Six Gap Success

9:20 Total Time, Short of the Sub 9:00 Goal but a Personal Record Nonetheless

2014-Six-Gap-JWT-top-of-Hogpen-by-FelixThe last few years I have put the Six Gap Century ride in Dahlonega, GA on the top of my “to-do” list for cycling rides.

It is at the same time the most satisfying and most stressful ride to complete.

This year was my fourth trip to Dahlonega to attempt this ride. That’s right, “attempt.” Finishing is not a given on a challenging ride like this. The ride crosses several mountain passes (“gaps”) on it’s way through the north Georgia spur of the Appalachian Mountain range. The passes in order are: Stonepile Gap, Neel’s Gap, Jack’s Gap, Unicoi Gap, Hogpen Gap, Wolfpen Gap and Woody Gap. If you counted there you might have noticed there are actually seven gaps, although Stonepile is not considered as challenging as the other six.

I mentioned this was my fourth attempt. In 2011 I had just gotten back to cycling and was not realistically thinking of doing the entire ride anyway. There is a Three Gap option which fitted better in to my training level at that time.

In 2012 I was at my lowest weight in recent years (around 215) and completed the ride without mishap, although I considered my 9 hours and 28 minutes total time to be very slow. I spent over an hour in the rest stops (“SAGs”) recovering from the long, fairly steep climbs.

2013 I was doing OK when I had a spoke break at mile 70. I limped along for 7 miles but there was no way I would be able to manage one of those long descents, so I abandoned the ride and got picked up by a support vehicle.

This year I had done a little more training and had taken off a few pounds, so I felt nervous, but confident I could finish the ride, and aimed to do so in less than 9 hours. I also had a new road bike with disc brakes, which would take a lot of the stress out of the steep, curvy (technical) descents.

I was pleased to travel to and from the event with Carter Lane, another East Orlando cyclist. We got along very well and it reduced the stress quite a bit to have someone to share driving, lodging and meals with. Thank you Carter, it was very easy to travel with you.

The Course and Venue

The ride is put on by the Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce. It starts and ends in the parking lot of the county high school, just outside the village of Dahlonega, GA. It’s approximately 104 miles in length, and advertises 11,280 feet of vertical ascent over the mountains. The weather is usually brisk, in the 50s in the morning and up to high 70s mid afternoon. Most of the roads are in pretty good shape but there are no bike lanes on the course, so you are sharing the road with Georgia “country gentlemen” in F-150 pick up trucks with loud horns and bad attitudes. Gets a little scary at times.

Parking is a problem. The event is so well attended that the High School parking lot is not sufficient. Combine this with “reserved spaces for dignitaries”, such as the Lt. Governor, there is a lot of overflow. We were sent out in to the field behind the school which was a minor inconvenience.

This Year’s Weather

There was no rain forecast for the course until well after 5pm. Initial temperatures were low 60s. Start temperature was 61 degrees. Expected high was 73 degrees. My Garmin shows a high temperature was reached of 84 degrees at 1:45 pm, near Wolfpen Gap.

The “Event”

For insurance purposes this is called a “timed event” and not a race. Seems fair enough as there are no awards for finishing first, although there are two “King of the Mountain” (KOM) contests for the climbs, one on Hogpen and one on Wolfpen.

The horn went off at 7:30 and the 2200+ riders began filing through the narrow starting gate, to cross the sensors and trigger the transponder timing. I crossed the line at 7:37 am, well in the back. May not have been the best move, as I was blocked several times on early descents by slower riders riding three or four abreast on the road, even after having been told at the start to ride single file if possible. Oh well, nothing to be done about that.

After maneuvering through traffic we started to climb Stonepile Gap, which is relatively short by Georgia standards but a mile and a half climb at 7% is no picnic for a Florida Flatlander. I managed to maintain 6 to 7 mph going up it. The descent after was nice, in the mid 30 mph range.

I skipped the Turner’s Crossing rest stop and proceeded straight to Neel’s Gap. This is a fairly long climb, a total of 9 miles but the steady climb part is the last 4 miles, averaging just under 7%. It’s not the steepest climb but it does wear away resolve. I passed Turner’s at 8:45 am and didn’t pass the top of Neel’s until 9:45 am. Not sure why it took me that long, I have done that segment in 45 minutes before. I certainly didn’t feel like I was dogging it. Still, it gave me plenty of time to make the first cutoff time: Bottom of Neel’s descent by 10:30.

My legs were slightly rubbery as I climbed up the next one, Jack’s Gap. It starts out slowly and increases to 10% at the end. This is the first of the “hard” climbs. This is also the next cutoff time: Top of Jack’s by 11 am. I pulled in at 10:45. It was good to see Ched Wells pull in right after me on his mountain bike. He truly is a cycling star.

I took a break at Jack’s to eat some food and relieve my bladder. Back out on to the road I went, intending to make my next stop at the top of Hogpen. I climbed Unicoi, rode past the rest stop, since that climb felt a little better on my legs than Jack’s.

I turned on to the Hogpen climb. It is by far the worst climb of the ride. It is long, almost 7 miles, and steep, reaching 15% during a 2 mile mid section that is just really, really hard. I was unable to make it up the hill without walking, and I stopped at the mid-point rest stop to refill water bottles. Most experts say to skip that stop and finish the climb. I walked one more time and made it to the top around 1:30pm. I had been hoping to be there by 1. So I was behind on my goal, which was to finish the entire ride in under 9 hours.

However, the hard part was over. The most stressful part of the ride for me by far, was the Hogpen climb. I had been fretting over it for months. Now it was time to finish the ride. The descent was the best I’ve had yet, and I credit all to having disc brakes. They made the descent so much more controllable.

