Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Place to Ski

The bike path in Chardon has been groomed for skate and nordic skiing. The parking lot is off Chardon Windsor.

The snow is thin in spots and the base hasn't completely setup yet, but I was able to skate from the bridge over Aquilla Road to the bridge over Taylor Wells without stopping or hitting any bad patches.

If the snow thaws a little and refreezes, the base should be pretty good, then any new snow will make it a really fast surface.

If we get clobbered with some more lake effect snow, it should be possible to ski from 44 all the way to Claridon-Troy road, about 3.5 miles one way. The path, of course, is really flat and it's an out-and-back route.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sausage Arms

The cross country ski season is fickle. Some years we'll get two solid months of great conditions for skiing. Sometimes, I'll be lucky to go five times, so once there is enough snow on the ground I get out as much as my knees and arms will take.

This morning, Chris and I did some snow riding at Best Nature Preserve in Chardon. That was a blast. In the afternoon, I went to Chapin for an hour. There were lots of other people out and there was still some gravel poking through the snow, so I just did a couple of laps, then decided to try out the Maple Highlands Trail, which is being groomed this year.

The trail had been packed once, but had about 1" of fluffy snow on top. I went from the parking lot on Chardon Windsor out to the first bridge over Taylor-Wells Road. About half way there I bonked. I felt like taking a nap, but I decided to continue on.

By the time I got back to the car, I had a bad case of the sausage arms. It will take about a week for me to get used to skiing again, hopefully the snow will stick around for a while.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chapin Forest

I got started on my ski season today. Chapin was getting blasted with lake effect snow all day and the trail surface was just good enough to get around the loop on the 306 side of the park. Gravel was poking through in a couple places so I didn't stay out too long.

The conditions should be perfect later in the week so I can start piling on the hours.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


ideal cyclist body type

December 26th. The past few years, that's been my official kick-off date for the new season. I reset the bike computer odometer and start a new log.

The tasks for the first couple of months is to burn calories and not eat much, and also hit the weight room as much as possible. Weeee!

Hopefully we'll get some snow so I can pile on the hours on skis. It's a lot easier to go skiing for three hours in the winter than it is to ride for a few hours with cinder dust blowing in your eyes and semi lucid drivers buzzing by.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Snow Ride

I went out for another quick ride today on the bike path. This time, I carried my new 'droid phone and logged the ride with the GPS. This post is an experiment of how to embed the track in a blog. Hey, it seems to work!

I'm happy to say the bike path gets lots of use even in the winter. There are quite a few people who are out jogging or walking in the snow, and a handful of people who get out and ride mountain bikes. The bike tire tracks run the length of the trail. I only rode half the trail today. It was a pretty tough slog in the softer snow.

Time to go drink some eggnog. Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pedaling Forces

This graph was adapted from measurements in Force and repetition in cycling: possible implications for iliotibial band
friction syndrome by Kevin C. Farrella, Kim D. Reisingera, and Mark D. Tillman.

It's pretty instructive. The vertical axis is relative force. The horizontal axis is crank angle. Zero degrees is the top of the pedal stroke, 90 degrees is horizontal, 180 is the bottom, 270 is the foot at the back of the stroke.

The geometry of the knees, hips, ankle and crank that determine the shape of this chart. There are a few cardinal points around the cycle.

Force acts along a line between the hip and the pedal (more or less) through the first half of the stroke. When this line is directed along the pedal path (at about 68 degrees for me), all of the force of the straightening leg goes into propelling the bike. But at that point, the quads and glutes aren't producing maximum force. That happens at the peak of the chart, just past horizontal.

As the leg straightens out past the 120-130 degree crank angle, the force of straightening the leg is no longer tangent to the pedal path, so the hamstrings and glutes kick in to swing the cranks around and the force drops of rapidly.

There's a big potential for wasted effort, so it seem plausible that a cyclist could gain quite a bit of power from just developing a more efficient pedal stroke.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ice bowl #1

I made the trip to Akron today for the first Winter Trophy Series event. My Redline had a season ending injury at Boughton farm and it's in the shop right now getting an overhaul, so I was stuck riding the 30 pound MTB, which sucked. The course was perfect today for high speeds on a 'cross bike. I probably could have ridden my litespeed with the 28 mm tires.

The course was quite long, mostly flat with lots of turns and one off camber spiral. The surface was mostly frozen with hard packed snow and very few stretches of bare slightly squishy grass, but not any mud.

From the start, it was painfully clear that I was in slo-mo. There was one rider about 30 seconds ahead of me that I had a prayer of catching, but I was going a couple miles per hour slower than the rest of the field. I dug deep for the first three laps to try to close the gap and managed to cut it down to about 20 seconds, but it opened again after that.

From there, I was trying to make it as far as possible without getting lapped. With 2 laps to go, I caught sight of Robert land-sharking up on me, and I turned it up to brain melting pace to try to hang on to the last lap. I somehow snagged my handlebar through the off camber section and crashed. Robert was nice enough to ask how I was. For a slow crash, it hurt, but I was fine. In one of those things that only happens in a race and that you couldn't do on purpose if you tried 100 times, my brake cable was caught in the loop of the stake, and I couldn't get it out of there with my lobster claw gloves. It seemed to take forever to get my gloves off and get the bike loose, but really, it was probably less than a minute.

By the time I was underway, the next group of riders was closing in. Shit. I lost a little mojo in the crash, but I did everything I could to keep the gap. They passed me on one of the slower sections of the course, but really opened the gap on the fast section. I was cranking at full power and they still pulled away, so I didn't feel too bad about being so slow today.

It was a great workout. Since the course was flat there were very few places where you could take it easy.

Also, no bike cleanup after the race!

If I get my 'cross bike back in time, and the conditions are similar, I'll probably do the second race in the series. Shawn Adams and the folks who helped setup the course deserve a lot of credit for getting that work done in such cold conditions.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bike Fit

This winter, I plan to get my road bike position dialed in a bit better. For the past year or so I've been browsing through the articles about bike fit on the Internet (there are lots). I haven't been able to find a comprehensive article on cycling biomechanics, but I've been able to piece together some of the basic principles.

Here's the short list:
  • You can injure yourself with bad bike fit. If the saddle is too high, you can get ITB syndrome. If it's low, you can irritate your knees. Such injuries can take months to heal.
  • Pedaling is a limited range of motion exercise, so if your position is bad, you can actually be cheating yourself of several Watts.
  • The efficiency of mechanical coupling between the legs and the crank varies a lot around the pedal stroke.
  • The quads produce maximum force through a limited range of knee angles. (One source says 114-157 degrees).
  • The glutes produce maximum force through a limited range of hip angles (One source says 130-160 degrees)
  • Seat farther forward=quads do more work. farther back = glutes do more.
A sensible bike-fit strategy would be to find a position that allows the knee and hip to move through the maximum force angles with maximum mechanical efficiency. (It's important to keep in mind that even if there is some truly optimum position, it might be desirable to deviate from it for several reasons--comfort, bike handling characteristics, aerodynamics, etc....)

I worked through the basic geometry last year but forgot all about it until this week. Here's some of my initial findings.

When the seat is about the right height, there is about 3 inches of fore-aft saddle adjustment where the angles stay good.

The butter zone is smaller for the saddle height adjustment, too high and you lose force (plus get injured). Just a little too low and you lose 10-20% of the total force. There's only about 1 inch where the angles work best. Based on my hands-on experience, if you go with a saddle position that's just a bit too high, it's harder to spin. The bottom of the stroke feels "dead".

For me, the good old "knee-over-pedal-spindle" appears to be the optimum position, but that also requires me to move my saddle forward so my hip joint is 2.5 inches forward of the seat tube of my Cervelo.

