Monday, December 20, 2010

too much too soon

Snow. Time to cross country ski.

I started to pile on the hours over the past week, and this weekend I started pushing the pace at Chapin. I was climbing the hill from the Hobart Road side, and I was pretty happy with how fast I was going when my car crash knee started to feel sore. No big deal. It's basically sore whenever I do a hard workout.

I started to make the final push up to the crest of the hill. I started to stride forward with my right foot, and I felt my ski tip swing back like normal, but when it stopped and I started to set my foot down I felt a sharp pain like a rodent chewing its way out through my skin. Ouch!

I stopped for a minute and gave myself the typical exam. The knee still bends, I can step forward, etc... It seems alright, so I continue on. I don't have any more sharp pain, but it's just sore.

Luckily, it seems like a minor problem. I didn't have any swelling and it's only mildly sore today, so hopefully I'll be able to continue with my skiing this week, otherwise it will be time to log some more miles on the trainer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kirtland Park CX

Kirtland Park is one of my favorite 'cross venues. Every year, the park offers up some new wrinkle. The amphitheater is always the main feature, and this year the course climbed up the terraced steps, but pretty much every foot of the course was interesting and challenging, including the "stairway to heaven".

I lined up in my stay out of the way spot a few rows back in the field, and I was actually caught by surprise by the start, but I was feeling pretty good, and seemed to be able to power through the field section pretty well. For once, I was passing plenty of people.

The first downhill on the course had that roller-coaster feel. It's so steep that you can't see the bottom until your wheel goes over, then it's a rapid acceleration to the lake plain. I had a pretty good line through the turn at the base of the hill and ended up moving up a little more.

Since the field was big and the course was twisty and turny, the race was stacked up for most of the first lap, and the track stand skills came in handy. It didn't really open up until after the stair climb.

After it got sorted out, I spent the next two laps or so battling for position with a decent group of riders. However, I was keeping it right on the red line the whole time, and doubted it would last.

Eventually, the spring started to unwind. At about the midway point Seth passed me on the stairs just before the baseball field, and I spent some valuable oxygen cursing him as he scooted past. Then I settled into a rhythm I could hold to the finish. At some point, I started working with Daryl, and we shared the pace on the flatter sections of the course, where the wind actually was a factor.

With two laps to go, I was pretty toasted. I kept banging the pedals, but was pretty worn out. My main concern at that point was to stay out of the way of riders on the lead lap who were fighting to place or win. Bill caught up to me on the steep hairpin climb, and I moved way over to the right to let him go through at speed, so I ended up running the hill for the first time.

I totally botched my remount at the crest and basically vaulted my bike and tumbled down. No harm, though. It took several seconds to get moving again, and by then, I just wanted to finish.

It was a great wrap-up to a great series! I had to scoot home immediately after the race, so I missed all the end of season festivities, but still managed to say some "see ya next years!" to the fine group of people who race 'cross every year. It's really a special atmosphere. If you don't race next season, make one of the local races a destination for your fall road rides next year.

Thanks to the Lake Effect crew for doing all the hard work!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blue Sky CX Weekend

I rode down to Chagrin Falls on Saturday since the weather was so nice and warm. I took it pretty easy on the way down, but pushed relatively hard heading up Bell Street toward Auburn Road, then had a tailwind all the way back home. I haven't done a training ride over 30 miles since September, but I still had a lot left in the tank at the end of the 40 miles.

Then on Sunday, I packed up the Redline and drove to the Blue Sky CX race at Coulter Avenue Park in Euclid. The course reminded me of our Brent Evans designed masterpiece in Solon. There were countless turns, and since the park is also some type of drainage basin, there was a ton of off camber sections. But the main feature was a big run-up a muddy hill.

I was in the mood to flog myself pretty hard, but since the course was both muddy and hilly, I started at the back and just stayed out of the way of other riders as much as possible.

It was a great workout, and there were a few laps when I was racing with other riders, which always makes it more fun. My main problem was I couldn't get any traction on the run-up, so I lost a lot of time every lap. On the positive side, I was doing really well on the off camber technical riding and only lost my momentum a couple of times due to a slip in the mud, but I did not crash. Amazing. Another amazing thing is that my 39x27 gearing was fine in even the muddiest sections.

The course was tough. So tough that I was totally happy to get lapped by the leaders of the race and put out of my misery. That's the only race in the series where I actually had to flop down on the ground for a few minutes to recover.

Blue Sky did an awesome job putting the course together, and running the event! Thanks a lot guys!

The season finale at Kirtland Park is up next. I'm hoping for drier conditions and more power sections so I can battle it out with some of my usual cyclocross "rivals" although I use that term very loosely.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

being a better man

Almost every training ride I do is a pleasure. Even if it's cold and rainy, or really windy, it's great to be outside and covering dozens of miles of northeast Ohio under my own power. The only sure spoiler is an asshole driver or two.

Today should have been a perfect ride. I went up through Kirtland, through the Arboretum, and up Kirtland Chardon Road hill toward Chardon. I didn't ride hard. I just enjoyed myself. But as I got closer to Chardon, some redneck screamed some crap out his window.

That really doesn't happen to me too often. The vast majority of drivers are considerate and polite these days. So it was no big deal. I don't even know what the dude said. But I was probably a little annoyed. I cranked up the tempo on the stretch of Rt 6 that heads into Chardon. It's a flat section of road, and usually there's a tailwind, so it's possible to get up to 30 mph for a half mile or so without working too hard.

The problem with that, of course, is some drivers have no clue what to do around a bike moving that fast, and they completely screw up passing. That's ok if there's not much traffic, and the guy going by isn't a semi. Some trucker practically forced me off the road. So I was a little more annoyed, but thankfully almost home.

The weirdest encounter I've had in a long time came next. I got back up to speed, and zipped down the hill into Chardon with the traffic. A very elderly man who probably got his learner's permit in a chariot passed me, then slowed down and kept blocking my path. I doubt he was intentionally doing it. Instead, he was just driving super slow and staring into the rear view mirror like some fucking nut. I just got off that road as soon as possible.

I wish I had some Zen like power to ignore this shit, but man, it's enough to make me want to hang up the bike for winter!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

maintenance mode

I went down to Brett's Chagrin CX race on Saturday. He's managed to create a really nice tradition. The course is one of my favorites, and the atmosphere is fantastic. This year, I finally wore a costume--my old tuxedo--which I hoped would be completely destroyed by the end of the race, but in spite of the massive mud puddle in the course on the entry into the woods, scraping through tree branches, and bouncing off an occasional tree, it looked about the same after the race as it did before the start. I felt great, but I ended up racing pretty slow to avoid passing out from overheating.

I've switched over into my maintenance riding mode for now through Christmas. So I'm riding a little, running a little, and lifting more. I haven't really made any adjustment to my diet, so I was pretty surprised to drop some weight with a lot less energy burned. Weird. For example, in August, I burned around 22,000 kJoules, and lost no weight, but in October I burned only around 8,000 kJoules but I lost 5 pounds. That seems to defy all logic, so it's interesting. We'll see if the trend continues, and then maybe I'll be able to draw some conclusion about it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Cellphone, Kindle, Book. What could go wrong?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sisyphus at Elyria

The Sisyphus myth popped into my head as soon as I was done with the "B" race at Cascade Park in Elyria this past Sunday.

The main feature of the course was a grassy sled hill ascent/descent. For the "B" field it was probably 50-75 feet of climbing to a 180 degree turn, then straight down the hill. I wasn't able to get enough traction to climb the hill on the bike, but several people were able to.

Sisyphus is the dude that spent eternity rolling a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down. After the race, I thought the weird formalism of cyclocross should give pause to anybody who interprets stories about things they did not personally witness. A hundred or so people spent their Sunday afternoon in agony, pushing a bike up a hill only to have it roll back down, so thousands of years ago, it's possible someone pushed a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down as a sporting event.

Anyway, though the course was great and the venue was perfect, my race sucked. Since the sticky mud season arrived, I swapped my road 53/39 cranks for a compact crank-set a couple of days before the race. On the repair stand, the bike shifted without any problems, but on Sunday, I had trouble shifting onto the big ring, and lacked tools to do a proper tune up before the race. Oh well, we're out of the hard packed dirt season and into the sticky mud season anyway. It seems like the efficiency of converting muscle power to forward motion in those conditions is brutally proportional to weight. So now, cyclocross is just another winter workout for me.

It seemed that the compact gearing did nothing to make the race easier for me, so I'll probably just swap back to the road cranks. The 39T ring seems to be ideal for me on the flatter sections of courses even in the mud. Then I can ride the CX bike in the winter on the road without spinning out all the time.

