Thursday, December 12, 2019

Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.

I'm no Jedi.  I'm just a person that signed up for a challenge, and I'm hoping this adventure includes lots of excitement.  See what I did there?

In fact, I signed up for the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial before I fully understood what I was getting myself into. 

It was basically me just talking to myself.  A lot like this...

"Wanna ride a bike across Florida?"

Things haves changed just a bit though since I first posted about doing this "adventure."  Originally, the route was around 250 miles and included a ferry ride across the Saint Johns River.  I was really looking forward to that part, since I've spent time on the river up around there but have never been on the ferry.  Anyway, some hurricane damage from a few years ago still hasn't been completed, so now the route is 300 miles.

Map pic

So, instead of cross the river on a little barge, I get to take a detour up to Palatka and ride across on a big bridge (meant for cars.)  Other than that though, the detour looks pretty fun.  And besides, what's a few more miles?

Who gives a shit.

You can have a perfect bike, be super fit, but something could come along... weather, wildlife, mechanical issues, or some shit that could derail any semblance of a plan you had.  That's where things like this test a person's will and mental state.  That's the main reason I'm doing this.  I wanted to accomplish something incredible (for me).

I hit the road for Florida later today.  I will spend tomorrow getting my vehicle over to the finish on the west coast.  Saturday at sunrise, I roll out of New Smyrna Beach and head west towards the Gulf of Mexico.

You can follow along here:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

It's The Final Countdown

Over the weekend I wanted to take one final shakedown ride to make sure everything is ready to go for the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial.  Although I'm pretty confident that my gear is ready, I wanted to make sure my mind and body were ready too.  I planned a short-ish route of about 45 miles that would make me at least feel like I did something.  That's not much mileage compared to what I am trying to do this weekend, but it would have to do.  Besides, it's not like I can get into any better shape at this point.

When planning my route, I found out that I've started to get bored with my usual treks from the house.  So this time I did something completely different from my normal stuff.  I headed north towards the Lake Norman area, specifically to my favorite bike shop, The Cycle Path.  The goal was to get there in time to watch the annual Christmas parade (as it is tradition now) but also to get in a fair amount of singletrack to make sure shit doesn't fall off of my bike while I'm riding on the rough stuff.  And to make extra sure of that, I wanted to get as much off-road riding as possible.

I planned my route without a ton of certainty, hoping that the cut-throughs I saw on the satellite view were ride-able.  I was rewarded more often than not.

As usual, I had to ride on a few roads, but I tried my best to keep that to a minimum.  Cutting through neighborhoods happened quite a bit, but in one instance it led me directly into one of our local trails.

The trail was fun.  I hadn't been to that one in quite some time, so even though it was once very familiar to me it felt like a new trail that day.  Once I made my way through the singletrack to the exit, I realized that I did a pretty damn fine job with the whole weight distribution thing.  Handling was great, even with me carrying a ton of extra shit attached to my bike.  I patted myself on the back and kept rolling.

I reached the bike shop (after stopping to grab some foodz) and sat for a while, enjoying the parade and talking to my friends that were there.  It was nice sharing with them my plans for Florida (hey, they asked first) and also just to spend time with good people.  Eventually I had to roll out because I had non-bike plans later, so I hit the road.  I didn't plan the return route at all though, instead deciding to just "wing it."  I found a new (to me) greenway and and enjoyed the shit out of it.

Even though I never bothered to check a map to see where this thing would put me out, I didn't care because I was having fun,  It was pretty back there and I had the place mostly to myself.

The greenway eventually ended and I popped out into familiar surroundings.  From there I just retraced my steps home and rolled in feeling pretty confident that I am ready for the big adventure. 

My dog Carl though, was full of judgement for some reason.

I think he was pissed that I was gone all day.  Wait until he figures out that I'll be gone for ten days.

Yup, I'm as ready as I can be for CFITT.  Equipment, fitness, and attitude.  I'm going down there to have fun, see some backcountry Florida, and push myself beyond my norm.  There's no turning back now. 

I head south tomorrow.  It's indeed the final countdown. 

