Monday, January 19, 2015

The End of This Road

In the beginning of December I was slotted in the second row of the grid, bouncing around based on everyone’s result by a spot or two.  Come New Year’s I was first call up in the third row and finally landing in spot number 21 by the morning of January 9th – good enough to be the fifth call up in the third row.  I assumed I would get the middle as the right side (my preferred side for this start) was full, but nope I slotted in at one in from the left.  I kept reminding myself this was just another race, like any other weekend in Colorado, except this time we had mud and it would only be for 45 minutes.
I arrived in Austin late afternoon on Wednesday with just enough time to pick up my bike from Pro Bike Express – something I will always do now for big races such as this; I never worried about a thing and was just able to focus on the task at hand.  I pedaled some easy circles on a stationary bike at the hotel for 30 minutes to flush the travel from my legs, I was feeling quite fresh.  Got back to the room that night and did a once over on the bike and laid out enough clothes for the morning ride.
Up with the sun on Thursday to make the 15 minute ride to the course – tubulars feel interesting at 40 pounds – dropped the bag, let out some air, and I was off for the recon.  Course was pretty dry with not a lot of lines burned in on the grass yet.  I caught up with some Iowa folk just as I was beginning to push into tempo on the second lap.  I think I went a little too far into my sweet spot during recon and kept having to consciously hold myself back.  I knew I was feeling good and had to remember to keep myself in check to have enough reserves for Friday.  Picked up the parents and had a relaxing night putting sixteen pins and four numbers on my skin suit.Low PSI
9 am      Carly dropped me off at the course around for a couple preview laps.  It had rained a little over night and looked to do some more during the day.  Course conditions were vastly different than the previous day and I could lean a whole lot further in the turns – down to 18 pounds front and rear. The rain started to pick up and I quickly ducked into the nice warm tent to relax.  I was getting jittery and just wanting to start my warm up; I sat down and visualized waiting for 11 am to come around.
11 am   Finally it was time to kit up and get on the trainer – yes I use a trainer to warm up.  I have a very specific workout that takes less than 20 minutes and if I don’t I can feel it in my legs after the first lap.
11:30     Switch wheels and last minute instructions for my pit crew – yes I had a real pit crew, just another perk of Wesley’s service.  Everything was ready, I was calm and focused, head to staging.
11:40     All players appear to be present and there is talk of course changes; you can smell the nerves and tension wafting in the air.
11:45     Chief referee is making announcements and updating us on course changes – barrier section is gone, replace by a swooping right hander into a quick left and onto the pavement.  That was the section I liked the least – race is getting even better.
11:50     The first row is called up – William Iaia, Kevin McConnell and Caleb Thompson are in there, the rest I don’t know.  I road with Kevin yesterday on course and used to race against him in Iowa, William and Caleb both from Colorado, I have a feeling Kevin is taking the hole shot.Start Line Stare
11:58     Two minute warning and I am beginning to ditch my pants and coat, last minute Garmin auto pause adjustment, a deep breath.
11:59     One minute warning, I start my Garmin, and hear Carly giving me encouragement on the other side of the cattle fence.  I’m in the right gear, left pedal is level, hands off the brakes, ring finger gracing the right shift lever.  I look ahead and remain focused, intent and sticking with my plan.
12:00     The whistle and Kevin surges to the front, seconds later both my feet are in, my head up, looking for space.  I keep the throttle low and maintain position until the rise halfway through the chute; road tilts up and I give a few clicks down and open it up.  I surge enough to put me well within the top 10, everyone is slowing and I keep pedaling up the ramp, through the sweeping left hander, and the first road crossing.  I feel someone lean on my left side, I lean back – doing what I can to stay vertical – and shake my partner.  I hear something that resembles a crash and thud accompanied by swearing – I click it down again, rise out of the saddle and try to recover the spots lost.  We are wheel to wheel a gasping train winding through the first set of turns.  I settle in and collect: 11th and I realize I had my old reaction to a crash – GO – my head is back in the game and this is my race.  The first lap is for sorting things out and we do just that for the remaining six minutes.  One dab on an off camber turn between stair cases with my knee and quick decisions to run past people during slow traffic in the grease.  The course is much different than my pre-ride.
12:09     I’ve crossed the line once and realize we have 5 more to go and the 4 leaders have taken off.  I worry about what I need to do, my goal is top 10 and I need to focus.  I consider backing off but have decided to only use the pavement for a brief break and to maintain places on the limestone stairs (you can’t win on the stairs but you can fall down and mess yourself up on that jagged rise from hell).  I get into a groove and start having fun. From now until the penultimate lap not much happens except racing.  I find myself passing people and then getting passed, so the cycle goes on but I keep coming through the line in 11th – I still can’t crack the top 10. Tripod_Nats
12:34     Two to go and an Austin rider and I have been trading 11th spot for a couple laps.  I form a gap as we dive into turn one and keep on the gas and make it stick.  It sticks, until it doesn't, and he catches me, pauses only briefly and moves right around.  I’m unable to hold on and I just keep the pace where I know I can for two more laps – it is really hurting by this point.  In the off camber I see Caleb Thompson off his bike getting all aggressive with his chain – bad luck but I’m back in 11th at this point.  He remounts and I hear his gears really arguing as he tries to pedal up small inclines, I give it a little gas just so I’m no longer in his sites.  Around the pits for the second time of the lap and onto the pavement – little slick and I drift a bit more than I had been, the mud has finally slickened up the pavement sections (note taken).  The second turn of the series of three and Brad Cole is down – I’m in 10th.
12:42     The bell – 8 more minutes of the season – I’m in 10th – I wanted 10th – I need to burry myself in case I can get 9th – leave it all on the course.  I do just that, out of every corner, in every straight, I race up the stairs as fast as my abused legs can carry me.  During this lap I remember one thing – hitting myself in the face with my stem while shouldering my bike up the first set of stairs.  Aside from that moment I can only recall that I was forcing myself to push past limits and remain smooth and focused while driving around the course.
12:50:59  I’m done, the season is over, I’m exhausted with a smile on my face, and my wife is running towards me.  While I was happy with myself I have never seen Carly so happy at a race – then and there I knew I accomplished everything I wanted to and all the work, training, and sacrifices by myself and family were justified.  My parents were right there with her and heard them both praising me for a job well done – something I have missed at the finish line.
The Data:
2015 CX Masters Men 30-34 Lap Times                Training Peaks
It was a long season – just over 4 months – of cross with lots of highs and lows I was able to share with a new team.  I was able to raise my hands in victory more times than any other season, climb the podium at least twice that many times, persevere in races I so wanted to quit, get upgraded to a Cat 2, get horrible results in the Open, quit one race, and cap it all off with my goal which sometimes I felt was going to be out of reach.  I came into Austin with a maybe on the trip to Asheville in a year – now I have to find a reason to not go.  One week of now schedule and I already have the plan nearly filled in completely.  2014 was an awesome season and I’m going to do my best to ride that momentum and push the pace through the 2015 season.

