Sunday, February 27, 2011

Promoting Races - Clearing Snow

"Seeding" the first part of the curb at the bottom of the hill. Wednesday evening.

The first driveway for the mirror building. Lots of snow and ice.

"Seeded" the ice on Wednesday, Sunday it's clear.

"Seeding" the second bit of the curb. Hopefully it looks better Wednesday.

Another view of the "seeded" area. Setting sun...

"Seeding" really refers to me spreading salt (calcium chloride or potassium chloride) around, but it also refers to giving access to more snow to the sun. It has less to do with planting anything.

The worst part. I don't know if this will be clear for Sunday.
The big hunk in the middle needs to go.
My goal is to have to clear just sand, not snow, on Saturday.

(Updated after the fact with pics)

I was going to take a few pictures of sweep techniques and post a nice thing on sweeping, but, frankly, I'm exhausted.

I'll post some pictures later when I upload some shots I took with my phone, but suffice it to say that if we get some warmer weather in the next couple days, much of the snow should be off the course.

I showed up with my car packed to the gills. On my first trip, last Wednesday, I couldn't get the car into reverse the next day - a shovel handle got in the way. But I made it home like that. This time I packed a bit better - I sacrificed some window space for reverse gear.

I even brought my top secret weapon, a propane torch.

I know that a guy burnt a hole in his roof trying to melt snow over the winter, but I figured I was, well, a little smarter than that.

Doesn't matter. Torches work for weeds and lighting things up.

For snow?

They don't work that well.

Okay, yeah, it's really fun to use, and it sounds like a jet plane (really!), snow banks start steaming, frozen leaves dry out and burst into flame, you get some tunneling propane gas (so the snow bank "catches on fire"), and hot sand just drops out of sight as it heats and drills holes in the ice...but since the torch artificially melts really cold stuff, the now-heated water runs down onto more really cold stuff and refreezes.

Basically the torch makes really good ice blocks.

Solid, unyielding, immovable ice blocks.

Since I dragged it to the venue I torched some random snow chunks but felt let down that my secret weapon didn't do much, and in fact caused me some problems.

Tip: Don't drive over snow banks because there may be hidden ice blocks within them.

Back using my trusty metal shovel, a snow shovel (super long handle Garant with a scoop with sides - easier to use and picks up lots of stuff), a metal garden tine rake thing, and 50 pounds of calcium chloride, I got about 20? meters of curb cleared of snow from the curb going around the mirror building at the base of the hill.

Then I got about 5 meters of really big snow cleared from the curb, this just after the mirror building.

I left about 10 meters of gargantuan snow on the curb - that's for Wednesday afternoon. Since this sits at the start of a late sprint, it's critical that this get shoveled.

I didn't "clear" it all, just got it down to pavement and curb (for the most part, ice blocks notwithstanding). I'll let Mother Nature and her nuclear bomb every millisecond heater (aka "The Sun") melt the stuff that I left laying around.

I did manage to review some race numbers at Navone Studios - we'll all be sporting numbers with Outdoor Sports Center's logo, and I hope to have some even nicer touches on the numbers. I can't promise them so I won't mention them, but if you do the P123 race you'll be in the "test group" for our super deluxe numbers.

We'll be inside the studio once again for registration, with a slightly different layout but the same space. It's cool being in there, with the whole bike and studio vibe, with some refinements and such. I'll detail them a bit more later, probably when we set up after the Sweep.

But for now I need to go to sleep.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bethel Spring Series - Sweep Day = March 5, 2011

It's that time of year. I've been flexing my wrists after a tough evening on the course. It's a bit beat up out there, with lots of sand and snow. Although it may rain in the next week, it may snow too.

And the course ain't gonna get better on its own.

So... I need help.

How can you help?

Well, funny that you should ask.

Sweep Day will be Saturday March 5, 2011, at 10 AM. I figure it'll go until 4 PM.

Be prepared for some hard labor. If you ever thought you'd survive the stuff you see on TV, and I'm talking digging ditches, not Paris Roubaix, then Sweep Day is the day you see if you're right.

Bring whatever you can of the following: metal shovels, snow shovels, brooms, leaf blowers, power brooms, gloves, eye protection, ear protection, dust protection. I'll have some of each of them, but I may not be able to cover everyone.

Plus, if you want a $45 respirator mask thing, you gotta bring your own. I have one for me, but I can't afford to buy 20 of them.

Oh, and if you want, you should bring your bike and gear if you want to test ride the course after the sweep. We did this last year and it was a nice refreshing break from the less fun labor earlier.

For good effort work, sweepers get 3 weeks free entry. For more work, more entries (my discretion but you can ask).

1. Clear curbs of snow/sand, esp on the finish hill. Goal: use the course in the race.
2. Fill 19 five gal buckets with sand for signs directing course-side traffic. Goal: use of full road width.
3. Fill more five gal buckets for tent weights. Goal: provide officials with a tent that doesn't blow into the peloton as they ride by.

Method for dealing with sand:
1. Shovel/power-broom/sweep hard caked sand loose. Let sun/air dry it out a bit.
2. Make piles of sand around course; place bucket near each pile.
3. Put sand in buckets; van will be around to collect.
4. Extra sand we have to make disappear, probably into van, trailer, pick up, or similar.

Method for dealing with ice/snow:
1. Break it up, spread it out a bit. Let sun/air do some of the melting, expose dark curb and pavement so it can absorb sun/heat.
2. Put ice melt on snow to accelerate natural process (I'll have a bunch of melt).
3. As sun melts stuff, spread snow around more.
4. Shovel big chunks onto side of road since it'll take weeks to melt them.

1. NO SAND ON LAWNS (this is huge, critical to keep race on). If we have time I actually want to power broom the sand on the lawns into the road, esp near the mirror building as well as up by the start/finish and Turn One.
2. No sand in drains either. We need the drains to work if we have rain.
3. Don't make drivers mad at you or me or any cyclist.
4. Start at the finishline and work backwards (counterclockwise). The first straight is less critical than, say, the bottom of the hill. When we're all fresh we should work on the critical stuff.

So that's that. If you're interested in helping out email me. Go here, click "Contact Event", and put "Sweep Day" in the subject, and let me know you're interested and what kind of gear you can realistically bring.

Yesterday I was contemplating the idea of paying a backhoe guy to do all of this, but I remembered something from way back when. Trust me, the idea of using machines to do all the work is pretty appealing, freeing up a day for me, saving a lot of energy, and doing 90% of the work (there's always a touch up bit you can do with blowers and brooms). But there's more to Sweep Day than just getting the road clear.

Part of the sweep day is to get racers to understand first hand some of the effort it takes to put on a race. It grounds them in a way, makes them part of the racing community. It's not easy work but nothing worthwhile ever is; you gain the benefits the old fashioned way - you earn it. So it's a good thing we have the day.

See you out there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Doping - A Director's Assumptions

I like this article by Jonathan Vaughters. He assumed something. We all know what "assume" means (makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me"). I wish the best of luck to both him and Xavier Tondo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Equipment - Light Wheels vs Aero Wheels

One of my big shocks in 2010 was my experience with heavier aero versus lighter non-aero wheels. Conventional wisdom, pushed hard by aero wheel companies, dictates that aero normally trumps non-aero, even with a relatively significant weight penalty.

Technically speaking aero wheels should offer advantages at all speeds, not just higher ones. This should make up for the low overall weight gain of the "aero" part of the aero wheels. When you consider a whole bike and rider (I'll use myself as an example) weighs in at a good 180 pounds or so, adding or subtracting a pound won't make a huge difference, even on a climb.

However, if you can reduce the amount of energy required to ride a given speed by a small percent, you get that benefit all the time. It's like interest on a savings account - for small balances it's a small benefit but it's measurable.

The question becomes, "Is it worth it?"

So for my savings account, if I make 0.5% interest, I may see a tangible amount of interest, a verifiable one. But if it's $5 a year interest on $1000 balance, or 42 cents a month, is it actually significant?

It may not be if the bank requires me to drive, say, 50 miles or so extra miles a year, which would mean I'd spend that $5 on gas alone.

Likewise, aero wheels, although they offer a tangible benefit, may be like my 0.5% savings account interest. Is it worth it?

Well, now I'm conflicted.

I used to believe in the blanket statement of deep rims all the time. But now... I realized something wasn't right last spring when I started riding on the tall profile, aerodynamic, and relatively heavy Jet6/Jet9 clincher set. I had a harder time making accelerations to match others, and found that although I could cruise once up to speed, my legs got a bit zapped when I did the actual accelerations.

TsunamiTwo with Jets.