If I track down some good measurements of force versus knee and hip angle, I should be able to come up with an actually useful online tool for seeing the effect of changing saddle height and fore-aft position.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Plotting and Planning

I've been diligent with my training logs for the past couple of seasons. Now at the end of the 2009 season, I almost forget that I followed a plan. For 2009, the general idea was to ride as much as I could stand to through the early season and try to peak in early July. I focused on longer intervals, 5-20 minutes, almost exclusively and tried to ride hard tempo when I wasn't doing an interval. In prior years, I did lots of short intervals ~1 minute, and sprinting with lots of easy tempo in between.

Now, I'm looking back on 2009 to figure out what to do for next year.

I'm surprised that my highest volume training month was March 2009: 37+ hours. Lots of group rides and not many races. There is a whole lot of complaining in my log. I started to develop joint and tendon aches and pains, so I backed off from there.

I thought racing would be a substitute for the shorter intervals and sprint training that I did in prior seasons. I was wrong. The problem was most of the racing I did was at Westlake in the "A" field, and I'm too slow to compete, so I was generally just wheel sucking in the early season and rarely attacked. My sprint faded and my anaerobic power dropped off through the year. In cat 4 races, I ended up watching my peers jump into breaks and hoping other people would close the gaps instead of being a main protagonist in the race. That sucked.

A good point: I peaked when I thought I would. My best effort of the season was the TOTV prologue. My HR was pegged the whole time at 182. I didn't even think I could do that. My TT knowledge and ability improved through June and July.

After the peak, I crumbled. I tried pretty hard to reverse the trend with more hours in August, but at that point, I was cooked mentally and physically and didn't really reverse it until the CX season and when I hit the weight room.

My training and racing mix will be significantly different in 2010. The broad brush strokes are less racing, but more group rides. Make the group rides difficult and race-like. Plan to peak for Tour of the Valley. Take a long break in July or August, then rebuild for CX season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Ride

Did my first snow ride of the year today. The wind was brutal today. When it's calm, I've been out riding on 4F days, and been comfortable. Today, though, with 10-20mph winds and 18F, I was cold the whole ride.

The Park Rangers patrol the bike path in their SUVs and wear tracks into the snow through the whole winter. Today, there was only a light covering on the bike path, so the SUV tracks were hardly noticeable, and except for a couple of black ice patches, it was an easy ride. Once there are a few inches (or feet) of snow on the path, though, it becomes a real challenge to ride in the narrow ruts. You get varying patches of rough ice, black ice, snow, slush, etc... and it's an exercise in concentration to keep it shiny side up.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More than You Wanted to Know About Roads

I compiled the ODOT road inventory stuff into some HTML files and slapped that together with google maps, so now you can sort through the lists by road type, click on a link, and zoom, you're "there". It works in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. It's actually kind of a pain to get this stuff to work with every type of browser, so it doesn't. This is pretty hacked together, so if you use it, don't be surprised if it doesn't work!

Also, some of the information that ODOT has is pretty out of date. For example, Butternut Road in Geauga County has been paved for about 5 years, but is still listed with a gravel section.

ODOT has several classes of surface types. I eventually figured out what they mean in layman's terms.

So if you search for "Dirt" roads in Geauga, you'll get a list of roads with any dirt sections. Heath Road, for example, pops up in the list.

When you click on "Heath Rd" it will show the list of segments that are included in the ODOT road inventory.

In this case, the segments listed run from south to north. Heath starts at Sperry Road and runs north until terminates in a right of way--which means there is no road there, although in this case, you can kind of see the trace of the right of way on the satellite image. The road starts up again as pavement until County Road 8--Wilson Mills, then it's gravel all the way to Lake County.

Often you'll see "undefined" fields. That means there was no information in that field on the ODOT inventory page. For example, I couldn't find the municipality codes for Cuyahoga county, so those are all "undefined".

Here's the Link.

Power Output in Perspective

No matter how much you train, you'll never be a star.

30W -- Power Consumption of A Human Brain
100W -- Average Resting Metabolic Rate of Human Body
493W -- Lance Armstrong Lactate Threshold Power
745.7W -- 1 horsepower
1,366W -- Solar power per square meter on earth's surface
1,600W -- Westlake "B" field sprinter (~36 mph)
2,000W -- World Class 200m cycling Sprint (~50 mph)
2,500,000W -- Peak Output of a blue whale
140,000,000W -- Average Power Output of 747
44,000,000,000,000W -- Total Heat from Earth's Interior
4,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000W -- Biggest Hydrogen Bomb
384,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000W -- Total Power Output of Sun
12,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000W -- Total Output of the star Deneb

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Boughton Farm CX

I snapped my rear derailleur about 10 minutes into the race, so it was a pretty short day for me, and my first DNF of the series.

I was disappointed since this was the last race of the series, and the Boughton Farm course is one of my favorites, but that's bike racing! On the bright side, the destroyed derailleur will make a funky christmas ornament.

There was a steady stream of people exiting the race with mechanicals today. I'd guess at least 8 people in the "B" race broke the derailleur. The conditions were tough--a mud/ice mix since the temperatures were in the low 30s at race time.

Here's a link to some pictures I snapped during the "C" race. I didn't hang around for the "A" race today.

Big thanks to Team Lake Effect for another great year of cyclocross in northeast Ohio!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Geauga Roads List

I worked on the ODOT road inventories a little bit.

For what it's worth, here's the list of Geauga roads. I'm still trying to make sense of the information that's coded into the ODOT data to find some good "bad" roads, so that spreadsheet is an intermediate step.

For the purpose of "looking" for new roads, it provides some good clues. Heath Road, for example has a surface of: "C Graded and Drained Earth Road" so presumably, other roads with the same surface type would be just as bad.

Once I wrangle the data into a better format, I'll compile the lists for the nearby counties.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Local Roads Inventory

There's a list of local roads at ODOT's web site: Link

The list include surface type:

A        Primative Road
B        Unimproved Road
C        Graded and Drained Earth Road
E2      Gravel or Stone Road (graded and drained)
F        Bituminous - Surface Treated Road
G1      Mixed Bituminous combined base with surface under 7"
G2      Mixed Bituminous combined base with surface 7" or more
H1      Bituminous Penetration combined base under 7"
H2      Bituminous Penetration combined base 7" or more
I         Bituminous Concrete sheet asphalt or rock asphalt road
J        Portland Cement Concrete Road
K       Brick Road
L        Block Road

I'll compile this list into some easier reading.

Thanks to Leroy McNeilly at the Ashtabula County Engineers department for this info.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Account Temporarily Disabled--Huh?

You don't know what you got 'til it's gone.

Every once in a while in gmail land you get signed out for no apparent reason, so you just hit "enter" and log back in, right?

Yeah, except when you get this message:

Then the rest of your day is ruined.

Apparently I'm not the only person this has happened to. This blog got me back online.

So, the lessons are:
Google can close your account any time for any reason.
It's a real pain to get back into your account.

So, it's probably a good idea to make sure you have a secondary email address set in your gmail account, and make backups of anything you need.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Grapes of Wrath

I rode out of Thompson today heading east toward the Grand River along the roads with names like Cork, Callahan, and Ireland Road. I've ridden those roads before, but didn't spend any time on the many gravel roads out there. Here's a map. The vague outline of a Paris-Roubaix style race started to come together.

The best "worst" road of the day is Atkins Road, which at one time was paved, but has since decayed and has become a mix of several surfaces. That means you can go fast, but you have to be careful. Bombing down that road in a pack would be a thrill.

There's even a potential Forest of Arenberg section toward the north end of the road where it crosses a stream through a shallow valley--I guess that's called Mill Creek.

