Monday, January 28, 2008

Pes Anserine Bursitis

Just got back from the doctor. My knee has degenerated into a cauldron of pain. I stayed off my legs all day Sunday. Ditto as best I could today. Been taking max dosage of Aleve too. Knee feels ok upon first getting up, but any standing or walking quickly produces severe burning sensations just below the joint in front of the tibia. Researching various knee injuries and causes, I suspected pes anserine bursitis before visiting the doctor. I have never experienced an overuse injury before. I suspected ramping up running the last few weeks was probable cause, but the doctor suspects otherwise.

After waiting more than an hour, the doctor finally comes in. Asks couple questions, then touches my pes anserine bursa. It was puffy and he could immediately see I had bursitis. I gave him run down of my cycling and skiing history, 600+ hours per year training, then 20 minute run takes out my knee. He didn't think so. He said bursitis is an overuse injury, and I couldn't have done enough running (about 50 minutes lifetime total) to have caused the bursitis. He suspected the skiing, especially if I did any skating. That is only technique I do. You see, his son is a high school skate racer, so he's somewhat familiar with the technique and how that could cause an overuse injury with that tendon. I did happen to do a 50km ski the Saturday before my 20 minute run on Monday. My knees were slightly tender from the hard weekend. The run may have been just enough to put me over the edge.

So now I must recover. I still don't know how long this will take or how big of a training hit this will be. I've already lost about 8hrs training volume, a race last weekend, a race this coming weekend, and probably the race the weekend after that. I asked about that. The doctor said if I really must race weekend after next and the pain is not subsiding by this weekend, to call, and they'll set me up with an orthopedist for a cortisone injection. The doctor did say cycling shouldn't be too much of a problem in the mean time, but skiing is not a good idea. I do know after this past Saturday's 50 mile hilly ride, my knee was a wreck. It doesn't hurt too bad while riding, but I'm practically disabled afterwards.

He put me on Voltaren. We'll see if that does a better job controlling the inflammation than Aleve. In the meantime, I have business trip in NJ, so Wednesday will be soonest I can try any aerobic activity. I haven't recovered this much ever, not even for Mt Washington. I can see the belt buckle straining already. Unfortunately, the eating machinery doesn't shut down just because the powerplant stops burning fuel.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hockey Ice

The Weston winter triathlon is not happening for me on Saturday. Knee is still a mess from Monday's 21 minute run. I've concluded that running is evil and not something I should be getting into at my age. I reason that even if I ease into it over many months, it will just mask damage that will occur none the less. It just won't hurt bad all at once.

I get every other Friday off from work, as I work for a defense contractor where "9/80" workweeks are popular. I tried to ski nearby at Great Brook Farm State Park today. No hills there, and when I called, they claimed conditions should be quite good for skating. I wanted to test the knee to see if it was ready for skiing. I talked my friend Arvid from work to come down with me, as he was thinking of heading more northerly. Big mistake. Conditions were deplorable, possibly the worst I've skied on ever. We had to take skis off multiple times for bare spots, and other areas were hockey ice. Did the Nordic center think we were skating with hockey skates?

Anyway, the knee felt marginally ok starting out and proceeded to get increasingly tender as we skied on the hairball crud. Made my ankles hurt even, trying in vain to find an edge somewhere on the rock hard surface. But the times I had to walk, my knee throbbed. The ski session was going to be short.

Arvid and I did stop to shoot 10-15 seconds of hi-res video of each other with my Panasonic FX100 camera. My technique is not very good to begin with, so when you factor in crusty conditions and a bum knee, I look terrible. The clip is 16MB, shot at 30fps in 16:9 aspect ratio, 848x480 pixels. This was best patch of snow we found, about 150m long. It looks like Blogger/Google messes with the image that gets uploaded though. Click here to see full-res. We did a bunch of small laps around a loop here, as it was the only place to get the heart rate up a little.

video

It was good to get out for a while, not having skied all week. But when I got home and pulled the tights off, my knee was visibly swollen. Probably should not have skied at all. So what is it about athletes and injuries or illness? We seem to push ourselves even though we know recovery is best for our bodies. Is it the addiction to endorphins? The fear of losing fitness, and we attach high self esteem to our fitness? Or is it the emotional release hard workouts provide? I suspect all three of them are wrapped up in our desire to keep going when we shouldn't. I have big ride planned tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Disparate Passions

Check out this amazing project completed by a 16yr old. He managed to combine two passions of mine into a single masterpiece - a functional wooden bicycle with no metal parts. Just wood and glue, including the chain and freewheel! Now I wouldn't want to take it up Mt Washington, but imagine the value as a conversation piece. I think this could also help with university admissions or jobs down the road. Truly creative, what he has done.

