Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life - Intravenously

I should preface this post with the disclaimer that I recently received a drug that impairs judgment and other things. I was told, for example, not to make any critical decisions today. I shouldn't drive, shouldn't decide where to invest all my millions, I shouldn't go bombing down a switchback descent.

Okay, I just added the last one.

Anyway in the world of "critical decisions" blog posts rank pretty low so I figured that while I'm not doing much of anything I could write a blog post. Don't worry, there are things relative to cycling in this post.

First, let me point out that I got my guts checked, so to speak. After my mom passed away from colon cancer, after her father passed away from it, there was definitely a family history. So I've been getting checked since 2003. Yes, I was a young'un at the time. And yes they found a (benign) polyp.

My trip this time didn't contain anything super unexpected. Another polyp (I'll find out later its status but at this point the doctor is confident it's benign), a woozy day, stuff like that.

Yesterday was a bit of a pain, of course. The "cleansing". I ended up super fatigued and feeling pretty chilly, two things that happen to me when I don't eat enough and (apparently) when my digestive system gets super stressed.

This morning I woke up early. Incredibly I didn't feel hungry, just overwhelming fatigue. I took the opportunity to weigh myself without any non-essential stuff on my body, the closest to "empty" as I'll ever get.

167.5 lbs.


Not bad but higher than I expected. Whatever, it is what it is. Having hit the first Bethel as 181 pounds the 167.5 was much better. My goal is to get down a bit more. In 2010 I started the season in the 155-158 pound range. To replicate that means ten more pounds.

I watched the Missus change Junior. He had two of his blankets with him and seemed pleasantly cozy on his changing table. He'd gone to sleep an hour earlier than normal yesterday and it seems like it helped.

Junior with bed head and stretching and yawning.

We headed over to the procedure location (not a hospital), the heat blasting and the seat heater on high. After checking in I ended up on a bed, with very nice nurses asking me a battery of questions and clicking and typing stuff into a computer.

During one of the questioning breaks I looked up over my head at my vitals. 107/71 blood pressure. 41-44 bpm resting rate. After talking a bit with the doctor it was 53 bpm, so the 41-44 was when I was really resting. It wasn't as low as the mid-30s I registered during a different exam so I'm not officially super fit.

The anesthesiologist came by and asked me some questions. Apparently they were going to give me propofol, the Michael Jackson drug if you will. I asked if this was less powerful than the drugs I'd been given before. Nope, that's what you got each time.


After changing into nothing - I mean, seriously, who counts a gown that doesn't  close in back, it's like pulling on one of those podium-only leader's jerseys but without doing up the back - a nurse came by to stick an IV in me. She talked about a catheter. My face must have shown some alarm as she explained that it's not that kind of a catheter, this one goes in my arm.

Now, as someone who's fascinated by all the various doping stories and such, such a moment represented the closest I'd get to experiencing anything like what I read about: an IV, a saline bag, and then other stuff injected into the line.

I admit that I'm ultra scared around needles. Okay, not scared, but needles that go into my body, not very good. The nurse had to put the IV in my wrist area because my normally reliable network of puffed up veins had all collapsed due to me chills, lack of food, and sort of dehydration.

I won't say I passed out because I didn't but the nurse kept asking me over and over how I felt, they lowered my head, and a few minutes later she said, "Okay, the color is starting to return to your face." So although I didn't pass out I came really close.

This (typical) reaction to a needle would have been a huge impediment to any hardcore doping.

Then the nurse started a saline drip, to help hydrate my dehydrated self. My wrist got cold, then my forearm. Tyler Hamilton mentions this in his book the Secret Race and so I decided that this would be my lap in a F1 car, my chance to get chilled just like a doping pro.

To save you all the effort you can replicate the sensation by getting in your car when it's about 40 or 50 degrees, getting up to about 30 mph, and sticking your hand and forearm out the window. Count to, oh, let's make it 50. 80 or 100 if you're counting really fast. You get chilled to the bone but the rest of your body is warm enough.

Still, though, to rush through this because you know the WADA vampires are going to be knocking on your hotel door to take your blood and you're trying to get your hematocrit down a couple points so you don't get busted, I can't imagine trying to rush this process. I wonder if WADA testers check the temperature of the subject's arms and legs - getting a "speed bag" of saline solution, to push down the hematocrit, would really chill an already tired/exhausted rider's arm or leg.

A nurse then took my glasses away, just before another nurse wheeled my bed into The Room. I was wholly impressed with her bed driving skills as she navigated a number of turns without loosing the far end of the bed, even drifting a bit as we rounded a wide corner.

When we got into The Room a second nurse, one I hadn't noticed, stepped away from above my head, the other side of the bed. So much for the skillful bed driving.

I think the nurses asked me a bunch of questions to keep me distracted. I had already pointed out that I can't see a thing without my glasses so the nurses joked that now they'd look like soft airbrushed models. I didn't want to tell them they just looked like blobs to me so I didn't.

