Saturday, February 28, 2015


     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


     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 ( ) 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.