Category Archives: Cycling

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. On the way back in from the ride today in Lexington, I had a run-in with a car. It was the intersection of 4/225 and Mass Ave (right by Wilson Farms). The driver of a large pickup truck was pulling out to make a left turn and we were moving along Mass Ave. There were six of us, all in bright green and blue. He stopped and then started to pull out again and then stopped again. I wasn’t sure if he was going to keep going at that point or stop. Scott managed to get around the front, but I basically aimed for the softest landing I could.

That landing, as it turned out, was slowing a lot, hitting the front wheel against the front corner panel/bumper and then somehow bouncing back off the hood (I somewhat remember my hands pushing off the hood) and landing on my feet. Unfortunately, in the process, I managed to chip two of my front teeth.

911 was called and Lexington’s emergency services were very quick to arrive with a fire truck, a paramedic, an ambulance, and a police officer. After landing on my feet, I stayed on the ground for a minute or two to make sure all was okay and then moved to the curb. As the paramedics came over, I was pretty sure I was okay and eventually just did the “refused service” with the ambulance. They looked and didn’t see any protrusion or obvious things other than the chipped teeth.

The officer was very nice and took my information. Apparently he’s citing the driver. I have all of the driver’s information and plan to follow up with his insurance before long.

The bike was ridable for the 2 miles to the shop, but the frame is shot — there’s a huge bend in the top tube and in addition, the rear shifter is destroyed. Pictures in the future. As far as the truck — not sure if there was any damage; I kind of doubt it.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. At this point, the worst pain is that my teeth are a bit sensitive and eating promises to be exciting as I can’t really use my front teeth. I’ve got a small scrape below my right knee and a little bit of soreness in my left knee and my right elbow, but I’ve already started the ibuprofin for those. And I’ve spoken with a dentist and he said it sounds like nothing that needs immediate attention, so I’m to call him first thing Monday morning.

The driver’s insurance should, especially given the citation, cover the dental work as well as the bike work and hopefully without a fight, but I’ve already put in the first contact to a local lawyer who specializes in bike accidents. Good guy and former president of MassBike and also previously helped Kate in an accident.

Witnesses included Scott, Jen, Barb, Brian and Suraffel.

And now, I’m starving, so I’m going to go find some food to cut up into tiny pieces and chew in the back of my mouth. I’m intending to go out tomorrow on the Merlin to unwind a bit and still am planning on doing Seacoast Safari next weekend. And I’m still looking for people to support me on that ride. Hopefully by then with intact teeth!

Stress, sickness, productivity

The summer semester has been a bit stressful so far — supply chain taking six to nine hours a week just for class has left me with little time to think or breathe, but luckily that ends next week.  As a result, I think my body decided it had had enough and didn’t really fight off whatever the summer flu going around is.  So to add to the busy factor, I was pretty worn down and sick for a few days this week.

Today, I finally started feeling back to myself and got a lot of productive stuff done. Finally caught up with a lot of bug stuff, got around to updating the machine that I host everything on past Fedora 9 (!), and even sat down tonight to wrap the handlebars on my CAAD9 with new bar tape. Hadn’t done a bar wrapping job before and I think that it came out okay. There are definitely places it could be better and I learned a few things as I went to use next time, but it seems like it’ll work just fine. And as an added bonus, I’m now fairly comfortable that I can do it myself and not have to always get it done at the bike shop.

Looking forward to getting out tomorrow for a ride — I only commuted one day this week and other than that, it’s been a week since I’ve been on the bike. Longer than I’d choose usually, but I also know when not to push with getting back on the bike to avoid staying sicker longer.

Lake Auburn Road Race 2009 Recap

Yesterday, I raced in the Cat 4 men’s field of the Lake Auburn Road Race. Unlike last year, the weather was much better and I had a much better result.

Instead of going up the day before, I woke up extra early to drive up. Picked Kate up and got on the road basically on time. The roads were empty and as it got light, there was quite a bit of clouds. Right as we crossed into Maine, there was a little bit of drizzle and I was worried that we were going to have a repeat of the rain from last year. But it let up after about five minutes and then the sun came out and the cloud cover burned off.

We got to the course start with lots of time to spare and actually had the time to pre-ride a lap of the route. Even more shockingly, the rest of the team (minus one person) had made it there with plenty of time to spare as well. So we headed off as a team to recon the course and jog our memories from last year. It was good to do as little things like “landmark for the turn before the hill” doesn’t stick with you for a year… but half an hour before the race start it certainly does.

