Saturday, August 31, 2013

Training - MeTC 2A

After a day off I found the time to get out and do another ride. This time I went for the 2A Out N Back loop. My legs felt totally fine after my ride on Thursday, but since it'd been almost a week since I'd ridden before that I wasn't sure if I'd be okay or not after shocking the system with a long ride.

Therefore the 2A loop made sense. I could go out for an hour, turn around, and try to make it back in just a bit less time. I virtually always ride with a bit in reserve, "just in case", so I'd have gas in the tank coming back.

With that in mind I set out on the very straightforward route - head out, take a right, turn around when I feel like it, take a left, get back to the Outpost. Like before I had my flapping vest on for visibility, my blinky flashing away, and this time I had a package of Pop Tarts in my pocket.

I headed out with little information on 2A. From the last time I rode here I vaguely remembered an endless series of rolling hills, a rough shoulder, and not much else.

Apparently I remembered correctly. The road did have a shoulder, although sometimes it narrowed down to a few inches, the shoulder was rough, and there was an endless series of slight uphills and downhills.

And not much else.

I tried to roll along on the drops, the FSA Energy handlebars that I found almost replicated my crit-bend bar drops position. Unfortunately there's a weird angle on the drops and it put a bit more pressure on a particular part of my hand, more so than usual. This resulted in my hands going numb, sort of unusual for me.

The 42 cm bars also felt really wide, like I was riding a motorcycle. I mean, okay, I knew they felt wide, but with a whole lot of nothing around me I could focus a bit more on me and my bike. I'd consider riding along Route 2A to be even more empty than riding the trainer - at least on the trainer I'd have a video or DVD playing and maybe some music. On 2A it was just me, the trees, and the rough shoulder.

At any rate during my bar meditation I decided that I'd want a 40 cm version of whatever FSA bar I decided to get, preferably the FSA Compact or the FSA Wing bar. The latter is the same as the Compact but with a flattened "aero" top of the bar - I really like that flat platform, more so than any aero benefit that might come from having said platform.

The Compacts have less drop but the shape of the drops agree with my hands more. The lessor drop affected my back though - shortly after installing the FSA Energy handlebars I noticed that my back was a bit better. I could bend over a bit easier, I could pick up Junior without wincing (most of the time anyway), and on the bike I felt more comfortable on the drops.

I thought of my ideal solution - a long, low stem, like a 65 degree (-25 degree) 14 cm stem, with 40 cm wide FSA Compact bars, or the FSA Wing bars that I had on before.

All this thinking didn't help my hands on this desolate stretch of 2A so I just plodded along, trying to spin either a 53x19, using the 53x21 for brief periods, or shifting into the 39 if I had to stay in the 21 for any length of time. With a max cog of 23T even the 53x21 made the chain complain, and the 53x23 made the chain sound like it would grind itself to death.

I guess the short 39 cm chainstays do have a drawback.

I pulled out my phone to check the time. In my haste in packing I grabbed the (white) power cord for the MacBook. I mentally checked off "SRM download cable" because that's white also. The problem was that I never grabbed the SRM download cable. The SRM I have is limited to about 7 hours of data.  I hadn't reset it in a bit and the first ride up here had virtually filled the memory.

Given the choice between totally losing all the accumulated SRM data and risking using just the phone/Strava, I went with using the phone/Strava. This meant no SRM computer on the bike, i.e. no time of day, no miles, no cadence, no HR, no points of reference.

Therefore I pulled out my phone to check the time.

"Whatever you do don't drop the phone," I thought to myself.

The phone went flying.

It hit the road and skittered around.

Stopping, I of course looked around to see if anyone noticed. Nope, no cars. No trucks. No deer. No moose. No squirrels. No hawks. No crickets. No snakes. No turtles.

No nothing.

I picked up the phone. It looked fine.

And I had 15 more minutes before I'd hit the hour mark. I told the Missus I'd do a 2 to 2 1/2 hour ride, and since I felt reasonably well I decided to go the 15 more minutes before I turned around, an hour out, to make it a 2 hour ride round trip.

I got pretty far in a few minutes, started feeling better and better, and decided to stretch it out to 2 1/2 hours. That meant riding another half hour (after the phone drop) before turning around, making it 1:15 out and presumably another 1:15 back. I told myself I'd turn around at the top of the next little rise. Each time I got to the top of "the next little rise" it kept going. I felt like I was chasing leprechauns at the end of a rainbow.

Finally, when I got to a bit of pavement with grass growing through the pavement, I decided that this bit of lawn would mark my turn around.

I started heading back. My legs felt pretty good - I guess it takes an hour+ of riding for them to feel good after a day off.

I saw a car poking its head out of the woods. Weird, in such a desolate place, and it wasn't there a short time ago. Two characters, straight out of a movie, sat in the car. Young guys with big, bushy, fake looking beards, aviator sunglasses, they looked like two guys straight out of the Beastie Boys "Sabotage" clip.

Not sure what these guys were doing.

I waved a greeting as I rode by. I don't know if they nodded or what. I didn't hear the car move, and when I glanced back a hundred meters later I could still see the car sitting by the side of the road.


I rolled pretty hard, pushing a bit up the short climbs, trying to maintain decent speed on the short declines (not really downhills except one).

I turned left onto Kingman Road, aka 170, the one constant between the two rides I'd done so far. I have a hard time reading his section of road, only about 7 miles long but undulating and never allowing me to hold a consistent effort.

I thought of the domestiques on ProTour teams that have to pull for a hundred km at a time, tempo tempo, to keep breaks in check during a Grand Tour. The leaders recon the final climbs; I wondered if the domestiques reconned the first 100-150 km of each stage, especially the transition stages.

I wondered how they'd approach Kingman Road, this deceivingly tough (to me) road, no good rhythm, no steady grades, just this choppy up and down and fast and slow thing. If this road ever appeared in a race it'd offer one heck of a challenge to the racers.

