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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Relegated for bad behavior

So it was another crazy week of work.  Tuesday was the short day with only 10 hours at the hospital.  That meant I could get out for the ride from Helotes.   With 70 hours at the hospital there wasn't time for much else.  Thursday was the longest day with 18 hours at work then 4 brief hours of sleep punctuated by unnecessary pages from work.  After not seeing my wife and kids all week I was lucky to have been given the time to ride this weekend.  Of course, by now my wife knows if I don't ride things only get worse.  I tried to earn my rides by putting in some solid efforts on the household chores and extra daddy time, so it was not entirely taken for granted.

Tuesday's ride had a modest showing.  We cruised down 1560 to Galm with Ed doing the bulk of the work.  RD put in a decent pull to get things started on Galm before I lit into a 2+ mile effort down the rest of Galm edging in on a 28mph average at 360W.  It felt good.  Strava tells me it's the second fastest I've been down this road but there was no tailwind and no shared effort so it was certainly the hardest I've worked on that road except when trying to chase down the group after showing up late to the ride!

Early on it was pretty clear that there were not many ready to work for the group.  From Galm on it was pretty much me, RD, and Greg doing the pacemaking on the front in that order. Half way up 211 RD and I were trading pulls and when I pulled off he let us all know how he felt about the inequities in workload distribution, "It can't be the same three f***ing people pulling the whole time!  Somebody else needs to come forward..."  Of course the only one dumb enough to answer that call was Ed, who had uncharacteristically been hiding mid pack.  After doing more than my fair share of work on the front I got edged out of position by one rider who had strategically avoided doing any work all day while simultaneously putting himself comfortably in the front third of the group.  As he shouldered past me I couldn't help but remind him not to push to the front if he wasn't prepared to pull when he got there.  He either didn't hear or didn't care to acknowledge my sage advice.  Shortly after that he was dropped.  Karma, it's a bitch.  Riders making the selection on the last climb over 211 were Tim, Ed, Greg, and myself.  Ed took a flyer up the San Geronimo climb after we turned onto 16.  Tim chased him down and the two of them opened a little gap.  Greg and I chased them down once we were over the top and RD and one of the other Bicycle Heaven guys clawed their way back on about halfway back to Helotes.    It was a great ride with some solid efforts and we were rewarded by the satisfaction of dropping the dead weight in the group.

Another plus to the ride was that Dan, who I rode with a couple months ago, came out.  Dan's wife is in the Air Force and they just moved back from England where the spent 3 years just I my family and I had done.  We had some good mutual friends there but didn't overlap time spent overseas.  Dan is the founder of Fulcrum Coaching, and from my brief discussion with him after the ride he really seems to know his stuff and brings a realistic and practical approach to coaching athletes who have to balance training with family, work, and other responsibilities.

Saturday I dragged myself out of bed and up to Bullis County Park.  Normally I would ride the 16 miles out there and back and make an 80 mile ride out of it but with the week I'd had at work I needed every minute of sleep I could get before ride and every minute at home for daddy duties and chores after the ride.  On the drive out to the ride I was happy to see Warren on the road, easily recognized by the banana in his kit.  And by that I mean the banana he carries in his left jersey pocket.  I don't look for peoples bananas south of the equator.

When I got to the start I thought I'd be clever and start my Garmin so it could find satellites and stuff while I got the rest of my crap together.  I set it on the rear bumper, got my shoes, helmet, and bottles together.  I got the bike off the car and shut the hatch of my VW Golf.  I was about to set off when I realized I didn't have my Garmin.  I turned around and reached for it.  There it was, snugly lodged between the closed hatch and the rear bumper.  When I tugged on it and it didn't dislodge I knew the end result couldn't be good.  I lifted the hatch and saw the damage:  a vertical crack the length of the screen.  Life tax.  It's perfectly functional but I was worried that the first time I ride in the rain it'll be game over for the Garmin.  I think I got it sealed up pretty well.  Time will tell.

