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.