Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Race Report: Giordana Velodrome (H)our Record

This is a tough one to put down into words... it's not the end of the journey, just a step... but man, what a good step it was to take.

Monday, August 28 at 1p.m. in Rock Hill, things came to a head and I took the first pedalstroke toward trying to set the track record at Giordana. It's been something I've wanted to do for a long time now, something that I wasn't sure I *could* do, something I still don't think I could have done... and yet, something WE did. But let's get to the actual report first, and then I'll throw in all my shoutout/thank you's at the end!

My wife and I set out late Saturday morning for Rock Hill. My mom had planned to go with us as well, but unfortunately had to stay home leaving it just us for the long weekend. Our trip down was pretty uneventful, Regional championships were taking place at the velodrome and we made it there literally just in time for the last person to step off the podium. Drat. We spent the rest of Saturday evening and most of Sunday exploring the local area (and checking out some great places to eat!) and just relaxing. 

Since I've had some very limited track time this year (and, well... ever) I was a bit nervous going into this, so I decided it would be best to do a little bit more on the track on Sunday than what was originally planned. I wasn't going to do any crazy efforts, but getting re-accustomed to riding the track was certainly going to be a boon.  While there I met with some local riders, one of which (I am very sorry I forgot your name!) was nice enough to help me with my line entering and exiting the turns and "flattening" the turns. This was a simple, short little bit of advice that REALLY helped me out on Monday. As time was winding down I did a couple of laps timed at "race pace" to see how it felt. I was on my training wheels and not in my skinsuit but was still slightly up on the pace without feeling like I was really working too hard for it. That gave me a much needed boost of confidence and maybe for the first time of the weekend I really internalized that this might just work out. At this point I even let just the slightest bit of bravado slip in and texted Derek "I think this is going to go well." It's at this point I should point out my phone auto-corrected "well" to "terrible" and I had a nervous laugh... stupid Galaxy S6...

Monday rolled around and the overall feeling I had most of the day was one of nervous anticipation. Since my start time wasn't until 1p.m. and my wife and I are early risers, we had a LONG time to spend just hanging out. I had breakfast and half/half coffee (1/2 decaf) around 6:30, then a larger breakfast at Panera Bread (Quinoa honey almond oatmeal) with more coffee and a lot of water. At the point my pee turned light straw color I started drinking Skratch mix to make sure I didn't over-hydrate. We really lucked up with the time wasting as The Big Lebowski was on and let's be honest, there is no better way to get psyched up for a big event than watching the Dude abide.

Finally, it was time to make our trek to the velodrome and get set up. It never fails to amaze me how time simply crawls by right up until you are at the venue, then it's like somebody puts you in fast forward. Bob and Ivan at Giordana already had most everything set up and were ready for me... I can't stress enough how excellent and professional these guys were. As I was drinking my (absolutely terrible tasting) mix of Beet Elite and baking soda and contemplating things that those who attack hour records contemplate (which at this point is all the things that aren't controllable, like weather) Derek (Dalzell, my coach) and his wife arrive and the team is all together and there is not much left to do other than a practice standing start (and test the timing) and to make a few nervous jokes.

As far as weather goes, we got good temperature  (maybe just slightly warmer than ideal) and a nice overcast, but with a good bit of wind. Some of the guys at the track said it was a bad day for an hour attempt, but it was what day we had, so we were going to have to make the best of it.

As I made my way up to the start line and clumsily tried to clip into my speedplay pedals (look, I'm a shimano guy... cut me some slack) I was struck very pointedly by the thought that Tony Rominger, one of the hour legends, didn't get up to speed fast enough from his start and fell unceremoniously, having to restart. (And fwiw, then setting the world record) As the countdown began, I thought... I hope I don't fall...

Don't fall don't fall don't fall...

I make it through turn 1 and thankfully don't wipe out. Coming into the straight it's down to business and I click off the first of many laps at a pretty unimpressive 31.4" something that certainly won't gain me any street cred with the real trackies.

Our plan was to ride conservatively at the current record pace. Having never done an hour before (or really any sets over 20 minutes on the track) we decided that would be the most likely to be successful strategy. That would mean holding roughly low 22" lap splits.  Lap #2 I'm at 21.8" and for the next 20 minutes I'm pretty much like a metronome clicking them off.  Derek and his significant other did an excellent job relaying information to me, I got lap splits each time around and every 5 minutes I got a sheet of how I was doing compared to the record. At about 20' I was 1.5km up. I was smiling, giving thumbs up to Derek, things were going well.

