Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018 - Travel Day

You have got to love travel days.  A necessary evil for me now. but I can remember a time in the dim and distant past when I actually looked forward to flying.   After a night filled with restless energy and anticipation for the journey ahead I woke at 5am ready for Daisy our love bug of a dog to slip under the covers for an early morning cuddle. 

With bags packed Sarah drove me to the airport.  That might not sound like a big deal but for Sarah it is.  She faced her anxiety about driving in rush hour to see me off.  It is just another example of the support she provides for which I am so grateful.  On the drive to the airport I checked on the status of my bike.   I decided to ship it using and FedEx. I  entered my tracking number and discovered it was out for delivery.

Whenever I can afford it and sometimes when I can't, I try to upgrade my flights to either business or first class to make travel as painless as possible, you may think this is flashy but I don't do it for status, for me it is simply worth it to make the journey a little less unpleasant and today It certainly made getting through to the security line easier.

And then there is security.  I know it is necessary but does it really need to be so unpleasant, it is like a vortex that sucks the happiness out of everyone in the line.  Wouldn't it be different if the security personnel where cheerful and treated customers with respect and enthusiasm vs suspecting everyone.  I know this is unfair and I certainly would not want the job, but just imagine what could be. 

I got over it once I got dressed for the second time and finished with the security guard riffling through my backpack.  Go figure, my bag of electronics sailed through but fruit and a bag of potato chips set off the alarm.  

The rest of the flight was pleasant with the added bonus of food on the plane that I could actually eat.  Now that is something that does not happen very often with my diet.  

Upon arrival there was a driver arranged to take me to the hotel where my bike had been delivered and placed in my room.  What a different experience to having to drag my bike bag around with me.

After assembling my bike it was time to meet up with the Team Type 1 crew in the lobby and meet a couple of the riders.  After a few logistics we headed out for a nice dinner and good company.  It feels good to be here and tomorrow things get even more real.

I will be heading out for a short 1 hour recovery ride in the morning after breakfast then over to registration.

If you are enjoying these posts please think about a small donation to Team Type 1.  You can help me meet my fundraising goals by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small.

Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mavic Haute Route Rockies 2018 - The Adventure Begins

Haute Route, Mavic and Team Type 1 logo's

It was last year when my friend and the founder of Team Type 1 Phil Southerland shared his involvement in the Mavic Haute Route as an official charity partner for the event. Phil's stories inspired me and after a little research I decided the 2018 Haute Route Rockies would be my next big challenge.  As a bonus I could do it with my friends at Team Type 1 and help raise funds for a great cause. 

You can help me meet my fundraising goals by visiting my fundraising page, no amount is too small and will make a big difference.

Since the decision was made, training for the event has dominated my life.  From nutrition on and off of the bike, equipment, bike fit and planning.  The training started in December and since then I have spent 261 hours on the bike, ridden 4364 miles and climbed 197340 ft.  My legs have been almost constantly aching, I have had sore hands, feet and nether regions.  Sounds like so much fun doesn't it.  The things we put ourselves through for a challenge.  I could not have gotten here without the unwavering support and encouragement of my wife Sarah.  From nutrition to bike cleaning she has been with me every step of the way.   I am very grateful for the support of my coach and friend Jim Lehman who has kept me going through both the good and the bad and finally a thank you to my nutritionist Scott who helped us dial in different fueling options.  And now after all the training I am packed up and ready for the adventure to begin.

I have trained to race and I don't mind saying I am a little apprehensive as well as being nervous and excited all at the same time.  The event will be at altitude which is a complete unknown with regard to how my body will react.  I have never raced back to back for 7 days so that is also a big unknown.  I doubt myself and have high expectations of myself at the same time ,which I can tell you messes with your head.  The one thing I do know, is for better or worse it will be epic and I invite you to share in the adventure and join me on a journey into the unknown.

Thanks for reading and remember, keep it rubber side down and MaxLifeOut.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Cyclocross Season - Race Report

Racing Category 3 Men Aged 45+

NW CX Cup Series
1st - Series Winner
WSBA Cyclocross State Championship
2nd -  Silver Medal
MFG Cyclocross Series

Season Summary:   After being forced off the bike in June 2016 due to a medical condition that still persists.  I was given permission by my doctor to return to training 10 months later.  It was a gradual process of riding checking in with the body and increasing the effort.  I discovered that I was able to maintain the level of pain whilst increasing effort and power, enabling me to set my sights on the 2017 Cyclocross season. 

