Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Back to Basics

It's about time to get back in the saddle, and back to what I'm used to. It's been a good time I've taken trying to shake thing outs and focus on time trialing, but now that states is over I'm ready to get back to just working on getting stronger again and maybe working on some off road stuff in preparation for cyclocross season. Man, remember those days when 300 watts for an FTP wasn't a far away dream... I sort of do. I'd like to again. I've got all the technical details down to the absolute minimal... now I just need to get back to the simple "push pedals harder, go forward faster" formula.

The rest of my season is up in the air. There are still some races on my schedule, and it's likely I'll end up doing them, including the slight chance that I end up doing a sprint triathlon before the end of the season. That run won't be pretty though. Maybe more of a float, hammer, walk type of triathlon :)

I've got another how-to currently in the works, one that should interest a lot of people that visit the site. It's been a slight pain in the butt though, (mainly forgetting to take pictures and having to re-do all of it!) so that's why this post is going to look a little sparse! That and not much exciting is currently happening... Hopefully the Tour will shake things up!

Anyways, thanks for checking in!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wow, 200 posts. That's a milestone!

200 Posts!!

Seriously... I would have never thought that when I started this little blog that I'd actually end up keeping up with it enough to ever hit 200 posts! Sure, it's not the most premium content you can find on the internet, but I would like to think it's not the absolute dregs either. What's possibly more unbelievable is that at least some number of you guys think it's good enough content to come back for more. I'm not one for getting choked up, but seriously... thanks!

I've been a lazy bum the last week (and part of this week) as after the State TT I needed to decompress a little bit. Sure I wasn't terribly excited with the way it turned out, but I was realistic enough to know it was about right. Big ups to, who, when you factor my actual average watts (215) spit out a projected finish time of 1:00:19, which is within 15 seconds of my actual finish time. That's pretty accurate considering how much guessing it does.

If you are looking for some extended reading across the internet about some interesting (at least I think it's interesting) stuff, let me direct you to a few places to check out. First, our very own Provision Racing blog, filled with race reports from our elite team of athletes (don't ask how I got on the team... certainly not by my recent results!) where you can fill up on what's going on in the minds of some very, very fast people. See how I so effortlessly dropped a sponsor plug in there!

Another excellent read that is ongoing right now is Dan Empfield's (Slowman) article series prescribing the right bike for your stack and reach numbers. You can find the articles on the Slowtwitch main page and the forum post that corresponds with it here. I'd suggest if you even have a passing interest in fitting bikes or just wonder about where you stack up on your current ride that you have a look. The TL;DR of the series is that we really, really need a new long/low bike. It seems like for the "Aliens" out there the only real solution is to find an old Cervelo P3/4.  I can relate as I've been struggling to get low enough on my Speed Concept. I'm actually planning to move back to my aluminum P3 soon... well, at least soon'ish.

Without dropping into too far of a tangent, I will say that despite this season having so far never gained much traction, I've had a lot of fun. It has taken me a long time to really internalize the whole "journey" back to competitive racing, but I think I am finally starting to find a balance. That's something I never had before getting sick, I based every race as the current gauge of how I was doing... which a lot of us do, but is very short sighted.

There's some more exciting stuff on the way, not just reading about me ramble on and on about this and that, I promise.

Thank you all for reading. Seriously, I wouldn't keep putting content up if I didn't see that people actually seem to visit. It's incredible, so again, thanks so much for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TN State Championship Time Trial

Life had been barreling towards June 11th for the better part of this year. I focused all of my attention towards it, with the intent of trying to win the Cat 4 race. I knew going in it would be a tall mountain to climb, as the level of fitness I've enjoyed in the past has continued to elude me. I spent a large amount of time squeezing every bit of speed I possibly could out of my position and economics, but at the end of the day, I was shooting towards averaging a relatively low 235 watts over the 40k. Certainly not "strong" by most any cyclists measure.

