Friday, December 14, 2012


     But first, a cycling update: not much.  There is too much holiday and catch-up preparation to be done during cycling hours, therefore cycling suffers.  It isn't like I'm totally estranged from my bike, but other things take priority.
     Anyhow, the diet.  I started the plant-based diet because of some plaque build-up and my cardiologist wanted my LDL cholesterol number to be below 70.  The statin wasn't getting the job done, even though the dosage quadrupled.  After reading How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and Forks Over Knives, I decided to give the diet a try.  With the statin, I was told it took 3 months for a solid result to be established, therefore I determined I should give the diet 3 months to see what it could do.  Dr. Esselstyn indicated it would only take two weeks to see a positive result.
     So, 5 weeks of almost 100% adherence to the program seemed enough time to see if all the trouble was worth it.  I'll not keep you in suspense any longer: total cholesterol is 118 (my goal was under 140), with the LDL at 60 (a drop of 20 points, and 10 points lower than what my cardiologist wanted).
     I'm not scheduled for another heart scan for another two years, so we will wait to see what happens with the plaque.  According to Esselstyn, that should also go away.
     As for the diet, I haven't missed meat at all.  I miss cheese, but no longer crave it.  Silk is a fine substitute for milk, but manufacturers sneak dairy into so much stuff shopping is a full-time job since all labels must be read (and interpreted, since many creative names are used for milk products).  It is also more expensive.
Next post should have some cycling, if all goes as planned.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


     Actually, the stress comes from purchasing a new car.  Let's start at the beginning.  We are finally having some really great weather in which to cycle.  Unfortunately, it is coming when I'm doing other things, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations.  Then comes the car thing.
     For the past twenty years, new car buying has not been bad; we just go down the the Mazda dealership, tell them what we want, and off we go.  Truely, the service keeps bringing us back.  This year, Mazda stopped offering the Tribute.  BTW, new car buying is linked to cycling in that I insist on having a vehicle my bike (s) will stand up in inside, with the front wheel removed.  Byran made a special rack for me.  Back to my whining.  Their replacement, the Mazda5, doesn't have enough height.  Neither does the bigger Mazda9.
     No problem, I figured.  Since the Ford Escape is the same vehicle, I could just buy the Ford.  Well, for 2013 Ford improved the Escape so much it no longer has sufficient height either.  Not only did they drop some height, but the rear seats don't fold flat, so it is about 4 inches shy of what I needed.
     The quest began in earnest.  First, I found out that mfg stats have little relation to real world when it comes to my requirements, so I had to physically visit car dealerships.  I'd get out with tape measure in hand, fending off the buzzing sales folks as much as possible.  Of course, most weren't desperate enough to waste time with a guy with a tape measure.  The upshot of this was I spent a lot of time car shopping instead of enjoying the super weather on my bike.
     Mini-vans were my fall-back third option.  My second option was the big SUVs, like the Tahoe or Denali.  Given next year's travel schedule, with lot's of drive time, the luxury of a big vehicle was high on my list.  However, with the one good deal on a Denali leading to a test drive, Marilane nixed that about 30 seconds into the ride.  It was quite noisy, and wasn't as cushy as we expected.
 But in the small SUV category, I found the Toyota Rav4 to be the only vehicle the bike fit in;both bikes if need be.  The test drive went well.  I wanted one with all the bells and whistles.  It took two dealerships and the sad realization that Toyota doesn't deal much.  This is a mixed blessing (curse), in that I hate to deal anyhow.  I did my internet research, got a good salesman recommendation, and on our second Toyota dealership found a match.
     Now I can get back to cycling (after planting the zillion tulips we bought in The Netherlands last year).

Saturday, November 10, 2012


     This very short entry announces my (our, Marilane has agreed to see where this takes both of us) beginning into the world of no meat, no fish,no dairy, no oil, no refined sugar.  That leaves fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains.  Because we are frugal folks, we haven't tossed all our non-compliant food, but rather have eased into the program.  Today we will start restocking the pantry.  It might take several weeks to be 100%.  The meat and dairy were the easy part and are gone already.  Holidays might be a difficulty, we will see.
     The catalyst for this humongus change is my inability to lower my LDL cholesterol sufficiently with medication.  In the last eight years I have gone from zero plaque in my arteries to being in the 58 percentile for people my age.  Given the amount of physical activity I do, it is unwise to have a major artery blocked.  But there are other reasons.  I won't beat up on meat and dairy, who knows, I may be back ingesting it.
     Here is my plan: a month on the strict diet to see if there is any movement at all in my cholesterol (it doesn't have to reach my goal by then, just go in the right direction); three months to see how my overall body reacts.  If all goes as the proselytizers promise, they will have a new acolyte.  Check back regularly to see how I'm doing.

Friday, November 9, 2012


     I took Sunday and Monday off from any exercise.  Tuesday I did push-ups (Day 2 of Week Six of  attended Body Flow at Golds, and worked the weight machines.  Wednesday we had a multitude of appointments and thus I didn't ride on the most gorgeous day of the year.  My Thursday appointment cancelled, leaving me an opportunity to finally get back on the bike.
     Eventually, I'll get to the point of this entry.  Wednesday was gorgeous, Thursday was clear, but quite breezy.  I could not believe the computer readout of the heart-rate.  It was ridiculously low.  I had the wind at my back, mostly, on the way out, so speed was high (but nowhere close to a record).  It blew in my face on the way back, dropping my speed considerably.  Overall, this was the slowest ride for this course in several years.
     But, as hard as I worked on the way out and especially on the way back, my heart-rate remained low.  Average for the whole ride was only 118.  So, even if the leg muscles were complaining, the heart didn't have a hard workout.  If I had not taken a few days off, I would have worried that my Saturday TT had been too much for the heart.
     Today I went to spin class.  The wind that yesteday blew so hard in my face, had doubled by today and I happily exercised inside.  The first thing I noticed was the heart-rate read-out showing 52.  I briefly saw 48 but suspect that to be erroneous.  Even so, 52 hadn't been seen by me in maybe ten years.  As I warmed up on the bike, it remained low and only after about five minutes into the class did it even hit triple digits.  Again, with sweat rolling off me and screaming quads, my heart blissfully remained in zone 3.
So, TT results notwithstanding, it appears I have benefitted greatly from Saturday's race.  We will see if this is a very short term situation, or if I can continue to train and keep my new low.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


 Results are in and are worse than expected.  Unfortunately, I had my the correct time, at 33 minutes, 43 seconds.  In September my average speed came in at 22mph and one month later I only managed 18.6mph.  Ouch.  Last year, my time was faster than whole bunches of people.  This year, I'm toward the bottom.
     Clearly, my heart-rate was too high and my cadence too low.  In my practice rounds, average cadence was in the 82-84 range but in the race I only managed 78.  Ah well, that gives me something to work on this winter/spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


