Sunday, August 31, 2008

Biking isn't necessarily the problem

At least I think that's right. Yesterday I had a little eye opener and I really do think it mostly explains the frustration I biking. Outside of the obvious cost issue.

Yesterday I biked about 80 miles with a bunch of friends. It was with the Twin Cities Bike Club (TCBC) with their all member ride. It was definitely a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it.

I'm not a member of TCBC and will probably join. It's a great club with a lot of great people. But they're all great clubs. I belong to a handful of clubs and don't do much of anything with them. A person's time is limited and there comes a point when there's too much. I'm going to need to focus my club memberships this coming year by dropping the ones I don't do anything with and adding the ones I do.

I didn't make it too far into the ride before I started getting tired. Very tired. And then it dawned on me. Something that I didn't bother to think about before. With each of these sports, there's a certain "shape" one needs to be in to be competitive. I've been doing exactly what I've been told and that is to treat multi sport events as one event. That is, don't think of a triathlon as three different events. It's all one event. On that note, it seemed to be the logical conclusion that I should then be considering my abilities in each to be the same. And that's not true.

When it comes to being "in shape", you need to be in shape for each sport. Just because someone is in shape to run doesn't mean they'll be good at swimming. Or biking. And likewise for the other two sports.

So, what I found out is I'm terribly out of shape when it comes to biking, decently in shape for swimming, and, due to lots of time away, moderately in shape for running.

The rest of my season, performance-wise, is going to be a disaster. Again, I'm doing too much with little focus. Like a good recipe, you need to have just the right ingredients, put in with the proper doses and at the right times. I was a poor cook this year with little discipline. But, thinking forward, this was an amazing journey with some incredible learning. I'll be taking a much more focused approach with me next year.

For those of you interested in seeing the route, I'm working on putting it together right now.

[UPDATE: Here's the route. Now I know how to bike the NE and north St. Paul area.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm so cool it's scary

At least that's what I tell myself every day.

Over the weekend I stopped in to the bike shop and picked up a few supplies like tires, tubes, compressed air canisters, and tire levers. And like any good bike consumer I stayed for a while to gawk at the amazing bikes they had in stock. Amazing not only in form and function but amazing in price.

Before this year, I knew bikes were expensive but to spend more than $500 on a bike I was convinced someone must be completely loony. Then I started reading up on what makes a good bike. From components to frame and fork to seat posts, aero bars, aero helmet, seat position and booties I read up on everything. You want to get me all hot and bothered on a sport? Tell me all the science behind form and function and I'll be putty in your hands.

I hated biking with a passion until I started learning all about it. Now, like a crack addict, I can't get enough. Seriously. It doesn't even make sense. The more I think about aerodynamic profile and everything that can be done to reduce it, it makes me think of all the fluid dynamics courses I took and how to optimize the flow under certain conditions. Likewise, all I want to do is have gear that will make be tear through the wind more efficiently than a butter knife cuts melted butter. I just can't stop thinking about it.

On that note, while at the shop being frustrated at the impossible cost of these things, I was talking with a kid that works there who just happens to be the state champion time trialer. He told me that having an aerodynamic helmet is one of the most important features a person can have in terms of reducing drag. It's more important than an expense wheel set or even the frame design of a bike.

You have to imagine my elation. What this kid is telling me is a $100 bike helmet is more important than a $4,000 wheel frame or an even more expensive bike!! SIGN ME UP! After thinking about the obviousness of this I picked up a helmet (on sale for 40% off too) and felt like I just became a born again Christian.

Photo 29.jpg

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My GPG Key

Can't figure out how to make blogger not suck so I'm doing the pretty backward thing: creating a blog post containing my GPG Public key. If you don't know what this is then you can ignore this post. But if you use GPG and want to communicate securely with me, here's my key.

I'd offer it as a file on the right hand side but Google won't let us upload files that aren't photos or movies.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (Darwin)


Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend Biking Adventures

The purpose of life, after all,
is to live it,
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear
for newer and richer experience.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

That couldn't be more true of my weekend adventure. With me it's usually always something. A 20 mile run followed by a few hours of swimming. Or maybe just a random trip to some random spot. Who knows.

