Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ride 5.0 or so...

Sadly enough I think this was actually only the fifth time I took this bike out on the trail.  That gives me pause as to how little I ride the trails.  Not nearly often enough!  I guess my life is such, w/ the family and all, that for me to be able to get my training rides in, I need to ride on the road.   If I had to add 15 or 20 min commute on either side of a 1 1/2 or 2 hr training ride that just would not be sustainable.  My training time has actually gone down significantly during this fall.  Purposefully so!  Again for sustainability reasons.  I usually burn out in Aug and at that point am done trying to follow a specific training regimen.  Doing short rides in the fall helps me to be willing to go out there and increase the intensity.  My training log, which I usually am very anal w/, looks empty every year usually by mid July.  Just stop caring at that point.  This year it has been worse.  I don't think it has any data in it since the end of June (well just my race results).  Part of that though is me realizing that all that data doesn't do shit (since I am not training w/ a power meter) and that I am experienced enough now that I can use my perceived exertion pretty accurately and can organize my training routine in my head.   My routine right now is also very simple: once a week do those crazy ass 20 secs on/off for 10 mins intervals 3x (on the road), another once week, hill climbs (on the road), and fart around the rest of the time!  No need to keep a training log on that!  But back to ride #5.

This was supposed to be an early ride at 7 AM.  I like saturday mornings easy and slow but had agreed to meet some friends.  Well I did not get there until 7:40 and it was still cold!  Rode around at an easy pace warming up and found my friends.  One of them was pretty fast, though he was riding his full stiffy single speed since was in the process of building up his new Scott Scale 29er Pro.  So the pace was sustainable.  They had to leave pretty quickly though (that getting to work on time thing) and I found myself trying to decide which loop I wanted to do.  Since I had not been in that area since my first ride on this bike, I decide to retrace the same loop as ride #1 to compare.

I found my way to "Dead People" pretty quickly.   I needed to try that step up and see if I would go OTB again.  I found the trail leading to that rock very manageable and noticed I was much more comfortable on the bike.  My pace was good but I was not trying to kill it.  I got to the step up and though lifting my front wheels was still not easy, I did clear the rock and rode over the rock w/out feeling like I was a newby at this stuff. I almost cleared the rest of the trail w/ out dabbing, like I know I normally can.  I did get hung up on another step up but noticed that the reason I did was because I was trying to ride around it instead of riding right over it like I normally do.  I decided at that point that my issues w/ this bike had been mostly psychological and that I was ridding like I was not trusting the bike (let me say like it is: I was ridding like a pussy!).  I needed to start ridding w/ much greater confidence and not try to ride around stuff I know I can normally ride over.  To get in with this bike I needed to start having some fun and try to get over stuff and getting it a little air born.

On the "Elephant" trail, I cleared w/out issues the corner w/ the big log I had tripped over last time.  The rocky climb to the top was comfortable, including a tight left turn I occasionally washed out on my 26er.  On "Allen's Ave" I focused on taking the most challenging line and started to notice I was really just focusing on the 10 inches in front of my wheel instead of looking down the trail like I should. Again a sign of my lack of trust/ comfort with the bike. I tried to make the adjustment but caught myself again looking at my front wheel.  Allen's Ave has a very challenging large boulder section with two section I would get hung up on on my 26er.  The first time I rode it w/ this bike, I got hung up a dozen times.  This ride, I got hung up on both sections I have yet to clear to date and just one other section.  Clearly an improvement from the first time.  The other place I did not clear was tight turn w/ a steep step up.  Again struggling w/ getting the front end up high!  I crossed Cardy's road, took the drop down "the wall" and climbed the slight hill to the parking lot on Hopkins Hills.  I followed it w/ bombing down the rooty downhill where Steve broke his bike, and though it felt a little out of control,  I could tell I was getting much more comfortable w/ the bike.  Since I was out of water, I decided to skip "Shoot the Moon" and just took the connector trail back, a fast swoopy trail.  I greatly enjoyed the great traction of the bike through those turns.  No need to slow down at all for any of those turns.  When I got to the car, I was smiling!

