Monday, May 22, 2017


     There are several cycling forays which stand out in my cycling history, although I've had many outstanding adventures.  Cycling coast to coast in fifty-two days was endurance; Land's End to John O'Groats likewise; The Blue Ridge Parkway easily the most difficult.  But the two tours with Marty and Jill Jemison are the most memorable.
     In conjunction with Le Tour de France, my first adventure was a week in 2006 riding in the Pyrenees.  You can read about it in Bicycling Journeys with Jerry.  Among other highlights on this trip was about a half an hour talking with Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett. Marty specializes in good food and wine and getting us in with the riders before or after the race, along with cycling the cols.  In 2008 we did the Alps, details of which are in Gotta Go!  Cycling Vacations in Fantastic Locations.
     But what is special about the Jemison's is that they actually form friendships with all of their clients and you are treated as special guests on and after their tours.  I'm sure Marty doesn't remember the advice he gave me about time trials in 2008.  But I do, took it to heart, and have been following his formula ever since.  And that brings me to what prompted me to write this post nine years after the last time we saw each other.
First the background.  Our ride that day was to ascend Col d'Agnel, the highest border crossing in Europe.  Once at the top, we would dismount and watch Le Tour riders go by, joining the vast crowd of screaming cyclophiles.  We were running late, I had only my wind jacket and no time to go back to get anything warmer.  Half way up the climb it began to get chilly.  Then wet.  Then downright cold.  Then, the gendarmes made us dismount, about a mile from the top.  We circumvented that, and made it to the tavern at the top.  I was shivering uncontrollably.  Jill gave me her jacket, Marty rounded up hot chocolate for the group.  The tavern had a big screen tv, and I opted not to go out to cheer on the suffering riders as they passed.  Once gone, everybody started to descend the mountain.  We waited for a break in the rain/sleet, then made a break for it.  The plan was for me and Marty to go first, Jill and some others to follow.  Seconds after we started, we hit more rain/sleet.  I gave up my lead to Marty.  He kept looking back to make sure I was with him, and each time I was he let it out a little more.  We were really moving, passing cars, getting soaked.  Halfway down the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it was noticibly warmer.  On with the prompt.
     The socks I was wearing (Jemison socks) were filthy.  It took at least five years of washing before the grime came out.  This year I emailed Marty to recount the adventure, and that the socks finally had worn out.   On Saturday, the day I won my time trial, these arrived in the mail.
     If you have ever thought about cycling in Europe, go with the best, Jemison Cycling.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


     Even as late as yesterday I opined that time trials are boring.  They lack the excitement of an attack up a mountain or the final acceleration in a criterium (I'm thinking of you, CD4).  But that doesn't mean the cyclist is on auto-pilot for the duration.  Let me re-run yesterday, inside my head.
     Actually, let's start with the equipment.  My Felt B2 with Zipp 404 and 808 wheels and Dura Ace components is quite quick no matter who is astride.  I run 95 and 90 pounds of pressure in the tires.  At least that is the pressure an hour before the race.  I switched to latex tubes two years ago and they leak air much faster than butyl.  My wife gifted me with an aero helmet several years ago, and there was a study indicating they make quite a difference.  I have a skin suit and shoe covers.  Truthfully, I doubt the shoe covers help much, but at least I look like a racer.
     Time trials are all about shaving a second here and there.  Yesterday I was pretty sure I was the fastest in my category, 75+ men.  Given my left knee problem, I opted to give up a few seconds by not using the start ramp and holder.  I didn't want to chance it buckling at the start.  I'm very comfortable in the tuck position on my bike, and my knee works fine while seated.  So rather than sprint seven or eight revolutions to accelerate at the start, I quickly sat down and brought it up to speed with higher rpm's.  Maybe two or three seconds deficit for the start.
     Breathing.  Even though I haven't seen a 160 bpm this year, I use that as my maximum heart rate, and 90% is 144 bpm.  When I'm in good form, I try to stay between 90 and 94%.  I can hold that for quite some time.  So I am constantly monitoring my body with both my brain and the computer.  At the same time, I'm looking at speed and cadence.  Yesterday the outbound 10k was with the breeze at my back, and I took advantage by pushing a larger gear and slower cadence (82 rather than 88), for the most part.  Each undulation in the road brought a gear change.  This is where seconds are won.  A slight incline brought a lower gear and higher cadence, with the opposite for a decline.
     The return 10k was against the breeze and slightly uphill.  I had not trained for anything more than 10k, so doing 20 put some stress on the body.  I kept changing gears, making sure the speed increased or stayed the same, depending on the cadence, but this time it was a gear smaller.  Also, I took a few (two) breaks to hydrate and breathe.  Coming out of the tuck costs a few seconds, so these breaks lasted maybe five seconds each.  There is one 3% grade of maybe two-tenths of a mile.  Here I geared down and sat up and got ready for the last big push.  Relatively refreshed, I resumed my tuck and higher gear.  With the finish line in sight I wound it up and finished strong, pushing the heart-rate to 153.
     Early in my racing I lost concentration and stayed in a comfortable gear (rather than going higher and getting some more speed) for maybe thirty seconds.  I came in second by three seconds.  Maximum effort for the whole race is the goal no matter the placing.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


