Thursday, June 25, 2015

Episode Whatever: A New Hope

It was pretty hot yesterday...
A little late on the update because I wanted to see how my training TT would go Wednesday afternoon, whether I was still dragging ass or if I was coming back around to a reasonable level of fitness.

I managed an 18:22 in 8 miles, a little over 26mph on a moderately hilly course. My watts were down a good amount from previous attempts (which was to be expected and planned for) but my pacing was much more "optimal" than past TT's, so I managed a better time than I expected.  The problem I have (and am working my best to fix) in local TT's (and Tri's for that matter) is that I am not good at pacing up and down short hills. I'm one of those types who loves to crush a 15-20" climb in a big gear with massive watts, then recover on the downward slope of the roller... and around here that means doing that over and over again. Of course that means I have a low avg. power and high NP, along with a slower overall time, mainly due to burning myself out with 500w intervals, along with not maximizing my speed.

Last night my goal was to hold my target watts throughout, going moderately (but reasonably) above on the short climbs and slightly lower on the declines, but still holding close as possible to that number. It felt odd, I've almost taught my body to unconsciously take it easy going down, so pedaling harder (and faster) was foreign... but I could feel the difference. I was definitely going faster over the 8 miles despite not spiking over the uphills. I still wasn't anywhere near perfect (or smooth for that matter) I'd say I paced 75-80% optimal... compared to my usual 50% or lower though, that was a big boost.

My body also felt more in tune, like it was ready to accept the stress/work vs. me trying to battle with it to keep going. Not sure what that's hard to explain... but I hope it's the fact that my body is at least starting to heal and re-balance itself vs. the often very "dead/flat" feeling I had grown used to in the not so distant past.

I rode my Cervelo (hoping that I get my Felt finished before the next one) and the position on it felt exceptionally good... which is odd considering I was having a tough time staying in aero in my first TT this year and have not done very much riding in aero since then. Outside of the turnaround I never sat up, and just all around felt very comfortable.

Same position different day

Sooo... there is hope. Hope that I'll be a healthier, smarter and ultimately faster athlete. Some day.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review! Zwift Beta

I've been playing Zwift for a good couple of months so far, enough that I feel I can put into words some thoughts about it at least, and so I shall.

Big Wheelin' on April Fool's Day

Zwift, while not the first stab at mixing "gaming" with cycling, is already most likely the most successful, owing a lot of that to the ease and range of equipment you can use to get it up and running, but the supported Facebook groups and consistent patches (which are good at fixing the errors that come with all beta's) along with Zwifts successful marketing campaigns do a lot to solidify it. Heck, I even saw Zwift in a video game sites review. So, let's dive into the basics.

What you need

Currently Zwift is open beta. That means you don't need a magic ticket to ride, just sign up and you're in. You do have to supply yourself with all the hardware though.

First, you're going to need a mediocre computer, and both windows and mac are currently supported. I built a ~$500 computer just to play Zwift, but I think I could have spent closer to $300 and still had a totally capable machine. Of course if you want to play on max settings you may need to dig deeper, but I'd guess most even modest machines from the last couple of years shouldn't be too taxed by Zwift.

Then, you're going to need a trainer. Again, you can go from modest to extravagant depending on exactly what you are wanting out of your "experience." Humble "dumb" trainers (like my KK Road Machine) don't have any frills with Zwift, whereas the higher end joints like a Wahoo or Computrainer will link up and automatically adjust to the landscape you see on screen, making it a bit more encompassing than just riding to a screen of hills.

Next, you'll need a way to get your pedaling info to the computer, so an ANT+ stick is required. I used the one from my 310xt, but they can be had on Amazon for a pretty cheap price if you don't have one laying around. Besides that, you'll need something to transmit from your bike. In an ideal world that would be a power meter, but Zwift also has "Zpower" in which you use a cadence sensor and adjust your trainer to get an estimated power output while you ride.

