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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Peach Peloton

There's probably not a better cycling workout in Georgia than Peach Peloton.  We ride every Saturday from November until the beginning of February, increasing the distance and intensity as the training season progresses.  The early rides start around 70 miles, ramping up to 100+ miles by January, and culminating with the Pine Mountain Challenge, which is approximately 130 miles.  After the first few PP rides, the group does rotations.  Then, attack zones are added.

Being female, I simply can't ride as hard as the strongest guys, but I've found ways to work within my abilities so that I usually can hang with the group.  The basic formation is riding two up, in which we ride in a double paceline.  The front two people pull for about five minutes before rolling to the back.  When I get to the front of the peloton, I almost always peel back immediately without taking a turn so that I can conserve my energy.  The guys are fine with this.  Also, it mixes up the pairs, which aids socialization (perhaps good, perhaps bad...)

During rotations, i.e., a continuously rotating paceline, I sit in, which means I stay at the back and let the others rotate.  Rotations are usually done counterclockwise; therefore, I usually sit in on the left-hand side.  I try to be very aware of cycling safety and etiquette because the last thing I want to do is interfere with anyone else's ride.  Sitting in does save some energy, but it still can be a challenge to hang on.

When the attack zones start, I don't even try to take part.  Fortunately, the guys regroup after an attack zone.  Even though I don't attack, I push myself during those sections so that they don't have to wait too long for me.

Today's PP was as hard a ride as I can remember in recent history.  There haven't been any attack zones yet this season, but today we definitely had rotations - very long sections of rotations.  The first rotation started at about mile 25 and went through about mile 50.  I felt pretty good and thought I wouldn't have any trouble staying with the group the whole way.

Our one stop for the ride was at about mile 55 at Blackbird Coffee in Milledgeville.  Although I don't like coffee, I love tea.  I had thought I might get a chai latte, but the day was so unseasonably and wonderfully warm that I opted for a good old Coca-Cola Classic instead.  Blackbird Coffee also has a tempting array of baked goods in a display case.  Robert was one of the first ones from our group to go through the line.  He got a cinnamon roll that looked delicious.  I can't even think of the last time I had a cinnamon roll, and so I set my sights on the last one in the case.  Mmm...  But Cal, who was ahead of me in line, got that last cinnamon roll.  Drat!  Oh, well - I had a raspberry-white chocolate scone instead, and it was quite tasty.

We got back on the road, and rotations started again at about mile 65.  That's when things got serious.  Really serious.  We were averaging over 19 mph.  I didn't struggle too badly until we got on Highway 57 heading back into Macon.  It's a 4-lane highway, actually quite good for cycling, but the rollers are significant, particularly when you're going hard on such a long ride.  I was tired, and my mind wasn't processing very much.  All I could do is look at the long grade right in front of me and tell myself simply to get to the top of it; I didn't think about any hills or miles after that.  At the next climb, I repeated this process.  A little at the time - a good approach to life as well as cycling.

The rotations lasted until about mile 90.  I hung on!  The guys finally eased up as we approached Macon.  I asked them if "cyclocide" is a word.  If it is, they tried to commit it.

We had about 6 more miles to go.   To avoid the heaviest traffic, we took our frequent route through the Ocmulgee National Monument.  Just a few more miles through downtown, and we were back at our starting location, Jittery Joe's in Mercer Village.    I'm glad that Cal, Cody, and Van are as obsessive as I am.  The route was 96 miles, but we wanted to ride 4 extra miles to make it a full century.  We rode through the Mercer campus.  I had had time to ride an extra 1.75 miles before PP rolled out this morning, and so I didn't have to go quite as far as Cal, Cody, and Van at the end to get my 100 miles.  I think they were a little jealous that I got to stop before they did.

I was thrilled and proud of myself for lasting to the end.  That was not an easy accomplishment.  I'm grateful for a beautiful day to ride, a safe ride for everyone, and good cycling friends who both help and push me.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

UFO Bike

Considering how long I've been riding, you'd think I wouldn't make rookie mistakes.  I did tonight, though.  I had forgotten to charge my headlight, and it went out about three miles into my dirt ride.  A full charge should last about four hours.  I thought I had used up only about an hour from the most recent charge, but I guess I had used more juice than I remembered.  Having two headlights would help.  I did have a second one, but it got lost during RAAM.  Everything became community property then despite having my name on my stuff.  Regardless, I really need to get into the habit of charging my lights after every ride.

