Sunday, November 30, 2014

Southern Crescent Cycling Election

The Southern Crescent Cycling club annual election for the four executive committee members and five at-large board members of the Southern Crescent Cycling club will be over soon.  The newly elected board members will serve for approximately the entire 2015 calendar year.  As you may know I threw my hat in the ring for president of the club.  It's always satisfying when we can be part of something bigger than ourselves.  After being club secretary for two years, 2012 and 2013, and a year off from service to the club I thought that being president would be a natural progression besides, I'm an awesome administrator, even if I do say so myself.  But I'm not an awesome politician.  So, with the election only days away I've decided to withdraw myself from consideration.

I hope that the new board will do the following.

1) Pursue and gain 501c3 non-profit status for the club.
2) Focus more attention on those sponsors that actually benefit the club and it's members.  Discounts on merchandise alone does not a sponsor make.
3) Promote and support beginner and women's cycling.  This past year the club put the entire burden for this on the local bike shop.  How is this a club if it ignores those that need help and encouragement the most.
4) Resist the urge to be a "boys club" of only speedsters.
5) Support the team!

Congratulation to all those who will be elected and good luck!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Team EVO/SCC in Nicaragua

I received a message today via e-mail from EVO/SCC (Evolution Cycling / Southern Crescent Cycling) racing team captain Jorge Collado.  I'm so proud of these guys.  I thought I'd republish a portion of that e-mail here and include a few images that I grabbed off of Facebook.


This is just to give everyone a heads up on how team “EVO/SCC” did in our final race of this year which was held in South America “Leon Nicaragua” this past week from the 20th of November thru the 23rd of November.

Our team represented our colors with much pride and respect over the past week. Our team consisted of the following members:

  1. Leo “The Speedster” Marquez 
  2. Jorge “El Cuna” Collado 
  3. Modesto “ Junior” Diaz 
  4. Kenny “ El Doctor” Gilead 
  5. Johnny Mayero 
  6. Mario Rodriguez 
  7. Jorge “El Turco” Milas

Our Team swept with all the general classification. We won the “OVERALL JERSEY”, we also won the “SPRINT JERSEY” we also won the “TEAM CLASSIFICATION”. We had five of our guys finish in the top 10 position of the overall classification.

  • Leo Marquez was crowned with the overall jersey and the sprint jersey as well to become the champion of the master “B” division.
  • Junior Diaz came in a second place in the overall behind Leo in the master “B” division.
  • Kenny Gilead came in second in the sprint classification in the master “B” division.
  • Jorge Collado came in the top ten of the overall classification in the master “B” division.
  • Johnny Mayer won several of stages in the master’s “C” division.
  • Mario Rodriguez came in 5th in the overall classification in the “C” division as well.
  • Jorge Milas took several of podiums as well and placed in the top 5 of the overall general classification in the master’s “A” division.

What a team effort!!!!

“CHAMPS IN NICARAGUA“ what a way to end the 2014 season for our team “EVO/SCC”...

Congratulations to all and thank you all for the fabulous season that we all had as a team and family….



The team 
The team again
Andy Scarano is also shown.  Andy was a great help to the team, from what I hear.  Thanks Andy!

We're looking forward to a great 2015.

I'm so proud of these guys!

Monday, November 24, 2014

St. George Island Trip

Carpe Diem - Seize the day!  Susan and I spent a few days in Florida this summer.  We were there when Robin Williams was reported to have committed suicide.  We watched The Dead Poet Society a few days later.  It was my first time seeing the movie.  I’m not a huge Robin Williams fan, I really liked him in Good Will Hunting but Mork and Mindy never registered with me.  I guess I was more of a fan of his serious roles.  Mr. Williams had a real talent and will be sorely missed.

Susan and I brought our bikes and kayaks with us on vacation to Florida.  With so much gear we had to take the truck instead of our more comfortable trip car.  Usually we vacation in Florida in Destin.  The beaches there are the undisputed best in Florida.  The sand is whiter and the water is clearer in Destin than anywhere else along that part of the Gulf coast that I've seen.  That said, we decided to give St George Island a try.

