Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tupelo to Nashville to Ashland City

After I wrapped up the tri season and the marriage (October 1) I had a few road bike rides on the calendar. I have to admit, when Maggie and I got back from Charleston I was a bit tired and not crazy about heading out of town on a long bike trip, but I had made promises and was in the car headed down to Tupelo before I could back out.  There were six of us for the first annual Man Ride.  We arrived into Tupelo late on Thursday evening and checked into one of the strangest hotels I have ever seen....America's Best Inn and Suites.  We were checked in by the most friendly and bizarre person...Randy is a sight.  If you ever make your way down to Tupelo make sure to stop in and say hello.

Well, we got up on schedule Friday morning, started packing up the sag car and got ready to head out on the bikes for the first 90 miles of the trip.  The morning sort of languished as we got ready to go.  When we finally got on the bikes we were about an hour behind schedule.  On of the riders had planned out a meticulous schedule for both days which included our water breaks and lunch breaks.  Being an hour behind schedule getting started had me a bit worried since we are late in the fall and night comes earlier and earlier.

We finished breakfast and headed out on the bikes.  Everyone was pretty excited about the ride so the pace picked up early on.  I kept suggesting that we should check the speed but everytime someone got to the front they pushes the pace.  There was a stretch where we were averaging over 21mph.  I knew this was going to hurt on day two.  We had a good and very quick morning ride.  We hit our lunch break and only stopped for about 30 minutes before we were back on the bikes.  The afternoon wind had picked up and the ride for the second half of the day was a steady and gradual uphill into Collinswood, TN.  Needless to say this absolutely smoked the quads.

We spent the night in Collinswood and got a great night of sleep thanks to a found hotel.  Early the next day I got up and headed out with McPhee (who was battling a quad injury from weeks before the ride).  The second day, on paper, looked to be a much harder day.  First, it was a 110 mile day but the climbs were a lot bigger.  McPhee and I put down a good, steady pace all the way through the lunch break.  We were feeling pretty good at this point.  We took a longer lunch and waited for the group to catch up.  Took a nice lunch, caught up on the morning travels and headed out for the last 60 miles.  The up and downs, even though they were bigger, were a great break from the previous day which was a steady grind.  We made it to the end of the Natchez Trace, stopped for a picture at Loveless Cafe and then powered on for the final push.  We headed from Loveless Cafe to Tin Roof 2 for our celebratory party.  This last 15 miles or so was very tough due to an extremely steep and long climb, coupled with a lot of Saturday afternoon traffic.  When we finally made it to Tin Roof 2 we had a great welcome party waiting for us.  All in all I was thrilled to have done the ride.  In a 200+ mile ride there are some dark and mentally challenging times...I am just thankful that I had committed guys there with me to help get me through.

The following weekend I had another ride on the schedule.  This one was with Shane Giardino and his Nutro team.  The final metric century of the year was to be a tough ride for me.  It was in Ashland City which is anything but flat.  In fact it had 4,000 feet of climbing with two monster climbs towards mile 55 and 58.  This wasn't a "race" but when you put this many guys together it naturally becomes one.  We led the second pack of riders for the whole day.  We finished the ride with an average pace of 18.2mph which was more than I wanted for a course that had this much climbing.  My legs were certainly weary after my nearly 300 miles of riding in less then 10 days.

From a training standpoint it is great that I had these rides on the calendar.  I have fought the end of season struggles that most of my fellow racers face.  Now it is time for me to get my ass in gear, get back in the pool and put the running shoes back on so I can get really ready for 2012.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where to go in 2012 - Go Long to Go Fast

I have been spending a lot of time about where I would like my 2012 race season to go.  This has led me to analyze my 2011 race season in a more comprehensive sense.  Considering where my races felt strong, where they fell apart and where I see opportunity for improvement.  This post is going to talk about one area where I would like to improve in 2012 - that is stamina.

Let me explain how I think this is going to happen.  I raced a lot of sprint races this season....I mean that, a whole lot.  I got very comfortable at this distance and I felt like my body was tuned into this distance fairly well.  My mind could focus on things other than how much longer I have to push at this distance.  When I stepped up and raced olympic distance races I noticed that this was not the case.  For example, Hy-Vee 5150 Age Group championships showed me the potential for improvement when I was out on the run.  I worked hard to hold back on the bike so I could have legs on the run.  When I hit the run I felt solid through the first 5k, stable through the next 2.5k and unable to hold the pace for the last 2.5k.  This taught me that I had raced too short all season.  I really enjoyed the local sprint series and it really helped me in other aspects, but in order to hold the swim/bike/run pace I need to be more competitive in olympics I need to get comfortable with that pace for that distance.

