Tuesday, September 20, 2011

50mph: Breaking the speed limit on a bicycle

(ABOVE: Speed limit 40mph? Ooops...)

One of the steepest paved roads that you'll find anywhere is right here within the city limits of Tulsa. I took advantage of it and zoomed to my fastest speed ever on a bicycle.

Previously, 47mph was my all-time top speed. I reached that speed three years ago on a down hill during the Tulsa Tough. I got competitive and was "being a boy" as I raced a friend. I haven't been close to that speed since.

(ABOVE: The huge hill is near mile 12 of my ride along Elwood Drive.)

Elwood Drive between 61st and 71st features a sudden downhill plunge from Turkey Mountain.
Topography maps show a short, steep 200 foot drop in less than a quarter of a mile. You very much get a "falling off the edge of the world" feeling if you drive it.

The opportunity was perfect to try Elwood hill on a quiet September morning: sunshine, no wind, and barely any traffic at 9:30am. The road is smooth and straight.

But to race to the bottom I first needed to climb to the top!

I pulled out of Turkey Mountain park and headed north toward the hill's increasing slope.

On approach the hill appeared to rise straight up. The increasing slope added weight. Each pedal stroke proved a deliberate effort. I felt like I was pulling a car with my bike. I was tempted to walk it, but I had to keep going. I would roll backward if I slowed down or tried to get off the bike!

(ABOVE: Near 5% where I'm standing the Elwood/Turkey Mountain hill rapidly increases to 20% grade for about 150 feet.)

I cranked up the hill at a walking pace in my easiest gear. The worst of the climb thankfully stretched only 0.1 miles. I wouldn't have made it much longer!

I reached the top of Elwood/Turkey Mountain with my lungs on fire. I collapsed on a giant rock to catch my breath.

I checked my GPS: near 20% grade! I smiled as I set a new personal climbing record easily surpassing my previous mark of a 15% grade. I learned that 20% is near impossible, but I made it!
For comparison, that's nearly twice as steep as Yale Avenue between 81st and 91st in South Tulsa.

Now for the fun part.

(ABOVE: Looking southward, I waited for the few cars to clear before zooming down. The edge of the hill comes quickly.)

I first double checked my bike: brakes good, wheels straight, tires clean. And helmet snug.

I waited until no cars were visible. With the road clear I positioned my bike in the middle of the road, snapped into my pedals, and pointed my front tire straight down. I released the brakes.

My bicycle rapidly accelerated without pedaling. I tucked into a ball to reduce resistance. Within seconds: 20mph, 30mph, 35mph....

I took my eyes off the speedometer to concentrate on the road.
I steered in a perfect line nearly down the center of the empty road. Completely focused and perfectly smooth and very fast.

A thunderous river of air rushed through my helmet-- try lowering your car window at freeway speed for comparison. The scenery zoomed past me at what seemed like light speed.
I whooshed past the Turkey Mountain park entrance in violation of the speed limit. I knew I was well north of 40mph.

The hill flattened, and I braked gradually at first. I glanced down at my speedometer as it dropped below 30mph. It took a while to slow down!

How fast did I go? I checked the GPS in my pocket: 49.53mph. Wow!!!

I don't plan to break this personal record again, Wifey might kill me before any bicycle would.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gracie dog escapes!

(ABOVE: After she was recaptured. Gracie cooling down her tummy on the cold bathroom tile.)

Gracie dog is a bad dog!

She is the only one of our doggies who will bolt for the door when there's a chance for freedom.

If she gets out the door, she runs. And keeps going. For a long time.

She escaped on a 90 degree day when her Daddy was taking out the trash. The 30 seconds it took me to walk the trash to the curb gave her a good head start. She zoomed past me and made good progress toward Canada!

I chased her. And that's just what she wanted.

She likes the chasing game, and I fell for it. She played me!

(ABOVE: Despite the clouds, afternoon temperatures in the 90s during the chase.)

She ran across the street. To the neighbor's yard. Then back across the street. Down the street. Into the field. Then back into the neighborhood. Across the street again. Another neighbor's yard. Then the other way down the street. Repeat the above.

The "Daddy chasing Gracie" game carried on for about 20 minutes. She never let me get within ten feet of her. She was smart enough to not let me corner her. She was slowing down though as the heat got to the bad little girl.

Finally she headed toward a maroon Volvo parked at the end of the street. This car was a stranger to the neighborhood.

Gracie ran around to the other side of the car. The next thing I knew, Gracie was staring at me through the passenger side glass! A white, shedding dog on fancy, black leather seats. Oops... Panting heavily, her long pink tongue drooped toward her front paws.

I walked around to the driver's side, and the door was standing open. No one else was around. Someone had left the door wide open, and Gracie invited herself in!

Hmm. Do I enter the car?! I looked around and saw no one. No witnesses.

Well, I just couldn't leave Gracie dog in the passenger seat... let's make a quick dog nabbing.

I crawled in and slid across the fancy leather driver's seat. The steering wheel and shifter were in the way.

I tried to pull out the bad dog, but she didn't wanna! She appeared to be quite comfortable and ready for a car ride. She was too tired to resist me as I scooped her up. I received doggie kisses for my time.

(BELOW: The car door and Gracie dog as I found them.)


I still don't know who owns that Volvo.

I didn't see anyone come out to claim it. Hours later the door remained open as obviously the driver forgot to close it for whatever reason.

The Volvo disappeared the next day. I haven't seen it since.

I know I should apologize or tell someone, but who do I tell? I don't know which house the car belonged to?!

