John Tenney

Professional and Personal Blog of John Will Tenney

2020-07-26-Grace-Sophie-Turners-Corners

Making Family Memories in North Georgia

We are finishing up a trip to Dahlonega, GA and it has definitely been about making family memories. My primary purpose in coming up here was a cycling challenge which you can read about here, but since my family was along, we had some great memories.

First of all, we drove up together, with 4 days worth of stuff. For me and three girls, you can imagine, that was a lot of stuff.

Fazoli’s

No trip to North Georgia is complete without stopping at Exit 18 off of I-75, to eat at one of the last remaining Fazoli’s in the south. This has been a tradition of ours since 2012. We discovered it was there from a cycling racing friend of mine, Jason Guillen, who sadly has retired from Florida Cyclocross. Hope he comes back some time!

If you aren’t familiar, Fazoli’s is the fast food version of Italian cuisine, and for fast food, it’s not bad at all. I had a delicious Penne pasta with meat sauce, and the girls had similar meals.

Atlanta Traffic

It seems that no matter when we leave, we always run in to rush hour traffic around Atlanta. This time was no exception but it did always move a little, and only delayed us 20 minutes or so. Kathleen was very adept at using the Google app on her phone to pick the better routes.

Dinner in Dahlonega During the “Times of COVID”

Even though Georgia is “open” there are some restrictions on dining out, such as reduced capacity, distance requirements and for some reason, closing early. We managed to find an Irish Pub that stayed open until 9, and let us stay at our table until roughly 9:30. Grace remembers ordering “The Best Bangers in Town” and enjoying her Irish Sausage.

After our dinner we retired to the Holiday Inn Express on Chestatee St. That’s a Cherokee word, meaning “Land of Pine Torches.”

It was open, but had some COVID restrictions which were really nonsensical and inconsistent, like closing the workout center but not the pool, serving coffee and juice, but no juice machine, “grab and go” food but no seating in the lobby, so everyone sat outside on one bench. Hopefully this all ends the day after election day.

20200725 Johnny B'2 for Wings and a BeerSaturday night we ate at a wings and beer place called “Johnny B’s” which although rustic, served excellent food and beer.

This was a particularly enjoyable meal for me, as I had completed my cycling challenge in spite of many obstacles and failures during the day.

Sunday we ordered Pizza Hut delivered to the room, because we were tired and didn’t feel like going out.

Unique Memories

Both Grace and Sophie were impressed and maybe a little scared by the driving in the North Georgia mountains. The winding roads going steeply up, and down, coupled with someone tailgating us because we are “slow tourists” can be a little intimidating.

On Saturday night after dinner, we parked in the back lot because the front lot of the HI Express was full. Turned out to be a blessing as we saw a field full of fireflies. Kathleen has been telling the girls about fireflies for years and they finally got to see them. We spent a good half hour standing there watching them, even with the doggie bags from dinner in our hands.

On Sunday we headed out towards Helen. We stopped at Turner’s Corners, a famous cycling stop, to have lunch and thank the people for all they do to support cycling. I had stopped there the day before and not bought anything, expecting to be there more than once. I had to go back and at least have lunch there or else feel terribly guilty.

Following that we visited the town of Helen. (Yes we went to Helen back.) We had no idea it would be such a busy place. Packed with tourists, street vendors, tour rides, carriages, etc. Not at all the quaint little Germanic town I was led to believe. On the good side we found an indoor arcade (because it started raining) and the girls enjoyed Air Hockey, Spider Stomp, Jurassic Park Dino Hunt and even a game of 8 ball on a slightly tilted pool table. My girls had never played pool before(!)

On the way back we stopped at Smith Falls and walked a trail that we thought would lead us to the falls. It didn’t. But it was great fun and quite a challenge for me to walk up and down the hills so soon after the grueling bike ride from the day before.

During dinner in the hotel room we had a “Family Meeting” to discuss our favorite parts on the weekend. It is always good to rehash these things, and inspired me to write this article. We like Dahlonega but there are other places to visit, so this may be our last trip here. Hopefully the memories last a very long time.

20200725 Woody Gap

Thank God for Elevation Correct

I was done. Had failed to get 10,000 feet of climbing on my bicycle. Missed by about half.

I’m not sure why I clicked on the Strava Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.

Shortly thereafter, I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”

What?

I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.

10K Challenge

I dragged the family up to Dahlonega, GA for a “weekend getaway” but really, my agenda was to complete a challenge from one of my cycling clubs. Nearly every year the Eastside club challenges its members to ride 5,000 miles, climb 10,000 feet in one day, and participate in 20 club rides. Also there is an additional challenge to participate in a charity event (remember this. RT#1. There are several “remember this” moments in this article.)

We decided to drive up on Friday, July 24th and return Monday July 27th, in the wonderful election year of 2020. Not getting in to the whole political thing but we expected everything to be open in Georgia. Almost everything was (remember this #2).

The drive up went quite smoothly. Only the usual rush hour slow down between Macon and South Atlanta. Once we got on to 685, everything was moving along well.

For the first time ever, we actually stayed in a hotel in Dahlonega. This is because every other visit was over Six Gap weekend, when hotels are booked years in advance. The HI Express seemed nice enough but the mattresses are very firm. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep at all. Still I got up early to get some coffee and breakfast. RT#2 kicked in here as the complimentary breakfast was limited to “grab and go” stuff which was mostly crap. I grabbed a plain bagel and a banana with my coffee. Had to sit outside on a bench to eat it, with all the other people grabbing an early breakfast. Went up to the room and started to get dressed.

The Ride

The first thing I realized was that I forgot my HR strap. Oh well, I’ve got a power meter. Turned out not to be a big thing.

I rode from the hotel on Chestatee Street (Cherokee word meaning “pine torch place”) straight through town and out to Lumpkin County High School, where I did a run down and up the driveway, to simulate starting the Six Gap route. The Garmin and the Stages dash showed between 50-75′ of climb just doing that (RT #3).

I headed out the normal Six Gap route to Turner’s Corner. The weather was partly cloudy, temperature in the high 60s. I was actually cold. Getting used to Florida weather I guess. The forecast was favorable until early afternoon, when isolated showers were predicted (RT #4).

I noticed some slight difficulties shifting and wondered if my derailleur hanger got bent in the car on the way up (RT #5).

I was also noticing that the Stages Dash was showing more feet of climb than the Garmin, and it’s usually the other way. I wasn’t sure what was happening at this point (RT #6).

Turner’s Corner

20200725 Turner's CornerIt’s been 10 years since I stopped at Turner’s on a Saturday. It’s normally very quiet (except on Six Gap Sunday of course, when it is a mad house as SAG #1). Not this morning. Several cyclists and hikers were stopped there. There was a line for the only bathroom. Here’s more RT #2: COVID procedures were in place and for some reason that means closing down the other bathroom (I think it was made “employees only” but it said “supply room” on the door.) I wasted 20 minutes waiting for the bathroom and was in such a hurry I forgot to buy anything. I planned on being back there a few times anyway (RT #7), as I was planning on doing a “double 3 gap” route rather than go up Hog Pen Gap (which I don’t like at all.)

Neel’s Gap

Anyway, I headed out and up Neel’s Gap. There was lots more traffic than I have ever seen on that road. Sports car clubs, motorcycle groups, delivery trucks and even a bunch of punks driving lowered pickup trucks that screamed obnoxious things as they rode by, way too close.

Neel’s is normally not that hard for me. It’s a long, steady climb that averages around 4% incline. The traffic stressed me out, is my best guess, because I arrived at the top feeling pretty lousy. I was shaking and breathing rather hard.

I sat on a bench reserved for those hiking the Appalachian Trail, but nobody bothered me. Georgia doesn’t have a mask mandate so I was surprised at how many people were hiking with masks on. I’m not in favor of this because lots of fresh air is good for your health no matter what. I can see wearing a mask inside in tight quarters, but out in the woods???