Friday, December 19, 2014

December in Shambles

The struggles of the last two races had me rethinking my Nationals aspirations – the airline tickets are refundable as is the equipment transport.  After talking it over with the team manager – Carly – I decided I just needed to get my head back in the game and realize my fitness is exactly where it needs to be, my head is the thing that needs work.  I’ve been reading articles and doing visualizations that have been helping me out with that, I’m getting that edge back and can’t wait to experiment with my results in practice races in the coming weekends.

December 6th – Sandstone Park – Longmont, CO – The Grass Crit

Last time I lined up at this course it was snowy and muddy but no ice, this time around it was dry with mild temperatures.  The first time around I won the Open 3s race without much contest – this time I quit halfway through with bike and motivational issues after moving around the back of the field for the first 30 minutes.

My rear Zipp exploded a bearing with 30 minutes before start time; luckily Jon was on hand with a perfectly good replacement.  With a new rear wheel rolling on untested tread and tire pressure I lined up in the 4th row on the outside.  Avoided some mix up after the start and pushed into the top 20 on the hill up to the parking lot loops – the lower one proved a bit difficult with incorrect pressure in the rear.  I was breaking loose in so many corners with no way of predicting when while being pegged at red line.  I pitted after the first lap – oops didn't check that pressure either and was riding on rock hard tires.  Switch back after a lap and some much needed air in the rear, but I still was having issues hooking it up correctly.  I battled this for another 2 laps and decided to throw in the towel.

