Climbing Winding Stairs

This weekend was another busy weekend in my life – sometimes that is great & sometimes I’m not busy enough to keep my A.D.D at bay…. We had the annual holiday party at the training studio Friday evening – much joyous celebration of being at the ‘pain cave’ when the pain was replaced with a mini-keg of Triple Ale (9%). Great friends & Good times.

On Sunday, I finally got away from working on my car to run up to Dahlonega’s finest area of trail & Fire service roads – Bull Mt. I met up with Greg of Greg Rides Trails and a few other motley crew members for a 24 mile ride that wound it’s way up and over Winding Stairs. (several people that have ridden it before just shuddered as I write this). That’s because in those 24 miles we climbed over 3,100 feet – BUT we also descended 3K feet!

We suffered up to the top of Windy Stair & once getting there, started to Shiver! The top of the mountain was not only windy, but also significantly colder. Suddenly 1 of the guys says, ‘it’s 4pm, we gotta get around the Mountain before sunset!’ We took off, shivering & me with a re-newed nervous energy that comes from not knowing exactly where you are, nor how far you have to go until you are done.

On the other side of the mountain we found snow and ice still in Georgia. In the Atlanta area, we had a day or 2 of 60 degree weather, but here on the North side of the mountain there is less light, the sun seems to set earlier and it doesn’t get to warm-up as much due to both lack of direct sunlight and altitude. Onward we marched, I was savoring the cold wind of a eye-ball blurring, nearly out of control, descent that I haven’t felt lately, yet the whole time I was hoping that maybe I could zip up the collar on my wind breaker just a little more with out choking myself. The cold winter wind has a sneaky way of exposing every little crevice of open material in your clothing much more so than during the summer months. Don’t Figure.

I said to Greg, I think I forgot how much Fun fire-roads can be! To which he replies matter of factly: ‘then we should have ridden this route the other way’. Sweet, I got a good excuse to Bomb down Winding Stair… but I have to work my way up to the top first. Luckily Greg & I had more gears than the Motley CX bike riders did (not that they seemed to need them), however, on the descents Greg & I passed them quickly due to the suspension & Fat tires!

We hit the final descent down Cooper Gap road, which is a good pitch and some switch backs toward the end. I was having so much fun taking the turns at full speed, nearly overshooting a couple turns, and kicking a foot out to make sure I didn’t slide out completely. I realized it was the perma-grin & cold wind that was making my teeth cold. And just like that the descent finishes nearly as fast as you fly down – something about distance/pace continuum thingy…. I amped to think clearly.

We rolled back to the car, both thrilled and a little disappointed, the ride was over, yet we made it before dark. We chatted some and I warmed up the vehicle to head back into 1 of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in a long time….. maybe it was because I had just ridden over a mountain, but having the sunset in one area of the sky and the full moon showing in another area was very awe inspiring, and the icing on a stellar day in the saddle.

Riding fire roads in the winter is a great way to get in the necessary training that road cyclists need while not getting up to the speeds that you may want on the descents. Now, I really enjoy descending, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to ride them as fast as possible. Stay steady and safe on the descents. The climbing is usually less windy due to the trees, and a good average race pace on a Mountain bike is about half the speed of road training, thus half the wind-chill factor, yet you can work on the climbs as much as you would have to on most any road climb – after all it is all up to the gearing/grade.

Another point about riding the fire roads (that also effected us this weekend) is when it rains – your local trails will usually be closed. The fire roads are rarely closed, and usually drain quite quickly.
Thanks Greg for being flexible and meeting up with me! Thanks to John at Dahlonega Wheelworks for waiting on us & Thanks Hill Billy…. just for being yourself – Good Times!

I am a Pusher

Yes, I am a Pusher, a pusher of many things including:
A) health
B) outdoors lifestyle
C) good food
D) adult beverages
E) more Ladies in cycling

I got pretty upset and heated this weekend at the WBL. This past weekend was the Ladies only Sprint of the WBL. After about 75 miles in the saddle – the women were called to the front of the pack.

I was lucky enough to be near the front of the field as 100 or more riders hooted and hollered at the 5 woman sprint that took place to all manner of encouragement and cat-calls to the extent of wondering if they were sprinting or mud-wrestling?

After the women’s sprint I watched guys go around a chic that had been in the sprint. She had put out a solid effort & was now not quite up to the accelerations of the pack. I was giving her a push when needed…. keeping her intact with the field, not unlike the assistance that was given me last week . Yet still I noticed something that was rather disturbing & I couldn’t help but be curious and yet disappointed at the same time…..

Why do guys pass a chic that are in a spot of bother? Here we are, in a major sword fight amongst each other and yet when a lady does show up to a big ride, she is passed up like a weaker species. Why? Because the guys think they will get dropped if they help, or because chics wanted to be treated just like another rider. Well, I’ve been dropped on many rides in my lackluster career of cycling & let me tell you it is frustrating & humiliating… to put it another way – it just sucks!

