Monday, April 04, 2016

Equipment - Off Season Experimenting

(Not a great post but I need to put down some thoughts before I post other things.)

I recently realized I may be going for my record between outside rides, with both rides being races. In 2015 my first outdoor ride was the first race in the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series. My last three rides outside were the second Limerock (July 19th) and two Tuesday Nights (July 28th and August 4th). I haven't ridden outside since. I'm pretty sure my first outdoor ride this year will be whatever race I do in 2016, possibly in May or June. I really don't want to go a year without racing so I want to race by August 4th.

To race, though, I need to make sure my bike is okay.

Winter for me is a time to refresh the equipment, try things out that I've been thinking of trying out. I have a list sorts of things I want to get done. Although I started this post a while back I figure that with today's weather it's appropriate to get this thing up. Now or never, right?

April 4, 2016
The view from our front door.

I have four major bike refreshing/reconditioning thoughts, as follows:

1. Goal: Get black bike up and running. Need: Another stem for that bike, install stem and FSA Compact bars. Install Adamo saddle. Solder in battery in SRM spider, measure slope, make sure wire harness is okay (I think it's not). Install Ant+ speed/cadence sensor for Zwift.

2. Goal: Get red bike up to snuff. Need: rewrap bars (it's been early 2014 since I've wrapped the bars). Replace SRM wire. Get Exustar pedals back on bike. BB30 bearings. Check race wheels.

3. Goal: Experiment with 170mm cranks. Need: fiddle with red bike. I already put the cranks on it.

4. Goal: Experiment with saddle position (related to 170mm cranks). With 5 mm shorter cranks I need 5 mm more set back because my foot doesn't go forward as much. I also need more height, because my foot doesn't drop down as far.

First Goal - Black Bike

I haven't had the black bike rideable since I put the custom stem on the red bike. Those that go to the same races as me might have noticed that I haven't been bringing a spare bike to the races for a couple years now - it's because the black bike isn't rideable.

The main reason is that I haven't ordered another custom stem. I guess it's money I don't want to spend right now. I have the old bar/stem and they fit the same for the drops so that should work for now. If I want to spend a few hundred dollars on a stem I already have the bars for the bike.

I do have a second Adamo saddle that I need to install. The saddle came free courtesy of a pay-it-forward from a member of bikeforums.

The one tricky bit is the 170 mm cranks. I don't have a second set of 170 mm arms for the Cannondale SI cranks, so I may leave 175s on the black bike.

I'm pretty sure the SRM wire is shot on the black bike. Someone asked how such a wire goes bad. Unlike a cyclocomputer (historically the super thin wired cyclocomputers aren't that reliable) the wire plugs directly into the SRM. A cyclocomputer normally sits on a mount, and the wires run into the mount. To repeat, the SRM doesn't plug into a bar mount. Therefore there's some regular movement with the wire  each time you plug and unplug said wire, and I think it makes it go bad. The wired SRMs rely on the wire for cadence, speed, and power. The only wireless aspect of the wired SRM is heart rate.

Since wiring harnesses are about $80-85 each, and I have two bikes, it starts adding up really quick when you consider that for me I need a harness every year or so.

Second Goal - Red Bike

For sure I need to rewrap the bars. It's been about 2 years since I last wrapped them. Enough said.

The SRM wire on the red bike just died a couple rides ago. As mentioned above the wire eventually breaks somewhere so cadence/speed/power data doesn't show up. I have to replace that before I have any kind of power readings and therefore any true experiments with Goal Three.

I put the 170 mm arms on the red bike - the Cannondale SI is a modular crank system so the cranks are separate from the (SRM in this case) spider. I have two sets of 175 mm arms, one set of 170 mm arms. I had some Look Carbon Keo Max pedals on the 170 arms. I slip out of the Keos like nobody's business so I need to switch them out for the Exustars. They're much more reluctant to let my feet out and that's better for me.

One possible solution is to get a wireless SRM. It's possible to upgrade an SRM from wired to wireless (just ask SRM if you have one). Apparently my SRM units are not consistently upgradeable, although I'll find out more what that means. I could sell my SRMs and buy a wireless, and use no power on one bike (leave it on the trainer for Zwift?). This is sort of jumbly totally not solid anything kind of stuff right now though.

My BB30 bearings are worn. I need to replace them.

I need to double check my race wheels to make sure they're okay. I'm sure they are but I don't want to find out at a precious race day that they're not okay.

Third and Fourth Goal - 170 mm cranks and resulting position and pedaling changes

I've been riding 170s for about a month now. It's not a super long time to acclimate to a different crank length but it's enough time to notice a few things. For historical reference I rode 170s from about 1983-1988, 1995 to 2003, in 2009, and in 2011. The last two times (2009, 2011) I was looking to regain lost speed and instead lost a good 30-50 feet in the sprints. I'm furiously chugging the Kool Aid though and I'm hoping that the 170s will help me this time. Otherwise I'll go back to the 175s. With the 170s there are a few things I know about.

First, for some reason, with 170s I need to be toe in a bit. With 175s I need to be toe out. I adjusted my cleats a couple times in about 20 minutes and it's been good since. I had historical precedence so I knew I needed about yay much toe in. Took me two tries, and about 10 minutes of pedaling gingerly to confirm, and I was good to go.

Next, since 170s have 5 mm less reach and drop than the 175s, I had to push the saddle back 5 mm and raise it 5 mm. I raised it a bit more, I think 4 mm extra, because it felt like my back was a bit flatter, but my knees screamed in protest. I quickly lowered it to the baseline and my knees recovered - it took about 3 weeks but they're okay now.

I do know that too much more set back and I'm pretty far back in terms of knee-pedal relationship. I'm slightly forward right now, but not much. The Adamo saddle lets me move back without much problem, so I've been pedaling lower rpm from further back, higher rpm sitting up front. My older saddles really didn't let me do that so this is a nice change.

