Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Stroll

Doing the Huck Finn

Ever have one of those days when the victory is just getting out the door? A little tired still from Thursday's redlining with the SBHs, I just wanted to get loose and get some miles in tonight. Not quite sure how, but I ended up with an 18.6 average, which means the bike trail part of the ride must have averaged around 19.5, so I guess I put in a pretty good effort. In spite of modest expectations, it turned out to be a very nice ride.

As promised, I stopped and took some pictures of William Pond. This is the namesake of William Pond Park. I thought it might be spring fed, but I was told it is fed by feeder pipes bringing water over from the American River. I got there 1:45 minutes too early for really great pics, but will have another go at it soon.

While I was taking the picture I met a pensioner on an old steel bike that needed some TLC. He told me his name was Tom. We talked for 20 minutes, and he was happy for the company. He has an odd ailment - he retains potassium - so I'm going to try to help him with his diet. He promised to give me a shout out if he sees me on the trail, and I will do the same. His wife is reportedly a great cook, so maybe I'll trade dinner for tuning up his bike. For all of his physical limitations, he seemed quite confident in his 30+ mile ride. What a great attitude!

Speaking of the SBH, I asked, and as I suspected, they don't want people riding with aerobars in peletons, unless they are out front pulling. I use my handlebars, especially the drops, so infrequently that I have pretty much ignored their positioning. Riding fast on the hoods and drops with SBH was a lot harder though as the bar was positioned so poorly.

I repositioned the bar downward at the brake blocks, which put the tips up a bit, and importantly, the flat handgrip now fits reasonably well. The hoods are down too far, but I'll wait on that until I retape the bars.

Meanwhile the aerobar position is unchanged and I can now effectively use the drops. I made it a point to ride in them as much as possible, trying to ignore hands that wanted to go numb to develop more power in that position. We'll see how it goes on Thursday.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Outing with the Sacramento Bike Hikers

I did a fast 20-something mile ride with the SBH, which worked out to be 32 miles as I rode to the start. I guess I hung with the fast group for about 10 minutes, but was red-lining big-time at 24-26 mph. The 46 tooth "big" ring on my crank was a little inadequate at that speed. Other issues with that ring as well, so time to get a new 52t big ring.

I dropped back to a sustainable recovery pace, and waited for the slower group to catch up, which happened about 20 minutes later, led by a gorgeous tandem and a lot of half-bikes sucking on their wheel. I did the honorable thing, I got on the back of the train and sucked too! lol

You could tell this was the first opportunity for comfortable riding in 3-4 days, as the peletons were out in force tonight. In one 90 second interval we met three 15-25 man peletons. They were flying too - 20-25mph at least. You hang on tight to the handlebars when they pass, as a head-on collision between two such peletons would be pretty horrific. Only 4ft separated by a painted line, so not much margin for error.

I was coughing a LOT at William Pond Pk, and I am beginning to suspect it is a side-effect of the antibiotics I'm taking, but the ride back was strong, so no complaints.

Nice ride, and I did see some familiar faces. Fun group to ride with!

I got home and noticed a weird, fuzzy feeling green mold(?) growing on the back of my HR monitor strap. I think when I ride I sweat out enough antibiotic that it starts growing on the back of the strap? I wash it in antibacterial soap within minutes of arriving home, but have switched to Ivory bar soap and an old toothbrush now. Weird.

Also mounted new tires before heading out the door tonight. Another pair of Michelin Pro3 Race, but blue this time. I like the color of the gray better, but I saved $20 on these, and they look pretty good with the blue-ish Ultegra hubs and blue bike, but think I will need to pull the new colors together with new handlebar tape. Even guys have to color-coordinate sometimes!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Energy or Health: A False Choice

This is a very enlightening NYT piece on the "locally grown" food craze. Growing up on a farm, and being so close to it here in "Sac-A-tomatoes", I have to say, this rings true to me.

Eating locally grown produce is a fine thing in many ways. But it is not an end in itself, nor is it a virtue in itself. The relative pittance of our energy budget that we spend on modern farming is one of the wisest energy investments we can make, when we honestly look at what it returns to our land, our economy, our environment and our well-being. 

