Sunday, March 31, 2013

A fit-ing process

By the time you read this I'll be back in Canada but for the purposes of writing, you find me in international departures at BWI. I just realised why this place looks familar (beyond that I was here three days ago), I was last here in 2006 (I think) with Jessica Boyd on our way to the aforementioned EFHW in Gettysbury. The drive out of Baltimore -in the dark on an unknown interstate and in a rental car, was particularly interesting, as I recall, as was getting lost in rural PA trying to find Gettysburg; something Lee probably hoped upon Meade! I can't for the life of me remember want we were presenting, probably Aeromonas salmonicida type IV pili, or maybe Type III secretion. I can't rightly remember. Either way, it seemed dreadfully important at the time!

Minute mircobial structures, needless to say, are not what brought me back here, it was the Trek fitting course. We just finished two intense days of anatomy, biomechanics and actual mechanics, with a hefty dose of evidence-based myth-debunking thrown in. Pure bliss in other words.

This is probably a good time for a Trek joke. As most of you know, my ex-wife is South African and a native Afrikanns speaker to boot. I learned a little Afrikaans, most of which I've forgotten and I realy only use at the ITU World Duathlon Championships when dealing with the South African team. Is jy die team van Suid Afrika? Ja? Lekker! Kan jy Engels praat? Ja? D'is guid! and then spent the rest of the conversation sounding like Matt Damon in Invictus! Anyway, the word "Trek" is a loanword into English from Afrikaans. It's a good job we have it, because without it the Trek Bicycle Corporation would be know as the Pull Bicycle Corporation which is nowhere near as evocative!

The course was full, with some 24 people plus Jeff Lohr and Dr Mark Timmerman from Trek, who were giving the course. 

Most of the 24 were from two big local IBDs; Race Pace from MD and Spokes Etc from northern VA. Both are independantly owned with multiple locations. They both had strong fitting cultures, even having dedicated fitters, as well as a women's program that caters to women by women. Others had come from further afield; a fairly strong Pennsylavania contingent, one guy from Boston and four Canadians. As well as myself the were three guys from JoVelo in Mont Tremblant, Jon (owner) and Dan are below. Needless to say, we stuck together.

IMHO the course was pitched ideally to someone like myself; slightly geeky, bike-experienced, bike-shop experienced and still doing a lot of hands-on in the store. I knew quite a bit of what was being presented, so I didn't feel overwhelmed with information. Rather, I was able to process the old information which was being presented; often within a framework which it hadn't necessarily had before, and integrate it with the new knowledge. Plus it's all about applying the scientific method; observe, hypothesize, predict, experiment, repeat. A process I've been doing my whole adult life, expect now I can do it with bikes! Surely a win-win.  

So overall, I now have a much better understanding of the background of bike-fitting now together with a coherent framework in which to put it and some processes to make it easier to perform. Also, when to perform it; we spent a lot of time discussing the difference between "bike sizing" and "bike fitting" which is much a business discussion as it is a cycling discussion. Anyway, this was the whole point of me coming.

Day one was lectures. Gross anatomy, biomechanics, bike mechanics and business. The load was shared evenly between Jeff and Mark. Mark was a true academic, in that he was easily sidetracked from the lecture, but to this LBS guy, the excursions from the syllabus were still interesting and added to the experience rather than take away.

The evening was on Trek at a local bar/resto called Frisco, chosen for the bewilderingly large selection of real ales on tap. Bike shops and Belgian beer; need I continue? The JoVelo guys started with shots and the evening went downhill from there! The conversation was wide ranging. We went across cycling from Trek business philosophy (in the lucid interval before the 11% ABV artisanally-brewed beer took affect), He Who Must Not Be Named(you couldn't go to Nike and not talk about Tiger Woods either! Iluminating discussions, let me tell you!), doing business against Sportcheck and MEC and finally ending with a surprisingly passionate debate on mandatory helmet use by adults!

Day two was hands on all the way. Before lunch we learned the first part of any bike fitting; the interview and testing. I was the guinea-pig for the physical examination demonstrations and Mark confirmed what I knew. I am chronically stiff, especially in the hamstrings. Never mind a Speed Concept, I think I'll have to Project 1 a Trek Verve. I think a nice Fox fork, Alfine Di2, some tubeless ready 29er race-wheels and Brooks B33 ("for our more robust customers").

The afternon was pure self!  We got our new shoes; Bontrager RXL !

We also did a full fit on ourselves. We got to be both client and fitter, seeing the process from both angles (as it were). Speaking of angles, we all downloaded digital protractor apps for our smartphones as there weren't enough goniometers. I guess I'll have to ask The Guys at work about using my phone on the sales floor!


