Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Pierre's Hole 50/100 is Sat!

I can't wait for Saturday!

An already tough race will be a little tougher this year with the addition of 3.5 miles of new singletrack on the way to the Mill Creek descent as well as a reroute on Mill Creek itself.  The word on the street is that lap times will be 15' longer on laps 2-4 when we climb the new singletrack.  The first lap will still climb the service road to spread things out.  Oh yeah, and the climb out of Dry Creek is just as steep as ever.

If I have a good race, I am looking at 11.5 hours in the saddle...and I dig that.  Let's light this candle!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Fat in July

When I saw the spy photos from K-Edge World headquarters here in Boise I had to share them.  Their latest project involves three of my favorite bike topics:

1) I love Fat Bikes
2) I love bright orange bikes
3) I have a weakness for the latest tech...and Ki2 certainly falls into that category

The 907 orange frame just pops!  I haven't seen the bike in person but based on the pics I would say that they are using 100mm E13 cranks with two rings + K-Edge Ring Guard  in the front and a Shimano XTR 10 speed 11-36 cassette in the rear which would provide acceptable gearing for most snow or dirt riding.  It is awesome to see so many companies embracing Fat Bikes.

I wonder if they will track down some Boise State blue pogies for winter riding up a Bogus Basin?   

Ki2 Controlled Fat Back...Yeah Baby!
Rocking the Boise State theme
Very clean cockpit

Ultegra Di2 Rear Derailleur with Ki2 cage
No shift cables!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Art of the 20 Minute Field Test

If you train using a power meter, you have probably performed a field test to set your power training zones. Most coaches recommend a 20’ Field Test to do this. Once you have your average power for 20’, you plug this number into one of the various calculation methods out there and the result is your new set of power training zones. 

A well-paced 20' Field Test looks something like this

The 20’ Field Test is a big deal because if you blow it, the resulting training zones will be inaccurate…and it’s easy to blow it.  You are probably thinking, “How hard could it be to ride hard for 20’?”  You can go out too hard, you can go lose concentration and fall off the pace, or you can simply not push yourself hard enough.  The goal is to squeak every last watt out of your body during those 20’.

Over the past few years, I have done many of these 20’ tests and I actually get nervous before them. I know I am a dork.  As a 40+ endurance mountain bike racer with very little genetic talent, my biggest adversary is myself.  I try to beat my previous 20’ Field Test each and every time.  

Here are my tips for executing a successful 20’ Field Test:

The Day Before
  • This is not a good day to jump into the local World Championships ride.  Take it easy.
  • Choose your route.  In a perfect world, you will test on the same stretch of road each time.  
  • Ideally this will be a gradual (4 – 6 %) grade.
  • Check your bike.  Is the bike you plan to ride ready to rock?
  • Eat & Drink sensibly.  This is not a good night to drink three or four beers…unless you are “The” Dave Saurman and then that would be considered taking it easy.
  • Laundry.  Is your favorite bike kit clean?  Yes, the the 20’ Field Test is worthy of wearing your favorite bike kit.
  • Charge your Garmin/Joule/SRM or whatever bike computer you plan to use.  How bad would it suck to have your Garmin die 16.3 minutes into your 20’ Field Test?  It would really suck...especially if you were killing it!
Field Test Day
  • Eat your normal “pre-race” breakfast and drink your normal amount of coffee if you plan to do this test in the morning.
  • Poop.  I cannot overstate the importance of this step.
  • Put on your favorite kit and use a healthy dose of chamois creme. You might as well look fabulous AND be comfortable while turning yourself inside out.
  • Important items not to forget:  Two water bottles, your Garmin/Joule/SRM, and your iPod.
  • Check the PSI in your tires.
  • Roll out.
The Test
  • A good warm-up is very important and you want to start the test with a good sweat going.  Try to get a solid 30-40’ warm-up in on your ride to your chosen testing location.
  • Focus.  Take a moment and wrap your brain around what you are about to do.
  • Pee one more time.
  • Get fired up!  I like to visualize that I am climbing Teton Pass with my stone-cold homie, Fiddee Cent, and I launch an attack so violent and shocking that he is forced to pull over and sit down on the side of the road to contemplate his life as a cyclist.  Bam!
  • Turn the volume on your iPod up just a fuzz louder than normal.
  • Place your finger on the LAP button of your computer, and…Go! 
  • Start smart.  If your last test produced a 300 watt average for 20’, don’t leap out of the saddle and throw down 500 watts for the first two minutes…your test will end badly.  I know this much.
  • 5 Minutes In:  Your HR has skyrocketed and you’re breathing really, really hard already.  This alarms you a little.
  • Focus.  Keep the pedals turning over and stay seated.
  • Stop watching your HR.  It doesn't fucking matter at this point.
  • 10 Minutes In:  You have already thought about quitting.  You might be looking for little pieces of glass to run over so that you can honestly say that you flatted and couldn't finish.
  • Keep staring at the watts on your computer and WILL that number to stay at or above your target.
  • 15 Minutes In:  You can feel your heartbeat in your molars.  You are 100% mouth-breathing now and probably drooling a little bit.  This is good.
  • Grunting at this point is perfectly acceptable.
  • You have no more thoughts of quitting because the thought of having to do this all over again is far more horrible.
  • Your upper body is pumping like a Texas oil rig as you squeeze every muscle in your body in an effort to go faster.
  • 18 Minutes In:  This is too soon to “empty the tank” because you are running on fumes. Stay steady.
  • 19 Minutes In:   Drop one cog, stand up, and give it everything you have for the last 60 seconds. (which will last longer than you could ever imagine)
  • 19:59…and…hit the LAP button.
  • Try to keep rolling and stay on your bike as normal vision returns.
  • Congratulations!  You have just achieved a new PR for a 20’ Field Test.
As a result of your new PR, your training zones will get adjusted upwards and every interval you do moving forward will now be harder.  Ooofta!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012 SRAM Red Installation & Initial Review

SRAM is finally starting to ship the new 2012 SRAM Red group to bike shops and I just received my group after placing my order back in February. Thanks to Brandon at Fitzgerald’s Bicycles for dealing directly with SRAM and securing my place in line for the earliest possible shipment of this new group.

Why 2012 SRAM Red?

The only road group I have previously owned is Campy Record 10-speed and I love it but I tried to keep an open mind when looking for a new road group. As I was planning my new road bike build I agonized over Campy vs. SRAM vs. Shimano. Everyone is making great stuff right now so I really couldn’t make a bad choice. My decision came down to the power meter. I wanted to run a crank-based power meter so my options were limited to Quarq & SRM. SRAM’s acquisition of Quarq means that the integration with a SRAM crankset is super-clean. Lastly, the new 2012 SRAM Red Quarq crankset is HALF the cost of a SRM...half!  My choice was simple.

Light, Comfortable, and Flashy levers

I chose to build up my new road bike myself because I wanted to learn all the nuances of the new SRAM Red. The 2012 SRAM Red illustrated tech manuals are excellent but what truly helped me was the three You Tube videos that SRAM Tech has produced. I watched each You Tube video before I started and then referred back to them a few times when I got stuck.

The new YAW front derailleur setup is very different and it is important to take your time and get this part right. Here is the key: You have to install and adjust the rear derailleur BEFORE you can dial in the front derailleur and this is NOT clear in the written instructions. Before adjusting the front derailleur, you will shift the chain into the largest cog in the rear. I learned this via the You Tube video.

The Shift/Brake levers are incredibly light and flashy with the bold SRAM graphics. SRAM seems to be paying attention to the little details with this group. Gore cable housing & little gel pads are included in the box with the levers. The gel pads sit where the heels of your hands touch the bar while riding in the hoods and make a noticeable difference in comfort without adding bulk.  The shape of the hoods don't look as innovative as the new Campy 11-speed hoods but they are very comfortable with a nice wide base for the palms of my hands.  Both the shift paddle & brake levers have separate reach adjustments which will be nice for fine tuning once I get my hood position finalized.

