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.
   

Thursday, February 8, 2018

NEW BIKE DAY!

     My last new bike purchase was in 2008, a Felt B2 time trial (or triathlon) bike.  I will skip the good story about this, other than it is scary fast and propelled me to multiple podium finishes.  Jack, of Jack and Adams, spent over an hour getting me fitted and here it is ten years later and it still looks and rides like new.
     In 2004 my friends Ray and Byran invited me to ride the John Wayne Trail in Washington State.  Ray even provided the bike (a $2,000 Weyless), since I had never been on a mountain bike before (the whole story can be found in Bicycle Journeys with Jerry, Amazon or Barnes and Noble).  I didn't buy that bike, as nice as it was, but shortly after decided that I would include rail trails on my travel itinerary (see Gotta Go!).  Ray volunteered to work me up a nice one (KHS).  It doesn't get used much anymore, although I took it to Arkansas for a Velo View Bike Tour (gravel) last year.
     What does get used a lot is my custom titanium Roark bike, purchased in 2001 after my coast-to-coast ride.  We had stopped by the Roark factory, given a tour and talk, and one of us bought one on the spot.  It was apparently a great bargain, but he later confessed he used the money set aside for his upcoming wedding to make the purchase.  Don't know how that went down with the fiance.  I, on the other hand, waited until returning home and discussing with my wife.  Alexis at Bicycle Sport Shop offered me a good deal on a LeMond Titanium (and let me take it to Hotter'n Hell Hundred, which convinced me I needed a Ti bike). I opted for the more expensive Roark and traveled to Indianapolis to be "fitted," receiving the bike just before Christmas.
     All of this background is my way of showing that I don't do a lot of bike buying and I really don't like shopping (not just for bikes, but in general).  So, after deciding that I'd like to be a bit more serious about racing (not just time trials), and acquiring a coach to help make that happen, the next logical step would be to get a bike faster than the Roark.
     I'll digress into the decision, in that it presented a conundrum.  The Roark is light, and when I substitute my Zipp wheels, it is fast enough to keep me competitive.  Up until the final acceleration, when I wave good-by to my companions.  If I convert it to a more racing setup, I lose the gearing I need for climbing mountains.  I like riding in the mountains.  I could buy, or work up, an older bike to ride in the mountains or I could buy a racing bike and leave the Roark alone.  Enter Allen.
     I was talking with Todd one day explaining my dilemma and he suggested I get with Allen, who has a large inventory of really nice bikes.  He mentioned one in particular that he knew Allen had.  Well, we did get together and I was blown away with all the great bikes available.  Weather delayed getting back for some road testing, but a few weeks ago I got to test ride four bikes with Allen.  The day before I'd previewed a nice Pinarello with Di2 shifting and it was impressive.
     I have to believe it was salesmanship and not chance that the first bike offered was a Trek Emonda.  Another digression: when my exercise of choice was running, buying shoes had to give me that "ah!" fit.  Nikes, New Balance and Reebok were all acceptable, but Asics gave me the "ah!" feeling and have been my shoe brand for the last thirty years.  The Emonda elicited the same feeling when I took it around the block.  I gave it a few climbing and acceleration tests and was amazed at the responsiveness.  I came back and then tried a very nice Cannondale, then another which name escapes me.  These were good, better than the Roark, but not great.  I challenged Allen to find a bike that would knock the Emonda off its pedestal.  He came up with a Madrone.  Oooh!  Very nice. I rode a red and white one, but he had a very pretty green and white (previously seen at The Driveway under the capable form of CD4).  This came in a very close second.   Yes, Todd had tipped the Emonda for me all along.  I just had to try it for myself.
     Allen could get me the Madrone with 10 speed Di2 shifting (matching both the Roark and Felt in case I wanted to change wheels) for a substantial sum less than the Emonda, which had  11 speed Dura Ace mechanical.  I used the same reasoning in going with the Emonda as I did with the Roark: always buy the best, you will never be disappointed.  I've had 17 years of superior riding with the Roark, so have no doubt the Emonda will be just as satisfying.

