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.