Monday, September 30, 2013

DAY 6 ride card

DAY 6 Summary

let's start with the good stuff....this was a 3 state day....good bye Mississippi....I was called honey, darling and sugar more times then one can imagine.....people friendly and polite....hello and goodbye to Alabama....a short but beautiful part of the Trace including the Tennessee River....hello Tennessee....already got a dose of the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.....more to come no doubt.....

rained very hard the first 60 miles.....not too bad the next 50....then mostly clouds with brief sunshine....pretty windy but it didn't hurt or help....just pushed me around a bit....coolest temp so far....

it seems every ride has a day that is an unexpected brute....this day was that....I miss calculated the miles....went Trace mile post 230 to mile post 370 for a 140 mile day....forgot to add 4 miles from the motel in Houston MS, the 10 miles to the motel in Waynesboro TN and  6 more going off the Trace for food and water....combine with rain and steeper longer rollers and there you go.....I had to dig deep today....

DAY 6 miles 160. Total miles 862

Alabama - Tennessee state line

crossing the Tennessee River


Tennessee Tom Waterway with Trace bridge above

DAY 6 morning

happy birthday to my son ya

I'm gonna get wet today....the forecast calls for pain and rain....

and to dave, my amigo in so cal...."no burn'in daylight " is right....looking forward to when we suffer side by side again....

DAY 6 Mon September 30th

Houston, MS to Waynesboro, TN

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

DAY 5 Summary

with a relatively long day ahead and a forecast of rain I was out the door at 5:30am....breakfast at waffle house on the way out of the time I got on the Trace daylight was beginning....

my timing was good to catch the sunrise at Ross was the only view of the sun for the day....but it never really rained either, just kept spitting on me all day....and temps never made past the mid 70's....good thing I had my sunscreen...

I just plowed through the day....stopped for water twice and then after 105 miles finally for a sit down Subway....the cooler temps felt good after 4 days of getting charred....

the Trace road surface turned into a washboard for around 30 miles....right in the area of the tornado it's not perfect....very close little traffic....there is a 3ft passing rule for cars too....230 miles down of 444....

DAY 5 miles 137  Total miles 702

tornado damage from 2011 over 15 miles

French Camp picture for mom

cypress swamp

an Egret for my love

Ross Barnet Reservoir sunrise

DAY 5 Sun September 29th

Ridgeland, MS to Houston, MS

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

DAY 4 Summary

a fourth day in a row of beautiful mornings....that streak may end on Sun if you believe the forcast....

the Natchez Trace Parkway is beyond anything I imagined....the road surface was like riding on a ribbon of cork....there was barely any traffic at all, most of it when getting close to Jackson at the end of the day....saw a few other cyclists going south....

there many historic sites and it was tempting to stop and explore but could not take the time....the sights were spectacular....if anyone is looking for a place to string together some days of riding you must check out the Trace.....

had to get to a bike shop here in Ridgeland to buy a tire and replace my seat....hopefully that will give some relief  from the sore....also picked up somemore energy bars, stinger waffles was also laundry time....

pretty heavy legs today and I was glad to have a relatively short day....almost said easy day but there is no such thing....

DAY 4 mile 112. Total miles 565


Spanish moss

NTP entrance

The Natchez Trace Parkway

DAY 4 Sat September 28th

DAY 3 Summary

woke up to another really nice day weather wise....slept pretty good and seem to be recovering well so far....still following the rule of getting on the road as early as possible to not burn any daylight on the front end....this proved to be valuable as about 10 miles in I had a minor crash....

crossing a two lane river bridge a semi jammed me up and I hit a sewer grate....blew my front tire, handlebars bent down to 45 degrees, sunglasses and a water bottle went flying....the back wheel came up and I thought I was going tits over tea cup but luckily did not....rolled to a stop and was able to get my glasses and bottle easily as there was very little traffic....the tire had a slice about 1" across and Mr Tuffy was cut was a miracle the impact didn't taco the wheel or my stem didn't crack....put on my spare tire, straightened the bars but lost about 30-45 minutes....this would be an indication of the day ahead....

for the most part it felt like a gentle day....there were lots of rollers for ~80 miles but not close to the grades of Days 1 & 2....and the last 50 miles were relatively flat although the wind was noticeable....the temp was down to to barely 90 with the first clouds so sunburn appreciated the dumb....I am charred....but I did buy sunscreen....

went through another national forest, Kisatchie....there is quite a bit of logging in east Texas and middle Louisiana....nothing like getting powdered with saw dust and bark as the trucks fly really beautiful except for all the red asses....I got buzzed, flipped off and honked at more times today then easily 5 yrs of commuting at home....close to 20....I lost count....very dangerous actions by some people....a logging truck coming the opposite direction laid on his horn and crossed the center stripe to drive at me....and the list goes on....crossing through red neck Texas and red ass Louisiana were a concern when I planned the trip....Texas was without incident....needless to say I am very happy to have these three days in the book....big miles and a lot of apprehension....

