Tag Archives: cycling

Nathan fall down and go boom

The day was January 19, 2012. It was two days until the first bike race of my life. I was excited. I was nervous. It occurs to me there’s a word for nervous-excited: anxious. The morning started like most others, with a bike ride, but it would not end like most others. Although since I’ve been riding more it’s certainly happening more. From the post title, it should be obvious by now that I fell on my bike. What separates this fall from others is the cause and severity.

It was 7:00 in the morning Thursday morning. The sun had not yet risen. My oatmeal breakfast was finished. I was dressed in my warmest cycling clothes and ready to go. I was simply waiting for enough sunlight so I wouldn’t have to bring my own artificial sources. It was exactly 7:10 when I started my journey. As I took off, I didn’t know where I was going. The previous night I had put on my criterium race cassette so several options were off the table. There would be no riding Mount Lemmon, nor would there be hill repeats, and because of the impending race I was only going to ride for about 3 or 4 hours at low power.

The first stop was at the University of Arizona where the race was being held. I rode the course several times to get a feel for it. I couldn’t take the corners at full speed because of the cars and traffic laws, but I left feeling much better about my chances. I took off from UA to the south thinking I’d take a 3:30 loop down towards Green Valley. Just as I was about to turn off, I decided to abort that mission because I didn’t have the right gearing for it and just ride out to Pistol Hill.

Pistol Hill is southwest of Tucson. Riding from my home, it’s about a 3 hour ride round-trip. Adding the approximately half hour for scouting, it’d be perfect. As I continued down Broadway, I was satisfied with my choice of routes. What I wasn’t satisfied with was my performance. I was sluggish. My quads were still sore from the ride the previous day. It was a great ride: I rode 90 miles with over 8000 feet of elevation gain doing what I call Mount Lemmon repeats. That’s right, I rode a little under 4000 feet up the mountain, turned and came down, then went up again. I thought of doing it three times, but it was a great workout doing only two repeats.

I made the turn from Broadway onto Old Spanish Trail. The traffic is lighter here. I decide that I’ll do a few sprints. About 5 or 6 efforts of 10-15 seconds long. As I passed the last stop light, I started the warm-up. Up until then, even though I had been riding over an hour, was just the warm-up for the warm-up. I up shifted a few gears, keeping the same cadence, and felt the life coming back to my legs. I was going approximately 20 miles per hour up a false flat of about 2% gradient.

The sight of a golden trunk waiting.
The smell of the engine coming to life.
The feel of the bumper caressing my right leg.
The sound of bike tires skidding over gravel.
The taste of adrenaline in my mouth.

broken left arm xray

The fracture is quite visible to even a non-expert.

As I passed through the intersection of Old Spanish Trail and Pedregal Drive, a mid-sized pickup truck was attempting to make the left turn from Pedregal onto Old Spanish. As per usual, I give the driver what I thought was ample room so that if he started to pull out I’d have enough time to get out of the way. I miscalculated how fast he was going to pull out. Luckily for me, he saw me at the last second and slammed on the brakes. My right leg made contact with the bumper and my right arm with the hood.

I managed to stay upright for a second or two, but ultimately hit the pavement. The result was a broken left olecranon of the ulna. Initially, I felt no pain on my right side, the side where the truck impacted me, at all. After a week, and now a few days off pain medication, I can feel where I was stuck in the leg. There was no bruising or anything on the right side at all, just where I hit the ground. And on the exterior, all I had was minor road rash.

I haven’t been on the bike in over a week now and can’t wait to start riding again. I see an orthopedic specialist on Wednesday to see if I need a cast or surgery. The emergency room doctor said I would almost certainly need a cast once the swelling went down and maybe need surgery because it seemed to him that it was slightly displaced.

So I’m a little bummed, but I have three good reasons: I was hit by a truck, I broke my arm, and I missed my first bike race.

I’ll feel a lot better when I can get back on the bike. Until then, keep on riding.

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Flat in the Dark

I’ve found something that I love. Finally. It’s not a person. Nor is it running. Well, okay. I do love running, but that’s not what this post is about. I’ve been converted to night riding.

My first true night ride was about a week ago. I took off after work and rode about a 60 mile training ride. Before that I had commuted while it was dark, but that was always less than 5 miles. My first night ride I turned the headlight on about 1/3 of the way into the ride. It was a little awkward at first having to get used to only seeing a small bubble right in front of you. But the views of the sky were gorgeous.  It was made even better because I could view the stars without looking up the sky was so clear and non light polluted.

