Tour de Cure 2014 ride report

21 Jun

The Tour de Cure (TdC) is a charity ride to help the American Diabetes Association fight diabetes. This year’s ride was May 10th and started from Retama Horse Race Track parking lot. The pre-ride check in was just about daylight at 6:30 and roll out was to be at 7:15.
The Tour organizers provide a riders Breakfast. This year was Tacos as usual, after all this is south Texas. We are the land of Tex-Mex food. The breakfast tacos we enjoy are normally a soft flour tortilla with eggs and some other fillings like potatoes or sausage or bean and cheese. They also had bagels with cream cheese. Fruit juice to drink.
The weather forecast was for a bright sunny day with moderate temperatures. Early in the morning it was cool enough for arm warmers. These stayed on until about mile fifteen. Then with the warming day and a quick tempo riding warmed things to the point of wanting to shed the arm warmers.
The Team Lanterne Rouge was represented by three of us. Kevin, Mario and myself. Some years we have had 6 ride in TdC. In all there is about a dozen members of Team Lanterne Rouge. With the cost of fundraising and personal schedules it is hard to get big group rides together.
Starting from the back.
We have learned in these charity rides it is a good Idea to line up way at the back. It’s good for the moral. When you start up front the faster riders that started behind you pass you. Having a bunch of people pass you makes you feel even slower. When you feel slower you are slower and you get passed by even the other slow people. When you line up near the back then all the fast riders are ahead of you so they never have to pass you and they won’t make you feel slower. Then you get the benefit of being able to pass lots of people and that makes you feel faster. When you feel faster you go faster and you pass more people and you feel good about yourself. As we all know if there is to bikes heading in the same direction, regardless of what they say, they are racing.
Another advantage to starting at the back is that you are encouraged to start slower. Few people I know will warm up before a charity ride. Yes they will before a race but not an easy pace ride. As we all know the body needs to warm up a bit before exertion. When starting at the front the temptation is to roll out hard and fast. By starting at the back we take it real easy for a couple of miles until the crowed thins out. Then we are warmed up before we start kicking up the pace.
As we got started and the crowed was thinning out everybody stopped. Just as one of the front riders had crossed a little bridge and went hard at it to accelerate up the hill her chain broke. This unsettled her and she went down. This brought almost everyone to a complete stop. Fortunately one of her team riders was near her to help her to the side of the road and to call for help. The organizers station volunteer mechanics from LBS at the start and at each rest area for on route service needs.
First rest area and second rest area.
Each of the rest areas are about ten miles apart. They are well equipped with helpful volunteers. They are ready to hold your bike, get you a drink or a bite to eat. These people do the work of putting this ride on and really help make it fun to do. One of the things you can count on is they always have port-a-potties. As we were to about mile 7 the morning coffee kicked in and I starting thinking we will stop at the first rest stop and I will use the rest room. About mile 12 I realized we had shot right past the first stop. By mile 18 or 19 I was contemplating doing a rolling relief like the pros do on the grand tours. In short I was getting desperate. I was glad to see rest area 2. I was not glad to see the long line for the port-a-potties. I guess a lot of riders missed the first stop. While I was waiting I saw one of my friends and chatted. He was waiting for his wife, she was the one who had stopped to help her teammate that had crashed at mile one with the broken chain. He said she is so much faster than himself that he had expected her to have caught him by now. Finally it was my turn at the potties. This is the one time I really don’t like bib shorts. After the mandatory business was out of the way and the water bottle was topped off we rolled out.
From the start to the second rest area we had averaged over 18 mph. By the time we got on the road again we were still looking at a sub 4 hour time for our 65 mile ride. We all were feeling good making good time and rolling fast.
Third rest area
