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.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From cool to hot

Saturday's Hour of Power started with leg and arm warmers along with a vest. The morning temperatures are definitely getting cooler. However, even as we waited in the parking lot the sun came up over the trees and you could tell things would get warmer soon.

We started with a good number of riders. One of them was a colleague of mine from work. I was kind of surprised to see him there because he had just gotten his bike and probably had only ridden it for 50 miles before that morning.

We rolled out a little late headed out on our normal route. I talked along with some of my riding buddies and stayed close to Mike, the new one to the group, to help encourage him along should the time come. So far, so good for him.

I warned him about the sprints. "When you see several of us take off," I told him, "don't chase us. Let us go and hold your pace. We'll wait for you at the end of the sprint." I'll be honest, I figured he would need to head back at the end of Meece Bridge Road.

It was during a conversation about gearing that I noticed Peter up ahead making a move toward the Tanner Road sprint line. Fifty yards separated us, but I thought I might be able to get him if I could sneak up on him. It almost worked. He got me though with my front wheel up to his crank.

Mike wasn't the one I needed to worry about at Meece Bridge. It was me! John and Bob got the train moving and I did my best to jump on to follow. It just wasn't there. I was spinning and I could feel the effort needed to keep the pace escalate. The feeling that I was about to blow came over me and I felt very tired. I sat up and eased to the finish.

There are several miles between the Meece Bridge Road finish and 290. As we pulled up for a stop to regroup, I saw Mike coming along after just a short wait. He was doing very well!

Then we started the engine again to chase up the quarry road. About ten of us hit the bottom of the climb. After my feelings on Meece Bridge, I wasn't so sure where I would be at the end!

The speeds were pretty fast going up. Peter and John were two of the main players -- as usual. John jumped out to take the lead. Just over the false flat, John pulled over to the right. Since he was the rider I was most worried about, I eased up with him.

"If you slow down," he said, "they'll come back to you. You need to keep going." Of course, I felt like saying, "You just eased up. Aren't you afraid they'll come back to you?" Problem was, I don't think I had the breath to say it!

I kept pushing it and was getting a pretty good speed. I could tell there was someone right behind me. How many were there, I didn't know. Then John came around me. Grrrrr. I knew he was going to do that to me.

Then John eased up just as we neared the finish line. I went around him. He explained, "I felt bad about telling you to go on back there. I didn't realize there were only three of us in play at that point."

It wasn't long after we finished that Mike came up the road. Now I was really impressed. Obviously, he had a good level of fitness before picking up the bike. He would have no trouble making it from here.

Just before the climb, we had two other riders join us. Daniel, the son, was riding a steel frame Specialized. It was obvious by his gear and bike that he was just starting to ride. However, he certainly had the strength!

He was staying right with us up to the state park entrance sprint. I felt sorry for him because his bike was simply in need of a tune-up. He defnitely had a chain problem. Still, he was right there.

My plan was to pull at the front on the sprint. However, Peter and Anthony came around us early and took off. I was just doing well to hang on to the caboose of that train!

We settled down to a 30 mph pace and I was able to recover a little. Then John, who was right in front of me, moved around the two in front. He was indicating for me to follow. He was going to lead out.

I had no idea what was going to happen at the bottom. Would my legs be there? John moved over and I started to sprint up the climb. As I started, Peter came right up beside me. For quite a while we were neck-and-neck. Then I started to lose my punch.

Perhaps my body is getting tired after a summer of riding, but that feeling came back. It isn't a feeling pain, just a feeling of no power. I putting out effort that normally would have propelled me to the front, but I just watched Peter ride away. He beat me by about ten yards.

After that, it was just a goal to ride into the shop. I did Oak Leaf and watched Bob blow everyone away on Nature Trail. We rolled in for coffee and donuts.

Mike came in pretty pumped about his ride -- which he should have. "I have a new respect for cyclists!" he said. I think he's hooked. Bet we'll see him out there again.

Turns out Daniel had a stiff chain link. I'd like to see him ride on a nice bike. I bet he would be in the mix after a couple of times out there. Maybe he'll join us again.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quick turn around

Last night I went out on a night ride for group training before heading out next month on the Challenge to Conquer Cancer rider. We did 44 miles and finished up shortly before 10 PM. By the time I got home and in bed, it was after 11 PM. The morning came early!

Still, I rolled out of bed and got myself ready to head over to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the Hour of Power. Thankfully, I had left my bike and everything in the truck from the night before. Instead of riding my bike over to the shop, I just jumped in the truck to drive.

Right before getting to the truck I realized I had left my water bottles at home. Turning the truck around, I headed home to grab the fluids and rushed back to get to the shop. I arrived to find just a couple of riders waiting.

We waited until about 8 PM and finally decided to roll out. The group was small with Art, Web, Peter, Owen, and myself being the "old-timers." Paul, Anthony, (and I ashamed to say) one more rider whose name I can't recall right now, were the newer riders who have been on some of the more recent rides.

Peter and I led the group out and the speeds picked up right away. We were making a pretty good pace until we reached the sprint up Tanner to Reid School Road. Things didn't slow down much after that! Here is a rundown of the sprint zones....

Tanner: Peter took off and Anthony followed. I followed Anthony's wheel until he brought me up to Peter. Peter launched and I went with him. I was able to push the ol' Tarmac up to the line first.

Meece Bridge: The group riders would know this sprint as the "Pee Tree Sprint." On this one Web and Art made a move a little early coming up to the attack zone. I stayed with them until Peter and Anthony once again moved to the front and started the attack in earnest.

Unfortunately, I had the earlier problem of getting my chain on the big ring. Peter and Anthony had a 20 foot or more gap on me. Still, there was enough road left that I figured if I could get up to them, I could recover a little for a final kick.... and that is exactly what happened. I moved around Peter following Anthony and then pushed to finish ahead of him.

Quarry Road: At the end of the pace line on 290 I found myself in the front turning on the road to take us to the climb. I argued with myself whether to attack or wait. I ended up just holding my position and getting the heart rate down.

Art came around and then Owen. I stayed in the big ring and started a steady pace up. If Art made it, he deserved it. However, in case he fell back, I wanted to be in position.

Owen faded and then there was just Art ahead. I could tell I was starting to gain on him and I was climbing the grade at about 14 mph. Once I got past the false flat, I started moving into the 20 mph range. I realized I had a real chance to beat him.

Closer and closer I moved up to Art. I knew he could see me in his mirror, so there would be no element of surprise. Sure enough, he started reacting. I had to pick up the speed some more, but was able to get around him just in time to cross the line first. Wow, I really didn't expect that!

Fire Hydrants: Art got revenge there. He took off and I didn't even try. Peter did, but didn't catch him. Art passed the first hydrant and then the second. He basically looked like a speck in the distance.

State Park: I had planned to do a lead out on this one. John had told me I needed to do some more of that to work on my sustained speed. Unfortunately, I was at the back of the group and as I moved into the group on the right side, I found myself boxed in with Web to my left and Anthony and Peter in front of me.

We stayed there well past the point where I could have started the lead out. Then the line stretched out and I found myself behind Peter. He looked back and took off. I figured he was planning to do another one of his lead outs.

Ahead of us was Anthony and Web. Peter and I dropped down to the base of the hill. As we did, Peter moved over... sooner than he normally would on a lead out. That moved me forward as we went past the two riders ahead.

I knew Peter was back there, but I simply did not feel like killing myself up the climb. Still, I went into the climb participating in the sprint. Peter was still on my wheel. Then my legs just quit. Yes, I could have ridden through the pain and pushed it, but my guess is the result would have been the same.

"Oh, come on!" Peter encouraged me to race him. I even tried it, but my legs yelled at me louder than Peter. "I can't do it. I can't do it," I told him. I sat up and Art came around me. Peter took the sprint easily with Art in second.

Oak Leaf: I followed Art and Peter up this steep but short climb. I wasn't in the picture for the top though. I'm not even sure who took the climb. From my vantage point suffering behind them, it looked like they reached the top together.

Nature Trail: I recovered somewhat before the stretch of road I hate the most -- Nature Trail. Anthony took off and got a huge gap right off the bat. Then he slowed, but I figured all he had to do at that point was maintain the gap. Peter and I commented on his attack and just kept our pace.

Peter moved away from me and I kept a distance of a few yards behind him. I wondered how my legs would do this time. They did feel better than they did at State Park. Perhaps I could make this work.

Anthony was falling back to us pretty quickly at this point. I moved up closer to Peter and followed him up to Anthony. Then I jumped first leaving Peter and then overtaking Anthony. At that point, that old pain came back. However, this time I decided to ride through it. I just aimed for the manhole cover that marked the end and pushed for the top. Whew, I did it!

Then it was time to head back to the shop. Once there, I started to feel that shakiness that comes from major exertion. Those two rides bookending my night, really wore me out. Tonight I think I will sleep like a baby!


Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today's Hour of Power started out pretty rough and it ended up that way as well. We still made it through the 30 mile ride. The only problem is I didn't have time to eat some cake.

I had thought about skipping out on the ride in order to ride my bicycle up to the Sky Top Apple Orchard. I learned Thursday night that the plan was to celebrate Dave's fortieth birthday. I didn't want to miss that, so I decided to do the morning ride and then decide what to do with the rest of the day afterward.

That seemed like a good idea, so I showed up just before 7:45 AM. If we could get started, then I would have time to get back and go to my kids' music club at 10:30 AM. I might even be able to enjoy a piece of Dave's birthday cake!

Unfortunately, we had a hard time getting everybody together. Owen seemed to have a problem with his bike and Dave the birthday boy didn't show up until late. We didn't get out until ten minutes after eight.

Mentally it messed me up. I realized that would put us getting back at nearly 10:00 AM. That wouldn't give me much time to have cake and get home to clean up for the music club. It was Thing Two's first club and I wanted to be there to see him play the piano. It kind of took the enjoyment out of the ride.

The fact that I planned to ride later in the day also messed with my mind. It caused me to be indecisive during the ride. Sprint or not sprint... climb hard or roll easy... what ends up happening is you don't do anything well!

Going into the first sprint, I was just hanging there about fifth place. I heard John yell from behind, "Car back." So, I moved over to the far right of the road and stayed in place behind the slowly moving line.

Suddenly, John and Tony came flying up beside me on the left. I let them go at first and then jokingly called out, "Cheaters!" Where was the car that was supposed to be back there :-) I changed my mind and went after them.

It took a little work to close the gap, but I got past John and then tried to nip Tony on the line. He looked to his left and I went right. He drifted right and we almost bumped as we crossed the line in pretty much a tie.

My indecision to start the chase cost me. Trying to sprint that early in the ride ended up making my legs feel like lead. Here was hoping I would get the feeling back before Meece Bridge Road.

It came sooner than I wanted. My heart rate was back down and my legs were feeling slightly more loose. The question in my mind was if it would stay that way.

John and a Land Rover rider were going around the riders who had tried to go off the front early. I again hesitated on whether I wanted to give it a try or not. Then I decided to go. I stood and tried to shift to my big ring. My fingers slipped off the lever and I had to fight with it to get in the ring.

By this time there was a good sized gap and Tony came around me. There! I was up to speed and jumped on his wheel. I was kind of hoping he might pull me all the way up to the two riders ahead.

As we got closer and closer to the finish point, I started to wonder if we would make it. So, I went around Tony and tried to bring the two breakaway riders back. Then I realized it wasn't going to happen, so I eased up.

Okay, now I was really feeling used up. I had exerted a lot of energy on those first two sprints. Next up was the quarry road. There we were running a pace line toward the climb. Just as we neared the left turn that would take us to the base, John, the Rover guy, and I were at the front of the line.