Monday, January 29, 2018

CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES

     I've broached this subject before, but that doesn't stop me from hitting it again.  As Professor Dumbledore so sagely said: "It is our choices, Jerry (I substituted me for Harry), that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."    Last year the Senior Games National Time Trials were held outside Birmingham, Alabama.  Those who previewed the courses came back with horror stories about the difficulty, due to the hills.
     Twice before I competed at Nationals and failed to make the top ten, although fastest from Texas when I finished thirteenth and eighteenth.  I was fairly confident of a top ten finish in Birmingham, and pretty sure of getting at least fifth.  When I rode the course the day before racing, I was somewhat dismayed that we would start the 10k going up, then a long downhill, a roller, a rough patch about a hundred meters across a dam, then a narrow turn-around.  Of course I reasoned everyone else had the same ride.
     I use my road bike with aero bars for recon rides.  That long uphill would be a problem.  But the finish would be blazing fast, as long as I had the oomph to push it.  The next day I started off at a moderate pace, not wanting to get in the red at the beginning of the race.  I had plenty of juice for the downhill, but at a long curve actually had to come out of my tuck for a few seconds.  I understand one person ran off the road here later.  I felt good, hit the turn-around, and eventually made it up the long hill (9 mph) and blasted the downhill to the finish, right behind my one-minute man.  It took quite awhile for the results and I was super surprised and pleased to see that I came in second.
     That afternoon I relaxed and started planning the next day's 5k.  Rather than just let us run the first half of the 10k course, the organizers again had us doing an out-and-back.  Originally the start line was the same uphill, but that would put the turn-around on a downhill.  The hue and cry finally had them relent somewhat, and they moved the start so we had a flatish beginning, then down the big hill, then the turn-around on a slight uphill.  Many of us contemplated using road bikes because of the uphill.  I debated, agonizingly weighed the pros and cons, and decided to go with the road bike and aero bars and the TT bike's Zipp wheels.  What was I thinking!!!
     On the downhill I glanced at the computer and saw two miles per hour slower than yesterday.  Wasn't even close to getting out of my tuck on the curve.  On the uphill, where I expected to make up time, I saw 8 mph.  My one minute man was in sight, but not close.  Well, that was depressing.  Historically, I do much better in the 10k than the 5k, so I was thinking at best a 3rd.  As it turned out, I earned 8th place. 
     Disappointment washed over me.  Not so much of the placing, but of my poor choice of bike.  The lack of confidence that I could power the TT bike up the hill sticks in my craw.  I didn't think I'd lose so much time on the downhill and made up no time going back up.  But wait a minute!  I came to Nationals hoping for top ten, and that was achieved.  Plus, I learned a powerful (but oft repeated) lesson: you go with what brung ya.
     Racing in 2017 was really a spectacular year for me: entered twelve races and took home eight gold, two silver, a bronze, and 8th.  However,  8th place taught me the most.  I currently have twenty races lined up for 2018 and expect to do well.  Even with a coach, and a new bike (stay tuned) I don't think I can duplicate last year.  I do expect to make better choices. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

     Yesterday I was in South Austin trying out bikes.  I'm getting a new race-specific one, but this post has nothing to do with that, other than I was south.  On the way home I stopped at the light at Hester's Crossing (it doesn't matter if you're unfamiliar), overlooking Round Rock.  Having a minute to let my mind wander, I recalled stopping here on my bike in 1975.
     We lived in North Austin then, and I was headed to Waco, where I'd be picked up by my wife and kids and thence to Dallas.  That was the plan.  It was chilly, with a breeze out of the north.  I stopped at this intersection to choose between going into town or riding on the interstate, since the access road stopped.  Back then there were only fields left and right.  Back then I had the access road to myself, with an occasional vehicle.
     Following some self-consultation, I jumped on the interstate.  Traffic was light and it wasn't long before the access road reappeared.  I was on my Schwinn Sports Tourer (still in my attic) and as the weather warmed so did my spirit.  Truthfully, I didn't know much about long distance riding and while I had sufficient water I didn't have much else.  This would have been a much easier journey had the wind been at my back.  But I soldiered on, more or less alone as Georgetown and Salado came and went.  I stopped in Temple for lunch and a much-needed break.
     I was tired, but had to navigate Temple and get to Waco.  Cycling became labored.  Just south of Lorena is a long downhill followed by a long uphill.  That was my breaking point.  I stopped before going down at a spot where Marilane couldn't miss me and sat down to wait.  I've always been good about estimating time and distance, so we had coordinated our meeting (no cell phones or other communication).  Of course, I was about fourteen miles short of Waco,  but then I was also going slower than anticipated.  The upshot was a minimal wait, like fifteen minutes.
     I'd stopped by a road sign so I could prop the bike upright, the better to be seen.  No problem.  Once in the station wagon, I zonked out, really exhausted.  I know I slept for over an hour, and it might have been all the way to Dallas.  To this day, I still point out the stopping place in Lorena.  I'd planned one hundred miles but fell short by ten or so.  Still felt accomplished.
     We moved away, moved back.  When my youngest (Kurt) son wanted to do distance cycling in the late eighties, we would do the access road from Round Rock to Salado and back.  When I trained for my coast-to-coast trip in 2001 the access road was a major part of my distance rides. Salado is where a pickup rolled the stop sign and hit me, but I digress.  Increasing traffic has caused most of my access road cycling to become nostalgia (or is that nostalgic??, definitely awkward but gets the point across).
     All of this because of a red light.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