I was tired when I reached Wolfpen Gap but I plodded ahead and managed to climb the entire thing without stopping. I rode past the rest stop and continued on to Woody Gap.

I reached there around 4:05pm, which worried me. I definitely wanted to finish before 5 pm, which would still be a PR for me. I kept the stop fairly short and took off down the descent. The last 16.5 miles are mostly downhill, but there are some steep climb sections which would ruin my over the ground average speed.

I left the rest stop at 4:08 and made it to the high school right at 4:58. That’s 50 minutes for 16.5 miles. Almost 20 mph average, which I was happy with. And, to settle a dare from my friend and running coach Brock Brinkerhoff, I went out and ran a mile and a half after putting my bike away. It was painful but I did it.

It wasn’t a goal setting ride, but it was my fastest Six Gap yet. I have to count it a success.

The Training Peaks analysis of my Six Gap ride

The Training Peaks analysis of my Six Gap ride

FAIL. Lesson Learned (again).

John Tenney at Blue Ridge BreakawayOn Saturday August 16th I rode in the Blue Ridge Breakaway (hereafter referred to as “BRB”), a 105.7 mile ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains with over 10,000 feet of vertical elevation change.

I did not have a great event. In fact you could say it was an EPIC FAIL. And it was my own fault for making mistakes I knew better not to make.

It all started when I found out on Thursday, that the event was Saturday (and not Sunday like I believed.) I noticed my friends posting on Facebook that they were on their way to Waynesville, NC. “Why are they leaving today?” I thought. “I’m leaving tomorrow so I can relax Saturday and have a good ride Sunday.” When I checked the BRB website and discovered my error.

Quickly I began packing up the van. I called the hotel and they were very nice and said yes, you can come in a day early and we won’t charge you for an extra day if you leave Sunday. That was nice. Still, I didn’t get out of the house and on the road till 3:30 in the afternoon.

So that leads to:
Lesson One: Get the Proper Event Information and Scheduling.

Holiday Inn Express Orangeburg, SCAround 11:30 pm I was only 400 miles in to a 610 mile drive. I decided to stop at the Holiday Inn Express in Orangeburg, SC for the night (a very nice place by the way and not too expensive) and get some sleep. This was actually a good move.

The next morning I went to the breakfast lobby and had some coffee and some “prefab pancakes.” Not the most nutritious meal but I wanted to get on the road. I got going and had to stop almost immediately at a rest stop to “vent some coffee.”

Oak-Park-InnI didn’t get to the Oak Park Inn (another very nice place) in Waynesville until noon. All I had eaten in the last 24 hours was a Subway BMT sub, some pancakes and a food bar. I was frazzled and stressed so I did not go right out to eat but laid down for a short nap. Around 3pm I got up and rode my bike up to the venue, hoping to pick up my packet and possibly stop for some food on the way home.

I was two hours early for registration. I took a ride around the lake (very pretty) but that only killed about 45 minutes.

The volunteers were very nice but they didn’t have the timing chips yet, could I wait till 5? So I stayed around and helped them set up, move chairs, carry boxes, etc. All in all not a bad thing to do but I still had not eaten. I rode back to the hotel and got my van so I could eat with “the gang.”

Well, “the gang” I was hoping to ride with were all staying at a cabin, and had already made plans for dinner. When I left registration at 6pm I was quite hungry but did not relish going in to a restaurant in a strange, country town by myself to eat dinner alone (hear those banjos?) so I went to a Hardees and picked up a fast food meal. Which leads to:
Lesson Two: Don’t Travel to Major Events Alone.
I need the peer pressure from a “travel buddy” to make me eat correctly. Fast food and a couple of food bars is not enough nutrition the day before a very challenging 106 mile mountain ride.

The next morning I was up sufficiently early to wolf down some pop-tarts, drink a bottle of water and wait for nature to take its course. Cyclists understand that you want to get all your “business” done before starting a hundred mile ride. Fortunately for me, my digestive system agreed with me and all was well.

At the event they were offering donuts, pastries and coffee. I took half a cup of coffee. I have no idea why I didn’t eat at least one donut or a pastry. I certainly did not have enough carbs in my system to fuel me for the whole ride.

Still, the first 30 miles or so I felt great. I was riding fast, climbing well, and the disc brakes on my new bike (Giant Defy Advanced 1) really made the descents enjoyable. I felt so good I skipped the first two SAG stops, which leads to:
Lesson Three: Don’t Make A Problem Worse By Ignoring It.
I should have stopped and at least grabbed some cookies, peanuts, bananas, or something.

At mile 42 I stopped because I realized I was having a problem. I wasn’t flying up the hills anymore. I was getting shaky. I still didn’t feel hungry but I should know by now I can’t trust that feeling. I stopped and ate some peanuts. Then one of my buddies came in and left quickly. I didn’t want him to get too far ahead so I hurried up and followed him. Which is mistake #4:
Lesson Four: Don’t Race Other People, Race the Course
The right thing to do would have been to stay and eat something. Instead I was determined to “be that guy” who was going to perform. Another rookie move.

I got to the mile 52 SAG and saw a lot of contemporaries relaxing, eating, drinking, etc. I only needed a little water (or so I thought), grabbed a cookie and got back on my bike. Big Mistake. Big. HUGE. What I had failed to do was study the course. If I had, I would have realized that the next 13 or so miles were all uphill at an average gradient of 7 – 8%. This was “the stop before the big one.” Not a good time to skip a rest and recovery period.
Lesson Five: Know The Course!
The first three or four miles were fine. I was just riding along, saying to myself “wow this is a long hill” and it finally came to me, this is the big one.