My headlight went out on this same route several weeks ago.  That time I thought I was using a freshly charged light, but I hadn't fully connected it to the charger.  D'oh!  I was about 3/4 of the way through that ride and called Robert to come pick me up.  Tonight, however, I was determined not to bother him again, particularly since he was in the middle of a trainer workout back at the house.  Thus, tonight was an exercise in problem solving.

Fortunately, there is almost no traffic on my dirt routes, which is why I feel comfortable riding them at night in the first place.  I moved my taillight from the back of my bike to the front.  The steady, red light on the brightest setting gave me just enough light to find my way.  It reminded me of going to the Nightcrawlers Program at Zoo Atlanta some years ago.  My group spent the night at the zoo and got to see some really cool behind-the-scenes things.  When we visited the reptile house, the zookeeper gave us red flashlights to observe the animals, explaining that red light is much less irritating to them than regular white light.

I rode carefully, partly because the path was dim and partly because Jordan Road, my nighttime dirt road ingress/egress, was graveled fairly recently.  There are still some significant sections where the gravel hasn't settled in well, making for a rather challenging ride even with a fully charged headlight.  Thankfully, I navigated the treacherous sections safely.

As I turned off of Jordan Road onto the paved highway leading back to my house, I heard my neighbor's dogs, as usual.  They always bark and sometimes chase me, but fortunately they have never been truly aggressive.  Tonight, with my freaky front red light, I must have looked like some kind of UFO bike.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Spin

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  (Federally recognized holiday, that is.  I get pretty excited about Groundhog Day, Pi Day, and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, too.  Arrr!)  The reason Thanksgiving means so much to me is that over the years, gratitude has become more and more important to me.  It’s what makes life abundant.  The more thankful I am, the more I find to be thankful for.  Of course, I’m thankful for the big, obvious things, like Robert, our dogs and other animals, our home, our health, family, friends, and work.  But it’s so fun – and gratifying – to find subtler things to be thankful for: a cup of hot tea every evening after dinner, clouds in all their fascinating forms, clean tap water, the way sunlight looks at varying times of day and year, learning (from books and from life), a fairy ring of mushrooms, good smelling soap, the freedoms I have at this time and place in history, finding connections with such seemingly different people…  The list could go on and on.

High up on my gratitude list is cycling – no surprise there.  If you follow my blog, you know that I love all types of cycling, whether it’s road riding, gravel grinding, randonnuering, or tandem riding.  One type of riding that I haven’t written about much is my spin class, jSpin.  Robert started jSpin about five years ago because he got bored with riding his trainer in the basement all winter.  He bought about a dozen spin bikes and converted the break room at Jordan Engineering into a spin room.  Several instructors teach classes on Monday through Thursday evenings.  Also, we occasionally host a movie spin on Sunday afternoons during the winter when it’s cold and/or rainy.  Not only is the exercise part great, jSpin gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends and neighbors whom I might not see otherwise.

I go to the class that Robert teaches, which is the Monday class.  It makes a good recovery ride if I’ve put in a lot of miles over the weekend.  Usually, though, I try to keep up with Robert’s instruction, which focuses on interval training with heart rate monitors.  He also enjoys planning the music for each class as much as the workout.  Occasionally, I substitute teach for Robert if he has to go to an evening meeting.  My more frequent contribution, however, is a music spin show.  I love coming up with themes.  Therefore, I came up with a music set for tonight’s Thanksgiving spin.

We started with a classic tune associated with Thanksgiving, “Simple Gifts.”  This is a Shaker song written in 1848.   Although it’s often thought of as a hymn, it’s really a dance song.  I discovered a beautiful version with Alison Krauss singing in her lovely, ethereal voice, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma’s exquisite cello.

Continuing our warmup, we got a little more upbeat but still stayed rather mellow with “Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead.  Incidentally, that’s something else to be grateful for:

Then, the feast began.  We had “Mashed Potatoes” by The Kingsmen.  Although my family always has sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, I hear that mashed potatoes are a pretty common menu item for other people.

