Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A short unplug

It's that time again... Time for me to pack my bags and the missus and take a few days off in the surf and sand. I know you will all miss my weekly update terribly, but I'll be back, unless they find a need for a crappy cyclist / car salesman down in Florida of course...

That said, I've been getting some good work done in preparation for my upcoming week of laziness. My FTP Test was last Tuesday, and despite considering myself much better at them than I used to be, I still allowed myself to get a little too worked up too early... leading to me completely blowing up 16 minutes in. What really stinks about that? I had to redo it on Thursday! Fortunately reason dominated my pacing on the second attempt and I managed to grind out a few watts higher than my last test. Not a bad effort considering I probably started a little on the "too conservative" side overcompensating for Tuesday. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm closing the gap to where I was before my unscripted layoff last year. On Saturday I set a little "indoor milestone" thanks to the rain... I did a 100 miler on the trainer! Something Zwift made MUCH easier to stomach.

Even managed to take the KoM right before hitting 100

It was a big boost for my confidence in my endurance slowly returning to me. Of course on Sunday there were multiple people who rode the entirety of the men's elite Richmond course! That's some serious time in the saddle on Zwift!

Also, Ironman Chattanooga was this past weekend (and Augusta for that matter) and one of my good friends Sharon Deane broke her past Ironman PR by over an hour!

Cobb Mobb superstar
I admit, after checking in on her a few times I started to feel the pull to sign up for another big event... but common sense quickly reigned me in. I'm just now starting to not feel terrible after a few days of consistent riding... don't think I'm ready to start adding running back in yet ;)

Chatt also got the nod for the 2017 70.3 World Championships, and that's pretty exciting. I'm sure I'll have to make a trip out there to see what all the fuss is about!

For now however, thanks for reading this quick update. I'll be back in two weeks with something (hopefully) a little special to share!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Going Narrow

It was time for the work horse (that is, the CAAD8) to get a little TLC. It still had the Microshift cables on it from when I bought the White groupset! (And yes, I still like my Microshift White... a lot) I'm not sure how many miles that equates to, but needless to say, it was time for a tune-up.

I've gotten tired with relying on my LBS every time I need a cable or housing (as I often squander it with a bad cut or some other mishap...) so I decided to upgrade the garage once more with a full kit of Shimano fileboxes (that's 100 shifter cables and 100 brake cables, along with housing for both) which is bringing the garage one step closer to "home shop" territory.

While I was at it though, it was time for some new bars. The freebies I have been rocking the last few years are ok, but nothing exciting and certainly not as lovely as the 3T Ergonova's I have on my CR1. So the hunt for some new drops commenced. My first stop was obviously 3T, and I definitely felt the draw of the new Aeronova's... but even I couldn't bring myself to paying $300+ for bars for the CAAD. However, I did find something else that caught my eye. A pair of NOS Oval drops for women coming in at a slim 36cm center to center. That's old school aero. They were also dirt cheap and I liked the idea of slimming down from 40cm bars.

New Bars!
I have always ran 40cm because... well... that's what I was told that was my measurement. Of course for years I never questioned it, that was just the right number...right? I mean, a fitter did tell me that. And I read on the internet that you measured shoulder width (or width +2cm) for bar width... so why question it. Because... I can't leave things alone. If I had just listened to the first thing I was told about lengths on bikes, I'd still be running 175 cranks (as opposed to 160's and 165's) and keeping my bars barely below my saddle height. Nowadays, to me at least, fitting is about asking as many questions as you can, seeing where the limit is and then working backwards from there. It's worked well for me in TT positioning, so why not with road equipment as well.

Considerably narrower than my old bars. Deda Tape is actually pretty nice (and cheap) as well.

I had read that handling would be impacted, but other than the first few minutes of the first ride feeling different, I can't say that I think it's any different. Comfort seems basically the same as well, with just a little more fatigue in my hands (although that could be dialing in the brifter position or the new bar tape as well) towards the end of the ride.

