Sunday, January 19, 2014

Back at it

After a few days of taking it easy on my leg, I had a long ride scheduled for Saturday. I decided to go all in and test the leg out by hitting some hilly areas in Madison county. I posted ride details and in the end, Joe and Ron showed up for a 9 AM start. It was 34F, and the forecast was calling for an alberta clipper to come through, dump a couple inches of snow and crank the NW winds up to 30MPH or so. Since my route took us west to start, south for some hills and then a couple of miles back north for the return leg east, this had the makings of a tough day.

We rolled a mile or so north and then headed west into the wind. The rollers on 105th and the headwinds made us work. About an hour in, we stopped for a quick bio break. While we were stoppped, we were greeted by a very friendly farm dog. He sprinted from his spot on the porch as soon as Joe and I stopped. I think he was just happy to see someone.

As we continued to ride west, gravel dog ran in front of, behind, and between the three of us. Despite his friendly nature, I was still nervous as he sprinted up behind my calf. Left over fears from TIV9 that I need to overcome. Not too long afterwards, we turned south and enjoyed a bit of tailwind as we headed to the meat of the ride, which was a couple of laps of a hilly area near the north river valley. We hit Cemetery Hill, a little .3 mile hill at an 8% average grade, and Joe sprinted off the front. At the top, both he and Ron though we were done with the climbs. That's when I informed them that I planned on doing a couple of laps in this area. We dropped down into the river valley onto North River Trail, and then turned north to finish the loop. As we topped Cemetery Hill for a second time, I was beginning to rethink my plan, but then saw that Joe had started the descent. I rolled downhill to him and we started the second loop. Near the end, I had Joe veer back east so we could continue north on North River Trail and hit a longer shallower climb. About half-way through, we were hit with a two to three minute blast of heavy wind and thick sleet. It looked like rice was falling from the sky as I watched Joe climbing ahead of me. As we headed back north and started our "back" portion of our out and back, we could hear and feel the wind picking up. I was happy that we only had a couple of miles to fight it before we headed back east to Cumming. The trip back was easier, but still hilly, with lots of small rollers putting the last bit of burn into our legs. After we got back to our vehicles, we dropped into The Cumming Tap for a cold beverage then headed home. My leg is finally feeling normal. No residual tightness or aching after the ride, so I'm ready to get "back on the plan" this next week. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gear and stuff

Last weekend was interesting. The Polar Vortex was on it's way down to us, and I needed to get a three hour ride in. I put a post up on Facebook earlier in the week and got a few takers for a three hour 8 AM gravel ride, scheduled to beat the arctic blast. We started with nine people, including one fat bike, but quickly whittled down to seven before we left town. Normally, I don't want to leave people behind at the start of a ride. I told the front riders to go ahead as I turned around to give the last two riders a windbreak and bridge them back up to the group. It was obvious there was something else going on than just cold legs, so we parted ways, and I caught back up to the main group. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. I wanted to keep the route as flat and steady as I could, so we headed west towards Van Meter and, eventually DeSoto. tLots of small rollers, and a cold WNW wind kept us company for the trip out. We took a brief stop at a local convenience store to grab some food and warm up a bit, then headed back. The wind had shifted slightly north, so we didn't have as much of a tailwind as we expected. The few northbound sections were particularly brutal as they were almost all uphill and into the cold wind. We ended up back at the starting coffee shop right at 11 AM. We were cold, but not terribly worked over. A few of us sat around, talked while we had a warm up cup of joe, and then headed for home. When I got home, I was pleased to hear that my wife had bundled up and headed on for an errand ride that morning as well. Her assessment of the wind was identical to mine.

Sunday arrived, as did "The Vortex". Since I had a complete rest day on my schedule, I turned on the fireplace and started digging into more route and gear research. I had slowly whittled potential sleep system candidates down to about 4 in each of the categories for shelter, pad, and insulation. After more reading that afternoon, I finally made the decision to just start with something, and resell anything that didn't workout after some testing. So my starting setup is -

Milesgear Pico Bivy - I had looked at their UberBivy a few years ago. Going back to his site I saw this new, smaller bivy, made with the same materials. It's relatively light at 568g (not including the ground cloth) and was fairly inexpensive at $160 shipped. Most important to me was that, unlike my Nemo bivy, it doesn't require any stakes to use. No stakes or cord to fumble with when setting up, and no stakes to forget somewhere on the route. I'll be able to set it up on a picnic table or a slab of rock if necessary. Packed down, it rolls into a cylinder that's 12" long and 5" in diameter. I'm going to use it with the stock one piece pole that it was supplied with, and see how well the pole packs up. I may end up with a corded metal pole as a replacement. My interactions with Dave Miles were easy and pleasant. The bivy was delivered this week. Initial reaction is that it's a bit noisy, but it's also made of tyvek and hasn't been used yet. A bit of scrunching or maybe a water only trip through the washer should take care of that. The space inside is more than adequate. Will report back on how well it breathes and waterproofness after it warms up a bit.

Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt - With good down quilts and sleeping bags being fairly expensive, I opted to try and find something that was lightly used as a starting point. A post on the Gear Swap forum netted a couple of leads and I ended up with a long, 850-fill goose down model. I tend to sleep a bit on the cold side, so I wanted something in the 20-25F range. The long length might be overkill, but I can always shorten the quilt up myself, or resell and find a shorter model. The quilt should show up this week and I'll report more on it then.

I'm still working out a sleep pad option, but I'm a stomach sleeper so some of the superlight X-frame pads are out. I have a loaner Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite on loan from a friend. It's a short pad, so it will only go to my knees. I'm not sure if it will be enough to keep me warm, but I hope to test that out soon. If not, that same pad in a regular length is an option, assuming I can handle the noise. I have other pads from Nemo and Klymit on my short list too.

