Sunday, June 26, 2011


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


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


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


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


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


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.