Monday, August 31, 2009

Early morning music on Altamont Road

As you know, I've signed up to do the Challenge to Conquer cancer relay from Greenville to Austin in October. Part of preparing for that ride is the fundraising. The other part of course is the training rides. There actually is a specific training plan in place for the P3C3 team. It is pretty demanding - we are up to a point where we are to be riding 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday with two 2 hour rides during the week. I'm pretty consistent on the 2 hour rides on the weekdays, but I have gotten a (relatively) long ride on only one of the two weekend days these last few weeks.

A little over a week ago, I met Ron, Jeni, Perry and Ed for some repeats of Paris Mountain. If you don't know what Paris Mountain is, it's a great little mountain only a few miles from downtown Greenville. We rode to Paris Mountain on the same roads that the USA Cycling Professional Championships use (which just occurred this past weekend). Because of already scheduled activities for some of our group, we met at Ron's house for a 515am departure (on a sunday morning!!).

Leaving this early is actually a good thing because we need to get some night training rides in anyway. We all have lights and we put them to good use. As we rode through the north end of downtown Greenville, we saw very little traffic. It was still dark as we turned on to Old Buncombe road. We worked the paceline along this road until we arrived at the base of Altamont Road.

Since it was still dark, I could not see to check my start time, so I just started up the hill. Perry and Ed set a pretty good pace up the hill, and quickly left Jeni, Ron and I behind. I didn't think I was really feeling it, so I stayed back with Jeni and Ron as I watched those guys pull away. They were quickly opening a sizable gap.

I paced with Jeni and Ron up the first part of the climb. As we made the first hard left turn (still not far from the bottom), I began to get my legs under me. I came around Jeni and Ron and continued my pace. I still wasn't thinking I even had a chance at catching Perry and Ed.

Part of my difficulty in the early part of that climb - I was still tired from the events of the previous evening. My friend Kirsten had a 'Cuban' party at her house the previous night. It was a great time, and I actually left before the real party began (Salsa dancing on the back deck). Before I left though, I had done my share of carb loading - the liquid kind....Worst, when I got home about 1015, I didn't go straight to bed, I got on the internet and messed around for an hour or so. I think I finally climbed into bed about 1145 - for a 430am wakeup call!!

As I climbed that straight-away from the first left hand curve to the next right-hander (which leads to a steep section next to the water tower), I began to feel better. Maybe my body was finally warming up - I find it takes me longer and longer to warm up as I get older. I'm not sure exactly, but as I came around that right-hander, I could see Perry and Ed almost past the water tower. I do know one thing - as the road steepened through that section, my mindset shifted into pursuit mode. I was finding my rhythm and was quickly starting to feel better. Funny how a little friendly competition will do that to you.

After the water tower there is a short section in which I can shift up a gear or two. I knew if I wanted to catch those guys, I was going to have to take advantage of every opportunity of this type. I tried to hold the higher gear for as long as possible before shifting back down. Although it was dark, I could track them from their tail-lights and headlights. I felt like I was slowly gaining ground.

I kept pushing as we ascended the next switchback then came out to the area with the great view off to the left (where it looks like they are building another housing development). I now knew I was gaining ground. Here again, I can shift a couple of gears and add more speed. They were taking advantage of this as well, but all I could do was keep pushing my own pace - I couldn't worry about them except to keep them in sight and reel them in.

Not far beyond this view area is a tight right hand turn. After that the road is relatively straight with a few kinks in it. It was here that I finally caught the two of them. As I passed first Perry, then Ed, I thought both of them would jump on my wheel. I saw Ed had grabbed on, but I couldn't see what Perry had done. I kept pushing - Ed is a very strong rider. As we approached the sharp right hand turn before the wall, I was asking him how well he knew the road.

He had only ridden the road once before (last year's Stars and Stripes Challenge). I was starting to feel the effects of my effort and he had come up beside me. As we made that turn marked '15mph', I told him about the wall and where the summit was. We held pace together at the bottom of the wall, but he gained a bike length in the middle of it. I took advantage of my knowledge of the climb and went all out to pull past him to the summit. When I looked back, I realized that Perry was riding his pace - which happened to be a little slower than what Ed and I did.

He wasn't far behind though - soon he came around the turn and to the summit. The sun was barely starting to make a brighter line on the horizon. Shortly, Jeni and Ron achieved the summit and we had a brief moment of victory and congratulations. Ron wasn't going to let himself cool down too much, so he set off down in the same direction we had just climbed.

