Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dexter Dog Camp @ Chez JD

You might remember Dexter - He's the super dog whose family is my really good friends. He came to Chez JD for Dexter Dog Camp for a few days. I picked him up yesterday and immediately began to spoil him. You see, that is what the Uncle gets to do - for the kids as well as the pets. My job, and I take great pride in it, is spoiling Dexter while he has his little vacation.

It starts of course with the ball throwing. Being a dog's dog, Dexter really loves to chase the ball. His family left me with the chuck-it and a brand new ball. What can be better than that - an energetic dog, a chuck it toy, a brand new ball and a big back yard. So, not long after we got him settled in, we were out chasing the ball.

He's still a bit of a puppy (just over a year old), so he really wants me to chase him around. Of course that is after I throw the ball for him - in order to get it back, I have to chase him. Not being the super knowledgeable dog guy, I was making the mistake of indulging him in this. C'est la vie, we had a good time.

The spoiling continues with the walks. Now at home, he has to stay on a short leash. Here at Chez JD, he gets to roam a little with the retractable leash. He still wants to pull, but the choker collar helps control that. We take a stroll around the neighborhood before bedtime, in the morning and in the afternoon. Of course, there is some ball throwing in there as well. All good dogs need to be spoiled this way when they are on vacation.

He likes to play and this evening when I returned from my french club (and after our walk), we were heading back to my little office. My cat Molly loves to sleep under the heater vent which happens to be right off the hallway that Dexter and I have to traverse to get to the office. Molly is paying attention as I walk by, and of course Dexter sees Molly so I stop and talk to both of them - Good Dog, Good kitten etc. Dexter is excited to be so close to her and I can tell. He was looking at her then looking at me while I'm talking to him and petting him. Suddenly, he goes into that head down on the front legs, butt in the air pose that is so common when dogs want to play with each other. I had to laugh. I know Molly isn't interested in playing with him, so I had to talk him down a little. 'You're to big to play with Molly' I said. Meanwhile, Molly is just looking at him like "are you stupid or what?".

Of course today there was more ball throwing (or chasing depending on your perspective). I decided I had had enough of chasing him around to get the ball back. I started working with him to drop the ball at my feet. He is such a smart dog (and had some good training by his family) and towards the end of it, things were working out the way I wanted - not the way he wanted.

All that ball chasing really tires a dog out, and what would a vacation be without some good sleeping? So, here I caught him in full repose.
I think he's dreaming about his family - Happy New Year Family!!.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Experiencing life mile by mile.

If you don't know, I like to ride my bike (really? wow, I would have never guessed by reading your blog JD!). I decided at the beginning of 2008 that I would re-set my odometer at the beginning of each year and track my mileage for the year. While the year is not yet over, I thought I would make a few notes about my recent riding schedule.

It started on Sunday (the 20th) with the Heritage Park WBL rides put together by Jim Cunningham. It was a fun ride that took us on a tour of roads out towards Enoree, SC. We started with a big group of maybe 50 or more.

The group trimmed down a bit after the one sprint zone that was called out. It was really fun, but I simply sat in the back and held on for dear life! Scott took the sprint after we blasted down the road at speeds over 35mph. I love that stuff.

As I said, a small group of people took off from this point. We headed down the road a ways and took a small break at a store. It was obvious that there was a faster group and a slower group. Jim split these two groups - one to go 70 miles and the other to go closer to 55.

I stuck with the 70 mile group and we rode into the increasingly strong headwinds. The group was down to about 15 or so hardcore individuals and we worked a pace line as we knocked out the miles. Technically, we only got something just over 68 miles.

Monday was another great day to be on the bike. I met up with a couple of my Greenville Spinner's Racing team-mates for a tour of Pickens County. We started from Chris' place in the north Main Area of Greenville. He took us on some great backroads that I had no clue even existed. He really knows his way around the area.

We made a stop at Tim's place to see the destruction - oops I mean construction going on at his ranch. He lives out near Pickens (the town of) and near Hwy 8. We took Hwy 8 up through Pumpkintown and across Hwy 11 at Aunt Sues. We looped around on Table Rock Road then started back towards Greenville. It was a really great tour, but after Sunday's ride, I was feeling it at the end of this ride. We arrived back at Chez Chris with just over 69 miles showing on my tripmeter.