They asked me if I really was a stay-at-home dad, something the doctor told them when he walked into The Room. I confirmed that and they asked what it was like. I told them it was really great to spend time with our son ("How old is he?" "Nineteen months" "Oh, that's so sweet!"). The nurse handling my IV mentioned her husband makes their daughter lunch. I asked how old the daughter was (remember, everyone was an identity-less blob so I couldn't even guess anyone's ages).

"17 years old."

And he makes her lunch? Maybe I misunderstood the age, I don't know.

I replied that I make Junior breakfast and lunch each day but one thing that really surprised me is that I seem to vacuum every day.

The nurse handling my IV asked me if I was serious. Yes, I was, I vacuum all the time. Then asked me to marry her.

She held my hand even.

How sweet.

Then she started the knock out drug.

My vein burned like mad, like really bad, and the nurse tightened her grip on my hand. Another nurse actually grabbled my feet. I think they thought I was going to try and roll over or something. They said it would ease but, man, it hurt and hurt and hurt.

Then I woke up. A room with more light than The Room. Someone talking to me.

And drifted back to sleep.

And woke up.

The doc came by. He told me he was going to explain things again since I didn't seem very awake the first time.

The Missus was there as well so she got to listen to the instructions which I generally forgot, except that I can't drive, can't make critical decisions, and some other stuff.

We got home and, believe it or not, that's where my memory starts getting fuzzy. I know Junior was asleep when we got here but I don't remember him waking up or how he got downstairs or who changed him. Or if he was even changed.

The Missus was at work so her mom, visiting for a bit, drove Junior and myself to his daycare. Junior has been making huge strides forward there, getting used to his new room (they move up as they get older and gain more skills), eating nicely at the table. He waited for his food, resting his forearms on the table, like the little guy he is. He started picking out food from his lunch container, mozzarella first, ham sandwich for later.

At that point we left, him waving hesitantly goodbye. He knows he'll stay there but he still gets this worried look on his face when I leave him.

Now for some rest, some eating. The Missus will pick up Junior. He'll be running around and happy and pointing at things and telling me it's the ball or deedee (kitty or doggie) or moo (cow) or "pi-" (pig minus the "g") or do a Beavis & Butthead evil chuckle when we put some good food in front of him.

Tomorrow life will return back to normal. I got my IV. I got my slow speed bag. I got my propofol.

And I'm glad I don't have to do that stuff all the time.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Racing - Oct 26, 2013 CCNS Donut Derby

"Racing" is a bit of a misnomer but I'll call it that since, well, we got a number to pin on our kits. For me it was more of a chance to hang out and say hi and such. The Missus came along for the same reason, to hang out with people that she'd met at other races, and Junior, well, getting him out is always a good thing.

The Donut Derby is a fun race meant to raise money for the CCAP. Basically riders do a 3 mile loop, seven laps. You can eat donuts to reduce your time - a donut is worth 3 minutes. The idea is to balance the donuts and the riding so you ride fast and eat lots. Although I wasn't keen on blowing up my diet I figured I'd have at least one donut, and I knew that it'd be hard so I didn't worry much beyond that.

It didn't help that I was really sore because of a kind of ridiculous reason. Thursday I did a total of 16 seconds of high rpm work. Friday I felt pretty sore and it got worse as the day went on. Saturday morning, the day of the Donut Derby, I could barely walk down the stairs.

Because the Donut Derby is more of a fun thing, probably the closest you can get in a road based event to a 'cross race in terms of attitude, I packed my bike as is, meaning with the regular clinchers, no changes to anything.

Since I happened to gather my winter gear for a future post on, well, winter wear, my gear bag was totally stocked.

Crucially I left the gearing intact - 53/44 up front and an 11-23 in the back. I vaguely remembered some talk about a short steep hill, and I pictured a 100m hill at 18%. Easy peasy.

We headed out to the race, the Missus, Junior, and myself. I did make a tactical decision concerning breakfast. Since we'd be heading out around breakfast time I decided to skip breakfast. This would give me more "donut capacity" and give me an excuse to eat more than one. I had half a cup of coffee and then we headed out.

We arrived and it was bitterly cold, 31 degrees F by the car thermometer. In my winter gear photoshoot I did the tights last - apparently I left them sitting next to the gear bag because they weren't in it. I also never located my winter jacket (it's in the Expedition somewhere, in our storage bay) so I didn't have that either.

I looked at my long sleeve jersey - suddenly it seemed much lighter weight than I remembered. Luckily I had two base layers and all my other stuff.

I kitted up - base layer (wicking), base layer (insulating), LS jersey, thermal vest, and wind vest. Bib knickers. Booties. Winter gloves.

I rolled out and it didn't seem bad. I was glad I had knickers, the tights would have been too warm.

Due to some parking logistics I was back at the car, a mile away from the start, at 10:02 AM. The race was supposed to start at 10.

I rode pretty hard to the start and found that I hadn't missed the start.

When I got to the start.

Aidan, leader of CCNS and the driving force behind CCAP, was making some final announcements. Later I learned I missed something about "straws", but more on that later.

We started off and I though, wow, if road races started like this I'd do a lot more of them. We casually pedaled up the minor grade leading away from the start/finish area. I admit I was surprised at how slowly we started off but within a few hundred yards the reason hit me pretty hard - this sucker got steep!

