Sunday, April 30, 2006

A. R. P. In Due West

Friday afternoon all the A.R.P. Cyclist who ride with the Greenwood Cycling Club meet in Due West for a photo for the A.R.P. Magazine. For those who don't know what A.R.P. means, it's, if I remember correctly, associate reformed presbryterian. The group consisted of Jim Cox, Bill and Andrew Evans, David Craig, Larry and Landon(The Silent Killer)I apologize, but I can't recall there last name. Well, we meet in Due West, a small college town for the photos and we chatted a bit in the parkinglot as we waited for the photographer. When the photographer showed up we posed for some pix with Erskine College in the background. Then he wanted some action shots and we all rode down this quiet street toward him as he snapped away. After a couple of takes he wanted us to turn a corner at a decent speed and "Coast through", I laughed to myself because I was riding my fixed gear and coasting was not an option. At one point as we made the turn I was just a tad crowded by Landon and zipped by the photographer, missing him by mere inches. He yelped and jumped up like he had been hit and then opted for a more sedate photo of all of us infront of the science building. After we decided to put the nice weather to good use and went for a ride. We started out though town and ended up on part of the Ware Shoals Roubiax ride. It was a nice conversational pace, but since I haven't been on the bike much I wanted to pick up the pace. At the end of the road we turned around and I nearly had a Bluebird tangled in my spokes as she fled an overly amorous male. Shortly after we passed Strawhorne Rd. I had to stretch my legs and took off down the road. I dropped into the aerobars and thought how great it felt to be on the bike. I had recently placed the 14 tooth sprocket on the back, giving me a 77 inch gear and the bike wanted to run. I stopped at the four way to wait for everyone and practiced my track stand. Shortly Landon and David Craig appeared with Larry and Jim soon behind(Bill and Andrew had already ridden for the day and Andrew had a race the next day). We all regrouped ad took the Wynona cemetery route as Jim suggested. Jim has a way of taking a name and butchering it until it is unrecognizable, so don't look for the cemetery on a map. The route was more of the slower ride, nice and comfortable. I kept an eye on Landon, I'd heard good things about him and wanted to see what he is made of. At one point Landon was on David's wheel, close, very close. As the distance grew shorter their wheels touched with a whizzing noise and Landon simply eased back a little. We were eventually dumped out on hwy 178 and turned right to Donalds. I knew where we were then and how to get back. I saw Jim slip off to the front and a town sign up ahead. I jumped, after checking traffic, and passe Jim to win the sign. I looked over my shoulder to see if Landon had made a try for the sign. He was pretty far back, but appeared to be in full sprint. I took a right on 184 and back to Due West. I was moving along at a good clip and dropped into my aerobars. I looked over my shoulder and Landon was still far back but still in sight. I was averaging about 21 down this stretch of road and decided to sit up and let Landon catch up. Shortly he's on my wheel and I pick up the pace. Then I see something out of the corner of my eye, I think i's Landon trying to sprint infront, but it turns out to be David Craig coming out of nowhere and passing us at around 25 mph. I give chase and soon see the sign for Due West. I sprint by David to take the sign, though I don't think he wanted it that badly. When we all met up in the parking lot Jim started giving Landon and me a hard time for going after the sign on 178. Apparently Larry wanted an impression to be made on his son about checking traffic before you pass on a sprint. All in all I had a great ride and got in nearly 22 miles.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

First organized ride

I put my check in the mail for Issaqueena's Last Ride in Wallhalla. I am considering doing it fixed, only 8500' in climbing. I have had two people make comments about the descends, it should prove interesting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lunch Time Ride

