Saturday, December 15, 2012

Building My Bike: #2 The Plan

Oh my goodness, I am learning so much about bikes and I haven't even started yet. Headsets and fork rake and steerers and bottom bracket cable guides and anti-seize compound. Wow.

So, what's the plan? Here is what I need to tackle, in (planned) order:

  1. Fork and Headset
  2. Stem & Handlebar
  3. Bottom bracket
  4. Crankset & pedals
  5. Cassette & wheels
  6. Brakes
  7. Derailleurs
  8. Chain
  9. Shifters
  10. Front shifter cable
  11. Front brake cable
  12. Rear shifter cable
  13. Rear brake cable
  14. Saddle
  15. Bar tape

I don't have all the tools or parts yet. Here is my shopping list:

  • Fork
  • Wheels
  • Bottom bracket tool
  • Lube
  • Anti-seize compound
  • Cassette Lockring Tool
  • Need-nosed pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Electrical tape
  • Chain whip
  • Spacers?
  • Bottom bracket cable guide

There are three things that I won't have the tools for. One is installing the headset cups. Next is facing the head tube. The last is cutting the steerer tube (not complicated but I'm not going to buy a saw just for that).

I wish I could get everything at once and attack the job in a weekend but, alas, I can't. On the other hand, I'll have time to blog about each phase. :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Building My Bike: #1 The Decision

The plan was simple: order a frame. Pay a bike shop to transfer everything except the wheels and cables from the old bike to the new frame. Done. "New" bike.

Except it isn't quite that simple. I was pretty sure I was going to have to buy a new fork, since the new headtube is longer than the old. Okay, so buy a new fork from Bike Island and headset from whereever and also give those to the bike shop.

Then the frame finally arrived. I unpacked it, held it up, and looked at it. Wow, it sure is just a frame. Doesn't even have the plastic cable guide thing under the bottom bracket.

Then I'm afraid I started thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). A few months ago, Flo Cycling posted a ebook called "How to Build a Road Bike", which I downloaded. Could I put this bike together myself? I'm not the handy-est guy in the world but I do okay with my bike. I have a stand and can give my ride a rudimentary tune-up. What's the worst that could happen? My bike comes apart as I'm flying down a hill at 50 mph. Yikes! Best not think about that one too much. Okay, what's the next worse that could happen? I make a mess of things and have to take everything in a box to my LBS and have them put the bike together. What's the best that could happen? I learn a heck of a lot about my bicycle (and bikes in general), get some new skills (and tools), and I would be able to point to the bike and say, "I put that together."

The benefits are too much to resist so I have decided to put my bike together. What am I most nervous about? Bar tape. I could never get that right when I was a kid. However, these days I am armed with the Flo book, my bike repair book, and the collective wisdom and videos of the internet.

This isn't something that is going to happen overnight. I need a few more tools, the aforementioned fork, wheels, and...I think that's it. I'll document each project as I go, thinking that maybe it will help somebody else do the same thing. I'll also document why I chose this part instead of another one. This is bike building while trying to keep the budget down. If money wasn't an object, I wouldn't bother building it myself, you know?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


One of the bummers of not riding since my accident in May is that I was really getting my bike nutrition down. Last year I started experimenting with a recipe for my own drink to take on long bike rides and this year I started making my own "bars" to eat. While the bars still need some work, now is as good a time as any to share the drink recipe:

Mix together with water in a 24 oz. water bottle.

The story behind the recipe:

A couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast on Competitor Radio with Asker Jeukendrop, a sports nutrition scientist. On the show, he talked about how glucose and fructose have different pathways to get absorbed by your body, so by consuming both (in about a 2-1 ratio--it's around 9:00 into the podcast) you would increase the amount of carbohydrates you can absorb compared to consuming either by itself. Makes sense. He also gave an amount of carbohydrates that people can typically absorb so I did some mental calculations (drinking every 15 minutes on the bike, typical amount per drink, 22 oz water bottle, composition of sucrose (table sugar), taking in other food, etc.) and came up with 2 Tablespoons each of table sugar and dextrose. That didn't sit so well in my stomach on long, hard rides, though, so I dropped down to 1½ Tablespoons each and that worked much better.

What to do for electrolytes? I looked and looked but there aren't a lot of choices for electrolytes on their own. There are things like Nunn tablets, which act like Alka-Seltzer when you drop them in water. Unfortunately, they tasted like Alka-Seltzer, too. I found Elete Electrolytes, a liquid that I could add to my drink but that wouldn't be so convenient to take along on long rides when it came time to refill my bottles. I used to crack open an Endurolyte capsule and put its contents in my bottle but it doesn't dissolve in water so well. I finally settled on the Base Performance Electrolyte Salt (even though I have a sneaking suspicion that it is just re-packaged Real Salt). Each container comes with a tiny measuring spoon and I scoop one of those in my water bottle. I tried using two spoonfuls but it was way too salty.

As for the Kool-Aid, I needed to put some flavor in the drink. Sure, I could go with something all natural but, frankly, I can get three servings out of a 20-cent package of Kool-Aid and there are a lot of flavors to choose from. I really don't think that it's going to kill me.

Why come up with my own drink? Why not just buy a bucket of stuff they sell in bike shops? For one thing, I don't want to spend a bunch of money if I don't have to. What do I need this drink to do? Hydrate, replace electrolytes, and supply as many carbs as I can handle. Do I, a 49-year old, middle-of-the-pack triathlete, really need so-called cutting-edge nutrition? Or do I need some water, sugar, electrolytes, and flavor? I'll go with Door #2, if I can.

