October 30, 2007

Sprint and 30K time trial #3

This weekend we elected to stay home again and after a long year of running about it is so needed... Weekends at home mean the long course swimming at the aquatic center so we headed out in the sun and crisp water for a good looong swim. On Saturday we did a short run around the block and I could not believe how easy it was to keep my running at a steady 90RPM cadence! Where can I sign up for more of these studies ;-)

Round 4 - Sprint & 30K TT (one more time)

The last round for the testing and I am ready for a bit of numbness, jolt to my system from the sprint and to enjoy my last smooth workout on the computrainer (for now). I get ready for the sprint and crank up the RPM's before take-off. Puuuussshhhh... Not bad.

30K Time trial to go. I can see why the test needs to be completed within a two week period now. I feel like I could gain some major fitness if this was done over a few months. As Joe Friel who knows a thing or two about fitness always states "Consistent training is the easiest way to long-term improvement". Riding at the right "pace" and having the ability with the technology out today to ride at a granular level of effort (not too much, not too little) goes a long way to consistency. Less injury. Better use of training time. And more toys ;-)

However, that has been the biggest lesson that I have learned from this study. While I am the first to buy something that will usually shave a few seconds here and there off of my time there are huge gains that can be make in my fitness. I will see if the Q rings help me but what I do know for sure (and continue to learn) is that through consistency and an actual training plan I know for sure I would improve my racing abilities. As it has been said before "Speed training is icing on the cake... and you dont got no cake yet".

This is all perfect timing as this season wraps up. Next year Monique and I have some big plans for some longer races where our consistency and a training plan are going to prove key to success. Even when that success means just finishing.

My last TT and after spinning at 90RPM for the easy 25MPH I finish with a bang. . . or bust. I start to spin out just 2min shy of the end and I get a flat in my rear tire. ON A TRAINER! I don't know how I manage but it was a good thing we were done anyways.

October 26, 2007

Sprint and 30K time trial #2

Friday morning and I am back in the saddle again for round two of the Q Ring research project. Had a bit more rest this week from training due to a business trip up to Monterey. Such a fun place and I got to sneak in a run along the boardwalk to the beat of barking seals in the morning mist. I wish I had my camera with me.

This time I was ready to fall into routine and jump on the scale (155lbs) and hop on the warm up bike trainer. Jeff also took some body comp measurements while I chatted about the project with him and his student assistant who was there to help out. They will be presenting the findings of the project later in the year at a convention in Florida. Can I go?

Round 3 - Sprint & 30K TT (again)

Time to pedal. A little warm-up, rev-up, power-up and sssSSSPPPRRRIIiiinnnntttt.... done. That part is not so bad during the sprint but when I stop the wave catches up with my heart and then BAM! My heart and breathing needs a few to catch up.

On to the time trial and it was the standard numbness, 25mph and 90 cadence. Nothing exciting here except for the occasional drool from the mouth piece and about 45min later I was complete. Did I notice the chainring? No, I don't know what was on there ;-) It feels the same and I must admit that I am just feeling better at keeping a steady 90RPM cadence. I continue to ride at an even 200 watts so I guess that I will have to wait for the reports to see if my breathing (O2 levels) or heart rate show signs of efficiency or lack there of with the different rings.

I have been doing some research of my own on the Rotor Q rings and although they have some studies out now I found the user review on various sites are their best marketing. Some people are stating that "I will never ride a normal chainring again". hmmmm.... Here is the skinny from Rotor on the rings

"Q-Rings reduce dead-spot negative effects due to its effective variable gear oval concept. The effective gear is lower at the dead-spot zone, so it is easier, faster and more comfortable (smoother) to pass through it. Once the pedal is over the dead-spot and enters the down stroke, the Q-Rings progressively increase the effective tooth size as more muscle strength is available."

Sounds logical but we will see if it is for me.

October 22, 2007

Sprint and 30K time trial #1

After a long weekend in the hills I was trying to get rested up and ready for the first of three tests using a variation of "unknown" crank sets. I did nothing on Sunday except a light swim to try to stay loose and keep my legs fresh for this mornings ride. Although a little sore from our hike/run on Saturday I do not feel that it was significant enough to effect my performance this morning.

