Tag Archives: Goals

2012 Goals

You may ask that with all these changes in my approach to cycling this year, “What are your goals for 2012?” That would be a good and fair question. It is a question I’ve asked myself and struggled with. I guess my first goal is to set some goals!

Typically, I divide my goals with the bicycle into three sections — racing, personal and charitable. Racing goals can be your typical “A”, “B” and “C” type events that you try to peak for. These goals can also be aims within the race — improvements in performance and knowledge of the sport. Personal goals are more associated with training. Working toward a certain FTP or a time up Paris Mountain. Charitable goals have normally culminated in my Ride for Mike events.

I guess I’ll do the same thing this year. One thing I know is that I need some goals in order to stay motivated. It is just up to this point, thinking of goals has made me tired.


There will be plenty of opportunities to race locally this year. It all starts with the Spring Series in mid-February. You can have some pretty serious racing under your belt by the end of March. Also in March is the Spring Cycling Extravaganza — a new two day series presented by the POA Cycling Team. As for April, I don’t know if I’ll take the trip down to Charleston for the SC crit championships this year, but the St. Francis summer series starts up locally.

May presents opportunities at the Spartanburg Regional Classic and another St. Francis race. June brings about the SC road race championship, the SC time trial championship and, yes, another St. Francis race. July could see me in Asheville again for the French Broad TT and road race. There is a St. Francis race near the end of the month as well.

The new race weekend “End of Summer Blowout” will take place in August along with the continuing St. Francis race. September brings the end of most racing — except cross — with the final St. Francis race. So, there is plenty of racing right in the general Greenville area. Throw in other races within an hour or so drive and you could nearly race twice a week or more the months March – August.

That isn’t my plan. My “A” race is going to be the SC Road Race Championship on June 9. My goal is to be as fit as I can be to be on form for a top 10 finish. I’ll use any racing up to that point as a means to reach that goal. I’m definitely not planning to explode out of the gate for the Spring Series!

Other than that, but goals will be to put a more conscious effort into watching and learning — becoming smarter. That means better skill wise, better reading moves and better at using the field to put me in the best place. This will happen by racing and watching riders I know have been in this game for a long time. The goal is to set a lesson plan for each race, focus on that one thing and grade myself at the end.


This one is simple. I want to return to my obsession with the mountain. I realize many people think this is a Don Quixote endeavor.  However, when I think back to some of my more fun periods on the bike, they include my attempts to bring my time down on that 2.2 mile stretch of road.

My goal here is simple. I want to get a personal best climbing Altamont Road. That means I have to climb it in less than 11 minutes and 24 seconds.


Here is where I face a challenge. In the past, I have always had a clear road ahead for my goal by this time in the year. For 2012, I don’t have an “epic” ride in mind.

Originally, my goal was actually much larger. My plan was (is?) to start a new foundation — iridefor.org. Its purpose is to help others who want to be an encouragement by personally supporting people in need. Basically, it would be to provide tools and knowledge to help anyone carry out their own “Ride for Mike.”

The problem for me right now is that to make this a success, I would have needed to be much farther along in the process right now. I just don’t know if I can pull it off on the same scale for 2012 that I originally dreamed.

At the same time, if you don’t have goals, you might as well not dream. I still have a dream for iridefor.org. While I may not hit the stars this year, I don’t see why I can’t land on the moon.

So, there you go. I’ve laid it out what I’m thinking. That is another part of setting goals… you need some accountability. That is one of the main reasons for this blog.

Thanks for keeping an eye on me.

I need your help

This blog is going to be more important for me than ever this year. It is nearly Thanksgiving and next season starts now. The problem is, I’m having a really hard time getting motivated. The responsibility of posting here is going to have to serve as my source of accountability. I’m asking you to follow along with me for another year and give me a kick in the motivation button if you catch me slipping.

Early November I took a break from the bike. I was worn out and was still dealing with a good amount of pain from my neck. Seemed that my body could use some down time. Then I had surgery on my upper jaw to take care of some issues I was having with my teeth due to the accident. Turns out my sinus sack got punctured and for a week I was pretty much worthless.