That’s why I’m a pusher. Ever since I dated a chic in the peleton that would occasionally be put into the hurt locker, I learned that assisting the fairer sex was a noble experience that gave me A) a better workout and B) kept them coming out to the rides.

Have you not heard the infamous story of Mario Cipollini at the Tour de Georgia…. His favorite English words were ‘PUSH’ and ‘I love America (women)’.

There were 2 chics that had boyfriends there this weekend that when the ‘vacation real estate’ (drafting) wasn’t enough they got just enough of a nudge as to keep them in the game. Their guys were both veterans of the Pro1,2 field. Guess what impressed the ladies – that the guy put the hammer down and nearly dropped them, or that the guy took care of a chic.

Besides, I would rather we have more ladies in the field of guys! You think I like riding for 70+ miles & looking at your butt?! NO! Put a female in front of me & I will keep her ‘behind’ in front of mine. And if you like having the fairer sex along for the ride, I suggest you do the same, in a gentlemanly fashion.
I’ve assisted chics that ‘wanted to do it on their own’ & I totally respect that. She said “I got it, thanks”. No problem, You go girl! But, fella’s please don’t hinder their experience, nor their enjoyment of riding in a group…..

I’ve seen guys move-up and purposely push a chic out of a paceline, so they could get ahead of her. I’ve seen guys sprint just to get around chics after a turn, I’ve seen guys let a chic pull on the front of the pack, only to attack after they pull off.

Guess who is the weaker rider now?

I would not do this to a rider that wasn’t comfortable or steady on their bike – but they usually aren’t in our groups anyway. To give a little assistance to anyone, all I do is, usually downshift into a harder gear because I want to mash more, place my hand on or just above the back pockets. Now I can do 2 things. 1) Pedal faster while pushing, which will raise both our speeds. 2) give a steady push of that person, which speeds them up, but slows me down.

The biggest mistake is to push in any direction other than straight forward. Usually if you push forward all the rider has to do keep their handle bars straight, look straight ahead and they will get a nice little boost of speed. And it is amazing the difference 1-2 mph will make when you are coming unglued at the back of a group. Again, make sure the rider is comfortable with the push before you do it, everyone is safer that way.

Athens to Homer WBL 2010

This year the first rendition of the infamous Winter Bike League (WBL) happened on December 4th. I was anxious to do this edition of the WBL in particular because the ride was going to Homer, Georgia. The year that I did every WBL ride, we never made it to Homer…. it was the first ride of the season that we took the ‘scenic route’ aka. got LOST. and it was about 135 miles of a expected 120 mile ride before we made it back. It was just one of those days.

I was fortunate to have a place to crash in Athens the night before. I pulled up a ride report from last year’s New Year’s day ride to refresh my memory of what would make this feat possible with less training this year. Sometimes Life and career tend to get in the way of being able to hop onto the bike and get the necessary miles in the saddle.

I awoke excited and nervous about the upcoming event. Just starting an event like the WBL can be an experience. We park, hop out and friends are milling about, chatting and saying Hi to each other, some folks that I haven’t seen lately.
I slowly make it past people attempting to sign-in – 2 points for this year’s WBL already. On the table I spy a much coveted Book – Winter Bike League 2010

The (mostly) true account of what went wrong by the (mostly) dependable man in the field, The Humbler Chronicler.

I had heard that the Mineral Man had written a section for the book & I was especially anxious to read that section from our fabled days of being Mineral Men.

I began to realize that this was a big gathering. It seemed about 150 people were in attendance for the first outing of this year’s WBL. No sprints today and ‘only’ 75 miles, so that usually brings out more people than usual for the kick-off to ‘the other season’.


Photo by Eddie Murray

As we headed out of town, a whole flock of vultures stirred up and were squawking while seemingly circling the road to see who was going to be the first to be left behind like a weaker Wilda beast that can no longer keep up with the herd. Luckily for me, it wasn’t long before I was able to catch a wheel that was heading up ahead of where we were, and being the foxxy, devious, wheel-sucking sprinter that I have been, I felt less than guilty about motoring right up along with them to the front section – but not so close that I would have to pull.

I have put myself on the front of the WBL ride several times. Trust me, at first the pace is not too bad – steady 18-22 mph. But this is the WINTER bike league, and the weather around Athens in the winter is typically not far above freezing and mostly Windy. Add to that the rolling hills that made the Pro riders in the Tour De Georgia more than just mumble curse words to anyone that would listen. It all makes for a tough day in the saddle – all the while you are leading a pack of hungry, battle hardened men that do their utmost to belittle you if they notice a chink in your armor. All you have to do is slide to much to one side and there will always be someone eager to take a turn at the front and this year, I am more than happy to just sit-in and enjoy the comedy of friends old and new in the group.

The legs seem to remember this kind of beating that they have taken so many times before. A group this size can be extra aggressive on the muscles when the ‘piano’ effect occur, slow down for an intersection or hill, only to jam back on the pedals for a 30 second all out effort, then slow back to the standard 20 mph that the front group is doing.


