Rush Limbaugh has his . . . well, here is mine. This is my record of news stories and issues that interest me. You can also find more headlines at the site where I serve as editor: The Common Voice.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The sprint fest is back

I wore leg and arm warmers for the first time today. At 6' 2" and 170 lbs, I don't have a lot of fat. It's one of the reasons why I'll never be a triathlon athlete. I sink like a rock. Plus, I get cold pretty easily.

I sensed something was up right off the bat. The heavy hitters were all sitting off the back of the lead group. Tony was there. John was there. Billy was there. Matt was there. Check. All the sprinters were on the ride.

Of course, the last few times we have ridden, there wasn't much sprinting going on. I had a feeling that today would be different. I was right.

As we neared the first sprint point, I was still feeling pretty cold and didn't want to put my 39 year old knees into that kind of hurt, so I just laid off and didn't even try. I'd save myself for later.

Once in the Stallings Road area, we rode through my sister's neighborhood. I looked over toward their house and saw my niece out on the back porch. I decided to ride over and say hello. Of course, that meant I had to chase down the group after a quick word or two.

(The U23 road race just ended - Peter Velis takes the win.)

Wouldn't you know it -- I caught the group just as we neared the next sprint point. I wanted to try for this one, but I was so tired from chasing. Still, I moved up in the group and a rider in a Michelin kit broke away. I saw Matt and John say something to each other. Matt went after the break away and John sat up. I went around to give chase. At some point along that time I decided to give it up. There was no use. The lead riders of the group behind me went tearing by.

Then it was time for the quarry sprint. This is a gradual climb that runs by a rock quarry. A group of about eight started up the incline. Art went out in front and I got caught with Billy to my left and Tony to my right. I finally worked my way onto Tony's wheel. Art slowed. Tony and I went around him. I stood and tried to drop Tony :-)

I actually did, but I think it is because he wasn't sure where the sprint line was. Sure enough, Billy came around on my left. I tried to counter, but my legs just would not go. My mind, cardio, and lungs said, "We can do it!" My legs said, "Sit down big boy. We're not going anywhere." Billy beat me.

The next sprint was a mess. Due to traffic and just the way things shook out, the sprint never really developed. We got in trouble for trying to sprint with traffic around. Honest, I looked behind and didn't see any cars before I launched.

The last sprint that I attempted was the Paris Mountain State Park entrance. I really wanted this one. We were moving along in a pace line at over 30 mph. Then something happened and the line broke. Matt had been leading off and he sat up. I moved around to follow Tony and Owen down the descent just before the final climb to the park entrance.

My momentum carried me past Tony and then I got around Owen. I knew Billy would be coming, so I just moved to the biggest ring I could stand and put all I had in it. This time my legs didn't quit. I sensed that Billy was going to try to move around my right. I moved over to take that line away from him. He adjusted and started around my left. I tried, but with about 10 feet to go, Billy just had more than I did and dusted me.

Even so, that was my favorite part of the day. At least I was there and made Billy work for it! I would never had been able to do that even a month ago. I'm really feeling stronger and stronger. I've got to keep in mind that I am building and hopefully next year I will be one of the better 40 year olds out there.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

13' 16"

I'm starting to like putting these number titles on my blog! It means I have broken a new personal record. In the same week I set a new record for Cleveland Park, I set another one on Paris Mountain.

Tonight was to be the last Thursday night get together for the guys who ride out from Sunshine Cycle Shop. It is kind of like breaking up with that beautiful girl. You know it is dangerous, but you just can't help yourself. My guess we'll be out there next week taking a shorter route with our flashers going.

This ride started out pretty well. The regulars were there - Mike, John, Art, Matt, and myself. We were joined by Jay Mappus - he is the editor of the Greenville Spinners newsletter, the Yarn Spinner. Also on board was Jimmy Helms and his son Stradford. You might have come across Strad in the latest issue of Go Magazine. He is listed as one of the up-and-coming junior racers.

Before we headed out, Jay took a picture of us for the newsletter. I have a funny feeling I won't be in the picture. He wasn't able to get the whole group in the shot. I typically get cut out of such things. It is best for the picture!

We rolled off and really it was uneventful. Art and I got a chance to catch up on the doping news and there was the normal warm up talk going on. We were joined along the way by a father and son that ride with us sometimes. I need to get their names. The dad is one big dude - and I don't mean fat - and his son is probably 11 or 12 years old.

The weather was great and I was feeling really good. We followed our normal route to the base of Altamont Road on the Furman side and then it was time to climb. Stradford was in the lead, then John, the young guy, and then I followed.

Strad was starting to check out right off the start. The next three of us stayed together for a bit, but the little guy started to back off and John built a gap. A car was coming, so I was stuck. Once the car passed, I went around and worked to close the gap up to John.

10 mph. I kept looking down and seeing double digits on my speed. "Hey, I'm feeling good and my speed is holding up. This could be a good night!" I started trying to find a rhythm for my breathing. I bet John thought I was having some type of asthma attack!

Right at the end of the first sustained climb that I hate, John moved over to let me go by. Then it was only Stradford ahead of me. At some points, it actually looked like I might be gaining on him -- yeah, right! Still for the first third of the climb, I was able to see him around the next bend.

Then, as is often the case, I was on my own. I couldn't see anyone ahead or behind. It stayed this way through the middle section. During this section I couldn't believe it as I would look down and see speeds up to 12 mph. Unfortunately, I also was starting to feel things go away.

By the time I hit the last third, my speeds dropped. Now I was looking down and seeing 7 and 8 mph. Even worse, I looked behind me and there was Art! Doggone it! It was like a bad dream. Of course, the last time I was able to hold him off. This time I knew it as soon as I saw him, it was over.