I’m past that now and have even been out a couple of times on my fixed gear. I really enjoyed getting back out there in this beautiful fall weather. Riding a single gear is a nice change and it has also been fun building the bike.

The problem is I begin to think about the weather turning cold and my future of doing 90 second puke intervals and I’m not feeling much joy. Frankly, I feel aversion. Yet, I know that if I am going to accomplish anything in 2011, I’m going to have to ride in the cold and I’m going to have to do these intervals.

What I need are some motivating goals for 2011. When I have something I’m aiming for, I can go through a lot more suffering and pain. But the question I ask myself is, “What goals?”

Well, to start I want to go back to a goal I didn’t accomplish in 2010. That goal is a time of 11:15 up Altamont Road on Paris Mountain. The closest I got was 11:24 during one of the Paris Mountain Time Trials. Jim, my coach, had scheduled in training toward an official attempt just before my Ride for Mike. Of course, the wreck changed all that and I never got the chance to try for the goal. The fastest I have climbed the mountain since my accident is 12:15. Got to shave off a minute.

GOAL #1 – 11:15 or better climbing Altamont Road, Paris Mountain

At least one of my goals has to involve racing. Here is where I run into a brick wall. There are a couple of things here that hinder me…

1) The wreck. I have to admit that it took something out of me mentally. I don’t want to ever be in that position again. Yes, I have already gotten back on the horse and found that I have the mental discipline and courage to stick my wheel into the gap, but while before I just did it — now I think about it.

2) Masters racing. I’ve definitely got the hang of Cat. 4 racing. I’m pretty confident that I can hang with the Cat. 3 crowd — at least I can when I’m in fighting trim. I’ve only competed in three Masters races. Two of those I didn’t finish. Granted, the second of the two I didn’t finish was my comeback race after my recovery. The one I did finish (placing 11th) was not a typical Masters race. So, I question my ability there.

So, while this seems to be a low goal, it is a confidence building goal and one I’m not sure how long it will take to reach. I want to compete in and complete a Masters race. I have no illusions (delusions?) of winning one. But I want to roll over the line with the field. A second step in that goal is to reach a point in the season where I am able to contribute significantly to the success of my team. This means I may not finish a race, but I give myself for the team in such a way that I help one of our riders to victory. My greatest fear is that I will simply be out there looking good in the POA colors and not being able to play a role in the team’s success.

GOAL #2 – Place with a field finish in a Masters 35+ race and go on to contribute in a noticeable way to the success of the POA Cycling Team.

My final goal concerns my objectives for the 2011 Ride for Mike. This year is going to be different and will probably take away some of my drive for racing, but will open the doors for a great future on the bike beyond competition. An off the bike goal for 2011 is the creation of a public charity that will exist to help others honor and memorialize those they love. I want to help others do their own “Ride for Mike.”

The tangible goal for this will be the LiveSTRONG Challenge in Austin, Texas next October. That will be the 2011 Ride for Mike, but it will also be the opportunity for others to do their own “Ride for” campaign. Stay tuned to IRideFor.org to keep up with the plans and to participate.

That leads me to my specific third goal of the year — to do my best to chase down Lance like I did in 2008. I covered the course that year in around 3 hours and 45 minutes. I’d like to better that time for the 90 miles in 2011.

GOAL #3 – A sub 3 hour 45 minute finish in the 2011 LiveSTRONG Challenge in Austin, Texas.

Just typing this and I’m feeling a little more motivated! I just hope that Jim hasn’t given up on me. I was supposed to have already given him these goals for the upcoming year. Sending these along to him will flip the switch and get 2011 underway!

At last I am over the line

It is just a small thing, but I got my FTP test report back from my coach and noticed that for the first time all bars on my Power Profile have moved into Category 3 territory. Yes, I know it doesn’t really mean much unless it can be converted to power on the road. Still, it is something I have been aiming for over a couple of years.