It was expected - our plan was to do 4 repeats of the Furman side of Paris Mountain that morning. Ron and I arrived at the base of the climb together and immediately set off again for the top. Jeni, Perry and Ed were a little behind us and I was glad. Although I pushed myself pretty hard up the climb the second and third times - I'm afraid I would have blown up if I had anyone pushing me. Perry and Ed really made me work for that first climb. I rode solo for the following three ascents. On the fourth and final ascent, I really backed off the pace to just enjoy the ride.

Of the four ascents we did that morning, the second ascent was the most incredible. There's something to be said about pushing your physical limits on a quiet and still morning as the sun rises around you. The song of the chain through the gears, in time with the rhythm of your cadence. The drumming of your heart accompanied by the chorus of the awakening morning - it's a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

JD's Challenge to Conquer cancer

Updated 10/31/09

I am back from this incredible experience, and I wanted to make a link to all the blogs I wrote on the road. Here they are in the order they were written:
Less than a week to go!
I think I'm in denial...
Are we ready?
The Journey
Let the journey begin
Team Polka Dot earns their dots!
WANTED: The Polka Dot Outlaws!

You can read the information and see the links below for a full recap of all the pertinent information about the 2009 Challenge to Conquer Cancer.


It hasn't been long since I became a fundraiser (and a rider in the team relay) in support of the Palmetto Peloton Project's upcoming Challenge to Conquer cancer. I have written several blogs on this subject, but they might not be obvious to someone who is coming here for the first time. I have been sending a lot of people information about the upcoming challenge, and have included my blog as a source of information on why I am involved and updates on my training and my fundraising.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a link to each of the blogs I have written on this subject and to provide some other easy to access information on the event.

Why am I involved?

It's not about me this time
So, who is it about?
For whom do I ride - A tribute to cancer Survivors, Warriors and those who have lost the battle
If you're looking for inspiration...
2 weeks and counting!

The generosity is quite humbling

Training with the P3C3 team
6 days 350+ miles
Early Morning Music on Altamont Road
A kid, his bike and a long climb
...this could be heaven or this could be hell...
3 weeks to go!

The Ride:
is either 1350 miles or 1271 miles (depends on where you look)....All I know - it is a long way. Here is a map of the entire route put together by one of the P3C3 crew Nikki.

The Concept:
The Challenge to Conquer cancer squad is made up of 5 teams of 4-8 people each. All five teams will depart Greenville (from the Greenville Memorial Hospital campus on Grove road) on Sunday, October 18th. The ride is set up as a team relay, so each team will ride for a designated period of time (6 hours) before making the handoff to the next team. Each team will do a 6 hour shift with a 24 hour rest / recover / travel to their next handoff location. There will be a team riding 24 hours a day while the other teams travel to their next start point.

{JD's disclaimer: In the following paragraph, I am not implying that any of the riders on the P3C3 squad are weak - to the contrary, I have ridden with many of these fine folks and find each of them to be strong and accomplished riders. Therefore, when I say 'stronger' or 'faster', it is a relative term}

I anticipate that each team will ride between 80 and 110 miles per shift. It really just depends on the terrain and the relative strength of the team. The teams are logically determined by rider strength / speed. This is advantageous to put riders of similar ability together. A team is only as strong as it's weakest member. A stronger team will generally ride a little faster and further in their 6 hour shift than a not as strong team. There's no guarantees though - amazing things are known to happen when people are faced with adversity.

On Friday, the 23rd of October we will ride as a group into Austin, Texas. During the weekend that follows, we will have the opportunity to participate in the Livestrong Challenge.

Where do the donations go?
The donations that you make will go first through the non-profit organization Palmetto Peloton Project who will distribute the funds to the GHS Oncology Research Institute and to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

What's my part?
I have committed to raising $5000 to benefit the two organizations listed above. Here's my progress to date:

Date: 10/16/09
Total: >$5000!!!
(We made it!! I am awed by the generosity of my friends, family and co-workers. You are awesome! Thanks to all my supporters!)
Please keep those donations coming - you can still donate whether in support of me or someone else, please help us fight this battle.

You can donate online (please select my name - John Davidson from the drop-down at the top of the page) or, if you send me an email ( I can send you a form you can use to donate by check.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Please help us in this effort by making a donation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Two weeks in a row

For the second week in a row, I have volunteered to lead a C1b group out at Donaldson on Tuesday night. In fact, tonight, Jay assumed I was leading the ride - I didn't really volunteer. However, since I do enjoy it, and I seemed to have a lot of support, I thought it would be fun.

