Fit Recovery

Home » 2012 » February

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Endomondo Results 6/1/11 thru 4/29/12

Total workouts:  256

Duration:  7d:03h:33m

Total Distance 2,395 Miles

Total Calories Burned:  150,362

Calories Converted into Burgers:  276

Weight/BMI June 1, 2011:  172 lbs/23.3

Weight/BMI Feb. 29,2012:  157 lbs/21.3

Cycling-Sport:  1067 Miles

Mtn Biking:  580 Miles

Spinning:  500 Miles

Running:  236 Miles

A Counterintuitive Reality, The Maladies Series Continues

I was sitting on my couch this morning, drinking my first of two cups of coffee, watching my normal newscast before getting ready for the day.  During a commercial break a commercial for an air purifier pops on the screen promising to remove a ridiculous amount of particulates from the air down to three microns – whatever that is, I’m assuming it’s small.

That commercial brought back memories of a job I did several years ago, an office for a prominent local allergist…  I’d heard quite often that one of the leading causes of asthma and other respiratory maladies (especially in kids) is the fact that modern homes are too pure in terms of air quality.  The idea is counterintuitive of course, but a meeting with the owner about what a great job my guys did provided the opportunity to seek a little free advice.  My wife was pregnant with our first so it was of great concern.

His response was surprising even to me, half expecting the standard “well, yes to an extent, but you’re missing some pertinent info” kind of answer.  He said, paraphrasing, that there was a growing body of evidence that showed the idea to be true, and added that his recommendation to parents, to aid in helping their kids to avoid developing childhood asthma is to keep two medium-sized dogs in the house while they are growing up – from birth.  He went on to explain that cats don’t provide the same benefits as dogs and that the benefits from two dogs far outweigh just one.  The theory behind the suggestion is that in today’s purified homes, the body doesn’t have anything to attack so the immune system becomes hyper-vigilant and ends up attacking important functions in the body, which brings about asthma, because at that point when even the smallest little particle is introduced for the immune system to finally do battle with – well, let’s say your immune system goes Rambo on it.  And the collateral damage is the asthma.

I’m going to have to do some heavy research on this because my simple searches are showing mixed results – primarily, that people who already have asthma should avoid having dogs because 30% of asthma sufferers are allergic to them…what I haven’t been able to find, yet, is data backing the theory that too much purity is the problem prior to developing allergies.  Not surprisingly, finding information about purifying air, especially from those who are selling air purifiers is not so hard.  But when you think about it, air purity as a problem only makes sense.  It’s a well-known fact that allergies and asthma are on the increase, while air quality has only improved over that same time period (outdoors and especially indoors).

Ah, there it is…  The studies are on Notes 47, 48 and 49 and show:  “that the effects of exposure to cat and dog allergens worked in the converse fashion; exposure during the first year of life was found to reduce the risk of allergic sensitization and of developing asthma later in life”.  Generally I’m going to stay away from Wiki, but in this case, they’ve got the relevant studies.  Of course, I’m not too surprised that it’s difficult to find a lot of information that shows that having dogs and cats and playing in the dirt and not having a completely sterilized home are good things – you can’t sell that.  This brings meaning to the old phrase, “rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine” to which I am a firm adherent.

In any event, I’ll give you two guesses as to what is recommended to help combat asthma but you’re only going to need one.

Also, just so you know, for both of my daughter’s first years we had two cats and two dogs (up to three dogs for a time).

Live Blogging the Kid’s Swim Class

I’m sitting on a concrete and tile bench at water level watching my girls rock their swimming lesson. My oldest is way more advanced than I was at twelve. She is a natural fish at eight.

My youngest was a bit more of a worry. We’d worked together at the local high school pool and I got her to maybe 20 yards, to me and back but she lacked drive.

She really started taking off when my friend and running buddy/mentor (don’t tell him I wrote that mentor part, Laura) Grateful Jim started taking them swimming while I was out running with the boys. We call him Grateful Jim (or Grateful for short, or Great One in my case) because he truly is the most grateful man any of us know.

Grateful Jim was a special forces medic in his younger days. He’s as tough as they come – in fact, about ten years ago, on my first ever ten mile run on snow and ice covered roads he slipped at the turn around and went down. He dusted himself off and ran all the way back – with two broken ribs.

In any event, Grateful Jim is tough like that about everything, including teaching my kids to swim. One of his favorite sayings to them is “what’s the difference between five feet of water and fifty”. When the girls shrugged he said, “nuthin’, you can’t touch in either one”.

