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.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Retreat Stage III

Hello, and welcome to today's coverage of Stage III of the Velocity Stage Race,er, Retreat. Yesterday saw a resurgence of Daniel "Thursday Night Crit" Norton, but the day went The Prez, Robert Dole. While earlier in the day, Daniel and Tom succumbed to the temptation of downhill and downwind, including sucerssfully chasing down The Prez who had gone off on a 40 mph flyer, a second attack by the Prez put them properly in their place. At the end of the day, Tom, Michael, and Frank proved themselves to be the only sane ones in the bunch while Robert and Daniel fought it out over a stupid mailbox.

The neutral start of Stage III was delayed an hour by inclement weather, so the rollout left the parking lot at 9:00am. All riders received a 1 hour 30 minute penalty while receiving assistance from the team cars, and their lack of effort resulted in their arriving at the race start somewhat stiff and lethargic. Regardless, the plan for a civilized warmup was quickly tossed into the waste bin and the riders were heading uphill immediately.
The two old geezers really stunk it up, as Frank and Robert rode effortlessly away up the 11% grade heading west out of Vanderpool on the first leg of today's stage. Tom was able to close the gap some on the occasional downhill, but Frank and Robert were definitely the strong climbers on this day.

A mishap with the follow car brought all the riders together for a quick "en mass" push, and Tom took advantage of the confusion that followed to jump on his bike and head uphill. He was quickly caught by Frank, who took the lead to the top. After a few rollers, the descent began in earnest (just west of Mt Idy) no, wait, that's a different joke, and Tom took the lead. About halfway down, the road turned to packed caliche, but Tom found a pace that allowed his Titanium Terror to float over the bulldozer tracks, and was first to reach Leaky. It was his last first of the day until the pie eating contest in Utopia. Just hold your horses; I'll get to that.

Frank was second off the mountain, followed by Robert and Michael. Robert summed the experience up with a few well chosen words, something to the effect of, "that sucked." He was ready to get the buzz out of his hands and the tension out of his neck, and took off onthe second leg of today's stage, heading south into a moderate breeze and slight mist. Frank, Tom and Michael followed in a comfortable paceline, with Daniel doing double duty as navigator and team photographer. The road paralled the river and as such, was mostly downhill, fairly dry and best of all, paved, and soon the peloton arrived at leg three, the turn towards Utopia.

Robert was waiting at the turn, and he and Frank headed east, quickly outdistancing Tom and Michael. The road was now running acrosos the grain of the creeks, so there were numerous rollers, but with pretty scenery and pleasant company, this leg passed very pleasantly for Tom and Michael, while the young hammerhead @!!%??'s er, Frank and Robert, pulled away. The mist turned to rain from time to time, but it wasn't too cold, and mostly served to keep the riders cool.

Frank and Robert made the turn at Utopia and put the hammer down, effectively denying the now fast-closing peleton any chance at the top two podium spots. Their run to the finish was one that will be spoken of in hushed tones for years/weeks/days/hours/for a little while anyway, and was the perfect way to display their strong legs, sweaty muscled torsos, dripping young (does it seem hot in here to you?) anyway , a wonderful last fast dash, even if the road at that speed was, according to Frank's carefully though out appraisal, "crappy"

In Utopia the peleton (Tom and Michel) took advantage of the opportunity to address their need for a "natural break" and a water bottle re-fill, and Michael immediately spotted the best place in town to accomplish both: the local cafe aka the local color cafe, which happened to be the site of the first annual Velocity Inc Pie Eating Contest. Upon entering the cafe, the riders quickly engaged the locals in witty repartee. Local: "Isn't it pretty wet to be riding bicycles?" Riders (in unison) "Yes".