So that's it for now. It's been pretty busy in a time consuming way here at home so it's tough for me to write posts. I do have a few thoughts jotted down in draft form (a couple hundred to be honest, but maybe 10 or 12 in the last few months). I hope to find time to get those out there shortly. For now this is it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Racing - How I Learned About Racing


I saw a post on Facebook about how things like Zwift might make racing (and riding in general) more dangerous because on Zwift you don't have to worry about turning or overlapping wheels or any of those other "in real life" (IRL) cycling things. On Zwift (and other virtual riding platforms) you just pedal. The thought was that after a winter of Zwifting riders would come out and collide into each other, ride into ditches, stuff like that.

Although the poster had a point, the reality is that we've been experiencing a fundamental change in how new racers learn their craft. New racers nowadays tend to be better prepared physically, in terms of fitness, but there is no longer an inadvertent "indoctrination" process for most racers.

20-30 years ago there wasn't the internet (at this kind of "lemme Google it" level), you had to mail your license and pre-reg payments in using an envelope and a stamp (or two), and it was a big undreground thing to go find a bike race. Velonews was sort of the source for race listings (because USCF had a next to useless newsletter), and you had to go find Velonews because not every shop carried it. And, at some point back there, there were no Barnes & Nobles, and even when they first started popping up, they'd get maybe 3 or 4 Velonews per store. So it was really hard to find out about races and such.

(Back then promoters would buy pre-printed stickers from USCF, by region or state, and then mail flyers out to those addresses. I remember a few of us sitting at the shop stuffing envelopes. Back then the flyer was the key, the prize list, the entry, directions, everything was on the flyer, and everyone's refrigerators were plastered with race flyers. If you were cool you had your speeding ticket taped to the fridge also, the one you got while you were on the bike, ideally for speeds over 50 mph.)

My rule book from 1983.
Yes, you got a rulebook with your license because it was all done via mail (note it's envelope size).
You should still read the rulebook each year.
Or at least Google for the changes.

What this did was it forced those that wanted to race to really seek out races and everything that comes with it. You really had to join a club (because back then you might have paid $10 "Unattached Fee" on a $15 entry fee). Clubs, in turn, had to promote a race to be able to wear their kit (in 1988 I wore a generic kit becuase our race got canceled). This all made it highly unlikely that someone showed up at a race without any race knowledge at all. They had already searched out a shop that has Velonews, they joined a club (or at least were riding with one), they wanted to do some weird sport that involved doing some very un-American (for that time) things like shaving your legs and wearing lycra shorts with nothing underneath.

Generic kit in 1988 (the blue one, in case you're wondering).
I was really skinny back then, in the 110 lbs range.
I believe this is in Middletown in the July 4th Firecracker Criterium (field finish).
I was scared of the faster corners in this race.

Leading through Turn 4 at the Danbury Criterium, I think in 1992.
This time we had team kits.
(4th place in the field sprint/race).
I was much more confident in corners at this point.

This whole set up led to a great sharing of knowledge situation. I learned sooooo much from my first team (1983-1997, various entities), primarily from my first leadout man, Mike H. I learned about group riding, leadouts, tricks for climbing (which generally don't work for me because watts/kilogram), time trialing (ditto, because FTP), etc. When we talked about races I learned about courses and riders. I went to "race school" for 5 hours every weekend, the two 2.5 hour group rides I did with the club. I haven't gone to, or, I suppose now it would be "held", race school in forever. Even on the group rides I did in the last few years, all five or so of them, I've been too wasted trying to stay with the other much stronger riders to do much more than breathe.

When I finally went to my first race back in 1983 I'd already learned about gearing, about tubulars, about drafting, about all sorts of stuff, from my first mentor Ken B. I even learned about speed, but I hadn't grasped the concept yet. I'd already watched the US National Championships in person (because I tagged along when one of my teammates went to do the Junior race). Heck, just that day I learned a few things. First, don't fall over at the start (half the Intermediate field, i.e. 12-14 years old, fell over when one rider couldn't get their foot into their toe clips). Second, I learned that rolling a tubular is a bad thing (Roy Knickman rolled his tire in the sprint but he managed to finish 2nd with his tire flopping around in his frame!). Third, I learned that as a Junior I had to watch my gear limits that, fortunately, my club and shop had set up perfectly for me. I learned that last rule because the guy that beat Roy Knickman to the line had an illegal gear! He won the sprint in a 53x12 I think and the limit at the time was 53x15. So Knickman won after rolling a tire in the sprint because the guy that beat him was disqualified.

As the USCF, and later, USAC, sort of lost their way (I honestly don't remember what year clubs no longer had to promote a race, and it's been eons since I've seen any race with an "unattached fee"), clubs became less a "vehicle to hold a race" and more "just a club". There are clubs/teams around here with 4 or 5 riders because all they want to do is race together. In the old days they'd have to hold a race, and that discouraged such small groups. Now if someone started a business and wanted to wear a kit with the name on it (why not?), another small team would pop up. However there was no extra race, you never saw these people working a race, and you generally never heard of these guys riding together, or, significantly, recruiting and training a new rider.

This led to many clubs, not that many races, and less racers feeding into the system. It led to smaller clubs, to less organized ones, and to all sorts of clubs all over the place. A new racer now had a wealth of (typically less quality in terms of mentoring, race promotion, and group ride) choices as far as clubs went, and honestly, there are many groups that don't want to ride with new or non-racers (unless the rider in particular might be so strong as to make the team better).

