Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Metabolically Efficient 'Rice' (alternative) and an Easy & Quick Thai dish recipe

I love Basmati rice. But - it's not very metabolically efficient and in general a bulky way to load up on carbs. What to do?

I've found that cauliflower makes a great alternative for the Thai dishes I like to prepare.

Creating the 'rice'

Step 1: Steam some cauliflower (I use a rice / vegetable steamer) and let it cool so it's warm to the touch. Don't overcook it.

Step 2: Toss it into your food processor using a 'ricing' blade. Like this one.

The rest of the dish:

We always try to have some pre-grilled chicken ready to go for salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, snacks etc.. We'll grill up 6-8 breasts and put it in the fridge for a few days worth of meals.

  1. Slice up a breast and a half of the pre-grilled chicken into thin strips.
  2. Using the same ricing blade on the food processor, rice up 2 medium raw carrots
  3. Toss the carrots and about 3-5 cloves of minced garlic into a pan with some olive oil and sauté a bit.
  4. Toss in the chicken strips. Add a bit more olive oil.
  5. Toss in an large handful of baby spinach and saute until the spinach starts to wilt in the pan.
  6. Mix (in a bowl) a small jar of this curry paste and 1 can of coconut milk. Turn down the heat and let simmer.

Spoon your cauliflower 'rice' into a bowl and spoon the above over it. Viola!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Avoid the Recovery Run Trap

If you're looking for the Newton III shoe review, you can find in here.

Whoah, I can hear the objections already. But before you go getting your compression socks in a twist, or head out the door and hammer your easy day, let me explain a bit.

Most weekly run schedules are composed of several 'quality' runs and 'recovery' runs. 'Quality' runs are generally categorized as the meat and potatoes of the schedule with the 'recovery' runs thrown in to boost volume and allow for active recovery.

Let's look at these intentions one at a time:

Volume certainly can help improve running economy. The more you run (or do anything), the more your body will adapt to performing that movement pattern in the most economic way possible. However, for this to happen, the repetition must be coupled with a mindfulness towards proper form and improvement.

Unfortunately, many people simply go out and crank out a few mindless miles as their 'recovery' run. Couple with with the fatigue from the preceding quality session and all you're doing in this case in honing your ability to run with poor form.

The body recovers much better when it's active. Moving around increases blood flow and ups the chemistry in your body that speeds recovery. But many people try to turn their recovery runs into workouts. They end up running them too hard and/or too fast.

In addition - while it's true that many experienced and elite runners can see a recovery benefit from an easy run, many folks just don't have the years and miles on their legs to run with an easy, efficient stride that promotes healing instead of breaking down. Take that noisy stride and couple it with a few extra pounds, and you're most likely doing more harm than good in your recovery run.

So should you ditch the day in favor of lying around on the couch, flipping channels? Not at all. But the next time you want to drop a 'recovery' run on your schedule, take a second look into how to get the most bang for your buck out of that day. In short - every run should be a 'quality' run. Every run should have a purpose. If you see a run that simply says "Easy 5mi" or "Recovery 3mi", then re-think the run. Otherwise, you're just logging junk miles that are probably slowing your fitness gains rather than adding to it.

Here are ways to re-calibrate that ambiguous 'recovery run' on your schedule:

1. Turn it into a skills workout. Here's an example of a run that is easy on your body, but will reap benefits in your form. Do muscle activation exercises, prehab movements, fast feet, grapevines, butt kickers, uphill bounding strides. Run very, very slowly, but with perfect, tall form. Break up the session to focus on where your feet are landing and pushing off. Try to adjust your paw back. Run to some 90 cadence (per foot) music - higher if you have a high cadence already. Check arm position. Run backwards, sidesteps. Run (easily) around cones. Run barefoot on grass. Bound the workout by time, not by miles. If you need help with running skills / drills, do some searching out there. McMillan Running actually has a whole DVD series just on drills (Drills for Distance Runners), or hire a coach.

2. Do an easy bike workout instead. The bike is much easier on your body. Go out for what is known as a 'walk on the bike', where you just roll along without any intensity. This is a great ride to do with your young kids. You should never feel any 'burn' on this ride. Keep it short and remember that the goal of this ride isn't to add fitness, it's to help the body absorb the work you've already done.

3. Do an easy fun run with friends or people that won't push you. We all have folks in our lives that we'd like to run with, that aren't daily runners. Schedule easy runs with them and do a rolling trail run - and keep it easy. If you aren't able to carry on a conversation the whole time, you are running WAY too hard. Make sure you stay mindful of your form. Don't get sloppy.