     After previewing the course a few weeks ago, I immediately dropped my average speed 1.5mph for this 10.5 mile course.  The departure order is based on your speed estimate, and back in August when I first signed up to ride, my practice times were consistently 22mph.  So, at 20.5mph, I estimated a 30 minute time trial.
     We are talking about November 3.  I didn't expect the temperature to be in the mid-80s with a high humidity.  I had my trainer to warm-up on, but first did a 30 minute loop around part of the course.  That may have been a mistake, because even though I didn't push very hard, I consumed a whole bottle of electrolyte and felt bushed as I came back to the car.  Plan A called for me to do 10 minutes on the trainer, getting my HR back up, and leaving another 10 minutes before the start to recover.  As it turned out, I was still recovering an hour after my warm-up.  Parking was a half mile from the start, and required going up a 10% climb, but they provided a shuttle, which kindly took Marilane and I to the start.
     Because I do my warm-up on my road bike, I took a few minutes to make sure all was well on the TT bike, riding around the park loop and shifting gears, etc.  I arrived at the start line about ten minutes prior to my appointed time.  My heart-rate just prior to the start was 108.
     The first mile is on level, smooth asphalt across Canyon Lake Dam.  Today the wind was more or less at our back for the start.  I was determined not to get overly excited and push too hard, thus leaving me out of gas half way through the race.  Even so, as I approched the end of the dam and an incline and left turn, I glanced at the computer and saw I was at 150 (90% of maximum).  This was to be expected, but I also expected it to drop to about 145 on the approaching downhill.  Alas, it never did.  I finished the race with an average HR of 153 and a max of 161 (95%) which wasn't even on the final climb.
     Back to the race.  Not even two miles into the race I passed a rider who had started 90 seconds ahead of me.  He was struggling.  Three miles into the race I got passed by the rider who started 30 seconds behind me.  Bummer!   I kept him within sight for the next four miles, but at a climb, right turn into Sattler, into the wind, he was able to accelerate on the level road and I couldn't.  One more right turn brought me to a long climb.  It is about seven-tenths of a mile long and tops out at 7%.  It was on this climb that I maxed the HR.  Then came the downhill.  On my road bike, not trying too hard, I topped 37mph, and anticipated  40mph during the race.  I had the same gears and more aerodynamic equipment.  My excuse is the wind had come up, generally in my face, but whatever the reason, my max speed was 35.4mph.
     Then came the left turn into the finishing climb.  It really is brutal.  I used all my gears and kept a steady, slow cadence.  Two folks passed me in this final stretch.  Happily, I eased over the finish line and continued onto the warm-down loop.  I kept doing the loop and monitoring the HR.  It dropped quickly to 80%, but even after five minutes wouldn't drop below the mid 120s.  Most of my training results in HR under 100 within three minutes.  I coasted back to the trailer area and Marilane called out as I passed.
     After depositing my bike on the fence, I sat down on the ground and accepted a cup of water, my Camelbak being empty.  Another five minutes and I stood and was ready to go back to the car.
     It will be a few days before the final results are posted.  Unlike last year, I didn't wait around for hours until the announced results.  Janet indicated she would stay and whatever place I finished would pick up the trophy (or medal, whatever).  As I write this the next morning, I'm still lacking energy, although not quite as sore as expected.  It was, afterall, only 10.5 miles of heavy riding, so other than the heart, the rest of the muscles didn't have that difficult a time.
Postscript, my time was about 33:45 and speed around 18.9, quite a bit slower than even my adjusted estimate.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


     Regular readers will know that my minimum temperature for a recreational ride is 40 degrees (5C).  Also, my Sunday ride (when doing solo) is the 42 mile 360 Loop.  The forecast low for this morning was 40F and at 6am at our house it was 41.5 and dropping.  I had loaded the car and set out clothing last night in preparation.  The forecast included clear skies and a light wind out of the north.  Perfect!
     In the summer, I plan for wheels down 10 minutes before official sunrise.  It is still light enough to navigate safely, and gets me finished before the sun begins to bake the body.  In the winter, I plan for departure at sunrise.  Since we are still on daylight savings time for another week, 7:30am was my estimate.
     There is method to my madness.  In the first 30 minutes there are three decents and I can count on a marked drop in temperature, maybe as much as 10 degrees.  But then come the hills of Loop 360 and beautiful sunshine beating my back.  Usually, after climbing to Bee Cave Road, I can stop and divest myself of extraneous outer garments.  Now you have the background for today's narrative.
What it felt like
     Getting dressed was a chore.  Upper body (in order): heart rate monitor, base layer, jersey, wind jacket.  Lower body: socks, bike shorts, tights (today, fleece).  Head: wide ski headband (hand-me-down from son, Kurt), helmet, sunglasses.  Hands: long-fingered gloves.  Lips: vaseline.  No way was I going to be chilled.  Somehow, I lost track of time and left the house at 7am and arrived at my departure spot at 7:15am.  It only takes five minutes to park and be ready.  As I adjusted my sunglasses, I knew something wasn't right.
     Warming up through the neighborhood, I realized that in my calculations of when to leave (should have checked the weather channel), I blithely arrived at 7:30 because it was light out at that time yesterday morning.  Actual sunrise today was 7:42am.  Ok, now we see that I'm twenty minutes ahead of schedule.  Since very little of my body was exposed, the downhills just served to make my eyes water.  The remaining body parts worked fine and handled the temperature drop without complaint.  But when it came to the hills, no actual sunlight was hitting the highway.  Therefore, no clothing was removed.
     About 75 minutes into the ride, I finally stopped and switched out the headband, mainly because the wide ski band started to slip over my eyes.  My ears complained for about five minutes, but after that all was well.  I had regular bike gloves and a space in my pocket for the wind jacket, but, sunshine or not, it remained chilly.
     All during the ride, I was comfy.  But I wasn't fast.  The computer tells me my heart-rate was above average, but the speed was not.  I had zero oomph in the legs.  Ergo, my time came in twenty minutes slower than average.  I'm going to hypothesize that the extra ten heart beats went to keeping me warm; that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I'm sitting at the computer Sunday morning, rather than doing my usual 42 mile 360 Loop ride.  The 50 (F)degrees didn't deter me, I had on my tights, base layer, jersey, with a jacket in reserve.  But there is no sun and the cold wind bending the trees had me closing the garage door just seconds after I opened it.  Today's ride will be in the kitchen doing a Carmichael TT workout.  I have long since worn out the video, but really no longer need it.

Last Friday Marilane and I drove down to Gruene, Tx, me to preview the ITT (Individual Time Trial) because it is new this year, and TTT (Team Time Trial) courses, she to browse the shops.  The two-man team course is a 26.6 mile loop that starts and ends in Gruene and the individual course is a 10.5 mile loop beginning and ending at the Canyon Lake Dam.  Think of a figure 8, with about a mile of road constituting the intersecting part.  I estimated doing both loops, slightly modified, at 40 miles and that it should take me about three hours. 

Last year the ITT consisted of 15 miles of the TTT course, then a bit of a sting to the top of Canyon Dam.  Therefore, being defending age-group champion, I was familiar with this really great ride down the River Road to Sattler.  I had been looking forward to racing it again and mourned the change.  Anyhow, I rode my road bike and meandered my way to Canyon Dam, remembering the undulations and gear shifting needed for maximum speed.  There is a slight chance I may be asked to substitute in the TTT, so I wanted to be prepared.

The ITT course starts with .8 mile across the dam, on new, smooth asphalt, followed by a mile through a park (more of a wilderness area with a slight downhill and uphill loop).  The course map indicates severe turns; and the main reason I wanted to preview the road.  The turns aren't all that bad and hopefully they will blow the gravel before the race, allowing me to remain in the aero position.

