Friday, February 27, 2009

Compression Tights

Remember when “support hose” were what your 80-year old aunt wore? Or maybe it was the goofy old guy who mowed the yard in a wife-beater undershirt, Bermuda shorts and long black support socks? Well, support hose have gone uptown. In a big way.

I first heard about using compression tights to aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness in a review of Skins Compression
tights on several months ago. Shortly thereafter, I also saw a product review in Outside magazine, comparing three different brands of tights.

Compression garments have become very popular over the past three years. One of the most famous athletes to utilize these products has been Paula Radcliffe who is often seen racing in compression socks.

Scientific evidence supporting these products has been sparse and largely anecdotal. As we all know strenuous physical exercise, such as cycling, can induce muscle damage that is often manifested as soreness. Muscle damage can lead to decreased range of motion, swelling and impaired muscle function, all increasing the likelihood of injury.

Compression may be able to reduce the physical impact and damage associated with strenuous physical activity.

Manufacturers in Australia seem to be on the leading edge of the athletic compression gear technology. There are several Australian brands that get glowing reviews, but are not currently available in the US.

The Skins products seemed to be getting universally good reviews
, and are imported to the US. When I spotted them at one of our local bike shops, I winced at the price and reached for my wallet. Based on the size guide, I picked up a pair of xtra-small tights, and Phil bought the smalls.

After about 3 weeks we both came to the conclusion that our little chicken legs are just too skinny for those sizes – we couldn’t feel any noticeable compression. So, I picked up a pair of Youth Large Long Tights (and got a smoking deal – being on the midget side of the size chart does have some advantages) and handed my x-smalls over to Phil.

I can’t say they are a miracle cure, totally eliminating the heavy legs associated with lactic acid build-up. But, I do think that they measureably reduce the “next day” soreness I experience after a hard ride. The only downside I see to the tights is the price – all of the brands run about $100 (except for the kid’s sizes – score!).

If you are thinking about giving the compression gear a try, here are links to the top brands:




Zoot Sports


Remember – getting the proper size is crucial; if you have the option to try them on before you buy, do it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Take the Stairs

I work on the 9th floor of a high-rise office building. A couple of months a go one of my co-workers mentioned that he had been taking the stairs up to our office every day. I was thrilled to learn his secret – you see, our building (as many high-rises do) has several locked stairwells. You might be able to go up or down a few flights, but your access back into the core of the building is restricted.

So, I found the secret “all access” stairway, and since then I have made an effort to take the stairs every day. Actually, I even put a reminder on my Outlook calendar that prompts me to do a set of stairs at two other times throughout the day, just to get me away from my computer and phone for a few minutes a day. [Have you ever noticed that the only people who actually get regular breaks at any job are the smokers? So I consider this my “smoke break for a non-smoker.”]

I don’t run the stairs – I just walk them at a comfortable pace and really try to focus on good form. I place my whole foot on the stair, not just my toes – that way my Achilles tendon gets a nice stretch.

Making small changes like taking the stairs, when it is reasonable, can add up over time. Walking up stairs at a moderate intensity should burn 5 calories a minute for a 120-pound person, 7 for a 150-pound person, and 9 for a 180-pound person. Running stairs multiplies the caloric burn and the cardiovascular benefit.

The impact on knees and feet is relatively low, with the pressure equivalent to two times one’s body weight walking up stairs (compared with three to four times when running. The pounding on the body going downstairs, however, equals six or seven times one’s body weight.

That is actually good news for me. The LA Times recently ran an article
about a topic I had heard about some time ago - cyclists are at risk for bone loss. Cycling’s low-impact nature isn't conducive to building strong bones. So adding high-impact exercises can ease the risks of injury.

Although cyclists are known for staying on top of their training heart rate zones and pedal cadence, increasing research suggests they should also pay attention to their risk of thinning bones.

Many factors contribute to osteopenia (lower-than-normal bone density) or osteoporosis (very low bone mineral density) in cyclists, but one of the culprits is the nature of the exercise itself.

Cycling is a low-impact sport that puts little mechanical load on the bones. That's great if you have joint problems, but it's the weight-bearing nature of exercise that signals bones to create more mass. Without such stress, bones don't get stronger, making them more prone to injury.

