July 25, 2006

Tinbutt Rolls Again

The sun was simply brutal, beating down on me from above – it felt like it was only a few feet away from my head – and so powerful were the rays that they almost had a sound – a kind of humming, like from a big generator or something. The pavement shimmered with reflections of the sky, the trees – the heat. Long black marks left from tires passing thru molten bitumen streaked along the road, as I stared blankly at a patch of asphalt only a few meters in front of my leading tire. My third bottle of water was dry, and there were three miles left to pedal before I’d have a fresh fill. Three small miles that, amid the hills, seemed like thirty. My mind turns to the weather report from the last lap – 115º heat index, and a SE wind that was feeling like a blast furnace. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small, winged bug wriggling for freedom, stuck in the hairs, sweat and sunscreen plastered to my left forearm – I consider trying to flick him to away, but I don’t have the will to remove my hands from the bars. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal. That is the only thing to do here. To pedal means to survive. No trees, no passing clouds – only a few thin wisps of cumulus hover to the north, fifteen miles away. There will be no shade today. Even the birds are hiding. Amid all this, I smile. Beneath sunscreen, road grime, dried sports drink, red dust, my sun-softened helmet and make-shift turban, a cracked grin appears – I LOVE this sport.

This is Ultra-Cycling, Midwest-style.

The day dawned, and it was very apparent that we were in for a repeat, weather-wise, of last year – if not worse. The humidity was high, and Ort and I were sweating profusely while we loaded up our cars for the drive to the park for the ride start. This was nuts!

We chose our parking spaces for the day, and began the usual preparations. I didn’t see too many familiar faces this time out, but Sam Baugh was back – with crew – and looking fresh and ready for the day. My day was going pretty well – with a bag full of lessons learned from two years at this event (3/4 of the lessons learned in 2005), I was feeling strangely calm, collected, and ready – not the usual bag of nerves that I’ve been at these rides in the past. Long after the craving for it has passed, I’m still amazed how much of a positive effect the lack of caffeine is having on my mental game. I’m downright RELAXED, as crew and rider alike hustle around and make last minute adjustments. My drinks are ready, my water cooler is full, my supplies are stocked, and the bike is ready to roll. The fifteen minute bell rings.

Don Norville runs a fantastic event – there is nothing quite as well run within 300 miles of KC (that I’m aware of) in the Ultra community – as far as UMCA events are concerned, and that’s to say that I haven’t been up to Iowa yet – but this is a quality event. Solid. No question. Don gets everyone lined up for the start, goes over the rules and details of the course. There are only 16 starters this year, which is unfortunate for an event of this caliber. I REALLY hope it is brought back for 2007, because it’s GREAT. Last year, by comparison, there were over 30 starters – but the 103º temps might have taken their toll on this year’s attendance, as well as the ridiculously high gas prices, which makes it hard for any traveling cyclist.

A quick wrap-up of the rules, and the bell is rung for the start – with a rush of 90º air, we’re off, and out of the parking area in a flash, Sam and I at the front, with a few other advantageous riders. Another miracle lap on tap for 2006, perhaps?

Sure enough, the pack tries to get organized inside the twists and turns of Lake McMurtry Park, but it’s a hard sell. The road is cumbersome and many riders decide not to risk things just yet. Eventually, the big downhill on Airport Road is upon us – and it’s still not repaved from last year. Yikes. Everyone spaces out to find their individual line down the steep, choppy, chuck-hole ridden grade. Thankfully, no pinch flats to start the day for anyone. The first uphill section is coming, and Sam is off like a shot and showing his training. I manage to follow, but he’s putting in quite a ride and reminds me again that this is a guy that is in a class of his own. Always amazing to see, if I try to chase this early, I’ll be spent – just like in 2004. Remember your lessons! I return to my own pace, and still manage to stay up front of the rest of the pack on the 1-mile climb.

The road levels a touch, and other riders begin to reappear over my left shoulder – time to work together, it seems, as the first turn comes and we are on OK-51, westbound. Ah, old familiar roads. As a five-man paceline forms around me, I start to count off the landmarks of the route – the steel mailbox, the bricks, the Blackwell Lake entrance, the shredded tire in the ditch, the bridge, the cemetery, the long hill. All the while, the five-man group is setting a good pace, but thoughts of my own goals start to creep in – it’s a good pace, but its not my 12-hour pace, unfortunately. I swing off the back, and out of rotation. Time to do this ride the way I do it best; solo.

Confused, the pack slows a bit and looks for me – a kind gesture, but I wave them on. It’s a long day, gents; time to settle in. I remember to drink – the new sun is just making it over the trees, and the heat is coming up quickly. The big valley and the turn onto OK-86 is upon me, and I take in the grand view – this is my favorite visual part of the course – very scenic, and a little shot in the arm is the long, straight downhill section right after the turn, a well-deserved rest after the long, slow grades on OK-51. I’m feeling good – the new bike is absolutely fantastic, giving no indication at all that it’s made from aluminum. I’m continuously shocked, and pleased, that it didn’t turn into a “parking lot test ride” phenomenon; and it would prove itself to me all day long as a comfortable, yet wickedly quick and responsive, bicycle. The saddle is in the right place, too, and even though it’s only the first lap, I’m feeling good about the day ahead.

