Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vuelta stage 8 VAM for final climb

I was a bit shocked to see Valverde (Valv-Piti) and his seeming best friend Rodriguez out-climb both Contador and Froome in stage 8 of the Vuelta. Was it that Valverde has raised his game to become a world class sustained climber, but only when racing in the safe confines of Spain? Or was it more that Froome and Contador weren't up to their best, allowing Valverde and Rodriguez to keep up?

The obvious check is the VAM: the rate at which they were able to gain altitude. It's roughly correlated to power/mass ratio. In the Armstrong era, it was typical during the Tour for Lance to be significantly over 1700 meters/hour for beyond-category climbs gaining over 1000 vertical meters. On short, punchy climbs riders were over 1800, even 1900.

For profile data, all I really used was the official route data from the organizers. These show the climb gains 580 meters in 7.2 km, an average grade of 8.1%. That's fairly steep and fairly short by Tour de France standards, well-suited to a high rate of vertical ascent.

For timing I used this video. It took 20:25 for the top riders to climb the final 7 km, where I started the timing immediately following the Sky train crossing the 7 km banner, and ended it with Valverde crossing the finish line with his arms in the air.

I didn't have an altitude number for 7 km to go, so I interpolated from the surrounding points, resulting in the estimation of 14 meters gained in the first 200 meters of the 7.2 km climb. This leaves 566 meters of climbing in the final 7 km.

The result... the VAM was approximately 1663 meters/hour.

Compare and contrast with Verbier in the 2009 Tour de France...

Using climbing times from The Science of Sport:

rider
time
VAM
Alberto Contador
20:36
1858
Andy Schleck
21:19
1796
Carlos Sastre
21:42
1764
Lance Armstrong
22:11
1726

So this isn't a return of Armstrong-Contador-era super-climbing, even by Contador himself. Valverde and Rodriguez are each riders with an enormous anaerobic work capacity (high short-term power). The longer the climb, the less important anaerobic capacity, and the more important aerobic capacity. So this climb is not necessarily indicative of Valverde's and Rodriguez's ability to stick with Froome and Contador on climbs like L'Alpe d'Huez, the Tuormalet, or Mount Ventoux, and even for those climbs, this VAM number would fall well below the Armstrong-Ullrich-Basso "glory days".

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More 26-inch hardtail success

After the 2010 World Mountain Bike Championships, I posted a summary of the bikes which had won elite world championships and Olympic races 2008-2010. The result: overwhelming superiority of 26-inch hard-tails, with only one exception of the races Christophe Sauser's 2008 world championship on a Specialized Epic dual-suspension. Well, since then "29'ers" have become so popular it's hard to even find high-end 26-inch hard tails in shops in the United States. Even the dual-suspension bikes are switching to "29-inch". There's been a move in Europe towards 27.5-inch "650B" wheels, a size which had previously been associated more with randonneuring, and Ritchey just announced a wheel in that size.

So one would expect given the ubiquity of these wheels and their claimed performance advantage that surely the winner of these most important races in the world, racers in which the riders have access to almost any equipment they want, 29'ers would dominate. I don't follow pro-level mountain biking much, so was curious if this is the case. I'll start with 2011 world championships.

The women's race was Catharine Pendrel of Canada won the women's championship. Here's her bike from Feb 2012 (although I'm not 100% sure it was the same one she rode @ Worlds).

Catharine Pendrel's bike
2011 women's world champion Catharine Pendrel's 2012 bike

Sure enough, it's a 26-inch hard tail.

The men's race was won by Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic. Here's a photo from Canadian Cyclist, via Cycling News:

Jaroslav Kulhavy
Jaroslav Kulhavy in the 2011 World Championships
That's another Specialized Epic, this time with 29-inch wheels.

So this morning was the women's Olympic mountain bike race. The winner, Julie Bresset of France. Here's what she rode:


Julie Bresset dominating 2012 women's olympic cross-country

Another point to 26-inch hard-tails.

So my tally is up to 11 races: 3 olympics and 8 world championships starting in 2008. It's a biased selection in favor of duallies since that was the first year a dually won worlds. Yet despite this 26-inch hard-tails are ahead 9 to 2. Both of the two are Specialized Epic full-suspension bikes, the 2008 men's world championship won on a 26-incher, and the men's 2011 world championship won on a 29-incher. It will be interesting to see what happens in the men's olympic race tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

post double blues

It's Wednesday and I was thinking of joining the SF2G "dirty Mount San Bruno" ride via the Saddle Loop trail. It's a gorgeous ride. Riding in the dirt is a lot of fun on a road bike, and on a clear day, the early morning the view from the trail is excellent.

But I just didn't feel ready. I'm still tired from Saturday.

As exhilarating as finishing a double is, they do take their toll. It begins the week before, with the need to taper in to be adequately fresh for the long, hard ride. Then the week after, recovery is absolutely key. I remember long ago riding the Davis Double. It made me feel invincible, as if I could do anything. The next day I joined the Alto Velo "A-ride". People couldn't believe it: i was on the A-ride, smiling and ready to go, having ridden 200 miles the day before! I didn't do the while thing, just the first climb of the ride up Old La Honda, then cut it short and rode home. Unfortunately, even this small dose of over-enthusiasm was the straw that broke the rider's back: I was wiped out tired for a week after. I'd have been way better off seriously focusing on recovery, no matter how much I'd wanted to ride on Sunday.

Davis as considerably less climbing than Mt Tam, and I felt anything but invincible this past Sunday (not to mention I'm older now). But after taking it relatively easy Sun, Mon, and Tue, I'd had enough with this go easy thing, and was ready to start riding into work again. But I realized it's better to take it slower, not push it. When my body is ready to ride it, it will let me know. I did some "test runs" Monday and today, only between my office and the cafeteria, maybe 150 meters, both days my legs clearly tired. But then yesterday was a long day at work: leaving home @ 7-sharp to catch a train, getting home at 7:30 pm, no time in between to even get lunch (instead eating fruit I had at my desk). That's never good for spirits.

It's ironic that I've falling off the pace in the Strava "Every Second Counts" distance-in-a-month challenge. One might naively think a double century would be a good way to boost miles. But it's not, at least if it's ridden hard. Too much distance drained from the week prior, too much borrowed with interest from the week following. If distance was my goal, shorter distances Sat and Sun coupled with a few long rides the work-weeks before and after would have added a lot more. But I don't pay much attention to Strava challenges. They get in the way of other goals.

Some try to deny physical limitations. They carry big miles into their doubles, then flog themselves as soon as possible afterwards to "keep the momentum". But it doesn't work. Training is all about stressing the body, then allowing it to recover from the stress, when it can overcompensate for the damage done. You can't stress it properly if you're not fresh for the effort to do so, and without recovery you can't build added strength. In the end, I've found these people run themselves into the ground, perpetually riding in a state of mediocrity.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2012 Mt Tam Double ride report

As I was riding the Mt Tam Double, I thought I'd do a very short ride report, as I had little to say. Whoops.

