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.