I was feeling pretty spent by this point and I eased up a bit while on the front. I felt a hand on my bum pushing me forward. It was John. He wanted us to put the hurt on the riders behind us and push it up the climb. Problem was, I was already hurting!

I kept pushing anyway and entered the climb with Tony. "That's too much work for me," Tony said and then sat up. I tried for a little longer to stay with the two guys up front. Reality set in as they moved away from me. It was time to find my own pace and just ride up.

Art and Tony came around me and I just kept my pace. Rob came around me and I just kept my pace. After a bit, I was able to overtake them and ended up finishing fourth with Art in third. John took it. However, the happy news for me was that I was feeling a lot better.

Because I was feeling better, I decided to do a flyer for the fire hydrant sprint. As we moved down the road toward the left turn that would take us down to the bridge and then up to the hydrant, I moved off the front.

After crossing the bridge, I kept on going and sneaked a peek behind me to see what was going on. I saw one rider between the main group and myself. I wasn't sure how quickly the rider was closing so I pushed it up the hill a little more than I needed to do.

I ended up taking the first hydrant easily. However, there is a second one soon after the first. Had I not worked so hard on the first one, I probably would have had more juice for the second one and Tony wouldn't have pipped me at the line.

The bottom line for these rides is that John is starting to exert his control. You get the impression that he can win any sprint he wants to. I figured that would be the case on the Paris Mountain State Park entrance sprint as well. The only thing was that I thought I would be in the mix.

Turns out I didn't get any chance to participate. At one of the regrouping points before the attacks begin for the entrance, I went down a side road spinning a little to keep my legs ready. When I came back, I could see the group riding off into the distance!

I tried to chase back on, but the whole time I was doing it I knew that it was a fruitless endeavor. Still, I motored past some of the stragglers and was able to see the leaders near the top of the climb as I was entering it. The whole episode seemed indicative of my day. Oh, by the way, John took that one as well.

Yes, John took Nature Trail and I once again was slogging my way to a third place finish. Thankfully, after that last climb, it was time to head to the shop. We all followed Dave up to the Pine Knoll turn and then rolled into the shop just before before 10 AM. I stopped long enough to check out Dave's cake and down a Mountain Dew, and then I was out the door to try to make it to music club.

Hey, Happy Birthday, Dave!


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Leading things out

It's 8 PM and the Hour of Power seems a long way ago. I put in another 50 miles after the ride and have been going nonstop between then and now. Hope it is possible to remember what happened!

When I walked out the door it felt like fall! I almost went back in to get my arm warmers. The cool temperatures would last long, so I just kept pedaling thinking about the ride to come.

I was startled by a rider coming up on my left. It was Scott Taylor. He was just getting back on the bike after being off for two weeks. I figure he was trying to get his legs back for some triathlon. We split company at Holmes park and I rode on to the shop.

Once there I found just about five riders. Of course, I was a little early (for a change), so I was sure some more would show up. They did. By the time we rolled out of the lot there were about fifteen of us.

Just as we were getting ready to turn out of the lot, Bob drove up in his truck. We waited a bit for him and then the majority of the group rode off at a slow pace to wait for him. I turned to go back to keep him company. John turned back as well.

The three of us picked up the pace to catch the group and by the time we reached Pine Knoll, we caught them. Then things settled down to your normal Hour of Power ride. The first part is always the most social section of the ride.

Having not ridden since Tuesday, I wasn't sure how my legs would react. I figured I would make my own pace and if anyone wanted to go after this first sprint to Reid School Road, they could have it. I'd see how things went later.

Chris, a fourteen year-old junior rider, started to go for the marker. Art went after him and then Tony. I can't remember who all ended up at the front of that one, though I think it was Tony who crossed the top first.

The group was a good one. We didn't need to spend a lot of time regrouping, so we started off for the next battle zone. By this time, I was surprised that my legs weren't complaining about the time off. I'd see how things would go on Meece Bridge Road.

Chris was there again and Louis as well as things started ramping up. I moved up as they began to drop back and soon it was just John and I. John had been pulling for quite a bit up to that point. I decided not to contest the sprint and just roll across the line on his wheel.

We were almost there when Tony came around our left. I tried to react and actually made up a bit of ground, but crossed the line with my front wheel up to Tony's crank. He had quietly moved across the gap and got us.

There were some short attacks here or there after that, but the main thing coming up on the ride profile was the quarry road. The last several weeks, John has gone off on flyers and has taken the sprint. I was determined not to let him do it this time.

The group got all strung out as we headed toward the base of the climb. I took it easy jumping from one small group to the other as I worked my way to the front. Art had checked out and my guess was he planned to pull a John. John was behind me.

Then John came around me and I jumped on his wheel. We kept moving up past the riders strung out in front of us and then just as we were nearing the base of the climb, we caught up with Art. I slowed and stuck to his wheel while John was behind me.

Art slowed more and I decided to take matters into my own hands and went around him. I hit the base in the right cadence and planned to take my own pace up the first half and then counter anyone else that might come along.

Chris came along real early and then Louis blasted by. Chris I didn't have a handle on yet. He might make it or might not. My guess was Louis would make it to the first half, but have to recover on the second half.

Then John came around and he was there for business. I had to work to stay up with him, but we soon put Louis behind us. Then it was time to get around Chris. My wheel was gaining on John's when he slowed suddenly because his chain dropped.

It broke his momentum, but it quickly engaged and the two of us got around the younger rider. Then it was just the two of us to try for the top. John was out of the saddle and I knew at that point I was a goner.

As we neared the final slight left turn to the straightaway, John seemed to slow and my momentum carried me around him. I kept pushing it and suddenly felt that feeling in my legs that comes when they first start complaining. Perhaps I could just push through it.

"Ease up," I heard John say. "You've got it," he finished. I'm not sure why he didn't blow my doors off, but I passed the finish line with him right behind me. I was surprised to see my heart rate had barely topped 180 bpm.

We had a little fun at the next sprint zone watching Bob go off the front and put a big gap on us. As we sprint up to a fire hydrant, you can see the whole thing unfold before you. There was Bob starting to slow ever so slightly as he started up the hill. Louis took off after him.

We all started to cheer on the two riders. I thought Bob had it in the bag, but Louis turned on that power of his and was gaining fast. "Go, Bob, Go! Louis' gaining!" we yelled. Bob couldn't react and Louis passed him and kept on going until the next stop sign.

Once again we entered a section of the ride where there is a good amount of pedaling before you reach another one of the major sprint zones. It was a good time for picking up some of the conversations that had started before the heavy duty riding started.

Next up: State Park entrance. As we moved into position, I found myself up front with John. "I'm not sprinting this time," I told him. "I'm going to lead out." He told me to wait until a certain section and then start ramping up the speed slowly. Once we reached the "flats" I should try to get up to 30 mph and hold it until the downhill. At that point, the speeds would increase and I would get out of the way as we started up the climb to the entrance.

My first fear was that I would start off too fast. I almost did, but I heard John behind me telling me to ease up. Then we neared the rolling section and I started to move toward 95% output. I was pulling at the front at 30 to 33 mph. Then we dipped. I'm sure we were passing 40 mph at that point.

Just as we reached the bottom, I almost ran over some people who were along the edge of the road doing some beautification work on a trail at the base of the dam. I don't know who was more startled, them or me! Either way, my work was done. I pulled over and John launched.

It takes a lot longer to get to the top of that thing when you're not sprinting! Plus, leading out is hard work. I was pretty bushed and most of the field passed me before I reached the top. "You must have been leading out that train," Tony said as he rode by.

I don't even remember the Oakleaf climb. I believe it was Art that got to the top first. I was just trying to survive to the top so I could go down. I made it, and now there was just Nature Trail to go before coffee, bananas, and doughnuts.

Chris took off to get a head start up the climb. Another one of the newer riders also took off after him. I followed shaking my head. Couldn't we just ride this one up nice and easy like?

The newer rider dropped back quickly, but Chris was going to give it a go for the win. The guy is going to do well if he keeps it up. He has some physical gifts and seems to want to learn.

Then it was again John and myself trying to chase him down. John seemed determined not to let the whipper snapper take the climb. Thing is, I don't think we would have gotten him had he not slowed near the top. We were only about ten meters from the line when John came around him and only five by the time I got there.

What fun. I think I will start doing more lead outs in the future. It is hard, but at least on the HOP, I feel pretty confident in my ability to sprint. It would be good for me to build up some of the stamina that comes from being that lead out man.

By the way, it was a beautiful morning! It did warm up, but it was really quite comfortable. Fall is just around the corner!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

What a beautiful ride!

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I could see the window turning the leaves on the trees upside down. Hmmmmm, maybe I should just climb back in bed. I knew I needed to ride, so I started to pull on my riding clothes.

As soon as I got on the bike and rode out of my driveway, I knew I had made the right decision. The sun was just beginning to rise above the trees and while there was a wind, it wasn't so gusty that it made riding technical.

Pulling into the parking lot at Sunshine Cycle Shop, I found a mix of riders. Most all of the riders had done the ride before, but some of them less than most of us. The variety in rider abilities led to a stop and go type of ride.

I was supposed to just lead out on the ride and not attempt any sprints. So, I tucked in behind Peter and Tony and just followed them along until we neared Reid School Road. John came up along side and we rode across the line two-by-two.

This is the first place we stopped to wait for a mechanical issue for one of the riders. While the ride can be fast and furious, there is still a "no man left behind" rule. We got started and rolled on to the next sprint zone.

I didn't try on this one. I had the opportunity to watch other riders go for the line. John stood and best I could tell he won the sprint to the line. It was kind of nice to be a spectator on that long stretch!

Next up was the quarry road. There is a long lead up to that climb. We take a left onto a long relatively straight stretch of road and then another left that follows a winding road to the bridge where the road kicks up for the climb.

When we made that first left, I slipped in near the end of the line and settled in. Unfortunately, I looked up after we had ridden for a bit and realized I was behind a slowing rider. A sizable gap formed between me and the group ahead.

Rather than try to make it up all at once, I tried to pace myself back to them knowing that typically the group slows after the second left turn. By the time we got there, I (along with Art and some others) had caught the tail of the group.

What we didn't realize was a bunch of Les Amis riders kept going. I saw John up ahead and figured he was planning on doing another breakaway win up the road like he did the previous week. I hoped maybe I could catch him.

I followed Peter and Tony down to base of the climb and kept my big gear and momentum as far as I could into the incline. Then I shifted into an easier gear and tried to stay consistent.

Slowly I gained on the Les Amis riders. Matt was there trying to encourage a couple of young junior riders. I went around them and could see I was starting to close on John. I hoped I might be able to sneak up on him.

It wasn't to be. While I continued to close the gap, he finished about 50 yards ahead of me. Suddenly I started questioning why I made that attempt. The effort took a good bit out of me.

John was there again when I pulled off the front to head to the fire hydrant sprint. I led off pretty well, but realized when I started the climb after the bridge I had used up my juice. Sure enough, John came around me and beat me to the line by about 15 yards.

My next concern was the Paris Mountain State Park entrance. This was the one I wanted. My Spinner teammates, Tony and Peter, were in front of me. John and Matt were talking with the junior guys again to see if they could teach them a thing or two.

Tony led off while Peter and I moved to the back of the sprinters. About 100 yards of so from the entrance, Peter motioned to me that he was going to break out of the line and pull me past. We shifted and rolled.

The sprint wouldn't be nearly as fun without Peter leading me out. I feel like I can't help but take the sprint when I'm sitting on his wheel hardly having to work at all. He moves over and I have incredible momentum while feeling great.

Before we got to that point, we had to get around the other guys. As we came around Matt and John, who was following him, I heard John call to Matt, "Matt, Go!" I knew there was going to be competition.

