Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Monday, July 31, 2017

Humming Along

Hummingbirds are magnificent, fascinating creatures.  Who doesn't marvel at the energy, quickness, and beauty of these tiny birds?  I keep a hummingbird feeder on my patio where I can watch them from my kitchen table as they flit about.

In my previous blog, A Year of Centuries, I had a memorable entry in which I compared a hummingbird's power output to that of a cyclist.  The inspiration came from - of all things - a Nancy Drew mystery.  I revisited these favorite books from my childhood as I highlighted a wonderful Georgia charity, the Ferst Foundation, which promotes childhood literacy by providing free books to any Georgia child from birth to five years of age.  Here's my hummingbird/cyclist analysis:

Also, I found that Nancy Drew can be educational even for adults.  One of the characters in The Double Jinx Mystery is a man with an aviary of rare birds.  He tells Nancy and her friends George and Bess lots of interesting things about the birds.  For example, he says, “When a hummingbird is hovering he has an energy output per unit of weight ten times that of a man who is running nine miles an hour.”  This reminded me of the power to weight ratio that we cyclists often use, and so I made a comparison between hummingbirds and cyclists.  A nine-minute mile is a very moderate running pace.  A 150-pound (68-kg) man running at this pace probably puts out about 125 watts.  Therefore, estimate that his power to weight ratio is about 2 watts per kg.  That means that a hummingbird’s power to weight ratio is about 20 watts per kg.  For comparison, a Tour de France racer has a threshold power to weight ratio of about 5 watts per kg.  That’s only ¼ the power to weight ratio of a hovering hummingbird!

Just imagine how fast a hummingbird's metabolism must be!  Even when I was training for RAAM a couple of years ago and the critter was always after me (i.e., I was hungry all the time because I was training so much), I wasn't burning nearly the relative number of calories that a hummingbird does.
The critter
Charles Seabrook is a naturalist who writes an excellent weekly column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Recently, he wrote about ruby-throated hummingbirds' fall migration, which actually begins right after July 4.  The first wave includes the males.  Later, the females and fledged juveniles will begin the journey.  They will fly nonstop for up to 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to their winter home.  These petite birds gorge to fatten up for the arduous trek.  Many will nearly double their average weight of 3 grams in only 7 to 10 days.

Randonneuring also involves very long journeys.  It's critical to fuel properly for these rides.  I try to eat mostly healthy, "real" food on brevets, but I do enjoy the occasional treat.  For example, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (OCPs) are outstanding bike food.  Even on the longest brevets, however, one still should take care not to eat like a hummingbird.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Heeding My Own Advice

I've done enough riding to take seriously the name of my blog: Expect Adventure.  Even so, I was still surprised to get a double dose of adventure this past weekend, on both Saturday's and Sunday's rides.


I pre-rode the Peaches & Lakes 200K brevet.  The official brevet is next Saturday.  However, because of a time trial that I want to do that day, I arranged with Daniel, the Peaches & Lakes coordinator, to pre-ride the course a week early.  A pre-ride within about a week of a brevet is always a good idea, and so I figured my offer would help both of us.

I've done the Peaches & Lakes route a couple of times before as a permanent (see ride reports from 6/18/15 and 5/16/16), but this is the first time Daniel is running it as a brevet.  (A brevet is put on the yearly randonneuring club calendar in advance, whereas you schedule a permanent with the route owner on a mutually agreeable date.)  Daniel is running the brevet in the opposite direction of the permanent to make the control at Dickey Farms (peach ice cream!) the last one instead of the first one.  Good call!

Dick, Neil, Robert N., and I met Daniel at the Waffle House in Thomaston to start the ride.  After Daniel took care of our paperwork and wished us bonne route, we four riders headed out on a beautiful summer morning.  Neil told us off the bat that he would be riding very slowly, and so Dick, Robert, and I soon pulled ahead.  The three of us chatted about everything from historic places in Atlanta that we ought to visit to the pros and cons of living in The Netherlands during the 17th century.  I've read a couple of fascinating books about the state-of-the-art science there at the time.

Speaking of books, I loved seeing this Little Free Library at High Falls State Park, which was one of our controls:

A Little Free Library at a state park - each makes the other even better!
We stopped at the ever lovely town of Juliette, home of The Whistle Stop Cafe, the setting for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

Because it was an open control, we opted for a quicker stop at The Honey Comb.  The owners were so friendly and had plenty of water available.

It was only seven miles to the next control at Jarrell Plantation.  Randonneurs USA (RUSA) required Daniel to set an information control along that portion of the route to keep riders from taking a shortcut down Highway 87. Daniel had a question in mind for us at the info control, but he had asked us pre-riders to scope out other possibilities.  Later I told him that his original idea would work, or he could use a question that I suggested.  I'll be curious to hear what he uses on the actual brevet next Saturday.

