Saturday, April 23, 2011

First time trial on a respectable road bike  

     Never mind what you may have heard about cycling. Truth is it really is at least somewhat about the bike. I had almost convinced myself that with enough determination and drive that I could make my flat bar hybrid do anything a road bike could do. Maybe I will if I ever decide to dedicate myself to that end. Today, however, I took my first ride on a road bike.

     I borrowed a friends Trek SL. He had been looking to sell and I had been putting off buying, but the time was right to see if a road bike is really worth the expense, so I made the effort to test ride it. I was actually kinda excited about it and ended up making a couple of bone head rookie errors. First I didn't do my warm up stretches and then I left the house with out my helmet and riding gloves. I took a chance on not stretching, but a helmet is mandatory, so I go back to the house, get the helmet and I'm off.

     First thing I notice is how easy it is to hold an aggressive position on this bike. Getting low in the saddle and leaning forward on my comfort and hybrid bikes was always a fight and one that I could only win for short durations. Getting low and forward on the Trek SL felt very natural and accommodating. Next thing I noticed was the full extension of my legs when pedaling. The bike isn't fitted for me and I'm not sure what adjustments constitute a good fit if its anything more than just comfort, but the fit felt good enough to just go with it.

     The 8/10th mile warm up to the Blue Ridge Parkway did see the chain pop off the gears during the first moderate hill climb. I wasn't to concerned about it because I wasn't familiar with the bike and I may have geared down too fast and that's just the kind of thing that can happens. I told myself it wouldn't be a problem unless it happened frequently.

     I had decided to do a 10.9 mile time trial on a route I've been doing time trials on since I started cycling in May '09. The route starts at the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass above Rainbow Forest Drive, proceeds 2/10ths of a mile south to the end of the median just past mile post 105, then north 5.45 to the Great Valley Overlook just past mile post 100, then south back to the start. Its really an out and back but I didn't know to call it that when I started cycling so I always called this course The Great Valley Overlook Loop since in strictest technical terms it does qualify as a loop since I'm riding on both sides of the road.

     The first mile felt smooth, but my avg speed didn't seem all that different from what I had doing on my bike recently. Halfway into the 2nd mile the chain pops again as I'm gearing down going up a steep hill. it it a problem? I remembered to stop my Garmin (so as to not mess up my timing), reapply the chain, and I'm off. The rest of the ride up the mountain was a good solid ascent, I adjusted to the prolonged aggressive riding position nicely, I carefully watched the chain on each gear change, I had a feeling I was going faster than usual, but it didn't seem particularly drastic.

     The ride down the mountain was good too. I hit a solid top speed of 37.3 mph with minimal effort, the speed still seemed a bit faster than usual, I timed my gear changes correctly and the aggressive body positioning was still comfortable. I did notice going down hills was rough on my hands in that they kept trying to go numb. I have some ideas to correct for this, but they will have to wait for next ride.

     I crossed the finish line with a respectable time of 42:15. I always record my cycling times using avg mph so I wasn't sure yet how the final numbers would stack up, but the old record for this course was set in Oct '09 with a 13.5 mph avg. I have 3 short time trial courses and the other two got new course records when I upgraded my bike last year and again when I upgraded that bikes equipment. For some reason I never could beat this courses record, although I only tried a few times...until today!

     Usually when I set a new course record its a few 10th of a mph, today it was a full 2 mph. 2 mph is significant for a course with 1200' elevation gain. Now I need to see what I can do with this bike on one of my speedier routes. I had no further chain issues and I think there is a good chance that the chain issues I did have won't repeat as I adjust my technique.

     Stay tuned for more drama as it unfolds, next test ride will be a 20 miler on Tuesday, and you'll read about it here first.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A word about the comfort zone

If your reading this and you don't know me, or haven't been around in the past 15 plus years, then you might not know that it has only been since Jan '09 that I have taken an interest in fitness. I had never been athletic at all...ever, as a matter of fact. I had also been rather thin most of my life too. Sometime around '94 I started gaining weight and I thought it was neat at first cause it was new and different. By '01 I was flirting with 190 and thinking I needed to make some changes, but I wasn't really motivated, and by Dec '08 I had to make a choice, go up to a 40" waist or make some changes.

