Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, this is just filler

A lot of people I know are currently in the throes of passion as it regards to their feelings surrounding their late season fall races.  They're still deeply in love with the thought that they have an IM (I'm just going to use that as my example here as it works better for my storyline) scheduled 8-12 weeks from now (say, Wisconsin to B2B) and the endless possibilities that event presents them in their mind sends little tingling goosebumps down their arms and the back of their neck.

It are those thoughts that currently buoy your spirits and push you through each day. You don't think about the - let's say - 11 weeks of training you have before race day. You don't think, maybe, about those races you have in between that are probably going to suck and you'll get to say stuff like:

"Well I'm training for IM so this is just a "B" race."
"I've lost all my short-course speed!"
"I didn't taper so I'm really tired!"
"Whoa that 100 mile bike ride yesterday really deadened my legs for the 5k today."

But no, you don't worry about that right now.  Right now, you're sitting there and maybe drinking some coffee.  Maybe you're at your work desk and you're staring down the barrel of a pretty ho-hum day (or maybe it's a crazy day) with that thought nestled in the back of your head that in a relatively short period of time you are going to show yourself and everyone around you what you're really made of.  Your colleagues at work may not really care or understand and that's ok.

But these moments in time are important. Because as race day gets closer (say, late August) it certainly won't get any "easier."  You will be more tired, you will be more irritable, you may have a new baby, etc.

But support yourself with that vision you almost certainly have of your race. See yourself crossing the finish line, fatigued but exalting in your own excellence.  Hopefully you were patient on the bike and had a good run!

Monday, July 20, 2015

XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon

I can't lie, I've been pretty excited about this race for a while now. There are several reasons for this unbridled race excitement:

1) Home course advantage (huge in XTERRA)
2) Sleeping in own bed (huge in general)

Ok I lied I could only come up with two. BUT, those are two huge reasons to be excited for a race! While training for Louisville hasn't really gotten crazy or anything yet, I have been putting in some good long rides on the tri bike and some good road running and as a consequence my mountain bike and trail shoes have gotten somewhat sparing  use over the past month or so. That being said, I was excited to break them out and go for broke.

This is a pretty unique race (unique even for XTERRA) in that it has a two part swim. We would complete ~800m in the Catawba River (800m is generous) and then run probably 1/3 of a mile uphill and into the Whitewater pond area to swim a final "200m."

From there we would hop on our bikes and basically ride the Whitewater Center in order, from Figure 8 through all of North Main then into the South section of trails doing all add-ons (Carpet, Goat, Powerline, Wedge, Weigh Station, Toilet Bowl) and then completing the Lake Loop before heading into the "connector trail" that we normally start on when simply riding out at the WWC to get us back to transition area.

For the run we would loop back around the gravel path and head over onto East Main. This loop is probably the least frequented loop at the WWC. It's tough, choppy, hilly, and generally considered pretty difficult. Most of the mtb'ers don't even really admit to liking it all that much.  We would get to run it instead, which - in my head - sounded like a better proposition than riding it.

The dynamic battle of America (Caamano and myself) vs. Germany (Sebastian) would play out over the course of 2+ hours. We all arrived at the WWC sometime around 6:30 to a nice, sunny day that was already warming up relatively rapidly. It was going to be a scorcher, but luckily for us trail triathlons frequently take place in the - wait for it - shade! The great thing about trees, ya know?

I was a bit nervous as I had changed my rear tire that week to my "race" tire and it did not seem to be holding a great seal. The one risk of tubeless is that you can never be 100% positive that a seal is good until you are 100% positive that the seal is good. But other than that I was fired up to lay down some heat on some trails!

Swim 1000m - 15:11.8 (1st)

The swim was doubly unique in both its structure (2 swims) and the 1st swim itself. It was a very, very tight triangle. We all lined up in a rough line with the edge of the flatwater dock but some people lined up across the entire width of the river (maybe 50 yards). I was not sure of their reasoning for this, as they were basically in "line" with the second leg of the swim upriver.  I was a bit nervous about their ability to not hit oncoming swimmers that had made the turn ahead of them but, be that as it may, I couldn't do much about it other than look out for them once I had made the turn.

The gun sounded and everyone started out quite expeditiously. My goal was to either be first or in the top 3 around the first buoy to avoid what was sure to be extremely heavy congestion due to the turn being so tight. With that in mind, I kept the pace high and by the time I got to the first buoy I was clear to turn with no one beside me.

I kept my head up for a bit making sure oncoming swimmers weren't going to collide with me (because obviously it wouldn't be ME colliding with them...haha. jk, sorta) then put my head down and aimed back upriver.  I couldn't see the second buoy because they were so small but I knew if I headed straight along the bank I would eventually see it.

Along this section I looked back occasionally and saw my gap had grown over a couple of people in a group and I made the final turn knowing I'd get to the dock solo.

I clambered up the stairs after sifting through the silty bottomed river and put on my shoes for the run up to the pond area. I took this pretty easy as I figured gassing it then diving back in to swim might lead to some extreme discomfort...

