Friday, September 6, 2019

DRIVEWAY 9/5

     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

DRIVEWAY 8/29

     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

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

     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

USAC MASTERS NATIONALS- STATISTICAL POST MORTEM

     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

USAC NATIONALS, COLORADO SPRINGS

     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

DRIVEWAY 7/11

     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

AM I GETTING BETTER?

     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

PERILS OF EARLY MORNING CYCLING

     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

RACING AT THE DRIVEWAY, SECOND DAY

     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

IF IT'S NOT ON STRAVA, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN! BAH HUMBUG!

     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

RACING AT THE DRIVEWAY

     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

BACK IN GEORGIA FOR A FEW GAPS

     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

SENIOR GAMES STATE FINALS, 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

PACE BEND ULTRA, THREE HOUR SOLO

      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.