Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Passed Matt Reed (a.k.a., the quick race report)

Well the Kona debate turned out to be of no consequence (though I appreciate everyone's advice), as once again my swim was clearly lacking. Here's a somewhat quick recap, and then I'll post my power file and run HR & pace file later.

The water felt very cold for the first two or three minutes (during which time my wave was moving into starting position and then treading water), but was fine thereafter. I wore a silicone cap under my race cap. The first half of the swim went great. I spotted frequently and kept my effort right where I wanted it. After the turnaround (see swim map for more details) the sun was so bright I couldn't see anything. I spotted based solely on nearby swimmers, as my best option was to assume that those swimmer could see other swimmers that in turn could see other swimmers that could hopefully see where they were going. I dropped my effort a tad as I considered how to best navigate the course. (I do not mean to imply that the sun was the cause of my slow time; I know that much, much more work in the pool is necessary!) The swim went by fast and I felt strong exiting the water.

The 35-39 AG males were on top of me within five miles of the start of the bike. I really do not like how most AGers ride. As an example, I'm riding uphill at 315 W, which is too much for me and most other AG riders, while passing another AGer. All the sudden, the dude I'm passing takes off, putting out what must have been 400+ W. That means I have two options: (1) put out 450 W for 30 seconds to complete the pass or (2) give up on making the pass and put myself at risk for a drafting penalty (even though I never entered the dude's slipstream and we were only going 12 miles per hour). It's a lose, lose situation because the guy I'm passing doesn't know how to ride at an even effort. Repeat that scenario in various forms about 15 times and that was what my ride was like, and that's especially surprising because I was riding with some fast and experienced AGers. (I'm trying to keep this short, but I have a lot more to say about this in a future post. Also, I don't mean to be negative because there are some positive things to take from those scenarios.)

Anyhow, the course's hills made for a tougher than expected ride. The steepest hill was similar to Old Stage Coach in Boulder and required 315 W or so just to get up. I put out 250, 260, and even 270 W during the beginning and mid stages of the ride and felt great. By mile 45 or so I was getting tired and started using my power meter as a carrot (just as outlined in my race plan). The great thing was that even though my fatigue caused my output to drop to 200 to 220 W at my standard HIM perceived exertion, I had a tailwind and was cruising at circa 25 mph. As a result, there wasn't much of a need to really push myself to try to keep my wattage around 240-250 W at the end of the ride. Overall a solid ride. I need my riding to continue to improve to shave 2-3 minutes or more per year in order to reach the level I want to reach.

I usually feel good at the start of the run, and this race was no exception. I was cruising absolutely effortlessly for the first 3-4 miles. I glanced at my watch to check my pace and HR occasionally, and my HR was mid to high 160s and my pace was fast. The first time I looked it was 5:10/mile. Okay, I thought too fast despite the low HR. I slowed a bit and looked again a few moments later. 5:25/mile. Hmmm, I needed to ease off a bit more. Next check: 5:40/mile. Now I reasoned that since my PE was low, since my HR was in check, and since this is a very competitive race that I should just go for it.

As an awesome aside, as I approached the turn around at about mile 3.25, Matt Reed was running the other way maybe an 1/8 mile to a 1/4 mile ahead of me (just to be clear, he was ahead of me by that distance plus a full 6.5 miles since he was on his second lap and I was on my first). After passing the turn around and running another 1.5 miles, I could see that I was gaining on him. This was too great of a situation not to pick up the pace a bit and try to make a pass. Slowly I gained ground and at about mile 5.5 I passed Matt Reed. I repeat: I caught and ran by Matt Reed. For a second it seemed like the #2 place sign holder (you know, one of the guys on bikes carrying signs showing the current position of the top pros) was staying with me and pulling away from Mr. Reed. I said, "Hey, I'm an age grouper." The guy said something like, "I know. You're running really strong." We chit chatted for another half minute before the sign holder dropped back. That was the highlight of my race. (Yes, I know Matt Reed is a faster runner than I am. Yes, I know he tweeted that he had a bad race. Yes, I know that he was probably just cruising because his finishing place was secure. It was still of those moments that makes racing with pros on the course so fun.)

At mile 7 I approached a few AGers that were hauling, and one of them was in my AG. It took me a while to catch them and then make the pass. I was worried they'd hang with me and sprint by at the finish. My plan was to keep the pace tough but steady until a downhill, and then pick up the pace to try to discourage either guy from trying to stay with me. For a while I could hear one of the guys running with me, but he seemed to drop back once I picked up the pace. Still, I ran the last 3 miles with the sole intent of not being re-passed. (As an aside, I think I learned a lot of racing and having the proper racing mentality at this race, and that will come in handy in the future.) The last two miles were tough. By this stage the concrete running surface was taking its toll and my legs were telling me to stop. Fortunately, the crowd support for the last mile along with the adrenaline that comes with being nearly finished allowed me to keep pushing the pace.

