Tuesday, August 28, 2012

480 Speedpack review

Bento Boxes... 

...Long have they been an eyesore to me. Nightmares of ugly boxes filled with Ham sandwiches, Sushi, GU and whatever else a triathlete can shove into one have, crushing the sleek look (and aerodynamics) of an otherwise beautiful bike haunted me for seemingly my entire triathlon career. I just couldn't take it... I hated them.

No Thanks

Let me re-emphasize that. HATED. That "D" is past tense. And so the plot thickens.

便當 - that is, Convenient

After my trip to A2 (Wind Tunnel) I came away with a more slippery position, and yet, a new problem. My standby hydration setup (A Torpedo Mount) would not work with  my new "Mantis" position. This meant I needed to return to a behind the saddle (Chris Lieto's style) Solution. Easy enough. However, this in itself caused an inadvertent crisis. I had nowhere to put my flat kit. In a sprint, even an Olympic, I am willing to go without a flat kit, but in a 70.3 or up, well... I want to at least be able to limp back to transition and not wait on SAG. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Special #1 please, Hold the Squid

I admit, I went with the Speedpack out of moderate desperation at a lack of solutions. After a Quick E-mail to kind of feel out which pack would be right for my Planet X, I ordered away. When I first opened the box it arrived in I admit I was immediately impressed.  The guys at DSW certainly put some thought into the Speedpack. The inner "liner" is meant to give a bit of stability to the bag, as well as to keep it's shape. Ahh, the shape, another thing for me to praise. When "Fit" correctly, the 480 takes on a strangely eerie shape... that of the top tube of Suplicy Quantum, a bike you may not have ever heard of, but that was, for a time, supposedly the fastest bike frame in production. (Circa when the P4 was new)  What the Suplicy accomplished with design (in essence, giving a traditional stem a trailing edge) I feel confident almost any "traditional" tri bike can accomplish with a mild amount of tinkering/trimming of the Speedpack. Anyways, back to the point. After a fair amount of my own testing (Rolldown tests, which, while not foolproof like the wind tunnel, nor even as good as the Chung Method, are a good quick, real world way to test things) I can say that there was no aero penalty for running the 480. Cervelo's independent testing would have you think that it's possible there is even an advantage, and I admit it seems like it's certainly a possibility.

As far as storage space goes, I was able to fit a "chuck it" C02 inflator head, 2 C02 cartridges, a backup GU packet, a tire lever, a spare tube and a pack of patches easily (a slim multitool would also probably fit) in the 480 without compromising the structure of it. You *could* remove the inner liner to squeeze just a little more room out of it, but I (nor DSW) wouldn't recommend it... the sturdy shape is one of it's selling points.  Sadly to the Tubular guys, A spare tubie will not fit (even without the liner I don't think it would make it) although if you were willing to roll the dice on something like Pit-Stop/Stans/whatever you would be able to do that. Updated - I spoke with Greg at DSW, and he has good news for the Tubular lovers out there. A tubular WILL fit, it just has to be the right one. The Tufo Elite Jet 120 will fit in all their packs when folded correctly... and while I wouldn't suggest the 120 for your regular race tire, it is certainly a robust, fast backup tire! I believe Thomas Gerlach (who just finished 3rd at IMLOU - congrats!) carries this as his backup tubular.

Now that is a small tubular!

I would also like to mention that there is probably going to be some necessary modification to the 480 to get it "just right" on your bike. Nothing complex, just some trimming here and there (although I had to remove the top strap completely because of my very low stem)  as always when it comes to cutting things, measure twice, cut once, and always cut less instead of more if in doubt. 

Lastly, the practical side. At $34.80, the 480 carries a "luxury" sticker in the land of Bento Boxes. That's not to say it's overpriced, almost none of the other boxes offer the well thought out shape (or the hard inner liner) and certainly very few others (if any?) are made right here in the USA by an active group in the online triathlon community. I see the DSW guys posting on ST and BT regularly, so you know they are interested in making a good product for their target audience.
I admit, I included this picture only because of how awesome it is.

I'm a picky guy when it comes to what I run on my bike, it has to look good and perform extremely well to make the cut in my book. The 480 Speedpack makes the grade, and I'll be running it from now on in all my races. (regardless of distance) That's the highest praise I can give, and so I will.

-Christopher Morelock

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trip & Review of A2 Wind Tunnel

 Where the heavy lifting is done
Recently I bit the bullet and decided to take my Aero loving self to A2 Wind Tunnel. Now, the first thing that makes people cringe when they hear you talk about "tunnel time" is the high price of entry. A2 is (to my knowledge) the cheapest of the tunnels available to cyclists, at around $420.00/hour. Not cheap by anybody's standards... but then, let's have a look at what kind of gains we are talking about for the Bones you are ponying up.

