Monday, July 25, 2016


     Another case whereby one should never ASSume.  In retrospect, while the bottom line may have turned out the same, I failed to completely explore all possible scenarios.  This post is about why I have a new HRM (and my third strap).  Chronologically in order:
     On June 23rd I did a thirty-mile loop, and the HRM performed perfectly, as it has for several years, after I had managed to lose my first one (following Garmin suggestion of removing the HRM from the strap so as to save battery power, I think I dropped it in a parking lot.  Anyway, that's another story, but I no longer separate the two unless washing the strap).
     On June 29 I started out on the first 3-gap loop in Georgia and immediately noticed the lack of heart-rate showing on the computer.  I re-wet the connections but nothing happened.  Not to worry, I always take it easy on the first ride in the mountains.  Ride finished and body showered, I calmly sat down with a glass of red to contemplate what to do next.  More fiddling with the computer and strap netted zero changes.  I still had cadence, distance, grades, etc. so my focus was on the HRM.  Garmin suggests a maximum of 4.5 years at one hour a day average.  I do at least twice that, so determined that a new battery would fix the deficiency.  The nearest store is down the mountain, a half hour away.  Besides, look at those teeny-tiny Phillips screws on the HRM.  I needed a tool to even consider replacement.  My ever-resourceful wife managed to produce (after going down to Dahlonega the next day) batteries and tool (not a Phillips, but a small eyeglass screwdriver).
     I did the three-gap ride in the opposite direction, showered, and sat down with a glass of red (my daughter-in-law supplied me with four bottles, so just about every sitting down included a glass) to replace the dead battery.  Didn't happen.  Those screws were in so tight, I didn't have the strength to turn that really, really thin screwdriver.  Ever resourceful wife called equally resourceful daughter (who was arriving the next day) to include a pair of pliers (remember, we are in a cabin in the mountains, on holiday).
     July 1, another three gaps without a heart-rate read-out.  But to shorten the story, I got the screws out, installed the new battery, replaced the cover, and put on the strap.  Nothing happened.  No, I put the battery right-side up.  Nothing happened.  I was doing well climbing the gaps, including the obnoxious Hog Pen, and even tackled Brasstown Bald for the first time in five years.  But I had no heart-rate data.
     When I got home, I Googled the problem and saw some suggestions.  But in replacing the HRM cover, I apparently was too enthusiastic in making sure it was water-tight.  Two screws wouldn't budge.  Damn.  Time to call in some experts.
     July 17, after the BSS Sunday ride, I discussed my options with Todd (ride leader).  His experience was they (HRMs) just stop, and suggested a new one.  Well, I was already 80% leaning toward that, so I ordered a new one (I love BSS, but their price was $20 higher than Amazon).
     July 23, with new HRM and "improved" strap in place, I attempted to "pair" the computer.  It didn't "pair."  I pulled up the instructions on-line, just in case I wasn't doing it right.  Nope, it just didn't recognize the HRM.  Pook!  Ding-fu!!  The July 24 ride in the hills done without HR data.
     July 25, today, I took the time-trial bike out to Old Settlers Park.  Since my fit on the road bike raised my saddle over an inch, I raised the tt saddle also and wanted to see how that worked.  On a whim, I took the HRM.  To my surprise, when I switched over to Bike 2, HRM sensor was detected!  I had good data for the whole work-out.  Back home, I switched to Bike 1, and lost HR read-out.
A head-scratcher.  Again I attempted to "pair" the HRM in Bike 1 mode.  Nothing.  Switch to Bike 2, a good read-out.  Switch to Bike 1, nothing.  Switch to Bike 2- read-out.  Switch to Bike 1- read-out.
     I stopped trying to understand computers a long time ago. And I won't dwell on the possibility I didn't need a new HRM.   I'll wait to see what I get tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


     Everyone should do the Hotter'N Hell Hundred at least once.  I did it ten years in a row about twenty years ago, and last year, just to see if things changed.  Here are the things you should consider:
     1.  Within 50 miles of Wichita Falls, motels fill up rapidly, many in town have a two night minimum and are expensive.
     2.  When driving to WF, within 50 miles, do not exceed the speed limit on Friday.
     3.  Enjoy the Expo Friday afternoon and evening.
     4.  Get to the start line as soon as you can, like an hour before the start if possible.  Don't be shy about being in the front, you want to get in a decent paceline asap.
     5.  Be prepared to dodge folks who should have started at the back because they lack cycling skills, for the first five (ten) miles.
     6.  Find a (pace) paceline that you are comfortable with, slightly less than a club ride.  Because you will be passing others you can drop off if you get tired, or if being passed, hop on if that one suits you better.  You should be behind someone for at least 60 miles, 40 on a bad day.
     7.  Be prepared to make the 40 mile rest stop your first one, 50 if you can.  Only take two water bottles.  After the first stop, stop at each of the others.  Don't exceed 5 minutes per stop until at least 80 miles.  You should (must) consume a bottle of liquid (electrolytes), minimum, between stops (after your first one).
     8.  In a paceline, or later an individual, do not stay behind a person who yo-yo's their cadence, braking then speeding up.  That is a fast way to tire your muscles.  Pick a base-cadence, but occasionally increase or decrease for a short period to give yourself a break.
     9.  Wear sunblock.  The rest stops have some, feel free to re-apply.
     10. If, for any reason, 100 miles becomes too much of a reach, make the decision at Hell's Gate to shorten the ride.  The other option is to SAG in.  The HHH is well-supported and their goal is to get you safely in.  Don't make it harder on them by getting heat stroke.
     11. Have fun.
This list may have additions later on.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


