Monday, April 16, 2018

SENIOR GAMES TEXAS STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS, 2018

     I've raced this course, Texas Research Park, since 2005.  Feel free to browse past posts where I recount epic battles.  But if you eschew that, a brief history: I take the two hour drive down, race, return home, and drive back the next day.  The course is a two and a half mile loop with a real long upgrade on the back-side.  Until recently the loop was for University of Texas Medical Research buildings and a few residences (I think for employees).  On the week-ends it was traffic-free, making an ideal location.  Sub-divisions have crept in and lots of houses going up, so this year we didn't have the loop to ourselves.  That resulted in some race changes, more on that later.
     In the past I've rolled out of bed at 5:00 am and was on the road at 6:00 and ready to race at 9:00.  This year Marilane's departure to China/Tibet coincided with the race, so I dragged my body out of bed at 2:37 am and left for the airport at 3:05. Apparently we just missed a hail storm.  Even stopping for breakfast at Whataburger, I drove into the parking lot at 6:00.  Tried to nap but that didn't happen.
     What did happen was a cold front, with a stout NNW wind.  That meant a head-wind going up the back-side hill.  The temperature wasn't all that bad, but the wind made things uncomfortable.  Around 8:00 I began warming up in tights and my rain jacket, since I hadn't brought my cold-weather jacket.  The 10k Time Trial came first, to be followed by the 20k road race shortly after the end of the time trial.  I managed to also leave my Garmin at home, so there is zero data for Saturday's races.
     In previous iterations the 10k consisted of one full loop, then half-way around and back to the finish line.  The construction and traffic constrained us to two loops then a short loop to keep us off the back-side road.  Time trials with multiple U-turns are intensely disliked.  I doffed the rain jacket but kept the tights on for the race.  The longer time trials are my specialty, so to speak, and I usually come in first.  But the wind on the hill had me dropping to the small chain ring, and having to do it twice really cut into my time, like about a minute slower than previous years.  As it turned out, I was eight seconds out of first to my soon-to-be team time trial partner, Bob.
     After the race I went back to the car, switched out bikes and jerseys, then sat in the front seat and re-hydrated and ate a Clif bar.  There were only five of us (in our age group) doing the road race.  Unlike Dallas, the two strongest racers had not shown up.  Had they been there, they would have left us on the hill to battle for third.  As it was, the strong wind meant there would be no breakaway.
     A short aside.  In USA Cycling rules, riders may not join a different group.  But Senior Games is more relaxed and has devolved into being able to tag onto whoever you can.  Thus, when a faster group passes, if you have the speed, you can draft along with them.  They don't care since you are no threat to them.  The slower riders in your group care, since you can leave them behind. 
       Now, we were just noodling along with the intention of trading off leading and Jaime was the fastest, Bob was the strongest, Dean the most experienced.  But no one that much stronger to be able to leave the rest behind.  So, we just took our time waiting for the final sprint.  As it turned out, on the second of five laps, a group of three younger females who started behind us came by.  But Bob, who was leading at the time jumped onto their train and sat on.  The rest of us did the same.  Truthfully, I feel we abused the ladies and should have let them go, but I wasn't the one who did it.  They led us around for the rest of the race.
     We rounded a corner about 800 meters from the finish.  The wind was behind us.  The ladies jumped, Jaime and Bob jumped, and I was third.  With about fifty yards to go I accelerated and had a clear line to the finish.  Jaime and Bob paid for hanging with the ladies and had traffic.  I came in first by a couple of bike lengths.  My new bike really makes a difference. 
     After the awards I drove home and prepared for the next day.  My start time for Sunday was 9:57:30 am.  No need to get there early, so I slept in until 5:00.  The 38 degree temperature insured I packed my cold weather jacket.  Today would start chilly but with only a light wind and a clear sky.  In San Antonio at 8:00 the temperature had already climbed to the low 50's and would be low 60's by my race time, the 5k time trial.  I warmed up in tights and jacket, but determined I would go with just arm warmers for the race and had switched out, leaving the tights on until just before starting.
     But about 9:30 I wandered up to the start line (about a quarter mile away from the car), to see how things were progressing.  It seems the start times were thrown out the window, and the director asked if I were doing the time trial (about half the folks on bikes were just warming up for the 40k road race), and when I said yes, she said get in line.  Only four folks ahead of me.  We were being chip timed, and the computer could sort everything out, but this was disconcerting to say the least.  So I raced with tights on.