A side note: I am training with Gatorade on the run. Why Gatorade and not Michaelade on the run? Because on the bike I have four water bottle cages that let me carry whatever I want. I can also put some drink mix in ziploc bags (which I can stash in a jersey pocket) to make more when I finish the bottles. I can drink higher-calorie drinks on the bike than I can on the run because of the pounding one's body takes on the run. On the run, even if I take a FuelBelt with me, that will only last eight miles in the heat. During an iron-distance triathlon, I have to live off the course for drinks, though I plan on taking some gels with me. Gatorade lets me do that and it's what they have on the Vineman course.

How does Michaelade compare to store-bought mixes? First, you have to remember that I don't know what I'm doing. Given that, though, I like the drink. It doesn't upset my stomach, and it, combined with other foods (Snickers, e-Gels, and the aforementioned homemade bars) works for me on my rides. YMMV. Let's compare it to Hammer Nutrition's HEED and Perpetuem, and Skratch Labs' Exercise Hydration Mix:

  Michaelade HEED Perpetuem Skratch EHD
Cost per 24 oz. bottle $0.38 $0.66 $1.50 $0.98
Calories per Serving 139 100 270 80
Sodium per Serving 290mg 40mg 220mg 310mg
# of Flavors 11 4 3 4

What does all that prove about Michaelade? Well, the cost is cheaper, calories are okay, sodium is good, and a lot more flavors, for starters. The point of all this is that my homemade, relatively cheap sports drink is working for me. Will it work for you? Don't know. You could give it a try, make some adjustments, and see what happens. Or not. Remember, this is not cutting-edge research. It's just me trying to save some money in my triathlon hobby and if I can, you probably can, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Year Ahead

So much for 2012.

Accident in May. No running for two months. No bike 'til possibly November. Yeah, my 2012 triathlon season was a bust. Time to focus on 2013 and that focus can be summed up in one word: Vineman. All my training between now and next July is in preparation for the Full Vineman Triathlon (an iron-distance event).

Why Vineman? I have a friend from way back whose first stab at an Ironman didn't work out so well so she's going to attempt the distance again at next year's Vineman. When I saw that, I figured "Why not?". It's a full iron-distance event (2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, 26.2 mile run), the swim is done in a river (I can't do ocean swims), though the race will be in July the Northern California weather should be manageable, and the price is less than a WTC-affiliated event. It'll be nice to have someone I know in such a big race.

So what does that mean training- and racing-wise? For starters, it means I'm not going to have the time to do a half-iron-distance race beforehand. There's just no room in the calendar for it, especially since I can't do ocean swims. Does that worry me? No, I know I can finish a 70.3. When I've had some pool time, swimming 1.2 miles isn't a problem. Riding 56 miles isn't a problem, either. And I've done four half-marathons. I'm familiar with all the legs and it would be just a matter of finishing.

I want to do a marathon beforehand. I want to know what running 26.2 miles feels like so I can (somewhat) prepare for that during a triathlon. Which one to choose, though? I'd love to run a big one like the L.A. Marathon. However, the logistics of getting to Dodger Stadium for the start, then getting back from Santa Monica at the end doesn't make me happy. There is a little group, Rocket Racing Productions, that puts on small, low-key marathons (yes, plural) by the ocean in Santa Monica, that has piqued my interest. Fully supported. Experienced organizers. Start and end in the same place. Don't have to weave around 20,000 walkers. Did I also mention cheap ($49 for a marathon!)? They put on multiple races a month throughout the year. Wow! I'm aiming for one in February (they don't have their 2013 calendar up yet).

Since the bike course is easy (only 2200 feet of climbing), I don't have to hit the hills so hard. That and no track cycling means my thighs aren't going to get huge. It turns out that the little bit of track cycling I did and the tough climbing I was doing on the bike conspired to put some good muscle on my legs. I didn't know 49-year olds could put muscle on that easily but I did. There's another reason to hold off on track cycling: bike fit. From the first session, I started having IT Band Syndrome. The next session made it worse. By the time of my accident it was getting better because I hadn't been on the track in a few weeks. The pain from the accident on my left side covered up the IT band pain on my right side. The IT band problem was likely due to poor bike fit, caused by my renting a bike because I don't have a track bike. If I leave track cycling for after Vineman, I won't have to deal with the extra weight from bigger legs. If I go back to the track, though, it's going to have to be on a bike I bought so it will fit properly. I'm thinking my bike training can be summed up on one word: long.

I don't want to swim year-round (I still suffer burnout from competitive swimming in my youth) but I do want to be in good shape for Vineman so I'm not wiped out before getting on the bike. I know I can get in okay shape in a month, so I figure four months of training should do. That means I'll start swimming in April but that also means that I can't do the IronBruin next March.

Maybe I'll do a sprint triathlon in May or June but that's just an idea I'm tossing around in my head. I don't think I should do the Santa to the Sea half-marathon this December, so that will have to wait until 2013. Oh, and I need to do a 5k race in October (and another in March) to gauge how I will be training for the marathon (per Run Less, Run Faster).

Right now I am running three or four days per week. A long run of no more than nine miles on Saturday, then some 5.5 mile runs on Sunday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I have been running in the heat on weekends. During the race I will be starting my marathon in the afternoon so I want my body and mind to know what it's like to run in the heat. How much to drink. When to slow down. When to walk. I finally did a sweat test this past weekend and found that I sweat a half-gallon in an hour in moderate heat. Time to start testing drinking more on the run.

So, the plan in a nutshell: Vineman in July. Marathon in February. Swim starting in April. Long-distance training on the bike (once it gets here in November). Stay healthy. Oh, and it would be nice if I could lose some weight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lance: A Lot

So, what's my take on the whole Lance Armstrong thing?

