Sunday, December 29, 2013

Adjusting cleats

Here’s a tip on adjusting your cleats if you’re using cleats with a float: Clip in and go for a ride with a suitable tool for loosening the cleats in your pocket. Put some pressure on the pedals in a big gear for 20 seconds and then stop and coast with your right foot forward. Try and move your heel inwards.

Is there available movement? If no, stop and adjust the front of the cleat to point further inwards (yes, front of cleat needs to point in the direction of more desired movement at the heel). If yes, repeat pedaling and then coast with right foot forwards, but this time, try and twist the heel outwards.

Is there available movement? If yes, is it more or less equal to the amount of inward play you had? If yes, great. If no and the difference is large, re-adjust cleat angle. If there was no inward movement available to the heel, then stop and adjust the nose of the cleat to point further inward.

Repeat the above on the left leg until you have a more or less even amount of movement either side of where your feet naturally want to sit on the pedal under load. That may or may not be 'positioned neutrally (toes not in or out)'. Whether it is or not, it will be at an angle that is correct for you.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sufferfest videos

My relationship with my indoor bike trainer is a complicated one. While it's great to get in some hard winter training it can be painfully boring. I've used every means to pass the time, DVD's, TV you all know the drill. Thankfully a few years ago the Sufferfest folks emerged. If you’re not familiar with Sufferfest vids it's a series of videos that are very different from others I've tried. These bad boys are serious. They download directly to your computer from the site and you can order a backup CD if you choose. There's no coach yelling motivational quotes or anything like that, no one will ever talk to you. All directions are by screen caption, including a perceived effort scale and some various sounds telling you to get ready to hammer it or brake. The soundtracks are pretty good in my opinion, with some techno and hard rock to really crank you up. I found some new music artists I absolutely love. They do splash in some odd humor at times which I find entertaining. Sufferfest uses real world video from various races including the Tour de France and edits it into workouts. Prices are under $15.00 US dollars per video, pretty reasonable.

As to the difficulty, let me say they can leave you a shattered broken man if you ride them as hard as you’re supposed to. They just released their newest “The Wretched". This is directly from the Sufferfest website" Perhaps one of the most difficult Sufferfests ever made, The Wretched is the tale of a Sufferlandrian who has fallen from Local Hero to Zero. Now, faced with the final stage of the Tour de France, you need to remember how to suffer and race with more courage than you’ve ever done before. You’ll be going deep into the pain cave on this one….it’s a true road race: flats, attacks, climbs, descents, and sprints. And no rests. It will push you to the absolute limit – but then again, nobody ever said winning a Tour de France stage was easy." And believe me they mean it, there are some features to push you that you'll love to hate. At this point I'm not quite sure if this is a review or more of a warning.
A little warmup

Saturday, December 14, 2013

L Glutamine

Glutamine is the most abundant amino found in the body, but during times of stress, illness or strenuous exercise overall plasma glutamine levels drop. Because glutamine fuels the immune system, depletion of glutamine stores can have negative effects on one’s health. Science has documented the effects of glutamine supplements on both endurance athletes and critically ill patients. Essentially the white blood cells can’t divide properly and healing slows down. Supplementation of glutamine keeps the immune system fueled during intensive exercise, preventing ill effects associated with overtraining. In a study in which athletes consumed a glutamine supplement after a marathon, only 19% experienced illness during the following week, compared to 51% of athletes who did not take such a supplement. I myself use glutamine after intensive training and haven't been sick in quite a few years (cold, flu type illness) but it's difficult to say if I didn't take the supplement would it have been any different. Those of us who exercise regularly become less susceptible to disease. Unless, that is, we overtax our system by training too hard, not resting enough or getting inadequate nutrition. Most professional coaches nowadays do recommend to their athletes to take glutamine after competition as insurance. It should be only taken after training, if taken prior it can elevate ammonia levels which can lead to fatigue (a common waste product in the body). Clinical studies do not report any side effects at dosages as high as 14 grams, so you probably needn’t worry when taking glutamine in moderate amounts ranging from 5 to 10 grams daily. Dosages higher should only be done under supervision of a health care provider. Glutamine should not be taken by persons with cirrhosis of the liver, kidney problems, or Reye’s syndrome