Avid cyclists, both amateur and professional, seem to be especially at risk of bone injuries if they don't do any type of cross-training. The lower spine is a particularly susceptible area, since it gets almost no loading.

A recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that competitive male road cyclists had significantly lower bone mineral density in their spines than a control group of men who were moderately physically active while doing other recreational activities. They were also more likely to have osteopenia and osteoporosis than those in the control group, despite the fact that the cyclists had a greater calcium intake.

Further, some hard-core cyclists may not be eating enough to offset what they burn when exercising, depriving their bodies of bone-strengthening nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

Even perspiration can be a factor: Cyclists may lose a lot of calcium in their sweat. Even if they're taking in amounts [of liquid] that are seemingly high for the average person, that might not be enough to balance what they're excreting.

Bone loss can't be reversed overnight. Depending on the severity of the loss, it may take months or even years to see an improvement in bone mineral density.

In the meantime, take the stairs. It is a relatively easy way to work in a weight-bearing exercise to help in the battle to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Movie Reviews

Now that the Academy Awards are done for another year I figure it's time for me to pipe in with my latest movie reviews. In no particular order, these films have been on our playlist during the last several weeks.

Young at Heart - Coldplay, the Clash and Jimi Hendrix will never sound the same once you've heard the Young@Heart chorus, a group of Massachusetts senior citizens who thrill audiences worldwide with their unusual -- and unusually poignant -- covers of rock songs. This humane and heartwarming documentary, which premiered at Sundance in 2008, follows the elderly ensemble as they prepare their new show.

I was really moved by this film. It reinforced my belief that having a passion can give meaning to life and keep you invigorated, adding great quality to your life. Warning - I cried.

Invincible - Average Joe and devoted Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale manages to land a spot on his favorite NFL team in open tryouts. He's just lost his wife and his job as a substitute teacher, but by impressing the coach and winning a place on the field, Papale turns a terrible year into a winner in this inspiring film (based on a true story).

There is nothing original about this film – and that’s exactly why I liked it! It was a predictable root-for-the-underdog story – and has a really groovy mid-70s soundtrack. What’s not to like? (except Mark Wahlberg’s mullet – it’s bad, man!)

Deadwood Season 1- It's 1876, the height of the gold strike, and rebels and outlaws have been drawn to Deadwood, an ad hoc town cradled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Everyone there, including an ex-marshall, the infamous Wild Bill Hickok and a city boy from the East Coast, is out to make a name for themselves at whatever cost.

Phil and I mutually agreed that one episode was enough. There wasn’t a single likeable character. Even I, who can make sailors blush with my bad language, was a little worn out by the constant barrage of F bombs. Not recommended.

24 Solo and Off Road to Athens are now available from NetFlix – but you have to search by title. For some reason, they don’t come up in a category search under “cycling” or “mountain biking.” Each movie is well worth your time – watch the extra scenes, too.

Office Space (1999) In a film that takes plenty of jabs at the nihilism of corporate life, office drone Peter Gibbons conspires with his cubicle cohorts to embezzle money from their soulless employers. With help and hindrance from those around him -- and the affection of waitress Joanna, Gibbons may just find his sanity … and his revenge.

One of my co-workers consistently refers to the “red stapler” – a joke I never understood until catching up on this classic of corporate cubicle culture. I have worked in cube farms on and off for the last decade, and there were a few too many really recognizable moments! (e.g., "Looks like someone is having a case of the Mondays.") Light entertainment that made our workout time pass quickly.

Chariots of Fire (1981) Fueled by disparate desires, runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams pursue a quest to bring Olympic glory to Great Britain in 1924. Liddell -- a staunch Christian -- seeks victory as a tribute to God, while Jewish student Abrahams views winning as a repudiation of anti-Semitism. Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire won the 1981 Academy Award for Best Picture.

I saw this movie when it originally came out (I think I was a junior in high school in fact – that dates me, I suppose) and remembered liking the film. Other than recalling something about one of the lead characters having a problem with running on the Sabbath, I didn’t really remember the story. It is a good film that holds up well nearly 30 years later. [As a fun bonus, the guy who was the lead in “Breaking Away” (Dennis Christopher) has a cameo in this film; something I never would have known if I hadn’t been digging into the backlog of “inspiring sports films” to fuel our indoor trainer sessions. I’m sure that will be a fact I need to know when I am playing “Jeopardy” some day . . .!]