So while I may have gotten them started, he honed their skills. No excuses and no life jackets. Now I know for a fact, my girls were never in any danger, not for a second – he refers to them as his de facto grand kids and treats them as such…but I also know he made them work for their ability to swim and it’s paid off.

While all of the kids in my youngest’s class were screaming, thrashing and wailing at the prospect of learning to float on their back, my five year old daughter was out there floating around with no assistance – the only one in her class.

Meanwhile, my oldest and I have been tending to plans to do some kid Triathlons this summer – and that’s what this is really all about. My girls were brought up in an environment where exercise; running, riding and swimming are not only a way of life, it’s what we do for fun and we do it as a great big, extended Grateful family.

On the other side of that, I had a cousin die of a heart attack two months ago. He was three years younger than I am.

It’s All In The Gear…

I almost forgot with everything going on with my calf last Thursday…  About 2 miles into my run with my buddy Dennis, a woman pulls up on us and rolls down her window and says, “Hey, I just wanted you to know, the reflectors on your butt work really well, er uh, I don’t mean that in a perverted way or anything, but they work really good”.  Now of all the crazy stuff you hear on a run, that’s a first.

Keep in mind, I consider cheating and flirting on about the same level so I simply replied with a thank you and waved…  But it sure is good to know daddy’s still got it.

Reflectors on the butt - you can't beat it.

A Clean Bike Is A Happy Me

When I picked up my first bike at a garage sale last summer I was happy to have a bike finally but was quite bummed by all of the rust on the nuts and bolts – pretty much standard for a bike that’s been sitting outside.  Fortunately, two weeks later I had my 3700 and unlike the first bike, it was maintained well.  Same with the Cannondale, even though that bike was more than 21 years old when I bought it, a little spit an polish and it looked pretty good.  The Trek took a little bit more love than that, but it polished up the best of all three.  You should be able to see from the photos I snapped in my office, I hate a dirty bike

That being said, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to clean a bike.  First of all, if I’m starting off with a relatively clean bike to begin with, a damp soft cloth is more than enough to get it pretty, quickly.  If I’ve got some road grime to get off, I’ll put it up on my homemade bike stand and rinse it down to get it wet (no water jets and absolutely NO power washers, a gentle rain at most taking care to stay away from the hubs, headset and cassette).  From there, a mild dish soap in a bucket of lukewarm water and a soft bristle brush works just fine.  After the rinse, I use the Park Tool Chain Cleaner…  Some people disagree with its use or necessity and they have dozens of ideas as to why it shouldn’t be needed, and that’s all good but I’ve got a day job and I don’t have time to tinker with an old toothbrush, degreaser and my chain for an hour when I can use a chain cleaner and get the same job done in two minutes.  The point is it works, and fast.  From there, another rinse and a nice towel dry and I’m ready to lube the chain.  Now, I’m not even going to jump in on the fracas that comes with choosing chain lube so I’ll simply say I use the best one that my LBS recommends.  With that nebulously cleared up, I’ll usually let the bike sit for a while so the degreaser can dry up before lubing the chain.  I’ll concentrate the lube on the rollers as is the usual instruction, then let the chain sit while I wipe the cassette clean with a soft cloth.  That makes the cassette shine.  From there, I squirt a little chain lube on my forefinger and thumb and hit all of the exposed cables followed by a small squirt on the moving parts of the derailleurs.  Then I wipe all of the metal parts with a dry, clean cloth.

Oh, one cool tip that I learned recently – if you chip the paint and can’t get touch-up paint (it’s surprisingly difficult) or you have a tough color to match, and my Trek is really tough (a deep red with orange metallic flake)…use nail polish.  I also heard about model paint and talked that over with Matt at the bike shop – he sticks with the nail polish because it dries faster and won’t run.  The look on my wife’s face was pretty awesome when I started inquiring about where I could get some funky colored nail polish.

What’s A Centimeter? An Addendum In Millimeters

There was one point that I left out of my post yesterday that exacerbated my not fitting on my beloved Cannondale and that was the style of frame.  My Cannondale frame is of the Criterium Geometry (not to be confused with the more modern “Compact” frame).  In English, that means two things – a shorter wheel base and a higher bottom bracket.  The theory behind the higher bottom bracket is that the additional clearance would allow a racer to pedal through turns where other cyclists would be required to coast and lean (though this is not in the Cannondale marketing material).  In reality, contrasting my Cannondale to the Trek, the bottom bracket does sit higher off the ground, but only by 6 millimeters or roughly 1/4″.

