Bertram Loop 28.5 miles — so much data, so little time

Click here to view the online dataset for Bertram Loop 28.5 miles at Garmin Connect

It’s just one of at least 3 places I save data from runs and rides.  The Garmin Forerunner 305 “sport watch” comes with it’s own software, then there is Sporttracks and its various add-ons that escalates the amount of data analysis and logging, and now this site. I had forgotten about Garmin Connect until Don Bynum posted a “like” on Facebook to another person’s track. Continue reading “Bertram Loop 28.5 miles — so much data, so little time”

New ride distance for me, and new route – beautiful cycling weather

Working steadily toward my goal of riding 67 miles on my 67th birthday, Don and I had a great 44 mile ride today. It was a new area for me — West Lake Buchanan around the back way to Llano and back. Started off in 56 degree weather with my new cold weather duds from Performance Bicycle and was comfortable the whole way. Riding through the winter is now assured.  It was also a new distance for me as my prior longest trek had been 32 miles. Continue reading “New ride distance for me, and new route – beautiful cycling weather”

I do love October

As long as you can sneak in between the little cold fronts that start whipping down this way, October in Central Texas is a month during which you can do just about anything outdoors you think you’re big enough to do.  Well, maybe not a lot of swimming. Like yard work (yuk!), motorcycling, fishing, running, and today it was perfect for a bike ride on a new route. Continue reading “I do love October”

Castell in October — a bicycle odyssey for BBQ and beer

My good friend Don Bynum continues to organize bicycle rides that are hard to pass up.  One might think that if you had a 12 day layoff from workouts, you might, or might not, be up for a 36 miles ride … over hills.  Or, on the other hand, you might glibly minimize the situation then facing your 66 year old body.  Taking the latter approach, and with excitement as Ralph and Sherry picked me up early on Saturday morning (10/23) there was nothing that could hold me back.

About a dozen of us gathered at the Castell General Store and were greeted by the bard thereof, the famous (in his own mind) Randy Leifeste.  Check Don’s ride report for a starting group picture.  Don also has some sobering thoughts and suggestions at the end of his report about the exercise and health issues facing all of us.  My own starting photo was thus:

In front of the Castell General Store

Note the proper equipment is in place, I’m nattily attired, and obviously ready to go.  I’m on the trusty Peugeot Triathon bike, Osprey Raptor-14 hydration pack on my back with my Garmin Forerunner 305 sportwatch, and the Garmin Oregon GPS on the handlebars.  The Oregon is easier for getting a quick peek at the trip data or map.  Both the Forerunner and Oregon read my heart rate from the HR strap around my chest.  All of that results in a potpourri of statistics to later be recorded and analyzed in the SportTracks program.

The group was immediately strung out and I’m always impressed with this bunch of riders in the way they ride single-file. I see so many groups with riders two and three-abreast which is rude and dangerous. The round-trip route ending up back in Castell was chosen for very clever and quite obvious reasons:  that’s where the BBQ and beer would be at the end of the ride!  After all, this IS the Tour de Longneques — October edition.  Don’s wife Peggy was there driving SAG as usual along with his wonderful mother Ann.  I think Mrs. Bynum comes along simply to marvel at her plausibly foolish son and his classmate since not only is she Don’s mother, but was an English teacher when we were in high school and although (unfortunately) I did not have her as a teacher, I suspect I was a known quantity to her from “back then.”  The route lays mainly East-West (a fact which will later come to be important):

Bike route in Yellow, old kayak route in Blue

The temperature was about 74 degrees, a bit of cloud cover, a very light breeze, and just overall great conditions.  We did encounter a bit more traffic than usual — it’s almost deer season and those camps and deer blinds are being spruced up for the impending season.  It’s a good road, 152, with a decent surface although the rock-seal is sometimes rough. The ride to Llano was uneventful for me. In fact, it seemed easy. Overall it is downhill but only by about 250 feet total change in elevation.  The rhythm of the pedals going round and round was punctuated by the nylon shorts I had on top of my natty bicycling shorts.  Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, over and over again.  The cadence was steady and strong.  My Osprey pack with three liters of water gave me a steady and safe swallow of water and contained the goodies I would enjoy at the rest stop in Llano.

