Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Heart Cyclocross!

Over Thanksgiving weekend I was in Iowa for the most important celebration of the holiday season- Jingle Cross Rock! Unlike lesser holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, Jingle Cross Rock is a 3 day epic party that also happens to involve grueling racing on different variations of an incredibly difficult cyclocross course! This year during day 2, Ryan Trebon finally got a gap on the field in the UCI Pro race. On the last lap, near the top of the steep, muddy run-up to Mt. Krumpit that invariably redlines all  racers, he encountered a marshmallow peep "hand-up" wedged in the sportsbra of a very devoted cross fan. I guarantee you at that point in the race Trebon was in some serious oxygen debt and mainly focused on finishing up the lap without any mishaps.  Still, in tremendous act of sportsmanship rarely witnessed in this day and age, he grabbed that peep and bit its head off!

This one symbolic act distills everything that I have come to love about cyclocross racing. I'm actually not being sarcastic here. When I thought about it some more, this whole attitude of laying it on the line during a race, but never taking yourself too seriously really resonates with me. I have seen one cyclist punch another after the finish of a road bike race where he perceived the other guy to have made a bad move that caused him to crash. I've seen top age group triathletes content to sit in big draft packs for most of an Ironman race. I've known runners that went to psychologists because their heads got so messed up on race day. Cyclocross has become my antidote to all this silliness. Sport should be challenging and there is great value in exploring our physical limits, but it should also be fun.

Driving back home from Jingle Cross Rock I declared that it was my favorite race, of any type, anywhere. Even among excentric cross races Jingle Cross stands out. You really have to go to experience it, but I'm going to try and capture some of the awesomeness that is Jingle Cross here.

The Course

Triathletes have been known to traverse the country seeking the next PR course. Flat, straight courses are valued for their potential to shave off a few seconds or minutes.  At the opposite extreme, no two cyclocross courses are alike and none are straight! A race may be held in a flat, grassy, park, but the construction of the corners and barriers always adds a degree of difficulty.  Jingle Cross Rock is held on some county fairgrounds near Iowa City, which may conjure up images of flat cornfields.  Actually, there is only one hill at Jingle Cross, but Mt. Krumpit is a beast and the course designers use it for all it worth.

Mt. Krumpit from below. This is a descent.
 Another unique element of Jingle Cross is that they route the bike course through some of the barns on the course.  One of these, dubbed the Grinch's Lair, goes through some loose, deep sand in one of the barns.

Me bombing through the sand in the Grinch's Lair (it's deeper than it looks!)

To keep things festive, there is Christmas music and lights.  Another part of the course forces riders to weave in and out of animal stalls in another one of the barns.  Pure. Genius.

New to the race this year was a "flyover".  These structures are becoming more common in cross races.  They consist of a set of stairs on one side and then a steep ramp down the other side. Here's a pic of the ramp side of the flyover at Jingle Cross. Later the course loops back under the same structure.

A last unique feature of the course is the Whoville whirl.  This is laid on a flat grassy section and is basically a spiral that you ride into and then it spirals outwards (it only makes sense when you see it in action).  Being held over Thanksgiving weekend, you generally get snow some days (this year was a rare dry year) and ice for at least the morning races.

The Races!

As I said earlier, Jingle Cross is now 3 days of consecutive racing, but each course is different.  I'll try to give you a little play-by-play for each day.

Friday Night

No that's not a typo.  The Friday night races are held under the lights.  The organizers bring in some serious candlepower to light up most of the course. 

My Cat 4 (beginner) race was very big (50+) and pretty tame by Jingle Cross standards.  The barns, flyover, and whirl were in, but hills and barriers were excluded.  I registered late, which meant I started way back, which can make or break a cross race if you happen to be in, or behind, a pile-up. I finally sucked it up an bought a USA Cycling license because I was tired of doing the short, less difficult, beginner races.  The license is $60 per year for mountain bike and cyclocross, but another $30 if I want a road license as well.  This is a rip-off for someone like me whose primary sport is triathlon, but dabbles road, mountain and cross.  In any case, my goal for the weekend was to score enough points to upgrade to Cat 3.

Jonah and Cara cheered me on from inside the Grinch's lair for most of the race. 

Jonah cheering his dad through the Grinch's Lair Friday night.

I stayed out of trouble Friday night, but courses with little running and no hills don't favor me much. I ended up 8th and knew I had to step it up the next two days. We watched a few more races after mine and Jonah nearly got squashed by a rider that flipped entirely upside down and over the fence on the very technical Mt. Krumpit descent. Driving back to the hotel from the race I looked at the course crawling with racers, under the lights on a freezing November night in Iowa.  What must the average person driving by this scene possibly thing of the whole circus?  This makes me smile everytime I think about it.


