Monday, October 26, 2009


Previously I wrote that sometimes perception magnified reality. Sometimes perception is right-on, and the time-trials were a good case-in-point. The Garmin supplied cold, hard facts and it is now up to me to do something about it in order to improve my 5km times. It is set up in 5 zones: zone 1 is 50% of my maximum heart rate, zone 2 is 60%, zone 3 is 70%, zone 4 is 80% and zone 5 is 90%.
The two races break down like this in their respective zones: 2.3%; 9.2%; 70.4%; 16.2%; 1.8% for the 5km and 1.3%; 1.0%; 3.4%; 38.3%; and 56.1% for the 10km. It is very clear that spending 70.4% of a race between 70 and 80% of maximum heart rate does not result in optimum performance. Conversely, in the 10km, I did the whole race (95%) above 80%, and a large majority of that above 90% of maximum.
When you watch the Tour de France pros warm up for their time-trials, they work up a sweat on their trainers and according to the commentators, they spend about an hour on them. When I do my 50 minute Carmichael work-out on the trainer, I also sweat profusely. I have to get serious about perfecting a pre-race routine that gets my heart rate up, with lungs and muscles properly responding. But I hope it won't be an hour on the trainer. That is the goal for this winter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This weekend Houston hosted the Texas State Championships for the Senior Games. I scrambled to find time-trialing form after my fabulous three weeks cycling from one end of Great Britain to the other. First I had to find attitude. Plan A, mapped out prior to taking the tour, called for me start some medium-pace time-trialing (just to starting bending in all the right places) immediately upon my return. The second week I would go for speed. In actuality, it took two weeks before I was ready to get on the tt bike, leaving two weeks before racing. We went to Plan B, generally a panic-mode set of practices, and I did two days each at the 5km and 10km distances (3 sets of 5km, and two sets of 10km, three days apart). Then I went to my acupuncturist for some pre-race needles (stress-relief).
Saturday at 9am, give or take, the 5km began. The morning started in the mid-40's, no wind. By race time it had risen to maybe 60, still very little wind. I just can't seem to warm up properly for the 5km. Even though I rode on the road for at least 30 minutes, including sprinting to increase my heart-rate, and 10 minutes on the trainer to again get the heart-rate up and the body used to getting rid of lactic acid, I didn't feel really loose.
The organizers called us to the staging area much too soon, thus we had at least 30 minutes of waiting and allowing the body to cool off. We rode around a bit and up and down a side street, but it wasn't the same. Anyhow, eventually my time came.
Like a lot of previous time trials, I started off quickly, settled into a rythym, and found my heart and lungs complaining at the load I put upon them. My legs refused to apply power to the pedals. Although I kept a good rpm, I knew I should have been in a higher gear and going faster. This is a short race, straight and flat, so the suffering lasted 8 minutes and 7 seconds (pay no real attention to the time, the race was a smidgen over 5km).
As it turned out, the winning time in my age group (65 to 69) was 7:54 and my time was good enough for second place. Comparatively, I tied for eigth place overall. Age groups are in five-year increments starting at age 50 (50-54;55-59;60-64-65-69 and so forth).
We had maybe an hour and a half before the 10km time-trials started. I used the time to stretch, re-hydrate and fuel myself, rest and relax, and do more warm-up on the trainer. I also didn't report to the staging area until shortly before my start time.
The temperature had increased another ten degrees and was quite comfortable. I felt quite relaxed and ready. I moved quickly away and settled onto the aerobars within twenty pedal strokes. The 10km race course was again straight and flat, but also about .4 of a mile short of 10km (due to traffic concerns). Unlike the 5km, I felt strong and comfortable the whole way and the legs supplied proper power, giving me a nice high gear. When I caught sight of the finish line, about a half mile ahead, I pushed hard and achieved an even higher gear, more rpm, and a really fast finish.
The preparations paid off, as I posted a first place in my age group, with a time of 13:20. This was seventh overall. Interestingly, my average speed for the 5km was 23.6 and the 10km 24.3.

