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: http://www.mioglobal.com/Mio-LINK-Heart-Rate-Band-Grey/Product.aspx?ProductID=14&DeptID=1








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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

School Yard CX

Being the one of a handful of knives at the gun fight is both humbling and relieving.  When that knife is just to the left of the 3 biggest guns at the race it is a little unnerving – just glad not to be in the next row back, which happens to be the last.  I don’t know if a smaller Open race is better than a bigger one where I see salaried pros lining up.  I am certainly guaranteed to get better points in the later situation but at this point I merely worry about the race and workout I will get for the hour after the whistle sounds.
After multiple, staggered recon laps I felt comfortable with the all encompassing course that was made on the grounds of what was obviously an elite K-12 institution.  Recess on a cross course – seems like cheating but still jealous as I had to play hookie to get ride time in during high school.  The mix of terrain and near perfect weather seemed to favor my skill set; I was looking forward to lining up which was in stark contrast to the hesitant and doubtful feelings I had the past weekend.
I had issues with the start: clicking in with the right foot was problematic and the attack isn't quite what it was early in the season.  Something I changed at the beginning of the season was using my non-dominate (left) foot to start, subsequently I push off with the right and get the second push from the dominate (stronger) leg.  It worked well in nearly every hole shot before the last couple of weeks. It is something I had seen in different elite riders, I contemplated the physics and theory behind it, and decided to make the switch.  Now that is settled, I just need to get that explosive 1000 watt power to back it up.
This circles me back to match burning – something I wanted to address and focus on for this race.  I had noticed my matchbook was dwindling in its scope but remained strong in a couple areas: I need more depth in that 20 to 30 second range as well as the 4 to 6 minute range.  I am satisfied in the other areas and deem these as weaknesses as I’ve found that during those times I need those matches is when I start conceding spots.
The longer match seems to have come back around, evidenced in my fifth and sixth laps of the race when the front end of the 35+ Open race caught up with me.  The leader came around me on the fifth lap with a healthy 8 to 10 second lead on second place, I decided to see what my legs could do 35 minutes into the race.  I hung on, got a second wind, and ended up leading him around the course for the second half of the lap.  When we came past the pit for the first time on lap 6 and headed up through the chicanes into the first small climb I bobbled and 3 of the 35+ guys came around.  I hung for as long as I could but their skills and experience bested me and a small gap formed.  I was able to reel them back in and brought 4th place along with me, he passed me and I felt absolutely gassed on the grass sections before and after the barriers on the last lap.
I wanted to completely obliterate my legs at this race knowing I would probably not get a good ride in for the next 2 days and not be back on a real bike for well over a week.  I saw Jeff Cospolich coming up on me when the off camber section started and I knew I couldn't let him pass me – for what reason I don’t know but I know he had no idea I felt that way.  I dug where I could and tried to lay off the brakes as much as possible.
One major takeaway from this race was watching what faster riders do in certain sections: pedal through the top – always.  Every time I saw a faster rider crest a hill he always pedaled further after the crest than I did – a quick 2 to 3 second gap would form and I had to fight to reel him back in.  Just multiply that over the typical 7 to 8 laps laps and you have at least a 15 second advantage if there is just one of those sections.  There were 3 of those sections in a 7 lap race – 51 seconds!
The good news is my technical skills are at or even exceeding the level they need to be at and as is my MO the barrier/running sections are in my favor.  I was able to make passes 3 of the 7 laps in the one barrier section of the race.  What could have gone better? The start, still a work in progress as I need to balance my skill level and my comfort level in this group.  My dang stem bolts: I use a Thomson “road” stem and the latest incarnation uses 3 mm face bolts where the older molder used 4 mm.  Not sure is the actual interface changed as well but this is the second race where a bumpy section made a sudden loud crack echo from the front end, I believe 2 of those happened during this race.  By the end by bar had rotated at least 20 degrees down – not a comfortable hand position but not so bad as to make me pit without someone to fix it.
Nationals remain on the horizon but have become a second guess.  I have set the races 2 weeks from now as the deciding factor in my participation in Austin.
The TrainingPeaks data, if you care to dork out.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Race Report: Schoolyard CX by Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

Going into Schoolyard CX this past Saturday I wasn't quite sure what to expect. While I've driven by the Alexander Dawson campus on highway 287 thousands of times, I'd never stepped foot on the campus. I also wasn't sure what to expect from my body. I'd just returned home Friday night after 3 days riding in Fruita with Jon -- it was a great time but my legs were sore and tired.

For those of you familiar with the metrics used in Training Peaks, my Training Stress Balance (TSB) was -15.9. To quote... "If your TSB is a numerical value and it is 'positive' number, then this would mean you would have a good chance of riding well on during those 'positive' days, and would suggest that you are both fit and fresh. While if your TSB was a 'negative' number, then you it would mean that you are most likely tired from a high training load." http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/what-is-the-performance-management-chart  And this was supposed to be a recovery week... umm, no but dang I had a good time riding in Fruita. I've had a lower TSB score eight days this year but I'd only raced once with a TSB less than -15.9, the Koppenburg on May 5th and it didn't go well -- DNF. I decided to give it a go, heck, I'd already pre-registered, and if nothing else, there's no training like racing.

