Tag Archives: exercise

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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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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2011 TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler

It’s been a long time since I last raced! And up until a few weeks ago, it had been a few months since I’ve run at all. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling lately getting ready for a 2012 race season as a 30-year-old rookie. I figure by summer 2012 I’ll be racing in the Tour de France. I’ve got that sort of natural talent on the bike. I have genetics to blame I guess. I’ve also recently broken my arm… while riding my bike. I was supposed to be doing spin-ups, where you put it in an easy gear and see how fast you can pedal. I was doing 1 minute on then 1 minute off when all of a sudden a stupid thought jumped in my head. Myself, I thought, let’s through in a 1 minute sprint just for fun. So I did. I was on the Rillito River Path in the early morning and there was nobody else out there, so I wasn’t endangering anyone else. But as I go around a corner I should have been able to make, I lost traction and bit it. I got a little road rash, but when I fell I came down weird and broke my humerus up near the shoulder. It was in a place where they don’t put a cast on it, and not serious enough for surgery. So the doctor gives me some pain pills and tells me to HTFU.

But back to running news. I’m scheduled to run the Omaha half marathon on September 25. Remember that I really haven’t run since July. So I started up as soon as I felt comfortable after the broken arm. That turned out to be about a week and a half ago. The TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler is my first race since July 3 when I did the Firecracker Triathlon. Those that were keeping score at home, will remember I finished 300 out of 303 in the swim. After that, I had one more swim lesson that I had already paid for, and I haven’t been back in the pool since. With the arm, I’m not sure when I’ll get back in. But If I want to do triathlons again, I really need to work on the swim part.

there I fixed it: wrist band

Broken wrist band on the Garmin

Even with the race on today (Monday), that didn’t mean I got to take yesterday off. Nope. I rode in the foothills and then did four repeats up Sabino Canyon road. (Garmin Connect) When I got home, I tried taking off my GPS watch but failed miserably and broke it. As it turns out, the Internets tried to warn me that the wristband on this watch tends to fail after about 6 months, but I wasn’t listening to the Internets when I bought it. 😦 So with nothing better (read: duct tape), I made do with some safety pins. Yup, fixed it right up. It actually worked quite well. I’m proud of myself for thinking of that at 5 in the morning before I’d had any coffee.

So with a broken watch, I headed out the door and drove 17 miles to Saguaro National Park East where the race took place. It’s funny driving 17 miles to run 8. Not haha funny, but some other kind of funny. As it turns out, I had to park about a mile from the start line. So I got my warm up in running from the car to the start. Not that I needed to, but the race didn’t start on time because the ambulance was late. It was impossible to know that at the time though. So I, and the rest of the over 1000 racers, had a few minutes to twiddle our thumbs.

post race portrait

Post race self-portrait

Then we were off. It was a cloudy day in Tucson; a very rare event. I took advantage of it by wearing my dark sunglasses. Oh well, I could see just fine. As usual at these large events, the start was a mess with slow pokes lined up near the front that you have to weave your way around throughout the race. I had my nice GPS on, which tells me exactly how I’m doing in respect to a planned pace. Actually, once we got about 1/2 mile down the road, the pace steadied into about a 8 minute / mile, exactly what I was hoping to finish in. I was drafting off of a couple ahead of me that seemed strong. They were chatting away and the guy had a GPS on too and he was constantly looking at it. I got to wondering if he was way ahead of his time or way behind. Almost on cue he says, “we’re going way too fast”. Doh. So much for pacing off them. I pass them, and then start passing everyone else that started too fast. After that point, I was only passed once, about a quarter mile from the finish. There’s a mental boost for each person you pass, and a corresponding let down when you get passed, so I try to do the passing. I don’t get why people go out so fast if they can’t maintain that pace. Whatever floats your boat I guess.

flyers

Flyers for something...