Saturday morning we woke up to clear skies, but temps in the teens.  That meant that any mud generated during the Friday races was now a slick, solid mess.  My Bloomington Cycle teammate Sean Hyser and his dad were also there for all 3 days of racing.  On Saturday morning they agreed to watch Jonah so that Cara and I could both race (our races were back-to-back). We really appreciated them taking Jonah for a couple hours! This was Cara's first official cross race (she's done some of our local recycle-cross races in the past).  She made up a T-Shirt that said "Baby's First Cyclocross Race" that I don't think many people noticed.  Pretty cool anyway!  (If this is confusing you read the post below!) Cara avoided all crashes (rarely happens to me) and had a good time.

On Saturday, I was excited for a more challenging course.  The more barriers, hills, running and technical sections there are, the better I finish.  I just don't have the pure bike fitness to compete with the cyclists on courses that basically amount to flat grass criteriums.  The Saturday Cat 4 course had barriers, a big hill run-up, a fast, somewhat technical descent, icy corners and a few other features that suited me.  I again started way back since staging is based on registration.  As a side note, my single biggest complaint with Jingle Cross is that on Saurday and Sunday they don't call-up the top ten finishers from the previous race, which I think would be a better staging method.  With a risky fast start I picked up about 10 places to probably around 20th place.  I rode really clean without any major mishaps.  I definitely picked up time and places on each hill run-up even though I felt like I was dying and dragging ass while doing it! In the first lap, I was able to ride a tricky, icy, off-camber section and all of a sudden found myself leading the race!  I'd have to say it was pretty cool having the announcers calling the race as you rode past the grandstands.  There were some very strong riders that got caught up in a crash behind me and eventually I was overtaken by two of them.  No excuses from me whatsoever.  They were physically stronger and at least equal in handling skills. I finished 3rd out of 55 which probably represents my best cross race ever. 3rd also meant a trip to the podium and lots of points towards an upgrade.  I believe the winner of this race was from Colorado, which just shows the scope and caliber of racers at this event.

There were lots more races on Saturday along with a spectator party that keeps gaining momentum until the UCI Pro races. So officially, outside alcohol was banned from the races (they were selling cans of beer at reasonable prices).  About halfway through the day Saturday I see a bunch of guys pushing something up Mount Krumpit.  Looking closer I realized it was a keg on a dolly.  Not only that, but it was poorly "disguised" by being wrapped in a blanket with sticks, cornstalks and a pumpkin on top for camoflague. My people.  My beautiful, beautiful people.

Another B-N Cycle Teammate, Ken Hoepker, drove over to Iowa just to support and take in the Jingle Cross atmosphere (along with drinking some beers while heckling racers).  I should say a little bit more about cyclocross culture for the unitiated.  Heckling is a time-honored tradition and is expected from hard-core cross spectators. Also, perhaps because of the Belgian roots of the sport, I have been to exactly zero cross races that don't involve lots of drinking on behalf of the spectators and sometimes the riders.  "Hand-ups" are another element unique to cross. I don't know the origins of this particular tradition, but it comes part and parcel with cross racing.  Hand-ups often come in two formats: beer or money. The fun comes in trying to see which racers will actually grab and chug part of a beer mid-race.  Money is another common hand-up. Cash hand-ups are generally reserved for the pro 1-2 races since it is well-known that most lesser-category riders will interrupt their race for a buck!  Sometimes the money is scattered about on a climb or sand pit, but Jingle Cross specatators (whom I love dearly) really up the ante.  This year the girls from the Hollywood Cycle along with some others found all sorts of appealing places to place cash as well as the aforementioned marshmallow peeps.  Often it takes way more than a single to get a UCI rider to take notice.  Funny how singles placed in strategic parts of the female anatomy completely changed this dynamic.  I give huge, huge props to the rider that was able to collect a single from a sportsbra without using his hands (use your imagination). Some of the hijinx were captured on film and conveniently uploaded to YouTube.  This starts to give you a sense of the awesomeness of cross fans!


Sunday morning was cold and clear again, although it would warm up quite a bit before the day was over.  I had survived two days without any significant damage to my person and was excited about day #3.  The Sunday morning course had quite a bit of frost on all the corners making things a little sketchy.  My poor starting position really caught up with me on Sunday.  A big pile up in the first two minutes of racing meant I got stuck way behind as the leaders rode away.  There was also a short, but really steep hill that I practiced riding during warm-up.  Unfortunately, riders in front of me tried it and failed leading to a pile up that I got mixed up in.  I actually had my foot stuck inside someone else's wheel for awhile which didn't help things.  My first lap was discouraging and I was way down on the leaders.  As the race started to thin out I picked off riders one by one.  I think two laps in there was a relatively long, somewhat straight section where if your legs weren't toasted you could really move.  I put everything I had into a big effort and moved up about five places.  This turned out to be one of the decisive moves for me in the race as none of those riders passed me back.  Again, I was having a hard time telling where I was place-wise because of the first lap debacle.  I was able to ride some of the more technical sections that others were pushing so that moved me up some more. I came across the line in 3rd again, with 2nd not far in front, but 4th not far behind!
The best feature of Sunday's racing was the bikini/speedo single speed category. Yes there is a speedo/bikini race in freezing temperatures on an Iowa fairgrounds in November.  Silly of you to think otherwise. Half the singlespeed race is quite serious and competitive while the back half is, well, not.  There was at least one guy and one girl who have my utmost respect and admiration that raced all-out in clothing that offered almost nothing in the way of protection against crashes. The bikini/speedo racers had multiple beer pitstops and two of them got on a tandem at some point in the course (I know, just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it does!). Fortunately for all of you who weren't there the race was well-documented in picture and video.