     Much better than yesterday.  We were able to do an out-and-back course, three-quarters up the hill.  Without the wind in my face, I did it in the big ring and kept a good, steady pace, and after the turn-around was able to boost the speed up to 30.8.  I pushed through the finish and did a quick cool down and went back to the car.  Because I was unsure of when the road race started, I wanted to get the bike set up before resting/refueling.  Leaving the computer at home yesterday made switching bikes easy, just pull it out of the car and transfer the number/chip.  If I wanted data today, I'd have to change out the Stages power meter.  I was just finishing up that chore when the race director came into the parking lot calling for 88 (that's me).  She was in a panic, in that the computer did not register my finishing.  Pook!
     My guardian angel was really looking after me.  What with the crazy start, I hadn't done my usual thing with the computer of starting it ten seconds before my time.  Instead, just before he said "go" I hit the button.  And, rather than take a few breaths before hitting the stop button after finishing, I hit it immediately.  So, I pulled up my results and we subtracted 1.7 seconds to round it off at 9:43.  Bob finished at 9:48.  I just looked at Garmin Connect and it has my moving time at 9:41.  It also has the length at 3.4 miles.  My average speed of 21.1 mph is 1.3 mph faster than last year.
     That crisis attended to, I prepared to stretch and relax.  Then came the announcement the races would start at 10:45, not 11:00, about a half hour away.  Still, no rush, plenty of time.  I went to the bathroom, rode around on the bike to make sure it and me were operational, and came back to the car. Ate a Clif bar, had water, IsoPure protein drink, pickle juice.  I've been 98% decaffeinated for years.  But I had a package of caffeine Gu in the car for energy emergencies.  I felt it necessary to use it.  Directions indicate take 15 minutes before your start.  I dutifully followed directions, including taking water after, and diddled around a bit before heading to the start line.
     Then came the announcement.  The race would be delayed.  It seemed a small plane had crashed in a nearby field.  Emergency vehicles would be coming and wanted the road clear.  About an hour later we were given the all-clear.  So much for last-minute pre-race preparations.
     Another aside: I dislike wheel-suckers.  You know, those guys who sit on for the whole race, then unleash their sprint.  I understand this is a race and tactics are part of winning.  But really, we are just a bunch of old guys having fun.  We know each other (most of the time), have a pecking order, and while competitive, are mostly gentlemanly about it.  I don't necessarily dislike those who only show up for the 40k race.  As a matter of fact, until recently I did the time trials and 40k, but skipped the 20k so I'd have decent legs.  But I would also take my turn at the front.  Hey, when you lead the group, you can go at your own speed and they can either draft or take it away from you.  If you show up for only the 40k and refuse to help out, I have a dislike.
     We had such a guy for our race.  He did the same in Dallas.  There, about half way through, he was last of five guys, with me in fourth.  I intentionally let a gap form and he didn't immediately recognize it.  The guys put the hammer down and he had to expend a lot of matches to bridge up.  I think he knew it was on purpose, in that he wouldn't let me get in front of him again.  The only time he was behind me in San Antonio was when I was leading.  But when I dropped off, he did too.
     Today, there were no ladies to draft.  Again there were only five of us.  But without the wind, we were setting a decent pace.  Again, on the second lap, with me leading, a group of faster guys passed just before a ninety-degree turn.  I accelerated and jumped on their wheels, leaving my group expending lots of energy to track me down.  Once they caught me, about a half mile of trying, I sat up and let the faster guys move away.  That was fun.  Then it was back to doing laps.  We left one guy behind, so three out of four of us took turns at the front.  Another group of fast guys passed us and again I jumped on and the others had to struggle to catch up.  We finally shamed Fresh Legs into taking a half lap lead, but by now we were setting up for the finish.
     The timer was calling out laps remaining, three, two, last lap.  Unfortunately, since we were lapped by the young, fast guys, he was confused.  Our last lap was only nine of ten.  Didn't matter, if he said last lap, we treated it as the last lap.  As it turned out, I was leading up the back-side hill.
     I don't mind bragging, I can take that last turn faster than any of the others.  But, unlike yesterday, when you made the turn you have the wind (not as strong as yesterday, but still significant) in your face.  In the previous eight laps I determined I wouldn't be the one leading out of that turn.  As it happened, that decision was wrested from me.
     About 200 meters from the turn, Mr. Fresh Legs attacked from the back.  Jaime yelled out "Go, Go!" and I started to accelerate.  Of course, he was by me and had about twenty yards as we hit the turn.  Another fifty yards and I was on his wheel.  You've got to be really strong to attack in a headwind.  Unfortunately, I hesitated just a second, long enough for Jaime and Bob to pass on the left.  I hit it again and easily distanced Fresh Legs but couldn't get to the other guys. 
 Jaime told me afterwards that he didn't hold my wheel out of the corner, but was really motoring once he came off it.  Bob was on his wheel but couldn't pass.  I was happy with third.  Had I the confidence to do another gear and not hesitate it might have been a different ending.  But medals aren't really why we (well, me) race, it is to have fun. 
   
