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TNIL: A Little Help From My Friends Edition.

‘Twas the last hurrah for the Venge

I readied my Venge for what was likely it’s final evening in the sun for the year.  This year’s upgrades were a new saddle and a set of sweet Ican Fast & Light 50 wheels (50-mm, carbon fiber, 25-mm wide, 1,470 grams for the set, very fast, amazing value) capped that bike off – it’s perfect.  Mechanically, at seven years old, it’s the best I’ve ever had it.

I was on my way to the church early enough I’d get a decent warm-up in.  It was chilly, just 50° (10 C) with a mild, single-digit breeze out of the east.  The good thing about an east breeze is there’s technically only eight miles of straight headwind out of 28 miles and some change.  The bad is that most of that is at the end.  We rolled out for the warm-up at 4:57 with the main event due to start at 5:30.  With limited time, we headed west for a couple of miles then turned around to head straight back.  I was caught in the wrong gear on the turnaround and almost thought about staying in the back for the headwind but that seemed a twatwaffle thing to do, so I took my lumps.  The headwind was surprisingly heavy.  Of course, with Pickett up front next to me, we were heading up a slight incline at 20-mph into that breeze.  Who does that on the warm-up?!  I flicked off the front after a mile and went back to hide.

The main event started out pretty quick, A’s & B’s rolling out together.  Our first tailwind mile was at around 25-mph, I was up front with Dave.  The next three, heading north, were no problem with the mild crosswind at 23 to 24-mph.  I took the next mile with Dave, again.  We had a tailwind mile and took it between 25 & 26.  No problem.  Then Shipman road, and we had a quartering tailwind and some help for once (normally we’re dead into a headwind on that road).  The pace was being held between 25 & 28-mph (41 to 45 km/h) and toward the end of the stretch I started running out of “want to”.  After a pull up front during which I burned too many matches, I slipped off the back figuring I’d just take a shortcut.  I’d have eight miles dead into a headwind, alone.  

I kept my pace steady, between 21 & 24-mph and caught my breath.  The group wasn’t pulling away from me as fast as I figured they would.  They stopped for traffic at a crazy five-way intersection and I had a decision to make; relax and let them go, or pedal a little harder and catch up… if traffic held them long enough.  I decided to give it some effort to see if I could get back on.  As I closed it looked as though there were no cars holding them up – quite a few were looking back at me.  They waited.  That doesn’t happen too often, my friends and as I closed the gap, I have to admit, I felt like a Hundred Dollars.

The next six miles were pretty brutal in the hills but I managed to hold on.  I took my lumps up front but tried to keep my turns short so I didn’t fall off the back again.  I hate having to do that, but my legs were fighting me a little bit.  The temp had dropped down to the low 40’s and I just don’t do well in the cold – never have.  I stuck with it, though, and up the main hill before the B’s and A’s separate, I was still in contact with the tandems and a few others.  

Four of the A’s continued on for the long route while two tandems, a couple of A’s, and four or five B’s waited for Clark to catch up at the regroup point.  He’d fallen off in the hills (which was easy to do with a headwind).  He was about a minute back and once he caught up (and his breath), we rolled out for the eight mile home stretch.

The remainder of the ride was more my pace.  Single-file pace-line and in the low 20’s in the head wind, mid-20’s with a crosswind, with a nice buildup in the last mile.  I was second bike behind Mike & Diane’s tandem coming in the last mile and they were absolutely taking it to the barn, dead into the headwind.  I couldn’t believe how long they stayed up front but they just kept going.  Approaching the sprint point, after hiding most of the ride, I decided not to go for the sprint.  My legs were suckin’ anyway, and Mike & Diane earned the sign season’s final.  

We hammered across the City Limits at 29-mph into the wind, just shy of 50-km/h.

And that was that.  I stopped my Garmin and recued another workout for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot.  I ended up with a 22.1-mph average because I fell off the back for that mile or two but the group finished with a 22.4 – fantastic for one of the last TNIL’s of the year.  It was hi-fives and laughs all the way back to the parking lot.

It’s a rare day I struggle like that.  We all have them, I suppose.  Thankfully, I’ve got some great friends who got me through it.

I Simply Ran Out of Gas… Three Miles Short of a Century.