All Good Things Must Come to an End!
So after 3 days of racing, I had accumulated enought points for an upgrade to Cat 3- which was one of my big goals for the fall.  This means I can get out of the crazy, packed Cat 4 fields in the Chicago Cross series to the ever-so-slightly less packed and crazy Cat 3 races.  It also means that if I can make it back to Jingle Cross next year, I get to do the more difficult Mt. Krumpit climbs and descents.  Game On!

Sean Hyser raced Cat 3 all weekend on his mountain bike, which was probably less of a disadvantage on this course than on most other cross courses.  He racked up 8th, 11th, and 10th place finishes in a pretty competitive field.

My sponsors were well-represented at Jingle Cross.  Both my Evotri team and Bloomington Cycle Teams are sponsored by Specialized which works out really well for me.  Specialized had a big tent and bikes at the race.  Todd Wells (Specialized) finished 2nd on both Sat and Sun. Zipp wheels were everywhere on the pro (and many of the amateru) bikes.  I think it says something about the durability of Zipp carbon wheels that these wheels that hold up to off-road abuse are the same found on road and tri bikes.

Next winter and the year following, cyclocross nationals comes to Madison, WI and I definitely plan on racing (what's not to like about cyclocross in Madison in January??).  Not only that, but the Master's World Cyclocross Championships will follow nationals in Louisville next winter and the winter following.  For 2013 the UCI elite world championship will be held in conjunction with the World Masters Champs. That will be a very cool event to go and watch! Man I love this sport!

I'll leave you with one last high-def video from the Jingle Cross races.  It might be better to watch this on YouTube rather than on my blog which seems to cut things off unless I really shrink everything down.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

Those of you who know my brother and sister-in-law or follow their blog know that I will be getting my first niece in a few short weeks! I'm so happy for them to become parents!  Raising Jonah has been a huge challenge and life adjustment, but the rewards far outweigh any negatives.

For the most part while we were growing up, Andy and I avoided much of the traditional sibling rivalry. Swimming was about the only activity that we did in common and age group racing meant we rarely competed directly. Just to be clear, I had way more and an all around better selection of He-Man action figures than Andy. Not like it was a competition or anything, but I also always caught bigger fish too. No one kept track but I could jump my motorcycle 2 foot 6 and 3/4 inches farther than my brother.  Give or take 1/8 of an inch.

I provide you, gentle reader, with all of this background information just to provide the necessary context to my next announcement:

Cara and I are expecting a new baby in early June!

We waited until Thanksgiving to tell family.  Cara beat me to the social networking punch and let the Facebook world know soon after, so I am playing catch-up.  Cara has also been archiving blog posts and just innundated everyone's feed readers.  You can catch up on her side of the story on her blog.

Jonah seems to be taking everything in stride so far.  When we told him for the first time, he just said, "Oh, Thanks."  We have a big brother book that he likes and when friends asked him what he wanted for Christmas over the weekend, he said "presents for my baby sister."  He is dead-set on the baby being a sister, but we won't know for a couple weeks yet.

So again, I'm sure no one is keeping track of these things, but let's review. Chris = 1 kid + 1 forthcoming.  Andy = 1 kid forthcoming. I score this kind of like horseshoes.  Jonah is a ringer and new baby counts as in the pit and close enough to the stake to score.  Bottom line? Andy is sooo getting smoked in the baby game. (If they've been secretly hiding twins to gain a strategic advantage I'm gonna be pissed.)

 O'Doyle Rules!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Announcing the Book Bike Project!!!

From time to time on this blog I will allude to my day job as a librarian at Illinois Wesleyan University.  My career choice intersects with my triathlon endeavors more than often than you would imagine. In particular, I attribute some of my success as a long course triathlete to my abilities to research all the minutiae of racing, training, nutrition, recovery, etc.  Being able to evaluate and manage large amounts of information has made me a better triathlete and an even better coach.  It was only recently that I came across a way to even further integrate many of my life-long passions: literacy, sustainability, fitness and education.  Enter the Book Bike!

The Book Bike idea came from a great guy up in Chicago named Gabe Levinson.  Gabe has a website about his book bike project here: http://www.bookbike.org/about/ .  The beauty of the idea is in its simplicity. A bicycle is one of the most low-tech forms of transportation out there.  Riding reduces carbon emissions and promotes physical fitness.  Now take a three-wheeled bike and mount a book case on the front!  In the vein of the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it Simple Stupid) the concept is to ride the book bike to public places and just give away books- no strings attached!

Gabe's Book Bike Project originally crossed my radar when I saw this YouYube Video:



I forwarded the video to some of my library colleagues and Karen Schmidt, our library director, jumped on the concept and started making plans to bring a book bike to Bloomington. Karen is on the Bloomington City Council and part of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP).  The Book Bike supports several parts of the WBRP strategic plan, including education, engagement with youth, and greening initiatives.  