After some experimenting with the Jets and the not-as-aero Bastognes, I found an interesting compromise.

TsunamiTwo with the rear Jet9 and a Bastogne front.
The front helped with stability but I got severely shelled on this day.

For "easier" training rides (17-19 mph solo, 20-21 mph group), I find my non-aero clinchers work well, better than the aero ones. I spend so little time at significant speeds (25 mph or higher) that the 1-2 lbs weight penalty to get aero benefits becomes significant.

I tried to compromise by using just the rear aero wheel, but it's still much less responsive on hills and when accelerating (responding to surges). The rear does help on sustained efforts though, especially if I'm already up to speed. This ends up my choice if I'm doing some riding in areas with cross/tailwinds and I think I'll see some sustained speeds (i.e. group ride).

Even for races I'll use the Bastognes because the accelerate much easier. I use a lot of my reserves accelerating hard to counter attacks and just get out of a corner. I used my aero wheels for a few weeks in early 2010 races at the Rent but got totally shelled because the third or fourth super hard acceleration just killed me.

(When I used aero tubulars which are lighter and more aero than my clinchers, I did fine.)

So until you go really fast in a group (25-27 mph avg speed) heavy aero wheels seem to be a disadvantage. A steady state 25 mph to me screams aero wheel. Jumpy races which average 25-27+ mph scream aero tubulars.

The issue here is weight. I'm not contesting the aero bit; it's the weight I don't like. HED builds the Jets as "faired" wheels - there's a whole structure there without the aero fairing, and then they add the aero fairing. I heard something a long time ago about race cars - everything needs to do at least two things. If a part only has one function, you're losing efficiency.

On the Jets the fairing acts only as a fairing. A separate rim acts as a structural member of the wheel. In contrast, HED's Stinger tubular wheels use the fairing as a structure as well as a fairing. This wheelset ends up really light. It's the whole "rim or fairing" thing.

This means there's light at the end of the tunnel- carbon rimmed clinchers which use the fairing as structural members. This includes wheels like the new Zipp 404 carbon clincher or the various Reynolds carbon clinchers.

(And, I hope, some wide rimmed HED carbon clinchers...)

Such rims normally weigh little. They spin up very quickly, allowing you to accelerate with low perceived effort. If you don't use them all the time they'll feel really, really fast when you do use them.

Where to draw the line?

The Jets I have (Jet6/Jet9) weigh about 1970g per pair. They feel like Mack trucks, or, based on my recent travel experiences, like a jet (you see how I did that?). They accelerate slowly but keep accelerating, eventually topping out at pretty high speeds. The front wheel catches more wind than a non-aero wheel, making the set up less than desirable for top speed truck drafting runs (anything over 45 mph).

The Bastognes, which I'd choose for most races over the Jets, weigh about 1550g per pair. That's about 430 grams less than the Jets, or just a touch under a pound difference. That's a lot for just rims. They feel pretty fast when I jump on them and they feel nimble when I'm tossing the bike around. They feel a bit limited in top speed. I should point out that they feel extremely stable in gusty drafting conditions, like following trucks at over 50 mph, but that has to do with the profile, not their weight.

My Stinger6s weigh somewhere south of 1400g per pair, and they feel fast. The tubular tires weigh less than clinchers so the weight savings increases that much more, maybe another 100g per wheel. I haven't drafted a truck on them because I use them almost exclusively for racing, but they're fine for 35 mph chases and leadouts as well as 40 mph sprints.


I think any wheelset under 1600g feels relatively light. Anything over 1800g feels heavy. 2000g, it feels weighted, not just heavy. I think 1800g is about the right limit for aero wheels as far as not compromising the jump.

I really like the Stingers and I'm happy with how they ride and accelerate. Of course I'd want a Stinger9 rear and a Stinger4 front, for more aero and more stability respectively. I'd like to have matching carbon clinchers (they don't exist at this time), weighing in at, I hope, somewhere around 1600g, less if possible.

Combined with the aluminum rimmed Bastognes I'd be happy if that completed my wheel inventory.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Racing - Junior Gear Limits

Ah, Junior gearing.

When I wanted to start racing, I fell under this strange and unknown rule called the "Junior Gear Limit". I knew about gear ratios. Heck, that's how I got into cycling, calculating the gear ratios for various chainring and cog combinations, trying to optimize the setup for 8 usable gears out of a 10 speed setup.

Meaning a 2x5, not a 10 speed hub.

We're talking old school here, with the emphasis on old.

Anyway, when I started racing, the rules stated I would be limited to a 7.47 meter roll out.

Ehhh, what?

My bike could not travel more than 7.47 meters with one pedal stroke while in the bike's biggest gear.

A quick look at the reference charts showed that I could use a 53x15, coincidentally the same gear my friend and first mentor Ken had on his bike. (Of course this would change if the bike had 700x21 tires - 650c and 24" wheels would require different gears... more on that later.)

Problem was finding freewheels that started with a 15T.

Even now, with cassettes, it's kind of hard to find a non 11/12/13 first cog cassette. Now try finding a 15T. Or 17T.

Freewheels come pre-assembled and were usually not customizable, at least not readily. Shops didn't stock extra cogs for the most part so you got what you got. Plus most cogs were different for different positions. You might end up with 3 or 4 17T cogs before you got one that fit the 4th spot on your freewheel. It was a pain.

Fortunately I'd optimized my Dawes Lightning's gearing using what's now known as a compact crank, a 110 mm bolt circle diameter (BCD) crankset, shod with a 48/34 combo of chainrings.

Combined with a 14T freewheel in the back (14-21 or 14-23 freewheels - I had two), this came very close to the 53x15 ratio. In fact a lot of Juniors used a 49x14 big gear, so my 48x14 was appropriate.

I patronized a shop that was managed by a racer, a Junior no less, and he sold me a bike set up with a nice 53/42 crankset running a 15-21 almost-straight-block freewheel. It ran 15-16-17-18-19-21, giving me the very nice 16T and 18T cogs, incredibly useful at 22 and 20 mph cruising speeds.

A true straight block (one tooth increments) would have ended in a 20T for a Junior. For Seniors it'd have been the knee-destroying 12-13-14-15-16-17, a 12-17, a tiny freewheel that allowed you to replace drive side spokes on your wheel without touching a freewheel tool.

That's tiny.

Just to compare to current gearing, the 42x21 bottom gear is the same as a 39x20. I seriously don't know how we got up the hills back then, but we all made it with a 42x21. The "strong" guys would run a 42x19, wimps a 42x23. One of my (Cat 4) teammates did Mount Washington and begrudgingly fitted a 42x28 "bail out" gear, doing all but the last few hundred meters in a 42x24 ratio because that was his "super low" gear. He ended up using the bailout gear at the steep section at the top and disappointed himself doing it.

Nowadays that'd be considered pretty dumb.

I run a 39x25 by default, bumping it down to a 39x23 for crits. With 10 cogs in the cassette, I can run a pretty tight set of cogs and still go to a 23T. The 25T big cog forces some jumps but the gear, well, I use it a lot on longer climbs or steeper ones.


Juniors nowadays still have to contend with the Junior gear limit. Why?

A lot of Juniors' parents criticize the gear limit. It forces them to use a ridiculously low top gear. It doesn't let them keep up with the massively geared Senior riders. It limits downhill and top speeds.

But it does something incredible for the long term - it builds an incredibly supple pedal stroke. It teaches the rider pedal form without any drills, without any mindless one foot drills on the trainer, no weird exercises.

You just try and hang on as long as possible. So natural for a 14 year old.

As a non-Junior, it's a little depressing watching Juniors progress. First they show up on a ride, wearing baggy shorts (borrowed from dad, or just baggy because they're still too skinny for anything out there). They get shelled in a heartbeat, making you wait (you can't ditch a 14 year old). They spin tiny gears, ridiculous. You run out of breath just watching them.

Then a year or two later, they're still there when the group hits the hills. And their insanely low weight, oftentimes still in just double digits, allows them to spring away when the road points up.

Who cares if you blast by them on the descent, watching them pedal a tiny gear furiously while you soft pedal you 53x11 by them? It still hurts to have to chase for 5 minutes after the top of the hill.

Then the day comes where they're with you to the end of the ride. They're still struggling with the gear limit in the final bit of the ride, where the pace picks up and perhaps there's a sprint. As you roll down the final few straights you may find yourself on said Junior's wheel. They sit and spin an incredibly high rpm, smooth as silk, months or years of desperate chasing now showing in their form. You know instinctively that when you jump they'll be hard pressed to match you, but you also know that it's only because of the gear.

