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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Force - (cold + wind) = 00:13:07

I mentioned yesterday that I upgraded my Tarmac Pro to the Force group set and Kyserium SL wheels. The first test "ride" was on a trainer and even there it was a joy to make my way up and down the gearing. "Snap!" and you're there. However, I wanted to know what it would be like on the open road.

I rushed out of the house after getting off work and decided to do the long way around route of Paris Mountain. Yes, any test would have to include Altamont! The bike was set. I was set. It was time to go.

When I left, the temperature was 39 degrees. The wind was gusting between 17 and 20 mph. If I had been smart, I would have worn my 32 degree gloves. Unfortunately, I dressed warmly for every part but my hands. We'll come back to that...

Heading up my neighborhood street I already was in love with the wheels. No noise - just smooth rolling. The crank was also nice and solid. I could feel the lost weight. Honest. The bike went from 18 pounds to 16 and I could feel the lack of every ounce as I turned onto East North Street.

I won't spend a lot of time on this, but let me tell you. I had headwind from the time I turned onto that street until I reached the base of the mountain off of Old Buncombe Road. It was brutal. I averaged 15.5 mph over that 10 mile stretch. On a bad day without wind, I'll do that in 17 to 18 mph.

However, it was the mountain I was aiming for. Would the new components really make a difference on the climb? The bike certainly was a joy to ride -- even into the wind -- on the rolling roads up to that point.

I pulled into the road and pressed the lap button on my Garmin. It was so nice to climb without hearing any popping sounds. The only thing it was taking me time to get used to was looking down and not seeing any cables between my drops. The horns were also shaped and positioned differently.

Shifting both up and down came naturally after a very short time. The SRAM shifters give you a much more solid feel with the breaks because they don't move. The shifting paddle can also be pulled toward you so that you can shift your hand positions on the horns and still keep a finger on the shifter. Nice.

One quick push on the shifter and the chain would move in one direction. A sustained push caused the chain to move the opposite. Before I reached the top, I wasn't event thinking about it.

Again, the drive chain was solid. I don't really have anything to write about it because it just worked. There was no chain suck. The shifts were crisp and the chain moved seamlessly from one gear to the other. Oh, and they look nice too :-)

However, when it came to climbing, it was the wheels that really made the difference. I was gliding up the mountain. The ride was solid but at the same time smooth. Obviously, I was moving less mass and the bearings made moving what mass there was a very efficient process.

I made it up the first half of the climb in 6 minutes. I could have done it even faster, but I wanted to save myself as much as possible. As soon as I passed the marker, I shifted down and tried to pull myself together for the rest of the climb.

Sure enough, halfway up the second section I started fading... as usual. However, instead of going to an easier gear and spinning up, I shifted to a smaller rear ring and stood. This actually helped me find a rhythm that brought my heart rate down.

Before I knew it, I was getting ready to turn onto the wall. Once again I stood and pushed as best I could. At several points I was going over 10 mph. I fluctuated between 6 and 11 mph. Not good though as it took me over 2 minutes right there.

Still, I was happy to look down and see I had made the climb in the wind and cold (it was now freezing temperatures at the top of the mountain). It was time to start home. Before I got off the mountain, I was wondering if I would make it!

My fingers hurt so bad! I'm not too much of a wimp, but I'll tell you. I was almost crying my fingers hurt so much. The cold wind sliced right through my gloves and before long I couldn't feel the wind. I just felt like I had ice cubes for fingers.

It took me several minutes after getting home to start feeling things again. You know how it is, as your fingers start to warm, they actually start hurting more. Next time, I'm wearing better gloves!

So, what do I think? I love it. I can't wait to try the climb again when it is warmer and I don't feel like a kite being blown in the wind.

Now, if I can just get used to not seeing those cables...


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

May the Force - SRAM that is - be with me

Yesterday was an exciting day as I switched my bike components from Shimano 105s to the Force group set. I also upgraded my wheel set to the Kyserium SL wheels. I knocked two pounds off my bike, got the precision of the Force shifting, and I'm rolling on ceramic. Boy is it smooooooooth!

The only thing I did a little differently was use a SRAM S900 crank instead of the regular Force option. This is so that if I decide to add a power meter option to my crank I'll be able to use the one I have. It doesn't have an integrated spider and was developed for use with the SRM meter.

I didn't get to take it out on the road, but I did get it in the trainer to work through the gearing and get a feel for the shift action. I can already tell it is going to be awesome! Especially when I need to get into action fast during my Hour of Power battles.

