Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Damn Sport....

... is like a drug.  I didn't get much mileage in this past week due to schoolwork.  I got in a ride last Saturday that was about 40, and was off the bike (except for going to class.... hardly counts) completely until Thursday night, when I managed to squeeze in 22 miles as the sun set.  Needles to say, by the time Thursday night rolled around I was kind of a mess: couldn't sleep, wasn't eating right, couldn't sit still, couldn't concentrate...  Like a junky without his fix.  Today, since I got 35 miles in, (screw the !@*%& rain, I'm riding!), I feel nice and mellow :-)

Hanging around cyclists, I've noticed it's easy to tell who's ridden that day and who hasn't: the guys who are relaxed, not saying much with a goofy contented smile on their face got a ride in that day.... The ones who are animated, can't sit still, those guys didn't get to ride.  Naturally you have to take into account their natural pre-dispositions, but the different is striking.  It's like all cyclists have split personalities, depending on their daily mileage.  

I forget where I heard this saying, but it goes something like "the human body is an incredible machine: it thrives on hard work".  And it is so true - the more work you train your body to do, the less it likes to sit still.  Where I am now, vegetating for 2 or 3 days straight becomes nearly physically painful... cabin fever-esque.

Anyway, today, as I said earlier, I got about 35 miles in.  Average speed of 18.1, and I was mostly taking it easy, shooting for zone 2.  I had a nasty 10+ mph headwind for most of the ride, but it bothers me less when I'm taking it easy.  Probably because I don't feel like I'l throwing watts away beating my head against a brick wall trying to go just a little faster.

This weekend I've been poking around the net looking at faired recumbents.  Now before you laugh, remember that the fastest a human has ever gone under his own power is on one of these machines: 82.33 mph was the new record set this summer by Sam Whittingham (I think I spelled that correctly).  Whichever way you cut it, that is fucking FAST.

An old friend of my dad's, John Tetz, has been messing around with these machines for a number of years now.  There's a lot of innovation going on in garages and workshops all over the world on these things.  If I had an extra $2000 or so and a lot of extra time, I think it would be cool to build a faired 'bent and put something like a 200W electric assist in it.  Done right, you could easily keep up with urban traffic, with the electric assist helping you get up to speed quickly and giving you an extra boost up hills.  You could even take a page from the hybrid's book and recover energy while braking, but I'm still mentally tossing around how you'd make that work and not impair normal braking.  Just something to think about.  With the economic downturn (have we moved to using "recession" yet?), this might be just what we all need to start driving.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday + Friday + Saturday

Thursday I didn't get a ride in, partly because of the pretty lousy weather we were having, and partly because there were some other demands on my time.

Recently I helped a cycling teammate track down a drivetrain noise that turned out to be his freehub - it was rusted up and needed to be lubed quite badly. He said he (gently) hosed his bike pretty frequently, which was probably the source of the water that had gotten in there.

Anyway, I decided to check my bike's freehub because I had recently given it a bath. So I spent a few hours Thursday tearing down both freehubs (mountain bike and road), lubing them up and re-assembling them.

For me, working on bikes is theraputic, it's relaxing, calming. I can almost hear the parts talking to me, telling me how they're doing, how they're feeling. Maybe I'm weird, but I find the more I work on bikes the more I can "hear" what they tell me when I'm riding them, and when I'm working on them. In some ways it's a very intimate language: no spoken words, it's all communicated in the play of the bearings, in the roughness (or lack of) of the surfaces as you re-grease them, in the action of the locknut as you run it down the threads. It gets me very tuned-in to what the bike is trying to tell me as I ride it: what noises come from what, what those noises mean for my safety, and the bike's performance. Like I said, maybe I'm weird, but I enjoy working on my bikes (and other peoples') immensely.


Friday I got out for a very pleasant LSD ride from my parent's house (I'm visiting home for fall break).
Dist: 22.4
Avg: 18.1

It was a little overcast, but still warm enough to be fun, and I didn't mind the wind much since I wasn't pushing hard. There's not much to report, except that I felt really good.

