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.

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