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Schwalbe Racing Ralph

I've been running the Racing Ralphs for over a year now and here are some thoughts on these sneakers. The Racing Ralph's I currently use are tubeless ready and have a 127tpi EVO casing which makes them extremely supple. I run the 2.10 X 29 which comes in at 495 grams, the 2.25's come in at 535 grams per Schwalbe's web site.  If you typically ride in fast, dry conditions the Racing Ralph is a great choice for XC events. Rolling resistance is excellent and a strong point of the tire. Once in the wet they become rather slick and require low low pressures. Since going tubeless I can now run easily in the low 20's if I need to with no burping of the tire rim. The sidewalls are a little thin but I've never sliced one either, in fact I did puncture a sidewall with a good size hole but the slime sealant did the trick. All in all a very good tire but their racing intended so durability could be a question. To offset the durability factor I highly recommend running these tubeless as they feel like a different tire and I haven't flatted yet in tubeless form. If you are running tubeless don't fill your tire over 35 lbs. (Schwalbe recommends this) as the sealant will seep out around the rims. If you want extra protection Schwalbe makes a Snakeskin version of the Racing Ralphs which adds 40 to 50 grams per tire and has a more durable sidewall. Here in Connecticut we have the luxury of having lots of sharp rocks or sometimes referred to as axe heads, so if they hold up here I imagine they'll be fine elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vitamix 5200

It's hard to believe that loving a kitchen appliance is possible but now I know it is. Enter the Vitamix 5200. This is no ordinary blender, it's a 2 horsepower, 11.5 amp, 1,380 watt machine that is strong enough to micronize whole fruits and veggies. You can actually make hot soup such as chicken soup, just add boneless chicken breasts to the mixture and watch it liquefy everything. It spins with so much force the soup actually comes out steaming in 6 or 7 minutes. I've used this almost every day in the 3 years I've had it. My go to mixture normally consists of chunks of pineapple, organic beets (read about beets for the athletic benefits) organic spinach, whole organic apple, banana, frozen strawberries and frozen blueberries. The shakes come out tasting outstanding. Though my combination of ingredients varies at times I normally make a pitcher of it for the day. There's simply nothing store bought that can be as nutritious as what you can make with this machine. For the athlete it could be your most essential tool to enhance your nutritional needs. The simplicity of the Vitamix is great, there's no keypads or digital displays that break over time. There are 2 switches for on off, high low speed and a variable speed dial all for reliable operation. It's made in America with a 7 year warranty, that's right 7 years. Some might frown at the $449.00 price but it's the most valuble appliance you'll ever use to increase your health or athletic performance. When you see how strong and well made the Vitamix is and what it's capable of it's really a bargain. I have no connection with the Vitamix people I just rave about a product when it's deserving of it. I just wish I thought of it.
Loaded and ready for launch

This things like a rocket engine

After blending for approx. 2 minutes

Blades spin at 240 mph

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vitamin I

There's an abundance of research that conclusively shows that taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) before during and right after exercise inhibits exercise induced muscle breakdown and repair. There's a natural system in which our body reacts to exercise stress and breaks down tissue and then repairs it so we actually progress athletically. NSAIDs work by inhibiting a hormone called prostaglandin, which is vital component involved in the protein synthesis that occurs post-exercise. The anabolic process of repairing tissue is dependent on levels of prostaglandin. Some endurance athletes actually have nicknamed it Vitamin I and an alarming number of athletes pop it before during and after an event or in training. I had a friend whom was a great marathoner and he would buy ibuprofen in the largest containers available. It was literally a small jug.  At times he would consume 800 to 1000 milligrams at once if something felt a little "tweaked". To say the least we would have many discussions about it. It not only halts athletic gains but regulates blood flow to the kidneys. During exercise, it's vital that the kidneys have adequate blood and oxygen in order to function normally. Basically it reduces the kidneys’ ability to flush out the byproducts of exercise, putting athletes at increased risk for rhabdomyolysis. In this extreme form of muscle breakdown, myoglobin is released into the bloodstream, where it can cause severe kidney damage. Another side-effect is gastrointestinal damage that can lead to colonic seepage into the bloodstream. I've used NSAIDs myself from time to time, heck we all have. I really try to limit any usage to maybe once or twice a month and only if the situation really requires it and never before or during or right after exercise.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bikes outselling cars in Europe

Here's a link to an article I just recently read on how the bicycle is outselling cars in most of Europe. I doubt we will ever see that headline in the US. America is making some progress at least in some of the larger cities. One issue is the infrastructure is not geared for cycling to be used for anything but leisure or sport. Thankfully that's changing but slowly. Secondly, Sociologists that study human behavior see Americans viewing bicycles as something that's not a legitimate mode of transportation. Bicycles are viewed as more of a toy or something someone poor would ride to work on. If you look at photos of riders in Europe there are men and women of all ages wearing suits, dresses, heels, dress coats. It's a typical cross section of Europe's working population. Not just for the sport of riding. They get it. Unfortunately within the US the mentality of change takes a long time even if it's a positive thing. At least we're being pointed in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Serfas Scandium MTB shoes