I didn’t take a picture but I happened to look up and notice several hundred pairs of sneakers and hiking shoes that had been hung from limbs in the trees next to the trail. Does it mean these people “retired” their shoes here? It means something very different in Florida.

I left the bench and began the descent down Neel’s towards Wolfpen Gap. The new disc brake TCR performed very well and I felt more comfortable on this descent than I had in years. The traffic had lightened some, as I only had to pull over and let cars go by a few times.


Neel’s Gap Descent from my GoPro

Wolfpen Gap

The first thing I noticed when I turned on to GA 180 to go up Wolfpen Gap were the huge “SHARE THE ROAD” signs. It was so much quieter. Yes there were a few cars on the road, but they patiently waited for a proper place to pass and were all tremendously respectful. It’s a pleasant, if somewhat difficult climb. The reduction in stress from Neel’s was a huge plus.

Note: CYCLIST TECHIE NERD WARNING for the next paragraph.
The second thing I noticed was my gears making noise. I have the TCR set up with 52×34 in the front and the cassette in the rear is 11×32 (sorry about the cyclist techie talk. That’s the number of teeth on the gears.) I figured the 34 pulling the 32 would be a suitable “granny gear” for Wolfpen. So RT #6 kicks in: Well I looked down and I wasn’t in the 32 in the back. I was in the 2nd gear which I believe is a 30. If I held the shift lever all the way over the noise stopped but it wouldn’t go up to the 32. I figured it was probably a minor adjustment on the thumbscrew so I pulled over and tried to adjust it. That thing would not move! What’s worse, is that after playing with it a bit, it would go higher than the third gear at all. So now I was pedaling a 34 over a 27, on the steepest climb I would have all day. It was doable although a lot more work and power was required.

I decided to stop messing with it before I made it worse, and continued to the top without event. I stopped briefly but there was nothing up there really, no photo op. It’s rather a boring summit really. The descent after is short but exciting, with many double 90 turns and a few blind switchbacks.

Wolfpen Gap Descent from my GoPro

Living Off The Road

I have done this ride a few times before when not part of Six Gap Sunday. I had some plans to stop for supplies. There is a convenient store at the stop sign where 180 joins another route (route 9D I think?) RT #2: “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS”. I know there were restrooms available last time I stopped there.

There were several motorcycles in line for gas. They were out in force today. I bought a 10 oz Coke and a Gatorade. I sat outside, drank a few sips of the Coke, put it in my back pocket, drank some of the Gatorade and poured the rest in to a water bottle, and then continued on to the top of Woody Gap, still limited to 3rd gear.

Woody Gap

20200725 Woody GapWoody is a very short climb. Only about a mile. However, it’s no fun when stuck in third gear.

Upon reaching the top though, it has the most scenic overlook that would be featured along my route, so I stopped to take a picture. It also has a public “dry” restroom. I used it and realized things were not going well for me down there. I was hurting pretty bad at this point and this indicated to me I needed to consider shortening the ride. I was only at 5000′ on the Garmin as well (remember RT #6 for later) and I had pretty much given up on the 10K at this point.

Also, storm clouds were appearing in the distance. I could hear thunder rumbling on occasion.

I had a brain storm and while stopped at Woody, I picked up the bike and cycled through all the downhill gears. Hah, whaddya know. This opened up ALL the gears to me again. Must be some gunk in the derailleur or something.

Woody Gap descent from my GoPro

Stone Pile Decision

There is a big pile of Stone at a place known as “Four Corners”, at the bottom of the Woody descent. It now has a roundabout! Makes sense really, as it is a place where decisions are made. I had a decision to make. Do I turn left and go back to Turner’s for a late lunch, (it was now about 1:30) or do I turn right to R Ranch and go back to Dahlonega? RT#4: While stopped there a big bolt of lightning landed less than a mile away from me. I know that because I heard the thunder almost immediately. That made my mind up. I decided to forgo lunch at Turner’s (RT #7 wasn’t going to happen at all) and head back home.

I managed to beat most of the rain. It was behind me. On nearly every climb though (where I now had use of all my gears) it would almost catch me and I would get sprinkled on. On the descents I would out run it, for a while.

Of course, I had to turn in to the high school and do one down and back just to complete Three Gap route. (We’ll come back to RT #3 in a bit).

Rednecks in Dahlonega

As I made the turn through the square in Dahlonega there was a dark blue Ford F-150 behind me, tag 347-AHJ I think? It may have been AHI. The reason I am posting that info is because the kids in it were absolute jerks. As they passed me they did a diesel smoke trick, where they gunned up the engine and did something to create a huge cloud of black smoke. Of course I screamed at them. They went a few thousand feet down the road and did it again. I almost caught them at the Chestatee light but the driver got scared, and made an illegal left turn, nearly getting in to a wreck. I had planned on having a “come to Jesus” meeting with him if I had caught him. I am famous for these meetings on the Kyle’s Thursday Night Ride in Orlando.

Back at the Hotel, and RT #3

My daughter Grace was in the Hotel, as mom and Sophie were off shopping for antiques. Grace commented, “Oh you are done already? Are you OK?” I wasn’t, really. I inhaled a Gatorade and a couple bottles of water. Had a little “me time” in the bathroom. Uploaded the Garmin file to Strava and messaged the folks that had promised to donate $1 for each 100′ I climbed that I didn’t make it to 10,000 (This was RT #1 wasn’t it?). The Garmin said 5900 ish.

I’m not sure why I clicked on the Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.

Shortly thereafter, Mom came back with a Dairy Queen Blizzard which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think it was a major part of my recovery. While eating it I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”

What?

I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet. How did that happen? Also, the weather had mostly cleared. There were some isolated storm clouds off in the distance.

What should I do now? I surely didn’t want to get back in that kit (which was soaking in the sink anyway) and ride any more. I hemmed and hawed, stalled, dawdled, and finally just put my shoes on, carried the bike down to the parking lot and rode in my gym shorts up and down between here and the Best Western next door, which seemed to be about 20 feet lower. I did 4 laps I think, for about .97 miles

37 feet, said the Garmin, after about 1 mile. Pff that isn’t going to work. I went back upstairs. Clicked the elevation correction link again. 216 feet. Wow. That’s a big difference.

OK I had to do this now.

High School Madness

Kathleen drove me over to the High School where I knew I could get 50-75 feet just riding from the entrance to the school and back. “Come back in two hours” I said. “I need to get a little more than 20 miles.”

A couple of laps at the high school from my GoPro

I think I completed 35 laps. It rained a little during the 25 miles I rode (again in my gym shorts and t-shirt) but I didn’t care. I had to finish this. They picked me up at 7pm, which the Garmin showing 1550 feet. I needed 1998 to make it to exactly 10,000 for the day.

20200725 Johnny B'2 for Wings and a BeerBack to the hotel, uploaded it, pushed the Correct Elevation link and waited. We were either going out to eat, or I was going back to the parking lot for more “feet”.

It was only a few minutes but it seemed longer. “2355 feet!” I exclaimed. I am very proud that my wife and both my daughters cheered withe me.

“We did it! Let’s go eat and I’m having a beer!” We jumped in to the car and headed over to Johnny B’s for chicken wings and I had a nice Angry Orchard IPA, which I felt was well deserved.

“Memba Dis?”

Let’s review the “Remember This” items.

RT#1: Charity ride. About two weeks ago I announced on Facebook that I would donate $1 for every 100 feet I climbed, and would anyone match me? It took a while but I finally got 4 friends to pledge. I will be donating my portion to JP Russo, who was hit by a car earlier this year while setting up a race course. He has some really big medical bills. One friend is going to donate to a homeless shelter.

RT#2: COVID. Georgia is “open” but there are still some silly and inconsistent “rules” being made here, just like Florida.

RT#3: It was a good thing I dove in to the High School parking and realized how many feet were to be gained on each lap!

RT#4: The weather was a factor. Lightning in the mountains is no laughing matter. Also, descending these mountains on wet roads? Not something I want to do.

