29 January, 2010

Good news!

I had a pleasant email arrive in my inbox today: the OCA High-Performance Committee approved my request to race Sr. Expert for MTB-XC and Senior 3 road this year. As I noted before, I chased that mtb upgrade last season and fell short with 258.4 of 260 required points. Based on my cyclocross results and desire to improve, the HP committee agreed that I was up to the challenge. Now I need to make sure my legs are too. Just 11 weeks until the first O-Cup!

28 January, 2010

Rebirth of my True North 29er

Going back to a post from 14 April 2008, I wrote about my True North mountain bike, a steel 29er that Hugh put together for me, and the beginning of my custom bicycle experience. The bike took me through my first couple race seasons and certainly helped me to advance my riding. The rigid fork brought the same kind of fun to mountain biking that one gets riding a cyclocross bike on mtb trails, but there was still the forgiving cushion of a fat tire below. It certainly helped me hone my skills from nonexistent to capable, but for 2010 I thought I might try a suspension fork - it will supposedly make me faster. So I picked up a Fox F29, with the G2 offset spec'ed for Gary Fisher to regain some of the quick handling that will be lost with the resulting slacker angle on the bike since it was built around a non-suspension corrected fork.

Now I'm getting ahead of myself... sometime in summer '09 I was riding at the Hydrocut and feeling like I was unusually off with the amount of toe-overlap issues I was having on switchback climbs. Then on the ride home I noticed a strange tightness in the headset. Upon inspection when I got home, I noticed I'd bent the steertube of my steel fork. How, I don't know, but I guess it was one too many hard whoops taken without unweighting the front enough. Off I went to visit Hugh, and sure enough he said he could fix it. I borrowed a fork in the meantime, keeping me on the bike to finish my race season - excellent!

Toward the end of the '09 season, I noticed what might be a crack developing at one of the chainstay/BB welds. This too proved to be true, so with these two issues plus the increasingly worn paintjob, it was time for some work.

The folks at True North had the frame stripped, Hugh then repaired the fork and chainstay, and while he was at it I had him add provision for a front derailleur pulley like you might find on a cross bike. Then it was time for new paint. The result, this:

As you can see in the second and third photo, I'm running a double crank (Middleburn Duo RS-8) with a Dura-Ace 7800 front derailleur. The 2x9 gearing suits my needs perfectly, and the combination of this crank and derailleur is super light. The shifts with the D-A derailleur seem way quicker than when I had an XT on there, too.

I'm going to save the detailed parts listing for a later date. The bike is currently built with the rigid fork and studded tires for winter riding. Once I get the suspension fork setup and summer tires on, I'll make another post complete with weight weenie spreadsheet. To tide the WWs over for now, as pictured it's pretty much right on 25 lbs. Swap out for race wheels and it's 21.8, or 23.3 with the suspension fork.

I am super excited to ride this bike again. The Frostbike is just over a week away, which should be a great way to bring the race legs back to life briefly :)

26 January, 2010

Plugging away

Another slow update, as not much has been happening lately. Training is moving along well, though a bit lean on the hours still. Finding time is not the problem, but finding time to ride outside is. Motivation to ride inside is hard to come by this time of year, and unfortunately there's not even snow to hike/snowshoe in. Just rain and a sloppy mess. Hopefully that is changing this week.

I'm now 3/4 of the way through the study at UofG and have had a chance to work on my timetrial pacing among other things, when completing these sessions. Once I am recovered from the last set of biopsies I will do my first (proper) FTP test for the year to get the power zones dialed in. I'm feeling strong, so as long as I can stay healthy and start to bring in the intensity I should have a good start to the season.

My mtb frame should be finished tomorrow. I visited it today and they had just put the first paint on it. The repairs went nicely and the bike should be better than new. I'm looking forward to getting it built back up, and hopefully doing some winter riding this weekend if conditions allow. Possibly preriding for the Frostbike which is coming up in a couple weeks. I really hope they get good conditions for the first edition of this race. This weekend should be a good preview of what it will be like if frozen, but without a good base of snow - I'm guessing icy and bumpy. Studded tires and possibly my new suspension fork should make those conditions no problem, I hope.

17 January, 2010

Long time no post...

Mostly because I haven't been doing much, especially to do with cycling. I've been doing a poor job of training, but haven't lost much fitness so as long as I get back on track now I should be ok.

While I'm writing, I might as well say a bit about the study I am doing at Guelph U. I am volunteering as a lab rat for a PhD student's study. She happens to be a notable racer on the Ontario Elite women's circuit, so of course there's lots of knowledge to be gained alongside my experience. In a nutshell, on 4 occasions (2 hydrated and 2 dehydrated) I ride for 90 minutes at a fixed proportion of my VO2max wattage, with 2 minute intervals every 20 minutes. Following this, I complete a TT equivalent to 6 kJ/kg which for me is 520-530 kJ, generally. The rest of the details are best left out until you can read the paper once published, but the above gives you an idea of what I am required to do.

So what have I gained so far? VO2max test was productive, as I now see my progress since I was last tested about a year and a half prior - this much was very good. Also, the TT portion of the trial is a good indicator for FTP, and the results so far have been surprisingly good (as far as I'm concerned). If I can get my shorter efforts up to the same calibre by race season, I stand to do quite a bit better than last year, I think... but of course numbers don't always translate directly to results.

That leads me to my next thought: I think I am now reaching the point where I could use a coach. Until now, I have felt that as a novice racer I can improve at a significant rate simply by riding lots, with a bit of structure and advice here and there. For beginners, there's no substitute for hours/km in the legs. I also had (and still have) some weight to lose, and this has had more bearing on performance than optimization of my training. Now that I've had a couple years to develop in this way, I am asking myself questions I no longer have the answer for. I see numbers that seem higher than my results would imply, so perhaps it will take a coach to direct my effort toward getting those results. We'll see.

As for the 2010 season, I'm still working on setting goals and finding it very difficult. The structure is more or less laid out and I know that I'll basically race the XC O-Cup series and a couple select events, ultimately building toward a strong cross season. I may aim to peak for Nationals, and I definitely hope to do more racing in the New England race scene where a strong B field offers a lot of close competition at my level, rather than the huge disparity of ability within the relatively small number of racers in Southern Ontario.

I will eventually get some concrete race schedule stuff up here, as well as more thoughts on my training plan/goals. Also, look for some posts containing the upcoming rebuild of my 29er and road bikes - both frames are in getting fixed up and repainted and will be put back together in a spiffy new way over the next month or so.

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