With that, download the program, create your avatar and you're ready to ride.

some easy character customization
So, with that out of the way, let's talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.

The best (and simplest) thing about Zwift, bar none, is that it gives you something to do while on the trainer. While I have always done a lot of my bike training inside, even I have my limits of staring at the wall. With Zwift, you always have a ride to join in on, considering somebody (or the bots) are around your pace. It's not the same as a group ride out under the sun, but just the thought that somebody else is on there hurting gives me solace to ride on.

There's also the motivational part of it... the "zwift effect" as it were. With a sprint point, a pretty good KoM and a "fastest lap" all with their own respective virtual jersey's (each giving you one chance per lap to foil the current top dog) it's easy to get caught up in the "racing game." You also have plenty of official and non-official special events, chances to ride with pro's (Jensie pops up now and again, though for the most part only for the big events these days) and player hosted events (Tuesday Night Worlds and the Weekend Social Ride being some of the more popular) going on pretty much all week long.  Beyond that, like any good online multiplayer game, there are unlockables for certain achievements (mainly leveling up, but also from other situations that occur, hitting X watts, etc) that are sure to keep you chomping at the bit.

Gaining new jerseys, bikes and wheels with different achievements keeps things fresh

The bad news is pretty slight for a (currently) free inside riding program. At some point beyond beta it will cost money to play, but we have no idea what the configuration of the game will be at that time. There are some minor gripes, probably my biggest one being with the A.I. riders. They seemingly have no rhyme or reason to what pace they are doing. One minute that will be chugging along at 2w/kg, then all of a sudden speed away at breakneck pace. It would be nice if in the future at least certain non-players kept a steady'ish output per lap so you could do pacing with a little more "company." Other problems are mainly what you'd expect from any "beta" game... there is some clipping, some riders seemingly riding off into nowhere and other odd bugs... the mobile app has crashed a few times on me, not connected other times and a few times even started telling me I had no "power up" even though I did... no amount of resetting the app would fix it. (Which isn't a big deal, but sometimes you want to clear out your current power up so you have a chance at the XP ups)

The ugly boils down to two things for me... the aforementioned "zwift effect" can be a good thing for sure, but it can also easily lead cyclists down the road of "too hard on the easy days too easy on the hard days." It's tough (I know) to see somebody pull out in front of you on the climb and take off and NOT respond at all... the one that kills me is always the sprint. The first one comes up about 15' into my warmup and it is usually begging me to try for it :)

"Zwift Effect" in action... hoping to steal the Green Jersey from Nick.
The other gripe (that I share with everyone it seems) is some of the unrealistic setups. It's disheartening to log on and see that somebody has done the climb in under a minute and a half, the sprint in 18 seconds and the lap in 12 minutes. (If you don't play those numbers probably don't mean anything haha) Zpower is still not an exact science, and it's easy to "trainer dope" by not having sufficient tension on your trainer. I feel most people (especially without power meters) just don't understand what it really takes to ride at 5-6w/kg for lap after lap while throwing in 1k+w sprints and climbs into the mix... and of course I'm sure there are some people who do it just to try for a strava record, but whatever. Fortunately, this is more of an eye roll than a true concern, but it's still something I'd like to see a solution to in the future.

So, I give Zwift the big thumbs up. It's fun, engaging and social... all things that might make your trip to the drainer a little more interesting.

Also, congratulations to Jimmy, who won the Cat4 TN TT championship race, and to Matt (Cat5 Winner) I wish I had been there to battle with them, but patience is still required. Next Year.

Large and in charge
Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it, and #GoZwift

-Christopher Morelock

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Can't get past the lack of facial hair.
Wiggins indeed set the record, although not quite at high as he had hoped. Personally I think that's a good thing, as if he had just smashed it out of the park we might not see any more interest in it in the future. It's still a big hurdle for whoever is next in line. (Dowsett again seems somewhat likely)

I've slowly been putting in longer rides again, and last Sunday Zwift rewarded me with a new Jersey!