Susan at the ready
From Atlanta we drove down I-75 before getting off the interstate in Cordele, Georgia.  In Cordele we stopped at Carter's Fried Chicken and Burgers for lunch.  That's where we were both reintroduced to gnats.  I spent the next several hours driving and occasionally pressed a finger to the windshield trying to squash a pesky gnat.  It took me about 3 hours to kill all ten or so of the little buggers.  Besides the gnats, there were the sand spurs, house flies, yellow-flies, and fire ants to contend with.  I got bitten, stung, stuck, or grossed out by all of them.  Bugs, along with the sand and humidity, are a given in Florida.

Sand spurs
We arrived at the condo we had rented last minute to some disappointment.  The Villas of St George have been around at least 25 years, and they showed it.  After seeing the condo complex I remembered it from a long ago bike ride from Griffin, Georgia to St George Island.  I reminisced about that trip back in February of 2011 in my article St. George Island or Bust!  The Villas have one positive.  They're in a good location on the small island.  St. George Island has a tiny business district and the condos are within walking distance of its entirety.  The negatives of our specific condo were many but mostly it just felt gross.

Villas of St. George from the street
Villas of St. George from the beach
The weather forecast was for rain and scattered thunderstorms throughout our stay in Florida.  It did rain some and on our second day there was a severe storm but all that eventually passed and we had plenty of good weather to do fun stuff.

My brother Keith and his wife Diane drove over to St. George Island from Jacksonville.  They spent two days with us there.  On our first day we rode bikes to Dr. Julian G. Bruce Saint George Island State Park on the east end of the island.  From our condo to the park and back was a 10-mile ride.

Keith, Susan, and Diane
At the entrance to Dr. Julian G. Bruce Saint George Island State Park
After our ride we went to the beach.  After the beach it was time to eat lunch at Eddy Teach's Raw Bar.

Eddy Teach's Raw Bar

I love the name of Sunday's band - Your Scumbag Neighbors

We also ate at the nearby mainland restaurants The Owl Cafe and...

Bayside Burgers.

They were both good.  We ate out a lot but Susan also cooked us some fresh fish in the less than well appointed condo kitchen.

Red Snapper and Tuna fillets
We noticed soon after arriving that the island seems to have a stray cat problem.  We had a feral cat that adopted us and we fed her (or him) several times before we left.  The last two days she showed up in the morning for breakfast.  It's no wonder, Susan was giving her, we think it was a she, $15,00 a pound tuna.

Kitty eating some Red Snapper
Tuna for the kitty
"I'm waiting for my breakfast out here!"
We took the kayaks out three times, twice in the ocean and once in the bay.

Kayaking in the bay at the state park
Susan enjoying the bay scenery
Kayaking on the ocean side of the island
Jellyfish abound
It was a fun trip although I think we'll head back to Destin next time.  We'll also practice a little more restraint when it comes to bringing all our toys on vacation.  We clearly over-packed for this trip.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hill Country 15K Trail Race

The first thing I did when I woke up on Saturday morning was check the weather.  The weather on race day was clear and cold for the 9:00 a.m. start.  A perfect day for a race.  The trails would be relatively dry except for the occasional puddle or mud hole.

Race day weather
I had some coffee and a smoothie for breakfast.  That's part of my race day ritual.  The coffee wakes me up and the smoothie gets me going, so to speak.  On this morning the smoothie didn't have an immediate effect.  It's effect was delayed and it hit me during the 50 minute drive from Jonesboro.  The thought of a sub-40 degree port-o-john was not inviting.  I elected to stop at the McDonald's in Palmetto.  That was a good idea.  With a feeling of accomplishment, I drove the short distance from Palmetto to Serenbe.  Winning!

The only picture I took at the race was as I drove into the parking lot off of Hutchesons Ferry Road.  The parking lot is a short 4 minute walk from the race start/finish.  I left my camera in my truck.  That means no race pictures from me anyway.

The parking lot
The race started with me about 50 feet from the starting mat.  As the almost 500 runners mosied on up the the hill and through "downtown" Serenbe I tried to find a line but was blocked at almost every instance.  After about half a mile the runners stretched out and I was able to pass a few people before exiting the pavement and entering the actual trails.