With Lance Armstrong, road cycling became significantly more popular, more so than when Greg Lemond was racing. Significantly Lance also helped market, through Carmichael Training Systems, the concept of "power training", and riders started thinking "Oh, if I can do 250w I can race". A huge thing that happened is that riders working on their specific programs started skipping group rides, or they'd do their "own ride" within the group ride. "Sorry, I have to stay in Z2 today". This led to less group riding skills, less shared knowledge. Now riders started to ride on their own, doing intervals, etc, getting stronger.

However they lacked access to that pool of knowledge that clubs used to bring to the racer. Yes, they could find races now, thanks to the internet, and they could even register for them. They could buy a license immediately, at the race, instead of committing to racing a month prior by mailing in forms to get a license via mail. But this didn't help them find clubs, or, more significantly, mentors who could teach them some basic things.

It's one of the reasons why I post such long things here, in Facebook, and in forums and stuff, to try and brain dump my knowledge for others. These very fit, very strong, very optimized riders would show up at a race and not really have any idea how to race.

One significant thing that is missing out there is a book on HOW to race. Not "how to do a paceline", which is a technical thing (sit in another rider's draft, pull at an even speed when you get to the front, wiggle your elbow and pull off to the opposite side, drift to the back, start accelerating up to speed as you pass the last rider's cranks). What no one says is WHEN to do a paceline, which is a tactical thing. Do you do a paceline at the start? How about a break? What about at 1 lap to go?

The application of the technical skill, the paceline, is just as significant as the skill itself. In fact I'd argue, because it's easy to learn about pacelines but hard to learn when to apply them, the tactics are more significant. Obviously you have to learn one (the technical bit) before you can do the other (the tactical bit), but if you don't learn the tactical bit, you are at a major, major disadvantage.

There are books that claim to be tactical books but they don't actually talk about when to apply the technical stuff. Yes, there are isolated examples and such ("in such and such race, I did such and such because such and such and I won"). Generally speaking, though, you can't apply that to your world, because you're not some pro in some race with a given set of competitors with specific strengths and weaknesses and history and all that jazz.

Someone needs to write such a book. I've been on idle for about 10 years now, but I have just under three hundred pages of such stuff written over the course of about 15 years. I started writing stuff in about 1990, when I'd write notes for the team before races, with course maps, how to do the corners, what to watch for, historical race outcomes, etc.

The manuscript just sits there, waiting for me to finish it. Part of the problem is motivation. The other part, significantly, is that I keep learning more and more about tactics and how to apply different techniques, and I think, "Oh, this needs to go there, I need to add that there, " etc.

The other part is that I'm still trying to figure out what I take for granted, and how to describe to someone how to do those things or handle those situations. I had an epiphany in 2010 (which was long after I'd written most of the manuscript) when my then rival (and still a good friend) Bryan H opened a gap while I was on his wheel.

My "move" described below happens just after 4:35.
I'm cracking because of the action that started at about 3:00.

I'd been responding to attack after attack, I was absolutely on the edge of cracking, and if I'd made an effort at that moment, I'd have blown up.

(If I'd just pulled through, like a paceline, it would have been the end of my race. Therefore it's a tactical thing I had to apply, because doing the simple technical thing would have ended my race.)

I immediately, without any thought, moved over and waved everyone by. I knew I couldn't close the gap so I made it clear to the others that they needed to do it. A number of riders streamed by before both he and I picked up the pace a bit and got back on wheels.

I realized after the fact that this was a standard response for me. It was a situation where I reacted in the same way the same way given the same situation (me cracking, gap opens up one rider in front of me, single file field).

Someone asked me if I thought bike racing was so "algorithmic". He didn't use that word but he asked if we should race like a computer program. "If this, then that." I told him, yes, racing is like that. Problem is that I've been racing long enough that many of my reactions are automatic now, and I'm trying to figure out what they are and the situation that triggers them.

Yeah, so I have some work to do.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Life - Music, emotion, and, well, "life"

A while ago my brother pointed out that music can get "worn out". A song's searing emotional effect can fade if you listen to the same song too often. In fact there is one of his songs that I've never used in a cycling clip because it's just too much for me. I want to keep that song precious for me and I actually rarely listen to it at all because its powerful effect on me.

The clip below is a song that I'm trying to save a bit for later (meaning for myself, not for a cycling clip), if that makes sense. Still fresh for me right now, even though it's a commercial top hit. Although I haven't made any clips using commercial music, I have thought of particular projects using particular songs. I was into one moderately commercial song in 2006 when I read and heard about a special pro race in Europe (so it ended noon or so our time, while I was at work). I was so pumped after the race ended, and it tied in so well with the music, that I could see the whole clip in my head before I drove home. Unfortunately I never finished the clip and it's not timely at all so it'll linger for a long time.

Having said that now I have another inspiration - I'd love to make a cycling clip using this music, inspired by the lyric video linked below.


For me music has a lot of power. It tugs at my emotion strings, as much as a hint of a scent, a sample of someone's voice, all those human emotion things. Music evokes in me what I'm sure is a measurable physiological response.


Back in the day, on emotionally charged rides, I found myself feeling unstoppable. In the times before heart rate monitors and power meters I didn't have an objective metric, but the climbs I did in the big ring all over the place, trembling with adrenaline, all while humming particular songs… there had to be something there.


Based on those kinds of rides I tried to conditionally train myself to have adrenaline rushes. I would grip my bars a certain way before doing any major effort, trying to get the adrenaline flowing just by returning to that "sprint only" grip.


This worked for many years. I'd intentionally stay away from the "sprint grip" (basically on the drops but just a touch higher than normal so my forearms were a bit flatter) during races so that at 1 or 2 to go, when I finally went to it, I was well into the adrenaline boost mode.


In my younger racing years I had plenty of opportunities for spiky emotions, like any young person experiences. As I got older I realized that the spikes were flatter but more robust. As a teen, or in my early twenties, I'd be super high and super low within the space of a day or two (usually related to stuff like girls and such). As I got older the spikes seemed a bit blunted but the breadth of the emotion felt more expansive. Instead of feeling a week or three of intense "crush" emotions, they went on for months, even years.