RT#5: I will have to ask my mechanic (Bryce, the Bearded Bike Doc) why my derailleur chose such an inopportune time to misbehave.

RT#6: The Garmin altitude error. My latest theory is that my Garmin 520 screen is cracked (I dropped it recently) and this affects the integrity of the internal barometer. It used to be fairly accurate.

RT#7: I owe Turner’s a sale. I feel it is impolite to use a bathroom in a convenient store and not buy something.

Summary

I think I’m done with this 10,000 foot challenge. It’s not worth the stress. If I go crazy and decide to do it again, I will go to Fort Mountain. It’s a much easier climb than the Dahlonega climbs, and not so much traffic.

2018 to 2019 Review and Goals

This is personal. It’s a note to me for next year at this time. Still here? OK you asked for it …

You’ve been warned. This is about me and my family. It is not intended specifically for public consumption but if you want to follow along … welcome to the story.

I hope this becomes an annual thing and I hope my girls do it too. That’s my daughter Grace on the left after she won her first CX race.

What Were My Goals?
I have copied last years post and let’s see how I did.

Sports:

Running goals:

I had NONE. Just run when I felt like it.

2018: I entered no organized runs but did do some walk/run stuff with my wife. Perfect!

For 2019: Next year? Same. No goals. I’m retired from distance running

Cycling:

I have to break this in to several parts: Road, Time Trial, Mountain Bike, Cyclocross and Track.

Road

My 2018 goals: I considered entering some road races, as well as crossing Florida for a fifth time. If there is a 5-10-20 contest I will do it again. Our own club did a 5-5-25 version, 5,000 miles, 5,000 feet in a single ride, and 25 club events, rides, races or volunteerism.

2018: Did not enter any road races, missed XFL due to illness, but did complete the #KBS5525 challenge.

For 2019: I want to do XFL one more time. I haven’t done a century in over a year so I need to get on it. Repeat 5-5-25.

Time Trial

My 2018 Goals: Win my age group in the CFL TT series.

2018: Won the 60+ age group, but did it by being in the most races. I was not fast.

For 2019: Not really any goals as far as performance. Just show up, enjoy the races, maybe put on the Airport TT again if we can get permission.

Mountain Bike

My 2018 Goals: Defend the WAR MTB title, maybe enter a few MTB races, and buy a new bike.

2018: Bob Reineke took my title. He decided to enter all of them. I did finish 2nd (whoo pee). On Dec 28th, ordered a new bike (finally!)

For 2019: Well I will have a new bike. Not sure if I have any performance goals. I just want to go out and have fun.

Cyclocross

I came in to the year as the defending FLCX points series champion. Many said that I don’t deserve that status, that I am slow, that I am clearly not the best cyclocross racer in Florida. I can understand why they say this but is was a points series and you get points for showing up. I beat 100% of the riders who stayed home on the couch. I also won the WAR overall series, again by showing up more.

I issued a challenge to those who scoffed: “If you don’t like me on this podium then come knock me off. Stop whining and start showing up for races.”

My 2018 goals: Repeat as champion and get faster. Wanted to lose weight to get more speed.

2018: First of all, I didn’t lose the weight. The lowest I got was 238, and that’s not good enough. However, I won the WAR series again. When I went to the podium, Josh Thornton announced “Well he issued you all a challenge and nobody took him up on it. Therefore, the repeat WAR Champion – John Tenney!”


I am currently leading the FLCX series by 34 pts with 3 races to go. Derek Birch is in second. He could conceivably go to all three races, win them all and beat me, so I need to finish at least two races. Shouldn’t be a problem. (Cross season ends in late January by the way.)

For 2019: Hey I like winning these jerseys, so once again I issue the challenge. I’ll be on top of the podium again in 2019, unless you start coming out to more races. So – repeat win for WAR and FLCX. Also – the weight. I am just over 250 lbs right now. Get to 235! DO IT!

Even more important, my daughter Grace is starting to enjoy CX races. I want to support her in all her efforts!

Track

As is told elsewhere in this blog in 2017 I had a unique opportunity to buy a track bike and set a state record, which I did.

To this day, no one had beaten this record.

In 2017 I used this bike to win two Time Trial divisions. In 2018 I used it for my age class.

Wayne Keller got this great picture of me setting a PR on the Airport TT course of 18:27. Best ever on this particular course, and on a fixed gear track bike (Giant Omnium)

2018: My goals were to go to some track races, or at least some track time trials.

2018: I didn’t make it back to the track this year. Still working on a project to get a track here in CFL.

2019: Get that track project going! Go to some track events.

Business

2018 goals: Wanted to see 6-8 franchises, and double our payroll handled again.

2018: We did not add any franchises, although we greatly expanded our agent network. We doubled the payroll, just barely.

For 2019: We need at least 3 more franchises. We need to expand our agency network. We need to double payroll again. The new relationship with Viking Underwriters shows great promise.

Oct 14 WAR#1 MTB Podium

WAR at Burke’s Park – Deja Vu

Decided to bring the family to Dade City this weekend to experience Wicked Awesome Racing (WAR) Cyclocross.

This year the series started at John S Burke Memorial Park, which is my favorite venue of the series. Josh and Kaleigh Thornton have been putting on races for years. I’m used to going to great places like Stanley Park, Brooksville Quarry, and even a couple of neat places in Ocala, but I still like Burke’s Park the best. It’s dusty and sandy but never muddy, which sits just right for me. It features a lot of off camber turns, which I find very challenging.

Saturday

On Saturday it was very hot and sunny. We arrived in time to get ready for the P1/2 race, but way after the “beginner” course, which does an easier lap. Hence, my girls decided not to try the course, and saved it for Sunday morning.

I had a rough moment in the P1/2 race. After the uphill run up on lap 4, I started feeling really bad. I looked at my computer and saw my heart rate was up to 187. This is not good. My normal HR in zone 5 might go up to 170 for a second but usually stays in the low 160s. I stopped and waited for nearly a minute for it to go back down. I finished the race but I still felt unwell. It was probably due to dehydration but seeing big numbers like that can scare a guy. I took it easy from there on. Since there were only 4 of us, I got to stand next to the podium, no medal, but 4th place

4th out of 4 in the P1/2 race. Scared myself with the high HR but still finished, and picked up 13 series points

In the MTB race later, I felt much better but still the heat was a factor. Although I improved my lap times by nearly a minute, I still felt very hot.

Here’s a comparison of my laps on Saturday. I’m almost a minute faster on the MTB

There were 5 mountain bikers, which is pretty rare. Last year I was the only one. I’m really glad the series is coming back. WAR is the only series that has a mountain bike division. I’ve won the points jersey every year they’ve had it too, so I am defending my title. Even though I was faster than the earlier race, so was everyone else, so I finished last again.

5th out of 5, and Bob Reineke got 2nd. He will be my main challenge this year to repeat as champion

So the day’s racing was over, and we headed to the Ramada in Zephyr Hills. Surprisingly very nice, clean and well equipped. A quick shower and touch up and we headed out to the Truly Mediterranean Grill to have dinner with Kelly and Mari Edwards. Wayne Keller joined us a little later. Definitely one of our favorite places to stop in Dade City.

L to R, Grace, Kathleen, Sophia, (Empty seat for Wayne), Kelly and Mari Edwards.

Sunday

We got up early to enjoy the generous free breakfast at the Ramada. I love those waffle makers! The girls were thinking about giving the “beginner” race a shot. Kathleen and Grace went out to try a practice lap. Kathleen didn’t even make it to the grass. “It’s on the side of a hill!” she yelled at me. “Well of course it is, this is the Dan Sullivan Memorial Off Camber Jammer after all.” Didn’t go over well.

Grace gave it a try. She finished half a lap and thought it was the whole thing. I registered her for the race and got her lined up. She got to the half lap point and dropped out. “I didn’t know it kept going” she said, “and I don’t like comparing myself to other people”. Geez if I worried about that I never would enter a race. (Later on she did complete an entire lap, “just to show she could.” Daddy’s girl after all, huh.)

