Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cross Crusade - Rainier

In the past, the course at Rainier has treated me well. The course isn't super technical, lots of room to pass, and there's a good climb at the end of each lap. A good fitness course. It's also been dry the past few years, so that makes it less technical.

Well, this year was quite different. It rained considerably the few days before the race and it was a mud pit in sections. It stopped raining in the morning and the sun came out. By my race at 1140am the mud in the woods section dried out enough to become a very thick mess which was nearly impossible to pedal through. That meant: running. Yuck!

There was mud (photo courtesy of Victor Duong)

My start position wasn't too bad - half point in the field. We started straight up the big hill. I passed a bunch of people on that hill and had the leaders in my sight. Got to the back woods section and I was still looking good, but had to get off the bike and run like everyone else. That winded me a bunch so I eased off a bit, but didn't seem to recover very well at all. I was going full tilt to keep my position. Got to the hill the at the beginning of the 2nd lap and that's when disaster stuck. Wasn't a mechanical - it was my body.

All cross races hurt, but this was something different. I was definitely charging up the hill hard like everyone else, so definitely in the VO2 max region. However, my lungs and legs weren't doing well at all. I backed off for some recovery, but I just couldn't recover. I was losing a bunch of spots and I could tell my day was about over already. It took most of the next lap to settle down and by then I was on a joy ride.

I was not feeling good (photo courtesy of Victor Duong)

Earlier in the work week I did something I always do. When I got the call from the nice old lady at the Red Cross, I said sure I'll donate blood like I always do. Not a good idea 2 days before a cross race. I sure missed all my oxygen giving red blood cells.

So, I rode the rest of the race for fun and enjoyed the ride. Didn't really enjoy the run in the mud, but that's OK. There's always next week - Sherwood. It's got a big hill also I hear. It's was a new course last year and I haven't done it yet. Should be interesting.

Even enjoyed the bill hill (photo courtesy of Victor Duong)

Here's another awesome video by team-mate Burk Webb.....

Cross Crusade Race #2 Rainier High School from Burk Webb on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cross Crusade - Alpenrose

It has begun..... the Cross Crusade series. What a turnout on Sunday. Over 1500 racers participated. Most likely the biggest cyclocross race in the world. There were ~250 kids in the kiddie race. How crazy is that.

I was pumped up for my race. Took a rest week last week since I've been training pretty hard the last 7-8 weeks in preparation. My legs felt fresh. Unfortunately, I started behind a 100 or so guys in my field since my random number draw wasn't great.

The course was new and awesome. It was quite different from the last few years since they moved a bunch of earth around the velodrome. Everyone seemed to enjoy the course. Alpenrose is definitely one of the more technical courses in the series, in my opinion. That makes it tough to pass folks. Here's a photo of me in the "pain cave" on a run-up.

I put together a Kill Stat spreadsheet that estimates how many people you passed. It's a fun way to look at results when there's a huge field. There were 135 folks in my field and about 250 on the course including the other categories racing at the same time. What a circus! But it's all good fun. Here's a photo of my butt at the finish.....

Photo courtesy of PDX Cross

Here's a way sweet video that one of my PV team-mates created - he's a professional.

Cross Crusade Race #1 Alpenrose from Burk Webb on Vimeo.

Next week is Rainer School. It's a good course for me..... lots of room to pass and a good hill to power up. My goal this year is to get call up points by getting in the top 18. This should be the course for me to do it, even if I start in 123rd place. Keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Enjoy the Ride

This past weekend Ali and I took a trip down south for the Crater Lake Century. We've been planning this ride ever since Ali completed her triathalon in June.

The ride was on Saturday, but we decided to leave PDX on Thursday so we'd have a full day to enjoy the scenery around the lake. We camped at the Mazama campground where we were lucky to find a somewhat private spot in the midst of 200 other sites. There isn't much campground selection around the National Park, so we had to go with the tourist site.

