Posted by: Travis | March 3, 2011

Snelling and PDX

You may have taken my silence following the Snelling Road Race last Saturday and an indication that i didn’t do well. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I actually rode really well and was given the opportunity to go for a result after our team’s sprinter decided he wasn’t up for the sprint. I was sitting about 5th wheel, perfectly positioned with about 1km to go, but then the field started churning and i got boxed in, ending up around 25th out of 100 starters. It’s the first time i’ve managed a fitness peak well and everything went according to plan. Though i thought i was a lock for a top 10 with 1k to go, i had a bit of bad luck, but that’s okay. It was a breakthrough day for me and i couldn’t be happier about it.

The reason i’ve been silent here is that there was a bit of a snafu with the results. We used timing chips for this race (something new for this year), and there was some technical problem that delayed the results be posted and i didn’t want to write a post until i had the official results. At the moment i’m still not sure where i placed exactly. Hopefully that will get resolved over the next few days.

In a few minutes i’ll be leaving to pick my Dad up at the airport and then driving up to Portland to go visit my brother for the weekend. Rachel and my Mom will be flying in tomorrow. The plan is to do a lot of eating, bike riding, running, and hanging out. It should be an awesome time. Hopefully i’ll be able to get a Snelling race report and a PDX trip recap up some time next week.

Have a good weekend y’all!

Posted by: Travis | February 24, 2011

Here we go!

Bags are packed

This Saturday is the Snelling Road Race out in the central valley a few minutes east of Merced.  It’s a big day. All the training i’ve been doing since mid October has been about how can be at my absolute best on Saturday morning. Last year it rained the night before and started with temperatures in the mid 40’s and we complained about it being miserable. This year the forecast is for rain and temps around freezing at our race start time just after 8:00am.

Unlike last year when i had no idea what to expect, this year i have managed everything about as perfectly as one can expect. Since Christmas i’ve been focusing on eating a healthier diet and have my weight down into the low 160’s (i raced most of last year in the low 170’s). As a result i’m climbing better than i ever have before, slashing whole minutes off my PR’s (personal records) on may of the local climbs. I was more diligent about getting out and getting my base miles in over the winter. I’ve followed my training plan to a tee, doing the exact intervals prescribed, exactly as they are prescribed. I think i’ve also done a better job of balancing hard workouts with rest in the weeks leading up to this race than i ever have before. Last summer i mismanaged this period and my body ended up peaking the weekend before my target race. At this point i’ve done all i can to prepare. You’ve either done your homework over the winter or you haven’t. On Saturday there’s no faking it.

I’ve got my bags packed. Tomorrow morning i’ll wake up, eat some oatmeal and hop on the stationary trainer for a short but intense pre-race day workout to open up my legs after taking Wednesday and Thursday completely off the bike. I’ll go to work. Rachel will meet me at the office with her stuff and Cooper, we’ll leave a car there and head Southeast, stopping along the way for a dinner packed with veggies, lean protein, and some carbs. Hopefully we’ll get to bed early in Merced for an early wake-up call.

In the morning we’ll head over to Denny’s in Merced for a ridiculously early breakfast a few hours before the start of the race. Racing in the cold and rain requires a massive amount of calories, so a build your own Grand Slam breakfast with all the stuff i need (protein, carbs, nothing too greasy or fried) will be perfect. We’ll head over to the race, get checked in, pin my number on and get dressed. I’ll check in with my teammates, make sure everyone is on the same page, and then collect bottles for Rachel to hand out in the feedzone (she’s a saint!).

Then we’ll all line up together, shivering while the referee gives us the run down. Some guys talk trash and make jokes, others get quiet and in the zone. We’ll do a 2 mile or so neutral roll out from the parking lot to the 12 mile course we’ll race five laps around. When we get to the course the ref will throw a hand in the air to tell us the race is on. Then it’ll be time to rip some legs off.

There might be a crash or two. Lots of people will have their days ruined by flat tires. Some will just abandon because they don’t want to go on. Chances are the strongest man will win.

To most people we’re nuts driving hours from home on the weekends, staying in crappy motels, and getting up before dawn to race our bikes in the cold and rain. We pay for this crap? We’re just a bunch of guys that take ourselves too seriously riding our bikes around in circles.

Maybe so, but being in a race is the most incredible feeling in the world. It’s what we do to feel alive.

I’m not nervous about the pressure i’ve put on myself, or the weather. I just want to race my damn bike.

Posted by: Travis | February 14, 2011

Early Bird Criterium Week #5

Race: Early Bird Criterium Week #5, E4
Location: Fremont, CA
Date: February 13, 2011
Result: 38th (of 48)
Course: 1.4 mile rectangular shaped course. Three 90 degree turns, one sweeper (all rights).
Weather: Cool (low 60′s), light wind
Teammates: Steve (15th), Matt (21st), Jon (32nd), Amin (DNF)

Before the race the team went on a warm-up ride together. Nothing fancy, just a loop around a local park/natural preserve that has a decent bike trail.