The road ends up running through the vineyards of the wineries up along South River Road. There are countless farm roads through the wineries.

So the hypothetical race "The Grapes of Wrath" would be held probably in early November. It would start somewhere in southern Geauga county and work its way north and east toward Atkins road, wind around a couple winery roads, and finish at South River Road.

Now the fun part will be to knit these roads together into a hypothetical course to see what the major planning obstacles would be.

Here's a few more pictures from today's ride.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There are no Trails

I've been noodling around on the back roads lately keeping an eye out for side roads and trails to follow. It's been disappointing. Trails are few and far between, and they rarely go anywhere. Generally, side utility roads are fenced off and some even have security cameras. There's hardly any evidence that people leave the main roads, except for footpaths around Amish farms.

It's pretty weird. If you go to the Allegheny National Forest, utility roads aren't closed off. Do people steal pipes? Around here even the gravel driveway to a natural gas well is closed and fenced off. Why aren't there trails? Most of the roads in northeast Ohio are on a rectangular grid, so presumably there would be some trails that cut across the grid for foot traffic. But I'll be hard pressed to find even one.

In lower population density areas, like the eastern set of townships in Geauga County much of the land off secondary roads is wooded or is farmland and is rarely crossed by human feet. For example, in Montville Township, the population density was 81 per square mile according to the 2000 census; if those people gridded themselves across the township, there would be one person per 178 meters. There are some roads that are surrounded by woods or farms, but generally, there are no trespassing signs.

The default position of land owners is to keep people from walking (or riding) through parts of their property that are remote from a house (if one is present). The default position is probably reasonable. In my imagination, I see a trail network peopled with hikers and cyclists around northeast Ohio, but it would probably turn into an ATV trail/garbage dump/shooting range pretty quickly.

It would take a monumental effort to convince people to pass Freedom to Roam laws in Ohio. There's been a crazy amount of resistance to rail-to-trail bike paths in Ohio. Presumably there would be exponentially more resistance to foot/bike paths through marginally used lands. But let's ignore that reality for now.

It could be possible to build a network of trails around Northeast Ohio that would turn the area into something unique--a mixed use park with hundreds of miles of trails.

Here's a pretty interesting article detailing the legal history of the right to roam in the US.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kirtland Park CX

I look forward to the Kirtland Park race every season. It's cool to be racing so close to downtown Cleveland right by the lake, and the course is great with lots of technical turns, including some off camber stuff in the amphitheater, and multiple ascents and rapid descents between the baseball field at the top of the bluff and the lake plain.

I had a pretty good start. The large "B" field flew down the long straightaway to the first turn, a 180 left hander. Everyone got through the turn safely, and we were onto the first climb. There actually wasn't much of a traffic jam, but I had to dismount near the bottom to run around one guy who crashed. At the top, I got a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick from another rider trying to get back on his bike, but my kung-fu was stronger than his and I managed to get around him.

As usual, after a few minutes, the head of the race was stretching out way ahead of me, and I could see the leaders on the first downhill, but I was still planted firmly in the field and buzzed downhill to the first flight of steps. Some people were riding it, but I didn't get enough traction to make it up there, so I shouldered the bike and ran and passed a couple people.

I made my way around to the amphitheater and the second major challenge of the course. In previous seasons, the amphitheater section descended the hill in steep steps. This year, it went uphill in one big steep step. On the first lap, there was a traffic jam, so I had to run it. On the second lap, I tried to ride it, but lost traction and momentum, then almost went head over heels backward, so after that, I just ran it.

Eventually the field stretched out and I was racing with a small group, Seth, and I think the other guy's name is Josh. I had my usual second lap slump, and Seth got ahead of me, Josh tried to pass me in the amphitheater but missed a turn and went down hard. Eventually I passed Seth on the stairs and made the pass stick.

We fought tooth and nail for the rest of the race. I think I hit my max heart rate at least twice a lap. On the last lap, Seth caught me as we turned onto the finishing straight and we drag raced to the line. I actually threw my bike. I don't know which of us took 43rd place (or whatever it was).

One more race to go in the series. I'm hoping for one ice bowl. I might have to go to Shawn Adams's winter CX races if conditions don't match up to last season's deep freeze at Boughton Farm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gravelmaster 2000

My old Litespeed Siena has gone through a couple transformations over the years. I raced it for several seasons until I snapped the handlebars at the Race for Alex, and that gave me an excuse to get the Cervelo. After that, I converted the Litespeed to a single speed, and now I put some new heavy duty Continental Contact 28 mm tires on it. My plan for the next couple of months is to ride around on the bad roads in northeast Ohio doing long steady base miles, and then in the spring, I'll take it on Jim's Paris-Roubaix ride.

I took it out today for a test around East Branch Reservoir near Middlefield. (Map with pictures.) I tried pretty hard to get a puncture. First, I rode the gravel utility drive between 322 and the southern end of the park. That's got a pretty good surface with only a few rough patches. I made sure to roll through the loose gravel.

Then, I took the farm road that connects 608 to Hale Road (pictured at left). It has some chunks of new gravel--the big chunks that are almost guaranteed to cause a puncture. I rolled over it with no problem. After that, I was pretty confident in the tires, and looped around Durkee and Princeton Roads.

Since I took four gravel road sections, of course, I started to compare them. I started thinking up some criteria for rating the roads with 0-5 stars (ripped off directly from the ASO's Paris-Roubaix cobble ratings). The number of stars would indicate how hard it is to ride fast. New pavement would be 0, a 5 means you have to constantly be adjusting your line to maintain speed. The road can't be so bad, though, that you can never build momentum or have to stop to keep the wheels intact.

For these roads:
  • Durkee/Hale West of 608 ***
  • Durkee East *
  • Princeton *
  • Pioneer *
  • East Branch Utility Road *

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kent CX

With the good weather this week, I was riding, running or lifting every day. On Friday, I went out for a quick ride with the best intentions of going at an easy pace, but ended up doing several hard efforts. So, in spite of the 60 degrees and sunny weather I was feeling pretty flat this morning when I drove down to Kent.

I had a bad start. My cleat missed the pedal, so I was stuck spinning with one leg for several revolutions and ended up with the last few riders. I moved up in the field at the first turn and made up some ground on the bumpy dry grass. There was a traffic jam on the second right hander into the muddy grass (I wondered why it was muddy after so many dry days), and another traffic jam at the entrance to the gravel path.

During the warmup, I was thinking the tricky twists and turns on the course would cause carnage on the first lap, and I wasn't disappointed. A mountain biker went into the 180 turn onto loose gravel with way too much speed and washed out his rear wheel and went down. I stretched the tape on the outside of the course to work around him. I managed to overlap my front wheel with the rider in front of me, and we rubbed tires pretty hard. This was a case where racing at Westlake every week for several years paid off and I kept it shiny side up.

I was with a group of six or eight riders that was bottled up behind a guy on a mountain bike who looked like he was riding way over his ability. He'd get out of the saddle and sprint when someone would try to pass, then blow up and sit down, but I didn't get around him until the turn just before the singletrack. I overcooked it and hooked my left brake pedal on the tape, and snapped the tape.

The singletrack didn't really provide many opportunities to pass, so I just settled in to the suffering. The group got to the first steep 40-50 foot hill, but I had to brake on the downhill leading into it, so I didn't have enough momentum to even try to ride, so I hopped off and waddled up with the rest of the group. Everyone kept it shiny side up on the down hill and the next run-up, but there was a tricky left hand turn over two muddy roots that took out three riders at the same time.

I finally worked my way around to the start of the second lap and was feeling pretty bad. 60F is a great temperature for riding on the road, but feels like tropical heat on the 'cross bike. I was melting. I muddled through for a couple more laps until I started to feel pretty good again, then picked up the pace when I closed in on the riders in front of me.