There are certainly some things I will need to continue to work on and left the ride w/ some clear thoughts (see post ride 5.1 for those).  I'll post those tomorrow since I need to hurry up and get home to hop on, not already...the...urgh...trainer...  :-p

Monday, October 24, 2011

TVR: Treasure Valley Rally or the Terrible Viscous Race

I was looking forwards to testing the new Scott Scale 29er under race conditions.  But let me start first with one of the top race rules: do not mess w/ your bike the night before the race.  As a cat 1 racer I should have known this.  I did know this!  Yet temptation was just too much to not try to convert a brand new wheelset to tubeless the night before the race.  Mind you I had set up my 26er wheelset tubeless a gazillion times w/out any issues and have gotten pretty good at it.  So no big deal I thought!  During the conversion process I noticed that the inner rim edge of the DT Swiss xr39 seemed to have a very small bead.  My concerns were amplified when pumping the tire to 60 psi without ever hearing that "pop" of the tire locking onto the rim. I continued anyways, shook the stans all around, and checked for leaks by applying soapy water and checking for them bubbles.  All seemed to be good.   Let the air back out to 30 ps1. Took the bike out in the rain for 1/2 hour stint in the dark to take some really tight turns on a grassy field to make sure the tire would not burp.  All seemed good... Next morning some air had leaked out of the tires but nothing too bad.  Pumped air back to 26 psi and off to the race.  Also right before leaving, installed a new Easton EC 70 post that had just arrived in the mail. Not a lot of 34.9 post makers out there!

An hour later parked in the lot (fast driving!), pulled the bike out and... the rear tire was flat w/ the tire being off the bead and stans leaking out all over my man van!  Not wanting to take any chances, back to tubes.  Since I had flatted twice on a night ride the previous week with 26 psi and I had heard the course was really rocky (which it was!), I decided to play it way safe and add 30 psi in the rear and 28 in the front.   With the changing of tires, (mostly spend cleaning up the stans liquid) this left little time to warm up.

Race course is in blue.
I knew nothing of the course other than having heard a couple of the EFTA regulars casually saying it was rocky and technical (boy did that turn out to be an under statement).  The course was a 9 mile figure 8 w/ most of the climbing and the technical sections in the first half.   Below is the elevation profile for two laps.  Right at the start there were two creek crossing that seemed to have caught many off guard.  There are a couple of photos floating on the interweb of racers taking a header right into them.  The climbs were good but not too bad.  The first one being long but gradual, probably around 6% with a little kicker at the end of it.  It was followed by a fast and steep down hill section w/ some very challenging rock gardens. The rock gardens were not just big but they were sharp and pointy too. Some of them were even challenging to just walk through.  And for some icing, a few of them were wet and slimy!  The second climb was much steeper with a surprising second kick to it.  The back side of the course was not as technical but did have a couple of small creek crossings and enough rocks to keep you at attention.  I would say this course was the most technical race course around.  Much more challenging than Glocester Grind or the Wrath of the Boneyard.   Many after the race used the term "a real mountain biker's course" to describe it.
Elevation Profile of the course. Two laps for a total of +- 1800 feet of climbing.

I almost missed my start trying to get a quick warm up in, and like the last few races, decided to sit back and take a couple of miles to ease into the race.   When we came to the first creek crossing i was dfl but holding on to the stragglers.  The crossing was not clean but I made it through w/out dabbing.  I ended up w/ one wet shoe for the second crossing.  Since I had no idea what to expect out of the first climb, I settled into a sustainable pace and passed a few of the guys.  On the way down I was really struggling w/ clearing the rock garden's.   I know I should have been able to clear them and it was getting really frustrating I was messing up.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had no confidence left and was hesitating even over small stuff.  Those guys I had passed were now back on my wheel.  I dropped and passed some more on the second climb but once at the top, every time the trail turned rocky or rooty, the bike would bounce off the trail or the line I was trying to ride.  3/4 through the first lap, I was fighting the bike and the trail and was back to being dfl since I was dabbing on everything and riding w/ a fist full brakes.  I even fell a couple of times and was starting to use profanity way to much.  My hr wasn't even high since I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to try to bring my speed up.  I was actually hating it so much I had decided I was going to dnf once I hit the start/finish area and sell the bike to the first person who offered me a $100 for it.  29er my ass!!!!  Had I had my 26 inch Epic, I would have easily floated over that terrain and probably be in the top 5.