the health of the patient is good....legs are a little tired but that's no surprise....self inflicted sunburn can be managed....I do have a saddle was a hot spot caused by the rough chip seal road surface in Texas and is now very painful....I am in full scale treatment mode....there is one thing about Louisiana, for the most part the road surface was awesome....mentally I'm good....excited about the next days ahead on the Natchez Trace commercial traffic, low speed limits but there will not be the ease of getting food and drink as there is limited access roads....have to plan very well....

the last two hotels have had computers making it quite easy to blog....I am a crappy Iphone blogger but will try....

DAY 3 miles 129 Total miles 453

MVP of equipment...hands free drinking

unpack & repack every day

note to self...add sunscreen to list

Natchez MS

crossing into Mississippi...yay...goodbye & FU Louisiana

for my you

Friday, September 27, 2013

DAY 3 Fri September 27th

Natchitoches, LA to Natchez, MS

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DAY 2 Summary

wow... another perfect day of weather....clear blue sky, low enough in the morning so needed a jacket and arm did get to above 90 by mid day and the wind picked up too....had a great breakfast in Lufkin, which was my first really good sit down food because you can't count McDonalds pancakes or Subway as sit maybe....the section from Lufkin to Milam the scenary was spectacular....three national forests, Crockett, Angelina and Sabine....but as beautiful as it was it was difficult....continual rollers that were relentless and my guess would be 10-12% grade....they were short but sometimes like riding into a wall....tough to get any rhythm going....and it took its toll on me....

when I arrived in Many, LA my (125 miles) my legs were gone....there wasn't a part of my body that wasn't participating in a rotating carousel of discomfort....sitting on the concrete outside a quick market there were doubts about being able to continue....I wasn't sure if I could stand up....if it had been a UFC fight the referee would have stopped the contest by I don't mean to go all philosofical on you but I ran right into my "percieved limitaion"....we all have them in so many aspects of our lives....relationships, kids, job, the dog....stuff where you just don't think you can take anymore....the point of this is I suppose a part of this ride for me is testing that....after all, why on earth ride this many miles in two days....simple answers are I'm dumb, an idiot, self abusive etc....that's all probably true too but either way I am in new territory....

DAY 2 miles 153 Total 324 miles


sabine river bridge. goodbye TX

crockett national forest

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DAY 2 Crockett TX to Natchitoches LA

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DAY 1 summary

a perfect cool clear cloudless day but was vey hot....had to be close to was getting to me from mile 80 to then the sun was lower and behind me as I made the turn east on hwy 7....

it was a tour of small town TX....ranches, farms....pretty flat except for a section of big rollers miles 120 - 150 where I had to use the small chain ring....

must admit I was pretty trashed by the end of the I had to ride to get food as there was. nothing to walk to....

DAY 1 171 miles

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DAY 1 update

Now in Hearne 80miles. Weather starting to get hot but still a beautiful day

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DAY 1 Wed September 25th

Austin, TX to Crockett, TX

up early but that is no surprise... a beautiful calm, cool, clear morning but will easily reach the 90's... did the pack, unpack, repack thing several times last night... once more in a few minutes.... hope to get out the door by 6am...

also as a few people have asked, here is a dropbox link to more details, especially maps....
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The initial planning for this ride began in the spring of 2010…. However, it got sidelined when plans changed to ride the Pacific Coast Hwy from Seattle to San Diego instead….

The planning resumed this past April but there was a possible show stopper….while doing some landscaping and wheeling around some heavy loads of river rock, I tweaked my knee….I had arthroscopic in Dec 2012…. the surgery was for “Plica syndrome”….back in 1993 all the floating cartilage was removed, so maybe I’m good for another 20yrs….anyway, in May even though the recovery had gone well, I felt like I needed to give the knee a real test before going ahead with any further planning….

The Prelude

The perfect opportunity for a test ride was during our visit to Tucson, AZ for a week at the end of May….a ride out to climb Kitt Peak (6,880ft) would give me an idea of two things, where my fitness level was and the main reason, to see if my knee would be ok….Kitt Peak is 12 mile climb with an average grade of on the way you get to go over Gates Pass, which is a nice little 2-3 mile climb, ride past the Sonora Desert Museum and through Saguaro National Park West….I left the house around 5:30am with cool temps in the low 60’s….it was a total of 65 miles to the top of the peak….the winds didn’t pick up until on my way down the mountain and in some sections I actually had to pedal to keep up speed even though it was downhill…. the total distance was round trip was 125 miles as I came back using a slightly different route....all in all, it was really a perfect day with temps getting to only the mid 90’s…. the knee felt fine during the ride and the next morning too….so test complete, the ride to Washington, D.C. was on….

