Monday, September 24, 2012

Taper Away

Taper = Smooth sailing? I think not.

Tapering. If ever there was a part of training/racing that I did not enjoy, this would be it. No matter what I'm told or read, I always feel like crap the week or two of my taper. Sure, past experience has taught me that it ends up working well, and of course there really isn't any "form" I can add in the 2 weeks leading up to race day, but still... you go through months not missing 2x workouts a day, and all of a sudden... off days. What the hell am I going to do with an off day? It's not like I have a social life any more... and even if I did, would going out for drinks really work out for taper week? :P I quit playing video games and watching movies so long ago I question whether my PS3 will even turn on any more. Of course I have my old fall backs (my Kindle and trolling BT / ST) but you can only dedicate so many hours to a screen. Sunday I managed to fit 13 hours of sleep in... but, oddly, even that gets a bit boring.

My worst enemy at times like this however, is gluttony.
Holy Crap. Searching "gluttony" in Google images turns up some creepy sh*t.

Ok, it's not all that bad. I mean, I'm not on the verge of gorging myself in biblical proportions or anything... but I do like my calories. You get used to consuming 5-6 solid meals a day plus whatever fuel you get during a workout... and then, bammo... drastic drop in activity level. Oh, and did I mention boredom. Yes, I like to think I can eat my way out of a boring situation.  Now I like to try to keep it on the healthy side, but really, at a certain point you just have to admit that you love salty @ss chips and salsa more than you do carrots and lettuce. I have to keep my mind focused on this kind of stuff, as I feel much better weighing in at under 150lbs than above 150lbs! I'd really prefer to be racing at 140'ish, but this year that's not been in the cards.

Now on to the good things about being restlessly bored during taper. Most importantly, I don't spend my time worrying about race day... which a lot of my friends will do. Heck, the night before a big race I sleep like a baby. I think that comes from being very prepared in the weeks leading up. I had my gear selection / nutrition / plan pretty well settled a few months ago. The last piece of the puzzle was what tire I would end up running on my back wheel and what front wheel I would run.

I settled on the Continental Grand Prix TT over the GP SuperSonic in the end, despite the TT not having any published Data. I'm generally not so paranoid about "race" tires, but this time I've decided that just a little more protection (the vectron breaker strip in the TT) is worth it over the SuSo's seemingly superior RR.

As far as the front wheel goes, I'm 95% sure it will be the Hed3 / Bonty Aerowing combo. Again we have a flimsy (and narrow - 19mm) tire to deal with, and on the front as opposed to the rear (which is a bit less flat prone) but nonetheless, there really isn't much option if you want an "optimal" trispoke. The 5% is for my Jet9. Although wind isn't going to be a deciding factor, if it is raining heavily on race day I'll probably run the Jet, since the Bonty R4 Aero tire is a bit thicker and IMO a safer choice in a deluge.
Hopefully not Augusta this year

So, with me leaving for Augusta on Friday morning, I suppose this will be my last update until after the race. Hopefully I'll be returning "victorious," (sub 4:30, podium, Vegas spot...fame, women, glory) but no matter what I'll return giving the best I possibly could on race day.

Until then, wish me luck.

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review! My thoughts on the Specialized S-Works Trivents

Before I start the review, just look at these things!
Dorothy would be proud!

Ok, Ok. Let's get the obvious elephant in the room out of the way first thing. Yes, these things are expensive. In fact, they are $225 more expensive than the next step *down* in the tri shoe department, (The Experts) and $40 more than the S-Works road shoe! No matter your financial situation, $400 on a pair of cycling shoes is going to raise an eyebrow. So, hopefully this review can add some insight as to whether the Trivent is worth your hard earned cash or not.

Political websites have their uses too... like supplying me a handy picture of an elephant with cash!

Let me be honest. I don't need this shoe. You don't need this shoe. Macca doesn't need this shoe. Nobody needs this shoe. The same thing of course could be said about plenty of things in life. Just because nobody needs a 550 Maranello doesn't mean that it isn't a beautiful and amazingly designed machine. These shoes strike me in the same way.

