Friday, November 29, 2013


As regular readers know, I occasionally ruminate on the subject of health.  For instance, the theme of a previous post was that health was not an "either/or" but a continuum, with one end of the spectrum being excellent health and the other death.  Just because you are not ill does not mean you are healthy.
     The problem with hanging around too much with senior athletes, be they cyclists, runners, gym-rats, or swimmers, is that you form the opinion that you are "average."  Then you get jolted back to reality when you contact an actual average group of folks your age.  For the most part, I keep my elitism to myself, mainly because I feel like I'm extremely lucky to be where I am.  That doesn't keep unkind thoughts from running through my brain.  Why people choose to smoke, eat excessively or make really poor choices in food is beyond my comprehension.  When faced with certain ill-health, like heart disease or diabetes, why would they not choose to change their lifestyle to become more healthy??  Don't bother to give me the reasons, I don't want to hear them.
     Not long ago, a cycling friend broke her shoulder ('twould have been better had it been the collarbone).  She couldn't wait to get back cycling.  I recently visited a cycling buddy who fell (while cycling) and broke his arm and hip.  Foremost on his mind was how long it would be before he could get back on his bike.  Several times I posted about coming in second in the Texas Road Race Championships to a guy age 79.  First I was astounded, because when you pass 70 strength deteriorates and you really have to work hard to keep up.  But rather than grouse about being beat by an "old guy," I use him as my canary as to what still is ahead of me.
     I work at being healthy, perhaps overly so but I don't think so.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Saddle Mountain, Oregon
     But first, let's start at the beginning (not a James Michener start, but back aways).  My cycling buddy Amy booked a tour in Colorado earlier this year with a local tour company, Velo View.  She returned very enthusiastic about the ride and especially about the company.  I was happy for her, but except for Epic Rides, I book my own cycling vacations.  Last month she mentioned that they added some routes for 2014, one of which was Crater Lake, Oregon.  That got my attention, in that while I have cycled and hiked lots of Oregon, the closest I've gotten to Crater Lake was Bend.  It has been on my agenda for years.  I returned to their website and liked the route they have chosen and the itinerary in general, especially the price.  As soon as they opened it up for reservations, I signed up.
     That's the history.  In addition to paid tours, Velo View hosts local rides.  Yesterday they hosted a 58 mile ride starting at LBJ park near Stonewall.  This included the famous Willow City Loop.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to check out Velo View and how they ran an operation.  To share you any suspense, it exceeded my already high expectations.  One caveat, with my cataract surgery only a few days old, I was under doctors orders to take it easy.  Officially: not lift anything over twenty pounds or exert myself to the extent that I had to squint.  Cycling was ok, but no trying for any personal bests.
     The week before, cataract surgeries were a week apart, one on each eye, I cycled an easy 32 miles with light load and high cadence and did no damage to my recovery.  That was the plan when I signed up for yesterday.  Friday the weather was perfect; Saturday not so much.  With the temperature slightly above 65 degrees, I didn't feel the need for tights, but I listened between the lines of the weather forecast and concluded it would be windy.  I hate it when I'm right!  Meteorologists might have deemed it partly cloudy, but the sky remained grey the whole time.  The wind was out of the south, heavy enough to have the flags straight out.  Our route was generally north-south, so the first half we had a lot of help.
     Because I intended to take it easy, thus follow folks, I didn't bring the route directions nor did I review the general layout.  We had a good thirty cyclists in the group, but it thinned out pretty quickly.  I wasn't with the lead group, but ahead of the majority.  My heart-rate monitor had some difficulties, it being chilly enough, even with my wind jacket, to keep my skin dry.  Even so, I wasn't working hard, just letting the wind assist in getting up the hills.  When I did the RSVP, I estimated my speed to be 13-14mph.  The first hour came in right at 15mph.  The second hour held at 15mph.  It was during this time we hit Ranch Road 16.  This stretch includes a long downhill, and with the wind at our backs, I may have been one of the slowest at 45mph.
     Except for a few brief moments, I stuck to keeping my heart-rate in the 70-80% range.  But now we turned on to the Willow City Loop and for the most part, into the wind.  I say "we" but it was a group of about seven of us, loosely riding together.  The dreaded hill caused me to drop into my granny gear to keep me below 90% on the HR, and I spun on up the hill.  I only made a short break for half a Clif bar, and followed a different group out away from the SAG wagon.  They were faster than me.
     They were also faster than one other cyclist, George (as I found out later).  However, he had maybe fifty yards on me.  We missed a turn.  Several miles later we pulled over to discuss the next move and review the route directions (he had them).  Not knowing the area, we couldn't very well take a short cut to get us back on course (although now that I have seen a map, we could have), so we back-tracked.  All told, that cost us five miles and about a half hour.
     But Lady Luck smiled on us, and as we returned to the course, she sent Shannon (Velo View owner), who was leading one other rider.  As any good host and strong rider will do, Shannon broke wind for us.  This allowed my HR to drop about ten beats.  We had about 15 miles to go, and my energy stores were dropping quickly.  About 5 miles out, Shannon, after telling me what he was doing, accelerated to catch another rider to be sure he didn't miss the next turn.  That left me in the lead, breaking wind for the other two.  To end this quickly, all was well and we made it to the end without incident.
     But the wind really beat me up.  The whole body hurt.  My quads really extended themselves keeping up with Shannon, and were complaining vociferously.  They aren't this tight even after long races.  Fortunately, shortly after finishing we adjourned to  Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City for much needed refreshment and social time.  They even had a veggie burger on the menu.  I'm taking Sunday off, giving my eyes a break and just stretching.
     About the wind: I never fight the wind.  Sometimes I fight just to keep upright, but when you are going into the wind, leave your ego elsewhere, accept your speed will drop a couple mph, gear down, and spin.  Me and the wind have a relationship, cycling or not.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