The shorter wheel base did make the marketing material.  Cannondale claimed that the shorter wheel base allows for more aggressive handling and over all, it is about 8 centimeters shorter than my Trek, a racing bike.  Of course, when I bought my Cannondale last September, just six months ago, I didn’t even know what the hell all of that meant. It’s a small, but important part to the equation.

Now this is the important part, and the reason for this addendum:  had I gone to my local bike shop first, instead of trying to research my way into this, I’d have saved myself at least $400 because I never would have bought that bike (that’s a lot of Chamois Butt’r right there).  In addition to the $400, I would have saved my beloved wife, who to this day still thinks I’m full of s#!t about this whole 56/58 cm bike ordeal, a lot of confusion and angst (she thinks I got the Trek because it’s cooler – and I understand why she would come to that conclusion, it IS).  I would have saved several contentious months worrying about whether or not I was built for distance riding because that bike, while much faster and more comfortable (for road riding) than my mountain bike, still hurt a lot after 30 miles (specifically lower back and hands).

On another note, I stopped in to Assenmacher’s yesterday evening with my oldest daughter to look at bikes yesterday…  She’s got her eyes on a Trek 1.2.  Another couple of years and she should be tall enough.  I can’t wait.


What’s A Centimeter? It’s All In The Fit

I had a comment the other day in which a person wrote that he’s had a hard time with cycling because anything longer than an hour’s ride required the application of an ice pack to his butt afterwards.   Whatever his problem, and there is definitely something very wrong there, I thought I’d take a minute to illustrate the need of a good fitting.  Now, it’s important to note, that one can get away with a smaller framed mountain bike – in many cases that is even desirable but that’s a post for another day.

It just so happens that I have two road bikes – one that is exactly the proper size (right down to the crank arm length) and one that is too small, but only by a matter of two centimeters and I can say for a fact, the difference in comfort between the two is astronomical.

It is important to note here, that I switched the stems – the stem that came with the Trek was too long (16 cm) so Matt put that one on the Cannondale and put the stem from the Cannondale (9.5 cm) on the Trek to get me in the proper position so while the bar/seat positions will look close with the two bikes side by side, this certainly wasn’t the case when I was riding the Cannondale – the bar was in another 6.5 cm.  I took the second photo from a higher angle to illustrate the seat heights which are identical.  That angle distorted, through an optical illusion, the stand-over height of the top tube.  The difference between the two is significant, 5.25 cm (C’dale 78.75 cm, Trek 84 cm) or about 2 inches.  Also, the top tube on the Trek is almost 5 cm longer 57.875 cm vs. 53 cm (center to center).  In any event with both bikes side by side you can see that there is a substantial difference.   When the fact that the stems were swapped is added to the equation, the differences are remarkable – and that’s just between a 56 and a 58 cm bike.

So what I ended up with was that I had to fit my body into a space that was too small to accommodate it.  I had to hunch here, rotate my hips awkwardly there etc.  This caused a lot of unnecessary pressure on my shoulders and kept me from breathing properly because my lungs and diaphragm were crammed into a small cockpit.  With the Trek, I’ve got 66 cm from the bar to the sweet spot on my saddle, on the Cannondale I had 58 cm.

So, to sum this up, there was only a 2 cm difference in the frame size but that translated into 8 cm where it counted.  This is why, without a doubt, one should consult a professional first and I can tell you from experience, the online bike measurement tools don’t count the same – the one I used says, by my stats, that I should have a 175 mm crank, but my fit up definitively showed 172.5.  As well, the online measurement tool suggested a 59 cm frame with possibles of 57, 58, 60 and 61…  I imagine when I checked that before I bought that Cannondale I said to myself, jeez, what’s a half-inch for crying out loud…  It’s a lot.

So long story short, don’t do what I did.


As a post script, if I just went by what the online do-hickey suggested, and I didn’t know that all manufacturers size bikes a little differently, I could end up picking the wrong bike.  In a purely hypothetical scenario, say I had my eye on a Scott Foil 20.  I walk in to the local Scott dealer and tell the saleswoman to order up an XL frame (based on my 59 cm measurement from the online thingamajig), because we all know that you want the exact size or one cm down…  First of all, I can’t imagine a shop out there that would let anyone walk in off the street and order a $3,500 bike without pulling out a tape measure, but let’s say that happened or you buy it online…you get your 58 cm Scott a few weeks later, you’re happy as a pig in poo…until your first century when you discover that the bike hurts.  You raise holy hell with the website and take your new steed to your local shop only to find out that Scott bikes run small (I don’t know if they do or not, this is hypothetical) and you should have ordered the 61 cm XXL frame.  The next time you get a chance, check out Craigslist and note how many posts for high end bikes start out with “I found out this bike is too small/big”.  It’s a lot.