I have too much to say to summarize here. I am not satisfied with 4th in my AG regardless of how competitive the race was. I think I need to concentrate on swimming for the next several months (years?) even if it means not on racing well. That doesn't mean not race, as racing experience is valuable, but to train for long term peak performance instead of race-to-race peak performance. Otherwise, I want to ride faster. I want to keep working really, really hard on the bike to gain some time there. I'm actually really enjoying trainer sessions with killer intervals. My run is great, but I need to cut off 1 to 2 minutes per year for the next two years to have a world class run (and hey, why not shoot for world class?).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oceanside Coming Up!

The biggest item in this post is that I'm not sure if I'll accept a Kona slot even if I qualify for one at Oceanside. There is a greater discussion of my thinking at the end of this post.

Anyhow, training for Oceanside is pretty much wrapped up. Yesterday I packed up my bike and other equipment so that I'm ready to fly out this evening. These pictures ended up in reverse order:

This trip will be my first time flying with a bike. I'm a bit nervous about excess sized baggage fees, damage to my bike, my bike not arriving in California, and anything else that could go wrong. As an aside, my bike is packed in a case that I bought several years ago with the intent of going to Clearwater to race the 70.3 championship. However, a few weeks before that race I came down with a mysterious illness (perhaps related to an allergen in a new apartment that I had just moved into) that left me unable to train for four months. I was going to school in Chicago at the time, and during one of my few attempts to run while I was ill I had to cross over Lake Shore Drive via a pedestrian bridge. Even the slight incline of the bridge shot my HR up to 175 bpm and tired me out so much that I had to walk. I try to think of that period whenever I'm suffering during training to remind myself how happy I am simply to be able to train. Anyhow, the whole reason I mention that is because this is my first time using the case despite having bought it so long ago. Despite my concerns with flying, I'm excited to race for the first time since Louisville and to visit California for the first time ever.

My final workouts included a 1.5 hr ride with four 10 minute race paced efforts on Tuesday. My power to HR ratio was excellent. Check these numbers out:
1 - 235 W @ 145 bpm (basically IM HR)
2 - 248 W @ 148 bpm (still about IM HR)
3 - 255 W @ 152 bpm
4 - 258 W @ 152 bpm
I think I can hold a 155-160 bpm HR for a HIM, so the resulting wattage would be great if the trends above continue. (A more detailed race plan is below.)

In addition to good power numbers as of late, I'm also at a record low post-adolescence weight of 155 lbs. I haven't watched calories or anything like that, and I am almost always satiated. My guess is that my weight is slowly dropping from having adopted a healthier diet several months ago, and that the loss has been so gradual that I've barely noticed it (plus I rarely weigh myself).

Running is going well, too, which is surely helped by the weight loss. I'm finally getting to the point where I can finish a long run without feeling fatigued. Additionally, over the past few weeks I've done one session per week with some 6:00 to 6:15/mile running. That pace hasn't felt too tough -- yet another good sign that I should have a strong performance in Oceanside.

On a final note about training, I've been swimming more than ever. The gains may not be huge at the moment, but the extra volume should allow me to feel strong at the end of the swim.

Moving on to the race itself, my plan for the race begins with a warm-up. I don't want to start the race in Oceanside Harbor's chilly waters without a proper warm-up. Since no swimming is allowed before the race, I'll probably do a bit of jogging.

Once the swim starts, I want to push myself to the point that I'm slightly uncomfortable. I also plan to make a point of spotting frequently. At Louisville I have a hunch that I didn't swim the best line, so I want to make sure I'm swimming the minimal distance by spotting more often than I had in the past. If I can get on someone's feet, great. However, if I have to ease up than I won't stay on the person's feet and will try to move up instead.

From what I understand, Oceanside's swim is about as fast as it gets due to the saltwater + wetsuit combo and the calm waters. I'd love to go sub-29 minutes (my prior best 1900m swim is a 31 minute first loop at IMLP last year), but I believe anything in the low 30s should leave me in contention to win my AG.

My bike strategy is highly influenced by the course profile:

The course starts flat and gets tough around mile 30. I'm going to hold back slightly for the first 25-30 miles and then pick up the effort for the rest of the ride. Perceived exertion will be my primary gauge, as I'm concerned about elevation effecting my HR and power numbers. Even though I still kind of feel like a triathlon rookie after four years in the sport, I am becoming experienced enough that my sense of PE should be pretty accurate.