It was a windy day, SSW and SW all day long, so we picked an east/west route so we wouldn’t be fighting it as much. Five of us rolled out to a perfect early fall morning start. My wife, Diane, Mike, Chuck and I headed off west in search of good times, laughs and miles. I’m already 600 miles (now 700) over my yearly goal of 6,000 outdoor miles, I’ve beaten every short distance speed record I’d acquired since 2011:

One Hour 24.38 mi
20 10 km 13:46
20 10 mi 23:59
20 20 km 29:45

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this has been one of my best years on two wheels – in fact, better than all of that speed stuff (which is fantastic), my wife and I have learned how to love our tandem and have ridden it almost every Sunday since April.  On top of all that, I’m up to 9 centuries and 14 metric centuries for the season.

I was excited for another century yesterday.  The goal was to head to Laingsburg – a 77-mile round trip going the long way out and heading straight back home.  The morning, excepting the wind, was wonderful.  Sunshine, cool but barely arm warmer weather (the boys didn’t bother, the girls wore theirs for a time).  Chuck and I were taking decent turns into the wind, three to five miles, and the pace was fair – 18 to 20-mph.  We had a six mile south stretch into the wind that was just brutal but Chuck was dug in like a tick and hammered the whole chunk keeping the pace right around 19-mph.  That was one of the toughest turns I’ve seen all year.

It was so epic, I didn’t even bother sprinting for my favorite City Limits sign.  I straight up gave it to him.  He’d earned it. 

After that stretch, just 14 miles and change into the ride, we only had six more miles of straight headwind the whole rest of the ride.  


My wife and Diane split off after 28 miles to head home, so that left just the three of us and some of the most glorious miles we’d turned all year long.  We made the most of a cross-headwind, but when we hit the turn-around in Laingsburg, we hammered home with a little help.  We dropped Mike off at his last mile home (I was at 77 miles) and Chuck and I headed off to lunch.  

The wind had a little more west to it so it was a little tougher into it, but I still managed to crush out a couple of miles at 20 before turning north with a tailwind.  We pulled into our favorite 100-mile lunch stop at 83 miles.  We sat in the grass in the shade of a tree and ate.  

Getting started after lunch sucked.  I was a little better than a 19-mph average but Chuck was at 18.9 and he wanted 19.  Initially he took off heading west and it looked like we’d be able to jump right back into our pace but he slowed after a half-mile and said, “Maybe anything in the 18 range will be okay.”  I almost puked on my top tube a quarter-mile later on the way up a slight incline.  Chuck took a mile of headwind and I came around for a little chunk.  We back-and-forth’ed the next few miles and I could sense I was running out of gas.  Still, we were looking at that 19 average as we exited our favorite weeknight subdivision and headed for home.  I was up front and took a mile and a half with a cross-tailwind, taking a corner heading into the wind at almost 20-mph.  Chuck asked if I wanted him to take it but I shook him off.  I told him I was good and got him to the cross-tailwind.  He took a mile, then I took one.  That left Chuck to a headwind mile that he took between 19 & 20.  I had a mile of cross-tailwind that I hammered at 21… and I ran out of gas.  I had 96 miles and some change.

Chuck asked if I was going to ride home with him to get the extra miles but I passed.  I’d had enough and took my toy home.  My last mile into the headwind was between 12 & 16-mph and that was everything I had.  I dropped down to the baby ring and spun home, shutting off my Garmin at 97.07 miles.  I didn’t even care about that last three miles.  A 5k in an 11,000 km season.

Chuck called about five minutes later.  He pulled into his driveway with a 19.03-mph average.  The exuberance in his voice was cool.  He thanked me for hammering as hard as I did because every last mile mattered.  He thanked me again, commenting on Strava a few minutes later.  

That he made 19 and was so stoked that I helped made me feel pretty fantatic.  Definitely worth leaving three miles on the road for my friend.

TNIL (Tuesday Night In Lennon): The Wind Makes an Appearance Edition

The wind was building all day long. Forecasts said it was coming, and it did. 15-mph winds with gusts above 20 (24-kmh and 32-kmh respectively) out of the west. I knew shortly after I woke up at four in the morning that TNIL was going to be tough.