There wasn’t really anything exciting during the race. Garminsays I gained 502 feet of elevation during the short run. There was one big-ass hill. My heart rate averaged 159 bpm and I maxed at 175 bpm. I could have gone harder, but I didn’t know that since I’ve been out of running so long. At about the 7.5 mile mark I passed a woman who was severely dehydrated and needed help walking. I hope she made it back to the ambulance okay. Other people stopped to ask if she was alright. Being a jackass, I was just glad I moved up another place. The results aren’t online yet, but unofficially I think I finished in about 1:04:00. That depends on how they time it. My watch says I finished a few seconds under my 8 minute per mile pace. So, yeah.

race schwag

Race schwag

The end of the race is always the best part. Okay, so it isn’t always the best. The best part is when you get your schwag! There was no schwag at packet pickup and I was disappointed. Only a bib and a sleaveless shirt. I wore the shirt the same day when I did a 13.1 mile run that started at 5:30 at night. That was not smart. But back to the schwag! After the race, I picked up some free orange slices, a Muscle Milk, an Activate Workout, and a Julie Bar.

Since I was smart this time (who’d have thought), I properly brought these three items home for a proper review. The oranges were oranges. I didn’t think I needed to review them. Plus I needed some quick energy for the drive home.

First up, I tried the Activate Workout drink. The flavor that the woman handing them out recommended was their raspberry citrus. I don’t see that on their website, so I’m not sure how to order it if you’d want to try it. The nutrition label says there are 5 calories in the entire bottle, so it’s mostly water with artificial flavors added. They also add a few vitamins and minerals. They have 8% of the recommended daily values (DV) of vitamin A and C, 100% DV of vitamins B6, B12, niacin and pantothenic acid, and 480% of vitamin C. Their gimmick is that they “store” the vitamins in the cap and not actually in the water and you have to release and “activate” them before drinking. It’s a fun idea, but I’m sure there’s no scientific evidence that water dilutes vitamins or minerals. Or that they need to be activated. The flavor was okay. I actually prefered my plain old water in my reusable water bottle. Considering that this sells for $9.20 for a pack of 4, I would not recommend buying it.

Next up was Muscle Milk, their light (presumable low-fat variety?) chocolate version. I’ve had Muscle Milk before. The first time was about 10 minutes after I finished my first marathon. It literally made me want to puke. I don’t remember what flavor I had. The second time was about 10 minutes after my last race, a 5k. It didn’t make me want to puke, thank goodness, but I don’t remember it being exactly good either. This will be the third try, and they may get their third strike, we’ll see. Once again, it comes in an individual plastic container. Thank goodness it’s recyclable, as is the Activate bottle. Looking at the ingredient list, I see a whole bunch of crap like Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Acesulfame Potassium, and Sucralose. Sounds nummy. As with the Activate, it’s mostly water with adatives like “nutrients found in natural milk”. That’s right, this isn’t actually milk. Just milk-flavored water. It does have quite a few vitamins and minerals in it though. If that’s your thing. If you eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and a little lean meat you’ll get all the vitamins you need. But at $2 each, it’s strike three for Muscle Milk. It tastes okay, but is definately not worth the price.

Last up is the Julie Bar. This is actually a locally owned business here in Tucson, so I’m hoping it tastes good and I can support them! That said, the sample I got was of the PB&J variety. The nutrition label says it’s made out of organic dates, organic raisins, and organic peanuts. 3 ingredients, now that’s my kind of sports food. The little sample only has 57 calories; a full sized bar of the same flavor would have 170 according to their website. My first impression is that it is definately not as sweet as the Muscle Milk. It doesn’t exactly taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn’t taste bad. I thought that the peanuts would be more of a butter than they were. They were basically small chucks sitting in the raisin and date goo. I think if they had been put through a food processor it would have a better consistency. But that’s just my two cents. This is definately something I’d carry on a long bike ride or run. Or even have by the side of the pool on those long swim workouts (of which I’ve had none). The flavor is subtle, which is needed during intense physical exertion, so that’s a plus. It provides a calorie punch in a small package. Packaging is a negative again. I’m not sure how to get away from it, but each bar is individually wrapped in plastic. At $25 for 12 bars (online), it’s a little expensive, but for a small start-up company marketing locally, that’s to be expected. Add to that price at least $5.75 for shipping too. I’m not sure how much they cost in local businesses. All-in-all, I would recommend this product. I look forward to taste testing other flavors.