After 6 years of service I'm retiring my Louis Garneau mountain bike shoes. No complaints though as they've held up very well but their just shot at this point. Mountain bike shoes take a real beating with all the bushwhacking we put them through so I do like to spring for good quality. After reading positive things regarding the new Serfas shoe line I went for the Scandiums. The Bicycle Center in Brookfield CT has a pretty extensive line of Serfas shoes and had my size in stock. One reason I went with Serfas is the wide toe box which I do prefer and the price point at $180.00 list is excellent for a stiff Carbon plank soled shoe. Weighing in at 390 grams for size 44 is pretty light in comparison with some big brands. The lugs on the bottom of the sole are very aggressive and grip well. They even come with a tool to install the removable toe spikes for steep hike-a-bikes. The sizing is pretty accurate, and the roomy toe area is great for heavy winter socks. I really hate it when my toes or metatarsals are tight in a toe box. Your metatarsals are designed to spread apart when pressure is applied to the ball of your foot which naturally creates stability in the human foot. If the metatarsals can't spread adequately you develop numbness. I haven't tried them in the heat as fall moves in but from what I've read they're ventilated pretty well. First time out they were very comfortable with no issues. If you’re in the market for some really good quality mountain bike shoes along with a good price point, check out Serfas.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hincapie Arenberg warmers

I have one basic expectation when it comes to warmers. They have a single mission: to stay in place so they keep my limbs warm. Over the years I've worn different brands of warmers. Most work for a little while then simply loose grip. I decided to order the Hincapie Arenberg warmers because it really seems like they have a simple fix to an annoying problem. Hincapie placed grippers on both the inside for against your skin and the outside to grab fabric. So simple yet genius. They stay more secure than any other warmers I've ever used. Totally budge proof. The warmers are all cut from Hincapie’s BodE Thermal Loft fabric. Really soft and comfortable no bunching at the knee. The length is more than enough and the zipper on the leg warmers are locking, nice feature. At the bottom there's a band or strap of material that helps secure the bottom as well as an internal gripper. The material is very flexible and easy to get on and off.  I heard a few other manufactures have the internal and external gripper feature in a few of their designs but the entire Hincapie line of warmers sport this feature.

External gripper added to the top
Knee and Leg warmers
Strap at the bottom along with internal gripper

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Road Discs

The latest tech craze in the road bike world is the emergence of disc brakes for road machines. My father was an engineering consultant and always said "you can't stop technology" which has proven to be very true but he also reminded me not all new technology works as advertised. What looks good on paper doesn’t always transfer over to the real world. While I feel discs are perfect for mountain biking and Cyclocross I feel it's going to take a while until road discs are perfected. I come from an Automotive tech background and have seen things come and go, some great, some not so great. I've always been intrigued by the engineering and how marketing can cloud the true picture. Caliper road brakes of today are pretty damn good even the carbon braking surface wheels and pads do a pretty good job. They're very low maintenance, after 6000 miles all I've had to do on my Ultegra 6700 brakes is to adjust the toe in. You simply fold up a business card slide it behind the brake pad a 1/4 inch from the rear of the pad, hold the brake lever firmly and loosen the pad mounting screw and then tighten it down.... done. Discs on a road bike can give you a host of new issues all of which are going to be dropped in the hands of the LBS. I'll give a list of issues that might or will occur hopefully less than more....

Brake rotors are prone to overheating especially descending for miles at high speeds. It's a much higher temperature accumulation on a road system as opposed to a mountain system.  A warped and pulsating rotor eventually can result. I actually have a warped rotor on my mountain bike which is not a big deal on trails, I really don't feel it. When I have to go over asphalt the pulsations in the brake lever are really annoying. If that was on a road bike on a long decent or actually any braking application that isn’t going make for a happy rider. It happens in the auto industry all the time and it will in the cycling industry.

Disc brakes have a tendency to drag, if athletes even think it's going to affect power output they'll shy away. I know some riders that are conscious of wheel hubs that drag a little and complain about it.

Brake squeal - on the road oil and chemicals sit on the asphalt and when it rains oils will kick up and can contaminate the pads causing squeal in some cases. Again on a mountain bike not really a big deal, but on the road and you'll get a lot of upset riders.

With the Braking power centered at the front axle a lot more stress will be placed on the forks. Think of the fork as a lever or pry bar putting pressure on the head set and the rest of the fork. Hopefully fork flex will not become an issue. I know the forks are beefed up but these are lightweight, generally speaking racing bikes. Brake torque could also be an issue on spoke twist. I've heard of a few riders already thinking their headset was loose when it turned out to be flex in the fork during heavy braking. Again in Mountain bike terms the forks won't flex, they're massive structures designed to take a pounding. There's no comparing the two.

Some people think because they work so well on mountain bikes they'll be great on the road. There really is no comparing the two as the engineering obstacles are worlds apart.

I don't mean to demonize discs on road bikes but just be aware of some of these issues that will pop up, just how often no one really knows yet. I'm certain over time many issues will be solved but until then I'll hold off.
Simple adjustment after 6000 miles

Friday, September 27, 2013


Every one knows that sleep does a body good. But do you know a few of the finer things of why this is? In short, sleep lets you recharge your body and mind. A common torture method is in fact keeping someone up for days, they mentally go crazy. But for 99.9% of us, were looking at the more common, squeezing in a few days of 6-7 hours of sleep a night.