He finally caught me and we shifted back and forth for a few yards. He got on my wheel then edged up. I tried my best to ride with him until we got to "the wall." At that point, I watched him calmly shift into a harder ring, stand up, and then so smoothly ride away.

I shifted, stood up, and not so smoothly followed. I finally stopped looking at Art and just tried to suffer my way up. I didn't quit and kept pushing the whole way. I was rewarded with my best time ever up the mountain - 13 minutes and 16 seconds. Art had made it in 10 seconds less.

Of course, young Mr. Helms was waiting for us with a time of 11' 53" - that will keep you in your place! Still, I know I'm not a racer. I really have one goal - beat my last time. I was very pleased to finish with a 10 mph average up the climb. Breaking 13' is doable.

On the way back, I really had fun. At the bottom of the mountain, John wanted to compare our seat heights and take a look at my bike. He let me ride his Specialized Tarmac back to the shop! Oh my goodness... I noticed the weight difference immediately. The next thing I noticed was just how smooth and yet responsive it was.

I attacked a couple of shallow hills and it just ate them up. After riding my Allez, it was really like not riding a bike. I was just floating above the ground. Must resist... must not... succumb...


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ready for the crit? Not Rhett

Last night I wanted to ride, but couldn't decide if I wanted to go to Donaldson Center or try riding intervals of Rhett Street. I contacted my friend David and asked if he would like to ride and which one he would go for. We decided on Rhett.

The idea was to do intervals of Rhett Street in preparation for the crit in October. I figured that the street would be where you would make it or break it in the race. If I could get used to riding it and find the best rhythm for the stretch, I would have a better chance of making my first race a success.

It didn't happen. David and I arrived and there was much more traffic on the street than I thought there would be. Plus, I had overlooked that Augusta Road cuts across Rhett Street and we would have to stop every time we got to that point. Rhythm? What rhythm?

Okay, so not all is lost. I figured that I could practice that turn off of Camperdown onto Rhett. It is a sharp left turn directly into a short climb of 20 yards or less. I tried it a couple of times, but it wasn't worth it. It is such a blind turn that I could see myself coming around the turn and end up on the grill of car!

The only way to pull this off is to go out there real early in the morning and ride before there is traffic. Even then, I don't think it would be close to replicating what will happen during the race. At least I have some idea of the topography of the course. I can find safer places to work on those elements.

We ended up going to Cleveland Park and riding and riding for an hour or so. I guess we should have gone on to Donaldson Center instead of trying Rhett. Oh well, you live and you learn.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


They say records are made to be broken. Well, I’ve added another one to the list. Of course, my records aren’t that hard to beat!

Whenever I want to test myself, I head out to Cleveland Park and do laps with the goal of going as fast as I can for one hour. For months I was never able to break the 20 mph average for one hour. Then the day came (the day I got my new Mavic wheels), when I managed to barely pass the 20 mph barrier.

Then on a Monday night in August, I upped the goal to 20.3 mph. I remember commenting at that time, “I think I'm going to have to set a new goal. It would be something to aim for to hit 20.5. That doesn't sound like much until you go out there and try to do it!” Well, last night I did it.

Actually, I hadn’t tried again since that Monday. On Saturday I got advice on my form and had my saddle height adjusted. I figured it was time to go out and give it a try to see if the changes would make any difference.

I immediately felt a difference in the way I was seated in the saddle. While before my pedal stroke would cause me to shift ever so slightly in the saddle, this time I was firmly planted. It was much easier to relax my upper body and use my legs to drive the pedals.

Some things I was already doing well – keeping my back straight, shoulders loose, and my arms inside and angled at the elbows. The biggest change for me was the angle of my ankles. I have always pointed my toes so that I was kind of paddling the bike – as I came down I would kind of push the pedal like a canoeist strokes the water back.

I was told I should try to bring my foot parallel to the ground and use the calf and hamstring muscles to put the power in the bottom part of the stroke. I tried it and I could definitely sense I was getting more power. The only thing is I had to keep concentrating not to revert back to my old way.

The first lap was a warm up and then the second was a hot lap. I finished that lap with an average of 23 mph with a time of 6:33. The key to a high speed lap on the course is to get speed on Woodland Way and Woodland Circle. On that lap I hit 20 mph on the climb.

Of course, I can’t maintain that for an hour! Laps 2 – 4 saw my time increase from 7:18 to 7:40. At that point I was starting to burn a little. I had decided to ride looking for the pain and then concentrate on riding through it.

On laps 5 and 6 I started coming back into form. The pain was that fun kind that tells you your muscles are working. I also was trying to work on my breathing to make sure I was pulling in plenty of oxygen. No diaphragm pain tonight no matter how hard I pushed!

Then on lap 7 I got behind two guys that were moving along at a good clip. I hooked on and then the guy directly in front of me pulled off. I was left behind a fellow wearing a Carolina Triathlon - Ryobi team kit. It was a little faded, so I figured he had worn it before! I had gone around him earlier in the ride while he was doing a slow ride. Now, I had caught him again and he wasn’t going slowly.

Up Woodland Way – we were going around 15 to 16 mph. Then we hit the gentler slope at the top. Ryobi dude shifted and moved up to 20 mph. I followed. Then we both shifted to our smallest rear ring and descended up to 34 mph.

Then it was time to climb Woodland Circle. I wondered how he would approach this climb – but not for long. He took off and I tried to match him up the climb. On a section where I typically congratulate myself for hitting 19 mph, we were sprinting topping out at 28 mph!

Right as we neared the top, I could tell I was about to lose him. Thankfully, I had only dropped back about a yard by the time we turned the corner. He slowed and I cheated to pull up on his wheel before he could look back and see he had almost put me in big hurt!