I didn't even through in the towel after the great flat debacle of 2014 – the Jefferson County Fairgrounds – where I switched bikes no fewer than 5 times and ended up with 3 flat tires the next day.  Quitting races is not something I enjoy doing; I’d rather finish last with good workout for the day.  Well that workout wasn't happening either – my head and heart just weren't in it this Saturday.

December 14th – Rhyolite Park – Castle Rock – State Championships

I do well here; rather I used to do well here.  I’d raced in Castle Rock 3 previous times, getting 1st twice and a 5th at last year’s state cross in the Open 3s.  This is the big boys though and all the big hitters were present at the line – even some I hadn't seen most of the season – with everyone’s fitness probably hanging in the realm of perfect for the close of the 2014 Colorado season.  I had yet another 4th row start, opting for the outside spot to use the left lane and power around as much of the group of 24 people in front of me.  Think I ended somewhere inside the top 20 after turning off the pavement – perfect. 

Doing the course recon at noon was fun – still powdery and gripy, with no ice to speak of; this quickly changed at the start of the Open race at 2:45.  On the first downhill, I quickly found out the condition had changed but I was moving through the field one by one and think I made it as high up as 18th with the next several not too far in front.  My top 15 hope was within my reach, just needed to ride smart and keep it upright.  Running the switchbacks proved to be faster for me – but for some reason I still decided a couple times to attempt to ride them.  Just see exhibit A below around 1:20, you get a good view of the underside of my bike (sorry camera guy).  I had some issues around corners trying to find traction and issues clipping in with all the mud and snow in the cleats. 

I also had not pre-ridden the mud pit but had decided to run it – rim brakes and all considered.  The running proved effective on the first lap with traffic, rode it on the second lap just fine, and then second guessed myself on the third go round.  As Kirk put it: The scary mud monster jumped up, grabbed me, and through me to the ground.  I had to lay there for a bit, get my air back and finally managed a thumbs up.  I quickly heard my wife from across the course yell at me to get back up – being a happily married man I quickly obliged.  That was the first crash since Nationals in January that kept me on the ground.  My spirits and confidence were shaken after this and I struggled for the remaining 3 laps with line choice and keeping my speed up.  I finally had some fun on the last lap – knowing that I was completely off my mark of a top 20 let alone a top 15 finish.

What’s to Come – The Rest of 2014

There are a couple hard weeks to come, the search for rabbits to chase around different front-range courses continues, and the formal taper begins with the coming of the New Year.  As of this posting I am starting in the third row at Nationals.  Not much fitness will be gained in the next 21 days but much can be lost if not properly attended to – my entire focus until January 9th.  Well that and hopefully buying a house.

Exhibit A

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


This race seems to have my number, every year, time and time again.  I wanted to will myself out of bed Wednesday mornings this past year to familiarize myself with the Bowl and conquer my demons but alas.  On race day, I arrived early to assist/cheer for the team in the 3’s and 3’s Masters race and plenty of time to recon the course after it had dried out substantially from the pre-riding the day before.
Third row, far right side call up – exactly the area I wanted.  Had a good start until my right foot pulled out of the pedal halfway down the starting chute – I have new pedals on order.  I made some good passes up the steep hill and around the 180 into the rutted downhill.  Made a few more into the chicanes, up the run up, and on the straight before the winding, ditch filled, south end of the course.  I think by this point I was sitting just outside the top ten and then quickly move up another 2 spots by taking the Certain Death route while some others took Mama’s Boy. BOD_Certain Death 1Things were going well and I was well within my goal of a top 15 finish, and then it happened.  Is a burp on a tubular even possible?  Well something to that effect happened as I came out of the final ditch with the pronounced four inch rut I felt all rim on the front – folding the front tire with each sideways movement.
Every flat, kitty litter corner I went around my front tire was folding.  I know low pressure is desirable but this was ridiculous and it forced me to take the Mama’s Boy line as I knew Certain Death would be just that with a folding front tire.  I lost a lot of spots during this half lap until I could pit and get Jon to fix my tire.  A piece of advice to everyone: check your tire pressure on your pit bike before you race; things were a little rough with that much pressure – I’m sure I lost some more spots to this as well.
BOD_Run Up
BOD_ChaseA lap later I had the pink bike back and things were starting to get fun again.  I now was in chase mode and used the course to work on my weaknesses – powering out of corners and staying loose.  I trotted up the run up per Alison’s instruction even though Jeremy and mini Jeremy were yelling at me to hurry up.  After the remount I was able to pick off people on the false-flat-headwind-laden-straightaway. I was riding smart and making strategic decisions to hang onto wheels during open sections and make the pass just before the technical sections.

