Old Pueblo, round 3

This is the third year in a row that I’ve kicked off the race season with Old Pueblo.  Historically this race hasn’t been that kind to me, but each event had a lesson for me. 

In ’04 I went to register on New Year’s day only to find out the solo field was full.  How could that be?  Who is thinking about 24’s in December?  So what the heck, Feb is experimentation month anyway, so I entered in the duo field.  Upon getting to the race they told me I had to have a partner to race duo (duh!)…found some fast kid who wasn’t racing but wanted to do 1 lap, he did the first one for me and I took it from there.  Team “flying solo”…Tinker and Cameron were there and had quite a duel.  My pit was right next to Cameron’s – both Anna & I learned a lot about running an effective 24 hour pit from his family.  Cameron had awesome support, and lots of it.  He won the race that year.  As for myself, I was able to stay on the same lap as the leaders until mid-morning.  I developed a case of asthma & that really sucked!  As I was laying on the side of the trail wheezing, some guy came by and gave me an inhaler and a beer, saved my bacon!  I was 5th or 6th in the duos most of the race, but fell to 11th after that debacle.

Then there was last year – the year of the torrential rain.  It rained and rained and rained…nonetheless, I was having a stellar race, but just couldn’t keep the bikes working.  No brakes, no shifting after about 2 am.  Everyone had the same problems, but the guys that finished obviously handled them better.  Some I think chose to just keep their bikes in a gear and run singlespeed style.  My big lesson in that event was that if you want to be competitive, you gotta have a mechanic.  You just never know what is going to happen.

So for round 3, Lynda and I are setting up camp together and between us have a mechanic and a 4 person pit crew.  I now run full length housings as I’ve found they are more impervious to wet weather (and less ferrules is less resistance, even though more housing) than any other setup I’ve tried.  Our battery charging is self-contained, here’s what it looks like:

At the top right of the board is a 400W power inverter.  This attaches to a car battery and spits out 110 volt AC.  Pretty handy – we can run all of our chargers plus a low-power shop lite simultaneously. 

I’ll have 3 bikes:  2 Top Fuels and 1 Dos Niner.  The Dos and one of the Fuels is power meter equiped, the non-PM equiped bike is backup only.  Hopefully  I’ll have a complete power file from the event.  Should be interesting!  Having power files at 24 hour race pace for 26″ and 29″ bikes – in the same event – that will paint the picture I seek…  

I’ll be setting up camp up in the solo area sometime tomorrow.  Stop on by – look for the red Nissan, a 12×12 red tent, and a gas barbeque grill.  Feel free to bring something for the grill too!

In other news – did you notice the book in the above picture? 

Just received my signed copy, and at first glance it looks to be a necessary reference for anyone interested in making the most of their training with a power meter.  I’ll have a review up shortly for those that want the skinny before making the purchase…but I can say right now that Andy and Hunter know their stuff, and also really complement each other since their backgrounds are so different.  Andy is a physiologist who has developed IF, TSS, normalized power, quadrant analysis, power profiling guidelines, and Hunter is an ex-pro roadie and now big time elite cycling coach working with some of the most talented athletes in the sport.  This book has a healthy balance of science and art, the 1-2 knockout punch.  Get it or get dropped!

Five Days to OP and countin’

Sometimes the final few days before a peak race are the hardest to figure out trainingwize. My legs are on fire so I want to go out and hammer but I can’t do too much or I’ll torch them before race day. I like to have the intensity in my schedule to keep the blood volume up but do fewer reps than during normal training. If I don’t do anything but rest during race week I’m flat as a pancake by the weekend.

Here’s today’s workout. Three sets of 3 min intervals in Power L5 with three mins rest between reps and six mins rest between sets. This one felt real easy today. Head up smilin’ kind of riding. The sun was out and canyon cliffs glowing orange.

Heart rate is in red and watts yellow. Intervals are highlighted in black. Short and sweet I like to call these types of workouts. 1 hour 20 min and 86 TSS. Go out, do the reps, go home. Power average was 251 watts for the intervals which is nicely in L5. My legs wanted to push more watts today but I stayed off the throttle. I’ll need all the beans I can save for the weekend.

Just keepin’ it nice and sharp today. CTL is down to 101 and TSB is up to 17.

Burning Arizona

So today was the last significant ride before Old Pueblo.  The 4 peaks road was just the ticket, a 4.5 hour out and back over the Mazatzal mountain range.  It may be February, but it hasn’t rained in these parts for something like 116 days now.  It is DRY.  Arizona is already on fire.  From the high point of the ride looking NE you can see the smoke from a big fire on the Mogollon Rim.

It’s about a 4,000′ drop to the valley below, the turnaround point.  The climb back up El Oso road averages a little over 8% grade, but given that there are a few descents in there, most of the climbing is a lot steeper than that.  The legs were wide awake today, that climb was FUN!