He looked back and gave me a grin. I like to think he was a little surprised I was still there. We continued at a normal speed around to McDaniel Avenue. At that point, he slowed enough to allow me to pull up beside him. “I’m going straight up here,” he said pointing at the intersection of Richland and McDaniel. I replied, “Thanks for the pull.”

A little more than a lap later, I hit the hour mark. I looked down to read an average speed of 20.6 - so much for my 20.5 mph goal. I guess I’ll have to start pushing for 21 mph. I bet if I could follow that guy again, I could do it!


Monday, September 24, 2007

The Chase is on!

The Dover race of yesterday was a much better race than last weeks. Not only that but the Chase has turned exciting in a big way. Look at the breakdown of the points between the leader, Jeff Gordon, and places 2 - 4. Only one position in the top ten on the race track separates them.

1Jeff Gordon5340Leader
2Tony Stewart5338-2
3Carl Edwards5337-3
4Jimmie Johnson5336-4

Unfortunately, while it was a good day because Gordon held onto the lead, it was a bad day because I got beat by BBuck. I now have 22 wins to his 19. I've got to win four of the next eight races in order to take the league. I should face the give me team two more times, so that leaves me with the needing to win two contested races.

Next week in Kansas I go up against DraftingWithYates. He has three solid drivers in Kenseth, McMurray, and Jeff Burton. Burton and Kenseth are Chase drivers. My team will have to have an on day to get the win. BBuck goes up against thewildcard. So, he is pretty much assured a win. We'll find out next week!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

I try to get fit by getting fit

This morning was my first ride with the downtown Carolina Triathlon group. I had been in the shop numerous times, but typically it was just to buy clothing. I wasn't sure what to expect. The shop is kind of bohemian and definitely "downtownish." I wasn't sure how I would fit in.

Turns out it was all good. Once you click in, I've found social status and all that stuff goes out the window. It all comes down to how you ride (Oh, ok, so I admit, having a trick bike does earn you bonus points).

Here's the route, I'll talk about my ride below.We started out kind of slow. As we headed out of town, I started off near the front. I made some conversation and then pulled up behind Ben - the shop manager. I recognized his Cervélo from the rear. Turns out, I had been following him through Cleveland Park on occasion earlier this summer. I always wondered who that guy was. Now I know.

I started wondering if we were going to continue taking our time to the base of Paris Mountain. Then things started picking up and it felt good to push it some. I did one long pull on the Old Buncombe stretch and then figured I'd better back off to get ready for the climb.

Just before turning up Altamont, I couldn't get my chain out of my big ring! I dropped from near the front to the back of the pack while trying to get it adjusted. Worse, it threw me off mentally. I was afraid I might have gearing problems later in the climb. I also didn't like being at the back, so I started off a little hot.

Up the first third of the climb I was averaging over 10 mph. On some of the "level" sections I was nearing 14 mph. I passed several of the folks that started up before me, but four or five guys were long gone.

By the time I reached the halfway point my speeds dropped to the 8 to 9 mph range. At this point I couldn't see anyone behind me and just one lone guy up ahead making his way up in a larger ring. The sight of him doing that so nonchalantly made me realize again how far I have to go. Soon he turned a bend and I was alone.

In the last third of the ride, I dropped one time to about 5 mph. My hot start was coming back to haunt me. The only way I could get myself going again was to move to a harder ring. I know that sounds weird, but I felt better there and my speed improved.

It was just as I shifted that I noticed a shadow behind me. Where did that guy come from! My acceleration dropped him for a moment, but by the time I reached the wall he was back on my rear wheel. As we made the final left turn to the KOM line he moved half a wheel in front of me.

Oh, I so didn't want him to beat me!
Then it was about a half a bike lead he had. I sensed at that point he let up. I shifted and stood on the pedals and we sprinted for top. I'll say we tied, but I did cross the official KOM line first. :-) It was great fun!

Turns out my climb was 14:20. That stinks. I had hoped I had beat the 14 minute barrier for good. That day will come though.

From there it was pretty uneventful back to shop. However, once back at the shop I decided to do something I had never done before. I asked Ben to do a bike fit for me.

Turns out there were some adjustments to be made - specifically to my saddle positioning. He also gave me some pointers on posture - which thankfully I was already doing and was aware of. My feet positioning could use some work. I also asked him about the pain I sometimes get in my back.

At times when I am giving an all out exertion - like interval training for the criterium where I am sprinting as hard as I can up a hill - I get a pain in my lower back that almost cripples me. It isn't a back muscle. It actually feels like an internal organ.

He told me this was my diaphragm. He said it was my breathing. I needed to do a better job using my diaphragm and bringing in air. I'll concentrate on that a little more and see if it will help.

The new seat positioning does help. Actually, it feels a lot how things were before I got my new Toupe seat. I'll keep it where it is for several weeks and see if I still like it then.

I missed my regular Saturday morning ride, but this was a nice change of pace. It was neat to meet some new people. Oh, did I mention the smoothies?


Friday, September 21, 2007

Back in the saddle

Monday night seems a long time ago. That was the last night I went riding on my bike. The other nights of the week I did some spinning on my indoor trainer, but it just isn't the same.

Last night was the Thursday evening Sunshine ride. It was nice to connect with the guys and do some actual riding for a change. Turns out the training might not move me forward, but it seems to help keep me from sliding back.

John and Billy started off kind of fast. It made me wonder if this could be a tough night for me. Besides, I had just put a new Specialized Toupe saddle on my bike. It replaces the stock one that came on the bike. The saddle was level and I thought I was ready to ride. Problem is the new saddle is so much thinner than my old one that I needed to move the seat post up to get proper positioning for my legs.