WKO+ Power Profile

Moving into Category 3 territory (click to enlarge)

The bars I’m talking about are the ones to the far right of the graph. As you can see, all the bars are just slipping over the line. I guess now I can say I’m a “sorta good” racer. 🙂

The amazing thing is to see where the chart says the domestic and international professional riders chart in with their power! I can’t fathom putting out that kind of power. Even the next level on the chart seems like something I can never obtain.

It reminds me of seeing the time Thad Dulin put up on Saturday’s Paris Mountain Time Trial. He climbed Altamont Road in around 9 minutes 30 seconds. My fastest time up has been just under 11 minutes 40 seconds and I thought I was absolutely going to die when I did it. That is a whole 2 minutes faster. Wow!

That is part of the fun of cycling though. You can ride the same road as a professional (George Hincapie’s best time up Paris Mountain is around 8:45) and see how you compare. Something they say is that the pro is experiencing the same suffering you are only he is going faster. So, you at least can get a glimpse of what they are doing… just sooner on the pain scale!

I’m a happy man. More and more I realize that a goal I had set early on isn’t really the most important thing to be aiming for, but it is still a great day when you see any goal reached. Today is one of those days.

This remote has not back and forward

I went back to January 1, 2009 to check out what I had to say about the new year. There I found some goals I had set out for myself. Now on January 1, 2010, I’m looking back — and forward. One thing I know about it all is that I can’t go back and change what happened and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Isn’t that a good thing? I can’t change the past, but it is also done with. No need to keep trying to relive it or fix it. The future is wide open. Sure, I know things are going to happen and most likely not exactly the way I have planned. That is the excitement of it.

So, here is to looking back for a moment.

I had four goals for myself when it came to cycling. 1) Finish Mt. Mitchell in 6 hours and 30 minutes. I watched that goal slip away on the road up to the summit when the clock clicked past at the gate. I ended up finishing in 6 hours and 45 minutes. Still, it was a good show and a respectable time.

2) I hoped to pick up some points racing in Category 4. At least I moved up for the 2009 season, but don’t think I had any points to show for it. My highest place finish was 4th in the very first race. It kind of went downhill from there. Still, before the season was over I was racing with a great bunch of guys (and gal) on the POA Cycling Team.

3) Another trip to Texas was in my plans. That goal, I am happy to say, was completed. I even had my wife join me in Austin this year and she rode her first 40 mile ride during the LiveSTRONG Challenge. It was a highlight of the year.

4) Would LowCadence.com still be around a year later? I hoped it would grow back when I put up that post, but I wondered if I could stay with it that long. Well, 2009 was one of my more consistent years for blogging ever. I’m glad I’ve stuck it out and the reward is getting to know you all.

Other notable unplanned things about the year? Well, joining POA was one of them. Ah, that pinky finger break in February that took me out of some of the Spring Series races. Then there was the crash at the South Carolina Road Race Championships that took out my 2009 Giant. I wouldn’t have thought I would have a coach at this time either.

However, most of the memories aren’t real measurable. Laughing with my team on the way to Texas, seeing a beautiful vista open up from the top of Paris Mountain as I saw rows of mountains on a crisp day, and buying my son’s first road bike. Those are just a few of the many images, sounds, and thoughts swirling around in my mind.

So, what about the future?

Well, I guess I have to lay out my goals for the year. I’ve had to be thinking about these for some time because my coach (one of those unimagined events) has had me spell them out. I reckon January 1, 2011 will prove them reality or not.

1) A goal is to finish in the top 5 of a targeted race. Frankly, the unsaid goal is to win it. I’m not saying which one here in case some of the competition might be reading! With that comes the racing goal of finishing each race better than the corresponding 2009 event.

2) Paris Mountain once again looms and casts a shadow on my plans. I want to climb Altamont Road in 11 minutes 15 seconds. Wow. This is a very daunting goal to me. When I consider how long it took me to get 11:35… well… this one has me shaking. However, I will be better prepared for this goal than ever.

3) I will not be riding Texas this year. I will return to the Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride in the future. However, this year I am focusing the Ride For Mike solely on Mike McCaskill. In September or October of 2010 I will ride over 700 miles from Memphis to Greenville to Raleigh. The trip is planned for seven days.