The biggest selling point to the S-Works is the rear entry system. (I know...giggle away)
Here you can see the magnet on the heel strap, along with get an idea of the *rear entry*
Open and ready for business

The system looked just a bit clunky to me. I tried the Scott running shoes (from a few years ago) that had a similar kind of design and they just never felt secure. Specialized on the other hand did a marvelous job of solving the issue. If you've never had a shoe with the "BOA" system, you are missing out. It really is just the best way to tighten and secure a cycling shoe. The S-Works take that system to another level, as the BOA system both secures the heel piece and tightens the shoe after you are off and away from transition. Holding the heel tab in place in transition is a built in magnet (one in the heel strap and one in the back of the shoe itself) which, albeit a bit gimmicky looking, actually works pretty well. As a matter of fact, I only had a few very small gripes with the entire design, that being that the BOA nob does take a fair amount of twists to get it firmly secured. It's not a big thing (and is probably necessary due to each person needing different amounts of tightness) but it felt like it was just "thrown on" to an otherwise extremely well thought out shoe.

The front end of the shoe is where my other gripe is, more precisely, the front strap. I wouldn't call it completely useless, but that wouldn't be a very far stretch of the imagination. It does very little to actually adjust the toe box, so those with an oddly shaped foot may have to either size down or pass on the shoe entirely. I've had two other pair of the older Trivents and the fit all around is one of the things that I loved about them, these are awesome from halfway back, and only ok (for me at least) for the front half. The shoe's upper is also very stiff compared to most bike shoes (although it may break down after more wear) which made my first few rides with my feet on top of them a bit awkward. You will get used to it, but it's a bit *less* stable than a softer shoe upper.

The other "goodie" you get with the S-Works is the rubber band tab on the inside of the shoe.
The rubber band tab (Conrad Stoltz off road version)
After using the tab a few times I've come to think of it as a solution to a question nobody asked. Rubber bands through the heel straps worked great for years, this doesn't really change the dynamics, it just looks cooler and gives you some more options... which I'm 100% totally fine with. 

You can see Macca opted NOT to use the tab and instead did it the old fashioned way

I feel like I've sounded fairly critical (and negative) about the shoe up until this point... and that's ok. I think that for the money you should be aware if anything isn't up to fluff. However, let me make it clear, I LOVE THIS SHOE. Specialized shoes in general are held in high regard by myself and most of my friends, and these meet the standards you would expect for a product with the S-Works moniker. The bottom is FACT 12 carbon (so beautiful you'll regret scratching it) which is plenty stiff enough for anyone. The inside of the shoe was obviously designed for sockless riding, and the liner is smooth and comfortable. The outside of the shoe is both loud and tasteful, although since you only get the fastest color currently (I have to imagine black or white is somewhere in the future lineup) it can cause for some awkward color/kit coordination.

Back to the primary issue... the money. To ease and appease (at least a little) you should consider that you'll likely have a well made pair of cycling shoes (such as these) for a good amount of time. The first Trivents I bought have lasted over 4 years and are still perfectly serviceable (albeit very stinky and a little rough looking) and I put in at least a decent amount of miles in them each year. Figuring you'll keep these at least that long (probably more as these are likely not your everyday shoes) it seems a bit more bearable at $100/year. That's probably less than you spend each year on other things that you enjoy... Beer... Data on your cell phone... running shoes... steak... whatever. It's also worth noting that BOA has a lifetime warranty on their systems, so if you are worried about the potential fragility of the system (you shouldn't, it's pretty bulletproof) you can be at ease that they will replace it. Specialized doesn't offer a lifetime warranty on their shoes, but they have a very good reputation for support, adding a feeling of security that you aren't just screwed if something does go bad on them.

Anyways, the verdict? I think that you can certainly get a quality triathlon shoe for half the price (the Trivent Experts deserve nothing but praise if you want to stick with Specialized) so if the price tag is indeed a limiter, don't feel like the only party is on the S-Works boat. However, it's a very, very nice boat to party on, and if skimming every possible second off of your T1 time is important to you, maybe the Trivent can help. I am just a second or two faster in it than I was in my old shoes, and everyone knows I love going faster without working for it. So, if it appeals to you, it's an awesome shoe that you won't be disappointed in and should last for years to come. (of course, try them on first :P )
2013 "Dorothy" edition.
- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The final big weeks to Augusta

I'm a numbers guy. Watts, pace, weight, calories... I love to count it, estimating... always checking my w/kg, what was in that order of Nachos (I love me some chips & salsa... no way around it.) and, most pressing on my mind these last few weeks (really this last year) was...

Who would have thought, triathletes and little league ball players have similar diets

How fast do I have to go to break 4:30 in Augusta?

