Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treadmill test

After not running for more than a week I was curious how it would feel to run 8 miles. Since the weather was only so-so, I felt it would be good to go on the treadmill and check up on things. There are very few flat courses where I live and none starts from our house so there was added incentive to do a treadmill test.

I started out slowly running an 8 minute pace for a mile or so. Last time I went on the treadmill after a long break I had started out running 7:30 miles, which is fast for me, and I ended up with a calf injury. Better safe than sorry. 

I gradually increased my speed until I ran 8.4 mph or a 7:09 pace. Then I kicked it up a few notches until I to a 6:58 pace. That way I was able to run 8.25 miles in one hour, which is pretty decent for me. I added a 5 minute cool down for a total of 8.8 miles or 1/3rd of a marathon. All the while I felt pretty good and I had no problems whatsoever. That is quite reassuring given how close the Boston marathon is. I plan to run more from now until mid April in preparation for the race.  

My goal is to qualify again for 2010 so I can run another marathon next year. Three is a charm they say and I would like to run Boston three times. A Boston qualifier also gets me into New York and I am toying with the idea of running NY this year or maybe next. We will see how things develop.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Back home

Yesterday I flew back home via DC. It is a long journey and not at all a comfortable one. The first part wasn't too bad as a friendly person in Brussels gave me an exit row seat. Although the flight was long I could move around easily and there was plenty of room to stretch out. So far so good.  

Entry through DC was more or less OK too. The immigration guy took longer than necessary, I thought but overall things went well. I did not have to wait for my luggage for very long either and customs was fast. Next came the two hour layover and a full flight to San Francisco. I wasn't so lucky this time and the flight was full. I was seated way in the back. No room to move, much less to sleep. Not so good. The rest of the trip was uneventful, albeit very tiring.

I slept pretty well last night and only woke up once. No problem falling asleep again though so I can't complain. I also feel relatively good today and I was only lightheaded for a short time this morning. The sun really helps and the difference in brightness between Belgium and California is striking. The colors are just so much more vivid here.

I swam 144 laps or almost 1.7 miles, all free-style, non-stop. I did not swim very fast and it felt a bit awkward at times but overall I can't complain. The long swims seem to have had a lasting effect. Now all I have to do is work on my speed a bit. I wonder if that will take another 5 years too?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Yesterday I took the day off to go shopping with my mom. Ironically enough it turned out to be the nicest and hottest day so far. The sun was out all afternoon and so were legions of bike riders. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it as we had gone to Bruges and would not be back before dark.

Today started out quite cold with frost on the grass, but sunny. After an hour or so it turned grey and we did not see the sun all day. I set out anyways and rode to Anzegem and from there to Ingooigem, Vichte, Tiegem and other villages I had never been to. In Tiegem I found a bike store and stopped by to pick up some goodies. It turned out Carinne, who lent me the bike lives in Tiegem and she was well known there. Her ex is a pro rider and so is her son. I spent some time talking to the bike store owner and received a free energy bar. Life is good.

I rode to Ronse and onto Hotond, then picked up the Tour of Flanders route again to the Paterberg. This time I was much better oriented and had no trouble finding out where I was or where I was going. I climbed the Paterberg and followed the route to the Koppenberg almost without having to look for signs. I did not climb the Koppenberg, but rode back to Oudenaarde and then to Wannegem, this time exploring little side-streets.

It turned out part of my disorientation had to do with my internal map. I thought the village of Kwaremont was south of Kluisbergen and that turned out to be wrong. After checking with Google last night, I created a better map. With that "map" things were easier.

I was pretty cold today but fairly dry so it wasn´t too bad out there.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Mike Audley told me about the Paterberg and today I set out to find it. I almost did not. I got totally disoriented riding around the small roads. With no sun to guide one´s path -there is a constant fog that evens out all the light and no way to tell where the sun is- it is easy to get lost. I know because there is a big cooling tower near Kluisbergen and every time I looked, expecting to find it somewhere it turned out to be somewhere else.

