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Monthly Archives: April 2012

I Run To Feel Good…

My favorite comment, as I’ve written about many times, is “I don’t run because I don’t want to wreck my knees”.

So here’s the question;  Is walking around with three or four bowling balls worth of extra weight not bad for your knees?

As with depression, the only way I know to be as pain free as possible is to get outside and move.

Now, if you want something “green” to move on – carbon fiber isn’t your thing, say you happen to be a tree-hugger, so you don’t like aluminum or steel…  Try this:

Dude, That's a road bike made out of BAMBOO!

Calfee is on the expensive side…  If that’s too much, check out Boo Bicycles.  I just happened to bump into Mike yesterday when I went out for my ride and he was telling me about a fella he saw at the Tuesday night ride that had one – who ever would have thunk it? Very cool – and I’m anything but a treehugger.

A Note To My Best Friend…

You have been preparing for this afternoon for weeks, getting yourself ready for your first push back into running.  You’ve got your Minimus shoes, your wardrobe, and now your legs.

While supportive, I’ve been rather quiet about your desire to run again, for reasons that don’t matter.  To be truthful, I want this so bad for you, so bad I can taste it.  I want for you to be free, to feel that unquenchable awesome that comes with setting all of those sequestered endorphins free and making the road your bitch.  I want for you to feel the exhilerating relief that “you did it”, or better, that you’re doing it.

I want for you to kick my ass.  I want to be able to tell my friends that not only can my wife run, she can smoke me, and she can do it in those damned barefoot shoes.

I want for our girls to see you run.  I want for them to see you sweat.  I want to watch you show them how it’s done.

It’s time.  Get your sexy on.

For my friends in the blogosphere – please take a second to pump my wife up for her triumphant return to running, tonight.

I love you baby.  Go get ’em.

Sunday’s Ride

This is not a fried egg, it's the sun

I’ve got a goal for Sunday’s 100k of 3-1/2 hours – on my own, no drafting (my goals page used to say 4 hours but I decided to challenge myself).  The other day I checked the weather and they were calling for showers and a high of 47…  Couple that with the wind we’ve been getting lately and I was hoping just to finish if the forecast held!  Fortunately Michigan forecasting is a funny thing.  If I look at the 10 day forecast and we’ve got some bad weather 5-7 days out, you can bet that the rain will get here 1-2 days ahead of schedule.  It’s worked that way for the last 30 years or so that I’ve been following the weather.  My dad was in weather in the Air Force in the ’60’s and he passed some of his knowledge on to me in the form of a 5th Grade science project and it stuck…  Though I can’t quite remember all of the cloud types anymore, I still like to stay up on patterns.  Sure enough, it’s going to be a cool day with highs around 53 but that rain changed:

Winds around 12 mph (after 25-40 that’s great news).  The trick now is going to be the starting temperature…  33.  Woof, it’s going to be a cold (foot warmer and jacket) start…  Of course, I’ll take a cold start over rain and a cold start AND finish any day of the week.

My average pace will have to be 3:28 per mile in order to make my goal a reality, certainly within the realm of possibility.  I’ll have to watch myself though so I don’t start out too fast which I’m prone to doing.  I’m planning on maintaining 3:30’s for the first 40 miles, with a 24 mile push at 3:00’s even.  The on-board menu will include 3 Cherry/Lime Gu – Roctane gels, Gatorade to start followed by water and a couple of energy bars.

The final cap to the ride will be my wife and girls at the finish line waiting for me…  This is an incredibly big deal, as having a spouse that tolerates, neigh, supports my riding addiction is awesome.  I’d live if she weren’t there, but I’m incredibly blessed and happy that she will.

Four days to go and I’m amped!

My World Went Bananas Years Ago…

Several years back I went through a bout of cramping when I ran – we’re not talking about side stitches here (though I’ll get to those in a minute) – I mean leg cramps.  I’d experience them when I ran and every once in a blue moon at night.  I talked to a couple of my friends in the running club and they suggested I start eating bananas on a fairly regular basis…  It’s one of those tips that you really don’t know the veracity of, but sounds good enough.  Rather than consult the Google Oracle about the suggestion I just went ahead and started eating a banana a day (or thereabouts, sometimes two) and sure enough the cramping went away.  Two years ago I was watching a Tiger’s game on a particularly hot weekend and a Fox Sports reporter asked Max Scherzer, pregame, how he would handle the heat.  He specifically remarked about eating a few bananas and his drinking more fluids (code for H2O and Gatorade).  That was enough for me.  It is a little known fact, but pro athletes rarely research proper diets on their own, and if they do they bounce everything off of the trainer – that’s the job of the trainer to make sure the athletes “work right” (my wife’s cousin was the trainer for a professional team for quite a few years, so I got the inside scoop on that from him).  Pro trainers make a very decent living keeping their athletes healthy so if Scherzer was out there talking about bananas, the info came from a good source.

There are those who have their doubts about bananas, but they get quite a bit of support too from what I found.  I can tell you from personal experience, the first thing I ask when preparing to do road battle: “Where are the bananas?”.

Side stitches are next on my little nastiness list.  I’ve never gotten one on a bike, so I’m assuming that it’s the jostling motion inherent in running that is the leading cause.  Many suggest that the culprit is breathing too shallowly as you’re trying for your PR on that 5k (in fact, I can still remember my worst side stitch ever – first year of running, 3 months in, going for a PR on a 5k – it sucked – I finished with my left fingers curled underneath my ribcage to lessen the pain, but I got my PR).  In addition, I’ve read that too much rhythm can lead to them as well (if you’re cadence matches your breathing over long distances).  This makes sense, to an extent, but that’s how I always run – and have for years, and I rarely suffer from stitches, maybe one a year.

I have a different theory on side stitches and have developed a way to avoid them that is darn near fool-proof.  It’s not pretty though.  Reading a post on side stitches and the relief thereof, I stumbled upon this:  “Stop running and stretch your arms straight up over your head, and then bend over at your waist. This not only stretches out the affected area, it also helps to expel more air that may be trapped below the diaphragm“.  [Ed. Emphasis is mine].

She’s on the right path – she’s got the right idea, if she put it to ether poorly.  To get to the point, I find that trapped air is what causes my side stitches.  When I’m out burning up the tarmac, if I notice a buildup (and by now I know when it’s happening because I pay attention), I burp.  Letting go of a little flatulence never hurt either – but we’ve heard horror stories about that and one can never be too careful, but it’s more about the burping.  The unfortunate part is that we’re not talking about nice little feminine belches here.  We’re talking about full on, start from your big toe burps.  They’re going to be loud – best to let loose in a non-residential stretch of the run.  This can be used strategically of course, if you’re competing.  Make sure and eat a lot of garlic and onions the night before a race – if you get the chance, pull a little bit of a lead and let ‘er rip.  The distracting odoriferous emanation should give you distinct advantage as your competition will no doubt be temporarily blinded due to the wrinkling of the nose – if done right, you’ll also get a few swats at the dead air, and that’s the perfect time to hit the gas – err, so to speak.

Believe it or not, and all kidding aside, I’ve actually tested this out when it was just a mere hypothesis of mine (it’s now a theory, if on limited testing).  If I felt I had a burp stuck, I’d work it out.  No side stitch.  The next time, I wouldn’t and I’d get a side stitch.  I tried this over two months just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but I’m telling you it worked every time.  The few side stitches I do get, it’s the stealth gas that creeps up on me.

If you’re prone to side stitches, try it, you might like it.

Making Peace With The Wind

Yesterday was southeastern Michigan’s fifth consecutive high wind day (above 20 mph). To be clear, I like riding in high winds in about the same fashion as I enjoy running: I do it, but it regularly brings out an expletive or two. I can tell you for a fact that 35 mph sustained winds can actually pull a string of those expletives out of me.

That changed yesterday. The wind, out of the northwest was intense – sustained at around 20 with gusts up to 40…if not worse. It was so bad, in a cross wind, in the drops I had to tilt the bike about 15 degrees just to keep straight. In fact the gusts were so strong, it was actually easier to ride into the wind.

All of a sudden, something finally clicked with me – so what? I really didn’t mind so much, even spending 2/3’s of the ride in the drops, and I’ve really hated high winds for almost a year now.

Now I haven’t lost my marbles – wind still sucks, but it finally sunk in that it beats the couch – a position that I held as debatable since I began riding last spring. In fact, I was talking to our local bike pro a month about this very subject… I finally understand his position: Meh?

That said, I was exceedingly happy that this was my week off from the group ride – woof!

Lastly, I called the shop on the way home from work yesterday afternoon and spoke with Walter about my little saddle height issue – he suggested spitting the difference by lowering the saddle by a millimeter… That turned out pretty well so far, yesterday’s ride was much more comfortable – though I’m certain I’ll know more after Sunday.

A Question For The Doctors

Here’s an interesting one for the doctors in the house…

Does being fit help battle normal spring time allergies?

I’ve had a hypothesis for about eight years that the more fit I am going into hay fever season – the more miles I’m running heading into the season, the better off I am.

Additionally, the more I run during the two or three week period, the better I feel overall.

Is there anything to that or is it all in my head?

I did a fairly quick google search and came up empty… As we’re heading into the season, I am exceptionally curious.

Heart Disease and Exercise – The Maladies Series Continues With A No Brainer

I’ve been holding back on this post to get some to of the more surprising diseases first, take Type 2 Diabetes or Alzheimer’s as examples.  While it may be surprising to some to learn that exercise can put off or stop the onset of both diseases, everyone knows the benefits of exercise when it comes to heart disease.  This doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting information out there that isn’t so well known…and that’s why I am writing this post.

The Mayo Clinic published a list of five “medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease”.  The obvious number one on that list is don’t smoke.  Number two is exercise daily, before eating a healthy diet.  Number four is maintain a healthy weight, which includes this gem that I’m certain will send shock waves throughout the internet:  “The BMI [Body Mass Index] is a good, but imperfect guide. Muscle weighs more than fat, for instance, and women and men who are very muscular and physically fit can have high BMIs without added health risks”.  That’s just according to the Mayo Clinic.  If you go by what the American Heart Association says, “Surprisingly, an individual’s fitness level was a more important predictor of death than established risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. This study, along with others, underscores the fact that fitness and daily activity levels have a strong influence on the incidence of heart disease and overall mortality”.  According to the following bar graph, the greatest gains in mortality rates are going from a sedentary life style to a moderately active lifestyle (Bar 1 to Bar 2) and this is stated in the linked article as such, but call me crazy but I’m liking the gap from 1 to 4 a lot better, but that’s just me.  If, however you are over 45 years of age and have two of the following risk factors:  “immediate family member with heart disease before age 55, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, or obesity” you should absolutely talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.  I would highly recommend this meeting just on the basis that it would be fun to watch a doctor do a cart-wheel in his office, but that’s just me.

Another surprising stat from the American Heart Association is as follows (I’m going to quote it because I can’t say it any more simply and the quote is a whole is important):

What Are the Risks of Exercise?

During exercise, there is a transient increase in the risk of having a cardiac-related complication (for example, a heart attack or serious heart rhythm disorder). However, this risk is extremely small. For adults without existing heart disease, the risk of a cardiac event or complication ranges between 1 in 400,000–800,000 hours of exercise. For patients with existing heart disease, an event can occur an average of once in 62,000 hours.2,3 Importantly, the risk of a cardiac event is significantly lower among regular exercisers. Evidence suggests that a sedentary person’s risk is nearly 50 times higher than the risk for a person who exercises about 5 times per week. Stated simply, individuals who exercise regularly are much less likely to experience a problem during exercise. Moreover, contrary to popular view, the majority of heart attacks (approximately 90%) occur in the resting state, not during physical activity”. [ED Emphasis on 90% is mine].

