Monday, March 29, 2010

Running Faster than Ever Before!

I had a stellar run! I always thought that my race pace was pretty much an 8 minute mile. But somehow I surprised myself and the spirit of competition brought out a new best in myself. I set new best times in the 5k, 10k and 15k!
I owe a lot of my success to two of my coworkers. I met up with coworker and veteran runner Dennis (who has run all 33 Heart Minis!) at my office. I had a bit too much wine the night before at my homie Datina's wedding and I was very forgetful (I even forgot my LPK team running shirt and had to wear my bike kit jersey which was actually Bridget's jersey because I left all my stuff in the dryer — thus I was showing a lot of man boob). So seeing Dennis and his friends get ready really helped me remember things like race number and gels. Last year I just walked down and filed in at the back of the start. This year Dennis and friends jogged from our office and filed in comfortably behind the first few rows of people at the head of the race.

I saw another coworker Emma who was lined up behind the 7:15 pacers. I never used the pacers before (this is my third running race) and thought that was a brilliant idea. I was expecting to run my 8 minute mile pace so I thought I would hang with them for a bit and then fall off and find a slower pacer. But I tucked in behind their draft for about 7 miles! And then I did my Contador-esque attack on the Torrence turnaround. It was way slower than last year's attack. The last 2 miles were painful, runners passing me here and there (I think I dropped roughly 6 places).

I want to thank teammate Joe for pumping me up at the Delta turnaround. I wasn't sure if we should high five or hug, so I used his midsection as a pole to circle around careening me back on course — yelling and hooting the entire time! I saw Jason Garneret and Eric Knight on the Torrence and it was great to get more support. I also saw Bridget's coworkers Jeremy and Susan from Fleet Feet in the final stretch (I just bought a new pair of Brook's Ravennas from them and my feet felt great).

Since I was wearing the bike kit I would leave the comfort of drafting in a pack of runners to get exposure for the shop and run close to spectators and cameras! Okay, I am a cheese ball.

15k Time:1:06:53
Overall Pace:7:12
10k Split: 44:27
5k Split: 22:06
Last Mile: They didn't track it this year, but I was going backwards!

15k Time: 1:14:37
Overall Pace:8:02
10k Split: 50:23
5k Split: 26:02
Last Mile: 7:29 (Looks like I had plenty of gas in the tank)

Previous 10k Best: 49:30 (7/10/2007)
Previous 5k Best: 22:10 (11/05/2007)

I went from 580th place to 218th. I think somehow I ended up being the fastest person running for my company (I barely beat Dennis and he was injured in January! He is badass!). Both years I think I put roughly 120 miles of running in my legs (since December). This year I focused a lot more on trail running, hoping the irregular running surfaces would strengthen my legs and prevent injury and the beautiful scenery would prevent burn out.

This year I chose to ride to and from the event. I spun in to warm up my legs and hopefully the ride home spun some lactic acid out of my legs. They are killing me though!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 5 Winter Training Crashes

1. The Ostrich in Alaska
Distracted by a dangerous truck passing, overlapped wheel with "Mottsy" or "Big Red." Front wheel went back and forth like a ping pong ball for a second before veering into the snowbank built up on the right hand side of the road. I can't save it! My front wheel abruptly stops vaulting me over the handlebars. I land straight on my head. Fortunately it was snow and just laid there for a sec looking like an idiot with my head buried. I was shaking snow oack out of my helmet for the next 20 minutes. "Next time I should keep a cooler head."

2. My wife was cross with me
January cyclocross ride through icy nature trails. I launch an attack and plan to turn left playfully losing Bjet. She is evidently stronger than expected and has my wheel. I bruise her hip in the crash. My bad.

3. Purple Rain
Riding a bit too slow in 35 degree rain for 3 hours. Made a joke about stopping at Branch Hill coffee and completely stripping off wet kit to warm up by their extremely powerful heater. Misheard by Bjet. She stops and turns only to be plowed into by moi. We both descend to the ground slowly. It was pretty undramatic, but I still yelped like a little girl while it happened.