The bike itself is a US-made front load Worksman Tricycle. Unlike a kids tricycle, it has two wheels up front that allow the bike to support a heavy load. These bikes are used in large factories for internal deliveries and by a variety of street vendors. We worked with our local bike shop, Vitesse Cycle, to coordinate ordering and assembling the bike. The book case was designed and donated by Mark Fagerland of Unique Design in Normal, IL. It sits on the front platform and then when you get to your location, it unfolds and locks to display the books.

Steering the bike is surprisingly easy with the two wheels up front. Currently the bike is set up as a single speed, but we are looking at re-working the gear ratio to better manage hills! The bike itself probably weighs 75-100 lbs. The book case is another 75 lbs. When you add rider weight to that equation, you are talking about quite a bit of weight! I had the distinction of being the guinea pig rider for the first 10-block maiden voyage of the book bike!  The one small hill was somewhat challenging even for an experienced cyclist!  Once we get the bike geared down, it should be surprisingly easy to ride around town.

Our Book Bike debut was at a a Fall Family Fun Festival near some community garden plots in West Bloomington.  The bike itself drew more interest from the adults, while some of the kids in attendance grabbed some free books before rain forced the bike inside.

Opened up, the bookcase looks something like this (photo is of Gabe's bike)

The Book Bike story has been covered by:

We are looking for donations of new and gently used books, as well as financial donations to support the Book Bike.  Donations for the book bike should be marked as such and sent to: Illinois Prairie Community 202 N Prospect Rd, Bloomington, IL 61704-7914. Book donations can be dropped off at the WBRP office. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 Racing Re-Cap

2010 has been a strange racing year for me. For the first time ever, I didn't have a big goal race on the line. I raced 5 Ironmans before qualifying for Kona at IM Wisconsin in '07. Each year I was focused on incremental improvement and peaking for the big race. '08 was Kona (training juggled with new infant son). '09 was 70.3 World Championships. Heading into 2010, I was toying with the idea of a non-WTC Ironman in the fall, but just couldn't find the necessary training hours.

Early on in the year, I did come up with a personal goal of regaining some of the short course speed that I had lost in the course of 6 years of IM training. I began the early season with a Master's swim meet where I turned in some of my fastest sprints since college: 24.19 for the 50 and 54s for the 100. Both a few seconds off college times, but fastest I've moved in the pool for awhile. I have the good fortune to be able to run with the Illinois Wesleyan Track and XC teams whenever I can work it into my schedule. These guys really helped me with my track intervals. I had a goal for the year to get back under 17 minutes for the 5K. Follwing a spring of somewhat regular track intervals I won a small 5K here in town in 16:50 something. I verified this performance a few weeks later with a 16:50 track 5K (that 16:50 placed me close to dead last of about 90 competitors). I had two more road races that I was fairly happy with. I went over to Peoria, IL for the world-class Steamboat Classic 4 mile race. Went out crazy-hard and suffered my way through the race at about 5:30 pace. Did a 5 mile race a few weeks later at about 5:40 pace. Improved run speed: check!

On the tri side of things, I wanted to race well at the sprint and olympic didistance which I am not as strong at compared to long course. I opened the early season with a 2nd place overall at a small sprint in Sullivan IL. I took second to my former Augustana Cross Country Teammate Jeff Paul who was just beginning his first season as a pro triathlete. Jeff's blog is here!

Next up, was the Desoto Triple-T in Ohio. Despite crashing out and breaking my collarbone at this race a few years ago, this is still my favorite triathlon bar none. The venue is tough, but gorgeous. This year I had the great opportunity to race on a team with my brother. For those not familiar with Triple-T it is 4 races in 3 days: Friday night super sprint, two olympics on Sat and a 1/2 IM Sun morning. For the team event, both team members do all the events- but you can draft your teammate on the bike. Racing with my brother was an awesome experience (in spite of getting seperated during one of the races and losing a bunch of time). We got to spend a super-fun weekend in a cabin with good friends Mike Donahue and Laura Vedeen.  I also got to catch up with teammate JP, who tore up the Triple-T in his debut race there!

Next up was our local Tri-Shark Sprint Tri. I was trying to focus a bit on this race since I had never peaked for it before. ON paper I was able to win the elite wave of the race. What really happened was two pros who raced unofficially finished ahead of me and friend Robert Trimble snuck up from the age group waves to beat everyone.

My next tri was our local Evergreen Olympic-plus race. This has become a pretty competitve event with around 500 participants and a decent pro field. The elite wave was stacked and I knew it would take a strong race to stay in the top ten. I had an ok day and finished 15th in 2:12 (long bike leg).

I was mostly off of training for two weeks in July for a family vacation to Maine and week for work in Vermont. Following this break I went to race a sprint race in Canton IL. This is one of the races where I got started in the kids event almost 20 years ago. This was my surprise race of the year. All three events were just clicking. I came out of the water in the top 5 and then moved into the lead before the halfway on the bike. I came itto T2 with at least a 1 or 2 minute lead. I ran about a 17 minute 3 mile to hold onto the overall win. So far the small highlight of 2010.