The race itself was to be three laps of an 11.5 mile circuit. It started with a quick downhill followed by a little bump and then a steeper little climb. Then a few turns and a mile or so with a slight downward grade to the back half of the course which was about six miles and pretty much flat. This was thus a bit on the fast side. The course then took another turn and began going back up towards the finish with one steeper and then one longer and more shallow section to a bit of false flats for the final kilometer or so. Total of about 600 feet of climbing a lap. Pretty much good pavement for the entirety of it, well marshalled, etc. Honestly, it’s a great course and I was looking forward to coming back and doing better.

Map of the Race
Map of the Race
Course Profile
Course Profile

In the Men’s Cat 4 field, we had six people in the field out of a total of somewhere between fifty and sixty — myself, Jim Gomez, Charles Wescott, Nessim Mezrahi, Kenton Eash and Andy Tucker. My personal goal was to finish with whatever the main pack ended up being and from a team perspective, we were hoping to get someone at least in the top ten. The race started on time and it started out pretty quick. I was at the front and was able to maintain my position through the fast descent in a nice improvement from last year. The first lap continued pretty quickly; I know I saw an average speed of above 25 mph at one point on the back stretch. When we hit the big hill up to the finish, that dropped a bit. We had definitely started to drop some riders off the back, though.

The second lap was much of the same and I realized that hanging on was really about all I was going to be good for. I did get in some good work with moving up in the pack and raising my comfort in doing so. It helped that the peloton for the field was pretty smooth overall. The exception was that for every corner, the speed dropped somewhat dramatically and then people accelerated like hell on the other side of the corner only to let up after 100-200 meters. A little annoying, but I kept with it. Andy and Nessim spent some time during the lap attacking and trying to weaken some of the stronger riders in the field. I was content to just sit in and let things happen.

By the third lap, I realized that the only Quaddies who were left were Nessim, Andy and myself. I talked briefly with Andy and he said that Nessim was going to try to set him up with a lead-out. I didn’t really have anything to add to the effort, so just was going to keep my head down. I also noticed at this point (not far into the lap really), that there was a rider a little ways up the road and that the pace car seemed a little further away. Not that I was going to be able to do anything about it. As we started up the hill for the finish, though, the gap dropped — by the time we were cresting the second hill up to the finishing flats, we passed the guy who had jumped off the front and this was when people really cranked it up a notch.

With a little more than a 1km ago, someone decided to start pushing for the sprint and I decided I had done enough to accomplish my goal. So I sat up and got passed by 6 or 8 people coming across the line about 26th although I did make it look like I was sprinting for something. Andy ended up with 7th and Nessim was somewhere in the pack between 15th and 20th. All in all, a respectable day by the Quaddies.

A sprint for the photo at least
A sprint for the photo at least (photo courtesy Charles Wescott)

By the numbers:

  • 34.7 miles, overall average of 24 mph
  • Second lap was the slowest by a small margin, first and then the third was the fastest
  • Pretty usual race heart rate for me averaging 170. Max was only 193, though, which is a little lower than usual for me in races
  • Cadence only averaged 80, although maxed out at 132. Low average is probably as I got to do some decent coasting sitting in the pack and the Garmin averages in those zeros
  • 1750-ish feet of climbing and some of that was serious grades. Not long climbs though

So overall, a very satisfying result from my point of view. I finally feel like I’m getting back the right level of fitness for racing. Also, a pretty good team result with the seventh place plus we also had two women in the Cat 4 women’s field (Nancy Labbe-Giguere and Kate Leppanen) who finished fifth and sixth out of a field that was probably about twenty deep.

May in Maps

It’s been a good month of riding — over 800 miles on geared bikes1 recorded on the Edge and another on the order of 150 on the fixed gear. No racing, but I’m feeling a bit more confident there and looking forward to the Lake Auburn Road Race next weekend. Rather than saying any more, I’ll just sum it up with a fairly representative set of GPS tracks from the month

1. Almost entirely on the new CAAD9 as the Merlin’s shifter needs rebuilding which I noticed on the one ride I did on it this month.

Garmin 705: Definite Upgrade from the 305

As I’m intending to eventually get a power meter1 for my new bike, I decided it was also probably a good time to upgrade from the Garmin Edge 305 I got last year to the newer, nicer Edge 705. A month into using it, it was a very worthwhile upgrade.

