Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fit for Life

As much as I like riding with my biking clubs, one of the things I love about being so close to the ARPT is the serendipity that can happen while out riding on a nice day.

After my back complained about the lower riding position, I moved 7.2 mm of spacers back under my stem to raise it up a bit. After waiting 2 days I decided to take an easy ride, stretch it out, and burn some calories. Heading out the front door intending to warm up on the way to WBP, the back felt good, and so did the new position, so I found myself flying along, zipping through the turns I call the "rat's maze".

I stopped for water at the rest stop at WBP when a woman and her gf rolled up, she riding a very practical pea green bike with fenders, rear rack and bright red tires - Kenda tires as a little inspection revealed. Somehow the bike fit her, and she it. That's the kind of bike REI has been selling a lot of lately, but she said she got it from City Bikes. I know the shop, as I rode my first Roubaix there, before heading up to Calistoga Bike Shop for a better deal. We had a great chat about bikes and bling before they pushed off upstream.

Rolling downstream towards CSUS, I set a comfortable, but brisk pace. The wind was in my face, but not more than 5mph, so I kept the pace up, but kept the back comfortable. Passing traffic I had to hit the gas to get past before oncoming traffic encroached. Pretty comfortable, so I kept the hammer down until I rolled up behind a group of 3 riders. Two guys up front and a woman trailing them closely. I needed a breather, so decided to hang out in back for a few.

After a few minutes I was getting anxious, the two guys were tooling along at 18-19 and ruining what had turned into a pretty good average time. I started talking to the woman, who seemed to want to go faster too. Finally it became clear she wanted to go, but didn't feel confident she could go and make it stick, so I asked her if she wanted to go faster, throwing an impish grin in her direction.

She took off and went  around, and I put the power down and went around her to take up the lead. My HR alarm started complaining after a few minutes - which I ignored and kept pushing at 95% - and was kind of incredulous she was still there behind me. She told me later she's 5'3" and 115 lbs. The girl's got some GO!

I finally pulled the power and we rolled up to Del Paso Rd. We had a nice conversation where I learned that her SO was one of the two guys. I think she found it refreshing to cut the tether and do a little free-lancing. We had been talking about bike fit, as she was sprawled out over the bike. The bike was a Specialized S-Works, so an expensive bike, but at 5'3", her 52cm frame was waaaay too large. (see chart)

She told me she'd just had a professional fitting, where they mounted a 50mm stem - about all that could be done given a frame that was 30-40mm too large. I tried to finish on a positive note, so reminded her that larger frames with short stems are great climbing bikes. I'm sure the very low body position she is forced into also makes her pretty aerodynamic, but the shoulder and neck strain make it a painful one after an hour or so.

 Dave Moulton's excellent frame sizing chart

Odd as it may seem, you are MORE likely to be sold an expensive bike in the wrong size than a cheap one. Why? Because an expensive bike costs more to keep in inventory, so they will sell it as long as you can climb on the thing. Be prepared before you go shopping, and know your size!!!

Her SO rolled up and we had a very nice conversation. He was interested in the Mt Hamilton climb, so I filled him in on the last 2 year's experience riding the Canyon Classic. We headed back riding together, talking, until I ended up in front after negotiating traffic. He took up the lead 5 minutes later and I took it back after he slowed down a couple of mph. I peeled off at WBP, and they went on to Sunrise. It was with a big smile that I hammered my way up onto Boyer and down California Ave coming home. It is such a treat to ride without restraint.

The back was fine, and not bothering me much at all today. I had a great conversation and hope to see them out on the trail again. She's a teacher and has the summer off soon, so given how fast she rides, I hope we can take up where we left off. Just another fun day of serendipity on the ARPT!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh, My Aching Back

Got low back flexibility issues? Check!!!

I feel like I got stretched on the rack. I moved my aerobars inward today, and the pads outward, which should help my breathing, but I may have to put the measly 7.5 mm of spacers back under the stem - at least until I can get my core stronger and slimmer.

Hate that my weight has again become an issue, not in the way it is for climbing, but in how it affects my core muscles. First I'll get the core strong, and while doing that, will be trying to diet a little. I am very healthy at this weight, but it is limiting my cycling.

