Sunday, May 7, 2017

Training Update

Two weeks until Gran Fondo Leavenworth! Time to taper. So, next week (#19), I get to do about 8 hours and then 4 hours to be ready for GFL.

The training over the last 18 weeks has been good. I've tried for a good deal of structure. Basically, two hard weeks followed by a recovery week. The complication was that on the 1st week of February I got the flu and I didn't do anything for 10 days. So, to try to "catch up," I did three weeks working up to 16 hr. Week #10 was hard - I got kind a grumpy there for a while with the cold, dark, rainy riding.

I have found that the recovery weeks to be really good for feeling fresh and focussed.

Generally, for weeks 1-14, I did one V02 Max interval workout on rollers, one long (3-6 hr) weekend ride, morning recovery rides (Zone 1) on my commute, and evening commutes of 45 min - 2 hr.  Basically, I tried to keep my heart rate out of Zone 3 and Zone 4 - I've been trying to ride easy (recovery in Zone 1) or ride solid (endurance in Zone 2) or ride hard (intervals in Zone 5).

For the V02 Max workout I began with 3-5 x (6 hard + 4 easy). Starting week #12, I've been doing 5-6 x (8 min + 4 min easy). If I get 40 min. in Zone 5, I call it a super great workout.

I have found that my warm-up to doing these workouts is extremely important.  I can't be lazy. During one session, for example, I warmed up for 15 min. in Zone 1 with two or three 30 sec. hard efforts. This was inadequate. I know this because when I tried to do the first interval I couldn't get to Zone 5; instead, my heart rate hovered just below zone 5.  At first, I thought "bummer - I must be particularly tired or about to become ill."  But, I persisted and the next interval followed the usual pattern: With a lot of effort, it took about 2 min. to get to Zone 5 and then I was able to stay there for 6 min.  By the time I got to my 7th interval (I called the first one a "warm-up"), I got to Zone 5 in about 1 min. 15 sec. and I was able to stay there for the next 6 min. and 45 sec.

My performance on the V02 Max workout seems to be highly sensitive to level of fatigue, amount of sleep, amount of stress, etc.  For example, on the week before I got sick with the flu, I had a terrible time doing the intervals and I had to bail after 3 of 6 planned efforts. If I do two long days in a row (total of 6 hours) and then do the V02 Max workout, I can't get to Zone 5. If, however, I take an easy day before the intervals, things go much better.

But, fascinatingly, I never really know how I'm going to do until I try.  Some days, I start out feeling not so good and I get better; other days, I seem to feel good at the start but the efforts are pretty uncomfortable. All very interesting. Most recently, I have found that intervals 3-5 are easier than intervals 1-2.  I wonder if that has something to do with being warmed up.

There is so much to say about V02 Max intervals - each workout is filled with sensations, challenges, and accomplishments, part physical and part mental.  The pain and success.  There is a weirdness about looking at the heart rate numbers, the cadence, and the count-down clock: "four more minutes to go ... oh crap ... I better try to relax... Oh, still 3 1/2 minutes to go... oh crap I better try to relax, etc. ..."

For weeks 15-18 I have increased the riding intensity while keeping the volume about the same with more work in Zone 3 and Zone 4. I've done, for example, a couple of hill interval workouts in Zone 3 and lower Zone 4; a couple of 60 min. efforts in high Zone 4 on flat terrain; and three sessions with  45 - 60 min. Zone 3 efforts on my long rides (in the best case I got 3 hours in Zone 2; 2 hours in Zone 3; and 1.5 hours in Zone 1).

So, hopefully, these four hard weeks will consolidate the training, and allow me to ride well in GFL.  I'm looking forward to the challenge.  What's missing?  Specificity - that is, long sustained climbs, long descents, and then again. The longest I climb for is about 10 minutes and 450 feet.  Still, when I do climb I feel comfortable on the bike and I think I've done much more climbing this year than last year. And, most of my climbing has been very controlled - in high zone 2 and low zone 3.

During my training, I've lost about 15 pounds (after gaining about 10 pounds November and December 2016).  It's hard to know how much to eat. For me, I'm guessing that it's probably not good to be less than 145.

The Compass Bon Jon 35 mm. tires are awesome.  They work beautifully in tubeless mode. I've been riding them with about 43 psi in the back and 40 psi in the front.  Hopefully - fingers crossed - they will do well in GFL.

Its good to be alive; its good to ride.  I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to train for and ride in the Gran Fondos.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bon Jon Pass Tubeless Set-up

Given my weight plus the bicycle
weight and riding conditions,
what is the optimal
tire pressure?

I've been using Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tires on DT Swiss R460 rims (18 mm inner and 23 mm outer width) for about 4 weeks now. With tubes and at 40 psi, front and back, the wheels have felt exceptional on the road and pretty good on nice gravel (Tolt Pipeline Trail and Snoqualmie Valley Trail).

I have a bicycle tire pressure gage but evidently any gage's reading can vary by 15% (see discussion, August 22, 2016, at Compass Bicycles). So 40 psi could be 40 psi +/- 6 psi, which could be a very meaningful difference but, hopefully, any error in accuracy is consistent. I suppose I should seek to calibrate the gage.

Also of great interest:  Given the supple casings of the Bon Jon Pass tire, 40 psi was probably too low of a tire pressure - a little higher, perhaps 45-50 psi, is probably better (see discussion, March 9, 2016, at Compass Bicycles). That is quite high given my experience with Specialized Trigger tires in the Gran Fondos. But, that said, the Bon Jon Pass tires are likely more supple and so perhaps require more air pressure.

The simple approach would be to pump some tubes up to 50 psi, ride conservatively on fast downhills, and be done with it.  However, I've made it tricky because I want to get good performance (speed, reliability, and safety) out of the combination of rim, tire, and riding conditions. The big challenge is the riding conditions, which I assume to be 100 miles of 1/2 gravel and 1/2 road, with very, very fast descents, which expose you to pinch flats, and quite varied kinds of gravel (nice bits and deadly chunks).

In the five Gran Fondos that I've done, I've had three flats - one flat on the road for unknown reasons (back tire), one pitch flat at high speed when I went over an unexpected creek bed too quickly (back tire), and a "burp" when I hit an evidently ordinary rock at very high speed (front tire). In 1/3 rides with tubeless setups I've not had problems; in 2/2 rides with tubes I've had problems.
Compass Bon Jon Pass tires. Note
 those black lines after about 50 hr of
riding. Have I damaged the tire by
riding low tire pressure?

See those black streaks on the tire (right). I think, perhaps, the threads that hold the casing together have been damaged. It is noteworthy that the black streaks do not appear on the front tire, suggesting there's an issue with the tire pressure. If the threads have been damaged, the tire is not likely to reliably hold air in tubeless mode - bummer. Anyway, as usual with these things, there is a lot to learn.   Update: I was wrong.  Those black lines are not related to casing.  I wrote Compass -- they were extremely helpful -- and they pointed out that the back streaks look like "aluminum oxide from the brake surface of the rim."  True enough - a little water and elbow grease and they come right off. 

So, I'll pump them up to 45 psi and hopefully that will prevent further damage and, moreover, hopefully the tires won't stretch such that it rubs against the frame; alas, the tolerances are fine back there. Last year the Specialized Trigger  38 mm tires worked great until the back one stretched and began to touch the frame, although I think they are quite slow on the roads.