Lap one is complete – and for the first time at Tinbutt, I unclick and dismount. It’s all part of the plan, and I trot up to the park bench towards my ice chest and cooler set-up. The mental rehearsals and the test runs at convenience stores all spring have paid off, and in less than five minutes I’m back on the bike and rolling out for Lap Two. I pop a couple electrolyte tabs while rolling and settle back into the rhythm – and so far, I haven’t been caught on the road. Excellent!

I carry onward, and thru the park again, enjoying the sweeping corners and short climbs, and trying to avoid the bumps – but unfortunately not everything is in a cyclists control. As I descent Airport Road for the second time, oncoming traffic forces me to take a line that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and BANG! The front wheel dives into a shallow (thankfully) pothole at nearly 40 MPH! A major, jarring bump! I was certain that a pinch flat was the result, but surprisingly there was no wheel or tire damage – but my handlebars were a little lower now! Oops. No sense stopping now and digging thru the saddlebag for the Allen wrenches – that’s what the next stop would be for. Unfortunately that was about 18 miles away still. No bother…it isn’t THAT bad. The heat, on the other hand was getting bad QUICK. Yeesh! Who turned on the furnace!? I continued onto OK-51 again, and quickly ate up some time at a good clip, and began to notice that I was taking on water a little faster this time out. Hmmm. An extra electrolyte tab to compensate.

After OK-86, and the long downhill, I begin the ascent towards the Noble County line, towards Bronco Road – the crux of the course. In contrast to the relative flatness of OK-51, this northern leg of the ride is six miles of fairly continuous hills – the worst of which being about mid-way up the road at Arstingstall’s place. What a grinder!! I would begin, as the day progressed, to explore the upper regions of the drive-train with each subsequent lap up this hill. Standing and straining against the grade, I notice a clicking noise coming from the front end as the wheel comes around. Hmmm…dry skewer, perhaps? I’ll check that, too, at the next stop.

A few miles later, it’s repeat-time. I’m back at the park, my number gets checked off, and I dismount for a refill, and quick mechanical adjustment. The support guy from Sam’s team runs over to make sure I have everything I need – a solid reminder that Ultra is a REAL gentleman’s sport, with everyone helping each other, regardless. I unfortunately manage to slice my thumb open tightening the front skewer, fingers slippery from sweat – but it’s only a minor wound. Turns out the ticking noise was the computer magnet hitting its sensor – so, a quick tweak and the noise is gone. A couple extra minutes off the bike this time, but the handlebars are back where they should be, and tighter, and the noise problems are history. With fresh bottles, it’s time for lap three!

Setting good lap times, and not getting passed by anyone on the road, I felt pretty good for the next two laps, but the heat was coming up even faster now, and the sun angle was dead-overhead. There was no shade to be found – no angled shade from roadside trees anymore, no clouds, barely even the thin shadows from overhead lines seemed to show up in the blazing heat. The temperature had been over 100º for over an hour now, and rising, and the humidity was thick enough to impede breathing. Scary conditions. At the end of lap three, I repeated my routine, and reapplied sunscreen, and noticed a few competitor's cars were missing from the parking area. After lap four, a couple more yet were missing. The day was taking its toll, even faster than it had last year!

I proceeded out for lap number five, and this time with an extra water bottle courtesy Ort – one for the back pocket, full of ice, plus a bandana full of ice around my neck to help keep cool. That’s what it was turning into – it wasn’t that I was drinking so much that I needed that third bottle – my BODY needed it. I was up to four electrolyte tabs per laps now, and I was beginning to feel minor twinges in my legs on the hills near the end of Bronco Road now. DANG – how much of this stuff do I need to be taking out here?!!? Listen to the body, and never question it. I drank like a teenager at a frat party, and sprayed myself with water until I was completely soaked from helmet to socks, and – surprisingly – I felt good, considering the conditions. Still, I promised myself that when I matched last year’s mileage total, I would allow myself a little rest in the shade. The end of Lap Five came, and I dismounted again.

I walked up to the bench, refilled my bottles and pulled a snack out of my ice chest, and munched on it while I reclined on the bench with my legs on top of the ice chest. With ice on my forehead and a cool drink in my hand, I almost fell asleep – but I kept my focus on the task at hand. Strangely, no-one was coming up the road quite yet from a completed lap. Was I the only one out here anymore? Almost as I finished that thought, the support team shouted “rider up!” and volunteers scrambled to check off his rider number, and then he rolled over to his support crew for a re-supply. A couple minutes later, Ort was pulling up, too – finally we’d get to talk a bit. I rose up, and prepared to ready myself for lap six, and Ort did the same. Time flew – I was off the bike for a little longer than I’d wanted, but I was having fun and was well rested and recharged for the heat again. It was at least 97º in the shade, but the rest felt GREAT.

