Shadow Wharton – September, 2000 – February 22, 2014

Shadow in the middle of a 'wiggle fit' just after we adopted her in 2001.

Shadow in the middle of a ‘wiggle fit’ just after we adopted her in 2001.

I know it’s been forever since I last posted, but if you follow me on Facebook or elsewhere, you know that life has accelerated beyond my ability to juggle this blog among other responsibilities. However, this weekend, our beloved companion, Miss Shadow Wharton, passed away from complications stemming from a collapsed trachea, and intestinal cancer. She left with Amy, Lila Murphy, and myself present, and the ever-gentle Dr. Ward presiding.


Shadow at the Blessing of the Animals with Dr. Ward (Left), around 2002 or 3.

Not long in to my relationship with Amy Cole, I decided to move down to Dallas to pursue a Master’s Degree in Sports Marketing and Management, along with work at the Dallas 2012 Olympic Bid effort. I moved back to Dallas in 1999, and she followed around Easter of that year. We lived in a rented townhouse in North Dallas, joined a health club, and she began making friends. However, throughout the year 2000, with my continued pursuit of an education, mountain bike racing, and even a little road racing, there were hours and days when, before she found a job that she liked, when she was alone, and lonely. Finally, in early 2001, after we had moved in to the townhouse in Uptown, we came to the conclusion that we could own a dog, and that it would be a great opportunity for her to get out in to the neighborhood, and meet people.

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Amy holding Shadow at a mountain bike event in 2002.

We looked in the newspaper, found a breeder with a dog that was the last remaining pup of her litter, out in Garland, and made arrangements for a visit. “Rhetta’s Little Shadow”, with a Mom named Easter, and a brother named “Rocky” from a previous litter, had been the runt, and at four months of age, was quickly learning about getting stepped on and over by all the other rowdy dogs in the house. She was scared of us at first, but after about 20 minutes of coaxing, she leapt on to the covered sofa, and rolled right over, asking for a belly rub, which we both gladly provided. It was love at first sight, and two or three days later, I picked her up, and drove her home. The entire time in my lap that day, she was stiff, as if she had no idea what was going on, where her brothers and parents were, and what new sights and sounds awaited. The rest of that day, I had her on a lead in the garage, with the door open, while I worked on some bicycle stuff, and she never moved. Finally, when the setting sun hit her just right – she relaxed, lay down, and soaked it up.


Shadow and Richard in Amy’s Jetta in front of the Townhouse in Uptown.

That evening, when it was time to go to bed, Amy and I decided that it would be best if Shadow were to learn how to stay in her kennel. We set it up out in the office, down the hall, and TRIED to go to sleep…. That lasted, maybe, one night! Her yapping and crying and pleading, followed by her EXPLODING bowels in that cramped space, led us to try a different approach the next night. This time, we tried to put her on her newly-purchased pillow, on my side of the bed, just so she’d know that we were there, and be satisfied to be in the same room with us. Well – not so much. She couldn’t jump on to the bed at that point, but she could run around all three sides, and put her paws up, and beg. After about two hours of us trying to calm her down, and re-set her on the pillow, we gave up. She was on the bed, and not just wedged in between us, she was UNDER the sheets, at the FOOT of the bed. We finally went to sleep, and woke up with her in mostly the same place – curled up under the sheets, sleeping but awake with one eye open, like we all know Bostons can do.


Shadow Watching a Class

Later, Shadow would learn to move up and down the sheets, and even curl up in the backs of our knees. She was particularly fond of sleeping between Amy’s legs, snuggled up against her PJ’s. It was the beginning of a 13 year love affair with a dog who became “The Mayor of the Katy Trail” at some point, and a favorite of restaurants and shops all over Knox and the West Village!


Shadow Lying Down in the Middle of a SPIN Class at the JCC.

Shadow grew up with us, teaching us as much as we taught her. She did,however, have some health issues early in life that led us to a Specialist, who dismissed her problems as “unsolveable”, and directed us to “return her.” Amy and I had completely fallen for her by that point, though, and we were not going to take that for an answer. So, on a rainy midweek day, I drove down to Texas A&M, where I spoke with a grizzled, experienced small-animal Vet Professor, who said, “He told you that? Well Hell, I taught him – I’ll just call him up and have a chat with him about his bedside manner.” I have no doubt that he did. He looked at Shadow, told me, “She’s got a stenotic trachea, and her lollygagger is stiff and to the side, and her palette is soft. But there’s no need for surgery – it wouldn’t do any good anyhow. You’ll get twelve or more good years out of her. That’ll be Fifteen Bucks!” It was the best money and time I ever spent on that dog.


Shadow On Her Perch, Giving Jay Polsgrove a Lick Attack!