The contest began with Michael making an ill-advised selection of pecan pie, which though very tasty, put him immedately at a disadvantage, contest- wise. Tom wisely chose chocolate meringue, which he was able to suck down in the incredible time of .0005 seconds, and won the contest handily. His prize was the opportunity to observe more members of the local color contingent, consisting mainly of 3 loud and yet very well fed young ladies, one of whom sported what was perhaps a second-tier though still noteworthy plumber's butt, while Michael sullenly trudged his defeated way through pecan pie and hot coffee. When asked for a comment regarding his victory, Tom replied, "next year I'll be the one to get the pecan pie and the seat facing the window"

The contest over, the victory won and lost, Michael and Tom headed north on leg 4 of today's stage. A tailwind and their concern over delaying the post-stage activities of the first and second-place finishers put wings under their wheels, and they finished the last leg at an average speed of 32 mph. Whaddaya mean bull****??? Were you there? Were you clocking them? Then SHUT UP!

The option of driving out to pick up the now-flying non-winners had been offered to the early finishers, but they chose instead to sit on the porch at the store and stuff barbecue sandwiches with extra sauce down their gluttonous maws while savoring their impressive victory. So after Tom and Michael approached the finish line and were finally able to bring their speed down to something more manageable, they turned into the parking lot, dismounted, and were rewarded with their own barbecue sandwiches. After a short rest on the porch, the team loaded the team cars and drove back to the start of today's stage. All that was left was to pack up and head home. .

So that's it. Another stage wrapped up, and the end of this year's Velocity Inc. Stage Retreat. I would like to thank Mike at U-BarU for his hospitality, his cooking at all hours of the day and night, his post-ride soup and lasagna, and his enthusiasm. I would like to thank Michael West for getting the whole endeavor off the ground. Thanks to Daniel Norton for driving, photographing, and in concert with Robert Dole, his computer wizardry. Thanks to Robert for his experiments involving pancakes and maple syrup and is his insightful reports to the group regarding the results, and thanks to Tom for his judicious and timely employment of the toilet plunger (no connection between the last two items is intended, and if you believe that you're really not paying attention any more, are you.) And thanks to Frank for laughing at Tom's stupid jokes and making some of his own and being a really strong rider and retreat steadifier, and for helping those Chinese women get their money out of the country by sending each of them $5,000.00 and his bank account number.

We'll see you all next year.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Velocity Retreat Stage II: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

It was a spirited ride on rolling terrain with an alternating brisk head and tail wind. Today was notable for the additon of a new rider to the Velocity peleton, Daniel Norton. There wasn't much change in GC though at one point Michael taunted us with the leaders' wind breaker (la veste verte) wadded up in his back pocket. He led a mighty chase to the finale on Thrill Hill where
Frank collected yet more KOM points.

Daniel pretended to the Sprint competition when he lead a solo sprint to the FM sign in the first 6 miles of the ride; however, Daniel succumbed to my sprinting prowess in the Mailbox Sprint near the finale. This sprint was notable as Daniel was pulling the peleton before the sprint gauntlet was thrown.

Today's Results:

Race leader, Vest Vert holder: Michael West

King of the Mountains: Frank Irwin

Sprinter Points: Robert Dole

Best Young Rider-on his Gold TT bike: Tom Hall

Most Aggressive Rider: Daniel Norton

Tomorrow holds the promise of drama and a potential shake up in the various contests as the Velocity peloton heads to the Massif Central of Texas and rides the Queen Stage out of Vanderpool.

(More photos)

Velocity Retreat Stage I: Kerrvile, Ingram, Hunt

Weather: overcast, cool, misty in the morning.

Front came through at lunchtime, increasing the wind and decreasing the mist and temperature.

Distance: 83.42 miles

Climbing: 4031 feet

Avg speed: Who really cares?

