Thursday, August 20, 2009

August Update

Quick update before I go pedaling, to end the blogging neglect! After Cascade and Nationals I wanted to rest and retool, return to the root of biking joy. Enjoyed some epic rides in the Berkshires with friends, including the famed Greylock Century loop, featuring the repaved climb (awesome except the rumble strips) and the spectacular roads of the Deerfield Randonee. Tinkering with my bike fit and saddle position had reached a point of disaster and confusion, so I immersed myself in the project of setting that straight, compulsively coming to understand bike geometry - the interratationships of tube lengths and angles and stem lengths etc - and learn the tricks for measuring various essential measures of fit. Curse those crooked old floors! By necessity, I suddenly had to conduct some bike tinkering myself, and lo and behold in spite of my ridiculous mechanical inexperience I seem to have absorbed a lot by osmosis. One project was prepping the cross bike for Deerfield's 25 and 27% grades on dirt roads. I had to chalk up the hours - no days - of time invested as a crucial investment in my summer goal of learning more about bike repair. In spite of Leonard Zinn, it's still unclear whether or not the SRAM 9-sp XO mountain derailleur will work with Red shifters, because in principle the hallmark of each is that they are both 1-to-1 in ration of cable pull. At any rate, the eventual set-up was the 10sp SRAM bike with a hand-crafted 10sp 12-30 cassette, masterminded by Bob of College St. Cycles. It consisted of the big plates from my 9sp mountain cassette and the little ones from my 10sp road cassette, with 10sp road spacers inserted. And it turns out the Force derailleur works fine with a 30, in spite of the published max of 28. It's also August, which of course means we are now allowed to think about cross! In other news, a friend is searching for a speedy woman cyclist to compete in the bike leg of the legendary Berkshires event, the Josh Billings RunAground triathlon, Sunday Sept 13. Zip me an email if you're interested.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bend Rocks, Junior Racing, and Cross Natz Recon

Last post I promise. Waiting for my red-eye here at the Redmond airport where after meticulous weight-reducing packing to get the double bike bag to 58 lbs (still 8lbs over - tough when the double Pika weighs in at 22...) and even a trip to Fed-Ex my bags didn't even get weighed! First to the Deschutes River with its trails and volcanic rocks, then we went to Bend's Old Mill District to watch the Junior Nationals crits and scout the 2009 Cross Nationals Course. As if the $8000 bikes ridden by 12-year-olds in Friday's time trial were not enough to turn me off on junior racing, holy cow - I could have made tip-top mockumentary a la Best in Show of the ridiculous parents at the course today. The pushiness, the screaming, the excess, the competitiveness - it was revolting. I could not understand how the officials could tolerate this! I compare this admittedly snapshot image of junior racing with collegiate racing and it just does not compare. The comraderie and spirit of collegiate, with people racing junker bikes and with time trials run "cannibal" style to minimize the ability to buy time trial speed - now that is the purity of cycling. That said, it was fun watching the 13-14 year old races (shutting out parental shouting, or laughing at it). One interesting aspect was that some riders are literally twice as big as others in the same field! Most importantly, the venue was the same as the 2009 cross nationals venue. Hard to say much given that we might have snow or icy ruts or mud but the venue looks awesome, with less elevation gain than in Kansas, though I am sure it can be found. The crit course could form the basis of the paved start-finish stretch. Some photos included.

Bye Bye Bend

Got to pack the bikes. Bend is sort of a paradise (note urban riverfront), but after two weeks I come away thinking there's no way I could live here. East Coast is a pain in the neck but I like it. Psyched to get home, rainy and cold as it is. Last night Nils (the man behind the camera) and I went walking downtown, out for some food then stumbled upon this antique car show. Those ratty shorts of mine are getting trashed. Seems kind of metaphoric.

Nationals Time Trial - Roastarama

The 35k Nationals time trial course included the 15-mile out-and-back up and down Skyliner Drive (the Cascade TT course), plus an additional 6-mile rolling loop. Once again temperatures were in the 90s. I'd spent the week practicing going fast on the descent - I really wasn't sure why I felt so ill-at-ease on this - but I felt like a runaway truck with failed brakes just waiting for the escape ramp on the highway. I'd figured it out that if over 2 miles I went 30 instead of 40mph I would lose 1 minute. I picked this because the math was easy and it's an exaggeration since speeds were actually higher but that's a lot of time! The extra loop was good, rollers and corners and smooth fast pavement compared to Skyliner's cracked and bumpy surface. I considered the course in thirds: strong and patient on the climb (just try not to lose too much time), attack that descent (make up some time), then fly through the fast loop (best section here). Seemed like a good plan...
I warmed up riding around, having ridden in the morning and not wanting to overheat. Doused myself in water and zipped up the torture implement of my black skinsuit. I had Kori Seehafer - a very solid time trialist - chasing me at 30 seconds. Seemed to be going fine, roasting aside. I caught my 30-second person and Kori caught me about 6.5 miles in - but after the turnaround she disappeared. Just after the turnaround there was a kicker to climb and my labored ascent of that might have been an indication of things coming apart. But I went much better than at Cascade down the descent, caught a few people, and entered the loop. I was barely hanging on, smoke coming out my ears, never finding that smooth powerful feeling. Finished and wow I got killed. I came in 4:38 back of the winner Jessica Phillips. Kori got 7th. I was 2:28 behind, which to me indicates that I went out to hard because I should have lost the most time on the first section, since it was my weakest link and since it was the slowest section of the course, one-third of the distance but much more than one-third of the time. But instead I lost less than one-third of the time there. Just another way of saying I combusted. Or that Kori is a very smart pacer, which she is. Less good ride than at Cascade, relative to others. Ah well. Evie Stevens missed out on the jersey by one-second. AY. Awesome and a small heartbreak I imagine. WOW for her though!!!! Alison Powers finished third. Suffice it to say people are riding FAST. Pictured: At the line, offical telling me about his Polish last name. Entering the loop - the still photograph conveys the labored effort remarkably well. What will I do without photographer Nils?

Nationals Road Race Notes

Bit more about the road race since I made some mistakes and since I find the race interesting... The final finish was: Meredith, Chrissy, Kristen, Amy, then Kori (not Kat). As it turns out, the group launched to Kori before the feedzone climb (not on the second steep climb). I think Kristen (solo) followed Chrissy (VAC) and then Meredith (TIBCO) followed Amy (Webcor). At that point team racing came into play: Meredith was sitting on the break, with her powerful team stacked with sprinters Brooke Miller, Kat Carrol, and Lauren Tamayo, not to mention powerful all-arounder Amber Rais, waiting in the field. Kristen deemed this break her best chance for a result, racing without teammates and not a sprinter herself, so she drove it in spite of Meredith sitting on. Webcor, with only three (albeit very good) riders, was in a similar place, Amy-in-a-break a better shot than a bunch sprint. Chrissy was likely VAC's best chance, and also contributed to the work. But evidently when Meredith attacked, neither of the other four (including Kori after her long break) had the legs to respond. Meredith sealed the deal for TIBCO. I definitely had some underdog sentiment going during Cascade, rooting for Webcor agains the TIBCO assault, but Meredith is a very deserving champion. She's a terrific team rider who for a long time has been the engine behind the glorious results of others.