After the ride I told the Missus that it was a really hard hill, maybe a third of a mile long, and it just seemed to go on forever.

At any rate I shifting into a mid-range gear and realized that, okay, I need to shift down. I moved the lever.

Nothing happened.

I looked down.

My "mid-range" gear was my bottom gear, a 44x23. A bit of worry crossed my mind when I remembered that the cassette on my training wheel was just an 11-23, not an 11-25.

I was pushing a chainring bigger than the big ring on my mountain bike.


Everyone quickly dropped me, including a rider that stopped to walk, remounted, and passed me while giving me encouragement.

We dropped down a descent but I couldn't enjoy it much because we got stuck behind a car. I didn't want to pass it so I waited until it went straight and we all went left.

(I should point out that when I looked at my stats later I was fastest when "held up" behind the car, at 45+ mph. Apparently sitting in its slipstream made things seem slow.)

I got back to the start/finish area and felt relieved that it wasn't all packed up and gone. I'd gone so slowly that I half expected to see leaves blowing across the road and not much more.

First lap, the donut stop on the right.

The Missus with Junior in his Carpe Diem Racing blanket.

The immense effort on the hill, combined with my mini time trial to the start, had warmed me up nicely. I didn't feel like giving some of that away by stopping to eat a donut so I rode through the feed zone, waving hi to the Missus and a confused Junior (he puzzles when he sees a lot of cyclists and one of them says hi back to him).

I hit the hill and realized that, wow, this thing was steep.

The dirt part of the hill, complete with skeletal cheering person.

A brave soul or two made the trek partway up the hill to cheer on their riders. They cheered on the others as well, like me.

I was going so slow they could have read the chainring size stamped on the side of the chainring, that's how slow I was moving.

I got pretty hot making this all out effort, trying not to fall over, and I decided that I should get rid of the thermal vest. My arms were fine but my torso started getting hot.

On the next lap I pulled in for a pit stop, opposite the donuts, where the Missus stood with Junior.

The Missus, at the end of lap two, during my pit stop.

After I ditched the vest I watched a couple groups lap me and then I set off again. I struggled mightily up the hill as rider after ride rode by me like I was standing still.

Well, since I was doing all I could not to fall over I wasn't going much faster than "standing still" so that makes sense.

As I went over the top a couple riders went by, including Devil Gear's Jeff W. He's given me help in the past so I decided that I'd try and give him a hand here. After I recovered a touch I pulled through and upped the pace.

Jeff W just before I pulled through.

With no cars in the way, with a couple practice laps, we flew down the descent. He backed off a touch but was immediately back on as the road straightened out. Although he eased as we hit the hard left he went blowing by shortly after. I didn't see him again until he rode by me again.

The Missus moved to the sunny bridge for lap 3.

Slowly I made my way back to the start/finish. The Missus had moved into the sun, and combined with the temps now in the 40s things felt much warmer.

I rolled up to the hill and started my death crawl up the thing.

One of the CCNS guys, Hunter, was taking pictures. I told him I ought to win the Stupid Gear award because I had such a stupid high gear. I mean, okay, Thierry Claveyrolat won the polka dot jersey in the Tour one year pushing something insane like a 46T inner ring, but I'm not Claveyrolat, not by a long shot.

The fact that Hunter and I had this conversation while I rode all of about 20 feet shows just how slowly I was going up the hill. When I looked at Strava my low speed on the hill was in the 2.x mph range.

Hunter and I talk.

I descended alone this time, not going quite as fast. I eased to see if two guys behind me would catch me before the descent really got going but no deal so I went on my own. Just before the last little plunge they blew by me.

Amos blows by me, another in tow.

Although I followed them they rode away from me after the hard left.

No Missus on the next lap - she was changing Junior. Same deal with the hill, death crawl. Over the top a rider in Daisy Dukes caught me and we rode the rest of the lap together.

Daisy Duke and myself roll to the finish.

I had finished five laps of seven at that point and since the Missus was still missing I figured I'd do one more lap. No donuts or anything, I just started going again.

As I started up the hill I got that familiar weak, dizzy, cold sweat feeling - I was bonking. Doing all that work, no breakfast, in the chilly morning... I turned around and rolled back down the hill.

Good time for a donut.

I picked out one, drizzled in caramel and chocolate. A volunteer was kindly sticking a straw in it, I guess to let us pick up donuts without getting dirty. I told her that I didn't need the straw and took the donut.

The Missus showed up with Junior, and although he was in good cheer we really had to leave to get home. As we were getting ready to go one of the Biker's Edge guys, Rob C, showed me a fist full of straws.

"Now that's what I'm talking about!" he said as he rolled by.


Ends up that to get your 3 minutes off per donut you give the straw to the official and they tick off how many 3 minute increments you get credited to your time. So by being polite and saving the volunteer a straw I missed the chance to take 3 minutes off my time.

Aw shucks.

We packed up the car. I struggled so much to do the most simple tasks that the Missus, concerned with my sore legs, offered to drive. I gladly took her up on that offer as even sitting down hurt my legs a lot.