The Compass Bon Jon Pass tires seem to fit the rims superbly. As I inflate the tubes, the tires make a sharp popping sound as they seat with the rim groove, and the tire shape with the rim looks, to me, really good. So, I'm hopeful I'll get them to work tubeless.  But, alas, I do worry, since experts have reported frustrations and challenges - and I'm not, dah, an expert.

Attempt #1 - Failure.  I check my rim tape on my front tire and it looks pretty good to me.  This tape worked in the autumn with Specialized Triggers 38 mm. Just in case, I put another piece of tape over the valve hole, seeking to get a good seal with the valve. I used Stans Sealant and, since I don't have a compressor, I used a handy compressed air cylinder that I carry on my rides. This method for putting a lot of air into the tire fast did not work - just a lot of sealant on the garage floor and a mess to clean up.  The tire did not even get close to seating with the rim. I have found this method to work with the Specialized Trigger tires but no luck here.  So, onward .

Attempt #2 - Success! I ordered some Orange Seal Tubeless Tire Sealant, and headed off to one of my favorite bicycle shops, Counterbalance Bicycles, which has an outside air compressor. The Orange Seal sealant is evidently better for these tires (see review and discussion, August 22, 2016 at Compass Bicycles). No need for soapy water.  Instead I took the tube out while carefully keeping one of the tire beads on the rim. Once the tube was out, I put in the valve.  Then, keeping the wheel  horizontal, I put some sealant into the tire and brushed it around the bead and slobbered it around on the inside rim edge. Then, I put the tire back on the rim.  I blasted it with air while jiggling the sealant around near the valve, and sure enough the tire filled with air and the bead made a sharp snapping sound as it popped into place on the rim. Magical. That worked on both wheels, quite easily, in pretty much the same manner. I inflated the tires to 50 psi and rode home. Three hours later the tires seem to be holding air just fine. Tomorrow, I'll lower the pressure and give them a whirl on my weekly long ride.

Update,  April 15, 2017 - I filled the front and back tires to about 43 psi and I rode hard today on nice gravel. The Compass Bon Jon Pass tires are beautiful. They felt really good, both on gravel and then on road and vice versa. I noted that sensations on the transitions - seemingly, fast on the road, fast on gravel.

The only problem, and its a big one, is that after 4 hours I needed to stop and blast the back tire with air.  It went from about 43 psi to less than I suppose 15 psi (I couldn't quite see my gauge which I carried along with me). The front tire was great - I don't think it lost air or at least it was minimal.

Hmmmm. From magical, to disappointed.  I'm not sure where the tire is leaking - no obvious signs. I can press the tire inward and cause sealant leaks but that doesn't seem to be what is going on.  I guess the next step is to watch it carefully and determine if it leaks when not being ridden. And, then, perhaps add more sealant and see if that makes a difference.  Or, perhaps I should swap the tires and see if that makes a difference -- perhaps its the tape or valve?

As it stands, because of the loss of air, the tires are probably not viable for GFL, which is a real bummer given how nice they are to ride. However, because they ride so well, perhaps I should simply stop every two hours and pump them with air. Ha!   Or, perhaps I should ride with tubes at a fairly high tire pressure and ride very conservatively on the downhills to avoid high speed pinch flats.  Neither of these solutions is very appealing.

Update, April 16, 2017 - Anyway, the next day, after about 18 hours, the tire is dead flat. So, with my stand-up pump, I easily bump it up to 50 psi. And then I checked the pressure every hour.  Here's the sequence of readings, in psi, hour-by-hour for six hours: 50 - 42 - 33 - 28 - 22 - 15 - 10. So, during yesterday's ride, I started at 45 psi.  Therefore, after about 4 hours, one would expect the tire would be down to less that 20 psi. This prediction seems to be about right, although I would imagine that air would leave the tire more quickly when riding than when stationary.

I retrospect, I should have also recorded the pressure on the front time, which seems okay. I can say, however, that the front tire has gone from about 45 psi to 20 psi in 30 hours. So there is a lot of leakage but it is slower leakage.

So, I think the next question is: Where is the air escaping?  I see no obvious places. Is there a way of correcting the problem or have I somehow irreparably damaged the tire? (Note: The tire held air the first night.) If I have irreparably damaged the tire, how exactly did I do that? What should I learn for the next time? Could I have done anything differently?  Was it an issue of tire pressure?  I don't think so and I don't think my riding was out of the ordinary.

I think the next step is to dump a bunch more sealant into the tire, pump it up, and see what happens.  But, that will have to wait, alas, a couple of days ...

Main conclusions: Tubeless tires are great; Tubeless tires are a pain in the ass; I want to make the Bon Jon Pass tires tubeless because they feel fast both on gravel and on the road.

Attempt #3, April 23 - Success!!!  I contacted Compass and asked for some help diagnosing my troubles. We exchanged some e-mail and they generously considered my observations to be a "warrantee issue," and sent me a new tire. I though that was extremely nice, since I really didn't have clear evidence that it was a problem with the tire casing.

Anyway, I re-taped the back wheel and dumped 2 solid ounces of sealant into the old tire. It inflated beautifully. I pumped it up to about 50 psi and the tire held air all night.  Then, the next morning I lowered the pressure to about 43 psi and did a long ride and the tire held air just fine - perhaps losing 1-2 pounds over 24 hours.  What was my mistake?  Perhaps, I didn't use enough sealant or perhaps there was some problem with the tape job.

Anyway, the tires feel very, very good. They feel fast and quite solid - if a little squirely at high speeds - on both gravel and road surfaces.  So, with 4 weeks until Gran Fondo Leavenworth I believe I have an good tire set-up.  Here's to hoping that I don't cut, stretch, or otherwise wear out these beautifully designed and manufactured tires in the next 4 weeks. Ha! Fingers crossed!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Training Update

About 1.5 hr. into a 6.0 hr. ride. From Log Boom Park in Kenmore (map), I had ridden up and down along the Tolt Pipeline Trail and found my way to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. From here, I road Southeast to Rattlesnake Lake and turned around and came back. I put the heart rate monitor in my pocket and road for the pure joy of feeling the wet and wind, and being in touch with the sensations of my peddling. I listened to the springtime robins and red-winged black birds, focusing too on the gravel and human efficiency. (Just a note:  The ride back up from the Snoqualmie Valley Rd. to the Tolt Pipeline trail is horrendous, averaging 14% for 0.5 miles and maxing out at 25%.)

The riding and training have been good. I'm lucky to be alive and able to peddle. I've been following a fairly structured program -  two hard weeks and then a recovery week. I've learned to love recovery weeks! One snag was that I got the flu in January. That put me back a bit. Here are the hours, for the first 12 weeks of 2017, beginning the first week in January: 

10 - 12 - 7.5 - 11 - 0 - 2 - 8 - 11 - 13 - 16 - 7 - 15 ...

The core strength workouts have been going well. The knee and back are good. I feel solid as I peddle. My weight is good. I've been doing one V02 Max workout / week, lots of Z2 riding, recovery rides, and weekly peddling exercises, including some big gear low cadence work.

