Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wildcat Mountain TT

Well, I think everybody dodged a bullet weather wise for this race. Heading to the staging area in my car, I saw a lightening bolt off in the distance (probably 10 miles away from the start line). I could also see rain in the area, but where I was at it was dry.

Getting set up, it was dry, but just before starting to warm up some rain drops started to fall. Some riders on the road reported some wet roads before warm up. However, due to a little wind and the rain stopping, the roads cleared up and were dry at the start. Once the races started the weather held through to the top of the climb. When we all came down, the rain hit and hit pretty hard with big rain drops and lightening.

The race it's self went well enough. The start is a 1.5 mile climb that averages around 8%, then is followed by a downhill that has some twisty sections near the bottom. From there it's a lot of false flats, low % climbs and a fewer higher % climbs.

All told it was 11.3 miles with about 2100 feet of climbing.

Last year I ran a little over 44 minutes, but with the wet weather didn't get a good idea of what I could do on the course because I took it easy on the downhill sections.

This year, I went all out, but still played it safe in a few sections ... but was able to shave off 3:40 from my time last season. Power wise I was a bit higher than last year at 333 watt average, but weighing 18 - 20 less than last year made a big difference overall.

I ended up 2nd in my category and 10th fastest time overall ... not a bad day for a bigger racer.

Next up ... Revenge of the disc in two weeks.

After that I may race the 2nd Revenge of the Disc, but may take the week off for extra training because the week after that is the two championship races (flat TT on Saturday and hill climb on Sunday). At that time my season is completed, but I may race the Eugene Celebration stage race just for the fun of it ... time will tell on that one though.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Scott Foil

I've coveted a Foil since it was first introduced ... however, the last time I needed to purchase a new road bike (crashed out in a race), nobody had one available at that time, so I ended up with a Cannondale CAAD10 (4). I liked the Cannondale a lot, handling was good, weight was good for the money and it was a good bike overall.

Recently I found a closeout 2013 Foil 40 for a great price and did the math ... sell my Cannondale, MTB and Powertap wheels and I could more or less offset the cost of most of the Foil (with a few added accessories). I'm still working on selling them, but financed the bike through 18 month 0% financing which once the items are sold and a couple more months of payment ... and it will be paid off.

The bike came in on Tuesday and I rode it into work on Wednesday for my commute (41 miles round trip). Even stock, I was pretty impressed with the bike. It felt solid both front and rear, accelerated quickly and was more comfortable than expected.

My other add on's came in on Thursday with a new set of handle bars (I needed wider bars than the stock 42cm) and a set of Boyd Carbon Clinchers (44 mm). I also switched out the saddle to my trusted Specialized Romin 155 mm. I went with the 44 mm Boyd's due to their light weight (rims only 460 grams), medium depth and solid build (24f/28r spoke count). Overall, they dropped almost a pound from the stock Shimano wheels and give the bike a much livelier feel.

I took it out for a shakedown ride on Thursday to dial in the fit and another shorter easy ride to continue dialing in the fit on Friday.

Today was my first "Big" test and ride on the bike ... 84 miles and 4600 feet of climbing on a team ride.

The bike accelerated very well and climbed extremely well ... better than expected. Out of the saddle, it feels like all power is being put into forward motion, with little bottom bracket flex. Given how stiff the frame feels out of the saddle I was happy to see how 
well the bike handles bumps. I had heard that the Foil was a very stiff ride, almost too stiff ... I however found it to "Mute" small bumps and handle bigger bumps every bit, if not better than my Cannondale.

The bikes handling was neutral. Bombing down descents was predictable and solid. Nothing unexpected or quirky about it ... just straightforward cornering, easy counter steering and simply "Predictable". In reality, you can't ask much more out of a bike than to have it do what you want with no unexpected "Surprises".

One aspect of the bike I like a lot is that it's an "Aero" bike, but doesn't really look like it. The tube shapes do make a difference at speed, but under 20 mph it doesn't seem to do a lot. Once you start hitting speeds over 20 mph is where it can be felt. Pedaling at 24 mph required less effort than in the past, going down hill was faster (I've hit higher speeds and moved way up some KOM STRAVA segments going downhill on this bike) and it handles cross winds very well. It's a bike that seems to like going fast!

After 84 miles today ... I was tired, but not beat up. 

Going into this team ride, I posted wanting to try for a local KOM that has stood for around 2 years. I had been close in the past, but was about 30 seconds short of the KOM. I had one teammate show up that wanted to go for it ... so we did.

