My Rides

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Training Un-Resumed

I commented on my "Training Resumed" post that some soreness, tightness, etc. was due to an abscess (infection).  Well, attempt 1 a fixing said abscess failed, and attempt 2 involved surgery.   While it was rather minor surgery, I think it means I'm off the bike, at least for anything strenuous for a few weeks.  That means no race...

I'm pretty bummed about that - I'd been working towards that for about a month.  Maybe I'll invest in some weird outfits, and sign up for a cyclocross series this winter...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stickers on my bike

I have stickers on my bike.  I think they're worth showing / discussing:
I do (love Miso).  It's good, and good for you.  I used to travel to Japan a lot for business, and know that around Nagoya they eat red miso, but near Tokyo they eat white miso.  I don't know why, or remember the difference.  I found this sticker in a book / stationary store I visit a lot.

It says:  "Caution!  Be careful of this person.  This person could be dangerous."  Silly, and pretty fair assessment of my cycling skill.  I'm a fan of "engrish" (silly things in English seen in Japan / China / etc.).  I found this in a department store in Japan.
It says:  "I am the runaway train."  Another silly sticker from Japan.  I put it on the top tube, where many cyclist often put motivational photos or sayings.  It really just makes me giggle, though.
Ahh, Faygo.  Detroit's soda-pop.  I drank it (and Nehi, remember Nehi) growing up - usually grape and not red-pop, but beggars (for stickers) can't be choosers.

Detroit Derby Girls.  I got this after taking my wife to see roller-derby, Detroit style (yes, they actually still do that - no, not quite like in the movie, but pretty close).

I want to add one more (specifically, I usually just acquire silly things spontaneously) - a Detroit Red Wings winged wheel for the opposite side of the down-tube.

Le Tour 2011

This usually isn't a place to find 2nd hand commentary (I didn't watch Le Tour 1st hand), however I have to say I really enjoyed this year's tour.  I'll admit up front that I'm a relatively new cycling fan, and wouldn't rank myself a fan as in "fanatic."

That said, I'm not really a fan of the some of the big contenders.  I'm not a Contador fan because (worth bullet-pointing):

  • He seemed to usurp Lance's team leadership status in 2009 (or at least seemed to demonstrate little respect for his more experienced peer and team member)
  • He seemed "un-gentelman-ly" when he rode away from Andy Schleck (when he had his mechanical on a climb) in 2010
  • He's one of those "super-light-skinny-guys"
  • His voice sounds silly in interviews
I'm not an Andy Schleck fan because (not worth bullet-pointing) he doesn't seem to try really hard, all the time, or enough of the time to actually win.  And, he seems to be whiny...  I'm sorry if I offend any European and/or Socialist leaning readers, but he seems to embody the Franco-German Socialist work ethic (or at least the stereotype of it that I lean toward - highly capable, but not hungry enough to win).

So, seeing some hard working, of-good-character (apparently), underdog riders in the yellow jersey, was very refreshing.  Phillippe Gilbert got the jersey first, and worked hard all-race to try to get the Green Jersey from Mark Cavendish.  He doesn't have Mark's team to set pace to tire the field, or lead him out in sprints, but he was always seen pushing hard trying to reach his stated goal of winning the Green Jersey.

Us big guys have to love Thor Hushovd - there's actually some chance some of us can weigh what he weighs (180 lb)! He won sprints, he won in a team time trial, he won 2 mountain stages, and was seen working hard all those days staying in yellow.

Last, but certainly not least:  Thomas Voeckler.  Wow!  He got the yellow jersey riding in a break-away, with some unfortunate (field slowing) crashes behind him, however he (and little known, at least to me, team members) absolutely worked hard, every day keeping him in yellow.  You could see the pain in his face near the end of each day, but then he would be recovered, and working again the next day.  That told me, while he seemed to be stretching or struggling each day just to keep the jersey, his training was obviously hard enough and disciplined enough to support him for so many days.  By the time the tour left the Pyrenees, I wanted Voeckler to win.  

I can't say I don't think Cadel Evans deserves the jersey, in the end - he and his team worked hard every day, followed a sound strategy, in a disciplined way.  You could see the inevitability of a victory unfolding with the race.  He had some adversity, even on the last day in the mountains.  Cadel doesn't look like a flower, like Contador and Andy Schleck, and he used to be a mountain biker.  So:  "Congratulations! and Well Done!" 

However, to Phillippe, Thor, and Thomas:  "Thank you for a very interesting Tour!!!"