As I previewed the course I was guardedly optimistic - I thought it suited me well. It had a good mix of tight corners, fast flow sections, bumpy descents, two punchy climbs and a couple sections for recovery. The temperature was a bit cooler than I expected and I was comfortable in the long sleeve skinsuit. I continued to spin around until call-ups to try to stay warm and loose. It was a small to medium sized group of 37 riders in the 35/3s. I started from the center of the third row and I didn't get the start I wanted. I cleanly clicked into my pedal but I wasn't able to make my way through traffic to the top 5 like I wanted. I need to do some start drills and get my mojo back. I was around 15th going into the first choke point, an off-camber section. I took an aggressive line trying to gain positions and ended up going over the bars and landing on my head. I'm still not sure what happened. I got up and by the time and quit seeing stars I realized I wasn't injured and my bike was fine.


Ohh well, my shot at a good result was gone and it's not even a minute into the race. By this point I was behind people previewing the course - ohhh yay, I get to navigate around people I'm not even racing against. My attitude was actually fairly positive all things considered and I mentally reminded myself I could still have a ton of fun and get in a great workout. 

As I settled in the race I felt surprisingly good. I was picking my spots and steadily moving forward - catch a guy, make a clean pass, repeat... I felt like I was managing my 'book of matches' well -- burning matches to make passes but making sure I didn't go too deep so I could hold the position before moving to the next wheel. By the time I heard the bell at 1 lap to go I had no idea where I was in the field but I'd just passed two racers I respect. How many riders had I passed? Just past the pit there was a set of three tight 180 degree corners. Coming out of the last one I tried to make a pass. Looking at the results it would have put me roughly up into 10th place. I took the corner a little hot and my front wheel washed out in the loose dirt. I went down on my right side and while it was a super minor incident, by the time I got up and cleared my chain I'd lost ~7 spots back to 18th. The guys I was ahead of were long gone. I gained back only one spot by the finish line and ended up 17th. 10th would have been a solid result for me, especially considering the first lap crash. My motivation and morale are still high, my training is paying dividends and I'm going to continue plugging away.

The good:
Solid racing (and fun!) in the middle of the race
Power and HR data -- my highest normalized power (NP) and average power in a CX race, however my avg HR was10 bpm below last two races
Racing with Greg and seeing Andy before his race

The bad:
Mediocre start followed up by going over the bars in the first minute of the race
Last lap spill
(*** SPOILER ALERT ***) Not making it over to see Greg on the podium
Not getting to stick around and watch Andy's race

I'm looking forward to racing next Saturday at Siena Lake in Broomfield.  

