Friday, May 31, 2013

Mitchell done, what now?

So the Assault on Mount Mitchell 2013 is completed, and I've had a week to rest and reflect.  I've spent the last 6 months laser focused on one goal, and I completed it with relative success.  The big question whenever I plan for an event is what to do afterwards.  All of my goals circled around completing the Assault, and completing the training to be prepared.  Now that the event is over, I have to re-shift my focus on new goals.  This is both a good and a bad thing for me.  Having a big goal always keeps me motivated.

Leg Check
I took a couple of days off after the Assault, and let myself just recover.  I had a chance to get my "victory wings" on Tuesday, and spend some time with the family.  Last weekend I got in a great solo spin and a tough group ride to test out the legs, and things felt good.  I then went to the weekly cycling event here in Greenville starting at SCTAC, and had a good strong ride.  It seems like the Assault didn't punish my legs too hard, so I'm going to start getting into a normal summer routine, if I actually have one.

Weekly Goals
My standing weekly goal for this year is to ride approximately 100 miles a week.  If I can average that over the course of the year, that gets me up to around 5,000 miles for the year.  This would be a 25% increase in miles over last year, and continue the fitness increases that I'm expecting.  This will become more challenging as the heat, summer trips, and weather impede my big riding days.  Early May was a great indicator of how weather can derail my schedule right now. 

Monthly Goals
My primary monthly goal is likewise mostly around miles.  I have a demand on myself to get at least 400 miles in a month.  This is lower than the 100 miles a week goal, but still keeps me on track for being near 5,000 miles for the year.  I feel that this goal is low enough to be attainable, even if weather messes up a weekend or two.  

Big Rides
Along with my standard mileage goal, I want to get in 1 big ride each month.  Whether it's going out on a charity event, or just planning some good old fashioned pain, I want to get in at least one ride of at least 60 miles.  Ideally by September I'd like to log in a couple more centuries, but this time maybe without 11,000ft of climbing involved. 

2013 Events 
I have plenty of events that I have on my riding bucket list, the problem I always have is working out which ones I can realistically do.  For example, the 2013 Bridge Challenge is the same weekend as the 2013 Preservation Ride.  The Jackson County Brevet looks really interesting, but I haven't really scheduled to do it yet and it's only a couple of weeks away.  There's the Hot Doggit 100 in July that looks interesting as well.  I'd also love to do a Beach Challenge, if I can find out about one early enough to plan it so I can realistically make a trip out of it with the family.  There is also the Hincapie Fondo in October to think about, along with the Leaf Tour in November.

I don't have any "long range" goals that I feel like I can start scheduling at this point.  At some point I'd love to do a trip out West to ride in California, Colorodo or Utah to test my legs against higher climbs that I can do in the Southeast, as well as plan trips to do events up in the Northeast like the 200 on 100 challenge that Ted King sponsors.  There are also events in Texas, like the Hotter'N Hell 100, that I'd love to attempt sometime.  The problem with trips of this distance is budgeting for the family trip in both time and money.  I don't feel like I can realistically go do events this far away alone, and bringing all of us is a lot of expense.  

There are also multi-day events that look fascinating to me.  The Ride to Remember, Challenge to Conquer Cancer, and RAGBRAI all are events I'd love to take on.  These events have a unique issue of having to manage long rides on multiple days, as well as sleeping accommodations (camping, etc).  

The biggest issue for me is to keep focus on continuing to increase my fitness, and not get too big for my britches at this point.  With so many awesome events within driving distance, I could bankrupt myself (monetarily and fitness wise) trying to get them all in quickly.  I have to schedule and plan, and make sure the other facets of my life get proper attention as well.  I love to ride, but I need to remember that I don't have to do it every day.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cycling Darwinism

what is your role in a group?
I was introduced to cycling as a sport in late 2011.  Since then I have taken a liking to riding, individually and in group rides/events.  I've taken to following a lot of cycling blogs online to learn more about the history and lore of the sport, so I can be a better member of the peloton.  My Bike Law posted up an article titled "the lost art of the group ride".  I have gone back and read this article several times, and I always end up taking away something new from it.  The article used the phrase "Cycling Darwinism", and it has really struck a chord for me.  I think it may be multi-faceted, showing just how much cycling has changed in our society in 20 years as well as well as accurate describe the current toxic landscape.   