The emotions could be triggered by anything. When I was racing the track in 2009 I'd drive up feeling the normal pre-race excitement.


But on the way back?


I felt like a kid again.


I had no idea why. I felt totally inspired, I felt that crazy rush for whatever reason, it was all I could do not to drive like a nut. I'd crank the music (which only increased the adrenaline thing), drive in the summer heat with the AC on (chilled air seems to amplify said adrenaline thing), and, well, just revel in the rush I felt.


It wasn't even like I was racing well at the track. It was something else, I don't know what it was.


Back in 2000-2003 my mom was battling cancer. It was a super emotional time for me, and I think I emotionally "used up" much of the music I listened to then. I spent a lot of time driving with the music cranked loudly, burning through the music's power over me. I'm just now starting to listen to that music now, and it's still a bit burnt emotionally. Most of those songs I listen for 10 or 20 seconds and I click to skip it; a few I listen for a minute or two, but there are none that I listen and listen and suddenly it's the end of the song.


Now it seems it's my dad's turn. He's physically healthy but other than that… He stopped recognizing me early this year, maybe around the Spring Series time. He has difficulty getting up. He hasn't spoken a word in years because he hasn't been able to say anything.


My SPS ("significant personal stuff"), a term I mentioned before, is to take care of my dad.


The plan is to move him into our house, for me to look after him. It'll be hard, for sure, but I feel compelled to do this.



My Pops, me, and Junior, when Junior was a day old.
I had just returned from the second 2012 Bethel Spring Series race.

I remember his vibrancy when I was a kid. We'd rake leaves, shovel the driveway, cut wood for the fireplace. When I was a little kid he couldn't afford gravel for the driveway so he'd break rocks with a hammer. There's a picture of me sitting in my diaper on our driveway, hammer in hand, rocks in front of me.


He drove carefully. I could tell when he was serious because all of his shifts were so methodical, his motions to use the turn signal perfect, no wasted energy, everything "just so". When he was distracted he'd let things slip a bit but then he'd catch himself and become more deliberate again.

He was always methodical about what he did. He tried to have back ups, when he understood what he needed to have a back up. As a chemical engineer he was appalled by one manager's response to a non-functioning eye wash station in a huge plant. The fix? They hung a sign that said, "Out of order".

He'd rake or chop wood or whatever like a machine. Even as recently as 10 or so years ago the tree guys would joke that my dad would put them out of business, he was clearing so much stuff (the tree guys would get the high stuff; he got the low stuff).

He worked really hard for the kids, and, really, for the grand kids. He felt a duty to provide for them, and I never understood even a little bit of it until now, and I honestly am still coming to terms with just how powerful this urge is for me. At times it was tough, but I think that's the case with anyone. He went from growing up in war torn Japan to being able to provide for his family in the US. After traveling all over the world, living on three continents, in the end he adopted the US as his home, choosing to live here instead of anywhere else in the world.


My dad can't care for himself any longer. My brother has been caring for my dad for many years but is reaching the end of his tether. My other brother and I both volunteered to take over, and, for mainly logistical reasons, my dad will be moving in with the Missus, Junior, and myself, toward the end of the year.


This means I'll be his 24/7 caretaker for the foreseeable future.


My brother told me that it's hard to explain just what it'll be like. It's like having a kid - you can explain and demonstrate and all that but until you experience it you just don't know. Likewise, this will be an unfathomable thing until I do it. I just hope to be up for it.


In preparation for this I've mentally written off 2016. I really can't leave the house much so no racing, no training outdoors. No real dinners out, no trips, etc. I'm trying to figure out a way to make the Aetna Spring Series a reality - it's still in the forefront of my mind, definitely more important than my own riding. I have strong hopes of pulling it off, although I'll be physically absent from the actual races.


The Missus, also, has accepted this, supporting my urge to care for my dad. It'll really disrupt her life but she's behind this 100%. She's always supported what I've done - the racing, the promoting, job stuff - and she's once again throwing herself into the effort. So to her, a thank you in advance, and many more to come I'm sure.


My last day working at the car place is next Wednesday - I have three work days left. After that it'll be a frantic two weeks to get the house ready, and then we'll bring my dad here for what we think will be the rest of his life.


I have no idea what that means, to tell the truth. I've written off a year already. A second year seems distant but possible, in terms of both caring for him as well as him continuing on. After that I may need help, and it may be that my dad will need more than I can provide. Whatever happens, we'll see when we get there. For now it'll be me taking care of him.


In the meantime?


I'll listen to music and I'll revel in this special thing called life.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Life - It's Been A While

So it's been a while since I posted, so much so that I actually forgot what I've posted about other than races.

I haven't posted in a while because life has gotten busy. I'm consciously putting away the computer for much of the time Junior is up (both to pay attention to him as well as to encourage me and him to do more "regular" play). Between the two (life, Junior) the blog sort of fell into a comatose state.

I'm going to present some sweeping things; later, I hope, I'll drill down into some of those broad statements and dissect them a bit. I think there will be stuff that I hope will help a variety of people. Some stuff is bike stuff, and perhaps people can learn from that. The other is life stuff and I think that's stuff that people will experience, are experiencing, or will experience. Hopefully someone gets something out of that as well.

Junior

First off, we have Junior, our now 3 3/4 year old son. He's been great, we love him to pieces, and we want the best for him. Part of that means making some changes for his benefit. One of those things has been to cut down dramatically on computer use, at least for me, on the days I'm with him. Before I used to still fiddle around on the computer while he was running around. Now I'd rather interact with him, or do "real life" stuff (chores or whatever). Also, once the computer comes out, he wants to watch whatever - YouTube (toys and such), Netflix (kid stuff), and, sometimes, my own bike race clips (his favorite is "When the racer turns green", my Zwift clip. The computer often sits off to the side now, to avoid distracting both him and me.

