Monday, January 28, 2013

Barry Roubaix is looming on the horizon...

I'm sure I mentioned several times that I am registered for the 36 mile bike Barry Roubaix race. It's on March 23rd in Hastings, MI. But I'm not sure if I mentioned that I am part of a team! I know what you're all thinking...but no, I did not sign with Team Bissell or Team Jelly Belly. Instead, I have joined the equally prestigious ranks of Team Speedy Chubs!

How did this happen? Originally, just a bunch of us we're going to race in Barry Roubaix as individuals. It was me, Joe, Dan, Geoff, and Charles. But someone mentioned that we should enter as a team. It may have been Geoff? I can't remember. And for whatever reason, that just seemed like the greatest idea ever! So I read about what was required to enter as a team for Barry Roubaix. According to the registration information, teams must consist of a minimum of five people racing the same distance. A minimum of one team member must be a female. And your team must be a recognized amateur team.

Well, there were five of us. But...we didn't have a female member. And what to do about the team? I contacted the race director to ask what it took to be considered a recognized amateur team. He replied that if our team had a website or facebook page and team jersey's, that was good enough for him! Ok...so we need a team name, logo, and site. Geoff, Dan and I brainstormed some team name ideas. Geoff even mocked up a logo for one of his ideas! Then I had the thought it would be easier if we just used Joe's team he created for himself, Speedy Chubs. It had a facebook page, a blog/website, name, logo, and jersey's already! No objections from the group. No objections from Joe!

We just had one more hurdle: female team member. My wife, Kendal, didn't particularly want to do this race but probably would have if we couldn't find anyone else. Geoff's wife Mary similarly offered to do it if we couldn't find anyone else. We all reached out to everyone we knew. No bites. In desperation, I reached out the University of Michigan Cycling group. I got a couple nibbles. But then, we finally got our brave volunteer! Danielle, a grad student, told me she hadn't trained in a while but wanted to this spring. Like many of the guys, Barry Roubaix was to serve as a motivator.

And, as it turns out, Kendal had a change of heart and has registered to race with us as well! Though she has told me she reserves the right to withdraw if it's too cold, because Kendal does not run or ride or do anything very well in the cold (I think exercising and breathing in cold weather triggers some sort of asthma for her).

And thus, after a few more emails to the race director, we are a team! Our jersey's have arrived, even! Except Kendal's because she joined after we placed the order. We may just make a jersey for her using magic markers!



We had our first team trainer session this past Saturday. Though, it was actually just Dan, Danielle, and I. Joe dropped by for a sec to drop off the jersey's but didn't have time to spin with us. Charles lives semi-far away. And Geoff is with his family in Cancun. Kendal worked the previous night and was exhausted. Dan and Danielle's company was welcome though. The 1 hour trainer session went by much faster than any of my other solo trainer sessions. Hopefully we can figure out some sort of regular schedule for us to get together as a group.

We don't have a lot of training time left though...so my plan is to focus on heavy interval training with less frequent longer, steady state efforts. I don't really know where this will get me because I know nothing about how to workout to get stronger, go faster, or lose weight. Basically, I know nothing. Which is shocking, because I've read quite a bit and even have a few books! But I have absorbed nothing! So...I just get on my bike and do whatever I feel like doing. It hasn't worked very well to this point in my cycling life so why change? (I sense a failure of logic.)

There are also some equipment decisions to be made...

After doing a bit of research about past Barry Roubaix races, I know that it is very hilly. And I know it's potentially very sandy or muddy, depending on conditions. Some years, many people find that they have to dismount and push or carry their bikes on portions. Sager Rd was the big spot last year and other years as well...I think  Shaw. It is very sandy, unless weather conditions are just right.

The general school of thought seems to be that you must run tires at least 28c wide. However, wider is better (to a point, as there is a non-trivial amount of riding on pavement). That means that most people will be on mountain and cyclocross bikes. Some people will be on fatbikes. And some people will throw caution to the wind and race their road bike.

I'll be on my Motobecane Fantom Cross Team Titanium. I have a couple different sets of wheels and tires. I have all purpose 28's and all purpose 32's. Unless it's very muddy, I won't need mud specific tires. But if it's dry, a file tread pattern would work much better. So we'll have to wait until the week of the race to make any decisions on tires. As for width...that's where I'm stumped. I feel like I should use 32's at minimum. But should I go wider? If anyone has any insight, leave a comment or message me!