How about some gravy for your mashed potatoes?  In this case, it was “Wavy Gravy” by Kenny Burrell, an aptly jazzy segue.  I had searched for music by the counterculture icon Wavy Gravy but didn’t find anything that I thought would work for spin.  I was pleased to discover this song by the same name.

Thanksgiving dinner must have The Cranberries.  I included my favorite song of theirs, “Zombie.”  It’s quite somber, being about the ongoing war in Northern Ireland, but the music and lyrics are powerful.  The bass guitar toward the beginning is on my list of Top 10 Best Guitar Riffs.

At last it was time for the star of the feast, The Byrd(s)!  Did you know that the lyrics to “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” come from Ecclesiastes?  (That’s my favorite book of the Bible.)  “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” has that quintessential 1960s sound.  Although I’m proud to be a Gen Xer, I’ve got to hand it to the Boomers for giving us some great music.

What’s Thanksgiving turkey without dressing to go with it?  I don’t know of any dressing songs, but The Dave Matthews Band sings “Cornbread,” which is the main ingredient in dressing.  And it’s not stuffing.  Here in the South we eat dressing, which is cooked in a separate pan, not inside the turkey.

Time for dessert!  We had pumpkin pie thanks to Smashing Pumpkins.  The song was “1979.”  By the way, at the end of this post is the world’s best pumpkin pie recipe.  It’s from my mother.  Actually, she got it from the Eagle condensed milk can years ago.  The two biggest keys are to chill the pie thoroughly before serving and to use real whipped cream on top – no spray-can stuff.

If you follow the recipe, of course you need some Cream to go on top of your pumpkin pie.  And make it “Sweet Wine,” a nice accompaniment to dessert and another excellent, bluesy/jazzy song for the set.

Wait!  You can’t put plain cream on your pumpkin pie – you must “Whip It!”  (Whip it good!)  Devo will help you with that.

In case you’re a teetotaler, you might rather have a little coffee with your dessert.  Frank Sinatra serves it up all-American style with “The Coffee Song.”  This also reminds me of Thanksgiving morning in my kitchen.  I enjoy cooking at a leisurely pace, drinking tea (ironically, I’m not a coffee drinker), and listening to Frank Sinatra.  This little ditty is such a fun one.

If you overdid it on our Thanksgiving feast, perhaps you need a “Remedy.”  The Black Crowes not only have your prescription, they fit in with the autumn decor.

As delicious and enjoyable as Thanksgiving dinner is, in the end this holiday is really about being grateful.  That’s why I ended our Thanksgiving spin show with “Thank You.”.  I love hard rockin’ with Led Zeppelin, but this beautifully melodic song is my favorite of theirs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Simple Gifts” – Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss
“Touch of Grey” – The Grateful Dead
“Mashed Potatoes” – The Kingsmen
“Wavy Gravy” – Kenny Burrell
“Zombie” – The Cranberries
“Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” – The Byrds
“Cornbread” – The Dave Matthews Band
“1979” – Smashing Pumpkins
“Sweet Wine” – Cream
“Whip It” – Devo
“The Coffee Song” – Frank Sinatra
“Remedy” – The Black Crowes
“Thank You” – Led Zeppelin

Pumpkin Pie

2 C canned pumpkin (1 can)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 unbeaten egg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (use homemade if possible)
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 capful vanilla extract

Mix pumpkin, condensed milk, egg, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger on low speed of an electric mixer.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted near middle comes out clean.  Cool.

On high speed of electric mixer, beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Spread whipped cream on top of cooled pie.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Thoroughly chill pie in refrigerator before serving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

FDR Little White House 200K Brevet

The FDR Little White House 200K route is a great one.  I enjoyed doing it as a permanent last year (see my 8/3/14 blog entry), but it also made for a memorable brevet.

Because it was a brevet, many more people rode it yesterday than when I did it as a permanent.  Yesterday, Daniel the speed demon flew off the front.  I'm not sure I could have kept up with him even if I tried.  I was happy to keep up a much more sustainable pace with Julie, Josh, and Ed.  We talked about everything from biscuits to civil rights.  Actually, Julie and I did most of the talking.  It was a lot more than I'm used to; at the end of the day, my throat was sore!

