Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another day another climb

The autumnal weather was perfect today for a full throttle climb up Kirtland Chardon road.

The route I took is a local classic. Auburn Road North, down Mitchell's Mill, then through the Arboretum. Larry and Mark were flying down the road toward the north as I was working my way south into the wind up the hill.

Before I got all the way to Kirtland Chardon Road, I actually stopped and took in the 360 degree view. The leaves are still green, but the goldenrod is out in force, so it's only a matter of days until the leaves start dropping.

I headed down to Wisner collected my thoughts, then started up.

The climb is 1.3 miles, 403 feet, 6% average, 13% max. The pitch of the climb varies all the way up in stair step sections. The foot of the climb is steep, 10-12%, and deposits you on a long ramp at 5%. It can be tough to make that transition without losing momentum, a little tailwind today helped a little. After that, the stair steps alternate with actual flats or slight downhills, and you are practically done.

I did get a season best today 7:40 after an all out effort. I averaged 341 Watts, so hopefully I've managed to reverse my end-of-season slump.

Google Maps Test

Google Map

This is a test of embedding Google Maps in the blog. It's actually pretty easy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blair Road Climb TT

Jim had a good turnout for the Blair Road Hill climb considering it was drizzling on and off all day and was overcast when I drove up to Leroy. Bill, Tony, Matt, Kevin M and I decided to suffer for a couple of minutes on a really steep climb in southeast Lake County.

The hill is short and steep. It was about 160 feet of climbing in 0.4 miles. The average slope is about 8% and the max recorded by the iBike was 14%. The 10%+ section was about 0.15 miles (241 meters) long.

I have no illusions about my ability to get up a hill fast, so I wasn't aiming to get a decent time. Instead, I wanted to see what my average power would be for the duration of the effort.

My plan going in was to start off slow and accelerate all the way to the top, but the plan flew out the window with my first pedal stroke. I went too fast up the first part of the climb, then backed off too much to compensate. I ended up averaging 456 Watts up the hill. I'm pretty sure I can do better than that, so I'll have to give it another try. The course is marked with paint, so there will be plenty of opportunities to try it through the rest of the year.

The best time of the night was 1:44!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ye Olde Mill

The bridge is still out over the Chagrin River on its namesake road, so we started our ride from Gates Mills instead of North Chagrin Reservation, which lopped about 10 miles off the total.

Most of the really crappy pavement on Chagrin River Road has been patched, except for the stretch just north of Route 87, which is still like an old country cow path. They must have run out of money for road repairs. In spite of that, it's still a fun and fast ride down to Chagrin Falls.

We ended the ride with a climb up Old Mill and a descent of Berkshire. Here are the stats of Old Mill:
  • 0.72 miles
  • 288 feet elevation gain
  • 7.5% average grade, 9.9% max
The elevation at the river is 727 feet, up by the Boulevard it's 1033 feet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Whiskey Island Recon

It was a fun and very useful ride today at Whiskey Island.

I tried riding the touring tires. They handled the course surprisingly well. I was able to ride uphill and on the flats of the course with no problem. On the downhills, though, they were too slippery, and are probably more likely to puncture on the rocky sections. Also, any advantage they might provide in reduced rolling resistance is probably given right back in extra shock and vibration.

The new Vittorias worked well. I will probably ride those most of the season. I tried ranging the tire pressure down from 80 psi down to nearly flat to see what advantage that might provide. The theory with the lower cross tire pressures on a course like Whiskey Island is that the soft tires would roll right over bumps without transferring the force to the rider, and depleting forward momentum. Subjectively, I can't feel a difference. Anyway, I'm too heavy to take the pressures too low--I'll roll the tire or get a snakebite flat.

The new left brake worked loose after only about 30 minutes of riding! The only prescription is loctite.

The single ring setup is fine. The paved section out to the coast guard station is probably the fastest section of all the 'cross courses I'll ride this season, and I didn't spin out the 36x12 until the last few meters.

I've got some new bars on order, so this week I'll get my position dialed in finally.

Friday, August 21, 2009

single ring/new tires

Chris and I are heading up to Whiskey Island
tomorrow for some 'cross recon and to break-in some new gear. I'm trying out a new bike setup, new tires, and new shoes. Chris has a brand new 'cross machine.

