Archive for the ‘Alberta’ Tag

Headwinds   Leave a comment

Ah … back on an EBTC Target the Tour training ride.

Pre-ride Instructions

For one reason or another I had missed the previous few Sunday morning rides. Although the weather forecast had looked a little iffy, with possible early morning and late afternoon showers, It was absolutely beautiful as we gathered at 0930 for a planned 100k ride in the countryside northeast of Edmonton, out to the town of Bruderheim. [map of region]

Although this ride would be my longest one of the year and I hadn’t been on the bike much in the last couple of weeks I was feeling good and confident. A group of 25 riders, set off this morning on a route that would take us north from the Yellowhead highway, through Fort Saskatchewan and then north east to the town of Bruderheim before returning on a slightly different route.

Crop Rows (a bit unusual as most crops in these parts are fields of canola or grains)

Canola Field and Rural Road

Straight and Flat

It was beautiful, uneventful morning – well except for my getting-all-to-common electronics challenges. First, my cycle computer which I had again thought I had fixed wasn’t picking up the signal from the front wheel so I has no speedometer or odometer. All i could use it for was as a timer. It told me how long I’d been on the road but as I had inadvertently stopped the timer at some point and lost approximately 7 minutes.  I have no options now for this device other than to try to replace the thin wires (soldering will be difficult), or to get a new unit.

Luckily I had my Garmin heart rate monitor with GPS as a back-up – except that 1 Km out it displayed a message that it could not receive signals from the satellites – this out in the middle of the flat prairie! After approximately 10K the function mysteriously returned but for the rest of the ride I didn’t now how far I’d gone or had to go. I was able to get my speed although looking at the watch and changing screens while riding was not very convenient.

The other technology challenge encountered was that after I’d taken only 5 pictures, my camera indicated that the memory card was full. This was not a big problem but did mean that I had to take the time to manually delete a bunch of my oldest photos from memory to free up space.

Petro-chemical Plant

The ride north to Fort Saskatchewan was on the quiet rural roads. From there we took Highway 15, a busy 4-lane divided highway, but with very wide paved shoulders – not a bad stretch at all. This section of rural Alberta is noted for petro-chemical processing. Large industrial plants are frequently next to farmer’s green fields as a well as small pumping units in the fields.

During this part of the ride to the northeast I could notice the effect of the wind blowing from the southeast. The result was that my pace fell off noticeably, probably to something like 15kph. However, once we turned back north, I was flying – cruising along at more than 30.

Rural Road (to get back on course)

Gravel Road (to get back on course)

After another eastbound stretch on a rural road into the wind, I came to the intersection with a highway. By this time out group of riders was pretty stretched out and I was riding on my own with no one else in sight. So I quickly pulled out a map in my back pocket and noted that I needed to go north on this highway (830) so I turned left, and with the wind at my back I was again flying.

It turns out that I shouldn’t have turned! I had looked at the preliminary map that I also had in my pocket but we had already gone as as far north as we were going. I noticed my error when I stopped to check at the next intersection, a couple of kilometers down the road. I could have (probably should have) simply backtracked but decided that I would take the eastbound road at that intersection and then take the next south road to get back on course. Most of the roads in these parts are along a rectangular grid – very predictable!

The rural road which I took east was a bit rougher in places than the ones I had been riding on but not bad. when I came to the next crossroad I headed south. This road however was much rougher, a gravel/dirt road. I was glad I was riding my touring bike with its bit heavier/wider tires rather than ones only suited to paved roads. The road surface wasn’t as bad as the headwind I now encountered. My speed dropped to something like 13 Kph which made it seem like forever to cover this 3 Km stretch. It did however only take 15 minutes to get back and then shortly thereafter arrive in our designated rest stop in the town of Bruderheim [map].

Rest in Bruderheim

It was good to see others of our group there, but they had already been there for awhile and by the time I had a blueberry muffin and some Powerade, they already had a 10 or 15 minute headstart on the ride back.