At the control in Manchester, Ed got a frozen treat that was shaped like an old fashioned Push-Up:

Ed's purchase was a multicolored all-fruit frozen concoction, but the plastic push-up part was the same.  It reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in years.  When I was little, I collected four of the plastic push-up parts to make axles and wheels, taping them together in pairs.  I attached them to a shoebox, cut a portion of the shoebox lid off, and made a car for my stuffed animal rabbit.  Let the good times roll.

Midway through the brevet was a control at FDR State Park.  Because food options are limited in the area, Ian arranged a wonderful picnic lunch for all of us riders.  He and his wife Chris prepared much of the food, including chili, vegetable soup, delectable homemade pimento cheese with horseradish, and hearty muffins that were kind of like morning glory muffins.  Additionally, Wayne made some flapjacks, a bar-like-cookie creation with a unique ingredient: golden syrup.  They make excellent bike food.  Josh - and possibly others - provided chips and other sides to complete the picnic:

Iron Chef Ian
I asked Ian, "Don't cows have four stomachs?"  He replied, "They have at least three, but I'm not sure if they have four."  I said, "Well, they have more than one anyway.  I wish I were a cow so that I had enough room to sample everything."  FYI, this morning I saw my friend Phil, who is a cattle farmer.  He confirmed that cows have four stomach.  Udderly fascinating!

There were several beverages available at the picnic.  This one must have been referring to me because it certainly wasn't Ian, Chris, or Wayne:

Pine Mountain is one of my favorite areas of Georgia.  I don't think I had ever visited in the fall before.  The view from atop Pine Mountain is beautiful in any season:

Julie and I headed out from lunch and rode the rest of the way together.  I had been so excited to see her name on the list of registered riders because I hadn't had the chance to ride with her in a while.  Yesterday was actually her first brevet since she was seriously ill back in the spring.  I knew that she had been ill back then, but I had no idea it was a life-and-death situation.  It is truly a miracle that she has recovered so well and could ride 133 miles with me yesterday.  That was after she rode 90+ miles the day before that for her birthday!  I'm sure that the fact that she takes such good care of herself is the reason she is still with us today.  Getting to ride with Julie yesterday was the highlight of the day.  She and I will both do some extra celebrating this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Besquished BeWednesday

Tonight I did my first after-work dirt road ride of this season that was completely in the dark, thanks to Daylight Saving Time ending last weekend.  I was a little hesitant to get started, but once I was out there, I remembered that getting going is the hardest part.  The ride was fun, as usual.

I did have a bit of an extra challenge tonight.  It’s rained over four inches in the last few days, turning the dirt roads into peanut butter.  It slowed me down noticeably, and of course my bike and I were both quite sloppy when we got home.

About 20 years ago, Nick at Nite showed back-to-back episodes of classic TV shows on weeknights, focusing on a different show each night.  One of my favorites was “Bewitched,” which was played on Wednesdays.  Thus, they called it Bewitched BeWednesday.  In one hilariously memorable scene, Endora casts a spell on Darrin, causing a storm cloud to rain right over his head.  Outraged, a drenched Darrin confronts Endora.  Endora coos, “Oh, Darrin, don’t you look all fresh and dewy?”  I could have used one of Endora’s storm clouds after my ride tonight. For me, it was Besquished BeWednesday.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fried Green 50

Today was the annual Fried Green 50, a most excellent gravel grinder in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge.  As always, Monte Marshall and the Ocmulgee Mountain Biking Association (OMBA) did an outstanding job of hosting the ride.  I had been looking forward to it so much, even with the LTO (less than optimal) forecast: 100% chance of rain.  It really wasn't bad - misty rain until the very end of the ride, when it did start falling more significantly.  These definitely weren't the worst conditions I had ever ridden in.  Besides, it was fun to experience the Fried Green 50 in a different way.  Those who stayed away today missed out on a great time.

