Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pedal stroke over obstacles

Rode some of the new trails up at Mountain Lake today. Kudos to Ben for creating some incredibly technical trails. Very challenging requiring total A-game. Great to wake me up from complacency and get excited to ride.

Some of the trails had some serious rock gardens on them. Like Dragon's Back and Harrisonburg rock gardens. Fun stuff if you've got balance, momentum and power.

I think on of the keys is gear selection. Choosing the right gear that you can pop your front wheel on demand. This can't be too low because you can't go very fast, and not too high otherwise you might not have enough oompfh behind it. The gear needs to match how fast your going.

Something I struggle with a lot is timing a wheelie inducing pedal stroke such that when my front tire lands on an object (rock, top of a log, etc.) that my feet are in my strong position (the coasting position, the chocolate foot forward as Hans Rey calls it) with my strong foot forward. From this position I can much easier hop forward to get the rear wheel to clear the obstacle I just pedaled over.

The ironic thing is I used to years ago know how to do this w/o thinking. Clearing 1"-1.5" ledges and logs. Though now it's hit or miss. Sometimes I hit it right other times my feet are opposite how I want them, other times the whole thing is mistimed and my wheel is on the other side of the log and my chainring is stuck on the log.

It's so hard because you have to time your pedal stroke at the same time that you are moving towards the obstacle. Sometimes you just can't stop pedaling in order to get in to position prior to the obstacle as you'd lose all your momentum especially if it is uphills or rocky. So you have to be pedaling towards it and then be in the right position to perform your pedal stroke such that your strong foot is forward when your front lands on the obstacle. Then hop.

The other trick is knowing how far away from the obstacles to be before you start the power pedal stroke. Depending on speed probably a foot and a half. I used to think about it in terms of which foot to start at the 12 o'clock position, then how many pedal strokes do you do with that foot. With your weak foot at the top of a pedal stroke, a 3/4 pedal turn will put your strong foot parallel with the ground.

But this video I found changes around the semantics a little and calls it a 1/2 pedal power stroke with the weak foot + a 1/4 power stroke with the strong foot to get you in the right position.

I think I like this way of looking at it and need to practice and ingrain it. This is going to be key to ride this stuff as well as any other big obstacles out there, when you don't have enough speed to coast to it.

This is definitely one of those things you just can't think about.

Friday, May 23, 2008

PD4A day 6 or 7

So I figure I'll throw out some random thoughts as I go day to day on this Paleo Diet for Athletes.

-Need to have some fruit/veggies on hand between meals. Went to the movies with my son and had eaten at noon. Around 2-3 just felt really weak. Afterwards got some fruit in me and felt better.

-Also around 11pm same thing. But I don't want to eat that late. Should have been in bed a little earlier anyway.

-Last night school function. Only thing around was Pizza and bake sale. Pizza was good. Very little desire for the bake sale stuff. 90:10 philosophy. Go for 90% of the time, 10% diversion from the plan is required. Sort of like training. A good plan executed 80% of the time is better than a bad plan executed 100% of the time.

-Cravings for pasta, candy, doughnuts are not as bad as I thought.

-Grapes banannas seem better for me. Apples make me feel hungier after eating.

-This is going to get expensive. Fish, chicken, lean meat. And lots of it to feel satiated.

-Need more ideas for eating out fast food. Not sure who's got the best salads. But need more meat to make it substanial enough. This isn't a diet, I'm not cutting back on calories. So it eat as much as you want, just of certain foods at certain times.

-As I read in somewhere else on the net, the scale and the mirror are motivators. Only been a few days but already feeling fitter similar to last year. That tight skin feeling. Could just be dehydration too. Earlier this year, without the motivations for racing, I definitely had been upping the snacks. So I can't say definitively if just cutting out the crapola for the last week is the reason, or if it is this eating plan.

-I will be surprised if I make it to 4 weeks. It's going to get interesting the next few weeks when the transition period gets harder and the newness of this obsession wears thin.

