Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FORT DAVIS AND BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

     Earlier this year I participated (I'd use the word "raced" but that would be highly over-stated) in the Fort Davis Hammerfest.  Apparently my system was so shocked I failed to post a blog on it.  A short recap: Three races on the weekend, a hill race of sixteen miles, six of which are steep; then in the afternoon a race on "flat" roads (in my case it was slightly uphill against the wind), and on Sunday a forty-nine mile race with a lot of climbing.  I was in with the 60+ folks, so got dropped early on both the Saturday races.  On Sunday I was too pooped to start, so we cut it short and went home.  We were a hundred or so miles north of the Big Bend, and it was still on my riding/seeing agenda.  Enter Velo View Bike Tours.
     Earlier this year I went to Colorado with Velo View (see post) and had a fine time, even if my cycling prowess was less than optimal.  Shannon Burke offers a variety of quality bike tours, one of which includes Fort Davis and Big Bend National Park.  This would be the best way for me to cross one more spectacularly scenic area of the country off my list.
     This past Friday morning (7am) Shannon and Morgan (mechanic/driver) picked me up for the drive out to Fort Davis, about seven and a half hours.  I joined Barry, with whom I'd ridden several years ago on Sunday rides.  We stopped in Johnson City to pick up Sherri, husband Rich, and friend, Joe (from Cleveland) and continued on to Balmorhea for about an hour relaxation at the famous pool.
There we also met Dan, Hunter, and Robert, who drove themselves due to various logistics.  This made for a nice group of eight riders plus Shannon who rode with us.  Then it was on to Fort Davis and the very nice Veranda Inn.
     What trip to Fort Davis would be complete without going to the McDonald Observatory?  We had dinner at 5pm then loaded the van for the ride up.  This is the same route as the Hammerfest morning race.  Unfortunately, clouds rolled in and the outdoor Star Party had to be cancelled.  We attended the informative indoor presentation.
     Saturday morning we got down to business, although first we took a van ride out ten miles (mostly the "flat" Hammerfest race) since it really is quite boring, plus we already had fifty-nine miles of planned route.  Even so, we still had fifteen minutes of slight uphill, then some downhill, all with a hefty headwind.  Things got better once we made a right turn, and the first hour went by without too much damage.  Then we had five miles of slight climb followed by five addtional miles of steeper pitches.  Some nice downhill, then some rollers, and then we rolled up to the observatory.  After a short break, the bravehearts took on the final climb to the telescope.  I did not, opting for the van.
Photo op over, we enjoyed the downhill.  Of course it was steep from the telescope, but most of the next seventeen miles was downhill.  We enjoyed a late lunch at the Stone Village Market.  They make great sandwiches (fresh) and one of us observed it was like a mini-Whole Foods.  For dinner, after a short rest, we drove over to wander around Marfa (especially the Hotel Paisano), before having an excellent meal.  The chef did a veggie plate for me, as the only vegan dish was the superb squash soup.  We drove back to Ft. Davis and the other folks told me about a hard rain, but I slept through it.
     Sunday after breakfast we rolled out and down to the Rio Grande Village Campground in Big Bend National Park, about a three hour drive.  We had a packed lunch from Stone Village Market, consumed along the way.  This was a mere thirty mile cycling jaunt.  However, a review of the elevation graph shows a steady upward slope from 1869 to 5713 feet, followed by a short, steep downhill and rise into the Chisos Mountain Lodge.
 The last five miles were brutal and I was in serious bonk.  Shannon nursed me up the final pitch, and after a short stop, I wheeled on down and into the parking lot of the lodge.  Upon reflection, while I was drinking my normal amount of water, it should have been double and should have included Nuun or Powerade (although I was chomping Shot Blocker gels and Clif bars).  My body really, really didn't like the punishment I gave it.
     After getting cleaned up and a short rest, I sought out the bar for a carbohydrate replacement drink.  The restaurant had a great looking menu, which included a spinach-stuffed portobello for me (hold the cheese).  Two additional porters and a fine meal ingested, and my body was beginning to forgive me.  I had to pass up additional post-dinner exploring and rest.
     Monday we started out with the one mile climb, back the way we came in yesterday.  But then we had the screaming descent, with me maxing out at 45.2 mph.  This was a very scenic riding day of forty-six miles or so.  We continued on downhill or flat or slight grades, until two really steep climbs.  The difference today was my Nuun infused water consumption, maybe three times normal.  I used all my gears (28-28) and kept the heart-rate steady and managed to power my way up.  We had a short stop at the top, then had our second screaming descent of the day.  The wind had come up so I held the speed to 42 mph and held on to the handlebars for dear life, eschewing a tuck position until lower down.  After that we meandered on down to the Santa Elena Canyon.  At this point my computer ran out of juice and had to be shut down.

   

 Tuesday morning was had a hike scheduled, but because of the cold front moving in, we discussed over breakfast whether or not it was a "go."  I had dressed for the occasion, but would have been happy to forego the experience.  But, hiked we did.  It was cold and windy.  But we hiked the Lost Mine Trail, 4.7 miles and almost 1,000 feet of altitude.  The rising sun with brilliant blue, cloudless sky (the ones in the picture were moving away from us), provided excellent vistas.  Of course, I have a few pictures, but they really don't capture the scene.  It took a little over an hour going up, under an hour going down.  We were especially grateful for our early trek, in that the trail became busy with hikers, including a bus-load of teenagers.
     Then we drove home, stopping in Johnson City to eat dinner and say goodby to Rich, Sherri, and Joe.  We arrived back in Austin about 7:30pm.
     This trip is what my books are all about: short cycling vacations to incredible scenic areas and making it all palatable with good food and lodging and additional touristy stops.  I can't say enough about Velo View and their tours.  I don't think another bike company has Big Bend on their itinerary.  Shannon makes it easy for you to say "yes" to going here.  Added bonus: Shannon contorts his body on the bike and gets incredible pictures of his cyclists.  Here are a few of his pictures, full complement at Velo View.







Monday, September 28, 2015

FORT HOOD STATE ROAD RACE CHAMPIONSHIP 2015

     Ok, it's official: I'm working harder and going slower.  And have been all year.  But now I have three year's of statistics to back me up.  Bottom line on yesterday's race: came in 7th out of 8.  However, to begin at the beginning.
     What a gorgeous day for a race: low 90's (as opposed to high 90's), some hazy cloud cover, a light wind out of the northeast (into the wind for 16 miles, wind at my back left shoulder for 14 miles, at my back for 3).  Fort Hood closed the road for the races.  We had eight racers in our group (70+ males) and I knew seven of them.  If I had been on form, I would have been racing for third, but realistically, I was racing for fifth.
     The first hiccup came after I had just finished my warm-up: a thirty-minute delay, something to do with Army maneuvers being held.  Not wanting to have his cyclists blasted by stray artillery, we waited.  So much for the warm-up.  And, the extra time allowed the temperature to rise another degree and the wind came up a bit.  Thirty minutes later, off we went.
     Knowing my form was off, my plan was to follow (suck wheels) as far as I could.  The first four miles were generally downhill and we stayed together.  The first hill is steep, and, as expected, Richard got a gap and left the rest of us.  But I hung on Tom's wheel and four of us weren't too far back.  After a short period of flat/down, Richard dropped back to us and we carried on to the next steep climb at eight miles.  They lost me on that one.  Actually it was a bit strange, they lost me on the lead up to the hill, I really didn't do too badly going up but never could close the gap.
     I was sitting forth and without a wheel, really suffering in the wind even though the terrain now was rolling.  My heart-rate was in zone five (90%+) and all I could do was wait for the turn at mile sixteen.  Meanwhile, Fred, who struggles up the steep inclines (or just takes his time, I'm not sure), caught up to me and I grabbed his wheel and increased speed for a couple of miles until a slight grade dropped me.  Then my Tour de Gruene partner, Dean, caught up.  Unfortunately, it was on another up-grade, and I couldn't hang.  These are grades that in the past I powered over in the big ring, but not this year.  There were flats and downhills, so he was just hanging about 300 yards ahead, but I was on the rivet.
     Mercifully, mile sixteen came and I had the wind at my back.  Of course, it was also at everyone else's back.  Just because we changed direction didn't mean we lost the hills.  About this time Jaime came up and I sat on his wheel for a short period, before losing it on another incline.  For the next ten miles, he was between  a quarter-mile to a half-mile ahead, but generally within sight.
     At thirty miles there is a sharp 8% hill, the right turn and another 8% incline.  I could see Jaime was struggling.  I kept a good cadence and started reeling him back.  With 200 meters to go, I was about 20 meters behind and a good kick, which I still had, might have made a race of it.  However, I see no benefit of sprinting for sixth place when I had abused my body for so long, so cruised in and immediately went into cool-down mode.
     Apparently I didn't cool down enough, in that after getting off the bike I needed to stand still another couple of minutes to let the heart-rate stabilize.  Anyhow, that was the race.  Never saw the 8th place guy after the first hill.
     Three years ago I averaged 19.3mph and spent eight minutes in zone 5.  Two years ago I averaged 19.1mph and spent five minutes in zone 5.  Last year I averaged 18.1mph and was in zone 5 for 34 minutes.  This year it was 17.1 and a full hour in zone 5.  Fourth place finisher is ten years older than me, fifth place is three years older.  A revision in my training seems to be in order.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