I opted for the changes.

One thing I learned as I was dropping 10" off my waist, and I want to share this with as many people as I can, is just this. THE COMFORT ZONE IS YOUR ENEMY. I have found that to be true in every aspect of life. If you want to lose weight, be more athletic, get ahead at work, be a better parent, or anything else, then you have got to be willing to change things up.

My personal goals right now happen to be fitness related, and I am in a comfort zone. When I wanted to lose weight I changed things up by giving up most (not all) processed foods and most (not all) meats and getting a fair amount of exercise. When I wanted to be more athletic I signed up for local foot races and followed a training plan. Now I want to branch out a little bit and pull away from that runners comfort zone.

I'm already signed up for my first sprint tri on May 1st, which is a huge step outside the comfort zone for me, and now I'm alerted to an organized group ride on May 22nd that I will probably end up doing too. 2 events over the next 30 days and I have no idea what to expect.

That's a good thing...

Random thought

If I want to try running at a faster speed and I fail, thats ok...I'll get it next time. If I want to try going on a record breaking distance ride on my bike, but I get fatigued and have to stop, then thats ok too. I'll call a cab or hitch a ride with someone to get back home, but if I'm in the pool and I want to try a new technique or swimming style and I fail, then I end up drinking the pool, my lungs fill up with water and I die.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recovery Cycle

     For me, staying fit is like a 3 phase sine wave. Running is at a peak, so its time to back off and get stronger in other areas. Cycling has been in neutral for some time now, equipment upgrades have improved my average speeds lately, but I have plenty of room to improve my cadence. And swimmimg has been on the decline for about a month or so which is about the same time my running game started to peak. My understanding of electricity and religion prevents me from accepting the idea of a 4th phase, so lets just say that strength and flexibility training are like the oscilloscope and graphics.

     Ok, so I just finished the Blue Ridge Half. What's next? May is going to bring in 2 or 3 events that I am staying generally fit for. Notice I used the expression "generally fit", that's because I'm not training for anything until late July when I start training for Richmond. Both of the events that I am signed up for, The Angels Race sprint triathlon and the Trail Nut 1/2 marathon, are being done as barometer races just to see what level I can perform at while following a less demanding schedule of cardio workouts.

     I hope to be able to enjoy the Angels Race and just take it all in. I've never done a triathlon before so my focus is going to be on getting a good feel for the "flow" of the event so that I can "go with the flow" the next time I do one. The Trail Nut 1/2 Marathon I will be doing with every hope of keeping my pace in the upper 7's, but it will be the first year of me doing this race, so I won't be feeling any pressure to beat last years time.

     Not sure what else I may do after that, but I do have some things on the radar. So many worthy events this time of year, but I can't do 'em all.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Welcome to Cardioholics Anonymous

Welcome to Cardioholics.

This blog is intended to encourage discussion of all things cardio, but also to kinda put a frame around my general fitness routine. Basically I believe that when a hobby is damaging then it is no longer a hobby, but an addiction. Consider the difference between a casual drinker and an alcoholic. The casual drinker can have a beer or two and never act like a jackass with no moral compass, where as the alcoholic will drink constantly, endanger others lives by driving, not be able to hold a job, etc. These same principles apply to cardio. If I lose too much muscle mass by neglecting strength training, if I injure myself and can not work, if I neglect family to pursue workouts, if I am exhausted and unable to work efficiently at my job then I have crossed a line from cardio-enthusiast to cardioholic.

Recently, I completed the Blue Ridge Half Marathon. Over the course of the 10 week training program I lost 5 lbs of muscle mass and find that my 10 rep max bench press has dropped from 140 lbs to 120 lbs. This was very irresponsible of me to just "let myself go" like this, so now a recovering cardioholic. Part of my recovery plan is to spend more time lifting weights so that when I start training for the Richmond full Marathon in late July I will be in good shape to avoid overuse injuries and to keep my muscle mass constant over the course of that 16 week training plan.

I hope any casual readers of this blog will find it beneficial and feel free to leave comments...