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, June 25, 2018

Magic Ride, Magic Day

Between a particularly busy work week and a 300K this past Saturday, I'm just now getting a chance to write about an all-around wonderful day the previous Saturday, June 16.  It started with one of those rare mornings when neither Robert nor I had to get up to an alarm.  We slept in like lazy bums until 8:00 AM.  It was great!  Then, I planned my morning around a ride just for fun.

My original plan was to go to the farmers market on the Monticello square, followed by a fairly long ride with a lunch stop at the fabulous Mexican market in Eatonton.  Something came up a few days beforehand that caused me to shorten my route - more on that in a moment.  I still had a most excellent outing.

I had breakfast at home before I left for my ride.  Most mornings I eat oatmeal, Quaker old-fashioned oats that I cook in the microwave and then add some kind of mix-in: chocolate chips, pumpkin, blueberries, etc.  On Saturday morning I had muesli, a chilled oatmeal variation that is especially delicious in the warm months.  I also have fresh fruit and plain Greek yogurt (extra protein in the Greek style) with my oatmeal.  On muesli mornings, it all gets mixed together.  Here's the recipe:


2 cups quick or old-fashioned oatmeal (uncooked)
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
8 oz. plain yogurt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Fresh fruit of your choice (bananas, apples, peaches, strawberries, etc.)
Chopped nuts of your choice (pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Combine oatmeal, apple juice, yogurt, and vanilla extract; mix well.  Cover; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.  Add fruit and nuts at serving time; serve cold.  Refrigerate in airtight container up to 4 days.

Yield: 3-4 servings (I eat a third at the time, three days in a row.)

Notes: 1) That's right, you don't cook the oats!  They soften overnight in the liquid and come out with a "cooked" consistency.  2) The original recipe calls for using vanilla yogurt, but I prefer the taste of plain yogurt with a little vanilla extract.  3) The original recipe also calls for adding the fresh fruit to the oatmeal mixture before refrigerating, but I like the texture better by adding the fruit at serving time.

After breakfast, it was off to the square.  I visited with a few of my vendor friends, Shane, Shannon, and Laverne, and bought some okra.  Was that a food truck on the Monticello square?  Yes – Papi’s Tacos!  Immediately I modified my ride plans.  I would come back to the square at the end of my ride and get a couple of tacos for lunch.  What a great alternate plan since I didn’t have time to go to the Mexican market in Eatonton like I had originally planned.

But first, I had one last stop on the square: The Vanilla Bean, where I had second breakfast, an indulgence on these occasional leisurely Saturday morning cycling outings.  I sat outside enjoying some Earl Grey tea and a slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, listening to local institution Les Steele play Georgia on My Mind on his electric keyboard.  It was a good Monticello morning.

I dropped the okra off at Jordan Engineering to pick up later.  Then I headed down Highway 11 S.

This is my favorite time of year, from approximately Beltane to the summer solstice.  The bright blues and greens of a late spring day, brilliant in the high arc of the sun – magic!  As I rode down Fullerton-Phillips Road, a beautiful rural road with little traffic, I pretended I was on a flying carpet.

I crossed Highway 212, where the road name changes to Hillsboro Road.  It’s even smoother once you cross into Putnam County.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have such excellent riding conditions where I live.

I stopped briefly to check in at Willard, Georgia on Facebook.  Willard consists of an abandoned store where Highway 142 dead ends into Highway 16.  Just because, I like to check in at Willard periodically when I go through there.

I was thoroughly enjoying my ride but still kept an eye on the time.  I needed to leave my house about 2:00 PM.  I had just enough time to ride back to Papi's for my taco fix.

Papi's definitely did not disappoint!  The tacos are made with flour tortillas that are grilled.  You have a choice of meats and toppings.  I got two chicken tacos with the works: lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese.  They also have a couple of salsa choices in bottles that you can add yourself; I opted for the delicious green salsa.  Of course, I needed a beverage, too.  I was going to order a Coke but then saw something intriguing on the menu board, horchata.  I asked what it was, and when they described it as an iced drink with coconut milk and cinnamon, I knew I had to get that.  What a splendid way to cap off my ride!

By the way, I wore my RAAM 2015 finisher's jersey that day because it was the start of the 2018 team RAAM event.  Also, I wanted to show solidarity with Team Valkyrie from Denmark.  Team Valkyrie organizer Heidi had contacted me last year through Facebook as she sought to have the first Scandinavian women's team complete RAAM.  They finished soon after midnight yesterday - congratulations Team Valkyrie!  (Thanks to Robert for being my videographer  yesterday afternoon.)