4) As for the blog? I have no plans. It has been a good run and I see no reason to end it. Daily readership has more than doubled. However, I am not going to aim for some readership goal or anything like that. The joy of the blog should come in the sharing. Sometimes goals can get in the way of passion. We can get so caught up in obtaining that we lose what we could gain. I will write because I want to. I won’t when I don’t.

I hope you will come along with me. One thing is for sure, I’ve never entered a year with more preparation. I’m looking forward to where the bike will take me in 2010. I’m also content with where LowCadence.com might lead.

I’ll see you there.

Dear Bicycle

Dear Bicycle,

You’ve been good to me. There was a time when I was pretty listless physically and mentally. It was because I had begun living a sedentary lifestyle. You helped me bring a little balance back into that portion of my life. However, it is time for us to have a talk.

The joy of the wind on my bald head, the thrill of crossing a finish line on a solo breakaway, the exhilaration that comes from suffering and then overcoming — these are the things that brought me beyond merely riding around the block to attempting bigger and better things. Caught up in it all I set my sights on even larger accomplishments ahead of me. Like a junky after a fix, it takes longer and longer draws to get the high.

You are just a bicycle.

I’ve enjoyed the new doors you have opened for me. Please don’t think I am ungrateful. I am thankful and wouldn’t trade the experiences and relationships I’ve enjoyed.

However, I had friends before you. I had experiences that I enjoyed and shared with people I love. These new doors shouldn’t mean I have to shut the doors on the old ones.

You’re just carbon, rubber, and metal.

I’m giving up 8 to 12 hours of my week for you. I know, for some who ride your kin that is nothing! For others who have not known what you’ve given me that might seem excessive. I have to let you know, though, that is all I am going to be able to give you.

I think I’m paying enough as I spin going nowhere in my basement while my children are being read their bedtime stories upstairs. I know this training is the medicine I’m taking to make me stronger and it will pay off. It is something I do gladly. However, it is all I can give you. There are some fun things we could do together that just aren’t going to happen. The Beautiful Redhead and the Things Three are just too important.

You have no soul — you can only give what I bring to you.

What about Thing Two? Have I gotten caught up in hoping he will find his way onto one of your kind? What if he doesn’t want to ride a bike? Yes, I know one of the reasons why I started riding was so I would be in shape enough to keep up with him as a teenager when I’m in my 40s. What if I find that I have to do something else to spend time with him?

So, don’t look at me like that when I tell you that I can’t take you out. I’m giving you enough. For some people, it may not be enough. For other people, they may still think it is too much. But it is really just between you and me. I’ve found my limit.

Don’t worry, we’ll have a long relationship. I’m not going to just hang you up. You’ve given me too much to deserve that. Really, this year I’m giving you a good shot at getting us both into some of those bigger and better things. After that, though, our relationship is going to have to mature beyond the infatuation of the winner’s high.

You’ve been good to me, Bicycle. But it is time for me to grow up and realize that you’re got to be a small part of my life. A part – a part I enjoy – but just a part. I think we can do it and be better for it.


Closing a door to open another

Sometimes it seems that I have been riding my bike forever.  That could be due to it being the end of the season, but it also could be because I have packed a lot into the last two years.  Now as the 2009 season comes to a close, I’m having to start thinking about 2010.  I don’t know if I am ready.

My first year riding a road bike, I pretty much meandered around the Upstate and tried to ride fast around the Cleveland Park circuit.  That year of 2006 doesn’t really count.  I started riding in August.

2007 was the year with my first ever goal.  It was to start the process of working toward my first Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Back then it seemed so huge!  Funny, but the fact that I competed in my first race didn’t mean much at the time.  I figured it was a one time experience.

In 2008 I turned 40 and my focus was that climb to the top of Mitchell.  Training for that climb brought me into a close relationship with the back of Paris Mountain and so the obsession with breaking my personal best there was born.  Racing factored into the year as well, but more for the sake of getting ready for my assault.

The Assault on Mount Mitchell lived up to its billing, but the win during the Downtown Greenville Cycling Classic was the highlight of the year for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it got me hooked.  It put me on a high as I headed into the 2008 Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride.