So then we waited for the P1/2 race – another three hours away. Teenage girls get bored in a tent without WiFi rather quickly.

They decided to go out for lunch, bring me something back for after the P1/2, and then abandon me. Good plan.

I was much more careful on Sunday with the race. I didn’t want to blow up again, and although there was a breeze and some scattered clouds, it was even hotter. I concentrated on riding smoothly and coasting when I could on the downhills. I knew I was going to be last, and still 5th place, so I conserved my energy. Oddly enough, I had my fastest lap on the cross bike in that race.

2018-10-14-WAR#1-P12-podium

5th out of 6 in P1/2, but didn’t have a heart rate episode! Also, this puts me in the points lead in the division with 24 points.


I finished, ate part of a sub that my wife brought me and said good bye to the girls. They headed for Orlando and I rested under the tent, waiting for the MTB race.

The Deja Vu Part

In 2014, I came to Burke Park for the first time, in what was that year WAR #2. I wasn’t any faster then, and expected to finish near the back once more. I passed John LaManna in the Saturday race, as he had a mechanical, and said “Huh, well at least I won’t be last”. (I didn’t know that there were 2 very new riders behind me as well.) Later in the race I caught up to Mark Schwab and passed him. Well well. I finished the race and had a beer with John, Mark and Michael Ploch, who was waiting for the podium, as he won the race. I was shocked when they called my name. I didn’t know it, but by passing Mark I had moved up to third place. First podium for me in a bike race!

First Cycling Podium

My first cycling podium ever. I don’t recall the name of the 2nd place finisher, but Michael Ploch is on the top step.

I had a little celebration that night with my gang.

So the next day, I was looking forward to the MTB race again. Funny though, as the day wore on, I saw more and more vehicles leaving the park with Mountain Bikes on the rack. It was hot, people were tired, and many decided not to hang around for a race that “doesn’t count.”

At the start it was me, Mark and his wife Connie, who at the last minute decided to give it a shot.

Connie Schwab MTB

Mark’s wife Connie entered the final race, giving us three riders, so the podium would be full anyway.

Mark took off fast, like he did the day before. I was wondering if I would catch him again. Well guess what, there he was, slowing down a bit out in front of me. I resisted the urge to speed up and catch him. It was early in the race any way. I kept going at my pace and was right on his tail at the end of the second lap. On the long climb on the front loop he finally faded and I passed him. I got the the finish line before the SS leader leader lapped me, completed four laps to Mark’s three and won my first ever cycling only race (I’d won a multi-sport in the 80s).

Oct 2014 WAR MTB Podium

Kaleigh Thornton gives me my first ever winning medal for a cycling race.

Back to Present Day

So here we are, 2018, I come out to the line and there are four mountain bikers. “Crap” I said to myself, “another 4th and no medal.”

The reader can probably guess what happened next. I started off at the back of the field. I’ve never been one to race for the “hole shot.” I like to start out easy and then fizzle out altogether.

2018-10-14-WAR#1-MTB-ceremonial-wave

Here I am doing my ceremonial last place wave as I head for the hole shot. I still don’t see how they all rush off so fast right away. Thank you Kevin Brown for the photo.

As the reader is probably expecting, I noticed a mountain biker trailing off the back of the field. “Huh. Deja Vu. Same course, same event.” Well history repeated itself. I didn’t get too excited. Held my pace, coasted down the hills, and concentrated on smooth turns. Several times I got right up behind him but he would pull away. I wasn’t ready to pass him yet anyway. I waited until the third lap, when I saw Kelly Edwards, the SS leader, coming up behind us. I had to time this right. If I passed him and Kelly didn’t lap us, I would have to hold him off for another lap. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Fortunately, just before Kelly caught up, I squeezed by Sam (Sam Sawdusky – a new guy but real glad he came) and took the lead. Kelly caught me on the finishing stretch and I manged to snag 3rd place.

2018-10-14-WAR#1-MTB-3rd-place-medal

My only medal of the weekend – and I worked hard for it

I was working so hard on getting the last medal place that I didn’t even stop for a hot dog.

I believe Jonathan actually threw the hot dog at me.
I couldn’t stop because as you see, Sam is right in front of me

Summary

What an interesting weekend. I learned I can overcook myself. I learned I can pace myself, concentrate on riding smooth, and go faster while expending less energy. I learned that FLCX is BACK. We had a great turnout, probably the most I’ve ever seen at this course. I expect Spooky er .. “Spookier” Cross will be even bigger in two weeks.

I had a great time at WAR#1, and I am glad we honored the memory of Dan Sullivan with such a great event.

Lap time comparisons of all four races. As you can see I was faster the 2nd day, without pushing as hard.

Reactive Arthritis

This story was painful to write, as the memory of the pain I experienced fighting this condition was unpleasant. It’s only because several others currently fighting RA have asked me to write my story that it is here. I hope it helps and inspires those of you.

“You will probably never run again, at least not any distance.”

Harsh words from Dr. Richter, then my rheumatologist, as I sat in his Utica, NY office with my crutches in the spring of 1986

About 4 months earlier I had contracted Reactive Arthritis (or RA, formerly known as Reiter’s Syndrome. If you want to know why do a quick search. Not going in to that here.)

In the late fall of 1985, I was an engineer at GE Utica, active athletically, musically and of course socially. I noticed a burning sensation when urinating. I went to the doctor, figuring I had caught something. He and his staff could find nothing.

All tests came up negative. “Non-Specific Urethritis” he called it. “Take these for a week, it will clear up” and handed me a prescription for anti-biotics. It cleared up as predicted, but about a week later I was in my office and my eyes felt really dry. “You don’t look so good” my office mate told me. “Your eyes are all pink, like you’ve been exposed to some bad smoke or something.” I decided to go home and heal. Turned out to be a bad night. About 11pm my right big toe started hurting very bad, like it was broken. I hadn’t stubbed it though. The rest of the night was me getting up every five minutes and crawling, not walking, to the bathroom. I had to pee over and over, and not a little. It was obvious my body was trying to flush something.

At 6am I was panicked and had enough. I called my dad to come get me and take me to the hospital. I was sure my toe was broken and going to fall off. The pain was incredible. However, the ER doctor told me not to be surprised if the xray came back negative, and it did. He said “You are too young to have all these things going wrong at once. It has to be a single cause. I’m guessing it’s Reiter’s Syndrome.” He was right. Nothing on the xrays, and tests for things like gout also came back negative.

They gave me a prescription for a drug which was really bad for me – Indocin, a trade name for indomethacin, a very strong anti-inflammatory, which although reduced the inflammation and the pain, absolutely ruined my stomach. Spicy foods are no longer in my diet and never will be again. I began to realize that doctors don’t know everything about the drugs they prescribe. I am still suffering with gastro-esophagal challenges today.

The next few months were a low point in my life. I had asymmetrical arthritis, which means it was all over the place. As mentioned before my right toe, my left ankle, my right knee. At one time both legs began filling up with fluid, and swelled up below the knee. It looked like elephantitis from the scary Nat Geo videos they used to show in high school.

There are no pictures of me from that era, I avoided cameras, but this is basically what I looked like

And always the pain. I wasn’t “stiff” – it hurt. I had crutches to walk. I had a handicapped parking sticker and I began to appreciate those parking spaces in a way I never had before. It still infuriates me to see someone who is obviously not handicapped to be parking in one, or using a sticker that is clearly not theirs. That’s for another story later.

So sitting in Richter’s office, he told me: “10-15% of the time this happens once and goes away for good. 10-15% of the time it never goes away. The remaining 70-80% inflicted will have relapses throughout their life but each time it will be lower intensity, until they are old, when it will hit harder. You’ve had it for almost 6 months now so I would surmise you are in the ‘never goes away’ group.” Well he was wrong about that …

He also said, ” I advise staying off your feet and here is a prescription for Ibuprofen for pain. The Indocin was a mistake. Medical authorities are no longer recommending that drug because of the negative effects it has on the stomach lining.” Gee I wish that ER doctor had known that.

