Tuesday, November 27, 2018


     This is not a bicycling post, unless you spin it that I'm working on decorating my tree rather than riding the bike.  But I want to explain my tree since it is more than just putting on ornaments.
     For instance, a large section of ornaments is dedicated to our travels.   We pick up one for each trip.  When we did the Christmas Rhine tour we came home with multiples.  Speaking of Germany, we also have a Bride's Tree Collection.  According to an old German tradition, the tree of a newlywed couple should include these twelve ornaments to insure blessing and happiness for their life together.  In addition, they are small and perfect for the top area.

      Each of our kids, spouses, grandchildren and great grand kids have an ornament with their name on it, as do Marilane and I.   They are arranged on the tree loosely like a family tree, and is now rivaling the travel section in terms of space.  Styles change over the fifty years we've been doing this, so, just like the kids themselves, the ornaments are different.

     For our first Christmas as a couple, we bought three dozen balls, twelve each red, blue, and green.  Over the years, spending too many summers in the attic (which we no longer do), the red and blue faded a bit but the green turned a sickly yellow.  But they still decorate the tree.  Lately I've taken to grouping them in threes on the bottom of the tree.  Also on that first Christmas together, our college friends Tommy and Karen fashioned an ornament out of string for us.  It has graced our tree each year.

     We went through a period where Marilane would purchase a Waterford ornament each year after Christmas when they went on sale.  Including the Waterford we picked up on our Ireland trip, we have twenty-two.  After the top section, these are placed first.  This year I've whimsically placed together those bells which actually tinkle.
     Also we have a Judy Peterson collection.  Judy taught with Marilane and was a good friend.  She did multiple trees, one of which was a Victorian tree.  Judy died of cancer and three of her ornaments were given to Marilane as a remembrance.  She also was a baseball fanatic and loved going to the Round Rock Express and trying to explain the game to Marilane.  She gave us a baseball ornament one year.

     I start decorating at the top.  Back when we were doing twelve foot or more trees I had to crowd into the branches with the ladder in order to reach it.  So the first ornament is the angel.  We have the tree topper plus two other capiz angels, a cross, and a star.  The angels are arranged in a spiral toward the top.  Of course, with only two that takes a leap of faith.  The cross also lands a prominent position mainly because with it's size, any place becomes prominent.  Of course, the number one ornament is Madonna and Child.  This is always at eye level so anyone approaching the tree will see it first.
     My sister sends me quilted balls each year.  Or, more precisely, she quilts the fabric then fits it to styrofoam balls.  That worked for the real trees, but when we went to artificial they were too heavy for the branches unless I hid them toward the trunk.  I'm working on a DIY fix, but until then, they are displayed by themselves. As of this writing there are thirteen.
     I have a spread sheet with all of the ornaments listed, description, and when we got them, either purchase or gift and from whom.  I'm showing 319 ornaments, including a few minuses when they broke.  Every gifted ornament is on the tree.  I especially like the hand-made ones our granddaughter made a few years back.  When the kids were little they had a Fisher-Price barn.  In 2008 Marilane came across an ornament, complete with the cow noise when you open the door.  A friend gave me a John Deere Tractor ornament the year we got a real one to mow the grass.
     Our tree is more than a decoration.  It is filled with memories that are renewed each year.

Monday, October 8, 2018


     I almost don't want to post this.  I blame it on old age, a lack of mental acuity.  Usually I blame oxygen debt for such lapses, but I can't in good conscience for this boner.  But first, a short history.  Early last year I employed a coach.  That entailed purchasing a power meter and logging my training on Training Peaks.  This was a successful venture in that my speed and endurance improved and I learned what I needed to do to keep that form.  Recently I parted ways with the coach, partly due to economics and partly because I planned to do less structured cycling for the next six months.  This meant I would be doing my own fitness monitoring.  Ugh!  I'll need mentoring on what all that data means.  Generally, I pay no attention to the power data and lots of attention to my heart rate.  Us old guys really can't afford to push it too hard for too long.  And so we begin my story.
     Last week I took my first three hour ride in a year.  Actually, three hours and ten minutes.  It was a good workout, uneventful, and I was properly sweaty at the end.  Normally, there are only three or four cars in the parking lot at Old Settlers Park Pavilion.  Today every space was filled with Spectrum trucks.  Apparently they were there for lunch and a meeting of some sort.  Anyhow, I was thrown a bit off my finish routine and tossed bike and gear into the car and came home.  The next day I couldn't find my HR strap.  But I was in a hurry to ride so left after a cursory search.  I even went back to the park to see if it were on the ground or if someone might have seen it and put it on the fence or table.  Nothing.
     When I got back home, I thoroughly searched the car and house, dirty clothes basket, anyplace I could have dropped it.  Nothing.  Another ride without the HR data..  More searching, this time in places it couldn't possibly have been.  Nothing.  I like having HR data.  So I hit up Amazon and had it delivered on Sunday, yesterday.
     Pairing the HR transmitter is easy.  I sat down at the table this morning and turned on the Garmin 520, settings>sensors> add sensor.  Piece of cake.  The Garmin was showing connected, so I put it on to make sure I was getting the heart rate.  Nothing.  I wet the sensors and still no reading.  I double checked that the computer was reading the HR monitor.  A glimmer of light went off in my head.  I went outside and walked a few houses down the street.  I had the HR on but now got zero connection.  Pook!  Ding-fu!!
     Back at the house, I went through the pairing sequence again.  This time I paired All Sensors.  A different one came up.  I clicked on it, then went back to the ride screen.  Sure enough, a big 74 showed up on the screen.  Sigh!  No problem, Amazon has a good return policy.  Oops!  When everything seemed to be in order, I'd walked out the trash can, on the street for pick-up, and tossed everything.  And the trash truck had just come by about five minutes prior.
     I backed the car out of the garage and turned on the garage lights.  Time to go over everything.  Not inside the shoes, not inside the car, not inside the Camelbak.  Ah!  Somehow, in my rush to leave the parking lot the other day, the HR strap came attached to the Camelbak, disguising itself as part of the pack itself.  Even though I'd picked it up out of the car and hung it up on a hook, it just appeared like one of the many straps the Camelbak has.  Now I have two HR transmitters and straps. If anyone needs a replacement, let me know.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


     Today's bike ride takes a lot of background explanation, most of it superfluous to the minor situation at the end, but I'll draw it out as long as possible because it's been awhile since my last post.
     This morning's agenda had us going down to 34th street.  Marilane had a long appointment.  Plan A was for me to take the opportunity to ride Shoal Creek.  I returned from our jaunt to Prague, Budapest, and Evesham (England) with a sore left knee that would not recuperate.  I did some cadence at the Driveway Thursday and it was still tender.  So I wasn't all that enthused about putting it to the test.  This morning's deluge sorta sealed the deal, not riding.
     But once there, driving into the parking lot, I opined that maybe I would.  Then I realized I was wearing Levi's.  The bike was still in the car from cycling at the Driveway  but the prospect of riding in jeans just didn't appeal to me.  Then an Aha! moment.  I always have an emergency bag in the car.  Tires, tubes, helmet, tights, wind jacket, lots of stuff including shorts and jersey.  Ok, then, I'll ride. 
     I changed clothes and was ready.  Pook, ding-fu!  I used the emergency water bottle at the Driveway and hadn't replaced it.  No problem, I have 8 ounce Ozarka's in my cup holders and can put one in the jersey pocket. 
     Turned off of West on to 34th and immediately came upon two police cars, lights on, and a person up against a wall.  Oops!  I went around behind Randall's and found that the parking lot didn't have an access to the street, so had to continue back up 35th to get out and come back to Shoal Creek.  It's not like it was a long way, just an aggravation.  No problem getting across to the turn lane and the light was green.
     I cruised on up and did 3 loops of Great Northern.  BTW, none of this is on Strava because when I decided I wasn't riding, I left the computer home.  The weather was great,with a nice cool breeze.  I'd stop on White Rock and watch Shoal Creek flow by as I rationed out the water.  Since I wasn't riding hard, my minimal fluid intake wasn't a hindrance.
      I can't blame it on oxygen debt so it must be old age.  I knew it rained this morning, I just watched Shoal Creek.  But as I approached 38th street I had this brilliant idea to bypass the light and take the hike and bike path underneath and just toodle on down to 34th street and give Randall's parking lot a salute as I went.  Karma!  It was bright out and I had on my Oakleys.  As soon as I made the turns and hit the underpass the realization hit me.  Hard.  It wasn't just wet, it was mud.  And it wasn't just some mud, it was CX worthy.  Too late to stop, I just held the handlebars straight and kept a steady pace as the mud flew up the back of my jersey.  I glimpsed one patch at least 4 inches deep.  We're only talking ten seconds or so before I squished out the other side.  Only to be met by a cyclist who asked me if I were going to "try" it. He was really hoping I would. I had forgotten the sharp turn and low water crossing.  Except it was more like raging than meandering.  Nope.  Turn around, don't drown. 
     I followed him up 38th and down Medical Pkwy to return to my starting point. Speaking of points, the whole point of this post is preparedness.  If you don't keep spare bike stuff in your car, you should start.  These are servicable items, but ones I'd happily part with to someone who needed them.  As a matter of fact, the shorts I wore went into the trash when I got home rather than the washing machine.  They're at least fifteen years old and it was time to go.  I have another that will take its place.  The other part of preparedness is awareness.  Keep you head in the game.  My failure will result in a premature washing of my bike.  As Professor Moody would say: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!! 

