Friday, August 26, 2011

Running, Bourbon, and Burgoo

This blog is usually covering biking, barbecue, and beer.  However, I will shift temporary focus to running, along with bourbon and burgoo.

My brother called me a couple of weeks ago and said he had a spot on his team for the Bourbon Chase Relay.  250 teams compete in a 200 mile relay starting at the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky.  Teams are made up of 12 members.  The winning time is around 20 hours with many teams coming in around 27-30 hours.

Each team member runs three legs.  These legs range between 3-1/2 and 8-1/2 miles, with each runner totaling between 11-1/2 and 21 miles.  Most runners have a total of about 16-17 miles.  It's called the Bourbon Chase as the race passes through six different bourbon distilleries including Maker's Mark, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve.

Drinking of bourbon is prohibited during the race, but evidently many samples are supplied for the post-race party.

I'm hoping the post-race party will include burgoo, a local Kentucky stew that is sometimes served with barbecue.  Burgoo is often made with mutton, but chicken, beef, pork, and other meats are often used.  Lots of different vegetables may be present, not limited to cabbage, corn, beans, tomatoes, or okra.  It sounds similar to the Brunswick Stew of Georgia or the hash that is served in some of the South Carolina barbecue joints.

If you're interested in the race, see more information at

I'll post some observations after the race in October.  Look for us in the results.  Our team name is Asphalt Assault.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I competed in my first triathlon last weekend in Wood River.  This was a 500 yard swim, 12 mile bike, and 4 mile run.  The swim was held in a pool.  Competitors completed 9 lengths of the pool in a serpentine fashion.  The bonus:  less than 5 foot deep at any time during the swim.  Also, competitors were started every 15 seconds so the swim was relatively uncrowded.

As of the 1st of the year, I could only swim 10 yards.  A week before the triathlon, I was able to swim 450 yards without stopping.  Granted, this was the backstroke, but it was still swimming.

I'm still learning to swim the crawl.  I bought a video and book from an author named Terry Laughlin.  He specializes in teaching people how to swim long distances with a minimum of effort.  The lessons have been good, but I am still having trouble getting the breathing right.

However, the basic premises of his methods work just fine for the backstroke as well.  So, this winter, I will be working a lot more on the crawl.

I did finish the triathlon.

Since I started 7 minutes after the clock started, I received a time of 1:19:16.  This put me in the top 100 out of 397 finishers.  I achieved my goal of finishing a triathlon before I turned 50.

Good things about the triathlon:
  • Good snacks
  • Early start
  • Lots of supporters
Not so good:
  • Biking in wet shorts
  • Running in wet shorts
  • Running after biking.  I much prefer biking after running in the triathlons.
So I guess it's time to really ramp up the swimming so I can do an open-water triathlon next year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Edwardsville Criterium

Last weekend I made my return to criterium racing.  My last race was in 1991. 
The Edwardsville Rotary Club has done an excellent job in turning this into a premier event.  The course is a flat, but technical course going through downtown Edwardsville.  The 0.7 mile course featured 7 turns, meaning that you were never going in a straight line for very long.
A fast course with a lot of tight corners.
These races are short and fast.  Races are run for a set time, plus 5 laps.  There were several races throughout the day starting at 10:00 am for the Junior’s and Women’s 4-5.  There were also races for Masters, Women Open, Men 3, Men 4, Men 5, and Men 5 40+.  Since it had been many years since I had raced, I opted for the Men’s 5 40+.
I borrowed a Team Godzilla/Metro Tri Club jersey from my friend Doug.  Our club was the sponsor of our race, so I wanted to make a reasonable showing.  I got off to a good start for the first few laps.
Here I am leading the pack around the first lap of the criterium.  Unfortunately, this was short-lived.
Unfortunately, my high speeds were only maintained for about 5 of the 14 laps.  I couldn’t hold the pace at the front (23-25 mph) and ended up dropping back.  I think I ended up in around 15th of 23 riders (although the scoring was messed up and I'm not really sure what place I was in).  However, I met my goal of a good showing and not crashing.  There was one crash almost directly in front of me where one rider did not have the best line coming through the tightest corner.  He slid his rear wheel and hit the pavement.  Fortunately, I was in a position not to run over him.
If you get a chance, come out and watch this next year or watch another where you live.  The criterium is a fast, fun race to watch.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bottom Bracket Upgrade

Some of you non-bike mechanics may be thinking “Do I even have a bottom bracket?”, “Do I want someone to see my bottom bracket?”, or “Internal may be a better idea.  This is just one of those things that should stay private.”
First of all, any of you that have a bike also have a bottom bracket.  If you have a tandem, you have two! 
What is the bottom bracket?  It’s the spindle and bearings that allow your crank and chainrings to go round and round.  The bottom bracket is housed at the “bottom” of the bike.  Typically, it is 68mm wide with 1.37x24 tpi threading.  Unlike the pedals where the left side is threaded left-handed, on the bottom bracket the right-side is left-hand thread.
Traditional bottom brackets are 4-sided where the crankset is pressed on to the spindle.  Bolts that thread into the spindle press the crankset on to the spindle.  This was fairly reliable, although larger riders sometimes “wallowed out” the crank arm, deforming the softer aluminum against the harder steel.  However, this bottom bracket was heavier and sometimes had too much flex.
An improvement came with the “splined” bottom bracket.  There are three common standards: ISIS, Octalink, and Powerdrive.   ISIS is supported by a few independent companies, where Octalink and Powerdrive are supported by Shimano and FSA respectively. 
The splined bottom bracket featured a larger diameter, hollow spindle, making it lighter and stiffer.  The splined attachment to the crankset was more secure.  This was a definite improvement to the square taper BB.
The latest innovation is the external bottom bracket.  It is called an “external” bottom bracket because the bearing cups are outside the frame.  This spaces the bearing further apart and allows for a larger diameter spindle.  This results in less flex and better power transmission.  As a bonus, it is also lighter.

Note the location of the bearings on this bottom bracket with the bearing location on the previous picture.
The external bottom bracket does not have a spindle.  It is used with a new type of crankset where the spindle is part of the drive-side crank.  The non-drive side crank arm is splined and attached after the spindle is passed through the bottom bracket.

Bolts are used to make a secure clamp to the spindle.
This is a worthwhile upgrade if you have an older bike with otherwise good parts.  Note that the bottom bracket threading is 1.37x24tpi (English) and the width is 68mm.  If you have any other threading or dimensions, you’re probably out of luck.  You may be able to find a new crankset/BB combo for around $150, but expect to pay more.  Or you can keep an eye out for people who have done upgrades and have these for spare parts.