Coming to Grips - Wrapping Mountain Bike Bars with Foam Tape

When I began fair-weather commuting to work a few years ago, my hands and wrists got a little tingly on the short ride.  Since then, my rides have gotten longer, and my annual mileage has gone up considerably.  Anyway, way back then, I got a pair of Ergon GC3 grips. The outer palm support, and the extra hand positions provided by the bar-end portion, helped a lot to prolong time-to-tingle.
Ergon GC3 Comfort Bicycle Handlebar Grips (Large)
On a trip to upper Michigan one summer I saw a bike, on a rack, on a car with bar-tape on the bar-ends and thought:  "clever."  I gave it a try, and ever since I've added bar-tape on the bar-ends of the Ergon grips.  I've even tried some on the inboard, cylindrical portion (this is nice for grip, and soaking sweat, but moves too much in off-road riding - at least with my taping technique).
(Ergon GR2 shown)
I fell in love with the bar-tape for a couple of reasons:
  1. It's comfortable, soaks up vibrations
  2. It's grippy without gloves - I don't like to wear gloves, but I sweat a lot.  (my other secret is hockey-tape - I use it on the brake lever ends to ensure a good grip with rain, mud, sweat)

About a year ago, I over-tightened, and broke, the clamp bolt (holding the grip on the bar) on one of the grips.  I hadn't been using all of the length of the GC3 grip, so I switched to the GR2 grip.  
Ergon GR2 Bicycle Handlebar Grip, Small
These are the grips I raced with this spring.  Towards the end of the race, I was definitely feeling the tingle.  

So, for about 3 years, Ergon grips with taped bar-ends seemed about perfect.  That was until I built the S.U.B. (Sport Utility Bike), which has foam-tap wrapped bull-horn bars.  In spite of having no Ergon-style palm rest, I find the bars more comfortable on a long ride.  With a race coming up that will be twice as long as the one this spring, one of the things I worry about most is "comfort" (not the luxury kind, but the basic necessity kind) after 2 hours of riding.  

I decided to try to see if I can improve the "comfort" or "time-to-tingle" of my handle-bar configuration.  I ordered a set of Ritchey WCS Ergo bar ends (Ebay, $17).
Ritchey WCS-Ergo bar ends, black
I removed the wrapped Ergon grips, and installed the bar-end grips, and wrapped them in bar tape (first I applied strips of tape to the top of the bar - all the way around to the bar end).  
So far, I've only taken a quick spin, but it feels good.  I get one more hand-position with this configuration:
  1. On the bars.
  2. On the bar-ends
  3. (New) Both - fingers on the bar ends, palms on the bars (with outer palm in that corner)
That third position didn't really work with the Ergons, at least not for long.  Since the wrap continues right around the corner, it's a nice soft spot.  This is an experiment, so stay tuned as I report on how this works, and compares to my other references.

Update 10/27/2011 (3 months)
I notice a few hits on this, so an update is due.  Due to some health problems, I didn't ride in my 3-4 hour race in August (the true test for these).  I have put several hundred miles on the bike, including one 3 hour ride, and one 2 hour ride - most of my daily training rides are 45 minutes to one hour.

Overall, I like them.  I like them better than the Ergon grips, with the ends.  I love the bar-end position - this is where I hold for most riding.  Initially the lack of the Ergon's palm platform made my wrists get sore - I think I had become dependent on them and probably a bit weak in the wrist (shut up).  Also, initially, the diameter felt small (a road bar is 23.8 mm diameter, and my mountain bike is 22.2 mm - I think that 1.6 mm makes a difference).  On a hilly trail ride, I find the tape slipping or a little loose (I think it would have been best to first wrap the bars in hockey/grip tape, then bar-tape).

Update:  1/25/2015 (3.5 years)
Haven't given these much thought for over 3 years.  I've changed the handlebars (and therefore re-wrapped), and the frame, but have kept this form of grip.  Recently, I've been demo'ing full suspension bikes, which means I'm holding onto something other than my familiar wrapped bars.  I will definitely be removing whatever grips come with my new bike, and wrapping on a couple of layers of bar tape.  When my hands get sweaty they're slipping on the grips.  I never had that problem with the wrapped bars.  I also miss the bar ends - I really don't wrench on them when climbing, but I use them to give my hands a break on the flat sections.

Monday, July 18, 2011

S.U.B. (Sport Utility Bike) - Build, Part 4 (Fin!)

While some things are never "finished" (modifications/adaptations) the bike is "complete."

I left off last time pondering the chain-line, and a bigger rear tire.  I got the narrower spindle bottom-bracket (Nashbar, another $28), and a 700c x 47mm (1.85") Continental Comfort Contact rear tire (Amazon $32).  Both are worth the trouble.  The chain-line looks better, and the ride is softer - even with the tire at/near it's max of 58 PSI.  I would prefer the tire had the reflective band on the sidewall (like the picture at Amazon).
Continental Comfort Contact Urban Bicycle Tire (26x1.5)
I've had some time using the shifters now - after some time (200 miles) you get used to the "throw" for a single clean shift, and reaching over to feather the front derailleur after a few shifts to the rear.  For a little while I was thinking "maybe I ought to just get some grip shifts" (in my opinion the next best fitting of the utility bike style, with easy shifting), but that thought passed.  I did have to file one of the bosses on the bike frame - the front shifter wouldn't develop sufficient friction resist the derailleur's spring tension.  The shifter itself is very simple - a fastener compresses a couple of washers to develop friction to "hold" a shift.  The fastener was "bottoming" on the boss before the washers were compressed sufficiently.  With a few minutes of careful filing, all worked well.

