Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'VE SAID IT BEFORE...

And I'll say it again: Exercise is such an easy habit to break. You must use CONSTANT VIGILENCE (as Professor Moody puts it), lest you allow your muscles and good health to suffer. That's where friends and variation come in. It is much more difficult to sluff off when you have friends who are waiting for you or are out suffering while you bask on your couch in front of a fire.

Since my excellent performance in Gruene Nov 5, I've been on the bike a total of five times. Yesterday's 32 mile cruise was less than stellar and showed me how quickly the body loses training. I can't blame my friends. The holiday season is disruptive and only the most dedicated stick to a rigid schedule. It isn't that I've gone couch potato. My trips to Gold's have increased and I'm doing core training and stretching more. This variation will help in the long run.

If you haven't already, find a group/club you can exercise with. Let the peer pressure be a positive inducement. I only need a few rides per week in the next couple weeks to get me through December. January and February are generally clear and are great months to put in some serious training.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CYCLING ON THANKSGIVING

The weather was gorgeous, 70 degrees, brilliant blue sky, no wind. However, I found myself (and wife) headed to the airport to have Thanksgiving Dinner with Kurt and Nic, and a few fortunate friends. By now, my readers know that Kurt and Nic live in Evesham, England and I live in Round Rock, Texas. And, yes, we were just popping over for dinner. Well, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not much.

Traveling with Ms. Platinum is so much better than the average peon. We always get seated right after first class. But for this trip, Ms. P got us up-graded to First or Business Class all the way there and back. On one of the flights I was actually the first person down the jetway. No fighting for overhead space, spacious seats that reclined all the way down to flat (which I didn't do), all the alcohol I could drink. I will say this now, I stayed extremely moderate in consumption, both on the planes and at Kurt's, so the amount I turned down would boggle your mind.

We left Thursday, Austin to Dallas to London Heathrow, arriving Friday morning. Kurt met us and we drove the two hours northwest to Evesham. Conventional wisdom indicates a nap in the afternoon usually sets your body-clock, and that is what Marilane did. Kurt had arranged for me to have a massage with his super-therapist, Sara, so that was my afternoon relaxation.

The afternoons are short, with the sun setting just after 4pm, and it gets dark early. Nic had fixed Marilane's favorite (favourite) dinner, steak and ale pie. I did the best I could, but had to call it an evening at 7:35, went upstairs and was asleep by 7:45. Marilane held on 'til 9. The sun woke me at 7:30am, but I hadn't really had 12 hours sleep. More like 10 hours, with some awake time around 2am.

Nic had all preparations well in hand, so we had time this morning for exercise. Nic went for a run (which was at least 10k, probably longer but that account escapes me). Marilane did some exploratory walking all over Evesham, and Kurt took me on a 5 0r 6 mile hike, around Evesham (like circumnavigation). After lunch I laid down for a nap, but my body-clock thought it was 8am. The rest of the afternoon's activities were house-prep for the ten guests.

This is a sought-after invitation, restricted because of space, so I felt badly that we took the place of two of their friends. But, Thanksgiving is, afterall, about family and friends. It originated while Kurt was at school in Edinburgh (Scotland). He and a few American friends (with help) put together a Thanksgiving dinner and voila! a tradition was born. Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin (which, it turns out, was butternut squash) and pecan pies, potatoes. No greenbean casarole (thank goodness, I'm not a fan). Guests started arriving shortly before 7pm and last one left somewhere around 12:30am. We did a fair amount of cleaning up, then I fell into bed.

The next morning, Sunday, we slept late (7:30 for me), and after breakfast and additional cleaning up and getting the house back together, it was time to leave for the airport. We did a side-trip to Stratford for a short stroll and lunch at one of their favourite places, Lambs. Then it was off to London and the Heathrow Hilton.

We up-graded to the executive floor, which includes snacks, lots of alcohol (available, not consumed), canapes, and breakfast. Wanting to be sure of ourselves when sherping luggage, we did a dry-run to the check-in. You can walk to the terminal from the hotel, then take a train to whichever terminal your departure is from. Early to bed, early to rise, have breakfast, hang around, fly home. We were home at 10pm Monday night.

Now, it is time to get back to cycling.

Monday, November 21, 2011

BIKE JERSEYS

In re-reading yesterday's blog, I got to thinking about all my jerseys and why I have so many. I knew I had twenty but hadn't really given them a whole lot of thought. So I sat down and actually listed them out, researched when purchased, what colors they are (in case I detected a trend toward a certain color), and what prompted me to purchase it.

I have a friend, Tony, and I think he only has one bike jersey. Actually I know he has two, because he bought one of mine (Cyclopaths, my design), but I only see him in his Ben and Jerry's. This for the last five years. I guess he doesn't ride as much as I do. But, back to my collection.

Four jerseys are from my belonging to the club: two Cyclopaths, one Austin Flyers, and one Williamson County Cycling Club (1986). Four are from supporting other clubs. For instance, the San Luis Obispo Lighthouse ride has a terrific reputation, but they had their old jerseys on sale for half price. So, to help them out, I purchased the distinctive jersey. Two are because my friend Ben (retiring next year from the Coast Guard, and rode with us on the coast-to-coast ride) was a club member and had some killer designed kits. The other was supporting Adventure Cycling. I purchased this in 1996 and it was their 20th Anniversary jersey. I had originally signed up to do this ride in 1976 (Bikecentennial) so this jersey was both a memory of what didn't happen and an incentive to get it done.

Then there are the completion jerseys. Two from Marty Jemison for a week each in the Pyrenees and Alps (in conjunction with the Tour de France, highly recommended). One from America by Bicycle for the coast-to-coast ride, one from Bike Adventures for the Land's End to John O'Groats ride. I purchased the Hotter N Hell Hundred jersey after completing several (and ten in all), the Alpe d'Huez jersey, the Six Gap Century jersey, and the Tour de Georgia jersey (not because I participated but because I spent a week cycling those roads). These are worth bragging you have done them.

The Texas State Champion jersey requires some explanation. Three years ago I won my age group in the 10k Time Trial, two years ago I won the 40k road race, and this year I was a member of the winning team time trial. All three were State competitions. Because there were not enough entries to qualify for a free jersey, the winners were allowed to purchase jerseys. So, I earned the jersey, but had to purchase it.

Two other jerseys were gifts. The A&M jersey (and shorts, arm warmers, shoe covers) came as a Christmas gift, and the Roark jersey came with my custom titanium bike. The last is my Christmas jersey, designed by me (see previous posts). I'm hoping Evesham takes their time and does a killer kit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

EVESHAM VALE TRIATHLETES

I think I just became a member of the Evesham Vale Triathletes. For sure, I'm on the roster of members listed on the Facebook website. So far, I've not been asked to pay any dues. That's a good thing. My friend, whom I have never met, posted that she had formed a club for triathletes. Evesham has a runner's club, to which my son and daughter-in-law belong. But those more athletically gifted needed this additional outlet. When the announcement was posted on FB, I asked if I could be a member-in-absentia. Apparently I could.

So, let's get to the facts. Evesham is a nice little town in western England, in the Cotswolds (that may not be precise, but close enough). I am in Round Rock, Texas. Getting to club functions could pose a logistical problem. I have never learned to swim. My running days ended twenty years ago. Why the heck do I want to become a member of a club where I cannot contribute? Mainly to show support until it gets up and running. And, when it comes to cycling, at least I can contribute thoughts and opinions. Maybe they will have team-triathlons sometime during the year when I'm visiting.

My only skinsuit is one my friend Ben sold me. It is from Hickham Field, Hawaii. At every race I've been to, someone has come up to say they had been stationed there and wanted to talk about the experience. Sadly I have to tell them I'm only a supporter of the club. Ben also sold me (eight years ago) a kit from Virginia, the Colonial Racing Team. It is good looking and I wear it a lot when racing. Once Evesham has their kit, I'll probably get one. I say probably because it will have to be really good looking. My current inventory is 20 jerseys, so I don't need another. In my 30+ years of cycling, only 1 jersey has worn out, my first cotton one. Several others are losing their elasticity, but are still worn occasionally.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TOUR DE GRUENE, FINAL STATS

In the grand scheme of things, the only real value derived from reviewing the finish order is to learn how effective my race training is. For instance, you can't measure the average speed this year against last year because there are too many variables. And, while I came in first in my age group, because the group was so small (5), that isn't a true measure. Now, since I came in ahead of a known faster rider, that was significant. Because the folks who run this race are computer-savvy, they break down finishing times by group, and I am quite pleased with my results. Bear with me as I spout stuff.

No one older than me finished faster. Only two men in the 60-64 age group finished faster. In the 55-59 group, out of 31 riders, my time beat 13 of them. In the 50-54 men, out of 26 riders, I beat 17. and in the 45-49 men, of 23 riders I beat 14. I didn't fare quite so well against the younger men. In the 40-44 group of 30 I bested (is that really a word?) 13, and in the 35-39 group of 27 I managed a faster time than 8. In 30-34 group of 17, I beat 7, and in the 17-29 group of 9, I beat 3. Only 1 under 17 man beat me.

There was a separate group of men who did not use time-trial bikes or aero bars. This group of Merckx men, 50, had 6 who were faster than I. Only 3 women out of 30 were faster.

To sum up: of the 267 riders, I finished 102 (the 62nd percentile). The fastest rider finished in 35:07 (to my 46:58). Only 17 riders were under 40 minutes, two of whom were under 36 minutes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

TOUR DE GRUENE, STATS

One of the great things about my Garmin is the plethora of stats it spits out. It will be another day or two before the offical times and places list is posted, but in the meantime, I'm going over the graphics and information I have available to me. This isn't a post-mortem, in that I'm quite pleased with how I performed, and if I lost a few seconds here and there, oh well.