Round 2 - Sprint & 30K TT

After a short warm up I was back on the computrainer and ready for the first test. Jeff explained to me how this short sprint would work. I would ride at a steady ~90 RPM cadence with a relatively light load (measure of watts) and prior to my all out sprint the load would be increased (up the watts!). This was my signal to give it my all for about 10 seconds. This would be a measure for how raw power for acceleration works with the different cranksets. Well, 10 seconds is much better than a 15 minute VO2 max test ;-)

I cannot remember what the load was but I remember the push . . . before I knew what RPM's I was cranking up to and fighting the urge to stand up it was over. Ahh... That wasn't bad. I am warmed up now for sure and ready for the steady 30K.

Now that we had the my VO2 max results and a accurate reading for my lactate threshold I would ride the time trial at about 10% under my LT for this test. I would still keep an average cadence of 90 RPM and I was riding with a load of 200 watts. Off I was going nowhere fast...

Nothing much exciting during the test except for the occasional numbness in the grandchildren region and my battery going dead on my Ipod. I felt better when I could keep my cadence just over 90 RPM (higher the better) because I felt like I could get ahead of the pedals. Maybe that is just a preference for me but for the test I tried to keep as close as possible to 90. I also started to feel better and better as the test went on but maybe I just needed a longer warm up?

About 45 minutes later I was done. Jeff told me I was averaging 25 MPH for the 18.6 miles. I will have to get the rest of the data about my HR, VO2, etc when we are all done but for now it is recovery until Friday when I go in for the next session.

October 21, 2007

another Day with the Davids

I am happy to call this weekend "normal". .. even if it included a long drive we still had plenty of time with friends, family and food. And of course it wouldn’t be complete without time on the trail. We have less than two weeks until our marathon at Stinson and I am now glad that we switched to the half.... After my one run that I got in last week and not running at all this week it will be a challenge to just do 13 miles over the trails in the Muir Woods. Consistency is a hard balancing act.

After my VO2 Max testing on Friday I was beat so Monique took out Nacho for a run Saturday morning while I had a nice 11 hour sleep. Ahhh... I needed that. When she was done running we were off to her hair appointment in Ontario and ended up spending the day...and into the night on Mt. Baldy again.

This time we headed up a new trail with David Fowler to San Antonio peak at some ten thousand plus feet. Steep and rugged as Baldy usually is we felt at home on the trail an in conversation with Dave. What a cool guy. At just 26 years young he has live a full life already and his character is proof that he has had an amazing attitude through it all. He has lived in Colorado, Santa Cruz, Berkeley just to name a few. He has trekked through Alaska for over 80 days straight and knocked out some Ironman races too. He is now finishing grad school and making plans for a wedding. I am sure his life is just going to get even faster. . . just like him.

Steep and steady we climbed with little wind to reach the top of San Antonio. There was reported winds over 70MPH at the top but we were on the good side of the mountain on the climb up and it was still nice and warm. In just a little over an hour we were at the top and felt like we were miles from our world below. Beautiful views and food were on the order. Thanks to Dave for all those good chocolate bars! Monique was still in her "cool down" from her morning run and was not looking for a break yet. Good. Its all downhill from here.

Down to the decent and we chose a new path instead of making it an out and back day. We headed east and onto the Devils Backbone trail. Let the fun begin. Our scramble began down some loose switchbacks and across the ridges and wind like the open sea. We were on our way to the ski shuttle with a plan to take the dirt road down because the sun would be setting on us for sure.

I think we had about 3 miles left when the sun set on us. Amazing night… warm wind, shadows from the moon and running in the dark. This was a new experience. I would not suggest running at a good pace down a dirt road in the dark when you cannot see your feet or where they are landing…but if you ever find yourself in the moment. ..Don’t hold back.

After our little four hours on the trail we were more than ready to dig into some of Monique's moms food and dive into the couch. David Sinatra met up with us and Dez was there hanging out too. I think that the last time the two Daves were together was the Temecula races Sinatra is a big boy now. Hopefully, he does not have any wedding plans either but I will be happy when that day comes. Dave is just about the only person I have seen grow up in front of my eyes. Im so glad he doesn’t have that bowl hair cut anymore ;-O Next week is his 21st birthday!!!!


