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.