Friday, December 27, 2019


     Sorry, this is a cycling blog, not horticultural.  Because if you ride long enough, you will have arrived at the start of a ride or worse, race, and have forgotten an important element.  My Toyota Rav 4 is rarely a passenger vehicle, mostly it carries bikes and cycling equipment.  I have two bags, one for spare tires, tubes, helmet and one for clothes such as jersey, shorts, tights, wind jacket, head bands, gloves, aprés riding clean T shirt. They are available to anyone who needs something, no need to give them back.  I don't have spare shoes yet, but I've once brought the wrong pair, Look rather than Shimano cleats.  No ride that day.
     There is an explanation for today.  Today I drove the twenty minutes to Old Settlers Park with a recovery ride on the agenda.  I parked in the usual spot, got out and opened the back door to bring out the bike and was surprised to see nothing there.  Pook, Ding-fu!!  So I returned to the driver's seat and hooked 'em on home.  Forty-five minutes later I again parked the car and prepared to ride.
     I'm rationalizing here, there really is no excuse to go on a bike ride without a bike.  But I'm playing the "old" card on this one.  Here is the sequence of events.  Yesterday was my "hill" ride and for that I need low gears.  My custom titanium bike now is outfitted with a triple,  28-32 low.  I can manage Courtyard and Jester on it.  The foreseeable future has no large climbs, so this morning after my gym workout (5:15-6:15 am, legs) I switched bikes. But it's more than just taking one bike out of the car and putting the other one in.  I also have to switch the Stages Power Meter (because you wouldn't want to not have data for your Strava  posting) and the Roark has Shimano mountain bike pedals, the Emonda has Speedplays.
     Switch complete, I hung up the Roark and put the Emonda on an old rack I've attached to the garage wall since I have multiple bikes. Then it was time for coffee, then breakfast.  In order to work on the bikes, I moved the car outside and put the door down since it was still chilly.  Usually the last action taken before heading out is to attach the electronics, in this case only the computer since a taillight isn't necessary at OSP.  This is where I think I got off track.  Usually the bike is already in the car when I attach the Garmin.  Today it was still hanging on the garage wall, plus I did it early.
     I exited the kitchen door, out the garage and into the car.  Lord knows where my mind was, it wasn't on cycling.  I also usually glance in the rear view mirror to see if all is well, not today.
     It was a good ride once I got going.  The forty-five minute delay allowed the temperature to rise another 5 or so degrees, so I was comfy in jersey and wind jacket (thanks Todd), plus tights (under 65 degrees, cover the knees).  So I urge you rather than toss worn items, save them for one last emergency and keep them handy in your car.  But a spare bike might be a tad too much.

Friday, December 6, 2019


     Ten plus years ago, on a BSS Sunday ride, one of our group had a flat after riding through glass.  As we do, we gathered around while he changed out the tube.  When he pulled out the flat tube, we were astonished to see at least a half dozen patches.  I'm thinking more like ten or twelve, but don't want to seem like an extremist.  As he once again repaired his tube, he explained that the patches work quite well and he saw no need to continually replace a perfectly good tube.  That mental image has stuck in my mind.
     But I wasn't a convert.  Except for a few notable exceptions, I went for years without changing a tube on the road.  Besides, again for a few notable exceptions, I'm terribly inept at patching a tube.  So for the few times I had a flat, I'd put in a new tube, bring the old one home to do an autopsy, then toss it.
     That changed recently.  Some time ago I started getting flats when riding out of Old Settlers Park, and it was always the same cause: a small bit of wire, part of a small staple commonly used to attach cardboard signs to stakes.  I suspect someone dropped a handful, they got scattered and, being hard to see, were left in the parking lot (I'm being generous, in that the other alternative is that it was a deliberate act by a bike-hater).  After a spate of flats, I finally came back to saving money, and time, and start patching when appropriate (like a small hole not on a seam).  A side note: I carry a container of quick patches, just in case the replacement tube is defective.  That has also happened to me.
     When loading the bike yesterday I found the front tire flat and quickly changed out the tube.  This morning I dug out my vulcanizing patch kit, not the quick patches, purchased about five years ago but never used.  I located the tiny hole in the tube and opened the kit.   It's been maybe fifteen years since I patched a tire.  Really.  So the first thing I had to remember was does the orange side or the black side go down?  Okay, orange. Sand paper the tube surrounding the hole.   Next I punctured the sealant tube and applied the sealant (precisely it is a reactive agent that binds the patch to the tube, but let's not get picky).  Slap on the patch and hold.  And hold.  And hold.  There are no instructions on the package, but when everything was dry, I let go.  Seemed good.
     I put some more air in the tube and had breakfast.  After breakfast the tube had zero air in it.  Bummer!  Still inept.  I reviewed my procedure in my head several times, wondering what I did wrong.  Becoming frustrated, I turned to Google.  Park Tools has a good You Tube video on patching tires.  Aha!  I didn't let the vulcanizing agent dry before applying the patch.  I also aired up the tube a bit to see if it would hold air.  Big No No.  You need to put the tube into the tire before supplying air.  Otherwise it puts too much pressure on the patch.  Try again.
     Fortunately, I had a spare tire upon which to practice.  Applied the patch as directed, installed into the tire (first time in a long time I didn't put just a bit of air in to round it up a bit), and pumped it up to 30 pounds.  Checked to make sure all was properly seated then went up to 90 pounds.  An hour later, it is still holding.  Cautiously optimistic.

Friday, November 15, 2019


     Regular readers will remember that several years ago I realized that of the forty states I had ridden in, the four states bordering Texas were not included.  I set out to remedy that and immediately booked a tour (Velo View Tours, my go-to company for fantastic experiences) in New Mexico and followed that up with a gravel tour in Arkansas.  A little research this year revealed the hike/bike levee ride out of New Orleans.  Marilane and I love New Orleans, and made it an addition after a necessary trip to Baton Rouge.  I'm only including the cycling experience in this blog.
     When planning the trip we hadn't even considered a bone-chilling cold front.  It wasn't a surprise, the forecast a week out predicted it.  I had my cold weather gear packed.  While I prefer to leave early and finish early, the 32 degrees (F) low had me waiting a few hours to allow the sun to warm things up a tad.  Two hours after sun up, the temperature finally budged up to 34.  Pook!  As I've gotten older I generally wait until over 40 degrees before venturing out on training rides.  I bade Marilane have a good tour of the WWII museum, picked up our car, and drove to Audubon Park. says the trail is 60.8 miles in length and goes all the way to the Bonnet Carré Spillway. shows this as 25.7 miles and I suspect there is some break-up after that.  In any case, my plan was only for the 25 miles out, then back.    From parking lot to trail was only a quarter mile, then I was off on my new adventure.
     Less than a minute into riding I stopped to adjust my buff.  I'd covered my ears and head, but now included lips and chin.  The northeast wind was biting, even though probably no more than 8 mph.  Off again.  Mid-week and cold, I had the trail to myself.  Looking down at the computer just brought tears to my eyes, so I kept my head up and watched the cars on the street to my right.
     As I knew I would, after about ten minutes most of my body was comfortably warm.  The exceptions were my nose and fingers (even with long-fingered gloves).  I knew the river was on my left but couldn't see it.  On my right were houses. Let's get to my recommendations and expectations for cycling this yourself.
     There are occasional views of the river.  I saw large ocean-going ships anchored mid-river, a few docked and loading or unloading.  Mostly I looked at the houses below the levee.  Apparently this is prime real estate, in that all the houses were well kept, lots of really large homes with large lots.  There is no "scenery," but the asphalt is smooth.  This ride is best done with one or more friends so you can comment on the houses, boats, airplanes (the trail goes close to the airport, I had a landing plane go over my head).  You will probably use three gears,

