Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter makes a comeback!

Although we had a few really nice days fairly recently, Mother Nature had to make sure we knew it was still winter. Last Wednesday and Thursday were pretty nice days, just touching into the low 60s. Thursday was apparently an excellent night for a ride, but I had to miss it.

Of course, Friday morning started off fairly nice, but the clouds began building as I spent the day working. By the time I left work, it was much colder than in the morning. Forecast was calling for snow, and some places in the region did get real snow. Greenville got some snow as well as Friday night progressed, but by the time I got up on saturday morning, it had pretty much turned to ice around my house.

That was a bit of a bummer, as I was really getting stoked to ride the first ever Paris Mt Time Trial. Unfortunately, the organizers had to postpone the event due to this weather front that came in to remind us of winter.

Thankfully, my good friend Jeni, who was my Polka-dot team-mate for the ride to Austin, was planning on doing Paris Mt repeats on Saturday morning. How could this be possible if the roads are covered with ice you ask? Because she is getting ready to open her own Fitness studio (RoadWaves Fitness) and the repeats were going to be on the trainers in her studio space.

A few weeks ago, had you asked me about doing one of these training classes, I would have brushed it off and said "NO WAY!". However, a little over a week ago, I did attend one of Jeni's trainer classes at Ride-On Bicycles. I was a little skeptical, but with the very limited opportunity to get outside to ride, I decided to go. It helped that a number of my friends had great things to say about these classes.

So, Saturday morning, I went outside to about 2 inches of snow that had turned to a crunchy ice. The roads were bad, but Jeni had sent a text saying the class was still on. I loaded up my bike and my trainer and made my way (very carefully) over to her new studio. I was running a little late, but so was everyone else. As I pulled up, a number of other folks were just pulling their gear from their vehicles.

Jeni didn't disappoint. The only difference between her trainer class of Paris Mt (Altamont Road) repeats and the real repeats we did last fall is the sun was already up and we happened to be inside. She worked us over for three climbs with 2 or three minute recovery between. Of course, after that, she kept drilling us and before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed. Amazing - when I ride the trainer at home, I struggle just to get 30 minutes.

Although the sun did come out
today (Sunday) and put a dent in the icy conditions, it was still too icy and wet to be riding outside. Thankfully, once again, Jeni was giving another trainer class. Today, she had a pretty big crowd and once again, she didn't disappoint. I actually think today was more difficult than yesterday. So many sprints! I might have to take a rest day tomorrow just to let my legs recover.

I hear she's putting together another trainer class for this Thursday - if the weather keeps me from riding outside, I'll be there. Check her website for the schedule. You can also find Roadwaves Fitness on Facebook (search for Roadwaves).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another spring-like day in Greenville

Wow! What an awesome day today. Another day with clear skies and temperatures in the 60F range. When Courtney suggested getting a group together for a ride today, how could I pass it up? She had sent out a note to about a dozen of her friends and we ended up with 7 of us meeting at Go-Tri Sports for a 60 miler up into N Greenville county.

It was never intended to be a hammerfest, and thankfully it never turned into one (ok. there was a few times when we put the hammer down). The plan was to have a spirited ride from Downtown Greenville past Paris Mountain (i.e. USA Pro Cycling Championships Route), then up into Travelers Rest to pick up the route to Tigerville. From Tigerville, we followed the beginning of the classic Bakery ride but did the climb over Callahan Mountain instead of Dividing Waters Road. The route was a lollipop shape as when we descended past Camp Old Indian, we rode over to Dividing waters and followed it back to re-trace our route. The difference in the return route came when we turned up Altamont road to make the Paris Mt climb.

In any group ride, you always have to be concerned about the different skill levels and relative riding strengths of the individuals. Today we had a great group that stayed together despite the occasional gap that formed. We all made sure that we stuck together and regrouped at logical spots.

I was the unofficial (or was that official?) ride leader as I had the route in mind. It is a route I've ridden before and it is not terribly difficult - well, except for the Callahan Mt climb (and descent if you're not a descender). The weather was beautiful and we had to stop to shed a layer just as we passed Altamont Road.

There was a slight chill in the air as we continued into Travelers Rest. As we rode along Hawkins / Bridwell Road Gary wanted us to do a paceline. Unfortunately, he wanted to have the dual pace line with the left line going slightly slower than the right line (I'm sure there is a better explanation of this method somewhere online). This really didn't work out too well. While it is not terribly complicated, it is not something that (your average) riders generally practice. It broke down before the first cycle was complete. No harm, we learned something.

