Radnor Red Run Results

Posted: August 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

After putting in a 66 mile training ride on Saturday, by the time I was getting ready for bed I wasn’t so sure anymore about getting up and running Sunday morning. 6 hours later, at 6am I wrestled with my desire to sleep versus getting up, and finally made the decision to go out and do the run. I figured it would be 40 minutes of misery, but I would feel better for it afterwords.

And I do. I was proud to complete my first 5k ever- and a steeplechase at that- in a better than expected time. The race was called a steeplechase because it was a course that they race horses on, complete with log jumps and water pits. It was a pretty tough race, and I made the mistake of thinking the race was over when we approached the finish line, not realizing we had another loop to do- and so I started sprinting, only to realize that we were nowhere near done. Not giving up at that point was pretty hard- I had just used up a lot of my energy. Somehow I stuck with it through the jumps, and hills and water traps filled with mud, and mustered a 30:45- not bad for putting in the 66 mile ride yesterday and only being 5 months out from knee surgery!


Next Up: Scenic Schuykill Century

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Since I’ve been taking training more seriously for this 125mile bike ride, I’ve been learning quite a lot that’s allowing me to train smarter & harder. The first thing I’ve started doing is more closely paying attention to my diet and nutrition. While I generally track what I eat to get a sense of how healthy (or not) I’m being, I only recently starting looking at my calorie count, comparing it to what my recommended caloric intake should be.

For my sex, weight, age and activity level I’m supposed to be around 2800-2900 calories a day. I’ve been significantly under that for a while, which combined with my training, is why I’ve lost about 20 lbs since january. I’m going to be careful to make sure I’m getting enough calories- especially on the days I’m really exerting myself. Thats another thing I’m looking- how much calories/carbs/protein etc I should be having on tough days. It turns out I wasn’t hydrating or eating near enough on my hard days, which probably contributed to the cramping and fatigue I suffered during the hilly 63mile Gran Fondo.

I’ve started looking into PowerMax energy bars, cliff bars, energy gels, etc, and I’m finding that they really do make a difference- and why shouldn’t they? On a tough ride its not unlikely that I burn over 2,000 calories. I’ve also started trying different forms of protein enriched drinks post-workout. I do weigh training at least 4 times a week and I noticed I was still loosing muscle mass. Given the fact I wasn’t giving my muscles the amino acids and proteins they needed to heal, on top of during lots of aerobic work, that was to be expected.

I’m also spending more time on my actual bike, than on the bike in the gym. Its hard to replicate the temperature, varying gradients and other real world conditions on an exercise bike in an air conditioned gym. Just in the past 4 days I’ve logged over 130 road miles! I went to a cycling shop to see if they could help me improve my bike- maybe make it lighter, or get clip-in pedals. I quickly learned that unless I do something major fiscally irresponsible I’m not going to be upgrading or replacing my bike anytime soon, so for now, I’ll just take solace in the fact that even if my bike is heavier and slower than those $2,000 bikes that go cruising by me, I’m getting a better workout because of how inefficient my bike is! If I stick with this seriously till next year, maybe I’ll get myself a sweet bike for my birthday next year.

In the gym I’ve been able to mix things up as well. I go to the Philly Training Station (a great gym) just about every morning and finally took advantage of two things: 1) Getting a customized full body work out regime made for me & 2) Getting a gait analysis & shoe fitting. Having a new regime to go by that works my core and full body is a nice change up to the monotony of the free weight bench press, pull/chin ups, and traditional ab exercises. Mixing up my exercises should help prevent me from plateauing, which is where I think I’ve been recently. The custom shoe fitting was pretty neet. Phil Clark, the guy who runs the gym and is training for the 2012 Olympics, offers a service to gym members where he will have you run on a treadmill and socks while he records your gait on a high speed camera. Looking at the slowed footage on the computer, he is able to figure out what kind of running shoe is best for each person.

All in all, I’m feeling good about the technical and physical progress I’m making, in addition to general understanding of the role different nutrients play in health and recreation. I still need to get a couple of things checked out though: for instance, my neck kills me after a long ride, which I’ve learned can be from either increasing my mileage too soon in training, or from an improper bike fitting. I have a feeling its both, and I’m going to have a cycle shop adjust my riding position to try to minimize this.

Today I logged a cool 66 miles in 4 hours and 25 minutes, which I feel good about. Not necessarily for my time, but because of the lack of pain I was in. The last 63 mile ride I did just about killed me, but it was for 2 reasons: hills, and hydration/nutrition. Correcting for both of those conditions today (I took a pretty flat route out to Collegeville and back along the Schuykill River & I made sure to properly hydrate and eat), made for a pretty good ride.

