Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PERILS OF THE HARD OF HEARING

     When I ride in a group I'm pretty much silent.  Conversing with me is always an adventure.  Given that I'm deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other, and that I remove my hearing aid when riding, it is easier to remain mute rather than ask someone to repeat themselves, in what is usually a banal remark anyhow.
     Given that background, I had a really fun evening last night.  This year's inaugural Monday Night ride out of Pflugerville had us going on a generally north-south loop and included some roads I was unfamiliar with.  I vaguely remember going the other way on one section, but that isn't germane to the narrative.  Because we have several miles of in-town riding I brought along my GoPro in case something interesting occurred.
     Nothing did.  We did pass an exotic animal farm and saw some zebras.
 Rather than erase the recording immediately, I started going through it to see if I had the zebra.  As I sat watching and listening (with my hearing aid) on the big-screen computer, I heard a strange thump-thump-thump.  Yes, that was me thumping along.  I'm surprised my companions hadn't mentioned how annoying I was.  Of course, I didn't hear a thing.  I was familiar with the sound.  If I don't position the mini-pump in its holder just right, the pedal clips it on each rotation.  With the wind at our backs, I was doing about 80 rpm.  Apparently on some of the rougher roads, the pump shifted position.
     Well, I went out to correct the situation this afternoon only to find I no longer had a mini-pump in its holder.  Gone.  Pook, ding-fu!  Now, the mini-pump is a redundancy, in that my primary air is compressed.  When I'm expecting difficulties I even carry two cartridges.  In the last fifteen years, I've only needed the mini once.  But when you have a bad day, and ruin all your tubes and cartridges and still need air, this is there.  I guess I'll be off to Bicycle Sport Shop for a replacement.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

POST RACE INTROSPECTION USING STATS

     The previous post was bare-bones reporting.  But in re-reading, I stopped to ruminate about the lack of speed going downhill with the wind.  I also postulated that I didn't utilize the much-needed 11 cog.  I have a spread sheet going back ten years.  Occasionally I actually go back to see what I've done, but mostly I ignore the stats.  The bulk of my riding is recreational, so there isn't much to be gleaned by poring over them.  I did pick up a nugget this afternoon.
     But first a pearl of wisdom: If you know what you have to do to achieve a goal, but don't do it and don't achieve your goal, then you have no one  but yourself to blame.  I've known for years that to get faster I need to up my cadence from 80 to 90.  Yes, Todd and Dan, you've told me time and again.  I've also procrastinated, starting in fits and spurts to spin, but always coming up with an excuse to fall off that wagon.  With the addition of a cadence counter (Garmin GS-10 donated by Jason Wright, thank you again) to my trainer bike, I'm getting serious about the cadence.  I've had to come up a gear as I get used to it, but can achieve 90 rpm for three five-minute stretches.  I've yet to train outside using cadence to control the effort.
     Which brings me back to Saturday's races.  Besides recording on my spreadsheet, I also upload the data to the Garmin Training Center.  This creates a nice graph with multiple lines, in this case I graphed speed and cadence.  I also utilize Sheldon Brown's gear chart, having made charts for both 80 and 90 rpm.  It clearly shows in the 5k time trial I followed my game-plan of 90 rpm for about three-quarters of a mile.  Then, rather than shift to an easier gear I dropped rpm.  Sheldon Brown shows you can maintain or go faster at 90 rpm even in one smaller cog.  Ok, maybe the wind in my face was a factor.
     Then I got the wind at my back.  I was going up the incline in a big gear.  The relief I felt at getting the wind helped push me off my game-plan.  I took satisfaction in going faster: 26 mph at 79 rpm.  In looking at the chart, I apparently was in the 13 cog.  Had I been in the 14 at 90 rpm, I would have been doing 27.4.
     The downhill was worse.  I remember feeling the exhilaration of speed.  But my top speed was 29 mph at 83 rpm.  I had plenty of oomph left to ramp it up to 90, which would have put me at 31.9 mph.  I don't know if I could have, but the 11 cog at 90 rpm would have come in at 34.8 mph.  It concerns me that I was satisfied at 83 rpm.  My heart-rate graph looks like I flat-lined at 143 beats per minute (which is only 84% of max).  Perhaps the long waits to start had something to do with it.
     In any case, I have a good game plan, I just need to stick with it, keeping my mind on the race at all times.  Surely I can do that for eight minutes, or sixteen.

