Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stinky Spoke: Fun in the Rain

The middle of winter is a great time for a fun ride and this year I found out about the Stinky Spoke Poker ride and could not resist.  Most rode mountain bikes, but there was a good number of cross bikes, fat bikes, vintage bikes and well lets just, say others.

A nice touch is the poker competition, with riders collecting cards along the route.  Those with the best hands at the end of the ride stand a chance of winning a prize.  Needless to say yours truly lucked out, but enjoyed the game.

The ride starts with a monster climb aptly named "Heart Attack Hill" with an average gradient of 19%.  The prize for those that make it to the top without putting a foot down is a dog tag to recognize the achievement.  From there on in it is a mixture of rollers, single track, trails, a short section of road and finishing up on the river trail back to the start. 

At the finish there was a warm tent and changing areas, along with a band and a bar, allowing everyone to gather and share there stories.  The biggest story of the day was the weather which did not let up raining the whole day.  The good news was that it did not dampen anyone's spirits. 

I learnt next year will be the 10th anniversary for the ride and one not to miss.  Here is a picture leading up to Heart Attack Hill and a short video of the day - enjoy

Remember to Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sunday MTB Ride: Some days just don't go to plan

Training objective for the day, 3 hours of technical riding.  I should have just stayed in bed, well ok, I did stay in bed too long, and that for a late start.  Prepping for the ride I dropped the tire pressure after remounting the tires (tubeless) the night before.   Happy with the tire pressure I got changed and ready to roll. 

When I returned to the bike I was horrified to find my front wheel was flat.  I think my exact words were "you've got to be kidding me".  Not to be beaten I switched out the valve, as the most likely suspect, reseated the tire and pumped it up.   After leaving it for a bit I felt confident it would hold up.

I hit the trail and quickly figured out I was over dressed.  It might have been cold and wet but not that cold so before long I was wet from both the outside in and the inside out.  Resigning myself to the situation I got down to the business of riding, after all I had 3 hours of skills riding to complete.

About an hour and a half into the ride, my rear tire rolled leaving me with a flat.  I hate it when tubeless tires flat as you then have the sealant to deal with.  My approach this time was to slightly inflate the tube and just pop it in with the sealant.  No mess and a quick change, just not quick enough to stop me cooling off.  Still these things happen and I was back up and running.  Before long I was warm again and getting back in the grove when the rear end jammed up.

Stopping I found the rear derailleur had snapped in half.  Not something that happens that often but you can imagine I was not best pleased about the situation.  Not only did the derailleur snap, the broken half ran up into the wheel, taking out a spoke and putting a ding in the frames drop out.  Oh yeah and it had started to rain again.

I found myself with two options, walk out or try to rig something up.  Well I had my camera and I really did not want to walk out in the rain, so I decided to turn the bike into a single speed and record the situation live.  Yup, no staged or planned recording, just raw as it happened footage, wrinkles and all.  I hope you find it useful.

In the end I managed to get in 1 hour 50 minutes of the planned 3 hours.

Remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back on the trails (MTB) - 10th Jan 2016

After a successful cyclocross season, the next racing opportunity on the calendar is cross country mountain bike racing.  When I saw a 3 hour mountain bike ride added to my schedule, the reality of having to ride my mountain bike hit me surprisingly hard, even after months of preparing myself.  It is strange how a major accident can mess with your mind.  Just thinking about obstacles on the local trail can make me clammy.  I know it is the mind playing tricks with me and it is time to get out there and find my trail mojo.

I decided on a local ride with a good amount of climbing as well as some technical work.  In case you are wondering, no I have no intention of  jumping or taking big drops, that's a promise to Sarah I intend to keep.

Starting out on the road, it was great to have some friends join me.  After a few minutes on the trail and I checked in on myself to find that I was very tense, resulting in some very poor lines and one silly fall.  I gave myself a little pep talk and focused on relaxing.  Whilst not fully trusting the bike I did start to relax and get back into the flow.  As the ride went on things continued to improve and filming the ride was a good distraction.

