Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cycling in Cleveland Tennessee

I learned an important lesson this week: when you aren't fueling your body you can easily bonk even if you are doing something that normally would be easy... I managed to ride a handfull of 100+ mile rides, run a marathon, and no bonking. I go out on my first ride of 2011 and bike 30 miles, and after not eating much for lunch and going for a ride at 5:30 and not eating before the ride nor on the ride, I completely bonked and was barely able to get to the finish. Lesson learned, you can't neglect your body!

Then two days later I did the Bike to Build a 100k bike ride raising money for the local Habitat for Humanity in Cleveland TN. This year was the 2nd annual and there were quite a few cyclists that showed up. Even though there aren't any bike lanes in the city, and it isn't generally very friendly to cyclists, there were a lot of really strong riders out there. Compared to the rides that I have done in Texas, I would say that the average rider here is much stronger. That being said though I think that's unfortunate because I presume that means that the average person that isn't a cycling fanatic, doesn't feel comfortable biking in this area. And that could be due to the community, safety of roads, the big hills, or a number of other things, but that's another conversation.

This was by far the most scenic organized bike ride that I have ever done. Wonderful rolling hills, with pine trees on the side of the road, horses, cows, dogs (grrrrr), challenging climbs, and fast descents with winding curves. Reminded me a bit of riding in the foothills of the Swiss alps!

Great ride, very friendly people, well organized and made possible by lots of volunteers and great fundraising. I would look to this ride getting bigger over the years as more people hear about it and the number of cyclists in the area increases.

One final note, here is a picture of my new bike. It's a Surly Travler's Check frame so I can pack it up in a suitcase when I travel, with 105 groupo, cantilever brakes allowing it to be used as a cyclo-cross bike, and the frame has mounts so I can use this bike as a touring bike as well. I've coined this bike my "sleeper" bike since I was able to stay up front of the ride and my bike looks like a clunker among all the flashy colored carbon frames. But looks can be deceiving!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Austin Marathon/First Marathon

Last Sunday I did the Austin Marathon, my first ever! It was an amazing experience and I thought that it would be interesting to share my experiences. Let's start out at the beginning...

Back in January 2010, I had ACL surgery. So much of 2010 was recovering from that and getting my legs back to functioning well. I did a bunch of bike rides in the summer, and started doing longer rides. I did a half marathon trail run and had a lot of fun. But always thought that I would never do a marathon, because, well that's for crazy people and it would surely be hard on my body. But then I did a 24 hour endurance bike ride, and some other endurance events, and thought hmm... maybe I should give this marathon thing a try.

So I made up my mind, talked with Tempo Multisport, and got set up with a training program, that at that point was about 18 weeks. Before I started my training I was in Germany and got hit with a bad staph infection on my calf that sent me to the hospital there for a few days. The doctor there said that my leg would take 8 weeks to heal. So I thought that my plan to run a marathon in the spring was done. But then when I saw a doctor in Austin he said that I could run while my leg healed. And so there I was running around, doing tempo runs, sprints, and starting out my long run while carrying around a wound vac on my back.

The next hurdle came when I was training in Toronto Canada running in the snow. I didn't want to run on the treadmill because I wanted to get used to running outside and the impact on my knees. But I think I pushed too hard to keep my pace when running in the snow, which resulted in a lot of slipping of my foot. This caused me to shorten my stride, in turn giving me some IT band issues and knee problems.

One of my conditions to myself in doing this was that my left knee, the one that I had my ACL surgery, couldn't have any knee pain. If I had knee pain with that knee, I was going to call it quits, because it was just so much work to go through the surgery and I didn't want to undo all the work that the doctors had done to fix up my knee.

This time the knee issues were on the IT band on my RIGHT knee, so I kept going. I didn't know if I could keep going with these IT band issues though. I thought that I might have to call it quits. But before I did that I talked with Tammy from Tempo Multisport and she recommended I go see an ART specialist. And that helped a lot. There were also a few times where I couldn't do all of my long run, but needed to run, bike for a bit to get my knee warmed up, and then run again.

At the first hint of pain from my right knee Tammy put me on a new program where I do 2 long runs back to back, rather than one really long run. And based on my results I'm happy to say that it worked wonderfully for me and probably was one of the defining factors that actually allowed me to come back from the IT band issues while training in time for the marathon.

So needless to say there was a lot of work and challenges to work through to even get to the start of the race. I once heard Bart Yasso say that it's the getting to the starting line of the race that's the hardest thing to do. I completely understood that when I was standing at the start of the Austin Marathon. At that point, all the hard work is done, you can't cram for a marathon, and I felt that I could just enjoy myself. And that's just what I did.

