La vie de vélo

Adventures in cycling and life

Oregon, here we come.

Well a change is in the works for myself and Joselyne. I recently accepted a position with Ecotrust in Portland, OR. We’ll be in Colorado through July then relocating to Oregon in the second week of August.

And yep I still plan on racing the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series and the CO Trail Race which will be a huge last hurrah in the Rockies! No more 24hr racing in the works though- Instead I’ll be looking at the marathon national championships in Bend and the CX season (the Pacific NW is nutty about ‘cross!)

Looking forward to lush green forests, muddy ‘cross racing, big rivers, volcanoes and all the great stuff Portland has to offer!

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March 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weekend of snow

Three days up at the cabin in Alma, CO with some good friends. A few days off the bike and skinning up and exploring the mountain on the Tele skis …

… and a day at Vail (skiing the back bowls that we could see from our wedding)…

Now I’ve got to remember how to pedal a bike again.

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Moab in February

Well my damned metatarsal stress fracture made sure that I could not train for the Moab Red Hot 33k as I had planned – but Joselyne was signed up as were 45 other Fort Collins trail runners so I made the winter pilgrimage to the desert to cheer them on and get in some mountain biking. The forecast was for cold, wind and wet but I remained optimistic.

I got in a couple great rides. First, had to do the legendary slickrock loop:

The next day, I saw Joselyne and 350 other crazy trail runners off at Gemini Bridges for their 33K or 55K races. As you can tell, everyone was super duper psyched to be out in the 40F rain getting ready to run 20+ miles:


While they were out running to Gold Spike and Poison Spider Mesa, I hit up the Moab “Brand” Trails and some newly constructed MTB-only singletrack called Deadman’s which was fun flowing moderately technical and rocky singletrack (reminded me of hartman rocks in gunnison). The weather was 100% suck; steady drizzle, cold, 20+ mph winds. Still had fun though!

Rode up the Poison Spider Mesa trail to cheer on the trail runners. Joselyne did awesome; she came in about mid-pack with a time of 4:26 for a very technical, slickrock and hilly 33K. I won’t go through all the results of the Fort Collins crew but we had some great races including 4 top-10s in the mens 55k race and at least one top ten in the womens.

Next day, the sun finally came out for some Amasa Back action – one of the coolest trails I’ve ever ridden. The earlier rains packed down what might have otherwise been oppressive sand. Trail conditions were perfect and the light was spectacular:

Finally, we did a bit of touristy drive-by sightseeing at Arches National Park on the way out.

Japhy really enjoyed himself:

I took a bunch of video with my ContourHD helmet cam but they are super-shaky and I need to stabilize the images, cut them into a proper movie, etc. I’m just too lazy to deal with processing them in IMovie at the moment so thats gonna have to wait.

Great weekend. I live for road trips like this.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Powertap calibration

So I’ve been riding the PowerTap Comp (the cheapo wired version) on my road bike since ’09 and it has performed very well. Or so I thought. After a couple frustrating indoor workouts, I started to wonder. My wattage was some 30-40 watts lower than normal. I had been off the bike for a few weeks (mostly focusing on running/hiking/skiing) so I figured the low readings were due to a decline in fitness. I’m sure that was part of it but decided to do a “stomp test” to check the strain gauges in the powertap just in case. Here’s how I did it (more for my own reference than for anyone else):

  1. Zero the powertap manually.
  2. Enter “test” mode: hold mode+select, click select until ‘t’ is flashing, click mode, click mode a few more times until you get to screen 5. The middle number is the torque offset, bottom is the current reading, top is the difference- ie the current torque in in-lb.
  3. Get the cranks parallell, shift to 39×17, grab the rear brake and hang a 30 lb weight from the pedal (i used my barbells). Note the current torque – in this case it was 83.
  4. Calculate the expected torque value:

    torque = (weight in lbs) × (crank length in mm) × (1 in/25.4 mm) × (cog teeth/chainring teeth)
    torque = 30 x 175 x 1/25.4 x 17/29 = 90.09

  5. Calculate the percent difference between the two, (83 – 90)/90 = -0.077

I repeated the test with different gears and different weights and the result was always 7 to 9% lower than expected. That combined with the torque offset of 437 (~14% too low compared to the desired 512) indicate that something is wrong with the strain gauge. Ugh. I’m contacting Saris right now to see if they can help me out.