While on the ride, I met Joey Sullivan and Matt Tebbetts.  We formed a bond during that ride and then early this year, Joey contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a space for him in the POA Cycling Team.  Secretly, I had been hoping for a spot on the team.  I tried to act like it was no big deal as the guys would talk about it, but coming on board was another one of those unexpected surprises in life.

So, in 2009 my goals shaped around racing – but included the Assault and Paris Mountain.  My goal in racing was to win my first Category 4 race.  My goal for the Assault was to finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes.  My aim for Paris Mountain was to break 12 minutes.

I’ve only got one of those goals – the sub-twelve up Paris.  I finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes on the Mt. Mitchell ride.  My highest place in a race was 4th – in my first race of the year.

Was it a bad year?  Well, I guess if you base it on outcome, one out of three would not be that great.  However, if you consider the goals a means to an end and not the end itself, I would say it was a successful year.  I had fun and learned a lot – not to mention that I am nearly as fit as I have ever been.

One important thing I learned is that if you are going to set goals, you need to have a plan for each of them.  The better the plan, the greater the opportunity for success.  The plan needs to take you beyond your norms.

So, as I close the door on 2009, I’m thinking about the new year.  I’ve decided to have a coach to help me formulate the plans that will help me reach the goals I hope to set.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared of the commitment.  Then again, I was scared when I set my sights on climbing Mt. Mitchell.  I was scared when I pulled up to the line for my first race.

I never have regreted turning that crank to start either of them. I’m guessing 2010 won’t be any different.  Now, what will those goals be….?

The monkey is officially off my back

Monday evening I headed out on one of those rides where I didn’t have any plans. I treated my bike like a horse in the old west. I let the rains loose and let the steed head whatever direction he would.

This led me along the base of Paris Mountain. I had been feeling kind of rough, so I was just spinning along enjoying the cooler weather. As I rode along I remembered some of the rides we had along this route during the summer days.

On these back roads I had my iPhone playing on random. The tracks happened upon the soundtrack to The Man from Snowy River.  It seemed the perfect soundtrack for the ride.  By the time I reached Old Buncombe road I was feeling pretty satisfied with the entire experience.

I turned onto Altamont Road and started up pretty strong.  That first 3 minutes – which took me beyond the water tower – I was averaging 395 watts.  As I made the turn from that first test, I realized that this might be a night to give it a try to go sub-twelve without any pacing or cheering section.

The next three minutes would be confirmation of whether this was something worth trying.  My watts dropped to 312, but I was still holding a speed average over 12 mph.  I reached the halfway point in under 6 minutes averaging over 350 watts.

Yep, this would be the night!

Over the next three minutes I covered a half a mile.  My wattage was holding steady at 312 watts for that section, but my speed dropped to a 10 mph average. I tried to remember what Boyd and Strad had told me during my last successful climb.

The thing that came to my mind was Boyd saying, “The worse thing about this is that now you know you can do it.”  Actually, that ended up being my encouragement.  I knew I could do it.  I just had to draw on that past experience.

I needed that memory as I approached those last minutes of the climb.  I picked up my average for that last attack to 332 watts.  Never did I look down at the computer.  Then I reached the final section of the wall.  Without even looking at the computer I knew that if I gave it my all the 12 minute barrier would be broken.

Unfortunately, as I crossed the line, I pushed the wrong button on my computer.  By the time I realized what I had done and pressed the correct button, my time stood at 11:56.  Looking back at my WKO+, I see it was actually 11:53!

I also see that my heart rate on that final kick to the finish was 203 bpm!  No wonder I felt like I was going to puke as I rolled over the KOM line. My overall power average was 338 watts with a heart rate average of 184 bpm for the climb. My average speed was 11.1 mph.

So, I can say that even according to the official unofficial rules of recording your personal best up Paris Mountain, I have broken the 12 minute barrier.  There is no doubt in my mind that now that I have I will be able to do it on a regular basis.