I couldn’t accept the rest of his diagnosis though. I didn’t want to be a “cripple” for life. I began researching the disease of arthritis. This was before the internet so I was in the local libraries a lot. It turns out that nobody knew much about it. Still much the same today in fact. We know why the body inflames joints but not why it keeps doing it after the foreign substance has been dealt with. We know people with a certain gene (HLA B27) are more susceptible to reactive arthritis.

One thing for sure, while there are a lot of symptomatic treatments, there is no medical cure. There is not really any research going on to find a cure either, as the treatments are very lucrative for pharma companies (Naproxen, Celebrex, etc, you’ve seen the ads) but there is no money in curing it. That’s for still another story later …

I got rid of it. Well at least changed my diagnosis. I am in the 70% now. It comes back once in a while and in lesser intensity. I also know how to get rid of it then as well. Want to hear how?

How I Beat RA

Barely moving at the finish of my first half marathon. However, just by finishing I beat the odds

• Exercise and Stretching
While I was researching I noticed one comment in a medical journal: “although painful, several patients noticed a reduction in inflammation after being forced to move and exercise the joints repeatedly.” I asked Richter about it: “Will exercise hurt me? If I go run a mile, will it damage anything?” He replied: “No but you will be in a lot of pain. That may increase inflammation.” I asked: “Is that damaging?” He said: “No, you have inflammation already. Increasing it will just cause more pain. I don’t see why you would want that but no, you won’t damage anything as fas as I can tell.”

So I went running. The first mile was hell. Every step hurt. A lot. I mean like on fire a lot. The second mile was better. By the third mile I felt very little pain. The knee and the ankle felt warm but not painful. I did a long stretching session afterwards as well. After the cooldown was another story. As I cooled down the pain returned and the next morning was really an eye opener. It was very painful just to get out of bed. Stretching helped in the morning. I’ve also found that doing some mild stretching before bed helps me sleep better as well. However, I was still in pain and taking Ibuprofen the second day.

I decided to keep my experiment going. This time the pain was gone after one mile. Miles two and three were smooth. It took a little longer after the stretching and cool down for the pain to return. I was hopeful. Even though it was still really bad in the morning it wasn’t just quite as bad.

I continued this for five days. By day five there was very little pain upon waking up and only minor shooting pains throughout the day after the run. Really, it was gone. The next few months were essentially pain free. I had another flare up in the next winter which brings me to point 2:

• Warm, Humid Climate
Now I know why old people move to Florida. It does wonders for arthritis. Cold, dry weather in NY was terrible. I was 30 when I moved south and looking back I don’t know why I waited so long. Warmer temperatures means better circulation and that may be a critical thing. Keeping the blood flowing through a joint has to be a good thing.

• Hydrate
“A dry joint is not a happy joint” – not me, some chiropractor’s book I read, but it’s true. Drink water. Lots of it. Reduce the alcohol as well. I rarely have a second beer on social occasions and most days go without it at all. It is “anti hydration”. The positives of staying hydrated are published in many other places.

• Drugs Don’t Cure, They Just Treat Symptoms
While I will still take a couple of Alleve now and then to deal with joint pain, I know that it is just masking the pain and not curing the cause. Go exercise, drink water and stay warm.

How Am I Doing Now?

At age 60, still running and riding. Wearing the Florida Cyclocross points champion jersey for 2017 here.

I still get flareups. Often in my lower back, but that may be due to all the running and high impact bicycling I do. Stretching works well there. Recently I had a flare up in my right heel. I stretched it frequently and it went away after a couple of weeks. It was minor, really.

As you recall, I was told I would not be an athlete in my life. If you refer to some of the other articles in this blog I think you will see that is not so. I’m enjoying a healthy, active life and I know in part it was due to overcoming the challenge of beating RA.

If you are fighting it, and want to talk, or if you have a success story of your own, please let me know using the contact form below.

Contact John Tenney

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Eastside 5-10-20 Contest

The Eastside Cycling Club had the annual awards party last week and it was one of the best ever. The attendance was up and spirits were high. The highlight of the evening were the awards for the inaugural “5-10-20 Challenge.”

For those that aren’t aware of what it is:

5 – ride 5,000 miles in the calendar year
10 – climb 10,000 ft in one day
20 – participate in 20 club rides or activites
(tracked in the ESCC group on Strava.com)
Additional awards for being a ride leader, and the “Saddle Buster” award, for the person with the most time in the saddle.

It certainly proved to be a challenge. Only 6 riders competed all three: Don Martyny, Dave Brillhart, Carter Lane, Crockett Bohannon, John Tenney and Jerry Hertzler

History of the 5-10-20 Challenge:

The club has had “challenges” for it’s riders in the past. The first that is well documented is the “ESCC Trifecta Award” from 2014. This medal was given to all dues paying riders who participated in a designated charity event, rode Cross Florida and Six Gap.

To the right is the award your author keeps in a conspicuous place, as the effort to get that award was significant.

Other challenges were proposed for the following years but didn’t have the success for various reasons. Some of them started to get pretty complex and were difficult to follow, for example. Some involved extensive spreadsheets, charts, graphs, etc.

The 5-10-20 award facilitator, past club president Crockett Bohannon, managed to keep it simple with a Google doc that was easily accessed, and not that difficult to maintain. Club riders could see at a glance where the were, how they were doing and what they needed to do. Sometimes a little motivation is all we need.

All members at the awards party will agree, it was very motivational as well as rewarding.

Author’s Personal Story:

I had not been a “regular” ESCC rider as much as I used to be. Racing and other weekend events tend to take me away from the Saturday morning ride. Even if I have that Saturday off, the struggle to get up and be ready for the 7:30am start at the YMCA can be discouraging and enough to keep me out of it.

That changed with the 5-10-20. I wanted to win the award. It was a challenge, a justification perhaps. Something to make all this crazy expenditure of energy worth it. There were many mornings I would have stayed in bed if I didn’t need to get those 20 group rides. I made several Saturday rides because of it, and forgot how “worth it” they are. The fun of riding with the group all the way to the Fort, and even Taylor Creek on occasion had been lost to my memory. It was good to be back. It’s great to swap stories with Marcus, hear Jim’s anecdotes, try to keep up with the likes of Ernie, Volker and Jerry, and help people in the paceline with leaders like Daniela, Megan and others. Truly is a great group of people.

The Sunday Bakery Ride had not been on my list either. Well that changed. I now love this ride. I like the relaxed pace with the opportunity to “shake it out” on Howard Ave. I laugh every time I see the Strava Segment names: “Jethro and Cooter goin’ huntin’ again” and “Dwight Howard made my baby.” Although I rarely stop at the bakery (the food there really isn’t to my palate), I look forward to the sprint up the “Col de Expressway” (Woodbury bridge over 408). The Bakery Ride made it possible for me to “get my 20.”

The 10,000′ was a totally different challenge. Three times I went out to Clermont and tried to do it in a day. Three times I fell short. It makes for a very long day. Finally, on a weekend off, I dragged my family up to Fort Mountain outside Chatsworth, GA. Crockett promised me it wasn’t that bad a climb and an “easy descent with very little braking needed.”

Crockett was both right and wrong. The climb was difficult to me but not impossible. The descent was not easy for me. I’m a bigger guy and gravity takes a big pull on me. There were several sharp turns with a looming precipice on one side that frankly scared me. I had to brake a lot. Well, I chose to brake a lot. It got less scary as the day went on, but I still took it very seriously. No matter, 5 3/4 laps and I had my 10,000′.

I will go back to Fort Mountain this year most likely, but I’d like to go with a group. There is a lot of car traffic on that road and it would be nice to have the company of other riders.

I am glad to hear that the club leadership has decided to keep the 5-10-20 going. It will pull me out. I intend to be more present on ESCC rides this year.