For instance, my heart-rate chart indicates a starting rate of 108 that jumped pretty quickly to 134 and then on up to 150 at the one-mile mark. 150 is 89% of max. Most of the first mile is a slight grade (2-4%) and I kept it in the small chain ring and high cadence. After that, it was the big ring. The plan called for me "cruising" the first three miles 1) Because that is how long it takes to get me settled in; and 2) Because that is when the first significant flat and downhill come. My HR between mile one and three was at 90%+, which is unsustainable for me at this time for the whole race. So, when the downhill came, I eased back a bit and the HR dropped to 145 and I kept it between 145 and 150 until mile nine. My cadence, meanwhile, remained in the mid-80's.

I had slowly been gaining on Michael, but couldn't get that last 30-40 yards. At mile nine I sensed he was slow in an up-shift, (or is that a down-shift, in any case, going to a smaller cog), possibly taking a breather from the slight grade, upped my cadence, and being in a higher gear quickly closed the gap and passed. Naturally, my HR also increased. Now I returned to the mid-150 range, but felt I could keep it there to the end, so did not back off any.

From mile 13.7 to 15.1 it is all up, slight for awhile, then the last three-tenths is at 7.5%. My HR moved between 151 and 154, and when cadence dropped below 70 I moved back to the small chain ring and increased to above 80. This was only for a couple hundred yards, then we hit the steep downhill before the finish climb. I quickly moved back to the big ring and shifted to my lowest cog, a 12, achieving my high speed of 39.9. Cadence increased to 97, HR dropped to 145. This is where I lost a handful of seconds. With an 11 cog and 110 cadence, this section would have been much quicker.

However, never having time-trialed this distance, and with the 10% hill looming, I saved a bit for the last. The finish is four-tenths of a mile, something like 6%, 9%,9%,10%. My 145 HR went up to 161, leaving me very little oomph to stand and power to the end. I did stand for about 50 yards, then sat back down before my quads cramped. Needless to say, cadence also dropped.

After analizing the graphs, if I were to do this again I'd: 1) Go with the 11-28; 2) Train getting from a high HR to max HR so that I can hold it for about a minute; 3) Try to get another 5 rpm on my comfort level (this is harder than it sounds; I am very comfortable at 80 rpm and can't seem to get it higher). I spent 28.5 minutes at or above 90% of max HR. That's about as much as I want.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

GRUENE TIME TRIAL, THE RACE

My practice times at Old Settlers Park were 47:39, 46:46, and 47:10, so going into the race I had a high confidence level (of finishing without falling over). Additionally, the temperature fell in the 70 degree category for warm-ups and the mid-70's by race time, perfect. Plus, the wind forecast had it from the SE at 15mph and the course generally went N or NW. Couldn't ask for more than that. When I saw the list of competitors, my confidence took a slight hit, in that my friend Bill, who beats me like a drum, had signed up. I now had silver in my sights.

Anyhow, I arrived in Gruene about 1:10pm, after taking a wrong turn (no surprise there) and touring a bit of New Braunfels before getting back on track. I had plenty of time to pick up my packet and prepare before the 3:24pm start time. I warm up on my road bike, and today I wore the Texas State Champion jersey, just to show off a bit. The location of the Packet pick-up/Start Line was several blocks from the parking lot and I cycled over to get my numbers. Then I stuffed the packet into my pocket and previewed the first mile or so to make sure I remembered it properly.

Back at the car, I dropped the stuff off and did another fifteen minutes of warm-up on a flat road with a bike lane. A little rest and I headed out again, but this time Bill and Michael saw me and called out. We exchanged pleasantries (no rivalries with us old guys, we cheer each other on no matter) before I did another round of warming up. Back at the car, with a slight glisten, I changed into my skin suit, changed socks, donned shoe covers, and, with a few more minutes, got on the bike trainer for last-minute preparation. Truthfully, I don't know why I take the trainer with me, I know I can't get the heart-rate up on it like I should. Anyhow, I only had eight minutes before getting off and putting everything in the car.

Riders were off at 30 second intervals, and Michael started right in front of me. They have a 300 person limit, starting with the slower riders and finishing with the really fast ones. It came as no surprise that Michael was next to me, in that I used his average speed from last year to estimate mine when I signed up. One thing my practice runs have taught me is the first three miles need to be a settling in time before I start pushing. And my practice on the first mile of the race course reaffirmed that on the long, shallow (6%) grade in the first mile, I should keep it in the small ring and concentrate on rpm, which I kept around 90.

Having Michael as my carrot really helped as an additional gauge as to my progress. He is generally a slightly faster rider, and in the next youngest age group. As we got into mile three I started to pick it up, and by then had caught a slower rider. I made up a few seconds here and there on downhills and corners (over river crossings), but not until over halfway did I finally pass him after a slight uphill. My heart-rate chart indicates that at this time I moved from about 85% of maximum to 90%+, and kept it over 90% for the rest of the race (except a short recovery on a long downhill before the finish).

I passed three riders before the second to last, half-mile climb, and another three or four on that climb. One rider passed me at about mile 13, and another on the last climb. Only having two riders pass me buoyed my expectations. Anyhow, shortly before the last two climbs we have a downhill into a river crossing. The route map indicates this to be a very treacherous turn and caution must be exercised. Indeed, when Barry and I previewed it a couple weeks ago, I remarked then that if I weren't careful I could over-cook it. My carrot was now the guy who passed me, and I used him to help me through the turn. I found out after the race that a lady had missed it and gone off over the guardwall into the river (which unfortunately is a lot of rocks and not much water).

The last climb is about three-tenths of a mile long and tops out at either 10 or 11%, depending on whose gps you look at. After my practice ride, I contemplated switching to an 11-28 cog set to make sure I could make it up this climb without embarrassing myself. Given the wind, at my back for some of the downhills, the 11 would have netted me some higher speed on the downhills, but I did just fine in my 25. I struggled, but didn't wobble, up the hill to the finish.

I hate it when I have a good plan but fail to execute it. Plan A was for me to get my breath, then do a reverse course recovery ride back to the car, report to Marilane, then drive back to the finish line for the award ceremony. They don't start the awards until the last rider is finished, so I figured an hour or and hour and fifteen minutes. But I got to talking to Michael after the race, really didn't want to do sixteen miles against the wind, and decided to take the shuttle back after the awards. To make a long story short, I finished at 4:15pm and the awards started about 6:00 and didn't stop until 7:00. By this time it was dark. And, they didn't have a shuttle! The race director managed to find a guy with a truck to take two of us back to Gruene. Needless to say, Marilane was quite relieved when I finally got back to the car and was able to check in.

Oh, yes. I finished first in my age group, besting Bill by a little over a minute and Michael by around a minute and a half. Based on some of the other times I was able to glimpse, my time (46:56, unofficial) was quite respectable no matter what the age group. I'll do a short follow-up when all the times are posted.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

DOUBLE-CLUTCHED TT PRACTICE

I felt the need for one more practice session before attempting the Gruene run. Monday morning about 9am at my usual place, Old Settlers Park, was the plan. Fortunately, my Guardian Angel interceded. Several things came up that prevented me from leaving at 8:30, but I finally got out at 9:30, somewhat overdressed in tights and base layer. The extra clothing would have been needed for Plan A, but the sun blazed in a clear sky and the temperature rose rapidly.

Anyhow, Monday mornings usually is just me and the maintenance guys. But when I turned into the park, about a half dozen cars came with me. Strange. I turned into the first parking lot and no one else was in it, and the other cars kept going. As I unloaded the bike and prepared for my first warm-up lap, I noticed cars upon cars driving by. This did not bode well. But they weren't soccer moms, because the fields were empty. I warmed up for a quarter mile until I saw a line of cars coming from the other direction, all being directed into the grass overflow parking area on the left. On the right were zillions of pre-schoolers and parents. Pook, ding-fu! It was, afterall, Halloween and Old Settlers Park was hosting a party of some sort. I stopped to ask the parking director how long this would last and he advised until 11am.

I turned around, made it back safely to the car and drove home, re-structured my chores, had lunch and returned about 1:30pm. Had my GA not kept me home, I would have been half way through practice when the hoard decended. As it was, I had another great practice, in shorts and jersey. The wind came up a bit for the last three laps, but I was grateful I had an uninterrupted 16.5 miles.

As an aside, I'm old enough to remember when tractor-trailer drivers had to double clutch to change gears. We had a car that occasionally wouldn't go into gear unless you did it. To explain to those who are clueless (and might remain so if they never initiate a manual transmission), in order to change gears the driver had to push in the clutch, shift into neutral, release the clutch, then push in the clutch again before going to the next gear, thus double-clutching.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ROSEY CHEEKED WEEK-END

Extremes! Bah! We went from record heat to really chilly in a few short days. I had to make an exception to rule #2 (pay attention, Gibbs). Rule #2 states if the temperature is below 40 degrees, I wait for warmer weather. However, Saturday I left the house with a reading of 37 and drove north to Florence, arriving at 8:45am and a rise in temperature of 2 degrees. But that was in the shade. It felt warmer in the sun, and there was only a slight breeze which would be at our backs for the first hour. I had on tights, base layer, jersey, wind jacket, and long fingered gloves and a need for a good ride.

It's not like I was the only one here. We had an even dozen intrepid cyclists. About ten miles into the ride, seven of us turned right for the valley ride, five continued on for a hill climb. I had wanted to climb Eagle's Nest for several years, but never got around to it. This time, at the beginning of the ride Karen found a gash in her rear tire. Not bad enough to trash the ride, but definitely a concern. I always carry a spare tire in the car, so put it in the Camelbak just in case she had a spectacular blow-out. When Karen opted for the valley ride, her spare tire holder went with her.

True prediction, the temperature warmed rapidly and as we made various short stops, articles of outerwear came off and joined the tire in the Camelbak. All in all, we had a very pleasant 33 mile ride.

Sunday morning came in at 47 degrees, clear, with a slight wind. I attired myself similar to yesterday and headed out to Steiner Ranch Steakhouse to ride with the Jack and Adams group. I had not done this ride before and was anxious to see how it went. About a zillion cyclists showed up. Perhaps I exaggerated somewhat, so let's say around 75.

