Monday, March 30, 2015

HAMMERFEST: 2 OUT OF 3

     Usually when I go two out of three, it is two first-place finishes and a second.  But then, that usually refers to short time trials.  It also refers to opponents who are in the 70+ age category.  I had no illusions when I signed up for Hammerfest (out in west Texas, Fort Davis to be precise).  The category was 60+ and all of the guys were ten to twelve years younger than me, plus it was all road racing.  But, my friend, Tom Cole, had been telling me about it for several years so I took the opportunity to get in a week-end of hard training.
     The agenda consisted of a fourteen-mile hill climb, which actually was ten miles of flat-ish riding with a few bumps before the steeper part (the younger groups had an additional two miles of really tough climbing) on Saturday morning and an eighteen mile race Saturday afternoon.  The afternoon race was flat for two and a half miles, then a right turn and a steady low-grade (2-4%) climb for the next fourteen and a half.  Or maybe an extra mile.  My computer only registered seventeen miles.  The Sunday morning ride was a forty-nine mile loop with an abundance of climbing.
     Since this is a cycling blog, I'll only mention we went to Marfa and Alpine on successive evenings, for a quick look and dinner (Paisano Hotel and Reata Restaurant, both very nice and accommodating my plant-based diet).
     Saturday morning was chilly.  I should be thankful for 47 degrees, it was 32 Friday morning.  But this is west Texas so we started at 47 and ended at 77 degrees an hour and a half later.  I don't have accurate stats, in that half-way through the computer turned itself off and it looks like I missed over a mile before catching it.  Anyhow, I stayed with the group for thirteen minutes before they lost me on one of the bumps.  They were doing team tactics from the start, with multiple accelerations and slowings, and that last one got me.  I settled into a rhythm and enjoyed the scenery until getting to the heavy climbing, when I concentrated more on just getting up the road.  My average speed was 8 mph, but that doesn't include the faster, missed portion.  To use a cycling term, my legs felt "blocked."  Absolutely little push in them.  Uphill, against the wind.  It wasn't fun.
     We lunched at the surprisingly very nice deli, and I rested for the afternoon race.  This time we had strong wind that would be in our face for about fifteen miles.  That sort of worked in my favor, in that I could tuck in behind some big bodies and they couldn't make a really strong break because of the wind.  They once again did some accelerations but not as strong or long as in the morning.  On one acceleration I got caught out and immediately dropped.  At least I stayed with them for six miles.  
Once on my own, cursing the wind, I settled into an 80 rpm cadence.  I dropped my water bottle and had to stop.  That cost me catching a second dropped rider with whom I had hoped to share wind-breaking duties.  It was only about thirty seconds, but I couldn't go any faster.  Again, my legs were less than optimum.  Overall, I averaged 12.5 mph, but once I lost the peloton it was more like 10.
     Given the profile of the Sunday race, its length, the high wind, and being beaten up by the wind and hills on Saturday, I decided to eschew riding on Sunday, and we drove home instead.  I have a few weeks before State time trials to get my act together.  We will see how that goes.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

POST MORTEM - FLAT

     I almost always do a fact-finding mission when I have a flat.  While flats are few and far between, I want to know, if possible, the actual cause.  Several times I've had valve failure, several times a vicious staple did me in.  I'll start at the beginning, which was the first Tuesday Night group ride out of the Bicycle Sport Shop Research store.  This is an intermediate group, which means I need my A game to keep up.
     The "highlight" of the ride is the Strava (I don't "do" Strava but merely mention it descriptively) strip on Spicewood Springs Road.
 While not in full competitive mode, I stepped it up a bit, and unfortunately hit a few potholes (small) that I normally would have avoided.  I cannot say for sure what caused the tire to lose air.  And, truthfully, it may not have been there or on Loop 360 as we headed back to the store.  In any case, at 360 and 183 I stopped to change the front tire, waving on the group since we were only about a mile from the end.  I quickly (for me, about ten minutes) changed the tube, used the compressed air cartridge to speed me along, and rode to the store.  Everything got tossed in the car.
     This morning, I brought the tire and the old tube to the kitchen to see the cause of my problem.  A sink full of water revealed the leak site.  I had not seen this type of failure before.  While it was a single pin-hole, it appeared as though something had scraped the tube before the actual puncture.
     As everyone knows, compressed air seeps through the tubes quicker than air-pump air, so I pulled out the new tube and did a thorough study of the tire, both inside and out, finding nothing out of the ordinary.  Tire and new tube are back ready for our noon ride.

I'll take the opportunity to repeat what I've written several times before: when you have a flat and are changing out the tube, take the extra time to examine the inside and outside of the tire before installing the new tube.  It only takes a minute and can save you puncturing a new tube because the wire or piece of glass is still in the tire.  By the way, I recommend a visual exam before blindly running your fingers around the tire.  Putting a hole in your finger is a bad idea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ANOTHER RE-ACQUAINTANCE: ROLLERS

     Yesterday a few friends posted about rollers.  My input consisted of saying I had unused rollers hanging in the garage.  Other than a few days last year, the rollers had been replaced by the trainer.  But, in the interest of instruction, I dragged them into the kitchen this morning (not wishing to get out in the cold and damp), and that was/will be my workout for today.
     I started out without the camera on, just in case of disaster.  It wasn't a disaster but I quickly found out it takes a few minutes to become adjusted to holding a straight line and pedaling smoothly.  I also deemed the rear tire to be sadly under-inflated.  So, I aired up the tire to be properly hard, started the camera, and began my instructional video.
     In no particular order of importance: 1) Be sure to brake the front wheel when doing the awkward mount/dismount; 2) Cadence should be above 80, better if 90 rpm; 3) Start with a gear where you don't need a lot of pressure; 4) Have something to hold on to until you are comfortably pedaling.
 The video lasts two and a half minutes.  After stopping the camera I did another fifteen. 

  video

Rollers really are a great way to get you balanced and pedaling equally with each leg.  You will start out looking at the front wheel, but as you progress your gaze should be out five, ten, twenty feet.  If you stick with it long enough, you can remove one hand.  I'm not gutsy enough to go hands-free.