Leader's Windbreaker (Vest Vert): Michael

Green Jersey (sprinting): Robert

Polka Dot Jersey (climbing): Frank

White Jersey (best young rider): Tom

(More photos)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fayetteville Stage Race

I woke up at 4am on Saturday to drive to Fayetteville (TX) for the Fayetteville Stage Race. For the Masters 35+ Cat 4/5 group I was in, this consisted of a 46-mile road race Saturday morning, a 6.6-mile time trial Saturday afternoon, and a 49-mile road race Sunday morning. I arrived at the race venue much earlier than I had expected, so I grabbed about 20 minutes of snooze.

I pinned on my numbers, warmed up on my rollers, and headed over to the starting line, where I found Richie. We discussed whether or not the Tegaderm wound dressings in our goody bags were an omen.

Stage 1

This morning's race was 2 laps of a 22-mile circuit. There was only one hill of any significance; its grade maxed out at 10%, but it wasn't very long. The first lap was pretty uneventful. There were about 70 in our group, and the roads along the rear of the course were pretty narrow, so I tried to stay near the front of the pack. At one point on this narrow section, I was struggling to stay to the right of the centerline of the road, to avoid getting penalized. The winds were coming from the right, so people were trying to stay to the left of each other, to hide from the wind. The guy on my right was just about on the centerline (which meant I was just about over the centerline), and there was no one to his right. I also noticed that the right side of the road was pretty clear, so I slowed a bit, moved over to the right side of the road, and was able to gain several positions before nestling back into the safety of the pack.

Going up the hill at the beginning of the second lap, Richie is to my left. I notice that he and I are the only riders still seated, everyone else is out of the saddle. I tell him that Robert would be proud of us. Just at that point, the guy in front of me slows suddenly, and I have to pretty much go off the right side of the road to get around him. I had to get out of the saddle to manage this maneuver (sorry, Robert), but don't have a problem. The pace picks up right after the top of the hill, as a group attempts to break away. I'm able to stay with them, as is the rest of the pack.

Or so I think. It's really hard to see what's going on behind, so if 20 guys get shelled off by this acceleration, I don't know it. The important thing is that I am not one of them. :-)

Things soon settle down, and Richie is again to my left. Just for fun, I tell him, in a voice loud enough for others to hear, "Hey! I haven't crashed,yet! This may be a record for me!" I'm hoping that this will convince the other riders to give me some room. Heh.

Then I consider that may have jinxed myself...

Not too long after this thought, the two guys I'm riding between veer in toward each other, pinching me off. I make contact with one of them, but we all stay upright. Not too long after that, I get tangled up with a rider on my right, and we lean into each other for a while before we are able to separate. Again, no damage.

We get into a headwind section, about 15 miles from the end, and two Team TBi guys are on the front of the pack, and I'm in third position. They keep looking back, for someone to get in front on front of them, but I had better things to do at the time, like enjoy their draft. We were going less than 14 mph at the time. A third TBi guy comes to the front, and the three of them are pulling us along for a bit. Then the third TBi guy heads up the road, gapping us by about 20 yards. The original two TBi guys stay on the front, still going slow.

Although it seems early for someone to be trying a move like this, I think that maybe the two TBi guys are blocking for their teammate, so that he can attempt a breakaway. I wonder if they'll also be block for the two of us, so I take off and bridge up to their buddy, before he gets too far away. When I catch him, I look over my shoulder and see that his buddies suck at blocking. :-D I had just pulled the entire peloton up to him. Oh, well...

I did get stuck pulling the pack for a short while after that, but I certainly wasn't working hard.

About 4 miles from the finish, we hit another hill, which I didn't remember from the first lap. This isn't as big as the earlier hill, but my legs may beg to differ that point, as they decided that they had had enough. I quickly got spit out the back of the pack, and I also had to dodge a guy whose chain had come off. After cresting the hill, I did all I could to catch the disappearing pack, but we were still heading into the wind, and my heartrate is in the red. After a couple of times of almost running off the road, I decide to just let them go, figuring that at least I'll beat the chain-dropping guy.