The first quarter

Life felt surreal as I stepped into the taxi at 3:40 am, setting out for what I knew would be a day of hardship and fatigue. Why was I doing this? Why does anyone do this? It's the quest for the grim isolation of pushing up against physical limits, of suppressing rational self's vocal opposition, remaining distance creeping downward incomprehensively slowly, then alightly more rapidly, accelerating, and finally collapsing into the singularity of the finish.

But I enjoyed the 22 mile ride out to San Rafael. Traffic was extremely light as we zipped along, first riding the "green wave" of synchronized signals in San Francisco, then a congestion-free 101. I had him drop me off right off the freeway two miles from the start. There I got out my bike out to effortlessly spin the remaining distance, verifying everything was working.

I had plenty of time to collect myself before the 5 am mass-start. Riders gathered under the school's lights at the line, where I moved myself into a position near the front. Double Century packs are a curious thing. It's a self-selected group with a heavy dose of introversion yielding a very broad spectrum of bike-handling skills. It's best to be near the front.

"Is everyone ready?" The silly question makes me laugh every time. How can anyone be ready for this? Is anyone truly confronting what looms?

The pace car led us on our way through the city. In the past, we've gotten traffic lights triggered for us, so I was surprised when that wasn't the case this year and we were briefly delayed on our way. But the pause was merciful in its brevity: soon we'd turned onto Lucas Valley Road for the start of the real riding.

My goal was to keep my power capped at 240 w. This is what I'd done in 2010 at both Doubles I'd done that year and it had been successful. I was able to stay strong to the end. I couldn't easily monitor my Garmin in the darkness, but the lead group was clearly riding much faster than I wanted. I instead placed myself with a group going close to my pace, and followed wheels.

Suddenly, a rider mid-pack slowed, unclipping. Chaos. Riders left, riders right. Someone hit him from behind, knocking him down. I avoided contact, cursing at the stupidity of it all.

Progress was good on the climb to the rock marking the top of the climb. One rider led, setting a nice tempo, until a second took over at the crest and delivered us all the way to Nicasio Valley Road at mile 11.3. I noticed lights were clearly brighter than two years ago. At that time my 250 lumin Niterider was relatively bright, but now bright lights surrounded me. It was almost too much, as I had to avert my eyes from the blinding intensity of flashing red tail lights ahead.

From Nicasio Valley Road we turned southward onto normally busy, now deserted Sir Francis Drake Road. I continued to follow wheels as the skies brightened and lights were switched off. We climbed the White's Grade backside at a comfortable tempo, then blasted the rapid descent into Fairfax. There we turned onto Bolinas Road: we had finally entered the lower slopes of Mount Tam.

To now the pace had seems fine to me: close to what I wanted to sustain. I continued this pace on Bolinas Road out of Fairfax. But the enthusiasm of the early, short climbs seemed to have subsided, and I pulled away from the others.

Absorbed in moment, ignoring the enormity of what remained, the Pine Mountain rest stop quickly arrived. I'd planned to make a rapid strike: dropping off my lights the primary task. A search for a marker to write my name on the paper bag to store my light caused an unwanted delay. Other than that it was eat a few orange slices, fill my bottles, and go.

As I left, I noted I'd forgotten to drop off my rear flasher, and hadn't thought to remove the clamp of the headlamp instead of just the light body to which it attaches. Only a few extra grams, for sure, but every gram counts in a ride with 15 thousand feet of climbing. I chastised myself for my foolishness. Yet time lost preparing another paper bag at a subsequent spot wouldn't be justified. I could only push onward.

On the climb to Ridgecrest I overtook another rider. He commented something about being fast, but I didn't understand exactly what, or even if he was being sarcastic. In any case, I temporarily passed him until he caught me and then passed me again. It was strange: he would climb strongly, then slow, exactly what I did not want to do. I tried to ignore him and instead focus on the numbers my PowerTap was sending to my Garmin. I had little difficulty keeping it in my low-200 watt target range, which seemed a good sign.

Clouds hovered over the mountain as we approached Ridgecrest. Reaching the ridge, it was deja-vu from 2010: the fog-rain of the cloud we had entered condensing on the tall trees.

But we soon emerged from the cloud, clear sky above. The sun was low in the east, highlighting the scattered clouds inland. On the coast side, however, the ocean was fully occluded by a continuous cloud sheet. We would be descending into that all too soon. I tried to not think about it.

On the rollers, my companion and I joined two other riders. More surging. One of them rode with very stiff arms, his bike rocking back and forth. I thought he'd be faster if he didn't waste so much energy clenching his amrs. I climbed the seven sisters of Ridgecrest with my eyes still on my power meter, chatting a bit with our new companions.

Ridgecrest crosses Pan Toll Road, which would be our descending route to the coast, but first we had the out-and-back to eastern peak. First one, then other riders descended as I climbed. There were clearly fewer than in 2010: the Marin Cyclists seemed to be sticking to the rules on their website that starts earlier than 5 am would not be allowed. At least in 2010 they allowed earlier starters, but this created logistic complexity as they then needed to keep track of at what time people left. It's simpler and easier on early-morning volunteers to give everyone the same 5 am start time: if you need to leave earlier, they now say, you should consider doing the 200 km ride instead.

Several of us arrived at the turn-around at the peak close together. There was a bit of an issue as riders were generally filing behind and around the two volunteers counter-clockwise, while I had my number pinned racer-style to the right side of my jersey. I thus had to cross in front of the volunteers to display my number, which I couldn't remember. Another rider chastised me for this, but it was as it was. From that point I remembered my number, 266, the rest of the ride.

On the descent, I followed one of the two guys we'd met on Ridgecrest. My surging companion and the other Ridgecrest rider had fallen back: we saw them approaching the turn-around as we descended. Now would come what I had been dreading: entering the coastal clouds.

In 2010, as soon as we begun the Pan Toll Road descent, we plunged into a chilling mist which dropped the temperature precipitously. This year, though, the clouds were lower, and my long-sleeve jacket remained tucked away in my jersey pocket. I'd been wearing a wool undershirt, knee warmers, socks, compression sleeves on my calves, arm warmers, a cycling jersey, and long-fingered gloves. I would later remove the vest, replace it, then take it off again, but with this minor adjustment I was comfortable the rest of the ride. Had we experienced real inland heat the wool undershirt might have caused problems. With the limited carrying capacity of my jersey pockets major changes in clothing level are difficult.

As we approached the end of Pan Toll, however, we entered the mist. It wasn't so bad, though: no freezing coastal wind, just a bit damp. And while in 2005 Muir Woods had been icey cold, this year we dropped below cloud level here. What had been fog was now overcast clouds.

Passing the Dipsea Trail at the park entrance, the rider I was following shouted back to me for clarification on where to go. I confirmed we were to follow the main road around a hairpin, but then when I recollected my focus, he had gapped me. So the rest of the way to the rest stop I trailed behind, keeping him in sight but riding solo.

