Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Good Story

I just finished reading Kent Peterson's e-book, The Way of the Mountain Turtle. If you like cycling and are in to more than the latest carbon thingy and ride all day with out concern for speed, read this. It's amazing what you can learn from other's experiences, thanks for the story Kent.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Get Your Kicks on 246, or Bee Buzzin 06

This year I was hopping to beat my 19.5 ave from last year. It promised to be a fast ride as Zac Lake of the US U23 team, and fresh from Europe was sure to kick it up a notch. Matt came down for the ride, he’s lost another 20lbs. We left early and parked at my office, where I have my bike. I wanted to do some last minute adjustments as the bike has been making a clicking noise at the bottom portion of the left cranks pedal stroke. I tightened down the cranks and the pedals and hoped the noise would stop. In a couple of minutes we were at the chamber of commerce and checking in. I spoke to Dan, one of the Laurens county guys and Stephen, the chairperson of the Bee Buzzin. We picked up our shirts and found my Mom; she put them in her truck for safe keeping. I saw the Greenwood group, Andrew Evans, Andrew Douglas, Milo Metcalf, Jeff and Shaun Ronan, Bradley Cox, and John Campbell, and Zac Lake. We had a good turn out. I was talking to Zac when I saw them, the team that took down three riders at the Governor’s Ride in October; one of them was Andrew Douglas, maybe more on that later. “Watch those guys”, I told Zac.
“Really?” was his reply.
“Not that they’re fast”
“Yeah, they took out Andrew Douglas in October”. He nods understanding. I have faith in him, chances are they won’t be able to stay near him, but anything could happen in the first few minutes. For most of us this is just one of those, show up and ride metrics. Only racing yourself and the clock, or just out for a fun ride. For the others, the fast racer types, this is an unofficial race, the prize, bragging right for a year, the license to talk smack about the Greenwood Club. This year things were different, I could feel the tention in the air, almost taste it. This was going to be a fast ride. Zac had just recently returned from racing for the US under 23 team in Europe and had some good training under him. He didn’t win any races over there, but it is such a different level of competitiveness. Imagine a team of French football players going to the “Big Game” and you start to get an idea. Matt and I run into Russ, he has to cut his ride short due to some guests coming from out of town, and has to do the 25 instead of the metric. “I’m just going to hold on to the back as long as I can”, I said that a lot before the start. “This is going to be a fast ride”, I said.
“You think so?” Russ asked.
“Yeah, Zac is riding and everybody wants to see what he’s made of”.
Russ nods in agreement and we set off to find a good starting point. I talk about the course and mention the turn in Ninety Six before the light, it’s the only real issue as far as markings go, but I know the course, so I share. Stephen is saying something about the route up front and I can’t hear him, no matter, I’ll follow the guy in front of me. We take off and before I know it we are doing 27mph down S. Main St. Matt later said that we got up to 32mph. I was too busy trying to keep up to notice. We had our escort and the local police stopped traffic at the lights, blowing through a red light while waving at a cop, now that’s entertainment! The first few miles were a blur, Matt took off like a shot and I eventually caught his wheel as we turned on Marshal. We passed a good many people trying to catch the first group. We latched on the back, and in a couple of miles it was over, we were dropped halfway down Siloam Church Rd when it happened, 7.5 miles in. It was faster than last year I told myself. Matt, the kid that took Andrew down in October, and me were left panting on the road in the aftermath. We took turns pulling, the kid only pulled in short bursts letting us do all the work, nice. I was about to ask him if his bike handling skills have improved since October, but I held my tongue. We turned on Old 246, then on 702 and shortly there after we had another group pass, junior jumped on the back, and so did Matt and me. Bradley Cox and John Lake were there. Bradley made a comment about me riding a real bike, meaning a coastie multigeared bike. He’s young and inexperienced so I let it go. We were cruising along at 22mph when I noticed a stain on the road taking up the whole lane, then I noticed something big and brown in the ditch to the right. It was a horse, but the odd part was it had no head. “Man, that’s a big deer”, the guy behind me yelled. I thought of that old joke about the guy taking his wife hunting, “You can have it, just let me get the saddle first”. The paceline was moving along, the guy up front would pull for a while, the peel off to the back to give the next guy a turn. Bradley’s turn came and he maintained the speed, though asked directions from me at the four way where 34 and 702 cross, we went straight and he peeled off, it was my turn. I pulled for a good while, but I did a little too much and blew up on the next hill. It was just nasty enough to hurt. I tried to stay on the back, but the hill was just too much and I lost Bradley’s wheel. I downed one of my gels and tried to keep the pack in sight. Oh well, on my own again. It was now that I really noticed just how uncomfortable my saddle was becoming. It was making my legs hurt, so I just focused on pedaling circles. After a few miles I saw a figure up ahead, It was Matt. I pedaled passed him and he pulled in behind me. “The hills were wearing me down and I wasn’t recovering fast enough”, he said as I pulled feeling better to have a little company. I’m afraid that in a few months I won’t be able to keep up with him. He is ridding pretty strong and in a couple of months he will be lighter. He had Gastric by-pass surgery at the first of the year, and then he was 370, now 265. When he reaches his goal weight of 180 I won’t be able to keep up. We take turns pulling and find the rest stop. This was number two as number one wasn’t set up when we went by. We turned on Mineral Springs Rd. and stopped for a drink and talked to Dan and Stephen. Stephen in true form was not wearing a shirt and showing off his freshly shaved chest, sorry ladies I didn’t get any pictures. As I took off I was witness to a lady dropping her shorts behind Stephen truck to cop a squat, no pix of that either. We roll down the road and turn on the smooth asphalt of 178 and its rolling hills. Last year I was alone on this road and I felt fast. This time I was having some trouble, I couldn’t stay in the drops due to stomach cramps. I was feeling slow. A few miles down the road we picked up a rider, he had stopped to rescue a goat that had its horns caught in a fence. We manage to stay together and turn on 246 headed in to Ninety Six. After the first hill I find that I am alone again, but some how I find a groove and stretch my legs. After a few miles I spot a rider in the distance, now I have a new goal, reel him in. After another couple of miles I do and pass. This was the best part of the ride I was feeling strong and started singing, “Get your kicks on 246.” That hill before the town limits sign was “Special”. Shortly after I pulled up to the last rest stop and got some water and refilled my bottles. I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie and tried to eat it. I managed to get it down, but it was more work than it should be. I drank a little more and waited for Matt while my stomach settled. I was starting to get concerned when I saw him turn on 34 instead of Scotch Cross, and waved him down. He blew up bad on 246 and had to stop to stretch on the side of the road. I had been at this stop way too long and was getting antsy, but I wanted to make sure Matt was Ok. Then this guy pats me on the shoulder,” Hey, remember me? We did the Tour de Abbeville last year, you rode that fixed gear.” It took me a while to place the face. He had a lady friend with him then; I didn’t see her and didn’t ask. A couple of weeks earlier I made that mistake and got an answer I didn’t like, I kept my mouth shut. The three of us found our way over to the Hardee’s for a bathroom break, I had to pee and Matt, well you know. I left Matt to his business and talked to the guy, I can’t remember his name, I’m bad with names, but I know he lives in Lexington, go figure. He gets tired of waiting and heads out. Matt and I leave together and soon he’s way behind. Then something happens, I feel this sense of urgency. I have to at least match my time from last year and I don’t think I can do it. A couple of guys find my wheel and I try to lose them. Then the suffering starts. I start mentally beating myself up for gaining those extra pounds and telling myself that the wind in my face is just an excuse. I can’t believe I’m this slow. I haven’t done enough fast rides. I’m not going to make it.. I get to where Scots Cross crosses 25 and becomes 225. The light turns red and the guys I dropped earlier catch up. The light turns green and I clip in. This is it, my last chance to make up some time. I don’t remember how fast I was going, just that I felt it wasn’t fast enough, so I pedaled harder. I was disappointed in myself, so I pedaled harder. Oddly enough giving up and cruising in at a comfortable pace never once occurred to me. I bombed down the hills building speed and momentum for the inevitable climb up the other side. When my momentum gave out I slogged up the other side as best I could sometimes out of the saddle, “dancing” on the pedals, and sometimes sliding back in the saddle and spinning like mad. I was starting to see cars with bikes mounted as people were leaving. They had finished and packed up and I was still out here. It made me mad, I dug deeper. I turned on Maxwell Ave. I was doing 22. I was saving a little for that hill at the end and when I reached it I attached it. I crossed the rail road tracks and was almost done, toast. I made the light and turned on Main St. If it had been red I don’t know if I could have got going again. The rest of the lights cooperated as well and I turned on Seaboard then Phoenix and into the Chamber’s parking lot. I looked at the clock on my computer. I blinked. 3hours, 10 minutes, last year it was 3:30, I did it, I averaged just a tad over 20mph, the fastest metric I’ve done so far. I was mentally charged, physically, I just didn’t want to embarrass myself by falling over. I sat in the shade, sipped what was left in my bottle, chatted with Dan and his son Nolan, and waited for Matt. Now I was smiling.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tiger's Milk and Memories