Friday evening start times were announced. I had (correctly) picked out Matt Hunt as the man I would have to beat to win, and as fate would have it I was starting 30" behind him. Looking at it retrospectively, you could say this is where things went off the rails. Normally, a time trial, and especially a 40k are dictated by pacing properly and following your own race. For one thing, you generally have no idea exactly how you are doing compared to your competitors, so the best you can do is pace yourself well and hope it's good enough. I was in a fairly unique position however. I was as certain as I could be that I would know exactly how fast I needed to be to win... I needed to keep Matt within 30" of me. So, a choice had to be made... do I race my own race, or do I throw caution (and pacing) to the wind and try to keep first place in sight.

As I have mentioned many times in the past, I came to the State TT to win. I would be just as unexcited with second place as I would with last place, so the decision was simple. I would not look at my powertap, I would simply do all I could to keep my chance at winning in view.

Looks count for something, right?

Off and away

It was mercilessly hot even as I was gearing up and heading to the start line. I don't dislike hot conditions, but I knew this was going to be merciless as the entire course is on a no turn (except the turnaround) highway with no shade. I watch Matt take off and shortly it's my time to follow. With a moderate tailwind going out I know that I'm going as fast as I am on borrowed time. We pick people off at a feel good rate for the first 20 minutes, at which time I hit the lap button on my powertap so I'll be able to look back later. 255 watts avg. 20 watts higher than what I had planned for the whole ride. Nonetheless, my plan is so far working, I'm within spitting distance all the way to the turnaround.

And then, reality comes crashing in. Overcooking myself, along with 90 degree temperatures catch up with me, hard. That nice tailwind turns into a headwind, and those rollers I had been bombing down don't seem nearly as friendly going back up. I know it's all about damage control now, as Matt disappears out of my sight (and on to win!) and I am left with that long, gut-check ride back to the finish. I make a deal with myself that I stay tucked in aero on all but the longest climbs, but let my watts fall to whatever will get me there. At the second 20 minute lap I am averaging 213 watts, a meltdown if ever there has been one. The last twenty minutes is a grueling battle both physically and mentally, I don't care what anyone says, the hardest minutes of your (athletic) life are when you know it's over but you still have to get to the finish line as fast as you can. For the last 20 minutes I averaged 203 watts, as complete of a disaster as I've ever seen.

I stopped the clock in 1:00:05 - 24.7mph average over moderately rolling terrain. Good enough for 6th place, almost 3 minutes behind 1st place.

Looking back, it's easy to say it was a mistake to not pace myself, but I disagree. I think it was not only the right choice, it was my only choice. I knew going into the race I would need a lot of things to go right to claw away the top step of the podium, and given the opportunity to see exactly how fast I needed to go, I don't think there was a better setup to throw a hail mary. It's hard to separate results from the correct line of action, but it should still be done. I went all in, first or nothing... and with it probably cost myself a podium spot and certainly a much better time, but despite the fact that we endurance athletes generally phrase it that "we're racing against ourselves" eventually that simply isn't true... we're racing others, and sometimes to have a chance to beat them you have to go out of your comfort zone / planned pace/race. You miss all of the shots you don't take, as the saying goes.

I would like to thank all of my sponsors... Provision in particular... without their help I wouldn't have even made it to the start line, let alone the finish line. I'm not discouraged, now that this race is over it's time have some fun!

Some pictures of my buddies starting

Jimmy was looking for a back to back jersey win, but also had a tough day

Matt crushed all the 4's and can now claim back to back state TT wins, helluva ride

Sharon had a very rocky start, involving ripping her rear derailleur off her bike on the warmup and having to borrow another bike just to get to the start. Still snagged second too!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Taper Time

There's very little left to do before the State TT.  Two more short, hard training sessions and one last equipment check and then it's go time. Weather report is hot, especially as the day goes on. We don't have start times posted yet, but looking at the group start order I suspect we'll be seeing the hottest parts of the day during our ride. That's fine with me, bring on the heat.