Grams of Drag going in - 2981
First Ride of the day

Grams of Drag coming out - 2811
Kind of like Floyd, but without the doping scandal or similarity to the green goblin

For those of you who haven't passed 1st Grade, that's 170 grams dropped. So Chris, you say, what  does that mean in "real world" terms.

Steve Hed (HED Cycling) would have you believe that you can save 3 seconds (in a 40k) for every 10 grams of drag you drop.  After some quick math, you (I) get 51" in a 40k, or around 2 minutes for a 1/2 Ironman. That's pretty ok considering I didn't have to do any more work for that... "Free" speed if you will, if you are willing to consider that $80/Watt is "free."

I'd say *most* people who went into a wind tunnel could expect to lower the cost/savings ratio by a substantial amount though. My position (the one I came in with) was one of the faster positions we tested all day. I figured as much, as I've spent A LOT of time doing independent tests to get to that point. However, as you can see, even I came away with some solid gains (and changes), and the peace of mind that now I know for sure what is "best" for me going forward. 

Now for a little more about the experience and what to expect.
The Wizard behind the curtain is David Salazar (the General Manager) and he runs a tight ship. This is what he does on the daily so you don't need me to tell you he knows what he's doing! We got pretty well down to business from the get-go. I chose to run stock wheels (instead of my aero wheels) per John Cobb's advice, and I didn't change wheels at any point due to it eating up time. (It's a bit of work to get the wheels changed, and, despite the numbers always being a bit skewed by the company showing theirs as "best" there is plenty of wheel wind tunnel data out there) I spent the majority of the time on hand position, pad width, bar height, bottle placement and helmet selection. These are things that are important and very individualized from person to person, so they are what I would recommend anyone taking the trip to focus on. For the most part you already want to have your position dialed in... making changes to bar height / width, etc is one thing, but re-doing your tri bike fit in the tunnel is just a massive expense for naught.

Jim O'Brien is the man who was called in for me to help with the mechanical/fit changes and let me just say, he is an EXPERT at what he does. Very knowledgeable with a wide experience base, but not so set in "his way" that he isn't willing to experiment or listen to your input. That's the exact kind of thing you want in an environment like this.

The experience itself is kind of "otherworldly" if you will. The outside of A2 is fairly unassuming, as is the town surrounding it. Only the race inspired street names (and race car trailers driving by) would give you any hint that something serious was going on around what looks like an industrial park. Once you come inside you are greeted by a very nice office, complete with plenty of pictures of exploits that can be at least partially credited  to time spent at A2... world record accolades aplenty. In the main "office" you'll see three computer monitors (Pictured above) where Dave does the technical parts. On the side wall are plenty of *toys* for you to test out if you didn't bring enough of your own. (tons of helmets, aerobars, hydration options, wheels... enough to make any tri shop proud)
The Buffet Line

Inside the actual tunnel, after securing your bike (watch your step!) and clipping in, getting the gear set for you to pedal in (you should cut all your cables before going in... they are just going to be in the way when you start moving things around) and a quick tutorial by Dave on what to be doing (and not doing... HOLD STILL) everybody exits and there you are, alone in the tunnel with nothing but a projected computer screen on the floor to keep you company. Dave then comes over the loudspeaker to tell you to get ready (I thought I was pretty witty when I replied "Yes God?" Sadly they couldn't hear me so I had to pretend like it was funny and move on) and then... the fans start! Let me just say... it's loud... and windy. Then, around 2 minutes or so later (You are pedaling the entire time, not *hard* but certainly at a healthy pace), your run is done and you can wait for Jim's either slight approval or complete dismay at the results, then it's time to change things and go again. After 28 runs, I felt like I had been beaten up on the bike... and my form was starting to suck (hey, it gets hard to hold the same position without squirming for that long) so that was the end for me. After that it was back to the main office to discuss what "it all meant" and what we ended up with, along with a Q&A where I spouted as many questions as I could think of. Then, it was off to re-fuel start the trek back home.

Dave, myself and Jim right after the last run of the day

So, wrapping up, is A2 for everyone? Was it worth it? Do you need to be a speed demon to get anything out of it?
I'll answer all of those questions with a question. How important is going as fast as your "motor" can take you in your next race? Personally I wasn't blessed with a big engine, but I want to be as fast as possible, so for me, it was well worth it. If you enjoy the local race or occasional big race but 2 minutes isn't going to make or break your day, then no, I don't think it's for you. The experience itself was worth the price of admission for me, I mean really, how often do you get to play in the same tunnel that Lance, Crowie, Drag cars and Superbikes (motorcycles) are in day in and day out? I mean... just look at the friggin' tunnel!