So why did I have to be ready to leave my house by 2:00 PM a couple of Saturdays ago?  Robert and I had an appointment at the Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA) kennel in Acworth to pick up a greyhound!  A few days earlier, I had seen a SEGA post about two male greyhounds needing to be fostered.  Robert and I are ready for another greyhound after losing sweet Mr. Spock last month.  We decided to foster with the distinct possibility of failing fostering (i.e., adopting permanently).

Robert read the online descriptions of Elijah and Lyon.  Both looked wonderful, but Robert was leaning toward Lyon only because Elijah sounded more vocal from the descriptions.  (Our hounds are quiet, and we'd like to maintain a non-barky home.)  After making the several-hour trip, we met Lyon.  We walked him outside briefly (it was raining) and laughed as he obsessed over the papers in an open file drawer inside.  This big boy was full of personality - all 80 lb. of him!

There were actually three adoptable greyhounds that day: Doc Cherry, Elijah, and Lyon.  I wish we could have taken all three, but we stuck to Robert's plan to bring home Lyon.  Happily, Doc Cherry and Elijah both have been adopted since then - woo hoo!

Typically, you use a foster's racing name (or portion thereof) and let the permanent adopter choose a different name if he/she so desires.  Lyon's full racing name is Hakeem Lyon.  Melissa, the SEGA volunteer who met us at the kennel, mentioned that Lyon's dam's (mother's) name is Stevie Nicks.  Robert immediately renamed him Fleetwood.  It suits him perfectly.

Fleetwood did well on the long ride home:

One time he entertained people in other cars when we were stopped at a red light:

It was a lot of change in a few short hours:

I had already planned a rather special dinner that night, and now we had an extra reason to celebrate.  We feasted on some goodies I had picked up at Fresh Market in Macon the day before: Georgia shrimp and a bottle of rosé plus the okra from the farmer's market that morning (fried - another splurge) and some homemade biscuits.  This is one of my favorite shrimp recipes, which I make only when I can get fresh Georgia shrimp:

Savannah Marinated Shrimp

4 lb. peeled, cooked shrimp
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tarragon vinegar (I add some dried tarragon to regular white vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, sliced
Salt, black pepper, and red pepper, to taste

Marinate in refrigerator overnight (or start in the morning to eat that evening).  Travels well in a wide-neck Thermos - great picnic item!

Note: Recipe can be reduced.  I make about 1/4 of this for Robert and me.

Greyhounds usually have to learn about stairs because they have never encountered them before.  Fleetwood started getting the hang of our basement stairs even on the first day.  The biggest thing we're having to work on is teaching him that he can chew only on toys:

He's mangled a few things, but fortunately nothing too serious.  He did eat one of my cycling gloves, but at least I have several pairs.  A few days ago, Robert stocked up on chew toys at Petsmart.  That seems to be helping.  Fleetwood turned two the day before we picked him up, and so he's really just past puppyhood.

As for getting along with greyhound Allie and beagle Shelly, there don't seem to be any worries there:

Oh, yeah - he likes watching Family Feud, too:

Good answer!  Good answer!

It's not quite official, but - pending Robert's final OK - I hope Fleetwood becomes a permanent member of Polyhound Farm very soon.  As if there should be any doubt...

A bicycle ride in June, tacos (with horchata!), fresh Georgia shrimp, wine, and greyhounds - it doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Healthy Newton TT 2018

The Healthy Newton Omnium has been held for a number of years.  It benefits Newton Trails, an organization that promotes, develops, and sustains pedestrian and cycling trails in Newton County.  I like to do the time trial (TT) portion of the Healthy Newton Omnium.  I wouldn't travel very far to race just six miles, but it's right in my backyard and for a very worthwhile organization.

The TT course has had several locations.  For the last few years it's been in Newborn.  The Newborn course has two turns over the rolling hills typical of our part of the Piedmont.

I headed out early Saturday morning.  It was a little strange not having Robert with me (he did today's Healthy Newton road race but not yesterday's TT), but I have enough experience to handle all of my own race logistics comfortably.

I saw several cycling friends as I checked in and set up my trainer.  I was glad to see everyone but wasn't particularly chatty.  I get nervous even for a short race, and I have to focus my attention on the task at hand.

After warming up on my trainer, I headed to the start line for my 8:30 AM start.  I was the first of the 10 Cat 4/5 women.  I would be the carrot for the rest of them.