When I went out to get one of our cars inspected (a story all of its own), I grabbed some new Ultegra chainrings from Performance Bike. My current set is getting a little worn, and when I replace the chain I'm going to need to put new ones on. Since 9 speed stuff isn't getting more plentiful, I went ahead and bit the bullet. My bike is slowly turning from a "full Dura-Ace" bike into a "Frankenstein" of different level components. Yeesh.


Saturday was my traditional Paceline "B" group ride. I always look forward to this ride: it's a great group of people and the pace is perfect for me.

We got a little bit of a late start, and rolled out in chilly but comfortable temps. The ride was pretty uneventful for the first 5 miles - I was warming up a bit slower than usual (the ride leader warms up instantly and always hammers up the first "real" hill of the day). Climbing out from crossing Lake Townsend I shifted from my big chainring into my little one and was rewarded with the chain jamming up on me for about a half second before freeing itself. Since the pedals were not turning the bike dove right, fortunately there wasn't anyone there. I kinda shook my head and got back to the business of climbing, thinking nothing of it.

Somewhere in the next 7 miles or so I ended up in my big ring again, and went to downshift climbing another hill. I hit the lever, come off the gas for a half-stroke as is usual, and realize the bike hasn't shifted. Now there's a funny noise coming from the front derailer, but I can't really diagnose it because now I'm getting passed by riders and there's traffic back. So I mentally shrug, gear down in the back, and start for the front to tell Forrest (the ride leader) I have a mechanical I need to look at at the next intersection.

When we stop, I find the outboard half of the front derailer cage has been broken free and can now no longer push the chain over onto the small ring. I do a quick check to make sure it's not going to fall into the pedals or something dangerous, then remount and keep riding: there really wasn't a whole lot I could do.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for one chain drop onto the cranks on a blistering nasty headwind stretch, and I rode on my big chainring the rest of the ride.

Back at the shop after the ride, I buy a new 105 derailer ($50) and head home after meeting an old (elementry school1) friend of mine. After taking off my D/A derailer I decide to have a go at fixing it with some JB Weld. The design of it allows the broken section to carry minimal load, (Sorry, no pictures), so I think I have a chance of making it work. Seeing as I'm going back to school tomorrow I will probably keep the 105 derailer just in case.

As for the ride stats:
Dist: 41.0
Avg: 19.6

For a B group, that's not too shabby.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Morning Ride

Rode this morning shortly after getting up.
Dist: 26.0
Avg: 17.4

I initially planned to do a zone 3/4 workout, but after I got out there and warmed up I could tell it just wasn't going to happen.  My legs felt a little stiff, lack of power when accelerating or standing to climb.  Also was a little cold - mid 50s when I started, with a headwind for most of the ride.  Also, I typically don't ride particularly well in the morning.

So I backed off and just rode.  About 2/3 of the way through I caught sight of some riders ahead of me and put the hammer down to catch them.  Turns out it was Will, Bryan, and a new guy riding a softride (lol).  They were taking it very easy, so it was nice to putter along with them for the rest of the ride.

Off Days

Haven't ridden at all Monday or Tuesday because my right shoe was getting repaired - I broke the middle strap in half tightening it one night.  The shop did a really nice job fixing the strap, but in retrospect I should have had them reinforce the top strap at the same time, because it will do the same thing in the near future.

In other news, Fall Break starts Thursday.  I will be going home to attend to a few things, and to join my traditional summer Saturday morning Paceline ride once again.  I plan to ride all days, and depending on how I feel I may try to stick with the fast A group, which does more like a AA pace.... low to mid 20s is the norm for them.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

LSD and MTB Races

Friday I got in about 36 miles, which felt really nice. I'm trying to start doing base miles in preparation for the road season (called LSD... so I'm not talking about the drug here). I averaged about 18.4 mph, which is a little fast for a zone 2 workout.

Saturday I got up at the ass-crack of dawn (6 am) and went to Pfeiffer University's mountain bike race in Uwharrie National Forest with the rest of the cycling team. Now I am not a mountain biker by any stretch of the imagination, and this was the only race I've done all season because of schoolwork.

The original plan was to do all three events: XC, TT, and short track. The XC race was 8 miles of mixed singletrack and fire roads that had been described to me as "flowy". Seeing as I don't do a lot of mountain bikeing and I was riding in road shoes and cleats, flowy is a good thing. A couple of teammates and I pre-rode the first mile or so before the race started as a warm up and to get a feel for the course.