I started out with a hard pace up the climb, then settled into a good pace that was a little above threshold. My teammate struggled a little during the first mile or so due to having a hard ride the day before, but was able to hold on until the pace came down a little. From there we were able to work together with me taking pulls on the lower % grades and him on the higher % grades, playing to our strengths on the climb.

At the top I knew we would be close having looked at the time before we started ... but not having an exact time I wasn't sure if we were able to get it until I uploaded my data. My teammate stated a time of 21:10 which would have got us the KOM. Upon uploading the ride data we did indeed get the KOM with a time of 21:06 which was 19 seconds faster than the previous KOM (this bike can climb!).

After that climb we settled into a regular riding pace given neither of us were fresh and the rest of the team didn't want to go that fast for the rest of the ride.

With all that said ... This is the first bike that I've owned (and I've owned more than a few) that not only met expectations, but exceeded them!

Bike set up:

2013 Foil 40 (size "M" 54 cm) with full Shimano 105 components
Thomson -17 degree/110 stem
FSA 46 cm ergo/wing handlebar
Stages 105 powermeter
Boyd 44 mm Carbon Clinchers
Specialized Romin Expert 155 mm saddle

Total weight (with pedals, bottle cage, computer mount and Garmin 500) ... 16.5 pounds

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mary's Peak Hill Climb

This was my first year racing the Mary's Peak Hill Climb. It's part of the Oregon TT Cup series and I already missed a race, so I wanted to give this race a shot this year. I knew it was going to be tough, but I've been losing weight and thought it would give me a good overall idea of where my fitness is at.

Leading up to this race I had 5 hard weeks in a row and was due a rest week, so I took 3 full days off during the week with one short easy ride and one day of intervals. I was pretty rested heading into the race, but may have lost a little "Punch" with multiple days off the bike. I also cramped up, just as I do in all long ITT's ... so nothing new there.

The climb is 12 miles long and covers around 3500 feet of climbing. The roads are in pretty good shape and the conditions were good, though a little cold at the top with temps around 50 degrees.

Weight wise ... I'm lower than I've ever raced at hovering around 180 pounds (16 pounds lighter than last year),  though I still have another 10-15 pounds that could come off with some structured eating and discipline.

The start of the race is flat for about 100 meters then goes up! The first two miles of the course are not too bad, really good roads, some switchbacks and overall pretty fast. Then you make the turn onto Mary's Peak and it kicks up some ... into grades that I tend to struggle at, over 6% with sections around 13%. This carried on for the next 2 miles or so.

Once you hit the top of the steeper part of the course, there is a nice downhill where speeds in the mid 40's is easily achievable. Just as I was cresting the climb a car pulled out in front of me from the side of the road making me go slower through this section than I wanted. I'm guessing I lost around 10 seconds overall through this section.

Once out of that, the road kicked up again with a few dips here and there ending at a nice park on the top of Mary's Peak.

In the end I finished with a time of 59:38 .. so sub hour ... but it was slower than I wanted with a little lower power output than I wanted.

Average Power: 340 watts
Watts per/kg: 4.15

Going into the race I was hoping for my power to be closer to 350-355 watts which would have made a difference as I ended up just over 1 minute off the winner of my category who turned in a time of 58:25.

All in all a good race, but I can tell I need to work on longer duration power to keep things from dropping off at the end of a longer ITT.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 OBRA TTT Championships

Yesterday was the OBRA State Championship Team Time Trial, my favorite race of the season. I love this race because it's a true "Team" event since you can't race without a team, you can't place without a team and you definitely can't win without a team.

The other reason I love this race is flat out speed ... It's rare that you will cover the same distances at the speeds you can reach with in a TTT.

It took a little while to get a team together this season due to so many races this weekend: Banana Belt #3, Krugers Kermesse (who puts a Cyclocross in May 3 months away from the start of the season???) and several MTB races this weekend. A lot of people wanted to race the CX race and wanted to be fresh for it, thus skipping the TTT ... such be life!

Once we had our team together, we were able to get in two practice days before the race, which was good because it gave us a good idea of where each rider was at fitness wise and helped put together rotation order and duration's of pulls.

Our plan was to have fast rotations for the first half of the race, keeping them short but fast (in the 30-45 second range), then at the point we turned west, evaluate how each person was feeling and make adjustments to pull lengths.

For the first 4 miles, this worked excellent ... then we hit a short hill and I gapped my teammates, having to slow back down a little, which was fine because we were heading into a tight S-Turn where we needed to be careful and back off a bit speed wise.