4. Hit the treadmill with 0% incline and a very easy pace. Try at least 2 minutes (per mile) slower than your Marathon pace.The treadmill can be a great way to keep you honest at a constant slower pace. And it's generally easier on your body. Some people develop niggles and injuries on the treadmill - if that's you, then skip this one.

One last point. If you are a runner that has consistently held 50-60+ miles per week through many years, then the recovery run may work for you - or you are probably already doing one or more of the above in lieu of just cranking out a few more easy miles to boost your weekly totals. Just check to make sure you are creating enough separation between your hard and easy days. When I first started working with a coach years ago, the first thing she had me do was to run my hard runs harder and my easier runs easier. I was running my easier runs too hard and they were compromising the quality of my harder runs.

Let me sum things up again by saying, 'All runs should have a purpose' - so, when I say 'avoid the recovery run' - what I really mean is; 'make all your runs *quality* runs'.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Newton Distance III Shoe Review

They are actually orange btw, not pink. Camera lighting.
I picked up a pair of the new Newton Distance III series shoes from my sponsor Kompetitive Edge the other day.

I wasn't planning on getting a new pair of running shoes. I'm kind of a creature of habit and have been racing in the same Brooks Racer ST 5s for eons now. In fact, I recently switched over to using them as my training shoe as well and have been really happy with them.

I've always liked the Newton concept; looking at how you build a running shoe from the ground up (or foot down) that promotes and supports a more efficient and healthier running style. So while I was at KE picking up some other things for my bike, I noticed the new Newtons had just arrived, stacked up on the floor and was curious about what I'd heard about the new design. Ryan (Stedeford) explained the layout of the new line and what had changed in the design. It peaked my interest to throw a pair on and hit the treadmill, and that experience got me thinking that it was time to give the Newton brand another try out in the wild. So out the door I went with my new shoes.

I have an older pair of Newtons that I bought from someone that got them new, ran a few miles and decided they weren't for him. He also threw in a pair of Saucony Kinevara's (same story) and sold both pair to me for a song. I liked the old Newtons, but still felt they had some work to do before they'd become my 'go-to' shoe. I'm happy to say that the new Distance series seems to have really gotten it right and refined an already solid concept into something pretty fun to head out the door in.

In following the 'minimalist' trends and experimenting with a number of shoes that fit that category through the years, I've distilled two key things that people generally are referring to when they talk about minimalism.
  • More pronounced heel drop (the heel is generally lower and sometimes the same, or in extreme cases lower, than the mid-foot contact point)
  • Less cushioning
I've over-simplifying here because this isn't a discussion about minimalism, natural running, etc. If you want a more detailed two part series I wrote about 3 years ago on minimalist running taken to an extreme you can find it here and here

In short, the Newtons are more about the pronounced heel drop than lessening the cushioning. But they take it further in the design of the sole itself in a way that puts them in a very special category. You can read about the science behind their shoes on their site. How is a techno-geek engineer like me not going to be drawn in by phrases like, "Bio-Mechanical Sensor Plate" and "Knight Mechanical Testing? Seriously though, they have quite a bit of interesting information there including testing, choosing a shoe and an overall commitment to improving running form and education. They really are so much more than just a shoe company - they are a fundamentally different concept in running.

Right away I could see the differences Newton had made in the shoe. The most obvious are the addition of an additional mid-foot 'lug'. Ryan explained that this was to promote better side to side stability, which I could feel on the side by side compare run I did (more on that later). Older model on top, lower on the bottom.

You can also see the mid-foot overall has a wider platform while the heel looks a bit narrower. I actually measured them to make sure it wasn't an optical illusion and sure enough, they are as they appear.

The other thing you'll notice is that the new shoe's arch to heel looks more integrated as opposed the older model that has several components to it; a 'yellow' base layer layered with a grey foundation and several black 'crash pads'. I've seen a trend lately around this and like the idea of a molded one piece design. As for the specifics including the 'angled channel' in the heel - well, I have some educated guesses, but that's probably a better question for the folks at KE or the Newton shoe engineers; who wouldn't be just guessing like me.

The Distance doesn't have much lateral or torsional stability, and that's both by design and what I'm looking for in a shoe. It's not as slipper-like as a racing flat (I have a pair of Saucony A5s that are basically socks with a sole), but this model is definitely a neutral shoe that will give you immediate feedback if you come down a bit off center of neutral. If you're looking for a bit more stability, then the Gravity and Motion offer increasing levels of stabilization. There are also more specialized models for things like trail running and even an 'Ironman' branded model. With 18 different models you want to spend a bit of time talking to someone that can work with you to find the best shoe for your needs and stride. This is only a review of one particular model.