I rode with the saddle low all the way to the base of the Furman side of Paris Mountain. By that point, my legs were beginning to feel like they were going to explode! I stopped and told the guys to go ahead and that I would catch them on the other side.

It took longer than I hoped to get the saddle fixed and I wondered if I would be able to catch them. Stopping to fix the saddle gave me some time to recover, so at least I wasn't too tired. I pointed the bike up Altamont and gave chase.

About a third of the way up, I pass a group of cyclists on the side of the road. It appeared they had ridden to this point and were now loading their bikes up in a truck. I think I recognized at least one of them - Jonathan - I knew he was taking up cycling, but hadn't seen him out. I didn't stop to find out because I was needing to catch my group.

Finally, I rounded the final turn to face the wall. Wow, very close to me was Webb, a new rider Troy was just ahead of him, and there was Art riding with him. I almost caught the end of the group after spotting them at least a minute.

Art and Troy were too far ahead for me to catch, but Webb was close enough that I figured I could pass him. I moved up two rear rings, came out of my saddle, and pushed up the wall.

I've learned that it is the wall that gives you time. If you are willing to push it and suffer those last few yards, you can take at least 15 seconds off your total time. I was suffering this time! My legs wanted to stop and my HR hit 190, but I kept going.

About 20 feet from the KOM line, I passed Webb. Up ahead I saw John, Billy, and the rest of the crew. They were joined by two of my Facebook friends, Jimmy and Scott. I had been trying to connect with Jimmy for a couple of weeks, so it was nice to finally meet him in person.

13:53 - that was my time up. Not my best time, but at least I can now consistently stay below 14 minutes. Most importantly, I am able to recover so much better right now. Before, I would do a ride like that and just crash when I got home. Last night I felt like I could have done the ride again.

I'll be writing a bit more about my new saddle on my Greenville News blog. So far, I'm liking it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007


Well, at least they made it work out for the people with Dale Earnhardt's number 8 tattooed on their bodies. It was announced yesterday that Dale Jr. will be driving Mountain Dew and National Guard cars next year. Actually, it is Mountain Dew Amp Energy drink that is on the hood.

Honestly, I don't think I have ever heard of it. I have tried Vault - the Coke product. Well, I've heard of it now and with Junior being the spokesman, I bet I'll be hearing a lot more about it! I guess I'll have to go out there and give it a try.

My question now is, what is Casey going to drive? His primary car sponsor was National Guard. I haven't done much searching on that question. I'm sure Hendrick has somebody waiting to put their name on a HMS car.

The 88... Hmmmmm, For all you do, this Amp's for you... This is Amp, this is energy drink...


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two for The Greenville News

I didn't get to go out to Donaldson Center last night like I hoped. Plans were for me to meet some folks that I have met through Facebook and my The Greenville News cycling blog. Guess it will have to wait until next week.

The Greenville News had a neat article about the BJU Wellness Challenge yesterday. I ended up being quoted in it. Thanks, Mike, for a good piece and I hope it will be a challenge for other individuals and companies in the area to "step it up." Hey, and thanks to you Jim for introducing such a great program to campus!

I also published to my The Greenville News cycling blog my review of the book Lance Armstrong's War. In the interest of keeping it archived, I'm going to republish it here in this post.
Battle of the Books
September 8, 2007

Lance Armstrong is a hero.

Lance Armstrong is an egotistical jerk.

Lance Armstrong is the ultimate athlete.

Lance Armstrong is a cheating doper.

Lance Armstrong elicits different reactions based on who you talk to and what they believe about a man who is one of the most colorful sporting stories in history. In the last several years books have been written from these different perspectives. With all the doping going on in the ProTour, I decided to pick up some of these books to educate myself.

The most recent book I've gotten around to in this series is Lance Armstrong's War: One Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France by Daniel Coyle. This book follows my more recent read, From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France by "über troll*" David Walsh (read review here). These two books made for an interesting juxtaposition.

Coyle spends the first part of the book painting a picture of Armstrong and his friends/rivals. His description of Armstrong doesn't delve much into his childhood or his fight with cancer, but introduces us to him as he begins to prepare for the 2004 Tour de France. Most of that is in the form of flashbacks to previous years and how that motivated him for this particular Tour.

To be honest, having just read From Lance to Landis, I had a hard time getting into this portion of the book. I typically can knock out a book in no time. This one? Not so much. At times Coyle's style made me roll my eyes. He has a tendency to fall in love with his metaphors and descriptions.

However, by the time I moved into the second section where Lance actually starts participating in the 2004 Tour, I found it to be most engaging. To a degree the book became less about Lance and more about the race through his eyes. The writing style even seemed to improve - or maybe I just didn't notice it because I was too intrigued by the story.

I would definitely recommend the book to cycling fans - whether you like Lance or not. While I came into the book expecting it to be an Armstrong defense, I came away with a different perspective. Coyle actually does quite well at painting a picture of the man - with strengths and weaknesses. Sure, many of us hope for a book that handles the sticky questions of the doping allegations with a little more research. In his defense, that was not the intent of Coyle's book.

When I finished the book, I was left with the impression that Coyle had an amount of admiration for the man, but also a bitter taste in his mouth because of the experience. Perhaps I am projecting my own feelings on the writer. That is how his book left me. Lance Armstrong is strong in many ways, but he also has glaring weaknesses. There is much to admire about him, but in my mind, also much to pity.

Perhaps that is a testament to Coyle's fair treatment of the man. Depending on your views on Lance going into the reading, you will most likely come out without altering them. At least you will have more information on which to base your conclusions.

