Wednesday, April 30, 2008
As the days get warmer and longer, more riders will hop on their bicycles for a spin. Just how fast and where you go will determine if your bike is a piece of fitness equipment or simply a comfortable, recreational way to save gas and enjoy the outdoors.
Ask Craig Undem about bicycling and fitness. He will give you a short but insightful answer.
"Go climb hills," said Undem, a local cycling coach who operates the Cycle U training company in Seattle and regularly serves as an instructor for the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Undem said too few cyclists choose hills for workouts, when doing so a couple times per week can transform your body composition (goodbye, fat) and dispel any doubts that cycling is a top calorie burner among physical activities.
"Hills give you more bang for the buck," Undem said. "You might choose to go on a slow, steady ride for 20 miles (about an hour's worth for experienced riders and more like two hours for novices). But if you do moderate hills for 30 minutes that will burn more calories."
Undem said moderate hills translates to "a grade of 4 to 6 percent, not too steep, especially if you're just getting back into shape." He said you want to work at an exertion rate of 70 to 90 revolutions per minute, or rpm. You can determine this level by purchasing a bicycle computer (about $50 retail) or comparing that pedaling rate of 70 to 90 rpm to how that registers on a indoor stationary bike.
"You want that cadence to be moderately intense," Undem said. "It keeps you in a safe zone and gives you a great workout."
Increasing your intensity levels in short bursts (enough to be out of breath but not gagging) elevates cycling to one of the best calorie-burners among all physical activities. In fact, statistics from the American Council on Exercise (the primary certification group for personal trainers) equates bicycle racing with a vigorous game of basketball and not far off running at a brisk clip that would leave most people gasping.
Adding hills to any bicycle ride is easy enough here in the Pacific Northwest. Undem said to do it most efficiently requires more expertise than you might think. For instance, Cycle U teaches a "boot camp" devoted strictly to going up and down hills. It runs for eight two-hour sessions.
"It's a lot like skiing once you get into it," explained Undem. "There is a lot of technique."
Some highlights: Sit more upright in the bike saddle when you're climbing a hill. Don't pull your arms back too hard or too much when navigating the upward slope. And breathe deeply as you work.
One more tip for climbers that applies to all cyclists as they roll back outside this spring. Undem said too many recreational riders forget to drink water during the ride and eat something if they are going more than a hour nonstop. Sports nutritionist will suggest a snack and water is good idea some time in the hour before your ride.
Cycle U and the Cascade Bicycle Club offers plenty of other courses for beginners as well as the most savvy riders. You can learn how to ride a bike -- "there are plenty of people who come to us that never learned as kids," Undem said -- or perhaps take a refresher course on how to shift gears. Cascade instructors might go to the bike shop with you to pick out just the right model.
Not surprisingly, the Cascade club, the country's largest with a membership base of 10,000, works with a significant percentage of injured athletes from other sports. Basketball, running and tennis lead the list, mostly due to balky knees that are treated less jarringly on a bike.
Lateral movement fells basketball and tennis players, Undem said. Runners tend to not rest their bodies enough and stride themselves right into overuse injuries.
"Cycling has a locked range of motion so those runners, tennis players and basketball players can exercise without doing any more harm to the knees," Undem said.
The key strategy is to add intensity to your bike workouts, whether you are rehabbing an injury, cross training or deciding to make your commute your daily workout. All cycling for fitness will turn up noticeable changes in your body composition and personal energy level if you add some hills and maybe incorporate a few all-out sprints for 30 seconds or less when it is safe to do.
"Cycling is a real tonic for the body," Undem said. "Work harder and it will charge you up. You will feel good even after you're off the bike."
Bob Condor writes about health and quality of life every Monday. You can send him ideas or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Bob Condor for a GREAT article on Cycle U!
To register for our upcoming Road Climbing Boot Camp, CLICK HERE.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
It's tough to decide where to start, as the entire trip has had a very surreal feeling to it. Maybe because I've been sick for the entire trip? Or maybe because even though I'm sitting in South Africa right now, I still can't believe that I am sitting in South Africa right now. There is a big element of adventure and excitement in traveling to such a far-off destination, even without the undertaking of an Ironman-distance triathlon... but there has also been a big dose of reality of what life in South Africa is like. As Americans, we take a lot for granted... well, I for one have a new-found appreciation for life back home, and am anxious to get back to it! But I digress... this post was supposed to be about IRONMAN.