The Fried Green 50 is always held on the first Sunday in November.  A few years ago Monte added a Saturday ride called the Sac o' Suds 50, held the day before the Fried Green 50.  Both rides start in Juliette and have connections to locally filmed movies.  The movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" was filmed in Juliette, and the Sac o' Suds in neighboring Jasper County was the scene of the tuna theft and murder in "My Cousin Vinny."  I recommend both movies.  Anyway, I didn't do the Sac o' Suds ride yesterday because it has significant sections of single-track, and I'm not a very good technical rider.  More importantly, with yesterday being Halloween, I had to continue my 18-year tradition of being The Mad Doctor at Haunticello (trick-or-treating on the square in my hometown, Monticello):

We were encouraged to bring almost outdated bike food for the Fried Green 50 rest stops (covered dish SAGs, as Monte called them - love it!).  I was happy to share some gummy fingers, bags of blood, eyeball gumballs, etc. leftover from The Mad Doctor.

We rolled out right at 10:00 AM and had an actual neutral start this year, unlike last year when the fastest guys disregarded it and took off like a rocket.  Today I rode a few miles with the front group but knew that wasn't sustainable.  Instead, I settled in with a group of four guys who seemed to be riding at about my pace.  We mostly stayed together until about halfway through when we hit a butt-kicking 12% grade.  Being smaller than the others, I have a climbing advantage.  Also, I had just eaten a Clif Bar, and I got a good stream of energy right about the same time.  A guy named Alan (hope I'm spelling it the correct way!) and I pulled slightly ahead and wound up riding the rest of the route together.  It was nice to have a riding companion; often at these types of events, I ride mostly by myself.

There were six creek crossings, and I'm pleased to say that I didn't bust my arse on any of them.  They were really kind of fun, not to mention picturesque.  Here's my friend Benny stylin' and profilin' at one of them (photo purloined from Facebook):

I had forgotten my bike computer, and so I collected ride data with the Strava app on my phone.  Because my phone was in my pocket, I couldn't track my mileage or how fast I was going.  Everything was by feel - kind of a small bonus challenge for the ride.

I fueled better this year than I did last year, and so the last few miles weren't as hard this time.  Also, Alan and I chatted a good bit, making for a much more enjoyable ride.  We didn't even mind the extra muddy conditions toward the end.  There was also one tricky little section where we had to dismount and walk up a brushy, steep grade.  I suppose some of the really serious mountain bikers might have been able to ride up that part, but I'd like to see them do it.

Little kids love playing in the dirt; why do adults forget how fun it is?  Back at the parking area, I asked Benny to take a photo of me to document my grime:

Then he insisted on getting a picture from behind, which really shows the dirt:

I was thrilled to be the first female finisher!  Monte always comes up with wonderfully unique awards, and this year was no exception.  I received a green tomato-esque icosahedron (20-sided polyhedron):

After some post-ride vittles, I said goodbye to everyone and headed home.  The first thing I did when I got there was recheck my Strava data.  I wasn't able to see it on my phone app, and so I thought I had somehow accidentally deleted the file.  The best solution I could think of was to get a file from one of my friends.  It wouldn't be exactly my data, but it would be close enough on mileage and elapsed time.

In the meantime, my friend Cal gave me kudos on my ride - huh?  I don't know what happened or how he found my file, but somehow Strava had the ride date as 7/27/15 instead of 11/1/15.  With a little Internet research, I figured out how to correct the file and re-upload it.  (The Google knows all...)  I'm glad I get to use my real data.

A big thank you again to Monte, Trudy, and everyone with OMBA for today's Fried Green 50 - see you next year!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Charlie Elliott Gravel Grinder

September and October are my mellow time of year for cycling.  The days have gotten too short for Tuesday Worlds (weekly group rides after work), and Peach Peloton (long winter training rides on Saturdays) hasn’t started yet.  I still ride five to six days per week, but right now much of my riding is on dirt roads.  With lights on my cyclocross bike, I can ride safely after work on the dirt roads near my house.  It’s slower going than on paved roads, and so I give myself a break from worrying about how many miles I’m putting in.  Then, when the weekend rolls around, it’s the perfect time for a long gravel grinding adventure!

I live in gravel grinding paradise.  An extensive network of dirt roads right near my home beckons me.  In fact, I could ride from one end of Jasper County to the other and almost entirely avoid pavement.  For yesterday’s adventure, I came up with a route that includes a number of dirt roads on which I had never ridden my bicycle.  Having a fun destination always makes a ride even better, and so I decided to ride to the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, a natural resource jewel at the northern tip of the county.