Relaxing with a well earned beer after 10,000′ on Fort Mountain

2017 Year in Review, 2018 goals

This post is for me, myself and I. No one else. It’s a note to me for next year at this time. If you don’t want to be bored about my running and riding exploits for 2017 then you should close the window now.

Maybe my kids will read it some day. Maybe.

I’ve been frantically searching my disk drives for the goal setting exercise I did a year ago. I can’t find it. Maybe that’s because I never wrote it down. Well I’m writing it down here so I can find it next year.

What Were My Goals?
Reaching in to the memory banks, I know I did two areas: Exercise/Sports and Business.

Sports:
I set mileage goals of 6000 miles cycling and 400 miles running. I didn’t hit 400 running but went over 7000 cycling and hit a total of 7500.

On 12/30 I passed 7500 total miles.

In Running, I wanted to complete the Space Coast Half Marathon in under 3 hours if possible, and collect my 6th and 7th medals for the Big Bang series. I did it in 3:05, which although not my goal, was still a PR for the course. I wasn’t at my target weight at all. Hurricane Irma “gifted” me with 10 lbs that I have been having the toughest time losing. Maybe now that the “chocolate season” is over I will make some headway.

I had planned on 400 miles of running as training for the SCHM. I didn’t get to do the long run I wanted to before, so I had to go in with my longest run being just 9 miles. This might also have been a factor as I definitely slowed down in the second half of the run. I finished though, and I have officially “retired” from long distance running.

The 7 medals, the final t-shirt and towel combination, awarded to all Big Bang Series finishers – five years in a row

Next year? No goals. I’m retired from distance running

Cycling:
I have to break this in to several parts: Road, Time Trial, Mountain Bike, Cyclocross and Track.

Road: I had no real goals of road racing except to exceed 6000 total miles. Done. I wanted to complete my fourth Cross Florida ride in 10 hours or less. Not quite. Did it in 10:42 but I am still happy.

After XFL, I did get a new frame this year, as my old frame warped itself and was under warranty. Many thanks to Mickey Singer of Giant Bicycles USA for helping me out with it.

Love this snazzy new frame. Got it after the Cross Florida ride but really enjoyed it all year long

Also, one of my clubs put on a 5-10-20 contest – 5,000 miles, one ride that climbed 10,000 feet, and participate it 20 club rides. I am one of only 8 people who did all three. Excited about that.

Next year? I am considering entering some road races, as well as crossing Florida for a fifth time. If there is a 5-10-20 contest I will do it again. Our own club is doing a 5-5-25 version, 5,000 miles, 5,000 feet in a single ride, and 25 club events, rides, races or volunteerism.

Time Trial: I sold my TT bike, so I was hoping to do well in the Eddy Merckx class. I did OK. About half way through the year though, I got a fixed gear track bike which gave me an entirely new arena to play in. More on how that happened later, but I “won” the airport TT fixed gear class, as well as the CFL TT fixed gear class over 40K. Most of this was because there were very few others who made every race. This is always my secret to success anyway.

Next year? Defend my titles!

Mountain Bike: I had purchased and custom built a special mountain bike with a fixed frame, aimed at the WAR MTB series (in the cyclocross division) which was coming back, and I was defending champion. This wonderful bike was stolen in August, which really depressed me. Still no sign of it. I managed to repeat my WAR championship but it was by using borrowed bikes. Well here I am talking about Cyclocross and confusing it with Mountain Biking. Well I’m about to do it again …

My custom built Mountain Bike – stolen! I had nearly $4,000 in to this thing …

Next year? Defend the WAR MTB title, and maybe enter a few MTB races.

Cyclocross: I got a new (to me) Cross bike this year, a very nice Giant TCX. I immediately began training with it in Hal Scott preserve, a local mountain bike trail that is pretty flat and easy. I noticed that my Strava was showing me rising up leader boards on some segments that had been established out there by various people. I decided to do something about it. I took a bunch of segments and even created some for my own routes. There was one guy who was very hard to beat but I managed to beat him on every segment but one (and I missed that one by 1 second) by mid March. Strava says I claimed 35 KOMs in 2017. Even though he went out and took them all back (by putting aero bars on his mountain bike!) I still claim that as a victory. For a few weeks I was the “King” of Hal Scott.

The King’s Machine. Using this bike I procured 20+ KOMs in Hal Scott. I’ve since lost them all but it was fun for a few weeks.

OK now back to cyclocross. I went to every WAR race this year and by garnering points (not being fast, just showing up) I managed to win the MTB category and the Pro 1/2/Open category. I guess that makes me WAR Grand Champion. Got two jerseys for it. In addition, I am the points champion of the Florida P1/2 category.

Many will say that I don’t deserve that status, that I am slow, that I am clearly not the best cyclocross racer in Florida. I can understand why they say this but this is a points series and you get points for showing up. I beat 100% of the riders who stayed home on the couch. I may have finished last or second to last in nearly every race but I was there. I say to those naysayers, “If you don’t like me on this podium then come knock me off. Stop whining and start showing up for races.”

Doing the WAR knuckles in honor of the series. Am I faster than young Mr. Legg, or almost as young Dr. Chandler? Not by a long shot, but I finished more races.

Got a jersey for winning FLCX overall as well.

At age 60, still running and riding. Wearing the Florida Cyclocross points champion jersey for 2017 here.

Next year? Repeat as champion and get faster! I need to lose weight to get more speed.

Track: OK this is new to me and I had no goals for the year, because I had no plans to race on the track. As is told elsewhere in this blog I had a unique opportunity to buy a track bike and set a state record, which I did.

By the end of the year, no one had beaten this record and I was originally told I would be considered the state one hour time trial champion. This has since been “recanted” as “this is not a recognized championship” – ugh, politics. Disappointing, but I am still the current one hour record holder.

Also, as I stated in the Time Trial section above, I used this bike to win two Time Trial divisions as well.

Wayne Keller got this great picture of me setting a PR on the Airport TT course of 18:27. Best ever on this particular course, and on a fixed gear track bike (Giant Omnium)

Next year? I really don’t know. Maybe go to some track races, or at least some track time trials.

Business
This was our first year as a franchised business, so my goal was to get five franchises up and running (We currently have three). I also wanted to double our total payroll by the end of the year. It looks like we might just barely make it.

Amazing considering two really bad things happened to us that made us go in to “fire drill” mode instead of preparation and planning. 1: One of our partner PEOs had an owner fight that split up in to two PEOs and cost us two rather large clients. 2: The state of Florida in a horrible example of irresponsibility, shut down an insurance company (unjustified IMO) on November 27th. We had exactly one month (during holiday season) to scramble and place one of our largest workers comp clients with a new carrier. Unfortunately we were not able to place it all and this will cost us about $800/month.

Next year I’d like to see 6-8 franchises, and double our payroll handled again.

One Hour Record

“Hey you want to set a state record?”

That kind of question will always get my attention, of course.

Nathan Rogut and Carl Sundquist had an idea. They felt the cycling velodrome at Brian Piccolo Park was underutilized. They wanted a promotion, or a publicity stunt, to get people’s attention on the track.

“Let’s get someone to set a state one hour record. Someone everybody knows, maybe finds ‘controversial’, maybe even dislikes a bit. But not too fast. We want him to set the bar low. We want the rest of the state cyclists to be inspired to come down and try to beat his time.”

Well, they arrived at me as the obvious choice. I fell for it. I also invited Nicole Doria to come down and set a women’s record, since she was on my associated women’s team – The KBS Katz (Part of Team Kyle’s Bike Shop). Unfortunately, a cycling accident in her family kept her from attending. So it was just me …

I thought it was a great idea, would promote track cycling, would promote competitive cycling, would promote cycling in general and most important (to me) would allow me to leave a “dent in history.”

You see, one hour records never go away. Even if the record is subsequently beaten, I would still be listed as the record holder for the length of time I held it. Also, I would always be the First Record Holder. So I agreed and said “Let’s do it.”