From the Tvr facebook site
When I came to the start/finish, since the last mile had been mostly rolling trail, I had somewhat regained my composure and decided I needed to ride this course out.  Minimally I should use it as training.  As I calmed down, I started to figure out that under racing conditions I was automatically trying to ride and race this bike like it was my Epic (three years on a bike is hard to unlearn!)  I needed to slow down even more, take my time, and try to adjust to the bike.  I knew I had way to much air pressure in the tires but because of the sharp rocks, did want to let any out.  I did pull over and slowed the rebound on the fork some which somewhat calmed the front end.  I crossed the two streams w/out issues and half way up the first climb started to pick up riders.  By the top, I had passed three.  The technical descent was another disaster and I was now mostly walking all the rock gardens.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had been passed by everyone again and was back to being dfl.  During the second climb I passed those riders again and picked up a couple more.  Climbing the hills on the second lap showed me how slow I had been going thus far because I had no difficulty powering up them and my legs were way to fresh.  Since I had passed a few riders in my category on the way up, I decided to try to get back in the race and hold some off.  It partially worked.  I continued to hesitate and not have any confidence in the bike.  I had now take my hands off the brakes and was trying to find some semblance of flow but this happened very infrequently.  I had become flustered enough that I was not even tying to my pick lines ahead of time anymore and was just staring at my front tire.   Though I was trying to bring up my pace, two caught up to me again and I let them through.  Every time the trail got a little technical they would pull away further until they eventually disappeared. 

great movie from higginchuk on youtube! 
Boy was I glad when I finally saw the finish line.  Though it was a terrible (awful, bad, sucky, stinky, suck ass) race, and I did not even really get a hard work out of it (I did not even need a cool down ride after finishing since my hr was not very high), I was still glad I got to be out there, experience the course, and be w/ my fellow racers this late in the season. What is great about mountain biking is that even really bad rides or races are still just awesome!  I can't wait to race it again next year. By that time, hopefully, I will have adjusted to the new bike and should be even able to ride the power line rock garden.  I ended finishing 6th out of 10 starters and 8 finishers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ride 2.0

First, a little spam here cause it's well earned/deserved!  I was just looking at this bike's value and damn it's pretty good.  For $2500, you get a 1050 grams Carbon frame, mostly XT drivetrain, DT Swiss wheels, Avid Elixir 5S disc brakes, and Shim 520 pedals.  The bike weighted a little more than advertised but still a very respectable 24 pounds 2 ounces (w/ pedals, no water bottle cage).

Other entry CARBON bikes (these are the lowest cost carbon bikes from other manufacturers) are: Specialized is $2900, and the parts are not as good; at Trek, an entry carbon Superfly will set you back $2800 again w/ lesser parts; the entry carbon level Marin, $2999!  A Felt, $2800 (w/ sram x7); Santa Cruz Highball, starting at $3100; Cannondale Flash 29er 3, $3000 (though the shifters are xt instead of slx).  The only other bike I could find w/in the same price range was the Giant XTC Composite 29er 1 which retails for $2500 but the parts are really lacking (Sram X7 and Elixir 1 brakes).

So that Scale Expert 29er is really the best deal you can find around for a new bike!!

On to the ride:

My second ride on dirt w/ this bike was at the nemba fun ride at Arcadia.  I was really looking forward to this as Arcadia can get pretty challenging with it's rocky terrain.  I had my tire pressure figured out this time and was running w/ tubes, 24 psi.  By feel I could have probably dropped one or two psi more, but since this was Arcadia, I did not want to risk anything.  I rode w/ a small group of very good riders: Fast Freddy, Craig M, Dan, and Mike Merlin. It took me a couple of miles to settle into the bike, especially since I still had those un-expected endos on my mind from my first ride.  I was not necessarily afraid i was going to endo, but rather was more acutely aware of not knowing this bikes "tipping" points. It had been raining before and as I got ready to go, a short but intense deluge covered the area.

