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, September 17, 2018

Back to Schoolin' Ride

This past Saturday's ride was primarily a celebration of International Pie Ride Day (IPRD) and a chance to go back to Tienda Tarimoro, the wonderful Mexican market in Eatonton.  However, when I took into account all the fun and interesting aspects of my ride, I had touched on most of the major subjects we get in school.  In the words of Led Zeppelin, "I'm gonna send ya back to schoolin'."  (Want a whole lotta love...rayhr...)

Several years ago my friend Benny made me aware of IPRD.  It was once a tradition of the 50+ subforum of bikeforums.net.  According to the tradition, on the third Saturday of September, forum members would ride at least 15 miles to someplace they could get a piece of pie.  Fresh blueberry pie was the preference, but variations according to availability and personal preference were common.

I've celebrated IPRD the last few years.  As it approached this year, Robert suggested I ride pi miles to get my piece of pie.

(mic drop...)

Why hadn't I thought of this before?  I typically go to The Vanilla Bean on the Monticello square on IPRD.  The square is just under three miles from my house.  Therefore, I devised a slightly longer route on Google Earth to get pi miles, adding a detour along a couple of in-town streets.  Saturday morning I rode this route from my house and stopped my Garmin at 3.14 miles just as I approached The Vanilla Bean.

The Vanilla Bean always has a sumptuous selection of baked goods.  Saturday morning they had several cakes available but only one pie, key lime.  I wasn't disappointed.  I enjoyed my slice of pie with a cup of Earl Grey tea as I sat at an outside table, reveling in pi and pie on the late summer morning.

I rode pi miles to eat a piece of pie on IPRD.  My life is now complete.
Two women sat at the other outside table at The Vanilla Bean.  I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help but overhear part of their conversation.  One commented on the "weird" clouds.  I looked up and saw some cirrus clouds in a bright blue sky.  They were lovely but not what I would consider weird, just maybe atypical for summertime.  They probably were a result of the outermost edges of tropical storm Florence.

They definitely were talking about Florence, and the same woman said she had heard that one river was supposed to rise 40 ft!  Somebody better get Noah on speed dial.  40 ft didn't seem possible to me.  I did a little research later and read that tropical storm Alberto in 1994 caused the Ocmulgee River in Macon to rise by about 17 ft; no one knows the exact measurement because the stream gauge washed away.  That was about a 500-year storm.  Not to downplay Florence's impact, but I doubted it would cause a river to rise 40 ft.

Then I specifically researched flood elevations due to Florence.  I couldn't determine the datum used in the figures I found (base flood elevation, I assume), but I was more interested in the net increase.  The Cape Fear River in Fayetteville was expected to rise from 12 ft on Friday afternoon to more than 62 ft early the next week.  That's an increase of more than 50 ft!  The woman at The Vanilla Bean had been in the right ballpark after all.  Considering that the topography in North Carolina is much steeper than in Middle Georgia, it makes sense on further consideration that such sharp increases in river elevations certainly would be possible during a tropical storm.  I was reminded that I shouldn't jump to conclusions too quickly without having sufficient data.

After finishing my delicious pie and tea, I got on the road for the bulk of my ride.  Heading south on Highway 11, I switched from the physical sciences to biology.  A red fox ran slightly ahead of me for about 10 seconds and then crossed the road in front of me.  It was a true delight to get a good look at such a beautiful, elusive creature.

Foreign Language
I rode some of my favorite rural roads in Jasper and Putnam Counties to get to Tienda Tarimoro.

It's such a friendly place.  The owner recognized me and greeted me with a big smile.  I took a seat at one of the handful of tables, and he brought me some chips and salsa - the real deal.  They make their own chips from fresh corn tortillas.  Si!

I ordered some horchata, a traditional Mexican beverage that started in North Africa, spread to Spain, and made its way to the New World.  I learned about horchata several months ago from Papi's Tacos, a food truck that periodically visits the Monticello square.  Papi's horchata is made with coconut milk.  According to the Interwebs, Mexican horchata is often made from rice.  Cinnamon is usually added.  I'm not sure what the liquid base is in the horchata at Tienda Tarimoro, but it's delicious.  I'm glad I was served a big cup, which helped quench the fire from the salsa and the various hot sauces on the table.  (Of course I had to try all the hot sauces.)