My proudest moment of the whole race was hanging onto a master racer’s wheel on the uphill sidewalk section on the last lap.  He kicked out of the right-hander, I stuck like glue, he lost steam and I powered around him at the left-hander, ran the sand, and had a couple seconds of air between us at the remount.  I kicked up the last hill into the finishing straight and had about a 5 second gap at the line.  An inconsequential pass as it was two separate races – small victories and tactics played out feels good.
I ended up 20th in a stacked field with tire issues – an ok result considering it is the BOD and the pressure issues.  I had some horrible back pain and need to work on the core strength more so I don’t need to nurse soreness through the race.
The TP data.  (The big gap in the data is when I was on the pit bike.)
Thanks, as always, for reading – Andy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

CX Take Two - Cyclo X Louisville

You want to see something comical?  Come watch Jeremy attempt to ride a highly technical course on his second attempt at cyclo x.  Special thanks to Ox (Brad) for loaning me his Blue Norcross bike for the race!  And to Kirk, who braved the cold morning and came out to support us at 8AM.  Finally, I appreciate Kirk, Adam, Greg, Dave, and Andy for giving me some pointers at the team's pre-ride on Friday afternoon.

Saturday's field of SM5's seemed huge to me: 55 according to the results page, including Foxtrot teammate Adam Gordon.  When the whistle went off, I dropped as much power as I possibly could (hamsters in their wheels everywhere were jealous), while being in the middle of a huge crowd and with an inability to actually click into my pedals.  Adam dropped me as I looked down fumbling with my pedals and I never saw him again.

Enter the bottleneck, hard left, and up the steep hill.  Most guys were falling over and/or dismounting, but I just found a granny gear and crawled up.  I managed to pass a host of folks at the top as they tried to remount.  Times like this must be entertaining to watch for more experienced CX racers as the SM5's all struggle with fundamental skills!

Listening to teammates like Andy, I intended to go out hard in the red, but there was so much traffic I was just sitting in on the technical stuff and trying to make passes at any spot that I felt had enough room to make a move.

The sand pit was a calamity of clumsiness for most of the SM5s on each lap.  Of note, on the second lap, I hit the sand pit with as much speed as I possibly could and the guy in front me stopped dead and started to fall to his left directly in my path.  With full momentum, my brake/hood went right up his backside and I barely saved myself from going over the front.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get back into my pedals (again) so I lost a number of spots as I couldn't get back into them until I was just passed the lap line.

The only complication on the third and final lap was a blister on the palm of my right hand, so bad that I could only use my thumb and forefinger to comfortably hold the handlebar.  I think that the blister cost me one more spot in the final 200m as I had set myself up to pass another rider on the final climb, but I couldn't hold the handle bars steady.  So, I had to bleed a lot of speed going in to the climb and just didn't have enough juice to get by him on the short sprint to the finish.

I had a lot of fun and probably had a huge goofy smile on my face the whole time.  There's just something hilarious about a "pace yourself" distance runner riding a glorified road bike off-road with no regard for a consistent effort.

Oh yeah, I finished 22nd in SM5, but my own personal measure of success was avoiding DFL or DNF.  No crashes was a nice bonus too, compared to my first CX race where I pulled myself off the turf no less then five times.  But, candidly, the fact that I didn't crash in this race had more to do with the lack of snow, plus the slow pace of traffic in the technical sections, then some new found ability to ride CX!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skating the Tundra