We reached the bottom. Peter moved over. I launched. I think I went off a little to hard, but I figured some Les Amis guy was going to come around me. I tried to pull everything I could out of that bike. Then I heard John behind me, "Pick a sprint lane." Thankfully, I made it without taking the two of us out.

My training must be helping me. I thought for sure Oak Leaf was going to kill me. It wasn't so bad, John climbed to the top first, but I was right there with him.

Nature Trail? As I coasted down to the beginning of the climb, I told myself, "Just set your own pace. Don't try to react." The two Les Amis juniors had built a pretty big gap. Matt was up there with them cheering them along.

Suddenly a rider in front of me dropped his chain. He stopped dead. "Sorry, sorry," he started saying. I moved around his left. John who was behind me had to put a foot down before going around his right.

That messed up our momentum a bit. About time we got back on the pedals, we had another break in momentum. I didn't see it, but I heard it. A pit bull came out of a nearby yard dragging a chain. I kept expecting to hear the chain go taut. It didn't! The dog was dragging a broken chain. Everyone split and dashed away.

I pulled over after that and eased my way to the top. I'm not sure exactly if John finished first of the junior rider he was trying to encourage up the hill. I was too far back.

We rolled back into the shop about two hours after starting. What a beautiful ride as we watched the clouds blow across a blue sky. Won't be there to enjoy it next week. The crowd might be smaller as people go to the South Carolina Road Racing Championship.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Hours of Power

I had so many options for riding Saturday morning. There was the option of a ride in Mauldin leaving at 6 AM. I learned at the last moment another option came up as some guys were planning to go check out the Fork Shoals course where we'll be racing the SC Road Racing Championships.

Not sure how many people would show up at the Mauldin ride and finding out too late about the Fork Shoals ride, I decided to do what I normally do on Saturday mornings; Sunshine Cycle Shop's Hour of Power. It's a ride I really enjoy so it isn't hard to make that choice. I'm glad I did.

There were a good number of riders. Some of them I haven't seen before or in a long time. It was neat to have Bryant Young along for the ride. He is a neighbor of mine who rides with one leg.

The ride ended up being two hours and we rode 33 miles. What probably made it most fun was we had most of the regular racing crew there... Art, Billy, Matt, John, and Peter were there. We had a good solid ride with us guys wanting to push it going for the sprints and then waiting up for the riders coming along afterward.

Peter and I went after the first print. I sat on his wheel up to the last couple of yards. He had worked his way up through about six riders. His work allowed me to slip around him at the last second to cross the line first.

The next big push came on Meece Bridge. I wanted to use this as a learning experience. I know how I tend to put myself in the wrong position. My goal was to be in the right place at the right time and then move at the right time.

I was sitting taking it easy and then saw John and another rider in a Les Amis kit come past. I figured they would be going for the line, so this wasn't a couple of riders I wanted to earn a gap. I jumped on their wheel and waited.

The second rider started to move around John. I moved to his wheel. The line was coming, so I jumped and started to push for the line. My thought was that since he had worked so much, it would be hard for him to come back on me.

What I didn't count on was Billy coming up with momentum. As I looked back between my legs, I caught a glimpse of red off to my left of my wheel. How hard did he have to work to get there? All I could do was keep turning the pedals.

Slowly Billy started inching up on me. I could hear the clicking of our gears as we kept looking for more speed by moving to a smaller rear gear. Then I had no more gear left. It was just who could turn faster. About ten feet from the line, Billy passed for good.

Still, I felt pretty good -- once I got my heart rate down. Hmmmm, how would I do on the quarry road climb? I tried to hang back and recover before we started the sprint to the top.

As we neared the base of the climb, I noticed John go away on the front. Knowing how well he has been climbing, I knew he could be dangerous. Still, it is a long climb and he had been riding off the front along for awhile.

We started the climb and he looked back. All I could think was he was testing me to see if I would go off on one of my stupid bridging moves. I stayed in the group hoping that we could bring him back.

At first it appeared that we might do it. However, once we crossed over the false flat in the middle, I knew John wasn't testing me... he was beating us! At that point, it was just a matter of second place.

We have added a new sprint point. On some road along the way, we go down to a bridge and once we cross over the sprint starts to the top of a short hill with a fire hydrant at the top. It is pretty soon after the quarry sprint, but we had waited up for the other riders. We were feeling better.

A couple of riders started the climb and I moved up with them. Then I launched. I knew I had trouble right away. I was in two hard of a gear. As I stroked, I was lifting my rear wheel off the ground. I couldn't shift down, so I just tried to grit it out.

From behind I heard someone yell, "Go, Jonathan, go!" I knew someone was gaining on me. I figured it was Peter. I thought perhaps he would be coming on my left. I turned my head to see if he was there. As I looked back, I didn't see anyone! Why did someone yell a warning?

I turned to finish the sprint and just as I crossed the line, I felt someone touch my right hand. Whoa! Where did Billy come from? Turns out he was the reason for the warning yell. I didn't see him when I looked back because he was in my right side blind spot. I had faded over on him toward the right line as he was trying to squeeze through.

The close racing didn't end there. I had talked with Peter about giving him a lead out into the State Park entrance sprint. He had done that for me earlier and I figured I owed him one. As we neared the attack zone, I was riding with Matt with Peter right behind me.

Matt looked over and told me he wasn't going for the sprint and he would just pull us to the climb. I climbed in behind him and then motioned back to Peter to get on my wheel. Instead, he pulled up beside me and told me that he was beat and didn't want to contest the sprint. He told me he would lead me out.

Okay, I was feeling good. I'd give it a try. We took off. Man, they were flying! If these guys were tired, I'd hate to see them feeling fresh! Until I could find my sweet spot, I was just trying to hang on to those two guys.

Matt pulled off and then it was just Peter and me. As we bottomed out before the climb (and rolling about 44 mph) Peter moved over to give me the clear. Suddenly, I saw Peter slow abruptly. His bars jerked right and then left. I was right beside him and had visions of Peter wiping out and taking both of us down.

Peter gathered it in and glanced at me with a wry smile. I got hit with a rush of adrenalin and attacked the climb. After all that work Matt and Peter did to get me in that position, I was determined to take the sprint.

I never looked back. I just assumed someone had come down right on my wheel and that person would be lurking there to sneak around me. Turns out that John was there, but I was able to build enough of a gap so that he yelled from behind that I had it. However, I wasn't sure what he was saying and thought it was another warning. So, I pushed on to the line when I didn't have to.

Turns out that Peter got grabbed by a branch on his right arm. He had blood at his elbow where the branch came close to pulling him off the bike. It could have been pretty nasty, but did a great job keeping control of his ride.

It was uneventful from that point to the end. I'm feeling pretty strong. It is a big boost to my confidence. Now, if I can just get my racing intelligence improved, I might just have a decent race at the end of the month.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hour of Power and then some

I rolled out of bed early Saturday morning and slid into my cycling gear. My plan was to get as many miles as I could before heading over to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the Hour of Power. Once I finished the group ride, my plan was to finish up enough miles to complete my July century.

As soon as I got my bike out and on the concrete of my driveway the rain started to fall. My first thought was, "Oh great!" However, the more I thought about it the happier I became. The rain was a soft one and I would much rather ride in a cool gentle rain than hot muggy air.

I picked up about 15 miles by riding down to Cleveland Park and then heading over to Pleasantburg Drive. I arrived at the shop right before the group headed out for the normal Hour of Power. I might be able to finish the ride with around 40 miles on my 100.

There was no plan to do any of the sprinting. I knew how I would be feeling around 80 miles so I've matured in that aspect of my riding! I just hung around the back conserving my energy.

About halfway through the ride the rain came back. At that point the group split in two with one half heading back to the shop and the other half (the one I was in) continuing on to the quarry road. Even if it was raining, I needed the miles so I was determined to do the entire course.

On the quarry road there were no heavy hitters. I was feeling really good! Maybe I'll do some warm up riding before the next HOP I go on. Halfway up the climb I passed Billy and just kept the rhythm. As I neared the top I glanced back and saw Billy right on my wheel.

I motioned for him to come on around me because I wasn't going to contest the sprint. Billy came up beside me and stayed there. We both rolled across the sprint line together.

That is pretty much how it progressed through the rest of the ride. When I rolled into the the shop my computer showed 46 miles. Now it was time to go collect the next 54.

I started back toward my house and then down to Cleveland Park. The thought of doing more laps there didn't appeal to me, but I did two anyway so that I could safely keep my climbs over Paris Mountain to a minimum.

The next adjustment to my route was to go up McDaniel to Augusta Road. I continued to downtown and turned onto Main Street. After a left on Board Street, I headed out on the old USA Cycling Professional Championship course. Next stop... Paris Mountain.

Once past the KOM on Altamont Road I was sitting on 70 miles. I figured if I picked up a few miles here and a few miles there, I could avoid having to climb the mountain again. I started taking some of the side roads off of Altamont in order to pick up more miles.

By the time I reached my house I only had 18 miles left. I started back toward Cleveland Park. Once I hit the 95 mile mark, I started up to downtown. Then I headed toward home on East North Street. By making a couple more side street turns, I rolled into home with 100 miles.

I'm very happy with the way I managed the ride. I kept hydrated and fueled. Utilizing the Hour of Power was a good move. It was a structured ride, but more importantly I was able to enjoy some fellowship along the way. What a difference it makes when you're not all alone out there.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lead Out

I was supposed to get up around 4:45 AM so I could be at a training ride for the Austin trip. Unfortunately, my body clock didn't agree and I overslept. I missed it and decided to take part in the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power.

The groggy feeling wasn't gone even with the extra sleep I got. Thursday night I had raced in the heat, Friday I rode again in the heat, and the body was telling me to chill out. Still, I dragged myself out onto the bike and met with the guys.

There was a good group with several new folks along for the ride. We started off with Bob setting a nice pace. However, it seemed that everyone had different views about how fast we should be going. The group kind of splintered right off the start.

I decided to just hang out until we got on Meece Bridge. It was fun catching up with the other guys -- finding out how they did Thursday night and other cycling stuff. Before we knew it we were crossing the bridge on Meece Bridge. It was time for the sprint.

Near the front, I tried to play the old jumping on the wheel of the people who try to pass you. The plan was to do that until we got over the rise onto the final straight. The timing didn't quite work out and I found myself up front before we crested.

There wasn't much I could do but just try to go for it. Then I heard a freight train coming behind me! Peter and Matt went by me like I was sitting still! I tried to rise and counter, but my legs said, "Huh, huh." I sat and took it easy from there. Matt ended up taking Peter. Give the guy a relatively flat road and he will flat crank out some wattage!

From there I decided to see if my legs would give me a chance at the quarry road. I've found that sometimes my legs take a little bit of time to get going. I can actually do better in the later sprints.

Just before the climb we had a long portion of road. Some of the riders formed a pace line and pushed it a bit. I sat back knowing we would regroup before the climb. Several of the better riders were also back with John who was staying with some of the slower riders.

We started up. Louis and Blair started off pretty fast. Blair backed off and then it was Louis, Art, and I. Web and Doug also came up beside us for a bit, but by the time we reached the flat before the final climb it was back to Louis, Art, and I. Though Louis had a pretty good gap on us.

I started spinning like mad to catch Louis and I knew Art was right on my wheel. Finally we caught him and I grabbed a few seconds of breath on Louis' wheel. Art came around me and I then jumped on his wheel. Then we both kind of sat up to see who would make the move.

When I saw the finish line, I picked it up and just pushed to the end. I had these visions in my head of Art coming around me just before the line. However, the line came and went and the gap held. The best thing is my legs felt much better.

On Sandy Flat Road the guys who regularly ride the route took the leisure approach since we have not been sprinting on the road lately. However, a group of about six riders who weren't aware of the change came blazing past us. It was kind of fun to watch them.