The course was a bit shy of the 9.3 miles required for a 15K.  My Garmin topped out at 8.93 miles.  That said, I was ready for the race to end as running on trails is a totally different animal from what I'm used to.  During a typical road race my mind tends to wander.  That wasn't the case with this trail run.  I had to stay alert for small rocks, holes, roots, bigger rocks, hidden roots, low hanging branches, puddles, slippery wet spots, uphills, downhills, and other runners, all the while trying to keep my head up and my eyes down.

The newness of running on trails wore off quickly.  I was in a fight for survival, so to speak.  I found my pace and tried to stay with it, and then a hill would appear and all that would change.  The specter of injuring myself was always there.  It was made more apparent as a runner right on my heels tripped and went off the trail and into the woods on his back.  He later passed me.  I'm glad he wasn't hurt but I was hopeful that the tumble would slow him down.  We spoke briefly after the race and he said that he'd fallen 2 other times as well.  I'm not sure that I'm ready for that inevitability.

I finished 68th overall (men and women), 58th (men) overall and 6th in my age-group of 26 runners.  My recorded race pace was 8:05 min./mile but my Garmin pace of 8:26 min./mile was probably more accurate.  My chip finish time was 1:15:08.  Here are links to see the Overall Results and Age-Group Results for the 15K.  No medal for me!

That marks the end of my first official trail race, the Hill Country Trail Race 15K at Serenbe.  The November 22nd, 2014 race is limited to 1,500 runners.  The 2013 15K race included 584 participants.  The 477 runners finishers in the 2014 15K race on what are sometimes pretty narrow trails was plenty.  The 2014 5K race had an additional 325 finishers.

For my effort I received a soft 60% cotton and 40% polyester short sleeve t-shirt.

T-shirt artwork
Overall, it was a fun race.  The course was challenging but, since it was my first trail run, I don't have anything to compare it to.  Timing was chipped with a mat start and finish.  The course was as well marked as could be expected.  It would be impossible to spray orange paint on every rock and root, even if one wanted to.

I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully this has prepared me in some way for my Ragnar Trail Relay race in April.

My new Inov-8 trail shoes seemed to work well.  I did get a tender spot on the end of my long toe on my right foot.  That issue may take further investigation.  The important thing is that they never lost their grip.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Clayton Connects Proposed Master Plan

As I wait for the Path Foundation to present the final version of the Clayton Connects Master Plan Proposal I thought I'd post a few images from the recent meeting.   A draft of the plan was presented to residents at a public meeting on Monday, November 17th at the Clayton County International Park.

Clayton County Parks and Rec. Director Detrick Stafford addresses attendees
The draft proposal is 40 pages in length.  I scanned and present here only those pages that relate to Clayton County Commission District 4 (pages 20 through 25).  The other 34 pages of the plan deal with  the other 3 districts, general path stuff, and design standards for the proposed path construction, signage, seating, fencing, etc.

Trail Monument
Clayton County's Greenway Trail Master Plan (November 17th 2014 DRAFT) consists of over 112 miles of trails.  Of the proposed 112 miles of trails , District 1 will have 24 miles, District 2 will have 19 miles, District 3 will have 49 miles, and District 4 will have 24 miles of trails.  If you're counting, I know, the numbers add up to 116 miles.  I'm pretty sure someone said 117 miles at the meeting as well.  Either way, that's a lot of miles of trails for a county that is currently conspicuously void of trails.

It should be noted that the time table for completion is a long way off.  Many of the trails around metro Atlanta were started decades ago and only a fraction of the proposed trails have been completed.  However, construction in each Clayton County district will start with an initial trail segment between 1.4 miles and 3.3 miles in length.   The initial 3.3 mile trail segment for District 4, all of which is confined to the International Park, Reid Stephens Park, and Lake Spivey Golf Club, should be completed by the end of 2015.

The Int'l Park trails will probably destroy what's left of the much neglected and little used mountain biking trail.

The trails are indicated by the yellow dashes.

