Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stations of the Cross or Fiesta Grande Omnium

(*Author's Note: This post has many sacrilegious statements. If you're a strong believer in literal interpretations of the Bible, you will be offended by this post. FYI.)

Good Friday

April 10, 2009 was Good Friday. It was a good Friday for me because I got the day off. It's also the day that the Catholic church memorializes the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Two days later he is purported to have resurrected. There's a been a lot written about Jesus Christ and his resurrection, and you'll find none of that here. If you're looking for more, I suggest you visit our good friends at

Anyway, Friday was the first stage of the Fiesta Grande Omnium. An Omnium is a stage race where riders are alloted points for their placings in the various stages. Unlike stage races, a rider does not have to finish any of the stages. He or she can pick and choose from the various stages if he or she chooses. I chose to do the whole enchilada which entailed a time trial (TT) on Friday, a criterium on Saturday, and a road races on Sunday.

In his book Jesus, Elvis and Coca Cola, Kinky Friedman said that he and Jesus had a lot in common. They were both Jewish, and they both traveled around the country annoying people with things they said.

I'm not Jewish, and I've been told, however, I've annoyed a lot of people by things I've said. So I've got that going for me. Like a lot of Westerners and Gentiles, I have a lot more in common with the Buddha in terms of up bringing.

Friday: TT

As I said I had Friday off, so I slept in. My time trial start was not until 6 30 pm, so I felt no sense of urgency to get down to San Antonio to get ready for the time trial. I lolled around the house, I switched out cassettes on my bikes, and I put my carbon brake pads on my TT bike.

I left the house at 3:30 thinking I would have ample time to get to the start, pick-up my number, and warm-up.

I was wrong.

For some reason Good Friday meant bad traffic. There was a big hold up in Selma and Schertz which delayed my arrival to the TT start to about 5:15. I still needed to sign in, and sign a waiver and collect my number. There was a long line for registration, so I spent 20 minutes on line to get my number. I also found out my start time moved up to 6:01.


I hustled, and got my stuff together and set up the trainer for my warm-up. The course was on the Ft. Sam Houston, and was supposed to be closed. It was a really nice 5 mile loop with a bunch of turns to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't get to pre-ride the course because I was late, and the first rider went off at 5:30. I got over to the start line at 5:55, and got in line.

There was a start ramp, I got rolled up to. Again, I picked too big a gear and when it was my time to go, I almost fell over. I got a good fast moving start, and was settling into a groove when I a saw a bus turn on to the course. I started to get nervous because I had no idea where the course was, and I was afraid I missed a turn. I saw my 30 second man in front of me, so I kept on going, and eventually I saw signs pointing the way.

At about mile 1.5, I was passed by a fellow rider. I was relieved in a way because I knew I was on the right course, then I heard a terrible sound, and I felt something give way beneath me. I looked between my legs, and my seat was gone. I passed through the intersection, and the police officer directing traffic asked me what happened, and I shouted, "I lost my seat!"

I was down wind, and moving at a pretty good clip. At that point, I started thinking about bailing out of the TT. I couldn't sit down after all. I stood up pedaling for a few minutes, and I thought, Well, I came all this way, I might as well finish. So I kept on rolling down the course without a seat.

Prior to the race, I joked with Velocity Cycling club members that like Jesus, I would get "crucifried" on the Friday. It turns out I was a prophet of sorts. I got passed by a couple of other riders, and none commented on the absent seat. I rolled through the start finish standing up, and again nobody seemed to notice the absent seat.

During the second loop, I started to get tired especially into the wind. I started wondering how this latest happening would bode for the rest of my race. Back in February I did a spin class which involved a lot of standing intervals, and I was sore for days afterwards. Would this event so affect me?

I finished the TT with a time of 28:45. I managed to average 20 mph, standing up! Lord, knows how I would have done if I actually got to sit down. I ended up with 30th place.

After the race, I inspected my bike. At first I thought my seat post had broken, and it turns out my seat go loose and fell off . I drove back to the intersection to find my seat. I thanked the police officer for collecting my seat for me. Here's a pic of my bike in the aftermath.

Will I inspire a new religion where lone seat posts will be the icon? Only time will tell.