There was one girl, Sam, I think was her name, who gave those guys a run for their money! Still, it was Peter who ended up taking the "illegal" sprint. The rest of us slowly climbed up to join them.

I sensed that the POA guys were cooking something up for the State Park sprint. I'm not sure, but I thought Tony and Matt were also planning to do something. So, I pulled up to Peter (a fellow Spinner team member) and offered to lead him out. He replied, "No, I'll lead you out."

We made our plan. He would pull me to the downhill. We would sweep around the other riders as we bottomed out at the bottom and then he would pull me up about halfway before dropping off. I was supposed to take it to the top from there.

At first I was a little concerned because the group really started picking it up. Matt, Tony, Blair, Billy, and Louis were all there. However, one by one I watched the lead out men for the "other teams" start dropping off. I was sitting there doing basically nothing. Peter was just sucking me along.

We swept around the final rider just as we planned. Then it was just the two of us. I felt bad about having Peter do any more work, so I started off for the top a little sooner than we had planned. I ended up with a very comfortable margin.

Man! When you can have someone like Peter doing all that work for you, winning a sprint seems pretty easy! Next time it will be my turn -- though I don't think I am as race smart as Peter is.

The only other thing of interest in the ride was when I went for it on Nature Trail, I was able to hold off Bob, but I nearly puked at the top. It was getting pretty hot by that point and I think I participated in one sprint too many!

For the fun of it, we all weighed ourselves when we got back into the shop. A couple of guys that I thought I would be lighter than ended up being several pounds lighter than me. They sure look like they have more muscle than me, but I guess my couple of inches more must add a few pounds.

At 167 at 6' 2", I really don't want to be much skinnier!

Thanks Peter for that lead out. It was the most fun I have had on an HOP in some time.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two Hours of Power

Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed and headed over to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the morning Hour of Power. Having not ridden last week except for Thursday night, I was curious to see what would happen. For sure, I wasn't going to push it early.

There were about 9 to 10 of us starting out and it started out slow. Normally, I want to get up and go, but I was thankful to sit back and take it easy. It stayed that way until our normal first sprint point on Tanner.

When the pace picked up, I just slid to the back. If I was going to try something during this ride, it certainly wasn't going to be now! We turned onto Meece Bridge and I was starting to feel -- as they say -- "froggy."

It takes a little while to work up to the place where we begin the attacks. I determined to play this one smart. So, I read the group around me and knew I could sit in and take my chances.

Then I noticed Art trying to go off the front. At first I stayed in and let him create a gap. I knew there was a lot of wind and as you begin to line up on Meece Bridge you get hit with it in the face. That would probably slow him down.

As we started the last 100 yards to the normal sprint zone Tony started coming around. Now I had two players that could give me trouble. I decided to use Tony to help bring me up to Art.

Sure enough Tony amped it up and we were moving. I waited and waited until the finish line came into view down the long straight away. At that point I jumped and didn't look back until I neared the line. Glancing beneath my arm, I realized that basically I had sprinted the distance alone.

Wow! It felt good.

From there the normal Saturday ride changed. We started taking roads I had not taken before. Frankly, I would love to do that more often! There was some great scenery and the roads were awesom with little traffic.

All the variations in routes brought us back to a normal sprint point -- the race for the entry of Paris Mountain State Park. Things started going wrong real fast. Doug and Web went off real early. Then Tony started off... He was determined to be my thorn on this ride!

I told myself to be patient. In this case, that was the wrong thing to do. I thought there would be some people who would start out after him. As time passed, it looked like Tony was just going to get away.

Then Art went flying by. I thought for just a second. Nothing ventured... Nothing gained... I jumped on Art's wheel and wondered if we just might be able to catch Tony on the final climb.

Then Art slowed. I launched on around him. Tony actually seemed to be coming back to me just a little. I knew that even if I caught him, it would be nearly impossible to beat him. I would have expended too much just getting up to him.

It was then I noticed that John had gotten on my wheel as I led the attack to bring Tony back. While I might not be able to beat him, perhaps I had led John up enough that he could take him. If you can't win, second best is to give a good lead out.

Then I blew it! When I had glaced back, I had noticed his wheel to my left -- even though we were near the left side of the road. I made a move to the right to let him by. As soon as I made the move, I knew I had done the wrong thing.

By moving to the right I actually cut off his line and broke his momentum. At that point, it was all Tony. I should have gone much earlier and just hugged his wheel until we kicked up the final climb. Oh well, you ride and you learn.

Nature trail was pretty much the same. Tony took off and this time I stayed near his rear. Problem was my lack of stamina was starting to get to me here near the end of the ride.

Still, it was so near the end, I wanted to give it my best. So, when I saw John start around my left and Tony slow in front of me, I dug in. Here I was in the front! I heard John say, "You've got it Pait." Then I heard all kinds of noise as someone was trying to find a gear.

I didn't quit, but I didn't push quite as hard either. Then I saw Tony come up on my right! I tried to react, but as we passed the first man hole cover Tony was in the lead. As we passed the second man hole cover, I was in the lead. Guess it all comes down to which cover is the right one...

Again, great ride. I'm glad I have it stored in my Garmin Edge 705. I'll probably take that ride again. We had about a ride of about 35 miles over a two hour period. Guess it was more of a Hours of Power ride...


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back in the saddle at last!

Last week was not a good one for riding. I did ride the fixie to work most days, but that certainly isn't the workout that I need to keep up with everyone. Plus, I have the Miracle Hill ride this coming weekend (100 miles) and I really need to get ready.

So, I asked my son if he would mind if I came to his game a little late and made plans to join the Sunshine Cycle Shop guys for the Hour of Power. Thing Two was just fine with that, and I headed over to the shop around 7:30 AM. I was pretty excited to ride with a group again.

About eight riders were there. John and Tony would be riding and the way John has been acting "racey" lately, I figured we would probably go out pretty fast. Actually, all of the riders would be able to hold their own, so this ride would be a workout.

Sure enough, we rolled out at a good clip. Thankfully, I was rolling right along with them. The true test would be what would happen when the sprints came along.

The first one left my fingers feeling alike rocks. I sat on Matt's wheel right until the end and then swung around him for the line. That early effort definitely made me realize that it could be a tough morning.

Even so, the next couple to sprints I managed to pull out a second place finish - I lost to Bob on Meece Bridge, and then got schooled by Tony on the quarry road. On Meece Bridge, I eased off when my heart rate hit 190. I knew I didn't have that many bullets left in my gun!

On the quarry road, I felt sorry for Art. We all ganged up on him and made him pull us halfway up the climb. I figured he was probably done when he pulled over and we went on by him. Yet, a little later, I looked over to my left and there he was. He definitely held his own under the attack.

From there I eased off a bit. Just as I finished the sprint up the quarry road, I felt like I might throw up. It had been a little while since I had given my body this much exertion!

As we neared the Paris Mountain park entrance, I figured I would give that sprint a try and call it a day. I got in behind Matt because I figured he would be powering along and at about 6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds, he blocks wind really well! Sure enough, he moved us toward the front of the line.

Matt will tell you he isn't a climber. However, he can put out some serious wattage. My thought was he would go hard down to the base of the final climb and then ease up. Or if he did attack the incline he would fade toward the top. Nope.

Matt went in hard! It caught me flat footed and I really had to work just to hang onto his wheel. About halfway up, I nearly quit. However, I really wanted it. So, I dug in and started pulling even with him. As we made the final slight right hand turn I gave my last push and then threw the bike forward beneath me right at the line.

I heard Matt say something like, "You got me." However, I don't think so. I guess it all depends on where the line is. It was a tie in my mind. It was also one of the most fun sprints I have ever done. Matt told me afterwards that with my weight and speed, I must have been putting out over 1400 watts up the hill.

From there I took it easy - though I did climb Oak Leaf - and made it back in time to catch the last half of my son's game. Tell you what though, I wasn't much good for anything for the rest of the day. I've got to get my legs back before this weekend!


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ah, sunshine on the Sunshine ride

Without an excuse I pulled up to the Hour of Power ride this morning about ten minutes late. I just knew I was going to have to chase the group down -- and I would have deserved it! Thankfully, as I pulled into the parking lot I found the group getting ready to head out.

There were a good number of riders on hand. I saw Peter and Tony there with their Spinners jerseys on. It made me feel bad that I didn't wear mine. I didn't figure teamwork would be on the plate today :-)

The weather was nice. It was a little cool, but you could almost feel the air getting warmer as we rolled out. Of course, I started out just trying to catch my breath.

When we got to the Tanner Road sprint, I just let the guys go. I was needing to get myself back in shape and I knew that the Meece Bridge Road sprint would be coming up soon enough. Thankfully, by the time we started to line up for that push, I was feeling ready.

Peter was up front pushing the pace on what I call his "Frankenbike". Peter has some interesting bicycles. Today's was what looked like an urban tank. It was a mountain bike frame with a very aggressive geometry. The tires were kind of cross type deals. Boy, what a frame. It looked like it had rust scraped off of it and welds here and there.

So, why does that matter? Because Peter was driving us on that "tank." He and Tony were up front and I was a rider back from them as we neared the primary attack zone. Web came flying by on our left. Then things went single file and I was five back.

I knew Web wasn't going to stay up there. I also figured Bobby would go off at some point. My idea was to use him to draft until I saw a gap forming in front of him.

It happened and I went around Bobby and jumped on the wheel of Tony. Just about that time Web started dropping off. Soon, it was just us three Spinner guys up front.

Could Peter hold on with that bike? Tony moved around him and I went with Tony. I sat on his wheel and Tony moved over to keep from having to pull me all the way to the line. I pulled up beside him and contemplated just riding to the line side-by-side.

Turns out Tony was thinking the same thing, but I didn't realize it. I figured he was going to take off on me. Rather than let him get the jump, I picked up my pace and crossed the line first. Hey, I don't get many chance to beat the guy...

Then it was off to quarry road (okay, there was a good amount of riding between those two spots, but my mind was set on that next climb). All the riding I did between the end of the Meece Bridge sprint and the quarry road was aimed at getting up that hill.

We started up and my thought was to find a rhythm and maybe drop the rest with the pace. Well, Peter pushed the pace even more than me. I decided to just keep my pace with his and perhaps it would be just the two of us at the end.

Peter and I were talking and suddenly two riders went flying past us on the left. It was Tony and Bob. Oooo, this could a challenge. Peter and I picked up the pace only marginally. I still thought that it was possible Bob and Tony would come back to us after starting up that hot.

After the spot on the road where there was a short reprieve, I decided try to pull them back. They had a little too much of a gap for my comfort. We turned onto the straight and you could see the finish. I picked it up just in case they were tiring. They weren't. I could see Tony looking over his shoulder and knew he would just keep the gap.

I should have jumped on their wheels when they went by. I'll tell you though, Bob is really coming on strong. He is already a much stronger rider than he was last fall when he got here from Michigan. All this climbing is starting to show!

Sandy Flats sprint wasn't that fun. The reason was the traffic. Web went off on a flyer and Gaary and I were trying to bridge up to him. Unfortunately, traffic forced us to move over and a car got between Web and us.

Finally things cleared and Gary let me go around and I went after Web. I thought I was going to get him but once I saw him approach what I thought was the line - a warning sign - sat up. Gary came up and asked me what was up and I told him I couldn't catch him before the line. Then Gary pointed out that wasn't the line but it was at the parking lot at the intersection. Oh well.

Now it was time for Paris Mountain State Park. I thought I would try something different this time. I had found that when I went into an aero tuck I could really get some speed downhill. I moved to the front and then tucked into the downhill just before the uphill attack.

