My Rides

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Races & Events 2012

March 24:  Barry-Roubaix (23 mile)
  • Done
  • Didn't do as well as I could have (2:01:53)
  • Under-ate the day/morning before & bonked after the first hour.  Ate raisins, and a gel and felt good for the last 30 minutes, but lost time through the middle...

April 29:  Road Ends 5-mile (Trail Run)
I used to run in college, and shortly thereafter, but not much in the last 10 years.  Running will be my weakest portion of the 1/2 triathlon, so something forcing me to prioritize running should better prepare me for June.
  • Done
  • Finished last in my age group, and 309 out of 341 (1:09:15.9)
  • Ate & prepared well.  
I can't complain about the result.  It was an early test in preparation for xterra, and not an "event" in and of itself.  I ran the whole way, except a couple of hills, near the end, where it was actually faster (for me), and a brief rest for the running muscles.  My form was OK - I've been working on a more efficient cadence, and form to avoid injuries.
June 17:  XTERRA Torn Shirt (1/2 Triathlon)


I started, back in March, running VERY short distances.  I haven't run in years.  I started with 3 minutes, and    whoa was it a strain (don't laugh, well only a little please, and to yourself).  Two days later 2 sets 3 minutes.  Two days after that, 12 minutes, with a few walking-rests.  Then, after a week in Missouri cycling on some hilly roads, and trails, I ran 24 minutes.  Then 3 days before my race (above), I ran for an hour.  

After that "warm-up" and before my race, I read up on efficient and injury-free running form(s).  Apparently there are a few that share some aspects, and differ in a few.  I bought the book and DVD for "Evolution Running."  Generally, what I've taken from it, and am practicing, so far is:
  • Keep a high cadence - 180 steps per minute, to get optimal energy from your springy tissues
  • Land, softly, on the fore-foot, with your foot under your hips
  • Lean slightly forward - feel more like falling forward, than jumping/landing
  • Limit vertical motion
  • Proper motion is more like sweeping the leg fore-aft, pulling the foot into the ground with your glutes
I got a running metronome, so combined with my interval timer I sound like one of those obnoxious car alarms going down the trail, but the bugs and squirrels don't seem to mind.  So far, all training less than 2 miles is done in Vibram Five Fingers (I got another pair: the TrekSport for a little more trail traction).  I think I'm over-the-hump with running, so now I'm trying to do more intervals - a 3-minute warm up, then reverse splits, or hill sprints (usually following some form of bike workout).  I'm also jumping rope, which seems to be following a similar progression (3 minutes, day 1, was a killer; 3 sets of 3min a few days later went better).


This is where I think I've progressed the most.  Day 1, swam 400 yards in 20 minutes (but each 50 yards was a killer, with 20 seconds, or so, of rest on the wall).  Two days later, 500 yards in 20 minutes - progress, but felt slow, flailing.  I decided to read-up on swimming form, and found the "Total Immersion" series of books & DVDs by Terry Laughlin.  

The focus is on practicing efficient forms and motions, slowly and patiently, and never practicing "struggle" until you develop competence in the drills.  I only drilled for about 3 weeks (2-3 20-30 minute sessions per week).  Tonight, I decided to drill for 4 lengths, then complete 10 laps (20 lengths) without stopping at the wall (though I would kick along in "sweet spot" taking several breaths - practicing my open-water rest).  It took maybe 8 laps for it all to come together (I won't say I'm a master), but when it did, I felt like I could go on for an hour.  I completed 15 laps, only stopping to allow other swimmers in the lane to move along.  I "lapped" one guy 3 times.  


These days, biking is done before running or after swimming.  Due to time constraints, I'm doing mostly hill repeats in the neighborhood (followed by running or jump-rope).  I'm riding to and from the pool - about 3 miles away.  I'll add on some more distance on the ride home, as I get into it.  On weekends, I plan to do a 1-2 hour road ride, or 1 hour trail ride.

August 11:  Ore to Shore (48 Mile Hardrock)
  • Following the xterra, will have to return to a "Time Crunched Cyclist" plan (likely combined with a strength program, like this spring)
The Race:
It's August 12, 1 day after the race, and it's all a bit of a blur - well a blur with some clear bits.  First of all - I did pretty well.  Well, not really in a competitive sense.  I finished in 4 hours, 18 minutes, 21.4 seconds.  628th out of 707 total entrants, 543 out of 595 men, and 105 out of 114 men aged 35-39.  