I took Tuesday as a non-biking day and instead went to the gym for a core workout. I'm really trying to do better with some strength training. My biggest difficulty is forcing myself to be inside when I'd rather be outside - yes, even in the cold weather. Nothing is as nice as getting a good workout in the great outdoors - biking, running, hiking - you name it. I'd rather be doing it outside than inside a gym. Although I do have to admit, the scenery inside a gym isn't all bad.

Today, I decided to meet up again with my team-mates for another ride. Again, we left from Chris' place. We rode out past Tigerville in loop that took us again on roads that I had not seen before. We passed on climbing Callahan Mountain. In part because it was pretty cold up there in those hills! There was still a bunch of snow on the ground and along the sides of the road. We could really feel the temperature drop as we passed through Tigerville.

Our Total today came in at just about 56.5 miles. That puts me at about 193 miles for the four days. We have another ride scheduled for Saturday (hoping the weather is good), and I'll probably do some easy riding tomorrow before the weather turns. No matter what, I'll have over 200 miles for the week.

What's that mean for me on the year? Well, my odometer passed 4600 miles as we traveled along the swamp rabbit trail near Furman this afternoon. I don't think I'm going to be riding enough over the next week to hit the 5000 mile mark, but hey, I feel pretty good about 4600 (it will go a little higher - maybe 4800 - I'll post up the total when I know I've finished riding for the year).

Why do I feel good about it? Well, on the 3rd of Januray, 2009, I did the Spinner's 'First Fifty' - a ride put together by the Spinner's Touring Coordinators. When I started that ride, I had not (ever) ridden a bicycle more than 50 miles. I think my longest rides were in the 40s up to that point.

How far one can come in the course of a year. My next big event was the assault on Mt. Mitchell. That was my first century and it included over 11,000 ft of elevation gain. I spent a lot of time on my bike throughout the summer - lots of riding at Donaldson, weekend rides and the fun times riding from the Oakview school on Thursday nights. Not a lot of long distance rides, maybe some half centuries or metric centuries along the way.

In July of this year, I made the commitment to ride in support of the Challenge to Conquer Cancer. That was truly an incredible experience. I won't ever forget the times we had and the (many) emotions we shared on that journey. We rode A LOT of miles in preparation for the trip to Austin. We did several centuries during that training and our Polka Dot team managed to do consecutive centuries in our last two shifts. Pretty good for a kid (yeah - I'm still a big kid) who had never done a half century only 11 months before.

Over the miles I've met a lot of really good people here in the Upstate and surrounding area. We've experienced some really great times. Many of those experiences stretching over the many miles we've traveled together.

Merry Christmas my friends. May 2010 see us experiencing many more miles and good times together.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is it Bah Humbug or Happy Holidays?

Here we are in the holiday season and a co-worker accused me of being 'bah humbug' the other day! You might ask why she would have said that so I'll tell you. Folks were talking about how stressed and rushed they were in getting all of the presents purchased. My comment was "I've finished my shopping - I've bought nothing for anyone". That lead to her accusation.

So what does it really mean if someone is bah humbug? Well, here's why I don't consider myself as bah humbug, rather I'm simply refusing to be involved in the rampant commercialization of what is supposed to be a religious holiday (and you should know I'm not a religious guy).

1: The Greenville Holiday Parade (or The Polka Dot Elf Makes His Debut)

My Challenge to Conquer Cancer squad decided to have an entry in the Greenville Parade this year. Of course, I did the parade last year with the Bikeville group and I was surprised that I hadn't heard anything about them in the parade this year. So, I committed to the C3 event.

To make things more interesting, Dustin posed a challenge to the group and offered a grand prize. The person with the best decorated bike would win a case of New Belgium's Fat Tire Ale. You would not believe the trash talking that went on from this group! It was pretty fun to say the least. I knew there was going to be some serious contenders out there, so I started making my decoration plans.

