Monday, August 30, 2010

How I Won River Gorge

Yes, fawning worshipers, I have returned. Max Watzz to the rescue.

I'm here today to tell you about my bone-crushing victory at the River Gorge Omnium this past weekend in Chattanooga. I was -- as you have no doubt come to expect -- spectacular. My performance was such that grown men openly wept, marveling at my unbridled power, fearful that the earth itself might give way beneath the thrust of my massive loins. Women alongside the course were seen striking their husbands with their fists, berating them for not being me ... and some of these women were married to that guy in the Old Spice commercials -- a notorious polygamist. The horse that the Old Spice guy was riding was up there watching me race, and it immediately flung itself off the nearest cliff in shameful realization that my legs are stronger than his could ever possibly hope to become.

I was transcendent. I was mythic. I was ... well, I was damned fast.

But enough about me ... let's talk about me. I was --

-- Click --

Oh, gosh. Did I just hang up on Max? Oops.

Hi, folks! It's RandoBoy, again, here to tell you what really happened.

The short story is that Max did kind of win his time trial -- although just for our age group. He was second in the Cat 5s, but that made him the fastest old fart ... oh, sorry, 40+ cyclist. We got a gold medal ... well, a gold-colored medal. Suitable for hanging. Not suitable or deserving of the above brouhaha.

That's not to say that it wasn't fun, of course. RandoGirl and I had a great time, enjoyed some lovely cycling in beautiful country, and got to see a lot of my racing friends.

Tennessee River from top of Raccoon Mountain

We drove down to Chattanooga Friday night, hoping to get to the check-in event at the Terminal Brewhouse. The menu mentioned homemade root beer, and I wanted to meet Saul Raisin. Unfortunately, traffic and construction slowed us down, so we instead went straight to the hotel and got a good night's sleep. I then went over to the ride start in the morning to check in and get my numbers.

RandoGirl planned to do a group ride with the Chattanooga Bicycle Club down in Chickamauga, GA, while I did my road race. We got dressed and got our bikes ready, and then I took my bike out to ride the mile to the race start. As I headed out of the parking lot of the hotel, however, I feathered the rear brake -- and it immediately locked up.

"This ain't right," I said, as I checked it out. Sure enough, the cable was seizing in the housing, and no amount of working it or dripping chain lube into it would get it moving smoothly. Time was running down, and I realized that there was no way I could fix it myself in time for the race.

My sad saggy cable

Since I was not willing to do a mountainous road race without a rear brake, I returned to the hotel and looked up the hours for local bike shops. Suck Creek Cycles, whom I had seen for years at the start of the 3-State 3-Mountain century, was the clear winner: They opened at 8:30 am, and were less than 10 miles away by bike.

Despite having to remember not to try to use my rear brake, I had a very nice ride over to the store. I skirted the edge of Lookout Mountain, went through downtown, and then rode over the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge. Suck Creek Cycles quickly identified and repaired the issue, even putting some "anti-seize" in the housing to help avoid recurrence. I was rolling back towards the hotel with everything in proper shape before 9 am.

Now, a bicycle racer would have done the smart thing at this time and rested his legs at the hotel for the remainder of the morning. Obviously, that is not what I did, since I'm more of a bicycle rider than a bicycle racer. Instead, I went back out and rode the race course at a nice easy pace. The Pro/1/2 guys passed me going up one climb, and I saw a few other racers out there, but mostly I just enjoyed the scenery and the excellent weather.

I skipped the final 3.5-mile climb up Raccoon Mountain and headed more or less straight to the hotel, returning just after 11 am to get cleaned up and wait for RandoGirl to return. Once she had showered and dressed, we checked out of the hotel, grabbed some lunch, and drove to the park.

If you're ever in Chattanooga, I recommend that you bike up to the Raccoon Mountain visitor's center and check it out. It's really impressive the way that they pump water up from the river to a big lake on top of the mountain, and then let it out to generate electricity in times of high demand.

They also have some really scary dead and stuffed wildlife.

"Get your own tree, butt-head!"