For starters, a person can never prove that they haven't doped. Failing a drug test is proof that one has doped but passing a drug test is not proof that one hasn't doped. Proving a negative and whatnot. However, given the hundreds of drug tests that he has passed, and given that he hasn't failed any of them, I'm going to have to give Lance the benefit of the doubt on this one. He has stated unequivocally that he has not doped (no weasel words) and I have no reason to disbelieve him.

Some would argue that winning the Tour de France seven times is proof enough that he doped. I would argue people forget that Lance Armstrong is an extraordinarily gifted athlete. A professional triathlete at age 16. Won the world cycling championship at age 21. Etc. He's just a freak.

As for the allegations, whenever international conspiracies get mentioned, I start rolling my eyes. USADA alleges that, not only did Lance's teams conspire to dope but that the UCI itself, cycling's governing body, was part of the conspiracy to cover up the doping. Really? The same UCI that stripped Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador of their Tour victories? The same UCI whose President has a huge beef with Lance's team manager, Johan Bruyneel? Why would the UCI cover-up for Lance Armstrong?

Okay, so say I believed that Lance doped during his Tour victories. USADA also allege that he doped during his 2008-2011 comeback. Why would he do that? He was already a multi-multi-millionaire, his Livestrong organization was really ramping up, he already had his Tour victories, and he had to have known that the chances of another victory at the Tour de France were really slim (though he did take 3rd). Then there's the matter of being under a huge microscope because of his stature, age, and lingering suspicion of prior doping amongst some in the cycling world. Given all that, why would he risk it by doping? He had so little to gain and everything to lose by doping during his comeback. He'd have to be nuts to dope in that environment. Lance is not nuts.

Then there are the allegations that his blood tests while with Astana, all of which he passed, look like he used EPO precisely because they don't look like he took EPO and, besides, USADA has (presumably immunized) witnesses. Then why even bother with the drug tests?

My take, in a nutshell: Lance says he never doped, he passed all his doping tests, and USADA's allegations don't pass the smell test.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If the Bike Fits, Ride It

I have known that my old bike didn't fit me for a while. I had to raise the seat quite a bit to fit my long legs. The reach to the handlebars, which seemed a bit long already, was made worse by me having to lean down so much due to the high seat post, putting pressure on my hands. The bike's size was a compromise between my long legs and short torso but I knew that someday I could do better.

While the accident totaled my bike's frame, the components (except the wheels) seem okay. That has allowed me to spend the money that would replace the bike with just a frame and have the components transferred over to it. What kind of frame, though? First, I don't want to mess with carbon. Carbon broke on the last bike and I don't want to deal with it being so fussy with its care. Plus I read about carbon frames having a lifespan of just several years so I don't want to deal with the hassle. Aluminum? Yeah, I could but I have a bit more money to spend than that. Titanium? Now we're talking. Even if I get hit again, titanium is really rugged. It's as light as carbon, too. Reviews of titanium frames are always positive. Okay, titanium it is.

First off, though, I wanted to get a professional bike fit. Not a shop fit but by someone whose job it is to do bike fits. Get fit first, then get a frame based on that fit, then when the bike is assembled put the finishing touches on the fit while on the new bike. How does one shop for a bike fitter? I did it on the internet. I looked for a fitter that used Retül and was F.I.S.T.-certified. I was going to be getting a road bike but if I want to get a tri bike down the road, I'd like to go to the same place. Then, once I got a (short) list, I visited the fitters' websites and checked online reviews. The fitter I came up with was Jim Manton at FinalFit, down in Long Beach.

The fit was interesting. You start off on the Retül rig, which isn't a bike but you "ride" it like a bike. All parts of the rig are adjustable while you are riding, so your fitter can, say, move your seat up and down while you are pedaling. Oh, they also put motion capture dots down my right side. That allows them another view of my riding style. For instance, one of the things they measure is how much your knee moves from side-to-side while pedaling. It turns out mine only move a freakishly low 8mm, which is a good thing. At the beginning the focus was on seat position but I was anxious to get to the reach to the handlebars, which I knew was way off on the rig (like my bike). We did adjust the seat here and there and it did make a difference (I remember on one particular adjustment we could all hear me pedaling better). I ride 175 cranks and we even tried 177--too big; I was bouncing all over the place. Finally we got to the handlebars and I was so happy when we started moving them closer...and closer, and closer. We finally reached a point that felt great: I could lift my hands off the handlebars and not fall forward. Nice.

I was able to have Jim tweak the cleats on my Giro Trans road shoes. I had one nailed but couldn't seem to get the other one positioned right. Jim got it. Then he turned his attention to my Specialized Trivent Sport triathlon shoes, which I could never get adjusted right. Jim pointed out that the cleats on those shoes are positioned farther in than my Giros. He did his best but they still didn't feel as good as the Giros. Jim mentioned that Shimano shoes are even worse (for me) than that. Good thing Giro has started making triathlon shoes. Something to keep in mind for the future.

I should also mention that the fit wasn't simply about dialing in number on the rig. They evaluated things like my flexibility and I filled out a questionnaire and discussed the type of riding I do and goals I have. For instance, was I interested in bike racing or did I just want to cruise around the neighborhood? It would make no sense for me to get a bike frame with an aggressive geometry that was great for racing criteriums when I don't do that.

Two hours later, we had a position that we were happy with. End of part one. As Jim said, "Today we deal with centimeters. When you bring your bike in, we'll deal with millimeters." Now I had to order a bike frame and once that came in and was assembled, I would bring it in to get fitted on that. But what bike frame to order? Since I wanted titanium, the best place to go was also in Southern California: Adrenaline Bikes in Tustin. I had looked at their website and a couple of very good options in my price range caught my eye: the Sabbath and Carver frames. Looking at my fit measurements (long leg, short torso) and after having talked on the phone with them, Jim suggested that I go with Carver. They impressed him during their conversations and could build me a custom frame in my price range. Why would I not want a custom frame?