Monday, June 25, 2018


     Every year we come to Suches, Georgia and I ride the gaps.  This was a  bonus year, in that rather than drive home after racing in Augusta, we just booked an extra week at High Valley Resort.  Every year I start off my mountain riding by doing Woody Gap, Neel's Gap and Wolf Pen Gap on the first day and the same three in the opposite direction on the second day.  This year was different, in that I only had room for my racing bike and time trial bike.  I left the bike with the triple chain ring at home.  I was anxious to see if I could actually get up the mountains with only a double.  True, it had a compact crank, so I was only down two or three gears.
     As it turned out, I did have to use all of the gears and my cadence was slower, but overall time was exactly the same as the previous ten years.  I felt relief that I could get some good cycling in.  Another bonus, new asphalt for the five mile descent of Woody Gap.  Of course, the real test is doing Brasston Bald.  I test myself by climbing Hog Pen Gap.  If I can get up that, I try for Brasstown.
     With two days rest, Marilane drove me out to the top of Jack's Gap to begin my ride.  This consists of a descent of Jack's, up and down Unicoi Gap, transition over to Hog Pen, up Hog Pen, down, over to Wolf Pen and back to the cabins.
     I'm not a fan of Jack's Gap.  The descent going east is five miles long, but only the first mile and a half or so is fun, the rest is a meandering downhill.  As I started off, a line of motorcycles came by.  They were doing the speed limit or a little less and I fell in line behind the last one for a quarter mile or so.  I don't think he liked that and sped up a bit.  Shortly after the grade lessened and my speed slowed.  Soon enough the road ended and I turned to ascend Unicoi.
     Unicoi is the least steep of the six gaps and has the best descent of them all.  But today I struggled up Unicoi with the unpleasant realization of using all the gears.  Hog Pen was going to eat my lunch.  But first, the really great downhill.  It is nine miles in total, but the first four or so are steep, with sweeping curves you take at speed.  There was no traffic behind me for this part, maybe because I was doing the speed limit.  The rest of the way was also pleasant and I arrived at the turn exactly as planned.
     The transistion is lumpy, but once again I was dismayed in having to use all the gears.  Then came the turn onto the Russell Scenic Byway.  After climbing for a mile, 4 or 5% grade, you see written on the road "Start 10k KOM."  Dang!  The average gradient of Hog Pen is 7% with at least one ramp at 15% (my computer said 16).  I was in my last gear much more than usual, and working much harder.  I rounded a curve and saw the incline.  Nope.  Off the bike, let the heart rate subside, then start walking.  Once the HR dropped twenty beats I remounted and continued the slow slog up to the overlook and stopped for a Clif Bar and water.  But I still had three-plus miles to the top.  Two more steep ramps had me walking.  Eventually I got to the top and a short rest, during which time I texted Marilane to meet me at a grocery store before Wolf Pen Gap.  I was gassed.
     The climb up Hog Pen is devoid of scenic views.  But at the top, there is one spectacular one.  Also new this year is smooth asphalt on a really fast, non-technical descent.  With smooth asphalt and a new racing bike, I wondered how fast I would go.  I chickened out at 47.2 mph and braked slightly.  Again, no traffic.  The rest of the descent was rolling, but enjoyable.  Once at the bottom, it was turn left, do a short climb and a long downhill, another left for a mile or so, and the grocery store where I waited a short time for Marilane.
     After a day of recollection, I have replaced my despondency of failure to ascend with something a little more positive.  I'm thinking it wasn't, necessarily, the gradients, but that I was just having a bad day.  I base this on the Unicoi climb.  In the past I'd have two or three gears left on this climb, and have always been able to accelerate the last quarter mile up.  Plus, the other two days were not strenuous.  So, I'll do some more climbing on Woody and Wolf Pen, then take on Hog Pen again.  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 22, 2018


First, some background.  Last year at the Senior Games Nationals in Birmingham, I came in second to Durward Higgins in the 10k time trial.  In later conversations, I found he had competed in the USAC Nationals in Augusta the week before.  Once I returned home, I looked up the results of those races.  Well, he was far and away faster than the rest of the field, but second place times were in my ball park, so to speak.  I also discovered that USAC had five-year age groups, something I didn’t think they did.  I had already determined I needed a coach to get better, so the goal was to get fast enough to be competitive for second place at this year’s nationals.
            Second, the lead-up.  I signed up early, then kept an eye out for who else was in my age group.  My first clue that things might not go as planned was that none (NONE) of the guys who raced last year signed up for this year, except Durward.  One new name popped up, Phil Needham.  I knew the name, but had never met him.  Well, I knew the name because he is a five-year national Senior Games Champion.  Ok, now I’m racing for third. My friend Carolyn, who was National Champion last year, described the course as lumpy.  Gee, did those guys who aren’t repeating doing so because the course is too hilly?  Hmmm!
            The pre-race instructions indicated the course would be open for pre-riding after 5pm on Wednesday (race was Thursday).  We arrived Wednesday afternoon, checked in and picked up my number, then checked into the hotel.  Around 6pm I drove over to Fort Gordon and prepared to preview the course.   Apparently the para-racers ran late, because it was after 7pm before it was open.  I had given up by then.  My friend Clif told me it was quite hilly, with one really long, steep one.  Great. 
            The first race was the time trial, 20k in length.  I warmed up using the available road, which happened to be the finish of Friday’s road race, so at least I got to preview that. Generally speaking, I do better in the longer time trials.  Both Durward and Phil started behind me.  I started strong but controlled.  The hills were challenging but I felt confident as I shifted up and down the cogs.  I passed my one minute man and had a second one in my sights.  We made the right turn on to McDuffie Road and into a head wind plus a wash-board road.  Perhaps wash-board is too strong a description, but it certainly wasn’t smooth.  I passed number three and number four.  Soon enough, I got to the turn-around and with the wind behind me, was able to increase speed and not bounce quite so much.  I made the left turn and now had the wind from the left.  About this time Durward blew past me.  I knew it would happen, so wasn’t discouraged.  The downer came in the form of two really steep, long hills.  I was in the 44-26 and struggling, both in strength and heart-rate.  My max HR is 164 and for most of this race I was above 156.  These hills got me up to 162.  The Garmin showed 6.9 mph just before the crest.  I managed to ramp up some rpm’s at the end and was rewarded with hearing the announcer say I was in third place.  As it turned out, I came in fourth, which was still a spot on the five-person podium.  I wasn’t close to Durward, but then, no one else was either.