The next was the scale test. I compared my current shoes (Brooks Racer ST 5), the older Newtons and the new Distance Newton. All are the same size and come with the factory laces. I was surprised by the weight differences. The Newton distance was nearly 40g lighter than my Racer ST 5s - and that's with the ribbon like laces of the ST (which often come untied). A small feature, but I like the laces of the Newton Distance - although for racing I opt for Nathan or other quick entry laces (as most triathletes do) to get out of T2 faster.

Brooks Racer ST 5 - 280g

Older model Newton - 291g

New Newton Distance - 242g
So will you feel 40g difference while running? Probably not, but maybe once fatigued it would become more apparent in being able to maintain a better stride.

Just to be fair - the Newton Distance and the Brooks Racer ST 5 are VERY different shoes. But, if I'm trying to figure out a shoe to wear that works for training and racing, then saving weight is a bonus, even if it's not a deciding factor.

I picked a 2mi course that included a mixture of asphalt, concrete, hard dirt trail, uneven trail, looser dirt and both easy and steeper uphills and downhills. I ran a warm-up and then the shoes in the following order:

Brooks Racer ST 5 / Newton Distance / Older Newtons

I was only looking to evaluate the Newton Distance, using the other two to compare impressions - so I won't get into what I like about the Brooks Racer ST 5's - which is a lot obviously since I've been narrowing down to that for quite a number of years.

First off, the Distance has that Newton 'feel' to it. If you've never run in Newtons, you should. It's fundamentally different than any other shoe you've ever run in - I defy anyone to deny that. Now, whether you like that 'feel' or not is personal. I happen to admire it because it's obvious the engineers at Newton have gone out of their way to put that feel into the shoe.

What you notice right away is more emphasis on the mid-foot and a decreased emphasis on the heel. Laugh as you will about the term "Bio-Mechanical Sensor Plate" but I can tell you it's there and it works. Right away I noticed that there was far better sensitivity programmed into that construction than in the older Newtons. There were more sensations and feedback coming back up through my foot, and I think that's kind of the point. You are instantly aware of not only the moment of impact, but all the way through when you paw off in your stride.

The other thing I noticed (that surprised me) was that the shoe instantly got me in a better position (hips projected more to where they should be). Normally I have to think about that projection, but the Newtons seemed to promote that. I was really surprised by that because I would have bet that given the amount of time and work I've put into my stride, that the shoe would simply be along for the ride. It caused me to start thinking about how it was doing that. Specifically, what feedback was it sending my body that caused me to close that little gap and put my hips into the 'slot'.

What I'm speculating is this. The Newtons get the heel 'out of the way' of your stride by the simple nature of 'retreating' it up into the shoe (less heel means the forefoot part of your strike is more pronounced). Further, the sensor plate in the forefoot creates more feedback there to process and adds more emphasis still to the forefoot. What that does is create a 'feedback trigger' that I'm further along in my stride than I think (closer to the paw-back portion) and I engage those muscles to push off a bit sooner. That cascades into my hips moving forward and (probably - I didn't measure it), a quicker turn-over.

Two thoughts - the above is my own speculation and based on a few hundred foot strikes - is the theory going to hold up after a few hundred miles? Second, would my body get used to the feedback (numb) and the additional stimuli would then evaporate? Unknown on both. But it was intriguing and I was pretty excited that ANY shoe would actually automatically cause a slight shift in my stride like that.

The less engaged heel has the usual Newton (same as in the old ones) heel 'washout' when taking a tight corner at speed on a hard surface. Don't get the impression that I think this is a fault of the shoe. I imagine that with some experimentation and time in the shoe, I'll stop relying on digging the heel pad in to make a tight corner. In other words, it's more about me adapting the way I currently take a tight corner based on running in shoes that allow me to dig that heel in. Anyway, most races results (for me) aren't made on sharp changes in direction.

Where I also noticed the benefit of the heel being out of the way was on a steeper descent on a hard surface. I felt like I could turn over more smoothly and really liked how these shoes descended. Felt like I could turn-over faster and keep my toes out of the front of the toe box. That's good, because when your foot is making little slams into the front of the toe box, those are the brakes my friend and you're decelerating every time you do it.

It's not often I get excited about a pair of shoes. Ho-hum is my usual response. I've run in a bunch of shoes that were going to 'change my experience' and they didn't. The Newtons though, do deliver some unique feedback that I definitely want to explore and play around with a bit more. They really are fundamentally different and offer some 'feelings' you wont' get with other shoes. 

No shoe by itself will make you run with a better stride, but the Newton Distance do come through with lighting up the right neural pathways to aid you in running better - if you are paying attention and spend the time so your body knows what to do with that feedback.