With 8 weeks until Grand Fondo Leavenworth, I'm on track. Here's the plan: Next week: Big volume, mostly in Z2 (17 hr); recovery week (8 hr); 2 cycles of hard 2-week blocks, with a good deal of upper Z3/lower Z4 work and lots of recovery (about 14-16 hr/week), and then two weeks tapering.  I'll keep doing the weekly V02 Max workout. The plan in hours over the next 8 weeks:

... 17 - 8 - 14 - 14 - 10 - 14  - 8 - GFL 

Update on the Raleigh Super Course. I installed a new chain and 7-speed cassette, which makes the drive-train feel great! And I've been trying out a set of Compass Bon Jon Pass tires (35 mm). (Review of extra light version here: review and review.) The tires seem to fit very well on my DT Swiss R460 rims. The clearance on the back is good with perhaps 1.5 - 2.0 mm between either side of the tire and the frame.  

I've been riding them at 40 psi, with tubes; they feel exceptional on the road. On Snoqualmie Valley Trail gravel and at high speed on the Tolt Pipeline Trail they feel good. How will they do on rough, crappy gravel, where the danger of cutting the sidewall is ever-present?  Not sure.

I'm looking forward to setting them up tubeless mode and seeing how they do at 27 - 30 psi or so. Not sure how they will do on fast gravel corners - that will be a bit of test.  But, I think they will be fine and I suspect they will be a better choice than the Specialised Trigger 38 mm tires. We'll see. The current plan is to use the Bon Jon Pass tires for GFL.

I've been wondering if my rims have become worn. Looking carefully, I found the dimple (see left). It's there. That's good news,  since I believe I'll get another season out of these rims. 

With the new cassette and chain - the chainrings seem okay still (touch wood) - the drive train should be good for GFL.  Still to do:  New cables, new break pads, and re-greasing the hubs. And, of course, take the fenders off :). 

The main focus, however, will be on the tubeless Bon Jon Pass tire setup - will need to get some new rim tape and sealant. Looking forward to some quality time with the wheels, and figuring out, first, if these tires will do the job at GFL and, second, the optimal tire pressure for the GFL gravel and roads.  (Very interesting discussion, January 30, 2017 at Compass Bicycles on gravel tires.)

Riding and Being, January, 2017, Carnation, WA.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ten Riding Goals for 2017

  1. Ride safely, be well, be in the flow. I'm lucky to be alive. To be able to peddle is a gift. I'm lucky. So, I'll be appreciative; I'll be mindful and focussed in all the riding. Every time I set out for a ride I know I'm at risk. I'll manage the risks as best I can. 
  2. Gran Fondos. Ride all five 2017 Vicious Cycle Gran Fondos with focus and élan. Try to get within 10% of the top riders. Try to peak for Gran Fondo Leavenworth and Gran Fondo Ellensburg - and seek out that effortless feeling. 
  3. Snoqualmie forest roads and nearby surroundings. Learn about the gravel roads in the Snoqualmie Forest. Get out with a group and have fun. 
  4. Weight to 146 pounds. Keep weigh under 150 pounds in October - January. Aim to be at 146 pounds in March. Hard but give it a go.
  5. Core strength and flexibility. Work hard at core strength and flexibility. Get a core check-up in the autumn and establish some specific goals for improving core strength and flexibility. Learn some new exercises and add variety.   Done - thanks to Kari Studley, who is just amazing! Contact her at Corpore Sano
  6. Position and bio-mechanics and peddling. Would new road shoes and cleats be helpful? Is my position on the Super Course and on my road bike okay?  Any changes needed?  Good to go for this year - thanks to Kari Studley.
  7. Peddling.  How does one peddle well? A major difference between superb riders and ordinary riders is evidently neuromuscular efficiency. Can I improve my efficiency with better peddling technique and better position on the bike? Is 80-90 rpm on long climbs possible? That seems like a ridiculous hard. Do I have the physiology for that?  Can such peddling help save energy for the second big climb?  Learn some exercises for improving my peddling: 
    1. Peddle from the hips. 
    2. Do one-leg peddling practice at the beginning of the morning commutes when I'll be relatively fresh.  
    3. Follow in the British Cycling warmup routine with discipline prior to interval work on the rollers and when riding in-doors. 
    4. Work at leg speed during long base miles. Incorporate some slow and fast peddling repeats on long hills, aiming to be in Zone 2 or low Zone 3.  
    5. Explore how a trainer can complement the rollers for indoor interval work and peddling practice.
  8. Structured training and specificity
    1. Aim for about of 12 hr/week (about 550-600 hr/year). 
    2. Do the morning fasted commutes, which I had good experience with last year. There is evidence that they seem to work - see British Cycling and this fascinating report.
    3. Follow a more structured training plan whereby I improve (1) My endurance (e.g., 6 hr rides in Zone 2); and  (2) My threshold power (e.g., intervals: 8 min. in Zone 5 with 4 min. recovery).
    4. Figure out how to train with more specificity for multiple long gravel climbs and descents. Pretty simple, I think: Include more climbing in Zone 2 during the base miles; Do some intervals on the hills. 
    5. Do the following polarization: Week #1: Hard (2 interval sessions+1 long ride+1 rest day); Week #2: Volume (1 interval session+1 long ride+1 rest day); and Week #3: Recovery (1 interval session + 1 long ride + 2 rest days); and then repeat. Last year I felt like crap when trying to consistently do two interval works per week. Perhaps, this kind of pattern, inspired by this truly fascinating report and and my experience with weekly intervals last year, will be more manageable and lead to good physiological adaptations. 
    6. Prior to tappering for GF Leavenworth, do some hard, long efforts (e.g., try for 3 hr in Zone 4 - is that possible?). While I think last year's training was generally good, I don't think I was ready for the long, hard efforts - that was too different in comparison to my training routines. 
  9. Bike handling and high speed downhills. Get a better sense for my limits when going fast on the way down. Improve bike handling and efficiency in varied terrain. 
  10. The Super Course. Attend to the details related to tubeless setup, wheels, hubs, brakes, drive train.  Is it time for a new seat?  Tires and tire pressures - figure it out. 
  11. Investigate frame options. See what options exist for a light steel frame, which takes 40 mm tires, 11-speed, etc.  Is it time to consider disc brakes?  What challenges arise when building wheels with disc brakes? Such a bike might be a nice thing for 2018.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Ride Report

Vicious Cycle Gran Fond Winthrop 2016 was superb.  Beautiful photographs here, on Vicious Cycle Facebook.

When I woke up in Winthrop, the thermometer read less than 40 degrees, under clear skies.  At about 6:30 AM, I had coffee, oatmeal with Greek yogurt, and walnuts, and a banana. I went back outside. I pumped up the tires - about 37 psi in the front and about 43 psi in the back. Under my seat I put a toolkit, which consisted of a tube, a patch kit, a piece of plastic and tape in case of a cut tire, and two C02 cylinders. I also secured a small pump under my seat. I put two bottles on the bike, one Gatorade and one water.  I went back inside and filled the pockets of my cycling jersey with two rice cakes, two cliff bars, a caffeinated shot block, two energy jells, an extra tube and a C02 inflator.  (When I finished Gran Fondo Winthrop I still had one of the cliff bars and the two energy jells.)

I wore knee warmers, a cycling hat, ordinary bicycle gloves (in case of a fall and to help absorb road shock), and a long sleeved jersey on top of a a very thin layer. I also wore a watch. Not wanting to be distracted by heart rate information, I didn't wear a heart rate monitor. (I don't ride with a digital map/device. I don't want the distraction.)

