A few weeks back, I did my annual Vermont ride. Quick recap on the VT ride; in 97' Princess Di died, my wife loved her, she watched the funeral all weekend, I escaped by doing a "credit card ride", where the mexican and I took a credit card, a small back pack, and rode up to VT from our homes, meeting on the way. We found a hotel, got some great beer at McNiel's Pub, woke up the next day and rode home. This has become an annual. In fact, this year was my 17th VT ride, since two years, I did it twice. Someone asked if this was a nostalgic, epic type ride or if it was training. The answer is both. I did this initially not only to escape, but to get in some quality long training for Hawaii, and i've found that when done correctly, meaning at the right pace/tempo, it is great IM training. This ride became quite popular for awhile and it became more work for me, meaning I was concerned about all the riders and keeping tabs on how they were doing. The VT ride was never about coaching, but more about the challenge, and that if you wanted to do it, great take on the challenge and you are on your own. So I went back to just the core group and every man for himself, check your ego's, see you in Brattleboro for some food, beer, and fun. This year, I was meeting Molson and Baker in Simsbury, 60 miles into my ride.
The day before the VT ride, I receieved a nice package in the mail from ENVE composites. A set of their 6.7 carbon clincher wheels to be exact. I had been talking with Jake from ENVE about their wheels, and about building a relationship with them. I told Jake that I was doing a 150 mile ride the next day and was interested in using the wheels for this. He replied "definitely, go ahead!" I failed to tell him that I would be riding almost 150 miles the next day as well. Upon removing the wheels from the packaging, the first thing I noticed was how light they were. I remember thinking "at this weight, there's no way these wheels can be durable/strong!" I was wrong. The rims were deep and all carbon and wide and rounded similiar to Zipp firecrests. They had black ENVE decals which I'm a huge fan of. This is a personal aesthetics opinion, but I am not a fan of white decals or any other decals on wheels. they should either have black decals or none at all. This should be a rule. I love dt swiss hubs in that they are silky smooth. ENVE makes there front rim a bit wider than the rear - tests show that the wider front rim distributes the air cleaner around the bike and the rear rim should be close to the same width as the bike frame to keep the turbulence to a minimum, and thus, the drag low. I knew that a set of deep carbon wheels were coming, so I ordered some valve extenders and new brake pads. ENVE already thought of this though, as in my package were a new set of both valve extenders and brake pads.
As I was removing the wheels from my Cannondale Slice, I noticed a small crack in the rear brake caliper. I pulled off this caliper and replaced it with a trp rear brake caliper from my road bike. The problem was that trp brake calipers don't open that wide, and with wider rims like Zipp or ENVE, leave very little clearance. The wheel needs to be very true, and in the past, with Zipp wheels, whenever I'd get out of the saddle, the rims would flex enough that they'd rub the brake pads. When you are riding 292 miles in two days, the last thing you want or need is extra drag from brake rub. But I had no other options since I was leaving early the next morning.
Three miles into the ride, I hit the first climb in Newtown, and as I raised out of the saddle, I waited to hear and feel the flex of the rear rim rubbing against the brake pad. But there was none. No flex in the rim whatsoever. These wheels are rock solid. Interestingly enough though, they aren't harsh. The small road cracks and bumps that send harsh vibrations through an aluminum rim were dampened by the carbon rims.
The weather was great for the ride up, with light wind and sun. It got a bit warm, but not to bad. My legs felt fresh. Maybe it was the placebo effect, but I felt like I was flying along faster at an easier effort and lower heart rate. I reached Simsbury in less than 3 hrs and felt like it was an easy warm-up. I sailed up to Northhampton and my speed was steadily staying around 23 to 24 mph. The last 40 miles from Northhampton up to Brattleboro can be daunting, but I felt great. I even hopped off and did a 35 minute brick run up a switchback trail on the mountain across the river from Brattleboro. The next day, I rode back just as strong. My average pace for the 292 miles was 22 mph, which was my fastest round trip since beginning this ride at age 29 back in 97'! Now the wheels may have had something to do with this, but the other factor is that my training had/has been going quite well.
Baker, Molson and I were having some dinner and a few beers up in Brattleboro, and I mentioned how this ride isn't enjoyable. It's fun meeting up with good friends in Brattleboro. And there are portions of the ride I enjoy. This year, I did the whole ride solo which was lonely but allowed me to really focus. But it's not an extremely scenic ride. The ride was a means to getting to a destination and has become a tradition. However, just the same as finishing a big race, there is a huge feeling of satisfaction and confidence upon completion of this ride. Focusing on that alone is enough to have me place it on the calendar each year.
I've ridden the ENVE wheels a bunch since the VT ride. I wanted to test them out further. One of my key sessions each week is laps at an industrial park in Bethel. It's a .8 mi loop with a small but hard climb in it, where you are pedaling constantly on the loop and you don't have to worry about traffic. I do a variety of sessions here from 2 loops fast, 1 loop easy, to 30 loops at threshold. With the ENVE wheels, at the same power as my training wheels, I'm 5 seconds faster per loop. I like these wheels so much, more than any other race wheels I've ridden, and I've ridden them all, and so thought I should take them off and save them for racing. problem is that I'm really enjoying riding them!
Hawaii is three weeks from Saturday. I feel pretty good, meaning my workouts feel strong. Yes, I'm in that IM phase of being tired quite a bit when not training. Plus fall allergies are kicking in and they are a bitch this year. At the same time, I love the feeling of super fitness when in peak IM mode. That feeling where you can go out for three hours of aerobic, B zone or Zone 2 training and it feels easy and takes nothing to recover from. That feeling where you can eat a ton and still realize you probably need even more calories. Maybe these feelings are part of the key as to why we keep signing on for more Ironmans?