My agenda for the day was not to have an agenda.  Thus, I didn’t set my alarm clock – a much-welcomed rarity.  Not that I slept very late – I was ready to ride by 8:30 AM.

For the first time this season, I had to don cold-weather riding gear: a base layer, arm warmers, knee warmers, long-fingered gloves, and an ear warmer to wear under my helmet.  I’m a heat-loving lizard, but it really wasn’t bad out in the cool air since I was dressed appropriately.

My first order of business was to stop by the Monticello square.  Because I work out of town, I don’t get to go to our local coffee shop, The Vanilla Bean, very often.  I opted to have breakfast there yesterday:

Earl Grey tea and broccoli Swiss quiche
Then I checked out the Saturday morning farmers market.  It only goes through the end of October, and so I have to get while the getting is good.  I bought as much as I could with the cash I had on me: some boiled peanuts and one of my friend Laverne’s fried peach pies:

The boiled peanuts were to make hummus for a picnic last night (yum!), but I ate the peach pie right away for ride fuel.  (I was still hungry after my tea and quiche.)

Then, it was time to hit the dirt roads.  What a glorious morning!  I enjoy the weekly outdoor column by Charles Seabrook in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He recently gave such an apt description of the October sky, commenting on how it seems bluer than any other month of the year.  I concur.

It was an outstanding route.  Paved roads are wonderful to ride on, but dirt roads have a beauty all their own:

One of the vendors at the farmers market, a husband and wife, had asked me if I was riding by myself.  When I answered yes, she shook her head at my supposed foolishness, and he told me I should carry a gun.  I just don’t look at the world that way.  I refuse to live in fear.  I love the solitude of my rural rides.  Besides, I take reasonable precautions, carrying my phone and a road ID and making sure Robert knows where I’ll be.  I’ll let the hunters carry the guns.  Incidentally, yesterday was the first day of firearms deer season.  Even with the hunters, I encountered very little traffic.

I did have one time constraint on my ride; I wanted to get back to the square in time for the chicken-Q put on by the Methodist men.  I love any kind of barbecue, but the chicken that the local men cook is the best.  I’ve never had anything quite the same anywhere else.  They smoke it and put various delicious seasonings on it; I’m not sure what all it includes.  The signs for the chicken-Q indicated that they would be selling plates from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.  As I pedaled along, I mentally calculated when I would get back to the square.  Because I had not particularly hightailed it to get going on my ride, I estimated that I would get back right around 1:00.  Therefore, I modified my original route to put me back between 12:00 and 12:30 PM.  I didn’t want to miss out on the chicken!  Then, because I wanted to ride at least 50 miles total, I decided that I would ride another 10 miles or so after my chicken-Q lunch.  That was the beauty of yesterday’s ride – I could do whatever I wanted!

I pedaled along toward the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.  I’ve been there a number of times, but it’s always been in the car via Georgia Highway 11.  What a gorgeous view as I approached it from the unpaved backside:

Public fishing area

The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center covers hundreds of acres and offers a multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities, e.g., hiking, fishing, boating, shooting, and camping.  Additionally, all kinds of classes are offered. Over the years I’ve been to fascinating classes on dragonflies, turtles, bats, frogging by ear, mushrooms, snakes, migratory birds, astronomy, creating home d├ęcor using materials from nature, and wilderness survival – all for free!  I’m so grateful to have this wonderful resource right in my backyard.

By the way, Charlie Elliott was a noted outdoorsman in the last century.  He served as Director of Georgia State Parks and as Commissioner of Natural Resources, directed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) for all of Eastern Georgia, and wrote columns for publications ranging from The Atlanta Constitution to Outdoor Life and other magazines.  Legend has it that Charlie Elliott was the inspiration for the comic strip character Mark Trail.  Yesterday I enjoyed seeing again this replica of Charlie Elliott’s office, located in the visitor’s center:

It was time to pedal back to Monticello.  Mmm…chicken-Q…

After I left the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, I got to ride on a few more new bicycling roads.  Everything was a delight: horses, donkeys, hayfields, some kind of grass with the wispiest purple flowers, and goldenrod.  I couldn’t have taken a picture of everything that caught my fancy even if I tried, but here are a few examples:

Some variety of holly, I think
Black-eyed Susans
Gate with elaborate 3-D metal sculpting - appropriate for Jasper County, the Deer Capital of Georgia

That chicken-Q was sounding mighty fine.  Usually, I don’t eat when I’m riding unless I’m going for at least three hours.  It would be about three hours into my ride by the time I got to the chicken-Q, and so the timing would be just right.   Only a few more miles …

I got to the square at 12:15 PM.  The Methodist men were just finishing packing up – they had sold out in only 35 minutes!  Major bummer.  Not only did I miss out on one of the rare opportunities to get such delectableness, I was ready for lunch.  However, I decided to tough it out, finish my ride, and grab something to eat back home.