I was able to get back on the bike today. It's been over a week and it was nice. Last week my back was bothering me too much to ride. Sunday I felt good and was going to ride after church, but my wife tore some muscles in her back and you can't argue with a woman on all fours crying and in pain, so no ride for me. I worked while I ate today so I can spend my lunch hour on the bike. At 1:45 I rolled out of the back door of my office with the 15 mile route that takes me down the Canadian Mist Highway, so named for the thousands of CM bottles that litter the road. As I rolled out of the parking lot the twinge in my lower back made me think better of the route and I opted to do laps around the local university. It was hotter than I expected. I made it to the university's parking lot at the main entrance and waved at a campus cop. There was something going on at the amphitheater and he was just making sure everything was going smoothly. I turned down the one way street lined with parking watching for breaklights. I passed the new(relatively speaking)science building, then Old Main (the historical part of the University), and out in front of the main road. At the all way stop I practiced my trackstand on the Deathtrap(named by a guy at the LBS after he took it for a spin), looked both ways, and printed up the hill. As I reached the top I could smell the onion rings from The Dixie(best burger joint in town) and wondered why onion rings always smell better that they taste. As I ran out of steam I turn onto Janeway and stamp on the pedals. This road will work on your bike handling skills, the dips and bulges in the pavement are sometimes hard to see in the filtered light of old oaks. You also have to keep an eye on the cars parked on the side of the rode as you never know when a moment of inattention leaves you doing an endo over an opened car door. Near the end of Janeway I turn right on Gracemont and start to climb to the end. I pass my former boss' former home and shake my head at the USC flag out front. A month ago it was a Clemson flag. At the end of Gracemont there is a steep little climb with a stop sign at the top, another chance to practice my trackstand and I turn left down the hill. I climb up the other side and turn into the main entrance, it even has a bike lane, all 300 feet of it. I turn left and then left again into the parking lot to do it all again. In the end I get 12.78 miles in at 14.4 miles per hour. That's not fast, but this route never lets you hold on to any speed, too many turns. The ride is a psudointerval, all out then recover for a while. When I got back to the office I had work waiting for me, but I got in almost 13 miles, last time I only got 11.5.

Monday, April 24, 2006

One Gear No Coasting

Someone asked recently what the advantages of a fixed gear are. Well, the main reason I ride a fixed gear bike is that it's a total blast. You get a real good feel for what your back wheel is doing and you can bleed off speed by placing a little back pressure on the pedals, which is awesome in a paceline. It also makes you stronger by getting used to just one gear, spin like hell to go faster, and mash like crazy to go up that hill. It can also improve your technique. For example; your climbing a hill and your too whipped to stand for the whole thing, so you slide back in the saddle, sit up straight, and push. This way you use more of the larger muscle groups. It also teaches you to spin, imagine going down a steep hill and you don't want to lose momentum, you have to keep up with the bike, so you spin(I've gotten up to 190 RPMs). Fixed gear bikes are good training tools. One of the members of my bike club made the under 23 U.S. team and will be training in Belgium this summer. His coach wants him to ride a fixed gear for training. If your feet are locked in with clipless pedals or a strap, toeclip, and cleat setup it can really help your pedaling technique, circles instead of squares. Last season on one of the Thursday night rides about 15 miles out I was spit off the back of the hammerheads paceline. I held on longer than I thought I would. It was the first time I rode my geared coastie bike. I settled in to a nice pace with a song from the goo goo dolls in my head, Boulevard of broken dreams I think. 7 or 8 miles later I started pulling in stragglers from the paceline. One by one they jumped on my wheel and before I knew it I was pulling about 6 or 7 guys back in, guys that dropped my like a bad habit a year before. As we crested the top of the last big hill I heard Andrew Douglas behind me say,"Does riding that fixed gear make you that strong?" I smiled and said, "Yes, it does."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