24: Season 2. Anti-terrorism agent Jack Bauer faces another action-packed day in the second season of this "real-time" TV series. This time around, a nuclear bomb is loose in Los Angeles, prompting Jack, the President and a host of other characters to do whatever they can to stop it from detonating. But even if they find the bomb, they may be too late to prevent disaster. . .

Is Jack’s daughter, Kim, really the dumbest human on the planet? Sheesh. These are fun 50 minute episodes to make the trainer time pass. Pure mindless entertainment, but a heck of a lot better than watching the 5 am news on Channel 9.

Klunkerz (2007) This documentary follows a group of cycling enthusiasts who, in the late 1960s and early '70s, tackled the slopes of California's Mount Tamalpais using modified pre-World War II bicycles, planting the seeds for modern-day mountain biking. The pioneering group, made up of world-class road racers as well as hippies seeking a new way to commune with nature, unwittingly developed a sport that is now a multimillion-dollar industry.

Fatty recently reviewed this DVD on his blog
. I thought the review was sort of lukewarm, but both the filmmaker and one of the main subjects responded to the review in extensive comments. That piqued my curiosity. So Phil and I watched it during one of our oh-so-romantic Friday night dates. You know, the kind of date where we meet in the basement and ride our bikes for 90 minutes steady in Heart Rate Zone 2? Yeah, you’re jealous. But, I digress. It was interesting to see the back-story on how the sport of mountain biking developed. I also found it interesting how some of the guys who were “living the dream” are still driving 1960s VW buses, and others have become multi-zillionaire business moguls.

Die Hard (1988) Smart-mouthed New York City cop John McClane comes to Los Angeles in an attempt to reconcile with his wife. When terrorists seize her office building, McClane escapes -- shirtless and shoeless -- and desperately tries to stop them.

Sometimes you just gotta watch stuff blow up. Plus, the run-time is 128 minutes – perfect for a 2 hour tempo ride with a moderate cool down. Kind of funny to watch Bruce just light up a cigarette in the middle of the airport without getting arrested. Times have changed . . .Yippee-ki-yay

Six Feet Under: Season 1 (2001) This darkly comical HBO television series follows the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home. It has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family's current client.

We just watched the pilot episode this morning. It looks pretty good – we’ll watch a few more episodes and decide whether to slip it into our Sopranos/24 rotation.

There you have it. We can hardly wait for the weather to warm up and dry out so we get less movie time and more outside riding time. But until that happens, my Netflix queue is packed with all kinds of interesting little gems . . .

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recipe Time Pork Tenderloin with Port & Dried Plum Sauce

Enough with the calorie counting!

Today was our "free" day, and I made a super tasty treat. Serve this with brown rice or couscous to soak up the yummy sauce. Add a side of steamed asparagus dressed with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper - you have a complete meal.


1 2 lb pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup minced shallots (5-6 large)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry or red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dry thyme
1 14-oz. can reduced-sodium beef broth
2 cups large pitted dried plums
1 cup tawny port
2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and plenty of pepper.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pork; cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer pork to a baking dish.

4. Roast the pork until just cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes (an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should register 155°F). Let rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5 minutes.

5. While pork cooks, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add shallots and ginger and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, vinegar and thyme. Bring to a simmer and immediately add broth. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir the prunes and port into the shallot mixture. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

6. As pork is resting, combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the prune/shallot mixture a little at a time, stirring and adding more as needed, until the sauce just coats the spoon.

7. Slice the pork and arrange on a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the pork. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Food Journals

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and we spend billions each year on products and services that promise to help us shed pounds. Cyclists typically aren't overweight by average American standards, but we're nonetheless fixated on weight, wanting to make bike and body alike ever lighter in a quest for better performance. As I noted in a previous post, Phil and I have learned a few things about weight management over the last few seasons.

One tip I failed to mention is the benefit of keeping a food diary or journal.

In a
recent study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, participants who kept food journals lost almost double the weight of their non-journaling counterparts.