Last weekend I ventured back into Xterra racing with the new Xterra Points Series race in Peoria, IL. I've raced a few Xterras and mountain bike races over the years. Unfortunately I had precisely zero mountain bike rides this season. Not ideal for Xterra racing, but I was still looking forward to the event! I was second out of the water and then had the frustrating experience of a bunch of people passing me on the bike leg (handling skills just not up to snuff!). I mostly kept the rubber-side down and then picked up some places on the run for 4th overall. I was just a few seconds shy of my good friend Sean Hyser who has been tearing up the Xterra circuit the last few years.

Next up is the Rev3 half-ironman with my Evotri team. I'm not really in any kind of half shape, but I will be able to pull something together.

I've really enjoyed dabbling in cyclocross the last few years, but the season was always cut short by big fall tris (Kona and Clearwater). Hopefully I will get a few more cross races in this fall!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Specialized Transition Pro

For the 2010 season, Team Evotri announced a new partnership with Specialized Bicycles. Specialized has long been a major player in the road and mountain bike markets, but it wasn’t until the 2008 introduction of the carbon Transition that they made serious inroads into the booming triathlon market. I am planning a two-part review here. This initial review will just focus on the Specialized frame and I will follow that up with a review of the wheels and components. Given that Specialized is a team sponsor the savvy reader probably expects nothing short of a glowing review which concludes with “buying this frame will cut a half hour off your Ironman bike split!” I built up my own frame as well as my teammate Stu’s, so I have a good working knowledge of how these frames are built and how well everything works together. As I have done in the past I won’t hold back any punches in these reviews. I will tell you what I like and what I don’t like. More than that, I will tell Specialized and the other sponsors what works and what doesn’t in the hopes that this feedback will result in even better products down the line.

Stu's new Transition Pro

There are actually 7 variations of the Transition currently available from Specialized. The bottom of the heap is an aluminum frame with low-end components. The top-of-the-line S-Works carbon frame and all the gee-whiz components is about 5 times the price of the entry model. Most of the EvoTri team is on the Transition Pro frame, which is a small step down from the S-Works. The first thing that confuses me about this line-up is that Specialized doesn’t really differentiate between the S-Works and the Transition Pro. The S-Works uses a higher quality carbon that is supposedly lighter and stiffer. From a consumer standpoint, if you want customers to buy your top-of-the-line frame I would try to quantify these differences. Is an S-Works frame 100 grams lighter? 10% stiffer? Why should I ante up $1300 more for the S-Works frame? You do get a really nice looking Specialized integrated BB30 crankset with the S-Works, which is a good chunk of the cost difference. As I see it, the real value in the Specialized lineup is the variations of the carbon Transition frame: the Comp, Expert and Pro. If you are a beginner, the $1450 Aluminum Transition A1 Elite is also going to be hard to beat.

Let’s dissect the Transition Pro frameset a bit. The frame is built with FACT 7 carbon (a small step down from the FACT 9 used by the S-Works). I didn’t weigh it, but I found another review claiming a weight of 1690 grams, which is tolerable –but certainly not industry leading- for an aero tri frame. The frame has all the standards that you would expect from a triathlon frame in this price point: aero tubing, horizontal dropouts, aero seatpost.

So how does the Transition differentiate itself from the competition? In quite a few ways as it turns out. First off, the aerodynamic tube shapes don’t conform to the industry-standard NACA profiles which were designed for aircraft, not bikes. Specialized designed more blunt tube shapes that they claim are better suited to the lower speeds of cycling. Another striking visual element is the sharp inward bend of the chain stays and seat stays near the rear wheel. This is another aerodynamic tweak that I have heard some people have had clearance problems with. It hasn’t been a problem with the wheelsets that I have tried so far.

The second more noticeable feature is the integrated brakes which are included with the frame. Both brakes are a custom center-pull design. This is primarily done for aerodynamic reasons up front- the cable sits directly in front of the head tube, rather than hanging out to the side. For the rear brake this design serves both functional and aerodynamic purposes. The centerpull design allows the somewhat unique rear brake mounting beneath the bottom bracket. This keeps the brake out of the wind and improves aerodynamics. As someone who grew up riding mountain bikes before V-brakes existed and way before disc brakes, the cantilever system is quite familiar. For the average rider the system may be unnecessarily complicated. There are two very tiny pinch bolts that hold the cable in place. These seem to do a fine job, but I would like to see them built to a heavier spec.

There is a general trend among bike manufacturers towards proprietary parts that I am not a huge fan of. For those of us who travel often to important races a common scenario is that the airline somehow manages to damage your well-packed frame, or something winds up missing. If it is a proprietary part that gets damaged or goes missing, like a brake or seatpost clamp, the local bike shop might not have any repair parts in stock. Proprietary parts also limit component choice. Your current brake options for the Transition are the stock brakes and that is it. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the performance of the brakes. Set-up correctly they feel almost as solid as a Dura Ace or SRAM Red brakeset. One of my biggest pet peeves about the frame is adjusting the rear brake. Specialized realized that access to the brake was going to be difficult, so they include a nut on the drive-side brake pad so that it can be adjusted with a wrench instead of an allen wrench. What cannot be easily accessed though, is the spring tension screw used to center the brake pads. With most cranks, you need to remove the entire crank to get to the tiny screw. I may be able to make a really short allen wrench, but this is one adjustment that you want to get right the first time.

