Friday, March 30, 2012

Good 'Recovery' Ride in the Sandia Mountains

Friday's are typically listed as a 'DAY OFF' on my training schedule. It's kind of a misnomer since I rarely take a day where I'm a complete couch potato for the day. Usually that only happens once every three weeks or so and it's more driven by a need for a mental break  from training.

It's not that I'm neurotic about working out, it's just that  I always seem to recover better when I do *something* on my 'off-day'. One of my best 'somethings' for running recovery is bike riding. Many weeks I'll commute to / from work on the bike. That's a nice easy bike path ride for the most part - although occasionally I don't stick to the plan. Like when I spot some Goo-Stick wearing a full Garmin team uniform or a polka dot KoM (King of the Mountains) jersey dropped down in the aero bars of his Cervelo up ahead on the bike path.

Yeah, I'm chasing down and dropping that poser as a matter of principle alone.

But for the most part - cycling is great recovery. Today I'm down in Albuquerque with the family, and since my work commute today consisted of walking from the kitchen, down the hall to my father-in-laws home office, I decided I'd go out and do a lunch ride on a route I've been eyeing for a while now.

There is a really cool forest service road I've seen snaking off into the Sandia hills that I've wanted to explore for a year or so now. It's narrow and from the looks of Google maps, has some gnarly little climbs, twists and switchbacks along it's 2.3mi paved length. Here's what it looks like from Google Earth as you first start up it - doesn't it look inviting?

Well today was the day. Round trip from the house, it's about 16mi to the top of this forest service road and then back home. But that really doesn't do the route justice unless I add in the following statistics:
  • The road climbs about 1000ft over 2.3mi. That's an average grade of 7% overall which is a respectable pitch). The top parking lot / turn-around point is basically the peak of what looks like a green middle finger flipping you off in the graph at the start of this post (courtesy my Garmin 305)
  • You can also see what happens to my speed (in blue) when I hit the main climb.
  • You can see that the grade is pretty consistently abusive, but I'll tell you that there were some out of the saddle crawls up some little 10%-12% kickers and switch-backs. Like this little last kicker where you look over your shoulder up at the last switch-back above your head. 

  • Finally, it took me 45min to cover get to the top parking lot / turn-around point. It then took me 15min to cover the same distance back home. 
The decent down was kind of hairy. I was worried more about coming around a corner and whacking a coyote that had strayed into the road. I feathered my brakes out of that fear all the way down.

Total round trip time was an hour - perfect lunch-time ride. And I need to do it again - this time with a camera to catch some of the views from the upper parking lot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Official -

My blog has officially left the world of the generically grouped blog and into the world of the personalized domain - meaning I finally decided to get a dedicated domain name.

You'll see in your address bar that the URL for this blog is now:

The blog is still hosted by Google Blogger. At some point I'll probably migrate over to using a dedicated WordPress server on, but for now - this seems to be working fine. WordPress seems to have a bit more functionality and a bigger library of templates and gadgets - but I just need to find time to convert. I did some test conversions and the automated tool gets 'close' - but there is a bunch of clean-up I'd have to end up doing. Plus - keeping it on Blogger means that people with links and feeds don't have to update anything (i.e. you can still access the blog at it's old Blogger address and it works just fine.

To celebrate, I changed the template and did a little more thinking around 'menus' which collect some posts into categories if you're looking for something specific. I haven't gone through and harvested all the content out there yet into the categories, but it's a start. I wish that Blogger allowed you to create tag sensitive menus like WordPress (instead they are pages and you have to compose them manually). If anyone knows of a way to do it automatically based on tagging, let me know.

Hope you enjoy the new look, the simpler naming and most of all - that you are all having a lot of days that you are 'Feelin' Mo' Kenyan'!!

                  -- Kevin                 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Healthy Fruit Shake

Most people believe that smoothies are 'good for you', but like anything else, there is a wide range of concoctions that qualify as a 'smoothie'.

Many are actually quite terrible for you - specifically high in sugar, devoid of fats, proteins and essential vitamins and minerals. For example, the McDonalds smoothies get almost all their calories from sugar - the 'puree' they use contains added refined sugars and processed apple juice. They contain only 1g of fat*, only 2g of protein (in the 16oz size) - essentially, they are 85% sugar.