I have made mistakes in the past trying to bite off more of a race than I was ready for.  I have learned that to progress at this sport (absent pure freakish talent) you need to dedicate concerted efforts over an extended period of time.  This means using your head way before you roll out of bed in the morning to start your training or race for the day.  It starts with a plan for your season that will give you the best chance to maximize those training and racing days.  For me that means going longer so I can go faster.

So, here is what I am thinking for 2012 (assuming the coach agrees).  Instead of 4 sprints and 4 olympics (or so) I am thinking 4 halfs and 4 olympics (or so).  The halfs for 2012 are not going to be "races" per se but rather are going to just help me work on pacing and time out on the course.  I am hoping that this will progress to the olympics feeling short in comparison.  I am still going to sprinkle in the local sprints as high intensity training sessions so I can keep up the speed and keep up with the local tri community.  So, that's what I'm thinking....we will have to see how it turns out.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Interbike 2011

So, I received an awesome offer from two of my sponsors (SLS3 and Powerbar) a few months back.  They asked if I wanted to attend Interbike 2011 as a representative for the teams.  I was thrilled and of course accepted the offers.  I came to Las Vegas a few days earlier to watch the 70.3 World Championships in Henderson, Nevada.  That race, in an of itself would have been well worth the trip.  I had a chance to watch my coach (Bruce Gennari) race the challenging 70.3 course along with some of the top pros in the world.  The Team Timex crew was very gracious in letting me hang around for the weekend for an added bonus.

For those who haven't attended Interbike it is crazy.  On Monday and Tuesday there is an event hosted called Outdoor Demo Day.  This is about a thirty minute drive outside of downtown Vegas by shuttle.  You get out there and it is a huge outdoor expo with all the major bike, component and accessories companies present (along with a few brewers).

They have two courses set up.  One for the road/tri bikes and one for the mountain/cross bikes.  

I missed ODD on Monday and it rained terribly Tuesday morning.  As such I didn't get out to ODD until late Tuesday afternoon.  I was a bit overwhelmed as I made my way around the expo and just tried to take it all in.  All the big guys were there (Trek, Scott, Giant, Felt, QR, Fuji and so on).  After I walked around and had a good look at most everything I decided I was ready to take some out for a ride.  The only booth I could get on a bike right away was Trek.  I headed over and got on a Trek Madone 6.2.  This was a light and stiff bike.  I took it out for about a ten minute ride and began to appreciate the ride that most everyone had faced a few days earlier at the 70.3 Worlds.  Heading away from the expo everything felt great.  I felt fast on this bike and was loving it.  Hit the turnaround and felt the desert wind.  Made my way back to the Trek booth and returned the road bike.

I decided that I couldn't come out there and not get on one of the 29'ers.  They had the full suspension Rumblefish in my size so I checked it out and headed to the off-road course.  I have not ridden a mountain bike in over a dozen years and this was a tough place to re-learn the finer points....especially on a single track course lined with sharp rocks.  I made my way around the track twice with a steady line of more experienced frustrated riders behind me.  My time on road bike has certainly robbed me of some of the handling skills that a course like this required.  I have to say that I loved the 29'er though.  It rolled right through the course with impressive stability.

By the time I got through with this ride it was time to head back to town.  I wish I had more time to ride some of the other bikes there, but I guess that is what 2012 is for.

Now, Wednesday was the start of Interbike.  I made my way into the expo and made one full loop of both floors of the expo.  I can't adequately explain how large this expo is but I can say that I walked the floor for over two hours and still didn't see all the vendors.  I checked in with SLS3 and Powerbar to make sure they were good.  Powerbar asked if I could help at the booth for a bit so they could rotate out for lunch.  I worked the stand where we were sampling the two new Powerbar gels (kona punch and berry blast) along with the Powerbar Energy Blasts and Powerbar Perform.  I had a really good time working this booth as it was busy, everyone was excited to be there and the products we were sampling were awesome.  We stayed busy and before i knew it a few hours had passed.

The Powerbar staff told me they were fine for the rest of the day so I headed back out on the floor to take another loop.  The signs said that pictures weren't allowed so I didn't even bring the camera.  I was just in awe with all the bling on the floor.  I noticed that a lot of people were taking pictures so I knew I was bringing the camera back on Thursday.  I headed out, tired but excited about Thursday.

I came back to the expo on Thursday and spent a lot of time walking the floor getting a better look at all the products and snapping hundreds of pics.  By the end of the day I felt pretty happy with my photography finds and ready to work the Powerbar booth on Friday.

Well, somehow on Thursday night the camera was lost/stolen.  Friday morning when I got ready to head to the expo I couldn't find it anywhere.  This was pretty disappointing since I had so many good pictures on the camera and I knew I was supposed to be working the Powerbar booth all Friday.  I was hopeful that I could break away for a bit and get some more pictures for everyone that couldn't be there.  Fortunately the Powerbar team is great and I worked for several hours and then they told me that they were good for the rest of the day and for me to walk around and have fun.