Lets look at a few hormones and their implication on metabolism and health. When your sleep restricted your level of the hormone cortisol doesn't go down as much as it should as you approach evening, it should be close to nil, when you go to bed. When cortisol stays high your at more risk for insulin resistance.

Another hormone that is affected by sleep restriction is Leptin. Leptin is released by the fat cells that signals satiety to the brain and thus suppresses appetite and lets your body feel full. When your not getting the sleep you need, your levels of Leptin go down, so you will end up ingesting more calories then your body needs. This correlates with an increase in the hormone Ghrelin. Ghrelin increases your appetite. So you lose a few hours of sleep over a few days and cortisol levels don't decrease like they should, Leptin goes down, Ghrelin goes up.

An aside is I just read a study where exposure to artificial light disrupted the circadian cell division in rats. 12 hours of darkness, 12 hours of light. Compared to a group that had an hour of light during the normal darkness time and found that cell division was harmed and a large number of genes were affected.

So what to take from all this, maybe a factor in today's obesity epidemic is the result of sleep deprivation. It probably doesn't help that when your not sleeping your not going to the fridge for an organic apple, but a tub of Ben and Jerry's. Oh, and make your bedroom a cave. Dark and cool.
Get those Z's

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sega Meadows park Connecticut

A local training spot is getting a little bigger. It’s really a matter of convenience when you can ride a mountain bike to a training area. Sega Meadows bike path or sometimes referred to as New Milford River trail is slowly being expanded by the New Milford youth agency. A gravel bike path leads to some really quick single track and drops off to a neat little loop with some cool techie stuff. The trails are not long but doing laps at tempo is great if my time is crunched. I'm targeting either the Darkness 909 Halloween race or Something Wicked - Six Hours of Cathedral Pines in Long Island in November so being able to squeeze in a little more training without always driving to a location is a great help. Below are some shots with descriptions. You can finish off by heading up the 18% climb on Rooster Hollow dirt road or head into Gaylordsville and take the dirt road climb up Front of the mountain road which is one of "those" climbs where your ears pop part way up.
Nice drop roughly 40 feet
Very cool up and over
Fast S bends with some banks
Some short climbs

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Endorphins ?

Sometimes referred to as a "runners high" there is a general feeling of bliss that can occur during any long intense cardiovascular training session. Personally when entering this state, my riding becomes very even or smooth.  Everything has a natural rhythm to it, the sound of the wind running past my ears...even the trees and hills around me seem to flow together. It's kind of a meditative state with a high heart rate. At this moment, more than any other, you feel alive. This "state" is not something that just occurs to the beginning athlete or exerciser, it may take weeks or months, but eventually you start to have different experiences. Eventually you go places the untrained will never reach.

For the majority of the last two decades, scientists have struggled with defining the chemical reaction associated with the runner’s high. It was largely believed that the sensation was caused by endorphins, natural opiates in the body that are produced after trauma such as running for long periods of time. Just one problem – endorphins are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, making it impossible for this chemical reaction to be the sole cause. But in early 2004, Dr. Daniele Piomelli (UC Irvine) and Dr. Arne Deitrich (University of Beirut and Georgia Institute of Technology, also a marathoner) found another possibility – anandamide, a natural chemical that stimulates the brain in the same way marijuana does. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that can reduce feelings of pain, dilate blood vessels and bronchial tubes and induce tranquility. The Georgia Tech researchers believe that the ednocannabinoid system reacts to stress and pain experienced by the body during prolonged exercise. This could have been an evolutionary development, a method of keeping the body going when injured or overworked.

Piomelli and Deitrich, looking for the runner’s high connection, performed a study in early 2004 with two dozen college students who ran or bicycled for 40 minutes at 76 percent of their max heart rate, and then had blood samples drawn immediately after exercising. The results showed that both the runners and bicyclists had 80% more anandamide in their blood after exercising.

Whether we realize it or not we are training more than just our bodies.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Energy Gels and Sugar

There always seems to be some confusion regarding the types of sugars in energy gels. Here is an overview of the sugars most commonly used in the most popular gels.  Maltodextrin is the most easily digested form of carbohydrate, 36% faster than glucose, making it ideal in a gel. More importantly, Maltodextrin requires far less water to be isotonic than glucose or fructose. The flavor is mild even at high concentrations.