We went into the race with a predetermined plan. In the first 2/3rds of the race, we were to stay near the front, chase down threatening (groups with big numbers or particularly strong riders) attacks, and ride as a team. With 3 laps to go we were to line up in a particular order and hold top 10-15 positions. In the final 1/2 lap we were to launch a lead-out train for our designated sprinter, Matt.

The first 5-6 laps the five of us (Steve, Matt, Amin, Jon, Me) rode somewhat near each other, but not really as a unit, mainly just getting warmed back up and feeling out the group. That early in the race, it was no big deal.

For the middle 5-6 laps we did a better job of trying to be near each other and communicating. At one point Steve, Amin, and i did some work to bring back a break of 3-4.

With about 7 laps to go a homeless guy wandered onto the course with a bike packed full of stuff. We didn’t see him as he was just around a corner, so the field had to split and go around him without much notice. Some how, some way, there was not a crash. I’m still not quite sure how everyone walked away from that situation unscathed. Needless to say, i’ve never seen that before. Luckily, Rachel got a picture from a distance.

Homeless guy on the course!

When the lap cards came out (i think at 6 to go) we made a strong effort to all get lined up together. The front guy (Jon) was sitting maybe 20th wheel. We shuffled around a bit to get into the right order according to the plan (Jon, Amin, Travis, and Matt, with Steve moving around some). Steve and i started to telling Jon and Amin to move up. At this point were were all lined up, talking, and riding together as a unit.
With 3 to go i was ecstatic. We were all lined up, riding really well, staying out of the wind. I was feeling rested, wasn’t having to do much work at all, and started to get really excited about the finish. Going around turn 4 and through the start/finish with 3 to go, we made a push up the outside to try and get Jon into a top 5-7 slot. As we rolled by on the left, the peloton slowed down and got wide. We had to squeeze back over the double yellow lines to avoid hitting the median in the setup for turn 1. Amin and Jon found themselves on the front when the pack slowed down. We told them to get off the front. John immediately sat up and fell back. Amin was on the very front of the group and slowed down, but no one would come around him. Coming out of turn 1, Amin pulled off the front to the right while a few guys were trying to come around on the right, a bunch of guys weren’t expecting him to pull off, several people overreacted and swerved, causing the people behind them to to grab a handful of brake.

Then the set up into turn 2 was all wrong and a bunch of different lines were taken through the turn, along with another almost crash. Through these two back-to-back sequences we all got split up (the AV guys, not the field). I personally lost a bunch of places, so i tried to move up on the outside between turns 2 and 3, which was exposed to the crosswind. At this point the whole field was pretty spooked and almost all of the subsequent corners were a mess. It seemed like every time i made up spots on a straight away, i’d lose them right back in the corners by guys taking goofy lines. Going into the last lap i was able to get up to the top 15 or so near Matt, but i expended so much effort trying to get up to him that i wasn’t able to get in front of him and wasn’t able to do anything to help lead him out.

At that point i knew i didn’t have anything left in the tank to sprint, so i let the sprinters go up the road and rolled through in 38th place.

Though the result isn’t great, it only tells part of the story (mainly, the last 3 laps). What happened up until that point was awesome and a joy to be a part of.

Yesterday was the most comfortable i’ve been this year sitting in the group, totally boxed in with nowhere to go. The problem i’ve had in previous weeks of finding a good spot in the group and holding it didn’t pop up once yesterday. Given that i felt great with 3 laps to go, and that i slashed a minute of my personal best climb up Old La Honda (a local benchmark climb that is a good indicator of your lactate threshold) on Saturday, i’m willing to chalk up last weekend’s racing debacles to fatigue at the end of a hard 3 week training block. With a rest week in my legs i’m feeling much, much better.

The race i’ve been planning my training around since mid-October (Snelling Road Race) is coming up in 2 weeks. I’m not planning on racing next weekend, but i’ll organize a big ride with the team next Saturday, do a hard but short ride mid week, a pre-race ride the day before, and hopefully be good to put in a really good ride. Right now things are looking good!

Race Stats
Time: 41:55
Distance: 17.837 Miles
Work: 550 kJ
Normalized Power: 243 Watts
Max Power: 1058 Watts
Avg Speed: 25.5 mph
Max Speed: 30.9 mph

Posted by: Travis | February 10, 2011

Race Report: Cherry Pie Criterium

Race: Cherry Pie Criterium, E4
Location: Napa, CA
Date: February 6, 2011
Result: DNF
Course: 1 mile closed loop, one hill at the start/finish with 180 degree turn at the top of the hill. Three 90 degree turns, one sweeper, one chicane.
Weather: Warm (high 70’s), gusty wind
Teammates: Jeff (winner)

Cherry Pie is the first race of the season where i really cared about how i did. I’ve had my eye on this race for the last few months and doing well there has definitely been a motivating factor in finishing hard workouts over the winter. The course should suit me well. The sprint is up a short hill that takes about 15 seconds to climb. On the top of the hill is a 180 degree turn, then you go back down the hill and flying into a right hand turn. The course is long enough that i should be able to really push it on the hill, and recover on the rest of the course. That i put on such an embarrassing performance at Cherry Pie in 2009, as my racing career was just getting started, added extra motivation to exercising my Cherry Pie demons. I’ve made a lot of improvements in the last two years, so i was looking forward to putting that on display at Cherry Pie this year and really kicking ass.