The weather gods were smiling upon us on the morning of April 13th on the shores of Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The bay was as close to glass-like as I imagine it has even been. The sky overcast, just as a typical Seattle day. The forecast called for very low winds. It was going to be a good day.
Six members of Seattle's Jet City Tri Club lined up at the swim start. Myself, Raelle, Bryan, Bobbie, Stacy, & David; 4 newbies, and 2 Iron-veterans. The gun went off (or was it a horn? I don't even remember), and we jogged down the beach to the ocean. I remember thinking to myself, "stay calm. It's gonna be a long day. You can do this. Just stay calm." The athletes spread out pretty good, so I didn't get kicked or have my googles pulled off, as I'd heard is prone to happen. At the first bouy there was so much congestion as the group converged that we all had to stand there treading water for what felt like 5 minutes before we had room to swim again. This happened at most of the corners. I continued to swim, leaving my trail of phlegm behind (sorry!), and stayed calm and collected. I kept bringing my attention back to my form and my breath. Everything was going well. I was concerned about how sick I was feeling, as my lungs were full of congestion, but I felt that if I could get thru the swim, I would become an Ironman that day.
Lap one completed, I decided to walk the beach between laps. Just then Raelle came up and grabbed me from behind. She was so excited, and it was contagious, so I started to jog. The second lap went just as well, with just one good kick to the head, but goggled remained in place, and I finished feeling strong.
Swim time: 1:28:17
29th out of 52 in age-group
T1 went smoothly.... I took my time to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, and walked to the bike. It was not a short walk.
T1 time: 6 mins
Bike. There were issues on the bike. First, apparently someone knocked my bike over in transition because as I got out on the road, I noticed the aerobars and the front wheel did not line up together. So I had to stop to adjust the stem. Then it was good for a while. As you know, I pre-rode the IMSA CompuTrainer course and knew we started out with a long climb. It actually wasn't anywhere near as difficult in real life as that computrainer profile was! My focus was to stay at aerobic threshold, which in hindsight was going too easy. I figured if I went a little too easy on the bike, then I'd have more for the run. Ha.
The roads are horrid, and while I did not flat or loose a single bottle, the vibration caused my rear bottle cage holder to loosen so that the bottles were pointing down at the road (but still attached!). So, another stop to fix that. It was at that point, about two-thirds of the way through the first loop that I looked down at my foot and saw all this blood. Yes, my snazzy new bike shoes were chewing a hole in my foot. Oh well, no time to cry now! Another 70+ miles of riding to do! Onward!
I felt good on the bike, but like I said, held back a bit on the effort. I didn't want to eat while climbing, and when descending I was too interested in making up time to slow down and get food out of my bento box. About 30mins from the end, my stomach was growling. Not good. Where was my brain?? I downed a baggie of gummy bears, and settled in for the final push. The only other issues were saddle and shoulder related. 7 hours is a long time to spend in aero position, and my body was ready to get off that bike!
Bike time: 6:59:19
30th out of 52 in age-group
T2 took a bit longer. I had that bloody toe to deal with. I went to the medical tent for a band-aid, and it took me 5 minutes to get the volunteers there to stop talking to each other and please get me a band-aid. I had decided to wear my toe socks, which at first I thought was going to be the end of me since I didn't think they would fit over the huge bandage they had applied, but after-the-fact I think those socks are the only reason the bandage stayed on, and I was able to do the marathon without a lot of bother from it. Yay toe socks!
T2 time: 11 minutes
The run. I just had nothing. My heartrate was fine. My lungs seemed fine. My legs weren't burning or fatigued. I just had nothing. I don't know how else to explain it. I think it was a combination of mental and nutritional. I ended up having to eat solid food during the marathon, which meant a lot of walking. Then, I knew it was going to take me at least 6 hours.
It was a very long night. And the sun came out with a vengence. The blisters covering my back and shoulders will attest to that. The crowd was great, and I did more jogging on the 2nd of the 3 loops, hoping I could at least break the 15-hour mark, but either way knowing I was going to finish! And given the conditions, that was good enough.
As night fell, I kept on truckin'. I made friends with a group of 3 German guys, and they kept me feeling safe as we race-walked through "the most dangerous road in Port Elizabeth". Yes, no security in sight, and we are exhausted, walking along a dark road known for car-jackings and muggings. Color me ecstatic. By this time I was also freezing as the temperatures dropped, and my damaged skin couldn't provide much protection from the elements. Toward the end, our little group broke up, but I owe a lot to these three guys for keeping me safe, and motivated (I love me them Germans!).