It's strange what can trigger a memory. I was reading Kent Peterson's account of the Sir 600k brevet. He made a comment about picking up a Tiger's Milk Bar at a control stop. It tickled something in the back of my mind. I've had one of those before, the're good. I just couldn't remember when or where. Then today I stopped by at the local GNC to pick up some sports drink and gels for the Bee Buzzin. On my way back to the office to get ready for the afternoon ride it all came back to me. I was twelve and was doing a walk to raise money, for a church thing, I think. I stopped by a feed and seed store that had a health food section a couple of days before. I grabbed a couple of the bars, I liked the name. The walk started thirteen miles from the church in Cameron where the church's summer camp was located, I learned to swim there, but that is another story. The name of the camp was, Camp S&M, no really. Though it's not what you think, well unless you count the meals in the mess hall. The church is First Southern Methodist, ok, now it all falls into place. Well we started early in the morning, Saturday I think. I don't remember much traffic, and it was hot, so summer. The details are a bit fuzzy, it was a long time ago. I had many deep conversations with my best friend, Max that day, I think girls came up some. On the walk I remember eating the Tiger Milk Bars and liking them, they had that like a candy bar but good for you taste. Scarlet clover was in bloom that day and the fields and road sides were peppered with clusters of deep red. I found a walking stick where a farmer had cut the small trees near his fence, I kept it for several years, it was black cherry. I made it back to the church, it was the longest hike I had done at that point and I was sore and tired. I remember going home and soaking my aching muscles in a hot bath and feeling proud that I walked that far.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Saturday Ride