Or maybe not, as the chain-dropping guy soon catches me, suggesting that we work together so that the other guy behind us doesn't catch up. I tell him that we're only about a half mile from the finish, and he heads on. I then see that the other guy is gaining on me, and decide to not let him, so I go as hard as I can to the finish, my legs cramping about a hundred yards from the line.
I'm able to hold him off, finishing in 46th place, about 2 minutes behind the pack.

I have lunch with Richie and his wife Emily, then hang out with Tom (who was racing in a different category) while we wait for...

Stage 2

I was going to warm up on my rollers, as I did in the morning, but the rear roller seems to have warped as it sat in the bed of my truck, so I readied the time trial bike and hit the road. I'm still pretty tired from the morning's race, and I can't get my heartrate up into the 173-175 range, where I'll want it in the time trial. After about 20 minutes, I head to the start line.

The guy who's supposed to start 30 seconds in front of me doesn't show up, so I don't have anyone to chase. I'll just have to try to stay ahead of the guy who starts 30 seconds (and 60 seconds, and 90 seconds...) behind me. Last year, I was passed by the time I got to the turn at 2.5 miles, and later by one or two other riders. My goal for this time trial is to not let Richie beat me like he did last year (by almost 2 minutes!), since he's on his road bike, and I'm on my "lo-tech" time trial bike.

My time comes up, and I start. My heartrate goes right up to 175 and stays there:

I get to the first turn, and I haven't been passed yet! I look behind me and don't even see anyone gaining, so I'm feeling pretty good. I'm probably geared a bit too high for the hills, but I manage to get up them okay. I get to the 4.5-mile turn, still having not been passed. Only two more miles to go, and the end won't come fast enough. Under a half mile to go, and I look behind, and see someone approaching! He does pass me, but doesn't get to the line too far ahead of me, so he only beat me by 32 seconds. My average speed for this time trial is 21.1mph, which was also my average for the morning's road race.

Richie completed the course 12 seconds faster than I did.


Stage 3

Sunday's 49-mile road race isn't until 11:20am, so I can sleep in until 7am. I wake up, still tired, and re-check the schedule, halfway hoping that I misread the schedule and it's an 8:30am start, and I can then go back to bed, but no such luck.

I get to Fayetteville at about 10:30am, unload the bike, and go out on the road to warm up. I get to the starting line, and the group is much smaller than yesterday (about 20 fewer). The wind is blowing hard, and I'm not looking forward to it.

The race starts, and it's not too bad at the beginning. I've decided to stay farther in the back of the pack today, to better stay out of the wind. This works for awhile, and I have a chance to chat with the guy who started behind me (and passed me) in yesterday's time trial. Nice guy.

We get to the hill at 5 miles. Last year, after cresting this hill, I had difficulty in getting my chain back onto the big ring, and could not keep the pace as the pack accelerated, and watched them go off into the wind. I was in no mood to chase them in the wind for 45 miles, so I just turned around and went home.

Today, however, the front derailleur works fine, and I'm able to stay with the pack after the hill. It's still hard work, though, going into the wind, and we eventually get strung out, making it more difficult to find solace from the wind. Finally, after about 8 miles, I can no longer hold on, and I drift back from the front half of the pack. Eventually, the rest of the pack comes around me to catch back up.

Well, I lasted a little bit longer this year, but now my plan is to ride to the feed zone, to see if Richie needs my bottle when he comes around on his second lap. The pack is much smaller as they come by on their second lap, and Richie is still there, looking pretty good. He waves off the bottle. I head to the finish line to watch the end of the race.

As the pack nears the finish line, a couple of riders on the left side go down as the sprint begins. The winner has a couple of seconds on the pack. I can't see Richie. Wait! There he is! Can he do it? Oh, he just misses out on getting 3rd place, but 4th is still quite impressive, and it goes well with his 8th-place finish from Saturday's road race.

It wasn't a great weekend for me, results-wise, but I improved over last year, in every event, so I was happy with that.