 Dean puts his medals in a box, I display mine.  But the medals are only a representation of the commitment you have to the sport.  When you retire, you cannot sit around waiting to expire.  I put a lot of time and energy into cycling.  I even put some time into writing about cycling.  There are worse things in the world to do with your spare time.
   

Sunday, April 1, 2018

CASTELL RIDE. BIKE FOR SALE!

     This is not an active "for sale" thing.  But if someone wants to make me a decent offer, I'm perfectly willing to let it go in order to help finance my next purchase.  My 2003 KHS XC904r mountain bike is like a Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.  After reading this post, I expect zero offers, unless it is wanted for parts.
     Yesterday I showed up to a gravel ride out of Castell, Texas, sponsored by Velo View Bike Tours.  I've written about them before and as always, they get an A+ rating from me.  They were all (12 total riders) on 'cross bikes, I had the only mountain bike.  Several folks remarked on my 26 inch wheels, several other folks commented on the heaviness of the bike.  When new, compared to other mountain bikes, this was lightweight.  Compared to the new 'cross bikes, it's a Clydesdale.  I'm really not into gravel rides, so when I do one it has to be on what I have, which is the KHS.
     There is a race next week, so this ride was a pre-race recon to familiarize or re-familiarize those racing with the course.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I didn't quite anticipate the pace.  This wasn't the casual ride I envisioned.  But Dan said at the outset we would re-group at the turns, unless those who knew the route wanted to carry on by themselves.  I brought up the rear on all re-grouping, but not by a lot.  I'd gear down in the deeper sand and carry on.  When traversing the never-ending washboard in the opening miles I briefly considered taking off the lockout to soften the beating my shoulders were taking.  But the ruts in the sand made by the riders ahead convinced me I needed firm control of the front of the bike.  I'm sure in a few days my shoulders will stop aching.
     I would love to give you the stats for the whole race, but eight minutes (or 1.8 miles) from the start my computer decided it was time to update firmware.  For the next nine miles it updated, not recording any data.  Those miles happened to be uphill, in sand and washboard, against a stiff wind.  Fortunately, the course consists of two loops, north and south, with a refuel stop back in Castell.  There was no way I would be doing both loops. As it turned out, that was the thought of about half of us.
     But I really want to describe the bike a little.  In 2003 I rode my first mountain bike on the John Wayne Trail in Oregon (see account in Bicycle Journeys with Jerry).  Deciding that rail-trails would be in my future, I asked my friend Ray to build up a bike for me.  The KHS soon came into my possession.  I had to replace the fork, but everything else is the same as when Ray built it. I've ridden it sporadically on rail-trails, never on a mountain bike trail, and last year did a gravel ride in Arkansas with Velo View.  See posting June 21, 2017.
     Last week I saw an advertisement about car tires which indicated they should be replaced at least every four years no matter how many miles were on them.  That got me to thinking about the tires on the KHS.  Fifteen years and they still look good.  But I began to worry.  Perhaps they have dry-rotted and will leave me stranded fifteen miles from the van.  Pook, they may be permanently stuck to the rims.  I have a replacement tube in the saddle pack.  Oh!  That tube came with the bike in 2003 and hasn't been out of the saddle pack since.  Then came a follow-up thought: I've never (NEVER) even changed the tubes on these tires.  True, they don't have a lot of miles (maybe 2,000), but how long do you figure a tube can last?  Well, let me tell you, I have a kid's bike that is over thirty years old and it has the original tubes.  I air them up when the grandkids come.
     Tomorrow I'll clean the bike and hang it up until the next wild hare (maybe wild hair,) induces me to join a ride that isn't on a firm road.
     