The race was loads of fun! There were 40 bands playing at the side of the road and tons of people cheering us along. The time running seemed to go by so quickly. The first 8 miles went by before I knew it. My plan was to go slowly up hills since that was always when my IT band issues flared up. It also worked out well because the first 1/3 of the race felt like it was the hottest (probably 78F). But after that the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up and I was able to cool down. It was challenging going uphill from mile 12-19.5, but I just had tons of motivation stored up and lots of excitement from the race, that I could draw on to get me through that.

Then it was pretty well all downhill from there. I wasn't able to speed up as much as I had hoped in that area, but it was lots of fun being able to pick up the pace a bit. The last 3 miles were the most fun I felt. Because I knew the race was done, I couldn't do anything there to shave off time to get below 4 hours, and I wanted to really enjoy the experience and soak things in. There were two brutal hills to go up just about 800 meters from the finish line. But after that it was to the finish line! I was able to do it in 4:14 which I was very happy with given it was my first one, all my challenges before the race, and it was hot and a challenging course!

The thing that surprised me most was that I wasn't really sore afterwards. Sure my legs were tired, but not sore. And everything that was sore in training and giving me issues, wasn't a problem at all during the race! Two days after ther marathon I was cycling and swimming, and after 3 days I had no signs of soreness at all from doing the marathon!

Many many thanks to Tammy from Tempo Multisport for all of her wonderful coaching, it wouldn't have been possible without her great training and adjustments for my hurdles. Family and friends that provided support and guidance. And of course the doctors that did my ACL surgery, and all the doctors that dealt with my staph infection surgery! It wouldn't have been possibly with any one of those parts not being there!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

1st Ever Mellow Johnnys 6hr Mountain Bike Race

Today I did the Mellow Johnnys 6hr mountain bike race in Dripping Springs, TX at Lance's Ranch, or should I say Juan Pelota's ranch. This year was the first year that they did it and I will have to say that they did an amazing job organizing it! There were ride marshals out there riding the course, helping people, lots of sponsors, Nuun had their drink, and of course Michelobe was out there. Everything was very well organized, except for the person directing traffic not knowing where packet pickup was and directed me the wrong way! The trail was very well marked and well maintained, though having 250 people on it for 6hrs sure did I number on it!

The race started off Le Mans style which was fun. The course is pretty tough, lots of hills to climb, but very fun as there are lots of screaming descents. It is definitely a course that challenges your physical fitness with the climbing, your technical skills with some tricky spots, and your endurance with the 6hrs+ of riding! Each lap around the course is about 7.5 miles. And takes about 34-60 minutes for people to complete.

I had a great time, though unfortunately I had 2 flats. It took me until the 4th lap to figure out the ideal tire pressure to have good speed, traction and NO flats! I also cramped up at the end a couple times on this certain hill climb. Since it was cool, I wasn't worrying about making sure I was getting enough salts and electrolytes... so I paid for that, but seemed to fix things with some emergency, Nuun, chocolate milk, and some salt pills.

It was very exciting to have Lance Armstrong out there racing. He passed me when I was in the pits after finishing 2 laps, and he was already on 3. But fortunately he only lapped me once, though I think he might have done it a second time if he hadn't have had some knee issues! Hope he's alright. Though from what I hear about him it's his own fault with his running and swimming training... Though me on the other hand with my ACL surgery earlier this year, and having had a nice chuck of my calf cut out with a staph infection had no problems!!! Though I was doing it at my own pace, and not busting my balls like Lance (probably a bad choice of words, sorry Lance)! I could have easily fit in another lap if I hadn't have had my second flat, but we live and learn, and I was going out to have fun, and that I did. Mission accomplished.

I put a lot more thought into making sure my diet was healthy compared to the 24hr race I did. I had 3 healthy sandwiches made, a smoothie which was easier to eat and available in smaller portions than a banana. I tried out this Sequel energy drink, but didn't like it too much and wasn't really convinced that it helped me out much since I cramped up even though I was taking the drink that was supposed to have electrolytes. So I think I will ditch that. Everything else worked well. Chocolate milk and orange juice are becoming staples for rides like these!

Well that's all on that. I would HIGHLY recommend this race for those that like to mountain bike and fell comfortable on more advanced trails.

Here's a picture of the event, there are much more scenic views, but unfortunately I didn't want to stop and take a picture during the race!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Texas Time Trials 2010

The Texas Time Trials (TTTT) was a blast (look here for background on the event or here for a great blog post on last years race)! It was impeccably well organized and very well supported by volunteers. There were signs along the course telling drivers about the ride, motivating signs, arrows on the road indicating where you should turn, blinky lights on the turns, volunteers at the turns pretty well at all times (there were some hours late at night that understandably didn't have volunteers), and mile markers for every mile. Very well organized.