Next up: Fort Davis Stage race.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

La Primavera: Well, I didn't miss a turn

At last year's edition of this race, I got spit out the back of the pack on the long, steady climb at the beginning of the first lap. I then proceeded to miss a right hand turn, helped only by the yells of riders behind me, but not the corner marshal. On the second lap, I was determined to not miss the turn again, so I turned when I saw the corner marshal sitting in their chair. When I got to the end of that road, I saw the start/finish line to my left, and the rest of the course to my right. I had turned too early and cut off half of the course. Disgusted, I finished the lap and quit the race.

My goal this year was to not get lost on the 4.4 mile course. Tom, my teammate who had the misfortune of following me through last year's mishaps, suggested that it may be a good plan to stay with the pack, so that I don't get lost. This sounded like a good strategy. For some reason, Tom decided to not participate in the race this year.

My sister Patti was in town for her granddaughter's birthday, so I picked her up on my way to the race. We got there in plenty of time for me to register and warm up. Since there were no racers yet on the course, I chose to ride the course instead of my rollers. This was the first time I had ridden these roads since last year's ill-fated race, and I wanted to make sure I knew where to turn. I finished my 30-minute warmup and had 5 minutes left until the start of my Cat 5A race.

My goal for the race is quickly achieved as I arrive at the top of the initial climb near the front of the pack. In fact, it seems that most of the 40-odd rider pack also achieves this goal. We spread out a bit as we headed down the 40+mph hill, which was a good thing, because I saw the bike of one rider ahead and to my right go into a furious high-speed wobble. Not only was the front wheel vibrating left to right like crazy, but the back wheel was also in serious distress. Somehow, he managed to pull it out and not crash, though I don't remember seeing him again.

Here's the finish of the first lap, courtesy of Patti (who also supplied the photo at the top of this entry):

The second lap goes pretty well. The pace seems to pick up a bit near the top of the long opening climb, but I'm able to hold on, still near the front of the pack. I do have one brief scary moment when the guy in front of me throws his bike backward as he gets out of the saddle. I'm able to avoid hitting him, and I now have a second rider to be wary of. I hear someone mention that the pack is starting to break up behind us. Things are looking pretty good, but it's still early.

Lap three sees the pack blown apart on the initial climb. I can no longer hang on, but I'm not alone and I manage to get into a small grupetto. As we're going down the hill before the lap's finishing climb, we can see deer crossing the road, from left to right, on the climb. There are women on the right side of the road, waving at the deer and yelling at us to slow down. I can see that there are more deer coming from the left as we begin the climb, but feel confident that I can navigate through them. However, the rest of the grupetto starts to slow, so I choose to do the same, and touch my brakes. I suddenly feel someone run into my rear wheel, and then hear him pay the price for doing so, as he goes down.


Lap four is uneventful, as I pretty much ride it by myself. I do hear Richie call out to me and spot him as he drives in for his later race. After I finish the fourth lap, and ride through the parking area to begin the fifth and final lap, I look for Richie to see if he'd like to finish the race for me, but to no avail. As I shift down from my big ring for the last helping of long climb casserole, the chain comes off, and I can't get it back on using the derailleur, so I decide that this would be a good time for a short break. The Masters 35+ peloton passes as I'm putting my chain back on, and the two kids acting as corner marshal there refuse my offer to finish the race for me, so I soldier on.

I soon hear someone behind me, and as he comes beside me, I see that it's another Cat 5 rider. "Oh, I didn't realize there was anyone left behind me," I say.

"Yeah, there are a few back there. Some who had flats and stuff," he replied.

"And the guy who ran into my back wheel on lap 3 and crashed," I added.

He asked me if the rider was wearing the same Power Pedal jersey that he was wearing, and I reminded him that the rider was behind me, so I didn't see him.

We continued on for the rest of the lap, and as we got near the end, I was on his wheel, and he kept looking back at me. "Don't worry," I said, "I'm not going to try to outsprint you for 25th place." "Aw, it's all fun," he replied. Staying true to my word, however, I let him finish ahead of me.