Last week, I did volunteer to lead, and we had a great ride. I can't go into a lot of detail - mostly because I'm beat and I need to go to bed, but I will say that we averaged 20mph at the Michelin Rd / Antioch Church Road and we stopped at EVERY stop sign. It is surprising how much average speed you lose when you stop at a single stop sign. I have looked at my computer and seen as much as 0.3 miles/hour drop in average speed for a relatively short stop. Longer stops (especially on high traffic roads like 418) can lose more than that.

I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but three tenths of a mile per hour is actually quite a bit of speed over the 34 mile route which is typical for Tuesday's at Donaldson. Tonight there was a bit of a headwind, so our average started out quite a bit slower than last week. Shaun and I led out from the start down perimeter road, and the headwind put a hurtin' on us before we even exited Perimeter road! Folks were really good about moving up and pulling into the wind - I'm really glad for that. I like to get out and control the pace, but when you are fighting a headwind, it really works you over.

We maintained a 18.5 - 19 mph pace for a long time. I was concerned that we wouldn't hit the typical speed goal I set for these rides - 20mph. Although we were working pretty hard, our average when we made the turn off of Woodville road was right about 18.5. We had some mechanicals in the group - Jeni had a worn out tire, and Perry nearly broke his chain, but we pushed on through Woodville road where Jeni split off from us.

The rest of the group continued on to old hundred road. Of course, the pace began to pick up. Folks started to get up front and push the pace a little - I was not about to slow them down as we were behind our normal pace. I did as much as I could stand out front to help bring the pace up.

I did a pretty good pull along Hopkins / McKelvey road and onto Holly road. In fact, I was out front all along Holly road until after we started up the other side of the Holly road hill. I knew peeps were sitting in just waiting for me to blow up so they could pass me. Solid ride strategy for sure. As we came up the hill, there went Perry and Ed - a couple of my Challenge to Conquer Cancer team-mates flying past me. After leading the whole of Holly road up to that point, I could only watch as they passed by. I tried to push the pace on that stretch - our average pace was climbing. We were over 19mph by the time we reached Reedy Fork Road.

A quick stop and I got out front again. I was determined to get our average pace back up in the 19.5mph (or more) range. Of course, the stop sign at hwy 418 didn't help that average, but we made it through without much delay. I tried to lead for a little while after we crossed 418, but I really didn't have it - I had to pull off and let someone else get out front. Thankfully, several other people did get out front to help increase our pace. As we pulled our way up Reedy fork Road, I watched our pace increase. We increased to 19.6mph or so as we passed through W. Georgia Road.

From there, it is a nice ride along the rolling hills next to the cool red roofed house. Peeps were getting out front and pushing the pace, but our average wasn't climbing fast - it was climbing, but not quickly. As we departed from the stop sign at Griffen Mill Road, I knew something had to be done to kick up the pace a little more. I decided to do what I could to make that happen.

As we made the turn onto Michelin Road, Perry pulled up next to me and cautioned me about the ride along Perimeter road. He (correctly) stated that those folks who have been sitting in the back for the whole ride would be kicking it on Perimeter road (thus putting the smoke to those of us up in the front). His point really was valid - however, I didn't care - I was going for the increase in our average speed. I continued to push the pace and Perry helped greatly by pulling out past me as we passed in front of the Michelin Sales Training Center. Many other riders also pulled past me, but that is what I was looking for - to push the pace and get us up toward the 20 mph mark. We stopped at the Michelin Road stop sign and I showed an average pace of 19.8mph.

That is a full 1mph increase from when we croseed 418 for the first time (I mean
crossed - like at the Hopkins / Mckelvey road intersection). That is a pretty big increase in our average pace. Since I'm an Engineer, I should be able to calculate for you the difference in average speed necessary to increase our pace in that distance - however, It's way too late for that kind of mental activity. Suffice to say, we were kickin it.

As we made the turn onto Perimeter road for the final stretch home, I found myself out front again. Shaun was next to me and we pushed the pace for a short distance. I looked over and realized that he was pushing wind all by himself out there - and I told him. He added a little to his pace and pulled out in front of me. I tucked in behind and he pulled us along perimeter road up to the intersection with Ashmore Bridge Road. I took a short spell, then was passed by the guys Perry warned me about earlier.

Yes, all of a sudden, here come two guys (who I should know their names, as I have seen them out at Donaldson before) who have been sitting in for pretty much the entire ride. They came by me and Shaun and set a great pace. They led us up the rollers and they rotated out as we approached the golf course hill.

How this happens to me, I really need to figure out. These guys rotated out as we approached the bottom of the golf course hill, and who ends up leading us up the golf course hill?? ME! Am I sick? Do I need someone to smack me down when these kinds of things happen? Whatever....I did my duty and pulled the group up the hill. I was still shooting for the 20mph average pace, so I pushed for about all I had.

