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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Single Speed

Like most people, my cycling life began on a single-speed bicycle.  I got my first bicycle for Christmas when I was six years old.  I was so excited!  It was red and blue with a banana seat and streamers at the ends of the handle bars.  It came with training wheels, which I used for a while until I was ready to try riding without them.  Of course, I fell plenty of times in the beginning, but eventually I got the hang of that balancing feeling.  It’s still a thrill!

A few years later, I got my big sister’s old bike.  It was a single-speed, too, but it had larger wheels and more grownup geometry.  I rode that bicycle everywhere, at least within a few-mile radius.  I went to friends’ houses, explored unknown streets in the next neighborhood over, and worked up the nerve to ride down the steep embankment next to my elementary school.  Every kid should get to have that feeling of freedom and independence.

My sister moved on to a three-speed bike.  Sometimes I tried to keep up with her on the hand-me-down single-speed.  I remember riding to a neighborhood farther away than I had ever ridden by myself.  She rode seemingly effortlessly up the hills and had to wait at the top for me as I lumbered up on my old clunker.  Our whole ride was less than 10 miles, but I had a glimpse of something bigger.  Even then I knew that a bicycle is the key to great adventures.

My most significant single-speed experience was during the Race Across America (RAAM) last year.  I was ready to start my first shift, waiting for the tag from my teammate.  Off I went!  I shifted gears, and…


My Di2 (electronic) shifters decided they didn’t want to work, even though my bicycle had had a thorough tune-up before RAAM and I had fully charged the shifters before the race started.  Right then, there wasn’t anything I could do other than ride my best with the single gear.  Fortunately, it was a good one, and we were in the flat desert.  I simply went into TT mode and channeled two of my good cycling buddies.  One was Jeff, a.k.a. “Stony,” who mashes the pedals in a high gear, putting the rest of us in the Stony Grinder.  The other was Chad, time trialist extraordinaire, who has won several state TT championships.  Although I rode single speed just fine for the first two shifts, I was extremely grateful to get my shifters fixed quickly under rather fortuitous circumstances, and I completed the race on my Marin without further incident.  (See my monstrous ride report from 7/3/15 for more details.)

Since RAAM, I have had other problems with my Di2 shifters.  Some have had easy fixes, but others have baffled even the Shimano rep as well as my bike mechanic.  I think that overall, it’s a good technology – hey, the pros use it – but I seem to be at the tail end of the bell curve on experiencing difficulties.  Everyone else I know with Di2 really likes it.

My most recent Di2 repair was in October.  I thought maybe it was fixed once and for all, but within a week it wasn’t working again.  I’ve concluded that I have a lemon system.  My plan is to swap over to a mechanical system, but in the meantime, for road riding I’m exclusively using my Trek endurance bike, which has mechanical shifters.

Today I rode at lunchtime.  I took off on my bicycle and tried to shift gears – nothing.  Only then did I realize I had brought my Marin to work.  Am I the absent-minded professor, or what?  My Marin and my Trek hang right next to each other on the garage wall, but still…

What's even crazier is that I checked the air in my tires before I loaded my bike into my car this morning.  I commented to Robert that the pressure was surprisingly low, about 50 psi.  Even though it had been several days since I rode my Trek and the weather has gotten colder, I wouldn't expect that much of a pressure drop.  You'd think that would have been a clue that I had loaded the wrong bike!  At least I had a lovely single-speed ride.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Reindeer Games

Today was Peach Peloton day.  Since it's Christmas Eve, we did a shorter ride, 58 miles instead of the nearly 100 that we probably would have done otherwise.  We also played some reindeer games, courtesy of Robert, our ride leader.  He also got into the spirit by having me tie some ribbon onto his helmet.

About 16 people showed up for the ride, a good turnout, especially for Christmas Eve.  Our Georgia Neuro team got to wear our new kits, which came in just in time for Christmas.  I wore my new bib knickers and long-sleeved jersey.  Usually, I shy away from bib-style bottoms on Peach Peloton because unlike the guys, who can speed pee, I have to take off my top layers to pull down the bib straps.  My bib knickers did, in fact, turn out to be a liability at the pee break about an hour into our ride.  That's because my new jersey was harder to get off and on than I expected.  Its forearms are tighter than on my previous jerseys.  (Or maybe I'm turning into Popeye.)  I struggled to get all my gear back on as the guys rode past my hidey hole.  Van noticed I was lagging and was nice enough to hang back and pace me back to the group.