That was probably my hardest workout of the season. I haven't felt as bad as I did on the second to last lap since the Todd Field Race last season. I nearly pulled the plug on the race as I rode past the car, but it seems like it's always possible to do one more lap, so at least I finished.

Thanks to all the great folks at Snakebite for putting on the race! It was a beautiful venue and the course was really well conceived and fun to ride.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Fat and bicycle racing don't mix.

The effect of extra weight is painfully obvious on a climb, but since there's more to push through the air, it actually hurts on the flat, too.

People have analyzed the relationship of body mass and frontal area. (Link to summary. download of the article requires payment--I'm too cheap). According to the author of that article, frontal body area scales by the power of 0.762 as a function of mass. The authors of that article found that the total frontal area of rider and bike only scales by a power of 0.594 since the frontal area of a bike is similar regardless of the size of the rider.

So I'll break that down for myself. My college riding weight was pretty close to my ideal body weight, and is 20% less (yikes!) than I am now. According to the paper, that would have been a 12% reduction in total frontal area, which should more or less translate to 4.3% increase in speed on the flat.

So, if college me rode the Leroy TT with my current legs, my season best riding my road bike would have ridden better than a 19:08, since there would also be an increase in speed up the hill.

I'm actually stunned by that. I've learned that there's not much I can do to increase my threshold power, so really, I should just go all Ghandi and drop the weight to get to the next level.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the great indoors

I've been out riding in the rain a couple of times this week. It's sort of like jumping into a cold lake to swim--it's not so bad once you get going, but it's pretty hard to get motivated to do it in the first place. Also, I don't think it's the smartest thing to do. It's a lot of wear and tear on the bike, plus I worry about the traffic.

So it looks like it's just about time to return to indoor training. yay.

I hit the "Y" a couple of times this week. I'm trying a new approach to weight training based on an article that I read over the summer that indicated the amount of energy expended while lifting was actually more important than the weight lifted.

So instead of doing a limited number of sets and repetitions and ramping up the weights over the winter, I'm using far less weight, but doing reps until exhaustion. For example, instead of doing 3 sets of 8 leg presses at 300 pounds (or whatever), I do 35 reps at 220 pounds (or whatever). I'm impressed at how horrible it is. At first, it feels easy to move the lighter weight, but then the burn starts, and eventually it feels like my muscles are setting concrete. By the end of a workout, I'm limping out of the gym.

I still haven't setup the trainer this year. There are still plenty of decent weather days ahead and I'm not in any hurry to start that.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

one more time

Since the last time I rode the Leroy TT (two weeks ago), I've been trying to find a more aerodynamic position on my road bike that doesn't pinch my breathing, and that doesn't interfere with my pedaling mechanics.

That's easier said than done. I went through this exercise last year without any positive result. I tried different stem lengths and saddle positions. This year, I just tried some simple things. I basically just tried to get my elbows in while keeping my chest open. It seems to be more aerodynamic, but it's definitely not as powerful, since I can't pull on the bars as easily as I can with my hands on the hoods.

So my strategy for this final TT of the season was to get into that more aerodynamic position on downhills, but stay in my normal position the rest of the time.

However, tonight, I was really more worried that I'd just crack somewhere on the course. I've been a little on the tired side this week and my legs have been getting sore while I'm out riding instead of the day after a ride. Call it instant onset muscle soreness. I didn't feel great during my warm-up.

However, once I rolled off from the starting line, I felt good enough to make an all out effort to finally try to crack the 20 minute barrier for this year.

Two weeks ago, I did a flawless ride, but came up a little short at 20:04. This week, I faltered on the climb, but came up with a 20:04 again! The average power for this week was 352W and was 350W last week. Here's how the two rides compare per section:

This week:
Start to Turn: 5:29 / 356 Watts / 22.6 mph
Turn to Turn Around: 5:50 / 327 Watts / 18.4 mph
Turn around to Turn:  3:52 / 332 Watts / 27.1 mph
Turn to Finish: 4:57 / 383 Watts / 25.1 mph

Two Weeks Ago:
Start to Turn: 5:25 / 353 Watts / 22.1 mph
Turn to Turn Around: 5:30 / 338 Watts / 18.8 mph
Turn Around to Turn: 4:08 / 337 Watts / 25.6 mph
Turn to Finish: 5:06 / 359 Watts / 24.8 mph

That's actually pretty interesting. It's possible the wind is the main factor between these two rides. Although, if it wasn't, if I were fresh, I could have knocked 20+ seconds off my time.

Well, I've got a while to prepare for next season!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

whiskey island cx

Every year I go to Whiskey Island to race my bike, I think I should go down there more often because it's such a spectacular location--it's got clear views of the Lake, the River, and the Cleveland skyline, which looks great on an early autumn blue sky day.

Also, every year I race at Whiskey Island, as I reflect back on the day I start wondering why I am so slow on the CX bike and if there's something I can do to change it. Most of the course is grass--there's also some sand, but there's also about 1/2 mile of pavement that sticks out into the Lake. When I get on the pavement, I get up to speed, and reel in riders ahead of me like they've got their brakes on. Once I'm on the grass, the roles get reversed. It drives me crazy. I feel like I should be able to figure out some way to go faster, at least while it's dry. Oh well.

The "B" field was huge, so the start was crazy. I went into today hoping to be up toward the front of the race for a while, but even though I was pretty quick into the pedals, and spooled up through the gears, there was no chance. I kept moving to the left to get some space to move up, but I realized we were already three or four rider widths off the course when we got to the first turn, and I was in argy-bargy town. I could have only moved forward if I had a snow plow attached to my bike.

At the start of lap two, I fell into my normal pattern. I didn't warm up enough (at all), so I felt horrible until the third lap and started to work my way into the group of people I always race against. It was a fun battle today.

On the final lap, I thought I'd nuke the other riders in my group on the pavement section and claim a glorious 30th place (or whatever) but some fishermen chose that moment to walk in front of us and I was only able to go full speed briefly, so I guess I didn't have much of a gap heading into the final grass sections. I thought I was safe but I bobbled a couple times on the way to the finish and got caught in the woods section just a few feet before the line and settled for 33rd.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

best ever

I felt pretty tired for most of this week. I've been riding a lot through July and August, and the CX race wrecked my legs on Saturday. My legs weren't too snappy when I did my warm-up lap for the Leroy TT, but once I cranked it up a couple of times, I started to feel pretty comfortable.

The race for me this week was all about the false flat section on the hill. I finally figured out my problem with that section. I typically shift down a couple of times on the first part of the climb, then wait until I'm over the first little crest to shift up again. For some reason, that causes me to blow up and slow down for a few seconds. If I keep the pressure on my legs, I'm fine, so I need to shift up just before the crest.

So that's what I did. Last week, my power output on that section dipped down into the 200s. This week, there's still a noticeable drop-off in the power, but not too much.

So for the numbers. I averaged 350 Watts over 20:04. That's 420 kJoules (~1.6 snicker's bars) in just 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure that's my best power output over that duration for as long as I've been keeping track. That corresponds with threshold testing I've done over the years but it's the first time I've managed to do it on a real ride. I don't think I left too many seconds on the course tonight.

I've got a couple of chances left to break the 20 minute barrier. I think my best bet is to turn on the afterburners a few hundred meters earlier than I normally do at the end of the course.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

true grit: manatoc cx

Big Bike Fest
The cyclocross season got started today. It was appropriate that the weather felt like autumn. Here in Chardon, it was raining all day, but down in Peninsula, the weather was cool, very dry, dusty and windy. The parking lot was full by the time I got there, about an hour before the "B" race. There was a mountain bike race/festival going on at the same time, which added to the atmosphere.

After registering, and catching up with lots of people I hadn't seen in a year, I didn't have a whole lot of time to warm-up, and only rode about 1/4 of a lap before lining up to start.

I started about three rows back. The starting chute was pretty narrow, so even though the front row went off at a hot pace, it was still pretty crowded and slow heading up into the first turn. When we got to the woods single track section, it was still packed. There wasn't much chance to pass, so I was just cruising along.

The single track section was really excellent. The trail wound through pine trees and climbed and descended a gradual slope. The main difficulty getting through there was the sections where tree roots spanned the entire trail. On the first couple of laps, I crawled through there to avoid a puncture, and to avoid crashing.

Once we got out of the single track, we hit the main part of the course which criss-crossed a big field. Eventually, the course got to another big feature, a sandpit volleyball court, which we crossed twice. The sand was at least a foot deep, but it was relatively easy to plow through, but it was a scene of much mayhem. On one lap a rider went down in front of me, and even though I heard people in the crowd urging me to ride over him, I dismounted, and carried the bike around. That emptied out to the only barriers on the course, and then it was around to the start again.