When the race started I was in fourth position out of 10, but going around the first downed log I understeered and ran wide, which put me in (I thought) second to last. I assumed I was essentially going to be non-competitive in this race, so it didn't bother me.

The general flavor of the first half of the race was I would gain crazy time and positions on the uphills and smooth sections of singletrack and fire roads, due to my "roady power". The first half felt like about 60% singletrack and 40% fireroads, and the singeltrack was not very techinical.

On one of the later fire road sections I caught sight of a teammate David trailing a Pfeiffer guy ahead of me and hit the gas to catch them, thinking they were sitting something like 3rd and 4th position. I thought it was kinda odd that David would sit in on a guy when there were riders up the trail, but I didn't think about it too much and blasted past them. I didn't look back to confirm, but I felt them accelerate to hold my wheel, which I also thought was kinda odd given what positions I thought they occupied.

About a minute after passing them the road turned down and I kept the hammer down, determied to gain as much time as I could on those ahead of me. So here we are, barreling down a rough section of fire road at something like 25 mph, and I catch sight of a downed tree about 30 feet in front of me. I scream out, "Oh SHIT!! STOP STOP STOP!" and hit the brakes as hard as I can without locking up wheels. I come to a dead stop about 2 feet from the tree, the Pfeiffer guy (who David later said nearly rear-ended me), does an elegant little bunny hop over the tree and takes off, and David follows him. I manage to get one foot unclipped and stumble / drag the bike over the tree. That was the last time I saw either of them, because diretly after that we got back onto singletrack, which turned extremely technical (at least for me).

After this point things got quite hairy for me: the trail got rougher, with a lot of loose rocks and very steep uphill and downhill sections. My pace slowed to a crawl. I got passed by several people from the C field, and at some point just assumed I was DFL: dead fucking last. Operating on this assumption, I took things very easy, really just out enjoying myself and going as fast as I felt comfortable with. On one downhill I got passed by one of our A riders doing about 20 mph when I was doing something like 3; he went past me and looked like he was spending more time airborne than on the trail. I just kinda shook my head in amazement and kept chugging along.

The trail gradually got a little less rocky, cutting through some relatively young forest. It was here I crashed. It was at low speeds and similar to my other mtb crashes: some random little thing in the trail just kicks my front tire out from under me. I haven't wrecked on something I'm actually worried about beforehand yet.

I should mention that I really dislike crashing. I sat on the ground for a bit, then took my time fixing the chain, which had dropped in between the cassette and spokes. I got passed by another C here as I wiped the grease off my hands and got back on the bike.

At some point we got back on the fire roads for the last mile and a half or something, and this section was straight uphill. At one point on this section I pulled off the road and stopped to take a drink - I can't get a bottle off of my frame rolling because it's essentially wedged in place between the top and down tubes. After this I felt better. This section was pretty unremarkable except for the sheer amount of uphill that just kept going and going and going.... I was really feeling my 36 miles from the day before on this section.

And then the last 100 yards were singletrack again. Overall I finished 7th out of 10, with something like an hour and one minute. David took first when the Pfeiffer kid dropped his chain on the fire roads with a time of 47 minutes and change.

After the race he told me that him and the Pfeiffer kid were first and second when I passed them, which made their behavior make so much more sense!

In retrospect, I could have finished a couple of places better if I had known I was not non-competitive. But live and learn - mountain is not my sport, so I was happy to come out in one piece.

I learned after finishing that the time trial was going to be that same trail backwards.... Yikes! There were quite a few sections of downhill rock gardens that would have nearly impossible for me going the other way, and this combined with the trail as a whole and my level of skill encouraged me to back out, so I did. I also decided that staying overnight for one short event the next day wasn't worth it, so I came home a day early with David.

Overall I'm glad I went to one mountain race this season. I'm really, really bad on a mountain bike, and maybe with enough practice I can stop crawling along trails scared for my life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hellz Ya

Went for a ride this morning:
23.0 miles
19.5 mph average speed

I've still got it :-)

Almost entirely zone 4 after warm up (~5 miles).
Didn't have a problem getting back on the bike a bit later to go to lunch either. Good sign.