I decided that a power meter would be a good thing here, letting me know if I was pushing a bit hard on the rises and slacking too much on the slight downhills. Without either I didn't know how hard to push, only that I could actually ride today instead of crawling like I did two days ago. I decided that the "Chris Froome Looking At Stems" thing (hilarious, btw), a reference to the fact that he seems to ride based on his powermeter, isn't necessarily all bad.

I passed a sign that makes the Missus and I giggle whenever we see it. Kingman is not a huge town. In fact it doesn't have a police department, and the firehouse is so small I thought it was someone's freestanding garage.

Therefore when we saw a sign for the Kingman Elementary School pointing to the left, and a very small building directly across from the sign, we couldn't help but do a double take.

Elementary school sign.
See the brown building with the green roof to the left?

The "school" (between the yellow thing and the truck).

The "school" couldn't have measured more than about 8' wide and maybe 12' long. Obviously it's a fancy shed with windows and such but since we couldn't see any driveway, any playground, anything else that looked like a school, we would point at "the school" and giggle.

I was riding okay through here and looked back and forth just one more time, to see if I could figure out where the school sat.

No luck.

(Ends up that the school is down a road that's 50 yards past the sign, and it's a proper school, brick building, playground, all that stuff. No fence though, not like in Connecticut.)

I did the last little rise in Kingman before a quick drop to a bridge. Then the final grind up a hill to the driveway. I had to drop it into the 39x23 even with "decent" legs.

I got home in 2:20 so about 10 minutes short of my "long estimate". This time I wasn't totally shot, and in fact my legs felt pretty good just a few hours later. 

Other than my thoughts about my bars and the idea of using a powermeter on weirdly undulating roads I really hadn't thought of much.

Well the Beastie Boy extras.

The School In A Shed.

Yeah, well, it's quiet up here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Training - MeTC (Maine Training Camp) Kingman Loop

The Missus and I hauled Junior up north for a bit, visiting her mom and step-dad up in Maine. Last time I came here I got bitten by two dogs. The trip before that I went out on a "20 mile" ride on what ended up being about a 65 mile loop and had to call the Missus to rescue me. This time I was so leery about bringing the bike I actually asked the Missus if she thought bringing a bike would be a good idea. I phrased it carefully, though, to try and keep the demons at bay.

"You think I should bring the road bike or the mountain bike?"
"The road bike, don't you?"
"Um, yeah, that's what I was thinking."

With all of Junior's stuff we'd have to bring the bike on the roof, not ideal for mileage. On the way up I reverted to "gas mileage" mode, meaning I was happy going 70 mph instead of pushing 80 if I could, and if I was behind a line of cars going 68 mph I didn't pass them right away. Incredibly we averaged over 43 mpg and 65 mph for the 6+ hour drive.

(The 65 mph average means that yes, we must have exceeded 70 mph for long stretches at a time, making the 43+ mpg even more fantastic, consider we had a bike on the roof.)

We got here and the Missus unpacked a whole lot of stuff for Junior - Pack N Play, a couple bags, our bag, etc. I grabbed the bike, put it inside, grabbed the computer and camera, and by then the mosquitoes were biting and I was hiding inside.

Unfortunately this part of Maine hadn't been hit with a hard frost yet so the mosquitoes were out in (relative to Connecticut) force. Up here it was "wow, it's so nice" while I was swatting and swinging and running around like my hair was on fire.

We came up here because Nana and Pap (the Missus's grandparents) were making a rare trip outside of their home in Florida. It's hard for them to move around so for them to even consider flying was a big deal. Since we could drive here pretty easily it was easy for us to make sure we were here while they were here.

Due to Skype and some regular video calls with everyone Junior knew everyone. I think he was surprised that they weren't in the computer, but still, he recognized everyone and smiled and charmed and all that.

Luckily Junior really took a liking to everyone. With them and the Missus looking after Junior that left me some time to go for some rides. I decided to avoid the dogs route (to my dismay I learned that the owners had to put down the two dogs that had bitten me but at least the owners are friends of Grandma and Grandpa now) so that left me really with just two options. One was the big loop, the 65 miler, but I'd cut through and shorten it to about 50 miles. I didn't remember much of the loop but cutting out about 15, maybe 20 miles of it would make it doable. Keep in mind that I'd never completed the loop before.

The other route was a desolate road that headed up to Canada, Route 2A. I'd just do an out and back, a training ride that made it pretty predictable in terms of determining exactly how long the ride would take. I'd just figure out when I'd need to turn around (by halving how much time I had to ride) and that'd be that. I like out-n-back rides for recovery because I can decide exactly when I've reached the halfway point of the ride.

The first day I set out to do the 50 miler, one I call "Kingman Loop" on Strava. With fresh legs, enough time, I felt it a doable thing. I mapped it out on a much-improved internet signal here at the Outpost, and it came out to about 50 miles. I kitted up, Pap asking questions about this and that.

"How long you gonna ride for?"
"I mapped out a loop, about 50 miles."
"How long you think it'll take you to do the 50 miles?"
"About 3, 3 1/2 hours."
"3 hours for 50 miles!"

I set out, as I did for each ride, with a vest on, flapping in my wake. The human eye sees motion first, color second, and shapes third. I wanted any drivers to see me flapping in the distance. With such a sparsely populated area most people drive 50-60-70 mph on all the roads here, even the ones with literally no shoulder. I'd be relying on their attentiveness and courtesy to stay safe. Luckily the lack of strong cell signals meant fewer texters and talkers, but still, you never know.

I also installed my Superflash taillight before we left, and I'd leave it on during each ride. At one of the rest stops on I-95 we saw a poster about the dangers of moose and such. The posters showed two moose, one on the road, one in the shade. The one in the shade was virtually invisible, especially since the moose on the road drew your attention. I decided that I better use the blinky taillight so that I wouldn't be just another flapping shadow under the trees.

I'd read, in the last week, about how braking hard will loosen your headset. I don't brake hard that often but the Kermis had a 180 that had me braking quite hard. I checked my headset.


