Saturday, January 30, 2010

Returning the treadmill

It is final, the Reebok treadmill is going back. The main reason: it is defective and Icon Health won't service it unless I move it to another location in my house. Who is Icon Health to tell me where to put my stuff? They have the gall to tell me they won't repair a defective item that is less than one month old because they don't want me to have it in my garage? Well, fine, they can have it back.

On Monday I rode 45 minutes on rollers. The seatpost on my Griffen broke and I had the hardest time finding a new one that has a 25 mm diameter. Apparently, they don't make 25 mm seatposts anymore. The one I found, a LOOK Ergopost 2.0 looks great but unfortunately, it flares out near the top and so I can't get it in deep enough to be comfortable. I noticed it as soon as I rode so I decided to take it easy and get some workout in without injuries. That is why I kept it short. Later I was able to order a new USE Alien that is the right size.

On Tuesday I ran 8.8 miles on the now-returned treadmill. Had to stop several times to readjust the roller. On Wednesday I rode 30 mi to the top of Redwood at a pretty hard pace. On Thursday I rode 35 miles, and yesterday I ran for an hour on the treadmill. It was then I decided I had done enough adjusting and messing around and the thing had to go.

Today I ran a 10K up Tunnel Rd. I was able to stay with an obviously very slow cyclist. Still I had to run hard to do it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Three's a charm

Twice I dressed up for riding on Saturday. Twice I opened the garage door to let my bike out and twice it started raining right then and there. But the third time was a charm. I left the house around 2:00 and rode for 2:30 hours. No rain. It felt really good.

Today I drove Alistair to the Early Bird Criterium in Fremont. There was rain in the forecast and it did rain a bit, but not much. Finally around 2:00 the sky cleared a bit and although it was still cloudy, everything looked fine for a run. I got dressed and ran 10.5 miles, from Ardenwood Circle to Coyote Hills park and then the final 2 miles of the Alameda Creek trail until it hits the Bay.

Going out felt great because there was a mild tail wind and I felt warm and happy. Coming back was a bit more challenging as the wind was now a headwind and it felt quite cold. Nevertheless I was able to time it so I arrived just as the Pro-1-2-3 ended and we could leave.

So far it has remained dry even though there was rain in the forecast. We will see what tonight and tomorrow brings. If all goes well we will stay dry but I am not holding my breath. It seems we are in the middle of a series of rain storms brought about by a minor El Nino event in the Pacific. If so, that could well mean a very wet winter and spring.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Five storms in a row

This week we got hit by five storms in a row. One for each day of the week, starting on Sunday. The one on Wednesday was particularly bad, dumping tons on water and causing flooding and mayhem everywhere. On top of it all the temperatures dropped steadily as the week went on and now we are braving 40's to low 50's as a day-time high.

For those of you who live where there is a real winter, 40's may sound balmy, but to us, Northern Californians, it is downright cold. Needless to say, people's blogs and facebook pages overflowed with stories about daring-do survival and building character. I for one, chose to stay inside instead.

Given that the human body does very little, if any, cold adaptation, and that cyclists living in colder climes migrate South every winter like the starlings do, I wonder what the use of suffering in the cold really is. But to some of us though ones, it seems a proof of moral fiber (not to say manliness so as to be politically correct).

On Wednesday and on Thursday, I ran 8.5 miles on the treadmill, trying to keep an 8 mph pace. For some odd reason I seem to have a lot of trouble doing that now. Whereas I could run 8.2 and 8.3 last year, this year I have yet to run over 8 uninterrupted. Today, I ran 7.75 miles in the hills, as the storms finally disappeared. Nevertheless I still had to deal with drizzle for the last 3 miles.

Compounding my treadmill problem is that the new machine has a tendency to go out of alignment and the belt then moves to one side or another. When that happens the only option is to stop and adjust the tension on the roller. However, it appears to me that the vibrations of running undo the adjustment and after half an hour or so, a new iteration is needed. I hope a mat will remedy the situation. This never happened to my (equally cheap) previous treadmill.