Junior, doing a fitting for his cousin's hat (that the Missus knit).

Work

The big thing for me was starting work, back in the summer. I tried not to make a big deal out of it because it was a sales job, and anything I wrote about the job could be construed as trying to sell stuff through my blog.

One thing that I'd never experienced is the massive "parental block" in place at work. Pretty much any streaming video, any motion gif, and anything with "blog" or "forum" or "news" or "mail" in it is blocked. Work specific sites are allowed, local competitors (but a couple manufacturer's sites were blocked for some reason, forcing me to view local competitors' sites to gather data), but overall it slashed any internet browsing down to virtually zilch. This meant no chipping away at blog posts or whatever.

I generally don't post about work and such but the picture below tells you about the job at least.

This car sat next to my desk for months.
Sort of karmically (is that a word?) I sold it yesterday.

Spring Series

Part of the reason for working was to pay for the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series for this year. The races lost a lot of money, and I was still paying stuff off a few months later. I had to start working, partially to pay those bills.

This brings me to another major thing in my life - the Spring Series. I've been debating internally whether or not I can hold them in 2016. The big question is affordability - if I can't afford to hold the races then it doesn't make much sense holding them. I did a quick and dirty survey to see if racers would pay more (they would). I've promised to do my best to hold them in 2016. Based on the idea of a higher entry fee and the promise to hold the Series, I've informally secured two venues, the third is available (but nowhere near secured), allowing for five weeks of racing. 

Joel stepping into the trailer, 2014 Bethel Spring Series.

SPS

Then another life factor came into play. I'm sure I'll go into this a bit more later but for now I'm just labeling it "significant personal stuff" or SPS. It's significant because my expectation is that the SPS will do the following:

1. Make it realistically close to impossible to race for the foreseeable future, because I won't be able to get to the venue.

2. Make it realistically close to impossible to be at a venue to promote a race, because I won't be able to get to the venue.

3. Make it impossible to hold a job, because I won't be able to get to the office, or, if I'm working from home, I may not be able to get to the computer here.

4. Force me (and the Missus) to make some wholesale changes to our house, something we're starting to do already.

Therefore…

If you look at those things it appears that, first, I have to quit my job, because the race things have to do with next year, not right now, and we're already making changes to our house.

I tendered my resignation a couple weeks ago, effective a week from tomorrow.

I gave them as much notice as possible. Depending on how things go, it's possible that I return there, I don't know. I'd at least like to keep the option open. Plus it's the right thing to do.

(This also means that if you want a Cadillac, Fiat, Alfa, Maserati, Jaguar, or VW, let me know now. I can't promise anything deal wise but at least you'll have a friendly data point on pricing, you can learn about the cars, etc)

Next, it makes it seem virtually impossible to hold a Spring Series. I'm trying to make it possible to do the Series, I just need to figure out how. I'm working on it.

Finally, it's apparent that I won't be racing much this year. This I accept and I've already planned on doing, at most, one race next year. I hope to do that one race (whatever race, even a Tuesday Night training race would be fine) so that I can say I raced in 2016, but it'll be very, very tough to do.

In the meantime I'll have interim racing-related goals - return to my April 2015 weight (or lower), try to ride the trainer semi-regularly, and do some core/other stuff to keep my back okay. I also want to spend some time returning my second bike (the black one) back into working order. I spent the last two years without a real back up bike, and to me that's not good.

Zwift

In a future post I'll do some stuff on Zwift. Basically, for 2015, I managed to avoid training outdoors the entire year. Zwift was a big part of this, motivating me to do some big efforts on the trainer and keeping me fit enough to do some solid racing in the 2015 season. Before Zwift I never did sprints on the trainer and I rarely did "big efforts" longer than than a sprint.

So that's what's been going on here. I'd like to start posting a bit more regularly, perhaps with shorter but more frequent posts. I don't know.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Training - Zwift Sprint, 21.67 seconds

Things have been super busy with me lately and it's hard to find time to post stuff in the blog. One thing that I've been doing is riding the trainer while logged into Zwift. I usually go for the green jersey sprint (a timed few hundred virtual meters sprint). I occasionally go hard on the KOM (my best time is over 3 minutes, typically it takes me 5-7 minutes).

Zwift awards you a boost when you cross a line (start/finish, KOM, sprint). Boosts can be weight reduction (15 seconds long, worth a few kg), aero (30 seconds, worth a second or two over a 30 second super hard effort), drafting (30 seconds, like drafting a truck if you're behind someone, otherwise it's nothing), etc.

If you don't use the boost (press the Space bar to use it) then at the next banner you don't get another one.

If I get an aero boost I feel obligated to save it until the Green Jersey sprint segment. Of course when I soft pedal through stuff I don't get the aero boost, and when I do a "okay this is the last sprint of the night" sprint I inevitably earn another aero boost. I've often ridden another 30-35 minute lap to use up that aero boost and I've extended a ride an hour at least once when on that "really the last sprint of the night sprint" I get yet another aero boost.

To give you an idea of what it's like during one of those sprints here's a short clip I made of a Green Jersey sprint on Watopia, the Zwift island. I got an aero boost at the prior banner (the KOM) so I was psyched to have it for the one sprint I planned on recording.

Enjoy!



Screen shot from the ride.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 26, 2015 CCAP Tuesday Night Race

"So what's the plan tonight?"

"Well, the first week I just sat at the back. I didn't know how hard it'd be so I just saved as much as I could. I think I can be more active though. I don't want to just sit at the back, I want to be involved a bit more. Maybe be up near the front more and stuff like that."

Yeah, yeah.