I should be back here one more time before I hit the road.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

I'd Forgotten A Few Things

Just as I was starting to feel good about the amount and style of riding I'd been doing over the last few months to get ready for the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial, I got a touch of anxiety again when I realized that I had a little equipment maintenance to do.  You see, after taking a break from riding so much a few years ago I didn't have to do much of that for quite some time.  But since May I've been putting in quite a few miles and my bike (and other stuff) was starting to show signs of wear.

Two out of three of my mountain bikes are single speeds, which means of course that I don't have to worry about adjusting stupid gears and all that.  However, my geared bike is the one I selected for bikepacking (mostly because it was not really being utilized) and after riding it so much the past few months I needed to give it a little TLC. 

Adjusting the shifting used to be a pretty simple thing for me, but I'm sorta rusty and it took me a while to get everything just right.  I mean, I guess it's right.  Even though that bike has gears, I still ride it like a single speeder.  That usually means that don't shift until I remember that I actually have the means to do so on that particular bike.  It's a habit that I've been trying to break, and it will probably help tremendously on that long ride next weekend.  You know, to keep me from killing myself from pushing too hard.

The whole reason I even own that bike is because I was racing my single speed against geared riders and it became a disadvantage as the season went on.  It wasn't always that way, but on some of the flatter courses I had trouble keeping up because I couldn't spin fast enough.  So when I got on with Niner and the opportunity came to get a different bike just for racing, I took it.  It helped for sure, and probably does for this bikepacking stuff as well.  Anyway, since I started wandering the earth on that bike I'd wanted to change the tire configuration.  It was setup all racey, which meant (for me) that I had two different sized tires.  On the front I had a Maxxis Ikon 2.35 and the rear was the same tire but in the 2.0 size.  I kept saying I would replace the rear tire when it wore out but I never remembered to do it. 

Well, that's when the panic set in last night, because I went way past worn out...

That thing was pretty much bald and was quite possibly a safety hazard.  Luckily, I still have plenty of new tires in the shop here.

With three different mountain bikes and fewer rides (until I started on this adventure anyway) it had been a long time since I'd changed tires and set them up tubeless.  I did all the soapy water Stan's stuff and fought to get them seated, and finally got some new meats on my wheels.

29X2.35  all around now

I wanted to wait until I was closer to my Florida trip to do this, but even for me this was too close to last minute.  At least I will have time to get in a few rides before I head down there to make sure everything is good.  It's not like installing new tires in rocket surgery or anything, but it had been a while.  Panic for nothing I suppose.

Another item of neglect I found really has no excuse.  While I have several bicycles and rotate through them on rides (usually), I typically only use one pair of shoes.  And as a crankbrothers pedal guy (and still somehow supported by them), those soft brass cleats wear down pretty bad if you don't pay attention.  I knew they needed to be replaced, but I didn't realize that it was that bad.

Changing cleats on shoes is usually pretty damned easy.  In this case though it was a major pain in the ass.  I fought for more time than I'd like to admit getting those damned things off of my shoes but I finally did.  And, I managed to get the new ones on in precisely the same spot on my shoes.

That was pretty much it.  I realized bike maintenance is pretty boring (and even more boring having to read about someone else doing it), but it's necessary.  If you take only one thing away from all of this, remember that if you use those particular cleats then make sure you stay on top of them to make sure they aren't too worn out.  I realize a lot of you use other brands, but who gives a shit.

With my bike in proper working order I started to focus on my bikepacking gear.  For months now, I've been carrying a ton of shit on my bike.  This stuff was most likely crammed into a bag, never to be seen again even though I knew it was there.  Obviously I'd dig into these bags every once in a while (especially when I got my new tent) but for the most part I wasn't really sure if I had exactly what I needed.  In the back of my mind I was afraid to unpack most of it because I'd spent so much time trying to figure out where the good spots were for space and weight distribution. 

I decided to tackle that beast and unpack everything to see what kind of shit I'd been carrying around all this time.  Aside from actually removing the bags from the bike (that would be dumb) I laid everything out on the floor of the shop.

It wasn't as bad as I thought, but at least now I had a chance to go through my gear and make any last minute corrections.  I guess this is a good time to talk about what I have there, how I plan to use it, and where it goes on the bike. So, working from the top left of the photo moving across row by row (kinda), here goes...