After seeing the sights, we drove down to the finish area for the time trial. We set up chairs and our cooler, and then I got dressed and ready to race. It was nice hanging out, talking with some of the other racers, and enjoying the breeze coming up from the valley, and RandoGirl had a front-row seat.

About 45 minutes before my start time, I went out to ride around and warm up. This is always kind of tricky, and a lot of riders put their bikes on stationary trainers for this. I get bored on a trainer, however, so I ride the road and try to combine some fast spinning with a few short hard efforts. To do this on Saturday, I kept having to go around the parking area by one of the overlooks, and then roll back down the mountain about half a mile so I could pump my way back up. My legs felt good, though, by the time I got to the starting line just before 4 pm.

At each of the time trials that I did this year, they sent us off at 30-second intervals. At the start line, one race official holds your bike so you can clip in to your pedals and roll out fast, while another official counts down the seconds. Then the clock beeps and you start pedaling like crazy, working as hard as you can.

The race course was actually downhill overall, with the first mile or so pretty level. Then we had this lump of a climb, which I went into with as much gear as I could push. Eventually, sucking air like a ramjet, I got over the top and started down a long gradual descent. I shifted up into as much gear as I had and spun like crazy to get some speed. Meanwhile, I tucked down as low as I could, trying to minimize the wind drag of my body.

Coming out of the trees like this, you're flying at 45 mph or so when the wind hits you cross-wise and your bike jerks a bit. It takes every bit of calm skill that you can muster to stay down, keep your hands away from the brakes, and try to keep the bike heading fast towards the end.

After this section, the course went over the largest rock fill dam ever built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The wind was pushing me around, trying to throw me into the rocks and down the cliff of the dam. I stayed low and worked hard, and then the wind was in my face as I came around. Finally, I took the hard right turn into another fast descent, followed by one more half mile of level ground before crossing the finish line ... totally spent.

It took me nine minutes and 10 seconds to go 4.1 miles. The winner was just over eight seconds faster.

As I mentioned above, they broke us out by age groups. Since the winner was a young whippersnapper (38 -- just a kid), I got a gold medal.

Since this was the last race of the season, the best part was the knowledge that at least I don't have to do this again. At least, not for a few months.

PS: No horses were harmed in the making of this blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's a Nice Day, So Be Nice

After weeks of forcing myself to ride in to work on hot humid mornings, the weather finally broke here in middle Tennessee. It was actually “knee-hurtin’” cool this morning – probably 67 degrees or so – with a light breeze from the north keeping the air pleasantly dry.

In short: Nice weather.

So why was everybody so pissy?

Well, okay, maybe not everyone … but a lot of folks out there this morning were definitely irritated about something. Here’s how it breaks out:

  • 13% were nice
  • 11% were irritated that they were stuck in cars instead of biking in to work today, and were wishing that they could head home and grab their bikes
  • 17% were irritated that they were stuck in cars instead of biking in to work today, but knew that they live too far away to drive to work
  • 12% were irritated that they were stuck in cars instead of biking in to work today, but knew that they had other things to do either on their way to work or on the drive back home that would preclude them from biking in to work today
  • 18% were irritated that they were stuck in cars instead of biking in to work today, but knew that they were just too darned fat and/or lazy to do anything else
  • 15% were happy as clams to be stuck in their cars, but were irritated that I was outside enjoying the nice weather (it's a strange phenomenon, but there are a lot of people that cannot understand how anybody could possibly be happy without creature comforts that these people take for granted -- if you want to see this in action, just tell somebody that you don't have a television)
  • 10% were just irritated -- their kid missed the bus, there were only four Crunchberries in this morning's bowl of Captain Crunch with Crunchberries, they were late for a 7 am meeting (and who the hell calls a 7 am meeting anyway ... just because we have to conference in the off-shore development team ...) -- or maybe irritated is just the normal state for those people
  • 4% were irritated because they don't like bicycles
Now, here's the really perverse thing about that last group -- the ones that hate bicycles: One of them was riding a bicycle!