Well, I crunched some numbers. Considering similar transition times (it was about 5 minutes total last year) I need to have a

- 25min swim (1:10/100yd - current assisted of course)
- 2:22 Bike (23.6 mph)
- 1:38 Run (7:28 min/mi)

which would put me at a 4:29:49 - pffttt... AND an 11 second buffer. :P

So, what has to right? I can use some of my experience from last year at Augusta to map it out.

As far as before the race, the biggest mistake I made last year was just being way too active. I walked from the host hotel to the swim start, from the swim start to the swim exit, back to the host hotel, out into the city to find something to eat... all that walking was a big mistake. I justified it with the logic that with an already hurt hamstring, the walking would replace my *last* run before the race. What it really did was make my calves sore from all that walking around. Not the best idea. This year I'm off my feet unless absolutely necessary.

I suppose the swim is where we next stop to examine. I need to cut around 3 minutes from last years time. Augusta does a good job of making even the most "ho hum" of swimmers look like a studly fish due to it's very rapid current. I'm in one of the last waves to go off (why??? 25-29m should be closer to the front than most waves IMO) so, although I'll get a small benefit from an even swifter current, I'll have to be considerably more careful due to the likelyhood of physical contact coming throughout the swim as opposed to just the beginning (passing slower swimmers in other waves) I think my goal here is the most likely, as 6 months of fairly focused swim training has helped tune my speed towards FoP. That and the possibility of being eaten of course...
Well, it should be gators I suppose, but then the joke isn't nearly so witty.

Then we get into the bike (I'll spare you transitions - if I can keep them similar to last year I'll be happy) which is where my possibly biggest obstacle will come. Pacing. Last year my 2:27 was a good time considering I wasn't very careful with my pacing... I ended up riding about 12-15 watts lower (avg) than I had intended to, mainly because my old LYC wouldn't show avg. and current watts at the same time... fortunately my Joule2.0 solves that issue, so I should have a better guage of where I am at all times. Adding a more aerodynamic position and strength gains over a year (well, part of a year) means I'm sure I can ride a 2:22 bike split, and I'm also sure I can ride a sub 2:20 bike split... the question at that point is, can I do that and still run the 1/2 marathon I need to run. I think this will be the highwire I have to cross to be successful. A little too much "uhmph" on this ride and I'll be dying on the side of the road. Too little and I'll still miss my ultimate goal. (as no amount of freshness is going to make me run a 1:30 1/2 this year...sadly) Luckily, the bike is where I feel most at home, so I feel good about this.

And then of course... the run.
I won't try to lie to you or myself, this is where it's going to hurt. Starting later in the day means it's going to be hotter when the run starts. I know pacing the run has never been my strong suite (I have a bad habit of starting at a fast pace and then fading into mediocrity) and hell, running itself never has been either. That said, Augusta is a flat course. The time I'm looking at (1:38... keep up) isn't far off my last half mary (over a year ago in Knoxville, a decidedly hilly course) pace, and I plan to be a LOT smarter about my nutrition/hydration during the run this year. Last year I just slogged through (and, considering it hurt to run, I thought a 1:49 was acceptable) and really went to some bad places mentally, even taking a minute or two just to stop and stand and wonder...why the hell am I doing this. This year I plan to be ready to fight the battle on all fronts. Extra "rations" of coke and red bull in my fuel belt pods, sport drink and coke at aid stations, ice and sponges everywhere I can fit them to keep me from overheating. My garmin set to let me know when I am going too fast (or too slow) and finally some good old fashioned hard headedness to keep my mind from falling apart.
Still look a lot less runner and a lot more weightlifter I'm afraid

If all that goes to plan... and the day is favoring me, then... I'll have what I trained so hard for.

Of course, I'm a realist as well. Things can go bad, and they can go bad fast. I am fully aware I'm going to be racing on a razor's edge... one that something as simple as a missed bottle handup or kick to the face can quickly end. Nonetheless, of the things I can control, I will do my best to make them "perfect." To the rest, I'll leave lady luck in charge... maybe she'll be smiling on me!

Good luck to all of you other guys racing Augusta, I hope all of your goals are met and exceeded!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

From those who like to tinker, for those who don't like to waste money!