On Saturday, I drove back down to San Antonio for my next station of the cross for the Fiesta Grande Omnium. The criterium. The race was at the San Antonio Police Academy's driving course. It was a .78 mile course with a few sharp turns. The race was for 45 minutes. It was overcast and windy. Learning from my previous experience, I got down to the race start early and had a good warm-up. I was sad to see a few folks I've raced with at the Thursday Night criterium were in my race. I knew then that it wasn't going to be an easy race.

The wind was coming in from the Northwest, so we had a tailwind on part of the course, and a headwind for most of the course.

The pace was pretty quick for the first 10 minutes or so, and I was feeling okay, and I managed to improve my position a couple of times in the tailwind and hairpin turn sections. For the middle section of the race the pace settled into something a bit more manageable. With 2 laps to go, I fell off the back, and could not keep the pace. The group sped up significantly. I wasn't too surprised because I've been racing the Thursday Night criteriums which are only 30 minutes, and I had pretty much raced my limit. There was a big pack sprint, and I ended up coming in 29th. Not bad considering I've been only back for a month or so.

Easter-No Resurrection Here
Two days after Jesus was crucified it is reported that he rose from the dead. After two stages of the Fiesta Grande, I was in 30th and 29th. Not a great showing.

The next day was the the 48 mile road race. The morning started with rain and heavy winds which gave way to clear blue skies and lots of wind.

The course was pretty challenging with lots of hills. I managed to stay with the pack for the first part of the first loop. On the first significant hill my heart rate spiked to 190, and I fell off the back. I chased the pack for a while, and then packed it in for a DNF (Did Not Finish).

It was a pretty tough race, and I'm way out of shape.

I'm still pretty tired from my exertions, and I know I'm well underway for getting back into shape.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lots of Fun Between Your Legs

What's Been Cooking

Hi, everybody, Robert Dole Velocity President here. We've been cooking up all kinds of good stuff here at Velocity Cycling, and I'm here to tell y'all all about it. First off, earlier this month Daniel, Frank, Bob, Stanton, and I got together for dinner to plan out a training series and some talk about our upcoming retreat. That's Frank's hands working over the pork shoulder he roasted in his BBQ. It was a really good meal, and we had a pleasant time visiting with Stanton and his wife Susie. (Might I add that the Lubriderm pictured in the above photo really does work. Frank does have seriously senisitive hands.)

The plan is this: we will have a training event once month until April. These events are open to all Velocity, Inc. members. Recently, we've been getting some negative feedback that we are an elite (elitist) cycling club. "We're all about the races," some folks say. To be honest a small number of us actually race. I will race a few races this year, but we welcome all comers. Mainly we seek folks who enjoy riding bikes as much as we do. Other clubs whose focus is primarily racing the large majority of members race. Not so with Velocity Cycling.

We call ourselves a developmental cycling club. We are about supporting and imparting skills that promote safe riding in groups. Most of us are on the purposeful side of bike riding; however, none of us takes ourselves very seriously.

Today was the first in our training series. We held it in the parking lot of Bowie High School in lovely South Austin. Today's drills were about bike handling. Stanton created a course in the parking lot which included slalom courses and a small obstacle. The goal was to practice, at speed, riding in a group through the various obstacles. We also practiced cornering. It was fantastic practice, and really help me see areas I need to work on bike handling. Afterwards we headed over to the Veloway to ride there. It was a great time, and there was a lot of laughing during the day. Here's a pic from this morning:

Do these people look like threats to the peleton? I don't think so. Mainly because our strongest rider was at a race this morning.

So if you been thinking about joining, join in. Part with your 30.00, and you too can enjoy our training series.

Thanks for reading. Ride safe.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Miles of DisComfort

Today was another mountain bike marathon race, in Comfort, Texas. Unlike the Excruciation Exam, this race was all on trails, but at 56 miles, it was a bit shorter. Since I had to be back in Austin to go to the Texas A&M vs. UT basketball game, I opted for the shorter 26 mile half-marathon.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The loyal reader will know that I have experienced cramping issues on long mountain bike races. We discussed this at our last Velocity Cycling club meeting, and it was determined that I wasn't eating enough protein for breakfast. I decided to add some peanut butter and waffles to my cereal regimen.