Ok, I couldn't keep up with him on the finishing climb, but shhhhhhh!

I did, however, end up in 25th place. :-)

As I was waiting for the results to be posted, Vic, the Power Pedal rider, found me and told me that it was his teammate that crashed behind me, but that he was ok. I later found him and told him that I was sorry that he went down, and he had no hard feelings. Those Power Pedal guys seem like a class act, and I look forward to riding with them at Fayetteville in two weeks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

PURE AUSTIN Pace Bend Road Race

When I unloaded the bike for hill repeats on Thursday night,
I noticed that my front tire was a bit low. After hill repeats,
it was low again. I patched the tube and pulled the bit of
glass out of the tire on Friday, but the tire was low on
Saturday morning. So, I decided to go against popular
wisdom and change both my front tire and tube the night
before the race. I thought about changing the back tire
and tube, but decided to not tempt fate. This Quick Stick
that I won at Warda works great for both taking tires off
and putting them on. Even new tires, which usually give
me problems on these rims. No swears were heard.

My Cat 4/5 35+ race was scheduled to get underway at 9:55am,
so I thought that if I left my house by 8am, that would give me
plenty of time to get there, pick up my packet, and warm up.

I left my house at 8:20am, and didn't take into account that I'd
be riding behind a pack of cyclists on the race course to get
to the parking area, where I arrived at about 9:30am. At least
I got a chance to see the course, since I haven't ridden out
there before.

I parked near Richie, who was warming up on his trainer. My
warmup consisted of running up to registration and back. At
least there wasn't a line. After pinning on my numbers, and
getting ready, I had about 15 minutes before the start, so
decided to pull out the rollers and get about 5 minutes of
warmup in, for whatever that would be worth, but the grass
was too tall. Heh.

As I was about to head to the line, a woman came up and
asked me if I thought that "they" would have a compressor
so that she could air up her car tire, which had gone flat. I
have an electric pump in the truck, so I lent it to her, and
asked her to put it into the bed of the truck when she was
done. I was hoping that I'd get some good karma for that...

And that brings us to the start of the race. Finally...

Richie and I line up together, and I tell him that, just like
last time, my goal was to stay with him, since he finishes
well. I take a Cliff Shot and drink a half bottle of water.
There was no roll-call this time, just "Go!"

The first lap goes well, the course is really nice, and people
have a tendency to stay on the right side of the road even
though we have the entire roadway to use (no center-line
rule). There are two hard right turns on the course, and
a couple of guys near the front took the first one too hot,
and ended up going straight (from the inside of the turn!).
Luckily, no one crashed, they just ended up off the road
for a bit. I was surprised by the speed of the pack down
the finishing straight, which was slightly downhill, since
it was just the first lap. It's not like there were primes,
or anything...

Not much exciting happened on the second lap.

As we're starting on our third lap, I'm starting to wonder
if this racing stuff is really for me, as I'm starting to get
tired. Luckily, those thought quickly left my head. The
bit of rest that I was getting at that point helped, too. :)

Going up the second hill on the this lap, I'm in the pack,
on the right side. Suddenly, I hear a "Pisssshhhhhh-
pish-pish-pish-pish." I take a quick assessment and
realize that it's coming from the bike on my right. Whew!
The rider of that bike soon sounded like me at Rocky
Hill. :-)

At the top of this hill, Richie gets into a breakaway with
about 5 other guys, but it doesn't last too long, unfortunately.

Flashback to Thursday...

During hill repeats, my knee started to bother me, so I
decided to quit after my third repeat (I was going to stop
after 2, but Kirk talked me into another). I was going to
take it pretty easy, though. David James started his
fourth repeat a bit after Tom and I started our third, and
I told Tom that we'd be David's rabbit. David proved me
right as he came up on us just as we're beginning the
last step of the hill. He worked a lot harder to catch
me than I did to get to that point, so I had some energy
left, and was able to re-pass David before the top. (I
must've forgotten about my knee :-} ).