NIGHT RIDER

     Last night I joined some Bicycle Sport Shop (BSS) peeps for a relatively short (sixteen miles) trek around various parts of Austin.  I'm familiar with the route, as it is a winter staple, but haven't ridden it for a couple of years.  This would be my first night ride in awhile, not counting the Pflugerville Monday Night Recovery Ride which ended with Daylight Savings.  I don't count this ride because at least half of it is in daylight.
     Anyhow, eleven of us put the wheels in motion at 6:00 pm.  The first thing that crossed my mind was I really need to get clear lenses for my Oakley glasses.  You would think that these lenses would be discounted since they have been obsolete for at least ten years.  I bought them in 2001, with three sets of lenses: grey, gold iridescent, pink.  The pink worked okay, but clear would have been better.  This was to be a slow-to-moderate pace as we had several folks just getting back into shape.  The pace was moderate, nowhere close to slow.  But, we were in town and there were sufficient stop signs and red lights for regrouping.
     Several miles into it we turned right and encountered a slight grade.  The pace didn't slow and we dropped riders.  At the next turn we waited and regrouped.  Two of us weren't having a good night and allowed they would call it an evening and return to the start.  Our route now was in the hills, with light to zero traffic.
     I really like this particular part of the course.  In the daytime.  Going downhill at 30 mph when you can't see the road takes a certain amount of daring (or acceptance of your fate if you screw up).  Of course, I had blinking red lights in front to help keep my bearings.  BTW, this section has me hitting forty mph in the daytime.  Several of the turns around Lake Austin had me braking until being completed.  I silently cursed my light.  It is a good light, but about half the lumens of a couple of the others, who look like car lights.  Plus, with my new, larger-in-circumference handle bars, it had to be mounted on the right hand side and pointed toward the left.  I've had this light about five years and tonight discovered (after 90% of the ride) that the mount actually rotated so I could have pointed it directly in front of me.  Never too late to learn!
     The rest of the return was uneventful, other than me hitting a couple of potholes.  I'm quite thankful for my Continental 4000 tires and Rolf Vector Pro wheels (also purchased in 2001).  It struck me as we pulled into the parking lot at the end that riding at night seems a lot longer than it really is.  The total time of an hour and a half (including stops) seemed much longer.  The sixteen miles could easily have been mistaken for twenty-four. I'll see if the same feelings happen next week.
   

Thursday, January 11, 2018

EXERCISE, BREAK THE HABIT!!

     The title is just to get your attention.  The blog is about how easy it is to break the habit.  Earlier this morning, Carolyn Defoore posted in Shott Performance Coaching an easy loosening routine called Myrtl.  When I first signed up with Owen (Shott, coach), several months ago, he sent me the link to Myrtl and it became part of my workout calendar.  This morning, while drinking my wake-up glass of water (this is a habit I don't break: 12 ounces of water as soon as I stagger into the kitchen), I confessed that I had skipped a few days (more like a few weeks, I blame Christmas) and had stiff joints.  Now, it might have been being beaten up by the wind for a couple hours on the bike yesterday, but at least part of it I ascribe to lack of Myrtl.
     It reminded me just how easy it is to do something (anything) other than exercise.  I guess I average fifteen hours a week on the bike, so it isn't like I'm a couch potato.  It's the other exercises that pose the problem.
     #1 advice on the exercise chart is to pick something you like, can do, and can commit to.  It doesn't have to be strenuous.  I am a big proponent of yoga, and stayed with it about ten years before getting more involved in cycling.  Lately I've noticed a tightening of my lower back muscles and that walking was an easy exercise that would loosen them up.  Myrtl is another easy exercise you can do while the coffee brews.
     Sticking with your exercise is the hard part.  It's best if you have a routine.  Of course, when the routine gets interrupted, it takes strong commitment to stay with exercise.  For instance, my morning routine is to wake up, have my water, pull up the computer to catch up, and once my wife is up and moving, make the coffee.  While brewing, I do some hand/wrist exercises and hip circles.  Between coffee and breakfast I do Myrtl, CoreX (another 5 minute exercise from Coach Owen) or planks or push-ups.  After breakfast I get ready to ride (unless it is too cold, too windy, too early).  Christmas decorating, undecorating, guests, you-name-it sometimes gets me out of routine.  The first to suffer is non-biking exercise.
     I have found that after cycling, my body (actually my mind) wants no more exercise.  This takes a little explanation.  If the ride hasn't been too strenuous, like under three hours, I will put the bike away and do about fifteen minutes of stretching (yoga type).   If longer or particularly depleting of electrolytes, I forego the stretching until later.  I learned the hard way that depleted muscles will cramp.  Also, social rides that end with a few carbohydrate-replacing beers fall into that category.   "Later" most times never happens.
     This is why Myrtl, yoga type exercises and walking are important.  They can be done anytime and aren't strenuous.  Stretching can be done in your house and walking can be started right outside your front door.  95% of those who read this blog are athletes, committed to their sport.  But your sport-specific exercises might be ignoring the rest of your body.  Enhance your performance, get your whole body involved. 
     BTW, a review of my posts show I've broached this subject several times in the past, December 13, 2011 and December 29, 2014 among others.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