There were three riders that I chased down, but I didn't manage to overtake permanently. I made up ground on the run ups, which kind of surprised me, but then they would open the gaps on the singletrack. I thought I'd overtake them on the last lap, but ran out of gas.

That was a tough course, but it was a lot of fun and was really challenging. It had a little bit of everything, and the woods section was great. As usual, Team Lake Effect did a great job.

Just two more races to go in the series.

Here's a link to my A race snapshots : Link

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Riviera of Geauga County

Sunday, we did a group ride out of the Mountain Road shop in Chagrin Falls. I think the highlight of the trip was Valley Road in Geauga County at the east end of Washington Street in Auburn Township. The road is chip and tar and runs along the shore of the LaDue Reservoir. On a sunny day, it's a pretty spectacular view. It could be the Riviera of Geauga County. Well, if there was a beach. And if there were a beach, I think you'd see a lot more toothless bathers than topless bathing, but still, it's a cool place to ride.

Not Training with Power

The warm weather we've been having has me out on the road bike again after several weeks of running, riding the mountain bike, or racing 'cross.

Saturday, I rode down to the Burton/Middlefield area. I did a pretty easy spin down the bike path from Chardon, then went south on 608 up the steep hill at the south end of the reservoir. I planned to take it pretty easy so I wasn't even paying attention to the power meter. About half way up the hill, I glanced down and was pretty surprised by the number--quite a bit higher than my perceived exertion and way over, like 100 Watts over, what I thought my threshold power is. I kept the pace up to the top of the hill. I tried a few more efforts like that on the way home.

That got me wondering if I've been suckered by my power meter over the past few seasons into thinking my threshold power is lower than it actually could be.

During the 'cross season, I try to ignore the computerized aspect of cycling as much as possible. My 'cross bike doesn't even have a computer, so I have no idea how fast (more like slow) I'm going, let alone how much power I'm cranking out. I just go as hard as I can stand to. I'll have to mix more of that into my prep for next season.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Best Nature Preserve

The new trail at the Best Nature Preserve in Chardon is open. The trail used to inexplicably dead-end about half way around the lake, but now loops all the way around and is about 1 mile.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Lame Analysis

This is the probably the last post I'll write on the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Trial. Thompson has been found guilty of serious criminal offenses and now faces what will probably be a costly civil trial. The legal stuff will probably drag on for years, and it will be boring for spectators and a stress-o-rama for everyone that's actually involved.

This incident has provided a lot to think about on training rides lately.

I don't think this event has significance for cyclists as a group, nor does it have significance for drivers as a group. There's no war between cyclists and drivers over the roads. Thompson is an aberration. There is an order of magnitude difference between the pathetic loser who shouts insults at you from the safety of her Hummer and a psycho that hunts cyclists with the trunk of his car.

One thing I take away from this incident is that cars have the weird power to bring out the beast in people. Thompson's Infinity Sedan transformed a 60 year old dude into a would-be murderer. I have no sympathy for his actions, but I can understand his anger; during my driving career, a few traffic incidents have pissed me off beyond all reason.

Anyone can lose their temper and do something stupid. Rage is a reflex. The wise thing to do is come up with a strategy to deal with your anger and the person who caused it instead of pretending it doesn't exist.

Over a long life, most people learn to tame the beast, but in his 60 years, Thompson didn't. Cyclists pissed him off so much that he tried several times to hurt them with his car. When he finally succeeded, and a guy's head was through his car window, he still didn't wake up--he complained that an injured cyclist's bike was in the road! When the prosecutor brought charges against him, he refused to admit any guilt. When he went to trial, he made up a crazy story about the incident to try to get away with it. My guess is he'll still be mad when he's writing all the zeros on the check to pay the cyclists after they sue him, and he'll be mad when he's picking up garbage at the side of the road and cyclists breeze past.

No doubt, there will continue to be confrontations between drivers and cyclists. The question this trial raises is, how should you react when it happens?

Monday, November 2, 2009


VeloNews broke it first (link):
Thompson, a former emergency room doctor, was found guilty of six felonies and one misdemeanor and could face as much as five years in prison.

He was remanded and ordered held without bail until sentencing. He was handcuffed in the courtroom after the verdict was read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chagrin Day 2

This morning, after I popped a few Advil and did some last minute wrenching on the bike, Chris and I made the quick trip down to Bainbridge for Day 2 of the Chagrin River CX Challenge. The weather was dry and windy last night, so I was looking forward to faster conditions.

Most of the course had dried out significantly and was quite a lot faster than yesterday. The pine tree section was perfect. The mud in the single track section and woods firmed up and provided good traction, and there were sections of the trails that were solid. There were lines through the fields that were solid at the beginning of the race, and the conditions improved through the day.

I decided to run low tire pressures today, which usually doesn't work out too well for me. The tires were probably at about 35 psi. During my warmup lap, that seemed like it would work. There weren't any off-camber sections to roll the tire, and I could baby the wheels over obstacles and avoid a snakebite puncture without too much trouble.

I felt weary during the warmup. My legs didn't loosen, and my heart rate stayed pretty low, so I planned to start off at my own pace (slow!), then build up my tempo through the race.

I lined up in the second row with 26 other racers. The field was a little bit smaller than Saturday, but it seemed pretty crowded when we got to the first bottleneck of the course--the wall climb up and around the telephone pole. I coasted to a stop, got off the bike and waited in line to find a spot to run through the scrum. Chris was just in front of me, and in a million to one shot, he hooked the back of his shoe on my left brake lever just as we were getting ready to ride down the wall again. I thought for sure we were both going to tumble down, but luckily he got clear without a problem.

By the time we were into the single track, I got into a rhythm. I had a pretty easy time riding the more technical parts of the course. I kept my head up and picked relatively fast lines. I was way back in the field, but was steadily making up ground, and the time gaps to riders ahead of me were small.

I picked off one guy after he bobbled through the ditch, then worked my way up toward a group including Dan and Seth. I chased them for the rest of the race. I closed the gap through the grass section on every lap by pushing a big gear at low rpm. That seemed to work better for me than spinning. I actually had momentum through the corners in the damp grass. I guess the lower tire pressures helped.

In the singletrack, I rode the ditch when Dan was running it. As I closed the gap, I lost my Zen trail riding mindset and botched the ditch crossing. I didn't crash, but my momentum was completely absorbed by my front wheel, fork, and arms. I thought I cracked my steerer or fork, and it hurt to take such an impact.

On the final lap, Dan did a good effort and opened the gap up again on the gravel. I was dialed in on the barriers today, so I thought I might make up a couple seconds there, then catch him in the field. I was quick through the barriers, but slow to get back in the pedals. By then, he was already to the first corner. I didn't have enough juice left to sprint the gap, so it stayed about the same until the finish.

Even though I finished way back from the leaders, I was pretty happy with that effort. I didn't crash. I only made a few mistakes. I was smooth through the technical stuff and the barriers and was racing other people instead of suffering a lonely mud time-trial.

I know it's corny to say, but it's too bad real life isn't more like the cyclocross scene. There's a crazy positive vibe that permeates the whole day.

Only three races left!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chagrin River Cyclocross Day 1

During the practice session on the 21st, when the course was dry, it was fast and a lot of fun to ride. I had my fingers crossed during the week leading up to Halloween that the rain blowing up from the south would miss us. But, this morning, I woke up to rain and water running down the driveway, so I knew the Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge was going to be challenging.

The grass section of the course was pretty firm, but the woods and the singletrack section of the course were muddy and slick. Mud is not my element, so I was going to be happy with just finishing, and hopefully racing at least one or two people during the day.