I 2nd the underlying theme here. Eat for health, and forget about the energy impact of growing food where it grows best and shipping it where it's needed. Good health is the #1 factor in the enjoyment of life in poll after poll. Be smart. Take good care of you. 

On a related side-note, I have been in dental health hell the last few months, and things are getting worse at the moment. I had to reschedule an extraction and double implant post placement because a molar I thought I had fixed last winter has devolved into raging infections I can only control with antibiotics so  powerful they are giving me colitis.

Being unemployed and looking at $10k+ in dental bills is more than a little stressful too, which isn't helpful. It has definitely hampered my ability to ride, especially on anything like a schedule. I am hoping in 4-6 weeks this will be fixed, but for now its hard to eat, sleep or even function. Mostly it just saps my strength, endurance, and hurts like hell. I will be soooo happy when this is handled. As much as I hate to whine, I thought you might like to know what the back-story is around here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting Spanked

A couple of exceptionally productive days here getting all manner of things sorted out, so I rewarded myself with a nice ride up to Beals. The route is nothing special, as you all know by now, I do this one all the time, but the pace certainly was special tonight.

Just past Sunrise I got passed and jumped on his wheel, hoping I could hang with him. Well, I know how Lance Armstrong felt on the TDF this year. Not enough gas in the tank, and too many fast riders. I hung with him until the "Hitching Post". He dropped me on the little climb after that sharp right crossing a parking lot entrance. I knew he would attack on the hills, and most likely that one, but I was at LT hanging on his wheel barreling through the twisties on that side of Lake Natoma, so nothing left for the climb.

I recovered after about 5 minutes crawling along in Zone 4, but still making a good average up to Karen's Bakery. I had a nice conversation with a couple of riders at the hydration stop just down from the Folsom St Bridge. One of them had a Roubaix almost identical to mine. We congratulated each other on what great taste in bikes we had. I shoved off, and got passed by another strong rider going through the bottom section of the Beal's climb. Part of the problem was lack of fuel for me, but mostly he was just a better climber because of a better BMI.

I caught him in the flatish middle section and he did the smart thing, biding his time until the final climb. I got within 10 ft of him at the top, redlining before collapsing into the Beal's parking lot. Looking at my Garmin trace, standing to try to catch him was a mistake. My usual 11-12 mph redline sprint was replaced by an 8mph one. I could have caught him if I'd played a better tactical game, but on any long climb, he'd have beaten me.

For whatever reason I was coughing a lot at Beals, so took on some water, ate a PowerBar and caught my breath. Nothing much happened on the way home until I got passed again by a real skinny kite on a TT bike. I bridged up, caught his wheel, and eventually passed him in traffic. Nice guy. We had a nice side-by-side chat the last mile before the Sunrise "Y". I peeled off for Bannister Park and he went on to William Pond.

The sun is setting earlier these days - just before 8:00 now, about 50 minutes earlier than early June. An old Italian gardener told me it works out to about 2 min a day of less daylight, and that's pretty close. The water level in the lake is getting a bit low again, but the river was still beautiful near sunset coming home.

Another fun, challenging ride on the world's best playground - the American River Parkway Trail.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Flat-out Friday

H-Street Bridge in the background looking upstream from turn-around point

As this excellent piece on interval training (and power/duration curves by implication) points out, a 20 min TT makes a great basis for estimating all of your training power levels. The bike trail from William Pond to the Guy West Bridge is almost a perfect 5 mi/20min TT for many riders. For me it's a sub-15minute these days, but as there's lots of trail left after Guy West, I just extended the course down to the Hurley St pumping station today.

Somewhere along this Golf Course will likely be
your 20 min TT turn around point

Here's some great music to get your motor wound out and cranking at 110% of LT and make you a Highway Star!

I've done this course at 99%  97% (always good to review the training logs) of max HR, but wouldn't  recommend that as a baseline for training as I was all jacked up on antihistamines. At that power level I stripped every bit of glucose out of my blood and muscles in 15 minutes. Not a valid baseline.