I said good-bye to Kara and I rode about one mile to the start - in tights and an extra jacket - and I got my number.

At 7:45 AM I had a 20 oz. Gatorade, took off my tights and extra jacket. I waited at the start line and started to shiver. I always shiver at start lines.

We took off under a beautiful blue sky at 8:00 AM and the sun was flowing through the trees and lighting up some of the hills while the rest of the hills were in shadows. The initial pace was brisk but not too fast and I started to warm up, and after about 8 miles, I suppose, all was well and I hadn't taken any wind.

From Vicious Cycle Facebook.
As the climb started to steepen, I found myself alone, trying to find a good pace. And, I did find a good pace but I think it probably was just a little too hard. I stayed with it and, alas, rode alone. I passed a group of riders; then, a little further up a couple of riders went by me. At aid station #1, I picked up a bottle of water and continued. And, I was feeling quite good.

The last pitch to the top of climb #1 was steep but the bike worked well. In my 34x32T I got over the pass (without walking this year) and headed down, fast, but controlled, and I think fairly safely. But, who can tell? I just don't have a good feel for my limits.  A couple of times, I found that I was going faster than I could react to the changing and very rocky, rutty, and bumpy conditions. And, so I slowed down.  To my mind, the roads were extremely rough.

I road the up and downs (segment #3/6) quite well, passing three or four people and being passed by a couple of people. I tried to be gentle and to save my energy but it was challenging. On the last tough uphill, I lost my balance on some loose gravel. I had to put my foot down and walked for 20 meters.  Bummer.  But, okay. On the sharp downhills I rode conservatively. It was on the third downhill, I think, that Jake went by me on his moto and a rider followed Jake's line (very close the left slide of the road), at very high speed. I was amazed at how fast he was prepared to go. I wonder what advantages his wheels, tires, frame, and brakes might have given him (compared to my set-up).  There was no way I could do what he did.

Once down and then up and over the creek bed (where I flatted last year), I rode the long downhill at a steady and fast pace, trying to get a feel for the conditions.  Again, when I found that I was going so fast that I couldn't react to the changing conditions, I slowed down.  At no time did I feel that my front tire was about to wash out. So, that was good. But, who can tell until it washes out and its too late. Still I worried I would hit some big ruts and rocks and loose balance or control. Fortunately, that did not happen. I felt rocks crash hard into my rims three or four times; but, not burping.

For most of the downhill I was on my brakes constantly. On and off.  On and off.  And, my hands started to ache.  My arms were sore and I recognized that I needed to be cautious. I might not be able to react, simply (or obviously) because I was too tired.

Once on the pavement, the riding was fast and solid. I was able to see and avoid the bad patches; although, I had a hard time eating and drinking.

I got to aid station #2 in Conconully and took a banana and filled one bottle.  Sadly, by this point, I had only drunk three bottles - 20 oz. of Gatorade at the start and 40 oz. of water. I was in the hole by at least one bottle.  (I had eaten my two rice cakes and one bar, so that was good.)  On the uphill efforts, it was basically too hard to drink; on the downhills I was concentrating and I didn't feel safe. Unlike training, where I drink a lot, I probably wasn't sufficiently hydrated by aid station #2.

After the aid station, I peeked at my watch.  It was 11:56.  I was a little less than four hours into the ride.  I had ridden 48 miles and climbed about 6,000 ft. I was tired. The legs were kinda done. Indeed, I would never, ever, ever do a training ride at this level of intensity over four hours (I can't imagine what the heart rate monitor would have to say about the day's effort at this point).

Now, I had about 17 miles and about 4,000 ft. of climbing ahead of me to the top of the pass (segment #5/6 for the day) and then another 24 miles back down the valley.  I ate 1/2 of the shot block (caffeine included) and I drank a bottle of water, and I tried to find a good rhythm. As I went up the paved part of the climb, one guy flew by me at a fantastic pace. Beautiful peddling. Very impressive.  I went by another guy from 20/20 and we encouraged each other. Up a head I saw the colors of Brig Seidl's jersey and two other guys further up the road.

I kept the rhythm and closed on Brig's wheel.  I seemed to be doing fine.  And, for a moment I thought I would congratulate Brig on his excellent writing - I've enjoyed his posts on the Vicious Cycle Blog very much.  However, I thought the better of it; the circumstances just didn't seem appropriate.

Anyway, Brig's peddling rhythm was much better than mine. As I slowly started to slip off his wheel, I would put just a bit more effort into it. I tried to resist.  That worked for a while. But, Brig just kept peddling. And, soon enough, I recognized that this wasn't going to work. I needed to find my own pace, since I figured I had at least 12 miles until the pass.  So, I stopped trying to resist.  I slowed just a little I suppose and Brig went away, up the hill. That, I think, is an example of a little difference of aerobic efficiency.

(Update: Brig's writing about this episode caused my wife to laugh and laugh. Thanks for that Brig - makes all the training worthwhile even more so than it already was. For me, Brig's account very well captures the spirit of this project. Brig writes: 

"... But about 20 minutes later while we were still on the asphalt I perceived the presence of another gadfly approaching my rear wheel. And is that the clunky sound of vintage down tube shifters I hear? Has that relentless fiend from a different era, David Hendry, caught me on his 50 year old Raleigh? I dared not look back at this specter whoever it was. When you are mentally and physically vulnerable in the early stages of the last big climb it does not help your state of mind to see a bike that looks like it has been plucked from a case at the Smithsonian cruise past you with some grinning hellcat aboard. So I continued." 

See Brig's superb writing about Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016 here:

Anyway, I climbed and climbed, trying to be as efficient as I could. I attended carefully to the road as the gradient ebbed and flowed and as the gravel changed a little bit here and there. For most the climb I was in 34x25T; on the steep parts I was in a 34x32T.

Toward the top, one guy from 20/20 (I think Aaron Ambuske) flew by me with beautiful peddling.  Just below the top of the pass, I ate the other half of the shot block and finished my last bottle.  So, including the 20 oz. at the start I had finished five bottles and I was about to hit six hours of riding.

I got over the top of the pass. On the short flat bit, I peeked at my watch for the second time that day -- unbelievably, it read 13:56.  It was precisely 2 hours since I had last looked at my watch. Therefore, it had taken me about two hours to do big climb #2 (segment #5/6).

However, the finish line was still 24 miles away, about 4,600 ft down in the valley (segment #6/6). So, I said to myself: "under 7 hours is perhaps possible, but follow the plan. Don't do anything stupid. Danger lurks at every corner and on every section of washboard (numerous)."

I tried to brake safely and efficiently. My hands and arms were dead.  I had trouble modulating the breaks.  I thought: Hey, perhaps I could just take a break and not brake for while and give my arms a rest.  What a stupid thought!! My back was sore and  I found that I was not sitting on the bike very well. I wasn't relaxed. That's got to be risky, more likely leading to a mistake. I tried to relax but my back and arms just weren't up to the task (just like last year!)