Sunday I did the 40km (actually 28 miles) road race, more for fun than anything. I managed to stay with the group until the last 50 meters, possibly because I tried an ill-timed breakaway and ran out of steam at the end. We averaged 20.3mph.
This marks the end of this year's cycling season. Training for next year starts Nov 1.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I've been back now for two weeks and it is almost time to move on to other stuff. There is a book titled I Always Look Up the Word Egregious. If you like words, you should have this close at hand. At the moment I am hung up on Eschew. It's a good word, meaning to shun. I considered using Ignore, and that is possibly more precise, but Eschew keeps rattling around my brain, so like the squeaky wheel, it got the grease.
I arrived at Land's End in race-ready form. Part of my at-home exercise routine includes daily: six sets of sun salutations; bi-weekly: a half hour of abdominal exercises (Suzanne Deason tape); back and leg stretches after cycling. There are others. Well, strenuous cycling or not, this trip was a vacation so I also arrived in vacation-mode. Attitude plus change in routine (and perhaps a Guinness or two) conspired to have me take six weeks off from stretching.
Earlier this week I resumed my stretching routines, and I am hoping my hamstrings will stop yelling at me by Sunday. I sprayed them with BioFreeze last night, hoping to placate. My gastrocnemius and soleus muscles feel at least an inch shorter and are refusing to stretch and my left arch either cramps or threatens to cramp at the drop of a hat. I was doing a hamstring stretch and my abdominal muscle cramped, for crying out loud.
This morning the sun was shining, finally, and I jumped at the chance to get in a 30 mile ride. Ah, my brain jumped; everything from the head down was dragged kicking and screaming. The whole body finally warmed up and got the job done and I can report no injuries. All of this could have been avoided with a couple of simple stretches as part of my post ride warm down.
But I have a caution, learned the hard way: If you deplete your energy stores (like have a really long, hard workout), don't jump off the bike and start stretching. Delay that until you have replaced electolytes and let the body recover. But don't skip it, just delay. Your muscles will thank you for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Climbing Stats

Courtesy Steve, we now have some climbing stats for this ride. Yes, my Garmin 305 records Ascents and Descents, but only if the operator asks it to. I was 2/3 through before realizing I had it set wrong. Anyhow, for this trip we had over 75,000 feet of climbing. Days two and three were the toughest at 6,082 and 5,865 respectively (and respectfully, for that matter). At the time, after day three, I remarked that I had cycled tougher days, but not a tougher 52 miles.
I checked the stats for my coast-to-coast ride, and from Auburn to Truckee, California we rode 76 miles and climbed 8,500 feet, and from Brattleboro, VT to Manchester, NH 6,010 feet over 86 miles.
For a reason that escapes me, the computer (ok, the operator) put Day 3 into three laps. The first one recorded 15.1 miles at an average speed of 7.4, although maximum was a nice 32.5. To get an average like that, I had to have put in some 4 mph miles. This was the morning we were in a fog. Lap two showed an average of 10.3 and a max of 42.3 (the fastest of the whole trip and both Steve and I were grateful the sheep didn't jump) over 32.8 miles.

The day in the rain (Day 16), going down Rest And Be Thankful, it felt a lot faster than 32.9 as I tried to stay up with James. On several other occasions I thought my speed exceeded 40, based on the adrenalin building up, but the Garmin shows differently. Perceptions can sometimes magnify reality.
I am not a fanatic about keeping (and living by) statistics, but they assist in not letting your imagination run wild and I like having them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Reminder: This is an ongoing retelling, starting with the first entry in October.
By my count, the directions on the route sheet numbered 930 for the 20 days of riding. Take this with a grain of salt and a margin of error of 2%. For instance, from Bettyhill to John O'Groats there is only one road, with a left turn to Dunnet Head, but that was an out an back. We had 18 directional entries for the day. The highest day was 71 (twice).
We had 36 undulations (roads with rolling hills, although some of the rolls were really climbs).
We had 86 climbs (lengths varied, but generally it had to be a double-digit percentage, say 10-16%) and 27 steep climbs (18-24% and longer than a quarter-mile, approximately). These were route instruction words and I didn't count "up" or "rolling," only the three categories listed. We really had more climbs than shown, but I didn't count the ones not shown on the route sheets.
Oh yeah, Bicycle Adventures lists the route as 1056 miles and my GPS (Garmin 305) showed exactly 1056 miles, even though at no time did my daily mileage coincide with theirs for more than a few miles.
The second day we had 10 climbs and 6 steep climbs; the third day 9 climbs and 1 steep climb; Day six we had 8 climbs and 2 steep climbs. Unfortunately (or mayby not), I don't have the total feet of ascent. Operator error on the gps.