Ultimately, I hope these trails will connect to the more popular trail that have been in use for some time, i.e. the Atlanta BeltLine, Silver Comet Trail (SCT), and Panola Mountain Trail.  I should say that I don't think the plan is perfect.  If one compares the Clayton plan to any of the previously mentioned trails it seems most similar to Panola Mountain.  The SCT is a straight, flat, point-to-point trail.  The Atlanta BeltLine is an urban trail bordered by high density neighborhoods and restaurants.   The Clayton County trails don't seem to have either of these features.  There was no mention of businesses abutting the trails at the public meeting. Only the Panola Mountain trails meandered aimlessly with no clear destination and no real business opportunities, that I've seen.  That said, it's a good first start to improving the quality of life for Clayton County residents.  I can't wait until it's done.

As a final note, I'd like to thank the Clayton County Board of Commissioners for moving forward with this plan.  The partnership with the Path Foundation was first proposed in 2008 in the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department Master Plan.  It has taken 6 years to get this far.  I remember vividly years ago when District 4 Commissioner Edmondson mentioned a county trail system to me.  I thought it was a pipe dream but, maybe I was wrong.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Open Letter to SCC Members

It would be my honor to serve as president for Southern Crescent Cycling for 2015.  The election for the 2015 SCC board will take place on Saturday, December 6th at 3:00 p.m. at the Piedmont Henry Hospital Center for Continuing Education, Classroom A.

If you don’t know me, please let me introduce myself.  I’ve been married to my wife Susan for over 21 years.  I work for the Federal Aviation Administration in Hampton where I’m an operations manager.  I’ve been with the FAA for 27 years.  Shortly after moving to Georgia in 1987 I bought a home in Griffin.  I lived there for about 3 years and was a member of the Griffin, GA based Spalding Sprockets bike club.  I was also a member of the Southern Bicycle League.  I even met my wife at an SBL Christmas Party in 1991.  I competed in several triathlons back then and numerous foot races as well.  I continued to run and entered the occasional foot race after moving to Decatur, Georgia in 1993.  In 2004 Susan and I moved south to the Lake Spivey area to be closer to my work.  In 2009 I started actively running and competing again.  I bought a new tri-bike in August of 2010 before competing in the Augusta HIM that same year.  Since then I’ve competed in five other 70.3 triathlons and two full Ironman races.  In total I’ve participated in about 46 races since returning to running and biking.

I’m not just a racer.  I’ve also volunteered to lead numerous beginner group rides knowing that not everyone wants to ride at 20+ mph.  When I saw that the club didn't have any first-aid supplies my wife and I went to the store and purchased, at our expense, a wide assortment of first-aid supplies and a case to carry them for use by the club.  Susan was also a club sponsor in 2012 and a team sponsor in 2013.  She even cooked the entire feast for the End of Season party in 2012 and helped prepare and cook much of the food for the 2013 party.

We joined SCC in 2011.  I was club secretary in 2012 and 2013.  During that time I drafted the club bylaws, created the website, setup numerous club accounts including Twitter.  I gave us a presence on the web where only Facebook existed before.  I posted club pictures and videos online.  However, you won’t see me in many of the pictures because I was usually behind the camera.  I solicited the Henry County DOT to install Share the Road signs along many of our group ride routes.  I did all this to promote the club.  During that time the SCC race team was competing regionally and winning awards.  They had an even better 2014 race season.  Unfortunately, all but one stalwart member of the 2013 SCC board declined to return in 2014.

My vision for SCC in 2015 is to promote cycling through partnerships with other organizations such as Southern Bicycle League, Metro Atlanta Cycling Club (MACC), Georgia Bikes, etc., refocus on club led group rides, nurture beginner and women’s cycling, encourage greater club participation at local cycling events, support SCC’s amazing race team and our sponsors.

No man is an island and I know I that SCC has grown due to the efforts of many individuals including those who have not and probably will never be sufficiently recognized.  I would like to thank all of you and especially those who have served as SCC board members and volunteers.  None of us get paid for this, we do it because we love it.

Please vote for me for SCC President for 2015!


Neil Farmer

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Atlanta Ragnar Gear Purchases

Knowing that I'll be spending the next few months preparing for the Publix Georgia Marathon and the Ragnar Atlanta Trail Relay I've purchased some new lights.  My new headlamp cost $83 and my new blinky light cost $10 but, even before I finished charging my headlamp, my wife already informed me that I wasn't running alone at night.  I guess that's one decision that had already been made.