The washboard was a killer but the bike was cornering well and I've learned that going fast on washboard can be better than going slow. After 4 miles I went by aid station #3.  No stopping.  After all, I was trying for a sub 7 hour ride, and, all things considered, it seemed to be going well. From time to time, when the washboard got really bad I slowed way down and then let the bike go again until I started to bounce too much and I couldn't take it any more and I slowed down again. As I descended, it didn't get any easier.  After the aid station on the very bad washboard Warren Cornwall absolutely flew by me.  Unbelievable skill!  (I later learned that he was running 24 psi in the front tire and 25 psi in the back. Is that the secret?)l

Finally, I went over the bridge and the pavement began. About 14 miles to go. Things got easier.  Still, potholes and crappy pavement lurked all over the place. No longer were my arms dead, but I kept focussing. The peddling was good and I rode the little uphills and downhills fairly well, I think, trying to keep the momentum going.

I got to the finish!  I saw Karen and Eric, which was great!! I checked my watch for the third time and it read 7 hours and 2 minutes. Bummer - over 7 hours. Still, that was a good day!!!  No flats.  No crashes. Only one scary moment when I lost concentration for a bit and I got too close to the edge of some pavement on the last downhill.

I said to the time keeper: "Bummer, right, I didn't break 7 hours, right?"  And, she said "nah - you got 6:58." So, sillily, I felt that the day was extra awesome! Officially, I got 6:57:59, good for twelfth place - a very good day indeed, almost 60 minutes faster than last year.  I guess my watch was a little bit ahead on the day. (After I lost Brig's wheel, he kept going and he came in with a time of 6:48:03, good for 7th place.  Great climb, Brig!)  Results here.

The winner, Evan Plews, evidently rode a single speed. Really? How's that possible? How fascinating!!!  That's insane. His time: 6:08 (about 14% ahead of me). He must know how to peddle really, really, really well. What kind of penalty - and I assume there was a BIG one - did he take on his very cool single speed?  What was the gear ratio?  That is simply beyond my comprehension. What don't I understand?

(Update: I read on the Facebook that it was a 42x16T. That's insane. If we assume, 35mm tires and 700c rims and a cadence of 120 rpm, that gear will have you going about 25 mph and 130 rpm gives you about 27 mph).  So, that explains why I didn't pass Mr. Plews on the first part. Ha! No kidding! On the uphills?  If Plews were riding 70 rpm, he would be going a little more than 14.5 mph, 50 rpm would give him about 10.5 mph, and 40 rpm would give him about 8.5 mph. See So interesting - what a performance!  I'm so lucky to be able to be out on those roads with such amazing athletes. Okay, Mr. Plews:  What were your tire pressures? And, how much did that bike weigh? And, did you find the roads a little rough? So many questions ...)

So, back to reality so to speak, I learned a lot at Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016:
  1. Fun.  These rides are fun. 
  2. The wheels. My hand built wheels came out of the ride just as they went into it.  The tire set-up, which was causing me problems (previous post), worked. That was great.  And, I had no flats. No burped tires. No lost bottles. No lost pumps. (See last year.)
  3. Eating and drinking. I need to find places on these Gran Fondos where I slow down for the purpose of eating and drinking. (That's what I do in training; hence, why wouldn't I do that in these rides.) That would be a better thing to do than not eating and drinking.  It was a pretty stupid to eat and drink differently than I do in training. While I successfully ate and drank after climb #1 after the first little descent on the flat section, I would have been better off to slow (perhaps stop) somewhere at the top of downhill #1 to drink and eat. 
  4. Downhills. I need to learn more about how to ride safely on the downhills.  I'm not interested in going any faster. Part of the skill of riding downhill must be tire pressure.  If I were riding on 10 lbs less air pressure (27 psi on the front and 34 psi on the back) what would the downhill experience be like?  Would the riding be more secure? Would the washboard be better? How much benefit might one obtain by practicing the downhills 3-4 times prior to the ride and then scouting the downhills the day before the ride, so that you know quite well what is coming? My guess is that both of these factors - air pressure and specific knowledge for the downhills - would make a huge difference, giving a better margin of safety. 
  5. Uphill efficiency and tire pressure.  I think I was unnecessarily bouncing off rocks when climbing.  My guess, on reflection, is that a lower tire pressure would make many of those rocks disappear and I be more efficient and loose less energy. The bouncing is just not helpful. I have a lot more to learn about tire pressure.  
  6. Pace and patience. My goal was to get to climb #2 feeling good.  I didn't meet that goal. I expended a bit too much energy early on. So, I could only survive climb #2 and not push it. So, while I was in the ballpark, I didn't have sufficient fitness to handle (or recover) from the effort at the beginning. 
  7. Core fitness. I've learned that everything begins with planks, crunches, and bridges.  More of that kind of thing is needed for next year. 
  8. Training.  I think the basic approach has been working. This is what I need to do: A little more volume and a little more intensity. That said, more importantly, I think I need more variation and rest within and, especially, across weeks. That will be a key goal for 2017: More variation; easier easy rides and harder hard rides.  
  9. The bike. While steel is real, my 1969 frame is heavy. (I have yet to weigh it but I should. I've been worried if I knew how heavy it was I would be psychologically freaked out.  Ha!) At this point in my fitness, I think a lighter bike and perhaps loosing 4 lbs (from 151 to 147) and staying there would be very helpful. In other words, I could easily get rid of a total of 8-12 lbs. Given my level of fitness, I think that would make a difference. 
So, big thanks to Vicious Cycles.  Superb organization.  Superb terrain.  Super riders. Loved the pizza. It's good to be alive - that was a lot of fun. Each of the rides I've done this year - Leavenworth, Ellensburg, and Winthrop - has been remarkable - great landscapes and tremendous challenge.  Good fun. And, so much more to learn. Thanks Jake & co. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Getting Ready: Part II

Gran Fondo Winthrop Course Profile

Gran Fondo Winthrop is the last of my riding goals for 2016. Looking forward to a great day in a beautiful landscape. As I think about the ride, and based on last year's experience, I've divided it into the following segments.  Perhaps, under 7 hours is possible, though everything will have to go well, that is, very, very well. Assuming reasonable weather, here's the plan: 

Eat breakfast at 6:30 AM. Drink a Gatorade at 7:45 AM. Go at 8:00!! Ride Hard. Ride Polite. Be Alive. 

#1: Warmup (8.6 miles, + 613 ft. of climbing) – Stay toward the front and don’t take any wind. If people start fast and gaps open up, be patient, stay the course, and let someone else close them. Last year the initial pace put me above threshold a couple of times, which, with the jumping and slowing, was counter productive. If possible, I would like to avoid that. Eat a rice cake, before climb #1.

Part of the "Warmup" Segment: A Little Too Fast for Me in 2015, But Nice Views. From Vicious Cycle Facebook.

#2: Climb #1 (14.0 miles, + 4,143 ft.) – Ride gently and stay below threshold; try to form a group and work together (not likely feasible). Or, if feeling particularly good, hang on to a strong group, and get closer to threshold. In any case, try to avoid time trialing on my own. I'm probably dreaming because last year the group separated quite quickly into individuals working alone, at least that was my experience. At the aid station, stop for one bottle. 

#3: Up and down (10 miles, about +1,200 ft.) – Try to ride the two "small" climbs hard, at threshold; Recover with care on the short downhills; Eat lunch (rice cake and bar and Gatorade) after the first downhill, on the first flat bit. 

