Monday, July 29, 2013

Tomahawk Triathlon

S - 5800 yards
B - 106.1 miles
R - 32.2 miles
Time - 10.57 hours

So before I get into the race, I just need to get this off my chest: I am NOT loving swimming right now.  It's not necessarily the ACT of swimming itself that I am disliking, it is the getting up in the morning that is dragging me down.  Every single day I've had swimming on my schedule the past 3-4 weeks I have set my alarm for the appropriate time but my body has told me to take my early morning wake up calls and shove them somewhere as dark as my room.  And I have given in to my body.  I like not feeling alone so "luckily others have gone through this as well. That being said, it is time to stop being a b*tch. This weekend's race was an example of how important the swim is, both in a personal case and in an Ironman.

First, the example of the Ironman.  At Lake Placid, Andy Potts swam fast, biked fast, and ran fast to take the overall win.  An age grouper (pro duathlete) named Josh Beck swam very slow, biked extremely fast, and ran extremely fast to nudge his way into 7th overall.  He gave up 31 minutes to Potts in the swim.  Just let that one sink in for a bit.  Over a 2.4 mile course, he gave up over half an hour.  He then biked a 4:40 (fastest split of the day) then ran a 2:57 (~3rd fastest run), out splitting Potts on the bike and run by 13 minutes.  Anyway, that's just a little factoid for you.

Tomahawk Triathlon - 1k swim + 30k bike + 8k trail run

When money is on the line, everything gets a wee bit more pressurized.  For a while I was thinking I could sort of "coast" through this race and still win but then Tyler Jordan signed up race week and my plans changed.  I was hopeful that this venue would allow me to exercise my strengths over him a bit more than our previous races against each other at Over the Mountain and Lake Hickory.  OTM was a wetsuit legal swim and Hickory was a wetsuit legal 400m swim, both of which served to help the slower swimmers.  With Tomahawk being a 1000m non wetsuit (hot actually!) swim I knew that the swim would be where - if I won - I won the race.

Even more interestingly, the start was set up such that Tyler started 15s behind me (time trial start with "elites" going off every 15s) as the last elite racer.

Jenny and I headed up to the race at a not-too-early 6am and had ample time to set up bikes, hit the portos (as a sidenote, I am not sure how many others do this but I make it a rule to not look into the eyes of anybody that precedes me into the porto or goes in after me, it's almost forbidden; although sometimes I want to hold the door open for the next person, stare at them, and wink knowingly) and pick up the timing chips.  Managed to get in a short, but so sweet, swim warm up before we had to start lining up for the start of the race.

Swim - 15:00.05 - 1st

My goal during the swim was simply to put as much time into Tyler as I could.  So with that thought in mind I semi-dove off the ramp and promptly filled up my goggles with water. Instead of doing the whole swim like that I took a brief moment to empty them of their brown, sludgy contents before carrying on with the task at hand.  I passed the girl who started in front of me almost immediately then set my sights on the next set of splashes.  The water was pretty calm albeit warm and my high initial effort soon gave way to a slightly more realistic pace.  I caught up to Mark and Brian just before the first turn buoy and once turning left looked back to see if Tyler was in sight behind me.  To the next buoy my effort remained constant and I slowly reeled in another person and made the pass just after the second turn.  When scouting out the course I noticed that if you cut to close to the "point" in the last 150m you were likely to encounter some rocky ground but unfortunately while racing I forgot about my pre-race thoughts and promptly cut the corner too close, managing to pull myself along the bottom before exiting the swim.

T1 - 1:24.32

The run was long and mostly uphill...

Bike - 44:46.08  - 1st

I headed out on the bike close behind the second place girl and not as close as I wanted behind the first place girl.  I knew I had my work cut out for me on the bike as Tyler wasn't gonna just let me ride away from him so I put my head down and rode.

I managed to hold pretty consistent (although not very high) watts throughout the race and they were, quite sadly, only a hair above my half-ironman effort.  That being said, I felt as though I was moving along at a fairly expedient pace and so didn't get too down on myself.  My position is slightly different versus the last time I raced, with 1cm lower and narrower on the aero bars and 1cm higher saddle my body could definitely tell there was a difference of some sort.  It felt rather warm out and I was sweating at a fairly prodigious rate and it took me quite a while to catch my first sight of Jenny and the lead vehicle.  I wanted that vehicle to myself so I took it upon myself to close the gap down sooner rather than later.