Funny how that is.  You work and work to reach a goal and once you reach it, you find that you can do it again and again. I think it shows that much of this thing we call cycling is mental.

2 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1305 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!

Seconds Per Pound

I am somewhat of a data weenie.  Now, probably not as bad as Boyd Johnson, but I do like pouring over my power files and ride data.  This interest got me thinking of my ride up Paris Mountain the other day.

There are two ways to go faster up the mountain.  1) increase power and 2) decrease weight.  Of course, the more weight you have to pull up the mountain, the more power you will need to do it.  The less amount of weight, the less power you need to reach a goal.

Taking the power out of the picture and just looking at time and weight, I came up with my Seconds Per Pound ratio for my personal best time.  Basically, at 170 pounds, it took me 4.09 seconds per pound to make it to the top in 11 minutes and 35 seconds.

So, right off the bat, that tells me that by losing 5 pounds, I should be able to turn out the same average power (346 watts in this case) and reach the top in 11 minutes and 15 seconds.  Of course, the SPP goes out the window unless I maintain that same power.

What I need to do is build a formula that incorporates 1) weight, 2) power, and 3) time.  I can then change the variables to see what would happen if say I lost five pounds and increased my average wattage by 10 watts.  Then it is just a matter of finding out how to put that data into practice.

I’m just a tad under 6’2″.  I weigh in on average around 170.  Sometimes I dip down to 168 and when I’m really fat, I might reach 175.  Mostly, I’m between 168 and 172.

It wasn’t always that way.  In junior high I was 5’11” and weighed 145.  I was a stick!  Even in college I was 6’1″ and 155.

I remember one summer working at a camp located on a ridge above Lake Jocassee.  I was a cook.  One of my fellow cooks was quite the exercise nut.  We would do over 150 push ups each night and a number of pull ups.  I would then run each day to a water fall near by.  Then on the weekends, I would run down to Lake Jocassee and back.

It took me nearly the whole summer to be able to run all the way down and all the way back up.  However, I did it.  Did I mention I was a cook?  Well, by the end of that summer I was a pretty hard 165 pounds.  I thought I was a big dude!

What that tells me is that I probably have some weight to give.  Before I started riding again in 2006, I had reached 180 pounds.  Much of the 170 I now carry is the muscle I have built up in my legs (= where my power comes from).  There is one spot I think I definitely have some to give.  It’s that hardest spot to lose – my, as Steve Sperry would say, “budda belly.”

So, could a 2010 goal be a five pound weight loss along with some increase in power for the end result of a sub-eleven minute personal best up Paris Mountain?  I’ll find out what my new coach has to say about it.  Sure is a tempting target!

8 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1115 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!

11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

Funny.  Just yesterday I was talking about how I was about to go into hibernation.  That post finished with me saying, “Sometimes all it takes to get you back going is a good ride.”  Well, I can definitely say I had a good ride, but I have to give the credit to the guys who made it happen.

First I was just hoping it wouldn’t be raining.  It was cool but a little humid.  There had been times of very light rain through the day, but for now it was holding off.

Then I was hoping people would show up for the ride.  As I pulled up to the parking lot, I didn’t see anyone or the cars of the typical members of this ride.  Maybe tonight’s ride would be solo.

I went inside and found Billy White.  He was putting down a Powerbar and looking around probably wondering the same thing I was… “Hey, where is everybody?”  It was good to know that there would be at least two of us.

Boyd Johnson rolled in about the time I was getting my Powerbar finished.  The three of us went out to check the parking lot one last time.  There we found Strad Helms.  Four is definitely better than one.

We headed out at a pretty nice clip.  I was talking with Boyd about his plans to import frames and build up his own brand of bikes.  We also had some of our usual unusual sightings.  One guy passed us on a moped and he had a huge knot on his head.  Another time we saw a guy out running – sweat dripping off him – with a beer in his hand.

It was a pretty typical ride until we made a turn onto a road and I went to put weight on my right pedal.  I heard a twang and felt my leg spin around with no resistance.  My chain broke.  Of course, none of us had a chain tool.