At the rest stop, I was pleased to see Jules, whom I'd met in a non-cycling context. He'd greeted me at the start, and greeted me again here. It's always nice to see a smiling face in situations like this. Indeed, volunteers at the Marin Century/Mt Tam Double are all absolutely incredible. They make the event a joy to be part of.

For me it was another quick stop. I'd just about finished the Spiz in my "nutrition bottle"... I was riding with two bottles, one focused on calories (which I initially filled with Spiz, the last of my supply of this stuff), the other on hydration (beginning the ride with black tea, but refilling mostly with water). I filled my hydration bottle with water, then almost filled the other before moving over the powder table. There a volunteer asked how many scoops of Sustained Energy I wanted. I said 3, which makes a good thick shake. It was a tight fit, and he handed back the bottle, a solid layer of powder floating atop the water.

The second quarter

Then I was off, ready to begin the second 50 miles of this adventure. It's easy to assume the trip north on the coastal Highway 1 is going to be flat, but that assumption would be woefully misled. There's a series of climbs, the first the longest. But with the traffic still extremely light in the early day, it is a total joy to ride. It's truly a world class road, with the ocean on one side as the road meanders along the side of the hills.

After I'd gone for a bit, I decided it was time for a sip of the Sustained Energy. I shook the bottle as best I could then looked to see if I'd made progress. The thick solid layer remained at the top. Ah well, I figured it was probably just caked at the edges, so opened the spout and went for a drink. My mouth filled with pasty powder, a cement-like consistency with a chalky taste. Fortunately I was able to wash it down with my water, but my fingers had become a sticky mess which turned my brake hoods into a sticky mess. I tried to clean off as best I could, but it seems to be an inevitable part of "scientific nutrition" that at least some of it ends up on my bike.

I passed a few riders along the way and entered the coastal town of Stinson Beach alone. This marks the beginning of the Mount Tamalpais Hillclimb held most Septembers, a race which opens with 6 flat miles along Highway 1 before climbing to Ridgecrest from the western side, the opposite slope on the same road we'd climbed from the east. These 6 miles are typically into the wind, a real burden. I forged ahead as best I could, monitoring my progress, knowing then when I reached the northern end of Bolinas Lagoon to my left I'd have reached the point where the rollers begin again.

I was almost there when I was surprised by a paceline of riders passing on the left. "Hop on!" I was encouraged as the line, paced by a guy positioned low on his aero bars but paradoxically with an unzipped jacket flopping in the breeze, came by. I slotted in without too much trouble. I was glad to see riders were pulling off after turns of a few minutes. Eventually I reached the front, did my time, then pulled off for the next rider. For endurance riding, long pulls are good: rapidly rotating pace lines are mentally draining, and every time a rider pulls off the group loses a bike length. Unless the pace is super-high, with riders putting out unsustainably high power at the front, it makes sense to do turns of over a minute. So what I did was to count 100 full pedal strokes, then pull a bit more until a good opportunity to come off, then I'd pass the baton to the next guy. This made the miles pass much more quickly. With a single exception we even avoided the trap of the lead rider pulling hard up a hill. Better to keep a nice pace everyone can handle on the rises, then get back to business when it levels out and drafting riders can exploit the benefit of the line.

So the long run into Point Reyes Station concluded with considerably less drudgery than I'd feared. At the rest stop there I filled my hydration bottle, drank some of it down, filled it again, and then asked for Enduralytes. They had them, but I needed to wait while they were fetched from a car. It was a cool morning and one normally associates Enduralytes with the heat. But I'm sold on them: I always seem to feel better after I've popped four or so. I resolved to continue to take a few every stop from now on, at least as long as I felt that "depleted" feeling which occurs on long rides.

I was done and ready to go when I heard a comment about the porta-potty. I didn't want to appear ungrateful for the northbound companionship, but every second counts at rest stops, and I wanted to keep moving. I didn't want to wait for a potty stop. So I thanked the volunteers and rolled out. With more flat miles to come, I figured if they were fairly quick with their business they'd catch me soon enough anyway. But they never did.

I was 73 miles in, beginning the 20 mile leg to Petaluma which would merge me with 100 km, "century", and "double metric" routes. I really looked forward to this leg, since the high spirits of century riders is contagious. First, there was the stretch to the purple bridge, then a left turn onto Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road. From the opposite direction I saw several packs of riders, some dressed in matching kits of racing clubs, another mixed. Could that be the Roasters Ride, I wondered? I calculated it was probably too late for them.

Then I crossed the T at Nicasio Valley Road and I was on the century course. Almost immediately after the merge comes an iconic image of the Marin Century: the steep Cheese Factory climb, one lane closed to cars, riders struggling up the hill, in the other lane police directing motor vehicles. By this point it's mostly relatively late starting 100 km riders on the road, for many the hill alone a real challenge. So I plead guilty to wanting to show off a little, upping the effort here. It's a slightly dicey scene with riders occasionally swerving unpredictably, or not staying as far to the right as they probably should. But I tend to over-react at this sort of thing; there were no issues.

Descending towards Petaluma.

A fast descent on smooth pavement took me past the famous Cheese Factory, opening the remaining miles to Petaluma. The smooth pavement and lack of further climbs made for a fast run into the lunch stop.

Lunch was a crazy scene. After providing my number (266!) to volunteers assigned to the task of checking off double century participants (from hereon identifiably by our yellow numbers; others had white) I entered a field with tables on which a range of food had been laid out. What Marin Cyclists do very nicely is to provide a taped-off "double century" zone, which has the hammer products restricted to my event. This allows for a fast in, fast out approach. So after walking through some mud near the water jugs, I got my liquid and powder, moved on to some fruit which I quickly ate, then left for the porta-potties. They were slightly down the road, and after a brief moment of mud clogging my cleats, I was there. But after finishing with my business things slightly unraveled. I realized that (1) I had forgotten to get Enduralytes, (2) I'd forgotten to dump off my jacket and perhaps arm warmers for delivery back to the start. So I returned the 100 meters or so to lunch, walked back to the double century zone and asked first one, then another volunteer if they took bags back to the start from here. They didn't really know what I meant, so this created more delay. Finally I realized the answer was no, so thanked them, went back to my bike, and set off. As I was riding I realized I'd once again forgotten to ask for Enduralytes. This was all probably my biggest time-waste of the event.

I was approaching 100 miles in, half-way, always a hard part of a double. My longest ride of the year had been 115 two weeks before, so this was already a long ride for me, and I'd not yet reached half-way. Having wasted time without any gain at the rest stop really annoyed me. I started mumbling to myself that I should have gotten Enduralytes, I had to remember Enduralytes, at the next rest stop I must get Enduralytes. Why did I forget the Enduralytes? I was quite sure if I forgot Enduralytes the next rest stop I'd surely finally and totally mentally crack.