I tuned up the bike and finished some modifications this week. The main change to the Redline this year is the single chainring setup. I removed the big chainring, front derailleur and replaced the
left STI shifter with an old school Shimano brake. Hopefully the 36
tooth chainring will give me t
he range I need.

I also just got my new Vittoria tires with
minimalist tread. I'm going to try out a couple different tire setups Saturday, including some 25 mm touring tires. Last year, the ground at the park was like concrete, and the pavement section out to the coast guard station is actually pretty long. I don't know,
though, how well slicks will handle sand, the rocks and the off camber sections so
I will give it a good test before I race. The Vittorias might be a good compromise.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stormy Leroy

Today was yet another hot humid day when isolated thunderstorms were strafing Northeast Ohio. I was paying close attention to the weather all day since I was planning to ride the Leroy TT and hoping to break the 20 minute mark at least one more time this season.

It was in the 80s all day, but the wind and the humidity were up and down. In the early afternoon, I mowed the lawn in tropical conditions, then in the evening before I drove to Leroy I took the dog around the block in pleasant warm, dry and breezy weather. From the square in Chardon, though, I could see a black wall of thunderstorms and rain over toward the Arboretum, and a few drops of rain hit my arm, but the sky overhead was still blue.

I drove up toward the fire station around 5:15PM. A thin line of thunderstorms was moving toward us from the south, but on the radar, it looked like it might just slide north over the lake, and the sky was just a bit gray toward the west.

Robert and Rudy and Mark were getting their gear together to ride out for a warmup and Larry pulled up just as I was pumping up the tires and getting set up. It was a good turnout considering the weather was sketchy.

I headed out on the warmup ride. The sky didn't look so bad toward the south east. I turned around to head back to the start. The western sky had turned a mean looking blue black. Since Leroy is right at the edge of the slope heading down to the Lake plain, and there are open fields, bad weather is spectacular and intimidating.

It looked like we might beat the storm, though, so we lined up quickly, and started at 30 second intervals. Even though I drew number 5 to start, I just had enough time to get my glasses off and in my pocket and reset the bike computer before the start.

The first few drops hit me as I started, and the pre-storm winds kicked up directly out of the west. It felt like riding a motorbike into a mountain tunnel, the evening light dwindled to twilight and the colors of the fields and trees went from shades of green to gray. I stopped pedaling about 50 meters before the turn to slow down enough to take it safely. (Jan Ullrich's crash in the 2003 TdF popped into my mind.)

Usually my internal mental dialog during the TT is muted by the effort and limited to thoughts like "must... go.... faster....", but flashes of lightning a loud report of thunder, and rising winds fired up the adrenaline and lit my thoughts up and I started debating turning tail and dashing for the car. Intellectually, I thought the odds of getting hit by lightning are slim, and I was already out in the storm, if I turned around, I'd only reduce the time I was out in it by a couple minutes. But my limbic system was shouting at me to seek shelter. But the cycling part of my brain won out, I might get a really good time with the extra adrenaline kick!

A hundred variations on that theme of thoughts rattled around in my head in just a minute or two. Those were quickly replaced by "oh shit!" On the uphill section where the road emerges from the trees, there was a white wall of wind and rain draped across the road, and it hit me in the face like a wet slap. (The iBike wind speed gauge recorded 37 mph headwind at that point!)

I was pretty stunned and had trouble seeing and slowed way down as I got completely soaked. Larry passed me at that point, so I got back to the task and followed his pace most of the way up the hill. I made the turn around and flew down the hill.

I finished pretty strong. Unfortunately, the rain knocked the power meter out, but at least I could see how fast I was going. I finished with a 20:46, only 3 seconds slower than last week in totally different conditions. That's probably my worst performance on the uphill section, but my best, by far, on the rest of the course.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Westlake #11--Done!

I went out to Westlake to close out my road racing season. The sauna conditions didn't treat me well and I found myself on the back of the field on one of the early fast laps. I boiled off the back on Ranney Pkwy along with several other riders after we went past the "B" race with a crack-the-whip acceleration. I chased for quite a while, surprised that I could ride 28 mph solo for so long, but the field was going even faster and gradually inched away. Instead of going deep into the pain cave, I just sat up.

The large "B" field zipped by, with TLE working to shut down a breakaway. I could sit in the "B" field for a workout, but chose to sit in my car for the ride home.

I was a little annoyed about getting dropped, but also realistic. I've done about as much as I could to improve my fitness this season but hit the point of diminishing returns about a month ago.