Mano-a-mano, with appropriate gearing, that silky smooth pedaling Junior will annihilate you time after time.

Every single time.

So for all the critics, I say wait a few years. Life won't pass them by, and the best Juniors, the ones that'll "make it" will make it nonetheless.

In fact, I think Cat 5s should have a gear limit, maybe a 53x14, maybe a 53x15, something easily spun out in a sprint or downhill and less than comfortable in high speed (35 mph) bridge moves. This would go a long way towards teaching proper pedal technique to new riders.

How do you calculate a gear's rollout?

As a Junior this becomes critical since it's illegal to race with a gear that's too big (instant DQ - like the 1983 Junior Crit Nationals where the winner was DQed for running a 53x12 instead of a 53x15 - they awarded Roy Knickman, second by a touch, having rolled his tire in the straight line sprint, the National title) and a huge handicap if the gear is too low.

Remember that rollout is related to your tire size.

Measure the circumference of your current tire. Make sure the bike is normal - tire pumped up, no weight on bike. Then mark where valve is on a floor with a line type pattern like a linoleum or tile floor, roll wheel along line until valve points down again, measure in mm if possible.

ChainringTeeth/CogTeeth*circumference = roll out.

Chainring/Cog gives you the multiplication ratio the actual gear gives you (45x12 to use YMCA's example). A 45x12 is 3.75, i.e. the cog turns 3.75 times for every turn of the chainring (or crankarm).

Remember that usable ratio relies on tire circumference. One very good rider in CT, many years ago, got DQed in the state TT. He won by a couple minutes but he'd fitted an oversize tire on his rear wheel. He (wrongly) assumed that any wheel/tire would work with a 53x15 for the limit, but when he went to rollout his rear wheel consistently failed by probably half a centimeter (or some minor thing like that).

He was duly DQed even though he was running a 53x15 because he ran something like a 28mm tire.

What was frustrating about his experience was that he didn't need that - he was so good that he started carrying a spare tire in the TT because he could have a flat, stop, change it (tubular), keep going, and still finish with a reasonable expectation of winning the TT by a minute or so. He flatted one year and didn't finish, and based on his prior multiple minute winning margin he should have been able to change the flat and still win.

Remember that the gear limit really has to do with your tire's circumference.

The gear thing is simply an easy way to refer to a given gear in a language others understand.

"Dude, what's your biggest gear?"
"7.465 m"
"Well, it's 7.452 if I use that other wheel."
"Huh? What are you smoking?"

Not as confusing:
"Dude, what's your biggest gear?"
"Oh. I'm running a 49x14. Couldn't find a 15T but I had the 49T ring."

Of course if one is running a 28mm tire, that's a different story. But on a training ride, or talking over lunch, or in a team meeting, gears are fine.

At a race you have to remember to think in rollout terms.

If you're a new rider, regardless of age, consider a mental gear limit. Try to limit your use of, say, the 11T. Or 12T. Or 13T. Or 14T. Spin lower gears while sitting in. You'll get sore in different parts of your legs, especially the fronts of your shins (at first).

But this pays off in the long run. It's why the old school training schedules all had 1000 or 1500 miles of 42x18 spinning on flat roads - to teach you how to pedal.

It's why I do some stupid long rides when I only do hour long crits.

It's so I remember how to pedal.

Monday, February 14, 2011

California - Day 15 Homeward Bound

The ride to Palomar must have really taken it out of me because it's been a week since I last did a post. I remember not-too-much of that evening, just going out for some steak (thanks guys!) and hanging out with the kids a bit.

Of course there was the whole "packing my bike" bit. Usually it's a drag for me anyways; it's always easier to unpack a bike than to pack it. I remember stopping a few times, sitting in the garage, looking at the half-done bike, and realizing it's like climbing Palomar - just keep doing it until it's done.

The morning of my trip back seemed much cooler than the day before - it seems I was getting out on a good day. I take the Cloud9 shuttle to and from the airport, and it's always been a good experience. Nice driver, friendly, and they drive reasonably safely. I had my heart in my throat a few times but I think I tend to drive further behind cars than others and I also slow much earlier than they do in SoCal. At home it's kind of a "coast up to the light, braking gently". But in SoCal it's "stay on gas until last possible second and then slam on brakes".

Hm I should sell brake pads in SoCal. Focus on the SUVs with their big mass that require a lot of motion-turning-to-heat-energy stuff, i.e. lots of brake pad material.

Regardless, we took off fine. I didn't have any flight neighbors worth speaking of on the way home, but this ended up a good thing. Instead of jabbering for the whole day, I spent it writing.

Writing, writing, writing.

I wrote stuff for Bethel. I wrote stuff for the clinic. I wrote other stuff. I made notes on who knows what. I'm definitely someone that writes a lot of lists so put in a list or two. I spent the better part of 7 hours writing.

And although I had two laptops with me, I prefer the actual writing part. My handwriting has deteriorated significantly, especially when I write in cursive, but I find writing on paper more versatile than typing on a keyboard. Fine, I should try a tablet or something, but the biggie is that I don't have to turn off my pen and paper when the flight attendant walks by as we taxi down the taxiway.

The flight back was exceptionally uneventful for the most part, with no rough patches over the Rockies, no choppiness descending down into Chicago (for a touch and go landing). In fact the landing in Chicago was so gentle I almost couldn't tell when we became a ground vehicle once again.

But when we started descending out of the cloud cover over Hartford...

Call me old or something. It wasn't as bad as when I was on a 747 going to Tokyo from JFK, where the plane's range (in the plane information leaflet in the seat back pocket) was less than the official flight distance from NYC.

In other words we were running on fumes.

Therefore, no matter what the conditions, when our flight showed up, we didn't circle for an hour, we didn't do a dry run, we just headed straight in for the runway.

In this case we descended into a terrific thunderstorm, with angry grey clouds everywhere, lightning flashes, rain, and all the "end of the world" kind of imagery you can conjure up.

I remember being bounced up hard into the seat belts, the 747's wings fluttering like a bird's wings. I thought it was great, just tons of fun. I grinned and looked out the window and watched the wing flex up and down some insane amount of distance. I even tightened my seat belt so I'd really get a good oomph whenever the plane dipped hard.

I must have been younger and dumber because I didn't appreciate the delicacies of bringing down a 450,000 lbs plane (which is the "sorta empty" weight) from 30- or 40-whatever thousand feet altitude.

Well, we made it fine in Tokyo.

But when we came out of the clouds into the "windy Hartford area", let me tell you, all my chuckling from that flight in Tokyo came back and repaid me in spades. I started thinking of how fast I could text the Missus if the plane started to fall. I thought of wind shear and looked down and tried to calculate if a 500 foot drop would put us into a house or if we'd still be flying.

The plane got pretty quiet, kind of like when a teacher gets mad (well at least when I was a kid) or you're at your friend's house and your friend's dad yells at him. It's one of those whole-lotta-trouble silent.

We bumped our way down lower and lower, the wings bouncing like they were inflatable wings.

That's bad, yes. Worse was the way the plane was yawing pretty hard. That's when it's flying in one direction (like "straight ahead") while pointing in another (like "to the right a bit") - a disadvantage of playing flying games is I learned about yaw. And, specifically, what a lot of yaw does to my own plane when I try and land them - I crash.

It's like doing a jump on a bike, turning the bike so it points to the one o'clock area, then landing. If you don't correct really fast, you're going down.

At least, I told myself, a computer is driving the thing. Computers generally fly the plane when they land. They can fly unflyable planes, planes that require so much instantaneous input and corrections that it would be impossible for even a top gun pilot to keep one aloft. The F-117 is alleged to be one such plane, the stealth design not very good for aerodynamics. But it flies and it flies well. Computers can do wonders.

But a large plane can only respond so quickly to environmental factors. Shove the plane down 500 feet and it doesn't matter how quickly the computer says to pull up, the plane just got shoved 500 feet down.

Anyway I wasn't feeling comfortable at all, and as we felt the plane swoop and dip we were all thinking the same thing: "I hope we land okay."

We did a full lap around Hartford, something I don't remember doing before (although, to be totally frank, I didn't pay as much attention as I did in my heightened-awareness I'm-about-to-die state). Sometimes it felt like the pilot put the brakes on, kind of normal, but then the plane's engines would surge hard and we'd be accelerating again.

The braking bit normally worries me ("Brakes? And we're flying?"), but the accelerations made me worry even more. The braking feeling simply doesn't feel natural, but at 400 mph or whatever, it's normal to slow down to a landing speed closer to 200 mph.

But to surge forward simply to keep air moving over the wings so that we stay in a flying mode?

Yeah, it's not good.