Having only raced one full season in 2015 returning from a near death mountain biking accident whilst training for the 2014 season and going on to win the CXR Cyclocross series and placed 3rd in the MFG series I had no idea how I would perform in 2017.  As a USA Cycling Category 3 I decided to race Category 3 men in my age group 45+ in the MFG series, self seeding   I decided not to race the CXR series and to target MFG as my B race series and the new NW CX Cup as my A race series.  It was a hard decision as I really enjoyed the CXR series in 2015 however the season schedule favored MFG. 
with the goal of upgrading to Category 2.

With Nationals returning to Washington in 2019 the NW CX Cup series was setup to help riders earn USAC upgrade points and ranking, this aligned with my longer term goal to race Cat 1/2 at Nationals and I know I am going to need a couple of years to be competitive in what is a very competitive and fast field of riders.

The season was without a doubt hard work not to mention long spanning September to December especially having to manage injury recovery on almost a daily basis as I coxed my body onto the bike each day for training.  I used an indoor trainer exclusively so that I could monitor my body and mitigate any warning signs.  In the end despite a couple of hiccups my results surpassed my expectations and I achieved my goal of winning the NW CX Cup Series and earning enough USAC points to upgrade to Category 2.  In addition I placed 2nd in the WSBA Cyclocross State Championship, with a frustrating crash in the last lap and 3rd in the MFG series.   You can follow the link for Race Videos.

Now my sights are turned towards training and the spring and summer efforts that will help get me ready for 2018 and my first Cat 2 races. 

MFG #1
Lake Sammamish GP
MFG #2
Moor Cross
MFG #3
Tall Tyler CX
NW CX Cup #1
MFG #4
Magnuson CX
NW CX Cup #2
Deschutes River CX
MFG #5
North 40 CX
NW CX Cup #3
Ridge CX
MFG #6
Woodland Park  
NW CX Cup #4
Fort Steilacoom Park (Nationals Preview)
NW CX Cup #5
Kayak Point Cross
NW CX Cup #6
States Warm-up
NW CX Cup #7
WSBA Cyclocross Championship

Friday, November 24, 2017

Gear Talk: Rapha Repair Service

Hitting the deck hurts and invariably results in road rash, and to add insult to injury shredded clothing.   That insult is magnified when you are wearing your new kit.  I am sure you know what I am talking about.

When I purchased my shorts from Rapha, I saw that a repair service was available but I have to be honest I did not think much about it until reviewing the state of my new Rapha shorts a few days after crashing in California.  I had literally worn them twice and here they were with holes in them.

When I got home I decided to try Rapha's repair service and I have to say I am a happy customer. Apart from the cost of shipping them to Rapha the service is free.  Sending them was easy.  From there it went dark, I was not sure if they had even arrived so I called Rapha.

Calling Rapha is never the experience I expect from a premium brand but it always works out.  I would like to see Rapha invest in their customer service training in the same way they have invested in their packaging experience.

I finally got put through to the guy who manages repairs and he was really helpful.  He confirmed they had arrived and that they would be sent to me shortly (no pun intended).

He was not kidding, two days later they arrived in the post.  One of my favorite things about Rapha is the attention they place on packaging.  It just feels special opening the packets and the repair was no exception.  It came in its own accident repair musette, a really nice touch.  The patching is well done and best of all I get my shorts back.

While it is not a service I want to make much use of, it is comforting to know that Rapha understands the impact of crashing and is there to support its customers by making the experience easy.  Thank you Rapha.

Until next time keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gear Talk: Track Bikes

If you have followed along with my race reports you will know that I am racing the same track bike I raced when I was a school boy back in England, and that it was purchased second hand from a friend (who I recently connected again with through this blog).

Over the years I have contemplated having it repainted but resisted the urge, it has the patina of time and use which money can't buy.  That is to say to some it looks like a crappy banged up bike. Whilst to others it is retro cool.  At a recent track day a rider outright said to me "I thought I was the only one with a crappy bike, but I've got a new one now" or something to that effect.  I can remember being a little taken aback.  Then moments later I was approached by another rider admiring my ride.

Comments aside, like all good gear heads I could not help but be curious if a new bike would not feel or ride better.  You know how it is, the thought wiggles in and before you know it your are researching your next ride.  I looked at the latest bikes from the likes of Cervelo and BMC and browsed the Internet, shocked at how little information is available.  I got really excited about the Cervelo T1 only to find out that they stopped production in 2012.  I then asked a friend who builds frames to give me a quote for a steel frame, which I reasoned would be a great way to go.  He produced some great drawings and I was almost at the point of pulling the trigger.