I tightened it back up and set off. I had to stop a few times to straighten/align the stem properly, swatting at a mosquito that landed on my leg on the last one. I decided that if it was off I'd just deal with it. Luckily it was finally straight.

My first Kingman Loop went well. I talked about the loop with Grandma and when I said I'd be taking Route 168 she thought it was 158. Then she said, no, it's Winn Road, it goes from Lee to Winn. Winn Road? On the map I just saw 168. And Lee? That's the town?

Route 6.

Well while I was hammering down Route 6 I came to Lee. It's about 6 buildings long and then it turns into trees again, so I looked suspiciously down the road at the one intersection in town.

No Route 168 signs.

ATVs to go get lunch in downtown Lee.
168, aka Winn Road, is the right turn at the top of this short rise.

I kept going for a couple minutes. I hesitated at the top of a little descent because I'd have to climb back up the thing if I had to turn around. I brushed away that doubt thinking, "Naw, it has to be up here" and plunged down the short drop.

The houses went back to the "one in every quarter mile or more" spacing and I decided it'd be worth it to stop at the top of yet another hill. I checked the map, GPS'ed my location on it, and voila, I just passed 168, aka Winn Road.

I turned around, went back down a descent and then up that "short drop". Now that I'd already passed it I saw Route 168 signs everywhere (okay, in two spots).

I tried to remember about how long 168 was but I didn't have to think too long.

"Road Construction Next (10) Miles"

The "10" was written in very small numerals with a Sharpie.

Since 168 hits Route 2 and ends there it had to be at least 10 miles long.

I got into the drops and started going. The miles wouldn't pass by themselves. The road seemed hilly but not that hilly. I mean it wasn't like I was climbing for an hour here and there but at the same time it never felt like I was coasting.

Suddenly I was 50 yards from Route 2, a short steep drop to the intersection, a sign right there that said "End Road Construction". I guess Route 168, aka Winn Road, is 10 miles long. I stopped, looked both ways, and went right.

I was in Winn.

Of course.

I mentally thanked Grandma for our discussion on if it was 168 or 158 or Winn Road or what. "Lee" and "Winn" were enough to keep me on track.

A few blocks of Route 2, sort of, over a bridge, and then I looked up at a wall of a hill. This was that party house hill, where the kids were all bundled up outside drinking beers. I quickly resigned myself to grinding up the thing in my bottom gear, a 39x23. My legs started to fade a bit. The endless wavy roads after the hill really zapped me. I tried to roll in the big ring, on the drops, but all too often my legs would give way, I'd shift into the small ring, and sit on the tops.

Route 2, heading north.
If I hadn't lifted this shot from the helmet cam I wouldn't know it's Route 2 either.

I started to fade pretty hard, my legs starting to buckle. My last ride was the CCNS Kermis, six days ago, and although fresh from rest my body wasn't used to this amount of riding.

When I got to Kingman Road, aka Route 170, finally, I was pretty toasted. I neglected to bring any food so I sipped at my water bottle, trying to will my body into some kind of super duper fat burning mode.

It didn't work.

I struggled at less than 10 mph on the flats, rallying here and there, then sitting up and turning over some ridiculously low gear at some ridiculously low speed.

My phone cut out after about 49 miles so I didn't Strava the whole thing, but I finally made it to the house. Strava says I did 17 mph until my phone died. It took me something like 20 minutes to go the last non-Strava 3 or so miles.

I finished my ride in about 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Pap was beside himself. "I can't believe you just went out and rode 50 miles!" he kept saying. I was too tired to do anything but give him a glazed look and a small grin. The Missus knew I had hit the wall so she asked some succinct but important questions.

"You hungry?"
"What do you want?"

I had no idea what they had prepared for dinner but I wanted it. I sat at the table after a brief cold shower and the Missus brought me over a plate of food.

It had everything.

Junior was reaching out and waving both his arms, his way of showing joyous greetings and happiness.

I dug in.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Racing - 2013 CCNS Kermis, Cat 3s

A true week of racing - Sunday, Tuesday, then Friday. If I could do this all the time I would - maybe a Thursday race, to space things out properly before the weekend. Whatever, the fact is that I got to line up for my third race this week.

I got here as early as possible and helped with registration. When the Masters started I got to leave and prep for my own race. My one hour prep went something like this:

5:05 PM I leave registration and find the Missus. She asks if I've eaten. I haven't. She asks what I want. I want to support the vendors so I ask for a hotdog or something. She gets a steak sandwich - I inhale 3/4 of it before she reminds me that I'll be racing in what would be 45 minutes now.

5:15 I help with a victim with light road rash, a Junior that has been in the scene for much longer than you'd think. I brought my first aid supplies to the race so I could help him out with Tegaderm. The cheap stuff I forgot about, and I was out of the First Aid spray.

5:30 My socializing time quickly running out, I started getting my bike ready, my spare bike ready, pinned my number, kitted up, and got out there with less than 2 laps of the Masters race left. I took pictures of the break and chase finishing then put down the camera to go warm up (and missed the field sprint). Fortunately for me we got to do one lap of the course so that was my warm up.

FIVE Expo riders.

We lined up with a total of six Expo riders. Stan would be our default leader, the break guy. SOC and myself were sort of random guys, and Mark, Ted, and Joel would pitch in when they could. Joel was coming off of a non-racing period so he wasn't expecting much. We were all eager to support Stan who's proven to us over and over that he can make the break.

First time around the 180.
We should be 15 feet to the left.

On the first lap we almost went off the course through the cones to the right. A bit of grumbling and we were all back on track. Late apexes are great and all but it's important to turn in early enough for a 180 that dumps out to a narrow road.

Joel responds.

When the first attack went I was near the front but feeling a bit crispy from the effort out of the 180. I started wondering if one of us should go when Joel went rocketing by. We wouldn't link up with the eventual three man group until the 180.


On Tuesday the Central Wheel women made it a point to show up and race. Like me a few of them came off at some point but they gamely got back in and gritted it out. One rider I didn't see at the back was Vicki, a former Expo rider. We're all still supportive of her and I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the midst of the field, totally holding her own. As I've only really seen her in the B races on Tuesdays it was a huge step to be active in a Cat 3 race.