Photo by Eddie Murray

Soon, I was starting to start my nutrition – taking bites from a clifbar and chasing it down with water. Every 30 minutes or so, I kept eating a little bit to keep my body energy to keep me with the group. Every time a hill hurt a little more than I thought it should, I would take a little bit from the gel flask.

At the store stop, I re-filled with water and was happy to be doing well so far on the ride. I tried to eat extra food while being stopped, but still only managed half a clifbar and part of a candy bar I nabbed from Eddie.

Luckily, yet unluckily it seemed that everyone on this ride today has read my post about last year’s ride and is gathering at the very front of the group. We have jammed up both the entrance and the exit of the store stop. We turned onto the road and the typical 2 abreast group was now about 6 abreast, everyone seemingly vying for a position ‘near’ the front, but not ON the front.

As the field settles in, and sorts themselves out, I get good placing in the group, I’m more than half way to the front and the paino effect isn’t too bad. I was on the gutter side of the road, so moving up anymore would be tough anyway.

We come up to a stop sign and suddenly many people that had been at the back came surging to the front, taking up nearly 3 lanes. As the pack shot away from the intersection, I was once again behind mid-pack.
As we took the hilly route back to Athens the rollers and the lack of LSD started to take their on me and I was coming unglued at the filament level. The muscles didn’t get enough nutrients in the last 2 hours and were now on empty. Micro-cramping ensued. I called this micro-cramping because I felt the cramps, but they were not near the leg stopping cramps that I have gotten before, these were more effective of slowing me down than stopping me. I guess those electrolytes that I took before the ride were effective for 3.5 hours….of a 4 hour ride. As we were going up a larger roller, I had to pull to the left onto the yellow line and allow others to pass and stay out of the way & not cause an accident. I always try not to impeded others flow and momentum.

Once I made it over the top, I could raise my speed back up and slowly reel in the group. I wasn’t the only 1 at the back end of the field. Some guys were suffering and then as usual the guys who could be pulling the field were hanging out chatting. You see the really strong riders tend to stay at the very front or the very back of a field. It’s the safest areas & they stay Out of Danger. I find my friend Artur along the back and trade bottles for a Gatorade filled bottle. My body was craving sugar, and although it wasn’t enough to snap me back immediately it would be enough to give me some energy to hopefully keep me with the group.

Well, it did until the next big roller. Then suddenly I was struggling off the back again. Then as I hear a rider passing, I get the rush from behind, just steer straight and keep pedaling. And just like that I am over-running other cyclists that are hanging on. I keep pace and keep downing fluids. I’m feeling better, but the miles and hills are taking their toll on me & my glue on the group is less and less tacky. Then another push & I’ve been forcefully re-glued. Someone likes me & wants me to finish this together. I say Thanks as I check to see who it is – U.S. National Pursuit champ Daniel Holt is grinning at me, “I give good pushes, huh.”

As we get back to the red lights of Athens a chick looks over her shoulder and says “thanks for the pushes”. For the first time I have to say “it wasn’t me” It seems I wasn’t the only 1 getting pushes today & thus another reason that there is so much comradere in the WBL field. The cyclists that go through the frozen tundra together have something in common that no one expects or demands, being a WBL zealot.

Somethings that I learned on this outing:
I should have used some electrolytes in my bottle & refilled that bottle at the store stop with an extra tablet. I usually use NUUN, however I am currently trying out CamelBack’s version – the ingredients appear the same, but they give you 2 extra in the pack & a stronger flavor. Either 1 would probably kept my cramps at bay while I kept eating on the clifbar, however, it would not have been enough.

The second lesson was that I should have taken the extra few minutes to fill my 2nd flask and bring it along with me. That extra gel would have given a lot more energy to get me through the ride. I usually try to err with having too much food/water with me, but this is 1 of those times where I under estimated – by quite a bit and suffered because of it.

I’ve made it through big rides that I haven’t done enough miles for, and the 1 main factor is nutrition! You have to eat for what is upcoming, not for how you feel.

WindTraining FAQ

The Winter Wind Training classes is a series of on the bike workouts that will best prepare you for the Spring rides and upcoming race season. The workouts have been laid out so that you will come into the season in your best possible shape with out being burned out or fatigued. The workouts Build from 1 week to the next.

Due to the mix-up classes will be starting on January 11 & the pricing has been pro-rated as such.

    Windtraining classes will be at 6:30 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings until the time changes.
    You will need:
    Your Bike & a resistance ‘wind’ trainer – I recommend a CycleOps Fluid2 or similar fluid trainer.
    Check with Atlanta Cycling
    Cycling shoes
    Heart Rate Monitor
    Water bottle
    Towel
    Cycling clothes
    What to expect:
    Heart rate based intervals of varying length and time each week.
    Individual Leg Training (ILT) for forming perfect pedaling circles
    Spin-Ups to increase leg speed
    Bursts & Jumps to create power for cresting those nasty rollers
    Steady state intervals for climbing and Time Trialing
    Pricing: $20 Drop-in fee for any class.
    22 sessions
    Split: $165 for 1st 11 sessions & 2nd half $15 a session.
    All sessions: $264 = $12 a session