Friday, October 08, 2010

Just For The Record...

I've been riding...a lot.  I've some success this year...quite a few.  I've dropped weight...quite a bit.  I am feeling faster, stronger, quicker, more confident, and honestly...I feel like a cyclist again.

I've fallen off for a bit, but I have a renewed sense of self and with that the passion of what makes me, "ME".

Return to racing?  The jury is still out on that one.  It's small grin in the back of my mind.  I have thought about it, quite a bit actually and it comes down to commitment.  If I can't be committed to the training, I will not have the success to stay motivated.  That's the drive for me - have a goal, have a plan, work the plan to reach the goal.

Sounds simple?  It's not and that's the problem.  I'm in a different place in my life - more commitments, more complications, more distractions.  Success as a bike racer is measured in the small incremental bits of continuous improvement.  The commitment comes from harnessing all focus and establishing that "I want this" and with that comes a one year plan - a workout schedule, a dietary plan, time in the gym strength training, recording data every day and analyzing that data, getting someone to help me (feedback), and the racing itself...that is a huge commitment to consuming a full day for preparation, travel, doing the event, and then bringing it all home and putting it away until the next event.

It's daunting and we you are like me and my type of personality, it's hard because it's truly all or nothing.  I don't dabble and I don't quit.  Once I say to myself "I am going to do this", the next thing I do is tell everybody "I am going to do this".  That's what keeps me honest.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Major Taylor Velodrome Opening Night 2007

After a half-hearted attempt at a return to racing last year, I have been training in earnest for this season and this week has been the big test for which I have waited 8 months.

I went to the Tuesday Night Training session this week and spent about 100 laps behind the motor along with some sprints off the rail from the motor. After that session, I was "cautiously optomistic" as I like to say.

The evenings events:
  1. 5-lap Scratch Heats (2)
  2. 5-lap Scratch Final
  3. 5-lap Scratch Consolation
  4. 18-lap Points Race (points every 6)
  5. 30-lap Points Race (points every 6 2x last)

I didn't have my disk ready yet (tire still setting up with glue), so I was riding training wheels. So here I am, a 43-year old guy with an old steel frame and 32 hole box section rims mixing it up with the youngsters. Well, it went better than last year where I got my doors blown off, exiting the rear of the field in most all events.

In the first event, the Scratch Race heats, there were 8 of us in each heat, with the top 4 in each going to the final. I was in the second heat, with some pretty fast company. We started slow, up above the blue line and I positioned myself under the riders up at the rail and about 3 back from the front - perfect. The speed gradually rolled up and with 2 laps to go, one of the guys dove down and set things into motion and I was sitting 4th or 5th. We were moving pretty fast, not all out but not too far from it. Coming out of turn 4 on the bell lap, one of the guys up front goes and goes hard. Through 1 and 2 we are still accelerating and on down the back stretch. Going into 3 I made my move and went up over the rider in front of me, going all out, 110%. I get around him in 3, and then another guy coming out of 4 and down the home stretch am lined up with 3 others going for the line. I ended up snatching 3rd. This was a HUGE confidence builder for me, being the first race of this year for me and it was validation that: A) My training and persistence over the last 8 months worked! and B) This old guy can still go fast with the young dudes.

In the Scratch Race Final, an error in judgement and improper gearing cost me a top placing and I ended up with a 6th place. A guy had attacked hard coming out of turn 3 with 2 to go showing at the next cross of the line. I went hard after him and had about a 3 or 4 bike gap that I just simply could not close. I needed more gear (my wife observed that I was spinning noticeably faster than the rest). I just started to close a bit as he faded going into the bell lap and as we came across going into turn 1, a guy that was spit out on the previous lap was still in the sprinters lane, going backwards. At this point, all the guys behind me that I was pulling along trying to close the gap came over the top of me and I got pinched behind this idiot who should have been off the track and not in the lane. I got on the back of the train as we were going all out for the finish. I came through on the back, in 6th place. In retrospect, I should have not been the one to try to go first after this guy and let someone else. Even if he had gotten away, I am confident I could have pulled out a top 3 finish again. Lesson learned - more gear and more patience.

The 18-lap Points Race was fast from the get go. We did one lap above the blue and someone attacked. After a lap, he pulled up and somebody else went, and the next lap...the same thing. So with 2 to go to the first sprint, a guy goes and I slip into the chase around 4th or 5th. We charge for the line and I end up 5th - just out of the points. We come through turn 1 and I could just smell that this was going to happen and I was prepared for it - someone attacks right after the sprint and I went with the group that chased. This, as always, totally blew apart the field because there were some who weren't recovered enough from the sprint to able to go. I barely was able to and was struggling to hang on. The pace let up just a bit after a lap of this craziness and then somebody else attacked. I had no "go" left at this point. I attempted to get on but found that I was done. This was a painful reminder of years past for me. I have always struggled in the points races. They are so intense with the repeated attacks and not only does one need to be able to endure the physical portion, but the tactics and positioning are critical in order to get points.