The 305 was really great in terms of tracking my rides. I was able to both upload rides to MotionBased and also keep the GPX files around. This made having a training log relatively easy for the rides I used the GPS on. I could then also share the routes with others, go back and see what I’d ridden, etc. This was awesome.

The 705 does all of that. And as a plus, it does it with a color screen and longer battery life. Those probably wouldn’t be worth the upgrade. The ability to talk to power meters probably is. But the other thing is that its routing functionality is way better. I’ve now taken a route that I’ve done in the past and loaded it back onto the Garmin as a saved route and then followed the route again with audible prompts for each turn. And then for today’s ride, I created a route with MapMyRide and loaded it onto the GPS the same way and followed it. We did a 75 mile ride, the first half of which was all on roads that I’ve never seen before and we had lots of very nice roads and only missed the one turn that I didn’t listen to the GPS for :)

There’s only one set of caveats with the Edge devices in general — the software stack kind of sucks. There are a few things to keep in mind/tricks I’ve figured out

  • Unlike the Edge 305, the 705 just shows up as a USB mass storage device. This means you don’t have to use garmin-sync under Linux and can just mount and copy files off. This is an improvement!
  • The shipped software is kind of crappy for a lot of things. I’m finding you’re better off using various web sites.
  • To load a route on the 705, first you want to create a route as a GPX file. Then I’ve being going to GPSies and converting it to a GPX track and then I can just copy it to the Garmin/GPX directory and it shows up as a saved route.
  • Garmin purchased the company behind MotionBased and has put them to work on Garmin Connect which is intended to replace MotionBased and is what you have to use with the new devices. Unfortunately, the new site is lighter on functionality, slower, and I’m generally less than happy with it. If you’re using another site (TrainingPeaks.com, MapMyRide or something else) for keeping your riding log and like it, I’d love to hear what you’re using.

Even with the above, though, I’m very very happy with the 705 and would recommend it to anyone who rides a lot and likes to over-analyze data afterwards. Or for anyone who likes to ride in places they’ve never been and see new routes without getting lost or following a paper map.

1. I’d also love to hear opinions on a Quarq vs the more ubiquitous PowerTap as a power meter option

New race bike

As I offhand mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently built up a new bike. Although my Merlin is awesome, I’ve been wanting to build up something that’s set up a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more geared towards racing as opposed to the long rides the Merlin is for. After a fair bit of looking around, the fact that Quad was going to be becoming a Cannondale dealer for this year led me to settle on the CAAD-9 as a good choice of frame. And since the MIT cycling team is sponsored by SRAM, I figured I’d give SRAM a try — the Merlin has Campagnolo Chorus, but the continuing increase in cost for Campy meant I was interested in trying something a little cheaper. So a SRAM Force group was purchased.

Everything finally arrived and I had the bike built up. Odds and ends include an older, but awesome pair of Velomax Ascent wheels, a Fi’zi:k Antares saddle (as I was happy with it on the Merlin), white bar tape, Speedplay Zeros (another new thing to try compared to the Keos on the Merlin). I think it turned out pretty well — it looks sweet and more importantly, is a lot of fun to ride. The setup is definitely more aggressive and it just feels like it wants to go fast. Stiff as rails too. So I’m pretty happy with it.

No white garage door, but for an obligatory picture

Full Bike

Now, three weeks later, I’ve got about 500 miles on the bike and am really enjoying it. I raced it the first weekend I had it and have also gotten in some other, longer efforts including today’s century. It is meeting all the criteria I set for it. Still to be considered — power meter options and if I want to get a pair of flashier wheels.

X-Pot 3D Race Report

This past weekend was MIT’s ECCC race weekend out near Mount Wachusett. I wasn’t able to get out for the crit on Sunday but I was able to go out for the road race and TTT on Saturday.

The day started out very early, leaving the house at 5 am to head down to MIT and pick up people and bikes to drive out to the venue. We were on our way roughly on time and made pretty good time out to Westminster. I got my race numbers, pinned them and got ready. First event of the morning was a team time trial so I headed out with my team to pre-ride the course as a warmup. As we warmed up, it was colder than I thought it would be so I was glad I had grabbed arm and leg warmers as I left the house. We mostly got into a groove and got back just in time to line up. A little bit of waiting later and we were off. Being on the new bike with a new pedal system, I was a little slow to get clipped in, but I don’t think I slowed us down too badly. We rode hard and I enjoyed it… final time for the 7 mile course was just under 18:30 giving us sixth place.

