Monday, August 10, 2009

Moving forward and going the extra mile

Here's another dollop of bilge because it's Monday, I'm at the end of my holidays and I'm about to go out for pint(s).

Weather remains fine, 20+ degs and sunny with some rain. But this August is already better than last so I'm not complaining.

Thus it as a perfect morning for the Severn RC 25 on the U17 yesterday: a light northerly wind as opposed to a stiff southwester. This course is the latest incarnation of the U18C, which had to be truncated due to traffic lights being installed at Falfield. The U18C was theoretically a faster course, because a) it had a big ski-slope start that you didn't have to come back up at the finish, b) if it was a SW wind you had more tailwind than head and c) you only had to do one lap of the fun but slow Breadstone-Wanswell-Berkeley circuit.


Last August on the U18C, I did 56'00 to win this event. It was a pretty ordinary day - rain and a strong SW wind, and I probably lost 15-20sec by taking the corners extra slowly. I averaged 334W.

Yesterday on the U17, I did 53'44 to win on a much better day, averaging 323W. Course record by a long shot. Yes I'm riding a different frame and have tweaked my position a bit but my wheels and tyres were pretty much the same as I used last year (pic here). I'm still going to call it a two minute improvement, especially when I compare to other riders who have done both courses a few times.

It could be that the PowerTap is a bit off - I've changed the hub batteries but need to do some calibration tests to make sure. I've done one with a 2.5kg weight (a track pump of all things) hung off the pedals and the measured torque is 10% lower than it should be. But you're meant to use heavier weights to test it, so we'll see. I'm curious but it's not that important: I'll take speed improvements over power improvements any day.

Beetroot facts

According to the latest Scientific Facts, beetroot juice makes you go faster. By that I mean improves your endurance by up to* 16%. It's more effective than training, they say. Imagine if you did both? It goes without saying that I am now investing heavily in tins of beetroot for upcoming fixtures.

Caveat: I'm slightly wary of the fact they called it a double blind test and used blackcurrant juice as a placebo. OK so it's red but I'd hazard a guess that most people could tell the difference between it and beetroot juice.

The mechanism by which it works is not known, but the researchers took a stab at it and reckoned it might be something to do with the nitrates in beetroot juice forming nitric oxide in your body and reducing the oxygen cost of exercise. As some of you may recall, I did a PhD on coal combustion and nitric oxide is a nicht nicht, a big pollutant. So just ask yourself: is this vegetable powered performance enhancement worth the immense cost to the environment? Answer: yes, probably.

But bugger the beetroot, why not get the nitrate in some other form? Like nitric acid? It might burn your mouth a bit and you may well explode if it makes contact with any ammonia in your system, but think of all the extra energy you'll get!

*Clearly includes the number 0.


Hugh Jones said...

Of course if you were coming home from work late, nitrides might be the answer.

Lucy (Power) said...

Just checking, since I'm not a chemist, that beetroot juice wouldn't have an unfortunate explosive effect as well? :-) This didn't come from the Annals of Improbable Research, did it?

Matt said...

I'm not sure about sporting endurance, but I can guarantee one effect of consuming lots of beetroot is quite visible during a visit to the urinal.

(When we were kids, my younger brother used to down tins of beetroot as a snack, with very colourful results.)

Jeff Jones said...

1) I reckon you're going to struggle to make gallium nitride in your body to power an internal LED. The lack of beetroot is not the problem here.

2) The key reaction with nitric acid and ammonia is:

HNO3(aq) + NH3(g) → NH4NO3(aq) + violent explosion

But with just an NO3- ion floating around instead of HNO3, I reckon you'd be safe. At least, the researchers didn't report that any of their subjects exploded.*

*Note: if a certain flat in Bath is reduced to a pile of rubble in the next few days and there are no further updates to this blog, you'll know what happened.

3) Yes, that is an unfortunate side effect. You could always add asparagus to the mix and really scare people.

Hugh Jones said...

I had not thought of the LED solution, only night rides.

Hugh Jones said...

Of course with all that Ammonium Nitrate you would have enough fertilizer for a new crop of beetroot, perpetual motion may result.

Hugh Jones said...

The solution. Fill the bidon with Borshch. Instead of Piroshke use power bars.