After we got home we had a bunch of things we had to get done. Before we got started I looked at Strava and saw that the "third of a mile hill" was actually closer to 0.7 miles. Not all of it was 2 mph steep but, still, that sort of explained why I felt to absolutely destroyed when I stopped.

I'll have to make it back next year. I'll skip breakfast again but I'll be eating donuts from the beginning. I'll collect straws or whatever they use as markers. I'll put on some lower gear and use some wider tires (more on the tires later). And maybe I'll even get to do the full seven laps.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Training - Spin Ups

With the off-season in full swing (for us non-cyclocross racers anyway, in the northern hemisphere), there's been the normal uptick in the training and fitness questions. With more time to think about the next season and any season disappointments fresh in their minds a lot of riders, including me, have been thinking about ways to do a better season in 2014.

In one of the posts I linked to the track clip, where I do some high rpm spin ups. I linked to it as an illustration of doing high rpm work, basically to explore the limits of possibility.

My intent was to illustrate that a normal, reasonably healthy 18-45 year old male will be able to hit 200 rpm pretty much the first time out, and improve that to 220-240 rpm in short order. Fast pedalers will hit 250-280 rpm, and the really good ones are 300+ rpm.

The inspiration came from an article about Scott Berryman, a US National Team sprinter back in the day. In a small side note the magazine (I think it was Winning) showed him astride a relatively normal looking spin bike and it said something about doing x rpm in y seconds. It worked out to 300 rpm.

One quiet winter day at the shop (back in the day) we all took turns on a Schwinn DX-900 fixed gear exercise bike. We would do max rpm efforts, trying to get the computer to read higher than the others. I managed to get a reading of 286 rpm, in sneakers using the wide loop pedal (not really toe clips).

One rule we had was that we had to stay with the pedals on the spin down - if we ejected out of the pedals we could really bump the peak number, by 20-30 rpms (I think I hit in the high 290s but I don't remember, and my normal high rpm was in the 270s). We felt that ejecting out of the pedals wasn't a true test so we collectively decided we had to ride the pedals back to normal speed.

I really enjoyed the spin ups, enough to go and buy a used DX-900 many years later. I bought and installed some 3 piece BMX cranks, to replace the very inexpensive Ashtabula one piece crank (similar to ones you see on department store kids bikes). The cranks are 175 mm cranks, to replicate my road bike cranks, not 170 mm or 165 mm, which would make it easier to spin fast.

The three piece cranks allowed me to install the SPD-R pedals on the DX-900, pedals that I ended up using on the track as well. Because I can't unclip easily from the SPD-Rs this really forces me to "pedal down" with the bike. There's no bailing out if I need to hit my shoe with my fist to unclip.

I thought that the high rpm work would accentuate any knee alignment problems, and with the then-new idea of video taping fit session on a trainer, I decided that I would do the same thing. I videotaped my knees from a few different angles.

I ended up inserting those spin ups into the track clip.

In that clip I hit a max of 244 rpms, peak, with two efforts netting a lower peak rpm, in the 230s somewhere.

One forum member questioned the accuracy of the numbers, claiming that there's no way I could have hit 240 rpm, 220 rpm, even 200 rpm, saying that I was hitting 180 rpm "if that". He linked to a clip of a national level team sprinter hitting 257 rpm, coasting at the end (i.e. the same as bailing out of a fixed gear).

I assured him that I did hit 240 rpm, peak, and agreed that it was a peak number.

Still he basically called me a liar, saying I got nowhere near 240 rpm, even 220 rpm, and stood by his 180 rpm claim.

I know I can hit close to 180 rpm on rollers, higher than that on the road, and easily hit that before making a big effort on the spin bike. Therefore the idea that this guy not only doubted the number but absolutely dismissed it grated on me. I know that stuff I post can be checked, Googled, researched, and all that, and I don't post anything that I think is inaccurate.

I was thinking of using the spin bike this winter because of my lack of a sprint this year. I was thinking of doing it later, like in November (I did this a bit in 2011), but this inspired me to make the effort a week or two early.

So when Junior was at day care I went downstairs, moved the spin bike to the spot where I normally have the trainer or the rollers. I realized that I could use the phone camera, and I thought of things I would want to see as proof. The things that I'd want to see included the following:

 - single magnet on the cranks, to avoid doubling the rpm reading on the cyclocomputer.
 - wire from cyclocomputer to the crank, so the computer isn't reading off of something else, like a derailleur pulley or something mounted on an electric motor.
 - some real time thing in the background, like a clock with a second hand, a video playing on a TV, or even audio, something hard to fake.
 - actual footage of the cyclocomputer as it reads the various rpms, from low to high, to show that it's reasonably accurate.

The length of the effort would be easy to figure out - the computer updates its display each second, so each rpm number would be a one second number.

I popped a DVD in (a Ghent Wevelgem), the clock with the second hand was broken, and I moved the cyclocomputer to the side of the bars for easy videotaping.

The last bit bothered me. I get pushed when I have a visible goal, like sprinting for a line at a race, sprinting after a truck, or, in this case, sprinting to hit a particular minimum rpm. Moving the computer to the side meant I had no idea what I was doing because I couldn't see the rpm reading.