That’s all in theory. What happened in practice was another story.

We got there early, with plenty of time to get my number, pee, and get as long a warm-up as my heart desired.  We got up to the start/finish in time to watch the end of a womens race and get a second row spot for my race. The whistle blew and we were off. We sprinted down the hill and flew into the right hander at about 35mph. Then we were into the wind. I was holding decent position, but i noticed that my legs didn’t feel right when i tried to really crank it into the wind and make up some spots. I thought my legs were just cold from the 30 minutes between the end of my warm up and the start of my race.

Don’t panic. Just sit in. Your legs will come around.

We came back around to the hill and i tried to put it in a small gear and spin, playing to just survive. We came around the hairpin at the top of the hill and then sprinted down the other side. It was obvious that there was something wrong with my legs. I had no power, no pop.

Around the corner and into the headwind.

There are a lot of guys in front of me, i must be near the back. Oh shit, there’s a gap. Close it. Close it now. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts, just close it.

I look down at my computer and see that i’m barely putting out 200 watts. The previous Wednesday i did a 3.5 hour ride where i averaged 230 watts for all 3.5 hours, but now i can’t sustain 200 watts for a couple of minutes?

Just survive. Your legs will come around.

We come up to the hill and for the first time, i get out of the drops and put my hands on the tops of the bars to open up my chest and allow me to breathe more deeply. I’m suffering. Around the 180 and back down the hill. Fly through the right hander and into the wind again.

The guy in front of me is getting gapped. Go around him and slot into that open spot through the middle of the group and tuck in. GET OUT OF THE WIND. Hey that didn’t feel so bad. Your legs are coming back. Don’t bite off too much now, just sit in a rest up for the hill.

We hit the hill. It hurt. I lost position again.

Around the 180, through the right hander, and into the wind.

Crap, it’s single file, someone on the front is drilling it. Dig deep, it doesn’t matter how much it hurts, do not get dropped.

I’m digging as deep as i can, my legs are screaming, and the group just rides away from me. No dramatic explosion, nothing, they just rode away into the wind.

I completed two more laps by myself for kicks even though i knew i was done. On the final lap i called out to Rachel that i was done. I let the officials know i was pulling myself, waited for Rachel, then slow rolled it back to the car in disbelief of what had just happened.

What a catastrophe.

I’m not sure if this weekend is an aberration or a sign of something bigger. I am at the end of a hard 3 week training block with a rest week coming up. Maybe my body was fatigued and just refused to go. I don’t know, but the thought of not being over the DNF hump that i thought i got over last summer scares the crap out of me. Since mid October i’ve been organizing my life around my training, following my training plan to a tee, busting my ass like i never have before. I’ve been watching my diet and losing weight. I’ve been more diligent about the strength training than i’ve ever been before. I’ve been doing everything right, and this is the pay off? I’ve got a rest week this week, followed by the final Early Bird Crit next Sunday, hopefully i’ll be better than i was this weekend.

Race Stats
Time: 16:28
Distance: 6.336 Miles
Work: 233 kJ
Normalized Power: 256 Watts
Max Power: 840 Watts
Avg Speed: 23.1 mph
Max Speed: 35.8 mph

Posted by: Travis | February 10, 2011

Race Report: Ronde van Brisbeen

Race: Ronde van Brisbeen (Criterium), E4
Location: Brisbane, CA
Date: February 5, 2011
Result: DNF
Course: 0.6 mile closed course with a hairpin turn
Weather: Warm (high 70’s), gusty wind
Teammates: Jeff (winner), Jon (DNF)

Saturday’s Ronde van Brisbeen was a mess of a race the likes of which i have never seen in a Cat 4 criterium.

I have signed up for this race before, but never actually raced it because it has always rained and this course is notorious for ending seasons (with injuries) when raced in the rain. Saturday was a totally different story from previous years — sunny and almost balmy, with temps in the high 70’s. Not bad for February.

I arrived with plenty of time and got a good warm-up in, trying out a new warm-up routine. My mantra for the day was: ‘today is all about tomorrow’. I didn’t really care how i did at Brisbane, i just wanted to stay upright, get a few efforts in, and be around to contest the sprint. No break attempts today, as i wanted to stay fresh for the much higher priority Cherry Pie Crit happening in Napa the next day. I had two teammates in the race in Jeff and Jon. We didn’t talk strategy much, and i made it clear that i was just sitting in today.

The first lap was taken at a reasonable pace as everyone checked out the course. Coming through the start/finish Jeff attacked and went off the front with 2 other riders. He would never be seen again, staying away the entire race, eventually dropping his break-mates, and lapping everyone chasing him en route to a solo victory. It was a very impressive display.