For someone interested in experiencing this, I'd recommend the following:

1. Get fitted with the right Newton model by someone like the folks at Kompetitive Edge that knows what they are doing. I think this goes for any shoe, and this definitely applies here. Take your time, try on different models and really pay attention to what you're feeling and how the shoe feels. Keep an eye out for demo days to run outside on a variety of surfaces. The treadmill is OK, but outside is always better.

2. Think of Newtons not just as a shoe, but as a training device. I know this sounds corny, but after spending a bit of time reading things on the Newton site and really thinking about what I was feeling - it hit me what they were getting at. Newton is about running more efficiently and in a healthy way. The shoes are just part of that equation.

3. Ideally couple your Newtons with a running coach. Now is a great time to get some quality instruction and work on improving your stride outside the stress of being 'in season'. When I did this a few years ago I invested about 4 months before a new stride really took hold. And I am constantly tweaking and 're-feeling' things to make adjustments back to good form. Expect that initially you will actually slow down and feel fatigued more quickly. But if you are working with a good coach and being diligent, it will pay off in years of injury free (and faster) running. I'd suggest some great coaches from Team EMC (Elite Multi-Sport Coaching) who offer some great run clinics from time to time.

Happy running.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brain Freeze....

Yes, that's the excuse I came up with for not posting in nearly 2 months.

Sure - I could have used the standard holiday season excuse; and while there would have been some truth to that, every single blog I follow has already exhausted that one. So, being late to the game, it was 'Brain Freeze'.

Specifically, every time I hovered my hands over the keyboard, I locked up. Actually that's not entirely true, I generally just got distracted by another shiny object and wandered away. Objects such as this one:

If you want to search out the video on YouTube, you can hear he's playing the theme to Star Wars on his bag pipes. If you have to ask me for the link, then you don't know how to use YouTube (or the Internet). I mean really, how many other videos do you think you'll turn up searching for Darth Vader + Unicycle + Kilt?

My obvious response to the logo "Keep Portland Weird" banner - mission accomplished.

While you're on YouTube, you can also search out the trailer for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Better, yet - I will give you this one.

Judging by the comments, lots of people love this trailer. My response was 'meh'. It just didn't get me fired up. Maybe it's because I've just become numb to the over the top marketing in this country. Maybe it's that I don't really understand the need to create a sense of excitement and drama around bobsledding and skeleton. I mean, really? Have you watched that stuff? It's darn exciting in itself. Certainly more so that a bunch of athletes CGI'd to make the Olympics look like a winter version of  "The 300" (This is Sparta). Ho hum. Don't get me wrong, I'm outlandishly excited about the Olympics - but for me, the Olympic theme does it for me. I get goose bumps just listening to it.

Some interesting trivia I found on this theme (sorry, not fully weened off the shiny object distractions just yet):

Opening with what might be the most familiar drum beat of the last half century, “Bugler’s Dream” was composed by Léo Arnaud for a 1958 album called Charge!. It would have likely been consigned to the milk crate of history had not ABC Sports decided to use the track for its telecast of the 1968 winter games in Grenoble. Now often heard in a medley paired with Williams’ “Fanfare,” Arnaud’s music evokes a sense of pageantry and spectacle as great as the Games themselves.

Then of course are the countless political statements that everyone keeps making on fb. Yes, I get it. We are divided. We are resolute in our belief systems, and many of the more intellectually minded can even articulate valid reasons and factual data for their stances. I'll have a conversation about the dangers of fiat currency run amok any day of the week. But do we really need an unflattering picture of some political figure plastered with comments like "<insert name here> voted to impale kittens and set puppies on fire"? Is that really productive? Has someone.... anyone really ever, in the history of time, ever seen one of those zinger posts on fb on had their opinion changed? I don't think Mark Z. tracks that sort of thing (although the NSA might) - but I'll venture to guess a big fat 'no'. Anyway - I wish I had a 'stupid political one sided post' filter for my fb news stream. It's taking valuable time that I could be using perusing photos and videos of my friend's dinner, or their cat sleeping.

Do I sound like I'm in a bad mood? Well, you'd be wrong. I'm actually in an AWESOME mood and I'll tell you why.

Colorado has had a fabulous winter so far. It's snowing in the mountains and we've had some beautiful days in the city. And you know what that means - I can ride my bike and run outside. And as anyone that knows me would attest, I'm an outdoor cat.

I've also set my A races and officially started my training plan. That's fodder for another post (see how this works - its' like watching LOST - keeps drawing you to the next episode.