Growing up, the idea of a group ride to me was "riding with my friends".  I lived close to my K-6 school, and riding our bikes was the way that we commuted.  We would ride to and from school, the local "jiffy mart", the beach and/or river.  We were never introduced to endurance events back then, it was just transportation to us.   Even then, we had planned events at school where the police officers would come over and explain the rules of the road and give us "courses" to ride through to educate us on the proper way to handle ourselves on a bike.  We learned the rules of the road.  We enjoyed our freedom.  We rode our bicycles.

Over the past 20 years there has been an increased interest in the sport.  Cycling is gaining a lot of traction as a fun and accessible sport for a large number of people.  While it is not inexpensive, it's a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors and have a sense of accomplishment.  Professional athletes like Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong, and George Hincapie have increased awareness of the sport.  Similar to the effect that Jack Nicholas, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods have had on golf, more people are participating.  The problem is that as the scene increases in size, the number of leaders has dwindled.  The people that would have been leaders in the past are overwhelmed and burned out, and are not actively attempting to mentor new leaders.  This has created a vacuum in what the group ride knowledge, allowing for chaos to creep in.

In today's environment, information is not held in the hands of just like ride leader.  Similar to the effect of the Gutenberg Press, the Internet has increased the amount of information available.  This should be a mostly positive impact but what it does is allows folks, similar to myself, the ability to read up on massive amounts of information to distill it into something I can attempt to implement.  It makes me into a "paper ride leader", with little experience or period of mentoring to really understand all the concepts that I have studied.  Since there is a lack of true leadership and experience by these folks, when they are asked to lead they are uncomfortable with the role and often have bad experiences early on, leading them to not want to continue to lead.

Beyond this, Internet based services like Strava, TrainingPeaks and MapMyRide have introduced professional level terms and concepts into the average ride.  No longer is it about the ride and the people you are with that particular day.  Now you have a GPS-enabled bicycle computer and you are tracking your data against how you did last month.  Typically I hear this called the "Strava effect", because of the popularity of the site along with the controversy of the "segments" that it created.  Now people can indulge themselves to get a personal and/or overall record in an unusual (or unsafe) area.  The group has started to crumble as folks continue to chase after numbers on a screen.  Now the group ride looks more like an individual race, where the goal is getting a faster time or showing how much better you are than the rest of the group.  

Ever feel like this?

At this point, group rides in my area are commonplace.  On any given day I find around a half dozen different available rides within a 30 minute drive of my home.  Each of these rides will have at least a dozen cyclists show up.  The goal is seldom about the complexities of a group ride, but rather to be in a group ride for the expectations of that is what is done.  This may be due to a mix of the different factors, but more often the rides I experience end up devolving into races and power plays;  experienced riders wanting to put pressure onto younger rides to see what they are made of.  Younger riders wanting to cut their chops, get better, or prove themselves.  People looking to get a better time on the internet-based tracking service of choice this week. 

There are also the mystical "private group" rides, that are invitation only.  We know these exist, because there are indications of their existance, but it doesn't mean that you can (or want to) participate in them.   They wish to be left to their own little clique, and work to their own ends.  Just like a professional Team doesn't let anyone come practice, you shouldn't expect to get invited to these groups

I've now stumbled my way through a vast wasteland of potential and actualized issues in the current environment of the mutated cycling scene.  Darwinism states that things evolve and adapt to their environment.  Based on the original article and my own personal experiences, it seems that there is a current toxic environment versus the "golden age" of the group ride has created a beast that is not ideal both for the experienced rider, who remembers fondly what it once was, as well as newer members looking to connect to the heritage of the sport.  The largest question in my mind comes is "where do we go from here?"  We all ride for different reasons, but it seems that the collective idea is that we should bring those reasons to a group ride today.  Chasing a personal best, crushing our cycling nemesis, and riding intervals probably don't need to be goals for someone that is riding to their local shop ride on a weekend.  Learning to be a better group-mate, or teaching a green rider the ropes, may be. 