What happened behind Jeff was complete and total mayhem. People were okay to see the break go up the road, but after they had a lap off the front and held a sizable gap, the field realized that this was a serious break and the speed ramped up to try and reel them back in.  Parts of the course were pretty narrow, so we were strung out mostly single file. The wind made things pretty difficult, but i was holding decent position.

On the 3rd or 4th lap we had just gone around the hairpin and were approaching a tricky little turn where the road narrows from two lanes down to one. The set up makes it look like you can carry more speed through the turn than you actually can, which leads to guys grabbing a handful of brakes in the middle of the turn. The guy right in front of me proceeded to lock up his front wheel and go flying over the bars.  I was sure i was going down, but somehow found a way to adjust my line through the turn and stay upright. The crash split the field in two and caused a gap of a few seconds. I pulled the second group around the course for about a half lap, getting the gap down to about 20 meters at times, but just not having the legs to make the final push and get back on. Every once in a while i would get the gap close, then someone would come around me and bridge up, but i couldn’t hold on to their wheel for the ride back to the group. Then i would be left towing the group again. Eventually my legs would give out and someone would rotate through. I would sit in, the stronger guys would go off the front of our group, i would be unable to attach myself to them, and then fall back.

Every one or two laps there was another crash in that same turn, each crash further splitting up the field.

I got pulled about halfway through the 50 minute race, after which i sat on the sidelines to watch the rest of the race. It was a total mess. The field was completely annihilated, with groups of twos and threes trying to catch the group in front of them. There was no ‘pack’. There were riders strewn all over the course, with a group coming by every couple of seconds. I have no idea how the officials were able to score the race, much less tell who was on what lap. I think about half of the field got pulled by the end of the race. I have never ever seen this happen to a Cat4 crit before. What a mess.

The good news is that my teammate, Jeff (who is new to the team this year) put on a stellar performance with the solo victory and will be moving up to the Cat3’s to inflict pain on them. He’ll be one to watch.

Race Stats
Time: 21:52
Distance: 8.169 Miles
Work: 305 kJ
Normalized Power: 245 Watts
Max Power: 934 Watts
Avg Speed: 23.3 mph
Max Speed: 29.3 mph

Winter is the rainy season in NorCal. From May until September we might have one or two rainy days, but the winter is when we get the vast majority of our rainfall. Not only does it rain often, but it’s cold (for us), and with the sun going down around 4:30 in the afternoon, there’s a serious reduction in daylight. All these factors mean that bike riders have 3 options:

  1. Learn to ride in the cold and wet
  2. Spend the winter on your stationary trainer or rollers, watching old DVDs of the Tour over and over again
  3. Only ride on the weekends

For the most part this winter has been pretty mild. It didn’t really get cold until November, and the number of sunny days seems to have far outnumbered the rainy days. We’ve even had whole weeks where temps get into the high 60’s in the afternoon. I’ve been meaning to write an entry about riding in the rain for the last two months or so, but the number of times i’ve had to do it have been so few and far between, that it never came to the forefront.

That all changed last Sunday. I went on a ride with my friends Jeremy and Steve. Going on a wet ride where it starts raining once you’re out on the road is one thing, but leaving your house while it’s pouring is a whole ‘nother level of insanity. With none of the three of us will to call the others’ bluff about ‘hardening up’ or being ‘hardcore’, we set out hoping it would break and we’d get some sun.

While we got a few breaks from the rain, it never really happened. It rained for most of our ride. The thermometer on the computer never got above 52 degrees. For the last 45 minutes we reached the point where we were so cold and uncomfortable that conversation mostly ceased. All three of us were thinking the same thing. Just get home. A hot shower awaits.

As we were rolling by the Stanford campus back into Palo Alto, Steve pulled off to make a stop by Trader Joe’s for some brats to consume when he got home. Jeremy and i kept rolling. I heard a hissing sound that seemed to get louder, then quieter with the rotation of my tire. I thought my fender was rubbing. The we stopped at a light and it kept hissing.

Flat front tire.

We pulled over, took the front wheel off the bike and i started trying to take the tire off the rim. I was immediately covered in black road grime that made me look like i had washed  my hands in ink. My hands were too cold to really get the tire off the rim. Then my bike fell over.

Flat rear tire. Double flat.

At that point, about 4 minutes from home, i decided it wasn’t worth trying to change, so i called Rachel to come pick me up.

Contrary to what i will advise later in this blog entry, i didn’t fix my bike, wash it, or lube the chain. I put it away wet and dirty, and proceeded to take the longest, hottest shower i’ve taken in a while.

I was planning on cleaning up, and then going across the bay to race the Early Bird Crit in Fremont a few hours later. At that point it was clear that it wasn’t happening.

The point of this narrative is to say that now, even with the extended forecast looking more like May than January, riding in the rain is back on my mind.  It’s something i didn’t really master until recently. If done correctly, riding in the rain doesn’t have to be miserable (okay, maybe yesterday was a bad example). In fact, i almost universally prefer riding in the rain to riding on the stationary trainer or rollers.