For the last part of my ride, I did one of my regular weeknight dirt road routes, except backwards.  There’s a house with a couple of dogs that usually chase me.  Fortunately, I didn’t see them this time.  Maybe riding by at an atypical time of day or going in the opposite direction helped.

I definitely wasn’t feeling as peppy as I did at the beginning of the ride.  I had a Clif Bar with me, but I was so close to home that I decided to hold out for an actual meal.  I wasn’t in too bad shape because I even turned around to try to get a picture of a big, red, fuzzy cow ant.  By the time I got back to the spot, however, it had crawled away.  Heeding Robert’s advice, I simply took a mental picture.

At last I arrived home.  I made myself a Double Chocolate Chip Frappe, which is essentially glorified chocolate milk.  It’s a great recovery drink, and it also let me drown my sorrows about the chicken-Q.  Actually, the cheese and crackers and spinach salad that I had for lunch instead were pretty good.  Not as good as the chicken-Q would have been, but probably healthier.

Being primarily a roadie, I love the challenge of a hard group ride with the guys, pushing myself to meet monthly Strava mileage goals, and even racing.  Sometimes, though, it’s good to do a little gravel grinding just for fun.  Ride on!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rock ‘n RollMan Half Iron Triathlon

A few weeks ago my friend Jennifer Cain put the word out that she needed someone to take her place in the bicycle leg of a relay team for the Rock ‘n RollMan Half Iron Triathlon in Macon.  Unfortunately, she injured her arm and has to stay off the bike for a while.  I’ve got plenty of training under my belt, and I would be riding anyway that day; therefore, I told her I would be glad to substitute for her in the relay.

The Rock ‘n RollMan was this past Saturday.  I met my teammates for the first time on Friday evening when we picked up our race packets at Lake Tobesofkee, the triathlon venue.  Renee was our swimmer, and Eleta was our runner.  Our team name was Here for the Beer – I knew I would like this team!

On Saturday morning I headed out from home at O dark thirty.  It was raining pretty hard, and there was even lightning as I got close to Lake Tobesofkee.  Having run a 5K in the rain two weeks before and ridden 134 miles at the edges of a hurricane the previous Saturday, I started to doubt my sanity.  Oh, well – Expect Adventure!

Swim, bike, run

The race was supposed to start at 7:30 AM, but it was delayed due to the weather.  By the time the swimmers finally did start sometime after 8:00, the rain had let up.  Eleta and I stood on the beach and watched Renee start the swim.

Then, I immediately moved to the transition area to wait for my leg to begin.

Renee had a strong swim, finishing the 1.25 miles in about 35 minutes.  She ran into the transition area and handed me our timing chip, which I attached to my ankle.  I ran out of the transition area to the bicycle mounting line and was off!

I was fairly familiar with the course.  Although I had never ridden the entire 56 miles all at once, I had ridden on just about every part of it during Peach Peloton and other rides in the area.  The first turn after leaving Sandy Beach Park was a few miles into the course.  I started to make the turn, but then the course marshals started yelling at me and the other racers, “Half go straight!  Half go straight!”  I was confused but thought I should listen to the marshals.  I figured maybe there was a last-minute course change due to the weather.  So, I continued straight rather than making the turn.  About a half mile later, a sheriff’s deputy was at the next intersection for traffic control.  I asked him if we were on the half course, but he didn’t respond; he just directed us to turn left.  Maybe a dozen other racers were around me.  I asked them if we were on the half course, but they were as uncertain as I was.  I told one guy, “I have a bad feeling about this.”  He responded, “Don’t say that!”  I even started to turn back at one point, but then I second-guessed myself again.