Scouting out the info control at Jarrell Plantation
The day's heat was getting more pronounced.  About halfway into the ride, Robert dropped back.  Dick and I soldiered on.  We were in the longest stretch between controls, about 27 miles.  Normally, that wouldn't seem like much, but Dick and I were especially grateful to get to the convenience store in Lizella for more fluids.  I drank a bottle of Powerade.  Additionally, I bought us a gallon of water.  Between what we drank there and used to fill our bottles, we polished off the entire gallon.

The peach ice cream at Dickey Farms sounded better and better.  Although it was less than an hour's ride from Lizella to Dickey Farms, we didn't mind stopping again, especially for such deliciousness.

Dickey Farms was right at 100 miles into the route.  The cool refreshment fortified us for the remaining 29 miles.  Then, just seven miles later - adventure!

We turned right off of Hopewell Road onto US Highway 80, and a bridge was out!  I couldn't help but laugh to myself, having encountered another bridge that was out on a ride only two weeks earlier.  I didn't think twice about wading through the creek, but Dick was more hesitant.  However, I convinced him to go for it.

This is a perfect illustration of the value of a pre-ride for a brevet.  I let Daniel know about the bridge being out so that he can devise a reroute for the official brevet next Saturday.  Also, he was able to contact Robert and Neil behind us so they could determine an interim detour.

I'm rather a heat lizard, but even I could feel the effects of the day's high temperatures.  Also, I had forgotten that the final approach into Thomaston on Waymanville Road has some fairly beastly rollers.  Having already ridden 125 miles on such a hot day, I found them rather buttocks-kicking on Saturday.

One highlight of the ride happened during this stretch, which gave me both a smile and a little mental relief.  A deer was startled as I approached on my bicycle.  She ran parallel to the road for a short distance, muscles rippling and coat shining in the sunlight - just beautiful.  About 30 m after she ran into the woods, I passed a small side road called Doe Run.

At last Dick and I made it back to the Waffle House in Thomaston.  We finished in 10 hours, 5 minutes.  I usually finish a 200K in about 8.5 to 9.5 hours.  Saturday's longer time didn't surprise me, though.  We enjoyed the controls, and the heat certainly slowed us down.  And, of course, there was the bridge that was out.  We would have broken 10 hours if not for that.

Originally, I had planned to do my weekly grocery shopping after the ride and then cook dinner.  Because I didn't get home until 7:00 PM, I opted simply to take a shower and scrounge up something to eat from what we had on hand.  Fortunately, we had some leftover pesto chicken and pasta and some rosemary and olive focaccia.  With fried okra on the side for greenage, Robert (husband) and I had a delicious if unconventional dinner.

I know a lot of people don't understand why someone would voluntarily ride 129 miles, particularly in nearly 100-degree temperatures.  Some of it is being acclimated to the outdoors; although I much prefer heat to cold, I have found that the human body can adapt to all kinds of conditions.  But besides that, a ride like Saturday's gives me this all-over fatigue like nothing else does.  It's a uniquely odd but gratifying sensation.


Earlier in the week, a guy named Keith, whom I know through mutual cycling friends in Atlanta, contacted me about maybe coming down this weekend for some dirt road riding.  Although he's been a roadie for years, dirt road riding is new for him.  I told him that I couldn't ride dirt roads on Saturday because of the brevet pre-ride, but Sunday afternoon would work for me.  I figured that a mellow, hour-and-a-half dirt ride would make a good recovery ride.  Besides, it had been a while since I had ridden in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR), and I'm always glad to show this treasure to visitors.

I set our ride time for 3:00 PM, which gave me time for church that morning, grocery shopping, and a few household chores that needed attention.  This also seemed like a good timeframe for dinner afterwards.  Keith had offered to take Robert and me to dinner, but I explained the dearth of restaurants in Monticello, particularly ones open on Sunday evening.  Besides, I was already planning to cook, and I enjoy it.

I rode my cross bike the four miles from my house to Adgateville Baptist Church, the meeting point that Keith and I had set up.  I had mapped a 20-mile route and uploaded it onto my Garmin.  Although I'm pretty familiar with the roads in the PWR and wouldn't actually get lost, having a map also gave me a certain level of comfort.  Keith uses no electronic devices while riding, and so it wouldn't have helped even if I had sent him the route ahead of time.  At least he studied the area on Google Maps ahead of time.

As always, it was a pleasant ride through the PWR.  It felt at least 15 degrees cooler than riding on asphalt.  I felt decent enough, considering the previous day's ride, but I knew I wouldn't be setting any power records.  Fortunately, the pace seemed to suit both of us.

Mid-route, I decided to change course.  I turned on Natural Bridge Crossing Road so I could show Keith a beautiful creek crossing where water flows across a fairly flat rock surface rather than in a typical creek bed.  This would shorten the original loop that I had planned, but that sounded pretty good, too.

We continued riding.  After a while, my Garmin showed me being back on course.  Then, we came back to the same turnoff to Natural Bridge Crossing Road!  I had looped back onto my original route!  I decided to continue on the original route; we would wind up not with a shorter than planned route, but a longer one.  Oh, well.  At least I had my original course map back.