That doesn't mean HR and power will be useless, but they'll just secondary to PE. I will, for example, ease off if I'm pushing 265 W or am at 160 bpm a few miles into the ride even if my PE is where I want it. My expectation for the first 25 miles is to be riding around 240 W at 150-155 bpm. Also, I will cap my effort in the hills at 300 W. I know how hard it is for me to push much over 300 W, and I'd wager that going above that effort slows my run.

Oh, and one other important thing: I do not want to chase power numbers. Despite the 250 W @ 150 bpm results above, I will not tell myself to push 250 W. (This goes back to the whole ego thing. The goal of the race is to have a fast overall time, not an impressive average wattage.) Perhaps for the last 10-15 miles I will focus on the power meter and use it as a carrot to keep my effort up.

Nutrition wise, a HIM isn't that complicated. Salt isn't much of a concern given the race's duration and expected temperature. I'll shoot for around 250-300 calories per hour on the bike, but going a under that is better than going over and ultimately my stomach will guide my consumption. My plan is to carry two bottles of sports drink on the bike. Each bottle has ~125 calories. Given that the temperature should be pretty cool while I'm on the bike, drinking a full bottle per hour is probably an unrealistically large amount. If I drink a bit under a full bottle per hour, I'll be at 75-100 calories. This also means I probably need to grab another bottle at an aid station. Just to be on the safe side, however, I'll still get a sports drink re-fill.

I'll rely on gel to provide the remainder of my bike calories. A gel and a half to two gels per hour should do the trick. This means I'll need to carry 5 gels on the bike, though I'll bring 6 or 7 to be on the safe side.

Predicted bike time: circa 2:30 (2:28?) based on looking over earlier year's results. Anything at 2:25 or under would be phenomenal. One note about the goal times: they're based on earlier years' results. Since conditions vary from year to year, I am not going to be attached to any goal times and will not let my actual time alter my focus.

My experience from past races tells me that I start the run too fast. My plan for Oceanside is to run the first 3-4 miles feeling comfortable (whereas I normally push myself to the brink within the first 1-2 miles of a half and then hold on for the last 11-12), and then gradually pick up the effort until mile 6 or 7. HR wise, anything over 170 bpm for the first 3-4 miles will be a signal to reconsider whether I'm going too hard.

Once I hit the midway point, it's time to lay it all on the line. The plan is to be mentally strong and tell myself to start chasing down anyone I can see. Not easing off is especially important since my AG starts in two waves. Unless I'm in the second wave, I cannot be sure of my position.

Nutrition during the run is all about how I feel. I may grab some Coke and might even take in a gel during the early stages of the run. After the midway point, however, my ability to take in calories will be minimal because my effort level will be so high. After that point, any calories taken in will be in small dosages, like a sip of Coke or sports drink, or a fraction of a gel.

Predicted run time: 1:20, with 1:22 being okay and 1:17 or 1:18 being great. Why these times? The run is fairly flat, and I've run a 1:22 half and a 1:21 half (well, that latter half time was the first half of an IM) in the past. Time to set a new run PR!

Okay, so if I'm fortunate enough to have a great race and get a Kona slot, the question becomes whether or not I'll take it. Stacey and I have been considering going to Hawaii for our honeymoon for a while now, and Stacey is even fine scheduling the honeymoon around the Hawaii IM so I can race while we're there. However, I now doubt I can take much time off work for the race, likely just a two to three days. As a result, we'd probably end up flying to Hawaii the Thursday before the race and flying home Sunday or Monday. First, that's not much of a honeymoon, especially with the race taking up a day and race prep taking up another day. That's not too big of a deal though, because we could just do the trip without considering it a honeymoon and then take some separate honeymoon.

Second, such a short trip would be very hectic with 20 hours of travel and an IM in just four or five days. That would make for tough conditions for me to have a high-quality race. When I race in Hawaii, I want to have an excellent performance, not just squeeze the race in between travel days.

There's also the cost issue. The fewer days we have to enjoy Hawaii, the greater the cost per day is with the flight factored in. We figure Hawaii might cost $2500 for a very short trip. Is it worth it? I don't know. That money could be put to good use, e.g., as a portion of a down payment on a house.

Finally, since it's unlikely I'll race Hawaii every year, when I do go I want to have a great performance. If I register for Hawaii I'll be concerned with whether or not I'll have the time this fall for proper training. I also think that maybe with another year or two of hard training I'll be significantly faster and can have an even better result than I'll be capable of this year. Saving the trip for my peak performance is another thing I'm considering.