Start. Most of the field, it was a small race tonight.

I dislike small fields. It's depressing, as a promoter, and it's difficult, as a racer. Less shelter, less room for error (meaning if I go too hard somewhere there are fewer people to pass me before I get shelled), and overall it exposes my weakness (lack of FTP) and doesn't allow me to maximize my strengths (hiding from the wind).

So when only a couple dozen riders lined up I felt a bit dejected. A few more riders rolled up late but still, it wasn't a big group. I counted the local pro (just one of them), the guy that won Raritan P12 and Somerville Cat 2s in the last two days, a former M35 Canadian Cross champ (okay, he's my teammate), a couple Cat 1s, a bunch of Cat 2s… yeah.

The antagonists getting ready at the front.

Of course those that could got to the front, looking to put down the pain early. I thought about what the Missus asked me on the way to the race, and I thought about my answer. I decided that I'd go with whatever big moves, no matter what it took, and try to hang on.

Two to the left attacking hard.

I saw the pro and a Cat 1 go for it. A few others followed, but I couldn't see them because I was a bit far back. But I knew that the pro would go, the Cat 1 was good for a break, and there were enough guys going up the road that this was the move.

The front group is going away - it's the race and I know it.

I knew that at least two teams would be blocking. I didn't realize it but one of my teammates followed the move. Had I known that I'd have sat in, but I didn't see him and the move was going away so fast I had to go as soon as I could find room to move.

The view as I launched.

After Turn 3 (the break went at Turn 2), I launched hard. I launched so hard I hit numbers I haven't seen all year. 1266w jump. 1100w for 10 seconds. 750w for 30 seconds.

Going past two guys, on the way to the front group.

About 15 seconds in, maybe 20 seconds, I haven't checked, I rolled by two guys that weren't quite on. I was starting to realize that I'd gone way too hard but at this point I wasn't going to slam on my brakes so I kept going.

Effort.

Arg.

About to bridge at Turn One.

It took me until just after Turn 1 to bridge. I got some satisfaction when I looked back. The break had a solid 1/3 lap lead on the field and this was only the 3rd lap of the race.

I knew I'd gone too deep and the only thing that would save me is if they went sort of steady for, I dunno, the next 30 minutes.

The break goes hard out of Turn Three and I'm done.

Yeah, right. About 30 seconds later the front guys punched it out of Turn 3 and I was ejected like there was no tomorrow.

Waving to Junior and the Missus.

I couldn't get back into the field, nothing. I was absolutely and totally cooked. I spent a number of laps waving to Junior, who looked very worried the first time I saw him. I must have been making faces and stuff, plus I wasn't going "bike racers very fast" like I normally do.

More waving, this time he was clapping.

I felt better when I saw him clapping. That was better than looking at me all worried and stuff.

Cooked and unable to do much of anything.

My numbers were pretty pathetic. I had nothing.

Lance, good guy and former teammate, rolled by.

Lance, who helped immensely at the Bethel Spring Series as well as the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series, lapped me a few times, like everyone else. Of course the first thing he said when he lapped me was to get on his wheel so he could pull me along.

I asked him if he was off the front. He was, and in fact I think he was 4th on the road. So I tried to repay him for all the laps he rode at the front for me, all the hours he marshaled, all the hours he swept and brushed and plowed at Bethel, for the help in troubleshooting some of the small engine problems we had on various Sweep Days.

Pulling for Lance.

I couldn't pull him much, just 3/4 of a lap, but I tried to make it count by pulling into the wind, hard, and sitting as high up as I could so I could give him shelter. Seems a bit sad that that's all I could do for him, but there will be other races, other opportunities to try to give something back.

Lance on my wheel.

The long shadows make me look tall but Lance towers over me.

All I can do.

I couldn't pull more than that and I had to tell him to go after a much-too-short pull.

The Missus asked me what I was doing, circling at 10 or 12 mph. It's a sign of how slowly I was riding when a spectator can ask me a detailed question and I could give a detailed answer. I told her I'd do a sprint and stop. I wanted to do a sprint with a clear course. Then the break lapped me (they had lapped the field twice I think so it was a different set of people) so I decided to do my sprint that lap and make it a bridge as much as a sprint.

Before I jumped, that's the break ahead of me.

This is exiting Turn 3 so just the straight plus the curve and then the finish line. I wanted to bridge by the finish line. The break was maybe 2/5 of the way to the line.

Mid effort.

I did what I could on the jump. It wasn't great but it was okay.

Bridge at the finish line, sort of.

I bridged shortly after the finish, coasting up on them as I closed the last few meters. I went straight at Turn 1 when they went left - I knew I was done and made a U-turn and found the Missus and Junior playing in the field.

Junior jumping up and down.

With Junior so happy to see me it was hard to be upset about my race. I felt disappointed, of course, but I took away the one positive - I could read the race perfectly. I knew the move to follow, I just couldn't follow it.

So I played with Junior, caught up with friends, and then packed up and headed home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Helmet Cam - 2015 Circuit de Walnut Hill, win

It's been a while but here's the first of what I hope to be a few clips from the 2015 race season. This will be the only one from the 2015 Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series - I was too sick during the first three weeks to have a ride worthy of a clip, even skipping the third week altogether.

This was the first outside ride of the year where I felt good, and only the fourth ride outside since an unusually warm Christmas time set of rides.

I'll let the video tell the story, although the text is here.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Racing - 2015 Lime Rock Park, 3rd

Lime Rock Park

So this was my first race since the last of the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series (ANSS) races that ended April 12th. For me this season has been a sort of revelation. I didn't think I had done much differently compared to the prior 4 years (2010 was an exceptional year) so I didn't have massive expectations. The biggest difference has been losing 15 or so pounds compared to 2014.

The other difference, which I'll address, involves me doing some varied training.

