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2012 Texas Time Trials – 12 Hour review.

ImageOh kay. Where to begin?

I know it’s been a while, and I know I have a lot to write up and discuss, but the three or four main events in my life this year have left me sort of scrambling around, trying to work, live, love, train, coach, and race. I think I’m doing okay now, but it was a serious summer, nonetheless.

I’m going to start at the end, because while there’s a lot to fill in, and my memory will hopefully remain sharp, a complete writeup that  I did on a significant race in Wisconsin, was erased when it wouldn’t save, and I didn’t have the energy to re-write it. I will, hopefully this weekend, but right now, I’ll focus on an event that was so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding, that it merits my attention.

Two weekends ago, now I guess three, I participated in the 12-Hour Texas Time Trial Challenge, run by veteran Randonneurs Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright. Earlier in the year, I had coached Michelle Beckley on a crazy 384-mile effort through the Hill Country, and she convinced me to try a 12 hour myself way out in Amarillo. Unfortunately, we were literally rained out right before it started, when a flash flood destroyed the State Park where the event was going to be held. This time, though, we weren’t going to let a little rain get in our way.

Michelle and her boyfriend convinced me to sign up for the State 12-hour Championships, held down in Glen Rose. Now, I need to tell you – I am NOT in prime shape right now. I won that race in late June, rode in July a few times, did maybe one rally (the Goatneck), and basically rode and mountain biked while I figured out how best to handle my midlife crisis, my divorce, and my new relationship. But here it was, September already, and  I am about 5 to 7 lbs overweight, I’m maybe riding about 3 to 5 hours a week, and I’m going to compete in the 12-hour Time Trials. Good Lord!!!

I prepped my bike and car with all the wheelsets I could find, brought cold weather and wet weather gear so that I wouldn’t be unprepared, carried lights and reflective vests, etc., brought along my TT bike and aero helmets just in case, and bought a  box of Bonk Breakers and Stinger Waffles so that I could try and stay on top of my calories. Oh, and I brought 16 ounces of Fish Oil concoction, which I’ll explain about later. I arrived late in the day, got my bag and numbers and instructions, and went to the hotel. Dinner was Sonic – 800 Kcals of crap. I went to bed, slept a few hours, and woke up to a steady drizzle. This was NOT the ideal way to break myself in to Ultra-Marathon Racing!!

So, the alarm goes off at 4am, I eat more bad hotel food, along with some egg concoctions left over from last night’s dinner, and get to the parking area, which is wet, muddy, and about 60 degrees. I have no flashlight other than the lights on the bike, which I put in my mouth, which then subsequently heat up and burn my mouth, so I’m stuck using the reflected light from the hotel parking lot. In the process, my numbers get soaked, I don’t drink enough coffee, and I lose track of Michelle and Martin, who is providing us with SAG support. I basically run in to them about 10 minutes before the start, and we agree that every lap, I’ll stop at the tent for 2 minutes, where I’ll drop off my water bottles, take on two new ones, and get three Bonk Breakers or four Waffle Stingers. Then the horn goes off, and we’re off!

Michelle and I ride together for about seven miles before we somehow get split up. My lights are a Dinotte 400L up front, and I’m using some CRAPPY Serfas 30lumen  lights in the rear. I think they may have lasted about 4 hours, while the Dinotte lasted the entire freaking race. But in the dark, it’s impossible to see who has a blue ribbon on their helmet, denoting the 12 hour racers, and I quickly realize that my own blue ribbon has flown off in the rain that just won’t stop falling. We have to squeegee our brakes a lot earlier because of the weather, and while I know the roads out there pretty well, it’s a completely different feeling to ride, in the rain, with limited visibility, in the pitch dark, with about 100 yards of visibility ahead. Seeing the red blinkies ahead of me is helpful, but at about mile 6 I do miss the only left hand turn, and that happens to be the one turn that is most poorly marked and manned by volunteers direction traffic.