Seriously! I'm going through one of the usual neighborhoods on my way in, and this guy is going the other way. Now, it was nice weather, so I'd already seen two other folks on bikes (they were in the "nice" category), and when I see people out walking or riding or just taking their garbage to the curb, I usually call out a nice friendly "Good morning!" Everyone else that I called "Good morning!" too had waved or smiled or said "Good morning!" back at me.

But not the sour-puss riding the other way. He scowls at me. And it's not the small scowl of "What are you, some kind of smart-ass?" It's a big scowl -- a major-league James-Bond-Villian kind of scowl. The kind that says "I hate this world, and I'm going to blow it up or poison it or flood it from my Giant Zeppelin of Evil."

Now, who can possibly hate this world when he's on a bicycle? (For that matter, who could hate the world from a zeppelin? They're kind of cool.)

We all have bad days on the bike. The wind has been against you no matter which way you're trying to go, or it's blazing hot or toe-numbing cold, or it's been raining all day and now it's going to start hailing. Maybe your shifting is all messed up and you're stuck in the big ring, or you keep getting flats but can't find that piece of glass in the tire's sidewall. Being 25 miles in on a 125-mile ride and developing a saddle sore that feels like it's as big as Newt Gingrich's head and twice as caustic ... that can be a bad day.

But weather like we had this morning could easily make you forget about a skipping chain or a massive Gingrich in your cycling shorts. It was just the perfect day for a ride, and the cranky motorists with whom I had been jousting all morning had been unable to kill my buzz. But that one sour cyclist ... his lack of appreciation for what I consider one of the best things in life really put a damper on my good morning.

I rang my little bell at him as he groused past, and I hope that this changed his mindset a bit. If it didn't, I hope he finished his ride soon after, because he wasn't doing himself or anybody any good this morning.

If you just don't want to be on a bike, then don't get on the bike. But if you're going to go out for a ride on a nice day, be nice!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Do You Mean, "Closed?"

After letting Max Watzz race on Saturday, RandoGirl and I needed a recovery ride. Since we were driving back from Oak Ridge, just north of Knoxville, we decided to ride the "lower loop" of my new Honest Abe 200K permanent. Frankly, I just wanted to show off to RandoGirl how pretty the route was, and how nice the roads were.

Well, we all heard about the rain and flooding the past couple of weeks, but I had no idea that it had hit the area north of Cookeville quite this much. The roads were fine, until we came down the descent on Knight Church Road.

It's really weird to see this, because it had been almost exactly two weeks since Jeff Bauer and I had gone over this same stretch with no problems.

What a difference 15 days can make!

Fortunately, I had a GPS with me. We backtracked up the steep road half a mile, turned left, and eventually got back to Hwy 135. Everything seemed fine there, until we came down off the plateau and found where the fields along the river there had also flooded.

It didn't look as if many of them had been planted, but I heard later that one home had been destroyed. The high water mark was somewhat evident from the flooded signs.

Part of Hwy 135 had been damaged enough to where they had laid down some gravel, which made for exciting cycling. As you can tell from the blue skies and light fluffy clouds, however, the weather was great for us, with a little less heat and humidity than we've been "enjoying" for the past few weeks in Nashville.

RandoGirl was really impressed with the sections of this road past the flood, particularly where it cuts into the edge of the cliff. With the river running alongside our right and the layered rock on our left, we were shady and cool as we headed towards Gainesboro. There, we stopped at the Dairy Queen for ice cream, answering the usual questions from some of the other customers about where we were going and how far we had come. One of the great things about riding a bicycle in this area is that you are enough of an anomaly that cars give you good clearance, with a friendly wave and a kindly attitude.

Since we were just doing the southern 100K, we did not continue on up to Kentucky and then back to Celina, but instead went right to the long climb out of town.

I was looking forward to showing RandoGirl the little town of Granville, and stopping at the T. B. Sutton General Store for ice cream again (now you can tell why I suffer so badly at races in places like Oak Ridge). After working our way over the ridge, we zipped along towards Flynn's Creek.

I think this is the Happy Goat House.