My own woodworking had been on a long furlough until late this fall. We bought a new 42" plasma display and I did not like any of the junk stands available at retail outlets. I still have a bunk of rough sawn red oak I moved here from Michigan over 10 years ago. I drew up plans in Powerpoint, then dusted off the planer, jointer, table saw, radial arm saw, miter saw, router table, and bought a new biscuit jointer.
Top being clamped
I converted one stall of our garage to wood shop. Here the rough oak was planed down to a silky smooth finish. Planks were ripped on the tablesaw in the basement, then trued on the jointer in lower part of this first image. The top was the first piece I worked on. It took just two wide pieces. In theory, more less wide planks should be used, alternating grain curvatures, to reduce tendency of wood to warp, bow, and twist. My new biscuit jointer was used to cut mortise slots in the edge of each piece. Then biscuits were inserted with glue, aligning the pieces and preventing the top from splitting apart for a long time.

Next up, each of the leg and apron pieces had to be selected from the pile of planks I planed. These had to be planed all to the right thickness, cut to width, cut to length, bevels cut at feet, Dry fit of major piecescorners routed, decorative grooves routed, and finally all the biscuit slots cut. No metal fasteners were used in the table, except to fasten the top as a completing step. Biscuit joints held everything together. I have used dowels extensively in the past, and I found biscuits are so much easier to work with.

The left and right sides were clamped first, then the front and back sides. I couldn't find cheap (free) 3x3 or 4x4 material for the legs, so they are right-angle posts with 1" thick material. After the four sides set up, I clamped them together for a dry fit.

Next up was to glue the entire base together. This required a lot of biscuit joints to be glued and clamped simultaneously. The glue I used set up fairly quickly, so there was little time margin. While that set up, I worked the top, putting radii on the corners, then routing a Roman ogee Finished table in family roomaround the perimeter. Corner blocks were set in at top of base legs for securing the top. After securing the top, lots of sanding ensued. Mostly of it had to be completed by hand. Then stain, urethane, sand, urethane. I was quite pleased with the finished result, not having build a fine piece in many years. It complements the entertainment cabinet I built a long time ago. Should we not need a plazma TV stand 10 or 20 years from now, this project will double as a fine coffee table.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Running Amok

With planned winter triathlon coming up on Saturday, I had to get at least one 5km run in to see if I could actually run for 5km. I have never run that far in my life. I had planned to do that this weekend, but long ski and ride workouts left me depleted. I ran at lunch on Monday. Course was mild downhill for 0.6mi, two 1.0 mile laps on flat road, then back up slight hill to office. I did light 42 minute bike spin around the block to warm up first, then switched to running shoes.

I eased into the run. When I got down to the dead end road for 1 mile laps, I picked pace up slightly. Breathing was what would be about tempo to near threshold pace on the bike (what I could hold for 1-2hrs). First mile: 6:47. Second mile: 6:45. I then took it easy running the 0.6mi back up to the buildings, but I was quite certain I was going to die by this point. My 5km time was about 21:11. When I reached my truck and stopped, my legs didn't want to stop. They were all jelly-like and I felt like I was going to lose balance if I didn't keep moving. It was the weirdest sensation. I ached all over, but nothing extreme.

Now this 5k performance is pretty pathetic in terms of what a runner can do. But in this one run, I nearly doubled my lifetime running volume. The first time I ran a couple weeks ago, my hips hurt for one day and I had shin splints for 3 days. I did two more short 1.6 mile runs since then with little lingering after effects. But last night, my left knee started to throb. Throb like a pounding headache that wouldn't go away no matter what. I took double dose of Aleve. No difference. I could not sleep all night. The pain was extreme. No position, no extra pillows, nothing made a difference. Feels like tendon related in front and back of knee joint, and pain was similar to muscle spasms. Very sharp. I barely made it down the stairs this morning. Well, it started to subside today at work. At least I can walk half speed now.

I've had recent correspondence with a runner that is taking up cycling. He developed knee issues. Gerry Clapper, another x-runner popped into the Masters cycling scene last year, setting course records and winning hillclimb events overall. Running certainly achieves great fitness, but at what expense? In conversation with Gerry last summer, he commented about the time he went in to buy a bike. After telling the salesperson about running issues, they commented "You know, we get all you guys eventually."

So what am I doing dabbling in running when guys that have been running a while are migrating to cycling? If I manage to finish the triathlon on Saturday, it may be an anomalous blip on my athletic record. I could like it and train more sensibly for multisport events next year. My running friends tell me I expect too much too fast. My cardio system is way ahead of the needed running infrastructure. If I become serious about this, I will have to run slower, more frequently, and build slowly. It will be interesting to see how this week plays out.