When I was a kid, maybe 10, we got our first real PC, an Apple 2 with a cassette tape for a drive. There was one game that we played over and over, and it was a night driving simulation, where you had to keep your ‘car’ between the advancing white dots. The course would twist and turn and as you got faster, you would outrun your ability to predict which direction the event horizon would slide in from , left, right, or straight. At the end, you were given a score and a title based on your time and number of crashes, and I was always called “Parnelli Jones” after a historical race character I knew nothing about. Racing in the dark, in the rain, on a bicycle, on empty roads, was similar. The light would show the county road reflectors in the center and left edge, and the white fog line on the right edge, with some periodic reflectors on the right, along with road signs that stood out rather well. That, and the odd blinkies ahead, were my only companions. It was sort of like racing in space. It was surreal. There was just the sound of the rain hitting my aero helmet, my own breathing,  the tires making their way along the chip-seal, and the odd rider passing me or me passing them. There were minutes and even hours when I spoke or saw no one.

Finally, on lap two or three, the sunrise behind the clouds ended up making roads more distinguishable, and sight lines better, and I ended up picking up some steam, and getting in to a good, solid rhythm. I had a great conversation with one of my earliest coaching mentors, and Ultra-Cycling enthusiast, Paul Skilbeck, about a week before the race, and he made some recommendations on my caloric intake per hour, and my estimated power output intensity. Now, here’s where things get pretty interesting.

Based on  conversation with Paul, I was prepared to hold about 60% of my estimated Threshold Wattage, which I’m still calculating to be about 290w/60min, even though I haven’t been training much at all. Call it empirical assumptions, but my FTP really only changes when I either take time off completely, or train at high volumes. I know where it could go, but the status quo is about 290w, plus or minus 2%. So, to be conservative, and focus on lower Kcal consumption and hold off while ingesting as many Kcals as possible, I looked for a Pnorm of about 175w.

Boy, was I wrong….

The first lap showed a PNorm of 209, or about 70% of FTP. Skiba’s xPower score, which I can’t see on a Garmin, was a 196. I burned about 884 Kilojoules, and the lap time was a 1hr26min effort.  I’ll put all of this in the chart below, along with the Kcals I consumed each lap. It’s pretty revealing!

Lap Time Normalized Power Kilojoules Expended Kilocalories Consumed Bottles of Osmo consumed (120Kcals/bottle)
1:26:11 209w 884 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:23:43 208w 932 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:20:43 218w 927 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:22:43 212w 911 640 (4 Waffle Stingers) 1.5
1:28:41 199w 889 500 (2 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:26:21 198w 887 480 (3 Waffle  Stingers) 1
1:28:18 204w 912 8oz Fish Oil and a 5hr Energy. 1
1:42:00 148w 743 8oz Fish Oil and one Waffle Stinger 1

The result???? Well, I won. I won by over an hour, and I did it averaging .702 IF!!!! Had that last lap been a consistent lap with the other seven, I would have set the record on the course! 211 miles, averaging 18.1 miles per hour, burning 7089 KiloJoules. I think if I had trained somewhat, and done a few 12 hour efforts prior to this, I might have been able to hold that 200w Pnorm or better for that last lap, and maybe kicked it up a bit. But it was the fueling and hydration strategy that really worked to my advantage. For five laps, I was able to eat 750 Kcals per 80 minutes, and drink Osmo at the rate that Osmo inventor Stacy Sims recommends in her chart on their website. I followed her mantra of “Food in the pocket (in this case, it was tucked inside my skinsuit, against my leg, to stay warm and soft), sports drink in the bottle. I was surprised at my higher wattage, but it had to be some combination of the temperature and my own determination to make this as scientific an expedition as I possibly could. It wasn’t until lap five that my food consumption, which I had previously timed at about 3 minutes per bar, began to slow down, and I was eating more slowly, reacting more slowly, and breathing through my nose more. The last bar I ate on Lap 6 ended up taking me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was yo-yoing with a recumbent 12 hour rider who kept me on my toes, feeding the competitor in me.