Because she was older when we got her, Shadow NEVER had accidents. But on September 11, 2001, I was stepping out of the shower, one foot in, one foot out, when I saw the crisis unfold on the television, and started screaming. Shadow, not knowing what was going on, had her last accident – it was an appropriate distraction for that day, and having her there for loving and affection while we watched the whole thing on television, was extremely comforting. Later that month, Shadow hooked up with her Boston Cousins, Bob and Jack, over at my brother’s house, and we all laughed and cried and basically got drunk on red wine, watching the three dogs celebrate Shadow and Jack’s birthdays, eating a doggie-cake from a local pet bakery. Bob and Jack, being boys, devoured it. Shadow was content to sit in my mom’s lap and lick her portion, nibbling here and there. We have pictures somewhere, and I’ll post them if I can pull them all up. Some may need to be scanned. 


Young Shadow With Amy and Aunt Polly. Dumbo and Tigger are in the Background.

We also have a photo of Shadow with her ‘Aunt’ Polly, our first Boston. Polly regarded other dogs as pests, but the photo of Shadow trying to get Polly to play with her is priceless. Polly passed away in my arms in 2005, I think, right before the holidays. In many ways, we thank her for setting us on the Boston path. 

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Shadow Enjoying a Sun Beam at the Studio on Garland Rd.

Shadow grew up on daily walks around Uptown, and the neighbors and myself soon took over an abandoned, gated yard on the corner of Elizabeth and Travis. Over the years, she made friends with other four-footers, some in passing, some forever. One night in the 00’s, we went to a Tsunami Relief fundraiser, and bid on a dinner cooked by the host. They had two dogs in an 800 square foot space, but Shadow and “Chagall”, a Spononi, played the entire night together, running up and down the stairs, under the couches, outside, inside, and in the (small) patio. Their antics only made the evening greater, as we laughed harder with each and every slice, dice, cut and romp. Shadow had another friend, Caesar, who started off weighing just as much as she did, and later, as he grew to over 150 lbs! (He was a St. Bernard), he greeted her just as softly, and frequently plopped down to let her run all over and around him. His licks were so slobbery, they required a bath almost immediately! The one time that she ‘ran away’, she ended up at the Dog Park, only to be immediately recognized and returned. Her longest friend from the neighborhood, Sydney, also grew up at the dog park, and we frequently met Jen on walks. Amy and Shadow made friends with Maria and her puppy Bella, and we would all meet for neighborhood chatter at the park. But people move away, and dogs tend to grow old, and it was obvious that Shadow’s throat wouldn’t let her enjoy hot weather nearly as much as cooler temps, so eventually, with her leading the way past the dog park, we moved on. I hope one day it’s designated as a public space – it’s small, well kept, and private and peaceful.

Our travels in the decade frequently required us to be gone for a week or two at a time, and when those trips occurred, Shadow would stay with her “Grandma” and “Grandpa”, Betty and Vic Colburn. Betty had been my Dental Hygienist for a long, long time, and her side job of caring for small dogs, along with her location close to D/FW airport, was perfect. Amy and I became friends with them, inviting them over for holidays, staying after our trip had ended to retell tales in the back yard, while Shadow played with the other dogs. One of her best friends at that location was “Duke”, an Australian Shepherd, who lived just behind the Colburns. She and Duke became fast friends, and Shadow, smart as she was, learned to bark at the back gate, until either Vic let her run across to his house (he had a doggy door, and she made herself welcome!), or he’d run over to the gate from his side of the lawn. They played, they chased each other, they took naps together, and he cared for her and she for him. It was a true, doggy friendship.


Shadow With Her Friend Cassie.

One of my clients, Lila, ended up becoming friends with Amy, and they kept that friendship alive as Lila moved from Dallas to Ft. Worth, and then back again, with a detour to Pittsburgh! Cassie, her terrier, welcomed Shadow to their home many a time, and she and Shadow, knowing what an awesome cook Lila was, ended up at her feet frequently, begging for handouts. With faces like theirs, who could deny them?! You’d think they were lacking for everything!


Shadow With Duke at Aunt Bettie’s After a Great Romp In the Grass!

I think the one special thing about Shadow’s personality, that she just sort of fell in to on her own, was her LOVE for stuffed hedgehog squeeze toys. She frequently would take a new one, chew off the eyes and nose, and then turn it over to the rump, where she would literally nurse herself in to a stupor. She was most at peace and happy when surrounded by people she loved, and nursing, semi-conscious. I think we went through the company’s entire stock of hedgehogs, because as she grew older, they were harder and harder to find, and she shunned unauthentic replacements.