Two weeks later I made my way down to Adrenaline to place my order. I could have done it directly with Carver over the web but a) support your local bike shop when you can, b) going through Adrenaline wouldn't cost any more than going directly through Carver, c) easier to handle warranty issues with the LBS, and d) there are so many options when building a custom frame and I don't understand the pros and cons of most of them. The gang at Adrenaline were very helpful, patiently explaining each relevant option, and even recommending not adding options when they didn't make sense with other options. In the end, I ordered a fairly basic bike with curved seat stays. It will take 8-12 weeks to arrive (on a slow boat from Taiwan). Another post when that happens (late October, early November).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Accident

I call it "The Accident" because I hope there's no "The Next Accident" but we never know, do we?

On May 24, I was just a few miles into my weekly 28-mile ride home from work. It's a pretty good route, mostly bike lanes. There are a few sketchy parts where I wish the road was more bike-friendly but it's fine. I was at a two-way intersection with a car across the way (a Ford Escape, actually). Cross-traffic had cleared so I looked at the car to make eye-contact with the driver. However, I couldn't see him so I started to slowly pedal across. He didn't move so I assumed he saw me so I kept pedaling. Then he started moving...right at me. He was headed so at me and was so close that the only thing I could do is go "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" and hope that hitting me broadside was the best of my options.

So I get hit. It was a pretty slow speed hit (I'm guessing at most 20 mph) but it turns out your body does not like being hit by big hunks of metal at any speed. I was hit on my left leg. I remember flipping over my handlebars, maybe even the car's hood. I'm not sure what part of my body I landed on or on what I landed on but the large bump on my lower back suggested that I landed there. I don't know about you but the first thing that goes through my mind afterwards is, "OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!" All my brain feels is pain. I knew my leg hurt but I didn't feel anything specific, just pain. The driver is apologizing to me but I can't say anything. All I can do is limp, trying to walk the pain off. After a few minutes I am able to ask that somebody move my bike out of the road.

Okay, time to take inventory. Leg hurts. Shoulder hurts near the collarbone. That might not be good. Felt the collarbone but couldn't feel anything broken. Notice that the tip of my right pinkie is in an unnatural position. Okay, that's either broken or dislocated. Hey, where did that blood on my jersey come from? Oh, my left thumb got scraped up, that's all.

I didn't call the police because, while I was injured, I figured urgent care would be enough for me. In L.A., you don't call the police out for every car accident. After exchanging information, including that of a witness, I ask the guy who hit me if he can take me back to work (I drive my car to work with the bike, then I ride home, then take the train back to work the next day (though I was toying with the idea of riding back to work this time)) so I could drive home. He did. If I had to be hit by someone, I was glad it was this guy. Apologetic and very helpful.

I was at my car and now comes the hard part: calling my girlfriend. She gets nervous about me riding my bike anyway and now I had to tell her that, not only did I have an accident, but that it was with a car rather than solo. It's nice to have someone at home that worries about me.

I drove myself home, changed clothes (didn't want anybody slicing through my cycling clothes), and drove to urgent care. They took x-rays of my left leg/ankle/knee, lower back (which was already spectacularly swollen by this point), right hand, and right shoulder. Nothing broken. The Doctor did smush my pinkie back into place (ouch) and splinted it up. Got a precription for big ibuprofen and a muscle relaxant (both of which came in handy at bedtime) and I went home.

This was the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend so I took Friday off, since I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my job anyway, and spent the weekend mostly on my back with my left foot elevated (my whole lower left leg was nicely swollen). When I went back to work on Tuesday, I was in sandals because my foot was so swollen. Stayed in sandals for the rest of the week (good thing this happened in spring). I was able to use a previous experience with leg swelling by getting on a (stationary) bike to help get rid of my leg swelling. Worked, too, but not right away. I had to wait a couple of weeks for my body to want to get rid of the swelling.

I did take my bike into the local bike shop to inquire about repairs. It was while I was unloading the bike from the car that I noticed one of the carbon seat stays was badly damaged. Nevermind that the wheels were pretty messed up, too, if a seat stay is broken, then the frame is toast. The wrench at the shop confirmed this. The components seem okay but I, at the very least, needed a new frame (weeks later, I noticed a pretty good dent in the aluminum top tube, too).

Followed up with an orthopedist, which eventually resulted in an MRI of my left knee, because he was afraid I had torn my ACL. The MRI showed no tearing, so I just stretched it pretty good. Found I had a sprained left ankle, too. Originally my left leg hurt so bad that I hadn't noticed the sprain. Funny. The pain in my left leg also blotted out the right IT-band pain I had been having. The doctor recommended I just have physical therapy.

I had been in irregular contact with the driver who hit me and once the bills started piling up (totaled bike and PT), he turned it over to his insurance company. That was great because his insurance company loved writing checks to get things cleared up.

Where I stand today is that this past weekend I went to a bike shop to order a new frame (more on this in another post). That will take a couple of months to show up. In the meantime I have started to ease into running. I am done with triathlons for the year, of course, so now the focus is on doing the Full Vineman a year from now. I am skipping doing a HIM between now and then but I do want to do a marathon in that time. My left knee feels a bit unstable, my left ankle gets better every day, as does my shoulder (albeit more slowly).

I have newfound empathy for any pedestrian or cyclist who is hit by a vehicle. I was lucky, in that my accident happened happened at a slow speed. It could have been much, much worse.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ATOC Stage 6 - Plan B

Last weekend's ride didn't go quite as planned. For starters, I am not in shape to do 7,000 feet of climbing yet. 5,000? Yes (barely) but not 7,000. Okay, so I can't ride Stage 6 up to Mountain High. What to do? How about faking it? Enter Plan B:

Now the plan is to start the ride no later than 8am from the actual starting line in Palmdale. I'll ride the first few miles of the course but where the pros will make a right turn from Sierra Highway to the Angeles Forest Highway, I'll make a left onto Pearblossom Highway. I'll re-join the course when it turns onto Valyermo. I'll take that all the way up to the 2nd KOM at Mountain High. That's the theory, anyway.