Ort held back a little longer, and I headed out for my sixth lap of the day. Time was getting short – which never ceases to amaze me about these rides. The official start was at 7:00am, and I always feel like I blink and it’s suddenly 10:30 or something. Crazy. Now it was approaching the hottest part of the day, and I felt like I had just gotten started! Time was wasting! Still feeling fairly good, I was not going to play my odds with fatigue in the heat, so I tendered my pace for the conditions and decided that it was time to ride more sensibly – which was good, because I was starting to feel the effects of being near-cramp for most of the day.

Despite my efforts to push enough water – but not TOO much – and keep the electrolytes in check, “feeling good” was a relative term. My fuel of choice for these events is Sustained Energy, and it contains a good dose of protein – excellent for keeping the endurance rider properly fueled to prevent muscle cannibalization on really long rides. Unfortunately, with temperatures this high, the water in my system was being diverted to my muscles, not staying in my stomach for digestion – so “feeling good” was in concert with mild abdominal cramping for most of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th laps. Finally after lap five and a good rest, I was able to get enough water in to restart things, and I was feeling ready to make up some distance by lap six – but the clock had other plans, and there is no stopping the clock. I did, however, stop the SE and was now running the ride on nothing but HEED, Hammer Gel and water. If my body needed protein, well, it was gonna have to get it the hard way. My stomach was not having any more SE today.

Mentally, I was on top of the game. Even the handlebar issue, the clicking computer sensor, and a couple of thrown chain incidents from irresponsible shifting practices couldn’t dent my psyche – I was really enjoying this for some reason!

Lap six was physically brutal. The searing heat was at its fiery peak, the pavement was squashy, and tires squished and threatened to simply melt if one stopped riding. The southeast winds helped push me along OK-51, but made the furnace-like conditions even worse. There were pockets of hotter air that I seemed to pass in and out of, and the passing traffic on the highway seemed to invite even more dust and hot air to the party. Even my dark sunglasses seemed to feel weak against the tortuous glare of the bright sky and mirror-black pavement stretching out ahead of me.

It was hard, but strangely I was reveling in it for some reason. The desire to overcome what I had wrought the previous year, and the feeling of preparedness, was overcoming my doubts and helping me keep the pedals turning. Time was ticking by, but so were the miles, and before I knew it I was at the corner of OK-51 and OK-86 again, and there was the water stop the ride organizers had set out for us. At this point, I don’t know if I could qualify my needs as “emergency”, but grabbing a cold bottle of water and simply draining it over my back felt fantastic, and it was worth the extra minutes of stopping. With that little respite, the lap was over in no-time, and after the carnival of hills on Bronco Road I was whipping back into the park for another lap completed. Even getting passed wouldn’t erase the smile of another lap from my face – the solid, impressive soldier of Sam Baugh was hammering home another overall win, and managed to sweep me up on OK-86, just before the turn onto Bronco – impressive! …And something to work towards…

The body was growing weary now, and the heat was really taking it’s toll. I took advantage of a cold mister/shower that the volunteers had set up, and let the cold water fall over my head and body – it brought chills, and felt fantastic! Having a strange refreshing and awakening effect, too, I was happy to have to re-apply sunscreen before my last lap of the day – it was worth getting it all washed off like that.

Bottles filled, and another extended rest; I was a clock-watcher now. I knew how long my laps were taking, and I knew how long I had to finish the day – and unlike last year, I was gonna finish this ride in the saddle and not on the sidelines. Quarter-to-six was the cutoff – if I didn’t roll by then, I wouldn’t get credit for the last lap. Even Sam was taking a break – the day was brutal, even for the strongest riders. In fact, it was a severe blow to morale that several other strong riders had already succumbed to the heat, including RAAM-qualified riders - but instead of self-doubt and fear taking over my mind, I felt a sense of pride now – instead of “why am I still here?”, I was reminding myself that I was still ready to RIDE. I even got Ort charged-up for another run at it, and soon, we mounted up together for Lap Seven.

Staying together for a long ways, Ort and I tackled the last lap one section at a time – we navigated the park, Airport Road, and the long Redland’s Road climbs to OK-51. We set up our pace on OK-51, and managed to stay within sight of each other – it was becoming a very individual ride now. The heat was not waning, and there were still no shadows to be found. If anything, the wind had picked up. We kept thinking about turning around – and it was becoming a death-march. You know things are bad when the ride organizer starts driving the course and checking on each rider individually, asking for a solid thumbs up. If you don’t look right, he pulls over – and you stop. We prayed that he didn’t drive this last lap… we both would have been in the van.