This is probably the most relaxed I've been about a race in recent memory, even before my time off. Not because I think I'm going to dominate, but because I feel like I have done everything I could have done to put myself in the best position possible. My equipment is sorted, my fitness is as good as I was able to get it, and my aerodynamics / rolling resistance / efficiency is as tight as I know to make it.  There's nothing, short of dropping a couple of grand on a new bike that may or may not be any faster that I can do other than go out there are suffer the best I can for a little under an hour.

As far as equipment goes, I've not said lots about it leading up, but here's what I'll be running.

2011 Trek Speed Concept 7.0 - Medium
3T Brezza Nano base bar w/ USE 50° extensions
SRAM CX1 RD w/ no name 13/15t Pulleys
Shimano 105 Crankset w/ Falco 54t Narrow/wide ring
SRAM 500 TT shifters
SRAM 500 TT brake levers
Tririg Omega X front brake
Fizik Ares TT saddle
LOOK Ergostem
Zipp 404 Powertap w/wheelbuilder disc cover
Specialized Turbo Cotton 24mm w/latex
HED. Jet9 C2
Continental Supersonic 23mm w/latex
Shimano Dura Ace Chain w/ Speed Wax coating

Nopinz Supersuit w/number pocket
Specialized TT helmet
Specialized Sub6 laced shoes w/speed covers
Aerocoach Trip Sockz
Bioracer TT gloves

Targeting a 235 watt avg, but I don't plan to stress over my numbers during the race, just holding my position as tight as I can.

What do I think my chances are. Realistically, without factoring in the "unknowns" who can always show up at a race, I think I have a good shot at the podium. What step of the podium is in question, as I don't know the exact level of fitness or watts/cda some of the other guys put out. With a "perfect" day, I think I have a shot at the top step. My "safe, I'll be happy regardless of placing" goal is 57 minutes. Bad day, just break an hour. Great day, in the 55's. My "Babe" called shot is 55:58 (it's also what BestBikeSplit spat out) but we'll just have to see how it goes.

Thanks everyone for reading the blog! Next week I'll have a race report, good bad or ugly. To my competition... ride hard! Just not as hard as me!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How To: Install a valve extender (the right way!)

This is sort of an expansion / sister post to my how to article on installing latex tubes (read that here and don't make the mistake of popping your expensive tubes!) and I'll go in depth on how to properly piece together a valve extender.

First, lets get this out of the way. Not all valve extenders are created equal. In the picture below I have an assortment of extenders I've collected over the years. See if you can spot the (important) difference.

assorted extenders
So, the bottom three extenders are different than the top four. How you ask? Well, they are made to screw directly onto a presta valve without removing the valve core, whereas the top four are made with the ideal that you will be removing the core and then installing it onto the other side of the extension. Why are they different? Well, many (most) butyl tubes (and some latex ones as well) are not going to have a removable core, in which case you'll need one like those bottom three to get the job done. What are the positives to this method? Well, it's much, much easier. You simply unscrew your presta valve, screw this on, and hope for the best. The negatives? Your presta valve will always be open, so both pumping up and keeping air in the tire will be a hassle. Also, if the little screw off valve ever works its way back closed on you it will be a big pain getting it back to open. (Some people crimp the opening so that is impossible, but I've always shied away from that method.) However, let me say many people use these (Zipp is the biggest name that makes this kind of extender) extensions successfully and have for years. I don't think it's ideal, but YMMV.

two latex tubes, one with and one without a removable core.
We'll take for granted you can get that type on with no issues and instead we'll focus on how to get the removable cores correctly installed. First let's have a look at what you need.

tools of the trade
Running it down we have some sealant for your tube, some plumber's tape (seal tape) a pair of pliers and/or the little tool that is included with some extenders (little black c shaped part in this picture) along with the tube, core and extender. 