Other running observations I've picked up:

  • Your feet get hot.

  • You sweat a lot.

  • Empty stomach is good thing. Cycling doesn't matter for me.

  • Jarring of running interferes with breathing, each step knocking a little wind out of ya.

  • Running moderate aerobic pace for 21 minutes is way, way harder than racing up Mt Ascutney deeply into the anaerobic abyss for 28 minutes.

  • You feel 90yrs old after you run.

  • Running can't be healthy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Icecream Headache

Local Road Ride
50.2mi, 3:11hrs
+23F and falling, very windy

Having gotten my intensity workout in for the weekend on skis yesterday, today was going to be a LSD (long, slow, distance) ride. I've been mostly skiing on the coldest days this season. Feeling a little wiped out with wind chills around 0F took extra motivation to head out today. I think blogging you're going to do it, knowing many acquaintances are going to read it, provides additional incentive.

Really, only the first 2-3 miles are rough. I bomb down a 250ft vertical drop in 2mi from my house to start any ride. Without any time to warm up, an instant ice cream headache results. Eyes tear up so bad that blinking splashes the tears against the inside of the glasses. Even though I was going easy today, I went fairly hard starting out to get past the initial discomfort hurdle. Then it was 20 miles straight into the wind. Once blood started flowing, feeling came back to my nose and risk of frostbite vanished.

I went up to Manchester airport, where it must have been 5-10 degrees colder. I passed another rider near the airport, thinking I wasn't the only wacko roadie out today. It was Glen (NorEast Cycling). He thought same about me. Ironically, we just missed hooking up to ride together this morning with emails that crossed paths. Then later we literally crossed paths riding. He was doing CW loop, I CCW loop.

So how do you stay comfy on days like today? On top, I wore a Castelli MicroSpitech fabric jersey. This must make continuous skin contact to shuttle moisture away from skin properly. I have four such jerseys (different labels, but all based on Castelli fabric). They make superb base layers. Next is Pearl Izumi Kodiac jersey. This is heavy weight. It too must hug the base layer without excessive voids to continue the wicking process. Outer layer is Pearl Izumi Zephyr shell. It is polyester, blocks wind, wicks moisture. On bottom, I wore Pearl Izumi AmFib tights. Normally these are enough by themselves, but I wanted extra knee protection today so I put on lightweight nylon-based shell. It is windproof in front, spandex in back for moisture control. Feet were covered by standard cycling socks, Sidi Dominator MTB shoes, and Performance neoprene booties. The booties are best around IMO, and on sale are only $19.95. They are fleece lined, have rubber soles, and will last at least one season. It is very important to not clinch down shoes tightly when it is cold. You must maximize blood flow. I used Pearl Izumi lobster mitts on the hands. Gloves don't work for me. The PI mitts work well if you don't sweat too hard, as they tend not to wick well but do block wind well. Topping things off, I used a WindTec balaclava (no longer available) and additional windproof ear band since my ears are sensitive to cold. I applied Dermatone to exposed facial bits to prevent windburn and reduce chance of frostbite.

I managed to stay completely comfortable for 95% of the ride. Just starting out and one bit heading into gale force winds by the airport had my face hurting. Roads were clean. Could have taken a good bike out today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

50km on Sandpaper Snow

Waterville Valley Skate Ski
50.3km, 1135m vert, 3:31hrs
Temps -12C to -4C, Swix CH6

Had big ski day planned. Do 2+ hours intensity work in the morning, then do the 90 minute Justin Freeman race clinic in the afternoon. Things went awry however. The intensity factor was excellent. Today's workout was my hardest this season, and I believe 50.3km is the longest training ski I've done. The temp was in single Fahrenheit digits when we arrived. The new snow, while firmly set up, was very dry and abrasive. On scale of 1-10, it was about a 2 or 3 for glide speed. This made climbing extremely challenging. Skate skis tend to stall out on steep grades with high friction snow. It was like skiing on sandpaper.

Brett summiting Tripoli RdBrett and I first did a major climbing loop on the south end, hitting Jennings Peak, Drakes, and Upper Fletchers before bombing back down through the infamous Hairpin. I have been skiing a lot this season, Brett has had less opportunity. I knew something was up when he capitulated and let me take the lead up Drakes from bottom of Jennings. That doesn't happen very often, as his technique is much better than mine and I have to throw brute force into my effort to stay with him most of the time. Next up was the long gradual climb to the north end via Swan's Way. Tripoli Rd, which gains 800ft from the very bottom, was next. Apparently, the Drakes climb whacked Brett pretty good and he didn't want to hammer Tripoli. I did, so he let me go again. I got to the top 2-3 minutes before he did, holding my highest average HR so far this season up it.