On the other hand, who knows how many opportunities I'll have to race there. There's the whole "you only live once" thing to consider. Yet I think I'd be fine not ever racing in Hawaii. Yes, every year when I watch the coverage online I always wish I was racing, but it's still just another race.

So, these are the things Stacey and I have been discussing. There are more "don't go" points above than there are "go" points, but I'd say right now I'm 50/50 on going or not. If I don't go, I may do Silverman, IM Arizona (if I can get a slot at Oceanside), or some other late season IM-distance race.

I've only got a few days to figure this out. Any input?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recovery ride in pictures + training update

My quasi-taper has started, and I say quasi-taper because this is no prolonged, multi-week affair. Instead, the twin goals are to arrive at the start of Cali 70.3 (1) rested yet (2) sharp. There is no "peak fitness", at least in the sense of some sudden jump in fitness, that results from a taper (at least as I understand things). So, resting means reducing volume and/or intensity, but sufficient "rest" can be obtained in just a short time (as in at most a few days). Being sharp basically means giving the body some race-pace efforts during the rest period so that the body doesn't say, "Hey, what are you doing to me?" come race day. I don't mean to imply that I haven't been doing race-paced efforts for the past few weeks -- I certainly have -- just that these efforts continue during the rest period not with the intent of eliciting adaptations in the body but instead to retain any prior adaptions. Just in case my earlier disclaimer didn't get the point across, this is just my understanding of things that have seemingly worked before. Hopefully I have hedged enough in my taper description. (Anyhow, additional detail is provided below.)

With tapering in mind, today I did an easy ride and a hard swim. Once again, it was a cloudless day, this time with a temp around 70 degrees. I kept my HR low (circa 115 bpm) and enjoyed the ride aboard my road/cross bike:

This shot was taken a mile or so from my place of living. Notice the lack of snow? What's surprising is that on Friday about eight inches of snow fell. It's almost all gone, and the ground is nearly completely dry.

One nice thing about Denver is that it has an active culture. Lots of people were out enjoying the nice day:

(Some degree of zooming may be required to see the ten or so folks out walking/cycling/jogging.)

I was headed to Cherry Creek State Park, my go to venue when riding out my door instead of driving to do a ride. To get there I have to climb over a dam, which is visible as the snow-covered wall in the background of this photo:

Once again, I have failed to capture the mountains' grandiosity. Please be assured that the mountains really are much more impressive than this photo would have you believe (even from this vantage):

This little hill is the nemesis of my HR cap on recovery rides to CCSP. Right after moving to Denver and riding out to the park I had to breath quite hard to climb this little sucker:

Again, some of the vistas -- actually, strike out vistas, insert panoramas therefor (compare the definitions and you'll understand why)-- are really quite impressive but that all gets lost with my poor photography. Here there's a nice view of a reservoir, a town (Littleton? The tech center?), and finally the mountains:

There is a remote control airplane field (RC airport?) in CCSP. In addition to evincing the lack of clouds in the sky today, this photo shows one of the planes being flown remotely. On nice days there are typically multiple planes, and they're pretty cool to watch while riding by:

Finally, one of the many mini waterfalls along Cherry Creek. I captured this one with an oh-so-impressive over the shoulder shot while riding:

There are a bunch of great triathlon/food blogs with recipes and photos of tasty and nutritious looking meals. Here is my contribution:

Stacey and I call this apple medley, and IIRC we got the recipe from one of the paleo diet books. Is it cheating to post a recipe that I didn't creat? Oh well. We typically use 3 apples, 2 carrots, a large handful of pecans (almonds work too), some raisins, and cinnamon to make two servings. Delicious.

As far as the training update goes, on Saturday I planned a hard ride as follows:
1 min at 350 W
2 min at 325 W
3 min at 300 W
4 min at 285 W
5 min at 270 W
6 min at 260 W
7 min at 250 W
8 min at 245 W
9 min at 240 W
10 min at 230 W
and back down the ladder to 1 min, with 1-3 minutes rest between (longer rests for the longer reps). Well, Stacey has been sick and so I'm worried about catching something right before Cali 70.3. My power to HR ratio was not good during the ride, so I bailed after the 10 min effort instead of going back down to 1 min. This ride should be sufficient to keep me sharp even though I cut it short to err on the side of rest.

The next day my workouts included an easy ride, an easy swim, and a run with some race paced efforts. I did 5 miles at 6:00/mile with a minute rest between (the rest was just to keep things interesting since I did the workout on a treadmill). Again, one semi-hard workout will keep me sharp without requiring much rest to recover from.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My new bike!

