(67 x 3) + 74 = 83

If you don’t follow that math, it’s understandable. But if you take a geezer-squad of three guys 67 years young (two of them precisely that age) and one of 74 years, and put them on bicycles out to prove nothing, you get:  an 83 mile ride in the beautiful hill country of Texas.  Actually, Don Bynum (the effervescent organizer of epic rides and teller of tall tales) thinks he is in my Will and is trying to kill me, or, he is my training coach for the upcoming MS-150 ride (Houston to Austin) in mid-April. By the way, for anyone who might be reading this and is not familiar with the hill country here, check out the National Geographic “Road Trip”  Hill Country, Texas.” Continue reading “(67 x 3) + 74 = 83”

What do ya want me to do? Die of old age?

Cover of "Secondhand Lions (New Line Plat...
Cover via Amazon

— Hub, Robert Duvall‘s character in Secondhand Lions.  And thus on New Year’s Eve, 2010, a tale begins, not in a galaxy far, far away, but on a mountain top near you.  Well, actually on a bunch of mountain tops.  My cycling buddy (and high school classmate from eons ago), Don Bynum, and I had talked of several possible “geezer rides of epic proportion” — let that idea soak in and make of it as you will. Continue reading “What do ya want me to do? Die of old age?”

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”

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.

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).

Take a friend to work

No kidding. It’s a great idea. I took a friend to work today, spent almost 1-3/4 hours of quality time with just the two of us.  Went to Burnet together and the drive, just at good daylight was beautiful. The temperature was already 76 degrees. As we took the “back way” up Mormon Mill Road the lazy rays of sun were beginning to paint the hills among the streamers painted by the hazy humidity laid into the valleys.

Deer were moving and it was just cool enough to ignore the drought that it seems to be engulfing us yet again. In the open air the tweeting and chirping of birds could be heard. Dove were cooing in the distance.  Open air? Wait, how could that be?

Continue reading “Take a friend to work”