That night I was riding the infamous Shootout route. From Tucson, I went south on Mission Road, used Duval Mine Road and came back north on Nogales Highway. In total it’s about 60 miles, but riding from home adds another 6 to that. Unfortunately, the end of the ride takes place inside the city of Tucson, so seeing the stars is harder not only because of the light, but because one has to pay more attention to riding and avoiding cars.

2011-oct-26_map

Route ridden on the 26th of October, 2011.

Last night I once again planned a night ride. I would take off after work and ride about 40 miles. Have a looksee at the map I rode, taken from Garmin Connect. Garmin has updated their site to include Google Maps with bicycle routes on it. I don’t know if I rode on any on this ride because the real route ridden in red covers the green bike routes.

Anyway, I took off westbound at around 4pm when the winds were west-northwest at 30 gusting to 48! As the night progressed, the winds died down, luckily for me. I went out on St Mary’s and transitioned to Gates Pass Road. Riding up Gates Pass into that wind was so hard. But I made it up and over and all in the large chainring! My heart rate got pretty high, and the legs were burning bad, but I knew I had a long decent ahead of me.

2011-oct-26_metrics

Speed, elevation, and heart rate data from the October 26, 2011 ride.

After cresting the pass, I enjoyed the long downhill on Gates Pass Road until Kinney. I made the left on Kinney and now has a quartering tailwind. Not the greatest, but at least it wasn’t a headwind. I was really looking forward to making the turn from Kinney onto Ajo and having a full tailwind while going downhill! What I didn’t plan on was flatting. At the corner of Kinney and Ajo I noticed the telltale signs of a flat tire. I dismounted, checked, and yup, a flat. My first flat at night. We’d see how well I knew how to change a flat.

Looking at the data, it seems it took me about 20 minutes to change the tube. Not bad considering I made sure to check for glass and other crap in the tire that may immediately puncture the tube. I took the descent a little slow because I didn’t want another flat going downhill with the wind going at 40 miles per hour! I will note that road is much steeper than I previously thought. I had only ridden it going the other way, and it doesn’t seem that steep. I was wrong. Holy crap!

When I got to the intersection of Ajo and Mission I had a decision to make; should I head home or should I continue on the planned route. Since the tube had held up through the descent, I decided to go on the planned route. Besides, I had 2 more CO2s and tubes in the saddle bag in case of more flats. The planned route is visible in the image above and took me south on Mission to San Xavier Road where I headed east. This took me past the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, which I couldn’t see because it was dark. I continued past Desert Diamond Casino and the Tucson International Airport and turned north on Nogales Highway. A quick jog east at Valencia to Park and it was a straight shot north to home.

All-in-all it was a fun ride, even with the flat. My next night ride might be the same except extending the southbound leg so that I do the entire Shootout route. That would increase the total distance up to 100 miles. It’d be fun to complete a century all after dark. I’m not sure when I can fit that into the training schedule, hopefully next week.

Keep the rubber side down…

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Missed opportunities

On Saturday, when out for a quick ride before my flight to Omaha, I crashed.

I was riding along the Rillito River path, bent down to grab my water bottle, and then next thing I knew I was in an ambulance being taken to the hospital. I was on a back board with a collar restraint and couldn’t move. I don’t recall anything about the incident. From what I’ve been told, some passers-by called both the paramedics and my roommate who picked up my bike. Needless to say, I missed my flight to Omaha and my race on Sunday.

I am grateful for whoever stopped to help, the paramedics, the trauma team, and everyone else who helped me on Saturday. I escaped with minor scrapes, cuts, and bruises… and a concussion. Firefighter and paramedic Matt from Tucson Fire Station 5 was very kind to me in the back of the ambulance. I owe him a big debt of gratitude.

If anyone knows who stopped to help an unconscious man on the path on Saturday morning, please have them contact me. I would like to say thanks.

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Force reps

force reps map

Doing some force reps along the multi-use path.

Today the training plan called for something I haven’t seen before: force reps. The description that came along with the plan said to find a straight-and-level surface to do them on. Then, select a gear where you can only manage 50-60 revolutions per minute (RPM) while seated and mash for up to 20 revolutions. The training plan didn’t say mash, but that’s what it would be. Repeat up to 10 times. Sounds easy, no? See my Garmin Connect activity profile.

The first step was finding a suitable flat spot in Tucson. The Rillito River park is about as flat as you can get. The path along the Santa Cruz River park may be flatter, at least it seems so to me, and it always seems to have less walkers and runners, but it’s a long way from my house and wasn’t prepared to do the commute first, then the workout. So the Rillito it was. I took Campbell over the river made a 270-degree turn westbound on the path and I was off to start my warm-up. Looking at the metrics below, you may be thinking, “where’s the warm-up?” It wasn’t a very good warm-up, but it was actually better than usual. I got the legs spinning at pre-dawn hours and the blood flowing a little. Heart rate only got up to 130 beats per minute (BPM) but I was feeling a bit warm. Not sweaty, but ready to start the reps.

