Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Everyone Knows It's Windy

Today was the best, strongest day of riding I've ever had. As a result, I am almost too tired to write this.

For the third straight day, we headed south from Tiveria along the Kinneret. We were joined today by the Challenge riders who spent Monday night at the same hotel. (A few of the riders told me that the vibe on the challenge ride was much better than last year and that I would have easily been able to manage it. Nevertheless, I'm happy with my choice).

After 4 miles we turned west and started climbing. The climb was about 600 vertical feet in about 2 miles. I felt strong and managed to finish among the challenge ride hoi paloi (the elite riders probably could probably have descended and made it halfway up again in the time it takes me).

We then took a short break. The ride organizers made a significant change in policy that made a huge difference. They picked up the straglers in a SAG van (in this case a bus) at a predetermined time so that the other riders would not have to wait so long. This changed the whole complexion of the ride.

After the break we did another nasty climb, this one 1200 feet over 4.5 miles with some crazy gradients (as much as 14% in some areas). Again, I did fairly well and ended up among the lower quarter of challenge riders. (To put it in perspective, this is the hill that I descended at a high of 47 mph. If you can go that fast downhill it means it's a serious climb).

At the end of the climb there was a fantastic gradual descent for a number of miles during which I averaged about 25 mph without working. For a change the wind was at our backs.

After another break, we rode about 20 miles to lunch, 15 of them into a howling headwind. This is where riding with people who know what they are doing made all the difference.

While we were breaking, the challenge riders climbed and descended Har Tavor, a difficult six mile climb. We met back up with them after the break. I knew that the next stretch would be very windy and I was determined to stay with the big boys in order to take advantage of their pace line.

I rode more than 10 miles with lead group of about 40 to 50 riders. Most of the time we were riding double file. Finally. The lead pelaton broke up but I was able to stay with a group of about ten riders the rest of the way. I worked very closely with a rider from the challenge ride and we exchanged "pulls" whenever we were about to lose contact with the group.

Riding in a paceline, particuarly into a headwind, can be 30% more efficient than riding alone. (I felt this last year when I kept getting dropped and had to ride alone). As a result, despite working hard and riding at a fast pace, I was relatively fresh when I reached lunch.

After lunch we faced the penultimate climb of the day (how often can one use that word?). This was 4.5 miles to Meggido, an ancient Biblical city. The scenery during this painful climb, through a forest, was absolutely glorius. I managed this climb reasonably well.

The next part of the ride was another long gradual descent, most of which, unfortunately was on a major north-south highway. I rode in the front group and averaged over 20 mph without working too hard.

The evil ride organizers decided that we couldn't end the ride on a downhill. So, instead, we ended with a sick 1 mile climb up to Zichron Yaakov. My quads were screaming 'no mas' with every pedal stroke but I got to the summit among the top ten riders (the challenge riders had headed elsewhere for the night). We were done. What an awesome day! I was fried.

From the good news department: The rider who did a face plant into the side of the mountain on Sunday was back on the road today with nothing but a bad facial bruise to show for his trouble.

Tomorrow's climb to Mount Carmel was cancelled by the police. That's both good news and bad news. The bad news is that I had been looking forward to it for a while. The good news is that it makes tomorrow a relative day off with only 40 flat miles to Ranaana, a suburb of Tel Aviv. I am happy for the "active recovery" day.


Thursday, November 08, 2007


The Alyn Ride, Day Two: Waiting In The Sun

Waiting in the Sun

Today's ride, 67.5 miles and 2400 feet of climbing took us all the way around the Kinneret (with a climb to the Golan Heights in the middle). B'H, my day was flat free and cramp free. In fact, it was one of the strongest days of riding I've ever had.

The "only" problem was that there are some truly dreadful riders among the 200 road riders and the police wouldnt allow the ride to string out more than a certain amount. That meant waiting - lots of waiting - in the hot sun.

The ride started out the same as Sunday; heading south along the Kinneret. I went right to the front and rode right behind the lead car for 10 flat miles. It was a lot of fun and I felt like Lance Armstrong - not.

Instead of continuing south we headed east and rode another 8 miles until we reached the foot of the southern edge of the Golan Heights base. This part of the ride was particularly beautiful with the heights in front of us and the kinneret on our left.