I started thinking about putting my head down in case we hit hard. I made sure my seatbelt was securely fashioned, like the flight attendant always says, and my stuff under the front seat was okay (it had to be - there was nothing there).

We accelerated yet again when I could practically pick out a license plate on the ground, then suddenly there was a road, snow, and then, almost too late, runway.

We hovered over the runway for a couple seconds, somehow stable, then the pilot dropped us hard onto the tarmac.

He put the brakes on a bit, then hit the reverse thrusters like normal, then hit the reverse thrusters for real.

Luggage slammed into the front of the overhead bins.

We all slammed into our seat belts.

The plane slowed. Taxied off the landing area.

I looked over at the guy two seats away from me. He had just turned to look at me.


A girl was a bit more descriptive on the phone.

"I was scared for my life."

You know it's bad when the pilot doesn't say anything. It's really bad when the funny flight attendant, cracking jokes on the intercom during the flight, doesn't say a word. If the experienced fliers were wiping their collective brows...

But I was on the ground so it all ended okay.

I called the Missus as planned then collected my bags. She rolled up as I rolled out with the bags, a carefully choreographed dance with the airport police.

It was cold out, a stiff breeze blowing, but not crazy unbearable. Even though I'd just ridden in mid upper 70s weather, the windy single digit weather seemed... normal.

We headed straight home, she having had a long day, me having had one too. I, of course, relayed my near death experience, probably just like everyone else on the plane.

I got home and pulled out the helmet cam, just the cam bit. I wanted to see how the cats reacted to me after a two week absence. They normally run up and greet me, but after trips they scatter like I'm the boogeyman.

I opened the door. Mike was there, looked at me. He ran.

I was home.

Monday, February 07, 2011

California - Day 14 Palomar!

Today the weatherman said it'd be nice out, 70s around here, mid 60s as high up as Palomar.

Palomar, you say. Really?


Since I've been making the Palomar attempts pretty much since the second trip here, and since I hadn't been able to make even a pretend attempt (where I ride inland), I decided that this was the day.

Other factors helped. I felt fine after yesterday's race, no soreness, no nothing. Goes to show that the legs are fine but that I'm simply not aerobically prepared. Walking downstairs to breakfast didn't hurt like maybe it should have; instead I felt better than usual.

The warmth really helped too. I knew it'd be cooler up on Palomar Mountain, but mid 60s... that's positively balmy.

I felt good, it was warm out... to me that just screams Palomar.

I ate, did a few things real quick (like made reservations for the shuttle to drive me to the airport, did some dishes, ate more, prepped the bike, showered), then got ready. I decided on the CamelBak backpack thing, and gathered things based around that concept. I set out, a bit later than I'd hoped. 10 AM, not the 9 or 9:30 I initially envisioned.

After about an hour I realized that I'd be hard pressed to average 15 mph, especially with the climbing, and I did the math in my head. Two hours to get to the base. Two hours to climb. 30 minutes to descend. Two hours to get home.

That put me home at 4:30 PM.

But after the first hour I'd stopped for a few things, putting me behind schedule. I stopped at the little convenience store at the bottom of the climb, then again at the top.

I figured I'd be getting back to home base at 5:15 PM, maybe 5:30 PM.

A long day.

One with a pretty tight deadline. Since the sun sets around 5:30 PM, it would get really cold really fast, and it'd be dark around then too.

I was glad I packed leg and arm warmers. I also had a long sleeve jersey, and wore a short sleeve jersey, a vest, and my shorts.

The trip's first leg involves a lot of long, flat roads out to Escondido. In such mindless settings I start thinking about things, and one thing I thought of was that I've missed the Missus. We talk each day but it's different when we're a few thousand miles apart.

I got through Escondido okay (I used Ash Street to cross over to Valley Center whatever it's called). Once on Valley the phone rang. Normally I don't answer because I get a lot of spam calls, but this time I dug the phone out of my pocket.

The Missus.

I called her back because, you know, I had just been thinking about her.

Ends up she was thinking of me.

(You can all say it. "Awwww.")

We said our "I miss you" stuff and I repacked my pockets and got on with the program, hitting the Lake Wohlford climb. It's narrow so I kept my rhythm high and steady, trying to reduce the time I spend in the danger zone. My legs protested vociferously; I started to worry about the 2 hour effort for Palomar proper.

Once done with the climb I headed down to Rincon.

I have to do a kind of big descent here, one I really don't like. No real turns, gusty wind, and not much room for error. I hung on for dear life, thinking morbid things like, "Hm, did I really make sure the front wheel was on tightly?", or, "Is my stem tight?", or, "I hope the bars don't get loose."

Descent down to Harrahs, near the base of the climb.

The morbid scenarios never manifested themselves and I made it to the store at the base of the climb. There I bought a small Gatorade, ate a few mini Balance bars, and headed out.

I have to admit that I never felt good on the climb. I struggled the whole way, wondering if I'd have to turn around somewhere. My legs never really faltered, even if the power dropped from about 200 sustained watts to something like 160 watts.

I did get distracted by what I think was a coyote. A small dog like animal with big ears and a fox-like bushy tail. It'd just caught something and was looking at me in a way that reminded me of our cat Mike, proud of its catch and some comfort and familiarity in its environment. I tried to tape it but you can't see it at all.

I surprised myself by getting up the first bit of climbing kind of quickly. A short flat section gave me a reprieve, then I saw this sign:

The left is the beginning of the actual climb.

This is where the real climb starts, and it takes me a good 90 minutes to climb the thing. It gets steeper and the real switchbacks begin.

See that road down there? I was just down there.

Beautiful day, nice view.

Palomar is one of those zen like climbs for me. I have to always keep the climbing in mind because it's hard. But I also find myself thinking of all sorts of various things.

Right now I'm having a hard time recalling what I was thinking so I'll have to try and remember when I'm a bit less tired. I do remember it was pretty warm, enough so that I pocketed my gloves and rode much of the climb with my base short sleeve jersey halfway unzipped. The vest stayed on but unzipped, the flapping tails designed to catch a motorist's eye.

More view.
Notice the red circle.

I did note the red spray painted circle. It's a cracked bit of pavement with a lot of plant growth in it. I'm guessing they need to patch it and get rid of the plant.

The Palomar Net.

This is one of my landmarks, a goal. I think of it as a net, except this one is made with steel. You can see where it's sagging a bit to the right - some rocks slid into the net, taking out the lighter chainlink stuff, with only the big ring things holding it in place.

At a few points I'd run into a swarm of gnats. I knew I wasn't going fast when they'd fly with me for a while.

I also discovered my CamelBak broke. I'd try and get water out of it but none would flow. This really bummed me out because I had no bottle cages on the bike and I'd have to figure out a way to carry fluids.

Finally, very close to my self-appointed deadline of 2:30 PM, I saw this sign.

5000 feet. Almost there.

In fact, if you look at that picture, the light colored rock way up there in the back (the road points to it) sits just before the top, maybe a hundred or two hundred meters short of the intersection up there. A white truck just started down the road; it reached me pretty quickly but it took me a bit of time to get to where it started.

General store in front of white pickup on left.
Little shack on right is the post office.
White building inbetween are bathrooms.

The top of Palomar isn't that busy. I mailed a card to the Missus at the post office, then headed to the general store. There I bought a large Gatorade and a bottle of water. I also ate three more mini Balance Bars, which, luckily for me, led me to discover that the CamelBak hadn't broken, it just ran out of water. I loaded the CamelBak with water, polished off the Gatorade, put on the LS jersey, and headed back down.

The rest of the ride is kind of a blur. I never felt terrible and actually started feeling better and better as I got closer to home base.

The run back from Escondido went really well - I kept finding myself able to surge, to make efforts. I ground out a big gear on the last climb back to home base, then actually did an out-of-the-saddle jump just before I turned onto our road.

When I rolled into the garage, I checked my watch.

5:15 PM.


I headed inside, ate and drank a bit.

Then, because it was my last night here, we went out for dinner.

I'm exhausted but I'm packed, except for the computer stuff, and have to be ready to go at 8 AM in the morning.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Racing - Red Trolley Crit 2011

Today was the 2011 Red Trolley Criterium. It's the one I did last year (helmet cam too), had a blast, sat up in the last lap, but overall it was pretty fun.

Of course last year I could enter the Cat 3 race. This year I had two choices - the M35+ (Cat 1-4) or the P12 race.

I saw that some known entities had registered for the P12 race, meaning racers whose name I recognize from reading CyclingNews and VeloNews.

I didn't recognize any names in the M35+ (sorry guys) so my chicken self decided that I'd be doing the M35+.