   
   
   

Monday, March 19, 2018

DALLAS SENIOR GAMES, 2018

     The venue is the five-mile outside road around the Texas Motor Speedway, so the concrete is pretty good although they have poured a lot of cracks.  The inclines are deceptive rather than steep, but it is the wind that determines how you do.  I hate wind, or perhaps wind hates me.  On Saturday we had moderate wind out of the ENE.  I kept checking both the weather station and the read-out in my car and they both showed 60 degrees.  A cold 60 degrees.  I had on tights, a t-shirt under the skin suit, and a jacket to warm up; doffing the jacket just before the start. 
     I'm not particularly fond of the Dallas schedule: 5k time trial (TT) at 9am, 10k TT at 11am, and 20k road race at 1pm, then the 40k road race on Sunday morning at 9am.  I'd rather it be the San Antonio schedule of 10k TT and 20k road race on Saturday with the 5k TT and 40k road race on Sunday.  In the past I would skip the 20k road race and be fresh for the 40k. 
     I've written before about Bill Earp.  He is a very nice, personable guy from Missouri.  He's also faster than me.  With tongue in cheek I say I had to change my bragging from being Texas State Champion to being the fastest guy in Texas.  Two years in a row I came in second to him at the Senior Games State Championships.  Then he missed a handful of years so I thought I'd seen the last of him.  Alas, he showed up in Dallas.
     My warm-up consisted of once around the loop with a few accelerations to bring up the heart rate.  Generally I do thirty minutes of warming up.  Six competitors, five of whom have beaten me at one time or another.  Being third off the line, at thirty-second intervals,  I had one person ahead to judge my placement.  When I first started racing I always worried about being caught by my thirty-second man and sometimes that happened.  No longer.
     We started in a southwesterly direction so the wind helped.  When it curved to the west and started the 1% incline the wind became less helpful.  More curve and now the wind came into the right shoulder, with a 1.8% grade.  Now the downhill (1.1%) and more turning into the wind.  With my nose running freely, I ramped up the power and hit the finish line.  My thirty-second guy was only about fifteen seconds in front of me so I knew I wouldn't be last.  On the cool down we just continued around the loop.  Bill came up so the three of us noodled back to our cars to get ready for the 10k.  They didn't post until later, but I managed second place behind Bill, eleven seconds in arrears.
     The 10k is a full loop plus an additional mile and a third.  The tights came off for this one as the temperature had come up to maybe 65.  For the 5k my legs didn't feel like they had the juice they should have, but they felt better as I again did some warming up sprints.  I glanced at my computer as I hit the 5k mark and saw what looked like thirty seconds faster than my 5k time.  As it turned out, my average speed for the 10k was 1.2 mph faster than the 5k.  Results were the same, Bill was twenty seconds faster.
     I figured about an hour and twenty minutes before the road race and I would use this time to switch my Stages Power Meter from the  TT bike to the road bike.  BIG surprise.  I've been switching cranks between various bikes for the last six months.  While I tighten the two bolts to the required 12-14 Nm, the plastic protector bolt is just hand-tightened.  I couldn't budge it.  Somehow (I would like to think it was all the power I put to the pedals) it had self-tightened.  Bummer.  Of course, I don't race by the computer, but it would be nice to see the results afterwards.  Coach Owen would really want to see them.  Pook!  I replaced the crank on the road bike, threw the bike in the car and drove the half mile back to where everyone else was parked and prepared to refuel and rest.  I had driven to the race start line rather than have the bike that far away.