I was running out of time so I had to hurry things up. I got on my Sidis with the SPD-R cleats, put on a current Expo kit (because I was videotaping this), and got on the bike. It took me a minute or two to figure out that the pickup was a bit out of alignment. I fixed that, made sure the computer read a number, and started soft pedaling.

Since I needed some idea of how many seconds I could hold - I was guessing 5-10 seconds - I put the timer display up on the screen of the TV. I waited for it to reach zero seconds and ripped out an effort.

I had no idea what I did so I was a bit curious. It felt slow, that's for sure, and I was hoping that I wouldn't have to go back and post that, yeah, I hit 198 rpm, not 240 rpm.

On review I'd hit 241 rpm, with other seconds being 238, 234, with 225 rpm straddling them. My effort lasted 7 seconds.

241 rpm, max.

Because it looked sort of dark I decided to bring in another lamp - my bike room is intentionally very low in illumination so I can focus on either the TV or on nothing visual while I'm listening to music.

I did another effort, my legs slightly warmer, and with a huge 45 seconds for my second warm up I lashed out again.

247 rpm, for 3 seconds, preceded by 230 and then followed by 241, 240, 234, and then 222 rpm. This effort lasted 9 seconds.

247 rpm, max.

I knew that if I kept going I might increase it a bit but hitting higher than 244 rpm (the "claimed" max) I decided to stop. I knew that if I did more than a couple efforts my legs would be super sore the next day.

I posted the two pictures and transferred the video to the computer in case the forum poster questions my Photoshop skills or something like that.

My future plans include finding a cheap drop bar and maybe bolting on something (top half of a broken fork?) to hold a normal stem and bar. The bike, as it is now, has the super short stem really close to the saddle. I can't replace it because it's not a standard stem diameter thing, and I'd like to move the bars forward a half foot or so.

Ideally I'd be able to use a threadless stem and one of my old bars - I have a track bar I'll probably never use on the track and I'm sure I could fit it to some stem. If I can get drop bars on the thing that would be awesome.

The other thing I want to do is to get a better saddle set up on the DX-900, a two step thing. First, even in just 3 minutes the saddle was extremely uncomfortable, to the point that it was painful (a Turbo saddle). I'll put one of my other saddles on there.

The second bit on the saddle is that the effective seat tube angle is like 60 degrees. Great if you're plodding along on the original tractor seat type saddle but not great for someone doing max rpm sprints. I need to move the saddle forward some crazy distance, like two or three inches. I haven't done any measuring since, at this point, moving the saddle forward would put my bars in my stomach.

If I can get those things done I'd be using the DX-900 a lot more.

And maybe one day I can hit 286 rpm again.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Equipment - Winter Plans

With the road season over with, at least for me, I started thinking about what I need to do for 2014. I do this each year, sometimes in an organized way ("I want to rebuild my bike and get it 100%"), sometimes in a haphazard and spontaneous way ("I need to reglue the tires that flatted" or "The chain is worn").

This year it's a bit of both.

The haphazard stuff, the stuff I need to do, include the following:

1. Glue rain tires on the Stinger 6s. My last race had some wet turns and the front tire felt really sketchy compared to the rear. I had the same experience when I raced at Limerock, in pouring rain. In both situations I had a rain specific rear tire, the Vittoria Tech tire. The tire features aggressive scallops designed to concentrate the tire's weight onto the road. The tread cavities reduce surface contact and make the tread bit a bit more squirmy so that there is more pressure pushing down on the tread that's in contact with the road. I can't say for sure that the tire will help but I know the rear tire felt fine in the rain and the front tire, an ordinary Vittoria EVO CX or a similar Bontrager, both felt very sketchy.

A couple of each, Techs below, regular EVOs up top.

You can see the scallop tread on the close up.
Note: the 28" nomenclature is the Euro way of saying 700c, so these are 700x23 tires.

With the current quiver of wheels I think that it's safe to say that I'll run the Stinger 7/9 pair most of the time. The 6s will be for rain, pit wheels, stuff like that. Therefore the 7/9s will get EVO CXs, the 6s will get Techs.

2. Replace the battery in my backup SRM crankset. I was using it this year and the battery died. Enough said.

The dead battery spider, upside down or sideways.
I don't know how to rotate pictures once I upload them into Blogger.

3. Overhaul the BB30 stuff on the red bike. I think I need to use some kind of gap fill between the bearings and the shell since that's where it's creaking. If I drip some lube at the bearing/shell area the creaking stops for a bit. I don't know what the long term solution is - blue Loctite? Grease? Antiseize? Drill a lubrication port in the BB shell?

Believe it or not I'm considering the last thing most seriously. Two holes, one on each side, to drip lube into the bearing/frame interface. Maybe one more up higher somewhere, sort of an air pressure inlet (to help force things along).

The holes would also help deal with condensation. The BB shell may be "sealed" but moisture still gets in there.

BB on the red bike.

So that's the immediate "to do" list.