Monique found the EXACT trails and route we took and someone posted some nice little map and pics of it.
Here are some of our pictures too

VO2 Max testing for baseline

Round one. VO2 Max Testing

I have all of my appointments for the research scheduled now and have tried to keep them all at the same time of day for consistency. Seven AM on Mondays and Fridays. This Friday, I was tested for my VO2 max and was introduced to the computrainer and breathing tube and mask. Hopefully, the hardest effort is over now and my baseline is set for the remaining sessions.

What is VO2 max testing? Well... In short it is the a measure of a persons aerobic capacity. A test to measure the maximum capacity to utilize and transport oxygen throughout the body during an increasing load of exercise. Just like we all have a limit to our maximum heart rate and limits in the ability to deal with the lactate production from overworking muscles there is a limit to how much oxygen we can use at a given time. It is much more accurate in determining given levels of training zones and in some way our ability or limits on physical performance. Like our LT (lactate threshold) and heart rate zones, the amount of oxygen you can efficiently use can be increased to a degree but we are limited to an extent by the parents we choose.

Jeff was very gracious in explaining all of this to me and how we would work through the test. I was hooked up to a system that would monitor my effort in a number of ways. The computrainer would measure and deliver an increasing load while the mask I wore would collect my breath (C02). I was also wearing a heart rate monitor to correlate with the increase in load (measured in watts) and I would pedal at a steady 90 RPM cadence for the entire test.

Now for the test. After a short warm up I started out twith my 90 RPM cadence and started pushing an easy 100 watts. At every 60 seconds the load would be increased another 25 watts and I would have to keep my 90 RPM. Jeff reminded me again and again. ninety! I know, I know... Did he think that this would be hard?

After a few minutes went by and I started getting use to breathing out of a tube. The pace was... well 90 RPM but felt easy even with a few extra watts. Then it hit me. I am not ridding until we reach a time limit or a set of watts. I am going to ride until failure. Complete muscle failure where I could no longer hold 90 RPM or move my legs as it would turn out. Crap. This is going to hurt. I tried to settle in and get ready for the fun. 200 watts, 225, 250. . . 300... not bad but I knew I was exceeding my LT. 325 was tough. I noticed the front of my bike starting to bounce and was really resisting the urge to stand. Jeff must have seen it coming and started counting down the last 20 seconds for the final stage. I made it and with 350 watts and about 15 minutes later I could not longer hold anything together. I was so happy to get that tube off . . . even if it did look all Lance Armstrong.

Was that good? I asked Jeff and we went over some numbers. Lets just say I am no Lance... At the peak my heart rate got up to 178bpm and somewhere just before there my VO2 was around 65. I am not sure if that is good or not but I am looking forward to future test where I can compare myself against myself. Much better than going against Lance. I should get a full report when we are done but now that the test is complete I will have a baseline for the rest of the visits so we can see if these different cranks really work.

October 18, 2007

Science Project ?

This is just what I needed. I get to be part of a science project! Yesterday I got invited to be part of Dr. Jeff Moffit's science project for a study he is doing on cycling power and performance. After all of this subjective testing I have been doing switching back and forth from my Epic 26" and the Alma 29er it will be nice to have some formal research done where I will not know whats going on and I can just look at the numbers. I always wanted to get my V02 Max tested too and Jeff will be doing that as part of the "experiment" but it just worries me with it being so close to Halloween . . . What am I really getting myself into?

I am in good hands however and honored that Jeff has asked me to participate. Jeff is a chair and professor for the Physical Education and Kinesiology department at Cal State and more importantly is an accomplished triathlete who has done numerous Ironmans (even a few visits to Hawaii). I am sure that I will learn a lot from this study and will be blogging it out here so I can have it to look back on. I can get my V02 Max tested again later in the year to see where I am going with all this cycle power and performance.

Here is part of the email from Jeff that outlines the project...