I sent out an e-mail to the Laurens group to see who is riding, nothing definite. I roll up my drive at 0856. I'm on my LeMond, after 168 miles on the Deathtrap I figured I would try gears today. I turn on S. Harper ext. and try to settle in for the 17+mile ride to Clinton. After a few miles I stop to help a lone Box turtle across the road, It hisses at me and closes up tight as I place it in the grass.

A few miles later I hear something fall out of my saddle bag as I hit a bump crossing a bridge, I had my keys in the bag, so I stop and search. I didn't see anything, so I looked in the bag and they were there. I rearranged everything to prevent a recurrence and snapped a couple of pix.

As I clipped back in I saw the culprit for the noise that stopped me, a tire lever. I picked it up and put it back and rolled on. The hills were slowing me more that they should. I guess I hadn't recovered fully from Thursday. I make it to Lisbon Rd and turn left, feeling a little better and warmed up. In no time I was at Hwy72. I look both ways, no traffic, odd. I take a left and cruise down the fresh pavement. It's nice to bomb down the hills and not have to worry about spinning out. I make it to the meeting point at the Bi-Lo in Clinton five minutes faster than I would on the fixed gear and that included my two stops. I find the shade of a tree, munch on some crackers, sip the green tea from my bottle, and wait to see who shows. No one does, it looks like I'm solo today. I take out my map and pick a route. To the Vend-A-Moo, then home via Lisbon Rd. I take off down Bush River Rd. and take in the beautiful homes.

At this point something went wrong, I missed my turn on Bush River and continued on hwy 56. I didn't realize this until I reached Hwy 39. Not a big deal though, I would just take a left up 39 into Cross Hill and then home. I finished of the pack of crackers I started at the Bi-Lo and finished the bottle of green tea, I had one more. Then a couple on bikes zip by on 39 heading for Chappells. We exchanged hellos as they sped by. I wanted to know who they were and where they came from, so I rearranged my bottles and gave chase. I caught up with then shortly after they turned right on Hwy34, which had very little traffic. It turns out they were in Greenwood for a family reunion. Nivan and Becky are from Augusta and were staying at the lake. The decided to go for a ride Saturday morning. I asked if they minded some company and they didn't.

We ran into some road construction on 34 at the dam and I knew I would be better finding another way home. We turned right on 702 back toward Greenwood State Park. I took some pix, but amazingly enough the one that turned out was the one I shot from over my shoulder without aiming. A few miles before Becky and Nivan made there turn I was starting to bonk and had trouble staying on Nivan's wheel. My bottles were getting low when we made the turn into Grand Harbor and where I would leave Nivan and Becky. We stopped in the shade and talked about riding in the area. They topped off my bottles with what they didn't drink. They are members of the Aiken Cycling club and know Curt Sexton. I told them to let him know they saw me with out my fixed gear. They were a bit surprised that I ride a fixed gear on the road. Nivan said something about single speeds are fine, but anyone that rides a fixed gear is a nut. I resemble that remark. Nivan gave me a gel so I wouldn't bonk and offered me a ride home. I declined as I didn't want to inconvenience them, but the offer was greatly appreciated.(Thanks for the berry blast and the gell!) We said our farewells and I headed down 702. I didn't think I could make it back home, so the plan was to get to Greenwood and make a call. I pass the spot I got blown out the back of the paceline on last years Bee Buzzin and I was hurting. I turned on Vines and at the top of the hill I stopped to catch my breath and down the gel. I crossed over 246 and turned on old 246, then left on Siloam Church rd. I then remembered the hills on this road and grimaced. My speed dropped from 18mph and better to about 12. I was able to push it back up to 16 and passed two boys on bikes, they would move to the left lane as a car passed. I told them they were on the wrong side of the road as I passed. I had 50 miles under me and I was suffering. As I approached the end I found more road construction. I crossed over to take Marshal rd. in and realized that I was on the wrong road, Marshal was blocked. I used some off road skills as I road through the construction area and the fine powder that was the "road" surface.