After 20 minutes my watch beeps at me. I can set it to do intervals, which is basically what this training session was. It was time to do the first rep. I start changing to harder gears while simultaneously slowing my cadence. I wish I had a cadence meter so that I could show that data in the metrics. As long as I’m wishing, I wish I had a power meter too. C’est la vie. I quickly find that I’m in the 50×12 (my hardest gear) and standing. Doh! I wasn’t supposed to be standing. Even so, after a minute I started to get really tired. You see, I had set the intervals on the watch for 2 minutes. How did I come to that number? I have no idea. At the most, the intervals should have been 20 seconds. 20 revolutions divided by 60 RPM equals 1/3 of a minute or 20 seconds. I think I got confused and just put the 2 in the wrong slot in the watch. I actually didn’t realize that while riding, so these were actually about 1 minute intervals.

force reps metrics

Speed (blue), elevation (green), and heart rate (red) during the reps.

If you count the spikes in the heart rate in the metrics, you’ll see that there are eleven. I can’t even get that right. In my defense, the beep that starts the cool-down sounds very similar to the beep that starts an interval. It was only after that 11th one that I looked at the watch and it said I was supposed to be in cool-down mode. Jeez, I can’t get anything right with this workout.

So it turns out that 50×12 at 60 RPM isn’t that hard to do on a flat surface. As an aside, 50×12 for those that don’t know the lingo means that I had the chain in a 50 tooth front chainring and a 12 tooth rear cog. Why is the front called a chainring and the back a cog? I have no idea.

If my hardest gear wasn’t hard enough, what was I doing wrong? I had already quickly dismissed the idea that I was already at the top 1% of 1% of all athletes in this particular drill. A little searching on the web turned up this blog post by none other than Joe Friel of TrainingBible fame. It turns out that I was doing them wrong. Friel explains that they work best when done on a hill with a 5-8% grade. Hmm. Why not just call them hill repeats then? I think because the gear is specified to be such that RPM is maximized at 60 instead of sitting and spinning all the way to the top. And not standing too. But “sitting low-cadence hill repeats” would have been a clearer name for what I was supposed to be doing.

He also explains why he calls them reps and not intervals. See, his intervals always have a set time between each set. So an example would be 10 1-minute intervals with 1 minute rest. With reps, there is no set rest period between sets. So you get to rest until you feel you can complete the next rep. He also explains that this exercise is for more advanced cyclists who should ideally have several years of racing under their belt. Actually, he doesn’t say that in the blog post. I remember that from the TrainingBible. Why would I, a new cyclist with less than a year experience and no racing experience, be doing this workout? Because I don’t have a coach; or more accurately, I’m trying to self-coach myself, and I screwed up.

What I’m finding is that coaching yourself is more difficult that I ever imagined it would be. It was really nice having someone tell me what to do everyday and all I had to do was go do it. Sitting down, making a plan, and executing that plan is hard work. But I’m determined to stick with it until at least the end of the year. I have the Tucson Marathon coming up and before that a whole lot of other shorter races. After that, I will re-assess my goals and see if I need (and can afford) a coach.

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Thoughts on self-coached endurance athletes

Should I hire a coach or can I do this alone?

There comes a time in every athlete’s training when they think that they might need a coach. For some people, that point comes when they first decide to get into endurance sports. There are many coaches that specialize in taking someone who is not particularly active and putting together a training plan to get them to their goal. Usually that goal is to finish an event of some kind; that could be a 5k, marathon, or Ironman Triathlon. For some people running or walking for 5 kilometers (3 miles) is an enormous feat and they have no idea how they can get from their current level of fitness to a level they had only dreamed of before. It makes sense that if you’re starting a completely new activity that you seek out the guidance of someone who is more experienced that you.

On the other end of the spectrum is the professional endurance athlete. For obvious reasons, someone like Lance Armstrong is going to need a coach. In fact, Lance Armstrong during his prime probably had at a coach, a manager, a sports psychologist, a nutritionist, a doctor, and probably more dedicated to him winning the Tour de France. Unfortunately, you are not Lance Armstrong. That’s why you’re reading this article. But it’s not just top professionals that need coaches. Elite amateurs are likely to need, or at least want, a dedicated coach. In the sport of road cycling, this would consist of those who compete as category 1 and 2 racers. Most elite athletes have accumulated the knowledge to coach themselves, but what they usually lack is the time. Self-coaching takes a lot of an individuals time and someone who trains 40+ hours per week simply doesn’t have it!