The good news is that we were very close to Boyd’s house.  We removed my chain and I remounted my bike.   Boyd then commenced to push me the distance to his street.  Before long, I was back together sans a couple of chain links.  John James happened by.  Now there were five of us and we were back on the road.

That road led us quickly to Paris Mountain.  We started up and I could sense John had designs to get to the top a bit faster tonight.  Billy and I tucked in behind the three other riders and tried to hang on.

It wasn’t uncomfortable.  I felt I was on the edge of too much, but not quite.  When we reached halfway, I knew why.  We reached that point in just around five and a half minutes!  Hmmmmm, this could be interesting.

As we moved past that point, John eased off to join a rider we were coming around.  As he did so, he said to Strad, “Fall back and let Jonathan on your wheel.”  Strad was a bit confused about John’s intentions and ended going behind me.  It was just Boyd’s wheel ahead.

I figured he (and Strad) would end up riding off to leave me in the dust.  However, I was staying with them.  The difference was I was laboring a bit and they weren’t.

We reached a point where I thought I was going to have to ease up a bit and at that point I realized these guys weren’t going to leave me.  They had plans to coax me to the top for my personal best.  Boyd turned around and coached me to shift down a gear and encouraged me to keep going.

We were at the dreaded blue post section of the climb.  It is the point where I normally begin to lose my rhythm.  However, the realization that I had a couple of guys expecting me to give my best motivated me to do just that.  I didn’t want to let them down if they were going to be there for me.

I settled down and just tried to get some oxygen in me while concentrating on trying to avoid gaps forming between me and the riders ahead.  No doubt those gaps would have come, but Boyd and Strad were keeping the pace just high enough to push me but not drop me.

“Keep your head up,” I heard Boyd say.  “Don’t look down.  It will defeat you.”  I jerked my head up to look at the road ahead of me.  I know it is psychological, but he was right.  I concentrated on keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead instead of myself or the bike — especially the computer!

“Two minutes to go!”  Boyd and Strad were now turning around to check on my progress and push me when they noticed me begin to ease.  My spirits lifted when Strad called my attention to the fact that we were nearing the yellow turn sign that marks the beginning of The Wall.

“Forty-five seconds…” Boyd called, “you’re going to have to stand the whole finish.”  I obeyed.  “Shift down,” he instructed and I put on more resistance.  “Good,” he said.  “Now, stand.”  He had to remind me one or two more times to get off the seat, but for the most part I was pushing hard for the top.

Strad now moved behind me and I could hear Boyd ahead and Strad behind.  They were willing me to the finish.  There was no way I was going to sit up at this point.

“Fifteen seconds,” Boyd was counting the time.  “You can do anything for fifteen seconds.”  I still had enough pride left that I didn’t want to sound like I was dying – even though I felt like I was.  I tried to contain the grunts and whimpers that I felt trying to come out.

Pride be hanged!  I was riding with a guy who just days before had raced up this mountain as part of the professional peloton during the USA Cycling Professional Championships.  Of course I was going to have a harder time making it to the top!  Then there was Strad still calling encouragement from behind.  He races with the Hincapie Development team and my guess is it won’t be long before you’ll find him on one of the teams now racing in the Tour of Missouri.

I let out a grunt and what probably could be classified as a whimper.  That kind of whimper that comes from a kid getting beat up by bullies.  However, I stepped on it and attacked that last kick up to the finish.  Only once did I drop to my seat, but I was immediately up at the command from Boyd.  Finally, I pushed that infernal bike across the line.

It took awhile for me to see the computer screen in front of me.  I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  As it came into focus I saw 11.  That was awesome!  However, I actually felt a chill as I noticed what followed the “:” – it was a “35”!  I had crushed my best time by 30 seconds!

I didn’t know what to think.  A goal I had been trying to break for two years fell on a night when I had no intentions of trying.  The thought crossed my mind what my time could have been without the two nearly full water bottles.  Then I wondered if I could really claim the time since I got it by being paced up the mountain.

I’ll take it.  I worked hard enough to get that time.  Take off 20 seconds as a penalty for pacing and I’ll still have a sub-twelve minute climb.  Of course, as Boyd told me as we eased up on the other side, “The bad thing about this is now you know you can do it.”