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Mid week running

Last Saturday was a long run. I don’t have the data uploaded from my Garmin yet, but it said it was 23.55 miles in a little over 3 hours 30 minutes. I got up early (pre-dawn) and headed out to the Rillito River path. Being southern Arizona, there is no water in the river. It’s just a dried riverbed. Oh well. There’s a nice path along both sides for quite a ways. I ended up running from one end of the path to the other and back. So using my super-duper division skillz, I conclude that the path is roughtly 11.775 miles long. Not much of note during the run. There were very few cyclists, probably because of the Old Pueblo Grand Prix being held at the same time. I had my trusty Garmin set a pace for a 4 hour marathon and I stuck to it. I think I could have ran the last few miles to make 26.2, but since the plan was for 24 I decided not to.

Sunday was a day off. I actually felt pretty good. Monday was a lifting day with no running. By the end of the day, my legs were itching to get moving again, but I had to wait until Tuesday morning. Ah, when Tuesday came it was still dark. But I was getting up anyway to hit the road before work. As the Sun came above the horizon, I was out the door on the beginnings of a 4 mile run. I was trying a new strategy: try to keep the heart rate between 151 and 156 beats per minute. This was a lot harder that it would seem, and much harder than keeping an average pace. I think that was because I was running in the foothills and not on a flat path. Still, the run felt good.

This morning was a different story. When I woke up my body was so stiff. I was supposed to lift and run before work today, but ended up doing neither. I guess tonight will see me on the treadmill again. I hate the treadmill. I’ll also probably bump lifting until tomorrow morning. I don’t really like lifting at night for some reason. 8 miles tonight, easy pace. But the news is where I decided to run on Sunday.

That’s right, long run on Sunday this week. I need the extra day of rest because I’m running up Mount Lemmon. Actually, I’m only running up part of it, from Windy point to Summerhaven. 21.51 miles with 2060 ft of elevation gain. Which seems like a lot until I looked at the Whiskey Row Marathon elevation map. Race starts at 5280 ft, climbes to 7000 ft, decends to 5600 ft, climbs back to 7000 ft and then back to 5280 ft for a total elevation gain of 3120 ft. This is my only planned run on the mountain before I start tapering for the race. I hope I’ve done enough hills. I guess we’ll see mid-May!

Until next time.

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Treadmill running

10 miles, 80 minutes, no music

I have to say, running on the treadmill is convenient. But boy is it boring. When I got there, someone was on the treadmill watching the CW. I forgot my music at home so was planning on watching something, but not that. Blah. Anyway, there were only about 10 minutes left of whatever was on, so I could stick it out and then see what came on next. To my dismay, the next show was a weight loss show where the winner got a free wedding (or something like that). Ugh. It was possibly more painful that running on a treadmill without anything to distract you. I kept my eyes glued to the clock on the treadmill, and it wasn’t going fast enough. I almost quit after 5 miles, but didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t, the last half felt the best. I got in a zone and the miles flew by.

In addition to being so boring, it was hot. The temperature in the gym was probably 70 F. That may not sound hot to anyone who eventually comes across this post, but it is when trying to run. I was tempted to turn the air conditioning lower, but then I thought that a little heat training would be good for me. I stuck it out and ran the planned distance in the planned time. I also ran out of water just as I was finishing. I hardly ever run out of water, but I guess it was because it was so hot that I was drinking more.

Tonight calls for an easy 5 mile run with a long 22 miler on Sunday. This will be my longest run in awhile and I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be nice to get back on the Rillito River path again. That’s it for now. Toodles.

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Havasu Half race recap

At the starting line of the Havasu Half MarathonIt’s now Wednesday, and I haven’t blogged yet about running my first half marathon. Due to weather conditions, I, along with my sister and her fiance, arrived in Havasu at around noon Friday. They wouldn’t let us check into the hotel yet, so we had to find something to do. This turned out harder than expected; there’s not a lot to do in Havasu besides spring break. We ended up bowling. And I kicked ass. Okay, not really. But I did beat my sister, and that’s all that counts, right?