Next up is cable routing. I’ve built or rebuilt 4 tri bikes in the last few weeks and manufacturers could certainly stand to think a little more about cable routing. On the Transition the rear brake cable and two derailleur cables all enter the frame directly behind the stem. Internal cabling is standard these days, but how it is achieved differs greatly. At first, I thought the system on the Specialized would be a real pain to set up and then would bind when used. In reality the three cables entering behind the stem is not only aero, but it does not bind at all when you turn the bars- a pleasant surprise! Getting cable housing lengths correct was a real PIA, though. Rather than using cable stops, the housing runs all the way through the frame. This actually adds a somewhat significant amount of weight and complicates the building process a little. Specialized included a 4th hole for running a cable to an SRM Power Meter. Since everything is going wireless, this is somewhat obsolete. I filled the hole with silicone since I end up racing in the rain way more often than I would like.

The seatpost features a two-position head, allowing for a variety of positions. I am a firm believer that tri bikes should be ridden steep for most competitive riders, so I use the forward position. The seatpost is held in place by another proprietary wedge-style clamp. Every manufacturer has a different take on the aero seatpost clamp. Specialized’s design seems to hold things in place without stressing the frame. One thing to note about the Transition Pro is that it is an aggressive frame that is meant to be raced. Given the amount of drop from the saddle to the handlebars a really relaxed, upright position is not possible. A comfortable long-course position with a reasonable amount of drop is not a problem.

Overall Impressions
I set this bike up to almost exactly the same fit specs as my previous frame. This attention to detail allowed me to feel at home right away on the new frame. You feel like you are sitting up higher on this bike because of the sloping top tube that is found on all frames utilizing compact geometry. If the frame is stiff enough for Fabian Cancellara (he won a Tour of California TT on this frame) it is surely stiff enough for me. Handling is predictable and not twitchy (for a tri bike anyway). The bike really shines when you step on the pedals- I feel like there is no wasted energy, everything I put into the pedals translates into forward momentum. For such a stiff frame, the ride quality is also better than I expected. The carbon does a nice job of damping road vibrations. Since finishing the bike build, I won the elite wave of a local tri and have gone 4 for 4 on overall wins at our local Tuesday Night Time Trial series. So it is fair to say that aside from the few design tweaks and peeves mentioned above, I am digging this new ride and looking forward to throwing down some fast bike splits the rest of the season!

Stay tuned for a detailed review of all the fancy bits and pieces on my Transition Pro.

Up the mountain at Triple-T!

Down the mountain at Triple-T!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Making the Team, 2010

"Making the Team"

March 15, 2010

Madison, WI

Now in its third year of giving back to the endurance community, Team Evotri once again wants you to be part of the journey.

This spring, the team will be adding another teammate from the endurance sport community. Along with joining the family, the new recruit will be awarded a prize package from the Team Evotri sponsors: SRAM, Robbie Venturaƕs Vision Quest Coaching, CycleOps Power, Zipp Speed Weaponry, 2XU, Headsweats, and new sponsor for the 2010 season, Specialized Bicycles!

Over the next few months the team and sponsors will be looking for an individual who embraces the spirit of triathlon: someone positive, enthusiastic, and dedicated to giving back to the community. Triathlon experience is not a deciding factor in choosing a winner, but passion is. Do you have what it takes to make the team?

Winners can rest assured their performance will undoubtedly be taken to the next level with the following prize package:
Trusted by world champions like Chris McCormack and Melanie McQuaid, the veteran racing professionals at Specialized will provide the winner with an unbelievable race package. Be prepared to light up the course with none other than the fiercely designed and wickedly fast Transition Pro Time Trial bike, technical helmet, and racing shoes.

Ever innovative CycleOps Power will provide the winner with a cutting edge Joule wireless Powertap SL+.

The endurance experts at Vision Quest Coaching will take the winner to the next level with a dynamic professional coaching package.

SRAM will outfit the Transition Pros with world-class Force drivetrains, engineered for top performance.

The velocity doctors at Zipp Speed Weaponry will provide 606 wheelsets, cranks and bars for the excellence in endurance sport trifecta.

The winner of the 2010 Team Evotri slot will receive a brand new wetsuit and race gear from 2XU, the industry experts in state-of-the-art style.

To top off this incredible package, the 2010 team slot winner will also receive a collection of custom racing hats and visors from the industry leader in endurance accessories: Headsweats.
Team Evotri and their sponsors invite you to submit a video conveying why you are the best pick for the team in 2010.

