Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Wheels!

I've been eyeing a new set of road wheels for a while now - my backup/training wheels were lost to my cross bike over the winter and I've never made up for it... until now. I was between a set of Neuvation R23 Aero4's and "Traditional" Ultegra Hub/Mavic Open Pro wheels. Each had pros, the Neuvations are lighter, both are known to be very strong regardless of how you torture them, and they both cost under $300/set.

Through much consultation with others and many people as fans in either camp, I decided to pick up the Ultegra/Open Pro setup... mostly because I got them locally and didn't have to wait, but also because they ended up being $220 since they were on sale at a certain store that's in cahoots with a secret website where they have ridonkulous prices on things. I couldn't pass them up for 40% less than the Neuvations.

64 spokes of fury!

This evening I set out on a quick test run... planning to ride early in the morning and the last thing I want is a wheel problem so I figured I'd give them a spin. I threw on some FSA rim strip (I normally prefer VeloFlex cotton tape, this is an experiment), some tubes and tires off my destructorated Mavic Cosmics and off I was. As soon as I put weight on them, I heard the spokes pop into place... great. This is one disadvantage of hand "finished" wheelsets, but for the price I can deal with it. Wheels felt nice and stiff for standing sprints, accelerate well but definitely not as easily as my Ksyriums - those will be a lighter weight "treat" for race day from now on. I headed north to Hollywood on the LFP, where a Fred grabbed my wheel around Addison and sucked wheel all the way to the Irving Park tennis courts, at which point I looked back and kindly informed him that I'd appreciate him announcing when he's on my wheel - all too often you need to take quick evasive action on the LFP and if some Fred is overlapping your rear wheel without your knowledge... bad news. I made it to Hollywood and hopped off the bike to check the wheels - true and round. Sweet. I did, however, notice that the nose of my saddle was pointed up a tad. I'm hoping I can torque that bolt down to keep this thing from moving, time will tell on that one.

On the way back, a Fred on a double squish was on my wheel. What's with these guys? First, it's flat here. Second, the LFP is PAVED AND SMOOTH. If you were riding on Lake Shore Drive you might need the full suspension, but it's entirely unnecessary. Whatever. Since I was out for a short ride to test these wheels, I wasn't looking to drop anyone nor was I feeling competitive. I maintained 18-20mph all the way south to Belmont, where I peeled off... at which point Fred exclaims:

"Thanks for being the rabbit".

Oh, Fred. You're so welcome.


In other news, I like my new wheels :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chicago Triathlon Race Report

2008 Chicago Triathlon Race Report - Aug 24 2008

Going into this race, I knew that I hadn't put the effort into it this year like I had in the year prior - my training schedule in 2007 was entirely focused on this race, with bike races as secondary. When planning this year out, I really thought that I'd be able to "do it all", mixing triathlons in with a full schedule of road races and crits... not so much. Over the winter I became much more comfortable in the water - a requirement for a race like Escape from Alcatraz. I hadn't been on a strict training regimen since June, so I knew that I would be "coasting" on residual swimming fitness since I'd only been in the pool a max of once a week for the last few months.

Tracy arrived just in time for me to hand off my flip flops and get lined up - I had tucked a GU into the ankle of my wetsuit but by the time I zipped up it was nowhere to be found. Great. Looking around, I noticed that the wave was MUCH bigger than it had been in years past... all Men's Clydesdales were starting in Wave 27. Great. We started getting into the water and I positioned myself in the middle, only having to tread water for about 30 seconds before we were off. I started my Garmin and flattened out into the water.

oblivious me.

For as many guys as there were in the wave, the beginning of the swim wasn't too bad. I quickly made my way up to the front third of the wave, only having to swim over the top of two or three people to get there. About 300 yards out my goggles fogged to the point where I couldn't see a thing, so I moved over to the seawall where I could lick the lenses - this did the trick and I was fine for the remainder of the swim. We were at the Shedd Aquarium before I knew it, while turning around the buoy I peeked back and realized that I was pulling most of the group - there weren't too many pink caps ahead of me! I stuck it out for another 200-300 yards and started feigning fatigue - no point in letting these suckers draft me for the entire swim - it was their turn to do some work. It only took a few "soft" strokes in the water to be passed, at which time I promptly jumped into the leader's wake and matched his rhythm. With 100yd to go, I kicked into high gear and oxygen debt, even managing to breathe bilaterally in order to get out of the water as quickly as possible.