Maybe it was a good thing that I had to work to get back on.  It warmed me up for the first reindeer game, which began immediately afterwards.  It was a team time trial (TTT).  Before the ride, Robert had designated two teams of three.  One of the original designees turned back early, and so I took his place.

Each team had to stay together and could draft only each other, not the other team.  The remaining riders rode behind the two teams and watched.  The TTT lasted about three miles.  My teammates were Chad and Chris.  The other team included Bill, Brian, and Dale.  It was a close race.  They pulled ahead, and then we did.  It went back and forth several times.  I took only a couple of 10-second pulls.  I wasn't as strong as Chad and Chris, but I could draft really well.  The end was at the top of a small climb.  Bill pulled it out for the other team and led them to victory just ahead of us.  It was fun, even if my team didn't win.  It was also a fantastic workout.

I forgot to pack a Clif Bar, but fortunately, Robert had let me have one of his bars in the parking lot before the ride.  Recently, he ordered us a variety pack of bars that we hadn't tried before.  They are savory flavors, a seemingly nice change from the sweetness of so much bike food.  Last week during Peach Peloton, I tried a coconut curry bar.  It was OK but nothing to write home about.  Today I had a pizza marinara bar.  It tasted like a Chef Boyardee pizza from a kit - that hadn't been cooked yet.  Blargh.

I could tell that I burned a lot of matches on the TTT, but I continued comfortably enough by hanging at the back of the peloton.  However, when the second reindeer game, another TTT, started about half an hour later, I was toast.  Two different teams of three raced that one, including the strongest riders in the group, mostly Cat 1 and 2 guys.  No way could I hang on.  So, I just kept riding steadily on the familiar roads.

As LTO (less than optimal) as the pizza marina bar was, I'm glad I ate it.  Without that fuel, I really would have been hurting.  Dale also came off the back.  He knew that I was behind him, and so he rode slowly enough for me to catch him.  That was really nice of him to wait for me.  I rode as hard as I could, but my legs felt like rubber.  No wonder: at that point we had ridden two hours, and my normalized power was about 82% of threshold.

Finally, Dale and I made it back to the parking lot.  Robert and I wished the few remaining riders a Merry Christmas and headed for lunch at Barbarito's.  I inhaled a California burrito.  As Robert drove us home, I fell asleep.  It was that impossible-to-resist, super fatigued sleep that sometimes hits me after a hard workout.  I slept in the car for a while longer when we got home.  When I finally woke up, I don't think I had changed position the whole time.

Reindeer games are fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The 12 Days of Christmas - jSpin Style

Last night I substitute taught at jSpin because Robert had a business meeting. It was our annual Christmas spin.  What a bummer that Robert couldn't be there because it's our most fun class of the year.
We have several traditions.  For example, people wear festive attire.  I wore my Oscar the Grouch jersey because it's green, and Oscar looks like a cousin of the Grinch.  I wore a Santa hat, too.  Others wore antlers, jingle bells, and even a tutu.  Additionally, we always have that Southern party staple - cheese straws.  Joel served as this year's elf, walking around and passing the cheese straw plate among the class members.  Last but certainly not least, it's the one class each year when we have adult beverages in our water bottles.  I planned to have vodka and cranberry juice but discovered yesterday morning that Robert and I are out of vodka.  Thus, I substituted coconut rum, which was quite tasty with cranberry juice.  Other class members had beer, various vodka cocktails, or wine.  Louise discovered that our spin bikes are ideally suited to hold a wine glass: 

 The playlist included a bunch of my favorite Christmas music:

·         The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser (This is a fantastic a capella singing group.  If you haven't heard them, check them out, especially this song.)

·         Carol of the Bells from "A Winter's Solstice IV" by various Windham Hill Artists

·         You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft

·         Hark! The Herald Trumpets Sing by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Santa Train by Patty Loveless

·         A Christmas Song by Jethro Tull

·         Here with Us by Joy Williams

·         Gagliarda by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow by Jethro Tull

·         Santa Claus Is Back in Town by Dwight Yoakam

·         Wassail, Wassail by Mannheim Steamroller (When I told the class the name of the song, Lynne asked, “Is there a song called Vodka, Vodka?)