Drinking, pedaling, and popping electrolyte tabs – of which I was nearly OUT of – we soldiered on. Ort began to practice his trademark “I’m done with this ride” maneuver, which basically is the opposite of anything I’ve seen anyone else ever do. He goes faster, to get it over with faster. At this point, I can’t even respond, so I don’t try…until I decide to try the same notion, and see if I can finish strong. I bridge – but barely, and OK-86 is suddenly upon me and the much needed water stop again. I stop, Ort continues down the big, long downhill into the valley below. Solo again – but refreshed… I douse myself with water, take a few extra swigs and I’m off down the hill. There is no catching Ort, however – the legs are getting heavy, and the sun simply will not let up – but I smile, and start to sing. I can’t remember the song, but I am belting it. I don’t know if it’s delirium setting in, or joy that THIS is the last lap. The clock is ticking by, and there will not be time for another one. This is it. I have all the time I need to finish, and the hills have yet to come.

One by one, I check them off. Soon, Arstingstall’s mailbox is behind me for another year, and a weary smile spreads across my face. Three hills to go… or is it four? I don’t care… each pedal stroke brings me closer to the park, and the finish. I crest the last hill, and pedal into the park, around a few corners, and up the last cruel hill from the boat dock to the line… DONE.

To applause from standers-by and volunteers alike, I get my number checked off for the last time this year, and I dismount with a wave and an exhausted shrug.

I hobble over to my rest area to get more water, and then I stand for at least 15 minutes under the misters again; the best invention EVER. This day is in the books, and I can stand tall now – compared to last year, even though I fell two laps short of my personal goal of 198 miles, I regard this ride as a huge personal success. Adversity, physically and mechanically, were handled with ease this time, instead of anxiety – and I not only remembered to drink enough, but I kept cramps at bay. Even though they were just under the surface all day long, they never halted a pedal stroke. I had taken six electrolyte tabs per lap by the end of the day, but so had Sam, the overall winner – so I think I was on the right track. The bag of lessons is finally empty – I had learned from them all, and I had a gold medal for my age group to point to as well. An EXCELLENT, but horribly brutal, day was finally over.

And, yes – I can’t wait for next year.

July 24, 2006

Some people you just can't reach.

This morning on the way in to work, I passed by the same places as usual - and as usual I see the masses pouring out onto the streets in their cars and SUVs. This morning, however, I got the rare treat to find out where one of these cars was actually going.

The tan Honda Accord pulled out of an apartment complex about three blocks from my work, and headed north on the same road I was travelling -- since I was headed gradually downhill, my pace was helping me keep time with hers, and eventually, a couple blocks later, we ended up at the same red light.

As I waited behind her, I was a little confused that she wasn't turning right or left - but was oriented to head straight. At this particular intersection, that only means one thing: you're headed straight into my workplace complex.

I thought to myself --- surely not... that's ludicrous.

Te light turned green, and we both began forward, onto the loop that circles my office complex... and she leads me straight.... curve a little..... turn (this is creepy, I'm thinking).... and here we are.

As I roll up to the bike rack, she rolls her Honda into a parking space not too far away.
The benefit-of-the-doubt begins to run through my head... maybe she has leg problems, or something.... maybe she has a lot to carry to work.... maybe that apartment complex was the last stop on her car-pool route?

It would seem not. She exits her car, alone, pops the trunk to pull out the wheeled office-bag, and - looking quite able-bodied - walks towards the building at a good clip.

Her car isn't popping or hissing - which would have indicated a longer drive. In fact, fresh condensation drips from the tip of her car's exhaust pipe, indicating that it hasn't been running that long.

I hurriedly lock up my bike and grab my stuff... and catch up to her as she walks... I HAVE to know...

"Nice day...", I attempt.

"Yeah...cooler for a change..." she responds.

"You live in those apartments back there? I ride past them every day... pretty nice?" I ask.

"Yeah, they are... I like that they are so close to work!" she says.

I leave a long pause. ...SO CLOSE TO WORK... her words echoed in my head, bouncing madly in my skull like marbles. It stings. Can she hear herself?

"Well, have a good day... enjoy the weather." I leave her and alter my path to head towards my building. That's as far as I let the conversation go...

If she didn't gather what I was insinuating, there was no way a forced argument was going to change her perception. Perhaps there was something I was missing -- perhaps a doctor's appointment later that day, having to pick up a child at a far-away school, ANYTHING.... but digging further would have been too intrusive, and confrontational.

Maybe I should have been confrontational - but I just couldn't. Some people you just can't reach...and that's truly unfortunate. I hope my timing is off this afternoon, on the way home -- I hope I don't see her drive back to her apartment, watch her get out and simply walk inside - having driven a total of 1.5 miles for the day.

I alter my path, to chase her down. Maybe a simple suggestion, no matter how it's received, wouldn't hurt. Leave the heels at work, wear walking shoes from home to the office. Take advantage of the wheeled office-bag to lighten your load.

Maybe tomorrow I'll see her walking to work... just maybe...

It's worth a try.

July 21, 2006

Read all about it!

I didn't wanna say anything until it was officially published, but it's official! I'm very excited to annouce that I was interviewed by Bicycling Magazine last month, and it's been printed in the September issue, which should be hitting mailboxes and newstands now! I haven't had a chance to get ahold of any copies yet, as my personal stack hasn't arrived in the mail from Rodale Press yet, but I hope you enjoy it!