            Friday was the 28 mile road race, two laps.  Our race started at 8:05 and I was warmed up and ready, although the legs weren’t up to the task.  This race was 70+ ages, so although we would be scored according to our 5-year grouping, we’d all race together.  That meant all I had to do was hang on to the back of the young guys.  We started off flat, made a right turn and came to a downhill followed by a really long, steep uphill.  I’d worked my way up to the first third of the group and was happy with my positioning.  Then my bike began to shake.  Various thoughts flashed through my mind: did I not tighten the front axel?, Did I have a flat?  This was an unknown experience.  Dang!  I slowed and raised my hand and came to a stop.  Nope, no flat, tires were good.  Neutral support guy came up and gave a quick check and we both agreed nothing was wrong with the bike.  Up I got and started pedaling.  No way could I catch on to the peloton.  I didn’t expend myself up the hill, but ramped it up after.  As it was, I passed four riders, who had been dropped.  This was another really hilly course and since I had no chance of podium, I considered the next course of action.
            We will now call this a strategic DNF.  My legs still felt the effects of the time trial and I’d be doing the second lap again by myself.  So, I pulled the plug, ran my hand across my throat at the finish line, and called it a day.  I had some regrets but will address those later.
            We had most of Friday and all day Saturday to rest and do a bit of touring in Augusta.  Sunday noon would be the criterium.  About ten years ago I entered two crits and was unceremoniously pulled in less than ten minutes.  To be fair, I was with younger, faster guys, but it still bruised the ego.  I hadn’t considered crits since.  Until now.
            Once again, it would be 70+ so all I needed to do was latch onto a wheel and hang on.  With crits they do call-ups, so me being a nobody, I was in the last group at the start line.  I quickly found out that as inexperienced as I was in this genre, there were guys who were less so.  You don’t brake in the corners, you hold your line.  I did well the first lap (.8 of a mile), and actually moved into a good position about a third back on the second lap.  The peloton slowed on the left-right-left corners for some reason.  Anyhow, I hung with the guys until they got serious on the seventh lap and put the hammer down on one of the corners.  Five yards, ten yards, and then they didn’t slow down at the corner and I waved goodbye.
            My coach, Owen, was at the start/finish line calling out encouragement and letting me know how I was doing.  Once I lost the peloton I could carve through the corners keeping my cadence and actually put time into those behind me.  With seven laps to go Owen advised I was in third place and something like thirty-three seconds up on forth.  I continued on and for one lap lost ten seconds.  I got lapped by the peloton, but that was a good thing.  For one, I latched on to the back for about three hundred yards so that upped my speed.  For another, that meant I had one lap less to race since the race ended on the lap of the peloton.  However, number four apparently also latched on to them for a while, because Owen advised I only had a six second lead with two laps to go.  I wasn’t worried, much.  No,  really.  Whoever was behind had to expend a lot of energy catching up while I was holding a little something in reserve.  My lap times and speed were very consistent.  If you go to my Strava page, the analysis shows just when I got dropped and how much less power I had to use.  Of course, that was why I got dropped in the first place.
            Enter Fred.  Fred Schmidt is 86 and can still beat me in a road race.  He caught up to me and I pulled him for half a lap, then he pulled me.  As we approached the finish he accelerated.  I considered just following him in but then figured this was a learning opportunity to see how much I could do at the end of a race.  I upped the cadence to 132 and pipped him at the line.  Mixed emotions on that, feeling bad about beating him, but glad that I could.  It didn’t matter about placement, in that he was first in his age group, and I held on to third. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018


     Actually, it is more like a correction than a contradiction.  Recently I wrote that anytime you are cycling you are having fun.  That isn't necessarily true.  My friend Byran has a defintion:  Anytime you come back from a ride and nothing is broken, then you had fun.  But I've had several rides that fit that definition and definitely were not fun.
     2011 was THE year.  The one where I came off the tracks, so to speak.  The one that sticks in my mind the most is the no-longer Walburg ride.  It used to be a well-attended kick-off to the road racing season and folks would race Walburg on Saturday and Pace Bend on Sunday.  That sounded good to me, so I sorta trained up for it (did some mileage) and entered.  Several things were against me.  The age group was 60+ and I was 68.  See previous post about age categories.  The course was two twenty-four mile loops.  Well, I could ride forty-eight miles but racing them was another story.
     In any case, I got behind in the neutral ride up to the rolling start line and the guys in the front lit it up, accelerating before the line and going full gas from the get-go.  Down the hill, turn right, turn right, go uphill.  I was behind some guys who let a gap form on the uphill and I never could catch back on.  I'm sure three of us carried on for awhile, but my recollection of this ride is that I did a lap and a half by myself.  About five miles from the end I was told I was the last rider and would I like to just sag in.  I knew there were two or three behind me, so I said no.  Besides, I was fuming at the organizers for having us old guys do long mileage.  It may have been misplaced anger.  Oh, the the guys behind me actually dropped out on the first lap, so I was indeed last coming in at two hours thirty-seven minutes.  So, yes, this ride was not fun.
     To top it off, I had foolishly signed up for Pace Bend.  I showed up Sunday and prepared to race.  The start line was about twenty yards ahead of where I thought it was, so once again I found myself in the back.  Then I misplaced my foot and wasted two seconds getting clipped in.  Again, the young guys jumped off the front.  I chased for about a mile up and down the hills.  At the end of the first lap, I gave the hand-to-throat signal to the timer and called it a day.  Another day of non-fun on the bike.
     But stupidity didn't stop there.  Perhaps I should call it experimenting rather than stupidity.  The following week I was in Mineral Wells for a time trial, road race, and criterium.  I did two criteriums before giving up on them.  Once again, the age group was 60+.  Once again I managed to get behind a rider who couldn't hold a wheel.  I wasn't all that far behind, but got pulled after two miles.  That wasn't fun.
     Later, same year, my friend Tom enticed me to enter the Tour of Austin, another crit.  I managed a fourth place finish but again was stewing.  As opposed to Mineral Wells, this was a little more laid back, to the extent that the third place guy had a "mechanical" with two laps to go and was allowed to sit out a lap and jump back on.  He was behind me when he stopped and ahead when he started up again.  I was gassed, and pissed.
     But time heals all wounds.  I gave Walburg another chance.  Didn't let the front get away from me at the start, hung with them the first two hills.  Did the rest by myself.  Again (two hours, forty-two minutes).  At least this year I didn't sign up for Pace Bend.  By the way, you know all the gorgeous pictures of the very pretty CD4 that get posted?  I'm pretty sure this is the year someone got her with a frightening snarl as she wound it up for the finish line at Walburg.  That, too, sticks in my mind.
     I've ridden the Walburg roads by myself and others and had lots of fun.  Racing by yourself is not.  Somewhere in the archives I've written about some others, specifically when I've hit the ground (two involved vehicles).  So there you have it, years of cycling and only a handful of not-fun rides.    May your future be as bright.

Monday, May 28, 2018


     A few days ago my friend, Dani, posted on FB about a conversation (she used the word "interaction" which connotes a slightly different encounter) with someone from the cycling community.  It was at The Driveway while watching a criterium race, so I'm also assuming it was someone who raced.  Now Dani has only been involved in cycling for three years, but it has been an impressive three years.  That's her story and not the topic for this entry.  But this person informed her that they would not encourage or help anyone to start cycling, especially women, because there were already too many cyclists.  Boy, did her post get lots of comments. 
     But my post is taking the devil's advocate position.  Too many times, when I was trying to make a point that sounded great in my head, what came out of my mouth was totally asinine.  For the sake of argument, maybe the brain was thinking "racing" but the mouth mis-interpreted.  Of course,  even that is a stupid thing to say, but it is a segue.
     Some of the races at The Driveway have upwards of seventy competitors.  Probably only a half-dozen have a real chance to win, so why are the other sixty-plus folks racing?  Well duh, it's because they like to race!  Maybe they're racing to make top-twenty, which gets them recognition (the rest get nothing).  Maybe this race is just a hard work-out for other cycling activities and placement doesn't matter.  Maybe it's practice riding fast in a group.  So, if this person is desirous of making top twenty, but is only a fifty percentile racer, then they would benefit if only forty people raced.
     Or, perhaps they were a good actor and was really just jerking Dani's leg.  I've met a person like that, and it wasn't until a mutual acquaintance clued me in that he "spun tales" did I stop believing anything he said.  Then again, maybe the person is just a jerk.
     Actually, just recently I had a similar thought.  Not about discouraging anyone from cycling, but too many cyclists.  It was at a Shoal Roll several weeks back.  There were about twenty-five riders, which is great for a parade but causes even laid-back motorists some agitation.  Fortunately we broke into several manageable groups and came back together at the finish (sort of, the faster folks having a longish wait).
     If you do charity rides, maybe you have had unkind thoughts run through your mind about unskilled cyclists who are really dangerous to be around.  I still remember one lady who stopped and  fell over in front of a vehicle while going up a slight incline.  Even worse is the strong, fast rider who changes lines and darts in and out without regard to those around him.  We must remember that charity rides bring out charitable people who want to challenge themselves while contributing something to the cause.  Judge not lest you be judged.  I dislike a snob of any sort, but especially a cycling snob.
     Of course, if you really want to see "too many cyclists" take a trip to Amsterdam.  Everybody is a cyclist.  On a recent trip to London I was surprised at the large number of cycling commuters.  In either city it is a grave mistake to walk in a bike lane.  Sadly, Austin is a long way from that worry.  Meanwhile, I'll do what I can to encourage folks to get into their exercise of choice, and if it's cycling, so much the better.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