4. Sandwiched
Bjet and I were riding our 29ers on a snow covered Loveland Bike Trail for hours of endurance riding. I hit an uphill snowdrift and skid onto my side. Unfortunately a line in the snow is the only line to follow and Bjet mirrors my mistake. Banged my knee on that one. Gotta love the snow though. Soft.

5. Eye of the Tiger
Doing hills in Clifton. Look back to find an escaped tiger on my back wheel. Go all Contador on him. But he stays in my draft. Reach top of hill and attack decent to gain speed. Basically I straddle my headset to get all aero. Look back and the tiger is still there! Turn left into zoo thinking maybe I can bunny hop into his pen and save the day. Look back again and he's gone. Look forward only to find myself heading into a cart of elephant dung. Gotta love the dung. Soft.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Make your own Casquette

Sometimes a casquette, or cycling cap, is the perfect thing to wear. Perhaps it pairs nicely with your flip-up sunglasses while you are playing pickup games of hoops. In these northern winters the cap shields your eyes from the drizzle as you ride unforgiving base miles in the attempt to discover your inner machoness.

I have long been a fan of Octopus Caps of Columbus. I saved my pennies and I bought me one of their beautiful recycled-fabric black and red checkered caps. But I haven't mustered the tenacity to wear my cap while turning the pedals in anger. Plus, it will not be "matchy matchy" with my new "strip."

Maybe I'll save a few more pennies and make a few caps of my own—just stop me before I start making my own shorts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What was my race weight again?!

I hate my genetic code. The generations of field hands and workers of North Western Europe adapted to gobbling up large meals to sustain them while they reaped, built and harvested. But my pansy white collar ass tends to store these carbs right in my gut.

Last year my ideal race weight was 145. I rode all through the holidays and limited my weight gain, and hovered around 148. But the past few weeks I dropped my guard and it has risen to about 150, sometimes flying up to 155! I have raised the fat content in my diet with more red meat intake, lighter chocolates and naughtier cooking oils and refined carbs.

Ugh. I know if I gain it that I might not lose it till next cross season. It's not a big deal but I do worry about those looming climbs of Cohutta and Mohican.

I will limit myself, returning to moderate drinking with more complex carbs and healthier fat and watching portion sizes.

So here is a trivia question.
Q: EPO thickens your blood allowing it to carry more oxygen, right? And following a healthy "Mediterranean" diet — drinking wine actually thins the blood and prevents inflammation. So does drinking wine hinder our performances?

Taking the Heel-Toe Express to Early Season Form

I thank my lucky stars my wonderful wife bought me the Nike+ chip for my birthday in 2006. I weighed 205 pounds, smoked, ate poorly, didn't sleep enough and over-worked. I could only run three blocks to catch a bus. But I started running. I kept besting personal records each time I ran. The feeling of success lifted my spirits and my overall health and well-being became infinitely better. Eventually I had enough fitness that I could actually jump on a bike and ride up all those hills around me!

Last year and this year I have used training for the Heart Mini to find early season fitness when riding outside is unthinkable. But by now the typical running routes in my neighborhood have become boring. Trail running has really spruced up my training (there is nothing like trudging through the snowy woods). I found I can actually run to Ault Park from my house. And beyond Red Bird Hollow in Indian Hill are miles upon miles of seldom used bridle trails perfect for strengthening your quads and building fitness.

The other day I cranked out a long trail run, running Red Bird Hollow and some side trails for 1:45. I'm hoping this long run will have me nice and fit for this year's Heart Mini. I really hope that I can best my time from last year!

I just read McDougall's book, called "Born to Run." It was pretty cool, it made me psyched to run everywhere. I still feel like I need to run with a coach to correct my form, I think I tent to flail about a little as I run and it could lead to an injury... But my new shoes from Fleet Feet are really help resolve some minor foot pain.

The Human Body Is Built for Distance
By Tara Parker
New York Times

Does running a marathon push the body further than it is meant to go?