The run from the water always sucks. My first year I did it without stashing shoes. Mistake. I had my shoes in a good spot this year, so I stopped to put them on, along with my xXx jersey that I had laid on top of them. I fiddled with getting my Garmin onto my wrist, something I shouldn't have wasted time with since it was going to be clipped onto the bike anyways... but who's thinking logically during T1 anyways? Tracy was right there to lend support - I don't know if she was talking to me, yelling, screaming, or had signs - I knew she was there but was so "in the zone" that the world was on mute.

this run always sucks.

I got to transition and my bike with ease - I had prewalked it and knew exactly where I was going. Not many of my wave's bikes were gone and for that I was thrilled and thankful... I've not had that happen before since my swim has always sucked. I put on my socks and shoes, donned my helmet and rolled out, putting my gloves on while maneuvering the bike with the other hand (that's really hard to do, by the way).

Starting out onto the bike course I knew my legs just weren't in prime shape - they felt sluggish even when I passed through the Oak Street Chicane. Sunday's headwind certainly wasn't helping, I could barely maintain 19 mph regardless of how I positioned myself. Encouraged by the spaceship sounds of my borrowed Zipp 606's (thanks, Mission Bay!) I tried my best to put the hammer down and get myself up to Foster Ave for the turn back south, figuring I could make up the lost time on the southbound stretches. Once turned south, I found that the pavement was somehow in WORSE condition than it was for Bike the Drive. Great. Tanks to Da Mare for dat won. Hizzoner could have had CDOT put some effort into Lake Shore Drive, especially since this will likely be the Olympic Triathlon course if/when Chicago 2016 happens and the IOC was likely watching this event. Potholes, cracks, rough patches... and a BIG ASS HOLE FULL OF SAND awaited us on the southbound stretch. I managed to recognize the inconsistent pavement far enough in advance to avoid most of it, but it was hard to find a rhythm when constantly swerving to avoid people/holes/aero drink sponges/water bottles. Southbound, the wind helped a great deal but it just wasn't enough for me to average the 40km/h I needed to come in at an hour for the bike leg. As I passed Chicago Ave on the way to T2 I ate another GU to prepare for the run. While coming down the suicide ramp before dismount, I heard a bunch of people yell out for me - I presumed these were xXxers who saw me coming down the ramp (I had my team jersey on).

"suicide" u-turn onto lower randolph

Transition still wasn't terribly busy... and there were few bikes on my wave's rack. I still wasn't going to celebrate too much as the run is BY FAR my weakest event. I took off my helmet, threw on my shoes and grabbed my crack pack (Enervitene) as I was already feeling that I'd need it just to get through the run. I headed out with apprehension - on last year's run I experienced some of the worst foot pain I've ever had... it felt like a needle being shoved through the ball of my foot... pretty sweet. Around Mile 2 the pain kicked in, both feet this time but the left foot being far worse than the right. As last year, if I alternated between running and walking and stayed in the gravel/grass I knew I'd make it. Keeping in mind that I was targeting 2:45, I had started on pace to hit that number but having to walk some would prevent me from achieving that goal - the pain was sufficient that I didnt' care. I found another guy who I had started the race with while running, he was having problems with chest congestion and just couldn't get enough air. We leapfrogged each other doing the walk/run drill until around mile 3 we started to encourage one another to get moving. I knew that I had to beat last year's time... I had a fever, and the only prescription was to HTFU and more cowbell. Someone was ringing it, because I came out of the LSD tunnel with some energy for the last 200m and finished strong.

Overall, I managed to place three full minutes faster than last year at 2:56, also first in my Division - Men 250+ Lb Under 39y/o. I'll take that.

first in my division. didn't know it at the time.

Here's my splits from the past 3 years (click to embiggen).

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Chicago Triathlon, FTW!

I won my division. Holy kick ass sweet.

The guy who came in behind me was 4 minutes faster in the swim, but I was 4 minutes faster on the bike... he was 50 seconds faster than me on the run. He lost the race in transition. My T1 was 2:47 faster, T2 was 13 seconds faster.

It totally pays to roll your socks off so you can get them back onto wet feet faster :)

Full race report pending.

Paid! (DHL Broked my Bike, Part 2)

In an earlier post I noted that DHL had broken my bike on a whirlwind tour of the eastern US... looks like they've owned up to it, there was a check in my mailbox this morning. It sucks that they lost my cleanest, whitest 2007 xXx jersey, but I suppose the funds can go towards buying a 2009 jersey.