Photo by Peggy Bynum catches me and Sherry Macfarlane just a few miles outside of Castell

Peggy Bynum did her usual “race ahead to a photo opportunity” routine to catch good photos of the riders. She manages to get some of everyone and is always there in case someone crashes:  either their bike or their body. Don’s ride report has a lot of good photos posted within it.

I made a mental note (one of a series) to get Mike McKenna (of MikesBikes) to do that conversion to put my shifters up on the handlebars. Every time I reached down to shift I would wobble a bit and each reach carries the possibility of getting my fingers into the spokes of the front wheel. Gotta get that done.

In front of Llano courthouse

I wound up in Llano in pretty good time (1:19:03) and not too beat — notwithstanding the helmet-hair (non-hair?) shown in this self-portrait (sure wish the DROID X had a front-facing camera — the only thing of which I’m jealous of the iPhone).  After a banana, some nuts, a few good swigs of water and brief enjoying of the band that was playing some nice country in the gazebo on the courthouse lawn, I was ready to go.  Sherry made fun of my pack with all of the stuff I was pulling from it.  A few riders had already taken off, and others were just arriving as I slipped my feet into the pedal baskets.  Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as the nylon shorts again counted out the cadence.  I rotated the crank pretty briskly all the way to the city park/fair grounds thinking I would overtake one of the clusters of riders, but they were nowhere in sight.

At about 5 miles out, after several short but steep climbs I was getting some leg fatigue and stopped for a couple of minutes but was able to strike out again at a decent clip. Another 3 miles and I needed a rest and then another 2 miles after that I was beginning to get cramps in the left leg. Over the next 4 miles my average speed was steadily dropping as I just did not have full power with the left leg.  At about 32 miles Peggy was sitting at a turnout and I seized the opportunity to get a ride the rest of the way.  I felt like I could struggle through it but decided that brains needed to trump testosterone!

The wind was predicted to be out of the SSE. Turns out that on the way back toward Castell — a predominantly East-to-West route — it was more like out of the SSW which put it  more into our faces. Everyone struggled with the wind which was both strong and gusty. One gust almost put me into the weeds off the edge of the road.  Added to the hills as shown in the elevation profile from the Garmin Oregon GPS device, the wind just added too much for me.

The group still let me have a beer and the always delicious BBQ!  That came after the ribbing and the pointer that I should have had Peggy drop me just outside of town, around the bend out of sight and then ride in  🙂

A fun day and thanks again to Don for trying to kill me!  And as always, the vital stats:

Total distance:  31.1 miles in 2:28 (time moving), total 2:48.
Moving average speed just under 13mph.
Heart rate avg/max:  130/160

I think that maximum heart rate is probably my target max for training purposes. For running, it’s 200. Interesting (at least to me).

The SportTracks program shows total 3:08 moving, but that includes the Llano stop which was recorded as a lap.  Here is the documentation output from SportTracks, which gives a huge amount of analytical power to what the Garmin Forerunner gathers:

SportTracks (via an optional plug-in) produces a really detailed summary plus details of the entire workout. On the left you see the overall summary plus the splits, and on the right you see the heart rate plotted with speed.  The last page, below right, has the elevation. Those three charts can be used to show what runs up the heart rate, how you are doing on climbs, and along with the split times and data, can tell you even more than I know how to interpret.

Adventure meets ability

I’ve always been adventuresome in spirit but rarely acted on it except in spurts. As a young boy I think I had the typical fantasies ranging from being a swash-buckling pirate to a “spaceman” (yes, that was before the term “astronaut” was coined), to a fireman and so on. Having originally been an electrical engineering major in college and later getting my degree in accounting, I was immersed in the more “stoic” part of our population.

Times gradually bent me toward outdoor interests more and more. While in the Navy another young officer and I took USO-supplied bicycles (3-speed touring bikes with fat tires) from Sasebo, Japan to the resort city of Karatsu. Upon embarking, we had no clue that there were seven mountains in between! Adventure met ability head-on that day, but that’s another story in itself.