After an easier than normal warm-up, we lined up to roll. We had a fairly small B Group and the A’s were flush, so one of our guys, as is usual, suggested we roll out with the A’s and let them pull us to the tailwind. This sounds brilliant, but it’s a recipe for disaster. What you envision happening is the group sharing the load, defeating the headwind as a triumphal group. Hi-five’s all around! It’s damn-near a beer commercial.

That’s not what happens, though. No, what happens is you get a knot of A guys rolling up the road, progressively in echelon to the right of the road to escape the crosswind a mile-and-a-half up the road, followed closely by eight B Group’ers all lined up in the ditch on the edge of the road with no draft. They get spit off one-by-one and take fifteen miles to come back together as a few groups. “Who wants that chaos?” I asked. I suggested we wait and roll out as a B Group. After a complaint, I relented and my buddy Chuck said, “Well that’s great, now we have to chase them down!” The chase never materialized and we rolled out as the B Group.

What came next was a wonder in teamwork and effective, enjoyable cycling. We bucked the headwind, chewed on the crosswind, bucked some more headwind and at the turn for tailwind at 16-ish miles, we had a 20-mph average. We’d lost a couple of the weaker riders but we were, relatively speaking, whole.

And just as all hell was about to break loose with a tailwind when we made the left hand hairpin turn… there was a train lazily rolling down the tracks across the road.

We ended up waiting for several minutes for the train to pass. Once it was clear, we took a minute to form up climbing a hill and BAM, just like that the hammer dropped. The pace picked up and we had us a ride on our hands. We cruised the hills with a little help from the wind and turned in for the regroup after the last big hill. After the last rider turned the corner, we rolled toward my favorite part of the ride.

Immediately after the regroup, we’ve got a nice little descent that takes us to 28-ish-mph followed by a sharp, short climb before we level out at a 2% incline that we normally take at around 21-mph. Last night we were over 23. We crested the top with two horses up front. I was second bike back and figured I’d be lead-out. The two up front took a really long turn, screaming down the -1 to -3% grade at 33-mph. My guy started to bleed speed and when he dropped to 29, I came around rather than wait for him to flick. I took it back up to 30 on the flat with six tenths of a mile to the City Limits sign. I kept the hammer down and, almost unbelievably, didn’t run out of gas. The tenths clicked by until the sign was only 100 yards away. I was watching shadows behind me and couldn’t see anyone making a move so I kept the power up… I crossed the City Limits sign first, on the front for six tenths of a mile at 30-mph. First time off the front like that.  I’ve taken the sign dozens of times but never from the lead-out position… and certainly not while leading out a group of horses like the one we had last night. I’m going to have a smile on my face for a while remembering that one.

Next up was a turn north for a couple miles. I made a mistake, trying to wave a truck by after a four-way stop and fell off the back a considerable distance. The speed after that stop was the problem. The group goes from 15 to 27-mph almost instantly because of a perfect little 1% descent. I was at 15, waving my arm to get him to go around, and stayed there while the group accelerated. I absolutely had to bust my butt to latch back on. I almost quit, but with one last rush, I latched. Thankfully, being at the back, I had enough time to fully recover. I knew the homestretch was coming up with a 15 to 20-mph tailwind.


The last four-ish miles were insane and awesome. We managed to keep it above 27-mph the whole way, with the exception of a stop for a stop sign. That break was needed, too. If we’d have hit the hill after that intersection at speed, it would have been ugly for the tandems. Instead, the pace increased steadily and they were with us for the final push.

The final 3/4’s of a mile is slightly downhill, between 1/2 and 1%. With that tailwind, it was absolutely awesome. We were hard on the pedals at 30-mph and cooking hard for the sprint. The lead fell off and my buddy Chucker and Josh took the lead. Josh is a big dude and with him up front, I knew I could hold his wheel but I didn’t know if I’d get around him. I was in perfect position as the speed hit 33… then 34… we just nudged 35 and I didn’t bother going around him. In hindsight I should have – but 35-mph.

I finished second behind Josh. He earned it. The parade mile home was all hi-five’s and laughs. It wasn’t the fastest Tuesday night, but it was fast enough with that wind, and it was more fun that a person should have with their clothes on.

That’ll do.