Beginning Beanbender plummit, Thornton Gap where Tripoli Rd summits in backgroundWhen I skied up Tripoli with Ryan last week, I did it in 16:35. It was not all out hammering. My average HR was 160bpm. Today, I went about as hard as I could go. It took 19:59, almost 3.5 minutes longer and at at 164bpm HR. That goes to show how big of a variable snow conditions can be. Even though we had perfect corduroy firmly set up today, it was just wicked dry abrasive snow. Last week was sugar granular that had been through a thaw cycle.

We hit Livermore and Cascade Brook next, another 800ft climb, but at reduced intensity. We finished the morning by climbing Upper Snows and rocketing down Beanbender/Swazeytown.

After briefly stopping at the Nordic Center to put on dry uppers and eat, we drove to north end for the race clinic. We ran a few minutes late. Brett headed up to meeting point at the yurt while I took a 60 second nature break. When I got to the yurt, nobody was there, not even Brett. I ask Bert in the yurt where the clinic went, he said probably Mouse Run. I headed out, did full loop, and nothing. Now I was pissed, as I really wanted to get some profession feedback on my Mt Tripyramid (I think)technique, and Brett didn't even wait for me to tell me where they went. I ended up going back down to Livemore area, skiing loop there, and nothing. Back up to Mouse Run, a loop, and nothing. By this time I skied another 15km and clinic was about over anyway. I went back down to car and Brett yells out to me from behind.

The yurt has a one way "driveway" that loops off main trail. The upper side is entrance, lower side exit. To be quick, I went in the exit to the yurt. At the same time, Brett went out the entrance after learning the clinic was on Tripoli. He thought he'd catch me still coming up to yurt, but we missed each other by 100m and 30 seconds going in/out separate ways to yurt. Had only one of us gone the wrong way, we would have crossed paths. But we both went wrong ways and missed. Two wrongs does not make a right in this case. Neither would have two rights made a right. I wasn't so mad after we figured out how we missed each other. We both had good intentions. Overall, it was a tremendous aerobic and anaerobic workout. Hope I have something left for riding on Sunday.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Night Ski

I've been fortunate to night-ski twice this week at Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, MA. They offer night skiing on Tues/Thur nights. How it is supposed to work is you follow the 1.4km Lantern Loop. No artificial lights are allowed. The kerosene lanterns don't really light up the path; they merely mark the way to go. Since the area is largely urban around there, ambient city lighting is often enough to ski by (some would call this light pollution).

Tuesday night was a brilliant, moon-lit night. The moon was directly overhead and completely abolished any shadow information for spacial depth processing. Skiing was by feel. A lot of people were there. Many families and large groups did not have a strong sense of trail etiquette. Apparently, the skate lane is where you stop and socialize. I was there for a good aerobic fix, so I bolted from the lantern loop. Technically, the other trails are closed after dark, but a few venture out on them. In the open fields, the bright moon and fresh snow were dazzling and no head lamp was needed. However, in the woods it was much harder to see. Some areas are canopied by thick evergreens, and they were laden with snow to block even more moonlight. I used the lamp. Skiing through the woods on a calm, sparkling moonlit night without another soul around touched into the mystical realm. Skied around 16km in 1.3hrs.

Thursday night I went back again. A snowstorm with mixed precip was threatening the area. Temps hovered right around the freezing mark. Glide was vastly improved over Tuesday night. Waxing my skis this time might have had something to do with that. The trails were less crowed. When I went in to sign for my trail pass (I have season ticket), I was reminded that lights are not allowed. I had it on my head already. I replied I wasn't using it on the lantern loop. Oops, mistake number two. I was further reminded that skiing on the other trails was also not allowed after dark. I buzzed around the lantern loop a bunch of times, quite fast, and I'm sure at the consternation of some of the leisure classic skiers there. I strayed only slightly off the lantern loop. No light was needed at all. There was mix of diffused city light reflecting off thin a cloud layer and moon light trying to poke through. There was decent shadow definition on the trail to see the many undulations. I did multiple laps on a short loop with a small hill away from the people before coming back to the lantern loop. At times, the moon poked completely through the clouds and I would lose my depth perception. Skate skiing is all about balance, and balance is surprisingly heavily dependent on visual cues. Take those away, it's almost like you had too much to drink. I skied about 19km in 1.3hrs.

