Archive for the 'Random Bike Thoughts' Category

16
Oct
11

2011 Kiwanis Crazy Kicker

Did I mention last week how much fun these Fall bike rallies are? Here we are, in the middle of October, just coming off one of the hottest summers on record, and I am on fire. The stamina is there for a 4:40 100-miler, the strength is there for some of Palo Pinto County’s hills, and the speed is coming from that combination of cooler, calmer air, good comrades out on the course, and of course, my beloved bike, wheels, and kit. I’m serious – I think this is shaping up to be an incredible end to 2011’s year, but also will portend a great pre-season for 2012. So, with hope in my heart, confidence in my gut, and experience in my head, my newly-returned-to-cycling-from-injury wife and I drove out from Dallas on Friday evening, spent a quiet evening in Mineral Wells, and drove the 2 miles to the American Legion Post and City Park for the 8:00am start.

Last Tuesday, in what can only be described as pretense & confirmation of some solid training in September, I blew my highest wattage FTP for any October since I’ve been keeping records. Saturday’s Crazy Kicker offers the option for a 65-miler as well as a 100-miler, and knowing how important the hills, the tempo, and the volume can be when applied appropriately, I opted for the 100-miler with a handful of folks, including Michael Brown, my buddy with Mirage, the Pirates of the Peloton, and TBD. The ride began with just over 300 riders, and within a mile, the entire team of studs from Colavita, including newly-crowned Cat 2 State Champ Bryan Reid, rolled to the front and set a solid pace to try and shell any early stragglers.

The absolute beauty of this course comes from the relentlessness of its’ rolling, 2-3 minute hills at 2-6%. Whereas the week before in Gainesville, we had a return trip of 40K in to a headwind with 1-minute rollers at 2-3%, the hills here are longer, rounder, and the roads are more varied in their condition. One, no, two, no, THREE of my favorite race courses are out here, and over the course of the next 5 hours, we hit elements of all three. The road to Graford was the first challenge, with three fantastic 2-3 minute hills at ~4% incline. It was weird, though. ColaVita sent one rider out hard, early, on each of the three hills. Yet he would either fade or Reid and one or two others would end up reeling him in well before the crest of each hill. Reid’s another one of those just Epic Texas Cycling Studs, and the way he trained for his Championship run was enough to make any other man want to crawl in to a ditch and quiver. The man trained for Paris-Brest-Paris, held just weeks before the State Championships, and THEN he came home to win that race! It’s pretty freaking incredible! And this morning? Well, Bryan showed up on a FOLDING, PORTABLE CX bike with heavy wheels and treads! The man OOZES of HOMBRE, and he really is two different people on and off a bike, much like the captain of a 180-ton aircraft, which he is. Anyway, I stayed up front with him, two or three of his teammates, my buddy from two weeks ago with the Deamon Deacons jersey, and a fair-faced rider with a long, wispy pony tail who was a member of PACC and PBA. By the time we reached Graford, we were down to <30 riders total, but the pace had been pretty hard, and several people were just hanging on.

It’s usually an unwritten rule in rallies (remember, there really are no rules, per se), that the hot dogs will partake of the longer distances, unless it’s known ahead of time that the course for that longer stuff is either too challenging, or the road conditions too poor, to make for a good ride. Now, I didn’t do that in Glen Rose, because the Ride Director warned us ahead of time that the extra miles were freshly chip-sealed, and this was confirmed by Scott Simmons, the guy I rode with on that rally, who was a local. The beauty of riding the 100-mile option out at Mineral Wells is that there are bailout options between rest stops where you can cut the course to 75 and 85 miles, along Highway 16. So I was surprised when, just about 14 miles in, a TON of riders at the front, including the entire ColaVita squad, opted to head left and do the 65 miler. This left me with 6 or 7 riders, including Michael, a Bikes Plus rider, the PACC rider, and a few others. One was on a TT bike, one had aero bars on a road bike, but looking around, I saw that this could be a decent group of people with which we could attempt a quick, solid sub-5 100-miler.

We quickly made friends, and headed out, rolling along at a steady pace, not really pacelining, not really rotating or pulling through, definitely getting a little separated on the hills, but regrouping on the crests somewhat. We started to see damage from the two incredibly damaging and scary fires that started out there this summer, and commented on how lucky we were to still be able to even get out on these roads, since they can actually melt in the intense heat. At mile 28, however, two or four riders went on ahead, while the rest of us pulled in to a famous traditional rest stop – the Home Made Cookie Stop above the Dam at Possum Kingdom Lake. The on-site resident Manager of the lake, well, their whole family, make HUNDREDS of awesome cookies for the cyclists coming through, and they are YUMMY! I figured I really should stop and eat, because, well, we WERE going to ride 100 miles and, well, as good as Clif Bars are, well, they’re NOTHING like fresh homemade cookies! So we stopped, enjoyed the view, got each others’ names, filled our water bottles, and after about 10 minutes, headed back out.