tops, but mostly just the one gear.  I've read reviews saying this is a boring ride.  It certainly can be, you just need to adjust your expectations.  If you have a choice, pick a nice springtime day, mid-week.  In my forty miles I saw six cyclists, three skate-boarders, maybe ten folks walking dogs, two joggers.  A day on the weekend will see whole lots more.
     Back to my ride.  As I approached Destrehan, I got tired of not feeling my numb fingers and I wasn't pedaling a decent speed.  It was time to turn around.  I pedaled past the Destrehan Plantation (you could tour it as a break in your ride) and stopped a little ways further under the I-310 bridge at a trash can to use as a bike prop.  I walked around in small circles, one hand under my armpit, the other holding a Clif bar.  I usually restrict my breaks to five minutes or less but this was an exception that lasted maybe ten.  The feeling returned to the fingers and I mounted up for the return trip.  Pook, ding-fu!  The wind shifted a bit, from northeast (in my face) to east (now on my left shoulder).  I had hoped to have it somewhat behind me.  Of course, with the turning of the river, sometimes it was.  In any case, my time out was about the same as the time back: 92 minutes out, including break and 88 minutes back, including potty stop.  There are nice rest rooms next to the levee in St. Rose.
     Perhaps in the future I'll have another, better, opportunity to see if this really goes to Bonnet Carré Spillway.  Better yet, why don't you go and email me how it was.

Friday, September 27, 2019


     This was the last night of racing at the Driveway; the season is over.  I'm not sorry to see it end, I'm tired of racing in 100° heat.  My Garmin shows an interesting piece of data: the race started at 5 pm at 100° but after fifteen minutes the temperature had dropped to 90°, on average two degrees every lap for the first five laps, then leveled off.  I'd like to say I stayed with the group for the first lap, and that is marginally true.  I did stay with them up the corkscrew and through the finish line and I was ahead of folks.  Officially I was 54th of 59 starters.  Then it was back to time trialing.  After a few more laps, Brian dropped back to accompany me and give me a pull, but by then I couldn't hang with him.  This is where I need to improve.
     In an earlier post I opined that most of the racers aren't in it to win, just to race.  Probably less than a dozen really have a chance.  That certainly includes me.  My goals are to hang with them two laps (hasn't happened yet), and not finish last.  So far, I haven't finished last.  I think if you pull up USA Cycling and check their results I'll show as having finished 42/59.  That looks good, but included in that are those who were involved in an incident or had a mechanical or just dropped out.  I suspect I finished ahead of the same five as the first lap.  At Nationals, USAC had me listed as the favorite in the criterium, mainly because I was the only one with any recorded races.  Flaw in the system.
     I thought I worked hard last night and was looking forward to seeing the data.  But apparently I was still in oxygen debt when I got home, because I'd forgotten a few things to bring it up.  Here is the explanation: Several weeks ago my Garmin 520 stopped syncing with Garmin Connect and automatically uploading my rides.  So I went to manually uploading, dragging and dropping.  That really isn't much of a problem, just a half-dozen clicks of the mouse.  Last night I clicked on the file and dragged it over.  To my consternation, when I then pulled up Strava, it only was the cool down ride.  In a brain-fog, I concluded I must have double-clicked the start-stop button.  Several hours later it occurred to me that the warm-up and race data were separate entries and all I had to do was drag both of them over. Voila!
     The data confirms my perception.  Strava shows two PR's.  Both on the first lap when I was with the group.  Training Peaks gave me four bronze medals for HR, and a silver, for 20 minutes HR (154).  My high heart rate of 160 came as I hooked onto the group as they passed the first time.  That didn't last long and left me gasping for air.  My lap times were consistent, the slowest lap recorded was because I had to slow down while the peloton blew by me on a curve.  My average cadence of 89 was good, with a high of 115.  The power numbers were 170 average and 186 normalized, which is less than the 182/193  the last time I did this.
     There is one category that gives balm to my ego.  On the Strava segments, I'm the only one in the 75+ category, thus the leader.  There isn't anyone in the 70-74. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


     Several years ago, I posted (see April 20, 2017) about how as I got older I moved from a standard crank to a compact to a triple as I struggled to ride up Courtyard and Jester.  Yesterday I again did my hill route and my time was pretty good.  That got me to looking back over the years.  Thus this post.
     I first started recording my hill ride in 2008.  The route consists of climbs up Rain Creek, Courtyard, Jester, Bluegrass, Lost Horizon, and Fire Oak with an elevation gain of about 1575 feet over nineteen miles.  On days I really don't have the oomph, I skip Jester and go up Champion Grandview Way, but that is recorded separately.  I have a spreadsheet devoted solely to when Jester is included.
     This is always a hard workout.  Some days are better than others.  Through 2014 my average times were in the low 80's (minutes), and I still used one hour, thirty minutes as my benchmark.  The fastest time recorded was one hour, seventeen minutes, forty-eight seconds.  I don't have HR data for that ride, but my average cadence was 69, up until yesterday the fastest I have pedaled.  Fast times really depend on the wind direction and red lights, which is why I don't really fuss unless I exceed 95 minutes.   I haven't used Moving Time because the old computer only gave elapsed time and I prefer consistent data.  But I may start, adding another column to the spreadsheet.
     My fastest time, which is usually going down Rain Creek toward the golf course, is 45.3 mph.  Coming down off Courtyard is also quick, but with the stop sign at the bottom I'm usually more prudent about letting it run.  Most of the time I hit 40 unless the wind is in my face.
     In 2009 I recorded a high heart rate (HR) of 168 which was probably my absolute maximum.  Since that time I've used it as my max to set zones.  However, since then I rarely get into the 160's and for the last few years the low 150's have been the norm (not counting racing at the Driveway which has seen me top out at 163).  In setting that 168 I spent a whopping eleven minutes, eleven seconds in zone 5.  The most time in zone 5 was nineteen minutes, thirty-four seconds but my time was average.  That was in 2010 and I suspect I had a bad day and was really working hard and not getting much out of it.  My best times come when I'm between four and seven minutes.  BTW, yesterday my time was eighty-eight minutes, with five minutes in zone 5, with an average cadence of 70.
     I only did three hill climbs that included Jester in 2018, although another four were the lesser alternate route.  2013 (not 2012) was the year I did this the most, twenty-six times.  Most years were between four and eight.  This year should exceed eight.  I'm hoping to get in some faster times.  This route has lots of Strava segments, and I'd like to lead the 75+ group on some of them.  Whoever Remington Hillride is, he is my target.