It was very beautiful. I enjoyed the view. What I did not enjoy was how my body was running out of gas. I was bonking. I had depleted my reserves and my body had switched to fat burning mode. In this mode it is impossible for me to climb up a 7 to 8% grade. I started shaking. I had to stop and rest. People started riding by me. I knew the next stop was at mile 63, some 5 or 6 miles ahead, and they were all uphill. I started walking. This was really the end of my ride, as the next 30 miles I finished were just survival.

I made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway rest stop and guess what, they were out of water and almost out of food. It had taken me two hours to get to the top of that hill and I was at the tail end of field now. Everybody had gone by.

The smart thing to do would have been to wait for supplies. I didn’t. I followed one of my contemporaries out (see lesson four), thinking that I only had a little climb left (wrong. Had a big one left, see lesson five.)

I was looking forward to the infamous tunnel, since I had my trusty USB light mounted on my bike. Hah. At mile 80 I went in to a hole in the side of the mountain that was pitch black, and no dinky little 25 lumen light is going to help me. Next time I will bring a BIGGER light.
Lesson Six: Bring the Right Equipment
I made it through the tunnel without dying but it was mortifying. Well, see the video below. Realize also that the Go Pro adapts to lower light much quicker than my eyes. I never saw the reflectors or the white line to the right. If it weren’t for the car coming the other way I probably would have smashed in to the wall.

I made it to mile 85, halfway up the last big hill (7 mile climb at 8%) when I had to be sagged in, because I would not make the requirement of being off the Blue Ridge Parkway before 5pm. It was frustrating, knowing that I was only 3 miles from a 17 mile descent to the finish, but rules are rules, and I wasn’t going to argue with the BRB staff. I endured the embarrassment of being sagged off the course, and lived, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

I suppose there is a lesson seven in all this too, since I don’t want to end with six. That would be to plan my trips better, and further in advance. I am working with my coach (who was NOT part of my BRB planning – another mistake) now to get ready for the next mountain ride: Six Gap, a 100 mile ride in Dahlonega, GA which traverses six mountain passes (gaps) on September 28th.

Pray for me.

Race Reports – Fishhawk and Airport TT #8

ORR Team at Airport TT #8Dual race report coming here, as your author apologizes for being a little bit behind.

“I had the opportunity to try the new Fishhawk Time Trial series put on by R&M Cycling, leader Nathan Rogut, near Brandon, FL (outside of Tampa.) A few weeks later I returned to the Airport Time Trial for race #8 in the series” John Tenney tells us, “Both were breakthrough races for me, and for the team as well.”

Below are two race reports from John.

Fish Hawk Time Trial

This is a new venue and new event. Located in a rural area just southwest of Brandon, FL, the course is a 14.1 mile out and back, a little over 7 miles in each direction. July 24th at 6pm the inaugural event was launched. I was the only one of our team to make this one.

The Course
At the finish of the inaugural Fishhawk TT

At the finish of the inaugural Fishhawk TT

The roads are south of the local town, and are in good shape. The only real problem was that at 6pm there was some car and truck traffic, and a lot of it turning onto and off of the road. Other than that, it is an excellent course, with some slight elevation changes that make it interesting. The 180 turn out just past mile 7 is actually about 40 feet above the starting line, and it is a slight climb in the latter part of the ride. On the plus side, after the turn you get to go down that hill.
My Race
I wasn’t sure of the exact length. Katelynn Dittman, who was handling registration, told me it was almost 15 miles. I rode out about 5 1/2 and rode back as a warmup, so I was not sure exactly how far away the turn was. Katelynn told me it would be clearly marked, and it was, as Aeropro coach Roy Foley was marshaling the turn (and doing an excellent job by the way.)
Training Peaks Analysis of my race

Training Peaks Analysis of my race

My goal was to be under 42 minutes. Since it was my first time on the course I did not anticipate really trying to pound it, but to pedal hard while studying it. 42 minutes would still be a 20+ mph average.

On the way out, the last uphill section of the course was slowing me down, as I was unable to maintain 20mph up the hill. When I was held up at the turn as Roy let two large trucks go by, I noticed I was turning at around 22 minutes, which if doubled did not beat my goal.

Fortunately the downhill on the return allowed me to pick up speed. Only one incident ruined a perfect return ride as a large SUV passed me going around a corner and then stopped in front of me, blocking the entire lane, as they waited to make a left turn on to a side street. I had to slam on the brakes and pass the SUV on the shoulder. It not only slowed me down but of course drove my heart rate up a bit.

The finishing stretch is slightly uphill but I didn’t notice as I was using up all the power I had left. I crossed the line in 39:50, which was well better than my goal and resulted in an average speed of 21.6 mph.

After the race we retired to the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings for some well earned socializing. There were 16 riders total for the race.

Airport Time Trial #8

This was the eight installment of this 10 race series, and our team was represented by myself, Randy Durkee and Chuck Peabody.

The venue has been discussed in previous articles. August 5th, the weather was hot and a little muggy, but the winds were somewhat light. The temperature was 93F at the start and only cooled to 90F by the end of my lap.

My Race
Great photo by Darby Hardesty of my finish

Great photo by Darby Hardesty of my finish

I started towards the end of the Masters 50+ group. Chuck was two riders in front of me. Randy was right behind me. My nemesis, Kevin Clark, was directly in front of me. He was returning from a broken collarbone so I hoped to keep him in sight. Not a chance. Kevin is obviously fully recovered because he set a new personal record for the course. Well so did I in fact.

My main goal was not to be passed by anyone, and maybe to catch Chuck, who was a minute in front of me.