Forefoot Running – Be Careful

In my last post in which I attempted to live blog a doctor’s visit – something that I have to imagine any author worth his salt would advise against – I came across some interesting news that should be shared on its own lest one sees the title and runs away.

I injured my calf the other evening, assuming that it was due to an increase in mileage that was greater than advisable – I jumped about 80% in a week while 10% is the standard suggested increase.  The following Saturday I dialed it back to 9.2 but the terrain was horrendously icy so it made for a hard run.  I assumed when I decided on the increase that I was more than up to the task because of the intensive biking workouts I’ve grown accustomed.

The injury occurred on my normal Thursday night 5k – on the last two tenths – when I decided to try the “forefoot strike” that has become all the rage in minimalist running.  On seeing my doctor about the injury today, I learned that the problem was not the increase (I explained everything exactly as it happened and left no detail out).  The problem was in trying to change my stride in the last leg.  I pulled my plantaris muscle, a small muscle that runs down the back of the leg in the middle of the calf and attaches to a long tendon that runs down to the Achilles (how that attaches was explained but is a little foggy at the moment).  When I changed at the end of my run to the forefoot stride, my large calf muscles were all fully functional, engaged and pumped up from the effort.  The strikes on the forefoot isolated the plantaris muscle – a muscle that is not used to being isolated during a normal heel strike stride.  It was that isolation of a very weak muscle that did me in.  This is exactly why changing, if one decides to, should be done slowly and carefully (as I’ve written about, ahem, before…”here, take my advice, I’m not using it”).


Fortunately in my case the pull is very minor.  Some stretches and an alteration of my cycling cadence should snap it back into shape in a matter of days.

Photo from the link above "Plantaris"

Live Blogging The Doctor’s Visit

It’s 4:05 – I’ve been sitting here since 3:45 for my 4:00 appointment… I realize that the first 15 minutes is on me, chalk that up to a proper upbringing – the fact that I’m late if I’m not 15 minutes early. On the other hand, why did I pick a doctor that is consistently an hour behind? The answer is obvious, it’s because he’s good, but sheesh… And the office music – it’s moments like this that I wish I carried my firing range backpack wherever I go. Air Supply to some teeny-bop girlie band to Country. Good God.

It’s 4:12 and this country song has me thinking about gnawing off my offending leg just so I can leave.

It’s 4:16 and I’m hoping that this reads more exciting than the waiting room is. S#!T – Lady Ga-Ga. I must remember the Self Evident Truths – suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Why didn’t she call herself Madonna II?

4:25. Dude, should have brought a haz-mat suit…like that one Dustin Hoffman wore in Outbreak. Still in the waiting room. I have to imagine that manscaping my butt would be more fun than this.

4:35 coming up on an hour. I’m calling this live blogging stuff off. I see sick people. If I make it out of here without a flaming case of the shits I’ll be amazed. Dammit.

4:50. BP is high – top number. Bottom is low… Son of a gun – the plantaris muscle, runs right down the middle of the calf. It was from that last tenth running on the forefoot. The problem was in the fact that the big muscles take over in a standard stride. The forefoot strike isolates that little bastard and because I wasn’t used to it, that last tenth did me in. Lesson learned.

No more days off needed! So that’s awesome news. I have several stretches to do and active recovery on the bike till it stretches back out.

My Diagnosis

I’ll be heading to see my doctor in the next day or so but I’m pretty sure I’m looking at tendonitis in the left Achilles though the pain is higher – more in the mid to upper calf and radiates down…  The pain is all too familiar though – feels fine the more I’m moving, hurts like hell when I start out…

I should have been stretching more – this would have been avoided.

In the end, the problem was most certainly a combination of the repetitiveness of motion inherent in cycling (or spinning in this case) and my jump in running mileage.

In any event, I’m certainly not a doctor so I’m definitely going in for a visit so I can get a solid treatment plan.  This is one reason that I appreciate my family doctor so much – he is fantastic with sports injuries and he concentrates on fixing the problem rather than supplying a bunch of pain meds and suggesting too much rest.  He understands how we fit freaks roll and gets us back as soon as possible.