At the top, it was me, Shaun and one other dude who I failed to get his name. We had about 2 bike lengths on the rest of the pack. That set us up in our own little rotation as we continued around Perimeter road. The pace was still climbing and we were approaching the target average speed.

This dude and Shaun gave some great pulls and that put me back out front. As we made the little climb up the far end of the runway, here come the other dudes who had come up to the front just a little earlier. By this time, I was really starting to feel it, so I did my best to stay with the group. As usual, by the time we started up that last roller on Perimeter road, the group was blowing past me.

One of these days, I'm going to figure out that I don't need to spend so much time out in front of this group....

None-the-less, it was a really great ride for which we averaged 20mph and truly stopped at EVERY stop sign. Thanks to everyone who rode with us tonight.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

6 days, 350+ miles

Over the last two weeks, I've put in more miles on my road bike than I've ever done before in the same time period. Most of this riding has been with my new friends with whom I will be participating in the Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride. You should note that the 6 days is not consecutive.

Here's a little breakdown of the rides - The mileage is approximate because I didn't write down the actual mileage.

Saturday July 25, 2009: Furman to Saluda (Bakery Ride) ~ 65 miles
This was my first ride with the P3C3 group. It was a lot of fun. We started at Furman, rode up through the North Greenville College / Tigerville Elementary area, took a little side loop over Callahan Mt road, then up the watershed. We made a quick stop at the bakery before returning back along the same route (except on Dividing Waters road instead of Callahan Mt. Road. This was the day they convinced me to join their trek to Austin.

Sunday July 26, 2009: Altamont Rd (Paris Mt) Repeats ~ 45 miles
After riding with the group the day before, Ron and Jeni convinced me to join them for repeats on the Furman side of Altamont road. Ron lives only a short distance from me, so I started the ride from my house. We met him at 6am (!) and headed out in the dark. We made our way over towards downtown and eventually got on Old Buncombe road. That takes us straight to the base of the Altamont road climb up Paris Mountain. The plan was to make 3 ascents.

Jeni said her goal is to climb the mountain 4 times with the first climb under 16 minutes. I have read Jonathan Pait's blogs where he talks about climbing the mountain in 12 minutes. I have heard from a friend that the pros do that climb in something like 9 minutes. You can argue that with me if you want - I'm just repeating what I heard. I don't really know how fast the pros do it, but I don't know how fast I can do it either. So, as I departed from the bottom for the first of 3 repeats, I checked my clock

I managed to get out ahead of Jeni, Ron and Ron's neighbor who rode with us that day. After the previous day's ride, my legs were feeling it, but I pushed myself to see how I would do. At the top, I looked at my clock and I had made the climb in about 15 min 20 seconds. Ok. that sets a baseline. Jeni was not far behind me and she was very happy to see her time at the top was under 16 minutes (15:50 if I remember correctly).

We waited for everyone to get to the top, then we all flew back down the way we came. At the bottom, I decided to just turn right around and head up. I checked my clock again, and started my ascent. At the top, I found I had done the second repeat about 30 seconds faster than the first. On my way up I had seen Jonathan (from Appalachain Outfitters) stopped with a flat. I had offered assistance, but he said he was ok. On the way back down, he stopped me and borrowed my hand pump. Both Jeni and Ron passed me and beat me to the base. They were already climbing for their third repeat as I came around the final turns of the descent.

Once again, I checked my clock and started my ascent.
Of course, since they were in front of me, I had to give chase! They were tough to catch. I pushed myself hard, but it was almost to the turn before the wall before I finally caught them. Jeni had just about caught Ron as I caught the two of them. Another look at the clock at the top - I was a little slower than my second attempt, but still almost 15 seconds faster than my first attempt. When everyone gained the top, we descended the other side. I bid them farewell and went for a few laps of Cleveland park. I was beat by the time I got home.

Saturday 1 August, 2009 - UWBL route - 63 miles (+16 'commuting' miles)
This was another group ride with the P3C3 crowd. we met up at the University Ridge County buildings parking lot for a 7am (or 730?) departure. I had done this route (or something like it) on July 4th with a big group from Carolina Triathlon. Our P3C3 group wasn't quite as big, and it wasn't near as fast. This is a great route through some beautiful country. Not too many hills either. We ended up with an average around 18.4 mph or so. Pretty good I thought. UWBL stands for the 'Upstate Winter Bike League'.