Having forfeited our place with the four leaders, the goal now, at least for me, was to attempt to catch them before the end. And that would make for an incredible challenge.

The hills over by “The Cliffs” resort were charred black from the fires, and the road was Grade 1 (worst) Chip Seal. By the end of the stretch, about 7 miles, we were picking up and passing a number of others who had not stopped at the Dam, but we could NOT find the leaders. The PACC rider, also named Richard, Michael and I were the only ones left, and at about 43 miles, Michael also dropped off, leaving me with Richard. Richard was originally an enigma – a mathematics professor at UTD, younger than me, I’m sure, with a relatively slow cadence, a baby face you couldn’t shave more than once a month, but the hairiest legs I’d seen in a long while. he rode a 20-year old Cannondale with maybe 8 speeds, and had old Shimano commuter-style shoes, but MAN, THAT GUY HAD SOME POWER!!!! He literally pulled over a solid chunk of the hills from mile 30 to 50, and we DID catch one of the original four riders as we entered another section of road with which I was more familiar.

The turn on to that section put us back on some rough roads, and in to the wind, but we did make good time as we did what I’ll call the “Lake Palo Pinto” loop. We began to overlap the 65 mile course, catching and passing slower cyclists, but it wasn’t until we got past the bar/trading post/post office of “Lone Post”, just before the infamous “Cherry Pie Hill”, that we learned from the hanger-on that there were only two riders in front of us, and that there was no way we couldn’t catch them. This renewed my drive, and when he said good-by at the foot of Cherry Pie Hill, Rich and I both pumped a little harder, to see if we could catch that pair of ghost riders who were always just out of sight. However, that goal pretty much ended with our second stop, this one at Palo Pinto Courthouse, where the growing temperature and wind forced us to make a pit stop for more cookies and hydration.

The segment of road from Palo Pinto to Graford is one that I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s short, only about 8 or 9 miles long, and it crosses back over the Brazos River, which is really gorgeous, but the road is pretty rumbly, and it comes with the dread of knowing that your LAST 12 MILES are going to be IN to the wind, going OVER the same damned hills you climbed heading OUT, when it was at least 15 degrees cooler! But those ghost riders were still out there, and every once in a while, like a desperate cowboy out on the prairie trying to decide whether what he’s seeing is a mirage or a lost calf or something else entirely, we DID see one ghost rider out there, roughly a mile or two away, at times. Rich was starting to fade, however, and if you’ve been around me enough, you know that one of my mantra’s is, “you don’t leave  your wingman”. I didn’t want to leave him, knowing that we would BOTH end up going slower in the long run, but by the second-to-last hill on the return trip, when I DEFINITELY saw reflections on the horizon, he told me to go. But the mantra held true, and I gained too little, too late, and was just able to see that one rider make his left turn back on to highway 16 for the 2-mile ride back to the City Park. I pedaled as steadily as I could, finishing in a ride time of 4:37, maybe 2 minutes behind the sole rider I could see ahead. I never found him in the park, but I think it was the TT rider, as he was always visible on the climbs, but outpaced me on the descents and straightaways at the end.

I think one of the most beautiful things in the world is seeing my wife find her mojo again. She was under the shade of a tree, stretching on a yoga mat, when I rolled in, and she proclaimed excitedly that she’d just finished her longest ride in about a year and half, doing 55 miles solo and enjoying every minute of it. Michael, my friend , neighbor, client and club mate, had opted for an 85, and was supremely satisfied with his own early season performance. My ride partner, Richard, met us at the Kiwanis Grill, and we all enjoyed a burger and recollections of the day. The guy was a huge part of my success on Saturday, and I gave him credit for his strong pulls, even pedal stroke, and good company. The guy we pulled to the base of Cherry Pie Hill also came up to thank us, and Amy and I departed with some strong feelings of accomplishment, love for cycling, the outdoors, the friends made out on the course, and a sense of appreciation for the work required to put these events on. We celebrated with a stop at the Mineral Wells Dairy Queen, and drove back to Dallas, where we both promptly sacked out, exhausted (but in that oh-so-great way), for a two-hour nap of which I have ZERO memory!

Get out to Mineral Wells and support this rally. There were just 300 people, but it is on par with Muenster and Glen Rose for its’ beauty, its’ challenges, and the course variety. Oh, and don’t forget – you get serenaded by Elvis at the Depart, and upon your return! Can it GET any better than that?