I took it way too easy on the first couple of laps. I tend to forget the feeble off road skills I have over the summer, so it's always a little bit of a shock to ride on all the cyclocross surfaces. Also, my contact lenses were close to opaque from dust even though I had shades on. I started to dial it up after that and finished strong. I'm sure I finished way down in the field, but I managed to pass at least three or four people.

I felt great at the end, well, except for my left arm which was totally numb from all the banging, and my shin which I biffed on my pedal. I should be able to do a lot better next week. I definitely need a better warm-up before that level of effort.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

a whole 'nother level?

I had to scramble a little bit this afternoon to get ready for the TT. I relearned a cycling truism--"if it creaks it breaks". My seat has been making creaking and popping noises for the past couple of months. I've taken it apart about 10 times, cleaned the seat rails, flipped the binder around, etc... but finally, I found a crack in the aluminum of the seatpost binder. I thought I'd be calling around to find a new seatpost, but I actually had a spare Thompson Elite seatpost in my parts bin. I felt like I found a lost bar of gold.

On the drive up to the TT, I was feeling pretty confident. It seems like I jumped up to a new level of fitness (or just peaked) the past couple of weeks. I rocked a good average power last week at the Mitchell's Mill TT, then I went and cranked out a 366 Watt average up Kirtland Chardon on Tuesday. I was also pretty sure I'd be suffering a lot, both of those efforts really hurt and they were less than half the duration of the Leroy TT. And the common denominator for both those efforts, the proof that I'm on the limit is that I start hyperventilating every once in a while, and I can't say I enjoy that much.

I had no real plan for the TT tonight. Just go all out from the start. I sprinted for the first 15 seconds, then settled into an all out effort. I put all thoughts of trying to be aerodynamic, or maintaining any particular cadence out of my mind and just tried to wring as much power out as I could.

I carried a lot of speed to the corner, so I had a chance to sit up a little and take a breather. I felt some TT guilt, though, as a couple seconds dripped away. I went full gas up the hill. I was really concentrating on making a good transition to the false flat, but didn't do a great job there. That's my nemesis. My power output dropped from 350s down to 200 Watts for 45 seconds.

I was also a little gassed going down the first section of the downhill. I didn't get back on top of the gear until about a quarter of a mile down the hill, but from there I kept the pedal to the floor all the way to the finish. The heat started to get to me by the last mile or so, but I didn't crack.

I ended up with my best time so far this year: 20:07--but still 9 seconds slower than my personal best. I averaged 336 Watts. I think there's still some room for improvement. If I don't slow on the false flat section, for example, I could theoretically gain 20 seconds.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creek Cross 2010 Course Preview

Dave and Mike Prepping the Run-Up
On Saturday, I went down to Solon to help Dave do some course preparation for our October 17th race.

The course has lots of interesting features. The loop is about 1.2 miles. It climbs up from the creek, first with a steep run-up, then a gradual ascent on trails through a field. Then it descends, first gradually through the field, and then down a crazy cork-screw.

The course is relentless. You can sort of take a break through the field downhill section, but there are a couple of small ditches and off camber tracks that could pitch an inattentive rider to the ground. Then once you're through the field, you get to the corkscrew. Good bike handlers won't have a problem zipping down there. Everyone else (like me) will dismount and run down.

It should be a fun time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

recumbent guy

This was a great weekend for riding. I ended up doing a couple good road rides, plus a cyclocross ride on the new course down in Solon.

Saturday, I did a loop down through Chagrin Falls and back up Caves Road. Today, I did a loop down the bike path and out around Kile Road and Clay Street. (Kile Road was just resurfaced, so the pavement is butter smooth.)

There were lots of riders out on the trail today, and I was riding a pretty decent tempo so I was passing people on a regular basis. I came up behind a couple of guys on faired recumbent bikes who were loping along at an easy pace. I thought, "oh good, they'll see me in their rear view mirrors, so I don't need to say anything".

The one guy spotted me, and started accelerating, by the time I was passing he was up to my speed, so of course, I started to accelerate. I thought I'd just be able to lift the pace a bit and be on my way, but pretty soon we were going 25 mph. I doubted he was going to continue at that pace for long, but he kept it up for a mile and seemed to be having a pretty easy time. I really had to crank it up to get around.

I was pretty amazed by that. I guess the aerodynamic drag of a faired recumbent is only about 1/4 of a road bike, so for the same power, a rider should be able to go about 58% faster on a flat road. So if you can easily cruise at 22 mph on a road bike, you would easily be able to cruise at like 35 mph on a recumbent. But of course, you wouldn't be able to bunny hop obstacles, and being stuck in the same position for hours at a time would get old fast.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

that's more like it

Tonight was Jim's hill climb TT. We climbed Mitchell's Mill Road, from Wisner up to Mentor Road. (map) The route is a little over 2 miles and gains a little over 400 feet. The climbs in this corner of the world are challenging because the grade changes quite a bit. On Mitchell's Mill, it's about 12% down by the river, then alternates between false flats and little 10% rises for the rest of the climb, so you end up going over the redline, then having to accelerate while sucking air to keep the momentum going. I've ridden the climb many times over the years, but I've never done a timed ride up that hill. I figured I'd just gun for a high average power tonight.

The ride started near the dead-end of Wisner Road. (that's the legendary home of the melonheads.) There was only a couple hundred meters before the steep section. I was pretty conservative out of the blocks and up the steep part of the climb, but still anaerobic. As it leveled out, I made the transition to riding on the big ring without missing a beat and kept cranking on the red line. I managed to keep the throttle open all the way for the duration of the ride.

I ended up with an average of 355 Watts. That's my best power output over that duration (10 minutes more or less) for the season, and I probably could have done a little better, so that's pretty encouraging. If I manage to do that at the TT next week, I think I'll end up with a sub 20 minute time, finally.

That was a difficult effort. It was pretty close to the intensity of the Tackle the Tower stair climb, but without all the dust.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Resources for CX Race Planners

Some of the people who read this blog might be plotting out cyclocross courses even as I'm writing this.

Here's a good resource for high resolution imagery of Ohio:

You can download images at 1 foot per pixel resolution or even 0.5 feet per pixel.

There's also hi resolution elevation maps available. I didn't dig into that too much yet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

just ride

I DVR'ed the Isle of Man TT last night, then watched it this morning over breakfast. I didn't need any coffee to get going after that! The helmet cam footage from a motorcycle tearing around old twisting roads and near stone walls at 180 mph did the trick. After that, I was jonesing for some speed. I was going to go out to Westlake to get a fix, but I'm still pretty wary about racing. If I crashed and broke my bike, even if I didn't get hurt, I'd be seriously bummed. I haven't done a complete inventory of the costs from the wreck this spring, but it was a whole lot more than I ever wanted to flush away.

Instead, I did a ride that included some long stretches of road where I could really get moving. I cruised down to Little Mountain Road and hauled some ass. There's a section of the road that has a 2% downhill grade where it's relatively easy to hang onto 35 mph--the zealously enforced speed limit--for about a mile. After that, I ended up doing the Garfield Road/Kirtland Chardon Road loop back to Chardon.

My legs are starting to feel pretty good. Even though I'm not going to be doing any road races, I've still got a few season training goals to go for, so I'm still feeling motivated. Plus, it's great to just get out and ride in the cool, crisp fall air, especially after so many weeks of tropical weather.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

when a plan comes together

I've been following the same script for the past few weeks at the Leroy TT. I hold off on the outbound leg, then try to punch it over the last two miles. Tonight, I did exactly that, but probably left a handful of seconds out on the road.

In keeping with the theme of holding back on the outbound leg, I didn't go all out at the start. I basically cut the power output in half from my normal sprint start. In fact, it felt pretty anemic. I probably lost a handful of seconds there. Normally I punch it hard and I'm up to speed by the time I get 100 meters into it. Tonight, I wasn't really up to speed for a couple hundred meters.

I held off all the way through the corner. I planned on 320 Watts, and ended up averaging 305 Watts/22.8 mph. The slow start actually hurt my average power and speed quite a bit. If I omit the slow part, I was basically on target.

As I turned onto the hill, a guy in a van backed out in front of me. In time trial time, it felt like he was blocking the road for 10 minutes, but it probably only cost me a couple seconds.

I rode an even pace up the hill. I didn't even sprint over the top like I usually do. I made the turn around, then took my time getting up to speed before the descent. I felt pretty fresh on the downhill, and I managed to kick it pretty hard over the last two miles and averaged 348 Watts/23 mph.