Fructose is useful as it is absorbed via different pathways increasing the total carbohydrate absorption above what is possible with Maltodextrin alone. Fructose must be converted into glucose by the liver before it can be used as a fuel by the body. As a result, when fructose is consumed it is a “slower release” carbohydrate. Consuming a gel with both Maltodextrin and Fructose is what I have found works best for me giving your body 2 different pathways of sugar. Some athletes do have an issue digesting Fructose. Fructose malabsorption is an increasingly recognized condition where the person has an inability to absorb fructose from the small intestine into the blood. The fructose passes through to the large intestine, where naturally occurring bacteria digest the fructose and produce gas. People with fructose malabsorption experience abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas if they eat large quantities of fructose. If you have an issue or think you might have an issue with Fructose, Hammer Gel is noteworthy as one of the easiest to digest gels. It is nearly all Maltodextrin dissolved in a greater volume of fluid than other gels. The low level of sugars and electrolytes makes this far easier on the digestive system, and is recommended for athletes who have issues with other types of gel. I do prefer the taste of Hammer gels myself.

The gel I do prefer most of the time is GU gels.  It contains 5g of Fructose, with the rest of the calories coming from the easily digested Maltodextrin. I just seems to give me the best "kick", though the taste is sometimes a little strong or excessively sweet. Fructose is 1.7x as sweet as sugar.

Some gels do contain caffeine which is great for improving performance and speeding the absorption of Carbohydrates. With my love affair with caffeine I normally choose gels that contain as least a little.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Racing and focus

For years while competing in sports I've always shied away from endurance sports mainly because of my bodies predominantly higher content of fast twitch muscle fiber, which have given me a knack for strength in speed. Though, at the time I didn't realize this it's probably why I've always excelled in most stick and ball sports ex: Football, Baseball or anything that required a fast sprint, agility, or strength. Generally these are all attributes of fast twitch muscle fiber or strength fiber as opposed to slow twitch fiber which most endurance athletes possess at a higher level. However, sometimes in life things take a different path or a seed is planted inside of us which elicits a change in our perspective. Cycling has become a major icon of my life in the past 10 years, that is road cycling. Love it, always will.  But lately getting my feet wet in mountain bike racing is something’s that's really caught my interest. That's right endurance sports. My experience with mountain biking only began a few years ago so my overall technical skills are still being honed. Why race?  Racing makes you a better rider. You can improve your riding skills more in a single race than in months of casual training. Why? A race focuses your mind and floods your neural system with adrenaline. When our brain is exposed to high levels of adrenaline during a time when we need to focus the brain adapts to skills much more efficiently. The race environment makes your brain pay attention, it force feeds your system and you find you’re doing things you didn't think you could. Plus knowing a race is coming up you'll have a tendency to eat and train better. This all brings me to last weekend’s race, the SOS challenge in Stewart forest near Stewart airport in NY State. It's part of the NYS mountain bike series and I can't say enough good about their organization. It's top notch in every way. This would only be my second race and I went to get some experience in on a fast course. Fast course it was as well as a slick mud fest due to the heavy rain during the race, but still a blast. The forest seems to contain a lot of Shale rock which gives surprisingly good traction when wet as opposed to the rock content in Connecticut. After getting lost pre riding the course with 2 other riders and putting about 11 - 12 miles extra on our legs we arrived back with about 20 minutes to spare before the start. I felt pretty good during the race and with more experience this is the kind of course that should suit me. Unfortunately, I dropped my chain no less than four times which ensures a little frustration. I knew something was bent or twisted because the shifting was erratic and the occasional ghost shifting can really break your rhythm but hey so what it was still fun. I just left the chain in the small front ring a rode the best I could. I was doing 2 laps but decided to bite the bullet and pull off at the end of the first, truly a hard thing to do but it was frustrating with the mechanical issue. I wasn't the only one with mechanical issues as I saw a few "walkers" on the way. Some guy parked next to me lost both his front and back brakes halfway thru the first lap. When I looked at his bike sure enough no brakes. Kind of gets your attention on a fast course. When I arrived home and dug through the mud on the drivetrain I found the rear derailleur damaged, the hanger bent and the pulley guide damaged. Hey just serve up new X-9 rear derailleur. All in all an excellent experience.

A popular spot after the race.

Rear Derailleur took a hit and bent the hanger

Start finish SOS challenge

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Michelin Pro 4 service course

This year I switched to the Michelin Pro 4 service course tires since the Pro Race 3's are being discontinued. I've liked the 3's in the past but tire wear issue has always been a weak link, that is the rear tire not front. There's been a wide variety of opinions on durability but I never had an issue with excessive flatting. I find they do get small cuts over time but nothing to panic me into changing them out. So far the 4's which are nearly the same weight seem to be wearing better, the rear is not squaring off nearly as soon.  Overall the ride is much better than Continental and Schwalbe offerings. The ride quality is excellent, something I've always liked about Michelins.  These tires are sure footed and this is where the new grip shape really shines. By making the tread crown more triangular, more rubber stays in contact with the road through corners. The new tread profile is something they've brought over from their motorcycle gran prix racing technology.  Michelin says the rolling resistance is better than the 3's but if that's true it's really hard to tell because some days your legs just feel like bricks and others they don't. At this point they're kind of expensive but remember their classified as "racing tires" so therefore the cost. 700 x 23 weight - 200g
Nice improvement over the 3"s

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Focusing on Hip Flexors

Tight Hip Flexors affect Athletes as well as the general population. In Evolutionary terms humans have not been standing fully upright long enough to have perfectly adapted hip flexors. With the amount people sit nowadays (driving, couch, computer, etc) our hip flexors are consistently closed allowing them to shorten. They almost never receive any kind of stretching unless your a very conscious athlete or rehabbing from injury.