At about 3.5 miles there is a turn onto Rt 306.  This is a major two-lane road with lots of traffic and at the turn it had a teensy-weensy shoulder.  But it also had a middle turn-lane and generally I don't mind riding in the middle of the road.  This lane had a lot of road debris and all too soon I saw that it petered out.  This brought me to a stop to consider my options.  I could return on the river road and skip the 4 miles of preview, or I could gird my loins (for the younger generation: suck it up) and continue on.

Once the turn-lane stopped, the shoulder widened (to about half what I thought was safe).  Truthfully, the shoulder was about six feet wide, but three feet of it was littered with road crap, and the other three was rough as a cob.  Giving thanks for my 25mm Continentals, I soldiered on.

In my turn-lane deliberations, I determined I would skip the intersecting part of the figure 8, and I had already ridden the last portion of the ITT,  so that left 4 miles of ITT and about 10 miles of the TTT.  All uphill and against the wind.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration.  Yes, the wind was in my face the last 14 miles.  My computer shows 4 climbs of around 4% before what would have been the turn for the ITT (the course map profile indicates only slight inclines, once again proving you need to preview a race course).  It shows a 5% and a 10% (what is billed as a long climb of 13% in the race propaganda), plus some minor 2-3% for the TTT portion.  And, all the while, traffic buzzing too close to my ear.  I am not adverse to riding in traffic, and no one got close enough for me to give them a salute, but I won't be doing this again. 

Needless to say, going too fast never became an issue.  Statistically, on the River Road portion, I averaged 15.7mph (I did 21mph in the race last year).  For the 17.9 mile return trip, mostly on Rt 306, I averaged 12.1.  Because I'd cut several miles from the course, the total time of 2hrs 35 minutes exactly coincided with the amount of time Marilane browsed, and we arrived back at the car within a minute of each other.

I changed clothes and we wandered over to the River House Tea Room for a superb lunch,  then  drove home.  Now to training for four more weeks and hoping no one gives me a call to substitute for a team member.

Monday, October 1, 2012


     Be careful what you wish for....  Having had the experience of finishing last on this course two years ago, and knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, when I signed up to ride several months ago, I hoped for a strong north wind.  Regular readers know that I regularly whine about riding in anything more than a slight breeze.  However, I knew the only way to stay with the peloton (made up of 60-64, 65-69, and 70+ riders) after the second hill would be to have the leaders slow down to my speed as I hid behind guys.
     Gale force might be a tad strong, but the wind was quite stiff out of the north.  Unfortunately, we still had a few lingering showers in the area.  Saturday's racers had to contend with steady downpours.  Be that as it may, unlike my previous experience with a south wind, the peloton kept a reasonable pace for the first two miles, mostly a slight downhill.  The first climb caused a sharp increase in heart rate, but everybody made it over in good condition, and the wind kept the young guys from haring down the other side.
     The second hill, two tiered at 10%, separates the men from the boys, and once again I came up short.  But, I stayed with the guys longer than some of the others, and when finally I got gapped, I had some company.  Michael, in the 65-69 age group and Fred, in mine, found ourselves about 20 yards behind the group and unable to close (indeed it continued a bit faster than us), but ahead of the rest of the old guys and possibly one or two younger ones.
     The course heads north for 16 miles, then south for about 14, then west for about 3.  Even though the two tough climbs were behind us, the trio still had 10 miles and 7 minor climbs against the wind before getting some relief.  Trading places leading, we pushed on as fast as we could without going into the red zone.  Fred and I were putting time into the other guys in our group, Michael hoping to pick up stragglers in his group.
     The turn to the south finally came and we enjoyed the wind at our backs pushing us up what is usually a challenging climb.  I topped 40mph twice and spent a lot of time in the mid-30s on the downhills.  But in order to do a downhill, there were the climbs to conquer.  About twenty miles into the race, a 13% grade loomed up at us.  We took it as gentlemen, easing up without trying to bust it.  I began to feel the effects of racing.
     A few miles further and a horn sounded behind us.  The young ladies started 15 minutes behind us and apparently the leaders were approaching.  It took another couple miles before the lone lady passed, quickly leaving us behind, as she did all of her competitors (they were not in sight and never did catch us).  Well, we just enjoyed the heck out of this leg, but soon enough came the last right turn.
     The last few miles has two hills, the last one 7%, then is only slightly up, like 1 or 2%.  As we approached the first hill, the last, lingering shower caught us.  The rain was cold and sharp, with the wind coming into our right shoulder.  My left shoe quickly filled with water coming from the wheel, while the right shoe was merely wet.  On the second climb I stood to test my quads for the upcoming sprint.  They quickly told me that if I tried that again, they would shut down.  Sitting down and easing off a bit cost me 20 yards and I couldn't close the gap.  That is how we finished.
     During the whole race, Fred was clearly stronger than I.  I learned later he rides a bunch (obviously) and had raced the Leadville 100.  I was happy just to hang with him to the end.  Rain notwithstanding, I had a good time celebrating my 70th birthday.

Monday, September 3, 2012


     It has been quite awhile since last I posted anything.  Not that I haven't been cycling, but it's been quite boring.  In preparation for State Road Race, I took the aerobars off my bike, to get my arms used to the regular position for over an hour and a half.  State is 33 miles, with hard climbs and I like to think I can do it in ninety minutes; reality tells me it will come in more like an hour and 45 minutes.  My Sunday rides have suffered, but I like to think I'm getting stronger.  This coming Thursday my friend, Barry, and I will drive up and preview the course.  It's the same one I did two years ago, so it will be more of a refresher.  My age group starts with the young (60+) guys, so once again I'm hoping just to make it over the first hill (which is two-tiered) with the group before being dropped and having to ride the rest of the course by myself.  By way of explanation, if I'm in the peloton after the first climb, then I can stick until the second, which gets me one-third of the way around the course.  Most of this first ten miles will be ridden (if hidden in the peloton) in the upper 20mph range, which is why I'm hoping for only 90 minutes of pain. 
Recovery ride felt slow and plodding
     Yesterday's ride left a bit to be desired, in terms of how my heart/lungs felt, so I proclaimed that this would be a recovery ride.  It takes a lot of determination to hold back, especially when I had a favorable wind for the first fourteen miles.  I thought I would have a dramatic increase in heart-rate when I turned into the wind, but with an ego-busting use of the large cogs, I kept the increase to a minimum.  Stats: 1hr 11 minutes in Zone 1 (60% of maximum heart-rate), and 44 minutes in Zone 2; only 2 minutes in Zone 3 (mostly the one big hill on this route).  Average HR with the wind at my back was 92 and in my face: 99.  Interesting enough, my time was only 10 minutes slower than when I try to hustle.
     After the road race I'll re-install the aerobars for a month of Time Trial training in anticipation of defending my Tour de Gruene championship (age group).  Unfortunately (I think), they cut the route from 17 miles to 10.  I do better in longer routes.  However, this year it is at least a loop course, so I end up back at my car rather than 18 miles away.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