Just as I came out of my tuck to start up the climb, Peter and Bob came around me and as soon as I stood to follow, I realized I was done for. When Bob passed me I heard "swoosh, swoosh, swoosh" -- he was in his big ring and had momentum. When I stood, I heard "swish, swish, swish, swish." By the time I could shift, I would loose momentum and the big ring would kill me.

Bob and Peter whooped me. You can bet that I won't be trying that experiment again!

Tony and Art beat me up Oak Leaf. Then Art left everyone in the dust on Nature Trail. He was talking like he was going to hang back. Tony and I told him we weren't going to contest it because we were tired. Bob gave him a run, but Art wasn't to be denied.

It was a good ride. Won't be long and I'll be out there without knee warmers! I do hope that by next Saturday I'll get in more miles than I did last week.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

A not so powerful Hour of Power

Yesterday I wasn't so thrilled about doing the Hour of Power ride with Sunshine Cycle Shop this morning. I knew there was a chance of rain and I also knew I would be spreading mulch at my in-laws when I got done. Besides, it would give me a chance to sleep in a bit.

I called over to the shop to ask a question and John asked me if I was going to be there. I gave an uncommitted sounding "I'm planning on being there." Well, I ended up dragging myself out of bed and over to the shop. Thankfully, it wasn't raining and the forecast was saying the rain wouldn't get here until 10 PM.

We decided to alter the route and follow the basic direction we did during the Thursday night rides last summer. This would take us along the base of the mountain and then over it back to the shop in a more direct -- but elevated -- route.

On this ride we had about 7 riders. Mike was the only shop guy to join us. It was good to have Trish out. I hadn't ridden with her since she recovered from back surgery. Peter was there as well. It would have been fun to have done the normal route. He always makes the sprints fun.

Some other regulars were there as well including Doug and Web. It was like old times seeing Web take off from the group in the beginning of the ride. The rest of us were pretty much moseying along.

Once we got to the base of the mountain we all agreed that we weren't going to be going for personal bests this morning! About thirty minutes into the ride the rain started and by the time we began our climb, my arm and knee warmers were starting to feel heavy. My feet were squishing around in my shoes.

Peter, who could have really put a hurting on us, hung back to climb with Trish. I didn't realize he was such a gentleman :-) The rest of us weren't that too far ahead. I was easing along up the climb talking with Doug.

I looked down and saw my HR was around 165 bpm. I can't remember the last time I climbed Altamont and was able to carry on a conversation without spitting the words out between breaths!

Finally, we approached the wall. I couldn't help it because I was feeling good and it would be interesting to see how fast I could do that .3 miles when I was relatively fresh. It would be good to know what I could do as I continue to plan my assault on the 12 minute climb.

Earlier a rider not with our group went around Doug and me. Just before reaching the 15 mph sign I started increasing my speed. I hit the start point at about 14 mph. As I came around the first corner at 20 mph. From there my speed started declining.

I dropped to about 10 mph near the final left turn up to the KOM. At that point I ratcheted up my effort to bring the speed back up to 13 mph. From the beginning of the effort until this point my HR climbed from 180 bpm to 187 bpm. As I crossed the line, I pressed the lap button again and looked down. 60 seconds.

Wow. I was feeling better than I normally would at that point in the ride and it took me a solid minute to do that .3 miles -- out of 2.2 miles. I had climbed to this point today in 13 minutes and 40 seconds (total 14 minutes and 40 seconds). That means I would have had to have climbed to that point in 11 minutes and still be fresh to may 12 minutes.

This is going to be tough.

Peter and Trish caught up with us and we headed back to the shop. The first thing I did once we got there was take my shoes off. The next thing I did was grab a cup of coffee. Both felt really good!


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.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

It was a fun day... as long as I didn't kill myself

Last night I felt pretty tired. I toyed with the idea of not riding this morning. However, I set my alarm for 7 AM and dragged my body out of bed to make it to Sunshine by 7:45.

My original plan was to do the UWBL ride. However, it started out in Spartanburg today and I didn't feel up for that kind of pace and distance. It was a perfect set up for a fun ride with the guys.

As I pulled up through the fog into the parking lot, I wondered if there would be anyone there. Ah! There was Art standing by his car wondering the same thing. Turns out the ride included Art, Bob, Web, Tech, me - and some stranger named John. Actually, it was good to have John back on the ride with us.

We rolled out into the fog and kept an easy pace all the way through the Reid School Road sprint. Web took off at that point and crossed the sprint line first. At that point, I just wasn't in the mood to go for it.

As we started up Meece Bridge Road I figured I would give it a try. Web was leading out again and I was trying to conserve just behind him. Then John and Art came around. I got on Art's wheel while John led out. I figured John was going to take it easy, but you never know...

Sure enough, he slowed and I paced around Art and him. I waited until we went over the rise just before the finish line and then just hammered it. I was hoping that maybe my burst would catch Art flat-footed. I don't even know what happened because I didn't look back until I turned around at the end.

We were all warming up by that point. Vests, arm warmers, and gloves were coming off. There was no rain and the fog was lifting. At that point we were in the mid-fifties. It was really a great day for riding.

The group talked and spun along until we reached the base of the quarry road. Leading up to it, Web and Bob had a pretty big gap on us. I decided to just pace myself up and hopefully catch them at the top. Art went around me and I started to rethink my strategy.

Then John came around me. He kept looking back over his shoulder and I sensed that he was wanting me to hook up on his wheel. He knew he didn't have it for a sprint, so he was going to pull me back up to Art.

I jumped on his wheel and he paced me back nearly to Art's wheel. He peeled off and I latched onto Art. About this time we passed Web and Bob. Then it was just Art and me to the top.

John's pull up really helped. I was a little fresher than Art. I have also discovered some new power in using my big ring on these climbs. Once again, I never left the big ring today. I just did what it took for me to stay with him until we neared the top knowing that I could just stand on it and get a burst of speed. That is just about how it worked out.

Next up was the Sandy Flat sprint. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do on this one so I kind of hung back to see what would unfold. Again Web and Bob went ahead. John was pulling Art and me. John eased off and my momentum carried me around Art. Up ahead I could see Web and Bob going for the line. I decided to see if I could take them. They were caught napping as I had speed coming around them to take the line.

Next up, the State Park entrance. This started out with Web in the lead and John, Art, and me following. John dropped back and Art and I tucked in behind Web. Right as we reached the bottom of the dam, Web slowed and Art and I had to spread wide because of the momentum.

Just as I started to gather myself for the next move, John came flying around my left. "I bet he's going to go for the sprint after talking about being so out of shape," I thought. So, I stood to follow. However, after just a few yards he slowed and I was able to leisurely take it up to the top with Art following.

Oak Leaf was an epic battle. This is Art's playground. We started up the climb and I noticed Art had a much higher cadence than I did. I was still hanging in there with my big ring. I tested to see if I could make up distance and I could, but the question was would it blow me up.

I slowly worked my way even with Art. Then with about 20 feet or so to go, we both really started hammering. We were neck and neck up to the top and I thought that the higher cadence was going to win out, but I held on and gave a final push across the line. Whew. That was tough... the guy is nails.

Here is where Art does you in. Sure, I beat him on Oak Leaf, but when we got to Nature Trail he kept right on going. Perhaps I could have given him a run for his money, but I didn't get a chance to decide. He was off and steadily hammered away. I did manage to finish that climb in second -- a distant second.

That is when it started to get humorous. As we were heading back to the shop, we stopped at an intersection. The guy in the truck coming motioned us to go. I started to move not knowing that the other guys in the group motioned the driver to go. I realized this at the last second and tried to stop. You guessed it. I couldn't get my shoe released and down I went.

No more that fifty yards ahead we came to Rutherford Road. Just across that busy street is a train track. We waited at the light for it to change. Nearly as soon as it turned green it turned yellow. We were rushing to get across at that point and I was wondering why the light was so fast.

Turns out it was because a train was coming. As soon as we got across Rutherford, the bars started coming down. A couple of guys got across the track before the bars dropped. Another one went around the bars (bad boy!). I tried to stop on the downhill leading to the tracks. My rear wheel hit the paint and I was fishtailing pretty wildly. Finally, I got stopped before reaching the bar.

I gave the gift of laughter to the guys today.

But wait, that's not all! When I reached home I was trying to ride past my Suburban that was parked next to the house in the narrow driveway. As I tried to avoid the mirror on the side, my wheel slipped off the driveway and I went down hard. So hard that the back of my head hit the concrete.

That is a good reason to wear your helmet even when you think you are safe. My head was hurting a bit and my neck is sore, but the helmet did its job. Thankfully, the helmet was not cracked. It hit on the little knobs that stick out the back and they gave well enough that there was no damage.

I think it was just my day to fall and it finally happened.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Slowing down - just a little

Wednesday several of the normal Saturday morning riders went out to take on the Hour of Power ride. We killed it - finishing nearly 20 minutes faster than normal. Today those riders - and about eight others - went out to do it again. Today was slower - but not by much.

Again we started off with Art pushing the pace early. The temperatures were cooler than Wednesday. MotionBased tells me we rolled out at 46 degrees. It sure felt colder than that. We came back with the temperature only rising to 48 degrees. The main problem though was the wind. We averaged 13 mph wind speed with some winds reaching 16 mph. Why is it it always seems that the wind is a headwind?

The group strung out a little bit while Art sat off the front by himself for much of the early warm up. Then it was time to prepare for the first sprint. Louis and Bob went ahead. I argued with myself about going after them. They had a pretty good jump on me as they started up Tanner Road. When I saw them slowing slightly, I decided to see if I could take it.

I did, but it wasn't too smart. I pushed my heart rate up to 188 bpm. It was way early to be pulling those kinds of stunts! My legs didn't appreciate it and I spent a good amount of the ride from that point trying to get back in shape. My HR climbed to 186 bpm as I was coming up Meece Bridge Road to Darby Road and I wasn't even contesting the sprint!

That section started out with pretty much the same line up as Wednesday. Tony led. Billy took over and I moved up from there. Only difference was Art and Bob had taken off ahead of us. Then Owen came around us on the left and went after them. Mike, Tony, and I just watched it unfold as Art broke away toward the end to take the prize.

From there I was hurting. I knew the next big deal was the quarry road. I didn't know what shape I would be in by that point. However, as we neared the climb, I was feeling much better. Perhaps I could do something here...

Art and Mike started up together. I was right behind Mike. Then I heard Art say, "Ok, Louis, where are you?" Louis typically goes off at the beginning and bonks at the top. I heard Louis' laugh come from behind us, "What? What are you talking about?"

We continued on to the mid-point and Louis came between us. He was making his move a little later this time. I just decided to bide my time on Mike's wheel and see if Louis would bonk. Art countered though which made Mike pick up his pace. I followed.

Was that Art and Louis slowing up ahead? I thought so and picked up my pace a bit. However, it wasn't so. I backed off again to watch Louis take Art on the sprint. The good news for me was I got my heart rate back under control. I had barely topped 185 bpm on the climb.

I got in the pace line and started trying to find a rhythm with my breathing. I figured I needed to get some oxygen in there. I had my heart down to the 140s as we started the sprint on Sandy Flat. I got on Billy's wheel and followed him down to the base of the road. When he moved over just before the climb, I figured he was either wanting me to lead out and then get me or he just didn't feel he had the legs.

At that point, I put my eyes on the top of the hill and cranked it. I didn't look back until I reached the top. There was no one on my wheel. I had taken my second Sandy Flat sprint! Best of all, though I was winded, I didn't feel as burned out as earlier even after quite a bit of exertion.

The group kind of mellowed at this point and there wasn't a lot of action until we neared the State Park sprint. I had recovered significantly since before the push started. As we sat in the pace line setting up for the rush I told Billy that if he would get on my wheel, I would lead him out for the sprint. I remembered how I had jumped him on Wednesday when I should have let him go. I figured I would make amends.