But even after all that, I ended up averaging the exact same time as last week. I felt like I had a lot left in the tank. I can probably start pushing from three miles out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

don't assume

The Froot Loop candidate for Colorado Governor Dan Maes warned voters that a program to encourage bike riding in Denver is really a UN plot to take over the world, or something like that. Maes hoped his stupid theory would appeal to people who share the assumption that cyclists are a monolithic group of granola munching commies, but it seems like it back-fired. In recent interviews, Maes claims he's not picking on bicycles or bicyclists, he's just trying to appeal to cabin dwelling, UN fearing nut-cases.

The assumption that cyclists are a bunch of pinko commies is wrong. The people I've ridden with and raced with over the years is a diverse group politically and otherwise. It's hard to tell if the person you're working with in a breakaway is a professor, a laywer, a welder, a teacher, or a student. It's even more difficult to know if they listen to Rush Limbaugh while polishing their hand gun collection, or read the HuffPo while campaigning for gay marriage. I'm pretty sure that the only thing they have in common is they happen to enjoy riding a bike.

I guess it's nice to know that, at least in CO, cyclists aren't a viable political hate-totem, so hopefully politicians will leave us alone. They will have to pick on other groups, for example immigrants, to create issues that divide the dumb public into dumb groups that distract from their lack of competence, or that they are enriching their buddies on the public dime, or that they have no solutions to the real problems facing the country.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This week I've been feeling the way cat food smells. The heat and humidity has been taking its toll. I skipped a hot and humid Westlake on Tuesday, but I ended up doing a training ride that kicked my butt anyway. I took the day off on Wednesday, and started to feel human again by the afternoon today, so I decided to head up to the TT.

During my warm-up, the air was so thick, that I practically needed a spoon to breathe. But after 20 minutes or so, I started to feel ok.

I followed my plan from last week: hold back on the outbound, then lift the pace over the last two miles. I did a very even effort on the first half of the course. I averaged 311 Watts, which felt pretty "easy" until I got to the turn around.

I had some trouble getting back on top of it on the downhill. and only averaged 315 Watts over the last two miles when I was hoping for more like 350, but I felt like my brain was melting, and I put in a strong finish even though my digestive system was about 1 second from going into full reverse.

I was a little slower than last week, but I think if we get some cooler weather, I still have a shot at a sub 20 minute time this season.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

a new road (to me)

Looking Toward the Arboretum from Chillicothe Road/Center Street in Mentor

Today was all about bikes. This morning, I went down to Solon with Dave and Chris to scout out the new venue for our 'cross race on October 17th. It should be a great course. It will have a run-up, a high speed descent, and a river crossing along with grass and gravel sections.

I would have ridden in the morning, but when I loaded the bike in the car, I noticed the rear tire was flat and there was a nice gash in the sidewall. No tires in the stockpile. Oh well.

I ended up riding in the afternoon. I decided to take some roads I haven't been on in ages, and I rode all over Kirtland Hills. I went up to Mentor and took Garfield Road South from Route 84. The last time I went on that road, probably 20 years ago, it just dead-ended. Now, it connects with the far west end Kirtland Chardon Road. That would make a nice entry point into a climb-fest training loop from Chardon, but instead of doing the KCR climbs, I decided to cruise over to Sperry to see how far along the bridge is. It's totally out. No way across yet.

After that, I looped around Little Mountain to Wisner. I almost rode the old wiped out section of Wisner over to Kirtland Chardon Hill, but it was too wrecked from horses. (It would be pretty cool to do a guerrilla cobble stone paving of that mile of bombed out road.)

I wrapped up the ride by doing the Mitchell's Mill climb up toward Auburn Road. Jim's going to do another hill climb TT there this year--it's going to be a lung burner!

Friday, August 6, 2010


I had a good week of training, and I was hoping to carry some momentum into the Leroy TT last night. I did a warm-up lap and barely had to pedal on the outbound leg to go 20 mph since a roaring wind was directly out of the west--right down Leroy Center Road--so the last few miles of the TT was going to be like adding Tabasco sauce to the pain taco.

My plan was to try to maintain a relatively "easy" pace over the first five miles, then go all out over the last two miles.

A few seconds into my ride, I realized that this blog post was going to turn into an iBike review.

When there's a roaring wind like last night, the iBike reports bogus power data, then software corrects it after the ride. In most cases, that's not ideal, but acceptable, but when you're trying to use the power reading for pacing information, it's a fail. My legs were telling me I was going too hard, but the power meter was spitting out low readings. I backed off a little, but probably erred on the side of going too hard all the way to the turn.

I did a pretty even effort on the climb. Holding back there seemed to leave me relatively fresh on the descent to the corner. I made the turn and starting lifting the pace over the last two miles. The wind was unrelenting. I sprinted for the line over the last 200 meters, but only got up to 28 mph and felt like I had the brakes on.

I ended up 4 seconds slower than last week. It always amazes me how consistent my times can be from week to week. 4 seconds is less than 1%.

So I'll try the same approach next week and hopefully the wind won't be as tricky. Hopefully I'll make it out to Westlake next week, too.

Friday, July 30, 2010

leroy TT

The timing of my follow-up appointment worked out well to return to racing at the Leroy TT. The weather was great last night, and Jim had a big group turn out to race in mild temps and breezy conditions. The group was so big that we needed to start at 30 second intervals instead of the usual minute.

I went off from the starting line with a good out of the saddle effort. It was really the first time in a couple months that I cranked on the bars like that. I was really pumped up that it felt close to "normal", so I promptly discarded the conservative pacing strategy I had for the night and put the pedal to the floor.

Since we started the race with only a 30 second gap between riders, I could easily see the rider in front of me and noticed I was gradually closing the gap. I went through the corner and was pretty sure I'd catch him before the turn around.

I went a little too hard on the first part of the hill and paid the price on the flat section by the cell phone tower, but then I did a good effort on the steep section and caught him just as Kevin M caught me. That threw my concentration for a couple seconds. I sat up to catch my breath before the turn around, then the chase was on!

I caught up with them at the turn and went past with a little burst of power. I thought, I'd just keep the hammer down all the way to the line, but slowed a little around Brakeman Road. They both passed me again just as I was recovering, so I put the hammer down again and passed again. Once we were in sight of the line, I was pretty fried, so Kevin passed me again but I held on for a decent time.

I was surprised to get a 20:35, which is actually significantly better than my previous effort this season. I was also surprised to average 310 Watts (3.1 W/kg), although I tweaked my position on the bike this week, so my iBike readings probably are probably off a bit.

I think my strategy for next week will be to pace myself more carefully over the first 5 miles of the course, then go for broke the last two miles.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

the pain scale

I had another follow-up appointment today, yet more x-rays, and had the pin that's been immobilizing my middle finger removed. And when I write "pin", I mean something like a finishing nail that went from my finger tip through the bone into the middle bone. And when I write "removed", I mean pulled out with a pair of pliers.

Since I've had a bunch of post crash doctor visits, I've had to give a number to my pain level several times. However, pain is a relative thing, and when you're put on the spot to try to quantify it, it's difficult, especially if you're a geeky type of person.

A paper cut on your finger tip hurts like crazy, and in the moment it happens, I'd probably give it a "10" but of course it's not remotely life threatening even for a hemophiliac. When you're really seriously hurt, initially there's something that's more like a wave of trauma as you start to realize what happened, but then the mind wanders off into a  fantasy land where there's no blood, no trauma, and no pain. So even though that's a real "10" on the pain chart, you don't know it.

But sheesh, even though my finger was numb today, it definitely was an off-the-chart level of agony today.

But before I complain about that, there's nothing like a trip to the hospital to put one's troubles into perspective. While I was waiting for the docs, I overheard a conversation about a woman who had just been admitted for a completely shattered right arm and severed left arm. So, while I'm going to start racing again, that poor woman's life is completely changed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

it's tricky

I was totally worn out when I went out for a ride today. It can be difficult to decide when to throw the towel in, though. Sometimes I feel totally worn out and blah until I get on the bike, and once I get warmed up I end up flying. After a few minutes, I almost turned around and went home, but I thought I'd give my legs more of a chance to warm up first.

I felt fine when I was doing hard efforts, but felt like I was dragging an anchor when I was just riding tempo. That's a sure sign that I need a couple days off, but by then I was already down Thwing Road hill and on my way over to Kirtland Chardon Road.

