Monday, March 31, 2014


     Having a State Finals is March is much too early, but with a dearth of sponsors or host organizations we are happy to have any at all.  That is also why I was so pleased that Beaumont and Brazos Valley were in February. Even with the early time and unforgiving weather zapping my preparations, I felt more ready than last year.
     Let me say this about folks who volunteer at events such as this.  No matter what, you won't hear me saying unkind words about them.  We have all been volunteers of one sort or another.  That being said, we move on to my first adventure, the 10k time trial on Saturday, at Texas Research Park just west of San Antonio.  My start time was 9:10am, so in order to have an unhurried warm-up and so forth, I arrived at 7:45am.  That meant leaving home at 5:45am, which meant a 4am wake-up.  No problem.  All went well, according to plan.
     The course is a two and a half mile loop, so we went one full loop and most of the way around a second time before making a U-turn and coming back to the finish, right at 3.1 miles.  I arrived at the start line on time, to find that the person who I knew to be faster did not make his scheduled start.  I was pretty sure now I would medal.  We had the option to have someone hold us so we could get both feet clipped into the pedals, or not.  Us fast guys always opt to be held.  There were three teenagers tasked as holders, and I observed the one who held Dean gave him a nice shove at the word "go."  He was not the one who held me.  I knew I was in trouble when his idea of upright was about ten degrees tilted to the right.  I tried to get it corrected, but he was quite firm so I dealt with it.  Ten seconds to go, I back-pedaled to have my left foot in the correct push position.  Five seconds, then "Go!" and I raised up out of the saddle and pushed.  Nothing happened.  The young man did not let go of my saddle.  I started to fall to the right, moved my right pedal and the calf started to cramp!  Giving out with an expletive, and somehow remaining upright, he finally let go, and I started moving.
One more mental expletive, and I settled into a rhythm.   Ah, well, things happen.  It seemed at though the wind was in my face three-quarters of the loop.  But I felt in control the whole way and finished strong.  It wasn't until times were posted that I saw my nemesis beat me by seven seconds!  They apparently gave him a later start.  Perhaps I would have gone faster if I knew he was in the mix, perhaps being held at the start was enough to keep me from winning.  If a frog had wings.....
     Sunday started the same way, in that I drove home after the race, so had to return for the 5k time trial and 40k road race.    I can't get it going in the 5k, and the wind was stronger and out of the SE this time.  Nothing happened, it was an uneventful dash and turned out the same, with me coming in second.  But I still claim to be the fastest from Texas, since the winner is from Missouri.
     The 40k started at 11am, and the original ten guys had dropped to seven.  Both Stanton and Fred are faster than me, but truthfully, I only do the 40k as good training so never have expectations.  But fate stepped in.  Missouri didn't race and the wind picked up.  I was the only guy who hadn't raced the 20k on Saturday.  Stanton and Fred are both quite confident in their sprint, and with a strong headwind, neither were inclined to lead the paceline or to make a single attack (which would have been suicide).  I took the lead on the backside hill, which had the wind at my back.  I figured we would all do a little suffering at the head, rotating through.  When we made the turn and started into the wind, nobody rotated through.  I thought that was a little unkind, but since I was suffering a tad, just settled into a nice, slow pace and still nobody wanted any part of the wind.  So I lead for a whole lap and a bit more.  Finally, with the wind again at our back, they started coming through.  We dropped one of us on the hill, but I hung on.
     But Fate threw us a life preserver in the form of a "young" guy, who was dropped from the 60-64 group.  They had started behind us by several minutes, and passed us.  When they accelerated up the hill, he couldn't keep up.  But we caught him, and rather than pass, just tucked in behind.  He had no chance of catching up with his guys, and even just cruising, was going at a pace we were comfortable with.  Now, he could have sat up, then tagged on to the back of our paceline, but he chose to lead us around the loop, into and out of the wind.  He did this until right at the end, six or seven loops.  If any of our guys had thrown in an attack on the hill, I suspect I would have waved goodbye and soldiered on solo.  But they didn't.
     Even as we approached the last turn and started lining up for the sprint, I still didn't feel up to it.  But now another young guy, who we had passed but who did tag along, came up to sprint with us.  He was really, really, big.  I was able to wind up the rpms sheltered behind Mr. Big, and with about 100 meters to go, launched my attack.  Stanton and Fred jumped also, but I quickly passed the others and came in third, only a few bike lengths behind the winner. 
     I wasn't surprised at my finish sprint.  Indeed, I sprinted to gold in the Senior Games State Finals in Houston several years ago (2010).  Maybe I should find a coach and learn how to train and race properly.  Man can't live on time trials alone.