First, I am happy to announce that I will be competing as a member of the Zoot Ultra team for the upcoming season. The team's sponsors include Zoot (duh), Orbea, and Zipp. This is a great group of companies to be associated with, and I am sincerely excited to use each company's products.

As an obvious disclaimer, I receive products from each of these companies either at a reduced price or free. That said, my goal is to provide an unbiased opinion of these companies' products.

With that out of the way, the point of this post is to provide a highly detailed write up on my new ride, an Orbea Ordu. I will discuss my thought process in selecting each component as well as some pros and cons of different components.

Without further ado, here she (he?) is all dressed up to race:

(And, yes, I bought those flowers on the table in the background for Stacey just because I'm such a great guy.)

Orbea had me pick my component spec using their "Made to Order" system at Basically, this system allows one to select which components the bike will include instead of choosing from 2 or at most 3 options offered by other comapanies. It's a cool feature, though if I were to improve it in any way it would be to offer even greater choice. For example, instead of selecting a group set, one would be able to select each component individual of the others, such as a Dura-Ace rear derailleur and an Ultegra front derailleur. At any rate, this system is the best I've seen and I was pleasantly surprised when my bike showed up just 5 days after I ordered it.

Since the bike was shipped directly to me and not to a dealer, I got to assemble it myself. I've learned to do most of my own wrenching over the past few years because I enjoy working on my bike and want to be self-sufficient. By being fully responsible for all my gear, I only have myself to blame if something goes wrong during a race. Anyhow, I spent a few hours each day during the past week building the bike and making minor alterations until I got everything setup just how I wanted. I was very meticulous, using my torque wrench when necessary and taking care of minor details like cable routing and even sanding the cut ends of zip-ties to avoid cutting myself (cut zip-ties can be sharp!).

When I started putting the bike together, I worried that the cable routing would be a pain -- internal cable routing often is. To my surprise, every cable went through on my first attempt. Nice! However, later I was changing out the rear derailleur cable and the cable guide inside the frame became dislodged. The rear derailleur cable no longer goes right when it should and it took a lot of effort to get it back in. In the future, I'm going to make sure to leave a cable through the frame whenever I change out the housing and leave the housing in place whenever I change a cable. That's good practice with any internally-routed frame.

I was able to position my saddle at about 78 degrees (relative to the bottom bracket) even though I'm using the 74/76 degree seatpost and not Orbea's optional 78/80 degree seatpost. Even with a 76 cm saddle height and without a long-nosed saddle like my old Profile Design saddle, I was still able to get plenty steep on this frame.

The Ordu is a fantastic looking frame and offers a much smoother ride than my old aluminum bike. Even chip-and-seal roads didn't bother me on my initial ride with the new bike. There's a lot more that I could discuss about the frame, specifically with reference to aerodynamics and whether or not they are relevant. I've touched on the issue before and won't go into detail now, but maybe I'll expound in a future post (this one is long enough as is). Anyhow, the biggest compliment I can give the frame is that I'm thrilled to own it and look forward to putting many, many miles on it.

The Ordu also happens to be the same bike that Craig Alexander -- who I believe trains in Boulder at least part of the year -- rode to victory in Kona the past two years. Here's Craig celebrating one of his many victories:

Since I do a fair amount of riding up in Boulder, I'm sure people will frequently confuse myself with Craig, with the two of us riding the same bike and all. As I imagine it, their conversations will go something like this:
First rider: "Hey, did you see that guy? I think that was two time world champion Craig Alexander."
Second rider: "Yeah, that guy was certainly fast. However, I don't think that was Craig because that guy was far more handsome than Mr. Alexander ."

As far as wheels go, I'll race Cali 70.3 with a 404 front and 808 rear. I selected this wheelset because I think it's ideal for Kona. From what I've read, an 808 front can be dicey on windy days in Kona. Plus, according to Zipp the 808 front only saves about 6 seconds per hour over a 404 front. That savings is hardly worth the risk of a crash, in my opinion. I'd love to have a slew of Zipp wheels for different occasions, like a 1080 front and 900 disc rear, but that isn't happening unless I win the lottery or cut 45 minutes off my IM time. I may, however, put a disc cover on the rear for future races, other than Kona of course.

Also regarding the wheels, I'm going with clinchers because (1) they're as fast or faster than tubulars (see and, more importantly, (2) they're less of a hassle for me. Changing brake pads, worry about flatting on my test ride the day before a big race, and learning to properly glue and change tubulars can all be avoided with clinchers.