Friday morning we took our time around the campground. It was best to sleep in since it was absolutely freezing in the morning. It took a bit to warm up. Our plan was to take the boat tour on the lake. Unfortunately, getting to the ticket booth at 12pm wasn't the way to get a ticket - sold out. Well, we hiked down to the boat ramp which is the only location on the lake to access the water. We found a great rock to eat some lunch and watch others jump into the lake. Surprisingly, no one was shivering when they got out of the figid cold water, so we decided to take the plung. Here's Ali taking the leap of faith......

On Friday evening we decided to stay on Saturday night so we wouldn't have to pack up camp so early in the morning. We overheard some Pacific Crest Trail hikers getting the "we're full" speech from the corporate campsite management. We both thought that was a real bummer and invited The Fuzzy Monkey and Boots McFarland to stay at our site. It was great to hear about their great adventures on the trail and how they do it. FM was doing a straight through trip, so he started in April and should finish in September. BM is a sectional hiker, so she has done 1-2 weeks sections over the past 8 years. They called us Trail Angels for helping them out in a bind and were very appreciative. Wow, what a logistical thing to pull off and what a committment. Ali and I decided to stick with car camping and the comforts of home at camp.

The morning came quickly on Saturday since we had to leave camp at 7am. We drove down to Ft Klamath where the ride started. All the downhill driving on the way to the start was a sign of things to come.

We decided to do the metric century that only had 5000' of climbing. No big deal for me since I ride like 7-8 hours per week. However, that's alot of UP for a girl that hasn't been riding much this year (foot problems have been keeping Ali off the bike). So, I knew I had to be on my BEST behavior and sit back and ENJOY the ride.

Here's a photo of us entering the park and the open road before the major UP started......

We came from the south and passed the Mazama campground. It was a steady grind up the hill and the hill didn't let up. My bike was geared with a double chainring while Ali had the triple. This allowed her to keep a slow and steady pace. I had to slow my cadence way down since I was pushing a bigger gear. This made it a bit of a balancing act for me and since I don't have much balance it was alittle challenging at first. The roads were narrow so my front tire would start to wobble at the slow cadence. By the end I was much better at it.
The century riders headed to the west and circled the lake in a clockwise direction. We turned to the east and started the ride around the rim of the lake in a counter-clockwise direction. Our route took us over hills, past a couple of waterfalls, and through the trees a distance from the lake. I was kinda bummed that our route didn't provide the majestic views of the lake, but that was OK since we drove the entire rim the day before. Here's a photo from our turn around point at the Phantom Ship..............

We headed back the way we came to the turn-off. Unfortunately, there was still some UPhill before the turnoff. Ali was a trooper and finished off those last few hills with a vengence. The downhill to the finish was welcome sight! We caught up with a few riders on the downhill and Ali found her legs again. She was cranking up there to the front and showing the boys how to ride downhill fast.

We got down to more level ground and hit the pasture area we saw early in the morning. I jumped on the front and pulled us all through a few miles. It was a "no chain"** section of road for me. Big sky, green pastures, cute cows, and open road. It was a beautiful way to end the ride.
We enjoyed the barbacue back at the start and called the day a success. It was a good break from the fast pace of the PV race team and the "numbers" of the power meter on the trainer. All I did was "enjoy the ride".

**no chain day...... that's how Lance Armstrong refers to those extremely rare days on the bike when the pedaling just seems so effortless you swear there's no chain. They're a gift from the gods and there's no way to make them happen or even predict them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

and so it begins......

Well, summer is finally starting in Oregon but I'm already thinking about fall and cyclocross. The official training for cross season officially started for me this week. So, you may ask and I do ask myself, "what have I been doing the last 6 months". Let's call it "base training". :-)

Last week of July, Ali and I went to Bend for me to "participate" in the Cascade Classic. I say participate since I really didn't feel very competitive this year, but that really wasn't my goal. The amount of time to train for a stage race is simply something I don't have. The good thing is that I realize that and I'm OK with it. A few highlights from the race....

First Stage

  • I loved my new Corsa Concepts wheels on the first stage. They felt light, cornered fantastic, and it was nice to race without a power-meter.

  • I avoided (my the skin of my teeth) a big crash. I was able to chase back to the group.