The conventional wisdom is that distance running leads to debilitating wear and tear, especially on the joints. But that hasn’t stopped runners from flocking to starting lines in record numbers.

Last year in the United States, 425,000 marathoners crossed the finish line, an increase of 20 percent from the beginning of the decade, Running USA says. Next week about 40,000 people will take part in the New York City Marathon. Injury rates have also climbed, with some studies reporting that 90 percent of those who train for the 26.2-mile race sustain injuries in the process.

But now a best-selling book has reframed the debate about the wisdom of distance running. In “Born to Run” (Knopf), Christopher McDougall, an avid runner who had been vexed by injuries, explores the world of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, a tribe known for running extraordinary distances in nothing but thin-soled sandals.

Mr. McDougall makes the case that running isn’t inherently risky. Instead, he argues that the commercialization of urban marathons encourages overzealous training, while the promotion of high-tech shoes has led to poor running form and a rash of injuries.

“The sense of distance running being crazy is something new to late-20th-century America,” Mr. McDougall told me. “It’s only recently that running has become associated with pain and injury.”

The scientific evidence supports the notion that humans evolved to be runners. In a 2007 paper in the journal Sports Medicine, Daniel E. Lieberman, a Harvard evolutionary biologist, and Dennis M. Bramble, a biologist at the University of Utah, wrote that several characteristics unique to humans suggested endurance running played an important role in our evolution.

Most mammals can sprint faster than humans — having four legs gives them the advantage. But when it comes to long distances, humans can outrun almost any animal. Because we cool bysweating rather than panting, we can stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals. On a hot day, the two scientists wrote, a human could even outrun a horse in a 26.2-mile marathon.

Why would evolution favor the distance runner? The prevailing theory is that endurance running allowed primitive humans to incorporate meat into their diet. They may have watched the sky for scavenging birds and then run long distances to reach a fresh kill and steal the meat from whatever animal was there first.

Other research suggests that before the development of slingshots or bows, early hunters engaged in persistence hunting, chasing an animal for hours until it overheated, making it easy to kill at close range. A 2006 report in the journal Current Anthropology documents persistence hunting among modern hunter-gatherers, including the Bushmen in Africa.

“Ancient humans exploited the fact that humans are good runners in the heat,” Dr. Bramble said. “We have such a great cooling system” — many sweat glands, little body hair.

There is other evidence that evolution favored endurance running. A study in The Journal of Experimental Biology last February showed that the short toes of the human foot allowed for more efficient running, compared with longer-toed animals. Increasing toe length as little as 20 percent doubles the mechanical work of the foot. Even the fact that the big toe is straight, rather than to the side, suggests that our feet evolved for running.

“The big toe is lined up with the rest, not divergent, the way you see with apes and our closest nonrunning relatives,” Dr. Bramble said. “It’s the main push-off in running: the last thing to leave the ground is that big toe.”

Springlike ligaments and tendons in the feet and legs are crucial for running. (Our close relatives the chimpanzee and the ape don’t have them.) A narrow waist and a midsection that can turn allow us to swing our arms and prevent us from zigzagging on the trail. Humans also have a far more developed sense of balance, an advantage that keeps the head stable as we run. And most humans can store about 20 miles’ worth of glycogen in their muscles.

And the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the human body, is primarily engaged only during running. “Your butt is a running muscle; you barely use it when you walk,” Dr. Lieberman said. “There are so many features in our bodies from our heads to our toes that make us good at running.”

So if we’re born to run, why are runners so often injured? A combination of factors is likely to play a role, experts say. Exercise early in life can affect the development of tendons and muscles, but many people don’t start running until adulthood, so their bodies may not be as well developed for distance. Running on only artificial surfaces and in high-tech shoes can change the biomechanics of running, increasing the risks of injury.

What’s the solution? Slower, easier training over a long period would most likely help; so would brief walk breaks, which mimic the behavior of the persistence hunter. And running on a variety of surfaces and in simpler shoes with less cushioning can restore natural running form.

