Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bike Shopping!

Shopping for new gear is always fun, and shopping for a new bike is very exciting! At the same time it is a bit of an intimidating process. For most of us, this only happens every few years and it's a significant investment so we want to do it right. It's time for me to shop for a new bike, as I've been riding the same Specialized Tarmac Comp since 2007. It's gone through different modifications, but I'm at the point in my performance where a real Tri bike is what I need for my triathlon racing.

Here's my process....
1) Identify my budget.
2) Get a "pre-purchase" fit so that I know what brands/sizes will be my best options. As much as I'd like to buy for looks, it's really the fit that matters.
3) Identify the models that fit in my price range. I am going to sacrifice some "upper end" components so that I can get a good set of wheels (still yet tbd) with a PowerTap. I'm going to put together a spreadsheet of bikes/components and then talk to the bike shops that sell them.
4) Test out as many of the models that I can.
5) Buy the bike that works the best!

I've done steps 1 and 2, and am in the middle of #3.

Last night I met with Branden Rakita, a local XTERRA pro who works at ProCycling here in Colorado Springs. They have a Serotta fit cycle, which is basically a contraption with a seat post and post for handle bars (or aero bars) that can get moved in all sorts of directions. The pedals are attached to a crank which is then hooked up to a computrainer so that power output and pedal efficiency can get monitored. Fancy!
the fit cycle, not really that blurry in real life.
Branden hard at work crunching numbers
After answering a bunch of questions about my athletic history, any issues I've had while riding, how much I train, and so forth, Branden took a bunch of measurements. He checked my flexibility and even measured my feet. Then I hopped on the cycle and pedaled. He made some changes. I pedaled and things moved some more. He measured some angles and distances and entered them into the software.

The cool thing was that the computrainer software has a module called the spinscan, which shows you your pedaling efficiency graphically. I was pretty smooth in the pedal stroke with power distribution, but I learned that my left leg provides 52% of my power, and my right leg only 48%. Interesting, but I'm not surprised, as my left leg is my stronger leg. (Extra motivation to keep up with the strength training to balance out a bit more!)

We then spent a little time looking at bike geometry tables where he picked out a few that would work for me. He'll email me the full results and I'll be able to keep working on item #3 in my process.

Steve gave a great clinic!
Today I actually was at a Bike Fitting Basics clinic run by Steve Vaughan at Bicycle Village after a Team In Training spin class with my team. He did a quick basic demo fit with me on the Trek in the photo above (per my request...heeheehee). It's one I'm considering...

Stay tuned for more updates as I dial in my bike selection!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winter Series Race #3 - Race Report and Recipe!

High five from Tim Bergsten of
Today was the Winter Series Race #3, also known as the wind tunnel. Or for me, a 10 mile aerobic run in the snow. Fortunately for me, the starting line was less than 2 miles from my house on a section of trail with which I am very familiar. It was a five-mile out and back course, which meant 5 miles uphill into the wind and snow, and five miles downhill with a bit of a tailwind but still in the snow. There was about a mile or so (each way) of cleared trail like the photo above. Otherwise it was running on several inches of packed snow in a narrow track. That took a toll on the legs keeping footing and balance!

Here's my HR and GPS data.

Shannon showed up to my house around 9:30 and we carpooled over to the trail head for the 10:15 start. I still had to register, but the Pikes Peak Road Runner volunteers are very efficient! The temps were around 40 degrees, and although the forecast was for sunny, the sky was a bit overcast. The wind was out of the northwest at about 10mph. Not too bad for this section of trail! The short course folks went off at 10:00, and us long course 10-miler crazies left on time at 10:15. North we went with several hundred running buddies. Shannon and I kept a 11:00ish minute pace on the uphill - very comfortable (sort of). Maintaining traction in the snowy track and the gradual uphill into the wind always makes it feel more challenging. I was glad to reach the turn around and head downhill.

I picked up the pace for the last mile as my legs felt pretty good, and I caught a lady that passed us around the 7.5 mile marker. Always fun to do! We didn't stay long after the race as I was hosting an informal potluck lunch.

Here's where the recipe comes in....I whipped up this delish Sweet Potato Egg casserole to share. Here's the recipe - hope you enjoy!

8 eggs
1 pint egg whites
1/2 c. plain soy milk
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, diced (I used my garlic press)
1T of butter (but you can use your oil of choice)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated (yay for my cuisinart)
4 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, diced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F).
Saute onion and garlic in the butter until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes or so. Set aside to cool.
Beat eggs, egg whites, and soy milk
Add in grated sweet potato, cooled onion/garlic, red pepper, and bacon and stir until combined.
Pour into greased 13x9" glass pan.
Bake for about 45-60 minutes (I didn't keep track of the exact time - just kept checking until the center was set and cooked through.)

