Monday, August 28, 2006

8/28/06 Today's Ride -- Stay, cold hand of Azrael

Route: 25.11 miles, shortened Tour de London course.

Weather: mostly cloudy with sprinkles and rain developing, 77 degrees, 7 mph wind.

Performance: average speed 15.3 mph, time 1:38:13. Average HR 137 bpm. link:

Comment: With less than 2 weeks to go until the Tour de London, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty on this course. 30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms? Not enough to stop me. Besides, today I inaugurate my brand new insulated water bottle and my weapon against bonk: bone fide bike energy gels and drinks!

My optimism gave way to sluggish legs...nothing my HEED energy drink could't fix! I made myself take regular sips of my grownup Gatorade. The absence of simple sugars kept it from tasting syrupy sweet; the complex carbohydrates lent more of a bland, almost mediciney taste to it. Not bad, though. Like an orange creamsicle. So I was still waiting for the adrenaline surge.

Up the first big hill by Dezarn Road. No worries. But my legs still aren't kicking in. Time for my Hammer Gel! Raspberry, not bad. A little hard to get it all out of the pack, so I end up squeezing it bottom-up like a tube of toothpaste. I follow this dutifully with a good gulp of plain water from bottle #2. I'm not sure if it was the gel or the drink, but my stomach started to feel very hunger whatsoever.

Ok, legs, you can surge any time. Fire, fast-twitch fibers.

It's then that I start to notice most of the sky turning gray. The wind, which had been blowing steadily (it's always in your face, it seems) was starting to dissipate. This isn't looking too good. Still unable to shake the dull grip of lethargy, I did something I rarely do...I turned around.

As I'm riding back out to 638, I feel the dread sensation of tiny raindrops beginning to pelt me. Thankfully they let up a bit as I reach the turn back. I'm about 30 minutes out and don't want to ride it on slick roads with wet brakes.

Up ahead of me, a black tractor-trailer (sans trailer) is making its way down to the highway from a side road. I ride on past and it pulls out behind me, beginning its labored acceleration in my direction. Now in virtually all situations, I steadfastly maintain my position on the right-hand margin of the road. It's legal and it's as safe a position as a cyclist can be. But this situation is a little different: I'm on a relatively straight section of road, no one else is around, and this massive vehicle is coming up behind me. Maybe the polite thing to do would be for me, as the much more nimble party, to move over to the far left to let him pass me without having to change lanes. I take a look back -- he's still there.

Judging from the loudness of his engine, I make a mental fix on his position behind me and veer toward the left. Just as I make my move, I notice that the pitch of the engine is increasing rapidly and at the same time drawing closer. I cast a quick glance over my shoulder.

He's in the left lane too. Going a lot faster than I am. And he's maybe 15 feet back.

All I can do is cut back to the right. The scary thing is that at this point all I can do is look straight ahead, my back to him, and hope I can get out of his way fast enough.

He rumbles past. All of this probably doesn't take more than 5 seconds but seems to occur in slow motion. My life intact, I soldier on.

Lessons learned? Stay in your lane. Act like trucks do on the's other people's job to get out of your way, not the other way around. And if you do change lanes, use hand signals.

Oh yeah, I got drenched on the way back.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

8/18/06 Today's Ride -- A new nemesis

Route: 66.46 miles, Laurel Lake loop with 192 add-on, return via 312.

Weather: partly to mostly cloudy, 84 degrees, 5 mph wind.

Performance: average speed 14.8 mph, time 4:28:44. Average HR 135 bpm. link:

Comment: I traveled into terra incognita with my foray onto 192, a place I had never been even in a car. As i rode through, I happened upon a sign warning trucks to "use low gear, 9% grade next 0.8 miles." Fine with me, I'm going downhill. This hill ended at trail bottom, the Rockcastle River at Bee Rock. Then came the climb out. I can honestly say that Paint Hill has met its match. This hill is just as steep and longer to boot, going pretty much straight up forever.

The tale of the tape: 420 vertical feet gained over about 1.3 miles with an average grade of 10%. That's 32% higher, 44% longer, and 43% steeper than Paint Hill, former titleholder of Monster Hill.

Needless to say, surmounting this beast made my already grumpy legs the equivalent of warm Jello on a hot day. But something in my crazy head made me push on for a while toward Somerset. I made it about halfway there before the continuous onslaught of more hills told me it was time to turn around. Thankfully the ascent out of the river valley going back (all 0.8 miles at 9%) seemed tame compared to what I had been through.

As might be expected, I started to bonk in a major way before I even hit 312. I finished both of my Gatorade bottles, took several rest stops, and ate 3/4 of a Clif Bar to no avail. I think it's time for me to investigate carb gels and endurance drinks for my inevitable century. Either that or meditation.

Redneck heckler sighting: Pretty much nobody lives out there.