I will share this though. My key race this year will be Olympic Distance Age Group Nationals (which I qualified for last season). I've been crunching the numbers, and I have a shot at making Worlds and racing for Team USA. I have work to do to get there, but it's definitely within reach if I put in the time (and drop about 5 or 7 lbs). btw: How do you know you're at proper race weight? It's when you're mom worries about you, until she sees how much you eat :-)

Seriously though. I get goose bumps and choked up thinking about the possibility of wearing the Stars and Stripes and racing for my country. I love my country (and I'm not just saying that for the NSA trolls). But in a healthy way. In a way that I'm proud of the people I share this land with, regardless of our differences and I love the opportunities that I've been afforded growing up here. Yeah, we're not perfect - no country is... well... except for Sweden I think... but if countries saw themselves more as teams in competition to create the best lives possible for their citizens and a set of ideals and processes that could be shared openly for others to adopt in the world, well then I think nationalism has a place. Crowd source the good life.

Anywhooo.... that's my dream. That would be something. And I'm giving it a go in the next couple years - the World Championships part, not the fixing the world thing.

And now back to our regularly schedule program of sardonic wit, useless observations and intellectual porn.

Settle down. Not *Internet* porn, but *intellectual* porn, as in things that are entertaining but lacking in any practical value. Like this:

This is a teammates husband, posing with a lioness...
with some Indian bowls and a wood bathtub in the background.
I could call her up and ask what the story is - but I actually like not knowing.
I think the picture says it all.
Anyway, this is a multi-sport blog and I realize I haven't done that much chatting about sports, training and the like - but consider this a commercial break. I've got a ton of ideas queued up for near future posts, but for now - just sit back and enjoy the ride. I'm almost done being nonsensical.

Now, the New Year has passed (here in the US, soon in China). And although I don't do New Year's resolutions (life is short - don't wait for the start of the year), the time off from work and spending time with family allows me a bit of introspection bandwidth.

The following are things that I've been working on over the past year and are things I want to continue doing in the coming year:

1. Allow all frustration to live only within the intellectual domain, not the emotional domain. Because the emotional response to frustration doesn't really ever help.

2. Continue to move towards a metabolically efficient diet and training.

3. Schedule time to learn stuff.

4. Finish off all the Bond (Ian Fleming) and Sherlock Holmes novels.

5. Watch even less TV than last year. I think in the last 2 weeks I've watched a total of like an hour of TV.

6. Snowboard more.

7. Ignore idiots completely. This falls perfectly in line with my 'best practice' of what I like to call "DB Free Friday" - simply put, one of the perks of my job is that barring an emergency, I have the ability to simply avoid accepting meeting invites or answering phone calls from anyone I personally consider to be a feminine hygiene product on the last day of the work week. It's remarkably liberating and sets me up for a happy weekend. The other thing I worked on was engaging on any conversation that started with a moronic socio-political statement or premise. I've just realized the futility in it and that the catch phrase, "start the conversation" is really code for "dog pile on to my side of the argument or go get buggered"

That's it for tonight. And with that, I'll leave you with a picture that's worth a thousand words - re-posted by a good friend and caused me to espouse my massive parental wisdom on the fb community:

My response?

To spot the landing for him of course.

Go big or go home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Garmin 510 Cycling Computer Review

We have a bit of equipment envy going on in our house. Paige and I recently had new TT (triathlon) bikes built up. Her's a Quintana Roo Seduza and mine a Quintana Roo CD.01

I spec'd mine out first. I'm pretty picky even down to the brand, model and color of the bar tape (black - because that is the only acceptable color for bar tape - Rule #8 ref:
Paige followed suite almost to the letter. I guess she figures, "why spend time evaluating something else when I have a husband that obsesses and equationizes (it's a word because I think it should be) every last detail to a point of being a bit of a nut ball... but a nut ball that I respect and love.." - ok, I probably editorialized that last bit somewhat.

She of course also acquired a G3 PowerTap non-ceramic hub (a perfect analytic choice btw) and needed a head unit that would do the data encapsulated by the little ANT+ waves emanating from said hub justice. I immediately specified that the proper choice was a Garmin 510 Edge. She complied (due to aforementioned rationale). I immediately became jealous.

My current solution was to strap my Garmin 310XT running watch to my handlebar, cushioned by an appropriate length of pipe insulation from Home Depot. If you are thinking about buying the plastic $20 mount that does the same, please call me and I'll explain why you are wrong.

However - my choice was based on the fact that I already *had* a 310XT. And one important parameter of every equation I work out is that I can be cheap (reference - cut off piece of pipe insulation from Home Depot).