* A "troll" is one of Armstrong's enemies. In the world of Armstrong, you do not want to be a troll!
Right now I am reading a cycling book that I find much more enjoyable: Tour de Life the story of Saul Raisin. A review should follow in a week or so. It is hard to find time for recreational reading.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gordon moves back toward the front

Yesterday's race in New Hampshire turned out pretty well for me. At first I thought Gordon might lose ground in the Chase. He seemed to be struggling and Boyer was just checking out. Worse, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart seemed to be right behind Boyer in ability.

Thankfully, the 24 team turned things around and while Boyer was still the class of the field, Gordon did what he had to do to finish in front of Stewart and Johnson. This means that Jeff has now moved into a tie for first place with Johnson and maintains his lead over the 20 car.

Hamlin struggled some to end up with a 15 place finish. However, with Gordon coming home 2nd and Kyle Busch making a good finish in 4th place, I was able to move ahead by one race in the fantasy league! BBuck lost to A_Junior_Fan. With only 9 races to go, that starts to work in my favor.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Showing some power during the Hour of Power

Before this morning's ride, I hadn't ridden since Tuesday. The time I spent on the trainer doesn't count. Unfortunately, that was all I was able to do due to other obligations that kept me busy in the evenings.

As I headed over to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the Hour of Power ride, I wondered how I would feel today. I had been told that I needed to participate in all the sprints today in preparation for my criterium race coming up in October. I wasn't so thrilled about that!

On the first sprint it is a some do it and some don't kind of thing. Webb, who always seems to breakaway about this point, was gone followed by someone I didn't know. He looked like he knew what he was doing, so I kept an eye on him.

I probably should have let them go and saved myself for some of the tougher sprints to come, but I just couldn't help myself. I came across the line first - more because they didn't want to contest it than because I was riding well. Frankly, my legs didn't feel good about that point. "It's going to be a long day," I thought to myself.

The next sprint happens on Meece Bridge Road just before you reach Darby Bridge Road. This section is a slowly rising section and the sprint typically comes out of a pace line. I was pacing with Mike and Art. Some of the better sprinters - like Billy - were behind me. I just knew one of them was going to come flying around.

I didn't want to start too soon either. Up ahead I could see a hump and on the other side the ground seemed to level out a bit. I decided to go for it after the hump. I pulled around Mike all the time expecting to hear the whir of Billy's bike coming up behind me.

Big ring and here I go. I looked between my legs and saw no shadows. Past the marker and I had taken the sprint. As I cooled down by riding back toward the group, I realized that while it was fun, it certainly didn't show anything. The big hitters were taking it easy today. They weren't even trying.

The other sprint that was fun was the one up Keller Road. It is tough because it is so long. I'm still not sure exactly where the sprint starts. It climbs and then levels off and then climbs again ending at a station near Locust Hill Road.

I broke from the group when we reached the level point. I seemed to have a little bit of a gap and thought about easing off. I glanced back beneath my arm and saw the white socks of Art spinning and gaining on me. I put a little more into it and he didn't fade, but he didn't gain either. He pushed me all the way to the line.

The rest of the ride continued pretty much the same. I won each sprint I decided to contest. On one, I have the sneaky feeling that Mike and Art were trying to get me. They both came around me with a ways to go. They were going pretty fast and I was tired from a recent sprint.

As we made a left turn with 20 yards to go, I put it in the big ring and tried to move around them on the right. I heard Art say, "Here he comes." It wasn't a sprint I was planning on contesting, but it sure was fun.

Overall, I feel pretty good. However, I have no illusions that I "won the green jersey" because I'm some hot to trot rider. Had Billy decided he wanted to sprint today (or had John or Tony been a part of the ride), I wouldn't be talking green - unless it would be the color of my face!

Still, with the way I was able to ride with the A group at Donaldson and the way I was able to out ride some folks who fall in the same Cat 5 35+ level as me, I think that I might do well in October. I just need to keep training.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meeting something other than the road

No riding tonight. I had a work dinner that went until about 8 PM. By the time I got home it was time to spend a few minutes with the kids before putting them to bed. Then it was downstairs to do some spinning on the old trainer.

It was kind of fun. I put it in a medium gearing and just started spinning about between 115 and 125 rpm. I did that for about 15 minutes. Then I moved to the big ring and kept the revolutions over 80 rpms for 5 minutes. I then went down and spun for 5 minutes at just over 100 rpm. Then I did an all out sprint in the big ring. I could only do it for about a minute. Finally, I cooled down after 35 minutes or so of spinning.

I sure would rather have been with the Sunshine guys on their Thursday night ride or with Kirk and Brian as they did training laps in Cleveland Park. But no, I was reviewing an employee policy manual.

It has also been fun keeping up with the Tour of Missouri and writing about it in my Greenville News cycling blog. I'm not sure if anyone is reading it, but it is fun to be one of the only voices for cycling in the local media. Maybe someday cyclist in the area will find it and read.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An "A" for effort

The good news: I did Donaldson Center again tonight.

The bad news: I did the A ride.

More good news: I stayed with the group for four laps and even pulled at the front of the group on that fourth lap.

More bad news: I got dropped on the fifth and final lap.

To end on a good note, I wasn't the last person in. After getting dropped, I passed four other riders and finished the last lap about 3 minutes off the pace.

I wasn't planning on doing Donaldson again so soon, but I was told it was great training for the criterium coming up in October. So, I head over after work to do the B ride. John at Sunshine Cycle Shop said I should try the A group. He told me, "Just get on the back and if you get dropped just wait for the B group to catch you and keep going."

I wasn't so sure. I remembered the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs not to go up to the chief seat at the king's table. It is better to take the lower seat and wait for someone to invite you up to the "place of honor." So, I paid my five bucks and got in the B group with my Saturday morning friend Webb.