Either way, the driver is probably wondering where the white hair and doggie kisses in the window came from!

Thanks for reading. George

Friday, September 9, 2011

a surprising Tulsa to Orange connection

(ABOVE: a normal ride to South Lakes Golf Course in Jenks proved unforgettable!)

I had a, "Wow, it's a small world!" moment on my Thursday morning bike ride.

Yesterday I rode with the Tulsa Bicycle Club for a regular 30 mile ride. I enjoy the rides for fun exercise and the recent cool down helps too. The temperature on my little bicycle thermometer showed 63 degrees. Perfect!

This normal ride; however, produced a lifetime memory.

I left from KJRH, and our group biked from West Tulsa to Sapulpa to Jenks. We chose South Lakes Golf Course in Jenks as our rest stop. It was my first time there. I learned you can ride your bicycle right up to the club house. "Can you get a bicycle valet parked here?!", one of the riders (Jay Mowery) jokingly asked.

Inside the club house a gentleman was sitting alone at a table having breakfast. He just looked like someone I should know. He looked about my Dad's age.

His shirt caught my eye. From a distance the logo on his shirt resembled a logo on Dad's old golf hat.

"Hi George", I heard when I walked in.

I smiled and formally introduced myself. I met Mr. Bill Cooper. I joined him while he finished breakfast. "I was just in Orange", he told me.

I easily assumed he knew that the small coastal town of Orange, Texas was my hometown. Most Oklahomans have never heard of it.

On closer inspection I was nearly speechless when I saw the logo on Mr. Cooper's shirt-- an embroidered Sunset Grove Golf Club logo-- that's where Dad played years ago! In fact I still have his old Sunset Grove golf hat!!

Mr. Cooper told me more. Not only does his brother, Jeff, live in Orange, but it turns out that he knew details about my family that only someone from Orange would know.

More, "oh wow" conversation followed.

Mr. Cooper said that Jeff is the Golf Pro at Sunset Grove! He knew my Father well, and probably played golf with him. These days, he sees and chats with Mom during the Sunday lunch after church. Years ago, Jeff may have seen me as a kid swimming at Sunset Grove.

More "oh wow"-- Mr. Cooper told me that as part of his tour of Orange last week, his brother drove him by the Flickinger family home. I later told Mom, and we chuckled as we hardly thought of our home as a tourist attraction!

So... For a rundown:

-I stopped at a golf course on my bike which is sort of random anyway.

-Never had been there before, and the only person inside just happened to visit Orange.

-Who has family in Orange.

-Who played golf with Dad and talked to Mom earlier in the week.

-Who drove by the Flickinger house just to see it.

-And happened to be wearing a shirt from Orange which is what led me toward him in the first place.

-All just because he visited Orange last week. Wow, just a major wow moment!

I completed my ride with the rest of the bike group after I said goodbye to Mr. Cooper.

Just a normal bicycle ride, eh?! Glad I woke up early that morning instead of sleeping in. :)

Thanks for reading, George

(BELOW: Dad's old Sunset Grove golf hat lives on. )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Running: the "One Mile Puke Run"

(ABOVE: Dan Lockhoff is one of those dudes above. He keeps our storm chases lively.)

"Hey, George! Guess what?!"

"I wanted to see how fast I could run one mile, so I just started randomly sprinting! I made it in just over 7 minutes, then I saw stars and puked!"

This is the conversation Dan Lockhoff had with me and how the "One Mile Puke Run" got its name.

Dan is a born again runner. A high school athlete who used to run 5 minute miles, he's now in his 30s and wanting to "get back in shape". He's training for the Tulsa Run in November.

I saw this One Mile Puke Run as a challenge... so I tried it! I didn't know what to expect as I have never set a time goal before or "sprinted" for an entire mile.

I chose a cooler day with temperatures in the 80s for my first effort. My first run: 7 minutes 15 seconds. Sweat poured off of me. I collapsed in the grass to catch my breath. (But no barfing!)

I am repeating the run three times a week. My training consists of combining sprints with occasional longer four mile runs.

(ABOVE and BELOW: Training is easy and fun with an Iphone. Tracking my time and pace with the Cyclemeter app.)

Since our first One Mile Puke Runs, we've quietly competed and pushed each other to run faster.
This is the first time that I've ever set a running goal: a sub-7 minute mile.

Through August I'm averaging about 7:30 on my one mile run. I seem to run my best times during cooler weather. Hopefully that trend continues as we move into Fall.

I want to reach my goal of under 7 minutes by the end of the October... stay tuned!

And as a bonus, my stamina and top speed on my bicycle is improving, and I feel great. :)

Thanks for reading, George

(BELOW: View from the trail. I like running near sunset.)

Extreme heat vs bicycle tire

(ABOVE: Eric's bike ride ended suddenly when his tube exploded through his tire! )

Science 101 teaches us that air expands when heated. Some cyclists, myself included, will lower their tire pressure accordingly to account for possible heat expansion.

Narrow tires on road bikes are designed to withstand high air pressure. You can inflate them to 100 to 150psi. By comparison, the tires on your car are likely near 30-35 psi.

And sometimes, tires go "boom!"

That's what happened last month to Eric Gomez of Tulsa. While riding his bike on a 100 degree plus day, his tube exploded. The tube burst through the tire creating a large hole.

In the picture you can see the outward explosion through the tread.

I've seen tires explode due to hitting curbs and such, but this is the first time I've seen a tire fail, a tube exploding and piercing the tire, when heat is the likely culprit.