I used to be a Palm Pilot gal, and I used the Diet and Exercise Assistant application to keep track of my calorie intake and expenditures. I found it quite easy to use, and having it with me all the time, rather than having to wait until I was at my computer to update the entries, made me more likely to honestly track everything that I ate.

I recently made the switch to a Blackberry device (I’m not a Crackberry addict yet, but it might happen . . .). The food diary applications for the Blackberry do not seem to be as user-friendly as those for the Palm, but I recently uploaded Ascendo Fitness
and I’m getting used to its quirks.

If you prefer the pen and paper approach, here is a guide to making your own nutrition journal.

Most weight management advisors and nutritionists recommend keeping a food diary for a minimum of 3 days in order to get an idea of your typical diet patterns. I don’t keep my log all the time, but I do try to keep it for 3 or 4 days at a time every month.

Keep in mind that a food journal is only good if you are completely honest. You may need to measure your food for a couple of days until you learn to eyeball portion sizes. (You may be shocked by how many grams of almonds were in that handful you ate for a snack. . .) I use the Salter Nutri-Weigh Scale.

Reviewing my food journal after 3 or 4 days allows me to see:

What is my average daily calorie intake?
What is my average daily calorie expenditure?
Is my diet meeting my macronutrient goals? (How many grams of carbs, protein, fat, sugar, fiber and milligrams of sodium am I eating daily?)
Where are the deficiencies? For example, am I not eating enough protein and eating too much fat?

Our first coach, Bob Seebohar, had a mantra – “Eat to train; do not train to eat.”

Keeping a food journal allows me to see if I am following that advice. Do I overeat on days I’m not working out? The key to weight management is balancing the intake and the output and a journal gives me immediate feedback on that point.

Here is a site with reviews and links to several web-based food journal applications.

Give food journaling a try – you might be surprised by what you find hiding in your daily diet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

For the Love of It

The Amgen Tour of California is going on this week. Levi Leipheimer, the defending champion, is leading the overall classification.

If you read, & every day (as I do), it is easy to keep up with race news. If you read any other mainstream daily newspaper or watch the news, you won’t hear a single mention of the race.

Oh . . . I take that back. Lance Armstrong is racing – his first race on US soil since the Leadville 100 in August, and that has generated one or two reports on ESPN.

But even borderline obsessive bike geeks like me might not know that there was a women’s event associated with the Tour of California. Thank you New York Times for giving a shout out to the mostly anonymous women bike racers.

This article highlights the reality of professional sports for most women. Sure, there are a few stars on the LPGA tour, and if I give you a few minutes you may be able to name at least one woman who plays in the WBNA.

Maybe it’s my estrogen talking, but I honestly enjoy watching many women’s sports more than men’s.

I love the women’s NCAA basketball tournament. I know I’m old, but I grew up playing basketball when defense was still considered an important part of the game. Watching men’s hoops, it’s all about the offense. In the women’s game, fundamentals matter, and I think it makes the game much more fun to watch.

I also love to watch LPGA golf. A couple of year’s ago the Women’s US Open was held at Cherry Hills Golf Course. We spent a day wandering around the course and watching the amazingly talented players. I have also been to watch the men’s field at the International in Castle Rock. With the guys, it is kind of overwhelming. There is simply no way I can drive the crazy distances they do, so I have a hard time relating to their game. The women in the LPGA also out-drive me by about 150 yards, but somehow their play seemed more like something I could aspire to. Finesse counts – it isn’t all about power.

At the end of the day, maybe I enjoy the women’s games because I know that they know they are playing for the love of it.

Maybe .5% will be able to make a living playing their sport. They are never going to sign an Alex Rodriguez-type contract. Yet they devote themselves with passion and determination that I find inspiring.

Maybe that is why I relate to them. I’m never going to win a bike race.


But I enjoy the challenge and I am driven to improve. Every time I enter an event, the few spectators that show up (hey, it’s local amateur racing, not the Tour de France) shout “You Go Girl!!”

And I do.

And I’m better for it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Field Trip to Boulder Indoor Cycling Center

Phil, Jeffrey and I took a little field trip to Boulder today to check out the Boulder Indoor Cycling Center. It boasts a 142-meter indoor velodrome and a small area for working on mountain bike skills.
[The pitch on those corners freaked me out!]
[Looks like fun - teeter totters and rock gardens to practice your MTB skills.]