After 2 games, we decided that was enough and headed to the hotel where the race expo was being held. Unfortunately, it didn’t start until 3 PM, and it was only about 2:30. Doh. We went back to our hotel to see if they would let us check-in a half hour early. They did… but they told us they were upgrading the keycard system, or something, so we needed someone to let us in the room. Whatever. We hung out there for a little while and then headed over to the expo.

The expo really wasn’t much. Race check-in, get your bib, “free” tech t-shirt and goodie bad – which didn’t have much in it. Read: it didn’t have anything in it. Oh well. But the good thing was when my sister saw the excitement in the room, her eyes lit up and I could tell she wanted to run, even though she hadn’t been planning on it. All it took was one time asking (and me paying her registration) and she was in the 5k. Back to the hotel, get someone to let us in again, and relax until dinner. They never did fix the door.

Pre-race dinner was at Mudshark Brewery, who also sponsored the race. Thanks! Dinner was delicious. We started with a full order of onion rings. They were huge! And the batter that covered them was delicious. I ended up having the Salmon Tortellini. It came out on a huge plate, but I ate the whole thing. Yummy. Wish I would have taken a picture. Everyone enjoyed their meals, and then we headed back to the hotel room for a good nights sleep before the big day.

We got up at 6 for for the 7:30 start. Parking at the event was easy and just a short walk to the start/finish. After finding the start, I ended up doing a warm-up to the car and back to the start. On the way back, I ran into lil sis, so we waited together until the start and got some pictures.

Me and sis at the startlineRace start time! I was shooting for a time of 1:50, so I lined up right behind the 1:50 pacer. I thought that was logical. Turns out I was wrong, but more on that later. A toot on the air horn and we’re off! And I’m getting passed like I’m standing still! WHA!!! I look at my Garmin to check my pace. Yep, right on track. Where’d that pacer go? She’s now way out ahead of me. Darnnit. What to do? I go to the side of the road and let everone pass that wants to and watch as the pacer get further and further distant. By half a mile in I couldn’t even see her. Keep your pace. First aid station. Which side to choose? Left of course, there’s less people. Slow to a walk, get the water Gatoraid and get back to running. Keep getting passed.

Around 1.5 miles everyone starts stringing out and I’m getting passed less. Yippie. At the second aid station I start passing people. Yeah, y’all started out way too fast. I’m on pace. Nothing of note happened until about mile 5 when I caught up to the 1:50 pacer. I slowed my pace a little and stuck with her for about half a mile, then passed. At the time she was ahead of the 1:50 pace by about a minute and a half. By this time I was feeling really good and was going to try for 1:40, so I turned up the pace and started passing people left and right. From mile 6 to mile 10 I was running about 7:30 miles, which is pretty good for me.

At mile 10 I was feeling great and I started running even faster. I saw one of the miles on my Garmin was sub-7 minutes. Woohoo! I skipped the last aid station and poured on the gas. Crossed London Bridge for the second time, and we done with all the hills. It was literally downhill from there. I ended up crossing the line in 1:42:06. So close to catching the 1:40 group.

crossing the finish line of my first half!After the race I felt really good, but not tired. I think I could have beat 1:40 if I had started a little faster. Oh well, cest la vie. It was my first race afterall. Lil sis ended up finishing her 5k in 32 minutes, which I think was great considering that her previous longest run had been only 2.6 miles. Way to go Sis! Cookies, Gatoraid, and some bagels after the race hit the spot. We didn’t stay for the post-race ceremony, as we had 4 hours of driving back to Phoenix, and I had an additional 2 hours to Tucson. Ended up having dinner in Phoenix and getting back home at around 7. Had some food and went straight to bed

All in all, a great weekend! I can’t wait to do it again. Next race, Whiskey Row Marathon on May 14th. Watch out you drunkards, here I come!

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Welcome to Run Nathan Run

I’ve started another blog. Hopefully I’ll keep updating this one, unlike the previous ones. The theme will be running. Most of the posts will simply be chronicling my running training, races, and other adventures. There may be other posts about related exercise, fitness, or nutrition related topics in the future. That’s it for now since nobody will see this as it’s the first post!

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