Thanks to the guys at Sunshine Cycle Shop for getting me set up! Hope to have some pictures here before too long...


Monday, February 25, 2008

Going to give it another try.

Well, I'm going to give the old racing bit another try. This time it will be the road race at Fork Shoals. A little different terrain and a longer circuit. It will be interesting to see how things go.

My bike is in the shop right now. I'm getting some little upgrades :-) The boys at Sunshine Cycle Shop will take good care of it and I'll be ready to go. Just hope I get it back in time to give it a shake down. Don't want to mess up the bicycle karma again!

Tonight I did a really good spinning session. It was only an hour with intervals, but there were some good slow burns in there. Now that I have raced, I have the feeling to transfer to the trainer. Of course, I'm nearly taking off the fan is spinning so hard!

Tomorrow night there will be more spinning I bet. I would like to get outside. By the time I get home, it is supposed to be around 60 degrees -- but very windy.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

First road race complete!

Well, I would like to tell you how I placed. Unfortunately, I can't. Welcome to category 5 racing. No one really cares about recording finishes because it doesn't mean anything... except to the people racing.

Best I can tell I placed in the top 10 to top 15. It was disappointing because I wanted to do better and also because I KNOW I could have done more physically, but made some mistakes mentally.

I got there with plenty of time. Jimmy Helms took me out on the course to give me some pointers on warming up. We spent some time spinning and then some big ring work. Jimmy then headed toward the line and I decided to do a slow ride around the course to check out the tracks, etc.

I finished and then went over to take a nature break. When I came out, I saw some riders gathering at the start line. I figured it was the group before us. However, when I got up there I realized it was mine!

I hoped in to the middle of the pack in order to avoid getting stuck in the back. No sooner had I got my glasses on and they started the race. Here we go.

The front went off pretty fast. My thought was, "Whoa now!" There was Jimmy way up ahead of me. My first goal was just to work my way up to Jimmy. Then I was going to attempt to stay in the top 15 or so and ride it out.

I was working for that goal and made my way to the top 10 and thought I was maintaining it. However, after we finished the first lap, I realized that I was about 20 back. How did that happen?

As I started into the second lap, I realized the reason why was because as you hook into a group, other groups will ease around you and while you pass a few of them others stay ahead of you. I then began to adjust my approach to see if I could change that.

What I did was to attempt to go from one group to another. If I felt I was getting too close to the front, I would fade back and then do the same again. I finished the second lap in the front 10 of the group I was with.

The only odd thing was that there was a really big guy who went off the front on the first lap. He was so big (my guess was he was 6' 4" and about 280) that everyone in the group figured he would crack. We were fighting for position amongst ourselves and ignoring him.

Going into the final lap I wanted to make sure that I was near the front so that as accelerations began around the first turn I would be there and no gap would form. Check.

Then I chose a rider that I thought would be a solid chance for getting win. I marked him and stayed with him as we worked in the group. Then he pulled a fast one on me and went hard to the front. I ended up halfway through the final lap on the front row.

I went to the white line and planted myself in hopes that the group would come around. We did settle into a group as we rounded the turn that would lead us to the train track. At this point I was still in the top ten of the group, but the breakaway rider was still out there!

Over the track things picked up just a little. Just before we went into "the dip" someone went down just behind me. My first thought was, "Whew, I'm glad that I was up here!" My second thought was, "I hope that wasn't Jimmy!"

I stayed with the top five as we went into the dip and then the guy I was marking hooked up with a rider he knew and I got shut out of the line. I lost a position or two as I tried to work back in.

As we moved up the incline that would bring us to the fire station, other riders started to form lines and move toward the front. I began trying to maintain or advance my position. This is when things got tricky.

We reached the fire station and I knew people were going to go for it. The majority of the riders in the group sprint were to my right. I had one rider to my left who was overlapping my front wheel. He kept moving to the right and then back to the left.

Several times I thought of moving up between the two riders in front of me, but then the gap would close just enough to make it dicey. I then thought about slowing and going around the left side of the rider to my left. I knew that would be a dangerous move for the riders behind me.

Finally, the rider to the right started to advance and I was able to give it some gas. Unfortunately, by that time I was able to unwind it, we were at the line. Not able to really take in everyone in the group around me, I had no idea what my place would be.