I was not passed. Thanks to my coach Dave Severn I found myself with more available power than in any previous attempts of this course. I started out fast and did not let up. I got my heart rate right up over 150 and kept it there the entire ride. It was great to have power! My legs were not complaining, I was not worn out from rough rides earlier and I had a great time. In short, Dave had prepared me well.
Training Peaks Graph of my ride

Training Peaks Graph of my ride

I made the turn in 9:15 which worried me, as I was shooting for a finish in the low 18s. Not to worry. I picked it up on the return leg, caught and passed not only Chuck but a couple of others that started before him and finished with a new PR of 18:17. My highest average ever for any time trial, 22.8 mph.

A great night!

Randy and Chuck also set new records as well. Randy finished in 19:24 and Chuck finished in 20:17. Both exceeded their previous times by 15 seconds or more.

Randy at the finish (Darby Hardesty Photo)

Randy at the finish (Darby Hardesty Photo)

Chuck at the finish (Darby Hardesty photo)

Chuck at the finish (Darby Hardesty photo)

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TTTT – Thirsty Thursday Time Trial in Ormond Beach

TT001I was invited to come up to Ormond Beach to try a 10K time trial, put on by The Bike Shop. Owner Jack Gonzales posted it in our Facebook Group and invited me up.

I was warned it was rather informally done but pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. It may be “loosely” run but the guys know what they are doing and put on a great little race. For a practice TT to gauge your progress, it’s perfect.

The Venue

This is a FREE time trial. It is not sanctioned by anyone, it’s just a group ride that has a TT in the middle of it really. The group meets at The Bike Shop around 6:15 and departs out through town to a very pretty country road. They go about 12 miles as a group out to the entry of a neighborhood, where they have an interesting method of running the race. The first rider gets everyone to line up and then walks down the list and gets everyone’s name. Then he hands the list to the last rider, who starts everyone. Once the first rider has a significant enough head start to avoid being caught he sends the next rider, and then a rider every 30 seconds after. Finally, the last rider goes at his designated time.

Meanwhile the first rider has reached the finish line and is starting to take times as other riders finish. Since he asked everyone their name, and probably has a great memory, he writes down the finish times. (I’m impressed with that!)

All in all a simple yet effective system that allows everyone to race.

Following the race, the group rides back to the bike shop as a cool down. And, there may be some “socializing” after.

The Course

The road could be better. It is pretty rough. It reminded me a lot of the last 6 miles of the state TT in Palm Beach this year, or if anyone has been on the old Chuck Lennon TT course, that was about the same. Other than that though it’s a nice, flat course. A lot of shade, very little crosswind, a lot of scenery and not a lot of traffic. There is no bike lane but the car drivers were all very polite and considerate. No honks, no close passes or other incidents marred my ride.

It comes out to exactly 6.22 miles on my Garmin

TTTT Course.  Start to Finish is right at 6.22 miles

TTTT Course. Start to Finish is right at 6.22 miles

My Report

The group ride outbound gave me plenty of time to “warmup” (see Other Comments below) so I was ready to go when my time came. I was a little concerned about a storm looming off to the west but never felt a drop of rain.

I started about 20th in line and had 4 or 5 behind me so quite a good turnout. I asked the guys behind me to say something nice when they passed me 🙂

Finally my turn came and I was worried, because this group had gone FAST on the way out (dropped me in fact) and I was afraid I would get blown out. I pedaled fairly hard right away to get my HR up to about 145. My plan was to do three 2 mile segments. Segment one: about 145-150 HR, Segment two: 155, and segment three ramp it up to all I had. I was kind of watching power as well but not really, as I am not familiar enough with it yet. I could feel lactic acid almost immediately but I attributed that to being “loaded up” from waiting so long to start.

I did not have a rabbit for the first two segments. Apparently the guy right in front of me was pretty fast. Also, I kept waiting for someone to steam by me and it never happened. In segment 3 I caught sight of “Jose”, a guy wearing an Amway jersey that I had a lengthy conversation with (I was in that business for many years.) It took me up until under a mile to go but I caught him. As I passed him I said “Come on! Less than a mile to go!” I inspired him, as he passed me back in a sprint to the finish. I tried to sprint but I did not have anything left in the tank (that’s a good thing!)

I showed 16:51 as my time but it must have taken me a few seconds to stop the Garmin, since the “map” shows I was closer to 16:44. The “official” results show 16:50

Official results from The Bike Shop

Official results from The Bike Shop

My Power Agent readout for the TTTT.  I started the Garmin at t-minus 3 and stopped it shortly after finishing.

My Power Agent readout for the TTTT. I started the Garmin at t-minus 3 and stopped it shortly after finishing.

Other Comments

The only two negative things about the ride is:
1) The outbound group ride is mixed with people who are going off and doing a longer ride. Some of them were riding on aerobars in the group(!) This is a big no-no. Not safe!
2) The road itself needs paving badly. There are some serious potholes and several bumpy sections. A few times I got bumped so hard my arm slipped off the aero pads.

Other than that, a really fun ride and a beautiful area to ride. Worth the hour and 20 minute drive up there. I have the next one on my calendar, July 24th.

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How Do I Get Faster?

Titled-Hardesty-ORR-TeamOK, you’ve lost the weight, done a century ride, ran a marathon and/or some other notable completion of a distance goal.

Now, if you are like me, you are getting annoyed by losing to that 77 year old guy who always beats you by 13 seconds.

So are you asking yourself, “How do I get faster?”

I am!

I’ve got the distance, got the endurance, got the cardio down. Now it’s time to WIN something. Sure it’s nice to say “I finished!” That doesn’t ever get old, does it? OK it DOES. It’s not as satisfying as saying “I got on the podium!” or better “I won!” or even better:

“I finally beat that ONE PERSON!” (Insert that ONE PERSON who matters to you here …)

So How Do I Get Faster?

