Sunday, May 20, 2018


     The races have been held in Hempstead for the last five years.  Since I'm familiar with the course and like to sleep in my own bed, I've taken to just driving down, do the race, drive home, repeat on Sunday for the team time trial.
     I set the alarm for 3:30am and plan to have breakfast and leave no later than 4:30.  It is a two hour drive.  With a start time of 7:40,  I worked backwards from that giving myself thirty minutes of warm-up plus ten minutes of fudge-factor in addition to packet pick-up etc..  I hardly ever need an alarm and Saturday morning was no different.  My eyes flew open at 2:45, wide awake.  Pook!  Had I gone to sleep at 8:45 instead of 10:45, that wouldn't have been so bad.  As it was, I had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and a non-scheduled shower and still leave at 4:15.  Unsurprisingly, there were only a handful of cars on the road.
     Ten years ago, when I first acquired my Felt B-2 time trial bike, I left it in the car while I warmed-up on my road bike.  When I dragged it out to race it created quite a stir.  Besides the surprise factor, this eliminates getting a flat right before you start.  This is now part of my routine.
     My warm-up didn't go well.  I had the devil of a time getting my heart-rate up and my quads were telling me they wanted an hour before being ready to race.  About twenty minutes of riding and the HR finally topped 110 and started moving into zone three, topping out at 135.  The legs were tepid at best.  Neither boded well for a good race.  Plus, we had the wind in our face on the outward leg.
     I switched bikes, went potty one more time, strapped on the aero helmet, and checked in at the start line.  On schedule, so I had one more warm-up loop to make before getting in line.  As last year's winner I had the privilege of going last.
     Richard can beat me like a drum in a road race, but hasn't concentrated on time trials.  Bob and I are closer in abilities, but he is definitely the stronger.  Just not in the time trial.  I've written about Fred lots of times, another strong road racer but not a time trialist.
     My strategy was pretty simple: higher cadence, lighter gear on the way out and higher gear on the way back.  I followed the strategy, but envisioned 90+ as my high cadence and 85 as a low.  Turns out I was closer to 85 out and 80 back, with a fair amount of time in the 70's.  But the speed was good.  I did a lot of gear shifting although I don't think I used more than three gears after the start.  It took about a minute for my HR to reach 140, but the average of 148 with a top of 153 indicates I held 90% of max for thirty-one of the thirty-three and a half minutes of the race.  Ah the legs.  I pampered them for maybe ten minutes before applying power.  They were much happier when we hit the turn-around.
     I had no idea how I was doing compared to the others.  I caught Fred, my one-minute man, before the turn, but was too busy fighting the wind to see if I made up any time on the others.  Truthfully, I figured I'd earned third place.  But there is one spot in the race I thought I could make up time.  At about the 10.5 mile mark, right after an intersection, the road turns up, just topping at 3.3%.  Rather than fight to hold speed, I took it easy and gathered myself for a last push.  Once on flat road my speed picked up, HR held steady with just a beat or two tick upwards, cadence was steady until the finish line was in sight.  A classic finish, top speed and cadence.
     I took about a ten minute cool down, got everything back in the car, re-hydrated, then waited for the awards ceremony.  The hour and a half or so wait allowed us old guys to stand around and talk.  The younger age categories have new people coming in, but us old guys rarely see a newcomer.  Therefore, we all know each other.  Richard and Bob had to be introduced to each other, but I'd known each of them for several years.  Bob had gone online and found out I'd won, with him second and Richard third.  That was a pleasant surprise.
          Medals in hand (this is a race within a race, so we got two medals), I retreated to the car, drove home and prepared to do it again on Sunday.  First we start with attitude.  The Sunday team time trial had us up against the young guys: 70+ rather than 75+.  There were two teams of these guys and all six of them posted times faster than me.  The only other team was comprised of beginners.  Therefore, we were pretty much assured of third place no matter what our effort.
     Speaking of beginners, my team had verteran Dean and Bob.  Dean is 79 and Bob had never done a team time trial before.  We went over a few basics, but let him learn on the job.  Our start time of 8:28 at least let me sleep in.  Warm-up went well.  We had no incidents, fought the wind on the way out and cruised on the way back.  We dropped Dean with a couple of miles to go, and Bob had to lead me in the last mile.  Yesterday had caught up with me.  We weren't close to second and fourth was a distant fourth.
     I have a few weeks before Nationals.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