     Again this year, we had our family get-together in Suches, Georgia.  Again this year, since this is a cycling blog, I'll skip details of all the fun we had hiking the Appalachian Trail (completing all of the trail in Georgia), swimming at Lake Winfield Scott (not me, of course), and the fireworks display in Suches.
     My concern that I had lost some training was alleviated on my first ride.  We arrived at the cabin on Monday and around 9am on Tuesday (allowing folks to get to work and clear the roads), I began the traditional 3 Gap inaugural ride.  That is, I always do this ride first.  Woody Gap is only three miles from the cabin, and the climb only a mile, followed by a five mile downhill.  The wind in my face necessitated pedalling down the mountain in order to maintain a decent speed.  Mostly I stayed in the 25-30mph range, but did manage 35mph on one stretch.
      A nice, rolling transition of four miles brought me to Turner's Corner, the start of the nine mile climb to Neel's Gap.  I always allow an hour and it usually takes me 50-55 minutes to complete.  The start is gradual, and several miles into it you receive relief in the form of a slight downhill for about a mile.  Then it is three miles of 6-8% grade.
On the Skeenah Gap ride
     The reward for such hard work is a three mile descent, mostly without vehicles, thus allowing me to use all of the road.  My GPS indicates four spikes over 35mph, and nothing under 30mph once I got moving going down.  A left turn onto GA 180 put me immediately onto the climb up Wolf Pen Gap.  This three mile climb, mostly in the 8-10% range, usually takes half an hour and is my favorite of all the gaps.  The two mile descent of corkscrew turns is a lot of fun, and as usual I braked too much on my first run.  Generally it takes two or three times to re-familiarize myself with this section before I can zip around and fully enjoy the experience.  After Winfield Scott, it is another five miles of rolling hills to the cabin.
     In all, I did the 3 Gap ride, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, five times and on two other occasions rode from the cabin up Wolf Pen and back.  I also did the Hogpen Gap loop twice.
     The Hogpen Gap loop starts at the base of Brasstown Bald, or Jack's Gap if you prefer.  The eastern descent of Jack's Gap is a real bummer.  Five miles of downhill, but only the first mile is fun and after that it is so gradual that you sometimes wonder (as you have to pedal) if you are going down at all.  However the right turn and ascent up Unicoi Gap is just as gradual, and short, like three miles.
     The downhill of Unicoi is eight miles of sheer fun, with sweeping curves that can be taken as speed.  My top speed was 40mph at the very start, with lots of peaks over 35mph and nothing under 30mph for the first three miles.  Soon enough, sigh, came the right turn and transition to Hogpen Gap.
     Hogpen is similar to Neel's, in that the beginning is not-as-steep and there is a short downhill relief before the real climbing begins.  The difference is Hogpen's "gradual" is just under 10%, and the "steep" has a lot of over 10%, including a 15% pitch of about a quarter mile (perhaps less).  I'm proud to say I made it, for the first time, without stopping.  As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the climb I had been passed by a guy (cyclist) playing loud music (the tune the same as I hear at Gold's).  He also passed me as I took a short break at the top (thus he apparently took a break somewhere along the way).  But I didn't see him again, even though the downhill brought me to 45mph.  It would have been faster but a car (one of the few I saw) was in my way.  I could smell his brakes about halfway down, so obviously he didn't like using his gears to adjust his speed.
     Hogpen takes a lot of energy, but after a rolling transition, I still had to climb up Jack's Gap to get to the car.  This is another six and a half miles of climbing, although to be truthful, it also has a few relief parts.  Still, it was a slow slog.  I did the Hogpen loop twice.  The second time, I had to stop after the 15% grade.
     The other loop I do is over Skeena Gap.  This is a fifty-one mile loop.  The day I picked to ride it had heavy humidity and I felt blah.  Even small inclines gave my legs fits.  After thirty-eight miles I called Marilane to come pick me up.  I didn't have enough oomph to make it over Wolf Pen.  And, I never attempted Brasstown Bald.  Usually I build up the strength to tackle the 16%, 16%, 24% grades, but since I couldn't do the 15% and had trouble with the 12%'s, this seemed out of my reach for this year.
     All in all, I had 334 miles of mountain riding, and 33,900 feet of climb.  After returning home I signed up for the State Road Race Championships in Killeen.  This course has some heavy hills, and with my mountain training as a base, I hope to achieve some sort of recognition this year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


     It started yesterday.  Once again, due to lack of riding Monday-Thursday, I felt the need to cycle the weekend.  Friday I did hill work.  Saturday came the University (32 miles) ride.  Also on Saturday, my chain started acting up, jumping a gear unexpectedly.  More precisely, just going up or down a cog, then coming back to the original.  I played with the cable tension, inspected the chain and the quick link (finding them suspiciously flexible sideways), and the cogs.  It seemed better, but I determined that my Sunday ride would have me taking the hills seated.
     Also, my Saturday ride clued me in that there would be no resting my back in the aero position, as I had removed the aerobars in anticipation of riding the Georgia mountains.  So, here is Sunday's recap, short and sweet: my legs were dead from the start, no push; no aero position; a jumping chain (on the middle cogs); and super high humidity.  I can't remember the last time sweat rolled off my chin (yes, it was sweat) like a dripping faucet.  The wind today decided not to be a factor.  I was pleasantly surprised to only come in ten minutes slow.
     I'm reconsidering the aerobars for the mountains.  Even if not useful going up and down, the transition miles would certainly help my recovery and back.  Oh, and I'll be at the bike shop first thing in the morning.

Friday, June 15, 2012


     This is more of a big deal than most folks think.  I joke that I wash my bike twice a year whether it needs it or not.  This is not far from the truth.  It's titanium.  Only if I get caught unexpectedly does it go out in wet weather.  I lot of the time I use my Camelbak, thus avoiding sticky crud on the down tubes.  Therefore, before big races (not time-trials, my tt bike has never been washed), I'll spruce it up a bit and take off the bottle brackets and tt bars.  This year my big race was in February.  But soon we'll be in the North Georgia mountains, and I will start with a clean bike.
     I'll also have new tires.  Up until last year I would get a new set of Continental 4000s at the beginning of each race season.  After seeing the treadwear marks on my tires, I skipped new ones last year, but didn't want to be swooping around the curves of Wolf Pen Gap on old ones this year.  I also purchased a tool to remove my quick link on the chain.  When they first came out, I had no problem getting them off by hand.  I suspect they are new and improved, because there is no movement at all with my fingers.  Easily removed with minor pressure with the tool.
     Anyhow, I use my carwash liquid, which works quite well in removing the crud and leaving the metal bright and shiny.  Simple green and a stiff brush left the chain bright and shiny.  I actually washed the old tires while still on the wheels, so I could inspect just how worn they were.  Truthfully, I could have gone another year on them, were it not for a rip in the bottom of the rear one.  Had we been short on cash, I would have put a dab of duct tape on the inside and switched it to the front.  Besides, with urging from my friend Barry, and a few articles in Velonews, I experimented with 25mm tires, up from the 23s I've been on for years.
     The bike wash was Monday and today was the first ride on my clean bike, freshly lubed chain, and new tires.  Hot, humid, windy weather deterred any great times or speed, other than at the bottom of one hill where I usually can take the corner (merging onto Loop 360) 24-26mph. I had no difficulties leaning a bit and seeing 28.4.  Once again, the humidity zapped me, and after struggling up Courtyard, had to skip Jester.  I won't worry about it unless I return from Georgia and am still unable to do both.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