Every article I read starts with the same disclaimer: “You have to determine what works best for you.”

I used to think they were just satisfying the lawyers, but after a few years of trying a lot of different things, I now agree with that statement. What works for me does not work for my wife Kathleen, for example. While we are all humans (at least I hope so) we all have different bodies, goals, levels of exercise and physical history.

There are however, a few rules that seem to apply to everyone. Here’s what I have found so far:

Define Some (Slightly) Unrealistic Goals

Goals should be slightly unrealistic

Goals should be slightly unrealistic

What good is it to set an easy goal and make it? The best goals are those that are just slightly beyond reach.

Pick a goal that you think you can get close to, but probably not quite make it.

Famous line from some author – “Shoot for the stars, for even if you miss, you’ll hit the moon”

To Get Different Results You Have To Do Something Different

You will not significantly improve your performance by doing the same thing you’ve always been doing. You have to change something. This can be a simple as doing the same exercise, but in a different way. You can even try a different exercise or different sport. Some suggestions:

  • Try a different style of running / riding / etc. Example: Try a mountain bike instead of a road bike.
  • Try a completely different sport. Swimming, Standup Paddleboard, etc.
  • Change up the workouts. Add intervals (more on this later)
  • Try racing. Don’t get discouraged if you do poorly at first. You will. Everybody does.
  • Talk to different people. Get a coach!

Find a Way To Objectively Measure Your Results

Power Agent is a program to monitor performance, power and heart rate

Power Agent is a program to monitor performance, power and heart rate

There are many devices, tools, websites and apps for this. I use a Garmin Edge 500 to measure everything, including not only the basic stuff but also heart rate, power (on the bike), percent of incline (running and riding hills is a good change up), and temperature. I upload everything to,,, and also use an offline program called Power Agent.

Review your progress frequently. A good coach will have you doing this anyway. One website,, allows you to choose an online coach at a fairly reasonable price. They will review your workout files from your Garmin, for example, and make suggestions and corrections.

Regularly Measure Your Results and Expanded Limits

Important limits to measure are your Lactate Threshold and your VO2 Max. There are lots of articles that discuss these. Coach Adam Baskin of Cat One Fitness has a great system for measuring these levels on a precisely controlled cycling trainer. By gradually increasing the resistance, he measures wattage output and monitors heart rate. Every minute or so he pricks a finger to measure the levels of lactic acid. By assimilating all this data, he has shown me what my “zones” are:

The results of my LT/VO2 Max test at Cat One Fitness

The results of my LT/VO2 Max test at Cat One Fitness

This chart shows the heart rate and power zones for my workouts.

This chart shows the heart rate and power zones for my workouts.

Limits Do Not Increase Unless They Are Stretched or Broken

For me, Interval Training has done the trick to increase my speed. I have yet to meet someone it doesn’t work for. So what is it?

Well, in a nutshell, for brief, controlled periods, you approach and/or exceed limits in your workout. Then you back off for a predetermined amount of time. Your coach will help you a lot here.

This works for cycling and running (for me anyway.) This morning, for example, I did an interval running exercise, repeating the same 3 minute pattern:

  • 0:00 – 1:00 Run very easy (jog really)
  • 1:00 – 1:45 Run hard, starting to run out of breath (Zone 4)
  • 1:45 – 2:15 Run easy, allowing HR to fall back slightly
  • 2:15 – 3:00 Walk, allowing HR to fall back to Zone 2
  • Repeat

I did this over 5.8 miles. This should begin to increase my leg strength, increase LT and VO2 Max for running.

The cycling interval pattern for me is something similar, just longer.

  • 0:00 – 3:00 Ride easy – HR in Zone 2
  • 3:00 – 5:00 Ride hard, Power at or above FTP, starting to run out of breath (Zone 4)
  • Repeat

Never Never Never Never Never Give Up

Winston Churchill used that line as his entire speech to some graduating class back in the day, probably Oxford or something like that.

On those days when you feel like it’s not working, you aren’t getting anywhere, and you just want to go “Become One with the Couch and a bag of Cheetos”, this is your mantra.

In every long race, ride, run, duathlon, etc that I have done, there has been a crisis moment, when things didn’t feel good.

In fact they felt pretty bad. Several times I’ve wanted to go to the side of the course and throw up, sit down, take a beer from a friendly fan (seriously, fans were handing out beers and Bloody Marys at the Space Coast Marathon) or just plain get in the car and go home. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily quit. Oh I had some force outs, broke a spoke on Six Gap last year, got rained out (lightning) at a 5K once, but those were beyond my control.

Those barriers are defining moments. See paragraph above on “Exceeding Limits.”

Patience Young Padawan. Nothing Happens Overnight

Continuing from the last paragraph, you will hit those plateaus that everyone hits.

Yes, everyone. Nobody’s rise to performance is a straight line.

Stay the course. You will become a:

Performance Jedi

You can become a "Performance Jedi"

You can become a “Performance Jedi”

You will stand atop the podium. You will shake the hand of THAT GUY and say good race, knowing you finally beat him.

Or if you’re like me, you will continue until it happens …

Charity Classic 40K Time Trial Race Report

John Tenney finish at Charity Classic 40K TTOrlando Runners and Riders held the Third Annual Charity Classic Time Trial on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. Last year the event was held in Clermont, with a finish at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain Road. This year the course was a 40K (24.8 miles) out and back on Deer Park Road in St. Cloud, FL. The charities featured this year were Harvest Field Ministries, Cure on Wheels, Amateur Athlete Assistance and The Sean Ashman Foundation.