I noticed that my HR was down about 5% last night from last week on the CSUS-WBP run, so hoping that 5% boost will get me solidly into the low 22s on a good day. A calm day would be nice, as wind always hurts you, even on a 2-way run. (the headwind hurts you longer than the tailwind helps you)

I was stunned to find that when I took the .76% slope down to zero on a "what-if", my speed increased by over 2mph. I'd like to be able to do a 2-way run > 22 mph, but not sure I can sustain an average of 98% of max HR for 30 min, so working on some more aero gains to go with a greater VO2max and LT. (VO2max is scaled for body mass, so as you lose weight it automatically goes up)

I am hoping for speed in the 23-25mph range on the flat, straight, hard concrete surface of the South Folsom Canal. That's an O&B course though, so not going to be able to crank out 300 watts for an hour. I think somewhere between 270 and 285 is going to be my limit, at least for now. I will have to give it a go soon. Maybe this weekend I can do a dry run and test the waters.

 South Folsom Canal TT Course. Usually done as an O&B. Flat, straight, hard concrete, and no traffic. Wind is an issue though as the walls of the concrete canal funnel the wind. Scenery is concrete walls.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I've been working on my bike, to try to morph it still again, this time into a TT bike. Looking at a shiny new P3 Cervelo at WBP, I have to say, she'd have had a big advantage if we'd crossed paths, but so it goes. Nice eye candy, and I asked her about the Adono seat. She liked it a lot, and claimed it really helped her fit on the 54cm frame at 5'7" of body height. She seemed to be riding in a very forward position, but that should help her power, so all good.

I flipped my stem, moved a token 2.5mm spacer from under to over the stem, jammed the seat forward as far as it would go - about 12mm, installed a 12-23 cassette, and then installed my new front wheel. (Yes, it finally got here, correct color and all)

The stem adjustments were good for about a 28mm drop in handlebar position, giving me a 40mm drop from seat to pads. I never felt stable enough to be comfortable with my old wheel with the stem flipped, but the 32 DT Revolution spokes make for a very solid but supple wheel. I also removed the waterbottle rack from the seat tube, but may move the downtube bottle there as it is, surprisingly, more aero on the seat tube.

In fact, the bike, for the first time, feels well balanced, like the weight distribution on the two wheels is now 50:50. The Roubaix, like all comfort bikes, is designed for a rear-biased, upright position, and it takes a lot of work to get it low enough and forward enough to make good speed on the flats.

I am looking at an Easton EC 70 Zero seat post, which has zero setback, unlike the stock Roubaix's 25mm of setback. The Roubaix seat post is also pretty heavy - about twice the weight of  the Easton's 215gr. I'll shave a little off of that by cutting the 400mm post down to 350mm to match the stock post, but carbon doesn't weight that much, so it won't make a huge difference. I do like having a nice piece of carbon tubing laying around. Makes a great aerobar mount for computers or lights.

So what did all this get me? Well, last week I pulled 2 other riders in a draft and managed 21.1 for the 5 miles from CSUS to William B Pond park. Tonight I managed a 21.8, a new PB I think.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rocking Like a Hurricane

One of the strongest "bricks" in my bike club started hosting a "Hammer Time" ride from Guy West Bridge at CSUS up the ARPT, past WBP and Sunrise, up to Hazel Ave where the American River fish hatchery is located. They built the hatchery when they built Folsom Dam so salmon that would otherwise lay their eggs in the gravel shoals upstream could be replaced by other hatchlings taken from downstream and raised in captivity to improve their survival rates.

Tom's a brick, because like me, he is too heavy to go up hills like a "kite", but makes lots of power for great speed on the flats. I have ridden with him a few times before, and while I dropped him when I pushed hard, I always felt he had it in him to hang right with me. Given this, I was really looking forward to a blistering fast speed run as I rode the 9 miles to the start.

I started down the long ramp from the bridge, down onto the bike trail, and let my speed build slowly. By the time we hit the trail I was doing ~ 22 mph, backed off a bit at first, but once I knew they were able to stay on my wheel I started building speed. The surface is a bit rough in spots where tree roots buckle the thin asphalt, and there are some modestly tight turns and some moguls, but this is a good place to put down some serious speed. I tested Tom a few times sprinting out of turns and over moguls, and he bent, but didn't break. Awesome! I was very happy for him.

Approaching WBP there is some very shallow downslope, but it was enough to bring my speed up into the 23-26mph range. I went a bit too hard and long, and ended up giving Tom the lead right at the base of a hill approach to the bridge. Word, don't pull a strong rider right to the base of a hill if you are going all out. There's nothing anybody can do to help you get over the hill while you recover, so you're SOL.

Unfortunately, I hit the Lap button on the Garmin to end the transition to the start of the ride, and forgot to hit it again before we started the real ride 10 minutes later, so I had to subtract off half a mile and 2:24 minutes to get a correct lap speed - which turned out to be a 21.1 mph average. 