Monday, September 16, 2019


     Wow!  I didn't see THAT coming!!  But let's start at the beginning.  Our race started at 2:25 pm, so I left the house at 11:25 am, stopped for gas, and arrived at 12:40 pm or about five minutes before I had planned to.  I always wear my A&M kit at Ft. Hood and at the senior games in College Station.  I planned to warm up in a BSS jersey then switch to the dry one for the race.  Halfway to Copperas Cove I realized that the two jerseys were still hanging in my closet.  Pook!  Not to worry, I always have extra bike stuff in the car for times like this.
     My thirty minute warm up went well.  Legs felt good, heart rate brought up to 140, finished in time to change jerseys, strap on my small Camelbak and put a fresh 24 oz. bottle in the cage, drink Pickle Juice, and rest a few minutes before coming to the start line.  There were sufficient 70+ riders that we had our own group, rather than having to start with the 60+ guys.  And there were enough (6 I think) in the 75+ group that we had our own medal race.  It was 96 degrees with a brisk (some might say strong) wind out of the east-southeast.  The course runs north-northeast for a little over fifteen miles, south-southwest for a little under fifteen miles, then west for about three miles.
     I knew about half the riders and knew the "young" guys would set a strong pace in the mostly downhill first four miles.  We started the first couple hundred meters being reasonable, then they ramped it up.  I caught on to Tom's wheel when he came by and five of us followed a rabbit, leaving the others gapped.  We did the first four miles in 10:35 before the first hill.  This has a 10% ramp and usually separates the weaker riders.  I still clung to Tom's wheel, but Whitney gapped three of us and was off in pursuit of the rabbit (whose name I didn't know, but he was a teammate of Whitney's).  I was feeling good.  Heart rate was in the 140's for the downhill race and only hit 154 for the climb.
     Then it was off to the second hill at mile seven and a half.  This is about a half mile climb with ramps of 9% and on the second ramp I lost Tom's wheel and in the blink of an eye he had twenty yards and that was the closest I came until climbing on the podium.  I checked my mirrors, nobody in sight.  It was time trial time for the rest of the race.  We had some downhill and after a few of those I noticed a bike in my mirror.  He was making up a lot of ground on the descents.  At the start of the race I noticed a lot of guys sitting on their top tubes and he was one of them.  I'm not ready to do that yet.  Eventually he caught up and I saw he wasn't in my age group (a young guy at 71).  Then, just before the turn, another rider caught me, Sean.  He was also in the younger group.
     I made the turn and made a quick stop for a Gu.  It was also a water stop but I figured I had plenty of liquid so didn't take any.  The hoped for wind over my left shoulder didn't materialize.  It was on my left shoulder ok, but the front left.  Sean was my rabbit.  He hung about 100 yards ahead and stayed between 100 yards and a quarter-mile for the next eight or so miles.
     Meanwhile, I began having difficulties.  The strain of fighting the wind by myself, climbing, and the heat had taken a toll I hadn't anticipated.  Now, rather than pushing at a reasonable 142 heart-rate, I was having trouble at 132.    Fred came whizzing by me on a downhill.  Fred is ten years older than me and continues to be faster.  Definitely, I was over-heated,  reduced to noodling in for the last ten miles, with two tough climbs before a right turn and the wind at my back.  But I was better off than Sean, who was cramping big time.  On one of the climbs I finally passed him as he slowly zig-zagged his way up the hill.  I was also better off than Jaime.  I'd dropped him on the first hill, but like Fred, he was in pursuit.  Unfortunately, he became disoriented and missed a turn and fell into a ditch.  While he wasn't hurt, he was unable to remount his bike and the sag wagon told him his race was over.  It was about this time that my neck started to cramp.  This is a big tell-tale to me that I haven't been drinking enough fluid.  I took the last dregs of the water bottle (with Nuun), then discovered that the Camelbak was also empty.  Should have taken them up at the water stop.
     The right turn finally came, but with the wind at my back also came a big hill.  I felt better as I increased cadence in a small cog.  Once at the top, even though the climb continued at 1-3%, I could move down a gear, then another, and I was almost at a decent speed.  My heart-rate returned to the 140's and I started feeling better.  The leaders of the ladies group that started after us came by.  Fortunately I didn't have anyone to sprint against, although I could have.
     Rather than immediately go into a cool down ride, I headed for the car and a fresh bottle of water.  After some large gulps, I got back on the bike to cool down.  I had very little energy and mostly just sat in the saddle, not bending my neck, and drank water.  Rather than ten minutes, I only took six.  But that was good because as I was getting off my bike I heard my name on the loud speaker being called to the podium.  Andy verified I'd finished behind Fred and directed me to the 3rd place spot on the podium.  I went over and sat down on it, took off my helmet, drank more water.  Tom and Fred came over, as did Jaime, just to get in the picture.  As you can see, they took the picture before I could straighten up.  Then again, I had a hard time straightening up.
     We sat in the tent and discussed the race.  I drank more water and eventually my vision became clear.  After fifteen-twenty minutes it was time to head for home.  This morning as I write this, my legs feel good but my neck and shoulders still are stiff.  I can't remember the last time my shoulders were stressed.
     Interestingly enough, my time from the start to the first turn was exactly the same as when I reconned the course by myself a couple weeks ago.  And my recon was ten minutes faster than the race.  Perhaps I should have noodled up the first two hills.  Or, do harder, longer training rides.  Well, this is the end of the racing season, other than a couple of Driveway crits.  Time to start planning next year's agenda.

Friday, September 6, 2019


     Well, things didn't go as planned.  But I (involuntarily) did re-learn one thing: a proper warm up is essential.  And another thing: Statistics can be deceiving, especially if used deceivingly.  So this is how my evening went yesterday.
     Still one hundred degrees.  I arrived at the Driveway early, so set up a chair in the shade and drank a bottle of water.  Four-fifteen, time to warm up.  I filled up my water bottle and proceeded to ride around the parking lot for fifteen minutes until it was time to open up the track.  That time came and went, and I continued to circle around, alternating high cadence and high gear.  They never did open the course for warm ups.  I never did get my heart rate up to race speed.  Legs were good, cardio not so much.
     Due to the lessening daylight hours, the racing groups have been compressed and we now have the Cat 3 racers in our group.  Guy informed me that they usually go one mph faster.  That probably means they go 3-4 miles faster down the slope.  So off we go.  Even starting at the back I was able to move up a bit because I clipped in on first try and am in the proper gear.  Heart rate jumped in a hurry and I'm hoping not to go in the red too soon.  As we rounded the S curve and start down the slope, I hit the accelerator hard and was super pleased to be hanging in.  Too fast!  I had forgotten where the turn was!  Pook, ding-fu!!
     Now on the outside of the wide turn, having to brake slightly, watched folks pass on the inside and just like that, lost the group.  How quickly fortunes change.  I managed to catch on to Amy and Joella, fresh from high altitude fun in Colorado.  Amy and I traded off for a couple of laps, with Joella trailing slightly.  She finally caught back on.  I was third in line when the peloton came whizzing by, on the S curve.  We stayed left, but I got squeezed on a curve and lost position.  I also lost Amy and Joella who didn't have to slow down.  So now I was on my own.
     This is a fast course and the group rode hard.  So I got lapped again, and again had to slow because they again caught me on the S bend.  They hadn't dropped a lot of riders, so it was a long, strung out group taking a long time to pass.  Anyhow, I saw a dropped rider up ahead and knew we were on the same lap.  He was pretty much gassed and if we didn't get pulled off course for the last lap, I might catch him.  We didn't get pulled and on the last uphill I caught on to his wheel, stayed there for a few seconds, then accelerated away, not to finish last.
     Now for the stats.  My average cadence was 89, more or less what I've been doing.  My heart rate of 150/158 was a bit low, and my speed dropped back to 19.6mph.  But my average power increased to 180 watts.  I worked harder and went slower.  I'm blaming the inability to warm up properly and not remembering the course, causing me to get dropped too soon. I can't compare HR with my younger teammates but the power numbers are interesting.  I did an average of 180 watts which generated 19.6 mph.  Teammate #1 did 183 watts for 24.7 mph, average cadence 98; #2 did 183 watts for 25.9,  cadence 91; #3 did 208 watts for 22.3 mph (perhaps he was dropped also, thus having to push harder for his speed).  As Todd has told me many times: you go faster with less energy when inside the group.  Of course, I've known that for years, but now have the numbers to prove it.
      I need to get a proper warm up.  So far, I haven't settled on what to do, consistently, to achieve that.  I know that cadence ladders will get the HR up and I can achieve that on Great Northern.  Somehow that hasn't translated to other areas.  I may have to bring the trainer and set that up.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 30, 2019


     Time for a little retrospective on racing at the Driveway.  After dipping my toes in this adventure, I've decided to go all in for next year.  So I purchased a timing chip rather than rent one.  This is a five-year purchase, so will save money in the long run.
     I was super pleased to be able to hang with the group for two laps last night.  However, after the race Todd pointed out that I could have saved more energy had I pushed up into the pack on the back straight.  At the time, while I agreed I could have, it seemed somewhat pointless in that within the next several hundred yards, I would have been relegated to the back of the pack as they accelerated up the incline.  But that is what has led to this introspection.
     In looking at the stats this morning, my average speed is up, as is my average power, but my average heart rate is down a few beats.  So, what am I thinking?  Why didn't I push a bit harder to get in the draft of the peloton?  I think I have a (misplaced) fear of over-extending myself and running out of steam before the end of the race.  This is irrational, given my current level of fitness.  It's only a thirty minute race.
     After getting dropped, I hooked up with two other riders plus a trio of mentors.  Under their tutelage, we managed to trade off leading, and pushed our way around the course.  Since we were a group to ourselves, I could hold my HR down a bit.  But this is the rub: I am racing here to improve my fitness so I need to go all out and not be content to cruise around after getting dropped.  There are three more races this season.  I'll be looking to go 100% in those.