I felt the usual nerves: kind of barfy and a slight urge to go to the bathroom, despite having hit the port-o-potty a little while previously.  This TT didn't have a start ramp or even anyone to hold me up on my bicycle.  An official counted me down: five, four, three, two, one - go!  For some reason I had some trouble clipping into my right pedal.  However, I got it after a few seconds and didn't dwell on my less-than-auspicious start.

I hadn't even bothered to switch my power meter from my road bike to my TT bike for the race.  With only six miles, I decided simply to ride as hard as I could for the roughly 20 minutes it would take me.  A power meter might even have been counterproductive for such a short distance.

Steady, steady, steady!  Fast, fast, fast!  Smooth, smooth, smooth!  I coached myself each pedal stroke of the way.

Don't slow down!  Keep your head in this!  A climb - go hard!  Maybe you'll pick up a few seconds on the competition.

Only about a mile to go.  Keep going hard!  A speed hump, then another.  Don't worry about it - just keep pedaling.  Finish line!

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left my guts in Newborn, Georgia.  That's the way you're supposed to feel when you do a time trial the right way.  I had ridden at least half a mile into my cool-down before I even began to feel my breathing slow down.

I felt like I raced well; I didn't leave anything out on the course.  When I first uploaded my Garmin data to Strava, I thought it showed my time as approximately a minute slower than last year.  Wha?  Then, when I looked more closely, I realized that I was looking at a Strava segment that is slightly shorter than the entire race course.  My overall Strava time was actually a little less this year than last year.  That seemed more like it.

I changed out of my skin suit and headed to the podium area to await the results.  I had good conversation with Angela, Liz, and Rosie, who were in my category, as well as my teammates Allen and Chad, who were in the men's masters race.

I won!  In fact, I had the fastest overall women's time!  (16:23)  The best part, however, was the zucchini:

A local farmer had come by and given the race organizers a big box of zucchini.  They had the excellent idea to give it to people on the podium.  Best race swag ever!

Later that afternoon, Robert and I went to a Jordan Engineering cookout.  The zucchini made a great side dish:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Red Clay Ramble 2018

Yesterday was the Red Clay Ramble.  It has been in August in the past but was moved to June this year.  It definitely was cooler, but we had the threat of rain due to remnants of subtropical depression Alberto.  Fortunately, the rain cleared out just in time for the race, and the roads drained well.

Seven of us from the Georgia Neurosurgical Institute team signed up for the race.  The guys had several masters categories: masters (40-49), grand masters (50-59), and ultra masters (60+).  Women had only one masters category (40+).  Alas, I’ll never be grand or ultra.

As we gathered at the start line, I looked around to size up my competition.  One of my teammates had said there were six in my category, but I didn’t see any other women at the start.  I was close to the front, and so there might have been other women lined up behind me that I didn’t see.  Regardless, I wasn’t going to make any assumptions.

We were off!  I have exactly three fast-twitch muscle fibers.  I know because I counted them as most of the guys passed me.  I expected to get dropped quickly, but I have to admit it was a little disconcerting that it took only about half a mile.  Oh, well, I simply remembered one of Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts: If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone.

I did see one woman in the wave that passed me.  She looked like the really fast one who won the open category last year.  I couldn’t have caught her if I wanted to, but she wasn’t in my category anyway.

So, in my solo state, I settled in for a three-hour dirt time trial.  Just keep it steady.  I tried to gauge the fastest speed I could maintain for three hours.  That’s what racing is all about: the maximum pain you can endure for the particular time/distance that you’ll be racing.

After a while, I caught up to a few guys, including my friend Jason.  He called out encouragingly as I rode by, commenting on how I was doing my own thing, picking off other racers one by one.  I hadn’t thought of that as my strategy, but I’d see how it worked.  It sounded more fun than pure time trialing anyway.

I passed one guy.  Pick.  I passed another guy.  Pick.  Here came a guy in a Waffle House kit.  As I passed him, I said, “Mmm…waffles.”  Actually, waffles didn’t sound very appealing at that moment.

Keep on keeping on.  Around mile 16, I caught up to group of about half a dozen racers including – a woman!  How did that happen?  I knew her, too.  It was Laina from the Sorella team, who was in women’s masters category.  I had no idea she was ahead of me.  She was the woman who had passed me near the start line; it hadn't been last year's winner after all.  This is why I knew I couldn’t take anything for granted on my positioning.

As I approached the group, I debated whether I should glom onto them immediately or keep going and see if they caught me.  They were going slower than me at that moment, and so I opted to continue in time trial mode.  If they did catch me, I could jump on the train then.