I will say that the one, singular negative thing I have to say about the race (which is completely unrelated to the race itself), was the action (or inaction rather) of one particular police officer.  At races, it is the JOB of a police officer to direct traffic.  They are not there to tell you which way to go or be supportive.  They are there to keep you - the participant - from getting your ass run over.  Now at one point the course took a left turn and then a quick right turn.  Shortly thereafter racers passed through a stop sign (traffic traveling perpendicular to our road did NOT have a stop sign) and a police car was parked at the intersection.  Now, the only people to have come before me were the lead vehicle and Jenny.  According to her, the cop was sitting in her car when the lead vehicle came up and that was no big deal because the first place racer had the "protection" of a car ahead of her.  I had no such protection.  I came up (slight uphill) to the intersection and noticed three things immediately:

1) stop sign (but no 4 way stop sign)
2) police car
3) cop in car on phone

Now, I'm not particularly vocal but as I looked both ways and crawled through the intersection I looked back at this police officer getting paid at LEAST double-time for an incredibly simple job, sitting in her car on the phone and I yelled at her to get out of her car and do her job.  I was pretty unhappy about that.  If I had been struck by a car of if ANYTHING had happened to be that liability would be fully in the lap of the Waxhaw Police Department and not only would I be injured and/or hurt, she'd probably be out of a job. For no. good. reason.


Once I passed Jenny (yelling triumphantly although it took way longer than I wanted it to) the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  I looked back occasionally to see if anyone was back there but other than Jenny for a bit subsequently no one was visible.  I took that as a good sign and ended the bike feeling as though I had a good, solid lead over Tyler.

T2 - :26.63

Simple, and effective although I did have to do a double-take on one of my shoes.

Run - 31:46.63 - 3rd

I started running at a slightly slower pace than I "normally" do in an attempt to feel stronger at the end than I "normally" do.  Luckily I had Donny in front of me on the lead bike and the wind in my hair and so I carried on fairly expeditiously.  The run quickly turned to trail and I had memories in my head of rolling my right ankle last weekend on this very same course dancing through my head.  I was a little stressed out about this run because of it; I prefer road runs in general but ESPECIALLY in this particular instance considering my prior history with the course.

The course wound it's way around trees and up and down some hills before spitting out onto a long flat section along the dam.  At the end of the long straight section (maybe 45+ seconds of running?) I looked back and saw no one in pursuit and so carried on with the work.  Around a bend, over some roots, up a hill, across a stream and eventually got spit out onto a gravel parking lot with a second aid station.  There was a slight uphill before coming to the only paved section of the course and also the turnaround.  Once I turned around I'd be able to get a better feel for where I was in relation to Tyler and was slightly dismayed when I saw him earlier than I'd hoped to see him.  I had no watch so had no real time frame on where he was but it looked like he was closer and it looked like he was running a lot faster than me.

Donny led me on my merry way and we crossed paths with everyone going the other way; Jenny had a huge lead on the next girl (in fact, I never even saw the next girl I don't think?) and everyone looked to be running fairly quickly but I tried not to lose focus as I didn't want to break my ankle.  I eventually came to the last mile or so of the course and the long flat section again where I looked back and still saw no sign of Tyler so realized at that point I probably had this one in the bag.

The "back" section split from the "out" section with John Behme yelling at me to make sure I took the correct route (and playing videographer briefly)

The last 1/2 mile or so was the most technical of all what with all the roots and I nearly fell, barely catching myself at one point.  I emerged near swim start/finish and continued on the last 50m to cross the finish line.  I looked at the finish time for 15s before I started chugging on some water and kissing babies.

1:33:23 - 1st OA - fasted swim and bike

I was pleased with this race and hope to continue with good results next weekend at Stumpy Creek!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A2 Wind Tunnel

Alright, this one may take a while (but don't all good things?)

I am not sure when I got my first vicarious taste of all the goodness the wind tunnel has to offer, but I can say for sure that when Tim Ferguson went earlier this year it truly wet my whistle. There are few things that prompt more nerdgasms than free speed on the bike.  I don't just do certain things because I want to be faster, however, I do them because I LOVE bike stuff.  This new gadget, that new toy, that new bottle, etc.  You know the drill.  If you're reading this then you have a pretty good idea about how hard I geek out about new stuff.  So the prospect of going to something that has become the pinnacle of discerning triathletes and time trialists really revs my engines.

