Monday, October 23, 2017

Shetland Islands

Lerwick, Shetland Islands
(Filler, from a 2016 vacation. For a great cycling film, see Van Horn's film at the end of the below Mt Locke Race)
I was a little surprised at the "drabness" of Lerwick. Most port towns have brightly painted houses and buildings. The buildings for us set the tone of the climate. We, as Texans, are used to mild winters and hot summers. Shetland has a subpolar climate with a year round average of 45 °F and temperatures of over 77 °F are rare. In the wintertime one can see the northern lights in the sky. Translation, we were cold even in the latter part of June.
We boarded a bus and followed the coastline (following pictures) toward Jarlshof.
        So on our journey, I will mention a little more on the weather.
The general character of the climate is windy and cloudy.
It rains more than 250 days a year. (We found the whole trip to be very wet and for us--cold.)
Lest we sound depressing, we were treated by a harem of seals.
Pasture fences.
Finally we saw some Shetland ponies. No surprise as we were on Shetland Island.
Castle entrance building to Jarlshof.

The castle, now known as Jarlshof House, was built during the Scottish period. Originally a medieval stone farmhouse, it was converted into a fortified house during the 16th century.
Jarlshof is a famous archaeological site containing remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD.
More Shetland ponies on the Jarlshof grounds.
Leaving the castle headed toward the old structures and villages.
Excavated rooms of an old house.
The Old House of Sumburgh was "modernized" in the early 17th century. dating from the early 17th century.

The Jarlshof site represents thousands of years of occupation. Except for the Old House of Sumburgh, the site was hidden until a storm in the late 19th century washed away part of the shore and revealed evidence of ancient buildings. 
Buildings on the site include the remains of a Bronze Age smithy, an Iron Age broch (round house), wheelhouses, a Viking longhouse, and a mediaeval farmhouse. 
(I forgot what this was but thought it was a neat picture)
Mediaeval farmhouse.

Thought to be a Bronze Age smithy workshop.
View from Jarlshof cliff. 

Iron Age broch.

Entrance to one of the dwellings. 

Another entrance. Although I am rather short, I still had to stoop to go through their entrances.

One of the wheelhouses.
Shots of the surroundings as we were preparing to leave.

Lonely lighthouse but a nice ending photo.

Friday, October 6, 2017


On the Wednesday ride, I hit some gravel while making a turn. I took a pretty bad spill and my biking season may be over this year. I will try to find some "filler" topics to keep the blog going.

In the meantime, I invite everyone to watch Ross Van Horn's Mt. Locke film in the below post. Put it on full screen and watch the grade that the racers endure. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mt. Locke Race

Mt. Locke Race
McDonald Observatory
September 16, 2017
There are two races up Mt. Locke held on Sunday after the Cyclefest ride.
The one mile race and the 6 mile race have the objective of starting from way down yonder. 

The observatories on Mt. Locke. The small strip of road is the route of the racers. For years, Christine and I have been at the top as spectators cheering the cyclers on. This year we decided to participate in the races. Christine would do the one mile race and I would do the 6 mile race.
(Photograph by Wind River Photography)
I will let Christine tell her story first as the one milers are finished by the time the 6 milers get to the top.

As Roy stated, in the past years we have been spectators of the race. But this year both Roy and I have acquired ebikes which gave me confidence and ability to participate in the race. At registration, we declared our ebikes so we would not be counted in the official results. Good thing as both Roy and I finished first in our respective races!! There possibly would have been some hurt feelings if we had not been honest about our pedal assist bikes. Since I am already ahead of my story, the race officials, after awarding the first three places of each race, called out our times as "honorable mention." That alone would have been honor enough, but the racers get the hill climb beanie shown in our lead picture.

So, there were about 25 of us that lined up at the visitor's center at the bottom of Mt. Locke. I lined up at the back as I was not there to "win." But, as all cyclers know, every ride is a race. I admit that the excitement and adrenaline took over, and with my power setting I couldn't resist going as fast as I possible. It still amazes me, but I overtook everyone before we got to the first corner. That gave me the encouragement to keep pedaling as fast as I could. It still hurt. There are 4 or 5 segments to the  ride (who can count when out of breath, hurting, and wondering why one tortures oneself), which top at 11-17% grade. Roy will mention a film of the ride that shows even greater grades, but long standing folktale had the grade at 17%.