Of course, just past Flynn's Creek is another long climb, but it still had some shade in spite of the late afternoon hour. Soon we were in Granville, which RandoGirl agreed was darling. Her excitement was slightly tempered, however, by the revelation that the T. B. Sutton General Store was closed on Sunday.

We rested a few minutes on the store's shady front porch, shared our ice and water so that we each had one full cold bottle, and then started up Hwy 96. This road is almost a mirror image of Hwy 135, and it appeared that they had seen a bit of flooding recently, too. The roads were still clear, though, and we soon got to the mile and a half climb -- again, very shady -- just before Hwy 70. We bought a few more fluids at the store there, and then headed out on the last few miles towards Baxter.

Coming down 1st Street there, we found one last reminder of the flooding.

We were able to portage past this, though, with no more problems than getting mud in our shoe cleats.

From the look of things, 1st Street will probably be as good as new in a month or so, but I'm going to have to change the permanent routing on Knight Church. It was kind of a rough road before, and did not seem exactly "beloved" by the county, so maybe this is for the best.

In the mean time, maybe we should all expect the unexpected any time we go rambling down a new road ... or one we haven't been on in the last few days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Be Emaciated in Just Two Weeks!

So, the September issue of Bicycling Magazine arrived yesterday, and as I'm looking through it a number of thoughts hit me:
  • Why does a September issue arrive in mid-August? Is this a time-space continuum problem? If Doc Brown finds that I'm reading it, will he start ranting about how careless flux capaciting could inflict Marty with Parkinson's?
"Great Scott!" "No, I think that's a Trek, Doc."
  • Why are there all of these ads for cars? I could understand it if they were the kinds of cars that we might put bike racks on to drive somewhere and ride, but a Cadillac CTS Sports Sedan? Really?
  • And then, finally, the ultimate question: Why am I so fat?
Now, I'm not going to argue with you as to whether I am fat or not. I get people all of the time telling me that I'm too skinny and I need to eat more. Of course, these are all "normal" people (and may be lying to me), as opposed to cyclists. My mom, for one, is always saying "Mangia, mangia, mi biciclette boy -- eat-a some more-a pasta!"

OK, mom doesn't really talk like that. She was born in central Florida 80 years ago, so she talks like most Southern women. She used to cook like most Southern women, too, but my dad's cholesterol cured her of that back in the 70's. She does tell me that I'm too skinny, but she's also the one that told me about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Liar!

Anyway, I usually have to explain (to non-cyclists like my mom ... just kidding about the "liar" thing there, mom) that there are three kinds of weight when it comes to cycling:
  • Thin
  • This is what most recreational cyclists are. Clothes look good on you, and the doctor only says "You could lose a few pounds" during your check-ups because if he didn't give you some kind of advice, how could he (in good conscience) bill your insurance company?
    Thin riders can generally ride a club century at a comfortable pace, but don't win any KOM points on the long hills. They watch what they eat, but are not obsessed with it. For example, they can go to McDonald's and get a Big Mac with fries, but will only Super-Size it if they rode at least a metric that morning.
  • Skinny
  • These are the guys that stay with the faster packs on the tough climb Tuesday night, and may even be the first over the hill if no Climbers show up (see below). They look good in their team kit, and the doctor usually sends them in for a bone-density scan, rather than telling them to lose weight (Hey, he's just doing his job!).
    Skinny riders have a meal plan. They know the glycogen index of everything that they eat, and know what it's going to do to their bodies. ("These beets will help break down that lactic acid from my morning workout.") They still, although rarely, consider how a thing "tastes." For example, a Skinny rider may actually eat a piece of bacon. 
  • Climber
  • This is the guy who's always over the hill first Tuesday night. He's often seen sitting and spinning along next to the Skinny guys, who are churning their way up that hill, until about 30 yards from the top, when he seems to get bored and -- zoom! -- zips up and over.
    Climbers are usually fast on the descent, too (damn them!). It's because they have no frontal surface area. Wind curves around them as if they were a wing ... a very, very thin wing.
    Depending upon the guy (or girl -- we all know a few Climber women), your only chance to hang with the Climber is on the flat roads ... but don't count on it. Many Climbers are all leg muscle, and can even sprint. These are the ones we call "Pros" or "Cat 2s" or "bastards" (but in an admiring way ... honest).
    Climbers look good in kit, but not in swimsuits. Vestigial arms -- where the brachial artery is larger than the biceps -- are not what the chicks on the beach are looking for. In street clothes they look like extras from "Schindler's List" ... on a long day when the catering wagon never showed up.
    I've heard reports of climbers who "binge and purge." I think they just purge.