I had another little tease a couple of months ago when I went up there with Cid Cardoso Jr who was helping out an Inside Out Customer and I got to see, more specifically, the dynamic of what happens when you are testing and doing runs.  It helped me get a better idea of what I myself would want to test should I ever get up the gumption to plop down the dollar bills for a trip myself.  Last, but certainly not least, I got to go last Monday to help Dave with a media experiment that has yet to be published so I cannot really discuss it in detail but, suffice it to say, is pretty darn cool.

The whole entire point of going to the wind tunnel is to separate the wheat from the chaff, or more generally eliminating the vagaries of the so-called "eyeball aero tunnel."  Some things "look" faster but are not. Some things "logically" should make you faster, but they do not.  The testing in the tunnel eliminates those question marks.

Which helmet is better?
Is narrower always faster?
Is lower always faster?
Does saddle height affect frontal area?
Does head position matter that much?
Does hand position matter that much?


I remember discussing with Bill Robertson - a fellow AC3 athlete - what a trip to the tunnel would really MEAN.  On one hand, you have the possibility of gaining all of this unknown amount of speed through no increase in fitness and on the other hand you have the possibility that you will not.  Both are positives in the sense that if you experience the latter, if nothing else it is justification that your choices made up to that point were good and right and aero.  There is low-hanging fruit of the aero world, then there is fruit that is kind of high up in the tree and tougher to get to.  Once you've snagged all that low, easy fruit, your job gets much harder.

So on Monday morning of this week I rolled up to the A2 base of operations up in the middle of nowhere Mooresville, NC and began to figure out what was really up with aero-ness.

Step 1 in aero testing is to establish a baseline from which the rest of the runs will be deemed "successful" or not. This is pretty much what I had to work with for my baseline:

My bike was setup with 2cm of "aero-matched" Aduro spacers under the stem, a certain saddle height of let's say "X," and that was pretty much it.  I decided to test in my tri suit versus my speedsuit and TT kit so I could ascertain a more triathlon specific baseline and know that if anything I could improve slightly upon that with the better/faster apparel I'd use in a TT.

I didn't see any of these results until after the fact so my only frame of reference during each run was whether they'd run the test at 10 degrees of yaw or not as that signified that they wanted to verify the improvements at zero degrees.  This first test/baesline was run at 0, then at 10, then back at 0 to verify and provide a control.  My input speed was 25mph as that is roughly what I will average in a half-ironman (plus or minus a few, obiously) and "aero watts" are the frame of reference for improvements.  Aero watts is purely a measurement based on aerodynamic/CdA alone and does not factor in rolling resistance, drivetrain loss, etc.  So it takes more than those displayed watts to go the intended mph (dang, right?).  Another thing to keep in mind is that modern TT/triathlon bikes will ALWAYS be better at yaw than at 0, especially when they have aerodynamic wheelsets installed.  The "sail" effect provided by the aero shapes greatly benefits the modern rider.

The second test I ran simply changed the hand positions to a more Dave Zabrieski like style of one hand wrapped over the other.  This changed my elbow position and affected my reach a little bit but it is something I do when I am on a long, flat straightaway or downhill where all-out power is not required.

So at 25mph the gains were not much but if you increase the input speed to 29 mph (or 30, the speed at which most companies report results because of the greater statistical difference) the gains are slightly increased.

The next run put my hands back to their "normal" position and moved the pads in 1cm on each side (or, as narrow as the stock 3T Aduro elbow pads will go).  This result showed a more marked improvement over the hand position change.

You can see that Dave also tested that position out to yaw to verify that it was an improvement (although it showed no improvement at yaw, which is not actually surprising).  Jim O'brian also wanted to test wider, hence the 4th run which showed a dramatic INCREASE in watts required so that one was eliminated right away.

The next three tests lowered the bars 10mm, then raised the saddle 10mm, then lowered the bars another 10mm (so the bars were "slammed" onto the frame).  The first of those was a natural extension of testing, to see if lower did indeed net a faster position.  As was the third of those three runs.  The middle run, or the run where my saddle was raised, was deemed necessary as it was fairly clear in the video to Brian, Heath and Jim that my saddle was a little low.  I don't know Jim that well other than his reputation and history with bikes (it's long!) but I DO know Brian very well and Heath and trust their opinions on this matter and they both said it needed to come up, so it did.  Now, the slightly annoying part about this necessity is that it increased my frontal area, which resulted in more grams of drag.  Dang! So Run #6 essentially became the "new baseline," something to keep in mind as you continue reading! (so exciting, right!!!)