Biking has taken a back seat to skiing right now. That doesn't mean I'm off the bike. I did some VOmax hill intervals Tuesday at lunch on a gravel road near work. Studs bit very nicely into the hard-packed snow surface. Then Wednesday I did about 80 minutes at lower tempo range ride. I hope to get a 3+ hr ride in on Sunday, but it sure looks like its gonna be cold.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Best of Both Worlds

Waterville Valley Skate Ski
48.1km, 750-950m vert, 2:32hrs
25-32F, Swix CH8, Loose Granular

Once in a while you get those precious ski days where you have fast conditions AND good control. Today was one of those days. On scale of 1-10, speed was about 9, and control about 8. Normally, good control is soft new snow that hasn't set up or granularized yet. Similarly, fast conditions are often associated with icy or hard surfaces with lack of control and poor power transfer. The warmth and rain earlier this week left sufficient base for Waterville's Piston Bully to work on. After two days of grooming, a firm, slightly crispy, but very edgeable surface was the result. Factor in mild temps right around the freezing mark and sunny skies, it just doesn't get any better.

I headed up with Dave. The south end was pretty much shut down due to water damage, so we picked up trail passes and drove to north end parking lot to begin skiing. Ryan (Team Bike Alley) was just heading out from the parking lot with his wife.

Starting out, I was suffering from yesterday's 4.7hr hillfest ride. It seemed to take forever to warm up, to get past that stage where the motor just ain't putting out. After catching Ryan and his wife on Moose Run, we set up a game plan for meeting back up later. Ryan and I were going to hit some hills. Dave wanted to focus on technique. Tripoli was first, and it hurt bad. Heartrate was very stubborn in coming up. I think the Freeman brothers (2006 National Team) were there training. They came down at about 40mph. Dave, Ryan and I were all back together again for the descent, and the Freemans were coming up faster than we were going down. It took me about 17 minutes to climb Tripoli, probably a PR, but I didn't time it precisely. It was definitely an anaerobic effort for me. I would love to know what the Freemans can do. I see Justin is signed up for the Ski to the Clouds race up Mt Washington in March, so I hope to get a baseline comparison there.

Repeats on Livermore were next. Ryan led on these climbs, and pace was more in line with upper tempo range for me. The second time up was about 17 minutes, also in PR range. Ryan was about out of time after this, so we split ways heading to Osceola. I did Upper Osceola, coming back down for a couple more laps around Mouse Run with Dave before calling it a day.

I was really surprised to see the GPS logged 48km in just over 2.5hrs. I could have skied all day in those conditions had I not done such a big ride the day before. But I was cooked. Dave did about 42km, so it was a good day for both of us. I thought last Saturday was the best ski day of the season, but today was at least a tie.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Upgrades and Spring Training

USCF License Upgrade
This week I petitioned for an upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 3 and received it, in six minutes. The NEBRA coordinator must have been at her computer when I emailed my request.

When I started road racing a few years ago, I completed 10 qualifying races as a Cat 5 before I upgraded to Cat 4 in 2006. But once I upgraded, I jumped right into Masters 35+ racing (winning first race!), not really having any interest in climbing the category ladder. You don't earn upgrade points in Masters races. Last year I did all 40+ or 45+ races. But I'm racing against some seriously strong mofo's with Cat 1&2 licenses. They just happen to be older seriously strong mofo's. Masters 35+/45+ races are much more challenging to podium than the Cat 4/5 races I did as a Cat 5. The upgrades coordinator does have some discretion in granting upgrades. In my case, several podium finishes in big races was enough.

So why bother with a Cat 3 upgrade? I don't plan to do any Cat 3 races. Too much young testosterone flowing in those races. I will continue to race Masters categories. However, I wouldn't mind giving US Road Masters Nationals a shot. I read or somebody told me that nationals is open only to Cat 3 and higher. The 2007 website doesn't appear to be up anymore, and I don't think 2008 has been announced yet. A secondary reason for Cat 3 upgrade is I may want to try a local Pro/1/2/3 race sometime. Probably just once for the experience. I have quite a few Cat 3 teammates, and they may pressure me to support the team there. We'll see.

Spring Training in January
Now that we lost most of our snow and temps continue to remain mild, I did a long, hard NorEast club ride today. Seven of us started from UNH in Durham, headed west, and proceeded to hit hill after hill after hill. Much of the terrain was new to me. I did not know where we were most of the time, but a few of the hills we hit were Meetinghouse, Mt Delight, Pembrook, Willow, and Harriman. There were numerous other steep, short punchy hills. We stayed together very well as a group, all having similar fitness and training objectives for the ride.

