Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Stuff- Enzo's

Last season I started using Enzo's chamois cream and found it to be to my liking.  It's domestically made from all natural ingredients and reasonably priced, and in my mind those attributes make it an appealing option.  I'm not going to offer a chamois cream review, but I will tell you that I log a lot of miles and this has become my new favorite. 

Recently Enzo's has expanded their product line to include some embrocations which I'll also be using this season.  The small white jar is a sample of their medium embrocation, and in addition to smelling awesome it provides some solid heat.  So far I've only used it in some limited indoor tests in my cold basement while riding the rollers, but I'll definitely put it through its paces when I start riding outside again.

If this winter continues to be mild I might slather on some embro and get a jump on my mileage.  June isn't that far away.

For more information visit www.enzoscyclingproducts.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sram XX Grip Shift- Coming Soon?

I have to admit that I've long been a fan of Grip Shift.  The combination of fast shifts, light weight, simplicity, user serviceability and remarkable low cost made them my preferred option for a long time.  When I switched to 10 speed I had to run triggers since Sram didn't have another option.

Fortunately World Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy is also a Grip Shift fan, and he ran a XX prototype at Worlds.

After that Sram circulated this press release.

2012 is Grip Shift's 25th Anniversary, and my bet is we'll see them at Sea Otter, and with any luck hacks like me can get our grubby paws on them sometime around June or July. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Breakthrough, a Letdown and Power Tools

Since New Year's I've been able to get out and ski a few times, and now I'm starting to feel like I'm getting my ski legs back.

In previous posts I've mentioned how I've been ramping up my midweek activity, and believe it or not it's been easier for me to do that than to reliably get in solid workouts on the weekends.  That effort feels like it's starting to pay off, and even though I feel like I have to fight harder to keep up with my master's group I think it's worth the trade-off.

Saturday I got out for a couple hours with Spinney.  It had been below zero overnight, and after some debate I managed to get my skis waxed and out the door.  He wasn't doing much better and couldn't find his iron, then needed a scraper, etc.  It was like two old women getting ready to drive to bridge club.

Once we got to Trapp's we hit some of the usual trails and made our way down through the race course to Skater's Waltz and across to Aither for the first time this year.  That's not a flat route, and Spinney was hell bent on skiing to the cabin so after chasing him around for an hour and twenty minutes we made our way up.  I didn't set the world on fire, but I skied steady and felt like I was making solid time.  I'm not sure how much faster he was, but I stayed in contact for a good section of the climb and didn't stop at all on the trip up. 

More remarkable than that was a completely smooth descent back to the lodge- and the first time ever I made it down without falling.  It was then that I realized that this was a breakthrough day for me.  I'd never made it to the cabin so early in the season, and certainly not chasing somebody with solid fitness.  When we got back to the car it was hard to believe, and although I'd gotten seriously chilled from the long, fast downhill I was pscyched.

We piled our gear back into the car and headed home.  At that time I was still thinking that I was going to ride the rollers so I didn't actively work on my recovery plan, which was a big mistake.  When I got home I was starving, and after not eating enough immediately after my workout I was starting to get the cold shakes from getting chilled and low blood sugar.

Of course to combat that I had to eat almost everything in the house, which pretty much completely canceled out the caloric debt of my skiing effort.  This is all after Spinney was telling me to be careful about refueling if I was going to try to ski again on Sunday.  In retrospect I wasn't aware of how deep I'd dug, so I wasn't being proactive in refueling. 

After I'd crashed, rebounded, showered and gotten dressed Carrie and I picked up our replacement dishwasher and went out to dinner.  It was clear that having an enormous box in the living room wasn't going to be feasible for more than a day or two and that I had to get this thing installed soon.

Sunday morning it was hovering around zero when I got up, so knowing that it would warm up about 15-20 degrees later in the day I figured I'd take advantage of the situation and start working on the dishwasher. 

Having installed and removed one defective dishwasher already I was pretty familiar with the basics of the install- in a nutshell it's connect the water, the drain and the electric and test it for leaks.  Of course it's never quite that simple for me, but with directions in hand I got out the tools and went to work.    

Among my tools are a large number of hand-me-downs from both sides of the family.  Over the summer my Dad cleaned out his father's wood shop, and these pliers were among the twelve pairs that I inherited.  I've never seen anything else like them with the 90 degree head, but I've already used them three times this week on the upstairs electric outlet replacement, the dishwasher and the tC trunk handle.  