Once we came out of that section we had two quick turns then a long 4 mile straight where we got back into good rotations. Nearing the end of the long straight we came up on our 1 minute team, catching them. I pushed hard to get past them and kept going, then looked back and I had again gapped my teammates who were still next to the other team, so I backed off a little to get the team back together.

At this time we made a rotation order change to help a teammate who was struggling to hold my wheel, putting a teammate who was feeling better behind me, giving the other rider more of a draft at speed for better rest between pulls.

Around the corner at the end of the straight we started to "Log Jam" a little with other teams. We had us, our 1 minute team then their CAT 1/2 squad came up behind us ... so we had three teams together over a short 1.5 mile section.

Making the turn back to the finish we were still all together, but their CAT 1/2 team slowly pulled away. Ourselves and the 1 minute team switched positions for a couple miles, neither really able to gap the other ... eventually we were able to stretch the gap out to about 10 seconds.

With around 2.5 miles left one of our teammates was spent, went to the front and took as long/hard of a pull as he could and pulled off letting the rest of us go for the line.

Crossing the line we had a time of 50:32 over a distance of 23.8 miles (28.3 mph average) ... Before the race, depending on conditions I was guessing we could cover the distance in around 51 minutes ... so I was pretty close and underestimated what we could do.

Looking back, I think there was definite room to improve and could have shave time off in multiple areas.

In the end we were able to win the CAT 3 Championship beating the next fastest team by 1 minute and the 3rd place team by just over 1 minute. It took a lot of work and team work to accomplish and my teammates were awesome during practice and during the race ... Rob, Doug and Brett ... you guys are awesome!

Now that I have a Championship under my belt this season ... I got home and ordered my jersey last night :)

Monday, April 28, 2014

As the Raven Flies ... But Longer

This was the earliest I've raced a 40k (actually around 39.5k) and given that a lot of my training takes place on my commute to work, so no extended periods of threshold work, I wasn't sure how I would fair over the longer distance.

This course hasn't been used for about 9 years and I'd heard there were some bad sections of road on the course. Having arrived a little early, I decided to drive the course to see what to expect. At first I was more interested in the road conditions, but as I got into the hilly part of the course my mind turned to the high speeds and corners on some of the downhills.

Overall ... road conditions were not an issue, but I knew there were sections where 50+ mph in the aero bars were possible, which opens up a new set of "Oh Crap" issues.

The race was hilly with approximately 1500 feet of climbing and there were very few flat sections on the course. The longest climb was a little over a mile long with sections over 7%. Some people brought their road bikes thinking they would be faster due to the amount of climbing, but overall there were only a few small sections where using the horns was faster.

The race started with a nice 10-15 mph headwind ... so the out section was a little slower, but the wind was a little swirly causing sections of crosswinds and blowing people around on the road. It was more unsettling than anything, but you could feel it. On a couple of the downhills, I could feel the wind pulling on my helmet and if it were not strapped on, would have been pulled off!

With that said ... on the course, I was pretty accurate about speeds ... my top speed was 50.8 mph and I hit 50 mph a couple of times on the course, though I never had to get out of the aero bars on the descents.

Overall, I felt pretty good for the length of the course and was climbing a little better than expected finishing with an overall time of 1 hour and 5 seconds ... which was fast enough to win my class and have the 2nd fastest time overall on the day.

Losing weight has helped a lot with my climbing ... I weighed in at 189 pounds, at wake up, Saturday morning and saw 186 after my ride yesterday. I'm hoping to continue the weight loss and get into the mid 170's for the upcoming hill climbs. The next two TT cup races are hill climbs and I know I'll need to drop as much weight as possible before those.

The next race is the TTT, which I'm hoping we can put together a team for, which right now is looking "Iffy" ... we should be able to put together a winning CAT 3 team, but the number of people interested in racing or wanting to race in other races that weekend makes it difficult to get 3 other fast guys with TT bikes. Hopefully we can put something together because I know we will have a great shot at winning if we do.

If we can't ... my next race won't be until June unless I decide on a road race between now and then.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PIR TT - First win of the season

This past Sunday was the PIR TT ... it's about 11.5 miles in distance (6 laps around the PIR auto race track). I love racing this course because it has great pavement, no traffic and some technical aspects with corners but you can stay in your aero bars during the whole race.

I wasn't sure what to expect this year from my legs since I've been working on losing weight more than anything recently and have now dropped about 26 pounds since the 2nd week of February, down to 190 this week. I've been doing one hard day of commuting intervals per week where I'm doing threshold work almost the entire way in and home on my commute ... the only time I'm not at threshold is slowing down for lights. Most of the time I average 280-290 watts for the commute and it gives me 2.5 hours of hard riding time early/mid week. The other commutes are at recovery or endurance pace.