The last couple weeks were fairly intensive for me with hard rides and 3hr hammerski sessions. I perceived earlier this week I was on verge of overtraining. Volume was only 10-12hrs per week, but the skiing really jacks up the average intensity of that volume. So I backed down the last three days, doing nothing on Friday. Monday was a rest day too. I felt pretty fresh going into today's ride, and it was a good thing. I would have suffered miserably otherwise. Most rode in to UNH from other places. Rich and I were only two to start and finish at UNH. We logged 82.1 miles with 4:42hrs riding time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shorts in January!

Hollis/Amherst Road Ride
33.6mi, 1:37hrs
Bedford Skate Ski
8.7km, 43min

It was forecast to get warm today, but it got really warm in the Nashua area. I went out for my lunch ride with tights and two layers on up top. The tights and outer layer came right off. It was +67F and sunny. Had really planned a short moderate pace ride today and go hard tomorrow. Tomorrow's forecast looked bleak, so I took advantage of the nice day by riding longer and harder.

We've had the most wintry December in modern history. Seems like we've had a full winter already and we've only gotten past the holiday season. There's something about shedding the tights on the first warm day. To feel the wind on my not shaven since September legs was stimulating. This sent messages to my brain that it was spring and time to really ramp up the volume and intensity. But visually, you receive conflicting messages of 5ft high snow banks. Mental torture of sorts, as this teaser day is surely not the beginning of spring.

I ended up doing a couple hill intervals heading into Hollis. I knew I wouldn't be recovered from 3+ hour ski session Saturday and nearly 4hr ride with UNH guys on Sunday, and the lack of top end proved it. I decided to skip Ponemah Hill and swing through Amherst instead, doing a few more short sprint effort hills. Roads were much drier than I thought they would be, unlike Sunday's grime fest. The ride produced a good fix, but this warm spell does not bode well for skiing.

I worked a little late and decided last minute to head over to Legacy Park in Bedford, NH to see if conditions were skiable. They were, barely. The trails in the woods were deadly, alternating between ice and slush. The fields were ok to start, but as temps felt, a crust started to develop. This made glide much faster, but also locked in the deep ruts and made control very difficult. After taking a spill, I bagged it and went home. Could be a while before there is local skiing again.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

One of Everything

Waterville Valley Skate Ski
44.5km, 1172m vert, 3:09hrs

I had an epic ski planned today. I was nearly recovered from shin splints caused by my running experiment. Doing two minute cycling hill repeats at very high intensity yesterday left other bits of carnage in my legs. Hadn't been doing much riding intensity lately, and I try to do some at least once per week during the lowest cycling volume time of year. The nice thing about XC skiing is it heavily relies on upper body and other muscle groups not taxed by cycling or running. You do need your energy stores topped off for an endurance workout though.

Actual profile of altitude vs distanceAs I drove in to the Waterville Valley Nordic village, I saw Brad Ek (NHCC) heading over on foot from his condo. Then Kevin, Ryan, Andrew, Rich, and Keith, representing several other cycling clubs, popped into the Nordic center. We discussed heading out as one group although we arrived as four separate groups. But Brad and I were ready to go, had time constraints, and wanted to hit the big hills first. The others wanted to start on the south end. I suggested doing a couple Tripoli Road repeats first, but Brad countered with idea of "one of everything." This would spread the climbing out over the ski rather than front load it as I tend to do. I was cool with that and we pushed off.

HR and pseudo profile of altitude vs timeWe hit Tripoli, Upper Osceola, Livermore/Cascade, and Upper Snows. Brad's alpine skills must carry over to XC, as he dropped me fast on the Cascade Brook switchbacks. Halfway down, he was brushing snow off from wiping out. Oops. Shortly after that, we see a young gal on classic skis ahead of us climbing Upper Snows. She was staying ahead of us as I noticed my heartrate climbing. Brad was picking up the pace, yet gaining little on her. She ripped down a hill and around a corner, staying in the tracks and put distance back on us. Very humbling. We passed her just before reaching the summit. She was probably still in high school and was very good. The initial descent from Upper Snows is on old alpine trail. Part way down, the steep groomed path darts into the woods on the freshly minted Swazeytown trail. It descends just like Cascade. In reckless desperation trying to stay with Brad, I came too hot into the first sharp turn and bit it bad. Even had snow packed in behind my glasses. No injuries. We were even score now.