When I did get back on the road it was due south, into the wind, for 3 kilometers. Although I had only stopped for 15 minutes it felt as if my body was starting to seize-up. Back on the road, I was noticing an uncomfortableness in my left knee. Since this knee had been an occasional problem in the past I was a little concerned.

After the 3K I turned right onto the major highway and was traveling in a westerly direction. Even though the wind was not fully at my back, enough of it was that I felt I was flying again. Indeed my speed had gone from the 10-15 Kph range to averaging in the 30’s. After a few kilometers it was a turn south and a long straight stretch in to that wind.

(Was it jut the fatigue of having already ridden 60 or 70K or was the wind really picking up as we headed into mid-afternoon? Anyway, it was a drag, a slow, head-down, solo ride that quite frankly wasn’t much fun. I did stop for a few photo breaks but not as many as I would have liked.

Prairie Field and Summer Sky

Prairie Rails

Eventually I did catch-up with Chas in his support truck and then with a couple of other riders. I stuck with them until we got to the end of the ride.  We were looking forward to a break from the long headwind stretch.

The Long Road into the Headwind

We were supposed to turn west onto a quiet road for a few kilometers  but when we got there we saw that the road had been very recently oiled, so we continued south to the Yellowhead and then rode that busy highway back to the Ardrossan turn-off.

It was around 3 PM when we got back – a little over 5 hours on the road. It had been a decent ride, especially nice on the first half. I had looked at this ride as a test of my fitness in evaluating if I’d be up to doing the 180K Tour de l’Alberta distance in four weeks. Having completed this ride, the thought of heading right back out and doing practically the same distance again, pretty much answered my question – I’ll be sticking to the 100K distance on July 22nd.

In the Zone   1 comment

Another Sunday. another ride with the EBTC‘s Target the Tour Classic group.

Receiving Pre-ride Instructions

It was a beautiful day for a ride – a bit cool, but sunny and with no wind. I rode in cycling shorts with a jacket over my jersey for the first half of the ride and was  comfortable. Today’s route was 66 Kilometers, so the longest of these group training rides this year. The group was again a healthy size, of about 40 riders. I arrived a little bit late so ended up starting at the very back of the pack, again. The route started off south – a long 13K straight stretch.

On the Road

Along this stretch, I was stopped to take a few photos when another rider asked if I might have some some chain lube in my large read rack bag. Indeed I did! I prefer to have my chain lubed and ready to go before a ride but encountering rain along a ride  has sometimes necessitated re-lubing during the ride, so I do like to carry a small bottle of lubricant with me and I was happy to be able to help out.

A Hill (sans fool) in the Relatively Flat Central Alberta Landscape

I found I wasn’t stopping as often to take photos today. the landscape was still beautiful and each week has been a little different form the weeks before , but I fear I am getting a bit desensitized to the scenery as it becomes familiar from riding in the same area week after week. One thing that stood out for me today was the color of the water in the small lakes and ponds – very blue!

Prairie Pond

Through the first half of the ride I continued to  lag near the back of the pack and often could not see the next rider ahead of me for a long time.

Along Wye Road

This week’s route again featured a variety of roads, mostly quiet country road but also some secondary highways, 2 lanes with moderate traffic and wide or narrow shoulders. For the 5K approaching the 40K mark we were traveling south east on Wye Road towards north Cooking Lake. For some reason this stretch was uniquely swarming with little bugs. It was absolutely necessary not to be riding along breathing through an open mouth. Instead I found I had to breath though my closed teeth. I was also glad to be wearing glasses but had to keep my head up and glasses forward so as not to get bugs in the eyes. It was like watching a show of  traveling at warp speed through a starfield – quite amazing.

Fortunately these bugs were only an issue for a short distance. At 40K I stopped to take off my jacket and to down an energy bar before we headed north off of the highway and back onto the country quiet roads. A minor frustration occurred on this stretch as I had inadvertently turned off my heart rate/GPS monitor when I  took my jacket off and didn’t realize it until I was a further 3 and a half kilometers up the road. this then through off distance markers on the day’s route map.