     I don't like riding on Saturdays.  Being retired, I can ride during the week.  I don't have to ride on the weekend.  However, this past Saturday I did my "University" ride, 31 miles.  I did it because on Wednesday in doing my hill ride, I hit the highest heart-rate in two-plus years, 166.  I felt I needed a day off, and it turned into two.  So, with the weather almost perfect, I took advantage and started out about 8:15am.
     My FB posting describes it quite succinctly: Fastest time, highest average speed, highest average RPMs, EVER.  Of course, the wind always plays a part, and in this case, it proved to be negligible.  For whatever reason, I held a high cadence the whole way (it is an out-and-back, mostly east-west).  My average jumped from 70-71 to 76.  Don't let the number fool you, this includes coasting downhill, going uphill in the big ring, and waiting at red lights.  Most of my time was spent in the mid-80s. My glutes screamed at me all afternoon, finally subsiding after ingestion of aspirin.
     I know from years of looking at my stats, high rpms are good.  But you need good energy to keep it up for a whole ride.  This was one of those days.
     Not to be confused with my Sunday ride.  One of the reasons for taking Saturday off is to be rested for my Sunday morning (like starting 10 minutes before daylight, or 30 minutes before official sunrise) 360 Loop ride.  This 42 mile ride has 18 (or 24, depending on definitions) climbs, 6 of which I'd call significant.  My plan to continue glute punishment never materialized, in view of the stiff wind in my face for the first 75 minutes.  Nevertheless, I had fun, my time average, and my legs were not impaired by the previous day's activity.
Generally speaking, the strength and endurance now exhibited, I expected two months ago.  Let me rephrase that.  I hoped for.  Indeed, cycling is very honest: if you put in the miles, you will get the results.  I just need to get in the miles.  Shouldn't be a problem getting miles now, since a cycling vacation in the mountains of North Georgia is looming on the horizon.

Monday, May 21, 2012


     As an earlier post will verify, I'm a Chris Horner fan.  Given the crappy results of the time-trial, he did the only thing possible to try to salvage something from this year's ToC.  His form wasn't as good as it was last year, and sitting in and trying to dislodge a plethora of mountain goats in the last 5k would probably not have worked.  As it is, he moved up a slew of places to finish 8th (but I do note that Levi finished 6th, 36 seconds faster).
     It was pretty much a Forelorn Hope, but thrilling, nonetheless.  As I watched, I couldn't believe the time kept increasing between the leaders and the peloton.  But, like everyone else, when the time started coming down, I could see there was too much flat ground where the peloton gobbled up the time.  But the other riders in the breakaway should have helped more rather than just sitting-on.
     My reasoning is thus: Knowing they weren't going to stay away, this would have been an excellent time to gain payback-chips.  That is, somewhere down the road in another race, Horner might be in the position to give you a hand when it really matters.  Sitting-on merely makes you remembered in a negative fashion.  In the post-race interview, Horner named the guys (not on his team) who lent a hand, and conversely, he also remembers, but didn't name, those who didn't.  Atapuma was one who sat on.  Surely he is having second thoughts about what might have been, had he done a few hard pulls and gained just a few more seconds.  True, once it came down to him and Horner, he took a few turns, after some urging from Chris.  And, when Horner couldn't help him anymore, he left him.
     Horner's attack took a lot of strength from the younger guys.  Let's call this a learning experience for them.  Nobody goes this hard in practice!  A similar leg-breaking tactic gave Carlos Sastre the win on Alpe d'Huez (and the TdF), although there was no breakaway, just CSC stringing everybody out.  As a matter of fact, I believe Jens Voigt played a hand in that one too.  Can't say enough good things about Jens.  You might say I had a snack with him (it would be a stretch, but yes, our Marty Jemison group stopped to say hi to the guys, who were riding on their rest day.  Only the two ladies (Bambi and Jen) were allowed close.  You might notice Bambi is next to Frank Schleck.
     I had been reading about Horner for years, but not paying much attention until an article came out about some racer who had broken his bike (apparently more than a flat tire).  Horner stopped, put him, holding his bike, on his (Chris') saddle and gave him a ride to the finish line.  Right then I became a fan. 
     Well, Chris, you didn't have the fastest time, but you're still a winner of this year's Amgen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Monday was supposed to be a 55 miler, just to log miles in the legs.  However, as soon as I opened the garage door, I realized I wasn't going that far.  This time, when the sun came up, the wind did also.  I determined the direction to be ENE and the first 15 miles I headed either east or north, mainly east.  I decided to play it by ear, making a final determination around 8 miles, or the turn on University Blvd that would put me head-on into the wind.

My first inclination was to turn around and not do another half-hour into the wind.  But the sun shown brightly in a clear blue sky and I had nothing on the agenda at home, so I leaned over the (now installed) aerobars and battled onward.  Truthfully, I geared down and saved my legs for the return trip, anticipating a lot of fun.  The turn-around came at 67 minutes, or about 12 minutes slower than average.

Within seconds of beginning the return trip, I pushed the front derailleur over to the big ring and enjoyed the wind at my back.  The ride itself had no incidents, as traffic did not materialize.  My final time showed 1hour, 59 minutes, or 15 minutes faster on the way back. 

Today I planned another short ride, after working out at the gym, but the wind is much stronger today, and I don't care to have it beat me up.  Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, April 23, 2012


     I had good intentions: come home from The Netherlands and get on the bike.  Didn't happen.  Other than the 1.5 mile ride to the gas station, the bike stayed in the garage.  I managed to get to the gym for Body Flow on Tuesday, that wiped me out (actually the weight work-out before Body Flow did it), and spin class on Friday, so it wasn't like I'd become a couch potato.  Saturday was gorgeous, but a tad windy and rather than ride I opted to dig four holes and plant three trees (the nursery sold the other tree before I could get back to it).  The trees had been on the agenda for quite awhile and it was either now or wait 'til next year.
     So, Sunday, three weeks after my last ride, became the day to start catching up.  My Sunday "360 ride" begins (usually) 10 minutes before sunrise, in this case 6:35am.  I glanced at the thermometer as I left the house: 48 degrees, and went back for another layer on my chest.  The flashing lights at Big Lots, where I start, showed a comforting 57 degrees.  Two things: I was running late, and "wheels down" didn't happen until 6:45am; and I know that seven minutes into the ride a series of ups and downs will drop the temperature at least ten degrees.  Nevertheless, I left the wind jacket in the car and went with the long sleeve undershirt and jersey, and of course, tights.
     Just because I started at sunrise didn't mean I had warming rays hitting my back.  What with the hills, it took 37 minutes before the sun actually got to my body.  No wind.  Body working smoothly, if somewhat weak.  I felt great, albeit a gear or two short.  At the turn onto Bee Cave Road, I had lost five minutes (off average time), but didn't feel stressed about it.  For one thing, I hadn't touched the bike (gas station ride notwithstanding) since State Finals on the 1st.  That meant I had not replaced the aerobars.  My water bottle holder broke as I readied to start, forcing me to put the bottle in my Camelbak, which meant an additional stop to change bottles.  Bottom line: I knew at the beginning that my time would be less than average, so relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
You know a fun place when you see it
Even though the sun came up, the wind didn't.  Flags were limp the whole morning.  The best part of today's ride was how good the legs felt.  Earlier in the year, there was always something missing.  Yesterday I had "good sensations" (as the pros say).  Hopefully, they will stay that way as I try to catch up on missed mileage.