This weekend was different only in that I was spending it with an equally adventurous person: my friend Brenda, professional body builder and personal trainer. If you think I've got a thing for fitness you should spend some time with this woman. She'll knock you six different sides to Sunday. She's an amazing athlete and amazing all around person.

She and two of her friends joined me in Excelsior for a nice jaunt around Lake Minnetonka. I had the perfect route planned which, as we all know, means it's going to get screwed up somewhere. But we'll get to that.

Everything started great. The day was a little brisk and the wind was blowing fairly strongly out of the West but no big deal. We can power through that sort of thing. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. Not much more can be asked for a bike ride.

We got through the first 11 miles without a hitch. We stopped in Wayzata on the north end of the lake where Brenda and her friends ran into some of their friends. Small world.

As we get set to leave the ladies were holding back. When I turned around to see what was going on, Brenda wound up having a flat. We all had some spare tubes so this wasn't a problem. I got the flat changed out and pumped up and we were back on track within 10 minutes.

On our ride down the Northwest side of the lake I managed to miss one of the south bound turns so instead we kept going North and West. Finally, somewhere around local highway 110 I stopped to check my GPS and see where we were.

OOPS... just a hair off course by 5 or so miles.

Oh well. Like I wrote up above, this was an adventure. And an adventure we were on.

By this point I managed to turn half of my companies legs into rubber bands because of the excessive number of hills. But they didn't mind so much. After all, Lake Minnetonka is a VERY beautiful area. [And if you've never ridden it I highly suggest you get your butt out there before the end of the season.]

After making a few amendments to the course we got back on track and rested again in Mound on the West end of Lake Minnetonka. We stopped at my friend Tim's Anytime Fitness for a break and a refill.

After that short visit we were back on track and rolling again. We were at mile 23 now on the revised course and just finishing up to head back East toward Excelsior.

Again, beautiful countryside, beautiful weather, and great company. Despite a slight detour and a flat tire, everything was going great.

We get to mile 26 which is the start of two mandatory miles on Highway 7. I really didn't want to take anyone, myself included, on Highway 7 but really didn't find any alternative to doing it. From where we were that was the only way to get back. But it was only two miles and since we've already had our flat tire, statistically speaking we're good to go.

Or so I thought.

On mile 26.5, on the worst blind corner imaginable, Brenda blew her other tire. I backtracked a bit to find Brenda and get her other tire switched out. Luckily I was fresh from already changing one tire so working on the back tire wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

After about 20 minutes everything was back in order and we were riding again.

We finally got to the end of our Highway 7 adventure and were at mile 28. That's the beginning of Smithtown Road which takes us right back to Excelsior. There was just one problem though. Smithtown Road was being detoured. *sigh*

Having no interest in riding any more no Highway 7 we explored the reason for the detour. I was thinking it was going to be a simple resurface job or something like.

Not so much. The whole road was torn out at a section and a bridge being put in. That section of road was in seriously bad shape but after some manly maneuvering I found a path that'd take us safely across the partial bridge that was there.

The rest of the remaining 4 miles was smooth sailing believe it or not.

And that was that. One missed turn, Two flat tires and a little cycle cross and we were back in Excelsior to celebrate our victorious conquering of Lake Minnetonka. In case anyone was wondering, here's the map of our route.

Who's game to do Lake Minnetonka with me next weekend?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'll probably pay for this tomorrow

For today's workout I decided to switch things up a bit. I decided it was high time to get back into weight lifting and add that element to the equation of my already stressed exercise regimen. Weight lifting was, after all, my passion even before I made the move to Minnesota. It was a great escape from the day-to-day insanity of graduate school and provided the extra boost I needed to make it through. when I moved to the Twin Cities area I quickly found Life Time Fitness and joined up without hesitation.

For about 4 years and one girlfriend I remained a loyal member of LTF. Even after moving from the northwest burbs to the southwest burbs and having to change my location to a club almost 13 miles away, I still found the time and resources to go.