I did a good effort on the climb, but I was completely done after that and rode home on the little chain ring. I guess I'm due for some recovery time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

almost all back together

I have another ortho appointment next week. I'll have yet another set of x-rays of both hands to see how my scaphoid is healing and to see if the pin can be removed from my finger. If my wrist is done healing, I'll start racing again. At this point, it will just be a huge relief not to worry about it any more and will be a welcome change to be able to get out of the saddle while I'm riding.

I just got my rebuilt front wheel, and I've managed to drag my fitness back to where it was in May. This week I managed to do some decent efforts while out on training rides even without being able to pull or push with my left arm.

Hopefully I'll be able to get some racing in before the road season is done and I'll keep ramping up for 'cross season instead of going into hibernation mode as it gets started.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the opening of the east

Princeton Road

I went out for a ride today to do some intervals on Hart Road up in Montville. I took the bike path from Chardon out to Stillwell Road and I noticed that what had formerly been gravel had been resurfaced with chipseal. So I took it over to Princeton Road. Princeton used to have some paved sections and some gravel sections, but the gravel had also been replaced with chipseal. It looks like all (maybe?) the remaining gravel road in eastern Geauga County has been replaced with chipseal roads.

The chipseal roads open up quite a few new routes out into eastern Geauga County and western 'bula. I haven't been a big fan of riding out there on the primary roads like Chardon-Windor or S.R. 6--even though there's usually not much traffic, because when there is, it is a truck that's going 65 mph a few inches from your shoulder.

There's a nice little route down the bike path to the Headwaters Park end of the trail, then to Durkee Road over to Princeton and around the reservoir. That route used to have a couple nasty gravel sections, but now it should be relatively easy.

Another possibility is to take Huntley Road and head way out into the Grand River Valley to reach some of the great roads out there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

spin to win?

Almost every cycling book stresses the importance of spinning the pedals and developing a supple pedaling style. I've diligently worked on my pedaling technique over the years, but recently, I started to wonder about the value of that advice.

A while ago, I read an article about the reasons that chimpanzees are so much stronger pound for pound than humans. One reason is that chimps don't have the neural wiring for fine motor control. I don't think there's a direct application of that article to pedaling. The idea I take away from that is simpler motions can be more forceful than nuanced motions.

Another aspect of a simpler banging pedaling motion that could be beneficial is that the leg muscles can be relaxed during most of the pedal stroke even though they're used to generated a short, more intense burst of power. When spinning, many muscles are engaged through the entire pedal stroke.

Also, I've noticed many of the fast local riders bang the pedals instead of spin. And I've been paying attention to how riders in the Tour are pedaling. In stage 7, Juan Antonio Flecha was pacing the field up one of the climbs in the race, and his pedal stroke was an explosive motion through the horizontal pedal position rather than an even spinning motion. Even when Alberto Contador climbs out of the saddle, he pogos back and forth to drive the pedals down instead of lifting the pedal on the up stroke.

I was experimenting with this idea in the spring before I got splattered. I'm picking up where I left off, now, so I'll see if I can adjust my technique and pick up some more wattage.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

not racing any time soon

I'm out of the cast, but my wrist is still relatively gimpy and the range of motion is probably about 50% of normal.  I cracked the scaphoid of my left wrist smack dab in the middle. That bone is notoriously slow to heal, and can turn into a total mess of complications, but mine seems to be doing pretty well so far. Hopefully after one or maybe two more ortho appointments, and yet another set of x-rays, this whole injury episode will be in the rear view mirror.

I rode the TOTV TT yesterday to see where my fitness is--the short answer is lousy. I really wasn't expecting much, though. I haven't managed to do any intense training since May 20th. Also, it's going to be a few weeks until I can use my arms to generate any force. I just sort of rest my left hand in a neutral position and carry my upper body weight on my right arm and back. It's actually not as uncomfortable as it sounds. But I'm stuck in one position on the bike using the same muscles all the time, so they wear out quickly.

I think I'll build back up in a few weeks, though. It doesn't seem like I lost much leg strength, just the endurance to crank for an extended period. I'll add some running into the mix and do plyos and weights too.

I got out today for an actual training ride on Sherman Road. I went west from Bass Lake over the rollers. I think that route is a pretty good measure of my fitness. When I'm in good shape, I can push it over all those little hills without cracking. Today, I made it half way up the first one and popped, but once I recovered, I managed to do some decent efforts.

I decided I won't be racing for a few weeks at least.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I was in my car in Chardon when I saw a person staring at a cell phone screen while driving. Contrary to almost every stereotype, it was not a teenager, it was a dude in his mid sixties driving a big pickup. I decided to blast my horn. It obviously shocked him back to reality and scared the shit out of him.

I'm not going to get up on a high horse about driving--I'm not the best or most careful driver in the world. But it's just crazy that so many people get completely absorbed with their cell phone while driving. A car driving at just 35 mph is as potentially dangerous as a gun or a partial stick of dynamite.

I think I'll do that from now on--Honk At People Who Are Texting.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

itching to go

5/20 Rudely Interrupted on the way to a Personal Best

I'm just about done with the cast--it comes off on the morning of Thursday, July 8. By now, it's completely disgusting. It feels like I've been wearing a gym sock for three of the warmest weeks of the year without washing it or removing it. I have to say, though, that that 3M fiberglass tape is some really cool stuff. It's strong, moldable, and sets instantly.

It's going to be interesting to see where my form is. My training volume was chopped way down in May and June, normally my peak months, and obviously I've been pretty limited in the types of workouts I can do over the past several weeks. So, I'm looking to rebuild and hopefully set myself up for a solid second half of the season, and a solid cyclocross season.

Hopefully, I'll see everyone out there pretty soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

more on gas

On a good note, the cast comes off in one week. Also, I've dropped about 8 pounds this month, which will hopefully do a little to offset my reduced training volume.

On a dark note, I've followed through on my biodiesel research and have wandered off into viewing documentaries like Gasland on HBO (it's available on HBO on demand) and reading about the tar sands. Here's the whole story of oil (or natural gas) in a sentence: a few assholes get rich, some acres of land or gallons of water get spoiled, some people get cancer, some animals die, a bunch of people can afford to heat their homes inefficiently and drive their piece of shit cars.

When I first started reading about biodiesel, I imagined producing it in sufficient volumes to replace gasoline, or a large fraction of gasoline was not feasible, but in fact it looks doable. The current world production of vegetable oil is in the 10's of billions of gallons per year, while world gasoline consumption is in the 260 billion US gallon range. Presumably, lots more vegetable oil could be produced without a whole lot of trouble. (However, it's important to keep in mind that if vegetable oil were produced on the scale of oil, it would probably cause its own problems.)

What's next? Well, I'm a hands-on type of person, so I'll see if I can get my hands on a biodiesel car sometime soon and see how well it works.

Monday, June 21, 2010

going green

If the BP gulf oil disaster doesn't get your attention, then maybe something closer to home will. A fuel tanker flipped over on Route 44 by Punderson on Saturday. 8,300 gallons of gas spilled and contaminated the soil and water in the area. Crews are cleaning it up right now.

Cheap energy makes our civilization possible--without it, the 6 billion human population of the planet would decline quickly and painfully. Without it, I doubt we'd have the opportunity to get out and ride (if we had bikes), we'd probably be out digging for grubs or chasing eachother around in a post-apocalyptic mad max world.

Unfortunately, cheap energy isn't really so cheap. As environmentalists have pointed out, the cost of the damage done by industry is often dumped on the public, or just never paid even as executives and shareholders collect artificially inflated bonuses and dividends. Ride up to the Diamond Shamrock superfund site for an example in our back yard. Or if you haven't become totally depressed by thinking about it, read up on the inefficiency and toxicity of oil production from the Canadian Tar Sands.

I can confidently write, despite the carnage caused by the BP disaster and the momentary uproar in the public, there will be no major policy or societal changes. Nearly every day to day activity of ours depends on cheap energy.

Of course, societal inertia is a lame excuse to do nothing personally. Since this is a bike blog, the natural thing to do would be to write about how bikes could reduce energy demands, but that's just a fantasy right now. As TOTV approaches, I think back to last year when Chris and I got bitched out by a red faced lady driving past in a Hummer while we were watching TT finishes--I'm pretty sure most Americans would rather die than trade a car for a bicycle, or would die if they were forced to ride a bike.

So what to do? Well, I think at this point, an interesting goal would be to see if I can come up with a plan to use almost zero gasoline by the end of the year. That will give me something to do while I'm stuck in a cast for the next couple of weeks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

just in case

I should have researched this earlier. Casts from Exos Medical are made for sporty people. Here's the write up.

I've been pretty cranky about the casts I've had to wear over the past few weeks. They suck. I would have loved something like that Exos Medical cast.