Here's some footage of the more treacherous portions for last years race:


It's was well into the 50's, almost 60 degrees, last year. Plus, they'd gotten a lot of rain prior to the race. So I'm not sure if it'll be this wet and muddy for our race. We shall see. I think it'd be perfect if it was very cold prior to race day to freeze up the ground...but in the low 30's on race day. That would be just right for me!

Here's another stretch of awfulness!



Welp...I think it's time for me to hop on the trainer. Farewell!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Worst Day of the Year Ride (wrong way!)

Wheels in Motion bike shop put on a bike ride this past Sunday called "Worst Day of the Year Ride." When I first heard about it through someones Facebook post, it seemed like a neat idea! Sorta like those polar bear plunges where everyone jumps in a lake during the middle of winter! It wasn't until Saturday that I remembered that those polar bear plunges suck, and this ride may suck equally. Luckily, my friends Geoff and Dan were also doing the 20 mile ride. Misery is more tolerable when you can see your friends miserable with you.

Weather forecast called for a high of 24 degrees with winds up to 18 mph. Thankfully, there was really no snow on the ground and it wasn't even wet at all thanks to relatively mild week prior. But I've never ridden a bike in such cold weather before. So I messaged Dan and Geoff with what I was planning to wear. I was thinking about wearing the following:

Head
  • Balaclava
  • Maybe skullcap
  • Helmet
Top
  • Skin tight baselayer
  • Mid layer
  • Thermal bike jersey
  • Outer shell
Bottom
  • Skin tight baselayer
  • Thermal bib tights
  • Outer shell
Feet
  • Thin wool sock
  • Thicker wool sock
  • Mountain bike shoes
  • Thermal shoe covers
Hands
  • Thin liner glove
  • Winter thermal lobster style glove
Hydration
  • Camelbak
"You'll be way too warm", they said. I wasn't so sure. On Sunday morning, I called a quick audible to my wardrobe. I decided to use toe warmers instead of a second sock. I used a full length insole warmer on the bottom of each foot, and shorter toe warmers on the top of each sock. I also decided to only wear the balaclava. And I opted to use no liner glove, just the lobster gloves.

As for my bike, I decided to use my trainer bike. It's a 2006 Trek Pilot 2.1 that I got off of craigslist. It's a 52cm, which is too big for me. It doesn't shift so I'm always in the 52T big ring up front (it needs new cables and housing). It has some chain rub. And brake rub on the front wheel. And it currently has 28c Panaracer Pasela treaded touring tires on it. But the bikes been good for me as a beater on some casual rides, some training rides, the indoor trainer, and when I have to lock the bike up somewhere that would leave a bike prone to getting stolen or scratched up. I attached my GoPro Hero2 to get some of my first bike footage. I wanted to spend some time figuring out how to use the GoPro and how to turn GoPro footage into something you can put up on the internet.

We had a little mini Speedy Chubs team meeting prior to the ride at Mighty Good Coffee. I hadn't eaten anything all morning or day, so I stole a quarter of Dan's oatmeal raisin cookie. I was fueled and ready!

We left for the Kerrytown farmers market and arrived a little before the 1pm start time for the 20 mile route. While standing around for the ride to start, I realized truly how cold it was! It was FREEZING! Standing in the sun was a little better, but not much. The ride could not get started soon enough! I kept jumping up and down to keep a little warmer.

But finally, we were on our way! Not sure how many riders there were...but there were quite a few! It was real slow going at first because there was a traffic light every block until we got out of downtown. As we rode along, I noticed that I began warming right up. Everything felt pretty good except my thumbs. And even they warmed right up after a few miles.

Now, I honestly expected a very very easy ride. I hadn't worked out in about a week due to flu/cold. But prior to that, I was riding very regularly on the indoor trainer. And I thought I was doing quite well! I felt pretty good on this ride too. At first. Not quite half way through the ride, the group started to splinter up due to traffic lights.  When Clark Rd turned into N Huron River Dr, I made a mini-dash to catch back up with the lead group. I was gaining fast and was sure to catch up as long as I could make the green light to turn onto LeForge! Nope. Yellow. Red. Me slamming on my brakes (oh yeah, the brake pads on this bike weren't really working well either). By the time the light turned green, the group ahead was long gone...and I was feeling pretty tired, surprisingly. And it was at this time I found out the water in my CamelBak was completely frozen, undrinkable. Suck!