Two years in a row the stop at the Boulder Reservoir in the CycloX series has been frigid to the point I consider pulling out halfway through with ice blocks for hands and feet.  This year the race wasn’t nearly as bad as last year as the temperature was in double digits (barely) and there was hardly any wind coming across the lake.  Leading up to this race I watched a video from Pete Weber on his day before pre-ride of the course and suggestions.  He was posting 11:30 laps at a tempo pace – ridiculously long – with at least 3 minutes worth of running.  All I could think is I’m actually a decent runner when it comes to cross races so this might be okay.  I know, strange considering my background of non-existent running and physical stature.  Morning Twitter reports alluded to the course being shortened and lap times forecasted to be in the 6 minute area for the Men's Open race.
With temperatures still sitting around 10oF around 10 AM I decided to hop on the trainer for a 20 minute spin of the legs.  Nothing serious just enough zone 2 to wake up the legs and get blood flowing.  I felt amazing and it took some serious self control to hold back on putting out any effort.  Earlier in the week I had logged some seriously low resting heart rates – sub 40 BPM – this was (hopefully) foretelling a great Saturday.
The drive north saw snow and wind, then bluish skies and no snow, and finally arriving to no snow and gray at the Reservoir.  But first, while enroute I was asked to stop at Chipotle by support (read the lovely wife Carly), I willingly obliged, and waited in the truck while she got her sustenance; the truck wouldn't start when trying to depart.  Uh oh, all the foretelling was going to the wayside, and just like that the first person we ask begrudgingly abides a jump; we are off.
Prepped the race bike and covered her up with an extra jacket; off I go for 3 pre-ride laps on the pit bike.  Equipped with semi worn Grifo clinchers at just around 30 PSI I railed snowy corners and skipped over the icy ruts.  Okay, the foretelling mojo was back, today was a good day.  I felt warm and course was actually to my liking, unlike most at this venue.
3:20 PM:  Second row, second spot from the right (outside), and struggling to get off my down coat with less than a minute to the whistle.  With seconds to spare I click in and wedge the right foot into the snow pack for a good kick off.  A decent start considering the amount of rear wheels looking for traction with that much wattage and little to no grip on the packed snow and ice mixture under tire.  Man down in the middle of the road, quick move to avoid him, and noticed the ever-so-faint smell of burning rubber.  I had slotted in the group just outside the top 10 as everyone took the left into the snow covered grass.
Every turn had the good, bad, and ugly lines – the skill was not in knowing which to take in the pack, but how to handle each.  I have had issues with being aggressive in this field and made a mental note to take the line that was mine and fight for each spot.  I forced myself past my comfort zone for the first lap and was rubbing elbows and powering through sections to keep my line.  Then the sand pile happened and somebody went rubber over helmet right in front of me.  Looking something similar to this to the onlooker:
Rez_Sand Hill_SupermanI tried swerving but that is no easy task in deep soft sand where the only real line is occupied by an upside down pile of human and bike.  My front wheel dove in, I walked right over the bike, turned around to grab it, and just ran until I could remount.  The gap was made and I was forced to chase, chase I did, until the finishing straight where I noticed my derailleur went down fine but up was a different story.  Everything appeared intact but the chain wouldn’t shift off the 11 tooth cog – this was going to hurt until I saw that pit again.  Hills that were easily tackled out of the saddle I was forced to run, but this seemed to help on the second lap as there was still quite a bit of congestion which I didn’t need to deal with and just ran past.  Quick switch in the pit, yelling at Kirk “Rear derailleur!” but I’m not quite sure it was completely audible coming from my frozen lips.
I’d like to pause in the recount here to publicly thank Kirk Groves for what he has done for me this year.  I know I say thank you as much as possible at every race and try not to ask too much of him but in my haste to get a cool down in or warm up a frozen body I’m not sure it gets through the way I’d like.  Kirk didn’t race this day but made the drive solely to stand in a snow covered pit area holding a bike for me, giving me feedback, and encouraging me twice a lap.  This isn’t the first race he has done this and I’m sure it isn’t the last.  The other teammate that has taken the same such initiative is Jon Maule – who is out for the rest of the season due to injury but has volunteered his time to me whenever I need it for a race.  I won’t forget the first race of the year that I expected to see Jon heckling me on the run up with beer in hand but instead found him diligently holding my B bike in the pit.  The most important part of this to me is that both of these gentlemanly teammates have done this without being asked and even told “Don’t worry about it, not necessary for this race.” They brush me off and make their way over to the pit to claim their leaning post for the next hour as I circle around them in misery – hopefully not needing them during the race.  Hats off to both of you gentlemen for being great teammates and always ensuring I have a functioning bike with which to punish myself, I truly appreciate the camaraderie and selflessness you have both shown me as a first year FoxTrotter.
That is enough sentiment for one post, back to the race.  After making the switch I started to slowly move through some traffic and get back to where I hoped to finish.  Most of the rest of the race was an exercise in line choice and hanging on to the edge.  The edge being that zone between being in complete control but moving too slow and going fast but being out of control.  As soon as I found that Goldilocks’ like zone I’d push a little too far and lose traction on a course that started as packed yet powdery fun and had turned into more of a rutted out skating rink that happened to be on a beach.
I do remember around lap 4 or 5 taking one of the chicanes a bit too quick and promptly landing on my right side.  I met the frozen ground quick enough I had no time to clip out and think one of those ruts found my ribs – soreness would continue for a day.  A lap after this I was riding up the hill just past the barriers and nearly wanted to quit due to the pain in my side – then the support section (Carly) yelled at me.  Not completely sure what met my ears but hearing that voice was enough to kick me up a gear and get me to start moving through the field again.
At 40 minutes in I remember thinking that I could suddenly feel my hands and most of both feet.  This made things quite a bit easier and I started to move quicker through the field, my confidence was coming back.  Up the stairs on lap 7 and I heard the leader needing through, dang but that’s one less lap in the cold I suppose.  I would end up getting lapped by the first 4 spots in the open field and have a little disagreement about home some of them handled themselves, but that is a topic for a later discussion.  I tried my best to hop on but not cause issue with the front of the race – each time being thwarted.
After that lengthy report you are probably asking yourself, “Okay so how did this race really go for Andy?”  In a nutshell: really well, ending up in 13th; a surprising result considering I was not expecting a top 15.  What went really well is my practice with the kick pushing through corners instead of braking, running in the sand, and being more aggressive in general when passing or keeping from being passed.  What lacked in this race was my power out of corners and after remounts.  I also need to work on my first lap, I believe I can hold within the top 10 but need to get ahead of some traffic in the first lap and latch on to a group to use during the race.
This one was a long one so thanks for reading and be sure to tell all your friends, enemies, and frenemies.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Product Review: Mio Link Heart Rate Monitor

