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.