LIME CREEK

     The weather this past week was less than desirable and the coming week is certifiable kitchen-on-the-trainer weather.  Historically I avoid riding on Saturday, using that as my rest day.  However, to get in any decent workout, and with the immediate future looking so dim, I began casting about for riding companions.  Saturday Solo would be my last option.
     The Bicycle Sport Shop has two group rides out of their Research Blvd. store.  But I detest riding on Parmer Lane, which is the out-and-back route for the 25-miler and most of the 35-miler.  There was a glimmer of hope with the announcement of The Dam Loop Ride also leaving the Research store.  This is a 50-mile ride at a good pace.  Unfortunately, the ride leader postponed it until next week.  I considered volunteering to lead it, briefly.  Then I was thrown a lifeline.  Jerome posted he was doing the Lime Creek Loop and would anyone like to join him.  Lime Creek is only 30ish miles but is strenuous enough that I immediately assented.  Another BSS rider, Dinh, would make it a threesome.  A bonus was the 9:30am start time, rather than the 8:00am of the other rides.
     I've ridden Lime Creek at least a half-dozen times, in both directions.  I like the route.  But in all of the previous rides, I've struggled.  Unlike most others, I have a triple chainring so the major feature, the Three Sisters (a beast of a three-tiered climb) is not the sticking point.  I make it up, usually with a gear to spare.   No, no matter who is leading, I cannot seem to keep up on the road leading to the climb.  The route itself is actually fun, with undulations and curves and a couple of short, steep climbs.  There are always cyclists riding it so the residents are mostly very good about safely passing.
     Jerome led out at a brisk pace, one that upped my heart rate rather quickly.  The first six or so miles are flat, and we hung around 15-17 mph.  Then the turn onto FM 2769.  First a few rollers then a big downhill.  My top speed of 39.4 saw me dropping behind the other two.  Actually, I thought my computer had gone wacko, in that it felt more like 29 mph.  Anyhow, I pushed my pace but couldn't bring them back.  On the other hand, they didn't disappear.  It was more like 20-50 yards most times, 100 yards occasionally.
     We regrouped in Volente, at the turn onto Lime Creek.  The short climb once again had me falling back.  But this time I caught up and stayed with them.  It is about six miles of fun before the Three Sisters. We rolled up and down, taking banked, blind curves on the outside because oncoming cars and trucks have been known to slide over the middle line.  This is, after-all, a narrow two-lane road without shoulders.    I have never recognized where the climb starts until I get to it.  Jerome was leading when I heard his expletive as he shifted down and dropped his chain.  Bummer!  I moved to the middle chainring and started shifting down (or, up if you are referring to the cogs and not the gears.  So confusing).  I categorize this as three and a half tiers because invariably I think I've done three and then see the really steep part (my Strava has this at 19.6%).  I have two gears left and use one of them and reel myself up.  No rest for the weary.  Off we go for another two miles of mostly flat or slightly down until we reach the convenience store at Anderson Mill.
     I took advantage of the stop to take off my jacket.  It wasn't supposed to warm up until noon, but the sun kept peeking through the clouds and the breeze wasn't near as cold as yesterday and now at my back.  Anderson Mill is mostly flat until it drops down then climbs (10% grade) up to RR 620.  Once again, I dropped back on the downhill and lost even more on the uphill.  But not so much as to miss the green light.  The rest of the ride was uneventful and flat, other than catching another group of riders, and Dinh almost having a disaster when hitting a board in the road.
     I need to do this ride more often but won't do it solo.  Hopefully, my friends will alert me when they want to do it so I can join in.