Though I dabbed unnecessarily on a couple of wet roots and on an easy climb through some rocks, I could tell the bike was much more comfortable with the right air pressure and also much less over-reactive to the trail.  It was rolling easily over the terrain and the rear was not hanging up as much.  I was still somewhat struggling w/ getting the timing of lifting the front end over logs but it was getting better.  Since the terrain was wet, I was noticing how much more traction I had through turns and climbs. I was able to easily reach the top of a couple of small steep hills I would have washed out on on the Epic.  The grip was so good, I didn't even really need to worry about balancing my weight on the bike.  I just stood up, mashed the pedals, and up I went!

Overall I had a really good time on the bike and there were no major complaints like I had on my first ride.  The ride was very different though from the first one in that the pace was much more mellow and we ended having to walk some of the more challenging terrain since everything was so slick.  Going up Mt Tom I went down, leaving the bike w/ a small scratch on the top tube (from my toe spike), and w/ a usable bent brake lever in a U shape.  It wasn't a hard fall or the bikes fault.  I was following someone closely up a slick rock wall when he came to stop.  I too had to stop, and the moment I put my foot down, both my foot and the rear tire slid out from underneath me and down I went.  When I got home I was able to bend the lever back w/out braking it. (Freddie went down on the other side of Mt Tom but that was because he was crazy enough to try a techy rocky decent that was slick as ice. He drew blood and busted his brake lever as well!).

The ride ended up being about 14 miles and I felt that I was getting much more comfortable w/ the bike as the ride progressed.  I think not trying to ride it at race pace allowed me to explore the change in a more relaxed and less urgent fashion.  One thing I don't like is the lower BB since I was hitting rocks w/ the pedal constantly.  The new two day old pedals look like they are six months old already.  So much for listing them "as new" on ebay!  So ride two was much better in that it seemed more comfortable and stable.  I still need to find it's sweet spot over technical terrain though.

Next ride I'll publish is about the race I just did at Treasure Valley, which was far from successful.  Some of that was my own damn fault and I am still trying to figure out all of the things that went wrong!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scott Scale 29er Ride x.1 and x.2

I spend a fair amount of training time on the road.   But I like to train on what I race, which means I ride my mtb on the road.  Since these rides cannot really be part of the "ride it 5 x before you make you mind" test ride of the Scale 29er, I'll enumerate these rides as x.1 and x.2. I know you can't really get a good sense of a mtb by riding the road, but it does allow to detect some nuances I might otherwise not pick up on while barreling down a rocky trail.

One of the things I noticed pretty quickly was how stable the bike is.  For example, on my Epic I cannot let the handle bars go at more than 25mph.  The front wheel will shake like crazy.  I've never let go long enough to find out what happens after wards or at higher speed.   On the Scale the bike just plowed comfortably forwards regardless of the speed or if my hands were on the bars.  This actually has a small mountain bike application for me.  My back tends to really tightened up during racing, so I often like to let go of the bars and sit up straight to stretch out.  Maybe now I can stretch for longer than 1 second and without having to slow down.

My local training route includes a couple of smaller hills at about 5% grade in a residential area I ride several times over.  For entertainment I usually ride figure 0 and 8 up and down through the neighborhood.  On the way down I can pick up a fair amount of speed and have always needed to slow down for the turns (especially since the rain always deposits a nice little pile of sand right at the bottom of the turns).  The Scale, through those turns, felt very stable and comfortable and the increase in traction was very noticeable.  I don't ride with a computer anymore but I know I was taking those turns at several mph higher.

On ride x.2, I rode the bike path to Providence to do my "weekly" College Hill workout (which I actually have not done in while).  This consist of ridding every hilly side street off of South Main street to the top.  I start at the Wickenden street intersection and then rid up: James street, Williams, Power, Planet, College, Waterman, S. Court to Meeting - that one hurts like a mofo!- and if I have anything left, Jenckes (I haven't had anything left in a while). I'll then ride to Casters Bike to refill my bottle and ride them in reverse order on the way out (though since it's the off season I have been leaving Jenckes and S Court out!) .  I rode this last week on my Epic, and since it had been a while since I had done this workout, when I crested that last little 20 % riser on Meeting street, I almost passed out, then almost puked!  So I thought this work out was going to be significantly harder on the Scale based on the weight of the wheels and the overall bike.  Yet I was happily surprised and made it up all the hills (w/out ever feeling like I was going to vomit!).  I did notice however that this bike wants to be climbed while standing and requires more raw power than the Epic, which I can sit and spin on  (bad phrase there!)  Anyways, not too interesting stuff here but there it is...