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10
Oct
11

2011 Inaugural Gainesville Disco Bike Rally Review

Richard Wharton Steven Emerson Pirates of the Peloton Gainesville 2011

Richard Wharton and Steven Emerson, First Finishers in the First Disco Bike Rally, Gainesville, TX 2011

I absolutely love Fall bike rallies. The insane heat has passed, the courses are usually a lot more scenic and challenging, and with Fall comes wind, and honestly, I have actually become one of the few riders who tends to embrace windy rides! The skill required to hold a line, pace properly, hold good cadence, and work incredibly hard, just so you DO NOT lose a group of riders, be it off the front or the back, is a chapter in the book of bike skills all unto itself.

About midweek in prep for the rally, I contacted the father of one of my juniors, and asked him if Steven could join me out at the Inaugural Gainesville rally. With his permission, I met the kid at his house around 5:15am, where we loaded up his bike and started the 90 minute drive toward the state line with Oklahoma. I hadn’t had much sleep (I don’t tend to sleep well when the winds blow in overnight), but as we drove north, we both noticed the flags, illuminated by the highway, sticking STRAIGHT OUT, dictating that the wind was coming from the EAST. Weather reports indicated steady winds at 12-20kts. Now, if you’ve ever been to North Texas, you know that it’s basically carved out of the prairie. I’m always reminded of the last lines in Steven Spielberg’s “Cast Away”, where Tom Hanks finally meets his Angel…

Bettina Peterson: You look lost.
Chuck Noland: I do?
Bettina Peterson: Where’re you headed?
Chuck Noland: Well, I was just about to figure that out.
Bettina Peterson: Well, that’s 83 South. And this road here will hook you up with I-40 East. If you turn right, that’ll take you to Amarillo, Flagstaff, California. And if you head back that direction, you’ll find a whole lot of nothing all the way to Canada.
Chuck Noland: I got it.
Bettina Peterson: All right, then. Good luck, cowboy.
Chuck Noland: Thank You.

And that’s just it – there is plenty of nothing, and there are small, perfectly black and tan ribbons of road laid out all over this country to connect the dots. They’re really nothing more than wagon trails paved with county-best chipseal, and for this weekend’s rally, that was just fine.

We rolled out on time with roughly 300 other riders. Immediately, a group of State Farm cyclists, all from Gainesville, went to the front – SPRINTED to the front – and rolled away. I really didn’t pay them much attention, but stayed within about 50′, when they abruptly left the course and went on the TEN MILE route. I think the whole thing was staged for a photo shoot, but it was distracting, and we never saw them again. By the fourth mile or so, there were roughly eleven riders in the lead pack, including Steven and another client of mine, Marc. We winnowed it down to about 7, but from the start there were signs that this group might not have the best skills for pack cycling. Two triathletes alternated between grinding the gears and bouncing their butts along their saddles. Two other riders were slow to pick up their role in the paceline, and gaps frequently rolled out all over the place. I tried for about 45 minutes to organize them, and we were sort of successful, but we ended up dropping Marc while we were still out on the outbound leg, and it’s always a big no-no to leave someone exposed and solo in those high-wind conditions. In fact, as I speak, a rally in Oregon is STILL looking for a missing cyclist, weeks after the fact, because he rode a portion of road solo, and just… disappeared.

Steven picked up the pacelining really quickly, and after the first hour, to hour and a half, we just rolled West, then North, and ended up going over the course from the Muensterfest. The area just prior to Forestburg is about 12 miles of rolling one-minute and two-minute hills at 2-4% max, and while this one rider from Oklahoma insisted on staying out front and pedaling at 110 rpm, the rest of us just made a five-man paceline and ignored him. We got in to some scattered spits of rain, so we cautioned each other on road conditions, but by roughly the 90 minute mark, I had had enough of the slinkies and the risk that members were creating in this groupette. So, prior to a hill I knew rather well, I told everyone that Steven and I were going to power up it, and that we’d try to regroup with them at the top. Well, the top plateaued on to a BEAUTIFUL false flat, and, looking over my shoulder, the only jersey I could see was Steven, roughly 15 seconds back, and I waited for him and him alone, and then told him to “Hang on.”

For the next 30+ miles it was just the two of us, as we rolled over fresh pavement (thank you, oil & gas tax revenues), flirted with two girls in a red Jeep Wrangler who were shooting photos, took solid pulls, and just enjoyed the moments of living and doing something we both enjoy. We left familiar terrain when we turned right to head back to Gainesville, leaving the Forestburg-St. Jo road, and it was at the top of the second or third hill, when we left the cover of some trees and ended up with the winds now coming off our right shoulders, with heightened velocity. This part of the course – the last 20-25 miles – had to be one of the most absolute challenging portions of road I’ve ever, ever experienced. The terrain dictated uncountably numerous 1-minute rollers at ~2-3% incline, but the headwinds prevented much of a recovery on the back sides. At one point, there was a short detour as the course did an out-and-back, just to make it as close to 100k as possible, and on the return portion, we both counted over SIX MINUTES before crossing paths with the next rider. And this was on an overlapping segment! With that in mind, and Steven’s legs starting to feel the shred of the previous rollers, we both agreed that I would do the majority of the work, but we would ride by HIS tempo wattage and comfort level.

