Thursday, September 3, 2009

August Mileage, Fitness Survey

Total mileage for August was 436.4 miles, which is down about 100 miles from July. I'm surprised I got that many miles in, to be honest. August was a rough month, and I'm just now starting to feel like my old self.

Today I got out for about 23 miles in windy but very nice temperatures. The ride turned out to serve as an indicator for my current fitness although it didn't start out that way. The summary:
  • Overall I feel my top end aerobic and anaerobic fitness is down 10-20% from a high in June. Holding a tempo pace (HR of 165-175) is extremely comfortable and will move me along at about 25 mph, I feel like I could keep this pace up for quite a while. Short spurts up hills that drive my HR slightly higher do not require a huge recovery afterwards.
  • Coming back into town I faced a wicked 20 mph headwind while climbing up Lake Wheeler Rd. This reduced my pace to about 15-16 mph, which felt pretty pathetic. What does this mean? My ability to ride at slightly over threshold is way, way down from where it was. The Lactic Acid built up in my legs very rapidly, and was not cleared very quickly.
  • The above indicates that I need to return to base/zone 2 aerobic work and rebuild some of my low level aerobic fitness. This is good, since I will be returning to doing base soon anyway, and indicates that I am mostly on track as far as an annual training plan goes.
On Penny Rd, about a half mile before the Lake Wheeler intersection, I was passed by a car as I took a sip from my bottle. I looked down as I returned the bottle to its cage. When I returned by gaze to the road in front of me, there was a deer standing across the centerline about 50 feet away. I said some choice expletives, grabbed the brakes for a half second then dove left, aft of the deer. It suddenly noticed me and bolted, fortunately in the direction it was already pointing, losing traction on all 4 hooves in the process. It was kind of funny to watch it skitter off the road. It just reinforces that letting your attention wander for even a second can be fatal, even on a seemingly empty, flat, smooth stretch of road.

Tomorrow, a solo ride. Saturday, probably the CSH ride. Sunday, the Centennial training crit. Monday, probably more riding.

On an only tangentially-related note, a friend and me have been toying around with different novel configurations of vehicles for a while. We both abhor the dynamic idiocy that is inherent to 4 wheeled vehicles, but at the same time are leary of the dangers of motorcycles. He stumbled on this website recently, which frankly is the most brilliant and ingenious solution to the vehicle dynamics problem I have ever seen. I'm still kind of in awe of how elegant his solution is.
http://www.tiltingvehicle.net/

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ugh

Since I got back to school I've been doing a little more riding. Maybe 100 miles a week if that. On pretty much all the rides I've done my HR has been elevated, and I've felt low on power. I'm not sure if this is lost fitness or the heat, because it's gotten ungodly hot here in the past 3 weeks - highs in the mid 90s with 85% + humidity. It sucks pretty hard.

I also have not been sleeping great for the past week. I'm not sure if it's due to lack of exercise now that I'm not burnt out, or what.

I rode a couple days in a row with the team, with the last ride being Tuesday. I didn't get back on the bike until today. The old "can't sit still twitchy as hell" feeling was out in force this morning, so despite my exhaustion (sleep deprivation) I saddled up and headed out.

I tested out a new way south of town that looked okay on paper, but is awful awful awful in real life. That combined with feeling like someone had put a 10 lb bag of sand on my bike put me in a foul mood. The traffic was bat-shit crazy as well. So, I get down to about 1010 road, make a right to head back in, and the f#$&ing sky opens up. Great - exhausted, feeling like I have heat stroke, now soaking wet, with no lights. Awesome.

So, the short story: Still feel like shit, had a crappy ride today that reminded me why Raleigh sucks. Oh, and a hurricane is rolling through so tomorrow is going to be even worse than today. I may skip the CSH group ride. On a positive note, the weather Sunday is supposed to be nicer, and there's a crit on Centennial I am planning on doing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Burnout, Big Time

So I haven't updated since the French Broad....

I kept doing the Northside ride Tuesday and Thursday, and slowly started hurting more and more. Long story short, I decided to take a vacation from the bike after being shelled from the ride last Tuesday's ride (2 Tuesdays ago). I've been overtrained since mid-July I think.

Anyway, I'm going for a ride a little later today that will be my first time on the bike in over a week. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh my legs...

I did the French Broad River Road Race today out in Marshall, NC. It's a brutal course:

Going into this race my plan was to use the first climb to form a group of about 10 to 15 and stay away to the second climb, where I'd try to shell as many as possible.

Well things didn't exactly go as planned. Foothills, your course description is spot-on. A sadist could not have designed a more wicked race course than this one. The first 20 miles are brutal, and the pace stayed high. Basically, there is no way to come into the first major climb with fresh legs.

I started this climb near the back (big mistake), and had trouble finding my rhythm for the first couple of miles. I went into it way too hard, blew up pretty spectacularly and had to recover while finishing the climb. I topped the climb with a group of 4, which became about 10 by the time we hit the river. This section is fast and fun. Even working hard in a rotating paceline, we didn't make up any time on the leaders, but we were still moving at about 30 mph.

I was able to climb the second mountain a lot better based on my performance on the first one - I had a target heart rate that would keep me from blowing up, and was remembering how to really climb a mountain. I gained one place on this climb for a finish in 32nd in the Cat 4 field. So not great, but not terrible either considering I haven't ridden in the mountains since early spring.

The race pretty much went like I thought it would, I was just not in a position to do anything about it: the first climb forced a selection, about 15 to 20 riders in the lead group I would guess, which stayed together until the second climb when the race was decided.

I have to say the race was incredibly well run - plenty of corner marshalls, plenty of highly talented motos, and a fast and easy sign-in. The only sticking point: no wheel trucks. Fortunately I didn't need one, but you should have heard the groan when they announced that.

Many thanks to the town of Marshall for letting us take over for a day!

One final point.... the return trip from the finish line to Marshall is a major hoot. It's almost entirely downhill, and coming off the mountain I think I hit about 50 mph. Lots of fun, and a nice cool down from the race.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Great race, great course.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shiny

I'm not really in the mood to write a post today, so I will throw up some pictures for your viewing pleasure...

First, some shots of my completed fixed gear:





The pictures do not really do the frame justice - it is much shinier in person.

Second, some pictures of my new component group, SRAM Rival...










Prodigious use of electrical tape was employed to route two under-bartape cables on a single channel bar.

I have about 70 miles on the group so far. Initial impressions are extremely positive - the shifters are incredibly comfortable and feel very natural and solid in my hand. The cables are still stretching, so every so often the shifting goes wonky, but so far I would say upshifts (to harder gears) are faster than Shimano, while downshifts are a little slower. However, I'm still re-wiring my brain on how to shift, so take those observations with a grain of salt.

The drivetrain seems a little noisier, but I'm using a KMC chain with a SRAM cassette and I did not lube the chain - all it has on it is the factory lube, which does very little to quiet things down.

Not having cables coming out of the shifters still looks very strange to my eye... Kind of like there's nothing holding the shifters in place, so they should fall "inward". I love the clean look though.

The bar tape that came with the red hoods (aftermarket items, BTW) is nice - it really damps a lot of the road noise out. It's made by 3m, so I have hopes that it will be long-lasting and stay looking clean.

Did the Paceline ride this morning. Kathleen was leading it so it was a little faster than usual - 21.6 mph on a windy day. My perceived pain is all screwed up - I hurt at about 160 bpm, where in March I could get up to about 180 bpm before I really started to feel bad. I was hanging with the group fine, though.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Burnout

What a change from last Tuesday, when I felt on top of the world. Thursday's Northside was tough for me - I contested a lot of the sprints and did more than my share of the work. By the end of the ride I was pretty cooked, and had to take myself out of the rotation after almost taking out my own front wheel twice. I bailed on the Friday ride - I could tell I needed a couple of days off to recover.

Friday I took it easy - stayed completely off the bike. My stomach had been bothering me for reasons unknown for a couple of days. I did get over to Cycles de Oro and ordered SRAM Rival, which should be here Thursday!

Saturday I did the Red, White and Blue ride out of Hagan Stone Park. The ride started early, and I did not eat enough beforehand - rode over there, too. I met up with Will Shore and a couple of other guys and we decided to do the 70 mile route. About 25 miles in I was having trouble holding Will's wheel (well, pretty much everyone's wheel) and knew something was wrong with me. I bailed on the way back and cut it short to about 50 miles total. I bonked pretty hard coming back in. The main problem on this ride was I just could not injest and absorb enough food to dig myself out of the caloric hole I was in, in addition to feeling like absolute shit. Lesson learned: don't plan to get on the bike less than an hour after getting up - my body needs more time to get my metabolic engine fired back up.