But, like all romances, the honey moon period has to end sometime and as it turns out it would be LTF that would ultimately put the steak in my heart. True to form for any woman I've previously dated, I was the one being left to pick up the pieces of a failed romance. Life Time finally became more expensive than my pocket book would reasonably allow me to fund and so I had to quit the club. So... I guess you could say it was I who did the leaving. But she started it. ;-)

I've tried a few other fitness clubs since then but none seemed to fit my needs. One was a small club that was open 24/7. We accessed it using a key card and it was typically unmanned. On the plus side, I could go any time I wanted. Plus, it was within walking distance from where I was living (read: no need to drive). I could always find a time where it was just me. That was nice.

On the down side, there was no pool for me to practice swimming. Nor was there a decent stationary bike for winter training. Also, because it was such a small club, there were no classes. For all there is to dislike about Life Time Fitness, their classes were AMAZING and for the longest time were the justification for me keeping my membership.

I also tried a few other clubs but none really met my needs. I need classes, cycle classes, yoga, ab classes, a lap pool, and a wide selection of weight lifting equipment.

Other than Life Time and their amazingly outrageous cost I was stuck. So for about a year now I've been training myself. I can definitely tell I'm much more soggy in the mid section than I used to be. This is not a good thing and absolutely has to change.

Just the other week, on Highway 7 & Hopkins Crossroad opened up a new fitness club: LA Fitness. I decided to pop in for a bit to check the club out. I think it took me all of 1 minute before I was hooked. They have state-of-the-art stationary cycles (much better than LTF), classes, lap pools, and all sorts of free weights and machines. Plus, they have personal trainers and a very nice set of amenities. And the final monthly cost? $35!

Hell yeah dawg! And that fee will never change. Provided I keep my membership current I will pay $35/month even up to my 180th birthday (assuming of course I'm not feeding worms at that time.)

So now I've got the winter months covered. But until then I'm actively working on integrating classes & strength training into my already insane running schedule.

I'm still researching how to make this all work. If any of you have any suggestions please drop a line. Here's all that needs to get accomplished in a week: swimming, biking, running, weight lifting. I'm training for a marathon and half Ironman so there cannot be compromises with the long runs and long bikes.

Can't wait to get this one figured out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Great Weekends

Keeping the spirit of my action packed weekends, this weekend I managed to overdo things yet again. But this time there's no burnout going on. It's actually the opposite. I feel more invigorated than ever.

Saturday I rode my bike to Mound, MN. It's a small town on the West end of Lake Minnetonka. I've never been out there but a friend of mine recently bought the Anytime Fitness franchise in that town. He wanted me to swing by to run with his crew so I took it as a good opportunity to explore a new part of the burbs. I took the 18 mile bike ride as a great cross training opportunity. When I got to the club I did a small 3 mile run with the crew, checked out the awesome franchise out there - I don't say that because I'm his friend... it really is very awesome - and biked back. The map is below.

Later that evening I spent the remainder of the waking day on a boat cruise on the Mississippi River for my friend Sarah's birthday party. That was great too but made for a very long night.

Today I met up with Randy and Jenae for a 20 mile run. This was their first experience running Cedar Lake as well as seeing the Washburn Water Tower. The run was long but we had a great fellowship and a lot of fun. Plus, I got to meet one of Jenae's friends who I might get to know a bit better later on. After the run we had breakfast at the Uptown Bar & Cafe. It's unclear how today could have been any better.

I love my weekends.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It took long enough but it's really here. After reading this article on the subject it's not a question any more.

I think I'll take most of this week off and do my scheduled long run with Randy and Jenae on Sunday. We'll see how things go after that.

Besides, it'll be a good chance to study up on some literature I've been meaning to get back into.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm getting there...

This weekend has definitely been one of the best in memory. Friday I spent the day with some wonderful company that kept me up all night long. Yes, it was tough and Saturday was pretty much a blur because of it but it was definitely worth it.

Speaking of Saturday, I went to the Turtleman triathlon but not as a participant. Believe it or not I was actually a volunteer. And it was fun. I still wish I could have been doing the event. The competitor in me won't let me give up. But there was no way I could have even finished the race much less been any good at it. Today, I think volunteering was the best decision. Besides, we got some awesome technical volunteer tee shirts.