The first casts I had to wear were low technology stuff--elastic wrap, cotton, and plaster. The cast I have on now is the fiberglass tape variety. It's a big improvement, but it's definitely not on par with any of the bike gear I use on a daily basis--like my bike shoes.

My engineering brain has been chewing on the cast problem for several days. The problem with the fiberglass casts are that they are just basically a deformed tube with a thin pad that doesn't distribute pressure very well. I end up with pressure points at the ends of the fiberglass whenever I move my hand or fingers. In fact, there's no neutral position. The fucking thing is always squeezing or poking me!

The Exos cast is basically like a bike shoe for your arm, leg, or whatever. It's heat moldable and uses a boa closure. I think it would be a HUGE improvement over fiberglass, but I think it couldn't be ideal. With a bike shoe, the engineering problem is much simpler, because the shape of the foot doesn't change much around a pedal stroke. With an arm cast, though, your bones and muscles move around quite a bit whenever you move your arm, fingers, or hand. Any squishy material really isn't going to work well. The real solution would be an articulated exoskeleton with padding.

So, hopefully I won't need a cast again! But if I do, I think I'll get one of these Exos casts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

yada yada yada

yada, yada, yada, I just got a new road bike.

My Cervelo R3 has a broken fork and a cracked frame, the bars were mashed, and both shifters were obliterated. The Reynolds Assault front wheel looked Ok, but one spoke had cracked the internal housing, plus it was full of bad juju, so I am having it rebuilt by the factory at a pretty good discount. The Reynolds wheels are strong enough to snap a fork and crack a frame. Wow, that's pretty amazing.

Cervelo has a crash replacement program, but I decided to go with a Felt FC instead. I decided a while ago not to buy any more DuraAce shifters, so I replaced my smashed left shifter with an Ultegra one. I actually had a right shifter on the shelf.

Hopefully I'll be out of my cast on July 8th, just in time for TOTV.

Friday, June 4, 2010

what it's all about

I think everyone who rides gets this:

Perfection. That's what it's about. It's those moments. When you can feel the perfection of creation. The beauty the physics you know the wonder of mathematics. the elations of action and reaction and that is the kind of perfection that I want to be connected to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the legs aren't willing

For the past year or so, I've been working from home. That makes riding much easier--really, it makes life much easier. But recently, I've been driving into the office so I can work in the lab. This morning in the rain, I got a good reminder about how much time driving can take out of the week. Anyway, it ended up being a long day. I had no chance to head out to Westlake, but at least I still had a chance to get out on the bike before the sun set.

I was pretty pumped up to get out and do some hard intervals. I rolled down to the bike path and took an absent minded drink from my water bottle, and immediately realized I was totally dehydrated. I probably had two cups of liquid in 10 hours. I did one interval and just sort of ran out of steam half way through. I took a little break, then tried to pick up the pace again, but without much success. Even though I felt pretty good mentally, my legs were toast.

Hopefully I'll get back to my normal routine in a few days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

it's done!

First of all, really big thanks to Lynn Marut and Don Cernanek. Without them, there's no race! Lynn was at the eye of the storm of all the chaotic activity of the race all day. Imagine it: the rider list shows up, riders line up, the race gets underway, and before you know it, the race ends. Places get tallied, and then it's time to do it all again with hardly a moment to take a breath. Don's guidance really helped get us through the day.

Next, big thanks go out to all the volunteers who got up really early and spent their day registering riders and keeping everything organized. Without them, there's no race! Special thanks to Jim Behrens and Daryl Breedlove for driving the support vehicles.

The park was quite supportive and easy to work with. I have to say it was pretty cool to see the ranger car come around every lap with the lights going.

Al Dottore was really the driving force behind getting the race going again.

Charles Howe provided a lot of information and consultation about the race and also helped out at the finish line. PDQ Cleveland provided a $500 donation to help defray some of the expenses of the race.

Pyro Apparel provided the really cool winners' jerseys. Mountain Road Cycles provided prizes, mechanical support, and helped to promote the race. Thanks Guys!

Chris Nicula and Jim Behrens spent several hours helping to plan and organize this event.

And thanks to all the riders for riding hard today!

Friday, May 14, 2010

this has all happened before

I made it up to Leroy for the first TT of the year. The weather was nice and warm and the road was dry, but there was a 10-15 mph wind out of the SSW.

I was looking forward to testing out the new Reynolds wheels on the Leroy course. Also, I am feeling like my fitness is steadily improving, so I felt like I could get a good time, so my only plan was to go all out from start to finish.

I was fixated on the power meter through the whole ride. I pushed a big gear, and just kept trying to keep the power reading around 300-350W. The outbound leg was a total struggle in the wind. When I got to the hill, I was feeling pretty good, so I ignored my pacing and pushed a little too hard, cracked a little bit, then had to back off on the second half of the climb.

I didn't really get back up to full gas until a few hundred meters after the turn. Then I wasn't really able to drill it over the last mile.

Once I got home, I went back to my 2009 training log to check my time. It was exactly the same as last year's edition--down to the second.

I felt like I had a lot left in the tank last night, so hopefully with some better pacing next week, I'll pick up a few more seconds.

Monday, May 3, 2010

race intensity

The weather radar looked apocalyptic on Sunday morning, so I skipped the CB race. But, the bad weather slid east of us, so I won't be getting my AMS approval any time soon.

I ended up doing a "race intensity" workout in the afternoon. My route for that these days is to head west on Sherman to Caves road, then take Caves down to Pekin, and head back to Bass Lake Road. There aren't any big hills on the route, but there are plenty of rollers.

The noteworthy thing about the ride is it actually was at race intensity. I was pretty satisfied by that effort. It seems like I'm through the early season muddling phase, and am now building up toward July and the Tour of the Valley.

Sherman Road seems like a pretty good way to evaluate my fitness. When I ride a race-like tempo, the little rollers push me into the red in rapid succession. In the early season, I'll blow up after only two or three of them. Once I get in shape, I can absorb the effort and keep the tempo going.

So, the next couple of months, I'll be cranking up the intensity a notch or two and also stretching the length of the rides a little bit. Also, I'm going to try a new tactic to burn some fat--doing early morning rides at recovery pace in addition to my normal routine.

Friday, April 30, 2010

painesville to chardon

I did my first sustained time trial type effort of the season on Thursday.

It was one of those rides where I decided on the route based on the automotive mayhem on the roads. I started off riding to the Chardon post office to mail a letter. Apparently, 3PM is rush hour in Chardon. The streets were packed with cars and I got spooked by the erratic driving I saw. I set out with a vague plan to head south to Chagrin, but decided to try to avoid traffic as much as possible, and went north instead and got to side roads as soon as possible.

I decided to head up to Painesville, then ride back to Chardon on the bike paths at TT pace. Painesville to Chardon is actually a tough route--you never get a break from gravity as you try to escape from the Lake. It's a gradual uphill that gains about 700 feet over 10 miles with a few steeper pitches and little rolling descents along the way. It's pretty good for a high power workout, except for all the cross roads that break up the effort, but oh well, almost every road around here is like that.

I was pleased with my power output over the 30 minute effort, and that gives me some confidence in how I've been training so far this season. I pushed a big gear at 85 rpm and was pretty comfortable in the mid 300's.

It's going to be interesting to see what time I get at Jim's TT on May 13th with my current conditioning and my new wheels.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

westlake #2

I missed the opener of the Westlake season last week. Work and the weather cooperated this week, and I was able to make the drive out to the bus garage for the second race in the series.

To "B" or not to "B" was the question for this season. Last year, I started out doing the "A" race and managed to finish with the field early in the year. At about the mid-point of the season, though, I was getting dropped on a regular basis. I'm not entirely sure how my fitness matches up with last year, so I decided to ride the "B" race instead of starting the season off on a negative note. But if I was going to ride the "B" race, I'd attack all the time, and stay at the front as much as possible.

The temperature was in the upper 40's and there was a 10-20 mph cross wind on Ranney Parkway when we got started. I think there were less than 20 riders in the "B" field. On the second lap, a couple guys from Cleveland Tri attacked and got a good gap. I paced the field back up to them pretty quickly.

The three of us stayed at the front for much of the rest of the race. A young guy from Spin had a solo attack and was away for four laps or so. I made several efforts to get away, but I got caught every time.

I decided I'd take a flyer from 1 kilometer out at the finish instead of getting mixed up in the sprint. Another rider did the exact same thing just as I was accelerating out of the field, so I lost the element of surprise. But I doubt it would have mattered, I was a little too fatigued to really kick that hard.