So I plan to go very easy this week. Will probably skip the Northside ride and do just enough easy riding to keep my legs from going nuts. I have been eating insane amounts of food this weekend, so I might not have been eating enough these past couple weeks when I've been going hard. I've also felt really tired, despite getting plenty of sleep each night. My legs feel weak and "dead", so all signs are pointing to taking an easy week.

In other news, I decided a couple weeks ago to strip and repaint my fixie. Originally I planned to just repaint it black, but after stripping the frame I decided the brushed aluminum look was so pretty to leave most of the frame bare. This weekend I got all of the painting done. It looks really good. The painted parts (the headtube and a few inches of the adjacent top and down tubes, and the rear dropouts and a few inches of the stays) got 3 coats of primer, with spot sanding in between, then 3 coats of high gloss black paint. The brushed alu sections were sanded with around 400 grit paper, then cross-sanded to give it a brushed look. It came out really well. Then the whole bike was given 3 to 4 coats of clear coat, to protect the bare aluminum and the paint. After the paint fully cures later this week, I will take some 800 grit paper to it, then polish it. It's going to look very nice when I build it back up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June Wrap-up

June was a good month: 557 miles, which is my highest-mileage month after January. My fitness is good - probably the best it's ever been. Yesterday I did the Tuesday Northside ride. We averaged 23 mph for 41 miles, and I was one of 4 or 5 guys driving the pace and contesting sprints. A couple of weeks ago this same ride, at a slightly slower pace, was kicking my ass. Granted there are a lot of variables I can't account for by just comparing the two rides, but my feeling is my fitness is better than it was a couple weeks ago.

I've been concentrating more on my intensity work. Monday I did about 1.5 hours of LT intervals. I managed 6 of them, which is twice as many as normal, and a much higher pace. Duration was from 2 to 5 minutes per interval. My feeling is I now need to do a little work on my anaerobic acceleration for sprints.

The Saturday Paceline line has turned into a nice, easy social recovery ride for me. A year ago I could not hang with this group - what a change!

Overall, I have about 3,055 miles for the year. This is already several hundred over my total for last year. Riding this much feels great - being on the bike feels incredibly natural. Average weekly mileage is around 150 or slightly above. This is a slow, slight ramp-up from about 100 per week a couple of months ago.

Tomorrow, the Northside ride again. Friday, I may join a group riding to Hanging Rock and back, which depending on the route might be my first century.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A quick update...

Life's been pretty crazy for the last week or so. Last week I rode about 280 miles total - waaay up from what I've been averaging. I finished the week off Sunday with a solo 70 mile circumnavigation of Kerr Lake. It was a pretty flat ride, and I averaged 19.0 mph - not too bad. It was a fun route.

This week my focus has shifted a bit to pick up some more speed and interval work instead of big miles - my own inadvertent "periodization", if you will. I took Monday off, didn't get out Tuesday because of the weather, got in about 20 miles Wed that went okay... I was dog-tired so I felt really sluggish doing intervals. Today I should have ridden but didn't get out. It's okay - this weekend I will probably get a short ride Friday and longer rides Saturday and Sunday. I will be skipping my Paceline ride because I'm going back up to Kerr for the weekend.

Picked up a new saddle for my fixed-gear from Cycles de Oro and threw that on tonight. Took a pseudo-scientific stab at getting it in the same place as my road bike and I think it's pretty close.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"That's the First Time I've Seen You Suffer a Bit"

Did the Northside hammerfest tonight - 40 miles of all-out, give-me-all-you've-got-if-you-want-to-hold-his-wheel riding. Exquisitely painful.

As we were rolling in on a greenway I'm chatting with a guy who does the Saturday Paceline ride and he says something like, "Yeah, that's the first time I've seen you suffer a bit." I was flattered - maybe I'm stronger than I think, or maybe I am just good at hiding how much pain I'm in.

I went out too hard in the first 10 or 15 miles of the ride, so for the rest of it my attacks and bridging attempts came up short. The longest bridge was a solid mile or two of slight headwind, flat riding trying to solo bridge up to the lead group of about 6 very strong riders. I felt good for most of it, was steadily closing the huuuge gap they had, was using the terrain to my advantage,,,, then I started to get a stitch in my right side. I could feel myself fading fast, the exhaust from the farm truck trailing them wasn't helping. I gave it all I had on a slight downhill, sprinting to try and catch the last wheel. I got about 20 feet away and then they went charging up a short rise, and that was the end of me. HR peaked in the high 180s. Three minutes later when the second chase group went by I felt fine, and was able to jump on and do some more work.

The fact that my HR didn't get above 190 or so the whole ride indicates that I may be sleep deprived - I've noticed before that can really take the edge off my performance.

Later in the ride I was working in a break of 5 (inc. me). HR was in the 150s and 160s, despite the 30 mph speed we were holding. In a small group like this that was continuously rotating, most of the work came in the form of anaerobic spurts about a second long to stay on his wheel. However when the group went up a hill that was steep for the first part, then levelled out, I came unglued pretty quick after the steep section.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bike Bling!

Got my new wheels today - a set of Neuvation R28 SL5's. Despite a lack of new rim tape, I managed to get them on the bike this evening by pirating some rim tape from other wheels...



The wheels look great - perfectly true and nice spoke tension, and are breathtakingly light compared to my old wheels. I took a quick spin around the block and the bike definitely felt a little quicker on its feet. With these wheels my bike should be in the 18.2 lb range, I will have to get it weighed sometime.

I can definitely see how the stickers wear on some people - they are quite loud, although in a different way than Mavic's stickers are loud. I may end up pulling some of the labels off to tone it down a bit...

I took a little bit of a gamble with these wheels - some people report having trouble with spokes breaking after a year or so. I bought the wheel protection as a precaution against this. For the price though, these wheels simply can't be beat - $350 for a sub-1500 g wheelset!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Riding

Not too much is new. Been getting in an okay number of miles - could stand to be riding a little more, but it rained almost every day this week, and when it wasn't raining it was threatening to. It's been like living in a freaking rainforest for that past week.

I kinda shot myself in the foot this past week by not getting enough sleep. I intended to ride about 50 miles yesterday but got out there and just didn't have it. So I cut it short to 26 miles and only one LT interval.

Did the Paceline A ride this morning. Ray, the ride leader, was not there so I kinda knew it was gonna get stupid fast, and it did - we went out of our way to find some hills and hammered up every one of them. Yours truly was (idiotically) setting the pace up most of them. It was a fun ride, and a great workout - about 10 miles or so of 170+ bpm riding. The group was only 12 strong this week so the sketchiness was much-reduced.

Ordered some new wheels from Neuvation that should be here Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on them, because my current wheels are stupid-heavy (especially the rear - 1+ kg!). Some people have had bad luck with Neuvation wheels, so I will see how these do. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Last Tuesday I hooked up with the Northside ride, which had been described to me as a hammerfest. I was not disappointed, even though our ride was cut short by storms and rain. I managed to stick with two of the strongest riders in Greensboro up a long climb, which was nice. I am definitely getting stronger!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summertime

So summer's here, and with that comes a full time job. I'm working at General Dynamics AIS again this summer, and so far I've been having a blast. But, working 40 hours a week definitely makes it more difficult to train!

However, unlike last summer, where I didn't ride much at all, I've figured out a system that works pretty well. Multiple long rides on the weekend, and at least 2 high intensity, shorter rides during the week. My weekly mileage is down ever so slightly, but I'm still doing 100+ miles a week, which is fine. Total mileage for the year stands at 2,285.

My training plan is fairly ad hoc. For my shorter rides, I focus on 3 to 5 minute full bore intervals designed to increase my lactic threshold. In a 20 mile ride, I can normally manage 2 of these, and a shorter high power hill climb. Based on an article I read that I can't find the link to, and my personal experience, I think this type of training is the best way to increase my power.

In essence, the article I read said the only metric you need to track is 20 minute power - everything is based off of that number. Furthermore, the best way to increase your 20MP is to spend a lot of time above your lactic threshold.

