Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Still SO much to learn

Photo: Rena Schild
Despite losing a ton of fitness this summer due to our interstate move, I'd been feeling pretty good about my recent cx results and was starting to even consider putting Nationals back on the table. Heck, maybe the break was even good for me, giving me a rest when I'd otherwise have been pushing hard, possibly leaving me still fresh late in the season when others were starting to decline in motivation and fitness after a long combined road/mtb and cx campaign. I'd be going up when others were going down. However, after much consideration, in the end, I decided my USAC points - still a few decades above those of the contender - were simply too high to justify the trip.  Still, I'm working to finish the season strong and build toward a trip to Charlotte next year. As such, I traveled to Reston, VA on Sunday to test my meddle in the Capital 'Cross Classic. For several reasons, I entered the 1/2/3:

  • long drive, so longer race makes it more worth the drive
  • harder race, better training
  • wife's work holiday party the night before, last race of the day more reasonable after late night
  • no imbibing at party, was actually up early and able to make early church service before driving to Reston.
Photo: velogirl22
Given that it's the end of the season and I've decided not to go to Nats, and having recently read about new studies suggesting shorter warm-ups may be better, I was a little more lax with my pre-race prep. I pre-rode the course both an hour and two hours before my race as I usually do, but I did not do my usual trainer routine which I have been using from Carmichael's Time-Crunched Cyclist book. I did some hard efforts on the course and on the road during the race previous to mine. What I did NOT do, was spend enough time thinking about and/or playing with tire pressure. Big mistake. HUGE mistake. I pumped to about 27 psi front and rear. In pre-ride, I could steer well so never really thought about adjusting the pressure. I should have though. I should have recognized that I was spinning my rear tire while trying to power through the sticky mud which was so thick it seemed like it would give good purchase but just stuck to everything like Mastik One. I didn't think to lower my pressure until about halfway through the race after going backward relative to my competitors in every mud section. Literally, we would hit the mud together and I would practically stop. They seemed to go through it with relative easy. Now, it could simply be that I just didn't have the power. It could be that I didn't have the right tires -- though I can't handle the thought of buying yet another tubular wheelset. But I would like to think that this loss of time was because my tire would just spin in the mud. I tried adjusting cadence; faster vs. slower pedaling. I tried shifting my weight to favor the front or the rear. None of it worked. A couple of times I ran the longer sections, but the damage was done. I couldn't bridge up. At about the 40 minute mark, I started debating the merits of stopping to let some air out. In the end, I didn't because I was too afraid to give up any more time and I've had occasions in workouts where I've let out too much pressure and regretted it. I figured it'd be best to stay with where I was and just suffer through. When I got home I Googled "tire pressure sticky mud" and basically the consensus was to go as low as you can to enhance traction. Seems consistent with my experience. Now I just wish I could have another sticky mud race in which to test this out before shutting it down for the season.

So, as the title implies, I still have SO much to learn. I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on tire pressure in thick, sticky mud. How long can you go? How low do you go?

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