This leaves a lot of ground in-between and I don’t want to lump all these people into the same category. But there is a wide spectrum of people who may want a coach, should have a coach, or don’t need a coach and they just don’t know where they stand from high-school to masters athletes. What these athletes have in common is that they are endearingly referred to as age-groupers. This simply means that they are not competing for the overall win in an event, but are competing against other athletes of the same age, gender, or skill. Running and triathlon events will typically split age-groups in age and gender; cycling events are sorted by skill level, with pros racing with the elite riders. Generally there are awards, monetary or not, that are given to age-group winners, so there is competition among them!

Background

Growing up, I was active in sports. Throughout grade and high school I played basketball, baseball, soccer, and golf. Baseball is almost exclusively an anaerobic sport, which means that the body uses energy from a system that provides bursts of up to 2 minutes. Soccer is primarily an aerobic exercise where one needs to run almost continuously for a long period of time, with short bursts of speed every so often. But even a soccer match is only an hour and a half long. Someone new to running, for instance, could take well over four hours to complete a marathon. Then I met my match. During my last year of high school I did not make the soccer team, I barely made the basketball team, and golf doesn’t really count. After one year of baseball, I gave that up. I had spread myself too thin, both in terms of athletics and academically. I was never a great athlete, so during high school I focused most of my time on studying, which contributed to the decline in my athletic abilities. During that year, I got my first taste of coaching: I was asked to coach the 5th and 6th grade soccer team where I went to grade school. It was great fun, and I learned a lot, not only about coaching, but about myself.

As I went to college, my participation is sports dropped to zero… unless you count bowling. And while it’s certainly a sporting competition, there is very little aerobic about it. Then I got accepted to graduate school, where my studies took an even further step forward. The limit of my physical fitness was now walking up three flights of stairs. I ballooned to 220 pounds. I was feeling crappy pretty much every day, and feeling run down most days. Then I decided to change everything: I was going to lose the weight I had gained since high school. I made a goal of finishing a marathon within a year.

That first year was hard. I still remember those first few months. I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to run outside, so I took up running on the treadmill. I would put the treadmill on 6 miles per hour and run for 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. That first time I reached 3 miles was the turning point. That’s just shorter a tad than a 5k race. I knew at this point I could make the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. But I knew I needed a plan: I couldn’t just wing it. So I searched the Internet and found Hal Higdon’s novice marathon training plan. It looked good to me, but what did I know? I had never done this before! As it turns out, I would still recommend that plan for a first-time marathoner. What’s more, I learned through those 18 weeks what it meant to be self-coached. And there’s a whole lot more to it than simply following a pre-packaged plan you find on the Internet.

Since that first marathon, I completed several half-marathons, many shorter running races, and a sprint triathlon. And most importantly, I’ve hired two coaches along the way to help me out. One was a coach to help me with the triathlon and the other was a swim specific coach. I signed up for the triathlon 9 weeks before the event and didn’t know how to swim. I’m glad I got both coaches. There are definitely positive and negative aspects of hiring a coach.

At present, I do not have a coach. I am training for the 2011 Tucson Marathon and at the same time training for a full season of cycling during 2012. While I have no delusion of grandeur, I no longer consider myself a newbie endurance athlete. I am entering the world of the self-coached athlete. These are my thoughts, subject to change, about being your own coach.

Your Job as a Coach

The first job of a coach is to sit down with a new athlete and talk about their goals. As a self-coached athlete, this may not require any spoken words, but it is still a very important part of your job as coach. It is important that your create S.M.A.R.T. goals: they need to be (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)ttainable, (R)elevant, and (T)ime-based. As an example, one of my goals is to run the Tucson Marathon on December 11, 2011 in under 3 hours and 40 minutes. The setting of goals is a job of both the athlete and the coach. As a self-coached athlete, you must make certain that your goals are realistic to achieve, yet not so easy as to not provide a challenge.

Once the goal is set, it’s now the coaches job to sit down and make a training plan to accomplish that goal. For my goal, I am using a modified version of one of Hal Higdon’s intermediate marathon plans. But because I’m also training for a full season of bike racing, I need to add that in too, which makes the job harder. A very important thing you need to realize about being your own coach is that it’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes a lot of time to effectively coach yourself. It probably takes a lot of time to coach others too, which is why it costs so much to hire them! So don’t sell yourself short: allocate an hour per day to really looking at the daily, weekly, and monthly schedule and see if it still fits in with your goals.