So far, this seems to be working - yesterday I did a short, 15 mile loop and averaged 21.6 mph, including warmup, with wind in the 10 to 15 mph range. Since my workouts that include intervals always end up with a slower average speed, this ride is the only recent metric I have. In addition, I made a lot of improvement in those two weeks we had off during the season, where I did the CSH ride and spent a lot of time above my LT. So there you go.

I feel very good on the bike - the position feels extremely natural, and everything just feels really good. My weight is holding steady around 147 lbs. If I wanted, I could probably stand to shed 2-3 more pounds, but where I am now is a happy medium, and I'm not racing too seriously at the moment. Energy is fairly high all day, so overall I'd say I feel really great.

Tomorrow is the Saturday Paceline ride. Hopefully it will be a little less sketchy (and faster) than last week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

School's Out

Got done with my last exam Tuesday morning and headed back to Greensboro that afternoon. Went for a short ride today - was shooting for the abbreviated Hagan Stone route but got down to Level Cross (about 15 miles in) and decided to bail - I had been fighting a draining headwind for the whole ride and being behind on sleep suddenly caught up with me pretty hard. So I turned around and went home. Total distance was about 26 miles, with an average of 18.2 mph.

As I catch back up on my sleep, I'll ramp my intensity back up. Being off the bike for a week sucks.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Well That was Poorly Timed

Tried to sneak in a ride this afternoon and failed miserably: got about 10 miles out and realized, "oh sh*t, those are thunderstorm clouds!" Spun around and put the hammer down trying to beat the rain and pretty much failed epically. So the bike is still drying out, along with everything in my saddle bag and my shoes. I have to remember to check the radar before I roll now that it's summer. I still managed to squeeze in about 22 miles and average 18.1 mph, including some slow greenway riding.

In other news my little sis got me infected with some upper respiratory bug when I went home for a couple of days. Awesome. I don't have it nearly as bad as she does, but it still sucks. Glad I got in a couple good hard days before I got sick (possible correlation - riding hard = depressed immune system?).

For April I got in 432 miles, which isn't bad. So far this year I've ridden nearly 2000 miles. Seeing as I did just over 2700 last year, that's a huge ramp-up in my volume.

Since I'm feeling a little down on energy and I need to study for finals I will probably skip the CSH ride tomorrow. A sub 3 hour metric century leaves me useless the rest of the day, and I can't really afford to be useless.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Am Very Fast

Today:
Distance: 38.7 miles
Avg Speed: 17.6 mph
Duration: 2 hours 12 minutes

Went into town to test a possible route to my work this summer, and then swung by Cycles de Oro for a recovery ride. I've been looking over my rides for the past couple of weeks and have seen a big jump in my distances and average speeds. My ride yesterday indicates that I'm in the best shape I've ever been - if I exclude the first couple of miles where I was warming up, I did a sub-2.5 hour 50 miles! That is certainly nothing to sneeze at. I just felt really good and comfortable the whole ride - my bike feels like it fits me perfectly. No sore spots or tight muscles when I was done, and getting on the bike today felt good, too. It's really encouraging to be able to get on the bike after a crazy hard day and be able to crank out 40 more miles without an issue. I feel like I could definitely ride tomorrow if I have the time - I'm not sore or stupidly tired. The key is just to get enough sleep!

I really wish I had a power meter to analyze my ride yesterday. There were a couple sections where I was motoring into a quartering headwind in the drops at 23-24 mph where I wonder what my wattage was. I haven't done a power test since November, so I have no idea what kind of power I'm developing.

Tomorrow I return to school to study for my last two exams, which are Monday and Tuesday. Then I will have a few days off before starting work around May 11th. Hopefully I can keep up my riding this summer, unlike last summer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back..... Back in the Saddle Again

After being off the bike for most of the week following my crash, I got in some very good miles this weekend.

Saturday:
CSH groupride - 63 miles, 20.9 mph, 3 hours. Got my ass kicked rather than doing the ass kicking for once.

Sunday:
CSH social ride - 34 miles, 19.3 mph, 1 hour 45 minutes.

Monday:
Home for a couple days, did the Hagan Stone route - 51.5 miles, 20.0 mph, 2 hours 45 minutes.
This is by far the best solo ride I've ever had - amazing weather, and not a single idiot on the roads. I was really surprised to see my average speed so high.

For all three of these rides the weather was amazing - high 80s to low 90s for temps, and light wind except for Monday's ride.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Game Over

This weekend was the last race of the collegiate season: Conference Championships at Wake Forest University over in Winston Salem.

I was feeling very good going into the RR Saturday. We had a nice late start time, and my easy ride Friday had kept my legs feeling great. The race went well for the first two laps: the course was ludicrously flat and the group stayed bunched up, because no one was driving the pace and there were no geographically-mandated selection points. Our overall points leaders were content to sit in and let it end in a field sprint.

Up the first hill (which isn't really much of a hill) on lap 1 I got on the front and drilled the pace, hoping to spit a couple people off the back just from the acceleration, and string things out. I was moderately successful at doing this, but when I pulled off and signaled for second wheel to pull through, he didn't. Now not pulling through is a valid race tactic, but 5 miles into lap 1 it's just bad form not to - this early in the race no one is going to be close to blowing up, so it's just annoying. So I rolled my eyes, pulled for 30 more seconds, and repeated. Eventually they got the message.

The race was pretty uneventful. It was sketchy as hell because the course was flat and we were competing for 1.5 times the normal amount of points. There was a prime on the second lap, which I went waaaay too early for and ran out of gas about 100 feet short of the line and got passed by a bunch of Navy riders. Oh well, it felt good to have some open road for once to sprint on.

On lap 3, a rider from UMD (number 381 - Mathew Dantas, according to the race results) who had been all over the fucking road the entire race clipped the non-sketchy Duke rider's front wheel because he didn't know how to hold a line. I'm directly behind and to the right of Duke (we're all in the left line). Duke goes down amid a shower of profanity and I go down with him - no time to react at all and nowhere to go. We're doing about 25 mph as we come down, me slightly on top of him. Immediately I'm run over by about 5 or 6 additional riders. I'm curled up in a ball, trying to make a small target until the noise stops. When I stop feeling things fall on top of me, I uncurl and start to survey the damage. It was one hell of a pile of bodies and bikes.

The short version is that was the end of the race for me - my bike was FUBARed pretty good and I had some pretty spectacular road rash (and as I found out in the next few minutes, a severely sprained and possibly broken right wrist).

The full list of casualties:
  • road rash on my right knee
  • road rash on my right hip
  • tire rash on my back x2
  • bump on my head
  • severely sprained wrist / possible hairline fracture
  • bruised right calf
  • torn up glove
  • blood and grease on abraded team kit
  • broken *left* pedal
  • bent derailleur hangar - time for a new one
  • possibly bent rear derailleur
  • wheels moderately out of true
  • scraped up saddle
So yeah, I don't recommend crashing - it gets expensive.

I plan to get my wrist x-rayed Monday, but in the meantime the pain is not bad, but it's swelled up pretty nicely.

I did not race the TTT, obviously. Half of the A teams (Wake, Navy, App) got lost and did the wrong course. Our A team won! Our b team posted a mean time and also did really well in the Crit Sunday morning. The dinner Saturday night was a blast, and I somehow slept through Hannah, Will, Nic, John, and Matt coming into the room at 2 am absolutely smashed and carrying on for an hour or so. Good times.

I am of course disappointed that I didn't finish the race, but I was feeling good and kept a good pack position through the whole race. I'm definitely becoming more skilled at this sport. I most likely be off the bike for a while for my wrist to heal, but I definitely want to do some racing this summer and keep getting faster. Next year, I want to be able to tear the B field up!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now That's More Like It

Got in a little over 30 miles today in mid 60s temps and some serious wind: blowing 15-25 out of the Northeast. I averaged 19.8 mph, which is pretty respectable in the wind I had. I felt very good for the whole ride: spent a lot of time in my tempo zone, and a few high intensity sprints and hill climbs to round out the workout.

Tomorrow the plan is about an hour of easy spinning to keep my legs loose for the weekend. The RR course is dead flat, with maybe one or two short rises of less than 50 feet elevation gain. The TTT course is very difficult, as I remember well from last year! The Crit course, which I didn't race last year, is a large very technical / sketchy loop that has a couple nasty downhill sharp corners and an uphill finish. We had a lot of crashes in the crits last year.