By the way... full ride report for the Tinbutt 12-hour Meltdown is coming soon! It's a DOOZY, and is taking a long time to piece together. Should have it posted next week!

See you out there!

July 10, 2006

Better results, indeed.

Drove out to Longview College for one last good speed run, and a second shot at this awesome ride -- last time, about a month ago, I didn't have the Cannondale yet --- and YES: it has nothing to do with the bike, but it can't hurt, right??? S'pose...I sure FELT like one of the bunch, and a wee bit faster because of it. At least I was avoiding the "fender" jokes. hehe.

Anyways...met up with Mike Neven and company from the Bicycle Shack racing team, and we were in for a great ride this time out: The first loop was the 10-miler, with an average of about 14.2, which was too fast for the normal group, really, but everyone hung in. I got a little excited, as one guy jumped off the front of the pack and started racing up the hill on Scherer - no-one really reacted, so we let him get about 1/2 mile up the hill, then it was GO time -- so I jumped off, caught him, and beat him (barely) to the stop-sign at Raytown Rd. After that , I waited for the pack to come back up to me, for the spin back to the parking lot. That was fun, and a good threshold session. The second leg was AWESOME -- good tempo with the group, setting about an 18 mph pace, and - for some reason again - I was off the front, but maintaining the group with Mike Neven! It was a fantastic display of pace control, as we held a solid group pretty much all the way to Casey’s, as we held up good conversation and such. After 150 highway, however, a group of three of us - Jed, and some girl and me, took off the front, and set a solid pace -- until the racers decided not to let us get away with it, and gave chase -- I latched on, for a little bit, but it was pretty hot, and into the wind -- as soon as I lost touch, I was done. Awesome training! Average at from College to Casey's was 18.2! Not bad -- a quick refuel and rest, and it was time again for the FUN PART. The Ride from the Casey's back to the College is insane - last month, I got dropped in the first 2 miles.
This time, I was gonna try my luck again. Despite my extra body weight, the training must be working -- and maybe the protein increase is helping with strength, and maybe the e-caps are a factor, too - maybe -- but it really comes down to training: If you don't have IT, no amount of supplementation will give IT to you. So, credit to me - humbly. Mike and I took off first, and after about a mile of wondering when ‘it’ was gonna happen, it happened – a four man break caught and passed us both – Mike latched on, as did I – I strapped onto Tim’s wheel – Tim, a huge, perfect specimen of an athlete – former professional football player, and owner of the most intimidating legs I’ve ever had the pleasure to follow. At upwards of 27 MPH, we blasted northward towards the first turn of the course onto 155th Street. I fell off a little after the turn, having not quite mastered the criterium snap that everyone ahead of me knew from racing – but I managed to latch back on. This train was FLYING, and the hills hadn’t even come yet. A small rotation was taking place, and I took a turn, and then barely hooked back on again for the “rest” at the back of the paceline – Mike was behind me, and a few more people managed to bridge up, too, including a couple of Cat.2 racers that were on their “off” bikes – a tourer with cyclo-cross tires and heavy-looking racks ridden by a giant of a man in camo-shorts and a ratty jersey. He was TALL, and fast. Followed by him was another racer on a Mountainsmith Mtn. bike with slick tires – running in his absolute top gear, and hanging in nicely. I was getting outgunned – talk about it not being about the bike, these guys prove it. I just doesn’t matter. So far, we were averaging upwards of 26 MPH for the first few miles of the 17.5 mile run back to the college. INSANE!
Then, the hills came, and gears were madly shifted, riders standing, pumping, grunting at the grades. Madness! My spin-training was paying off, but not as much as I’d hoped – at least, I’d never practiced it at this pace before. I was passed by two very strong riders, both in Bicycle Shack colors – looked to be Tim and one other rider that hammered out of the saddle and off the front. Mike Never followed, and a couple others – and I groaned in self-disappointment, shifted and stood up to try and chase. Still on the road to improvement, it seems – which was why I was here in the first place! CHASE! GET STRONGER!

The hills here are brutal, long climbs that really take their toll at these speeds, and the pacelines were beginning to crumble. Up the road, I could see two lone riders making their way solo – a successful break. Another group of three were behind them, Mike and two others, and then me, and the touring bike and one other rider in white and black, and possibly a purple bike; hard to tell, as I was gasping for breath and pushing over the gears. I managed to hang in, even when the heavy-hitters managed to get up the road a little, I was able to claw my way back up – and it felt hard, but really good!

While it isn’t the make or break in my head anymore, the bike was EXCELLENT in this role – the STI shifters made gear changes nearly telepathic, and the smaller tires felt wicked fast, stable, and sure in the corners – plus, the whole package felt engaged, connected to the road and willing – but not twitchy or tentative. I LOVE THIS BIKE.