Then I saw Kirk and Brian up in the A group. They were some of the guys telling me I needed to ride at Donaldson for the training. I rolled over to them and Kirk said he was surprised to see me because he thought I had something else going on. We talked a bit and he said, "Hey, give the A group a try. Just hang on the back." I had heard that somewhere before - I had been invited to the table.

We rolled off. The warm-up lap was a full two minutes faster than last week's B group warm-up. The riding was more aggressive, but smoother. The laps was a little fast for me and I tightened up a bit.

About a third of the way through the second lap I was feeling a lot better. I had shifted into an easier gear and spun some of the tightness away. Now I was settling in. The pace was was about a 17 minute lap of the 7.18 mile circuit. This was starting to be fun.

On lap three I was able to stop thinking about my body and focus on the people around me. I was noticing how riders were jockeying to use the group to protect themselves from the cross winds. I began experimenting with where to place myself.

Lap four found me moving up in the group. There was somewhat of a breakaway in front of us and I was in the chase group. I was riding within myself and feeling pretty good. Without straining I found myself within five riders of the front of the chase group.

That is where my inexperience took over. I didn't know how to handle being up front. When I am up front, all I know to do is pull. I ended up getting used up and then fading back about fifteen riders or so. For a minute or two I was just trying to get myself back together.

That was a big mistake. Even though I was feeling okay by the time we finished lap four, I didn't realize how used up I was. I saw some riders pull off and adjusted my pace not sure what to do. At that point the front ramped it up and a gap formed. Two other riders and myself hammered to hook on to the rear of the group.

That was it. I stayed with the group until the second climb and I just couldn't hang on. As I was being dropped, we rode by my friend Barry who had been in the B group. His arm was all bloody! He must have had a fall. For a moment I thought, I'll just drop back and finish up with him. Then something else inside said to keep pushing.

I pushed and finally recovered about halfway through the lap. I rolled in hitting speeds over 20 mph and up to 23 mph. It felt good to be able to pass some of the other dropped riders.

Next time, I'll do the A group again, but I'll try to be patient and learn from my mistakes. If you are interested in seeing the differences in the A and B group, these tables may help.

Group A lap information for five laps (finished in the final five):
LapTimeDist.M SpdHR/AvgHR/Max
520:22 7.1840.9175183

Group B lap information for five laps (finished in the top four):
LapTimeDist.M SpdHR/AvgHR/Max


Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting ready for the Chase

Well, we've made it to the Chase for the Championship. Looks like Johnson gets to move into the lead of points even though Jeff Gordon was hundreds of points ahead and Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin were ahead of him in points. It was the new rule that gives bonus points for wins that made it happen.

As for the fantasy league, it isn't affected by the points change. It continues to work on the same points structure. I was glad to come out of Richmond with a win. You never know what is going to happen on a short track. I held off Super_D 428 to 405. Earlier I was blowing him away, but by the end of the race, I was biting my nails.

BBuck continues to keep pace. It looked like he was going to get beat about midway through the race. DraftingWithYates was nearly 100 points ahead at that time, but Tony made his move and BBuck ended up winning 363 to 279.

Of course, A_Junior_Fan had not problem on the night because he was up against thewildcard. The team was third in points for the night with 401. Johnson really made the difference for him.

BBuck is only 3 races back. We have 10 more to go! This reminds me so much of last year when I came into the final weeks with a lead. I was feeling pretty confident and then, BAM, BBuck took the lead to win the league. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself!


Saturday, September 08, 2007

I try to stay with Carolina Tri

This morning as part of my plans to participate in and report on all the shop rides in the area for The Greenville News, I headed over to the Woodruff Road Carolina Triathlon shop to do my first report.

You can read the report on the ride here. Below you will find a map of the ride and some of the personal input on the ride.

I didn't know what to expect on the ride. However, I determined that I wasn't going to get stuck tooling along at 16 mph for the morning. That is when I decided to join the A group. When only four of us broke from the group to form up, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. An A group of 10 or more is one thing... an A group of 4 with me not knowing the route is another!

Thankfully, I was saved the embarrassment of leaving the other riders to go to the B group - or getting dropped by these three other guys farther down the road. The reason was that none of the other three riders knew the route! So, the ride leader decided to go out as one group and allow it to split up later.

I ran into David McQuaid about this time. I didn't expect to see him out there, but there he was with his orange bike. It was nice to see someone I knew even though everyone else I had talked with was very friendly.

We all started out together and I was kind of surprised that we didn't do a little more warming up. We came out of the shoot pretty fast and the group did an initial split right away. This was about the time I heard someone yell "Chain!" behind me. I learned after the ride that it was David - I was wondering during the ride where he went!

From there I just tried to hang on. I tried to stay toward the back of the group so I could get a feel of the types of riders I had around me. The ones I watched closely and tried to stay near were the three guys who wanted to go A on us - along with the shop guys.

Finally, I felt comfortable enough to move toward the front and had a couple of good pulls for the group and did a big ring sprint up a hill past and away from the two leaders. I paid for it later!

One thing I need to learn is how to get back in the group after pulling. Perhaps I pull for to long, but when I am done I find myself sliding off the back of the pace line. Then I'm left to claw my way back up there and that takes a good amount of energy.

One of the more exciting events on the ride was the time we were going down a narrow road with trees on each side. We were going downhill and a guy got between me and the lead group. He was being very careful and on the narrow, winding road, I couldn't get around him. The group was putting distance on us.

Finally, I got around just as they began a slight climb. I tried to close the gap and about that time I saw two large German Shepherds and two very large Rottweilers come out of the woods to the right! They went for the rear of the group.

Of course, what I was thinking was, "Oh no! Those dogs are going to give up on those guys and then it will be just me against four dogs!" I would have to sprint uphill to get away. Thankfully, the riders up ahead slowed and gave the dogs what for. They gave up and I rode and joined the now slow group just as the dogs gave up.