After a few rides, I added laces to the Brooks saddle, as I did on my other one.  

I definitely like this.  I can tilt the nose down a little, and the saddle seems to "break in" more locally to my sit bones, and ends up very comfortable after a few hundred miles.  I'm riding 6-7 days a week now, and 2-3 of those are done without bike shorts (not bare-bottomed, just in regular shorts).  I can't say I notice much difference (those without shorts are short, easy rides).  So, again, no regrets on the Brooks saddles.

I've got the handlebars wrapped in Planet Bike "earth" colored foam bar-tape (Amazon $14).  They're developing an appropriate "dirty" look after a short while.
I also found room for an awesome bell.  It's a Crane Suzu "Lever Strike Bell."  It's unbelievably loud (in spite of my acoustics degree) bell that just rings forever (I usually have to tap the perimeter to mute it after a few seconds).  Already the brass is getting tarnished with drips of sweat, and grubby finger-prints - PERFECT!

Although I haven't commuted yet, I've got a beautiful rack on the back.  It's a Wald chrome steel rack (Amazon $17).  
A couple of silver Avenir water bottle cages (Amazon $6 each) give me some water carrying capacity.
I really wanted one of those Brooks D-shaped tool bags, but couldn't bring myself to spend $100, yet (perfect Christmas wish list item - hint, hint).  Instead I moved my Timbuk2 seat bag over from my mountain bike.  The large is big enough for 1 spare tube, 2 tier levers, an allen wrench set, car key, and phone (phone is a tight fit, but it fits).  
Brooks Saddles D-Shaped Tool Bag (Black)Timbuk2 Bicycle Seat Pack,Dk Green/Lime-Aide Swirl,M
I've put about 300 miles on the bike - about 250 training / 50 utility (I prefer it for training on paved roads, and it's fine for utility duty / utility speed on grass, single-track, and gravel with those big tires).  I really love the vertical / forward position of the bull-horn bars - I can ride all day in that position.  The foam tape and Big Apple tire soak up vibrations pretty good, and it takes a lot of moisture / sweat to make me think about gloves.  There are times I consider a 2nd layer of foam on the grips - we'll see as training rides approach 3-4 hours in preparation for my race in August.  

I can't say I'm anxious to change the brake lever - what's there works fine (I would also need to change the caliper to one compatible with shorter throw road levers). 

That big disc stops the bike and / or bike with trailer just fine.  I just have to watch braking while dismounting on gravel or dirt (i.e. encounter a log on a trail, with kids in buggy).  That causes slippage...
I still want to build a "dedicated" rear wheel, using a silver rim, with 36 spokes, and no disc rotor (that's the "road wheel" for my mountain bike).  But, again, the bike is "complete", but likely never "finished."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Training Resumed

As I mentioned I was out of commission for a couple of abdominal surgeries.  I've been back on my bike now or about 4 weeks.  My surgeon recommended 6 weeks of "taking it easy" after my May 4 surgery.  To light a fire under myself, a few days after my release from the hospital, I signed up for the Ore to Shore race (the 48 mile "Hard Rock").

In so doing, I signed myself up for an aggressive training program, beginning ASAP.  I heeded my doctor's orders, and after 6.0 weeks I started riding.  At first just rides at "endurance" pace, but after a week I started intervals.

I'm doing a few things different this time to try and accelerate results, including:
  • Diet (not the fad kind, but the tao of eating kind)
  • Workout & recovery nutrition (yeah, that's kind of like diet, but more specific to training)
  • Riding on recovery days

10 weeks getting and recovering from surgery gives you time to think.  While no doctor told my my weight or eating habits caused my diverticulitis/rupture, at a minimum, I suspect they didn't help.  I've since read a number of books on nutrition in general, and nutrition for endurance athletes.  These include:

I won't go into each, but taken as a group, there seems to be wisdom where they intersect with one another and/or with my personal experience.

Fruits, Vegetables, Lean Proteins, Good Fats, Alkalinity
Duh!  A big point of intersection of all these books, recommendations from doctors, nurses, and probably most healthy people, is that most of the volume of food you eat should come from FRESH vegetables and fruits.  Lean proteins, with healthy oils/fats are important.  Getting a good balance of Omega-3s to Omega-6s.  Finally, foods which cause a more alkaline than acidic body chemistry are important.