Everything was going great and then on one of  bridges my front wheel washed out on the wet wood.  I went down hard but thankfully no real harm done.  I was pleased to find that the fall did not impact my riding and I was able to get right back into the grove.

Ending the ride safely it was good to face my fears and overcome them.  The demons are not all vanquished but a significant battle was won.

Enjoy the video and remember to keep it rubber side down and MaxLifeOut

Monday, January 11, 2016

December Training CTS #DEC40

When I saw the CTS training challenge at the beginning of December I was in two minds about it.  I knew I wanted to take on the Rapha 500 but both, well was it possible?  I put it in the back of my mind and focused on the Rapha 500 and my regular training plan.  Reviewing my diary I am pleased to report the challenge completed with a few hours in hand and a grand total of just under 43 hours.  Now that is a personal record :)

My Training Peaks Log for December 2015

You never know what you can achieve until you try.  You might just surprise yourself , like I surprised myself.

Remember keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday Training Ride

During the summer when I think of the winter, I think of dark, damp and miserable days when I am longing for long summer days and warm evenings.

I need to bank memories like today and draw on them, and even, dare I say, look forward to them.  Yes it was cold but what a glorious afternoon to go for a bike ride.

One of the great things about this time of year is riding just for the sake of riding. 

The only training agenda is endurance, leaving the rest of the time open to take in the views and appreciating time with your friends.

Heading out at 1pm we missed the cold of the early morning, although a part of me regretted it as the combination of sun, mist and frost was spectacular. 

On my way to teach Foundation Training this morning I stopped at Lake Sammamish State Park to spend a minute taking in the splendor and looking forward to the ride later in the day.

Short ride video

Remember to keep in Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Indoor Training: Zwift, Trainerroads and a Wahoo KickR

I don't know about you but indoor training has never been my favorite training tool.  It is however a necessary evil when the weather is less than ideal, and for those dark winter evenings.

During my recovery earlier in the year and then using the trainer between cross races I was finding my enthusiasm to ride indoors waning.  With specific training profiles from my coach I could not use Sufferfest videos and whilst I could build the profiles I needed in trainerroads, I have to be honest I was beginning to view them as a grind.

I had heard of Zwift from a friend who espoused its virtues and ultimately pursaded me to try it out.  My first try, was, shall we say, less than successful and I could not see what all the fuss was about.  I gave up as messing with technology was not what I needed at that point in time.  Needless to say we had further conversations and I was pursaded to try again.  This time it worked out and I was starting to get an idea of the platform when I ran my free trial out.

It almost ended there, but I am not someone who gives up easily, and I had enjoyed it just enough, so I decided to get a subscription and really try it out.  After all I reckoned I would be spending more time on the trainer over the winter and anything that could improve the experience was worth a try.  Plus I would have a good response for my friend when he bugged me about it.

Riding natively, I was surprised at how engaging it was and I have to say using it with the Wahoo KickR was seamless.  The change in terrain and the fact that you are riding with real people really takes it to the next level.  My friend and I arranged to ride together online.  Crazy as he lives a few doors away but this is the age of technology.  It was fun, if a little odd as you have no way to gauge speed as you approach each other, resulting in us leap frogging each other util we could settle into a power rhythm.  We setup skype to communicate as I don't know about you but typing whilst putting in an effort, is well, hard.  I did try out the mobile app and a couple of messages but it is not something I would do whilst training.  Oh and listening to your mate grunt and grown on Skype was a little perturbing and strangely satisfying.

When they added custom workouts I got excited.  Could it be a replacement for trainerroads? Well I found the builder to be basic and it took me far longer to setup a under/over program than it does in trainerroads, maybe as they develop it will get better but for now not as good.  The other challenge is that I do not always want the power to be dictated to me in ERG mode but rather have a profile that provides a target.

So I when this week I transitioned back to sustained under / over efforts I got to thinking could I use Zwift and could it improve my planned training session in the same way it does when I Just free ride. To be successful, I would need to run Zwift and Trainerroads concurrently and have Trainerroads control the KickR in Standad mode so I could dictate the power.  Long story short I got it all working and it totally improved my training experience.