Hopefully I can keep my head together and use all the little things I've learned in the past 4 or 5 weeks to finish well. I'm not holding out much hope for the TTT - we haven't practiced at all and we have a pretty weak team, but the RR and Crit are fair game!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

App State

An alternative title for this post was going to be "Slacking makes you Slow".

Didn't ride at all last week, rode my commuter to go food shopping Friday and just felt really weak - almost like I was riding with a flat tire.

Saturday was the RR - flat and windy, with a 3 mile climb in two parts, then a 1.5 mile descent or so, then flat again. I got blown out the back of the lead group with 300 meters to go before the summit of the climb on lap 1, which flat out should not have happened. I was close to getting back on on the descent, but couldn't get around two riders from Duke who clearly had never ridden down a mountain before: all over the road, taking unpredictable lines, etc. After that I was just done - I had no gas. The rider from GW who won VT's RR went by with a VT guy with him. I kept on for a few miles but eventually got blown off the back of that group too. That DEFINITELY should not have happened.

On the second lap a couple riders from VT and one from American caught up with me. I stuck with that group to the climb, when it splintered. Somehow I made it up the climb a second time and stayed away from the final chase group to secure 10th place.

As I rolled back by the finish line I pulled up next to Walker and Sam and the first thing Walker says to me is, "Dude, you look pale." I was feeling pretty terrible, so I skipped the TT later that day and went back to sleep in my car.

On Sunday I was determined to redeem myself in the Crit, but alas, it was not to be. The race was held in a shopping center parking lot laid out with lots and lots of cones. Almost dead flat with one techincal, really sharp and narrow chicane.

The pace stayed retardedly easy for most of the race - the riders in contention for overall points were content to just sit in and let it end in a field sprint. As a result the group stayed bunched up and people did a lot of stupid things (like cutting a corner and clipping a lightpost)

One lesson learned is the one time I got on the front and drilled the pace for a few minutes, the group got strung waaaay out, and it was clear some people were hurting. As soon as I pulled off the front, the pace slowed back down and the group bunched back up. BORRRRING! As predicted, the race ended in a massive field sprint. My positioning on the bell lap was horrible, so I didn't place.

In the future I plan to try to keep the pace higher in crits and throw in some accelerations to thin down the field.

So why did my performance suck so hard this weekend? Most indicators point to sleep deprivation - I got to bed early Monday and Tuesday nights and feel much better already. Also, not riding all week really hurt my top end aerobic power, which I am now trying to desparately fix before Wake Forest this weekend.

Tuesday night I managed to get out for anout 45 minutes as the sun set. I intended to do hill repeats on Centennial Parkway, but my abdominal muscles cramped up hard both times I tried it. Even so, I could tell I'm still less than 100%. Even without hill repeats, I managed to keep the effort level pretty high during the workout. I'm desparately hoping that a hard workout Wed, and then a moderate taper will bring back the edge I want to have this weekend. We shall see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flat Tires and Laziness

So in the past two weeks I have developed no less than 4 flat tires. Yes, 4. Normally, I will see maybe one or two a YEAR. Luckily none have been while riding my bikes.

Flat 1 was a slow intermittent leak in the front tire on my commuter. I tracked it down to a faulty bond on the opposing side of the tube where the valve stem is. A large patch took care of it. Instead of immediately fixing this I pirated the front wheel off my race bike and just brought it into class with me everywhere - kind of a pain. Eventually I stole the front wheel from my fixie and put it on my commuter, since the fixie was not getting ridden due to me recovering from VT.

Flat 2 was a verrrry slow leak on my race bike front wheel. I noticed it AFTER finishing the VT RR. It was slow enough the wheel stayed rideable for a couple hours. I just threw this tube away since finding the leak would have been nearly impossible.

Flat 3 was the front tire of my fixed gear WHILE IT WAS ON MY COMMUTER. Pumping it up and the tube blows out around the valve stem. I kinda flipped out at this one, this is where it was getting ridiculous. I then stole my spare race front wheel and threw that on my commuter, and went back to the "bring the wheel into class" routine.

Today I went and bought a couple new tubes of a different brand and fixed all of the above flats.

After I did this and put my commuter front tire back on the bike, I noticed that the F*CKING REAR TIRE WAS FLAT!! I very nearly pitched the bike off our 3rd floor porch when I saw this.

I have a couple more tubes of the type that I think is giving me problems... I'm not sure what to do with them now. I don't trust them at all, obviously.

BEING LAZY

I have not ridden at all this week. It took me through Wednesday to really recover from VT, and then I just didn't really feel like riding. I did my mountain biking class today and rode back from that, so I got a few miles in. I rode the fixie to get the tubes, and I felt really good. Spun out on Gorman doing about 35+ mph approaching Wade Ave. That's the fastest I've ever been on that bike - normally I've got stuff in my pockets that prevents me from spinning up much above 120 rpm or so.

I should have ridden Wed and done hill repeats, but meh. It's only collegiate racing. I don't want to burn out or stop having fun. I'm going to focus on strategy this weekend. Like I said in my last post, I think I finally figured out how to win now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Va Tech Race Weekend

First of all mad respect to Virginia Tech Cycling for putting on an amazing weekend - beautiful courses that were professionally run, and amazing weather to boot!

Saturday was the road race and the team time trial run on a 15.2 mile loop out in the middle of freaking nowhere. Half of the course was in a valley, so it was dead freaking flat and had a 20-30 mph tailwind. The back half was up the side of a mountain (or so it felt): it started with a nasty 2-part climb for a couple of miles, then somewhat leveled off into a series of rolling climbs for the next 5 or so miles. Just before turning into the staging area it headed down again. Despite the climbs, the course was extremely fast. The roads were 1.5 lanes wide, no center line marking (means no center line rule - hooray!) with surprisingly smooth pavement. The scenery was just gorgeous, and there was nearly zero traffic.

The RR was fun, but extremely painful. We started out with about 33 riders. Like most of our races, we took it easy out of the gate, just tooling along at mid 20s with a tailwind. The pace slowly ratcheted up as we approached the base of the climb, which was essentially right after the first turn: a hard left that was more than 90 degrees; this took everyone by surprise.

The first time up the climb I was (stupidly) one of the riders setting the pace. I pegged my heart rate at 199 bpm for about a mile or so, just absolutely at my redline... eyes going crossed, breathing out of control, the works. At some point I looked down at my HRM and had the thought, "You know, I could have a heart attack if I keep this up. I really would rather not die out here. Maybe I should back off.... Nah" This was absolutely the most pain I've ever been in on a bike. The upside is we whittled the lead group down to about 15 riders, and no one managed to make an attack stick.

Me and a couple of other riders managed to somehow keep the effort high through the rolling hills, so no one tried to attack. As the road turned down again we were all just chilling trying to recover and mentally prepare to do that again on the second lap. Nothing much happened besides some insane speeds on the flat section - it's too hard to get away with a tailwind.

The second time up the climb(s) the whole group went a lot slower - my HR was in the high 180s instead of 190s, but no one broke away - the whole group was content to climb together. The climb seemed a lot shorter on the second lap, too.

As we crested the last hill a couple of the riders realized they had blown their chance at getting away on the uphill, and put the hammer down trying to compensate for that. Of course it failed, because the whole group came with them, now doing 30+ mph down these little mountain roads. Since we were about 5 miles out, people started jockeying for position and I started mentally preparing for a field sprint, which I had been hoping to avoid because it was going to be an extremely fast finish.

The finish was just ludicrous. The pace just kept coming up as we neared the end - my first taste of what a full-blown lead-out would be like in a peloton. I nearly collided with a rider from App State who was riding the wrong way on the course - at this point, about 1.5 miles out, we were spread across the whole road and doing about 35 mph. The finish, as predicted, was crazy. My positioning going into about 200 m or so was around 10th, which was a little too far back. I gained spots like crazy as the sprint wound up - I was passing people all the way to the line, and ended up in 6th.

A couple of lessons learned. One is I probably should have attacked on climb on lap 2, since I knew I had reserve power based on my heart rate. At the very least I would have spit a couple of riders off the back and whittled the lead group down further. At best, I would have taken a couple of guys with me and we would have stayed away for the finish.

The second lesson is I need to start my sprint sooner and work on my positioning. My impression is my sprint is generally stronger than most other riders', so I should start further out.