The 10 miles from our stop to the next was quick and easy. The day was warming up and I know about getting cramps. I was worried that if I was not careful I would get cramps. I was thinking about the worst cramps I had ever had. It happened a couple of years ago at this very rest stop location. That year the route was different and this location was about 52 miles that day. This year it was about mile 30. That year my legs cramped so bad I couldn’t even stand much less ride. Since that terrible day I have learned about Pickle juice. Eating dill pickles is a rider standard and drinking some of the juice from the jar. This is intended to prevent cramps. Someone has invented a sport drink called Pickle Juice. It tastes like drinking out of a jar of pickles. It works wonders on cramps. This rest area was handing out the stuff. They even had somebody dressed in a pickle suit.
When we rolled in to this rest stop a little guy came running up offering to hold my bike. He was very young maybe 8 or 9. He was so small that my saddle was almost head high on him. After making sure he had my bike under control I started to go to fill my water bottle and eat some cookies. When I saw one of the bigger boys trying to take over the bike holding duty. The little guy didn’t want to let it go. That’s when I stepped in. I asked how the little guy was doing holding my bike. He looked up with a nervous and shy “Fine”. So I told the older boy “Looks like my bike is in fine hands, maybe you can help someone else.” The little guy smiled like he had just won a prize! He stayed put holding my bike until I was ready to go.
When you leave this rest area you turn right and a few hundred yards up the road you start the biggest climb of the day. It’s not all that much of a hill but it is what it is. Let me just say I have my road bike set up with what I call my alpine gearing. It is a 3×9 with a 50-39-24 triple chainrings on the front and an 11-32 cassette on the back. It is not as fast as fast as my speed gears but it sure will climb and it’s great for endurance rides. When we started up the hill I passed my teammates and caught up to a rider on a Specialized Shiv. He was struggling, as I spun right by him. I could see he was in his lowest gear but the bike was geared too fast for climbing. I still had a whole lower chainring to go down if needed. I looked over and said something to be encouraging. He didn’t reply and only slightly reacted, so I think he heard me. When we reach the top of the hill the road flattened out. I backed off my pace to wait for my teammates. The guy on the Specialized Shiv soon passed me and again didn’t say anything. I thought ‘Ok perhaps he is in a zone so deep that he is not social’. Then as I watched him going up the road he was riding on the left side of the lane. He was just a foot or two from the center line. For clarification we ride the Tour de Cure on open roads with traffic. We have police at most major intersections and they give us right of way but we are expected to obey all traffic laws. We are also supposed to show curtesy to other road users. While his riding down the middle of the road may not exactly be against the law it was not showing road use curtesy. When a car came up behind us with a loud exhaust note that you couldn’t miss even if you are deaf. It was the kind of exhaust that makes everything shake. I heard him coming a long way back. I made sure I stayed to the right side of the lane to give him all the room available. He passed very respectfully at a modest speed. When he came up behind the guy on the Specialized Shiv, who didn’t move over. The car driver held back to our pace behind him for a ways. Then tapped his horn once. When the bike still didn’t move over the car went way out in the oncoming lane to go around the biker. I noted two things. First the car driver though being a young man in a muscle car (not to sound stereotypical) he obeyed the road rules and showed curtesy. Second the bike rider demonstrated an attitude unbecoming a cyclist and failed to set a good example. He rode as if he owned the road. Its little things like this that give drives a bad attitude toward bikes. We have to be on our best behavior all the time.
Half way, slow the pace, working together.
I ride with a Garmin 500 to record the ride and to entertain me with numbers. I like statistics, I’m a bit geeky that way. So I was keeping an eye on it when the Garmin showed me 32.5 miles. This should be the halfway point. I pulled over and let my buddies catch up. We were at just under 2 hours riding so far. That meant we were on schedule for a sub 4 hour metric century. Ok I know that’s not fast. I was thinking about it when they rolled up. I immediately saw the expressions on their faces. I knew right then that a sub 4 hour time would not happen. We never drop our riders on a group ride. In a race that is a different story. This was not a race. If it had been I would not have been leading. Some of our team is much younger (Ok all of them on this ride are younger) and faster than me. I was having a good day feeling strong and fast but one of our number was having a bad day. After taking a break for a few minutes we started out again with a more disciplined approach. On a ride like this when one guy is getting in trouble we treat him as team leader and he sets the pace. Like when you watch a pro bike race and the whole team is protecting the one rider. We each take turns at pulls but when we go into protection mode that rider gets to sit on. We never have to discuss it, we just do it, we just slip back in the pace line ahead of the designated man. Everyone seems to know and understand. I have been the designated man too many times. When every other rider is working extra to help get you home with the pack. You never do anything to make him feel like he is holding you up. This is what friendship and teamwork is all about. Working together so none of your people can fail.
Chipseal, Rest area four
We had resumed riding after our reorganization and we cranked along the central Texas farm to market roads. Most of these roads have been coated with “Chipseal”. If you are not familiar with “Chipseal” it is a cost effective way to seal the surface of a road to stop moisture from getting thru the cracks and under the pavement. Chipseal also adds traction for cars. Both of these extend the life of the road and this is good. I HATE CHIPSEAL!!! It leaves the road surface very rough. It makes for what is called heavy cycling roads. This requires you to work harder for every mile. The rough surface causes noticeable increases in vibration and rolling resistance for bicyclists. The constant vibrations take their toll. The joints start to become sore from the constant shaking. For me it’s the fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders that feel it most. After you have ridden on it for hours and you turn on to a smooth road the difference is startling. The world gets quitter. You feel like spinning the cranks a little faster. That’s about the time we reached Rest area four.
We again took a short break and refilled our bottles. They had cookies! I have a weakness for Oreo cookies. They had the little snack packs. I’m a big guy so each sandwich is just a bite size morsel of goodness. When riding a 65 mile bike ride you can get away with eating a bunch of cookies. They make quick fuel and last longer than gel packs.
The other guys used the restroom and we got ready to go. You do know that if you’re not drinking enough to have to use the restroom every couple of hours you’re likely getting dehydrated.
Rest area five
Roll out was downhill. That would not sound important but after 40+ miles it’s a nice benefit to getting started again. This took us along side of a creek for a few miles. Along the creeks is where the trees are. With the trees come some shade. Most of what we have ridden was between farmer’s crops. Really when you have passed a few thousand rows of corn it all starts to look kind of similar.
When we pulled into the next rest stop I put my bike in a rack to hold it. The LBS mechanic pointed out that when I did I had not noticed that I put my rear derailleur in a bind. It was nice of him to point it out in a friendly manor. We chatted about bikes. He noticed my deep gearing setup. He was a single speed man himself. His shop was in toward downtown and they specialize in town cruiser bikes and custom single speed bikes.
After filling up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sport drink it was time to go.
To the finish line
The last ten miles of any longish ride seems to be the longest. This is really true when it is about 16 or 17 miles. Each rest stop was about 10 miles apart. This put the last stop about mile 50, but the ride was to be 65. It took a long time, our pace was down, it was getting warm, and the hated Chipseal was taking a toll. We paused on one hill on the ride in to let one of the guys stretch out the beginnings of a cramp.
As we made the last push coming we could hear the announcer talking people in. You can tell when he really recognizes a rider or is just calling them in by looking up the rider’s number. It felt good when he called us in by our team colors and by name. He added a little personal comment about the team keeping together every year. It feels good that they remember you out of hundreds of riders.
After ride food
After the ride the organizers always have a post ride dinner for us. This time it was ok, like most of these things it must be hard to feed close to 1500 people over several hours of completions. We hung around long enough to see some of our friends make it in.
We compared what each of us recorded for route mileage. Mine was lowest and we took an average of the three and what the official route notes said. We think the ride was just over 67 miles not the 62 or 65 that some of the paperwork implied.
The ride home, Milkshakes or Beer
You know it was a long ride when the big decision is Milkshakes or Beer. You see after a medium ride a Beer really sounds good. When the ride gets longer, harder and hotter a Milkshake sure gets to sound wonderful. We chose to stop at a local burger place that is known for thick shakes that you can just barely suck thru a straw.
It was nice to have someone else drive so I got to take a nap.

A New Sunday morning route

17 Jun

I have been riding the same route on the Leon Creek Greenbelt for a long time. We will ride in different directions and in different orders to change it up. When you have ridden up and down what feels like a few hundred times it is time to do something else. I didn’t feel like I was making any real progress anymore. Yes I’m getting older and my sprint times are still averaging the same. I needed to progress or at least see some different scenery.
I chose to try something a little different. I have been thinking about a variety of routes. I finally settled on a route that would be reasonably fun and replicate the Tour de Gruene ITT route for training. They have a route that runs down River road then up a bunch of climbs. I found a route that runs up the north end of LCG under Loop 1604 and onto IH 10 west access road. The access road runs in front of the Rim shopping mall and out to Boerne stage rd. This first 10 miles is almost dead flat just 1% to 3% grades and equal down grades. The ride along the access road is delightful and fast. I looked down and saw speeds up to 24 mph (38 kph). Now at this time Boerne stage rd. is under construction and would be too dangerous for bike traffic. With a quick stop at Starbucks for a quick glass of Ice Coffee I was ready to go again. I opted to use Cielo Vista up to Babcock rd. For those who don’t know Cielo Vista this is one of our hardest local climbing roads. It starts out dead flat for maybe 200 yards/meters or so then swings up to 18.5% grade. From then on it stair steps from 3% to 11% grade without a level spot for a long while. Then a quick down grade that I got up to 32 mph (51 kph), this asphalt is a little too rough to go fast when you don’t know the road, and right back to 10% to 12% climbing over the second big hump. When you’re climbing that hard you feel like you’re going to die. When you hit the sections that slack off to just 3% grade it feels flat. I guess this is what they call a false flat. Just before you get to Babcock rd. you descend for a couple of hundred yards to the stop sign. This little drop allows you to recover just enough so you can look like it was no big deal to climb Cielo Vista. As all cyclist know, you must always make it look like the hardest climb was nothing. On Babcock rd. is always a number of riders, it’s a very popular riding road. So as I reached the stop sign two cyclists came by. I did my best to look like coming up Cielo Vista was easy, even though my chest was pounding and my legs ached. I turned southeast and started the first decent. This drops down and gives you an easy run to recover for a moment. Then you turn right on to Kyle Seale Parkway and soon it is right back to 10% climbing. This fist pull is long and hard. You can see way up the road and it looks like it goes on forever. If you push too hard there is a nice place to pull over just before the summit. Then across the top it is lumpy with short declines and sharp little 6% to 8% hills. Then down the long grades to the loop 1604 access road and a quick return to the house.
This ride is just 22 miles and has about 981 ft. of climbing (feels like a lot more). This will mimic the Tour de Gruene ITT course well (18.1 mi & 1063 ft. climbing, max 16.2%). The TdG ITT route is listed on Strava as segment “Pain Cave: Tour de Gruene ITT” so you can look it up if you like. If I can do this on Sunday mornings most weeks until the race I may be strong enough to not be dead last in my age group again.
This is a very good ride for a Sunday morning. I saw almost as many bikes as cars the whole morning. It is very light traffic. For those who don’t live close by there is ample parking at the park-n-ride lot under the bridges of Loop 1604 and IH 10. If you start here you lose my five miles of LCG but gain a couple coming back from Kyle Seale Parkway north on the loop 1604 access rd. so I would think it would be about 18 miles round trip. For my first trip around it was a slow ride, avg 13.9 mph taking just over an hour and a half. I can see where I can do a lot better. If I can catch a few of the lights green (I would never run a red light, yah right) it will help a little. They are very long lights. It would really help if I had a fellow rider along. But the other side of the coin is if I’m training for ITT then I really do need to do it by myself. So the plan is to get out and suffer a little each Sunday morning. It will do the soul good and maybe the waistline some good also. When you see an old guy who is a bit too fat that looks like he is suffering, shout him some encouragement. Who knows It could be me getting ready for my one race a year.

Weather improving, Leaves on the trees.

5 Mar

Like almost everyone in the northern hemisphere we have had our fill of winter weather. In South Texas we have very mild winters. A few overnight freezes each year is all we get. This year we had freezing rain and sleet a couple of times. Now it is March, our last freeze is historically March 1. I always look for the trees to start putting out leaves to know spring is here. It is said that the Mesquite tree is never wrong. If the Mesquite is putting out leaves then the last freeze is past. We had a shot of cold the last couple of nights but the weatherman is forecasting warming next week. This means it’s time to move the pants out of the garage and to get on the bike again. If you have looked at my Strava (JeffBike) you will see I have gotten a few little rides in. Saturday afternoon I spent some time getting bikes ready for the season. Just the usual stuff like fixing flats, juicing MtBike tires with Stans, adjusting gears and breaks. It is a nice way to spend a couple of hours tinkering in the garage. For those who live up north (any thing north of Austin) this is your wake up call to start thinking about riding plans, getting your bikes ready and like me time to start shedding winter fat like our winter clothes.

Lunch Time Walk

20 Feb

I have started to walk about 20 minutes at lunch. It’s a quick 10 minutes to a Bar-B-Q restaurant a few blocks from the office. I like it because the food is decent and a reasonable price.
Lunch Salad
As you see it is not just Bar-B-Q.
I do enjoy good food so you may notice this dinner the other night.
photo Salmon Dinner
A good friend made the fantastic Salmon dinner. I think a nice bottle of wine should go with dinner. I submit Duckhorn
This Duckhorn is very nice and very cost effective.

Eat smart, ride (walk) more and enjoy friends, live life fully.

Tour de Cure 2014

7 Feb

Today begins the 2014 Tour de Cure fund raising drive. Three of the last four years I have had the privilege to help this cause and to ride the tour each year. We are going for it again! So if any of you are going to be in South Texas on May 10, 2014. Please JOIN the Tour de Cure. If you’re not a cyclist that’s OK also. You can join the fight by sponsoring my ride. If each person donates $10 or more we can reach or exceed the goal quickly. Any amount will help and be greatly appreciated. If you will please follow the link below to the donation page. For those in or coming by the KM Builders office you can make a check or cash donation if you don’t want to use a card online.

Many of you my friends have supported this ride in years past and I want to thank you once again for that. It is a new opportunity to do a little good. Please support my efforts and give generously. Thank you for taking the time and putting forward your donations to demonstrate how you care for others.

Back in the Saddle again.

13 Jan

When I have been off the bike for a while I find it almost thrilling to get back in the saddle again. I did my regular riding through October until November 2, 2013. Then I went to Boston to see my son then to Oregon to visit friends. After this the weather and shorter days have kept me off the bike. I only got one ride in December on the 2nd. Yes I admit it I am a fair weather rider. I finally got a nice afternoon January 9th and could take some time before it got dark to get a little ride in. It was great! The weather was very pleasantly in the low 60’. I meet up with Gary my riding buddy and we were able to lay down a few miles before it got dark. Right after we got started, when I only had about 2 miles in to get warmed up, he sprinted out hard. Gary laid down a sprint challenge that I couldn’t resist. I have been known to be a bit competitive. I went down to the drops and visualized myself as Mark Cavendish. It was a short lived sprint. It was not about the distance it was all about the intensity, the assault on pure speed. I flicked up thru the gears. I dug deep for power in each peddle stroke. I was gaining on him with each yard covered. Speed jumping up from about 13 or 14 mph to a max of 28.9 mph. I edged past him, pulling out a wheel on him. Then he knew it was over, he was not going to catch me. When my back wheel passed he quit and sat up.
When I saw I alone I backed off to 18 or 19 mph. Gary soon caught up and we continued our friendly afternoon ride. We settled down to a nice easy 15 to 17 mph pace. We can hold this pace comfortably and carry on a conversation. We spent the next 11 or 12 miles catching up with each other. We talked about what we had been doing in the last few weeks since we had not been riding. Generally visiting as good friends should. This is what my bike riding is really about. Spending some time with a good friend, getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors.
When we got around our route to get back to his car I dropped him off and headed home myself. From the drop off point back to my house is another 7 miles. The sun was getting very low very quickly. With the sun setting the temperature was dropping. It was in to the high 50’. This is not bad but I was in bib shorts and a short sleeve summer weight jersey. I tried to push the pace a little so I would be home before it got too dark.
I was getting cool, not yet cold. I knew when the sun dropped I was going to get cold right away. As I pushed toward home the legs began to feel heavy. I knew right then that it was the effect of not riding. Only one ride in 10 weeks is not keeping in shape. My weight is up by about 9 or 10 pounds since August. So all this comes together. I humped it on home, making it just as it is getting dark. Well just after dark. As a kid we judged that it was time to go in the house when the street lights came on. That was how we judged that it was officially dark. As I turn on to the last block I noticed the street light was on. It was not the dim flickering light of when they first come on but it was the strong light like it had been on some time.
By the time I got in the house I was chilled cold. Not the frozen you get when the weather is really cold. It was the bone chill of that cool damp feeling. Heading in for a hot shower that I knew would feel so fine. Stripping off my damp jersey and shorts I could tell the skin on my legs and arms was cold to the touch. In almost 23 miles I had drank less than ½ of a bottle of water. On a hot day I would likely do 3 or maybe 4 bottles in that distance. Here in south Texas it can easily be over a hundred degrees and humid on top of that. This day when I parked it the temperature was down to about 55’.
With the exertion after not having ridden in a long time, carrying too much body weight, not having warmed up, the cold coming back and I failed to stretch after my ride. Later that night you know what happened. My lower back seized up. The muscles went in to a spasm. Now I hurt so bad I can hardly move. If I sit for a time I can’t get up or walk. I’m currently looking for an opportunity to get another ride in to work this stiffness out.

Cycle then Recycle

13 Dec

It has come to my attention that all carbon fiber bikes have a flaw. They are wonderfully light and stiff. They are comfortable and fast. They don’t even rust or corrode when they get wet. They look cool with the smooth shapes and they make little sounds that remind you they are carbon. In short they are very well designed and professionally built to the highest standards thus they are a marvelous work of engineering and art. I want one so bad! Can you tell?

The issue I have with carbon fiber bicycle frames is they have a limited lifespan. True that lifespan may be fairly long if the bike is ridden well within the original design limits and never crashed. Eventually like every bike, even the high end supper bikes will come to the end of the service life. It may be of no fault of the owner. Newer better models eclipse the older ones making them obsolete. Old bikes get handed down to new riders and find life extension this way. But all bikes have an end of lifespan at some point.

What happens to old bike frames? Old steel, aluminum and titanium can all be recycled more or less. That’s not so easy with a carbon fiber product. Used carbon fiber has little or no value as a recycled product. With no intrinsic value there is little or no impetus to recycle it. There are few uses for recycled carbon fiber because it is a specific use product. It is made to do one thing and it dose that very well, but when it is recycled it loses its biggest advantage. Its high strength to weight ratio is lost. What happens to them? Most will likely find their way to some over filled land fill dump. This adds just one more piece of junk to the mountain of waste.

Have you ever noticed that almost nothing carbon fiber for consumer use is produced in this country? Yes some very fine high end items are produced but few of those are consumer products. Like most industrially advanced countries they have advanced environmental laws. These strict laws and guidelines control the production of potentially hazardous by-products and waste products. These laws add significant expense to the cost of a product. Parts for the aero-space or motorsports can be priced to account for these cost increases. Products for which the consumer is paying the price it is a global price war and the all mighty dollar rules.

Carbon fiber is a composite of various chemical compounds as a plastic resin that is combined with carbon or graphite fibers to form a ridged structure. The production of the end product may generate a significant waste stream and some of it could be very hazardous. Yes it is up to the manufacturer to run a clean and efficient operation. It is up to governments and the agencies they create to make sure that the waste and by-products are reused or disposed of in an ecologically responsible way. All manufactured products have the potential to generate a hazardous waste stream. It is up to the end user to decide “Do I really need a carbon fiber product? Do I feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives? Do I think another product may be a more responsible choice?” We as consumers have the final say in the use of carbon fiber in our products. We decide what the manufacture will build by what we buy. They won’t build it if nobody is buying it.
This has been an exercise in considering the pros and cons of the use of carbon fiber in bicycles. This was for me to help me think thru the logic of being responsible as balanced by desire. You and I are likely to take different views on such things. As for me I think yes to consumer products of carbon fiber. In all honesty I want a carbon fiber bike frame. I must in the interest of full disclosure (even though I’m not required to by anyone and it my blog so I can say what I want) I admit I have carbon fiber wheels, handle bars, fork and seat post on my road bike. If I get a good used carbon fiber frame then at least I will be extending the service life as long as possible. I hope that counts as being responsible and not just that I’m cheap.

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