Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Question of Climate

I remember last year when I returned from Bend after Nationals and looking at the weather thinking, wow, I still have to train in these conditions next year? Here we are, December 8th, two to three inches of snow on the ground, temps in the teens and twenties.

One debate that is rolling through my head is which is more important. Acclimating to the conditions? Or being able to maintain a high level of fitness training in warmer temps? I debated earlier in the season about possibly taking a 4 or 5 day weekend trip to a warmer climate for training before Nationals but the expense of that kind of trip quickly fell by the wayside. A couple of the Pro riders that we'll be racing against are taking that approach.

For us working men though, we'll have to stick it out and train in these harsh conditions. I've already done a couple of indoor workouts. Thanks to an early cold snap that left us with a couple days of highs only in the teens. My rule of thumb, if it's below 20, stay inside. The workouts were good. I've recently found the joy of the You Tube playlist and have put together two highlight reels of the 2010/11 and the 2011/12 GVA, Superprestige and World Cup races. Basically I mimic the effort and duration I'm seeing on the screen. And that bloody Fluid2 trainer is way harder than riding outside.

Yesterday however the temps finally climbed above the 20 degree mark. I decided to give a full test run of the equipment and clothing that I'll likely be using in Madison (Verona) on January 7th. I kitted up in my thermal skinsuit with leg warmers and wind block baselayer. I stuck with regular summer weight socks and my full lorica topped Sidi Spiders. Up top I used Lazers Aero Shell and a winter skull cap. I recently bought another pair of gloves, Castelli CW 3.0's. I think I have a pair of gloves for each 5 degree temperature range now, it's a bit ridiculous.

On the bike I didn't change much. I threw on my mud race wheels, the Bontrager Race XXX Lite's with Limus tires. I took a cue from Greg at Mud and Cowbells and dropped the pressure to 24F/26R. That's what he ran in the snow last weekend in Boulder so I figured it'd be a good starting place.

Lastly I lathered some Mad Alchemy Pre-Ride Warming Oil. About 10 pumps per leg, more than I think I've ever applied. Put on my warm-up tights and jacket, threw a spare pair of gloves and hat along with my pump in a backpack and headed out.

The conditions at the park were a chore. The first lap cutting through the snow was much harder than I expected. But by the third time around I started to get the feel back of two wheel drifting through the corners. The gear was working flawlessly. I was plenty warm and the tire pressure was just about perfect. The one thing I forgot though was how poorly rim brakes work in the snow. By lap two I had a good layer of ice build up on my rims and had zero braking. I guess that's one benefit to the disc brakes on cross bikes argument. It was easily solved though with earlier braking.

Hopefully we'll get a bit of a warm-up and some of this snow will melt off. I'd like to spend more time on the cross bike but it's trending the direction of spending more time doing road intervals. I'll get one good hour in this weekend at the Iowa CX Championship race. I'm looking forward to another battle with Kevin McConnel. Should be a good time.

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