I've been feeling under the weather for most of my trip here, only perking up on one day, but otherwise suffering through a stuffy and clogged head and lungs. On my rides I felt like I was breathing through a tube, or even through (trying anyway) a cork. As recently as Wednesday I felt horrible, totally capped, like I had a restrictor plate on my already limited lungs.

I started to feel a bit better a couple days ago, finally able to take a deep breath without wincing from a sensation of someone punching me in the gut. Combined with a clearing head, less phlegm in the morning, and I decided that I'd be a good 20% better Sunday compared to Wednesday.

This meant that I had a chance in the race.

My conservative self gave me five laps in the race, maybe ten, if things worked out my way. I had zero expectations, nothing whatsoever.

I had actually considered not going, an extremely slight chance, but I had to commit when an intraweb racer person umd asked if he could borrow my ContourHD for the Cat 3 race. He'd made a 3 or 4 hour drive down to the weekend of races but had left his trusty camera recharging on his computer.

With that I had to go.

I don't have a routine here in SoCal for going to a race. I also had a new bike that needed some mods for race day. I wanted to run the Bastognes with the Krylion tires and an 11-25 cassette. Since the rear Bastogne sat there with a tired Bontrager tire and a 12-25 cassette, I had some work to do.

It took longer than it should have to swap the tire, and I used a new tube in the rear. I had just used a long valve tube in the front tire so I swapped that tube out too. Then I swapped the cassettes between the two wheels.

After I got the wheels on the bike and removed the seat bag, I looked at the bottle cages. I knew I'd be using the RaceBak jersey for fluids so I didn't need the cages. I'd carry a bottle to drink from during my warm-up, ditching it with my hosts before the start (along with the nice but heavy watch the Missus gave me for Christmas).

I didn't need the cages. I had to make a decision. Run with them? Or commit and run without them?

I committed. I removed the bottle cages.

I have no routine for packing up two kids' bikes, two other bikes, plus assorted gear for all of the above. It took a while to get going but we made it to the race with two (!) fully loaded cars packed with all the gear.

I don't even know where to start if I have to pack two cars.

I caught up with umd (or rather, he pulled up to the car) just a few minutes before the start of his race. He quickly zip-tied the ContourHD to his stem, trimmed the zipties with another intraweb racer's knife (agoodale, or was it his teammate crash?), and handed me a bag.

His iPhone and some other stuff.

The daughter asked her mom why he gave me that stuff and she replied that it was kind of a trade, to say that he'd be giving my camera back to me.



I didn't really know him from anyone else, and if he just disappeared with my camera...

What's funny is that based on my interaction with him, I never even considered the possibility he'd abscond with the camera.

Nonetheless I had his iPhone and stuff. It actually made me feel uncomfortable having his stuff in my possession.

I went to register. A familiar looking guy stood in line in front of me. I kind of peeked around him to look at his face.

I think he used to race for Jelly Belly, when they had red jerseys and shorts. I think he was the US National Pro Champion when he raced for Chevy LA Sheriffs, the best placed US rider in Philly. I think he won the gold medal for the pursuit in the 1984 Olympics.

Number 735 looked familiar.

The registration guy looked at him.

"How can I help you?"
"I'd like to register for the 35+ race. I just did the 45+."

Oh lordy. It was Steve Hegg. He killed it in the 1984 pursuits. I read somewhere that when the USCF (predecessors to USA Cycling) studied how to optimize his pedal stroke, they found that when he started his pursuits he lifted the front wheel off the track for the first one and a half pedal revolutions.

This guy has a motor beyond belief. And he was in my race.

Properly subdued, I registered, grabbed a lot of pins (thanks - I forgot mine), and headed back to the cars to change. I struggled into the RaceBak (it's properly snug), kitted up with the jersey over it, and got ready to ride.

After umd's race (I was changing as it finished and getting ready so I didn't know how he did), I rolled up to where he had parked. I saw a rider with a similar kit, bathed in sweat.

"You looking for umd?"
"Yeah I have his phone. Can you take it for him?"

I was giving up his collateral but I felt comfortable doing that. Plus I didn't want to damage anything and I felt better if his teammate had it, not me.

Ends up the guy accepting the phone reads the blog so that was cool.

I forgot when I got the camera back but I did. Umd and I rolled around a bit, then found a nice deserted bit of road, a slight downhill followed by a slight uphill. We turned around at the top of the grade and repeated the loop.

After a couple of them, and with maybe 7 or 8 minutes before our race start, umd looked at me a bit hesitantly.

"Um, do you just roll around before races or do you do any efforts?"
"I think I'll do an effort today, maybe on the next loop."

I didn't want to say that most of my warm ups involve riding to the start and that's about it. This one was better than most, and reminded me of warming up a bit with SOC. A little more riding, a little less of nothing.

Of course there was this other thing, the whole internet thing.

There's that dichotomy between internet and reality. Things aren't always as they seem on the internet. I try and be accurate online but an honest mistake is an honest mistake. I also take some artistic liberties with conversations and such because I don't record every second of my life.

And there's the bike racing thing. There's internet strength and real life strength. That guy with the 900 horsepower lawnmower has, when you finally meet him, a regular Snapper.

And the guy that can rip legs off of other racers on the web? He's barely able to balance on a bike.

This, then, was kind of a test. Is my online persona real? Or is it just an elaborate fake?

Based on Wednesday's abysmal failure of a ride, I couldn't blame anyone for thinking that the person typing here was blowing smoke up... well you know. Jan, for one, must have had some doubts about this internet gorilla guy.

So I felt a bit of pressure to do a decent jump.

Luckily I felt okay. My legs felt okay, and, more importantly, my lungs felt normal. My bike, stripped of all non-essentials, tipped the scales at a touch over 18 pounds, a full 6 pounds less than its training weight a week ago.

I had no excuses.

Umd looked at me.

"Give me a warning and I'll try and stay with you."

He thought about it for a second.

"Or don't give me a warning, just go. I'll try and stay with you anyway. Whatever you want, it's okay by me."

I felt a bit ridiculous doing the "3, 2, 1, go" thing so I just transmitted my intent using the Force. Oh, wait, that's the son's effect on me, our 4 hour Star Wars marathon last night. I meant to say "body language".

So as umd said something, I slowly tuned him out. Regrasped the bars. Did one of those shoulder hunch breath intake. Checked my gears.

If I wasn't transmitting my intent, I don't know what else I could have done.

Then I jumped.

Not a bad one, I have to admit. I didn't want to leave my legs behind in the warm up but I also know that doing jumps with SOC really helped my races towards the end of the 2010 season.

I shifted once, when I jumped, and once again as I started to falter. I looked down as I slowed, and the SRM showed only three digits, 900 or so watts. Eh, okay. Nothing major. But good enough.

Well, it ought to have been enough, based on the numbers I saw when I downloaded the SRM data.

Just under 1100 watts for 15 seconds. 1323 watts peak.

Yikes. Okay, it wasn't a record or anything. I did a few 1400+ watt jumps before Harlem one year. But this was pretty good for me.

In fact, if I knew what I just did, I'd have been a bit worried that I left my legs behind on the warm up.

But I didn't, figured I probably hit 1100 or so peak, averaged 900, so it was all good. Umd grinned when he caught up with me. I guess my internet strength made some sense.

I lined up on the left, not really concerned with much. I was here for five laps, and if the race shelled me after five laps, I didn't want to embarrass myself by snagging a prime spot up front.

The race started out... normally. In fact, until they hit the lap cards, it seemed a lot like a Cat 3 race. I did find myself trickling backwards through the field, but that was normal for me. I wasn't sure if I could make it back to the front before the end of the race, but sitting at the back felt manageable.

I didn't realize until after the race that I was hitting 800 watts or higher on virtually every lap. Even as I got "tired" I was deep into the 700 watt range. The repeated peaks got lower and lower, indicating my pretty bad fatigue curve.

Fatigue curve evident.
Hint: I'm the one looking down.

I only had two stutters in the race. The first happened when I mistakenly thought the front would accelerate harder out of the last turn, heading up the hill. I had to brake then work hard to stay on wheels. Although this put me in the red, I thought I could recover from it. I went from a "more to the front" position to a "more to the rear" position, but otherwise I felt okay.

The second happened when someone probably panicked midfield, practically coming to a stop in the last turn. One good rider (someone pointed him out to me as a guy to watch) yelled at the braking racer, but it was too late. We all had to slam on our brakes to avoid the chaos midfield, and I started the hill overgeared and lacking any momentum.

I'm pretty sure this is the lap I broke 1000 watts accelerating up the hill, but it didn't matter. I went into the red and started to dangle precariously at the back of the field.