Kitt Peak entrance sign with telescopes seen up at the summit

The Route

Texas - Get on Hwy 79 E a few miles from the house to Marquez TX, Hwy 7 E to Lufkin TX, Hwy 103 to Milam TX, then cross the Sabine River into Louisiana….

Louisiana - Hwy 21 / 6 to Natchitoches LA, then Hwy 84 E and cross the Mississippi River into Natchez MS….

Mississippi – Alabama – Tennessee - in Natchez get on the Natchez Trace Parkway (NTP) for 444 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama and into Tennessee to just south of Nashville….at the end of the NTP it’s Hwy 100 to Franklin TN, then Hwy 96 through Murfreesboro TN to Hwy 70 E to Crossville TN….head south on Hwy 126 / 28 S to Hwy 68 S through Spring City TN….it gets a little tricky to follow here….Hwy 68 / 27 S to Hwy 68 / 304 E to Hwy 411 to Hwy 72 S to Hwy 129 / 115 S to the Foothills Pkwy to Hwy 73 / 321….into Smoky Mt National Park on Little River Rd to Hwy441 N to Gatlinburg TN…. back on to Hwy 441 S through Smoky Mt National Park…. in the park at Newfound Gap (5048ft) is the North Carolina state line….here there is a detour (self imposed) for a 14 mile roundtrip climb up Clingmans Dome (6643ft), the highest point in TN….

North Carolina – exit the National Park and begin the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) at mile mark 470 at the southern entrance (the mile markers on the BRP are 0 – 470 north to south)….just north of Asheville NC at BRP mile 355 is another 9.6 mile detour (self imposed) for a roundtrip climb up Mt Mitchell (6684ft), the highest peak on the east of the Mississippi….yes, it’s even higher than the infamous Mt Washington in NH….

Virginia – the state line is BRP mile 217….the BRP ends at mile 0 near Waynesboro VA and transitions to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park for a total of 105 miles ….Skyline Drive exits the National Park in Front Royal, VA….from Front Royal it’s east another 45 miles or so to my sister’s house in Ashburn VA, which is 35 miles west of Washington DC….

This is a point to point ride, meaning there are motel reservations already made along the way…. I have done rides both ways, point to point and winging it….each method has pluses and minuses….this way, there is no worry about where I will be staying….on the other hand, failure to reach a destination causes things to fall down like a row of dominos….if something happens that causes a delay, whether its bike mechanical, injury, illness or the weather, getting back on track as fast as possible the key….hopefully the worst that happens is some motel deposit money is lost….

The totals are 15 days and approximately 1900+ miles….day 16 is an optional ride of the final 35 miles into downtown DC….while not meaning to trivialize the earlier days of the ride, from the last half of Day 9 to the first half of Day 15 there is ~700 miles with ~70,000ft of could be argued that the Appalachians are not as difficult as climbing passes in the Rocky Mountains with the higher elevations….and the Pacific Coast Hwy climbing may not be considered very difficult as there are very few true mountains.…for me, the climbing on the coast day after day proved to be as difficult as the climbing I have done in the Rockies….up is up, no matter where you play….

Nutrition will be a very important the entire time….if things old true to form I will have to force myself to eat huge amounts of calories the first couple of days….after that, it will not be a problem, as there will constant hunger….any mistake that causes a “bonk” will make for a very long day….

Safety is always a concern when you are riding a bike….it doesn’t matter whether you ride solo or in a group and are 1 mile or 1000 miles from your house….I feel like it’s best to just try and blend in like I’m from the last town just past and only going as far as the next town up ahead….I also feel it’s safer to share as little personal information as possible with people you meet along the way….the key is to be aware of your surroundings and to keep your wits about you….Sandy and I are also going to use a phone tracking app, Life360….we have been testing for a few days and it works pretty well….

The Preparation

Over the last 8 years I have averaged between 8k–10k miles a year on the bike….roughly 95% of that mileage has been commuting to work averaging 200 miles a week.…that’s lays the foundation for jump starting an increase in fitness….the last 8-10 weeks “training camp” was started….the focus was on a good diet (not calorie reduction), an increase in resistance and intensity while increasing interval duration during my commutes and also trying to get adequate rest and recovery….

With a better diet you get three things, a gain in strength, faster recovery from workouts and reduced the risk of illness….a bonus is some weight loss, but that wasn’t an objective….my target weight for the start of ride was ~122lbs….I feel like my power to weight ratio is optimal there….this comes from my days of participating in triathlons and was my weight before starting the bike ride from Austin to Boulder back in 2005….I have been steady at ~122lbs for the last 3-4 weeks down from ~125lbs, so “bonus”….

