Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Return from Holiday

Well, I'm back from 4th of July festivities/IMWI Training, with a few interesting bits to report. Hard to believe, but I'm in the essential and final phase of training for Ironman - basically from here until mid-August is balls out nutzo. Mostly 2-a-days, lots of mileage. With that, I had a solid 85 mile (twice on the Verona loop)/sub 5 hour ride on Saturday morning on the Ironman course, and a 2.5 hour 40 mile ride (once on the loop) ride followed by a 10 mile run on Monday. Both days were revealing and useful.

In addressing my heart rate issues that keep coming up, I ran a mile sprint before my long ride last weekend, so that in getting on the bike I was heart rate high. I mostly settled in, but the hot sun setting in later in the morning made for some electrolyte imbalances that left me suffereing by ride's end. That's easily addressed. So on Monday, with a shorter ride, I worked on keeping my heart rate even lower, and found that in sacrificing about .5 (or a little less) mph, I can stay comfortably around and under 130 bpm at cruising speed, and this seems about ideal for me. I had a great ride, concentrating on heart rate and comfort before speed (16.3mph average or something like that) and then had the legs for a comfortable 10 mile run at 9:30 pace afterwards (why can't I put something like that together at a Half IM racee???). I was also able to address and memorize the rest of the Verona loop, and create strategies for it - particularly the 3 climbs that start about 30 miles into the loop. With that information in hand, my Monday ride was pretty solid. I felt really good.

I did, however, encounter something pretty horrific, which in my google-ing (googling?) since, has revealed this fun bit of terminology: death wobble. I've now done the course several times, and on the steep and serious descents I tuck back in my saddle (often actually off and behind it) and sit low to fly down. Out of the blue, totally randomly, on my 2nd loop on Monday I'm flying down the most serious descent of the day, and as I tick past about 35mph, my front wheel starts to wobble left and right. Think of how a wheel on a shopping cart wobbles - it was like that. The faster I got, the more serious it got, and I was actually passing another rider when this happened and he heard me say "Oh No." Have you ever "almost" been in a car accident? Like, so that your body braces for it? So you might shout or scream involuntarily? So that you're sure it's happening? So that the whole thing begins playing itself out before suddenly, somehow, it was avoided and you're okay? And when you tell somebody later, "I was almost in a car accident!" it's useless, because you either are, or you are not, and "almost" doesn't make the papers so who cares? And it's impossible to describe just how horrible and scary the thing felt? Right, so that's what this was like. I'm cruising at over 40mph and my wheel is all over the place, and I am losing control by the millisecond, and am trying to inch my way nearer the ditch so that when I bail I might not break everything on asphalt. And just as I'm about to catapult off my bike, I begin the opposite ascent and slow below 35mph and the wobble is suddenly gone, 'Blue is as usual, and all is uneventful. I got off my bike shaking. Scary as hell. Later in the ride, on a less serious but still significant descent, it started happening again. I knew the sensation this time, so slowed immediately.

So what was that all about? At home that night I check everything. Wheel looks possibly slightly out of true, but only a little? Headset looks okay. Tire looks okay. Well something had to have caused the wheel to suddenly start wobbling like that, no? I make a few tightenings, check my skewers, etc. etc.

So Monday I'm back out, and I approach the descent again, in the same place (it had, however, been raining earlier in my ride, so everything was slick and more precarious) and the same thing happens, with the same energy of terror, and again I barely survive this thing. I mean, honestly. Think of throwing yourself out of your car next time you're at 40 mph, and that's the scenario, here. So the rest of the ride, telling myself it was because it was wet and I should be diligent, I'm riding the brakes on every descent. In truth, my confidence is seriously shaken. I don't mind taking the descents more slowly, if that's how I am as a natural rider. But I'm not - I'm changing my behavior, motivated by fear, and that's not okay with me.

In researching this, here's the not-great news to follow: It's a "common" problem that's "rarely" faced (huh?), and its causes are mysterious. It can happen from any kind of slight imbalance with anything at high speed centrifugal force. The cause of the imbalance is so nebulus that it could be the actual composites of the wheel or rubber materials themselves. Or a mal-adjusted headset on the bike. But in general, my research indicates, you can review and tweak all of these things and still find it happening. Just out of the blue.


So. That it repeated itself says to me it's not isolated, and there's some kind of cause. I guess I'll go have my wheel trued and my headset inspected. I'll put new tires on. I'm not headed back until mid-August for a final furious training ride, but at that time I'll check it again. I'll check it on my training wheels (this happened on my racing wheels - all the worse, for me). If it turns out it's the wheel, and I can't address it...I guess new racing wheels before Ironman? If it happens on both sets of wheels...well then I guess I'll just have to ride the breaks like a dandy.

Sigh. Weird. Scary.

Technical difficulties notwithstanding, I felt great about the rides. I continue to learn how to address some of these latest issues, and am feeling good about where my education is leading me. I can feel myself dialing in here to ideal Ironman performance. I finally got a Power Meter today - been on order since March or something, so we'll hope it works as it should - and that can only help me address mathematically what my best performance ranges will be on the bike.

The intensity picks up, then, and I'll keep you posted on whatever I discover. Already racing again next weekend - an Olympic distance time trial. Looking forward to it.


Todd said...

Ah yahhhhhhhh baby!

Keep up the good work, time to bare down and give er' hell...the clock is tickin.

Yikes, that is flipping scary. The Grey Ghost hasn't given me any problems like that (knock on wood) but then again, I probably haven't cracked 30 mph's yet. I hope you can find the root of the problem so you don't have to ride your breaks on descents.

Things are going really well for me. My training I don't think could honestly go much better. 9 days and counting until Lifetime! I'm so pumped to put it all together and see how I do. I will be in touch before then sometime to shoot the bull I'm sure...later buddy!


Pharmie said...

I think I've experienced the bike thing too, except it felt more like my bike falling apart than eminent death. Good luck finding out the source!