Posts Tagged ‘Quarq

29
Oct
12

Specificity, Specificity, Specificity.

Superfly 100

I recently began, after a roughly 12 year hiatus, riding mountain bikes again. Now, Dallas isn’t really terribly vertically challenged, so the term “Mountain Bike” is probably the wrong term, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it on-topic with that title. One of  the reasons I moved OUT of the mountain bike realm and in to road racing, and this is really just one reason, was because of the fact that, despite my great climbing abilities and decent descending skills, when I moved to Texas, I SUCKED AT TEXAS MTB RACES!!! However, it wasn’t until this summer that I actually began to understand just why.

Lots of speed, wattage, and cadence variations.

Mountain bike racing is definitely requires different training than standard road racing, but I didn’t really understand just how distinct TEXAS mountain bike racing was, until I started going to local DORBA trails again, this time armed with a Quarq power meter. Now, while I knew that Texas trail riding and racing was unique, I had NO IDEA that the demands were until I got this data. Look at the chart above, and watch how stochastic the data remains as I sort of randomly zoom in.

The first image was a 2hr overview. This next one is about 57 minutes…

It’s still stochastic in watts, cadence, and speed…

And here it is, zoomed in to 30 minutes…..

It’s STILL pretty stochastic for the 3 metrics…

And as we zoom in further, you start to see where I may be going with this…..

Still stochastic, but you start to get an idea of the cadence range…

Notice how many short, medium-cadence 'bursts' there are...

regardless of terrain.

19×5-10sec intervals with roughly equal coasting or zero-load pedaling.

So, if you think about it, zoom back up and out, and look at the macro, 2 hour ride, and then scroll down until  you get here. I’ll go in to WKO+ (I’m writing this on my Mac, and will upload the relevant graphic later), to do a ‘Fast Find’, but I’ll bet that in that 2 hour ride, there are probably, oh, let’s take a guess…. what, 300 of these 5-to-15 second intervals, in zones 4, 5, 6, and even higher? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??????

Believe me – it’s actually twistier than it looks.

Well, for one thing, it means that I have a LOT of Specific Training to do, if I’m going to show up for next year’s DORBA races, and even TMBRA races, prepared. I need bike handling practice, I need to dial in my suspension, but probably more importantly, I need to have the ability to do 300, 400, or maybe more, intense intervals, at 60-80 rpm. Try doing THAT on a CompuTrainer! Ugh!

I just wish I had data from my old days, racing in the 90’s in the Northwest. That was a COMPLETELY different beast, and it fed more in to my abilities as a solid Vo2-max and Threshold Racer, and NOT, as a punchy, crazy-accelration-to-the-next-hairpin-where-you-had-to-brake-only-to-punch-it-again-times-400-efforts type racer!!

Let the challenge begin – Hopefully I’ll be ready!!!

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12
Oct
12

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.”

04
Mar
12

Mineral Wells Crit 2012

Honestly, there isn’t much to report here. Several years ago, when the Team Points Race out at Mineral Wells had just begun, I ended up riding over 2-3 days in constant, constant, constant rain, almost 9 inches of rain, and I ended up with all sorts of rusty bike parts, a cold, and exhaustion that lasted over a week. I was just young enough to enjoy it, and I did have two or three or four good teammates who made it fun. We won a lot of money, and had a great time relating the experience. Heck, it may be in this blog somewhere.

But this time, well, it rained all the way down to Mineral Wells, I had the dog with me, the course was flooded, it was dangerous in places, and to cap it all off, as I was racing, I was gaining about 8-12lbs in water down in the ‘socks’ I had decided to wear. It totally threw off my balance, it messed up my cadence, like riding with filled galoshes, and with one lap to go I actually pulled myself out of the race.

I keep swearing to myself that I’ll never be so dumb as to race in the rain again, especially now that I’m older, heavier, and my insurance is in question. But I did start, and I was hoping maybe I could get some upgrade points. Instead I just threw away my money. Oh, and they canceled the TT I was going to do later in the day. I went home soaked, though home was about to become a temporary, fast-ending, thing.