The fast group led out and we gave them about a minute headstart, which is all they needed. I joined the intermediate group and slotted in about ninth (of maybe 40). We went east on RR620 and our leader kept an easy pace (18-20mph) all the time on 620 and even further on El Salido. Once on N Lakeline Blvd, the pace increased. The group split due to the increased speed and red lights, but I managed to stay with the lead group. They gapped me at one point, but I dropped into the aerobars and clawed back. There were only about ten of us.

When they turned onto Crystal Falls Parkway, they upped the speed again and I dropped back, knowing a large hill loomed. Of course, I thought we would climb the hill, regroup, and retrace our steps. Duh! Not these guys. First of all, we went down the hill (s), hit the turn-around, then climbed back up. No stopping. I mentally waved good-by and struck out alone. I checked the mileage and it occurred to me that this 11% climb came at the same mileage of the Gruene Time Trial next week-end. I had been wondering if I could finish the TT up the climb without having to get off the bike. Well, the effort in keeping up with the group approximated that of my TT, so I made sure in climbing the hill I stayed in my 25 cog (eschewing the 28), because my TT bike only goes to 25. Ok, I can do that.

I took it easy on the way back, and enjoyed the cycling. The temperature increased, the wind increased (but not too bad), and the traffic increased (pook). Safely turning left into Steiner Ranch I noticed flashing lights ahead and saw a fire engine, and various police vehicles. It seems a vehicle did not negotiate the sharp right turn and had flown off into the trees/bushes. I suspect it happened late last night, but can't be sure since I hadn't noticed it when I drove in (then again, the car was quite aways off the road in more or less covered by bushes).

Two days in a row, great rides with a nip in the air.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SIX GAP CENTURY SANS SADDLE

An update to my previous post, specifically my remark that a guy without a seatpost or saddle passed me on Neel's Gap. I inquired further and was advised that he had left his equipment at home, had traveled a long way, and decided to do the whole 105 miles without them. I tried an internet search and didn't find any mention (other than mine). More power to him.

An update on my TT training. I rode yesterday, and after a couple of 5k warm-ups, went for the whole 17 miles, using my 3 mile out-and-back circuit at Old Settlers Park. This has two uphills and one downhill on the outbound (this day, with the wind), and two downhills and one uphill on the return, against the wind. Five and a half laps netted 16.8 miles in 47 minutes and change. Confidence level now at a 10. Thursday Barry and I will drive down to Gruene and preview the course. The profile is generally UP, two steep climbs, but it is a question of how gradual the rest of the course is. I'm thinking my estimated 50 minutes might be spot on.

Friday, October 14, 2011

GRUENE TIME TRIAL

I have the memory of a corner-back. Perhaps age has something to do with it, but I prefer to think not. Shortly after scribing that my organized cycling was over for the year and I would be "cherry-picking my days" to ride, something came over me and I got a wild hair (I don't think it's hare) to do the Gruene Time Trial.

Actually, I have wanted to do the two man TT for a couple of years now. So I emailed my gold medal USAC teammates to see if they knew of anyone looking for a partner. Tom and Tom had teamed up last year and were again this year. Then, AFTER sending the email, I began to look at the details of the race. That gave me pause for thought. It was all I could do to drag my body 40km in July, with three other people, and truthfully, needed Tom to pace me the last mile. What was I thinking, asking someone to team with me for a similar distance.

So, as their suggestions came back, I replied that I had changed my mind and would be doing the individual time trial instead. This is ONLY 17 miles. I really think I can do that distance, or as I prefer to measure it, 50 minutes or so. I'd like it to be 45 minutes, but that is extremely optimistic. I have no clue as to the profile of the road, other than it goes UP to Canyon Lake. Next week I plan to preview the course.

Now for the good news. After signing up for the race, I dusted off the tt bike and went out to my course to see what kind of shape I'm in. For starters, I just did a 5k warm up, 5k fast pace, then a 10k fast pace. Believe me, I know that 10k is only the beginning. But all went well, my pace was good and I felt like I had a lot left in the tank when I finished.

This morning I returned for round two. 5k warm up, 5k fast pace, then a 20k fast pace. I would love to tell you my stats, but inadvertently hit the "stop" button instead of the "lap" button, thus my times are skewed. However, the first lap was very fast, and the other three not much slower, and again I finished with more in the tank. It was during this practice that it finally occurred to me that 17 miles is less than 30 kilometers. All this time I had 40k in my head! So my confidence has returned and with a preview ride under my belt, I'm sure I'll do well.

One other confidence booster: I'm finally beginning to feel good. As other posts will attest, I have been somewhere between 80-90%, unable to really get the most out of my muscles. With more miles in the legs, especially the Blue Ridge and Six Gap rides, I appear to be hitting on all cylinders. We'll know as the next few weeks unfold.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

THE OUTLAW TRAIL

This is the 25th anniversary of the Outlaw Trail. I've been telling everyone that Kurt and I did the first one, but in researching our photo album, plus seeing that the jersey I have says 1988, unless a younger memory can come up with a different year, it looks like my first one was the third anniversary. Anyhow, I've done ten of the twenty-five, including the memorable one when they closed the 100 mile course due to heavy rain, thunder, etc. They have since changed the course to stay east of I-35 and on less traveled roads.

I've only done one century, mostly 100k or 50 miles. This is the end of the cycling for the year, and truthfully, I'm more or less cycled-out and ready to cut back. Let me recap this year: outrageous wind that went on endlessly into July; outrageous heat (130 days over 90 degrees, of which 90 were over 100) and zero rain; seriously under-trained. And, I just got back from doing an epic ride and am still recovering.

So, I again signed up for the 100k ride. That was before looking at the weather forecast. Right after plunking down my registration fee, I returned home to see that we had a 40% chance of rain, and 100% chance of high wind. Bummer. As Saturday approached, the forecast moderated somewhat, in that the rain showers would probably come in the afternoon, and the high wind (40mph) was downgraded to 15-25mph. Of course, no one EVER pays attention to the low figure.

The Outlaw Trail ride is so well organized and has so many volunteers. Parking, getting ready, the start, all went smoothly. We even started out with the wind mostly at our backs. I only saw one of my Cyclopaths jerseys in the crowd. My friend, Janet, was with me at the start, but, like me, is very tentative and cautious when doing a charity ride. So, she was somewhere behind me.

I thought my speed to be average for a tour, but folks kept passing me. Not in bunches, but fairly steady. About a half hour into the ride I saw Barry (Blue Ridge ride partner) coming from the other direction. We waved. Not long after, Janet came up and passed, so I increased pace to keep up. Eventually we reached the northern most point of the ride and turned south, into the wind. About this time, Barry again appeared, coming from the opposite direction. This time he turned around and rode with me for a mile or so, to the rest stop. I transferred a flash drive from the Blue Ridge ride (Rick's pics), and he went on his way, as did I.

By this time, I had determined 100k would take too long and get me too beat up by the wind, so I switched to the 50 mile route (the way the routes are configured, switching among the 40,50, and 62.5 is very easy). My rest stop was quicker than the ladies, so I was on my own. The route direction continued south and east, the wind direction from the southeast. Most of the roads were quite familiar to me, a few were not. Eventually, I came to the Taylor city limits and knew the next turn would be to the west and finally give me a favorable wind. The next rest stop came at mile 35 (for me) and as I prepared to leave, one of the ladies mentioned that they had pickle juice because many riders started complaining about cramps at this stop. I took the opportunity to take a few ounces, because my calf had made a mild complaint.

Now, with the wind somewhat on my left shoulder and a short rest, my speed increased and I began enjoying the ride. About this time I saw Janet coming from the other direction. Hmmm. It seems she, too, had opted for the 50 mile ride, then the 40 mile ride. As soon as I saw her, I did a U-turn and joined the group. I guessed my final mileage now would be around 45.

The last few miles had a few hills, against the wind. We now passed people who had over-exerted themselves and were walking their bikes. Eventually we entered the park for the last few miles of traffic-less riding and cruised to the finish line. My estimate was correct: 45.5 miles in 3 hours, 5 minutes. I drove home, had lunch, had a nap, and am now musing about how beat up I feel. I'm not going back to check, but I suspect I whine about the wind at least once a month. It really is a big bully. I'm pretty sure this is my last organized ride of the year. From here on out, I'll cherry-pick my days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

SIX GAP CENTURY

The previous post gives a run-up to this one, which deserves to be separate. But you might want to read that one first.

A short history: for the past five years Marilane and I have been coming to Suches, Georgia for a family get-together. I bring my bike and cycle, as evidenced by numerous posts on the subject. Therefore, I have experienced all six of the gaps that comprise the ride. But I only do them three at a time, and that is only 33 or 37 miles. Early this year, I decided to sign up for the Six Gap Century, billed as 105 miles and 11,200 feet of climbing. Then, working backwards on the calendar, I planned an epic Blue Ridge Parkway ride. Unfortunately, as whined about in previous posts, I also planned a lot of big mileage training that never happened. Coming into Virginia, my longest ride this year had been 63.5 miles and only half a dozen had been over 50 miles.

Based on our performance on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Barry and I discussed opting for Three Gaps rather than suffer a whole day doing the century. But the weather finally turned gorgeous, with brilliant blue skies, light wind, and afternoon temperatures in the 80's. On Saturday we arrived early to pick up our packets on the square in Dahlonega, then wandered around the vendors, purchased a jersey, had lunch, and rested in the afternoon, watching football. We were then pretty much determined to suffer on Sunday.

Conversation with an experienced Six Gap rider Saturday morning convinced us to arrive early at the start, the high school. Breakfast consisted of bagels and juice at 5:30am, then the short drive to the high school. Even at this early hour, the police were directing the line of cars into the parking lot. Not much to do except sit around and use the facilities until start time, 7:30am. I had left my wind jacket at the hotel, so Barry lent me his (he had two). With a starting temperature in the low 50's, and being on the west side of the mountains, I knew it would be chilly for the first hour, especially going downhill. Usually I also cover my knees, but not when I'm serious, and I was definitely serious this morning.