     As I approached I noticed guys riding in the other direction toward the motorway buildings.  I parked and walked over to Tom Hall and asked how long to the next race.  He said "Right now."  Whaaat!  It seems the speedway folks wanted us off the road earlier than scheduled.  And, we had to shorten the course to meet their time limit.  No time to install a bottle bracket, barely time to throw some water in my Camelbak, no time to put it on under my jersey.
     This first half mile is on bumpy, cracked concrete and we took it easy.  The wind had picked up a bit, so this would be more of a defensive race, coming down to the sprint.  Rather than three laps, it would be two laps plus that half mile start (may have been a tad more than half mile).  We took turns pulling, I chose the part with the wind at my back.  One of the less experienced guys took the lead on the back side of the second lap, into the wind.  Rather than rotate out, he kept it.  Big mistake.
     For the finale, the wind came over our back left shoulder.  I have been working on my sprints and when the first two guys started their sprint, I wound it up and began mine.  Immediately I saw I might have waited another fifty yards, because I think it was about 300 to the finish line.  However, starting this far out I caught some of the guys by surprise.  Richard is a whole lot faster than I and apparently jumped on my wheel.  I finished strong, but he pipped me at the line by about half a wheel.  Wow!  That was fun.  Bill came in third, but I don't know how far back.  So far, the three of us hogged the medals.
     The award ceremonies took awhile, but the speedway folks didn't care as long as we weren't on the road.  Once back at the hotel, I soaked my tired body and prepared for an early dinner at Olive Garden, a few miles down the road.  Then I relaxed in the room and enjoyed the exciting basketball games.
     Breakfast at 6am consisted of oatmeal, juice, a muffin, bagel.  With a 9am start, I had plenty of time to prepare and at 7:45 checked out of the hotel.  I had Nuun in the Camelbak, under the jersey.  Again, tights and jacket for warm-up.  The wind had shifted to ESE and lost some of its bite.  No tights for the race, but arm warmers.    Oooh!  The legs let me know they worked hard yesterday.  Unless the guys took it easy today, there would be no finish sprint.
     Five laps.  Five guys.  Two had dropped out and we had one guy (Brian) with fresh legs.  We started out at a moderate pace, something faster than I would have liked, but not bad.  Two abreast for about a mile, than at a slight turn and lane change, it worked out that me and Bill were pulling, but when I looked back the other guys were lined up behind him.  So I dropped back to the rear.  The pace picked up.  Bill and Richard took turns keeping the pace.  I remembered to hit the lap button the first two laps.  We averaged 20.3 for the first, 21.1 for the second.
     I kept up easily for two laps, never pulling but staying mid pack.  Bill kept applying pressure and by the end of the third lap I was praying I could hang with the group.  On the backside of lap four, with the fresh legs guy (who contributed precious little to pulling) behind me, I (intentionally) let a slight gap open up.  Richard saw this, called out "gap" and he and Bill and Jaime ramped it up.  Fresh legs expended a lot of energy closing it down, with me behind him.  When they saw no gap, the pace lightened.  I dreaded the incline on the fifth lap, but both Bill and Richard were now saving their energy for the end.  My heart rate dropped twenty beats but my legs were telling me "no way."  When the final spring began I noodled on in in last place.  Bill, Richard, Brian in that order.  Still, with a lot of the lap being in the 16 mph range, the final three lap pace was 20.0.
     I'm really happy with the new bike.  I closed down all of the accelerations. I just need to get more stamina.  And, bring a tool to leverage the plastic nut.  I really wanted to see my power and cadence numbers.  Next month is State Championships in San Antonio.
   

