Saturday, March 15, 2008

King of the Mountain

At least that is how I feel. This morning I met up with a few members of my tri club to go for a bike ride up Angeles Crest. I went up many time last year, each time getting a little farther and farther. My goal was to eventually reach the top of Mt. Wilson. Here is what the profile looks like.

It is just up and up and up. I wasn't sure how far I wanted to go up this morning because this is only the third ride I have done outdoors this year. I basically spent all winter on the trainer and let the bike really slide in favor of my marathon training. I had allocated a three hour ride for today on my training plan, and frankly I wasn't sure if I could go for that long on these hills.

It was still dark when we started out a 6:15am. I don't usually ride in the dark, but there is very little traffic on highway two that early in the morning and I was with a group so I felt ok about it. I also brought along a high visibility jacket, red blinkers and a high intensity blinking LED headlight. Some of the others had no blinkers, no reflectors, no nothing -- and to make it worse they were riding in the middle of the road. Let's give ourselves a fighting chance here people!

Around 7:00am the sun finally came out and I started to sweat so I took my jacket off. Getting the right mix of clothing when cycling in cold weather has taken my a while and I still have alot to learn. I was wearing a Craft Windstopper base layer which I really like. It keeps you warm, but I never feel hot in it, and the windstopper material is great for the descents when it gets really, really cold. I was also wearing a pair of Castelli Primo bib knicker shorts. They have a fleece interior which really helps keep in warmth, but they are not full length so when the sun does come out you are not roasting. Other than that it was just a team jersey and armwarmers.

As I went farther up though it got colder and colder. There is actually snow up there. In fact, I was just up there last week for snow play with the family. We did some sledging and built a snowman. So it is definitely cold, at least in the shade. You went from being quit comfortable in the sun and then once you moved into shadow there would be this chill that just crept down into you bones. I quickly put my jacket back on. It helped, but it would make me sweat when I was in the sun.

This is a photo taken about an hour and a half in. You can see the road where I came up and in the distance you can make out the Los Angeles basin. At this point I was doing betting than expected, and so I decided that I would go for another hour and turn around, which would allow me to finish up in about 3.2 hours. I passed Clear Creek which is where I usually turn around and I felt really strong. A thought passed into my mind that maybe I could make it all the way to Mt. Wilson today.

Here is the view at about 2.25 hours. That is the way I came up. It is pretty spectacular in person. I decided that I was going to just keep going and see if I could make it to Mt. Wilson. I was not pressed for time which is unusual. This was because I had left extra early, and because I was not expected back until noon. So I thought why not. Let's go for it. I finally got to Mt. Wilson road and became very excited. It looked like it was going to happen. Mt. Wilson road is a little different than highway two. It is steeper in parts, but then has a few downhills and flat sections mixed in rather than just straight up.

This is the view about two miles from the top. There was lots of snow everywhere and it was getting colder and colder the higher I got. I finally got to the top at exactly three hours. That's 19.7 miles and over 5,200 feet of vertical climbing. Unfortunately the observatory pavilion was closed so I didn't get to see the view of the entire San Gabriel and Los Angeles valleys. It opens in April first so I guess I'll have to go back. But I do have proof that I made it to the top.

The way down was painful. Painful for my face and fingers. It was very cold and I was going about 30-35 mph. I had to keep my mouth closed or felt like my teeth were going to freeze and pop out. Every so often I had to stop and rub my hands vigorously to get some feeling back. I was pretty stupid to not bring my wind gloves. But I made it back. I got a flat a couple miles from my car. I was just thinking about how I had been up here many times and that I had never gotten a flat even with all the gravel. If you ever have those thoughts, stop! Here is a view of the path I took courtesy of Google Earth.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Details, Details!

My modus operandi is to get up early, pack my gym bag with my work clothes and then head to the gym wearing my workout clothes. This inevitably will lead to problems. Once I forgot my dress socks. Another time I forgot my belt. I have forgotten my underwear. I thought that I had done just about everything, and each time I learned an important lesson to be more careful and not make that mistake again. It has been a while, but today I broke new ground.

I guess that on my way out of the house I grabbed two dress shoes that don't match. In my defense, they look pretty similar from the back and are a similar color. At least I also was successful in getting a left and right shoe. So what to do? Wear my workout footwear to work? Flip-flops don't go with my suit too well.

Oh well, live and learn.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Precious Daylight

I was really looking forward to spring when I could ditch the trainer and ride outdoors. Here in sunny California weather is not usually an issue so what keeps me on the trainer is the amount of daylight. Due to my schedule I usually can only fit in a ride early in the morning, and I refuse to ride in the dark. I just don't think it is safe to share the road with groggy morning commuters in the dark.

So I was very excited to be out and about this Spring, but this year's earlier daylight savings time has put a serious kink into my plans. Looks like there's going to be another month of trainer rides at least.

This morning I did something a little different. I made my usual trip to the gym near my work, but took my bike. Instead of running, swimming, or using a spin bike at the gym I just got in a ride, and because I put my commute before my ride instead of after it I could ride just as the sun was coming up. It was alot of hassle getting all my bike gear packed up, and I always worry about someone breaking into my car and stealing my bike, so I don't know how often I will do this, but I really enjoyed it this morning.

Today I also decided to take the opportunity to do an outdoor Lactate Threshold test on the Ballona Creek bike path. It was the longest time I have ever spent in the drops. I think I may have spent perhaps a maximum if five minutes in the drops before, but this time I spent the entire 30 minutes of the test in the drops!

I never know how much credence to put into the results, but here they are. My new LT is 194 watts (a big jump up from 174). That actually seems about right to me just based on 30 min power historical bests I have recorded in the last few months, but the LT heart rate seems way too high at 164bpm. That is up from 146 and ten beats higher than my last running LT test. I'm skeptical of that number, but if it holds up that is an amazing increase.

