Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pain Cave

Pain Cave (n) - payn-cayv; A room designed with the sole purpose of hosting self-inflicted suffer sessions so that you can crush the following season. Decor tends towards the 'functional' with aesthetics almost being shunned as a sign of weakness.

We decided to convert my daughter's (now at college) old room. The gym / spin class workouts weren't working well from a schedule and bike fit / setup perspective.

39" HED TV - $299
AppleTV - $94
Floor Fan - $24
Rubber flooring - $36

Not having to snake coax cable into the room - happy times

Hours of future pain and suffering - necessary

Looking over at the guy you're blasting past on the bike course next season - PRICELESS

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Hair......

Recently, I updated my professional profile picture on LinkedIn (shown). I didn't think that much about it. The picture was taken at a corporate event and I thought the guy did a nice job.

A colleague made a comment on how different my hair looked from my previous profile picture. I hadn't really thought of it because generally the style of my hair is 'event driven' rather than 'planned'.

What follows is the best explanation on this subject I'm capable of:

In general; how my hair looks on any particular day is driven more by the following mathematical relationships: 

  • Length and 'un'-manageability are exponentially related. I generally go too long between haircuts, so when I do get it cut, I get it cut short. At some point it passes the ‘perfect’ length / manageability threshold, but then degrades quickly.
  • 'Un'-manageability and amount of ‘product’ are linearly related. The more up the exponential length curve, the more product it takes to contain it. Product is expensive. Thus my desire to keep it shorter. 

(side-note: short hair is also easier when you swim/bike/run daily.  Crowie is my idol.)

  • The amount of allowable product is limited in the professional environment since the only style that the ‘longer’ version of my multiple-colic (i.e. hurricane) hair that works is the look Brad Pitt sported in “Fight Club” (prior to him shaving his head near the end of the movie). This look works well for personal events (like my previous picture taken at a friend’s wedding) – but gets too much crap from the shizzle-challenged corporate environment where a bunch of middle-aged peers wouldn't know style if it came up and bitch slapped the idle Bluetooth headset out of their ear and pulled the Oracle / IBM / <pick your technology> golf shirt over their heads. Word to these folks – just because you got a shirt for free at a trade show, doesn't mean you should wear it.
  • Finally, one other (albeit, self-imposed) product usage limiter is whether I have another workout planned later in the day. Since product is expensive, and don’t want it to run into my eyes during a workout – I’m likely to say ‘ahhh screw it’ when getting ready in the morning.  Plus, as athletes, my wife and I have an unspoken agreement to forgive each other's bad hair days. Anyway - combined with bed head and previously discussed naturally occurring hurricane hair - factoring in this aspect of the calculation requires a solid background in chaos theory mathematics and is thus beyond the scope of this dissertation. 
Hope that explains my hair. I can provide graphs if desired. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

3 Things That Will Make You a Better Cyclist

So over the last 28 years of competitive riding and racing, I've done like a billion different types of workouts. They all have their place, and all work a specific component of your fitness.

But all those aside - there are some things I've stumbled on that have paid huge dividends given their simplicity. The following work, and work REALLY well to make you a better cyclist. Stronger, faster and more 'one with the bike' with regard to your bike handling. So here they are. If you're having trouble incorporating, or want some additional detail - just ask.

#1 - Commute (on the bike)
There is nothing like time on the bike. And commuting puts in time on the bike. Not to mention, you are getting in two rides a day, the latter when you absolutely DON'T generally feel energized to ride. But if you have no sag options, then you have no choice - unless you want to sleep at your office.

Riding twice per day (say 2-3x per week) will get your comfortable on your bike and smooth out your pedal stroke like nothing else. You will become one with the bike. And you get the added calorie burn benefit of the double workout.

Ok.. yeah.. not like that.
There is also the added benefit of getting 'free' riding time out of your schedule. It goes like this. Let's say it takes you 30 minutes to commute 12mi each way in traffic. Let's say all-in, it takes you 50 minutes to complete each leg. That means instead of spending 60 min / day in your car (wasted), you are spending 100 min/day on your bike to achieve the same thing. That's 100 minutes of riding that is only 'costing' 40 more minutes out of your schedule. That's the way I think of it anyway.

No shower where you work? Baby Wipes. You'd be surprised.

Getting sleepy by 2pm? It will pass. Coffee helps in the mean time.

Have to ride home in the dark? Lights are cheap these days.

Too early, cold, rainy? Sorry - can't help you there. Man up.

#2 - Ride a Mountain Bike
Mountain biking will improve your bike handling, climbing and sprinting. It's a power sport. For added benefit, ride over gnarly stuff ultra slow. Learn to track stand and bounce around on the bike like a pogo. Find a grassy field and practice riding / holding a wheelie (back and front). Practice your dismounts / mounts.  Ride in the snow. Ride on sand. Descend stairs. Descend longer flights of stairs.

I guarantee when you re-mount the road bike it will feel like you're locked on a rail. Dead solid. Just don't drop a 6" curb on those new fancy Zipp carbon clinchers by mistake!

Betchya next time you'll be able to 'hold your line' in the Sunday group road ride

#3 - Ride Hills... Lots of Hills
18 years ago, a good friend of mine once told me when I was whining about a particularly nasty climb, "Dude. Hills are going to hurt. It's a question of whether you want to be hurt, or be in control of the hurt".
Y'know - there is a lot of advice to be shared about hills, but Solid Gold that advice is.