Friday, August 23, 2019


     Actual data versus "feels like" otherwise known as Perceived Exertion. Yesterday at my return to the Driveway, I once again met my goals of hanging with the peloton for a lap (this time a lap plus a little more) and only getting lapped once.  I also managed to lap one rider, and finished ahead of several others.  Official results aren't posted yet, but I count some of the DNFs, those not taken out by a crash.  I felt good, worked hard, and saw impressive, for me, numbers in the stats.
     Training Peaks tells me I set four (4) Peak Performances: 5 second heart rate (163), 1 minute HR (162), 5 minute HR (158), and 10 minute HR (156).  Considering I have a max HR of 169, that's impressive.   Of course, there is no way I could sustain the 160's for any length of time, and once I waved good-bye to the group, the HR dropped back to the 158 range.  The last lap was in the high 140's.
     As for the race itself, it was fun on the first lap, powered up the hill without difficulty, 700 watts and holding back a bit to stay on a wheel.  Accelerating on the back stretch is where I hit my highest HR but when it came to the next acceleration, I had to back off a bit.  But I wasn't the only one.  A few hundred yards ahead was a guy in a pink jersey and I was slowly reeling him in.  However, after another lap he opted to not finish, so I lost my carrot.  After a couple more laps by myself, Carla my mentor, gave me a break and took the front for a few more laps and helped drag me up to one of the other dropped riders. We got out of the way of the peloton and tried an acceleration to jump on the back, but I was too late.  That was my second highest wattage reading.  Then it was cruise around for another two laps.
     I cooled down for six plus minutes on the bike, consuming the Nuun left in my water bottle, stopped off at the water coolers and refilled with plain water and drank that.  Changed out of my bike shoes, returned the timing chip, and had another bottle of water.  All in all, it took a good twenty minutes for any semblance of normalcy to return.
     Now for the real shocker, the comparison to my races in Colorado.  In the time trial, my average speed was 20.9, last night 20.2, average wattage 171 vs. 167, average HR 137 vs. 154.  In the criterium, my average speed was 19.9 vs. 20.2,  average HR 133 vs. 154 (I've left out the power since I followed a wheel the whole race).  So, for the last two weeks I've been whining and complaining about my muscles not performing up to par, but apparently the only muscles under-performing were the heart and lungs.  Well, even that is an over-statement.  Yes, my HR in Colorado was twenty beats low, but apparently the legs were supplied enough oxygen to be able to put out the same amount of power.  I'm flabbergasted.  As Professor Dumbledore told Harry when asked if it were all real or imagined: "It's all in your head."  I need to process this revelation for awhile.

Monday, August 19, 2019


     Perhaps you couldn't tell from the previous post that I was extremely disappointed in my performance.  Not necessarily my placement, while I might have been able to improve one place, I earned what I expected.  After each race or set of races, I review the stats, so this is a short entry.
     The most telling stat comes from Training Peaks.  I managed to drop ten Fitness points leading up to the races.  The inability to train hard took its toll.  Heart rate took another hit.  At the Driveway, I average 150-153 (90% of max), with a max of 157.  My time trial had an average of 137 with a max of 147 and the road race 130 with a max of 142.  To be fair the TT was relatively flat at an altitude of 5300 feet and the road race had monster hills at 6500 to 7,000 feet.  Still, I couldn't get the muscles to go any harder.
     For the thirty-five minutes of the time trial I averaged 172 watts which is about what I have done at the Driveway.  The road race had me down to 130 watts.  Part of that was because there was a lot of downhill, but I just had nothin' going up.  I generated more power today, with a lower HR,  doing cadence drills on Great Northern.
     You may have noticed I didn't include the criterium.  Once we lost the peloton and it was just the two of us, it was more or less a Merckx Time Trial with me along for the ride.  The HR was 133 with 139 watts.
     We've been back for a week and my body is just now starting to return to "normal."  I've been watching the Tour of Utah and have lots more respect for the guys working so hard at altitude.  Hopefully by the time Thursday rolls around I'll have some legs for the Driveway.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