Chris and I lined up in the second row, and I had a pretty good start. I was firmly in the field from the start through the pine trees. That's where the carnage started. Someone got loose through the mulch pile, and fishtailed into a tree. Ouch! But he made a great recovery and continued on. I moved up a little bit up through the driveway section. I pushed it hard around the corner to the muddy uphill when my rear wheel washed out, and I went down. No damage to me or the bike. I was back up to speed in a few seconds, but managed to lose it again on an off camber muddy turn. That one hurt a little, and I dropped the chain.

I had been looking forward to the woods section, with the whoop-de-doos and the ditch crossing, but wasn't getting a whole lot of traction, so I wasn't flying through. But it was still challenging, just to stay upright and keep moving ahead. I planned to ride the ditch crossing, but it was total chaos when I got there. Three riders had crashed, so I ran past the bodies, then did the old-man-running-with a walker routine through the mud until I could hop on the bike and pedal.

The singletrack section was pretty tough. If I cranked too hard, the back wheel broke away and I'd get turned sideways, so I had to go slow enough to just keep moving. You'd think that would be a good time to rest and recover, but that section kept me in the red just like all the others.

Finally, I was out of the woods and on the grass and ready for another lap.

I kept it up for the remainder of the race. I was hoping not to get lapped, but Robert flew past through the woods. He looked to be having a great day. I expected to be passed by some more riders at any moment, but it was a long time until the next rider caught me. That's not because I was going fast, but because Robert had a really good gap on the next rider in the field.

I was relieved to finish. It had been a tough day for everyone. I'd hoped to do a little better in the technical sections, but I'm lacking the mud riding skills. Hopefully, with the wind kicking up tonight and the humidity dropping, the course will be a little firmer tomorrow. I hope one of the remaining races is either dry, or all ice.

Brett and his crew did a great job with the course and made it a fun day with a really great holiday atmosphere.  Thanks!

Here is a link to some snapshots I took during the A Race. A few of them came out pretty well. Feel free to copy and use them as you like.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Road Rage Trial Closing Arguments

VeloNews has the latest.

The defense tried to portray the collision as an accident. The prosecution tried to remind jurors that a car can be a deadly weapon by acting out the incident with a baseball bat instead of a car:

First, she goes to a Trader Joe’s. Goes to the aisle where they have granola she wants. Someone is in the way, preventing her from getting her granola, so she swings a bat at the person, but doesn't hit him. With that, Stone held up a baseball bat, swinging in an abrupt arc.

Weeks go by. She returns to the Trader Joe’s and again there’s someone in the way, someone preventing her from getting her granola. This time she swings the bat at them and they duck just out of the way.

A few more weeks go by and she’s back at Trader Joe’s. Someone, she said, “is in my aisle, blocking me from my granola. So I blast his nose with my bat.”

“But of course, I get arrested.”

Then, donning a white doctor’s coat, she said, “But I shroud myself in this because I want to deflect what I did.”

So that's the heart of it. If a driver gets annoyed at a perceived delay caused by a cyclist, then uses the car as a weapon to get revenge, that's a crime. I think the Doc could have got away with it if he had simply said he got mad and slammed on the brakes, but didn't think it would cause an injury. That's probably more or less what happened. Instead, he made up what sounds like pure fiction to avoid all culpability and to paint himself as a saint. I'm hoping the jury sees through that.

The verdict should come back next week.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Codicus Bad Roadicus

I'm compiling a list of bad roads. Roads that are a specific kind of bad. They're northeast Ohio's version of the cobblestone roads of northern France. The surface should be good enough to support high speed riding on a road bike, but rattles the bones, and forces you to pay constant attention and choose a good line and make the occasional bunny hop to avoid disaster. On the other hand, the surface can't be so bad that a puncture or smashed rim is guaranteed.

There are some different road types that would qualify. One example is the brick roads around Chagrin Falls. Another example is the totally deteriorated pavement of Hart Road near Clay Street in northern Geauga County. Almost any chip and seal road would make the list, like Winchell Road in Hiram Rapids.

There are also the uniquely bad semi-private roads. One gem is the road that connects Hale Road to route 608. However, that road is too bad for high speed riding. There are several Amish farm roads that meet that qualification down by Middlefield.

Currently, I'm on the hunt for farm field roads, or utility roads that aren't just dead ends, but aren't total mud pits.

Road Rage Doctor Testimony

From the LA Times:
He [Doctor Road Rage] said he stopped to take a photograph for members of his homeowners association in the hopes they could contact cyclist groups to warn about riding dangerously.

"We've been dealing with this ongoing problem for years and it's impossible to do anything without being able to identify anyone," he told the court.

If that's the best version of events he can come up with, I think he's screwed.

The cyclists were traveling about 30 mph at the time of the collision--the speed limit of the road. The doctor could easily snap a picture from behind the cyclists to achieve his claimed objectives. If the doctor planned to snap a picture from the side of the road, he would have to drive several hundred feet ahead of them, get out of his car, and prepare the camera. Instead, he apparently pulled ahead of them, and slammed on the brakes.

If you combine his crazy story of altruism run amok with the testimony of the officer at the scene, his taped 911 call, the data from the cyclists bike computers, and the testimony of prior attacks, I think even the most jaded cyclist hater on the jury would convict him. I guess we'll find out soon.


Doctor Cross Examined from VeloNews.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Road Rage Doctor Stuff from VN

Here's the VeloNews link covering the wrap up of the prosecution's case. The defense should present its case this week, and the trial will probably be done.

Here's a highlight:

Watson, in the March incident, and Stoehr, in the July 4 incident, each used GPS devices on their bikes. Accident reconstruction specialist Gerald Bretting said the devices showed Stoehr was going 28.1 mph and Watson was going 29.2 mph just prior to Thompson passing them in their respective incidents.

The speed of the bikes in the July incident will probably be an important point for the jury to consider. Since the cyclists were probably going around 30 mph, the speed-limit on the road, the Doctor had to accelerate to pass them, then slam on the brakes, so he was the one looking for trouble, not the cyclists.

So far, the evidence against the doctor seems pretty compelling. He admitted he was out to "teach a lesson" to the cyclists to the officer who arrived at the scene, then is on tape apparently trying to hide his guilt during the 911 call. The other attacks he allegedly made on cyclists show that he had intent to injure or menace the cyclists with his car. If this was Law & Order, the jury would come back with a verdict of Guilty. But, who knows what the real world jury will do.


More info on bike speed and rights to use the lane from the Biking in LA blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back to the Weight Room

I've had some good rides over the past couple of weeks. I guess I owe it to the cold/flu thing I had earlier in the month that forced me to take a break from the bike, and to getting back into the gym.

Through the winter and the early spring, I'm diligent about lifting, and my leg strength hits its peak. I basically run out of plates on the weight machine. But once the weather relents enough to ride several times a week, I find it's difficult to do both. A strenuous session in the weight room turns the next ride into a joke, likewise a challenging ride or race shreds my legs and makes lifting almost impossible.

The past couple of weeks, I've been riding less, and started lifting again in preparation for the big winter push. I haven't been killing it in the gym, just one set with moderate weights, but it seems like it woke my legs up again. I've been cranking a lot of power on training rides lately.

The acid test will be to do a TT up on the Leroy course, or hit Kirtland Chardon Road sometime, although, not any time soon, since it's October! 

Road Cyclists from The Douchebag's Perspective

Just like O.J., the Road Rage Doctor has his supporters. From USA Today:
In the aftermath and as their numbers have increased, bikers have become emboldened to take over the road. That is, instead of riding to the right or on the shoulder, some are now riding in the center of the lane. Two incidents underscore how the they are putting themselves in danger
Although the premise of the article is ridiculous, and I doubt many people share the author's view, I think it outlines the 1% asshole driver's ideas about cyclists.