When the Hip Flexors tighten the Pelvis is put into a tilt partially disengaging the Glute complex which is a major stabilizing group. This affects the arches of the feet as well as strains the Hamstrings and puts the back in Hyperextension. Injuries can occur including ACL, low back, and Piriformis issues. Other issues that Athletes should be aware of is while your body mechanics are altered due to the torso Hyperextending the Diaphragm is in a partial inhalation position that affects breathing which will alter your endurance.

To prevent adaptive shorting of the Hip Flexors include stretching plus corrective exercises to the Glutes, Hamstrings and Adductors - which are Posterior to Hip Flexor function.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Utilizing fat stores

Want to maximize the amount of fat you lose in training?  It is often assumed that low-intensity exercise is best for burning fat.  During exercise at a very low intensity, fat does account for most of the energy expenditure, while at a moderate intensity fat accounts for roughly 50 percent of energy used.  However, at the moderate intensity, the number of calories used per minute is much greater compared to the low intensity, so the total number of calories expended is also greater.  The rate of energy expenditure, rather than simply the percentage of energy expenditure derived from fat, is what’s most important.  Furthermore, endurance-trained individuals rely less on carbohydrates and more on fat as fuel during submaximal exercise.  So, the more running you do, the more fat you will use during subsequent runs.

Now, ignore that preceding paragraph, because to decrease body fat percentage, you don’t necessarily have to use fat during your run.  (After all, sprinters have very little body fat and they do little aerobic exercise)  Most of the fat used during exercise is in the form of intramuscular triglyceride (fat droplets stored within muscle).  Much of the fat from adipose tissue (e.g., around your waistline) is lost during the hours following exercise.  The amount of fat loss depends, in part, on the exercise intensity.  Following high-intensity exercise, there is a higher rate of fat oxidation than following low-intensity exercise.  Because a greater intensity of work can be performed by breaking up the work with periods of rest, interval training is a great way to help decrease body fat percentage.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quassy Rev 3 Tri and running

I ventured to the Quassy Rev 3 Triathlon in Connecticut to watch the Pro's compete in the 70.3 part of the event. I'm always amazed by how precise the pros are. Seconds wasted can mean the difference between winning and losing positions. Watching them in the transition area switch from swim-bike to bike-run is really an art. Speed, fluidity and just pure determination. Mounting theTri bikes and dismounting them is something that needs to be practiced until perfect. It's really something to see. After all this is their livelihood. Joe Gambles took the men's victory while Heather Wurtele the women's title. Spectacular efforts in the heat and one of the hardest 70.3 distance events in the country due to the excessive climbing while biking and running. 

The running form of the pros is pretty impressive no matter what shoes they were wearing. Of course my analytical minds takes over at times and I began observing the running style of the non - professionals. Lately the craze is to run in minimalist running shoes which effectively change the foot strike position to a more midfoot strike (which is another debate in itself) but I was really amazed by the people running minimalist shoes exhibiting a defined heel strike. It's as if they were still running in stability or cushioned shoes. This more or less raises the question about the ingrained mechanics in our physiology. Is it possible some people cannot change their mechanics of running no matter what the shoe? A heel landing in minimalist shoes puts more impact on the human framework which is not a good thing, read - injury. Not to mention it increases the time required for recovery. Even if midfoot striking is better than heel striking I truly believe not everyone’s body can adapt over to it. The transition of switching over to minimalist shoes should be a careful and thought out process, it's just not that simple.
Pros Bikes

Joe Gambles winner

Heather Jackson 2nd place

Recovery area

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

VO2max and running mileage

If you’ve been training for a while, chances are that your VO2max has plateaued.  VO2max is a pretty stable parameter, with further improvements in performance resulting from improvements in other physiological variables like lactate threshold and running economy.  While the exact volume of training at which VO2max plateaus is individual, a number of researchers have suggested that it plateaus at about 70 miles per week.  Any training above this won’t likely improve VO2max unless you include more intensity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Update on Mavic Crossmax SLR wheelset