Then coming down the other side, yet another fire had sprung up.  There’s a spot in the sky section of that image, no it isn’t where you sneezed on your screen, its a plane doing some fire recon.

Most of this ride is through old burn areas…if ma nature doesn’t throw some moisture this way soon whatever hasn’t burned yet will.  Even so, I hope the weather holds off for another week…it can start raining after about, oh, 2pm next Sunday.  That’s my request ;)

Now begins the hard part, taking it easy to be well rested next weekend.  Dunno about others, but the week before 24s just kills me.  I breathe a sigh of relief once the race starts.

It’s hard to put into words how much I am looking forward to 24 hours of unrestrained effort.  It’s a beautiful thing, a pivotal time in a manic cyclists life.

My New SS

Here’s my new SS. 15″ frame and 29″ wheels. My inseam is 27″. I look like a midget standing beside it – like it’s my dad’s bike or something. It is an awesome ride and I’ve been railing around Paradise Canyon on it which is my little 45 minute back yard loop of slickrock and sand.

It’s one of the best thought out bikes I’ve had and has lots of nice features which many small bikes are missing. A big one for me is the water bottle mounts are low down enough in the main triangle I can get a large bottle in there. That’s nice for SSing as it sucks to have anything on your back when you are standing up cranking. No toe overlap either. I checked this one out first. I once had a bike with toe overlap and it sent me down a few times.

I wanted to get a 29er and a SS so why not do it all at once. It’s a Gary Fisher Rig. Actually it is a pig (not a rig) at 26 lbs but still darn fun. I’ll take it down to Old Pueblo and might do a few laps on it. I’ve been having fun night riding on it. Without gears that’s one less think to think about in the dark.

Here’s a few random thoughts about my new experience on a SS and a 29er:

  • I feel high up off the ground.
  • It’s a hard tail – haven’t ridden one of those in a while
  • It railed the corners. I can carve stuff I slide sideways in on my FS – maybe the beefier tires or the 29″ wheels.
  • The big wheels stick far out in front. It’s a funky feeling like the front wheel is poking further into my peripheral vision than it should be.
  • I need more air in the Reba than I would on a gearie ’cause of all the standing up and cranking on the SS.
  • I think I can run a less plush front shock as the 29er wheels rolled over the drop offs smoothly (yeah I didn’t jump off any).
  • The ledges felt smaller on the 29er – really
  • No bar ends – too much standing up, they’d just get in the way

I’m still messing around with the fit. I flipped the stem over yesterday and put a new saddle on – it feels better.

24-hours in the Old Pueblo is approaching fast – six days away now. I’m just getting my legs moving again after a big rest week. They needed that after my mega 1336 TSS ride week with Dave the week before. It took a couple of intervals to get the sluggishness out of them but now they’re back and moving pretty good. I’m happy. Our support crew is coming together too. The guys at Green Valley Bike and Hike are wrenching and we’ve got lots of other folks to cheer, feed and help with all the details. I’m very happy :-) Things are feelin’ lined up for this one.

26 vs 29 singletrack shootout: tie

Well now, (AHEM!), looks like I jumped the gun yesterday in revealing results.  That’s what I get for seat of the pants analysis.

The testing of 29er vs 26ers continues on.  Quick recap:  the first round of tests looked at how climbing on the Dos 29er compares to climbing on the Fuel 26er.  Those results showed a small but repeatable advantage to the Fuel for climbing dirt roads.  That wasn’t a big surprise to me, however, many took it as a direct attack on their lifestyle ;)  We’re just talking about a slightly larger wheel size, right?

This round of tests was done on a 3.2 mile singletrack loop in McDowell mountain park outside of Fountain Hills, AZ.  If you’ve done the Mesa NORBA nats, you’ve ridden this trail.  Swoopy, twisty, fast in spots, steep rollers, bad braking bumps in spots, a few very tight turns.  It starts with a ~ 3 min big ring climb, finishes with a more rolling but trending downwards section of whoops and twisties.  I call the latter section the “descent” in this analysis.

I did the rides on 2 different days separated by a 5 day period.  The first ride tested the 29er, the second ride tested the Fuel.  The results for each test are broken down by overall time, average power, and normalized power.  Here’s how it turned out: 

Other relevant data not reported in the above sheet:  energy expenditure was identical across bikes and runs at 185 kJ & 184 kJ for the Dos, 185 kJ and 182 kJ for the Fuel.

At first I thought based on average powers that the Fuel was significantly faster on the descent portion – which is completely non-intuitive.  The Dos felt like it held speed better in turns, so I expected the Dos to be faster on the descent.  If we just look at average power, that conclusion would stand.  However, normalized power comes to the rescue.  Normalized power was just enough higher in the Fuel tests to indicate I had a bit more snap in the legs on that day.  In rolling terrain, it is very important where you put the power down, and how much at a time.  On the Fuel’s day, I just had a bit more to give on the steep ups, and rested more on the descents.  The averages were the same, but Pnorm tells all…another factor that may have attributed to faster times on the Fuel was that I got 3 runs in on the Dos 5 days prior, so I was more familiar with the trail.  The Fuel did feel faster in the tightest terrain, oh wait, that’s subjective, nevermind.