We started mid-pack of an estimated 2,000 cyclists. Not because we wanted to, but because that is where we landed when we went to line up. For sure, we did not want to be with the crazy folks at the front. We are both experienced charity ride cyclists, which means we know enough to start off slow and warm up the body and conserve energy. What is different about this ride, though, is the lack of inexperienced riders. You know, the ones that zip around, change pace willy-nilly, generally causing a nuisance. Without these nuts, the atmosphere was quite relaxed, knowing that the folks around you were not dangerous.

So, I felt quite good as we eased into the ride. Lots of cyclists passed me, I passed a few. After the first half-hour I was warm, comfy, and finally came to that part of the ride where the roads were familiar. Just before Turner's Corner (a rest stop that hardly anyone stops at), I pulled off the road for a nature break and to remove the wind jacket. Neel's Gap, the first significant climb, started at Turner's Corner and finished nine miles later.

One interesting thing on the way up: a cyclist passed me (nothing strange about that) and the girl behind me called out loudly "are you going to stand the whole way!" Her companion asked her why she said what she did, in that cyclists periodically stand when going uphill, to give their backs and legs a break from sitting. She answered "he doesn't have a saddle." Sure enough, when I looked closely, he had no seat post and no saddle. No place to sit. This was not a mechanical failure, he planned to ride the whole way without it.

What wind there was came at my back. Given the temperature, the wind, the crowd, I ascended Neel's Gap better than any of my previous rides. Only glancing at the rest stop at the top, covered with a myriad of cyclists, I continued on down the other side and enjoyed a fast, vehicle free descent (the road wasn't closed, just empty of cars and motorcycles). Next came Jack's Gap.

Rather than being all uphill, the climb up Jack's Gap is a series of ups and downs, the ups being longer. Saving myself for the third gap, I just geared down and cautiously reeled up to the rest stop. Now almost three hours into the ride, I stopped and refilled my bottles, one with water and the other with the energy drink they provided. I carried a flask of energy gel (along with a couple Clif Bars). I also ate half a banana, then mounted up for the descent. All of this took seven minutes, two minutes more than what I preach should be the length of a fuel stop (it isn't about time lost, per se, but giving your muscles a break but not letting them begin to tighten up).

Halfway down, I turned off the course and pulled over for another nature break (the line at the porta potties having been too long), then proceeded down the rest of the way. This descent is downright casual, the only one of the six I can characterize that way. The start up Unicoi Gap began almost immediately. And like the just completed descent, the ascent up Unicoi was casual. Easy or not, I still started passing people. It is a short climb, maybe two and a half miles, but the descent is spectacular. Over seven miles of going down, the first three steep, fast, with wide sweeping curves. Having several cyclists in front to show me the lines helped in keeping my speed high. The last four were more moderate, in the mid-20's mph, pedaling mostly just to keep the legs moving.

Then it was time for the beast of the ride, Hogpen Gap. First came the several miles of transition to the turn on the Russell Scenic Highway. Make the turn and voila! you are going up. The first couple of miles lull the uninitiated into thinking this gap is just like the others, then you cross the KOM timing lines. Soon enough I came to guys (never women, hmmm) standing by their bikes gasping for air or just standing still hoping their heart rates would drop back to an acceptable range, or walking their bikes for a short distance to allow their legs to recover. Halfway up Hogpen a rest stop provides an excuse to ease the pain, and, of course, refuel. I took the opportunity to do both, and use the porta potty. It only took five minutes.

I still had another three miles to the summit, but almost a mile of that was downhill, and the hardest climbing had been accomplished. What with the rest and downhill, I felt fairly chipper as I crossed the KOM timing lines at the top. An aside: While the Six Gap Century is primarily a ride, not a race, they give everybody a timing chip and award prizes (and bragging rights) to the fastest finisher (male and female), and fastest up Hogpen Gap and Wolfpen Gap. I didn't enter the KOM competition, but they have my time anyhow. I finished 7th in my age group going up Hogpen. Had I put off the rest stop, I would have (woulda, coulda, shoulda) finished 4th. This is more musing than anything, I took the rest when I needed it. Besides, I finished 5th overall in my age group, so apparently two guys punished themselves too much.

Back to the ride. The downhill off Hogpen is extremely fast and the road is rough. I was happy clocking 47.5 mph and not trying for 50. Perhaps smooth asphalt might have tempted me. With a judicious use of the brakes, and again having a cyclist in front of me (about 50 yards, we don't like being too close at these speeds), the eight miles of downhill and transition went by quickly.

The next gap was Wolfpen. Wolfpen is my friend. It is three miles of steep, switchbacked corners. It usually takes all of my gears to get past some of the ramps, but because of my familiarity with it (at least five climbs per year), I never seem stressed with this climb. And the downhill has banked switchbacks than are a lot of fun for the first mile. Like Neel's and Unicoi, I zipped down Wolfpen at speeds previously unseen by me. Then came the short climb up to Winfield Scott Lake and the transition to Woody Gap.

Woody is a wuss (in this direction). It is short, maybe a mile and a half, with not much gradient. When you reach the summit, however, you have a great five mile downhill. I hardly glanced at the rest stop, as I pushed into the big ring and small cog for a fast descent. Alas, it was now afternoon and the wind had come up, blowing in my face. Rather than coasting in the high-20's, I now soft-pedaled in the mid-20s. Again, even with an open road, only one car came from behind me.

The last ten miles I took casually, mainly because I was really tired and secondarily because I knew I could finish. Actually, once I got past Hogpen I knew I had enough energy to complete the ride. One other thing kept me from pushing hard to the end: every now and then my left calf or right quad would give indication they might cramp if I asked too much of them. So we eased into Dahlonega and turned into the high school grounds, stopping the clock at seven hours and 55 minutes, three seconds.

Right after crossing the finish line, we stopped to turn in our timing chips. When I started to pedal away, the right calf balked, so I opted to walk the 100 yards to the truck and give different muscles an opportunity to work.

Having the start/finish at the high school is a great plus. Besides the bathrooms, they had the kitchen in which to work. A spaghetti plate, with rolls and tea, waited for me to pick up and find a table to sit at. My new friend, Mike, and his friends waved me over and we ate and discussed the ride.

I went over to see about getting a massage. The list and waiting period was too long. I just found a chair and let the day's work ease away.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ANOTHER EPIC JOURNEY

Or, cycling Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, and finishing with the Six Gap Century. The Blue Ridge Parkway has been on my radar for a few years and my original plan called for a week riding its 470 miles. From my experience doing rail-trails and the Natchez Trace, I know that anything over five days tends to get monotonous and boring. I figured this being a mountainous ride, the vistas would allow seven. Besides, the Blue Ridge tends to have fog, so anyone riding it should anticipate one or more non-riding days.

One problem with planning epic rides: getting someone else to accompany you. My friend, Barry, expressed willingness and enthusiasm. He talked me into adding Skyline Drive, an additional 105 miles. This would be a long drive to the start (1,435 miles, two days) and we might not get this way again, so let's tack it on. Ergo, my #1 rule got violated. We recruited one more rider, Rick. We could not recruit a sag driver.

Actually, I did recruit a sag driver for the first 20 miles. Besides bicycles, Barry's truck transported several musical instruments for my grandchildren. Daughter, Jean, and her husband, Jim, drove to Front Royal to receive them, and Jim kindly drove the sag vehicle to the first exit on Skyline Drive, thus allowing the three of us to at least begin the ride together.

Seventeen of the first twenty-three miles pointed generally UP, at about a 6% grade. A 6% hill is not difficult, a 6% mountain can wear you out. We stopped at several overlooks, both because of the vista and to give our legs a break. Eventually we arrived at the truck and I became the sag driver for awhile. About 10 miles further, Barry took over the duties. Not long after, the clouds thickened and Rick and I found a few patches of fog. It started to mist. It started to drizzle. Then, miraculously, Barry appeared at an overlook. Making the hand-across-the-throat signal, we called it a day and loaded our bikes, bemoaning our fate of cutting short the ride by about 20 miles.

Not more than a half mile later, it started to rain, and then we hit heavy fog. We found out later that a group of cyclists behind us were pulled off the road (by the authorities) due to the fog. At the Big Meadows Lodge, we were in the parking lot but unable to see the lodge not more than 20 yards away. So, we moderated our moaning and congratulated ourselves on the perfect timing at ending our cycling day. I missed several thousand feet of climbing, but still managed 5,099.

Big Meadows has great scenery, unfortunately obscured by the fog. We got settled in our rooms and had a celebratory glass of wine. Eventually the bar at the lodge opened and we had a beer while waiting for the restaurant to open. Activities were nil due to the weather and we retired early. The next morning started clear, with blue sky, and we took pictures of the vista from the lodge. By the time we started riding thin clouds had greyed the sky and it stayed that way throughout the day.

This was Friday and I cycled 39.7 miles (of the 51.2) and climbed another 4,038 feet. The temperature started at 48 degrees and stayed mostly in the lower 50's throughout the day. But at least it didn't rain. We stayed the night in Waynesboro, VA and Rick knew a great Italian restaurant.

Saturday, the plan called for 86 miles and 8,500 feet of climbing, a really, really long day, the first on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I managed to do 46.6 miles and 7,314 feet of climb, with the temperature again in the mid-50's and damp. Again we stayed at a lodge, Peaks of Otter, located right on the parkway. Being in the middle of nowhere, we also ate there. And would have enjoyed the views, had we been able to see any distance.

Sunday, 54 miles and 9,147 feet of climb replaced the scheduled 74 miles. This took us around Roanoke. By now, we might glance at the overlook vistas, but the monotony of the valleys, especially without any dramatic sunshine and blue sky, pretty much kept our cameras in our pockets. Occasionally the fog settling in the valleys created a dramatic pic.

My legs really felt the mileage, so I did the majority of sag driving, only cycling 13 miles and 956 feet of climbing. And again on Tuesday rather than 63 miles, I did 28.5 and 3,533 ascending feet. Our stop today was in Blowing Rock, NC. Due to the weather, we didn't walk around town, but we drove around and found it to be quaint and pretty. A fun place to wander around in and out of shops had the sun been out.

