Thursday, March 13, 2014

I've Got the Power!

Oh yeah.  I can never give up a chance to title a blog post after a lyric in an 80's one hit wonder song.  Ok, technically Snap! release the "The Power" on January 3rd, 1990, but it was recorded in the 80's.  But I digress . . . After I got my new aerobars, last year, I had my sights set on a powermeter.  It kinda went like this: I needed new chain rings.  I thought, as long as I'm getting new chainrings, I should get a new crank.  Full carbon fiber and shorter.  So if I'm getting a new crank, I might as well get a crank based power meter.  It all seemed so logical at the time.

Like the crack of the whip I snap attack

Seriously though if you're looking at a power meter, the first question is Where do I want to get my Power reading from?  You can get rear wheel, pedal, crank arm, or crank based power meters. Luckily, for me the decision was pretty simple.  I did not want a wheel based system because I want power on my training wheels and my race wheels (which I already have).  Eventually, I want it on a direct drive trainer that doesn't even use a rear wheel.  So then you are looking at the area around your feet.  I really didn't consider the crank arm PM as Jack Mott has made it his life's crusade to inform people of the fallacies of only measuring power on one leg.

Oh Canada!

So then I was down to crank vs. pedal. Again, it was pretty simple for me since I'm happy with my pedals, I only have one bike, and wanted new cranks.  So then you have Quarq, SRM, and Power2Max.   When comparing price and features, to me Power2Max looked liked the winner.  It has left/right balance, provides cadence feedback without a magnet, and has full carbon cranks available in 165mm cheaper than the others.
The contents of the box

So I spent some time trying to make sure that everything would fit together.  I went around for a while before I was sure that my frame was compatible with the crank and power meter I was looking at.  I decided to replace the bottom bracket as well, so I thought that might help it all fit together.  I then emailed back and forth with James at Inside Out Sports and decided that I would get the power meter and cranks from Power2Max and then get new chain rings and a bottom bracket from IOS and then have them put it all together.
The Lightning Crank is Uber Light

I placed the order online with Power2Max up there north of the border in Canada.  I went with the P2M Green color (shocking, I know) and 165mm Lightning cranks. They usually ship out right away.  Unfortunately for me, they were missing a part and couldn't ship it right away.  I was actually really OK with that when they offered to throw in a free bottom bearing bracket.  Since I was gonna get one anyways, that definitely saved me some cash.  It took 9 days before it shipped.  Then it sat in customs for 5 days.  I kept checking the tracking, but it wasn't moving.  Anyways, almost 3 weeks after I placed my order, I got the unit in.

The Power Meter Box

Then I took it over to IOS and had them take a look at it.  I still had to order some chain rings. We discussed it for a couple of days and we decided to go with the Rotor NoQ Aero Chain Rings.  I decided to stay with the 53/39 setup. It took another week and a half to get those in as Rotor sent the wrong ones initially.  I dropped my bike off right before a big snowstorm, but I was leaving that Saturday for a week vacation.  So when I got back my bike was ready to go.  IOS had no issues getting it all put together.  I also had them do the "Overhaul" so they took everything apart and cleaned it and replaced the chain.
Power Meter Front

Power Meter Back

It only took 7 weeks after I placed my initial order before I picked up my bike complete and ready to go!  Well almost. I raised the seat up 7mm as the cranks I'm on now are 7mm shorter (well technically 7.5 mm).  I will say this: the wait was worth it.  
My Precious
 I took it out for a spin on Saturday.  Everything was so smooth.  It literally felt like a brand new bike.  I had been reading Coggins and Hunters' book "Training and Racing with a Power Meter".  They suggested just taking it for a spin the first couple of times just to get a feel for the different power levels. Honestly, I don't even notice the difference in crank length.  I went from 172.5mm to 165mm.  So if you're on the fence about whether to go shorter or not, I say go shorter.  You can raise your seat for a better position and the cranks will weigh less.

Non-Drive Side View
Behind the Ring

I also played around with different settings on my Garmin to watch as I rode.  It's interesting to feel the 'burn' in your legs as the corresponding power jumps up.  Instantaneous power is rather jumpy, so I've been watching the 3sec and 10sec averages.  I also have found that I would rather watch average power instead of normal power.

The second weekend I had it, I did an FTP test.  I followed the protocol from the book.  Basically its a warmup, then 3x1min high cadence spins, a 5 min all out effort, and then you go balls out for 20 minutes.  You then 'estimate' your actual FTP by taking your power average for the 20min segment and multiple by 0.95.  This is because FTP is defined as an effort over 60 minutes.  So I did that.  It was pain.  Pure Pain.  I hadn't done intervals or tempo rides for quite a while so it really hurt.  But, at the end of the day, the FTP test in and of itself is not too bad of a workout.  So I got that going for me, which is nice.

So now after having it on my bike for a couple of weeks, I really like watching watts instead of speed.  Speed so susceptible to wind, turns, hills, etc.  Power is power.  I felt good about my first interval ride, where I held the power through 5 intervals very close to 110% of FTP each time.  I even felt better about my next tempo ride where I held 93% of FTP for 15 miles.  My speed wasn't super fast, but I really knew what my effort is.

The day I brought my baby home.
Before, everything was a shot in the dark, but now I know exactly how hard I'm riding.  I also plan to have it help me keep my easy rides easy.  One odd thing is that my Left/Right power always seems to show my left leg at 51% or 52% power.  Not sure why this is (or if its normal).  Maybe I should have gotten a Stages.  (If you didn't get that last joke, ask Jack Mott).

The best thing about the Power2Max Power Meter (aside from the lime green color option) is that it just works.  You install it, put the battery in, sync to your Garmin and ride.  Everything works perfectly the first time.  No issues with anything.  You can replace the battery yourself (as in you don't have to send it back to the factory like some brands).  Plus I chuckle a little to myself when I read threads like this on ST about trying to keep the magnet on their frame for their power meter.  Yes I have cadence and L/R balance.  No I don't need a silly magnet for a $1,500 power meter.

Now I can focus in on my workouts.  Set exact levels for intervals and tempo rides.  See if I'm working hard or just feel like crap.  But the biggest thing is being able to dial in my watts so that I don't destroy myself over 112 miles.  As they say there is no such thing as a great bike split if you fall apart on the run.

So watch out, Green Lightning just got a little faster!
No Caption Necessary

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Howl at the Sun 5K Race Report

My son's middle school hosted a 5K race as a general fundraiser for the school.  They really wanted as many people to participate for obvious reasons.  So my wife and son and I all signed up.  My goal for this race was pretty simple: Crush the dreams of all those punk little middle schoolers and their overambitious fathers.

Up until this year, I hadn't raced an open 5K since November of 2010.  Now this was my second one this year.  They had a pretty good crowd, as there were over 360 people signed up.  The weather was threatening to be really crappy: 35 and raining.  Luckily the rain was over before the relatively late (9 am) start time.

The Crew before the Race
So I tried my best to be "that guy".  Or maybe it was "that tri geek".  I wore a Rev3 visor because it might possibly rain.  I wore my race number on my new Fuel Belt race belt.  And of course, I had my Garmin.  I did see another guy with compression socks on, so at least I wasn't doing that.  The race belt worked great, as I didn't even know I had it on.  It has places to store gels, but you don't need that for a 5K (not to sound condescending or anything).

Lime Green Race Belt. Expect Nothing Less.

The course was simple enough. Out around the school and then out and back the new bypass road (that has yet to open).  The only down side was that the start for 300+ was on a one lane road with a 90 degree turn about 20 yards in.  Not designed by a runner, I can tell you that.  But what do you want for a middle school fundraiser?
Went out on the left of the loop and finished on the right
Kids Sprint at the Start
  I started a little ways back and was able to sift my way up to clear pavement around about a 1/4 mile in, so it really wasn't too congested.  About a 1/2 mile in you could see who the real players were going to be.  There was a really old looking guy with a good 30 yard lead.  (Turns out he is 51). Then, there were 3 more guys in the chase group.  I took it easy up that first hill and then quickly settled in behind the chase group.

 I hit the first mile in 5:57 and didn't feel too bad.  Then we started the long slow climb.  I worked my way away from the chase group on the way up to the turnaround.  I was very very slowly chipping away at the old guy's lead.  I wasn't catching him as fast as I had hoped and he was still 10 yards ahead of me at the turnaround.

Once we made the 180 turn and started heading back, it was obviously downhill for a while.  The hill definitely took something out of him. I hit the second (mostly uphill) mile in 5:59 so I felt good about that.  I closed the last 10 yards on him pretty quickly.  When I came up beside him, I threw a little surge in to try and gap him right away.  He didn't have the leg speed to keep with me as we came back down the hill.  I didn't feet great on that last uphill, but had plenty in the tank to crank the last 1/4 mile or so.  I gave a couple of look backs on the last couple of turns, but he wasn't gaining.  I just pushed for the finish and came away with another win.
Big Finish.  Almost caught the lead bike.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Garmin had the course a little short at 3.03 miles.  That pace however would equate to an 18:12 for a full 5K, so I was pretty happy with that.  My official time was announced as 17:51 as they used 'gun time' instead of 'chip time'.  The spoils of the win were a free massage, $10 at Omega Sports and $50 at the Fish Market restaurant.  Not bad for a race that cost $16.82 to sign up for.

Free Stuff!
Official results are NO WHERE.  Go Green Events was responsible for the timing and their computer crashed, so there is no results page.  They did go 'old school' and figure out who all the age group winners were (no 2nd and 3rd place prizes here).  Also because it was run by the school, the age groups were: 0-10, 11, 12, 13, 14-17 (I think), 18-39, and 40+.

If you can't say something nice . . . 
I was extremely sore on Sunday.  It probably didn't help that I played basketball Saturday afternoon and then went for a bike ride.  Or that I ran 10 miles Sunday morning and then went for a bike ride in the afternoon.  On the upside, I swam 4,000 yards Monday morning and felt pretty good.  Was that too much information or a back door brag?  You be the judge.  Anyways, just a few weeks before the Come See Me Half on April 5th!