Helmet and shoes.  Pretty important for a bike ride.  These items go on my head and feet, respectively.  Try to keep up here.

Wet weather gear, consisting of a rain jacket and pants.  If it rains (which happens a lot during Florida "Winters"), I'll be prepared.  If the forecast doesn't call for rain I'm bringing this stuff anyway.  It will still probably be cold down there, and since this gear is also windproof is can be used for extra warmth.  It's lightweight so I don't really notice it on the bike anyway.  I keep it on top of the seat bag, secured with the built-in bungee straps.

Tent.  If you've been following along, you know that I ditched the hammock in favor of a tent for several reasons.  I'm still happy with it, and it is stored in the seat bag.

Sleeping bag.  It might not look like a sleeping bag, but that's because I have it stored in a dry bag so, you know, it doesn't get wet.  It attaches to the handlebar roll/bag.

CamelBak.  I keep debating if I want to use this.  Over the last few years I'd weaned myself off of having a bag hanging on my back for most rides.  The exception was when I headed up to the hills, where hours in the saddle meant that I needed extra water.  I'm pretty sure this Florida adventure will require extra water, but for some reason I'm struggling with the idea of wearing a backpack.  I haven't used it for any of my bikepacking rides so far, but I'll test it out this weekend and decide from there.

Back on the left side...

Safety triangle.  So I'm more visible.  I'd like to not be dead so maybe this will help.  Safety first, bitch.  It attaches to the back of the seat bag.

Emergency sleepy bag/bivy.  In case it gets extra cold at night and my lightweight sleeping bag doesn't keep me warm enough, I can bust this out for extra insulation.  It's basically one of those emergency space blanket thingys, but in sleeping bag form (and a little thicker.)  It resides in the seat bag.

Inflatable camp pillow.  Um, it's a pillow.  For my head.  While I sleep.  It also resides in the seat bag.

Two water bottles.  For water.  Duh.  Since my frame bag takes up the space where the bottle cages go, these are in bottle bag things on the handlebars. 

Change of clothes.  I plan to ride for multiple days, so I'd like to not be in the same nasty shit the whole time.  There is a jersey, baggy shorts with liner, and a pair of bib shorts.  And of course a nice, warm pair of DeFeet socks.

Windproof gloves.  These are good for really cold weather, but also work well for any temps not above 70.  I have other gloves if it ends up being warmer than that, in which case these will go in my jersey pocket.

Assorted tools and stuff.  Chamois butter to keep my bum happy.  Battery packs to charge my phone.  Crankbrothers pump (attaches to frame and it's the shiznit), multi-tool, small roll of Gorilla Tape, two chain quick links, spare derailliuer hanger, zip ties, bottle of chain lube, spare shifter cable, tube patch kit, and of course, spare tube with tire levers and CO2.  There is another tube attached to the bike frame.

Garming eTrex20X.  This is my main source of navigation.  It has the course map and all the cues loaded on it.  I also have my Garmin 800 (not pictured) attached to the bike for backup. 

SPOT Tracker.  This is so you folks at home can follow along.  It will report my position so you can see my little dot cross the state along with everyone else.  Link will be shared soon.

Small first aid kit.  Just in case.  I don't have a spot on the bike for this, but I really want to bring it.  If I decide to rock the CamelBak, it will go in there.  I hope I don't need it, but it's probably a good idea to have.  It's not loaded like my trauma bag, but it will be good enough. 

And, other than a few assorted snacks, that's it.  It seems like a lot of shit, but once I put it out there in front of me I realized that it's not that bad.  I've gotten used to the weight over the last few months, so I shouldn't have any issues.  I definitely feel better now that I've taken an inventory.  It's all back on the bike now, ready for this weekend's adventure/final shakedown ride.

I'll be back next week of course.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Nothing Left To Do But Keep Pedaling

Next Thursday will be here before I know it.  That's when I leave for the Sunshine State, and two days after that I embark on what will be the biggest challenge I've even done on a bicycle.  Back in May when (out of the blue) I decided I was doing the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial I didn't realize how much effort I would have to put in just to get ready.  I mean, not only was I planning to ride more than twice as far as my longest distance ever, I also didn't know shit about bikepacking.  In the past six months though, I've sorta figured the bikepacking part out and I'm really enjoying it.  The distance part?  I guess we'll see.  I've done some pretty long rides with a fully loaded bike and all that, so I'm hoping a positive attitude can get me through my adventure.