Friday, October 9, 2009


At London Heathrow, after having the bag screened, I walked through the metal detector with no problem. Being an experienced traveler, my cargo pants had nothing in them and no belt. However, the security lady wasn't stressed by a multitude of passengers so upon seeing my T-shirt (of course I wore the Land's End one), stopped me to inquire if that was what I had been doing on holiday. She gave me a congratulatory "Well done!" then asked if I had done it for charity. I explained that I had not but some of our group had, and mentioned Lyn (not by name) and Alzheimers. She liked that, too, and I moved on.
I bring this up because several people, during the ride, would inquire and donate. The first time was a mistake, in that an old gentleman sidled up to **and asked if he were doing it for charity and rather than take the long answer about some were and some weren't, ** gave the short answer of yes, and before he knew it, the gentleman had pressed (I think £5) into his hand and went on. Surprised, ** couldn't very well chase after and return it, so pocketed it.
Lyn, on the other hand, was an extremely good spokesperson for Alzheimers. Since a majority of my ride time was with her and Steve, I learned a lot about symptoms and care and a lot about how many folks feel the need to donate. At one coffee stop, she came away with more money (from the owner) than we paid for the snack. What amazed me was the people who donated gave no thought that their money wouldn't go to the organization. Not everyone in the world is jaded by scam artists. Anyway, I can't say about the other charities, but Alzheimers was well served on this trip.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


This only is tangentially related to the bike trip. When we bring up the subject of using miles to supplement our travel, every third person opines that it is too much trouble to keep track of and bother about airline miles and hotel perks. And, as I say so often, going by myself and accompanying my wife is like night and day. In this day of full airlines with everyone bringing all sorts of luggage with them rather than checking bags, being able to enter right behind first class gives assurance you have a place for your bag. We do not abuse the bag rules: one in the overhead and one under the seat. Flying home from London, we had just the one under the seat, the other two were checked.
We stayed the night before at the Airport Hilton, using points rather than money. Ah, that means free. Because Miss Platinum is also Miss Diamond, we were also upgraded to the executive floor, which means free snacks (sufficient to be called a meal) and drinks, including a wide variety of alcohol. Again, this privilege was not abused, limiting ourselves to one drink each. Breakfast the next morning was included. For anyone who has stayed at an airport hotel in London, this was a minimum of $300 savings, not to mention being shown a better attitude.
There are other perks I won't go into, but after three weeks of heavy exercise, I was happy to be pampered on my way home.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Reminder: This running commentary starts with the first entry in October.
One way to ruin a perfectly good cycling holiday is to ignore daily hygiene. In particular: not washing your shorts and jersey between wearings. For this three week journey I packed three cycling sets and nine envelopes of Tide (designed for individual sink-washings). My plan was to wash every other day, just in case they needed two nights to dry. That was mistake #1. It should have been eighteen Tides and every night wash the smelly clothing.
Every traveler knows when you hand wash, you rinse thoroughly (maybe two or three rinses) to remove detergent residue, wring out the clothes, wrap them in a towel and wring and blot some more, then hang them up where they can have air circulating, preferably warm air. First, you do this AFTER you shower and clean yourself up. Mistake #2 was having three sets to wash in Moffat, our rest-day town. I washed immediately upon arrival, it took an hour. At the end, all four towels were quite wet, to the extent that they never dried out. My clothes did, but I had to skip a shower the next day for want of a dry towel. Ok, I could have used a sheet, so maybe I need more experience in this area.
Mistake #3 was not implementing my first idea of bringing the miracle rag I use to dry the car when I wash it. You know, the cloth that absorbs gallons of water just by being in the vicinity. If I do any more of these hand-wash-in-the-sink trips, I'll have a large one in a ziplock bag in the suitcase.
If you are not a cyclist, trust me when I say an ingrown hair or similar inflammation, in a sensitive area that makes contact with the saddle, makes for an extremely uncomfortable ride and needs multiple days to rectify. Take all precautions to prevent it in the first place: use a moisture barrier, good hygiene, and good quality shorts. Note: I had no such inflammations to detract from my enjoyment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Or words to that effect. It was not by accident that I scheduled my annual physical for the week after returning from the UK. This morning I found that in addition to losing three pounds of (mostly) abdominal fat, my resting heart rate was 4 beats lower, and blood pressure registered a very nice 107/69. Later this week I'll get the results of blood and urine tests, which I won't share unless there is a huge adverse surprise. But I suspect my cholesterol will also decrease.
As those (like Lyn) who saw me eschew the greens (and especially the various colors of bell peppers and cucumbers) and ingest an unbalanced number of steak and ale pies, can attest, my eating habits for the last month left a lot to be desired. However, at no time did I feel tired or run-down in an unhealthy sort of way. But that was only short-term, I am now back to eating fruits and vegetables. I don't think I can hold down my weight more than another month, then it will creep back to normal (hopefully no more than 150).
I now have some heart-rate statistics from the trip. Surprisingly, even on the most strenuous days, the average heart rate did not exceed 113 (67% of max). But when it went up, it was in the 90-95% range. Conclusion: you don't have to spend enormous amounts of time in Zone 4 or 5, but you do have to spend multiple short bouts there in order to achieve a training effect. Of course, I already knew that from Chris Carmichael and Sally Edwards.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Reminder: Start reading entries at the beginning of October; this is a running commentary as random thoughts come to mind.
The logistics of getting my custom titanium bike to Land's End seemed extremely complicated as I planned the adventure. For about the same expenditure, I could refurbish the components on Kurt's (son and dtr-in-law who live in England) old bike, thus benefitting both of us. Thus he now has Ultegra throughout, with 12-27 cogs and a triple crank set. I did Alpe d'Huez in a 12-25 so that seemed sufficient. As he went about evaluating the upgrades, Kurt determined new wheels were in order and funded them himself. Even better, he commissioned a custom wheelset of Bontrager wheels with 36 heavy-duty spokes and 28cm Bontrager tires. To them I added Stop-Flat, a polyurethane liner that fits between the tire and tube. BTW, not even a hint of a flat and I only aired the tires twice in three weeks.
Because I was in the UK, I wanted fenders (mud guards) and because of the touring aspect, a rear rack rather than the Camelbak I usually use. Kurt also supplied the rack pack, an invaluable accessory, as it turned out, due to the many in-travel clothes changes required because of the changing weather.
Albeit a tad heavy relative to what I am used to, the bike rode quite comfortably. Some of the roads had deteriorated to the extent of being extremely rough, but I never worried about equipment failure. Someone asked me about my speed (fast) downhill and my response was you had to trust that everything would work as designed. "Always buy the best, you will never be disappointed."
Having the proper clothes and bike allowed me to concentrate on the cycling and scenery. Two prime reasons this trip was so successful. Thanks, Kurt.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Not being a stranger to weather in the UK, my expectation for twenty days of riding was to be wet for ten of them. And having a frigid first trip to Inverness (previous to this ride, the most north I had been in Scotland), I anticipated being cold and wet along the northern coast. Hence, my luggage included wet weather gear (jacket, pants, helmet cover, shoe covers) and cold gear (tights, arm warmers, silk undershirt). In case we encountered sunshine, I also had a tube of 50 SPF sunblock. The most important article in my riding arsenal was the the Chamois Butt'r. When spending long hours in the saddle, it is important to protect your skin from excess moisture, vulgarly described as "greasing up." Hygiene is likewise necessary
For this ride, we were fortunate in the extreme. Only one day did it rain from start to finish. Two other days were wet in the morning and no precipitation in the afternoon. The clouds made for some dramatic scenery but drab pictures. If anybody in the group missed seeing my legs the first two days, then they had to wait until the last one, because all of the other days I wore either tights or rain pants. Only a few days were in just the jersey, usually it was accompanied by the wind jacket (warm) or rain jacket (cold wind protection).
I posted this entry to emphasize the point that you should have the proper clothing available when you take a cycling vacation. Don't "tough it out" and make yourself miserable because you didn't bring a good selection. Even though I dislike riding in the rain and detest a heavy headwind, neither of these obstacles caused more than mild irritation because I had the right gear. Plus, it feels so good when you stop. And, a pint of Guiness and a Steak & Ale pie smoothes away ruffled feathers.


