Friday, August 30, 2013

Winter bike nearly ready ... and new shoes

 Since winter is coming, I figured it was time to get my bike ready for winter. There were a lot of things about the bike I wanted to change before winter set in: Wheels, brakes, bottom bracket, tires and add a power meter.

So, a few weeks ago, I took advantage of a few team deals and picked up some new stuff for the winter bike and started getting it ready for the winter.

In the end, it was perfect timing since it rained all week and having the changes made allowed me to ride to work on the winter bike with no worries.

Changes to the bike:

First and foremost are new wheels. I had these built up by Brent at Portland Bicycle Studio. They are comprised of H Plus Son Archetype rims, 32 DB Sapim spokes and White Industries Disc Brake hubs. The build is fairly light, spins up quickly and feel really solid. I also added 28c Continental Gatorskin tires ... which I'm not sure how I feel about yet. Once these are worn out I may switch to some Panaracer, Schwable or Specialized tires.

Next change was the brakes. I liked the Avid BB7 calipers that came with the bike originally, however their single piston design leads to the disc rubbing on the non moving caliper. It was a little annoying and lead to a little extra pad wear.

So, with new brakes out ... I decided to go with TRP Spyre brakes. They are dual caliper, cable actuated brakes. This pulls both pads away from the disc eliminating the disc rub. They are also about 2 cm narrower than the Avid's and a bit lighter.

Set up was super easy and adjustment is just turning the cable adjuster ... no more messing with dials such as on the Avid's. With an inline cable adjuster the brakes can be adjusted near the bars and on the fly unlike the Avid's.

Overall feel is good with much improved lever feel. The Avid's always felt really mushy, but the TRP's have a solid feel to them without reverting to different cables. With some Nokian cables I would imagine these would feel as solid or more solid than a normal road brake set up. Power is good, maybe just slightly lower than the Avid's, modulation is very good which is important in the rain.

I'm not sure how well the pads will hold up in the rain though. During my first, full rain ride I could tell there was some noticeable wear in the pads. They are fairly cheap to replace, however, I got around 2200 miles out of the Avid's and hopefully can get the same out of a set of TRP's. During the course of this season I should put on around 5,000 - 6,000 miles on them ... so 2 -3 pad changes during the winter. Time will tell, especially as things get a bit more grimy with road dirt from frosty mornings and other events.

My next addition is shoes. I've been riding for several years now in the winter and my feet freeze when it's 40 degrees and raining ... even with wool socks and thick bootie covers. So this year I decided I was going to try something different. I purchased a set of SIDI Hydro shoes. They have Gore-Tex lining to help keep the feet dry and much warmer. The fit is really good and it will be interesting to see if they help during the winter and during commutes when the rain "and" cold hits.

I have two more additions that need to be added to the bike ... a "Buddy Flap" for the rear fender, which is greatly appreciated by others during group rides.

The other addition will be a Stages Power Meter. I'm looking forward to this to keep track of my training and fitness during the winter. I'll better be able to track 20 minute and FTP power during the winter, which is something I haven't been able to do before.

Overall, I'm excited about the changes and the bike feels really good. Bring on Winter!!!

Wildcat Mountain Hillclimb

Last Sunday was my final race of the season ... The Wildcat Mountain hill climb. I had thought about racing this last year, but my schedule didn't work out, so I skipped it last year. I had talked to a couple teammates/friends about the climb and most said it had some steep parts, but also had some good mild climb parts, some downhill and basically a little bit of everything.

Well ... it was harder than expected!

The first climb was much longer than anticipated and averaged what appears to be in the 8% - 9% range over 1 - 1.5 miles. From there it flattened out, then had some downhill sections that were pretty tight and twisty. The rest of the race had a combination of steep climbs, descents and a few tight turns.

Normally this would have been a pretty fast and straightforward course ... however, it started to rain a few minutes after I started, getting heavier as the race went along. By the time I made it to the downhill sections they were soaked and slick, so I backed "WAY" off down the hills not wanting to risk crashing during the last race of the season ... I've already been down three times this season.

Overall ... it was a good race, but with better conditions and knowing I needed points for the TT cup I'm pretty sure I could have taken a minute or so off my time which was 44:09 over 11.5 miles and 2200+ feet of climbing.

I ended up taking 2nd place on the day and had the 8th fastest time on the day ... pretty much where I expected I would finish based on those that had registered for the race and times of people I know that raced it last season.

It's a great race and I'm looking forward to racing it again next season.

With all that said ... I'm glad the season is over. I'm tired, feel a bit out of shape considering I've done one long ride (4+ hours) in the past two months. Most of my training has been commuting to work and racing on the weekends (but the races didn't last longer than an hour for the most part).

I'm looking forward to taking it easy for a while, getting in some good commuting miles and long rides on the weekend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

OUCH - OBRA Uphill ITT Championships

Today was the OBRA uphill state championship ITT. It was supposed to take place at Government Camp like last year, but something happened with the permits and it was cancelled ... so they moved it to OUCH this season, which is a longer climb.

The difference between last year and this year was distance: 5.6 miles to 16.0 miles and elevation gain, 1900 feet to 3400 feet.

I went into this race with pretty good hopes of being on the podium again (I actually won the race last year), but had not ridden this hill in about 5 years. I remembered a bit from that climb, but not much.

Overall, the course starts out a little flat, then goes into some "Rollers", then goes into a fairly steady climb at around 2-3% for the first half of the course, then continues to get steeper with the final half in the 4-6% range. The steepest section topped out a little over 9%.