It was kind of fun knowing I could just give it all I had and pull off to let the other guys duke it out. I just hoped I could led him to the right point. Louis and Bob were ahead of us as we started down the hill to where it would kick up again and the sprint would start in earnest.

Just before we reached the base, I pulled out of line and pushed to reach even with the Louis. After we bottomed out and started up the hill I broke off to the left wide to let Billy take it. I had hoped to take him further, but I was wasted and knew I would only slow him down. I shouldn't have worried, Bob hung on his wheel for just a few seconds and then Billy did what Billy does and took the sprint.

We were all groaning as we neared Oak Leaf, but Art made us do it anyway. For me it was just survival. However, I have to say that though it is still hard, I don't dread it nearly as much as I used to. I've started surprising myself on that climb.

Then it was time for Nature Trail. I knew I had to win this one because I wasn't able to claim Wednesday's. Mike and I went in with a head of steam. When Mike down shifted, I stayed in my big ring. That seemed to be what helped me Wednesday. Maybe it would work again.

I stood and just kept my rhythm. Swoosh... Swoosh... Mike was sitting beside me and was spinning at a higher cadence. Swish.. Swish.. Swish.. As we started up the final climb Mike's breathing started to speed up. I stayed right beside him.

Then he made a move. I countered by pushing down in my big ring. I didn't even need to shift to get the speed, I just increased my cadence. I heard his chain slip and then I heard "Awwww!!" I knew I had him at that point so I just pushed it on up to the top. We had averaged over 10 mph on the climb hitting up near 15 mph on the final push.

Then it was on back to the shop. Several of us guys stayed for over an hour talking around the coffee pot. That was nearly as fun as the ride... but not quite.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

What a ride!

Yesterday, Art, Billy, Tony, and myself met for a ride. We had hoped to have at least six of us, but several people had things come up and were unable to participate. Still, I knew it would be a good ride because all four of us could maintain a good pace.

We finally decided to do the Hour of Power ride. It was the best option that would 1) keep us from having to go over the mountain, and 2) would assure us that we would get back within the time limit most of us had. Once we had that decided, we mounted up and headed out.

Right off the bat I knew it was going to be a different ride. As we were going down the warehouse road that runs parallel to Rutherford, Art picked up the pace. Where on a normal HoP ride we would average 16 to 18 mph through this section, he was pulling us through over 20 mph.

That set the stage for the rest of the day. There were no bursts that come from sprints, but there was a sustained high cadence that had us blazing through the route. Coming up the toward Darby Road on Meece Bridge Road this was evident. We got in a pace line that started out with Tony pulling us up the first section from the bridge nearly to the normal sprint lanch point. Billy took over from there and pulled us up the incline to the attack zone. He was pulling us at around 18 mph. Then I moved up and once we got within the attack zone we were cruising along at 20+ mph speeds.

This was the story for most of the day. We began to notice that we were averaging 18 mph for the ride. I think it got in Art's and my heads that it would be cool to come home with that average. That would be pretty much impossible because we still had Oakleaf and Nature Trail to cover.

I was feeling good. On the quarry road I set my mind to try to maintain a 15 mph average to the top. I just settled in and looked at the highest point I could see. I didn't think about anything but reaching that point. I made it with gas still left in the tank.

Up to this point I had been riding in my big ring the entire time. I hoped to finish the day in the big ring. Why? I don't know. It was just a challenge I wanted to go for. I was kind of shaking in my boots about Oakleaf!

Turns out Oakleaf wasn't that big of a problem. I was surprised with how easily I made it up - not that it was easier than normal, but then again I don't normally climb it in the big ring.

Nature Trail was next. I thought for sure I would have to shift down on the climb. I tried to find a nice and easy cadence that would take me all the way to the top. It was like rowing a boat. Stroke, stroke, stroke... Ah, there was the top. I glanced back and saw Art coming up to pass me. I knew he was going to want to beat me. I stood and increased my speed to around 15 mph in the last 30 feet. For once I legitimately got Art on Nature Trail! Problem is, it was a "non-sprint" ride, so I guess it really doesn't count :-)

We came on in from there. We had averaged 18 mph up until we reached the Paris Mountain State Park entrance. By the time we finished the two big climbs of the day, that average had dropped to around 17.2 mph. Still, that was about twenty minutes faster than we typically ride on the Hour of Power.

What fun! I don't think it would be too smart to go that hard everytime out during thhe off season, but it sure was fun for that time. Now we'll start behaving ourselves.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reversing the hour

It was kind of cool to see one of my entries from the Cycling blog printed in the dead tree version of the paper yesterday. It appears they also printed it Friday, but someone goofed on the layout and part of the entry didn't get printed. Still, there it was in black and white. Neat.

I got back on the bike after taking two days off for Thanksgiving. I made up my mind Friday evening that I wasn't going to do the Hour of Power Saturday morning. I knew it was going to be cold and planned to get some riding in the afternoon when things warmed up. Stopping by Sunshine to take care of some Christmas business I learned that some of the guys from the shop were planning to ride when they got off work at 4 PM.

I decided to join them. It was Mike, Gary, Bob, and me who started off the ride. As we headed down Pine Knoll we discussed what route we would take. Gary wanted to go over the mountain and Mike wanted to do the Hour of Power route. Mike convinced Gary to ride along with us on the turn that would take us on the Hour of Power route by saying we could still do the mountain, but go another way.

By the time we got to Waddell via East Lee Gary had caught on to Mike's deception and bailed on us. So, the three remaining riders decided to cut him off on the other side of Rutherford Road and go over the mountain with him. Unfortunately, we missed him.

Instead of doing the mountain without Gary we decided to reverse the Hour of Power route. It turned out to be pretty fun. We did alter the route slightly (check out the route here). Mainly we cut out the Sandy Flats section.

About ten minutes into the ride I almost felt like turning around and going back. I just didn't feel so good. My legs were stiff and I was getting winded very easily. However, thirty minutes into the ride it started to come and my legs were feeling good. I still found myself getting winded, but I think part of that had to do with the cooler temperatures.

After a couple days off weight training, I really feel as though it is helping me. We definitely didn't do any serious sprinting, but a couple of times I attacked just to see how my legs would respond. Not sure I can describe it, but I could feel more firmness in my stroke. I had a lot more confidence in my bigger rings while attacking on an incline. After a couple of months of this, I should really see a difference.

Well, we made it back in the dark. We watched the huge harvest moon come up over a bank of clouds as we neared the shop. Mike and I had rear lights, so we put Bob between us and boogied back as fast as we could. The sad thing is I was just starting to feel loose and warmed up.

Hey, it is always best to stop wanting more!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

29 seconds

When I got home from my Hour of Power ride this morning, I uploaded the data from my Edge. It seemed like a good opportunity to try out the Dot Racing function at Turns out the difference is time between the two rides was less than 30 seconds.

Dot Racing is a function on that allows you to choose two rides from your history and watch two dots representing each ride race around the route displayed on the map. While today's ride ended up being nearly the same time in the end, last week's dot lead most of the race.

Today we had about 11 riders start out. It turned out to be a pretty good group. Gary was back on the ride after a few weeks off. Tony also showed up on his Orca. Based on the first sprint of the day, he was showing up ready to rumble.

As usual Web started off with a break away. Tony and I slowly reeled him in just before the sprint to Reid School Road. We passed him and I was in the unenviable situation of riding neck and neck with Tony. We rode easily for a distance, but then he stood and went for the sprint.

In the time it took for me to react, he was about five feet in front of me. Once I decided to try to catch him. I turned up the wick, but when I saw Tony glance back and just maintain the distance I decided to give it up. He was kind enough to say, "Thanks for giving me that one." My response was, "Yeah, right!" -- like I had a choice.

At the station on Reid School Road, we pulled in to the lot and waited for the rest of the group. Tony discovered his seat clamp was messed up. We stopped to see if we could get it fixed. About five of us waited for him to finish, but the other six riders continued on the ride.

We had to chase to get back in the front group. We didn't catch them until the sprint to Darby Road. After racing with Tony and then chasing to catch the lead group, I was pretty wasted. I was thinking I wouldn't push it for the rest of the day.

Of course, by the time I reached the quarry road sprint, I was feeling better. Web and I started the climb. My plan was to take it easy and just see what opportunities presented themselves. That changed when right away Art came flying around us and he gaped the entire group by 20 yards before we had time to react.

I heard Billy say, "Who's going to go after him?" Louis answered the question just a few seconds later. He went up after Art who by this time was starting to slow a bit. I decided just to find a rhythm and allow them to come back to me.

It worked and the last 20 yards found Mike and me pacing our way toward the sprint line. I kept looking back to see what Mike would do. My plan was to sit back and let him make the move with me countering as soon as he launched. The problem was, he caught me looking back under my left arm and attacked on my right. By the time I realized what he was doing, it was too late. What I learned: if I am going to use my left to mark him, I need to make sure my bike is blocking the right lane.

I didn't try again until the Paris Mountain State Park sprint. We started the lead up to the sprint with about five riders ahead of me. I evaluated each rider and figured that I could just take it easy off the back because the only real threat was Louis and I figured I could take him on the climb.

Things were working just as planned. I went around the riders ahead of me taking Mike along with me. Mike typically doesn't contest this sprint, but there he was pulling up along side me. It was time to pay him back for the quarry road. I slowed so that Mike and I were neck and neck. I was just going to stay there until the last five feet and then attack. Mike never gave me the chance. He said, "I'm done" and I just made sure Billy didn't come flying around me at the last second.

My bladder was about to explode by this time and I went ahead to find a place to take care of that issue. I finally found a place just before the turn up Oak Leaf. Before I was finished the group went past me and I knew Oak Leaf wasn't going to work for me today. It was actually kind of nice not having the pressure and I took it easy going up climb.

I had thought I would give Nature Trail a try. There is just something about that stretch of road that just doesn't work for me. I try starting off slow. I try starting off fast. Seems no matter what I do Mike and Art don't just beat me, they up and leave me! I came in third, but it was a distant third.

Some day I'm going to beat those guys. Actually, it would be more like beating the road itself!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Our first cold ride

The alarm didn't go off today (I won't take time to explain it, but it is true) and I had to jump out of bed and throw on my cycling clothes to get out the door on time. Believe me, there were more clothes than normal!

The night before I looked at the forecast and saw it was going to be 42 degrees. I put on my knee warmers, leg warmers, moisture wicking shirt, long sleeve jersey, wool socks, shoes, shoe covers, wind breaker, and topped off with a head pip under my helmet.

Once I got out on the road heading over the shop I was glad I did it! The wind was making it feel even colder. Everything seemed to be keeping me warm.

We rolled out with about 10 riders. The riders I was looking out for today were Art, Louis, and Peter. I figured Mike would be saving himself for Nature Trail. With all the smack talk coming from Art and Mike, I figured I had better give Oak Leaf and Nature Trail a shot.

To do that, I decided to lay off of some of the earlier sprints - especially the Paris Mountain one which comes right before the steepest climb of the day. Even so, we started out kind of fast. I think the reason was because we were all so cold! Art's thermometer on his computer read 35 degrees!

Then just as we neared the Reid School Road sprint, I found myself in the third position right behind Louis and Peter. They were rolling along talking and as they neared the sprint point they started jockeying for position. When I sensed that they had decided to ride along beside each other and then burst for the line, I decided to split them and catch them flat footed. It worked and I took the sprint on a surprise move.

I laid off on the Meece Bridge Road sprint. Peter had a pretty good gap on us and then Art went by me and I figured it would be good to let him wear himself out :-) Mike and I hooked up and rode across the line in about 6th and 7th.

A few more minor skirmishes and it was time for the quarry road. I debated what to do on this one, but then I saw Louis and Peter getting a gap on us. I figured I should at least get myself into position in case things fell out to my advantage.