But once Paige got her new 510, and I started reading the manual on it - I instantly became jealous. It's one thing to know a gadget is out there - it's an entirely different matter when your wife is riding around with said gadget on her bike and you have to see it every day as she rolls happily out the driveway. "What do we covet Agent Starling? We begin by coveting what we see every day. "


I'll skip ahead now to why the 510 Edge is an awesome choice for any cyclist (including now.... me):

Mounts Easily:
Let's start with the mounting bracket. Ok, this is the way mounting brackets should work. The mounting disk secures via special rubber bands to the stem or the handle bar. No more buying special mounts depending on the orientation. No more worrying about cutting the mount and then trying to transfer it to you other bike that (because of a slightly larger stem diameter) requires 3mm more of the strap you lopped off already - now requiring you to buy a new mount - per those bastards from.... sorry, where was I? Oh yeah.... Garmin also gives you two of these mounts in the standard package. They obviously have read Rule # 12 - "The Correct Number of Bikes to Own is N+1". Finally there is an alternative 'Out in Front' mount, that positions the unit further forward of the stem. 

Getting the unit on and off the bike is also as easy as a simple quarter twist. This keeps the unit secure, but also makes it easy to remove with another quarter twist. Compare this method with the one many competing bike computers that require you to.. "Push down and hold while you press backwards, but firmly down on the unit and using a counter-clockwise twist (clockwise if you are south of the equator) gently press the unit toward the front of the bike and watch it launch off the handlebar and skip across the garage floor." Ok, maybe I'm paraphrasing their manual - or mis-translating the Japanese version. But you get the idea.

Reason #2 - The 510 Edge is Ludicrously Configurable:
I will say that I did my first ride without initially configuring the unit to my anal retentive standards. This was a mistake. Mostly because it's not a good idea to try doing this while riding for obvious reasons. Like you may drift to the curb and launch yourself off the front of the bike. Did I mention the unit mounts and retains brilliantly? Test completed.

When I got home, I instantly went to work. I pulled up the Garmin manual online. There are 85 different pieces of data this puppy can present you with. Each of those can be configured to one of 5 different display pages (6 if you count the Workout page). Each page can contain from 1-8 data fields. While riding you can scroll through these data pages - meaning that you can technically view up to 48 different data fields while riding. That's just silly.... or *is* it? Consider the approach where you create a 'theme' for each page. For example, my themes (pages) are as follows:
  • Just Riding Along Page (default)
  • Lap (power / distance / time based) Training Page
  • Skills / Drills Page (cadence, power balance, etc..)
  • Environment Page (current temp, time of day, elevation, etc..)
  • Summary Page
I'm sure I'll tweak these over time, but you get the idea.

Now - in addition to this, you can also configure these pages differently across up to 5 activities (Race, Train, Commute, Practice Sagan Style Wheelies, etc...)

You can also have multiple bike profiles (ANT+ sensors, weight, wheel size, odometers and crank length) for up to 10 bikes.... that barely does it for me - but I'll let it go.

Finally - all of this of course uploads to Garmin Connect (free) or your favorite tracking software. I've played around with various options out there, but found Garmin Connect to handle most of my needs (with Golden Cheetah in my back-pocket when I want to get ultra geeky.... which is far too often). I've also found that the integration for Garmin devices works most seamlessly to Garmin Connect - go figure. Good segue to the next topic.

SmartPhone Integration
Do people say 'smart phone' anymore? It's kind of dorky. It's really just your phone. Not even your 'mobile' phone - since who has land lines these days? Certainly not anyone that is going to buy a geeked out cycling computer. So we'll just say 'phone'.

The Garmin 510 Edge pairs via Bluetooth (via the downloadable Garmin Connect app) to your phone that you can toss in your jersey pocket. Now - for those of us that refuse to sag out, this presents a bit of a problem as we now have to start actually carrying our phones. Luckily, I have personally found other uses for my phone than calling my wife to tell her that I'm not man enough to carry on. For example; I take pictures on my ride and also use it when I need to re-route because I've encountered one of the road construction black holes that seem to pop up here and there around the Denver metro area.

Of course, integrating with your phone creates all sorts of cool possibilities, such as (in ascending degrees of whiz-bang coolness):

1. When you stop your ride, you hit save on your 510 screen. The device uploads your ride through the phone to Garmin Connect. No connecting it to a computer, no ANT+ stick (which classifies in my book as a 'dumb as a bag of hammers' invention). Instead, the 510 just  uploads all the data right through your phone. And it's fast. My 2 hour test ride was uploaded before I got back into the house and opened my post ride beer. Just keep the unit turned on until it's done.