The easy part of the ride was officially over. Next came a very intense 1500 foot, 5-mile, climb up to the top of the Golan. I had been concerned about this climb because of the possible after effects of yesterday's cramp. But I felt very strong and was in the top 15 up the hill.

Our climbing, however, had just begun. We climbed for the next 25 miles across the Golan into strong headwinds. Wind is not my strength. In fact I don't mind climbing all day but I hate riding into headwinds. Nevertheless, I did reasonably well.

We were about a mile from lunch when we were inexplicably stopped and made to wait a full half hour until everyone caught up. We baked on the road instead of pulling into the rest stop. Bizarre. We didn't get to lunch until 1:45 by which time most of us were famished. (Lunch was nasty and I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich).

After lunch we descended back down to the Kinneret at about 30 mph. This was the most breathtaking part of the day with the lake and the mountains on the west side of the kinneret in view. (I've taken many pictures while riding the bike but even I'm not dumb enough to take pictures while going 30 mph).

The rest of the ride was relatively flat going west then south until we reached Tiveria. (Of course the police stopped us 2 miles from the hotel to wait for the slower riders. I don't get it). This, too, was a very pretty part of the ride.

After a nice hot shower and a good hot meal I'm ready for tomorrow. We finally leave Tiveria and head towards the very cool town (not weatherwise) of Zichron Yaakov.

Tomorrow's ride is about 55 miles and 2800 feet of climbing spread out among five relatively short but nasty climbs.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


The Alyn Ride: Day One, The Year of the Flat

After three years and over 1000 miles of Alyn Rides without a single flat, it only took six miles for me to get my first one on this ride. And then another 30 to get my second. This was apropos of the type of year I've had training. I've gotten an unusually large number of flats this spring and summer and actually changed my tires as a result. The tire that went flat twice today is only 100 miles old.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After a delightful Shabbos spent with OOS, OYS, OHDIL our two grandchildren, we bussed out to Tiveria on Motsai Shabbos arriving at our hotel around 10:30. After preparing my stuff for the next day, I turned in at midnight. For reasons I can't explain, I had a miserable night's sleep.

Davening was at 5:30 and breakfast was served at 6 and we assembled for the opening ceremony at 7. Even though this was my fourth such ceremony and they are basically the same every year, I still get a bit of a thrill.

Today's right was really like two different rides. The first 30 miles were flat and the next 18 were very hilly (3000 feet worth).

We followed the Kinneret south for about 12 miles. Then we continued south, and then west towards Afula. The truth is that, after leaving the Kinneret, the ride was not particularly beautiful. We passed a lot of farm land but not much else.

At the six mile mark I heard a noise that I recognized. Pooof. I pulled over to the side and started changing my rear tire. Owing to the fact that I've had so much practice, I've gotten pretty good at it. In any event, one of the mechanics on the ride appeared as if by magic and changed the tire in about 3 minutes flat (excuse the pun).

All was well until about a quarter mile from the lunch stop (mile 38 of 60).

After climbing hard for 8 straight miles I started cramping. Today was extremely hot and we were in an exceedingly hot area (Tiveria is 600 feet below sea level and the Beit She'an valley is even hotter). I think I fell behind in my electrolytes and once you're behind, it's very hard to catch up. I dismounted, drank a lot and stretched out my legs enough to be able to get to lunch. At lunch I ate enough to get back to normal and felt fine thereafter.

When I went to pick up my bike, lo and behold, the back tire was flat again. By the time I got the mechanics' attention, the riders had left. I was literally the last rider, by at least three minutes.

I began cranking and started picking off riders one by one. (It's kind of fun being one of the top riders on the regular road route rather than one of the worst on the challenge route). It took me a while but I finally made my way to the front (all while climbing).

At the 48 mile mark we finally began descending. A massive descent, in fact. I reached a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour. Unfortunately one rider lost control during that descent and crashed very hard. Miraculously, he was not badly hurt although he was taken to the hospital.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and we pulled into Tiveria at around 4 pm.

I ate as much as I possibly could at dinner (one of the perks of this ride), had a beer (and I don't even like beer), took a Vitamin A pill (Ambien) and caught some sleep.

Day two is even harder, with a ridiculous 6 mile, 1500 foot climb to the Golan Heights and 30 straight miles of gradual climbing after that.


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