Monday, March 17, 2014


     I have fun extolling to folks that I am "the fastest man in Texas."  It is a true statement, but you have to get beyond the title and into the sub-titles.  In 2013 and so far in 2014, in my age category (70+), in time trial races 10k or more in length, I have come in 1st in all of the races I've been in.  Perhaps I need to make a further explanation: At the Senior Games State Finals last year, I came in 2nd, but the person who beat me was from Missouri, so I was the first from Texas (which is why the phrasing is worded that way).  In the 5k TT, I came in 3rd, with 2nd place being from Texas.  And, at Senior Games Nationals last year, while I came in 13th in the 10k and 18th in the 5k, both times were the fastest from Texas.
     I'm fully cognizant I'm a big fish in a small pond, and when I get into a bigger venue, I don't make nearly as big a splash.  This doesn't lessen the fun I get out of racing.  While I enter time trials with high expectations, for the road races I just like to hang in there as far as I can, then wave goodbye when the guys put the hammer down.  With that in mind, my palmares are (is?) pretty impressive.  I don't think I missed any, so not counting the first weekend of racing in 2004, when I learned what it was all about, I compiled a list of my races, and placement.
I've done 74 races and was off the podium in 14 of them, or 19%.  Broken down a bit further, I've done 53 Time Trials, winning 26%, placing 2nd in 40% and 3rd in 23%.  That means 89% of my time trials finished on the podium.  Of the 19 Road Races I've done, 3 were first place, 6 were 2nd place, 3 were third place and 7 were off the back, or, 64% podium finishes.  The other races were a mis-placed idea of doing criteriums with younger guys and finishing last.  Live and learn.
     This is an advertisement for Senior Games.  They break the categories into 5 year age groups, so the competition is more homogeneous and the number of participants not quite so large.  I like the USAC time trials, even if they stop at 60+, my ego doesn't get bruised until I see the results (I'm kidding, I hold my own in those also).  The USAC Road Races are a different kettle of fish.  I like the State Finals at Fort Hood because they allow the 70+.  But I won't be doing Walburg or Pace Bend again, because I can't hang with the young guys for 54 miles.  They either need to include the older category or drop the mileage.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Heads or Tails 40K Time Trial in Beaumont

     First of all, I had to get through Houston on a Friday.  That meant I left home at 9am in order to beat the afternoon traffic.  Even at 11:15am, cars were backing up and it was a slow slog.  Still, it could have been worse.  I arrived in Beaumont and the first stop was packet pick-up.  It was quick and efficient, and the nice folks answered all my questions.
     Next I drove to the start line, the field house at Lamar State University, just so I could see it unhindered by the crush of participants.  Only a little over 60 folks signed up to cycle, but over 2,000 runners were doing the running events (marathon, half-marathon, 10k, and kids race).  I found the parking lot and the overflow lot, and stopped to chat to one of the guys who seemed to be in charge of setting up stuff.  Then it was time to check in at the hotel and get squared away.
     Of prime importance was the weather.  It looked like the rain would hold off, so I was facing mid-50s, overcast, with a SE wind.  Long-time readers know my mantra "Under 65 degrees, cover the knees" so I laid out my tights.  I left my TT skinsuit at home and would be flying the Bicycle Sport Shop colors, so also put out the arm-warmers.  Because I detest being cold, and with the wind and lack of sun, I also put out a base layer t-shirt.  To complete my wardrobe, the HRM strap and kid's Camelbak.  Rather than a water bottle, this 26oz bladder fits nicely under the jersey.
     Even though my start time was 8:50am, after discussing the parking situation, I determined an arrival prior to 6:30 would be best, since the runners first group went out at 7:30am.  Thus I put my oatmeal in a to-go cup, grabbed a bagel and a banana, and left the hotel at 6:10am.  I had a prime parking spot, and sat and ate breakfast in the car watching the sun not come up.  I had plenty of time to wander around, get my timing chip, talk to the chief umpire (specifically about where to put the number since different people said positively the left side and positively the right side.  It was the right side.
My hope for a gold medal went out the window when Stuart changed his category from Cat 4 to the masters.  He just moved into the 60+ age group and is quite quick (besides being 12 years younger than me).  But the silver looks pretty nice, and believe me, I earned it.
     The 10k course is pretty straight forward, out and back, mostly flat with a few underpasses to negotiate, plus two U-turns, one of which was quite wide and could be taken at speed.  Four laps would get me to the end, northbound with the wind at my back, southbound in my face.  I warmed up for about a half an hour, but didn't work up a sweat or bring the heart-rate up for any length of time.  Because my practice sessions were few and not over 5k in length, and the only 10k I did was at Brazos Valley two weeks ago, I was planning to go out slow and build up.
     We started out northbound, so I had the wind at my back as I built up speed and pushed the big gears at a really, for me, high cadence.  The average cadence came in at 83, but my computer shows a lot of time at or near 90.  With the wind, my first lap took seven and a half minutes to the turn-around with a total 17:47.   Lap two @ 18:11, three @ 18:35 and four at 18:43.    On the fourth lap, I pushed a larger gear and knocked 30 seconds off the wind-side, but had nothing in the legs going back into the wind.  However, I managed to hang in and finished with 1:13:17.  That wasn't close to Stuart, but did get me into second, far ahead of third.  I'm not pleased to drop so many seconds on each lap, but reiterate that my first priority of finishing the race had me being conservative on energy output.  This was a young man's race, with lots of guys under 50, although Clif (from Dallas and who also raced in Brazos Valley and is in the 50-55 category, a very nice guy) finished first overall
     What I'm really pleased with is the heart-rate.  Of course, the numbers are a little suspect, in that if you total the 37:40 in Zone 4 and 42:07 in Zone 5, you come up with more minutes than I raced.  It looks like a lot of time was spent at 145, which is right at my 90% of max, so maybe it counted it in both zones.  Doesn't matter, my average heart-rate was 145, which is about the best I could hope for.  It shows I put out a maximum effort.  This is in contrast to hardly any time in zone 4 and zero time in zone 5 a few weeks ago.  I have an explanation for this, and it is the same one I have made for the past several years: I did my pre-race acupuncture.  Once Karen told me what meridians she opens up and what they do, but I can't remember, other than it allows me to dig deep and access all of the training I've put in.  I always get a good result after a treatment.
     Because these folks are really good, results were available and awards handed out within minutes of the last person in their category finishing.  Us old guys are funny, we voted to just accept our medals at the finish line rather than a formal presentation at the podium stage.  The stage was mainly for the runners and located about 30 yards away, and that would take the timer away from his job and we liked his efficiency.
This allowed me to get back to the hotel before checkout time, get showered and on the road by 11:30am.  Still had to get through Houston.