     The races have been held in Hempstead for the last five years.  Since I'm familiar with the course and like to sleep in my own bed, I've taken to just driving down, do the race, drive home, repeat on Sunday for the team time trial.
     I set the alarm for 3:30am and plan to have breakfast and leave no later than 4:30.  It is a two hour drive.  With a start time of 7:40,  I worked backwards from that giving myself thirty minutes of warm-up plus ten minutes of fudge-factor in addition to packet pick-up etc..  I hardly ever need an alarm and Saturday morning was no different.  My eyes flew open at 2:45, wide awake.  Pook!  Had I gone to sleep at 8:45 instead of 10:45, that wouldn't have been so bad.  As it was, I had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and a non-scheduled shower and still leave at 4:15.  Unsurprisingly, there were only a handful of cars on the road.
     Ten years ago, when I first acquired my Felt B-2 time trial bike, I left it in the car while I warmed-up on my road bike.  When I dragged it out to race it created quite a stir.  Besides the surprise factor, this eliminates getting a flat right before you start.  This is now part of my routine.
     My warm-up didn't go well.  I had the devil of a time getting my heart-rate up and my quads were telling me they wanted an hour before being ready to race.  About twenty minutes of riding and the HR finally topped 110 and started moving into zone three, topping out at 135.  The legs were tepid at best.  Neither boded well for a good race.  Plus, we had the wind in our face on the outward leg.
     I switched bikes, went potty one more time, strapped on the aero helmet, and checked in at the start line.  On schedule, so I had one more warm-up loop to make before getting in line.  As last year's winner I had the privilege of going last.
     Richard can beat me like a drum in a road race, but hasn't concentrated on time trials.  Bob and I are closer in abilities, but he is definitely the stronger.  Just not in the time trial.  I've written about Fred lots of times, another strong road racer but not a time trialist.
     My strategy was pretty simple: higher cadence, lighter gear on the way out and higher gear on the way back.  I followed the strategy, but envisioned 90+ as my high cadence and 85 as a low.  Turns out I was closer to 85 out and 80 back, with a fair amount of time in the 70's.  But the speed was good.  I did a lot of gear shifting although I don't think I used more than three gears after the start.  It took about a minute for my HR to reach 140, but the average of 148 with a top of 153 indicates I held 90% of max for thirty-one of the thirty-three and a half minutes of the race.  Ah the legs.  I pampered them for maybe ten minutes before applying power.  They were much happier when we hit the turn-around.
     I had no idea how I was doing compared to the others.  I caught Fred, my one-minute man, before the turn, but was too busy fighting the wind to see if I made up any time on the others.  Truthfully, I figured I'd earned third place.  But there is one spot in the race I thought I could make up time.  At about the 10.5 mile mark, right after an intersection, the road turns up, just topping at 3.3%.  Rather than fight to hold speed, I took it easy and gathered myself for a last push.  Once on flat road my speed picked up, HR held steady with just a beat or two tick upwards, cadence was steady until the finish line was in sight.  A classic finish, top speed and cadence.
     I took about a ten minute cool down, got everything back in the car, re-hydrated, then waited for the awards ceremony.  The hour and a half or so wait allowed us old guys to stand around and talk.  The younger age categories have new people coming in, but us old guys rarely see a newcomer.  Therefore, we all know each other.  Richard and Bob had to be introduced to each other, but I'd known each of them for several years.  Bob had gone online and found out I'd won, with him second and Richard third.  That was a pleasant surprise.
          Medals in hand (this is a race within a race, so we got two medals), I retreated to the car, drove home and prepared to do it again on Sunday.  First we start with attitude.  The Sunday team time trial had us up against the young guys: 70+ rather than 75+.  There were two teams of these guys and all six of them posted times faster than me.  The only other team was comprised of beginners.  Therefore, we were pretty much assured of third place no matter what our effort.
     Speaking of beginners, my team had verteran Dean and Bob.  Dean is 79 and Bob had never done a team time trial before.  We went over a few basics, but let him learn on the job.  Our start time of 8:28 at least let me sleep in.  Warm-up went well.  We had no incidents, fought the wind on the way out and cruised on the way back.  We dropped Dean with a couple of miles to go, and Bob had to lead me in the last mile.  Yesterday had caught up with me.  We weren't close to second and fourth was a distant fourth.
     I have a few weeks before Nationals.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


     If you clicked on this thinking it described idyllic, gentle cycling in bucolic, scenic settings you've come to the wrong place.  For that you should check out Bicycle Journeys with Jerry or Gotta Go! Cycling Vacations in Fantastic Locations.  No, this is primarily about going fast in age-category races.
     We do what we can to fight off the effects of aging but there is no denying that young folks are faster and stronger.  Yes, USA Cycling has a 35+ Masters Division, but for us old guys that is laughable.  I'm talking about 50 and up.  Which is why I like Senior Games.  They have five-year age categories.  There are a few other races where the organizers have ten-year categories, like 50+ and 60+ and that at least narrows the field to a more manageable size.  But unless you are super strong, if you are in the upper age range you are just in it for the exercise.  The exceptions that I know off the top of my head are Fred Schmid of Waco, Durward Higgins of Chattanooga,  Deb Barton of College Station and Linda Margraf of Fort Worth.  This post isn't about them.
     Generally speaking, and especially after 65, you are competitive the first two years of your age group, maybe competitive in the third year, and hopeful in the last two years.  Being in your last year brings joy that you are getting older and that next year you move up to a new category.  Senior Games Nationals are every two years, so if you manage to qualify (top four) at, for instance, age 74, then you will be the youngest (75-79) when you race Nationals. That worked well for me in the time trial. USAC Nationals is every year and there isn't any qualifier.  I guess they figure if you have the courage to show up, then you won't embarrass yourself.  This is my first year to attend.  I was unaware that they had five-year categories until too late last year.
     The title suggests having fun.  Anytime you are on the bike you should be having fun, but training and racing are a different "fun" than just tooling around.  In previous posts I've expressed my chagrin at finishing last in a road race.  And I repeat, there is no shame in being last, someone is for every race.  But for me it was a wake-up call that something was wrong and changes needed to be made.  Therefore, for the last two years there has been less of one type of fun and more of the other.  I'm almost to where I think I should be.  Ah, but that's the rub.
     As a result of my success at being stronger and faster (plus getting older), my definition of "fun" has widened.  Whereas before I eschewed criteriums because their age grouping stopped at 60+, thus leaving me to be pulled from the race before I even worked up a sweat (a serious waste of money), I'm now thinking maybe I can hang around until at least halfway through.  Or find races that are a little more lenient.  Mountain biking and Cyclocross have also crossed my mind.  Gravel grinding is a distinct possibility.
     I haven't given up cycling vacations.  They are an integral part of staying in shape, especially if mountains are involved.  In one previous post I demonstrated (somewhat facetiously) that guys who raced and took cycling vacations placed higher in their races than those who did not.  So stay tuned as to what sort of trouble I can get myself into.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