The years from then to the current period have seen backpacking, running, motorcycle enduros, water and snow-skiing, instrument flying, long-distance motorcycle touring and camping, kayaking and more.

Having recently gotten serious about running and recently rediscovering the joy of cycling, it seemed an obvious transition to get my mountain bike (a classic, Trek 850 Antelope) fixed up and so when I headed to Arkansas to the Ouachita Mountains, taking the mountain bike was a no-brainer. After a brief warm-up the day before, Bill and I set out to explore the Lake Ouachita Vistas Trail which follows the shoreline of Lake Ouachita in Southwestern Arkansas, and promised not only a great outdoors experience but a “doable” mountain bike experience for a couple of novices.

The overview chart shows Denby Bay (trailhead P1B) to Tompkins Bend (trailhead P3) to be a mere 5 miles. Why we had ridden 4 miles just the day before so we would no doubt simply ride that portion, then on around the loop, meandering at will, for as many miles as we felt like. Cooler and more cautious heads did prevail and we dropped a car at the Homestead trailhead as a midpoint location which would be handy AFTER the extended loop we planned.

The trail started off with a gradual climb from the cove of Lake Ouachita and was quickly enveloped in a lush forest of pines and hardwoods. The trail was generally smooth with a few small rocks peeking above the leafy floor of the forest. There was little underbrush that might otherwise have been grazing our legs.

Gil at an overlook at Lake Ouachita

There were some nice vistas like this point overlooking the lake. There were several of these side trails that take the rider out near the lake. Lake Ouachita is quite large with a shoreline covered in the green of the forest, yielding only slightly to give a beach shoreline.

Then the trail began to dip a bit and then some gentle climbs appeared. This is great, I thought, and just knew Bill too was feeling like the 5 miles to Tompkins Bend would be largely uneventful.  Suddenly, without much time to think about it we were plunged into a gulley and pedaling up the other side I was surprised by how much effort it required. Oh, right, gears. Wrong gear. OK, next one would be a piece of cake. Down another — this time more of a ravine — with some speed and momentum to carry me at least part way up the other side. Pedaling again now, rapidly. Quite rapidly. Nothing happening as I’m too fast for the granny gear into which I had shifted. But not to worry as the momentum died off and my speed dropped, now my pedaling was very much needed — and moderately effective. Up the hill and back on more level terrain I was sure that I had now conquered mountain-biking (MTB). At least MTB101.

As the morning progressed we discovered faster downhill runs that were frankly a little scary and led me to test out the brakes. Now I know why the modern MTBs have disc brakes! The little calipers squeezing the wheel rim work, sort of.  And just as Newton’s Second Law says that what goes up must come down, we now have Bill’s First Law is that what goes down has to get back up again. Indeed it does!

There were downhills requiring a slight dodging of trees.  There were bridges to cross some of the creeks — bridges about 6 inches wide!  Well, they were about 3 feet wide but seemed unnecessarily narrow. Then there were the climbs that began (often immediately beyond one of those skinny bridges) with a quick 90 degree turn and loose rock coming up the hill. “Walk the bike” became a necessity in some spots when either the energy just wasn’t there, or traction was lost with a spinning rear wheel. It seems that technique is important as well as brute force.

It was becoming quite an adventure and we were doing our best to match some ability to it. Now keep in mind that I’ve been able to do 4 mile runs and just last weekend rode the Peugeot for 32 miles. For a 66 year old dude I think I’ve gotten into pretty darn good shape. But these ravines were beginning to look like the Grand Canyon and the climbs out of them were running my heart rate up to 155 or so. And I was getting winded. Really winded.

This trail was built with a lot of volunteer labor and donations for, among other things, benches placed strategically along the path.  It was amazing to me how those folks whom I don’t even know had divined the exact spots where the choice was between sitting down or falling down! Truly amazing.  We would rest a bit, sip some water, and strike out again.

I was getting discouraged with the slow progress we were making because the GPS on the handlebar kept reminding me of where we were, and were not. It was becoming indelibly clear that a 10 mile ride would not happen today.  At some point, without even discussing it Bill and I formulated different plans for the vehicle parked at the Homestead trailhead.