ImageSome other notes: I think this is the PERFECT race to study aerodynamics. I rode as aero as I dared, while trying to hold on to some safety. Every lap, almost, I ended up switching wheels out, before finally settling on a rear HED disc lenticular wheel in the rear, and an Aeolus D3 50mm up front. I tried my 90mm wheel, but it was too twitchy in the light but gusty winds, and on the areas that were not chip-sealed. In fact, the chip-seal road was the safest part of the course. The area that was not chip-sealed, maybe four miles total out of a 26.2 mile route, was not safe, and I ended up losing time to the recumbent rider on that section, only to gain on him during the ensuing climb. The wheel setup, plus the KED track-style solid helmet, my skinsuit, and the S5, probably made me about 2-4% more efficient, which I’m calculating probably saved me about, oh, idunno, 50-100Kcals per lap? I think it was enough to make a difference, though, because that’s one less Waffle Stinger you need to eat.

Here’s a shocker – I learned to relieve myself, multiple times, while riding. The rain washed it away, but I’m afraid my shoes may never be the same. I intentionally used old shoes for this reason.

I had no cramps whatsoever. I credit this to a ton of magnesium, and the hydration strategy, which I think kept me out of the red zone for cramps. I also, of course, ended up avoiding Vo2 and Anaerobic  Capacity zones, climbing with force and then cruising in the 180’s and 200’s. A snapshot of my wattage chart shows about 9-10 hours of good wattage, followed by a steady drop. Eventually, Paul was correct – I lost my ability to eat. Drinking the fish oil DID work on the seventh lap, but on that last lap, I ended up dealing with a sour stomach and wretching, while not quite puking.

It turns out, I missed the record (set in fair weather), by maybe 5 minutes. Rest assured that had I been able to pull out the TT bike, it would’ve fallen. But those who rode their TT bikes almost inevitably ended riding up on their aero pads, thus negating any benefits. I also know how to eat and what to eat, and I think I’ll actually work and train for this better next year, and will focus on those last three critical hours.

ImageMichelle won her overall 3 race GC, and I need to send a special shout out to her boyfriend, Martin, who was simply awesome. He was prepared every lap, he measured my splits, and counted my food intake precisely. He had wheels ready, and ruined a pair of shoes in the process of standing out in that awful weather for the whole day. I am really grateful for his contribution, and though he’s a non-meat eater, I’m going to buy him some EXPENSIVE wine soon!

That’s it – let me get back to the blog for a recount of June’s race in Wisconsin, and I’ll try to do that this weekend, while I’m away. Lots to report. I’m living the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.”


2011 Turkey Roll Bike Rally Review

I really wanted to call this review, “2 Minutes”, because when I look back at the 3 hours of the overall ride, there was one, single, two-minute segment that made the ride. It reminds me that with all the riding and training we experience and enjoy, that it’s frequently one moment, be it 8 seconds here, or half a minute there, which defines the rally or ride or race for yourself, and everyone else involved.

The 2011 Turkey Roll was held on a mild but windy day, and I guess it had been two years since I had last participated, because the venue had changed from the Fair Grounds to a Catholic Church parking lot, making departure to the traditional 100K route a little more neutral and controlled. Once we hit FM 428, however, we were working on a broad, smooth shoulder with a 20mph tailwind. Several of the better riders were in attendance, and we took longer, but equal pulls for the first 8 miles. However, it was right after the turnoff at mile 8, on to FM 2153, that the defining moments of the rally were established and set in my memory.

The turn North meant that what had been our helpful tailwind was now a brutal, steady, left-front crosswind. The road, which had been wide and with a shoulder, was now narrow, pitted from heavy use, heavy with chip-seal, and had zero shoulder. This is where experience, knowledge of the course, position, and honestly, wheel selection, made a huge difference.

I immediately went in to the red zone when I came to the front and put in what must have been a 450-watt effort for one-minute, riding perfectly in the left wheel-well. There was space for about four riders to ride off my right hip, but anyone else would be forced to either ride along the white line, or attempt to form up on a second echelon. Matt Stephens, Colnago Chris, Chris Powers and myself all took equally good turns in rotation, but at roughly the 10.5 mile mark, I went to the front for my turn, and between the four of us, we put in a solid 2- to – 5 minute effort above 25mph and between 356 and 320w that, when we made the short hop onto Running Bear road, then on to FM 455, well, there was absolutely no one behind us. And by that I mean NO ONE.