I had already eaten most of my salsa by the time I took this picture - ha ha!
I had been jonesin' for the sopes, but when I saw they had not one, but two, types of tamales on the menu, I changed my mind.  Tamales are one of my favorite foods.  They have tamal de oja de platano (wrapped in a plantain leaf) and tamales Mexicanos (wrapped in corn husks).  I went with the tamal de oja de platano because I don't find tamales wrapped in plantain leaves very frequently.  I knew from experience that one would be plenty.  It was almost bigger than my head!  The description said it had seasoned meat.  The meat turned out to be chicken - including bones!  I suspect that's traditional.  It was delicious regardless.  It reminded me of the rib sandwich - complete with bones - at Fat Matt's Rib Shack in Atlanta.

While I ate, I watched Spanish language television.  Nosotros los Guapos was on.  It seems to be like a Spanish version of Dumb and Dumber.  Also, I found that St. Jude's Children's Hospital commercials are just as sad in Spanish as they are in English.

After getting my Tienda Tarimoro fix, I pedaled a few blocks to the Eatonton square to see if my friend Kim was at her shop.  She recently opened The FolksArt, a wonderfully eclectic store with new, old, and just overall cool stuff.

Kim offers art classes, too.  In fact, not only was she there on Saturday, she also had a couple of art students making Christmas trees out of pieces of wainscoting.  It was fun checking out the store while they were finishing their art project.  I found a retro-looking Spiderman sweatshirt, a vintage Nancy Drew book, neat little Elvis and Marilyn Monroe notepads with magnetic fasteners, Jesus candles, and paintings by our mutual friend Linda Aldridge, to name just a few of the goodies.

Social Studies
One of the best items in the shop is also a good social studies lesson:

I posted this on the Facebook page "Look at My Bike Leaning Against Stuff in the South"
Kim has made a bench like this for each school in Putnam County to facilitate their anti-bullying efforts.  She wishes that benches like this weren't so expensive ($300 is about the cheapest she's found) because she'd love to be able to mass-produce them.

The afternoon was slipping away; therefore, it was time to head back home.  I had about 24 more miles to ride.  Heh heh - by default, my day's adventure was like one long P.E. class.  Wouldn't it have been cool if we had had cycling in P.E. back in school?

So, here I am writing an English composition on my ride.  It's like the cycling blog version of "What I Did Over Summer Vacation."  Although I definitely learned some interesting things on Saturday's ride, it was more like I played hooky all day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Amicalola Foothills Ramble 200K Brevet

The Amicalola Foothills Ramble 200K brevet last Saturday was definitely a lot less stressful for me than the previous brevet.  In fact, I felt rather playful.  Wayne got us off to a great whimsical start:

Most of the riders were my regular rando buddies.  A group of eight of us rode together the whole time: Andrew, Arlinda, Brandon, Graham, Jeff, Julie, Scott, and me.

Brian, the route designer, made some significant revisions from last year.  We also rode this brevet about a month earlier this year, before North Georgia is crawling with leaf peepers and pumpkin seekers.  For these two reasons, traffic was much less of a concern this year than it was last year.

At one of the convenience store controls, I saw a cool relic for us Atlanta natives:

The route took us just north of Dahlonega into the heart of Georgia wine country.  I had started with strawberry flavored Skratch Labs in my water bottles.  At the first convenience store I bought lemonade flavored Powerade, and at the second convenience store I bought fruit punch flavored Powerade.  Each time I had a little left from the previous flavor.  If I had stopped for some wine at one of the wineries, I could have added it to the brew in my water bottles and made brevet hunch punch.

My riding companions had on some stylin' cycling duds:

Andrew's most excellent blue-footed booby socks.  All he needs now is some blue cycling shoes.

The last control before the end was an open one near Big Canoe, a swanky development in Pickens County.  We opted for the nice IGA grocery store.  It had a couple of the old-fashioned kiddie rides outside.  Because I hadn't had enough riding that day, I put a quarter into one of them:

The horse gave me a surprisingly long ride, definitely worth 25 cents.  It also played a tinny, electronic version of The William Tell Overture.  My father always says that you're not truly cultured unless you can listen to The William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.  I ain't cultured.

The Amicalola Foothills Ramble was a great reminder that cycling is all about having fun riding bikes with your friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From Pedaling to Paddling

It's already been a busy, busy September, and so I'm just now getting caught up on some blogging.  Robert, beagle Shelly, and I went kayaking on Labor Day.  True, this wasn't cycling, but it definitely was an adventure!  And it's hard to beat an adventure that takes only about two hours, including travel time to and from the Ocmulgee River.  (BTW, Robert and I had a good ride that morning.)