While I don’t know that I’ll ever give track riding a try (Hmmm -- Ride a fixed gear bike with no brakes on a 45-degree pitched track with 8 to 10 other cyclists jockeying for position? My health insurance is good, but I don’t know if I’m ready to see exactly how good!) it is great to have the amenity so close to home if I ever get my courage up.
On a totally unrelated note, the New York Times had an interesting article about Shimano's new electric component group in today's paper. I think it is probably 3 to 5 years away for recreational riders, but the pros are giving it a whirl this season.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Basic Eating for Basic Training

It is no secret to those who know me that I thoroughly enjoy sharing a bottle of wine with a nice meal or relaxing with a microbrew (or two) at the end of the day. (Recently, I’ve been particularly fond of Argentinean Malbecs, the Trapiche Broquel Malbec, in particular.

But as I noted in my New Year Resolutions post, one of my goals for this year is to get leaner. To that end, Phil and I have both been focusing on our diets since the beginning of January.

Over the last few years we have each learned a couple of fairly simple tricks that help us to drop weight. Keep in mind, neither of us has a huge amount to lose (less than 6 - 8 pounds each). When you are already at a healthy weight, and want to lose just a few pounds, it can be a slow process. Avoiding self-sabotage is the most difficult challenge. It takes several weeks (at least 3 for me) to really see the numbers on the scale change after I start being mindful of my diet. Patience becomes critical.

The first rule, of course, is to burn more calories than we take in. One "miraculous" way to do that is simply to do a reverse Jesus - we turn wine into water at dinner. Phil and I have a deal between us, though. The “no alcohol” rule doesn’t apply one night each week. If we go to dinner with friends, or have a date night, or I have the time to cook a nice dinner on Sunday evening, we relax and enjoy our wine. Life is too short to go without simple pleasures – in moderation.

The second tip came from an article in Bicycling Magazine. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, the winner of four consecutive national mountain bike championships, says "Eat dinner like a pauper."

We eat a very light evening meal during the week (when our training volume is low). I mean really light – an apple, a handful of almonds, maybe a couple pieces of string cheese or a container of yogurt and a couple Wasa wholegrain crackers. Another option is a bowl of soup, or sometimes a bowl of cereal (I mix it with yogurt, rather than milk). That’s it. And you know what? It is plenty.

The third tip is one that I often see mentioned in weight loss and nutrition articles – eat at home. By eating at home we can more closely control our diets. I know exactly what we’re eating. There are no hidden ingredients - oil or butter or full fat dairy or nuts. We eat lots of broccoli, lean meat (chicken, pork and beef – Phil orders salmon when he goes out to eat because I’m not a fish eater), and whole grains like brown rice. It is also easier to manage portion sizes.

Really, that is what it all comes down to in the end - managing portion sizes. There are no forbidden foods. There are simply choices to make. If I eat this, I need to reduce the amount of that.

It does take discipline, and it does take mindfulness. If I didn’t have a goal in mind (get light so I don’t have to haul extra weight up Mt Evans and Columbine Mine) it might be hard to remain mindful. For now, that is enough motivation to keep me on track. Even when the Girl Scout cookies made their appearance at the office yesterday afternoon . . .!

Following is an excerpt from an article by
Monique Ryan posted on VeloNews Feb. 16, 2005, with more specific nutriton information that may be helpful to you.

Many cyclists are currently building their aerobic endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility in anticipation of more specific training in the coming weeks and months. Just as this training cycle requires you follow a specific mix of volume and intensity, your nutritional intake must match-up so that you have the required energy and fluids at the most optimal times for your training and recovery.

As you continue to build your volume, your energy and carbohydrate requirements increase. During this base cycle, you may also be interested in losing weight.

This is a good time of year to adopt nutritional habits that result in gradual weight loss so that you do not have to restrict calories when training really picks up in intensity. For each training cycle, you need to consider your nutritional requirements for energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fluid.

While estimating energy needs is both a science and an art, a few generalizations can be made to assist you in determining your energy needs. If you want to lose weight, a mild restriction is 300 calories daily for a weight loss of approximately half-a-pound weekly, and 500 calories for one pound weight loss weekly. Greater calorie restrictions can produce more weight loss, but could also compromise your energy levels and recovery.Obviously within this current training cycle you can experience various types of workouts during the week and weekends.