I learned a lot this season and should be able to build on it for next year. But first, a break! I'll find out what my non-cycling friends are up to these days.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

running on empty

Chris and I rode down to Beartown Lakes Reservation (map) in the southwest corner of Geauga County this morning. For breakfast, I had a bowl of cereal, yogurt, and a bagel. I knew that wouldn't be enough to power me all the way, so I filled one bottle with gatorade, and took a Clif Bar. Altogether, that's about 980 calories.

On the way down through Burton and the back roads of Geauga County, like Rapids and Stafford, we alternated between riding a fast tempo, and taking it easy on the rough pavement. I choked down the Clif Bar as we passed Ladue Reservoir on Valley Road. It wasn't very filling.

The ride back was fast. We had a tailwind all the way to Chardon on Auburn Road, then cut over to Bass Lake for the last few and fastest miles. On the downhill north of 322, we try to keep the speed high all the way to 44.

The timing was pretty good. The last big effort burned up the last molecules of sugar from the Clif Bar, and the first symptoms of hunger knock hit me just as I swung off on 44 to head for home. The engine shut off. I dropped the chain onto the little ring and jammed the rear derailleur all the way to the left. I crept home and strapped the feed bag on for the afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bike Logic

Jim had a really good turnout for the Leroy TT again this week. I drew the 14th starting slot, and two riders started after me.

I was in a pretty good mood and happy to be out on my bike after a day of lots of errands, and driving into the office for a meeting, but was feeling a little flat physically. My plan for this week was to hold back a little on the way out, and really hammer on the way back.

I had a good start. As I crossed the field, though, the power meter was showing 270-300W instead of the typical 350-400, and it didn't feel like I was holding back. I felt about the same all the way to the turn, and up the hill.

I did manage to lift the pace after the turn around but it seems like the TT is a zero sum game. The average speed on the way out was only 20.2 mph, on the return it was 25. My time bounced up to 20:43. It's pretty amazing how consistent it is from week to week, about 5% difference, with the varying weather conditions. The tweaks in position I've made the past few weeks don't have any noteworthy positive effect. I haven't discovered a solution that keeps my back flat and lets me breathe properly.

Following the race, Chris and I had what's probably a typical cyclist conversation about buying new bike stuff. I was mulling over the relative merits of a time trial bike versus a pair of $2200 Zipp wheels versus the overall craziness of paying $2200 to decrease my time at Leroy by a minute or so. When you think about other hobbies, like cars, riding a motorcycle, or boating, cycling is cheap! Plus it's healthy. Heck, if you consider the health benefits, it's practically free! I was almost ready to go home and empty out the savings account, but I didn't.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tied for 607th

My TOTV time trial results shot me to 607th place in the USAC Category 4 men's rankings!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Crossing Over

Cue the montage music. Something cheesy, like We Are the Champions, or since this is a no budget bike blog, the unlicensed version Are We the Champions? Cue the slow motion shots of the snowy rides on the MTB back in december, the Tackle the Tower stair climb in February, and club rides through the spring, the Covered Bridge Races and the Tour of the Valley in July.

I'm going to do one more Westlake, the rest of the Leroy TTs, and that's it for my road racing season.

I can sum up this season in one word--transition. The main event this year was jumping into the "A" field at Westlake after a few seasons in the "B" field. My fitness definitely improved compared to prior seasons, but not enough. Now I know what's required to ride consistently with riders that have such a high level of fitness, and can work toward that.

My approach to training this year sort of worked, and I learned from its failings. I gained fitness through the early season and June. I spent the vast bulk of my training time riding hard tempo and time trial type efforts, but never managed to get much anaerobic work into my schedule. I completely fell apart in mid July. Too much racing, not enough riding in that month.

'cross season is going to fire up full steam in a month. In the mean time, I'm just going to be doing long rides around northeast Ohio and enjoying what's left of the summer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pure Misery

I was planning a trip to Orrville for the Milk Race today, but woke up this morning at 5:30 to heavy thunderstorms and the temperature was already at 72 and climbing. I decided to just go back to bed and go for a ride in the afternoon.

This was probably the toughest workout of the season for me so far; the weather gizmo was reading 88F/96% humidity when I rolled out the door, plus the wind was blowing hot about 10 mph out of the south.