I've always been a bit of a tinkerer. My cars, my computers, my bikes... I like to "personalize" them. I like to "upgrade" and attempt to fix all those problems that don't really exist. Do I need to overclock my video card to get one extra frame per second? Does my car really need bored out heads for a few more horsies? No... However it's fun as hell to work on it and see those tiny gains from blood sweat and curses.

My Bike(s) are no exception to this rule. If anything, they have given me a huge media to explore... and let's be honest, if there is anything triathletes love, it's new toys. Some have been great, some not so great, a couple of big wastes of time and money, and just a few that are downright dangerous. I'm going to go over some of them here, with my thoughts on how it all turned out. We'll start with the easy stuff first!

Carbon Crank Cover
So what happens when you want all the "cool kids" look of a Zipp Vuma / FSA Chrono TT ring, but don't want to just stretch packing tape over the holes in your crank? You buy some sheets of carbon fiber and make your own!

This was a fairly easy one, it cost about $60 give or take (depending on what you already have in the garage) and it looks great installed. You'll need the sheets of carbon fiber (I suppose fiberglass would also work) which are available on ebay, some epoxy (for composites) and some plastic wrap. Take the crank you want a cover for, cover it with the plastic wrap, and lay the carbon (carbon, epoxy, carbon, epoxy) and allow it to cure. Then cut away the extra carbon and drill/dremel holes for the crank bolts.  You can skip the holes if you don't mind glueing / epoxying the edges of the cover to your chainrings. I was personally a bit worried that I'd get reprimanded at a race for a "fairing" so I never epoxied mine. It's now sitting in the corner of my garage. It's also kind of a toss up as to whether or not this "mod" would actually DO anything (in terms of actual performance gains) as there has been some debate as to whether covering the crank is helpful. Nonetheless, it looks really cool.

Chopped straps
 This one takes a few seconds and won't cost you anything, but could save you a few seconds over your next bike split. Most tri shoes have an excess of strap length that ends up hanging off the side of your foot (in the wind!) during your ride. Chopping those bad boys down will clean up your profile just a bit (as will trimming all that excess chin strap off your helmet!!) and if one thing can be said for me, I love to make the little things add up. As always when it comes to cutting... measure twice, (and mark it) cut once! Just don't cut them so short that you cut off the "tab" that holds them in place.

"Oversized" 13t/15t wheels
You probably saw these once upon a time in the Tour (2010 I think). David Millar, Fabian, Contador, Schleck and even Lance were riding on these odd derailleurs.
David Millar's setup
A company called Berner made the one's you saw in the tour. They were certainly interesting, and claimed a much more efficient drivetrain. Building my own (you don't want to know what the Berner kits cost...) was not a cheap undertaking. The problem becomes the cage you need to accept the wheels, along with the wheels themselves (15t is a bit of an odd thing to be looking for) pretty much being custom jobs. You would think a Long cage derailleur would be acceptable, but it isn't (the 15 won't work) so you need something custom built. (It's possible a Mtn bike long cage would work... possibly a shimano shadow derailleur?) Enter Fiber-Lyte. They custom made the 13t/15t wheels, along with the outside carbon cage. That left the inner cage...

I sourced one on ebay (from a foreign seller) and when it arrived I met problem #1... that is, Shimano does not want you taking their beloved derailleurs apart. Oh sure, you can unscrew the cage, and then "BAM" the loaded spring shoots parts everywhere! Finding everything is the easy part, now you have to put it back together. Let me say, it's going to take some seriously manly hands to get the tension back on the spring AND get the screw set in the back of the cage. It took me 3 hours spread across two days, a couple of beers and an extremely sore hand before I finally got it.

Then there's the other problem... the chain. If you look at Millar's setup you can see the stretch that the derailleur is under. Trying this for yourself, you are going to run into a no-win situation. On the one hand, you lengthen the chain... at which point you are going to have too much slack in certain (bigger) gears. On the other, you shorten the chain, and completely lose the ability to shift into your top 4 or so cogs in the big ring. (Not that you should be in them anyways.) Which is not ideal. Also, the custom plate I bought had just a little space in the "nob" that keeps the chain from skipping off... when I would go from big to small ring it would sometimes *catch* for just a second. It never did any damage, but it always worried me, and eventually I took it off and returned to the good old fashioned way. As far as performance goes... I never noticed anything, but there were never any claims that it would make some huge jump anyways... I'd skip this one unless you just love the look (it did look cool)

DT Shifters
I get asked about these more than anything else on my bike at races. "Where did you get those shifters??"
Well, from ebay actually... but I digress. There are 7800 Dura Ace downtube shifters (they still make em!) mounted to the plugs from regular 7800 bar end shifters. (You will need to cannibalize some bar end shifters to make this work btw) These guys give you a lot more leverage to shift in aero (or they do me at least) and they look really cool. They are a bit longer than regular bar ends, so you may need to trim your bar length to make up for it. I still use these and love them.