Anyway, back to Bicycling Magazine ...

Every month, there's at least one article telling me how to burn off those last five pounds, get a stronger core, clear up my skin, and have a digestive system so regular that the world could replace the atomic clock with my toilet. The past few months, they've been running pieces about cycling chefs from around the world -- where they ride and who they cook for -- plus a recipe that will give you lasting power at the next criterium, assuming that you have five hours to cook it and can stomach the taste of risotto in hummus.

The cover of Bicycling Magazine almost always features a super-lean cyclist, on a very clean brand-new bike, wearing a pristine kit that fits him or her like it was made for him or her (okay, yeah, it probably was), riding in perfect weather over absolutely gorgeous terrain. Next to it is this command:

Get LEAN Now

The message could not be clearer: If you were this thin, you would look like this in your cycling clothes, and you'd be able to afford this bike, and you'd keep it this clean (you could wash it rather than waste time eating), and you would be able to get out on days like this and ride in countryside like this. You just have to  ...

Get LEAN Now (the "loser" is implied.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Double Triple Digits

I grew up in the South. In my entire life (over 360 in dog years), there's only been one August that I have not lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. As such, you'd think that this statement would not be a revelation to me: It's hot here this time of year.

And this year has been one of the worst. Of course, every summer seems to be the hottest one ever when you're embroiled (literally) in it, but the numbers seem to show that this one has been exceptional. For example, we've now had 29 straight days at the RandoCave with a high temperature in the 90s. The low has dipped into the upper 60s twice.

So, why did I go out Saturday and ride 100 miles in 100 degree temperatures? Because I'm stupid? Because I'm insane? Because I don't know when to get off the road and out of the sun and just take a break?

Yes. Thanks for noticing.

I had a simple goal Saturday: Ride a little, at an easy pace. I was going to go down to Chattanooga on Sunday with some Team Belladium and Harpeth Bicycle racers to ride the River Gorge road race and time trial courses, so I needed to save my legs. Saturday, I just wanted to check out a few roads that I've been curious about, and ramble some. You know ... have fun!

So, I put the Lynskey on the back of the RAAMinator about 6 am and drove down to Page High School, and then biked back home. It was already in the mid-70s, and muggy as hell, but I took it easy and had a good quiet ride.

At the RandoCave, RandoGirl joined me and together we biked back down to Arrington Vineyards for Team Belladium's "Women and Wine at the Vine" ride. Since this was a "ladies only" ride, RandoGirl got to enjoy some "sister cycling" while I went off and did my own thing.

First, I headed down to Chapel Hill, TN, on Horton Highway (US-31). I'm planning a bicycle camping trip for November and wanted to see whether this road would be tolerable on a fully-loaded bike, since it gets a little traffic. The review was mixed, since the road has a decent shoulder that the state has completely ruined by putting in a rumble strip starting at the Rutherford-Williamson county line. You can go to the right of the rumbles, but that's where all the debris is. Your best bet, sad to say, is just stay to the left of the white lane and make the cars go around you. Meanwhile, the drivers are probably all shaking their head, thinking, "Why ain't that boy riding his bicycle on that nice wide road shoulder?"

Coming in to Chapel Hill about 10:30, the bank sign said that it was 95 degrees. I stopped at the Shell station for ice and Gatorade, and then rode down to Sonic for an early lunch. From there, I went further south to Henry Horton State Park, and checked out their tent camping area -- it should be very nice in November, but was pretty warm about 11:30 am on Saturday.