The TTT was painful. Since we didn't have 4 riders, we recruited Harris to ride with us, who is a D but should be racing C. The team was me, Thomas Bradshaw (a mountain bike rider), Harris, and Kai. The plan was for Kai to take hard pulls until we got to the climb, where he would drop off. However, he only managed one hard pull before he bonked/pulled his hamstrings and went OTB at some ridiculous speed. Harris had never ridden in a group before, so had no clue how to pull through or ride in a paceline. In fairness, it only took one instruction and he got the hang of it. We looked pretty pitiful during this event - we weren't drafting close enough, I was the only one with aero bars, and everyone's legs were completely fried after the RR earlier. One notable moment was cresting the last hill and we come upon a woman with a stroller in the middle of the road. We were doing about 30 mph at this point, and I'm in the front on my aero bars. I see her eyes go wide as dinner plates, just a complete look of surprise and fear come over her face as she scurried across the road. Somehow, we managed to get second overall! I'm pretty stoked about this, because the point awarded for a TTT are pretty hefty.

The crit was a lot easier than I anticipated. The course was around a mile long, with a short steep climb just before the finish, and a long downhill on the other side. The course was amazing - not really technical, with good wide corners with multiple good lines around them.

Since half of the C field hadn't done the TTT the day before, I was anticipating getting my ass kicked, but the race turned out to be really low-key. In retrospect it was kind of funny - no one wanted to be on the front because they didn't know how much they had left after yesterday, so at times the field would slow waaay down and just kind of toodle along at 12 mph for a bit. The only really hard sections were the preem laps and the finish. I would gain lots of positions on the downhill by popping out of line and soft-pedalling to the front. I did this nearly every lap, and no one else caught on, it was weird. But good, because I could get to where I needed to be with minimal energy expenditure. I got two second-place preems and somewhere between 4th and 7th overall.

This was definitely a good weekend for the C team - we put a lot of points on the board and I got some fantastic racing in. I'm definitely looking forward to our last 2 weekends.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CSH II

The rain held off nicely for this ride. Again a pretty big group.

59.1 miles, 20.3 mph, 2 hours 55 minutes. I wore my HR monitor and spent roughly 15 miles of the ride around 180 bpm, which is essentially AT. I was one of about 4 riders who were driving the pace for the first 30 miles. I definitely feel a lot stronger than I did a month ago. I'm anxious to go race this weekend at VaTech and see how I do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tempo Work

Squeezed in another 25 or so today. Spent probably 20 or 30 minutes of the ride at or above AT - essentially TT pace. Very painful, but noticeably more tolerable every time I do it. I didn't wear a HR monitor for this ride - I'm getting pretty good at gauging effort level by feel.

Numbers and such:
25.6 miles
20.4 mph
1 hr 16 minutes

54 degrees with winds 7-12 mph out of the NW. Wore bibs, base layer, jersey, leg warmers, short gloves and felt distinctly over-dressed for much of the ride. Probably should have skipped the base layer.

No race this weekend... again. I'll do the CSH ride Saturday morning and then head home for some family time.

I also moved my cleats inboard about 1.5 mm before the ride, and it made a huge difference in feel. I didn't immediately go, "oh man, these cleats are in a weird position" as soon as I clipped into the pedals, like I normally do. My shoes are now a little further away from the crank arms, so they don't rub when my feet slide around.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recovery Ride

I was stuck inside doing homework all day today, and finally threw in the towel around 5 pm and went out for a short-ish recovery ride.

I felt surprisingly good considering the pace and distance yesterday - no soreness, legs felt really good. They were lacking some of the "pop" I like to feel before a race weekend, but they did not by any means feel dead.

The lack of stiffness or sore spots was really nice - it means my bike fit is really good. I think I am going to move the cleats a bit more to get my shoes slightly further out - my legs and feet feel a bit pinched right now.

26 miles, 18.1 mph, 1.5 hours, and a whole bunch of dumb shi!ts who had forgotten how to drive. Since I know I'm gonna be cooped up doing more homework at least through Wed, it was good to get this little ride in.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

CSH Saturday Groupride

Today I finally hooked up with the Cycling Spoken Here Saturday groupride. I attempted to do this ride a couple of months ago, but missed the start by about 2 minutes because I got incredibly lost in Cary/Apex (don't laugh - my navigation skills are pretty pathetic) on the way there. Today, I got there in plenty of time to enjoy my traditional pre-ride Bojangles chicken biscuit.

By the numbers:
  • Dist: 65.9 miles
  • Avg. Spd: 19.8 mph
  • Duration: 3 hrs 20 minutes.

Clothing:
  • NCSU bibs and jersey
  • base layer
  • leg warmers
  • NCSU arm warmers
  • short finger gloves

Food: Bojangles biscuit ~30 minutes before, one clif bar between hours 2 and 3. Minimal hunger after ride.

I was freezing my a$$ off for the first 20 minutes or so - it wasn't much above 40 degrees when we rolled out. However, the temps warmed up to around 50 pretty quickly.

The group starting out was around 30+ riders - freaking huge for an un-marshaled groupride. About half of these people split off to do a shorter and slower ride roughly 30 minutes in. Riding in a group this big gave me a better understanding of why motorists hate cyclists in large packs - it really does get un-manageable and we become a nearly insurmountable road block for them. While cyclists have every right to the road, traffic law requires that vehicles that obstruct traffic for an unreasonable amount of time pull off the road and let traffic clear. But without a clear and assertive ride leader, this won't happen.

The short version is I played a very active role in setting the pace and "doing work" in general. I spend a lot of time at the front, and some time off the front. I felt really strong for the whole ride. It's a little early to say, but I'm probably one of the 5 strongest riders in the group.

The pace was hard for the first 30 or so miles. Hard as in 25-28 mph hard. You know you're putting the hurt on guys when you come off the front of a rotating paceline and no one's there to pull through on your wheel. :-) This was the most fun part of the ride: a no-holds barred, all-out hammerfest of pain.

At mile 35 we pulled into a gas station for a pee break. After this, the pace became very civilized and mellow, almost sociable for a while. Then slowly, the pace started to come up again as we headed back into Cary. It never returned to its previous level of thrashing, but we were averaging in the low 20s, and by this point in the ride, on rolling hills, this was plenty painful.

All-in-all a very fun, fast ride right at the skill level I need. There are some sketch parts, like 5 miles on the shoulder of Rt. 64, and some slight nuances in group behavior that put me off a little bit, but overall a ride I will definitely be doing again soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fast Fixed Fun

Tonight I went out to Centennial to meet up with BSane, one of our B riders who's pretty strong. The plan was to do essentially a crit practice on our fixed gears. This was a surprising amount of fun, and one of the most enjoyable hour-and-a-half's I've had recently.

It's kinda odd, this little exercise we did really drove home the point that the bike does not make you fast. If you're fast, you're gonna be fast on most every bike. I always think of my road bike as my go-fast bike, but we were doing the crit course as fast or faster on fixed bikes, because you cannot coast through the corners. No coasting means you're turning the pedals, so might as well put some power to 'em and be productive.

The workout we got was pretty amazing. We did 10 laps of the crit course, alternating who was leading and setting the pace, then the final lap was a free-for-all. I had the advantage of much taller gearing, so I won the sprint (52x14 vs. 48x15 I think). Then we did a spin-out to cool down a little, then 2 hill repeats at full power. These hurt so much more on a fixed gear it's not even funny - you're stuck in one gear the whole way up. Then some tooling around to chill, then 10 more laps of the crit course ( I won the sprint again).

I'm thinking of taking my fixed gear to the regular crit practice - it's a better workout, the bike is better suited to doing crits anyway (handles sharper, more pedal clearance), and it forces you to be very careful through the corners - e.g. corner well.

No races for the next two weekends - skipping WVa and UVa/JMU got cancelled. I'm gonna do the Cycling Spoken Here groupride on Saturday... finally!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So It's Been a While...

So it's been a while since I've posted. The wolfpack revenge went well - a solo breakaway on lap two gathered some horsepower and stayed away for the finish, and I managed 7th place.

Annapolis and the Naval Academy race was f*cking miserable - blowing 20-25, 35 degrees and overcast. Due to not sleeping well, not eating right, and riding on someone else's rear wheel with a worn cassette, (oh yeah, mine went flat 5 minutes before the start), I got OTB fairly quickly and stayed there. The TT, which I had been looking forward to, was canceled because of snow and ice. FREAKING SNOW AND ICE!