Use the removal tool (and/or your pliers) to unscrew the valve core from your tube (not pictured, but it will have two flat sides for you to grip to unscrew it.) and lay it to the side. Now your tube should have an open hole at the end of the valve. This is the perfect time to add your sealant!

I use around 1/3 - 1/2 bottle on each tube, shake vigorously.
You'll probably make a mess, so I suppose a rag or old shirt wouldn't hurt to add to the list of things you'll need. The key to adding the sealant is to go slow. After you've got it in it's time to grab your plumbers tape and start wrapping threads.

Plumbers tape applied!

Tape the threaded end of your extender (just make sure you don't let the excess length block the opening.) tightly so that it looks similar to the above (your tape may be blue) You don't need a ton of tape, just enough length to cover the threads. Now, use your tool/pliers and start screwing the extender into your tube.

coming together
It should come together pretty neatly, although some don't end up totally flush (as the above) that is ok, it should still be nicely sealed. Next, we're going to do the exact same thing taping the valve core. Again, just make sure you cover the threads and get the tape pulled fairly tight around. 

Now, back to your installation tool and pliers (I had to use both... or two pair of pliers if you don't have the little tool... to get the valve in.) start screwing the valve core back in.

proper use

Once everything is back together it's time to check and see if you got it right. Open the valve up and hook it to your pump, giving it a couple of pumps. If air is rapidly seeping back out, you don't have a good seal. If it's holding air correctly, congratulations! Great success!

Ta Dah!
Now go about your normal installation of the tube in the tire (don't blow it! Literally!) and you're ready to ride with a valve extender you can actually close! Sure, it's a little thing, but if it helps keep air pressure steady it could be a big thing! FLO recently found ~5psi difference in air pressure in your tires could account for a couple of watts(!) of aero drag! So keeping it steady at what you find best/like can be important.

Boom! Jet90, SWorks Turbo Cotton and a nice clean valve extender!
Thanks for checking out the blog and this short little how-to. I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The dark side of the "comeback"

This post is probably going to be a real downer, so if that's not your thing, feel free to skip it! See you next week :)

I've been cleared to go back to training and racing without restriction (aside from better common sense) for a couple of months now. It's something I had dedicated myself to (becoming healthy again) and something I recovered from much faster than most, and for that I am quite thankful. The care of Provision Sports Medicine and Dr. Kevin Sprouse , along with a healthy dose of lifestyle changes and better monitoring of my recover are what I attribute that speedy recovery to.

The physical toll taken was severe, and there is much I'm unsure if I'll ever be able to return to with the same tenacity that was once seemingly so easy for me. However, I'm healthy once more, and that is a trade I am willing to make. I will continue to push my body, but under much more careful guidance.

But this post isn't about the physical comeback that I may or may not ever orchestrate, (You can read/refresh on my story of dealing with OTS here) this is about the mental battle being fought, which I am now fully confident will be the key piece of the puzzle determining how this story eventually unfolds. I have spoken with (a very good) sports psychologist, and while he certainly empathized with me, I just never felt we were talking about the same thing. Perhaps it was my failing in being able to convey what it was like.

Nobody writes blogs (or at least none that I've read, and I've looked) about how much trying to return to form in an athletic endeavor sucks. It's a very personal struggle, one that is, pretty much, a downer. Certainly there are many success stories out there, but most gloss over the actual "return" and focus on the high points.

I'm out of Egypt... but I'm still in the desert spending my proverbial 40 years trying to find my way back on track. So, let's dive into what I am thinking and feeling... painful truth and all.

First, the hardest part. Letting go of what you were. I have tried, trust me on that. Unfortunately, it's much more difficult than deleting a few previous personal bests.  The easy solution is not to compare, I know... but putting that into practice is no simple task. I remember doing this and it feeling easy, I remember being "good" (big fish small pond syndrome but whatever) at this. I remember having the confidence that when I showed up there were, at most, a handful of people who I was competing with.  Without sugar coating it too much, it's sort of "has been" syndrome. I did an open water swim last week just to see how I could do (I was toying with doing the aquabike at Rev3) and it was something akin to pouring lemon juice in an open wound.