I rolled out Bass Lake road into the wind at an easy pace. I was halfway through a big bottle after only five miles. In the direct sun, it was tough going and I could feel my skin heat up, but since it was later in the afternoon, there was plenty of shade from trees along the road, so it was tolerable.

I ended up doing a loop through Auburn Township, then cruised back up Auburn Road. With the tailwind, I was moving along easily over 20 mph and did the climbs easily at a pretty good pace.

Out of 100 minutes of ride time, I felt good for about 10 minutes. Of all the conditions I've been training in this year, today was the worst. That includes the 4 degree ski sessions in the winter, riding in the snow on the mountain bike, and racing at the Frosty Toes RR in February. You can fight the cold, but there is no escape from the heat.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Low Rider

In the never ending quest for more speed, yesterday I swapped my 120 mm stem for a 140 mm stem to get a more comfortable flat-back aero position. I went out on a quick test ride to check out the position change.

With the 120 mm stem, riding with forearms on the tops was pretty shaky. With the 140, it was stable as a table, but I can't crank very hard in that position anyway. With the 120, I felt a little cramped on the drops, and my biceps would get tired after only a few minutes. The 140 was definitely an improvement when on the drops, but maybe a little too much of a stretch with my hands forward by the brake levers. I'll give it another couple of weeks before trying a 130.

Position changes always feel like magic on the first ride, so I put it to the test at the Leroy TT.

A record group turned up for the ride--17 total, including special guest stars Gwenn and Chris who made the trip up from Stow.

I drew the 8th starting slot just ahead of some very fast people, including Brian B, who was starting 1 minute after me.

In spite of that, I resisted the temptation to go out too fast and followed my normal routine. The power numbers were good 350-400W, and I managed to accelerate all the way to the corner, so I swung through at 26 mph. I felt much better than last week.

Brian passed me about half way up the first leg of the hill and was moving fast. I lifted my pace a fraction, and had my typical power drop off on the false flat part of the climb. (Next week, I'll finally pop the 12-25 cassette on the rear wheel instead of the 27.) I did a pretty good sprint up the steep section of the hill, though, and kept the pedals turning to the turn around.

The return leg wasn't as much of a struggle as last week. When I hit the 2 miles to go mark, I started pushing hard. I am not getting as much power out as I did earlier in the season, but felt better than last week.

I was hoping to get a sub 20 minute time, and finished strong, but should have switched the afterburners on a little sooner. I ended up 20:12. I'm still hoping for a sub 19 minute time this season. I'm leaving plenty of seconds out there on the course.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Leroy Cyclocross 2009!

It's official.

Leroy Township Cyclocross is scheduled for October 4, 2009.

Changes from last year:
  • Fewer ditch crossings;
  • Results will count toward the BACX series;
  • 50% of the proceeds will be donated to charity (TBD).
More details soon!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unsafe at any Speed

A dude hit a woman and didn't notice because he was busy texting:

A Bainbridge Township man police say was responding to a text message when the car he was operating struck a Kenston school teacher who was out walking her dog has been indicted.

Cell phone manufacturers and carriers are going to get blasted with lawsuits one of these days and some lawyer is going to make a few million on some family's tragedy.

It's hard to believe the manufacturers get away with making a device that is practically designed to distract drivers; it's inherently defective.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Willoughby Ride

Good ride today out to Willoughby via Kirtland Hills, Waite Hill, then back on Kirtland Chardon Road. The weather was perfect and there wasn't much traffic most of the time.

The climb up Waite Hill is short and steep. The grade on Markell Road maxes out at 16%, then it's a nice, sunny ride through the estates to Riverside Road. I'm pretty sure the Man lives somewhere in that community, but I didn't see him. No Madras pants. Nobody on their fourth Brandy Alexander at 11AM. Just a nice lady out for a bike ride, and a bunch of Amish Guys repairing a wall.

Willoughby was hopping. The cafe tables along the street were full, and there was lots of traffic through town; all of it angry. I planned to ride down to the Lake, but Erie Street was too busy, and I wanted no part of that mess, so I headed back for home, taking Kirtland Chardon Road from route 306.

I haven't done the whole climb for several years. At the Kirtland Chardon Road bridge near 306, the elevation is 640 feet, at Route 6 it's 1297. The total elevation climbed along the 6 miles is about 1000 feet, though, since it drops back to the River at Wisner Road.

It was a great route, but only about 35 miles round trip.