Which road do we chose?
At this point I think each of us that is searching for the ideal group ride needs to evaluate the local situation that we ride in, and determine if we are in the right environment.  I find just this  part a bit daunting. I am comfortable with the rides that I do each week.   This one act is going to immediately make me re-evaluate the very core of my cycling self.  What role do I want to be in a group?  Am I doing the things I should be in order to improve myself to handle that role?  Do I even know all the roles that need to be handled?  There's a lot to deal with.  I already know that I am not experienced enough to be an actual ride leader.  My cycling journey is young;  what I should be doing is looking to mentor with established leaders: understand the roles, learn the ropes, get stronger.  If I ever get strong enough to be an effective leader, then I should be actively seeking out future leaders to grow into the leadership roles.  

As it stands now I don't feel that the art of idealistic group ride is lost, but it's definitely endangered.  It will take a lot of effort by people that truly love the sport, and remember what these rides were about, to bring it back to life.  It will also take getting a new generation interested in more than just their suffer score, but how much greater of an experience they can enjoy if they work together for something greater.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 Assault on Mount Mitchell Recap

 May 20, 2013 marked the 38th running of the Assault on Mt Mitchell ride, leaving out of Spartenburg, SC.  We arrived at the starting area about 6am to get ready for the ride.  Rolling up to the start line with about 15 minutes remaining before the start, the weather was foggy, but the temperatures were decent.  As folks lined up on Church Street, the anticipation mounted.   We had a wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and then we had a count down.  Even though I've been in several large rides so far, this one seemed bigger for some reason.  Somewhere around 1,300 riders were there; some just for the trip to Marion, the rest taking on the mountain.  The plan I had worked out was to try to stay in a solid group up to Marion, making it to the campgrounds in between 4 and 4 1/2 hours.  I had been advised that my time to Marion would be an indicator of my final time.  My final goal was to complete the ride in under 9 hours.   

The timer reached zero, and after a few seconds we were off.  The pace was strong, but overall solid.  The first hour was rather uneventful, as the terrain was relatively flat and the groups remained pretty calm.  The fog created a little bit of an issue, as everyone had to figure out how to adjust to the moisture.  I had to remove my glasses, as the condensation made it hard to see.  Several folks were fighting with the condensation actually dripping into their faces off the front of their helmets as well.  

After about 75 minutes, a large peleton had formed on the road, enveloping the smaller group that I was in.  This group reportedly had somewhere around 400 riders in it.  The danger of a group this large is that it ends up having a mind of it's own, and you end up having a large amount of speed changes.  These speed changes can drain you of energy unless you can absorb them.  I ended up at the front more often than I wanted, as I knew that taking turns pulling would take a lot of energy that I needed to save for the climb to the summit.  I did attempt to pull a few times, as I wanted to do my part if I ended up there.  My wife had kept our two younger girls out of school today, and the goal was for them to drive to the spectator spots and try to view me riding through.  As we reached the first of the spectator spots, I didn't notice my family as we rode through.  I figured that we had just missed the timing.  

The first real challenge of the ride was going to come near the 45 mile mark, as we got near to the climb called Bill's Hill.  This is where I expected any group that I was in to break up, and I'd have to be careful about finding a good pace to keep going.  There is a slight climb, then a descent, before heading into Bill's Hill.  Once we reached the climb it was obvious that the massive group that we had been in was going to break up.  Many folks decided to make a stop at either of the rest areas around Bill's Hill prior to making it into Marion.  I had mentally decided that I didn't want to stop until at least the campgrounds in Marion, much to my own detriment as I learned later int he ride.  I managed to stay with various folks until around Marion.  When I got to the Campgrounds I had decided to stop to say hi to the wife and kids if I saw them, but I didn't feel like I really needed to stop.  I was still riding strong, had water in my bottles and food in my packs.  I didn't see them again, so I kept on riding.  Looking back on it I wish I had stopped for 5 minutes, as we probably would have met up and the rest would have done me a lot of good.   

I pushed on towards the Blue Ridge, knowing that there was a good place to stop and rest before the real climb on Highway 80 kicked up.  On the way I witnessed someone working with a personal SAG vehicle.  We were warned to not have people following us, and just watching this interaction really showed how dangerous it could be on this ride.  This rider put himself, me, every other rider in the field, and other drivers on the road at risk just for the sake of having snacks when he wanted them without stopping.  I wanted a good time on this ride, but not at that cost.  I took a moment to mention that if the ride officials saw him that his day would be ended prematurely, and left it at that.   My next stop was the rest area.