  • Felt great going into the last big climb up Bachelor. However, my legs exploded a few minutes after we started it. Talked to a few others after the race - sounds like it happens to everyone.

Second Stage - Time Trial

  • My primary goal was to do better than last year. I used my powermeter, so I could compare.

  • I definitely did much better than last year. It's uphill on the "out" and downhill on the "back". I focused on having good steady power on the downhill (key problem last year). Lesson I learned was that the "bang for the buck" on power vs speed isn't to great on a downhill - aerodyamics have a big affect. You definitely make better time if you go harder on the uphill.

Third Stage - Criterium

  • Yikes, skipped a pedal and rolled a tire on the first lap. Got a new wheel, but I was totally flustered and hanging off the back. I lasted only 5 laps. Good thing was that the wheel was fine. I'll just get my first chance to glue on a tublar soon.

Fourth Stage - Aubrey Butte Circuit

  • This is a very tough circuit. Lots of punchy climbs. There are 4 laps in the cat3s. Last year we did 3 laps in the cat4s.

  • A few of us lost contact with the group on the 1st steep KOM. We chased for 2 laps and got pulled on the 3rd lap. Oh well, I was glad it was over.

I took 2 weeks off the bike after the race. Spent a week in Orlando for a business trip and hit the treadmill a few times during the week. This week was my first week back on the bike. Typically after a rest period it's good to do some power tests to see where you stand. Well, I found that all that "base training" has paid off and I hit some major milestones.

My 20 minute test was 11% better than last season and I hit the 4.5 watts/kg milestone. That's a great sign for starting the cross season. The 20 minute test is an indicator of your threshold power and that's a major part of a cross race.

The 5 minute test is always been something I've struggled with. It's a measure of VO2 max. This is an effort than puts you in serious suffer mode. There's a major mental component of it since it's easy to just "give up". The coach I work with occasionally told me 400W would be a good target. It's taken me about 2 years to get there, and I finally achieved it - 406W (5.2 W/kg). This is another major component of a cross race - especially at the start.

Well, it looks like I'm stronger than last year, so I'm excited for my second year in the Master B category. I should be able to achieve some top 10 spots this year.

I'll be doing quite a bit of this for the next 6 weeks in preparation for the first Crusade race....

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Corsa Concepts 2.3T Review

In 2008 I purchased my first set of serious road racing wheels. I got some Reynolds MV32C carbon wheels that had a power tap. I got them on Ebay for a great price and started training with power. They were clinchers so I used them for training and racing. Not very light with the powertap but I was getting great training feedback from the data.

In early 2009 I had a tire blow out on a decent that destroyed the back rim. I had the wheel rebuilt with a new rim. Not a cheap repair since it was a carbon rim. Unfortunately, the LBS (local bike shop) agreed to rebuild the wheel with the old spokes. Turns out that was a really bad idea. I was breaking spokes. Finally, I had the wheel rebuilt with all new spokes. It ran like a champ for about 9 months. Then another broken spoke during a race at Kings Valley. Unfortunately, the spoke break fractured the relatively new rim.

The thought of the cost and potentially dealing with broken spokes on a rebuilt wheel was not sitting well with me. One of the key factors was the expense of replacement. Many wheel companies won't warrenty a rim that is built by a LBS, so if you break it you pay full price to replace it. I had the LBS build a wheel with a bullet proof aluminum DT Swiss RR1.2 rim around the power tap. Definitely increased the weight of the wheel considerably, but I knew I wouldn't be frustrated.

I did a bunch of investigation into wheel options before going to the DT Swiss rim. I finally decided that the powertap wheelset would become my standard everyday training set. My thought was to purchase a raceday wheelset in the future.

Well, the future finally arrived. The PV raceteam is sponsored by Corsa Concepts. They are a small local company that is associated with Veloforma bicycles, a local frame company. Luckily, one of their sponsorsed racers was in town and I setup a time to test ride the wheels. Well, a test ride on these is similar to test ride of a brand new sports car - WOW. I decided to purchase a few days later after consulting a bunch of racers with similar wheels.