*fat is not bad. you've just been told it is by the processed food industry. I need to create a whole post on this - but it will just take a bit of effort to ensure that all of my points include the proper citations from peer reviewed studies and research. In the mean-time, I encourage you to do some of your own research into the matter. What you'll find will probably surprise you.

Other healthier smoothies out there add these back in supplements, but many are not whole food based supplements and as with all 'non-whole-food' sources - you don't really know what you're getting, including added chemicals.

Many smoothies use cows milk, soy milk or fruit juice as the major (by volume and often calories) part of the mixture. If you're unsure why these are not the best for many people in large quantities, do some searching out there from reputable nutritional websites. (i.e. search "soy milk healthy"). Decide what's right for you after doing some reading - don't just buy into 'sound-bytes'.

Ok, so I'm off my soap box now. On to the recipe.


Healthy Banana / Blueberry Smoothie Recipe:

Prep / Cleanup time:
Less than 5min total

Ingredients (~18oz shake):
1.5 cups almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1 medium to large banana
1/2 cup blueberries (organic)
2 Tblsp coconut (unsweetened, desiccated)
1 Tblsp ground flax seed
1/3 cup walnut halves / pieces
2-3 ice cubes

btw - Try adding in 2 cups of baby spinach (stems and all). Believe me, you won't taste it - it just cuts the sweetness a bit and 'pow' there's a couple servings of super-veggie in your gut.

Good quality blender( I love our Kitchen Aid model - it's a workhorse )
(optional) Chopper / Grinder( Here's the one we use )

#1 - Put the walnuts, coconut and flax seed into the grinder / chopper and blend until the mix is fine grained. If you don't like ANY grittiness at all, then you can go all the way until it's a thick paste, using a dash of almond milk to water it down a bit. If you have a good quality blender - you can try just doing this in the blender (and have one less thing to clean up).

#2 - Use the spatula to spoon the above mixture into the blender.

#3 - Add all other incredients into the blender. Start with a 'Chop' setting and move up to a 'Frappe' setting. Make sure you frappe it long enough to really make it smooth. You can add water (or coconut water if your'e into that recent trend) to thin the mixture to your own taste.

Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!

Why it's healthy:
The nice thing about a blended smoothie like this is that it's pretty easy to divine the health benefits by simply looking at the individual health benefits of each ingredient. Feel free to look up each of the ingredients.

In short though (I could write a post on each of these to espouse on why they are super-good for you):
  • This combination provides a healthy balance of all the good kinds of carbohydrates, fiber, fats and proteins, while minimizing the hollow calories of refined / simple sugars. 
  • The (healthy) fats ensure the shake will keep you satiated much longer than it's evil sugar twin.
  • The banana and nuts provide a whopping potassium boost.
  • Flax seed is probably the most dense source of Omega-3 fatty acids you can get. Walnuts come in at a close second. 
  • Most of the ingredients are strong in anti-oxidant and natural anti-inflammatory power.
  • Almond milk avoids the saturated fat of coconut milk, the hormonal issues with soy and the sugar based calories (and other negative side effects) of modern cows milk. 

Nutritional Information (based on the labels of my ingredients):

Calories:  585
Protein:    11.5g
Carbs:      58.6g
   Sugar:   27.6g (20% calorie-wise - AND also from whole fruits)
   Fiber:    14.2g
Total Fat: 34g
   Sat Fat:   5g

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

72mi road ride, beer and burritos

My buddy Chris and I originally took the day off today to go snowboarding. But sometime last weekend he texted me with the weather report for Wed. Sunny, no wind and mid-70s - and asked if I'd be up for doing a road ride instead. That seemed like a plan to me.

We started out at about 10:30am this morning. That let both of us catch up on some work related items prior to heading out. I didn't even take my phone on the ride.

The loop took us out Bear Creek Trail to downtown Denver. It's a slight downhill along the Platte River Trail, and we made decent time to the REI downtown.

Refilled water bottles, bathroom break and then down the Cherry Creek Trail all the way to the east side of Cherry Creek Reservoir. That's a little uphill and into a bit of a light wind - but we kept a good pace, talking about this and that the whole way.