21
Feb
12

Cedar Hill Road Race Reviews –

Wow – has it been a while, or what? I can’t believe that 2012 has progressed so rapidly, and that so much has happened. I know I need to update everything, but I’ll try to do it in progressive order, so that the thoughts follow the line of time. Please bear with me. There’s a lot to tell.

February 11th and 12th were two days that I’ll never forget. Coming off the success of the event in late January, I looked forward to this circuit race, a 1.9 mile effort that had about 90′ of climbing on a 6-8% wall. The first day the race went counter-clockwise, while the second day’s effort went clockwise. Temps were pretty cold both days, in the 40’s, and the breeze coming off the lake didn’t help much with wind chill. It was my second race as a Master for the season, but I was surprised to see some top talent lining up for the event. By the top of the first hill, however, it was pretty much me, Bret Crosby, and a McKinney Velo rider. We got separation by the top of Lap 2, and with a pro rider from Elbowz (an Australian whose name I can’t remember) giving us our gaps, Bret and I took turns pulling (the MV rider did NOTHING, but it was understood that his presence was necessary, because his teammates were obviously doing a great job blocking for us), me pulling strongly the first hour, he finishing it off the last 30-45 minutes, that we ended up freaking LAPPING THE FIELD by the end of the race!!!

Now I need to give a sidebar note on this. There’s something really incredible about lapping the field in a race, something I’ve never done before. First – I witnessed Bret do this once before in a race up in Denton, and it was incredible. Then, to actually be a contributor to this – WOW, just…. WOW!!!!! The only problem with the lapping was that we ended up in the pack for their sprint, though by gentlemen’s agreement we did not challenge the results – we went Elbowz/Mirage/McKinney Velo, and I later rolled up to Bret, thanking him for the ride, the race, and the privilege of knowing what I’d just done, with one of my absolute heroes. He’s VERY humble, but he needs to know that he’s a model athlete and contributor to the sport.

The next day, with similar temps and a slightly smaller field, I ended up in the break with another friend and mentor, Mikey Brown, also of McKinney Velo, and an OKC Velo rider. We didn’t quite lap the field, but we did get about 4/5 of the lap in. The break took a bit longer to get started, and the course was slightly easier – the clockwise hill at least SEEMED easier – but in the end, Mikey pulled another signature move, backing off and losing contact in the last corner, about 800 meters from the finish, and then ROCKETING off the left hand side of the road, to get a sustainable gap. I was left battling with the OKC rider, who happened to be a National Duathlon Champ or something like that, and since his pulls at the front were negligible, he ended up attacking in the last 150 meters and getting a 3 second gap on me. I’m no fan of OKC Velo, and this didn’t raise my opinion of them much, but all’s fair in love and racing, and he did contribute somewhat. I’m kind of a hard-liner, taking solid pulls and doing a lot of work early to establish a break, hoping that my work will be recognized and rewarded. Saturday, it was, but Sunday, less so. Still, I’ve earned the respect of those around me, and this was an absolute blast of a weekend.

One other interesting note. This was the first time I rode with someone using Di2. Mikey Brown had it on his bike, and it was awesome hearing the motor shift him from 39 to 53 at the top of the hill. I was using my new SRAM red, and, well, my hands kept going numb. Sheesh.

15
Feb
12

Success…. And Victory.

The Whareagle wins his first road race – ever.

***Well, it’s been over two four five! weeks now, and I’m sure everyone wanted a fast response, but honestly, I was solo for two weeks at home, and there were other things going on in my life, and I went to Fredericksburg with a friend for the next weekend, and, well, I kind of fell in to a depression, and the high from this race didn’t last nearly long enough. SO, that said, I’ll resume and hopefully finish this today. Thanks for your patience.