I drink a lot of fruit & vegetable smoothies, with whey protein (lactose free works better for me).  Salmon and cod have replaced beef and pork for a lot of meals.  Vegetables take up most of the plate, and starches are all but absent.

Intermittent Fasting
With each surgery I basically fasted (I was on an IV, a limited diet, or it hurt to eat/digest), for most of a week, and each time I felt pretty good, and I lost 10-15 lbs EACH TIME!  It got me thinking about intermittent fasting, how it fit with my training, and good health in general.  "The Warrior Diet" cites research and experience that biasing meals toward the end of the day, and fasting (eating very light) throughout the day burns more fat, less muscle, and has little to no impact on workout endurance or recovery.

Recently (up until last week), I was working toward bigger breakfasts (I was never much of a breakfast person, so my big breakfast may seem small to some).  This was typically

  • 2 eggs, grape nuts, and a piece of fruit, or
  • A big fruit smoothie, with 2 cups of fruit, some broccoli or spinach, and 20-30 g of protein powder, 
I'm now making breakfast smaller:
  • A piece of fruit and a carrot or a few broccoli tops
  • A small fruit smoothie, with 1/2 cup fruit, and 10 g of protein powder
At least 3 days a week, I'm trying to limit "lunch" to:
  • A piece of fruit and a carrot or a few broccoli tops
  • something light wherever I might end up eating

Food Allergies / Sensitivities
As I sat in the hospital recovering, thinking about what I ate, I recalled a friend, years ago, mentioning a diet he was trying.  I thought it had something to do with ancestry, or something.  He told me it was "the blood type diet" described in Dr. D'Adamo's book.  I went to the bookstore and skimmed the book, and next to it noticed the smaller / cheaper book (listed above) which categorized foods as "Beneficial", "Neutral", or "Avoid."

At this time I'm experimenting with the lists.  Eliminating dairy, for example has had a huge beneficial impact - I suffer far less from allergies and asthma (i.e. haven't used inhaler since).  Nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) I'm not so sure about (recommended to avoid).  Many of the books prioritize broccoli, kale and spinach for different reasons, so there's a lot of that in the fridge.

Workout & Recovery Nutrition
The author of "The Paleo Diet" cites evidence that a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein in workout and recovery drinks aids recovery, as well as overall health & immunity.  Also recommended for recovery, health, immunity is maintaining a more alkaline body chemistry.  Thinking back to Winter / Spring training, I didn't have much protein on workout days, and had sugary / starchy meals surrounding workouts, and had a lot of Gatorade (more sugar).  My weight loss was slow, and I swear I had the same cold from late December to late March.

I looked into changing my workout drink (from Gatorade to Accelerade), and spending money on a dedicated recovery drink.  In the end, I just mix Gatorade and Whey protein (with orange Gatorade and vanilla whey it tastes like creamsicle) in a 4:1 ratio (by volume, which may not be exactly right).  I drink less Gatorade(+whey) and more water, and make a recovery smoothie with an alkaline producing fresh fruit and/or vegetables (raisins, spinach), whey protein, and honey (roughly per recommendations in "The Paleo Diet for Athletes").

Riding on Recovery Days
In my first training program, I was really wiped out on recovery day.  Or, maybe I just let myself feel that way...  With a big jump on weight loss, thanks to my "fasting" in the hospital, I wanted to keep things going.  I started riding "easy" on recovery days, trying to burn 400-1000 calories.  After reading Selene Yeager's book, I learned I was on the mark for weight loss.  She recommends staying below 75% of max heart-rate on recovery days so recovery is minimally impacted.  

Most of my recovery day rides are done pulling my sons (ages 2 and 4) in their "bike buggy."  We ride to an area with some trails, or to the local sledding hill - they run, I ride.  Riding in the grass, pulling 120 lbs at 100 rpm, is like climbing a long, long hill...  The time really flies by, and we all sleep better.

I know this is titled "Riding on Recovery Days", but I'll mention training days as well.  I'm pushing harder in my intervals, being careful to keep my heart-rate down between intervals, and burning more calories for each workout (I pad the beginning and end with more "endurance miles").  My target on a workout day is to burn between 1500 and 2000 calories.  As the race date nears, I'll work on doubling that once a week to better simulate race effort.  

How do I feel?
My legs (soreness, strength/fatigue when riding), and respiration are better than ever.  I can push harder on rides, and don't feel very sore the next day.  I rarely feel "sick" as in having a cold.  My abdomen is still healing, and I guess it will for most of a year.  I get tightness, soreness, some sharp pains, and a "sick to the stomach" feeling that sometimes take me out of commission for a day after a hard ride.  To be honest, that "sick to the stomach" feeling is more pronounced after kayaking, not riding.  I rode at Maybury (twisty single-track, some short hills) a couple of weekends ago, and was expecting that feeling, and it never came...