Wednesday I turned in zero miles, but the other guys didn't get much in either, as they chose to pack it in due to the cold and rain. We all had rain gear, and the pictures show me in my jacket most days. On a paid tour one must suffer the vagaries of weather, but we had the luxury of choosing whether or not to ride.

Thurday, the penultimate day, the schedule called for 84 miles, of which 10 were the side-trip up and down Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. My stats show 40.4 miles and 7,877 climbing feet, most of which was Mt. Mitchell. The previous easy days apparently were what my legs needed. The temperature reading on my Garmin never moved more than 3 degrees, starting at 61, but the clouds were thin (early) and no wind. I prepared for Mt. Mitchell with a 3 mile downhill and 6 miles uphill, plus some rolling miles, then divested my outer-wear at the truck at the foot of the entrance. Most of the way up had new, smooth, asphalt. I monitored the heart-rate, keeping it in the 85% of max range, thus the speed remained generally paltry at 6 mph. Going down, we exceeded the posted speed by a lot, with my maximum being 40 mph, passing a cement mixer.


We were supposed to then ride another 50 miles, but the weather turned wet and chilly, so I ended up with an additional 11 miles before we again trucked it in. Our last day dawned cold and misty, and a planned 7,500 feet of climbing before a terrific 15 mile downhill to the finish. However, both Barry and I were saving our legs for the Six Gap, and Rick had had enough of cycling cold, so he opted to be driven to the Atlanta airport early.

So far I cycled only about half the planned distance, but climbed an outstanding 37,962 feet. My legs were beginning to come around. It was time for the crown jewel of the epic journey: Six Gap Century.

Monday, September 12, 2011

CHRISTMAS BIKE JERSEY



This is a re-posting of August 5. I'll be placing the order at the end of the month, so if you want to decorate yourself on your bike, please send your order and money before that. Of course, there is always a re-order, but that would push us right up against the Christmas rush.


Club fit, 45cm invisible zipper, mfg by Pactimo. Cost: $65


If interested, email me at jerrydusterhoff@att.net



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

COOL!

We've had 80 days over 100 degrees. I've been used to riding around 7am with a temperature around 80 degrees. This morning the thermometer registered 56 degrees. I have a soft rule of "cover the knees under 65 degrees." While 56 wasn't going to last long, the shock of over a 20 degree drop in temperature had me reaching for the tights, arm warmers, and wind vest (just in case).

My plan for this morning included a north/south trip of maybe 25 miles. The wind, indeed, came out of the north, but not as sharp as anticipated. Within half an hour the temp. had climbed out of the 50's and was very pleasant. So much so, I took a few turns (intentional this time, I know these roads quite well) and added 8 miles to the journey. The additional miles also brought a few excellent views: calm, clear, newly cleared or tilled fields.

The cold weather gear stayed on for about an hour and a half, keeping the muscles warm and functioning smoothly. But when the sweat started to build (this was just a casual ride, average heart rate at 110), it was time to stop and put them in the Camelbak. I cruised on in the rest of the way and put up the bike. What a great ride!

Monday, September 5, 2011

CRITERIUM

I thought when I finished USAC State Time Trials that racing for the year was over and I could concentrate on the upcoming Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway ride. Then my friend, Tom, emailed me. The 60+ category in the Austin Criteriums was in danger of being scrapped for lack of participation. Would I please at least sign up?

This is a three day set of criteriums in three different venues. I had already agreed to ride with Amy, Barry, and Rick on Saturday, and was scheduled to be out of town on Monday, but I signed up for the Sunday ride, which happened to be at the Jake Pickle Complex only a few minutes away from home. The bike had just come back from getting a tune-up at the bike shop and was ready to roll. Only thing to do was switch out the pedals, remove the bottle brackets and saddle pack. I suspect I was the only adult racing on a triple crankset.

Sunday morning the wind was bad, then got worse. Our race wasn't until 2:15pm, with the temperature once again above 100 degrees. Us old guys only had to race for 30 minutes, so I figured I could do that, especially if I drafted the windy portions. Even drafting, I had to drop to the middle chain-ring. Of course, we were booking along at 30mph when the wind was behind us.

I apportioned my energy, seeing that each lap took about 5 minutes. Not much calculating to know that 6 laps would get me to the end. Unfortunately, since I don't do criteriums, once I calculated the laps, I didn't really look at the smaller "laps to go" board. I had begun strategizing how to handle the last lap when I heard the announcer proclaim "two laps to go." Bummer. Apparently, it is a 30 minutes to the last lap time limit.

At the bell lap, Tom pulled ahead, the other two gapped me and when we hit the wind, I didn't have enough oomph to get back into the draft. Oh, well. 4th place isn't so bad, and it was a great workout. Of the 37 minutes of racing, I spent 29 in Zone 5 (90% of maximum heart rate) and 8 in Zone 4.

Now all I have to do is re-set the bike for touring and get ready to do some cycling in the mountains.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

LIVING IN MEMORIES

It's great to have memories you can relive over and over again. Then again, you must be able to separate memories from reality. Two years ago, when I rode Land's End to John O'Groats (SW England to NE Scotland), I pompously wrote something to the effect that "while I can and have ridden multiple century days, there was no reason to cross Great Britain so quickly." 40 or 50 miles per day is soooo easy (compared to 90-100).

That line wasn't a fabrication. When I rode from San Francisco to Portsmouth, NH, we did half a dozen century-days back-to-back. Ah, memories! Here I am, three weeks from doing the Blue Ridge Parkway, with multiple 80+ mile days, and I'm suffering when doing 60 miles. My Plan A had been to work up to 80 miles by doing a long ride once a week starting in June, and by doing 80 each week in August. This heat derailed Plan A. I'll get a few more 60 mile rides in before we go.

Don't get me wrong, my legs are quite strong and can go the distance. It's all the other body parts that will complain. When touring, the average time is 10-12 mph, taking into account stopping to eat, take pictures, find a tree. So, even if your speed is 15-17 mph, the rest of the time is off the bike. Thus, I'm looking at 7-8 hours on the road. All of my joints will ache, my neck will be stiff, my new shoes are light but get uncomfortable after 3 hours. The lower back gets cranky after 4 hours (sometimes 2 hours).

I can still remember riding 78 miles, getting off the bike, and exclaiming "today was a short day." Those days are but memories.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

FOLLOW-UP

This post comes about because I was trying to hawk my Christmas jersey (see previous post). Once again, Jack of Jack and Adams is being gracious in allowing me to set up a table Sunday morning (Sept 4) and will also display the jersey in his shop.
See my post of 3 20 09 for complete details, but from the very beginning Jack was determined that the bike he sold me was a perfect fit. That is just the kind of person he is, and the culture of his shop reflects it. It is no coincidence that from the day after I picked up my Felt, I started winning. Usually I drop by after a race to thank him again (and again, and again) for putting me on a superior bike. I have been a State champion three years running (age group, of course), mostly due to the bike.

You can be sure if you go to Jack and Adams that you will have individualized attention to your needs. Which is why I'm also dropping off my road bike for a tune-up before heading out to the Blue Ridge Parkway next month.

Friday, August 5, 2011

CHRISTMAS JERSEY AVAILABLE







My counselor advised I needed some left brain work, so I teamed up with Pactimo (jersey mfg) and designed this Christmas jersey. If you would also like to decorate yourself this year, send me an email at jerrydusterhoff@att.net and I'll return an order form and additional information. Salient facts:


Cost $65


plus $5.36 tax (if in Texas)


plus $5 if I (priority) mail it to you.


The order must be in by Sept 26 in order to have jerseys by Thanksgiving.






















Tuesday, August 2, 2011

AND THE WINNER IS...

Yes, I'm still whining about the lack of strength and whatever mysterious ailment is keeping me from going 100%. However, I managed to come home from the USAC State Time Trials with a silver medal in the Individual and gold, plus a jersey, in the Team competition.

The week-end went like this: First stop, acupuncture. Next, drive to Lytle, arriving shortly after 1pm. I changed into bike clothes and prepared to preview the TT course, a simple 10k out and 10k back with a profile that seemed to indicate mostly flat with a long incline coming to the finish line. My Garmin indicated the high temperature at 114 degrees due probably to sitting still waiting for me to get ready. The minimum temperature of 105, unfortunately, accurately reflected the heat. Additionally, a stiff wind whipped my face. Well, today wasn't about speed but to gauge shifting (a delay in shifting costs precious seconds) and road conditions. It struck my brain that, except for the initial downhill, the rest of the first leg moved generally uphill. Between the wind and the incline my time out registered 24 minutes, 17 seconds, an average of 15.6 mph. Coming back the time improved to 15:12 or 23.3 mph. I consumed the whole bottle of energy drink and was wringing wet. Bummer. Speaking of wet, Tropical Storm Don was scheduled to come through late in the evening and still be raining in the morning. My TT bike has never been wet. Castroville, 12 miles away, provided adequate lodging, and became the next stop.

The Saturday morning routine: up at 4:30am, bagel breakfast, and on my trainer, in the room, at 5am. A half hour of warm-up, then stretching, then it was time to leave for Lytle and check-in. It was still dark at 6:15am, but I secured a prime parking place, set up the trainer, picked up my packet and readied myself for the 7:17am start time. A little more trainer work, then I pulled the TT bike out of the car and completed preparations to race.

The forecasted showers did not materialize (as it turned out, my start time was between showers) and the wind light. (A slight diversion: the groups after us were younger and rode 40k. Where we turned around, they turned right and did an additional 10k and turned around. I talked to some of them that afternoon, and they said when they made the right turn it was into rain for the whole time until they came back onto our course and as soon as they made the left, the rain stopped). I knew half the racers in our group, and all but one of them started before me. Monty started 30 seconds behind and my goal was to hold him off for at least three miles. Well, I did hold Monty off as planned, but he went by me like a flash.