     My friend, Dan, posted a lament (comment, observation, whatever) yesterday about racing as he approaches 50.  The gist of his content was that he is new to cycling, six years, and is racing against guys who have been doing it for decades.  Each year he is getting stronger, faster, and feeling better than he did when in high school and college.  When will he hit his peak and will he know it? I gave him a short answer but immediately knew I'd be posting a rambling blog to cover the topic.
     I'll answer his last question first: yes, you will know when you have peaked.  There will be several peaks.   What you do is fight off the initial peak, the subsequent peaks, and then gracefully accept the final peak.
     Let's flesh out the strength part.  There is a reason very few pro cyclists race after 40, and many after 35.  They don't have the strength to compete against youngsters.  Not that they are slow as compared to us mortals, they're just not fast enough to hang with the peloton.  So, Dan, apples to apples, that train has already left the station.  Yes, you are faster than a lot of young guys, but that isn't apples to apples.  You are stronger and faster than you were in college because you are training more, and developing your cardio vascular system better (and probably have a much better diet).
     Cardio is key.  I have a mantra: trust your muscles, protect your heart (which includes lungs).   That is, assuming you have trained properly, you can over-work your legs in a race and they will forgive you, but if you over-work your heart it doesn't matter how much leg strength you have left.  Ergo, cardio should be the last thing you push over the edge in a race.  You told me the other day about how Zwift really pushes you to be better.  That's a really good cardio workout.
     Experience counts.  Here, you are behind the curve, but probably not as much as you think.  Being cerebral, you have already picked up on most of the nuances in racing.  Each race will give you a new insight.
     Ah, training.  Let me digress into my own history.  When I first started racing, it was merely something to do when I wasn't off on a cycling vacation.  There were only a few races per year.  After the first year I started getting medals, tokens of my improvement.  I concentrated on time trials and just did road races for training.  Continued podiums kept me looking for more ways to get better.  I went to the gym in the off season and worked on my legs.  Then, two years ago I finished last.  I had seen the signs coming but ignored them (see previous posts).  Something had to change.  I changed my diet.  Immediate improvement.
     After last year's Senior Games Nationals, I decided I wanted to branch out and also do road racing.  But for that, I needed to get better.  Enter a coach.  I no longer go to the gym.  He had me doing drills that instantly improved my strength, cardio, and confidence.  One more thing: equipment.  I also acquired a really fast, new bike.
     About your bell curve, the shape really is a quick (relatively) ascent to the peak, then a gradual descent.  Let's talk about peaks, which is really just a recap.  When you feel you have peaked it is time to see what you can do to get faster.  A new bike?  Gears?  Change your training?  Get a coach?  When all else has been done, then accept the inevitable gracefully.  BTW, it has been eight years since I realized I'd peaked.  But that didn't mean I stopped trying to get better.
     One last thing, I didn't know where to put this.  You have picked a healthy lifestyle that will keep you healthy.  Many folks blame getting older for lots of their ailments and lack of energy.  You are maybe fifteen years removed from that, but if something is wrong with how your body is working, look for a reason other than age.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


     On Sunday mornings the Bicycle Sport Shop Lamar location is quite busy.  At 8:00 the Effort Ride (38ish miles, about 16 mph,  not a no-drop ride but with several regrouping spots and usually a refreshment stop) and the Beginner/Recovery Ride (25 miles at around 12 mph or the pace of the slowest rider) depart.  But at 7:30ish the All Business Ride (ABR) leaves.
    As the name implies, this ride is all business.  Still, it isn't a race where the riders are going all out.  Rather, it is a fast-paced group ride.  Neophytes are discouraged (or maybe just told to find another ride, I really don't know).
     What with my training and new bike, and the desire to get just a little bit faster before going to Nationals in June, I thought I'd see if I could hang with these guys (and ladies).  It's not like this wild idea came out of the blue.  Last week's 40k road race at Senior Games State Championships had me going for 24 miles and averaging 18.8 mph.  And with this group I could draft the whole way.  It was worth a shot, so I dutifully reported at 7:15 and prepared to ride.
     The route took us east through Austin and toward Manor, on Manor Road actually.  The multiple red lights gave me opportunity to warm up, practice my starts and clipping in, experiment with gears.  Going up Chicon was a bit of a challenge, but we weren't pushing the pace, just going uphill.  I had a clue then, but didn't pick up on it immediately.  My heart rate (HR) was 144 when it should have been 130-132.  But Chicon is a series of inclines and a couple of red lights and the HR dropped back down.  Then went back up.  Once on Manor Road we opened it up a bit and I had no problem sticking in line.  But after passing Airport we had a few climbs and the HR was over 150 on each one.  For the record, my max HR is 165, so anything over 150 should have had me using lots of energy, not the mild exertion I was doing.   At a light or going downhill it should have dropped in the 110 range but it stayed over 120.   Any little increase would push it up over 140 when it should have been under 130.  At the forty-eight minute mark I pulled the plug (told Dan of my difficulties and I'd be turning around).
     This has happened to me before on several BSS rides (See my July 25, 2017 post for the most recent).  I haven't been able to zero in on a cause, but I can say on Saturday I was a total couch potato.  In any case, once I turned around and had the wind at my back I just started cruising.  Still, it took a good fifteen minutes before the HR started showing any semblance of normalcy.  Interestingly enough, the relaxed time back was only two minutes longer than going out.  I had very few red lights coming back.
      Up until I turned around I had no difficulty staying with the group.  But drafting is a very important element and I took full advantage.  At one time Dan dropped back and in doing so gave an example of proper drafting.  So, unless they tell me to find another ride, they can expect me to give it another go.