Oh, and speaking of bar tape... I finally figured out how to wrap a figure 8... no extra strips of tape required. This was a big personal victory for me, as historically I have been absolutely terrible at wrapping bar tape efficiently. No more! Mechanic level up!

No Gap, and no extra strip!
And while we're talking about narrow... the Speed Concept is also running on a narrow cockpit. The Brezza II Nano's only measure out 30cm! As I mentioned earlier, I like the idea of finding the limit and working backwards... the astute and studious among you will remember a few years ago I tried an "aero or die" setup on my Cervelo. That was past the limit for me for triathlon (although I might be willing to consider it again for TT's.) and so the Nano's were the next step backwards. After a few short rides on them, I would admit I wouldn't feel terribly comfortable riding them on a crowded course full of triathletes (although it's a very real possibility that would fade with a little more time on them) but they seem perfect for TT's, where very little (180°s and starts mainly) time is spent on the base bar or braking. They also look sweet, and let's be honest, that counts for something!

Speed Concept cockpit. Not a good scale for how narrow the bars are.

It seems like there is never a day without a project at the Wit's garage, and the current undertaking is an old Nishiki steel frame that was donated to me. It's a rust bucket, but I'm hoping that some tlc will have it back up and moving sometime in the future. I would prefer not to turn it into a fixie, but restore it to something like 7 speed glory. Maybe a Shimano 600 kit or some Suntour.

More to come soon!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Easy Life

Taking it easy
I admit, this one is going to be a bit thrown together... I had this post ready and waiting for some proofreading, but blogger decided NOT to save this is my Wednesday morning best re-do. Enjoy the smooth sailing rough waters ahead.

This week's musings are about dialing things back and taking it easy, specifically in regards to training.

"Easy" days are something I used to take for granted, things I didn't "really" understand. And I assure you, I'm not nearly an outlier in that respect. I see very few of my peers doing easy days, scheduled or not. And even the one's (like my previous self) who DID have scheduled easy days generally don't do easy work on them. So, let's talk about what "I" do differently now, and you can compare / contrast for yourself.

Easy Days
Up until I was forced to wisen up, my easy days (or the easy parts in my workouts) were never truly easy. I would run a little bit slower than my "normal" pace, or bike at a nice steady output. What I was really doing was avoiding my "easy" zones altogether. They are slow...slower than you think. My easy rides used to be around 180-220 watts (of a 300w FTP) but as I've slowly started rebuilding, my easy rides now hover around 80-90 watts. It's almost comically easy... but that's the point. Recovery, not building fitness. At a ~19 5k PR, I used to do easy runs in the high 7 low 8 min mile pace... too fast. (Of course I'm currently not running...but you get the idea) I think a big part of my nose dive into OTS spawned from my lack of getting proper recovery in my workouts.

The funny part is... training that easy isn't easy. Go try it tonight if you don't believe me. Jump on your trainer and try to spin below 90 watts (without going over) for an hour. Then tell me if that wasn't difficult... it's very easy to blow that away without even thinking about it.

Warmups and Cooldowns
These are the other things that I used to get very wrong. Warmups...sometimes I would get those right (before TT's mainly) but cooldowns...hahaha. That's what you do sitting on the couch, right?

Well, no. Kind of like a race car motor, your body doesn't really love going from cold start to pedal to the metal, nor does it like to be shut off from max RPM's. The warmup can really make or break the following effort, and the cooldown can likewise sabotage the next days effort. That's why you see a lot of interviews with pro riders done on their trainers/rollers following a stage, they need to ease their body back into the normal running state.

Speaking of easy days... that's what I've got lined up for this evening. Last night I did another Zwift Training Race through the Richmond UCI Worlds course... managed to hold on to the A group for the first 3 laps, then got dropped on the final climb (too many matches burned already) and finished 5th about a minute down. Still, I was happy, last time I did a ZTR I didn't even make the B group finish... Finally I'm starting to gain a little strength back!