Friday, March 16, 2018

OLFACTORY DECLINE

     She said "You stink."  I said "Really, I hadn't noticed."  That was last night.  I hadn't even been out riding, just watching the races at The Driveway.  Truthfully, I've known for awhile that my sense of smell had joined the other senses in their lack of acuity.  Deaf in one ear, hearing aid for the other; cataract surgery for the eyes.  Modern medicine is helping cope with age-related situations.  Don't know of anything for the nose however.
     Back when I was aware of the stench I brought with me after riding (especially next to the freeway), I'd declare that it was actually the bike clothes picking up the engine exhausts that made the most odor.  There was some truth to that.  Dr. George Sheehan (running guru) once said that old people's sweat didn't stink and ran a one-man study (himself) to prove it.  After a few days he modified his findings. 
     I'm pretty sure that on days I don't exercise I can still be socially acceptable the next day.  But I have to rely on someone else to verify that.  My nose works quite well in terms of breathing, it's only smelling that is defective.  The lilacs are blooming but it takes a concerted effort and getting real close for me to enjoy them.  Brewing coffee would once trigger salivary glands, now I just know it's done ten minutes later.
     Ah well, another adjustment in the aging process. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

OH GOOD! A FLAT TIRE.....

     If you really want instructions as to the proper procedure to use to change a tube, see my September 25, 2010 post.  This entry only touches on changing tangentially. 
     A few days ago we had the first Pflugerville Monday Night Recovery Ride.  I really like this ride and look forward to the smooth pace and generally two hours of non-strenuous cycling in the country east of Pflugerville.  About an hour into the ride, in the middle of nowhere (as far as I could tell), Dani said my wheel made a noise and I probably had a flat.   I'm deaf in one ear and take the hearing aid out of the other when I ride, so am thankful for any help.  Sure enough, the rear tire was flat.  I pulled over and began changing out the tube.  Three riders stopped to help (let's be clear, they were there to lend moral support, and only help when asked).
     One of the things I noticed when replacing the tire was how supple it was.  That is, when I pulled out the flat tube, the tire fell off the wheel.  For the uninitiated, one side usually stays in place and when you put in the new one, you just replace the one side.  It took me three tries just to get one side to stay on the wheel.  Very odd.  Ok, the rest of the ride went well (for me, someone else flatted).
     I always do a post-mortem on the tire and tube the next day.  Couldn't fine any hole in the tire and only a minor leak in the tube, along the seam, more like it died of old age rather than an outside force.  The tire was downright flimsy, so I tossed it and the tube.  But that got me to thinking, it had plenty of rubber left, judging from the wear markers.  I have one explanation.
     When I acquired a coach, I also acquired a Stages Power Meter.  My friend Brian loaned me a wheel with a power meter which I intended to use on my trainer bike.  However, the trainer bike is a  seven speed cog and his wheel is ten, so neither the chain nor the cog is happy.  It also is not compatible with the Stages.  As a result, when training called for power information, I lazily just put my road bike on the trainer.  It was supposed to be only once or twice, so I figured it wouldn't hurt.  As it turned out, what with the rain and all, it was more like a half-dozen times.
     This may not be the reason, but it has energized me to update my thirty year old bike with some of the spare parts I keep putting in the cabinet.  Because I'm not mechanically inclined, I'll do what I can, then take it in to BSS to finish up.
     BTW, it took eleven minutes (maybe twelve) according to my Garmin to change the tube.  It could have been faster, but I followed my own guidelines, plus having to find my glasses so I could see what I was doing.  I'm grateful it was successful because it is Sooo embarrassing to change the tube only to not have it hold air. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