Monday, April 16, 2012


     It is 12:34pm. Here is how the previous 15 hours have gone: Still feeling jet-lagged returning from The Netherlands and a terrific river cruise, went to bed at 9:30pm, including a pre-bedtime pee. Was up at 10:30pm, 11:30pm, 1am, 2:30am to pee some more. Woke up at 4am, now wide-awake, and went to pee before making coffee. My irritation was slightly ameliorated by the fact that I managed to gain about 7 pounds in a 9 day period, so was hoping that some of the excess weight was going down the toilet.
     Dropped Marilane off in Austin (she was heading to Houston), and picked the wrong road to return home. Road construction delays plus inability to access Hwy 183 tended to increase my aggravation, but eventually arrived home. Did my push-ups (100/day for April). Then things really went south.
     I didn't feel up to a time-trial workout, so intended to go to spin class at noon. But first a few chores: Post Office, gasoline for the lawn mower, then spin class. I arrived at the Post Office and realized that half of what I was mailing (some Bicycle Journeys with Jerry books to folks we met on the cruise) had been left at home. Mailed what I brought and headed to the gas station.
I didn't go in today, but if I did, we know what would happen.
     The ignition switch occasionally "dings" for no reason when I remove the key, and usually I just touch it with my finger and it goes off. Because I was only getting gas in the plastic can, and was going to leave the front door open, I just set the keys by the gear shift. I also didn't touch the ignition and stop the dinging. Guess what? A gust of wind hit the door and shut it, and I heard a dreaded "click." It seems the door locked itself when it closed! Keys inside. I notified the manager that the car would be there for awhile, as I had to walk home (mile and a half) and get the spare keys. Fortunately, my neighbor (who has a spare house key) was home, so I was able to get into the house. Within minutes I headed back to the gas station on my bike.
     Having to walk home upset my timing, so I hurriedly threw my stuff in a bag and headed to the gym. Forgot they were re-doing that road, but fortunately traffic was light and delay minimal. Got to the spin bike and only when I dragged the shoes out of the bag did I realize I had brought the wrong shoes. The cleats were not compatible. No problem, I could wear my running shoes. Oops! The clips were incorrectly threaded and wouldn't tighten around my shoes. After trying for several minutes to achieve a decent pedaling motion, I uttered an expletive and gave it up.
     I turned the wrong way out of the parking lot, but that was rectified and I continued to the Post Office to mail the books. That brings us up to the present. I'll cut the grass and hopefully have a successful nap that will alleviate the jet-lag feeling.

PS, I also forgot my hearing aid, fortunately I didn't need to communicate. And, I didn't get my nap.


     This year there is no qualifying rounds to get to State. In fact, the only two time trial events planned were Senior Games State Finals and Tour de Gruene in November. Let's just say I'm not super-motivated this year. Anyhow, my practice times were perfect predictors of how I did in the races.
     March 31 was the 10k time trial. I expected silver, but due to an out of state winner, was awarded the bronze. April 1 was the 5k time trial and the results were the same. I skipped the 40k road race because there was a 3 hour wait between when I finished the tt and the start.
     The good news is that even the bronze results in qualifying for next year's Nationals, to be held in July.

Friday, March 9, 2012


     Has nothing to do with cycling (directly). The full moon in March has come and gone (barely) and it is now time to get serious about losing weight. I have independently come to the conclusion that between the full moons in October and March, any attempt at serious weight loss is thwarted. When folks question my veracity, I refer them to studies regarding the need of our ancestors (like, cavemen) to put on weight for the lean, winter months. I try to sound like I'm a true believer, but in actuality it is more like "this sounds good, so I'll go with it until something better comes along."
     But, back to my own conclusions. What I've found is that, given the same amount of effort, I don't lose weight in those months. Conversely (which may not be the correct word), given a supreme effort, I can still drop a few pounds. I just don't have the energy to put forth that amount of effort. Especially when I know that starting in March, the ounces will fall almost on a daily basis.
     It's not like I have a lot of weight to lose. Ten pounds, max. Five to seven is quite sufficient. This shows up in cycling, particularly in steep climbs. I can't tell if it helps in racing; it probably does, but I haven't been able to distinguish between being in better shape by training and dropping a few pounds. Recreational rides make no difference.
     So, if you are casting about for some reason to start losing weight, hang on to the paleolithic theory and get serious about your diet. BTW, check out my Dec 2008 post Scaling Back, and various updates in 2009.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


     I got out Saturday, leaving at 7:30 and returning at 7:35. The thermometer showed 50 degrees, but the sharp wind out of the north cut through all three layers of clothing and I gave it up as a lost cause. However, spin class filled in for the missed hill ride.
     Sunday morning the temperature had dropped to 34 when I left the house. But the wind was calm and forecasted to remain light during the morning. In addition to tights and three layers on my chest, I had a wide headband to cover my ears and a cycling cap on my head under the helmet, and long-fingered winter gloves. I had smeared vasoline over my lips. Needless to say, the weather presented no problem to my cycling.
     Forty-five minutes into the ride, the sweat glistening on my back signaled the time had come to divest myself of a few layers. The wind jacket and cap came off and the gloves and head band were replaced by a regular headband (Halo) and gloves. Blue sky and light wind out of the west had increased the temperature to a respectable 45-50 or so. I had delayed my departure to allow the sun to come up; leaving home at 7:15 rather than 6:30. The downside to the later leaving is that I had more church traffic with which to contend.
     My legs had not completely recovered from the 56 mile ride Friday or the spin class Saturday. I knew on the second hill that I'd be suffering the whole circuit. Consequently, I took my time and arrived at the halfway point about 15 minutes behind schedule. Shortly thereafter, I made a right turn and caught some wind over my left shoulder. This helped considerably, in that after a few rollers, I had to negotiate the dam and Steiner Ranch.
     I need to digress a bit. The neighborhood I start out in (not mine) has lots of runners and cyclists. One guy was running in shorts and a T-shirt. He was older, with a barrel chest so I guess he really didn't feel the cold (certainly no more than 40 degrees at this point). Several other runners were in shorts, but at least a coat or long-sleeved jersey. I wanted to shout my mantra: Under 65 degrees, cover the knees! I did not feel even a teensy-weensy bit guilty in all my clothes.
     Total time was about 20 minutes longer than average for this 43 mile ride. By the time I finished, the temperature on the marquee showed a balmy 65 degrees. I need to ride well the next three days, in that Thursday and Friday are forecasted to have rain and/or thunderstorms.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I've a month before State time trials. This year, State is qualifying for next year's Nationals. There are no qualifying rounds, only practice. Walburg proved that failure to adhere to my training regimen results in poor performance. Of course, Walburg did not come as a surprise. I know I get good results when I can achieve 800 miles per month. January had 318 miles, February 150 (before the race). The real surprise was that I could hang with the peloton for as long as I did. The other thing Walburg did was make my muscles really weak for a few days.