I had agreed to meet RandoGirl back at Arrington Vineyards at 1:30 pm, and figured I had about 30 miles to ride to get there. For the return trip, I went west on TN-99 -- wider shoulder than US-31, but no rumble strips so it's great for cycling -- and then north a few miles on US-431. From there, my plan was to backtrack parts of my new Cathey's Creek permanent to Bethesda, top off my bottles, and then finish the ride with about 90 miles.

Funny thing about riding a route with which you are not yet familiar -- particularly when you're doing it backwards: It's easy to miss a turn.

Next thing I know, I'm thinking, "Hmmm ... this seems hillier than last time. And hotter. Definitely no shade. And the turns don't look right." And then the road ends at some road with no sign, and you turn left because that's the way you were supposed to go about five miles back, and then you keep going that way reading road signs and looking for something you've been on before, knowing full well that eventually you'll get to some road that you know ... or you'll be back on TN-99 or US-431 or US-31.

Fortunately, I hit a road that I knew. Unfortunately, it was well south of where I thought that I was. Almost as bad, it was a terrible road -- rutted, half-gravel, and damned hot. Eventually, it ended, and 10 miles later I was finally at Bethesda, where I filled my now-empty bottles and had three refills of Diet Coke from the fountain machine. I also sat and ate a bag of chips while watching NASCAR on the television, just to get my salt level up and my core temperature down.

Since it was now after 1 pm, I called RandoGirl to tell her that I was probably not going to be at Arrington Vineyards at 1:30. They were having a picnic lunch in the shade, but it was pretty hot there as well, so she said that she would meet me at the RAAMinator at the high school instead. Since I now had cold fluids and felt decent again, it was an easy 10-mile spin for me, and I just beat her back.

Sunday in Chattanooga, I was still cooked, and my friends had to wait on me to catch up on a lot of the early turns. I promised myself then that I was NOT going to do another triple-digit ride in triple-digit heat again. At least, not this year.

I hope.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Could Be My New Favorite Permanent

As you may recall, back in June I went to Gainesboro, TN, to do a race. Max was supposed to do the race, but it was just so darned pretty out there that I ended up riding for him (which is why I finished in 15th place).

Well, ever since that weekend, I've been playing with the roads in mapping software, researching some local centuries, and trying to figure out a permanent in the area. Last weekend, after the Tennessee State Time Trial in Rutledge, I drove some of the roads to check them out.

Finally, after much research, this is what I have come up with:

Here's the way it looks from the side:

From here, it looks a little spikey on a bicycle. But it did not really feel that way this past Saturday, when Jeff Bauer and I test-rode it.

I'm going to call it the Honest Abe 200K. Someone from Kentucky once told me that Abe Lincoln was actually born in Kentucky, but got out to Illinois as soon as he could. In the same way, this route dips into Kentucky, and then almost immediately retreats (although back into Tennessee).

I'm also calling it Honest Abe because it goes through Moss, TN, which is the home of Honest Abe Log Homes, Inc.

You may have seen their billboards, and I'm sure that you've seen their log homes. The factory -- much of which you can see on the route -- looks like a pretty slick operation. It also smells like fresh-cut lumber, which is nice.

Along with the factory, the route has a lot of history. For one thing, it goes through historic Red Boiling Springs. In late 19th and early 20th century, this was a very popular spot for people to come to "take the waters" of the mineral springs. Now, you go past the town's sad overgrown pool ...

... and the slightly less sad Donoho Hotel.

The town looks almost happy at Armour's Red Boiling Springs Hotel.

It might be fun to pack up the tandem and come stay here for a weekend of riding with RandoGirl. Armour's supposedly also has a very nice restaurant, although Jeff and I were not dressed for that.

One of the last controls on the route is Granville, which is also rich in Tennessee history.

About the same time that people were going to Red Boiling Springs for the mineral waters, riverboats were frequenting Granville, picking up produce from the local farms for shipment to the big cities. The town is still very picturesque, with the Cumberland River on one side and a lake fed by Martin Creek on the other. Jeff and I had ice cream at the T.B. Sutton General Store in Granville.

