Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Riding with Confidence

As I've written in the past, I just don't feel like I'm up to speed so far this year.  Which is OK if its just a fitness thing but I also feel like I'm not riding with confidence.  I don't feel like I'm riding well, riding too stiff, no flow, can't corner well, descending skills suck, I'm leaving big gaps when riding in a group, etc.  It's not good and I feel like my lack of abilities is further hurting my confidence.  I used to feel as though my skills were an advantage of mine, now they seem to be missing. I've had a few friends crash this season, and they're fine but I seem to have this mental block and fear of having to wear a little Tegaderm.  

I need to get my mojo back.  I need to get back to enjoying the wind in my face, leaving my worries behind.  Not carrying them with me.  Perhaps I need to set up for a few skills workouts and remember what I can do.   Not sure there's time this week, but I'll set it as a priority.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mid Week Update

This past weekend and week have been good for riding.  Last Saturday I set a goal of riding 5 hours to make sure I was ready for that much saddle time during the Ridgeline Rampage which is coming up in 2 weeks.  I wanted to make sure my body was ready to ride that long and that my nutrition plan would keep my power output up during that riding time.

The ride was a total success.  I got in 4:52 and 84 miles, averaging over 17 mph with a normalized power just above my level 2 power level, 208W.  My power to heartrate decouple was under 17%, which is pretty good for my outdoor rides.

The ride ended up being great.  I'm glad I got that effort in.  I'll need a few more like that in the coming months, however I'll need to put more climbing in the route.

On Sunday I was given a second hall pass so I hit the team ride.  The legs felt pretty good and I put in a few efforts to remind the body what speed feels like.  It's funny how much of a benefit those long endurance rides give me.  During the ride we had a little snow squall got through, fortunately it wasn't even enough to get the pavement totally wet.  In the end, I felt great and my nutrition plan worked well to tack on another 50 miles.

Monday I got a little skills lesson during a mountain bike ride, which frankly, was something I needed.  Vincent offered up some pointers which captured the issues I has having and if I can get out and work on it, should help.

This weekend is going to be a little interesting in the riding department but I should be able to get in a few rides.  And with the weather hitting the 70's this week, I'll certainly be out to enjoy and welcome spring.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Feel Way Behind

I was out for a mountain bike ride last night with a couple of friends, hitting some trails I haven't been on in a few years. It was great to get out for the evening ride and just enjoy the trail and competitive feel of riding with friends.  The loop we were one was nothing difficult or technical but it had a few short punchy climbs and some 'few minute' climbs.  I just kept feeling out of sorts and...... slow.  Slow is a bummer.

Typically come April I'm starting to feel 'competitive', but not so far this year.  It's certainly discouraging to feel this way.  I'm trying to stay focused on the fact that I started training a month later than normal and I've been sick twice.  So by default I should be a month or more back compared to normal.  On top of that almost all my riding has been base miles, they're necessary but it's hard to get fast doing endurance rides.

In the end I need to keep plugging away at the plan and not get too anxious.  I have the 50 mile Endurance race Ridgeline Rampage coming up in two and a half weeks.  Then Battle the Bear in a month, again the 50 mile endurance race.  I need to keep building the endurance miles to ensure I can survive those races.  According to my plan, those will help get me through the Bailey Hundo.  Time will tell.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Frustrating Training Camp

Well, that was certainly a test and not for the reasons I anticipated at the beginning of the week.  Last weekend I put in 5 hours... all below or right around 40 degrees.  On Monday I was coughing but still felt great so I kept to my minimum 2 hours of riding per day.  By Wednesday I was still riding but my throat hurt bad enough I didn't want to talk on those rides.  By Thursday I was heading home early sick.  I was down and out Friday and Saturday.  This is the second time this spring I've been sick.  Initially I was pretty mad about it, but what good does that do.  So I tried to get some small things done around the house while resting.

Sunday I felt pretty good (no medication) so the plan was to get back out on the bike.  I was out on the new mountain bike only to crash on the first 5 feet of my first single track.  I clipped a pedal and went over the handle bars.  No real damage so I continued on my ride.  About 40 minutes later I put a hole in the middle of the rear tire that the Stan's couldn't seal.  I put in my spare tube only to find it had a hole in it as well (I later saw a spot were the tube had a hole rubbed in it).  So, I was doing the walk of shame back to the car.  Fortunately some cool fellow riders pitched in and gave me another tube and loaned me a pump so I could limp back to the car instead of walk.  Much appreciated!  Thanks.

