Saturday, March 15, 2008

Birthday Celebartion of LIFE

Bday ride March 15th.
The weather report was calling for heavy rains and thunderstorms starting potentially as early as 11 am. With that information a call (email) went out to all riders that the start for Saturdays ride would be very early. The ride was scheduled for 7am coffee and 7:15 start. The distance was planned for 56 to 58 miles. The objective was to ride no less than 56 miles with each mile representing one year of life for the Birthday boy. What a way to party.

A Brief History of Kevin’s Birthday Celebrations of the past.

(you may skip this section and go directly to the ride write-up below this History lesson).

Kevin Smit has been celebrating his birthdays each year with a selfish challenge to run or bike his age in miles on his birthday. This tradition started in 1987 on Kevin’s 35th birthday. On that day he ran 35 miles to celebrate 35 years of life. He told himself that he wanted to continue this tradition as long as he could. To make this challenge one that could last through the ages he designed the goal with a 24 hour time limit, and the ability to break the run into stages. This also supported the idea of always doing the run on his Birthday even when it would fall on a workday. In the early years he was able to start his run during the warmer daylight hours with brief rest stops for food, water, beer, and fresh sox and change of running shoes. As the years turned into decades Kevin found himself planning his run by staging/hiding water and changes of cloths along his routes. He also shifted his start closer and closer to the early mornings with some of them beginning at 12:01 am due to full workday schedules. This method of celebration became a driving force that kept Kevin focused on running and training with several individuals over the years joining him on the adventure.
On his 40th Birthday (still living in San Diego) Kevin had plotted his route to include the coast line of Southern California from Camp Pendleton at the start to a full lap of Mission Bay at the end. This route was to be a continuous run with brief stops to hydrate and change into fresh running cloths. He had also included in the middle of the run the objective of joining the San Diego Hash House Harriers for their scheduled afternoon run. Kevin and his family were all members of this “drinking club that had a running problem”. Kevin was at that time one of the older - seasoned runners with close to 400 runs with the group. Hash House Harriers can be found in most cities in the world and once a Hasher always a Hasher. As you travel the globe you will likely find a Hash that has a scheduled run and all Hashers are always invited as guests. To that point, Kevin and Theresa ran with the Paris Hash through the forests of Fountain Blue when visiting France many years ago. Being a member of the Hash makes you a Member of an extended family made up of some wonderful people.
On his 40th Bday run Kevin was pleasantly surprised when he was met at the start of his run by several Hashers who were there to run a leg of his route with him. As the day unfolded more Hashers joined in providing Kevin with at least 2 or 3 other runners who would run a section and drop out as others joined in. Kevin learned that Theresa had put the word out about his planned celebration and challenged the Hash to form a relay to provide fresh runners for his journey. At the end of this fabulous day Kevin was allowed to recover as other members of the Hash put him into a wheel chair and carted him to a restaurant where a large contingency of the Hash waited to roast him on this special day.
Kevin continued this tradition even having moved from the ideal training grounds of San Diego to the more seasonally challenge area of Cary NC. The last time Kevin ran his age on his Birthday was 9 years ago. On that day he turned 47 and ran 50 miles. Just like on his 40th the Hash (Sir Walter Raleigh Hash House Harriers) was there to run sections of the run with him concluding with a full on party as only Hashers can do. After many DOWN DOWNs Kevin was fully rehydrated with fluids that also replenished electrolytes and produced a buzz at the same time.
No clear understanding yet why the tradition suddenly stopped. Kevin rationalizes in his own head that work and life got in the way of staying focused on self and fun. After 4 years of getting older, fatter, slower, grumpier, and uglier Kevin decided to refocus his attention on being selfish, invest some time on himself and slowly get back in shape by biking. (Biking was something he and Theresa did starting in the late 70’s when living in Iowa. The two of them would ride across the state on a week long journey of camping and pedaling along with 10,000 other cyclists. They continued biking while living in San Diego. They would bike (mountain bike and road bike) just as much as they would run). Biking would also allow Kevin to lose some extra (many extra) pounds before he would consider pounding his knees on a run. Spurred on by this sudden change Theresa bought Kevin a new Mountain Bike for his 50th birthday. Kevin was back in the saddle but not yet on the roads of NC. Not fully committed yet to getting in shape Kevin struggled with taking the time to ride, but did enjoy the few evenings and weekends he took on the mountain bike. Two years of pretending to be serious about changing life style back towards fun and fitness Life took a sudden nose dive on April 12th of 2004. On that terrible day The Smits came home from work to learn that their youngest son had been killed in an automobile accident.
Together Theresa and Kevin have worked to recover from that earth shattering ordeal. They both recognize that they will never fully recover and every day is a call to them to do something that “Makes A Difference”. They also have come to realize that “Making a Difference” starts with oneself. Time to re-invest in self to get to a better place were then one can “Make a Difference” beyond self. Since 2004 they have had several false starts and each time they seem to sustain the investment and focus a little longer and with a little more intensity and FUN. They have come to thoroughly enjoy the weekend rides with those who share their Saturday and Sunday Mornings as either a member of the Testosterone Riders or the Smell the Roses Riders. By his 55th Birthday Kevin had worked himself back into condition mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically to CELEBRATE LIFE with his selfish Birthday ritual. The difference now is he is riding his age in miles on his road bike rather than running his age on that day. Secretively he maybe slowly working himself back into running shoes with an eye on his 60th birthday celebration. Stay tuned.

