Thursday, May 18, 2017

BPTS17 #1 - Where'd all these juniors come from??

Let me just say how excited I am to have completed a race upright. It's funny how little things can creep into your brain, but having wrecked 3 times already this year with 2 broken ribs, I was starting to get a little gun-shy of taking chances, or of riding in groups at all.

So this was going to be a simple race recap about how a bunch of kids from Miller School and Endorphin Fitness showed up with their coaching staff and put down a 25.x mph thrashing on us. Tales of glory would then have unfolded about attacks, counterattacks, and pointless ventures into the wind. It would have ended with me recounting a futile effort to block an inside line that nobody was pursuing, that ultimately took me out of sprinting contention on the final lap.

But that's not what ended up being the story. The story was equipment. And not just one piece, either.

For several weeks, I've noticed a smidgeon of drag in the Blue's drivetrain. When I last put it together, the bearings were so smooth it would ghost-pedal walking it down the street. Lately that effect wasn't happening at all, even if I rolled the bike up to lunacy speed on the stand and let go of the pedals, they would just stop. That's normal on most bikes, but not on my race bike.

I had thought maybe it was the freehub bearing, or possibly that my bottom bracket was due for a re-grease, but the cranks still turned freely, they just wouldn't ghost-pedal. I compared the relative resistance to my other steeds, and it didn't feel too out of whack, so I figured I could just let it ride for a while. And my power numbers were looking really good, but not exponentially higher (nothing implying a serious problem with the driveline).

But then I struggled at Wintergreen. I got hard dropped on a group ride. I felt like a dying fish at Bryan Park. Something was not right.

So yesterday I went out to the garage and re-tried my usual friction tests: one-finger reverse turning the cranks, back-spinning the wheel on different bikes in the same gear, and holy crap the thing only turned the cranks 1 revolution. The commuter managed 2.5 revolutions on much cheaper components.

I pulled the crankset, and the drive-side bottom bracket bearing was seized. It would rock back & forth about 3-degrees, but it would not turn no matter what I tried.

Now I don't know about you, but I don't typically have a set of spare ceramic 2437 ABEC-5 bearings sitting around, so while I immediately went in and ordered a new (expensive) set, I also knew this set had to be unstuck.

I pulled the seals and found no grease at all inside. The cranks had been turning on a thin layer of grease between the crankset-axle and the inner bearing race. 25.x mph over 30 minutes with a bearing completely seized? That'll slow you down a bit. It's a wonder the DA7900 crankset isn't deeply notched (and thank goodness, because I'm getting sick of throwing money at this bike, and it's one of only 5 parts I haven't replaced!)

I pulled the plastic carrier and worked the races until the whole assembly turned, grinding and begrudgingly, then chased the balls to one side and dumped the whole lot of it in a cup of solvent.

After a thorough scrub-down and drying of all the pieces, I dropped the balls back into the badly-scored outer race, re-seated the inner, spaced and re-inserted the carrier, then greased the ever-living shit out of everything with Redine CV-2. There's still a "feel" to the bearing, but now it spins freely.

I regreased the rest of everything and put it all back together, and now it ghost-pedals like a madman. Back-spinning the rear wheel turns the cranks closer to 5 or 6 full revs.

So that was one issue resolved(ish), but my trusty Garmin Edge 520 also decided Tuesday night was as good a time as any to start switching off randomly. First in the warm-up, then in the race, it  would record a couple of minutes and die. So I had to find out later how fast the whole thing was, which really pissed me off. I kind of rely on that thing to give me critical information about heart-rate, sustained power output, and other good info that I can review later to formulate future strategies.

Crazy thing was mine wasn't the only one that died during the race, which leads me to believe there may be a bug with the most recent 11.10 software. A full factory reset seems to have the unit working now, but that can't continue to happen during races, or I may have to start looking at other solutions.

Anyway, yadda yadda, bunch of juniors came out and beat up on us for 30 minutes, but we held on and were there in the end, just with no punch left. Finished just outside the top 10, and now my bike is in fighting shape for next time.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wintergreen Ascent Hill Climb

I've taken the better part of a week to process the experience and put it behind me, but last weekend Alastair and I traveled west bright (well, rainy) and early to do our first HC (hors categorie) hill climb and time trial.