After the 18-lap, I decided I was done for the night. I had been sick all week with a sinus infection and ear infection and still wasn't 100%, so I packed up and considered it a good start to the season. I need to do more high-intensity work for longer periods on the Tuesday night sessions and I "need to get my FAST on"...which is my disk and a bigger gear. I ran a 50x15 (90") and most of the other guys were running 91 to 93 inch gears. Next week, I'll try the 51x15 (91.8") and if that doesn't feel too big, I might try the 48x14 (92.5") the week after.

I am excitedly looking forward to next Friday night.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pass the Power, Please...

I have been working recently with my old friend and cycling guru extraordinare, George Rian. George is 74 years old and has been a cyclist since the mid 1950's when he attended college at I.U. and rode the famed "Little 500". He has been a student of the sport receiving education in ways and methods too numerous to go into here, but suffice to say, he is more than a wealth of information. He is an excellent coach and bike fitting expert and has been sizing and fitting people to bikes for over 25 years. He has been trained in many of the fitting systems past and present including some of the more well-known systems like the "Fit-Kit", Serotta size cycle system, the newer updated Serotta system, as well some of the latest trends in fit involving taking angular measurements of various body components while on the bike. What separates George from most others is that he doesn't use any single method, but rather an incorporation of all of them, combined with his experience of fittings hundreds of people over the years. He has seen all kinds and no two are the same.

Over the last year George has observed on many occasions under certain circumstances that my hips rock noticeably and I appear to be over-extending in my pedal stroke when viewed from the side while riding. Since having had the power meter, I have been able to identify a discrepancy in power delivery to the pedals in balance.

We began a few weeks ago with a review of past measurements and current bike setup as well as a discussion of his observations. We decided on a "start from scratch" measurement from the waist down. We found two interesting things. The first thing was that I measured a full centimeter shorter than what we had on record for me from 1991 when George first measured me and also from other measurements that I recorded over the years. The impact of that is that when calculating various components of the bike fit, it alters a few things, most notably, frame size and saddle height. I had been riding at 81.8cm (leg length x .885) and the new calculation puts me at 80.6cm - a full 1.2cm difference and in bike fit terms, that's quite a bit.

We started with adjusting my saddle height and after some discussion about how we would approach adjusting such a large gap along with other adjustments that we suspected would need to be made, we decided to do it in three increments - 4mm at a time. We lowered it to 81.4 and I have been there for two weeks. I immediately noticed the difference as soon as I got on the bike. At first it took some getting used to, but I noticed a couple of things. On the positive side, it is slightly more comfortable and I feel like a get a better pull through the bottom of the stroke, especially in larger gears. On the negative side, my spin (when I "overspin") seems a bit choppy and I felt like I needed to 'push back' in the saddle often - both of which may subside once I am acclimated and in recent days it doesn't seem as noticeable.

The other thing observed was that my left leg is 1.2cm shorter than the right. This somewhat explains the fact that my right-left balance on the power meter has consistently shown averages for all types of rides (recovery, endurance, intervals) to be anywhere from 44% to 48% on the left and 52% to 56% on the right - clearly an imbalance of power input at the crank and it has never been the other way around where the right leg is lower.

In addressing this, we observed a couple of other related issues. First, my cleats were not in an optimal position. I had them set in a neutral position with the line signifying the center of the cleat centered on the ball of my foot. For different riding styles and applications (road, track, TT) this can differ slightly but typically only within a couple of mm either side of center. Historically, I have always used one set of shoes for everything - road racing, track and time-trial. After discussions about how we would approach the series of adjustments required for an optimal cleat position, we decided to set "my good shoes" for a road-race position which is 1 to 3mm behind center. I will acquire a second set of shoes for the track and deal with the setup on those at a later time.

We started with moving the cleats backward 2mm from center which effectively puts the foot deeper into the pedal. The result of this should be that can put more power to the pedals. At the same time we utilized some power shims to alter the angle of the interface to the pedal which adjusts the inherent alignment issues that most all cyclists have.

The plan is to ride with this for a couple of weeks before we begin to work on shimming the short leg. There is a fitting process that details how to deal with this anomaly and interestingly enough most people have it to some extent and mine is not significant. We will shim half the distance of the measured imbalance, but not all at once. In a couple of weeks, we'll do 2mm first (the smallest amount possible with the cleat shims) and after a couple of weeks review how it feels and discuss if I want to go another step and add another 2mm. It so, we'll see how it feels and see if we need to go further to the full 6mm. After that, we will re-observe the saddle height portion to determine if we should drop it another 4mm. We currently are still at the first adjustment of 4mm lower that the original that I started at.

The key part to all this is paying attention to how things feel and my providing feedback to George. He and I both understand that you can't simply take numbers and apply them to someone and say "that's it". We are doing this slowly and methodically to address some specific things. This fitting stuff is not a concrete science. There are a number of methods and calculations to create a baseline starting point for anyone, but from there it's all about the feedback loop and making methodical adjustments because everything on the bike is interrelated and changing one thing often affects something else.

Once I get this all sorted, I can have the piece of mind knowing that my fit is spot-on for my next purchase:

Painting titanium and carbon is just plain WRONG. This is the scheme I will be getting...