The Publix Georgia Marathon is scheduled for March 22nd.  It will only be my second attempt at the 26.2 mile distance, without it being preceded by 114.4 miles of swimming and cycling.  My first attempt was the Museum of Aviation Marathon in 2011.  You can read that race report here.  The Publix Marathon will be much more challenging.  I've heard it's a hilly course.  It will also be much more fun.  I expect a larger field of runners and spectators than I saw in the 2011 race on a secure military base.

My first Ragnar event is scheduled for April 10th and 11th, 2015, the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Relay race.  This is one of their trail races as opposed to the road Ragnars which are popular around the country.  I will be on an eight (8) man team - Running with Caesars.  The goal is for each member to run all three courses covering the total 120 miles in the shortest time possible.  The three courses are 1) the 3.8 mile Green Loop - River Trail, 2) the 4.6 mile Yellow Loop - Olympic Trail, and 3) the 6.7 miles Red Loop - Granite Slabs Trail.  3.8 + 4.6 + 6.7 = 15.1 miles per runner.  15.1 x 8 = 120.8 for the team.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to buy new gear, I've purchased a few items for this race.  My new gear can be divided into two categories, race stuff and non-race stuff.  My non-race stuff hopefully will in some way involve sleeping.  My race stuff will have to accommodate night running through singletrack trails and for that I'll need good lighting.  I already have a 60 lumen Petzl Tikka XP2 which I purchased in 2011.  During this race the XP2 will be a backup unit should me or someone else need it.  My primary light will use a new 7-215 lumen Petzl Tikka RXP.  In reactive mode the RXP adjusts automatically to the surrounding ambient light, dimming when it's bright and increasing in intensity when it's dark.  I've also purchased a Nathan Strobe Light, and two 7-watt 3-mode Cree LED 300 lumen mini flashlights with adjustable focus.  The strobelight will be worn somewhere on my back, probably on a race belt.  A back light is recommended equipment.  I didn't see it in the trail guide but my teammates recommended it.  The flashlight was also recommended by a teammate.  Used as a secondary light to the headlamp as it seems to add depth to the trail.

Nathan Strobelight and Petzl RXP Headlamp
Headlamp technical notice, charging cable, and strap
Headlamp front view
Removable/rechargeable headlamp battery and back of the headlamp
headlamp battery area
Headlamp top vent, USB charging port cover and on/off switch
headlamp bottom vent
The Petzl RXP (l) beside the Petzl XP2 (r)
The 2011 Petzl XP2 weighs-in at 85 grams
The larger Petzl RXP weighs-in 27 grams heavier than the XP2 at 112 grams 
The little Nathan Strobelight weighs-in at a mere 20 grams 
I've run a few times, short distances, with my new light and I noticed something interesting.  I've been watching trail running videos and one thing that I've heard mentioned is that I should keep my head up instead of tilting my head down to look at the ground.  The reasoning is that I'll have better air intake with my head up.  The light seems to help me gauge when my head is tilted and alerts me to the fact that I need to look up.  I also noticed that the RXP feels heavier than the XP2.  The RXPs headband is adjustable.  The headband makes for a snug fit.  The cloth backing on the band was comfortable enough on my short test runs.

The RXPs adjustable headband 
Headlamp and Strobelight 

The Petzl also has some software which is downloadable for free from their website.  The software allows for changing the setting on the headlamp, creating profiles, and most importantly, it lets you know when the battery is fully charged.  All of which is doable from the light itself without the software.

Petzl OS download screen
Petzl OS dashboard
As I've been running at night, on the road, I've noticed an inordinate number of flying insects that appear bent on colliding with my face.  This shouldn't be a problem in the winter but, nevertheless, I purchased a pair of Tifosi Vogel T-F720 sunglasses with a clear polarized lens.  They should help protect my eyes from any low lying limbs once I hit the trails as well as the bugs.  I've ridden my bike at night, on safe, well lit streets of course, and found that there is a huge amount of road junk that gets thrown up by the rider in front.  The clear lens on the Vogel's should help there as well.  This is my third pair of Tifosi Vogel sunglasses.  I also have a dark gray and amber pair.  The wrap-around lens has no frame so they're great for time trials.  The clear polarized lens do slightly reduce the light to the eyes but it's barely noticeable.