By the time the three of us started up the climb, Art had joined us. He formed up to my left right behind Louis. I hooked on to Peter's wheel. Louis took off! Art stayed with him and Peter slowed. I had to make a choice. I decided to move over to get behind Art.

We were still going at a pretty good clip and then Louis sat up leaving Art and I alone. A little later Art slowed. No way was I going to just take off at this point by myself. That is what I always do and I get burned!

I shadowed Art. I figured if someone else came up we could reform the line and then fight it out near the finish. I just knew I didn't want to be the guy in front at that point! What I didn't count on was someone coming by us so fast that I couldn't counter quickly enough.

That is exactly what happened. Art and I were feinting with each other and Peter just came motoring by. I gave it a half-hearted attempt to follow, but I knew it was over. Time to conserve for later.

Next up - the Sandy Flat sprint. This is one I never do well at. It is similar to the Paris Mountain sprint because you come off of long lead up that includes a downhill just before it kicks up for a fifty yard dash for the finish.

Once again I found myself in a three man pace line with Louis and Peter. We were moving along at a steady pace near 30 mph as we neared the climb. Just as we began to climb, Peter moved over to allow Louis to take the lead. I knew what he was up to.

I stayed on Louis' wheel and let up just enough to conserve some energy. I knew Peter would be coming back through. Sure enough, in the last third of the sprint, Peter came by us passing me on the right and then moving around Louis' left. I was ready for him so I stood up and jumped on his wheel.

I don't think he expected me to do that or he thought he has a big enough gap. Either way, I was able to get up a head of steam and move around his left. It was too late in the run for him to counter. I took my first sprint on Sandy Flat. Cool.

Paris Mountain was out of the picture. Mike and I brought up the rear on that one. I knew Oak Leaf was right around the corner and I wanted to have some legs left for that one! It was still pretty cold at under 40 degrees up in that elevation.

Earlier Web was guessing I was saving myself for the Paris sprint. I told him that I was going to go for Oak Leaf. Then I noticed he opened a big gap on us between Paris and the turn up to Oak Leaf. "He's going to steal it away from me!" I went to bring him back. I figured it wouldn't hurt to get my own gap on Art anyway.

I pulled up beside Peter who was between Web and me and we talked a bit about Web's chances. Then we noticed Web didn't take the turn up to Oak Leaf. Hmmmmm. Peter and I made the turn. "I've just to beat Art," I told him. Art was a marked man!

Guess what? I had no sooner said that and I looked back to see Art right behind us. He was ready. The three of us rode on together. Just before the climb really increased a huge Ford truck came out of a side street and almost hit Peter. That threw us off for a bit but we regrouped and started our climbing sprint.

It turned out to be an awesome race for the line. Peter had a slight jump on Art and I had my front wheel about even with Art's rear one. All three of us stood up on the pedals and drove for the top.

Art pulled up nearly even with Peter and then I made it up to Art. About 10 feet out I gave it all I had and inched past Art and ended up losing to Peter by about two feet and Art finished at the same distance behind me. I can still see in my mind's eye looking over to my right and seeing the three bikes nearly neck and neck for a few seconds.

I only had a few minutes to get myself ready for Nature Trail. After Oak Leaf, this was going to be tough. The old ticker had climbed from 172 bpm to 184 bpm on that climb of less than half a mile. Thankfully, I recovered somewhat and rolled into Nature Trail with my heart down to 127 bpm.

Now, what to do? I knew Mike would be gunning for this one and he should be fresher than Art and me. Then there was Peter who didn't seem to need to be fresh - he was always fast. As we hit the climb, Peter went off with Mike on his wheel. I threw my lot with Art.

Art and I were just tuckered out. I watched Peter and Mike move into the distance as we just were hanging on. Okay, I'd just go for third and I didn't want Mike and Art think I didn't try.

I went around Art and continued climbing. I actually started feeling better as I got in a rhythm. Still, I was so far behind there was no way I was going to catch them. I rolled in third about twenty yards back. I believe it was Peter who took it with Mike just behind.

Someday I would like to contest all the sprints. Right now I just don't have the stamina to pull it off. Well, that is one reason to enjoy riding. There is always another challenge ahead. Even the challenge of cold! By the time we made it back to the shop, we were at a very comfortable 55 degrees.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Getting back to normal

After racing last Saturday and basically taking the week off due to my finger issues, I got back on the bike for a normal ride this morning. It was good to get back to the Hour of Power. I had been looking forward to it because it would be the first time on my new Tarmac.

A shout out to Art who had to go to Hendersonville to be with his father. It seemed odd not having the "race boss" there. I hope your father is doing better, Art. Hope to ride with you again soon.

Thankfully, it wasn't too cold. We started out in the 50's. By the time we finished the ride it was absolutely perfect. The arm and leg warmers came in handy there at the start, but you could get by without them.

I was feeling kind of rough starting out. The cool air was making my fingers ache. The group was also somewhat depleted. There was only one guy who had hoped to run in a B group. Kirt kept apologizing, but really he was doing fine. He had only been on his bike twice after taking 15 years off!

Billy wasn't there when we rolled off either. He is always pushing me - though I'm not sure he knows it. I love having someone better than me to push me along and for right now, he's the one. Thankfully, before we got very far we came up on him. He had started out slowly waiting for us to come along.

I'll skip ahead to the Meece Bridge Road sprint. That was the first point where I was involved in any action. Well before we got into the sprint area, John started building a gap on us. My first thought was, "Boy, John is feeling pretty racy today." Then I thought about it, "Hold it, that is exactly what he keeps telling me not to do." I figured something was up.

Plus, I knew John wasn't in racing form at this point. It crossed my mind that he might be testing me to see if I would go out and try to chase him down. I didn't want to fail, so I just hooked on Billy's wheel and decided to let him pull me up to John. I guessed John would have to let up and then there would be the three of us at the sprint. I wanted to be the freshest one.

Sure enough, we caught him. Billy and I were leading out. I waited. Normally at this point I just go for it. I wanted to wait for Billy to make the move and match it right up to the line and hopefully come out of his slipstream to take the line at the last moment.

However, John made a move around our left. Seems he had recovered and was making a move. I jumped from Billy to grab John's wheel as he went by. I expected John to just drop me, but when he didn't seem to get a burst, I decided to see what I could do. I went around him and he ended up just letting me have it.

The next sprint point of interest was the quarry road sprint. On this one Chris and Webb broke away before coming to the hill. Mike and I went up after them riding pretty much side by side. Mike commented how much he missed Art at this point. We could have used his pacing.

Webb fell back but Chris kept right on trucking. Here I lost my patience and kept wanting to see the gap close. I wanted to get on his wheel before reaching the flat spot before the last incline. I managed that, but I gave a good bit to do it. I sat on his wheel trying to recover.

Suddenly I heard a gear shift behind me and I knew someone was coming. So, I shifted myself and came out of the seat. Unfortunately, there just wasn't anything there. Still, I tried to push it to the line. Billy came by on my left and beat me by about five feet.

At the top he told me what I already knew - but he was right. I had basically pulled the group up to Chris and just didn't go fast enough to make my move work. First, I should have known that we would over take Chris. He is getting better, but he couldn't have sprinted with us at the end. Had I been patient, we would have overtaken him and then we could have battled it out to the line with all of us a little more rested. I might not have won, but I might have.

The third sprint of interest to me was probably the most fun I had for the day. I was concerned I would be too tired after the quarry sprint to contest the Paris Mountain State Park sprint. However, as Mike and I rode near the front just taking it easy and talking, John and Billy came through. I figured I had better hop on if I was going to give it a try.

We passed Chris and that left Webb, Billy, John, and myself. I noticed John kept glancing back at me and I guessed he was wanting me to form up on his wheel. John was going to give me a lead out.

This allowed me just to sit there and let him pull me through the wind. Webb was overtaken just before we reached the lowest portion of the distance before the final climb up to the park entrance. Just as John pulled up to the left of Billy's rear wheel, I slingshot around his left.

I had a great run because of John's pull. In no time and with little effort, I was able to pull even to them. For just a second it was the three of us side by side. Then my momentum pushed me past them. I knew at that point, Billy was going to react. However, that is when John's tactics worked to my advantage.

In the past, Billy always killed me on this section because I would start the sprint too soon. He would just jump on my wheel and then blow past me in the last ten yards or so. However, John took this option away by coming between Billy and myself. He was unable to cross over and jump on my wheel. I was able to form a gap.

I had a sudden fear that I had made the move too soon. The top sure looked a long way off. Still, I just couldn't bear the thought of Billy doing the quarry deal to me again. I stood and gave it all I had. Looking back at my data, I see I maintained over 20 mph all the way up to the last few feet. I don't know by how much I beat the guys behind me. I really didn't care, I was just glad I made it first!

Thanks John. I know you set me up for that one, but more than that I learned something. What I need to do is learn how to create those types of situations for myself. Seeing how that worked went a long way toward that goal.

Wow, sorry for the long post. It's just I was having fun just thinking about it again.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hour of Power - Not

Sleeping hasn't been fun for me the last several nights. My road rash is doing a little better, but I still can't completely relax. Plus, my hip is bruised and it gets very stiff. When I roll over or shift it after it has been stationary, I feel a dull pain.

Yesterday afternoon I gave blood. They say it takes a couple of days to get your body back up to speed after donating. With that and a bad night's sleep, I figured this morning's ride would be kind of tough.

I came outside to ride over to Sunshine and found that my car top was down and it had rained in the night. The beautiful red head and I put some towels in there and I started off. I knew I would be late, but sometimes the group doesn't get out until nearly 8AM.

They were gone. It was up to me to catch them. About five minutes later I did after turning up the wick and chasing. It certainly wasn't the way I wanted to start my morning! At least my hip was getting loosened up.

Once I caught the group I settled in the pack to recover. I stayed there until the beginning of the first sprint point. A new rider on the group, Doug, started an attack. At this point I was behind Art and Mike - they didn't even know I was on the ride at this point.

I heard Art and Mike say something about the rider breaking away and then I thought I heard Art ask Mike if he was feeling good this day. I took that to mean that Art was wanting to run the breakaway down. I thought it would be fun to just hang back behind them and sprint around at the last second to surprise them.

It didn't take long for Art in the front, Mike behind him, and then me in the rear to catch Doug. Then Mike slowed and I knew that if I didn't get up there with Art, he would beat me. I went around Mike and started into the last 20 yards behind Art.

Since Art rides with a mirror on his left, I stayed to his right. 15 yards to go he looked back beneath his right arm and saw me. "I didn't think you were on the ride!" He said. I stood and went for it. 10 yards to go I got around him and took the sprint.

I won't go through the rest of the ride. I did take 3 of the 4 sprints (Billy was down at the Citadel vs. Wofford game) that I tried. It was the quarry road one that I lost to Art. With about 5 yards to go, he attacked and when I stood to go there just was nothing there. I got him back though at the Paris Mountain sprint!

Bottom line was I was whooped. I hope my body recuperates before next Saturday. The race is that Saturday morning and I need to be in good form.

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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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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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Saturday, August 25, 2007

It was a bad morning

I got up and almost decided not to ride this morning. The old sinuses were still bothering me and I didn't sleep well. It had been a week since I had ridden and I knew I needed to get back in the saddle.

After getting a late start to the shop, I rode as fast as I could while eating a Power Bar. Turns out I made it in time to catch my breath before heading out with the group. A lot of regulars were there and a few first-timers.

Starting out, things seemed pretty good. My legs were feeling fine and even though my nose had been plugged earlier, things opened up during the first few warm up miles.

I didn't even try the first sprint of the morning. I knew I wasn't ready. However, on the sprint up Meese Bridge Road to the stop sign at Darby, I thought maybe I would test the legs.