The more planned stuff, the stuff that I'd like to get done, include the following:

1. Set up the bars the same between the two bikes. Right now the red bike, my primary, has FSA Energy deep drop but short reach bars, with a 14 cm 65 degree stem. The black bike, now my backup, has my normal crit bend bar (long reach, deep drop as far as compact bars are concerned) and the appropriate 12 cm stem. I'd like to have the same bars and stem on both bikes.

The only problem is that I'm not sure which bar will work best. I'm not really pleased with the FSA Energy bars - the drops feel weird - but I definitely like the deeper 15 cm drop. Therefore I need a more rounded bar, 15 cm drop, 8 cm reach.

2. Narrower bars. Along with a better bar configuration the alleged 42 cm FSA Energy bars are so wide I feel like I should be steering a motorcycle with them. I want to get 40 cm bars at widest.

3. Possibly move back to the older 10s style Ergo levers. I bought the new Ergo levers for the red bike because I wanted to try the "one click, one shift" thumb shifter. At critical moments I've shifted two gears higher and I wanted to avoid that.

The current set up with the new style Ergo levers.
These are the wide bars and they are not cut down. I'd probably cut the first 3 spirals of tape off.

However I've also found many times where I wanted to shift twice or even three times at once and I couldn't because of the "one click, one shift" thumb shifter. At a late season race I rode the black bike, with the older 10s type levers, to the pits and I really liked the way the shifters felt. This got me thinking that one of my off-season tasks may be to switch the red bike back to the original shifters.

4. Replace saddle on black bike. I am on an SLR saddle on the red bike, and it's been good for 4.5 hour rides. Therefore I've given it my stamp of approval. It's not quite the Titanio but the Titanios I have are literally 15 or even 20 years old, based on the manufacturing date stamped under the shell. I've broken one, the others are damaged, and I'm ready to move to a current saddle design.

Saddle for the black bike (I bought it used). Ti rails, otherwise regular stuff.

The black bike still has my best Titanio on it, one with plastic (not even carbon fiber) rails. I have a Ti railed SLR ready for the black bike. It's a matter of just switching it.

5. Contemplate pedals. I can clip out of the Keo Max pedals pretty easily, almost at will. The Keo Carbons hold my shoe better but are wearing out (hence my purchase of the Keo Max pedals). With Look coming out with a new, higher tension pedal, it may be time to try one of those.

I'm cheating and using this picture again.
Keo Max pedals on this one, using the Carbons for now.

If there's a hack to increase pedal tension on a Keo Max I'm all ears.

The other option is to go with a Shimano pedal - those hold cleats much better than the Looks. I doubt I'll do this as I'd want to get at least two sets of pedals (for my two primary bikes), and I'd rather get 4 sets to include the less used two other bikes.

6. Revive the Jet wheels. I still want to give them a shot and I haven't ridden them in a bit. Maybe things will have changed, I don't know. I want to weigh them (I know the rear was 600g heavier than the Stinger 6, and both share the same hub, virtually the same cassette, and they use the same type of spokes). I want to do some comparison tests, rough ones, to see why I've never finished a race on the Jets where I could not only finish but I could contest the sprint on the Stingers.

The wheels have been laying around the basement, the Jet 6 front since late 2010 (except when I packed them up as spares for trips involving flying the bike somewhere), the Jet 9 since last year some time.

So that's the plan for the winter. I don't have a schedule per se so I should probably get on that, do a "by this time I'll have that done". I know my first big block of training will/may be in later December so that's one of my first deadlines. After that I have no idea.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Life - Hanging Out

(Written the day after the 2013 UCI World Championships)

I'm going to say now that I'm generally coy about stuff I put in the blog, meaning I try not to name full names, I try not to offend readers, and generally speaking I try to be discrete about what I put down here. I figure it's safe if I assume that my readers range from 12 years old to 120 years old and that I need to post stuff appropriate for those ages (and everything in between). I admit that I've posted stuff in the past that wasn't quite to those standards but in the one case that really sticks out I actually edited the post (very unlike me) to remove one offensive word I had used throughout the post.

I mention this because someone asked why I was being coy (his word) about naming a name in posts to the intraweb. I replied that it's because I felt that it'd be more discrete to not name the rider in question rather than have the name pop up on Google here and there. A search engine can't, right now, figure out when something refers to someone sideways. For example if I type "Rui Costa, 2013 World Champion", then this post will get indexed appropriately. If I type "The commercial teammate to the rider that I really don't like that won last Sunday" then Google et al will have a hard time figuring out how to index the sentence.

And yes, I will admit that I am not a fan of the rider that got 3rd on Sunday.

Anyway, I put this disclaimer at the beginning of this post because this post will be full of sideways references.

It all started when a local rider got engaged. To celebrate his impending non-singleness, a mentor and friend sent out an invitation to go for one last ride with him. It'd be an easy ride, 20 miles, not really challenging, one meant for the end of the road season.

I checked with the Missus and our schedules worked out such that I could attend the ride. The time of day - 3 PM (that's important here), the day (Sunday), the week, everything worked out. I sent a note saying that I'd be attending.