A few miles later, Keith got a flat tire.  Both of us had extra tubes and supplies to change a flat, but this was a tubeless tire - not so easy to fix mid-ride.  At first we tried riding really slowly, with Keith attempting to make do with the little bit of air still in the tire.  We soon decided that it would be better for me to ride back to his vehicle parked at Adgateville Baptist Church and drive back to pick him up.  In the meantime, Keith would make as much forward progress as possible.

I rode on at tempo pace.  Less than a mile later, I passed a turnoff to the left.  My route continued straight.  Then, about a half mile later, I came to a gate with a stop sign.  I knew this section well and simply lifted my bicycle over the gate as I have done a number of times in the past.  However, I didn't want Keith to get confused.  I sent him a text, telling him to go straight at the intersection, carry his bike across the gate, and continue on.  Cell phone coverage is nonexistent in the PWR, but texts will still go through.  I trusted that between my text and his brief scan of the map on my Garmin, which showed the remainder of the route being mostly straight, that he would stay on the correct route.

The flat happened about eight miles from the church.  Therefore, it took me at least half an hour to get back.  I texted Robert to apprise him of the situation, loaded my bicycle, and started backtracking in Keith's Kia.  After a couple of miles, I saw a boy on a golf cart-type ATV.  I made a mental note but didn't stop to ask if the boy had seen a cyclist because there's no way Keith could have made it that far from where I had left him.

I expected (hoped) to see Keith somewhere on this side of the gate.  When I got to the gate without seeing him, I thought (hoped) he would be waiting at the intersection where I had texted him to go straight.  I carried my bike back across the gate and rode down to check.  No Keith.  He must have turned left at the intersection instead of going straight like he was supposed to.

Because I couldn't drive past the gate, I had to drive back toward the church yet again.  I knew how to get to the other side of the gate via another entrance to the PWR, farther south off of Highway 11.  Driving as fast as the law would allow, a la Nancy Drew - and as fast as I thought Keith's vehicle could safely withstand on the dirt/gravel roads - I drove to the infamous PWR intersection near the gate and turned left.

This road dead-ended into...Natural Bridge Crossing Road!  Hmmm.  Which way might Keith have gone?  The creek flowing over the rock was to the left.  If Keith had turned that way, maybe he would recognize the crossing and stay put until I got to him.  I decided to try that direction.  If he weren't at the creek crossing, I would go back in the other direction on Natural Bridge Crossing Road.  If I didn't find him that way...I'd cross that metaphorical bridge when I came to it.  We had about an hour of daylight left.  I started having visions of sheriff's deputies...

Hallelujah!  Keith, in fact, was at the creek crossing!  Most importantly, he was safe.  He had started to worry that something had happened to me, but when I explained all the backtracking and sleuthing I had had to do, he understood why it had taken me so long to find him.  Maybe that unintended extra route mileage was a blessing in disguise.  Keith likely would have gotten the flat regardless.  If we had stayed on the original route and not gone to the natural bridge crossing, we wouldn't have had this unique rallying point.

As we drove back to my house, I was flabbergasted to learn that Keith never carries his cell phone with him on the bike.  Even if my text had gone through (I don't know whether it did or not), he wouldn't have gotten it.  I hope he changes this habit immediately.

Keith said that his main protection on the bike is carrying a lot of cash and credit cards.  If he sees a passing car or a kid on a golf cart, he can pay them to take him wherever he wants.  Wha??  I was dumbfounded.  First of all, most people would be glad to help out someone in distress and wouldn't/shouldn't have to be bribed.  Also, as I told Keith, the deer don't take Visa.

Lessons learned: 1) Don't assume non-natives to my area will be prepared for fairly remote areas like the PWR.  2) Continue to be smart myself when I go in such areas.  Don't be afraid, but maintain a healthy respect for the wild; carry enough supplies and gear, and most definitely let someone know where you are going and what your schedule is.  3) Staying calm and thinking logically, step-by-step really works.

So my intended hour-and-a-half recovery ride turned into a five-hour outing.  But I guess all's well that ends well.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Slow Food, Fast Bike

Today was my favorite type of day.  I didn't have a particular agenda.  I had a general plan for a bicycle outing, but I let myself be open to whatever might happen.

Robert headed out uber early for the Georgia Games road race.  He would be gone most of the day, and so I planned my own fun.  It's blueberry picking season; therefore, I decided to ride to Hard Labor Creek Blueberry Farm, which I like to visit every year.

First on the schedule, however, was a visit to the Saturday morning farmers market on the Monticello square.  What beautiful bounty!

I got multicolored bell peppers and eggplant for Poulet a la Basquaise, a.k.a. Euskaltel Chicken, my French teacher sister's wonderful, rustic French chicken dish that I cook every year during the Tour.  I also got some tomatoes, homemade pesto, and okra.  The latter items became tonight's dinner:  tomato-pesto pizza and roasted okra.  I love planning my weekly menus around what I find at the farmers market.