Making the Team: 2010: Contest Guidelines:

Endurance sport enthusiasts, do you have what it takes to make the team? Tell us how and why in a video submission no longer than five minutes, and be sure to recruit your friends to help you out! Videos will be evaluated by Team Evotri and their sponsors for creativity, quality, and how well they address the following questions:

1. How will you benefit the team if you're chosen? What are your personal attributes?

2. How have you, and how do you plan to give back to the endurance sport community? Nothing is too insignificant, list it all.

3. What are your future plans regarding triathlon and endurance sport?

*Upload all videos to You Tube and send the link to MakingTheTeam@evotri.com by April 15, 2010.

*Contestants should provide contact information along with his/her link submission. Team Evotri and their sponsors will announce the winner in May, 2010.

*Videos not within the time constraints will not be considered.

*By sending a video link to MakingTheTeam@evotri.com, candidates grant contest affiliates permission to use said video for promotional purposes affiliated with Team Evotri and the Making the Team: 2010 contest.

*The winner of the team slot forfeits all awards if he/she is unable to continue as a team member for any reason.

*The winner of the team slot agrees to contribute to the Team Evotri web site for as long as he/she is a member of Team Evotri.

*The winner of the team slot agrees to attend the WIBA training weekend in Madison, Wisconsin in July, 2010 and race the Rev3 Cedar Point Half-Ironman in September, 2010.

Transition Pros provided by Specialized, an industry leader committed to excellence in both performance and design. Visit http://www.specialized.com/ for their full line of men's and women's road and mountain bikes.

CycleOps Powertaps and trainers are provided by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Saris Cycling Group; makers of industry leading power meters, racks and indoor trainers, as well as home to the top minds in performance science. Visit http://www.cycleops.com/ for an up close and personal education.

Professional coaching provided by Vision Quest: a dynamic, hands on, fully involved coaching program designed to provide direct interaction between the athletes and the coach for triathletes and cyclists. Please find more information on the diverse and flexible programs at http://www.visionquestcoaching.com/.

Wheels of Team EvoTri provided by Zipp Speed Weaponry, flawless craftsmanship makes these wheels, aerobars and cranks the industry leaders in speed and aerodynamic efficiency. For more information, and for a complete product catalog, visit http://www.zipp.com/.

Drivetrain components provided by SRAM, manufacturers of world-class bicycle parts including the new Double Tap & Exact Actuation technologies designed for faster Tri, Road & CX machines. See & learn more at http:/www.willyoumaketheleap.com.

Cutting-edge and sleek, 2XU will assure teammates maximize their potential with the industry's most revolutionary wetsuits and race gear. Visit http://www.2xu.com/ for the latest innovations.

Headsweats custom racing gear surpasses all others in absorption and comfort when its needed most. All seasons, all conditions, Headsweats goes the distance. Check out http:/www.headsweats.com to see the entire 2010 line.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Second Swim Meet Since College!

Over the weekend, I competed in my second swim meet since college (2001)!  I stuck with short races since even after 6 years of Ironman training I still can't swim distance races worth a crap.  In high school and college I was a pure sprinter even though I was a distance runner.  The meet went much better than I anticipated.  I was really concerned that all the long, slow distance Ironman training would destroy my ability to sprint.  Here's how it played out (times are for yards of course!).

50 free 24.19

100 free 54.17 (better than I thought)

50 fly 27.48 (worse than I thought)

100 IM 1:04:76

So roughly 1 sec per lap slower than my fastest times. One of the things I was surprised about was that I hadn't been off the blocks in years. Last week I practiced maybe 10 starts and they were very good from the first one- I guess it shows how some movement patterns can be hardwired into the brain.  I started competitive swimming when I was about 10.  I imagine I did a few thousands starts over the years.  I guess to some degree it is like riding a bike.

I had an odd relationship with swimming over the years.  I enjoyed doing it, but only swam for a few months at a time, because I always did cross country in the fall and track in the spring.  As a collegiate swimmer my best 50 times were in the low 22s.  I usually hit these times after only 4-5 months of practice.  I was definitely  better collegiate swimmer than runner (not even close).  I always wondered how much time I could shave off by training year round and lifting more.  Olympic trials cuts used to be somewhere around a high 19s for the 50.  Back then with a solid year of training I would have been in the mid-to-low 21s.  I don't know if I ever could have gone faster than that (I don't have a national-caliber sprinters build).  Still interesting to think about...

My mom, Cara and Jonah dropped by for the 100 free.  It was Jonah's first-ever swim meet and I managed to win my heat of that event!  I imagine most of my remaining swimming career will be as a spectator!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Triathlon Mythbusters Presentation at Spin City Open House!

I will be doing a fun new Triathlon Mythbusters presentation for the Spin City Open House March 5&6th!

Does lack of electrolytes cause cramping?  Will your tires blow up on a hot day?

Lots of other bike company reps will be there with products and presentations, plus free food! More info here: http://429-spin.com/articles/product-open-house-march-5th-6th-pg261.htm

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Announcing new nutrition sponsor!

For the 2010 season and beyond, I have committed to racing with 1st Endurance.  1st Endurance is one of the biggest names in nutrition products designed specifically for endurance athletes.  After testing some of their products on my own the last two years, I approached them about a sponsorship deal.