We continued on, together, him on my left shoulder, protected, and talked about bikes, wheels, the terrain, different rallies, the weekend, school, family, other coaches, etc. It was spectacular. It’s part of my history now, but way back in the 1990’s, right after I had a moment of epiphany about cycling and decided I wanted to make a career out of it, I ran a Junior Development Team out of Bozeman, Montana. I was young, they were younger, and we had about five years of incredible adventures, driving all over the Western United States, attending mountain bike events and building more than just racing resumes. I still keep up with about half of them, and have attended weddings as they grew up. They’re almost all still involved in cycling and outdoor activities, which also makes me proud. I did it again in the early 00’s, at the Frisco Velodrome, but it wasn’t the same. I really missed that feeling of mentorship and comradery, the joy of being on the road or singletrack, just living that whole Gypsy lifestyle. Here, with Steven, out in the middle of nowhere, it all came flooding back, and it really spurred some fantastic feelings of respect, success, responsibility, and that mantra by which I try to live every day…

“To know that ONE LIFE has breathed easier, because you have lived. That is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Steven never once complained, he kept the smile and concentration on his face the whole time, and we were both pretty ecstatic to see that final left-hand turn back on to the highway, signaling an end to the crosswind, and the gentle push down hill and back to the Start/Finish. We completed it in 3 hours even, and were rewarded with medals, muscle milk, and fresh pancakes & sausage! The trip back home was spent talking with his other coach and reliving the tale of the trip, talking wattage, power meters, acceleration, aerodynamics… just BIKE GEEK and BIKE GUY STUFF!!!!!! After dropping him off, I sent his dad a text telling him what a great kid he had, talent and otherwise, and he responded that Steven was absolutely shelled the rest of the day. That’s not a bad thing. You have to see just how hard these practice events are, and learn how to respond to challenges, and see where your strengths lie in relation to others around you, in order to best achieve your goals, both intrinsic and material.

Steven, it meant a lot to have you ride with me, and to finish with me. You’re on your way to bigger and better things, and I will be there to help as long as you want or need. There is NO doubt in my mind, that you won’t be needing my draft in the near future – it’ll be me turning my lungs inside out to hang with YOU!

02
Oct
11

2011 Glen Rose Paluxy Pedal Bike Rally Review

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s been month since I last wrote. Honestly, though, I haven’t had much to say or think that was worth putting up. I had a once-a-year-or-so ocular migraine at the Goatneck that left my strong eye (left) seeing double, while my weak eye (right) lost focus. The eyesight issues alone left me a little shaken, even though I had done everything right in the 48 hours leading up to that point, about an hour and 15 minutes in to the rally, and when I got to Glen Rose, I pulled out and asked Amy to come get me. To add a cherry on my sh*t sandwich, I got a ticket in Keene on my way home, a town which ranks in the Top 10 in Texas for Speed Traps.

So, I basically shut it down. The Secret Drink Mix bought me about 7 weeks in a summer that I thought would leave desiccated cyclist corpses strewn all over the state, but after DNF’ing in “The World Rally Championships of North Texas”, I called it a season. I rode some in Washington State (See October’s Texas Racing Post for an article about that), but really didn’t do much in between then, and maybe 2 weeks ago, when I decided to, yet again, start training for the next season, and see if I could reach a new high in volume and Threshold Power. I tested myself in August and September, and was shocked to find that my threshold had dropped from 305w/20m to barely 267w/20m, and my weight had jumped from 152 to 157, with periods above 160. OH. MY. GOD. Let me tell you, folks, turning 40 is like dialing back a switch in your metabolism. The whiskers on your beard get grey, then stiffer, the skin starts to sag, the crow’s feet grow, shrinking the eyes, and the weight, no matter what you do, gets easier to keep and harder to lose. I thought for the longest time that it wasn’t going to be a problem, but when your summer inventory of bike shorts start to protrude with a baby belly, it’s embarrassing!

This week was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hoshannah, so I took advantage of the JCC being closed (and the CCD by default), and rode outside just about every day that we had available. Amy’s home now (selectively unemployed), so I went in to Saturday’s Paluxy Pedal bike rally feeling like I would be lucky to just hang on to the lead group, and I was resigned to a mostly tempo ride. But somewhere, maybe Thursday night, things started to look up, and I began to feel like this weekend might be special.