On the plus side, it means that my pitiful wattage numbers as of late are not entirely due to the off season fitness drop 🙂 It’s possible that I’ve been doing my intervals way harder than I thought! For how long – I don’t know.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2010 in review, Looking forward to 2011

So my goals for 2010 were pretty simple: ride lots, race long and build a base for 2011.

My 2010 Rocky Mountain Endurance series was a success – 1st place overall in the Men’s 30-39 category. I may not be able to win any given race but I can show up and put in an few decent results when it counts – Call it “victory by attendance”!

The Breckenridge races (Breck 100 and Firecracker 50) were my ‘A’ races and were both utter failures – while my legs were up for the challenge, mechanicals and navigation mishaps ruined the day. The lesson here is to always be prepared, a mantra I’m sure to repeat to myself every Friday during race season.

I also took on a few unexpected challenges:

  • Getting back into trail running. The Fort Collins Trail Running group is a fantastic community and my wife is just nutty for trail running and that alone is enough reason for me to run. My first two trail races (8k and half-marathon) got me 1st place in my age group so that has me psyched up for more; we’ll see in February when I run the Moab 33k.
  • An XTERRA triathalon. I’ve got the biking and running covered but dear god I am a horrible swimmer. Plus I recently learned that my brief swim training this summer really screwed up my shoulders (combined with some crashes and old baseball injuries). No more tris for me!
  • Honeymoon hike; our original plan was to play euro tourist. Instead we backpacked for 2 weeks across colorado at 10k+ ft for 160 miles.
  • Cyclocross. With all that hiking and running I felt the distinct urge to pedal until I puked and needed a competitive outlet to do so before winter set in… CX in a nutshell. The intensity is .. intense. Initially I sucked at it and learned some humility by getting my ass handed to me nearly every weekend. My legs started to come around and I finished the season off strong with a bunch of podiums. I’m currently sitting in 2nd place in the Colorado Cup SS category. To be completely honest, CX is a ridiculous sport which is part of the reason why I love it.

So what does 2011 bring? Definitely more ultra-endurance racing/riding. This year I hope to:

  • Get out on the snow this winter; I’ll probably stick to snowshoeing and touring but may delve into some skating and backcountry/tele expeditions if I can wrangle up the cash to expand my ski collection.
  • Race in the Singlespeed class a bunch more. The mechanical simplicity and style of riding is just .. fun. Riding SS reminds me why I love to bike.
  • Compete in the 24 hour National Championship race. I need to learn how to push the limits of my endurance and riding into the night.
  • Complete the Colorado Trail Race. I am probably insane for considering a 4+ day mtb race but it really gets to the heart of why I love mountain biking and backpacking; Getting out into the mountains, pushing the limits of body and bike and self-sufficient exploration.I’ll probably do a few of multi-day bikepacking rides and races (like the Dixie 200) to prepare.
  • Ultra Trail running: Definitely the Moab 33k in Feb, maybe the Sage Burner 50k in May (Gunnision), probably run as a pacer for the wife in a few races
  • Defend my Rocky Mountain Endurance title. This year’s 6 races look great and are all within reasonable driving distance from the Front Range.
  • Fill in the schedule with some epic long races: Dawn ’til Dusk, Vapor Trail, the Growler, etc.

I really don’t see any short road races, CX, XC or Short-Track racing in store for 2011. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like to ride all out for 60 minutes, go cross-eyed and puke my guts out as much as the next guy. But getting out into the mountains for some adventure, pushing the limits of endurance, that’s where my heart is. Why compromise? Life is too short to race in a city park. See you out on the trails in 2011!

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hometown ‘Cross: The US Grand Prix comes to Fort Collins

It was a cool weekend – got to see and participate in a huge national event right here in my backyard – The US Grand Prix of Cyclocross.

This past week saw rapidly dropping temps and some snow so the race courses have finally transitioned from hot and dusty to cold and muddy.

The SingleSpeed race went off at 9:30 on both Saturday and Sunday. All the big dogs were there and it was definitely time to throw down. The course changed drastically as we rode it, going from frozen ruts to a muddy sloppy mess as the sun came out and temps started to climb above freezing. Saturday turned out well – 3rd place. I had a good groove going, made relatively few mistakes and felt strong.