What’s Bugging Me – This Is Not What You Might Think

Driving in to the office this morning I realized something that doesn’t sit well with me…  I’m angry lately.  I had written a rant that would surely throw at least a portion of the people that read my little blog into convulsions – so I deleted it because the rant isn’t important.  The answer to my current anger issue is what’s important.

The problem isn’t with kook groups or even their attempted theft of my freedom, it’s me.  First of all, it’s an election year here in the US so all kinds of issues will be brought up to sway the opinion of the population – mostly based on lies, falsehoods and half-truths.  The powers that be will create a fervor pitting neighbor against neighbor, for a vote.

It gets deeper than that though.  When I get angry, it has only to do with me.  To give an example of when I’m in this “space”, on the way in to the office I’ll hear a news story that sets off a cascade of “what’s wrong with all of these kooks”, I’ll go right down the line and before you know it I’m fuming.  The question is, why?  The answer is simple and difficult to grapple with at the same time:  I’m angry because I’m not handling my affairs properly – I’m not keeping my side of the street clean.  For that matter, neither am I keeping my office or bedroom, or the spare bedroom…and on top of that, I haven’t been working wisely enough.  Sure I put in my hours, but I can use my time a lot more wisely.  I get angry because it’s easier to bitch about the world than it is to fix what I’m doing wrong.  If my house is in order, I still think such things are stupid, as they are, but I don’t get angry.  The answer is that I’m being lazy – and not on the obvious stuff, like fitness, I’m in great shape, my miles are way up and I feel awesome – but if the rest of my world is a mess it’s because I’m not spending the other 22 or 23 hours a day wisely, and therein lies the rub…  If I were on my game I wouldn’t be angry about a news story (or my wife, or my customers, or [insert group of people here]).


How Much Of A Difference Does 2 Millimeters Make?

I’ve written a few posts on bike fit, specifically about the importance of how well my road bike fits to me (not the other way around), here, here, and here.  While I haven’t tinkered much with my setup of late, I did raise my saddle the other day by about 2 millimeters because I felt like my butt was riding a little low. I have my seat post marked with a Sharpie so I can always get back to the proper height if one of the shop techs moves it, I couldn’t see the end of my mark so that suggested it indeed was a touch low.  I assumed that it wasn’t tightened properly the last time I had it to the shop.  Figuring that the post slid down a little, I raised it to the proper level so I could just see the end of my mark.  To give you a firm idea of just how insignificant that is, it’s less than a tenth of an inch.  I made this change after my 39 mile ride on Tuesday (after which I felt fantastic) and before my 16 mile ride on Wednesday evening.  Riding on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was fine, but after my longer 30 mile ride yesterday, I noticed that my “hot spot” on my right sit bone is back – if I let this go, the soreness will spread all the way down my hamstring.  So, to sum this up, I went from feeling great to having a hot spot on a sit bone because of 2 millimeters…  That’s how important a proper fit is.  I’ll be lowering it back to its previous position when I get home this evening and should be right as rain by tomorrow morning.

If you’re on a bike and it hurts, if your form is even close to fair, it’s more than likely your setup (unless you just doubled your mileage in the last week or so in which case you should expect to be a little sore).

That said, what led up to my misdiagnosis of a low saddle was actually a good change in progress – I was becoming incredibly comfortable in the saddle.  Live, Ride and Learn.


PS:  By the way, that just got me to thinking…  I did write about slamming my stem a couple of weeks ago (along with changing the angle of my bars/drops/hoods)…  That took a little bit of getting used to, but I’ve been stretching quite a bit to try and limber up to try to fit better on the lowered bars.  It hasn’t been perfect, but I’m getting a lot better, and that really showed some positive results yesterday on that 8  mile trip headed into the wind…  The location of my hoods is absolutely perfect and that’s taken some of the pressure off of my shoulders.  Truth be told, it would probably wouldn’t hurt to raise that stem a couple of millimeters too – I’ll have to toss that one around for a bit.