Because I wasn't really confident in my conditioning, I went out with a high cadence and smaller gear, and came back with more strength work. It must have worked in that I came in 3rd in the 65-69 age group and 6th in the 60+ group (which means only three riders in the 60-64 group were faster than me). Monty is from Oklahoma and not eligible for a medal, thus I collected silver behind Tom, with a time of 32:09. This better than I expected result had me feeling quite pleased with my effort. Now that I have had a chance to review the Garmin graph of my ride, I see that it really is a series of ups and downs (both ways), making my original perception erroneous. Not that it mattered. The average speed of 23 mph might have been a tad quicker if I had gone out faster, but it would not have made a difference in placement.

Sunday our start time was 9:17am, so the morning was a bit more relaxed. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places in the ITT comprised our 60+ team, plus one other rider, Bob, who didn't ride on Saturday. We met at 8:30ish and went out to practice for about 20 minutes, then made final preparations to race. The teams had a 2 minute gap between each start, and we were the very last team. In front of us were the 35+ ladies and one of us wandered up to advise they were being followed by a group of dirty old men. Tropical Storm Don (The Dud) was history and the morning had a slight breeze and 30 degrees C (why the Garmin switched to Centigrade is beyond me).

We did not push hard, having learned our lesson two years ago. Even so, our speed kept us on track for a good finish time. When we made the right turn at 10k (the team race is 40k) we could see the ladies in the distance. Right before the turn-around I had the lead and had come close to the ladies. From behind came the loud urge: Go! Go! so I pushed hard and we passed them right before the cone. It took a bit of time to get the four of us moving again, but we held off being passed back, then gradually increased our lead, and within two miles the ladies were out of sight. We made the left turn and had 10k to go when suddenly "the monkey" jumped on my back. My energy which had powered me along more or less effortlessly, drained quickly and I had to ask for less speed (compliance being mandatory in that we had left Bob several hills back and had to have three finishers). Tom Hall urged me on, pacing me the last kilometer and I gave it all I had.

It took quite a while for me to complete my warm-down. First easy pedaling for five minutes, then stopping, then some more pedaling. I drank two bottles of water and some pickle juice. Walked around a bit, changed out of my wet clothes. Waited around, talked to the guys, purchased a Championship jersey (not enough teams had signed up to get a free one, but eligible folks could purchase one), collected the gold medal. Eventually headed home, feeling extremely mellow. A few days off and begin hill rides in preparation for Skyline Drive and the BlueRidge Parkway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

GEORGIA MOUNTAINS

This long entry includes the cycling and hiking in our annual vacation to the North Georgia Mountains. I'm skipping the family fun, since this is a cycling blog. Thus, I start with my first cycling foray.
Truely, it takes some time to get used to climbing, and more so as the years mount. I have learned to take it easy and just get it over with on the first day. However, there is a bit more interest in the rides since at the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive adventure, we (Barry and Rick and I) are doing the Six Gap Century out of Dahlonega. It so happens that my vacation riding includes all six gaps, although I take them three at a time and without the extraneous mileage.
So, off I went, leaving the cabin and doing a counter-clockwise circle of the gaps. Woody Gap is first, only a mile from the cabin, and fortunately in this direction, quite a mild climb. On the century ride it is the last of the gaps and truthfully, not as difficult as some of the rollers leading up to it. From the top of Woody Gap it is a five mile descent. There are no steep ramps, some tight turns, a few straight-aways, and a couple of chicanes. All in all, a delightful ride, mostly in the 30mph range, and especially easy when there are no cars to challenge you. A stop sign at the end means turn left and continue downhill for another mile, then rolling the rest of the way to Turner's Corner.
A left turn starts me on the way to Neel's Gap, nine miles of mostly ascending. Fifty minutes of climbing gets me to the top and a short breather while I turn my phone on and email Marilane that I'm safe and on time (this is the only place where AT&T has coverage, but we have wi-fi at the cabin). It is another five mile descent. Much of the way there are gentle turns, two lanes and a wide shoulder, allowing for increased speed (I won't use the term "breakneck"). There was a tentative driver who pulled over for the cars in front of me and I also passed him and stayed ahead all the way to the left turn to Wolf Pen Gap.
Wolf Pen is a three mile climb and probably my favorite of the six. The turns are tight, banked, and a few are pretty steep. I managed the ascent with a gear in reserve, and dipped down the other side. Just like last year, I did too much braking on the curves (but got better with each pass), and arrived back at the cabin exactly at the estimated 2 hours 45 minute time. I can tell you my legs were not happy campers, but then they never are on the first day.

I pick my days based on time constraints, weather, time of day, and lastly, how I feel. The next day I got out in the morning and did the same ride in reverse. Neither Wolf Pen nor Neel's is very strenuous from this direction, but the road down Wolf Pen was wet and dark, so I mitigated the speed (putting a damper on the "wheee" feeling). The descent from Neel's Gap, on the other had, was great, especially with no cars behind you. This is a nine mile, wide curves, and high speed drop. Lots of "whee" here, and only one car passed me. Unfortunately, the traverse over to Woody is more uphill than down. I took a short break before beginning the slow slog up Woody. This narrow, two lane road is more travelled but thankfully the drivers are used to cyclists. I have no idea why the mph is so slow, since the grade is only moderate.

Kurt and Nic (son and wife) arrived Saturday night, so my Sunday ride was a short out-and-back to Wolf Pen Gap. I estimated 45 minutes out and 30 minutes back, but apparently I'm getting better because I was 35 out and 25 back. That gave us plenty of time to sit and chat and absorb the great scenery our cabin presented (I highly tout High Valley Resort). However, this may have proved to be the beginning of my downfall. In the afternoon we became restless, waiting for the other siblings and their family to arrive. Last year, Kurt raced me up Brasstown Bald, him trail-running and me cycling the road. My time was 32:20 and quicker than Kurt by several minutes. Since then, Kurt has completed eight marathons, most of them over trails, and is much more fit. I, on the other hand, have had a poor training season and am less fit. Given the disparity, neither of us felt a need to race, however I proposed we hike up Brasstown Bald, something I have not done in my previous five years.

One hundred yards into the hike I was cursing the fool who suggested hiking. It was a hot, humid afternoon and I was already soaked in sweat. Kurt set a moderate pace, yet I had a difficult time getting my breathing and heart-rate stabilized (Nic was with us and, like Kurt, showed no signs of distress). I'm thinking it took about an hour. Kurt had mentioned a short downhill section to get to the parking lot of Brasstown Bald. Our definitions of short differ, in that my idea was a couple hundred yards. I could say it was a mile, but that would be a slight exaggeration. We couldn't very well just go to the parking lot, we had to complete the mission to the top, another steep climb (although on a nicely asphalted path). We made it to the top, but I didn't make it to the observation deck. I sent them on up while I rested and pondered the state of my health.
Ah! The downhill. Ok, they wore me out coming up the trail. When I considered the long climb from the parking lot (I'd had enough of hiking UP), I balked at taking the trail back to the car. So, we took the road. Half-way down my shins reminded me that they hadn't hiked in a year. Two and a half miles of steep downhill walking really did the shins in. At least my breathing was normal. The clothes were soaked, as was the dry t-shirt I had in the car, two minutes after I put it on.
One of the family goals is to complete the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Georgia. We do this with short hikes and half the time include the grandkids. Monday was a good hiking day, so there was no cycling. We got a late start and the travel logistics put us in the cars more than hiking, but in any case, put in 4 miles on the AT. My shins complained the whole time. Tuesday was also a good hiking day, and we did another 6 miles (without little ones) up to the North Carolina border. The shins merely wimpered. Wednesday morning a heavy shower cancelled both hiking and/or cycling (Hallelujah, a rest day).
Thursday the family activity was swimming. I don't do water. This would be my long day. Skeenah Gap is not one of the six gaps, and is to the north of Suches. It's a great ride and the weather cooperated nicely. Rather than a left turn to climb Woody Gap, a right turn takes me through Suches and several miles of superior downhill. The road was dry, shady, with great turns and several steep ramps which pushed the speed above 40mph. Sixteen miles later I took a right and had some nice, mostly flat riding through scenic countryside. One more right turn brought me to some short, steep hills. I saw deer, a box turtle, no dogs, and only a couple of vehicles. Of course, to get back to the cabin, the last part of the ride took me up and over Wolf Pen again. Fifty-one miles today.

Friday and Saturday were family oriented. Sunday two families returned home, plus church, so I was left with the option of riding in the afternoon heat or foregoing a ride. I opted to once again do the three gap ride, starting with Woody. I had the wind against me going down and had to pedal, albeit in my big gear, the whole way. Hardly any traffic for a Sunday afternoon. I came in ten minutes quicker than previous, although the time up Neel's Gap was the same. I think I did both sides of Wolf Pen faster.

Monday the rest of the family left, some needing a ride to the Atlanta airport. Once again, an afternoon ride was on the agenda. My plan was to do the other three gaps, Unicoi, Hog Pen, and Jack's. But I was looking at a three o'clock departure and in truth had no clue as to the mileage. I knew it was more than 34 and less than 45. As I dropped down the east side of Jack's Gap, the starting point, I calculated the time it might take. By the time I reached the bottom, five miles later, this was looking like a bad idea. But the climb back to the car was just the warm-up I needed for the legs to attack Brasstown Bald, which happened to start where the car was parked.
I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that my body cannot get up that one section of 26% grade without stopping. Once again my heart rate had another 10 bpm (or 14 under max), but the legs/lungs couldn't take it. The legs were shaking pretty bad when I stopped. Let's recap the climb: total of 2.5 miles that starts you off with a 14% grade, then relaxes to between 8-12% before jumping to 15% at the half mile mark, dropping back to 6-8% and jumping to 14% at the mile mark. For the next half mile you are between 9-12%, then you hit 16% followed immediately by the 26% wall (this year the Garmin registered 27% but in the previous years only 26%). After that come ramps of 16% and 17%, then single digits which seem downright flat. Shakey legs and all, my time was 32:09, or 11 seconds faster than last year. The descent took 5 minutes 38 seconds, with speeds topping 40mph, and too-hot-to-touch wheels at the bottom.