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Pasadena Triathlon

I didn't do this event, because I it was only a week after the LA Marathon, but it is a local race for me. I had actually forgotten about it this year, but on my usual Saturday ride to the Rose Bowl on my way to Angeles Crest I came across the start.
This triathlon is interesting in that it is in reverse order. There is a running start then a transition to the bike and then a final swim finish in the nearby Rose Bowl Aquatics Center.
Looks like alot of fun. Maybe I'll try it next year.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

New Sidebar Links

I want to point out a couple new sidebar links on the right under my profile. The first is my Training Peaks training log. I'm going to be using Training Peaks this season, and it generates a nice little summary of weekly and year to date workout summaries. You can also explore deeper and see the actual workouts. I suspect few people actually care about my actual workouts so I'll spare people the details in my blog and leave that in separate place. If you don't use Training Peaks and are curious about what it can do, click on the link and you can get an example of the "public training log" it can generate.

The other link is to my profile on Athlinks. Athlinks is a social networking site similar to myspace, friendster or facebook, but it is for athletes. It collects the race results of thousands of races all over the world. If you collect your races you can have a really nice summary of your race results. You can also classify others as friends or rivals. Its fun. Check it out and put me down as a friend!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

My New Toy

I bought a new road bike last year, but I almost regretted not getting a triathlon bike. I always planned on getting one, but maybe two or three years down the line. Every time I saw a triathlon bike I would just love the look of the aero bars, the aggressive geometry and the aero tubing. Oh the aero tubing! How could I ever think of waiting that long. So I knew I had to keep the cost low so I knew I was looking at a used aluminium bike. I also knew that I wanted Campy components because my road bike is Campy and that makes it easy to swap wheels or cassettes. This is particularly important if you have a set of race wheels or a wheel integrated power meter like a Powertap, which I do. There aren’t too many Campy equipped Tri bikes out there. You see some on Ebay, but rarely in the size I would need. I have a long torso and short legs so standover height on bikes is a problem for me. I really like Cervelo frames but they have really high standovers. I would either need a bike with a long top tube for its size or something with a compact geometry.
Raleigh TT 006
I found this used Raleigh frame on Ebay for cheap. It has a really long top tube and just the right standover, so it works out great. It is a Kinesis frame made out of 7000 series heat treated aluminium. Very similar frames are sold under the brands of Kinesis UK, Jamis, K2, Schwinn, etc., but I have never seen one exactly like this one. Usually they have carbon seat stays, which this one does not or they have external cable routing. This one also has vertical dropouts while the Jamis Trilogy has horizontal dropouts. Any ways it’s a relatively low end frame, but what makes it cool is that it is a Raleigh. What’s cool about that you might ask? It has been a long time in the US since Raleigh was a cool brand. But I like the uniqueness of the bike, because Raleigh doesn’t make triathlon bikes. That’s right. They don’t make them. Well, Raleigh’s South African franchise makes one very similar to this with external cable routing called the 6000, but Raleigh USA does not make a triathlon bike. So how did this one come about? Raleigh sponsors a few cycling teams and made this one up custom for one of their teams. (Or more accurately ordered one from Kinesis in Taiwan and put their stickers on it.) I’m guess that it was made for the Recycled Cycling Team.
Raleigh TT 002
Another cool thing is that I think a Raleigh bike is the perfect companion to my Bianchi. These two companies are the two oldest bike manufacturers in the world and both have charted similar paths. Both made their mark in of cycling racing history, both have diluted their brand appeal by selling cheap mass market bikes and both have made a recent resurgence on the cycling scene as of late. They both also traditionally wear Campy. So there you go, a perfect match.
Raleigh TT 007
I built up the bike with new parts sourced from Ebay,, Excel Sports and let me just say that ProBikeKit is awesome. I went with Chorus components because I saved so much money on the frame I had extra money to put into the components. My favourite part of this bike is the crank. The new UltraTorque crank from Campy is so elegant in design that I just had to have it, even though plenty of traditional square taper cranks were available.
Raleigh TT 008
The hardest parts to find where the bar end shifters. It was not so much that you couldn’t find them, but more that you couldn’t find them for a reasonable price. They cost about three times the price of Dura Ace bar end shifters and for no reason other than they are less common.
Raleigh TT 003
For brakes I went with the Tektro R740. Lighter than Dura Ace or Campy Record. Another factor in the choice was that I wanted a quick release on the brake callipers because bar end brake levers never have quick releases. Campy brakes don’t have quick releases, and putting Shimano on a Campy bike is just weird – thus the Tektros. I also considered FSA brakes, but I found a great price on the R740s and couldn’t pass them up.
Raleigh TT 010
For the cockpit I wanted Vision. I never really considered anything else. It just looks so cool. I have always wanted Vision aerobars and now I’ve got them. The Vision carbon bars are not some much lighter than the aluminium ones so I just went aluminium with carbon armrests.
Raleigh TT 004
The wheelset is Zefiro K52 deep section carbon wheels. Nothing special here. A good solid wheelset that is a little heavy, but has an aluminium clincher rim so that I don’t have to swap out brake pads when I change wheels. They were also very cheap. I couldn’t even consider getting race wheels unless they were very cheap.
Raleigh TT 005
I tried a Profile Design Tri Strike saddle I had lying around, but there is no way I could get comfortable on that thing in aero position. In aero position you are crouched so far forward that you are basically sitting on your balls. I don’t know how anyone can do it with a regular saddle. I invested in an ISM saddle. It is basically the same shape as the Profile Design Tri Strike but with the nose cut off. That way my guys can hang free and I won’t suffer. It also has long rails so you can move the saddle forward or back as needed.

I love my new ride!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

LA Marathon Photo Log