COLORADO CYCLING

     When I signed up to cycle in Colorado, I set very high expectations.  Shannon Burke and Velo View Tours easily exceeded them.  The weather exceeded them.  Unfortunately, my body fell a little short.  But, to paraphrase (i.e. butcher) an old saying: Even a bad day on the bike beats a good day at work.
     Shannon specializes in short tours, so his Colorado base tour is three rides, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with an optional Thursday ride.  Four rides sounded good to me, so I arrived in Boulder Wednesday afternoon, had dinner with Shannon, and was ready to roll on Thursday.
     Fellow Bicycle Sport Shop rider, Brian (now given the sobriquet "Flyin' Brian) and I met with Shannon on a gorgeous morning.  We let the commuters get to work before starting out on several of the myriad bikepaths in and around Boulder.  This network of paths should be the envy of any town wishing to encourage cycle-commuting.  Anyway, we did a clockwise loop ending up at the foot of the famous Flagstaff climb.  A quick photo stop then off we went.  Boulder's elevation is 5,430 so altitude was already a factor in my lack of ability.   Even so, I found a good gear and a tapped out a nice rythym at 75 rpm that held my heart-rate  below the 90% level.  All too soon, with an increase in the grade, I pushed over 90% with some ragged breathing.  According to my Garmin, we started around 5,400 feet and I ended at 7,250.  That was at a rest stop just before some heavy grade sections.  Since I was already struggling, I saw no point in going further.  Brian and Shannon continued on to the top while I took in the scenery.
When they returned, I mounted up and enjoyed a thrilling descent.  I hadn't grabbed my brakes so hard since my coast-to-coast ride in 2001.  The switch-backs required rapid slowing, then a few quick strokes to get back to speed.  Once at the bottom, we continued down city streets back to the hotel.  Shannon has this route at 33 miles and 3,850 feet of climbing.  My computer had me at 27.4 miles and 2,625 feet.  The temperature was in the mid-80s with very little breeze.  We had a few hours to wander Boulder, however, given my exertion, I just rested.  Later, we met our third rider, Gary, and went to dinner.
     An interesting aside: all three of the cyclists are vegan (technically I'm on a plant-based diet which is slightly different, but just say vegan since most people are familiar with what that entails).  Plus, Jeremy, Shannon's sag driver/helper for this ride, was vegan for ten years and still maintains a healthy diet.  Therefore Shannon did some research and found us vegan-friendly restaurants to replace the ones he usually uses.  Check-mark for Shannon.  For the record, dinner was at Leaf
     Our Friday ride started in Raymond, a 30-minute shuttle from the hotel.  I opted to start without any cold-weather gear, a mistake.  It would warm up, but I started out cold.  I think the real blow was seeing brilliant sunshine just across the creek, about 30 yards away, while we went up the climb in deep shade.  Thankfully, there was no wind.  We were riding the Peak-to-Peak Highway (not a real highway, but a very popular cycling road), but would detour up to Brainard Lake, a very pretty little out of the way lake.
     I suffered up the climbs, yesterday's Flagstaff having taken a toll, but did reasonably well all things considered.  Brainard Lake is quite a jewel, at an altitude of 10,300 feet.  Jeremy did a full-immersion dip in the chilly water (video available upon request).  We cycled around the lake then prepared for the downhills, first down from the lake, then down into Nederland.  The road from the lake was a bit rough, so speed was tempered.  But once on the highway, we could let the wheels run.  The speed limit on this section was 40mph, and a good, smooth shoulder.  There were very few cars, so I did a lot of riding in the traffic lane.  However, one white car came into view (rear-view mirror), so I moved over to let him pass.  He first stalked me, then came up next but wouldn't pass.  I sat up and eventually he got ahead of me, so I again moved into the traffic lane and stalked him (I would say tail-gated, but there was some distance between us).  About this time Shannon passed on my right (he shouted "on your right" but since I'm deaf in the right ear, didn't hear him) and moved closer to the car.  Then the car pulled away.  My computer says I was only doing 36mph but it felt a lot faster.  I suspect the driver just didn't want to exceed the speed limit, as shortly thereafter, the sheriff came past.  In any case, this was a really fun descent.  I had this ride at 31.4 miles and 3,763 feet of climbing (which is short, since we know 10,300 for the lake and my top was only 9,800).
     We changed out of bike gear, then took the short drive to the Sundance Cafe for lunch, eating outside enjoying the sunshine and great weather.  After lunch we drove to Vail and our accomodations at the Vail Mountain Lodge.  Wow, what a place!
     Once again, I found myself needing to rest rather than explore Vail.  Once again, Shannon found us a vegan-friendly establishment for dinner.  Friendly or not, they were pretty slow (or, relaxed), so we had plenty of time to rehash the day's ride.
     The Saturday ride was from Vail to Breckenridge on mostly the bike path. Bike path or not, we are talking another 4,500 feet of climbing and another 10,000 foot summit.  My lack of speed was beginning to wear on me.  The one thing you don't want to do when cycling at altitude is "go into the red," that is, over-exert yourself.  You can do this lower down and take a few seconds or so to recover, but with thin air, there is little or no recovery.  Therefore I closely monitored my heart-rate and breathing.  My energy-level was low.  After a brief stop, and changing to a dry base layer, we hit the bike path for the descent into Copper Mountain.  There was some sort of cycling event which included climbing from Copper Mountain.  By the time we got on the path down, the only cyclists coming up were suffering: heads down, wobbling.  We didn't dare blast by them for fear of an accident.  Therefore, the descent was more muted than it could have been, but still a lot of fun.  We continued down into Frisco for lunch.  There was a festival going on here also, and Frisco was booming.  The ever-resourceful Jeremy got us situated at the Butterhorn Bakery and Cafe.  Still finding vegan meals.
     After lunch we circumnavigated Dillon Lake and cycled up to Breckenridge.  This last 22 miles includes several miles of more-than-I-wanted incline, short stop, a descent, then a more moderate grade to the finish.  Rather than hold up the group, I opted to skip these first miles, do the descent and climb into town.  It was on the descent that I hit 45mph on the road.  No cars passed me.  The rest of the way into town on the bike path was of the 1-2% variety.  I ended up with 49.8 miles (out of 52) and 4,928 feet of climb.  Our stay was at the Beaver Run Resort, another quality room.  Or, rather, rooms.  My suite included a jacuzzi tub, which I almost immediately utilized.  Again, Shannon eschewed his normal eating establishment and found us one with suitable vegan dishes.
     The Sunday ride was a short 15 mile climb up Mt. Evans.  After a shuttle to Echo Lake, we started up.  I got a headstart since I knew my pace would be slow.  Still, for the first few miles, in the trees, I held steady.  My pace was good, breathing ok, heart-rate within reason.  Keep in mind we started at 10,000 feet and would top out over 14,000.  We started with some breeze, but once I got above the tree line, it was quite strong.  I overheard one person say 35mph.  My breathing became labored and even on a slight grade with the now strong wind whipping at my back, I still couldn't push my smallest gear over 5mph.  Several times the wind came from the side and pushed me several feet.  It was time to call it a day, and with Jeremy parked just up the road, I packed it in with 4.8 miles and 1,452 feet of climbing.  Brian had zero trouble, other than having to wait for Gary and Shannon on the cold and windy summit.
     To sum up, Shannon has put together a terrific package of rides, restaurants, and resorts.  He rides with the cyclists, and counsels and cajols as needed.  Anyone considering doing a tour should check out his website.  I'm already signed up for the Big Bend in November.
     As for me, my enjoyment of this trip was somewhat tempered by my inability to keep up a decent pace.  Given my history of climbing in Georgia (discounting the climbing done more than five years ago), and recent HHH ride, I was somewhat surprised with my lack of energy.  Still, I had fun in the sun and can't wait for the next adventure.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hotter'N Hell, 2015 Edition

