Sunday, October 31, 2010


Following the debacle at Fort Hood (racing, not shooting), I felt more than a little concern about this week-end's Senior Games Championships. Even with concentrated workouts, while the legs felt strong, they really weren't sympatico with the pedals. As I drove to Houston (Fulshear, really), a smidgen of doubt crawled through my consciousness, but I beat it back.

What I really didn't like was the 40 degree temperature on Saturday morning. My first race, the 5k time-trial, went off at 9:25am. This means getting to Fulshear around 8am, checking in and getting my packet, getting squared away, and riding for about a half-hour or more to warm up. Since we are still waiting for daylight savings time to go away, the sun was barely above the horizon at 8am. Granted, it would warm up to the low 80's in the afternoon, but to give me as much warmth as possible, I put off riding until almost 8:30.

I had on my tights and jacket and cut the warm-up ride to 20 minutes. Still, I can't tell you my heart rate because my skin had no moisture to make the connection between the strap and computer. After the warm-up, I jumped on the stationary trainer to see about jump-starting the heart rate. That is a useless endeavor; I have never been able to get over 90% of max on the trainer. And, I mis-read the clock, and showed up at the start line, a few blocks from the parking lot, about 10 minutes too early, meaning I had to ride around in the side street, keeping my legs loose. By this time, the sun was nicely warming us and I had shed the tights and jacket.

Unlike last year, almost 90% of my time was in the 90% heart rate range. My average speed was 23.2 and the max was 25.2. This course is almost dead flat. I missed silver by less than 3 seconds and about 20 out of first. Perhaps dropping one gear lower might have netted me silver, but that's water over the dam.

The course is point-to-point, meaning I cooled down for the 5k back to the start line. I had an hour before the start of the 10k. Most of the time, I coughed a lot, ate an energy bar, drank an energy drink, and talked to the other guys about cycling. I also jumped on the trainer to keep the legs loose, then went back to the start line.

Again, point-to-point on a generally flat course. Same course, just keep going. Like last year, my average speed of 24.9 exceeded that of the 5k, and I felt quite comfortable. Unfortunately, I must have been a gear short, because gold wasn't very close (like 11 seconds). I felt bad that I couldn't successfully defend my gold medal standing.

After changing into more comfortable clothes, I drove the 20k course (40k would be two loops) to get a feel for it. Well, duh, it was the same one as last year except in reverse. After that, it was back to the motel to rest and eat. Watched Oregon run over Southern Cal.

Again, had a 9:10am start time. This time, however, even though the temperature was about 10 degrees warmer, I went down to the fitness room and jumped on the stationary bike for about 20 minutes. Can't say about the heart rate because the machine thought it was around 72, but I broke a sweat for about 10 minutes of the 20 minute warm-up, and stretched nicely afterwards. Showered, got dressed, and drove to the start about 8:15am. Again, I set up the trainer to keep the legs loose and otherwise make final preparations.

A slight aside: I had forgotten that my computer mount was placed on the aerobars of the road bike. When I took them off, I found I had no mount for the computer, thus the computer was turned on and put in my back pocket. I had no electronic feedback during the race, which is just as well.

I learned Saturday that several of the fast guys (those who usually medal) would be foregoing the 40k in order to attend a different cycling event. However, Tom Hall gave me a sage piece of advice: stay within the first five or six because the accelerations out of the corners could leave you gapped.

We started with the 60-64 age group, and I dutifully took up position behind Wally (because he is a big guy and blocks a lot of wind). Of course, riders changed positions as we wended our way around the course, but I generally kept between 3rd and 5th. Surprisingly, I spent a lot of time in heart rate zone 3 (cruising effort), due to drafting. On the second loop the speed picked up a bit and on one corner I got boxed out and in manuevering to avoid a crash felt my right calf try to cramp. Fortunately it was not one of the corners requiring a heavy push, so I relaxed for the next minute or two and it returned to normal.

