Monday, February 28, 2011


This past week-end I participated in my first stage race, in Mineral Wells, Tx. In this stage race, you must complete in a time trial, criterium, and road race. Failure to participate in all three will result in zero points. In my case, I had the 7.5 mile time trial at 10:22am and the 45 minute criterium at 2:30pm on Saturday. The road race, 49 miles, started at 11:15am on Sunday.
I managed to preview the tt course and found it contained five (count 'em) hills, two of which were significant (I think three but don't want to exaggerate). Needless to say, the small chain-ring would see considerable use. As would the small cog on the downhills. The weather was good, other than a fairly stout south wind, which would be at our backs helping to neutralize the hills.
My place, for my purposes, was 2nd. My purposes are those within the 65-69 age group. Officially, in the 60+ category, I placed 11th. Since this was the tt, it didn't matter that we were grouped with the 50+ guys.
However, in the criterium, it mattered a lot. Racing against guys 18-19 years younger than yourself might be ok if you are 30 or 40 years old. By the way, I was the oldest guy racing this week-end. It took less than a minute and one climb before most of the group was ahead of me. The .6 mile circuit had one hill, four right turns and one left. I lost another place on the second circuit, two more places on the third circuit. After the fourth circuit the referee pulled me from the race. However, he also pulled the three in front of me and the one behind me. Being pulled by the official is not the same as not completing the race, so we still received points and were allowed to enter the road race. My finish was next to last.
For the road race, the wind, still from the south, picked up. Not quite howling, but very significant and about 50% more than last week in Walburg. The way the 24.5 mile course was laid out, only one short four mile leg actually had the wind at our backs. I dreaded being dropped.
And of course, since we were still grouped with the 50+ guys, dropping was a certainty. However, given the wind in their face (actually from their left shoulder), the leaders weren't about to expend excess energy on the first lap. I positioned myself on the right, out of the wind, and only about five riders back. I think we dropped a dozen riders immediately, but can't be sure because the results haven't been posted yet. Anyway, I hung on for nine miles until we turned and put the wind at our backs and a slight downhill. My speed was in the mid-30's and rpms quite high, but the pack moved away quickly. I wasn't the only one dropped at this point, but when I slowed a fraction to let my heart-rate drop back to 90%, I lost another four riders.
One of the four came back to me on the really big hill; I passed and within minutes he had dropped from view. I had one other straggler about a quarter mile ahead, but apparently he caught his second wind and once we turned into the wind, I couldn't close the gap.
Similar to Walburg, the second lap was by myself. The wind really slowed my progress, but while I never caught up with anyone, no one in my group passed me. I am now waiting to see if I really was again second to last, or if I came in the top ten.
I might be getting more fit. While tired, I wasn't near as wiped-out as last week. But my piriformis really need tlc.

Monday, February 21, 2011


One of the things that depressed me about the past weekend's rides was my inability to get my heart-rate into zone 4 for any length of time. My "perceived exertion" was 8 or 9, so maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. I thought I'd trained better than that.
However, after a day of rest I reviewed my stats again and saw that the average heart-rate of 133 fell above the zone 4 minimum. How strange! Obviously, with more oxygen to the brain, I concluded my computer zones were out-of-whack. Of course! I hadn't reset everything when it came back from Garmin. A few quick clicks showed me the computer thought my max HR should be 185 when in reality it is 167 (or was last year when I challenged Courtyard). Much better.
I had cleared the memory when moving the data to my spreadsheet, so I can't re-calculate the time spent in zone 4, but I can look at the chart and get a good idea. Yes, I deserved to feel as wiped out as I did. Most of the time was low zone 4.