For the first minute it was like a fairy tale. I hit the water and started swimming. My breathing was fine, my stroke felt good... it was like everything had clicked and I'd never been away. A minute later reality crashed down with all of it's merciless truth. My back was on fire, and my stroke was ending somewhere around my naval. I just didn't have the strength and endurance to do it. I stopped, doggy paddled for a minute, and started again, albeit at a much easier pace. Rinse and repeat that until I made my way back to shore and nearly collapsed from fatigue.  Sure, the astute among you would probably think that your first swim in two years (not technically correct... I swam 200y at the West Side Y tri last year) probably couldn't have went much better. You're probably right. I should have probably been excited I didn't drown... but if I'm being honest... I was upset. The frustration of knowing HOW to execute something and having no way to actually force the muscles to respond is somewhat infuriating,

Change is hard. The one side of me wants to do nothing this minute more than go bust out a 10 mile run just to prove to myself that I can, consequences be damned. When I have a tough day on the bike where I barely hit my wattage goals and just feel beat up, my first thought isn't "probably should get some rest," it's "tomorrow I'm going to re-do this set! Plus 5 watts!" The difference is I'm smarter (hopefully) now and don't do that session the next day... but I still think like that.

Support from friends and family is hard as well. "You'll get it back" "You're best stuff is still ahead of you" "You're doing great" etc etc... it's just tough to swallow, smile and half heartedly agree. The closest thing I can compare it to is when you're at about mile 17 of your Ironman Marathon and a volunteer says "You're looking good!"
No. We both know I look like hammered hell.
You can't say that, but we are both thinking it.

See, just compared myself to somebody who knows what mile 17 of that marathon feels like! Hard to escape!!

There is also the deep seeded necessity I feel to be valuable to my sponsors. It's a pressure I have solely put on myself (at no point have any of my sponsors ever put pressure on me to perform, or even to toe the starting line, and for that I am grateful beyond words) but it is a pressure that I keenly feel. I am a competitor at heart, and it stings me deeply to feel like I am riding on the coat tails of my own previous efforts.

Then comes the self sabotage. Not truly wanting to compare yourself any more. Because, let's face it, in my own little reality I can find fanciful ways to excuse myself into doing better than I actually did. It's important to be honest with myself, and that's one reason I went and swam last week... to draw a hard line and stop thinking "maybe I'm still good (let's be honest, I was never "good" but adequate) at this. At my first race this year I got a flat. Now, I'll grant you that kind of thing happens... but I haven't gotten a flat in a LONG time. Why did I get a flat at that race? I didn't check my front tire for wear... something I always used to do. Did I purposefully get a flat at that race? No, but I was lax in my preparation and that opened the door for it.

At our local TT, I raced my Cervelo with a small gear and my "lesser" equipment... why? I told myself because I didn't want to get the Trek off the trainer (laziness) and I wanted to "test out" the Cervelo... but honestly I didn't want to stack myself up against others "at my best..." so that I would have a buffer when I got beat.

Then, there was the debacle at the last TT. I brought my A-game... but couldn't be bothered with making sure I was on time. I have a good idea how I did compared to the competition, but a good idea and exact data are worlds apart. Nonetheless, my ego made it through unscathed.

Self Sabotage, whether self aware or not, is a very real issue.

The answer perhaps is to just take everything and especially myself just a bit less seriously. But... Know Thyself... I like to nerd out on things, focus on them, probably/possibly even stress out over them... it's what I am.

This was all over the place, incomplete and full of half thoughts. Sorry for that. Hopefully some day down the road somebody will find some help from it though, if all that is is to say "man somebody else had to deal with this crap." It's real, it stinks at times... cruise on friends. After all... "The best races are still ahead!" right?