The above picture was taken of me by Wind River Photography near the end of the course. I was pleased with the picture until I enlarged it and discovered I was breathing through my mouth. Oh well, I made it up the hill and unless the excitement diminishes, I may try the 6 mile course next year!

Wind River Photography was near the finish line and took great pictures of the riders as they passed. I saw what Christine said about enlarging her picture, and as I did also, they caught me breathing through my mouth. Wish I had smiled, but they caught reality rather than pose.

Our ride started way down at what they call the solar panels (now gone). About 75 or so of us lined up for a tough 6 mile race. It used to be referred to as the 7 mile race but the Garmin indeed reflects about 6 miles.
When I say a tough ride, our course is a Category 2 climb. Right out of the chute, we go up a climb that sets the stage for the whole ride.
For a great demonstration of what the ride is, log on to Ross Van Horn's film at (I couldn't get the above URL to play so I embedded his film at the end of the story . I make a cameo appearance at 1:54). If you have the time, log on to his ride, it is amazing.

Similar to Christine, I started toward the back along with Rick and Marlon. However, any thoughts of riding with them were lost as soon as the riders rolled out. I started to pass the "peloton" (see me at 1:54 of Van Horn's film). Then it started looking like a normal race with two break-away leaders followed by a chase group of about 10. Since we were going uphill most of the time, my Giant Road E allowed me to pass the chase group and then overtake the leaders. One of the lead riders did recognize that something was wrong when an old man passed him.
Example of one of the climbs
As my bike loves to climb, I continued to pull away. After about the third 10% climb, I was breathing a little hard so as I came upon a decline, I glanced in my mirror and saw no one behind me. I got to coast down the hill and get my breath back. Later, after 2 or 3 more 10% climbs, there was another decline so I coasted again. That was the last opportunity for resting. 
Example of one of my "rest stops"

At about 17 minutes into the ride, I turned into the McDonald Observatory entrance and enjoyed about a half mile of rather flat road. Then, the start of the Mt. Locke climb(s) loomed upon me. 
I had always heard that the last climb just before the finish line peaked at 17%. But, about three climbs out, it was tough (again, see Van Horn's film as he shows we hit some 20%-and more-stretches).

Part of the psychology of the ride was that the last climb was the tough one so you mentally prepared for the finish. But when you are hit with some extremely tough climbs BEFORE the finish, it is demoralizing as you expect the last climb to be the toughest and the ones before it tire you out (remember the Wind River shot of my breathing through my mouth?)
Finish line just ahead.
After I crossed the line, I turned off my Garmin at 22 minutes and 38 seconds, with an average of 15.8 mph. It was about 4 minutes later that the REAL winner crossed the line. I know, I know, if one has looked at the published results, the times are different. Instead of starting at 9 a.m. sharp, we were held to 9:05 but without cell phone service, the timers at the finish didn't know so they had me at "18 minutes", later changed to 21 minutes, but 22:38 was my time.

Shot of me about to finish that Christine took. I don't want to belabor the point as I really enjoyed the race, but official results had me 3 seconds ahead of the winner. As one can see, no one is behind me.
Two happy campers. Brian did the 1 mile race and did quite well.
Brian rounding the last corner.
Joy waiting for Marlon to finish. Shea did the 1 mile race so he was already finished.

Joy's wait is over as Marlon finishes strong.

Marlon after the ride.

Rick at the finish. As I recall, his words were "Boy, that was fun!"

Light at the end of the tunnel when you get this close to the observatories.
And beacons of hope when you get this close.
Award time after the finish. Brian, Roy, Christine, and Marlon. Brian and Marlon have a lot of the race caps. For Christine and myself it was our first--hopefully not our last.
How did I feel about this year's Cyclefest? I am on top of the world.

Below is the blow by blow of the ride. Watch it. It is amazing. Put it on full screen for maximum effect. Good job Ross Adam Van Horn.