After getting a rest, I moved on to the top of Highway 80.  I have read that this area is
known as Devil's Whip, named for how dangerous this area is to navigate.  There is a photographer up here that takes photos of the cars and cyclists as they ride by.  This section really put me to the test.  As I reached it, most of my resolve started to wane.  My foot started to really ache, and I was completely drained of energy.  As I look back I wonder if I had taken more breaks and made sure that I was properly fueled and rested that I would have felt a little better after this section.  I struggled to the top, and took a break at the rest area.  By break I mean I got off the bike, laid down on the grass, took off my right shoe, and admired the view for a while.  I had gotten my shoe too tight, and didn't recognize the symptoms until way too late.  My foot ached as I let it rest, along with letting my heart rate drop.  

Once I felt strong enough to try to keep going, I got back on the bike and started to ride on the Parkway.   This is one of my favorite stretches of road, as the views are incredible.  Even with the wonderful views, at this point every mile felt like it took an hour, and it was a struggle to just keep my pedals moving.  I started to take rests at the overlooks to keep my heart under control.   I was determined to finish, so I just kept taking it one step at a time.  I got to the rest area on the Parkway, and took some extra time to just rest.  This particular stop has a view of Mitchell, and I could see
that the summit was still covered in clouds.  The forecast had called for a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, and I had worried about having to finish in the rain.  At this point it looked like that could be a real possibility.

After the rest stop there is a wonderful downhill section that lasts for a few miles that felt incredible, giving me a bit more energy.  From there I struggled the next few miles to the water stop at the turn off of the parkway towards Mitchell, and got off the bike again to let my foot (and the rest of me) relax.  At this point I had wished that I had taken a bio break a the previous rest stop.  It was only 3 miles at this point to the entrance to the park, and I figured I could take another full break there.  I ended up having to stop at each of the pull over areas again to catch my breath.   At this point there started to be a cool breeze pushing me forward.  I thanked God for the encouragement, and I worked my way slowly up to the top.  I knew the 8 hour mark was out of reach but my main goal was finishing, not getting any particular time.  

I reached the entrance to the park, and took another good break.  I used the facilities,
and risked having a coke.  I wasn't sure if it was going help or not, but being just 2 miles from the summit I knew I could continue to the top even if it soured my stomach.  The good news was that it didn't, and that along with a banana and the time off the bike really helped out my situation.  Also having the first 3/4 of the trip in the park having a low gradient, I got some momentum before I reached the top.  Hearing the cheers as folks urged us on felt good.  Making it to the top made me feel better.  

After I made it through the chute, I handed off my bike and got my patch.  I was instructed up the stairs where my dry bag waited.  I got some tomato soup and took off my cycling shoes, finding a cool spot to sit.  After a few minutes my wife and girls found me, and we celebrated the end of the ride.  I put on some street clothes, and we made it to the bus back to Marion.  At the bottom we got some BBQ to eat, and I reclaimed my bike.  

I have a lot of take aways from this adventure, most of them in how I need to prepare for events like this.  My personality is such that once I get on the bike, stopping is a challenge.  I did better with eating and drinking than I had in other long events, but I think I can do better.   I have no doubt that I will want a rematch on the course at some point, as I think I can improve as I get stronger on the bike.  I hope that when I tackle it again I can enjoy it more and spend more time riding with friends along the route. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ramping up

Most of the blogs that I follow are talking about "tapering" this week.  The ideas is that you cut back on the number of miles that you are riding to let your legs rest and heal in preparation for the big effort that is to come.  I've never been all that good at finding the "low gear" to settle back into, but right now I'm working on a secondary issue of taking an unintended few weekends off due to poor weather.  The weekends are where I get my big rides, and thus my big miles, in.  Without a good solid Saturday ride, my miles can plummet quickly.  Combining that with the knee stress I put on myself during the month of April, I really needed the time to heal.  What it didn't do was put me in a great mental state for the ride, as my mileage for the month of May right now is matching 1 week of training in April.   Thus this week I decided to ramp up slightly from where I've been so far in May, to get myself mentally and physically "awake" for the event.  