After that, it was time to head toward Rutledge for blueberry picking.  It was a picture-perfect summer morning, warm but not scorching.  I realized that I have four P's on this type of ride: prayer, planning, pondering, and perceiving.  On my better days - like today - my prayer includes gratitude for fresh air, healthy lungs to breathe it, and muscles that let me pedal my bicycle freely.  I also remember those who desperately wish they had these things.  Additionally, I'm always planning something, whether it's menus for the farmers market stuff I bought or setting future goals.  I ponder things all the time, too - situations I'm facing, the meaning of life, etc.  As for perceiving, cycling is perfect for that.  It helps me live in the moment.  How thrilling to see a rabbit, a red-tailed hawk in flight, or a fawn that still has its spots.  A particular delight today was smelling kudzu blossoms.  I smelled them before I saw them, and it was rather a surprise.  I didn't expect kudzu to bloom for another couple of weeks.

Whoa!  I didn't know that a bridge on the road between Newborn and Rutledge was out.  I figured I still could manage with my bicycle, but it turned out to be a little trickier than I anticipated.  The bridge construction wasn't quite far enough along for me to get across.  So I had to ford the fairly large creek.  No problem, though.  I had put my randonneuring rack and bag on my bike and packed my river shoes to make it easier to walk around at the farmers market and the blueberry farm.  Those off-bike shoes were perfect for schlepping my bicycle on my back across the creek.  Not that it was easy - the embankment was steep - but I calmly assessed the situation and figured out a way to get across safely.

My favorite shoes
A few miles later, I passed a farm with this sign:

It reminded me of all the delicious, local food that was filling my day.  Juxtaposed with my cycling, it set the day's theme: Slow food, fast bike.  Good nutrition and plenty of exercise go a long way toward a healthy life.

I got to the blueberry farm at about 11:45.  They close at 1:00 PM, and so I figured I had plenty of time to pick a bucket of blueberries.  I guess I forgot that it's really not that quick of a process.  After a while, I checked the time, and an hour had already elapsed!  I picked about 2/3 of a bucket before the farm closed.  That was enough, really.  Robert and I will eat fresh blueberries for a few days, and I'll freeze the rest for oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, and other favorites.

Shortly after I left the blueberry farm, I made a quick stop to take this picture:

It reminded me never to sit around waiting for death.  Life has more opportunities than we can ever take advantage of.

My plan included a lunch stop at The Caboose in Rutledge, just a few miles from the blueberry farm.  They have great sandwiches.  I ordered pimento cheese.  It was extra good on rye bread, slightly toasted, and served with lettuce, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts.  I was tempted to get the day's special, a turkey sandwich with cranberries.  However, because I had already planned to cook a pizza that night with the tomatoes and pesto from the farmers market, I decided to stay totally meatless for the day.  I try to do that at least once a week for health and environmental reasons.

I took a different route home because I didn't feel like fooling with the bridge that was out again.  My route home was only about three miles longer.  Just after I got back to the Monticello city limits, a brief shower fell.  It wasn't enough to interfere with my ride, but it did provide a nice bit of cooling.

It was definitely a slow food evening.  Because I hadn't decided to cook pizza until I went to the farmers market, I hadn't taken out a loaf of bread dough to thaw.  That's what I usually use for pizza crust.  It works great, but I have to take it out early in the morning for it to be ready by dinnertime.  Instead, I made my own pizza crust, which I hadn't done in years, in an attempt to do justice to the beautiful, fresh ingredients I had to top it.  There was a slight delay, however, because I had to do my weekly grocery shopping after my ride.  The one crust ingredient I was missing was yeast.  I got rapid rise yeast to speed the process.

My homemade pizza crusts aren't spectacular, which is why I usually rely on frozen bread dough, but it came out adequately tonight.  In fact, it was quite a tasty finish to an overall delectable day.  Expect adventure.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nancy Drew Ride

Summer showers are common, but the chance of rain wasn't very high today.  Therefore, I was surprised when it rained pretty hard for several hours this afternoon.  When it finally cleared, I checked the Weather Channel.  Radar indicated a patch of rain north of Monticello, but it looked pretty clear to the south.  Therefore, I sleuthed out a route down Highway 11.

Robert said he would ride with me - yea!  As we headed out, he suggested doing Marathon Loop, a 26-mile loop that goes more to the west.  The sky was darker in that direction, but I agreed.  A few raindrops started falling.  Robert stopped to check the radar again.  He said that we were going to get wet no matter which direction we went.  He wanted to go back to the house.  I wasn't convinced; I still thought my original southerly route was a good bet.  When I headed down Highway 11 S instead of heading home, Robert said I was stubborn as a mule.  As if I didn't already know...  But he followed me.

It was a beautiful afternoon in that direction.  We rode to Hillsboro Lake and turned around to retrace our route.  About five miles from home, we saw water vapor evaporating from the pavement from a storm that had passed through a short time earlier.  We had avoided the rain.  Robert should have trusted my amateur meteorological skills.  If we had been in a Nancy Drew mystery, the story would have read, "The ruse worked!"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

BBQ Bass 2017

Days like today are why I love summer.  Robert and I hosted our annual BBQ Bass Bicycle Ride.  We think it's the 22nd annual.  I wouldn't swear to it, but that's about right because that would have put our first one in 1996, the year we moved to Monticello.  No matter, it's become one of my favorite summer traditions.  We get to ride with our cycling friends on great roads in and around Jasper County and share some good BBQ and adult beverages with them.

