Friday, March 16, 2018


     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


     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


 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


     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


     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


     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


     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.