I thought of a million things I could have done around the house on a rare day off, but then I also don't get to go kayaking very often.  I figured that looking back, I'd be much gladder that I went kayaking than if I had done some housework.  Good call.

There's just something about being out on the water in my kayak.  It's so peaceful and relaxing.  There's no pressure to do or to compete; I just have to be.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Switching it up
O Captain!  My Captain!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Secret Gaps 200K Brevet (a.k.a. It's Not All Butterflies and Rainbows)

Believe it or not, cycling is not always butterflies and rainbows.

The Secret Gaps 200K brevet this past Saturday is a good example of this; I had two minor crashes.  (I’m fine – more details below.)  Even so, there is so much I love about cycling.  Usually, I focus on the riding itself, the scenery, and being outside in general.  On Saturday, however, I was reminded that the people I ride with are also an integral part of the enjoyment.

The Secret Gaps route begins in Dahlonega and makes a big loop through the mountains to the north.  My friend Julie organized the ride.  She also generously invited several of us to spend Friday night at her delightful home in Suches, about 19 miles north of Dahlonega.  As Dahlonega is about a 2 1/2-hour drive from my house, this made it much easier for me to make it to the 6:30 AM start of the ride the next morning.

Jen, Julie, Susan, and I were the first ones to Suches on Friday evening.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner of two types of lasagna and a variety of salads and vegetables that we all contributed.  A little while later, Andrew, Jeff, and Julie's husband Paul arrived.  After some enjoyable conversation, we hit the hay to be ready for our early-morning departure.

The next morning we ate a quick breakfast and headed to Dahlonega at about 5:30 AM.  Most of the route between Suches and Dahlonega is along Woody Gap, a twisting, steep road that requires caution and moderate speed.

We gathered in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Twenty-two people had signed up, including about seven who were doing their first brevet.  They certainly picked a challenging route for their first one!  Major kudos to all of them for starting and finishing.

Because it would be nearly an hour before the sun rose, we had to start with front and rear lights and reflective vests and ankle bands, as per Randonneurs USA (RUSA) rules.  Eleven of us soon formed the front group.

The route had nearly 11,000 feet of climbing.  Much of this was over three major gaps, but a significant amount was over smaller gaps.  Suffice it to say that there wasn't much riding on flat terrain.  The first big climb came about 14 miles into the ride with Woody Gap.  I felt good on that beautiful morning, and climbing is one of my cycling strengths.  I stayed on the front for much of the ascent.

Descending is another story.  Because I'm not terribly good at it and because I'm lighter than most of the guys, I usually find myself at the back of the group on descents.  This was true on the descent from Woody Gap.  Fortunately, the group wasn't hammering, and I soon caught back up to the others.

Around mile 48 we started up one of the "secret" gaps, Hicks Gap.  At the start of the ride, Julie had cautioned us about gravel on this road.  Sure enough, the descent was replete with road patches consisting of fine gravel.  I should have made a more concerted effort to get to the back of the group before we began the descent.  Several riders were behind me, and I started worrying about going too slowly and endangering them.  I moved right, thinking they might want to pass me.  That was my mistake.  I lost control in a gravelly patch.  The saving grace is that I landed in a relatively soft ditch.  Still, I went down hard.  The closest other riders immediately came to my side, and those who were ahead came back.

My first instinct was to get back on my bicycle as soon as possible, but Andrew and Sam wisely made me be still.  I felt a little stunned but thought (hoped) I was all right.  I had a few small cuts.  After a few minutes, something weird happened; my vision went blurry!  I was NOT all right.  I sat down.  The others tried to call Julie or Dick, who was also providing ride support - no cell phone service.

Then, almost as suddenly as my vision had gone blurry, it cleared again.  I felt much more normal.  The others, particularly Ian, were reluctant to let me continue riding because I likely had a mild concussion.  However, I felt like I could at least soft-pedal to the next control just a few miles farther.  The bigger injury seemed to be my shoulder.  I could tell it wasn't broken or dislocated, but it was sore (sprained, I later determined).  Fortunately, the soreness didn't prevent me from continuing riding.