I know that the big guy crossed the line first. Then a second rider made a move away from the pack for second. The third and fourth place riders were at the front of the group I was in.

Then it was over. It was a challenge and was fun, but somewhat anti-climatic. I felt like I was in a big blob with no personality. When fighting for sprints on the Hour of Power, there is that fun of hashing it out and friendly trash talking with your friends. Here you just crossed the line and that was it.

That probably changes as you begin to participate more. If you moved in the race circuit long enough, you probably would end up with the same response with the riders around you. I'm sure the Cat. 5 race had something to with it as well.

I'm leaning toward doing next Saturday's race. It would be interesting to test some of the things I learned today. I'll let you know what I decide...


Friday, February 22, 2008

Now I've got to get some sleep

Thanks to everyone who showed up at my surprise 40th birthday party tonight! Now I've got to get some sleep so I'll be ready to ride tomorrow. It really was so nice of them though. Even if it meant I wouldn't do as well in the race, it was worth it. Of course, I don't expect it to matter one way or the other.

We'll see!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Keeping my fingers crossed...

According to my plan, I did an easy but long session of spinning last night. I intentionally kept from bringing my knee to the point where in earlier rides I would begin to feel pain.

Finally, toward the end of the session I gave a very hard effort in the mid rear rings. No pain at all. I then shifted to the hardest ring and started a slow cadence. Just a little tinge of pain, but definitely better than the last time out! I have no pain whatsoever off the bike.

The knee should be ready for Saturday. Today I'm going to completely rest it and the rest of me! The only thing I have planned for today is do some stretching.

Now, the question is will the weather cooperate for the race... I am scheduled to race at 9:20 AM. Later today through Friday it is supposed to rain. Depending on which weather service you trust, I could have some rain about that time. Looks like the temperatures will be in the low to mid 40s.

Yuck. Oh well, that is what you get when you are a Cat 5 racer -- early morning races. It appears that the later races will have increasingly better weather. Either way, I'm ready to go.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feeling a little better

I've been following my plans for the week so far. I had a slight change today, but I think I'll be okay. At least my knee is feeling a bit better.

The goal was to go out pretty strong today. I rushed home from work to get on the bike. See how the weather will be the next couple of days, I figured I had better get some time on the road.

On my way out I stopped by Sunshine Cycle Shop to say hi to the guys and to ask some advice about how I should approach the ride. John told me that if my knee was still bothering me, I should take it easy. He said something wise, "Nothing you can do at this point is really going to make you any better for Saturday."

It is all the work up to this point that makes the difference. On the other hand, if I went out and made my knee worse, I could undo all the work. On that thought, I went out to just have a nice slow ride.

I kept spinning in the small ring over to Nature Trail. When I started the climb I could feel the knee. I just adjusted the gears to take the pressure off the knee. I worked my way up, down Beverly, onto State Park, and then over Piney Mountain.

From there I headed over to Rutherford Road. At this point, I worked my way into a harder gear as I went downhill. Then I started up to turn onto Main Street. I felt the knee start to tense and then it felt as though something untied. I know that sounds weird, but it is the best way I know to describe it.

My knee felt fine! It was a little sore, but the kind of sore of something that has been bound up. I made it home down Main Street, through Cleveland Park and on to my house. It is still a little sore, but nothing like it was.

I'm starting to think that because I was so worried about the knee that the weak spot in my knee was tensing up causing the pain. It just needed to let loose. I think I can take care of it by resting and using my mind.

Tomorrow night will be another trainer night. I'm going to focus on the mental.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Planning for Saturday

Saturday is the opening of the 2008 Greenville Spring Series. My plan is to race in the Cat 5 35+ race. I'm encouraged by the progress I have made over the winter and I've appreciated the many people who have gotten behind me to cheer me on.

Here is how I plan to approach this week.

Saturday 2/16 -- A solid hard ride with the Sunshine boys.
Sunday 2/17 -- Off the bike
Monday 2/18 -- An hour plus of spinning
Tuesday 2/19 -- Intervals at Cleveland Park for 20+ miles
Wednesday 2/20 -- An hour plus of spinning
Thursday 2/21 -- Off the bike
Friday 2/22 -- An easy to moderate ride
Saturday 2/23 -- Race!

Anyone have any suggestions that would make the week a better one for preparation? I have some limitations due to time. I would like for the ride on Tuesday to be longer, but daylight won't allow it. I'm open to suggestions -- especially ones concerning nourishment.