We'd trained pretty well, though a couple of attempts at heading west in the weeks leading up to the event were interrupted by business travel, weather, and life-in-general.

I'd done all I could to our bikes: my race bike was running a 28-tooth cog at the back, and my spare bike was ready to receive that same cassette if I just didn't feel like I could turn the full-size 39-tooth ring. Alastair's bike was running the 32-tooth cassette from my cross bike, with a 34 out front. On 650c wheels, I told him that wasn't much more than walking the bike up.

And we'd prepared mentally. I'd done a TON of miles leading up to the event, with some pretty decent climbs, and he was hitting the mountain in both directions on Zwift with decent results. Alastair knew he was competing on his own, with nobody else in his age bracket and a gob of BAR points for just making it to the top. I had 3 other competitors, including a teammate.

At 46F, it was a full 10-degrees colder at the base than we'd anticipated, and the rain that was supposed to have left the area was still coming down pretty good while we shivered and debated warm-up strategies. Ultimately we ran out of time to warm up when we realized the start line was a mile up the road.

I made the last-second call to take the race bike and risk the water-intrusion that trashes bearings so readily, and set off with a bitterly-cold rooster-tail of water soaking my backside. Jersey, base-layer, arm-warmers, and summer gloves. I'll warm up on the way. Maybe. Hopefully.

I missed Alastair's start. He was the first one off, and with 10 minutes between us, I figured I'd run over him pretty quickly, but he evidently took things seriously for a while and put down a good run to the guard house.

But when I got to the starting line, my heart-rate monitor decided that would be a great opportunity to fritz out. Instant terror. My whole strategy for this was to get my heart-rate to 168 and hold it there. Without heart-rate data, the only other field I could rely on was 3-second power average, which isn't the greatest for regulating effort. In fact, it's pretty frickin' awful for that purpose.

I set off hard, over-took a few riders, and kept seeing 300+ on the power field. Just to keep the cranks turning at 80rpm in 39/28 was requiring regular efforts of 400+. I can't sustain that, and I wasn't even at the "real" climb yet. I started to panic and try to "feel" out my heart, which usually starts sending warning signals in the form of tingling at the base of my skull. But since I was shivering and climbing and bending my neck at exotic angles to see where I was going, there was nothing to feel. So I pressed on. 315W. 350W. 425W.

About 1/10 of a mile from the turn to the guard house, a searing pain crept up my right side exactly where I'd suffered my first broken rib of the year. Hoping it was a cramp, I tried to ease back a bit, but the pain just intensified until I was unable to proceed. I stopped, got off the bike, and leaned on a guard-rail for 3 minutes, ready to accept a ride from the photographer and call the day done.

But my truck keys were in the team car, which was heading up the mountain. If I went back down, I'd be standing in the cold for over an hour waiting for someone to realize I wasn't coming.

So I got back on, decided to just churn up the mountain, and lo and behold the heart-rate monitor decided to start working again. Now I could work. With RPM's in the low 50's in the granny gear, I trudged and tooled and worked my way up, heart-rate holding steady in the low 170's. With half the ride behind me, I felt like I could put a bit more into it.

The rain had stopped, too, and everything felt warm and good.

At 1600' of climbing, and waaaay longer than I'd anticipated, I caught Alastair. Expecting to receive a death glare and perhaps a flurry of disparaging remarks, I was amazed that his first words to me were "Grammy got a new car!" WTF, kid?! You're climbing a 10% grade and more interested in your grandparents' new car than the pain? Hell yeah!

Knowing he was fine, I turned it up just a tick and set my sights on reeling back some of the lost time. I pulled a minute off the next rider ahead, but it wasn't enough. I ended up dead last of 4, with the time I spent stopped in agony representing almost the exact difference between my position and 2nd. My teammate won, so that was some consolation, and Alastair made it to the top in 70 minutes WITHOUT UNCLIPPING.

That boy, 11 years old, pedaled up Wintergreen. 2600+ feet of climbing with less than a year of training. Never stopped once.

So while my day was just about a total loss, I have something to shoot for next year, a teammate who won, and a son who not only made it to the top, but who secured full BAR points for doing so.

A bad day on the bike is still a pretty great day.