Black line...nailed it...right... at least I'm still in the sprinters lane

An hour attempt is unique. The challenge isn't just a physical one, maybe even moreso it is a mental one. There is just you and some lines. Every few seconds you try to line up entering and exiting the turn, and you see a flash card with your split on it, but otherwise you really see nothing and hear nothing. If you've ever done a set you may know the feeling... you look at your watch after what seems like forever has passed and you see that in reality only a minute or two has gone by. The hour is like that, except longer, and desolate. In a road time trial you have scenery, the danger of traffic, turns, other competitors, things to think about and ever so slightly distract you and take your mind off of small things that aren't really issues. On the track, you feel everything, and it feels worse because you have no distractions to take your mind off of it.  The first thing to hurt, for me, was my pinky fingers. Wrapping them around my bars was just uncomfortable enough for it to start annoying me. Then my thumbs started to feel numb (from the loops of my bodypaint3.3 choking off circulation I guess) and all in all my hand area just bothered me. Then my lats started to feel the stress of holding me in position.

later in the day, not even on the red line any more...

At around 30 minutes there were no more smiles, no more thumbs up. There was just one lap, followed by another. There were also starting to be more than a few 22.x" laps mixed in. As the day had worn on the wind had shifted, when I started it was hitting me coming out of turn 2, at almost the "perfect" spot to help me slide a little up toward the red line setting me up to cut the inside of turn 3. Unfortunately, as the day progressed the wind started hitting me exiting turn 4... and it was hitting me hard. For a while I tried to fight the bike and hold it in the sprinters lane, but as I have tried to convey little things turn into big things on the track. Fighting the bike was costing me a lot of energy I didn't have, so I eventually decide to just let the wind send me out of the turn wherever it wanted and to just ride it back down when it calmed. I'm sure it looked like I was totally losing control...hell, maybe I was... but it made sense to me at the time.

As the 5 minute intervals were coming up, 1.5km slid to 1km to .5km and finally to even pace with the record. 40-50 minute mark was steady 22" laps, a bit of a meltdown but not a disaster. At 15 minutes to go I remember thinking "I've done so many 15 minute sets... just do this one more and you never have to do another one." I could also hear everyone on the track trying to bolster me... part of me was very, very glad for the support, and part of me was concerned... were they trying to keep me going because it looked like I might stop at any second.
Honest moment, there was only one thing I wanted to do more than stop... and that was finish. At 10 minutes to go Derek started giving me minute to minute updates "9 to go!" "8:30" "Hold the black Line!" "steady!" and other things I'm not 100% sure I heard correctly, but I got the message.


Actually, from my lap splits at 7 minutes I started lifting, although I didn't feel like I was. I dropped back into mid-low 21" laps. At this point I was experiencing something I never have before... I saw things, I heard things, but they had no meaning. I could see Derek hold up my lap split, but it didn't hold any information that made sense. I heard my wife cheering, but she was foreign to me. I was a picture frame you buy at Target... There is a picture in it, but no meaning behind it. The only thing that I had to hold onto was a ferverous (or feverous?) voice telling me to push the damn pedals harder.

In the distance, I hear a whistle blow. I ride by and someone is smiling, giving me a thumbs up. Distantly, a realization dawns on me that the whistle means I can stop.

Panic grips me.

For the first time in my cycling life, I truly believe there is no possibility of me slowing down without wrecking. I'm not sure if slowing down will lock my legs up, not sure if I can support myself in any position other than the one I've been locked in the last hour. Slowing down is a painful shock to my system. I lift onto the basebar and my arms have support in them. I slowly ride down the track and have enough sense to let Derek know that I need someone to catch me. He does. Things happen, people, wife... all I can do is put my head into the aerobars and try not to fall over. I get off the bike and make it to the grass infield, where I collapse onto my back and finally have enough oxygen back to my brain to realize that the words being formed are "you did it."

Derek and Jenny keeping me from toppling over. Notice I'm still in the same position I've been in for an hour 

We did it! The final damage was 41.03km/25.49mph, or 164 laps. I was only able to add 3 laps to Tim's record, but I feel it was everything I had to give, and I'm happy for it!