On a side note, I seem to have one of these rides every year and someone always bails me out.  Since I believe in the 'circle of life', I'm always willing to help a fellow rider when I find them in a similar predicament.  I figure if I earn good karma, it will come back to me when I need it.

So, my training camp ended up 3 days short plus one day with a 'broke' ride.  No long ride and not the hours I wanted.  It's still early but I feel like I need to make some changes to get things back on track.  First things first, let's get over this stupid cold.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Training Camp

I've found that adding a "training camp" to my schedule has been very beneficial to my fitness each year.  A training camp is basically an entire week where you commit to riding everyday of the week, including both weekends on either end (9 days)  The goal is to log as much time as you can.  My basic commitment is a minimum of 2 hours per day.  This number comes about because if the weather is poor, 2 hours is about all I can tolerate on the trainer.  But also be careful, 4 hours one day does not mean you've ridden two days worth of time.  It means nice job, now ride at least two hours the next day.  Thus I set out to log as many hours as I can.  Be warned, by the end of the week you can be pretty zapped.

Pace on these early training camp rides is typically base miles, Level 2 endurance power.  Training camps later in the season are more tempo, L3 based.  As much time as possible in that zone.  You're going for an adaptation with your body to get your aerobic engine rev'd up.

During the past few years when I've had training camps, I've only traveled someplace away from home once.  Typically I do what I can to set aside my extra commitments that I have for that week and just ride.  I'll come in to work a little late or leave a little early to get my riding in that week, because it's training camp week.  I take the long ride into work or on the way home.

I'm planning to have a training camp starting this weekend, through next week which is spring break for the kids.  The weather is looking good and I'm looking forward to getting out for some riding.  Wish me luck, and set yourself up for a training camp this spring, you'll be glad you did.

Monday, March 17, 2014

2013 Cannondale Flash 29er 1 High Mod Carbon - First Impressions

Back in March 2010 I got my first 29er, an aluminum Cannondale Flash 29er.  It wasn't the top end version by any means.  It's a super fun bike to ride.  I had a few issues with the bike but they were all resolved.  The fork had to be sent back to Cannondale once.  The Avid brakes sucked so I upgraded them.  The wheels that came with the bike were heavy so I got a pair of race wheels.  Overall, I enjoyed the bike a lot.  I certainly had no reservations about getting another Cannondale Flash 29er if the opportunity presented itself.

Well, an opportunity arose!   As 2013 bikes were being cleared out to make room for the new ones I came across a deal I couldn't pass up.  So, I struck while the iron was hot and snatched up a top of the line beauty.  The 2013 Cannondale Flash 29er 1 high modulus Rocket ship carbon hard tail bike!
I'm so over the black on black coloring so many manufacturers use.  I love the colors of this bike.  Red, White and Blue BABY!  It stands out and looks good.
Carbon XLR 90mm Lefty Fork.
Not sure I'm a fan of the Avid brakes but the lefty lockout is integrated on the break mount.  It keeps the cockpit nice and clean.
High modulus carbon
XTR derailleurs are awesome!  The Shadow plus technology doesn't stick out and is hidden away.  The genius of the entire bike is the extra clutch they put on the derailleur to prevent chain slap.  There is no chain slap!!  Coming down a bumpy descent is like riding a single speed...... almost!  The chain still raddles within the cassette but it is truly awesome for people that like having a quite bike.  Most importantly, it works!
  Reynolds carbon 29er wheels!  Reviews on these wheels seem to indicate the spokes like to untension.  I'll have to keep checking them out.  So far I like the ride quality.  When I converted them to tubeless the tires snapped into place giving confidence they were in tight.  They popped into place just like my Stan's ZTR crest rims I used on the old Flash.  Most importantly they come with 2 years of Reynolds Assurance Program (RAP), so I guess I'm covered.

After a few rides my first thoughts are that this bike is a rocket ship!  Super efficient and fun to ride.  I'm looking forward to more rides on this bike.  I'll post updates as the season goes along and I learn the true personality of the bike.  It's kind of fun having a bike that's so far above my ability level!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Aero is Everything

Even when racing in the mud.  Notice the aero helmet, did it make a difference... maybe.  Either way Zdenek Stybar was fast and it looked good.

But WOOOW! These aero helmets look horrendous!  Just nasty.  Oh my.  Are they faster?  .... oh who cares, don't do it.
Ikea called, they want their helmets back.