I occasionally checked my mirrors but all I could see was some big guy (Monteith) and had no idea how many were behind him. As it turned out, the accelerations out the many turns had taken their toll on many, so when it came to the last sprint, there weren't more than six or eight.
Even though I'm a novice at racing, I pretty much know what I can do. Given my protected position, and no time in zone 5 (until the final sprint), I felt good, and as the finish line approached, I selected a high gear that I could handle when I stood on the pedals. The rpm's increased and Wally and Monteith passed on the left and I followed Wally's rear wheel. As it turned out, Wally had jumped too soon and my acceleration allowed me to come around him just before the finish line. Monteith was in the 60-64 age group. Average speed for 28.2 miles was 22.3mph.

Thus, I finished first in my age group and second in the combined group. I have now qualified for Nationals next June. All I have to do is get about a minute faster in the time-trials.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I had some spare time this afternoon, so pulled the bike off the hooks in order to tighten the aerobar (returned after the ill-fated race on the 10th) pads. Once again, the lack of bounce in the back tire clued me in that, once again, I had fortunately returned home before the tube lost all its air. My Sunday ride is an excellent workout and fun riding, but it cost me a handful of tubes. First act was to jump in the car and pick up three new tubes at the bike shop.
Next came the tire inspection. Oh, oh! A good-size slit in the bottom of the tire. I marked the spot and proceeded to remove the tube. Then I inspected the inside of the tire, only to find out that the slit didn't go all the way through. Back to the drawing board with the tube, otherwise known as submerging it in the sink (changing tubes at home is much more relaxed than on the road). The air bubbles tattled on the hole. But wait! What is that in the hole, a small piece of wire. Now I held the tube up to the tire to locate approximately where in the tire this tiny assassin infiltrated. Pook! Ding-fu!! I was looking at a piece of duct tape. Surely I didn't miss that wire when I inspected this the last time. I refuse to entertain that thought and will go with this being a mere coincidence.
A short history: Every February or March I buy a set of tires, changing out the old ones. I don't keep track of mileage. The old ones I put on my trainer bike or just hang up for emergencies. But now I have a decision: continue with the duct-taped, slitted, tire or get an old one from the hook. Upon examination of the wear indicators, I see that last year's tires still have a lot of wear left; not as much as this year's, but without a slit or duct tape. Easy, put the older tire on.
I may have to get tires earlier this time, maybe Santa will throw a set down the chimney.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


While my mind assured the rest of the body it only had a bad day, I immediately resumed workouts at Gold's twice a week. Within two sessions most of my exercises returned to previous levels, however several were glaringly weak. I had a massage. My practice rides felt great!
On my hill circuit, Courtyard didn't leave me breathless and Jester didn't take all of my gears. On the longer rides, the times were excellent and I had energy to spare at the end. My last tt practice was only a few seconds off my PB. Confidence level is high as I top off in preparation for Senior Games State Championships at the end of the month.
Check back to see if mind and body came together and if good results followed.