·         Bluegrass, White Snow by Patty Loveless

·         Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

·         Lo How a Rose E’Er Blooming by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel by George Winston

·         Pat a Pan by Mannheim Steamroller

I devised a workout based on the 12 days of Christmas.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 12-minute warmup

On the 11th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...11 sets of standing flats; 10 seconds each with 10-second rests between

On the 10th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...10 lords a leaping, i.e. 10 jumps

On the 9th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...9 ladies dancing, i.e., 9 stomps

On the 8th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...8 spin-ups; 15 seconds each with 15-second rests between

On the 7th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...7 swans a swimming. Hold your head completely still while you pedal.  It’s pretty tough to do, and it really works your quads.  10 seconds each with 10-second rests between

On the 6th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...6 geese a laying, i.e., 6 sets of hovering, like you’re laying an egg; 30 seconds each with 30-second rests between

On the 5th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 5-minute climb

On the 4th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...4 calling birds.  I got 4 volunteers to be calling birds.  Each called out what we would for the next minute for 4 successive minutes, e.g., climb, high cadence, low cadence, etc.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...3 French hens.  This was the highlight of the evening!  I made up a spin move in honor of 3 French hens: high cadence for 30 seconds (running around like a chicken with its head cut off), followed by 30 seconds of flapping our wings and making chicken noises. The class actually did it! Three sets! I had the best seat in the house, looking out at everyone from the instructor’s position.  I love to laugh, and it’s been a while since I had one that good.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...2 turtle doves.  Well, actually more like turtles, i.e., 2 minutes of low cadence

On the 1st day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 1-legged drill with each leg; 30 seconds each leg

We purposely take it easier during our Christmas jSpin due to the festivities, but we actually got a semi-workout this year.  I had fun substitute teaching, but I hope Robert won't have to miss next year's Christmas jSpin class.  He'll definitely have to bring back the chicken.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Silk Sheets 200K Permanent (a.k.a. I’ve Lost My Ever Lovin’ Mind)

What do you get when you cross cycling with a country music song?  You get the Silk Sheets 200K permanent that I did this past Sunday.  I rode 130 miles in 40-degree temperatures in the rain – by myself – and I lost my dog.  Actually, it was quite a good day.  Let me explain.

There are no brevets on the Audax Atlanta calendar for December, and so I have to do a permanent to keep up my ongoing R-12 series.  Between Christmas activities and life’s general chaos, it was a little tricky to figure out when I could do a permanent this month.  A Saturday would be my first choice, even if I would have to miss Peach Peloton, but that wasn’t feasible because of several other commitments.  So, I scheduled a permanent for this past Sunday.  Some of my rando buddies originally planned to join me, but because of Sunday’s less-than-optimal weather forecast, they all bailed on me and rode Saturday instead.  I can’t blame them.

Sunday also worked well with my schedule because of Henry.  Henry is the greyhound that Robert and I have been fostering for the last few months.

Robert and I went into it promising ourselves that we wouldn’t fail fostering this time, i.e., adopt him ourselves.  We almost succumbed.  In fact, I had thought to myself that if Henry weren’t adopted by the end of November, I would ask Robert if we could adopt him as my Christmas present.  However, a few weeks ago, a family saw Henry on the Southeastern Greyhound Adoption webpage and wanted to meet him.  They have four children, and one of the boys particularly wanted a greyhound.  They live in Marietta and were traveling to Orlando for Thanksgiving.  Henry and I met them at High Falls State Park as they headed south.  It went great – of course they wanted to adopt Henry!  This past weekend was our first opportunity to finalize the adoption.  Since I was coming to Sandy Springs anyway for the permanent, I asked if they would meet me at the IHOP where my ride started.  They graciously agreed to the early hour.  I was sad to see Henry go, but it helps to remember how happy the boy looked as he ran around High Falls State Park with Henry.

With Henry on his way to his new home, I finished getting ready for my ride.  I went inside the IHOP to get a Coke to go and the necessary receipt to document my ride start.  One of the workers was just finishing a shift.  He was very jovial and asked somewhat incredulously if I was about to ride.  When I said yes, he said that was great and gave me some encouraging words.  Then he looked at my legs, clad in my warmest insulated bib tights, and said that my legs looked like parentheses.  That’s a new one!  We both laughed, and he gave me a high five.  What an upper to get me rolling in the cold wetness!