At one point my rear wheel lost it's grip and fishtailed, I kept pedaling and staid upright. I made it to the end of construction and cruised in to town. I made it to T.W. Boone's, an oasis on a hot day.

I walked in and ordered a glass of tea and a glass of ice. The waitress wanted to know if I wanted anything to eat. My stomach churned in an ominous way and I declined. I told her I rode from Laurens and I didn't think I could eat. The shock on her face was obvious and she patted me on the shoulder and told me to rest. Shortly after she came with my tea and ice. I poured what was left of the sport drink over the ice sipped, and tried not to cramp. I had gotten dehydrated I let it sneak up on me. Then I did something I had never done before, I had to call someone to pick me up and take me home. Luckily my mom was home and she was there after my second glass of tea. Later I found out it was near 100 F. I wasn't ready for that, but next time I will be.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thursday Night Ride

Last night I did my first Thursday night ride of the season. The B team left early while the rest of us chit chatted, Stephen Shenal mentioned the physical for his new job and mentioned that his "boys" are in good shape, TMI, TDMI. We left out of the parking lot and formed up, sort of. At the first county sign a few miles later all the racer types took off like mad. After that things got much less formal. We didn't keep a real paceline going, and the speed was less than I remembered from last year, not that I'm complaining. I was just waiting for the hammer to drop. I mentioned this to Joshua and he agreed with me, things were a little more laid back than usual. We hit the first big climb before turning on Stevens Rd. and I kept up,yeah me. Shortly after we caught the B team and they jumped on the back of the paceline that was just beginning to form. Jim Cox made a comment about me keeping up with the fast guys and I said that I was going to hold on for as long as I can. We turned on Hwy 20 and the speed shot up. I was holding my own, but the surges as the guy in front of me slowed and sped up to stay on the wheel of the guy infront of him got to be too much. I could not find a rhythm. I had been used to riding solo, or pulling. I also had too much bar-b-que for lunch. I got dropped a couple of miles from the turn on 185. Mark, the guy behind me, passes me and tries unsuccessfully to catch the group, sorry. I turn on 185 and suck down a gel and find my groove. I pass Mark and he hopes on my wheel. We ride down 185 at 22- 25 mph, it felt good. At the next turn where 203 and 185 come together I bonked again and lost my rhythm. Did I mention I ate too much bar-b -que for lunch? We hit the hill after the bridge and that's when I just blew up, the bar-b-que didn't help. Mark said he would pull a while and I told him I would try to hold on. He was surprised by my comment after I pulled as fast as I did, but I was hurting. Note: never go to a bar-b-que buffet for lunch on Thursdays. I suffered until I turned on Dixie, then I found that rhythm, We Will Rock You, by Queen. I shifted into the big ring and got down in the drops and pedaled to Queen. We cruised down Dixie Rd. at 23mph. When we got to the end to turn on Deadfall I was feeling the remnants of my lunch, I shouldn't have had bar-b-que. I'm just glad I had only one plate. We stop for traffic and to catch our breath, then left. I was a little slower, running out of steam, but as we turned on Calhoun for the last stretch, I was able to get back up to 22 and hold it. I pulled in the parking lot as most of the faster group was leaving. Mark had an average of 18.5, but he had left a few minutes ahead of me, so I had some where just over 19 for the 35 miles or so. Not bad for my first Thursday night ride. I would have done better if I hadn't had bar-b que for lunch though.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Muddy, Cold, Rainy Ride.....FUN!!

Russ Fitzgerald and I did a ride back in February and the write up can be found here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Exit 159

I was on my way home from the beach and as I approached exit 159 on I-26 I started to feel nostalgic. The old house at the end of the off ramp was once my childhood home. I always feel a tug at my heartstrings the closer I get. Is it because this is the place I learned to ride a bike, climb a tree? Is it the motorcycle rides my dad would take me on though the fields and down the dirt roads? Or is it because this was when my childhood was the things of books and movies where summer's endless days lay one adventure after another before me, and where winter means Christmas. Or is it because all of the innocence that is childhood is intact. Shortly after we moved my parents divorced, at the time I was fine with it. Every time I see this old house surrounded by old oaks and that one ancient magnolia, a small part of me mourns the loss of a piece of my childhood that died an untimely death. That house holds nothing for me now but memories, so why at 35 I still feel that tug as I drive by? Maybe I wasn't fine with it after all.