From that point on, it was pretty uneventful. I was glad when we made it back. I was beginning to wear down. We passed quite a few people who were returning from the shattered B group and the slower C group. I rolled into the parking lot third in line.

In the shop I bought a Gatorade and asked if that was the normal route. I was told that it was basic area, but that the ride is mixed up each week. At that point, he said, "You were doing some strong riding out there." I told him thanks and that I had fun.

Another shop guy came up just as we were talking and he said, "Yeah, you are a strong rider. You did some big pulls out there." I replied that you have to pull if you want others to pull for you. He responded by saying, "Yeah, but you went beyond the call of duty."

Wow, that made my day! I never know what to think about my ability. I tend to think I am not that strong of a rider. I was just happy that I made it without getting dropped!


Friday, September 07, 2007


That might not mean anything to you, but 13:38 is exciting for me.

Last night, I met up with the folks at Sunshine Cycle Shop for the weekly Thursday ride. It is route that heads out behind the shop along to base of Paris Mountain, over to Furman, and then back to the shop via Altamont Road. There is a good amount of climbing and the riders are typically more advanced. It is a good work out.

We decided to skip the Furman section because our evenings are getting shorter. So, we got off of the winding roads along the base of Paris and headed down Old Buncombe to the start of Altamont. It was time to do some climbing!

I assessed the group - all of them were regular shop riders and I knew we could make a good time if I could just hang with them: especially Art and Tony. They seem to be the climbing animals. Tony was sitting on his new Orbea Orca with iPod earbuds in his ears. Art was just Art. The man is 61 - I think - and when he dies 50 years from now, they need to go inside and find out what is in there! Now, all the other guys are no slouches either, but I set my mind to try to hang with the one of these two that made a move.

First, I hooked onto Art's wheel. I had a couple of gears to spare as we headed up. We were making good time. Once we hit the first sustained incline, I used those gears up. I settled in with the group and we kept going.

Then things began to thin out and I found myself alone on Tony's wheel. He was in a zone and his cadence barely altered. I stayed with him for as long as I could and then he left me. At that point, I looked behind me and there was no one there. So, I just decided to make the best of it and kept plugging.

I felt as though I was working just as hard as I normally do, but my computer was telling me that I was doing better. My heart rate was just over 180 and I was able to go to a harder gear off and on. I could feel that I had more power.

Near the last couple of turns, I looked back and I could see Art coming up behind me. Up ahead, Tony had disappeared around the bend. I had visions of me hitting The Wall and Art powering past me. That became my motivation. Don't let Art pass me!

As I turned around the last bend to climb that last killer portion of the route, I saw Tony nearing the turn up to the KOM. He was out of the saddle and pushing along. I couldn't tell how close Art might be. I moved the gear to a smaller ring and stood to give it one last push. My heart was screaming at me, but I knew I was going to be able to get my legs over the line.

I crossed it and stopped the lap on my computer. 13:38! I had finished the climb 1:10 faster than I had ever done it before. What a feeling! On top of Paris Mountain, I was standing on top of the world - for a little while. Now, I need to get it down to 13 even :-)


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Taking wing at Donaldson Center

After work, I loaded my bike on the car with apprehension in my stomach. The plan for the evening was to ride for the first time at Donaldson Center. I had heard all kinds of stories about how tough it was to ride there. Just before leaving work, I got this message from a friend.
The first lap is a "warm up" lap. Yeah. Right. Quarters are VERY tight -- 3-4 wide on one side of the street. A bit of bumping. And lots of accelerating and deccelerating. Don't leave any gaps or someone will jump in -- a space for a wheel is a space for a bike.

And that's on the B ride. =)

Have fun!
On that note, I put the car in gear and headed over.

It took me about 15 minutes to get there from my home near downtown Greenville. The six o'clock start time kind of made for a hectic get away. I only had a banana as I drove over.

Once I got there, I was glad to see Kevin Dunn. He was cornered by some folks who where letting him know what he needed to do differently about the P3 ride. For the record, Kevin, I had a great time on Sunday and thanks for showing me where the B ride started from tonight.

There is a C, B, and A group. The C group does a longer loop around the area at a more leisurely pace. The B group I was told averages around 20 to 22 miles an hour around the seven mile loop. The A group contains the riders with racing licenses. I assume they go very fast.

I paid my five bucks for the police escort and then watched the A group pull off. We had to wait a bit before taking the course. I meet a couple of guys I ride with on Saturday mornings with the Sunshine Cycle Shop group - Jeff and Barry. It was Jeff's first time out as well.

The first lap started out okay. I found a spot and stayed there trying to be conservative. However, all the jockeying made me nervous and when I group broke away, I decided to bridge up and join them.

By the second lap, I found myself riding with a big dude with a scar on this left leg. I remembered that scar from the P3 ride on Sunday morning. The other person in this group was one of the DeFeet girls. That was probably some of the most fun of the night as the three of us broke away from the group and held our own for more than a lap.

In the third lap we got overtaken by the group. More jockeying and I found myself trying to stay near the front while at the same time trying to recover a bit. Once again, by the end of the lap, I found myself near the front.

Fourth lap - but I was confused. I wasn't sure what lap I was on and as we finished it, I made a dash to be one of the first to cross the finish. Only, it wasn't the finish! I asked a guy beside what lap we were about to start. He said, "Five of six."

Ouch. So, I dropped to the rear of the group thinking that I was done for. However, riding back there is a great way to recover and watching the near crashes in front of me was a motivation to move back toward the front. So, by the end of the fifth lap, I was once again only about 12 back - out of between 25 and 30 people.