See you on Saturday!


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interview with Steve Sperry about UWBL finish

Read about the exciting finish to the Upstate Winter Bicycle League at my cycling blog. Can't read? :-) Listen to my interview with Steve Sperry about Rodney Dender's win.

Click here to download a .mp3 podcast file.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back on the Hour of Power

December was the last time I rode the Hour of Power. Wow, it doesn't seem that long ago, but it was. Nice to get back at it today.

Today it was Mike, Tony, Peter, Bob, Catherine, Bobby and his son Charlie. We got a little bit of a late start because I was late. I couldn't get my pump to connect properly to my front tire. By the time I got air in it I was about 5 to 10 minutes late.

I was kind of scared starting out because my left knee was really bothering me. The ride last night in Cleveland Park was a little too hard and I seem to have stressed a tendon or something. I was hoping that it would ease up as I got warm.

Right away it appeared that Tony and Peter didn't get the memo that this was going to be an easy ride. They set a pretty fast pace. As we came up to the Reid School Road attack zone, I just eased up and let them fight it out.

On the Meece Bridge Road sprint I decided to join in the fun. Peter launched out leading up to the main stretch run. I slowly worked up to his wheel and then sat there knowing that at some point Tony was going to come flying around us.

My plan was to sit there with Peter and then jump on Tony's wheel with hopes that he could carry me around Peter and then I might have a chance to fight him for the line since he had to expend energy to get past us.

It was working like a charm until I got up beside Peter as I followed Tony. I went into my hardest gears and when I did my knee let me know it was not happy. Easing off caused me to fall back and finally I let up and finished a distant third.

By this time I was a little scared. The last thing I needed was a knee problem the week of my 40th birthday! It wasn't my knee cap. Rather it feels like where my quad connects to the upper part of my knee area. So, at least I knew it wasn't a cartilage issue.

I kept testing it as we moved toward the next main sprint zone on the quarry road. By the time we got there the pain was easing and as long as I was running in a easier gearing, it appeared to be okay.

We started up the climb. It was Tony and Peter in the lead and Bob and me following. We let the two guys in front pull all the way up. Then Bob fell back and I was sitting right behind Tony and Peter. Peter was guarding the white line and Tony was just a foot or so to his left.

I kept waiting for one of them to shift for the final sprint, but it didn't come. I began to think they were going to just finish side by side. I moved over to the left of Tony's wheel. No reaction to my movement. Then I decided to go.

They must have been worn out from the pull because they didn't really challenge my move. I just kept trying to hold a gap and managed to cross the line ahead of them. My knee wasn't hurting nearly as much since I never really mashed the pedals.

Poor Bob broke a spoke as we climbed. I heard the "ping!" and thought it was a rock at first. He just wrapped the broken spoke around a good one and finished the ride that way. Wonder how that would work with my flat Kyserium spokes?

After some easy riding it was time to take on the Sandy Flats sprint. Bobby and I were coasting toward the lead up climb and put some distance between us and the group. Then he left me and formed a gap. I just didn't feel like expending the energy to catch him so I let him go.

Then Peter came by me and went after Bobby. I just pedaled along. When we started the short decent before the final climb the rest of the group came freight training past me. I decided to save myself for later. I didn't see it happen, but I heard Peter took the sprint.

Next big sprint was the State Park one. Every one entered the attack zone together. Peter and Bob were up ahead of Bobby and Charlie. With the traffic I was afraid I might get stuck behind younger rider and Bob and Peter would open up a gap on me.

Thankfully, Charlie moved over and then Bob did as well. Bobby came up on Peter's wheel for a bit and then he moved back. There was some sort of discussion going on behind me and I thought I heard Tony say, "Jonathan, you're off." I didn't know if that meant he was wanting to pace line or what. Anyway, Peter was right in front of me and I wasn't about to give up my position.

I got on Peter's wheel and followed him down to the bottom of the dam. He moved over slightly and slowed. No way, Jose. I wasn't going to do that. I just moved up so my front wheel was up to his crank and slowed down to his speed. I wasn't going to lead him up just to have him pick me off near the top!

Then as we climbed we were side by side. I heard him shift to a harder gear. I was already in mine, so there was no delay when I put the hammer down. My Tarmac shot ahead and I decided I was going to climb that hill to the Park entrance or blow up trying.