"I am conducting a research project on the effect of Q-Rings (a new elliptical, big chain ring made by the Rotor Crank company) on cycling power and performance compared to the normal 53 tooth round chain ring. I am looking for subjects for this project. I am recruiting you because you fit the profile I am studying: males, under 40 yrs old (as far as I know), 2 or more years of training or racing bicycles, and currently using a 53 tooth chainring (won't work for those riding compacts - sorry) and using 175mm crank arms."

Part of the trick is getting all of this in by the end of October (halloween...hmm). I have four visits that I am trying to plan out now that will cover the testing for the different cranks. Here is part of what I have to look forward to.

"Here's what I would need from you - 4 visits to my laboratory on the CSUB campus over about a 2 week period (1 1/2 hours maximum for set up and test) for testing consisting of:

visit 1= VO2 max test riding your bike as is on a computrainer and body comp measurement using skin fold calipers.

visit 2= a warm up, a 30 second all out effort for max power measurement, and a 30k time trial on your bike on the comutrainer at a power level that puts you just below anaerobic threshold (determined from visit 1) using either your round chain ring or 1 of 2 different Q-Ring chain rings (you will not be told which). This will require me to perform mechanic duties of temporarly switching out chain rings on your bike. I am no Sam Ames-like mechanic but I can do this proficiently.

visit 3= same as visit 2 but with 2nd - different chain ring,

visit 4= same as 2& 3 but with 3rd chain ring

Here's what you would get from me - a VO2 max test and associated data reports providing you with power and HR info at anaerobic threshold as well as at VO2 max which you can use to adjust and refine your training regimen AND body a composition evaluation. As well you get 3 controlled 30k time trial efforts sure to improve your cycling. You'll get to breathe in a tube and get to look all Lance Armstrong while doing it. Photos for your scrap book are available at no cost! A second max test and body comp test will be available to you at no charge over the course of 1 year."

Sounds great huh!! I just want that Lance look on film ; - P

Maybe that will be my Halloween gig this year?

October 08, 2007

Ride Time . . .

Due to my extended run out at Stinson and getting home after midnight on Friday we decided that we would pass on the Xterra Scramble at Pt. Mugu this weekend. Turned out to be a good choice as we have been on the road for . . . a few years or so now? Staying home gave us the opportunity to do some gardening at home and hang out with Nacho in our local hills. We also made our way back up to Keyesville for some ride time!

This would be my last time to ride both my Epic and Alma on the same course. I pretty much decided that I cannot keep both and am leaning towards the 29er. More testing is not a bad idea so I started out on our first lap with the epic. This was also Moniques first ride at Keyesville with her new bike and she was rockin' it. She dropped almost an hour off her first lap and conditions were not helping the situation... The dry of the summer had turned everything to sand and the dirt bike crews left some pretty deep ruts to navigate.

(chain snap just at the end of our first lap)

Our first lap was down and I switched to the Alma just in time. My chain snapped on the Epic as we made our way up the last climb back to the truck and Monique had to give me a little push. I didn't bring a chain tool but I did have an extra bike.... 29 inches it is. Our second lap felt better but maybe it was because we were a little warmed up. Some of the advantages of the 29er started feeling more like home on this lap. Maybe I am getting use to ridding a hard tail or just settling into the feel of the Alma? My initial hesitation about the Alma was that my first ride did not feel "confidence inspiring" on the technical downhill sections but now that exactly what I am getting from it on the turns. Confidence inspiring cornering and the big wheels/wheelbase feels like I am on a plane that is making my own line. As far as the technical downhill sections I have just learned to let it bounce when needed and focus on wheel placement. I got over the worries of downhill on the Alma at Hurkey Creek.

(Monique rolls on with it)

So I would say that downhill is a tie between the two bikes. Climbing on the other hand is a new world on the Alma. I think I can feel the acceleration from my toe twitching on that thing. 'nough said. Then there is the "fun factor" element for each bike. Perhaps I am leaning towards the Alma because it is the new bike on the block too but it is just so much fun and when I get back on the Epic it just feels like I am on a bmx bike... More testing to follow fo sho!

We wrapped up our ride time and headed home in time to enjoy the rest of the weekend and no worries from having to pack/unpack. A very welcomed change. What are we going to do with kids and a dog? I guess we will climb that hill when we get to it but for now we were stoked for some good ol local mountain ride time...