Riding through Cherry Creek park, we were side by side talking. I looked behind me prior to falling back single file and am glad I did. A fairly 'unstable' looking dude had latched onto my rear wheel and was drafting. Rule number uno dude - if you're gonna draft, let the person know when you are there. Especially hairy is the fact that I'm there, sitting up on the bike, pointing around, riding no handed - and this guy is drafting the whole time. That's not a good idea. Anywhoo..

We then snaked our way from the reservoir to the 470 bike path. It's not all that trivial as the technology park you go through has a lot of twisty roads all named the same. My biggest memory error of the route turned out because they had built a WalMart right in the middle of the road I used to cut through. But after a quick iPhone GPS check, we were back on track.

The 470 path is a nice downhill for the most part heading west. We had a pit stop at Krispy Kreme where Chris filled a water bottle. I was surprised when he walked out that he had passed on the doughnut.

Once we got to Chatfield, we turned north to head the 4-5mi up the Platte to a place called The Platte River Grille. It's right off the path and is a great sports bar that has a good selection of beer and decent food. They also sponsor a 7mi race that I did earlier in the year and a few close friends and I have taken to meeting there on a regular basis for after-work beers.

After convincing the waitress into letting us haul our bikes onto the deck, we sat down for some much needed lunch - big smothered burritos and 32oz beers. It was sunny and warm and I was actually feeling pretty good with about 60mi under our wheels.

It was tough to haul ourselves up and saddle up again. I'll also make the point that the quality of your bike handling skills diminishes a tad when you've had a 32oz Agave Wheat beer. In particular, the estimation of turning radius through the traffic circles tends to stray a little wider than normal. But it was easy bike path riding with very little traffic, so no harm, no foul. I did have one incident on the path cutting back to my neighborhood. I was turned around riding one handed - pointing out the parks and soccer fields to Chris, when he called my attention to some low hanging branches hanging about my head level. I managed to get my head down and bash through them, lost a little control and nearly clipped the cement wall, but then righted the bike and rolled on. He remarked, "Nice save".

We rolled back home at 72mi - somewhere in the 4:30pm-ish time-frame. We sat around waiting for Paige and Luke to get back, AirPlaying joke cycling videos to the TV. Here's one of the favorite ones:

"I Crush The Sunday Ride"

Gamma Rays?

Ok, so I'm not sure what's going on, but recently I am recovering so much faster than normal. I have less soreness and tough workouts pass within a day or so.
I go to the track and during warm-up I feel the usual lethargy. But then once I warm up and get to the workout, I'm dropping really great splits.
Last week was especially odd. On Monday I rode my bike to work (20mi), then ran a recovery run of 5mi, then rode back (10mi). On Tuesday night I showed up for track, ran my fastest 2mi TT ever, then headed to the gym to lift and do core work for an hour.
The remainder of the week went just as well. I went to bed after a tough Thursday evening hill run saying, "Ok, there is NO way I can ride in tomorrow" - woke up on Friday morning and felt like a million dollars. Sunday was a 14mi run - in hills, with a 30+mph wind for most of it. I got back feeling like I could run 6 more. I felt like I'd been shot up with caffeine.
I can look back at my training log and can divine some theories. I've been putting in quality volume all winter. Maybe it's the consistent strength training paying off. Paige and I have also been making further tweaks to our nutrition.
Then again, maybe I was accidentally exposed to strange gamma rays, and like Bruce Banner (aka - The Hulk), I've had my DNA genetically altered to that of a perpetual 30-something year old. Ok, that's probably less likely.
Of course athletes are always wary of those magical times when we are performing so strongly. Strong highs are often followed by a crash or injury just waiting for us. I wrote about this a while back in The On-Going Balancing Act. But I'm pretty vigilant to those 'tweaky' signs now and so far, I'm just enjoying the high.
Today is a day off from work for a 70mi road bike ride with my buddy Chris. We had originally planned to go snowboarding, but the 70+ degree temps and no wind weather of the valley calls. Nothing crazy, more just a day long rolling recovery ride with a stop off at Platte River Grille for some food and beer at about the 50mi mark. I know that 70mi doesn't sound like a 'recovery' ride - but like anything, it's all about history on the bike and intensity. Riding the bike to me is like 'home base'.
I'll try to remember to take my camera and some pictures along the way.