Behind me I heard Peter say something about "good jump" or something like that. I knew he wasn't going to stop. I also knew Tony wasn't going to just let me get away. Then I heard Tony let out a sound that expressed, "Okay, I'm not going to get him." I kept hammering to the top.

Once I got there I felt the pain in my knee. I'm sure it was there the whole time, but the adrenalin kept it out of my mind. Thankfully, Oakleaf was closed due to construction and we skipped it to head over to Nature Trail.

Once there Peter took the lead again. We were both going up the incline in our big gears. I let him pace me up. Toward the end the road kicks up one final time. Peter increased his cadence about that time and I did as well for a bit.

Then I decided, "I surprised Peter once, but he is not going to let me do it again. Why kill myself?" So I backed off. Tony came around me at that point and I finished third on the climb.

Later at the shop I got the impression that Peter was disappointed I didn't make a move. Not because he wanted to put me in my place, but because he wanted the competition. I told him what I was thinking and he said, "Oh, don't stop!"

That is probably the thing that I have to learn the most. You'll never know what you are capable of if you keep counting the odds and then ease off when they are slightly against you. Sure, when the odds are real long, who cares. However, when you are in second on someone's wheel...

I felt really bad when we got back to the shop and Peter lifted his knee warmer and I saw his knee. He had been in a motorcycle accident and his knee had all kinds of fluid on it! I mean it was nasty! Of course, the difference between his and mine is that he said he couldn't feel any pain. I could. Still, I felt like a big wimp and shut my mount about my knee.

Overall, I felt pretty good. I really respect Peter's riding ability and while Tony isn't at the top of his game (yet) he still can put a hurting on me. To be able to hang with those guys was a big boost to my confidence leading into next Saturday's spring series race at Donaldson Center.


Friday, February 15, 2008

More pictures from skills clinic

I said I would be uploading more images, but I never got around to it. I've been going to bed early and getting up late because I've been fighting a cold. I'm on the way free of that mess, so here I am putting up a few more pictures from the skills clinic last week.

Above you see Strad and Eric showing us how you do the leaning drills. I met Eric on the Facebook "I love cycling in Upstate SC" group. It was nice to finally meet him in person. It took about two laps around the park before I realized who he was.

Here I am holding the bar of my skills partner. It was kind of weird riding around in circles in the middle of the park basically holding hands with a fellow cyclist. It was also pretty hard. You basically were helping the other rider steer his bike.

Here we are practicing the wheel bumping drills. The idea was to tap the side of the wheel in front of you as many times as you could in succession. One time I got up to 10... before I lost my balance and fell over. I was never able to do that many again. Normally I couldn't get past 3.

Here's Jimmy Helms showing good form during the knockdown game. I'd do another one of these clinics just to get a chance to play the game again. Of course, most of the fun was due to the fact you were playing the game with a bunch of teenagers. They know how to have fun. Not sure if it would be as much fun with just adults.

I recommend everyone participate in a skills clinic if you have the chance. Everyone can use a reminder. Some of us could use the experience. All of us can use the fun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Memories from the skills clinic

Uggghhh, I'm not a happy camper. The February sinus issues have started up for me with a vengeance. I'm combating it best I can to avoid an infection. I don't want to be out of commission for Valentines Day... or be out of sorts for the race coming up February 23.

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to put up some pictures from the skills clinic held this past Saturday. This first picture is what the clinic was all about... these junior riders for the Les Amis cycling team. It was nice to know that not only were we having fun and learning some things. We were also helping out these guys who have really committed themselves to the sport.

Here is your's truly doing the cornering drills I told you about in my last post. I'm on my Specialized Allez for this clinic. I didn't have the guts to take my Tarmac out there!

This last one for today shows me being gained up on by a couple of Les Amis guys. That is J. Winn Freeman to the left of me. We really got into it at one point. Punk! :-)

Thanks to Jennifer Helms for the photos.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just a day in the park

I'll be honest, I wasn't that excited about going to the skills clinic today. I figured we would just stand around a lot watching other people do things and then go out there ourselves and do some drills that wouldn't really have that much of an impact on my ability to ride up Mount Mitchell or most other places I ride.

Well, I was wrong. I didn't do much standing around at all. I did get to watch other people -- and bump into them, grab their bars, and finally... try to knock them down. While it is true that not all the skills really gave me something to automatically apply to my ride home, I did have one drill that really gave me something to take with me.

The cornering drills were very helpful. Had I learned this lesson before my first race last year, maybe I wouldn't have dislocated my finger! After listening to the instructions, we headed out to give it a try.