Monday, April 16, 2018


     I've raced this course, Texas Research Park, since 2005.  Feel free to browse past posts where I recount epic battles.  But if you eschew that, a brief history: I take the two hour drive down, race, return home, and drive back the next day.  The course is a two and a half mile loop with a real long upgrade on the back-side.  Until recently the loop was for University of Texas Medical Research buildings and a few residences (I think for employees).  On the week-ends it was traffic-free, making an ideal location.  Sub-divisions have crept in and lots of houses going up, so this year we didn't have the loop to ourselves.  That resulted in some race changes, more on that later.
     In the past I've rolled out of bed at 5:00 am and was on the road at 6:00 and ready to race at 9:00.  This year Marilane's departure to China/Tibet coincided with the race, so I dragged my body out of bed at 2:37 am and left for the airport at 3:05. Apparently we just missed a hail storm.  Even stopping for breakfast at Whataburger, I drove into the parking lot at 6:00.  Tried to nap but that didn't happen.
     What did happen was a cold front, with a stout NNW wind.  That meant a head-wind going up the back-side hill.  The temperature wasn't all that bad, but the wind made things uncomfortable.  Around 8:00 I began warming up in tights and my rain jacket, since I hadn't brought my cold-weather jacket.  The 10k Time Trial came first, to be followed by the 20k road race shortly after the end of the time trial.  I managed to also leave my Garmin at home, so there is zero data for Saturday's races.
     In previous iterations the 10k consisted of one full loop, then half-way around and back to the finish line.  The construction and traffic constrained us to two loops then a short loop to keep us off the back-side road.  Time trials with multiple U-turns are intensely disliked.  I doffed the rain jacket but kept the tights on for the race.  The longer time trials are my specialty, so to speak, and I usually come in first.  But the wind on the hill had me dropping to the small chain ring, and having to do it twice really cut into my time, like about a minute slower than previous years.  As it turned out, I was eight seconds out of first to my soon-to-be team time trial partner, Bob.
     After the race I went back to the car, switched out bikes and jerseys, then sat in the front seat and re-hydrated and ate a Clif bar.  There were only five of us (in our age group) doing the road race.  Unlike Dallas, the two strongest racers had not shown up.  Had they been there, they would have left us on the hill to battle for third.  As it was, the strong wind meant there would be no breakaway.
     A short aside.  In USA Cycling rules, riders may not join a different group.  But Senior Games is more relaxed and has devolved into being able to tag onto whoever you can.  Thus, when a faster group passes, if you have the speed, you can draft along with them.  They don't care since you are no threat to them.  The slower riders in your group care, since you can leave them behind. 
       Now, we were just noodling along with the intention of trading off leading and Jaime was the fastest, Bob was the strongest, Dean the most experienced.  But no one that much stronger to be able to leave the rest behind.  So, we just took our time waiting for the final sprint.  As it turned out, on the second of five laps, a group of three younger females who started behind us came by.  But Bob, who was leading at the time jumped onto their train and sat on.  The rest of us did the same.  Truthfully, I feel we abused the ladies and should have let them go, but I wasn't the one who did it.  They led us around for the rest of the race.
     We rounded a corner about 800 meters from the finish.  The wind was behind us.  The ladies jumped, Jaime and Bob jumped, and I was third.  With about fifty yards to go I accelerated and had a clear line to the finish.  Jaime and Bob paid for hanging with the ladies and had traffic.  I came in first by a couple of bike lengths.  My new bike really makes a difference. 
     After the awards I drove home and prepared for the next day.  My start time for Sunday was 9:57:30 am.  No need to get there early, so I slept in until 5:00.  The 38 degree temperature insured I packed my cold weather jacket.  Today would start chilly but with only a light wind and a clear sky.  In San Antonio at 8:00 the temperature had already climbed to the low 50's and would be low 60's by my race time, the 5k time trial.  I warmed up in tights and jacket, but determined I would go with just arm warmers for the race and had switched out, leaving the tights on until just before starting.
     But about 9:30 I wandered up to the start line (about a quarter mile away from the car), to see how things were progressing.  It seems the start times were thrown out the window, and the director asked if I were doing the time trial (about half the folks on bikes were just warming up for the 40k road race), and when I said yes, she said get in line.  Only four folks ahead of me.  We were being chip timed, and the computer could sort everything out, but this was disconcerting to say the least.  So I raced with tights on.
     Much better than yesterday.  We were able to do an out-and-back course, three-quarters up the hill.  Without the wind in my face, I did it in the big ring and kept a good, steady pace, and after the turn-around was able to boost the speed up to 30.8.  I pushed through the finish and did a quick cool down and went back to the car.  Because I was unsure of when the road race started, I wanted to get the bike set up before resting/refueling.  Leaving the computer at home yesterday made switching bikes easy, just pull it out of the car and transfer the number/chip.  If I wanted data today, I'd have to change out the Stages power meter.  I was just finishing up that chore when the race director came into the parking lot calling for 88 (that's me).  She was in a panic, in that the computer did not register my finishing.  Pook!
     My guardian angel was really looking after me.  What with the crazy start, I hadn't done my usual thing with the computer of starting it ten seconds before my time.  Instead, just before he said "go" I hit the button.  And, rather than take a few breaths before hitting the stop button after finishing, I hit it immediately.  So, I pulled up my results and we subtracted 1.7 seconds to round it off at 9:43.  Bob finished at 9:48.  I just looked at Garmin Connect and it has my moving time at 9:41.  It also has the length at 3.4 miles.  My average speed of 21.1 mph is 1.3 mph faster than last year.
     That crisis attended to, I prepared to stretch and relax.  Then came the announcement the races would start at 10:45, not 11:00, about a half hour away.  Still, no rush, plenty of time.  I went to the bathroom, rode around on the bike to make sure it and me were operational, and came back to the car. Ate a Clif bar, had water, IsoPure protein drink, pickle juice.  I've been 98% decaffeinated for years.  But I had a package of caffeine Gu in the car for energy emergencies.  I felt it necessary to use it.  Directions indicate take 15 minutes before your start.  I dutifully followed directions, including taking water after, and diddled around a bit before heading to the start line.
     Then came the announcement.  The race would be delayed.  It seemed a small plane had crashed in a nearby field.  Emergency vehicles would be coming and wanted the road clear.  About an hour later we were given the all-clear.  So much for last-minute pre-race preparations.
     Another aside: I dislike wheel-suckers.  You know, those guys who sit on for the whole race, then unleash their sprint.  I understand this is a race and tactics are part of winning.  But really, we are just a bunch of old guys having fun.  We know each other (most of the time), have a pecking order, and while competitive, are mostly gentlemanly about it.  I don't necessarily dislike those who only show up for the 40k race.  As a matter of fact, until recently I did the time trials and 40k, but skipped the 20k so I'd have decent legs.  But I would also take my turn at the front.  Hey, when you lead the group, you can go at your own speed and they can either draft or take it away from you.  If you show up for only the 40k and refuse to help out, I have a dislike.
     We had such a guy for our race.  He did the same in Dallas.  There, about half way through, he was last of five guys, with me in fourth.  I intentionally let a gap form and he didn't immediately recognize it.  The guys put the hammer down and he had to expend a lot of matches to bridge up.  I think he knew it was on purpose, in that he wouldn't let me get in front of him again.  The only time he was behind me in San Antonio was when I was leading.  But when I dropped off, he did too.
     Today, there were no ladies to draft.  Again there were only five of us.  But without the wind, we were setting a decent pace.  Again, on the second lap, with me leading, a group of faster guys passed just before a ninety-degree turn.  I accelerated and jumped on their wheels, leaving my group expending lots of energy to track me down.  Once they caught me, about a half mile of trying, I sat up and let the faster guys move away.  That was fun.  Then it was back to doing laps.  We left one guy behind, so three out of four of us took turns at the front.  Another group of fast guys passed us and again I jumped on and the others had to struggle to catch up.  We finally shamed Fresh Legs into taking a half lap lead, but by now we were setting up for the finish.
     The timer was calling out laps remaining, three, two, last lap.  Unfortunately, since we were lapped by the young, fast guys, he was confused.  Our last lap was only nine of ten.  Didn't matter, if he said last lap, we treated it as the last lap.  As it turned out, I was leading up the back-side hill.
     I don't mind bragging, I can take that last turn faster than any of the others.  But, unlike yesterday, when you made the turn you have the wind (not as strong as yesterday, but still significant) in your face.  In the previous eight laps I determined I wouldn't be the one leading out of that turn.  As it happened, that decision was wrested from me.
     About 200 meters from the turn, Mr. Fresh Legs attacked from the back.  Jaime yelled out "Go, Go!" and I started to accelerate.  Of course, he was by me and had about twenty yards as we hit the turn.  Another fifty yards and I was on his wheel.  You've got to be really strong to attack in a headwind.  Unfortunately, I hesitated just a second, long enough for Jaime and Bob to pass on the left.  I hit it again and easily distanced Fresh Legs but couldn't get to the other guys. 
 Jaime told me afterwards that he didn't hold my wheel out of the corner, but was really motoring once he came off it.  Bob was on his wheel but couldn't pass.  I was happy with third.  Had I the confidence to do another gear and not hesitate it might have been a different ending.  But medals aren't really why we (well, me) race, it is to have fun. 
 Dean puts his medals in a box, I display mine.  But the medals are only a representation of the commitment you have to the sport.  When you retire, you cannot sit around waiting to expire.  I put a lot of time and energy into cycling.  I even put some time into writing about cycling.  There are worse things in the world to do with your spare time.

Sunday, April 1, 2018


     This is not an active "for sale" thing.  But if someone wants to make me a decent offer, I'm perfectly willing to let it go in order to help finance my next purchase.  My 2003 KHS XC904r mountain bike is like a Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.  After reading this post, I expect zero offers, unless it is wanted for parts.
     Yesterday I showed up to a gravel ride out of Castell, Texas, sponsored by Velo View Bike Tours.  I've written about them before and as always, they get an A+ rating from me.  They were all (12 total riders) on 'cross bikes, I had the only mountain bike.  Several folks remarked on my 26 inch wheels, several other folks commented on the heaviness of the bike.  When new, compared to other mountain bikes, this was lightweight.  Compared to the new 'cross bikes, it's a Clydesdale.  I'm really not into gravel rides, so when I do one it has to be on what I have, which is the KHS.
     There is a race next week, so this ride was a pre-race recon to familiarize or re-familiarize those racing with the course.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I didn't quite anticipate the pace.  This wasn't the casual ride I envisioned.  But Dan said at the outset we would re-group at the turns, unless those who knew the route wanted to carry on by themselves.  I brought up the rear on all re-grouping, but not by a lot.  I'd gear down in the deeper sand and carry on.  When traversing the never-ending washboard in the opening miles I briefly considered taking off the lockout to soften the beating my shoulders were taking.  But the ruts in the sand made by the riders ahead convinced me I needed firm control of the front of the bike.  I'm sure in a few days my shoulders will stop aching.
     I would love to give you the stats for the whole race, but eight minutes (or 1.8 miles) from the start my computer decided it was time to update firmware.  For the next nine miles it updated, not recording any data.  Those miles happened to be uphill, in sand and washboard, against a stiff wind.  Fortunately, the course consists of two loops, north and south, with a refuel stop back in Castell.  There was no way I would be doing both loops. As it turned out, that was the thought of about half of us.
     But I really want to describe the bike a little.  In 2003 I rode my first mountain bike on the John Wayne Trail in Oregon (see account in Bicycle Journeys with Jerry).  Deciding that rail-trails would be in my future, I asked my friend Ray to build up a bike for me.  The KHS soon came into my possession.  I had to replace the fork, but everything else is the same as when Ray built it. I've ridden it sporadically on rail-trails, never on a mountain bike trail, and last year did a gravel ride in Arkansas with Velo View.  See posting June 21, 2017.
     Last week I saw an advertisement about car tires which indicated they should be replaced at least every four years no matter how many miles were on them.  That got me to thinking about the tires on the KHS.  Fifteen years and they still look good.  But I began to worry.  Perhaps they have dry-rotted and will leave me stranded fifteen miles from the van.  Pook, they may be permanently stuck to the rims.  I have a replacement tube in the saddle pack.  Oh!  That tube came with the bike in 2003 and hasn't been out of the saddle pack since.  Then came a follow-up thought: I've never (NEVER) even changed the tubes on these tires.  True, they don't have a lot of miles (maybe 2,000), but how long do you figure a tube can last?  Well, let me tell you, I have a kid's bike that is over thirty years old and it has the original tubes.  I air them up when the grandkids come.
     Tomorrow I'll clean the bike and hang it up until the next wild hare (maybe wild hair,) induces me to join a ride that isn't on a firm road.