We got up on Tigerville road and put ourselves into a single paceline. We were moving along pretty well, and when I finished my pull, I started dropping back to pull Diane back into the fold. I was about half way between her and the group when I realized I failed to warn them of an upcoming turn. I sprinted when I realized my mistake, but the group had already passed the turn. I caught them and had them turn around. Diane had seen my 'right turn' gestures (as I was screaming at the top of my lungs to the group) and she made the turn. Again, no harm, we all got turned around and back on track. It was a fun little sprint for me also.

On Sally Gilreath Road, it was Gary who first put down the hammer, but it was John and I who kept it pounding. That is a really beautiful road through some really nice farmland. It was such an outstanding day to fly along that road. John and I finished together and the group was not far behind.

As we turned onto Hwy 253, we set up into another paceline (again, the single paceline). This worked out pretty well as everyone got a chance to do at least one pull before we hit a small hill and the group started to fracture a little. We kept the pace reasonable and the group didn't get too spread out. We took a quick re-group at the Einstein bagel shop in Tigerville.

We kept the group together as we made our way out of Tigerville and towards our Callahan Mt goal. As we got to the turn for Callahan mt (where it departs from the classic Bakery route), two of our group decided to follow the classic route while the rest of us tackled the mountain. Art and Gary had a bit of a head start on us as we rounded the turn onto Hwy 912, so John, Courtney and I did our best to reel them in. John and I caught and passed them about half way up Hwy 912, but by the time we turned onto Callahan Mt road, John was beginning to pull away. I tried to keep the gap as small as possible, but he's a strong rider and I definitely didn't have it in me today to catch him. Everyone gave a great effort up to the top, then we rewarded ourselves with the flying descent. It was really wet in one section and that was a little scary, but everyone made it through fine.

We met our other two at the intersection of Callahan Mt road and Old US 25. Courtney broke out her camera and snapped a few photos and we started our return trip. Diane needed to refill a bottle on the way back, so we took a short stop at Einstein Bagels. It was then I noticed Lisa's rear tire. It was so worn that the tread rubber was about as thin as a piece of paper and some of it was de-laminating from the casing. We looked at it closely and decided she should be able to ride it back. Obviously, it would have to be changed as soon as possible after her return!

Our pace dropped a little as we made our way back into Travelers Rest. John had a flat, and the group split for a short period. While John, Art and Gary got John back up and riding, the cycling ladies and I rode on to begin the process of refilling some bottles at the gas station across from the TR Wal-Mart.

From here, Gary and Art took off to return on their own while the rest of us rode together to Altamont Road. Lisa and Diane rode straight back to the cars while John, Courtney and I made our way up and over Paris Mt. There were no personal bests set today. John rode strong, but at the top he said he was starting to bonk.

From that point, it really was just a cruise back to Dtown Greenville where we met up with Lisa and Diane (who thankfully made it back without incident despite Lisa's tire). It turned out to be an excellent day for a ride. It makes me really glad that I live here in Greenville. This place can't be beat when we're having spring weather in the middle of winter.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Springtime in Greenville

After the almost unseasonably cold weather we've had lately, friday the 15th was a sudden surprise. It was as if Spring had snuck in on us. High temperatures near 60 F made everyone at work really consider bailing for the afternoon and heading out to enjoy the now unseasonably warm temperatures.

I have work, there is no doubt of that, but it had been too long since I'd gotten out on my bike and I needed a mental re-adjustment (especially after the week I'd had). As I sat at lunch, I sent a text to Perry as I had understood he was planning on riding with some other friends at 2pm.

He initially got back to me saying he had to see about the schedule, but finally sent me a text '2pm @ Simpsonville Y'. OK, it's on! I did a few more things that needed doing at my office, shut everything down and nearly sprinted out the door.

As I started my car, I realized I had to pick up my buddy Dexter for the weekend. Shoot! I wasn't going to make a 2pm ride time. Since I thought Perry was riding with some others, I sent him a message saying I wouldn't be able to make a 2pm start time. He called me back just moments later.

It turns out he was not able to meet up with the other group, and was going to be riding solo. We re-set the meet time for 230pm and I made haste to pick up Dexter and get my bike and gear loaded up in the car. I arrived at the Y at about 220. Good timing, Perry was ready to ride.