     In terms of cycling, this was a colossal mistake!  It wasn't a disaster, so we'll call it a learning experience.   The trip itself included going up Pike's Peak and touring the Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy, specifically the chapel.  Chris and his family came for a week and enjoyed white water rafting and Pike's Peak.  My older brother from Smyrna, GA came to watch me race.  All good.  But, for this post, I'm relating only the cycling.
     Back up to last year.  I competed at the USAC Nationals in Augusta and came home with a third and fourth place so was quite pleased with my performance.  So much so I determined to give it another go this year.  One must guard against hubris.  I constructed an excellent plan to bring me to optimum form for the races.  This included arriving three weeks early to give my body time to adjust to the altitude, two weeks of hard work and a week of tapering.  What could go wrong!
      We arrived at 3 pm, settled into the Airbnb and in the evening did a short stroll in the neighborhood.  The next morning I hopped on the Cottonwood Trail, one of the myriad bike paths in and around Colorado Springs.  This was a "get acquainted" ride, just cruising around.  As it turned out, it was six miles downhill, turn around, six miles uphill.  Not steep.  Reality then smacked me in the face: my body doesn't like 6,500 feet.  My muscles weren't getting the oxygen they needed.  This dinky ride wiped me out.   
     The time trial course was forty-seven miles away, minor rolling, out and back. The road race course was at the Air Force Academy, 11.3 miles around, three laps. The criterium course was in a new subdivision, egg-shaped, with two minor big-ring inclines and 1.2 miles around.  My first practice ride consisted of a half-hour recon of the crit course, breakfast, then out to the AFA. I did two laps, struggled up the two-mile 4% grade, and barely made it up the shorter 8% one.  An hour and a half later I packed it in, went home and could do nothing for the rest of the day.  My game plan, so meticulously worked out, wasn't going to happen.  I simply couldn't put in the hard work needed.  Plan B: similar workouts, just not as hard nor as long.
     I took the next day off and we went sightseeing.  The following day I was back at the AFA trying to convince myself that the first time was an off day.  Nope.  Same thing, no push on the 4% grade and barely able to hold cadence on the 8%.  To be clear, the 4%er is over two miles long and had ramps up to 9% and the 8%er had a couple of double-digit ramps.  The third climb was short, but also had double-digits.  After that it was five miles of downhill before hitting the hills again.  Two laps and I was cooked.  The race is three laps for us old guys.
     The next day, Saturday, I was up early and went down to the TT course.  It is a dead-straight, slightly rolling country road.  I first drove the whole course then parked and did an abbreviated seven and a half mile recon on my TT bike.  Much better than the monster last year.  In all, I did three more days on the crit course, two more days riding the road race course, and two more days doing TT practice (although I did it on the AFA road rather than drive to the actual course).  That brings us to the actual racing.
     The time trial was the first competition and we arrived early because parking was going to be a problem.  Miraculously and thankfully, the rancher who lived at the start line volunteered his field for parking, so the competitors would be close to their vehicles for any needed supplies.  The weather was good, only a slight wind.  I did my normal warm-up and prepared to race.  It went off without a hitch, I felt good.  By this time I had resigned myself to a less-than-stellar performance, but still gave it my best shot.  My plan called for 22 mph, reality had me coming in at 19.9.  That was good enough for fifth place, which at Nationals is a podium finish.  I was pleased.
     A day off, then it was road race time.  I seriously considered skipping the race so as to have fresh legs for the criterium.  But I'd put in a lot of time all year preparing for this, so poor performance or not, I decided to see what happened.  The first two miles were slightly downhill with a tailwind (as was the finishing three miles), and I thought I was mid-pack, cruising along effortlessly.  As it turned out, I was at the back of the pack and when the road turned up, and I got dropped, there were only a few guys behind me.  Bummer!  Fortunately a slightly stronger guy passed and I latched on to his wheel and stayed there for the next two miles.  On the next hill I got a gap and really left him behind on the downhill.  Going over the next hill I didn't see him in my mirror, and then really got going on the five miles of downhill with the wind at my back.  I was by myself for the whole next lap and saw no one in my mirrors.  Strava indicates I was only two minutes slower on the second lap.  Going into the third time up the two mile hill I saw a rider in my mirror.  Pook! ding-fu!  He passed me rather easily, and was in my age group.  I wondered how such a strong rider had gotten behind me to start with.  Oh well!  I struggled on and got that hill over with.  Downhill then on to the next, harder one.  The legs were really toasted, but I felt good about my performance and looked forward to the downhill.  About half-way up the next, short hill a guy came  up on my left and said "I thought I'd never see you again."  I looked over and saw the guy who pulled me up the first lap and replied "I thought the same thing about you."  He then proceeded to put about ten yards into me as we crested the hill.  Not a problem, I'm faster than he is going down.  Well, he kept his position and we came to the last hill, which can be taken in the big ring.  He put another twenty yards into me.  The last three miles are downhill, with the wind at our backs.  I had a compact, he had 53 teeth.  No contest.
     No complaints.  I finished fifteen minutes faster than my projected time, finished stronger than anticipated, and finished eighth.  Not too shabby.  I was bummed that I'd been caught by a guy who'd been dropped on the first lap.  Strava shows I lost an additional two and a half minutes on the last lap so apparently he held his speed the whole way.  Still, better than not competing.
     The next day was the criterium.  I was looking forward to hanging in for at least twenty of the forty minutes.  This is a combined group with the younger guys (70-74).  For the first time in years, when the gun went off I couldn't get clipped in.  Three lost pedal strokes and I was behind almost everybody.  I frantically got moving, putting myself in the red and made up a little ground.  I found a wheel to follow and hung on.  As it turned out, it was the same guy who beat me yesterday.  All of my practice rounds had been in the morning and the wind wasn't a factor.  This was 2:00 pm and a fairly strong wind was in our face going up the two hills.  We had lost the peloton, but were ahead of at least one guy in our age group plus some older guys.  He continued to pull, I continued to suck wheel.  We picked up a younger guy, but rather than work with us, he would pull ahead going downhill and fall back going up.  He did this for four laps before falling back for good.
     On one of the laps I heard someone call out to us "Mike, you got forth place" or words to that effect.  Same thing on the next couple of laps.  In the back of my mind I'm still replaying getting caught from behind, so I made a decision.  I pulled up next to my benefactor and said that if he would drag me around the course to the end I wouldn't contest the finish.  Here was my calculation:  there isn't really much distinction between forth and fifth place, both get on the podium, plus I'm not really a cutthroat type of racer (different calculation if this were going to be for first place).  So he continued for the next four laps and we finished the race.
     Now the sad part:  his name is Charles, not Mike.  He didn't come in forth, he came in fifth, I came in sixth.  Again, I'm not second guessing myself.  He was the stronger rider, there was no way we could have caught up with the other guys, and it would have been futile for me to try to drop him.  I'll just have to get stronger/faster next year.  Of course, if Nationals is again in Colorado Springs, I'll pass.  I won't be racing at altitude again.

Friday, July 12, 2019


     Last night we were back on the same course and direction as my first foray into racing at the Driveway.  The results were quite an improvement, generally speaking.
     I benefited from a mostly northerly wind, in that it slowed the peloton down a bit, allowing me to hang on for a full lap.  That was my first goal.  It also resulted in a lap time a full minute faster than the previous race.  I could hear Todd yelling for me to close it down as I passed the spectators, but I was already on the rivet and couldn't muster any more speed.  According to Strava I was three beats short of my maximum HR, so technically I guess I could have done more.  Clearly, my legs strength is not matching my cardio/vascular so that needs to be corrected.
     Each of my remaining laps were progressively slower, albeit each one was faster than the first time on this course.  I know I passed one rider before being helped out for two laps by my teammate, Dave Luplow, who had been caught up behind a crash.  He led me around, although I had to holler for him to slow down.  That was quite helpful, especially going into the wind.  The crash, not their fault, took out five ZFG riders and a handful of others.   
     Last time I was lapped three times, this time only once.  Mostly it was because the peloton wasn't as fast, and some of it was me going faster.  My average speed was 1.3 mph faster at 19.9 mph.  This is somewhat perplexing, in that I can do that when out by myself, not racing, with a whole lot less HR.  With Dave leading me, I forgot to put on a sprint for the line.  Just as well.
     Next week is the speed loop, but it's also two days before I leave for Colorado Springs.  I believe I'll just be spectating, as it would be poor form to have any sort of injury right before Nationals.

Friday, July 5, 2019


     That's a rhetorical question.  I think I'm getting better and Training Peaks thinks I'm getting better, so we have consensus.  But to get faster at The Driveway, I need to get my head in the game.  Last night during my warm-up, the legs weren't happy.  The sensation of power just wasn't there.  I was resigned to another disappointing outing.  And then:
     As we lined up for the start I saw the guy who originally inspired me to give it a go.  This is a negative comment.  I first saw him two years ago.  The peleton would lose him in the first 500 yards, and he would be lapped multiple times.  And yet, he persisted.  Why would an old guy come out and embarrass himself week after week.  Same thing the next year.  I opined to my friends that I'm faster than he, I should go out and beat him, then invite him to partake in the Senior Games where he could race against guys his own age.  By the way, I was told he was 62.  Turns out he is 72, but that's still in a younger age group than me.  Anyhow, this would be my first opportunity to see if I really could take him.  I figured if anything, I'd draft then out-sprint.
     Well, he is faster than when I first saw him, but his start hasn't improved.  Fifty yards from the start, he had already lost the group.  I accelerated around him and tagged on, into the wind.  So from the start I knew I wouldn't finish last.  This Championship Loop doesn't have the long straightaway of the Grand Prix course, and I lost the guys on the first turn.  Like last time, they didn't leave me in the dust, just gradually pulled away.  But this time I had company.
     I feel no guilt in drafting a much younger guy.  With folks my own age I'd trade off leading, but this time I just sucked wheel for three laps.  He would pull away slightly but I was faster in the corners and catch back up.  I especially stayed tight going into the wind.  He finally slowed a bit and I moved up to take my turn leading.  But he was done and couldn't hold on, so I was once again by myself.
     On the fifth lap the peleton passed.  I'd moved out to the right to give them space and all went well, for the most part.  This was a big group, and after about fifty guys went by I tagged on to enjoy a bit of draft.  Unfortunately, I misread the gap, and another group of about twenty-five were closing in, and we had a curve coming up.  I slowed a bit and tried to make myself as small as possible as they passed.   I don't think I impeded their speed too much.  Then it was back to time-trialling another four laps until they caught me again.  This time I slowed a bunch and they went by without a hitch.
     Because of the large group, course marshals were pulling lapped riders.  The announcer said starting with five laps to go, but I kept getting waved through until two laps to go.  I finished with nine laps, the leaders with fourteen.
     Now for some stats.  My average speed was .5 mph slower than the last time.  However, the last time we had that long straightaway where we could hold some speed.  My max speed was the same at 32.5.  I didn't work as hard, per my HR.  Last time 150/158 and this time 149/156.  That is still in the 95% range.
     There were a handful of guys who dropped out, so technically I finished ahead of them.  I also lapped my inspiration guy, who dropped out after five laps.  One other finisher was slower than me.  My philosophy is not to sprint to avoid last place, so I lost a place by one second.  Afterwards I berated myself for not doing an out-of-saddle sprint.  I'm not doing these as races, but as training.  It would look like bad form to sprint, but I need the practice.  Next time I'll be sprinting.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