Style: "AJ Style"

Shadow and Richard Playing Tug Of War With a Soiled HedgeHog.

We had a scare in the mid-to-late decade of the 00’s. As Shadow grew older, her snoring grew louder, and she developed sleep apnea, often not breathing for a minute or more at a time when in slumber. One spring, it got so bad that we took her back to the specialists (our first mistake), and under their supervision, they recommended all sorts of tests and diagnostics. I think the total bill was over $5000, but after it was all over, we ended up with a dog that had a palette surgery, slight stenotic nares fixes, and… she still snored. We promised her NEVER AGAIN, and resolved to keep the house cooler to accommodate her breathing disorders. She took up stations at the top of the Sofa in the loft, and also at the top of the chair facing the private street, and watched the world go by, sunning herself, sleeping with one eye open, watching me as I worked first on my Master’s Degree, then on my business as a coach for OnlineBikeCoach.com, and then as a consultant for a power meter company. She was privy to my rants, frequently appeared on Skype for conversations with clients in South Africa, England, Germany, and elsewhere. EVERYONE heard her snores, and we eventually had to have her leave the room.

Shadow in Seattle

Shadow At the Pier Looking Over the Water in Seattle.

Shadow was also quite the traveler! Her diminutive size made her perfect for stuffing under the seat in front of aircraft, and she took her first flight with us in 2002, flying to Charlotte, NC, so we could drive back together as a family, to Dallas. Later, she drove with us all over Texas as we went to bike events, and even flew to Seattle, Twice, over the holidays, to visit with Amy’s family! We stayed at the Hotel Andra downtown, which was VERY pet-friendly, and she made herself right at home! Amy recalled that the first time we stayed there with her, we taught her to exit the elevator to the right, but that the second time, we had a room to the left — and she still, based on her incredible memory, went RIGHT as we exited! This dog was SMART! We took her for an incredibly long walk on Christmas Day, going all the way to the sculpture museum, and then to the sound, so she could see and smell the ocean. When I unthinkingly tossed a stick in to the sound… SHE CHASED IT! We have it on video somewhere, but it was like, OH NO! SHADOW! NO! YOU’LL FREEZE TO DEATH! But she was SO ALIVE on that trip! You could tell that she was just soaking all of it in. Family, food, sights, sounds, smells, aromas, all of it. Amy has a special knicknack shop that she enjoys, and the woman there has a dachsund who is the shop dog. Sam and Shadow finally got to meet those two times, and it was really fun to watch them, and know that they knew their parents enjoyed each other and enjoyed them. Just last week, I got a photo of Sam from Amy. I’ll include it in this post.


Shadow Frequently Rode With Amy and I in the basket up front or in our backpacks.

From an early age, Shadow learned that her dad was a cyclist and a cycling coach. She traveled with me everywhere, to clients’ houses, to the Bike Mart, to races and rallies, all of it. She was a regular guest at all Richardson Bike Mart’s, and the staff at all the locations knew her well. The South store had treats for pets, and she would make a beeline for the spot, and then set up barking when no one was immediately available. Oh lord, her muffled bark was special. Not too loud, but just enough to get attention. And her pawing — I think I taught her to be left-handed, teaching her tricks, like “Sit”, “Howdy Do!”, “High Five”, and “Rollover”. At the studios, she grew accustomed to the music, spent her time walking through and between all the moving parts and wheels and cranks and cleats, and was never once struck. She’d frequently lie down on someone’s jacket or purse, and start snoring, which just meant you had to turn the music up a little louder! People brought treats of their own, and she knew the JCC inside and out. She’d never run away, but she did know how to get from one studio to another. Kids frequently made their way to the studio, just to see her and pet her and give her treats. Just to cover our bases, we not only had her blessed at St. Michael’s, we also had a Rabbi do a prayer. I think they worked. I know she’s up in heaven. In late 2008, she actually traveled with us down to Fredericksburg, TX, where she MADE FRIENDS WITH A CAT! THAT was a surprise, but again, she had a blast!

Shadow in winter

Shadow LOVED playing in the Snow! She was fascinated by it.

I can’t let this story continue without a sad side note and prelude to the final years. In 2009, my wife began to have trouble with her back, her legs, and her chest. The diseases and maladies remained a mystery, and combined with her frustrations at work, along with my own ambitions and doubts, the marriage began to fray. I blame myself for this, and I’ll never forgive myself completely for the frustration and neglect I showed to Amy and the relationship, but the pain of the injury and the pain of the hurt I caused never quite healed, and we separated in 2012. Through this period, Shadow remained stalwart, loving us both equally, and realizing that her time on the bed was over, she learned to sleep in the open closet, where her snores were muffled by the clothing. She’d start on the bed, but once the noise became cacophonous, we’d stir her, and say “closet’, and she’d hop off and trot away. In the mornings, we would wake her up, which got progressively harder to do as her hearing went, and she’d relocate someplace closer to us, or go back once her walk was done. When I moved out, Amy and I agreed to share custody, and Shadow continued to be our companion for the next two years. She always greeted Amy with kisses, and always met me at the door on Sundays when I would pick her up, with a scramble to the sofa we shared. We always talked, and she loved that “Family Time”, of the three of us together.