When I got in on Thursday, I helped crew for a bit in the evening and on Friday morning. That was a very valuable experience because I was able to learn from some very talented, experienced riders what to do to make life as easy as possible for your crew as they work to help you.

It was hard to force myself to sleep before my ride, but I got enough sleep in. I was so excited for my race that my heart rate was way up for the beginning of the ride. I was going to try and keep it low, but that apparently wasn't really an option. So for the first 13 miles I kept it slow, and was battling this one guy for last place :-) Eventually I broke down and started cranking and going fast, didn't think I was going that fast but looking back I probably could have gone a little slower.

The course is incredibly scenic, with great views, rolling hills, and beautiful river crossings. It's a tough course because it is really hilly, but the hills are short enough that you can just power through them and still keep your speed up. This is fine if you aren't going for too long, or if you are a machine. But eventually you will start to get tired and have to climb the hills more slowly. And at that point, the hills are really tough. As you can see from the elevation graph there are no real flat spots:
Riding at night was tough, but also a lot of fun. It made it challenging to know how big of a hill you were climbing because you couldn't see the top. It was also a lot of fun to not have any traffic and be able to go wherever was smoothest on the road.

There were lots of tricks that my mind played on me while I was riding at night. One of which was thinking that there was someone banging on the door of an abandoned building, when in fact it was just a windmill that made noise. There were some rednecks going around in a giant truck blaring a loud train horn at around 2 am. Instead of getting pissed at them I just laughed to myself because they didn't realize that they were doing me a service for making sure that I was wide awake after that! :-)

Riding in the day went well, but started to tired slowly. At my lap number 10 it started to rain. My commuting in the rain really paid off here, and this time I had the goggles I mentioned in my post about commuting in the rain. I was able to really pick up the pace in the rain. I don't know what it was, but I had renewed energy in my legs. So I was biking away in the pouring rain, munching on some dark chocolate, it was awesome.

Unfortunately since I pushed so hard in the rain, the next lap was really tough. At the end of that my feet, and legs were just screaming in pain. I got back to the rest area and told my crew that I was done, 290 miles was good enough for me. I was happy with that. Thankfully they said, "No you're not done, you've got one more lap in you." And after resting for 30 minutes I was ready to go. At that point I knew how to put in a fast lap without taxing my body too much. I had enough energy on the last lap to sprint the last mile to the finish with about 20 minutes to spare.

I realized that this was my very first cycling event that I raced in! Pretty good start I say. And even though I placed pretty well in this event, that doesn't mean much to me. Doing well against my own goals and expectations is far greater than being able to finish in some position, ahead of someone else. As far as I see it, there is always going to be someone out there that's faster, stronger, or bigger than you. But at the end of the day if you are able to do something to the level that you set out to do, or better, then that's what you should be proud of! Though getting one of these bad ass trophies isn't too bad either :-)

Some good things that I learned was that eventually I got so tired of sweet things and having some soup and crackers really saved me there. Having a wide variety of things was great and incredibly valuable because I knew I would get tired of eating certain things. Having a crew is an amazing help. And having a REALLY great crew like I did is invaluable. There is no way I could have done what I did without them!

Fun facts:
  • 317 miles (510K)
  • ~20,000 ft climbed (6000m)
  • 20,000+ calories burned
  • ~4.5 gallons of liquid consumed (17 liters)
  • 1 skunk narrowly avoided by a couple feet
Many thanks to the people that organized the event, it was a job very well done. Thanks to the volunteers, without you the event would not have been nearly as much fun, and probably wouldn't have been able to take place. And the cheers of a person go far further than imaginable when you are tired! Many thanks to Tempo Multisport for the training on nutrition, pacing, and bike fitting really helped a ton! I would highly recommend Tempo Multisport for training and nutrition advice. Here's a recent interview with Temp Multisport if you are interested in learning more. I only reaped the benifits of two brief sessions, think of what you could do with more training further in advance of the event! And of course many many thanks for the crew that helped me. There is so much work that goes into this, and I am so grateful. I am very thankful to my crew and new friends being impressed with what I was able to do. It means a lot to have incredibly talented and experienced people who have done events like this before and RAAM say "great job."

UPDATE: Here is the GPS data from the ride. The elevation doesn't look like quite as much as the other data shows. But this may just be my GPS not being that accurate! Decide for yourself:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ready for the TTTT

I am rearing to go for The Texas Tim Trials(TTTT) in Glen Rose Texas! Now here's some background on the event. It's an ultra endurance cycling event. It's an event that most cycling folk don't know about, even here in Austin, only 3 hours away. The event is capped at 200 participants. The participants come from all around the US, and there appear to be a couple people from France this year! This is a RAAM qualifying event for those that do the 500 mile distance races. Check the TTT website if you want more details.