BBQ Bass is always a blast, but this year everything came together particularly well.  Last year it was boiling hot.  I'm very heat tolerant, but even I noticed it then.  This year temperatures were significantly milder, like in May.  Maybe that enticed more of our friends to join us.  Including Robert and me, there were 19 of us.  Our soigneur was our friend Greg from New Zealand, who drove the SAG vehicle/beer truck.  As a rugby coach, he's a pretty big guy.  It was quite entertaining to see him drive around with Sadie the toy dog:

Robert mapped a new route for us this year.  It was one of the best we've had on BBQ Bass.  From the Jordan Engineering parking lot in Monticello, we headed east on Highway 212.  Then we took some local roads in Putnam County into Eatonton.  Our first stop was Tienda Tarimoro, the Mexican market I love to ride to.  It was fun to introduce our friends to it.  Although a few seemed kind of out of their comfort zone, several found it as cool as Robert and I do.  I got a Mexican soft drink as usual, grapefruit this time.  I also tried something new, one of the beautiful Mexican pastries.  There were all types.  I chose a flat pastry that was shaped kind of like a bunny head.  It wasn't terribly sweet, which was fine with me, but it was deliciously flaky.

We headed out of town on Godfrey Road, another excellent cycling road.  About 15 miles later, it was time for a beer stop.  We fueled ourselves adequately with barley and hops and got back on the road.  The Bass (and other varieties) helped keep the ride from being too much of a hammerfest, but we still relied on guys like Jake who did a great job of moderating the group when they got on the front.

Originally, Robert had planned on one beer stop.  However, part of the fun was being flexible.  About another 15 miles later, we made a second beer stop.  I didn't partake this time because I probably would have gotten dropped if I had had another mid-ride beer.

The whole ride seemed to go quickly.  We averaged a relatively fast 20 mph but also were able to talk to each other.  Sometimes it's really nice to do a ride specifically to be social.  Even so, I could feel the testosterone simmering among the guys during the last 10 to 15 miles.  They picked up the pace noticeably.  I managed to hang on, but we started dropping a few people in the last few miles.  Thanks to road markings, cue sheets, Greg in the SAG, and a straight shot back into Monticello, at least we didn't have to worry about anyone getting lost.

Back at Jordan Engineering, it was time for BBQ.  Our Mennonite friends who have prepared the BBQ the last few years weren't available this year.  So, we went with Middle Georgia's tried-and-true, Fresh Air.  It's some seriously good eats.  Our friend Louise even volunteered to drive to Jackson to pick it up.

BBQ and Bass, the titular elements of the ride.  (I said titular - hee hee)
We had some extra yummage to go with lunch this year, fried pies from my friend Laverne.  She always has them at the farmers market on the Monticello square on Saturday morning.  Because I didn't want to clean out her stash for BBQ Bass, I had called her a few days earlier and asked her to make some additional ones for me to pick up this morning before the ride. 

A = apple; P = peach
When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven.  It might be a trick, but if it's not, mmmmmmm, boy.  (Thanks, Jack Handey.)

What a great day with Alan, Andy, Angie, Bill, Cal, Chad, Chris, Cody, Dale, Greg, Jake, Jason, Robert J., Robert N., Sidney, Tony, Trey, and Van.  Thanks for being my cyclopeeps!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bon Vivant Ride

The majority of my rides have a fairly intense purpose: Tuesday Worlds, interval training, or even completing a brevet within the allotted time - not to mention actual races.  Yesterday I rode 69 miles in 4 hours and 25 minutes.  That's about 15.6 mph, certainly a mellow-ish pace for me.  The kicker is that I was gone for 7 hours.  That was the whole point, however; I rode for pure pleasure, and I decided that it didn't matter how long it took.

I came up with a fun route to highlight several culinary destinations.  Because it was all about good food and good times, I dubbed this the Bon Vivant Ride.  A bon vivant is a person who enjoys the good things in life, especially good food and drink.  The literal translation from French is, "good liver."  That's liver as in one who lives, not the internal organ.

Robert went to the Masters National road race championship in Augusta yesterday.  So, he was out of town, and I had a rare Saturday with no particular plans.  Of course, I filled it up with my ride, but it was more like playing all day.  I wouldn't let myself worry about all the chores or other "productive" things I could be doing.

First on my itinerary was going to the Market on the Square, Monticello's farmer's market that occurs every Saturday from May through September.  I had to miss every week in May (cycling events) and, therefore, was really glad to get to go to the farmer's market yesterday.

At least half a dozen vendors were selling fresh produce.  Additionally, a few others were selling plants, homemade soaps, baked goods, or crafts.  I was especially glad to see Mike this year.  Not only does he make the world's best pickled beets (seriously, I have to restrain myself from eating the whole jar when I open it), but it was good to see that he was feeling well enough to be there after battling cancer in recent months.