After leaving the Petaluma exurbs, the route tackles the rural resolution of Chileno Valley Road. This goes on and on, riders battling the wind, mile after mile. Fortunately, the road isn't straight, instead following the contours of the land, breaking the monotony of a sustained headwind. I passed riders from shorter routes as I went, still stewing about the freakin' Enduralytes, occasionally further chastising myself for not knowing which rest stops provided shuttle service, as I chiseled away at the distance to the next stop.

Chileno Valley Road T's into busy Tomales-Petalume, but soon after taking the left here we diverted onto the nicer Alexander Road, and soon after a left onto Fallon Road which took us to the vicinity of the Franklin School rest stop at Valley Ford.

The third quarter

Valley Ford is a nice, almost rural town, with people selling fresh cherries along the road-side. The course here attains its maximum complexity, with riders entering from the century course I was presently on, but then double century and double metric riders leaving for an extra loop, riders returning from that loop back to the Franklin School, then leaving Franklin School to begin the long return to San Rafael. It's amazing Marin Cyclists pull it off so smoothly, using a combination of staged road markings, road-side signs, and volunteers.

In the rest stop the first thing I did was to get Enduralytes. I then got my usual combo of water and Sustained Energy, ate some delicious peaches and cherries, and was off again to what is a real highlight of this course, the "200 km loop".

It begins with an unenjoyable trip north along the shoulder of Highway 1. Highway 1 here, mid-day, has a lot of traffic, too much of it heavy pick-ups pulling boat-laden trailers. I never understood the attraction of boat-trailers in large part because they so clearly flaunt any notion of resource conservation, but presumably a big part of it involves consuming large quantities of alcohol on the water, which makes these oversized rigs even more of a concern. But eventually I came to an amazing gem of roadway: Bay Hill Road.

And in so doing I saw something I hadn't seen since Pt Reyes Station: another double century rider. I expressed my enthusiasm for being off Highway 1. He warned the downside of Bay Hill was its rough surface. But the road surface didn't concern me: it was a small price to pay for the stunning beauty of the road, of liberation from traffic after the insanity of the boat trailers, and for the chance to get in some solid climbing again.

After a tree-lined beginning it climbs into open ranch land, rural isolation without a hint of the internal combustion hell of the highway. Bay is relatively brief, however: a fast but rough descent, with good sight lines and no cars during my time there, took me back to the highway at Bodega Bay.

But there was a palpable tempering in the boat traffic at this point. A lot of it may have been destined for the bay itself, which we'd bypassed. Highway 1 here was still busy, but with a wide shoulder and more normal-sized vehicles I no longer felt in peril. In any case we were just on the road for a brief interval until the next attraction: Coleman Valley Road.

Coleman Valley was a highlight of the course for me. I had targeted it as a spot where, if any, I wanted to make a solid effort to get a respectable Strava time, hopefully the best for the day.

And I came close: I ended up third, behind two double metric riders I know from SF2G. My power wasn't exceptional: never over my self-imposed limit of 240 watts. But it felt like a hard effort, especially as the climb went on longer than I'd recalled (funny how climbs never seem to be shorter than I recall). Along the way I passed a few 200 km riders, one of whom accused me of "showing off". I smiled because I knew, at least a little bit, he was right.

After the sustained climb, Coleman has some rollers along the top. I'd remembered James from the San Diego Christmas Tour had been here volunteering last time, but didn't see the check point/rest stop where I'd remembered it. Actually, this used to be formally just a check point, the rest stop aspect emergency-only perhaps for very hot days, but it's since become a formal rest stop, albeit lightly stocked compared to those serving more riders. I continued on, becoming progressively more worried a lack of volunteers had resulted in its omission. Finally I gave up and pulled to the side of the road, tapping into my so-far unused resource of food I'd started the ride with. I'd brought a small bag of dates, two Lara bars, and a flask of Hammer Gel. It was too much, given the fabulous support of the event, but I tend to be slightly paranoid. I ate two of the dates. The miles, 135 of them by this point, were taking their toll.

I set off again, and the very next corner I saw a sign for the rest stop. So I gave my number, filled my bottles, and stuffed a big oat bar/cookie/thing into my mouth. It tasted as if it had a lot of butter, which I don't like, but I wasn't being picky. I then remembered to ask for Enduralytes. "How many?" the volunteer asked.

"Two", I mumbled through my mouth of oat-thingie. I was still chewing.

She tried to pour two into my hand, but six came out. I couldn't give them back, of course, and didn't feel like dealing with putting them in my pocket only to have them dissolve there, so I popped them all into my mouth along with the oat stuff.

This created an interesting issue, as I didn't want to chew the Enduralytes, and still wanted to chew the oat thing (I'm into chewing food before swallowing it these days, on the theory it helps digestion). So as a compromise I decided to sort of gum the oats for a bit while keeping the Enduralytes to the side of my mouth. It didn't work: my mouth was assaulted with the mineral badness of fractured Enduralyte pills. Ah, well. I did my best to swallow the mess then drank some water to wash it out.

Coleman descended to aptly-named Joy, which is a true joy to descend. I was glad I had navigation on in my Garmin 500, because here I was able to check the rudimentary navigation map to see I was still following the course. Position errors cause some confusion, and the Garmin frequently reports "off course" in GPS-challenged regions when I know very well I am on-course, but it typically decides it's back on course again within a reasonable number of seconds.

Joy, Bodega, Freestone, and I was back to a section of Highway 1 I'd already ridden on the way out. Here I became confused, as for the first time I was at a turn where I didn't see route arrows. I was frozen in indecision: I was pretty sure I wanted to turn left, but didn't want to risk a mistake, and the Garmin was presently confused by the reentrant nature of the course here and thus provided no guidance.

A rider I'd recently passed caught up and went left, pausing only long enough to check for traffic. As he did so, I commented on the lack of arrows. There was a road-side sign, he said. I'd obviously had my eyes planted too firmly in the tarmac.

Here the course re-entered the knot which was the Valley Ford/Franklin School rest stop. I got to the stop fine, where the volunteer confirmed I didn't need to check in again, which I remembered from previous rides. However, I was clearly fading, and decided to tap into the secret weapon: Coca-Cola.

Normally I never drink soda. It's nasty stuff, causing massive public health problems, all fueled on by colossal marketing aimed to convince people that their life will be so much better if they snap open that can and drink the syrupy crap. But for endurance events, for double centuries and trail runs, it's magic. First the sugar may as well be injected straight into the blood. Second the caffeine perks up a flagging brain. And third, and not to be underestimated, the cola soothes a stomach which is on the verge of revolt over an unnatural assault of too many powders and gels. The key is to not tap into it too early (a mistake I made in 2010), because there's only so much of it I can take, and so it's important to use it at the right time. There were 50 miles to go, so it seemed a good time.

The fourth quarter

And it did help. After leaving the rest stop, I asked one of the amazing volunteers how to go, and he instantly directed me the correct way. I was comforted by colored arrows indicating I'd rejoined the century course as well as continuing on the double metric and double century routes.