What's the point of all this, you may be asking. Well,
I thought that a good strategy for today's race would be
to go out a mile or so before the last hill, then rest on
the hill and let the pack catch up to me. I planned on
doing this for laps 3 and 4, if I could get away with it,
so that they would let me go on lap 5, assuming that
they would catch me on the hill again, but I would not
rest on the hill, and try to take it in a breakaway.

Best laid plans. Mice. Men.

However, I did do a version of this on the 4th lap,
though not necessarily on purpose. Leading up to
the hill, I was riding in 4th position. The guy on the
front decided to attack the hill, but I elected to let
those 3 go. Unfortunately, no one else did.


By the top of the hill, I heard the chase motorcycle
on my wheel. I looked back and saw no one else.
I am able to hang onto the back of the pack, though.

We finally start the fifth and final lap, and I'm able
to get some rest here. I also use my small chain
ring for just about the whole lap, but am still able
to stay in the pack. I work my back up to the front
of the pack, and find Richie. We're near the
front when we hit the last hill, and some guy in
front of me swerves, making me touch my brakes.
When this happened in Bryan a couple years ago,
I lost momentum and got spit out the back. Today,
however, I picked a wheel that wasn't swerving, and
hung onto it, making it to the top of the hill in pretty
good position. Richie and I were in the top ten. All
that's left is a hard right turn and a slight downhill

Going into the turn, I'm on Richie's right hip, but I
have to scrub off speed since I'm trying to take it
too sharp. I should have faded out to the left as
Richie and the rest of the group did. I picked it
back up and sprinted as hard as I could for the
finish, even though there were others passing me.
I was able to nip one guy at the finish, and ended
up in 19th place, which I was quite happy with.
Richie ended up 9th.

What I was even happier with was that I had a
few opportunities to let negative thoughts rule me,
which has been a problem in the past. I worked
hard up to the very end.

Now if I could just work on setting up my turns

Epilogue: As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a
note under my windshield. It was from the woman
to whom I had lent my pump. She thanked me for
it and said she hoped I had a good race. She
signed it, "A Single Mother with children on a
camping trip."

But no phone number. :-( Harrumph!

Talon Trails Excruciation Exam

This is a report of a race I did in January:

The Talon Trails Excruciation Exam was a race which utilized the trails at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, the trails at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, and the paved and dirt roads in between. We traveled 30 miles on trails and 50 miles on roads.

The Excruciation Exam was, in a word, excruciating.

Other than giving birth, this has got to have been the hardest thing I can remember doing.

Oh. Wait...

Ok, this was the hardest thing I can remember doing, making the Tour das Hugel ("100 miles of Austin's most painful hills") look like a ride around my living room.

I knew things were going to be rough when, during the pre-race riders' meeting, I look down and saw that I was already bleeding. The sharp part of my rear quick release skewer had grazed the dry skin of my leg and pierced it.


John and I had decided that we'd ride together, he'd lead on the trails, and I'd lead on the road. The race started with a Lemans-style start, where we ran to a tree and back before mounting our bikes. The most difficult part of this was dodging the cow patties, which we managed to do quite admirably.

The first 6-mile lap through the Bluff Creek Ranch trails went smoothly. John and I were pacing ourselves (my whole goal of this thing was to finish, not necessarily finish well), and we got to the road about 40 minutes later. The weather was cool and misty, with a little bit of wind in our face. We managed to paceline with 1-3 other folks on the 28-mile ride to Rocky Hill Ranch. I learned to not breathe through my mouth when drafting someone on dirt roads, however, or I'd end up with a mouth full of, well, dirt. However, I later found that the extra minerals may have done me some good.