So, March is a new beginning. I did TT practice yesterday and 56 miles today. I might try for hills tomorrow and my old Loop 360 ride on Sunday. Here is my old weekly itinerary: 2 long days (50-65 miles) at recreational pace; 2 medium days at faster pace (32 miles); 1 hill ride (19 miles, 7 climbs); 1 TT practice. This gets me in the vicinity of 200 miles.

The pros speak of having "good sensations" in the legs, or words to that effect. I can tell you that I do not have good sensations. My health is good, I'm working out in one way or another, almost every day. I just need to put more miles in my legs. Warmth and sunshine are doing a lot to improve my attitude.

But other things have come to light to also help. Last year at Nationals, I had some physical ailment that kept me from going all-out in the time trial. I estimate I was at 85% of potential, and I finished 17th. Because I have now moved up an age category, I wondered how many others moved with me. Only two riders who finished ahead of me are moving up. This information has done a lot to encourage me to put in the necessary miles to get the "sensations" I want, because I want my next trip to Nationals to be 100%.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Last year I'd had my fill of Walburg. Dropped from the peloton less than two miles from the start, I was in a grupetto for about 15 miles, then on my own for rest of the 48 miles. Last year, I actually had good training miles and was in better shape than this year. No need to punish myself so early. Then Tom emailed me.

Tom is a racer (I'm just a recreational cyclist who races occasionally for diversity). That's what he does all year. He is only two years younger and is looking in the future and doesn't like what he sees. So, this year he is haranguing race directors to start the 60+ group by themselves (rather than with the 50+ young guys). That way we don't get dropped so quickly. (Here is what happens: the fastest 60+ hang with the young guys long enough to put them well ahead of the rest of the guys, then, when they get shelled, they have a small group that fights for awards. In a small-loop race course, the referees pull the laggards, so a majority of the 60 year olds get pulled, usually before half the race has been contested). The Walburg race director agreed to have a separate start if enough guys signed up. He expected 8-10.

I looked at the weather report: mid-50s, partly cloudy with light winds out of the NW shifting to the S during the day. Dang! No excuse there. Last day to sign up was Thursday, midnight. On Monday there were 7 guys. I signed up on Wednesday and was 19th. In all, we started with 22 in our group. When I saw that, I figured the elite guys would do their thing and me and the chase group would do ours.

The pros started at 9am, somewhere around 32 degrees, no wind. I left the house at 10:15am and it was 50 degrees, a hint of a breeze. Warming up I figured 55 degrees and a freshening wind out of the SW. For recreational rides my mantra is: under 65 degrees, cover the knees. For races, I go with as little extra as possible.

As it turned out, we dropped one guy on the first hill, but the lead riders were content to just do a series of accelerations designed to tire the legs of lesser trained guys (like me). Well, I hung with the guys for 18 of the 24 miles of the first lap. Because I knew these roads, I also knew where they were going to drop me. Sure enough, a long uphill and right turn putting the now stiff wind at their backs, left four of us gapped and losing ground. Two others struggled behind the peloton but in front of me. It's not like they left me in the dust. They were maybe two mph faster. For the next 6 miles I kept them in sight but only because of the open fields. When we passed the finish line for the first time I estimate they had maybe five minutes on me. So, once again, I did the second lap by myself.

The sun was out, the wind more than the 5-10 mph predicted. Without the pressure of keeping in the peloton, I put it in "cruise" and let the heart-rate drop to the 140 range (about 85% of maximum). My recreational/training rides usually average in the 120's. There is one 4 miles stretch where the wind was straight in my face. That really dropped my speed, to somewhere around 14mph. I kept looking in my mirrors to see if the guys behind were catching up. However, when I approached the turn, a pick-up coming toward me called out if I wanted a ride back to Walburg (it was the sag wagon). I said no. He said I was the last one on the course. The others had apparently given up at the end of the first lap.

So, a few emotions ran through me: anger at those who wimped out; relief at knowing I couldn't be overtaken; crest-fallen in that I would be the "lantern rouge." However, it also put a little much-needed life in the legs. The muscles were fast approching mush. Fortunately, the last four miles had some wind at my back and a few downhills. The last uphill to the finish I took it nice and easy, and headed for the car.

I spent 36 minutes in zone 5 (90% of max), 99 minutes in zone 4 (80% of max), 26 minutes in zone 3, and 5 seconds in zone 2 (you must be warmed up and ready when racing starts). Average speed for the first lap was 20.4 and the second lap 16.0. Average heart-rate for the first lap was 148, second lap 138.

Upon arrival home (30 minute drive), I ate dinner, showered, went to church, then went to Tao - The Art of the Drum (I really like the Japanese drum programs). It wasn't until sitting down at the Long Center at 7:30pm that my heart-rate finally dropped to a respectful 64 (resting is 55 or so). As I type this my back, hips, and legs are complaining of the abuse I handed them. Today will just be some stretching.

Monday, February 13, 2012


usually sometime in February. I get in a ride, then assess how I'm doing. Then minor panic sets in as I realize how out of shape I am. Resolve to do better, ride more, etc etc. Eventually I calm down and review how things went last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

Even though I entered a few races in February last year, I really shouldn't have. I was in good condition for a 48 mile ride, but found out oh-too-soon the large difference between riding and racing. One thing I'm missing this year is the 19 mile hills ride. Something has usually come up to prevent me from going. But I need to get it in, once a week.

This year the weather and/or needed errands have combined to make me frustrated. But I look at the ride calendar for last year and see not much difference in outside riding, or inside riding. So, let's see if I can vent the frustrations on a good cycling ride tomorrow, or the next day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


The forecast called for dense fog until 10am, then cloudy to partly cloudy until this afternoon, and maybe showers late afternoon. I thought I was in luck when there was no fog this morning, so got myself together and headed out at 9:30am. Three layers on my chest, shorts and tights, in 58 degree, damp weather.

One good thing about fog is usually a lack of wind. Well, it wasn't as much fun as brilliant sunshine, but I motored along comfortably, possibly a tad over-dressed, since I also had Moose and a ten pound Camelbak. As I headed east, the fog thickened slightly which for the most part just meant more dampness in the air. I saw in the distance several police cars, ambulance, and fire truck all in my very wide shoulder and eastbound lane of traffic. Moving to the other side of the road, I could only see one older car, and it wasn't an accident. Once past, I returned to the correct side of the road and continued on.

The further east I traveled, the thicker the fog got. Now visibility became impaired. Then my right calf malfunctioned. It didn't cramp, but on each pedal stroke it refused to work. It worked on the down-stroke and halfway up, then it quit and resumed again on the down-stroke. Something like this has never happened before. As I stopped to give it rest and ponder the advisability of continuing, the fog continued to thicken. Ok, I got the message! Go home.

So, while prepared for a 48-50 mile ride, I turned out having a 23 miler. Some is better than none. And the fog cleared as I cycled west.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Like many others, I used this pejorative to describe Levi's tactics. But I've gotten away from describing him negatively, mainly because he has recently shown (or possibly because the tv coverage has shown) he can do more than follow. I wouldn't even bring this up but I ignored my own directive and read some of the comments following an article on A short aside: 95% of the comments are mindless rants and the few that are thoughtfully presented are quickly and soundly criticized by more mindless rants.