Looking on the bright side, I got back to the cabin with time to spare. That left one more day to do the three gaps. Early in the morning I was back at Brasstown Bald, parking and again heading down Jack's Gap. I was the only vehicle on the road. The first mile down is fun, but the other four are pretty boring and necessitated pedaling on occasion. A right turn at the bottom and shortly thereafter the climb up Unicoi. This is only three and a half miles and not difficult and has a great descent. I call it a nine mile descent, but only half of that is challenging, with long straights, chicanes, several U-turns, and many wide turns. When you start paralleling the creek, you know the fun is about to end.
The traverse to Hog Pen. I took my time and didn't let the hills bother me. Two miles later, the turn onto GA 348 signaled the ascent to Hog Pen Gap. According to the computer, this climb is about seven miles long and only tops out at 14%, but there are lots of double-digit ramps. Like last time, I found a need to take a breather about two-thirds of the way up. Beware the false tops, where you think you are done. Believe me, it isn't the crest until you see the AT sign. The descent is faster than Brasstown Bald (43mph with my hands squeezing the brakes) and quite straight. But after a few miles you are into rollers, and at this part of the ride, they hurt. I didn't remember this stretch going on for so long. Eventually I came to the stop sign and turned right.
Immediately I was on the climb up Jack's Gap and it was about six and a half miles of climbing.
I had no strength in the legs, so relied on cadence in a small gear. I must have zoned out, because I don't remember the hills being particularly difficult, the Garmin telling me 8 and 10% hills (not short ramps) and the miles passed relatively quickly. I was only 20 minutes later than my projected time, not bad for not knowing the mileage. Turned out it was a tad under 39 miles. Driving back down, I was more impressed with the hill I had just come up.

So, another foray into the North Georgia mountains has been completed. Can't wait for next year. I have a new plan to strengthen the legs and conquer Brasstown Bald.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

GUARDIAN ANGEL

Barry wanted to ride last Friday. He was going to do 70, how many did I want to do? I replied 60-65, since I need to work up to long rides once or twice a week, and the one with Amy and Chuck last week was my longest so far this year. My fitness has suffered. Speaking of Amy, we invited her along, and Rick (who is soon off to the TdF, Alps).
Wheels down slightly after the 7am planned time, so we could be off the road before noon. The temperature was in the high 70's and no wind (thus humid).
From Berry Springs to Schwertner to Bartlett to Granger, a nice loop. We stopped in Bartlett for fresh water and Gatorade (for them, I had plenty of liquid). None of this has anything to do with a guardian angel (although the ride was very pleasant and practically traffic free). The G A guided our movements to bring our ride in at 55 miles.
Shortly before 11am the wind strengthened out of the south, which happened to be in the direction we were going. Fortunately, it was only for a few miles before we turned east for a few miles and then would turn north and get the wind at our backs. So, as we headed south, we could see by our computers there would need to be a course correction if we were to actually get in 60 miles. Nope, my mouth was bigger than my legs when spouting out I needed 60 miles. But my brain, and body, had the final say and we completed the loop at 55 miles. As we cruised back into the park, all body parts were in agreement that today they had had enough. (Ed. note: the whole point of this entry is that leg and lung strength is only part of the equation. You also need to build up time-in-saddle muscles)
I added another 31 miles on Saturday and today (Sunday) had my fastest ride time ever on the 360 Loop ride (subtracting the 16 minutes to change a flat). About the flat, right after crossing the dam and as I finished up, a DPS trooper stopped by to alert cars and provide protection while I got myself together. I really need to get some tire-toughies if I'm to continue to ride 620.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

IF ONLY...

I had purchased a Garmin with GPS, our innocuous 35 mile ride would not have turned out to be 54.3. If only I had printed out a map rather than rely strictly on a narrative version. Ah well, if a frog had wings...
Amy wanted to ride to Joppa from Andice. This is a nice ride and I hadn't been out that way in several years. I got on Mapquest and mapped it out as I remembered it. We invited Chuck, our 77 year old friend who had a little heart surgery last year and was getting back into shape. Long time readers will remember I wrote about Chuck several years ago, when he lived in Lompoc. He had ridden with Amy before, but that was before she took up her bike class, so his memory of her riding was pedestrian pace.
Anyhow, we met in Andice at 8am and headed west. The sky was overcast but the forecast assured us it wouldn't rain (although an occasional drop did get blown out of the clouds). All went well until Joppa. County road 210 became our undoing. Even though my directions clearly stated we took CR 210 in an ENE direction, with a right turn coming next (my directions didn't give mileage to the next turn), we managed to take CR210 north. Most of the time, a county road will stop in a town (or in this case a crossroad on the map), and take up another number. Unfortunately, CR210 just takes a 90 degree turn at Joppa and continues. In a slight defense, there is a sign indicating CR210 going north but there is no sign going east. So when we saw the sign, and knowing that was the right number, we took it. To exacerbate the situation, the road surface was smooth, the terrain flat, and the wind at our back. We really enjoyed some big-ring cruising.
When we came to the end of the road, we took a right. It seemed like a busier road than what it should, and before long we saw were were on FM 973. Oops! But we were heading east, which at least was the proper direction. I knew we were north of where we should have been, but there were no county roads heading south. Eventually we arrived at US 183. In Watson. Pook! Ding-fu!! Amy has improved immensly, but riding on 183 with no shoulder was beyond her coping ability. We had to find a way.
Chuck saw a group of guys remodeling an old church and went over to talk to them while I phoned home to see what Marilane could tell me by bringing up Mapquest. We could either go back to Joppa, or continue east to Oakalla, then back south-west to Briggs. Guess what: Briggs is on 183. The guys told Chuck CR 211 was right out of Briggs, leading him to believe we could access it from FM 2657. It was 8 miles to Oakalla and 7 miles to Briggs. So we went 15 miles in order to avoid riding 7 miles on 183. Advantage us! Besides, it was a great road and Oakalla is a place most cyclists don't go to (thus affording us bragging rights, which might be construed as dubious).
Well, we had to go about a mile on 183 from Briggs to CR 211. Amy went first, Chuck with his bright white jersey second, and me with my blinking LED was behind, hoping that all the traffic would see us in time to change lanes. There were no incidents, but anxiety was pretty high. Once on 211, we could relax and continue on the journey. One more turn to the south, into the wind. By now, we were approaching 50 miles and Chuck was pretty frazzled, but moving.
With a few miles to go, he really wanted to be by himself, and urged us to let him pedal at his pace to the end. Having been in his shoes before, we agreed and upped our pace, although just like the last time I rode with Amy, she had more power than I.
Once at the car, with Amy stopping at the store for r&r, I loaded the bike and drove back to check on Chuck. He was less than a half mile down the road, so I drove back to the store to load Amy's bike and get a drink, and to eyeball Chuck. Definitely bonked, but nothing lots of liquid and rest couldn't cure.
As a post-script, all three of us enjoyed the ride (except 183). Both Amy and I took power naps, and I suspect Chuck did also. But I knew yesterday afternoon that my Sunday ride would take a hiatus, and the stiffness and soreness when I woke up just verified it was an excellent decision. And now that I know how to get out of Joppa, this would make a good repeat.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NATIONALS

From the start, I had not looked forward to these Nationals. For one thing, it didn't involve a trip. For another, it was in Houston (Fulshear, actually) in June. As the year progressed and my training didn't (who would have guessed this gosh-awful wind), my displeasure increased. And one more thing: I'm at the oldest in the age-group. Four years makes a difference. So, instead of excited anticipation, I left Monday with a "let's-get-this-over-with" attitude.
I arrived Monday afternoon around 2:30pm in Fulshear. They were just finishing up the 5km races. Temperature about 105 with humidity 80 or so, clear sky. "Perfect" for me to get in a practice ride to see what gears to use. The course was straight as an arrow and generally flat, however the slight grades would necessitate a few gear changes to keep the speed at optimum.
When I got back, I saw the 5km results posted (and the 40km from Sunday that I opted not to ride). Ouch, these guys are really, really fast. Ah well, I'm here for the experience. Off to check into the hotel and find dinner (Carino's, pasta) and relax the evening away.

My start time on Tuesday was 11:15am so there was no rush in the morning. I had breakfast at 6:15am then watched TV until 7am, noting that the forecast was for spotty showers all day, becoming more so in the early evening. At 7am I went down to the Fitness Center and did a half hour on the stationary bike, working up a nice sweat and a very good stretching routine. I did this last year also, with great results. Much better to get warmed-up in the dry air conditioning than in the sauna they call Houston. I showered and laid around until 9am and checked out of the hotel and drove the 30 minutes to Fulshear, stopping to fill up with gas while it wasn't raining.
I checked in, got my race numbers, then did some more warming up, trying to get the heart rate up to where it wouldn't go into shock when I started racing, and letting the quads know they were in for some punishment later. The temperature at 10am was mid-80's and the humidity close to 100%. All the while, I pushed as much fluid as I could. Unless you live (or spent lots of time) on the coast, you cannot comprehend the amount of fluid needed to keep hydrated. The start times were pushed back 15 minutes because one of the older competitors (80-84 age group I was told, not the 90-94 guys) had an accident and needed an ambulance. My computer indicated 97 degrees at start.
Apparently I lost track of time while cruising the back streets, so when I arrived at the staging area I found out that my group had alread left for the start line, but only a minute or so. The start line was several blocks away, not a problem. When I got there I found a much smaller group than anticipated. There were 53 guys in my age group. As I found out later, 21 of them opted out. Ah, the Houston weather took it's toll (and probably other factors).
My turn came and off I went, feeling pretty good and strong. The course was into the west. The expected SE wind was actually SW or South, so I knew I was in trouble. At one point I was sprinkled on, and later I saw the temperature dropped to 92 during that time. When racing I monitor my heart-rate and was pleased to see that I held it around 90-94% of maximum most of the time. Unfortunately, with the wind and lack of sustained training, I could tell I was a gear or two short. But, my body did the best it could do given the circumstances and I'm pleased with that.
Originally I hoped for a top 20 position. When I saw the reduced field, I hoped maybe a top 15, and when I saw how I finished relative to Wally, I thought maybe 10-12th. As it turned out, my finish place was 17th with an average speed of 22.84mph. As a comparison, last year in Fulshear my average speed was 24.9 (silver). That is the speed of this year's 5th place finisher.
On to the next adventure: two weeks cycling in Georgia (and visiting with family and having other fun).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A BIT LATE

First, the excuses. At State we raced at 5pm and 6:30pm and the temperature at that time was 98 degrees with a stout wind. The course was unfamiliar and somewhat technical. We arrived at 2:15pm when the temperature was over 100 and warmed up (on the wrong course) and sat around letting the heat zap me. And, my legs felt like crud (or similar words). So, realistically, I was pleased as punch to bring home two ostentatious medals. That was Thursday.
Friday I rested. Saturday morning, even though I hate riding on Saturdays, I did my usual 31 mile ride to Hutto and back. Even early, the wind was still up, though out of the south, so mostly a side wind, both ways. I felt great! The legs seemed to know what was expected of them and responded properly. My time was excellent.
That gave me some hope for the Sunday morning ride, this time wheels-down was 6:05am. The problems previously posted never materialized. Once again the legs responded well. Still had wind, but not so bad and not a factor. Finished strong and with the fastest time this year, and close to all-time fastest. I'm hoping this continues for the rest of the year, but since Nationals are next week, at least that long.