     If you clicked on this thinking it described idyllic, gentle cycling in bucolic, scenic settings you've come to the wrong place.  For that you should check out Bicycle Journeys with Jerry or Gotta Go! Cycling Vacations in Fantastic Locations.  No, this is primarily about going fast in age-category races.
     We do what we can to fight off the effects of aging but there is no denying that young folks are faster and stronger.  Yes, USA Cycling has a 35+ Masters Division, but for us old guys that is laughable.  I'm talking about 50 and up.  Which is why I like Senior Games.  They have five-year age categories.  There are a few other races where the organizers have ten-year categories, like 50+ and 60+ and that at least narrows the field to a more manageable size.  But unless you are super strong, if you are in the upper age range you are just in it for the exercise.  The exceptions that I know off the top of my head are Fred Schmid of Waco, Durward Higgins of Chattanooga,  Deb Barton of College Station and Linda Margraf of Fort Worth.  This post isn't about them.
     Generally speaking, and especially after 65, you are competitive the first two years of your age group, maybe competitive in the third year, and hopeful in the last two years.  Being in your last year brings joy that you are getting older and that next year you move up to a new category.  Senior Games Nationals are every two years, so if you manage to qualify (top four) at, for instance, age 74, then you will be the youngest (75-79) when you race Nationals. That worked well for me in the time trial. USAC Nationals is every year and there isn't any qualifier.  I guess they figure if you have the courage to show up, then you won't embarrass yourself.  This is my first year to attend.  I was unaware that they had five-year categories until too late last year.
     The title suggests having fun.  Anytime you are on the bike you should be having fun, but training and racing are a different "fun" than just tooling around.  In previous posts I've expressed my chagrin at finishing last in a road race.  And I repeat, there is no shame in being last, someone is for every race.  But for me it was a wake-up call that something was wrong and changes needed to be made.  Therefore, for the last two years there has been less of one type of fun and more of the other.  I'm almost to where I think I should be.  Ah, but that's the rub.
     As a result of my success at being stronger and faster (plus getting older), my definition of "fun" has widened.  Whereas before I eschewed criteriums because their age grouping stopped at 60+, thus leaving me to be pulled from the race before I even worked up a sweat (a serious waste of money), I'm now thinking maybe I can hang around until at least halfway through.  Or find races that are a little more lenient.  Mountain biking and Cyclocross have also crossed my mind.  Gravel grinding is a distinct possibility.
     I haven't given up cycling vacations.  They are an integral part of staying in shape, especially if mountains are involved.  In one previous post I demonstrated (somewhat facetiously) that guys who raced and took cycling vacations placed higher in their races than those who did not.  So stay tuned as to what sort of trouble I can get myself into.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