After popping out on the golf course, we took the relatively new piece of Criterion up and around the condo development. Brad had to meet his family, so he went back and I kept going. I finished a full Criterion lap next, then wrapped up by doing HB, L. Fletchers, Jennings Peak, Drakes Brook, U. Fletchers, then back down around the hairpin to Nordic center. I think that was how Brad planned to do "one of everything." It hit all the highest points around the perimeter. It was my most comprehensive ski of WV to date. Most of the trails skied the last half were rated black, and I forgot how steep some of the pitches were on Fletchers since we haven't had enough snow the last couple years to open all this terrain. Today was my hardest ski workout so far this season, and it may well have been the best ski day of the season. A warming trend is in the forecast.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Running Experiment

Wednesday night I ran an experiment. Literally. For the first in over 28 years, I ran a mile. Since my studded tire bike was still on its way back from Michigan, I did a light spin on the Lemond Revmaster in the evening. Sufficiently warmed up for the near 0F air, I laced up the closest things I had to running shoes and went out.

This past summer I was late for a meeting in another facility and had to run about 200m from my car slightly downhill to the building. No biggie. Next day, felt fine. Second day, I could hardly walk with severe shin splints. It took over five days for the pain to go away, all from less than a 60 second jog from my car. I don't do any impact exercise, such as ball sports. I suck at them. With lack of conditioning, it takes very little to bring about shin splints.

The last time I can recall running a mile or more was in high school, probably around 1979 or 1980. I think I was slower than 10 minute miles. I had severe asthma problems back then, but it was not enough to get me out of gym class. I suffered through these events and finished DFL every time.

So Wednesday night I ran two 0.55 mile laps around my culdesac block for 1.1 miles total. I ran a pace I thought was aerobically moderate, although my heart rate soared. My pace: about 6:51 min/mi. Pretty poor I thought. The 7 minute run turned my quads, of all things, into jelly. I kind of ached all over. Running can't be healthy, I thought to myself.

So why, you may ask, would I perform such a foolish experiment? I'm still having thoughts about doing a winter triathlon at Weston on January 26. Many people say huh, a triathlon in January? Key word is winter. It is a run/bike/ski all on snow. You run 5km on a groomed XC ski course, then bike 7.5km on same loop, then XC ski 6km on a different loop. I've been mountain biking on snow for over 8 years now, so I should have that base very well covered. I've been skate skiing a few years now, experienced just enough to dare compete. The run will suck. It's only 3 miles, and my goal is to suffer through it without injuring myself or needing weeks to recover from tweaked tissues.

Wednesday night's run was a small shock to the system, or in engineering terms, an impulse response test. Two days later, the impulse response has not settled out. I had no shin splints yesterday, just sore hips. Today, I have moderate shin splints, but hips feel recovered. If I can tone up the shins in three weeks, I might be good to go for a three mile run. How long the run will take depends entirely on conditions. With warming spell coming, course could turn to ice if no more snow comes. It could be warm and slushy. It could be snowing. Doesn't matter. I just don't want to be babying abused body parts for weeks from a one hour event.

After talking with real runners yesterday and today, they were surprised at my aggressive pace. A non-runner should never start out that hard, especially on pavement and without running shoes. Aerobically, I could have gone much harder. So plan now is to back down the pace a notch and maybe do a three lap run this weekend. If shin splints don't come back or are less severe, I'll go for four lap/2.2 mile run mid week. Goal is not to be competitive in run leg of triathlon, just conditioning to prevent injury. This whole thing is exploratory. If I like the triathlon, it's not impossible I would do more multisport events (excluding swimming). I did invest in a pair of trail running shoes tonight.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reflections on 2007

Perusing a few cycling blogs New Years Day, it appears customary for bloggers to reflect on the past year. No doubts about it, 2007 was a good cycling year for me. There were some major hiccups, especially as the season drew to an end. But overall, several benchmark results suggests my fitness continues to improve.

I competed only in road and hillclimb cycling races this past year. Planned ski, CX, and MTB races fell through. Of the 11 events I competed in, 8 podium finishes were achieved. This includes category wins at Turtle Pond RR, Mt Agamenticus TT, and Equinox Hillclimb. Second place finishes were achieved at Jiminy Peak RR, Tokeneke RR, Bow RR (day after Equinox), and Mt Ascutney Hillclimb. New PR times were achieved on Mt Ascutney and Mt Equinox. I've been racing Mt Ascutney for 8 years now, and to achieve a PR at 45 years old was more satisfying than taking podium spots in big road races. It was a big chunk of time off my prior PR from several years ago.

There were some major disappointments. The Everest Challenge was the biggest. It was first road event I DNF'd. The whole training year was geared towards this late season event, and I seized up meters from the first stage finish line. First time use of HEED sport drink was behind this failure. It was my fault for taking such a gamble. It was what they served but I had no support to hand me my preferred Gatorade mix.