Then a cool down and stood around a little bit to wait for the road race. Did something of a warm up (aka climbed a few of the close hills) and lined up. Ended up standing lined up long enough that the warm up probably didn’t matter. The start was a neutral rollout with a large field (56 riders). As we went down the first hill, the sketchiness began — between the riders, the potholes and the oil slicks (!), it was a bit nuts. As the pace car pulled away, the field started to stretch a little. Still lots of sketchiness, plenty of disregard of the yellow line, and watching people moving into the other lane with cars coming in the other direction. I picked a semi-safe spot, but wasn’t really able to move up with the way the pack was working.

As we reached the fourth mile, we turned onto a road with a sign mentioning the Wachusett ski area. And at this point, the field blew apart as we began the climb. I was moving forward but the front of the pack had surged forward. I tried to bring along one of my teammates (Zach Y) but he was in pain so I kept moving. As I reached the top, I pulled together a small group and started urging them to work together so that we could catch however many people were in front of us. I didn’t know how many there were, but I knew working together was our best chance. To some extent, this was successful as a few of the people eventually fell into working with me in a pace line. And we caught up with some more people. But as we moved forward, the pace line began disintegrating. By the beginning of the second (of three) laps, it was largely to myself and one other guy working together. But we kept at it. Unfortunately, on the hill on the third lap, my left leg cramped in a major way. A combination of the heat and a lack of drinking much through the race were the probable causes. But in any case, I fell off my little group and limped my way up the climb. From that point, I basically soloed the rest of the course. As I came to the final finishing climb, I started to cramp again, but as an RIT guy who had originally been in my little group but not working much started to pass, I dug deep and sprinted for the line. End result of 33rd. Not what I had hoped for, but there were definitely some good parts from a learning perspective. Hopefully I can put some of them into practice soon, maybe even this weekend at Blue Hills.

After the race, changed and then got to work for my task of shuttling marshalls around to their posts. I was kind of glad to have a job that let me sit in the air conditioned car as the temperature was above 90 degrees at that point. Then, eventually back to Cambridge and then home.

A well run race weekend and a good chance to get out on the new bike and see how it performs. Answer is that I’m pretty happy with it. Now just to work on racing smarter and not missing when the front of the pack goes off rather than being towards the middle and falling behind.

Back to Myles Standish

The Myles Standish Road Race was my first race last season and so after having circumstances keep me from going to Dartmouth for the weekend, I decided to sign up for the Cat 4 race there this year. Unfortunately, due to the road conditions, they weren’t able to run it on the road race course (~ 7 miles) and instead had to run it on the Charge Pond course that I raced on earlier this year. So basically a crit. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but you deal with the cards you’re dealt.

Given that and the fact that I had crashed on the course a month ago, I went in with very simple goals. Stay upright, get in a speed workout, and get past any lingering anxiety in the pack after the crash. With those, I’d say I succeeded. Another win of the day was that I didn’t forget anything I intended to bring with me. The race results were a little less great

Anyway, the race started off fast. Very fast. I didn’t have a good position at the line and so was struggling with the rubber band effect from the go. After a couple of laps, the pace cooled down a little bit, but not too much. The corner and hill before the finish line had a strong impact on every lap but with the pace immediately following it, I never managed to pull myself far enough forward to make a difference going into the next lap. After about half the laps, I snapped a little as we went around the backside and fell a little off the back. I kept driving on and pushing for another few laps but knew I was falling further and further back. I decided to pull out before getting lapped since I expected at that point there was a break which had gotten away that would be closing in. As it turns out, no break had gotten away and so I don’t think I would have been lapped. I wouldn’t have caught the pack though.

Next weekend, heading out with the MIT team for the MIT sponsored race, X-Pot 3D. I can only do the road race on Saturday (and the TTT if another man is needed) as Sunday is my niece’s baptism. But hopefully the road race there will be a little bit better for me.

The flat streak ends

All streaks must come to an end. Apparently mine with flats (or lack thereof) now has.

The story starts yesterday when I was on my way home. There was something a little funny looking, maybe glass, on the bike path and as I went over it I cringed. But made it home, checked over the tire, and didn’t find anything lodged within it. The thought did go through my head of “these tires are getting pretty old and probably need to be replaced”, but I figured it could wait.