Loving hills is all in the head. The hills is just a terrain change. It doesn't care or think about you. It can't change it's topography. It's stuck. You just need to start thinking about an approaching hill differently. If you realize how much they do for your riding, you will start to love them. You'll get a smile on your face as one approaches. Don't go to your happy place to avoid feeling the pain. Rather, make the hill your happy place. It's sick and wrong - but if you get your attitude right, you will crush hills my friend.

Ride hills until you can laugh at signs like this.
Grind up in a big gear. Sit and spin up them. Attack at the bottom. Attack on the upper 1/3. Attack in the middle - heck, attack when you feel like you can't attack. And ALWAYS get out of the saddle and sprint over the top and down the backside before dropping into aero for the ride down.

Seek hills out, and next season you'll be formidable. You'll stay big chain ring / out of the saddle on anything less than 1/2 mile. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Running Faster and Fluid: The Zen Tempo Run

Ahhh... yes. I know what you're going to say; "I already do tempo runs". But there are a ton of different definitions of the 'tempo run - even among experienced coaches. Thus, 'tempo run' has become an overloaded and ambiguous term such that even experienced runners, with years of running under their feet, will say, "I'm finally starting to understand how to properly do a tempo run".

Zen Tempo Runs are a subset out of the bucket of 'tempo runs'. They aren't new and certainly not my 'concoction'. They are structured much like a Hal Higdon verson of the tempo run - but with a bit more emphasis on 'feel' and 'fluidity' and a bit slower. Danny Dreyer also comes pretty close to these concepts in his Chi Running books and materials. I'm also sure that the term 'Zen' has been attached to a variety of run types. Ahhh the weight of the overused term, 'Zen'

So can call this anything you want - maybe 'Touchy Feely / Not Too Fast / No Pain Tempo Run' - the definition is more important to me than the term. I was going to simply call it the "XXX Tempo Run" - but it immediately struck me that instead of interpreting the XXX as 'insert anything here', the name would create it's own impression (and missed expectations when Google searches landed on this article).

Honestly, I spent more time on the above paragraphs explaining the 'name' of this run than I spent coming up with the actual name of the run (which was about 3 seconds) So - onward.

The purpose of the "Zen Tempo Run" is very specific; to teach you to stay as loose and relaxed as possible at speed. It teaches you to be fluid. They are more 'technique oriented' than any other run. They are preparation for harder workouts where you have to really concentrate to stay relaxed through your stride. Many coaches will define 'tempo run' this way. I'm just adding a term to make it specific (and to keep it in the 'pain free' zone).

The proper pacing for a Zen Tempo run on any particular day is best achieved by 'feel' (which is why they take a while to really get right). Here's some general structural guidelines to get you going:

Run a very easy pace for 10-15 mins. Really focus on being relaxed and quickening your stride. In other words, speed up over that 10-15 mins by quickening your turn-over. To do this you'll need to focus on keeping your stride shorter. Throw in the following drills: Butt Kickers, Skipping and Fast Feet.

Meat of the Run:
Start slowly picking up the pace. Be careful of going to fast, too soon. The pace profile is one that ratchets up the pace over the first 1/3 of the run, maintains a steady pace over the next 1/3 and then evenly ramps the pace back down over the last 1/3. The maximum pace (hit during the middle 1/3) should be between Marathon and 10K pace, but it can be slower (rarely is it faster).

The BEST way to pace this run is by tuning into your body and searching for the the following indicators:

1. NO BURN - if you start to feel the burn, back off. Otherwise you are doing a Threshold Run.

2. RELAXED and FLUID - your limbs should be turning over like they are barely attached to your body. Think 'gazelle' as opposed to a charging rhino (which is how a lot of people run fast). Your feet should feel like they are barely touching the ground. If you start to tense up, then work through a process of relaxation while running again. If you can't shake the tension, then slow down a notch.

3. PEACEFUL MIND - The more you can 'let go' of your thoughts and focus on 'feeling' your body, the better you'll execute this run. Try to focus on how your feet are articulating when you land and push off. Focus on evening out your breathing. Focus on relaxing your shoulders (hunching can creep in when you are trying to run fast). Shake out your hands every few minutes. Think only pleasant thoughts - or think about nothing at all. But by all means, keep yourself in the moment. Don't zone out and let your mind wander (and your pace / form suffer).

Cool Down:
By the end of the last 1/3 of the run, you should already be slowing down to your easy pace (which is usually a bit faster than your warm up pace was). Run 5 minutes or so at this pace, even slowing to a walk in the last few hundred meters. Stretch afterwards - especially hamstrings and calves.

That's it. If you've done it right you should feel worked, but energized. If you feel 'spent' then you went too hard or too far.

Total distance of the Zen Tempo run can be anywhere from 3mi to 10mi. It would be tough to do one shorter and get much out of it since you'd barely be warmed up. Some athletes run these farther. But I think you can get a lot out of a run somewhere in the above range.

Do this run once every other week - or whenever you need to shake out the cobwebs. You're harder runs will start to be more productive and you should start seeing your paces picking up in those faster sessions.