Setting a truly customized training plan takes a lot of time an effort. There are many books dedicated to the art and science of taking the human body to the edge and achieving peak performance. This article simply cannot distill all that knowledge into a coherent summary. I would suggest looking on the Internet for free training plans for whatever it is you’re trying to achieve or visiting a local library. Joe Friel has training programs for both triathlon and cycling called Training Bibles. They are written for advanced athletes, but are probably useful to all but the most beginning self-coached athletes.

Your Job as an Athlete

The hard part is over, right? Now that the training plan has been made, it’s now your job as an athlete to simply follow the plan. If it was that easy, then there would be one plan available for each sport and there would be no need for coaches at all! The fact is, there is an enormous amount of work you need to do outside of training. There is a need for communication between athlete and coach that as a self-coached athlete is both easier and harder. When you have a coach, it’s easy to become lax and just follow the training plan without knowing what the coach is doing behind the scenes. You just send your daily workout log to the coach, look at the schedule for tomorrow, and complete the job. If you have questions, aren’t feeling well, or whatever, there’s always a chance to call the coach and see what she thinks.

A self-coached athlete still needs to provide feedback to your coach! It’s just in this case, you are the coach. Being your own coach makes you less objective than someone else would be, but it offers the advantage of knowing exactly how you feel. Did you just have a terrible workout in the pool and feel you need to work on your swim stroke more than running or biking? It’s easy for you as an athlete to tell your coach (you) that’s what you want. It’s harder as a coach (you) to make an objective decision based on what you’re feeling.

One of the main jobs as a coach is to push an athlete to their limit but not passed that limit. Overtraining is a condition when the body has endured too much stress without adequate recovery. It is extremely easy for self-coached athletes to overtrain. It is also extremely easy for self-coached athletes to undertrain. As an athlete, you need to provide feedback to yourself so you can make an objective decision about coaching. I would suggest using a program like TrainingPeaks.com. They offer a free place to log workouts, meals, and daily metrics such as body weight. The pay version allows you to pre-plan workouts, meals, and lots of other great things not available in the free version. I forget what exactly you get with the pay version, but it’s well worth the money. I forgot to renew my membership, and was horrified to find that most of the tools I use were no longer available. TrainingPeaks, or similar logging tools, provide a way as an athlete to tell yourself as a coach what exactly you are doing.

TrainingPeaks works best if you have a heart rate enabled GPS device. I use a Garmin Forerunner 405CX. It is very good at what it does, and I highly recommend it, although any GPS would work. For cycling, a power meter would probably be a good product to buy if you have the money. I don’t currently own a power meter, but it’s on the wish list. The GPS, heart rate monitor, and power meter provide quantitative (as opposed to qualitative) metrics on daily workouts. If you don’t have a GPS, heart rate monitor or power meter, it’s important that you log how hard each workout seemed based on a rating of perceived effort. There are several common scales in wide use; I prefer the 1-10 scale. Make sure to log any qualitative comments you may have as well! I’ve left comments like these: “felt slight twinge in left knee” and “very hard workout in pool (8/10), but HR not above 150”. These will allow you to go back, as a coach, and see how you’re progressing and, as an athlete, if you ever need to see when you sustained that injury that keeps recurring.

Concluding Remarks

I certainly cannot tell you whether it is better for you to be a self-coached athlete or not. I’ve only been self-coaching myself for a few months, and I’ve only recently forayed into the arena of endurance sports. However, I can tell you that I am having a great time not only being an athlete, but being a coach as well. They are different sides of the same coin. It is possible to be a great athlete but a horrible coach; it is possible to be a great coach and a horrible athlete. It takes a special blend to be a great athlete and a great coach, and a spectacular blend to be your own great self-coach.

But I do think that in this age, where almost everything can be found for free on the Internet, that self-coaching in the future. Most athletes that are not extreme beginners or extreme professionals will be self-coached. So take the plunge and join the ranks of self-coached athletes. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not a waste of time. It will make you a better athlete to have a coach, even if it’s yourself.

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Thursday lift, bike, run

shipping box

The first installment of my recent Amazon order arrived!

Yesterday’s schedule was a little hectic. Like usual. I’m a bit tired and think I’m getting near the point of overtraining. This is a problem for me because not only am I trying to get in cycling shape for next season, I’m also training for the Tucson Marathon in December. It’s not official yet; I haven’t signed up, but I’ve put it on my training schedule. So in addition to a full cycling training load, I’ve started a full running training load as well. At this point, a coach might step in and say ,”whoa!” you need to cut back a little. Unfortunately, I’m my own coach and one of the problems with being your own coach is that while you know your body the best, you’re not always 100% objective. So while I think I’m coming up on the point of overtraining, someone else might think I’ve already passed that point. The only thing to do is keep vigilant.