This morning, I woke up to sunny skies and the temperature quickly rising. Got out of the house a little on the early side and headed towards class. Made it to Arlington Center and then I heard that sound that you never want to hear while biking…. “hisssssssssss”. Pulled off to the side of the path, and yep, the tube had a puncture and was flatting. Removed the tube and gave the tire a more extensive look over on the inside to see if there was anything protruding. Nothing to be seen. Thought again “yeah, definitely should change the tire”. Put in a new tube, aired it up and on my way

Made it about a mile and again…. “hissssssss”. Well, that was my spare tube and my one CO2 cartridge that I carry on the commuter. So at this point, not much I can do. I only carry one as there’s a bike shop roughly every mile along my commute so it’s not that big of a deal. But since I’m now going to be running late for class, I just walk up to Alewife and take the T from there to get to class half an hour late rather than early.

So, lessons for today…

  1. Maybe it’s worth sticking a second flat kit in my pannier and laptop bag
  2. When I start to think about changing tires, I really probably shouldn’t waste time
  3. Don’t try to be too early :-)

Hopefully the flats aren’t indicative of how the rest of my day is going to be.

Update: Annnnnddddd… the wordpress app for the iphone isn’t very smart about moving from local draft (on the phone) to draft on the server. So I got to rewrite this.

First race of the season

Made a last minute decision (yesterday) that I wanted to go ahead and get some racing in, so went down today to Plymouth to race in the 4/5 field at Charge Pond. The race is held in the same state park as the Myles Standish Road Race that was my first race of the season last year but it’s a month earlier, it’s a 4/5 field and it’s a much shorter circuit (1.1 miles vs 7-ish miles). Kara had class today, so I talked Kate into going down and she talked Jon into driving for us which was awfully nice — he also played the role of photographer for the day.

We got started early enough and pulled into the parking lot at the park right after 9 for the 10 am race start. I got out and registered and pulled on the appropriate clothing for the fact that it was about 35 degrees out. We went for a few laps around the course to warm up and also do a bit of recon work. Overall, the road was in good shape; there was some sand on the edges, but that was about it. The end of the course had a pretty good corner after a downhill that was a little tricky… it was even trickier in the pack as everyone slowed down for it (including me) — definitely need to work on cornering more.

As we lined up at the race, there were about 8 other Quaddies present as well as 4 other guys from the MIT cycling team in the field of 50+. So went in with a good number of friends in the field. The first lap was very very mellow. Not sure how mellow, as the one thing I left at home was my GPS/computer. On the second lap, Kenton came up around the outside and began pushing the pace. That set the tone for pretty much the rest of the race. Someone would go up the side, push the pace, and then things would pull back together. I tried staying in the front part of the pack to varying degrees of success but it was good to get back to riding in a pack.

With what ended up being seven laps to go (wasn’t sure, they weren’t showing lap cards yet), Charles decided to follow a guy up the road and tried to get me to go with him. My legs didn’t feel like they could bridge the gap, so I instead stuck back and tried to control the pace of the pack so that he could get away. It was successful for a little bit, but then Charles ran out of steam. Was fun to try to do, though. The effort sent me to the back of the pack, though, to regain something for the end

Coming up the hill on the back side of the course with just over two laps to go, the guy in front of me had someone cut in front of him and he then went down. I was right behind him and so had no choice but to slow down a lot and then basically go over the guy. I went over the handlebars but the only real damage was biting my lip, a little bit of skin on my left knee, a bruise on the right knee and the nose of my saddle coming off (that may have been from the guy behind me who also went over us). Shook me up a little, though. So I mostly got out of the way and tried to calm down until the race ended not long after. Then I did a cooldown lap slow and relaxed with Kenton and also to stretch out the muscles.

Overall, a fun time even with the jarring and unintended ending. The big positive is that my legs mostly felt pretty good keeping up in the pack, so hopefully that can continue and translate into having a good time the rest of the racing season. I’m definitely getting more into the racing spirit, which has been a little bit of a hurdle. Hopefully the new bike will help get me the rest of the way there.

I am though now looking at saddles to replace what I was using (a Specialized Toupe). I’d been thinking about trying something new so this seems like a reasonable excuse. Suggestions welcome. Right now, I’m trying out a Fi’zi:k Antares and from the two miles I did on it, it seems okay but the real test will come tomorrow when I put 50-60 miles on it.