Then like all things, reality kicked in and I realized, I have gotten sucked into the new stuff zone without really knowing what I wanted. Sure I could tell you the use but not what I wanted and how it would improve my riding.  Then a conversation with my coach confirmed I needed to rethink my expenditure especially with the cyclocross season just around the corner.  After all if I did get a steel frame built would it really be much different. Well I guess I will find out some other day as for now my old boy is still awesome in my eyes.

Whilst inspecting the bike at the weekend I was horrified to discover that my bar tape had slipped.  I felt like writing to the manufacturer and letting them know that the tape had slipped after a mere 30 years, well I would if I had any idea of the company.  And so came an end to he era of zigzag blue bar tap.  As I stripped it off Sarah gave a horrified cry of "what you doing?" I had to reply it's time, it served me well.

Now one thing I did reason with was the benefit of new wheels, after all mine are 30 years old and going strong but 30 years old all the same.

A little research and there seems to be some benefit to deep dish wheels other than they look cool.  On the track fast wheels help you spin up quickly and once spinning, help you keep your speed.  Here we hit the next challenge, nice wheels come at a nice price and I have hit my gear budget pretty hard this year so I decided to see if I could pick up a second hand pair.  My patience paid off, ok I got lucky at the weekend, and today I picked up a set of Essor Areodash 88cm Carbon wheels from Craigslist at a fraction of the cost.  Yes original owner, with receipt and we meet in a public place.  No shady dealings here.   I am not familiar with Essor but they seem to get good reviews so I took a chance.  I will let you know my thoughts once they have been ridden in anger.

I guess I am just in a curious mood right now but after having ridden 19 and 23 tires I was wondering at the weekend what a set of 26 or 28 would feel like.  One good thing about an old frame is that I have loads of clearance to play with.  Well no decision yet but stay posted and I will let you know what I experiment with as the current tires need to be replaced and all I have are 26 or 28 so one set is going on the new wheels.

I would love to hear your thoughts on track bikes, wheels and equipment, just leave your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time keep it Rubberside down and MaxLifeOut


Friday, June 24, 2016

Gear Review - Bib Shorts

A word on a seriously important subject, ok the title gave it away but I am sure you will agree that good shorts can make or break a ride.  Well that is what all the manufacturers will have you believe and having spent multiple 7 hour days in the saddle I wanted to share my totally unscientific finding with you.

First and foremost I am a big believer in how the kit we buy makes us feel.  We will justify and adjust to almost anything if it makes us feel good.  That at the end of the day is what branding is all about.  We identify with what the product stands for, represents or symbolizes and in doing so we feel great about ourselves through a mix of internalizing the feeling and lets be honest sending a message to others.

So what has this got to do with shorts I hear you say.  Well until this year I had not really thought much about the quality of shorts.  To be honest I still have shorts that I use on my trainer that are 10+ years old and they work just great.  No the padding has not worn out and no I don't get sore and yes they get washed after every ride. 

The only real consideration I had was to make sure the padding felt good and that I liked the design.  As a result many of my shorts turned out to be made by Champion Systems.  Not because I chose the brand but because the kit was manufactured by them.

Then I discovered the dark secrets of high end quality shorts, or did I just get sucked into the marketing hype.  As I prepared for my Tour of California adventure it seemed reasonable and logical that high end shorts would make my time in the saddle more comfortable.  The decision was helped after a long weekend training ride when I noticed that after 5 hours my Champion System shorts were certainly less comfortable. Yes, my bum ached.

With so much invested in my trip I was not going to cut corners with my choice of clothing.  I went on the hunt for the best shorts on the market.  It was then that I was introduced to Assos shorts.  To give you some idea of  my cycling fashion awareness, I had no idea of the elite status of Assos.  Sure I knew it was a well known brand but that was it.  The next shock was how much Assos clothing cost.  The people I talked to and the articles I read all told me that Assos bib shorts where the best in the World and the "crème de la crème" was the T.Championissimo_S7.  They certainly had the best price tag.

I am going to humbly admit that I am just as susceptible to branding as anyone, ok I might be more susceptible than most and yes I like wearing high quality kit that others admire.  There I said it, I know it is vain but no point beating around the bush.   The elitism of Assos spoke directly to my ego and whilst my back was turned, my brain and ego got together to justify the need to own the shorts despite a tiny suppressed voice deep in my conscious yelling "what the hell are you thinking", needless to say I ignored it and helped by an unexpected but welcome discount I was the proud owner of a pair of T-Championissimo_S7 bib shorts.