Shadow Nursed About 100 Hedgehogs in her 13 years.

When Vic died last summer, we took a hedgehog to the Cemetery, and had it placed next to his urn, so that he and Shadow could be together in the afterlife.

Shadow with Amy at home

Shadow with Amy at Home. She Loved Her Mom So Much!

In the last year, from about the time that I moved out of the JCC, Shadow’s breathing slowly became more labored, her eyesight grew worse, and her hearing faded. She had developed a notch in her spine at some point in the last years, and this inhibited her a bit from jumping up and down places. We accommodated her with a ladder (which she never used), and lots of picking up. In October of 2013, she choked on a piece of chicken, and almost died. I was able to pull the piece out just in time, but she lost her bladder as she neared asphyxiation. It happened again in January of 2014, this time she went completely limp as well. We performed a sort of CPR on her, and she revived — and acted like a puppy for about three days, full of energy and sort of desperate. Her begging only grew worse, and my early mornings at Denny’s were not complete until she’d scarfed down one, then two, then THREE, and finally FOUR freakin’ sausages! Yeah – I know, that probably contributed to her demise, but I’m tellin’ ya, you can’t deny those eyes, or that bark, especially after TWO close calls!

Shadow got a blinky harness towards the end, so everyone could see her at night.

Shadow got a blinky harness towards the end, so everyone could see her at night.

At some point in the last two weeks or so, I really noticed that Shadow was almost completely deaf. She’d flinch when you picked her up. I also notice that she was probably completely blind in the right eye, and mostly blind in the left. She began to have accidents almost nightly. Her snoring grew worse, as did her restlessness. I’d frequently get up earlier and earlier to intercept her accidents, but I was usually too late. Then her bowels began to get runny and were diminished. In conversations with Amy, who was dealing with struggles of her own with her aging mom, she also noticed the blocking. She seemed less hungry. She drank incessantly, but only small amounts. She aspirated everything that wasn’t soft-solid, like eggs. Her breathing just got worse. Finally, last week, when the weather turned, I noticed that she went from a rough respiration to wheezing perpetually. I knew that this was probably it. Amy and I stayed in contact the last week, and on that Friday, when I handed her over, she sounded horrible. After about an hour at home, Amy took a look at her, and noticed that her tongue, normally pink, had turned blue. With an E-clinic about 100 feet away, she took her there, and called me with the news.

Last photo of Shadow at my house. Petey showed genuine concern and was depressed all weekend.

Last photo of Shadow at my house. Petey showed genuine concern and was depressed all weekend.

Oxygen at 82%.

Liver count, 8x normal.

White blood count, way above normal.

X-rays revealing white blocks everywhere in the abdomen.

There was only one cause- cancer. It was time.

Shadow with her mom, her dad, her friend Lila, Dr. Ward, and her hedgehogs at the end.

Shadow with her mom, her dad, her friend Lila, Dr. Ward, and her hedgehogs at the end.

We kept her in an Oxygen chamber until that morning, so she could breathe easier, but her rate never went above 89%. Amy was supported by Lila, who came over, helped her get Shadow, and drive up the street to Dr. Ward’s Clinic, where I was waiting. Dr. Ward, our lifelong vet, through four Bostons, was his usual awesome, sweet, soft self. We went to the back, where I’d gone to hold Brian’s dog “Bob”, as he went to sleep, years before, and we said our goodbyes. Shadow licked each and every one of us, multiple times, and licked the hedgehog we’d brought with us, in a final farewell. As the barbiturate was being administered, I was able to pull a prayer that my good friend, P.M. Summer, had given me, and read it out loud. Here it is, re-written with his permission:

Heavenly Father God,

Thank you father, for Your gifts of Creation and of life. You animated matter to reflect Yourself. You gave us life so that we could be in Your image, and gave us companions in the form of animals so that we might see Your love for us reflected in our love for our animal friends.

They love us, as we love them, only more so. They trust us, more than we can trust. They protect us, as best they can. They nurture us, as we provide for them, doing what is right and loving for them. 

You have given us authority over them, not to abuse or destroy, but to love and care for, just as you have intrusted all creation to us.