Cut into pieces and top with salsa or cheese (or both!) 
Winter Series #4 is in two weeks... a hilly 20k.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Los Angeles!

I arrived in LA around 8:30pm on Sunday the 30th and found my grandparents waiting for me at the baggage claim area. We made it back to the their house and enjoyed some cake. Who can turn down cake and coffee from their grandparents?
Oma's cranberry cake.
I didn't last too long before I needed to go to bed. My grandparents have been in the same house for a long time (since the 50s) and it was nice to be in a familiar place, even though the visit was short. 
After breakfast on Monday, Oma and I headed over Coldwater Canyon to the Valley. We went to the mall and hit up a Coldwater Creek store, where she was nice enough to buy me a few things.
Beverly Drive and Coldwater Canyon
Palm trees at the mall.
Coldwater Canyon
Still on Coldwater...
Back at the house, I had a quick snack, crammed the new clothes into my suitcase. Not much room, but somehow I made it work! We then headed over to Santa Monica where I got to get my toes in the sand and the ocean. I soaked up as much sun as I could, as I would be returning to temperatures in the single digits in Colorado and snow! I really didn't want to leave the southern California sun! I had to leave paradise and I got on the plane back to Denver, where temps were heading below 0F.

we were heading the wrong way. ;-)
Didn't see the Fresh Prince (Bel-Air)
Almost to the beach in Santa Monica
Waiting for the light to change...almost to the water
parking lots are for the birds!
sand and mountains
It was nice to see the ocean again!
and get my feet in the water
and in the sand!
Late lunch here before my flight.
And I get dropped off at LAX for my flight back to Colorado.

A TNT Weekend with Dave Scott

TNT Tier 2 Coach Certification Day 1
I actually got a decent night's rest and got up at 6am for the start of a long day! The TNT crew gets started early and gets going. Lots of classroom time today. Dave Scott is the head coach for the TNT triathlon program and teaches this clinic. We get started with introductions and dive into the curriculum. We blaze through topics such as program structure, exercise physiology, marker sets, swim technique fundamentals, and bike fit. Excellent presentation (and very engaging) by Rand Libberton from Aria Velo in Santa Rosa.

You can tell that Dave enjoys teaching. He's got a natural charisma and delivery that keeps things interesting. He's well versed in exercise physiology and has a great grasp of how the body functions, both biomechanically and in regards to energy systems.

We finish the day with a group dinner at a store called Sports Basement. They provided some sandwiches and beverages and 20% off coupons. Everyone went went to town with the shopping!
Too bad one of these wouldn't fit in my suitcase!
Dave chatting with Justin and Josh

I was pretty hungry going into dinner, and didn't want to eat a lot of sandwiches, so I was a bit hungry when we got back to the hotel. Another coach, Regan, and I went to the hotel restaurant and got a couple appetizers to top off the evening. (Chicken Lettuce Wraps is what I had for those who are interested.) Then I chatted briefly with the TNT staff to ask about potential information for an article I am writing and then went to bed.
TNT Day 2
Another really long day!
Today we jumped into the practical right away with the swim. Since I wanted feedback on my swim stroke, I hopped in the pool with half the coaches. It was warmer in the water than on the deck, but if we stopped for very long we got a bit chilled. We were out there for over an hour going over drills, watching our fellow coach technique and learning ways to make corrections. We had more classroom instruction in mid-morning. After lunch we headed over to a local park for some running drills. We paired up and evaluated each other. The weather was cool and drizzly for this part so we didn't overheat!
Head up, Dave! And is that a "hot armpit??" :D
Drills on the ball field (to avoid the goose poop on the grass)
Back at the hotel there were two treadmills waiting in a room for us. I was asked to get on the hamster wheel for everyone to watch (along with a few others). I'll say it is a little intimidating to get on a treadmill with 20 coaches and Dave Scott watching your running and filling out a checklist. At least the flaws they pointed out were nothing that I didn't already know or at least made sense. Funny how tightness in different parts of the body really does affect technique. I knew this, but the weekend really highlighted how my tight hip flexors and chest/back affects both my running and swimming. A very practical and insightful day today.

coaches evaluating other coaches
another coach on the hamster wheel...
We did a question and answer session and then were done for the day at around 6:30. I had enough to take a quick shower before meeting Ron and his son, Nick, for dinner. They picked me up from the hotel and we hit up a sushi place, but the wait was going to be close to 2 hours. So we went next door to Silk Road, a mediterranean place. Great to chat and catch up with them!

I went to bed as soon as I could after getting back to the hotel, as we were starting tomorrow once again before 7am!
TNT Day 3
We're all pretty exhausted at this point, Dave included. But we got cracking right after breakfast. If anything, Dave definitely is one to start on time and to not waste time! After breakfast (a light one for me, as I was going to get in the water), we headed back to the pool. Good thing it was a rainy morning! Or not. About a third of the coaches got in the water for the first 40 minutes, where the rest of the coaches evaluated their technique from a checklist and worked on specific drills that Dave wanted us to use. Then the other group who wanted to swim got in the pool. I was in this group, a smaller group in the pool, so I had about 5 coaches watching me. Talk about being in a fishbowl! It was actually quite useful and insightful, and they did a good job of not overloading me with instructions.
After this wet session, we went back inside and discussed race nutrition. Then we had lunch (quite healthy I might add!) we had another brief session before heading to the studio for some strength training work. Let's just say we all have weak glutes, except for Dave. I think he enjoyed having us all collapse with fatigued muscles while he could do more reps. As painful as it was, it was a fantastic session to review exercises that we can use to help strengthen up our teams. After this we had some question/answer time and then got our completion certificates. Well earned, I might say!

We are about to enter a world of gluteal hurt.
Dave grins, we grimmace after that session!
I changed into my traveling clothes and found out that Josh, who I had been sitting next to all weekend, had a flight out of SFO at about the same time as mine and was planning on taking BART to the airport so we rode the train there together. To tide us over, we both got $9 smoothies at the hotel smoothie bar before we left. They were good! It was nice to have a traveling partner in an unfamiliar place.
At the airport, I got on a plane to LA to visit my grandparents...

San Francisco!

I flew out to San Francisco on Jan 27th for a weekend Team In Training Tier 2 Coach certification clinic (in Walnut Creek). The program didn't start until early Friday, but I decided to take an early flight to SFO so that my uncle, who lives in the wine country north of the city, could show me some of the sights.
It was an uneventful drive to the Denver airport, and except for the overhead bins filling up as I was half-way to my seat and I had to go back to the jetway (through all those people) and gate check my bag, the flight went well. We actually arrived about 30 minutes early, and because I gate checked the bag, it was one of the first on the carousel.
My uncle Mark, aka Mr. Mark.
My uncle picked me up and the first thing we did was navigate to a gourmet donut shop. A few years back he had tried to open up a similar shop where he lives, but the market was just too small to be successful. This shop seemed to be doing well. Dynamo Donuts. The treat of the day was the maple apple bacon donut. Yes. Bacon on the donut! I know this isn't metabolically efficient, but days like today, special circumstances, make it important to enjoy food opportunities.
Yes, those are bacon bits on the donut on the left!
After the donut shop, we hit up some of the museums. First up was the SFMoMA where we took in the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit, which was phenomenal photographic jounalism and some of the first work with 35mm cameras. We were in there for quite a while and both were getting hungry, so refueling was critical before hitting the next museum so we had lunch in the cafe. We actually both went with the BBQ shortrib sandwich. Another good choice!
After lunch we headed down the street to the Cartoon Art Museum. The main exhibit was comic strips from jewish women. These weren't your "light" comics. This museum also had some cool original drawings of the Warner Bros cartoons - Bugs, Sylvester, Tweetie Bird, tons! When we had enough of this one, we went to visit a friend of his at an art gallery.
Jack Fischer was putting together an exhibit from two artists, Richard Bassett and Chris Crites. It was an interesting take on violence. (Note: interesting is a word used to describe art when you don't know how to describe it.) One artist made these needlepoint crafted pillows of the Kennedy assasination and other pillows with surveillence camera images from gun-based robberies. The other had bright colored portraits of what appeared to be famous bank robbers. These were painted on a canvas made from brown paper bag (large yard waste bags).
After visiting with Jack for a few minutes, we took a quick walk through a photography exhibit - portraits of pretty unique characters found in major California cities. Then it was time for me to head to Walnut Creek so I got dropped off at Mission & 2nd and hoofed it a couple blocks to Market St where I could get a ride on BART to the hotel.
I don't use public transportation much, but I was able to successfully get on the right train (I didn't even have to wait but a couple minutes) and get to the right station, and then find the hotel a couple blocks from the station!
Perfect hotel for a 3-day coach training session!
Once I checked in - this is a sweet place- Renaissance Sport Club - I was able to relax some, get a metabolically efficient dinner (mixed greens with tuna salad and an apple), and hit the hay pretty early, as it was going to be a long weekend!