Middle Road took us to Tomales then to Highway 1 which brought us to Tomales Bay. There was wind here, but not so bad. The Bay was gorgeous, as expected. Highway 1 is just a fantastic road, and with the wide shoulder traffic wasn't much of a problem.

I heard cowbells and looked across the road to see a Hummer parked on the opposite shoulder. I hate Hummers, and by implication have a low opinion of those who choose to drive them. But this one had an open sun roof from which emerged two children, cheering me on. A woman, presumably their mother, sat behind the steering wheel. I assumed they were there to cheer on their father, but since he wasn't yet there, I seemed worthy of cheering as well. I felt a big guilty for my feelings about Hummer drivers, since I certainly appreciated the cheers!

I continued onward as Highway 1 developed more of the rolling character I was more familiar with further south. I knew what was coming: the Marshall Wall. I'd remembered its opening slopes from 2010.

The turn to the Wall involves a hard left across Highway 1. A dangerous situation on the face of it, but Marin Cyclists were all over it with CHP controlling traffic and volunteers with flags waving riders across the road when it was safe. The biggest danger was probably falling over from beginning the climb in the big ring left over from the highway run: the steep grade appears in front of your front wheel, presto-magico, making panicked shifting the norm. If I were to volunteer for this event, this would be an entertaining place to be stationed.

I'd once again underestimated a climb from 2010. Sure, I'd remembered the initial grade well, but it was the subsequent stair-case steps I'd forgotten. Finally as what turns out to have been the final one appeared in front of me I lamented, perhaps to the century rider near me or perhaps to nobody, "oh, no!" The little climbs of this event take a cumulative toll, one which wasn't assisted by my earlier riding Coleman "at tempo".

But the Walker Creek rest stop provided relief. There I topped off the Coke in my bottle (I was using my "calorie" bottle, creating a curious frothy blend of Sustained Energy and Coca-Cola), ate some more fruit, and took a few more Enduralytes. The volunteer at the Double Century table was responding to a century rider's questions about the hot dogs available there. "They're for double century riders", he said. Hot dog? I couldn't comprehend.

As I rolled out I noted that I'd added some Coke, but forgotten to get water. My hydration bottle was perhaps 1/3 gone. I'd not planned on stopping at the Nicasio stop, which I'd remembered from last time was not a check point. But maybe I could make the remaining distance with what I had.

I switched my Garmin to Navigation mode, as I wasn't worried about power (or lack thereof) at this point, and it told me the estimated remaining distance. Thus number was less than the Walker Creek volunteer had provided. I tended to agree the Garmin, since the roads were fairly flat at this point, and because frankly I preferred a smaller number to a bigger one.

At this point I was looking forward to Hicks Valley Road, from which I'd seen century riders returning way back in that former life of this morning when I'd passed the cheese factory. There it was. I'd remembered it had had a climb, and sure enough there it was. But for a change it was only what I'd remembered, no worse. I descended happily to Pt Reyes Petaluma. The end game clock had begun ticking.

Past the cheese factory again... then the short climb of the east side. Signs warned of single lane for vehicles to 10 am, so long ago. I crested the top and blasted down what so many riders clawing their way up then. Then the left onto Nicasio Valley Road: in 2005 I'd had a close brush with an RV there, but this year no problem. I could smell the coffee, so to speak.

Approaching Nicasio Valley I contemplated my plan to blast on by. What if I was wrong and it was in fact a check-point? I clumsily removed my map from my belt pouch. There it was: Nicasio Valley Road, red 6, implying a check point. I was glad I checked -- imagine the horror of being disqualified for having missed the final intermediate check. They must have added this one this year, because last time I clearly recall it not recording numbers: perhaps they valued redundancy, or were wanted a clue in case riders went astray on the route.

I pulled into the gravel entrance. "Checkpoint?!" I shouted to the volunteer there. He didn't know what I meant, and pointed me to one of the main tables. I rode through the dirt lot. "Where do we check-in?" I asked, pulling a food out of my pedals, still in my saddle.

"No checking in necessary!" she responded.

I clipped back in and pedaled out, wondering at the time loss. Would I regret having stopped here, getting passed by another rider, or worse, a group? Or perhaps I'd just avoid catching a rider ahead. I'd been sure I'd seen a red dot on the map but was I wrong about the red implying checkpoint? I later checked the map and verified I'd been correct: it was a map error.

Past the small town center of Nicasio Valley came a short jaunt to the south, then the left onto Lucas Valley Road. This was it: truly the final climb of the event (well, not quite, but close enough). I wanted to keep a solid tempo here as at this point it's all mental. Suddenly I saw a rider coming the other direction. It was Cara! She was looking very strong and perky: she'd nicely come out to meet me at the finish after getting in a short ride. I'd not looked at the time and didn't want to, but if I'd intercepted her still on her ride I obviously wasn't too far behind schedule. It felt like I was due for a close-to-6pm finish, but I didn't know.

I didn't pause to chat with her, instead trying the make the mileage markers of Lucas Valley tick down as quickly as possible. The first goal was the rock marking its peak. The initial miles are very gradual uphill, only at the end does it kick up at a significant climb, but I was able to stay in my big ring here (a nice thing about having a 46-tooth big ring is being able to stay in it on climbs like this).

Along the way I passed more riders with the white numbers marking shorter rides. Then there was the rock. A group of riders were gathered there, relishing the success of having finished all of the significant climbs of their rides. But there's no time for relishing anything in the double, as the clock is ticking.

As I was cresting the top, a pickup appeared from nowhere on my left and tucked in ahead. Noooo! What was he doing? Cyclists can descend this road much faster than drivers. But despite my gestures of the multi-finger variety he wouldn't pull over to let me by. Instead I had to follow him down, close enough that he realized he was blocking my progress, far enough if he braked I'd be able to avoid collision.

It was frustrating. In 2005 I'd been passed on this descent due to excessive safety, and in 2010 I'd again gone slower than I should have. But this year I was forced to follow the 25 mph pace of this driver who, despite the copious "cycling event signs" all over the side of the road, despite the "slower traffic use pull-out" sign, he felt he had to assert his mass dominance by blocking me.

But nobody caught me and as the grade leveled the truck pulled away. It was time to keep the pace high for the final 3 miles to the turn, marked with the decreasing mileage signs.

The turn-off to Los Galinas begins the anti-climax. Smooth, wide, fast suburban roads with just enough of a climb to let the legs know they're still on a bike should make for a raging finish, but multiple stop signs, and far worse, a traffic signal with suburban-typical light phases make the ride a striking contrast to the CHP-paced departure in the morning. Indeed, I had no luck on the traffic light, which provided a seeming endless delay. A century or double metric rider pulled up next to me; fortunately no yellow number here.

The remaining ride was shrinking precipitously now, every pedal stroke cutting another big fractional chunk of the remaining distance. The imperceptible progress of most of the day was long gone. The finish was there, just up the road.