The extra bicycling miles for this day came from my proximity to downtown Greenville. I live about 4 miles from the west end where we met, so I rode to the meetup and home again. That was an extra 8 miles. That evening, I went downtown for the Comedy vs cancer show - of course I rode my Surly 1x1. Add that up for another 8 miles to give me the day's total of about 79 miles.

Sunday, 2 August, 2009: YMCA route ~60 miles
During the evening's festivities at the Comedy vs cancer show, I saw Jeni and met Perry for the first time. Perry is also a member of the team to which I have been assigned for the P3C3 ride to Austin. Of course, being a member of this team, I am interested in meeting and of course riding with my team-mates. Perry and Jeni said they were meeting up at the Simpsonville YMCA the following morning for a 60 miler. Ed would also be there. I had met him the previous day. He and Jeni will ride on the same team.

The YMCA route is well laid out and well marked. The roads are quiet with little traffic. We had some sprinkling throughout the ride, but never really got rained on hard at all. It turns out Perry is a very strong rider just like both Jeni and Ed are strong riders. We did our best to punish ourselves and each other for the entire ride. It was a really fun day. I thought I had done well with about 140 miles on the weekend until I saw that Jeni had logged 200 for the weekend

Tuesday, 4 August, 2009: Donaldson ~34 miles
This day was to be an experiment by the Spinners to break the normally large groups into much smaller groups. I met up with Jeni, John and Perry and we decided to ride together. I'll avoid a lot of details as I have already written about this ride. I'll just say that we had a great ride that night.

Saturday, 8 August, 2009: Greenville to Hartwell Lake ~60 miles (+14 'extra' miles)
What a great ride we had yesterday! The purpose was to have a P3C3 group ride from near the Greenville Hospital to Ron's place on the lake. The route was just a hair over 60 miles. A number of people were going to stay out at the lake house and ride back this morning. Toby and I decided to drop his car on friday night so we would be able to return to Greenville after spending some cool-down time at the lake.
I had an opportunity to meet another of my team-mates Joey. He's a member of the POA cycling team as is Jonathan Pait (the fourth member of my team). That rounds out the team for me - I have met or know all of them now.
There was a surprising amount of traffic on the roads yesterday morning. Everybody made it safely to the lake house, but we ended up with 3 groups. A faster group of about 15 or so led out with a smaller and slower group bringing up the rear. Our middle group was just a single rider. Jerry turned around to check his front tire after we had already taken off. He managed to catch and pass the slower group, but those of us in the front group thought he went back to ride with the slower group. He ended up taking a wrong turn someplace and never really ended up riding with anyone. Thankfully, he did make it to the lake house a little later in the afternoon.
Once the lead group arrived at the entrance to the subdivision, we stopped for a quick photo, then Jeni, Perry, Ed, Megan and I took off to rack up another 14 or 15 miles.
Jeni, Ed and Perry had started from Jeni's house at 5am and met us at the meetup location a little before our departure time. They had logged 26 miles before we even got started! They wanted to make it a full century, so that's why we went out for the additional mileage. We were able to set a pretty good pace for an out and back ride on Highway 11. I think we were all whipped by the end of that.
Few things have felt as good as jumping in that lake when I arrived at the house. We had Barry the Fedex guy on cooking duty and he grilled up some tasty chow. After, we went down and swam off the docks for a few hours. Overall it was a great day.

I could have stayed overnight at the lake house - those that did turned around and rode back this morning. Toby and I drove back last night. I was thinking I might get up early and get in a few miles. Unfortunately, my body said rest, and my yard was screaming for some TLC. After more than 350 miles in the last couple of weeks, today is a rest day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Greenville Spinner's Summer Time Trial series - it's a great time!

Tonight was another installment of the Spinner's time trial series. In fact, it is the last one of the year. I rode in the July installment and had a good time - I mean I really enjoyed it, but my finish time was good. Tonight, I had a great time in both senses.

It looked like a good turnout tonight. I'm not sure exactly how many people came out, but this time the spinners added in a team time trial option. I saw at least 4 teams out there. Once again, the volunteers who put this whole thing together deserve a big THANK YOU!

Several things are different about tonight's attempt as compared to last month's attempt. First, I have lost about 8 pounds over the last several weeks. This is a good thing as I really do need to drop this extra weight if I have any chance of keeping up with Jonathan, Perry and Joey for the ride to Austin. Second, the weight loss allows me to get into a better aero position - I think this had a big effect tonight. Third, I actually did a pretty good warm up ride. Finally, I have been riding more these last few weeks - I think that has improved my strength and endurance.