2. You can get on-line weather alerts to your head unit. Now, granted, the 'High Wind Advisory" warning that popped up on my 510 screen wasn't all that useful because when I received it, I was rolling along pulling 240 watts on a downhill section at 15 mph - "Oh, thanks.... I hadn't noticed there was a lot of wind" - but I can see where it's useful for things like lightening, approaching tornadoes, or an impending 40 degree temperature drop. Now if it can also tell me when the Bronco's game is about to get out and clog up the Platte bike path, or when there's an impending Phish concert that will toss a few thousands ganja-heads onto the roads of Red Rocks - that might come in handy. Mostly I just though it was cool.

3. Live Tracker. Ok - this one has to be by far, the coolest feature. Both from a tech-geek perspective as well as required technology for any proper social media narcissist. Here's how it works. Before you start a ride, you engage 'Live Track' on your phone. When you start your ride on the 510, Live Track will send out eMails to your pre-specified list of people who you think might give a crap with a link that let's the follow your ride in real time. This has a number of possible uses. The most useful (and non-narcissistic) was offered to me by my team-mate Tony, who said that it let his wife know where he on his ride, his current progress and when he'd be home. See, It's a safety feature. For example, when your wife sees that you've been stopped at a particular location for the last hour, then you might be down and hurt in a ditch and require immediate assistance. 

Alternatively, if you're stopped for several hours, you might just be a at a strip club and desire no assistance what so ever from your significant other. Of course if you're into that sort of thing, then I'd suggest not getting into the habit of using this feature. And you might want to think about bringing a change of clothes. I haven't been into a 'gentlemen's club' in probably 30 years - but if I recall, spandex bike shorts are probably not acceptable attire.. unless you're planning on mounting the pole.

And I've never been to a 'ladies(???)' club - so I wouldn't even know where to start with an appropriate joke.

Anyway, I should add that my own initial though when reading about Live Tracker was that I could use it to taunt my buddies that didn't show up for the ride. Although I haven't quite figured out a way to create an eMail template for Live Tracker that says something like; 

"Hey lard-butt - I'm out riding. Come catch me. Or next time experience my awesomeness that I'll gain from this training ride" 

Your buddy after realizing
you're pulling 300W up Lookout
....or something like that. Maybe peppered with more demeaning profane references to female body parts - you women just don't understand. This is how us guys speak to each other. It's actually our way of expressing affection.

Live Tracker could also be used to allow your friends and family to track your epically awesome, 10 hour IronMan bike segment from the comfort of the RV with a side of blender margarita's - instead of staring into the distance, waiting to see your kit. Hmmm... I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to stream it on my AppleTV. All jokes aside (I'm hoping you got the '10 hour Ironman bike segment' bit) - Live Tracker could really be useful to friends and family tracking athletes on long course events.

Down sides:
1. It's an expensive toy. Do you need it? No. But most triathletes might ask, "How do I buy 2 of these?" - the answer? Be married to another triathlete.

2. It's not disposable (see down side #1). Meaning - if you want to put this on your mountain bike, you gotta be thinking about what happens to it when you toss out the front door. For me, I'll stick to my less expensive CatEye Strada (or nothing) on my mountain bike rides. And if you're riding with a PowerTap on the mountain bike - they you are far geekier than me my friend.

3. The screen is a bit hard to read for us old guys. Contrast is hard to see in bright daylight with sunglasses on. The back light can be configured to stay on longer and you can turn it on just by touching the screen (and then again to lose the pop-up menu - you'll see). But this is minor and honestly, it's my fault for configuring 7 fields on each of my pages. I guess you could always use your iPad as a bike computer.

4. It could be intimidating to a lower tech person. If you're this person - just get your more tech -savvy significant other or friend to configure it for you and give you some lessons. Or, pick it up from your LBS (Local Bike Shop) such as Kompetitive Edge. The folks there would be more than happy to set you up and show you how to configure and use it. 

Once you get it strapped to your handlebar - you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hangzhou International Marathon 2013

As luck would have it, my recent trip to visit my team in China was lined up with the running of the Hangzhou International Marathon.

Because I didn't have a 'health check certificate' from the government, I wasn't allowed to run anything further than the 6.8 km fun run - but that was OK for me for a few reasons:

1. It's my off season
2. I really haven't been training for marathon distance this year
3. I don't think I would have felt great after arriving late on Saturday and then waking up early Sunday morning to run a marathon :)
4. I wanted to run with some of my team members (15 runners and some additional cheerleaders) that showed up for the race anyway, and all but one of them (Palmer) ran the 6.8 km run.

I was surprised at how big the race was. I didn't see any any statistics or results posted yet, but past on past experiences, I guessed the size of the starting line to be about 30,000 runners - maybe a bit more. There seemed to be a larger portion of the crowd running the shorter distance.

My guess (and no surprise) is that the podium on the men's side was dominated by the east African athletes that showed up - top finishers in past years have been in the 2:10 ballpark. The women's field in the past has been dominated by Chinese runners.

The start line was pretty much what I've come to expect from other marathons. Controlled chaos. There were however some noticeable differences from running a marathon in the US:

1. When the MC led the crowd in some warm-up calisthenics, the crowd by far pretty much was all doing them. There was a lead guy on a platform in a white jogging suit leading the crowd.

2. There was very little visible security at the start line, but it was very orderly and moved along. We were about 1/2 way back on the mini-marathon and it took us about 8 minutes to pass the start line (that doesn't include the marathon and 1/2 which went off earlier). There were a LOT of runners!

3. One of the funniest scenes was a guy in running gear (shorts and Nike shirt), walking around the start area with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Also the 4-5 guys I saw pull off the course mid-way to have a smoke break. Too funny.

4. Compared to the $100+ entry fees for US city marathons, the entry fee for the Hangzhou Marathon was RMB40 - that's about $7 bucks (late registration doubled to $13 a couple weeks out). My mini-marathon entry fee was about $5 bucks.

I ran most of the way with one of my colleagues, Diego Zhong. We ran a progression starting from an easy jog to about 7:00 pace for the last couple km. I opened up to 5K pace (probably around 6:15) for the last km. Some random guy flew by me at one point and then promptly blew up about 50m later. I think he was trying to race me but may have started his kick a bit early ;-)

Afterwards we hung out and cheered the rest of the team coming in and then took some post race pictures. I wasn't up to heading to the finish area (it was a point to point) and waiting for a few hours for Palmer to get in - my jet lag was catching up with me at this point. So I went back to the hotel for a nap and to relax the rest of the day.

Overall, a nice way to spend the weekend there. Next year we're planning on having a bigger team and running the 1/2 together. I'll have to get there early to get my health certificate ;-)

Here's some pictures:

Me and the gang before the race

Can you pick me out?

The sea

Not a blonde pony tail to be found

I guess being the only westerner in the 7km race gets you famous on the 19th floor web-site
That's Diego to my right.

As does this

Uhmm..... or this....

Ok, I'm starting to think the '19th floor' website focused on 'odd' things...

Home stretch

Here's the guy that kicked a bit early near the finish (lower right, white shirt, looks like he's going to hurl) - yeah, pull aside there sonny, you're done. And I don't want puke on my shoes.

Oh look... some Kenyans won.... Surprising...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Riding the Red Dirt (in pictures)

Last week I spent a long weekend in Moab as part of my 1/2 century birthday celebration. I hadn't been there is probably 15 years or so - just hadn't made it out that way. Never forgot though what an awesome place it is to ride and it lived up to my memories.

I will say that I've mellowed a bit in my years. I have a bit more reservation about dropping off stuff and screwing up my training with a broken bone or bruised body. The trails are now also marked a bit more conservatively. Things I rode last time out there (like descending Portal trail) are marked with warnings of death if you attempt to ride certain sections and mis-cue a turn. I didn't ride Portal this year ;-)

My riding almost ended before it started with some weird muscle spasm in my trapezius muscle, right as we were unloading the car at the trailhead. It started out as this little niggle, but pretty soon I couldn't even raise my arm. So I actually just did a 20mi out and back up the road (climb up / descend down) instead. I had to actually lift my left arm on to the handlebar with my right to get rolling. But once I got going, the riding was helping, not hurting; so I decided to keep going. By the time I got back down to the parking lot, it felt much better and I was able to ride parts of Slick Rock trail before my buddy returned from his loop. For the rest of the weekend it was *there* but not bothering my riding. In fact riding made it feel better. So weird. My body's way of saying, "Oh yeah - btw, you're 50 years old now, so don't do anything stupid"

Other than that - uneventful trip; other than the riding events.

Some pics follow. Hope you enjoy the scenery as much as I did!

Other Moab past-time. Recovery and drinking beer.

Blake perusing the trail food bag. He didn't like the Margarita Shot Bloks.

On my 10mi climb up the road from Slick Rock trailhead. It got chilly up there.

I pretty much wanted to take pictures in every direction, every time I looked up.

Big fun rocks.

My bike - circa 1995-ish
As we came over one ascent, a girl remarked to her boyfriend, "Oh look honey - a *traditional* bike"
I think I maybe saw 5 hard-tails the entire weekend up there. Might be time for a new bike.

Even out on the trails in Moab - there is texting.

Surface of the moon.

Blake-man looks happy.

I spied this rock formation from the trail. It's winking at me - right?

Weather was perfect the whole time. Only rained the night before we left and the rivers were flowing a bit because of it. Early morning ride up SteelBender from the condo before we checked out.