A short distance later, cell phone service came back, and we got in touch with both Julie and Dick.  Dick was closer and said he would meet us at the next control.  As we continued riding, I was relieved to hear everyone resume their regular chatter.  It was normal and comforting.  Although I felt fairly well, Ian still cautioned me about concussions.  He knows about them from being a soccer referee.  One of the biggest concerns is that the injured person is trying to assess the extent of the injury, but the thing that is injured is the brain itself.  I totally understood where he was coming from.

We met up with Dick and got some refreshments.  We had several info controls in a row with relatively short distances between them.  (RUSA made Julie put a lot of info controls on the route to make sure riders don't short-circuit it.)  I decided to take it control by control, seeing how I felt, and promised to call Dick and abandon the ride if necessary.  I told my riding companions that I might want to go a little more slowly from then on and not to wait for me.

After we got back on the road, I did, in fact, drop back a little.  Another info control was only a few miles farther.  I stopped to take a photo so that I could fill in the required information on my brevet card later.  My sore shoulder made it difficult to get my paraphernalia back in my jersey pockets.  I fumbled for a few minutes but finally got it and started pedaling again.

I wasn't that far behind the group, and because I hadn't seen anyone else stop to take a photo, I assumed one of them must have snapped one as they rode by.  However, a few minutes later, here came a few of my friends riding back toward me.  I thought they were coming to check on me.  It turns out that everyone else had missed the info control!  They had seen me stop but thought I was calling Dick to come pick me up.  I told them I had gotten the required info and offered to sell it for $5 per person :)

About halfway into the route, Julie met us on her bicycle.  She was riding back and forth between several groups, checking on them while still getting in some riding herself.  She said she had left her car at the top of Unicoi Gap.  It was unlocked and filled with food and drinks.  Even though I knew there were few stores along the route, at that moment I didn't realize how glad I would be for Julie's generosity.

My shoulder continued to be the biggest effect from the crash, but I still could ride comfortably enough.  The main difficulty I had was pointing with my right arm to indicate a right-hand turn.  So, I opted for the traditional bent-arm signal with my left arm to indicate a right-hand turn.  No one uses this signal anymore, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

We had two major climbs left: Jack's Gap and Unicoi Gap.  I did fine on the Jack's Gap climb, but, as usual, my cycling companions pulled ahead again on the descent.  I kept on keeping on.  Eventually, I caught up to a few of the guys.

Unicoi Gap loomed at about mile 90.  I began the ascent, looking forward Julie's car provisions at the top.  Climb, climb, climb.  I dropped the guys.  I thought the climb would be about a mile, maybe two.  But it kept going.  And going.  The gaps are challenging anytime, but on this difficult course - and having crashed - I was feeling this climb.  One way I kept my spirits up was by thinking of my friend Dale, the king of malapropisms.  He calls it "Unicorn Gap."

It turned out to be about three miles to the top of Unicoi - I finally made it!  The first ones from our group were already there.  I can't tell you how ready I was for a break.  I ate the remaining half sandwich from my jersey pocket.  From Julie's car I took some magic elixir: Coca-Cola Classic.  Randonees are the only time I drink full-octane Coke.  The sugar and caffeine work wonders.  Life started seeping back into my body, and I knew I could handle the remaining 30 miles.

The top of Unicoi Gap lies along the Appalachian Trail.  A few hikers stopped to rest near us in the parking area.  We offered them some Cokes, too, which they gratefully accepted.  As I handed one of them a can, I couldn't help but say, "Have a Coke and smile."  Cheesy, I know, but he did smile!  As an Atlanta native, I really do have an affinity for Coca-Cola.  OK, so it's more than an affinity; I refuse to drink Pepsi.

I purposely went last as we headed down Unicoi, the final steep descent of the day.  I'm not fond of big descents anyway, and my earlier crash certainly hadn't endeared them to me.  I took it at a pace comfortable to me and thought, I'll get there when I get there.

We had one more control at Smithgall Woods before the end.  I caught up to the group there and rode with them the rest of the way, which was mostly rollers.  Like I often do late in a 200K, I got somewhat of a second wind.

We were about four miles from the end.  I was smelling the barn.  I was going to finish this brevet!

The group was staying together well, riding in a pace line.  We were going up a moderate climb.  The rider in front of me must have zoned out because all of a sudden, he just quit pedaling.  I didn't think I was drafting him too closely, but it was close enough that my front wheel touched his rear wheel, and I went down - for the second time during the ride!