I kept waiting for some sort of feeling of elation to come over me.  It never did.  It was more of a matter of fact feeling of relief.  There was no immediate feeling of, “Okay, now I need to get an 11:30!”  No, for now I am happy with having broken 12.

As I helped my six year-old break into the bathroom that had been inadvertantly locked so he could get the all important reach extender so he could rescue a toy out of a hole, it crossed my mind how much more time and devotion it would take to knock off another 10 seconds.  “Thanks, Dad!”  Hey, it is just a number.  If it comes, it comes.  If it doesn’t?  There are more important things in life.

Three measly seconds

One thousand one… One thousand two… One thousand three… the time it took you to read that is how close I was yesterday to climbing Paris Mountain in 12 minutes flat.  That is the goal I set for myself over a year ago.  I’ve never been able to best it.  Last night I got really close… I got a personal best at 12 minutes 3 seconds. It will fall.

Now, Saturday there will be guys riding up that incline that will make a 12 minute climb look like a snail assault.  I regularly ride with guys who bust out sub-twelve climbs.  That time on the venerable climb is not that special… except to me.  Forgive me while I dissect my ride again.

It started with an easy ride up to the top.  I took my time to enjoy that day.  Too often I’m just riding with my head down with some goal in mind.  I don’t look around and enjoy the scenes.  This time I even stopped to take some video with my iPhone.  I need to go back with a better camera!

I knew that I could get a good time because when I reached the other side and turned around, my legs were feeling good.  I put my bike in a very easy gear and started up spinning at a higher cadence than normal.  My plan was to take it easier in the first half and then attack toward the end.

It seemed to be working.  Through the first three minutes – that would take me up to the water tower section – I was averaging 330 watts and hit a high heart rate of 174 bpm.  Still, I was maintaining a 10.5 mph average.

The next three minutes of riding brought me to the midway point of the ride.  I was pretty happy to reach that section at almost 6 minutes on the nose.  The better news is that I had been able to pick up some more speed and was still feeling pretty good.

That section after the water tower is a 5.3% grade.  I was able to average just under 12 mph while putting out a lower average wattage of 314.  My heart rate did climb to a high of 179, but I was still averaging 176 bpm.  When I looked down to and saw 6:00 on my Garmin, I knew I stood a chance!

I stood and started to attack the next 6 minutes.  I planned to attack, recover, attack, recover, and then let it all hang loose on The Wall.  Things got a little tougher in the next three minute section.  The average grade was now 7%.

My body was showing some strain as well.  My heart rate climbed to a high of 186 and held an average during that section of 183 bpm.  I was riding in my red line.  Still, I was putting out an average of 343 watts and holding an average speed of 10.6 mph.  It was during that section that I looked down at my computer for the second time in the ride and saw 10:00.  I knew I was close!

I’m about to hit The Wall.  The average grade over the next three minutes was 7.4%.  I settled in for a steady push in the early part of this three minute section, but stood to give it all I had toward the end.  This averaged out to be 361 watts for the just over half mile section.  My heart rate was letting me know we were near the end by peaking at 190 bpm and averaging 186 in that section.

However, it was the easy start and the driving finish that made it work.  I bet I covered the hardest portion of this climb faster than I have ever done in my life.  The average grade over this 650 feet is 10.4%.  My average wattage over this section was 507 watts.  That garnered me a 10.5 mph average for that distance.

The entire climb’s numbers looked like this: Average – Power = 336 watts, Heart Rate = 177 bpm, Cadence = 78 rpm, Speed = 10.9 mph; Maximum – Power = 641 watts, Heart Rate = 190 bpm, Cadence = 100 rpm, Speed = 17.5.

It will be a while before I’ll get a chance to try this again.  However, I think I’ve found the keys to making it work.  I just have to be sure I’m in good shape when I try it.  My guess is that when the temperatures begin to drop, I’ll start to see myself regularly breaking the 12 minute mark when I give it a try.

Three measly seconds.  Man… soooooo close!