I finished well in terms of:
  • Feeling I trained as well as I could have, and sufficient to complete the race feeling good
  • Feeling I was riding well among who I perceived as my peers in the race
  • Feeling my bike was well tuned, oiled, inflated, etc.
    • Front tire 28 psi, rear tire 35 psi (kind of low for a big guy)
    • Chain cleaned in warm mineral spirits, and then soaked in warm White Lightning Wet Ride chain lube (a thick, synthetic chain oil)
    • Shock at 103 PSI (I like plush)
  • Feeling I had the right amount & type of food & drink with me
    • About 2000 calories the previous day (and for breakfast) in the form of a sweet potato, raisin & honey race mush in addition to that day's meals.
    • 8 Honey Stinger Ginsting Gels
    • 3 Bottles Gatorade with protein (4:1 carb/protein, 2 carried at a time, family swapped me 1) + 3 bottles filled at aid stations + 3 little aid station cups
  • Feeling I rode at about the right pace.  There were times I felt I could have pushed harder, but there were times I cramped up and was thankful I rode the last hill at the pace I did...
So, here's my race recap:
Got to the starting line a little more than an hour early.  For 700+ racers, and not much explanation about the starting process, things were very calm, there was plenty of room to park (within blocks of the start), and the seeding/line-up process was very self explanatory.  Made a trip to the port-a-johns, and the playground (for the kids), back to the starting line to set my mind at ease, then back to the port-a-johns, and back to the start just in time for an announcement, downing a gel, the star-spangled-banner (I sang), and the roll-out.

Now, when I got to the starting line, I was the only bike behind the 3:50+ (finishing time) sign.  By the race start there were hundreds of bikes behind me...  So when the gun went off, I spent the first few miles of the race being constantly and rapidly passed.  I focused on cadence (95-100 RPM) more than speed.  I didn't want to be panting early in the race.  I can't even really saw what I saw, until the sign that said "48 miles to go" ugghh.

A guy at the start warned me that in the first climb a lot of people walk because they're not expecting it.  I was doing pretty good, until the girl in front of me grabbed her brake for no apparent reason, so off the bike I went.  

At the beginning the signs every mile calling out the distance remaining were a drag...  Every 5 miles might have generated an "all right", but every mile:  "uggh".  I know why (so you can report a downed rider's position).  

Generally, I do very well on climbs.  I'm fast to hit the granny gear switch on the left, and I just spin up, so on the "reasonable" climbs I rode past people.  Many passed me back, but I wore a few down.

I'd say I do very well on descents.  At the beginning I didn't think much of it - pass a few people here and there.  Toward the end of the race, I yearned for the "Warning Fast Descent" sign - I really craved gravity's aid in making it through each next mile.  I bombed down some rocky, sandy downhills. be continued

November 3:  Iceman Cometh (29 mile)
Not much to say between Ore to Shore and Iceman.  I quit my job, took a new one, and moved from Detroit to Chicago.  A priority was maintaining my training and racing schedule.  There were some hiccups and frustrating weeks, but I felt pretty well trained, fueled, and rested for the Iceman.  Here's a photo near the finish.  Still in good spirits.  Some hints of cramping in the last 10 miles (lost a bottle of EFS - had to drink Heed, which I think has less electrolytes).  Yes that's snow.  
Overall, my first full season was great.  I learned the importance of eating enough the day before and morning of a race in Barry-Roubaix.  I rode a 4+ hour race.  I lost some weight, and generally had a lot of fun.  My wife and kids were at all of my races.  Either my parents or in-laws were at each race.  Pretty nice, at "middle age" to have "grown-ups" in your cheering section.  

Early in the season, I had grand plans to "upgrade" the race machine to some new/light carbon full suspension race bike for next year.  After contemplation, I just decided to get a new frame for the 2007 Cannondale Caffeine 29er that's served me so well.  I got a large, 2009 frame for just over $300.  I needed BB30 cranks (another $150), and a new rear wheel ($200).  I think this bike will serve me well another 5 years.  It's light, strong, stiff, and just plain comfortable.  

Next year I may do as many triathlons as bike races.  Conditioning for swimming and running will better address my fitness weaknesses...  As an old guy, weight bearing exercise is good.  As a fat guy, what it takes to become more competitive as a runner (not being fat) will serve me well all-around.  Next year, I think I'll do the Barry-Roubaix in March, the Ore to Shore in August, and the Iceman in the fall, but I think I'll find a 1/2 Triathlon to do in the spring, a full triathlon to do in the summer.  I think the Chicago triathlon is in the fall - so that would be a season to look forward to.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mountain Bike Shifters on a Road Bike

My new "Road Bike" can best be described as a hybrid.  Cyclocross frame, fork, wheels & tires, with a mountain bike drivetrain.  I'm a fan of bullhorn handle-bars, most comfortable/familiar with SRAM mountain trigger shifters, wanted to give reverse levers a try, and didn't want to spend the money on road combo brake/shift levers.