That didn't seem to help, because on the way to Comfort, my quads started cramping up as I drove through Dripping Springs, so I turned around and went home.



Maybe not.

The truth is that Friday night I decided that I really didn't want to wake up at 5:30am to drive two hours to pay $45 to ride in 40-degree weather, so I turned off my alarm.

I woke up at about the time the race was starting.


Unfortunately, the game didn't turn out too well, either.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Excruciation Exam: Out for Revenge

After the hurt that Excruciation Exam put on me last year, I was intent on extracting my revenge this year.

Maybe next year.

This year was a lot like last year, except:
  1. I had no mechanical issues
  2. I made use of a lesson I learned last year.
I guess that spending two weeks on the couch in my sister's basement, getting caught up on Burn Notice reruns, is not a good training program prior to a race such as this.

I returned home the evening before the race, and when I went upstairs, my right knee started making noises. I've had knee problems before, but not like this, this was odd. Just a popping at the top of the kneecap. I then got on my mountain bike to ride down the street to the mailbox, and the knee was fine. The bike, however, developed its own issue; there was a hitch in the crank with every rotation. I thought that the cranks had come loose, as they had before, but that was not the case this time. When I put the bike up on the work stand to lube the chain, I found that the bottom pivot bold was sticking out about a quarter inch on each side. At least that problem was easily fixed.

The knee issue persisted through the next morning.

I woke up at 4am for the race, and got to the race site at Warda by 6:30am, in plenty of time for the 7:20am start. As I limped up to registration to get my number plate, Susan saw me and said, "You're back this year!" She was probably thinking, "Oh, man, it's going to be another long day for us!"

I then found John and Maureen, and handed my cooler of food and drink to Maureen to take to Rocky Hill Ranch for me (Thanks, Maureen!). We caught up with Richie at the riders' meeting.

No Lemans start this year, as we started on the bikes, and rode a bit through an empty field to thin the herd. As we got to the front pond, two guys were already off of their bikes. I later learned that one of them had broken his shoulder, and he hadn't even gotten into the woods, yet! Better right after the start than right before the end, though, I guess.

As we entered the woods, John was right in front of me, and Richie was right behind me. We were the Three Velociteers!

Let me take a few moments to talk about Richie. Richie is one of my heroes. He's the nicest, most unassuming guy you'd ever want to meet (anyone nicer and more unassuming would just be annoying), but he's an animal on the bike. This race was his 5th time on a mountain bike, the third time on a trail (excluding the Dirt Derby), the second time on a rideable trail (excluding City Park, which was his first ride on the bike), and his first time on the Warda trails. Richie and I rode at Rocky Hill Ranch the weekend before Christmas, and he was amazing. I missed the turn to Kara's Way, and we ended up on Black Trac, a black diamond trail. When we got to the Grind, I realized that this trail was taking us to the beginning (i.e. the wrong way), so I stopped. All Richie said was, "That was kinda scary." He didn't hesitate to double back on Black Trac, though. I was leading most of the way since I "knew" the trails, and I was going at an easy pace, keeping Richie in sight behind me (and I like going at an easy pace). When I would falter, and Richie would get in front, the pace would go up. I was doing all I could do just to keep Richie in sight ahead of me. At one point, I came around a corner, and Richie was getting up off the ground; evidently, he was so far ahead, he had time to take a nap!

Ok, back to the Exam...

The first 4 mile loop at Bluff Creek Ranch are pretty straight forward, lots of twists and turns with rooty creek crossings. There were a few short straights, and I tried to take a quick drink out of the Camelbak when we hit those. I was concentrating on my drinking and eating during this race, since improper hydration did me in during the Tour das Hugel (1 bottle in the first 38-mile loop).

The three of us were still together as we hit the field and headed to the more technical sections of the trail system. First up was Gas Pass, which is a steep downhill concrete path with speed bumps and low branches overhead. It's a bit daunting, especially the first time down, and this was Richie's first time down. Here's a video that I found on youtube, showing what Gas Pass looks like:

As we approached, I told Richie to give me some room ahead of him, to keep his weight back, and to go easy on the front brake. The concrete had been covered with dirt, so it wasn't as slick, nor as scary, as it usually is, but it was still steep. We all made it down safely.