Some of my TNT friends were competing in the Turtleman and it was exciting to watch them. I was on the bike route on literally the most pimp spot on the course. Seriously, it was great. Transition area was near the lake and the bikers had to bike up a hill to the park entrance and bike out from there. That's where I was. Right at the park entrance. That was also the exact spot where the bikes came in (just on the other side of the street). On top of that, the athletes run right up the grass to the north of that intersection and finish just on the south side. I got to see everything but the swim. And who cares about that because watching people swim is about as exciting as watching a bird take a crap.

Speaking of seeing everything, one of the elite female athletes was coming right back to the transition on her bike and completely wiped out at my intersection. It was really shocking to see. I was sad because you don't like seeing anyone crash and burn. However, I can't say that all of me was sad. After all, it does provide a small level of sick pleasure to see someone with these $10,000+ pedal bikes totally fuck them up.

Anyway, at the end of the day I had a great time volunteering, was impossibly tired from staying up way too late, and had a great time watching my TNT friends participate in the event.

Today, Sunday, was another one of my crazy runs. This time was 20 miles. By the end of it I only got 19 in because my body still can't handle the distance. But it was some great exercise and I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly things are coming along. Before too long I'll be able to do 26.2 without too much of a hassle again.

Here's today's route:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Getting back out

Wednesday I did manage to get out and get that 6 miler in. It was so fun. You know those spring rains that produce large, dense droplets? Well, that's what happened. One solitary dark cloud rolled in, stopped right over Hopkins/Minnetonka, and let us have it. I wish I had a picture. It was so fun. I love running in the rain. The wet shoe part sort of sucked but otherwise it was solid. I'm not sure if my shoes are dry yet but they certainly have a bad odor about them now. And it's not dog poo.

The unfortunate part about the run was the the fact my legs felt like lifting lead plates. I think between a sugar heavy (read: poor) diet and a overtraining, I think I've killed my season. I peaked in the early spring and it's not been the same since. This is probably just my body telling me that it's time to cool it down, take it easy, and stop beating the crap out of myself. Put another way, it's active recovery time.

As for yesterday I had a lovely bike ride with Kris and her friend Mark. It was one of those days where a casual ride was all my body could take. The day was so amazingly beautiful that you knew G-d was smiling on us. The sky was painted brilliantly with the clouds and the sunlight. It wasn't too hot or cool at all. The humidity was low. The wind was mild and almost completely still. It was the epitomy of why we live in this area.

Other than one small bike spill and a flat tire (which was changed in record time BTW) the ride was flawless. I've got some pictures too and will post as soon as I get home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Speaking of Laziness

Yesterday's training was a bust. When I got out of work I could feel my body was telling me something wasn't right. Not in the something-will-break-if-you-don't-take-it-easy sense. It was more along the lines of a feed-me-or-you'll-be-sorry kind of thing.

Ironically enough my neighbor was having some guests over and invited me over for dinner too. It was a good thing because my bachelor diet wasn't going to pull me through this one.

My neighbor told me to eat as much as I want and don't hesitate. Now, this person knows I run and they've seen me eat before. It's not clear to me why she said I could treat this as a free for all but that's exactly what I did. 6 cobs of corn, 4 pieces of chicken, a serving dish full of steamed green beans, 2 bread rolls, and 4 cookies later, I was feeling MUCH better about the day. Everyone was looking at me, probably waiting for me to explode, but it never happened. The funny thing was I think my neighbor's son was partially disappointed I didn't.

Needless to say, no training got accomplished yesterday. But I think it was a necessary trade off.

As for today I woke up at 4:30 with the intent of doing 6 easy miles before work. I got all my stuff, stretched, and headed out the door. I didn't make it one tenth of a mile before my body was again screaming at me telling me it wasn't a good idea to go.

Again, I listened to my body and went back home but this time I was motivated to read my new Runner's World magazine. Like yesterday, this proved to be a good idea too because there was an article I caught that answered a few motivational and spiritual issues I'd been having.

But I'm not giving up on today's exercising. The day's still young and I've got plenty of time to get that 6 miler in. Besides, running is a lot of fun when it's 80 degrees and humid too.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Glutton for punishment

I really shouldn't have done this but just could pass it up.

I woke up today fully well aware that I just biked 67 miles yesterday. It was one of those peaceful night sleeps where nothing would have woke me. When those happen I know I really did a number on myself yesterday.