Said Sunday dawned and we did the stuff we'd planned on doing in the morning. Junior (a sideways reference since I only call him that in the blog) got us started by waking up at 5:30 or so, and from there it was full gas. As noon approached I started to think about going - I wanted to arrive at about 2:30 PM, hopefully a bit earlier, and I still had to pack the car. The Missus (another sideways reference name) gently nudged my preparation forward and so I packed the car with bike, gear bag, helmet cam, shoes, frame pump, carry-kit, everything.

I also stuck a drawer in there for a trip to IKEA. It ends up that the holes drilled in the drawer sides were off by 5mm so the drawer didn't hold together properly. I hoped to get shorter screw things so that the turn buckle thing would grab properly.

Then, at about 1:30, I was off. Fortunately traffic flowed very smoothly, very quickly. Before I knew it I was at my destination, 2:20 PM. I recognized some of the people, didn't recognize others, saw some bikes, etc. A few people cleared the driveway of their cars but I didn't think much of it. I figured they were making room for others.

I parked, got out, saw the man of the day (sideways reference), said hi. He stood in the open (and nice!) garage bay, had his kit on, and had a wrench in hand, fiddling with his bike. This is exactly what you see just before a ride, riders kitted up and doing their final checks before throwing a leg over the top tube.

Nice garage floor - epoxy coating with non-slip stuff.
This is what I want for our garage.

I went back to the car, changed, grabbed my shoes, helmet, and assorted stuff for my pockets, and returned to the garage. To my surprise the man of the day now had on his street clothes.

"Aren't you riding?" I asked, a bit confused. "The ride's at 3, right?"

He looked at me, bewilderment on his face. Then a smile cracked through as realization hit.

"Dude, we rode at 10!"
"Dude, we rode at 10! Oh, man, you gotta come to the back and show the guys. Come on."

I reluctantly followed. A bunch of guys were on the (nice) patio, hanging out.

"Hey, guess who thought we were riding at 3!"

They all laughed, friendly-like, and told me I should at least sit down and hang out. I excused myself to change and returned and did as they suggested.

First we cleared up the confusion. None of us could figure out how I thought it was 3 when clearly everything had said 10. I dunno. After that we talked about normal things.

We talked about stuff that all regular amateur bike racers talk about. How this season went, how last season was, and what we thought of for next season. We all had lives outside of cycling, significant others, kids, stuff like that.

We talked about the unlikeliness of a recent Grand Tour winner (sideways reference) and how he might have worked the system.

We talked about the US riders that came out, like Tyler and Floyd. We talked about how it seemed another US rider didn't seem quite so "complete" in his confession as them.

The time flew by. I looked around at one point and realized that, yes, this is what I dreamed about for the house in Norwalk. A hang out, music playing in the background (outdoor speakers), a nice area to hang out, a workstand with some tools scattered on the stones next to it.

After some time a few riders showed up. They were mid-ride and wanted to check over some stuff on their bikes. The man of the day and the host, both former bike shop people, sprang up and gave the bikes some pretty serious work. I didn't meander over but at one point I saw bar tape completely undone, levers and calipers getting wrenched on.

Serious business.

An hour or so later, with three bikes checked and approved, the riders got going again.

I'd wanted something like this in Norwalk. The garage and driveway/parking area would have been a great spot to hang out, to wrench on bikes. We'd have power for music, a small air compressor, and the garage had a bench in it already. Food upstairs in the kitchen, lots of hooks and such hanging from the ceiling for tires, rims, and other critical bike stuff.

It'd be the Service Course for our band of riders.

It never happened though. When I had the shop I was too busy and too stressed to worry about anything at home. After the shop the band broke up and we never found a good place to hang out, to chat, to work on bikes. A bit sad but true.

Then, as life took over, the garage space became a car storage space, a this, a that, anything but a bike work area. The basement, too, ended up less than usable. And then we moved away.

Here, at our house now, I didn't really think of such a thing. In the warmer months you can't go outside because of the mosquitoes. The yard is basically off limits because there's poison ivy everywhere there are bushes. Any bike people would be trapped in the garage (no AC, no heat) or have to tramp through the house, down some stairs, and down a narrow hallway to access the current workshop.

Not ideal.

So for me to be at a house where there was music out on the patio, no bugs, workstand, tools, food, kitchen right there, beautiful garage, man cave, a beautiful landscaped back yard, and even two cats... well it was very nice.

One of the two kitties.
Note nice stone work under kitty.

We talked about, appropriately enough, the bike shop world. Within the group of people there was a former race promoter, a former shop owner, a bunch of mechanics, and of course everyone there was a racer at some point in their lives (including the current time).

I had a long chat about the bike shop days. We both reminisced, both about the normal parts of having our businesses as well as the final bits. I realize now just how naive (aka uneducated and inexperienced) I was back then. Having had a couple conversations about the bike shop days in the last few months, I could fill in a bit more of the category "stuff I should have known but didn't".

I didn't know how late it'd gotten until I realized I couldn't see the face of the person talking to me. It'd gotten dark, it was getting chilly, and, well, I'd fallen into that "Bike Time Warp" again. In the shop days we joked about it, how people would come into the shop, enter the Time Warp, and leave hours later than they intended. I'd fallen into the Time Warp, something that's happened only a few times in the last decade. A nice experience then, and, with an understanding Missus at home with Junior, a welcome one also.