I know we don’t have much of the rainy season left, but here are my tips for making it tolerable:

  • Rain bike – If you have the means, the absolute best thing you can do is have a spare bike that you use to ride in the rain. Even if done properly, riding in the rain puts a ton of stress on your bike’s components, especially the drive-train. By having a dedicated ‘rain’ bike, equipped with cheaper parts that you aren’t too concerned with messing up, you’ll get much longer life out of the more expensive components you have on your race bike. A spare bike can be an old road bike, a touring bike, or even a cyclocross bike with road bike tires on it. It really doesn’t matter, as long as it isn’t your primary road bike.
  • Fenders – Fenders are an absolute must for riding in the rain. Avoid the single ‘beaver tail’ style fender that mounts to your seat post and opt for the full on front and rear fenders. I have a pair of the SKS Race Blade fenders and i love them. The run about $50, easily mount to just about any bike in about 2 minutes, and come off in about 10 seconds. Fenders keep you dry by preventing road spray from your tires from getting kicked up. This prevents the telltale brown stripe you get on the back of your shorts and jersey when you ride in the rain. The front fender keeps your shoes from getting sprayed and also keeps your bike clean. The other advantage of riding with fenders is that when riding in the rain in a group, it prevents you from shooting spray into the face of the person following you. It took me a long time to get fenders, but as soon as i did, i was hooked.
  • Rain Jacket – A proper rain jacket is also essential. A few companies make the standard issue vinyl ‘rain cape’ that can be had for about $15, but those are really terrible. They aren’t comfortable, aren’t form fitting, and they don’t breathe, so they can turn into a sauna. I recommend the Showers Pass ProTech Jacket ($110). Showers Pass is a rain wear company based in Portland, Oregon, so you know they know a thing or two about riding in the rain. The jacket is clear, which is great for racers because they can race in it and officials can see their number through it. It is also lightweight and breathable, which prevents it from getting too hot on days when it isn’t so cold. My favorite feature, however is that it packs into it’s own rear pocket, and ends up being small enough to easily fit into a jersey pocket. It’s a great option, especially on days when you’re worried it might rain. You can just stick it in your pocket and not worry about it. However, if you have the means, i would also recommend having another rain jacket that is thicker and not so packable. Some days you know it’s going to be cold and rain your entire ride. On these days, it might be worth having something more substantial that you don’t worry about taking off and stowing in a pocket.
  • Cap – A cycling cap under the helmet during a rainy ride can make a world of difference. It helps keep your head warm, and the visor keeps water from running down your face. From October to March, when i’m not too worried about my head getting hot on rides, i pretty much always ride with a cap under my helmet.
  • Shoe Covers – Shoe covers don’t keep your shoes dry as much as they keep your feet clean, and keep them warm by covering up the vent holes found in the bottom of most cycling shoes. There are two routes you can go. Aero shoe covers, like the Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite ($25) shoe cover, do a fine job of keeping feet protected, and when paired with a wool sock, are plenty warm for my taste. However, if you get cold feet, you might want to go with something more substantial, like a neoprene boot that (around $60), that will keep your tootsies warm on wet rides down into the 30’s. If you like white cycling shoes, shoe covers on rainy days are a must. And again, if you have the means, having a spare pair of shoes for riding in the rain is advised. Additionally, a pair of Stuffits, a product that you stick into wet shoes to dry them out in a few hours, goes a long way to making riding in the rain tolerable day after day.
  • Glasses – Aside from fenders, glasses may be the most important piece of equipment for making riding in the rain tolerable. With so much road grime getting sprayed around, getting some in your eye is not only annoying, but dangerous. Since it is rarely sunny on rainy days, i normally wear clear lenses instead of the tinted ones i wear on sunny days. You can do this by getting sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, or by going cheap and finding some clear ‘safety glasses’ for a few bucks. I’m partial to Oakley sunglasses. In my experience they make the best sunglasses on the market, and when it comes to cycling, their products are head and shoulders above the competition. I got a pair of Oakley Jawbones for Christmas and have been thoroughly impressed with them. The lenses are vented and the frames shaped such that they never fog up, and the lenses come with a hydrophobic coating that makes water run right off of them, rather that sitting on the lens, blocking your vision. Best of all, the frame opens up, allowing you to switch between a wide array of available lenses. At $200, it’s a significant investment, but one that i have found is well worth it.
  • Legs – In NorCal, rain normally means cold. When it’s wet and cold i can’t stand normal cotton/lycra leg coverings. I find they get soaked through, and then get heavy and cold. Because of this, i prefer to leave my legs bare in the rain, instead keeping them warm with a nice layer of embrocation. This way your legs stay warm and the water just runs right off of them. If this method isn’t up your alley, try some wool knee/leg warmers or tights. Wool does not get cold to the touch when wet. This is why i’m a huge fan of wool socks on rainy days.
  • Tires – There are lots of things you can do with your tires to make riding in the rain easier and safer. The easiest of which is to just ride with lower pressure. I normally fill my tires to about 115psi, but on rainy days, i’ll take it down to 95-100psi. This makes the ride a bit more comfortable (in the rain you’re more concerned with comfort and safety than going fast), but it also increase the contact surface area between your tire and the road, giving you more grip and reducing your chances of sliding out. You can also accomplish this by riding a wider tire. While i normally ride 23mm tires, some choose to ride 25mm or 28mm tires in the winter because they are more comfortable and less likely to slide out. Though i personally don’t do it, a lot of the guys i know will put more durable tires on their bikes (Continental Gatorskins) during the winter. Since you aren’t racing over the winter, flat protection is more important than going fast. If you have an extra set of wheels laying around, you could always have a ‘rain wheelset’ equipped with some 25mm Gatorskins to ride in the wet.
  • Keep the bike upright in turns – This is not a piece of equipment but a skill. You should handle your bike differently in the wet than in the dry. When cornering, come into the turn with les speed than you would when it’s dry, and rather than leaning the bike waaaaay over, try to keep it pretty upright, steering with your bars rather than by leaning the bike over. By keeping your center of gravity directly above your tires, you reduce your chances of sliding out and crashing in a turn.
  • Keep Mouth Closed – Another skill to learn. When riding in the rain, especially with a group, try to keep your mouth closed and breath through your nose. When road grime is getting sprayed everywhere, it’s nice to not get it in your mouth. This is much easier said than done, but try anyway. This is so common that there’s even a word for the road grime you get in your mouth — Belgian toothpaste. Mmmmm!
  • Bike Wash – I can’t overstate how important this is. As tempting as it is after a long, cold ride in the rain to just put your bike up and take a hot shower, you really should wash your bike as soon as you get home. Like i said previously, riding in the rain is hell on your bike. The best thing you can do to reduce the long term damage and extend the life of the parts on your bike is to wash it as soon as you get home. I have a workstand out on our back patio that i put my bike in to wash it. I have some rubber boots outside that i put on. As soon as i walk in the door, i take the bike to the back door, change out of my nasty cycling clothes and put on some athletic shorts and a sweatshirt that i’m not to worried about getting dirty. Take the bike outside and go to work, then put the bike away and hop in the shower. This doesn’t have to be a really thorough cleaning, but at the very least do the following things:
    • Rinse the bike with a hose. Get all the mud off that you can.
    • Use a brush a bucket filled with a water and Dawn mix to get the stubborn stuff off if you have to.
    • Lube your chain. If you’re going to be riding in the rain a lot, use a wet lube during the winter.