Right now I'm running Michelin Pro 3 Race tires, both sized 23 mm. I used these exact same tires for most races last year, so I'm going to thoroughly inspect them before Cali 70.3. For my next set, I may select a slightly narrower front tire, likely a Bontrager Aero TT tire or a Zipp 21 mm Tangente. A narrower front may make for slightly better aerodynamics, as the 23 mm Michelin protrudes slightly relative to the wheel brake surface. When I change tires, I am willing to give away a bit of rolling resistance for extra puncture resistance. My rationale is that my cycling is strong enough to achieve my goal (a Kona qualification) and one thing that could derail that goal is a flat tire or two.

An aerobar close-up:

Profile Design bars were my choice because of their stack height. I wanted something with a fairly high height so that I wouldn't need many spacers beneath my stem. I run about 13 cm of drop, which isn't a ton for someone of my height. With the T2+ clip-ons, I can run a 100mm negative 6 degree stem without any spacers. Actually, some modification was required to lower the bars a bit.

As you may be able to see in the pictures above, I installed the armrest mounts upside-down and then used a few washers to raise the armrests to the proper height. I opted for washers instead of the risers included with the bars because the risers raised the armrests a bit too high and using washers allows me to incrementally adjust the armrests by adding or subtracting washers.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Profile Design bars. Their biggest advantage is adjustability. The extensions can be rotated about two axes, can be slid fore and aft, etc. One disadvantage is that the base bar does not have the most aero profile, especially compared to my Hed bars. However, I'm happy that the base bar has upturned ends. Since I do a fair amount of climbing and descending, the additional stability provided by upturned ends is welcome. Oh, and I also setup the extensions as narrow as possible. The extension mounting brackets are right up against the lateral sides of my stem. This provides an armrest width of 17.5 cm, if I recall correctly. My old bars were set up 1 cm or so narrower, and while that may be more aerodynamic, it's slightly less comfortable.

I also paid careful attention to the cable routing and tried to keep the derailleur cables out of the wind. I accomplished this by running the cables along the extensions and then over the base bar. Looking at the bike from the front as shown above the derailleur cables are not even visible. And that's with external cable routing.

The Profile Bars came with carbon S-bend extensions. I tried these for one ride and realized I'd get carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists if I continued using them. Double-bend extensions work for me because they're located right where my hands are when my hands are completely relaxed. While S-bends look much better than the double-bends I'm now using, comfort is more important than aesthetics (sometimes it seems like many people go for the cool factor over practicality). After installing the double-bend extensions, I hack-sawed off a few inches of their tips so that the shifters sit right at the ends of my hands. I also considered drilling these extensions for internal cable routing, but decided I'm happy enough with the routing as is.

At IMLP and IMLou last year I had some difficulty filling my front mounted aero bottle, and as a result I occasionally had to discard empty Gatorade bottles after the trash line. While this is a minor infraction unlikely to result in a penalty, I want to do my best to abide by the rules. To this end I am experimenting with a cage mounted along my stem:

A few zip-ties hold the cage in place. On my first two rides this setup has worked well. It's easy to pull the bottle from the cage and I don't need to worry about quickly filling an aero bottle. Plus, some claim the front mounted cage is more aerodynamic. While a bottle positioned in the cage is enclosed nicely by my arms, aerodynamics did not play much of a factor in my decision to use a cage in this fashion.

If the front-mounted cage comes loose, I have confidence that the other bottle holder on the bike's down tube will be sufficient to allow me to get through an IM. Carrying two bottles is more of a backup measure than a necessity for me (I carry Gatorade or another sports drink in both bottles).

A power meter is a nice addition to the bike:

I got this SRM for a great deal, otherwise I may have purchased a Quarq. My experience with Powertap is positive, but a crank-based system is a bit nicer for racing and training since one needn't own two power meters or use the same wheel for both racing and training. My favorite use of a power meter is to make trainer rides more interested. Having a goal in mind and structuring trainer rides like swim workouts makes time go by much faster.

One thing I had to do for the SRM was to attach a magnet to my frame's bottom bracket.

Normally this magnet would be attached to the cable guide on the bottom bracket, but the Ordu doesn't have an external cable guide. Instead, I cut off the mount portion of the magnet and taped the magnet to the frame with some double sided tape. Hopefully the magnet stays put for the long haul!

A Garmin Edge 500 reads the SRM's signal. This computer is a good choice to keep the price down, plus it's extremely user friendly and offers a huge number of display options. It displays temperature, altitude (based on pressure, not inaccurate GPS info), gradient, and a host of other fields...if you want it to. Even if I were still using my Powertap, I'd consider buying this computer to replace the cumbersome yellow Powertap computer. The Edge 500 is by far the best cycling computer I've used.