We did a 35 mile ride that included parts of the YMCA routes and took us out through some really beautiful country in southern Greenville and Northern Laurens county. That is exactly what I needed to get some motivation back in my bones!

Now, if we could get past the rain!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Motivation? What is that?

I can't believe it's been over a week since I've had my bike on the road. The last time was the First Fifty. Pretty shameful I think. I did get on it once for a 45 minute trainer session (watching Spiderman). This cold weather has really put a damper on my motivation.

That said, I have made progress in other areas of my life. I've been working on liquidating some stuff that I have not used or no longer need. Nice to see this stuff go to someone who can and will use it. Still a lot of stuff to go, but hey, gotta start somewhere.

I've also managed to get some much needed tree trimming done. My Crepe Myrtle got hacked by the power company tree trimmers a couple of years ago and it was really not looking very pretty. So, last weekend I spent a few hours with an extend-able pruning saw and gave it a good trimming. I'm hoping it will look good this summer. It's a really large and very beautiful tree.

I also trimmed up my rose bushes out back. I'm wondering if I should trim them back even more. The larger one is about 6' tall!

I've tried to get to the gym for some core workouts. I'm doing pretty well, but missed a couple days in a row. What do I have to do to kick start my motivation?

Yes, it's a trick question - I know what I have to do to kick start it - take advantage of the indoor group activities - recent trainer sessions by my friend Jeni, Yoga at Ride-on bikes, there is a lot of stuff going on, but I have a thing about indoor group training things. Not positive exactly what it is, but I do know that it reminds me of my Military days. Everyone in formation, doing the same things.

But really, it's nothing like my military days. There is no bear of a man in my face telling me how much of a dirtbag I am (well, actually the language would have been much worse). In these indoor group sessions it's all my friends that I usually ride outside with. The real point is, I need to get out with the group.

For example, last night I got out for the pub run. My P3C3 peeps have been meeting with the Fleet Feet group on monday evenings for a 3 or 5 mile run. It really shouldn't surprise me, but these groups have been a big reason I have enjoyed riding my bike so much this past year. The group runs are the same. Knowing I'll be meeting my friends really makes a difference in my motivation.

So, I guess that's it, I just need to suck it up and get past whatever it is that is keeping me from these indoor group sessions!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How things change in a year

It's funny how things can change in just one year. At the beginning of 2009 I rode the Greenville Spinner's First Fifty. This is a ride put together by the Spinners Touring chairs of Ken Drescher and Steve Yetman. Once again, it was an excellent event with great support at the mile 29 / Lake Oolenoy SAG stop.

Unlike last year, today was a more seasonal temperature day with a reported temperature of 28 degrees as the 75 brave souls assembled to begin the ride. It did warm up a little, but I don't know what the high temperature was for the day. I can only say that everyone I saw out there was well layered!

Ken gave us a quick pre-ride chat and we began our ride through Furman's beautiful Campus. Like last year, the Travelers Rest YMCA's resolution run shared part of the route that we took to exit the campus. It was obvious this year that the number of runners was reduced just the same as the number of riders was reduced. That cold weather kept a lot of people inside today.

I had met up with a couple of my Greenville Spinner's Racing team-mates Tim and Randy. Tim and I found ourselves out front for quite some time. In fact, we were kind of riding by ourselves until we crossed Hwy 25. I was pretty surprised by this as both Tim and I were not really looking to be the pace setters for the ride. Tim is quite the animal - he actually stayed out front for a long time.

Shortly after crossing Hwy 25 we were caught by a larger group. Maybe 20 riders at this point? Not really sure. We kept up a reasonable pace and I let others pull through. I tried to stay near the front as I've learned that riding near the front is generally easier than riding near the back of a group. I was watching our average speed and it took a few miles, but we were over 17mph. I was thinking that our average should have been faster, but the numbers don't lie.

As we rode along in our little peleton, some people were dropped. By the time we were nearing Hwy 288, our pace was in the 17.3mph range and our peleton had dropped to about 13-15 riders. It was here that a couple of Myers Center riders started to have a little fun.

The county line was coming up on Pace Bridge Road. One of the Myer's Center guys took off and Randy took chase. It was a short sprint and the Myers Center guy took him at the line. A little wake up for me - I'm new to this racing thing (and yes, today wasn't a race, but just for fun) and need to learn to keep my eyes peeled for these attacks.