The author Chris Woodyard appears to believe that all cyclists know each other and are acting in concert to take the road away from "drivers". That notion is based on the premise that cyclists are a group that's completely apart from the rest of society, rather than tax-paying citizens and sometime drivers.

I'd guess one of the more effective things that cyclists can do to counter this brand of idiocy is to take any available opportunity to point out that we work, pay taxes, and drive just like anyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

RR Dr. Defense Cross Examination Article

The defense cross-examined the cyclists. Here's the Velonews article.

It looks like the defense is trying to portray the incident as an accident. The doctor slammed on his brakes directly in front of the cyclists "who were looking for trouble", and since bikes are "inherently unstable" they crashed. That is, the doctor had no intent of injuring the cyclists.

In cross-examining the witness, Swarth suggested that “bicycles are inherently unstable,” a point Peterson vigorously disputed. Most of the cross-examination focused on Thompson’s proximity to Peterson and the known statement, “Ride single file.”
So it will probably come down to the question, is a car a weapon? From a cyclist's point-of-view, it is. But from an average driver's point of view, it's a tool that's easy to wield, and so probably perceived as harmless.

The next bit of news will be the cross examination of the police officer who arrived at the scene that Dr. Thompson confessed to.
Investigating officer Robert Rodriguez testified that when he arrived at the accident, Thompson told him, “I live up the road. There were bikes in front of me, three across the road. They flipped me off. I stopped in front of them. I wanted to teach them a lesson. I’m tired of them.”

Updates (as google barfs them up into my feed reader):

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bad Driver Olympics

I'm pretty sure some sort of bad driver contest is going on in Geauga county right now.

On Monday, I rode down to Burton on country roads. On Aquilla Road, I was riding along on the white line when I heard the rumble of a pickup truck coming up from behind. I instinctively hugged the shoulder, expecting a blow-by. Instead the driver gave me plenty of room, and eased off the throttle on the way past. Nice! I gave a little nod and a wave. Then a few seconds later, a Geauga Sheriff blew past me with about 1 foot of clearance. My instinct was to fly the bird. But, of course, I'm not that stupid.

On the return trip, I cut over to Route 6 on Grant Street to head to the north. I rolled up toward the stop sign. A Porsche Cayenne is heading squarely for me. I start swerving toward the curb to bunny hop to safety and see the woman driver with a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette poking out the open window in the other. She cuts the apex when making a left hand turn. She finally hears me shout out some nice driving advice, and swerves. Interesting. She could hear me, but couldn't see me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Willoughby CX Video

Here's a video of the "B" race from Kelly Mikolajczyk. I made a couple Patterson-Gimlin film style appearances right at the beginning and then at 9:04. As you can see at the 9:04 mark, I'm not really cut out for riding in the mud!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Road Rager Update

LA Times Story on the trial: Link

Thompson has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Peter Swarth, has characterized the incident as an "unfortunate accident."
There are a couple strikes against the doctor:

In last year's preliminary hearing, a police officer testified that Thompson, who complained that cyclists frequently travel down the residential Brentwood street, said he had stopped his car in front of the cyclists to "teach them a lesson."
Also, apparently the doctor had attempted the same type of attack against another pair of cyclists. I don't know if that will be included in the trial or not.

It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Unfortunately, I'm guessing the average American would probably have more sympathy with the doctor than the cyclists. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Lots of detail: here
Velonews Update: here

Another strike against Doctor Brakenstein:
After one cyclist slammed into the rear of his car and vaulted over it into oncoming traffic, and another crashed through his rear window, Dr. Christopher Thomas Thomps on called 911 and told the operator, “They’ll tell you they are seriously injured, but they’re not.”

In fact, one of the cyclists required 90 stitches to reattach his nose. I think that's pretty serious.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There Will Be Mud: Willoughby CX

Any hopes I had for Todd Field drying out dissolved overnight with a steady cold drizzle. I knew the conditions would be nasty, so I spent a few minutes torquing down every bolt on the bike, cleaned the chain, and hosed it down with plenty of lube.

Thankfully, the rain stopped this morning. I packed up the race bag, loaded the bike, and drove out to Willoughby with a nice hot mocha from Center Perk in Chardon.

It was about 40F when I took a spin around the course. I wore a jacket, knee warmers, bibs, a long sleeve jersey, undershirt, full gloves, and a cycling cap under my helmet.

The course wound around the ball fields and the parking area of Todd Field, down by the Chagrin River in Willoughby. The main features this year were: the steep wall descent from the parking lot to the field, an abyss on the baseball infield, and the hill run-up.

On the warmup lap, I knew the race was going to be brutal. Wet muddy grass is the worst surface for me to ride on. I can't maintain any momentum, literally. If I stopped pedaling, I would just stop. I went back to the car and stripped off the base layer, the knee warmers, and the cycling cap. I was overheating.

We started immediately after the "C" race. I followed the field around to the dismount and run up and was probably the last, or second to last one around the turn and down. The fast guys in the "B" field flew down the hill and were gone by the time I was pushing my bike up the second hill climb.

The most demanding part of the course--psychologically and physically--was the maze on the baseball field. The sand turned into a slurry of water sand and tiny pebbles that had been squeezed between dozens of bike tires. It provided no traction to torque against, or to turn against. I tried it on the smallest gear and slightly bigger gears, but it made no difference. I just crawled through it every lap. Every time through there, I half thought it would empty out straight into a cold, wet, muddy hell!

The parking lot section of the course was actually fun. It was a break from the monotony of grassy mud, and included a section of sidewalk, a telephone pole crossing, and the wall descent. The wall was actually pretty forgiving. On the first lap, I carefully setup for it so I dropped down directly, but by the last lap, I just blasted down on any angle.

I was way down in the pain cave by the time I crossed the finish line. My back had cramped in every possible way and I had been on the red line the whole time in spite of my glacial pace. I walked back to the car in a daze.

The bike suffered a little bit during this race. I think I need a new BB, which I'm actually happy about. I haven't liked the FSA mega-exo bottom bracket since I first installed it. I have an old Dura-Ace BB. I'll probably throw some old Ultegra cranks on and go with a 39 tooth conventional chainring instead of the 36T compact I've got now.

I'll probably get out for a nice easy recovery ride on the road tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Todd Field Recon

I dropped by Todd Field on my way into Mentor today.

The ground seems pretty sticky, but not as sloppy as I thought it would be after the rain we've had recently. I'm sure the off-camber turns will break down throughout the day, but I don't think the track will turn into slop like Leroy.

The course is running the opposite direction from last season, so we'll ride down the steep wall between the parking lot and the fields instead of going up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Road Rage Doctor

I've been following this story for a while. There weren't any new developments for quite a while, but it finally is going to trial. Here's a link to the October 12, 2009 velonews story: Link

A California emergency-room physician faces trial this week on multiple felony charges stemming from a 2008 road-rage case that left two cyclists seriously injured.

Dr. Christopher T. Thompson allegedly braked suddenly in front of Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr after he and Peterson exchanged words as they descended Mandeville Canyon Road on July 4, 2008.

The trial should be taking place this week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Playing Chicken with Swine Flu

Since the beginning of October, some virus has been rolling around in me. I felt some symptoms right after Leroy. I had a tight throat and my legs felt like spaghetti when I went out to ride a couple of times. Luckily, I noticed it before I completely ran myself into the ground and rested until I felt pretty healthy.

I thought I was back on track, and went back to my normal workout schedule over the weekend. First, I hit the weight room to get used to pumping iron again, then did a short, but intense road ride on Saturday, then a nice easy spin on Sunday, when I felt the symptoms start to creep back--tired, slightly scratchy throat.