I knew the new(er) SRAM shifters have detachable clamp, which gave me the idea to find a way to use them.  I picked up a pair used, on ebay for $35, which is about 50% of the street price.  The total price for brake/shift levers is about $65, compared to $200 for an entry level road combo lever.  
I tried finding a larger clamp, for this purpose, but had no luck.  I had some 1/2" thick aluminum in the garage, and ultimately the clamp I need is a refinement of a piece of aluminum with a 23.8-26.0 mm hole in it.  
That's how the machining (on a drill press) started - I drilled a couple of 1" holes in my 1/2" aluminum plate.  I added the through-hole and counter-bore for the clamp/fastener bolt.  Then I trimmed away some excess material.
It's not finished.  I still need to make a groove where it mounts to the shifter mechanism (keeping the shifter from twisting), trim away more material, and generally clean it up.  But a quick mock-up illustrates that it's on it's way to doing the intended job.

Update:  June, 2013

I've had these on the bike for over a year now.  

As you can see I cleaned them up, rounded them off, etc.  
There's not a lot to say - life with them has been uneventful.  They work well, feel comfortable and "right" on the bike.  As you can see they're pushed in pretty close.  A mountain bike bar is a lot wider than the 40cm bullhorn I have on these.  The up-shift levers hit my bar tape a little, and sometimes the lever sticks in the forward position. 
From the front you can see that the shifters overlap each other.  The shifter for the front 3 rings is cocked at an angle to clear his neighbor (the shifter for the rear 9).  That was something I sorted out when mocking it up.  In the time I've ridden them, I haven't really longed for a different shifting system.

Recently, I signed up for a century, and in training I realize that my hand discomfort on the bike starts to bother me after about 3 hours of riding.  That motivated me to try out aerobars (with a wider, 46cm, bullhorn bar) - for one more riding position, and secondarily to make those 100 miles go by a little faster (presuming I'm going alone a few times throughout the day).  
As it turns out, those areobars will fit the mountain shifters, with their original brackets.  I've only done a few rides with these, but I can't say there are any real draw-backs, related to them being mountain shifters, and given my goals & expectations.  

Road Bike - The Build


Bill of materials (initial)

  • "Custom" Painted Dolan Cyclocross Frame (used)
  • Ritchey Carbon Cross fork (aluminum steerer) (new)
  • Wheels (new):
    • Alex Adventurer 700c (36H)
    • Shimano M590 Hubs (36H)
    • Wheelsmith double-butted spokes with brass nipples
  • Dimension 70mm Stem (new)
  • Cervelo cowhorn bars (new)
  • Cane Creek Reverse/TT Brake Levers (new)
  • Avid Shorty 4 Rim Brakes (used)

Update:  June 2013

Got a little busy last year job hunting, and moving, so I never really wrapped up the progress on this bike.  In terms of BOM (bill or materials), the following have been added:
  • Shimano XTR Cassette (11-34t)
  • Shimano XT Crankset (44-32-22t)
  • KMC X9SL Chain
  • SRAM X7 Long Cage Rear Derailleur (MTB)
  • SRAM X7 Shifters (MTB)
  • Thomson Elite Seatpost
  • Brooks B17 Special Saddle 
  • Profile Design AquaRack (holds 2 bottles behind seat-post) 
  • Planet Bike 1 watt LED tail-light (I have these on all 3 bikes)
  • Yokozuna brake and deraileur cables
  • Michelin CIty 700 x 40 tires (usually)
  • Some thingy to hold my phone
It had been my goal with this bike to keep things light(er) where there was a good value proposition.  Where I decided to spend a little more was on the fork, crankset, cassette, chain, seat-post and seat.  I figured, across all of those components I could save 1 lb (over what I itemized as "best value" components), without breaking the bank (+$300-400 over "LX Level" components).  The cost for having a "robust" bike that weighed significantly less (i.e. a 15 lb bike), I decided, involved starting with a lighter frame and fork (more carbon) - something I wasn't ready to do.