During warm up I was able to watch riders pass me or ride with me, then as I approached my first steady state under/over I zoomed away and then picked up other riders.  During the rest sections I would get dropped and then have the chance to chase as I entered my second steady state.  What is normally a watch the graph effort became so much more about the riding and it helped me push myself without realizing it at times. Hmm that might be a minor negative and require a little more self control on my part.

Today I was picked up by a group ride of maybe 30 riders and that was a whole new experience. Then I rode with the same rider for 10 minutes during which time we pushed each other just like you would on the road.  It was strange seeing the name but not connecting, and all whilst operating within the parameters of my personal trainerroads profile.  I still have lots to learn about the program such as what the car symbol means and why a thumbs up appears.  There are still many things that could be improved and simply work better, but I for one am hooked for now and will continue to explore the capabilities in my quest to continually improve the indoor training experience.

-  Laptop with Ant+ USB adapter running Zwift
-  IPad using Bluetooth running Trainerroads
- Wahoo KickR in Standard Mode controlled by Trainerroads
- Wahoo TickR Hear Rate Monitor
- Garmin 810 as a head unit
- Garmin Cadence (Ant+)

Remember keep it rubber side down and MaxLifeOut

Monday, January 4, 2016

MaxLifeOutRides: 3rd January 2016

Sunday morning started out much the same as Saturday with the promise of sunshine.  Randy and I headed out expecting the temperature to raise as the sun came up.  

As we entered the valley our expectations were definitely not met.  In fact the temperature dropped dramatically to 16 degress F. 

The sunrise, frost and ice was stunning but it was not long before we lost the feeling in our fingers, toes and face.  It did not help that I flatted and I can tell you getting the tire off in the cold took two of us.

Enjoy the Video

We headed out of the valley and finally arrived in Duvall looking for a CafĂ©.  When we asked for coffee the hostess looked at us like we had two heads and I honestly thought she would say no, but we finally got seated.  Warming up we decided to get a bite to eat.  Now normally when I ask if there is a Gluten Free option I get help but not this time.   I asked "do you have gluten free options?" and the answer was "No".

Not to be deterred I ordered two eggs, bacon and asked if the potatoes had flour on.  I was told they could do the potatoes separately.  I was not expecting a flavorless giant pile of boiled potato bits. At least they tried. 

Fed and watered we headed out for the ride home.  The options we had were back into the freezing valley of death as Randy affectionately dubbed it or the Snoqualmie Valley gravel trail.  It was an easy choice - the gravel trail.   Which whilst the best choice it did result in a second flat which was a little frustrating.

Once off the trail we turned towards home.  As we rode along the road we felt a blast of hot air and the temperature went up dramatically.  It was the strangest sensation and one I have never experienced whilst riding.   In the graph from my Garmin you can see the temperature swings shown in grey with the elevation show by the green line.

With the raise in temperature the clouds formed and by the time we started to climb the mountains were hidden in cloud.  Not long after that it started to snow just to add another weather condition to our adventure ride.

After 54 miles and back at the start we propped the bikes up outside of Starbucks and went in for a well deserved drink and to reflect on the ride.  Definitely a ride to remember.

Looking forward to the next adventure so until then remember to keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

MaxLifeOutRides: 2nd January 2016

After a really pleasant recovery ride on New Years Day I was looking forward to another cold and sunny ride.  I created a last minute Facebook event for the ride on the off chance that others would like to join me.  Both Randy and Jason signed up and we were treated to a wonderful sunny winter day in the Pacific Northwest.  Enjoy the video.

Remember Keep it Rubber Side Down and MaxLifeOut

Rapha Festive 500 (2015)

2015  Rapha Festive 500 Challenge. Catch all the action in the video, 21 hours of riding condensed into 18 minutes.

Strava Profile

"The Spirit of the Challenge for me was connecting with the shear enjoyment of riding.  Taking the roads less travelled and hang the weather.  With the right equipment and motivation it is amazing what you can see and achieve"

I hope you enjoy my story and are inspired to get out and feel the wind on your face.  I have shared my thoughts on the kit I used below  (Rapha, Castelli and Endura).