Back to the Days RIDE Write-up.

Joining Kevin on his Birthday Celebration ride where:
Christy (Pink Tri-athlete), and Jon (birthday boy March 16th) Majikes.
Also there in spirit were Theresa Smit, Kiehl Smit, and Kassel Smit.
Theresa was in California on a business trip and to watch their oldest son perform improv and play Base as a member of the “Mighty Regis” – Irish Punk band.
And Kassel their youngest son was making sure the weather cooperated for his Dad’s ride on that day as he looked down from Heaven.

The days ride was shaping up to be beautiful from the start. The day already was sunny, calm, and cool.

It was great to see Jon on his bike.

We had not seen nor heard from him all winter and were starting to worry about him. Jon is not just Celebrating 47 years of life he is also celebrating 2 yrs of his second LIFE. Jon has been a cancer survivor now for 2 years. He has a survivors spirit and has challenged himself to “Make a Difference” in several ways. One of those is to raise money for Diabetes research. In that effort he plans to organize a fund raiser with a ride across the US. His route will take him from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada rather than the traditional California to New York route. He is targeting to accomplish this in 2009. He plans on using 2008 as his training period. We will ask Jon to keep us all informed on how his training and fund raising efforts are going and to learn how we can help/participate.

Christy was ready to ride as always especially having been off the bike for a while as she recovered from emergency dental surgery. Don’t we sound like the old and failing aged folks we are.
Christy is also in her last 4 weeks of training for the Tempi Arizona Ironman event April 13th. You Go GIRL.

The days route had been carefully planned out in the tradition of Kevin’s Bday Celebrations of the past. The objective was to ride 56 miles with just a little extra to grow on. Kevin also wanted to provide some new roads for the group to ride on to help spice up the days ride. The route had the pack of three headed out of Brugers traveling on Cary Parkway with a cut through neighborhoods to arrive on Maynard. A turn on High House had the group traveling down the hill and again past the parking lot at Brugers. This short do loop was needed to ensure the extra miles to grow on as part of the traditional millage goal. The route can be reviewed by clicking on the link below.

The first 20 miles were on lightly traveled roads with contained rolling hills. Periods of silence were broken by longer periods to banter and chit chat with each rider taking turns dominating the conversations. Jon at one point early in the ride had been quite, silent (for him), and out of the blue he proudly announced “I have been pretty quite haven’t I !!”. “Yes Jon that is so unlike you, are you OK?” was Kevin’s reply. “No I just thought it would be fun to be quite for awhile” Jon sounded back. Christy had a look of confusion that required an explanation from Kevin. “Jon is very much like Steve Cope, only worse” Kevin explained. Christy immediately realized that someone else on the planet had the gift of gap besides Steve Cope. Again with great pride and joy Jon chimed in “Aren’t you glad I am not so talkative today?”. “No Jon your chit chat helps the miles melt by” Kevin retorted. The group continued with little concern for speed, the wind, the weather, or traffic. The objective was to enjoy the ride and Celebrate LIFE. This was especially easy today since the traffic was light, wind nonexistent, and temperatures ideal. The group also did not have to concern themselves with the speed because the heavy hammerers were not on the days ride.
A short stop at the filling station on Highway 64 and Farrington road allowed for bio breaks, a short nibble on a granola bar, and water bottles topped off. Back on the road with a strong run down Highway 64 over Lake Jordan Bridge to the right turn onto Big Woods.
Big Woods is a great section of light traffic and rolling hills. The road is broken up with patches of newly laid black top to repair construction traffic damage. During these sections of road Christy was cussing out her front fork, the bike, and bike shop, and the mechanics who worked on her bike. She was hearing popping noises and rattling noises coming from all sections of her high end expensive Tri- Bike.