Riding Beside Wetlands

It was somewhere around the 50K mark that I lost sight of the rider behind me and I never did catch up with anyone in front of me. I was riding solo and that was fine with me. the roads were good, our maps were good and I was feeling strong. I just kept plugging away at a good cadence and soon found myself “in the zone”.

The zone is a nice place to be – the riding is free and easy. I was proceeding north along Range Road 215 into the final 10K of the ride. Somehow, in this “zone”, I missed  a turn-off. I didn’t realize it until I saw the sign indicating that I was approaching Highway 16, The Yellowhead. I should have turned west 3K back. I could have backtracked but decided to brave the highway. It is a very busy 4-lane divided highway but does have wide shoulders, so I decided to take it for 5K.

Westbound on the Yellowhead

 

Again this highway was not part of the official route and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it wasn’t that bad. I was thankful for having a rear-view mirror as I probably spent half my time keeping an eye on the traffic coming up behind me. At the first opportunity I got off of the highway, which happened to coincide with the Ardrossan turn-off, where I was able to get back on the route for the last couple of kilometers.

But instead of the Yellowhead image, I choose to remember the peaceful rural roads from today:

Peaceful Rural Road

 

Target the Tour – Week 2   Leave a comment

Sunday, April 29th 2012 – the second of the weekly EBTC training rides targeting the Tour de l’Alberta ride in late July. This week’s distance was 45K (a 10K increment from last week). Unfortunately for me I only got in one ride on my own during the last week – a ride of 30K through the Edmonton river valley.

We again gathered at the Country Boyz Gas Station/restaurant/etc. on Highway 16 near Ardrossan at 0930. There was a slightly smaller group than last week (maybe 35 to 40 riders vs. 50ish). The weather at the start was fine: sunny and blue skies with a temperature of maybe 8C. I dressed lighter than last week, wearing shorts instead of long pants, regular fingerless gloves instead of full finger gloves and a light, short sleeve jersey under my jacket instead of a heavy long sleeve wool one. I was quite comfortable dressed like that and shed my jacket at our half-way point rest stop.

Pre-ride Instructions

Starting Off

We hit the road at about 9:40 after ride leader, Charles World, gave some instructions, which included safety reminders and a suggestion to try pace line riding today. I’m not sure how much of that happened as I personally was more interested in laying back, out of the crowd so I could quickly stop and take a photo if something caught my eye. I started out at the back and riding my own pace (but never letting the group get out of sight) passed only a handful of people on the first half of the ride.

The group heads south on RR 224, a short distance from the start (note the clear blue sky)

Freight train from overpass

Prairie Pond (note the clouds building to the west)

 

 

Along the way on the quiet country roads we saw fields and ponds (some which were loud with croaking frogs) and passed over railway tracks.

 

The route today was pretty straight – mostly south along two country roads (Range Roads 224 and 223) to Cooking Lake, where we had out rest break.

 

The last couple of kilometers to Cooking Lake required  us to ride on the major Highway 14 but the paved shoulder was wide and clean, so the riding was fine .

 

We had a nice break, of 15 to 50 minutes at the Cooking Lake rest stop with its restaurant ( the Firehall Diner Pizza and Grill) and convenience store. As got off of our bikes and walked around, we noticed that the clouds, which had been in the far distant west, were now getting thicker overhead.

Resting at Cooking Lake

The return trip was pretty much straight north along one road, Highway 824. There were still some sunny breaks as we headed back on the road but soon the sky became mostly cloudy with a bit of light rain, and a noticeable wind from the northwest. I found these conditions less inspiring for taking photos so instead I just got into a good rhythm and pushed my way “home” at a decent pace. I averaged 23.5 kph on the return trip vs. 21.6 on the way out – I thought the difference would be greater but I guess the wind ate up a lot of my energy. Hmmmm, a pace line would have been just the thing under those conditions.

A Serene Country Scene (just north of Cooking Lake)

Click here to go to my post on the previous week’s ride.