We went on to ride at very solid, very high paces, talking, drinking our bottles, pushing but not too hard, for about 2 hours. Finally, at about mile 45 or so, Matt, Chris Powers and I unfortunately lost Colnago Chris, and we would not see him again until the finish. By mile 60, the three survivors had declared détente, and we rolled back through the neighborhoods and in to town, finishing in an official 2:53, without the pit stop at mile 40. We later learned that the trailing cyclists, around mile 10, had NOT formed a second echelon, and had instead suffered a crash that broke up the peloton, leaving us as the undisputed leaders whom no one could possibly catch in that wind. No one was seriously injured, but several bikes and wheels were totaled.

If I could summarize the work and the success of the break, I would say that it was those critical 1, 2, and 5 minute efforts, at high cadence, with equipment that was literally built for those types of conditions (aero bike with aero wheels that actually reduce drag or flutter in crosswinds), at high cadence (95-110rpm), at intensities which were well in to the Anaerobic and Vo2max zones, that made the ride. When you look at North Texas rallies and races, and the perpetual wind, it’s THESE efforts that determine success more than any other type of effort. Train this way, do similar intervals, and your chances of looking over your shoulder to see… no one, grow tremendously.


2011 Tour d’Italia Rally Review

The 2011 Tour d’Italia continued the trend of breaking records for attendance by North Texans. Every parking space was full, and everyone seemed to enjoy the atmosphere as a small town stepped up and delivered on a great course, through 3 counties!

The theme for this year has been early, blasted heat and humidity, combined with a breeze out of the south-southwest that can play havoc with riders’ expected hydration schedules, time out on the course, and overlapped wheels. But with a start that was more laid-back, and actually was about 8 minutes EARLY, ten riders, including ex-local, now San Antonio-based, Ed Solis, didn’t disappoint. From the rollout, Ed, followed by Park Place rider Jimmy Olson, set a BLISTERING pace, and held it steady at nothing less than 28 miles per hour! The winds were already up, and by the time we got to our first major turn, I looked back and counted just the 10 survivors, including Curtis Palmer, Tino, and others. From that point forward, we basically rode a solid, 2-man-wide, 5-deep tempo paceline, and stuck together for the next 90 minutes.

It really wasn’t until about 48 miles in, on FM308, that discipline broke down and the attacks, what few there were, began. Tino, the Ft. Lewis professor, launched an attack on a set of rollers, and only about 4 or 5 of us had the strength to respond and reel him in. Looking back, he then asked me, “Do you have it in you to do one more?” I replied, “Yes, 600 watts for 30 seconds”. I then proceeded to push this, and when we looked back, it was just the two of us. We continued trading 1 and 2 minute pulls, until we got to the final left-turn for home at Frost, TX, and then rode side-by-side in to Italy. By this time Tino’s back had begun to give him trouble, and the finish went uncontested. Final time was 2:46, with the others coming in at 2:48 or so.

The reward? 6 cups of Gatorade and 2 different flavors of Sno-Cones, plus a burger if the stomach could handle it. Congratulations were passed around, resolve to see each other next week in Waxahachie and next year at the Tour d’Italia.

Now, one thing does merit some attention. Over the past 10 years, I have succumbed to about 4 separate heat stroke events, at Copperas Cove, at the Richardson Wild Ride, once at the Goatneck, and once last year at  the Cow Country Classic. This year was looking to be the same, but I have implemented three tools that may be helpful to you as you ride these events in such extreme conditions.

1)   I am riding with a jersey that uses “Coldblack” fabric. This fabric repels about 80% of the sun’s IR radiation, and thus can lower your skin temperature by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps keep you cool, so you don’t overheat. It also feels cool to the touch, so something is going on, though I can’t really explain it.

2)   In addition to the jersey, I have taken an older Camelback with a Coolmax fabric that places the bladder right next to the skin, filled it with ice, and removed the hose. As the ice melts, it leaks out of the nipple on the bottom, across my back and legs. It’s messy, but it serves as a VERY effective swamp cooler, and lasts about 2 hours before going empty. Most 100K’s are in the 2:30 to 3:00 range, so it also works to save energy and keep the body running cooler.