So there you go. Now you know as much as i do about riding in the rain. It doesn’t have to be a miserable experience, and as long as you follow these steps, you can do it (relatively) comfortably and without wreaking havoc on your bike.

Posted by: Travis | January 27, 2011

Race Report: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 3

Race: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 3
Location: Fremont, CA
Date: January 23, 2011
Result: ~30th
Course: 1.4 mile rectangular course with three 90 degree turns and a sweeper
Weather: Warm (around 70), light wind
Teammates: Matt

This was a very frustrating race. Granted, Early Birds are ‘training races’ that aren’t scored, and count for nothing, so any day you leave with your bike and your body in working condition is a good day. And my inability to finish races when i started racing was painstakingly documented in this space, so trust that i don’t take finishing races for granted. But there were several times when things appeared set up (tactically) for great things, and then as soon as i started to get excited, they immediately fizzled out and i found myself in a bad position.

The first part of the race was pretty unmemorable. I spent most of my time making up spots, fading back, and making up spots again. I’m not sure what it is (early in the season, everyone’s a little nervous racing in January, i’ve learned not to trust my fellow Cat4 racers), but my ability to suck it up and sit in the group has sucked so far this season. I find myself in the pack, surrounded by guys, someone makes a sketchy move, and i instinctively grab some brake. Gotta work on that.

With about 5 laps to go i was sitting mid pack when i saw my teammate, Matt, go up the road in a break attempt with another rider. I quickly moved up to the front to block for him (disrupt the chase and keep the pace low to allow him to get a gap), but as soon as i got there, his breakaway-mate sat up and quit working. Unless you’re supremely talented, going solo with 5 laps to go is a suicide mission, so Matt wisely chose to sit up and get brought back.