As you can see from run #7, 2cm lower than "baseline" (from an armpad stack standpoint) was indeed faster but it was not comfortable to me.  It is something I could probably get used to but that is not something I will implement right away as I think the bike would need a little more reach as well (it is currently maxed out on reach) to aid adaptation to the lower position.  So while run #7 was the fastest of the day to that point I requested switching back to baseline 1cm of armpad stack, +1cm of saddle height, -1cm of armpad width.  So that became the new comparison (run #6).

After all that, I had actually LOST watts compared to the original baseline.  But the fit itself was better due to the more natural saddle height and the other improvements kept me close enough to almost be within the margin of error anyway.  So moving along it was time to test different helmets.  I own both the LG Rocket, which I had been using as the baseline because Kask has yet to supply my helmet with the proper CPSC sticker so it is therefore illegal for me to use in triathlons (although it only gets checked in races with a pro field).  But still, testing the Kask would be worth it.  I tested three basic positions with the Kask: head "normal," chin "down," and head "normal" plus the hands wrapped over each other.

Head "normal"

Head "lower"

Head normal + hands high

So remembering that the "new baseline" was 191 watts at 0 you can see that the Kask was only faster in one position, run #11.  The position in that one is not particularly sustainable for long periods of time as power output becomes an issue with the hands held as they are in that third photo.  Anytime the helmet looks down it appears to get worse (a lot worse, which is surprising considering it's shape).  Moving along I tested another three helmets: the Giro Selector (tests faster pretty frequently), the Giro Advantage 2 (an old design from Giro) and the Bell Javelin (very similar to the Selector).  The third was much worse so I won't even post those results but the other two were interesting.

Giro Selector

Giro Advantage 2

The differences are fairly clear between these two helmets and the LG.  Remember that the "new" baseline at 0 is 191 watts with the higher saddle so using that knowledge the Selector represents a very slight improvement but more surprisingly the Advantage 2 represents a marked improvement even at "just" 25mph (the difference goes up more dramatically at 30mph).  This is a pretty old-school helmet that even the Giro-sponsored pros no longer use.  Be that as it may, the numbers don't lie and it may be worth switching to this helmet in the future.

The last two tests were of one more helmet, the Specialized TT02 (which was much worse so won't post those results) and the true "turtling" head position.  Now, a true turtle is pretty difficult to manage and requires a great deal of practice.  Pulling your shoulder blades together as closely as possible and holding your head tucked very low is difficult to pull off for more than minutes at a time.  In fact, when they did this run by the end of it (say roughly 3.5-4 minutes of continuous holding of the position) I was dead tired from it and decided I couldn't do any more tests (6hrs of riding the day before probably didn't help...).  But the results were quite telling...

Can he see up the road?? Sort of...
Head lower than back? Check.

Arms and shoulders visibly straining to hold the position? Check.

That position represents a fairly noticeable improvement in aero watts, subtracting 8 from the 191 the "normal" head position required.  This is, however, the only position at which I felt as though I would be unable to sustain for longer than a short period of time.  Every other run I held a "realistic" head position as I felt that it was representative of what I would do in a triathlon.  The takeaway from this particular run, however, was that in certain situations (i.e. the back and front stretch at Lowe's 10mi TT) it is definitely worth it to concentrate on body awareness and head position.  At 30mph the gains are far more noticeable: 191 to 183 at 25mph and 329 to 316 at 30mph; so a big difference!

That pretty much completes my testing.  In an ideal world I would've liked taken two or three more runs to test TT apparel (swap trisuit for skinsuit, tri shoes for socks + shoes + booties) and hydration/storage (BTA bottle, bento box, rear Xlab mount) and see what kind of gains and losses those elicited but I was pretty tired and didn't have much more consistency left in me at that point.  Plus, it's really expensive.

My takeaway is just that there was simply not that much room for improvement, which didn't really surprise me.  My watts to mph equation has always been one of the best among people I've spoken with so to see that validated in the tunnel was certainly confidence inspiring.  It was an extremely awesome opportunity and the data will prove to be very useful when it comes to equipment selection and choices in the future.  But ultimately it was VERY clear that it is an incredibly individual thing and that what works for me will almost certainly not probably work for you.  I'm not even sure I could say that there are general trends one can follow as that would do a disservice to science and provide unnecessary encouragement to the eyeball aero experts that are out there.  Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.