So, this was a big enough thing for me to feel like I need to give some long winded shoutouts! If that isn't your thing, feel free to sign out early! Thanks so much for reading, bigger things are coming!

Ivan (from Giordana) Jenny me Derek and Millicent

Me and Derek, one down more to come

Most weight I've lifted over my head in years!

Thanks to
- My wife, who is the ultimate support
- My family, and especially my mom!
- Derek Dalzell for being an awesome coach, and his wife for doing math for me and just coming out to as support!
- Kevin Sprouse and Podium Sports Medicine for getting me to the line healthy
- All my friends who have listened to me talk endlessly and senselessly about 1/8th of a watt savings, Jimmy, Wes, Emil, Joe, Matt, Tony and so many more
- Tons of knowledgeable folks who took time to listen to and answer my endless questions... Marc Graveline, Alex Simmons, Colby Pearce, Dr. Bassett, Heath Dotson and lots of folks at Slowtwitch and Timetriallingforum
- Mark Florence from the Time trial podcast, which is likely the biggest source of information on hour attempts out there.
- All my sponsors, for continuing to believe.
- More that I've certainly forgot. I'm sorry.

The only other thing I'll add... come out, try it! It's $60 to make an attempt. Break my distance. Give me a reason to come back and do it again! I think 43km is well within reach of somebody with a fairly good W/CdA ratio and an ok day. Maybe a lot more!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What to do with extra fitness.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ended up sort of peaking beyond when it was expected. Obviously, that's not ideal, but now it's either let it go to waste or find something to "spend" it on. With no more TT's of note on the schedule for the year and with an imminent trip to Germany looming over me in the not so distant future, I had to come up with something quick and fairly close.

Last year around this time I had an ill fated attempt at Dick Lane Velodrome's Hour Day, where (on my second time ever on the track if I may impart a small excuse) I managed about 20 minutes before my very aggressive position mixed with my unpreparedness for the distinct difference of riding an hour on the track, along with doing it blind (both literally and figuratively, as I lost my contact lenses about 5' into the ride and couldn't hear anything my wife was yelling at me track side...) and maybe also the nonzero of how unique a track Dick Lane is (if you've ever ridden it you know what I mean) ended my ride. On the plus side, those 20' went pretty well... Now, just have to do that times 3.

As for the current record, Tim Granger is the man to beat, with 161 laps (40.45kmph) done right before Thanksgiving last year. I think it's a pretty good record on that track... as the Giordana velodrome isn't particularly "fast" being concrete and exposed to the elements.  I will definitely respect his record, and will ride very close to it for the majority of my own ride, or at least that is the plan.

So how do I think I'll do?  I'm actually very interested to see. On the one hand, I think I've come a LONG way since Dick Lane last year, but as I've said, trying to ride 40k+ for an hour on a track is something I have 0 experience doing, so there is most definitely the scenario where I don't even finish. That said, my primary goal is to ride it out, regardless of what kind of speed I manage. I would like to finish it at the very least.

In all honesty, my gut tells me that if I have to match the same watts I did at the TN State TT to hold the pace, it will be a tough day that will come down to the last few minutes. If the requirement is more, it may be out of my reach, and if it's less, I will hopefully only suffer a good amount and not the entire time. Some of that will also likely depend on the weather. As I'm starting late (1p.m.) and the track is exposed, I'll almost certainly get a hot day (which is technically a good thing) but I also run the risk of getting "too hot" of a day, which could be a disaster.

We'll know next week though! That will be exciting.
Just for fun I'll run through my gear setup

- Giro Aerohead MIPS (M)
- Castelli BP3.3 (M)
- Aerocoach Trip Socks (M)
- Bioracer TT gloves (S)
- DMT P1 shoes (44)

- Fuji Track Elite (54)
- Dura Ace Track Crank w/stages PM (167.5)
- Dura Ace 53t Chainring
- Dura Ace 15t Cog
- Dura Ace 7710 Bottom Bracket
- Izumi Chain w/homebrew speed wax
- Speedplay Aero Zero cleats and pedals
- Tririg Sigma X stem
- 3T Brezza II Nano base bar
- Zipp Evo 70 Extensions w/3d printed dummy plugs
- Aerocoach Align arm pads
- Fizik Ares saddle
- Walker Brothers Revo2 disc w/22mm Vittoria Evo Pista rear
- No-Name Mavic iO clone, 19mm Vittoria Evo Pista front (Possible option of a deep section spoked wheel as well)
- Powertap Joule GPS+ mounted w/custom 3d printed behind the saddle mount.