Monday, March 10, 2014


The entire household, including the dog, has been sick this past week.  Making things pretty miserable and not much fun.  So I've been focusing all my time and effort to the recovery effort.  I'll try and get a few more posts out in the coming days.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Base Mile Optimization

Now that I'm back to riding base miles I've been spending some time thinking about what makes a good base ride.  I typically think about long 'slow' rides; slow isn't quite right because a steady base ride can be done at a good pace.  You should think of it as a steady pace that you can hold for a long time.

Having a powermeter really allows me to look closer at that definition.  The long steady pace your targeting during base miles is typically referred to as Zone 2.  For my zone 2 workouts I like to target 200 +/- 10 watts.  Based on this description, the definition of a good base ride is maximizing the time spent in the target power zone (2), and minimizing time spend out of that zone.

It's easy to do on a trainer.  You pedal at the target zone, no stopping, no coasting, no hills.  Basically you end up with a 100% efficient base mile ride.  See below, no time spent not pedaling and the overwhelming majority of the time is spent in the target zone.
Now when you take that ride outdoors and you have traffic, hills (up and down), lights, pedestrians and other interruptions.  You start to loose that good base ride.  During a recent 2 hour ride I was sad to see that I had over 20 minutes of not pedaling.  According to my good base mile definition my two hour ride was really only 1:38, which isn't as exciting.  
 So, how do you fix that?  Theirs not much you can do about lights, cars and pedestrians other than select a route without them.  Since I live at the foothills of the mountains most of my rides have hills.  So, to minimize the riding time lost spend coasting down hills I apply my brakes and pedal against them to keep my watts up.  It's not so exciting to be pedaling down hills with your brakes on but in the end, your ride will be better.  Below is the same two hour route as the one above, this time the time spent not pedaling was reduced by about 8 minutes.  I know, 8 minutes, but in a time crunched world were it's hard to get bike time in the first place..... I don't want to give up those 8 minutes.  Hopefully I'll get better at this and my time spend riding base miles will be maximized.
 This also shows that riding the trainer can be a great way to get in quality base miles, as long as you can mentally stand the drone for hours.  Which is challenging.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SRAM Rival Stages Cycling Powermeter Review

Part way through this past cyclocross season I purchased a SRAM rival stages powermeter that I can use on both my Ridley X-fire CX bike and my old aluminum Cervelo P3 TT bike.  So far I've been pretty pleased, that is to say, I've had no issues and it works the way they advertise.

First of all it's super easy to install, just like installing the left crank arm.  Second it's easy to communicate with.  My Iphone talks to it in Bluetooth mode, and allows me to update its firmware.  The Garmin edge talks to it using the ANT+ protocols.  Just zero out the powermeter by leaving the crank pointing down and then hitting the calibrate button.

I raced with it during CX season and had no issues and now it's on the TT bike.  No big deal.  Below are some pictures of my rival cranks.  I moved it from my compact 110 rival CX chain rings to the standard 130 TT chain rings with no recalibration or anything.  Just moved it.... easy.

I ran some tests to compare the readings of the stages powermeter with that from my G3 Powertap.  I put them both on my TT bike and did an easy endurance ride and the two powermeters read within 10 watts of each other.  They're not exactly the same but they're close.  The difference isn't enough to be in different power zones or anything.  The one draw back is the stages only reads the left leg and I know my left leg is stronger/more efficient than my right.  I don't know if it's 10 watts better, but maybe.

Either way, with the low cost of the stages powermeter and the simplicity of its operation.  I'm happy with it and would think it would make an outstanding powermeter for just about anyone.  You're not locked to a wheel nor is it expensive like a full crankset (quarq or SRM).  I see Sky cycling is even using them.  It will be interesting to see if the Tour champ(s) have an issue with only getting data from his left leg.

I just moved the stages powermeter to the old Cervelo P3 TT bike

I had the stages powermeter on the Ridely CX bike for half the 2013 CX season

This is a WKO+ comparison between the PT and Stages powermeters on the same ride, on the trainer.  The top graph shows the power.  It looks like there's a little offset in time (my fault for not cropping the data correctly).  As you can see the power numbers on the yellow/Stages line appears to be slightly higher than the red/PT line.  The heart rate data in the second graph should line up perfectly as I was only wearing on HR strap, the offset is do the slight difference in data crop.  The average difference between the Stages and PT powermeters was about 10 watts.