Note the pumping station in upper left-hand corner. My turn-around spot.

PS: After my hammer-head friend Robin Blackburn's epic Blue Ridge Parkway ride on Saturday, I'm thinking she was conceived at a Deep Purple concert. Tell mom and dad to fess up Robin!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer's Slumber

It was 5:00 and 75 degrees yesterday. Yes, this is August in California. I checked my calendar twice just to be sure! So why wait for late when there is so much yummy cool air out there?

Taking up this theme I headed out the door ~ 5:30 and decided to have me an unstructured ride. OK, if you know anything about me by now, it's that I don't really do unstructured, but this came pretty close to it. I didn't air up the tires. I didn't eat first, and my route was made up of turns that called out to me as I approached them.

I ended up down at Guy West Bridge, mostly curious about the progress on the construction, and I was encountering a pretty stiff headwind of cool air and runners. I'm talking about in the hundreds. I guess Fleet Feet was putting on a practice run for an upcoming event. Anyway, it was pretty interesting, and somewhat entertaining to see all the peeps out running along both sides of the trail.

I chowed down on a PowerBar at the picnic table under the bridge, smiling and waving as runners of all skill levels trudged, floated, or something in-between, passed me, pushed along by the breeze. When I tried to clip in and shove off though I found both sides of the trail clogged with runners. Hummm, what to do. How about get out in the middle and clip in right quick?

Seemed like a reasonable decision, at least until one of the 'runners' gliding through the double S turn happened to be on a bicycle. :-O  I tried to get real skinney, right there in the middle on the road-kill line, but knew I'd be screwed in a few seconds as there was traffic coming in both directions that couldn't see me for the S turn.

Luckily, the woman on the bike behind slowed way down and used mental telepathy to indicate to me I should clip in, and right quick, before she fell over from doing .000001mph. Well, the seas parted, nobody crashed, and happy to report, no runners were harmed in the making of this post!

I caught up with the angel who spared me from road-kill-dom in a few hundred yards, and hung back just enough so I didn't suck on her wheel too much. We had a pretty good tailwind, but we were still only riding at 17-19mph. At some point she got down in her aerobars (the view from behind improved dramatically at that point :) and picked up the pace a little, so I cooled my jets and hung back.

Finally I could tell she was tiring, so I pulled abreast of her and we chatted for a minute before I told her it had to be my turn to pull by now. She said she didn't think she could keep up with me, but I assured her I was trying to take it easy and put in some longer miles, so I'd go slow enough. I did, for about a mile, but when I got to Watt Ave she was nowhere in sight.

It was such a nice day to ride, and I had plenty of time, fuel and water, so I rode right past WBP and on towards Sunrise. Didn't want to stop at Sunrise either. Although it was close to sunset by then, (there's a song in all this "Sunrise, Sunset" somewhere) I made the right turn for Hazel, and kept going.

At Hazel I turned right onto Gold Country for a block or so before turning into the long series of parking lots and connecting roads that comprised the recent detour used while the new retaining walls were being built last month. Less wind, less traffic, nice surface, what's not to like? Oh, and the new front brake pads are wearing in perfectly! A nice buttery feel with a great progressive pull.

Shortly after rejoining the ARPT, dropping into the aerobars (gear up, flaps up, full throttle), and hitting the power, who should I spot on the other side of the trail than my new friend on her beautiful white LiteSpeed. I made sure she wasn't in need of AAA or anything, and pushed off. It was getting late. I wish now I had gotten her contact info because we're close enough we could ride together, and she at least would really benefit from riding with a faster rider. Oh, well. Maybe another day.

I peeled off for Bannister Park and returned home with daylight to spare. Nice ride. A little over 30 miles, but a collection of waypoints I haven't gathered into a ride before. I just love that with the ARPT there just seem to be an endless number of permutations that make for interesting rides, and interesting people.

