heat”.
Your body is very adaptable if you give it time to adjust. Every hour you will be riding in the heat takes about one day of acclimation. That means you should only add about one additional hour of “Heat” riding per day if you want to avoid side effects.

3. How long does it take to acclimate?
In order to ride hard across the desert the first day of RAAM riders need at simulate those conditions for at least one week. Each day of training should include an extra hour in the heat. Additional training miles should be done for three hours at sunrise or sunset.

4. What if I don’t live where it is hot?
You can similar hot conditions in your training. Riding a trainer outside on a sunny 80 degree day without a fan will raise your core temperature to desert conditions. Remember to drink and use electrolytes. Do not dehydrate or over hydrate yourself. Just before RAAM 1985 Jonathan Boyer regularly trained with tights and long sleeve wool jerseys when everyone else was wearing shorts.

5. How do I know how much to drink?
Good question. Your body will change and adapt during days in the heat. That is why you need to acclimate gradually for at least one week. The concentration of salt will change in your sweat from cool to hot conditions. Do you have salt stains on your shorts some days and not on other days? Always train with an available fluid source and some electrolyte tablets and salty foods. Monitor how much of each you are taking. Adjust your intake ratio for the best results. This is an individual ratio that will change with heat and fitness.

6. Why does the Elite Tour only ride 128 miles the first day?
The first day from San Diego to El Centro is not an easy ride. Many PAC our riders have had heat problems during this section. They feel great the first 100 miles in the mountains and fall apart the final 28 miles across the low desert. Elite Tour riders should use this day to acclimate. Ride at an conversation pace. Get your fluid and eating routine adjusted. This should be at least an 8-9 hour ride for all riders. Get an afternoon shower and nap in a cool room at the motel. Have a good dinner (not pigging out). Allow time for a full night’s sleep. Every day of the Elite Tour should be treated as a recovery ride. If you are going to complete this ride you need to being recovering everyday.

Keep focused and stay healthy. More training hints will posted in the month ahead.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stolen Bikes...part 2

It has now been three weeks since our bikes were stolen. We had a few leads about who we thought the small white pick up truck belonged to. When we passed this information on to the local police their reaction was “oh they wouldn’t do anything like that”. The police were not interested in pursuing any of our suspicions. So basically our bikes are still missing and considered gone for good. This is a bad way to end the story.

My next step is deciding how to replace my Team PAC Tour bike with something of similar quality. There are lots of nice bikes on the market now that would work well and cost less than $2,000. I will let you know what I find as a good replacememnt bike.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stolen Bikes

PAC Tour arrived in Tucson, Arizona to begin seven weeks of tours and camps. Our two Ford vans and with their new 18 foot mechanic’s and cooking trailers were ready to go. It was good to be back in Arizona for our 12th year of early season training.

The first week of Camp was our Low Desert Tour. This tour wou;d head northwest from Tucson for six days and 500 miles through the towns of Casa Grande, Gila Bend to Wickenburg and back. There would be 28 riders and crew members riding and working together during this week.

Our base hotel in Tucson is the Country Inn and Suites located about a half mile north of the airport. This is the perfect place to begin our tours because of the easy access to the airport and good parking for our larger vehicles. The staff at the Country Inn is always accommodating to the quirky requests that 25-70 cyclists require when preparing for a tour.

All the riders arrived on Saturday to prepare for our tour which began early Sunday morning. The Country Inn Hotel provided our preride breakfast at 6:00 AM with waffles, oatmeal, cereal, muffins and other early morning snacks. Everything was going on schedule and the riders were anxious to begin the tour. The riders were supposed to bring their bicycles and gearbags to the trailer for loading at 7:00 AM.

At 6:10 AM I left my room and carried my laptop computer case and breifcase out to my van and trailer parked in the back of the hotel. One van and trailer was parked near the hotel and the other van and trailer was parked on the far side of the driveway. As I walked behind the trailers and across the driveway I noticed a small new white pick-up truck parked 20 feet ahead of the vans. The pick-up truck had an 24 inch amber warning light bar on the roof. It looked like a security vehicle that the police at the shopping mall might use. I notice a man walking from the back of the truck, then getting in the open door on the driver’s side.

Gee was nice that the security guards are patrolling our hotel parking lot I thought. As the pick-up truck drove away I could see the front wheel of a thin 20 inch bicycle wheel poking into the air. Why did the truck have a bicycle in the back? Something didn’t seem right. I better get a better look. I set down my computer and breifcase on the driveway and ran around to the front of the hotel. The pick-up had already headed out the driveway and away from the airport and hotel. The roads were quite on this Sunday morning as the truck sped away.

I walked into the breakfast area at the hotel. “Did anyone take their bike outside yet” I asked. No one had been outside yet. “That’s good” I said. “I just saw a pick-up truck drive away with a bike in the back”. “Glad it wasn’t ours”.

I few minutes later my wife Susan came in from outside. The lock on the back of her lunch trailer had been cut with a bolt cutters. Her red RRB bicycle and her friend’s Bike Friday were missing from the trailer. Our hearts sunk as the reality of what just happened sank in. The 20 inch front wheel I saw in the back of the white pick-up was the Bike Friday laying on top of Susan’s bike. I had missed seeing the man stealing the bikes from the back of our trailer by less that 30 seconds.

Susan’s bike was really my old 1982 RAAM bike. It has a nice custom steal frame that had been modernized with Shimano Ultegra 9 speed parts. It was a nice bike but probably more valuable as the first bike to win the first Great American Bike Race (pre RAAM name) and the first bicycle to ever be ridden across the United States in under 10 days. The Bike Friday was Debby Henning’s new custom bike that she had bought a few month ago and was especially proud of the way it fit her.

I tried to remember everything I had just seen. The small white, new, pick-up truck. The amber lights on top. The security guard appearance of the man. I didn’t get a license number for the truck or a good look at the man’s face. I did notice the man was abou 5 foot 9 inches tall and weighed about 150 pounds. Somehow the truck looked familiar from the day before. Then I remembered a similar truck circling though the parking lot on Saturday as the riders were assembling their bikes. I remember the white truck and the amber lights. I remembered a logo on the door. I couldn’t remember what it said for sure.

Dave is the manager at the Country Inn and Suites. He was upset about the robbery and called the Tucson Police. About 30 minutes later a woman officer arrived to investigate the break-in. She dusted for finger prints on the back door of the trailer. I told her everything I remembered about the truck and timing of the break-in. Dave had a hunch that the truck could be parked at a different hotel in the area. It was now after 7:00 AM. Most of the cyclists had already started riding. I needed to leave with our vans and get to the first reststop and start the tour. Dave got in his car and started driving through the parking lots of the seven hotels near the airport.

The next day I called Dave and asked him if he knew anything else about the bikes. Near the other hotels he hadn’t seen any small white pick-up trucks that matched my description of the truck. As Dave circled past the airport he did noticed a parked white pick-up truck with a 24 inch amber light on top. Dave took some photos of the truck from various angles. There were no bikes in the back of the truck.

That jogged my memory of the truck I saw driving through the parking lot on Saturday. The back of the pick-up was about 4 feet by 6 feet and big enough for a full size bike to lay flat. A Bike Friday stacked on top had to be sticking above the sides of the truck. I told Dave I was certain that was the same type of truck I saw driving away Sunday morning at 6:10 AM with the little 20 inch wheel in the air.

Dave called the Tucson Police to report what he had seen and the confirmation that I though this was the same truck I saw. A detective had been assigned to the case.

To be continued.......