Endomondo Upgrades

I upgraded my Endomondo app on my iPhone this week – they’ve added interval training to their list of workouts.  They’ve got three intervals pre-programmed and you have the ability to build your own in with three different intensities – Low, Medium and High.  The first two Interval programs appear to be for running, you’ve got the Standard which lasts 21 minutes and starts with a 7 minute warmup followed by 1 minute on and 1 minute off intervals.  The second is a pyramid set that starts out with a 5 minute warm up followed by a 30 second high intensity period, followed by a 1 minute recovery period, a 45 second high intensity period, another minute recovery, a 1 minute high intensity and another minute recovery.  The middle of the pyramid is a 1 minute 30 second high intensity period and then the back side of the pyramid is the same as the front.  The pre-programmed interval is for Tabata Training – 10 seconds off, 20 seconds on x 8.

I’ve already programed an interval workout for my 16 mile ride, but I won’t be testing that until early next week.  I’ve got six days to go until my first 100k so this week I’ll be tapering in intensity until Sunday – I may even take a couple of days off.

In riding news, I went out for a 30 mile ride yesterday that I knew going in would be tough – we had 20 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 35 or 40 and I had a stretch of 8 miles dead into it starting at mile 18 and extending to 26.  I saved myself on the first half figuring that stretch into the wind would be just brutal and I was right – though I managed to maintain a much healthier average speed than I’d anticipated – even while I was going through it.  The wind was far too stiff to hear my Endo chick calling off the miles and time so I assumed that I was somewhere around 12-14 mph.  I was wrong, it was more like 16-17.5, but I didn’t figure that out until I pulled into my driveway.  When I woke up yesterday morning, I’d planned on my 35.5 mile loop, but amended that while I was cutting the grass earlier in the morning, and I’m glad I did – my shoulders are absolutely killing me this morning.  I was tucked so low to beat the wind that I had to crane my neck a little bit more than usual just so I could see where I was going.  Add to that the fact that I had to hang on quite a bit tighter to keep the bike from swerving into traffic with the gusts and I’m one sore puppy.  Overall, I was glad to get out and I had a really fun time – for at least 18 miles.

Week in Review:

Last week was a pretty big week.  I took a day off last Monday because of sustained gusts of 50+ mph, but still managed 131 miles on the week – fairly decent considering a 50 hour work week.  I had my Tuesday evening group ride for 39 miles (including a 6 mile warmup), followed by 16 miles each day through Saturday and my 30 mile ride on Sunday.  Total time:  7 hours: 8 minutes – or a little more than an hour a day.

Endomondo Challenges:

Cycling Challenge:  588 of 16,289 (Top 3%)

Calorie Challenge:  1,191 of 24,223 (Top 4%)

Coming into the last week of this month, I couldn’t be happier with my ranking – when I get into these challenges, I’m hoping for a Top 10% finish – keeping in mind that we’re talking about the top 10% of people who go to the trouble of actually tracking their workouts, a group more intensely focused than your average “I go for a 20 minute spin around the block” person.  With a career and a marriage and a couple of young ones to look after, in my opinion that’s pretty good.

This Week’s Plan:

For this week, I’m ratcheting the intensity of my rides way back so I’ve got some stored aggression for Sunday’s ride.  I’m planning on 16 today, a day off tomorrow (or maybe a short spin on the fat tire bike), 16 on Wednesday, a 4 mile run on Thursday, an easy spin on Friday (13 miles) followed by a short, easy run on Saturday – somewhere between 5k and 5 miles.  That Saturday off the bike is going to be a big deal.  Saturday’s are my fun ride days, so I should be raring to go Sunday morning.