3)   Finally, I have been drinking about twice as much, downing at least 100oz. over the first two hours of the rides. In the bottles, I have begun using a product developed by Dr. Stacy Sims and Allen Lim, two of the pioneers of wattage training, and now nutrition and hydration. Google “Stacy Sims Cutting Edge Hydration”, and then look up their secret drink mix formula at It’s a different theory that just may help save your season like it did mine. If you order, enter “OnlineBikeCoach” in the coupon code for a discount.




Joule 2.0 review, Part 2

To continue the thoughts before I get distracted with a couple of other projects and essays, let’s get back to the bullet points that were not commented on during the original blog post. I covered the first 3. Now, let’s continue.

Here are the bullet points yet to be covered. Honestly, I’m sure I’ll remember some more things at some point in the future. It’s hard to write thoughts down or read them in to your iphone when you’re rolling along, no?

  • A Barometer to read elevation and feet or meters climbed.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable.
  • GPS
  • Cost below $500
  • Weight below 200g
  • Either USB upload/download and charge, or wireless upload/download and charge.
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Let’s cover the points.

  • Barometer – CHECK. The Joule definitely covers current elevation and feet or meters climbed, and while I haven’t tried it, I’m pretty sure it has an elevation calibration protocol. Now, one of the REALLY cool things that the Joule does, that other head units don’t yet do, is that it measures VAM, or “Vertical Ascent Meters per Hour”. This was a measurement of climbing put together by the nefarious Dr. Ferrari, to basically come up with a way to look at how the best climbers fought their way up mountains. At the time of this writing, however, the VAM feature measures VAM for the entire ride, and it does NOT reset with intervals, even though you can see it on interval windows. I’ve brought this to the attention of Cycleops, but have not heard a response from them at this time. It should be an easy fix, though you never know with these firmware developers.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle. – CHECK. OH HOLY COW I CAN NOT BELIEVE HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME THIS FEATURE IS! SET OFF THE FIREWORKS AND LIGHT THE SPARKLERS! THIS FEATURE IS AWESOME! CYCLEOPS, I CAN NOT THANK YOU ENOUGH!  Now, while I calm down, let me explain why this is sooooo critical. There is a subset of the power meter crowd, and even the non-power-meter crowd, who have more than one bike. There are also folks who have more than one power meter. I know, I know, that’s a seriously small subset, but honestly, when you get in to these things, you start to realize that you may need different cranks or wheels for road cycling, time trials, track, and even mountain biking. The only other head units that are worthy of use right now are the Garmins, and it definitely takes time to ‘find’ the new and unique codes every time for the ANT+ protocol that is the common wireless language for all of these power meters, speed sensors, chest straps, and cadence meters. Heck, even the foot pods for runners use ANT+. Me? Well, you have to look at this in the context of someone who is constantly measuring power for all cycling applications (YES, THAT IS MY JOB… SORT OF), but I have 3 quarqs and two powertaps. All wireless. Until recently, I had a Garmin 705 for the road and TT bike, a Joule 3.0 for the Gary Fisher Simple City, and a Garmin 500 for the mountain bike. So, it’s a lot of hardware and sunk expense to get the convenience I wanted… Probably close to $12k. But the Joule 2.0 (I’ll discuss the 3.0 in some PS or epilogue at the bottom of this or another post) allows you to record the unique speed, cadence, speed/cadence, HR straps, and Power Meters for each of those bikes, and then pull them up for ‘activation’. It takes about 1 minute. I now have 1 unit for four bikes, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I’m still keeping the other units for other reasons, but yeah – for now, the Joule 2.0 is a universal data trap.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration. It’s there, it’s doable, and once you know how to navigate the menus, it’s easy. I’ll leave it to the Wattage forum to correct me on the esoterics of things, but suffice it to say that my multiple PM’s show very little drift after the first two weeks of break-in. I’m happy.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable. CHECK!!! Again, WOW and WOW and WOW! I love it. I probably should try to shoot some photos to include on this screen, just to show you what can be done, but again, HOLY COW. The OPTIONS are awesome. I can switch the amount of information presented from 2 things to over 8, and I can actually cycle instants, averages, maxes, and other stuff so that the information I want to see can be dead-center on the screen, OR,  on the bottom of the screen in a divided area. I really ought to pull up SnagIt and build you some images, but I wanted to get the words written first. So in a nutshell, HECK YEAH you can modify and alter this thing to no end. You also get options on the amount of time you want the backlight on (don’t laugh but mine’s permanently on,and that’s got a lot to do with why my battery doesn’t last as long) , and how you want the contrast set.  This is a great feature list.
  • GPS – “XXX”. Now, NOT having this feature is interesting. I think it has more to do with cost, with complexity, with weight, and with battery duration issues. And with all the new websites and features coming out that highlight just how awesome GPS is and why it’s God’s Gift to Cyclists of All Ilks and Trades… well, I was sold and thought that it was the absolute best thing to have on a cycling head unit. BUT, there are some real limitations to GPS… First, it doesn’t tend to accurately display “Z” values in terms of altitude, especially when the changes are so minute. Second, it tends to work best at speeds above 25mph, from what I can tell. Third, Anyone using GPS in an attempt to be accurate on distance traveled is going to be disappointed when every time you go over that same piece of road or trail, you’ll get a different value. It’s just not that accurate (nothing is, really. Go read James Gleick’s “Chaos Theory” about how surveyors looked at a border between two countries, at the same time, using the same instruments, and ended up with wildly different values.). So, I’m actually going to hedge my answer here, and say that it’s MOSTLY unnecessary. The only reason I DO still like having GPS is that the Joule is dependent upon Speed or HR to begin and maintain its’ recording. That’s kind of a weakness, since we do stop and sometimes walk away from our bikes while leaving the head unit on the bars. But overall, it’s okay not to have GPS. I would love to have that, but I think I understand why they didn’t…. Though I’m still not sure and I’m definitely a waffle on this one.
  • Cost below $500 – Hmmm. Barely. Internet listings show a cost of $450-$500. ALWAYS add the cost of the head unit and interpretive software when you buy a powermeter!
  • Weight below 200g – Nailed it. The head unit is about 75 grams, the mount is less than that, and the GSC10 is about 50, so you’re in for everything at <200g. Those riding integrated ANT+ kits like those found on TREK bikes and maybe a few others. Needless to say, you won’t feel the weight on your bike. It won’t affect balance or anything else, and the unit can be mounted on the handlebars, the stem, or the frame if that’s where you want it.