Thank you guys so much for reading! I really appreciate it. Until next time...take it easy!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Surviving DragonCon

It's been a few year's since I made my way down to Atlanta for a weekend of costumes, forums and just an overall party atmosphere you don't find very many other places. This time Jenny decided (perhaps due to my "rose-coloring" of the number of people who would be present...she's not a crowd fan.) to join me, along with one of my friend's and his wife. The four of us departed Friday morning...way too early... and arrived at our hotel (the airport Hilton) before 8a.m. After checking in early, it was a quick breakfast and off to start the show!

In retrospect, this year wasn't as "enjoyable" as my previous trip, primarily because I knew the futility in trying to "rush" anything (there's just too many people) but couldn't convey this to the others properly, leading to some frustration on everyone's part. Also, four different people who wanted to do different things (personally... I just wanted to find a seat in the action, get a drink and watch all the people...but I digress) is tough to make work in any scenario.

I also learned that the MARTA is a scary place. No thanks in the future.

Anyways, I did have a great time, but let's get on to some of the good pictures! (Well, ok pictures...since they made us turn the flash off a lot ended up being too dark)

Captain Morgan, a true hero

I know it's the DuckTales robot... I just can't remember his name

Jenny and Myself waiting in line (of course) to get coffee

My favorite part! The great drink names!

A Jedi!

Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal... that thing must have been a nightmare to maneuver.

Zangief and Cammie from Street Fighter

I'm not even going to try to spell his name... but the bad guy from 300

Rave Spartans?

The Average Joes

Some kind of Pokemon characters

MRS Pac-Man, seemingly waiting to use the girls room...

Some elves who turned away at the last second.

Deadpool convention... including marriage proposal (she said yes from what I heard)

A female "Ash" from Army of Darkness/Evil Dead

Well, back to the real world, at least for a little while!

Oh, if you have time, check out William Ritter's blog post about Overtraining, I even get a mention. (And William's Blog is great besides this specific post)

As always, thanks so much for reading! 

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The New Nightmare (Of the Trek Variety)

RIP to Wes Craven. I've always loved horror movies, and Freddy (at least the first few films) has always been on top of that list. Scream came out about the time I was becoming a teenager and re-invigorated me to watch when I said "I'll be right back," lest I get stabbed in the dark!

Best cameo ever
Speaking of Nightmares, The Speed Concept continues to prove a challenge to my mechanical prowess. After becoming a self taught prodigy on the adjustment and tuning of the rear brake, my new challenge has been the rear derailleur, or specifically, making Nokon cables work with it.

The Speed Concept (at least the 1st gen) is the only bike I've ever applauded and cursed the design of at nearly equal levels. It's clear Trek was on their A-Game when it came to making a fast bike. Unfortunately, it seems that with that seemingly sole focus they eschewed anything resembling "user-friendliness." This bike was designed for you to build and ride it the way they sent it to you (err...your dealer) preferably with Di2 I suspect.(which admittedly would have made cabling a ton easier.)

The problem I ran into with my Nokons...after of course crafting my own top tube cable holder so that the concept would even work... was that it was tough to apply sufficient tension to the housing without pulling said housing through the frame. At bottom bracket the chance of the housing getting gummed up seemed like an absolute. Numerous times I'd get it pulled to what I thought was a sufficient tension, only to have it turn out that after a cycle of shifting I'd have cable sticking out the end of the shifter. Then I'd find extra slack and the entire process would start over. Did I mention that to route a cable through the liner successfully I had to drill a larger hole in the bottom bracket guide, and that to make that sharp turn all the nokon links had to be removed from the exit of the chainstay so the cable could have enough slack to allow the tight bend. Not for the feint of heart I assure you. Many beers were consumed and curses made in the name of making it work.

However, the final outcome was never in question. I knew I would eventually get it to work so long as my sanity didn't fail me, and so now it's ready for a fitting and to be put through it's paces! Huzzah! Next project! Here's the finished pics!

Probably not the race wheels of choice in the end, but otherwise built as I wanted.