However it is clear that this improved version means more useless gadgetry on a cheaper frame. The Healthrider I owned before had a steel frame, whereas the Reebok (don't be fooled they are both Icon treadmills) sports a lot of plastic instead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It is not often that one meets a new innovation that is truly innovative. Most improvements are nothing but a new layer of paint and a ton of hype. Not so with tubeless tires. These things are truly a step forward when it comes to riding pleasure and peace of mind.

For several years now I have been riding tubeless on my mountain bike and the benefits are more than obvious. You very rarely get a flat and when you do, a bit of superglue is all you need to get home safely. If all else fails you can always use a tube. There is a minor price to pay in that it is harder to remove a tubeless tire (or install one) but proper technique goes a long way here as I found out recently.

The myth about not being able to pump the tire or not being able to form a proper seal is also just that. I have never had any problem and believe me, my upper body strength is not there. I also never used soap or sealing liquids or any other messy substance. Just mount the tire and pump it up. Easy as hell.

I get flats a lot less often on my mountain bike than my companions do. As a matter of fact it took almost two years before I first had a flat and by then the tire needed replacing anyways. So far I have had only three flats in all the time I rode my mountain bike.

The first time, it took me a long while to remove the tire and insert a tube but most of that was due to inexperience. I also messed up the valve and lost some O-rings but that too is a thing of the past. I have made enormous strides in properly installing and removing tubeless tires. The key is to use the palm of your hand and not your fingers!

Now after all these years I switched my road bike to tubeless as well. It works like a charm. I used Hutchinson Atom tires and they ride as well as any other tire I have ridden. I read somewhere that tubeless was nice but not ready for prime time yet. I wonder who wrote that and why, because I certainly can't tell the difference. The Atoms ride as well as my Michelin Pro Race 3's or any tubular I ever tried.

I think the hoopla surrounding tubulars is largely just that. Tradition! Sure you feel a difference. Who wouldn't when you suddenly ride a tire pumped to 145+ psi? The pressure difference is very noticeable on your bottom parts.

But why use an air chamber, which is supposed to give you cushioning and comfort if you are going to pump it up until it feels like a steel wheel anyways? Maybe for a short Cat whatever race, such things may work, or if you are a pro and have a butt of steel, but why sweat it? A tire is supposed to give a bit. That is why we use tires.

Just remember that many pros suffer saddle sores and other bottom bruising ailments and these sometimes force them to stop racing (at least for a while). The enhanced shaking also takes its toll. You are more fatigued when riding such high pressure contraptions. And the gain? Less rolling resistance? According to carefully controlled tests that is illusionary too. Clinchers have less rolling resistance than tubulars. It appears that whatever you gain from less tire flex you lose from stretching glue.

Tubeless is the best of both worlds. You can ride normal pressures and you won't get pinch flats. If you do, you can fix it as easily as fixing a flat with a clincher. I have not read any reports about using superglue but I do plan to test it should I get a flat. If that works, things are even easier. In any case, when you get a tear in a tire, any tire, you will need to replace it anyways. And a good tubeless is as inexpensive as regular clincher.

Yesterday I rode a 2X20 on my rollers. I averaged well over 350W during the efforts, and things went very well. Last night my right knee was a bit sore, but nothing too bad. Today I went on a 8.8 mile run. My timing was perfect and I managed to find the optimal weather slot in between two nasty rain bouts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Riding in the rain

It's one thing to ride in the rain in Belgium. If you didn't you wouldn't be able to ride very often. But in California, things are a bit different. First of all there are more dry days than rainy days so if you just sat out the rain, you would barely see the difference in your training. So therefore riding in the rain becomes a test of character. Every self-respecting California racer will post at least one comment on Facebook to show how brave they were (or are going to be) enduring rain.

Yesterday was one such test at the Early Bird Criterium in Fremont. It rained all morning long and then some. We decided to go late and arrived at noon. There was barely anyone there and if it hadn't been for Team Specialized, one of the co-promoters, there wouldn't have been anyone at all except maybe the San Jose BC Juniors who all left early, wet and hypothermic. The riders that were still there at noon, were invariably cold, wet, and muddy. They looked miserable. By the time the pro-1-2-3 race rolled around there were 13 die-hard souls left, more than half of them from Specialized. No pros, they knew better.

