Sunday, October 30, 2011


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


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


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


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


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.