“You get what you pay for” was the verbal jab poked at Christy by Kevin. Jon was busy trying to diagnose the origin of the noises emitted by the TRI-BIKE.
Maybe TRI-Bike is short for TRY AND RIDE IT. Or maybe TRI means Tough Riding It.
In any case it is a bike that costs lots of money and is uncomfortable and unstable to ride, and does not come with water bottles, those you have to mount in locations that are hard to reach (behind the seat).
Needless to say the group had great fun picking on Christy and her Rattling TRI-Bike. Within a short time the group found themselves on Farrington road and the familiar run towards home. A left turn found the riders transitioning from the smooth black top of Farrington to the vibrations supplied by the textured black top of Horton Pond.
Again the TRI-Bike began to sing “Ping, clang, Pop, rattle, rattle”. The tune reminded Kevin of the old 50’s song “UH EH UH AH AH Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang” or something like that. Over the rolling hills of Horton Pond the riders traveled with little interruption from the outside world accept for the signing of the TRI-Bike and one young driver who raced past as if to say “This is my ROAD”.
A quick right turn onto 751 and a slow roll into the left turn onto Luther allowing a line of cars to pass as the riders timed the turn. The riders found themselves again comforted by the smooth black top and the fast downhill as they past the pond with fishing hut.

“WOW that is COOL” Christy was heard to saw as she zoomed past that last land mark. These are roads not yet traveled by Christy, who like all good Tri-athletes fall into a simple pattern of biking, running and swimming the same routines and routes every time (no time to explore JUST TRAiN).
A right turn onto Green Level and the short run towards the two hills and a left onto White Oak. Once on White Oak the group slowed the pace to relax from the two quick hills they had attacked, and to prepare for the next slow climb to the end of White Oak. The noise on the Tri-Bike was no longer an issue, maybe the problem resolved itself? Past the parking lot for the Tobacco Trail and at the start of the downhill there came a new louder deeper rubbing noise from the TRI-Bike.

Looking Back Kevin saw Christy looking between her legs towards the rear of the bike, Jon was already slowing to dismount his bike to rescue Christy from the EVIL POSESED TRI-Bike that now sounded like the voice of the DEVIL.
Christy deftly brought the monster bike to a stop. Kevin had already turned uphill and was along side with Jon off of his bike and reaching towards the rear of the TRI-BIKE.

“Here is your problem” announced Jon as he worked to dislodge the Water Bottle cage from between the spokes and the chain stays.

Christies Rapid response in stopping the bike prevented a catastrophe from unfolding. Just as she was poised to speed downhill she managed to halt the bike get her cleats out of the peddles, all at the first sound of the DEVILS Voice.

Imagine what the outcome could have been had she continued for and instant more as the water bottle cage caught the rear spokes locking up the rear end.
“You Get What YOU PAY FOR” Kevin was again poking Christy with a verbal stick.

Everyone took time to ponder what happened, what could have happened, and how glad they were to find themselves making fun of the situation. “What do we do with this”? asked Christy holding the nonfunctional water bottle cages in her hand.
Jon quickly snatched the cage and started to find room in his camel back water pouch. “Put the water bottle and repair kit in your empty water bottle cages Jon” Kevin suggested.
With that Jon took the items out of the broken cage and moved them to his bike. He then used the front strap of his camel Back water pouch to secure the broken remnants, for the ride to the finish.
Jon the Pack MULE. He has the water bottle cage strapped to his chest.

Christy Glad to be alive and thanking Jon for his willingness to haul her debris home.

The group now had even more fuel for the fodder. The rest of the ride was totally uneventful after hearing the Devils voice come thru the TRI-BIKE. The group finished the route by riding upchuck in the reverse direction. They also found themselves pulling off the side of the road to let a Fire Truck pass between them and a car that had turned into the Fire Truck and then stop in the middle of the road.
Have you ever heard a fireman cuss at a driver over the sound of the siren and his air horn?
These riders have.