The positive effect on this is that I feel as prepared as I could be for Mitchell at this point.  Up until this morning I kept feeling like I peaked when we scouted out the mountain late last month.  With the extra miles in this week I feel like I've gotten myself back established into my routine.  I'm also going to be within 20 miles of my target prior to Mitchell (I'm at 1,962mi for the year right now).  The negative effect is that I haven't let my knee have a lot of rest time at this point, and I feel like I'm going to have more soreness than I wanted to on the trip to Marion.  The only thing I can do for that is to ride smarter on Monday, and not try to get froggy when the pack surges.  I'm not doing the event for time at this point, my goal is completion. 

It also is difficult for me to find the balance personally because I'm used to riding hard on a Saturday, not a Monday.  For the Assault on the Carolinas I was able to ramp down easier, because I had my normal Tuesday night ride, then just a recovery day to work through.  With Mitchell being on Monday, I have to figure out which rides I scale back for, and how much I scale back in order to have fresh legs.   All things being equal, I really should have looked to do more heavy climbing on Mondays later in the training regime, so I could have gotten myself into the schedule for the event.  I don't think it's going to make enough of a difference that I'll regret not thinking about the schedule as I got my miles in.

My plan right now is if the weather holds (we have a 50% chance of rain) that I'll go out for an easy ride with the local bike shop on Saturday.  Sunday is the expo and packet pickup, and an early alarm time for Monday morning.  I still have my dry bag to pack, and I need to do my final inspection and lubing of the bike.    

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dread (aka the Week Before...)

After two disappointing weeks in a row due to knee soreness and bad weekend weather, I'm now fully facing the intersection of "need to taper" and "not losing fitness".  After spending over 5 months preparing for the Assault, I know that I'm as ready as I'm going to be for the event.  I believe that I can manage my efforts and be ready for almost 4 hours of climbing when I get to Marion.  I brought the bike in last week for a check up, although there is still a ticking noise I'd like to clear up before Thursday if I can figure out what it is.  The last time I had this symptom it was as simple as my bottom bracket getting a little loose, so hopefully it's another simple fix.  

Due to timing, Mitchell is going to end up being my very first Century.  I've done 80mi rides already, and I've done an insane amount of climbing.  Still nothing is really going to prepare me for exactly what Mitchell is going to be.  The current long range forecast shows a high in the low 80's for next Monday, without a significant chance of rain at least for the ride to Marion.  It is comforting to know that the weather conditions shouldn't be too extreme.  

This is the first time since I got on the bike in September 2011 that I've had to seriously plan "tapering" prior to an event as well.  Up until now I've been focusing on "push harder", "ride more" and "get stronger".  The events that I've done haven't been to the level of endurance training that I couldn't just dig deep down and get through it.  The events haven't been about time for me, they were about completing the course.  I'm not focused on time for Mitchell, but I know that there is a timer going from 6:30am that I have to be done before a certain time or risk not completing the course.

The biggest thing that I have to work through is the big event jitters.  Right now I'm dealing with waves of absolute dread at the scope of the challenge I have in front of me. The fact that I'm taking on this challenge seems daunting.  Various folks have asked me "am I ready" for the event.  I haven't found the best way to say that I don't ever feel like I'm truly going to be "ready".  To me, being ready places an amount of confidence in myself and my ability to master the situation.  I've prepared myself for the challenge.  I've gotten myself as ready as I'm going to be.  I stared down the Hincapie Gran Fondo last year and blinked.  I believe I could have finished the course, but I was worried about how long it could take me to get back and missing out on the festivities.  

There is no blinking on Mitchell, and I have no doubts that I can finish the course.  But there will always be that lingering doubt about taking on challenges like this.  The difference is listening to the doubt, or continuing to the mountain.

Bring on the Mountain.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Weekend Washout

A view of  the wet conditions
The weekends are the time when most recreational cyclists can get the bulk of their training miles done, and I'm no exception.  While I may get 50-60 miles in during the week, it's the big rides on Saturday and the recovery ride on Sunday that typically help me meet my goals.  For the second weekend in a row, the weather has not been such that this is a practical, or safe, endeavor for me.  

This weekend was especially bad as the weather was cool, windy, and becoming increasingly wet.  This is a trifecta of conditions that made me second guess getting onto the bike when I woke up Saturday.  While I knew that I really needed to rest my knee, putting in another sub-100 mile week this close to the Assault on Mount Mitchell was going to be a sore spot for me.  With that in mind, what I really don't want to do is injure myself just getting in a workout because of a need to meet a mile quota for the week.  This became even more pronounced with the news of the death of a participant in the 3 states, 3 mountain cycling event.