The ride got started but I didn't see Warren.  5 miles into the ride he made the catch.  I haven't seen too much of him recently which is likely the result of my work schedule and the fact that he now has a coach so he gets to do "workouts" instead of "rides".  Warren and I pulled hard the length of Spring Branch Rd, dropping the rest of the pack except Andy and Steve.  Yeah, Warren and I are not always the most popular when we both show up at a "group" ride.  In my eyes it was a great stay together ride.  At least it was for the four of us that, um, stayed together. The rest of the group clearly doesn't understand this "stay together" and "no drop" concept because they did not manage to stay together as a result of getting themselves dropped.  The four of us in the lead did not have these same problems.  I just call it like I see it.

It was a little more sedate after the rest stop.  I put in a dig over the top of the climb on 311, just for funsies and hard pull at 29mph down Upper Smithson Valley for 2-3 miles.  The pace let up a bit when I pulled off and I think there would have been a KOM in there if we had kept it up.

Sunday was out modified Woman Hollering Creek Ride.  It was a small turnout but we had a group of 6 riders including Joe F, who I've followed on Strava but never ridden with.  Now Joe showed up at the start of the ride and came over to where John an I were parked and asked if we were part of the same group as the other riders.  If there's one thing I can say for the SA Wheelmen is that they are a diverse group of riders.  According to Joe, we looked a bit more serious than the others.  Joe had come out intent on doing the 70 mile option which really never gets ridden.  He looked a little disheartened when he saw the rest of us were heading out for 50.  It's a necessary part of group riding to find out what others are made of.  After a few gentle warm up miles I put in a couple a couple of miles at 24ish mph.  All was well.  Joe took a nice steady pull at 22 or so, in line with what the rest of the group was going.  When we turned onto Santa Clara John got a started with a gentle acceleration to 21mph, when he pulled off I picked up the pace a bit.  We hammered for 4 or 5 miles and I picked up a nice KOM for John in the process.  That's a downside of pulling the pack on Strava.  You can do all the work and somebody else gets the KOM.  It's OK.  I got over it with very few tears.  *sniff*

At the rest stop Joe congratulated the effort and introduced himself to me.  When I introduced myself as Tristan he said,"Wait, are you Tristan Handler?"  Apparently my reputation precedes me.  Actually, a little bit ago I got a notice on Strava that Joe was following me (similar to a friend request on Facebook).  I returned the favor, so we'd been following each other but never met.  I didn't know, at the time, why he was following me but apparently I ride on some of the roads he frequents and he sees me on the leaderboards on segments.  Joe felt better about the 50 mile option, acknowledging that if he'd known the pace he might not have wanted to do 70 miles.  As John put it, sometimes we make up for distance with pace.

Over the next 30 miles or so we had a more relaxed pace at the request of John.  I tried to keep things more mellow but at one point John pulled alongside me, assumed the lead and then eased off the pace.  I knew I'd pushed too hard.  It was not intentional.  Still, I pulled off and drifted to the back.  Relegated to the back of the paceline for unchecked exuberance.  It happens.  I wouldn't do that for everybody but I hold John in higher regard than most.  Towards the end of the ride John sat up to ride in with Steve G who was riding fast today but still doesn't have the stamina he would like.

Well, that's it.  Three rides, a bunch of work. zero photos.  I spared you the details of the 7 year old's birthday party I had to attend and other wonderful details.  Tomorrow starts another week with two days on call.  It's not clear if I will be able to ride midweek or not but I'll certainly try.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

We may not have our health but at least we've got our lives.

What a long week!  I owe my three readers an apology for not posting in 8 days.  I never got around to posting last weekend's rides.  That was followed by a crazy work week that started with an 18 hour day on Monday.