Spring Break felt more like winter break, what with all the snow on the ground. Didn't get enough riding in because of this, and by this point in the year I was completely and utterly sick of riding in the cold, and I resolved not to do it any more, regardless of what it did to my training. If I'm not having fun, what's the point?

William and Mary was a blast. The weather was simply amazing - near 70 degrees and very light wind, and our accomodations at the KOA were superb. The TT on Saturday went really well - I was in a good position mentally and physically, and put down a time that I know is very close to my best - 23.3 mph for 12.5 miles. Last year, I managed 20.5 mph for the same TT. That's a big improvement in power over one year.

The next day for the RR I was feeling really good, despite working hard the day before and putting nearly 45 miles in before the day was out. The plan was for Walker and Brian to try and get a break set up, and I would babysit the pack. For the first lap I felt like I was really on top of things - my positioning in the pack was good, I was riding cleanly and keeping an eye on the pack. Then we hit the big KOA climb, and I made the mistake of trying to shift to the small chainring on the first upswinging section. The chain dropped off completely when I was in the middle of the pack, and then jammed up. I managed to unclip without sending anyone down, which was good. Not so good was what the jam had done to my chain. It took me a solid 5 minutes to unjam it and get it back on the chainring. I got back on the bike and started to prepare to TT back to the main group, when I discovered one of the links was twisted about 45 degrees. This meant my race was over, for the second year in the row.

This race had a lot of casualities - another one of our riders got caught up in a crash that totalled his rear wheel and banged him up pretty good. There were 4 or 5 other riders who can in all bloodied up as well. Definitely not a clean race.

The latest happening is I finally bit the bullet and shaved my legs. Yeah, there goes my last pretense at being normal.

The next couple weeks I'll have off, as far as racing is concerned - a couple races got cancelled, and West Virginia is a 8 hour drive for a measly sub-30 mile race and a crit. No thanks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trust Me, It's Supposed to Hurt That Much

So, I survived our home race. Hosting a race is a lot of work - I came out of the weekend severely behind on my sleep. It's astonishing how much sleep deprivation impacts athletic performance.

The short version is I did okay in both the RR and the Crit - 14th in both, which was solidly middle of the pack. Both races were definitely educational!

What did I learn from the RR? The dynamics of riding in a large group (30+ riders) in a limited amount of space (yellow line rule) are totally different than anything I am used to. The amount of time end effort, both physical and mental, that you had to put into getting to the front of the pack were really surprising to me. Getting stuck at the back of the pack meant you were there for quite a while. If you were lucky, there was a turn that allowed you to move up as the group went around it. I spent most of my time near the middle or back of the pack - definitely not where I wanted to be.

In summary, the RR taught me that you really have to fight tooth and nail to stay at the front, and getting filtered back means there's no guarantee you'll ever see the front again. I need to work on my pack handling skills - I'm safe enough, but too conservative in seeing and grabbing spots.

The Criterium. Hoo boy. I did fine for most of the race - I was hurting, but sticking with the lead group until about 7 laps to go. At this point, I just ran out of aerobic gas and could not match the accelerations out of every corner. I eventually got spit off the back of the lead group (second time that's happened to me, ever) and finished with the second group of riders. Five minutes after the race, I was feeling fine and ready for more.

Lesson learned here is really simple: I have plenty of base, but not enough top end aerobic. Since I hate getting my ass kicked, I'm working on correcting this.

Today I did about 45 minutes on the trainer attempting to correct my high-end aerobic deficiencies. My main problem is I cannot recover from extremely high efforts (max. power) while still going hard (z4 = 170+ BPM). I did 1 minute at high power (170-180 BPM), then 1 minute at around 160 BPM, then repeated. I did one set of 4 or 5 reps, then recovered for 5 minutes, then did three more. My god do these little bastards hurt!

Since heart rate takes a while to come up to match the real effort level, I judged these intervals by the gearing I was using. For the "on" minute, I was in 53x14, and for the "off" minute, 53x19 (I think).

Anyway, we'll see how much of an improvement I get from these intervals. I will do them a couple more times before next weekend. Oh, and I'm also staying off the fixed gear - it's really hard on my legs when I'm trying to recover.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You've Got to Be Kidding Me...

While *trying* to re-dish my rear wheel this morning, I found this:


A hairline crack around one of the driveside spoke nipples. I just love finding this kind of shit the day before a race.

Long story short, I spent the better part of 7 hours today that I should have spent on homework running all over Raleigh and Cary finding a new set of wheels. I eventually ended up with a set of Mavic Aksium Race wheels. The downside: they're heavier than my cosmics by a noticeable amount.

Tell me again, why do I love bikes?

Here We Go...

Tomorrow is the first race of the collegiate season: the NCSU Wolfpack Classic. I've been kind of tapering the whole week - here are the rides I did:

Last Saturday: OCS speedway race - about 20 miles at high intensity.
Sunday: pre-rode the road course - 36 miles at low intensity.
Monday: penny lochmere loop at TT pace. Posted my fastest solo 25 mile average speed: 20.4 mph.
Tuesday: penny-lochmere again at recovery pace. Very windy.
Wednesday: tried to do hill repeats but discovered my legs were not up to it - I had been riding fixed to campus Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday - it's like resistance/strength training.
Thursday: mountain biking class, recovery pace
Friday: hopefully nothing :-)

In other news, I discovered my back wheel is out of dish. This explains some handling idiosyncracies, and also why I constantly feel like my handlebars are crooked. I'm going to correct this later today, and hopefully I don't FUBAR my wheel the day before a race.

Tomorrow morning we have to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am to roll out at 5 am, to get there in time to set the race up. Ugh. And instead of mentally preparing for the race and resting, I'm going to be doing homework.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Speedway Race, take II

Today I did the OCS speedway race again.

As I said in my last post, I didn't ride much at all this week because the weather was so freaking awful - cold and blowing about 30 mph all the time. Just riding to class and back was miserable. So naturally by Wed. I was bouncing off the walls, as usual when I don't ride. I didn't get on the bike until Friday night, when I did about 40 minutes on the trainer. I felt pretty bad doing this - power was down, and I developed several stitches in my side. This worried me, because I never get stitches when I ride. So I stretched out really well afterwards and just hoped for the best.

Race day: got there and warmed up for an hour. Felt pretty good. Tried to put together a group that was willing to try and lap the field at the very beginning of the race. Got a couple people to sign on, but not the kind of horsepower I needed to make it work. They called us to the line before last week, so I wasn't fully warmed up. My mom came out to watch, which was nice.

Whistle blows, I hammer hard per the plan. We actually got about a 50 yard gap, thanks to Brian and Kai blocking, before they started closing, and that was that. I sat in and recovered for a while. I felt a stitch starting to develop; this took the edge off of my aerobic power all day, and I had to be a lot more conservative with how hard I went. Everyone was going a lot harder than last week because the weather was great - nearly 60 degrees.

The race was pretty uneventful until I locked handlebars with a UNC rider on the back stretch. I was shooting for a gap and didn't verbally warn him in time, and he moved over into me. We both said some choice expletives and sort of leaned hard into each other to keep ourselves upright. All around us the whole pack said a collective "Shit!" and scattered. My front wheel was hopping laterally and something was "pinging" the spokes as I fought the bars to keep the bike upright - this was pretty instinctive for me, so the rest of my brain was looking for a graceful way out. At one point I was 100% sure I was going to eat pavement because my front wheel hopped about 6 inches sideways. Walker said he was behind and to my left, and he was scared out his mind. Kai, who was further back, said my back wheel at one point lifted off the pavement about 6 inches, but I have no memory of this (but then again, I was a little preoccupied). Anyway, eventually we separarted and resumed racing.

Thinking back on it, I am surprised how little of an adrenaline rush there was - I was pretty calm throughout the whole thing. As soon as we got clear of each other I immediately went right back to racing - there was no pause to take a breath or steady my nerves, because they didn't need steadying.

I remember two distinct thoughts while fighting for dear life: one was, "I am sure as hell not going down and ruining my brand-new team kit!" The second was, "I don't want my mom to come watch me race and see me leave a bloody stain on this track!"

I still don't know how I got out of that in one piece. Every time I think of how close I came to seriously fucking myself up, I get giddy. What a great sport!

Towards the end, my positioning in the pack was terrible. I was way too far back with 5 to go. Even though I handled the accelerations fine, I couldn't get clear and get to the front in time. I finished 20th out of a 50 person field.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Speedway Races and other stuff

Well, I survived my first race of the season.