   ....Not the century.  You can read about that in my September 3, 2011 blog.  Every year since 2005 we've been coming to the North Georgia Mountains on vacation.  I bring my bike and ride the gaps, three at a time.  Every year in July I post a blog about it.  Mostly, not much changes.  This year, there were some minor changes, plus I didn't get rained out on my rides.
     I was looking forward to this year, in that with my new bike fit allowing more muscles to turn the pedals, I hoped to make a better ascent of Hogpen Gap and maybe tackle Brasstown Bald.  Last year I didn't have the oomph for Hogpen, and it has been at least three years since I tried the beast of Brasstown.
     My first ride is always Woody Gap, Neels Gap, Wolfpen Gap.  This thirty-five mile loop eases me into mountain cycling, in that Woody (from Suches) is a short (two miles), gentle climb (6-8% grade) and the transition to Neels is rolling.  Traditionally, it takes me two hours, forty-five minutes.  I started my Garmin and rolled out from the cabin.  In the past I'd wait until leaving the premises before beginning to time the ride.  As I glanced down, I noticed the HRM was not giving me a reading.  Mentally I checked that the strap was in place (yes, it has been forgotten in the past) and when I got to the road I stopped and re-wet it.  Still no read-out.  This was poor timing for the battery to go out.  As it turns out, even replacing the battery didn't get it going, and I'm finding blogs advising what to do, but now I have other issues with it.  That's another story, but suffice to say none of my rides have heart-rate information.
     The ride itself was uneventful.  The five-mile descent down Woody is always fun and I had no traffic.  There was a slight wind in my face, so to maintain the mid-twenties speed, I did some easy pedaling.  The transition to Turner's Corner felt good.  After a short stop to ingest a Clif Bar, I began the eight miles (which historically, and incorrectly, have reported as nine) to the top.  I recorded mostly 7-8% with a few short 10% ramps, with about a mile of flat-downhill about the half-way spot, and arrived at the top feeling good.  Another short stop for a nature break, then it was off down the mountain.
     This is a four-lane highway that is very lightly traveled.  Generally, if I start without a vehicle in front of me and get a few seconds headstart on any behind me, since my speed is close to the speed limit (35 mph), I can use both lanes of traffic to carve the curves.  I'm constantly monitoring my rear view mirrors to be sure of not impeding any cars, but mostly I have the road to myself.  All too soon the left turn onto route 180 and Wolfpen Gap comes up.
     Wolfpen is a three-mile climb, with a lot of cambered, tight turns.  It is a favorite of motorcycles and there are always guys enjoying it.  It is also my favorite, although five out of the six gaps can be catagorized as favorites (I'm unenamoured with Jack's Gap), for different reasons.  Once at the top, there is a two mile exhilerating descent, some standard descent, and then rolling back to the cabin.
This year, I did this loop, in one direction or the other, four times.
     My other loop starts at the top of Jack's Gap (driving to that point), and is a boring five-mile descent and right turn up to Unicoi Gap.  This is another easy ascent of about two and a half miles at 5-8%, followed by a great downhill.  Again, four lanes most of the time, with sweeping curves that mostly can be taken at speed.  I noticed some cracks developing in strategic places on the curves, which had me slowing slightly.  You get a couple of fast miles, then more moderate.  Soon enough another right turn puts you on the transition to Hogpen.  Don't get the wrong idea, this transition has 8% grades.
     One more right turn puts you on the Russell Scenic Highway.  It is not scenic.  Rather, it is shaded.  There are trees on both sides.  The asphalt is newish and smooth.  It is a long climb, with a nice downhill in the middle.  But my Garmin showed a lot of 10-12% grades.  The killer comes after a long 12% that turns a curve and presents you with 16% (according to my Garmin, which may not be accurate at this point since it showed 20%).  It doesn't matter, the climb is tough.  Through the sweating and panting, I smiled.  I was going up and although working hard, not struggling.  The downhill had me wishing for the road I'd just come up.  Rough as a cob.  Scary long straights, allowing speeds in excess of 50mph, if you are so inclined.  I kept mine around 39mph this year (I see that previously I'd gone up to 47).  More rolling transition gets you back to route 180, a left turn, ride a mile, another left turn, ride two miles, turn right and go up Wolfpen.  Mileage came in at forty-five, climbing 5462 feet.
     One other route I do is the Skeenah Gap ride.  This is fifty-one miles, and has as much altitude (4782) as the shorter ones.  Where the three gap starting with Woody (going south) is counter-clockwise, Skeenah is clockwise, thus starts with going down the north side of Woody.  It is another great descent.  Super weather, mostly by myself without vehicles, until I got to a couple miles of moderate traffic.  Last year, I had to stop after thirty-eight miles and call for a ride home, I was so pooped.  This year I just carried on, topping Wolfpen once again.
     I rested the next day in preparation for Brasstown Bald.  Originally I thought I had a three year hiatus from climbing Brasstown, but in going through my records I find my last climb to have been in 2011.  Also, I didn't set a new record on the decent, but tied my best time of 4:55.  You can read about it in my July 2011 post, with pictures.  Anyhow, I was pleased as punch to once again be able to make the ascent.  For those not reading the 2011 account, the climb starts off at 12%, goes to 16%, drops to 12%, then a short break in the 6-8% range.  You get another 16%, maybe 18%, followed immediately by the 24% wall.  After that, the 16% and 12% ramps don't seem so bad, and the single digits downright flat.
     This year's foray into Georgia was a cycling success, with 260 miles and 29,841feet of climbing.