Mr. McDougall says that while researching his book, he corrected his form and stopped using thickly cushioned shoes. He has run without injury for three years.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Awesome New York Foodies on Bikes

Last Father's day I went low-carbon when shopping for his present. My Father used to be a food technologist, basically testing the quality of new recipes for large manufacturers. So I biked around Cincy and bought him only locally made products like Coffee Emporium coffee, braunschweiger from Avril Bleh's, a local lindberger cheese, etc.

Thanks to cycling coworker John McKenzie for turning me onto spokesnyt on twitter who posted these articles.

Here is a cool web series on food and bikes! It's called

PEDALING: NYC "Sweet & Savory" from Jim Fryer/BrakeThrough Media on Vimeo.

Riding the City in Search of Food
New York Times Spokes Column

Major Taylor, the great American track cyclist who challenged the race barrier at the turn of the last century, wrote a list of a dozen “don’ts” for aspiring competitive cyclists. Number six is, “Don’t eat cheap candies.”

That kind of foodie-ism still permeates cycling — from Lance Armstrong’s careful weighing of every gram of nutrition that entered his body to the espresso obsessions of cyclocross racing. And cycling has also made inroads into New York City’s restaurant culture, for example Chef Peter Hoffman’s weekly visits to farmers’ markets on his cargo bike (to say nothing of the thousands of pizzas and moo shu porks that are ferried around the city by bicycle delivery men).

Perhaps it is no surprise that Pedaling: NYC was born earlier this year. The Web-based video series features two of urban America’s latest obsessions: gourmet food and bicycles.

Pedaling: NYC follows foodies on bikes and bike-ies who love to eat as they roll around the city in search of their next meal. A crew of single-speed and fixed gear enthusiasts troll Whole Foods (one of the Webisode’s sponsors) in search of pizza toppings, a racer watches waffles being made and “The Saffron King,” a spice importer, rides to Chinatown to deliver ingredients to a high-end bartender.

Smorgasbords and spokes haven’t been seen on screen together in such celebration since the famous breakfast scene at the beginning of Jorgen Leth’s classic cycling documentary “A Sunday in Hell” featuring Roger De Vlaeminck prepping for the Paris-Roubaix by eating a rare steak. (I can’t believe this isn’t on YouTube!)

Jim Fryer and Iri Greco, the show creators, met while working on a documentary about the Tour of California. Ms. Greco, a New Yorker with deep roots in the city’s culinary world, found herself pleasantly surprised and inspired by the cycling world’s knowledge and appreciation of gourmet eating.

The show grew, she said, “partly out of my amazement that pro cyclists and teams and fans are as passionate about food as they are about the sport.”

Soon the pair were shooting on New York’s streets. This was late last fall. Mr. Fryer, a longtime West Coast cyclist who once managed a pro team, strove to show how navigable Manhattan has become by bike.

“Our sub-agenda was to provide some solid info for viewers,” said Mr. Fryer. “The reality is that it is a great city to ride your bike.” And clearly to eat. Among the tidbits of pertinent info is that shoppers who arrive at Birdbath Bakery by bicycle or skateboard get a discount on pastries and cookies.

But not everyone in the bicycle world has embraced Pedaling:NYC. The popular and anonymous Bike Snob blogger has devoted nearly half a dozen posts to poking fun at the series, its hosts and brand sponsors.

But Ms. Greco and Mr. Fryer shrug off the Snob’s lobs. “I think he may be our biggest fan,” said Ms. Greco. “He dedicated an enormous amount of his energy and attention to talking about Pedaling.”

Indeed, Bike Snob is no stranger to epicurean tastes. He has penned lengthy posts on mid-ride muffins and claims to worship a lobster god, in no small part because of its delicious drawn butteryness.

Could there be a BikeSnob/Pedaling cycling and crustaceans collaboration in the future? Maybe. Ms. Greco said her favorite bike-food combo is a ride to Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco, to enjoy a crab omelet at Nick’s Cove restaurant.

The Pedaling duo may be back that way soon as they’re looking into expanding their concept to the West Coast with visits to fellow gastro-cycling areas like Napa Valley, San Francisco and Portland.