     This is a bare bones recounting of my ride, mainly because in signing up, I assumed too much and rational thought had gone on holiday when making the decision.  But I will give just a little background.
     My Tour de Gruene partner (we are three time defending champions) and Senior Games competitor, Dean, learned I was doing the HHH and asked me to join him and his son and a few friends.  They would eschew the opening hoopla and crowd and start a half hour ahead of everybody and about a mile into the ride.  This required adding a headlight.  As my previous post mentioned, I've done ten of these, and no longer get a thrill out of navigating 13,000 riders.  True, given my placing, it would only have been about 2,000, with the rest of them behind me.  But that is where a lot of accidents happen and it is pretty intense for about ten miles.
     The traffic jam starting about 5:30am, even backing up the interstate, is scary.  I avoided that and arrived at our start about 6:15am, made introductions and we rolled out about 6:30am.  We were not alone, folks with the same idea began their trek starting as early as 6am.
     Our plan was to get to the 20 mile rest stop before the racers, watch them go by, then continue on.  We were unaware that the organizers changed the racer's course so they wouldn't have to contend with all of the riders who left early.  Anyhow, Dean set a pretty good pace, eventually ramping up to 19-20mph.  The morning was cool and cloudy, with little to no wind.  Great weather.  We did side-by-side, switching out every few minutes, although when I was in the lead, the pace dropped off a bit.  A few miles from the stop, I couldn't hang with a pace line and dropped off a bit.  It took a little under an hour to go eighteen and a half miles.
     The racers should have been just a few minutes behind, and only a chance remark from one of the volunteers clued us in.  Our five-minute rest had turned into fifteen before we remounted and continued.  Dean said we would probably become separated, but would all meet up at Hell's Gate (the place where the 100 mile riders turned left, and the 100 mile riders who over-extended themselves could cut off twenty-five miles).  Our intention all along had been a seventy-five mile ride.  Anyhow, two guys (never to be seen again) quickly left me , Dean and Lonnie behind, and I suffered behind those two for another twenty miles.  A slight wind came up, but at our backs, and the sun was behind a thin layer of clouds.  Great weather.  I was feeling good, no problem with the legs.  The heart-rate, which was in the 90% range for the first hour, now hovered close to 80%.
     The forty mile rest stop again took extra minutes, due to unplanned bodily functions (not me).  But we eventually got moving, with Dean reiterating regrouping at Hell's Gate.  Lonnie fell behind but Dean and I grabbed a pace line and enjoyed that for awhile, until I became unlatched and watched them pull away.  No problem, I had my aerobars to rest on until another pace line came by and I grabbed that.  The pace lines were in the 20-24mph range so my heart-rate moved up to 85-90%.
     By now I was on my own, so at the 50 mile rest stop I dropped out and had some pickle juice and a refill of Powerade.  This was a three-minute respite, which is my norm.  Fifty miles in three hours and eight minutes, I couldn't believe things were going so well.  The sun was still hidden and the temperature still below 90 degrees, with the wind now coming from the right but not strong.  Great weather.  I found some more folks to ride behind and all too soon Burkburnett was in sight.  My speed continued above 20mph in pace lines and 18mph in aerobars, with the legs moving quite easily.  The heart-rate stayed around 85% and that caused no problem.
     We made a right turn at the interstate, into the wind, and I was seeing a lot of 15mph on the computer.  Pretty soon, the 60 mile rest stop came into view.  I didn't need to stop since I had plenty of fluid, having filled both bottles just ten miles ago.  But I think this is where confusion reared its ugly head.  About a mile from the rest stop is Hell's Gate.  I stopped at Hell's Gate to look for Dean.  No Dean.  No other two guys.  Eventually I called Dean's cell phone and left a message.  After about ten minutes, I mounted up and continued.  About that time Lonnie came by and said he couldn't find Dean either.  We rode on awhile but he fell behind on a hill and my speed actually moved up into the 17mph range.
     This route takes us on a tour of Shepard Air Force Base and that is a lot of fun seeing the many planes displayed and riding through a gauntlet of airmen (and women) all shouting and exchanging high-fives (actually low-fives so we didn't get thrown off our bikes).  From the base a lot of the road is down hill, so I again was on the high side of 20mph.
     Shortly before the finish line, I turned off to get back to my car, so I missed both the start and the finish, but really did do the whole course.  My average overall speed was 16mph, or saddle-time of 17.9mph.  Overall time was four hours forty-two minutes which included thirty minutes non-riding.  The average temperature a balmy 82.6 degrees, and when I finished it hadn't reached 90. Great weather.  Still haven't seen Dean, and I'm wondering if he was feeling so good he did the 100 miles.  Will email him later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

POST TIME TRIAL RIDING

     My next time trial is November 7th, less than seven days after a three week European river cruise.  But my next race is the always brutal State Road Race at Fort Hood the last week-end in September.  In view of my lackluster showing in the time trial, I am trying to get more prepared for this event.  However, as I've often declared, my main focus is recreational cycling, so while I am bearing down, I'm not foregoing other pursuits.
     We just returned from a family (kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, nieces, sister) get-together in Suches, Georgia.  I took my bike and re-acquainted myself with three of the six gaps of the strenuous Six Gap Century.  This is an annual thing, so I am very familiar with the roads.  Marilane and I arrive early and leave a day or two after everyone is gone, so I generally squeeze in a half dozen or more rides.  But not this year.
     Beginning at the beginning, this was to be my "down" year for racing.  My intention was to take it somewhat easy and be more intense next year.  I didn't intend to lose quite as much form.  For starters, the annual five pound winter gain turned out to be ten pounds.  The three month losing of the excess resulted in zero pounds lost.  The spring rains didn't help.  I was hoping to use Georgia as a springboard to returning to form.  I got rained out on crucial riding days there too.  Oh, I took my rain jacket and actually got caught several times.  Once I called my Uber driver (Marilane), since the rain was accompanied by thunder.  Remember, I'm not hard-core.
     Last year was the first time my highlight trip of riding up Brasstown Bald was skipped.  I missed it again this year.  I also missed Hogpen Gap.  These two climbs wring the best out of me and when I can make these ascents, I know my strength is good.  It isn't like I was totally bereft of rides.  The nine-miles of Neel's Gap, and the ever-popular Wolf Pen gap provided plenty of climbing.  A half-dozen rides were accomplished, just lacking the most challenging ones.
     Next up is the Hotter'n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls.  I've done this ride ten times, but the last one was in 2001.  I have my sights on a hundred miles, but the way things have been going, it may just be 100k.  Then comes a delightful trip to Colorado with Shannon Burke and Velo View.   That is my altitude training for the road race.  Following that is the river cruise, returning just in time for Gruene.  My partner, Dean, says it doesn't matter to him if I am cruising instead of training.  Dean was 2nd (10k) and 3rd (5k) at Nationals this year, so he can drag me around the course.  Then I let Shannon take me out to ride in the Big Bend.
     Next year is qualifying for Senior Games Nationals.  It is not a "down" year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