So what did I think of them? Well they are comfortable and I like the low cut front when it comes to quick pee breaks.  I would love to say I had an "aaaahhhh" moment when I put them on, or when riding but I simple did not.  Don't get me wrong they are comfortable I just did not experience the wow factor everyone talked about.  One thing I do not like is the light color of the pad, lets face it with race nerves and chamy cream, well lets just say shorts need washing after every use.

Despite what you have just read after a number of comfortable rides and the need for three pairs of shorts for my trip I rationalized that having the same shorts would be the best idea so I resolved to acquire two more pairs.  Fate however had other ideas.  At the last minute my order for two pairs went south and I was left hanging.  Despite the cost it seemed that demand was high and I could not find anyone who had availability before my trip.

What to do?  Well I could go with another brand, but which one.  I would love to say at this point that I have experience with all brands.  That would be cool but not true.  The only other brand I had experience with was Rapha.  Rapha is a premium brand from the UK and one that I have mixed emotions about.  I am a big fan of their designs and when they fit I have been extremely happy with them, however the sizing is somewhat hit and miss.  The good news is that they have an excellent return policy which makes purchasing different sizes easy to do if you don't mind going through the hassle of returning the ones that don't fit.  In general the quality is great but I can't say it is hands down better than any other brand I have owned.  It does however feel special to me and I am unashamedly bought into that feeling whilst knowing I am sometimes paying a premium of the design, the name and the feeling I get wearing them.

So with nowhere else to go for shorts and not wanting to try the unknown I opted for Rapha.  I selected both lightweight and brevet bib shorts.  The good news was that they were half the price of the Assos shorts but would that show up in quality and ride comfort.  Well time would tell.

They arrived on time and true to form the sizing was all over the place.  The Brevet shorts were too big but luckily the Lightweight shorts fitted.  I am going to have to say putting them on felt good and I really liked the design much more than the Assos shorts.  The fabric of the Brevet shorts felt really soft and comfortable but alas I would not be able to return them in time for the trip.

So armed with my one pair of Assos T-Championissimo_s7 and two pairs of Rapha Lightweight bib shorts I headed out to put them through the paces over 8 days and 740 miles.  So what was the verdict?  I really could not tell any difference between the Rapha and Assos shorts and whilst I would love to say there was something about the Assos shorts that warrants double the price. For my undercarriage the value just was not there.   The one thing they have going for them is the statement that you are wearing the most expensive and exclusive shorts on the market.  If that floats your boat then they could be for you. 

As a result of my totally unscientific experiment  I discovered that for rides around 3-4 hours Champion System bibs are just fine.  For longer rides both the Assos and Rapha shorts performed equally well while I did notice increased discomfort with the Champion System shorts. 

May you always ride in comfort and until next time keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wednesday Night Track Race Report #4 (Mixed Emotions)

It is with mixed feelings and emotions that I sit down to write this report.  I promised myself when I started to blog I would share the good and the bad and above be honest and objective so here goes.

If you have ever raced you will know what I am about to talk about, but if you haven't well I hope this helps with some perspective.  I love to ride and I love to race but it does not come without anxiety and nerves.  Am I good enough, will I be on form, can I stay upright and a myriad of other doubts and of course the dire need for many visits to the toilet.  Yup racing is the best laxative in the world, just saying.  So when you are stuck in a traffic jam with 30 minutes until the race start you can imagine the state of calm that existed within the confines of my car. 

It took me another 10 minutes to finally get to the car park where I needed to assemble my bike, get checked in, get dressed and warm up.  Sarah had ridden down to see me and was sporting a grazed knee, some friends had turned up to cheer me on and I was like a headless chicken rushing to get ready.  If you are wondering this is totally not the way to prep for a race.  In the end I managed a 10 minute warm up before the track was cleared

The plan for the night was the same as last week.  Ride both the Master B and Cat 4 events to maximize the racing and race intensity for training.  It is hard not to focus on my overall position especially since I was in second place for the Master B series going into the race, but the goal is the long game and so the stage was set.

Master B Point-a-Lap (3rd)

In a point-a-lap race you score 1 point for every lap you cross the line in first with the last lap having 3 - 2 -1 points for the first three riders across the line.  As the first race of the night I wanted to warm up so I stayed in the field and did not go out early to contend points.  As we neared the end of the race I saw the opportunity to grab a few points.  I was however a marked man.  The race leader saw me go and using my wheel managed to come around me in the final few meters, I had done enough however to secure 3rd place and open the account for the night.

Category 4 Point-a-Lap (3rd)

With one race in between I rolled around the warmup circuit and prepared mentally for my next race.  Where there were 8 riders in the Master B field there were 22 riders in Cat 4 and the dynamic of the race was very different.  Right out the gate the Cat 4 race leader went after points but I sat back with a longer game in mind.  Towards the end of the race I saw my opportunity and stole some points in the final sprint doing enough to earn a 3rd place finish.