Sunday’s weather turned out to be as miserable as predicted.  I was determined to make the best of it, however.  I dressed pretty well.  My fingers and toes did get cold, but I managed.  The hardest part was having to stop to go to the bathroom.  I usually shy away from bib shorts or tights because I have to take off my upper layers to get the bib straps off.  However, being by myself, I figured that it was worth the extra warmth of my bib tights even if it took me forever to strip down to my base layer.  Every time I had to take off my rain jacket; my warm, regular cycling jacket; and my jersey.  I also had to take off my gloves because they were too bulky to fit through all my sleeves.  The biggest problem was that after my gloves got wet in the rain, they were quite difficult to put back on.  Furthermore, as my fingers got colder throughout the day, I had greater difficulty maneuvering the zippers on my three upper layers.  I seemed to have to stop fairly often, too.  That may have been because I wasn’t sweating much, and so my body was utilizing my urinary system more heavily to get rid of waste.

One time I was getting back on my bike and fooling with my dreaded wet gloves.  A nice couple slowed down and asked if I needed any help.  I smiled and said, “I’m just taking a nature break, but thanks for asking!”  They grinned as they drove on.  I think that warmed them up a little as well.

There was a control at a convenience store at mile 74.  I stood inside for a few minutes in the relative warmth, drinking a magic Coca-Cola and eating some Cheez-Its.  A woman in the checkout line said hello and told me that she used to do a lot of cycling.  She commiserated with me on the yucky weather and encouraged me to stay positive – another small boost that made such a difference!  I finished my snack and went back outside to my bicycle.  I was so cold that I started shaking hard.  The woman exited the store, saw my condition, and asked if I was going to be able to keep riding.  I told her that I would be OK once I started pedaling again.  Fortunately, I was.

Throughout the day, traffic was light on most of the roads, and only two cars blared at me unnecessarily.  One time I hit a piece of glass that I didn’t see.  It made a loud clanking noise as it shot off to the side.  I held my breath, hoping that I wouldn’t get a flat.  Thankfully, I didn’t.  Except for the weather, conditions were pretty good.  Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

As I made the return trip on the Silk Sheets part of the route in south Fulton County, I saw Neil, the permanent route owner.  He happened to be in the area and was checking to make sure I was OK.  That was really nice, and Robert sure did appreciate it when I told him later.

I had one more control before the end, a Quick Trip at mile 112.  I looked forward to a bathroom break, particularly the chance wash my fingers under some warm water.  That did make it somewhat easier to put my upper layers back on.

I had also been dreaming of eating or drinking something warm.  Ooo…pizza!  I had one slice, a nice, generous piece.  It was pretty good, too, not like the cardboard junk like in the grocery store freezer case.  The QT workers were so friendly, not minding a bit for me to stand there for a few minutes.  Then I had an inspiration.  They make the pizza right there behind a food order counter.  I asked one of the workers if I could have a pair of disposable food service gloves.  I figured that they would make it easier to put my wet cycling gloves back on.  The worker readily obliged.  The disposable gloves worked like a charm.  As a bonus, my hands were significantly warmer on the remaining 18 miles of my ride.

With the short days of early December, I didn’t have much daylight left.  Fortunately, both of my rear lights stayed strong, and I didn’t even need a front light because I was wearing my low-light, yellow, cycling sunglasses.  I made it back just as it was getting dark.  Lo and behold, there was Neil in the IHOP parking lot!  How nice of him to meet me!  I didn’t even have to mess with sending him my permanent card and receipts.  I told him how well the disposable food service gloves had worked, and he passed along another great trick: put your cycling gloves in a convenience store microwave for a few seconds.

It’s too bad I don’t like coffee because it would have been the perfect time to have some.  However, I do like hot chocolate.  Neil even bought me a cup at the IHOP.  It was delightfully warm and comforting on the drive home.

The next day a friend asked me how I keep riding for so long, especially in the rain and cold.  I thought about it and really couldn’t give him an answer other than I know that I have gotten through tough conditions before.  But you know what really helped me this past Sunday?  So many kind people.  Thank you to Henry’s new family, IHOP Parentheses Man, nature break couple, former female cyclist at the convenience store, QT employees, and Neil!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cycling is Life

I do a lot of night riding, particularly this time of year.  I can see about 15 feet in front of me with my front light.  After today's much needed rain, it was rather foggy this evening.  This gave me an even more cloistered feeling as I rode along the quiet, rural roads near my house.