So when I woke, fully rested and sort of sore, I checked my schedule and low and behold I had a 18 mile run today. No way I thought to myself. That's nuts. I just did practically a half Ironman bike distance.

Then it dawned on me: As fate would have it, I'm doing a half Ironman next month. How ironic.

A quick check outside showed overcast and fairly low humidity so all the chips were in place. How could I pass up this opportunity?

On with the gear and out the door I go. I ran a pretty common loop. For me anyway. And it wasn't even the full 18. I made it about 15.5 before I was at my front door and laziness took hold.

It was another combination run/walk but it felt much better than last week's long run. In fact, this felt energizing. I felt amazing. And I'm still feeling great about it.

Thank you endorphins! It saddens me that you'll be going away soon but I'm going to enjoy every moment of it while you're here.

I've got the map but am still waiting on Garmin and Motionbased to get their crap together and get their services working.

[UPDATE: Route is below.]

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My groin was on fire. And it was not good.

Well, it wasn't literally on fire. At least not in the combustible sense. But if my legs were made of wood I think the story would have been a little different.

Today was the Tour de Tonka. The actual one. Not one where I try to ride around and try to map it or one where I bail and only do 33 miles. Not today. Today was the full 67 miles.

In my continued attempt at understanding why people enjoy biking, I used my buddies loaner bike for the event. First off, it's clear to me that Erik's Bike shop sold me the wrong bike. Erik's is now officially on my shit list and will be getting no more business from me. Secondly, I'm borrowing my friend's carbon fiber frame bike. It's also clear to me this bike's frame is too short for me but not by much. Lastly, I was the who fit the bike to my body. What that means in a nutshell is it's NOT fit for me. Ironically, it's a better fit than the bike I call my own.

The day started out like nothing different from a typical event day. I had all my stuff packed the night before so all I did was apply butt'r, put on my stuff, steep some tea, and head out the door. The cool morning air was very welcome. It started out as one of those days that would be absolutely perfect. And it was. Today's event couldn't have been better from start to finish.

The ride itself was pretty straight forward. I met some friendly (and gorgeous) women at the beginning but didn't see them again. That was disappointing. But I did manage to find the TNT folks. Becca was really the only one I recognized in the group and it was a lot of fun to see her again.

Throughout the ride I was in and out of the aero bars but one thing I learned is I really really really like riding in aero bars. They're MUCH better than riding with the bike handles. You can really spit in the face of that head wind. But don't because you'll get a luggie fly right back in your face. You also pedal much more efficiently.

I know this wasn't a race and I think that's what helped me to enjoy this so much more than my other biking attempts. Other biking events I've been focused on going as fast as humanly possible and all I'd do is get passed. Today, I just chilled, let happen what would happen, and found something amazing out. I can actually pass people. And by people, I mean virtually everyone. I think my pass to being passed ratio was on the order of 120:1. It was amazing. And I wasn't even focused on speed. Just getting this thing done.

The only problem I'm finding out about aero bars is the goin thing. I think at some point my family gems went numb and there's no amount of repositioning that can be done to reinstate circulation. I was riding on the faith that I wasn't neutering myself. Thankfully when all was said and done I walked away in one piece and a much better person.

So, what I learned through all this is

  1. The bike you use is very important. Sadly, I'm going to have to save for a very nice bike and there's no way around it.

  2. Biking really isn't that horrible when your mind is in the right place. In fact, it's down right fun. When in racing mode, I've got to learn to slow down and KNOW that what I'm doing is right and I'm not slow as a turtle.

  3. The aero position is amazing for riding. It's comfortable (minus numb body parts) and breaks the wind very nicely.

  4. I need to focus on my ride and no one else's.

  5. In not too many weeks I'm going to be having to do practically this exact same distance and then run a half marathon after it. WTF!

  6. An Ironman is double this. Please explain to me how ANYONE found this to be a good idea.

And there we go. This is the longest ride I've ever been on a bike. My initial reaction is a positive one. Once I take a nap and tend to my chafing I'm sure I'll be back on the bike for another long one not too long from now.

[Note: Once Motionbased pulls their heads out of the butts I'll post the map of the route as well as my lap paces and overall performance.]

[UPDATE: 67 mile route is below.]