Energy requirements for maintenance can be based on training time:

12-14 calories per pound: Mild activity with no purposeful training or exercise (day off)

15-17 calories per pound: One hour training at moderate intensity

18-24 calories per pound: One to two hours at moderate intensity

25-30 calories per pound: Several hours of training daily

Carbohydrate, along with fat, is a steady fuel supply during any type of low to moderate intensity training. Carbohydrate needs need to match training in order to replace the muscle glycogen that you burn for fuel.

2.25-3.0 grams/lb: Moderate intensity training for one hour or very low intensity for several hours

3.0-4.5 grams/lb: Greater than 90 minutes daily at moderate intensity.
Consume from the high end of the range for several hours of moderate intensity.

These carbohydrate requirements include both the types of carbohydrates found in sports drinks and gels and consumed during training, as well as the whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that make-up a balanced training diet.

Timing your carbohydrate intake properly also supports your training efforts.

In the two hours before longer training sessions consume up to 50-75 grams of carbohydrate.
Pay attention to recovery nutrition and consume 0.5 g/lb carbohydrate after longer training sessions. You can also add in 10-15 g of protein to your recovery snack. You can consume the same nutritional amounts again in 2 hours after longer training sessions.

Your protein requirements are a reflection of the increased volume of training and your efforts to build muscular endurance.

Aim for 0.5 to 0.7 grams/lb body weight - an amount easily obtained in a well-balanced diet.

Healthy fats should round out your calories at no more than 0.5 grams/lb.body weight.

Meeting your fluid requirements during training is important. While sweat losses may not be as striking as in the warmer months, even a small amount of dehydration can have a negative impact upon your performance.

Maintain daily hydration. Your urine should be pale yellow in color if you are adequately hydrated. Urine is more concentrated and darker in the morning, and can be darker if you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement.

Practice drinking during training to match your sweat losses. If you are losing more than 2 lb. during a specific training session, you are experiencing significant dehydration during training. You can also pre-hydrate with up to 20 ounces of fluid in the two hours before training and top it off with 8-10 ounces of fluid in the 20 minutes before training. A sports drink can be consumed immediately before and during exercise.

During steady training lasting longer than 90 minutes consume 4 to 8 ounces of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes (or try to match sweat losses as closely as possible) to maintain hydration. You can consider using a sports drink during shorter duration workouts if it improves the amount of fluid that you consume (due to the flavor) and you have not consumed any fuel in the two hours prior to training.

After training rehydrate - consuming 20-24 ounces of fluid per pound of weight loss should restore fluid levels.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend Riding

Despite my whining about the weather last week, we ended up having a pretty good weekend. Saturday was clear and cool – in the low 50s – with a brisk but not too annoying breeze.

We rode what is becoming our standard cool weather "long ride" – a 53 mile loop from our house using Denver's great bike path system. A couple sections of the South Platte River Trail get sort of congested, but it is fun to see how many people get out on their bikes, and it gives us "rabbits" to chase (faster riders we try to reel in).

Sunday looked pretty gloomy when we got up. Both Phil and I were kind of moping around. We agreed we'd head downstairs to our trainers at 130 pm for a 2 hour indoor ride – not something we were looking forward to.

About 1030 am we picked up our mountain bikes from the local bike shop. Our bikes had been in the shop for almost 2 weeks, getting major tune-ups – we had our hubs rebuilt, bushings replaced, brake and derailleur cables replaced and my rear shock rebuilt. Phil also arranged to have our front forks rebuilt by Push Industries (my birthday present).

Forks generally come from the factory set up to handle whatever a 200 pound aggressive rider can throw at them. That just doesn't work well for a a smaller, lighter rider like me – and my suspension had never been tuned for me, so I was not getting the most out of my bike. Push rebuilt my fork and tuned it based on my responses to a questionnaire (how much do you weigh, what kind of riding do you do, what kind of performance are you hoping for, etc.).