I rode to Oudenaarde and then to Ronse. Near Ronse I had a very close encounter with a huge truck that drove way too fast and way too close. In Ronse I climbed the Hotond, the highest hill in Flanders at 150 meters. From there I rode to Kluisbergen, reasoning Kwaremont, where the Paterberg is, had to be on the left. When I saw a sign "Ronde" to the right I followed it thinking I would backtrack later. However it took me to the Paterberg, showing you how confused I was. Then I rode over the Paterberg and following the "Ronde" signs I got back to Melden, all the while assuming I was riding away from Oudenaarde instead.

In Melden, I climbed the Koppenberg again but had a really hard time on the slippery wet cobbles. When a car came up behind me I had to unclip. Walking up proved almost as difficult as riding. Near the mid-section, I was able to clip in again and ride the rest of the hill. From there I rode to Leupegem and up Volkegem Berg. On top, I encountered a flat cobblestone section that was very tricky to ride. Additionally, I had to move into the mud several times to dodge oncoming cars.

I descended back into Leupegem and went to Oudenaarde from there, and then home. Overall I rode for 2 hours and I was once again quite muddy and wet, although not cold.

Tonight I had another filling replaced as part of my dental marathon. For the first time in my life I had it done without anesthesia, which turned out to be a whole lot better, easier and less painful than otherwise. It made me feel very good too to know I had conquered my fears.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

´t Oud Konijntje

Today was my mon´s 80th birthday. I woke up early this morning and went on a two hour ride. It was pretty cold and it started drizzling soon after I left. The drizzle turned to rain a bit later. I got pretty wet, quite cold, and very muddy. I rode to Kluisbergen, and from there to Ronse and then back to Oudenaarde and home. Even though the weather was nasty I had good fun.

We went to a two star restaurant for lunch. The name of the restaurant is ´t Oud Konijntje, and it is located in Waregem. The food was excellent, the setting wonderful, everything top notch. Even so I found the two hour bike ride as satisfying as the rather expensive overindulgence.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


After two more sessions on the stationary bike, one in the evening for 40 minutes, and one the next day for 50, I finally rode outside again. And it was pretty cold. High for the day, the warmest day of the year so far, 9 centigrade. Less than 50 fahrenheit. Still there was some sun and lots of riders were out.

I rode from my sister´s house, along the Tour of Flanders route to Oudenaarde. First some teeth-rattling cobbles and then a small road blocked by a big truck delivering heating oil. No way around that so I choose an alternative route. I took the main highway to Oudenaarde. Then on to Ronse and then right to Kluisbergen. Along the way I made a little detour on the Koppenberg in Melden, a Tour of Flanders staple.

Narrow, steep, relatively long and cobble-stone paved, the climb took my breath away, quite literally that is. I got to the top but I was out of breath. I also used whatever width the road had to offer, not something you can do in a race I am sure. I rode the Hotond (the Hoogberg) and then back to Gavere and Waregem. By then I had been on the road for 2 hours. I had 12 km to go.

Overall it was a great ride. I was wearing three-plus several layers and was cold only at the start. I also rode some time with a four man team, that was followed by a car. Good thing too, because one guy broke his handlebars while climbing. Never seen that before either, one half broke off at the stem and he had half a handlebar left.

Tomorrow if weather permits, I will do another short ride.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stationary bike

It is quite cold here in Belgium. Last night it was freezing again. Not good for training. I also did not bring enough clothing to go on a run, although it is sunny this morning. I rode 45 minutes on a little stationary bike last night, and another 50 minutes this morning. Not much to write home about, but it is something.

In the meantime, the "dental marathon" continues unabated. So far, two crowns, a cleaning session, and one new filling. There is more to come. Fortunately, the dentist is my sister and that helps when it comes to dealing with all this. Two days ago, I was so tired from jet-lag that I dozed off while she was working so she had to wake me up to continue.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Economy minus

Airline companies aren´t into enduring love. Even though I acquired nearly half a million life-time miles on United, the fact that I did not fly much recently means I have no status left. I spent a good 16 hours in a cramped airline seat flying to Belgium on Monday. No chance to sleep really.

It is pretty cold here and rainy but there are still cyclists on the road. Cyclists as in racers. People are pretty tough here. They don´t mind some rain or an ice-cold wind. Not enough to leave their bikes at home in any case.