Initial Impression

Crisp. Intuitive. Quiet. I really thought it would take me several rides to stop reaching for my beloved Campy thumb paddle to drop a gear but this was not the case. I was pleasantly surprised. Within minutes, I was intuitively making shifts up and down the drivetrain…the DoubleTap just makes sense. It takes very little shift paddle movement to initiate a shift which lends to the group’s crispness and shifting from the drops is easier than it was for me with Campy.

The 2012 SRAM Red cassettes are machined in the same way the SRAM XX mountain cassettes are. However, the new SRAM Red cassettes have little black elastomer bands in between each cog to muffle the sound. Genius! This drivetrain is quiet. The range of gears that the 11-26 cassette provides with 50/34 front chainrings should cover me nicely on everything from steep climbs to flats to bombing descents.

Will it last?

The thing I loved about my Campy Record was that it felt like new with a simple change of cables & housing. I rode the shit out of my Campy-equipped Orbea in all kinds of weather for six years and the drivetrain still works great and feels very smooth. I hope this new SRAM Red Group holds up well over time but the bar has been set very high.

I will post more about the new bike and the 2012 SRAM Red after I have more time on it. So far, I REALLY dig it.

Large shift paddles & contoured brake levers give the 2012 SRAM Red a nice feel
Clean cable attachment + 2.5 hex-adjustable limit screws. Nice.
SRAM includes little gel pads & Gore cables with the levers.  Photo by Red Kite Prayer
SRAM's chain watcher bolts directly into the hollow front derailleur bolt
Quarq Powermeter is cleanly integrated with the 2012 SRAM Red Crankset

Thursday, July 5, 2012

2012 Cream Puff Race Report

Quick Stats:
Place:  3rd Place Open Singlespeed
Time:  12:34:05
Conditions:  Mild temps, high humidity, & muddy singletrack
Gearing:  32x20

Humid & Muddy are the two adjectives I would use to describe the 2012 Puff
It has been a wet spring in central Oregon and rain has been the norm throughout June instead of the typical warm temps.  Having watched the forecast all week, I knew it was likely that we would get wet at some point but I had no idea that we would be in for the epic slog that Mother Nature dished out.  We got rained on in the 2009 Puff and the trails held up very well.  This year, it rained hard the afternoon before the race and throughout much of the night.  With the trails already saturated from a wet spring, we were greeted by serious mud when we hit the Alpine Trail for the first time Sunday morning. 

The first hour+ of the race gets sorted out on the long climb of FS Road 1910 before the race is funneled into the famous Alpine Trail singletrack.  I felt great on the first climb and when we turned into the dark forest, I was ready to get my singletrack shred on.  I was not mentally ready for the abrupt stop that occurred when I hit the first muddy incline.  The Alpine Trail was deep, greasy mud and I was struggling to ride it on the singlespeed…so I pushed.  I was only 1:15:00 into my race and this was part of my plan.  I felt SO slow and inefficient and it was fucking with my mental state early in the game.  

This little section of the Jedi Forest was "dry" and tacky
 Toe Spikes
This year’s race routed us onto the steep singletrack of Tire Mountain and Winberry Divide and these trails were challenging to ride on my geared bike in 2009 when they were mostly dry.  I remembered how tough these trails are and when I saw rain in the forecast I added ¾” toe spikes to my shoes to help when I had to push my bike.  When we hit the first sustained pitch of Tire Mountain, the footprints told me that most riders were pushing their bikes and sliding backwards a little with each step.  I smiled…and began to push harder.  As I saw the geared riders around me pushing as well, I felt even better and I quickly wrapped my brain around the fact that it was going to take me longer to finish than it did in 2009.  It took me 20’ longer to get to Aid #3 than it did in 2009.  Oofta! 

