Looks like I have some sewing to do. The dog likes to dog in the couch to nest before her nap. Maybe time to trim her claws too.

Socially distancing with the dogs.

USAC Series Race Bologna TT

The USAC Cycling Race Series added (two time trials)[https://usacycling.org/virtual-race-league-zwift] in August on the 12th and 26th. Today’s course is a recreation of the (Giro d’Italia 2019 Stage 1 TT)[https://www.cyclingstage.com/giro-2019/stage-1-start-times-italy-2019/]. The course is 8km and 240m of climbing. The kicker, though is that about 200m of the climb is the last 2km of the course. With recent workouts and rest days, I have gotten up to 2.6W/kg which puts me at the bottom of the C division (but not the very bottom). There were 20 riders in the C division (this was for the 2pm race, the 6:30am and 5pm races both had many more riders). It was about 94F on the porch as I started my warmup. Hopefully the ceiling fan and the wind from the approaching thunderstorms would offer some relief.

As the course began, we were mostly on flat roads through the city. I found myself in a small pack of about five riders. We all traded the lead in our group. The “drafting” mode of the simulation was turned off, but it was mentally helpful to have this group to stay with. As I moved back and forward in our group, the leader was tenth place and the trailer was fifteenth. The visuals of the town were interesting as well. We had knots of fans along the way cheering and multiple side streets packed with Vespas. Someday, maybe I’ll visit Italy and see for myself.

As we crossed the river and began the climb to San Luca our little group splintered. I vowed, yet again, to put the triple back on my bike as I couldn’t find a low enough gear during the initial 13.6% section (let alone the 16% section near the finish). The heat and the grade conspired to remind me that my maximum heart rate is still 175bpm. I slid as in slow motion off of the back of the little group as we climed up along the (famous ‘porticato’)[https://bolognauncovered.com/2019/01/18/walking-in-bologna-the-portico-and-the-sanctuary-of-san-luca/]. It was one of those climbs where when it’s only a 7% grade your legs rejoice.

A nice feature of this virtual riding is that you can see the times of other riders as you go. It’s comforting as you grind along to see that the lead rider in your group has finished and is only 4 minutes ahead of you. There is now a price on your pain and an end in sight to this madness. My cadence was slowly declining, to near 50rpm. Push, push, count the pedalstrokes to take your mind off of things. Stand, count more strokes. Question your life choices and why you’re on your porch instead of in the cool of the AC. About this time Mattie (my dog) came to the door and looked out at me, as if to say “what are you doing?”. I had to laugh a little.

Crossing under the ‘porticato’ the last time is just a few hundred meters from the finish. It is also relatively flat. I forced myself to put the bike in the big gear and spin to the finish line. Final time was 24:17 which put me in 11th place for the division and with an average of 2.7w/kg (which I didn’t think I was capable of).

After the finish, the route looped around. So, I happily rode back down the course. This virtual biking thing has its advantages as I was carving hairpin turns at 90kph on the downhill. A good way to spin out the legs and make it back to the starting line. Then off the bike and back into the air conditioning for a well needed shower.

FulGaz Race #2

After my first experience with FulGaz I didn’t have much excitement for doing it again. Still, trying to support USAC and let them know people still want to race, I forced myself to try another race in the USAC Invitational. The only one with “Race” in the title is the “Laguna Seca Circuit Race” so I gave it a go.

My first try with the FulGaz system was to do the loop near the Miller School in VA. I knew this course from an age-graded race years ago. It was nice that the chipseal was only virtual and that the UPS truck and the numerous pick-up trucks weren’t actually as close as they appear on screen, but just seeing what an individual rider sees while making the loop isn’t enough to trick me into putting in race-like efforts. I saw after my ride that my power and HR numbers were like a workout, not like a race.

On Wednesday morning (what is becoming our regular, virtual race day) I set up the trainer in the pre-dawn and magically transported out to California. The site was the Laguna Seca racetrack during some past version of the Sea Otter Classic. I’ve ridden a few races on dedicated racetracks now, and I’ll have to admit, they are my favorite. Each lap consists of a big climb (and descent) and a tiny, but noticable, bump before a sprint to the line. The video for the ride was ten laps or 22 miles. The person who originally made the recording is a Cat 1 rider I think it’s this guy which is probably something I should have paid attention to when I saw that the video was going to run for 57 minutes.

After I got on the bike and connected the various sensors, we were off! I wasn’t expecting that. If I continue to race on FulGaz I’m going to need to find a way actually to warm up. Laps one and two were not competitive. However, they immediately showed me the difference between riding on FulGaz and Zwift. On Zwift, when you’re not competitive, you get left behind; and the little button appears on the screen asking if you want to leave the race. On FulGaz, the video just changes speed. When you are riding as fast as the original rider, the speed will be 100% of their speed. When you are riding slower, everything will appear in slow motion.