What's the point? Why not just park near the base of the big climb and ride up from there? Where's the fun in that? I'd like to start at the starting line but I am simply not able to do the Mt. Emma climb if I want to make it to Mountain High. This route lets me begin at the starting line and reach Mountain High while eliminating over 2,000 feet of climbing. That makes it (probably) do-able. If I leave by 8 I think I can beat them to the top. That's not a given, though.

Back to last weekend's ride. It started off well enough in beautiful weather. I didn't leave the Acton train station until 12:30 but it wasn't a very hot day so that was no problem. This is a lonely ride (or so I thought). There are houses here and there but don't expect a lot of traffic or other cyclists. Unless you come across a bike race! I stumbled on the Devil's Punchbowl Road Race, which followed my route for several miles. What to do? I decided to hop in. It was a 16-mile circuit so the riders were pretty spread out. I was just cruising along, saving my energy for the big climb yet to come. I was getting passed by a bunch of riders, of course, but I managed to pass one! Poor guy, he must have really been in bad shape for me to pass him.

Shortly after leaving the race course, the real climb was about to get started. However, a check of the time and how I was feeling told me that I should turn back. I only had eight miles to go but 2,000 feet of climbing. I knew the ride back itself had over 1,000 feet of climbing, which was going to be hard enough, so I needed to cut my losses. Hey, you don't really know if you're in shape for a ride unless you try it, right? My butt isn't in shape for a long ride, either, and the ride back involved taking a lot of breaks to get off the saddle. The total ended up being 58 miles, 3 1/2 water bottles, two homemade energy bars (topic for another post), a Snickers bar, and a burrito. Could have used more food.

So, this new route has under 5,000 feet of climbing but is 39 miles in one direction. If I get riding by 7:30, I think making it up to the KOM marker is possible. Tough but possible. Not a sure thing, though. It's probably a crazy scheme and I'll like end up getting chased off the road by the CHP as the pros overtake me but you never know.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Previewing My ATOC Stage 6 Ride

Tomorrow I preview my planned ride of Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California. I want to ride through the first KOM and turning around at the second one at Mountain High near Wrightwood. Should be a great place to see the riders. It's 74 miles round-trip with 7100 feet of climbing. I'm not worried about going up the hills so much (though that is going to be a lot of climbing for 37 miles). It's the descent that has me wondering. It's probably going to be a mix of nice coasting and 50 mph white knuckling. I'll make sure to take my Garmin so, afterwards, I can find out my top speed.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time to Bike Home, Again

Daylights Savings Time and sunny weather are both back. It is, once again, time to start my weekly rides home from work. This year's route (28mi total) is a few miles farther than last year and starts off a bit more urban. Thanks to Google Maps, though, I'm taking advantage of as many bike lanes as I can.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wish List Gear: Arundel Mandible

This is the first in (what I hope is) a series of articles on gear that I'd like to get...when I get money saved up. This is real stuff I plan on getting...hopefully. In other words, I'm not going to be talking about a P5 here.

First up is the Arundel Mandible bottle cage. What could possess me to want a $50 water bottle cage (two, actually)?

It all started with my first saddle bag, the Specialized Wedgie, bought back in 2008. First, it wore a hole in my shorts (which may have had more to do with the fat on my legs than the bag but still...). Then, after a couple of years, the zippers wore out. The zippers wore out? Yes. When I needed to replace that bag I wasn't so keen on big zippers anymore.

Around that time I rode a preview ride for the Magic Mountain Man Triathlon. It was hot and very hilly and by the time we hit the turnaround, I had emptied both of my water bottles. If I had tried that ride myself I would have been in serious trouble because there is nothing out there. Thank goodness I chose a supported ride.

So, that and my penchant for riding for several hours by myself led me to the XLAB Super Wing. The bags would be attached to the wing, well behind my thighs, and I could mount two water bottles back there for those long rides. I bought a couple of regular water bottle cages and did some rides with them and, while bottles weren't being ejected left and right, I did have to keep an eye on them because they were coming loose. I bought another type of cage but I couldn't even get 1/2 mile before the bottles went. Clearly, I had to get cages with serious grip.

I first considered XLAB's Gorilla Cage, which is made just for the Super Wing. However, down in the warning section on the web page it says that the cage won't work with the Camelbak Podium bottle. I am sorry but I'm not going to give up my favorite water bottle because of a cage so I gave up on the Gorilla and searched the net for something grippy.

That's when I found the Arundel Mandible. The consensus is that the Mandible is the grippiest cage on the market. So, that's what I want to take with me on my long rides. When I can save up some $$ for it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Experiments On The Bike

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try a few new things on the bike. The thing to remember with experiements is that even if one was not a "success" it was still successful if something is learned. I've been doing some learning.

First up: road racing. Just before the IronBruin I found out about the Mash, a local series of races around the parking lots of Magic Mountain. I didn't want to do it before the tri or just after it so I waited until March 14 to give it a shot. That day I left work a little early, got my one-day license and number, and started warming up...or what I thought was warming up. We gathered together at the starting line and soon it was on. You know those nice neutral starts you see the pros doing on TV? This was nothing like that, with attacks starting right away. This was when I found out that I was not nearly warmed up enough. I tried hanging on but this was my first time on the course (I didn't know I could warm up on it while another race was going on) so I didn't take the first few corners (including a 180) very well and I was pretty quickly off the back. The start taking place on a slight uphill didn't help, either.