Leading up to the race I basically had a rest week other than commuting intervals on Wednesday and a moderate ride on Thursday ... Monday/Tuesday/Friday/Saturday were spent off the bike. So my legs could either be well rested or not respond from lack of riding.

Thankfully my legs responded fairly well. I started off pretty hot, but was able to settle into a good pace. I was a little leary through the first two corners because I crashed last year on the hairpin turn during a wet weather race. After the 2nd lap, I had my cornering confidence back remembering to lean my body, not the bike in the tighter corners and was taking them at high speed.

The wind was light, but not from a consistent direction, swirling more than anything and temps were pretty warm in the mid 60's.

Watching my HR it was the first race in a year where my HR stayed above 160 BPM for the entire race with an average of 163 BPM.

Coming around the final turn I could see my time and was close to a PR, so I pushed it pretty hard crossing the line at 24:22 ... which was a PR on the course for me by 6 seconds. I wasn't sure how I would fare position wise since results wouldn't be posted until later.

This was also my first race on my Flo disc wheel ... which I like a lot. It feels comfortable, accelerated well, held speed well and felt a little more confident in the corners than my old RENN disc. No complaints from the wheel at all and was expected based on my experience with other Flo wheels.

In the end ... I ended up winning the 40-49 Masters field.

Then I followed up the race competing in the "Eddie" category ... basically no aero gear at all and completed on my road bike. I was able to finish 3rd in this class but could tell my legs were tired and a little dead. I finished this race in 27:05 with an average wattage of 328 watts, which is below what I can normally put out, but with my forearms on the bars my hip angle was closed off and I had just done an all out effort 20 minutes before.

Overall ... a good weekend and my first win of the season.

Next up ... As the Raven Flies, only longer ... it's the first early season 40k Time Trial. I've heard the roads are so-so and there is a fair amount of climbing at around 1400-1500 feet over 24.8 miles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kings Valley Road Race

Had my first road race in two years yesterday ... Kings Valley Road Race.

I've had success there in the past with a 3rd place finish, but also got crashed out two years ago when I lost my custom Tsunami. Last week at the group ride a teammate told me If I go race, he'd go race ... so, I figured what the heck, at a minimum a good training race with some intensity.

I've actually gained a lot of fitness over the last 6 weeks gaining most of my power back (though still down on FTP and 20 minute power) and dropping my weight by 20 pounds since mid February ... weighed in at 194 pounds yesterday morning ... So, I thought I might have a chance to at least do moderately well.

Going in, I knew the only way I would do well was with a break away since the race ends with a 1.8 mile hill climb, most of which isn't too bad but the last 1k or so is really tough with grades of 8% - 9% for a about 400 meters, then levels out a bit over the last 200 meters ... And I struggle between 6% and 12% grades, over or under that and I can do OK for some reason.

I was a little stressed out beginning the race due to crashing there the last time I raced, and some of the riding was pretty sketchy, but overall made it through safe.

Knowing I needed a break, I jumped in everything that went and tried to start about 6 of my own. The one time I almost got away was on a two man break with a former winner of the race, but after about 5 minutes out front he got a flat and I was quickly reeled back in at that point.

The race had a ton of people at the start because it was a combined Masters 40/50/60 field and at the start had 80+ racers in it. I started at the front, looked back and could see the long line, so I tried to get things separated and thinned out to keep it a bit safer ... but there was a core group that just wouldn't let things go. In a lot of ways I felt like I was racing CAT 5 again, because the group would chase down EVERYTHING ... quickly, never letting anything get more than about 10-15 seconds up the road. The teams with a good climber were only there to chase down every break and sprint for the finish, which is what was accomplished in the end. Kinda sucks when you are for the most part racing solo (had one teammate, but never saw him until the end).

With all the accelerations and solo attempts, I didn't have much in my legs to accelerate at the end and finished 31st out of about 50 riders (in my field) ... but was only about 12 seconds off the winner. I had one teammate in the race who I saw at the start and at the end ... nowhere in-between. He weighs about 10 - 15 pounds more than I do and when comparing power numbers I averaged 21 more watts overall and 36 watts more on my Normalized Power ... So, I did a fair amount more work than he being stuck in the pack.

Overall ... A good race, good effort and back to TT's next week :) I have a 20K next weekend and a 40k the following weekend ... then  the TTT a couple weeks after that.

Anyway ... a little road racing every now and then can be a good thing :)