#4: Downhill #1 (16.0 miles, -4,462 ft.) – Ride conservatively; Avoid scary moments; Be especially careful on the pavement, where potholes lurk and speeds will be fast - I'm guessing 35-40 mph or a little faster. The speed will be fine but be ready for cars, deer, rocks, crappy asphalt, and so on and so forth. Just prior to the aid station, eat a bar, stop, and get a banana and fill two bottles. 

#5: Climb #2 (17.2 miles, +4,069 ft.) – If feeling good, get to a little below threshold and try to push limits as the climb unfolds; Stay optimistic, be focussed, and enjoy the views. Before the hard part starts, consume some caffeine; at the top, consume some more caffeine. 

#6: Downhill #2 (24.2 miles, -4,602 ft.) – Ride conservatively, especially in the middle section. But, try to find a speed that makes the washboard go away. Be very careful as the gravel turns to pavement and on the rough pavement that follows. Focus on a hard steady finish. Don't worry about the little hills which will make things painful, as they will come and go quickly; the finishline will come. 

I think I'm ready. The training over the last three weeks has gone well. After my summer break in August, my plan was to do two hard weeks, then do a recovery week, and make the last week very easy. In other words, a big break, two weeks of hard training, and two weeks of taper. 

Over the last three weeks, I got in 45 hours: 16.0 + 20.0 + 9.0 hours. The longer riders were:  6:15 and 6:45 hours, mostly in Zone 2.  After these long rides I did 3 hour recovery rides in Zone 1, thinking that the back-to-back long riders would be helpful. On my recovery week (week #3), I did a 2:45 hour ride at varied efforts and took two days off. 

I did the following interval workouts: (1) 2 x 20 min. threshold, (2) 2:00 hour fartleck, (3) 4 x (8 min. Zone 5 + 4 min. Zone 1), (4) fast spinning session, and (5) 5 x (8 min. in Zone 5 + 4 min. Zone 1). 

The rest of the time was spend mostly in Zone 1/2. 

My weight is good (151 lb.) and my resting hear rate has dropped during the recovery week.  So, I should be good to go! 

Tires, tires, tires. Unfortunately, my tubeless tire situation has been a pain in the ass. I've had trouble getting a reliable set-up. The 38c Specialized Trigger on the front wasn't holding air well. So, I replaced the tape and tried again. That worked and now its holding air well.  Ya!! 

The 33c Specialized Trigger on the back was leaking. So, I replaced the tape but when I pumped it up a bunch of sealant poured out of a fairly small hole on the center of the tread and the tire would not hold air - it would deflate to about 20 psi and then stay there.  So, I tried another tire. That held air great but when out on a ride I must have hit a rock and the sidewall got cut and sealant spewed out. Again, the tire held air but only about 30 psi and I could push on the cut and cause the sealant to come away and create a nice big leak. Meanwhile, my tire valve seemed a bit wonky - that is, when I initially opened the value air would came out.  Perhaps air was leaking at the valve. So, I installed a new 33c Specialized Trigger tire and new valve on the back. All seems good now, at least after 2 hour and 45  on hilly and varied gravel. Fingers crossed. 

Conclusion:  I believe the  38c Specialized Trigger to be a much better tire than the 33c for my purposes. Actually, I have learned that they are completely different tires. Second, I'm hopeful that my back tire will hang in there for Gran Fondo Winthrop.  But, I'm not using the 33c tires again! I need to find a new tire that works for my wheels and frame. This might be it for next year: Clement X'Plor MSO Tubeless (36 mm). 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Getting Ready: Part I

Raleigh Super Course Summer Set-up - Fenders, 5-speed, and 27" wheels

Since Gran Fondo Ellensburg, the riding has been good. I had a couple of memorable rides, including a very enjoyable 300K, organized by the Seattle Randonneurs. I think it might be fun to try some of the longer Randonneuring rides next year. 

For the last 4 weeks, I've not done much riding. Instead, I've been backpacking and generally taking it easy with family. Not riding was an odd feeling at first, but the backpacking and traveling was good too.

With 4 weeks to Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016 by Vicious Cycle, I'm back riding. It's great to see that almost 150 people are registered. 

The plan is to do three solid weeks, aiming for a total of 45 hours. I'll do 3 long rides, 4-6 hard interval sessions, and easy recovery rides. For the week before GFW I'll take it easy and try to be as rested as possible. 

I had an unfortunate flat tire at Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2016, which I think was due to my Specialized Trigger 33c tire "burping" when I hit a good sized rock at high speed. That was a first after more than 500 miles on riding on gravel on the tubeless set-up. 

Not sure what to do about minimizing the chance of it happening again - I've talked to a couple of different mechanics and they shrugged their shoulders and say "that happens." It's a little disconcerting. I've bought a CO2 air pump so if it happens again, I try blasting the tire with some air rather than putting a tube into the tire straight away. 

For GFW 2016, the plan is to ride a tubeless Specialized Trigger 38c tire on the front and a Trigger 33c on the back, with perhaps 37 and 45 psi in the front and back. Hopefully no flat tires this year! The Trigger 33c on the back will give me lots of room between the frame and the tire and hopefully the bigger tire on the front will give some float and stability on the corners. 

Last year at GFW 2015 I broke 8 hours and got within 26% of the winner (one flat tire and one lost pump). I'm not sure what's possible this year. I'll try to ride hard and with élan. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2016, Part II

This year's Vicious Cycle Gran Fondo Ellensburg was terrific. Just like last year! Clear skies. Excellent temperatures. Not much wind. By elegant course design, the rhythm of the ride is beautiful. Great organization. And, the end-of-the-day vegetarian burritos and chocolate milk were very satisfying. It was great to be among so many fit and skillful riders and to have an opportunity to focus and ride hard. 

The Raleigh Super Course - After Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2016 
Leaving a 4:50 AM, after a bowl of cold oatmeal, yogurt, a banana, peanut butter & honey toast, and coffee, the drive from Bothell to Ellensburg in the old green Saturn was relaxing. West of Snoqualmie Pass, I encountered some mist and clouds, and then it became sunny just beyond Keechelus Lake. 

The landscape in the Kittitas Valley and the view from the Indian John Hill overlooking the Yakami River was stunning - brown, dry, but also seemingly green and verdant, mountains with snow, and the 
Yakami river. How is it that landscapes can be so psychologically impactful? 

My thoughts turn to why is this hill called "Indian John?" And, how did this landscape shape human experience three-hundred years ago and how did human beings use and change the landscape? Today, irrigation canals seem to defy gravity and criss-cross the landscape. In 25-50 years will water be flowing in these canals? 

I'm grateful to be able to visit and experience a little of this landscape on my bike. 

Gran Fondo Ellensburg Profile (see course map).
My memory for the ride is foggy, mostly, I think, because I was in focus mode. The rhythm of the ride was precisely like last year (see previous post). For the first 30 miles I stayed in the group, trying not to take any wind and trying to be safe and polite. Then, came the big hill (about 6 miles at an average of about 8.5%). I rode at my limit, if a little too hard at the beginning. After the big climb, riding along the ridge was utterly beautiful, with lovely views of the Cascades.

Working the Super Course on the big hill in a 34x32T. From Vicious Cycle on Facebook.
I recovered quite well on the way down. At the bottom of the first major downhill - just before the climb up to the gate - the road veers left and there is a bit of a creek bed among some trees. Like last year, I almost ate it in one of the two huge potholes that I saw. I barely dodged the first pothole and somehow jumped the second. For next year, I must remember to go slower on this part of the ride. 