Bill gearing down at the Homestead trailhead

It would not be the end-point after the extended loop but would be the “save us from our folly” rescue point.

Adventure had met ability, and adventure won!

It was, nevertheless, a good adventure and an instructive one. I now knew, just as I had learned that bicycling muscle groups were somewhat different from running muscle groups, that mountain-biking called on some yet additional parts of the body.  We had made about 3 miles of the planned minimum of 5, and have vowed to learn how to do this better. One day, ability will yet overcome the adventure!

(as of the initial writing, there are photos and a video on Bill’s camera not yet available to me and this article will be updated later)

Forrest Gump on two wheels

Call me crazy if you wish, but first answer this.  When does 3 or 4 become 21? Easy. When via email several groups of bicyclists get cross-pollinated and the word spreads, then by 7am on a Saturday morning, 21 riders show up. What a herd that was with riders all the way from me on a bike barely a month up to triathletes who just blew us away. My partner in pedaling Don has already blogged the details so I’ll be more brief than usual (yes, I CAN be brief!).

The route was Marble Falls to the Burnet area via Mormon Mill Road a/k/a CR340, then back on CR330 and CR335 into Mormon Mill Road again and return to beginning. The highest single day I had done previously was 18 miles so the 32.3 miles was scary to think about but turned out to be quite enjoyable. The return was really a downhill run for the most part as shown on this profile:

Click for larger image

The elevation peaks where CR330 branches westward on CR335 and while there are some gentle climbs along the way, it’s mostly downhill until … The Hill. If you’ve ever driven out Mormon Mill Road you know exactly where it is!

On the return trip only a couple of miles before The Hill, we were making nice progress up a modest hill at, I thought, a decent pace when a group blew by us on the climb. Hmmm, odd, it was Keith, Mario, Denise, and I’m not sure who else and why are they just now catching up to us?  Keith came around me, reached out with one hand while climbing, slapped me on the shoulder and shouted “way to go judge” and pedaled onward.

We all wound up at the starting point and discovered why they were just then “catching up” to us … they were finishing 47 miles (to our 32) and in a sense had “lapped” us. Fine riders they are.

The stats, always the stats:

  • Mileage:  32.3
  • Avg. speed:  12.5 mph moving (overall 10.9)
  • Heart rate avg/max:  125/173
  • Total time: 2:58
  • Calories burned:  1946

OK, call me crazy, but I’m hooked on this cycling.  Gotta keep going.

Flat-landers conquering the Hill Country

(update:  after an extensive email repartee, the Llano-Castell route has now been officially named  Tour de Longneques — in recognition of one of the prime goals thereof, Lone Star Longnecks!) (further update — GPX file of the route and of this ride).

The morning haze from the constant humidity and warm mornings was just breaking as we got underway from Llano. With a mere 44 miles on the Peugeot, 17 of it just yesterday, three “Boys from Big Spring” and three friends set off to Castell, the little hideaway on the Llano River. With the promise of 18.1 miles of hilly fun ahead, I had loaded the water bottle with Elete electrolyte drops and the Osprey Raptor 14 with about 1.5 liters of water. Serious, experienced riders will scoff at this adventure but for us rookies it promised to be a challenge.

The “Boys from Big Spring” include me, Don Bynum (check out his excellent addendum and more photos of the trek) and Eric Brewster, members of the Steers graduating class of 1962. Big Spring is, of course, in the middle of the very flat West Texas. We grew up as flat-landers.

Don is retired up on Lake Buchanan and enjoying cycling and sailing (and now, having been corrupted by me, kayaking), while Eric is an elementary school principal in Waxahachie. As Don has previously written, he and Eric have been riding some (and Don, a lot). They have even done this ride recently. Add Eric’s superintendent Tom, Don’s friend Doug and my friend David and we had a real entourage. Don’s wife Peggy and Jennifer would tag along as support vehicles.

We had quite a variety of bikes.  Don is on a 3-wheel recumbent, and Eric on a 2-wheel recumbent. Tom and Doug both had fairly new, modern machines while David and I were on fairly ancient, but capable equipment.