We drove down on Friday night, staying in Cleburne, roughly half an hour away from Glen Rose. All of the hotels in Glen Rose were booked in advance for the Paluxy Pedal, which ranks as probably one of the top 3 rallies of the year in most North Texans’ minds. We awoke to temps in the low 50’s, zero wind, and about 1000 registered riders, all lined up for the 8:30 start.  A TON of our friends were there, including neighbors Lila & Emmett, Michael & Brandy, and about half a dozen or more clients, past and present. Everyone remarked about what a great day was shaping up, and whether we were going to go 45, 60, or 80 miles. I assumed I would do the 80, and Amy agreed to do the 45.

Now, I need to sidetrack a bit. Amy’s been dealing with chronic back pain ever since November of 2008, and we’ve been through a LOT of ups and downs since then – basically, her ability to ride with any power has been destroyed, and it was not until maybe August of this year that she was able to string together anything close to 25 miles at 14-16 mph on flattish terrain. I’ll write about that ordeal some time later, but the good news is that August saw a breakthrough, and in September, things got even better, so her decision to put 3 hours on a bike with a few stops, was something that really lifted MY spirits, as much as hers. So she rode with friends, and I rode with the leaders, also friends, and we took off to the thunderous roar of the HAND CANNON that marks the start of this rally every year.

Paluxy Pedal "Hand Cannon"!

Immediately, once we rolled out of town, I began to look around to see who was who and what was what. There were about 20 of us, including veteran Michael Gacki, his fiance Shelby, Todd Lafleur, and several of the regular rally riders. However, it’s the presence of Camillo Borondy and Scott Simmons, both of whom are locals to Glen Rose, and both of whom are SERIOUS Cat 2 competitors, that left me feeling like I might be in for a tough day. Scott most recently won a State Championship, and in a brief conversation at the beginning of the ride, mentioned that he had gone FROM THE GUN at that race…. and then proceeded to do the exact same thing in this ride!

For a solid hour, we rode the rolling terrain of what should be called the North Hill Country, popping a few riders here and there, and letting some guys get maybe 10-15 seconds ahead, then reeling them in. The tempo was plenty hot, and we held around 23mph, climbing about 700 feet in total terrain. Michael, my Pirate teammate, came around and took some good pulls, and there were some people that did little but sit in (I’m talking to you, Mr. Cyclo-Core), but it was clear from the beginning that Scott was in a league of his own. He took longer, stronger pulls, his attacks were nothing severe, but were longer and just fast and hard enough that it was easy to lose contact, and he would return to the pack with no sign of fatigue. But the best part was that we never quite lost sight of him. For 90 minutes, give or take, there was a pack of about 12-15 riders, with two or three leaders, yet at the hill on the back side of Fossil Rim Game Preserve, about 28.7 miles in, that the lead peloton completely and utterly blew up.

This hill is about .8 miles long, averaging just 4.2%, but it’s the fact that it’s midway through the rally, and has a false-flat area of 2-3% sandwiched between a 6% segment and an 8-9% segment, capped by a false plateau, that just ripped the legs off of most everyone. Scott literally danced over it, as did Todd LaFleur, and I was eclipsed by some dude in a BrewMasters jersey, but that guy promptly throttled back at the top, and over the next two minutes, I caught up with Todd, and we closed in on Scott, until we came to the base of “The Wall.”

Michael Gacki earns his patch for climbing "The Wall!"

“The Wall” is a rather short climb that has grown in infamy ever since this rally began nine years ago, and conquering “The Wall” usually earns you a patch, distributed by the local Boy Scout Troop, at the top. The patch is complete with “19%” stitched on the base. It’s maybe a 1/4 mile long, has poor sight-lines and a railing on the side, thus adding to the mystique. Overall, the thing really isn’t THAT BAD, averaging maybe 12%, and it’s nothing compared to the final climb up to the observatory at Ft. Davis, but it’s still kind of tough. Scott practically danced up the wall, making it look easy, finishing in what must have been about a minute and 40 seconds. Todd was next, at about 1:55, and I came in a hair over 2 minutes. But if you’ve read any reports of my experiences at “The Wall” before, you know that it’s not THE WALL that counts, but it’s the next half mile to 1.5 miles that makes the split complete. Once again, I reeled in Todd, and the two of us pacelined it to try and catch Scott, who held back just enough that we were able to make a strong threesome, all the way out to about mile 50.

The conversation those next 15 miles, from the regroup to the last pitstop and turn off for the extra miles of the ’80’, were all about bikes, bike parts, family, Todd’s wife’s recovery from a serious accident, his own fears and fatigue, training, deciding whether to do those extra miles and deal with the chipseal, and the perpetual, renewing hope of success in the new year. This part of the rally is probably my favorite. The roads are rolling, the farms have a more dense set of trees and shrubs, and there are a few homesteads and churches dotted throughout. It’s really pastoral, and the climbs are in the 1-3% range, each lasting maybe a minute or so.  Todd was out of fluids at mile 50, so Scott and I just ghost-pedaled until he was able to fill up, when, lo & behold… we got caught by 5 stragglers that we thought we would not be seeing again until the pizza party at the finish line!