Rider slides his rear tire out.

The first few times around the 180 the corner caught out the unaware, the ones pushing the limits, and the ones simply not used to turning so hard. At least two riders slid their rear tire out, one actually unclipping mid-turn. To his credit he was clipped in and riding ahead of me long before I exited that same corner.

The break opposite us.

The 180 gave us a good point of reference as far as the break went. We could see them riding the opposite direction as we approached the 180.

I usually tend to go the outside line in turns, preferring to maintain speed over doing more bike handling type stuff inside. However the 180 was tight enough that everyone ended up a bit outside at the exit and I never got to fully utilize the outside line.

Therefore I decided that if I remembered I'd try to go inside one of these laps, to see how that went.

Ted raises his hand.

I'm actually really disappointed that you can't see the smoke around his chainstay. I'm pretty sure that his tire was rubbing and it was rubbing hard enough that it started to smoke.

Inside line!

Finally, with a couple laps to go, I managed to go inside. It was much better overall. I could turn as hard as I wanted to turn, to the point where I could feel the front tire start to lose traction, the feel of pushing the rubber across the asphalt. With my forward oriented position I could plant the front tire however I wanted. The short chainstays kept the rear planted, and I could accelerate fine out of the turn.

 I decided that this would be my approach for the finale.

Moving up the inside.

Approaching the 180 for the last time I debated going on my own. A CF Racing Junior decided for me as he made the move first. I jumped on his wheel and we both looked around, waiting for the counter-swarm. Only one other rider came by, a Bethel Cycle rider (I think a Junior as well). The two went wide, holding more of an outside line.

I went inside.

Inside line, hard.

 I didn't accelerate too hard so I could get back on their wheel. I'd contemplated going from the 180, trying to go for the line, but it's over a mile and not very realistic. Instead I hoped to back-slot into the front of the field and fight it out from there.

I made one elemental error, one that decided my race for me.

The head of the field comes up the right side.

The final straight started out with a left side crosswind, turning into a pure headwind. I had to be on the right side going into the final straight. My mistake was staying left on the course at two turns to go. Instead of having the field pass me on the left they passed me on the right. This put me in the wind and therefore I was out of the sprint long before it ever started.

It didn't keep me from trying to get to the right but the guy to my right fought hard to stay on the wheel. I fought honorably, with no contact, but the fight was doomed from the beginning. Ultimately I ended up sheltering him from the wind for a couple hundred meters, giving him a lead out. I didn't have the chance to turn around or even look down so I don't know if I could have back-slotted in a few spots back. It's too late now but this is one of those things I'll file away for the next time I'll need it.

To my happy surprise SOC rocketed by the right.

While I berated myself for getting into a tactically untenable position, SOC absolutely blasted by on the right. Riding super low he jumped where he normally does on Tuesday Nights. He knew the sprint - he's won the A Race on one Tuesday - so he treated the sprint like he did on a Tuesday. Although two guys fought hard he beat them and the rest of the field to take the sprint for 7th.

When I rode up to SOC he had a big grin on his face. Last Sunday he was just behind me going into the M35+ sprint but he sat up because "all the places were up the road". He ended up 44th; I nabbed 12th. We talked about it and the takeaway was that if the field is doing a sprint you might as well sprint. It's good race practice, it's fun, you can test tactics, and you can see how you do against the others. Well tonight he did great - he went at the perfect time for his strengths, he moved up based on his experience in the this and last year's race, and he executed flawlessly. If and when it comes down to a field sprint he'll have this experience to draw from when he approaches said sprint.

Stan, it ended up, took 5th in the break. A rider went solo, two guys were close for second and third, and the rest of the break finished just behind.

I have no idea how I finished except it was "at the back".

With the light falling during the P123 race I had to leave, unable to partake in the various festivities along the finishing straight. A fun race for sure, and one I plan on doing next year.

Just better.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Racing - August 20, 2013 @TuesdayTheRent

The last @TuesdayTheRent for 2013. It's been a weird year, a good half dozen of the weeks were canceled due to rain, sometimes halfway through the first race of the evening. I missed the one race where the TV crews showed up so that was a bummer.

I came to this, the last race, with a good race under my legs. Two weekends prior I'd been shelled in 9 minutes at a yet-to-be-blogged-about race in Rocky Hill. It's a great course but it requires a minimum level of fitness that I simply didn't have.

Last weekend, with my 9 minute race fresh in memory, I lowered my expectations accordingly. I was so pessimistic that instead of doing the M45+ race I did the M35+ race. The latter is almost always much harder than the M45+, but with four teammates doing the M35+ and none doing the M45+ I decided that if I'm going to race 10 minutes I'd rather race with my teammates.

Well, ends up I made it for the length of the race.

Of course this meant that I readjusted my sights for Tuesday. I figured I could make it for the whole race as long as no crazies came out swinging hard, like no pros intent on doing a max 10 minute effort or whatever.

What I didn't do, and I haven't done in a couple years, is do an easy ride on Monday. I focus on doing a ride the day before a race but with Tuesdays I've treated them as just a training ride. That meant not riding the day before because, well, it's not a race.

Sunday, at Bob Beals, my heart rate could soar. Normally I'm in trouble at about 164 bpm but in that race I launched my sprint at 172 bpm. I rarely see those kinds of heart rates so I figured the same would happen today on Tuesday.

The problem was that my heart rate just wouldn't hit 160 bpm. I realized that I lacked elasticity, that my heart couldn't zoom like normal, and I think it's because I hadn't ridden the day before.

With that let's see what happened in the race.

I lined up with five Central Wheel women.

Last year we had a retro-jersey thing going but this year it seemed like everyone wanted "just another Rent" after all the cancellations earlier in the summer.

Patrolling the front.