As I was riding up The Wall on the Morgul Bismark loop in Superior, CO, I did not need to know what my heart rate was to know that I was suffering. To add to that, I felt like I could barely breath due to the constrictive heart rate monitor strap that I was wearing around my chest which had just come with my new Garmin 305. For something that is supposed to aid in training and performance, this feeling of not being able to breathe felt like more of a hindrance than a competitive advantage.

I tried to utilize the chest strap a couple more times, but eventually gave up as I could not manage to wear something around my chest that made me feel like I could not get a full breath in. That was about 10 years ago, and I have been riding without a heart rate monitor ever since, until recently.

I realized that as I wanted to take the next step in my training and eventually get a coach, they were going to want to see some metrics from me for which to gauge my efforts. I soon stumbled across the Mio Link, which is a heart rate monitor strap worn around your wrist. I was skeptical at first, thinking it was too good to be true, so I read a number of reviews online and the consensus was that it was a great, albeit relatively new, product that worked. One individual ended up using both the Mio Link and his chest strap for a number of tests and found that the data coming from them was very similar, which made me feel better about it.

On Mio's website, they explain the technology behind their Mio Link as "LED lights and an electro-optical cell which “sense” the volume of blood under the skin. From there, sophisticated algorithms are applied to the pulse signal so that the heart’s true rhythm can be detected, even while running [cycling] at performance speeds". Mio claims that it performs with 99% EKG accuracy, which is plenty accurate for the purposes of training and racing. This also appears to be the same technology behind the new Apple Watch which will be released next year.

The Mio Link utilizes ANT+ and Bluetooth technology so that it can work with just about any of your devices - whether it be your trusty Garmin, your iPhone, or juts about any other head unit or phone. It can also be used by itself as it is easy to program it with up to five heart rate zones, displaying different colored lights on the front based on the zone you are in. This can be handy if you are running/riding, not carrying a phone, and just want to stay within certain zones. I have primarily used it, aside from playing around with it when I first got it, with my Garmin unit to display my exact heart rate.

I have to comment on the strap as it is very nice and comfortable. They use a great silicon material for the band with a smart clasp design which even secures the extra bit of strap that comes out. On top of the fact that the heart rate monitor is not on your chest, it really is nice and comfortable.