If you need to choose a helmet here is what your decision process should be if you are unable to go to the tunnel:

Step 1) Pick a cool looking model
Step 2) Verify size
Step 3) Submit payment

Because there's no other way to know which one is going to be "better" or "worse." It seems as though, with me anyway, lower did get faster and narrower was also faster, albeit not by much and being much lower would be uncomfortable at this point.

I may or may not think of other tidbits to add to this point but to sum it up I can think of one word in particular: enlightening.

Ask any questions you want!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A trip to Utah

This week was all about learning.  An educational experience like no other was provided to me by the fine folks at Scott Bicycles (and because nobody from the Cary store could go...).  I was flown out to Park City, UT to participate in Dealer Camp for three full days.  Unlike the Cervelo event I went to last year in Tucson this one seemed much more focused on the riding experience than the classroom experience.  Each day I was there product managers from Scott talked about the new lines and bikes and other stuff but the afternoons were mostly focused on getting out on the bikes themselves in one of the prettiest places I have ever been.

I took this shot about 15' into my run on Tuesday afternoon once I arrived in town.  On my left is a ~5 million dollar mountain home (I looked it up on zillow because I was curious) with what are quite possibly some of the best views I myself have ever seen.

Wednesday was another morning of eating buffet breakfast and watching the Tour followed with some seminars about the shoes, helmets, performance road, recreation, etc.  The afternoon brought with it some bike demo time and I chose a Scale 700 RC.  That's Scott's hardtail XC bike (RC stands for ''race concept'').  That's a $7500 bike that I could basically do whatever I wanted with (within the bounds of reason and rationality of course).  Later that evening we had my favorite and my least favorite event of the week (it was the same event): Scott Sprints.

I have heard of this type of competition before but had never participated in one myself.  Two fixed gear bikes are bolted onto two pairs of rollers (no front wheel so no risk of falling) which have a pair of speed sensors hooked up to them which are connected to a computer which runs a program that is basically a 500m arcade style race.  The bikes have the same gearing so the competition basically involves getting your cadence up as high as possible and holding it there until 500m has come and gone (usually around to under 30").  I signed up to race as I figured it'd be fun and if it hurt it would only happen one time.  Several competitions happened and before too long my turn arrived.  I adjusted the saddle height and mounted the steed.  For those that have never done cadence work above 160rpm I highly advise you to try it once.  For more than 5 seconds.  It is extremely difficult.  I ended up winning my race but at the end was pretty gassed and was thankful to go back over to sit down and continue watching.  Several more races happened and then eventually the "emcee" said that we were about to start the second round...  Hmm, didn't think I'd have to do this more than once.  I ended up winning the second round and the third round and by the end of my third race I was dying.  30s all out high rpm efforts are exceptionally tiring.  They make you fire off muscles that you never knew you had and overwork ones you know you have but never use!  A couple more semi-final rounds went by before I realized that I was going to be in the finals against a guy who had absolutely dominated his competitors.  Thankfully there was a short break before our race, which I ended up winning.  Both of us could barely walk afterwards and he puked up some of his dinner.  It was awesome. It was terrible.  Scott Sprints 2013 champion!! I am still sore.

One of the cooler parts of this ski/mtb/outdoor resort was the ability to take the lifts up to the top of the mountains if you were tired or just wanted to do downhill runs all day.  I think I rode up the mountain Wednesday, lifted Thursday and then rode/lifted Friday.  The resort itself was at 7000 feet but the top of the highest peak (that you could get to) was 9400 so the chair rides actually took quite a while (albeit much quicker than riding).

Unfortunately when you are not a particularly experienced mountain biker riding an ''all mountain trail bike'' with tons of front and rear travel with people far better than can get into some trouble.  Luckily this scrape as well as a scrape on my thigh were all I got during my trips up and down the mountain.  I ended the trip feeling tired due to the riding and the altitude (always above 7k feet!) and the flying, arriving back in Charlotte around midnight on Friday/Saturday, happy to be home.