PS: More friends with broken back wheels. This time Forte, which is Performacebikespeek for 'Crap' to be sure, but still more evidence that most factory-built wheels will last 1-3 years for 170+lb riders. The replacement choice was Mavic Aksium. We'll see how long those last, if that was the right choice, and if I made the right decision going with custom OPs.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Long Way

I decided to pack on some miles to my usual Beal's Pt ride yesterday, so headed down to WBP first. This makes for a nice 44-48 mile ride, depending on how I return.

I fueled up on Sushi rice (mix in sugar with that, but not the vinegar) and WOW is that clean ride fuel! It's the cleanest burning fuel I have ever found. I held back some on the way down to WBP, but that ride from WBP to Karen's Bakery was like on a rocket sled.

Just after the Rainbow Bridge crossing myself and another rider were stopped by a Park Ranger because of a fire a mile up the trail. After listening to girl talk for a few minutes I was really trying to change the subject. We had a nice discussion of the arson problem on the bike trail, and the new Camelbak Podium Ice aerojel insulated bottles. They are claimed to be 4X as well insulated. Then more discussion of how to shave your legs. About then I was thinking the 'how' of beauty is best kept a secret from us guys :-O

On the way down from Beals - yes, they finally let us go up - the half-dozen or so fire trucks had been joined by a Sacramento County Sheriff's car, and 3 teenage boys were being interrogated. I think they got their 'man'. That section of trail is in clear view of the Folsom Prison guard towers, and I have to assume they have excellent binoculars. Those boys didn't stand a chance. Yuppies all, I think mommy and daddy are going to have a $10k bill to pay for the firemen's efforts. Lesson learned, I'm sure.

This is the part of the trail just past the twisties where you can really fly coming down, so a good test of the new brakes. AWESOME!!!  I needed them too, as I thought the crews would be gone after 45 minutes or so, and was really hammering.

I remembered to raise my seat 5mm before heading out the door, and I am amazed how differently this worked my musculature. My calf-tear from last year, as well as my left calf, were both screaming at various points in the ride, and the calf-tear was sore and swollen all night. I have known for awhile that lowering the seat took some stress off the calves, so this is all part of recovery.

The low sun on the very cold, blue water coming home was amazing. This time of year the location of the setting sun has it setting  right down the length of the river, so 3-5 miles of paint on the water at sunset. Spectacular!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Braking Bad

Not having the front brake working right can get pretty expensive when the backup is a thoroughly destroyed rear tire. By the time I got the tire changed and found a bike shop that was open and had the right pads, it was too late to ride yesterday, but this maintenance was long overdue, so very happy I took the time to get things ship-shape.

See the very narrow band of wear? A sure sign the pads are too hard to wear to match the shape of the new rim. My bad. No problem on the rear brakes, as I replaced the pads when I got the new back wheel.

See how the 4 rubber blocks are bridged together on the old, worn pad? When the new one gets ~ 2.5mm of rubber worn off, it will uncover the same bridging. This is a built-in wear indicator and tells you it's time for new pads. You will also notice the barrel adjusters on your brakes will have been screwed all the way up to take up the slack in the cable as the pads wear up to 6mm.

You can also see there is some small amount of pitting. This happens when a small stone gets stuck between your pad and rim, and it gouges the rim when it happens. If you toe your brakes you will always find this pitting on the back block of the pad because the back part contacts the rim first, catches, and sometimes holds pebbles when you apply your brakes.

You can see the pitting clearly on the last block. The dark band right on the edge of the pad is the only surface that was contacting the new rim's braking surface. This happens when new wheels have a braking surface that is angled a little differently than the old wheels, AND, the old pads are too hard to wear into the new shape.

When your rims look like this, its a good idea to scrub them lightly with Ivory bar soap (it contains a small amount of wax) and an old ScotchBrite pad to get the grit and old pad's melted rubber off the rim. (don't use a new ScotchBrite pad, it will remove too much of the rim's braking surface) Melted rubber stuck to the rim makes the brakes stick in those places, and will cause uneven braking, which is guaranteed to created skidding.

The moral of this story is simple. When you get new wheels, install new brake pads.

Note to Self: Read own blog!