Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Sunday Morning Ride

Headed out about 7:45 a.m. Peeked outside, saw some sunlight mixed with clouds. Decided to glance at the local radar just to be safe since t-storms were forecast.
I like Click a bookmarked link for the local FW weather page which includes a small radar shot. You click on it for the full screen/options etc.
Nothing showing. Good. Head out.

Looks pretty dark to the west. maybe just fog from all of the rain the past few days? Exagerated by the sunrise in the east? Less than a mile down the Trinity Trail I am getting hit with the first fat drops. Up Rogers Road, by TCU and over to a local ride meeting point. Little late for it but then as most rides go, they never start on time. Nobody there. Rain spatters a bit more. Maybe everybody knows something I don't. Should have clicked the radar page, as I have learned the small front page image isn't always up to date. It appears a storm is either a) building b) fading c) passing by. I continue on down the river after reviewing the sky and deciding it looks to be eith b) or c). This usually results in a thorough soaking. I get rained on a little but nothing too bad. Damp. Onward.
Down the trinity, rain seems to be subsiding. Clouds fading, blue sky is closer.
Across the water crossing by 183 and down Bellaire. Road is wet but the sun is out now. Quiet and nice.
Hit the intersection of Bellaire and River Bend and jump onto the Fort Worth Branch trail. Take it easy because the pavement is wet with a lot of debris. And because there is no reason to ride like a maniac on a narrow, twisting shared use path.
Pop out at the trailhead/park at Winscott Drive/Memorial Oak (Clear Fork Park I think?) and head out to Stevens (point?) Drive. This is a roller coaster road that dead ends with a nice view of Lake Benbrook and the downtown Fort Worth skyline. Best of all today is the sea of Texas wildflowers in bloom. Yellows, oranges, sprinkling of purples...I get a good chance to take it all in while I repair my tire. A fix for a small tear has failed and it is time to break out the boot and replace the tube. It starts to rain again. Of course. Lasts a minute and passes. A few other riders pass, all are nice and check to see if I need any help. I thank them and we go on with our respective tasks. Apparently others enjoy the view and exertion this little chunk of road offers as well. The house at the end is big and has a great 360 view of the skyline, lake or classic Texas open range. (full of aforementioned wildflowers) Nice looking place. And apparently empty. I think it has been for a while.
Tire fixed, I move on. It is extremely calm. Freakishly so by Texas norms. Nice!

Feeling good and decide to push things, hit the climbs in the big ring and muscle over. Continue down and onto Park Road, jump onto Winscott and enjoy the openess and the ability to turn the big gears. Back into the park/trailhead, slow things down, onto the trail. Cruising on the trail again, now with others out to enjoy a quite pleasant morning. Can't blame them a bit.

Surprised by the sudden whishing noise as another roadie type rider passes me on the left. Doesn't utter a word and quickly moves in front of me, resulting in me receiving a nice facefull of his roostertail off the wet trail. I am not going fast, but certainly not slow, probably 16-18 mph. He is going faster. Usually, 20mph is max on the trail for me. When wet and crowded, much less. Miffed by the lack of a courtesy callout and the indignant splattering, I move along. Around a corner and I see the rider, he seems to have leveled off and maintains a distance about 5 seconds in front of me. I am comfortable and keep at my own pace. Down the trail and past several people he passes without any apparent effort to alert them to his passing. This bothers me. This is not a great trail to pass without letting someone know. We procede on, and it appears he has slowed slightly, we are going about the same pace. I watch this rider's body language, which seems to indicate he is pushing it a little. A glance or two back. Is he looking to see where I am? Maybe. Cycling brings out an instinctive competitiveness with many. This strikes me as a possible case.

I briefly consider mentioning something to him about letting people know when you pass, just to be safe. He surprised me for sure. I don't. Who am I to tell people what they should do. I mull this a bit. We continue through the park and come out maybe 7 or 8 seconds separated. Another glance back. Once last thought about saying something and another mental veto of the idea...fear it won't be taken as friendly advice. Instead, I hit the street, drop a couple cogs smaller and accelerate up to my desired cruising speed. My final option? Pass by and not offer my thoughts. Leave it all behind (almost) with a steady cadence in the big gears. I wonder if he will try to catch up. We roadies often have a serious need to show each other how strong we are. It would be the height of hypocrisy to say I have not been guilty of this. In fact, at this moment, I am in the midst of speaking with actions as I push some heavy gearing in this blissfully calm humid morning air. I don't look back. I won't. It doesn't really matter. And like that, the moments pass and I am back on track.