On a final note: Fundraising is going well- I’m almost there! So far I’ve raised $375 from 18 generous family members & friends. If you can help me reach my $500 fundraising minimum for my upcoming 125 Harbor to the Bay Ride for AIDS, please click here. Thanks!

Next Up: Steeplechase

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

So now that I’ve completed the 63 mile Gran Fondo, I’m thinking of different ways I can train for my September bike ride. I’m actually just getting more interested in my fitness and different ways to have fun while doing it. So I just decided to sign up for the Radnor Red Run Steeplechase next week. I’ve actually never run a 5k before, and I’ve only started running a couple of weeks ago after my March knee surgery. However I’ve been working on my leg strength and making sure to stretch, so I think I’ll be alright.

The steeplechase should actually be more fun than a regular 5k because this is an “off-road” 5k complete with hurdles & water! Since I’ve never run a 5k course, and have only started doing 5k on a treadmill, I’m hoping to do this sub 45 minutes. We’ll see!

In other good news, I’m closing in on my $500 fundraising goal for my September ride. If you haven’t you can still donate at the Harbor to the Bay website. Thanks to everyone who has already donated- you’re great!

Results

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

So the official King of the Mountain results are in. Congratulations to the top finisher, who completed the mile long, 7% grade climb in just over 4 minutes- and this was 32 miles into the ride!!

My time actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be: 14 1/2 minutes. Most people it seems finished sub 10 minutes, but the times went as high as over 26 minutes.

Overall, I’m okay with that result, and my overall time of 5 hours 10 minutes. Bring on the next ride!!

Exhausted. Drained. Spent. There are no end to the list of adjectives that come to mind right now. I just got home after completing a grueling 63 mile bike ride- the Gran Fondo Philadelphia. This was the most physically demanding thing I have ever had to do in my life- by miles (literally).

Pre-Start

My normal sleep habits prevent me from going to bed much before midnight, and so 5 hours later when my alarm went off, the day had begun. I hopped in the shower, got dressed in my new bike gear, and dutifully ate a Snickers Marathon bar the event organizers gave us in our “goodie bag”, which contained obscenely high percentages of the daily value in numerous nutrition categories. I downed it with some water & headed for the start. I biked down to the staging area- about 3 miles away- to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I stretched out a little bit, checked out the sights and sounds, and wondered how unprepared I was.

For starters, I didn’t see anyone else with a bike that cost less than $1,000, and everyone had snap-in shoes- something that a bike shop had recommended to me (the idea of having your feet snapped in, is that makes each rotation more efficient- not only do you get the downward force of pushing the pedals, but also the upward pull). Also, the last time I had biked 60+ miles was a good 10 years ago on a summer afternoon when I had nothing better to do.

15 minutes out from the start I had Gatorade Prime, step 1 of their new 3 part system.

The Start

At 7:00 sharp the race began with a Ferrari pace car leading the way. We headed down the Parkway & circled Logan Circle. I let the cheering fans get the best of me, and even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, I went out strong, quickly advancing toward the front of the pack as we headed back up the parkway and down kelly drive.  Things were going good until about mile 8, just after our first climb when I jumped my chain. I tried to fix it on the fly, but eventually had to pull over to correct it. It only took 30 seconds, but in that time about 50 riders passed me by. It was at this point that I noticed a kid that looked no older than 12 going strong with a group of adult riders, I was very impressed by him and would see him throughout the race.

Mile 26

By the time we hit 20 miles I was making good time, but the hills were starting to fatigue me. There was a lot of climbing going on that was draining my quads, and right on cue, at mile 26 my legs began to cramp up for the first time on a short climb towards Valley Forge State Park. I had to get off my bike- something I hadn’t wanted to do, and tried to deal with the cramps. Immediately they got worse from standing, and I had to do squats for a minute and then began to walk. 3/4 of the way up I was able to get back on my bike. A lot of riders encouraged me to work it out, and I made it to the top. I was very nervous though about the fact that I was getting cramps and we weren’t even 1/2 way through the course.