So it looks like another week with no riding. Hopefully I'll feel better by the time the Willoughby CX race rolls around. That course is tough and I could easily shred my immune system if I'm not careful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Units of Measure

I'm just old enough to remember the push in the 1970s to adopt the metric system in the US. I vaguely recall the Saturday morning PSA cartoons that made the kilometer a friendly character. But apparently he wasn't friendly enough. In fact, to most people, he was a frightening commie agent. So the US is one of the three countries in the world that don't mandate the metric system. Burma, and Liberia are the other two. So now you need two sets of sockets and wrenches. Here's a nice write up about the history.

As cyclists, we use a pidgin system of measures. When you're getting sized for a bike, you measure your inseam in inches, but spec out the frame in centimeters, unless it's a MTB. Your crankarm length is in millimeters, but gearing charts are in inches. 40 miles per hour is a really fast sprint! Is 50 km/hr? Your stem length is in millimeters, but the diameter of the steerer tube is 1 1/8". The length of race courses is given in miles. But when you're getting toward the end of a race, the signs are marked out at 400 meters, 200 meters, but if you win by throwing your bike, you beat someone by inches.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Leroy CX 2009 Wrap Up

Thanks to Leroy Township for letting us use the park, especially to Trustee Chuck Klco. Thanks to Mountain Road Cycles for sponsoring the event. Special thanks to Lynn Marut for officiating, to our volunteers for all their hard work, and to the riders who turned out to race in some pretty brutal muddy conditions! Also, thanks to Team Lake Effect and to Bike Authority for including us in the BACX series. We had 83 riders compete, compared to 75 last year.

It was a lot of fun to watch the race this year. Cyclocross is a spectacle from the battle to win the "A" race, all the way through the struggle to finish the "C" race. It was interesting to see what gearing people selected, and to see what strategy they used for navigating the singletrack or the ditches. Some people blazed over the bridge into the singletrack, others carefully selected their line and tapped the brakes to make sure they got over safely.

We're retiring the Leroy course for 2010. We've got a list of new venues to check out before next fall.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Stark Velo hosted race #2 of the BACX series on the Stark County campus of KSU, which was a great setting for a cyclocross course.

The course was pretty long (I heard 1.8 miles) and included a set of barriers, a technical section winding through pine trees and up and down steep gullies, and had a pretty long hill climb. At the base of the climb someone wrote "PAIN" in red spray paint. There was probably around 100 feet of elevation difference between the lowest point on the course and the top of the hill and there were numerous 10-20 foot wall climbs and descents. The highlight/white-knuckle section of the course was a steep descent to a 180 turn then a run-up (or ride up) the same hill followed by off-camber turns down the descent again.

With all the climbing on the course, the per kilogram part of the Watts/kg equation was going to drag me down, but I wanted to see if I picked up any time on the rough ground of the course.

The "B" field was really big. After Chris and I lined up in what I thought was the back of the field, about 3 ranks from the front, about four more ranks of riders lined up behind us. Wow--the 'cross fields really grew this season!

At the start, I was slow to clip in my right pedal and slipped back. By the time I was in, I was just out of contact, and chased back into the group. The course started with a couple hundred meters of gradual uphill. That stretched the field out right away so there wasn't a big traffic jam. On the downhill leg, I made up more ground. I hung on all the way around the course and actually did a pretty good intense effort on the hill.

At some point, a light drizzle started. It had been raining on and off before the race started. By the second lap, my glasses were getting hard to see through, so I slowed down and put them in my jersey pocket. That was actually a pretty sketchy maneuver on the rough ground and I slipped about 30 seconds off the pace of the group I was in.

The light drizzle eventually turned into torrential rain and there were a couple booms of thunder. I felt water drain into my bib shorts and pool up around my back.

The race sort of turned into an impressionist blur at that point. I'm nearsighted, but my eyesight isn't that bad without glasses. I could see the group I was chasing relatively well, but I wasn't making up any ground, but I wasn't losing a whole lot of ground.

On the third and final (due to weather) lap, I closed the gap on the way into the technical turns. I practically heard Paul Sherwen's voice in my head "he's got to take some risks on the descent to close the gap" so I kept my fingers off the brakes as much as possible. I was all over the place on the downhills and practically bent the frame around the tight turns from standing on the outside pedal so hard. My speed outstripped my skill. One of the turns had a big mud puddle that was the consistency of pudding. My front wheel washed out and I went down instantly and slid a couple of feet.

I was a little stunned, but got up and checked the wheels and the bars. Wheels ok. Bars ok, brake handle moved a little. I was back on the bike and up to speed in no time. The stem had rotated a few degrees, which made the technical riding a little more challenging.

I got passed on the uphill just before the finish, but thought I'd be able to beat him to the line on the downhill, but ran out of meters. I placed low, but I did a pretty good effort for me. I had the throttle open all the way most of the time. Now, a few hours later, I feel like I fell down a flight of steps while carrying an armload of snow shovels, which means I had a good day of cyclocross! My practice session earlier this week actually paid off. I was a bit smoother over the rough ground (which was most of the course) and could ride hard without getting beaten senseless. Next time out, I'll try to ride with some anaerobic punch.

Many thanks to all the people who made the race today possible. It was a great course and a lot of fun to race.

I'll preview the Leroy CX race this week as we're working on it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Pavement

I got out on the road this afternoon to hit some of the short steep climbs that criss-cross Auburn Road in Munson. Since this upcoming weekend is the second race in the BACX series, I didn't want to shred my legs, so I kept it pretty brief. I hit two of the rollers on Sherman Road, then took Rockhaven over to Cedar Road.

I'm not sure if the Cedar Road in Geauga County ever connected with Cedar Road on the west side of the Valley. The road sort of fades in and out of existence. At Rockhaven, Cedar ends at the Rookery Park where the trail follows the old Interurban Railway. Back in the early 1900's there used to be a passenger railroad that ran to downtown Cleveland and as far east as Garrettsville.

Cedar Road from Rockhaven up to Auburn is a good climb for a training time trial. It climbs about 230 feet in 1 mile and gets up to a 13% grade at the steepest section. You're pretty likely to have the road to yourself. The road was just resurfaced this summer, and it's smooth as butter and still has that new road smell.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Even though I've been riding CX for several seasons and ride my MTB in the snow and ice, I am a total novice at most off road skills.

I was pretty annoyed at the Whiskey Island race when people passed me on the bumpy grass sections even though I wasn't riding near my limit. I set out today to figure out what the problem is. I took the 'cross bike to a local park (that shall go unnamed) with grass paths, some single track and two bridges.

The bumpy grass at the park was similar to Whiskey Island. The ground has been dry for several days, so it's almost concrete hard, and the surface is rippled and undulating and there is about 50 feet elevation difference from one end of the park to the other.

On the bumps if you were to ride along with locked arms and sat rigidly on the seat, your body would slam up and down. If you didn't react by relaxing your arms, it would be impossible to maintain control. Also, your body will act as a damper and absorb energy that's imparted to it by the bumps. The energy would be absorbed by heating and making minute deformations to tissue. Effectively, that acts as a brake.

The solution is pretty simple and obvious, although I didn't figure it out during the race, actually I did the exact wrong thing. The bike needs to move independently of the body with arms and legs acting as suspension. The way to do that is either get out of the saddle and push a bigger gear, or stay 90% seated while pushing a bigger gear, and pulling forward on the bars--moving the saddle forward helps with this.

During the race, I shifted down and spun while sitting, so my weight was almost completely planted on the saddle.