Fortunately, I wasn't seriously injured - just a strawberry on my hip.  Still, all my riding companions made extra sure I was OK.  Also, three different cars stopped to check on me.  I was heartened by the kindness of the people around Dahlonega.  Truly, I was fine, but I thought, "Lord, please just get me to the end of this ride!"

We stopped at a stop sign at the next turn.  As we waited for an opening in traffic, a guy in a huge diesel truck purposely blew a cloud of black exhaust on us as he drove by.  I would have been a lot more mad if I hadn't just encountered several other very nice local people.  There you have it: people can be good or bad.

At last, there it was - the finish!  I thought of Madea as I rolled into the parking lot.

I changed clothes, visited for a few minutes with some of the other riders, and headed home.

I missed getting to see Robert when I got home because he was racing in Chattanooga all weekend.  However, it was a true delight to see my three beloved dogs.  I took a wonderful shower.  Then, I made myself some ROOT (Robert Out of Town) Pasta.  It has several ingredients that he doesn't like but that I love, e.g. artichokes and goat cheese.  I also made myself a salad with vegetables from the week's CSA delivery.  As a bonus, I grilled the eggplant (also anathema to Robert) that was in the CSA delivery and added it to my ROOT Pasta.  I enjoyed my feast with a glass of wine.

The greyhounds Allie and Fleetwood sleep in the basement, and the beagle Shelly sleeps with Robert and me.  Of course, it was just Shelly and me in the bed that night.  I lay down next to her and felt a profound sense of gratitude.  I had finished a very challenging brevet, I wasn't seriously injured, and so many great friends had shown such kindness and compassion.  Life was - and is - good.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Happy AnnIversary, RUSA!

Randonneurs USA (RUSA) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  A lot of RUSA chapters are holding special rides to commemorate it, including the Audax Atlanta chapter.  Yesterday we had the Euharlee 3 BBQ Populaire.

Andy organized the ride.  He thinks he came up with it when Wayne challenged him to create a ride where all the controls are BBQ restaurants.  Andy did so.  Unfortunately, two of the BBQ places closed before we could hold the ride.  Therefore, the ride was ironic.  Ironically, I don't do irony.

It sorta kinda might still have been a 3 BBQ ride if we had bought pork rinds at a couple of controls.  In the interest of our arteries, I came up with an alternate plan: pig tails.  I brought some pink pipe cleaners and a baggie full of safety pins leftover from cycling races.  Just about everyone partook of the accoutrements.

Andy stylin' with his pig tail
It was the best $1 I ever spent on entertainment.

The Euharlee 3 BBQ Populaire is just over 100 km long.  Populaires are less than 200 km.  This was only my second populaire.  My RUSA rides are usually brevets (200 km or longer). 

We gathered in the small town of Euharlee.  I've lived in Georgia my whole life and had never heard of Euharlee.  It's near Cartersville.  Although Euharlee is very small, it has a nice park, a rather large police station, and a pizza place.

About 20 of us showed up for the ride.  A few people who had signed up bailed out due to a good chance of rain.  However, we didn't get a drop on us during the ride.  This is because Jim H. and I carried rain coats with us.

I thought this might be a more casual ride where people mostly stayed together, but within a few miles, I found myself chasing the fastest guys, Jason, Todd, and Tommy.  It was a solid tempo ride for me, even drafting them most of the way.  It was a lot like a Saturday ride with the guys in Macon, only with pig tails:

Not only were the company and the quality of the riding great, the roads were, too.  I've ridden some in this northwest part of Georgia, but many of the roads on this populaire were unfamiliar to me.  They were quite scenic with very little traffic.

The four of us finished the populaire in about 4 hours and 15 minutes.  There had been talk of a group lunch outing afterwards, and so I hung out for a while.  Pretty soon, Andy showed up.  He wanted to stay at the park to keep track of other riders as they came in, but he gave me some cash from the registration fees to get some pizzas for the group.  I was glad to serve as courier.  It didn't take too long to go to Covered Bridge Pizza just down the road, order a few large pizzas, and bring them back to the park for the group.  It was quite enjoyable to have a meal together afterwards.  Wayne has just become our new Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), and he hopes to plan more social events for us like this.

I've been enjoying RUSA - rides and people - for going on five years.  I'm grateful it's part of my life.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Dinosaur Ride - ROWR!

When I do a longer weekend ride starting from home, I sometimes like to incorporate a special destination or theme.  Today I did a Dinosaur Ride.  ROWR!

