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.


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


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.


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


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.