I got over the bridge and tried to put in some power while sucking hard on my waterbottle coming down the back side. Looking at the Garmin trace later, I was managing 19-20 mph, but it sure felt slow as I watched Tom and Glen opening a good 5-600 yard gap. The Claritin I had taken was really bothering me. It affected my inner-ear, but more importantly, I couldn't judge my cardo well at all. I was amped up on the drug, and would be red-lining before I felt any kind of fatigue. I don't know if it helped or hurt overall, but it was unwelcome, and seemed to burn blood sugar at a fantastic rate.

I caught a rider on a custom Steve Rex (local frame builder of high regard who was seriously injured in a crash last year), passed him and noticed he was sucking on my wheel. After a half mile into the wind I was really gassed, so started talking to him, asking him if he could help me catch up to my group. I was incredulous that he agreed to help, but also secretly thrilled. WOW, what a break! It took us a mile or so to catch up with Glenn, who stayed out in front for 2-3 miles while we drafted.

Reviewing the trace last night after the ride I see my HR had dropped well back into Zone 4, but subjectively, I felt fatigued until a few miles had passed. A couple of miles from Sunrise 'Rex' and I were getting anxious at the back of the pack, and I was hoping he would take the lead and give Glenn a rest, but I don't think he was confident he could stay out front  (Did I mention Glenn had a gorgeous steel frame bike, complete with very un-aero fenders!), so Glenn pulled us until we reeled in Tom a couple of miles before Sunrise.

By Sunrise I could tell Tom was weakening, having slowed noticeably the last 2 miles or so. As we passed Sunrise I started to get my legs and lungs back, and was considering taking the lead as we started up some short, shallow climbs. About 2 miles after Sunrise there is a decent hill with a bit flatter section in the middle. The approach is a shallow climb, so I was taking stock of the riders, and decided 'Rex' was going to go on the hill unless Tom found some serious reserves.

As expected 'Rex' went on the hill, and I right after him, blowing by Tom and Glenn pretty easily. We rode about a half mile with 'Rex' out front until we got jammed up in a big, slower block of traffic. We had a bike up near the end of our sprint past the traffic, and 'Rex' needed a hole to slip into, and right quick. I had anticipated and made a nice hole for him, so we were momentarily riding side-by-side. I shouted something about 'always happy to make a hole for you dude!' and not sure what he heard, but he soft-pedaled and waved me forward while grinning. We finished the last mile or two with him on my wheel, and I was happy to return his favor.

Tom and Glenn were not far behind, and they pulled the plug and rolled to a stop just past the drinking fountain. All smiles, I excused myself and rolled downhill to the drinking fountain where I started coughing uncontrollably from all the pollen sucked deep into my lungs. Eventually I got hydrated and chewed through a PowerBar, before waving Tom down to tell him I might have to bail on the ride early, and return via Bannister Pk, because of my respiratory distress. I didn't want to just disappear on a ride leader. As it was, I was fine, but still the right thing to do.

We headed back with Glenn in the lead, as he was pretty wrecked and wanted a slower pace. He did a good job, especially as there was pretty heavy traffic and the uphill on the way turned into a nice downhill kicker. About the same place Glenn and I had caught up with Tom on the way out, Glenn started to slow, and I asked if he wanted me to pull. He had a look of resignation as he pulled off to the left and fell back. I remarked that I'd see if I had anything left, and took up the lead, again, building speed slowly to give him time to regroup a bit at the back.

This was roughly the "racetrack alley" section of trail that I love to hammer, so I started to push the pace while monitoring my back wheel to make sure they were still with me. I really had a blast on this section, and we were passing everything in sight. You can see from the HR trace where I took over from Glenn, and then where I started to hammer. This section of trail has some very tight hairpin, and S-turns, and that makes it hard to carry speed well, but again we were averaging 21-22 mph. Smoking!

When we got to the approach to the WBP bridge, first down and then up and up, I thought Tom was going to try to pass me, so I dug deep and fended him off. I pulled the plug going over the top, sitting up for max breathing efficiency and reminded them I was peeling off for home at the upcoming turn. They shouted a hasty parting farewell, and sped off for CSUS.

My full ride was 38mi. This is the portion done with the group

I posted these same traces on the ride page last night, and was really psyched that Tom turned up on Facebook and reported a PB of 30 miles at an average pace of 20.2 mph. I was scratching my head though until I zoomed in on the start of the group part of the ride and noticed the Lap button error.