I pulled into the school, rolled past the so-called finish line and through the crowd to the actual finish line, the check-in table near the gym. The singularity collapsed.

Eighth finisher, I was told. The same as 2010. But what about late starters, I asked? They also get a 5 am start time, I was told. So that simplified things: I was 8th, plain and simple, none of the post-race math of the last time.

After eating my double-century-rider half burrito, then joining Cara upon her return and getting a piece of the nice post-ride lasagna (this event the only time I eat, and enjoy, cheesy lasagna), chatting a bit with some other riders, it was time to go home. Only just before doing so I checked with the desk for what my time had been: I had no idea. 5:21, I was told, which turned out to be 6 minutes earlier than 2010. Wow -- that was totally unexpected.

Then I left for home.

Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 Mt Tam Double results, sorted by time

Unlike in past years when the added complexity created confusion, errors, and added load on early-rising volunteers, this year there was a single start for the Mt Tam Double, at 5 am. Riders leaving later were still given credit for the 5 am start.

I took the official results, stripped out DNS and DNFs, and sorted by finishing time. Here they are:

#   Bib last         first       Start Finish
1   229 Palmeri      David       5:00  16:35
2   72  Rehorn       Pat         5:00  16:43
3   264 Gould        Jeffrey     5:00  16:45
4   184 ramos        reve        5:00  16:53
5   292 Pollock      Graham      5:00  16:53
6   62  Merrill      Peter       5:00  17:15
7   268 Sanders      Carl        5:00  17:15
8   266 Connelly     Daniel      5:00  17:21
9   16  Lynch        Joseph      5:00  17:28
10  179 Thompson     Stewart     5:00  17:38
11  230 OConnell     Christopher 5:00  17:44
12  213 Ochoa        Ramon       5:00  17:46
13  18  Doughton     Chuck       5:00  17:47
14  11  Kaneko       Ryosei      5:00  18:05
15  191 Pan          Dylan       5:00  18:07
16  145 Kleinwaks    Jay         5:00  18:14
17  177 Caragao      Roehl       5:00  18:14
18  178 Rugani       Dan         5:00  18:14
19  297 Keathley     Kimberley   5:00  18:14
20  194 Paterson     Steve       5:00  18:16
21  215 makk         ish         5:00  18:16
22  293 Baker        Wade        5:00  18:16
23  301 delRossi     Victor      5:00  18:23
24  133 Bulatov      Igor        5:00  18:26
25  119 Tajima       Toshi       5:00  18:28
26  186 Villaflor    Mar         5:00  18:30
27  175 Miller       Bret        5:00  18:36
28  101 Abrahams     Mark        5:00  18:43
29  161 Munrow       Michael     5:00  18:43
30  295 Haddadin     Bashar      5:00  18:43
31  90  LeFevre      Steve       5:00  18:45
32  167 NISHIMURA    PetEr       5:00  18:45
33  249 burnn        louie       5:00  18:45
34  155 gao          teng        5:00  18:48
35  61  JACOBSON     RICK        5:00  18:49
36  134 Thakar       Tertius     5:00  18:49
37  135 Brochier     Michael     5:00  18:49
38  131 Piccinotti   Vernon      5:00  18:51
39  141 Stimson      Paul        5:00  18:51
40  247 Schrock      Doug        5:00  18:51
41  74  Curley       Peter       5:00  18:53
42  256 Braden       Dave        5:00  18:54
43  104 LEWIS        SCOTT       5:00  18:55
44  224 Liao         Jason       5:00  19:00
45  251 Monroe       John        5:00  19:01
46  10  Thorsen      Dean        5:00  19:02
47  73  Turi         Lou         5:00  19:02
48  216 meyer        mitch       5:00  19:02
49  239 Meltzer      Frank       5:00  19:11
50  272 Durbin       Greg        5:00  19:11
51  253 Duncan       Scott       5:00  19:14
52  254 Schroer      Sarah       5:00  19:14
53  65  kelly        kayden      5:00  19:19
54  29  Desmond      Sean        5:00  19:22
55  22  Griffin      Randy       5:00  19:23
56  30  resnikoff    scott       5:00  19:23
57  242 Decker       Steven      5:00  19:24
58  243 Spence       Jeanine     5:00  19:24
59  21  Rusconi      Lee         5:00  19:26
60  110 Moore        Leonard     5:00  19:26
61  196 Burke        Michael     5:00  19:26
62  82  Johnson      Matt        5:00  19:27
63  205 Hernandez    Gustavo.    5:00  19:27
64  278 Williams     Mark        5:00  19:27
65  238 Haworth      Ollie       5:00  19:29
66  188 Rohr         Norman      5:00  19:33
67  127 Houck        Timothy     5:00  19:36
68  233 Kopatsy      Arthur      5:00  19:37
69  105 Gernez       Raphael     5:00  19:38
70  163 bouchard     gilles      5:00  19:38
71  237 Gorin        Joe         5:00  19:38
72  259 Lehman       Alan        5:00  19:39
73  285 Pedrick      Frank       5:00  19:39
74  31  Coy          Nathan      5:00  19:41
75  97  Okano        Robert      5:00  19:41
76  114 Tsang        Stanley     5:00  19:41
77  181 Sheppard     Tom         5:00  19:41
78  294 Richardson   Douglas     5:00  19:46
79  87  Jae          Andrew      5:00  19:47
80  122 Johnson      Anthony     5:00  19:47
81  151 Schwartz     Fred        5:00  19:47
82  235 Ng           Ricky       5:00  19:47
83  102 Homrighausen Mark        5:00  19:50
84  103 Honda        Nicole      5:00  19:50
85  198 Barton       Rick        5:00  19:50
86  159 Pisaro       Mark        5:00  19:53
87  202 Scrivanich   Luke        5:00  19:55
88  95  Mysza        Michael     5:00  19:57
89  190 Wietrick     Matthew     5:00  20:00
90  25  Lightner     Casey       5:00  20:03
91  118 Murphy       Stephen     5:00  20:05
92  144 Cottle       Steven      5:00  20:05
93  250 Larson       Andrew      5:00  20:05
94  255 Boyette      Jeffrey     5:00  20:08
95  94  Gully        Brian       5:00  20:09
96  96  Sinna        Elizabeth   5:00  20:09
97  51  Beland       Derren      5:00  20:11
98  173 Berka        Becky       5:00  20:12
99  199 Lai          Lap         5:00  20:15
100 257 Wickham      Jerry       5:00  20:16
101 208 Hansen       Michael     5:00  20:24
102 300 Ho           Byron       5:00  20:24
103 195 Mullins      Jeffrey     5:00  20:25
104 279 Kurihara     Tara        5:00  20:35
105 280 Diaz         William     5:00  20:35
106 284 Kurihara     West        5:00  20:35
107 298 Shelver      Chris       5:00  20:35
108 36  Stoll        Bob         5:00  20:37
109 41  Yeoh         Sonny       5:00  20:37
110 58  Porro        John        5:00  20:37
111 115 Hahn         Doug        5:00  20:37
112 71  Gallardo     Benny       5:00  20:39
113 92  Massie       Jarman      5:00  20:39
114 209 Tanz         Jacob       5:00  20:39
115 212 Pleskovitch  Lyresa      5:00  20:39
116 136 Kaplan       Zach        5:00  20:40
117 262 Brown        Jerry       5:00  20:40
118 263 Buntrock     Robert      5:00  20:40
119 283 Wong         Gregory     5:00  20:40
120 34  Apitz        Stefan      5:00  20:41
121 162 Johann       Don         5:00  20:42
122 23  Miller       Scott       5:00  20:43
123 108 Bartoe       Timothy     5:00  20:43
124 193 Shoemaker    Ken         5:00  20:43
125 267 Azmoudeh     Kamran      5:00  20:43
126 192 Rose         Sam         5:00  20:45
127 305 Lai          Wei         5:00  20:45
128 201 Le           Duc         5:00  20:46
129 210 Gonzalez     Judy        5:00  20:46
130 19  Whitmill     Ronald      5:00  20:48
131 113 Hughes       Glenn       5:00  20:48
132 125 Miller       Kim         5:00  20:48
133 128 Shaw         Ross        5:00  20:48
134 221 Hoenigman    John        5:00  20:48
135 54  Goldman      Lonni       5:00  20:49
136 124 MacDonald    Kevin       5:00  20:56
137 244 Joyce        Griff       5:00  21:04
138 24  Ellingson    Kevin       5:00  21:05
139 84  Vlasveld     Paul        5:00  21:09
140 165 Smead        Steve       5:00  21:09
141 166 Smead        Laura       5:00  21:09
142 261 Coupe        Tylor       5:00  21:09
143 130 Jordan       Mick        5:00  21:10
144 171 Friedly      Gabrielle   5:00  21:10
145 156 Baker        Forest      5:00  21:11
146 146 flaherty     sean        5:00  21:14
147 93  Brahman      Manoucher   5:00  21:18
148 252 Harnisch     Peter       5:00  21:18
149 265 Loera        Adrian      5:00  21:18
150 271 Mac          Tom         5:00  21:18
151 276 Albrecht     Glenn       5:00  21:18
152 35  Hetzner      Erik        5:00  21:19
153 99  Stokes       Colin       5:00  21:20
154 100 Stokes       Julie       5:00  21:20
155 132 Jensen       Keith       5:00  21:20
156 91  Becker       Cheryl      5:00  21:26
157 225 Hartson      David       5:00  21:26
158 142 Rogers       Phil        5:00  21:29
159 143 Joseph       Jack        5:00  21:30
160 172 Olson        Greg        5:00  21:30
161 296 Liu          Paul        5:00  21:31
162 75  Loberg       Lori        5:00  21:32
163 138 Stark        Jennie      5:00  21:38
164 139 Landrum      Vaughan     5:00  21:38
165 158 Morse        Gregory     5:00  21:38
166 302 Klein        Robert      5:00  21:38
167 170 Miller       Peg         5:00  21:39
168 60  Bhalla       Arun        5:00  21:40
169 226 Singleton    Michael     5:00  21:40
170 218 Maslen       Thomas      5:00  21:41
171 88  Campbell     David       5:00  21:44
172 206 Dang         Dzung       5:00  21:44
173 28  Neiner       Steven      5:00  21:45
174 185 Gallegos     Edward      5:00  21:45
175 187 Bixler       Xenia       5:00  21:45
176 56  Burns        David       5:00  21:46
177 57  Burns        Cheryl      5:00  21:46
178 148 Goncze       Zoltan      5:00  21:46
179 149 Goncze       Andrea      5:00  21:46
180 223 Vu           Tom         5:00  21:52
181 164 Brandt       Reuben      5:00  21:54
182 306 Thorpe       Trevor      5:00  21:54
183 40  Bernard      Travis      5:00  21:55
184 217 Bott         Linda       5:00  21:55
185 287 Smith        Ron         5:00  21:55
186 12  Shippey      Jon         5:00  21:57
187 176 Chapman      William     5:00  21:57
188 281 Capewell     Dale        5:00  22:00
189 32  Goodman      Michael     5:00  22:04
190 211 DeJesus      Donato      5:00  22:04
191 137 Coughlin     Warren      5:00  22:05
192 245 Farren       Andrew      5:00  22:05
193 236 Collier      Kim         5:00  22:07
194 289 Agcaoili     Bernard     5:00  22:07
195 37  Lempart      Lukasz      5:00  22:08
196 43  Cox          Sharon      5:00  22:08
197 174 Kaplan       Jonathan    5:00  22:08
198 203 Gray         Mike        5:00  22:08
199 291 Plumb        Alex        5:00  22:09
200 42  Primrose     Denise      5:00  22:11
201 53  Volkoff      Brian       5:00  22:11
202 274 Heiniger     Ann         5:00  22:11
203 288 Gutfreund    Edward      5:00  22:11
204 154 Eccleston    William     5:00  22:30