The officials let us know it was 6 to go, and suddenly the race changed. It seemed more like a P12 race, not a Cat 3 race. The field strung out, gaps started to open, and all my energy saving tricks went out the door - I couldn't coast into every turn, I had to close gaps right away, and, well, I couldn't do everything I needed to do. That top end, that edge, I lacked it. I couldn't rev it over and over; I had to save a bit before I revved it again, but the race didn't allow me that luxury.

I rolled by the host family just as I let go of the wheel in front of me, a ten foot gap that promised to become 1000 in just a few minutes.

I heard the kids yelling for me, cheering me on. I realized that I had the most consistent cheers of anyone here, from them and some others (probably those internet friends).

I couldn't let them down. I dug deep, closed the gap, and the pack happened to sit up just a touch.

A couple laps later the field, strung out already, went even faster.

My legs were done.

I eased, letting the field ride away. But they didn't disappear, static just 50 or 75 meters in front of me, and I thought, hey, maybe I can do the last few laps on my own. I'm normally not one for time trialing while off the back but with the family there cheering, the opportunity to train on a closed course...

A training opportunity, just before I dropped down into the Cane Creek Bars.

I put my head down. I used the Cane Creek Speed Bars on the main straight.

I exploded less than a minute later.

So much for any extra time trial training.

I called it a day and rolled up the sidewalk to the disappointed and worried kids. We watched the finish of the race together, the break barely surviving, Hegg trailing it coming up to the line. I guess he'd made a huge bridge move and must have cooked his legs doing it.

After the race I caught up with umd and met and talked with esammuli a bit. It's kind of an alternative reality, one that appears and disappears. It's like your seat neighbor on the plane. In the plane, in that isolated environment, it's a different world. Then when you land and walk away, the world reverts back to normal.

Likewise I found it odd to be talking to umd, but at the same time it seemed perfectly natural. I also won't see him for a while. Maybe I'll see him at some international race or at Interbike, but the reality is that I may not see him again for a year or three.

He does have connections back east, the town over from my dad's in fact, so it may not be quite so long. But you understand what I'm saying.

After a stop at In-N-Out Burger, a classic California burger joint, we headed back home. I told my host that I wanted to take a picture of my bike. Yes, it was stripped down. Yes, it had the Bastognes on it.

But until today it was a road bike.

Now it was a race bike.

Race bike, yo.
Photo by my host.

Tomorrow will be the last day on the bike, followed by packing for the flight home on Tuesday. The SoCal 2011 story is drawing to a close...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

California - Day 12 Off Day Podcast and Tubes

Today I stayed off the bike for no real reason, just general fatigue. I fell asleep in the middle of the morning, then drifted off again in the afternoon, and basically felt kind of blah the whole day.

The most interesting thing happened early in the day, at least as far as local time goes. I got to be on the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast (number 60). I am not a regular on it, nor am I normally on podcasts at all, so it was a bit comical because I was so new to it all.

I was bad enough that they had to restart the whole thing (thankfully it wasn't being broadcast live) and let my friend introduce me instead of letting me talk about me.

When I tried to introduce myself it went kind of like this:
"Um. I. Um. So. Uh."

I really had only two "speaking parts" that I remember. It's tough working out the etiquette on a delayed-sound group chat on Skype and if I'm ever on again I'll have to keep some of those lessons in mind.

The various participants, all pretty interesting and opinionated folk, struck me as being very polite. Most opinionated folk will talk over anyone and everyone to get their ideas out, but this group, they listened too.

It was kind of like an ideal debate, with all parties listening and talking.

The big surprise was that Floyd Landis joined on the call. I, of course, had just stated that I thought he'd doped in 2006, but that he wasn't the only one, and therefore it was a "fair" race. I also pointed out at some point that he had tested for a substance he hadn't been taking, which seemed wrong.

So on that note Floyd dialed in. Great.

On top of all that I had to introduce myself to Floyd. That was kind of a repeat of my ghastly introduction that had to be cut. I can't think of a reason why he'd remember anything I said other than all the ums and ahs I used.

I wish I mentioned (but didn't) that I thought he was innocent of doping on a technicality. He tested positive for something he wasn't taking, and he never tested positive for stuff he took (and for which they tested him).

I didn't mention (and wished I did) that I have friends who believed in him. Who I think still believe in him, at least as a person, if not in his doping purity.

Anyway it was really interesting and fun. It's kind of like the talks that we used to have at the bike shop, or sitting around after a race, or whenever you get together with other like-minded folk and talk about bikes and racing and doping and stuff.

Exhausted after this very stressful (due to newness, not negativity) experience, I took a spontaneous nap at, oh, like 10 AM.

We went on a little shopping trip and I got to get some more food supplies (which I'm eating as I type), looked for some stuff for the daughter's dance tonight (found them), and bought six (6!) tubes for my bike.

Since I didn't do much today, and I have pretty strong feelings about tubes, I'll put down what I put in a forum post just now (cleaned up a touch for clarity).

I'm ruthless when it comes to patches. If a rider has a flat, installs a patched tube, and the patch fails, I'm merciless. If they're a very good friend then I'll wait while I tell them never to ride with me with patched tubes. If they're not a good friend then I relentlessly hammer into them their total and absolute inconsideration for their fellow riders.

I've yet to leave a rider behind, but they inevitably only have one spare tube (the one that just failed because they tried to save a few bucks by patching it), daylight's running out, and I know how to change a tube quickly and efficiently, much more so than the rider in question, because I've changed hundreds if not thousands of flats in the 15 years I worked in a bike shop. It's much better for me to change the tube in a couple minutes and rag on them all the way back to the end of the ride while they ride MY tube that I installed on their wheel than watching them struggling for 10 minutes to install the (my) new tube wrong and puncture it before they get back on the bike.

I have been on a ride where a rider actually tried to patch a tube on the side of the road after a flat. I told the rider not to be idiotic and gave him a tube.

I also refuse tube payback. You should not return a tube to me. You should give it to the next idiot that insists on using a patched tube that fails on a group ride (since, by definition, any reader of this particular post won't have a patched tube in their saddlebag, there must be another rider on the ride who has a patched tube, therefore it's a group ride).

If you ride a patched tube, do it on your time, not a group's time.

I give my punctured tubes to others.

New tubes sit in the saddlebag, always, and on my wheels. I just bought 6 tubes at full retail at the local (during the aforementioned shopping trip) shop to replace the two I flatted (one I flatted, one I gave to a ride companion that flatted). Now I'm up 4 tubes. This should put me at +40 or +50 something tubes, but I rarely have more than 6 or 8 tubes on hand at one time. Well, except when I buy huge quantities - at one point I bought a box of 50 700c tubes, and I don't think I've used that many tubes in 10 years for anything.

To counter my anti-patch crusade, I very infrequently flat and therefore usually have a few tubes floating around. As I mentioned before, I give most of my tubes away.

Exception to my anti-patch thoughts - low pressure tires, like kid's bikes or wheelbarrows and such. Say 40 psi or lower. Those can be patched.

I guess it's a pet peeve of mine. Heh.

Phew, right?


Tomorrow I'll be going to the Red Trolley Crit. I plan on doing the 35+. When I first thought of my trip out here, before I got sick for 3 weeks, I thought of doing the P12 race. You know, because I can.

Enter it.

But when I started scanning the short list of pre-reg riders, some names popped out at me, names I didn't feel like riding against.

In contrast the M35+ race seemed more realistic. As one of my hosts said succinctly, "I know which one I'd register for."

I'll be meeting up with one or two virtual friends, riders I interact with online.

I don't really feel great, comfort food notwithstanding, so I have very low expectations. I told the daughter here that I expect to do maybe five laps, maybe ten. Not much more than that. I didn't want her to go to the race with high expectations of their annual training camp guest.

She told me that I should do at least 20 laps. And that I don't need to win, I could just finish the race instead.

If only life were that easy. But I am going - I even took money out of an ATM machine to pay for my entry (those that know me know I use ATMs to withdraw money about as often as I used patched tubes in my tires).

I just have to see how long I'll last in the race.

Friday, February 04, 2011

California - Day 11 - Training, Finally

Another day on the trip, another day waking up clearing my throat and coughing up some gross stuff. I promised myself to eat and hydrate, and I had, but in the morning I didn't notice much of a change. I went downstairs and joined everyone for some breakfast, then, after the house cleared out, ate again.

And again.

Salt, meat, carbs. I felt an urge to eat, a deep rooted need really, and so I ate.