Camillo and three or four others joined in, and we used the last 10 miles to roll in pretty quickly. There were a few attacks, but nothing stuck. Then, with no more than five miles to go, Scott, who had been really praiseworthy and just, well, nice, whispered as he passed in the paceline – “At the bottom of the next hill, we go, okay?” I nodded in agreement, knowing that this would be the final act of a REALLY fun, REALLY successful rally. Unfortunately, as I approached the hill, I was the leader of the rotation, and got stuck there, unable to mask my own efforts or intentions. I waited until my speed began to bleed off, ever so slightly, and then PUNCHED IT, throwing out 620w/20sec, but it was Scott who once again danced away, gapping me over the course of the entire hill by about 30 seconds, and then holding us off all the way to the finish. My own effort on the climb totaled 1:10 at 412w, so his must have been in the 450-470w range. It was a thing of beauty to behold, and whereas in the past I would have been bitter about it, muttering under my breath about my own inabilities, in this case, I just watched in wonder and enjoyed the spectacle of seeing someone just a few years younger, who had once been a contemporary Cat 3, combine his passion, his talent, and an empirical sense of developed skill, pedal away from me by at least 1.5 mph. I soloed all the way to about a mile from the highway crossing, but was caught by three others, including Camillo, and we all declared a neutral finish in the final half mile. Holding the hand of a contemporary named Chris, who wore a Wake Forest Cycling jersey, I was gifted a 2nd place finish, and we all rode up to Scott, already off his bike and leaning against it, happily munching on a slice of pizza.

It took another hour for my wife to roll in, but it was time well spent, sitting on the steps of the school, eating slices of pizza, drinking water and juice, and catching up with friends as they rolled in and dismounted. The day continued its’ perfect weather, but the best feeling I got all day was the elation emitted from the smile on Amy’s face as she made her final turn, which I saw clear as crystal from a hundred feet away. I was in mid-conversation with the Phillippi’s when she rolled in, and they’ll attest to my own glee at seeing the joy on my wife’s face as she completed her first 45 mile ride in roughly a full year.

The Paluxy Pedal is one of those rallies that is a complete Can’t Miss. It has the advantage of climate, seasonal colors, fantastic organization and support, and terrain. The group at the front is always lively, and everyone returns with a complete sense of accomplishment that the hot summer rallies just can’t duplicate. Next year is their 10th anniversary, and I fully intend to return and ride with the front-runners yet again, only this time, I hope I’m not as shocked by my own success.

*** One quick note: There was a group of riders from Keene, TX, all wearing some neat jerseys, and really enjoying themselves. Guys, I do hope that you continue riding, but I would REALLY like to ask that you convince your police department and City Council to get TXDOT to put up larger signs on Hwy 67 announcing the change in speed limits from 65 to 50. I think the town’s reputation as a speed trap is valid, and I wouldn’t want your town to suffer from a boycott because Officer “F” was so intent on playing Sharks and Minnows with our Insurance Policies. In fact, driving AT the speed limit this weekend, reconfirmed my opinion that the many semi’s and fifth wheels hauling gas, oil, and water for the sand fracking process, are MUCH more dangerous and worthy of your speed sensors, than two cyclists returning from a rally in Cleburne who were, in fact, DECELERATING when they realized simultaneously that the speed limit had abruptly dropped, and also that they’d been tagged at the apex of the hill. Ask Officer “F” if his city coffers are that low, ask him if he sleeps well at night in his selective enforcement (out-of-towners over locals), and ask him if he’s ever been to one of the rallies just south of his town, and seen the love and joy these events bring to their communities, as well as the funds raised and commerce generated. Then ask him what’s best for the city. I hope he gets it.

25
Oct
10

2010 State Road Race Review – Copperas Cove

I guess it’s been what – two weeks now since the State Road Race weekend? Sheesh, time flies.

I don’t think I have any good photos unless they shot some on Sunday when I was in either a group or solo breakaway. Yes, once again, it was that kind of weekend.

The weather was perfect, and I mean PERFECT, both days. The temps were on the cool side, but the sun came through and warmed things up, while also keeping the wind at almost ZERO on Saturday, and mild on Sunday. Mirage entered the event with fewer participants than last year, but we still had a good game plan, and we knew that the hills would take their toll.