     My friend, Dan, posted a lament (comment, observation, whatever) yesterday about racing as he approaches 50.  The gist of his content was that he is new to cycling, six years, and is racing against guys who have been doing it for decades.  Each year he is getting stronger, faster, and feeling better than he did when in high school and college.  When will he hit his peak and will he know it? I gave him a short answer but immediately knew I'd be posting a rambling blog to cover the topic.
     I'll answer his last question first: yes, you will know when you have peaked.  There will be several peaks.   What you do is fight off the initial peak, the subsequent peaks, and then gracefully accept the final peak.
     Let's flesh out the strength part.  There is a reason very few pro cyclists race after 40, and many after 35.  They don't have the strength to compete against youngsters.  Not that they are slow as compared to us mortals, they're just not fast enough to hang with the peloton.  So, Dan, apples to apples, that train has already left the station.  Yes, you are faster than a lot of young guys, but that isn't apples to apples.  You are stronger and faster than you were in college because you are training more, and developing your cardio vascular system better (and probably have a much better diet).
     Cardio is key.  I have a mantra: trust your muscles, protect your heart (which includes lungs).   That is, assuming you have trained properly, you can over-work your legs in a race and they will forgive you, but if you over-work your heart it doesn't matter how much leg strength you have left.  Ergo, cardio should be the last thing you push over the edge in a race.  You told me the other day about how Zwift really pushes you to be better.  That's a really good cardio workout.
     Experience counts.  Here, you are behind the curve, but probably not as much as you think.  Being cerebral, you have already picked up on most of the nuances in racing.  Each race will give you a new insight.
     Ah, training.  Let me digress into my own history.  When I first started racing, it was merely something to do when I wasn't off on a cycling vacation.  There were only a few races per year.  After the first year I started getting medals, tokens of my improvement.  I concentrated on time trials and just did road races for training.  Continued podiums kept me looking for more ways to get better.  I went to the gym in the off season and worked on my legs.  Then, two years ago I finished last.  I had seen the signs coming but ignored them (see previous posts).  Something had to change.  I changed my diet.  Immediate improvement.
     After last year's Senior Games Nationals, I decided I wanted to branch out and also do road racing.  But for that, I needed to get better.  Enter a coach.  I no longer go to the gym.  He had me doing drills that instantly improved my strength, cardio, and confidence.  One more thing: equipment.  I also acquired a really fast, new bike.
     About your bell curve, the shape really is a quick (relatively) ascent to the peak, then a gradual descent.  Let's talk about peaks, which is really just a recap.  When you feel you have peaked it is time to see what you can do to get faster.  A new bike?  Gears?  Change your training?  Get a coach?  When all else has been done, then accept the inevitable gracefully.  BTW, it has been eight years since I realized I'd peaked.  But that didn't mean I stopped trying to get better.
     One last thing, I didn't know where to put this.  You have picked a healthy lifestyle that will keep you healthy.  Many folks blame getting older for lots of their ailments and lack of energy.  You are maybe fifteen years removed from that, but if something is wrong with how your body is working, look for a reason other than age.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


     On Sunday mornings the Bicycle Sport Shop Lamar location is quite busy.  At 8:00 the Effort Ride (38ish miles, about 16 mph,  not a no-drop ride but with several regrouping spots and usually a refreshment stop) and the Beginner/Recovery Ride (25 miles at around 12 mph or the pace of the slowest rider) depart.  But at 7:30ish the All Business Ride (ABR) leaves.
    As the name implies, this ride is all business.  Still, it isn't a race where the riders are going all out.  Rather, it is a fast-paced group ride.  Neophytes are discouraged (or maybe just told to find another ride, I really don't know).
     What with my training and new bike, and the desire to get just a little bit faster before going to Nationals in June, I thought I'd see if I could hang with these guys (and ladies).  It's not like this wild idea came out of the blue.  Last week's 40k road race at Senior Games State Championships had me going for 24 miles and averaging 18.8 mph.  And with this group I could draft the whole way.  It was worth a shot, so I dutifully reported at 7:15 and prepared to ride.
     The route took us east through Austin and toward Manor, on Manor Road actually.  The multiple red lights gave me opportunity to warm up, practice my starts and clipping in, experiment with gears.  Going up Chicon was a bit of a challenge, but we weren't pushing the pace, just going uphill.  I had a clue then, but didn't pick up on it immediately.  My heart rate (HR) was 144 when it should have been 130-132.  But Chicon is a series of inclines and a couple of red lights and the HR dropped back down.  Then went back up.  Once on Manor Road we opened it up a bit and I had no problem sticking in line.  But after passing Airport we had a few climbs and the HR was over 150 on each one.  For the record, my max HR is 165, so anything over 150 should have had me using lots of energy, not the mild exertion I was doing.   At a light or going downhill it should have dropped in the 110 range but it stayed over 120.   Any little increase would push it up over 140 when it should have been under 130.  At the forty-eight minute mark I pulled the plug (told Dan of my difficulties and I'd be turning around).
     This has happened to me before on several BSS rides (See my July 25, 2017 post for the most recent).  I haven't been able to zero in on a cause, but I can say on Saturday I was a total couch potato.  In any case, once I turned around and had the wind at my back I just started cruising.  Still, it took a good fifteen minutes before the HR started showing any semblance of normalcy.  Interestingly enough, the relaxed time back was only two minutes longer than going out.  I had very few red lights coming back.
      Up until I turned around I had no difficulty staying with the group.  But drafting is a very important element and I took full advantage.  At one time Dan dropped back and in doing so gave an example of proper drafting.  So, unless they tell me to find another ride, they can expect me to give it another go.

Monday, April 16, 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


     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


     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.