As we rolled into the RHR checkpoint, I hit the "Lap" button on my GPS, so that I could keep separate tracks of the road and trail portions, but the GPS hung on me. It must've been the moisture. Just a minor annoyance, as I wouldn't know how far I had to go on the future legs.

As we started out for the RHR trails, I noticed that my front tire was a bit low. I thought that would probably be helpful for the trail, and I would put more air in it before hitting the road again. Just before we get into the trail, I see Bob (whom I know from the Brazos Valley Mtb Assoc.) taking photos. Hi, Bob! Not too much farther along, I see Joel (also from the BVMBA), also taking pictures. I chat with Joel for a bit while John takes care of some mechanical issue on his bike.

I think that Joel put some bad Ju-Ju on me, because once John and I got started again, my rear derailleur went out of tune. I just couldn't get it to shift right, no matter how much I fiddled with the barrel adjuster. I could only use 2-3 of my rear cogs, so I ended up using my front derailleur as much as, if not more ,than, my rear. Needless to say, this put me in a bit of a foul mood.

But wait! That's not all! Tell them what else we have in store, Johnny!

That's right! We've also got cramps! Cramps in muscles that we didn't even know existed! Off the bike? Voluntarily or not? Have another cramp! One cramp's not enough? If you call now, you'll get a special bonus of cramps in both right quad and right hamstring at the same time! Operators are standing by!

Man, oh, man, that was pain that I haven't experienced before, not even when I broke my arm. With cramps on both sides of my leg, I couldn't move my leg at all. Swear words were not enough. It was primal scream time. After standing there for several minutes, the cramps finally went away. John came back to check up on me, and gave me a couple of Tums that he carries for just such occasions.

The Tums helped.

For about 10 minutes.

Then muscles that hadn't yet cramped decided to take their turn. I finally convinced John to go ahead, and told him that I was planning on bailing if I ever got out of the woods. I then just granny-geared it out of there.

Going up? Granny gear.

Level? Granny gear.

Down? Coast.

I just walked over anything that looked the least bit technical, and went up, as well as extended climbs.

When I got to the ditch called The Grind, I saw roots on the left side of the entry, and leaves on the right. Not knowing what was under the leaves, I decided to just send my bike down ahead of me. It didn't pick a very good line, because I slipped and fell down, myself, when I followed it on foot.

About the only good thing that happened for me at RHR was that John suggested that I fill my water bottle at one of the water stops, as my camelbak ran out before I got out of the woods.

When I finally exited the woods (queue angelic music here) John was sitting in a chair, waiting for me. I told him that I was done, and that he should go ahead and finish the race. So he left.

I had an hour before the "gate" at RHR shut, so I sat and ate and drank while Susan and Maureen gave me words of encouragement. After about 25 minutes, I decided that it was mostly tailwind on the roads back to Warda, and then it was only 3 miles of trails once I got there, and I didn't want John to be the last person in the race, since he had waited for me, so I pumped up my tires for the road and rolled out.

The road to Warda was pretty uneventful, except that there was more side wind and less tailwind than I expected. My rear derailleur starts working properly again, so things are starting to look up.

I finally get to Warda, and now all I have left is the short trail! I let some of the air out of my back tire, but the front has lost some air on it's own. No worry, as I only have 3 more miles. I'm taking it easy, and things are going pretty well.

Oh, ye of little faith...

About halfway through the trail, my front tire gets very low. I take out my pump and put more air in it. I continue on. After about another 100 yards, the tire is completely flat. I have a tube, but neither the energy nor the patience to put it in, so I decide to just walk it out, and that's what I do.

As I walk to the finish line, John, Maureen, Ryan, Susan, Duane, Ted, and a few others are there, applauding. I think that they're just glad that they can finally go home, as I was the last finisher.

I was just glad to be done with it all.

I guess DFL is better than DNF. 9:21:02. That gives me a time to beat next year.

Next year?


Hopefully, next year I won't leave the NUUN tablets in the truck.