First were some VO2 Max intervals. They've ranged from 5-8 minutes long, 3 or 4 sets per day, 2 days a week. Even though I was sick for most of the ANSS I still managed to improve my fitness significantly, mostly doing the two VO2 Max rides each week. I never do intervals so these longer efforts really helped.

Second is riding with Zwift. With my natural competitive nature (apparently) I found it hard to resist going for the sprints. I basically never sprint on the trainer so for me to do sprints on the trainer, at 100%, for as long as 20 seconds… that's huge for me. I think these short, intense efforts really helped.

My bike is the same as before, wheels, position, even the chain, tires, and cassettes. I've changed nothing on it since 2014, just replaced the electrical tape holding the end of my bar tape and a few zip ties.

Waving to Junior and the Missus, who are on that upper deck area.

Although we arrived at Limerock more than 90 minutes before the start, I was still scrambling to get to the line okay. I had to hit the portapotty while everyone was already lined up, I was physically pushing people (Juniors no less) out of the way to get my bike to the line, it wasn't good. Ultimately though I got everything done - Strava was on, SRM going, helmet cam recording, gloves on, number pinned, bottle on the bike.

I even had to say no to a fellow racer when he asked for help pinning up. As it was I was already scrambling, I think that if I'd pinned him I'd have missed one of my crucial stops before the start. Sorry Jack!

This was a warm day, really the third warm day for me outside (and the fifth ride outside for the year). I  had one Podium Ice bottle, full of ice and water, and I hoped it would be good for the hour long race. I had one such bottle for a close-to-3 hour training ride and it was okay.

I had two teammates and we had really two "plans". Stan had already won the overall at the ANSS and was obviously on a roll. He's our strongest Cat 3 break type rider so he was a natural for going for a break. Nick is also strong and has gotten in some breaks and such. I hoped he could make it into a group off the front. For me it was all about the field sprint. I'd try to help where I could but then I'd focus on doing a good field sprint.

With the win April 12th I had some expectations put on me, both by myself but also by others. For the first time I realized that people would say, "Oh, watch for him in the sprint." To me I wasn't any different but to others I guess I was a guy to watch.

I knew of at least three strong break-type riders in the field. I knew they'd probably mark similar moves and they could very well end up together in a break. I talked to one of the "break-type" riders (he goes by TKP in the forums so that's what I'll call him) and told him Stan would be looking for him.

Problem was that I didn't get a chance to talk to Stan before the race. Therefore...

Telling Stan about allies.

I rolled up to Stan a lap or three into the race and told him that this one guy TKP would be looking for him. Stan immediately moved up and attacked, but TKP didn't go. Then TKP and another guy, GlobeCanvas, went with a second group, chasing down Stan's group. They ended replacing Stan's group and established a solid 20 second lead. With more than 5 riders the break had the whole race sewn up (5 places).

With a massive headwind on the main straight really discouraging chases, and with the hill and downhill a bit limiting in terms of bridging (meaning the field couldn't go that much faster in those sections so it was hard to make up time), the break seemed to have a really good chance of succeeding.

I was focused on the field sprint but I hoped that Stan would be able to get up to the break. Therefore I went to the front to give it a little dig.

Field splintering at the front.

I pushed through and closed some gaps and then went to the front. I wanted to halve the gap, take maybe 10 seconds off the lead, put the break within reach, and set up a good scenario for a counter by Stan. If he could go with one or two other guys (the third strong break type rider I knew was still in the field) then they could realistically make it to the break.

Moving past these guys.

When I hit the front on the main straight I was shocked at how hard the wind was blowing in my face. In the field it felt reasonable, standing near the start/finish building you couldn't tell it was windy at all, but here, on the course, at the front, it was really bad.

Pathetic pull. Break is at the end of the straight.

I realized I needed to worry more about not getting shelled after my pull than about pulling back 10 seconds of the gap. I pulled only to try to maintain some momentum. If anything I probably allowed the gap to go up.

Nick goes.

When I started getting tired on the hill Nick made a move on the left side. Only one rider went with him so I eased to allow the gap to open. Although initially it looked like everyone just passed me, there was in fact a gap between Nick's two man group and the field.

Easing to let the gap open.

Unfortunately by the hill the next lap the field had reeled in Nick's move. With just one rider for company, and that guy covering for a guy in the break, there was no way Nick's move would work.

A little off the back.

Unfortunately my efforts put me in the red for a bit. The next lap I was struggling to stay on and had to make a big effort to stay on before the downhill. If anyone got caught off a wheel on the downhill then the field would just ride away. The speed of the field (38-39 mph) along with the wind meant that any gapped rider trying to chase would be left behind. I spoke with someone who'd gotten gapped like that - he chased at 38-39 mph but couldn't close the gap and ended up off the back.

Break just ahead.

Up front the break started to crumble a bit. The field seemed a bit more strung out at times so guys were chasing, but I think it was more the break coming to us than the field going to them.

Break, gap, chase, gap, field.

A lap later a chase had formed off the front, and with the added incentive of not letting those guys go, the field really strung out, stretching out and enveloping the chase and the break. Suddenly the race reset for us - Stan, Nick, and myself.

Really far back on the downhill.

On some lap I looked up on the downhill, knowing I'd gone over the top of the hill in "reasonable" position. I was a bit surprised at how far back I was - it was a couple seconds to the front of the group. With the wind and the speed it would be hard to move up significantly here. I made a note to myself that I had to be in good position cresting the hill on the last lap so that I didn't use too much energy moving up on the downhill and the fast bits right after that.

Grass surfing to the right, just before the bell.

We hit the bell with the field all together. We hadn't worked on any teamwork for the sprint so I assumed I'd be contesting the sprint individually. I was too far back though and I wanted to move up. With a guy grass surfing to the right (and later someone on the left), I didn't trust the sides. Plus the field looked a bit spread out and I hoped to move up the middle.