Data from an old College Hill climb session!

2011 Landmine Classic, Root 66 Race Series

Woke up at 6:30 w/ plenty of time and knew I needed to be on the road by 8 am. Too much time...   Ate my not instant oatmeal (after the online lecture from Gewilli on how bad instant cereal was for you), farted around, and suddenly it was 8:45 and I was still in my pjs!  Ooops...  Driving to Hingham I was prepping my checklist of things to NOT forget since I knew the moment in pulled into the lot, it was going to be a crazy rush: fill back pockets with 1)extra bottle, 2) insta fix a flat, 3) gels. Then soften the front fork just a touch, double check my tire pressure:  26 psi for the front tubeless, but 34 for the rear since that was tube'd and knew the course got quite rocky at times.  No need for my somewhat 1/2 working polar piece of crap bike computer since I knew the course had mile markers though it. The race was starting somewhat behind schedule which left me time to register (and pay for a guy who thought he had pre-registered and had therefor no money on him) and get no more than a 3 min warm up.

I let our field of 14 go and focused on warming up.  I knew it was a long loop and would have time to try to catch up.  After about 15 mins I was starting to make contact with some the stragglers and passing them.  I was feeling pretty good especially on the technical sections and the little "hills".   Like last year, the next age group "fast train" caught me and I grabbed the back of it.  I was able to hold on for much longer than anticipated. On those short asphalt and fire road sections, it was really paying off to be hanging onto a faster wheel.  At about the 1/3 mark, we passed Robert from my group fixing a flat.  He had been my mark for the second half of the season!  At Hodges Village, I had actually passed him but he caught back up and I eventually faded.  Passing him because of a mechanical this time was not a gratifying way to pass him.  I was eventually dropped from the fast group when the guy in front dabbed on a short steep uphill, forcing me to dismount in the middle of the hill.  By the time I got to the top, they had a little gap, which turned it into a large gap when they hit another section of pavement.  Back to riding on my own.  I caught Garry (single-speed class) and then Mike (in my group).  Mike held onto my wheel for a short while.

About a mile later I was flying down some single track when I almost collided into the above mentioned fast group.  They were coming from the other direction.  They were yelling that I was going down the wrong way!  Oxygen deprived I yelled back they were the ones going the wrong way, but eventually caught on that they meant we all missed a turn somewhere.  I turned around and followed them up the hill picking up Mike again along the way.  We eventually found the turn we missed.  It was marked by only one arrow up too high on a tree.  All the other turns were very well marked, and there were a lot of turns on that 26 mile single loop, but somehow this one got screwed up.  Second time trying to hold onto the fast group but got dropped pretty quickly.  Since I was not ridding w/ high placement expectations, I was not too upset about missing the turn.  I was just glad I had made it there in time to start.

Maybe a mile later I spotted a Team Edge kit in front.  Slowly I clawed my way to the person's back wheel, and it was Robert again!  I must have been of course for longer than I thought!  In a way having gone off course was equalizing the race more between him and I.  I debated passing him right away but recalled that it required too much effort at Hodges and paid for it.  Instead I decided to stay behind him for a bit and focus on pacing myself.  He was putting a little gap on me on the flat stuff but the moment it turned rocky/technical I was right back on his wheel. I'd give the bike credit for being better in the tech stuff but he was riding an epic Sworks as well.  Eventually the positions reversed, and I would create a small gap on him in the tech stuff but then he would find his way back onto my wheel.  After the last feedzone, the gap became became large enough to stick.  I kept on looking backwards expecting him to pop up but that never happened.

I finished in 6th place, 40 seconds behind 5th.  I know I lost more than two minutes for going off course.  But who knows, maybe 5th also missed that turn.  Overall I was two minutes slower than last year.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  But that is why there is next year...