After Gas Pass was another straight stretch, and another drinking opportunity, then a short climb, and on to Mule Trace, which is another descent, but not as straight as Gas Pass. This section had recently been redone, with bermed hairpin turns to give it a bit of a bobsled run feel. On the first turn, John got off his bike, telling us that he had a mechanical (his tire had lost air) and for us to go on, so we did. We made it through the rest of the course without incident, and waited for John at the exit of Bluff Creek Ranch, the beginning of the road portion of the race to go to Rocky Hill Ranch.

As we waited, we waved to the racers as they rode past us, and I drank and ate a Cliff Bar. After about 10 minutes, I looked at my clock and decided that it was going to be tight for us to make it to Rocky Hill and do the two ten-mile laps by the 1pm cut-off time, so we should head out. I knew that John would be faster than us on the trails, so wasn't too worried about him.

As we started out on our 28-mile trek to Rocky Hill Ranch, I had to ask Richie to slow down a bit, as my heart rate was quickly getting into the red, and I didn't want to burn myself out early. We finally settled to a good pace, and passed most of the people that we had waved to earlier. Some of those folks joined our pace line, so we had a bit of help. I made it a point to drink early and often here, and also drank out of my bottle of Accelerade (my Camelbak contained only water).

Ten miles into this portion of the race, I felt the twinges of a cramp in my left calf. Not already! This was a bit disheartening, but I continued on, trying to stretch when I could, and altering my pedal stroke a bit to relieve some of the cramping.

When we got to the checkpoint, I filled my Camelbak, ate another Clif Bar, and stretched some more, then we got back on the bikes to finish the last several miles to Rocky Hill.

Upon arriving at Rocky Hill, we checked in, then I went to find Maureen and my cooler. I changed out the bottle of Accelerade with a new one (I made a point to finish the first one on the road), and ate a half of a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Maureen said that John had called, and he was still a ways away. Richie and I headed into the trails.

It was about 10:15am, which gave us just under 3 hours to finish the two laps. It took us right at 3 hours to do the 20 miles the week before Christmas, when we pre-rode the course, so I was worried.

The tough part about the trails at Rocky Hill Ranch is that you do a lot of climbing at the beginning, then it's not too bad once you're on top. We were going ok, I was leading, and I missed a turn and crashed softly. I pointed out the turn to Richie and Corey, the guy behind him, then re-mounted and followed them. We eventually got to the big climb, and on our way up Richie, then Corey, dismounted. I was able to make it up just a little bit past Richie, then decided that it would be easier to walk the rest of the way, as well. We all got back on our bikes at the top, and headed on, with me in the rear.

The next trail was Kara's Way, a fun, twisty trail without much topography. On one turn, I dabbed with my left foot, and the calf immediately turned itself in one big knot. This was an actual cramp, not just a twinge like I had gotten on the road. It took me a while to just get my foot back onto the pedal so that I could work the cramp out.

The funny thing about cramps, at least for me, is that they usually don't hit me while I'm pedaling, but when I put a foot down, like I did when I dabbed. At the end of Kara's way was a jeep trail, and across the Jeep trail was the next bit of trail, called Off the Lip. There are a number of creek crossings on this trail, so I decided to stop and assess the situation, because I didn't want to continue on if I was going to be cramping the whole way. I did not want a repeat of what happened last year, especially since I didn't think I'd be able to make the cutoff, if I had to ride about 17 miles with cramps. I would've been very upset if I had suffered that much and not been allowed to finish the race.

My decision was made about 0.03 nanoseconds after I got off of my bike, as my left calf and both quads just seized right up on me. I leaned back against a tree while my muscles did their thing. When the party in my legs settled down, I got back on my bike and headed down the jeep road, for an early exit. I still had to ride through some of the trails, but I rode easily, and didn't have any more problems on my way back to where Maureen was waiting.

When I got there, Richie had not yet come out of the woods, which wasn't too much of a surprise, since I had cut off about 15 miles of trail (heh), but John had not yet made it to Rocky Hill. He showed up not too long after that, though, refueled, and headed off onto the trail.

Richie finished his first lap at 11:30am, which meant he did it in 1:15 and had an hour and a half to do his second lap, giving him some leeway. Much to my chagrin, he, too, had decided that he had had enough fun for the day. Of course, I completely understood.