It's easy to fall into the domestique role, and I fell into it pretty quickly - on the first lap I started marking moves. With Todd in the race realistically he'd be the strongest of all of us. I know it's just a training race but after Sunday's success I dropped into the same role as Sunday.

I realize now that if I'd played things a bit differently my race would have turned out differently. Of course that would have involved riding for myself but that's a bit less entertaining than racing for someone else.

Gapped off.

Shortly after my first move I couldn't respond to the counter-moves, and bam, that was that.

Getting back in.

After sitting out a couple laps I jumped back in. Normally when I get shelled I'm so cooked that I can't stay with the group. I'll do a lap with them, get shelled, and basically do an easy training ride while getting passed by the same group of riders over and over.

This week I felt fine. I guess my first effort got my heart more elastic. The pace felt pretty sedate, not too hard. Okay, a break had gone, but still, it felt much easier than it did just a couple laps ago.

I sat at the back, tried to make sure I didn't gap off anyone still on the lead lap. I was ready to push hard to close any gap to get whoever behind me back into the group, and I was ready to pull out if my legs started to complain. However I never felt troubled, never had to dig too deep, so I sort of hung out at the back.

Todd isolated.

When the break lapped the field Todd looked a bit isolated. He had a number of riders to cover and most of them had strong teammates in the field. I was definitely one of the weaker racers in the group and if some of the other teammates did some work it could isolate Todd. Therefore I decided that I'd try to use up my legs before the finish but inside the last 5 laps. This way I could help Todd but not really disrupt the sprint between the break riders.

Wade (obscured) and Aidan attacking up the right.

Sure enough, after we saw 4 to go, two guys attacked hard. Both could push hard, both would work to the finish, and Todd had hesitated and not gone with them.

Wade going clear with Aidan on his wheel.

The Central Wheel ERRACE rider kept the pace up but didn't push it hard enough to close up.

Aidan goes.

When Wade eased Aidan went even harder. I could see my calling and I went to the front. I pushed to keep Aidan within reach but instead I rode up to him going into the first turn. I kept pulling toward Turn Two but a couple CCNS guys took off. Obviously Aidan had made his move to set up a countermove by those two.

The field streams by. Todd is alert now.

What I didn't realize is that Todd had gotten on my wheel when I pulled that very short pull after I caught Aidan. He went with the main countermove but couldn't go with the CCNS duo. Eventually the duo would finish clear of the break/group combination.

After the race I went back to our "race base" but the Missus and Junior weren't there. I turned and Junior had spotted me. They'd been closer to the finish line and I'd ridden past them.

Junior running to Pops.

Junior checking to see if I'll make him take his hand off the tire.
I decided it would be okay at that moment.

Ah yes. Bike racing is nice and all but seeing Junior's face light up is great.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Helmet Cam - 2013 Keith Berger Crit, June 23, Cat 3s

This has been a long time coming. The clip involved some technical challenges that I hadn't faced before (having to do with volume in the finished clip not being what I hear in iMovie, forcing me to guess at what levels to set the volume), a lot of editing (6 or 7 iterations before I was moderately happy with the text), and of course a lot of material.

The race is from June of this year, the Keith Berger Crit promoted by CVC. I have never done well here, never finished well, but it's always an engrossing race. Results here, my report here.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Racing - August 18, 2013 Bob Beals M35+ Race Report

I'm going out of order here so I'll have to figure out how I'll deal with that. I haven't written a race report since forever, and in the meantime I've not only done a race but I've even worked one. Then I got sick and yada yada yada and now here I am.

So Sunday August 18th was the Bob Beals New England Masters Championships. They're usually at around this time of year and it's usually a solid group of racers, experienced and savvy. Last year I had a blast doing the race, even though I didn't do that well.

This year I expected worse. In my race on August 10th I lasted all of 9 minutes. I'd worked some crazy hours that weekend, then dealt with a sick Junior and taking care of some stuff for my family. I myself got sick and started rapidly consuming our stock of Dayquil just to get through the day.

Coming up to the weekend I felt pretty pessimistic. I was so pessimistic that I even let my teammates talk me into doing the M35+ race, not the (typically slower) M45+ race. My pessimistic thought process went something like, "Well, if I'm going to get shelled in 10 minutes in a race, I might as well line up with some teammates."

With that in mind the Missus, Junior, and I headed down to the Rhode Island shore, to one of the stalwart course of the area, Ninigret Park. A figure eight loop it's flat, sits on a former WW2 airfield, and, over 30 years ago, it was where I finished my first race.

On this day I'd line up with my regular teammate and friend, SOC, just like last year. However we would be joining a trio of leg breaking strongmen - Dave, Todd, and Stan. Dave typically attacks until he drops, doing fun stuff until his legs go. He's managed to win races doing this so it's not like he just blows himself up, sometimes his efforts take him to the line first. Dave is a Cat 2 so normally we don't race together.

Todd is another confirmed legbreaker, with some very good rides to his credit. He's mainly a 'cross racer, and a Masters National Champ at that, so in crits he does them "just for training". He's either a Cat 1 or Cat 2 so, again, normally we don't race together.

If only I could go so well "in training".

Stan would be our wild card. A superbly aggressive racer, Stan has won sprints but prefers to get into breaks. He won the Plainville Cat 3-4 Series this spring and has been on a roll this year. We've raced a few times but I've been usually off the back so, yeah, whatever.

With teammates like these SOC and I would be (happily) relegated to domestique duty.

Before the races, during our warm up, we got together a few times. For me, as someone with 10 minutes expectation in my head, I didn't mind what they discussed because I wouldn't be there at the end. The progression of thought made me smile though - you could sense the collective excitement grow as time went on.

First it was the, "Okay, guys, we're just here to race. We don't want to dictate the race. We'll let the other guys attack, we'll follow, and if something works out then it works out."

Five minutes later it changed a bit. "Hey, I think what we'll do is we should be able to get a couple of us off the front. Dave and Todd will be the leaders, Stan will be the wild card, and you and SOC cover."