Ok, I knew I wasn't in race-shape, not this early in the year. And, in truth, I'm more comfortable doing time-trials. Yet I committed myself to doing USAC races this year, to get more fit and faster. This week-end was the first of three, with seven races total.
Walburg has a reputation of being cold and wet and windy. It is also 48 miles in length, two loops of 24. This year it was only windy. I think they had a record turnout. We had 19 in our age group and 33 in the 50+ age group, which unfortunately we were grouped with. These guys hammer from the moment the flag drops.
Not a problem for the first mile, downhill and flat with the wind behind us. Not a problem on the first hill. Hanging in at 40mph going downhill. But as we approached the crest of the second hill I passed a rider on the right. This put me temporarily out of the slipstream of the peloton. They again ramped up the speed and before I could jump in beind, I lost 5 yards. This became 10 yards and all of a sudden, I couldn't go fast enough to catch on.
Three miles into it, and now I had 45 to go by myself. One other straggler carried on about 400 yards ahead. Then, after five miles by myself, four of the guys who had been dropped on the hills came up behind, having formed a pace line. I jumped on behind and within a minute had caught the guy ahead, who also joined our crew. Just in time, in that we now had a right turn directly into the wind.
With six guys alternating, we kept a reasonable speed into the wind and at the next right turn, into the side wind. But the wind took its toll, first dropping two guys and a few miles from the end of the first lap, another. Going up the hill into Walburg, my left hamstring started to grumble and I let the other two go. First lap completed in 1 hour 12 minutes.
But I had another lap to go by myself. Yuck! I kept the rpms up, sacrificing some speed but made it most of the way without problems. With four miles to go, several muscle groups were on the verge of rebellion, so I apportioned labor equally and soft-pedaled in. Second lap at 1 hour 25 minutes. The wind really beat me up.
Sunday was the Pace Bend Park race. 44 miles, seven laps of a six+ mile course. This time we were grouped with the 40+ and 50+. I'll make this short. At the start of the race, my foot couldn't get clipped into the pedal quick enough and I found myself at the back of the pack, them doing a right turn, going downhill, again at top speed. The main pack of younger riders was out of sight in a hurry, but a second group formed just twenty yards ahead. But just like yesterday, I chased and chased up and down three hills before waving them goodby. Besides, my piriformis were not working well at all. I had stretched the hams and quads and calves, but forgot the hip-openers. The wind was even higher than at Walburg, like flags-out-straight strength. I gave it up after the first lap.
Next week should be better, a 7 mile time-trial in the morning, 45 minute criterium in the afternoon, and a 33 mile race on Sunday.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


After four days of inside exercise you would think I'd jump at a chance to get out and ride as soon as the weather moderated. I monitored the weather forecast closely. Saturday morning early the sun was out, 40 degrees, no wind. Forecasted to go to 54F, I prepared to depart, to the extent the bike was in the "go" position, I had my gear on. Then I saw a few things flying past the window. Where did this wind come from? Marilane called to say the flags were standing out straight. I paused and pondered. 54 degrees is still pretty chilly, wind out of the south meant I'd have a side wind both ways on my east-west course. I'd been beaten up by the wind several times on this course and decided to pack it in. Besides, I had the manuscript to my sequel to work on. Several hours later I walked out to check the mail. Hmmm! Still windy, but not biting, and the temperature seems pretty warm. I checked the thermometer: 65. Bummer, this was doable. I hate riding in the late afternoon, so while I could have, I went back to the computer.

With Saturday missed, I felt more pressure to ride Sunday. The high Saturday actually got to 70 degrees at my house. I checked the forecasts for Sunday. But first I'll mention that I don't understand why after missing the high temperature by 15 degrees, several stations still were calling for freezing Saturday night (and one station hadn't moved from predicting the mid-20's. I made plans to get out two hours after sunrise (or about 9am). I had to start early because the forecast called for a front to move through, with a cold northwest wind, starting around noon. They actually said afternoon, but a look at the system convinced me it would come earlier than that. Sure enough, the temperature only dropped to 39 at my house. I re-evaluated and decided to get out at 8am instead.
Since the first hour on my Sunday ride heads south, into the wind, the earlier the better, before the sun had a chance to strengthen the wind. Sure enough, I had a breeze in my face, but after two right turns headed me back east (actually northeast) on 620, the wind, now quite strong, was at my back. Yipee! Steiner Ranch caused no problem today. Home before the front.
I'm still a little frosted (pun intended) that I didn't continue to monitor Saturday's weather and get that ride in. Constant Vigilance! And its companion: Believe, but verify.