With two laps to go i was sitting near the back and getting hounded by a Cat 3 teammate watching from the sidelines after his race. I decided it was past time to move up, so i made a move up the side as we were coming through the start finish. I called out to Matt as i was coming by and he hopped on my wheel. As we came up to the front, looking for a place to duck in for the next lap and a half, 3 strong looking guys made a move off the front. With Matt in tow, i bridged up to them. We now had 5 strong guys going hard off the front with less than 2 laps to go. I thought we had a real chance. As we approach turn 2, the guy on the front, who made the original move pulls of. The two guys in front of me immediately sit up, refusing to work. I do some yelling at them and rotate through. Now that we’re just 2, rather than 5, i’m not all in on the break attempt, especially since the two of us are on the same team and we’re likely to get chased down. We get caught, but no one comes around me to pull, so i’m stuck on the front with a lap and a half to go, which is about the last place i want to be. I let the pace drop and drop, hoping that someone comes around me. Eventually someone attacks and it swarms around me. I try to speed up to grab a spot in the top 10 for the final lap, but guys are coming around me on both sides and almost taking out my front wheel. I’m trying to find a spot to hold onto but there’s nothing, i keep going further and further back, eventually finding myself at the back going into the last lap. Through the last lap things speed up and i make up a few positions, but after the work i put in with two to go, i just don’t have much left in the tank. Just like last week, i make in through on the back end of the group sprinting for the win in 30th place or so.

What a tactical mess. We’ve got one more Early Bird this Sunday before we start doing races that actually count for something the following weekend. If i can be there to contest the sprint, i’ll be a happy camper.

Race Stats
Time: 38:29
Distance: 16.4 Miles
Work: 493 kJ
Normalized Power: 234 Watts
Max Power: 985 Watts
Avg Speed: 25.6 mph
Max Speed: 31.2 mph

Posted by: Travis | January 17, 2011

Race Report: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 2

Race: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 2
Location: Fremont, CA
Date: January 16, 2011
Result: ~12th or so (race not scored)
Course: 1.4 mile rectangular course with 3 90 degree turns and a sweeper
Weather: Cool (around 65 degrees), light wind
Teammates: James, John, Jorge

After not riding Friday (rest day) or Saturday (wedding registry took longer than expected, and i ran out of daylight), i had much better legs today than last week. We huddled before the start of the race and didn’t make any specific plans other than to race as a team, try and ride near each other, communicate, and be around each other for the finish. I spent most of the race moving around trying to find a comfortable place. We were the last race of the day and so far the day had been littered with bad crashes, so i think everyone was a bit on edge. It was a significantly more sketchy race than last week. I found myself constantly working my way up to the front of the group, trying to hang there, and then getting spooked by having guys on all sides doing something that bothered me. That’s something i really need to work on. When i’m totally surrounded in the middle of the group, it’s the easiest place to ride for the legs, but the hardest place to ride for the mind, because if something happens, you have no way out. For most of the race i found myself making up ground up the sides, and then losing ground once i moved into the middle.

At one point about mid way through the race, i rolled up to my friend Henry, who rides for another team (Roaring Mouse). It was my plan to just exchange a few pleasantries, as much as you can in the middle of a crit, but he looks over at me and says ‘Oh hi, Travis! You wanna go in a break? Let’s go in a break!’ and immediately gets out of the saddle and sprints off the front. As a somewhat unwilling co-conspirator, i felt obliged to go with. A few other guys attacked at the same time and we strung things out single file for about a half lap. I’m not sure if we ever got a gap, but it hurt (in a good way), so afterward, i had to go spend a couple laps at the back to recover. With 3 or 4 to go i rolled up to James, one of our sprinters and asked how he felt and if he wanted portection for the finish. He hesitantly said that yes, he was feeling pretty good, and wanted to contest the finish. We moved up, assembled the team, and went to the front. John took a monster pull, and the other 3 of us tucked in near the front. James started to get really nervous and decided he didn’t want to get involved in a bunch sprint with all the stuff that was going on. Going into the last lap we got lined up again and James went as hard as he could. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get a gap or just string things out and make it hard for everyone. I tucked in in the front 20 and decided to make up spots when i could in the final lap, but not take any huge chances. If any opportunities presented themselves, i would be ready to sprint. I consistently picked people off. Going around the final turn a group of about 15 got a small gap, and i bridged up to them. I settled in around 12th place, looked around and realized that no one was going to come around me before the finish, so i opted not to sprint, but kept a hard pace while staying seated, rolling through for about 12th place. I’ll have to go back and look, but i think that’s my best placing ever.

Fun race today. Good communication with the team. Can’t wait to start doing races that actually count for something.

Race Stats
Time: 26:40
Distance: 11.2 Miles
Work: 345 kJ
Normalized Power: 243 Watts
Max Power: 985 Watts
Avg Speed: 25.3 mph
Max Speed: 30.6 mph

Posted by: Travis | January 15, 2011

Race Report: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 1

Race: Early Bird Training Crits, Week 1
Location: Fremont, CA
Date: January 9, 2011
Result: ~35th or so (race not scored)
Course: 1.4 mile rectangular course with 3 90 degree turns and a sweeper
Weather: Cold (for NorCal, around 50 degrees), windy
Teammates: Matt (3rd), Amin (top 15)

There’s not really much to talk about here, so i won’t waste your time. I arrived early and did a warm up loop around a nearby park with Matt. I wasn’t really planning on warming up, but i was freezing my ass off just standing around 30 minutes before the race. I rode 85 miles the day before with some teammates, so i knew i wasn’t going to be on fire. On lap 2 i made a strong move up the outside to get from the back of the race to a top 10 position, and realized immediately that i had legs like stones. I opted to not push it, hang out in the bunch, surf wheels, put in a few little efforts to keep things interesting, but nothing that would blow the top off enough to run the risk of getting dropped. I wish i could say i had some role in a teammate getting 3rd, but i’d be lying. I didn’t really have any idea what was going on in the race. I assume it was the usual Early Bird stuff: a couple of guys attack the bunch, get a few seconds and hold it for a half lap, until they get brought back and someone else goes. It had your typical first race of the year jitters and squirreliness, but our field stayed (barely) crash free. I rolled in, unspectacularly in the main bunch, a second or two behind the guys sprinting for the win.