Chickens are descendants of dinosaurs.  Therefore, I pinned my stuffed animal chicken to the back of my jersey:

He's wearing a bird flu shirt.  That sort of fits in with the evolutionary theme because every year medical professionals try to stay a step ahead of the season's predicted flu strains, which constantly evolve.

This morning I volunteered with a fundraising event for Heifer International, one of my favorite organizations.  Therefore, I didn't get to head out for my ride until about 2:30 PM, but I didn't mind a bit.  The route was 69 miles long, which would take me over four hours.  It was well worth it, though, because of the special grand finale I had planned.

I took two bottles of water and knew I would need at least one refill stop during the ride.  I took the first good opportunity at B.F. Grant checking station on Godfrey Road.  I had gone through one bottle and still had one left, but I sure am glad I refilled there.

Although it was a hot day, I found it quite pleasant.  I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of midsummer: deep green foliage against the bright blue sky, the first kudzu blooms, and fields of corn.  I'll take a little heat and sweat any day over the cold winter.

I was going through approximately a bottle an hour.  There were no stores on my route, and so I intended to rely on churches, usually great sources for water if they have outdoor spigots.  I thought I remembered a church on Davis Ford Road that would be good timing for a refill.  Yep, there was Gaithers United Methodist Church, a little country church.

I rode up, and - thank you, Lord! - there was a hose on the side of the church building next to a few tomato plants.  Then, I thought, I'd better not count my chickens (or dinosaurs) before they're hatched.  Sure enough, after I disconnected the hose and turned on the spigot, there was a small dribble and then nothing.

I thought there might be a church on County Line Road, just a few miles farther.  Yes, Rocky Creek Church - they, too, had a spigot but no water.  I wasn't in dire straits, but I was getting pretty thirsty.  I'd have to ride another five or six miles until my next church opportunity.  Hopefully, the third time would be the charm.

Prospect United Methodist Church, please have water...  Yea!  They did.  I downed a whole bottle right there (my stomach didn't even get sloshy), and I refilled for the remaining 10 miles or so.

I was in the home stretch, heading back toward Monticello on Calvin Road.  Suddenly, two medium-size dogs (pit-bull mixes maybe) started running straight toward me.  I tried to slow down and move to the left, but they double-teamed me.  I ran over one of the dogs!  He yelped but got up and immediately ran away along with the other dog, apparently not really hurt.  In the few split seconds right after I ran over him, I somehow managed to stay upright as I rode slightly into the grass on the left hand side of the road.  That could have been bad for one or both of us.  A few seconds later, the owner, who must have heard me yelling at the dogs, called out to me, "They won't bother you!"  Too late.

Just a few more miles, and then came the pinnacle of my ride: a Jurrasic Chomp Blizzard at Dairy Queen!  I had seen this limited-edition flavor advertised on the sign of my local DQ.  As I planned my ride, I went online to find out just what's in a Jurrasic Chomp Blizzard.  It has soft chocolate-covered bits of peanut butter in a base of vanilla soft serve ice cream mixed with chocolate syrup.  Yes, it was delicious!

After I sat down to enjoy my treat, I wanted to take a picture of me chomping at my Jurrasic Chomp Blizzard.  I typically don't do selfies, but I didn't want to bother anyone else in the restaurant to take my picture.  A snap here, a snap there - all I could seem to get was the side of my head.  I guess my arms are shorter than I thought.

Then, in walked Robert!  He had been tracking me on Find My Friends and came to join me for a Blizzard.  What a great surprise!  He was nice enough to take my chomp picture, too:

My chicken/dinosaur enjoyed sharing my Jurassic Chomp Blizzard with me:

It was just a few short miles home from there.  I highly recommend both chicken/dinosaurs and the Jurassic Chomp Blizzard.

By the way, given that my day was filled with dinosaurs and churches, check out the dinosaurs from Jesus's day:

 Actually, this is much more like the Jesus I know:

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Tale of Two TTs

State TT

It was the fastest of times, it was the slowest of times.  This year’s state time trial (TT) championship was on July 14.  For several months I had been including once-a-week interval training in my cycling schedule.  This, along with trying to hang on with the guys at Tuesday Worlds, gave me the intensity training I needed to get ready for the state TT.  As always, it was somewhat difficult to simultaneously work on intensity while also doing ultra cycling events, but hey, what’s a little challenge?