So far, no exercise. Just taking it easy, getting some dental work done and visiting family. Getting used to a funny French-style keyboard, where everything is in the wrong place. A keyboard littered with special accent keys and other symbols, where the all-important at-sign is cleverly hidden.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The weather is pretty miserable today. Overnight the biggest winter storm of the season rolled in with gusty winds, driving rain, and chilly temperatures. Not fun. I am sure the Tour of California riders are wishing they'd gone somewhere else to ride.

I took Annelise and Andrew out to the ice rink to fulfill a long standing promise. We skated -or pretended to- for about 1:30. I fell quite a few times and have some minor bruises on my right elbow, and left hip. Although I was never a very good skater, it seems I am not getting any better. More like a serious regression really. Be it what may, it was quite fun and we had a great time.

Tomorrow I am off to Belgium for 10 days. Not good for training:)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tour of California

The Tour of California started today. It is the year of the come-back kids. Lance, Michael Rogers, Floyd, Ivan, Tyler, it seems all the old stars are coming back. Not surprisingly, Fabian Cancellara won the prologue beating everybody by a solid margin. Levi did surprise by ending second, losing only a little more than a second to Fabian. But what I found most surprising was to see Tommeke in 7th overall.

Alistair and I went on a 33 mile ride, despite the cold weather (low 50s) and chilly wind. Many times it looked like we were going to get rained on, but we dodged it every time. My ergomo is back, it suddenly responded to a reset and some fiddling with the charger plug (I suspect there is a bad contact in the charger plug). I am quite happy to have it back and I find it a most useful device. I wish they had better Mac support, but now that they are out of business, the only thing I can hope for is that it keeps working.

I rode pretty well. The trip took 2:02 and I burned 1,606 calories. My top power was 620W, my average 207 and my NP 254.  As I indicated before, NP correlates very well with my subjective impressions and whenever I feel like I rode hard, it registers above 250.  I find it the most useful display on the whole device.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Inclement weather

Back from DC where it was nice and warm, to San Francisco, where it is cold and wet. Yesterday we had a dry interlude in the rain although it was pretty cold. I went on a 30 mile mountain bike ride in Redwood and Chabot. This time I rode the Goldenrod loop and came back over McDonald. Overall it was pretty muddy and one could certainly tell that I had been off-road.

The trails were OK though and even though there was mud everywhere, nowhere was it deep enough to get bogged down or lose significant traction. I only "slipped" once and had to hop a few steps before clipping in again. At one point I had an encounter with a dog that would not stop and whose owner was clearly not in control. She was also deeply immersed in her iPod and was totally unaware of her surroundings. Not good.

Today, more showers with periods of clearing in-between. I swam for an hour and 10 minutes and covered 160 laps (or 3,200 yds, or 3/4 of an ironman swim). I had some minor trouble with pre-cramping in my right foot but nothing bad enough to make me stop. Although I was quite happy when it was all over. I did swim the first 53 much faster than the second 53, and then I slowed down some more on the third "set." Not that I stopped or anything and I did a continuous free-style from start to finish.

Added another 3/4 mile swim in the afternoon. In the driving rain, but it felt really good. I was going fast (I think).

I am happy to report that a second person has joined team Cindy. Eight more slots to go!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A trip to the capital

Just got back from a three day trip to Washington DC. I did not get much training in, unless you count all the walking I did from one side of the Capitol to the other. I spent all day Monday flying to DC and arrived just in time to check into the hotel and go to dinner. Then I ate and drank too much.

On Tuesday I had to wake up very early for the briefing, but fortunately I only needed to make two stops on the Capitol so I did spend some time in the hotel gym. I rode for 60 minutes on a stationary bike, burning -according to that brand of bike- 600 calories. The number sounds more reasonable. I rode at a steady pace while watching TV. Afterwards I ran for half an hour on the treadmill, supposedly adding another 400 calories. In the evening I blew it all away with another dinner and plenty of drinks.

Wednesday was not so good. Someone apparently noticed that my schedule was too light and I got straddled with a continuous string of meetings. Not only that but I had to run from the house side to the senate side between every meeting. That adds a lot of walking right there. If you are unfamiliar with the workings of government this may sound like gibberish, but anyone who has spent time lobbying for legislation will know what I mean.