I also did some laundry, tried to clear out a sink (it's one of those things I do compulsively), and checked over my bike. I had to tighten the front derailleur mounting bolt, that was the main thing, and double checked some other stuff.

I also played around a bit with the CamelBak. I figured that I should ride with it today, skipping carrying bottles, letting my bike get back down closer to the 19 pound weight rather than the 24 pound full load out mass.

Skipping one bottle the day prior seemed to make a difference, and I used the CamelBak jersey. Today I'd use the standard small CamelBak, the rig I bought to carry my original and bulky helmet cam set up. I decided that I'd use the jersey for races and "important rides"; the backpack thing I'd use for training.

Since this would be a training ride, I opted for the backpack thing.

The backpack doesn't have as refined a feed tube rig, so it took a bit more time to set things up, and I found it harder to take a sip from the tube. It's all relative - the jersey version let you bite the valve and you'd have a mouthful of water. The backpack version you had to encourage the water along.

Nonetheless I felt confident enough to set off with no bottles in my cages. I did bring my standard saddlebag, short a tube from yesterday's flat. But with two 80 mm valve tubes (one in the bag, one in my pocket), I felt prepared.

I grabbed some food too, on top of everything I ate, and set out. I figured I'd head down the PCH again, see if my legs felt any better, and turn around when it seemed appropriate. I hoped for some good legs.

Heading out wasn't bad. I had dressed with just enough clothes for the temperature. If it got colder I'd be in trouble, but for now, in the early afternoon, I would be fine. I felt okay overall, not great, my legs a bit twingy but not dying like they'd be after a Palomar attack. Still, though, I didn't make any big efforts, just warmed up some.

Then, it happened. I crested one of the numerous hills between home base and the ocean. I turned right, started rolling, and then...

I felt it in my left ear first, a weird pressure sensation.

Popping sound.

Suddenly I could hear.

My sinus cleared up!

The right side followed quickly, making my world stereo and clear. I didn't realize until that moment that everything had been muted for the last, oh, week or so.

(I haven't been YELLING have I? If I have, I apologize.)

This kind of changed things. If I was getting better, I could ride harder. I should be able to race. I should be able to train more. I made a few efforts, let my legs carry me up by the airport.

Things worked.

I turned onto the PCH and headed south towards Encinitas. Although I didn't give into temptation and sprint up the hill to the sign, I did make some steady efforts on many of the flat sections leading up to that point.

Of course there were sections where I didn't feel very spunky. One of of them, only a mile or so away from the "town" part of Encinitas, while I was trying to watch the surfers (or were they really tall birds?), two women passed me.

Two women coasting by me.
I ended up following them for a few miles. Hopefully I didn't creep them out.

The climb before the one up Torrey Pines the two women went right. Since the roads are kind of quiet and less busy, I figured it'd be better if I didn't turn right as well (seemed too stalker-like). Therefore I went straight up the kind of gritty climb on the PCH.

Just before Torrey Pines, Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara passed, me, at least their body doubles did.

I swear that if you squint a bit they resemble Schleck and Cancellara.

I rolled behind them (they were disguised as UC San Diego riders) for a bit until they turned right for the steeper climb up to the golf course.

Once again I went straight, opting for the smoother, longer grade. And avoiding following two riders onto a quieter, less traveled road. I wouldn't creep them out but they'd probably feel like, hey, there's this guy following us, let's destroy him.

Then I'd have to either go slow or go fast and I didn't feel like making that decision. I just wanted to go my speed. I worked pretty hard up the hill, never faltering, never getting that "holding my breath" feeling. When I asked my legs to go, they went.

The bike danced beneath me, rid of a few pounds of weight. I felt good, finally, like I could ride a bike again.

At the top I turned around at the first light, and, just as I started heading down the hill, I saw the two UC San Diego riders roll up to the top. I always wondered which route was faster. I guess the steady one is faster since they started about 50 meters in front of me.

I headed back down.

Back in town I took a call from the Missus, then, rolling out again, basically joined a guy riding by at that moment. He had a bag, loose tights, jacket, and some other stuff on, probably doing his commute.

He rolled behind me until we got to a split in the road. I had to go left and sprinted across the road through a gap in traffic, then neatly split the double dots down the middle.

About to split dots in a full sprint at 40-45 mph.
The road splits ahead.

Peeling off to the left I didn't see the commuter follow so I figured he went straight.

Lo and behold, a mile later he passed me, working pretty hard. I followed him, at a short distance, watching him ride. He stayed right, respectfully, in case I wanted to pass. I stayed right too because I wasn't in a passing mood.

Discretely following the commuter.
Cardiff by the Sea sign, again.

Eventually, though, I realized that I'd reached a state where I could roll some big gears. I had to go, to let my legs free. On the surfer parking bit I rode up next to the commuter, told him, "Nice rhythm", and started pushing hard, a 53x17 or so up the gradual climb. Then, as the grade eased, I thumbed the shifter and got into bigger and bigger gears.

This was more like it.

Well, most of more. I didn't feel quite like I have in the past; I felt weaker than not. I had to ease after a bit of effort, but I could recover quickly and get going again.

It felt good to work, and I worked.

Then, at some point, the sun setting, the air chilly, my legs just stopped.

I'd hit the wall.

Struggling, I had a hard time just turning over the pedals, and I started to worry about getting back before dark. The TsunamiTwo has about 3 cm of post showing; I could either wrap the lower seatbag strap around it or put on a tail light.

I'd opted for the seat bag.

Adrenaline always motivates, and when it's getting dark the adrenaline flows readily. I pushed here and there, trying to keep a reasonable speed, but my legs faltered badly.

Then, standing on a climb, admiring the 3T fork (yes I really was admiring my fork), I noticed the rim and tire beneath the fork looked wrong.

The tire looked too wide.

In fact if felt really squishy, almost like it was...


I actually swore out loud. I was running out of time, started getting really chilly, and now, this. I did roll up to a sunny area before I started changing the flat, cars zipping by me at a good clip.

After taking out the tube, checking it for holes, and then finding the matching spot in the tire, I found and dug out a tiny bit of glass. I pumped up the new tube (I carried two with an 80 mm valve, in case I had to use it on the rear wheel). As I pre-mounted it in the tire, the commuter rode by.

"You okay?"
"Yeah, I got it."

At least he asked.

He was probably thinking, "Dude, next time just chill. You won't hit some pothole and pinch flat your tire."

Note the very long valve on the front wheel.
Also note setting sun shining sideways on tire.

Great fork, huh?

Behind me, where I flatted. When the sun goes down it gets cold here.

I got my bike together after pumping up the tire and set off. Tire felt low but okay, so I decided to take it easy on the descents.

The rest of the ride felt anti-climactic. I rode slowly so that the chilly air felt less chilly. My bare arms didn't feel warm at all, and I thanked my perseverance in finding my shoe oversocks (knit shoe covers).

The hills on the way back let me warm up, but, wow, the downhills, I actually braked on them.


Can you believe that?

I crawled home, just crawled. I rolled into the garage, leaned my bike up against TsunamiOne, retrieved the blank SRM head, and trotted into the warm house. I felt miserable, cold, and hungry.

The wife was there. She smiled and plunked down a container of freshly popped popcorn.

"I was starting to wonder because it's getting dark."
"Yeah, I kind of bonked."
"You do Palomar?"

Shortly after the husband rolled in. He laughed when he saw me - I must have looked miserable, sitting there downing popcorn.

"You do Palomar?"

What's this with Palomar? I guess I must look like hell when I do Palomar.

"No, just Torrey Pines. But I bonked. And flatted."

Yes, I ate a lot tonight.

And no, I'm not doing Palomar tomorrow.

But Sunday, Red Trolley... it looks promising. I have to buy a few tubes (I want to use the Bastognes at Red Trolley and I have no short valve tubes), clean up my bike build mess, but, yeah, Red Trolley. I feel a lot better.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

California - Day 10

This morning my host asked me if I felt like riding up to his office and joining him for a lunch time ride. I briefly debated it until I Googled the route - 45 miles each way if I took an unknown route for the first 15 miles, 46.5 miles if I used roads I knew well.

Either way I'd be looking at unknown roads once out there and a round trip, without a lunchtime ride, of about 90 miles.

I also knew that 45 miles right now would take me most of three hours to cover, and seeing as it was about, oh, 9:30 AM, that would make me...


I debated a bit internally, my throat piping up that it wasn't feeling too great, when I got an offer of a much closer lunch time ride.

I accepted this more realistic offer and headed out.

First I had to adjust my front derailleur - it dumped my chain yesterday so I had to dial back the tune. I had it throwing the chain off the big ring, relying on the chainguard to keep it out of the bottom bracket, but the chain blew right past the guard.