I also made sure to visit my friend Laverne.  In previous blog entries I have raved about her fried peach pies, and I will do so again now.  They are sublime.  Although I was powerless to resist buying one yesterday, I delayed gratification because I had to save room for the various goodies I wanted to sample along my Bon Vivant route.  It was more fun to share the peach pie with Robert today anyway.  By the way, Laverne's cute granddaughter was helping her yesterday.  As her granddaughter rang up my purchase, she commented that I smelled like the swimming pool.  I laughed and told her that I had put on Coppertone because I would be out in the sun all day.  Coppertone has a distinct fragrance that I actually like.  It reminds me of the beach.  One time when I was about five, my family was visiting the beach.  I woke up just after the sun came up but before the rest of the family.  I remember entertaining myself by opening a bottle of Coppertone and smelling the contents.

Having made the rounds at the farmer's market, I made a beeline for The Vanilla Bean for second breakfast.  This has become my tradition on my local Saturday morning rides in the warmer months.  I readily selected Green Dragon for my tea, but the day's dessert choice was not so simple.  There happened to be no pies yesterday, which probably would have been my druthers, but there were several delectable looking cakes, including lemon, spice, and hummingbird.  With bananas, pineapple, nuts, and spices, hummingbird seemed to be the best of all worlds.  Maybe it was kind of a subconscious choice, too.  I'm currently listening to an audio book entitled The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

Second breakfast and farmer's market loot
As a bonus, I saw my sister-in-law Jennifer and her boyfriend Greg at The Vanilla Bean.  Jennifer stepped into the shop next door, and Greg and I enjoyed sitting outside chatting.  Greg is from New Zealand.  It's always interesting to get his perspective on all things American.

My next destination was Larry's 4-Way, a convenience store in the northwest part of the county, near Jackson Lake.  I was compelled to go there after reading the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce newsletter a few days earlier.  It noted that the biscuits at Larry's 4-Way were mentioned in the May issue of Bon Appetit magazine!


I love a good biscuit, but somehow I've never clued into gas stations being such a ready resource.  And if the biscuits at Larry's 4-Way - right in my backyard - were worth a mention in Bon Appetit, I definitely had to check them out.

A few days earlier during the planning part of my journey, this part of my route was temporarily jeopardized.  When I mentioned to Robert that I was going to Larry's 4-Way, he urged me not to ride on Jackson Lake Road.  That was exactly how I was going to get there.  Robert is not one to try to tell me what to do (as if I'd listen to him anyway), but I conceded that he did have a valid concern.  I decided that Highway 212 would actually be a safer way to go there, even with it being a state highway.

The out-and-back portion from downtown Monticello to Larry's 4-Way on Highway 212 was fine.  As one of the busier highways in our county, it might not be my first choice for local riding, but it has a fairly wide shoulder.  I'm grateful it provided me adequate bicycle access for my biscuit investigation.

Larry's 4-Way is a bustling hub of commerce.  It took me a minute to scope out the interior, but then toward the back I spotted the object of my quest:

What variety!  I had never seen a bologna biscuit before.  I wondered how it would compare to the convenience store I saw on the Mountain Music 200K a few weeks ago, which claimed to have the best fried bologna in town.  (It was the only store within about 25 miles.)  I'll have to keep wondering.  Not only did I not try the fried bologna a few weeks ago, at Larry's 4-Way I opted for an egg biscuit instead of the bologna biscuit.  It may have been the Bon Vivant Ride, but I didn't want to be too hard on my liver.

I had thought that the biscuit at Larry's 4-Way would serve as elevenses, but because of my extended chat with Greg back at The Vanilla Bean, it was really more like eleven-thirties.

I don't know what the Bon Appetit article was talking about.  This biscuit wasn't flat.  It was a big, fluffy cathead biscuit, similar to what I make.  Maybe the Larry's 4-Way biscuit baker changed the recipe since the article was published.  Larry's are drier than mine, though.  I searched The Google to try to discern what makes the difference.  I suspect that I use a little more shortening than they do.  Regardless, I doubt many other people have used the Internet to research the ratio of fat to flour in biscuits.

I headed back toward Monticello for the next leg of my ride.  It was a picturesque day with beautiful, blue skies and clouds as fluffy as cathead biscuits.  Several people had asked me that morning, "Isn't it too hot to ride?"  No, it felt good to me.  It was actually kind of relaxing; we're finally at the time of year where my body doesn't have to work to stay warm.

I stayed on Highway 212 E almost to the Putnam County line and then turned onto Old Hillsboro Road.  This is prime riding in my area - very little traffic and excellent pavement.  I wended my way to downtown Eatonton and my final culinary stop of the day: Tienda Tarimoro, a fantastic, authentic Mexican market.

On several previous bicycle rides I've visited Tienda Tarimoro.  It's an old gas station with a beautiful rock exterior.  Although it's rather small, it contains a vast array of items to delight the senses.