Then just before the start we got together one more time. "Okay, guys, we're going to try and get Dave, Todd, and Stan in a break. You and SOC cover the field, help get us away. If we miss a move then we need to ride hard to bring it back, steady, not a lap then blow. Got it?"

You can see the progression from "We're just racing" to "Okay we're going to deliver a knockout blow."

We lined up, got our final instructions from the chief ref, and we were off. Crits start either slow or fast and today it was slow. I immediately moved to the front so I could participate in my 10 minutes of racing. Look, if I'm going to get shelled, I at least want to get in an effort or two. So to the front it was, totally unlike my normal tactic when I race for myself.

From left, in red/black Expo kit, Dave, Todd, and Stan.

Dave was most alert of the trio of leaders and he responded to a few digs right away. Todd hung around in the vicinity, following any secondary moves, and Stan sat a few wheels back, watching and waiting. SOC was getting his legs warmed up so he sat back for a bit.

"What just happened?"

Early in the race I moved up the right side just before someone way over on the left did something. The field swerved to their right, toward me. A guy I just passed, in an orange kit, ended up getting something in his front wheel, probably a skewer or a derailleur. His wheel almost totally disintegrated, he somehow managed to roll his bike to the grass.

Against all the "rules" we all looked to see what happened - that's the picture above. Normally if something happens you keep your eyes forward because you don't want to be part of a secondary crash - it's like the rubber necking crash on the other side of the highway from the "actual" crash. In this field though I guess everyone felt comfortable looking.

The consensus after the incident is that the disintegrating-front-wheel guy did an awesome job staying upright. No one else got caught up in the incident and the race went on normally.

Legs are breaking!
Note single file and the gaps. You have to imagine the pain.

About a third of the way into the race our trio started doing some damage to the field. Stan had countered after a flurry of failed attacks. Taking advantage of the field taking a collective breath, he launched on his own. He can do that too, not like me and my one lap escapades.

After a lap or so a couple guys went after him. Then, with the three clear, Dave followed a move then counterattacked when the rider in front eased. Todd had followed other racers so he was in the select group on Dave's wheel. Suddenly seven more riders were going clear.

All of the Expo leaders were in the break.

SOC and I went to the front to cover moves.

Break is to the right of the picture, they've just exited the backside right turn.

SOC was much more active than me. The move that pulled the seven chasers clear really hurt me and I was struggling just to stay on wheels. Once the break got away and the immediate chasers all eased I moved to the front to see if I could help.

Ultimately SOC did much of the marking until the break had a good half lap on us. I marked a move or two but that was it. After that I hid in the field, tried to do one more lap, one more lap, one more lap.

The break is to our left, half a lap up.

The nightmare is that we have three in the break of ten and they work too hard and don't do well. I tried to see what was happening in the break when we passed each other on the two main straights (front and back straight). I felt a bit worried when I kept seeing non-Expo riders riding away from the group, Expo guys chasing hard. The non-Expo guys realized the threat our trio held so they tried to break the group into smaller pieces.

Once the break got half a lap ahead SOC did a one lap pull, to be nice to the others. I don't think it helped make them feel better but one rider did comment that "we're finally in a good rhythm" when SOC did that pull. SOC wasn't about to tell him that his plan from there forward was to sit at the back with me and wait for the finish.

When I heard 7 to go I realized that, okay, I may have a chance at finishing this race. I didn't feel absolutely stressed, no cramps, no weirdness, no emptiness in my legs. A glimmer of hope lit up inside of me.

At 5 to go I thought it a possibility.

At 2 to go I knew I'd make it. Now I had to deal with positioning and all that - the good stuff in a crit.

Shovel, to my right, finds me inside 2 to go.
We're both a few seconds behind the front of the field.

As we came around to the back straight I noticed someone on my right. I looked and looked again - it was Shovel. He rolled up, looked over, caught my eye, and started rolling hard.

I got on his wheel.

Just before we got the bell I chose to go right when the group scattered a bit. Shovel, overlapped to the left, was stuck out there. I felt the right/middle to be a better spot so I went there, and I hoped that Shovel would be back.

Shovel, now with half a lap to go, finds me again.

He didn't disappoint me. He found me in the same spot on the course and this time didn't even bother looking. He rolled by, glanced to make sure I was there, and kept going.

Dead Zone - Shovel starts to go.

When we got into the Dead Zone, the bit of course totally obscured by trees and bushes, he pushed a bit harder, getting into his Cane Creek mass-start legal aero bars.

I followed.

Final two-part bend ahead.
White speck about to go out of view is Kyle, who was away for a couple laps.

I didn't see Kyle at this point - I didn't know anyone was ahead of the field except the break. I did know that I always get nervous, expecting to be swamped, and so I decided I'd jump as early as I dared.

Just as we rounded the first part of the two part final bend I glanced back, saw the left was clear, and jump hard.

My HR was 172 when I jumped - I had no idea it was so high. I prefer jumping at under 165 bpm.

Overgeared, pedals turning in slow motion, I looked up and thought, "Wow, I went waaaaay too early". I looked down, tried to see if anyone was about to blast around me, and saw no one. I looked up again. The finish line didn't look any closer. Down. No one coming around. Up. Jeepers the finish is still so far away. And is that Kyle in front of me?

I eased just before the line because I didn't see anyone sprinting so I thought maybe I was committing a faux pas. I saw Kyle too, looking intently to make sure it was him - Specialized jersey, bike, the white or silver helmet. Yes, it was Kyle. He'd been in the field so he must have made a big move at least a lap ago, maybe two laps or more before the finish.

On our cool down lap Dave rolled by SOC and me. He gave a thumbs up, and Stan later confirmed that Dave had won the race. This made SOC and me smile because, really, that's the way we'd hoped it would work out.

Thumbs up. Yes!

Shovel's leadout got me the field sprint, if you count Kyle as being a chaser off the front for a couple laps. That was enough to get me second, and, 

Here's a view from Mrs SOC:

(Video from SOC)

Ends up I was 12th in the race - 10 rider break, Kyle, then me. SOC, who totally sat up going into the sprint ("nothing to sprint for") finished 44th officially. He grinned when he learned that I got 12th - he'd been a few wheels behind me and he'd killed me in most of the sprints we've done on our own. I think next time he'll be sprinting.