Will all that gear pimpness buy me the speed necessary to get the job done? I'm guessing I'll still have to pedal pretty hard, but I'm hoping it at least helps a little!

So, next week either you'll get a race report filled with greatness, or one full of excuses ;)

Until then, Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Round of Blood Work

I had just straight up forgotten about my labs earlier this year... that means it was a good long break between my last test and this one, so I was a bit nervous about how things would look.

The good news is that my nutrients are looking good. Some of the ones I have had issues with in the past (Ferritin, VitD particularly) were looking very good considering the time lapse, so I was very happy with that. Magnesium is holding pretty steady, but considering I supplement it fairly heavily that's not "great." I've picked up some topical magnesium to add after hard workouts, so hopefully that will bring my numbers up slightly. My insulin levels dropped a good bit (putting me back in the normal range) which was great!

The bad news is that my cholesterol, which has always been high, is now starting to look high in pretty bad ways. Dietary changes and adding some high quality fish oil to my regimen will hopefully remedy it and put it back in the right area, and with any luck the fish oil will have the added benefit of helping with inflammation a bit.  I'm not terribly concerned with these numbers, but it's something that is trending in the wrong direction, and as I'm not getting any younger the time is now to try to curtail any further decline, rather than to sit idly and then possibly develop a truly serious problem down the road.

The other, other bad news is my Thyroid results, which also continue to go in the wrong direction.

Depending on what you read from who and what test you take from where, my numbers are on varying scales of "not great," and unfortunately aren't looking like they are getting better. Since I first started paying attention to my blood work in 2014 these numbers have been high, but they've continually went in the wrong direction, which is starting to become a bit more concerning.  We've decided that it's best to get further blood work done for possible autoimmune issues to see if we can get a clearer idea of the big picture. I'll save any speculation, as the rabbit hole of playing google doctor really isn't how I want to spend my days! Hopefully no big deal.

As far as how I feel... well pretty great. I've started to really peak (which was unintentional, but the way my body responded to a shift in training) and with no races left on the schedule I have been on the hunt for something to waste the fitness on. I've nailed down something, but I'll save that for another post.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pump it up!

I enjoy racing, and I enjoy training. But, I also really enjoy other parts of cycling, including the gear and the history.  So when I can pick up something that has some historic feel to it that is also pretty cool and as a bonus, quite useful... well I jump at the chance, especially if it's fairly cheap.

So, as you may know if you've read for a while, I like Silca pumps. The new Super Pista is a great bit of kit that I use every single day. In my garage I also have an older Super Pista (mid 2000's I'd guess) hooked up with a Hirame adapter I use on my race wheels. And just a couple weeks ago, I picked up an old (stamped 1989) Pista pump. With Silca re-releasing the Pista just recently, it seemed like a great time to snatch up a little piece of old school kit to play with.

This specific one was listed on ebay in non-working order. It seemed the previous owner had given up on it many years ago and it had sit in neglect since then. For $30 the majority of the pump was in great shape though, with some chipped paint (which adds to the panache of a pump like this in my opinion.) but otherwise pretty nice. Yellow is a flashy, nice color, probably my favorite behind Molteni Orange.

After it arrived I took stock of the problems. Primarily, it was simply that the leather washer had likely never been changed and had a couple of rips in it. The hose was in fairly good condition for it's age, but I added that to the list of replacement parts as well. Finally, the gauge. It seemed like it was still functioning, but without the pump working it wasn't possible to know if it was holding any accuracy... unfortunately it was almost certainly not after so many years, so a replacement gauge was the final piece. Fortunately Silca sells a rebuild kit for all their pumps, so it didn't take much work to get all the pieces necessary.

Garage pumps

Once I rebuilt the pump I tested the accuracy of the gauge. Unfortunately it was, as expected, miles away from accurate, somewhere around 25psi different from my digital gauge. That was unfortunate, the replacement gauge from Silca certainly looks good (and more importantly, it matches the vintage look of the original) but I was a bit remiss that I would lose the sweet 240 max psi from the original. Sad, but function of fashion.