The fresh produce includes items particular to Mexican cuisine, e.g. prickly pears and tomatillos.
I looked for a Pope Francis candle but didn't see one.  Maybe you have to be dead to get on a candle.
I always get a Mexican soft drink at Tienda Tarimoro.  Yesterday it was limon flavored.  I also got some lunch while I was there.  As in most Mexican restaurants, they started me with some chips and salsa.  The salsa was chipotle flavored, a pleasant variation from usual Mexican restaurant salsas.

I tried not to overindulge so that I would have room for my entree: sopes with carnitas.  Sopes are a traditional dish in central and southern Mexico.  They look like very thick tortillas and are made with masa (ground corn soaked in lime, the same ingredient used to make tamales and tortillas).  Chewy with a few crunchy edges, they have a delightful texture.  I was served three sopes topped with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, and my selected meat (carnitas, or roasted pork) and a side of green salsa.  This is real Mexican food:

While I ate, I watched the television across the small restaurant area.  It was tuned to Univision.  I could only see it because the sound was turned down (not that I would have understood the Spanish anyway).  Some kind of Mexican game show was on.  There were four contestants.  One was dressed like a clown.  The four had to complete various tasks.  First, they were unspooling rolls of paper towels and stuffing them into a big box.  The they were using their teeth to remove multicolored loofah-looking things from a big, acrylic box.  The whole time, the smarmy looking game show host was standing to the side and laughing.  I can't imagine this could be much more entertaining even with the sound.  Actually, it was like a scene from one of my dreams.  It's as if someone were a fly on the wall in my dream and then converted it to a real, live game show.

Delicious though they were, I couldn't eat the third sope.  It's just as well because the three sopes with carnitas were bigger than my head.  The rule is never to eat anything bigger than your head.  (There is one exception to the rule: cotton candy.)  At the same time, I couldn't bear the thought of just leaving the last one to be tossed out.  I came up with the perfect solution: I would carry it home in my jersey pocket.  I have experience in these things.  Two years ago during my longest RAAM training ride, I rode 180 miles from Monticello to Dublin and back.  I stopped for lunch in Dublin at a great Italian place but couldn't finish my Stromboli.  Therefore, I carried it home in my jersey pocket.  As for the sope with carnitas, I just needed a container.

I asked the waitress for a bag.  Either she didn't have one or didn't understand because she came back with a Styrofoam clam shell container.  Obviously, that wasn't going to fit into my jersey pocket.  So, I improvised.  I wrapped and then double wrapped the sope in the pieces of aluminum foil and food service paper that had come with my plate.  Soft but protected, it fit snugly in my jersey pocket.  Yummage for later!

This reminded me of a passage from the classic cycling book The Rider by Tim Krabbé:

"Jacques Anquetil, five-time winner of the Tour de France, used to take his water bottle out of its holder before every climb and stick it in the back pocket of his jersey.  Ab Geldermans, his Dutch lieutenant, watched him do that for years, until finally he couldn't stand it any more and asked him why.  And Anquetil explained.

A rider, said Anquetil, is made up of two parts, a person and a bike.  The bike, of course, is the instrument the person uses to go faster, but its weight also slows him down.  That really counts when the going gets tough, and in climbing the thing is to make sure the bike is as light as possible.  A good way to do that is: take the bidon out of its holder.

So, at the start of every climb, Anquetil moved his water bottle from its holder to his back pocket.  Clear enough."

Life can dish up some real crap sometimes.  Other days I might feel rather meh for no particular reason.  Overall, though, I believe that life is what we make of it.  I'm grateful for days when I'm a good liver.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

State TT Championship 2017

Yesterday was the state time trial (TT) championship.  It's one of my biggest races of the year.  However, this year I wasn't in peak TT form for several reasons.  These days there aren't very many TTs on the Georgia race calendar, and the TT championship was much earlier in the season than in recent years.  Additionally, I've been focusing primarily on endurance riding, a very different training goal than TT training.  Even though I didn't expect this would be my best TT championship race, I was still curious (and nervous!) to see how I would do.

Interestingly, the state championship was my first TT this year.  I missed this year's Tundra Time Trial in February because it fell on the same day as the Middle Georgia Epic (see race report from 2/20/17).  About six weeks before the state championship, I started doing TT interval training.  This is my usual preparation for a TT.  However, my body has felt different this year.  Specifically, in the past the limiting factor in my training has always been my cardiovascular system.  This year, however, my muscles felt like the limiting factor.  I couldn't maintain past years' power levels no matter how hard I pedaled, yet my heart and lungs didn't feel maxed out.  I'm sure I could get back my previous power threshold with work, but there wasn't enough time before the state TT.

Originally I had assumed that I would race women's Category 3.  I'm actually a Cat 4, but I've been a Cat 4 for so long that I feel like it's fairer to give newer racers a shot at the Cat 4 title.  The only way you can cat up is through mass-start races (road races and crits), not through TTs.  Because I gave up mass-start races after my serious crash a few years ago, I'll never be able to cat up.  (My epitaph will be Cat 4, 4 Ever.)  However, you can race in TTs, including the state championship, in a higher cat, which is what I've done the past few years.