Immediately some riders got off the front, but while I was near the front, I did everything I could to try and keep my emotions reined in. However, it just wasn’t meant to be. In the first 60 minutes, I rode a Normalized 295w, or 4.3w/kg, which was close to my season high. It’s kind of hard to remember, but I know I was involved in several attacks, and did engage in a solo break or two, one of which I think lasted about 8 miles. Idunno, maybe I’m getting the races confused. I think I tried for the 1-lap prime, but was again denied. As the race went through its’ second lap, the whole tempo sort of died down, and while I had some teammates come up for conversations, we all knew it would come down to Shawn Hodges in the sprint. With about 1 mile to go, I remember giving it my all, and then suffering from system shutdown. My legs started cramping, and I went backwards.  Hodges went on to finish 6th, and several other teammates did really well, cementing our place not as winners of the State RR, but as winners for the 2010 season in Cat 3. While I contributed very few points, it was something of an accomplishment, and I took some solace and pride in that result.

Sunday’s race was the 40+ men, with a different cast of characters. Again I rode hard, rode strong, but the race itself was much more controlled. It was definitely a better team event. One breakaway that I launched lasted about 45 minutes, and I did get maybe 1 or 2 minutes up the road, but it was eventually reeled in, and the counter-attack that sprung from my catch led to the break that actually got away and stayed away. That break, with two McKinney Velo riders, two Mirage riders, a San Jose and one other guy, made it stick, shelling an Austin Bikes rider, and the rest of us played defense, mostly keeping the “Joe’s Pro” riders from attempting to bridge.

When the race was all but over, a teammate and I tried to set up some attacks that would or could possibly crack the rest of the peloton and fragment it so that there would be no sprint, but I kept getting shadowed by this rider in pink and blue. He was AWFUL! Once again, though, when Mike Brown of Velo McKinney went out and launched a serious attack, later joined by his teammate, it was perfectly timed, and the two got away in the last 3 miles. It was textbook. In the end, once again, I missed the pack finish, ended up well out of the top 60, and sort of struggled in. I DID receive some recognition and took a share of the team payout (the team took 2nd), which was gratifying, but in the end, I raced with my heart, not with my head, and the penalty was to sort of struggle in after 2.5 hours of aggressive riding.

I’m not sure what I want to do next year. I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to ride away and stay away in the 3’s. I like riding in the 40+, and there may be a new category in TXBRA next year – 40+ 3,4, but in a way, it seems sort of like sandbagging. Three weeks before I turned 40, I suffered a heat stroke, and took most of July off, gaining about 4-5 lbs in the process. Honestly – it hasn’t gone away. I know my power is there, I know my strength is there, but I don’t know if I can make another investment like this again. I probably will, but I know there are other challenges out there, and coaching is more of a determinant than anything.

That’s about it right now – not much else to say. I’ll try to post about the USA Cycling Coaching Summit in the next day or two, but right now, I think I just want to go for a ride.

07
Sep
10

Wow, has it been that long? A short essay on aging and training and competition.

No reports since the end of June? Wow, yeah, just… wow. Sorry about that.

Fun times at Mattito's Tex Mex!

Amy and Richard with the Gescheidles and Colleen Klaudinyi

The only reason I can come up with is that after that scare with heat stroke, I pretty much took most of July off, and half of August. I just didn’t ride. The heat and humidity really affected me, and I ended up staying indoors, not riding much, and pretty much just waiting for our trip to Washington State to get out of the heat. As a result, my threshold dropped at least 10%, and I had some enthusiasm lowered for continued riding competitively.

Right around my birthday, which was an awesome celebration (THANK YOU AGAIN SWEETIE!), I began to take stock of life, direction, and, well, the grey entering everything hairy on my body. Turning 40 really does represent a milestone. And almost like a switch had been turned, everything started to change. My power dropped, my willpower dropped, my whiskers got thicker, and hair started growing in strange places, like my ears, my nose, and my back. Not trying to gross anyone out, but dammit, I actually started to feel OLD! The straw that broke the camel’s back was watching Lance Armstrong as he suffered through a crazy first week, and then ended up just shaking his head on that one stage… and that was it. He DID show up to the Tour ready to fight and race hard, it was just that, well, his recoveries took longer, and his ability to accelerate or jump and hold it just wasn’t what it used to be. He also probably just willed it out of his mind. Turned it off. Just like that. NUTS.

I can’t say that I’m not still IN to racing. I love it. I love riding, I love training, I love racing. Last year was a blast! This year began as a blast. But my lack of preparation, my lack of intuitiveness about racing, and the fact that I really WAS starting to go up against kids half my age, just sort of left me feeling a little bit blah. I rode the Simple City a ton, and I worked on ways to try and improve my classes, the room, the studio, marketing, all that stuff. The 10 days in Washington State were a chance to recover from the repressive environment in N. Texas, get out, ride in clean air, hit some hills, and SLEEP consistently. Ironically enough, even though I logged about 400 miles, I actually GAINED about 7 lbs. And it’s taken some time to get those lbs. off! Go figure.