The back end ;)

There's a lot of goofy text on there... like "hold my beer and watch this"

A little view of the top cap and the continued pirate theme

I'm actually on my way back to Dragoncon on Friday, so hopefully I'll have some cool pictures to share next week! Wish me luck in surviving!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Supplemental thoughts

Something I actually get quizzed on quite a bit after my misadventures and recovery from my layoff is what kind of supplements I use. Let's get it out of the way first and foremost, this isn't a medical suggestion, I'm not a doctor (I don't even play one on TV) and screwing this stuff up can be detrimental to your health. So do your own research (always) and talk to your doctor before you go hog wild on some of this stuff.

So many supplements, but how much of it is quality stuff?
With that out of the way, the first thing is finding a brand you can trust. All supplements aren't created equal unfortunately, so the multivitamin from your grocery store might not be the same quality as what you get from somewhere like Thorne. It's not always a case of you get what you pay for, but there are a LOT of questionable quality pills on the market, so again... Research research research before you decide to buy. Personally, there are three companies I feel pretty safe saying I'd be using their products. This isn't exhaustive or even comprehensive, just some I like.

My personal favorite
Thorne Research / Exos - This is what I use for pretty much everything. Exos (formerly ThorneFX) even has a scheduled delivery you can setup online, (they even discount it if you commit) so you can set and forget and still not run out of product. I'll be honest, I chose Thorne out of the three companies listed because that's what my doctor uses and recommends. With similarly good reviews, I thought it was the safe play to use them.

Some of the best reviews online!
Pure Encapsulations - This is the one company I listed that I've never actually used. However, they were the first brand I came up with on my own searches. Do some googling "best quality supplements" and reviews on Pure Encapsulations and you'll likely come to the same conclusion. They have their own sports segment and everything looks to be top notch. The only thing I have against them is their website... it looks very infomercial'ish.

Simple and efficient
Now - Generally the cheapest of these companies and with a "minimalistic" style, Now nonetheless has an excellent reputation for quality products. This is the only brand of the ones listed that I can find locally in Knoxville. The products I have used have been excellent in my opinion.

So, what do I take?

Multivitamins. Capsules over pills and a morning/night mix. I think that for athletes (and especially the endurance variety) it's just a good catch all for most of us to be taking. Yes, you should be getting everything in your diet, but it's easy to let something fall through the cracks and for the most part you're pretty safe from oversupplementing to a dangerous level with a multi.

Iron. I think there is probably more low iron/ferritin in endurance athletes than most of us know about, but Iron is one of those things you shouldn't / can't guess wrong IMO. After multiple blood panels I've been set to taking two iron pills daily because I just can't seem to keep good ferritin levels while training without it. Iron sucks getting used to... headaches and constipation are fun symptoms to deal with until the body acclimates. Too much Iron is very bad as well, so again... know what you're getting into!

Vitamin D. Another thing that a lot of people seem to be lacking is "vitamin" D. I believe you want this in liquid form and start with a few drops during winter and possibly during summer as well if you are like me and avoid the sun like a vampire.

Zinc and Magnesium. I used to take ZMA's (a mix) before bed, but recently have split them up and am dosing magnesium regularly but zinc only after tough workouts. That has a lot to do with my personal levels, but I also have come to think that it's probably best overall to split them up.

Melatonin. Personally I think I sleep much better taking melatonin than when I skip it, so I use it. It's the only thing I've listed that I've continued to use since I was in high school, so I guess it has won me over.

And that's pretty much it. I take BCAA's and some protein powder post workouts, and sometimes cycle Beta-Alanine before races, but none of those are really in the same category.

That's what I take, and it has been working well keeping me healthy. Of course once again, your specific needs could be quite different, so I encourage you to do your own research and talk with somebody a bit more qualified!

Thanks for reading, I've been slammed at work this week so hopefully all this came together (after multiple stop/starts in the text.) in a coherent way! Regardless, I appreciate you slogging through it!

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tips for Triathletes first Criterium

One would think bike racing would be an easy thing for a triathlete to come to and do fairly well at, and to some extent you would be correct. However, there are many aspects that are both intimidating and frustrating for triathletes, especially for the most taboo of races... the Cat 5 crit. Road races are generally a bit smoother transition because I would guess the majority of triathletes still participate in group rides at least semi-regularly... and besides the tone of a bike race being a bit more serious, it can easily turn into a group ride with a few attacks and a sprint.