Tom and Glenn must have had enough left to manage 20-21 mph on the 5 miles back to CSUS from WBP, so they dug pretty deep to get that PB. As the 3 laps done as a group on RideWithGPS shows, I averaged 275 watts for the 1 hr and 12 minutes. (the break at Hazel and drafting throws this off a bit, but the time up front pulling, headwinds, rough surface, tight turns and elevation gains are offsets)

I was a bit surprised I had enough left to stand and hammer the steep little hill up onto Boyer, and the fatigue has also been surprisingly low. In the end, 43 of 73 minutes were done in Zone 5, so over 50% of the ride. I feel pretty good today, and am hoping I will be fully recovered for a full 65 mile tour of the ARPT scheduled for Sunday. Rain is threatening that, but we shall see.

I gotta say, speed is so much more fun than grinding up hills. I think I'm going to swap my 12-27 for my 12-23 and give the super-steeps a rest for awhile. Looking forward to doing a TT soon, and hope Tom joins me.

 Probable power output for 1st 5 mi lap & total ride. Grade calculated from elevation statistics shown on above traces. Wind was NNW at 8 mph, a quartering wind on lap 1, so about 4 mph of headwind.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jekyll and Hyde Ride

With rainy weather once more on the way, I took the bike out for a ride up to Beal's Pt Thursday afternoon. I was tempted to do a club Hammer Ride, but was having some writer's block and needed to clear my head anyway, so headed out mid-afternoon with my new front wheel gracing the front of the bike, ready for a little test.

I was a bit sluggish, and hadn't eaten much before jumping in the shower, so resigned myself to taking it easy and just logging some miles. Nice plan, but not exactly how it worked out. I started out slow enough. Nice and restrained, but by the time I took the short hill down from Bannister Pk (this connecting trail closed for maintenance next week) and onto the connector trail to the ARPT I was feeling it.

 9% slope dropping down from Bannister Pk. Photo credit to Jeffrey Thorne

I held back a little on the stretch from Sunrise to Hazel, but got a friendly light at Hazel and started picking up the pace while skirting the parking lot at the Aquatic Center. I kept expecting to be weak, as I had not slept well the night before, but by the Blue Ravine tie-in I gave up on restraint and started hammering. It was too late to make a good average time, but it was just exhilarating flying through those turns and 20-30 ft hills.

It was here I first noticed that my new wheel wasn't vibrating side to side 2-3mm all the time like the stock wheel had always done. Going from 20 to 32 spokes really quieted the front end of the bike. The wheel only goes in one direction now - round and round. At some point on the ride home I realized that part of the reason I have been struggling to keep from rocking my hips is because the front wheel wandered enough that I needed that to maintain balance when in the aerobars.

I checked the lap time entering the bottom of the parking lot at Karen's and got 17.50. Not even close to a PB - as expected - but given the pace on the first 60% of the lap, it got me thinking. The ride across the Folsom St Bridge was pretty slow - mostly because the cross-wind was so strong I didn't want to risk getting blown into the railing. The ride down onto the bike trail via some very tight switchbacks was also pretty slow, so I decided to stop and fuel up and see if I could improve my time on the climb up to Beals Pt.

I stopped at the drinking fountain between the two bridges, and chewed through a Powerbar while talking to another rider also trying to get some miles in before the rain set in again. Pushing off I clipped in, and waited till I hit the bottom of the draw a couple of hundred yards later before hitting the Garmin's Lap button. 

The Garmin had 477 ft of climbing for the 3.44 mi stretch from there to Beals, which I did in 14:00 flat at an average speed of 14.7 mph. I tried to keep my HR right at LT - about 150BPM for me - and not exhaust myself on the bottom climb. I also made a point of sitting up erect, with hands on the blocks when climbing the steeper parts to open up my chest and breathe well. This and being well-fueled combined to make that nice little speed plateau at the very end of the trace where I refused to drop below 12.5 mph.

The last 15 seconds of the climb, cranking out ~ 575 watts

It was cold and exposed up at Beals, so after talking with a guy on a Cyclocross bike for a few minutes I headed back down with nothing but jersey and shorts, adding power where I could to keep warm. The surface is pretty broken up, but it had been freshly swept, so I was able to carry some pretty good speed for this time of year.

The headwinds along the lake, where the sheer cliffs funnel them into a torrent, were 15-25 as expected. I experimented a bit and found that my position in the drops was actually a bit more aero than in my aerobars, AND, it allowed me to breathe better. I used this long-neglected riding position a few more times on the way home, and found it really did shorten my recovery time after climbing hills. Unfortunately, even with the new, more compliant front wheel, my wrists were still sore when I got home, so will use sparingly.

My skin was cold to the touch when I got home, but I'd had sweat dripping off my helmet a good part of the way home, so know I was really cranking out the power. All in all I was surprised that my total time was only a minute off my PB time. Given the slow start and headwind, it was a very strong ride returning home.

 Trees in bloom everywhere here