Okay – I’m getting the itch to actually break out the Descente kit and go ride. I’ll keep plugging along on this review and will make a solid effort to shoot some photos of the features. My parting comment right now would be to suggest to Cycleops that they duplicate something they did a LOOOONG time ago, with their LYC, and build a Joule 2.0 and Joule 3.0 simulator for their website. It might overcome one final bit of stigma associated with all these new head units – their complexity.

Part 3 to come.


Long Promised Joule 2.0 review

Well, man, this has been tough. I decided a while back to purchase and try a Joule 2.0 from Cycleops, and it basically took me most of the summer to really get my head around it. I’ll go in to more detail as we go, and I’ll try to post some photos, but in a nutshell, it is ALMOST my favorite on-bike Power Meter head unit. I’ll explain the almost as we go along…

After over a decade in which Power-Tap used their now-ubiquitous “Little Yellow Computer”, it became obvious as technology progressed that a more capable bike computer was a necessity. Other head units have added features and functions, and the Little Yellow Computer (from hereon called the “LYC) just wasn’t cutting it. Savvy cyclists needed more memory, more windows, more multifunctions, longer lasting batteries, backlights, uploads, downloads, and all sorts of things. Based on my own experiences, the following is my own list of wants and needs for the Ultimate on-bike Power Receiving Device.

  • Gobs of memory – the ability to store weeks and months of rides, if not years of rides, in one location. You can NEVER have enough places to back things up.
  • Long Lasting Batteries. Something that would last at least 6 hours while recording everything, and including a backlight for indoor use, as well as cloudy days.
  • The ability to read TSS, IF, and PNorm, not JUST on an overall ride basis, but also on a per-interval basis. I know this may cause some controversy, but way back in 2002 and 2003, when I was learning about TSS, I believed that  PNorm was probably more important on a per-interval basis (especially for longer intervals), than it might be for overall ride purposes, because it yielded a more realistic ‘physiological effect’ that would account for things like rolling terrain, traffic, road conditions, and the like.
  • A Barometer to read elevation and feet or meters climbed.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable.
  • GPS
  • Cost below $500
  • Weight below 200g
  • Either USB upload/download and charge, or wireless upload/download and charge.
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Well, you know, this is a tough list, but honestly, I think the Joule almost made it.