Waking up early to go out to Waxhaw with Melissa and Chris to hand out swim skins for the Start2Finish Cane Creek Open Water Swim was "fun" and we all also got to swim the 2 mile.  I hadn't swum in a bit so this was a relatively slow and painful experience but it provided a nice opportunity to swim and run the respective courses for next Saturday's race.

Sunday brought with it a ride in the mountains with the only negative being my second most fantastic bonk of the year (the first being my horrifying experience at Mt Mitchell!) and a problem with the man-van:

Luckily the problem was easy to fix so despite having to make alternate plans Sunday afternoon/evening with regard to transportation/towing the van is none the worse for wear.

Monday brought with it a trip to the A2 Wind Tunnel, which was so awesome that it will have to wait for another blog!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Therein lies the RUB

This week was all about one event: the 2013 NC State TT.  Last year I finished 2nd in Cat 3s and I was hoping to do the same thing this time around.  Before you say anything, no I did not expect to win.  Sasha Timkovich is still a Cat 3 and I knew I wasn't ready to challenge him for the win (I need about 15-20 more watts for that day!) just yet.  My legs felt good, my bike was as faster as it ever has been, the weather looked decent...all in all it was a no excuse kind of day (although  I do believe the course, in general, ran a bit slower than last year due to the wind).

Now before I get to the end, I should start at the beginning.  Tim, Jenny and I rolled up together in the man-van to somewhere near Thomasville, NC to race.  Tim, having never done a 40k TT before was looking to set a benchmark.  Jenny, having already won the overall in one state was looking to go 2 for 2 in state-ly domination.  I was looking to set a PB on the course.  A silver medal would've been a nice bonus as well.

We set up the tent, picked up our numbers and I got to work on the trainer.  For TT events lately since getting my pimped out disc wheel I've opted to stick in a regular training wheel for the trainer warmup so as not to prematurely wear out the fragile race tire. This has worked well so far and once I ended my warmup I asked for the time and realized I only had about 5 minutes before my start time to swap wheels, get on my skinsuit and race number.  I am not sure where the time went, but it was poor management on my part.  I put the P5 on the "stand" created by the tent, pulled out the rear wheel and swapped in my disc.  I then went and hurriedly put on my tighty whitey suit and got Jenny to stick on my race number.  I installed my helmet upon my noggin and went over to take the bike down and hop on and roll over to the start where they were (literally) yelling my name.  I get to the start line and the USAC official tells me I have 30 seconds.  "Ok" I thought, "Time to work."

I had a pretty good idea of what kind of power numbers I could hold for 55 minutes having done the same thing in Charleston only a month or so before.  The first 10-15k of the NC course are quite rolling and the power was coming relatively "easily" and I felt comfortable in my effort level.  The first left turn came and went and this long section of road was relatively flat(ter) and had a good crosswind for it's duration.  I continued to pace myself well, going a bit above my # on the uphills and a bit below it on the true downhills but holding true to my 55' power number I had established in my head as reasonable (while secretly hoping I could eke out a bit more today).  A couple more turns and we headed down towards the lake and back up the other side and I knew the last long section was coming up; with maybe 2 more turns.  I knew based on previous experience that the final section of road took about 1.5-2 minutes to cover to get to the finish line so I was hoping to see that road at around the 52 minute mark.  52 minutes came and went but no road.  53 minutes rolled by.  54 minutes...55 minutes.  Finally I made the last turn and crossed the finish line in 57:50 or so, a STAGGERING ~2.5 minutes slower than last year.

I could think of nothing that would cause something like that as I rode past the finish line.  I saw Sasha and asked him how his time compared to last year and he said he went faster and that made me even more pissed.  I KNEW the conditions weren't that slow, so what the heck had happened!? I had actually realized about 10 minutes into the ride that I had forgotten to pump up my front tire before heading over to the start (another time management problem) and due to using latex tubes my PSI was likely a bit low (10-20psi most likely) but while that would certainly lose me some seconds it definitely did not cost me 2 minutes.  Dejected, I rolled back up to the tent and got off my bike and leaned it against the van to wait for Tim to finish and Jenny to start.

Jenny was having some issues of her own before heading to the start so I was preoccupied while Brian and I tried to figure out what was going on with her dropout screws.  An hour or so went by while she did her thing and Tim, Brian and myself all chatted.  The whole time I was trying to console myself with the knowledge that even if my time was not what I hoped I still had a good workout and physiological race.  Not much consolation though.  I went back over to my bike and rolled it away from the van to put it against a wall to take a picture and immediately noticed something was wrong.  I lifted up the rear wheel and spun it and it did not make it a full turn before slowing to a halt.