Within a couple of miles, they did catch me.  I joined the group.  Whew, what a relief to ease up a little from my time trial pace!  I would have been completely justified to let the guys do all the pulling because I wasn’t competing against them.  However, I did take a few short pulls because I didn’t want to seem like a leech.  Besides, my energy level was good.

We dropped a few guys about 20 miles in.  When we got to a several-mile paved section on Fortville Road, it was just Laina and me plus two guys I know, Mark and Nathan.  The guys each took a turn pulling.  We picked up another guy.  I took a short pull as we approached the next turn onto Joe Miller Road, another dirt road.  We had dropped Laina!  Again, I wasn’t going to make any assumptions, but I hoped this boded well.  I was still feeling strong.

More pavement, and we picked up another guy.  I ate the Clif Bar from my jersey pocket.  (I had stuck it in there unwrapped for easy maneuvering during the race.)  My water situation was good.  I had two big bottles.  If it had been a typical hot August day like in previous years of the Red Clay Ramble, I would have barely stretched two bottles to last the whole race, perhaps also grabbing a cup of water as I rode past the last aid station.  Yesterday, however, my two big bottles were ample for me in the cooler weather.

The four guys and I rode on.  More dirt, and then more pavement as we approached Otis Redding’s house.  (I think some of his family still live there.)  We turned onto dirt again, paralleling Highway 11.  There was my friend Chris.  I called out for him to hop on as we rode by.

A mile or two later, we approached another turn in Round Oak.  Mark and Nathan stopped there at the aid station.  I didn’t need any food or water, and so I continued on without stopping.  I was in race mode!

Then it was just Chris and I.  We rode together for several miles and picked up another guy right before the next paved section, Hillsboro Lake Road.  We were back on my home turf.  I pretended it was simply one of my regular after-work road rides to Hillsboro Lake.  I had been pulling a while, and so I moved left to let one of the guys take a turn.  Nobody moved up.  I felt OK, and so I continued on without them, keeping up a pretty good pace.  I suppose I had several mental advantages.  I knew the road and wasn’t demoralized by its constant climb for a few miles.  Also, all those hours in the saddle on brevets surely count for something.

So, it was back to time trial mode for the last 10 miles.  I turned onto Dumas Road, on dirt once again.  I estimated the maximum speed I could maintain for the remainder of the race.  I doubted that Laina (or any other woman) would catch me, but still I glanced over my shoulder every so often, looking for anyone overtaking me.

My fastest time on the Red Clay Ramble several years ago was just under three hours.  Early in yesterday’s race I had determined that I wouldn’t break three hours this time.  My fitness isn’t quite as good as then, and I was pretty sure the road conditions were slowing me down.  Regardless, all I could do was ride my best, which is what I tried to do the entire time.

At the racers’ meeting before the start, the organizers had cautioned that Dumas Road was the muddiest part of the course from all the recent rain.  Still, it turned out not to be as bad as I anticipated.  I kept pedaling, pedaling and even passed a few more guys.

I was kind of sad to pass up my friend Benny’s beer stop, but I was still in race mode.  I was pretty sure I was the first masters female.  Just a few miles to the finish…

I rode as hard as I could across the finish line.  I made it – yea!  Although I didn’t feel quite like my guts were about to spill out like after a regular time trial, I was whooped.  I changed clothes and walked toward to staging area.  My legs felt like lead.

Gratefully, I refueled with a plate of delicious spaghetti prepared by Tom Glover and the other Bike Walk Baldwin volunteers.  I sat with my Georgia Neuro teammates and listened to the blow-by-blow of their race.  Additionally, Van gave me something to aspire to:

Podium time!  I was thrilled to have not only the fastest masters women's time but also the fastest overall women's time (3:14:11 from Strava).

I got a great swag bag, including a really cool item I had never seen before: Hide Your Hiney.  It's essentially a large sheet (tie-dyed!) you connect between your car doors to make a small outdoor changing room.  This will be so much more comfortable than ducking down in the front seat like I've been doing for years.  The Hide Your Hiney has magnets to attach to the car doors, and recycled bicycle tubes cover the magnets to protect your car from scratching.

No hiney here!
My overall takeaway from this race is how different it was from every other mass-start race I’ve done.  During yesterday’s race I never had to surge or bridge a gap; i.e., I never had to burn any matches.  It was all about putting out a steady effort – the maximum possible – the entire time.  Don't get me wrong; it was hard.  It just felt like a different type of spent at the end, maybe one I could recover from more quickly.  Either way, a several-hour nap later that afternoon was just the ticket.