On into the finish with ease and a great sense of accomplishment. Lots to share about the ride and the TRI-BIKE from HELL. The ride ended at 58 miles at an average of 14.5 mph with stops to exorcise the TRI-BIKE.
Thanks for all who participated in the Celebration of Life and to those of you who took the time to read about it. Until next year ride safe ride often.
Happy Birthday Jon and Kevin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Thursday afternoon ride - in the mountains

Mountain roads.
March 13th Boone NC.
Temps are in the mid 60s and wind is variable.
Sun is shining time to go for a bike ride.

Kevin Smit loaded his road bike into the back of the van and drove down the steep winding road, from the house he was staying in, to the bottom of the hill to begin his short ride on the roads around Boone NC.
The route he chose was one he and Theresa had accomplished twice before on their mountain bikes. Those bikes have the gears for long steep climbs. Today Kevin was attempting the ride on his road bike. The gear selection is great for long pulls on flat roads but not so dynamic for mountain roads. Kevin did not need leg warmers or arm warmers as the temperature at the start of the ride was well into the 60s.
Kevin headed out with a quick turn onto highway 105 towards ASU and Boone. This is a busy road but with the downhill slop Kevin was able to mix into the traffic flow easily. A right turn off of 105 put Kevin on service roads that wound around and behind the major shopping areas were all of Boone shops at the Lowes and Walmart. Kevin had little traffic to contend with on this service road that slowly climbed and then fell dumping him onto Highway 301 heading towards Blowing Rock. The first short climb of the day, as cars and dump trucks whizzed past. Lots of loose gravel, dirt, and the remains from salt trucks packed the side of the road were Kevin was forced to ride. After a short distance of about a mile Kevin left the busy highway by turning right onto a paved mountain road that will take him up and over the ski areas and connect onto the blue ridge parkway at the same spot were Highway 301 would have taken him if he continued on that busy highway.
This chosen route is far more scenic, challenging, and less traveled by cars and trucks. Kevin was already winded by the short climb on 301 and knew that the challenge ahead covered several miles of slow steady climbing. The road started off by swooping down into a small valley alongside a mountain stream. Crossing over a single lane bridge eliminated any momentum generated by the downhill run. On the other side of the bridge loomed the long climb with curves that hid the top of the climb from the riders view.

Nothing to do now but sit back on the seat, drop the heals, grab the bars, and slowly grind on up using upper body as well as legs to make headway. No point in standing since the crest of the hill was such a long way away. All the rider could hear was the wheezing generated by lungs straining to draw any extra oxygen through nose and mouth followed by a loud rush of carbon dioxide being exchanged for another attempt at oxygen consumption. 2/3rds of the way to the top of this climb the road made a sharp left turn.
Here the rider stopped at the only level spot of the climb. This stop was needed to bring the heart rate and breathing pattern out of a rhythm that could have been mistaken for spasms. A long draw of water from the water bottle followed by several more as the rider contemplated the idea of turning down hill and reversing his path to call it a day.
Once the heart rate had fallen below Maximum and into the target zone the rider returned the water bottle to its location in the cage. Then with a quick glance to ensure no traffic the rider pushed off and began the ritual of peddling with one leg while fumbling with the other to locate and then clip into the peddle. This was particularly challenging considering the extra wobbling generated by the slow speed as the rider headed on further up hill. This last 1/3 of the climb slowly decreased its angle of attack allowing the rider to shift into higher gears. Once at the top the rider again stopped for a short water break and to look down onto the Skiers as they dismounted from the ski lifts and began their downhill runs. Here was a great opportunity for a picture. Kevin pulled out his cell phone and placed it into camera mode and clicked off two pictures of the ski runs.

Back on the bike Kevin found himself within a couple of revolutions of the pedals headed down hill on a road called Flattop (Not very Flat- but it was near the top).This road traveled down the hilltop above the Tweetsie Rail Road theme park, ultimately connecting up finally with the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The rider hit speeds of 38 miles an hour while navigating gingerly through curves that had sand and old salt debris from previous snow removals. Left turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway had the rider again facing a long steady climb towards the Moses Cone Park and homestead. The traffic was light with a maximum speed on the parkway of 45 miles per hour meant that most cars were happy to wait if needed before passing. Once at the Moses Cone homestead/museum the road again provided a swift ride down towards the intersection with highway 221 headed for Blowing Rock.
Kevin took this turn and then an immediate right turn onto another mountain road that would provide for less traffic and great scenery. Scenery translates always into HILLS. Left turn again with the onset of another climb. This one is not as long but is just as steep.
Over the top of the climb put the rider onto curving narrow level ground that wound along the edge of the mountain tops. Many of the curves were tight enough to warrant signs warning cars to slow to 15 mph. One curve had a convex mirror on a pole to allow drivers to see around the bend to oncoming traffic.