Lately though, I've been a wreck.  As the day gets closer, I seem to suffer from more and more anxiety.  Although this is a "race" with many other people participating, it's really a personal challenge that I have to complete all by myself.  Each day I feel the anxiety growing, but I know as soon as I dip my rear wheel in the Atlantic Ocean and roll off the beach towards the west coast of Florida I'll settle in and be just fine. 

In addition to this event being the longest and most difficult bicycling adventure I've ever decided to do, it's also the most selfish.  Once I made my decision I had the full support of my friends and family but it has come at a price.  Over the last few months I've spent time alone on the bike to prepare, which has led to me missing time with those same friends and family.  This is MY race and I'm solely responsible for getting ready and being able to drag my ass across the state, but I sorta miss being social.   

That being said, I decided to do this for a few reasons...

First, I miss Florida.  The REAL Florida.  And what better way to see that part of the state than by bicycle, riding off the beaten path far away from most people and all the tourist-y shit that place is known for.  I plan to enjoy the scenery while I'm suffering, and seeing the Florida backcountry for three (or more) days should keep me motivated.

Second, I needed a challenge.  I was sort of bored with plain old mountain biking.  Riding alone with a fully loaded bike for a couple hundred miles and camping along the way seemed like a good way to switch it up.  It's been working so far.  I like being alone, and I've definitely been doing that a lot.

Third, who gives a shit.  Yeah, this will be a difficult challenge for me, but not everyone will see it that way.  My hardcore bike friends have done things way harder than this so it's probably not a big deal to them.  My non-bike friends?  They think the whole thing is crazy.  Maybe it is, but who gives a shit.  While I appreciate the support I've been given (and will hopefully continue to get), I don't have time for any negativity.

Did I miss anything?  Probably.  There are probably other reasons, but the simplest one is just that I want to see if I can do it (and of course have some fun along the way.) 

Anyway, I'm not sure where I was going with all that.  As the day approaches though, I'm still getting ready.  After turkey was consumed last Thursday, I planned a ride for the next day.  It was Black Friday, but that doesn't mean a damn thing to me.  While a lot of people were out shopping, I was outside all by myself.

It was sort of eerie.  Even the local greenways were pretty much empty.

I did one of my usual routes, but I added some extra adventure here and there.  I tried to take cut-throughs that weren't there and ended up spending a lot of time backtracking. 

Although I had a modest mileage goal of around fifty, the main objective was to spend at least 6 hours in the saddle.  It's too late to add any fitness at this point, but it's definitely not too late to keep my mental game sharp.

Riding on varied terrain helped a ton.

Like most of my local rides, I spend much of the time on greenways too.  Two in particular I rode to and from both ends.

About six hours in, I was only about ten miles from home.  I figured I would come close to my secondary goal (mileage-wise) but I felt like I could stand some more time in the saddle.  But then I felt like I should be social for some reason.  I don't know why that thought entered my head at that particular time, but I obeyed it and took a detour away from my house and headed towards The Spoke Easy to break up my "training."

It was worth it.

What's unique about this is that it's the first time since I started bikepacking that I've stopped for a beer.  In the past I would always wait until I got back home to reward myself.  Even the overnight trips I did were without beer.  I know, that's odd for me.  Who gives a shit.  I had a second beer, shot the shit with some friends I hadn't seen in forever, then hopped back on the bike towards home.

The beer stop was much needed.  On the way back home I was in a better place mentally (and not just because of the alcohol.)  I started to remember why I am riding bikes in the first place... for fun.  Damn all the stress, I'm here to have a good time.

When I got home I ended up with a little over seven hours of riding time (and yes that's minus the beer stop.)  I just stood in my garage thinking about what comes next and a sense of calm came over me...

Then I started looking at all the shit I still needed to do to get my equipment ready.  More on that tomorrow.

Yeah, I said tomorrow.  Two days of blogging in one week?  You betcha.