There are a number of things that I really like about this company.  The first and foremost is that they are more research driven than anything else that I have seen.  All of their products are informed by current research from reputable journals.  As an information professional (fancy words for librarian) high quality research is very important to me.  Second, I feel absolutely confident that these are the cleanest nutritional products on the planet.  They are tested and approved.  Some pretty good riders from the Columbia HTC cycling team use this stuff, so you know it has to be safe and effective.

My favorite products so far are the Ultragen Recovery drink and the endurance-specific Multivitamin.  The research behind their Optygen product is quite interesting and compelling.  I have used Optygen for a few months before big races, but never long term.

I encourage you to dig around in the research on their site.  It really is impressive.  I will put in some regular updates about my use of their products.

Slides From: Introduction to Training and Racing with Power Presentation

The Power Point slides from the Intro to Training and Racing with Power presentation that Stan Watkins and I gave last night are linked below. You'll miss out on all the riveting commentary and anecdotes, but the presentation should be somewhat intelligible on its' own. Thanks to everyone that showed up on a snowy Monday night. I counted 30+ people! Awesome!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Introduction to Training and Racing with Power for Cyclists and Triathletes

Chris Sweet and Stan Watkins

When & Where:

Monday Feb. 15, 6-7:30pm in the Bloomington Public Library Meeting Room (lower level). Directions here: http://www.bloomingtonlibrary.org/use/get_to_the_library/


This free presentation will offer a very basic introduction to training and racing with power feedback for cyclists and triathletes. Our target audience is anyone curious about the benefits of training with power. We will cover basic questions like: What is power-based training? How can I benefit? What options are available? How much is this gonna cost me? What can a Computrainer do for me? Various brands of power meters and a Computrainer will be on display.


Chris Sweet is a local triathlete with nearly 20 years of experience. He has raced all over the country and has competed in multiple World Championship events. He is also a certified coach with USA Triathlon. Chris runs a small coaching company called Revolution MultiSport: http://www.revolution-multisport.com/  and maintains a triathlon-related blog at: http://www.goalisthejourney.com/

Stan Watkins is a competitive masters cyclist. He is a level 3 USCF certified coach and part of the staff of Vision Quest Coaching http://www.visionquestcoaching.com/  You can read his Vision Quest coach's profile here: http://www.visionquestcoaching.com/coaches.php?contentId=840

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How much truth can you handle?

I rarely put anything up on the blog that I didn't create.  Alas, my genius is overshadowed by the master who created this all too accurate look at the "online triathlete".  By that I mean that curious sub-species who spends more time on triathlon forums and websites than they do on the bikes.  Hillarious stuff:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Home and my "Attic High Performance Center"

I believe I have made at least off-hand mention that one component of my crazy fall was buying a new home and selling off the old one. We had been looking to move to a smaller town that would reduce Cara's drive for quite some time. This move would also be much better for Jonah in the long term. We finally found a bargain on a big old house that met our criteria and had the highest bid. In an strange turn of events, this house actually burnt down before we closed on it! We weren't out anything, just had to go back to looking.
As it turns out, we like the house we did eventually find much better. What we found is yet another "handyman special" but this one is huge with a big yard and small garage (all significant improvements over our last place). As far as selling went, we were in the right price range at the right time (a few months before the home-buyer credit ran out). We were able to sell our last house in about two weeks...thanks in large part to a great deal of sweat equity that went into that house.

New house in Lexington, IL. Built about 1905.
The new house has lots of great features and just as many problems. The good: new roof, new attic windows, tons of space (4 bedrooms) massive attic, full basement, lots of unpainted original woodwork (including pocket doors that were boarded up and the sellers didn't know about).

Ughh, before.
Much improved, after.

The bad: every room has some degree of damage: cracking plaster, ceiling problems, layers of peeling wallpaper, etc., it only had a clawfoot tub and no shower when we moved in, both bathrooms need gutted, kitchen is gawdy, all the windows are original and need replaced, no central AC and massive, old furnace.

So just this fall we personally installed a new high efficiency furnace/AC system (thanks largely to my dad's assistance), we added insulation to all the walls, we converted the clawfoot tub into a shower, we added a gas fireplace (two actually) and have completed rennovations of two rooms (except hardwood refinishing). So I've been a busy boy....
Before we moved in. Notice the orange carpet over the old hardwood floors.

After with new gas fireplace.

My favorite project though, has been the conversion of the attic into a new training area. One of the features that really sold us on this house was a huge, walk-up attic. It had only been used for storage in the past and had a single knob and tube light bulb. I re-wired the whole thing, ran a gas line up an unused chimney for a fireplace, lugged a 350lb treadmill up 3 flights of stairs (again with help) and finally had space for a proper computrainer/projector set-up.


We hosted an IM World Champs viewing party and had the inaugural ride in the attic beforehand. I think we had 5 or 6 riding, but I actually have space for up to 10 people or so!

I'm really not a fan of indoor training, but sometimes it is either train inside or take the day off. I've been taking too many days off.....time to nip that in the bud.