Having things in slow motion is somewhat surreal, but not enough to kick my brain into race mode. It’s comical that the bird flying across the screen is at half speed or that the spectators are waving ever so slowly. The riders around you are pedaling and the fact that they are doing 50 rpm instead of 100 isn’t so odd.

Riders pedaling

The onscreen number to tell you that you’re going too slowly isn’t big enough or red enough to make a difference.

I don’t think the video was during an actual race, but perhaps on the course after the race or maybe a training warm up the day before. Everyone had a number pinned to them and a motorcycle would zoom around sometimes but there were a few times that the other riders would pull up and have a drink that would not have made sense during an actual race. Also, when our rider attacked, he was always successful.

This ride had other riders though. That made the video much more engaging. There is even a place where we almost get ridden into a ditch when trying to keep with the paceline. By lap four or so, I could keep the video speed at 75% or better on most of the course. I even made up time on the downhills if I pedaled.

The major climb had a pause in the middle, and that is where we would attack. Suddenly the video would sway wildly as the rider got up to pedal. I decided also to get up and pedal when he did in order to add some effort but also to minimize the sea sickness from watching the swaying of the screen. Usually, we could hold off the other riders over the hill and then up to and sometimes over the small bump.

Attacking at the lull

Then they would swarm around and we were again in the little pack. Sometimes another rider would attack at the small bump and we followed, or sometimes we also attacked after the small bump and sprinted to the line.

Though the original video was 57 minutes, it took me about 86 minutes to complete the course. Not great, but also not last (and there are quite a few DNFs). Still, for racing I think I might go back to just Zwift, but for riding a great ride in the time of Covid, there is a place for FulGaz.

When the sunlight is just right, they appear to be infused with glitter. Sadly, the camera doesn’t capture the extra sparkles.

The Neighborhood Rudbeckia

I am desperate to escape these scary times. This book was a good way to claw back a few hours of normal world. 📚 I enjoyed the story and the fact that the tech parts were plausible.

They new, shiny bits have arrived for the purple bike. Waiting for one more, and then it will be time for her spa day.

Herbed crackers using the sourdough discard. Variation on this King Arthur recipe www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/s… added 1/4t cayenne, used whole wheat flour and cut different sizes.

We live within hearing distance of downtown DC. Someone is not enjoying the fireworks show.

Looking for a volunteer opportunity that doesn’t require leaving your house? Transcribing documents for the US Library of Congress has been quite fun for me. Anyone can join : crowd.loc.gov/help-cent…

Dog sleeps in the sun Chair creaks as I turn to snap Calm turns to action?

Scenes From A Morning Walk

Many fewer biting flies today. The walk to the dock with Mattie was much more relaxed. We had time to admire the flowers and watch the bees working.

View across the river to Essex.

Braved the outdoors and drove to our favorite vacation spot. This will be our view for the week.

Finally Figuring Out ERG Mode 🚴🏽‍♂️

Sometime in April, I realized that biking outside wasn’t going to be as accessible as I’d like. So, I bought a “smart” trainer and signed up for Zwift. I’ve found the general riding and racing to be enjoyable. The app tells the trainer to set the resistance based on my cadence, my weight, the road surface and incline and whether I’m in a draft. This helps me forget that I’m on the porch under a fan and not actually doing laps in Central Park or London.

What I’ve really come to value, though, are the workouts and workout plans. The app, working with the trainer, is able to set the resistance for the right amount of time. Additionally, I don’t have to worry about an ill placed stop sign, or watching the road and the bike computer at the same time or remembering what comes next while my brain is Oxygen deprived. I’m definitely progressing in my return to fitness and non-fatness more quickly than if I was just riding outside.

But keeping my cadence and wattage in the right place has been difficult sometimes. Also, I discovered that sometimes, the trainer would appear to malfunction and suddenly make the pedaling almost impossible. Around the time I was considering a strongly worded email to the trainer company about their crappy product, I stumbled across a post about (how to use ERG mode correctly)[https://zwiftinsider.com/erg-mode-in-zwift/]. Turns out that it was a (PBCK)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_error] issue all along.

The issue would be that during an interval, the app would ask that I maintain a specific cadence and wattage. I would shift my gears in an attempt to match those numbers and was mostly successful matching the wattage, but often not the cadence. However for some intervals, I couldn’t manage to get in the range. This was especially difficult when lower cadences and higher wattages were requested.