Tubular vs Clincher
This is my first set of tubulars. My intention is to use these wheels solely for racing, so I figured this was a good way to go based on recommendations from others. We'll see how I feel after having to change my first set. Luckily the wheelset I purchased already had a set of Vittoria Corsa EVO CX tires mounted.

Deeper Dish
The Corsa rim is 58mm (2.3") deep. It's essentially a Zipp404 rim and I understand the rim is made in the same factory as the Zipps. My Reynolds wheelset was 32mm rim depth, so I again spoke to a bunch of racers with the Zipp 404s to get their opinion on the 58mm depth. Everyone agreed, if you have 1 set of aero race wheels it should be around 58mm. It's a excellent comprimise between weight and aerodynamic advantage.

No Powermeter
I've trained and raced with a PowerTap for a couple years now. For training on rollers (which I do alot) a powermeter is an essential item. It gives you instant feedback for training intervals.

However, for racing isn't not such a great thing. Basically, if you're not keeping up with others it really doesn't matter what your powermeter says. I'll say that looking a the powermeter during a race can play mind tricks on you. Seeing a number you don't think you can hold for very long is not very motivating. Sometimes it's best not to know. It's nice to review files after a race, but if you've done the race once with a powermeter it really it's too interesting to see it again.

Of course, no power meter makes a huge difference on the weight of the wheel.

Weight Change
The weight difference to my powertap wheelset is probably the biggest difference. I measured a difference of ~1.2 lbs (from a bathroom scale, so I'll say that's approximate). That brings my bike overall weight to 16.7lbs (down from 18lbs). All is a reduction in rotational weight which makes a huge difference in acceleration.

Ride Review
I haven't put many miles on these yet, but I already have an opinion - WOW. I raced them last night out at Mt Tabor. The difference in accerelation is amazing. Actually, you really need to pay attention to your body position when you jump on these. You need to have weight over the back wheel, otherwise the tire will slide out. Also you can jump the back of the bike around pretty easily based on a talk with Corsa owner (who is much more of a sprinter than me). So, alittle form is necessary.

Tabor has a good short 2 minute power climb. They felt great. I just wish my legs felt good after the 5th lap!

Descending seemed very solid. By the 3rd lap I was starting to trust the wheelset and it was sticking to the road very nicely. Obviously, I need to get some more experience with them on the longer descents that take you up to 40+mph.

Overall, I very happy with the wheelset so far. It will be great to race them at the Cascade Classic later this month.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Ramping Up

Well, in the middle of June I really started focusing on training. Cascade Classic stage race is at the end of July and I need to get in shape or get my a$$ handed to me. I guess I've been doing some form of training since the beginning of the year, but it was more fun rides and morning endurance/threshold sessions. I really started the intervals and the long weekend rides.

I joined Ali in Bend last weekend when she did the PacCrest triatholon with Team-in-Training. I got in some excellent rides with Sunriver being the base. I did a 90 mile ride on Friday out to T1 at Wickiup Reservoir and then head back to Sunriver via Mt Bachelor on the 1/2 ironman route.

Here's a photo from my favorite lake along the route (Devils Lake) - the view on this route is awesome!

I've also been getting in some good long rides with the PV guys on Saturdays. Yesterday we did Mountain Home hill and I set a new 5 minute power record with 382W.

Tour-de-France has started - enjoy the race. It's going to be a good one.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Eugene Roubaix - 5/1

Carpooled down to Eugene with a couple other Master racers to hit the Eugene Roubaix race. The quick summary is that I got dropped on the 4th lap on "the hill". Very dissappointing to ride the last lap all by yourself. However, a few days after the race I've had time to reflect and get things into perspective.

Number 1 - Road racing isn't my goal this year. I really haven't started any hard intervals yet, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I get dropped when the cat 1/2 riders hit the hammer on the hill of the last lap.

Number 2 - I've come a long way in my strength. I first did this race as a cat 5 in 2008. It was my only DNF as a road racer since I got dropped on the same hill on the 1st lap. Yikes! Now I'm racing with the cat 123 Masters crowd and I made it to the last lap.