The point of the lesson was to allow us to get a feel for the balance needed going through the corner so the tires would get optimum friction to keep us from sliding out. I knew immediately that I had done things all wrong in the past. However, now I've got that feelin'.

The instructions where to go into the corner with the weight on the outside leg. Now, I've done that before, but where I've messed up is what I have done with my upper body. Instead of leaning your body into the turn, you hold your upper body almost perpendicular to the ground.

Steve Baker, who was giving the instruction, used his nose as a gage. Riding along normal, your nose will be over the stem. As the bike leans left your nose moves toward the right bar drop. The farther you lean, the farther over your nose goes.

Along with your nose, you use your right leg and left hand. You weight your outside leg while also weighting your left hand. Putting all this into practice made me much more comfortable doing our circles in the parking lot.

There was lots of other fun stuff. However, the most fun I had was after the official clinic ended. A bunch of us played a game called "Last man standing." Or as the junior racers liked to call it -- "Knockdown."

We all got in a small taped off section and started to do track stands, bump our bodies, or tap our wheels. The idea was to make everyone else fall while you remained the last person standing. J. Winn decided to pick on me and we had some heavy duty leaning going on. The first time, he pushed me right out of the box.

Okay, so you want to play that way! We went at it again and we found ourselves really pushing each other as he tried to do the same again and I wasn't going to do it. Finally, we ended up in a mess of bikes and he went down. I did a track stand for a few seconds longer and then went down hard.

The best I did was third man standing, but I didn't care. It was just a lot of fun. I was actually disappointed when we stopped.

Thanks coach Matt and the Les Amis and Carolina Cyclone guys. Also, a word out to those racers who give of their time to help these young riders. I think they will learn more from you than just how to ride.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The strategy matures

Well, it was time to do the mountain again. The over and back ride of Paris Mountain works out well as I race the sun. The distance and the time it takes to complete the ride makes it just right for a quick ride after work.

In my last post I talked about my plans to break the 12 minute mark for the climb up the Furman side of Altamont Road. Tonight I decided to tweak my approach to some of the sections to see what would happen.

As I started up the CVS side of the mountain, I could see two riders up ahead. I pushed a little on the initial climb to try to catch them. I did just as we crested the Audobon wall.

Turns out it was my friend Chris and a friend of his named Steve. We rode together until we reached the last climb before the KOM. I was feeling good, so I picked it up a bit and crossed the top alone.

As I was zipping down the road I passed two guys going the opposite direction. They were on matching yellow bikes. I thought I recognized the bikes but didn't get a good look at the riders. My guess was that it was my nephew Chip and his friend Anthony.

I wondered if maybe I could reach the bottom, get turned around, and catch them before they reached the top. Once I continued on my way, I realized that might not be possible. Regardless, I didn't rest any at the base, but just turned around and hit it at speed.

My plan was to do the first section a bit faster than last week. I accomplished that with a time of 2:46 (last ride's time - 3:08). I was sitting on a 22 second gain.

In the next section, the water tower climb, I planned to ease off and recover. No use wearing myself out in a section where I traditionally wear down. I finished the section with a time of 1:25 (last ride's time - 1:15). My time gained was now 12 seconds.

I knew that the next section could be a good one, so I just tried to find a rhythm that would allow me to maintain some good speed. Wow, did I ever. I averaged over 11 mph for the section finishing with a time of 2:11 (last ride's time - 2:31). My time gained now jumped to 32 seconds.

I finished the first half in 6:22 (last ride's time - 6:54).

Hey, things were looking good. I knew that the next section didn't break up very well. The terrain was just a continual climb. I again tried to find a sustainable rhythm, but started to lose it 2:41 in.

I tried to recover as much as possible without giving away too much. I reached the 15 mph sign 2:49 later. My total for that section was 5:30 (last ride's time - 5:27). Not as bad as I thought it would be. I was still holding a 29 second gain.

Now it was time for the wall. After passing the sign marker, I continued at about the same speed and finally increased my cadence after turning the curve. Then I realized I was standing for the first time during the entire climb. I stood and shifted two gears harder. It was time to try to gain some time.

I didn't look at my computer, I just kept pushing. I knew my heart rate was going to come close to my max by the time I reached the KOM. It was time to put up. Whew, I was done! Problem is, I had no idea how fast I had climbed. Because I was breaking the climb into laps, I didn't have a full time.