     I love cycling early.  For years I'd ride what is essentially the Dam Loop on Sunday mornings with wheels down ten minutes before sunrise.  Starting at Big Lots I could get through the subdivisions and hit 360 as the sun rose.   Then I began riding with BSS on Sunday so got away from it.  For the past few weeks I've gone out early, but now it is north to Walburg.  The problem is leaving the house before you can see the sky.  I start from Old Settlers Park, a twenty minute drive.
     It's not like I don't monitor the weather.  At 5:30 am this morning the radar was clear and the forecast was for 5% chance of rain, increasing to 15% by 9:00 am.  Wind out of the south at 8-10 increasing to 12-15.  Walburg is generally north-south, so I planned to pedal hard going up and noodle my way back against the wind.  Maybe a PR on CR 119.  At 6:15 am, in the parking lot of OSP, I checked the weather channel again and all was clear.  I always protect my eyes, so I had my sun glasses on, although when I pushed off they were down a bit on my nose and I peered over the top.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the darkness to the south.
     Regular Readers know that when Austin has a wind forecast of 10-15 mph you can bet it will be 15-20 in Williamson County.  As one old timer once told me, think of riding against the wind as if you were climbing a mountain.  Anyway, I wasn't real thrilled, but resigned to getting buffeted for three hours.  Twenty seconds into the ride I felt a bit of rain on my back.  Oh No!  Not my clean bike!!  I just cleaned it a few days ago after our foray to Granger Lake and the surprise shower.
     I did a quick U-turn in time for a harder downpour (not really a downpour, but enough to get me wet in a few seconds).  Back up the hill, into the parking lot, dragged open the car door and tossed the bike in, followed shortly by me.  Pook, ding-fu!
     The first thing I did was check radar, still clear.  Then I deleted the rides from Strava and Garmin.  Then I thought about my future (like, immediate future).  I couldn't trust radar and the forecast called for increasing chance of rain in the morning, better by this afternoon.  Rain or not, the wind was only going to get more intense as the day progressed.  Bah!  I pulled the plug and drove back home.  Looks like tomorrow will be my long ride day.  Being old and retired gives a certain flexibility to the ride schedule.
       Maybe next week.  BTW, there are other perils of early cycling, just nothing else today.

Friday, June 21, 2019


     Plan A was to get in at least half a dozen races before heading off to Nationals in Colorado Springs.  Unfortunately, stuff happens and I missed the next two weeks of racing, both with excellent weather.  Last night was hot, hot, hot.  But that's getting ahead of myself.
     My first foray left me disappointed.  Some days you just don't have it, and that was one of them.  I was lapped three times, a combination of me going slow and them being faster than average.  But I wasn't being a slackard these last three weeks and definitely felt stronger as I warmed up.  This would be the same course, just in the other direction.
     Warming up for big races has always been a problem for me.  In the Senior Games I warm up for the 5k time trial but truthfully the 5k is my real warm up for the 10k time trial and road race.  But I think I've finally found a work-out that will bring my heart rate approaching race rate.  It is my cadence ladder drills.
     I still don't have a routine for the Driveway so it took a bit for me to get all squared away and ready to warm up on the course.  Ninety-eight or so degrees, humid.  I filled my water bottle and meandered out and around.  After a few laps I did my ladders and saw the heart rate move up to 143.  Regular readers know my max HR is 159 (this year), so once I hit 143 three times I backed off and just did normal cadence and a few big gear minutes.  Warm up took three water bottles, then I went to the car to get my Nuun for the race.
     This is not a competitive race for me.  My goal is to hang on for a lap and then only get lapped once (on the long course).  After that, it is me and my mentor.  I go as hard as I can, but it isn't like I'm in a peloton, like I would be if I were with guys my own age.
     It is always a surprise that someone is behind me at the start of the race.  Anyhow, I started well, took the first couple turns just fine, hanging with the guys.  We came to the cork-screw downhill and I had it lined up just right, so I thought.  Really, I didn't think there was room on the right, but I flinched a little as someone came by me.  That caused a minor correction but I then shifted down and hung on.  That lasted thirty seconds, maybe forty-five.  But as they made the turn back to the start area I lost them.  It wasn't like they disappeared into the sunset, but they gradually pulled away.  A look at my stats shows I was once again at 95% of max HR running about 23 mph.  My goal for the first lap was 4:45 and I came in at 4:20 with a second lap of 4:44 then 4:48.  So the stats reflected how I was feeling, pretty good.
     I wasn't feeling the heat as much as anticipated.  I only hit the water bottle a couple of times, although much larger swigs than usual.  We were about eighteen minutes into the race before I was lapped, and while I had slowed a bit, was still going well.  With only twelve minutes or less left, I was pretty sure I could hold them off.  I had only slowed twelve seconds per lap, holding my cadence, but the power had dropped.  For what was to be my last lap, I backed off a bit on the back side, thinking they would be on me close to the finish and I didn't want to get in the way.  As it turned out, they were a good minute back, affording me the freedom to take the last chicane as I wanted and, since I'd let my HR drop into the 130's, hit the last two hundred meters with an out-of-saddle sprint.  True, my power numbers weren't up to when I do drills, but it was fun to even be able to do it.  Garmin shows my HR for this sprint at 158.
     It took awhile and multiple bottles of water to get to feeling human again, but the satisfaction of a good output helped.  One little picky thing: the official results have me as two laps down, although my time is right.  I think that is because in the cool-down I was shunted off with the others so the next race could begin.  Not a problem.  Check back next week, as I try not to get lapped four times on the short, speed loop.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


     Well, most of it is on Strava, but that's only part of the story.  I planned a simple ride, out around Granger Lake and back.  The last time I did this, the roads we used today weren't built, so I guesstimated the mileage at 52 round trip.  When I can talk Callie into riding with me I try to come up with at least one new thing she hasn't seen/done before.  We put off this ride on Sunday because of the fierce wind (and rain forecast that didn't materialize), but my best guess was three and a half hours and maybe four.
     On weekend long rides I try to get out ten minutes before sunrise, but Tuesday being a work day, we aimed for 8:00 am and I didn't check the time, but it was close to that.  The forecast was zero percent of rain with a 5 mph SE wind building to 12-15.  We had our sun screen, I brought an extra bottle of water for Callie and had 90 ounces in my 100 ounce Camelbak.  Nutrition, check.  Off we went.
     My Fly6 has been acting strange lately, probably because I hit some button wrong.  So I packed an extra back light.  The first hour went just fine, averaged over 15 mph into that slight breeze, and stopped at the turn to Circleville for our first nutrition break.  On long rides I stop every hour.  Just before stopping, the Fly6 gave a loud four (I think) beeps then ran out of power and turned itself off.  I switched out with my 100% charged back-up.   As we started up again, heading north, I noticed the horizon turning dark.  Even with my sun glasses I could tell this wasn't in the forecast.  We should have had several hours of clear skies, then partly cloudy.
     We crossed Hwy 95 and did some climbing, then hit level ground.  Not much traffic, mostly pick-ups and all very polite, moving to the other lane to pass.  All the while, I kept looking over my left shoulder at the building clouds.  It's seven miles to the lake and dam.  The wind was out of the north now, not south-east, and fairly brisk.  It blew a few sprinkles out of the clouds.  Let me digress: There was this one huge, dark mass, the kind that produces hail, and several grey clouds off to the left, plus rain coming down about a mile off to our right.  It appeared to be slowly moving northwest to southeast.  With luck, we would be going around it.  If you've done this route before you know that there is zero shelter, once you pass the lake overlook.  It started sprinkling just as we finished the dam and turned left toward Granger.
     It's about eight miles on Hwy 971.  We kept looking at the dark mass, still on our left.  Then the sprinkles became a light rain.  But the "drops" were pretty hard, I'm sure there is a meteorological name for it.  Then the road turned left.  Dang!  By now we were discussing calling Brian and/or Marilane for a rescue.  Fortunately very few vehicles were on the road.  Then the road turned right, and it appeared the dark cloud wasn't destined for us.  Then the sun peaked through.
     We found a convenience store in Granger and it's rest room.  This was a longer stop than I anticipated, but necessary.  As we started off I apparently hit a wrong button on the Garmin because it very kindly "saved" my ride.  Pook, ding-fu!  This is how the ride on Strava acquired two parts.  The riding in the rain took a lot out of me, not to mention the mileage.  The northeast wind from the squall that was in our face turned into the forecast south- southeast wind, thus still in our face.  From Granger it was twenty-five miles back to Old Settlers Park and was relatively slow.  And uneventful, except:
     As we entered OSP, my Garmin turned itself off.  I checked when we got home, it was at 73%.  No clue.  But my combined mileage is still a mile and a half short.  Better than Callie, she forgot to start hers after our first rest stop and is six miles short.  AND, my second tail light had also run out of power, so who knows how long I wasn't blinking at Callie.  But, you are thinking to yourself, he had his Strava app on his cell phone going so his wife could keep up with where he was.  It had stopped when we rested in Granger, and didn't go further (a grave concern to said wife).  Plus, it had run down from 100% to 1% and had turned itself off also.  I had to plug it into the car before I could even call to let her know all was well.
     We survived.  It totaled 62 miles and took about four hours, fifteen minutes.  It has taken me four hours to recover to where I can get out of my chair to eat dinner.  Stretching will come later.