Light turned green. We started off again and I just followed Dan, with Geoff and a whole group of other people behind. For some reason, I assumed Dan knew where he was going. What was I thinking? Sure enough, we had no idea what the route was. So we decided to just follow LeForge to Geddes, which would probably cut our ride a bit short of 20. But it would get us back on the correct route.

By the time we made it to Geddes, all the small climbs had really gotten to me. I was pooped. And I was pissed!!!! The stupid trainer is useless!!!!! I'm sure the brake rub, chain rub, big-ring-only, and diet all played a role. But it was mostly my fitness. And we still had to get through Geddes, which is a rolling road. Those rolling hills nearly killed me. And I was a crying, watery mess on some of the downhills because of the cold wind getting behind my glasses and blasting my eyes. When we made the turn onto Earhart, there's a small hill leading up to our next turn onto Glazier Way. I kid you not...I honestly wanted to get off my bike and walk up the hill. Dismounting my bike and walking up a hill has never, ever before entered my mind as an actual option on any ride or any hill. This was new to me. And it happened on a pathetic excuse for a hill!!! I was just so exhausted. But, I churned away slowly and made my way up.

There was only around 3 miles, 4 miles tops, left to go. That fact kept me going. By the time we reached Fuller Rd, I started getting a bit of a second wind as well. And with help from traffic lights, I was able to catch up to a group of riders that I followed to the finish at Arbor Brewing Company.

Geoff had arrived a couple minutes ahead of me. I gave my bike to the bike valet, turned my GoPro off and headed inside. Sadly, they were out of coffee! I'm not a coffee drinker, but the warmth would have been welcomed. Throat was parched since I wasn't able to drink on the ride, but I couldn't find water to save my life! I also started feeling very cold despite the fact that we were now indoors. Dan arrived a few minutes later and joined us.

Between the cold, hunger, thirst, bike issues, getting lost, and suffering due to lack of fitness...it was absolutely miserable!!!! lol But Arbor Brewing Company got their table in the bar all setup with complimentary (ice cold!) water, soups, bread, and coffee. That soup was freaking delicious!

It was a learning experience. I think we all learned about how to better deal with riding in freezing temperatures. And I learned that the trainer is selling me lies!!!! I thought I was doing well. Nope. I think I need to change things up and get outside from time to time even in the winter. I need to attack hills, for sure!

Here's the my Strava ride details: http://app.strava.com/activities/38164553

And here's my first attempt ever at making a video. I shot 720p at 60fps on the GoPro Hero2. I captured around 1 hour and 30 minutes of footage. But just grabbed some random clips to make a 4-ish minute video to fit with a mp3 music track. I used CineForm Studio, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Magic Bullet Denoiser II. Just real elementary stuff until I learn what else is possible and how to accomplish them! The hard part seems to balancing quality vs size when exporting the project. The original looks amazing! But it's like a zillion GB's in size. What I ended up with was around 400-500 MB's and looks OK. Might have to allow for bigger file size to gain back some quality. I'm  just learning this stuff now, so bear with me!

Here's the vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJTVa5VnG64&hd=1

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Race to health

Hello blog! It's been a while. So much has happened!

My last blog post was about the Kisscross cyclocross race. Right after that race, I stopped working out. My job and school and holidays all conspired to push aside any time or energy for exercising. Even worse, my work has me basically sedentary. Lets look at a quick tabulation:

  No Exercise
  Holiday Festivities
+Sedentary Daily Existence
________________________
Equatorial Expansion

It got to the point where I was having multiple McDonald's McRibs and Burger King Angry Whoppers for lunch and dinner. It was...glorious! And I knew this was bad. But it's pretty easy to ignore. For while.

But then came Christmas. My wonderful wife bought me many awesome things. Among my presents were a pair of jeans. I was, in her estimation, in dire need of another pair of pants. This is possible. I like to buy things, but only if they have to do with electronic gadgets or cycling. Clothes? I'm still wearing a pair of slacks that I bought off the Gap clearance rack for $9 around 10 years ago. As long as the item of clothing is not TOO torn up and not adorned with TOO many permanent stains, it's a keeper and stays in the rotation.

Anyway, back the new jeans I received for Christmas. They were very nice! But upon trying them on, something happened. It was more difficult to get them on than my other pants. And I had to suck my tummy in to fasten the top button easily. The result was visually equivalent to squeezing a bunch of raw dough in your fist to have it ooze out of the top of your hand. How could this be? My other jeans go on so nicely. Unless...my other jeans have grown with me! My wife said we could exchange them for a slightly larger pair. But I would have none of that! I will keep them...and fit into them! My New Years resolution starts early!