The sun shines warmly now, and the humidity is up a bit. I like it. Feels lush full of life. That is what morning rides like this are all about. Suddenly, like a lightning bolt out of the brightening sky, I think of the coffee I have waiting at home. I really want this coffee. NOW. Not a craving at all, but just a determined statement in my mind that coffee is suddenly the thing that will be a great addition to the day. Already had some before I left. Now I want more. This is a motivating thought. I continue to push back up the Trinity Trail with a distinct goal firmly planted. There are a lot of people out now, which I find to be very nice. Lots of cyclists of all types. This is always something to enjoy, looking at the different people and what they are riding. Some pretty neat setups out and around. Racing rigs, bulk-store bikes, moutainbikes, hybrids, commuters and the occasional total frankenstein bike. These are the best. Sometimes wish I had a camera just to capture these.

Up the trail, into the homestretch. Runners everywhere. Lots of Ipods. Looke for the wires, yell a little louder, pass carefully...

Looking into the river, hoping to see a glimpse of one of the big Koi-like fish I saw by Rogers road a few weeks back. Big white and gold things, not sure what they would be. Koi? I guess they could be. Seems like a fair habitat for them.
Lots of ducks but no ducklings, yet.

Now through the backstreets. Going to need some food with that coffee. Definitely hungry now. Home, coffee, food, dogs that want to lick the nasty grime off my legs. No, not today. Shower definitely in short order.

Recount the day into electronic abyss for possible recollection someday, waiting for the 5pm kickoff to the Amgen Tour of California.

Nice day indeed. Feels like it should be done by now, so glad it isn't.

MWSR - Day 2 rambling reminiscing

The 2010 Mineral Wells Stage Race started off wet. Soaking wet really. Day two brought some hope, as the drive home Saturday afternoon briefly flashed with some sunlight. The bulk of the slow moving mass of rain seemed to be moving east, so of course I drove into it just west of Ft. Worth. I-20/I-30 westbound lanes were full of cars in various states of distress. The drive was sketchy and I felt the spooky pull of the hydroplane on several occasions.
Looking at the radar later, it seemed things may just have a chance to dry out overnight, and generally, that held true.

Another early morning start, but at least the road was somewhat dry and I wasn't working to avoid sucking wet grime off the wheel in front of me. The first lap was pretty casual, likely due to the longer Sunday route, a repeat of the Sat. RR with an additional lap (~24 miles). I was glad to see things were starting slowly. Attrition had reduced the field notably as well, and I can't say I blamed anyone. After the thorough soaking Saturday I wasn't that excited to do it all again the next day. Lap 1 was generally uneventful. Then it began to rain again. Great. And that is how it would go the rest of the day. Groundhog Day. Well, not quite. It was a little colder. So much for a good thing. We raced on. The pace picked up. Eventually a guy rode off the front. Nobody chased. he built up a little time and then another rider attacked to try and bridge up. Nobody chased. We ride on. Early into the final lap things started to get animated, and there were several small attacks that were quickly soaked up. pun not inteded but appropriate. Eventually a small group including a couple of the top GC men broke off. I was buried in what there was of the pack trying to avoid the wind (did I mention it was windy again as well?) and watched as they tested the break, found it to their suiting and pushed forward. One of the other top 5 or so saw what was happening and shot up from the left side to join the party and make sure he wasn't left behind. The rest of us sat in. With several team mates protecting the break I didn't feel obliged to try and improve my GC position although I wasn't feeling too bad. I also wasn't feeling good enough to do the work in a small 4 or 5 man break for the next hour, and wasn't sure it would stay away for sure. After a minute of thinking about it, I realized it probably would. The remaining team members would protect the break. The new chase group contained top GC players who were obviously riding well. Yeah...that would probably do it. Try and go with any additional shots would be my new plan. Or sit in and get this swamp-fest over with and chalk up a good weekend of racing-training. Definitely leaning towards the latter.