It's been a year and a half riding on the Crossmax SLR Tubeless wheelset and I thought an update would be in order. How did they hold up? Absolutely perfect to sum it up. Their still true which is kind of amazing, no issues with the tubeless system, no flats. In the wet the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires are like ice skates, while in the dry their grip is good. Bi-polar tires. The benefit of the tubeless is the lower air pressures I can run in the wet to offset some of the slickness of the Schwalbes. I never had any problems at low air pressures with the tires or rims burping air as Mavic set the UST standard for the bead locking design. There's no internal rim tape as the spokes do not protrude into the rim meaning its one less thing to worry about and knocking off a few more grams of weight. In the wet I run pressures in the low to mid 20"s psi. Dry conditions I generally run 26 to 29 which gives me good grip and softens the impact of a hardtail. These wheels lowered the weight of my wheelset by over a pound and their stiff like most Mavic wheels. All in all they make me feel like a better rider than I really am.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cardiac Drift

What is Cardiovascular Drift? If you've ever trained with a heart rate monitor you might have noticed that your heart rate increases as the workout progresses even though your speed and effort remain the same. What you’re experiencing is Cardiac drift. It's really a normal occurrence and can increase your heart rate up to 20 beats per minutes over a 30 minute period. You'll find it's more evident during hotter conditions and there are a few reasons that contribute to this. First, dehydration causes a lowering of blood plasma or volume forcing the heart to work harder to support working muscles and cool the body simultaneously. Correspondingly, the stroke volume of the heart decreases so that cardiac output and oxygen uptake remain the same, keeping your breathing and effort similar while heart rate elevates.  Acclimating to the heat and humidity can help diminish Cardiac drift but it will still occur to some extent.  It's important to remember low body fluids can still occur in cooler conditions so this is not a heat only occurrence. Hydration is a double edged sword against cardiovascular drift.  It fights the increase in core body temperature and it maintains blood volume.

Another contributing issue is muscular fatigue. During extended training when slow twitch muscle fibers fatigue (endurance fibers) your body attempts to compensate by recruiting additional muscle types. These muscles are generally fast twitch fibers which possess more brute strength but generate more lactic acid which in turn can elevate heart rate. This process is kind of a built in survival mechanism in the human body.

Lastly relax, anxiety, stress and tension can be contributing factors.

Monday, April 29, 2013

NYC biking

We ventured to NYC for a long weekend and took to the bike paths for a little adventure. Adventure is an understatement especially on the Hudson or West side of the path. This is not a hammerfest, at least for me, I get my burn in hills of Northwest Connecticut. This was strictly a casual ride but the need to stay alert is priority 1. On a typical day you have walkers, runners, hybrids, mountain bikes, roadies, triathletes on TT bikes (with aero helmets no less), rollerbladers, hipsters, rental bikes and some bikes that I can't even begin to explain what they are. Along with this you have people of all levels riding side by side and going in opposite directions which makes things quite interesting. Some sights are truly priceless. You'll find activity on these paths 24 hours a day. Off the path in the heart of the city it's really a crazed experience riding side by side next to city busses, cabs, and pedestrians to name a few obstacles. At this point we're getting pretty good at navigating around the city and as a perk your bike handling skills improve or better improve as this is a crash course in being aware. Never ever a dull moment. I've read there's over 400 miles of New York bike lanes and paths and it's simply an amazing design and infrastructure. It's truly incredible how this city has evolved to what it is today. In between the droves of people on the west side path I shot a couple of quick photos.
A rare break in the AM path traffic
Into the city
USS Intrepid along the west side path

Monday, April 22, 2013

VO2max at Altitude

If you’ve ever trained or raced at high altitude it can be a physically humbling experience along with a decrease in performance. Headaches, light headed, sometimes nausea. The decrease in performance at altitude is largely due to the altitude-associated decrease in VO2max.  Because there is less oxygen available to the muscles at altitude your maximal cardiac output is lower so your VO2max is lower than at sea level.  The reduced VO2max at altitude is greater with higher level athletes because they exhibit a greater decrease in hemoglobin’s oxygen saturation.  In other words, the more an athlete has to begin with, the more he or she has to lose. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Paris-Roubaix - The Many Faces Of Hell

Sunday I watched the Paris-Roubaix race also known as 'The Queen of the Classics' and 'The Hell of the North'. No other race is quite like it.. This has to be the toughest single day race bike race in existence. It takes place in northern France near the Belgian frontier using many of the same roads built for Napoleon's armies hundreds of years ago constructed of cobblestones that are slick, rough, and sharp, 27 sectors of cobble stones in all. Race distance is 254.5 km (158.1 mi). Lots of Broken parts, crashes, broken Bones... brutal stuff. Mental toughness takes a front seat here seemingly more than most any other race. I've posted a video from the Blanco team on "faces before and after" and it pretty much tells the story.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Smart training