Sunday, August 5, 2012

NiteRider MuNewt: long-term use report

In 2010 I did the Mt Tam Double Century, borrowing friend John's NiteRider Newt light for the pre-dawn start. My first time doing the double, I'd gone without lights, thinking I could rely on the pace car for guidance. That was a big mistake. The pace car was driven at a constant speed, which on the steeper slopes of Lucas Valley Road, the first climb, put me deeply into the red. With John's light, I was able to ride my own pace on the climb, and it contributed to the ride turning into one of my strongest doubles ever.

Afterwards, I decided I wanted one for myself, and I was happy Cara got me one as a birthday gift. But instead of the Newt with its frame-mounted battery and sloppy cables connecting these to the handlebar-mounted LEDs, I went with the newer MiNewt, which has rechargable batteries and LEDs in an encapsulated package. The light was important for my commute from my then-new job in Mountain View on a heavily trafficked road.

I got the brighter 250 lumin model. Even through MTBR tested these lights and determined the light is a bit less than claimed, 250 lumins was plenty for any riding I do. In fact I rarely run it on high power: of the three illumination levels available, even the lowest is sufficient for my commute. With advances in LEDs, 250 lumins isn't even sold any more: now options are 350 and 600 claimed. So there's plenty of light (beam pattern is another issue I won't discuss, however, lacking sufficient comparison).

Unfortunately, though, the MiNewt is a classic issue of the hidden details. I still use 26 mm handlebars, preferring them to the heavier and (theoretically) stiffer 31.8 mm bars which are now the de facto standard (despite still being called "over-sized"). Bar-mounted products typically in some way accommodate both sizes, and these lights were no different. For use on the smaller, 26 mm bars, a rubber pad is inserted between the clamp and the bar to make up for the radius difference.