We hit the big climb for the last time, dropping some more riders and turn into the nasty crosswind. The group starts to echelon which is cool with me. I rotate up, take a fair pull and start to fade back. Then the guy next in line decides to put it in the gutter and start drilling it. I fade back to the back but am working hard to keep the cadence, hit the back gassed and spend the next several minutes fighting for any degree of draft. Seriously hurting I start to fade back, finding no draft without practically riding in the grass, which isn't a good sounding option. I am dying a thousand deaths. I glance at my heart rate which informs me I am at about 168 or so beats per minute. Thats it? Thats only about 85%, not bad at all. This surprises me, but the suffering washes out any real care at the time. Guy up front continues to drill it, or perhaps he is taking turns with one of his teammates who was on his wheel. This move baffles me somewhat, as it doesn't appear to be an effort to organize a chase so much as to put the group in the gutter and inflict some pain. Which is a great move on me having just been on the front, but I am a non-factor so that makes no sense. Do they think they are going to shred the group? Probably not, maybe drop a few off the tail end, but the rest can sit in the line and let whoever is up front blow himself out. At this point it doesn't matter, I fade back, watch the wheel truck come up next to me, the boundry that marks being in the race and being out. The group is tantalizingly close but I am about shot, and know that the end of the line doesn't offer me any real protection I begin to resign myself to the realization that my weekend is about over. The wheel truck slowly passes to my left. As it does, it is like a sweet vacuum envelopes me. I can actually rest for a moment from the pummeling the wind has been giving me. The truck is moving slowly and I am able to stay off the right rear quarter and enjoy the reprieve. Drafting a vehicle in a race is illegal. Of course this type of move would never get called out, and frankly, I don't care right now. Nobody cares. And then the line in front of me disintegrates, I catch up and join back in, not completely decimated. It is like I have survived a serious of punches in a heavyweight fight after taking a stunning initial shot. With only about 6 or 7 miles to go, I figure that may be the last of such moves. It is. The rest is resting until the final mile or two, the cat and mouse attacks, covers, counters etc. Eventually a rider attacks and pulls away. A big guy joins him. I try to get up and over to his wheel. Another rider has the same idea. He is closer and I figure to get on his wheel. Good plan except as he catches the wheel in front of him, he fades, gapping both of us. The group crawls in for the bunch sprint and I swing in with them, towards the back. Glad it is done. I finish with a someteenth place, which is fine with me. Surprised by the number or riders who have fallen off on the last lap. Glad it is over. Soaked and cold again, but not feeling to bad.
This is the reward, signs of progress. Feeling better on day two. All skin in tact.
I will take it. On to the next challenge. Which will be...???

Monday, April 26, 2010

Late April Randomness

Two months since I have posted much for any degree of dedication. Eh, whatever, right?

Last time I was whining about the winter, now it is time to whine about the wind. Been getting blown all over the place lately. But I'll take it with the temps in the 70s, sun, pollen etc.

And they may be getting closer to finishing the new additions to the Trinity River Trail in the University Drive area. I read, at one point, it was slated to be done in October. 2009 that is. So much for that. I understand this winter has been tough, but based on what I have seen, it seems progress has been quite slow. On the positive side, the University underpass is now open (usually) which means I don't have to do the University Drive version of Frogger on the bike. The Rogers road area is now pretty ripped up but there is a perfectly functional detour which I find quite scenic and don't mind unless it is really wet, and thus, muddy. Not that my bike has been anything close to clean lately. Unless you want to count...

The Great Mineral Wells Stage Race/Bike Wash a week and a half ago.
3 stages - a road race, time trial and then a longer road race spread out over two days.

Saturday was born in rain and proceded to continue with a range of light drizzle to heavy downpours at times, with a nice northeasterly wind thrown in for good measure. The latter caused much discomfort for me, as the crosswind was pretty rough in a few places, and being small, this meant tough times in the peleton.

As the first race of the season, I went in with low expectations and did not disappoint. Primary goal was to break in the racing legs and mentality, which went just fine however.

The road course featured a loop that started/finished in Graford, featuring one sustained climb that was long/steep enough to put the hurt on some and split it up a little. Normally I like climbs, as this is a good thing for me, but this one was a typical Texas power climb - not long enough to really thin out the herd. The type of climb a fit power rider can make it over in the lead group, not enough to make the big guys really pay the gravity penality. It did still manage to split things up, which left me stuck in a bind on day one, in mid pack, as the riders around me all began to fade and the leaders got a gap, leaving me in a no man's land at a precarious point - the point where we made the turn into the aforementioned cross/headwind. This was the part of the course where I suffered to most. We finished the race, me safely tucking myself away into the non-contender zone leading into the time trial in the afternoon. It took me an hour to start to feel warm after the thorough soaking in 60 degree temps.

The time trial was interesting. ~6.4 miles in an easterly direction. First 3.5 miles were basically flat and open, exposing you to the wind. The final mile and a half featured a climb that had a decent grade. I knew the wind would be a killer for me and hoped to simply minimize the damage on the climb, maybe claw some back. I went with my road bike and some short clip on bars as my only real aero addition. Wind was putting the hurt on but I was surprised to see my heart rate remained low. Notice that a lot in the wind, I can feel like I am dying a thousand deaths and yet HR indicates things are well under control...not quite sure about that.
So I suffered through the wind and then finished with a decent climb, damage done. Turned around and rode back to the HQ to change out of wet clothes for the second time in a day. At least I wasn't as cold as earlier.