HEADS OR TAILS, 2018

   
 I just reviewed my blogs on the 2014 and 2016 Heads or Tails, feel free to pull them up yourself.  This year is almost a duplicate of 2014, including the lap times.  I'll reiterate what I've previously written, then throw in this year.
      Why go to Beaumont at all?  Mainly, I like this race, even at 40k (or maybe because it is 40k).  The course is on concrete or smooth asphalt, mostly flat with enough inclines to take you through the gears.  It is well organized, no nonsense, straight-forward, with chip timing and quickly into the awards as categories finish.  It is run in conjunction with the Gusher Marathon so there are lots of cheering folks (maybe not for cyclists as we whiz past, but cheering just the same).  Everyone with whom I had contact was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful. 
     I've been training hard for the last six months and looked forward to this racing season.  But          my racing took a big hit last week-end when the Brazos Valley Senior Games cycling events were cancelled due to weather.   There were to be 5k and 10k time trials and 20k and 40k road races (20% of my schedule).  The time trials are especially revealing to my readiness, in that they are basically sprints.  Alas, that wasn't to be.
     Instead, my first race would be the Heads or Tails .  I hadn't spent much of my training on the time trial bike, but in tuning up two weeks ago I felt like the saddle to be a bit low, so raised.  Then,  last Wednesday spent time doing the Great Northern Loop (about 3.4 miles).  My TT bike (Felt) has never had a water bottle bracket so I stopped each lap and hydrated.  Everything felt great and I finished quite pleased with the workout.  On Thursday my hamstrings informed me that raising the seat (only a half millimeter) was a mistake.  Pook, ding-fu!  I rolled and massaged them and gave them a hot bath.  They seemed somewhat mollified.  I abbreviated my Friday leg-opener work-out, but the legs were still not happy.
     I drove through Houston on Friday afternoon (white knuckle) and arrived at the Hampton Inn in Beaumont a little before 3 pm.   Packet pick-up was drama-free and quick, at the Garden Inn right next door.   I went up to the table, gave the young lady my name, she pulled out a race number, wrote it down next to my name, pointed to several glasses on the table and said to pick one.   Done, less than a minute.  I'd skipped lunch so had an early dinner at Olive Garden.  Asleep by 8:15 pm.
     Wide awake at 2:15 am.  Bummer.  I had choices to make.  I brought both long and short sleeve time trial kits.  I also had arm warmers, tights, and a jacket.  The forecast was for 49-70 degrees, sunshine, with a brisk wind out of the east (actually just a tad south of east) for the north-south oval.  I repeated my long-time mantra: under 65 degrees, cover the knees, opted for the short-sleeve BSS kit and attached the number to the back, and put out the tights.    I had plenty of time to ponder these decisions with breakfast at 6 am.  Needing to fill empty time, I showered.  While drying my back I felt a twinge in the right latissimus dorsi (or maybe lower trapezius), bringing my drying off to a quick stop.  Ok, I didn't need this too.  I had time to relax and be still, and after a few minutes everything seemed fine.  The hamstrings were also ready to go.
     Breakfast consisted of oatmeal, fruit, orange juice and a sweet roll and by 6:35 I was off to Lamar University and the start line.  Even at 6:45 folks poured into the parking lot.  I snagged a spot close to two porty-potties, which I considered ideal.  The sun peeked over the horizon, and with it came the wind.  I wandered up to the start line, surprised to see the starting ramp in a different lane from two years ago.  Quickly finding the starter, I inquired as to the change of course (had I been more observant of the map posted on the website I would have seen the change).  Satisfied, I returned to the car and prepared to warm-up.
     The first cyclists were off at 7:45 and my start time was 8:46.  At 7:15 I did a preview ride to reacquaint myself with the nuances of this mostly flat course with a few inclines.  Going north was ever so slightly downhill and perhaps 10% of the wind came over my right shoulder.  I had on tights and jacket for this ride and felt quite comfortable.  The lap took 22+ minutes, but all systems reported in as ready to go.  At 8:00 I doffed my jacket (always the plan, but I still had the arm warmers available) and did a few more accelerations.  In doing so I met up with Clif, a super fast 60+ cyclist and exchanged pleasantries (I've written about Clif previously).  He didn't have on tights.
     By 8:30 the temperature had risen a few more degrees and while not 65, I decided I'd look like the fast guys and removed the tights.  I don't particularly like ramps, but this had a rail for support plus a holder.    I started the computer ten seconds before descending the ramp and beginning this adventure.
     I think the wind moved a bit to the south as the day wore on.  My speed going north on the flats stayed in the 24-25 mph range and going south 18-20.   The hamstrings were good, no noise from my back.  The biceps, however, were vociferous in their complaints.  I had forgotten about them and how important they are.  My training includes building them up and for an old guy, I'm pretty proud of how they look.  I held the tuck most of the first lap, but half-way through the second they started sending signals.  I didn't count how many times I had to come up to give them a break on the third and forth laps, but it was too many.  Truthfully, I also came up for air and liquid (for time trials I use a kid's Camelbak under the jersey).
     My friend, Tom Hall, came in first.  In Senior Games he isn't in my age group, but when they go to ten year categories, I get a lot of fast guys.  Fortunately, he was the only one to show up here.  Tom came in 16 seconds faster than me, or 4 seconds per lap.  The biceps may have cost me those seconds.  Other stats, 2014 vs 2018 laps:  17:47 vs 17:35; 18:11 vs 17:53; 18:35 vs 18:19; and 18:43 vs 18:24.  I think that works out to 65 seconds faster this year under similar race conditions.  A review of my heart rate reveals consistency throughout the ride, an average of 141 and a high of 146.  When it came time for the final push, I had zero oomph to push it any higher.
     I've reviewed the stats and where I might have picked up or lost a few seconds.  This is more about learning what to do next time, not a what-if type review.  I can see where I could have shifted to a bigger gear for thirty seconds instead of rolling through or where I went to the small chain ring for an incline rather than come up the cogs in the big ring.  My next races are in Dallas, where gear choices again play an important part.
   