Ah, riding solo. Just like my training. :-) I tried going hard but I didn't take the corners in that first lap so well and (no surprise) even the slightest uphill slowed me way down compared to the main pack. I kept going as hard as I could but I knew it was going to be futile. The course is about two miles long with both left and right turns. After the first lap I finally felt warmed up but the inclines were taking a lot out of me so I didn't feel all that much stronger. On the other hand, I was taking the turns much better. After a few more laps of being by myself I was briefly joined by the breakaway when they lapped me. I think the main pace line flew by me on the next lap. I thought about trying to hang on as they went by but I didn't think that would be good etiquette and, frankly, I'm not sure I could do it. The nice thing about getting lapped, though, is that my race was one lap less than everybody else, which I appreciated.

I finally finished and was completely gassed. That profound kind of tired that you feel deep within you for days. Lousy race but great workout. Still, I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon. I'm glad I did it and I couldn't have picked a better place to give it a try but I don't think I should try a road race again until I weigh a lot less--I'm talking 30 pounds or so.

Next up: track cycling. I had pretty high hopes for this. I mean, have you seen what some track cyclists look like? Reminds me more of my physique than, say, the Schleck brothers. So I headed over to the Encino Velodrome yesterday for their Introduction to Track Racing class. Learned about the bikes (mine was a rental), etiquette, and things like that. Then it was time to head out onto the track. I have never been on a fixed-gear bike before so that took a bit of getting used to. We just went round and round, moving up-track and down-track. Next was a paceline. We probably did 25 laps. Started out slow but then our instructor had us speeding up the last several laps and, to my surprise, told us we'd be sprinting the last lap. Woo too! Before that last lap, though, there was a gap in the paceline so I had to bridge up to the lead pack, which was easy enough. That last lap was tough and fun. We really sprinted! I ended up not being able to beat the girl out front but I had a blast! Of course, my first instinct after crossing the line was to coast--you can't do that on a fixed-gear bike--but just one pedal-stroke was all I needed to learn not to do that again.

I dropped down to the infield to do a little cooling off when someone pulled up alongside me and asked, "You've really never been on a track before?" Nope. "Wow. You've got some talent."

Next up was flying 200s, "Encino-style". I was to lead the group around the track while one rider at a time peeled off and did a 200 meter time-trial (against the clock) with a flying start. Funny thing about being the leader of a class of beginners (actually, there were experienced women in the group, too): some people complained I wasn't going fast enough, some complained that I was going too fast. I guess that meant my pace was just right. After about a dozen riders it was my turn. The idea is to build up speed high on the track, then drop down at the start to use the downhill to my advantage, and go really, really hard for 200 meters. I remember dropping down well, not taking that first turn so well, surprised that I took the next turn fairly well, and having enough to speed up down the final straightway. All in 15.9 seconds. Turns out I was first in the group by quite a margin, which is a nice change from my road racing experience the week before (yes, I know it was a group of beginners and women but still).

Right after that was a three-lap pursuit against the girl that beat me in the paceline sprint but I had just come off the 200 and was still wiped out from that so I didn't have a chance. After that was a drill/game where we tried to take handkerchiefs out of the jerseys of the other riders. It was great fun.

Until I crashed.

The game was nearly done when a young girl (probably 11) headed up-track right in front of me without checking over her shoulder. It all happened pretty fast. Bottom line is that we crashed and as I went down I smacked the back of my head on the track pretty hard. My Giro Ionos gave its life so I wouldn't have to take a trip to the hospital. She was okay, I was okay. A few scrapes, some broken spokes, and some twisted seats and handlebars, and she had a little rip on her jersey. Fortunately we weren't going very fast so we both ended up okay.

That didn't discourage me, though. I'd still like to do more track cycling. Just need to save up some money for more classes and whatnot. It was tons of fun. Even the crash wasn't that bad.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Off-Season

Now that the IronBruin is over, it's time for my off- season. Huh? An off-season starting in March? Isn't that when most people come back from their off-season? Yes but until the end of January I was training for a March triathlon. When that fell through I immediately went into triathlon mode. All done, time for a break. I'll get back into triathlon training mode (read: the pool) in June.

So...what now? Well, among other things, with all the personal turmoil I had last year, I did hardly any long rides so I would like to do a bunch of those. No organized long rides (well, maybe one). Just me on my own, unless anybody out there wants to join me.

Among the cycling "projects" I have planned are: my first road race, getting introduced to track cycling, riding part of stage 5 of the ATOC the day of the race, going over Little Tujunga in both directions in one ride, and this beauty: 100+ miles and 9500+ feet of climbing. Ouch. I call it "Aliso-2-Little Tujunga". It's not that I can't do hills, I'm just slow.

On the running side of things, I am going to take a couple of weeks completely off. Then I will just do some maintenance runs for about a month. By that time my Run Less, Run Faster book will have arrived and I can plan my new and improved workouts (since my last plan demonstrably had problems).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Report: UCLA IronBruin Triathlon 2012

Total Time = 1:27:03
Overall Rank = 31/86
Age Group = Men 40-49
Age Group Rank = 6/16

Pre-race routine

Woke up on my own just before 4. Nutella on toast and Gatorade: breakfast of champions!

Event warmup

BEAUTIFUL weather. Perfect for a March triathlon...or any month, frankly. Hopped in the warm-up pool and swam 150 yards. Felt good.


400 meters
Age Group: 4/16
Overall: 21/86

Trained for five weeks swimming three times a week, with workouts topping out at 2,000 yards. Doesn't sound like much but in that short period of time I brought my swim fitness up as high as it's ever been in the past three years of tri training. Tried to hold a steady pace, up it at the 300 mark, then really up it that last lap. My swim ended up being only slightly faster than last year but I guess that's not bad, considering I ended up 4th in my age group.