By the end of the day I was really wondering if I was up for another day with a longer road race bright and early Sunday morning, flash flood watch rains continuing to fall and forecasted for the next day...

more on that in a later post, my music is done downloading.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winter drags on

Another cold day, but at least the sun was out. I celebrated by not riding my bike. Again. So it goes. I did go running, which in an effort to stay warmer and somewhat fit, has been a thing I've done a fair amount of this winter. Also trying to be more well rounded. We'll see how that translates this spring...when that about 18 weeks.

The really cool thing to look forward to--2:00 a.m., Sunday, March 14th, 2010.

Daylight savings time begins. At least then I can be cold in the fading light rather than strict darkness.
My glass is generally half full, so I will take that with a big smile.

On a side note, my vote for the team with possibly the longest name in my limited recollections:

Team Hotel San Jose/Mellow Johnny's Presented by Subaru-Gary Fisher

Really? No joke. read the edge of chair sitting details here:

the "presented by" thing has personally always annoyed me. Nothing personal against THSJ/MJ p/b S-GF. Just a pet peeve type thing. Seriously. How do you "present" a cycling team? why not just "sponsored by"? Perhaps there is a good explanation, which I would be somewhat interested to hear. I could go on, but I have done enough blathering already. Time to drink some really good ale I got as a gift. Good stuff. and strong. wow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday slush

I could go on about how generally crappy this winter has been but after hearing about what my cohorts from the rest of the country have been up to...I'll save it.

Reports range from cold and wet to freezing and snowing...again. For example, got word that a few areas of southern PA have over three feet of snow on the ground. Even as it melts it is hard to ride. No trails for sure, and the amount of road space, coupled with the sand/gravel/slush mix makes travel on a bike pretty sketchy at best.

So, despite it all, I have it better than the bulk of my non-local friends. (save for one report about a nice long run out in CA with temps near 70)

The great snowstorm of 2010 dumped a lot on us here in the DFW area. The official measurement was 12.5 inches. Wet, heavy stuff. Great for snowballs and snowmen (or snowpeople to be PC?) but not so good for driving or cycling. I normally like to drag the CX bike out in the snow for a winter ride, but this stuff was wet and deep, so I made the right choice and didn't even try.

Two days later and there is still a lot on the ground. Today was sunny and the warmth was nice, quite a treat considering how little it seems we have seen around here lately. Everything was melting. This meant the roads, mostly clear of snow now, were wet. Wet like they get when it rains heavy in a lot of spots. Some of the more major roads were dry for the most part, so I tried to stick to those that had the combo of low water content and low traffic volume.

I succeeded for the most part. I did fail to stay dry. Within about a mile my posterior was soaked, and conditions continued to decline from there. The sun helped, and the lack of wind kept things generally pleasant, so I tooled around for a couple hours and returned home with numb feet but a smile on my face. So I'll chalk this up as a good day for sure. I also encountered several instances in which drivers went out of their way to give me a break. And that will always make me smile.

Hopefully tomorrow brings more of the same.

Oh yeah... Texas road racing season is in full swing now. Just seems too early in the year. Especially when it has been a struggle to log serious time on the road consistently. And to hell with a trainer! Medieval torture that is.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The positive side of averages

Statistics generally annoy me as they are often used by people with an agenda. Sometimes fairly, sometimes downright fraudulently, which might only be noted by a good statistician, a set that does not include me.

Averages are something I pay a lot of attention to, particularly this time of year, specifically, average temperatures.

The month of December was a good example. I spent a fair amount of time riding in colder than average weather, and lamenting that it "should" be 54.6 degrees today, but instead it is only 41. What the hell? Now, I realize what the average is but after what seemed like day after day of below average temps, I found myself thrilled by a recent upswing towards temperatures only SLIGHTLY below average, and now, above average temperatures. And not just a few degrees above, but double digits. It is about time. Riding in the dark is getting old about now, but being able to not dress like Ralph's little brother in The Christmas Story before a ride (certain smartassed people like to comment that I seem to spend more time getting ready to ride than actually riding my bike) is a major consolation. Especially in January.

We are at/approaching the point where the average temps start to trend upwared, which is cause for hope in itself:

So heres to a week of temperatures approaching to above 70...this is a winter respite I can smile about. Or perhaps I should simply smile about Texas winter vs. a winter in the northeast US? Probably...

Monday, January 18, 2010


This past weekend was the Texas State Championship weekend for cyclocross.

As some would put it, the sandbagger's cup. CX has a knack for bringing out the accusation of sandbagging better than possibly any cycling discipline.
This year was no different, if you followed any of the chatter on the cyclocross forum. Not bad compared with other regions really.