Very sad days... 16 bar is a nice inflated number (Oh I've got puns)

Once it was back together and freshly updated, it was time to put it to the test. How well did it work?

My super unscientific test. Blow up a 22mm Tubular from 0psi to 100psi with the three Silca pumps.

1989 Pista - 21 full strokes
circa 2000 Super Pista (w/Hirame) - 18 full strokes
current Super Pista - 13 full strokes

Generation gap!

No big surprises there, the longer the barrel, the less strokes required. It's also fair to say that the "feel" improves as they get newer. Nonetheless, the old Pista did a fine job pumping up the tire. For what is essentially a much good bit more portable pump it did what you'd want from a pump you threw in the back of the car.

So, a new toy to use. If it's like my other pumps it's in for a lot of use... err, more than it's seen in the past 30 years. I just thought I'd share it, I think it's great that Silca sells most of the parts to keep your pump running for a good long time... of course now I'm hoping I won't have to fall back on that for many, many years to come!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lifenerding? Upgrade it all!?

I like to geek out on stuff. From what you guys read week in and week out (right? I hope so anyways) that primarily means bicycle related things.

While that is more than accurate, it also spills over into almost every facet of my life. I obsess on just about everything... what knives go in the kitchen (Tojiro) what hex keys to use (Wera) or even what boxer briefs to wear (Spanx... yes for men) all of this after hours of research. Why? I dunno... it's just something I sort of enjoy doing.

But that said, there are some glaring weaknesses in my obsessiveness when it comes to my own performance. For such a nerd about aerodynamics, tire rolling resistance and drivetrain efficiency, I really lack when it comes to making my own body as finely tuned as I can. I've always been more of a "train hard and then when I'm done I'm DONE" type of person.  So I've been thinking about trying to see if I can apply myself (my teachers always said I didn't do much of that) to this in the same way's I've applied it to technology.

To start with (and hopefully not bite off too much at once) it's going to be an easy one. Proper cooling before a race. I've toyed with it in the past, and by that I mean I've poured water on myself and once I tried to put an ice pack down my back for the State TT (which turned out to be a cold/hot pack... which was a disaster once it melted) but after speaking with some fellow's in the know... I ordered a cold vest (pretty cheap on amazon actually! Same one the pro teams use so far as I can tell) and some menthol cooling spray. The cooling spray shows no benefit to actual performance in the studies I looked at, but perception was reported to be cooler in all cases. While that's not an actual gain, if it makes me feel a little better while I'm suffering on the bike, I'll consider it a win. The ice vests do have a positive effect on performance (well... lowering core temp does technically) so fortunately that money will hopefully end up well spent. There are some other area's of temp control (a slushy for example) that are definitely worth exploring, but these two should give me a chance to test it out.

Next is sleeping.  Like (I'm guessing) most of you, I don't think much about sleeping. Maybe I've used my Withings Activite to "monitor" it for a while (until the new wore off the feature) but really, that information, even if (and that if is a very big one, as I'll get to) it's accurate, doesn't really tell you what is important. Most of the "sleep trackers" on the market really only guess. Some more accurately than others, but at the end of the day, they are relying on HR and motion to estimate what kind of sleep you're getting. To really dig down you need some EEG readings. If only there was a machine that did that besides actual medical equipment.

Fortunately, years ago ZEO made just such a product. Unfortunately, probably due to timing (around the time of wearable fitness/sleep trackers a la fitbit) and the necessity to wear the goofy band to bed (I'm sure my wife will love it!) the company went under, despite good reviews and data collection of things like deep sleep and even REM. Although there is no longer official support for the Zeo, there is a fairly loyal community behind them, and it's still possible to get it to work. So, after perusing ebay, I ordered a used one. The goal behind this is to first start tracking my actual sleep and how much of it i spend in the different "zones" at night. Once that's established, I'll start making changes to see if I can maximize the amount of time spent in deep sleep. Is that worth anything? I think so, although I'm still trying to learn as much as possible in this area before I make any concrete statements. It should make a great project regardless of anything else.

It's also time to have my blood work done once more. With any luck everything will be a-ok after my "race season" and the bit of weight I've put on. We shall see!

Thanks for reading, a lot of randomness I know.

-Christopher Morelock