This is a neat store with a fountain and grill at the back. They also have music in the evenings. Unfortunately, the town has nothing that is open late, so I'm going to have to use the post office as the control. A rider will need to bring a stamped post card.

More than the "tourist sights," however, it's the roads themselves that determine the quality of any bicycling route. Honest Abe has great roads. For example, here's Hwy 135, just after the descent down from Dodson Branch.

You're on this road for almost 17 miles before you get to Gainesboro, TN, and then you're on it for another seven past that. We had a few more cars in Gainesboro itself -- particularly on the first two miles leaving town (you go past the high school, and this time of year there's lot of athletic teams starting practice on Saturdays). On the 10-mile stretch above, heading in to Gainesboro, we were passed by just one car.

Even better: It's shady, with a river running next to it for most of this. And the river is running north -- the same way you're going -- so you're slowly going downhill.

Almost as shady, and perhaps even more empty, were TN-56 and then TN-151, which we took from Gainesboro up to Red Boiling Springs.

Again, nice and flat, with hills keeping the sun off of you. On the other side of the road we mostly saw corn fields and cattle.

The roads in Kentucky -- or the little bit of them that we were on -- were pretty much the same.

TN-52 heading towards Celina caught a little more sun and a few more cars. TN-53 back from Celina was also a little sunny and hilly, but a little less busy. The cars didn't really matter, though, since it is a nice wide road with the Cumberland River on the right.

Jeff enjoyed it.

Although this route did not have incredible food like you get at Marcy Jo's or Henpeck (from the new Cathey's Creek Permanent and Dog Meat permanents), it does have enough stores that you can get ice and cold drinks when you need them. The Dodson Branch market has sandwiches and hot biscuits for breakfast, and there are plenty of stores in Gainesboro (which is good, since you go through there twice). The Citgo and Marathon stores have long hours, and there's also a Foodtown.

A whole town made of food. Nom, nom, nom ....

Gamaliel has three stores, but in the grand Bible Belt tradition only one of them is open on Sunday. I applaud Bill Martin for thinking of those randonneurs who may have to work on Saturday.

Like Gamaliel, Celina is an open control, so you just need to get your card signed and a receipt from any business in town. Celina is bigger than Gamaliel, though, and the suggested stores are the Shell convenience store or Dairy Queen on TN-52. If you're already thirsty, on your way into town there is Jack's ...

... and the Shack ...

(Radio Shack, if you can't tell. This is good in case you need a battery for your bike computer -- or a small motor for the seat tube.)

Jeff and I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Celina and had more ice cream. Thanks to the cooler weather and gentle roads, we were over 80 miles in (out of the 127 miles for the total route) at about 11 am when we got there.

Leaving the Dairy Queen, we filled our bottles and Camelbacks with ice, and thus did not need to stop in Gainesboro. Unfortunately, there's a long tough climb up TN-53 to get out of Gainesboro, and I got a piece of wire in my back tire. It started to go flat on the descent, so we had to stop and change it. By the time we finished, we were feeling hot, and we were almost tempted to stop at this place a little ways down the road.

The sign out front says, "Clippers -- Food, Hair, & Fun." I'm not sure if it's a short-order grill and hair salon or what, but we decided to skip it this time. In the future, folks riding this on a hot day may want to check it out, though ... particularly if you didn't top off your fluids and ice in Gainesboro (you can't get ice in Granville).

Another thing that this ride has is pretty scenery. Here's a creek that was just over the Kentucky state line.

Further down that valley was another pretty spot.

Riding along TN-52, halfway between Celina and Gainesboro, Jeff saw some young raccoons by the road.

They seemed old enough to fend for themselves, but were pretty tame. Jeff was almost able to give them some water.

Finally, this route has some good physical challenges. There are a couple of good long climbs, and lots of county lines to sprint. One of the reasons that I put the Gamaliel control in was to have the route cross into Kentucky. State line sprints are always fun.

I let Max Watzz out on a climb just over a mile from this line. Since Jeff was taking it easy (he's riding Quadzilla this weekend), I was able to drop him enough that I didn't have to sprint for the line.