     Needless to say, I'm quite happy to have finished first in my two races.  However, that is only part of the story, in that at my age, the participant pool is quite small.  So I look to the Overall stats to see how my cycling is truly going.
     Only 9 women were faster than me, all of them quite a bit younger.  I didn't delve any further into that group.  Of the 184 men, from age 13 up, I finished 102.  No one older than me was faster.  There are lots of divisions, and two main ones: Mercxx (no aero equipment allowed) and Aero.  What follows are interesting/boring stats.
     Non-aero, from age 60: no one finished ahead of me.
     Non-aero, age 55-59: two were faster, 4 were slower
     Non-aero, age 50-54: 1 was faster, 9 were slower
     Non aero, age 45-49: 1 was faster, 4 were slower
     Non aero, age 40-44: 3 were faster, 5 were slower
     Non aero, age 30-39: 2 were faster, 5 were slower
     Non aero, age 20-29: 2 were faster, 1 was slower

     In the aero division, apples to apples so to speak, I didn't fare as well.  Of course, this is where the true time trialists participate.
     Ages 55 and up, 26 were faster than me and 11 were slower
     Ages 45-54, 24 were faster and 11 were slower
     Ages 20-44, 28 were faster and 19 were slower
In the interest of perspective, these young guys who were faster, were a whole lot faster. 
     It's fun to say I won my age group.  But there is always the caveat: I was only fastest of those who showed up to race.  When I see certain names a the start line, my expectations of where I finish start dropping (I saw none of them this year).  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter because I do it for fun and fitness. 
      This challenging course provided an excellent cardio and muscle workout.  I'd give you my computer readouts, but on the ITT it decided to go walkabout, and gave me no speed or heart-rate information.  All I had was the time.  For the team time trial, I didn't have cadence.  As soon as I can see properly again (cataract surgery), I have a look at the set-up.

Monday, November 4, 2013


     For the past two years I've competed in the Individual Time Trial in Gruene.  The first year I placed 1st in my age group, and quite well overall.  Last year, I placed 2nd, being beaten by Dean.  Quite handily, I might add.  Last year, I think I peaked at the State Championships Road Race because I didn't have the same oomph needed in November.
This year I had added pressure to do well, in that Dean asked me to be his partner in the Two-Man Team Time Trial.  Several years ago, we were on the same five-man team that took gold at State.  But Dean and I go back to when I first began racing, 2004 in Temple.  There, in my first 5km time trial, Dean started 30 seconds behind me.  He caught me before I had gone halfway.  In the 10km time trial the next day, I held him off, again to halfway, but that at least was another two-plus miles.  He is a past national champion, and a perennial winner at State events. 
     But Dean is three years older than me.  When you pass 70, Mother Nature starts a more rapid deterioration process.  I've been getting closer and closer to Dean in the last few years, and this year came in first at College Station.  He didn't compete at the State Road Race Championships this year.  But my training in October this year was very good, and I felt confident going into Gruene.  I also had my secret weapon: acupuncture. 
     I discovered several years ago that acupuncture prior to racing allows me to dig deep and go longer than without it.  I suspect it has something to do with nervousness, but suffice to say that I am better with it.  This year at State, I did not have a treatment and am hypothesizing that I could have stayed with the pack if I had.  That is water over the dam and is long gone.
     The length of the ITT is 18.3 miles and the TTT is the same 18.3, then add additional miles up to 27.  Saturday afternoon, 3:50pm, with a brilliant blue sky and a stiff north wind, I started down River Road.  Generally flat with some undulations, I blazed down River Road with the wind at my back for ten miles.  Then came the first of many hills, this one 9% and .4 of a mile long.  More climbs awaited me, against the wind.  I felt pretty strong the whole way, and, as it turned out, finished ahead of Dean.
     Sunday our race started at 8:30am.  Daylight Savings time ended, giving us some sunshine.  The morning started at 42F degrees, and had risen to 50F by race time.  I had three layers on my chest, and wore tights.  I actually warmed up in the fitness room of the hotel before driving to the start line.  That worked the muscles loose, but did very little for my heart-rate.  A few more minutes before racing also didn't get much increase.  Dean allowed he would lead us out.
     Today the wind had shifted and was more or less in our face on River Road.  But we were clicking along quite well, more or less alternating in the lead position.  We overtook three teams that started ahead of us.  Then we hit THE hill.  Dean had some trouble with that.  For the next ten miles and most of the hills, Dean struggled.  It isn't that we weren't going fast, just not up to maximum.  Somewhere around the seventeen mile mark, we slowed just a tad to gather strength for the finish.  Then with five miles to go, Dean got his second wind.  Especially on the downhills.  I thought I was going fast leading him down, but on three or four occasions he whizzed past me, and I had to jump another ten rpms to keep up.  We kept it up all the way to the finish, with me alongside at the very end (timing stops when the second person hits the line). 
     As it turned out, we beat the second place team by about a minute and a half.  Without Dean pulling me the last five miles, that would have been us on the second step of the podium.