Covered in mud – time to clean up with high pressure hose applied directly to the freewheel (in retrospect a very poor idea)

Sunday was just not destined to be my day apparently. I was fired up and felt strong but as I was warming up, my drivetrain felt a little less responsive than normal. The freewheel was not engaging properly. Then it stopped engaging all together –freewheel completely destroyed as I could freewheel with the crank spinning in either direction. With 30 minutes until my race start, I ran back to the car and floored it to get home across town where I threw the SS mountain bike on the roof and drove back. Luckily Joselyne was with to me prevent a complete a psychological meltdown on my part.

Anyways, I got to the line with 3 minutes to spare. Phew. Time to breath, answer everyone’s questions about my bike swap (“Hey Matt whats with the Mountain Bike this week?”).

I grabbed the wholeshot and gained a decent gap on the frozen techy downhills. But then the weight of my bike and my 32×19 gear started to slow me down and I settled into leading the front group.

Bu the end of lap 2, the course started to defrost. MUD. My 2.2″ tires were picking it up and not letting go while the CX tires were slicing right through it.

By the end of the race my bike was well over 40lbs. Which made riding uphill tough and any portaging sections very tough. I rode/bunnyhopped through the barrier sections since my bike, now roughly twice the weight of my competitors, could barely be lifted.

The mud impacted my handling as well and I was slipping and sliding all over the place. Frustrating day. Still I held onto 5th place which was better than I felt.

Lessons learned:

  • CX tires are 32mm for a reason – wide MTB tires SUCK on a sticky muddy course.
  • CX bikes are super light for a reason – the suspension and beefy design of my MTB were not appreciated today
  • Don’t buy cheep-ass freewheels – go for the best

After the race, Jos, japhy and I went for a good trail run down at Devil’s Backbone. A nice easy 3 miles plus another 3 at tempo pace. 6 miles of running after a CX race – I am cooked. Just enough energy to catch the USGP video stream and watch Katie Compton and Tim Johnson kill it in the Elite races. So tired.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where the mountain bikers and the antelope play…

November, you say? The weather was strangely un-November like .. time to chamois up and hit the trails.

I drove up North for about 25 min (almost to the WY border) to the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. The area and the adjacent Red Mountain Open Space and Cheyenne Open Space are easily 35+ square miles of open prairie with barely a tree in sight. It’s within sight of snow-capped 11k ft peaks but it feels like a world away from the Rockies.

Instead you get some nice grassland, endless views and sagebrush canyons with a surprising amount of elevation gain.

The trails are buttery sand over hardpack, lacking any real technical features but the singletrack sections have endless flow.

Some nice views up on the Cheyenne Rim trail.

Good place to crank out some base miles on the singlespeed.

And yes I saw plenty of deer and antelope playing too. 30 miles in 3 hours (with still 10+ miles of trails there left to explore).

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winter is knocking at the door…

I havent been doing regular race reports – CX racing, while fun, is not all that interesting to write about. Most of my races thus far would go something like this:

I started sprinting then stared at my stem for 45 minutes while I buried myself in the pain cave.

And that’s usually all there is to it. My legs have started to come around though and I’m getting used to the high intensity efforts. I pulled off some good results last weekend:

  • 3rd place at the Blue Sky Velo Cup. A relatively untechnical course with lots of straight out power sections – suited me well. Kept my place despite having my Maxxis Raze tire blow clear off the NoTubes rim on my front wheel – luckily i was right by the pit and was given a loaner front wheel and somehow held off 4th place. The collateral damage was minimal: a sore shoulder and the complete destruction of my handlebars; the drop bars were bent beyond repair.

  • 2nd place at Loisville Rec Center. I spent the morning overhauling the bike with a new front tire (Michelin Mud2 – awesome!) and flat bars.

    The flat bars are vastly superior to drops in every way – I’m convinced that the only reason CX racers still use drop bars is fashion-consciousness and adherence to ridiculous tradition for tradition’s sake. Anyways the Louisville course had a few nasty steep long run ups which I freakin’ LOVED – everyone else seemed to hate ’em. Was 10 secs behind the leader for most of the race but just couldnt bridge that gap.