REALITY SETS IN

     Well, it was fun while it lasted.  With tongue firmly implanted in my cheek, I've proclaimed myself "the fastest man in Texas" for a number of years.  While a true statement, it took a bit of spinning to see how I arrived at that "honor."  But, without spin, I can unequivocally say that in state competition, the last time I was off the podium for a time trial was 2008.  At Senior Games Nationals I was 13th in the 10k and 18th in the 5k, but the fastest from Texas.  All of that came to an end this weekend.
     It wasn't unexpected.  My training has been spotty, my practice times slow.  Plus, faster guys entered the race (yes, some of my ill-gotten results are because the fast guys didn't show up).  I was pretty sure I'd be racing for third place.  And I repeat what I've said before: I'm in it for fun and conditioning.  All the same, I'm sad to see the string end (I was fourth by a half-second, that hurts a bit).
     But about the races themselves.  Hempstead was hot and ultra humid.  For the ITT, I had a
Saturday 7:36 a.m. start.  It was an out-and-back course, slightly downhill and flat outbound, slightly uphill and flat on the way back.  Truly, I characterize it as flat.  I think I only used three gears, maybe four.  I started last as defending champion.  The main stats I use speak for themselves: average heart-rate of 148 (89% of max and about 3 beats short of AT) and average cadence of 88, but most of that was really at 90.  The most important stat was mph: 21.7 average and 25.8 max. (last year I was 22.1 average and 28.5 max).  I was a gear or two short but whenever I tried moving, I couldn't push it.
     Besides lack of strength compared to last year, I'm also packing an additional ten pounds, so my strength-to-weight ratio has also suffered.  I'll see if I can remedy that.
   
The weekend wasn't a disaster.  I had fun, did my best, reacquainted with racing buddies, and still came home a State Champion.  The second, third, and fourth-place (me) finishers teamed up for the Team Time Trial Sunday morning and finished first.  Without any practice, other than a shaky start and turn-around, we had a very smooth race, with our transitions being excellent.  It isn't the first time we've teamed up, but was our best outing so far.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

CAN'T GET IT UP!

     Sorry, this is a cycling blog and I'm referring to my heart-rate.  I first noticed it on Friday.  Wednesday was time-trial practice and the fifth day in a row of pretty heavy riding.  I took Thursday off to stretch and get in some strength training.  Friday I did another time-trial practice, knowing full well the speed would be less.  Well, my breathing was ragged and heart-rate about eight beats low.  In the next two weeks I needed to improved two minutes over 20k based on the Wednesday time and instead added a minute and a half.  Friday's practice did very little for my ego.
     Rather than take another day off, I embarked on an early morning recovery ride, my standard Limmer Loop two-hour, twenty-nine mile mostly flat sojourn in the corn fields.  With a stated goal of a low heart-rate, I used low gears, 80 rpms for the most part (average for the ride 74), and ended up with an average HR of 108.  Interestingly enough, it ended up only a few minutes slower than my previous circuit.  This morning I'll ride with a group and see if I can hang at the back and have another day keeping the HR down.
     Sunday post-ride: yes, 25 miles with an average HR of 94.  True, I rode with the beginners, but we still averaged 12.7 mph.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NEVER SAY NEVER!

     I dislike (hate being an over-used word in today's lexicon) riding on Saturdays.  Being retired, I usually accomplish sufficient mileage during the week.  I dislike riding in the evenings, preferring the (relatively) cool mornings.  And it irks me no end to be unable to keep up with the group.  It isn't like I purposely ride with faster riders.
     However, the looming Texas State Time Trials finds me woefully short of training.  The distance for the race is 20k and so far I have managed three very slow 15k practices.  Yesterday was to have been my first 20k practice.  Broken springs on the garage door were the reason I couldn't get out until evening, but that is getting ahead of the narrative.
     The interminable rains finally stopped.  Needing the mileage, Saturday was first on the agenda.  Fortunately for me, some ride I had absolutely no interest in was canceled, but in its place Bicycle Sport Shop friends decided to do the Dam Loop starting at 7:30 am. Before re-joining the BSS Sunday rides, it so happens my Sunday morning loop encompassed most of these same roads.  Now I was interested.  This is a forty-four mile adventure with a few hills.  We set a pretty good pace, my Garmin showing 15.7 average.  Just what I needed (not to mention a few post-race beverages).
     The Sunday morning ride was posted as COTA, but because the previous week was rained out, we were going out Bee Caves.  This is a very hilly route and just getting out of Rollingwood and on to Loop 360 was quite taxing.  After about a half-hour of climbing the rollers, I started losing ground and couldn't catch up on the downhills.  A pace I could comfortably maintain came about 2 mph slower than the group.  At a group stopping place, before the very arduous climb up Cuernavaca, I pulled the plug and advised the sweeper I would leave the group, carry on and make my way back to BSS.
     Well, I didn't go directly back the way we came, I also dislike an out-n-back ride.  I continued on Loop 360, tracking yesterday's ride.  I had no desire to explore (sometimes called getting lost but going in the right direction until something turns up), so headed for a familiar road.  In the over forty years I've been cycling in Austin, I've never gone up Spicewood Springs Road from Loop 360.  Just because I couldn't keep up with the group didn't mean I was completely out of gas.  Spicewood Springs (Garmin showed 16%, felt more like 20) now has a check-mark.  All in all, my ride encompassed twenty-five miles and 2000 feet of climbing, at an average pace of 14.5 MPH.
     To back up to the previous post regarding my lack of cadence, last week I had the opportunity for a two-hour ride and used it to practice increased cadence.  I was extremely proud of holding at or near 90 RPM for most of the ride.  To my dismay upon returning to the car, I saw the place crawling with school kids.  I had to postpone my post-race stretching until I got home.  Upon arriving at home, something had come up which needed immediate attention.  Zero stretching.  The next morning my hamstrings had knots and my back started tightening.  Even a quick trip for massage only slightly assuaged the muscles.  So both the Saturday and Sunday rides were done under protest.
     Just as well I hadn't tried for TT practice Monday morning.  Instead I spent the day gently stretching my legs.  But what better way for recovery is there than a Recovery Ride (as advertised by cycling friend Dan Pedroza).  This is a Monday evening, 6pm, twenty-six (or 27.8) mile ride mostly in the country.  Great.  It was a relaxing ride.  Attendance for this ride varies, and last night we had five riders.  My average moving speed was 15.4 MPH, but we had several stops, including a flat (not me).
     I went slightly before noon today to finally get my TT practice in.  Once again, Old Settlers Park had myriad school busloads of kids, but they were not on the roads.  It was hot but I could manage.  The straw across the camel's back, however, was the lack of computer.  I packed it in and will come back tomorrow, early.  All is not lost.  This is Tuesday and BSS has a 7 pm ride.
     Recap: Saturday ride; Evening ride (2); Getting dropped; no TT practice (yet).  Yes, I have my preferences but No, they are only preferences and will be superseded by necessity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

RAIN REVELATION

     The bike I purchased twenty-five years ago continues to serve me well, but strictly as my "trainer-bike."  I occasionally lube the chain, had the bottom bracket serviced around 2010 (or maybe 2008, who's counting), and actually had to change a tire a few years ago.  I bring this up because it has been overly used these last two weeks, since we have had rain every day (except yesterday) since returning from Germany.
     Years ago I had a Chris Carmichael Time Trial tape to give structure to my training.  The tape has long since worn out, but I still follow the regimen.  Up to a point.  It seems I am very comfortable at 84 RPM, but knocking out 90 takes a lot of effort.  It is a constant battle, one I lose unless extremely motivated.  The bike is not equipped to show cadence, so I use the old-fashioned way: counting strokes.  Fifteen strokes in ten seconds gives me 90 RPM.  I hit fourteen on a regular basis.
     This year I added a high-cadence portion to my work-out: three sets of 110 RPM.  I started at ten seconds and have moved up to thirty and the plan is to see what happens once I get to one minute.  But accurately counting strokes and accelerating is a chore.  Indeed, the other day I did twenty strokes, for 120 RPM.  I wasn't sure of my count, but even being one off still achieved the goal.
     Then a stroke of genius: use my road bike, equipped with cadence.  All I had to do was change out the quick-release (it didn't fit the trainer) and I could monitor my stroke count with just a glance at the computer.  All went well as I warmed up.  But on my first five-minute interval my cadence moved between 78 and 80.  I knew my legs were a tad "loggy" but it felt like my normal 84.  For the second interval, even with the computer, I counted strokes.  Like clockwork for the entire five minutes: 14.  Not good.  Same thing for the third interval.  Pook ding-fu!  My computer is shorting me!!
     When I ran it up to 110, it seemed accurate.  Once I got over my shock, I had to contemplate the situation.  While I know that computers are sometimes wrong, my experience is that they do what their programming tells them to do.  The fact that it was accurate at 110/120 pointed toward me.  After all, it just counted every time it went past the magnet, which didn't move (well it does sometimes, but then I get no count at all).  Bottom line: for the last ten-plus years, I have been counting "one" when the clock hits any of the zeros, and "fourteen" when it hits the next one.  Until this week, it never occurred to me that this was thirteen strokes.
     I may have to come up a gear, but from here on out, I'll be counting sixteen.  Maybe my time trial speed will improve.  We shall see in four weeks.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

EVESHAM ULTRA AND BERLIN

     I normally reserve this blog for cycling activities, so I really need to spin it this way: our two week holiday (using the British term for vacation) resulted in my being off the bike, necessitating serious training now that we're back.
     One activity on our to-do (I detest the term "bucket") list was to volunteer at son Kurt's running events.  Several years ago he left the corporate world to pursue his passion: trail running.  Yes, he does run a lot (completing the Rocky Raccoon this year), but he and wife, Nicola, started Cotswold Running.  They organize off-road long-distance races.  I refer you to their website.  His Evesham Ultra (~45 miles) on April 26 fit nicely into our calendar.
     In addition, touring Berlin has been high on Marilane's agenda for quite a while, so we cobbled the two together since we were more or less "in the neighborhood."
     Kurt met us at Heathrow after our non-stop flight from Austin.  I prefer the back seat when driving in the UK, as I tend to not jerk as much when the cars come from different directions.  Therefore most of the conversation in the two hour trip was between Marilane and Kurt.  Once we left the city, the vibrant yellow rapeseed fields held my attention.  And, I managed to stay awake.  Kurt has a small house and Nic's parents from Scotland were also volunteering and staying with them, so we stayed at the Evesham Hotel (quirky but very nice).  I mention this because in strolling between the hotel and house, we passed lovely trees in bloom.  I might also mention we managed to bring some really cold air with us, so all pictures have us well-layered.
     It doesn't matter what the goal, be it studying for a test, achieving something in business, training for an athletic event, the old maxim holds true: the harder you prepare, the easier the test (task).  In my cycling venues, when everything goes smooth as butter, I know the organizers worked their butts off in the preparation.  Same for Kurt's runs.
     Marilane and I had several chores, minor helping with check-in, then walk to the first turns to direct the runners (they had the whole course marked, but people waving in front of faces and giving encouragement is always welcome), then we had several hours off before the runners returned.  We were charged with serving refreshments in the hall while Kurt and Nic handled the finish line.  In a seven-to-ten hour race, the runners come in more or less separately.
     One of the things Kurt does is post a large map of the race course on the wall.  I didn't think much about it until he started receiving calls from runners who had missed a turn and needed to get back on course.  He knows his routes like the back of his hand and only needed for the runner to describe the surroundings before he found him on the map and directed him/her the best way to pick up the course.  Almost all of the runners did "bonus" miles.  Interestingly enough, almost all the runners praised how well the course was marked, blaming themselves for their mistakes.
     All runners accounted for, none injured; we celebrated at the pub.  Check-mark on our list.  We managed a few touristy things also.  On a visit several years ago we attended a play in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).  This year we had a very interesting back-stage tour.  We also toured Hampton Court, another place on Marilane's list of things to see.  Then it was a flight to Berlin.
     Marilane had booked us a private guide to take us around town to important spots and explain history.  We learn so much more on a private tour.  Our first act upon checking in was to purchase five-day transit passes.  These are good on all the trains, trams, and buses within the city, and Potsdam.  I loved not messing with paying each time we got on.  Highlights of the trip included the Jewish Quarter, the
Wall, Museum Island (including Nefertiti and the gate of Ishtar) the Reichstag building, a trip to the palace in Potsdam and in the other direction, attended a choral concert at the  Cistercian Kloster Chorin.  We took a blah river cruise of the city. We also ran across a May Day protest march (several groups, mostly labor).  We didn't have time for several other museums, found a great vegan restaurant.
     The train drivers (are they really still called engineers?) called a strike for 3pm Tuesday.  I lost track of the day, so we took several unnecessary taxi rides on Monday.  Tuesday afternoon we flew to London, stayed overnight and came home Wednesday.  Here it is Sunday and I'm still not over jet-lag.


 

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

TEXAS SENIOR GAMES 2015

     The format for San Antonio is always the same: Saturday morning is the 10km time trial followed about an hour later by the 20km road race and Sunday has a 5km time trial followed by a 40km road race.  First racer is off at 9 am, and this year the last one left around 10:25 am.  The venue is about a two hour drive from home and I choose to drive back and forth each day.  Actually, I tried staying over once but prefer sleeping in my own bed and having home-cooked meals.  This means I hit the road a bit before 6 am.
     We caught a break with the weather on Saturday, with storms on Thursday and Friday clearing out just in time.  The humidity was up but for the first time in years, the wind was down.  Expectations were low for MY event, the 10k or longer time trial.  In the last ten years I've only been off the podium once (2008) when racing against my own age group in Texas.  But my friend Bill Corty turned 70 and is is much faster than me, my fast friend Bill Earp is once again attending (but he is from Missouri), and another person is new to the age group and has posted better credentials.  Several others are close and with my lack of training sessions, I could be looking at 5th place.
     The Texas Research Park is a roughly two and a half mile circuit, with a back-side hill (incline).  For the time trial we do one complete circuit plus an out-and-back.  It is a great venue.  After checking in and doing social amenities with the other guys, I completed my 30-minute warm-up and prepared to race.  For the first time, San Antonio had chip timing.  Great improvement.  I could see that the holders were inexperienced.  At least not as bad as last year when the holder forgot to let go.  There is very little strategy in time trials, you go as hard as you can for as long as you can.  There are only two 90-degree turns, both wide.  The asphalt was still a little wet on one and there were patches of mud on the other, necessitating some caution.
     As it turned out, I happily managed to come in third behind the two Bills.  Since I started my computer about 15 seconds before the start and hit it again 5-10 seconds after, I'm thinking my actual time was a hair under 17 minutes.  I can say top speed was 31.4 and average 21.2 and my heart rate was in zone five for nine minutes and nine seconds.  All but 19 seconds were in zone four or five.  I used a lot of gears going up the back-side hill the second time.
     For the road race, I change wheels, since my Zipps are much faster than the Rolfs.  A lot of liquid, Clif Bars, and resting followed.  Generally I skip the 20k road race and just do the 40k, but because I only do these for the training and my training this year has been sparse, I joined in.  On the third of five laps Bob jumped at the start of the hill, the others followed and I managed to hang on.  Back together.  He jumped again at the same place, with the same result.  On the fifth lap I had to wave good-bye.  At least they were still in sight at the finish line.  Sixth place; not last.
     Sunday was much of the same, but the corners were dry and Bill Corty skipped the time trial.  Bill Earp only beat me by four seconds.  My top speed was 31.9 and average 19.7 (average speed is off since I started the computer a minute early).  Of the 8:11 it took to complete the course,  I spent 5:11 in zone 5 and 2:45 in zone 4.
     I had no illusions for the 40k and hoped they would putter around for the first five laps before getting serious.  No such luck.  Same guy jumped at the same place on lap three, drawing the two fastest guys with him.  Me and my friend Fred were a bit late, but gave chase, leaving the others behind.  We were about fifteen seconds behind and around a slight curve when we saw two guys on the ground.  It seems one guy (Bob) touched wheels with the one in front (Tom) and went down and Bill Corty was the third guy who couldn't avoid the crash.  Bill had a flat tire and Bob spent some time with Medical.  Tom continued on and built on his lead, while Fred and I tried our best to catch up.
     Actually, we tried to not let anyone behind catch us, since we now were sitting second and third.  On the next lap, going up the hill we came upon a large guy who had been dropped from his younger age group.  We don't follow USAC rules, so I latched on to his back wheel, with Fred behind me.  He was a bit slower going up, but really motored on the flats and downhills and was super in blocking the wind, which today was much stronger than yesterday.  Fred and I rode him for four laps until he finally gave it up on the hill.  About that time, Bob came by, having latched on to a small group of fast, young guys.  Dang!  We tried to hang with them, but they quickly left us behind.
    On lap nine I finally gave up the ghost on the hill and waved Fred on.  The quads were complaining as was my breathing.  I suffered through the last lap and only finished about thirty seconds behind Fred.  Well, I didn't expect to medal in this race, but fourth wasn't so bad.  It was only after we were sitting around the cars winding down and packing up that Jaime said Bob was two laps down because of getting patched up, not the one lap we had figured.  So Fred garnered silver and I came home with a bronze.  Purely lagniappe as far as I'm concerned.
     Stats for the 40k: Heart Rate Zone 5 - 20:32; Zone 4 - 51:27, quite a workout for an old guy.  Top speed of 35.1 with an average of 18.6.  The back-side hill low speed was 14 mph for the first three laps, 12 mph for the next four, and 10 mph for the last three.  The top speed for the first three laps was 28 mph, but for the next four it was 30 mph, then it dropped to 27 except I pushed it up to 30 for the finish.
     Make no mistake, I like to race.  But my main cycling focus is taking bike vacations.  I have three bike trips and two non-bike tours lined up for this year.  It crimps my training a bit, but I keep reminding myself racing is secondary.  When I tout that "I'm the fastest man in Texas" it is with my tongue firmly in my cheek.  I cycle for fun, with medals more a witness to my health than to prowess in racing.

Monday, April 13, 2015

BICYCLE SAFETY

     Our Sunday ride leader always, always stresses safety before each ride.  At the beginning of April a cyclist was descending a steep hill when a pickup truck made a left turn in front of him, resulting in his death.  We are encouraged to have a flashing strobe light on the front (as well as the back) whenever we ride, day or night.  This reminded me of an article I read years ago, and thanks to my search engine, I found one which makes the same point.
     If you don't care to read this (but it is enlightening), I'll give you the short version: unless we train our brains to recognize cyclists, it takes longer to "see" them, sometimes never seeing them.  In the article I remember, the point was the brain will interpret a cyclist as a tree or stop sign because we are more vertical than say, a car.  Of course, our brains are trained but it isn't us who we are worried about.
     Therefore it is incumbent on us, the cyclists, to do whatever we can to make ourselves visible: bright colors, hand (full hand, please) and arm horizontal movements, reflective clothing, and flashing lights are some of the things that come to mind.  Being respectful of traffic lights and stop signs are another.
     Your actions have consequences.  For instance, running a stop sign might trigger a negative reaction in a vehicle, who might react against the next cyclist he sees.  Give a good example ALL the time.
     Years ago, when I was training for my coast-to-coast trip, part of my Sunday ride included Bee Cave Road.  Those familiar with the area know that with the wind behind you, going down the hill toward Weston Lane can generate 40 mph or more (still less than the vehicle speed limit).  On such a morning I approached Weston in excess of 35 mph when a pickup left the stop sign in front of me.  I braked and did a hard right but unfortunately rolled my tire off the rim and went down hard.  I had my Camelbak to break the fall but still it took a few minutes before I could move.  While laying in the middle of Weston Lane I saw the pickup continue east.  I guess his conscience got the better of him, in that he circled back around to check on me.  Nothing broken, only a few scrapes, thanks to the Camelbak and my helmet.  Oh yeah, the driver was a cyclist on his way to his Sunday ride.
     My other vehicle accident involved a pickup that rolled a stop sign.  I had the right of way, saw him and saw him slow to the stop sign.  Unfortunately, I was obstructed by his windshield post, and he didn't come to a complete stop and accelerated.  His left front fender connected with my front wheel.  Again, Camelbak and helmet saved the body.  He did have to replace my front wheel.
     Be safe.  Be alert.  Do what you can to be seen.  And remember, it doesn't do you any good to be dead right.

Monday, March 30, 2015

HAMMERFEST: 2 OUT OF 3

     Usually when I go two out of three, it is two first-place finishes and a second.  But then, that usually refers to short time trials.  It also refers to opponents who are in the 70+ age category.  I had no illusions when I signed up for Hammerfest (out in west Texas, Fort Davis to be precise).  The category was 60+ and all of the guys were ten to twelve years younger than me, plus it was all road racing.  But, my friend, Tom Cole, had been telling me about it for several years so I took the opportunity to get in a week-end of hard training.
     The agenda consisted of a fourteen-mile hill climb, which actually was ten miles of flat-ish riding with a few bumps before the steeper part (the younger groups had an additional two miles of really tough climbing) on Saturday morning and an eighteen mile race Saturday afternoon.  The afternoon race was flat for two and a half miles, then a right turn and a steady low-grade (2-4%) climb for the next fourteen and a half.  Or maybe an extra mile.  My computer only registered seventeen miles.  The Sunday morning ride was a forty-nine mile loop with an abundance of climbing.
     Since this is a cycling blog, I'll only mention we went to Marfa and Alpine on successive evenings, for a quick look and dinner (Paisano Hotel and Reata Restaurant, both very nice and accommodating my plant-based diet).
     Saturday morning was chilly.  I should be thankful for 47 degrees, it was 32 Friday morning.  But this is west Texas so we started at 47 and ended at 77 degrees an hour and a half later.  I don't have accurate stats, in that half-way through the computer turned itself off and it looks like I missed over a mile before catching it.  Anyhow, I stayed with the group for thirteen minutes before they lost me on one of the bumps.  They were doing team tactics from the start, with multiple accelerations and slowings, and that last one got me.  I settled into a rhythm and enjoyed the scenery until getting to the heavy climbing, when I concentrated more on just getting up the road.  My average speed was 8 mph, but that doesn't include the faster, missed portion.  To use a cycling term, my legs felt "blocked."  Absolutely little push in them.  Uphill, against the wind.  It wasn't fun.
     We lunched at the surprisingly very nice deli, and I rested for the afternoon race.  This time we had strong wind that would be in our face for about fifteen miles.  That sort of worked in my favor, in that I could tuck in behind some big bodies and they couldn't make a really strong break because of the wind.  They once again did some accelerations but not as strong or long as in the morning.  On one acceleration I got caught out and immediately dropped.  At least I stayed with them for six miles.  
Once on my own, cursing the wind, I settled into an 80 rpm cadence.  I dropped my water bottle and had to stop.  That cost me catching a second dropped rider with whom I had hoped to share wind-breaking duties.  It was only about thirty seconds, but I couldn't go any faster.  Again, my legs were less than optimum.  Overall, I averaged 12.5 mph, but once I lost the peloton it was more like 10.
     Given the profile of the Sunday race, its length, the high wind, and being beaten up by the wind and hills on Saturday, I decided to eschew riding on Sunday, and we drove home instead.  I have a few weeks before State time trials to get my act together.  We will see how that goes.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

POST MORTEM - FLAT

     I almost always do a fact-finding mission when I have a flat.  While flats are few and far between, I want to know, if possible, the actual cause.  Several times I've had valve failure, several times a vicious staple did me in.  I'll start at the beginning, which was the first Tuesday Night group ride out of the Bicycle Sport Shop Research store.  This is an intermediate group, which means I need my A game to keep up.
     The "highlight" of the ride is the Strava (I don't "do" Strava but merely mention it descriptively) strip on Spicewood Springs Road.
 While not in full competitive mode, I stepped it up a bit, and unfortunately hit a few potholes (small) that I normally would have avoided.  I cannot say for sure what caused the tire to lose air.  And, truthfully, it may not have been there or on Loop 360 as we headed back to the store.  In any case, at 360 and 183 I stopped to change the front tire, waving on the group since we were only about a mile from the end.  I quickly (for me, about ten minutes) changed the tube, used the compressed air cartridge to speed me along, and rode to the store.  Everything got tossed in the car.
     This morning, I brought the tire and the old tube to the kitchen to see the cause of my problem.  A sink full of water revealed the leak site.  I had not seen this type of failure before.  While it was a single pin-hole, it appeared as though something had scraped the tube before the actual puncture.
     As everyone knows, compressed air seeps through the tubes quicker than air-pump air, so I pulled out the new tube and did a thorough study of the tire, both inside and out, finding nothing out of the ordinary.  Tire and new tube are back ready for our noon ride.

I'll take the opportunity to repeat what I've written several times before: when you have a flat and are changing out the tube, take the extra time to examine the inside and outside of the tire before installing the new tube.  It only takes a minute and can save you puncturing a new tube because the wire or piece of glass is still in the tire.  By the way, I recommend a visual exam before blindly running your fingers around the tire.  Putting a hole in your finger is a bad idea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ANOTHER RE-ACQUAINTANCE: ROLLERS

     Yesterday a few friends posted about rollers.  My input consisted of saying I had unused rollers hanging in the garage.  Other than a few days last year, the rollers had been replaced by the trainer.  But, in the interest of instruction, I dragged them into the kitchen this morning (not wishing to get out in the cold and damp), and that was/will be my workout for today.
     I started out without the camera on, just in case of disaster.  It wasn't a disaster but I quickly found out it takes a few minutes to become adjusted to holding a straight line and pedaling smoothly.  I also deemed the rear tire to be sadly under-inflated.  So, I aired up the tire to be properly hard, started the camera, and began my instructional video.
     In no particular order of importance: 1) Be sure to brake the front wheel when doing the awkward mount/dismount; 2) Cadence should be above 80, better if 90 rpm; 3) Start with a gear where you don't need a lot of pressure; 4) Have something to hold on to until you are comfortably pedaling.
 The video lasts two and a half minutes.  After stopping the camera I did another fifteen. 

  video

Rollers really are a great way to get you balanced and pedaling equally with each leg.  You will start out looking at the front wheel, but as you progress your gaze should be out five, ten, twenty feet.  If you stick with it long enough, you can remove one hand.  I'm not gutsy enough to go hands-free.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

HOLEY ROLLER!

     Last November, in a moment of weakness (insanity, boredom, quest for something different), I signed up for the Castell Gravel Grinder April 5, 2015.  Because I am (or will be) in good shape, I signed up for the Full Grind (100K).  That was November, right after completing the Tour de Gruene Time Trials.  Well, February sheds a different light on things, so I asked guru Dan Pedroza what I had gotten myself into.  I was hoping for some advance info on what the gravel roads would be like, other than what was on the website.  He said I should do the Holey Roller, February 28 starting in Smithville, and that would give me a good idea.
     I should back up a bit.  When Kurt and Nic were here the last of January running their 100 and 50 mile races, I helped crew.  Part of that involved using the mountain bike to get between check points. We found out that it didn't shift well, and the rear brake was soft.  What can you expect, it had been hanging upside down in the garage since 2008, when I rode the Katy Trail.
The suspension wasn't quite up to snuff either.  I took it to the bike shop and had them work on the shifting, and ignore the suspension and brakes.  The bike only had a few rides in my future, so I saw no point in going to the expense.  After getting the bike back I decided perhaps I should test it before Castell.
     Average temperature in Austin for February 28 is 68F degrees.  When I left the house this morning it was 34F and drizzling.  The weather forecast for Smithville, only 60 miles southeast of Austin, was 38F and cloudy at 9am.  Regular readers know I moved my minimum temperature to ride from 40F to 50F earlier this year.  Of course, that refers to training rides.  This may have been a race for a few of the guys, but for the rest of us, it was just a ride.  Anyhow, I packed on all my cold weather gear, with my wet weather gear neatly in the Camelbak.
     As I pulled into the start area, the car registered 38F degrees, and I hadn't had any moisture on the windshield after Bastrop.  The bike travels with the saddle down, and when I adjusted it, mis-calculated maybe half an inch too low.  We started shortly after 9am, and I was pretty sure I could do 12.5 mph average.
     We took the highway about a mile to the entrance to Buescher State Park, then through the park and up Old Antioch Road.  This route is basically north, and the wind was out of the northeast.  True, not a stout wind, but it was still cold and in your face.  The fast guys were out of sight even before the turn into the park.  I tried sticking with a small group of guys, but they were just a bit faster, and I
wasn't going to get out of my cadence.  Even so, the heart-rate was 5-10 beats too high.  Eventually we did a sharp right turn and had the wind at our backs for awhile, so I picked up speed.  By now, an hour had passed and my average was 10 mph.  Not good.
     Another leg into the wind, then another sharp turn putting the wind at our backs.  I say "our" but I was by myself, with a rider in sight ahead and one behind.  As I dodged rocks and ruts and holes, the thought crossed my mind that with another 30 degrees of heat and a blue sky this would be a really nice ride.  As it was, I comforted myself with the fact that I was properly dressed for the weather and it wasn't drizzling.  It only took about three hours before my fingers weren't freezing (in their long-fingered gloves).
     League Line Road was straight, downwind and paved.  I picked up the pace some more.  Pretty soon I devolved into a mantra: "only 8 more miles" "only 7 more miles" etc.  I had stopped every hour or so for sustenance, and had my Camelbak for water, so my energy-level remained pretty high. On my second stop I managed to lose my map and turn-by-turn instructions, so was quite grateful for the turn markings (either actual signs or paint on the road).  The downhill back to the ranch generated my top speed of 33.6 mph, and I finished off at an even 11 mph.
     Thanks to the Bicycle Sport Shop for putting this on.  But after today, I can tell you that for Castell it will be the Half-Grind (50k).

Monday, February 23, 2015

RACING GOALS

     Now that I've had a chance to review Saturday's racing, both in my head and the computer data, it is clear what needs to be improved.  Whether or not these achieve the results I envision will have to wait until the proper time has been spent on the various activities.
     My friend, Clif (the overall fastest guy at the National Senior Games in 2013), is quite a bit faster than me, but happily shared some of his training regimen.  I averaged 22.6 mph with a cadence of 85 rpm in the 5k and 21.9 mph and 82 rpm in the 10k.  I need 90 rpm with a higher gear to get where I'm wanting to be.  In the past I've concentrated on 90 rpm in practice so that should not be a problem.  What I'm missing is (in the legs) what 24.5 mph actually feels like for any distance.  A lot of it is mental, in that for the 10k I protected myself in the early going to be sure I had enough at the end.  Well, I had enough at the end; but had lost too much at the beginning.  That's what my TT training will be for the next several months: first find out what 24.5 mph feels like (not just getting up to speed, but holding it so the legs and cardio can recognize it), then extend the distance until I can be comfortable for the whole race.
     Next, it really rankles that I continually get dropped in the last quarter-mile of a road race.  True, time trials are my concentration, and I just get into these road races for the training and to have fun.  But I still want to let them think I can hang.  So, I'll be incorporating some sprint practice at least weekly.  In 2010 I actually was state champion in the 40k road race.  That came about when the guys had a tough 20k the day before (I didn't compete) and the 40k had a tough wind for the last couple of miles to the finish.  They took it relatively easy most of the race, so when it came down to the sprint I had fresh legs and had averaged about 70% of my max heart-rate.  AND, there was a big guy in front of me most of the way.  My weakness is getting a jump when I'm at 80-85% of max.  I know I have an additional 10 bpm, I just need to be able to use it.  Hopefully, the training will work.
     Regular readers know that my main cycling activity is touring ( http://acyclistpublishing.com/ ) so my race-training is not quite as serious as it sounds.  I have two touring adventures in Europe this year that are cycling disruptions plus two cycling adventures in Colorado and Georgia.  Racing is a side-line, I just want to be the best I can be under the circumstances.  If I don't get faster, so be it, I'll still be having fun.
   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brazos Valley Races, Detailed