I’ll be back next week, hopefully with some fresher legs.

Race Stats:
Time: 44:33
Distance: 17.8 Miles
Work: 500 kJ
Avg Power: 187 Watts
Normalized Power: 212 Watts
Max Power: 832 Watts
Avg Speed: 24.0 mph
Max Speed: 29.5 mph

Posted by: Travis | January 5, 2011

We’re back, baby!

I’ve got a few blog posts semi-organized in my head that i need to sit down and crank out (one dedicated to our 2 week Christmas road trip, one about how to make riding bikes in the rain enjoyable, one about my great uncle Rusty who died from colon cancer last week, plus a few others), but at the moment i have some more pressing things to get to that are a bit more consequential than blabbing about on this blog. It will likely be a week or two before i get anything else written here. So in the meantime this shorter entry will have to do.

Our road trip was just about perfect. For reasons that i won’t get into, i’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few months (although i’m so easy going that a funk for me is probably ‘normal’ for most people), and the two weeks in Oklahoma and Texas, spending time with our friends and family was just what i needed to perk me up. The drive was pretty uneventful, save for a little bit of weather and the Subaru’s turbo charger acting funny for a few hours. We put in a few 15 hour days on the road, but as long as you have good music, and you try to keep yourself from thinking about how much longer you have to drive, i found it to be tolerable, if not enjoyable. We split our time pretty evenly between Rachel’s family in Oklahoma and my family in Houston. We did some runs and bike rides in the cold, and quite a bit of what my mom calls ‘souvenir eating’, but for the most part, our time was spent just hanging out with the people we don’t get to see enough of.

We got back into Palo Alto on New Years Eve after a 15 hour day in the car in which we started in Tuscon. Totally exhausted and both feeling colds coming on, we opted to watch the ball drop live in NYC at 9:00pm, have a glass of champagne as if it were actually midnight, then head to bed. We didn’t set an alarm and ended up sleeping for about 12 hours Saturday morning. When we finally woke up, our colds had set in, and we both felt like we had been hit by trucks. I was planning on hitting my training hard when we got back into town, but feeling as i did, and with rain and temps in the 40’s, i thought it best to skip riding that day.

My great uncle Rusty got diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer this fall, so getting to see him before he passed was a big goal of our trip. For a few days there was some uncertainly that he was going to make it to our arrival in Houston. We ended up getting to see him for two visits while in Houston. The first was with my whole family. Though he was just a few days away from the end of his life, and legally blind, he insisted on playing the nursing home’s piano (by feel) for all of us. The second visit a few days later was just Rachel and me, hanging out with him between lunch and a nap. We got the phone call from my Dad as we were driving through Phoenix on Friday morning that he had passed that morning. While he certainly went through some discomfort, he didn’t suffer as much as many colon cancer patients, for which i consider him very lucky. Rusty was famous in our family for having such a relentless zeal for life that it bordered on annoying. It seemed every bite of food he ever put in his mouth, every movie he ever watched, anything he ever experienced was the best he had ever had. He actually told you it was the best ___ he had ever experienced, over and over again. When hurricane Rita struck his home of Beaumont, TX just a few weeks after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, his property lost something like 40 trees and his house, miraculously still intact, lost power for a few weeks, so stayed with my parents. One of my favorite stories about him happened several times a day. Rusty would be sitting at the dining room table, where there are 8 seats, by himself. One of my parents would walk into the room and he would immediately jump out of his seat and offer it to them, despite the fact that there were seven other empty chairs in the room.

When those two things are the biggest digs about a person that you can come up with, that they are so enthusiastic about things they experience, and that they are so generous that it almost gets annoying, i guess there just isn’t much to complain about. Because we had just seen him, and because the logistics of either turning around in Phoenix and driving back to Houston, or finishing the drive to California and hopping on a plan back to Houston were just too difficult for us to manage, we weren’t able to make the funeral. I’m just happy we got to say goodbye.

On a happier note, bike racing starts up this weekend. Though i’m not planning on being on top form for another 6 weeks or so, i can’t wait to start racing again and training hard with teammates i haven’t seen much of since the season ended in September. I’ve got some Christmas weight to shed, but i think a month of really disciplined eating will get me to where i want to be. My legs are feeling much better for January than they have in years past, so hopefully, that’s indicative of yet another season better than the last.

Okay, that’s all i’ve got time for now. More to come later.

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