Instead of “getting the lead out”, the lead has been going in….normally I ride everyday with 10lbs of lead shot in my backpack to increase the effort of my commute….to raise that effort even more, over the past 8 weeks 5lbs of additional lead was added every 2 weeks for a max of 25lbs….the last 4 weeks riding my backpack has weighed a total 32lbs combined with the lead and stuff that I normally carry like tubes, tools, rain gear, clothes etc ….with the additional weight it becomes very easy to elevate the heart rate (HR) when riding…. and to be honest, as dumb as this may sound, prior to my knee surgery in Dec I carried the full 25lbs of lead on every commute for over 6yrs ….post surgery I can no longer bring myself to bear the level of misery that all the extra weight adds….

The pack weight for the trip is ~15lbs….an additional decrease of weight is the bike….my Light Speed commuter bike is significantly heavier then the bike that will be used for the trip….the total weight decrease for the ride with everything combined, the backpack (12lbs), the bike (4lbs) and me (3lbs) is at least 19lbs….there is a calculation for determining the % of effort reduced for every Kg of weight eliminated and this should be close to 10%....

In summary, the approach has been to do short duration rides (20 miles) and frequent high HR intervals…. there were no 100+ mile training rides other than my “test ride” in May….I have easily done over 1000 100+ training rides….that is nothing exceptional for anyone who has trained for ½ and full Ironman triathlons over the years….for me now, with few exceptions, there is no desire to it….doing anything with feeling like you “have to” or “need to” when you don’t want to is no fun….it is difficult not to think about what I “could have” or “should have” done to prepare….there is always something more….but sooner or later you have to let it go and just trust your training…. finally, regardless of what’s done in preparation, when a ride is 5 or 10 or 15 days long and averages 120+ miles a day, you are going to suffer on some days….

The Equipment List

Everything on the list serves a purpose….the lights are for the tunnels on the BRP and Skyline Dr. (17 on Day 10 alone) but are obviously carried for early or late day riding….Gore-Tex is the best you can have for riding all day in the crappiest weather which I am prepared to do….there are enough tools to fix just about anything or at least be able to limp to a bike shop for a repair….to get the pack as light as possible, final decisions made whether an item was in or out was determined not just by the functionality, but also the weight in grams….

The Dedication

To my Dad, Albert W. Sawicki Sr., aka “Dear Old Dad”, “Big Al”, “Daddio”, “Popsicle”, “Grampa”….he passed away in Aug 2012 and rests now with the loving vigil of my sister Joyce at the beautiful VA Cemetery in Concord, NH….my Dad was a well respected Tooling Engineer….he could also fix and build anything…. whatever abilities I may have in that regard I learned from him…. he was a kind, sweet and charming person ….his “political correctness” was not quite up to today’s standards but certainly part of who he was …. some of my most wonderful memories are when we traveled to Ironman triathlons together…. this guy was a chick magnet and made friends everywhere we went….and he was always there for me in every way…. with regard to this ride there’s no doubt he would ask “who’s bright idea was this?”….yet at the same time, he would support the idea 100%....and sooner or later you knew this was coming: “you’re a pain in ass…no, you can’t be because a pain in the ass goes away and you’re still here”….yup, I’m still here Dad…. I love and miss you all the time….your spirit will be with me in my head and in my heart….

My Dad relaxing in Kona…. In loving memory of my Dad:

The Acknowledgements

Speaking of safety, I always have Sandy’s mom, Genny Allen, working her hot line to the Lord for me….Sandy and I have talked about this several times and we have no doubt that she has a direct prayer line….I am absolutely convinced this has already protected me many times on the bike….so Mom, if you don’t mind, please keep the lines of communication extra wide open for the next couple weeks….maybe I can bribe you with plenty of the coffee you like….sorry to miss your visit but I am glad you will be here with Sandy while I am gone….

There is no way this ride would be possible without the support and commitment from Sandy….everything falls on her while I’m gone and it’s not easy….especially meeting the demands of “the herd”….hope they let you sleep until at least 4am….

Nico, the elder, Kemp, the dad, Pilot, the son, Kona, the mom; aka “the herd”

Nothing is normal about riding and eating on a bike and living out of a backpack day after day…. Sandy is my lifeline and anchor to normalcy….when information is needed, i.e. weather, hotel, food, a bike shop, directions etc, Sandy does the research so I can keep the cranks turning….when I have moments of disappointment, discouragement or frustration, she provides love, encouragement and a positive focus….together we have done this several times before and so once again “sail away with me honey”….I love you….


The day that once seemed so far away and would never get here has finally arrived….the planning is done…. the training is over….my nervousness and excitement has that distinct feeling similar to the night before a big race….but this is just a bike ride….a long ride, but still, just a ride and so now the fun part starts….thanks in advance for following along….