I will say, DHL's claim process could have been much more of a painful process. I've processed insurance claims in the past and all too often the adjusters have a mountain of claims to handle on a daily basis, with many claims having quite a long tail on them due to inspections, missing paperwork, etc. I probably made it easier on both my adjuster and myself by providing a ton of pictures, narrative, and documentation with my original claim submission... still, two weeks from filing the claim to having a check in hand is a pretty quick turnaround.

Still... it seems odd that DHL chose to send me the check via USPS. Why wouldn't they deliver it themselves? Fear of being damaged?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cleveland Metroparks: Rocky River Reservation

Let me say this... Cleveland's got some SWEET riding. When I found out I was coming out here I spoke with Jeff who informed me that he was jealous... I'd be able to ride the metroparks. I'm inclined to agree.

Since I'm not here on the weekends and my work schedule makes a 5-hour ride impossible during daylight hours I broke the "emerald necklace" up into chunks so I could ride the whole thing. I'm sure I'll find a portion that I like best, but it's all pretty dayum cool so far.

Rocky River Reservation

From Bagley Road to the lake you'll find some of the best riding I've come across in a while - especially considering your proximity to a major airport and metro area. Valley Parkway is two lanes with good pavement, though you will occasionally come across a rough section from the right tire track to the shoulder. Northbound is a slight downhill, not enough to really recognize unless you've got a computer that tracks it. Having a slight tailwind and this downhill, I thought I was just having a great day out on the bike until I turned back south and reality washed over me.

There aren't many stop signs or lights on this section - 4 or 5 stoplights at most. It's truly a place close to the city where a recreational cyclist can get a quality workout with minimal traffic hassle, especially since the road's speed limit is 30mph and visibility at the intersections is very good.

As amenities go, you are riding through a park so there are restrooms and drinking fountains aplenty. There is a golf course with a snack bar just south of Lorain road, but that's pretty much your only convenient food/drink option so be sure to bring everything you'll need along with you.

At the north end, Valley Parkway abruptly ends at Detroit Road and there's no signage to indicate which direction a person might go from there based on your ultimate destination - Cleveland's bicycling network seriously leaves something to be desired on this front. I had my Garmin GPSMap60CS with me so I was able to navigate through some of the neighborhoods closer to the lake, where I discovered that the majority of the shoreline was privately owned with little to no public access. Apparently there is a public beach here at the end of Columbia Road (at Lake Road, Route 6), but I didn't attempt to venture over there as I was losing daylight. On that note - if there's a chance that you'll be out at or after sunset, you will need lights on this stretch of road as it gets quite dark and drivers are unlikely to expect cyclists on the road at night. Should you be stuck without lights, I'd suggest taking the bike path adjacent to Valley Parkway as a safer alternative.

I'll post more sections as I get a chance to ride and review them.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I was out of cereal, and my Cleveland apartment doesn't have much around it for grocery stores, so taking a cue from my lady, I went "grocery shopping" at CVS... ended up with a box of Kashi GoLean! Crunch.

I should have heeded The Car Whisperer's Advice. I sat down watching the olympics and decided I'd try a handful of it - before I knew what had happened I had eaten half the box.

I'll say one thing, ~24 hours after you eat a bunch, you sure as hell feel like you've "Gone Lean!". It's powerful stuff to say the least.

It's ironic that a colonic roto-rooter cereal might cause you to have to call roto-rooter to deal with the aftermath.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DHL broked my bike.

In shipping my cross bike from Seattle to Cleveland, DHL decided to send it on a whirlwind tour of the USA.

Yeah, you read that right. Seattle to Ohio to Virginia to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Ohio. Logistics are complicated. What's efficient doesn't always make sense to those not close to the operation. I'm guessing that the Virginia trip was completely unnecessary... and people might wonder why DHL is in dire financial straits, looking to have UPS carry freight for them.

In the process, my bike suffered injury... you've gotta do bad things to a boxed bike to bend a derailleur hanger and knock a wheel out of true. I don't know exactly what happened, nor do I want to know. Along with the bike being hurt, a team jersey must have fallen out somehow, because I packed ALL my clothes (clean and dirty) in the bike box for shipment. The jersey was the only thing dirty because I missed it when I did my last load of laundry, so it was in a separate bag on top. Grr. I'd rather have my jersey than the $69 I paid for it, especially since it was the only 2007 jersey that I hadn't crashed in.