Chip and Anthony were at the top. They asked me how I thought I did. I figured I must have hit right at 14 minutes or just slightly below. I couldn't wait to get home to find out!

I followed the guys down the mountain to the CVS where they had parked. I then continued on home. The sunset at that moment was beautiful! It was almost 6:15 at that point. There was still plenty of light in the atmosphere. I made it home with no problems.

Now I'm looking at the time for the wall and see I did the final sprint in 1:39. My heart rate hit 189 (not quite my max) just as I reached the KOM. Last ride I did that section in 1:46. I picked up 7 seconds. Let's see... that was a total time gain for the ride of 36 seconds.

I finished the climb in 13:31. The second half totaled 7:09 (last ride's time - 7:14). Not bad... a little under a minute off of my best time. It is working very well to take this one section at a time. So, from here I have 91 seconds to shave off to get down to 12 minutes.

There is no doubt I can get 20 seconds of that time off the first half of the ride. If I can knock off 22 seconds, it would put me going through the halfway point in 6 minutes even. It is that second half that is going to be the challenge.

I still think I can knock some more seconds off of the wall (I would like to do it in under 1:30), but I believe the key is going to be the long slog between the midway point and the 15 mph sign marker. Could I possibly gain 60 seconds in that section?

Wow, this post got long. Sorry about that. This is just the kind of thing that really interests me. I'm sure I will have some off days, but I would like to see a little improvement each time I go out.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Planning for the mountain

I've set goals for this season. One of those goals is to get a sub-twelve minute climb of the Furman side of Paris Mountain. Today I started planning for that goal.

My idea was to climb the mountain and break it into sections. The goal for the ride was not to get a personal record, but to give it a good push. Here is how it worked out.

I rode over the mountain from the CVS side. After a short rest I started up hitting my lap button at the "attack" sign painted on the road. The first mark would be the water tower.

Start to water tower: distance .5 miles / time 3:08 / avg. mph 9.6

Water tower to first curve: distance .18 miles / time 1:15 / avg. mph 8.7

First curve to half marker: distance .43 miles / time 2:31 / avg. mph 10.2

Time for first half: 6:54

Half marker to 15 mph sign: distance .82 miles / time 5:27 / avg. mph 9

The Wall: distance .26 miles / time 1:46 / avg. mph 8.7

Time for second half: 7:13

Total time for climb: 14:07

Soooo, what does this all mean? It means I have to trim off 2:07 to reach a sub-twelve minute climb. Seems kind of hard, doesn't it? Well, remember, I have made the climb in 12:39.

The key, I believe, is the last .26 miles. Even today's ride could have been better. As I stood and shifted to make the last push up the wall, my gears started slipping. Besides being very annoying, it caused me to lose momentum. When all is said and done, I would like to lop off at least 15 to 20 seconds on this section.

This is going to be the biggest challenge I've set for myself. I'm determined to get it though.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

That was a blast

I decided to do the B group ride of the UWBL today. 5.5 hours in the saddle chasing after hardcore racers would not do good things to my physical and mental wellbeing. So, I pulled up at Carolina Triathlon looking for Strad - he was the one who talked me into the 60 miler.

Andy Baker had suggested that the three of us just hang out at the back of the A group and get in the miles. Yeah, right. Like Andy Baker is going to hang around the back of any group. Hope he did what he said he would so he'll be ready to race for money tomorrow.

Probably one of the things that made the ride fun was the people I rode with. Strad was there with his dad. Louis, Billy, and Barry were on this ride as well. Right off the bat the atmosphere was great. I hadn't talked with Louis is quite a while, so we spent most of the ride bantering.It seemed to take forever to get the first 10 miles out of the way. We were going slooooow. We also ended up with a couple of flats on the way out. I started getting kind of antsy.

About 20 miles out Billy and Louis broke away from the group on a climb. I went after them and we paced along for a bit. Then Strad, Tom Smith (Strad's teammate), and Randy (a guy I remember from Cleveland Park) came ripping by. I hoped on and Randy, Tom, and I paced to the next stop sign.

Five miles later we started another climb. Most of the riders slowed and since I was in the back, I got bunched. I decided to break out of it and took off around the left side of the group. I made it to the top and beyond with just one guy bridging over to me. Then Louis came powering up (the guy has power!)

Louis and I began pulling up front for several miles. We moved the pace up to around 20 mph. I realized that I would probably regret riding into the wind later on, so I faded back to sit in.