Rayburn to Hart, to Cannon, to Hart, to Cannon, to Dirksen, to Hart and Cannon again. Just look a map of congressional office buildings and you will see. I started at 9 and finished just 3. Just in time to take a taxi, hop on the plane and fly back. It was 10:30 when I got back last night. It was cold and rainy in San Francisco. For some odd reason, the whole time I was in DC, the weather was mid-60s and sunny.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekend foibles

Today was the season opener, the Cherry Pie Criterium in Napa, CA. I did not ride because I don't have a road bike right now, but Alistair rode the Junior race. He did well too, considering crits are not his forte. Several of his team mates crashed and Marcus Smith hurt his elbow pretty bad. It was very cold in Napa and although I brought my run-outfit, I did not attempt to go running. 

When we came home I went to the pool instead. It wasn't a great experience. I swam 150 laps in all (almost 1.75 miles), but had a cramp in my foot around a 1 mile. That went away and I was pretty happy but then my left calf cramped up so bad at 125 laps that I had to get out of the pool and walk. In doing so, I tripped and fell over, hurting my back. I did get back in and swam another 25 laps but that was it. The whole experience took 1:06. I did swim the first 53 (1/4 IM distance) in 20 minutes, which is equal to my best IM time.

Yesterday I had another bad experience, when I found my Ergomo dead. So far I have not been able to "revive" it. I tried the reset and charging, and various other combo-button presses, but so far, it has not come alive again. The screen is totally blank. It worked fine earlier in the week and the battery was low so I recharged it and that is when I found it with a totally blank screen.

I rode my tribike, without the Ergomo and I do think I rode pretty hard although I have no objective data. I went down Redwood, over S. Pinehurst, to Moraga, Orinda, over Wildcat and over Grizzly. Then I added 4 miles at the end for a total of 39~40 miles. I was pretty tired last night. Then I had to wake up early today.

Tomorrow I go to DC for the NIO policy tour. Very likely no workouts for three days. I wonder how that will go? I will likely be pretty wired when I get back;)

Friday, February 6, 2009


Another rainy day with some pretty heavy downpours. Went to the club and did my 45/35 routine. Ended up almost as wet as if I had gone outside. I was sweating a whole lot today because the room was so hot. Easily lost 2.2 pounds there. 

I don't understand what management is thinking. The exercise room is way too hot. So hot in fact that people open all the doors to let cool air in from the outside. Which only drives the room heater to new highs. Sure there is a thermostat in the room, but last year, these managers decided not to let users interfere with their settings anymore. They encased the thermostat and made it de facto inaccessible. 

Today there were three people in the room. All were pretty serious about working out. So here we were, all sweating buckets, fans blowing, doors open to get a breath of fresh air, heaters spewing out hot air in an effort to keep up, and all that while the outside is a comfy 52 degrees. I was thinking about dragging the stationary bike outside, but that would have caused serious problems. So I just imagined I was training for Arizona.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eating and racing

Today is a rainy day. Totally overcast here in the hills with on and off showers. Good day to ride rollers. I rode for 90 minutes, more or less even with some moderate efforts, keeping my heart rate below 165 all the time. My average power was slightly over 200 with an NP of 220. I burned 1,221 calories doing this, which once again shows that the stationary bikes at the club are overly optimistic when it comes to calories.

Many people are confused about eating before a race. Personally I have gone back and forth on this but now I feel that eating -and drinking- less is probably best. Unless you are competing in stage race or multi-day event. It is also best to eat at least 2 hours before the race and if you can't do that, just skip breakfast altogether and eat a candy bar.

For marathons, don't eat much at all. Especially when the race starts early in the morning. Races like Boston, that start later give you time to eat a normal breakfast and have most of it cleared by the time the race starts. I found that the less I eat the better. I also found that I need to cut back on coffee or tea, because otherwise I get too wired and start out too fast. I make sure not to drink too  much before the race, and not to drink at all during the first 10 miles. That avoids potty breaks, sloshing liquids and other stomach trouble. 

For a 50+ mile road race on the bike, I tend to eat normally. Since most races start around 10 AM, I eat a normal breakfast of two slices of toast with peanut butter and jelly, coffee, and some banana. On the bike things are easy and if you get hungry or feel sluggish you just eat a candy bar (I prefer Clif) or pop a few gels.