Let’s start by going down the list of features for the Joule 2.0, based on my own list above, okay?

  • Gobs of memory – CHECK. Joule offers over 20 hours of memory in 1-second recordings, and can store summaries for up to a year’s worth of rides. This one was big, and it helps a ton.
  • Long Lasting Batteries – CHECK, SORT OF. My own experience with the Joule was that it definitely lasted the necessary 6-8 hours per ride, but that if you keep the backlight on, which I’m prone to, it’ll run down in less than 5 hours. Comparing it to the 705, I don’t think it has as long a battery life, but I think they must be using either smaller or cheaper batteries. The Joule also just has a mono-color screen, so the battery life sort of puzzles me. Still, it’s worked for just about every ride I’ve been on for any duration, though the battery signal does drop about every hour or 90 minutes.
  • The ability to read WKO+/Coggan/Allen Metrics. OH HALLELUJAH I THINK WE FINALLY GOT A GOOD ONE HERE! YES! But wait…. The formula used by the Joule is ever so slightly different than the one used on WKO+, and, well, if anything, the Joule’s on-screen TSS scores tend to read a little high at the end of the day. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and I suspect it has more to do with the way the Joule is recording or not recording zeros and stops when I’m in traffic, but comparing the Joule’s downloaded TSS scores with the exact same data from a Garmin 705 that is just kept running, regardless of stops, always reveals that the Garmin’s values are higher, and closer, to the numbers read on the Joule’s head unit itself. It’s a bit of a mystery, but honestly, I think I can handle it. I just have to ride about 2-5% harder or longer to get the desired TSS scores on WKO+. IF for an interval is nice, so that you know how hard you’re riding in each interval, as is the ability to reveal wattage zones, and Pnorm, all on the same screen as time. TSS for intervals isn’t as important for me, but the Joule presents just about all the information you need to know on a per-ride and a per-interval basis, which is VERY helpful.

I figured I better post this. More to come.


Waxahachie Rally Review

June 26th will go down for me as one of the absolute scariest days I’ve ever had on a bike. It did not start out that way, but it definitely ended like that, and it led to a serious lesson on limits and riding with your heart instead of your head.

It all started actually on Thursday, when I dropped my wife off at the airport for a short trip up to Seattle. She was concerned about the heat and humidity down here, and wondered if it was the smart thing to do to actually go out and ride in this stuff, when the Cycling Center of Dallas studio was a fresh and comfortable 72 to 78 degrees fahrenheit. I initially showed determination to ride the 75 or 100 mile, since I hadn’t been out in a few weeks, but almost hourly I began to waffle over the next two days. Would I? Wouldn’t I? Should I? and the perpetual question… “Will you be ready for this?”

This was answered at 5am on the 26th, when I woke up early, prepared my bike, car, and a cooler, ate a SMALL breakfast, and headed out. Looking back, it was already too little, too late. I had eaten well the day before, but had not adequately hydrated, and I KNOW, as a coach, that hydration is something that is chronic, not acute. There were a whole host of warning signs that I should have picked up on, including: a twitchy calf the two days before. Not enough sleep. A twitchy eyelid that was related to fatigue and mineral imbalances. And perhaps the most important warning – I brought my Camelback bladder, but not the Camelback itself. They say that it’s often not the last mistake you make in a chain of events that leads to catastrophe, but the little ones that pile up before that. This was true on this day and others in my cycling past.

We rolled out with between 4 and 5 bottles apiece, bars, flasks of carbohydrate, and light, almost still air. It was 83 at the starting line. After maybe 5 miles, we were down to a small group of less than 40 cyclists, and as we rolled around some beautiful roads and countryside, I began to feel almost euphoric. My climbing was spectacular, and my pulls were steady and solid. Farang Ghadiali was working hard at the front, and along with some other Williams Cycling riders, we alternated pulls and worked together like locomotives sharing the load, to pull the train of riders behind us. One time, after an inappropriate but unintentional gap on a hill, I came back to the group to sort of apologize, and one of the other Dallas Racing Works riders piped up – “Dude, we got nothin’! It’s too hot!” So I controlled my pace after that and stayed with the group.