Also among my tools is this- a Craftsman Impact Drill my brother gave me for Christmas.  If you've never used and impact drill you're missing out- these things are awesome and not just because they make a ridiculously loud SNAP SNAP SNAP as they switch from standard drill to impact mode.  Using this to secure the two dishwasher mounting screws was the highlight of the install.

After that I decided to tackle replacing the trunk lid on the tC.  After three years of regular use, the old handle had snapped off and was only hanging onto the rest of the car by one retaining clip and the wire for the release button.  It wasn't that I wanted to keep procrastinating, but I don't have many options to get things like this done in the daylight so I decided to get it done.

The trunk handle is a story in itself, and after an extensive search I opted for a carbon one because it was more cost effective than buying one unpainted and trying to paint it myself.  After some searching on the Scion forums I found some semi-coherent instructions on how to replace it.  Turns out this is a common problem for the tC and dealers charge up to $400 to install a new one, which makes my $65 eBay special look that much more appealing.   

Overall it went fairly smoothly and my hands didn't get too cold although it was only about 18 degrees and I was buoyed by the idea of being able to use the trunk lid again.  As you might imagine it's a real pain in the ass to carry skis, boots, poles, spare clothes and water and have to put it down in the snow to open the trunk because you need to use both hands to lift the tailgate.

When I finished the handle install it was 3 PM and I was nowhere near being ready to ski.  After a protracted period of bumbling, fumbling and swearing I finally got to Trapp's and had my skis on at 4.  So much for seizing the day on the skiing front.

As soon as I set out I could tell the conditions were great- and for the second day in a row my skis felt awesome.  These Fischer RCS with Graham's base grind have quickly become my favorites.   

Although the skis were running well I wasn't- with yesterday's breakthrough/bonk combination and my extended project time earlier in the day I felt sluggish and slightly off-balance.

I did throw some Pro-35 stickers on the skis- it had to be done.

I'm a terrible classic skier, but the tracks were so fast and crisp that I found myself jumping in double poling on the flats and downhills. 

An hour later it was getting dark and went home.  It was a beatiful night, and I wished I could have taken advantage of it more than I did.  

Live and learn I guess- there's always next weekend. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Week in Pictures

It was cold this week.

Saturday's ski was a short and uncomfortable 45 minute jaunt at Trapp's.  It was about 6 degrees at the house and about 3 degrees up on the trails.  
I got out for a run during lunch on Wednesday.  It's not riding, but it's safer when it's icy.  

It was cold but crisp, and I had the back side of the River Road to myself.

There was ice on the road, and it was starting to form on the river.

Still working on the self portrait.  Somehow I always look angry or confused.

I enjoyed my time outside and followed up with a 90 minute roller ride after work. 
That makes three weeks in a row of double session Wednesdays.  I feel like my fitness is starting to come around, and if I'm going to qualify for Leadville I need to raise my game so that I can be fit enough to ride a fast 100 miler in June. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review- Pearl Izumi Thermal Arm & Knee Warmers

Arm and knee warmers are one of the small accessories that can have a big impact on your riding experience, and their simple design belies their utility.  Through a season's worth of use I've decided the Pearl Izumi Thermal arm and knee warmers are my new favorites.

The weather in Vermont can be variable, especially in spring and fall when temperatures can swing 20 or more degrees in a few short hours.  I won't try to convince you that warmers and a good baselayer are the key to staying comfortable in those conditions, but look at the pictures you see of pro riders racing or training and you'll see arm, knee or leg warmers out in all but the coldest conditions when thermal jackets and wind resistant tights are required.

The Pearl Izumi Thermals are made of P.R.O. thermal fleece, a medium to heavy weight lycra that is heavier than the standard material used in bib shorts but not quite as thick as a softshell.  That weight is pretty optimal as it is warm without being bulky and still offers some wind resistance.

The arm warmers have an interesting cut that follows the curve of your arm with your hands on the bars- the elbow is slightly bent with an interesting gusset at the top.  The gusset lies mostly flat under a short sleeve jersey, but it helps avoid the all too common jersey/arm warmer gap.

The asymmetrical wrist opening allows the outside of the arm to remain covered without any additional material getting in the way of your palm.

Here's a shot of it from the inside- note the clever "L" markingsso you can tell which side is which.