The short version is I did okay until the last couple laps, when I tried to bridge up to a break, blew up halfway there, then got swallowed by the field and spit out the back. I even won the first preem - a really nice Cannondale jersey! Judging by the price tag, I more than paid for my entry fee, which is a nice feeling.

Yeah I was gonna make a nice long write-up but screw it - that's too much work.

Sunday after the race Walker, Ryan (slow dude) and I did about 65 miles southeast of Raleigh that was extremely enjoyable.

I didn't ride much at all this week because the weather went to shit again.

Don't mind the date - I didn't get around to posting this until Feb. 6

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mountain Biking, Crit Practice, and Speedway Races

Yesterday I got in about 50 miles total, between my mountain biking class and crit practice in the evening.

Class was enjoyable. I got kind of a late start, so was hammering pretty hard on the way out there. Part way I caught up with Matt Howe. We rode the rest of the way together. I don't know how hard he was pushing, but I didn't have trouble keeping up with him, which was encouraging even if he was loafing, because he's pretty much crazy strong.

Matt timed how long we were actually riding in class, and it came out to be 15 minutes. Yeah, 15 minutes out of a nearly two hour class we actually spent riding. WTF. Ah well.

The way back was much of the same - kept up with Matt no problem. I hate climbing hills on my mtb because the position just plain sucks for developing power. I've found that if I bend forward I get my butt muscles engaged a little more and that helps.

Later we had our first scheduled Thursday night crit practice. I was joined by Evan Halladay (Cat. A) and Walker (who will probably be racing C's with me for a while). After warming up for a bit, we did 5 laps hard, 4 easy. I only stayed for two sets because I had been out there since 6:30 and I needed some real food.

The first set was pretty rough for me - it took a while for my "instincts" to come back. I've spent so long riding with people in a non-race setting gaps kept opening up a lot faster than I was closing them. Evan, of course, put the hurt on me pretty bad a couple of times. But both sets I did I had something left to sprint for the line, which was encouraging to see. I can definitely feel my high end aerobic developing every time I ride.

The second set I locked onto Evan's wheel and let him pull for 3 of the laps. Then Walker blasted past and I jumped onto him and followed him to the line. I beat him in the sprint - I feel we're pretty equally matched. This wasn't the best workout, but for me it was more important to re-hone my crit skills.

During the 4 easy, I learned there was a speedway race tomorrow. Evan encouraged me to do it, so I've decided I will. It will be a good gauge of my early season fitness compared to other cat 5 and 4 racers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Off Day Where I Didn't Need One

Didn't get to ride today because of the weather. It was a wonderful temperature - the high was in the low 60s, but raining pretty much all day. When it wasn't raining the roads were soaked. I intended to do the trainer for a bit but the day got away from me.

Tomorrow I've got my mountain biking class, and I intend to ride out to Umstead to add a few more miles. My only concern is the Q factor and body position differences will screw me up. Ah well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dude, We're Racing in Two Weeks

I just looked at my calendar and realized the season is steamrolling towards me really quick. In two weeks we have our home race, and then it's one every weekend all the way through April.

It was raining today, so I was back on the trainer for more intervals. 15 minutes in zone 3 (160 bpm), off for 5, then 30 seconds on / 30 seconds off. I only managed 3 of these, because they hurt like a mother. It's definitely a different kind of interval - the first set I can do fairly anaerobically, but for the following ones your anaerobic system is not recharged, so they hurt a lot more.

I only did about 45 minutes total - I can tell, based on my heart rate for a given speed on the trainer, that I am still recovering from last week's mileage.

SEASON READINESS

When I compare where I am now to where I was this time last year, I'm amazed by the improvements I see: my endurance has more than doubled, my z3 speed is higher by at least 0.5 mph, I am more comfortable on the bike, I have an effective fueling strategy, and I have a much higher tolerance for pain. I also have a much firmer grasp on how to train and recover properly.

C races are normally in the 25 to 35 mile range. This is well within the limits of my endurance. I have found that if I concentrate on fuelling enough, I can go for upwards of 70 miles fairly comfortably. So distance-wise, I'm covered.

The concern now is aerobic power, sustainability, and output. I've been doing some z3 intervals on the trainer, and have started pushing harder on rides. This seems to have made a pretty big difference, relative to the amount of time I've spent training in that zone. But, I really need to ask our coach, or one of our upper tier riders, what the best way to train aerobic zones is.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Ride

Contrary to what I said in yesterday's post, I hooked up with John Crowe, Nick Reeves, Kai, and Walker for a 10 am ride. This is a regularly scheduled team ride that is supposed to be a 3-4 hour social pace (which depending on the mix of riders, is anywhere from 15 to 19 mph).

I kept watching the projected high for today slowwwwly dropping every day, much to my dismay. At 10 am when we rolled, it was near the freezing point - a long way from the original projected high of low 50s. It never did get very warm - this was the first ride I've been able to keep my windbreaker on comfortably for the whole thing.

Anyway, the stats:
Distance: 51.8 mi.
Avg Spd: 15.9 mph
Duration: 3.5 hrs

Despite the fact that it was cold enough to make testicle popsicles, it was a fun ride. We kept the pace pretty sane for the most part, and practiced a rotating paceline for a couple of miles. That is freaking hard to pull off gracefully, and the difficulty of keeping it smooth increases as the effort level increases - it becomes harder to compensate with little accelerations.

The route was... interesting, to say the least. We spent a good part of the outbound leg on greenways that I never knew existed, and ended up passing through Apex twice - once on the way out, and once on the way back. Our rough turnaround point was near the Harris Lake Reactor.

It's amazing how quickly it becomes "normal" for me to be able to keep up with our A riders without problem, both in distance and in pace. I felt fine at the end of the ride.

This week I've done roughly 190 miles and change. This is a little over the range I want, so I am taking tomorrow and possibly Tuesday off to give my butt a chance to adjust to riding that much again. Of course the weather is conspiring to prevent this - Tuesday on has 50/50 chance of rain, so we'll see. I may do something small tomorrow.

Amazingly, it's already been 150 miles since I put on the new bar tape and new cables. I'm starting to become amazed at the number of miles the old chain is surviving... It's waaay stretched now (the ".1" side of the park tools stretch indicator drops in easily), but it still keeps chugging along.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Group Ride!..... Or not

Today I was planning on doing the Cycling Spoken Here Cary group ride. However, due to some terrible directions, general getting lost, and driving right by the shop, I missed the start by a couple minutes. Now normally this just means you chase really hard for a while until you catch them, but I had never done the route before and there were no cue sheets, so chasing wasn't really an option. Bummer. But, on Sundays they have a social ride, so I will do that tomorrow now that I know where the shop is.

So I came back home and did a ride later in the afternoon, after it was done raining.
Distance: 37.5 mi.
Avg Spd: 19.1 mph
Duration: 2 hrs

The weather was much the same as yesterday: gusty with partially cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 50s.

The average speed numbers definitely point to some serious increases in power and stamina. The lower bar position is also noticeably more aero. I can't conceivably go any lower with the current cranks I have: my legs hit my chest at the top of the stroke when I am in a "deep" tuck. I want to put shorter cranks on the bike eventually, because I have reason to believe that my current cranks are too long by at least 5 mm. My lower back and neck are a little stiffer than they normally are after a ride, but my body isn't giving me any warning signs that the position isn't sustainable long term, which is good.

It also feels really good to be back on the bike outdoors and logging serious miles. My goal right now is 100 to 150 miles per week. I can do more, but I can't keep that kind of volume up for many weeks in a row.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finally, some warm weather!

Today was the first day since the fifteenth that I was able to ride outdoors, and man did it feel good to break my "cabin fever"!

To keep from going crazy, I had been riding the trainer a lot over the past week, concentrating on z3 intervals. I've found that I can tolerate about an hour on the trainer before I start to get bored. This normally works out to two z3 intervals at about 15 to 20 minutes long, and one or two shorter higher-power intervals as well. This certainly doesn't wear me out properly, but it takes the edge off my twitchiness.

On the 21st I re-wrapped my bars and put completely new cables and housings on. While I had all the control lines off, I took the opportunity to flip my stem over and drop my bars an inch or so. The new bar tape (bright orange, in keeping with the original color scheme) looks very pro. I also took my time to run the control cables properly, and I am very pleased with the result - shifting has tightened up noticeably.