Friday, May 31, 2019


     For those not familiar, The Driveway is a race course and premier criterium racing is here every Thursday evening for eight months of the year.  This is for young folks (under 60) for the most part, but I need some criterium race practice to be ready for nationals in August.  And, last year and so far this year there has been an older gentleman who races and I figured he would be my carrot.  Unfortunately, he didn't race last night.
     The plan was simple, the peloton usually averages eight laps, or roughly four minutes per lap (on the Grand Prix circuit, the longest one) and I would come in around four minutes, forty-five seconds and try to hold on for three-quarters of the first lap.  That would get me lapped around the twenty minute mark.
     That didn't happen, and as I warmed-up, I knew it.  The legs had no real life.  But on to the race.  As the countdown started, my computer turned off.  Pook, ding-fu!  I was resigned to racing without data, and found a large body to hide behind as we got up to speed.  So far, so good.  We hit the small downhill and the leaders exceeded 30 mph and I couldn't, and lost contact with the big guy, who also lost contact.  Actually, I knew this acceleration would happen and had prepared to go all out to keep up.  Unfortunately, my HR was maxed out and further acceleration impossible.
     For the rest of the race it was me and my mentor.  The Driveway has mentors who shepherd new or slow guys around the course so they don't get into trouble and give tips as they go.  Halfway around my computer came back to life and started giving data, so I will also.
     My max HR as best I can tell, is 159 although I haven't hit that this year.  From when the computer came on, my average in this race was 152 with a max of 157, so I was at 95% or more the whole race.  My laps were very consistent,  4:49, 5:05, 5:04, 5:03, 5:13 plus the unknown start plus 2:12 seconds.  And my cadence was good, averaging 90 rpm.  It was my power, at 179, and speed, at 18.6 that was lacking.  This was rather disheartening in that I should have been around 200 power and over 20 mph.  BTW, the peloton was energized and was doing about 3:30 per lap rather than 4:00.  All that being said, Training Peaks gave me six Peak Performances, the twenty-minutes average power and five HR performances: 5 second at 157, 1 minute at 156, 5 minute at 154, 10 minute at 153, and 20 minute at 152.
     I have nine weeks to bring things up to snuff.  Maybe next week I can do better.  Stay tuned.

Friday, May 24, 2019


     In terms of cycling fitness, this is a disappointment.  You can go in the archives for the back-story of riding the six gaps of North Georgia.  These are great roads to cycle on and of all the places I've ridden, they are my favorite.  We had driven to Maryland for grandson's college graduation and a short visit with family.  On our way home, we stopped off in Suches, Georgia for a week of R&R.  Last year we stopped off on our way back from Augusta for Nationals and I had my criterium bike and not enough gears.  This year I was back on my Roark with a triple chainring.
     Every year I start my mountain adventures with the same three gaps: Woody, Neel's, Wolfpen.  Every year my time is between 2:47-2:55.  I had an inkling of trouble right from the start.  Maybe it was the cold (I had tights and wind jacket), but my chest felt tight and the legs sluggish.  Going up the north side of Woody should have been a breeze.  I've seen a cyclist go up without his hands on the bars.  The five-mile descent was fun on the smooth asphalt, then on to Turner's Corner where I'd start up Neel's Gap, almost nine miles.
     My time to Turner's Corner over the years is very consistent.  This year I was five minutes in arrears.  But I wasn't concerned because I was pretty sure I'd have a tailwind going up.  Lord knows what my time would have been without the tailwind.  My heart rate was about ten beats higher than it should have been, and cadence five-ten rotations slower.  Bummer!  More time lost (it's not like I had to be somewhere, just referencing time as a measure of fitness).  New asphalt on the downhill, only one vehicle caught me.  Then it was the turn to Wolfpen.
     This is a three-mile climb and I suffered the whole way, even having to stop a couple of times to let the heart rate drop a bit.  I might add that I love this climb, hardly ever stop, and usually have a gear left over.  The bottom line: by the end of the 34.7 mile ride I managed to lose 20-25 minutes.
     The next few days the heart rate dropped back to normal.  One day I just did Woody Gap over and back.  Three miles to the top, five miles down, turn around and climb five miles, then the three miles back to the cabin.   Cadence was good and I felt strong the whole climb.  This was a good ride!  Then I checked Strava.  I was five minutes slower than last year for this climb. 
     For my last cycling day, I had two options, depending on the weather and how I felt: start at the top of Brasstown Bald and do Unicoi, Hogpen, and Wolfpen Gaps or just Wolfpen.  I screwed it up from the start.  Specifically, I started too early.  Generally I wait until 9 am to let school and work traffic clear.  On this day Marilane would go with me to Brasstown and drive back to the cabin after making sure I didn't splat myself on the way down Brasstown.  But we had a little rain overnight and the clouds were still hanging around.  I should have waited until noon.  Driving over I decided on the shorter route.
     When we drove up Brasstown we noted new asphalt patches across the road, and they weren't smooth.  Maybe a half-dozen of them.  The rest of the road was old, with poured cracks.  It was wet, with some spots having leaves.  Most of the three miles to the top is double-digit grades, with a couple of 16% and the wall of 24% (I've seen 26 on my old computer).  Generally it takes me 25 minutes to climb and just under 5 to descend.  Anyhow, I did a couple of loops of the parking lot at the top and started down.
     I had hoped to do a record descent, but with the road conditions and wet wheels, I was pleased to get down in one piece and only twenty seconds off my best time (but according to Strava, I'm fastest in my age group and faster than the 65-69 and 70-74).  The rest of the descent down Jack's Gap was with a wind in my face and wet wheels.  It wasn't fun.  When Marilane caught up to me a few miles further (having been stopped by a road crew), I gave her the signal and packed it in.  All in all, a good set of rides, but below expectations.
     The video has two minutes of parking lot ride, five minutes twenty seconds of Brasstown, and the rest is going down Jack's.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