DALLAS SENIOR GAMES, 2017

     Lack of sponsorship had put the Dallas races on hold for several years.  However my racing partner Dean has been persistent and finally was able to put it together.  We thank the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department.  I had to cancel my 40k time trial in Beaumont (which I really like) due to conflicting dates, but the Senior Games need to be supported.  When I first started with them in 2004 there were games in Killeen, Austin, Kerrville, and San Antonio in addition to Dallas.
     I wasn't real thrilled with the weather forecast: 58-62 degrees, SSE wind at 12 mph with higher gusts, cloudy with rain/drizzle scheduled for 3pm.  Our race course was the outer road around the Dallas Motor Speedway, five miles per loop.  The agenda was the same as last week: 5k time trial, 10k time trial starting a half hour after the 5k, and a 20k road race starting a half hour after the 10k finished.  And like last week, I had on shorts and tights, base layer under the skin suit, arm warmers.  I did my warm-up lap with my fleece pullover.
     There were seven competitors signed up for my age group.  Only three of us showed up to race.  Well, I'm there to ride hard and let the medals fall where they may.  Racing commenced at 9am with the younger guys going first, at thirty second intervals.  My time was 9:20.  I wandered by the start line about 9:10 only to find there had been a mix-up resulting in no one being at the finish line.  They quickly got that sorted out, but that pushed everything back about a half hour.  I went back to sit in the car.  Who would have thought 60 degrees could be so cold.
     For the most part, time trials are pretty boring, in that you pedal has hard as you can until the finish line.  Last week I had difficulties when I started in the small chain ring and couldn't get the derailleur to shift to the big ring in a timely fashion.  This week I started in the big ring, just a few cogs higher.  The wind was significant, especially for me who has real difficulties in it.  For this course, we started into the wind, sometimes on my shoulder and a short space from the left side.  But about half-way the road turned, putting the wind at our backs.  Even up hill (more precisely, an incline) I was moving around 24 mph.  Then the downhill I hit 29 mph and should have pushed harder.  I think I stopped at the 12 cog and didn't drop to the 11 (after correcting all the troubles with that).  Dang!  My time of an estimated 8:05 (official times not yet posted) garnered me a silver medal, but more importantly was in the neighborhood of my times from several years ago.  Of course, the wind played a big factor.
     The wait for the start of the 10k had my body cooling down, as I sat in the car protecting myself from the weather and refueling with Clif bar, Nuun, and pickle juice.  About fifteen minutes before my start time, I cycled down to the start line about a quarter-mile away.  The wind had picked up and temperature dropped a few degrees.  Everyone was shivering.  I contemplated what I could do and had a eureka moment: put my rain jacket under the skin suit.  Back to the car to implement.  That also included taking off the arm warmers and putting them back on over the rain jacket sleeves.  Who knew, three layers on my chest in only 58 degrees.  But I stayed comfortably warm and not over-heated.
     The 10k course consisted of a full loop plus the requisite mile and a third.  But the fly in this ointment was the second half of the course.  I breezed through the first 5k, although top speed of only 28 mph, and continued on until a slight curve now put me into a severe cross-wind.  My deep dish Zipps had me concentrating on keeping a straight line.  Another curve to the right and the road turned up (2%).  About a half mile into a headwind.  It lessened somewhat, to where I would call it flat, but the Garmin vacillated between 1 and 2% to the finish.    Again, we have to wait for the official time, but I suspect my gold performance was within a second or two of the silver.  In fact, I was berating myself for not pushing harder after turning around at the finish line and seeing how close my competitor was.
     I noodled back to the car, now about two miles away.  Once there I switched front wheels on the road bike, going with the Zipp 404, and put the TT bike in the car, then myself.  Another wait.
     The weather looked ominous, but the forecast continued to show 3 pm.  Our start time of 1pm should get us done, with medal ceremonies before 3.  With seniors, you generally have a natural selection between age groups, so rather than each 5-year category starting separately, this time it was guys under 65 and those over.  I think the ladies were all one group.  This puts a premium on staying in the peloton as long as possible.  I did this successfully last week.
     Since we started into the wind, the young guys (65-69) held back some, so I picked a nice broad shoulder to hide behind, and whizzed through the first few miles.  The pace picked up with the wind at our backs and I was over 30 mph before hitting the crosswind.  Ah, wasn't thinking.  The prime position I had on the right side of the road left me without shelter with the crosswind from the right.  I immediately realized the problem but wasn't quick enough to correct it.  In the blink of an eye, a gap opened and I couldn't get it back.  Alone, alone, all, all, alone.  Ten yards, twenty yards, fifty yards.  Regular readers know I only do road races for the training, even though I occasionally have a decent result.  This was good training, as my quads this morning can attest.  So I finished last in my age group (but not last overall), but that still got me a bronze medal.  I take my medal count tongue-in-cheek, but still, I was faster than all those who don't show up to race.  Racing for me is just another form of exercise, another way to stay healthy.
     Dean had the podiums ready for the ceremonies.  With the weather deteriorating and the wind picking up, they moved all the remaining racers and the medal table into a canopy with sides.  No podiums, very few pictures, just announcing the winners and handing them the medals.
  Truly, I thought I won the 5k and came in second in the 10k, but it was announced the other way around.  In any case, after receiving the bronze I headed for the car at 3 pm.  Just as the sprinkles started.  A quick potty stop and a three hour drive home in the rain.  Three weeks before the next race: Senior Games State Finals in San Antonio.  Hopefully I'll find some more form by then.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