Overall a good day. Going in with zero expectations, hoping to last more than 10 minutes, and winning the field sprint (I'm going to say Kyle was a chase/break rider)... it was all good.

As a bonus I had Strava'ed the race. I saw something about second best time on the final sprint, a segment in Strava. When clicked through to the segment I saw my rank as 4th.


Ends up that last year, in my surprise good-sprint where I had to sprint early and then passed a bunch of the field, was a 12 second sprint, 41.7 mph Strava says. Three riders have done that same sprint in 11 seconds. In this race I did the final sprint in 14 seconds, the second fastest time I've done it.

That was a nice thing to see. Of course now I want to do a 10 second sprint. Haha. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Equipment - Bar Drop Delta

Yesterday I alluded to this idea I wanted to explore further, related to the two different levels of drop on two handlebars on my red bike.

As a reminder I'll show the two bars. First is the Wing bar, the shallow drop one:

FSA Wing bar, shallow drop.
Note the drops are above the tire.

FSA Energy bar, deeper drop.
Note that the drops are about even with the tire.

For the longest time, after seeing pictures of Michele Bartoli at his peak, I wanted to have a shallow drop bar that allowed me to have a very low position even when on the hoods or tops. My rationale went as follows - since glute recruitment correlated directly with how far over I was leaned over, I wanted to lean over more all the time. This way I'd be using my glutes more - I'd be more powerful.

Plus it's more aero so if I was alternating standing and sitting on a fast uphill I could go faster if I was lower.

Bartoli in action with his super low bars.
I understand this was "that era" but the position is what's important here.

I know that I can simply lean over more while using a shallow drop bar, but that stresses my back. It's already messed up so I want to try and keep pressure off of it, and that means having a certain amount of extension with my arms, allowing me to support my upper body without much effort.

When the compact bars first came out I didn't really think of them as a solution to any problem I might have because, frankly, I like more reach and more drop, stuff the compact bars reduce. Then I realized that, hey, this might be the way to get the drops and hoods closer in height, allowing me to realize that Bartoli type hood/top position.

If I used a longer, lower stem I'd be able to put my hand positions in a tighter cluster, less delta in drop from the tops to the drops. This meant I would be closer to my "drops" position the whole time I was on the bike. This in turn would mean I'd have more power due to the fact that my body could recruit those powerful glutes and other muscles all the time, not just when I was in the drops

So I went out and bought an FSA Wing bar, a compact bar with a flattened top bit. More aero, right? I couldn't go wrong.

I also had to buy a longer, lower stem, I returned to shorter 170mm cranks to push my saddle up 5 mm, and I even contemplated changing pedals which had more "stack height". I needed to get higher on the saddle so that my bars would be the appropriate drop down.

The problem was that even with all that the bars were simply too high. The tops were fine but the drops were 2 cm higher up. I felt better on the tops, the hoods were basically the same, but the drops weren't great. They felt worst when I was sprinting out of the saddle. Unfortunately that's the most important thing for me.

The drops had to drop.

This led me to buying some FSA Energy bars. They have the same reach as the Wings but they have more drop, 2 cm worth. This would put me right back where I wanted to be, back to the amount of drop my crit bars had (which, in the old days, wasn't considered much). The only thing was that I had gotten to like the bend of the FSA Wing drops and the Energy drops looked different.

Therefore I avoided making the change, trying to make the Wing bars work.

Finally, last week, I gave up. I tried the Energy bars with their deeper drop. I immediately felt the difference. Although the Wing bars had about the right reach the Energy bars felt just right, like slipping on a pair of well fit jeans.

After two rides on the trainer I decided that the levers were positioned okay on the Energy bars. This meant wrapping the bars and heading out on the road.

To my amazement I trucked along on the deeper drop bars. They felt good, much better than the shallow drop Wing bars. I wasn't sure exactly what it was but obviously it had to do with the extra drop.

When I got back home the Missus asked me what route I rode because I got back too early for my regular loop. I told her I'd done just that, the regular loop. After checking Strava I saw that I set a PR for one section and top three times (for myself) in every other public segment. I'd done my loop faster than I'd ridden it since early 2012 when I started using Strava religiously to track my rides.

The next day I felt unfamiliarly sore, aches in my shoulders, arms, even the backs of my legs. The lower drop position had me recruiting neglected muscles.

I realized that the deeper drops allowed me to recruit more muscles. That implied that I'd be using my "regular" hoods/tops muscles a little less. Spreading the power stresses across more of my body would allow me to use more muscles, allowing me to use different muscle groups as I fatigue.

I have yet to race with the Energy bars but with four races coming up in the next month or so I'll have plenty of chances to test them out. It'll be interesting to see how it goes.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Equipment - FSA Energy Handlebars

Over the last month or two I've been thinking about trying to fix my bar position. I mean, okay, I've been thinking about it since the winter, but I finally got another bar that might work - the FSA Energy handlebar. I was running an FSA Wing, a "compact" bar. It has 12 cm drop and 8 cm reach, instead of the 15 cm drop and 11 cm reach of the crit bend bars.

To try and make up for part of this I got a 2 cm longer stem (14 cm long) which moved the drops out 2 cm and therefore reclaimed 2 of the 3 cm lost. I'd be running 1 cm shorter reach.

I got the stem in a Deda Pista (track). Unfortunately instead of the normal 65 degree angle the Deda came with just a 70 degree angle, a whopping 3 degrees downward angle from horizontal, not the 8 degrees I wanted.

Ultimately the stem got me another half centimeter of drop, netting me a 1.5 cm raise, versus the 2 cm raise before. I knew it affected my sprint negatively but I decided that it would be acceptable. After all, 2013 was the year of no goals, just to ride and race as possible. Sprinting on the drops felt awkward, kind of like doing curls but just the top 25% of the motion. I want to get into the meaty part of the curl, the middle 90 degrees, not the top 45 degrees. The shallow drop bars kept me from really being able to push/pull the bars.