With that I set off. After all this I still wanted to go to IKEA to get some shorter metal screw things. I headed out, the nav system telling me where to go, the dash cam recording everything in front of me. (I'd damaged the rear view cam so that was disconnected.) I got to IKEA, the friendly people there tried to help me out, but no dice. Before I left I called the Missus, who by then had put Junior to sleep.

I walked out into the IKEA parking lot, a cool day but very nice out. No bugs. No wind. A quiet lot. I saw our red Golf, a TDi, one that we got shortly after we found out that the Missus was pregnant.

In the old days I had a Golf also, a black (1988) GTI, a car that I enjoyed driving just way too much. I dreamed about getting wider 15" aluminum rims for it because I thought that would look better than the stock somewhat narrow 14" aluminum rims. I dreamed about getting a car that didn't have 90k miles on it. I dreamed about a car where everything worked right. I dreamed about more than 118 horsepower.

I dreamed about a lot of things.

Now I had a car that I'd owned since it had about 50 miles on it. Although it has "only" 140 horsepower (a diesel quirk), it has a massive 236 pound-feet of torque (another diesel quirk). It came with a 6 speed, a nav system, 17" aluminum wheels (my inner 21 year old loved this), all sorts of stuff that I never thought I'd ever own back in the GTI days.

I got in the car (after hitting the key fob, another thing I never thought I'd own) and drove away. Interestingly enough my music selection wasn't very different from 20 years ago. I was playing mostly "alternative" music off my SD card with a good two or three dozen of my brothers' songs as well.

Even a wrong way driver (on the admittedly confusing local road construction stuff a few blocks from IKEA) did little to disrupt my thoughts. I got onto the entrance ramp, trying to hit a nice late apex, and pushed the go pedal down. The turbo spooled up and the car launched itself onto the highway, getting up to speed quicker than the GTI ever could.

I could turn the music up, something I don't do when I'm driving with Junior or even with just the Missus. Tail lights in front of me. Headlights passing to the left. Buildings and such.

The highway stretched ahead into the night.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Training - 2013 in Review

For me it's time to start thinking about next year. I mean, okay, I've been doing that for a year already, but this season is pretty much done. No more racing for me this year. I'm going to start training for next year, deal with some equipment maintenance, possibly hone some equipment choices (minor changes), and think about how to get back some of my lost speed.

I post everything to Strava nowadays. It's easy to access from anywhere, the offer a great "synopsis page", and I can get a quick snapshot of what I've done (and, similarly, what others have done). I still maintain some offline power data in Golden Cheetah and, prior to moving to Macs, I used WKO to store my power data. Strava, though, is the quickest way for me to get an overall view of my riding.

This is my 2013, which I probably should have "ended" at the end of September. Still, though, it's impressive to me.

Snapshot of the Training page from Strava

You can see some trends here. First, January is a high hour month. My hours drop off quickly because I got sick and stayed sick for a while (I'll blame it on Junior picking up colds at day care for a few months). I had no SoCal training camp so no 25-30+ hour week in there.

February I almost didn't ride - 8 hours for the month isn't great for me, and no rides in the second half of the month. I hurt my back, sleeping on a couch while holding Junior who was coughing up so much phlegm I was worried he'd choke. In fact for a while I was convinced he had whooping cough, and even though the doctor said no it was still kind of panicky sometimes, with him choking on phlegm while on his back. Laying on my chest helped so therefore that's what I did.

March and April I don't ride much - I basically race Bethel, do an easy ride here and there, and that's it. Bethel consumes my off-bike time, stresses me out, and basically forces me to do a very light two months of riding. This year I went into March weighing 181 pounds, a lot for post-2009 me. From 2004 and 2009 I sometimes hit Bethel at 200 lbs or even a touch more. In 2010 it was 158 or so. I gained weight steadily, I think entering 2011 at 168 and 2012 at 175 or so (I forget). At my higher weight, with virtually no riding in the prior 4 weeks, I knew the races wouldn't go well for me.

May through August normally is the heart of the season. Unfortunately once Bethel ended there weren't a lot of races for a while - a few were canceled, others had been moved up the schedule so they were on the same weekends as Bethel (but on Saturday), etc. I rode to pick up the van at Bethel (that's that spike in April), but otherwise I got into "summer mode", which is doing a day or two of training a week plus race on Sunday. Weather played a big role too - a lot of the Tuesday Night races got rained out so I lost an hour or so of riding each week there. I still managed to do 13-17 hours a month from May through August, with a few glimmers of hope amongst a myriad of DNFs.

September was unusual this year. We went away for a week to visit in-laws (to me). The Missus, having watched me get shelled regularly, encouraged me to train a bit, so I did. Not only did I train a lot, I did about a third of my total annual elevation in four days of training. I hoped that this would give me some fitness for a tough, end of season race in Hartford.

This didn't happen. I had a terrible race, shelled in less than 3 laps. This worked to give me solid motivation to keep training, keep losing weight, and to focus on my next race, the first race at Bethel in March 2014.