I saw my gap was about 20-30 seconds as I got back in the water and swam to the swim exit. I encountered some underwater features that I wasn't ready for so that kind of scared me a little bit, but I made it to the end and climbed the rocky exit unscathed and ready for the bike.

T1 - 0:57

I struggled a bit to get my gloves on but otherwise had a decent enough transition.  The second group (led by Sebastian) was getting to their bikes as I was grabbing mine to head out onto the trails.

Bike 23k - 1:08:08.0 (1st)

Dropping into Figure 8 I knew my game plan needed to be "out of sight out of mind" as on the trails it is both quite easy to be "out of sight" but due to the twisty turny nature of the course I would always be somewhat visible in certain sections.  This makes it MUCH easier to close gaps when you have a tangible reminder of the person in front of you.

I tried to be steady and smooth (which means fast) as I made my way through the familiar trails. I did notice, however, that my rear tire felt kind of mushy and wallowy, for lack of better descriptions. I didn't realize how mushy until, at the top of the climb out of Figure 8 (and just after Marcus had told me I had about a 30 second gap) going around a downhill right turn my rear tire slid badly and I wiped out. I recovered quite quickly and got back going again without losing any real time but this was a potent reminder that something was off with my rear tire.

I had some CO2 so I knew if it got real bad I could hop off and fill up the tire but this would cost me time and space on the trails. So I resolved to just be a little more careful.

I made my way through all of the rest of the trails without incident and got to the Lake Loop before catching a glimpse of a yellow helmet behind me on the long "fire road" section.  I knew this wasn't Sebastian so I was made a bit nervous by this stranger. I think I put a little more time into him on the Lake Loop and arrived at T2 without a 30ish second lead on second place.

Thanks Marcus for the photos, splits and encouragement!

T2 - 0:29.2

Nothing to see here, carry on!

Run 8k - 39:59.4 (5th, 1st in results not legit)

Heading out onto the run along the gravel path that runs alongside the whitewater channels was rough as it had definitely warmed up while we gallivanting through the forest.

I was hoping to have a good run and managed to stay pretty motivated into the East Main section. Unfortunately, there were a few nice climbs prior to getting to the trail and right once you entered the trail that curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

I made my way through the trails and got to about mile 2 before Justin caught me and passed me rather expeditiously. I lost a lot of excitement at that point and walked a couple of times on hills to try and get my heart rate down a bit.  Coming back out of the trails I walked up that horrific hill but then ran the rest of the way to the finish.

I usually don't talk about the run much because I can hardly remember any of it, specifically! This time was no different...

OA - 2:04:46 (2nd)

Crossing the line in second was a welcome relief and I immediately sought water and shade.  Sebastian arrived shortly thereafter and Caamano came through soon as well. A good, hot day of work for the three of us and everyone else out there!

I was, admittedly, disappointed to not win but Justin had a great race and returned the favor from XTERRA Pelham a couple of months ago where we both won our AG (25-29 and me 30-34) but I came out ahead on time.

Now we begin to get into real IM training and if I said I was really excited about that I'd be lying to you! But, I signed up for the race so it's time to get for serious!

Monday, July 13, 2015

My P5: Now it is truly simply faster

Whenever you buy a "superbike" you always buy "complications." What makes a super bike a super bike (kind of like a super car or a hyper car) is a "no compromise" attitude towards its design context.  So for a triathlon superbike, that function is aerodynamics and integration. The P5 was introduced way back when in January of 2012.  In bike terms, that's a pretty long time ago.  It, in many ways, revolutionized the aero bike segment. Well, it borrowed certain ideas and perfected some others, let's say. It wasn't the FIRST bike with an integrated front end (but it certainly had the best one, so far). It wasn't the first bike with integrated storage solutions.  It wasn't the first bike with completely hidden cabling (except for RD loop/wire, which no one has yet hidden completely on an externally geared bike).  BUT, it did all of those with a level of aerodynamic superiority that was new to the game.

Well, aerodynamic superiority insofar as it concerned "fast" riders.  If you study all of the data out there and sift out the bad testing from the good testing and the testing with acceptable context (and actual "x" and "y" graph labeling) you can discern a few "facts:"

The P5 is still the fastest bike from about -7 to +7 degrees of yaw (give or take) among factory produced bikes. Certain other bikes (IA, SC, PR, etc) are a bit better out at higher relative yaw angles.

I could find more, I am sure.  My point is not to talk about how aero or not aero one bike is vs. another (but if you want me to I am happy to blast away for a while but be prepared to get bored).  My point is that the P5 is a super bike and - like other super bikes - comes with a few interesting things that make you want to learn more about bikes...maybe.

1) Hydraulic rim brakes (Magura RT6 or RT8)

You might have heard stories of bad stuff and wondered how all that works and know someone who has said bad stuff but at the end of the day anybody that says anything negative about the Magura brakes on a P5 just probably doesn't like going fast and maybe doesn't really know what they are doing... I've had this bike for 3 years and have never, ever had a problem with these brakes. The same couldn't be said for having a certain other popular aero brake that I had for a month... (hint hint).