Several cabins lined the edge of the road with just enough shoulder for the cars to park on as their driveway, the rest of the house stuck out over the edge of the mountain supported by stilts that reached down for a sampling of slopped earth. This section of the ride was worth all the climbs to get there and the one last major climb that still lay ahead. Kevin saw only two vehicles on this stretch of the ride as he swung around the curves and tucked in tight on the downhill runs. Kevin relaxed as best he could in an effort to recover as much as possible before the last and most difficult climb of the ride. Down the last dip with enough momentum to get to the sharp right hand turn that signaled the last climb of the day. In preparation Kevin had already shifted to 3 rd gear hoping he would not have to shift to any lower gears.

The bike Kevin was riding has had over 2,800 miles of riding and has never been challenged to get into granny gear. Kevin’s goal was to keep that record clean. 2nd gear and no lower was the objective. Still in 3rd gear the bike and its rider made that sharp right hand turn just as all the momentum from the previous dip and rise had dissolved. A wall of blacktop met the bike and rider head on.
Up out of the saddle the rider leaned forward over the handle bars. Legs slowly turning the bike being thrown from side to side the handle bars being pulled on so hard the front wheel was losing traction with the pavement. Push down with the left leg, pull up on the cleats with the right leg. Momentum getting dangerously low.
Shift! 2nd gear did nothing to change the situation…….. SHIFT! First gear now allowed for a slightly higher cadence resulting in a slight surge forward. Rider slumps back into the saddle, heals down, arms pulling on the handle bars, a slow methodic rotation of the crank shaft as the chain rolled over the cogs of the largest chain ring on the rear cluster of the bike.

Each chain link could be counted as they slowly rounded their way up and over that first gear. The record has been broken. The bike now has had all gears utilized in its short life of just under 3,000 miles. Time for a new bike. ;-) Or maybe a stronger rider. On and on the climb continued.
About half way through the climb the grade reduced in degrees allowing the rider to find 2nd gear and then third, only to be challenged again to work back to first gear. On and on the climb continued with spurts were the rider would climb out of the saddle in an effort to coax the bike into a short lived surge. 4 mph was the maximum speed on this climb.
The rider spent 1/4th of the days time on the ride on this last climb. Just as suddenly as this climb impacted the skills of this rider and his bike the climb transitioned into a long sweeping downhill that lasted for miles at speeds of 38 to 40 mph. WAHOO. The wind generated by the downhill speeds produced tears in the rider’s eyes rider, and the wind generated a deafening nose in the rider’s ears. Cars following along behind had no need to pass as they and the rider were in perfect harmony through the mountain curves and long downhill run. Back to Highway 105 and after a left turn followed by a short run downhill the rider finds himself gliding to a stop alongside his parked vehicle. A great challenge, a record setting (granny gear) day, a warm sunny 17 miles at a blistering 11 mph average. This average had sections of the ride were the bike and rider hit speeds of 33 to 38 miles an hour over several mile + long downhill stretches

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Day Light Savings Time rides.

Lots of day light was saved on this weekend.
Saturdays ride was rained out.

Sunday the only rider to show up was Steve Cope.

Steve called Kevin and Theresa Smit to find that they elected to sleep in.
Steve then decided to join the BIG BOYS on the Bike Shop ride.
He was pleased to learn they planed to ride about 35 miles. This is a normal distance for early season rides for the Testosterone riders which Steve is a Charter Member of. Steve rode the route drafting near the rear of the pack. He did not attempt any of his usually tactics of attacking on the hills. We later learned that he and several others near the back of the pack were dropped by the intense pace generated by the stronger riders.
A humbleing expreiance for Steve to be sure.
This so devistated him that he has found many excuses to miss all other rides since.
Maybe we will see him soon on a ride, and maybe we will see a new gentler Steve Cope.