And this week, for the first time since April, I’ve had to dust off the old rollers and do some indoor workouts. The weather is quickly turning cold and nasty and the first snow feel imminent. Soon I will come to embrace this fact (once I can strap on my skis and snoeshoes) but for now, I will grumble and keep hoping for a few more weeks of fall.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CX Season begins

So far I’ve jumped into 3 CX races in the last week (two at New Belgium Brewery here in the Fort, another down in Boulder yesterday – the Boulder Cup #2 at Interlocken Park). I’ve gotten trounced in each race.. but I’m hooked. It’s a blast, really cool people and a whole different challenge to throw down everything you can muster for 45 minutes.

My biking legs are just not there yet and it certainly shows as I’m getting crushed by guys who I beat during the MTB season. Who knew taking 2 months off of serious bike training would hurt my cycling fitness?

Well the bad news is the CX season is short and there isn’t much time to build a proper base and build up my fitness the ‘traditional’ way. The good news is that I have lots of room for improvement and there will be lots of CX races to test myself – I plan on simply racing myself into shape by the Colorado State Championships.

Here’s what I’ve got on the calendar for the rest of the season:

10/12/10 New Belgium Cyclocross, Fort Collins
10/16/10 On the Cross, Denver
10/17/10* Aspen Lodge Cyclocross, Allenspark
10/19/10 New Belgium Cyclocross, Fort Collins
10/23/10 * Blue SkyCup, Longmont
10/24/10* Boulder CX Series #3, Boulder
10/26/10 New Belgium Cyclocross, Fort Collins
10/30/10 * Colorado Cross, Boulder
10/31/10* Halloween Boulder Cup, Broomfield
11/13/10 US Grand Prix – New Belgium Cup Day 1, Fort Collins
11/14/10 US Grand Prix – New Belgium Cup Day 2, Fort Collins
11/20/10 * Rosalie Race To Educate, Bailey
11/21/10 * CycloX, Boulder
11/28/10 Boulder CX Series #4, Boulder
12/04/10* CO State Championships, Boulder
12/05/10* CO State Championships, Boulder
12/18/10 Boulder CX Series #5, Boulder
1/1/11 Hangover Cross, Denver
1/22/11* CycloX, Longmont
1/29/11* Boulder CX Series, Boulder

(* = Part of the Colorado Cross Cup)

I’m very psyched to have all these great races with seriously stacked competition so close to home. Especially the US Grand Prix race, the New Belgium Cup, which brings a top-level national CX event right to my hometown!

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Race Report: Blue Sky Trail Half Marathon 2010

This was the culmination of 8 weeks of post-MTB season training focussed almost purely on running (with a wedding and a 2 week backpacking trip thrown in 🙂 ) As an “off-season”, it was sort of a fail – my training volume did decrease a bit but I definitely did a solid amount of training in the form of long trail runs, lots of hills and hillclimb TTs and 1mile and 800m repeats (on grass in a park – I cant stand running on a track).

Glad to say that it paid off. I somehow rocked the Blue Sky Half today with an 8th place overall which was good for 1st place in the 30-39 age groupers. My time was 1:47:12 which was pretty decent given the terrain. Not bad for my first half.

Note the delirious expression – yes it was painful. The effort was similar to a XC MTB race where its just a bit too long to rev up the engine to threshold pace but too short to really “pace yourself”.

And Jos rocked it too – working a new job, backpacking and planning the wedding she barely had any time for training but still pulled off a very respectable 2:30 finish.

The course started on a nice flat dirt trail for the 1st 3 miles then turned to a relentless series of ups and downs along the rocky Blue Sky trail and Indian Summer trails. Not too many huge climbs but there were a lot of them. And the footing was sketchy in spots making it difficult to hold a steady rhythm. They are fun fun trails though and I dont think I’d want to run 13.1 miles on anything but some primo singletrack.

I kept up a good strong effort for the first 11 miles, enough to gap my nearest competitors on the climbs, only to crack on the final descent. My legs just turned to jelly and I lost all my “spring”. I put it in cruise control and got passed with 400m to go by #7.

Legs feel ok now but we’ll see how tomorrow treats them. For now its time to rest, drink a beer and get my CX bike ready for action. Can I put away my running shoes now?

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment