New Single Speed Etap?

Just quick little post on my thoughts after a win in yesterday's Subaru Orillia Triathlon. On tap a 750m swim, 33.5km bike, and 7km run.

There were challenges going in as per usual. Way back in late July, the etap on my P5 (Victoria) broke the night before Prague, after the thrashing it took on the medieval cobbles in the old part of town. Oddly/miraculously it seemed to work on race day in Prague, but after arriving back to Canada the system was entirely dead. I pride myself on being able to work on every aspect of my bikes, but with this there just seemed to be a physical problem with the blip box so I gave in and brought my bike into the shop. They, being a Sram dealer, confirmed the blip box's ports were damaged, but thankfully it was still under warranty so I didn't have to shell out a chunk of change for a new one (they run at 330USD). Well 2 weeks later was still waiting for the blip box. Here I was thinking wow it must have been shipping from a Sram manufacturer around the world in Asia or something, and maybe got held up in bc with the forest fires so couldn't fly out and that's why 2 weeks later I was still waiting. No instead the blip box was coming from Montreal. Montreal! Seriously we got Tavares, it's over, give it up, don't try to get back at Torontonians by holding their bike parts hostage. I seriously could've bear-crawled the parts backwards from MTL to TOR in 2 full weeks, and yet here I was still waiting.

Anyways so brought the two bikes up to the race, Victoria, where I could manually change the gear before the race into one speed but it would have to stay there for the whole race, and Esperanza my road bike. Now not that I don't have faith in Esperanza, and although Orillia actually is a very hilly little course so having gears would probably be a good thing (not mountainous or anything like Marbella, but for a 33.5km bike a fair amount of rolling hills), a small part of me thought if I pick the right gear, a P5 will likely be faster than a specialized allez (even though yes has been kinda pimped out with carbon everything and even with 80mm wheels comes in well under 8kg - pretty decent for a aluminium entry level frame thanks to the components around it). So the night before it was a math fest. Was just going back and fourth trying to pick a gear by looking at what approximate speed would translate from certain cadences in a particular gear (, and then checked to see what lowest speeds were the last time I raced this course in 2016 and checking to see what cadence would accomplish that in what gear and if that was feasible (could I get up the various hills). I decided on 13 in the back, since at 90 RPM it would be around 47kph, and at the lowest speed I hit in 2016 was 21.1kph on the burnside climb and this gear could probably do that up a hill it would be a slow grind with very high torque but thought it could do it. It would also mean I would only spin out (based on what I know my max cadence to be [max cadence before I would change up or aero tuck]) above 58kph and my max speed in 2016 was 58.6. So I figured I would spin out maybe once or twice [i did 3 times in the race so a decent prediction - here the max was 61kph].

We arrived at the race site, unfortunately little late since I wanted to see before hand if I could get over the hill coming out of transition in that gear before the race, but there was no time to do so. This I figured would actually be the hardest part since coming out of T1 the speed is starting from 0 and you start at the bottom of a good size hill coming up from the lake, so no momentum is being carried into the hill (compared to the burnside climb where at least your going mid 40s or even 50s going into the hill). That hill was the reason I brought Esperanza up and had me going back and fourth all the way until 20min before the race when I decided on Victoria. To maybe help the situation on that hill out of T1, I decided to just concede time in transition by putting my shoes on there, so atleast I wouldn't be trying to crest a hill in a massive gear (where I knew I would need to be out of the saddle the whole way) without my shoes yet on.

So ran over to T1 to set up. Then 10 minutes to go was told it was non-wetsuit (it had been announced beforehand but wasn't there early enough and then when I was there was scrambling around doing other things). So with 10 min to spare literally sprinted all out back to the car to pick up my Zone 3 swim skin, put that on, made my way over to the start put my goggles on and SNAP!!.. the goggle's strap snapped in half (maybe I was too aggressive putting it on) and ran back again to grab my pool goggles that I had just in case. Got to the line with minutes to spare (thank goodness the start was delayed by 5 minutes due to some traffic control issues), and we were off. It was a bit of a slanted rectangle out and back, but unfortunately with non-polarized normal pool goggles on the out section, which was smack dab into the sun, I was blind as a bat.

My gameplan was to start hard as normal and hope there be some speedy people here who can swim a solidly fast take-out 300m to the turn and I would just follow along in their draft since I couldn't see a single thing with these goggles. Then once we turn back to shore I would surge past and take over the pace. It was going well until a boat came up beside the few of us out in the lead to let us know we were swimming towards the wrong bouy - below my artwork showing how it's possible to go off course on a rectangular swim course, not as difficult as you might think to do so since the distance between the second and third bouy was very far with the first two very close together (since they doubled as being for the try-a-tri). And yes that's the extent of my artwork just the basics nothing more.

So we ended up adding a good chunk to the 750m swim, I had 900m, another competitor had 1.1km, I figure it was probably closer to the 900 since my time was 11 flat and though it did feel very very quick in the Zone3 Swim Skin, I'm not swimming 1 minute per 100. So at 900m that'd be 1:13/100 which is PB for in terms of average pace over a race swim. The Coros Pace also recorded a personal record in terms of average cadence for the swim at 80 SPM, and the take out was at 96 SPM. The swimming is really cooking now with just a new focus on certain technical aspects with the help of a few new pool toys (which I'll keep secret to myself), and real strong focus on building muscle mass: 3-4 strength workouts a week, 6-8 reps per set of heavy weights - heavy is relative - now up to benching 3 sets of 8 of 45kg (100lbs), nothing for most but for me that's a good % of my body weight and I'm proud of it (I think the muscle it is adding is starting to show in picture below)

Anyways so was first out of the water by about 30seconds after taking over the lead as soon as we turned back to shore and I could finally see where I was going again, then as I expected was past in T1 by two competitors while I put on my shoes. Out onto the bike I past both within about 10 seconds, and grinded 45RPM up the climb (a low of 39RPM on this one), and then once I could finally pedal again unleashed the beast. Was seeing speeds on my screen that I've haven't really seen in long time especially considering this included many rolling hills being done at very low cadence and spinning down the back side at 125-130RPm, with peak 5 minutes of 48kph , peak 10' 46.1kph, peak 20 44.1kph and 30min of 43.5kph.

And finally seriously finally for goodness sake, I was seeing power numbers on a ride outside that I've been used to seeing so often inside on the trainer. Now it obviously wasn't a flawless ride, or even really the best ride I could do since the hills would drop my cadence to 40 and felt like I was almost brought to a stand still up the burnside climb, but I will say even though this was merely a tune-up local race, for me it could be a game changer. Not trying to make it sound dramatic but I really learned a huge amount on that ride. I think with it I've actually learned how you are supposed to ride your bike outside thanks to being forced to ride with the massive gear'ed single speed.

What do I mean? Well the stuff I'll explain I already kind of knew, but I never had really been forced to implement. So two things I learned: first for making turns. Because I was in such a big gear accelerating in general would be very difficult since it took so long to build up the leg speed. So going into turns well before the turn I consciously cranked up the power and speed so I could carry as much speed as possible going into the turn, lose as little as possible coming out of the turn, and then not have to re-grind the big gear up to around 90Rpm. So I took turns more aggressively than I ever have. Then two, for climbing hills [rollers in particular]. I've always been able to put out big power (not really big, but big I mean in terms of power to weight) going up a hill. But this race taught me that yes even though big power while going up a hill is important, to actually go fast up a hill, it is really the power the 20 or 30s before the hill comes that is going to determine your climbing speed. It seems so obvious that the more momentum you have at the base of climb the faster and easier the climb will be since just the momentum you have could take you a ways up the climb before really having to put in some solid work. But with the one big gear this was really really made apparent and finally clicked. On the day when I saw a hill coming, I first got terrified since I wondered if this would be the one that would bring me to a stop and force me to walk up the hill, but then instead of waiting for the hill to come before cranking up the power, 30s out from it I started cranking it up to get the speed as high as possible leading into it. Like I said it seems so obvious but with as easy as etap is to change gears on the rear, or change big to little ring in the front, you are never really forced into having to think about the speed or power approaching the hill cause your never really nervous if you will grind to halt on it. You can be lazy and just get to the bottom at whatever speed, and then just hear the beautiful sound of that front derailleur flicking over to little ring with etap, or holding down the left button to switch multiple gears at a time in the back and for the most part you'll be fine. Now by no means am I saying ditching the Di2 or Etap of whatever you have on the bike is going to make you climb better but it definitely forced some extra awareness of how important the timing/coordination of the power output/effort is in order to maintain the highest possible average speed when going through turns or up and over rolling hills.

Anyways on my watch (the timing mat was far back in transition so added about 1 minute to everyone's bike split), I had 48 minutes flat for the 33.5km so overall was 41.8kph and 299W. Got out onto the run (after getting a wee bit lost in transition see pic below), ran a pretty hard opening 2 and a bit km, and then put it on cruise control as I had planned leading into the race since I was racing pretty early into my progressive comeback to running. Won the race by almost 5 minutes, and then had nice time basking in the beautiful sunshine, and speaking to a lot of nice people after the race and at awards. So next up is Guelph 2 on the labour day weekend, and by that point I'm guessing maybe the bike messenger they sent from MTL will be here with the blip box, and two fancy new upgrades coming to the P5 thanks to Trisports and one new supporter I'll announce soon.

The third photo there is from this article:

Thanks for reading along, till next time happy training, and congrats to all the racers this past weekend some real amazing performances.