Forty miles in I was feeling great. I kept sitting in. Then about 54 miles into the ride, Louis took a nature break. The group kept going and I knew he was going to have a bear of a time getting back to us.

So, I turned around to go help pace him back to the group. We were flying along reaching up to 35 mph. We caught them and then sat in to try to recover. Just when I started to breath a little bit, I heard the ride leader talk about getting out of the way for the "big guys."

I asked him if they sprinted on this ride. He said there was always a sprint for the railroad track, but it was just for fun... no points or anything. About that time, I saw the pack begin to morph and riders I knew would be going for it moved into position.

Oh my, now, why was it I went back to help Louis?

As we started up Hwy 20 I moved to be near Billy. He is a rider that I respect and have watched him long enough to know he is smarter than me in these situations. He moved up to the front and I followed. The pace was now up to the mid twenties.

Then Strad went off hard. Billy followed and I was right on his wheel. It crossed my mind that both these guys had teammates in the group and I wondered if they were just pulling some of us into an attack to open the door for their pals.

I decided just to cover these attacks. When they moved over, I just slowed. I would not go up front. When someone else went by us, I would move to cover that attack, but when the attack slowed, so did I.

Finally, I saw Strad look back and drop behind me. Then a freight train came by led by Randy. I think it was Randy, Billy, Tom, and Strad. As they went by, I grabbed the back. Then it became a matter of attrition. Billy and then Randy dropped off. Within sight of the sprint line it ended up being just Strad, Tom, and me.

They should be running junior gearing, I thought to myself. I tried to move up. I actually moved into second running just ahead of Strad to the left of Tom. The line was tantalizingly close and I was moving up, but then things leveled off and my power wasn't there.

I know that is the time when the mental toughness is supposed to kick in. I can't even tell you what went through my mind at that point. I just felt something sliding away as I fell back to Strad's wheel just as Tom crossed the line.

Looking back I can see that was just the time my heart rate hit 193 bpm. I also realize I should have just paced in behind the two guys until closer to the line. I could have come out of their draft a little later and perhaps I could have taken it.

So, why was this ride a blast? It really wasn't the fact that I finished it at the front of the group. It was that the group was very accepting. In the A group you are known by your racing history (I'm not saying there is a problem with that). If you don't have a history, you will have a hard time finding acceptance.

In the B group these guys are out to have fun -- not just fun on their bikes. There was a whole lot more talking going on between more people in the group (it is a lot easier to talk when you're going 15 to 17 mph than when you are hanging on for dear life!) Still, there was some competitive fire in there as well.

Some of the most fun I had was when Billy, Louis, Jimmy Helms (Strad's dad), and I got a pace line going. We were rotating like clockwork with the lead rider pulling for just a few seconds. That kind of thing, I don't think I've ever seen in the A group.

Part of me wishes I had done the long ride. Even when we started to roll out, I felt the urge to jump out there with the big boys. The point is, maybe right now isn't the time for me to be out there with them. Maybe next year...


Friday, February 01, 2008

Getting my fix

Today my gear came for my SE Bikes Draft. I thought I had an idea what it would be like to ride a fixie for the first time. Thankfully, I didn't kill myself!

The way it works on my Draft is that I have a free wheel gear on one side and a fixed gear on the other. If I want the ease of the free wheel, I put that side on the chain. When I feel like the fun of the fix wheel, I just turn the wheel around and here we go.

In my first ride I headed up to Sunshine Cycle Shop to have them take a look at it. It started out no different than with the free wheel. I had been warned about the way the cranks can throw you if you relax your pedaling motion.

Things got interesting when I started down a hill for the first time. I hit about 25 miles an hour and my legs just couldn't keep up with the pedals! I ended up lifting my feet and letting the cranks go mad. It was time to figure out how to control the bike in a decent.

I kept practicing to keep control. I found that I could "walk the bike" down. You really had to think ahead. It was okay to go fast, as long as I didn't go too fast. So, I would start off down a hill slowing the rotation. At a point where I felt I could keep the revolutions manageable, I would just let it go.

It was fun. I can see why people say it is a more "organic" kind of riding. There is never a time when you stop thinking about the feeling of the bike. You use your legs not just to propel the bike forward, but to slow it. Really, your body becomes the gearing.

As a commuter, I would probably prefer the free wheel. The fixed wheel makes for some interesting fun. I think I'll keep it.