Switching to good news, I got a package in a huge box! If you can guess what’s inside I’ll give you a free Wald 215 rear rack. Okay, that’s one of the items that was in the package. The bad news is that it didn’t fit over the tires on my Giant Cypress hybrid bike. I was planning on using that to go grocery shopping, which is the only thing I use my car for at the moment. Then I can, temporarily, be car-free!I’ll need the car still to get to races, so I’ll technically be car-light, but I’m well on my way to getting rid of the car once and for all!

In terms of workouts, the last two days have kicked my butt! Thursday started before the butt crack of dawn, aka 5:00AM. For those of you who haven’t seen a sunrise in a while, I’ll remind you that it’s been so long since I’ve actually seen a sunrise that I don’t remember the last time I haven’t! I also usually go to be around 9PM so there is definitely a trade-off. No wild parties for me in a loooong time. But getting up that early on Thursday was not for training like it is most days. Nope, I needed to get to work and get a few last done before the weekly Tropical Group meeting. And get things done I did! Enough that I don’t think my advisor was annoyed at me this week. Woot!

UA rec center frong

University of Arizona Campus Rec Center. Photo courtesy M.Fitzsimmons at Wikimedia Commons.

But that meant I had to postpone all my training until after work. Ugh. I went straight from the meeting to the gym where I commenced what can only be described as a grueling workout. For an hour and a half I lifted heavy objects for no other purpose than to make me look good. Okay, that’s a side effect hopefully. The real effect should be to make me a better, stronger cyclist and runner. Leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, squats, leg presses, crunches. I think that’s all, I don’t have my list in front of me right now. Plus a 10 minute warm-up and ten minute cool-down. Suffice to say, I was thankful to get out of there with all the top-heavy guys looking like they were going to topple over! Do some leg work for gods sake!

The training plan called for me to go directly from lifting to an hour and a half bike ride. Okey-dokey-pokey. I get to my bike locker, pull out the bike, and what do I find? A flat tire. Darn. 20 minutes later as I inspect the tire pre-ride I notice that the tire is not seated all the way in the grooves. For about 1/2 an inch it’s just sitting on the edge. Oh crap. It would have been fine to limp home on it like that, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Deflate the tire, seat it properly, and since I don’t want to waste another CO2 canister, walk over to FairWheel Bikes and use their floor pump. There’s another 20 minutes gone by. While I’m there, I notice I’m getting hungry already. So I grab a Caffe Latte flavored Hammer Perpetuem As I’m paying for it, I notice the Julie Bars sitting by the register. They’re in a nice location so I make my second impulse buy in as many minutes. The Julie Bars were only $2.50 at FairWheels compared to $2.59 at Fuel. A penny here, a penny there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

hammer caffe latte front

Purchased at FairWheel Bikes for $2.90

I had a little trouble getting the Hammer powder into my water bottle. In fact, even though it’s a single serving, I ended up splitting it up into two bottles because it was easier. As you can see, I had a heck of a time getting the packaging open which almost certainly contributed to the difficulties getting it in the bottles. Once it made it into the bottles and I got the wheel back on the bike, I was off for my 1.5 hour spin. I decided to ride the Santa Cruz River path. No pictures of the route or metrics today. If you want to see them, go to the link. There’s nothing fascinating there, otherwise I would have posted them here! 😉

What did I think of the Hammer Perpetuem? To be perfectly frank, I didn’t like the taste one bit. I’m a coffee guy; I go through more coffee in a day that I should. And this tasted like crap. Literally. I would not want anyone else to have to taste what I did. Maybe that’s because I didn’t follow directions and split the package into two servings. If that’s all it takes to make this product taste like poo then you still shouldn’t buy it. After the first swig I thought I was going to vomit. It was that bad. And I had another hour of riding with nothing to drink but this swill. I made through. Out and back with some zone 1-2 work on flat terrain. Going out was slightly downhill but into a stiff wind. Coming back was a lot nicer since it was with the wind.

julie bar mint chocolate front

Purchased at FairWheel Bikes for $2.50

Getting back to my bike box, I notice that I’ve been riding with my running shorts over my cycling shorts. Whoops. I forgot to take them off before the ride. The transition to running will be a lot shorter now though. I lock my bike up, whip out the Julie Bar and head out for a 6 mile run. After my last write-up, I received a nice reply from the one-and-only Julie of Julie Bar. She reassured me that, yes, they do sell Julie Bars at Highland Market, but they aren’t in the spot I was looking.