The weather was still looking dicey (a rain/snow mix was predicted), and only about 42 degrees, when we picked up the bikes. We were both anxious to take the bikes out for a spin, though, and see if we could feel any differences in our newly tuned suspensions.
So we broke out the heavy tights, heavy gloves, 3 layers of jerseys, shoe covers, and got ready to ride. We thought our favorite trail (South Table Mountain) would be too muddy to ride, so we intended to ride over to Bear Creek State Park, staying on pavement most of the way.

As we waddled out to our bikes (3 layers of clothing does impede free movement a bit) our neighbor Brian walked by with his little boy. Brian had been running on South Table Mountain earlier, and he said there was little or no mud. Our spirits and enthusiasm lifted noticeably. And off we went for a two hour spin on the trails on and around South Table Mountain.

The sun came out from behind the clouds and it warmed up to almost 50 degrees. We had a great ride, playing around by bashing into rocks and stuff to see how the bikes handled. My suspension is noticeably softer. Compared to my previous settings, it feels like I went from a rigid fork to finally having suspension.

All in all, a good weekend on the bikes.

Just as a side note: Now that we know, officially, that we'll be riding at Leadville this year, I'll start sharing more details of our actual training plans, nutrition strategies, etc. One notable change already - comparing this year to 2005 and 2007, for the January/February timeframe, we are riding almost twice as many hours (averaging 10 hours a week this year compared to about 5 hours a week in the prior years.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good News . . . Bad News . . .

The Good News . . . we receivied official notification today that we were selected to participate in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. About 1,000 riders are selected from over 10,000 entries.

[Eagerly anticipated entry confirmation postcard]
The Bad News?

We receivied official notification today that we were selected to participate in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race!

No more weaseling when we don't feel like working - "we might not even get in, so why work so hard."

Nope, we're really in.

Let the suffering begin!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It Just Isn't Fair

Okay. I realize that I live in Colorado. And that we have had a really mild winter.

Today, for instance, it was about 65 degrees.

Today is also Thursday. Do I care if it is 65 degrees on a Thursday?


I do not. I'm a worker bee and I spent from 7 am until 5 pm in a windowless office working on my computer and yammering on conference calls.

Tomorrow is going to be about 60 degrees.

I will also spend tomorrow in my windowless cell.

But on Saturday . . . oh yeah. On Saturday we'll get all geared up and go for a 4 hour bike ride. Depending on the weather report you read, the high temperature will be somewhere between 54 and 49 degrees.

Sunday will be cool and potentially snowy, dooming me to another 2 hour sweat-fest in the basement.

C'mon. That just isn't fair.

Can we get some cooperation from those crazy Canadian cold fronts? I'll gladly let them bluster and blow from Monday through Friday if I can get 60 degree weather on the weekends. . . !

Monday, February 2, 2009

Power Meters

There are several power meters on the market now.

SRM Training System, a torque-measuring crankset that replaces your present model

PowerTap, a torque-measuring hub that you build into a wheel
Ergomo Sport, a torque-measuring bottom bracket available in Campagnolo square-taper or Shimano OctaLink

Polar S-710i or CS600, uses a chain vibration sensor that mounts on the right chainstay

iBike Pro, a handle-bar mounted power meter that measures the cyclist's output by measuring opposing forces

Quarq, a torque measuring device that mounts on the crankset spider

Brim Brothers, a force measuring system mounted under the cyclist's shoe

Each model has unique benefits.

I was very interested in getting a power meter, but my Scots blood [I’m frugal – or as some have been known to say – cheap!] was extremely averse to shelling out the cash for either of the two highly rated models – the SRM or the PowerTap. A PowerTap (which requires a specially built hub/wheel combination) costs more than many people will ever spend on a complete bike. That just seemed silly to me. Also, there is a significant weight penalty with either the SRM or PowerTap.

After doing some research
, I settled on the iBike Pro. I just received it in the mail on Wednesday evening.

The iBike measures:

power [avg. & max values];
calories burned [or kilojoules];
wind speed;
hill gradient;
elevation gained;
trip distance;
trip time;
bike speed [avg. & max values];
and temperature.

That’ll bring out the number geek lurking inside me!

The device appears easy enough to install, but it has a few calibration steps that need to be performed before I can use it. You need to set:

your weight – you+bike+gear;
tilt angle;
and do a “coast down” to measure frictional forces.

I'll report on how the calibration/installation goes in my next post . . .