I also invested in some rain gear to test. While posting for my bag on the BPL forums, I came across a guy selling some lightly used pac-lite based rain gear for a price I couldn't pass up. The gear itself is from Luke's Ultralight. I ended up with a pair of pants and a seam sealed raincoat for $110 shipped. The coat has a bit more cloth in the sleeves than I expected, but the body has plenty of coverage for when I'm in a riding position on the bike. This particular coat also had the pit zips installed for some extra ventilation. Again, I hope to test this gear out sometime soon.

I also made a dyno hub choice during the last couple of weeks. I opted to save a bit of money and go with the Shuttle Precision PD-8X dyno hub instead of the equivalent SON. I've seen a number of the SP hubs in action and they have all seemed to work as well as the SON. I don't know if it will have the extreme lifetime that the SON claims, but I think it will be adequate to the task at hand. It also shipped with a QR adapter, which is a nice touch.

I've been taking it easy on the riding the last couple of days due to straining a muscle in my left leg. This is the same tightness that I had a couple of weeks ago, but I think that walking lunges appear to be the root cause of the issue. My long Saturday ride turned into a light spin/rest day with a lot of work on the foam roller to get things to loosen up. More ice, foam roller, and Trameel today to get it back in working order.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Made it into Rasmussen Bike Shop for a quick check on my bike fit after work yesterday. I've been having some tightness in my inner left quad and knee after hard rides for the last few weeks. The only thing that has changed since this summer has been my shoes and a new pair of cleats. I put the cleats in myself, but not until after throwing out my old shoes. Yup. Dumb move. Adam Thompson got me squared away quickly by adding the cleat shim back in I neglected to notice, and moving the cleats to their proper position. I opted to skip my recovery spin and spent the time loosening up my quads for today's planned 3 hour ride.

I arrived at a local Starbucks at 7:15 AM and the weather was calm, balmy feeling, although the temperature was a touch above freezing. I went outside around 7:55 to get my Fargo ready and the temp was already sinking and the wind had picked up significantly. I and seven others headed west out of town. One rider was feeling the effects of a few too many libations the night before and was off the back, even though we weren't pushing the pace. With the temps falling and the wind picking up, I really didn't want to spend too much time waiting to regroup, so while he and his friend rode together, the rest of us continued west. Other than the wind, the ride wasn't too bad. Our group rode west of town for about 90 minutes, passing through Van Meter, until we hit DeSoto. We took a food and bio break at a convenience store and then took the same route back into town. The couple of short sections we rode heading north were painful due to the cold and the headwind, but everyone made it back in one piece. Not a tough ride due to either the pace or the route (which was mostly flat to gently rolling), but the wind and the falling temps made it feel tough.

With the snowy gravel and the light drifting on the pavement, the Fargo was the right bike today. The Bontrager XR1 tires were comfortable and gave me plenty of traction. No issues with the tubeless setup, even with the cold. No issues with my knee or quad during the ride or after, so it appears that my issues are all fixed for now.

I expect a bit of a ramp up in training time starting this week. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year, a new post

Been a while since I've put fingers to keyboard and posted here. I hope to do a little bit more of that in 2014 so my 5 regular readers have something interesting to view. :)

2014 is going to be an interesting year. For the last two years, I've been focused for a few months on one specific event, and then went off on my merry way for the remainder of the year. I raced a few more events in 2013 thinking that regular riding and residual fitness from my TI training would carry me through. That certainly held true at the Royal 162, but didn't necessarily hold up too far beyond that. With the Tour Divide as my goal in 2015, I'm looking at training and events from an entirely different viewpoint. While I have some goal events this year, they are all a means to an end. Unfortunately, the number of events I'm going to enter this year will likely be lower, and I probably will not travel as far to race this year as I have in the past.

I got a well needed mental cleanse done during October and November, which I needed, especially after a cold wet attempt at RAID at the end of September. I rode for fun and just when I felt like it. I had some fun rides with my wife on her new Fargo and just generally took it easy. During my break, I contacted JJ Bailey from Zoom Performance and talked to him about Tour Divide. I'm happy to say that JJ and Zoom Performance will be helping me get me ready for my attempt at TD. I decided that I was ready to start hitting things seriously in December, which was good, as Mark has indicated that V10 of TI may be the toughest course yet. The extra month of training will probably be needed at the end of April.

Training for December has been different. A weak core let me down a number of times in 2013, and if you want to improve, you need to train your weaknesses. This has meant hitting the gym at least twice a week for strength training. Lots of core work, plus some upper and lower body strength training as well. I've also had one day per week that has been a "non-bike" workout of my choice. Since I don't have access to a pool, I've been hiking or running with a couple of friends, usually at 5 AM to accommodate their work and family schedules. The riding has been a mix of intervals on the trainer and some 2 hour base rides just to get used to riding for longer periods again. Some of these have been outdoors on the fatbike if the weather was reasonable, and some have been on the trainer. I ended up with 47 hours and just shy of 670 miles of activity (run, bike, trainer) for the month.

January has arrived. This means a few changes in the stable will be happening. My 2014 Ti Fargo should show up this month, after an anxious few months. I'll be selling off my current 2010/2011 steel Fargo after I take delivery of the Ti model. I will also be selling my 650C Bacchetta Corsa and associated accessories. It's a fun bike, but it's not going to much use over the next 18 months, so it should go to someone that will use it. I may or may not replace it with something else in a couple of years.