TTs have been on the wane in Georgia in recent years.  That’s probably partly due to few race promoters and partly due to less interest – kind of a chicken-and-egg situation.  Therefore, relatively few people signed up for the state TT, especially women.  The women’s Cat 4 and Cat 5 races each had about four competitors.  I was the only Cat 3 women’s racer.  There were no Cat 2 or Cat 1 women racers.  That’s disappointing.

Officially, I’m a Cat 4 with USA Cycling.  Because your category is based on mass-start races (road races and crits), which I don’t do, I can’t ever cat up.  However, you can race in a higher (numerically lower) category on TTs.  I’ve been racing long enough and have performed well enough that it’s fairer for me to compete in TTs as a Cat 3.  Therefore, that’s what I’ve done at the state TT for the past few years.

The registration deadline for the state TT was Thursday night before the Saturday race.  I kept watching the registrations to see if any other Cat 3 women signed up – nope.  Christine is usually tough competition, but I saw from Strava that she was in Idaho racing a TT.  She definitely would have crushed me if she had shown up at the state TT.  Even though I was guaranteed a state champion jersey, I still wanted to race hard.  Therefore, I set a different goal for myself: have the fastest women’s time.

Robert pleasantly surprised me by deciding to do the men’s Masters 50-54 state TT.  He focuses on road races and rarely does TTs.  So, it was extra nice to get to spend the day together.  We headed out early Saturday morning for Hawkinsville.

It was a new state TT course this year.  I had raced a small portion of it on previous TTs in the Warner Robins area, but it was mostly new roads for me.  Robert and I got to recon a good portion of the course as we drove to the start.  There were no big surprises; the terrain was rolling hills, similar to much of our usual riding.

We were glad to see a lot of our cycling friends, including teammates Chad, Tony, and Tina.  Chad was Robert’s biggest head-to-head competition in Masters 50-54. Tony was in the Masters 45-49 category.  Tina wasn’t able to race to due recent surgery, but it was nice to have her there to cheer us on.  (She would have given me a run for my money in Cat 3!)

I warmed up on my trainer as per my usual race procedure.  Despite a guaranteed win in my category, I still felt nervous.  I felt compelled to race my best, regardless.  My theme song for the morning was MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit.

As the women lined up at the start line, a teenage girl in front of me commented to her father that she didn’t get much of a warm up.  He said, “Yeah, but you’ve got youth on your side.”  I said, “Yeah, but we’re older, and we have more insurance.”

I was the last woman in the lineup, following the Cat 5s and Cat 4s.  I was glad for the carrots.  If I could pass a few of them, I stood a good chance of having the fastest women’s time.

I was off!  I reminded myself not to put out too much power too soon, as is so easy to do with that initial burst of adrenaline.  My power meter is extremely helpful for this.  It also helps me later in a race to keep my power up.  The key to a good TT is maintaining your threshold power, adjusted up or down a little depending on the race length.  This course was 18.5 miles, which would take me around 50 minutes.  Threshold power by definition is the maximum power you can maintain for one hour.  Therefore, I needed to put out a few more watts than threshold for this race.

A couple of miles into the race, a dog ran after me.  I had been riding toward the righthand edge of the lane, but I had to swerve just outside the middle yellow line to avoid hitting the dog and/or being bitten.  If any of the race officials saw that, I prayed that surely they wouldn’t penalize me for a yellow-line violation given that I had to protect myself.

I approached the first section of the course that had significant climbing.  Hills are generally to my advantage.  I passed three other women in this section – a good sign.

I continued onto the first of two four-lane highways.  This part of the course was mostly flat.  Although I had passed a few other women, I didn’t feel like I was racing that well.  I felt fatigued, and I wasn’t putting out as much power as I wanted.  Still, I didn’t give up.  I kept my head in it as best I could, telling myself to keep pedaling, keep pedaling – strong and steady.

The course turned onto another four-lane highway, Larry Walker Parkway.  This had the biggest climb of the course, about a 4% grade for 0.75 mile.  That’s not huge, but remember that TT bikes aren’t built for climbing.  I put my head down to grind it out, knowing that this could be a make-or-break section for time.

After that climb, it was mostly flat for the remaining three miles.  Just stay in this a few more minutes.  The finish line should be coming up.  Around a curve – there it is!  I gave it all I had.

That was painful.  But then, if you race a TT properly, it’s supposed to be painful.  I really felt like I did the best I could even though my power numbers weren’t what I had hoped.