I’m going to open this with a monster caveat – this is going to be a LOONG post, so make sure your coffee is hot, your mouse scrolling wheel has fresh batteries, and you have the phone set to ‘airplane mode’, because this may take a while. I have a lot to say.

This last weekend, January 21st, to be exact, I raced the first event of 2012, the annual Copperas Cove Classic, this year, renamed the “Megan Baab Memorial”. Megan was a young, effervescent 19-year old racer who grew up  in the Texas Cup Series, but tragically lost her life in mid-December of 2011. The whole state mourned her loss, and a scholarship fund was set up by Andy Hollinger, the race promoter, with a portion of the proceeds from the race going to the fund. I drove down with long-time client Janna Doss, who was entering her first race. We discussed the usual pre-race nervous talk, with tactics, strategies, nutrition, hydration, offense, defense, etc. Well, I never knew that my own version of the race, separate from hers, would ever succeed so spectacularly.

Saturday dawned cold and breezy, and despite my planning, I did fail to bring an extra undershirt, and was about to wear my Mirage jacket, when teammate and Mirage President, Gary Dutschman, offered me a Helly Hansen undershirt that was perfect. Janna and I pinned each others’ numbers on, and we rolled out for the 7:30 start. I decided a while ago that I would start acting my age, and would race the 40+ category, seeing as to how I’d been beating my head against the Cat 3 ceiling for 6 years, and an upgrade was probably out of my range, especially given my inability to race on weekday evenings, which is where most North Texans get their upgrade points. Trying to do it on weekends only is just really difficult, and there’s always the nagging doubt about whether you’re good enough to stick it with kids half your age, with a lot more vigor under their legs.

I had a number of teammates from Mirage, known and unknown, in the group, and we really didn’t have a strategy, but they were all experienced enough to know to at least block or screw up pacelines if a teammate got away, and, well, as it turned out, that’s exactly what happened!

It was still about 41 degrees when we rolled out in a neutral start, and we were averaging about 11 mph. When the car let us go, everyone just stuck next to each other and kept this slow speed. By this point, I was truly shivering, from a combination of nerves and cold, and I ended up telling myself – “Screw this – I’m going to warm up!” So, about mile 2, I literally just rolled off the front –

and that pretty much turned out to be the whole freaking race!!!!!

At 3 miles, I wasn’t really racing, but I was definitely riding at about 90% of FTP, and when I looked over my shoulder, I had about a 30 second gap. By mile 6, it was about a minute, and there was one brave rider trying to bridge. By the time I turned off on to the loop, at about mile 8, the rider was about 30 seconds behind me, and the pack was at 90 seconds. I then thought about how much riding I had ahead of me, and how it might be fun to have a rider to paceline with, so I backed off, waited a few seconds, and when the rider caught up to me, we made introductions, guesstimated the gap, and started taking turns.

The rider, Jim Slausson, was a 47 year old from San Antonio, riding for Bicycle Heaven, and had about 5 years of experience as a racer. I mentioned that I knew Jimmy Vaughan, one of the owners, and we instantly established a good rapport. Now, here’s the interesting thing – we were both riding Cervelo Soloist/S3’s, we both had tubular deep-rim wheels, and we both had power meters, and knew how to use them. The only difference, physically, was that he weighed probably 25 more pounds than I did. On that course, which is one of my absolute favorites, due to the rolling terrain and the ever-present wind, plus extremes in the cold or the heat, we were set up perfectly. My pulls ended up being longer, his shorter, but together we stitched and weaved our way over the whole course.

At roughly mile 35, just before the right turn on to the worst part of the course – a 12 mile segment of caliche and pea gravel with divots and potholes galore – Jamie, one of my absolute most favorite officials, pulled up beside us and rolled down his window.

“Jamie – what’s our gap?” I asked.

He looked at me, gave me his huge, awesome, most genuine smile, full of white shiny teeth, and said, “SUBSTANTIAL!”

Jim and I then knew this really was going to be a special day.