King of the Mountain

From Valley Forge on things only got worse. First we had a long steep climb that made more than a few people pull into driveways, temporarily resting their legs, before circling back to the road. I did the same a few times. It was a heck of a climb. Then around mile 32 the “King/Queen of the Mountain” challenge began. It was a mile long climb over a 7% grade and it decimated the field. My legs were killing me and I had to stop several times. I saw one guy puking into the grass and I encouraged him as I continued. Eventually I began to hear cheering and saw one of many people we would see along the way, encouraging us. I could see the ground leveling off and I pushed hard to get there. Unfortunately it turned out we were only 1/2 mile in. What a mental hurdle to get past knowing there was still another 1/2 mile to go.

By this time I had resorted to the strategy of biking right to left across the road to reduce the amount of power required from a straight climb. Several folks did this and I was shocked when cresting the summit a spectator instructed me to “ride in a straight line because people were coming up behind me”. I was incredulous. This man who was sitting on his butt watching people exert all their physical and mental energy to climb the mountain had the gall to chastise a rider in an amateur ride, rather than being encouraging. Absolutely amazing. I wanted to yell at him but I didn’t- I just didn’t have the energy.

The Last Half

Based on the shocking amount of vertical encountered by this point in the ride, I was hopeful that the rest of the trip would be more kind. I would soon learn nothing was further from the truth. At this point, more than a few riders got off their bikes and were walking steep inclines, and I felt better about having to get off my bike. I have to say though, there were a number of riders whom I had absolute respect for. It was amazing that this far into the course, there were still those charging up the hills and just refusing to get off the bike. The one good thing about all the elevation though, were the downhills. For every climb, there was eventually a downhill. To get an idea of how steep some of the descents were, I was able to top out at 38.5 mph on one downhill section.

By the time we hit about 45 miles, there was a series of long steep climbs. Lots of people were complaining about the people who came up with the course- it was definitely seemed professional grade, and a good many riders were amateurs. Some like me, were out on a ride like this for the first time. At this point in the ride, even small inclines felt like mountains, burning every muscle in my legs, and forcing me to walk a lot. The vertical was just incredible and it didn’t stop in earnest until about mile 57.

As we neared Philly the course started to level out, and I was able to power through the relatively flat sections, making up for lost time. At the beginning of the day I was hoping to finish the ride under 6 hours- and thats before I discovered it was a series of long climbs/descents- absolutely nothing like the 45 mile trek I had made with ease some months ago from Philly to Betzwood and back.

The Finish

About a mile out from the finish line we were on the West River Drive and I thought I would cruise to the finish, except the organizers had one more challenge to throw at us. There was a final climb up towards Fairmount Park that had it not come after 62 grueling miles of hills, would have just been a moderate climb. I had to get off for the final climb, and walk most of it. I was nervous that I would walk up to the finish line- far from a glorious finish. Luckily as the incline leveled out, there was still about 1/4 mile to the finish. I passed a man who could barely walk his bike, and I definitely felt for him. At numerous times throughout the ride I felt like I couldn’t go on- even pushing my bike up the hill seemed too much.

I rounded the final bend, and came down the finishing stretch. What a welcome suprise when the announcer gave my name as I crossed the finish, and a volunteer held a medal in his outstretched hand. I pumped my fist and gave myself a mental pat on the back. As soon as I could, I asked someone what time it was: 12:10pm! In just over 5 hours I had biked 63 miles, and God knows how many feet I climbed.

I wolfed down a lunch, lots of water and some delicious reGen, a recovery beverage that I’ll give a plug for here, since they were nice enough to give it out for free. After lunch I made the long bike home (poor planning!), and collapsed into my bed for several hours after a quick shower. When I had the energy I went online and looked up the course. I discovered that we had climbed an amazing 2,600+ feet over the length of the course. It might not sound like a lot until you put it into perspective- thats over 1/2 of a mile straight up into the sky!

Looking Back (and Ahead!)

1- Riding with a team would have been a lot easier. Motivating yourself to bike another 35 miles when your legs are seizing up is a real challenge.

2-I didn’t stop at any of the rest stops along the route- I was just too nervous about being able to get back on the bike and continue riding. I’m not sure if I should have stopped or not. Past the 45th or so mile, getting off of the bike invited instant cramps that could only be relieved by squatting- not the most comfortable or practical position.

3- The human body is amazing. The speed at which I saw some climbers take on the hills was just astounding. Equally astounding was the mental toughness off all the riders. Compelling myself to do the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done in my life required a lot of fortitude. At the end of the race, while at lunch, I was talking with some of the reGen reps. One of them asked me how I was able to continue after cramping up at mile 26. The answer was really simple: I didn’t have a choice. I just had to dig in and “do it”.