After getting checked in, I started out on a warm-up ride. This is very different from last time. I know there is great value in getting warmed up, I just don't often do it properly. This time, I basically rode the course as a warm up. I learned a few things - there was a bit of wind out there tonight. I also practiced riding in a better aero position. I took it pretty easy only going hard a couple of times to get my heart rate up.

When my start time approached, I lined up and waited for the signal. From last time I had learned to start off in my big ring. I took off from the line and I think I red-lined it for a little while. I realized I went out too hot relatively quickly, so thankfully, I didn't blow myself out.

Last time I set my computer so I could see my average speed during the ride. This time, I set it so I could watch my time. I won't remember all my split times, but I do recall really feeling it as I went up the hill towards the turn-around. I made the turn and my clock was showing something between 13 and 14 minutes. If I recall, it was closer to 13 than it was to 14, but not by much. I felt this was a good sign - if I could only keep it up.

Thankfully, there seemed to be a bit of a tailwind coming out from the turn-around. It's also downhill, but I had to keep pushing myself mentally as my legs were feeling it already. I was really motivated to improve over my last time.

The hill next to the 3M plant is really not that steep, but it has an effect on my speed. I did my best to carry as much speed as I could up that rise. I felt like I had a tough time finding the right gear for that rise - one gear resulted in a lower cadence than I wanted, the next seemed too high. Finally, I settled on the lower cadence and pushed it a little to bring the cadence up.

Again, I don't recall what my split time was, but when I came past the country route turn-off I was feeling good about my time. Throughout the ride, I was in the drops in what I considered to be my best aero position, or sometimes I would keep my body in the same position, but move my hands up to the hoods. Something about this change made a mental difference - I'm not really sure why. I can't speak about the relative aerodynamic effectiveness except to say I think being down in the drops was probably a little more efficient.

I kept watching my time as I came past the Michelin plant. I knew I was going at a pace that was better than last month, but I just didn't know how much better. That means I was doing better than 22mph on average. At that speed, I was covering 1 mile in something less than 3 minutes. I was feeling really confident my finish time was going to be better than last month.

The last little uphill at the end of the runway was coming up, so I did my best to push it hard as I made the slight descent. Unfortunately, it seemed I was running into a headwind. That really made this section more difficult. Without the wind, that little hill can rob you of speed. With the wind, it's going to extract a higher toll. I tried to compensate by pushing as hard as I could. My respiration rate was pretty high, but I was concentrating hard on my body position and felt I was doing a good job of keeping my lungs at maximum capacity (instead of slouching in my position - effectively reducing the available volume of my lungs).

I crested that small hill and kept on it. I ran through the gears to keep my pedal cadence up as the ground flattened out. My speed was increasing and my heart was pounding! I looked down at my clock and I knew without a doubt I had beat last month's time. As I crossed the line, I looked at my own clock to see very close to 26 and a half minutes. I would have to wait for the official results to confirm it.

After a short cool-down, I headed back to my car and loaded up my bike. I was hoping I might be able to get my time so I could get home and get some dinner (I was starving). Luckily, they were entering times in and by the time I got over to the tent, my time was showing. My official time was 26:34 - 53 seconds faster than last month. That works out to an average speed of 22.6mph - 0.7mph faster than last month.

I'm pleased with that result. Although I didn't post up a specific time or speed goal for tonight, it was always to improve from last month. I did that by a fairly significant margin. Perhaps by next year I'll be ready to break the 26 minute mark (or better)!.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For whom do I ride - A tribute to cancer Survivors, Warriors and those who have lost the battle

If it's not about me, then who is it about? These are the people for whom I ride.

Pip's dad Bill who lost his battle with cancer in August, 2007.
Bo's uncle Buddy who lost his battle with cancer on 1 August, 2009.
Jeni's aunt Barb who lost her battle with cancer on 4 August, 2009
Kip's uncle Bob who lost his battle with cancer on 5 August, 2009.

It's about my friend Jeni - cancer Warrior
It's about (my friend) Debbie's 8 year old son
James - cancer Warrior

Aunt Jeannette - cancer Survivor
co-worker and friend
Rachel - cancer Survivor
co-worker and friend
Valorie - cancer Survivor
co-worker and friend David - cancer Survivor

These are the people I ride for. As I have gone through this process over the last several days (has it only been that long?), my perspective has certainly changed. Cancer hits far closer to me than I ever thought it could.

Thanks to my friends and family who have made donations to the Palmetto Peloton Project in my name. But mostly, thanks to the strength of those who have fought and are fighting cancer - you are an inspiration.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesdays at Donaldson - They're still a blast

Tuesday's at donaldson. Maybe the best night of the week. I went out again tonight and had a great ride. I met up with some of my P3C3 friends and we tagged onto the back of a group that had a bunch of riders that usually ride in the C1b group (19+ mph).