When we made the left turn onto Moody Bridge road, we weren't far from another County line marker and Randy took off. I grabbed his wheel and he set a good pace. I should have been able to reward his strong leadout with a good sprint, but I really didn't realize what was happening until the other guys blasted past us. I'm not sure I would have had much left for a sprint anyway.

The fun part is after the sprints we all slowed down until our peleton re-grouped. We kept our pace around 17.3mph even as we crossed Hwy 11. The group started to fracture a little more on the climb up Mulligan Ford Hill. There were some strong climbers out there today.

Tim was back out front (again) as we rode along Table Rock road. The view of Table Rock is one of my favorites. He pulled us at a strong pace until we crossed the creek and started the climb that would take us up past the vineyard. Again, this hill started to open up some gaps in our peleton. A right turn on Hwy 11 at Aunt Sues and it was a relatively short distance to the
Lake Oolenoy SAG stop. We pulled in with about 10 of the original Peleton. Our average pace was 17.3mph.

I spoke to a friend Rick about the difference between today's pace and last year's pace (last year we were at 18.5mph at this point). He pointed out to me some differences - the ambient temperature was about 15 degrees cooler this year, we had been fighting winds (not constant, but they definitely slowed us down), we were wearing additional layers and our bodies were working harder and burning more calories just to keep us warm. Ok. I can see how that could effect the pace a little. It was cold and that wind was strong at times.

It was a relatively short break for us, but other riders had started pulling in as we assembled to pull out. Our departing group was 9 strong and
included the two Myers Center guys, Tim, Randy and me (Spinners), Will, Rick and two guys I do not know. Our pace was a little stronger as we left the SAG stop and traveled along Hwy 11. As we made the left turn back onto Moody Bridge Road, who did we see going the other way? Yes, we saw Big George decked out in his stars and stripes. Always cool to see him on the road.

Our pace continued to climb as our group made our way back towards Marietta. As we climbed over Coleman trail, our group reduced again. We were now down to six in the lead peleton.

Interestingly, it was about here last year that I had to drop back because the cramps had gotten so bad. However today, while I was feeling the efforts of the day, it was only the effects of those efforts that was slowing me down slightly. I had no cramps and I actually felt pretty good. Our average pace had climbed now to 17.8mph and it looked like we were going to hold that or improve on it.

As we turned onto Tubbs Mt Road, I took the lead for a little while, until the stronger climbers pushed past me. They were going hard, but thankfully I still had enough strength to keep them close. They had a small gap on 3 of us as we approached Poinsett Hwy, but we closed it before the stop sign.

We stayed together as a group along Poinsett Hwy until the stop light at Main street TR. Two guys managed to sneak past the light, but the rest of us got caught. This pretty much finished the group riding. We never caught the two guys as we had to wait through at least one full light. I was still in a small group of 3 as we rode back towards Furman. By this time, the three of us were taking it pretty easy and just trying to cool down a little on our last couple of miles to the parking lot.

When I pulled into my car, I showed an average of 17.7mph. Coincidentally, this is the same average I finished with from last year. As the title states though, it's funny how things change in a year.

Last year I struggled to finish what was at that time the longest ride I had ever done. This year, not only was I not struggling, we actually improved our average pace on the 2nd 'half' of the ride.

Other differences from last year:
1. Not only was this 'just another' 57 miles, over the course of the last year, I logged 4,720 miles on my Giant TCR. By 'just another' what I'm saying is I can't even count the number of times I have ridden that or more miles in a single ride. A metric century for me today is just another afternoon ride. Pretty amazing when I think about it!

2. Last year the First Fifty was my longest ride ever. Today, my longest ride now stands at 105 miles. That was during the Challenge to Conquer Cancer. We followed that 105 mile ride with another century the very next day.

3. Last year I wrote a 2 paragraph message about the First Fifty to thank the organizers and I included some details of the ride. Jonathan Pait asked me if he could post it on his blog. I re-wrote and he posted it. This was actually my first real experience with a blog of any type. In the spring, I wrote another (longer) email to post to the Spinner's yahoo group and he contacted me to post that one as well. I started this blog shortly after that.

4. When I left Furman's parking lot last year, I barely knew anyone in the upstate cycling community. This year, I'm proud to count many people as my friends. I had the opportunity to ride with some of those friends today and chat with others on the road or in the parking lot.

There are other changes I'm sure, but one thing hasn't changed from last year - The First Fifty is a great ride put together by the hard work of some very dedicated individuals - Thank you!