Somehow, when taking out my other wheel and/or installing the race wheel I had knocked the caliper which caused it to "twist" and it consequently was rubbing on one side the entire time (discs are not usually out of true so if it's rubbing it is a continuous rub).  Either that or I had failed to put the wheel in completely straight due to me rushing.  Either way, the blame falls entirely on me.  I was pretty upset with myself as I basically gave away that race.  Instead of getting to see what kind of improvement all my changes (bike, skinsuit, fitness, pacing, etc) netted over the same course as last year I merely got an hour at threshold watts.  Silver linings!

The lesson is this: DON'T. RUSH. PERFECTION.

Also, on Monday I was able to participate in a little testing.  No data for myself but maybe if you watch the Tour on Wednesday you'll see and/or hear about some interesting stuff!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let's celebrate Murrika!

S - 9600 yards
B - 277 miles
R - 30.3 miles

Time - 22.00 hours

I would describe myself as a fair-weather cyclist.  I feel no shame (or relatively none) in admitting that I prefer riding in sunny conditions.  I do not think I am alone on this one, am I?  Well, needless to say for anyone that lives in the southeast really but the past weeks have absolutely sucked with regard to weather.  Until Tuesday the 9th I had not ridden in continuously sunny weather for probably at least 2.5 weeks.  That is positively, without question, ridiculous.  It's summer dangit! We're supposed to be having hot, humid days full of glorious sunshine!!

This past week especially tested my mental limits given our departure for a training camp in Suwanee, Georgia for the weekend.  Now, the whole goal of a training camp is to focus on one thing: training. Duh. This one (and all training camps for people that work full-time) was going to focus on biking (since biking is the most time-limited for 40-60hr work week type peeps).  North Georgia contains some of the most awesome climbing on the east coast of Murrika.

Before I get to that, however, it is important to note that Tuesday night showcased the first ever 4x400 Store Championship relay! IOS was asked to put together a team of employees, which Melissa did, to go against teams from TrySports, Run For Your Life, and Charlotte Running Company in the last event of the RFYL Summer Track Series.  We ended up coming 4th place (out of 5 teams) while running a 3:56:xx 1600m.  The first two teams each had quite the ringer, with a UNC track sprinter anchoring the winning RFYL team with what was most likely a 50s effort and Anthony Famiglietti anchoring the CRC relay team.  I was pleased with my own performance in an unfamiliar event and that of our team although my hamstrings were a bit sore for several days after this effort!

On Thursday Jenny and I traveled up to the far reaches of Northern Charlotte to the suburb of Huntersville for a 100 mile jaunt on our bicycles with some friends.  For the first 2.5hrs of this ride it rained.  Not just a pitter patter of light drops on your windshield kind of rain, but the "I am not sure I'll be able to see where I'm going" kind of rain.  Later that evening I drove south to Suwanee, GA to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson (Tim's parents) for our long weekend camp.

Since Jenny wouldn't be arriving until Friday evening the morning brought with it some sweet, sweet bro time for myself, Tim and Ashley.  We headed to the Ft. Yargo State Park to peruse the trails for 90 minutes, which was easily one of the most humid experiences of my life.  Later in the day we braved some pretty serious rain to get in an open water swim in Lake Lanier before turning in for the evening in preparation for Saturday epic-ness.

I have had the great opportunity to test my legs on the 6 gap ride before when - long ago - John Behme, Scott, Brad Wickard and myself all did [most of] the course but in reverse back in 2010 I believe.  My memories of that day involve a lot of getting dropped by Behme and Scott and telling them to "Stop looking back at me, it's DEMORALIZING!!" Needless to say, that day and those words have never been forgotten by those two...

With redemption in mind, our day started close to noon (or just after it) at the High School where the "official" ride starts.  The rain began, quite literally, 30 seconds into the ride just after exiting the HS parking lot...

I cannot get this video to embed unfortunately so a link will have to suffice:

Here is the gist of the ride:

That little doozy at mile 55ish is more fondly known as Hog Pen Gap and is, without a doubt, the most difficult climb I've done in my years of riding.  Beech is easy in comparison.  That is no exaggeration.  Easy. Hog Pen is 40+ minutes of misery for most riders.  