The Course / Venue
This is a great venue. Deer Park Road is in a remote area on the east side of Osceola county. The address of the southern end is 5779 County Route 419, St. Cloud oddly enough. It is a fairly smooth road, with no noticeable rough areas. There are some turns but they are gradual in nature. Other than a few rises to go over a creek on a small bridge it is basically flat. To our knowledge, there is no other useable stretch of road in Central Florida where a 40K out and back would be possible without stopping highway traffic. Speaking of traffic, it was very light. The occasional pick up truck pulling an airboat on a trailer, semi truck cutting across from 192 up to Nova road and then on to 520, or a motorcyclist stretching his legs, that’s pretty much it. During my entire 72 minute ride I saw four vehicles.

Facilities are another issue. There are no convenient stores within miles. Make sure your car is topped off before this trip. We brought a porta potty in for this one (which they put in the wrong place – 7 miles away from the start) but in the future, we are looking in to the Latter Day Saints church at the south end as a launch point.

Weather / Environment
The weather was really perfect. It was dead calm as we lined up to start. Temperature was 77 degrees at the start and 82 at the finish. I will remember to bring bug spray next time though, as the gnats were out in force. The sky was a high overcast, which broke through to partly cloudy by the end of the race.

Getting things ready at the start.  L to R, John Tenney, Ward Bates, William Thomas, Deputy Israel Davila

Getting things ready at the start. L to R, John Tenney, Ward Bates, William Thomas, Deputy Israel Davila

The Race
I was running around trying to get all the last minute details done before I got on my bike. I got maybe a one mile warmup by riding quickly up to the Nova road corner and turning around. I wanted to be the last to start to make sure everyone got off OK, and to make sure William Thomas (doing start/finish duties for the first time) and Dave Severn (taking photos) didn’t need anything. I came up to the line second to last, as Tom McNeill was getting his affairs in order at the porta potty. He started 2 minutes after me.

I was still rushed as my start time came up. I barely managed to stuff a shot block in my mouth, put the wrapper back in my pocket and start my Garmin as William gave me the “go” sign. Probably lost a few seconds there. Then I couldn’t get clipped in. Another few seconds gone. Ah what the heck, it’s a long race.

Tom McNeill from Kyle's Bike Shop won the Eddy Merckx division with a 1:05:55

Tom McNeill from Kyle’s Bike Shop won the Eddy Merckx division with a 1:05:55

My goal was to keep my HR at or below 140 until the final stretch, and that way I was hoping to “negative split” (do the return leg faster than the out leg) so I jumped up to 22 mph and about 138 on HR. I pushed a little towards the end of the 5 mile segment (first of five in my head) and hit mile 5 at 13:53. That was a little fast as the HR went above 140, so I backed off for the next 5. Tom McNeill passed me somewhere around here. Young guys!

I caught up to Crockett in the second segment. He had started a couple of minutes ahead of me and was taking it easy, since this was his first long TT. We talked for a second and I pushed on.

Crockett Bohannon waiting for his starting signal from William Thomas

Crockett Bohannon waiting for his starting signal from William Thomas

The turn was really tight. I didn’t unclip, but I slowed down to nearly a stop to make it. Was really glad that Osceola County Sheriff Deputy Israel Davila was watching the turn for us. That is a very comfortable feeling! Gave him a wave and headed back north.

Suddenly I have a head wind. Where did this come from? Morning breeze I guess, rising up from the ENE. It made a difference. I was not able to maintain 20 mph without pushing the HR up so I just settled in at 140bpm. Also, my left arm was hurting from the aero position. Way too often for my liking, I had to sit up and shake it out. Need to figure that out. I also need to tip my seat down just a hair, as it was starting to hurt in the “forward regions.”

Segment 3 was my worst, at 15:33, which is just over 19 mph average. Once I got to the middle of the course though, there was more tree cover and less effect of the wind. Segment 4 I picked it up again and did 14:29, which was my second best (full) segment. The last segment was only 4.8 miles but finished in 13:35, which is the highest average speed, probably.

Chuck fought me off for 6 miles.  He managed to stay 3 seconds ahead of me at the finish

Chuck fought me off for 6 miles. He managed to stay 3 seconds ahead of me at the finish

I got Chuck Peabody in my sights somewhere in Segment 4 and it pushed me. It really helps to have a “rabbit” out there as a goal. He knew I was behind him too, as he started picking it up. I didn’t catch him. He stayed in front of me by three seconds at the finish. Good job Chuck! It still helped me finish with 1:12:13, which beats my last time on that course of 1:13:50, when we tried it out a month earlier.

This is a great course. It should be a great race. More people should come out and try this. I know the distance scares them but it shouldn’t. Why should someone who can do a century be afraid of a 25 mile time trial? I like Crockett’s approach, just ride it like a solo ride, and try to do a negative split. He did great, beating his goal of 1:20.

I hope we see more people at the next one.

Video of starts and finishes:

Bull session after the race.  Actually waiting for Bill to return from the potty so we can do podiums

Bull session after the race. Actually waiting for Bill to return from the potty so we can do podiums

Podium for Eddy Merckx class.  1st:  Tom McNeill, 2nd: Chuck Peabody, 3rd:  Crockett Bohannon

Podium for Eddy Merckx class. 1st: Tom McNeill, 2nd: Chuck Peabody, 3rd: Crockett Bohannon

Masters 50+ Podium 1st: Carl Westergren, 2nd: Edgar Leano,  3rd: Bill Edgbert

Masters 50+ Podium
1st: Carl Westergren,
2nd: Edgar Leano,
3rd: Bill Edgbert

My workout on the Training Peaks website

Harvest Field Ministries 5K

Kathleen-with-GarminHarvest Field Ministries put on their first 5K fundraiser on May 17, 2014. Kathleen and I both entered this family fun run.