Although the afternoon races were dry, by that time nearly everyone was so soaked and cold, racing was no longer in the cards. Everyone looked like the pros did in last year's tour of California, dirty and numb. There is a reason why they moved the Tour to May.

Yesterday was the first day of rain in a while and we are told to brace for a whole week of nonstop rain that may bring mayhem and flooding to the area. This morning I experienced the first of it. One of our overflow drains was clogged and the patio flooded. I spent several hours out there bailing water. Not fun. Because California storms, unlike the steady drizzle to mild rain one sees in Belgium, are vicious water dumps accompanied by gale force winds that bring down trees and power lines. Belgium rain is not fun for sure, but it is quite a bit different from a Northern California soak. A water repellent jacket is usually enough over there, unlike here where nothing but plastic, held down with duck tape, can provide meaningful shelter.

Last week I spent most of my time at the JP Morgan healthcare investor meeting so my workouts were low key. On Monday I rested, on Tuesday I ran 5 mi on the treadmill before going to the meeting. On Wednesday I rode on rollers for an hour, and on Thursday, after the meeting ended, I finally went on a real 30 mi bike ride, testing out my new tubeless tires.

Friday I rode my mountain bike for 20 miles in Redwood Park and Saturday I rode another 40 mi on my tubeless road tires. I am sold. I have been riding tubeless on my mountain bike for over three years and I can't say enough good things about it. It appears road tubeless will be equally satisfying.

Sunday, when the rains started I ran for an hour on the treadmill before going to the Early Birds with Alistair.
(Photo credit: Jennifer Lanier)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fat chance

Ever since I heard about the Johan Bruyneel letter that the Fat Cyclist (FC) wrote I have been reading his blog. I was impressed with FC's fundraising ability and how quickly he was able to raise over $100K. I even donated $25 to his cause. Not that I expected anything in return. Still, I was a bit surprised yesterday, that when the opportunity presented itself I was blown off in a rather nasty way.

If you read FC's blog you will know that he hooked up with a new girlfriend. She is a runner, and even though he has written tirades against running, he is now running. He is actually training for the Death Valley Trail marathon, something a friend of mine is participating in. So naturally I was curious to read about his progress.

According to the postings, the running is not going as well as expected and several people started doubting his resolve. That is when he launched another one of his fund raising drives. He bet against readers that he would run better than 4:39, a time he set seven years ago. Apparently he did some running before, so you wonder what the anti-run tirade was all about.

Then he posted the following: you can bet against him and whoever loses will donate to LiveStrong, or,

Whichever one of us loses donates that amount at the other’s LiveStrong account — or if you don’t have an account or want to have me donate to another worthy charity of your choice, note that in your comments and we’ll work something out.

There it is: another worthy charity of your choice. So I posted a comment as per his instructions and bet $25 to be donated to Team Cindy for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. It is not that I object to LiveStrong, but I already donated there so this time I wanted the donation to go to the BAF, a charity that is more in need of funding than LiveStrong. It seemed only fair that he would take up my bet or work something out. That is what he said he would do.

So guess what happened? He deleted my comment. Right, he deleted it. He did not respond, he did not contact me, he did not work something out, he did not reply. He simply deleted it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

An update

The weather has been bizarre. We've been caught in a sun-sandwich of sorts on most days. The Eastern valleys have fog and it spills over the hills, looking very pretty (see picture), but also very cold and wet. To the West, the Bay and downtown Berkeley is covered in haze or fog as well. In between it is sunny and warm.

Twice I went riding in Redwood park, starting out at the Skyline (Oakland) gate and continuing on the rim trail to the Pinehurst gate. The distance is about 4 miles. Twice, when I started out it was warm and sunny at the Skyline gate and I felt distinctly overdressed in my tights, long sleeve jersey and booties. Yet as soon as I approached Pinehurst, a thick fog covered the trail and it was cold, windy, wet, with almost no visibility. Then I felt cold, all in a space of 3.5-4 miles.

On Sunday I ran 12 miles on the Alameda creek trail. It has been a while since I ran that course and it was pretty as ever, with plenty of sun and a salty taste in the air. On Monday I rode on rollers for 1:20, going pretty hard. On Tuesday I ran on my treadmill for about an hour. I tried to run hard, but I could not keep the pace. I also had to stop to adjust the tread belt repeatedly. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I did the Redwood rides described above, with some extras. About 2 hours each.