My heart aches for the family of this cyclist, and what they have to deal with.  I would hate for my wife to have to even contemplate this situation, but it's a risk that I take every time that I get onto the bike.  Whether it's because I'm sharing the road with cars, or just the sake of being on the bike, there is a risk involved.  I have personally clocked speeds over 40mph on a ~20 lb device.  At those speeds, one mistake can be disastrous.  While I fully understand those risks, and I don't want to live in fear, I have to make the best decisions possible each and every time I click in and head out onto the road.

All it took was a wet day in Tennessee to change the lives of a family forever.     

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Crowd before a Launch - Credit: NASA
Growing up on the Space Coast of Florida, it seems instinctive to know what the countdown clock is, and its significance.  The date is set; the orbiter was assembled and rolled out onto the launch pad; final preparations are being made.  It wasn't a time to install a new fancy gadget, or to work on improving the rockets thrust ability.  There was a set amount of time that was left, and repairs and final fixes were all there left.  At some point fueling would be finished, the Astronauts would climb aboard the craft, and they would light up the Florida skyline rocketing towards their destination.

At this point I feel like it's a very similar situation for me with my training for the Assault on Mount Mitchell:  The training is done, the date is set, and it's time to start making sure everything is together for the big event.  By the time May rolled around, I knew I had to be ready physically for the challenge that I had in front of me.  At this point I do not feel like there is any additional training that I can do that will make me better prepared for the journey coming in just 18 days.  Saturdays are the day that I have in my personal life for big efforts, and there are just 3 of them left to go.  I still would really like to get a century ride in to Bill's Hill before May 20, but the time to do so is limited.  What I don't want to do at this point is injure myself by pushing too hard so close to the final event.  

As I stated on the scouting trip to Mount Mitchell last month, the 3.5 hour grind to the top definitely pushed my knee to its limits.  In my youth I played a lot of baseball, and as a part of that I developed Osgood-Schlatter disease in both of my knees.  I can still remember the game that ended my baseball "career"; when I damaged my knees to the point of needing to have a cast on one of them for 6 weeks to let it repair.  At 38 the good news is that my knee is mostly fine, but the scar tissue from the previous damage can irritate my Patellar tendon.  Knowing my limits prior to the event is fantastic, but it also means I need to heal as well as finish preparing for the Assault.

After a washout of a weekend, this Monday I decided that I really wanted to get some climbing in.  It had been about 10 days since scouting out Mitchell, and while I had ridden relatively hard the previous week I hadn't done any real climbing.  What I decided was that a couple of trips up Paris Mountain would be a good workout.

What it taught me is that I needed more recovery time from big efforts than I had planned.  About halfway back up I really started to feel it, and being the human being that I am I pushed up to the top.  It was a perfect day to spend extra time on Paris Mountain, but what I really got from it is an understanding of what these big efforts mean for me personally.   The next day was the typical Tuesday night event here in town (sometimes lovingly known as the Tuesday night championships), and while I wasn't dead for it I definitely felt the day before more than I typically would.  For right now I'm just shutting down training for a few days to let my knee rest, and doing some extra easy stretching morning and night to relax it some.  

With just 3 Saturdays left to go, I have to make hard decisions.  To me there are only 2 training days left that are viable.  The first is this weekend there is a trip from Table Rock  up into the Pisgah National Forrest that I really want to do.  It's 97 miles with 8,500' of climbing total.  It would put all of my preparation to the test.  The big question really comes down to preparation:  Am I going to be prepared for that big of an effort at this point, and if I do would I be able to recover to put in a bigger effort just 2 weeks later.  Knowing that even after 10 days my knee is still tender and prone to issues, I'm thinking that the efforts that the Table Rock ride would require could do a lot more harm than good.  Right now I'm looking at what I can do on May 11th as my final big ride, and that will probably be riding the first 50 miles of the Assault (up to and including Bill's Hill) to get myself mentally prepared for the efforts required.  I'm not sure how many folks will attempt to ride that day, but hopefully I can find some folks that are willing to get up stupid early on a Saturday so I can test out my morning routine as well.   After May 11 it is time to start the countdown clock, and do final preparations.  

T-minus 18 days.  The training is done.  It's time to prepare.