-Today will be a good test riding later in the afternoon. I'll carb it up 10mins prior and carb up on the ride.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interesting Princess and the Pea issue

So I'm riding my road bike around, and it just feels weird. A tad Unstable, difficult to ride a consistent straight line. All of a sudden I'll just be over there. Like a big gust of wind moved me over.

I've had this feeling two times before. One time when I broke my frame. There was a hairline crack at the seatstay and seat tube. The other time was when I had a frame where the top tube was too long. The short stem I used didn't provide enough weight on the front to make it really stable.

I'd turned my bike over several times looking for cracks, nothing. I've loved this bike since I'd gotten it considering it the best frame road or mtn I've ever had. Why all of sudden would it feel weird.

The only thing I'd done recently was mess around with tires. The rear tire had been really squared off from riding on the trainer. I moved the front tire to the rear and put a new tire on the front. I was wondering if I just wasn't used to riding on a properly shaped tire after riding on the squared profile trainer tire.

But I think the issues was that I bought a different brand tire for the new one. One that had a slightly taller profile. The new tire was in front and it raised up the front, decreasing the weight on the front by a tad. To test this out I rotated the new tire to the rear and moved the rear tire to the front.

Bingo. felt back to normal.

I haven't measured anything, just going by feel. It still seems implausible that the small difference in tire height, if there is even one, would be enough for me to feel. But sure enough from one ride to the next the bike felt better.

more PD4A thoughts

So Keith or anyone else on this Paleo thing. I need suggestions for meals.

What do you eat for breakfast when not riding that day? Egg whites and fruit is all I can think of.

How do you cook up enough meat/fish for lunch/dinner every day? Do you cook up several at once and use leftovers over a few days.

What are you cooking up? What fish, what cuts of chicken, what cuts of steak, other meat???

Any suggestions for keeping the cost down?

Snacks? What are you snacking on between meals? Fruits/vegetables snacks seem to make me even more hungry than if I don't eat at all. Nuts are working a little. what else, Yogurt? beef jerkey?

For your paleo meals, have you cut out bread/pasta all together or just cut back compared to the typical cyclist big plate of pasta?

I'm about a week into it. Trying to make it to 3-4 weeks to truly assess it. The difficulty in pulling it off is readily apparent. It takes effort to have meat/fish/vegetables for 2 meals a day. Snacks of fruits/vegetables are not satisfying from a hunger perspective. Transition period is creating general low energy. However blood sugar spiking is not a problem. Scarfing some carbs 10 min before riding has helped a lot

Monday, May 19, 2008

10 minutes before riding / Other Paleo Diet 4 athletes thoughts

Just a quick observation on the Paleo Diet for Atheletes plan.

In the first section they give some guidelines for eating for training. 2-3hrs before, 10 minutes before and after riding.

The 10 minute thingy is interesting. Intaking an influx of carbs 10 minutes before exercising tops off the tank but because your body is working you don't get that bonked spike followed by a deep valley==> the bonk.

I've learned that I can't eat carbs within an hour of riding. If I do I'll be bonked during the ride. I've tried slamming an energy drink right before a race to top off the tank. It did not cause any bonking feeling but due to the high intensity of a mtb race it wasn't the best for the stomach.

However today I was commuting by bike. I love to commute IN. I hate to commute home. Riding in the morning is such a great way to start the day. Riding home at the end of the day, my blood sugar is always low. Can't eat cause within a few hours of riding home otherwise its worse than nothing at all due to the spike/crash. Sort of a catch 22. So riding home always seems more uphill, windier and a PIA.

Today I ate lunch at 12. No other snacks the rest of the day. I'm famished had to get home somehow at 5:30. So right before leaving I gobbled down some soft cookies. You know the kind pure sugar. Within 5 minutes I'm starting to blink my eyes really hard which is what I do when trying to clear the cobwebs.

By this time I'm changed and on my way down to the bike. With some energy drink in the bottle I start riding home. Once I got on the bike the light headedness started to fade and I was also starting to sip on my energy drink. My legs felt great. I was riding well which is such a contrast to how I normally feel riding home.