I'm really excited about the event. And after tapering and forcing myself not to ride too much this week plus not riding today, I'm very eager to get on my bike tomorrow evening! Plus the weather is looking nice and cool. Might be some rain, but that's no problem so long as there isn't torrential rain! I do have some motorcycle goggles for this though. :-)

There's a lot of unchartered water on this event for me, but I'm ready. With the miles that I've put in this past month, biking daily to work, researching nutrition, doing test rides getting used to eating and biking, great coaching and fitting tweaks from Tempo Multisport, and getting to talk with people that have done this event before and getting support from them, I'm ready!

I'll write about my ride and my experience, but if you want to track things as they are happening follow @tt24tt on twitter. They will have a couple people tweeting things during the event.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dam Loop Fun

I wasn't planning on writing about this bike ride, because well it was just a training ride, but lots of things happened on the ride, and felt like sharing some of them.

In my preparing for the TTTT I was needing to test out some nutrition stuff (mainly getting used to eating proper amounts of food while biking), test out some new toys, and get a little more used to doing a hilly long distance bike ride! So I picked out the Dam Loop because it was the only loop I could find that was short (was shooting for something ~25 miles) and hilly. Map My Ride says it's 1200 ft., but I have a feeling that my GPS will say that it's more (I'll update this post when I get the data off my watch Monday). Feel free to weigh in on which you think is more trustworthy!

If you do the Dam Loop make sure that you go clockwise! I think it's a little easier this way, but doing it clockwise will ensure that you don't have to go up the 2222 hill (between 620 and 360) where there is no shoulder! Coming down you will be going a lot faster so you'll be off the hill fast and fit in well with traffic. This loop has lots of rolling hills, fast downhills, long climbs, and beautiful scenery. If you need to drive out, park your car at Southwest Cycle Sport. It's a great bike shop and they said they don't mind having cyclists park there and come into their shop to get water or use the restroom!

I'll get more into the sports nutrition side of things in another post, but my general plan is to have as many different things that fit into what my body needs so I don't get tired of eating something. Worst thing is needing to eat something that you don't want to eat! And for the ride I did it worked out well.

I got some aerobars so I have more variety of positions when I'll be on my bike for a long time. These were a lot more fun than I thought and felt like I got a lot more power as well. The aerobars didn't seem to like me because on my first loop going down a big hill on 360, while I was tucked in and crouched down, one of the pads came off and hit me in the face. Doesn't feel so good when you're going 40+ mph! Zip ties will remedy that situation!

One thing that I have come to realize that I love about cycling is that I have time to think. Most of my life feels so busy that I don't have time to just sort things out in my head and think about things. Well when you're on you bike for 8+ hours you have some time to think about things!

The last thing that I wanted to share, and quite possibly the main reason that I wanted to write about this was that I got to rescue a turtle on my ride! At the 2222 and 360 intersection they have been doing a lot of construction. This seems to have disrupted a lot of the turtles there that end up trying to get away and find themselves on the road. I saw a turtle in the middle of the intersection there, and to my amazement cars were swerving all over the place to miss the turtle. I was able to set my bike down on the side of the road, and safely run and grab the turtle! Poor little guy! There was a girl there who was relocating a couple of the turtles to a creek where they wouldn't be disturbed by the construction.

Here's the GPS data from the ride:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Joys of Biking to Work

Wasn't planning on writing too much about me biking to work, but yesterday there were a few fun things that happened that I wanted to share. Normally I get frustrated by motorists who don't follow normal right of way and go out of their way to let the biker go. If I've already stopped I want the car to get to go, as they should. Especially when you hear about all the complaints about bikes not stopping at stop signs, that they shouldn't be on the road... yada yada yada. This is the opportunity to show that we do deserve an equal spot on the road.

So yesterday there is a guy who should have gone far before I even got to the intersection. So I stop to let him go. He waves me on, so I accept. He then comes up from behind waving, grinning ear to ear, and giving me a thumbs up. :-) So in this situation, it washed away the frustration mentioned before. I guess he was excited to see someone biking in the rain!

I also got to meet another person from work who commutes by bike! That was fun. I got to show him where we can store out bikes in a covered locked area, away from the rain. This area has been getting some good use with the weather that we have!

Forgot to mention that I only had one tree blocking my path when riding to work yesterday! And it took me the same amount of time to get to work as normal. No traffic delays for me due to the flooding!