Tonight the Spinners tried something new to reduce the size of the groups. I'm not totally sure how it worked out, but our group ended up merging with some others that were out there. We probably had 25 or so riders. I don't think it started out that big, but as we started to pass groups, we picked up more people. These folks probably wanted to get a good fast ride in, and our group was moving fast - for sure.

A difference I noted - while the previous grouping method was not perfect, and all ride leaders have different styles, it seemed that tonight - without a clear ride leader, there was a little more chaos on the ride. Not that it wasn't a great ride, just that there seemed to be a little more speed when it came to the stop signs. We made maybe 3 full stops. Compare this to previous rides where we might make 5 or so full stops.

At the start of the ride, I was in the parking lot with Jeni, John and Perry - my P3C3 buddies. We saw a group head out and Perry thought Cunningham Sr. was leading the group. It turned out it wasn't him, but the group was about our level anyway.

We had to chase for a while to catch them - Perry did an awesome pull all the way down Perimeter road to reel them in. We sat in at the back for a while. The pace was pretty spirited - even for this group. I saw a lot of guys I recognized.

As we made the turn onto richey road, I decided it was time for me to get out and pull a little. I made my way up to the front and sat in for a little bit in the 2nd or 3rd position. As we started up the rise on Richey road, I got out for a little pull of my own. It felt good to stretch my legs, but of course, as we made our way up the hill (really just a gradual thing), some other folks came past me. Perry gave a really good effort to stay with the front pack. We passed a lot of people along that road as well. Some of them may have jumped in with us.

We got out on Woodville road, and I sat in 2nd position until just before the bridge crossing. I pulled around a guy on a tri / time trial bike (who was pulling) and Perry came with me. I think the rest of the crowd was right with him as well. Jenny was right up near the front too. I did my best to give a good pull up the hill, but started to weaken about half way up. Perry pulled around followed by another guy and Jeni. I pulled in behind Jeni and tried to keep the pace. It was a strong pace!

That pace didn't really slow down as we jumped on Reedy Fork for the short jaunt up to old hundred road. Again, we were passing more people from smaller and slower groups. The guys up front didn't let up when we got on old hundred either. They kept that strong pace for the entire distance. There was no attacking for a sprint - I think everyone was near their limit.

We made our first crossing of 418 and kept that pace along Hopkins road. I did a fair pull along that section until we started up the rise before the next crossing of Reedy Fork. A couple of other guys got out front again and pulled us up to the stop sign and then up to the left turn at Holly road. I was sitting in 2nd position as we approached the turn for Holly road, but the guy pulling dropped off as we made the turn. When I looked back, I had pulled a little gap through the turn onto Holly road.

I kept my pace, knowing that they would catch me anyway. Someone came past me at a good clip, but I decided to just stay at my pace and see what happened. I saw Perry behind me, and then a pretty big gap to the rest of the field. I know Perry is a really strong sprinter, so I figured if I could reel this other dude in a little, Perry would slam him on the uphill section of Holly road.

I did manage to reduce the gap a little to the guy in front, and in fact increased the gap to the rest of the field. It was the one guy up front, me and Perry, then everyone else as we made the left hand bend before the drop into the little valley. Perry came around and ate up the distance between me and the leader like it was nothing. He passed the guy before we got to the top of the hill. I managed to catch the guy shortly after that as well. I backed off well before the stop sign to try to take advantage of a brief rest. The peloton consumed us as we approached the stop sign at Reedy Fork.

I stopped to make sure we still had Jeni, and somehow missed her in the group. I ended up at the back of the peloton as we made our way up Reedy fork. After crossing 418, I got back up near the front. A regular on the C1b route - John did a lot of pulling tonight - again, he was out there as we made our way back towards Donaldson. Perry and I did our share of pulling along that section as well. Perry did an awesome pull to bring us up to Garrison Road.

The pace up the rise between W. Georgia Road and Griffen Mill Road was not as spirited as usual. We passed a bunch of slower riders, but usually there is a bit of a sprint up to the stop sign - tonight it didn't seem like that. However, I had gone back to the back again to sit in, so maybe that is why it didn't seem quite as fast.

We continued our pace onto Michelin Road, then made the turn towards Perimeter road. I started to make my way up front again - I actually prefer it up front (or in the leading 4 or 5 positions anyway). As we got onto Perimeter road, the same guy (guy 1) who had his little breakaway on Holly road was leading, followed by the guy (guy 2) on the time trial / tri bike. I was pretty amused when guy 1 pulled up and asked guy 2 to sit up so he could draft. I think guy 2 actually said no as he kept slowing down.