Sometimes while riding, I would notice that my heart rate was reading much much lower than I thought it should be reading - sometimes by as much as 80 or so BPM. I found that this was due to wearing the Mio Link too low on my arm and too close to my wrist. It seems that if worn too low it will not get a proper reading. I suggest always wearing it slightly higher on your arm (higher than you would normally wear a watch) - on the meatier part as opposed to right on your wrist bones. If you are wearing Garmin GPS watch or something, wearing the Mio Link right above it would be ideal. Below is a picture of where I have found is an ideal position to wear it:

I highly recommend the Mio Link, and at a price point of $99 is a pretty good deal. Mio also offers the Mio Alpha, which is their sport watch with built-in heart rate, at a price of $199. The Mio Alpha also offers other features such as a timer, but it only offers three heart rate zones and, most importantly, only connects with Bluetooth, so it will not work with many ANT+ head units. In my opinion, the awards the Mio Link has won are well deserved.

Here is a link to Mio's website:

Cyclo-X Sienna Lake Race Report

I came into this week’s race at Sienna Lake fresh off of a 3rd place finish against a small field last week at Schoolyard Cross. Confident, but not sure how I was going to fare against a larger field, I was excited about the course which appeared to be more of a power course without too many technical sections aside from the ditch. Coming into this week, I was ranked 4th for the Cyclo-X series, so I was hoping to try to improve upon that. With the past couple weeks having been fairly easy for me with only one or two big workouts a week, and the rest mainly endurance rides, I felt nice and fresh.

On Friday, I previewed the course with Kirk and Dave, along with several others (David Belin and Jason Douglass), to get the lay of the land and scope out the ditch to make sure that none of us killed ourselves come race day. Of course, Friday night it poured rain at my house for a few hours, so I was just imagining the ditch being a couple inches deep with water and the grass all super slick, but all the rain served to do was provide for some nice tacky dirt come race day.

At the start, I lined up next to a kid that went to Loveland high school, but I didn’t see too many other juniors there, so I was feeling lucky already. I haven’t been getting a very good start recently due to my pulled hip flexor, and today was no different, as I entered the grass area in around 12th or 15th. I was able to pass a couple riders exiting the grass onto the dirt section before the ditch, and managed to pass a couple more on the dirt road, so I was happy I wasn’t too far back entering the ditch as I noticed other races were getting bogged up and people had to walk the ditch because if was so backed up. Coming out of the ditch I was probably sitting in 8th or so.

For the next couple laps I passed a couple riders, encouraged on each lap by Jeremy Geer who was a fantastic teammate being out there cheering us on (and taking lots of pictures), when I am sure he could have been out testing his nice new mtb.

Going into lap 4 (out of 7) I was surprised that the race had pretty much kept together, and I was only about 5 seconds behind the lead group of 4 riders. As I was catching up to the group on the backside of the course going up the sidewalk, I noticed one of the put in what appeared to be an attack, but it did not last long and they seemed to be playing cat and mouse with nobody wanting to take the lead. I wasn’t really sure what I was thinking, but I knew I didn’t want to let anybody else catch up to the front group, so I decided to ride right by all of them and see I how long I would fare off the front.

At this point, my heart rate was right around 187 as I had it pegged to try to get away from them, and I managed to put about 9 seconds between us, which was still only an uncomfortable lead as anything could happen over the next few laps. My main goal was to try to lay down as much power as possible when possible and ‘ride clean’ as Kirk always tells me for the rest of the race. I took the descent into the ditch nice and slow as I didn’t want my excitement to lead me to crash, but I still managed to totally sketch out and almost crash on the 2nd to last lap.

My family wasn’t here to watch me for this race, but between Jeremy cheering his guts out (thank you!) and the rest of the fans cheering, including one guy who gave me ‘leader high fives’ every time I went by, it really helped me keep going when my legs wanted to do anything but. One guy kept trying to hand me a beer, but it was right before going into the ditch, and I thought that may not be the best idea as it would probably end with me crashing and not even getting a good drink of beer in the process.

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful as I tried to maintain my distance on the rest of the field while not overdoing myself and bonking before the finish. My lap splits were pretty consistent and as follows:
Lap 1 – 6:42
Lap 2 – 6:34
Lap 3 – 6:40
Lap 4 – 6:36
Lap 5 – 6:31
Lap 6 – 6:36
Lap 7 – 6:36

My final gap in front of the 2nd place finisher ended up being 14 seconds.

This was a really fun race for me and I honestly never thought I would actually win a race as a Cat 3, so it is really exciting. I guess that is one good thing that comes with having a month off from work. I am now sitting in first place in the Cyclo-X series and look forward to the Cyclo-X championship at the Bowl of Death!

Thanks for reading,

Greg Jackson