We thank you for Shadow, good and faithful companion. Beloved friend for an all too brief period in our eyes. But in your creation, there is no “time” in love. Love is timeless, and Shadow will not only always be loved by Amy and Richard, she will always love them.

As our times end, so all life in this age must come to an end. You have appointed us as shepherds to care for the ones You have put in our charge. To feed, to nourish, to protect… and to cause pain to cease when that is the only recourse. In the wild, nature moves quickly, but in the world of humans, nature is delayed, often painfully. As good shepherds, our task can be difficult. But loving. 

We thank you that Amy and Richard’s love for Shadow extends to what is best for her, and that the pain they feel is mitigated by the pain Shadow will no longer feel, as You call her to a place where all life eventually returns… to You.

In your son Jesus’ Name, in the Unity of the Trinity, and in the great act of love You have shown us, we commend Shadow to your eternal care. Thank you, Father.


And with that, she relaxed, and left us.

Shadow begging for one more sausage!

Shadow begging for one more sausage!

Love for a pet is a wonderful but awkward thing. It’s a parallel to our love for others. It’s also unconditional. We hurt others through our actions and words, but with a pet, that love is always returned with licks, pawing, howling, playing, teasing, tossing, and wagging. I am a very imperfect person, but I am so grateful for the gifts that Shadow gave Amy and myself, as well as others. I’m going to return to this post as I remember stories about her, like the time she spent the night with a neighbor because that neighbor had suspected that there was an intruder. Imagine that – Shadow was a guard dog! Grrr!!!!

Anyway, thank you for reading, and feel free to post your own stories about Shadow. Please don’t forget to include Amy Lee Cole (coleamylee@gmail.com) in any notes or condolences – in many ways I worry more about her, than myself. She was a special soul, who came to us at just the right time, and left the world a better place while she was in it. Amen.

Shadow Wharton, We love you, we miss you, we thank you, we will see you again.

Shadow Wharton, We love you, we miss you, we thank you, we will see you again.


Want to know why Indoor Cycling Training Works so well?



A legal way to raise Hematocrit?

  1. 2.4 milligrams of Folic Acid.
  2. 100 micrograms of Vitamin B12
  3. 150 milligrams of Vitamin B6.
  4. 500 milligrams of Vitamin C.
  5. 48 milligrams of Iron.
  6. 60 milligrams of Zinc.
  7. 75IU or 50mg of Vitamin E.

I can’t really remember where I got this, but it’s legit, and it’s probably the same stuff in EP-NO.


Specificity, Specificity, Specificity.

Superfly 100

I recently began, after a roughly 12 year hiatus, riding mountain bikes again. Now, Dallas isn’t really terribly vertically challenged, so the term “Mountain Bike” is probably the wrong term, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it on-topic with that title. One of  the reasons I moved OUT of the mountain bike realm and in to road racing, and this is really just one reason, was because of the fact that, despite my great climbing abilities and decent descending skills, when I moved to Texas, I SUCKED AT TEXAS MTB RACES!!! However, it wasn’t until this summer that I actually began to understand just why.

Lots of speed, wattage, and cadence variations.

Mountain bike racing is definitely requires different training than standard road racing, but I didn’t really understand just how distinct TEXAS mountain bike racing was, until I started going to local DORBA trails again, this time armed with a Quarq power meter. Now, while I knew that Texas trail riding and racing was unique, I had NO IDEA that the demands were until I got this data. Look at the chart above, and watch how stochastic the data remains as I sort of randomly zoom in.

The first image was a 2hr overview. This next one is about 57 minutes…

It’s still stochastic in watts, cadence, and speed…

And here it is, zoomed in to 30 minutes…..

It’s STILL pretty stochastic for the 3 metrics…

And as we zoom in further, you start to see where I may be going with this…..

Still stochastic, but you start to get an idea of the cadence range…

Notice how many short, medium-cadence 'bursts' there are...

regardless of terrain.

19×5-10sec intervals with roughly equal coasting or zero-load pedaling.

So, if you think about it, zoom back up and out, and look at the macro, 2 hour ride, and then scroll down until  you get here. I’ll go in to WKO+ (I’m writing this on my Mac, and will upload the relevant graphic later), to do a ‘Fast Find’, but I’ll bet that in that 2 hour ride, there are probably, oh, let’s take a guess…. what, 300 of these 5-to-15 second intervals, in zones 4, 5, 6, and even higher? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??????

Believe me – it’s actually twistier than it looks.

Well, for one thing, it means that I have a LOT of Specific Training to do, if I’m going to show up for next year’s DORBA races, and even TMBRA races, prepared. I need bike handling practice, I need to dial in my suspension, but probably more importantly, I need to have the ability to do 300, 400, or maybe more, intense intervals, at 60-80 rpm. Try doing THAT on a CompuTrainer! Ugh!