My average power was 225W. Last year, in one of the "A" races I finished, the average was 205W. It's higher because I was on the front quite often, but in the "A" race, I just followed wheels.

However, there's a huge gap between the "A" race difficulty and the "B" race. For example, out of turn 2 onto Ranney Parkway in the "A" race, I would crank out 1000+ W on every lap with an out of the saddle sprint. In the "B" race, I only did that a few times, and not for very long. Also, in the "A" race, the speed gets over 30 mph on pretty much every lap. In the "B" race, my 1 km attack got up to 29.3 mph for a while, but that was my maximum speed for the night.

So here's my conclusion, the "B" race is too easy, but the "A" race can be too hard for me. I think our club rides are harder than the "B" race, so probably provide more training benefit.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reynolds Assault Wheels One Month Later

I've had my Reynolds Assault wheels for a little more than a month. I've put more than 600 miles on them so far, so here's an updated review.

Initially, the braking performance of the wheels and brake pads was terrible. A panic stop from high speed was impossible. Slowing on a steep downhill required an all out squeeze of the brake levers. Also braking could cause a very loud screech under certain circumstances. Both problems are gone. It seems like it just took a while to remove the slick coating on the surface of the rim that contacts the brakes. The carbon-specific brake pads seem to have a short life span. I'll probably replace the pads in the next couple of weeks.

I haven't abused the wheels too much, but I haven't babied them, either. I've bombed over the brick roads in Chagrin, and tackled rough pavement in southern Geauga county, but the wheels are still true. They seem to be quite strong.

In gusty cross winds, the deep rims can catch the wind and knock the front end around a little. It's particularly noticeable on high speed downhills, but even then, it's no big deal. I doubt I'd choose to ride traditional rims due to windy conditions.

When I'm out of the saddle sprinting, or jamming over small hills, the wheels seem more efficient. I don't really know how to actually measure that--it's just a feeling.

At some point, I'll actually measure the aerodynamic performance of the wheel compared to traditional wheels. It feels like the wheels provide some small advantage when rolling at speeds over 20 mph, but I could also just be in better shape than last year. I think it will be interesting to get some data--on the other hand, I doubt I'll soon get a day where there's no wind, and I've got enough free time to do it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


When I woke up this morning, it was drizzling but I could see some clear patches of sky, and the radar was clear, so I decided to make the trip down to the Covered Bridge course for my first race of the 2010 season. I still wasn't 100% committed to the idea of racing while I was driving there. The rain never got past drizzle though, and it looked like it could clear up at any moment, so I kept going.

The temperature was about 40 degrees, but felt much colder. I was freezing when I pinned the numbers on and got dressed. I wore leg warmers, and a Craft base layer and long sleeve jersey. I took a spin to see how I felt. Not bad, but not great either, so I had no idea how I'd fare in the race.

When we rolled off for the start, the rain turned more persistent. It was a light drizzle. I decided if it poured, I'd just call it a day.

I stayed up near the front on the first two laps. The pace was quite comfortable. On the third lap, I felt pretty crappy. I was probably overheating in spite of the cold and wet weather. An attack went off the front, and I got gapped, and didn't have the motivation to chase. I ended up doing another two laps before my feet froze and I packed it in.

That's the coldest I've been on a bike. I shivered for the first 30 minutes of my drive back home even with the heater on full blast.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

rest week--not really

I planned a rest week to coincide with my trip out to Las Vegas for a trade show this week. I was hoping to enter the weekend feeling rested and refreshed, but I'm still dragging ass and the Covered Bridge race is tomorrow. But, of course, it's snowing right now, and if the weather sucks tomorrow, I'll put off my 2010 debut race to Westlake on Tuesday.

Vegas was cool to see. I went there for the NAB show, which is an exhibit for all the companies that make stuff for TV production and broadcast. All kinds of technology was on display, from cameras to editing equipment, to satellite trucks. 3D TV's and technology were all over the place. I watched a couple demos, which gave me instant eye fatigue. I'm not so sure it's going to catch on in the current format.

I waited for the last day I was out there to rent a car and head out into the mountains and see the Hoover Dam and do some hiking and climbing around. The scenery was spectacular, and the sandstone and basalt made for some fun climbing.

It was a great trip, but not exactly relaxing and refreshing. I didn't get over my jet lag until the day I left. Also, I ended up doing lots of miles of walking, a longish run from my hotel up to the pawn shop that's featured in the show Pawn Stars, and climbed around in the mountains for a few hours. Hopefully I'll get a workout in today and clear out the cobwebs.

By the way, the pawn shop is pretty underwhelming--it's a hole in the wall. It looks like it is undergoing a renovation.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rock Creek-Roubaix

I had a great weekend of riding. Saturday, I got out with Chris and we did a hilly loop from Chardon down to Painesville and back on the roads around Big Creek. Then Sunday, I did Jim Behrens's Rock Creek-Roubaix Ride.

Jeff Craft devised the route around Rock Creek on gravel roads, dirt roads, and some deteriorated pavement. Like last year, there were a whole lotta punctures due to the gravel roads. Over the winter, I bought a couple of 28 mm Continental Vectran touring tires for use on gravel, but last night I capriciously decided to go with 25 mm tires and Caffe Latex filled tubes. That didn't work out so well. I punctured on the second gravel section, then again a few minutes later, then the third and final time a few minutes later.

The Caffe Latex stuff didn't work at all, and just made a huge mess. The thing that solved my puncture problem was to let a big gap open so I could see any danger spots and steer around them. When I was following wheels too closely, I rolled over some pretty gnarly rocks and holes in the road.

The highlight of the ride was Way Road. It is literally a farm path; two tractor wheel ruts that cut between farm fields. Since it was so dry, we were able to haul ass. There were several deep ruts along the way, and some tree limbs were down across the path that I needed to bunny hop. Then finally, a happy farm dog ran out to play with us/chase us down the path.

It was a fun ride with a good group of people. Next weekend, I'll be starting my racing season.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

kirtland chardon road

Even though yesterday's ride was long, it wasn't too intense, so I felt great today and decided to finally go and do a timed ride up Kirtland-Chardon Road hill.

I did a quick loop out Mitchell's Mill and through the Arboretum, then over to Wisner Road and Kirtland Chardon.

I decided to try a "panic-stop" to test the stopping power of my new carbon wheels and brake pads on the bridge at the base of the Kirtland Chardon hill. Yow! Compared to an aluminum brake surface, at best, that was a gradual stop. But, on the bright side, I doubt I could lock up the wheels from 40 mph if I tried.

The hill is a stair step climb. The steepest part of the climb is right at the start, then it transitions to a long 5% section. Usually, I try to start off slow, then accelerate on the flatter part, but today, I just went for it from the bottom and didn't worry about pacing myself. So, it's not such a surprise that I cracked a little bit near the top of the climb, but once I recovered a bit, I managed to get out of the saddle and do something resembling a sprint.

In spite of the headwind, I managed an 8:43, which isn't too bad for me, but is almost a minute slower than my best time last year. Paradoxically, I felt pretty strong on the steep sections, but was really struggling on the flatter parts of the climb. I'd like to get a personal best time on the climb this year. I'll be happy if I get close to 7 minutes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

eagle road

I was feeling pretty anti-social today, so I did a solo ride down to Chagrin Falls via Eagle Road and Chagrin River Road. I haven't been on Eagle Road for several years. I forgot how nice that area is. There are some steep little hills and the roads are narrow and have lots of character. But on the down side, there was quite a bit of traffic.

Since the temperatures were in the upper 70s, there were lots of people out riding on Chagrin River Road. I tried to keep my pace at about 20 mph, which was actually pretty difficult since the wind out of the South was picking up throughout the day. I passed some recreational riders who seemed to be regretting their decision to go out and ride on such a windy day.

My drive train needs an overhaul. It sounds like a rat and a hamster are having a knife fight in a rusty sewing machine. I think the pulley wheels of the rear derailleur are shot. Also, my BB needs to be tightened again, and was creaking every time I got out of the saddle, so it looks like I'll be doing some wrenching on Monday night.

I wanted to ride the second half of the trip with more intensity and try to ignore fatigue as much as possible. It was definitely easier to do that on a warm day, also by the time I was heading home, I had a ripping tail wind which provided some motivation to ride fast. On the gradual downhills, I was hitting 35-40 mph without even pedaling.

My lower back was pretty tired by the time I got back to Chardon and I was really fatigued. I thought I had been drinking plenty of water, but I dropped 5 pounds on the 3 hour ride!