Number 3 - Cramps suck. It's a similar story to last year. I get dropped when my legs seize like bricks and I'm in crying pain if I try to turn my legs any harder. It happens during the attacks after I'm been on the bike for 2+ hours. Looks like I'm not the only one based on this article that came out today. I'm pretty sure my issue is the "train right" section. I'm typically doing 60 minute rides on the rollers during the week. Now that the sun is out later, I'll be getting in some longer rides.

The OBRA road race calendar changes now and there aren't many 1 day road races left. I'll be doing some evening races at PIR and Tabor. My next big race will be the Cascade Classic at the end of July. I better get in some long rides before that!

Here's a cool photo of the gravel section. It's about 1/2 mile long and everyone stays in the car tire "lanes". This year the gravel wasn't very deep in between the lanes, so it really wasn't a big deal. Actually, it's the easiest part of the race since your in a paceline and in a tailwind. It adds a fun twist to the race. Photo courtesy of OCA

Saturday, April 24, 2010

De Ronde Van West Portlandia

The DeRonde Portland is a bike ride based on the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. It's a road race that covers 17 cobbled hills which are really steep. Well, the organizer of the CrossCrusade in PDX thought it would be a treat to replicate the fun in the West Hills of Portland. They started the DeRonde a few years ago. Initially only a few people join and last year it swelled at 500 riders. Even OPB did a video segment on the news.

It's about 40 some miles and approximately 7500 feet of climbing. The two steepest hills are streets called Brynnwood and College. Byrnnwood tops off at a grade of 31%. I had a moment of lost concentration on that one and lost my momentum. There was no getting back on the bike and continuing to ride with that type of grade. I made it up College - photo below (I'm in the center).

We had a great turnout from Portland Velo. A few of the guys finished in the top 10 finishers (not that it was a race). It was great to have a friendly ride with folks you race with and enjoy the city. We stopped at a couple lemonade stands and a beer stop along the way. We're very blessed to have opportunities like this in Portland. Yes, we're spoiled.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Piece of Cake

Wow, I've neglected my blog something terrible. I'll use the excuse that I've been training in the pain cave and there hasn't been much to report. My approach to road racing has been much different this year. Last year I started early with the Banana Belts and didn't miss any opportunity to race. This year, I've been taking an more casual approach in order not to burn out for cross season. I've been working on endurance and really haven't done any hard intervals yet. Looks like I'm getting stronger for the longer efforts. My 20 minute power is up to 330W. I was at 300W this time last year, so that's a good sign of improvement.

However, all training and no racing makes Paul a boring boy. So, it was time to put the legs to the test. I was going to race Piece of Cake (POC) rain or shine. Well, there wasn't any shining that day. It was windy and cloudy when I showed up to the race. The morning PV boys had the new tent setup, so there was a good place to stay dry.

Of course, it started pouring rain 5 minutes before the start gun. Everyone was cold and wet and the officials got eager beaver and started the race a few minutes early. We were riding for about 5 minutes really hard to warm-up, but then the officials car stopped us. We waited in the cold rain for about 3 minutes to wait for a couple guys that missed the early start. Yikes!

We started cranking away again and the pace was fast since it was cold. My team-mate got in a 2 man break right off the beginning of the 1st lap (he pulled off 2nd place for the race). About 15 minutes later I saw the guy I marked jump off the front so I put out a big effort to catch his wheel. We did a serious TT effort for quite a while. We caught the 3rd chase group and became a group of 4. I wasn't working too much since I had my team-mate in the lead break. My error of the day was doing too big of a pull to close the gap on the 2nd chase group. My legs were toast and I lost the groups wheel. I was in "no-mans land". I sat up and went back to the pack.

On the 4th lap, 5 miles prior to the finish they closed the road. There was a bad wreck in the womens field. We were all stopped and had to wait for 5 minutes. They kept track on the time splits of the breaks. There was about 10 of us left in the pack. The hard wind and rain did the damage. We were all cramped up and decided to soft pedal in since we were racing for 8th place.