The other picture that sums up the ride is this one:

It rained on and off for all 6 hours of the ride.  The one, single descent that was dry (and the best descent on the whole course - off Unicoi Gap) was made slow and brake-tastic by the presence of some slower riders up front holding up vehicular traffic.  The entire descent was spent at the whim of these riders and cars in the interest of safety.  Oh well.  At least we were badasses according to Rule # 9

The weekend was awesome, the biking was epic, the friends were key and the festivities were glorious.  A fabulous celebration of America.

Monday, July 1, 2013

On how NOT to race a bicycle

So this week was primarily focused on getting over myself, I mean my half, the first couple of days.  Monday and Wednesday were off and I swam four days in a row at masters for the first time in quite some time, which was pretty sweet. It's nice to feel like I am getting back into swim shape WITH enhanced focus on sweet, sweet technique.

S - 17,900 yards
B - 64.5 miles
R - 19.2 miles

Time - 11.36 hours

But the thing that excited me most this week was my big return/comeback to bike racing in 2013.  The last time I raced was in March or April of 2012 at the NODA Grand Prix.  That race was the day after Belews and it was on a fairly technical, tight course.  That does not suit my strengths (what little of those I have in the bike racing world anyway).  Now the Double Down Challenge in Kershaw, SC was on a motor racing track.  Big, sweeping turns that can fit 3-4 cars side by side through each one, good pavement, relatively small field (40ish versus 80ish at NODA).  I have become more of a time trialist and less of a sprinter over the past couple of years.  It is sad.

Anyway, the point was, I wanted to win. I knew that I could win.  The likelihood of anybody in that field being SO MUCH fitter than me AND being a better sprinter was relatively small.  I saw Sasha Timkovich at the start who is a phenomenal time trialist over the 40k distance (he beat me by 80s at the NC State TT last year, which is a LOT) but my knowledge of anybody else in the 3s and 4s was limited to non-existent.

The race would be 45' which would end up translating into either 8 or 9 laps, I cannot remember.  It ended up being about 18.5 miles if I am not mistaken.  It was easy to find a good position at the start since the "road" was so wide so I was right on the front line, which was nice.

Two guys took off almost immediately and no one else seemed interested.  The pace remained relatively easy with one minor acceleration (and by minor I mean almost 1100 watts...IDIOT) on my part and by the second to last turn the two guys had what appeared to be almost 20-30s.  Not knowing how strong they were I, like the smart racer I was, decided to go to the front, get aero and try to minimize the gap a little bit (idiot).

I hit the finish straight pretty good and the group bunched back up still in pursuit of the two leaders but someone counter-attacked to get to them at the same time.  The group of three remained in front through the end of the second lap as well and I found myself in an all-too familiar position again...

The laps came and went and I kept responding to attacks like I had some sort of teammate/s to work with.  I am honestly not really sure what I was doing.  It was pretty windy out there and the course was quite exposed so I kept burning match after match (unknowingly) and repeatedly found myself pulling on the front. I distinctly remember at one point saying to myself: "What the F*** are you doing? This 275 watts on the front "feels" easy but 150 watts sitting in would feel even easier!"  Anyway, I was upset with myself but couldn't stop.

With 2 laps to go the race bunched up a lot as it had come back together completely on the lap before.  This was the sketchiest part of the whole race.  It amazes me that there is SO MUCH ROOM on the bike course and people still manage to handle their bike like morons.  There is no excuse for that on a course like this.  It is as safe as safe can possibly get (or rather, it should be).  The last lap brought with it a couple more attacks, to which I - obviously - responded.

By the third to last corner I was really, really hurting having responded to practically everything the whole race.  By the second to last corner I came extremely close to getting sideswiped by someone swerving dramatically and at that point I lost all interest in contesting the sprint.  If I had felt good perhaps I would've still tried but I didn't and so I didn't.

Things I learned:

1) I am fit enough to get away with stuff like this in 4s and 5s, but not when they are actually fit 3s in the mix.
2) Don't race on 700x25 training tires again
3) Warm up more
4) Sit in, sit in, sit in, sit in, sit in...SIT IN.
5) Patience, patience, patience.

I was pretty upset with myself after the race.  I have raced a lot and know what I am doing but did not show any of that on Saturday.  Bike racing is a skill, a skill that requires practice.  I am out of practice.