Both Mt Washington races were cancelled this year, Newton's Revenge in July and the original race in August. I was prep'd to PR the August race. My time on Mt Ascutney suggested I would crush my Washington PR in good weather. But good weather on Washington was scarce for cyclists this summer. Winds broke 90mph with windchill in the teens the morning of my race. The race organizers had no choice but to cancel.

The inaugural Burke Mountain hillclimb race went awry for me too. Early in the climb, my bike made a loud pop. Shortly thereafter, I could not maintain pace of race leaders. Riders passed me that shouldn't have. I thought I was having a very bad day until another rider asked about my bike at the finish. I popped a spoke and didn't notice the extreme rubbing on brake and frame. Rear wheel just dragged when I pushed my bike. Silly me for not noticing what happened when those around me knew. Had I known, I probably would have DNF'd this race too, but I stuck with it, still taking a 3rd place age group finish. Should have an easy target to beat next year.

So to what do I attribute the successes of 2007? Training for the Everest Challenge. I did a large number of group or solo rides that entailed 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing or more. All that threshold effort on steep mountain climbs raised my power at threshold, or more importantly, my W/kg @ LT. This is the bottom line in doing well in hillclimb events. It also lets you get away from the pack in road races and staying away for podium finishes. It does little for sprint capability. I optimize my strengths rather than train my weaknesses as some coaches would advise. I choose to be a specialist. Hillclimbs, hilly road races, and time trials are what I enjoy. When you achieve a certain foundation of fitness for these activities, the drawn out, super intense efforts really don't hurt. Rather, they induce a great endorphin buzz.

The big training rides hit some truly fabulous areas to ride. These included the western and eastern White Mountains of New Hampshire, the central and northern Green Mountains Vermont, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, and for the first time, the Catskills of New York. Of the biggest 10 rides I did this year, the average distance was 122 miles with about 12,000ft of climbing. These rides ranged from 4.8 to 8.5 hours in duration. There were numerous 80 and 90 mile rides in addition to this, always packed with climbing of course.

If I don't try the Everest Challenge again in 2008, I'm not sure what will motivate me to put in this much volume with liberal doses of climbing. Epic rides are fun, however. I will do long mountain rides for as long as my body permits. Six-Gaps of Vermont is always an annual highlight with its 132 miles and six major climbs totalling over 14,000 feet of climbing.

The scariest moment of 2007 occurred during an early season training ride in the White Mountains. Most of the Everest Challenge crew was present. On our first descent (Gonzo Pass), Dave and I were leading through a guard rail chicane section at 50+ mph. A short distance behind us, Bill and others were trying to stay with us. I panicked going into turns, braking just a touch before banking hard. Dave and I continued to bomb all the way down to the bottom, another 6+ miles. Then we waited. And waited. We freaked when emergency vehicles headed up the pass. We asked a motorist if they'd seen our friends. They hadn't, but they pulled on to the road only a little ways up from the bottom. They noted our concern and went up to check. Dave and I started to ride back up, only to be greeted by the motorist coming back down. They told us Bill was involved in a crash. We did not reach the crash scene before he was taken away by ambulance. Bill lost control, going into the guardrail face first at about 40mph. He was lucky to be alive. He suffered severe facial fractures and concussion. Surgery about a week later pulled the bones back into place with Titanium and screws. Other than some lingering nerve damage, Bill has made a near complete recovery. I no longer fearlessly descend like I used to. That could have happend to any one of us.

So what are my plans for 2008? Kicking around right now are the Bob Cook Memorial Hillclimb (Mt Evans in Colorado), repeat of Everest Challenge, and possibly the Leadville 100 MTB race. I did not do any MTB races in 2007. I signed up for the New Hampshire 100k but bailed on it. The Leadville race starts and finishes above 10,000ft in Colorado, peaking above 12,000ft. It goes 50 miles out and then back. That alone could be a big training motivator. I've already signed up for the Battenkill road race in April. The Masters 45+ category filled quickly. Many of the area's great road races will be in the schedule again.

In theory, I should be a competent time-trailist. The Mt Agamenticus TT is the closest I come to a flat TT. Most of that course is flat or rolling with a steep 500ft climb at the finish. Due to gravel sections and sharp turns, aero bars are not allowed. To move into the TT realm, investments in new equipment would be required. There are a number of TT series in New England that look interesting to me. A couple stage races have TT's too. I just may make the leap this winter.

In the near term, I would like to do more ski racing. I have events tentatively planned January through March. These include the Tripoli Rd hillclimb at Waterville Valley, the Mt Washington hilclimb at Great Glen, the Nordic 300 at Great Glen, and possibly my first multi-sport event ever, the triathlon at Weston (run, bike, ski, all on snow). The skiing has been phenomenal already this season, and my form continues to improve.