     Several requests have been made for additional details of the races in Bryan/College Station.  I'm not sure exactly, since the GPS address was Bryan but the EMS was College Station (not that it makes any real difference).
     The 5k Time Trial course is more or less straight, just a few curves, no turn-around.  It runs north.  The wind was pretty stout, like flags standing straight out, and while forecast-ed to be out of the south-west, was more like west.  Thus just a fraction caught the left shoulder from behind, with a lot of side-action.  I was happy not to have a full disc rear wheel.
     I had breakfast at 6 a.m., then changed into my bike shorts and spent twenty minutes on the exercise bike before driving to the start, about a half-hour away.  Normally, my warm-up consists of a half-hour riding the 10k course, then some sprints to get the lactic acid moving (this has now been proven to be incorrect, but I still do it).  This morning my road work consisted of several out-and-backs about a mile.
     There isn't much to say about a time trial: you start, get into your tuck, and pedal like hell until the finish.  With my lack of real training this early in the season, my rpm's were a bit light (average 85 and should have been 90), but the heart-rate jumped to 148 or so (89% of maximum) and stayed there the whole way.  My one and only practice a few weeks ago indicated a need for at least 75 seconds improvement.  I knocked 70 seconds off, averaging 22.6 mph.  In comparison, I was 21 seconds slower than last year on the same course.
     We had about a half-hour or so before the start of the 10k.  The early morning moisture lessened, and occasionally the sun threatened to show itself, although it never did. This course is more or less square, although the side going into the wind (at the start) is about a mile long, but the side with the wind at our back is shorter.  I started against the wind and went for rpm as opposed to a heavy gear, at least until nicely settled in.  Once I made the right turn, I geared down, reduced rpm a few, but sped up.  I lost a few seconds being late shifting when the road sloped a bit, but other than that my shifting was right on.  Another turn put the wind at my back and I gave it a few more gears and pushed up to 30 mph.  All to soon, another right turn and the wind on my right shoulder.  I felt good coming across the finish line.  My main competition, Tom Cole, didn't come, so I felt confident of being faster than those in my age group.  It will be a few days before I find out if I were faster than the younger guys.
     We had about an hour before the 20k road race, so I changed wheels from the time trial bike to my road bike, and visited with the guys, did a little warming up on the trainer.  They had the time trial award ceremony, then said the race would start in ten minutes.  I quickly changed from my skin suit to the A&M kit and got ready to race.  What I didn't do was fill my racing Camelbak.  No time!  I shoved the bottle into my back pocket (having removed the bottle cages, since I didn't need them).
     Due to the lack of participants, the whole group was divided into just two: younger and older.  I'm not sure what the age break was, probably 60.  The young folks had about a three minute start on us, and we only caught two of them.  We started fairly slow, against the wind, and I tucked in behind the biggest guy I could find.  Even so, the pace picked up and when we made the first turn, Dean jumped ahead to get us moving.  The next turn was more of an S type affair, but with the wind at our back for thirty yards I jumped out and took the lead.  They let me have it for a half mile or so, then I dropped back.  When we finally had the wind at our back and a slight downhill, we topped 30 mph.  All too soon came another right turn and the wind into our right shoulder.
     This is a two lap race, and we did it all again, except Dean didn't jump and neither did I.  It was a fast pace, and the first real race move came just after the start of the down-wind section.  Jaime let a gap happen, and the guy behind me (Gary) jumped, and I got on his wheel and we closed the gap, leaving Jaime and Dean.  Dean bided his time until he could sweep Jaime and not let him draft.  We made the last turn and had a mile and a half to the finish.  I stayed tucked behind Gary but with about 400 yards to go, they all sped up, leaving me.
     I would have liked to have finished with the group, but since all but one were younger than me, I still garnered a silver medal.  I'm going over my computer data to see if that gives me a clue.  It tells me I had an extra ten heart-beats before going into the red-zone; it doesn't tell me how to utilize it.
     We had a late check-out, and were showered and on the road home by 2 p.m.
   

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Brazos Valley Senior Games

     Well, the racing season has begun.  I signed up for the 5k, 10k time trials and the 20k and 40k road races.  The first three are on Saturday and the 40k is on Sunday.  Normally, I do the time trials, skip the 20k and have somewhat fresher legs on Sunday.  Try as I might, I couldn't quite pin down the Arctic Front time frame for Sunday.  So, I took my tired legs into the 20k and skipped the 40k.
     The overcast sky created a damp feel, with a few sprinkles, but as the morning developed, the weather improved somewhat.  The wind, on the other hand, was pretty stout.  I warmed up in the hotel exercise room, then on the road at the venue.  For the 5k we had the wind more or less at our back or left side.
     This early in the season, the field is pretty small, so when I say I took gold in my age group, it isn't like a beat a lot of guys.  But my time was good, although much slower than last year.  I expected to be slower, in that training has not been time-trial specific, and indeed, more like sporadic.   The 10k route was around a country-block, in that it was six miles plus.  Therefore, I had the wind at my back for a short period of time, in my face for a longer period of time, and coming from the side (either right or left) for most of the time.  So, two first-place finishes.  Now for my comeuppance.
     The 20k road race is twice around the course, and a few new faces joined the group.  Because it was so small, the age-groups raced together, and I thought I knew those in my age group.  I followed as best I could for twelve miles, but when they put the hammer down for the last half mile, I had to wave good-bye.  Fortunately for me, most of those leaving me in their wake were in the younger age group, so I ended up with a silver medal.  We did have a few guys that had been dropped early on.
     I'll take a day off, then get serious about being faster on the time-trial bike.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM!

     Last Sunday our club ride started out with the wind more or less at our backs, and since it was early we knew it would only get stronger when it hit our faces.  So we enjoyed what we had and set a brisk pace.  I took a position close to the front, third or fourth wheel.  When riding in a paceline, you must be ever vigilant, so a lot of my time was on the hoods, fingers ready to brake should something occur.  Nothing did.  Going into the wind saw me off the back, which was a struggle, but in a more relaxed position.  Monday my left wrist wasn't working too well.  It took all week to return to normal.
     The wrist didn't deter any activities, it is just part of the story.  Wednesday, with crappy weather in the offing, I worked out at the gym, all leg work.  I had a harder time than usual with the seated calf machine, but got through 3x330x10 and 3x230x15 fast without incident.  Several activities later, at the standing calf machine, I felt pretty good, so upped the weight an additional 20 pounds, to 190, again without incident.  Wednesday afternoon the left achilles/soleus was really, really tight.
     Part of my winter strengthening regimen includes the addition of lunges (I know, I should have been doing them all along).  I've had so much success with push-ups, (as an aside, let me say that yes, I achieved 72 continuous, good-form push-ups yesterday; my age) I clicked on over to lunges.  My quad/hamstring strength is pretty good, so after some experimenting, I decided I could start with Week 3, Day 1.  That was on Thursday, early in the morning.  The rest of the morning was spent dismantling the twelve-foot artificial Christmas tree and wrestling it into the closet.  While taking it apart I felt a little twinge in my back.  Thursday afternoon I could hardly move.  I don't know the muscle, but it has something to do with my hip.  I incorrectly described it as a hip pointer, but in any case, my mobility was seriously impaired.   Most of Friday was on the couch or in the recliner.  Fortunately,  I had two football games on Saturday and Sunday to keep me entertained.  Aspirin, Epsom salts, and the couch finally had me moving by Sunday afternoon.
     All was well, and with the weather as cold and gloomy as it was, I didn't feel bad about not getting out to ride.  Yesterday I set up the trainer for thirty minutes to see if all parts worked as they should.  A-OK.  Last night, with a lapse of concentration, I managed to ram my quad into the corner of a table....  Another football game to the rescue.  Just a little soreness this morning.
     I'm blaming the Christmas tree for the hip problem, but just in case, I'll drop back to Week Two on the lunges.  There are five weeks until my first race.  I can't let my enthusiasm get me moving beyond my bounds and put me out of commission for multiple days.  I'm having too much fun.