Today I hooked up with Brian K., whom I've ridden with before. This guy weighs pretty much nothing, so in the past he's completely stomped me going up every hill. We also had a new-ish guy tagging along (no helmet, no water bottle for a 40 mile ride!); he did okay for most of the ride, but at about mile 30 he really started dragging. No more will be said of him :-)

Anyway, throughout the whole ride Brian had a lot harder time putting the hurt on me than in the past: on every hill he was chasing me, rather than vice-versa. This really, really felt good: I could clearly see an improvement in my power output from the intervals I had done in the past week, and my general volume of training. Brian is a strong, predictable rider: after just a couple rides with him I can predict how he will act pretty well, and how hard he's going to go in certain sections. I think he's going to end up racing C's with me, so it will be nice to already know how he rides.

The lowered bars felt really nice - I had no back or neck problems during or after the ride. The bike handles a little differently, a little "sharper", if that makes any sense. I could tell I hadn't been on the bike enough, though: my rear end was complaining by the end of the ride, and my handling skills had deteriorated a little bit. That's one downside to riding the trainer: you lose the feel for the bike.

One of the other things I've been concentrating on while riding the trainer is pedaling smoothly and in circles. There's a mirror on my bathroom door that I aim so I can see myself and observe my pedal stroke. I've noticed, at least on the trainer, that I do not keep my hips very stable. During the ride today, if I felt myself flagging on a climb, I would concentrate on pedaling in circles, and pushing all the way through the bottom of the stroke. Like magic, more power would come from nowhere, and climb would seem to flatten out! I need to work on pedaling in circles all the time, but the difference in power is nice to feel on a tough climb when I need a mental "pick-me-up".

In other news, I've been following the blog of Avery Wilson, little brother to an apparently fairly successful racer. He wants to upgrade to B's, so I asked him what his 10 minute power and weight were, to compare him to my own numbers. Turns out he produces 215 Watts at 55 kg, for a W/kg of 3.91. I produce 255 Watts at 68 kg (150 lb), for a W/kg of 3.75. So he's got me beat by a little bit. However, my wattage numbers are a tad old, and I would guess I could produce around 260 or 265 Watts for the same interval now, which yields 3.90 W/kg best case. Not half bad. Depending on how the season goes, an upgrade to B's once I satisfy the upgrade requirements is a definite possibility.

I am seriously psyched for this season - I feel good, my training's going well, it looks like I'll be in the top tier of the C field power-wise, and my class load is light enough I have time to train, rest, and race like I want to.

Bring the rain.

EDIT ---------------

Today's ride stats:
Distance: 44.4 mi
Avg. Spd: 19.0 mph
Duration: 2:30

I'm rather proud of that average speed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Updates

Well it's been a little while since I've posted. As it turns out I took the next five days off after my last post - I was feeling extremely low energy and overtrained. Then, just as I was feeling better, the weather went nuts and socked us with a nearly week-long deep freeze. Here in NC, this is the coldest weather we've had in 4 or 5 years.

Wednesday, the NCSU cycling team had its first meeting of the year, and our new team clothing was distributed! I got bibs, a jersey, short finger gloves, and arm warmers. I'm really impressed by the quality and the fit of the clothing, which was made by Giordana (shameless plug!).

The new rack for my commuter is working flawlessly; it sure is nice to have the bike carrying 30-odd pounds instead of my back! While on the subject, I got a new set of tires for this bike to replace the -28C specialized Armaddillos that I was using. The 28s never fit right - they were always rubbing on something, and never did seat right on the wheels. So I replaced them with a set of Michelin somethings.

So, Thursday, I got out for about an hour to see how the new team kit felt on the bike. Thursday's high was above freezing, but not by much.

Yesterday, (Friday), I was getting kinda desparate and twitchy, so I set up the trainer for the first time this winter and did about a half hour, which amounted to warm up, two 5 minute z4 intervals with 5 min rest in between, and then a cool down. I was kinda surprised how tolerable that was, as far as not boring me out of my skull.

Today, since it was just barely supposed to clear freezing, it was another trainer day. I did an hour, broken up like this: warm-up, 5 minute z2, 10 minute z3, 2.5 minute full power, 10 minute z3, cool down, with 5 minutes of rest between the intervals. This made the hour go by really fast!

Tomorrow it's supposed to rain (urgh), so I'll probably end up on the trainer again. It is striking how precisely you can prescribe intervals, if you can tolerate riding the stupid thing.

GEARING UP FOR THE SEASON

The collegiate season starts in just a few short weeks, so I'm starting to mentally sort through what needs to be done to my bike. So far...
  • New bar tape
  • New brake pads
  • Possibly lower bars or invert stem
  • Get a 12-27 cassette
The cassette is the last piece I need to completely overhaul my drivetrain when I either blow up the chain or it starts missing shifts / skipping. The chain is very worn, so the cassette definitely needs to be replaced, unfortunately. But I want to get all the mileage I can out of it, so I'll ride it until it destroys one race for me :-)

Alright, I think that's it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rest Day

As predicted in my last post, 200 miles a week is a tad much for me, so I took the day off.

Yesterday I posted some solidly good, but not spectacular numbers: going hard (Z4) into a headwind on the aero bars I was averaging something like 22-24 mph - which is good, but nothing to write home about. I also felt a lot more tired at the end of the 25 miles than I should have. This, combined with the "dead legs" feeling during the ride, and very draggy afterwards, gave me a pretty good indication that it was time to take a day off.

Yesterday afternoon I went over to my aunt and uncle's house to work on some bikes they had gotten hold of. Mostly it was little stuff like adjusting the brakes and derailleurs, but my uncle had an old mountain bike that needed a crankset.

This morning I swung by REI and picked up a new rear rack for my commuter bike. For Christmas I got a set of Axiom Typhoon panniers, which are terrific. But, the rack I had was pretty terrible and not really designed to carry large panniers. The worst problem was my heels didn't clear the panniers, which would typically eject one of them every time I rode - really irritating.

So, I got a longer rack that holds the panniers a solid 2 inches or so further aft. It's also a much nicer rack overall, and has a mounting point for a tail light on the rear of the rack. This makes me irrationally happy.

Tonight, as a shakedown run, I distributed fliers around campus advertising the cycling team's first meeting. Everything worked flawlessly! It's so much nicer to have the bike carrying stuff instead of your back.

I think my commuter has a bit of water in the stem interface, because when I stand to climb the bars make this horrible click when I pull on them. And it's not the headset - I made sure of that. At some point I'll have to tear the front end down and dry it out.... a task I'm not relishing because the bike has a threaded headset.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Updates

Happy (belated) New Year!

Cycling-wise, I got the year off to a good start with Nic Reeves' training camp in the mountains above Mt. Airy. We had five days full of epic miles, good company, and copious amounts of food consumption. I won't bore you with the details, but I definitely saw results of base training: I was easily keeping up with our stronger (A and B) riders on all of the rolling sections, and not being killed too badly on the hills. I got several compliments that I looked really strong. This told me that a) before I had been discounted as a "lightweight" - not really a serious rider with potential to go far, and b) that my teammates were re-evaluating me as a good rider and a potentially valuable addition to the team. This was really good for my ego :-)

So far this year I've done just over 300 miles, which works out to roughly 200 miles a week. If I were to keep this volume of training up, I would do something like 11,000 miles this year! Of course, this isn't really feasbile. 200 miles a week is probably a little high, since I'm feeling pretty trashed after just 25 miles today in windy conditions.

Our coach is starting to ramp our intensity up in our training plans - we saw our first set of gentle intervals this week - which I haven't done yet, in addition to some TT practice and hill repeats. The season starts in just a few short weeks. Here's the schedule:

Feb 14-15 North Carolina State University
Feb 21-22 Pfeiffer University
Feb 28-Mar 1 United States Naval Academy
Mar 7-8 College of William & Mary
Mar 14-15 University of Maryland/John Hopkins University
Mar 21-22 West Virginia University
Mar 28-29 James Madison University/University of Virginia
Apr 4-5 Virginia Tech
Apr 11-12 (Easter) Appalachian State University
Apr 18-19 AC Conference Champs-Wake Forest University
Hopefully this year I won't break my collarbone again - fingers crossed!

In other news, Matt Howe is in my mountain biking class as well as a guy who broke a collarbone, three ribs, and a vertebrae at the same spot I broke my collarbone! It looks like a good mix of students, if a little light on "beginning" mountain bikers.