It's a unique, though not unpleasant, sensation to not be able to see very far down the road in front of me.  Whether it's pavement, dirt, or uphill, I simply have to ride what's there, accepting whatever my journey holds at the moment.  Cycling is life.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Ride

Robert, his parents, and I are at The Beechwood Inn, a bed & breakfast in Clayton, GA, for Thanksgiving.  It's a delightful place.

Robert and I came up early enough yesterday for a ride.  We rode a loop from Clayton to Highlands, NC and back.  It was a lovely day to ride, and we got plenty of climbing - over 6,000 ft in 60 miles, about twice as much elevation gain per mile as back home.

We headed out late this morning for another ride.  Some of today's route overlapped yesterday's, and it also included a portion along Lake Burton.  Interestingly, we passed a field that was serving as the staging area for helicopters being used to fight the nearby wildfires.  These are the wildfires that have spread smoke south as far as Macon.  Fortunately, wind patterns were such that we didn't notice any smoke on our rides yesterday or today.  I pray for the people and wildlife in harm's way from the fires and that we'll get rain relief soon.

I figured that today's ride would take us a little over three hours.  Our average speed probably would be slightly slower than usual because of the hills, but I didn't expect we would have quite as much climbing as yesterday.  Surprise - the total distance was less, but the rate of climbing wasn't too different: nearly 4,200 ft in 47 miles.

I had an even bigger surprise.  I thought I would be fine by not eating during the ride, particularly since we had had a substantial breakfast.  Also, although I had a Clif Bar with me, I really didn't want the calories because I was anticipating our Thanksgiving feast back at the Beechwood Inn.  That was a poor decision.  I can ride maybe two and a half hours without eating.  Three is really pushing it.  We rode three hours and 20 minutes and had significant climbing - no wonder I nearly bonked.  I should have known better.  But Thanksgiving dinner sure was good!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  (Serious holiday, that is.  I love Groundhog Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, too.  Arrr!)  Thanksgiving is special not because of the lavish meal, although I certainly enjoy that.  It's because being thankful helps me get through life.  Whether it's going well or badly, there is always something to be grateful for.  One of the biggest things I'm grateful for is being able to ride my bicycle, enjoying the beauty of the world around me.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thomaston Franklin 200K Permanent

Last Saturday I rode the Thomaston Franklin 200K permanent.  A couple of my good rando buddies, Dick and Ian, rode with me on a windy but bright, sunny day.  A few highlights from our ride:

One of the controls was in Greenville, GA.  Now I've seen a lot of convenience store snacks:the usual candy bars, fruit, those unidentifiable log shaped things rotating on rollers under a heat lamp, etc.  But this has got to be the most interesting:

I was particularly curious to know what fetty wap flavor tastes like.  Alas, I wasn't hungry at the time, and I didn't want them to get besquished in my jersey pocket.

Another control was in LaGrange:

They got a lot of nice girls.  A haw, haw, haw.

LaGrange is next to West Point Lake.  The leaves in our area are about at their peak.  It was an odd juxtaposition to see their splendid colors surrounding the lake, which was alarmingly low due to the ongoing exceptional drought.  Beauty and pain - life itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Back in the PWR

I can't believe I've lived in Jasper County for 20 years before doing what I did yesterday.  I rode to Allison Lake in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR), hiked around for a while, and rode home.  The PWR is one of my favorite places.

The ride to Allison Lake takes about an hour.  I packed some walking shoes, a bike lock, and a simple picnic (fruit and sandwiches) for Robert and me in a Fried Green 50 backpack that I got several years ago.  Robert had a four-hour training ride on his calendar.  Therefore, he rode for three hours before meeting up with me at Allison Lake for our picnic and the one-hour ride home together.

I had checked the PWR hiking trails online ahead of time.  There are three beginning at Allison Lake.  I chose the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Trail, which is about 2.9 miles long.  I also checked the Georgia hunting guide that I had picked up at last weekend's Deer Festival.  The PWR is open to hunting only a few days a year.  It just so happens that yesterday was one of those days.  However, I figured that it would be OK to hike on designated trails.  Additionally, I wore my fluorescent yellow cycling jersey as an extra precaution.

With afternoon temperatures in the high 50s and partly cloudy skies, it was a beautiful fall day.  I purposely walked at a leisurely pace, trying to be more than to do.

Tasseled fall grass

Tassel closeup

Hidey hole

Sure enough, there's something inside! A letterbox is similar to a geocache.

Unidentifiied wildflowers that have gone to seed

Allison Lake

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Trail has several informational signs along the route.  I learned several cool wildlife facts:

  • Flying squirrels are nocturnal.  No wonder I've never seen one.
  • Raccoons usually eat next to creeks or streams.  They often dunk their food in the water before eating it.
  • Beavers are the largest rodent in North America, and they have orange teeth!

Robert was waiting by my bicycle when I finished my walk.  He said that a ranger told him we had to leave right away because the entire refuge is closed on hunting days.  D'oh!  I had no idea, but at least I know for the future.  Too bad Robert and I didn't get to stay long enough to eat our apple slices and besquished pb&j sandwiches.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back to the PWR for more hiking, but I guarantee that it won't be another 20 years.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Weekend in the Piedmont

I live in the southern piedmont region of Georgia.  This past weekend was full of reasons why I love living here: the Deer Festival and the Fried Green 50.

Deer Festival

The Deer Festival is sponsored by the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce.  Originally begun by the Jaycees, it celebrates our whitetail deer population (we're the Deer Capital of Georgia!) and the hunters who support our local economy.  This past Saturday was the 50th Deer Festival!

Deer Dash - In 1998 I was part of a group that began the Deer Dash 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run.  We wanted to attract more people to the Deer Festival.  Although I'm not involved in the organizing of the Deer Dash anymore, I've participated enthusiastically every year.  I joke about running being barbaric (which it is), but I train enough to do the Deer Dash 5K each year.  Besides, it's healthy for me to do a little cross-training with cycling.

The Deer Dash course is challenging.  Four state highways come into our little town, and they were constructed largely along ridges.  Because we obviously want the racecourse to stay off of the state highways as much as possible, we have to cross them several times.  That makes for quite a hilly course.  Additionally, I did minimal training in preparation for this year's Deer Dash, running once a week for the last few months.  Therefore, I didn't expect to have a particularly good Deer Dash, but of course I set out to do my best.

Everyone lined up at the corner of the Monticello square.  We were off!  Every year I get tickled by the young kids who start the race at practically a sprint. They usually end up walking within half a mile. There was a new variation this year. One boy started out so exuberantly that about 100 meters into the race, his shoe went flying off.

Particularly earlier in the race before I got too tired, I entertained myself by taking in all the people running.  What a wonderful menagerie they were!   There were runners in camouflage, an older woman wearing socks with rhinestone sandals, a Mennonite girl in a long skirt and head covering, and a man with a prosthetic leg who greets everyone with "Jesus loves you!"  How Southern gothic - the race could as easily be called the Flannery O'Connor 5K.

I got into my groove and felt peppier than I expected.  In fact, that's about the best I ever felt during a running race.  I didn't feel like I was going to die.  I think all the endurance training I've done is finally paying off, even though it's been in cycling.  I gave it my all and finished in 24:02.  That was enough to win female masters!  I'm grateful that I'm as fast or faster now than when I ran cross country in high school.

As I was getting into my car to go home, I decided that I wanted to take a picture of my trophy:

That turned out to be quite a fortuitous decision.  Because I got back out of my car to take the picture, I saw a man walking away from the door of Jordan Engineering.  He was checking to see if Robert was there.  It turned out to be Brooke Bittinger, one of Robert's coworkers from 20 years ago at Black & Veatch in Atlanta.  How great to see Brooke!  He had come down to run the Deer Dash.  I knew that Robert would be sorry to have missed him.

After taking a shower at home, I rode my bicycle back to the festival.  It's a lot easier to park a bicycle than a car on Deer Festival day.

Venison Cook-Off - My first order of business when I got back to the square was to go to the Venison-Cook Off, hosted each year by the Monticello Kiwanis Club.  As I walked to the cook-off area, I had to stop for a picture with the Snap'n Turtle:

One of my life rules is always to take advantage of photo ops with costumed critters.