What would you do differently?

Train in the pool for more than five weeks.


Age Group: 2/16
Overall: 3/86

Fast as usual. I brought my bike in the trunk of my car this year, which meant taking the wheels off. As I ran out of T1 I kept hearing a clanking noise. I figured out it was the chain, which was not on the chainring. I stopped for a couple of seconds until I figured out what I needed to do, then kept running. That happened after I went over the T1 timing mat so it's not reflected in my time, but it is something I need to check on in the future.

What would you do differently?

After assembling my bike out of the trunk, crank it to make sure the gears are okay.


13.5 miles
Age Group: 5/16
Overall: 30/86

Tough. I really pushed myself this year. Took me the whole first lap to catch my breath after the swim. After that I was breathing heavy just because of the bike. I felt much stronger on all the hills this year. I was passing all kinds of people--college students, even. Of course I was getting passed by people, too. Even though there were fewer people this year, it seems like I had to negotiate more traffic this time. I was nailing the corners, too. There's this series of two corners about halfway, a fast right turn followed by a faster left turn about 40 yards later. I found myself sprinting past people after the right turn so I could be past them going into that left. I had a blast!

My time was only slightly faster than last year, which is kind of disappointing. Oh well.

What would you do differently?

While I did pretty good on the turns (I don't think anybody passed me in one, though I did plenty of passing because of corners), I still don't have the confidence to do corners as fast as I could. Just have to keep working on that.


Age Group: 5/16
Overall: 21/86

I like to have my T2 spot on the right along the aisle. To do that I had to go quite a ways down the aisle. Add to this I need to carry my bike through T2 to keep my shoes from popping off (size 48 (US 13/14), 175 cranks), as I was kinda tired by the time I got to my spot. Got in the shoes okay. Took a quick drink from my bottle just to wet my whistle. Grabbed my visor (I sweat a lot) and race belt and I was off.

What would you do differently?

Get a spot closer to the bike in even if it meant not having an aisle spot. Running a long ways with a bike on your shoulder is tiring.


Age Group: 13/16
Overall: Way back there

I was so tired when I started. My legs didn't feel horrible when I started but it took my a little bit before I hit my stride. I have been doing hill work for this race so instead of taking hills slowly, like I usually do, I tried to maintain my speed. This kept me on the edge of nausea most of the run. That's a good thing, right? At the top of a hill I would coast a bit, catch my breath, then go back to running hard. Three 55-year-olds BLEW past me. I did pass a couple of people, though. The last mile is flat or downhill so once I caught my breath after the last hill I let loose. I was SO tired by the end.

My time, though, sucked. The run killed me this year. Slower than last year, too, which is surprising because I felt stronger up the hills. Sigh.

What would you do differently?

I was doing some speed work in training but for only about a month. I need to include speed work in my run training throughout the year. I really need to figure out how to get faster on the run.

Now that I think about it, I should have taken the Garmin with me for the run. Clearly, I do not know how to pace myself.

What limited your ability to perform faster

I'm 49 and weigh 220#. The weight is coming off again because I have recently made weight loss a priority. Can't do anything about my age. :-)

Seriously, though, my run seems to have gotten worse. I don't know if that's because I was doing a bunch of marathon training until six weeks ago. I'm thinking I need to focus on speed work. Losing weight would help, of course. This year's run was very discouraging.

Event comments

I love, love, love this race. The bike course is the best. I wish the UCLA Tri Team was better organized about marketing the race, though. This was the smallest turnout I've seen (it's my fourth). While I like the race being smaller, I just don't want to see the race go away because of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Back to Being a Triathlete

Now that I am no longer training for a marathon and am doing a sprint triathlon on March 4, it's back to being a triathlete. What does that mean?

Swimming. Back into the pool for the first time since August. I now have a 50mX25y pool five minutes away from my apartment. Not only does this allow me to have longer workouts but it means I can train more days a week than before, so that is what I have been doing. I am swimming Monday and Friday mornings at 5:30am, and Wednesdays after work. Before, I would have to take off from work and could only get in a 45 minute work and still I'd be gone for two hours. Not very efficient. In just two weeks of this routine I am already stronger. My goal for the race (just four weeks away) is not to just be faster (last year I did the race practically untrained on the swim) but to not be so tired from the swim when I start the bike (a lesson learned from last year's Hansen Dam Tri).

Cycling. The IronBruin is all about hills and turns. Downhills and turns I have down, it's the uphills I have to work on. I am training for that in two ways: riding up hills (duh!) and losing weight. I am actually weighing myself each week and the weight is coming off. I'm not going to get under 200# by race time but I should be lighter than I ever have been at this race.

Running. The run at UCLA is a bit hilly so it is time to face the enemy head-on: hill repeats. I have dropped my mileage down so that my long runs are now 10K and my runs now include hills and some fartlek work (just a little now, hopefully more soon). An added benefit of the speed and hill work (both on the bike and the run) is it aids with fat loss. I feel great on the runs and stronger on the hills (hills are never easy).

From all that marathon training I have a good aerobic base to work with. Let's see if I can speed things up a bit.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Report: Carlsbad Half Marathon

Woke up bright and early at 4:30. Drank a little bit and waited for my stomach to settle down. At about 5 I put some running clothes on and went for a little run outside to shake things up a bit. I was surprised to find that it didn't feel very cold at all. Got back, changed from tights to shorts, packed up, and drove to the race start.