Getting Approved and Scheduled
You can’t just drive down to the velodrome, ride around one hour and say “Hey, here’s the new record.” No, there are requirements. It has to be “approved” by a governing body, maybe even two or three. American Track Racing Association (ATRA) approved us right away. USA Cycling (USAC) and Florida Bicycle Racing Association (FBRA) took a few more hoops to jump through.

We had to decide whose rules we would use also. Each group has similar rules but with some subtle differences. We settled on the International Cycling Union (UCI) rules which are compatible with USAC but specified a UCI legal track bike: fixed gear, no brakes, certain frame specs, etc. There were a couple of rules which surprised and worried me:

1: No drinking of fluids is permitted during the attempt. This is a safety hazard if water is spilled on the track.
2: No performance measuring devices permitted on the bike frame. We interpreted this to mean I could start the Garmin and put it in my pocket, but not allowed to look at it during the ride. That would be a first for me. I’ve always had at least a speedometer.

The system used for timing was discussed. I wanted to use a timer app on my phone (with a lap record function), backed up by a GoPro set by the side of the track (note: this is what we ended up using.) UCI specifies two independent methods of timing. USAC wanted an electronic chip timing system, like MyLAPS, which would be very expensive. I made my argument that nothing was more accurate than video and eventually USAC tech director Chuck Hodge agreed, especially when it became clear that I would not even be close to setting any national records. (We may still require chip timing for future attempts.) There was also the required notification to USADA for drug testing. (Note: we didn’t get it to them in time apparently, as no one showed up. Our fault.)

We had to pick a day that met everyone’s schedule. Nathan is a busy coach and trainer. I am running three businesses. Carl had to coordinate with other activities on the track. Family considerations came in to effect. Many kudos to my wife Kathleen for agreeing to do it on the Saturday of Mother’s Day Weekend.

Equipment

I got this ALUXX/composite frame and carbon handlebars for a tremendous price. Track bikes are not hard to find if you shop around.

Although there are UCI legal bikes available at the velodrome, they didn’t have any by my team sponsor, Giant Bicycles. I asked my Giant rep if he had one available. No sorry, he said, we don’t stock them. We were able to find a used Giant Omnium frame in my size for a very reasonable price. It also came with a decent crank set and a nice set of carbon handlebars. They were not aerobars, and since they were carbon I easily resisted the temptation to clip some on. Yes they would have been faster but the worry factor wouldn’t have been worth it – worrying about falling and planting my face on the track.

There were many, many problems getting the bike, with a breakdown in shipping, just from Tampa to Orlando (NEVER use USPS). It took two weeks to get it and delayed the attempt. We originally planned to do middle of April, pushed it to May 6, and then finally to May 13. At least I got a week to ride the bike around my neighborhood and get familiar with a fixed gear and my legs as the only brakes.

I’m glad I kept most of my TT “accessories” after I sold the TT bike. I had skin suits, speed suits, aero arm coolers, and of course aero helmets. Less stuff to have to try and dig up or borrow.

Nathan agreed to let me use his aero wheels for the attempt as well. Still, I had to buy a back wheel for practicing, and they aren’t cheap. You need a special fixed gear wheel, a cog, and a locking nut to keep it from coming off as you brake (by pushing backwards on the pedals).

Getting Familiar

I rode the fixie with no brakes (except my legs) down several streets to ride on Little Econ Trail. The Trail was fine but stoplights and side streets were a little thrilling.

The day I got the bike I brought it down to Kyle’s Bike Shop and let them give it the once over. Brett and Tyler jumped to the task. “Bad bottom bracket” they told me, right away. Replaced that. They gave me a good chain and helped install the rear wheel. (Front wheels are the same as road bikes of course.)

I took it home and rode it around my neighborhood for a few miles. That was a startling revelation. I haven’t ridden a fixed gear bike since I rode a tricycle at age 4. OK well maybe a few times I rode a “Big Wheel” in the Patrick Cup International but that is a different story.

Riding around with no brakes but your legs is “fun”, too. Takes a lot of getting used to. Eventually I was able to ride around my neighborhood, the big loop, and even hit some speed. I think I hit 28mph a few times. It’s a new feeling, always pedaling. When I rode my Propel later that week I felt sinfully comfortable with a freewheel hub and brakes.

After several rides, I felt comfortable enough to take it out on main roads, like Lake Underhill, Rouse Road and Highway 50. Yikes it is scary around intersections. Stopping and starting require a new set of skills and I was always worried about a car coming out of a side street or driveway.

The Venue

There are two ways to enter the track. The correct way, through the tunnel, and the incorrect way, of walking across it from the spectator area.

Brian Piccolo Park is in Pembroke Pines, FL, not far from Ft. Lauderdale. That’s very “south Florida” so I was ready for a lot of heat and humidity, even more so than Orlando. The sea breeze helps to cool it down but of course that causes other issues riding. The track is built of concrete, open to the sky, and features 32 degree banking in the turns. The distance around on the black line (approximately one foot above the bottom of the track) is 333.33 meters, so 3 laps is 1K.

People should enter the track from the tunnel when there is riding going on but they don’t always follow the rules. Several times during my practice laps, and even a few times during my attempt, people were walking across the track to the spectator gate on the high side. In future attempts I will lobby for putting a security person at that gate, and restricting people from crossing the track when it is busy.

The track itself surprised me. I was expecting it to be absolutely smooth. It is not. There are some bumps, particularly in the turns. Not enough to make me say “Gee this is rough”, but certainly enough to make me pay attention. It’s not a hazard or anything but you can feel the bumps when you go over them.

As previously stated the wind is a factor. Obviously a head wind is painful. Crosswinds (particularly gusts) make the high speed turns “interesting” to say the least.

My Expectations

I have a lot of time trial experience. I’m not super fast but I can keep up with most other old guys

I wasn’t sure what to expect in results. I knew I could maintain 20 to 21 for an hour, because I had done it in 40K TTs.

“Don’t expect to be that fast,” Nathan told me, “because you are not used to riding the track. You haven’t done fixed gear racing on banked turns before. There will be an adjustment.”

It’s relevant to point out that the actual lap would be longer than 333.33 meters, as it is possible but not probable that I would stick to the black line all the way around. This proved to be true, at least according to my Garmin, which measured 20.3 miles for my 19.65 mile finish.

It’s also relevant to point out that I would be relying on my own physical indications to judge my effort. This would turn out to be significant.

To The Track

Practice laps on Friday night were essential to helping me feel comfortable.

So glad we decided to go down the night before and get a couple hours practice. I started off a little sketchy but with Carl’s help, I soon got comfortable riding in the 32 degree banked turns. You really don’t have to go that fast to stay upright. After 20 laps or so I started trying different lines, going up and down the banks, and generally just enjoying it. It really is fun. On the whole list of do’s and dont’s in life, riding around on a velodrome is definitely one of life’s big do’s.

You should do it. You really should.

If you are interested in attempting a record, or just riding around the track, you can use the contact form below and I will send your info to the right people.

Pre-race Jitters and Troubles
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which is nice enough, but do not, repeat do not order food from Marco’s Pizza. After 2 1/2 hours and them just hanging up the phone every time we called, we surrendered and went to Wendy’s for a hamburger.

Also, the breakfast doesn’t start until 7am, which may affect your pre-race physiology planning. I like to get some food and a couple of cups of coffee in me to help me “drop the kids off at the pool.”

Race Day

The Start. Carl is holding me while Nathan is preparing the official timers on the right.

I didn’t sleep well. I felt jittery and nauseated heading for the track. I figured it was just nerves and tried to ignore it. I was partially successful. Did about 15 laps of warmup, felt better and then Nathan let me try the aero wheels. Even though it was quite breezy the wheels seemed OK for handling. At least they started that way …

My first lap was slow, about 44 seconds. Of course I was trying to get up to speed. My goal was to average 37.2 seconds or less per lap. That would get me 20 miles in one hour.