As the riders started jockeying for position yards before the sprint zone, I found myself up with the top two riders. I didn't really want to be there. They started kind of laying back. I decided to start pulling and see who I could drop and then allow the faster guys to come around me. I would then jump on their wheels and hope I had enough left to pull out of their slipstream to take the sprint.

Well, it seemed to be working. We were about a third into the sprint when three riders made a move around me. One was John - I can't remember who the second one was - and the third one I thought was Mike (I just saw a Spinners jersey). I grabbed the wheel of "Mike" and stayed there until about halfway.

"Mike" then bolted and went for the win. I reacted just a little late - I was shocked at the power he left with. "Man, he has really gotten his legs!" Me, after about four strokes trying to close the gap, my legs just said, "Hey, buddy, what are you doing? Just site back down." It was like someone had a tire pump hooked to my quads and was pumping them up. They just quit.

I finished second, but I soon realized it wasn't Mike that I was following, but Billy. Just suffice to say, the last week I rode with the Sunshine guys, Billy won nearly every sprint that day.

I won't get into all the other details of the day. I tried participating in a couple more sprints, but all that did was cause me to completely blow up. I mean, I was crawling behind the group. Ultimately, I was dropped and I came into the shop by myself.

Hey, everybody has a bad day now and then. All I know is that I've got to get my legs back under me. The P3 ride is coming up and if I'm feeling like this...

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Folks it is hot!

At 8 o'clock this morning it was 88 degrees when we started our morning Hour of Power ride. After the 105 degree day we had yesterday, that felt cool! Later today we went over 101 again, but I'm not sure how far.

Since I don't have my Garmin 305 Edge, I am grabbing the mileage stats from other folks I am riding with and recording it here. Today, I covered 33 miles. That means I got in about 80 miles this week. I'd like to be getting in 100+ miles.

Today's ride wasn't the best. I gave it a go on the first sprint and Tony (who is now manager of Gustocycles in Greer) toyed with me and beat me to the line. On the second sprint, I set myself up with Tony and John with plans to ride their wheels and try (yea, right) to at least hang with them. For some reason, they didn't sprint. I learned later that John is not allowed to let his heart rate over 150 bpm (doctor's orders). Needless to say, we got freight trained.

I got the third sprint. I eased up off the front and then when I felt the counter move, I grabbed the first wheel that came by and rode it to the last several yard and then made a move out of the draft to take the line. That was fun!

On the fourth sprint we go up a very long climb (up Keller Road). As we neared the sprint point, John pulled up and grabbed my jersey. He told me he wouldn't be able to do anything on the climb and proceeded to give me some advice on how to approach the sprint. I followed his advice and found myself all alone coming into the last 500 feet. "Hey, this is working!" I said to myself, and then I saw two riders go flying past me. I got caught flat footed and was not able to grab their wheels. I finished third.

I held back and decided not to try another sprint until the Paris Mountain State Park entrance. A mile or so out, the group starts sorting out and setting up for the attack. Just as we entered this stage, my chain dropped off. So now I was dropped by the lead group and starting from a near stand still. Being stupid, I went for it anyway.

I grabbed the wheel of a rider and drafted to the downhill before the final climb. I then went around him and tucked to get more speed. That momentum carried me up the hill. Ahead were about six riders with two nearing the top - I had about 500 feet to make up. The first four riders I passed with no problem (they had eased up). The last two would be tough. I got past second rider by surprising him. However, the front rider noticed my move and I had to climb on his wheel. I just couldn't get around him. Second again - but I felt pretty good considering how I started the sprint.

No more sprinting for the rest of the day. I was toast! My least favorite stretch - Nature Trail - was even more taxing them normal. Still, it was lots of fun as I feel more and more a part of the group. I have also enjoyed not having the computer during the ride - I just don't like not having the data after the ride! Maybe when I get my Garmin back, I can forget about it until I get home.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunshine Cycle Shop's long ride

Yesterday I got up at around 7 a.m. to throw on my gear and head over to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the morning ride. It leaves out from the shop on Pleasantburg Drive at 7:45 a.m. and then heads back into some residential and industrial areas before winding through the "country." I try to make it every Saturday morning I can.

This was the third ride I've made since being off the bike for over 10 days. My first ride back was a 25 miler through Cleveland Park. The second one was an over and back of Paris Mountain on Friday evening. Both were hard because I have not yet found my legs. Then, on just a few hours rest, I went out with the shop for what would end up being over 30 miles (including riding to and from the shop form my home). This morning, I am pretty sore!

I'm including this map because there are two options for the ride. One option is a shorter route that covers just around 25 miles. This ride tacks on about 3 to 4 miles extra and includes a long gradual climb that gives you a good workout.

This time out, I swore I wasn't going to push myself. However, there I was at the point of the first sprint leaving the group to go ahead and reel in a lone breakaway. I caught him and won the sprint - not on speed but with timing. I was feeling pretty good, so I thought maybe this would be a good ride.

On the long hill I mentioned above I decided to try to take another sprint. The problem is, I haven't ridden this route enough to know where the line is! I got on the train and then near the crest of a portion of the hill, I dropped the group and took out over it. I then kind of slowed down thinking that was the sprint line. Well, there I was kind of taking it easy in the middle of the lane and I hear from behind, "Choose one side of the road or the other. Just don't ride in the middle." It was John one of the shop guys and a racer. Seems the sprint wasn't over! Embarrassed, I got back on the train and finished about fourth at the real sprint line - which is a gas station near the next intersection.

I'm not sure John likes me. :-) It is hard for me to start a conversation with him and he has never had much nice to say to me. Not sure what I've done. I did apologize for being in the way and let him know I was still learning and wanted to learn. His only response was to repeat, "Just don't ride in the middle." Okay, I get the point.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hour of Power

Here is one of my favorite group rides. The Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power is a great ride - especially if you are a customer of the shop. I've been buying bikes and equipment there since the early 90s. I've only been joining the Saturday morning ride since August 2006. You can come along as well - customer or not. In the summers the group leaves from the shop at 7:45 a.m. Check out the Sunshine Cycle Shop website for more information.

The blue line shows one of the primary routes used during the Hour of Power. Click here to expand the map. Once you have expanded the map, click on it to be able to view more detail.

The ride breaks up into two groups about a third of the way through. The faster riders will continue through the whole course and the second, slower, group takes a short cut that sometimes brings the group back together toward the end of the ride. So, whether you are a beginner or a hammerhead, you'll find a group for you.

The "Hour of Power" which is a bit more than an hour - it covers anywhere from 25 to 32 miles depending on which route is taken - concludes back at the shop where you'll find doughnuts, bananas, coffee, and sometimes some culinary surprises. Food or not, the participants often hang around the shop for up to an hour.

What is the ride like? It starts off through some residential streets, along an industrial road that includes some nasty railroad crossings (hang on to your water bottles!), and then you start making your way through the rolling countryside that you find below Paris Mountain. The hardest parts of the ride come toward the end. There is the infamous Nature Trail. This is a road that I hate. It isn't the steepest climb, but it just seems to go on forever! There is also the shorter but more steep Oakleaf Road.

Once you are through those sections, it is a pretty easy shot back to the shop. You'll come back in on some of the same residential streets that you went out on. All in all, you'll find the fast groups pace to be around 16 to 17 mph - of course, on the sprints you'll be looking at the upper 20s.

Hope to see you there!

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

The sickening thud of a falling rider

The Assault is Monday and I've been gearing up for the girlie portion of the ride - the Assault on Marion. As I've mentioned before, I hope to have a better chance of getting a number for next year's Assault on Mount Mitchell by riding this shorter route first. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not prepping for the AOMM - I'm only going 73 miles and not 103.

Last night I rode my normal 20+ miles in one hour and then this morning I got up to ride with the Sunshine crew. Once again I determined I wasn't going to push it. Hee, hee.

The ride started off a little faster than usual. John (shop manager, Cat 3 racer, and founding member of Les Amis) and a Junior racer were up front. I wouldn't say we were flying, but where we normally would have been spinning along at 16 mph, we were pushing 18 to 20.

There were also two other riders that I remember from last year who weren't there last week. These guys were right up there as well. Feeling pretty good in my legs, I decided to join them.

Everything was fine until we got on Meece Bridge Road. Another rider had joined us after we left the shop and he was up in the front of us. As we approached a bridge (maybe it is the Meece Bridge) I saw the rider check up and wobble. John and I were right behind him and we split on either side.

Soon after we passed the end of the bridge, I heard it. It was that thud of a cyclist going down. My first thought was hoping that there wasn't anyone coming up fast behind him. Looking back, I saw that it was only the one rider.

I didn't go back for a closer look. I stopped at the next curve to motion cars to slow as the approached the bridge. After a time, he climbed back on and we continued. It appeared that the only damage to the bike was a broken brake lever. He didn't seem to have any scrapes. He certainly slowed down enough. Perhaps he just wasn't able to get his foot out of his pedal and he fell over.

After that excitement, the group was blown to pieces. It took a while for the group to pull together again, but we finished the ride without anymore excitement.

The good news for me is that I continued to pull with the big boys. On any sprint I decided to try, I did pretty well. Granted, today I chose my battles!

The most fun sprint was up to the intersection of Hwy. 253 and Darby Road. At first I thought I would hang back but I was able to jump on the wheel of a rider (I had never met) who came flying by me. I knew he was going somewhere, so I let him create our path.

We went flying past some of the riders in the rear of the pace line but then the line broke and it was each man for himself. The jockeying started and a couple of times I had to avoid another rider. Then there were just four of us (John had slowed for some reason) and the guy whose wheel I had enjoyed missed a shift up ahead. He did a great save! His rear wheel fishtailed, but he gathered it back in and kept going.

Sorry for the long post, but man! that was fun!

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

My first shop ride of the year

I haven't been able to participate in the weekly Sunshine Cycle Shop "Hour of Power" ride this year. The ride falls right during the time that my wife does her arobics. I can ride anytime, but she can only go when the sessions are offered. So, that means I have been home with the kids on Saturday mornings.

Today we worked it out so that I could go. I'm hoping that we can make these arrangments every weekend. I enjoy riding with a group so much more!

Everybody meets at the shop around 7:45 a.m. and things get rolling well before eight. Today there were about 15 riders or so of varying levels. It was cool to see a father there with his son who appeared to be 10 to 12 years old. There was also another rider who told me he was just getting back on the bike after a 20 year hiatus.

The route takes us into the Rutherford/Stallings area. Then we work our way over to Sandy Flats. At that point we are working our way towards Paris Mountain and end up on Autobahn before winding our way through back roads back to the shop. All told it is about 32 miles.

The fun part, other than just gabbing with the other riders, are the sprints. Of course, this being a shop ride, it doesn't get too intense. Still, when a certain stop sign or hill top is just ahead, the lead riders start jockeying for position and then the dash is on!

One sprint concludes at the entrance to Paris Mountain State Park. I was in a drafting line near the rear. I had used myself up on some earlier sprints and I really didn't think I could make it. Well, for some unexplained reason, the line splintered and everyone slowed.

Because I was in the back my momentum carried me to the outside of the line and I found myself at the front. Up ahead were two riders. "I can take them," I thought to myself and since no one else was pushing I figured I stood a chance of being first to the top.

I caught the two riders easily and passed them, but with about twenty feet to go, Tony, one of shop guys came flying by me on my right. Rats! I had never been first on the sprint and he stole it from me. :-)

Overall, I felt very good about the ride for being my first time back. I hung with the top riders all day, won one sprint and finished in the top three or four during the other sprints. Mostly though it was fun to work as a group and then hang out at the shop afterwards drinking coffee and eating bananas.

Thanks for the fun Sunshine!

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