We met at the historic Llano Courthouse
Here I am, all nattily attired and ready to ride.

I stoked the fires with a short stack at Atwoods and then Jen and I headed for Llano. Getting there first, I had plenty of time to check out the bike and get all of my equipment ready. The courthouse grounds were beautiful in the early morning light.

Doug checks out the classic Peugeot Triathlon

Doug was just back from vacationing in Colorado and riding in cool mountain air. He looked to me to be an experienced rider and that turned out to be the case. He found these puny “hills” to be merely a bit of a warmup.

Peggy assist Don readying the Catrike

I had not previously seen the Catrike up close and personal. It’s quite a contraption. I have to admit being jealous of the 28 gears. It looked really good going up the hills as I struggled in the higher gear ratios. But hey, it’s exercise, not a race!

David, Don, Doug, Gil, Tom, Eric (L-R)

Don looks like he's asleep

We finally got gathered up with all the tires aired, water bottles ready, chase vehicles prepared, cell phones at the ready for possible 911 calls for this geezer-brigade of the three 66-year olds trying to re-capture their frittered-away youths. And thus we began to Pedal Into Perdition.

The route from Llano is Westerly on Hwy 152 along the Llano River. I’ve ridden that route many times with ease but today would be different because, you see, on those prior occasions the ride was astride my trusty Beemer, a BMW R1100RT touring motorcycle resplendent with the power of 90 horses pulling me along. A recreational cyclist in excellent shape can make about 1/2 horsepower, but not over a long period of time.

Typical view of the route

It’s the upstream direction, thus generally uphill (see the elevation profile below). It’s a beautiful road that everyone should experience sometime. It was already 83 degrees when we started off and climbed to over 100. Even in the throes of an incipient drought the countryside still bore a lot of green.

Doug and Tom on a downhill
Don flies by on the Catrike

We got spread out pretty quickly. Doug and Tom charged out right away while David and I hung back with Don and Eric around the middle. I liked being near Don with his tall flag wagging in the breeze.  We had a great ride. Hot and hilly.  Struggled on some of the steeper hills and wished we had started earlier, but overall it was a fun time. Did we flat-landers conquer the Hill Country? Hardly, but we’re working on it!

The dip at the end is worth the ride

Here is one reason for the ride! The water was surprisingly warm, I’d guess at least 80 degrees, but compared to the heat we had just escaped it was delightful! The stream flow was such that I had to find a rock to hang onto while minnows nibbled at my toes. We marveled at the beauty of the area as if we had never been there before. It’s always that way when I get outdoors.

(a postscript) Getting outside and doing this with friends is something I’ve come to live for after years spent in offices and courtrooms. I once wrote a piece entitled “God rides a motorcycle” and it is now clear to me that he also rides a bicycle — but I’m sure it’s a 2-wheeler and not that 3-thingy-contraption.  It was interesting in church this morning that the sermon was on tending to your vineyard and appreciating your connection to God’s creation.  I felt quite “connected” yesterday!

Ready for the BBQ
You might be a redneck if ...

The “Big Spring Boys” finished with the dip and were ready for the next reason for the ride: the BBQ.  And since this is Castell, it’s a bit of redneck heaven. Note the “hog pen” sign just beyond the front of the rather “interesting” truck.  The BBQ is great at Randy Leifeste’s General Store and we all enjoyed it along with a couple of adult beverages that I saw crossing lips.

As always, there are the stats. Total mileage was 18.1, avg/top speed 9.7/25.7. Heart rate avg/max 140/164. A bit over 1000 calories burned. Activity documentation PDF for the Castell ride is in this file. It shows a bit less mileage because I forgot to start the Timer on the FR305. The Garmin Oregon showed 18.2 miles, 10mph avg speed, 1:52:09 total time. And the GPS profile is pretty interesting. It really shows the undulating progress in the overall steady climb. The elevation at the start is 1096 feet MSL and at the end is 1242. Not much, it seems. But the Garmin FR305 tracks total ascent (487 ft) and descent (322 ft).