This extra pad requires a substantial clamping force to inhibit the light from rotating. This wouldn't be a problem if there was some mechanical advantage offered for tightening the clamp. Unfortunately, there is none. A ratchet must be closed by hand. Overcoming the resistance of the ratchet thus requires applying more than the static clamping force with fingers alone. My fingers aren't up to the task, so have begun to use an adjustable pipe wrench, but this risks breaking the relatively fragile plastic. Then I can get three clicks on the ratchet. I can get four, but the ratchet can't handle it, and retreats back to three. Every other light I've used, indeed every clamping part on a bicycle, offers some mechanical advantage for tightening. Not multiplying the force available from puny cyclist arms was a big design flaw.

There is a moment (M) created by the displacement of the light center-of-mass (COM) from the vertical plane of the handlebars. The light would be more stable if it was positioned further back.

But it wouldn't be so bad if the clamp had been better placed. When the bike rolls over a bump, the wheels accelerate upward, which since the bike is rigid, accelerates the handlebars up as well. This applies an accelerating force to the light clamped on the bars. If the center-of-mass of the light is above the clamp, this force is direct, and no torque is exerted. However, if the light center-of-mass is not positioned above the clamp, there is a torque equal to the force multipled by the offset of the center-of-mass relative to the clamp.

It appears that no consideration was given to this in the clamp placement. Every time I hit one of the ubiquitous San Francisco pot-holes, unless I can attain those elusive 3 clicks of the ratchet, the light rotates downward. After a few of these events, the I have a nice view of my front tire and little else. Obviously descending Lucas Valley Road in the dark this is a major safety concern. If I was Jan Heine I'd surely have machined a new clamp out of Aluminum: the Cateye-specific portion which attaches to the light body is attached to the main clamp with a screw, and it could easily be transferred.

Then this year the light started randomly failing. It would go dim or go completely out without warning. Banging it with my hand seems to generally bring it back to full illumination, but that requires that I notice first and that I have the luxury of removing a hand from the handlebars, Finally on Friday I removed the battery and wiped down the contacts, which seemed to have been scummed somehow, perhaps when the light got wet. This seemed to fix it: I had no problems during the Mt. Tam Double yesterday (report to follow). And to be fare I should complement Cateye on how the unit is constructed: solid, with screws which are easily removed for disassembly, a nod towards maintenance for a product where the pace of technology often leads to an unfortunately short usage life.

So the light itself is excellent, but watch for water penetration. The USB recharger and battery is excellent. But the devil's in the details, and the clamp design, in particular for 26 mm bars, is a big issue.

Friday, August 3, 2012

the sound of inevitability: Mt Tam Double pre-report

As I write this, on my train to work, it is 8:09 am. That means 24 hours from now I will hopefully be over 3 hours into the Mt Tam Double Century.

The Mt Tam Double is one of the best-organized cycling events I've done, and I've done it twice. The last time was 2010, when coming off a strong Terrible Two, I rode well, finishing 12th. The only downer was a Garmin Edge 500 hiccup (corrected with subsequent firmwares) causing the loss of my ride data.

This year my preparation isn't so good. In May I hurt my back, leading to discomfort which had me out of training for a month. Were I a pro cyclist, I would have found a way around the pain, but I'm not, and so I instead gave my body and mind a solid block of rest. But it cost me on fitness. Instead of riding Terrible Two or Climb to Kaiser or perhaps the Alta Alpina Challenge, I was doing short commute rides to and from Caltrain.

After the back problems subsided, I built up a solid base of miles, many of them commuting to work with SF2G. But despite 400+ km weeks, I lacked any of the 200+ km rides which are good to have before double centuries. Finally, two weeks ago the day after the Mt Diablo hillclimb time trial, I went out on an improvised 190 km ride with 3900 vertical meters of climbing (as reported by Garmin 500). This gave me a lot of confidence: I finished that ride not feeling too depleted despite a maximal effort the day before and without paying any particular attention to hydration or nutrition.

So, ready or not, tomorrow is the double. I admit I'm scared, and that's probably good. Ironically what scares me the least is the climb of Tam itself. I've done that many times and know it well. No Strava KOMs tomorrow, no PRs, not even close: I'll be riding with a hard power limit, spending plenty of time in my lowest few gears, which go down to 34/26. Finishing a double in solid time is about managing resources, not about hammering the climbs.

What I fear the most is the fog. Descending Tam early in summer day can be supernatural, dropping into a freezing cloud with chilling winds blowing off the ocean. For the vast majority of the nation, August means dog days with a crushing combination of heat and humidity. Bring it on, I say, I love grappling with the heat. But shivering in the clouds is just miserable. I've experienced it both times doing this ride. You'd think living in San Francisco I'd come to accept the fog, but I cannot. It's just not in my physiology. And with a forecast for a "mild weekend", "mild" in this context is anything but.

fog
Fogapolypse

But surviving adversity is what doubles are all about. After the descent to the coast comes the endless, leg-sapping rollers northward -- northward to Pt Reyes Station. That's where my sights are set.

In Point Reyes Station is where the ride really begins for me. From there, it's not far before we converge with the 200 km course. The fog is gone, the temperatures rise a bit, and the business of just turning the cranks begins. The real issue here is pacelines. They're excellent for progress, but they can easily lead to red zone violations which can be very, very costly later.

The climbing rears again as we approach Sonoma. First Bay Road, then the feared Coleman Valley Road must be passed. But I look forward to these. I get to ride my own pace, looking forward to the recovery from the subsequent descents. Sonoma is characterized by some of the gnarliest pavement in the first world. But I run my Michelin 25 mm tires on the comfy side of 90 psi, so I should be fine.

After Coleman, it's still a long way to the finish, including the Marshall Wall. But Marshall is over quickly, and there's the distraction of cheering on slower double-metric and century riders along the way. By this point, you can smell the finish. Phasers are locked, Captain.

Equipment... weight weeniesm takes a distant back seat tomorrow, despite the climbing volume. I have a new front wheel built with a Velocity 23 mm rim: heavier, but in theory offering more comfort, better rolling resistance, and superior aerodynamics to my 19 mm rim (avoiding the 25 mm tire "muffin top"). My rear rim is still narrow, built on my brick-like PowerTap hub. Power information is extremely useful on a ride like this for pacing. My super-light Becker saddle is tucked away safely at home: instead I am using my SLR with KNC seat-post. And my excellently light but not excellently secure ExtraLite stem is swapped for a tried-and-true Performance Forte, retrofitted with Ti bolts, which also offers a slightly slacker rise angle for more comfort for the long day.

With a 5 am start, lights are mandatory. My rear is a minimalist Krog: barely visible, but with the mass start, that's unimportant. On the front my Cateye MicroNewt. I'll have more to say on that later, but when it's working well, it works very well. But it has major problems.

Anyway, second by second, tomorrow comes closer. All I need to do is: (1) not sleep through my alarms, (2) have my taxi show up, (3) have the taxi get there successfully, (4) not forget anything critical like helmet or shoes, (5) #2. Then it's just a matter of "keep pedaling".