For Ironman I eat early, around 4:30-5:00 AM for a 7:00 AM start. Normally I eat a bagel, some banana and a candy bar, with some coffee and juice. I try not to eat too much beforehand. I may consume a gel half an hour before the swim start, or munch on some candy bars, but overall I try to keep things light. Experience has shown that this works best, by far.

I also found that the better prepared you are, the less you need to eat or drink. I also recommend that you avoid eating big dinners the night before. Especially so-called carbo-loading dinners. These events do no such thing and are usually just an excuse to overeat and binge.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms are out in force. Springtime in Northern California! A bit colder today, overcast skies, rain is due tonight or tomorrow at the latest. Temperatures are mid-60s.

I went on a one hour ten minute run this morning. Ran up Tunnel Road, then through Sibley park the long way to the backside. There I picked up the trail to Fish Ranch and continued on home. A great run, although I did feel a bit tired.

This afternoon, I went on a 1.25 mile swim. It is the longest I have swum non-stop freestyle after a morning run. Earlier on, I could only muster 0.5 to 0.75 mile at the most before cramps would stop me. I had a cramp in my foot after the swim, but it did not interfere with my swim proper. More evidence the long swims are working, I think.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More record sunshine

The records keep falling. Monday was great, and so was today. Earlier, when I picked up the kids from school, the thermometer read 71F (nearly 22C). It just keeps going and going (although it is supposed to get cooler on Thursday).

Yesterday I did a second 4,000 yd swim. It took 1:15 approximately -it is hard to time at the pool- but it sounds about right. All freestyle, non-stop, and feeling a whole lot better after I finish than just six months ago. I guess the long swims are working for me. I am more convinced than ever that swimming is about power.

Here is what John Cobb wrote: "Swimming is just futile, every now and then you get a few laps where it's all working, you feel the water rushing over you, then, suddenly you're not doing you elbow right or something. More laps is all I hear for advice." 

I think he captures it just right. One does get sloppy and then the magic disappears. I have described similar experiences and I think others experience it too. That may give one the impression that swimming is all about form. But the reason why one gets sloppy has a lot to do with being tired or not having the muscle stamina to keep one's form. It is really more about muscle power and endurance. The form "finds itself," i.e. your body figures out a way that works for you.

Today, I rode my mountain bike for a good 30 miles. Went through Redwood, down Pinehurst, to Bort, up the grade and back on Goldenrod. After a short stretch on Skyline, back into Redwood park and on home. With a little extra loop down to Fish Ranch.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Warm and sunny

Another exceptional weekend. Today is even better than yesterday. We are probably in or near record territory again.

Yesterday I rode 33 miles, going over Grizzly, down Wildcat to Orinda-Moraga and back over Pinehurst. I rode the first 10 miles with Alistair who did not want to ride hard because he had a race on Sunday. I did ride hard though, and my NP for the entire ride was 265. I don't think I have ever seen it that high for a 30+ mile ride. I burned 1,700 calories and rode a little more than 2:10.

Today we went to the Early Birds and Alistair raced 3/4. I watched them for a while and he was doing great, always near the front, etc. Since the weather was quite warm I decided to start running a bit earlier. I ran my 12 mile loop out to the Bay and back, this time going over the Coyote Hills to the Nike trail (not the highest one, but the two others).

The weather was superb and more people were out. Still, once past the hills (mile 9 on the Creek trail left) it thinned out considerably. The air was so crisp and clear you felt like you could just stick out your hand and touch the tiny houses on the other side of the bay. A totally new experience, several loud Canada geese flying overhead and nearby, but otherwise quiet and still. The water in the ponds, mirror flat; The air hard blue; The hills covered in green.

For a while I ran behind a rather large group of cycle-tourists that did not seem to make any headway. It gave me great motivation to try and keep up with them. But they stopped at mile 9 and did not get going again until I had returned. Still, I kept on imagining they would catch me and that gave me extra incentive to run hard all the way to the Bay.

Alistair finished in the middle of the pack. He was not too happy about it. Not sure what happened.