Last Saturday's ride was in Cibolo.  I was pretty tired when I got to the ride after dragging Noah through the Hill Country on the tandem the day before.  John was still resting his sore hip/butt so I didn't think it would be a very spirited ride.  Boy, was I wrong.  There was a tandem that met up with us in the first mile or two.  I'd ridden with the captain before.  The most recent was probably the Fiesta Wildflower ride.  He was pretty strong on a single but he and his stoker (his girlfriend I think) were a phenomenal tandem team.  They were lightning fast on the flats and downhills but didn't lose too much momentum on the uphills.

Several miles into the ride the pace started picking up.  Heading up Green Valley Drive after crossing 1103 I felt the group start to slip past me a bit and it seemed like it was going to be a long painful ride.  The tandem team was doing some of the pacemaking.  I had a quick moment of reflection and introspection and decided to power through.  I also had to find out just how strong the tandem team was.  I moved to the front, basically put in a 17 mile pull, averaging 22 mph or so, while dragging the others behind me.  To my surprise the tandem stayed with us the whole time.  We were shedding riders off the back and the group was whittled down to 5 or 6.  When we got to the rest stop I mentioned to the tandem team that they reminded me of my wife and I on the tandem.  We used to go out on the same ride and light it up.  The captain asked why she doesn't ride and I  just said she was having getting through some health issues but would be back out on the bike as soon as she could.  He said he'd be praying for her.  I guess that can't hurt.  Then he told me he used to ride with his wife until she died when she was hit by a car.  All of a sudden any problems my wife or I had seemed pretty minor.

While the tandem had stayed with us to the rest stop, despite my best Jens Voight impression, Tim, Kelley, and Jack didn't fare so well.  The 5 or 6 of us in the front honestly had no idea that Tim had punctured early in the ride.  It was his first of three for the day.  Time for new tires?  When they did get to the rest stop Kelley had some choice words for me as she was under the impression that we rode away from them knowing that there was a flat.  Her bitter words stung.  They cut deep.  I am nearly finished writing my hurt feelings report and I will promptly submit it.

The second half of the ride I had intended on going easily and the first 5 miles or so I tried to sit in a bit or do only gentle pulls at the front.  Heading down Gold Dust I started getting annoyed by a couple of riders who ride on the North East side.  I call them the Hammer Nutrition guys because that's what is usually plastered all over their jerseys.  They are fairly strong riders but have no idea how to ride in a group.  They almost never pull.  When they decide to pull they come racing around the group from the rear and ride clear off the front.  This is always a solo event by one of them, they don't even work well within their own breed.  They end up 10-15 meters off the front of the group, nobody benefits from any draft.  Within 30 seconds of pushing into the wind they decide it's not that much fun and sit up, drifting to the back again.  When they are feeling frisky they will repeat this exercise 2 minutes later with comparable results.  In the middle of 5 mile long pulls at 22-25 mph this is not what I wanted to deal with.  Towards the end of the ride when I had sat up to cool down and we had a rotating paceline these antics continued and were equally unwelcome. Group riding is a skill they have not mastered.  It's perfectly acceptable to ride fast but you have to do so in a manner that is beneficial to the group as a whole.  To date, Kelley is the only one who has openly told them what other's think of their riding style.  Good for her.  My solution was to put myself on the front and push the pace.  They would still occasionally take a flyer past me but I never altered my speed, never tried to grab their wheel.  Within 30 seconds they were slowing down and I would ride past them at a constant speed.  If you see these jerseys on the road on the San Antonio-New Braunfels corridor, you have been warned.

You can follow the playback of the ride here, including each of the long stops for Tim, Kelley, and Jack when Tim punctured.  Hammer Nutrition antics are not featured.

Needless to say I was pretty beat at the end of this one. You can see that in the pictures. I probably pulled for more than 40 of the 52 miles of the ride and we averaged 21.2mph.  I think my son was still tired from the ride the day before, also shown in the pictures.