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

No Show Jones

There are certain qualities you can admire about people, and other's you should likely shy away from. In my own case, not showing up for the start of my performance is a quality I should NOT try to emulate from Mr. Jones. Nonetheless, at the Three Rivers Rumble TT last Saturday, as my start time came and went, I was not there to witness it. I was instead sprinting up a hill through the crowded parking lot trying to make it in time, which I failed to do.

Perhaps it is internal self sabotage, perhaps it was not syncing my Timex with my smartphone's time, or perhaps it was just an oversight... but regardless, it shouldn't have happened, and I am kicking myself still for such a bungle.

Nonetheless, there is good stuff to be learned from even the most foolish races. So let's go through the race.

My warmup was spot on. I brought my road bike and trainer so I could get my warmup in without having to mess with my View Speed skewers removal and re-installation. (along with not shredding my paper thin tire) I got a solid 40 minutes in of varying intensities, along with a few short high watt efforts to open up the legs. Then I jumped off the trainer and took my final pee break.  Unfortunately, this is where I severely misjudged how much time I had before the start. I leisurely walked back to the car and started changing from my warmup shorts to my Nopinz skinsuit. As I'm trying to get it on the wife says "I think it's your time to start." Oh... woops. I fumble getting into my skintight suit and my aero gloves, totally skip my overshoes and grab a final drink of water as I'm getting on my Speed Concept. I head up through the parking lot attempting to re-set my Powertap (it was paired with my trainer bike) when I start hearing people yelling my name. I realize it's my time to go and put down a solid sprint up the hill and through the parking lot. As I come toward the line Jerome is yelling at me "shop, put your foot down and GO!"


I guess I missed my start by a bit then.

Fortunately year's of triathlete habit kick in and I'm unclipped and re-clipped without fumbling around too much, then it's a solid sprint from the start line. I had planned to get up to speed faster than usual for this race due to it's shortness, but I hadn't really planned on a full out of the saddle sprint. Part of my matchbook just got burned up in the first 10 seconds. I settle in and attempt to do damage control. The course starts with a short incline, then tapers off into a long gradual decline to the first turn. With my overly large gearing I'm able to continue applying steady cadence and power the entirety of the decline and hit the turn about as hot as I could without crossing the yellow line. At the turn the road kicks up just slightly again all the way up to the next 180° turn. I take it at an almost perfect apex and then it's the long final drag to the finish line. Head down I dig into the hurt locker... my legs and filled with lactic acid at this point and I'm very lucky that there was absolutely nothing but straight road in front of me because I didn't have the mental faculties left to do anything but point forward and push. I hit the line and very nearly vomit on my fancy skinsuit. I was pretty happy that I had given it the best I had under the circumstances.

Disappointed face
I got back and sucked down what must have been a gallon of water. Jimmy pretty handily slayed the CAT4 group, as he is wont to do in a 4:52.  I checked my time and saw I had laid down a 5:15, which obviously was not terribly impressive (landing me in 8th I believe) but was not giving up and insane amount of time to the stronger riders out there (whom a shorter course should favor in my opinion) so although disappointed I was not heartbroken.

All the Water!
I'm not sure how much time I gave up from my start. My 30" man started very close behind me, so I can speculate, but that isn't worth much. I also obviously gave up some time by doing a foot down start as opposed to a hold, so I figure I was fighting with the top guys had I been on time.

So the lesson for everyone out there is... BE ON TIME TO YOUR RACE! Especially in races that are decided by seconds! (which is all of them!)

I apologize to my family who came to see me, my sponsors who got me there, and to you guys for having to read through what seems like one more of an endless report of excuses. I have to get my game tight once again, and I have failed so far as to do so, and I'm sorry.

Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate it!

Next week, fun at Rev3 Knoxville (although unless I find a relay team it looks like I'll be sitting this one out... I have no business swimming in my current shape.)

Thanks so much for reading!

Christopher Morelock