It got me thinking about this topic once again. What defines sandbagging?
At what point should one move up? If you consistently win or finish in the upper echelon at a given level, then you should move up, right? Seems simple, but it isn't apparently so. Winning is pretty straightforward. So if you rack up a couple wins in a season, at what point do you move up? Should you move up for the last race if it is the State Championship, or stik it out for one more?

I don't know...there are a lot of variables, and fortunately for me, this is only an indirect issue, but it is of interest to me as I want to see this facet prosper, and not see people discouraged by others.

What would make you move up?

Personnally, I have moved up classes without ever racking up a single win, just knew I was consistently in a dominant position and capable of racing at the next level. And that doesn't mean jumping up and immediately vying for podium positions. If that is your philosphy than I can probably safely proclaim you are a sandbagger.
Some can do it, most won't. So what does it require...consistent top 5 6...??? Sometimes points dictate the progression, but in reality, there is nothing really pushing someone to move, other than the occasional peer pressure or personal desire.

In the end, it is a hobby, and if you race you should be doing it for a challenge. Guess that is where it gets sticky, in what we each consider a "challenge".

Ah well, now on to road season, where the issue of sandbagging doesn't EVER rear it's ugly head. Ever.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday night in January

It was nice to see the sun and actually feel some warmer temperatures today.

Went out for a ride after work on the road bike (which has been collecting dust lately) and was surprised how quickly it cooled off. Thankfully it was one of those rare calm nights so I didn't have to factor in the windchill.
Definitely better off than my brothers and sisters back east who are still in the icebox. Good news is this "warmer" weather is headed your way...I think.

This time of year gets monotonous. Seems like the best weather is always during the week, and of course my daylight riding options are Sat/Sunday. During the week it is riding in the dark. Which gets old. I tell myself these are the training rides that count, so I can maximize the enjoyment on the fun rides when I have daylight and/or warmer temps. Then I wonder if I am simply an idiot.

Cross State Championships are this weekend and I am feeling strangely unmotivated. maybe its the wide range of distractions that have been...distracting me lately. Already skipped the Houston weekend because I was too lazy to drive down south. Felt bad not supporting those guys, they seem to be a good crew. Hope their turnout was good.
Maybe I just don't feel like spending another weekend riding my bike as fast as I can while trying not to throw up on myself? Naw...that never gets old. Think it is just a case of the Januaries.

And to think, the Texas road racing season kicks off in a few weeks. I love the road racing but that is too damn early for my cold hating skinny butt. Nothing like huddling in a pack for 70 miles dying a dozen deaths because you have:
a) overdressed
b) underdressed
c) undertrained
d) spent the whole race in the pack doing no work and thus freezing (see option b)
e) combination of the above

Yes, I would rather spend 3 hours racing in 100 degree heat, trying to stay hydrated. Bring on summer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, new post

So it has been a while since I posted anything, not for lack of good stuff to write about, just lack of time and (mostly) initiative.

This has been an interesting December with a couple notable snowfalls and generally cool temperatures, cooler than normal according to the weather data sites.

I don't like being cold, but have this thing where I always make an effort to ride in the really nasty stuff, at least a couple times a year. They help make the typically cold rides seem like nothing. Or a little more easier to deal with I tell myself.

So far I have ridden in the snow three times now. Christmas Eve was particularly notable with blizzard-like conditions. I donned several layers, including the totally awesome Craft windstopper top and shorts (these things really neutralize the wind like nothing else, and aren't bulky at all) and ventured out towards the Trinity River paths to see what the world looked like. Windy and white. I headed south with a strong mostly cross, slightly head wind.
I had waited to venture out until the temps had dropped to about the freezing point, hoping to ride on snow covered ground and avoid as much slop. The gravel path of the trail was snow covered and made for cleaner riding indeed. Gradually, I lost function of the bicycle, first the rear derailleur, then the front brake, then the back brake.

This definitely made things interesting, especially with the wind grabbing the front wheel and threatening to push me over at times.
Not surprisingly, it was quiet and lonely on the path.

I passed one walker. I did note some faint tracks from another cyclist who had been out at some point earlier. I wondered if they chose this out of necessity or like me, out of sheer entertainment.

The snow continued to fall and drifts began to build, creating a unique scene I wouldn't have expected in the metroplex, but knowing it would be brief, enjoyed for the moment.

The moment of enjoyment was brief, as my extremities reminded me that I was beginning to freeze my ass of, and a retreat home where warmer temperatures and a variety of alcohol laced beverages waited to help warm me.

So I bolted. Defrosted. Imbibed. Further enjoyed. Happy new year.