Sunday, after 2 days of hard riding and probably staying up a bit past my bedtime, I wasn't exactly hot to trot.  I had agreed to take it easy because it was John's first ride out with the big boys since his injury.  I had told myself I wasn't going to pull all day.  That's hard for me to do.  I nearly succeeded.  Sitting in a group spinning along doesn't seem like as much fun when you could be hammering at the front inflicting pain and suffering on the others.  Towards the end of the ride John was pulling and I was on his wheel.  When he pulled off what was I supposed to do?  Correct.  I was supposed to pull off and drift back with him and let somebody else pull.  Of course I couldn't do that.  I put in a 5 mile long tempo effort.  OK, maybe bordering on a threshold effort.  Most of the group stayed together and the pull was steady.  Still, Kelley fell off the back on a decent climb that has been a long time nemesis of hers.  Oops.

Sunday afternoon I set about moving some furniture because I had promised my wife I would get it done.  I strained my back in the process, L4 paraspinal muscles on the left.  That left me moving a little slow for the next couple of days.  The 18 hours at work Monday didn't help and Tuesday was another 15 hours.  All told it was a 70 hour work week over 5 days.  I missed the Tuesday ride due to work but I was intent on not missing Wednesday.  I made it out but between my sore back and John on the mend we had a pretty sedate ride.  Under 19mph is downright pokey for a Wednesday night ride.  We still had fun and we had little trouble keeping the group together.

With just one midweek ride we are back at today, Saturday.  It was the Toutant Mirror ride.  With the start being so close to the house I rode over there.  The last time we did this ride it was a big crowd.  John and I added some miles to turn it into 80+ but it likely would have been nearly 70 anyway.  The turnout was smaller today.  John and I pulled the peloton around for the first 20 miles or so.  At that point it was noted that we had a rider or two off the back.  I sat up and waited for one of them and we rode into Bulverde together.  I think I've seen him out on a couple of our rides.  In the off chance that he reads this I will say that with a few more miles in his legs I don't think he'd have a problem hanging with the group.  Hopefully we'll see him out on some more rides.  Overall my legs didn't feel good today and I think it was the long work week catching up with me.  I probably could have used the miles but I opted to head home the short way to attend to my parental responsibilities.

There was a serious fashion faux pas at the beginning of the ride when Regina and Kelley showed up in the same jersey.

Jersey Girls

Of course, Brian had just purchased a SA Wheelmen Jersey (a timeless classic) and I happened to be wearing mine today so I shouldn't be casting stones at the ladies.

Jersey Boys

To avoid any appearance of bias based on race, religion, or species:

Jersey Cows
As we were finishing the ride I had another one of my brilliant ideas.  We were riding through Fair Oaks Ranch which is overrun by deer.  We had just spooked a small fawn with spots, similar to the one that ran across the road and took out my front wheel about 8 or 9 years ago.  That's when it hit me: Vealison!  Venison meat from young deer, similar to veal from cows.  We could call it vealison and it would be tender and delicious.  We would start with caged deer, of course.  Vealison would not be sold cheap but once we established a market we would add a line of free range vealison and charge a premium for it.  Organic, hormone, antibiotic free varieties are a given.  I may have an investor lined up already.  He is a manufacturer and purveyor of specialized equipment for the slaughter of fawns.  I guess he's got some skin in the game already.

OK, I made up that last bit about the investor.  I also looked on the interwebs and I am not, unfortunately, the first person to use the term vealison.  Apparently it is a term that hunters use when they have killed a small or young deer.

Back to the drawing board.  How about a fondu restaurant? It could specialize in serving wild game you could cook at the table in a fondu pot.  Our specialty would be Vealison.  Naturally, we'd call the restaurant Fawndu.  (drum roll...rim shot)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Riding for 'Murica

Time to celebrate America's birthday.  So, just as Paul Revere rode through the New England countryside on his penny farthing warning of the impending invasion of the British and their insistence on riding in full pro team regalia, even if its a ride down to market on a cruiser with balloon tires, I rode.

*I am not a history major.  Artistic liberties may have been exercised.