I'll be surprised if anyone made it this far! My write-up is perhaps too extensive. Anyhow, with my bike fully assembly, I guess I'm out of excuses for the squalid condition of my den/bike room:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Track Workout

After a steady 1.5 hour bike ride yesterday, Stacey and I went to a tri club run workout at the local dirt track. The workout plan included eight 800m's (i.e., half a mile) with 400m of easy jogging between. The 100 or so club members present were divided into eight groups based on each member's 5k time from the previous week. I was in the fastest group, which the coach said should hold a 6:24 pace or faster.

6:24/mile works out to about 3:12 per 800m. This is a pace I can hold for quite a while and that works out to maybe an 8 out of 10 perceived exertion rating. As a result I was expecting a solid but not too difficult of a workout.

Well, about a lap into the first 800m I started to think, "Am I out of shape? This pace feels fast." My suspicion that we were moving a bit faster than 3:12/800m was realized when we completed the 800m and the coach yelled, "2:37, nice job!" Hmm...5:14/mile? No wonder I working!

We rattled off 7 more 800m's, slowing gradually to 2:45 or so by the end. Not too shabby. Afterward, it was off to the pool for a quick recovery swim.

The plan for today is a long and hard ride up in Boulder. It's 65 degrees with not a cloud in the sky, so it should be a fantastic ride. I am only slightly afraid of some St. Paddy's Day reveler drunkenly running me over.

After the ride I'll do a masters swim this evening and will probably be a bit shelled. The plan leading up to Cali 70.3 will be to take it easy for a day or two, then do a few solid but not killer workouts before taking it easy again in the few days before the race. No long taper for me.

Finally, what might we have here???

More photos and info coming in my next post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

FTP Workout and more

First up, my tri bike is temporarily out of commission, at least for outdoor riding. My luck hasn't been great lately in terms of bike durability. In my last post I mentioned that my rear derailleur hanger was bent. After calling a bunch of shops I finally found one that carried the correct hanger, so that problem was solved. When installing the new hanger, I didn't like the look of my derailleur cable so I decided to install a new one. Again, no big deal, just slip the new cable in, adjust the derailleur, and I'm reading to ride once more.

Having taken care of all that, this past weekend I went out to Cherry Creek State Park with the aim of riding a bunch of 20-30 minute efforts at a high power output (for me, anyhow). I did a 30 minute warm-up ride out to the park. Once I got into the park I started my first interval, but it wasn't a very successful effort. Instead of going hard for 20 minutes, I had to stop several times to re-adjust my derailleur. Perhaps the cable stretched a bit from the night before.

At any rate, by the start of my second interval I had tweaked my barrel adjuster so my derailleur was functioning perfectly. Once again, all systems were go. I started the second interval and a few minutes into it I rode over a bump that looked like just another crack in the road (of which there are many at Cherry Creek -- the place is in serious need of being re-paved). Despite its diminutive appearance, the bump had a very jolting effect. My arms popped up off my aerobars' pads and then came crashing back down. Here's what resulted:

That broken part is made of aluminum and should not be delicate. I'm kinda tempted to use my mechanical engineering background to figure out if the part was defective.

Regardless, I contacted the manufacturer and a replacement part should be shipped out today. Until then, I'm using a folded up towel in place of a left armrest. Looks any outdoor rides I do for the next few days will be on my road bike. Oh well, better to break the part now than in a few weeks during Cali 70.3.

Okay, on with the training stuff. Yesterday Stacey and I went to our first Rocky Mountain Tri Club run. After a warm-up, stretch, and drill session, everyone ran a 5k at tempo pace to determine groupings for future track workouts. My Garmin battery died during the warm-up, so I don't have HR data, but I completed the run in 18:30. I'd estimate my effort as half-marathon pace, but it's pretty easy to underestimate effort for something so short and in a group setting.

I chatted with a guy that finished a few seconds after me and may have found a good running partner if working out with the club is convenient enough (I'm also concerned that the workouts will be too short and spend too much time on warm-ups, drills, and stuff like that). He's a former D1 college runner from a pretty big school, but said he took a couple years off after graduating due to burn-out. I'm sure he'll smoke me as he gets back into shape.

Finally, I just finished up a solid trainer ride with lots of short, hard efforts:

I especially like the second 4 minute effort. 270 W for 4 minutes with a max HR of 161 bpm.

This is the best kind of trainer ride to do -- lots of short, planned stuff. It's quick yet tough. There was no boredom during this workout.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boulder ride

If I keep up the hard work, my legs are gonna look like this:

(Not that that would be a good thing from an aesthetic perspective.)