-  Enjoy:

A week before Christmas I came across the Rapha Festive 500 Challenge.  Now firstly I have to admit to being a bit of a fan for Rapha kit as you might gather from the pictures and video.  Simply put I like the quality, fit and how it makes me feel.  So seeing Rapha and Challenge together prompted me to investigate further.   

That evening I was not into figuring things out and when it was not completely obvious what the deal was other than something to do with 500KM between Christmas and the New Year, I moved on.  I don't know why but the idea of riding 500KM over the holiday period stuck with me.  Deciding to find out more I learnt that it was a Strava Challenge and that the finishers could claim a Rapha roundel.

It seemed a worthy challenge and if I could complete it I would beat my own personal best for distance over consecutive days.  The fact that Rapha offered a roundel also seemed kind of cool making the challenge a little more special.   I decided to speak to my coach.  He thought it was a great idea.  He told me he had completed the challenge for the last couple of years and would be doing it again this year.  He then did what coach's do best, he inspired me (thank yo Jim).  That was all I needed, with my coach's blessing and my wife Sarah's support it was game on.

Now I had to strategize on my game plan and think about what the challenge meant to me.  Having finished the Cyclocross race season I was in need of reconnecting with the simple pleasure of riding.  After talking more with Jim I landed on a plan.  I wanted to use the time to ride roads and trails I don't normally ride and where I could carry a higher average speed allowing me to balance my time on the bike with time with my family.

With the plan in place I prepared for my first ride with the aim of banking some miles early should I not be able to ride a day or something came up. 

Excited to get going and also wanting to spend time with Sarah I was up at the crazy time of 5am on Christmas Eve with the goal of being home before lunch.  After racing in a skin suit and spending time on the indoor trainer putting on my new winter gear felt cumbersome but I soon appreciated it.  It was surreal riding in the dark and driving rain as I headed out for a ride to Fremont (Seattle) on the Burke Gilman Trail.  During the summer the trail is packed with walkers, runners, bikers and well you get the picture.  At 6am on a cold, wet Christmas Eve I had the trail to myself and as it went from pitch dark to dawn I was having a blast taking in scenery, lights and wide open trail and the rain just added to the experience.   Around 8am the rain stopped and I was approaching the Fremont Bridge, my turnaround point in the ride.

It was at that point mother nature decided to mess with me.  There is no easy way to say it other than to say it, so yup I needed to go, and I mean I needed to GO and not just a pee.  A sudden cramp, announced the fact that it was now an urgent need.  Now at 8am there was not an abundance of choices and even if there where I am not sure I would have wanted to use them.  But any port in a storm right, well there was no ports and the urgency was growing along with a spark of panic.  I had no option but to push on.  A short while later I reached the end of the trail and saw bikes leaning up against a shop window.  Could it be? was it possible? I rushed to the window, with backs turned inside I banged on the window.  When the rider turned around I was amazed to be looking at one of the riders I raced with.  I was saved.  Now if you have ever been in a similar position you can imagine the wave of relief that washed over me.  Business taken care of I was then ready to face the ride home.

A chance meeting and lets face it rescue I joined them as they headed out on the start of a morning ride.  It turned out that our paths would cross for a few miles and it was great to have the company.   After we parted company the final miles rolled by and I decided to take the long way home which was almost a mistake as about 15 miles from home I started to run out of steam.  With wobbly legs I made it home to be greeted by Sarah with a bucket of water and a sponge ready to clean my bike down.  My wife is awesome as I could not have cleaned the bike if I had tried but I did not have to worry, she took care of it all whilst I collapsed after the ride. 

Christmas morning I headed out bright and early.  The ride started dry but that did not last long, in fact it lasted about 15 minutes and then the heavens opened.  I was surprised at how good I felt after the previous days ride and for my second day I decided to explore the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.  It was fun to add a gravel trail to the route and I explored a part of the trail I had never ridden before.  Towards the end of the planned ride I still had some gas in the tank that allowed me to add some additional miles before heading home.

