Monday, February 28, 2011

Power Training on the Bike

There's nothing more intimidating than standing in the middle of a bunch of super lean, hairless legged dudes conversing in bike-geek-speak. I can usually hold my own with the lycra clad warriors but I was starting to feel a little left out when the topic of discussion inevitably turned to Watts. It was time to get a new toy.

Since I wasn't convinced training with power was all it's cracked up to be, I went the cheap route and bought a computer that is calibrated to estimate power when used with my Kurt Kinetic trainer. Not the most accurate tool, I know but it was less than 1/5 the cost of some other power meters. I've been using the trainer and power meter over the last couple of months and I hate to admit it but it does work much better on shorter interval workouts than heart rate data.

Heart rate takes a while to creep up when you are doing a hard interval. So it doesn't give you good feedback on your effort if you are doing shorter intervals, like 1 or even 2 min. You get immediate feedback on how hard you are pushing with the power meter. That's key when you're trying to improve your high end output. Since this is my primary limiter... I guess I should stick with it.

The down side: It really effing hurts to push that hard and I highly recommend you keep a bucket close by. I guess I should also add that it takes some homework to find out what your ideal wattage for training a given interval length should be. That's something that a lot of data hounds out there will embrace. For the rest of us, it's a hassle.

You can download a pdf file at that thoroughly explains training with power called, you guessed it... Training With Power.

The first person to puke wins.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I've had better days.

I set out on my ride today feeling good about how it should go. I was relatively well rested, given that I had been sitting on my bum for two days learning about joint surgery and rehab, (more on this later). I thought that I should have plenty in the tank. I was wrong.

Lesson 1: it's not a ride if you have to walk up 80% of it. Yes I was on a single speed. Yes it was silly steep. Yes it was narrow and off camber and exposed and slippery and sketchy and had deer poop on it...

Lesson 2: sometimes there is crying in mountain biking.

Lesson 3: no matter how safe someone says it is, sometimes your limbic system and adrenals just don't agree.

Lesson 4: the ride can still get better no matter how it starts.

Lesson 5: there is an appropriate time and place for tree hugging, on a mountain bike ride is not usually it.

Lesson 6: every ride turns out well when it ends at Everybody's brewing.

When will I ever actually learn how to rest on Sunday?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rest, recovery, regeneration

A little story about life balance.

It was 6 weeks before my second Ironman Canada. I showed up at the track for my once a week workout with my running coach. We went through a really light warm-up, then did a few form drills and he declared the workout over.

Me: "What?" I said. I couldn't believe it. I thought we were going to put some finishing touches on my speed work. Didn't he realize that Ironman was just around the corner? I was running out of time.

Coach: "You're exhausted, I can see it in your eyes."

Me: "But I haven't been over-training, if anything I've been missing workouts!"

Coach: "Life is like a water chute. Only so much stuff can flow through the chute at one time. That stuff isn't just your training, it's work, it's your relationships, it's your responsibilities. If you try to fit too much through the chute, there's going to be a mess when things burst apart."

Me: "Life's been challenging as of late, but what am I supposed to do? I need to get ready for the race!"

Coach: "Over the next 6 days, I want you to use every minute that you would to train, to rest in a horizontal position. You don't have to sleep. Just rest."

I thought he was nuts but I also knew that I was tired and I did as I was told. The first 2 days were tough because I felt guilty for being lazy. Then I started to recognize how truly tired I was. It took 6 days for me to get the training/racing itch back. He was right on the money. The decision to have me rest that week likely saved my Ironman. I was on the verge of disaster.

The moral of the story. Sometimes life is demanding. As an athlete it's hard to give yourself permission to do nothing, especially when you haven't been able to train much because of other factors. But those other factors drain you, as much as training, if not more. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best training you can do.

This 20 min of writing was done in the horizontal position. My goal to day is to stay like that as much as possible. Time for repairs before the water chute bursts open.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I am lucky enough to have been born with a generous allotment of constitutional strength in many arenas. What I wasn't born with was a lot of patience or understanding for people who don't have the same get up and go as I do. I struggle daily with frustration when I see people exhibiting self destructive behaviors. I struggle to not just reach out and shake them while yelling, "Can't you see what you are doing to yourself?"

I know that my frustration harms my spirit/psyche/emotional health - whatever you want to call it. It does nothing to help those who have come to me for aid.

I had a very difficult day yesterday. A day dominated by clients with chronic conditions and negative behaviors that perpetuate their situation. It had me exhausted at the end of it. Fortunately, the wonderful positive energy of my Strong Chicks brought me back to life. It was a good reminder. A reminder that our behavior affects those around us. A reminder that my frustration radiates to others and that's not good. A reminder that I can change my behavior and my attitude, my world. A hope that if I change myself, I will create a ripple effect that will change the lives of others... in a good way.

So why did I call this post "Compassion"? Compassion is the keystone in my character arc(h). It is the antagonist of my frustration. If I can truly incorporate compassion in my day to day life, integrate it, breathe it, the frustration will disappear and I will be a better person.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bike fitting and the body.

A friend of mine has purchased a new bike and was concerned about handling on descents as this is sometimes a problem for him. In part related to bike geometry but also likely related to riding style and posture.

This spurred an online discussion about getting lower on the bike to allow for better handling. The comment also included advice on using your core to support your trunk so that the rider could let his arms relax while riding. Not unlike this:

I agree that the changes suggested would improve handling on descents. But sometimes a body just can't do it.

I did a bike fit for the rider in question with the focus on trying to relieve any pain issues while riding. We did that successfully. While the lower position described may help with handling on descents and other technical riding, the rider has to have a body that will accept that position as well which requires sufficient core strength, hip and hamstring flexibility. *IF* the rider can get into the position, maintain a good low back and pelvic alignment, the neck might be able to take the posture. If the low back and pelvic position and stability aren't there, neck posture will be crap and there will be huge compressive forces through that part of the spine. Even with perfect low back/pelvic positioning, the neck will take more strain due to the way the head has to be lifted to look forward with the lower stem/handlebars. A younger spine can take that strain fairly easily. Older spines (greater than 35 years old) start having bone spurs and things that complicate the issue.

The comments made by others in the discussion about riding posture were absolutely correct, not just about the position but also about having to use your core to support your trunk instead of having a lot of weight on the hands. Unfortunately, a lot of riders do not have sufficient core strength to do so, or insufficient muscle endurance to maintain that core support over longer rides.

So this is perfect example of fitting a bike for performance versus ergonomics. In some cases, you have no choice but to give up one for the other. Finding the right bike fit is a balancing act. It's not black and white.