Since then, however, I’ve been pretty consistent on my riding, both indoors and out. I skipped the HH100, and we did get a break from the heat for a couple of days in late August. My threshold wattage is slowly creeping back up. I’ll race the 3’s and the 40+ state RR, but I’m going in with zero agenda other than to ride hard and fight well and support my teammates. There is another offer on the table, which is flattering, but I have to see if it fits my schedule or even my abilities.

I’ll write up some more soon, but suffice it to say that in Texas, I think it’s okay to take some of July and August off, especially if you start your preseason in November, like most of us.

Thanks for reading – I’ll have a review of the Joule 2.0 up shortly.

14
Jun
10

2%.

A poor head-on shot of my TT position.

The world of Time Trials is really, really complex. In many ways, it’s “The Race of Truth”, but in many ways, it’s also a race of technology. The pursuit of an aerodynamic edge, be it wheels, frames, helmets, or skinsuits, really can mean the difference between hitting the podium, and missing it.

This weekend, I raced an awesome looped course, complete with rolling terrain, different types of pavement, and an increasing wind. It was incredibly fun and challenging, but when the results were posted, I had missed the money by ONE second, and I had missed the win in my category by just about a minute. Let’s play around with some numbers here and there, look at wattage values, and see if we can figure out a way for me to increase my speed and reduce my time, just by using technology.

Over the years, I’ve tried to use technology to influence my positioning on the Time Trial bike, and also to influence my purchasing decisions, so everything tends to be tilted towards that which will produce the lowest amount of drag, while still allowing me to generate adequate power to the pedals. For this event: here’s my equipment list:

  • Aluminum Cervelo P3.
  • Aerobars
  • Oval TT fork
  • Nimble Trispoke up front.
  • Bontrager Aeolus Disc Wheel in rear (2007 model?)
  • TIGHT skinsuit
  • Louis Garneau aero helmet.
  • Pearl Izumi Booties

I opted to not bring a water bottle, though honestly, I should have considered wearing my camelback with a couple of ice cubes inside, but I don’t think my performance suffered from dehydration. I drank adequately prior to the effort, knowing I would lose fluids through perspiration and respiration from the stress and the environmental conditions.

Using Golden Cheetah’s experimental “AeroLab” and also a tried-and-true program from “Analyticcycling.com”, I took a section of road that was smooth and steady in its’ slope, where I knew I was in my aero position as consistently as I could remember, and I tried to determine my Coefficient of Aerodynamics, or CdA.

You try to get the lines to mesh as much as possible.

For the second image, take Frontal Area and multiply it by the Coefficient of Wind Drag. Both numbers come up close to a .265m^2, which is better known as the “HOLE” you cut through the air when you’re in a certain position. Remember, I lost 3rd place by 1 second, and I lost the victory by one minute exactly. The difference then, between 4th, which I got, and first, which we want, is about 1.8%. Thus the title of this post – a 2% improvement in my time would have earned me the win. I may have been able to pedal faster, but honestly, from what I know about aerodynamics, my .265m^2 is probably a little high. I’d like to see if I can lower that CdA down to a .25 or a .24 without losing power, and see what that would achieve.

Here are the results of some Analytic Cycling calculations. Notice the DROP in watts required to travel at the same speed. We’ll go back to my original power average on the last image….

Wattage required at .25m^2

Wattage Required at .24m^2

The savings on watts at the same speed, 10.2 meters per second, goes from 252w to 243w to 237w, or a savings of 3.5% and then 2.4%, or a total of 6% decrease in the amount of power required to hold that speed. So, you’re doing less work, using less energy, to get down the road at the same speed. Now, let’s show the final chart, and reveal just what speed I would have held on that section, had I been able to hold a .24m^2 aero position, and still generate 250w…

250w at a CdA of .24m^2

My speed goes up from 10.2m/sec to 10.44 m/s, or….

2.2%.

Now, this is never a perfect science, but let’s just say that I was able to mostly hold that position, stay at a perfect .24m^2 CdA, and generate 250w, which is about what I pushed on Sunday.

I averaged 25.3 miles per hour, or 11.3 m/s.

a 2% improvement would have yielded an average speed of 25.8mph, or 11.53m/s.

Covering the distance of the TT route, a 2% improvement would have yielded a 55:07, which would have put me 2 seconds out of 2nd place. Raising my power to 252w would have put me down in the 54 minute range, which would have led to a a win in my category.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, as much as I love power, let’s face it – time trials are almost always won by mere seconds. Never let up, push as hard as you can as long as you can, but remember the little stuff that can, and does, make a difference.

Now – if I can just find a way to shed that drag, ever so slightly! Stay tuned!!!

08
Jun
10

Ah, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia!

Again – more words later, but for now, here are some images to whet your appetite.

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