Sat in my car and listened to podcasts for a while when finally, my body decided it needed to use a porta potty. Got out of my car and immediately noticed that it was a lot colder than when I went for my short run. By the time I made it to the porta potties I was shivering. Not that long ago I was feeling smug about my cold weather training preparing me for days like this. Nope. Got back to the car and I had to solve a problem: shorts were not going to cut it at the start of the race (I knew they'd be okay after a few miles but I'd have to stand around the start area for a while and I didn't want to be shivering uncontrollably when the gun went off) so how was I going to get into my tights? The answer: very discreetly in my car. It didn't help that there was a couple in the car next to me but after making sure nobody else was around, I just went for it.

By the time my wave (#3) started, I was still pretty cold but it could have been a lot worse. I settled in behind the 2:00 pace leader and we were off. I would fall back a bit on the uphills but then catch up on the downhills. It wasn't easy but it was do-able. After a couple of miles I did notice that my Garmin and others around me would beep at the same time (at mile intervals--mine was actually set for two) but the course mile markers were a bit farther down the road. Interesting. Anyway, things were okay. The course was hillier than I thought it would be but that's probably because, at over 200#, hills are my enemy more so that most people.

At 6.55 miles in, I checked the Garmin and saw that I was exactly on a 2:00 pace, though I was falling behind the pace leader. Had to pick up the pace to catch up. So many uphills. At the 9.5 mile mark I was facing the longest uphill of the day, I was falling way behind the pace leader, my stomach was complaining that I was going to fast, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it so I started, as they say in cycling, "going backwards". I slowed down and people started passing me left and right. At the 11 mile mark my plantar fasciitis kicked in for real and I was looking at two more miles of painful running. I was just looking to finish.

I ended up with a 2:11:16, which is slower than the half I did the day after riding 100 miles. Ouch. That's okay, though. If you look at my mile 7 split, you can see that I was only just off the 9:09 pace I needed to make two hours. I was on track but then got derailed. Oh, the Garmin showed the course being 1/10 mile longer than 13.1 miles. Don't know what to believe.

The race was the largest I have ever participated in. 8,468 participants for both the full and the half. Starts were staggered by waves based on your predicted time so the race didn't seem all that big. Nice race right by the ocean. You can see video of my straggling to the finish line at about the 15 second mark here. I look awful because I wore my FuelBelt rather than live off the course (they had grape-flavored something and I didn't want to find out if my stomach would be happy with it during the race).

What would I have done differently. Need to get serious about losing weight. Need to stop avoiding hills and start working them. Need to back off the mileage and fix this plantar fasciitis. Oh, and find a really flat half, and I think I have.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Plan: Carlsbad Half Marathon

The plan is really simple: hang with the 2:00 pace group (with a bit of an acceleration during the last mile if there is anything left in the tank) or blow up spectacularly.

This is right on the edge of what I'm capable of so I truly have no idea what the outcome will be. I'll report back after tomorrow's race.

P.S. If you want to see how I'm doing, click here and enter my bib #, 5167. They'll have at least the halfway split, from the looks of it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No L.A. Marathon This Year

The good news is that training for the L.A. Marathon has been going well. I have been doing my morning runs in thirtysomething degree weather, my long runs on the weekend, and even including some interval training in the form of Yasso 800s. My body has responded and, while I'm not convinced I would have made my secret goal time (yes, I know you're not supposed to have a goal time for your first marathon), I do believe I would have completed it. The bad news is that I also have quite a case of plantar fasciitis and last Saturday's planned run of 18 miles pretty much told me that my heels aren't going to let me run a full marathon in March.

Even though hitting my goal time was unlikely, it does give training a bit more focus and adds some speed to my pokey pace. So I was hitting my goal training pace (not race pace) through 12 miles or so when I took a little break. I wasn't too tired but all that running does tend to pound joints and muscles so, like with a century ride, I took a break. My feet were getting sore, though. I started back up again and the rest of me actually felt okay. I was really dropping my pace after a mile so I shut off my Garmin's pace alert and slowed down. My feet (specifically: my heels) were really getting tender and after some walking and running, I finally pulled the plug on the run and walked the few miles back home...which was not fun. The damage had been done and whether I was walking or running on them, my feet hurt. The walk, in addition to providing a nice cool down, gave me some time to think. The entry fee for the marathon goes up on the 16th and I couldn't say for sure that I would be ready for it in March. I knew my legs could get me through it but you're only as strong as your weakest link and, right now, that was my heels. I had to face up to the fact that the rest my feet needed was not compatible with the training mileage I still needed to get me through the marathon. Not this year. I did not want to be one of those people who enters a marathon to walk it. I wanted to run the whole thing (with, perhaps, the occasional stop at a water station).

I can't remember exactly when the plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head but it was sometime in the last year. In some ways it has gotten better (walking around the apartment doesn't always hurt) but in one important way it has gotten worse: long runs. Age, weight, and increased run mileage all conspired against me. Truth be told, I have a bit of an ankle thing hurting me right now, too, so the layoff will do me good.

How does that change 2012 for me? The main goal for the year is still a half iron-distance triathlon in the fall. Maybe I'll add the Santa Clarita Century to my calendar in early April (it really is my hometown ride now). Then there's the very tiny possibility that I will be in such good shape for my fall triathlon that I will run a marathon in November or December. I am not planning on that happening, though. The plan is to do the 2013 L.A. Marathon.

As far as training goes, I still have the Carlsbad Half Marathon in a couple of weeks. I have already entered so no sense in wasting the money. I can make it. After that I will take a week off running, then back into it but my long runs will stay in the 9-12 mile zone for a while. I will also be paying more attention to my weight, which is likely a major factor in the plantar fasciitis. I need to get a scale and make sure the fat is coming off (I put on a few pounds during my summer layoff). I need to be more methodical in my approach to weight loss because being disorganized about it only works for so long and I have passed that point.

Still no swimming until May or June. I just can't deal with swimming right now. :-)