The wind turned out to be a factor. In addition to a nasty headwind up the front stretch it gave me some whoop whoop moments in the entry of turn 1 and the exit of turn 4. A couple of times I nearly slid off the track. I would adjust to it, or think I had and then a gust would come in and get my attention. Still, I was doing 37 to 39 seconds a lap pretty consistently.

I knew this because my Daughter Sophie ran out to the edge of the track holding up my previous lap’s time quite often. It was very helpful. It helped me to know when I was doing well and more importantly, when I was dogging it. It helped me to “pick it up.” She also told me I hit 50 laps in 31:07. That wasn’t too bad. It meant I could probably get to 96 laps in an hour. Unfortunately things started hurting.

About 10 minutes the ride my wrists really started to hurt, especially the right one which was on the uphill side. I know now that most of the weight is carried on the uphill hand. I started shaking out my hands pretty much every lap on the downwind back stretch. This stayed with me the whole attempt and was definitely the biggest detriment to my performance. Need to work out some kind of exercise to fix that.

I was also fighting numbness in the “nether regions” and had to stand up and pedal an entire straightaway every 10 laps or so.

About midway through the sweat was running down in to my eyes whenever I got in to the drops. I had a face shield on, so I couldn’t reach up and wipe it away. I just endured it. I need to find some sort of skull cap type hat to wear under the aero helmet though, for the future.

This resulted in quite a few 40+ laps. I ended up with 95 laps complete (Nathan counted 95, he’s the ref, that’s what counts) which is less than the 97 I hoped for (20mph). Still, I finished it, and had somewhat consistent lap times.

In any case, I was now the Florida One Hour Record holder.

Results
The judges have made the final decision, so my final result is 19.65 miles. Here is my Strava activity for the effort. Here are the recorded lap times using Kathleen’s timing sheet and the GoPro Video.
Here are the other records I set, with some other possible age group records listed below:

20K 38:08.23 (60-64 age group and overall) 15K 28:28.30 (60-64 age group and overall)
10K 18:55.37 (60-64 age group and overall) 5K 09:30.35 (60-64 age group and overall)
4K 07:36.25 (60-64 age group possible) 3K 05:42.33 (60-64 age group possible)
2K 03:49.20 (60-64 age group possible) 1K 01:56.27 (60-64 age group possible)

Lessons Learned

Claudio climbed up to the top of the trailer to take this picture

I have learned to step back after every new endeavor, effort, race, training event, etc and reflect on what I have learned. Most people learn from mistakes, certainly more than they learn from wins. Me too.

In the past, I have made some mistakes, errors in judgment, miscalculations, and other gaffs. This was no exception.

So this is what I learned.

Of course the biggest lesson I learned is the one I learn at the end of every time trial pretty much. I was driving home saying to myself: “I could have gone faster.” Am I the only one that does that? Anyone else? Anyone? Buehler? Anyone?

I came away with a lot of other lessons learned:

  1. Do not ever ship anything you need in a hurry using US Postal. They are awful
  2. Using different muscles for a fixed gear bike is rewarding although somewhat painful
  3. I need to lose 20 lbs
  4. Driving to Ft. Lauderdale is a huge pain in the ass
  5. Do not ever order from Marco’s Pizza in Pembroke Pines!
  6. The track is not that hard to ride. With a little practice it became easy
  7. I never clipped a pedal or slid down the track from the banking
  8. Sweat dripping in to my eyes is painful and very distracting
  9. I can’t judge my own effort without a Garmin in front of me (bad!)
  10. My aero position is terrible. Did I mention I need to lose 20 lbs?

Summary

Of course, I had to stand on the podium with my bike, and with my 333.3 sticker (From Carl)

So it was an interesting couple of months. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. Even if I hadn’t set a record it was worth it just to see how much fun it is to ride a track bike, on a track. Even the street fixie practice was exciting and helped me build new muscles.

In the future, we hope to be putting on more of these events. Please let us know here or on Facebook if you would attend a 4K Festival or something similar, where we could add time for attempts at the 5K, 10K, 20K and 1 hour records above.

I highly recommend getting out on the track. Hey take a crack at those records. You can do it. If you are interested in riding the track, racing on the track, doing some track time trials, or even a record attempt, please use the contact form below and I will put you in touch with the right people. Or just call me at 407-490-2468.

Contact John Tenney

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Jesus - Life's Easy Button

Why Is Being A Christian So Hard?

Jesus - Life's Easy Button
I‘ve never understood why people make being a Christian so difficult. It must be the devil’s way of keeping his flock, by scaring people away from faith. When I first started a personal relationship with Christ in 1994, I was immediately bombarded with lots of “good advice”, on the order of “you need to do this” or “you need to stop doing that.”

Oh Ye of Little Faith!

I now realize that other people worrying about my salvation was a problem of theirs, and not mine. If only I had known, I would have avoided a lot of guilt. (see sidebar on Guilt).

Here are Seven (and a half) things to help you use Jesus’s “Easy Button”

Your Salvation is a Personal Thing Between You and Jesus.

The corrollary to that is that others’ salvation is NOT your business. I can find no verse in the bible that says you are to worry about others being saved. A lot of the guilt and difficulties I see between Christians comes from this error.

You Don’t Have to be a Member of a Church to be a Christian.

I can’t find a verse anywhere in the bible that says “you MUST join a church.” I can’t even find a verse that says you must have water poured over your head! Indeed, the interpretation of the word “baptism” is open to a lot of discussion. But back to the point, you can be a Christian without joining a big church, or indeed any church.

Guilt

Guilt comes from two places: The Enemy and conviction by the Spirit. Most of what new Christians feel is from their fellow Christians, and that is from the bad guy. The Holy Spirit convicts, yes, but that’s a personal thing.

Stop Worrying.

Jesus said “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matt 6:27) I believe worrying is a sin. Sin is defined as doing anything that is not of God. God does not want you to worry. He sent Jesus for that reason. Because He died and rose again, we will all die and rise again. Worrying will not change that.

“There’s money in the Lord.”

A sad but true statement. Many people are in the “religion” business for the money. It may not be a majority, but there are enough to make the whole system look bad. One of my biggest peeves with large churches is the burden they place on themselves with payrolls, upkeep, building loans, TV shows etc that can turn the focus away from the message. Guilt is a favorite tool of the devil, and some big churches use it for monetary gain. You don’t have to give money to the church, either. It’s your option. II Cor 9:7 says “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but it’s your option. You should do your due diligence before giving away your money to a charity also.

Sin is Personal

You are only concerned with your sin. If you want to deal with someone else’s sin you are treading in dangerous waters. Don’t you have enough to deal with already? Take care of yourself, and let others take care of themselves if possible.

Grace Abounds

The greatest gift God has given to us is Grace, and this comes through his Son. Romans 10:9 says “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” That’s all there is to it. Once you do this you are forgiven. Done. For all sins; past, present AND future.

You Will Not Stop Sinning by Becoming a Christian.

Romans 3:10 says “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” Sin doesn’t just magically leave your life. However, you are now forgiven for it, forever, and that makes all the difference. That doesn’t mean sin can’t hurt you. On the contrary, sin has definite and sometimes immediate consequences in your life. This life. It is forgiven for the next life, but not forgotten for this one. It’s a good thing to avoid when possible, and you should take steps to avoid it every day, but don’t expect to be 100% successful. You won’t.

And one bonus tidbit:

You do not have to be a Conservative Republican to be a Christian.

Really. I’m proof. I am not a registered republican. I drive an electric car. I ride a bicycle. I actually thought there were some good parts to Obamacare. Unfortunately some very vocal conservative Christians are doing the devil’s work and drawing attention to negative things. It’s supposed to be easy. It is easy. Leave it to God. Leave it all to Him. Mind your own business, your own sin, and your own relationship with Jesus. The rest will take care of itself. It will.

All scripture quotes from NKJV