I chose to race this on my road bike, but purchased some mini Vision TT bars for this race and another taking place in two weeks. They really help from an aero perspective without adding much weight. In the end I spent about 60% of the race in the aero bars ... so for me they were well worth putting on the bike.

I got off to a good start, catching riders within 5 minutes of the start (we went off at 30 second intervals). As I climbed I continued to catch riders so I felt good about my ride. At around 31:30 a former teammate of mine in a different category (who is about 35 pounds lighter and has similar power output) caught me ... knowing his time last year, I felt I was on course for a good overall time.

As the road got steeper, I could tell my power dropped a little and I forgot to drink some of my energy drink early in the race, so I think I ran a little low on energy over the last 20 minutes.

In the end I finished the climb in 1:07:50, which would have placed me 2nd in this race last season ... but was only good enough for 5th this season. There were three guys in the 1:04 range and one in the 1:06 range. My average power for the race was 335 watts, which wasn't too bad, but had I pushed a little harder I think I could have added another 10 watts or so to that power, however, that wouldn't have made much difference in my placing but would have shaved 40 seconds or so off my time.

Not a bad day on the bike, but I'm a little disappointed that I didn't make the podium this season ... even though I'm far from a climber at 195-200 pounds.

I have one more race this season, two weeks from now, the Wildcat Mountain ITT ... which is a little shorter, has more flat sections, but more steeper climbing sections as well. Then it's back to base miles, commuting and trying to re-coup for next season.

This season kind of fell apart at the end. I had some good races with PR's early season ... then I lost the ability to do lots of FTP work or 2x20's like last year and it cost me a good 15-20 watts at FTP. That's something I need to recover for next season as well as get my weight down earlier in the season and keep it a little lower by the end.

The bright part is I built up enough points today to win the TT cup again this season in the 40-49 class, which was one of my big goals at the beginning of the season. I had a lot of competition early in the season by one guy, then he stopped racing and I started getting more competition from another guy later in the season ... but it's a series that lasts from late winter to early fall ... so you have to race for a long time and I was able to accomplish my goal this this year.

One more race ... then onto next year.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Today was the OBRA Time Trail Championships, a race I've been waiting for all season. I was really hoping to come into this race healthy, peaking and ready to roll ... sometimes, life gets in the way.

Two weeks ago I had a crash at a TT which I'm still recovering from. I still have a hard time taking deep breathes and my left hand still is far from recovered ... but the race was here, so it was time to get it on! I took some Alieve to help with the pain from breathing which helped, but didn't eliminate the pain totally.

I also don't feel like I'm in peak shape at this time, having missed a fair amount of training over the past two weeks and not getting in as much riding as I would have liked heading into the Championships. I didn't feel bad, but just not where I should be heading into a championship race.

On the bright side, when  warming up, I was at least able to get my heart race into the mid 150's which was better than two weeks ago. It's still low overall, but better than before, which means my body had recovered a little.

The course it's self was the same as years past, however the road had recently been chip sealed. Overall, it was in very good shape, but the chip sealing slowed the course down a lot compared to years past. It really appeared to have an effect on larger riders than smaller riders. I came to this conclusion by talking to riders and looking at finishing times ... lighter riders were much closer to last seasons times than larger riders. I'm guessing they rode over the chip seal while larger riders tended to sink into it a bit more.

We had a 6 - 7 mph wind from the north on the day, which meant a tail wind on the way out and a headwind on the way in, but in reality it seemed more like a tail/cross on the way out and a head/cross on the way in. It was a warm day however with temps in the mid 70's by start time (just before 11:00 am) and it warmed up a lot on course with the black, tar covered chip seal. A lot of people appeared to suffer from the heat today, especially considering the highs earlier this week were topping out under 70 degrees.

Once on course, I felt pretty good. I tried not to go out too hard and was able to get my heart rate into the low 160's. About 10 minutes into the race I was already starting to feel it and could slowly see my HR dropping over the next 10 minutes to the mid 150's. As I approached the turnaround and started to see riders again, it went back up a little ... so I'm guessing I wasn't pushing myself hard enough.

My HR continued to be in the mid 150's but the last quarter of the race, started to climb again as did my speeds, with the last 5 miles or so in the 160 range. Overall, I ended up with an average HR of 158 BPM, which is a good 5 BPM lower than what I would normally TT at, and 10 BPM lower than what I would run a 20k at.

Coming into the last stretch I caught a couple of racers in my category, so I knew I had an OK run even though I knew my time was slow.

At the end of the race, I thought I had finally beat the cramping curse that I've suffered from during this race, then about 20 seconds after crossing the line ... there it was. My left hamstring/glute cramped up and I had a hard time pedaling back to the start/finish area, but the more I pedaled the better it felt. It stayed cramped up for the next couple hours and is sore, but feels a lot better now that I'm 8 hours after the race.

In the end I ran a time of 55:57 which is about 1.5 minutes slower than last year and the first time in two years I've not run in the low 54 minute range. The end result was 3rd in category and 18th fastest 40k time on the day (most riders were 1-2 minutes slower than they expected).

With this one over, hopefully I can build a little fitness during the week as we head into the Uphill Championships next week. The course changed this season from Government Camp/Timberline to Larch Mountain ... which means a 1+ hour race instead of a 30 minute race like last year. The climb is 16.5 miles long and climbs about 4000 feet. I've climbed it once years ago and remember parts ... so it should be interesting.

More on that race next week.