Now it can be told: I spent the last month in Great Britain, cycling from the southwest corner of England to the northeast corner of Scotland, with a few miles in Wales. Actual mileage was 1265 for September and even though I only had a few cokes, there were quite a few Guiness's and various bitters and lagers. I managed to lose a couple more pounds and really look lean, especially the glutes. In the coming weeks, as things come to mind and I get caught up from being gone so long, I'll be posting happenings of the three weeks of riding. But for now let me say that for ALL of my cycling forays, this one was the most challenging.

If you do a search engine on Land's End to John O'Groats you can find endless writings by folks like me. And we all say the same thing: the hills of Cornwall and Devon are devilish (or similar words). Here is my take: once they were behind us, we no longer blinked at climbs less than 15%, mere bumps in the road. In the States, the reward for a hard climb is usually a screaming descent. Because we were on small country lanes (10 feet wide with 8 foot vine covered walls on each side), the road surface was deteriorated asphalt, sometimes with grass growing in the middle of two wheel-tracks, twisting blind corners, with just enough vehicle traffic to hamper any speed. Each day I had to clean my rims to remove the brake-pad residue. My hands were sore from braking ALL THE WAY DOWN the @&%#*! hill.

Several years ago, cycling with friends in California, I experienced wind strong enough to blow the bike parallel to the ground when Byran got off, with only one hand on the handlebars. I love telling that story. Now I have another: seven and a half hours of cycling (not counting the one hour lunch) to go 52 miles. Ultra-marathoners can run that in less time!

Oh, yeah! I loved every minute of it. Come back soon, this is a fun tale to tell.