I bid on Brooks Swallow seats, with Ti rails for months, and finally got one for $180.  I applied Obenauf's Leather Protector, and rode a few hundred miles, but never achieved the comfort of my Brooks B17s on the other bikes.  It really looked beautiful - right for the bike, but I ended up getting another B17 - this one a green special (with copper rivets).  It was more comfortable "out of the box", and now with a few hundred miles on it, the sitbones take at least 4 hours to feel sore.

I ride mainly on gravel trail, and on some rough roads, so I put big ol' Michelin City 700 x 40C tires on the bike - usually kept at 40-50 psi.  I figure'd I'd ease into speed, and hang on to some comfort.  It always feels so much faster than my mountain bike or my utility/commuter bike, that I haven't thought much about it.  With a century coming up, I finally ordered some fast (low rolling resistance) road tires - Schwalbe Ultremo ZX 700 x 28C.

On some training rides for an upcoming century, I decided I'd try aerobars.  Primarily for another riding position, and secondarily for an aero position for the time I spend riding alone.  I've done 75 miles with them, making adjustments and feeling them out.  I had to find a wide and raised position for the arm-rests so my knees clear my gut.  For hard "sprints" the position feels good, but for "spinning along" in an alternate position, I bounce a bit more.  I've done most of my riding, and learning a good "spin" in an upright position - I'm not as smooth leaned over.

With the aerobars, I've raised the seat 1/4", and tilted the nose down (from a somewhat tilted up position) about 1/4".  I think it will move forward a little as well before I'm done.

In terms of speed/efficiency - each time I drop onto the aerobars, I shift up 1 gear to keep the effort about the same.  Looking at gear ratios, that's around a 10% reduction in effort - which could prove pretty significant, even if I'm only "alone" and able to use the aerobars 10% of my time in the century.

I love the bike.  It's comfortable, fast, quiet, smooth, and wierd - but perfect for me.

Barry Roubaix 2012 - Training Progress

Update (3/3/2012):

Back on track.  I'm working hard to do all of my "intense" work for each week - bike intervals get the highest priority, with strength training getting 2nd.  I'm putting in about 8 hours per week - the minimum for my workout plan.  I haven't yet hit a 10 hour per week peak...  I'm feeling pretty worn out.  I caught a cold, had a sick day, and am feeling the workload.  
I'm nearly complete with 3 weeks of training (5 weeks to go to the race), and I'm feeling great.  I've been tracking my progress - which is generally a good idea for any endeavor where some form of growth or development is expected.  The chart tells some of the story - I'm not hitting the goals I set.  I'm doing 100% of my on-the-bike intervals, but falling short on the strength training and my "Endurance Miles."

I set out to increase my training volume from 6-8 hours per week - focused on on-the-bike endurance training -  by adding to that 1.5-2 hours per week of strength/balance training.  My perfectly reasonable excuses (future me) are:

  • (this one I don't feel guilty about) Healing from my hernia surgery is holding me back from some of the strength training.  Starting at the same time as this training, I started picking up the kids, again, and the combination leaves my stomach sore.  The last thing I want to do is slow that recover, or worse, cause another hernia.  When sore, I back off, and give myself more recovery time.  Push-ups are just now back in the routine, but true core exercises are still out...  
  • Basically, I poorly planned the progression, and "super-setting" of leg exercises with my intervals.  As the cycling intervals progressed, I was wiped out after a couple of progressions, and skipped the leg exercises (side lunges, squats) I was "super-setting" with the intervals.  I didn't want to do more than I could recover from, so I skipped a couple.  This is part of learning what kind of program will work.  
  • Work has been hectic, and frustrating.  
    • Some good people have left the company, and the stress, added to reactionary resume, LinkedIn, etc. updating has disturbed my schedule and focus.  This is something I've never been good at - maintaining overall health when career or family health is impacted.  One takes a hit, and I let the others be impacted...  I'm working on breaking those linkages for a healthier me.
    • I've been working late, and bringing work home trying to get ahead of a few things.
  • It will just plain take a while to find a good way to establish a training volume close to 10 hours per week.  There's school and work, kid's bedtimes, errands to run, and those few late nights at work.  I'm going to have to consider morning or lunch workouts (I'm lucky to be 5 min from work), or maybe those electrode things that let me just "twitch" my way to great fitness, while writing code.
This week felt great.  Power Intervals (go as hard as you can for 3 min at a time) on Tuesday were a killer.  On Thursday, the same intervals felt great, and I did my Bulgarian Split Squats.  Saturday's Over-Under's felt like a piece of cake, and I did some push-ups and pull-ups.

So, while my chart is trending downward now, I feel the progress, and I think next week's will reverse the trend.