Monday, October 11, 2010


In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned that for me to be in racing shape, I should put in around 750 to 800 miles per month. This is a fact, proven. Now, I can get away with less miles, if they are "quality" training, for short time-trials because 1) They are short duration and 2) They don't require (usually) all of your leg muscles.
Even placing second in the State Time Trials and feeling strong in doing so, was only ground-work for actual racing. Unfortunately, we had a vacation followed by a hurricane, and my mileage went south. The upshot of this is I have put in about half the necessary mileage leading up to yesterday's race. Knowing this, I moved into fantasy-mode.
The race course, I thought, was extremely fair, if tough. There are around ten climbs in 30 miles, with about a two mile incline to the finish. The first 16 miles have two tough climbs and several lesser ones. When I practiced the course several weeks ago, there was a moderate north wind and it took 1:59 to complete. The wind was in my face for the first 16 miles.
I knew I was in trouble even as I drove to Ft. Hood. There was no energy, no spark. I knew I was in deep doo-doo when I opened the car door and the wind almost whipped the door out of my hand. My warm-up went well and I arrived at the start line ready to go. The wind would be from behind for the first part.
One of the tactics in racing is to lead out strong to put those who didn't train well under stress as soon as possible. I didn't think I was stressed, as I moved into the big ring and easily kept within the 20 man group. The first four miles are more or less downhill, with the wind from the right rear. We cruised around 36mph, hitting over 40 once. The first climb came and I didn't think I had a problem until everybody moved away from me toward the top. Oops. It took about a mile to catch back on, and once again cruising comfortably. A few miles later and the steep hill took its toll on me. I had no oomph.
I managed to keep them in sight until just before the turn. When that came, the wind was in my face and without anyone to help block it, my speed dropped a bunch. I had 13 miles and several 12% grades to get over before the 3 miles with the wind at my back at the end. The group that started 15 minutes behind us passed me at around the 20 mile mark, and stragglers from that group continued to pass as I labored on. I managed to make the turn, get the wind at my back, and even uphill, held around 20mph to the finish. My racing time was about 40 seconds slower than when I was practicing.
Another interesting fact: on the practice run, where I was just cruising and previewing the course, my heart rate was 137, but race day 147. All that time in zone 4 and 5 did nothing to improve my time. Of course, the wind was a contributing factor.
I really didn't think I would come in last of 20. Actually, I could have raced to not be last, in that one other person in our group was with me for the last couple miles. However, I refuse to race just to be second from last. He beat me by three seconds.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I have a "soft" rule (i.e. flexible): under 65 degrees, cover the knees. I read it in a bike mag about 20 years ago. 65 is the starting point, and I'll drop lower if the sun is out and the wind light or out of the south. Really, the knees don't have any fat to protect them and get pretty cranky if they get cold. Sunday (the ride with the flat) I saw 61 degrees when I started before sun-up and 61 degrees when I finished three hours later. The light wind out of the north brought a cool front. Still, while the rest of the body reported in as quite comfortable, at around 35 miles my right calf started complaining. I don't think lack of tights caused the problem.
Yesterday my morning started at 55 degrees with a brisk east wind, so I pulled on the tights for the first time in months. Actually, the forecasted wind out of the east had moved to the south when I left the neighborhoods for the open road. Bummer! This ride goes mainly east-west, so I had a side-wind both directions (and, still under 60 degrees when I finished).
Two layers on my chest and the tights over my shorts gave me a comfortable two hour workout.
I have appropriate clothing for most cycling weather. I love it when I pick the right combination!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I've gone for years without suffering a flat while out riding. This isn't one of them. Once again, an errant staple eluded the tire-tuffy and found my tube. Only 30 minutes into what until then was a fabulous ride, the first thought that came to mind was, well, follow the procedure you wrote about last week.
Sure enough, the back wheel was flat. I removed the wheel, turned the bike upside down (didn't want to get my brand new chain dirty), found a nice rock to sit on, and went through the procedure. I reached for the chalk, and found none. No problem, I was among limestone, and picked up a piece for marking. The staple still stuck in the tire, so locating the hole was easy. I reached for the duct tape and found none. No problem, used a handy dollar bill.
Pre-aired the tube, installed easily, checked the rim, began pumping.
Now, I'm using my son's mini-pump. He last used it about 20 years ago. Still works great, but you don't get much air-per-pump. My arms were weary by the time I got to what I estimate at 80 pounds. That was enough!
Everything was back together and I proceded with the ride. While the rear wheel felt a tad soft, it rolled well.
Note: I usually use an air cartridge to save time. However, I felt mellow, with no need to rush. Plus, in the back of my mind I was worried that, with so many miles ahead of me, I might get another flat, and would use it then if needed. Later today I'll retrieve my dollar and stick a small block of duct tape over the hole. When I have time, I'll patch the other tube to be used at a later date.