Monday, March 19, 2018


     The venue is the five-mile outside road around the Texas Motor Speedway, so the concrete is pretty good although they have poured a lot of cracks.  The inclines are deceptive rather than steep, but it is the wind that determines how you do.  I hate wind, or perhaps wind hates me.  On Saturday we had moderate wind out of the ENE.  I kept checking both the weather station and the read-out in my car and they both showed 60 degrees.  A cold 60 degrees.  I had on tights, a t-shirt under the skin suit, and a jacket to warm up; doffing the jacket just before the start. 
     I'm not particularly fond of the Dallas schedule: 5k time trial (TT) at 9am, 10k TT at 11am, and 20k road race at 1pm, then the 40k road race on Sunday morning at 9am.  I'd rather it be the San Antonio schedule of 10k TT and 20k road race on Saturday with the 5k TT and 40k road race on Sunday.  In the past I would skip the 20k road race and be fresh for the 40k. 
     I've written before about Bill Earp.  He is a very nice, personable guy from Missouri.  He's also faster than me.  With tongue in cheek I say I had to change my bragging from being Texas State Champion to being the fastest guy in Texas.  Two years in a row I came in second to him at the Senior Games State Championships.  Then he missed a handful of years so I thought I'd seen the last of him.  Alas, he showed up in Dallas.
     My warm-up consisted of once around the loop with a few accelerations to bring up the heart rate.  Generally I do thirty minutes of warming up.  Six competitors, five of whom have beaten me at one time or another.  Being third off the line, at thirty-second intervals,  I had one person ahead to judge my placement.  When I first started racing I always worried about being caught by my thirty-second man and sometimes that happened.  No longer.
     We started in a southwesterly direction so the wind helped.  When it curved to the west and started the 1% incline the wind became less helpful.  More curve and now the wind came into the right shoulder, with a 1.8% grade.  Now the downhill (1.1%) and more turning into the wind.  With my nose running freely, I ramped up the power and hit the finish line.  My thirty-second guy was only about fifteen seconds in front of me so I knew I wouldn't be last.  On the cool down we just continued around the loop.  Bill came up so the three of us noodled back to our cars to get ready for the 10k.  They didn't post until later, but I managed second place behind Bill, eleven seconds in arrears.
     The 10k is a full loop plus an additional mile and a third.  The tights came off for this one as the temperature had come up to maybe 65.  For the 5k my legs didn't feel like they had the juice they should have, but they felt better as I again did some warming up sprints.  I glanced at my computer as I hit the 5k mark and saw what looked like thirty seconds faster than my 5k time.  As it turned out, my average speed for the 10k was 1.2 mph faster than the 5k.  Results were the same, Bill was twenty seconds faster.
     I figured about an hour and twenty minutes before the road race and I would use this time to switch my Stages Power Meter from the  TT bike to the road bike.  BIG surprise.  I've been switching cranks between various bikes for the last six months.  While I tighten the two bolts to the required 12-14 Nm, the plastic protector bolt is just hand-tightened.  I couldn't budge it.  Somehow (I would like to think it was all the power I put to the pedals) it had self-tightened.  Bummer.  Of course, I don't race by the computer, but it would be nice to see the results afterwards.  Coach Owen would really want to see them.  Pook!  I replaced the crank on the road bike, threw the bike in the car and drove the half mile back to where everyone else was parked and prepared to refuel and rest.  I had driven to the race start line rather than have the bike that far away.
     As I approached I noticed guys riding in the other direction toward the motorway buildings.  I parked and walked over to Tom Hall and asked how long to the next race.  He said "Right now."  Whaaat!  It seems the speedway folks wanted us off the road earlier than scheduled.  And, we had to shorten the course to meet their time limit.  No time to install a bottle bracket, barely time to throw some water in my Camelbak, no time to put it on under my jersey.
     This first half mile is on bumpy, cracked concrete and we took it easy.  The wind had picked up a bit, so this would be more of a defensive race, coming down to the sprint.  Rather than three laps, it would be two laps plus that half mile start (may have been a tad more than half mile).  We took turns pulling, I chose the part with the wind at my back.  One of the less experienced guys took the lead on the back side of the second lap, into the wind.  Rather than rotate out, he kept it.  Big mistake.
     For the finale, the wind came over our back left shoulder.  I have been working on my sprints and when the first two guys started their sprint, I wound it up and began mine.  Immediately I saw I might have waited another fifty yards, because I think it was about 300 to the finish line.  However, starting this far out I caught some of the guys by surprise.  Richard is a whole lot faster than I and apparently jumped on my wheel.  I finished strong, but he pipped me at the line by about half a wheel.  Wow!  That was fun.  Bill came in third, but I don't know how far back.  So far, the three of us hogged the medals.
     The award ceremonies took awhile, but the speedway folks didn't care as long as we weren't on the road.  Once back at the hotel, I soaked my tired body and prepared for an early dinner at Olive Garden, a few miles down the road.  Then I relaxed in the room and enjoyed the exciting basketball games.
     Breakfast at 6am consisted of oatmeal, juice, a muffin, bagel.  With a 9am start, I had plenty of time to prepare and at 7:45 checked out of the hotel.  I had Nuun in the Camelbak, under the jersey.  Again, tights and jacket for warm-up.  The wind had shifted to ESE and lost some of its bite.  No tights for the race, but arm warmers.    Oooh!  The legs let me know they worked hard yesterday.  Unless the guys took it easy today, there would be no finish sprint.
     Five laps.  Five guys.  Two had dropped out and we had one guy (Brian) with fresh legs.  We started out at a moderate pace, something faster than I would have liked, but not bad.  Two abreast for about a mile, than at a slight turn and lane change, it worked out that me and Bill were pulling, but when I looked back the other guys were lined up behind him.  So I dropped back to the rear.  The pace picked up.  Bill and Richard took turns keeping the pace.  I remembered to hit the lap button the first two laps.  We averaged 20.3 for the first, 21.1 for the second.
     I kept up easily for two laps, never pulling but staying mid pack.  Bill kept applying pressure and by the end of the third lap I was praying I could hang with the group.  On the backside of lap four, with the fresh legs guy (who contributed precious little to pulling) behind me, I (intentionally) let a slight gap open up.  Richard saw this, called out "gap" and he and Bill and Jaime ramped it up.  Fresh legs expended a lot of energy closing it down, with me behind him.  When they saw no gap, the pace lightened.  I dreaded the incline on the fifth lap, but both Bill and Richard were now saving their energy for the end.  My heart rate dropped twenty beats but my legs were telling me "no way."  When the final spring began I noodled on in in last place.  Bill, Richard, Brian in that order.  Still, with a lot of the lap being in the 16 mph range, the final three lap pace was 20.0.
     I'm really happy with the new bike.  I closed down all of the accelerations. I just need to get more stamina.  And, bring a tool to leverage the plastic nut.  I really wanted to see my power and cadence numbers.  Next month is State Championships in San Antonio.