The last 3 kilometers seemed to go on for an eternity. But as trashed as I felt, I still saw people heading out for their final loop, and I couldn't help but feel lucky that my finish line was almost in sight. I almost cried when I saw the finish shoot, but I knew you all would be watching, so I sucked it up, and jogged... then ran... then sprinted... and it felt GREAT!... why hadn't I done that sooner???.... I'm an IRONMAN!!!.... but wait, there's no finishline tape.... where do I pose for my big finishline shot??... too late. oh well. Where's the medical tent?
Run (walk) Time: 6:25:42
38th out of 52 in age-group
Final finish time: 15:10:31
All 6 members of Jet City Tri finished! Mission Accomplished. Congratulations to all!!!
Can I come home now??? PLEASE?!?!?!
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Now for my own "Tip of the Hat. Wag of the Finger", shamelesssly stolen from The Colbert Report.
First, tip of the hat! I'd like to thank a few people that have helped to keep some of the more extreme madness at bay....
A shout out to Modus Sport Group & Profile Design for hookin' me up with the latest & greatest aero bottle & seat post bottle cages. The last issue of Triathlete Mag had a blurb on this bottle which is said to actually INCREASE the aerodynamics of your ride. Sweeeeet.
Thanks to my boss-man at Cycle U, the one & only Coach Craig Undem for getting Specialized to loan me this pimp front wheel.
We encountered a problem with the rear wheel, and another supahstar came to my rescue... Coach Lang Reynolds, my Cycle U cohort & Triumph Multisport mechanic, loaned me a very nice rear wheel from his "private collection". Thanks again Lang!!
Speaking of Triumph... I cannot speak highly enough about this establishment. The entire staff are experienced professionals, very good at dealing with those afflicted by Taper MADness. I found everything I need for this race, as well as outstanding advice and a lot of patience. Shop @ Triumph Multisport!!!!! :)
Now, a few people have been asking me what I plan to wear. I prefer the 2-piece tri-suit because I look slightly less sausage-like (did I mention the extra 5 lbs? I think I did). I tried on a few items today, and have narrowed it down to 2 options:
Option 1: Louis Garneau bottoms, purchased from Triumph Multisport & a Sugoi top purchased off the clearance rack at Everyday Athlete. I like these bottoms because they have a wide waistband that does NOT dig in at all. The material also has a little more friction, which means my fuel belt won't be sliding off my butt. Always a bonus. The cap is 2XU that I just picked up from the new shipment at Triumph. I'm thinking the cap over the visor due to sun protection, but I can always switch to the visor after the sun goes down.
Option 2: 2XU tri shorts, which I wore all last year and loved. Only downfall is the material is very slick, so the fuel belt has to be worn on my waist vs. my hips. Found that out at the Lk Stevens 70.3 last July. Very annoying. The top is from Profile Design. It's a sample from last year's line that I picked up at the bike swap. It's very comfortable, but a bit tighter than the other top. Also a bit less coverage, so less sun protection. The visor you can't really see is 2XU. The hair... getting cut tomorrow. Definitely needs to be more aero! ha! (and Yes, the pose is a joke... also a good way to suck in the gut!!)...
I'll also be wearing these slick Shimano tri shoes purchased from Triumph Multisport. My old Sidis were too narrow and putting my feet to sleep, so they hit ebay, and I got these beauties!
And finally, these sexy pink Brooks' Adrenalines from Everyday Athlete. This has been my shoe of choice since my marathon training back in 2005. Let's face it, this shoe is A LOT of people's shoe of choice. Brooks knows how it's done. As for the pink.... I'll just have to deal.
Now time for Wag of the Finger....
State of Texas, YOU are ON NOTICE! For taking advantage of "foreigners" and charging an $80 addt'l fee for not appearing at a court date for a speeding ticket, even though I CALLED IN AND TOLD YOU I LIVE IN SEATTLE!, "I'm sorry, we don't notate phone calls". Bite me.
And Uncle Sam. It's true, you can't pick your relatives. For taking my happy high to a sad low upon completion of my taxes. You want ALL my starbucks tri club training earnings? REALLY?!?! Oh yes, because I'm so rich. Guess I'm back to huntin' Zebras for food next week. Uncle Sam is ON NOTICE!
Ok, that's all for now. Welcome to my madness. T-2.5 days to departure.