Boxing Day, I know it is not observed in the US but hey it's our roots. With a prior engagement to teach Foundation Training I did not have much time so I planned an early start and got in the distance arriving at the studio in time to teach my classes.  Still feeling good.

December 27th, I hooked up with a friend.  The weather was dry for the first half of the ride and it was great to ride with someone.  After a stop at Snoqualmie Falls to take in the sight he peeled off at the halfway point and I pressed on alone taking in a mix of gravel and road.   Rain was forecasted and sure enough the weather went from dry and cold to cold, wet and windy.  After fighting a driving head wind containing rain and sleet I was happy when it came time to head home satisfied with overcoming the conditions.

December 28th, with a break in the weather Sarah offered to try out her new electric bike and ride with me along the Burke Gilman trail. We met up at Marymoor Park and headed out.  It was great to be riding with her and the electric bike allowed her to ride at my pace.  What could be better, I was able to get in the distance and spend time with my wife.  The battery life was not as good as we had hoped but we made it back clocking the miles I needed.

December 29th, with only 30ish miles left I headed out to finish up the challenge 2 days early, with an evening ride.  It was a good feeling and checking in with my body I was happy with how I was holding up.   On my final day of the challenge I was treated to a wonderful sunset over the lake.   Arriving home I was proud of the achievement and looking forward to putting together the video diary.

Equipment Used

Pro Team Soft Shell Jacket
Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad
Brevet Gilet
Pro Team Soft Shell base layer
Merino Socks
Long Sleeve Pro Team Jersey
Team Sky Lightweight Snood
Team Sky Brevet Gilet
Winter Base Layer
Winter Hat Black
Deep Winter Socks
Winter Gloves
Merino Liners

I discovered Rapha this year and was impressed with the designs.  Dipping my toe I purchased a top and was hooked.  It quickly became my new favorite equipment.  During the summer I purchased the Pro Team Soft Shell Jacket and Winter Tights with Pad ready for the winter.  They both work wonderfully.  They have kept me warm and dry without compromising movement and they look great.  Christmas this year was a Rapha Christmas and I was very excited to try out my new kit on the challenge.  There is not a bit of kit I am unhappy with.  Worthy of a special mention are the deep winter socks and winter gloves and the merino liners are well plush.    On the flip side, I am not sure if I should have gone large on the jacket despite the sizing guidelines, it fits great but might be a bit tight which makes accessing the pockets a challenge.  The Pro Team Soft Shell base layer works great but seems a little short in length, that could be by design and I plan to call Rapha to find out.  As for the Tights whilst they are hands down the best I have worn they do seem a little drafty around the nether region.  I have ordered a second pair to allow me to rotate them and also to compare the fit.

Rosso Corsa Gabba Jacket

I have nothing but good things to say about the jacket.  It is light, comfortable, warm and keeps me dry, oh and I like the look of it.  It is a lighter jacket than the Rapha Pro Team Soft Shell but works well and is a good addition to my wardrobe.  Since I purchased the jacket at a store I was able to try different sizes and ended up purchasing a size up.

Commuter Rain Pants
Winter Gloves

I purchased the rain pants for cyclocross race warm up.  On Christmas Eve it was raining so hard that I decided to use as them as the last thing I wanted was to be soaked and cold.  I was concerned that they would be uncomfortable and fail to breath causing me to overheat.  I  was pleasantly surprised as I was able to ride 82 miles in them without feeling overly constricted or overheating. 

The winter gloves performed adequately, I was pleased with the warmth but I found my hands getting wet quickly.  The addition of the Rapha Winter Gloves was a significant upgrade and replaced the Endura's.  They are not bad and are now my backup gloves but they are nowhere near as good as the Rapha's especially with the merino liners which are just simply the most comfortable liners I have owned.

Thank you for reading and remember to keep it

Rubber Side Down