Anyway, I didn’t really get a chance to sit down and enjoy this bar. It was presumably used for its intended purpose: to be scarfed down during endurance exercise. With that in mind, I didn’t really enjoy this as much as their German Chocolate flavor. The German Chocolate tasted chocolate-y, this one tasted like watered-down chocolate. Maybe that’s the German heritage in me coming out. 🙂

The Mint Chocolate flavor has 210 calories compared to the 180 in the German Chocolate, so it gives a bigger bang for the buck. And since I actually paid less for it, I got more bang for less buck! Woohoo! It tasted okay and would recommend at least trying it, but for me, I enjoy the flavor of the German Chocolate more. I still have more flavors to test out though, so who knows, maybe I’ll be hooked by the next one.

university of arizona mall

University of Arizona mall during daylight hours.

The run, which started immediately after the ride, without the product review interlude, was fairly uneventful. Since it was already post-sunset, I decided to stay in the light, which meant running around campus. Luckily I had remembered to bring my lights for my bike so I could commute home. The path took me along the University of Arizona mall, running east to Campbell Ave, turning around and running west to Park Ave. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a 1.5 mile loop, so simple math tells me I did the loop 4 times. That seems right.

What amazed me was the number of bikers riding along the mall. What surprised me even more was the number of bikers riding without lights! Come on folks, you’re just asking for trouble. Buckle down and buy a front and rear light for $20. Besides being the law, it’s just common sense. Be safe. Be seen. Don’t become a statistic.

Back to the run. 6 miles. 60 minutes. Obviously 10 minutes per mile. Just getting some miles in before the 5k this Sunday. I’m not sure what my goal is for this race. I signed up just last week because I got a free registration. I’ll probably try for slightly faster than 7 minute/mile pace. I can always slow up if I don’t think I’m going to make it. We’ll see. No running tomorrow, but the plan still has a 4 or 5 hour bike ride. I don’t remember, I’ll have to look. I’m not sure if I’ll do the Shootout or head up Mount Lemmon. First comment (before I head out early tomorrow morning) decides!

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Filed under cycling, daily report, nutrition, product reviews, running, weight lifting

Zone 1 doesn’t mean it’s easy

Last night started off so well. I was in a great mood; my package had arrived. In it, I found a rear rack, two shopping panniers, and a bike repair stand that I had ordered a week ago. It had arrived from Amazon.com about a week early. Sweeeeet! After unpacking the oversized box and cataloging the contents, I got to work getting the rack and panniers on my old Giant Cypress hybrid bike. After only about 2 minutes of work, 1 of which was opening the plastic bags, I found out that I had bought a rack that doesn’t fit my tires. I was super bummed, especially after I had spent so much time researching what to buy. Anyway, I headed over to Bikeforums.net to seek help. I ended up not getting into bed until 10, and not falling asleep until after 11! This would turn out to be a problem, as I was planning on getting up at 5 like most mornings to get my workout in before it becomes too hot. I ended up getting up at 5:30.

The first workout of the day was supposed to be an easy 3 mile run. You can see the path I took here. Usually an easy run for me is a 10 minute per mile pace. This may seem fast or slow to you depending on your typical pace, but for me it seems like a turtle when I have to run that slow. Unfortunately, before I set off I didn’t switch my Garmin to the correct pace and it wanted me to run at an 8 minute / mile pace. Umm, no thanks. While I could have done it, and recently did in my 8-miler race, that wasn’t the plan. So I switch to plan B: run by perceived effort. If you followed the link, you’d have seen that I started at an 8:30 pace and ended at a 9:30 pace. That’s much faster than I wanted and I would regret it later, because today’s training plan, like a lot of them, called for a bike ride as well.

Not only was I pulling double duty today, it was a long ride. Not necessarily a hard ride, in fact, the plan said to make sure to take it easy and not go hard. Sometimes that’s hard. 😉 So immediately after my run, I put on my biking gear and head out in what’s called a brick exercise. As my now-former (thankfully) officemate would say (often), “no rest for the wicked”. As I started riding, I noticed that my legs were not responding as they usually do. Well, that’s normal for bricks I tell myself, so I keep going. I start off on the Rillito River Path, which is really flat. See the map and metrics at this Garmin Connect link and the images below.

riding route for 9/7/2011

A seemingly random path through the city.