I just wish I had data from my old days, racing in the 90’s in the Northwest. That was a COMPLETELY different beast, and it fed more in to my abilities as a solid Vo2-max and Threshold Racer, and NOT, as a punchy, crazy-accelration-to-the-next-hairpin-where-you-had-to-brake-only-to-punch-it-again-times-400-efforts type racer!!

Let the challenge begin – Hopefully I’ll be ready!!!


2012 Texas Time Trials – 12 Hour review.

ImageOh kay. Where to begin?

I know it’s been a while, and I know I have a lot to write up and discuss, but the three or four main events in my life this year have left me sort of scrambling around, trying to work, live, love, train, coach, and race. I think I’m doing okay now, but it was a serious summer, nonetheless.

I’m going to start at the end, because while there’s a lot to fill in, and my memory will hopefully remain sharp, a complete writeup that  I did on a significant race in Wisconsin, was erased when it wouldn’t save, and I didn’t have the energy to re-write it. I will, hopefully this weekend, but right now, I’ll focus on an event that was so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding, that it merits my attention.

Two weekends ago, now I guess three, I participated in the 12-Hour Texas Time Trial Challenge, run by veteran Randonneurs Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright. Earlier in the year, I had coached Michelle Beckley on a crazy 384-mile effort through the Hill Country, and she convinced me to try a 12 hour myself way out in Amarillo. Unfortunately, we were literally rained out right before it started, when a flash flood destroyed the State Park where the event was going to be held. This time, though, we weren’t going to let a little rain get in our way.

Michelle and her boyfriend convinced me to sign up for the State 12-hour Championships, held down in Glen Rose. Now, I need to tell you – I am NOT in prime shape right now. I won that race in late June, rode in July a few times, did maybe one rally (the Goatneck), and basically rode and mountain biked while I figured out how best to handle my midlife crisis, my divorce, and my new relationship. But here it was, September already, and  I am about 5 to 7 lbs overweight, I’m maybe riding about 3 to 5 hours a week, and I’m going to compete in the 12-hour Time Trials. Good Lord!!!

I prepped my bike and car with all the wheelsets I could find, brought cold weather and wet weather gear so that I wouldn’t be unprepared, carried lights and reflective vests, etc., brought along my TT bike and aero helmets just in case, and bought a  box of Bonk Breakers and Stinger Waffles so that I could try and stay on top of my calories. Oh, and I brought 16 ounces of Fish Oil concoction, which I’ll explain about later. I arrived late in the day, got my bag and numbers and instructions, and went to the hotel. Dinner was Sonic – 800 Kcals of crap. I went to bed, slept a few hours, and woke up to a steady drizzle. This was NOT the ideal way to break myself in to Ultra-Marathon Racing!!

So, the alarm goes off at 4am, I eat more bad hotel food, along with some egg concoctions left over from last night’s dinner, and get to the parking area, which is wet, muddy, and about 60 degrees. I have no flashlight other than the lights on the bike, which I put in my mouth, which then subsequently heat up and burn my mouth, so I’m stuck using the reflected light from the hotel parking lot. In the process, my numbers get soaked, I don’t drink enough coffee, and I lose track of Michelle and Martin, who is providing us with SAG support. I basically run in to them about 10 minutes before the start, and we agree that every lap, I’ll stop at the tent for 2 minutes, where I’ll drop off my water bottles, take on two new ones, and get three Bonk Breakers or four Waffle Stingers. Then the horn goes off, and we’re off!

Michelle and I ride together for about seven miles before we somehow get split up. My lights are a Dinotte 400L up front, and I’m using some CRAPPY Serfas 30lumen  lights in the rear. I think they may have lasted about 4 hours, while the Dinotte lasted the entire freaking race. But in the dark, it’s impossible to see who has a blue ribbon on their helmet, denoting the 12 hour racers, and I quickly realize that my own blue ribbon has flown off in the rain that just won’t stop falling. We have to squeegee our brakes a lot earlier because of the weather, and while I know the roads out there pretty well, it’s a completely different feeling to ride, in the rain, with limited visibility, in the pitch dark, with about 100 yards of visibility ahead. Seeing the red blinkies ahead of me is helpful, but at about mile 6 I do miss the only left hand turn, and that happens to be the one turn that is most poorly marked and manned by volunteers direction traffic.