The big benefit to me was that the tops of the bars were 2 cm further out. I really liked that for the JRA type training I do out on the road - tops or drops for me.

Since the higher drops grated on my nerves every time I rode I decided to look for a deeper drop 8 cm reach bar, so a deep drop compact if you will. I saw the FSA Energy fit the bill, so when I could I bought one.

Then I let it sit around for a month or two. Or three even.

The other day, reluctantly getting on the bike for a hot trainer session, I decided that, okay, I'll try the doggone bars. I'd gotten a 73 degree 14 cm 3T stem as well so I bolted the two together, making it a Road/Energy combo, and stuck it in place of the Pista/Compact bar set up. I didn't bother transferring anything over to the new bars - if it didn't seem right I'd just put the complete Pista/Compact cockpit back on the bike.

Road/Energy stem/bar combo, bare.
Note the regular Pista/Compact assembly dangling below it.

Another view which clearly shows how I simply put a different bar/stem on the bike.

I rode the trainer like this. Shifting was awkward at best. Trying to check ride time on the SRM involved moving the dangling bar a bit so I could see the SRM.

A sideways view (left is down), showing the Pista label on the original stem.

I did the trainer ride with the Road/Energy set up, no cables, no tape, and even though the skinny unwrapped bar felt incomplete the overall setup felt better. Shifting the other sets of bars inconvenienced me, of course, but, more significantly, I noticed the 2 cm drop immediately. It felt better, it let me drop down lower while on the drops, and it felt like it ought to work. I even rode with gloves because the bar bars slipped too much. The drops themselves felt weird so after a not-too-intense ride, tired in a sleepy way, I decided to deal with it later.

The next day, when I looked at the bike with a clear mind, I realized that I never properly tightened the handlebar clamp bolts so the bars tilted up when I pedaled while holding the drops. The ends of the bars were pointing comically at the rear hub.

I had ridden a clown bike.

This is why the bars felt so weird on the drops, and in the dimly lit room (it was late at night), a hazy brain, I just didn't see it. I tilted the bars to a more reasonable angle, pointing to just above the rear brake, and sat on the bike. It felt okay so I spent some time moving the cable housing and levers over. I even moved the SRM mount over.

With no tape I did another trainer ride, again with gloves. Unfortunately I bonked on this one so I ended it quickly. Even in the short 35 minutes I realized that the right lever sat just a bit higher than the left and that otherwise the bars were great.

The next day, with the Missus's encouragement, I adjusted that lever just a touch lower in preparation for wrapping the bars. The cable housing seemed just a touch too short, just enough to make me feel slightly uncomfortable. I thought about lengthening the housing, something that you can do with the Nokons, but then I realized that maybe the Pista stem, with its 3 degree downward slope, would help. I quickly switched out the 73 degree 3T road stem for the 70 degree Deda Pista and lo and behold the housing looked okay. Amazing what a few millimeters of drop can do.

A final check of the lever level and the bar angle and I wrapped the bars. I bought some Fizik tape for its grip in the wet, to replace the set on the Compact bars. I'm not keen on how it doesn't really stretch but that's okay. I think I need to get cheaper tape in quantity so I can keep fresh tape on the bars.

I headed out for a proper road ride, complete with out of saddle efforts and such. The deeper drops felt great, familiar, like getting back into the groove again. I tried to remember the different positions, the different efforts, spinning, sliding a bit forward on the saddle, sliding a bit back.

The forward position worked well, tilting the pelvis forward, flattening my back, allowing me to spin. I could hold the bars with little effort, no stress on my arms, no stress on my back, unlike trying to hold a low position with the shallower Compact bars.

Although I focused on the position, on making sure the bars were straight, the angle was good, and the levers were level, I got back home a bit quicker than normal. The Missus queried me on the loop since I was back a bit quicker than expected - I did the loop in a bit under 50 minutes (about 18 mph). That's better than an hour or so, not as good as the 43 or 44 minute lap I did one time (over 20 mph).

The drops felt better, the tops felt the same, and the hoods, for some reason, felt better when I was standing. With a slew of races coming up I'll have some time to see how the bars work for me. I have races scheduled for Tuesday Aug 6, Saturday Aug 10, Sunday Aug 18, Friday Aug 23, and then finally Sunday Sept 22.

I have more thoughts about the deep drop bar (or, really, the "normal drop" bar) but I'll post on that later. For now some pictures on the bike with the Energy handlebars and the Pista stem.

The bike pretty much as I rode it for the first time with the new bars.

Notice there's no bottle? No frame pump? Yeah, I forgot that stuff. Oops. I got on the bike after the first attempt at pulling Junior along in a trailer. That wasn't a great success. It took a while to figure things out though plus we waited through two short rain showers. When we finally got back from our 1 mile outing it was getting late. I basically jumped on the bike and left, sans bottle and pump. I did have my pockets full with my tools and stuff but yeah, brain scattered results there.

Slightly better view of angle of bars.

You can see the the drops are about level with the tire. This is where I'm used to having my drops, there or slightly below.

For comparison here's the Wing bar from an earlier post.
Note how the drops are above the tire? Not good for me.

Normally I cut the last couple inches of the bar off but I didn't have the wherewithall to do that so I just left it as it. Seems awfully long - on a normal top tube length bike I'd worry about hitting it with my knee. I'll cut it down the next time I wrap the bars, with the end of the bar a vertical line down from the back of the tops of the bars.

Slightly different angle of the Energy-based cockpit.

You can see the slight downward angle based on the garage door lines. It's a very slight angle. I'd prefer to have a 3 cm shorter head tube and an 80 degree stem but that's not possible. A downward angle stem is the only real option.

From above. The SRM is missing - I had that on when I rode.

Now to see how the bike works at the next race, either tomorrow at the Rent or Saturday at Rocky Hill.