     Let's start by being thankful.  Thankful to Ino for adding the 75+ category to the men's race.  Otherwise this would be a short entry with a so-so result.  Thankful that it didn't rain, although the air itself was wet enough.  I'd forgotten how humid this could be.  Back-door thankful for all those 75+ guys who are faster than me but for whatever reason didn't come to race.  Time trials themselves are usually boring: you start, pedal as fast/hard as you can, you finish.  I'll do what I can to fill in my background on this race.
     It starts with last year's race and me coming in last.  Placement aside, my cycling was the pits.  Something had to change (see previous posts, that's not new).  I've been much more consistent in riding on the trainer and in doing my hill-route.  The legs are gaining strength and the cardio system can keep up with the task.  But let's face it, at my age it is difficult to do "additional" exercise, so something had to go.  My long rides (65 miles) are in the closet.  Maybe after Nationals.  The legs aren't quite there yet, but I felt good on my 10k practice last week.  Unfortunately, the race today was 20k, so I have a 'ways to go.
     In previous years, I've gone down on Friday, did packet pick-up then stayed overnight, once in Brenham, and twice in Hempstead.  I realized this is only a two hour drive, so this year I slept in my own bed and drove down on Saturday morning.  Some might argue it was Friday night, in that I was awake at 2:45am and left the garage at 3:55am.  At approximately 3:50am it started to rain, with multiple lightning strikes.  Bummer.  I thought I was out of the storm when I went south to Parmer Lane, but no.  It wasn't until McDade that I could turn off the windshield wipers and relax a bit.  Who would have thought so many people would be out so early?  For awhile there I thought my right leg would cramp.
     The rest of the ride proved uneventful, other than my favorite potty stops weren't open.  Not to worry, Hwy 290 has a plethora of nice places.  I pulled into the Hempstead Middle School parking lot at 6:04am and found a prime parking spot right where packet pick-up would be.  Hmmm!  They aren't here yet.  Strange.  Hmmm!  They only have one porta potty.
     I set up my trainer under an awning, in that I fully expected the rain to catch up with me.  Aired up the tires on my Felt and perfomed routine pre-race activities, including lining up for the porta potty.  The lady in front of me received a call from her husband indicating packet pick-up would be behind the library.  "That's over by the start line."  Pook, ding-fu!  I did my thing, walked to the car, drove the one block and returned.  Still on schedule.  I sprayed the number with adhesive and slapped it on.
     In my past twelve years of racing I've only warmed up on the trainer twice, both with poor results.  But recently I found a formula that seems to get me ready without wearing me out. I'm not fond of sweaty, drippy jerseys, so warmed up with the jersey part of the skin suit off, replaced by a t-shirt.  Twenty minutes later the shirt was wringing wet and I had consumed a full bottle of water.   I know hydration is a key component.  Experience with Houston weather has shown I usually consume twice as much water as you would in Austin.  Time to go to the start line.  I drink a bottle of Pickle Juice and another half bottle of water.
     At the start line I double-checked with the timer and find I have fourteen minutes before the start.  They have a couple of porta potties nearby, so make one last stop.  Time to review my strategy.  Traditionally, on this out-and-back south-to-north course, there is a tailwind on the second half.  Today, the wind is out of the north.  Not much of a wind, let's call it a gentle breeze.  My main competitors are Dean and Fred.  I was faster than Dean in College Station a few months ago.  Fred is ten years my senior and is on his regular bike.  He can still beat me in a road race, but I've got him in the time trials.
     I have a left knee problem that bothers me mainly at one position in a standing stroke.  Taking no chances, I eschew the start-ramp and the courtesy hold, leaving instead with just a push-off and clip in.  I'm back in the saddle after two strokes, and start shifting down (down, as in down the cog from the bigger cogs to the smaller ones).  I learned in College Station that if you start in the small chain ring and the derailleur doesn't move when you pull the lever, you lose time.  Once I had settled into a comfortable pace I looked at the computer and saw 24mph.  Another cog and now I was up at 28.  I haven't seen those numbers in years.  I had to take advantage now, knowing the return would be much slower.
     If anyone asks, I'd characterize this course as flat.  But, of course, it really isn't.  It is a series of 1-2% rollers, with a little flat thrown in.  Slightly down on the way out, slightly up on the way back.  Needless to say, I had my fastest 10k ever.  Unfortunately, that was only half way.  Fred had started 30 seconds ahead of me and I passed him somewhere around the 5k mark.  But after that he apparently kept up, in that he was only about 10 seconds behind at the turn-around.  Dean started 30 seconds behind and it looked like 50 seconds or so when I saw him coming to the turn-around.  That put me in a better frame of mind, and I concentrated on keeping cadence (I don't use a power meter).  Not counting the starting quarter mile, I don't think I used more than three gears.  But I found myself constantly shifting to gain a few tenths, or in the out-bound course, whole miles per hour.  My heart-rate graph is almost flat, only a few beats either side of 146, until the final 30 seconds when I pushed it up to 153.  My max HR used to be 165 but I haven't seen that in years.  This year the highest I've seen is 155.
     All in all, a good day on the bike, with an average speed of 22mph.  I relaxed too much between miles 9 and 11. I think I can still push one bigger gear.  Nationals is two weeks away and has a much different course.  Stay tuned.