   

Friday, February 16, 2018

RACING IS ADDICTIVE!

     I'm not breaking new ground when proclaiming that racing is addictive.  My first posts declare I just got into it as a way of staying in shape for my biking vacations.  And I repeated that for years, mainly because it is true, or was at the time it was written.  But, I've evolved.  This entry is a timeline of how that happened.
     In 2004 I entered four Senior Games races one week-end, two time trials and two road races.  I did not finish last, although not even close to podium times.  It was this week-end I learned the value of aero bars.  I had had them for several years and knew that they gave me about 2 mph plus a different position to rest my back.  I didn't think it would make much difference in a 5k tt.  Lesson learned.
     As I completed more Senior Games I determined that time trials were more my style, so I concentrated on them.  I would enter one road race just for the training.   Senior Games are configured into five-year categories so it isn't too hard to podium, in that the groups are generally less than ten competitors each.  Therefore, in the following years I would collect mostly bronze, an occasional silver, and a couple of golds when the fast guys didn't show up.
     The addiction to podiums started creeping up on me.  I could continue to use my titanium road bike with aero bars or obtain a time trial bike, which I did.  Immediately my bronze were replaced by silver and gold.  Then I upgraded to my Felt B2 Pro and became a regular on the top spot.  Now I'm really hooked.
     Bike vacations are receding as I get older, although Velo View Bike Tours has a few in Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky that I'd like to do.  Last year after doing well at Nationals I decided to up my game and procured a coach to help make that happen.  I also determined that I'd like to be more than fodder in road races.  As I learned when switching to a time trial bike, equipment makes a big difference.  And so, as my previous post revealed, I have a bike that is quicker than the Roark.
     I awoke early this morning (2:56 am) and was wide awake so sat down to contemplate the world.  Part of my musings fell upon the new bike and why I bought it.  And why I have a coach.  The new season at The Driveway is right around the corner.  Up to seventy-five people sign up for each race.  Truthfully, only a handful have a chance of winning, and probably only half have a chance at the top twenty (which gets your name published as a finisher).  Why race?  Because it is fun no matter where you place.  It is addictive.  Unfortunately, I have gone a step further and have become addicted to top podium finishes.  True, it is a big fish in a small pond and I am always aware of that. Dani posted pictures of their riding mountain bikes out in the desert.  That looks like fun.  Hmmmm.