I need to test this out again. But I know that 1hr-10mins before I can't eat otherwise I'm screwed. However this -10mins seemed to work out well.

With regards to the whole Paleo thing in general, I'm cutting back on carbs in the morning, more egg whites, less PBJ/english muffin. At lunch I had some soft tacos and some chips and sure enough felt the crash.

Dinner was steak/vegetables and fruit. No issues. By 9pm at night I am hungry. Having a beer now because I read the propaganda that beer is as good as wine for heart health! Trying to eat more vegetables and fruit. Problem is that just veggies don't fill me up.

As typical with Friel the book has a more phased approach depending on where you are in your training. I'm just trying to simplify the whole thing and create some general guidelines to make it possible to truly follow.

Basic plan
When riding. Either eat a ton of carbs 2-3hrs before and/or 10 mins before. Anything goes. Energy drink, yogurt, Ensure, COOKIES..
Right after riding eat some carbs/protein. Good stuff hopefully. Gotta figure out a good smoothie mix.

When not riding, or several hours after riding. Cut back on carbs a lot. More fish, chicken, lean meat, vegetables fruit.

Snacks: nuts, dried fruit, vegetables,

Doable? Not sure. It's still a total paradigm shift especially when eating out. I'm real good about getting gung ho about something at the start. And then fading away after a little while.

All I know is that the spike/crash is a tangible event for me and I'm tired of it. But I love my carb food: Pizza, tortillas, pasta....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paleo diet for athletes

I've known for a long time that I've got issues with blood sugar stability. And have also known the common sense guidelines of eating whole foods, cutting down on processed sugars and trans fats. etc.

A reader mentioned the Paleo Diet for Athletes in response to my latest episode of blood sugar spiking. I decided to order the book. Probably my third or fourth sports nutrition books in the last few years.

I'm only partway through it right now. It's an interesting juxtaposition between the traditional carbo is good philosophy of the typical endurance athlete and the high protein low carb camp. The key is timing. Carbs are ok before during and right after and emphasized much less during other times.

The sections on what to eat before during and right after hard riding mirror what I've found works well for me. They even mention (twice) Ensure which is the one of the only non-dairy high carb good protein and easily digestible products around.

The Paleo aspect of the plan is to emphasize real food over processed food cutting back on processed grains and in taking more lean proteins from fish, meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables. I'm lactose intolerant so cutting back on dairy isn't too hard, but I love cheese. And man I just got this sweet panini grill.

So it's all good except for the fact that this is going to be very very hard to implement in practice. Why? Because I eat carbs all the time and love em. Bread, sandwiches, pasta..etc. Even though I know that they do make me feel worse. It's just ironic. Case in point, yesterday had to take the kids to karate and then have late dinner after they were done. Had some cookies and soy milk to tie me over till the late dinner. Tasted good but felt like crap after. Then for dinner had a sandwich at Fazolis and some Pizza. Just continued the feeling like crap and then later at night, stole some more cookies and felt like crap to bed time. And this is while reading the damn book.

It's going to be a a huge mental shift in eating. I do like how they have highlighted the need for carbs for an endurance athlete and I like the recommendations for how to implement it. The whole paleo thing is probably a great idea for someone with my blood chemistry. Whether or not I can accomplish it is yet to be seen.

More fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits. Cut back on the pastas, breads, refined sugars.

I can almost guarantee that I will feel pretty good after 2-3 weeks transition. But it's just going to take a major shift to get over the difficulty associated with any major change.

Anyway I think I'm going to try it out for 2-3 weeks and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

bang for buck

Got in a lunch ride today. Good bang for amt. of time. Northfork to Friendship road back on Den hill to Jenelle road. Several steep climbs in there.

I've not felt particularly fast on the bike at all this year. Sometimes grateful to not have the racing over my head, othertimes down because I'm not laying it on the line at the races. Regardless of finish placing there is an incredible sense of accomplishment from racing.

Though just doing these types of ride with some built in difficulty definitely gives some fitness benefit. While the snap isn't here there is definitely some strength in the legs.