Here's a shot of that upper gusset- you can see with my arm relaxed at my side that the outside comes up higher than the inside to provide some solid overlap with the jersey sleeve. 

With my sleeve down you can still see the slight bump, but it's small and unobtrusive enough that I think it's worth the trade-off.

The knees.  You can see they share the same right and left-specific mentality, which means that they fit really well when you put them on correctly and look completely ridiculous when you get them switched up. 

When it comes to knee warmers the fit is critical.  They need to stay in place without bunching, binding or sliding down.  These have the best fit of any I've ever tried, and they hold their shape through many rides and trips through the laundry.  

These pictures were taken after a 90 minute ride in the woods without readjusting to show how well they stay in place.  Overall the fit and feel is the best of any knee warmers I've ever worn, and as you can see they didn't move around hardly at all.   

For more information visit www.pearlizumi.com.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

Xterra Snow Basin, Utah from Sager Sports on Vimeo.

In the spirit of cross training here's a video of 4x Xterra World Champion Conrad Stoltz duelling with Lance at Xterra nationals.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Sponsor Announcement- Ergon

This year there will be some slight changes to my sponsors, and among those changes I'll now officially be riding for Ergon.  As you know from my posts I've been running Ergon grips exclusively for the last few seasons and this makes it official.

Currently I have the GX1's on the RSL and I have yet to decide what to run on the YBB, but I have both GA1's and another set of GX1's at the ready.  There's also the new GS1 which is replacing the GX1 as the top race-oriented grip so I'm sure I'll find myself giving those a shot at some point over the season as well.

Ergon is most known for their innovative line of grips, but they've also introduced some interesting gloves that are starting to pop up at races, and new this year a line of mountain-bike specific saddles

What's cool about Ergon is that they are a high-performance accessory brand that makes effective and sleek mountain bike products and are among few companies that offer a Euro-cool factor exclusively for the offroad set.

How could you not get excited about a company that ran this as their 2011 Christmas card?

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Gear- Fischer RCS Skate

You may recall that on my last day out last winter I broke my Madshsus Hypersonics.

So this season I picked up a set of Fischer RSC Skates.  They're only available with the NIS binding plate, so my Salomon setup means drilling through it- but really that's no problem and the Hypersonics were mounted the same way. 

Up close they look like this.  They were just ground and treated with base prep, so now I have to run a few warm wax cycles on them to get them ready for the weekend.  If I can make an effort to spend some time on them and the conditions improve or at least stay stable I might even get out on them in the next few days...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Return of Mittwoch Arbeite

There's probably some deep-seated reason why I think German words sound so funny.  English is after all a Germanic language, so there are some similarities, but somehow most German words sound either terrifying or ridiculous.

Last year at around this time in this post I coined the term "Mittwoch Arbeite", German for Wednesday work.  For me, that means a split session workout of a lunchtime run and a ride on the rollers after work.  And of course it's on a Wednesday sandwiched between Masters' ski sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.

As much as I joke about my lack of running prowess it is a great way to get some quality exercise in a short time, and that's especially true when the weather is bad.  Running in the dark or on ice and snow is far less dangerous than riding, and a decent workout takes as little as 30 minutes.  Yesterday at lunchtime it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit (another German word) when I left for my run, and after 2-3 uncomfortable minutes I was warm enough to unzip the collar on my jacket.  

So in true Pro-35 fashion, here are some details on the gear I use for a typical Mittwoch Arbeite adventure.

Shoes.  This pair of Karhu Fluid Fulcrum Rides are a year or two old, but I have to say that the fit and feel is among the best I've found for road shoes.  Karhu does a minimal drop (difference between heel and forefoot shoe thickness) so the shoes are fairly flat and neutral.  It's not a super cushy or super stable ride, but the feel is very good and it encourages a proper mid-foot strike.  

Rollers.  My previous set were pretty haggard from years of use before they were under water, so I used this as an opportunity to get some new ones complete with an internal resistance unit.  No idea what the resistance medium is, but they feel good and the flared barrels do keep me centered better than their predecessors.

Last noteworthy component is my PowerTap.  Gauging effort indoors is nearly impossible without some measuring device, and the PowerTap makes sure I'm working hard enough for it to be worthwhile.  After having one for the last few seasons I don't know what I'd do without my PowerTap, or LeistungAbstich as I prefer to call it.