85 Miles with Back Pain

I called in to work today, can't make the drive my back is killing me. It started as a tightness on Sunday, Monday morning I had to drive to Columbia for work. Two hours one way in the vehicle made things so much worse. The last time I had this problem was the first Saturday last June. It was day one in the Tour de Cure and started with a drive to the start in Columbia. It was a tightness at first and progressed to pain. I rode with Natalie Britt, the executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, and her husband Ben. Ironically she had been working so hard to make life easier for other cyclist she had not been on the bike much all season. At the first rest stop I had some difficulty getting off the bike. After a quick stretch I felt a little better. I topped off my bottles and grabbed a snack. The three of us took off and Natalie was worried that they were slowing me down. After a few miles I thought I would stretch my legs and told Natalie and Ben that I would see them later. I dropped down in the aerobars on my fixed gear and to my total surprise found it to be the most comfortable position. I make it to the second rest stop, I believe the theme was "Margaritaville", I dismount to a screaming pain in my lower back. After I was able to stand erect, I attempted to stretch. I grabbed a chicken fajita and some M&Ms and whatever was handy. Too bad they didn't have margarittas. That was my favorite rest stop, the others seem a blur. As long as I was on the bike my back was fine, I even jumped on the back of a paceline doing 25mph or better for a while. I just couldn't spin that fast for any real length of time, with my gearing I think I would have to maintain 120rpms. I was spit off the back and found my own pace and settled in. I passed several people and was passed. As I made a left turn at a stop sign I hear behind me ,"Is that a fixed gear?". I say yes over my shoulder and never saw the guy again. At one point I get rained on but not for too long, just enough to get soaked. Later as I make a left turn in Georgetown a course official tells me four more miles to go. At mile two the rain starts again and doesn't stop. The rain brings out frogs, they are everywhere. I dodge some, and try not to run over their buddies who were squashed by cars. A couple of times I felt something strike my right foot, a frog with a poor sense of timing. I'm four miles in from the last turn and no finish in sight, it's raining, and traffic is not ideal. I wish I had a tail light instead of the reflective strips on my hydro pack. As I pull into the parking lot of the high school that serves as the finish the rain stops and the sun peeks out from behind the cloud. I don't remember the exact mileage, probably eighty-four and some change. I'll call it eighty-five and be done with it. I was wet and covered with frog guts, I needed a shower. After the shower I felt almost like a new man, at least I smelled like one. I put on my Hawaiian shirt and hopped on the shuttle to the party. Once there I got in line for the food, BBQ catered by Sticky Fingers. MMMMM arebequ(in a Homer Simpson voice)! It was good, could have eaten more, but had to save room for beer. I found a quiet corner by the pool to call the wife to let her know I finish the first day OK. As I was talking to her an attractive woman walks up with a necklace of plastic flower like stuff on a string and asks in a loud voice if I wanted to get laid, then quieter,"I hope that's not your wife". I was lucky the music was too loud and Adrienne didn't hear the proposal. I explained later and she was amused. Well after much drinking, eating, and a beauty contest with a guy with a shaved head in a hot pink bikini (don't ask). A few of us staying at the highschool gym took a bus back to get settled in for the night. I slept on the gym floor and worried about how my back would feel the next day. I woke up and it was fine, no pain at all. Not even a twinge. I could not, however, say the same for my butt.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


One of my few vices, coffee. Not the best picture, but I think it shows well enough. I love strong coffee. Not Mac(insert fastfood joint here) has strong coffee, but walk into a coffee shop and get, "you want what?!" coffee. When I say I like strong coffee, I mean I like coffee dark, rich, and thick. Yes, I said thick. I like the feel of strong coffee like hot syrup. I like to roll it in my mouth before I swallow. I acquired the taste for strong coffee after my daughter was born. She was a colicky baby. We would put her down at 7:00, she would wake up at 10:00 and scream until 2:00am. I would get up at 4:00 and drive 96 miles in the dark. I would make a pot of coffee when I got in the office and dare anyone to touch it. The second pot I would share and the coffee started to get stronger and stronger. No one in my office likes me to make coffee. I did once and my supervisor had to go home to lay down, wuss. The coffee at my office is not coffee, it taste like they soaked a brown paperbag in warm water and squeezed the the nasty liquid into a cup. Add artificial sweetener, not the good stuff saccharine, and nondairy creamer, and viola........Shudder.....Cringe. I don't even like to think about it. That's why I bring my own. There was once this coffee shop in Greenwood located in an old church, I would get the French press for one. I would tell the person behind the counter the darkest roast you have, I was partial to one called scorned woman, make it as strong as humanly possible and when you think you will make it undrinkable and another scoop. The first time the young lady did as I asked and handed me the coffee press as if it was a bomb about to go off or a venomous snake ready to strike. "I think I made it too strong", she said with a slight cringe. I sat down worked the plunger and poured it into a glass mug. It was dark and thick. I took a sip as everyone at the table stared in disbelief. It was perfect. Russ Fitzgerald shook his head, chuckled, and said, " You need to ride a fixed gear, you have the personality for it." He was right.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hanging out Hanging on

My wife wanted me to hear a writing project for one of her classes, it was a story of her childhood. In the story she was ten and had been playing with her cousin, Tara, and Tara's friend Ande. They walk up on the neighborhood boys on a go-cart. The driver is attempting to throw the passenger off as they careen around a track. The girls want to give it a try. Ande's dad, Mr. Don says that if the girls want to hang out with the boys, then they need to play like the boys. Ande gets to go first and has an old football helmet none too gently placed on her head. She holds on for dear life and makes it intact. As Ande dismounts my wife, Adrienne, notices that Tara had the smarts to leave when everyone was distracted. Adrienne was not happy. She was forcibly placed on the passenger side of the go-cart and the dirty old helmet crammed on her head. She was so angry she forgot to hold on and was thrown from the go-cart on the first turn and got a busted lip and scraped stomach for her trouble. I laughed mentally, I have been married to this woman for nine years and can picture this perfectly in my head. I didn't laugh out loud because I know what happened to the unfortunates that did so way back when.