When I was a kid, maybe 10, we got our first real PC, an Apple 2 with a cassette tape for a drive. There was one game that we played over and over, and it was a night driving simulation, where you had to keep your ‘car’ between the advancing white dots. The course would twist and turn and as you got faster, you would outrun your ability to predict which direction the event horizon would slide in from , left, right, or straight. At the end, you were given a score and a title based on your time and number of crashes, and I was always called “Parnelli Jones” after a historical race character I knew nothing about. Racing in the dark, in the rain, on a bicycle, on empty roads, was similar. The light would show the county road reflectors in the center and left edge, and the white fog line on the right edge, with some periodic reflectors on the right, along with road signs that stood out rather well. That, and the odd blinkies ahead, were my only companions. It was sort of like racing in space. It was surreal. There was just the sound of the rain hitting my aero helmet, my own breathing,  the tires making their way along the chip-seal, and the odd rider passing me or me passing them. There were minutes and even hours when I spoke or saw no one.

Finally, on lap two or three, the sunrise behind the clouds ended up making roads more distinguishable, and sight lines better, and I ended up picking up some steam, and getting in to a good, solid rhythm. I had a great conversation with one of my earliest coaching mentors, and Ultra-Cycling enthusiast, Paul Skilbeck, about a week before the race, and he made some recommendations on my caloric intake per hour, and my estimated power output intensity. Now, here’s where things get pretty interesting.

Based on  conversation with Paul, I was prepared to hold about 60% of my estimated Threshold Wattage, which I’m still calculating to be about 290w/60min, even though I haven’t been training much at all. Call it empirical assumptions, but my FTP really only changes when I either take time off completely, or train at high volumes. I know where it could go, but the status quo is about 290w, plus or minus 2%. So, to be conservative, and focus on lower Kcal consumption and hold off while ingesting as many Kcals as possible, I looked for a Pnorm of about 175w.

Boy, was I wrong….

The first lap showed a PNorm of 209, or about 70% of FTP. Skiba’s xPower score, which I can’t see on a Garmin, was a 196. I burned about 884 Kilojoules, and the lap time was a 1hr26min effort.  I’ll put all of this in the chart below, along with the Kcals I consumed each lap. It’s pretty revealing!

Lap Time Normalized Power Kilojoules Expended Kilocalories Consumed Bottles of Osmo consumed (120Kcals/bottle)
1:26:11 209w 884 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:23:43 208w 932 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:20:43 218w 927 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:22:43 212w 911 640 (4 Waffle Stingers) 1.5
1:28:41 199w 889 500 (2 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:26:21 198w 887 480 (3 Waffle  Stingers) 1
1:28:18 204w 912 8oz Fish Oil and a 5hr Energy. 1
1:42:00 148w 743 8oz Fish Oil and one Waffle Stinger 1

The result???? Well, I won. I won by over an hour, and I did it averaging .702 IF!!!! Had that last lap been a consistent lap with the other seven, I would have set the record on the course! 211 miles, averaging 18.1 miles per hour, burning 7089 KiloJoules. I think if I had trained somewhat, and done a few 12 hour efforts prior to this, I might have been able to hold that 200w Pnorm or better for that last lap, and maybe kicked it up a bit. But it was the fueling and hydration strategy that really worked to my advantage. For five laps, I was able to eat 750 Kcals per 80 minutes, and drink Osmo at the rate that Osmo inventor Stacy Sims recommends in her chart on their website. I followed her mantra of “Food in the pocket (in this case, it was tucked inside my skinsuit, against my leg, to stay warm and soft), sports drink in the bottle. I was surprised at my higher wattage, but it had to be some combination of the temperature and my own determination to make this as scientific an expedition as I possibly could. It wasn’t until lap five that my food consumption, which I had previously timed at about 3 minutes per bar, began to slow down, and I was eating more slowly, reacting more slowly, and breathing through my nose more. The last bar I ate on Lap 6 ended up taking me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was yo-yoing with a recumbent 12 hour rider who kept me on my toes, feeding the competitor in me.

ImageSome other notes: I think this is the PERFECT race to study aerodynamics. I rode as aero as I dared, while trying to hold on to some safety. Every lap, almost, I ended up switching wheels out, before finally settling on a rear HED disc lenticular wheel in the rear, and an Aeolus D3 50mm up front. I tried my 90mm wheel, but it was too twitchy in the light but gusty winds, and on the areas that were not chip-sealed. In fact, the chip-seal road was the safest part of the course. The area that was not chip-sealed, maybe four miles total out of a 26.2 mile route, was not safe, and I ended up losing time to the recumbent rider on that section, only to gain on him during the ensuing climb. The wheel setup, plus the KED track-style solid helmet, my skinsuit, and the S5, probably made me about 2-4% more efficient, which I’m calculating probably saved me about, oh, idunno, 50-100Kcals per lap? I think it was enough to make a difference, though, because that’s one less Waffle Stinger you need to eat.