The downhill to the second gate was all good (around mile 46 I think). The tires were good and I was able to control the bicycle quite well. 

Then, 5-10 minutes later, bad luck struck. I was going fast on fairly smooth gravel but unfortunately I hit something big - probably a rock - and my front tubeless tire started to hiss madly. Not a welcomed sound. I kept riding. After 100 meters, the tire got to the point where there wasn't much air. I could no longer corner safely. So, I stopped pulled out the valve stem and put in a tube. As I was doing so, six or seven riders went by. I appreciated when some of them asked if I was okay. 

This unfortunate flat tire is a bit mysterious. I'll have more to say about it in a later post because I think I learned something new. 

I got going again and tried to get back into a rhythm. The washboard and corners to aid station #2 were difficult, as expected, but I negotiated these downhills safely. My chain fell off at least three times but I was able to flip it back into place. I suppose this is one of the advantages of friction shifters! Adam VanDyke flew by me on one of these corners and I marveled at his fast and secure line in and out of the corner. 
I filled two bottles and started up hill #2. I was able to ride the climb - loose gravel and all - strongly and took the long twisty downhill conservatively, passing David Delfs at perhaps 1/3 of the way down. 

Once on the pavement I felt good and I tried to find a hard but doable pace. With perhaps 18 miles to go, David Delfs and Frank Colich came up to me. Frank got us organized, and we worked well together, taking 30 second turns, until the finish. Like last year, the wind was generally behind us and from time to time I needed the 48x12T (my hardest gear). Just like Leavenworth, Frank out-sprinted me at the finish! 

I really appreciated being with Frank and David for the final stretch. It was extremely satisfying to ride hard and efficiently together with such strong and skillful riders. (Frank was one of the riders that had passed me earlier when I was fixing my flat. Unfortunately, later in the ride, somewhere after my flat, he was slowed by a fall and had a nasty-looking cut to his arm.) 

I finished in 5:42:50 about 5% behind the winner, Stephen Mull, who came in with a time of 5:26:01. Here are the Results. How much time did I lose with the flat tire? It is hard to know.

So, all goals met for Gran Fondo Ellensburg. Except for the flat tire, the Super Course did well. I had decent gearing on the climbs. The 34x32T was great, although the jump from 34x25T to 34x32T was a bit much at times. I would have liked to have had a 34x28 too! I had good traction on the climbs, good feelings on the downhills and on the corners, and I think I was fairly efficient on the pavement. I conclude that the Trigger 33 mm tires at 40 psi front and 45 psi back were probably pretty good overall choices. I was able to ride the first climb hard, and I was able to ride the second climb and the last 30 miles hard. And, I think I managed my limits on the downhills well enough. 

Most of all, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this ride; to ride with people like David, Frank, Adam, and Jonathan; to be outside on beautiful terrain; to feel and hear the air rushing against me; and to be alive. 

Gran Fondo Winthrop is in 14 weeks and I'm looking forward to returning to the beautiful Methow valley.

Front Wheel. Notice that the tubeless tire and rim are covered in sealant and dirt. After a fairly ordinary bump on a rock, the tire lost air and I had to stop and install a tube. What happened? 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2016, Part I

Training. Since Gran Fondo Leavenworth three weeks ago, my training has been good. I had a good recovery week,  then a solid 13hr week with an strong V02 Max interval session and a 5+ hr long ride. This week I've taken it easy, riding about 5 hours in total, with two threshold efforts of 15 - 20 min. The sensations have been good. I took Thursday and Friday off, and road about 90 very easy minutes on Saturday, trying out the new tires. I weighed in at 146 pounds and my morning pulse has been good, a little lower than typical. So, I should be good to go!

Goal. Every ride is different. GF Ellensburg 2015 was great - I liked the terrain and rhythm. What will GF Ellensburg offer this year? 

For the first part, I'd like to stay with a fast group and avoid the wind. I'll try to save as much energy as possible. Once on the climb, I'll try to get to my threshold and stay there. Last year I road a 34x28T and at a couple of points that gear was ridiculously hard and, alas, standing on the peddles basically didn't work because my tires kept slipping. I don't have a 34x28T this year. Hopefully, I won't miss it! Instead, my gears of choice for the climb will be a 34x32T or a 34x25T. I'll work them and try to find a good rhythm. For the middle part, from mile 44 to 55, I'll respect the terrain - go hard on the small climbs and bumps, recover on the downhills. I'll ride the downhills conservatively and try to negotiate the washboard efficiently and safely. I find washboard hard to ride. The edge between control and loosing control comes and goes quickly and unexpectedly. I find it fairly scary. As best as possible I'll keep the momentum going. Concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate. Last year the climb at mile 55 was difficult because the gravel was very loose and it was steep in places. This year, my goal is to stay focussed and positive no matter how I feel and I'll try to ride efficiently on this climb, knowing that it will be very hard in places. I'll ride the downhill conservatively, well within my limits, as it is often steep and twisty. Once back on the road, I'll go with the terrain, and focus on momentum. The last 3 miles of big, deep, loose gravel on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail will be fun! 

If I can ride the last 30 miles hard, and be safe throughout the day, I'll be satisfied. If I can ride efficiently and strongly with other riders I'll be super satisfied. Based on 2015 results, if I can break 6 hours, I just might just get within 10% of the winner. So, what will the day offer? We'll see. I'll ride with focus and élan. The legs and the Super Course should go just fine. 

Tires. I wanted to experiment with higher tire pressures. For Gran Fondo Leavenworth,  riding tubeless, on Specialized Trigger 38 mm, I went with 37 psi in front and back. So, in an experiment, I pumped the tires up to 60 psi. My goal was to see how that pressure would be, planning to back off the pressure as I fiddled around. I learned a couple of things. 

Cut Tire. Cut on my Specialized Trigger 38 mm front tire, with about 700 Miles. Probably best to not ride in tubeless mode with such a cut.
First, with 60 psi, the back tire expanded so that the clearance between the tire and the frame was more like 0.5 mm instead of 1.5 - 2.0 mm. That was just too close! When standing on the peddles I could easily flex the back wheel so the tire hit the frame. Not good. Disappointing. Did this happen because the tire stretched after about 700 miles? Could I put 60 psi into a new tire and not have it stretch? Once stretched -- if that is what is happening -- is the tire always stretched? To answer such questions, we're back to very careful measuring and experimentation, an ongoing theme with the Super Course. 

Second, I knew that the front tire had a cut in it, a fairly deep cut that I was keeping my eye on. And, wouldn't you know, after 5 miles of riding at 60 psi that cut blew out. Hiss. Hissing.  Hiss. Not a good sound. As I was rolling along sealant started to spew out, all over me, my glasses, the bicycle, and the front rim. What to do? I had to get to work, so I kept riding and after about 1/2 mile the sealant worked and the hissing stopped. When I got home after work, 8 hours and 20 miles later, I checked the tire pressure. It was 20 psi. J
ust a note: When your rims are covered in sealant the brakes make a terrible squeaking sound and grip unpredictably - a fairly scary situation! 