I had a joke about getting blown, but I'll let you be creative

How Awesome is That! I mean really, that thing is out of some Sci Fi movie!

For some extended reading on Aerodynamics (and testing) You could check out some of the following.

Here is my original thread on Beginner Triathlete
Bike Radar had a nice article on "How Aero is Aero" that is good for extended reading.
A link to the Chung Method Power model (for even cheaper home testing)

-Christopher Morelock

Augusta on the Horizon.

Getting ready for the day to come

And so the time is quickly approaching. Only a month until Ironman Augusta is here. Besides meaning that I'm at that point in my training where one day I feel like superman and the next day I can barely get up and get my running shoes on, it means that it's that time where I start looking to get my mind focused on race day and performing to the best of my abilities.

To those who know me (enough to hear me whine) it's no secret that last year in Augusta was a bit of a whirlwind of good and bad. My tri season leading up to it had been fairly, well, sh*tty, after DNF'ing both Amica (going off course on the run) and Rev3. (Blowing a sidewall) It was the first year I had trained under David (Savoie)'s eye (as coach) and I was somewhat disappointed that I had such a run of it. I was ready to perform!

A little too ready. In the two weeks leading up to the race (the taper period where training volume is dropped but most intensity is retained for those who aren't "in the know") I managed to pull my hamstring. Not so bad as to keep me from running/biking, (at the time, although the end of 2011 and 1st quarter of 2012 I ran a total of about 20 miles hoping for it to heal) but bad enough that it caused pain at anything over a jog. Not exactly the way you want to go into your "A" race : /

Regardless, I raced, and although my run was nothing to be overly proud of, I did beat my goal of 5 hours pretty handily. That said, The fast guys in my AG were much closer to 4:30 than 5... Immediately I knew what I wanted to do for 2012. Go 4:30 or under!

 We can rebuild him better than he was before. Better, Stronger, Faster.

Well, there's the rub you see. That was well within the realm of possibility with another year of solid run volume, (running being what I am fairly weak at of the 3 sports) but the doctor (yeah, I went to the doctor AFTER racing instead of before... do as I say not as I do) put me off running. From September 2011 to around April of 2012 I did almost no running and minimal biking. My swim of course improved significantly over that course of time, but in an event like triathlon, gaining a few seconds per hundred swimming is not a good trade with losing mph on the bike and seconds of your min/mile running. There's also the mental aspect, knowing in your mind that the days are counting down and at some point it'll be too late to make it back to race shape.

Finally, slowly, I started running again. Not pain free, but at more of a standoff with the pain. It didn't get any worse when I ran than when I sat on the couch, so I figured I might has well be running. I've had a decent tri season leading up to this point. Although I didnt' race Rev3 (opting to go on vacation instead) and finished 4th in my AG in Amica, I can see that my times are closing in on where they were last year.

And that in itself is both relieving and disheartening. Can I knock upwards of 15 minutes off my time with similar fitness to last year? My leg no longer hurts when I run, my swim is much improved, and I'll be infinitely wiser on the brutally hot Augusta course, but will it be enough? The arrogant side of me is flippant in a way that every athlete must be to some extent, that air of confidence that shouts indeed, 4:30 is nothing but a quick dip, short ride and jog on a warm sunny day away... but can arrogance and confidence be enough? Or will they be hollow boasts in my ears when the promise of stopping the pain if I just slow down comes ringing in my head? If I want to realize my goals, they will have to be.

And so my year is at this point. I will go forward with all confidence in my coach, in my training and in myself. September 30th will be my day to do what I love, and anyone not planning to go under 4:30 had damn well best get out of my way. 

Also, they better get out of my way to get to the massage tent and post race food binge as well!

I'll have... one of everything. And a Gallon of Water!

A link to my 2011 Augusta Race Report if you are interested.

- Christopher Morelock

Greetings and other Moderately Useless Filler.

Wit: a witty amusing person who makes jokes.

So here we are, the first post. Some would think this is the most important one that will ever go up on a blog. You (whoever you are, anonymous lurker.) will decide quite quickly from this post whether or not you give enough of a crap to wade through the certain amount of... well... crap... that blogs like this generally quickly devolve into whilst searching for random tidbits of "useful" information. Fear not, I hope to deliver plenty of that, along with a little bit of fun and, let's be honest, a whole lot of bragging (mostly about myself of course) since, while maybe there are faster triathletes, or wittier triathletes, or (arguably) handsomer triathletes than myself, there are few indeed  that are all of those things!

So, until this blog is stricken from the face of the web like a blight... hold on to your saddle sores!

For Real, who wouldn't take advice from a guy with such rugged good looks?

- Christopher Morelock