So, here you go.  Here are the iPhone pics I could take in the short period of time on Friday afternoon before everyone wrapped up and headed home.  So, lets get going:
The roundtail was the first interesting thing I saw at the expo.  They have removed the traditional chain and seat stays in an effort to smooth out the ride through the use of a rear circle.  This titanium bike was actually build by Lynskey here in Tennessee for Roundtail.  They weren't demoing these bikes so I can't attest to whether this concept works, but it certainly is interesting.

Quick shot of the Tennessee boys doing work in Vegas.  The Swiftwick booth had great interest the whole week.

This was the first product I saw that got me envious.  I have the LG Vorticce and love the helmet in every way.  I came across this and just couldn't believe that I may have to buy another one just to get the all black look.  These are coming out after the new year.

I had seen pictures of the Casco aero helmet before but this was the first time I had a chance to handle it. Not much to say here.  I am sure they have done their wind-tunnel testing for this helmet but it certainly has headed in a very different direction from all other aero helmets.

Just because....

Just a shot of the potential profit margin on

Just one of the Wilier TT bikes....this all black look was popular this year.

Here is the new flagship Wilier TT bike ($13,000 ticket).  I am not sure about the forks heading up to the bars in front of the head tube.....makes for a very unique front end.

The Garmin Vector power based pedals got a lot of attention this year.  These pedals have been in the works for a very, very long time so everyone was interested.  I took a good look at these and I am a bit nervous about the small gray tab on the pedal....seems very fragile in the craziness that sometimes is flying up from the road.  I was also told that the transfer from one bike to the other wasn't quite as easy as changing pedals.  I couldn't get much more clarity on this but that certainly was one of the big initial selling points for these pedals.

I have used cool black gear all season long.  I am often asked why I would wear a black kit with the heat issues and I tried to explain the logic with the cool black......although I could never prove the truth...until now.  Regular black fabric and cool black shows the difference.

Pinarello had their new TT bike on display.  This picture doesn't show the ridges on the downtube but it was certainly different.  My big problem with this bike was the front end.  They are using their own stem and bars but seemed to really miss the chance to clean up all the cables in the front.  Every cable hung low and very exposed in front of the headtube.

The BMC Time Machine....I don't know what I can say about this bike but looks sharp.  Doesn't hurt that the TDF champ rocketed past his second place finisher on it this year.

Cadel Evans' TDF yellow bike.

All over the expo there was "SRAM Art".  Artists had made a variety of art pieces with all SRAM parts.  This was certainly one of the coolest I saw.

As was this.

3T has moved into the carbon wheel business.

Nothing was all the impressive from the 3T wheel.  However, as you can see from this picture, they leave the spokes exposed and they are mounted on the very edge of the carbon lip.

Felt's new TT superbike....not sure if this is a $13,000 machine but it certainly looked fast.

They had the new Torhans aero bottle mock-up (they didn't have the actual production version so I can't report as to whether it is practical).  This is a shot of the Di2 battery cover.

The Argon E-118.  This bike really impressed me.  It is a departure from the Argon of the past and into the arena of superbikes.  One of the big differences you will see on this bike is the large gap between the fork and the top of the wheel.  They say this helps move the air more easily over the wheel and out around the frame.

The new Powertap integrated stem.  This stem (made by 3T) houses the new Powertap Joule GPS unit.  This really looks like a great idea.  The one thing I would like to know is whether this stem would work well with a TT setup.  It would certainly be limited in situations where the aerobars extensions are fairly close.

The new ITU legal all black Shiv.  Not much to say here except that this continues to look like a fast bike.  I wish I could have given you a good pictures of the Venge but they choose to hang it high from the  Also, the much anticipated new Specialized mid-range tri bike wasn't here either.

The new Powertap carbon wheels certainly helps justify the purchase of a wheel based power system.

This was a saddle company that just caught my eye.  This was a Japanese company.  Just seemed a bit odd to me as the Japanese lead the way in whale killing around the world and now they are at Interbike and this was really the only selling point made at their booth.

Look's new TT frame had a very cool looking stem system.  The bottom two pictures show the split stem used on the bike.  Looks like it gives good adjustability.

Look and Polar also rolled out their pedal based power system.  The design looks very consistent with Garmin's version.

Look's new stem was on all the other frames.  Not sure about how aero this is but it was unique.

The Scott Plasma TT bike has a very different rear wheel fork design.  This little airfoil above the rear wheel wasn't found on any other bike.

And, to wrap up the pics is the Sully booth.  This is a new version of rollers.  These are large logs and this brave soul was rocking away on the big wheeled Sully.

I wish I had all my other pics but I hope this gives you a good idea of Interbike 2011.