Excellent roads, great views, plenty of ice cream, and lots of challenges. This could be my new favorite permanent.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How I Won the Tennessee State Time Trial

Greetings, puny humans, from your hero and mine: Me.

Today, I'm going to tell you about how I won the Tennessee State Time Trial this past weekend in Rutledge, TN.


Ah, but how I do love silence. Next to the dulcet tones of my own mellifluous voice, there is possibly no sweeter sound, since this means that there is no snide rejoinder from RandoBum today. What is wrong, oh Ran-DUH-neur? Nothing to say?

RB: Congratulations, Max. You done good.

MW: Yes, I was awesome. I was maybe even more awesome than I normally am, if it's possible to ponder such a level of awesomality. When I begin to think about just how awesome I can sometimes be, I begin to fear that I might create a huge gravity well that could suck up the other paltry matter of this universe, creating a black hole with me as its tremendous iridescent center. It might be hard to ride a bicycle in such a universe, however, and so I try not to let my awesomeness reach these levels.

AM: Do nae go overboard on it, ye imbecile. So ye finally won a race. Woop-de-fookin'-do. Ye were the fastest Cat 5 out there, but there were 24 racers in other categories that beat yer miserable time.

RB: Ah, Coach Angus MacKillimiquads! So glad you could join us.

AM: Sod off.

MW: But, coach, you said that I should try to do the race in one hour, and I came in almost two minutes under that.

AM: Ye were nae even 30 seconds ahead of yer closest competitor, ye fool. It was just dumb luck that ye managed to edge past his time.

RB: Yes, Max. Do tell us how you managed to win.

MW: Well, um ... yeah. Thanks. You see, I warmed up in the parking lot, of course, with all of the other racers. The weather was nice and cool, so I did a few hard efforts out on the road, but nothing really hard. Then, when I got to the start, I had a full tank of power. And you know what kind of power Max Watzz power can be ...

AM: What-fookin'-ever. Get along with it.

MW: Yeah. So, there I was at the starting line. There were five other Cat 5s ahead of me, as well as two or three behind me. Once I got on the road, I just had to ride hard enough to keep the guys that were behind me ... well, behind me ... and pass all of the Cat 5s ahead of me.

The course went out 20 kilometers and then came back on the same road, so I knew I was doing well when I had passed four riders by the turn-around and was averaging 25.6 mph. As I started back, about one kilometer from the turn-around I saw the Cat 5 who had started behind me. That let me know that I couldn't ease off ...

AM: What the fook do ye mean, "ease off?" There's no "easin' off" in bicycle racing, ye fool! Ye stop when ye finish, or when ye fall to th' side of th' road dead ... an' even then ye' better fall dead in such a way to block th' road fer yer team mates!

RB: You're right, coach. Max really meant "recover" ...

AM: There's no "recover" in a time trial, ye idiot! Ye stop when ...

RB: No, of course not, coach. Of course not. You're right, we're wrong. No stopping. Go until you die.

AM: Damn right!

RB: Now, Max. Back to the time trial. You were at the turn-around ...

MW: Uh, yes! The turn-around. I really cranked it up then, since I now had a slight headwind. I passed a few more riders, and thought that one of them was the last Cat 5 ahead of me. It turns out that I never passed him, but closed on him enough. Near the finish there are a couple of hills, but I muscled over them beautifully -- the power of my glorious gluteals refusing to let my average speed fall much below 26 mph -- and came across the finish line to thunderous spectator applause.

AM: It was rainin' by then an' nobody even noticed ye, fool.

MW: You were there, coach? You came to my race?!

AM: I ... well, I was in th' neighborhood. There's a good restaurant up there. Nice haggis.

MW: Gosh, coach. Thanks.

AM: Ah, shut up. Do nae make any kind of thin' out of it, ye woos.

RB: Angus, Max. Thanks for joining me today to explain the wonderful world of bicycle time-trialling. And thank you even more for illustrating just how truly dysfunctional human relationships can be.

AM: Fook off.