BRAZOS VALLEY SENIOR GAMES, 2017

     But first, an update on my cassette problem, now solved.  There was nothing wrong with my 11 tooth cog.  It seems that in shifting cassettes back and forth, I managed to switch the Dura Ace lock ring from the CS 7900,  Yes, this fits a ten-cog cassette but with a 12 tooth cog.  For the 11 tooth you need a little more space for the chain to engage.  Thanks to Paul at Bicycle Sport Shop for sleuthing this out.  For the flat course in College Station, I wasn't even close to needing it, however it will come into play shortly.
     After last year's poor showing, I worked real hard on improving in the off-season.  Actually, I intended to work hard but coming into February, my training had been sporadic, with nothing long.  Then came the six-hour two-man "race" at Pace Bend.  I was very pleased with my endurance, not so much with the speed.  I put long distance on the shelf for a while and worked on cadence and repeats.  Also, every year except last year I went to spin class once a week.  This year I'm back to being a regular.
     I didn't bring enough cold-weather gear.  Mid-40's with a slight north-east wind.  That's in-your-face for the 5k and back-left-shoulder for the finish of the 10k.  I had tights and arm warmers plus a base layer.  I had a wind breaker.  I needed my heavy bike jacket.  The Redskin pullover would have to do until race time.  My warm-up in College Station is the same: ride the 10k course, which is one lap with four right turns and a slight uphill toward the finish.  The 5k runs south-to-north, point-to-point.  About half way through I realized my body was quite comfortable with the temperature and the wind not so bad.  I guesstimated twenty-two minutes to get back to the car; it took twenty-five minutes forty-eight seconds.  I took that as an omen (but after getting home and checking last year, it was two seconds faster).
     There is no drama with this race.  It runs quite smoothly, everyone doing their job.  I get a little antsy before a race, and usually forget something.  For the 5k, I was ready early and rode the mile or so to the start line and twiddled for about fifteen minutes.  I figured out which gear to start in, and reviewed my strategy: high cadence for the first half, and more gears for the second (it has downhills).  This worked to my advantage, in that for the first time ever, there was an "oopsy" and the finish line was set up at 1.77 miles rather than 3.1.  A really short race.  As it turned out, my time was good enough for first place.  Last year Dean beat me.  Regular readers know that Dean and I have been competing since 2004, and team up for team time trials, either two-man or three-man.  We came in second in 2009, the last time we didn't come in first.
     Things happen, we got over it and prepared for the 10k.  By the way, for the races I divested myself of the pullover and the wind jacket and had tight clothes to cheat the wind.  I was fairly sure I would come in first.  For whatever reason, I changed my start-strategy and went with the small chain ring and mid-range cog.  With a slight wind at my back, I figured to bring it up to speed quicker that way.  Should have known better than to trust that shift.  I accelerated quickly and pulled the lever.  Nothing happened.  More pull, more nothing.  Pook, ding-fu!!  Flashing in my head was me doing the whole thing cross-chaining in the small cogs.  I moved down a gear and the front derailleur had pity on me.  I concentrated on cadence into the right-shoulder wind, a right turn and some downhill into the wind, then finally some relief on the last right turn and a favorable wind.  I surprised myself how low in the cogs I was going.  Even going up a grade I held a decent gear, and still had a little oomph at the end.  I'm still waiting for the official times, but my best guess is, even finishing first, I'm about fifteen seconds slower than last year.