So that was all fascinating. I spoke with a mechanic at Woodenville Bicycle and he said both discoveries are well known with the Trigger tires. He also told me that after about 1,000 miles the little center knobs - the fine filing part - wear out and the tires just don't work as well. A thousand miles? That's not a lot! 
I estimate that I've ridden the tires about 700 miles.

So, I decided to buy a pair of Specialized Trigger 33 mm tires. I'll plan to put 40 psi in the front and 45 psi in the back and see how those pressures feel, and fiddle a bit. I would like to do some more experimentation but there's not really sufficient time. I'll need to remember - especially on the downhills - that 33 mm tires are not 38 mm tires.

I wish I had a more objective way of deciding what tire pressure to go with. In any case, given the amount of smooth road on Gran Fondo Ellensburg, I think these tires will be a good compromise.

What to do with the cut tire? I gather you can repair tubeless tires; so, I'll give that a whirl and perhaps use the tire with a tube for commuting and training. In any case, I won't be using a repaired tubeless tire in the Vicious Cycle Gran Fondos anytime soon. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gran Fondo Leavenworth 2016

Riding the Raleigh Super Course at the Top of the First Climb, Gran Fondo Leavenworth, 2016  (from Viscous Cycle)

Even with the route changes, or perhaps because of them (map), the Gran Fondo Leavenworth 2016 was awesome. Beautiful day. Beautiful course. Superb conditions. I've already forgotten the swirling, ever-present winds - turn right, into the wind; turn left, into the wind; we seemed to be plowing into the wind all the time. My friend Sean says that the ride was 94.5 miles long, a little longer than advertised. No matter: It was great to be out in the fresh air with my friends Sean and Hala and with all the riders in the group. There's something special about being in a group, like a group of dolphins, clicking and whirling along.

Brig Seidl writes an entertaining account of the ride on the Viscous Cycle Blog.

My (crazy) goal was to get within 10% of the winner, a possible, if uncertain and very difficult goal, based on my review of last year's results. The winner, Erik Bee, came in with a time of 5:44:44. Somehow I managed to get to the finish line in 6:19:19, which, remarkably, was 10% behind the winner ((380 min.-345 min.) / 345 min. = 0.101 or 10%). Full results here.

The tubeless wheels, which I had built in the winter, and Specialized Trigger 38mm tires worked beautifully on the gravel. No flats on this Viscous Cycle outing. I rode with 37 psi in the front and back. As I hoped, the wheels were exceptional on the downhills and very good on the climbs. Alas, on the road they were not so good. Indeed, at the start of climb #2 I stopped to make sure the back wheel wasn't rubbing on the brakes or, worse, on the frame or something. All clear, thankfully, but holy moly they felt slow - it must have been the wind. Still, as best I can tell, the wheels came out of the ride just as they went into it!

Overall, I managed my efforts quite well. I stayed well within my limits on climb #1 and descended safely and quite quickly.  I dropped my jacket off at aid station #1 and filled two bottles. Did I need the jacket? I think so - I was happily warm on the way up and on the way down.

As I filled up my bottles, a group of three riders went by (they didn't stop). I put a lot of effort into catching them, hoping that I could work with them down to and along the Columbia river. While I got to within perhaps 20-30 seconds of them, I just couldn't close the gap. One of those riders, from 20/20 Fuel, dropped back and three other riders came up to me (two from 20/20 Fuel) and, basically, we road up climb #2 and stayed together until we got to aid station #2 in Entiat.

I really appreciated riding behind the 20/20 Fuel riders on the way down from hill #2. They were skillful and highly predicable. I followed their lines and appreciated when one of them shouted "hole - BIG hole," which drew my attention.

At one point  on the downhill I was scared.  I was going fast and I needed to make a left somewhat off-camber turn and the consistency of the gravel changed. The gravel became rougher and bigger and deeper (I think), and I found it hard to slow down while also staying controlled. I skidded a bit at high speed but, fortunately, I managed to slow down and get to a more comfortable speed. I'm not sure how much of a margin I actually had but I'm glad nothing too unexpected happened on that corner because I think I was closer to the limit than I would have liked. (It would be a good idea to go back and try that corner once, or ten times, again.)

Once off the gravel, we worked well together, first, to Highway #79 and, then, long the Columbia river to Entiat. Because of the wind, I was really glad to have company along this stretch.  I filled two bottles at aid station #2 in Entiat and took off on my own. Given all the wind we had experienced on the way down to the river I thought that perhaps I would get a break and the wind wouldn't be so bad on the gradual road climb back to Ardenvoir.  I was wrong about that - the wind was miserable. I just went into diesel mode along that road. At about 4 miles up the road I came up to Frank Colich and we worked together until we made it back to aid station #3 and climb #3 started. I didn't stop at this aid station.

For climb #3, I kept going in diesel mode. For most to the climb I rode in 34x32T which was quite easy.  I wonder if it was too easy; perhaps, I should have tried for a good rhythm in 34x28T. With the wind, especially toward the top, the climb was hard. I felt good but just didn't seem to have the capacity to ride hard (perhaps I was just burning fat at this point). I road alone up the climb. The downhill was good and once back on the road my legs felt good and I was able to push a good gear and make good progress. With about 3 miles to go, Frank came back to me and we "sprinted" for the line. He won!

All and all, a great Gran Fondo Leavenworth!!

What's next? The plan was to ride in GF Leavenworth, Ellensburg, and Winthrop.  So, one down and two more to go. I'm looking forward to Ellensburg - last year the rhythm of that ride was awesome. But, what tires should I use? Last year I used 32mm tires on 27 inch rims (yes, definitely old style!).  They worked well except that I flatted (on the road!). This year?  I think I'll go the Specialized Trigger 38mm but with more air pressure but they seem kinda slow on the road.  Perhaps I should just try a narrower tire ...

My training for GF Leavenworth began at Thanksgiving 2015, and I was able to be consistent for pretty much 6 months. I'll be less consistent over the summer.  It will be good to hike and canoe. Still, I am looking forward to the Ellensburg and Winthrop rides.

What can I do to make the Super Course faster?  Not sure. The new wheels and 7-speed cassette work great. I can continue to explore tires and tire pressures. But,  given the frame weight, I don't think there is too much more to be done.

The Super Course - and the Vicious Cycle Grand Fondos - have helped me be alive and being alive is good. What more can you ask for?

I'll keep training, trying to find some magical combination of hard and easy riding and rest. I'll keep working at the planks and core strength exercises. Perhaps, I'll lose a little more weight but going below 145 lbs is probably not healthy for me.

No matter, I figure there's heaps of opportunity to develop and get better on the Super Course. There's so much more to learn about how to ride.

Time on the bike, starting Nov 28, 2015, showing weeks with 3+ hour rides and 5+ hour rides:

                                              Total (hours)
Week  1-4 :   3.25 - 12.00 -  6.00 -  9.50 =  30.75 
      5-8 :  11.00 -  8.75 -  5.00 -  7.50 =  31.25  
      9-12:   7.50 -  7.75 -  8.50 - 13.75 =  37.25 
     13-16:  10.50 - 14.75 - 14.00 -  9.75 =  48.75
     17-20:  11.25 - 14.50 - 13.00 - 11.00 =  49.75  
     21-24:  16.75 - 13.00 - 13.00 - 15.00 =  57.75
     25-26:  11.50 - 11.00(GFL)              ------