4- Throughout the ride I think I ate enough food- I think I could have drank more however. From start to finish I had: a Snickers Marathon Bar, Gatorade PrimeEnergy Gel, Gatorade Perform, Clif Bars, a Planters Peanut Bar & lots of water. Afterwords I had reGen, water, a good lunch, and Gatorade Recover. However, if I could do it again, I would alter my intake a bit. I would have more of the energy gel, less whole food, and more liquids, both Gatorade and Water. I didn’t use my Camelback because the thought of having something strapped to my back for 63 miles in 90 degree heat just wasn’t appealing.

5- Gear. In any activity from running to biking to hiking to camping to dragon boating, once you get involved with any level of seriousness, the costs for technical equipment can quickly add up. Although it was tough to do it before the race, I’m glad I invested in a a number of things. Padded Shorts- these weren’t cheap- starting at around $50 a piece, you have to wonder why any pair of shorts should cost that much money. Now that I’m done I can say it was 100% worth it. I’ve gone on shorter rides in the past and wound up pretty sore. With these shorts I felt pretty okay by the time I finished. Sunglasses– I invested in a decent pair of sport sunglasses. They are strong, light, and the wrap-around is nice. Keeping the sun out of your eyes is definitely a plus. There’s a lot going on already without worrying about being blinded. Bike Parts– I’m glad that I spent the time I did going over my wheels, tires and especially brakes. Flying down a hill at 38mph is no joke, and not having the tires and brakes in tip top shape would have been reckless. While I hope to upgrade my bike in the future, the gear I had today helped me get the job done.

5- I’m pretty confident I can handle the 125-mile AIDS charity bike ride I’m slotted for in September. I really think the course today was an anomaly, with an unkind amount of hills. I could have easily doubled the distance I traveled if I had more level terrain. (If you can support me for that ride please click here -I still need to raise over $250! 100% of your donation goes to AIDS research and health care).

6- I did it! With only about 2.5 weeks of in the gym training, and no extended road sessions, I was able to complete this ride, and in a decent time to boot. This has definitely given me the confidence to go out and continue riding, although I’m 100% certain I don’t want to climb 2600+feet in a ride again. Normally I think medals just “for finishing” are kind of cheesy, but I completely understand it now. Its nice to have some recognition for laying your body on the line and pushing yourself to the max. I wore it proudly on my bike ride back home, and you can bet its going to hang on my wall!

Philly Inquirer Coverage

Preparation

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

So the last few days I’ve been getting ready for the Gran Fondo, making sure my bike is in order.  After I got my tires inflated to the proper PSI I found them completely flat 2 days later. Frustrated, but glad at the opportunity to learn how to remove the tires & replace the inner tubes, I watched a couple of youtube videos & went to work. I patched up both tires, and reinstalled them, only to my dismay to find one of them immediately go flat again… I went to the bike shop and learned that the “bead” in my wheel was plastic (aka cheap) and was the cause of the punctures to my inner tubes at the high PSI. I had cloth tape installed, and went about installing new inner tubes & replaced the tires.

I also installed a second bottle rack (the idea of a camelback over long distance has become less appealing to me), so I figure between two bottles & the pit stations, I’ll be fine.  I also replaced the bike computer because the last one wasn’t working and attached a mini air pump to the frame. I’ve picked up gatorade, some energy-type goo stuff, cliff bars, stocked up my saddle bag, etc. I’m ready to go!!

Here’s hoping for a sub 6-hour time!

GRAN FONDO!!

Posted: July 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Just signed up to take part in the Gran Fondo USA!! I’ll be biking 63miles in Philly on August 8th!

What’s a Gran Fondo? I had no idea earlier until today. From the website, America’s First Gran Fondo:

“Gran Fondo” means “Big Ride” in Italian

Gran Fondos are long distance, mass-participation cycling events – not races – that have become immensely popular in Italy.  In France they’re known as “cyclosportives”.  Participation is open to recreational and competitive amateur cyclists, and tens of thousands of riders of all abilities participate.

Gran Fondos are often named after famous cyclists of the past, or after companies with a long heritage in cycling.  Some of the most famous Gran Fondos include the Prosecco Cycling Classic, the Nove Colli and the Felice Gimondi.

America’s First Gran Fondo Series
Now this exciting cycling tradition has come to the USA!
Gran Fondo Colnago – held in multiple cities – is America’s first Gran Fondo series.

What’s a Gran Fondo? I had no idea earlier until today. From the website