Master B Miss-n-Out (4th)

A Miss-n-Out also known as Devil take the hindmost is a race of attrition with the last rider across the line being eliminated from the race until there are 3 riders left.  It is a tactical race and this time I got the tactics wrong.  One of the rules of track is once you are in the sprinters lane another rider cannot enter it and you cannot leave it.  The classic trap in a miss-n-out is to be caught in the sprinters lane and have all the riders come over the top of you.  I avoided that trap until 4 laps to go when I was the one trapped.

Category 4 Belgian Win-n-Out (1st)

In a Belgian Win-n-Out there are 4 bells in the race a set number of laps apart.  On the 1st bell the race is for 4th place, on the 2nd bell the race is for 3rd place, on the 3rd bell the race is for 2nd place and on the final bell the winner takes the race.  With 22 hungry riders I settled into the pack and kept a close eye on the race leader who was also hanging back.  He is strong and I calculated that he would probably go for the win, either way I had decided to see the race out to the final sprint and stay true to my goal for the night.  As we approached the 3rd bell he started to move up the field and then to my surprise attacked, I started to go with him then pulled up as he took off for 2nd place.  It was a tactical move but one that was not liked by the rider behind.  I slide back in the field as we jostled for position.  At the final bell I locked onto a wheel and he took off after the win but I was glued in place and as we came around the final bend I put the hammer down and was able to out sprint him to the line to take the race.

Master B Scratch Race (1st relegated to 7th)

The final Master B race for the evening.  A straight forward scratch race with one $10 preme.  We rolled out and from the start the race was one of tactics over speed with no one wanting to put too much work in.  At the bell for the preme I was in a good position and thought way not have a dig.  It worked out and I scored $10 after which I settled back into the pack.  As we approached the final laps the pack moved to the top of the track with everyone on the barrier, you could feel the tension and the energy around you as everyone was waiting for the bell.  At the bell a rider went long and I came in on his wheel, it was a horrible position to be in as I knew everyone was lining up behind me.  The attack came into the 3rd corner and I accelerated to stay with the field as we came out of the last corner I was laying down everything I had and the finish had shrunk to a single point that I intended to get to first.  I took the lead just as we hit the finishing line taking the win or so I thought.  As we rolled out I was first congratulated by the second place rider then three riders in turn rebuked me for not holding my line.  I will be honest I was confused as I had not thought I had deviated from my line but these are good riders and I will always take feedback and be the first to put my hand up and accept responsibility for my actions.  What I did not know was the level of complaint made which resulted in me being relegated for dangerous riding to the back of the field.

Cat 4 Scratch Race (result pending)

I had no time to dwell on the previous race as I rolled up for the last race of the night.  I was tired but fully intended to dig in and have a go as it was my last race of the night.  As we dropped in it was clear that this would be a very different race than the Master B.  I sat back in the field and watched the action not taking part in the premes and not chasing down a lone break.  As we hit the bell I was not in an ideal position sitting around 10th and was forced to accelerate to catch the leaders, I closed the gap on the back straight and went wide in an attempt to come around them.  I ran out of track and finished in the top group.  It was great to find out that a friend had won.  My result is pending.

Coming off the track I was greeted by a very confused and angry Sarah.  She did not understand why I had been relegated and she encouraged me to find out more.   I approached the judges to ask for feedback and was greeted by my second surprise of the evening, I was told curtly that I had been relegated for dangerous riding out of line.  What I wanted was to understand was exactly what had been seen but the attitude I was greeted with left no room for questions.  I really appreciate judges and their efforts to keep everyone safe, what I really dislike is when it is delivered in an officious and disrespectful way, it simply creates the wrong energy.  That by the way goes for riders too.  I totally get that they have to deal with riders with attitude but it is not like we were racing for big money or the world championship.   Whilst it was disappointing to lose the points, it was not the end of the world and I personally had gotten what I needed out of the effort.

I accept the feedback of my fellow riders and will take it to heart so as not put others at risk as I would not want to be put at risk.  The sad thing is that the whole incident left a bad feeling in the air and Sarah and I left on a downer which is not how I want to feel about a sport I love and I certainly don't want to have bad feelings with those that I choose to spend my time with. 

I shared the events with my coach and now with you.  What is past is past and I will look forward to my next evening of racing with renewed energy, lessons learnt, oh and front and back cameras so I can review my racing lines in the future.

Until next time keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut