ridelog – the past few months

I’ve been somewhat lax on the ridelog updates lately. I figure now is a good time to catch up, since the collegiate season has just finished up, and the semester is over. While I can’t participate in collegiate races, they seem to be the bread and butter of my riding peer group and training kind of revolves around that.

Picking up where I left off, the Brown County race wiped me out for a while. While it was something of an accomplishment to finish it, and also to have ridden my first race, I think the severity of the climbs and my lack of climbing ability kind of messed me up physically.

I finally got recovered from that and started making some forward progress. This hinged on some psychological and bio-mechanical observations. Namely, I realized that I wasn’t “pushing it”, literally or figuratively. For example, when I started riding, I was going all out just to keep up. As my health improved, I didn’t have to try as hard for the same (or more) output. So basically I had arrived at a situation of easy pedaling everything except climbs. With the use of the pedal technique I wrote about in the last post, I started physically pushing more and trying to vary my force depending on the situation. On the mental side, I started trying to maintain the high force levels. The result was higher average speed.

Another big thing for my riding was practice criteriums with the cycling club. 3 or 4 times we rode out to a middle school with a circular drive around it and did short circuit races. I was generally off the back pretty quickly, but it was a lot of fun and was excellent practice for race skills like cornering and drafting that I otherwise really wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on outside of real races. I hope we do more of this next year.

With a little practice under my belt, I entered the Cat 4/5 crit at the Marian College race. As usual, I was worried about falling off the back, and burnt up too much energy in the first lap. In the second lap, I figured out (similarly to the brown county race) I could get aero on the small decent, stay with the group I was in, and save my legs for the climb. The third lap I continued with this pattern, got comfortable, and found a nice spot in the group I was with, drafting off of a very tall guy. Unfortunately, I flatted out shortly thereafter. My relatively poor performance in this race as well as the practice crits kind of put me off of racing this season. I still plan on doing a few more for practice, but hope of a reasonable finish are kind of out the window. At this point, my barely educated opinion is that I didn’t get enough base miles, and I didn’t do enough long rides early on.

So, speaking of training education, I got the Joe Friel book and have been going through it. I’m going to start a training plan for next year. Right now I’m kind of stuck on getting realistic diagnostic numbers. (lactate threshold, etc) There seems to be too much variance in the testing procedures for my brain to accept the numbers as real. I’m currently waiting to hear back from the lady here at Purdue who does performance testing. Hoping I can get in on that and get VO2 max, lung capacity and all that other stuff.. we’ll see. Regardless, I think my big goal for next season is to do well enough to upgade to Cat 4, and I want to work towards that by 1. not being last in a race 2. finishing in the front half of a race and 3. finishing in the top 10 of a race. I’m still not sure if all of that is realistic or not.. we’ll see.

On the gear front, the Dura Ace is on the bike and works pretty good. the big difference is the ease of front deraileur shifting. The down side is that I get more cross chaining than I’d hoped. Also, after flatting out at the Marian crit, I decided I needed to have a second set of wheels for flat tire replacement. I grabbed a set of the Forte Titan wheels from performance. They are certainly nothing fancy, but at $160 for the pair, they were really about the best thing in the price range. They are a low spoke count, (16 front, 24 rear), mildly aero rim weighing in at about 1700g, at least a 400g savings over my stock wheels. I was a little concerned with the low spoke count, but they seem to be holding up well. The reviews were mostly good, except for rear hub flange damage that occurred in a previous version. Also notably, these are apparently rebranded neuvation wheels. The price difference between the two isn’t huge, but I thought it would be good to have Performance’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. Additionally, I suffered a string of flats and decided it might be time for new tires. John at Old Skool Cycles just started carrying Serfas stuff, so after checking some (all good) reviews, I ordered a set of SECA RS tires. I’ve only been out on them once, but they seem pretty good so far. I also got a pair of Serfas RX gloves since it’s getting too hot to ride with my full finger gloves. The main reason I wanted these is because they have pull loops on the fingers making it really easy to get them off. (usually a problem for me with fingerless gloves) they are also supposedly designed by doctors to reduce pressure on nerves or something. I’ll put up a review once I spend some more time with them.

Finally, I wanted to post something about getting out of shape. With summer in full force, I’ve been trying to get a lot of household/hobby projects done, and not riding as much. Last week I got 1 ride in on tuesday, and didn’t ride again until yesterday. (wensday) It was seriously rough. My quads were hurting 3 miles in, and my saddle was feeling pretty painful. My average speed was also way down. I didn’t realize that my condition could decline so much so fast. I’ve got to try and keep my weekly ride time up. I think it doesn’t help that I’ve been slightly discouraged from my weak race performance, which may be getting me kind of burnt out.. we’ll see.

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Banana beer

So I started the experimental banana brew last night that I’ve been mulling over for some time now. I based it off of a vague, traditional Ugandan recipe, but made some significant changes. Most notably, rather than using only banana juice in the wort, I used puree’d bananas. 2 reasons for this.. First, juice extraction seems time and yeild restrictive. While I’ve read that there are scientific methods to yeild up to 75% juice, I’m certain I can’t come near that. Secondly, the journal articles I’ve found regarding banana starch seem to indicate that it’s kind of “self worting”, ie: the ß-amylase breaks down the starches into water soluble sugar chains. This also means that it has high diastatic power, and can break down other starches, in my case, millet flour.

The most questionable aspect of this experiment is the amount of bananas I used. I was shooting for around 1/3 the total volume of the brew, (a 5 gallon carboy) which came out to be 5 bunches. This 1/3 figure was derived from the original recipe, but the 1/3 was the amount of banana _juice_. I expected the whole bananas to be less potent, but to also have a higher fermentable sugar output. since I have neither a metric or means for measuring these yet, it just called it even for the sake of experimentation.

After adding the banana slurry, I added sterilized water with millet flour mixed in. (note1: don’t add flour to boiling water note2: the only place in town I could find millet flour was natures pharm) I then added a dry ale yeast starter that I had pitched about an hour earlier. The reason I went with this yeast was because I had it on hand, no other reason. Traditionally, the natural banana bacterias would be the sole fermentation agents, and may be something that I try later on, but for now I wanted to try and keep it as clean as possible. This included a dilemma as to whether I should heat the wort to try and kill the bacteria. (as I did with the last batch of cider) After talking to Belinda and Nancy about it briefly, it seemed like the heat might interfere with the natural starch->sugar process, and if my pitched yeast was strong enough, it would probably overwhelm the natural stuff anyhow.

banana beer in fermenters

banana beer in fermenters

There was little activity last night, but when I got up this morning I found a decent amount of off-gassing, as well as an airlock full of banana sludge. The brew had settled out and about half the carboy was traub. This is my main reason for doubting the amount of bananas added, but I’m hoping that the solids will continue to break down as the yeast works. To this end, I’m planning on agitating it daily, and I’m guessing I’ll be changing the airlock daily as well. My only concern other than the solids is the mystery esters that may be produced.. but then again, if I knew what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be much of an experiment.