I rode from Fredericksburg, universally regarded as cycling central of the German Hill Country.  Well, universally with the exception of those in Wimberley.  The SA Wheelmen have an annual ride there on July 4th.  I brought Noah and we rode the tandem almost 50 miles.  On the way up there he peppered me with the wonderful (wonder filled?) questions of a 7 year old, such as:

1. Why don't cats like to swim?
2. How can you tell if a dog or cat is a girl or a boy?
3. Are there any such thing as green poodles?

I believe that last question was prompted by the false belief of a naturally occurring pink poodle.

When we started riding the questions largely ceased.  We rolled out of town pretty easily but about 3-4 miles in we were climbing up Old Mason Rd. I was having a hard time keeping with the group.  I try not to badger Noah too much about pushing hard.  I'm just glad to be out there with him.  Still, I had a hunch he might not have been pulling his full weight, let alone any of mine.  I think most of the time he kind of day dreams on the tandem and lets his feet go around in circles.  Tandems don't climb well to begin with and it's easy for a moderately strong rider on a single to out-climb even a decent captain/stoker team on a tandem.  Throw in a 7 year old, a child stoker kit with its added weight and drivetrain friction, a rear rack and bag and you're talking about a sisyphean task with the bike and boy playing the role of the boulder.

I rode hard, keeping the group within sight on the straights and pulling back a little bit of time on the downhills before losing that time plus a little more on each climb.  There was one particularly long (for south central Texas) climb which forced us into the granny gear and slowed us to about 5-6mph.  We lost a bit of time to the group on this one but it was just before the rest stop so we caught up with them there.  When we got to the top I was barely able to force some words from my heaving lungs while also suppressing the urge to vomit.  "Tough.....hill.....huh?" It was all I could manage.  Noah chirped up, "Mmmm, yeah, it was pretty hard.  I guess."  No hard breathing from him.  Hmmmmm.  This doesn't sound like a very equitable relationship.

On the way back from the rest stop we had a 4 mile climb and there was no way I was going to keep up with the group after pushing hard for 30+ miles already and still weighed down by my beast of burder. (The bike not the boy.  Jeesh.)

We kind of spun at our own speed.  We still averaged 17.5 mph for 48 miles with a decent number of hills.  Not too bad.  When Noah gets a bit older/stronger/taller and I can take off the child stoker kit we are going to fly.  After that he'll be on his own single kicking his dad's butt.

I wanted to put in a quick shout out for a Strava feature which may still be in beta testing.  It's called Strava Activity Playback.  Basically, you enter in the link to your ride on Strava and Strava will show you who you rode with, who you passed, who crossed paths with you, etc.  Let's say you were dropped on your group ride and the guys who finished ahead of you are hanging out by their cars with their feet up, drinking a cold one, and trying to convince you that they've been back for "like 30 or 40 minutes, dude."  Well, punch up your ride on Strava Activity Playback and you can see exactly when they finished.  It was probably 5 minutes and they busted their buts to get cleaned up and catch their breaths to make it look like they had been relaxing for a while.  People do that stuff sometimes.  Not that I would know anything about that.  An even better use would be the following scenario:  You are busting your butt up a climb with sweat and sunscreen streaming into your eyes, blinding you, when you come around a hairpin turn and suddenly another rider comes tearing down the hill.  In your weakened condition you don't even have time to recognize the blur of a rider before they are gone and out of site.  You think it was one of your friends but you are not sure.  Punch up your ride on Strava Activity Playback and you can see who passed you and where.

Here's my ride from today.  You can see that John went out in a different direction for a shorter ride.  You can see where the 35 mile and 50 mile routes split and who went which way.  You can see that Noah and I were never too far behind the main group.  Vindication.  That's really what it's all about.

I got some pictures from the ride.  Not too many.  I think I was working to hard and it would have been mainly pictures of Noah and I as we chased the others.  I also got some pictures of my patriotic flower bed in the light of day.