It was a perfect day today in Colorado, at least weather-wise. 60 degrees and sunny is a nice combo. Anticipating perfect weather (thanks!), I decided to head up to Boulder for a ride. The plan was to spend a bunch of time at 250-270 W. Unfortunately, my legs weren't quite there.

Interval #1 started when I left Boulder heading north on 36. I was expecting to do 30-40 minutes hard until I hit Lyons and then take it easy through town before starting interval #2. Instead, I made it to Lyons in just 23 minutes (average speed for those 23 minutes = 26.3 mph, a bit faster then I would have guessed). My average power was about 250 W until a few miles before Lyons, when a lot of coasting downhill dropped my average to 240 W and 148 bpm (81 rpm avg). My HR was nice mostly in the low 150s.

Interval #2 started just outside of Lyons as I began climbing through Roosevelt National Forest. 20 minutes, 260 W avg, 157 bpm avg, 77 rpm, 17.4 mph avg up an average gradient of about 3%, most of the climbing done in my aerobars.

Interval #3 was non-existent. Either I didn't give myself enough recovery time after Sunday's tough workout or something else is off with my body, but that second interval took a lot out of me. I cruised back to Boulder for a 2:05 ride.

Since it was such a nice day, I decided to run a bit too. I ran up Sanitas Valley from Mapleton, not realizing that that route is pretty much uphill the whole way. After 10 minutes I turned around and ran back into town and just cruised around for a total run time of 45 minutes.

Oh, my rear derailleur hanger appears bent. I wondered why my shifting wasn't perfect since I recently adjusted my derailleurs, and then I looked down and saw that my lower RD pulley is 1 cm or so further left than the upper pulley. That's the second time in a year my hanger has been ruined! I haven't crashed (well, not on my tri bike), so I don't know what's going on. Luckily the part is only $5 or so to replace, but it's annoying.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Quick Note About Pro Rules + Boring Training Stuff

(My motivational note before a hard trainer ride earlier this week, inspired by Chuckie's post from a few days ago.)

Pro triathletes struggle to define how they add value to the races they compete in. One common argument against pros adding value to Ironman-branded races is that the races sell out extremely fast, in fact before participants even know what pros will be racing. A pro cannot add value in terms of increasing the number of entrants to a race, some people reason, if the race sells out even without knowledge that that specific pro will be racing.

I disagree with that line of thinking. First, I know that several pros will be racing each Ironman I sign up for. So even though I don't know which specific pros will be racing, I know some will be there. When I sign up for an IM race, I have the expectation that a competitive field will be present. Racing against a competitive field is one reason I am more excited for IM branded races than, say, the Race for Recovery half I've done the past two years. In a variant of Groucho Marx's famous quote, "I don't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member," I say, "I am not that excited about any race that I might actually win." As such, any pro field adds value.

Second, given the opportunity I'll select a more prestigious race that I know will have a good pro field over a lesser regarded race that may or may not have a solid pro field. A higher quality pro field is one reason I'm more excited to race Cali 70.3 and Boulder 70.3 than I would be to race Steelhead. As another example, a few years ago there were rumors that Normann Stadler was going to race Lake Placid. Even though these rumors were swirling just a week or two before the race - and long after the race had sold out - the rumors made entrants excited. Had Normann raced, it would have increased the prestige of the event. Top pros increase the appeal of races that they consistently enter in. Given this, a great pro field adds more value than a mediocre pro field.

Finally, if the pro fields at IM races were to be siphoned off by, say, Rev3, I think that over time many AGers would be drawn to that race series as well. The temporal aspect is key -- things aren't going to change over night. It takes time to establish prestige and to change consumers' expectations. Yes, each IM race will continue to sell out for a while regardless of the pro field, but over time I believe a shift in popularity would occur. I want to race where the competition is, and I think most other AGers do as well.

Anyhow, back to my training, on Saturday I did a 3:40 ride on the flats outside of Boulder. It was my first ride outside on my tri bike in several months. Even though I've been doing all my indoor riding on the tri bike, handling felt very odd and I wasn't entirely comfortable. Instead of targeting HIM wattage for a few hours during the ride like I initially planned, I instead elected to just ride however hard I felt like to get reacquainted with my bike. Before starting a cool-down I looked at my average watts and HR - 186 W at 122 bpm including an easy 15 minute warm-up. Not too bad for a fairly easy ride.

I tried to make up for Saturday's relatively easy ride on Sunday. I got a late start after watching the Olympic hockey final, but still managed a solid workout: 10 min at each of 260, 265, 270, 275, 280, 275, 270, 265, and 260 W with 5 min easy in between, followed by an hour transition run.