Monday, March 3, 2014


     Or, What!!  Was I thinking?!!!
     I'm thinking I'll place the blame on old age; but truthfully, I'd have signed up for it anyway.  It is a case of biting off more than you can chew.  I'm referring to the Heads or Tails 40k Time Trial in Beaumont this coming weekend.
     Shortly after Txbra posted the events calendar, I scrolled through specifically looking for the date of the State TT Championships.  The two previous years we were out of state for them and I wanted to be sure not to have a scheduling conflict this year.  Low and behold, there was the listing for an actual time trial in Beaumont.  They even had an event flyer giving all the salient facts.  I looked at the date, and it was perfect, two weeks after Brazos Valley and three weeks before Senior Games State Championships (qualifying for Nationals next year).  I was a bit taken aback by the length of the race: 40km.  But I recalled I had done the USAC 40k race a few years ago and came in second.  So I signed up, and if I remember correctly, I was the second person to on the list.
     In previous years, my first tt was in late March, so having Brazos Valley in February kinda crimped my training.  As a matter of fact, I was only able to get in two practice times on my tt bike before race day, and those didn't exceed 5k reps.  Sadly undertrained or not, I managed two first-place finishes in the 5k and 10k.  My plan was to get in two or three tt practices in the intervening weeks, each with at least a 10k or maybe a 15k practice round.
     The crappy weather seriously curtailed those plans, to the extent that I haven't ridden my tt bike since Brazos Valley (there were other extenuating circumstances, but I prefer to blame the weather).   I won't be on it before driving to Beaumont.  Meanwhile, I've had time to contemplate the original thought-processes in the decision, and have found a serious flaw.
     Not only is Beaumont 4 1/2 hours of driving, through Houston on a Friday, my recollection of the USAC race was sadly skewed.  For one, it was in July, after several months of good, warm weather training.Yes, I did earn silver in the time trial, but it was the Individual Time Trial of 20k.  I received gold for the 40k Team Time Trial (along with Dean, Tom Cole, Tom Hall, and ?, can't remember his name) and more or less limped in the last 5k.  Now, why did I think with two days of practice and one race day in my legs, I could race 40k?  Currently, the forecasted rain might hold off until Saturday afternoon.
     Can I cycle 40k?  Sure, no problem; racing the whole way is a different story.  Can I hold my position the whole time?  I'll probably come up for a breather a few times, but for the most part, yes.  My tt bike has never been wet (in 5 years).  I've never even had to wash it, just run a wet cloth to get the dust off.  Will I race in the rain?  You bet.  I don't practice in bad weather, but if that is what is happening on race day, that is what I'll be racing in.  I have bad-weather gear if it really is pouring, and I wear it for training rides, but for the race I plan to just get soaked.  Maybe I'll get lucky and miss the rain.  Check back next week to see how things played out.