     We had about an hour before the start of the 20k road race.  Usually I skip the 20k and do the 40k, figuring my competitors will have tired their legs.  But with my lack of distance training, this year I decided to do the 20k.  I switched out my front wheel, going with the Zipp 404 from the time trial bike.  In the past I would also change the back wheel, but not this year.
     There weren't many competitors doing the road race, so it was divided into 64-and-under and 65-and-over for the start.  We stayed in our 5-year categories, but it was just me and Dean in the 75-79 group.  Since we started in 2004 I've never beaten Dean.  I've won two road races, one at State, but in those Dean wasn't there.  Mostly I finish last or at least not close to the winner.  It's still fun.  Anyway, when going with the faster young guys (and gal), my only priority was not to get dropped early.  Therefore I expended a lot of energy finding a wheel (most of the time my other team time trial partner Tom) and staying in the draft.  This is twice the 10k loop, and all went according to plan.  That is, the young guys didn't get serious until a couple miles from the end, so I stayed fourth or fifth wheel for the first loop.  Starting the second lap a gap opened and before I could come around and close it, someone else did.  We were still together, but now the four older folks were in the back, and I was last, resigned to my fate.
     On the back side, into the wind, the leaders tried some leg-breakers.  That worked out well for me, in that I needed the breather.  The last right turn and I started gearing down, knowing the acceleration was about to come.  It did, but not as devastating as I expected.  We were still hanging together.  About a half mile from the end is an incline where I thought I'd be waving good-bye.  Well, the young guys were gone, but us four were together.  It would come down to a sprint, slightly uphill.  Since I was in the back, I should have been first to jump.  Because of my past experiences of poor finishes, I waited until everyone else jumped.  However, I had time to get into a good, low gear, so when I ramped up the cadence, I found myself passing Dean and Deb (national champion in Cleveland, four races, four gold).  The one in front (Gerry) wasn't in our age group, so I managed my third gold in a road race.
     I can't say enough good about Brazos Valley and the College Station Parks and Rec Department.  They are easy to work with, have dedicated volunteers, and a good race course. The 5k hiccup was disappointing, but I didn't detect any rancor from the racers.  Things happen, get over it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