Thanks for reading!  Kirk

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Doubling Up

Being on the road for the majority of the last month has taken its toll on my training plan.  I have become quite familiar with how to alter a spin class to fit my workout needs and how to find motivation by staring into at a wall of mirrors at 5 am while pedaling a "bike" in a pool of sweat that goes nowhere.  That brings me to the overload that was last week and the two races that capped it all off.
Cyclo X - Interlocken - Men's Open
The second of my Open races this season and I was hopeful to redeem myself, a top 20 was the goal.  I arrived with plenty of time for two different sets of a 2 lap recon, the first set was done on the race set up to dial in tire pressure.  Plenty of tight slow corners, off camber at different angles all over the course, and nearly all of it on grass.  I settled with 22 psi up front and 20 psi in the rear, still rolling on the ever trusty Clement MXPs with plenty of Stan's sealant for momentum, and goat heads.  The second set of laps was on the newly built B-Bike, just in case I wanted to ride the mud.  Yeah, never did that, kept it clean as I did plenty of asking and watching during other races.  The line choice was obvious - only commitment and speed was necessary.  My typical trainer warm up under the Foxtrot tent followed and the legs were feeling better than  indicated they should - but I could still feel the week's efforts and travel lingering.
TSB 10_25
First person in the 3rd row call up which put me right in the middle of the pack, which is something I'm not quite comfortable with yet in this group of racers.  Lining up behind 2 men that get paid to do this is a bit unnerving and humbling, as you will see.  I looked down with a minute to go and noticed my heart rate was back where it should be - in the mid 120's and pounding with excitement.  I held back at the start knowing how fast it was about to get with Allen Krughoff and Danny Summerhill lined up, on top of my lack of a top end at the current point in the season.
Most of the race for me was an exercise in maintaining as much momentum in the all the turns as possible, I didn't slip out once, and getting on the gas and back up to speed as quickly out of the corners as my legs and brain could manage.  I was successful in these endeavors for the most part - aside from the ten or so times I wanted to quit.  What kept me going through that was Kirk's constant encouragement and presence in the pit each time I rode by, and probably even more so his two kids heckling me at different spots in the course.  In that part of the pain cave I concentrate on only the lap I'm on, try to pass someone in front of me, and just remember the goal for January.
The only consistently memorable section of the race was the mud pit since it seemed like a different animal each of the eight times I encountered it.  It wasn't so much of a pit as a drainage ditch off to the east of the property, up against Highway 36.  The night before it was barely a half dozen tire tracks through cat tails that hadn't dried out since, well probably ever judging by the smell.  By the time we first rolled through it just before 4:30 in the afternoon it looked like a 33 millimeter wide trench with horse hoof indents surrounding it.  As I said I hadn't ridden it and I quickly was thwarted on my first attempt at riding it by at least one other rider.
10514260_331705933676013_2735090623095150617_oThe second time I powered out too hard and had to tripod out of the other end, still didn't go down.  The third, and each subsequent, time I nailed it by gaining as much speed before it, coasting to the top of the other side, and then making an easy cruise around the right-hander at the top.
The last lap was the most interesting and tactical for me; something I'm also feeling a bit uneasy about.  I started the lap behind a rider and somewhere in the barrier-sand-sand-barrier confusion I ended up in front (something I did on nearly every lap).  I paced myself just in front of him without expending too much energy knowing I needed something for Sunday.  After the tricky leaf riddled off camber I saw the leader coming up on us - this is where the uneasy comes in - and wanted to position myself to beat the rider but also get lapped by the leader.  I had to feather the brakes at the finish chute so I wouldn't have to go around for another.  Was extremely relieved at the time but wondered if I cheated myself.
I ended up 21st, just off the mark of what I wanted but content with knowing I did what I could with what I brought.
Blue Sky Cup - Xilinx - SingleSpeed
Generally the woes of setting up bikes for a course involve taking a little air out, then adding a little, whoops too much; you've decided on the correct PSI and then halfway through the race you are wishing for more in the front and a little less in the back.  The benefits of riding a long on relaxed steel single speed is you have one thing to worry about: gear selection - well that and if you have the legs to push it for 45 minutes.  I made a recon lap and decided on a 39 x 17 combination which would prove itself just right for the whole course.
The legs for the course: they were there, for the most part.  If have ever watched the start of a single speed race it is somewhat comical as everyone sprints for the front and promptly runs out of gear and you now see about 100 legs spinning madly trying to gain every spot before the bottle neck.  I ended up somewhere around 11th as we hopped the first curb and went down the hill towards the south end of the course.
This is actually my preferred course as Xilinx as the entire sandy south field and adds in some interesting turns and the soul crushing ascent on the west side of the complex.  I also happy to be able to hope the 3 railroad steps by the ever present hecklers near the wooded section.  Only had to run them once as there was a bit of traffic as the group caught up to the 45+ men.
My goal was to finish respectably - not sure what that meant for a race I had never participated in - and work on spinning out of every corner.  I quickly found I was under-geared for the flat stuff but perfectly geared for quick accelerations and the 2 soul crushing climbs.  I also don't especially like using the Surly during races as the saddle is just high enough from the higher bottom bracket to make me question fast remounts.  Though I did find that pedaling through all the corners was very valuable with that higher bottom bracket - trade-offs.
The most memorable thing from this race?  Two spots on the course: The first being the pavement left-handed 180 to right-handed 180 where I could hear the sound of rubber making perfect contact with pavement.  The sound and feel when you know your tires are gripping more than they should, being able to lean over way too much, at the same time knowing that same sound means your tires are on the verge of losing all grip sending you sliding into the tape.  The second was not too long after this set of corners: The grassy slalom corners that required a little body-English to stay fast and upright at the same time.  I could feel and hear the grass ripping out from under my tires.
I was passed on the last lap on the way up that soul sucking west side climb and nearly gave in to take my spot and be satisfied where I was.  After the set of 180's I decided that wasn't and option and did all I could over the next 3 minutes to close the gap, the hoping of the steps being what finally allowed me to get close enough for a little energy boost.  I spun out my legs coming up the finishing hill and finished in front of 15th place by a little more than a bike length.  Legs were completely gassed and I felt satisfied with a long week and double header to cap it off.
What did I learn from it all? Dig deep, leave it all on the course, and set realistic expectations of your race.
TrainingPeaks data from Interlocken
TrainingPeaks data from Blue Sky Cup

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Product Review: WTB Cross Boss tubeless CX tire

By:  Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

Brad and I each bought a set of the WTB Cross Boss. http://www.wtb.com/products/cross-boss

They're labeled 35mm but they measuring a phat 37.5mm installed on my Stan's Iron Cross wheels. I'm not aware of another tire out right now that meets my three criteria:  wide, aggressive tread and here's the key -- has a tubeless bead. Speaking of the bead, it's insanely tight, so tight I broke two plastic tire levers. I ran them at incredibly low pressures (~20 psi) just to see how low I could go -- I couldn't get it to burp. The sweet spot for me with these tires is with pressures in the high 20s.

Of course the tire is half the tubeless equation -- I can't vouch for how it'd do on other rims, especially one that's not tubeless ready. The tread hooks up well and is surprisingly quiet and smooth on paved surfaces.




The sidewall is soft for a tubeless tire but you won't confuse it for a tubular. I'll continue to race on tubulars but I'm running these for training and on the pit bike.

If you're looking for a tubeless CX tire give serious consideration to the Cross Boss.