Here’s a chart showing how the distribution of power changed between the two rounds of tests.  There’s a considerable shift to the right for the Fuel’s test, which simply means I was feeling better that day. 

As for the climb – look how tight the data is between the first run on the Fuel, and the second run on the Dos.  Looks identical to me.

Round 2 conclusion:  it’s a tie. 

So what’s next?

One test will be similar to this one, except at a much more relaxed pace.  These runs were at a XC like pace, far above that of an endurance race.  What happens if power spikes are much lower & most of the riding is in the saddle?  Will the bigger wheels conserve energy somehow in the twisty/rolly stuff under those conditions?  

How about some pure downhill runs?  There aren’t any around here I can think of, that’ll probably have to wait until late-spring back in Colorado.  The great thing about a bunch of downhill runs means I get to do a bunch of climbing :)

Signing out for now, fire away, but keep it civil.

Preliminary results: round 2 of 29/26 testing

No time to get the full details written down yet…but the latest round of testing produced some unexpected (to me, anyway) results.  The chosen course is the sport loop at McDowell Mountain park, a 3.2 mile rolling singlerack trail.  The first 3.5 minutes is a big ring climb, wide and twisty, sometimes sandy, sometimes rocky.  From the top of that climb it’s roughly 8 minutes of twisty, swoopy, rolling singletrack.  A real treat at speed!

Each bike gave very different sensations.  The Dos held way more speed in whoops & gentle turns.  The Fuel felt agile as a cat, accelerated faster, and also felt to be the better climbing bike.  The second part (the 8 minute section) has more downs than ups, I really expected the Dos to come out ahead in this one.

I’m sad to say it didn’t.  The Dos was slower on the climb, and slower on the twisty whoops.  Maybe I’m just feeling better today…but that’s not what the data says.  Identical power for the last 8 minutes, but the clear advantage goes to the Fuel.

I’ll post the details when I have time to distill it into understandable format…

Power, weight, climbs, descents and speed

Yesterday I had a super interesting ride on the road with a friend. Nice ride with a couple of long climbs, 5 miles and 8 miles long. We rode side by side for most of the ride, with no drafting. My friend weighs 75 pounds more than I do. On the climbs he was working harder than I was for sure but on the descents I had to put the hurt on myself a little bit to keep him in sight. I notice this on group rides. On descents if I’m tight in the draft I can stay in but if I get pooped out into the wind it is all over. I wasn’t drafting on the descent yesterday and was dam near threshold at times just holding the 50 yard gap constant. Once on the next climb it was back to me spinning easy and him working harder. I was wondering if he hammered the descent or it was really the weight that made difference. Well we were both riding Power-Taps so I was able to look at the power profiles side-by-side for the real answer.

On both climbs my power average was 145 watts and IF 0.654 and his was 204 watts and IF 0.888. On the descents I averaged 160 watts and IF 0.726 and he averaged 147 watts and IF 0.641.

There you go. I did bust my butt on the descent.

’06 Schedule

The ’06 schedule is taking shape nicely.  Funny things is, there are few NORBA events on it.  I’d sure like to do 24 hour natz, but it conflicts with TransRockies so maybe next year.  The NORBA nationals stop in Park City includes a marathon, that is interesting.  It’s penciled in tentatively – that’ll be 4 trips to Park City, and although I love the place, that’s a lot of travel.

Learning from last season, there is no silly block with 3-4 ultra events on consecutive weekends.  That Park City/Brianhead/Durango triple last summer hurt!

There are a couple of new race formats.  The Kokopelli Trail Race is a fully self-supported 142 mile event from Moab to Fruita.  No outside support, no water drops.  This race switches direction each year – starting in Moab has the route in the La Sal mountains before sunrise (cold) and then crossing 80+ miles of desert later in the day.  Brutal.  I’m in!

The other new format is of course TransRockies.  Lynda & I had such a great time doing the big week training in St George that I know we will be great teammates in Canada.  I’m more excited for this race than I can say…

I’ve decided to hit all the E100 events again this year.  Boris’ passionate race promoting and world class  course design along with innovative ideas (this year he’s doing a reality show for the series) makes his races a must do.

Let’s not forget the 24 hour races, there’s a few of those sprinkled in as well.  The first one is just 9 days away at OP; I’ll also defend my record at Steamboat and hope to move a couple steps up at Moab in October.

Only a handful of races, but adding up expected race times, its over 150 hours of racing.

Who’s an addict now?