At that point, something happened and the group split. I don't know if most of the group just stopped or what, but I was left with three other riders to finish the sixth lap. We rode it alone. It was another DeFeet girl, a guy in a t-shirt, and a younger, tall guy with Campbell soup can logos on his butt.

Again, that was fun. We paced each other with the guy in the t-shirt doing great work on the pulls. As we neared the finish, the DeFeet girl was in the lead. I moved up so my front wheel was parallel to her rear wheel and I was content to just end the night like that. Then the soup guy came blasting past us and I just couldn't help it. So, I went after him. It was too late.

Over all, I was very pleased with my effort. 43 miles in an hour and fifty-three minutes. I averaged nearly 23 mph for the ride. I also accomplished my three goals: 1) don't wreck, 2) earn respect by being willing to pull, and 3) stay with the group.

It was kind of nice to be the mystery rider who shows up for the first time and can't be dropped. I had people ride by me as we were pacing and look back at me. I could tell they were checking to see if they knew who I was. That felt good.

Maybe I've found my place in the B group.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

My Ride for Mike - the 2007 P3 ride

The bed felt great last night, but the sleep was fitful. Laying there the stiffness in my shoulders and back were noticeable. Finally the ibuprofen kicked in and sleep came. 5:15 came all the earlier.

Happily, I woke up with less stiffness. A quick shower and I was off to McDonald's to get my favorite morning pre-ride meal: a steak, egg and cheese bagel along with some black coffee. After getting back home and putting my stuff together, I was out the door to make it do the starting line for the Palmetto Peloton Project by 6:30.

The sky was overcast and the air was cool. If it didn't rain, this was going to be a perfect day! You might think you want sunshine, but I'll take a cool overcast day.

After some announcements, we rode off in the brightening morning shortly after 7:00. I started off near the front - maybe 30 or so riders ahead. We were going at what I figured was a good pace, but I wasn't sure. I had forgotten my computer! I would be riding this one blind.

By the time I reached the overpass of Poinsett Highway, I was sitting in third. I eased off though as we neared the base of Paris Mountain. I said to myself, "Ride you own ride, don't get caught up with the pace of those around you." So, I put it in the granny gear and just took my time on the climb. Yep, I got passed several times, but I kept my cadence. I didn't have my computer, but I had done this enough to know how my pace feels.

I passed a couple of the people back before reaching the KOM. Then we head down the other side. I connected with a guy in a Clemson kit and I came off of Paris with what I figured to be 10 or so riders in front of me. At that point I connected with two other riders and we stayed together back to the start-finish line.

As we passed beneath the sign, I asked the guy beside me, "What was our time?" He replied, "1:09." My plan was working! Now, if I could just do that again, I'd be in business. It seemed possible because we had a group of about five riders and if we formed a pace line, maybe we could make it easy on all of us.

About that time, the rider who had given me the time had a flat. His friend eased off and we were down to three. Then by the time we reached Pete Hollis, the other two riders dropped back. Now it was just me. Of course, going alone on this route was nothing new for me. So, I just dug in and went on alone.

Turning off of Pete Hollis onto Old Buncombe, I could see the other five riders up ahead. I tried to take my time to bridge the gap, but I did want to catch them. Two lights later I caught them and something about me catching them made them decide to turn up the wick. I felt like saying, "Hey, I just worked to catch you guys! Give me a chance to catch my breath!"

We continued our pace line over Poinsett. It was fun. However, I started figuring my place in the group and realized that I was getting set up to pull the group up that last part of Buncombe before Paris! I tried not to think they were doing it on purpose :-)

I did as much as I could, but just about at that point my body started tiring. Just past Choice Hills Baptist Church I pulled over and said, "Sorry guys, that's it for me." Off they went leaving me in the dust. I arrived at the base of Paris for my second climb alone.

Oh boy, I had set in my mind to try three laps. The way I was feeling at this point, I was thinking I would be glad to just get two! The ride was uneventful, though I ended up getting passed by I think three people before the KOM. Once we got there, I noticed they had stopped by the side of the road and I just kept going.

At the Big Lots parking lot I stopped to get some fluids. They were very kind, but I could tell they were wondering why I was in such a hurry. "I'm trying to make it by 9:30. What time is it?" "It's 9:13," came the reply. Ooooo, that was going to be tough. Still, the banana and Powerade gave me a kick and I felt pretty good.

The hills on Main gave me a test and I figured at that point I wasn't going to make it. Still, I kept at it all alone. As I came into Cleveland Park I was overtaken by a rider I remembered from earlier in the ride. I hung with him for a bit, he left me, and then I caught up with him just as we crossed the finish line.

I had no idea what the time was, but as we rode by ride coordinator he said to us, "If you're going to go for three - now is the time to go." I actually thought about it. By the time I neared the traffic light I decided against it. It was enough for me to know that I had given enough in those first two laps to make the third possible. Once I stopped, I figured I had come in at around 9:34.

44 miles in just around two hours and thirty minutes. I have to be pretty happy about it.

I can remember several times when the going got rough thinking, "Mike didn't quit." I kept thinking of him and pushing on. Thanks to all of you who donated to my Ride For Mike. I'll be doing another ride in his memory next year - but I'm not sure it will be the Palmetto Peloton Project.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

A real quick entry

I've got to get in bed. Tomorrow morning is the Stars and Stripes Charity ride. I'm going to have to get up pretty early to be ready to get down there so I don't have to start at the rear of the group. My mood is apprehensive.

I rode yesterday - which I shouldn't have - and then rode again this morning and pushed pretty hard. I'm very sore in my shoulders. Here's hoping I'll feel better tomorrow morning. If I don't, I'm not going to try for three laps. If I don't try for three laps, all of this is just going to be anticlimatic.

Good night all!