I had decorated my bike last year with a few battery operated light sets and some other small items. This year I had to take it to a whole new level! After many hours, here's my final result (the polka dot elf!):

Big John also came out to play:

Along with Milt:

and Tedd:

There were many of my P3C3 friends who came out that night. We had a really good time and I think the kids really enjoyed our decorated bikes. Unfortunately the daylight and / or flash covered up all of the lights that we had decorated our bikes with, so you're still not getting the full effect. However, you can see additional photos at greenville online (C3 group starts at image 156) or you can see the Videos from the parade. (The C3 group is in video 3).

2. The Tacky Sweater Christmas Party at Saffrons (or The Polka Dot Elf Returns)
The following Saturday there was another Holiday event in which I participated. This was an event to benefit Camp opportunity. The event was all about tacky christmas sweaters. You can see some images on Link's Metromix and here's a shot of me (courtesy of the Link)

3. Christmas Lights Ride (or OOOOOOHHHHHHH Look at all the Pretty Lights)
Last thursday (the 17th of Dec), the Flour cycling team posted up a ride through some neighborhoods to look at all the pretty lights. While I did not bring out the polka dot elf, his ride was there. My friend Kari and I met up with the group at the back parking lot of the ECPI college campus. There was about 25 people there and many had done some kind of decorations - of themselves or their bikes. The pace was intended to be slow and for the pure social and viewing pleasure of the riders. There were two routes planned - 11 miles or 16 miles.

The first 4 miles the routes were co-incident. This was interesting with the group as I'm unsure of the experience of some of the riders regarding group rides. It was a bit of stop and go and people were all over the place. You had to be really on your toes to keep from getting tangled up with someone. Thankfully, there was no accidents, although we did have one rider get a flat.

At the point where the two rides diverged, a lot more people decided to do the shorter route than had indicated when polled at the start of the ride. This was quite funny as it left only 6 of us riding on the longer route. What a difference! The 6 who stayed together on the longer route were all experienced riders and our pace immediately picked up. It was no hammerfest, but the experience of the group showed in the pace.

We got off route a few times, but we all smiled and turned around. Every time we passed people we wished them Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. It was a lot of fun. The bonus being the ride through the Roper Mountain Science Center to look at those holiday lights. You don't realize that it actually is a 'mountain' when you drive through it. Riding my single speed surly Elf Bike made me take notice for sure. After the ride, we met up with other riders at Carrabas for a great dinner.

So, what really defines a person who is a scrooge? To me it is more the overall attitude and has nothing to do with how many presents one purchases.

with that, I wish everyone Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Upstate Winter Bike League Rocks!!

Today was the first in a series of rides put together by the capable hands of Steve Sperry and the folks at Carolina Tri. The UWBL was supposed to begin last week but was canceled due to weather. This week looked touch and go for a little while, but in the end, it all came together.

We met at Carolina Tri for a 10am start. It seemed to be a pretty good turnout for a cold and overcast day. I'm thinking about 80 riders or so for the A group. As we gathered around outside the shop, I looked around to see who had come out to play.
I saw a lot of my cycling friends. Gary, Owen, Randy, Kirk, Eric and a bunch of others I recognize but don't know their names. One guy who everybody knows was also there - Big George himself came out to ride with us. That is a cool bonus to living in Greenville - our hometown cycling great is along for the ride just like everyone else.

The first installment of UWBL for the season had a fun sprint zone only for the category 4, 5 and unclassified riders. It started after a stop sign re-group. Sperry asked the Pro, cat 1, 2 and 3 riders to hold back so the rest of us could have a go at the sprint zone. He led us out for about 1.5 miles along a road that was about 4 miles long. I had grouped up with my fellow Greenville Spinners Racing team-mates Randy and Kirk and we talked a little about some strategy.

We didn't want to lead the pack when Sperry released us, but we did want to be near the front. When Sperry released us, we were the only team that was in the front but there was a couple of independents in front of us. There was not a big rush as Sperry pulled to the side. I was leading Randy and Kirk, but I knew we didn't want to push too early at the beginning, so I just maintained pace with the other riders on the front.