We hit the gravel section with a semi-quartering tailwind, and lit up the speed to over 28 miles an hour. We passed a few of the 1,2,3’s who had been dropped, but we saw no one after the second feed zone. However, the section that closes the loop, between the entry on to FM roads, and the left hand turn that heads back to the Start/Finish, had some challenges of its’ own to throw at us. Specifically, there’s this one section that consists of two rollers over short bridges, then a climb/flat/climb/flat/climb/flat, to the crest. It’s maybe just over a mile, but usually, if there’s wind, it’s an area where riders get popped. Today, however, I worked pretty hard with Jim, and took him up about 2/3 of the way, before I heard a faint “EZ!” and I backed off. Fortunately, at the crest, Lee McDaniel, the event photographer, was there, and he captured Jim and I in perfect sunlight and image. It’s probably one of the best images I think I’ve ever had taken of me in situ.

Cresting FM580 before Topsey

We continued trading pulls and made the left turn home, knowing that the event was ours, but also knowing that we couldn’t back off too much, for fear that someone might be bridging. It was there, in the area before the final three hills, where Jim said to me “Just get me to the finish – I won’t challenge you.” I thought about it, thought about the ride up to that point, thought about the weather and how it had gone from completely cold to fairly warm-ish, how the wind had never really been too much trouble… and a story came to mind.

“Jim – what was that tennis player’s name who married Steffi Graf?”

“Andre Agassi?”

“Yeah – that’s him. Well, a couple of years ago, maybe 15, he was playing in a charity match somewhere, and was just beating this poor nobody up and down the court. The guy finally came up to the net and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m not feeling it – I think I need to forfeit.’ Agassi, who was really in the zone that day, told him – ‘No man, don’t forfeit… let me spot you a point, and LET’S JUST PLAY.’ So, they agree to that, tell the judge, and keep playing, and Agassi keeps beating him, so the guy says, ‘Dude – you’re killing me!’, and Agassi says ‘I’ll spot you a game. LET’S JUST PLAY.’ Meanwhile, since this was a charity match, and people were paying to observe, well, more people started showing up, and cheering both players on. This went on and on and on until no one was keeping score, Agassi was lowering his game to make sure that his opponent was having a good time, and THEY JUST PLAYED.”

“That’s what I’m feeling like right now.

We’ve won the race, it’s a beautiful day, I’ve made a friend and enjoyed a great ride at the start of the New Year.

LET’S JUST RIDE.”

“Dude – that’s the best philosophy I’ve heard since my own tale.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that story?”

“Well, I was riding with my friend Jason Sager, and I’d just completed a six week ride across America, when he said, ‘I can’t wait to do that ride with my son some day!‘ And I replied ‘Dude, I can’t wait to do that ride with you AND your son some day!”

It was at that moment that I realized the difference between Success, and Victory. I’ve been trying so hard to win, to be victorious, to be the first across the line, all these years, in two aspects of the sport (MTB and Road), that I forgot to open my eyes and realize that the GREATER Victory comes from being successful. Success is intrinsic. Success is knowing that you’ve given it all, left nothing behind, seized the moment, and pursued your goals. Success doesn’t depend on victory. Success is its’ own victory. Success is knowing that a sound mind, body, and attitude are better tools than a ranking on a sheet of paper. Success is…. Success.

We rode the final five miles in pretty much together. I gapped him on the hills, he caught up with me on the descents. I couldn’t and wouldn’t really shake him, we just opened small gaps and closed them. In the final 500 meters, I raised my left hand, grabbed his right, and we crossed the finish line together, sharing the win. It was the culmination of 2+ hours of some of the absolute best cycling I’ve ever experienced, and in the end, there was no cutthroat push or throw-your-bike-across-the-line. It was almost anticlimactic, but it was the absolute best way I could think to end it. I finished by making the cross sign and kissing my fingers  up to the sky, though most of you know I’m more of a Deist than a labeled Christian. I guess it was just a way to give thanks – for the blessing of the day, the achievement of this level of success in my competitive career, and the taste of victory, which may never come again. I certainly FELT like I had a guiding hand on my back….