Today, I ran for 1:06 minutes on the treadmill. I tried a 30 minute tempo run and was moderately successful. I more or less kept my pace at about 8.7 mph. What was even better was that the treadmill did not act up at all, so I could keep going.

I helped Alistair with some time-trial training on rollers and had Annelise run 2.5 miles on the treadmill. All in a day's work.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2009 season recap

Here is a picture that shows my cumulative hours on the bike in 2007, 2008 and 2009. As you can see, the early part of 2009 is where I dropped the ball. For several weeks, starting in February of 09, I biked considerably less than during the previous two years.

Not surprisingly, this deficit resulted in a less than spectacular bike split -and equally appalling run- at IMLP '09.

The culprit really was the fact that I did not have a road bike to train with. After my Merckx frame broke, I was without road wheels for nearly nine months. So, why did I not ride more on my triathlon frame? The answer to that is quite simple. Every weekend I took my son Alistair to road races. During 2008, I would race Cat 4 while he raced in his division. That would give me a free hard 2 hour workout on Saturday and Sunday.

In 2009, I did not have a road frame but I still drove to the races on weekends. However, one cannot race with a triathlon bike (with aero cockpit) and so I sat around the entire time. The good thing was that it gave me a chance to watch Alistair and thereby help him with his riding, tactics, and the like. The bad thing was that I usually ended up doing very little on weekends. By the time we came home, it was often too late to go on a long ride.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


In case you can't figure it out, think of today's date. It is a palindrome of sorts. The next one will be 11022011. Let's see if I will remember to post on that date.

Here are some final workout results for 2009.

Monday I ran on the treadmill for 33 minutes. I ran a 5K at 9 mph, which for me is pretty decent running.
On Tuesday I rode 30 miles to the top of Redwood (Chabot entrance), and on Wednesday I rode 40, over Wildcat to Orinda, Moraga and back over Redwood Rd.
On Thursday I closed out the year with a 10.5 mile run through Shepherd Canyon. The weather was nice and I felt good afterwards.

On New Year's day I ran 40 minutes on the treadmill, running 3 miles at 9 mph. Today I rode for 1:20 on my rollers.

I haven't made any New Years resolutions yet, other than to try to do well at the Boston marathon, where I will raise funds for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Other than that I have no races planned. I am toying with the idea of riding the 12 (or 24?) hours of Davis, but the timing is not ideal, given the closeness to Boston, and the likelihood I will have to go to a meeting there too just a few weeks later.

My next (work related) event is the JP Morgan investor meeting in San Francisco. Hopefully that will give a read on the upcoming year.

Exercise-wise, let's just say that some ultra event is planned, but as yet undefined.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

I totaled 559 hours of exercise in 2009. That is 74 hours less than the year before, and 80 less than in 2007. Maybe I am growing old?

The biggest percentage drop is in swimming, and the reason is obvious. After Ironman Canada I decided to take a break from triathlon for a year. I did not renew my USAT membership and I canceled my pool membership as well. As a result I ended up swimming only 69 hours, versus 99 in 2008 and 109 in 2007. Nevertheless, I made a breakthrough in swimming in 2009 and I set a new PB for the IM swim at 1:18:33. It is the first time I broke 80 minutes.

The biggest absolute drop is in cycling where I went from 398 in 07, to 407 in 08 -when I got a cycling license, to 350 in 09, largely because I did not have a road bike for much of the year. I suspect the drop in total exercise is because I ended up spending most weekends at cycling races with Alistair, and there I was without a bike to race. So, I stood around and then I did something short when I got home instead of spending a few hours on the bike.

I actually ran more in 2009, totaling 139 hours, versus 127 in 08, and 131 in 07. I also set a PB for the marathon, finishing Boston in 3:22:21.

When it comes to Ironman, 2009 was a very slow year. First, Lake Placid was a disaster at over 12 hours due to inadequate training, and then Canada made it even worse, because I ran out of sugar on the bike. Clearly, my heart wasn't in it this time. That is why a break is needed.