I found a Trek dealer online, took it in for them to install the new hangar and true the wheel - they tried telling me that I should go for a super tune-up ($129!) since I also wanted to have the rear brake re-cabled (not DHL's fault) but I figured that would just complicate the damage claim process to not have a separate receipt for the shipping damages. $63.87 for the wheel true, new hanger, and derailleur adjustment. Not unreasonable.

I'm sending the claim form in today... I figured 2 hours at $30/hour was pretty reasonable since it took me about an hour to figure out what the hell was wrong with the bike, plus I had to drive the bike to and from the bike shop, which took about an hour total. I'm guessing they'll dispute this portion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Cyclists Prayer.... and Pray you check those Keos

swiped from:

Well said, especially the "silence until peaceful words policy" post-crash.

A Cyclists Prayer

I say a few prayers while riding and racing bikes. These help me keep things in perspective and keep it real. Here are a few of my common prayers that aren’t too personal.

Allow these bike racers not to rage against each other but to strive with each other. Amen

Let these racers not get injured so they are able to continue to do purposeful work off of the bike and be able to do all the goodness they can with their families and friends. Amen

Keep me from lusting after these bicycles. Help make my bicycle a tool for goodness as I pray while riding. Amen

Help me not get angry at riders who don’t hold their line. Especially do not let me get angry when riders force their way between me and the racer in front of me because this is just a competitive move in racing bikes. Amen

I know that the act of bike racing really doesn’t compare to more meaningful acts but at least let this time be enriched by prayer. And more importantly let this time be one of harmony between racers. Let us show support for each other and not trash talk or gossip. Amen

Help me not get angry at this guy who is opening up gaps and riding at an uneven pace. Rather let me turn this anger over to energy toward catching the pack. Give me similar energy toward purposeful goals in my life. Amen

If a racer causes me to crash may I not say anything until I can speak some peaceful words. Amen

Riding Look Keo's? Check them for a recall. Makes me glad I chose SPD-SL's.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tour of Elk Grove 4's - Where's my power?

Chicago residents are no strangers to traffic, but it was quite a surprise to find the Kennedy at a standstill as we headed out to Elk Grove from the city... so much for a pre-race warmup, we figured. When we arrived, it was clear that this event was as well organized as last year - 40 minutes prior to the start of the first race, barricades and cameras were in place, the finish line was striped, and not to be outdone by Da Mare, Elk Grove had a Jumbotron!

Registration was another story... Race organizers: Pre-registration benefits organizer and racer alike. One of the ways you can make everyone's life easier is to pre-fill USAC waivers on behalf of your participants so the check-in process goes much smoother. You get a legible form, we don't have to scramble to find a decent writing surface. Deal. It took almost 20 minutes to sign my form and get my numbers... and there was no line when I walked up to the table. By the time I walked away, there were at least 10 people waiting.

While changing for the race, the 5's were off and it was strung out from the beginning... I thought it was a preview lap at first, but when I saw the leaders' speeds it was apparent that the 5's were strung out from the beginning. No such luck for us. When we got to the staging area to line up, everyone was antsy - it was getting quite warm out and first race had gotten off a few minutes late. Once the pace car confirmed the course was clear of the previous race, we were told to head to the line, no preview lap. At the line, the referee announced that our race was being cut to 25 minutes + 2 instead of the prescribed 30 minutes + 1. Positioning at the line is critical in this narrow course, so I moved up as far as possible. We started fast, and the group strung out a good bit due to some poor clip-ins at the line. Having raced the 5's last year, I knew this course. Elk Grove's L-shaped course features 180 degree turns that create a nightmarish accordion crashfest if you're in the back of the pack, somewhere I planned to stay far away from... plans change. For the first several laps, I stayed in the front 10 wheels, even chasing down a few attacks on the backstretch. For a bit it seemed that a break might get away, but despite my efforts to block they weren't quite far enough out to hold. Having been off the bike for most of July due to moving, vacation, and my insane work schedule, I knew that these August races would be tough, but I hadn't anticipated having little to no power coming out of the corners. For whatever reason, I just couldn't accelerate like I used to - a serious detriment in this race. With two to go I was spit out the back with a fellow teammate. We worked together to finish strong, determined not to let a pack of ~10 or so catch us. We managed to stay away, finishing in the bottom of the results.

In all, a well organized event despite some challenges at registration. I just need to figure out where the hell my power went. If anyone finds it, let me know - I'll have you overnight it to me. I could use it.