Here’s a shocker – I learned to relieve myself, multiple times, while riding. The rain washed it away, but I’m afraid my shoes may never be the same. I intentionally used old shoes for this reason.

I had no cramps whatsoever. I credit this to a ton of magnesium, and the hydration strategy, which I think kept me out of the red zone for cramps. I also, of course, ended up avoiding Vo2 and Anaerobic  Capacity zones, climbing with force and then cruising in the 180’s and 200’s. A snapshot of my wattage chart shows about 9-10 hours of good wattage, followed by a steady drop. Eventually, Paul was correct – I lost my ability to eat. Drinking the fish oil DID work on the seventh lap, but on that last lap, I ended up dealing with a sour stomach and wretching, while not quite puking.

It turns out, I missed the record (set in fair weather), by maybe 5 minutes. Rest assured that had I been able to pull out the TT bike, it would’ve fallen. But those who rode their TT bikes almost inevitably ended riding up on their aero pads, thus negating any benefits. I also know how to eat and what to eat, and I think I’ll actually work and train for this better next year, and will focus on those last three critical hours.

ImageMichelle won her overall 3 race GC, and I need to send a special shout out to her boyfriend, Martin, who was simply awesome. He was prepared every lap, he measured my splits, and counted my food intake precisely. He had wheels ready, and ruined a pair of shoes in the process of standing out in that awful weather for the whole day. I am really grateful for his contribution, and though he’s a non-meat eater, I’m going to buy him some EXPENSIVE wine soon!

That’s it – let me get back to the blog for a recount of June’s race in Wisconsin, and I’ll try to do that this weekend, while I’m away. Lots to report. I’m living the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.”


Mineral Wells Crit 2012

Honestly, there isn’t much to report here. Several years ago, when the Team Points Race out at Mineral Wells had just begun, I ended up riding over 2-3 days in constant, constant, constant rain, almost 9 inches of rain, and I ended up with all sorts of rusty bike parts, a cold, and exhaustion that lasted over a week. I was just young enough to enjoy it, and I did have two or three or four good teammates who made it fun. We won a lot of money, and had a great time relating the experience. Heck, it may be in this blog somewhere.

But this time, well, it rained all the way down to Mineral Wells, I had the dog with me, the course was flooded, it was dangerous in places, and to cap it all off, as I was racing, I was gaining about 8-12lbs in water down in the ‘socks’ I had decided to wear. It totally threw off my balance, it messed up my cadence, like riding with filled galoshes, and with one lap to go I actually pulled myself out of the race.

I keep swearing to myself that I’ll never be so dumb as to race in the rain again, especially now that I’m older, heavier, and my insurance is in question. But I did start, and I was hoping maybe I could get some upgrade points. Instead I just threw away my money. Oh, and they canceled the TT I was going to do later in the day. I went home soaked, though home was about to become a temporary, fast-ending, thing.


Walburg 2012

Well, nothing like a little hubris to tame your ego, eh?

The 2012 version of the Walburg race was as anticlimactic as the event itself was a year earlier, when I scored in a final breakaway and just missed winning the damned thing by nine feet and two places! This year, flush with confidence from my previous successes in January and February, a first, a second, and a third, I figured racing Masters was my ticket to success in this event.

Boy was I wrong.

It started out with me not having any real teammates to speak of, a stacked field, complete with about 50 extra riders from Austin, and a lack of wind in the first lap, to really crack the field. I drove down the morning of the event, since my start was later in the day, got there plenty early, and made friends while I warmed up. The start itself had me near the front, and I sort of tried to make friends, but the McKinney Velo guys had ALL hands on deck, as did most of the other teams, so I was sort of odd-man out. I ended up basically trying in complete vain to set up a breakaway, got in to maybe one or two small efforts that were doomed, and essentially rode myself out of energy and in to some damned calf and quad cramps (which was weird, given that I felt I was adequately hydrated and rested, but there were other things going on that I’ll reveal in a later post), and after 70 minutes, I basically removed myself from the race so I wouldn’t hurt anyone in the pack if my legs cramped up. I set ALL SORTS of season highs for Normalized power, but in the end, it was completely for naught, as I burned through over 1000 KJ’s, was above my previous IF high for 70 minutes, and then completely blew up.

There isn’t much to tell here. I rode like a moron, and really should’ve waited at or near the front, until the wind began to pick up, and then made friends out on the road. But I didn’t, and honestly, next time, I’ll either make sure I have allies with me, or I’ll wait and try to be more patient.

I’ll try to add a photo to this, but honestly, the only photo I saw from back then had me leading out the pack,like a silver locomotive, with everyone else just eating hot dogs and drinking milk shakes.

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