CASSETTE WOES

     My previous post described the switching I did to get my road bike (Roark) ready to race.  Well, after the race I needed to reverse actions to get things back to normal.  In my first book,  Bicycle Journeys with Jerry, I opine that I'm a mechanical klutz and other than keeping the chain lubricated, leave maintenance to the mechanics at Bicycle Sport Shop.  I've progressed since then, but still require help when things get technical.
     It seemed straightforward, take off the two cassettes and put them back on to their regular wheels.  I used the Park chain whip without a problem removed the cassette from the Zipp and cleaned the cogs before remounting them on the Rolf wheels.  The time trial cogs, mounted on the Rolf wheels as an emergency back-up, came off-and-on in one smooth action.  I was rather happy at how easy it was.
      I put the Roark on the rack, spun the cranks and ran the chain up and down the cogs.  Smooth.  Ready to roll.  I put the Felt on the rack, spun the cranks, smooth.  Until I got to the 12 tooth cog (smallest).  Clack, clack, clack.  Dang!  For the next twenty minutes I went over everything.  I saw that the chain rubbed the front derailleur but couldn't understand why that would be since I touched nothing other than installing the wheel back on the bike.  Naturally, I took the wheel off and made sure I hadn't missed a spacer on added one.  All was good with the shifting until I got to the small cog.  Time to go to the experts.
     They are always so helpful and solicitous when I walk in pushing my Felt (they are when I bring in my Roark, too).  I explained the mysterious clacking and was assured they'd be back in a minute with the explanation.  Several minutes went by.  I needed a new bottle of chain lubricant, so purchased that and took it to the car and came back and waited some more.  It took quite a while, but they sleuthed until finding the answer: the cog was bent (out of alignment).   Pook, ding fu!  They also did a little adjusting, so that shifting remained smooth.
     Back home, I removed the wheel, took my magnifying glass and closely examined the cog.  I could see nothing wrong or out of the ordinary.  I put the wheel on the Roark, and got the same clacking result.  It's not that I distrusted the diagnosis, I just wanted to see what I'd missed.  I'm guessing I must have hit it somehow when putting it back on the bike.  Bah! So now I need a new 12 tooth Dura Ace cog.  I sure as heck don't want to purchase a whole new cogset.  I have several options, including using the Ultegra set on the Roark.  But races are just around the corner and I need to make up my mind.
     