It was a good hard race to start the year. I was happy with my efforts. Took 11th place.

Rolling in at the finish - I'm on the left.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Wow, new year, a new decade, and most importantly a new season. I took the last few weeks off the bike after Cross Nationals. Holidays were great with my son, Luke. Christmas is so much better through the eyes of a 7 year old. I also took some time to reflect on 2009 and do some planning for 2010. I met with coach Cree at UEF to make sure I wasn't off my rocker and here's a taste of what I came up with.

2009 Review -

I believe I made some good progress on the bike in 2009. It was the first year I was really organized training and stuck to a "training plan". I pretty much self coached myself and met with coach Cree every few months to make sure I wasn't doing anything stupid. I attended all kinds of clinics, read books, read lots of forums on the web, and listened to my team-mates. Of course, I learned some things and I'll make adjustments in 2010.

Changes to make.....

1) Start road racing later in the year. Damn, it was a long year when I started racing at Cherry Pie in February and ended at Cross Nationals in mid-December. Can't do that again. I've decided to skip the early spring races and start in April. I'm bummed I'm going to miss the Bananna Belt, but I need a break since cross is still my primary focus.

2) More focus on 3-5 minute power. I had a tough time at the end of road races with cramping and missing the big surge at the end of a race. I finally realized when I started cross season the benefit of 3-5 minute intervals. Last year I focused more on short 30s-1minute stuff in order to improved my biggest weakest (a sprint). I started the 5 minute intervals for cross season and saw a dramatic increase in strength and power. Well, I have now realized I'm not going to win a sprint so I really shouldn't focus on the real short stuff. However, getting cramps at the end of a road race due to that 3- 5 minute big effort is not acceptable. A change I will make in 2010.

Good results.....

1) Cross.... I was satisfied with my results in cross this year. I upgraded to the Master Bs and I felt like I was in the right group. I can race with these guys. I never was able to combine a good start position with a non-problem day at the Crusade. However, I did an excellent job passing folks when I started in the back. Next year, I'll be shooting for some top 10 finishes.

2) Power numbers.... It's great to have a method to measure progress. A power meter definitely gives you that ability for cycling fitness. I'll be focusing to increase 5 minute to 400W and 20 minute to 345W. I'm weighing in 168-170 consistently now, so my power-to-weight ratio is pretty decent for 20 minutes. I'll never be a sprinter, so I'll just let my 5s anc 1min fall where it does.

A comparison of 2008 versus 2009 best average power outputs.....
5second: 896 - 1031
1minute: 512 - 569
5minute: 360 - 378
20minute: 294 - 322

2010 Racing Plans -

Well, I'll be holding off until April to hit the racing circuit as I mentioned above. I upgraded to category 3, so that I can hang with the rest of my PV team-mates and push myself alittle harder. This will most likely be the category I stay at. You have to "earn" your upgrade to a 2 and that means alot more work and dedication. I'll also be able to race in the Masters Open category. This is the 40+ group that includes category 1,2,3 racers. I raced with these guys a couple times last year. Much safer group and learned alot about tatics since they are much more experienced. However, these guys are fast.

I'm going to race some time trial events this year. This will give me more experience in this discipline for the stage races. As for stage races, I'll plan on Cherry Blossom and Mt Hood Classic. I'm not sure about the Cascade Classic in late July. I might want to have a bigger break before cross this year.

I'm also committing myself to an AquaBike event this year. I've always wanted to do triathlons, but my knee problems prevent me from running. A aquabike event is swim and bike. I swam in highschool and enjoy it, so it will give me some cross training during the road season. The 2.4 miles of swimming is intimidating, but my training partner is willing to coach me on the swim training.

Cyclocross will again be my focus since it is my true passion. I love cyclocross - the racing, the training, and especially the atmosphere. My goal will be a top 10 finish in the Master B group. I'll also participate in Cross Nationals in Bend Oregon again. That was an unforgettable weekend.

Well, they say that sharing your goals with others is a good way to motivate yourself. So, there they are. Let 2010 start rolling!