I was hanging around, waiting to get a ride back to Warda in John and Maureen's van, but Richie decided to ride back. Since it was all road, and only 21 miles, I decided to join him. We just took it easy; I took most of the pulls this time, since Richie had pulled me just about the whole way on the first road leg, and I was quite a bit more rested. The Endurolytes that Maureen gave me seemed to be doing their job, as I was no longer having cramping issues.

We had half-jokingly discussed whether or not we were going to complete the final 4-mile loop at Bluff Creek Ranch, but when we finally got to the driveway, I asked Richie if he still wanted to do it. With no hesitation, he replied, "No." Heh.

Richie packed up and left, I had a burger, and John and Maureen showed up a bit later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tour das Hugel 2008

As told by the Little Voice in My Head:

It wasn't that cold (not as cold as Sunday, certainly), and a base layer/arm and leg warmers were plenty (as well as jersey and shorts, of course). The only time I noticed the wind was when it was trying to blow me into traffic along some of the open stretches of Bee Caves Road.

The hills did catch me by surprise, though.

I saw >20% numbers on my GPS many times. Twice along Terrace Mountain.

The first loop (38 miles) went pretty well. I stopped, got another bottle, ate a PB&J sandwich, traded out my full-finger gloves for fair-weather gloves, and my leg warmers for knee warmers. Then I headed out with Greg and some other BSS folks. I was feeling ok, but was determined to ride my own pace, instead of keeping up with a pack, and told Greg to not worry about me if I got dropped, even though our current pace was currently pretty relaxed.

All was going well until we got to Smoky Valley Trail. I had ridden this street, at night, a couple of weeks before, and had no trouble getting up it. Of course, I didn't have 50 miles in my legs at the time, and it was dark, so I couldn't see just how steep it really was. When we got into the wall portion of the climb, I felt a pretty good twinge in my right quad, and decided to stop while I could still unclip. The rest of the group zig-zagged their way to the top.

I walked.

I looked at my GPS to get the grade (I seem to remember seeing 26% last year, but wasn't sure), but I wasn't walking fast enough for it to register.

I re-mounted my bike when I got back onto Ladera Norte, and rode up the final hill there. Daniel has proof:

I rode on to Mesa, then over to Spicewood Springs. I saw my group turning left at the Spicewood Springs light, but I caught the red. When the light changed and I turned left, I again felt my right quad trying to cramp up on me as I ascended the slight rise. Coasing down to the light at 360, I caught my group, but did not want to go around the car that was between us, as there was already a bunch of bikes in front. The light changed, the front group of bikes went, and the light turned red before the car could go. I decided to take the time it would take until the next green light to stretch out my quads. As I did so, my hamstring tried to cramp up on me.

I then decided that when the light turned green, I would turn left, down 360, instead going straight to follow the course up Bluegrass. I then enjoyed the tailwind to the finish line at Zilker.

Since I was cramping before I even had half of the miles in, I decided to hang it up while I could still get back to my car. I don't see the value of "sufferfests."

The astute reader may have noticed that I only replaced one bottle at the 38-mile point (end of the first loop). That's because that's all I drank. The cool weather made me slack in my drinking.

I still had a good time.

Tour das Hugel 2008

As told by John Howell:

Tour Das Hugel: Frank Irwin and I were the only Velocitites to show up for the ride. You were all smart to stay home!!

The ride was COLD, WINDY, and surprisingly HILLY. The cold and wind were no surprise because the local meteorologists predicted the cold front. And the ride description warned us of the hills. However, I was surprised that the route went through neighborhoods I'd ridden many times before and yet the ride organizers found hills that wisely avoided before. I don't know the % grade for some of the steeper pitches, but I'd guess they were in the neighborhood of 20-25%. I abandoned the ride at the 38 mile mark. Frank continued well into the second loop before coming to his senses. Looking forward to next year.

Enough about Saturday.

The real ride report is about Sunday afternoon's ride down Shoal Creek. I was cruising down Shoal Creek at about 44th street when I passed a rather tall young man with his lady friend. He called out to me by name and I suddenly realized it was Tom Hall and his wife out for a Sunday afternoon ride. We continued our cruise down Shoal Creek for a few blocks in a rather brisk fall afternoon.