Knoxvelo has a training crit series every year which, while having an A & B group for the more experienced, focuses on the C group and helping people get into crit racing. Unfortunately, even "beginner friendly" crits are often anything but. The key difference between a triathlon and a bike race... everyone at the bike race is there to win. (At least in theory... to accomplish a goal is more accurate) As a rule cyclists are a bit more uptight / serious business than the normal triathlete atmosphere meaning even beginner series races can feel anything except friendly. So, having done a good number of crits now and coming from the triathletes background, here are some of my tips for everyone new, but mostly those from a tri background. Most of these come from my own mistakes! :)

- It's not a time trial
There is a time to attack and TT off the front. Sometimes it even works. It usually doesn't work the first lap of the race by yourself. Beginner races may seem somewhat dull/slow for a fairly well trained triathlete, so the natural tendency is to put down some power and ride off into the sunset. The trouble is what generally ends up happening is you pull the group around until you get tired, then get popped off the back when you run out of steam. People love to see triathletes in group settings because triathletes love to take a pull and unless you are considerably stronger than multiple people in the race, you aren't getting away from the start.

- Likewise, the strongest guy isn't usually the guy that wins
You can be a beast out there, leading the race lap after lap... heck, you can have the stoutest power file after the race, and STILL come in at the back of the pack. In triathlon having a steady power means a fast bike split, in crits it means you are working too hard giving other people free rides.

- Take your free laps.
This is probably the most important thing I see new guys NOT doing in our races. They don't take their free laps to get back in the field. They get dropped and try to chase back on over and over... you don't learn anything about crit racing like that. That's time trialing... you know how to do that already. If you get popped, pull over and ask to get put back in. There's no shame in it, you're there to learn the skill set needed for fast group riding. You can't learn that riding by yourself.

When the pace slows, guys bunch up.

- Figure out whose line it is
General rule of thumb, if somebody is in front of you, it's their line to take. You are responsible for the wheel in front of you, not the wheel behind. So if somebody takes a line and it cuts you off, that's your fault. This is why staying IN the group is important, you need to learn where your line goes in regards to the rest of the pack. The best way I've heard it put over the internet is like this...

(Taken from Della Casa, great place to read some more in depth stuff)
If you're on the inside, follow the person in front of you
If you're in the middle, take a parallel line to the person beside (outside) you
If you're on the outside, follow the person in front or parallel to the man beside you

None of those are likely "optimal" lines... those exist generally only for the first person in the group or the breakaway. A lot of crit courses (most) are kind of "4 corners" Nascar style tracks and this is pretty intuitive, but (at least around here) we get a lot of S turns and 180° turns where this stuff gets much more important.

At the front of this 180° I get to take whatever line I want

Same turn 4 guys back, now I take the line of everyone else

Crash 5 gets it's nickname because of this. Guys do something stupid unpredictable and clip wheels with somebody else... then you're on the ground. Unpredictable things include straying from your line, pushing way out during a tight turn (hold your line) and generally just being where you shouldn't be. smooth.

- Sprints are for the podium
So if you come into the last straightaway in 20th, don't sprint. A lot of wrecks happen because somebody thinks they've got a shot to win a sprint starting 15 places down. If you aren't in the top few guys of the field in a Cat5 race you probably aren't going to sprint to the podium with 50 meters to go. I've heard it said (and believe) many times the most important sprint is to a good position in the final corner. If you have aspirations to be up front, be up front before you get out of that corner.

War Face for the sprint!
-Have Fun
For real... all these are tips, generalizations and things that *should* be pretty common sense. Don't show up to your first crit all nerves... take a deep breath, hang in there a few laps and get comfortable. I know I said everyone there is there to win, but more accurately everyone there should have a goal to accomplish. Your first crit... your goal is to learn, be safe and have fun. Accomplish that and your day is won.

Give it a try! It's something very different from what we are used to, and a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading!
- Christopher Morelock