For $10 at the Venison Cook-Off, you can sample all the entries.  I love venison but never get to cook it myself because Robert doesn’t like it.  Therefore, I especially look forward to the Venison Cook-Off.  As always, it didn’t disappoint this year:
Clockwise from top: BBQ, bacon-wrapped tenderloin, kabob (got the last one, and I went early!), another BBQ on a bun. Plus, venison stew in the cup. All of it was excellent.
Hanging Out with My Deerly Beloved – After I finished my lunch, Robert tracked me down.  I sat with him while he had some regular (pork) BBQ from one of the Deer Festival vendors.

Then, Robert and I checked out the rest of the festival together.  That was a real treat because usually we’re on different schedules on Deer Festival day.

I probably could have drunk that much tea.

We got a copy of our friend Linda's newly published book.  I can't wait to read it!
Charlie Brown the turtle, visiting from nearby Dauset Trails. He's 60 or 70 years old!
At the Georgia Department of Natural Resources booth

Locked up at the Old West demonstration booth

Jasper the Deer – As much fun as I had already had, it got even better.  Jasper the Deer was a new addition to this year’s Deer Festival.  I volunteered to work an afternoon shift as Jasper!  Pam, the Executive Director of the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce, led me around because it’s a little hard to see out of the Jasper costume.  First, she took me to the area in front of the stage, where a band was rocking out.  I danced with some little kids and a disabled man:

One of the songs was “Hard to Handle,” sung in the style of the Black Crowes.  (Otis Redding originally sang it.)  Jasper had the moves – Cuz from the old 96Rock commercials in Atlanta ain’t got nothing on Jasper.  Even though my vision was mostly obscured, I could feel the shared humanity with my dance partners, people who are probably mostly pushed aside in society.  I rejoiced with them in the chance simply to be.

Next, Pam led me around the square, where I got to hug kids, coax smiles out of grouchy adults, and “shop” with various vendors.

These women kind of backed away, then sat on this bench as Jasper approached them. Naturally, I had to sit next to them.
With the 2015-2016 Deer Festival Queen
This one wasn't too sure what to think about Jasper.

Getting a Mary Kay makeover

Earlier in the day, I had told Robert that I wanted to ride the train, which I had never done at the Deer Festival.  Even better, I got to do it as Jasper!

It was wonderful to share a little fun and love as I joked around with so many festival goers.  Corny as it may sound, I thought about the unique beauty of each person I encountered.  I’m still pondering the irony that I felt more like my authentic self while wearing the Jasper costume.

Fried Green 50

Sunday was one of my favorite cycling events of the year – the Fried Green 50!

The FG50 is a ride on gravel roads in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR).  Did I say ride?  Some of us kind of race it.  I kind of raced it every year until now.  This year I really raced it.

The start was neutral for the first few miles.  Soon thereafter, the front group of guys shot ahead, as expected.  I settled in for my usual scenario, mostly riding by myself.  Then, I caught my teammate Bill.  I was so glad simply to see him out there because he’s recovering from some recent medical issues.  He told me that the woman who was a short distance behind me couldn’t climb.  How great to have teammates to pass along intelligence!  I thanked him and continued on, putting forth a little extra effort on the hills, my strong suit.  Sure enough, I never saw the woman again.

Monte, Ray, and everyone else with the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) do such a fantastic job putting on the FG50.  They mark the course very well and have excellent SAG stops.  At least they look like good stops.  As one of those wacky racers, I carry enough food and water with me to last three hours.  I definitely miss out by not stopping, though.  As I passed the first SAG, I saw Ray in a ghillie suit.  He looked like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

The SAGs are “covered dish.”  Riders are encouraged to contribute old bike food and the like.  I brought a few leftovers from the Mad Doctor’s laboratory at Haunticello: gummy eyeballs, feet, fingers, small intestines, etc.  They joined such novelties as smoked sausage (sans wrapper) and Bacon Bourbon Rice Krispie Treats:

Not pictured: a half-full bottle of Wild Turkey.

But of course I didn’t get to sample any of these goodies.  Instead, I prepared for a three-hour time trial on gravel roads.  That was not to be, however.

Soon after the first SAG, I passed my teammates Robert (who is also my husband) and Van.  Van had gotten a flat.  As I rode by, Robert told me that there was a woman about a minute ahead of me, and I could catch her.  Whoa!  I thought I was out front in the women’s field, but again I was grateful for more intelligence.  I kept up as fast a pace as I thought I could maintain for the next few hours.  I crossed Round Oak-Juliette Road to the first dirt section on the south side.  I made good time through this beautiful area.  (I really need to go back to this section on my own and not wait until the next FG50.)  Next, the route continued for a couple of miles on Round Oak-Juliette Road, the main paved road through the PWR.  At about mile 18, I saw the woman!