Custom Mount
This is another easy one that doesn't require much. I took my Virtue bottle (the best bottle for this kind of mod since it has a non-round shape and sits at the bottom of its cage flush) and drilled new, lower holes for it to mount in. This brings it all the way into the bottom of the triangle of my frame (the same way the virtue sits in a transition/shiv stock) and both adds a small bit of stability to the bottle (its actually sitting on the downtube) as well as closing in the "gap" it had stock. (which *should* be superior aerodynamically) Sometimes it's the little things that count.

"Cobb Hack" front Brake

David Millar's 1/2 Hack

This is the dangerous one. Let me put this one out there up front... the cobb hack WILL NOT stop you reliably! Do this mod at your own risk! (Seriously, I'm warning you, don't come crying to me when it fails at the worst possible moment) That said...

... So you want an aero brake, but don't have the cash to drop on an Omega / Simkins / Hooker / whatever. Well, this is an old trick from Mr. Cobb. You are only going to be out the cost of your brake if (when?) you screw it up. The first step is to cut the top arm (as in David Millars pic above) and drill a new hole for the cable to run through. On mine I started with a wider hole (enough for housing to sit in) and then made it shallower out the other end. (just wide enough for the cable itself)

-------If you stop at this point-------
You can still stop the bike  reliably. What you're essentially doing here (that you care about) is making it a little easier to route your front brake cable housing "cleanly." (like a center pull aero brake would basically) Besides having to replace the cable a bit more often, you shouldn't have any negative side effects.

-------If you keep going-------
You will cut the other arm off as well (right past the point that holds the cable) and then drill and tap a new hole through the side of what's left of the arm. Now, obviously you need to make SURE you tap it right. Then, find the right screw and shave just a tiny nub into it (where the cable will fit when it's secured) and then red loctite the crap out of it. shave another nub into the brake arm (very slight, you want the cable to sit there, not fly out) and say a prayer to whatever god you see fit to ask mercy from.

I used the full mod for one Time Trial.  That was enough for me. I'd rate stopping power somewhere around that of a poorly adjusted Modolo Kronos / Delta Brake (that is, nonexistent)  Afterwards, on a training ride, the cable stripped the threads out of the tapped hole (not sure why to this day)

Those are just a few of the more *interesting* things I've played around with. I'm currently playing with creating my own carbon parts, which is a bit more expensive (and time consuming) than most of these things. Updates will come at some point, if I ever craft anything worth showing off!

Until then, keep tuning!

- Christopher Morelock 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Slowly smoothing out (and things to watch for)

It's no secret, this year has been a bit rocky for me.
It's always this picture...
The good news is, things are starting to look up, or upper that is. Some little "achievements" that I have made this year.

- 500m TT swim in under 7:00 - Done at 6:53
- Higher FTP than last year - Now hovering around 270's.
- Ran a Sub 20' 5k - 19:32 in the middle of a long run.

It's always good to have smaller goals mixed in with the bigger ones. My long term goals are to push my FTP into the 300+ range, get my 5k down to low 18's (and, more importantly, to lower my long run pace to low 7min/miles) , and swim a sub 6' 500TT. All those are a ways off, but hopefully at least in sight on the horizon.

I've also started this nice blog (you may have noticed, since you are reading it) to sort of occupy my downtime (well, to procrastinate from work and house chores) and while I'm still feeling out the way it works and what mix of tidbits / jokes / and nonsense people are willing to sift through, I must say I thoroughly enjoy it.
Even Spider Man has writers block occasionally
 I plan to attempt to continue the reviews (the DSW Speedpack being the first, but I'm already working on drafts for the S-Works Trivents, the Zoot Ultra Kiawe's, and my trip to the wind tunnel) and update the blog at least once a week (hopefully a little more as time allows and things happen) but of course, posting just to post really isn't helpful to anyone... so bear with me. 

Look There! You can see my swim times not being embarrassing! Here, take the telescope!
Have a happy and safe Labor Day! 

-Christopher Morelock