     What an adventure!  The early forecast was for cold and wet.  As the week progressed, the rain chances diminished and as Sunday approached, dropped to nil.  However, the forecast of overcast, 48 degrees with a stiff north wind was spot on.  My packing included all my cold weather gear, plus rain gear (I pack early), and several kits.  Because the venue has one (only one) toilet, and no porta potties, I opted to start from home in my BSS skin suit, tights, jacket.  I left at 5:40 and arrived at 7:45, just in time to secure a parking place in a semi-protected spot next to my good friend, Dean.
     I set up both bikes then rode the quarter-mile to check in, get my bib/timing chip, and use the toilet.  No line.  Most folks aim their arrival for 8am so I just beat the line.  Just that little bit of riding left me shivering.  My start time for the first race, 5k time trial, was 9:14.  Time to warm up.
     I'm very familiar with the course, having come here for about fifteen years.  It is about two and a half miles around, with a really long back-side hill.  It isn't steep, just long.  The 5k is out-and-back, and goes half-way up the hill for the turn-around.  My warm up consisted of a full loop then the actual 5k route.  It took the full loop before I stopped shivering and was fairly comfortable pedaling.  The wind really cut into us.  I failed to mention I warm up on my road bike, then do a little shake-down on the tt bike before heading to the start line.
     The start is flat, then a slight incline.  Today it was into the wind.  Ugh!  Within 200 yards my right eye teared up.  Well, that doesn't help.  Anyway, I felt fast although when I peeked at the computer I needed a little more speed.  In the warm up I used the little ring the first time up the back-side and the big ring and lots of gears the second time, to be sure I could do it on the tt bike.  At the turn-around I could see that Bob, who started thirty seconds behind, had made up at least ten of those.  I blasted down the hill and felt good on the return, accelerating nicely through the finish line.  The finish line was not where it had been previously, and it turns out the 5k, or 3.1 miles, turned out to be 3.4 miles.  I doubt that made a difference in my placing, as I came in third.  This was not a surprise, in that I do better in the longer races plus Fred has just aged-up into my category and is faster along with being younger.  I have to put up with him for another three years.
     I went back to the car to stay warm while waiting for the 10k race, with a start time of 10:41.  Bob stayed around until the results were posted and came by to say he beat me.  He didn't say by how much, and I have yet to see the results.
     Everyone knows what happens when you ASSUME.  I left the warmth of the car about twenty-five minutes before my start and went to the toilet (notice I don't use the word bathroom) and immediately noticed that they had taken the Start banners down.  I inquired as to where the start was and the volunteer pointed up the road and said "that way."  For all my years coming here, the 10k was one loop, plus the 5k out-and-back.  I assumed that this year they moved the start to half-way around the course and just eliminated the out-and-back element.  So off I went in search of the start.  It wasn't there.  I did the whole loop searching and only upon coming back did I see racers coming toward me.  One of the racers was Bob, so I knew I'd missed my start time.
     Well, there has been a lot of building in the last few years, and there is a new road that hooks into the loop (actually there are several).  Now there was a person directing cyclists up this road and at the end was the start line.  I asked if I could get in (there was a delay between age groups so it was dead time anyhow) and he said, sure, you got sixty seconds.  Here we pause for an aside.
     Having lost to Bob in the 5k, I wanted to be as quick as possible for the 10k.  To that end, I put my rain jacket under the skin suit, plus arm warmers to cut down any wind resistance.  For my warm up, which this time was on the tt bike, I had my jacket on also, intending to take it off before starting.  I also had no hydration.  Thrown off my schedule, I didn't remove the jacket.  It may have impacted my time, but even with all the layers, I still didn't get overheated.
     It was an uphill start, so I stood for longer than usual, but settled in and felt good.  Once again my eye teared up, so vision was spotty.  As I powered my way around the course I realized I had no idea where I was going.  But about half way through I recognized racers coming from the other direction, so concluded that somewhere was a turn-around.  Well, it wasn't at the 5k spot, so I had to go up the whole incline.  Finally I saw the turn-around banner and relaxed a bit.  Once again I bombed down the back-side hill.  I must admit, I do well on this section.  And again, I powered through the finish line.  As I hit the Stop button I noticed my time seemed really good.  When I punched Summary I understood why.  The 10k (6.2 mile) course turned out to be 5.1 miles.
     It seems the organizers went with what was convenient for the chip timing company.  I understand it takes time to move the timing pads, but it doesn't take much to move the start line.  It wasn't like we had to go over the pad to start, just to finish. 
     We had over an hour before the 20k road race.  This would be five laps, or 12.6 miles which is close enough.  Bob started out strong and I was dropped on the back-side hill the first time up.  Last place.  I'd hoped to hang in awhile, but three races in the cold did me in.  Time to get back to training.

Monday, February 4, 2019


      The third annual Pace Bend Ultra was my first "race" of the season.  I really categorize this as a workout ride since there are no age groups, thus giving me zero chance to actually be competitive.  But a few folks were racing.  There are multiple categories, 24-hour, 12-hour, 6-hour solo and various teams, and the one I did, the 3-hour solo.  I did the inaugural race as a two-man team with Jim Hungerford in the 6-hour team (see the Feb 2017 post on that).  That day was cold and wet and a miserable ride.  Yesterday was much better, with warm (65-70 degrees) weather, dry road, but a fairly stout south wind.
     I opted for my time trial bike and helmet, Texas A&M kit, including shoe covers.  Now, at my speed I doubt the shoe covers help much, but they kept my shoe strap from flapping (shoes to be replaced in the next day or two), and gives the illusion of being a real time trialist.  Learning from the first Ultra, I again switched out cassettes, giving me a 32-tooth which came in quite handy.  But I had a serious lapse of planning when it came to hydration.  In the ten years I've had my Felt I've never had a water bottle cage on it, mainly because I've never done more than 40k.  For the long races I use a kid's Camelbak which holds 26 ounces.  So my plan was to make a quick pit stop and refill the Camelbak.  The A&M jersey is a pull-over and the Camelbak was under the jersey.  I was halfway through the race when it occurred to me that would take a lot of time.  So as I cruised round the course I decided to just thrust the replacement fluid water bottle into my jersey pocket.  More on that later.
     My goal for the three hours was to do eight laps.  Each lap is 6.21 miles.  Last Friday I did the Senior Games 10k Time Trial in an unofficial 18:20.  But that was all out for one lap and there wasn't any wind to speak of.  180 minutes divided by 8 equals 22.5.  My warm-up lap took 24:11 so I was fairly confident I could achieve eight laps.  Of course, that left very little for stopping, but the plan was not to stop.  You can see that I had forgotten about the hydration issue.
     Eleven of us started this race, six others were signed up but didn't show.  It didn't take long for the fast guys to move out, but I managed to pass three or four within the first couple of miles.  I took it out fairly strong and was happy to be in a tt-tuck going into the wind.  The big downhill was into the wind and I was hitting 34-36mph.  On Friday I did 39.  After a left turn onto Grisham Trail there is a strength-busting grade and experience has shown I should take it easy, so this was my recovery section.  As it turned out, my first lap was 18:56 so I was quite please that I'd put three and a half minutes in the bank.  I backed off a bit, but still was only thirty-seven seconds slower, so another three minutes in the bank.  I lost another thirty seconds, but now had about seven minutes for down time.
     Truthfully, I was happy as a clam with my riding.  After the fourth lap I started sitting up when the wind was behind me because my neck was really complaining.  After the fifth lap I stopped at the car and grabbed a Gu and shoved the water bottle in the back pocket.  Gave back a minute and a half.
     For laps seven and eight, rather than chance something happening while I fumbled with the water bottle, knowing I had time, I just stopped and drank up.  Between stops and just going slower, especially the last lap since I knew I'd made the time limit, I managed to lose a few spots to those who I passed at the beginning.  Really don't know how that happened, but the final results show me in 10th place.  The two leaders did ten laps, the next three did nine, five of us did eight, and one did seven.
     But for solace to my ego, I turned to Strava.  It appears that for all the segments, I am atop the leader board for my age group.  And just for grins, compare the times for the next two younger ages.
As I type this, my hips are killing me and my wrists are swollen.  When I turned off the Garmin yesterday it indicated I needed 65 hours of recovery.  I'll probably do an hour easy sometime today.