I had planned to ride the river path out to Sabino Canyon and then ride up and down the canyon road and then tool around in the foothills a bit, but then I remembered that for some unknown reason bikes aren’t allowed to ride the Sabino road on Wednesdays. And today is a Wednesday. So when I get to the end of the path, I make a decision to test out the Aviation Bikeway. I was going to link to a webpage on the bikeway, but couldn’t find anything from Pima County or the City of Tucson. Someone should get on that. Anyway, in the map above, it’s the portion starting in the south-east corner going west-northwest along highway 210. It connects Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) to the downtown/4th Ave/University area. Along the way, I’d get to ride south on Craycroft and hit lots of red lights.

Getting on the Aviation Bikeway from Craycroft is both easy and hard. It’s easy in that it’s easy to find: just make a hard right at the intersection of Craycroft and Golf Links. The hard part is that you need to be in the right turn lane, and there’s a lot of cars turning right at this intersection because Craycroft dead-ends into DM. So as a biker you get to queue up in the turn lane with cars behind wondering what the heck you’re doing. I get the same thing everyday when I have to turn left, but it’s still weird and a little dangerous. One would think that if you want to encourage bikers to use a bikeway, you’d give them a safe way to get on.

But that’s not where the safety issues with the bike lane end. Oh no. The bikeway runs along the north side of highway 210 and is basically a glorified sidewalk that’s usually separated from the road by barricades of some kind. At several crossings of side streets, it looks and feels just like you’re riding on a sidewalk. You’re not, of course, but it offers the same limitations of riding on sidewalks: most notably, it’s dangerous! When I came to the first of these, I couldn’t believe that the City of Tucson would want to encourage this type of cycling behaviour. Luckily, I only saw one other cycling on the path. Although I heard later in the day that a cyclist was struck trying to cross one of these intersections.

During my excursions on the bikeway, I kept my heart rate in low zone 1. Basically just keeping the bike moving. Even so, I caught up to another cyclist and “drafted” off of him for a bit. I stayed back about 20 feet, so there really was no draft, but I didn’t feel like passing. At Highland Ave he got off the bikeway and presumably went north to the University. I continued on, not knowing where I’d end up. As it turns out, I ended up pretty close to downtown, so I headed in that direction. This slowed my average speed considerably. Especially since I sort of got lost in all the one-ways and no left turns. Zoom in on the map to see what I mean. Eventually, I got spit out the west side of downtown and decided to ride up A Mountain. As I got to the enterance of the park, I noticed that it didn’t open until 8. It was about 7:50. What to do? I saw another cyclist go around the gate, so I followed.

9/7/2011 metrics

Speed (blue), elevation profile (green), and heart rate (red) data for the ride today.

In the graphs above, the A Mountain ascent is the fairly sharp peak in the green curve that starts at about mile 20. You can see my heart rate shoots up pretty good too. For that climb, my HR maxed out at about 160 bpm. Still in zone 2. After a quick descent, avoiding the gate again, I head out south on Grande Ave which later turns into Mission Rd. with the itent of riding west on Ajo and climbing Gates Pass from west heading back toward the city. A very short time later, I decide that would take too long and reverse course to ascend the pass from the east. Plus, it’s easier from the east and my legs were still a little sore, but feeling much better than when I started.

Getting to Gates Pass was uneventful. I’ve done it many times before. HR peaked at 172 bpm as I reached the top of the pass, a little into zone 3, but not for too long. I quickly flip a bitch, and make a beeline for home. Well, not a beeline exactly. I make a detour south on Greasewood where they have markings for 1k and 200m to the finish line of the Tucson Bicycle Classic. This is the peak in the HR at mile 40. I tried to sprint to the finish line from 200 meters, but by this point I just didn’t have it in me. I sat up, feeling dejected with 100 meters to go, watching imaginary opponents pass me by as I crawl to the finish.

And that’s exactly what I did on the rest of the ride. I was out of water and extremely tired. I made it home, but that wasn’t the end of things. I originally was going to take a quick shower and get right back on the bike and head to work. But then I got caught up looking at my Training Peaks data for about 15 minutes. And in that time, I decided I’d take my lunch with me to work, but that meant I had to make and pack my lunch. So I made some veggie hash, basically a baked potato cut into bite-sized chunks with eggs, tomato, and onion. It tastes pretty good, but isn’t that great to look at. I brought along 3 kiwis, a plum, and a raisin-walnut mix to balance out the rest of my food intake for the afternoon. While I was making lunch, I drank a hemp protein shake which added another 5 minutes to my delay. By the time I got to work and settled in my desk, it was 11:30 and time for lunch already! Luckily I brought my lights so I can ride home after sunset tonight. As for food for tonight? I haven’t decided yet. It’s either hash again or making a trip to the grocery store. I’m leaning towards the store.

Tomorrow starts another day…

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Filed under brick, cycling, daily report, nutrition, running, training, tucson