Tuesday, November 29, 2011


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.