This year I had a different option.  For the first time, masters women categories were offered at the state TT!  Men typically have masters categories in any kind of road race, but masters women races are relatively rare in this area.  So, I registered for the women's masters 45-49 group.  This seemed like a good move particularly given my less-than-optimal TT fitness.

Different types of cycling races seem to ebb and flow over time.  TTs were a lot more popular five years ago.  I don't know if fewer TTs on the race calendar have diminished interest in them or if dwindling TT participants have led to fewer races.  Chicken vs. egg.  Either way, most of the state TT categories had few racers.  You have to preregister for the state TT; there is no race-day registration.  Therefore, I checked the list of preregistered racers several times earlier this week.  I was the only registrant in women's masters 45-49...until Wednesday night.  That's when I saw Christine Grant on the list.  D'oh!  She's an excellent time trialist who always beats me.  Oh well, all I could do was my best, which was true regardless.  And who knew - maybe I still had a shot at winning.  (By the way, there were no women Cat 3 racers at the state TT!)

I did have one extra nice thing at yesterday's race: Robert went, too!  Although he hadn't done a TT in three or four years because he's been focusing on road races, he decided to do the state TT.  Not only did I enjoy simply having him with me, I also appreciated his being my soigneur.  He pinned my race number on me, which was much easier than having to do it myself.  At first he accidentally pinned it on upside down.  He fixed it, but he really didn't have to:

Although I knew I wouldn't be able to hold as high a wattage as the last few years, I had a power target in mind.  My plan was to not go out too hard, keep my power a few watts below target on the first half of the race, and then go harder on the second half.  I was hoping that adrenaline would let me hold slightly more power than I had been able to during my several weeks of TT training.  That turned out not to be the case - I could hold only what I had been able to during training, surprise, surprise - but otherwise my general plan worked well.

Christine was in front of me, starting one minute before I did.  The course was out-and-back.  As expected, I didn't see her until she was coming back from the turnaround.  She seemed to be about a minute in front of me then, but I couldn't tell if it was significantly more or less.  No need to worry about that - I just had to keep racing as hard as I could.  My biggest goal, other than hoping my best would be enough to beat Christine, was to break an hour.  The state TT has been on the same course for the last several years, and I've been able to finish in just under an hour (59 minutes and some odd seconds) the last two years.

I kept my eye on my power meter.  I talked to myself constantly: "Keep your head in this.  Keep pedaling.  A little faster.  A little more power."  As during training, I could go only as hard as my muscles would allow.  I tend to push a hard gear, but I had found during TT training that by spinning in a slightly lower gear, I could actually put out more power and, therefore, go faster.  I downshifted more than in previous TTs to keep my power and speed as high as possible.

Often during a TT, a snippet of song gets stuck in my head, which I use as kind of a mantra to keep myself on task.  This time it was a rather weird song, "We Belong" by Pat Benatar - not the most energizing TT mantra, but I didn't fight it.

As I got closer to the turnaround, I knew I would see Christine soon.  As soon as I spotted her, different song lyrics immediately jumped into my head: Oh, here she comes from "Maneater" by Hall & Oates.  That was definitely a better TT mantra for the second half of the race.

Doing rough calculations in my head, I determined that it was going to be close on breaking an hour.  I kept on and kept on.  I actually felt a little stronger in the last few miles.  At 56 minutes, I had about a mile and a half to go.  Pedal, pedal, pedal!

1 km to go.  Push it, push it!  I put my head down and crossed the line just as my Garmin turned over 1:00:00.  But what was my official time?

A cool thing about this race is that as soon as I finished, I received an e-mail with my time!  I didn't even have to wait until the list of results was posted.  I finished in...


Less than two seconds over my goal of breaking one hour.  Bummer.  Surely I could have saved two seconds somewhere along the course, probably at the turnaround.  But I rode as hard as I thought I could at the time.  The numbers are what they are.  I was actually quite pleased with my results given how my training had gone.  The only question now was how Christine had finished.  I was 99.9% certain she had won, but I did wonder how much she beat me by...

Her time was 00:56:43.51.  That's 3:17 faster than me.  Even at my best trained level, I couldn't be three minutes faster than what I raced on that course yesterday.  So, extra kudos to Christine for a truly outstanding performance!

Despite the pre-race barfiness and the pain during TTs (and they are painful if you do them right), they are worth it.  For one thing, you get to challenge yourself, setting goals and seeing what your body can do.  Besides that, it's a great group of cycling peeps.  I have fun seeing many of the same racers at TTs: Angela, Christine, Joy, Liz, Louis, and others.

Yesterday was especially great because my good friend Chad did his first TT since a horrific accident he had just over a year ago.  The fact that he survived is miraculous; to see him get back out and compete was a true joy.  Chad, Robert, and I went to Mellow Mushroom for lunch after the race.  It was fun to remember all the TTs we have done together in the past.  And, fortunately, the pizza was much less painful than the race.