Tifosi Vogel sunglasses with clear polarized lens
For trail shoes, Susan and I drove to Roswell Road to check out the selection at Road Runner Sports. The first thing the salesperson asked was if I was a VIP customer.  That turned me off in an instant.  Who gives a crap?  I'm a runner in search of shoes.  Their on-line selection may be vast but the in story selection is limited.  I could have just as easily gone to Dick's Sporting Goods or Academy Sports. They didn't have anything in my size so I was in and out in about 90-seconds.

From RRS we drove to Big Peach Running Company in Decatur.  The salesperson was awesome.   Very knowledgeable and friendly.  I tried on several shoes but I needed a 1/2 size smaller so they would order a pair in the color I wanted.  The salesperson called my cell the next day to tell me that the color I ordered was discontinued.  I regrettably declined on a different color.  

The following day we went to New Sole Running Company in McDonough.  I called before deciding to make the short drive to the store.  They had several pairs of trail shoes in my size and I tried them all on.  I've never been a minimalist runner so I hesitated to buy something too drastic.  I decided on the "unisex" Inov-8 ROClite 268 shoes.  Weighing in at 9 1/4 ounces, the 268's weigh about the same as my New Balance 890 road racing shoes and far less than my bullet-proof Asics Cumulus 14 road training shoes.

Inov-8 ROClite 268
Inov-8 ROClite 268 wieigh-in
I decided on the 268s because they were about 2 ounces lighter than the 295s and substantial enough to serve me well on longer runs, I hope.  The 268s also have plenty of room in the toe box.  I chickened out from going the minimus route.

I bought a Garmin Foot Pod to check my cadence.  I've been reading that my cadence should be somewhere around 180 and that it should be higher when I'm climbing than when I'm descending.  On my Inov-8s, and most of my road running shoes, the foot pod will be worn snapped into my laces.  Only my Nike Pegasus 28+ shoes have a slot in the left shoe insole specifically for the pod, or a Nike equivalent.  I know the 28s are about 3 revisions old.  I believe there's a Pegasus 31 version for sale now.  The fact is that I never really took to the Nikes when I bought them.  Maybe I'll give them a second chance.

Garmin Foot Pod
A closer view of  the foot pod
The foot pod weighs-in at 9 grams
The foot pod on the Inov-8 268s
The foot pod in the insole of my Nike Pegasus 28+ road shoes
I've been told that our Ragnar team will have a tent that I'm welcome to use when I'm not busting my hump on the trails.  So, I don't need to buy a tent.  I do need to buy a sleeping bag.  Susan and I want to do some camping with the Chattahoochee Riverkeepers next year so new sleeping bags for both of us will be a wise purchase, as would some sleeping pads.

On-line reviews of sleeping bags on Amazon and REI run the gamut.  My needs are for a bag that will keep me warm and comfortable, the zipper won't break or bind, and isn't too heavy or expensive.  Some people say synthetic filled is the way to go and others recommend down filled.  I'm leaning toward two military issue sleeping bags.  While I think they're significantly heavier than other sleeping bags the fact that it's a system of several bags for use under different conditions is appealing. I'll probably purchase the 4 piece system with an outer and inner insulated bag, a Gortex shell, and a compression bag for storage.  I hope to have the sleeping bags soon.

Since the Ragnar is a three course per runner event I'm planning to treat it as if it were three separate races.  Why?  Because if it rains it will be a muddy, nasty mess,and if it doesn't rain I'll still be pretty sweaty and stinky.  I'll need to bring at least three pairs of everything including; shoes, socks, and shorts, and three shirts.  I doubt I'll need a hydration vest but trail specific running shoes are a must.   Apparently elastic laces are a no-no when running trails with the specter of shoe-sucking mud ever present.  Duly noted!  The Cree LED mini flashlight I purchased are back-ordered.

Thanks for reading.