Being a guy who doesn't like the pace to drop because someone doesn't want to pull (at that particular moment - guy 2 had done his share of pulling throughout the ride thus far), I rode between them and tried to set a good pace. I pulled about until we got to the Ashmore bridge intersection. At that time, some guys came around me and kept up the pace.

I pulled back in the line - maybe 6 or 8 back as we made our way along perimeter road. From Ashmore bridge road, there is a slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill. Then, another downhill before the golf course hill. As we crested that slight uphill, the pace had dropped off. I decided to make my way back up to the front because we needed to keep the pace! Actually it's just because I love getting out there and pulling when people seem to be getting tired.

I set a good pace down that slight downhill, then kept hammering it as we started up the golf course hill. John was right behind me, and I was getting tired about half way up. Nobody came around me, so I kicked in whatever I had left to pull them up to the top. As we crested the top, I called back to John "That's all I got!!". He came around along with one other guy and I was able to drop into 3rd position for a while.

John dropped off after a strong pull and the guy in 2nd position did a short pull before I found myself out front again. I did my best to pull them up the hill next to the small pond. As we headed up the rise, I tried to pull off, but no-one came around me. Whatever I thought, I'll blow it out now and drop off on the next hill. I got them up to the top of that rise, then down the next. As we started up the last rise, I pulled off and told them I'd had enough. My average pace about that time was 21.7mph.

Once again, Tuesday's at Donaldson was exceptional tonight. What an excellent ride.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The generosity is quite humbling

A little over a week ago, I signed up to help raise money for cancer research and survivorship programs. Funds generated will benefit the Greenville Hospital Systems Oncology Research Institute and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I signed up to participate in the Palmetto Peloton Project's Challenge to Conquer Cancer.

This is a team relay ride from Greenville, SC to Austin, Tx that will include
5 teams of 4 to 8 riders each. Interestingly enough, the teams are not numbered this year, but color coded. I am told that the color coding for the first two teams listed is not correct - What is currently the Green team is supposed to be the Polka-dot team (and vice-versa). Personally, it doesn't matter what color my team is, only that I get an opportunity to participate.

I've met a fair number of the P3C3 riders over the last two weekends. What a great bunch of people. They have immediately taken me in and treated me like family. Both weekends we have met for group rides of about 60 miles each day. Except of course the one day Ron and Jeni talked me into doing repeats of Altamont road from the Furman side. That day I only did about 40 miles. But, we did 3 repeats of Paris mountain. Quite a fun little workout.

I'm very excited about this experience. As I said in
my first blog on this subject, I was just not getting excited about a 2 week biking and camping vacation out west, so I went looking for something a bit more meaningful to do with my vacation. I have found it, and I am truly excited.

Part of this experience actually forces me to step outside my personal comfort zone. I have committed to raise $5000 for the 501c3 corporation known as the
Palmetto Peloton Project. This is not something I've been trained to do. In fact, I can't say that I've ever really done anything significant to raise money. However, if you know me, I think you'll recognize me in that statement. (for example, I had never ridden a bicycle more than 68 miles when I decided that my first century - 100 mile ride - would be the Assault on Mt. Mitchell).

There's a big difference between riding 102 miles (with 11,000 ft of climbing) and raising $5000. Primarily, riding up a mountain is truly all about me. I decide on whether I can do it or not. The actions I take directly affect my performance in that particular endeavor. When I made that decision to purchase an entry for the Assault, I had no doubt whatsoever that I would finish the ride. None, not one ounce of doubt ever entered my mind once I made that decision. I would be riding across the finish line at the top of Mt. Mitchell or I would be carried away by an ambulance. There really was no doubt.

Contrast that with raising $5000. Obviously, I have to play an active part, but it really is up to other people to
donate (under my name please - John Davidson) their hard earned (and precious in the current economic environment) money. The active part I play is raising awareness of the Palmetto Peloton Project and talking about the good things that are done by this organization. Letting people know that the funds are used both locally and nationally and that we will traverse the southern US to spread the word about the cause.

Over the last 8 days or so, eight people have combined to donate a total of $510. This is incredible generosity from my friends and co-workers. I try not to be a hard sell - asking only that they contribute what they can - any amount is awesome. All of them have really stepped up. Some of them are survivors themselves, others have lost loved ones. Others simply see it as a good cause that is worth supporting. To all of them, I would like to express my sincere gratitude. They are making a difference.

Thank you.