I got it so it doesn't toss the chain quite so far, readjusted the guard, and tightened everything up.

I also had to trouble shoot the SRM wiring harness. When I tossed the chain I lost power and cadence, both picked up from the SRM spider. The mount looked okay but then I remembered that the wiring, a bit battle damaged, needed some finessing to read properly.

Some finessing later I had power once again.

I checked my watch - about seven minutes to go time.

I suited up in my CamelBak jersey thing, the bladder filled (halfway) with water. I had to try this before I raced and this would be as good a time as any.

I quickly learned that the jersey is a concoction of solutions. I kept noticing little things, tabs, grippers, things in weird places. Even the zipper is bizarre - it has a half zip down and another half zip up, with a band of cloth around your lower chest that cannot be violated.

I struggled to get into the jersey (made of a very heavy lycra) but managed okay once I unzipped the lower half zip. I saw some tab sewn into the collar - handy for straightening out said collar. The jersey didn't ride up my back, even though the bladder pulled on it. So that's why that gripper is back there.

My size L vest fit over the whole assemble, camouflaging it a bit. A close observer would see the lump on my back but otherwise... it looked pretty good.

Properly kitted up I checked the time.


I texted "Rolling out" and rolled out.

15 minutes later I rolled up to the parking lot. Joined by two companions we set off for a loop out to the ocean and back.

We climbed up some interesting roads hidden off of the main drags (the ones I ride on) and headed back on one of my main drag roads. A flat interrupted everything briefly, but since I had three (!) tubes, I happily gave one out.

After about 75 minutes of riding (and the 15 minutes it took for me to ride to them), I left the two back at their office and headed out again, a bit hesitant, for another couple hours on the road.

I hesitated because I didn't feel great. I realized my legs loaded up as soon I started to work. It felt like I hadn't been eating enough, or that I had lactic acid just waiting to flood my legs.

I thought about the fact that I hadn't been hydrating much, and that I had to focus on that a bit more.

I also need to dress a bit better. 59 degrees and I had two short sleeve jerseys, a vest, and shorts. I felt a bit chilly when I started, and I kind of blame myself for this. I have limited kit and didn't bring a lot of old kit because I didn't want to wear "expired" kits. But if I had, say, the really nice thick Verge long sleeve jersey, even if it had other colors on it, I could just wear my team long sleeve jersey on top of it. I regret not bringing it.

I also regret not bringing more knickers. Again, not a team kit thing, but a great piece of equipment. I only brought one pair and it's tough to do laundry every day (more because I feel bad using all the resources), so I saved them for things like the Camp Pendleton ride.

Jackets... I don't have a jacket, and my default action of "throw on a jacket and a base layer if it's kind of cold" doesn't work if I don't have a jacket.

My vests are a bit large so they flap around a bit. A lot. I can thank my weight loss for that but it is kind of a pain because, frankly, the pockets in them are totally useless. They're the original kit manufacturer vests and the pockets have some super-secret hideaway feature - when you have gloves on and you have your vest on top of a jersey with stuff in the jersey pockets, the vest pockets simply disappear. I can't get anything into them or out of them.

Makes answering the phone kind of difficult, I have to tell you. Since most of the calls are the spam ones about "have bad credit?" I don't have my hands-free set to auto-answer.

So... I've been making do with some short sleeve jerseys, the vests with invisible pockets, and a single long sleeve jersey. I have a couple long sleeve base layers from about 1992 (literally) and although a bit scraggly, I got them when I was at a lighter weight and so they fit reasonably well.

I made it through the lunchtime ride okay and headed back out for another couple hours of moderate effort punctuated by, hopefully, some spontaneous and inspired riding.

I really wanted some inspired riding.

In many (all?) of the past SoCal trips, I've been on days where I leave it in the 53x14, sit up a bit on the tops, and just hammer away, pounding out a rhythm for an hour or two at a time. On one of my better trips I did that from just north of Torrey Pines all the way back to Carlsbad, my legs responding every time I asked them (however doubtfully) for some power.

On this trip I haven't been able to go more than, oh, a few minutes.

Or less.

I'd start climbing one of the many couple-minute climbs that pepper the landscape, expecting to roll all the way to the top. Instead, halfway up (if I'm lucky), my body sags, the will evaporates, and I struggle in some pitiful gear at some pitiful cadence to the top.

I'd been talking about doing three Palomar attacks, but with these legs... I struggle to do 45 miles in three hours, so to do the 80 miles round trip to the base of the climb (without even doing the climb), well, Palomar seems a hazy and distant vision.

Since I do a kind of seat-of-the-pants training schedule, and my pants have been telling me no Palomar (yet), I've skipped the Palomar thing.

I thought about all this while I rode down and up the PCH. Hydrate. Eat more carbs. Rest more. Stay warm.

At some point in this self-analysis process, I heard voices behind me. They were talking about something, a school or something. I didn't turn and look because, frankly, I lacked the energy to say hi. Well to think about saying hi.

A few minutes later the two rolled by me. Small ring. Casual. Easy.

Two guys spinning along, casually, but faster than me.

They rode away from me.

Then, shortly after they rode by, I heard the wail of a TIE Fighter (can you tell there's a young boy at the host house that loves Star Wars and Clone Wars?).

Not a TIE Fighter.

The TIE Fighter roared by, disguised as a mega dollar Porsche. The sound, though, there was no disguising it. Pure weapon grade Empire stuff.

I could hear the driver accelerate as he hit the beautiful curve exiting off the road, the exit I'd be taking in a few hundred yards. I wished, for a moment, that I could have seen the exit, see the line the driver took, where he braked, where (or if) he shifted.

Alas all I could see was concrete, pavement, and the flora and fauna of the beachside environment. Plus if I watched him I'd want to be able to do the same thing in the same car. And I don't have a car remotely resembling that silver bullet.

So it was a good thing I could only hear it hit the (one) twisty.

I started the long drag back to home base, the relentless shallow climbs sapping my strength, making me dig deep into the reserves I barely had. I had two little treats though, two nuggets to motivate me.

The first was a nice short descent, the second was another nice short descent but followed by a nice little hill. On the first descent I always hope for a truck, especially when I'm riding a bike with a rock solid front end. The TsunamiTwo feels great at speed, absolutely confidence inspiring, and I hoped to do a little test at speed today.

The second descent gives me speed, if the light is green at the bottom, for a fake-leadout sprint up the hill that's just like Bethel's finishing hill. If I feel good it's a great hill.

Of course if I feel bad... it's just another hill. Another body sagging, morale sapping hill.

I turned at the top of the first descent. Behind me I could hear the distinctive shifting of a semi, and sure enough, a yellow tractor trailer rolled by me. He briefly paused at the light, but when it turned green, I punched it.

44 mph, although I swore it was faster. A hard roll then a 1100 watt jump to get in the draft.
Note the skinny bike tire shadow visible to the right.

Initially the truck picked up speed as it headed downhill away from the light, but then the road started to climb slightly and he still gunned it. Finally, getting to his turn, he signaled.

I swung left, made sure I could see his mirrors (so he could see me), and he confidently and fluently moved right and made his turn.

The second treat turned out about as good. I rolled down to the light, red at the time, but just before I got there it turned green. I briefly thought about skipping the jump. My legs felt a bit achy and empty feeling from the effort behind the truck, literally just a half mile prior.

But I really wanted to do a jump, feel the bike working under me, rocking quickly back and forth as I did an Abdujaporov up the hill.

So I did.

I jumped hard, went for about 10 seconds, shifting twice in that time, and suddenly my legs folded.

I sat up, disappointed. Later, when I reviewed the numbers, it wasn't so bad. 1275 watts, give or take, over 1050 watts for the ten seconds I went hard.

I went easy to catch my breath. My heartrate never accelerates when I do a jump like that, and I didn't break 160 bpm. My lungs doeth protest though, and I panted my way up to the next (and second last) light on my route.

I forgot about a couple other jumps I made, one in Encinitas. Actually I just learned the name of that little town area. I asked exactly what town that was and my hosts bemusedly answered that when I see the big sign over the road that says "Encinitas" that I'm in Encinitas.

Apparently I don't look up when I go under that sign. I mean do you read the finish line banner when you sprint for the line?

No, you look at the finish line.

Anyway, I sprinted by the Encinitas sign. 1150-ish watts.

And I sprinted at the end of the lunch ride.

1150-ish watts.

If nothing else I'm consistent.

Now for hydration, good comfort food, and warm sleep. I hope tomorrow I don't have a head full of phlegm and lungs full of phlegm, else I'll be exactly where I was today.

And yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.