Shift, stomp! The last of the monster grades was now past us, and it was time for the miracle-run on the frontage road, to hopefully make up some time and catch a few folks. The lone two up the road were not to be seen, but I could see Mike and the one other rider still with him (John, I think). We managed to sweep someone up on the way up the last couple hills, and surprisingly I was still on the front of our current three-man chase group, having pulled up the last big hill, and leading the turn onto the frontage road. It was GO TIME. The pace had dropped a bit on the hills, and it was time to try and make it up. With Mike in my sights, and a clear road ahead, I shifted, got in the drops, and began the chase-down. To my own surprise, the speed was coming up – 25….27…..30…..35?!!? With the help of a slight tailwind, and a slight downward pitch in the road, I was hammering out a pro-pace and catching Mike and the rider in front of him! A little unfair, however, as the traffic light at 150 highway changed to red, just as I was making the final assault – and we came to a sharp halt next to Mike and John. It was then that I got the accolades of a lifetime from the tall, strong rider that had been behind me.

“Holy gawd, man – nice freakin’ pull!” he said, gasping for breath. This coming from HIM? I was beaming…and proud…the average speed was up to 23.8 MPH!!!

I also knew that I didn’t have much of it left in my legs – but I was gonna try anyways! As the light turned green, Mike suggested that we stick together and take 15-20 second pulls, to try and reel in the first two riders – the only ones ahead of us. No-one was catching us! Try as we might, however, it takes a while to get back into a rhythm after even a short stop, and our early efforts to organize were a little shaky. We fell apart, then got back together, and then fell apart again – everntually, we started our track back east towards the lake with a turn onto 140th St, and down a short hill into residential – John was pulling hard, and it was everything I had to latch back on – then I died. The 5-man paceline started to advance up the road without me. Ugh… was I shot???

Determined to at least TRY, I shifted, and jumped up the cadence to try and capture the group, and after a couple hard blocks, I did it! With congratulations from the strong rider in white and black, I was back in the hunt. But, unfortunately it wouldn’t last! I wasted myself latching back on, and couldn’t even hold the rear of the pack anymore! ACK!

We blasted out of residential, made a quick dog-leg turn and were onto Raytown Rd again, for the final run around the lake. With the wind again as my helper, I was determined to try and bridge back up, one last time before this run was over. With my average speed sitting at 23.6 now, it would be a miracle if I could stay at this pace much longer – it had been AGES since I’d ridden this fast! It was worth a shot. I dug in, set my sights on the five-man group, and started the attack. I didn’t catch them…but they didn’t ride away from me, either – to my own amazement, I even managed to gain some ground on the uphill sections, but I was never close enough to spring and bridge up. It was consolation enough, however, that I was managing to maintain the same pace as a five-man group, and wasn’t getting caught by anyone else from behind at the same time! With my speed up in the high-20’s again, I was feeling the burn, but it was not debilitating! For the first time in a long time, I was riding a solid speed session, and not slobbering all over myself and wanting to die!

As we made he final approach to View High Drive, after passing over the dam and climbing the last little rise in the road, the group ahead of me had split – three off the front, an Mike and the black and white rider behind. And, as I rounded the last corner at the top of the hill, I had caught the last two in the bunch! Smiling, and determined to at least try and catch the other three, I shifted again, and BANG!

Cramp!! Right hamstring!!

Dang it!!!! I know better! All that hammering, and I had neglected to take in enough water and fuel in that last hard solo section. It wasn’t a massive, stop-everything cramp like I’d had in the past – this was rideable, but I had to get something in me QUICK. Just as soon as I’d passed them, Mike and the other rider passed be right back, as I soft-pedaled and slammed down fluids. Thankfully, after a few more pedal strokes, the cramp was worked out – and I began, in earnest, another last-ditch effort to make up ground – but there wasn’t enough road left! I turned onto 3rd Street, with Mike in my sights – but it was too late for a miracle sprint, even though my legs were back.

With my head held proud, however, I dashed into the parking lot with a REALLY good number intact for the day: 23.1 MPH average, for 17.5 miles! Not a bad little time-trail, if I do say so myself! And, an honor again to perform so well in such company! Mike is always fast, whether he says so or not, and the rest of the pack was just amazing - the guy on the tourer is a racer from St.Louis, and the rest of the bunch are all successful catergorized racers that have had excellent seasons -- to only have four or five of them finish ahead of me is a huge shot in the arm for my mental game - and it was excellent training for what lies ahead!

In fact, I’ll have to look back at the journal, but I think this is some kind of record for me. Except for the KCCC Time Trial with averages in the 26-27 range for 2.5 miles, this is the highest average for any appreciable distance I think I’ve ever achieved, and much of it was not paceline assisted, which is even better!

Fewer miles – better results?

With almost 1,500 miles LESS than this time last year, I think my 2006 mantra is working!

Next steps – taper carefully, and pack and prepare for Tinbutt THIS WEEKEND!!!!