Just before I started to move up - it looks crowded.
Whit line points to the rider I got to, riding through the field.

Target - the white line, pointing to TKP. I didn't think to myself "I want to be near him", I just wanted to move up. He happened to be in good position and when I got there I decided that was good.

Next to TKP.
Much less crowded.

Once I finished slithering through the field I was in good position. I was near the front, still had solid shelter, and I'd be in good shape going up the hill. I knew also that there was an accordion effect on the hill, where the back had to slow early and then accelerate while still on the hill, so I was glad to be toward the front. No unnecessary acceleration on the hill meant a bit more gas for the sprint. I was happy with my position.

Leadout man going backwards.

Problem was a leadout guy for GlobeCanvas going backward on the hill. He had gone 100% to the bottom of the hill and blew spectacularly. Wobbly and exploded he ended up directly in front of me. I managed to get around him but had to virtually stop to keep from knocking him over. I lost all the position advantages I'd just worked to earn.

Now not so good.

After I got around GC's teammate I found myself much further back than I'd hoped. That saved gas for the sprint? I figured I needed to use it now. I knew that I'd have to move up somewhere and I decided I'd do it at the top of the hill. It would leverage my better-for-2015 weight, it would give me the downhill to try and recover (I know I can drop about 10-15 bpm in 30 seconds), and it would be as far away as possible from the line. I expected I'd be recovered by the time I got to the sprint, hopefully in the 155 bpm range.

After the effort. Lead rider is at the top of the picture so about 10 wheels back.

I made a strong surge - 900w peak I'd see later - and moved up into the front end of the field. I still had shelter but I was within striking distance of the front. My heart rate climbed to 166 bpm, which I didn't know until downloading the SRM, putting me well into the red. I just knew I was in position and I had to ease a bit.

Letting in a Junior.

On the run in to the curves a Junior made a move to try and get into better position. I knew it was too early so I let him in, hoping that his gear limit wouldn't gap him off if someone went super fast. I knew, though, that the wind would keep peak speeds down so it seemed like a safe bet to let him in. I had to make a big surge though, a 750w push to stay in position. This prevented my heart rate from dropping more than a couple bpm.

Future winner to my left.
Strong wind from our front left, therefore I'm sitting to the right.

Going into the left-right-left curves I was sitting about 6 wheels back. Douglas, who got third in the last ANSS race, was directly in front of me. I was so focused on the overall tactical situation that I had no idea it was him. It was only when I reviewed the clip that I saw I was following him. I knew I usually tried to look at the overall picture, not mark a particular rider or two, but I didn't realize to what extent until this race.

Going into the sprint. The bridge marks the beginning of the straight.

Going into the headwind sprint I wanted to be right. I knew that the wind would be coming from the left, I knew it was pretty strong, so the best choice would be to sit to the right. I'd have shelter from the left side crosswind as we went around the last curve. Then I'd have shelter on the straight.

Right side looked tight.
Huge hole to the left.

I knew I wanted to go late because the early guys just wither in a headwind. Therefore I wanted a clear lane when I was ready to go. Problem was it started getting a bit jammed in front of me. The winning move went right but I thought there was too much potential for someone to close the door on them.

Therefore I looked left.

Huge hole left.

It was pretty clear to me that I could go left. Huge hole, not much movement (meaning no one was going super fast so the hole would be static), and I knew I had a solid jump in my legs.

I went left.

It was a solid almost-1100w jump followed by an almost-900w sprint.

Toward the left side of the road now.
Future winner at the front right.

When I was sprinting I didn't think I moved so far left. I thought I went "to the middle". On review I ended up pretty far left. One of the Juniors was to my left, a friendly rival Ednilson to my right, and I blasted through the gap. I made up ground in a hurry but I never felt like I had a solid sprint. In my data analysis I saw that I jumped at 166 bpm, much higher than I prefer, and that's why I didn't have as solid a sprint as I could have had.

Bike throw. Third.

Probably because I was feeling tweaked I left the jump a bit late. I don't know if I'd have done better had I gone earlier. I don't think I had much more speed meaning I don't think I could have gone faster, especially with the headwind. I was closing on the two winners but they were also celebrating. I figure third is what I should have gotten here.

I might have had a chance had I followed them up the right, but that would have really been the only chance. If I'd followed them I'd had gotten a leadout and this would have let me sit until I knew I could go to the line.

Celebrating teammates. Winner's son got 4th.

Douglas won, his teammate got second, and, unbelievably, Douglas's son (a Junior) got 4th just behind me. I was turning my 53x12 in the sprint so the son did well with his 52x14 or whatever gear limit he had.

I was so shattered I couldn't get up the hill on the cool down lap. I turned around and rode on the grass and curbing to get back to the start/finish building.

There an excited Junior (meaning the Missus and mine, not a random racer) came running up to me, jumping to a stop next to my bike.

Running.

Overall it was a good race. I was a bit unprepared before the race. I hadn't eaten much for breakfast and downed a PB&J just before the start (and bonked hard when we got home). I stepped into a portapotty with the whole field already lined up. Yada yada yada. Overall it was obviously a good race. I'm better than I've been in a while. I have to admit it's a bit more interesting racing when I have some form.

The Missus told me the announcer (I don't know who it was) was talking about me during the race. He really didn't know me because he was calling me by my full name and not what everyone calls me, but the fact that such a person was talking about me is actually pretty flattering. I never think of myself as a race contender but it's hard to deny my last two race results.

Now I'm just waiting for the veil to fall. My low FTP, my inability to work during a race, all that stuff. I feel like a pretender right now. My next races will the CCAP Tuesday Night Races, the Kermis (same general location), and the Mystic Velo Crit at Ninigret.

We'll see how it goes.