When 3 hours isn't enough

And how 100k looks outside of VR ;)
Zwift has been a great tool for me, helping me push myself again without so much pressure and keeping things "fun." I'm excited to see what happens when we get a true release product.

Back in reality, The State TT is this weekend and sadly I'll not be battling it out. Although I have been training daily and steadily increasing my volume and intensity... I don't believe I have the confidence to "race" a 40k yet. (To say nothing for my neck haha) But worry not, last night I had a power test, so I was able to suffer a significant amount. The good news is I've gained a good bit back that I lost, although I'm still nowhere near my level of fitness in the past. I am healthier though, which leads me to believe I'll be meeting and/or exceeding those levels in before the end of the year, at least on the bike.

As for the other sports, I have slowly started adding running back into the mix. To celebrate (and hopefully help with bricks and save some pounding on my knees) I bought a new treadmill! The Sole F80. I've not had it quite long enough yet to really put down my thoughts on it, but from the couple of runs I have gotten in on it, it seems like a hard to beat machine for the price. In probably the saddest revelation since my time off, I ran a couple of miles not far off of my tempo pace on one of my first "real" runs. I would say that speaks of my recovery, but more than anything it speaks to the fact that I'm such a bad runner I didn't have far to fall... :)

A new edition to the pain cave!

It's also time to finish things I've got sitting aside. Most notably, I had found an old 650c Disc for my Zipp 2001 that came with a (period correct...) Tufo tubular which needed replaced by something less embarrassing... in this case a Vittoria. So, for the first time in quite some time, it's back to gluing! I'm old school when it comes to gluing... lots of layers on the rim, a few on the tire, taking almost a week. I know it can be done faster, but it's one of those ritual things I learned one way and now always do it that way.

There's just something great about the ritual of preparing a tubular

And finally, this years Cobb Mobb kits came in. I was a bit timid to try it on with my gained weight, but it turned out at least acceptable... hopefully I'll shrink into it before long :) The new longer top is a welcome addition (and what most people's complaint was last year) for those of us with a little bit too much % to show off a 6 pack!

Thumbs up.
Thanks for checking in on me! The countdown begins, exactly one month until my return to triathlon!

- Christopher Morelock

Monday, June 1, 2015

Stuff (and vote for Knoxville!)

A lot has been going on. Not so much for me, but in general...a bunch.

First, if you haven't voted and have no good reason to vote for one of the other local's I'd ask you to vote for Knoxville for the $100k grant for a new Mountain Bike park. It doesn't take much to vote, and I at least would appreciate it! Link Here.

Even Knoxville's Mayor is excited about it!
The Giro has ended, and it has been an entertaining one at that. Despite what you may think of Astana, motor's in bicycles or Contador, you can't argue it was fun to watch. SPOILER Ahead

Still looks silly every time he does this...

Now that he has won the Giro, (for the third second time) the stage is set for a real battle in the tour, with Contador showing a lot of his old form. Maybe we'll get an exciting tour this year as opposed to the "comfortable dominance" it turned into last year after the first week. I'm interested to see how Saxo supports Contador and Sagan... it didn't seem to work all that well (well... it did, but you know what I mean) this time, with Contador on his own for a lot of the hard sections, but I guess I'm not the greatest tactician.

In the tech nerd interests... the big news is Wiggins and his 3D printed bars.

Is custom kit right around the corner?

We don't have any good pictures yet, but supposedly it's a 1pc titanium bar shaped specifically for Wiggins forearms. This has some huge potential for the future, although I'm sure currently the cost is prohibitive to all but the most Olympic / WC / TDF winners. Still, this might be one of the coming innovations, or at least it would be cool if it were. I don't think anyone expects anything except for Wiggo to crush the hour record as it currently stands (although whether it will last 20 years is yet to be seen) but it will be a fun hour to watch nonetheless. It would be interesting to see how close he gets to the old records of Boardman and Obree.

Again, please please please vote for Knoxville.

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

-Christopher Morelock