Let's define wheelsucker: A person who follows the wheel of others in order to save energy in their draft, which also helps in pacing. That's what team leaders are supposed to do, up to a point. Their teammates expend maximum energy to deliver the leader to the last climb, or in the case of sprinters, to anywhere from 500 to 100 meters from the finish. But that is not what we are talking about here.

Cadel and Levi are similar in their climbing style, in that they lack the speedy acceleration of Contador or Schleck, but instead generally do a gradual increase. After all, you cannot do what your body cannot do, you do what you can. But what gained both of them (possibly unfairly) the wheelsucker tag was their lack of initiative when the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes it was team tactics, or lack of team, sometimes it was a poor choice, sometimes it was because they had no more juice in the legs. Once Cadel moved to BMC and had a real, dedicated, well-coached team, he proved he was a winner. We still haven't seen a lightning acceleration, but we have seen him motor away from folks. When Levi left Schleck in Colorado last year, it wasn't like he was gone in a puff of smoke (yes, he did accelerate). He just saw the opportunity and kept the hammer down.

Most of the time Levi didn't have to win the climbs because his tt skills more than made up for it. In a multi-day race, unproductive energy expenditure is a serious waste. If you only have X amount of energy, it must be apportioned appropriately. Enough of this, I just wanted to expel it from my mind and I promise not to read any more comments.

We have at least four super teams that should make the racing season extremely exciting. Truthfully, my guy is Horner. After that, I just want to see really good cycling.

Monday, January 23, 2012


But before I do, let me relate that on the way back from Saturday's ride, I saw in the distance at least a dozen white-robed folks, including their heads, all milling around in a tight circle in a field. My first thought was: S**T, a KKK gathering right here in Williamson County! Fortunately, traffic was light because I really focused on what the heck they were doing. As I got closer, I saw a van with the word HONEY in big letters, then realized everyone wore a white beekeeper outfit, then saw the bee hives. Ok, excitement over.

I really don't like riding on Saturday. But I agreed to ride with Amy on the Weir Lost ride out of Old Settlers Park at 9am. At 8:30am I opened the garage door and prepared to leave, felt the cold, damp, north wind and called Amy to ask (beg, whine, implore) if we could postpone the ride a few hours. The temperature was mid 40's, but the forecasted partly-cloudy day had yet to materialize, with the clouds still low and heavy. She agreed. I'd check back at 11am.

I really, really don't like riding on Saturday afternoon. At 11:15am I called and said it looked like 12:30pm would be a good time. The temperature had only risen a few degrees, but the clouds were thinning out and by the time we started should produce a few patches of blue.

The Weir Lost ride has 30 mile and 50 mile options. I only wanted to do 40 miles or 3 hours, whichever came first. About twenty minutes into the ride, I mis-remembered the upcoming segment as not being very smooth and suggested a different route. This cut out about 8 miles (of the 50), plus put us onto very familiar roads. The wind was out of the northeast, and we were headed north and east, and generally, uphill. Needless to say, our mph proceeded at pedestrian pace. As we travelled along, now off the route but certainly not lost, we jetisoned a few more miles.

Finally we reached the eastern most point and turned west, no longer directly into the wind. A mile or so further we reached the northern most point and stopped to refuel (and for me, being old and cold, a nature break). I also removed my long-fingered gloves and wind jacket. Refreshed, I reminded Amy to hit her lap key because the trip back would be much faster.

We did a lot of big-ring pedaling. Downhill, wind generally at our backs, about ten degrees warmer than when we started, and much more enjoyable. As it turned out, we totalled 38 miles in 2 hours, 58 minutes. Close enough.

Oh, the repeating thing: Friends and variation. Friends will get you off the couch when you would rather blow it off. Variation keeps you interested (although only part of this ride was new to me). If you need incentive, find some friends and don't be afraid to go/do something new.

For the Sunday ride I joined the Jack & Adams group from downtown Austin. They rotate three rides, and this time Decker Lake became the objective, which meant going through a lot of east Austin. The city paved 2nd street and the new asphalt provided a very smooth beginning. I rode with the Intermediate group, which averages 16-18mph (except when they do 20-22+). The thermometer showed 47 degrees when left home. I had tights and three layers on my chest. This group takes no prisoners. While I had no problem hanging with them, even though I went over to McDonalds to empty my bladder just before we pushed off, about 45 minutes into the ride I received an urgent call. Actually, about 35 minutes in I received the call and it took another 10 to find a reasonably remote spot to again empty the bladder. Going, going, going. By the time I had remounted, they were just a blip down the road.

I had the wind at my back. I had my aero bars. I was quicker on the hills. After 20 minutes of chasing I caught up. It might have taken 25 but they stopped at a stop sign to regroup and have an energy bar break. Anyhow, the sun finally made an appearance and turned this into a nice 32 mile morning ride. I didn't wait around and socialize afterwards, because my bladder called.

Monday morning I did weights at Gold's in the morning and my normal 32 mile ride starting around noon. Because the forecast called for 70 degrees (61 when I left the house), I assumed the light wind would be from the south. It wasn't all that light, and it was from the northeast (still). Out in 63 minutes, back in 53. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, so I'll be back in the gym or on the trainer, or both.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


A few weeks ago I removed the aerobars from the road bike. This is no easy task, I didn't get the top-of-the-line, easy-to-install types. My previous ones only lasted about seven years, but they were the kind that flipped up and gave you an extra hand position fairly close to the stem. When I replaced them, I went for a more sleek look. Unfortunately, if I wanted that extra hand position, I now had to hold on to the arm rests. So, I figured I'd be doing shorter or slower rides in the winter, plus my weekly hill routine, and therefore took them off.

The weather is not cold, but there is more wind. In looking at my ride stats, I can see how much time I'm losing against the wind. Time, in and of itself, is not the problem. I've never done well in the wind, and my stats tell the tale: I can't get my heart rate up to attain a decent workout. It may be all in my head, but when I try to go hard against the wind, my quads rebel and either go limp or cramp. Bah!

This morning the aerobars were re-installed. Generally, they give me an extra 2 mph against the wind, but more importantly, in cheating the wind, my legs are much happier and so I can work them harder, ergo the heart-rate goes up.

I'd like to report that in this 80 degree, slight wind day, I had a great ride. What I had was several appointments during the day and my only contact with the bike involved installing the aerobars. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Under 65 degrees, cover the knees. Especially if the sun isn't shining and/or there is a wind. This maxim did not originate with me. I read it about 20 years ago (Alex Steida or Davis Phinney or somebody else), and have followed it faithfully, although I might fudge 5 degrees if the sun is bright and there isn't any wind.

One thing that did originate with me, however, is having three layers on your chest under 65 degrees, with any wind at all, in the winter. I just got in from my standard 31 mile ride. It was 58 degrees, sunshine, wind out of the northwest. I wore shorts, tights, base layer, jersey, and wind vest. I was not too hot. Arriving home I had ginger tea and 500mg vitamin C, also stretched. Don't wait for the sniffles before taking action.

On another note, I just received notice of a race in early February. Based on yesterday's tt practice, I don't think I'm ready for prime time in three weeks. But I haven't read all the details, and haven't had a couple more practices, so I'm not ruling it completely out.