Snippet from SpinMan's Website:
Sat July 8
Once again the weather couldn't have been better as there were over 50 riders on the first ride around the lake. Even changed the route slightly to eliminate some traffic and even make it nicer. The 2nd ride also started with quite a huge group on the way out to Casey's - it also stayed basically all together on the way out. It doesn't get any better than that! The return from Casey's broke no records, but was still fast. It was Reggie and Tim Colfield riding away from the group before the ride even hit 71 access road. The last I, or anyone else saw of them was a couple of fleeting dots after the 150 Hwy intersection. They were probably a 24+ plus average as the rest of the people started filtering in at 23, 22, 21, 20 speeds. Looks like everyone is getting faster as I'm sure that this was the largest group of 20+ riders all year. PS... CommuterDude is back - basically riding by himself after being dropped and still coming in at around 23! Next week I have the Road I Certification Clinic at Longview - feel free to sign up. Later....

Confirmation is always good! kG

July 6, 2006

Eight Days to Meltdown

It's coming up awfully quick, and after this weekend's last-dicth effort to get mileage and training, I'll be on a nice, steady taper of easy rest rides. Mmmmm....tasty.

Unfortunately, I'll be drinking about a gallon a day of water and popping electrolyte tabs to stay hydrated for the onslaught of weather that awaits to the south of here.

I'm a lot smarter about it this year than I was LAST year - that's for certain -- and I'm really not that nervous about the prospect of riding for 12 hours with peak temperatures in the low 100's again, as it appears to be shaping up that way.
I've got a good plan - I just need to really stick to it this time around, and really minimize my time off the saddle.

Can't WAIT!!!

Had an EXCELLENT training ride with Ort last weekend -
This was the Weston Ride - formerly Andy's, now George's -- and either way, a first for me. I still consider this a little odd, especially after we drove up to the park where the ride starts, and I realized how close to home it really is for me. I shoulda done this ride a LONG time ago. Today was an off-day for the official ride, so it was just Ort and me, saddling up for 57 grueling miles of heart-pumping hills and thrilling decsents!

Wyandotte County Lake Park is a magical place -- if you are a cyclist, that is.
Nestled and still untouched by progress, this is a bigger lake park than Shawnee Mission Park, and why I always qualify statements about Shawnee Mission Park -- it's a tough ride, and (arguably) one of the toughest training venues IN JOHNSON COUNTY. Compared to Wyandotte County's park, however, the road circumnavigating Shawnee Mission Park might as well be flat. The seven-mile lake road at Wyandotte County Park is not only about 75% longer, but is at least twice as hilly, and each hill steeper than the last. It's a ridiculous circuit. Thankfully, today, we were only riding a short portion of it.

We leave the parking lot, and head northwest towards the exit, but we first climb a couple of nasty rollers, and enjoy some gnarly drops that curve and twist every which way, making it hard to remember which direction you're headed. Eventually, after a near-wrong turn on my part, we are on the way out of the park, and heading west towards Old K-5. K-5, or Wolcott Road, is a storied highway, part of the old Leavenworth Military Road, and it winds northeast for a while, passing under I-435 an along the Missouri River for a while, along the old Missouri Pacific rail-line - which I think is probably run by BNSF nowadays. There is a lot of history that has rumbled past these hills, as we roll past Lakeside Speedway, some abandoned DOT buildings, and old hills with livestock grazing.

We continue under the ever hotter sunshine until the hills begin, and they pitch up rather sharply and twist up around bend after bend - this is the way highways USED to be built, and it's a cyclist paradise. Very few cars interrupt our journey, as we click thru the gears and push up the stiff grades. With the wind at our backs, it's a perfect morning.

We pass thru Lansing, past an old prison, thru old neighborhoods with stunning late-1800's era homes, right turn to ride thru the VA hospital grounds and past the old governors' mansion - this is truly a city that time has not touched. Even the roads are quaintly 'out of date', with old rusty grates and crumbled curbs everywhere - occasionally there is a new patch of pavement, but not often.

We take a right at the church, and careen down a monster hill, past more houses, and then past a cement plant onto another flat at 2nd Street, and thru old Leavenworth's industrial area, with its old brick buildings and steep streets. We fly past the city market, and up another rise onto a old, high road that faces over the Missouri river into a massive valley. This is the western bluff of the river, on Esplande Street - 130 year old houses line only one side of the street here, all facing east -- can you imagine THIS being your front yard; a seamless view of the trees and valey over the river, and nothing in sight to the east for miles? I can imagine the original owners of these houses, sitting on the front porch at sunrise, seeing much the same thing I was marvelling at to my right, as I rode along. The modern safety bicycle hadn't even come along yet! Only inches under our tires, beneath carefully overlaid asphalt, was likely the original brickwork that paved these old roads.

A quick bend in the road, some climbing, and there it was: the Metropolitan Avenue bridge that crosses into Missouri, a gorgeous, simple double-span suspension deck, respendant in powder-blue. We rode hard to get across in good time, but the view was spectacular and I couldn't help staring off into the waters below, as a few cars patiently waited for us to cross safely - a far cry from Johnson County traffic!