It turns out I was working against the trainer and being impatient. The root issue is that when in ERG mode, the app tells the trainer what wattage we want to maintain and the trainer increases or decreases resistance to try to maintain that wattage. As the rider, I need to match the cadence that I’m begin asked to match, and let the trainer catch up with me (usually takes around 5 to 10 seconds for my trainer setup). I have to ignore the big red warning on the screen of “More Power” or “Less Power” and focus on my cadence. Let it catch up.

Today was the first workout since learning this new information. Sure enough, holding the requested cadence and letting the trainer adjust allowed me to complete the workout successfully and “correctly”. I was finally able to complete the slow cadence, high power intervals correctly as well. I also learned one final, important lesson: because the trainer is using average recent output to decide how to adjust resistance, never stop pedaling. Throwing those zeros into the average will make it seize up almost immediately.

Small Change, Big Difference

I was having knee pain and swelling in my right knee when cycling (especially during a session on the trainer). Icing after a ride was helping relieve the issue, but I couldn’t decide the cause. On Sunday, I noticed that my cleat on the right side appeared to have moved towards my toes. I adjusted the cleat backwards, not even moving it the width of a finger. The pain and swelling are gone.

It might be a metaphor for life, or it might just be a guy adjusting his cleats.

Sourdough discard crackers. The ones on top have a 1/8 tsp of cayanne. Trying to decide if I should tell the family. As my area lifts lockdowns I am really intrigued to think of which habits will stick and which will revert.

Today’s soundtrack for my chores. 🎵

My new gauge of how hard of a workout I did is how difficult it is to move this thing (21 kg) back to its storage spot.

I’m glad I’m not a delivery driver or taxi hack in this town.

Free jillion dollar marketing idea: range of training masks of different densities. Protection from COVID-19, strengthen muscles around the lungs, simulate high altitude training.

Slow day at my real job. Started “Android Appreciate” by the ray Wenderlich folks. Shocked by how similar Kotlin development is to iOS development. Maybe it **** is**** possible to do both professionally.

The surest sign that summer has arrived: she will demand to go outside, then take but a dozen steps and lie in the yard, refusing to go further. 5DB0F9F6-9C50-460D-8395-79E49830FAF6.jpg

Third Zwift Race

Sunday before the start of a rest week, and my numbers all point to perhaps overdoing the training recently. Nicer weather coupled with COVID craziness have found me on the bike and the trainer more than before. The rest week will be appreciated.

I am finding that Zwift racing is good training. Though it is not real, it tricks my brain just enough that I do much more work and during a regular workout or training ride. That, coupled with the inability to crash (unless I tip my trainer over) and the fact that I don’t have to travel for hours to join a race are appealing.

Excitedly, I noticed in the activity list today, a sprint race. Only about 9km and relatively flat. Though the race was scheduled in Innsbruck and their definition of flat and mine are different. The course seemed to stay in the town for the most part with only a big climb up to a church. Once I got everything set up I still had about 15 minutes for warm-up. I spun on my trainer, and little avatar man spun on his trainer as other racers entered the holding pen. All told there were almost 30 in the D category. At 2.4w/kg I’m at the upper limit of the D’s. Soon enough I’ll have to join the Cs and will suffer in new ways.

As we began, the race categories all merged together. Thinking of IRL racing I stood on my pedals for the first minute or so. This caused me to wind up in the middle of the Cs with only one or two of the Ds. The main D peleton was behind. A nifty thing about Zwift, is that you know all of these things; time splits, maps, elevation profiles, power output, etc. I could tell that I was going to blow up if I tried to stay with the Cs. So, I waited for a relatively flat space and sat up a little to let Ds catch me so I could draft and ride in the group.

As the first group came up from behind, I mis-timed my acceleration and didn’t quite grab on. However, as the second bunch approached, I was able to catch on and ride in the group. On the big climb up to the Neue Höttinger Pfarrkirche our big group split up and a little group of three remained. Now down the big hill and back along the river.

The little group of three stayed together for the remainder of the race. I could feel my trainer adjusting the load as I took different positions in our group. It was never a big change, but it was enough that I could catch my breath a little. We had lost contact with anyone ahead and I didn’t see anyone about to overtake us from behind.

Our little group crossed the finish in 10, 11 12th places. I learned afterwards that I had been riding with a 43 year old woman from St Lucia and a 67 year old man from the UK. I “friended” both of them and sent them little thumbs up emojis. Over at the zwift power results site the standings were adjusted to toss out the people who weren’t wearing heart monitors, or didn’t have real time power numbers or who had somehow, magically been able to put out 5+ w/kg while racing with the Ds and I moved up to second. A podium spot! Right behind my new friend from St Lucia.

I rode the course a second time, at a much lower rate, to cool down and to enjoy the scenery and the (for this time at least) far off mountains. I will enjoy this next week of rest.