Afterward, we gave each other pats on the back, circled back to the start/finish, gave interviews to the local paper, and watched the rest of the riders roll in. We got a few photos, and I looked around for Janna, who was finishing her first official race. Unfortunately, her day was not as good as mine, as she suffered a flat roughly 2/3 of the way through the race, but up to that point, she’d been in the mix with the Open Women’s division, which impresses me mightily! High-Fives and fist bumps and hugs were abundant, and I got a little emotional, remembering all the times that this course has vexed me, that I’ve sworn to quit, that I couldn’t share this with my wife and family… But it did feel good to finally WIN something! BOO YAH!!!

Always good to have teammates at the start – and the finish!

The trip back was full of recounted tales, texts and Facebook postings, and Janna was as stoked as I was about everything. I donated the winnings to Megan’s Memorial, clearing it with the other Mirage guys first (I ALWAYS pay out to teammates when they block. ALWAYS). The celebration at home was more muted, and that’s another story for another day, but I’m grateful for the way this ride came together, how it ended, and what it achieved. Success –

27
Jun
11

2011 Collin Classic Review

The Coldblack Kit reflects 80% of the IR energy from the sun.

The 2011 Collin Classic bike rally was held on a HOT and breezy June 11th,  and while several of the local racers and clubs were up in Oklahoma at the Tulsa Tough, those who attended this year’s rally were not disappointed. The father-son duo of Texas Legend Chris Calrson and his son, Zach, were present, as were almost a dozen McKinney Velo riders, Jimmy from Park Place, and others. The rally promised to be fast and furious, and with a prime in the middle of the course, on 3 or 4 rollers, the ride rolled out quickly, to establish boasts and bests.

Due to the heat and growing winds, it was almost universally accepted that the lead group would ride the 62-miler. However, as good as this rally is when it comes to parking, registration, waystations with ice and drinks or food, and post-ride food and celebrations, the event continues to be plagued by two small, yet important details – signage and course overlap. Several times, the lead group of riders accidentally overshot intersections where arrows were hard to read, due to their smaller size and smaller “head”. Once the lead group had reached about 40 miles or so, we began to pass riders doing shorter routes, at slower paces. Weeks before, at the Richardson Wild Ride, this was more-or-less okay, due to the fact that most of those roads were multi-laned, but out in rural Collin County, the single-lane-wide roads created conflict with the slower riders. Still, the course is definitely one of the more challenging efforts in North Texas, due to the rolling hills and the season.

Discussion in the pack of riders was lighthearted and noncommittal for the first half hour or so, and riders took equal turns up front, keeping the pace high, but not so high that it crushed people or forced them out. In the rollers, where we began to expect that people would fall off the pace, attrition was surprisingly low. Despite their large numbers, McKinney Velo riders kept the pace manageable and controlled, so there were really no serious breakaways at all. The heat continued to rise, and the wind began to whip up, but the overlap of courses tended to create some speed mitigation, so with about 10 miles to go, we were in a group of about 40. Carlson took the prime by about 80 meters at the halfway mark, and somewhere about 6 miles out, he, a Matrix rider, and Tino, wearing a Ft. Lewis College kit, pulled a quick getaway that left them about a minute up on the pack. We chased hard, but it seemed like the fight had gone out of the MV and PACC riders, and we all rode in.

Attempting to bridge to the group of 3.

Winning time was a 2:28, and my time in the group after the lead 3 was a 2:30. Afterward, we all compared notes on the heat, hydration strategies, course markings, etc. and left with mutual respect for each other and our accomplishment. The Collin Classic broke another attendance record, and Bikin Mike can be proud of his legacy with this event and others. Hats off to my fellow riders, and I hope to see y’all out there again next year.

11
Sep
10

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.
  • ROCK SOLID MOUNTING ON A STEM OR HANDLEBAR
  • 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.




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