Soon we were making our way east on Mo-45, towards the little town of Beverly, this time with the river on our left. This is the kind of riding I really look forward to - there were a few cars here and there, but they were simply on their way to somewhere else. To the left, right, and in front of me was nearly nothing - just endless fields of crops spreading across the fertile valley, and high bluffs and hills shielding the whole of the big valley. We traversed the RR tracks after about 4 miles of solid flat, good-shouldered - where I pulled out a decent pull at about 23 MPH. I hope I can bank on that in about a week!

After that, we motored north for more of the same, flat, good roads -- it really reminded me of Mississippi Valley 24-hour race back in Illinois - farms, and really long flats. It was easy to transport myself back to 2003 again, hammering along a perfect road, with a little help from the wind. Ort and I were making excellent time, and really enjoying the endless supply of sun, and just plain-ole good riding.

The days of the flats would not last, however - after passing under the main highway and thru the little burg of Beverly, we were once again climbing. We made our way farther north, and past Weston Bend State Park, which Ort tells me makes WYANDOTTE park look flat (yeeeesh!) - and on up to the intersection of Mo-273 and SR JJ, the latter of which we take west, towards Weston. It's a tough series of narrow roads later, which took us up, up, up into Weston proper, and then DOWN, fast into downtown -- and WHAM, we were there: the Weston Cafe.

This is an OLD building, which used to be a saloon at one point in the late 1800's, but was now a burgeoning local eatery. The place was about half-full of locals, sipping coffee, talking about the weather, the crops, the neighbors. It was instantly relaxing, aside from the fact we were both dressed rather garishly compared to the jeans and t-shirts around us. Still, the locals didn't pay much mind - I got the impression that cyclist were not uncommon up here - good hills, and not that much traffic.

We ordered out breakfast, and I was surprised at the sheer quantity -- I ordered the #6, which is the vegetarian hashbrowns, with a side of a biscuit. Ok, I'm thking hashbrowns - like maybe a 6" around side order of hashbrowns. I got TWO POUNDS of steaming potatoes, mixed with onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms - all fresh, and mounded with melted cheddar cheese. It was AWESOME..... but it would have made a better POST-ride meal!

Afterwards, I was ready to ride.... ride right home for a two-hour nap.
I was FULL, and I felt it with every pedal stroke, every climb after we got back in the saddle.

We made our way back out of town, and after nearly an hour off the bikes it really may not have mattered what we'd eaten. We were stiff, completely cooled-down, and all just before the biggest of the hills leading out of town again -- torture!
We made it back to the main highway, and then had to fight the headwind that was waiting for us all morning - we struggled and pushed until I was practically out of gas, and not very convincingly I managed to pull Ort for a bit on the way back to the RR tracks for the turn west towards the river again. Another rest as we waited for a fully-loaded coal train to pass by, and then we picked it up again.
Ort, obviously not as affected by his breakfast of one pancake and a two-egg omlette, was pulling strongly, all the way back to the main road, up and over the bridge, and through a green arrow left-turn back to the Kansas side, and K-7. I burped up a few different variants of breakfast, fianlly getting past the fullness of it all by the time the first of the big hills was upon us again. Thankfully!

We wound our way back south and west, and eventually even the wind didn't seem that bad as we both got warmed back up and into a rhythm again. My legs seem to have found themselves, too, on a a few of the hills winding back into Lansing, up to the church again, down thru the VA hospital (where we passed up some kids riding their bikes, too - a good day to be out), and back out onto K-5. This was gonna be the hard part, as Ort announced out altitude and what we had yet to achieve for the day. Whoof...

I shifted, and settled in for a few hundred feet of UP at a steep pitch, then down again at top speed, then up, down, up -- curve left hard, then right, up, down -- this is a GREAT road, but Man the heat was coming up, and the headwind wasn't helping much. Fully unzipped, sweat dripping, It was time to get some benefits out of this ride.
I managed to get past the very last of the hashbrown coma and started to tempo climb the last of the big hills, going into red-zone a few times, feeling the burn and pushing past it when I could. Exciting downhills provided a little rest, and then repeat - HARD. This was tougher than any 22-mile loop Tinbutt had to throw out at us, so it was time to make it hurt now so we didn't have anything to complain about later. After the hills were past us, and sooner than expected, we were back on the long straight flat leading back towards old K-5, and back to Wyandotte Lake Park again, where more hills awaited us. With temps up in the 90's again, this ride was ending JUST in time, as we flew over the last of the big hills in the park, and ended up back at the lot again.

A GREAT ride.... and excellent training - I'm defintely coming up here to do this again!

But I'm skipping the hashbrowns.

Sadly, this was probably the last ride Ort and I will have together (unless we ride THIS weekend, that is) before he moves to Texas. It's been a good run, man.
See you in Oklahoma!

Hope everyone had a good 4th of July -- mine was pretty relaxing, and ended the day with clear skies, a little less humidity, and some great fireworks with the family. Ahhh..... always a good time.

Talk to you all soon!

The next report should be the Tinbutt Ride Wrapup report when I get back!