To route a cabled brake line on a bike like the P5 + Aduro aero bar (read: hidden and integrated) would require very tight bends that would dramatically affect the brake power and modulation at the rim.  Magura has designed a brake that gets around all of that, is easy to work on, is light, is incredible aerodynamic, and looks great too!

2) Hidden battery

The "external" Shimano Di2 battery has been placed in the seat tube cutout to remain hidden.

3) Hidden junction box/top cap

The junction box is housed under the 4 bolt stem cover which is under the bottle cage mount which is under the arm pads. So to adjust or check battery I had to remove bottle cage mount, remove arm pad cups, remove stem cover. Adjust and check, re-install.

Now I am perfectly fine with doing all of those things because I got what I paid for: the fastest bike money can buy. I want each of those little seconds. I agonize over my front tire choice for certain races because a GP4000s II may save me 20 grams of drag at 23-25mph vs. a Conti Supersonic 700x20 may save me an extra 10-15g drag at ~30 mph but I lose a little comfort/confidence. Etc. I make choices like that. Do you? Then maybe the P5 isn't for you...

(just kidding, it's definitely for you; go buy one)

I've been wanting to do a project on mine for quite some time now and finally got around to doing it last week once I had all the parts I needed:

1) Install updated Shimano Di2 "internal" battery
2) Install Junction A in the saddle area
3) Convert to "true" 1 x 11 drive train
4) Adjust front water bottle carrier to allow for tall bottles

All of those may seem rather innocuous, but when added together they make a bike that's ABOUT 100x easier to deal with in many ways and it's just plain fun to tinker.

So, step 1:

Figure out where to put battery.

Since I don't need a front derailleur anymore, I figured the easiest and most secure place to put the new internal battery was in the left aerobar extension.

The perfect fit!
Now the left shifter is simply a placeholder.  The e-tube runs out the back of the extension and into the Aduro's rat's nest area of cables, wires, hoses, maybe a bird egg or two...etc. Who knows what you may find in there:

But this is much, MUCH cleaner than it was before. Prior to this update I had the older front "harness" stuffed in there as well. Lots of e-tube was visible.

An internal junction box (Junction B) then sends one e-tube down into the bottom bracket area of the bike to another junction B.  That then sends e-tubes to the rear derailleur and the Junction A.

To house the junction A where I did (on top of the seat post) you have to do something that voids the warranty (on your seat post): drill a hole.

Now, did I have to do it this way? No. I probably could have fit Junction A somewhere else (maybe under the BB) and been fine, but this is the way I wanted to do it.

Now the e-tube runs cleanly all the way down to the BB and I can adjust and charge my bike without touching anything other than an easily accessible junction box zip-tied to my saddle rail. Sweeeeeet!

Moving on, I also addressed a huge annoyance for me when trying to combine hydration and computer placement. This is a difficult question for EVERYBODY (and I mean everybody, this is probably the most common question I hear related to bike purchase and setup) and I am not immune from the issues. The integrated bottle mount is great but when you want a computer out where you can actually see it (i.e. by your hands) you cannot fit a taller bottle or one of those stupid deer park water bottles they give you on course.

Simple solution: X Lab aero cage optimizer.  Bolts right onto the integrated bosses of the P5 and slides the bolts right back to where you need them to be.  As an added bonus, it increases the "stack height" of thebottle cage so it nestles a little bit more cleanly in between my forearms. NICE.

Last but certainly not least, I updated the drivetrain.  I was originally running a 2 x 10 system featuring SRAM Red Quarq (10 speed) 130 bcd 53/39 chainrings + a 10 speed Ultegra 6770 RD/FD with an 11-25 setup for training and racing.

I figured: why not go with a 1x setup? One of the unique things about the P series bikes from Cervelo is that you can remove the FD mount itself, which really cleans up the profile if you're going to take off the front derailleur.

Unfortunately, until recently parts to do this RIGHT weren't easily available. But now they are, and so the time had come to swap that stuff to what I really wanted.

Up front we have a SRAM X Sync 52t 130bcd single ring (this features "narrow/wide" teeth technology which basically means the chain doesn't fall off without a front derailleur).  In the rear we have (11spd) Ultegra 6870 "GS" RD (gs = longer cage) which can accommodate up to 32t on the cassette.  So for the most part I have a 52t + 11-32t as my gearing options.  It's way, WAY cleaner looking, has a wide range, may lighten the bike, and looks sweet. Wait, I said that already.  It may be slightly more aerodynamic, although various testing has been inconclusive so far.  But, it looks awesome.  Did I say that already? I did, yea.

So fresh and so clean!!

Tools required for charge check plus RD adjustment...

Simple? Yes. 

Anyway, was all of this necessary? No. But it sure was fun. In some ways. The P5 offers limited "tinkering" abilities as it relates to fit and such so this was the next best thing I could do.