Everything circled in yellow was very muddy
Get your gravel climb on
I look forward to the long gravel climbs in the Puff and I was stoked to get through Aid #3 and begin the two hour climb up to the Jedi Forest.  I used the riders ahead like carrots and tried to reel them in while staying at the very high end of my sustainable pace.  I had long stretches of “alone time” in this year’s Puff and I was able to look around a bit and notice the scenery while climbing.  The flowers were absolutely going off this year and one hillside in particular looked like a giant quilt covered in tiny pink flowers.  Gorgeous stuff.

Mr. Green Socks 
On my second trip over Winberry Divide, I caught a singlespeeder.  I hadn’t seen another singlespeed since the opening climb and as I got closer I recognized his green striped socks.  He rode away from me on the opening climb and I remember thinking that he looked very strong.

We were both pushing/riding our way through Winberry mud and I finally caught him when he had a minor bobble and went off trail.  I tried to put the hammer down and get a gap but it was so slippery that I too went off trail about five minutes later and he passed me. Doh!  A few minutes later, we repeated the drill and I was in front again.  Although we both laughed about it at the time, underneath the laughter we were sizing each other up and I had a feeling we would battle for the rest of the day.  We left Aid #3 together and chatted a bit on the paved FS road before I upped the pace and got a gap that would stick for the remainder of the race.  I knew he was never far behind and would catch me if I let up at all or made a single mistake.  Sure enough, Mr. Green Socks finished in 4th place, just six minutes behind me.  Nice work!

The Last Climb
In my four previous Cream Puffs, I have always had a little left on the final climb and been able to reel in a few riders.  Not this year.  Although I did not get passed on the last climb, it took every drop of energy I had to keep the pedals turning over on FS Road 1910.  I was more than a little excited to grab the delicious de-fizzed bottle of black goodness (Pepsi) that was in my drop cooler at the bottom of the final climb.  With just a mile to go to the top I tried to up the pace, knowing that I could empty the tank before the final downhill.  My legs cramped in protest…first the left inner thigh cramped and then my right hip flexor cramped.  Fuck!  I was sure that Mr. Green Socks would catch me in my pathetic cramped-up state.   

Supply & Demand?
The Cream Puff had 90 racers signed up this year and only about 70 took the start line.  This is a big drop from 2009 & 2010 when the Puff had close to 200 racers.  Is it the $225-$250 entry fee?  Has the High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR taken a big bite out of their field?  I sincerely hope that the new race directors have success with the race and build upon what has made the Cream Puff an incredible event.        

My Lower Back; the key to finishing the 2012 Cream Puff
Just three weeks before the Puff, I had to DNF the Boise9 to 5 because of low back pain.  In fact, I questioned whether I should even attempt the Puff after the Boise 9 to 5.   

I made an appointment with Dr. Nate Spangler of Trailhead Chiropractic immediately following the 9 to 5 and we went through an evaluation.  Dr. Nate put me through a battery of range of motion tests and made a simple diagnosis:  My hips are so immobile that my lower back flexes to compensate while on the bike. Your hips should be mobile and your lower back should be somewhat stable.  In other words, I need to work on hip flexibility (Hip Flexor, Pirformis, IT band, Quads) as well as Glute strength to take some pressure off of my lower back. 

In addition to a heavy dose of foam roller work & specific stretching, Dr. Nate did three sessions Graston Therapy on me which seemed to really make a difference.  I immediately started feeling the results of this simple new program and I was cautiously optimistic after my pain-free 6.5 hour singlespeed training ride in Jackson two weeks before the Puff.

Lastly, I took extra time during my 8.5 hour drive to Oakridge, OR to stop and stretch.  I also stopped in Bend, OR and did some stretching & went for a short run.  I arrived in Oakridge feeling pretty good and I will incorporate this routine into my long drives from now on.

For the first time in a long time, I was not limited by lower back pain in a race and was able to use the muscles in my legs that I work so hard to train.  I still have a lot of work to do but at least I have a solid plan of attack.  Thanks Dr. Nate!

Selma was looking a little rough after this one but she got some love once we got home