Monday, May 05, 2008

terrain based training

Instead of riding a presribed intensity, I'm just riding but choosing some routes that force some effort.

Out 460 up Brush and Gap mtns to the front side of Mtn Lake. Up, Down, back.

4x minor climbs
1x major climb
2.5 hrs
12.7mph average

The other day rode with a neighbor to show some trails then up Beast.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Reactive Hypoglycemia

I've got some pretty noticeable blood sugar issues. It's sort of a catch 22 when it comes to cycling. I need carbs, but oftentimes the timing and reaction to intake of carbs causes some serious spiking/crashing leading to brain-bonk.

I can bonk on demand. It's kinda cool and scary at the same time. I'm mostly talking about the light headed dizzy type of bonk and not the total body low muscle glycogen bonk.

Here's how I can do it. Ride later in the day (after 2pm or so). Eat something like a cliff bar. Wait 10-15 minutes. Get dizzy. Ride through it for about 20-30 minutes. Continue on as if nothing happened. I've done the blood sugar tests shown above and they didn't come out so bad that the doctor's have said anything. But I can do this to myself on demand by eating under 50g of carbs. Over 50-70 and I don't react as bad.

This article is the first thing I've read the addresses my situation almost to a T

And this one

The other day I was riding up the Beast. A pretty hard climb in some sections. I'd eaten a cliff bar about 10 minutes prior. I was riding later in afternoon too after I'd had all day for my blood sugar to get low. Learned not to eat right before riding. Otherwise I'd be bonked off the start. Sipping energy drink is usually the best way for me to maintain some steady level of blood sugar and intake of carbs to keep from truly muscle bonking. But I also decided to eat a cliff bar cause I hadn't eaten much prior. Sure enough my blood sugar spiked into that surreal disconnected daze.

The funny thing is while my head was dizzy and I'm weaving back and forth, my legs were churning away very well. So well that with the exception of the washed out staircase at the bottom I cleaned the whole thing. The upper sections are very steep and typically I don't clean it. So it was totally ironic to be brain bonked while still riding it.

Did the same thing today. This time it was cliff shots.

During racing I've got a pretty good system but it takes planning and effort. Basically 3 hrs before an event eat a lot of carbs. solid and liquid. So much that it requires training to build up to it. 4 g/kg of body weight. Ensure helps a lot with this. Crash hard for an hour. Let everything settle out. Go into the race almost feeling hungry. Energy drink only through 2-3hr race. It actually helps that I'm going at race intensity and not lower. I seem to burn energy more efficiently ar racing pace

During long endurance rides this plan doesn't work as well and I need more carb intake. The problem is that if I eat something liked a pbj or cliff bar, etc, I'll create a rollercoaster brain bonk. Once it settles I'm okay but for a period of time I'm about to ride off the shoulder.

But if I only rely on energy drink that I'll bonk totally after 2hrs. What can I eat on endurance type efforts without having to go through my huge eating plan?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tacx calibration

I've got Tacx Flow ergo trainer that I love. Someone had posted that they are using a Tacx Basic but don't know how to do the calibration.

I was just googling a little and haven't found the exact protocol so the person should spend some more time searching for the step-by-step. It seems that Tacx has their own forum where you could post a question. There are also some threads on other cycling forums.

The basic strategy is to pump your tires up to the same pressure every time. Get up to a set speed (25mph?) then stop pedaling. Time how long it takes for the wheel to stop turning. This is called a roll down calibration.

The FLOW which was the next training up in their model line does this automatically. You pedal until it tells you to stop. Then it countsdown automatically and lets you know if your resistance is set too high or too low. On the basic you have do to the know when to stop pedaling and counting manually.

Anyway, those with a basic should take some time and look for the exact protocol. Let me know if you find it and I'll post it here for others.

calibration is really important. While the Tacx might not provide exact power numbers that are identical to a power tap or an SRM I do think that when calibrated they numbers are very repeatable which is essential for tracking your training and setting interval intensity.