After a few miles, we approached a roundabout.  I asked the volunteers whether we were on the half course, but they just directed us around the roundabout.  When we made a left turn back onto Moseley Dixon Road, the road on which Sandy Beach Park is located, I knew for sure that I was on the wrong course.  Racer Number 94 passed me, and I said, “We’re screwed.”  He agreed.

I quickly assessed my options.  I could quit, but that wouldn’t do anyone any good, and I certainly didn’t want to let my teammates down.  A slow time was better than a DNF.  Of course, I was mad.  But what could I do?  Not much at that point except keep going.  I decided to get back on the correct course and ride my best.  Therefore, when I got back to the entrance to Sandy Beach Park, I pretended that I was just getting started.  I had ridden nine extra miles on the sprint tri course, but I felt good on the bike.  I would have to ride 65 miles total; I would simply treat it as a good, long, hard workout.  Maybe there would be some kind of time adjustment since so many of us were misdirected on the route.  Even if not, I put everything in perspective by thinking about all the girls in other parts of the world who can’t get an education because they have to walk nine miles every day to get water for their families.

This was the longest I had ever ridden on my TT bike, and I felt comfortable.  I started catching a number of other racers.  Obviously, most of them had already had to swim and still faced a run after the bike, but I knew I was performing well.  The course has some significant hills around Roberta, the turnaround point.  I’m a good hill climber and passed many people in that section.

Throughout most of the race, Number 94 and I kept passing each other.  Usually, I would pass him on the climbs, and then he would pass me on the downhills or straightaways.  Both of us were careful to follow the rules, not drafting, leaving at least three bike lengths between other racers, and passing within 15 seconds.  I knew that he was frustrated by the extra nine miles, too, and so I felt like we were comrades, encouraging each other along the way.

Based on my performance at the Red Clay Ramble in August (56 miles on mostly dirt in 2:57) and my performance in the last few state TT championships (22 miles in just under an hour), I thought I would do the Rock ‘n RollMan at about a 20 mph pace, giving me a time of a little under three hours.  That was exactly the pace I rode.  I was at 2:50 when I got to mile 56.  But of course I still had nine more miles to go!  That added nearly 30 more minutes.  Even so, I raced the total 65 miles very well for my abilities.

I rode as hard as I could all the way to the dismount line.  I hopped off my bike, ran into the transition area, hung my bike on the rack, and gave the timing chip to Eleta.  Run away!  Run away!

I spent several minutes gasping for breath, very thankful that I didn’t have to run.  Obviously, I would have had to pace myself quite differently if I were doing the whole triathlon by myself.  I’m glad I got to put all my effort into the cycling leg.

Number 94 ran out of the transition area a few minutes later.  Go cycling companion!

Renee wondered why it took me so much longer to finish than I had thought it would.  I explained about the extra nine miles.  We heard lots of other people talking about the same issue.

The skies had cleared, and Renee and I enjoyed a beautiful, warm fall afternoon as we waited for Eleta.  Renee and I cheered her the last few hundred feet across the finish line.  Eleta had a good run, finishing in 2:17, exactly what she had predicted.

It turns out that there was no time adjustment for those of us who did both the sprint bicycle course and the half bicycle course.  Here for the Beer just missed out on the trophies.  We came in fourth among the relay teams – only one minute behind the third place team!  Ack!  We would have been second if I hadn’t ridden the nine extra miles.  Too bad because the Rock ‘n RollMan trophies are extra cool – miniature electric guitars.  Despite the biking snafu, all three of us had fun and had a good race.

Every time I do any kind of race, I learn something.  This time I learned that race marshals don’t always know what’s going on.  I should have triple checked the course route, possibly even loading it into my bicycle computer.  In a nutshell, I should have listened to my instincts.  Most importantly, I was reminded simply to keep going – whether in cycling or in life.  I learned this best three years ago during my long recovery from my serious bicycle crash.

The best part of the Rock ‘n RollMan actually came the following day.  I had uploaded my race data to Strava.  Number 94 (Chris Hardbeck) found me on Strava, gave me kudos, and sent me a note.  It read, “I was about to take my helmet off and call it a day when you rolled up and started back out.  Got me going.  So, I owe you for that one!  Thx big time!”

Ride on!