Harvest Field Ministries is a local missionary organization, based here in Orlando, yet their primary “mission field” is in Romania. William Thomas heads the mission, with the help of Eastpoint Fellowship church and their pastoral family Danny and Cookie Strickland.

Venue / Course / Weather
If you have done an Avalon Park 5K before, the course will appear familiar, as it goes down Tanja King Blvd to “the loop” and then comes back to Avalon Park Blvd. The main difference is that the start / finish was placed outside Founder’s Square, rather than the town park, making the course longer, which is good because the park s/f line only yields 2.75 miles. This one came out to be 3.1 miles or a little more maybe (by our estimate). It is a flat, fast course.

Founder’s Square is roomy enough to host a small event, but when they get up to 500 or more runners, they will probably have to move up the street to the park. One oversight this year (which I am sure will be fixed for the next one) was lack of public restrooms. We already have that in progress for the next one.

The weather was cooler than normal for May, which was a blessing. At 8am (start time) it was a cool 67 degrees. By 9:30, when all was done, it was still in the 70s. Sunny and clear, perfect day for a run.

There were about 90 runners, so I got to start pretty near the front. I was feeling pretty good so I took off at a higher pace than normal. I knew people would be coming by me as I eased up so it didn’t demoralize me. I used sidewalks and tangents to run the shortest course, as I intended to put in a fast time. I have been unable to get below 31 minutes for a true 5K recently and today my goal was 30 minutes.

I hit mile 1 at 9:40 so I was on schedule. I had to walk briefly at the mid-point water stop, so my second mile was 9:59. The third mile was downwind with a warming sun, and it slowed me down a bit. It may also have been that I knew I was ahead on time. I picked it up towards the end, and crossed the line at 29:57 for a recent history PR (Since the age of 30). I did a 29:10 once on my “home” course in December 2011, but I don’t think it was a full 3.1 miles.

I felt great at the end, and was looking forward to greeting all the other Orlando Runners and Riders as they finished. Michelle Tribble came in right at 40 mins. Kathleen set a new PR with 43:57. Even Cara Wells, who is dealing with a spinal injury, came in around 53 minutes. She was “representing” with her ORR tech t-shirt.

It was a great event, and Harvest Field did a great job for a first time. I got on my TT bike and did a lap of Innovation Way and rode home, for a 25 mile ride to complete my “brick”.

Cara Wells wearing the club tech t-shirt

Cara Wells wearing the club tech t-shirt

Michelle came in at 40 even

Michelle came in at 40 even

Kathleen running strong at the end for a PR of 43:57

Kathleen running strong at the end for a PR of 43:57

Race Report: Airport TT #6

Airport TT #6 Race ReportRace Report for John Tenney at Airport Time Trial #6, May 13, 2014.

Venue and Conditions

The venue has been discussed previously (as excellent for a time trial) with one change tonight, all riders were entered to run 2 laps instead of one, making the entire course length 13.9 miles.

The weather was party cloudy and not too warm, around 82 degrees, but very windy. A strong crosswind from the east blew in at 15-25 mph. This made the race very interesting. Only 15 riders showed up, which is very unusual. Typically this race draws 30 to 40 riders. Claudio Mayol volunteered to take pictures using our camera, so we got a lot of great pictures. He has shown his hidden talent as a photographer.

Yes I gave Claudio a smile as I was trying to clip in.  I started pedaling hard right after, I promise

Yes I gave Claudio a smile as I was trying to clip in. I started pedaling hard right after, I promise

Clipped in now, and switching to the aerobars (left hand is on already)

Clipped in now, and switching to the aerobars (left hand is on already)

My Race Description

In the first race with our new sponsor on board, Hourglass Insurance Solutions, I was the first of three Masters 50+ to start, with Brian Davis and Kevin Clark right behind me. Obviously I expected to see them go by pretty quickly, as they are very fast riders. I started out with a relatively easy pace, as I had no idea how the 14 miles would treat me. Except for the first climb out of the taxiway overpass, I kept my speed at 21+ mph until the first turn. Brian caught me at 3:50 in, which was a bit discouraging. Kevin didn’t catch me until after the first turn, around 12 minutes, which was encouraging, as I noticed he isn’t blowing by me like he has in the past. I was able to keep him in sight longer, although he is still 3 or 4 mph faster than me.

The dog-leg towards the turn was downwind, and it felt great pushing it up to 25-27 mph up to the turn. Of course, turning back in to the tailwind was not so fun. I dropped below 20 mph in the beginning, but then I got a rabbit! Roger Hungerford, riding on a road bike, appeared in my cross hairs. Roger is 63 years old, very nice guy, and would definitely be faster than me if he had the aero bike and aero gear that I have. However, on his road bike, he was just a little slower than I am, and gave me something to chase. Probably made me push a little harder than I should have, as my heart rate went up to nearly max at one point, but I did manage to catch him in a slight headwind section. Keeping him at bay after that was my new goal.

One incident kind of marred the race for Roger and I, as we came up to the mid-point turn. We had one junior rider, who was being followed by him mom with blinkers on. This is OK, but taking up the entire right lane is not. As we cam under the last bridge we had to go in to the left lane to prepare for our 180 turn, and there was traffic coming from behind. We both had to slow down until traffic passed by. Probably cost us both 10 seconds at least. My suggestion is that if you are going to follow behind your junior rider that you get all the way to the left of the lane, leaving room for a rider to pass without leaving the bike lane by very much.