It wasn't long before the Globalbike team came up on our left. Randy warned me and I felt a little stupid as I had put myself behind one of the other riders and slightly to his right. This left me with very little room to do anything, but I saw him drifting towards his left side thus opening a small gap between him and another rider (which happened to be Eric Christophersen on his fixie). I decided to move through the gap and Randy cautioned me in making this tight move. We made it through and just started to close the small gap that Globalbike was starting to open when I heard a crash behind. I think it split the field pretty well. I don't think anyone got hurt, but I did talk to a guy whose front wheel had gotten bent. He was still riding, so it must not have been too bad.

Globalbike was pulling hard off the front and we had two other riders between us and them. It quickly became apparent that the two riders between us and them were not holding the pace. Since I was leading our small contingent of Spinners, I made the move to bridge the gap before it got too big. They were pushing the pace, but bridging was not difficult. It did drive up the heart rate, and their pace was definitely keeping it high.

There was about 4 (maybe 5?) of the Globalbike guys up there and as their lead rider tired, he would drop off. In they days of group riding (not racing), I would have let him join his team by pulling in front of me. I made a concerted effort to keep him out of there. No way I was going to give him an opportunity to recover and become another rider on the front. As the Globalbike contingent got smaller, the Spinners got closer to the front.

A couple of other riders came up on our left to make a move and I followed. At this point, I knew Randy and Kirk were still back there. I was doing my best to make sure we were on the wheels of those in front of us. I kept an eye out for the finish and held on.

I saw the sign marking the finish a fraction of a second after an independent rider came up and passed us on the left. I made the move to keep with him, but he really had a slingshot effect and pulled a small gap. I passed one other rider in my chase and there was only two in front - one guy from the Piedmont Orthopedic Associates team (I think) and this independent who got the slingshot.

I was reeling both of them in as I watched the POA rider reeling in the independent. I was feeling good and I could sense other riders behind and to my right and left - I could hear them too as they worked to hold the pace. I was pushing hard, but I think I was in the wrong gear. Had I chosen to stand up and sprint, I know I would have lost ground. I needed to be at least one more gear harder and maybe two. So I kept in my saddle expecting at any moment to see Randy or Kirk come flying past me.

Despite remaining in my saddle, I continued to gain ground against the attack. Unfortunately, at the sign I was one bike's length away from the win. The POA rider was about a half bike length from the win. Of course, that means the independent took it. He had a great jump and a strong sprint to the finish. Although I missed out on the leader's vest, I was pleased to have been in the mix.

I was surprised when I turned around and saw Randy and Kirk rolling easy towards the intersection. I had thought them on my wheel the whole time. I'm not sure when I pulled the gap. The group took a few minutes break at the Possum Kingdom store while the Sprinter's vest was awarded. Sperry and Big George made the presentation. It's a cool vest despite it's pink color!

We continued on our route and George got out front and pulled the group for quite a while. I was sitting on his wheel for a long time. Kind of cool. Shortly after that, I found myself out front pulling alongside Boyd who I met not long ago on a mt bike ride at Dupont. I worked pretty hard on the front trying to hold the pace. I think I worked a little too hard as I started to tire around the time I got up front and pulled alongside George.

After dropping off the front as we approached the Piedmont Hwy, I decided it was best for me to just sit in and do my best to stay with the pack. I managed to do so and we pulled back in to Carolina Tri with an average of about 20.4mph showing on my computer.

A few things I learned out there:
1. I need to carry some nutrition with me on these rides. I had nothing but water. My breakfast was a bowl of cereal that wasn't quite enough to carry me through the 3 hour ride. Despite this, I managed to stay with the pack. Next week they are targeting a 4 hour ride - I won't make it without some nutrition.
2. I need to anticipate the sprint a little more and get myself in a better gear so I can stand up and go for it. Had I been in a better gear, such that I could have stood up to sprint - I may have taken the vest.
3. I don't have terrible instincts when it comes to watching the other teams work around me. I managed to keep with the lead team throughout the sprint zone. However, I made a bad choice early on when I put myself on the wrong side of a rider who I knew would be dropping out of the sprint. Thankfully, we managed to get past that cleanly to stay with the Globalbike team.
4. UWBL is a killer fun time!