Friday, April 2, 2010

march wrap up

I transitioned from cross country skiing to cycling in March. Skiing helps to preserve some base level of fitness, but doesn't seem to translate directly to on-bike fitness. Similarly, the work I've been doing in the weight room has led to good leg strength, but it still took most of the month for the power meter readings to creep up to "normal" values.

I've settled into a pattern of doing high intensity, but pretty short rides during the week, then doing longer rides on the weekends. This year, compared to last, I started working on top end power early in the season, and am not doing many long tempo rides. Last March I somehow managed to do 37 hours. This year, I managed to do 28 hours.

I feel stronger than last year at this time, but haven't done any serious testing yet. For April, I'll crank up the overall volume a little bit and start adding in some longer intervals.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

sherman road

I got out for a training ride in the nice sunny weather this afternoon. I didn't have a whole lot of time, so I did a tough ride out Sherman Road. I started at the Bass Lake end of the road, and went out to Caves Road, then looped back home up Mullberry Road hill.

Today, I drilled it on the climbs, but took it easy on the flats and descents. Even so, the ride kicked my ass. The first three rollers felt easy. I managed to crest the hills while I was accelerating and had some speed. By the fourth hill, I dug deep but blew up just before the top. It was the same story out to Caves. I just soft pedaled over to Mullberry to recover, then headed for the hill.

By the time I got to the big climb of the day, the temperature was getting close to 70! It is a lot easier to crank out decent power in warmer temperatures, so the climb didn't feel like a total struggle.

It was only a 90 minute workout, but my legs were fried at the end.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

club ride

We had a group of eight for the club ride today. We ended up doing the 32 mile loop from last week, which is probably pretty good preparation for the early season races, since it's got so many little hills. The route starts at The Rookery in Munson, climbs 300 feet up Cedar Road hill, then heads east out Butternut Road to Hale Road, then cuts into Burton. We stopped for coffee on Burton Square, then continued south along Rapids Road down into the river valley. Then we cut west on Stafford Road and Franks, and eventually head back on Rockhaven Road.

In the weeks leading up to the club ride last weekend, I pretty much ran myself into the ground with lifting and doing several high intensity rides, so my legs were sore and tired even before we got started. This week, though, I took a rest week, and cut the volume and intensity way down, so I felt pretty fresh.

I felt much better during the ride than last week. I didn't knock myself out on the longer inclines, so I had to chase a little bit to catch up to the group a couple of times once on Rapids Road and on Music Street. The Rapids Road effort was like a TT, since the guys at the front were pouring it on.

By the end of the ride, my legs were pretty toasted, but they weren't totally shredded like last week, so I should be able to get in a workout tomorrow and pile on the intensity again for the next couple of weeks leading into the season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

coaching tips

This is the first installment in a series of coaching tips.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

cold wind

I went riding today with Chris, Dave, and John. We left from The Rookery and went out to Burton via Cedar Road and Butternut, then swung south on Rapids Road, and worked west on some of the awesome crappy roads of southern Geauga County. For me, Franks Road was probably the highlight of the trip. It's a chipseal road that's deteriorated so it's more like dirt. You have to hug the side of the road to find a smooth path.

Route Profile from Chris' Garmin

There aren't many flat spots on that route and we rode a pretty good pace for most of it. My quads were complaining right after we got started and I blew up a couple of times. I guess I've accumulated some muscle damage in the past couple of weeks and added quite a bit more today. Every one of those little rollers shows up as a spike in my power meter log.

The temperature conditions were pretty tricky today. It started off cool, warmed up by the middle of the ride, and by the time I was heading home, I was freezing again. I'll be feeling this ride for a few days.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reynolds Assault Wheels First Impressions

I built up my Reynolds Assault carbon clinchers with Continental 4000s and an Ultegra cassette. The front wheel with tire, tube and skewer weighs in at 1040 grams. The rear wheel is 1490 grams. (versus 980 g and 1390 g for my WH7850 wheels or 160 grams more total) It's pretty amazing that the tires, tubes, and cassette add 1000 grams.

Since this is my first set of deep section carbon wheels, I spent some time thinking up a clear cut test to see if there is any performance gain over traditional wheels. I figure a good and simple test will be to roll down a hill from a dead stop through a valley and coast to a stop on the opposite hill and see which wheel set rolls farther. But I'll have to wait for a calm day.

I got out for my first ride with the wheels today. I was sort of hoping for a sonic boom to happen as the wheels magically cut through the air, but of course that didn't happen. In fact, the wheels felt like every other set of wheels I've ridden. I expected the wheels to get knocked around in the 12 mph winds, but I hardly noticed that. I only noticed that the different weight distribution felt weird on the first couple of downhills I did. 

Hopefully I'll get a chance to get some real performance comparisons with my other wheels sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Since the weather this weekend was pretty lousy, I decided to change up my training a little bit. I lifted on Saturday then did some vertical leap plyos. Then on Sunday, I went to Best Nature Preserve and jogged from park bench to park bench and did a set of plyos at each.

Wow, that's a tough workout. By the time I finished the final set, my legs were shredded and I just managed a shuffling walk back to the car.

Hopefully the weather will clear up tomorrow and I'll get a chance to try out my new wheels.

Friday, March 12, 2010

a whole week!

Punderson Lake: 65 Degree Day!

I was out on the bike all week, and yesterday I wore shorts and a short sleeve jersey and did an easy ride from Chardon down to Punderson State Park. The road is still grimy from salt and cinders (did you know cinders are a byproduct of coal burned in power plants?) and I hit a couple mega-floods of melt water, but the snow is all but gone.

Last year, Chris and I scouted Punderson as a possible course for some future race. The park was pretty willing to listen to a plan last summer, but it was going to be tricky to manage the traffic, so we weren't able to move ahead. I rode down there yesterday to see what it's like in the early spring.

There were actually quite a few people walking and jogging. Traffic on the park roads was light. Nobody passed me in the 20 minutes or so I was there, but there were a few cars parked in lots. The most interesting section of the roads, with an ascent and a tricky sweeping turn on a downhill, is not plowed over the winter, but it would probably be pretty easy to get that opened up for a race.

Hopefully, after the Chippewa Creek Road Race, we'll have a little more experience in managing the traffic on a park road course and see a way to manage a race at Punderson someday.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

a must see video

I can almost guarantee you'll be smiling after you watch a minute of this guy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

creaky start

We had our first mini "training camp" today. We rode out of Beartown Lakes Reservation in Geauga County.

We did two repeats of a little TTT around a 3 mile loop of some pretty crappy roads: Auburn, Winchell, Frost, and Harner. Frost and Harner roads are right up there near the top of the list of worst paved roads around here, especially since the plows worked them over this winter. But that also means there is hardly any traffic.

For me, the first effort was pretty good. The second time around my quads were pretty unhappy getting over the little rolling hills and were tired for the rest of the ride. It's going to be a while before my legs are race ready!

From there we headed down to Hiram Rapids and did a couple medium sized climbs before heading for home.

Apart from a couple mechanical mishaps, it was a good day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

equipment upgrade debate

Over the winter, I mulled over which upgrades I'll make to my cycling gear for the 2010 season. As the sun started shining on a daily basis, I made up my mind.

Aerodynamic wheels would be a good addition to my arsenal. Last year, I bought a pair of Shimano WH7850 carbon clinchers. The wheels are pretty nice, but the front wheel is just too light for me to use. It goes out of true after every ride. The rear wheel is nuke proof. Too bad they didn't include a couple extra spokes on the front.

I mulled over a purchase of Zipp 404 tubulars. I figured if I'm going to blow that much money to try to obtain a performance gain, it doesn't make sense to get the clincher version. I know I would at first stash the wheel away as my race only set, but they'd end up on the bike all the time and I'd chew up several sets of tubular tires in a season. That's not so practical for me. Zipps.

Reynolds Assault carbon clinchers rose to the top of my list after some research. They're all carbon and spec'ed at 1525 grams and are reputed to be very strong. The front wheel has 20 spokes, a reasonable number for a heavy rider like me. I should be able to ride with those as my everyday wheel for training, and also race with them.

I think I'll also add a TT bike to the stable sometime soon. The main event on my calendar this year is the Tour of the Valley and riding the prologue Merckx style just doesn't cut it. Also, I'll make the trip out to Presque Isle this year for the TTs.

I've been looking at power meter options for a while. My only real complaint with the iBike is that it flakes out in the cold (under 40 degree) weather. It relies on tiny single use batteries, and the cold weather adversely affects their chemistry. Some people hacked a solution. On some rides the cold weather fail irritates me enough to want to get something new, but once it warms up, I won't care, so I'm going to stick with the iBike.