When you go outside for a run or go to the gym to lift weights, do you feel that you have to go hard for every workout?  While training hard once in a while does have its benefits, it’s more important to train smart.  For example, if you’re doing an interval workout on the track, you should know exactly how fast you should run to reap the benefits of the workout.  If you run too fast, you’ll add unnecessary fatigue to your legs without extra benefit.  For example, say you want to improve your maximal rate of oxygen consumption (VO2max), and you plan to run mile repeats at the speed at VO2max (near 100 percent maximal heart rate).  If running each mile in 6:00 elicits VO2max (and max heart rate), running each repeat in 5:45 will certainly also elicit VO2max.  But why run each mile in 5:45 when you can run it in 6:00 and still get the same benefit?  Running faster is not always better. The goal of training is to provide the least stressful stimulus that will elicit the desired adaptation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beet juice and Athletic performance

Research behind beet juice and athletic performance is compelling. In fact it's compelling for your health in general. A series of small but mostly well-designed studies have associated beet juice intake with increased exercise performance. Apparently beet juice allows your muscles to perform the same amount of work while using less oxygen, making your body's energy production more efficient. Here are some of the main findings:

Beet juice increased time to exhaustion: cyclists who drank beet juice could ride 16 per cent longer than without beet juice in their diet. The beet juice also allowed them to increase intensity or measured wattage with less oxygen cost.

Beet juice improved performance (1-3 per cent) and power output in 4km, 16km, and 10km cycling time trials.

The results were significant. The beet-juice group was able to cycle an average of 16 per cent longer. The author, Professor Andy Jones, noted: “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. We were amazed by the effect of beet juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.”

Beets contain many health promoting substances, including the antioxidants betalain, resveratrol, and quercetin. But several studies have revealed that nitrates are responsible for the performance benefit of beets.

How this occurs is that the nitrates in beets convert to nitrite, some of which is converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide's role in regulating blood pressure and promoting cardiovascular health is well-established.. Nitric oxide regulates vasodilation, relaxing blood vessels and improves blood flow, which allows more oxygen to reach the muscles. Secondly, nitric oxide helps muscle mitochondria become more efficient.

I personally put whole beets as well as the roots and leaves, which by the way are nutrient rich, in my Vitamix machine along with an apple or other fruit to sweeten it up. There's nothing like getting these elements from natural whole food sources - nothing processed or synthetic. Oh and a little thing to remember is your stool or urine can have a reddish tint so don't be alarmed. Here's a video from Exeter University explaining their findings...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Garneau Carbon Pro team shoes

Another addition to the addiction is a new pair of Louis Garneau Carbon Pro Team shoes. Though very durable, my older LG Carbon shoes are really showing their age, the leather is getting too stretched out and they're beginning to feel like slippers. I've always liked the Garneau shoes due to their venting system which is among the best in the industry. The new shoes come with 2 insoles; one is red which is used for cold weather as it's not vented. The other is blue for hot weather and has small vent holes. What's interesting is it contains Xylitol which is an alcohol-based sugar. Have you ever tried that chewing gum that gives you that cool frigid sensation when chewing? Same stuff. When your feet sweat the moisture released converts the insoles into cooling pads. I haven't used them in the heat yet and from what I’ve read it's not like sticking your feet in into an ice bucket but it does provide a moderate cooling sensation. The shoe itself has a channel beneath the foot bed that channels air from the vent at the front of the shoe, and out the exhaust in the middle. I did find the shoes to be very stiff - excellent power transfer. The toe box is a little narrow so you might want to size up a half size but I was able to stay with my normal size 44. The heal retention system is called the HRS-300 which is an internal polymer or strap that keeps your heal in place. My heal was truly secure and comfortable, zero slippage. List price $300.00
Blue insole for summer with Xylitol, Red insole for winter
Huge vents on top
Director of photography

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Winter riding gear

Craft 3D leg warmers

With temps in the mid 40's I finally have an opportunity to get a decent road ride in and a little climbing to boot just so I don't forget how to suffer. Thankfully the trainer miles this winter has keep me in the ballpark fitness wise and I actually had some legs under me. If nothing else I wanted to test out some fairly new cool weather riding swag. It's really hard to balance out what gear to use in the winter - to hot and you sweat then freeze, to cold and you just freeze.

It's the second time I used a new pair of Craft 3D leg warmers. At first observation I thought wow these are way too thin. They do have some wind block material on the front of the leg and knee but even that seemed thin. The first time I used them it was in the 30's and about 15 minutes into the ride I felt like the back of my knees were actually starting to sweat, totally amazed by the warmth they provided. It's amazing something so thin can be so toasty, truly the best warmers I've used to date. I wouldn't use them mountain biking because branches or rocks could tear them easily or it appears, strictly for road biking in my opinion.

The other piece of swag is the Demarchi Contour racing 3L jacket. It's actually 3 layers but thin not bulky. Windproof front panels with a stretchy outer mesh, thermo panels in the back and underarms, soft brushed inside that's permeable to let out excess body heat. At around 40 degrees I've been able to wear just a winter base layer and this jacket and stay pretty comfortable.

Honestly though, I really can't wait to throw the winter stuff to the back of the closet. Soon.
Demarchi Contour racing 3L jacket