The other impetus to really starting taking care of myself again is my blood pressure. If I don't keep a hawks eye on things, I get hypertensive. And over many months, I did not pay attention to my diet, I stopped working out, and stopped taking any supplements/pills to aid with hypertension. It was bad. Time to kick my own butt!

Thing is...I don't like working out unless I'm motivated to do so in some way. You'd think health, longevity, and all would be great motivators. Nope. I need more than that. I need to be entertained in some way and I need some sort of pressure. For the pressure, I need to be signed up for a race. Not just the intention to sign up. No, I need to be actually registered so that there is a real deadline to meet!

I'm on the hook for two events so far. I've registered for the 100k version of Michigan Mountain Mayhem and the 36 mile version of Barry Roubaix. Michigan Mountain Mayhem is a hilly road ride/race. The 100k version has about 4600 feet of climbing. They have a 200k version that has about 10,000 feet of climbing! Maybe next year! I think the 100k will be plenty tough for me. Barry Roubaix is a off-road, gravel-road type race. And I'm looking at a bunch of other events as well, which my friends will have to remind me about once registration approaches. I like doing events where there are familiar faces!

(I'm also doing a more leisurely ride this weekend, Worst Day of the Year Ride!)

Equipped with many motivators (weight gain, hypertension, upcoming events) I resumed working out again on December 30th! I setup the trainer in the basement, in front of our still relatively new 60" plasma tv and new Blu-Ray player! After much deliberation, some purchases and returns, we settled on the Samsung PN60E8000. The reviews were very good. And when we finally found a place that had the Samsung as well as the other top contenders in stock to compare side by side, the Samsung one looked the best to us. Love it! Since setting everything up, I've been going strong about 5 days per week so far. Though, this week I've been stopped in my tracks. I suffered from a minor flu last week...but decided to keep exercising. Got worse. So I took two days off and resumed working out. I got sick again. I'm going to rest until I'm fully or near fully healed this time. I'm hoping I'll be fully healed for the Worst Day of the Year ride this Sunday.

The other part to getting healthy again is dieting. It has been awful! I've been aiming for a uber low sodium diet. Like...less than 500mg of sodium per day diet. Which, if you haven't tried, is almost impossible. It means there are basically no prepared foods you can eat, and no restaurants you can eat at. You have to eat raw foods or cook everything yourself from raw, no sodium added ingredients. My main diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, just plain with nothing. Dried fruits. Nuts. Rice (being careful not to overdo it). Chicken. Fish. Regarding the chicken and fish...I've been trying out various vinegar based marinades to add flavor but avoid sodium. It's not bad. But it ain't salt! I've also been watching the fat and cholesterol intake, and added sugar (a bit lenient on that one at times). So far, it's been super easy to avoid other bad or artificial ingredients too, which is a bonus.

I've started taking supplements/pills again to help out as well. Hoping for positive results in a week or two!

Oh...backing up to Christmas again, I did get some very cool gadgets! First, I received one of the new GoPro Hero3 action cameras! Very very cool! It can shoot at 60fps at 1080p resolution! And tons of other resolution and framerate options as well. I'm going to make movies of my rides and races!

The acquisition of this gadget also prompted me to get a bunch of other stuff. I now also have a used GoPro Hero2...so I can take rear facing footage or some other footage from the same ride/race. Also...I know NOTHING about photo/video editing. But in anticipation of future projects, I've gotten the Adobe CS6 Production Premium suite, NeatVideo, CineForm, almost every Magic Bullet product, and DashWare. Can't use any of them! If anyone has any tips on how to start making polished videos, let me know!


I also got the Cycleops PowerCal! It's a heartrate monitor...but Cyclops developed a clever algorithm to correlate heartrate with power output! It's not accurate at all for instantaneous power or power over small chunks of time...but once you start analyzing power over chunks of time around 45 seconds or more, it is very very close to direct measure power meters! Plus, with the PowerCal added to everything I already had, I now have all the data I'd want while on the trainer: time, speed, distance, heartrate, calories, power, etc. I like uploading all the data in Garmin Training Center and into my Strava account. (If you run or bike and don't use Strava, give it a try! Great way to track and do simple analysis. I love the social and competitive aspect of it too!)

Gadgets, declining health, upcoming races...apparently it takes a 'perfect storm' to get me to take my health seriously!

Stay tuned! Next time: Worst Day of the Year ride report, preparing for Barry Roubaix, and my first GoPro videos!