29 June, 2008

Just another Sunday club ride

Out to Smithville with the club today, via a slightly non-typical route due to road work, etc.

24 June, 2008

Solstice Race Report 2008

With the 36 Hours of Hope cancelled, my summer racing plans opened up considerably, and since a team who had asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to race Solstice with them was still looking with less than a week to go I figured I’d do it. We were to be a casual 7-8 person team where the main goal was to keep going and put out personal best times regardless of what these were. A fun group to race with.

Ryan started us off but had an encounter with a tree that would leave him a bit shaken up, his front wheel wrecked and what would have been a very fast lap a bit slower than planned. We’re very glad he is ok and not concussed – he was able to keep turning out decent laps in fact. Sitting 4th in the order, my first lap would be my fastest though also the toughest since not knowing the course meant I was not riding efficiently. All of my four laps sat between 60 and 70 minutes, which I am pleased with considering I didn’t put too much focus on this event in the weeks prior.

My second lap which began around 11 pm started slightly damp but the rain turned heavy about 5 minutes in and would continue for the duration of the lap. Traction and visibility became scarce, but I managed to keep the bike upright in the slick bits unlike many others on course at the time. When I returned I was soaked, and the bike was pretty trashed with mud. I used the bike-wash knowing I may need to do some bearing overhaul at the end of the weekend, and this worked out alright since my sprayed down and freshly lubed drivetrain was fine on subsequent laps. I’ve yet to deal with the aftermath but it doesn’t look too bad – that’s tonight’s job.

The bike handled extremely well through all the conditions the course had to offer. Some new bits were on test, and others I’ve now used enough to make judgements on:

  • New wheels: ZTR Arch 29er rims on Chris King Pretty and Strong ISO hubs built up by Bike29 - absolutely the best wheels I could imagine for my use. These are my first King hubs and they are meeting and exceeding all of my expectations. The bearing drag during wear in is diminishing as the manual says it will, and the engagement is fantastic in the technical sections. The ZTR rims are not new to me, and these work as nicely as the Flows with a slightly lower weight and narrower size. Tires sealed up very well as expected, and I can’t burp them as much as I might try.
  • Tires: I ran a Kenda Karma 1.9 out back which was new to me, with the familiar Schwalbe Racing Ralph up front in 2.25. I previously had the Ralphs on front and rear (2.4/2.25 respectively) and they are definitely grippy, fast racing tires. The Karma out back being a bit narrower rolled even faster at the expense of some grip, but worked well even in the greasy course at night. The frame clearance in the rear is much more comforting than the 5mm or so the 2.25 RR had.
  • Formula ORO brakes – I am really impressed with these, and with the Goodridge hoses I feel they will be a very serviceable component for a long time. Bleeding was very easy, power is good for 160mm rotors and the modulation is fantastic with the organic pads. The only trouble is I've gone through my first set of those, and I'm not sure whether to replace them with more organics or the sintered version - I've got both as I'm interested in comparing.
  • XTR/Dura-Ace chain - it's perhaps the best compromise of light weight and shifting performance for my use. It will probably wear out faster than my Wipperman 908, but the quiet, smooth operation is nice while it lasts.

23 June, 2008

Mistakes at the Gear Grinder

As those of you who I’ve talked to will know, my Gear Grinder result was a near repeat of the Icebreaker (stopped after 1 lap of the long course) though for completely unrelated reasons. While the Icebreaker offered a snowy, muddy slog that I did not want to see for a second time, the Grinder was a very nice course through the very large network of trails in the Ganaraska forest. More singletrack than your average XC race in Ontario, and lots of twisty loamy turns mixed with some fast descents and a couple long fire-road climbs.

Two laps of 27 km each should not have been a problem for me, but it was and with much analysis I have speculated what the causes could be. One I am sure of, and the one that probably caused the need to stop completely was nutrition. I was dehydrated and bonking after 1 lap, when I can usually ride many times this without nutrition being a problem. I can only guess it was not enough food the morning of the race (real whole food, that is) and a stomach that did not want to let me drink, on a hot day that resulted in serious hydration requirements. All of my concerns about certain products not working for me (namely eLoad and Clif Shot Bloks) have been ruled out as I have tested these enough to know that they are not a problem when I am having a normal day.

My other mistake was pacing, which is entirely one of those experiences you only gain from racing. I come away from this experience much wiser with respect to this topic. Given that I didn’t have my HRM (the Garmin Edge was off to be replaced for the second time under warranty) I should have paid a little closer attention to my body, but instead I had my eyes on the other racers who were largely a speedy bunch. I went hard off the start and got a good position about 10-12 racers from the front. Instead of settling into a good pace, I tried to hold my spot and this would combine with the nutrition issue to put me in bad shape by halfway through lap 1.

The climbs became unreasonably hard, and my stomach only got worse. I finished with an avg. speed of over 14 km/h, which considering how much time I spent struggling and even leaned over my bike feeling like I would throw up, means if I’d not gone so hard at first I might have done a reasonable time in addition to finishing both laps.

Since this was not a priority race for me, I can say it was not disappointing and I learned a lot from it. The course was good and would have been a blast to ride had I been feeling better.

03 June, 2008

Transitioning into Summer

With some of the early season events behind me I am finding myself in a period of transition. The weather is allowing more time on the mountain bike and handling is coming along - that said I am looking forward to more time working on base and climbing on the road. Many of the events recently have been about intensity - the Life$tyle$ 24h, Duke's 8h and local bi-weekly series have all been hard efforts due to short lap times and low overall demand on endurance. My priority event for the mid-season being the 36 HOURS OF HOPE means I need to seriously build endurance at this point, and for me it is specifically muscular endurance that is needed. The base aerobic fitness I developed over the winter and spring has served me well and I rarely find it limiting at this point, but I often find myself with "heavy" legs partway into my sub-threshold endurance rides. As best I can tell the way to work on this will be more long steady distance at this power output with a focus on recovery between sessions.

This past Sunday I'd decided to skip the club ride in favour of a more reasonable paced century, but the wind and some extra enthusiasm soon had me pushing it too hard and I decided to shorten my ride to 100k and add some hills. With no particular route in mind I headed out through Virgil then St. Catharines to get to the usual riding grounds around the Pelham/Lincoln area. It was a good feeling to ride and only sort of know where I was going. The ride looked something like this:

(click for full size)
Note the sharp peak at 45 km - that would be Saylor's hill, familiar to the locals here but also to anyone who has raced the Niagara Classic. I dragged myself up for the first time, but it will take many more before I can hang with the club on that grade. Yesterday was recovery with the youth mtb ride, and today will be a day off to clean the bikes and rest. Unfortunately getting much training in at all this week does not look good:

Hopefully the weather does indeed clear by next weekend and I can get some more saddle time in. Sunday I am supposed to be joining a century ride that will take us over the Canada-USA border for a trip along the Niagara River and lake Ontario and a good climb up the escarpment.

The next week is the Ganaraska Gear Grinder which I am really looking forward to.  Two 26km laps on the great singletrack there will be a nice alternative to the more local Lake to Lake Classic which features mainly gravel road and rutted, muddy ATV trails. Following this race will be some more base building toward the endurance required for the 36h. It seems to be shaping up for a good summer :)

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