Friday, March 16, 2018


     She said "You stink."  I said "Really, I hadn't noticed."  That was last night.  I hadn't even been out riding, just watching the races at The Driveway.  Truthfully, I've known for awhile that my sense of smell had joined the other senses in their lack of acuity.  Deaf in one ear, hearing aid for the other; cataract surgery for the eyes.  Modern medicine is helping cope with age-related situations.  Don't know of anything for the nose however.
     Back when I was aware of the stench I brought with me after riding (especially next to the freeway), I'd declare that it was actually the bike clothes picking up the engine exhausts that made the most odor.  There was some truth to that.  Dr. George Sheehan (running guru) once said that old people's sweat didn't stink and ran a one-man study (himself) to prove it.  After a few days he modified his findings. 
     I'm pretty sure that on days I don't exercise I can still be socially acceptable the next day.  But I have to rely on someone else to verify that.  My nose works quite well in terms of breathing, it's only smelling that is defective.  The lilacs are blooming but it takes a concerted effort and getting real close for me to enjoy them.  Brewing coffee would once trigger salivary glands, now I just know it's done ten minutes later.
     Ah well, another adjustment in the aging process. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018


     If you really want instructions as to the proper procedure to use to change a tube, see my September 25, 2010 post.  This entry only touches on changing tangentially. 
     A few days ago we had the first Pflugerville Monday Night Recovery Ride.  I really like this ride and look forward to the smooth pace and generally two hours of non-strenuous cycling in the country east of Pflugerville.  About an hour into the ride, in the middle of nowhere (as far as I could tell), Dani said my wheel made a noise and I probably had a flat.   I'm deaf in one ear and take the hearing aid out of the other when I ride, so am thankful for any help.  Sure enough, the rear tire was flat.  I pulled over and began changing out the tube.  Three riders stopped to help (let's be clear, they were there to lend moral support, and only help when asked).
     One of the things I noticed when replacing the tire was how supple it was.  That is, when I pulled out the flat tube, the tire fell off the wheel.  For the uninitiated, one side usually stays in place and when you put in the new one, you just replace the one side.  It took me three tries just to get one side to stay on the wheel.  Very odd.  Ok, the rest of the ride went well (for me, someone else flatted).
     I always do a post-mortem on the tire and tube the next day.  Couldn't fine any hole in the tire and only a minor leak in the tube, along the seam, more like it died of old age rather than an outside force.  The tire was downright flimsy, so I tossed it and the tube.  But that got me to thinking, it had plenty of rubber left, judging from the wear markers.  I have one explanation.
     When I acquired a coach, I also acquired a Stages Power Meter.  My friend Brian loaned me a wheel with a power meter which I intended to use on my trainer bike.  However, the trainer bike is a  seven speed cog and his wheel is ten, so neither the chain nor the cog is happy.  It also is not compatible with the Stages.  As a result, when training called for power information, I lazily just put my road bike on the trainer.  It was supposed to be only once or twice, so I figured it wouldn't hurt.  As it turned out, what with the rain and all, it was more like a half-dozen times.
     This may not be the reason, but it has energized me to update my thirty year old bike with some of the spare parts I keep putting in the cabinet.  Because I'm not mechanically inclined, I'll do what I can, then take it in to BSS to finish up.
     BTW, it took eleven minutes (maybe twelve) according to my Garmin to change the tube.  It could have been faster, but I followed my own guidelines, plus having to find my glasses so I could see what I was doing.  I'm grateful it was successful because it is Sooo embarrassing to change the tube only to not have it hold air. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018


 I just reviewed my blogs on the 2014 and 2016 Heads or Tails, feel free to pull them up yourself.  This year is almost a duplicate of 2014, including the lap times.  I'll reiterate what I've previously written, then throw in this year.
      Why go to Beaumont at all?  Mainly, I like this race, even at 40k (or maybe because it is 40k).  The course is on concrete or smooth asphalt, mostly flat with enough inclines to take you through the gears.  It is well organized, no nonsense, straight-forward, with chip timing and quickly into the awards as categories finish.  It is run in conjunction with the Gusher Marathon so there are lots of cheering folks (maybe not for cyclists as we whiz past, but cheering just the same).  Everyone with whom I had contact was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful. 
     I've been training hard for the last six months and looked forward to this racing season.  But          my racing took a big hit last week-end when the Brazos Valley Senior Games cycling events were cancelled due to weather.   There were to be 5k and 10k time trials and 20k and 40k road races (20% of my schedule).  The time trials are especially revealing to my readiness, in that they are basically sprints.  Alas, that wasn't to be.
     Instead, my first race would be the Heads or Tails .  I hadn't spent much of my training on the time trial bike, but in tuning up two weeks ago I felt like the saddle to be a bit low, so raised.  Then,  last Wednesday spent time doing the Great Northern Loop (about 3.4 miles).  My TT bike (Felt) has never had a water bottle bracket so I stopped each lap and hydrated.  Everything felt great and I finished quite pleased with the workout.  On Thursday my hamstrings informed me that raising the seat (only a half millimeter) was a mistake.  Pook, ding-fu!  I rolled and massaged them and gave them a hot bath.  They seemed somewhat mollified.  I abbreviated my Friday leg-opener work-out, but the legs were still not happy.
     I drove through Houston on Friday afternoon (white knuckle) and arrived at the Hampton Inn in Beaumont a little before 3 pm.   Packet pick-up was drama-free and quick, at the Garden Inn right next door.   I went up to the table, gave the young lady my name, she pulled out a race number, wrote it down next to my name, pointed to several glasses on the table and said to pick one.   Done, less than a minute.  I'd skipped lunch so had an early dinner at Olive Garden.  Asleep by 8:15 pm.
     Wide awake at 2:15 am.  Bummer.  I had choices to make.  I brought both long and short sleeve time trial kits.  I also had arm warmers, tights, and a jacket.  The forecast was for 49-70 degrees, sunshine, with a brisk wind out of the east (actually just a tad south of east) for the north-south oval.  I repeated my long-time mantra: under 65 degrees, cover the knees, opted for the short-sleeve BSS kit and attached the number to the back, and put out the tights.    I had plenty of time to ponder these decisions with breakfast at 6 am.  Needing to fill empty time, I showered.  While drying my back I felt a twinge in the right latissimus dorsi (or maybe lower trapezius), bringing my drying off to a quick stop.  Ok, I didn't need this too.  I had time to relax and be still, and after a few minutes everything seemed fine.  The hamstrings were also ready to go.
     Breakfast consisted of oatmeal, fruit, orange juice and a sweet roll and by 6:35 I was off to Lamar University and the start line.  Even at 6:45 folks poured into the parking lot.  I snagged a spot close to two porty-potties, which I considered ideal.  The sun peeked over the horizon, and with it came the wind.  I wandered up to the start line, surprised to see the starting ramp in a different lane from two years ago.  Quickly finding the starter, I inquired as to the change of course (had I been more observant of the map posted on the website I would have seen the change).  Satisfied, I returned to the car and prepared to warm-up.
     The first cyclists were off at 7:45 and my start time was 8:46.  At 7:15 I did a preview ride to reacquaint myself with the nuances of this mostly flat course with a few inclines.  Going north was ever so slightly downhill and perhaps 10% of the wind came over my right shoulder.  I had on tights and jacket for this ride and felt quite comfortable.  The lap took 22+ minutes, but all systems reported in as ready to go.  At 8:00 I doffed my jacket (always the plan, but I still had the arm warmers available) and did a few more accelerations.  In doing so I met up with Clif, a super fast 60+ cyclist and exchanged pleasantries (I've written about Clif previously).  He didn't have on tights.
     By 8:30 the temperature had risen a few more degrees and while not 65, I decided I'd look like the fast guys and removed the tights.  I don't particularly like ramps, but this had a rail for support plus a holder.    I started the computer ten seconds before descending the ramp and beginning this adventure.
     I think the wind moved a bit to the south as the day wore on.  My speed going north on the flats stayed in the 24-25 mph range and going south 18-20.   The hamstrings were good, no noise from my back.  The biceps, however, were vociferous in their complaints.  I had forgotten about them and how important they are.  My training includes building them up and for an old guy, I'm pretty proud of how they look.  I held the tuck most of the first lap, but half-way through the second they started sending signals.  I didn't count how many times I had to come up to give them a break on the third and forth laps, but it was too many.  Truthfully, I also came up for air and liquid (for time trials I use a kid's Camelbak under the jersey).
     My friend, Tom Hall, came in first.  In Senior Games he isn't in my age group, but when they go to ten year categories, I get a lot of fast guys.  Fortunately, he was the only one to show up here.  Tom came in 16 seconds faster than me, or 4 seconds per lap.  The biceps may have cost me those seconds.  Other stats, 2014 vs 2018 laps:  17:47 vs 17:35; 18:11 vs 17:53; 18:35 vs 18:19; and 18:43 vs 18:24.  I think that works out to 65 seconds faster this year under similar race conditions.  A review of my heart rate reveals consistency throughout the ride, an average of 141 and a high of 146.  When it came time for the final push, I had zero oomph to push it any higher.
     I've reviewed the stats and where I might have picked up or lost a few seconds.  This is more about learning what to do next time, not a what-if type review.  I can see where I could have shifted to a bigger gear for thirty seconds instead of rolling through or where I went to the small chain ring for an incline rather than come up the cogs in the big ring.  My next races are in Dallas, where gear choices again play an important part.