October 07, 2007

Lost on the Dipsea trail

One more day in San Fran and I just had to take a peak at the Muir Woods before I headed out but I didn't plan on getting lost in the bliss... I awoke early to get over the golden gate and the plan was to get a small hike across the first few miles of the trail where we will be running our marathon in a few weeks and then get back to take out the 29er before I had to get back. I had our Q4 meeting for work back towards San Jose so I had to make two quick trips. If I got lost or carried away is amiss but I was super late for sure.

Monique and I ran the marathon at Stinson Beach Marathon last year but starting so early there was a lot under the mist of the early morning. By the time we got into our run I think that I had tunnel vision because I don't remember looking at the views of the trail. Unbelievable! The course basically starts at Stinson Beach (sea level) climbs through the woods to rolling grass hills that dip in and out of the forest before circling back to Stinson. The trail between can be extended as long as you wish before you get back to the beach... Like it or not time seams to stop when you are in these woods.

(The view of Stinson Beach on the return loop)

Extending the loop indefinitely however requires running through the Muir Woods which is part of the Golden Gate National Park that extends some 75,000 acres and covers more than 28 miles of coastline. The Muir Woods is where they filmed the ewoks sections for starwars and it really looks like a movie set or something.

(Fortunately, a common single track found through the Muir Woods area)

Monique and I were both signed up for the Xterra scramble at Pt. Mugu on Saturday so I didn't want to overdo it. I also wanted to get back and take out the 29er for another ride before I went home or at least that was the plan. I started out my hike/run on a side trail "just to take a few pictures" so I didn't bring any water, gels, phone or anything. I kept thinking that I would loop back around and get to the car but before I knew it I was deep into the Muir Woods and running with the deer. Crap! 9am and I have an hour or two to get back... hour to cross the bridge and get to my hotel... Hour to shower, checkout... Im sooo late!

(a view across the rolling hills that escape the forest from time to time)

Needless to say I realize I am a long way from my car and needing some water which I got at one of the ranger stations as I tried not to "overdo" it too much. The trails change direction as much as the scenery so the miles (and time) quickly pass by... Perfect for a marathon but not the best for an early morning run before your meetings. It was just so nice to be out running again after all the bike time that we have put in lately. There is just something so simple and beautiful about being on your own two feet.

(The Steep Ravine trail famous 10' ladder)

I think the last hour or so of my run I realized that I was going to be late and there was no chance of taking out the 29er. I also realized that if we did the Xterra Scramble the next day I was going to be shot but it would be a good build to our marathon or so I rationalized it that way. At one point I just stood in awe looking at some trees as if they were a deer or something. I guess it is still nice to be shocked by some of the beauty in Gods creation that stops you. I heard myself whispering "now there is somethin' you don't see everyday". Now back on the dipsea I put on my ipod and just enjoyed the trails. No more holding back and my mind was free for the rest of the run.

I really miss the long and slow stuff. . . and maybe even getting lost a bit too

October 04, 2007

Dreaming in the Marin mountains

This week I am up in San Francisco for some nerd training but because I drove up for the week I decided to bring my 29er and get out on the trail. Just about a year ago we were up here for an adventure race and I could not believe how sick the single track was and views of the pacific, bay, city and rolling hills. Oh, and no crowds...What more could you ask for? Definitely worth the drive to bring my bike.

The last time I was in the city was right after our first ultra marathon and walking around in dress shoes down town was not the ideal recovery to say the least. Now, however, the city looks so enticing. I am starting to learn my way around the side streets and the energy in the air is contagious. I left my hotel early this morning just to take a long walk around to watch the street freaks on the way to class. This place has it all.

Last night I got to meet up with Jeremy and get the night tour of Marin trails around his house and it was just as amazing... No pictures or words can describe. I just cannot believe the trails that are right out of his door and to get a personal tour of the single track at night was unbelievable. We saw some deer and a huge white owl flying in our lights at one point. We watched the sun set on the pacific and the lights fill the air from the city across the bay. The only thing that could make our night more romantic was going out for a dinner for two... Which we did because Liz was feeling under the weather.

I could get use to living up here but I don't know if I could get myself off the trail and into work if I did...