Friday, June 10, 2011

STATE TIME TRIALS

Truthfully, I wasn't looking forward to yesterday's racing. My form is 'way down, and how were the organizers to know that early June would see 5pm temperatures in the high 90's with equally high wind speeds. Whine, whine, whine. Followed by aphorism: it's the same for all the racers. No, it's not! The wind really bullies me more than the other guys.
The course this year was the Texas World Speedway in College Station. We had corners and chicanes and the finishing straight was down pit row. Really, I liked the facility. Marilane accompanied me and suffered through the heat and tedium of sitting around while I warmed up.
Ah, the warm-up. We arrived at 2pm, first race at 5pm. After setting up my trainer, I got on the road bike to take a few laps and get acquainted with the corners, etc. The first thing I found was the headwind at the start would mean a small-chainring gear selection. Normally, I'm in the big chainring the whole race. Well, I got around the course, enjoying the corners, mentally noting where I could shift to a higher gear, leaning and taking corners etc. All too soon I was back at the finish line. A check of my new computer showed 1.7 miles. Hmmm! I guess we are going around twice and be a little over distance. I went around again, a little faster and this time utilized the aerobars. Not bad. The time of 4 minutes and 30 seconds boded poorly for my finish. Stretched, talked with others, and generally let the time pass. Decided to take the tt bike around the course. That was better. It really is a fast bike.
Chris and Alisa brought the grandkids over to watch and visit, but they were a bit late, and the race director a bit early in giving us instructions, so I had very few minutes to sit and chat before having to line up to start. In other races, start times are posted and the racers generally spend the time right before the race in getting warmed up and ready. Not so here. We were lined up and waited.
Having nothing to do while the first fifteen rides went off, we discussed the race course, among other things racing. It was at this time that I found out the 5k was ONE circuit. Ooops! All my pre-race warmups had been on the wrong course. Well, half of it was wrong. That was a shock to the system. Easy enough, just don't ride through the cones. When I see a line of cones, turn (or go) onto some other pavement.
Having been jolted out of my pre-race mentals, I forgot to start the computer. Pook! We started a minute apart, so there wasn't anyone to follow. It wasn't all that bad, except I couldn't set up for the turns as well as I might have and had a few mis-choices of gears. I actually caught and passed one guy, and finished second. Silver is what I expected, since Tom Cole usually takes me in the 5k.
Race over, short warm-down, visited with kids, grandkids. Stretched, did some warm-ups on the trainer. Marilane had taken the opportunity to drive off to find air-conditioning and sustenance. At 6:15, a half-hour before the scheduled start, I grabbed my road bike to again ride the correct course and see if I could improve on my time. Traditionally, my average speed is higher in the 10k. As I reached the gate, the race director began calling us to the line. He had decided to start early so we could finish before the sun went down. Pook! Ding-fu!!
I also had saved some time to change into my skin-suit. No time for that.
We also were starting at 30 second intervals. I had no problem with that. Having raced the course once, I at least had some idea of better gear selection, giving me more speed. A combination of mis-remembering a corner and having additional mph, led me to stay in my aerobars rather than come out of my tuck. This is the first time ever I have over-cooked a corner and ran off the road (about 10 yards) into a field. Fortunately, the dirt was firm and the weeds thin and I was able to stay upright and guide myself back onto the road. It was a small incline, into the wind, and with the loss of momentum, it took a bit to get back up to speed and into my tuck.
The guy in front of me, who I had been gaining on, was long gone. The rest of the lap went well and I conservatively came out of my tuck on several other corners. The second lap had me take the offending corner correctly, keeping my speed. I whistled through the others rather well, but not as well as possible if only I had additional practice on them. As it turned out, my little escapade netted me a bronze medal rather than silver (I'm still not back to form and Mr. Cole is).
There is only a week and a half until Nationals. I have no allusions for medals there. This year is only to experience the atmosphere of being at Nationals. The real goal is Nationals in two years.

Monday, June 6, 2011

ALARMED!

No, that is overdoing it. Concerned? Of course, I am, but more than that. Perhaps by the end of this writing, I'll have a good word.
The Sunday ride saw me leaving the house at 5:45am (dark) to be ready to ride at 6:10am (not quite so dark). I finally had a day without a fierce wind, and what there was would be at my back in seventy-five minutes. Once again I cursed my Garmin, as it refused to update, leaving me without data, other than I left around 6:10. It wasn't ten minutes later that I knew I was in for a repeat of last week; specifically lack of leg strength.
Perhaps "baffling" is an apt description. My cardio wasn't taxed, and my cadence was good, and without a problem on the flats and downhills. Climbing out-of-saddle also was as it should be. Only the seated climb, when I needed power, caused my quads to feel full of lactic acid. I could not push them to full strength. By my best remembrance, I was two gears short in my seated climbing. Baffling comes in because in spite of the recalcitrant legs, I seemed to be motoring along just fine. Since I had not even a watch, it was all perceived exertion.
I have managed to have a course without any clocks (there was one at the start, but they don't turn it on that early). The only thing I can go on is when one of the many churches lets out. Anyhow, without a wind to beat me up and dropping down a couple of gears on the climbs, I felt really good the whole way. Getting the wind at my back helped, especially the big hills at Steiner Ranch. Every now and then I'd try for some high-gear seated pedaling and each time my legs refused to work. But I had lots left in the tank, and when I passed the catholic church letting out, I knew my time was super.
The clock still hadn't been turned on when I got back to the car, so I dismounted, unlocked it and turned the key on to see the time. Two hours, thirty-five minutes total. Fastest time this year. And, I didn't feel winded, beat up or even like I just pushed out 42 miles. Once again I cursed Garmin.
I was still saying nasty things this morning as I unloaded the TT bike at Old Settlers Park for a final tune-up before State. I brought my old HRM (the one I use when I ride in the kitchen) so at least I could monitor my heart and get my time. My wishful thinking that maybe my legs would relax went down the tubes almost immediately. As we all know, almost all of time-trialing is done seated. Well, I did a warm-up lap and looked to see how long it took. Apparently I double-clutched the button (on/off) because it showed me .3 of a second.
I was a little more careful in pushing the button on the 5k practice, a little careful in pushing the pedals, and conservative in the turns. Even with the lagging legs, my time was the best this year.

Perturbed and/or baffled is what I have settled on. Whatever happens Thursday will happen.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BEEN THERE;DONE THAT

But it doesn't mean I don't get excited reading about somebody else doing it, especially when my book may have been the final push he needed. Check out Dillon's blog of his east/west coast-to-coast bike ride. Of course, he is much more adventuresome than I, doing it without sag support. He also takes better, more interesting pictures.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...

In my book I opine that exercise is a very easy habit to break, and two things that keep you on track are variety and friends. Variety helps belay boredom and friends can get you out when you would rather not. Such was the case with today's ride.
I prefer to not ride on Saturdays and really don't like riding in the wind. Thus, I was peacefully planning a quiet day of stretching etc when Amy sent me an email. Her calendar was open Tuesday and Thursday, and she would be riding from her house out to Andice (30 miles north) tomorrow (that is, Saturday). Timing is everything. What with wind and various appointments, my mileage is way down and State Time Trials only two weeks away. My legs need work. And, I wanted to see how she got from her house to Parmer Lane (5 miles).
So, after several communications, we agreed I'd ride over to her house (1.7 miles) around 7am. Not even waiting for the sun to get them going, when I looked out the back door at 6:15am, the trees were already bending in the stiff south wind. We would have fun going to Andice and pay dearly coming home.
Five miles of neighborhood, twenty miles of Parmer/Ronald Reagan, five miles of county roads put us into Andice. Twenty miles of rolling hills, with a lot of big ring riding, but not really pushing a pace. A nice downhill was interrupted by hitting something (no clue what) that gave me a pinch-flat. The flat-changing god smiled kindly upon me. With a minimum of movement, I had it changed and used the CO2 without a problem. The rest of the ride north was uneventful.
Lots of cyclists use Parmer Lane and many stop at the Andice store. Amy refilled her water bottles (I had about 80 ounces in my Camelbak) and after a short break we started back. This section also had no drama, other than gusts of wind that threatened to blow us over. Because my riding this year so far has very few days over 43 miles, I was beginning to fade after 45 miles. However, I still had enough to not be an embarrassment to Amy. And since we weren't fighting the wind for excess speed, we were able to keep a nice, even pace.
Sometimes I describe riding into a wind as brutal. Today might have been ferocious, but not brutal. While extremely tired, at least I didn't feel beat up. I may even have enough left in the tank to take my Sunday ride.

On another note: From the "They don't make them like they used to" department, I dragged an old bike out of the attic recently. The tire was flat, but when I began to put air in the tube, it had no problem staying inflated. The tube is twenty-five years old.