The race organizers used a timing chip technology that I hadn’t seen before.  The chip was stuck on your helmet.  Even more notable was that results were available very quickly.  Each racer could get a printout of his/her time.  I could see my time and my place in my category, but I didn’t know the times of the other women.  Then I realized that I could check the Precision Race website.  Yep, it looked like I had the fastest women’s time!  I may not have felt my fastest, but it was enough to reach my goal.

Then, I got a surprise; there was a cash payout to the fastest female and fastest male!

That made me even gladder that I had raced as hard as I could.  By the way, the first-place guy was 10 minutes faster than me!

Robert, Chad, our friend Louis, and I went to El Camino in Macon for lunch afterwards.  El Camino has great tacos.  It was also fun to hang out with the entire Masters 50-54 podium:

L-R: Robert (3rd), Louis (1st), and Chad (2nd)
Hoot Owl 200K Brevet

My randonneuring group typically has an overnight 200K brevet in July to take advantage of cooler temperatures and lighter traffic.  This year it was a new route, the Hoot Owl 200K.  I wanted to ride it but decided not to because it was that Saturday night after the state TT.  That would have been too much.  However, because the brevet route included a control (stop) in Monticello, I offered to provide ride support.  So many of my rando buddies have given generously of their time and energy to stage and support brevets, and so I was glad to give a little back.

The local 24-hour Circle K was the official control, but I thought it would be a lot more festive to greet the riders as they rode through the Monticello square in the middle of the night.  My adventure included a pre-sunset picnic with Robert, pitching a tent on the square, and greyhounds!  I’m saving the details for an article in the winter edition of American Randonneur magazine, but suffice it to say, it was a hoot!

Georgia Cycling Gran Prix TT

The Georgia Cycling Gran Prix is an annual stage race.  For the last several years, it was held just up the road in Newton County.  It was moved north of Atlanta this year.  This year’s Georgia Cycling Gran Prix TT was only 7.5 miles long.  I wasn’t thrilled about having to drive two hours for such a short race, but I signed up for it because it was my last real chance to race a TT this season.

Following the previous weekend’s state TT, I had the added incentive of getting to wear my team state championship skin suit again.  That’s great on its own, but it also fits me well.  I have a skin suit that says USA.  It fits tightly like it’s supposed to, but it’s borderline too tight.  I always joke about feeling like a sausage in it.  I’ve borrowed skin suits from Robert, but his are slightly too big for me.  My state championship skin suit is just right.

The workweek before the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix TT was tiring.  I taught erosion and sedimentation control certification classes four of the five days, which is way more than I usually teach in one week.  I really enjoy teaching the classes, but the driving makes for extra long days.  I taught in Marietta on Monday and Tuesday, commuting back and forth.  That made for a 14-15 hour day both times.  Then, I taught in Augusta all day Thursday and half a day Friday.  I did get to spend the night there between classes, but it was another uber early morning Thursday to drive to Augusta.  So, I wasn’t as rested as I would have liked going into Saturday’s race.

The communication about the Georgia Cycing Gran Prix TT was less than optimal.  As late at Friday night, I couldn’t find any TT start times on the race webpage or the race Facebook page, and I hadn’t received an e-mail with start times.  I sent a message via Facebook but received no reply.  The race flyer said the TT started at 8:00 AM.  Therefore, I had to assume I might start that early.  I set my alarm for 4:30 AM (ack!) and got on the road at 5:00 AM to head to Lula.  That would put me at the start by 7:00 AM, enough time to check in and warm up.

As I drove north, spectacular thunderstorms lit up the predawn sky.  I had checked the hourly forecast for Lula multiple times and thought we might dodge the rain.  During the summer the rain can be sporadic in both duration and location.

When I got to the church where the TT was to be staged, I saw a few people huddled under an awning by the door.  I assumed they were other racers waiting out the rain.  When I approached, however, I learned that they were a church youth group about to head somewhere.  The TT had been cancelled!

Man, was I bummed about having gotten up so early and driven all that way for nothing.  I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t gotten the word, though.  An unknowing USA cycling official also showed up.  I tried to console myself with the thought that it could have been worse.  It was better than a crash, for example.  At least I got to listen to a good audiobook during the drive.

So, that’s my last competitive cycling event until the Fried Green 50 in November.  I’m looking forward to some rest in the meantime.