Coming up to the 50-mile mark and the water station located there, we began to notice salt rings and empty bottles all around. We were down to about 20 riders, and we just sort of knew at that point that we needed to hold off and refuel. However, as I began to dismount, my LEFT HAMSTRING (that’s a new one for me) cramped up and I gave warning that I was going to perform a controlled crash in the grass. There were laughs all around, but I noticed that I did NOT need to void my bladder, summed it up as dehydration, and took advantage of the station’s pickle juice and Powerade. Four cups of pickle juice later and 2 bottles of Powerade, along with 4 complete refills, we all remounted, and for a while, things got better.

This lasted maybe 20 minutes though, and by the time we got to the 75/100 mile turnoff, I made a conscious decision to abandon my attempt at a century today, and head for Waxahachie. Temps on the road were above 100, and the wind was beginning to kick up a bit, so hopefully we would have a tailwind along highway 77. But somewhere outside of Italy, TX, my speed began to drop, my cadence began to slow, my vision began to wobble, and my speech was conflicted. My good friend Curtis Palmer took one look at me and said, “You need to stop. You look awful!” I drank what I could, but eventually I let the small group I was with go ahead, and began what I would call the “Death March” to the next feed station. My average speed ended up being around 12 mph, and my average wattage was in the 150’s. Right before the 65 mile feed zone, I remember all vision in my right (weak) eye turning purple, and it was all I could do to climb a good line and not waver or be a risk to motorists at a crawl. I rolled in to the station, where the volunteers immediately began applying ice packs, spraying me with cold water, and choking more fluids down my throat. Finally, they pulled up a pickup, put my bike in it, turned the AC on full, and put me in the passenger’s seat, and began to drive me to the finish line.

The trip was surreal. I remember talking to someone on the phone, looking at the other riders as we passed them and wondering why I wasn’t riding with them, and blaming it on a mechanical. Finally, I got to the Baylor medical trailer, where they put my bike down, lay me down head down and feet up slightly, and injected me with a liter of Dextrose and Saline fluids. The bag took about 30 minutes or more to go in, and while it was entering my bloodstream, I remember the cool feeling, almost like radiator coolant, going up my arm and in to my body. After about 10 minutes, my head cleared and my vision came around, and I started to actually get a sugar buzz! I shot pictures of my arm, thanked the crew, and when another MICU took off with sirens blaring, I didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed it might be someone else in trouble with the heat, like me. As it turned out, there was a small line of folks who needed treatment in the Baylor wagon, and the sirens I heard were a response to a call from the 50-mile feed zone that a cyclist was actually having a heart attack! “Bicycle Bill” from Ennis was later airlifted to Baylor Dallas, where he received a stent in his chest. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it was definitely a close call.

After the injection, I saw a scale in the cabinet, and asked if I could weigh myself, since I knew what my pre-ride weight had been. Now, here’s the really scary part. At 5am, I had weight 153lbs. AFTER all those bottles of fluids (8 total), and AFTER that 6 pound injection of an IV, with NO urge to empty my bladder, I weighed in at 151. So somewhere in the first two hours, I lost a TON of fluids. My replenishment rate for water, salt, and carbs, even at two bottles of drink per hour, was inadequate. I was unprepared, and the euphoria I felt in the first two hours was based solely on my breakfast carbs, and my on-bike carb solution, which I later realized had been diluted from 6% down to 2%. Water alone wasn’t adequate to keep my body cool. I rode with my heart, and NOT with my head.

I read today that June was the hottest month on record, locally and nationwide, as was the heat index. I literally rode the salt out of my body, and put myself deep in to a position of stress that almost led to panic and maybe a stroke. In this heat, it’s absolutely critical to adapt, prepare, hydrate, and replenish your energy as much as possible. I don’t know if the Camelback would have made a difference, but an extra 72 ounces, cold, with sugar solution in there, would not have hurt. Once again I’ve learned my lesson, and I can only thank the gang that I was riding with, and the expert volunteers at Waxahachie, for their assistance on this hot, humid, day of rallying.

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