She was drafting her husband.  I climbed passed them just as we turned right onto Caney Creek Road, the second dirt section south of Round Oak-Juliette Road.  She actually gave me some encouraging words as I passed her, which we laughed about together after the race.  I barreled down the dirt road and saw that she was on my tail.  I swerved to the left, and she stayed right there.  I swerved back to the right, and still she stayed.  So that’s your game?  OK, if you’re going to draft me, I’m going to ride at a mellow pace.  No reason to burn all my matches.  I figured that if she jumped ahead, I’d just start drafting her.

My friend Donny and her husband caught up to us.  The four of us stayed together for a few more miles.  I heard her husband tell her to be patient.  I could be patient, too – heh heh.  Eventually, the woman and I pulled ahead.  We maintained a tempo pace, not too crazy.  I found myself actually thinking about strategy!  Wow!  This was turning into a real race!  Time trials don’t require strategy (it’s just you against the clock), and the few road races that I did in the past weren’t nearly this tough.  52 miles of racing on gravel is an effort equivalent to at least 75 miles on pavement, and I never did a road race that long.  Also, women’s races can be funny.  Sometimes they blow apart, and other times they’re like tea parties.  In any case, there’s usually a significant amount of chitchat.  In contrast, this woman and I didn’t talk the entire race!

We continued on, head to head.  There were several more creek crossings, which were rock gardens this year due to the exceptional drought in our area.  Surprisingly, I found them more treacherous without water.  I'm not a very good technical rider, and the other woman managed the crossings much more smoothly than I did.  I hoped she wouldn’t be able to take too much advantage of my weakness.

To my surprise, I got the advantage at the fifth creek crossing.  Immediately afterwards was a particularly steep climb.  We both had to get off our bikes and push them up the hill.  She started to get back on hers while it was still pretty steep.  I knew that wouldn’t work for me, so I trotted as fast as I could toward the crest.  I got back on my bike and saw that she was still a good distance behind.  Now was my chance – I made the break!

I went back into time trial mode, increasing my speed to what I thought I could maintain for the remaining 15 or so miles.  I kept looking back.  No sign of her.  The road had a couple of curves where I could see behind me a pretty good distance.  I still didn’t see her.  Wait!  There she was in the closest bend – dang it!  All I could do was keep pedaling.  A few minutes later – eek! – there she was right behind me again!  I audibly gasped in surprise.  Later, she told me that it took all she had to catch back up to me.

How was it going to play out?  Could I put on the gas a few miles out?  Not likely.  She was sticking to me like glue, and I didn’t think I could shake her.  We came back out on Round Oak-Juliette Road.  I did a little test.  I was on a cyclocross bike, but she was on a mountain bike.  I’m primarily a roadie, and since a cross bike is generally faster on pavement than a mountain bike, I thought I might be able to get a gap on her.  No dice.

She pulled in front of me.  There was a fairly steep climb before the next turn.  She revved it up!  I don't know when my quads have burned like that, but I was determined to stay right on her wheel.  Just a few miles to go.

I was hoping that she wasn't familiar with the course like I was.  I knew that a tricky little technical part was coming up right before the end - a hairpin turn and a steep climb that pretty much requires you to walk your bike up.  If I could just get in front of her right before the climb, I could scramble up the hill ahead of her and maybe get a gap.  My plan might have worked, but the road right before the climb turned out to be technical itself.  It had monstrous ruts all over it.  They slowed me down, but she zoomed right through.  She got to the climb before me, pushed her bike up, and got the gap on me!

I did my best to catch up, but she was about 50 m ahead of me.  The finish line was approaching.  We sprinted across the bridge, and she got it!

What a great race!  I finally got to meet my competition afterwards.  Her name is Beth, she's 58, and she's from Brevard, NC.  Most importantly, she's super nice :)  Wow, did she make me work!  We both agreed that we were very well matched, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the competition.  The only thing that would have made it more fun is if I had won - ha ha!

L-R: me and Beth

Maybe someday Beth and I can do a regular ride together without trying to kill each other.