A footbridge going across the Rockcastle River, looking west.
Bee Rock does Shinto.

The Rockcastle River, looking north (upstream).

Mass grave for unsuccessful climbers.


(slightly disturbing, by the way)

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Monday, August 14, 2006

8/13/06 Today's Ride -- Gran Tourismo

: 72.81 miles, to London via Pine Grove School Road route; then to Barbourville via 1189, 1803, and 11; then Woodbine route back to Corbin.

Weather: mostly to partly cloudy, 79 degrees, 10 mph wind.

Performance: average speed 15.6 mph, time 4:39:32. Average HR 136 bpm. link:

Comment: I hatched the idea last night to ride from London to Barbourville (on a route that doesn't involve 229, as I have no desire to die). The result was a new distance record and myself holding up surprisingly well. I planned on starting out early to avoid the heat but despite assurances by the weather forecast to the contrary the sky looked awfully gray and overcast for the first 30 or so miles. The ominous sky coupled with a brisk wind turned out to be assets, however, as they kept the temperature tolerable most of the way. The road was wet in several areas around London and it did sprinkle on me for about 10 seconds around the intersection of route 11 and 25E, but thankfully that was all it was. Unexplored territory on this ride included the Girdler, Cannon, and Heidrick areas of northwestern Knox County.

My stamina was there until about mile 50, as I rolled down route 11 to Barbourville. My legs started to weaken, and although I was somehow able to again ascend Paint Hill while seated, I was granny gearing it all the way. It reminded me of having to climb Oakley Hill after my Clay County debacle back in April, only this time I had 50 miles behind me when I started the climb. I had to bite the bullet and take a couple of raisins / Cliff Bar / Gatorade breaks. They gave me energy for a little while but little by little resulted in diminishing returns.

All in all, a good ride. I have a feeling that this route will be the template for my eventual (non-metric) century. Adding the Laurel Lake loop would certainly put it over the top. The cooler days of September and October await...

Redneck heckler sighting: Ding ding ding! On a ride this long, there just had to be!

  • On the way up Paint Hill, a car with a couple of guys produced a low, slow "Heeeyyyyy...[inaudible], etc."
  • Pointless blaring honk by a navy Jeep Grand Cherokee passing me on that long straightaway before you get to Woodbine. No other traffic around.
  • And, honorable mention, although not really heckling: Two shirtless 15 year olds are walking the other way as I pass the Woodbine post office. As I ride by, one of them moves a couple of steps toward me and, waving his arm back to where I'm headed, says something. I don't hear any of it other than the word "dogs." No dogs to be seen.

Here is where I chose to grant my Rocinante her third and final break. No stray buckshot, thankfully.

August ride + record distance attempt = two bottler.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

8/5/06 Today's Ride

Route: 41.39 miles, 2006 Tour de London course (as of today, anyway).

Weather: partly cloudy, 89 degrees, 3 mph wind.

Performance: average speed 15.9 mph, time 2:36:17. Average HR 146 bpm. link:

Comment: My second running of the (revised) Tour de London route. I paced myself the whole way due to the midday heat...the object of this run was more or less just to feel out the route as a whole. I rationed my Gatorade pretty well, although despite the ravenous thirst that develops when you ride a long way on a hot day, 80-degree Gatorade is pretty raunchy. I also got to experience a sinking feeling that I hadn't felt in quite a while. The heat had apparently made me so delirious when I rolled up to the church at the intersection of 586 and 638 that I forgot to unclip. I felt that sickly wobble that comes when you're stopped but you can't put your feet down, and promptly met the asphalt. Thankfully I quickly learned the art of the soft fall and distributed the force between my elbow and knee. So instead of the usual dime-sized knee skin souvenir for the road I only gave up a couple of minor abrasions. I'm not sure what hurt worse -- the fall or the 10 seconds I spent lying on the skillet that is unshaded black concrete in the summertime.

Despite my best intentions I started to fatigue a little at about 30 miles. I think it was the heat mostly, as my legs still felt ok but my heartrate wasn't coming down as quickly as it usually does. Then when I started to get back into town and made a turn I felt something rubbing in the back. I looked down and sure enough it was my back tire. It has been leaky for quite a while now, turning up flat the next day after I pump it up for a ride. But I have taken it on longer rides than this and haven't had it go flat. The good thing was it wasn't totally flat, just a little deflated. When I made it back to my car I checked it and it was just squishy.

Redneck heckler sighting: None, but I did have an interesting encounter yesterday. As I rolled up to the intersection of 25E and Commonwealth Avenue by Arby's, I stopped behind a girl in a white Cavalier. When she saw me behind her, she promptly reached over and rolled up her passenger's side window, then eyed me repeatedly until the light turned green. Intimidating, me.

I noticed these helpful spray painted stencil directional arrows throughout the course. There must be 50 or more of them before, at, and after every turn.

Ahh, scenic London!

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