The pickup truck was a mom following her son.  She was only looking out for him, which I get, but she kind of got in the way of our 180 turn

The pickup truck was a mom following her son. She was only looking out for him, which I get, but she kind of got in the way of our 180 turn

The second lap was painful. My saddle sores starting making their presence known. I had to stand up and shake things out a few times. Each time I did this Roger got closer. Fortunately the tailwind section helped me pull away a bit, and turning back in to the wind, my aero setup helped me stay away.

Finished strong, under my goal of 39 minutes, at 38:40.

Power Agent and Endomondo data (Endo includes cool down lap)

Power Agent and Endomondo data (Endo includes cool down lap)

Lake Louisa Road Race Report May 7, 2014

JWT-ranger-station-turnMy goals tonight were simple.

1: Don’t get dropped right away and
2: Don’t get lapped by the field

How did I do? Better than last time!

Venue and Course

This is an excellent road course in and around Lake Louisa State Park on US 27 south of Clermont. The course starts down by the lake and heads up the hills to the Ranger Station at the park entrance. The 180 turns are wide and fast. The course is hilly. There are no flat sections to speak of. The A riders do 5 1/2 laps, as the finish is at the top of the course, just before the Ranger Station. The B riders do 4 1/2. The juniors do 2 1/2 laps. Adding a C group might be a good idea.

The Race

Tonight I parked at the First Green Bank in Clermont (where I can charge my car) and rode the roughly 7 miles down to the park. I was lucky enough to fall in with Josh Detwiler and we rode together the entire 7 miles, even though he tended to pull away from me on the uphill sections. After entering the park and going to the bottom to register, I ran one more practice lap just to stay warm.

At 6:34 pm USAC Official Henry Willis sent us off, the B group, 50 riders strong. Last time I stayed with the group until the first climb and then dropped off the back. Tonight I started to drop off but caught up right away on the descent after. This happened again on the second climb. In fact I had to use the brakes to avoid running in to people. On the third climb, which is the long one, almost a half mile, I dropped off the back with another rider, a youngster from Wizard Racing. I didn’t get his name. He dropped off behind me almost right away. I struggled to keep the group in sight and was right behind them (although still dropped) at the ranger station turn. From then on I continued to drift back but would pass the occasional dropped rider. Some of the riders will just quit, while others will short the course and get on the back again (this is actually accepted, as long as they don’t interfere with the racers.)

Not me. I have decided I want to do all 4 1/2 laps completely every time I run this race. I did it tonight as well as last time. I finished in 1:04:03 which is better than the 1:09 I did last time.

I was fighting back pain and a stiff crosswind several times but I still managed to climb the hills better than ever previously, and my Strava file shows I did several PRs on the climbs.

I avoided being lapped, by a decent margin. They were still arguing about results when I finished my last lap. On a side note, Dave Severn had the race won and started celebrating a bit too early. Got nipped at the line. Here’s the video of the finish:

Here’s the finish from Tom McNeil’s viewpoint, one of the Kyle’s Bike Shop riders:

By my estimate I finished 25th, out of an estimated 50 riders. I should get a lot of points for that but they haven’t been reporting all the riders lately. Adam will probably give me 25th but won’t post anyone behind me. Maybe I can talk him in to it 🙂

The read out of my race effort showing speed, elevation and heart rate:

Airport Time Trial Race Report

When I can, I like to make a "Trophy Pic" like this for my wall

When I can, I like to make a “Trophy Pic” like this for my wall

Airport TT Race Report: John Tenney
As has been said previously, the Airport TT venue is an excellent place to time trial. In addition to the wide bike lanes, today we had support from the Orlando Police (who left two squad cars at the start line with lights on to slow down traffic) and a representative from GOAA Ops who gave us up to date weather. Great support for this race!

And the weather was definitely an issue. It was raining when I got the course. I waited in the car for 15 minutes for it to stop. When it finally did stop raining it still looked pretty ominous. Fortunately Claudio Mayol (a race volunteer, there every event) convinced me to stay and at least ride the course. So I took a ride up and down Heintzelman and it wasn’t that bad although very windy. The south end of the course looked really ominous – with dark skies and thunder clouds. Still, I got back to the start totally dry. I decided to go on with it, but I elected to do only one lap (Tim was giving us the option of 1 or 2 laps, 7 or 14 miles.)

The 14 milers left first, and then the junior 7 milers. I was the first of the adult 7 milers to start so I expected to be passed early and often. Oddly enough the first guy to catch me did so about a half mile before the turn and he inspired me to try and catch him. I stayed at least 25 yards behind him (and everybody) so no drafting took place, don’t worry. Another guy caught me just after I made the turn and I let him go, and then decided to chase him. Although I never caught him I kept him in sight. No one else caught me the rest of the ride. I was trying to catch Clay Zinnert in front of me but he is improving and although I gained a little I never seemed to get close enough to make a difference. Clay did a 20:31 which is not his best but hey, before this year that would have beaten me every time!

It was difficult to say where the wind was coming from although I was getting knocked around a lot. I’d say it was a crosswind from the east most of the time. When the course takes the little jaunt to the west at the south end I did feel a little push.

There was (for once) no traffic affecting the 180 degree turn. I slowed to 16 or so because the road was damp but got right on the pedals and picked it up again right away. Except for the first climb from under the bridge my analysis shows I did not go below 21 mph on either leg. That is an improvement.

I crossed the line still pushing, although starting to run out of gas. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I finished in 18:38 which beats my old record by 20 seconds. Average speed over the 6.94 mile course was 22.35 mph, also a new personal record for any time trial.

It started raining shortly after I finished so I headed for the car, loaded up and drove home very excited about a great effort tonight.

14th out of 16 at tonight's Airport TT, but a new personal record of 18:38, average speed of 22.35 mph

14th out of 16 at tonight’s Airport TT, but a new personal record of 18:38, average speed of 22.35 mph