Sunday, February 5, 2017

PACE BEND 6-12-24

     First, my hat's off to the twelve and twenty-four hour riders, and their crew.  Cold and drizzle is no fun.  Same to the six hour solo riders.
     Continuing from the previous post, since I decided to switch to the road bike, several changes had to be made.  While I really like my bomb-proof, fifteen year-old Rolf Vector Pros, there is no denying the Zipps roll faster.  So, I switched wheels.  But, if I wanted to stay in the big ring (more on that shortly), I had to also switch my 11-32 cogset to the Zipps.  I lubed the chain but didn't bother cleaning the bike since it was going to get filthy anyhow.  And, I went with Continental 4000's rather than racing tires.  So my bike was ready.
     Next, clothing.  I packed all my rain gear: booties, helmet cover, pants, jacket.  Given the forecast, I only expected to wear the jacket, but better safe than sorry.  I packed four kit changes, four pair of socks, tights, four shirts for base layers, one of which actually was a base layer garment.  Clif bars and a tube of Nuun, a gallon of water, one water bottle.  Two of my kits were skin suits, two regular jerseys.  I was hoping for maybe a dry lap, didn't happen.  I was prepared for riding, not prepared for waiting.  Angela brought her Snuggie.  I wished I had one to bring.
     On to the race itself.  We're talking fifty degrees and more or less racing in a cloud.  The road was wet, sometimes more wet than others, with sometimes drizzle messing with your glasses, sometimes not.  A light wind, but you could tell when it was in your face.  Lots of rollers, a couple of decent downhills.  Jim and I decided we would do two laps then hand off.  A lap was 6.12 (or .21 whatever), so we were looking at more or less twenty minutes for Jim and twenty-two minutes for me.  I started.
     To repeat, we were in it for fun and exercise, not that we had any expectations of placing well.  There were folks who were really serious about their racing.  That being said, I intended to give it my best.  That didn't happen (body, yes, bike no).  I knew last year that my shifters were beginning to wear out.  The left one (front chain ring) sometimes goes walkabout when I hit it.  Multiple clicks and cajoling might finally get it to switch.  This is all well and good on a recreation ride, not so much when racing.  That is why I left it in the big ring.  Well, maybe it was the cold and damp, but the right one started acting up.
     The start of the race tilts down then a big decent.  I brought the cadence up to speed and clicked for the next gear.  Nothing happened.  Four clicks later it finally moved, but by then I needed three more gears.  A whole bunch of clicking and swearing and I got it down, but by then everybody had moved away.  And because this is a rolling section, I needed some more clicks to bring it back up the cassette.  Then down, then up.  Bah!  Eventually, it started working right about 90% of the time.  Even with the shifting difficulties, I managed the first lap in twenty-one minutes.  And the second one, so I handed off to Jim after forty-two minutes.
     I waited around with a pullover, getting chilled, for his first lap, but then went to the car and changed my base layer to a dry one.  This was more of a chore than anticipated.  I made a big mistake in choosing my old skin suit to start the race.  It is one piece, with long sleeves.  To change the base layer, I needed to wriggle out of the upper part.  That accomplished, it was back to the pit to await my second section.  An aside, being old and cold means an over-active bladder.  Going in the skin suit was quite a chore.
     Jim was right on time, I was not.  I thought I was ready but had forgotten to take off my clip covers.  We lost maybe a minute, not that it mattered.  I thought my second section went faster than the first, but alas, I lost fifty-three seconds for the two loops.  This time I didn't wait for the cold to set in, but took a change of clothes to the car.  Picture this: sitting in the passenger seat, divesting a jacket, sweat shirt, rain jacket, then putting on a dry base layer and jersey, then removing the tights and replacing the shorts.  Fortunately the parking area was devoid of people.  I delayed putting on the rain jacket since it was wet inside and out.  Anyhow, I missed cheering Jim on for his second lap.
     He was a model of consistency.  I thought my third go around had more wind and a tad heavier drizzle.  In any case, I lost another minute.  I was protecting my protesting hamstrings.  Interesting enough, even given the cold and wet, I wasn't uncomfortable on the bike.  I certainly didn't get overheated.  I spent more minutes out of the aero bars on this go around, and my cadence slowed a bit.
     Once again I changed out the base layer, but this time it was quite easy.  I spent more time in the car with the engine running and heater blowing, and again missed Jim on his first lap.  The ladies, Annette and Angela, decided early on that they would alternate laps, thus not waiting the extra twenty minutes getting chilled.  I think my body needed the extra rest to recover.  Be that as it may, I dreaded what it would do on the forth foray.
     The hamstrings did not revolt, and I made it around, although losing another forty seconds.  Still, I originally figured forty-five minutes for the two laps, and my slowest was under that.  I packed up while Jim finished up, but managed to cheer him on to the second lap.  Done.
     I was more than done.  The race finished at 6:00 pm and awards were to be given out at 7:00 pm.  Refreshments were available, and a food truck.  I didn't think my body could handle hanging out for an hour, then the awards, then the seventy-five minute drive home in the dark and drizzle.  With apologies, I headed home.
     I slept well, but I need to spend today loosening up all the very tight areas which were abused yesterday.  All the knuckles on my hands are swollen. This afternoon I'll get my two bikes back to normal.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be back riding.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

MY TIME TRIAL BIKE

     At the Bicycle Sport Shop club kickoff party the other night several of us were discussing the upcoming Pace Bend 6-12-24 race.  I was whining about the change of venue, in that I'd planned to ride my TT bike, but would now switch to the road bike in view of the terrain and possible rain.  I then remarked that in the seven years of racing time trials on this bike, it had never (ever) been wet.  I have never washed it, only a damp cloth on occasion to remove the dust.  Raised eyebrows.  True.  If it is wet out, I train on the road bike and aero bars.  I've been lucky in that actual races were dry (except one that I did on the road bike).
     I truly love my TT bike.  Jack (of Jack and Adams) spent a whole lot of time getting me fitted just right, and I can spend fifty-five minutes in an hour in the aero position.  It is a Felt B2 Pro, with Dura Ace and Zipp 404 and 808 wheels.  I became a minute faster overnight (See my March 23, 2009 post).
     After typing the last sentence I looked up my time trial results with this bike.  I've raced 51 times in Texas and podium'd 49 of them.  At Senior Games Nationals I placed 13th and 18th, but first from Texas.  I admit that most of the races had thin fields, and were age-grouped, so I don't get too chuffed up about it.  Besides, it's the bike that makes the difference.