The difference between these techniques on my training loop today was stark. When seated and spinning, one lap took 7 minutes 14 seconds. My best time with a combination of out of the saddle pushing a big gear, and in the saddle with my legs carrying some weight was 6:05!

It will be interesting to see if there's any difference in my placing in upcoming races. As long as the ground stays dry, I should be able to move with a little more efficiency than I did in the season opener.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Final Leroy TT for 2009

During my warmup ride for the Leroy TT, my legs were still feeling pretty thrashed from the Whiskey Island CX race and from an intense training ride on Tuesday, so I thought my chance of breaking the 20 minute mark was slim. But it was a perfect night, and the season finale, so I wanted to give it my best shot.

My plan for this week was to ignore my power meter and try to spin at 100+ rpm as much as possible instead of my usual 90-95 rpm.

I started second, and took it pretty easy for the first couple of minutes, and gradually ramped up the effort toward the corner, and had to concentrate to keep my cadence high. There was a slight headwind, like last week, and it felt pretty slow all the way to the corner. I did a pretty good effort up the climb.

The return leg was tough. I got out of the saddle a couple of times to keep my momentum going, but didn't have any punch over the last mile. In the second half of the season, I haven't been able to hammer over the last couple of miles like I did in June and early July. So I finished with a slower time than last week in keeping with the overall down trend since my season best time. I averaged 300W again even though I barely glanced at the power meter.

I've done a pretty good job of keeping records this season, so I'll be able to review the whole training log and figure out what worked and what didn't this year. The TT has been a good way to measure my fitness throughout the season. Thanks, Jim for a great season of racing!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whiskey Island "A" Race Motion Capture

This is another motion capture experiment from the "A" race at Whiskey Island. It's the first two laps (more or less) shot from the parking lot looking toward the Lake. Unfortunately, I forgot to start the camera for the "B" race.

The images are pulled from a video of the race. The video was scanned for any moving regions near the center of the frame. The time stamp in the upper left is minutes:seconds.hundredths.

The race numbers are kind of washed out and the riders are a little out of focus, but it's a big improvement from the Leroy TT pictures, and actually condenses the events of the race down to just a few pictures. Hopefully I'll be able to refine it over the next few weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Whiskey Island CX 2009

Cleveland was buzzing this morning. It was a perfect fall day, and the stadium parking lots were overflowing with Browns fans, soap box derby racers were staging their cars, and giant kites were flying at Edgewater park. But the main event was at Whiskey Island--the opener for the 2009 Team Lake Effect CX Series.

Whiskey Island is a perfect venue for a 'cross race. It's got great views of the city and the river and lakefront, and different types of terrain. Lake Effect and the volunteers put together a fun and challenging course. The course included a gravel drive with coarse limestone chunks, grassy hills with lots of winding off camber sections, and steep climbs and descents, plus the long paved drag strip out to the coast guard station. The weather was dry leading up to the race, and perfectly cool and dry on the day of the race, which left the field as hard as concrete, and made the gravel sections dusty.

The fields for the races were huge! I won't be surprised if the total number of racers tops 200. Lots more roadies joined the 'cross fun this year, including Chris. I also saw lots of new faces. Hopefully there will be some 'cross riders who find their way into the road racing scene next season.

When we staged for the "B" race, riders packed the gravel road shoulder to shoulder, probably 6-8 ranks deep. I lined up at the end of an abbreviated warm-up lap, so I was stuck in the last rank of riders.

The start was fast. I picked a good line. On the left of the gravel road, there was some hard packed dirt that was mostly free of rocks, and was practically like pavement. I had the novel (for me) experience of passing most of the field. In fact, I was going way too fast and flew up on the traffic jam of riders navigating the turns. My cantilever (as in can't stop me) brakes squealed as I pressed the levers against the bars. Luckily, I was on the outside of the field, and I shot around the turn just off the marked course and passed more people.

I sprinted up the hill into the winding section that was marked by tape and stakes. There was a more serious traffic jam. The field came to a dead stop. My track stand skills came in handy as I waited for a line to clear.

A third traffic jam formed on the "hump". That one was the worst. Again, the track stand skills were handy. I stopped twice on the way up. Finally, on the way down the hill, the field strung out and it was possible to maneuver.

On the pavement I was able to haul ass, and was actually drafting off a small group on the way out to the Coast Guard Station. When we got to the top of the hill, Chris caught up with me and passed me.

I am baffled at how slow I ride on flat bumpy grass. I wasn't near my limit, but just wasn't able to get any power to the wheel. Several riders slowly moved ahead of me as I crept along.

For the remainder of the race, I chased down and passed lots of people. A handful passed me. I got stronger as the race went on and noticed I was considerably faster than many of the riders on the paved section of the course and on the climbs. The flat bumpy sections kicked my ass. I was also a little too wimpy on the corners and touched the brakes when I really didn't need to.

I have no idea where I finished. Probably in the bottom 1/4 of the field. I'm in much better shape than last season. My right leg is pretty close to 100% strength, last year it was still only about 60%. The dismounts were pretty smooth. I actually passed people through the running section.

Overall, it was a good race for me. I finished strong, and kept it shiny side up and nothing fell off the bike.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leroy TT Video

I scanned the video for any sequnces that include motion and generated the video below. I stopped processing the video a little early, so it doesn't include everyone that participated.

Individual frames are dumped to my picasa account: Link

I'll record the Whiskey Island race this weekend and see how that turns out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leroy Video Snapshots Part I

My Sony camcorder snagged some interesting footage. The lens is too wimpy to capture high quality images in the low light/fast motion conditions, but there's still some use for the blurry pictures.

I'm processing some of the footage to see if I can calculate accurate speeds. I'll upload the set of images to my picasa account later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


For the past few weeks, I've been experimenting with the bike to try to get a more aerodynamic position that I can use next season. I've tried extended stem lengths and moving the saddle around to get as low as possible without being uncomfortable.

At the extreme position, with the saddle all the way back, there is a noticable difference. That allows me to fold over as low as I can go without constricting my breathing. Surprisingly, it is reasonably comfortable. Unfortunately, it puts all my weight over the rear wheel, and the handling characteristics of the bike are poor--more like a unicycle than a bike. Descending and cornering are frightening at high speed.

After a few training rides this week before the TT, I settled on a compromise position that was more aerodynamic than my "original" setup, but not extreme. I also ordered a 11-23 cassette, which showed up while I was loading the bike in the car for the trip to Leroy.

During my warmup, I felt pretty good. The weather conditions seemed favorable for fast times, minimal wind and relatively cool, maybe a little humid.

I had a good start, and slowly picked up the pace. One of my goals for this week was to stay in my aero position throughout the ride. After seeing the race photos from last week, I realized I have a tendency to sit up a little when I'm pushing hard, so I concentrated on keeping my arms in and chest down as much as possible.

Even though I was in a more aero position this week, it definitely didn't feel any easier to ride fast. I struggled my way to the corner and swung onto the hill. Last week, I cooked myself on the climb, so I kept the pace manageable to the top. The 11-23 did the job and I cranked up the hill at consistent RPMs. I felt pretty fresh at the turn, and started down the hill hoping to finish strong.

I was fighting the pedals all the way to the finish. I'd crank the power up toward 400W, but couldn't sustain it for long.

I averaged exactly 300W again this week, which translated into a slower time this week than last.

I recorded the start and finish area with my video camera (I'll post the pictures later). My position looks more aerodynamic, although who knows if it really is. When my arms are forward with a longer stem, it's easier to maintain my flat back position, but more difficult to pull on the bars.

So next week, I'll fall back to my original stem length, and I'll also try spinning at about 105 rpm instead of my usual 90. I'll also tape over my power reading and "use the force" for pacing.