Dan from JoVelo did an excellent job fitting me!

There were four sizing stations in the room, one with a differently-sized 2013 Trek Madone 5.2 and most of the tools required. Unfortunately, some of the kit destined for the course ended up in Illinois (?) so we were a little short on some things.

One sign you've been in a bike-shop too long? Totally blasé about the bikes. There was, what? $15000 retail of carbon bike just lying around, not to mention a couple of thousand dollars worth of stems, saddles and bars. Stuff most people just stop and stare at. Not to mention drooling slightly at the corners of the mouth. we need to keep a mop on the sales floor! And all you could think was "oh, another full carbon Madone? M'eh. At least it comes with the Ultegra crank". On the plus side it means we can play with these things with a certain degree of impunity, we're not intimidated by the presence of so much carbon. On the minus side, my wow-factor quotient is now so much higher than before! Along with many guys in the shop, I think I'm regressing and get more excited by nice steel now than carbon!

The fit process was great. As well as learning a whole bunch, I got a set of fit coordinates I can transfer over to my own bikes at home. If anyone is wondering, especially those people with model-year 2012 Speed Concept 7.0s, the 54cm Madone was a good fit, but a 56 cm Madone would be a bit better, espcially as my chronically tight hmastrings mean I can't run the drop I think I should have and I could use the extra head-tube. Plus it would be more aero, all other things being considered. Once you get to the retail price of a Madone 5.2 then Project 1-ing the bike for the custoom paint and nice wheels becomes a bit of a no-brainer. Just sayin'.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whatever happened to Virginia, Wolfe?

Overall, I'm feeling pretty stoked about this week, seeing as it finds me at a Trek Bicycles fit course. The Trek fit course has four stops this year; the Canadian stop is in Vancouver at the end of April, which is why this week finds me at the Doubletree Inn, Columbia, MD instead, Maryland being a lot easier to get to than BC, not to mention the jet-lag is a lot more manageable.

It's not the jet-lag that has me somewhat disoriented. Sitting here I'm probably only one hundred miles or so as the crow flies from Gloucester Point and Newport News, where I post-doc'd in the late nineties at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Even though that was 13 years ago, the license plates and Food Lion grocery stores and the general ecology of the place are familiar enough that I don't look twice, even though I think I should.

Also, for most of the years I was with the Feds, every March or April I would attend the Eastern Fish Health Workshop (EFHW), which was always in a mid-Atlantic state; Virginia (West or Occupied), Pennsylvania or either of the Carolinas. It was an opportunity to catch up with old colleagues from VIMS as well as other Canadian researchers. Plus, organiser Rocco Cipriano, was a bit (well, a lot) of a civil war buff and the EFHW would always have a battlefield tour one evening; Harpers Ferry, Antietam and even Gettysburg. Knowing I was coming to Baltimore in late March I would occasionally catch myself thinking "oh, it'll be great to see Steve again" before realising I wouldn't, unless he's had a career change like mine recently. I think Rocco managed to turn his love of the civil war into a paying proposition after he retired, so it's possible, but unlikely.

I managed to shake some of the disorientation off with a short run after I checked in. I was initially skeptical, thinking I'd probably have a shitty 5km on the road facing oncoming traffic; they don't like sidewalks in this part of the world. I was blown away to find a network of paved cycling trails, in the style of la route verte in Quebec, that snake around the woods in this area.

As I may have said, I'm super-stoked to be doing a fit course; I really enjoy the bike-fit process. I mean who wouldn't? It's science and anatomy and angles and bikes and problem solving! Chicken soup for my sciencey, bikey, nerdy soul I don't know if I'm any good at it, but this will make me better at it.

Preparing to start geeking out in three, two, one....


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Du or Du Not, There Is No Tri

Possibly the most cliched of all the sci-fi triathlon quotes, and one proudly bruited about by the more hydrophobic amongst us. 

Ah yes,the duathlon, where the only water is in cups at the turnaround. Where, I daresay, most of us prefer it.

Which brings me to the obligatory rant; why is it so hard to get people to come to duathlons?  Listening to triathletes in the shop, in transition and on the start-line, it's clear that  the swim hardly fills most with joy. The prevailing opinion seems to be the race only starts when ones' feet hit the beach. So why the duathlon is the "poor cousin"  (I'll only do the du) I have no idea.

That's not what compelled me to put proverbial pen to proverbial paper today. Rather it was what draws age-groupers to triathlon. This was prompted by a flood of runners getting into the sport recently. There were so many bikes at the running club this morning I was starting to feel like I was on Cyclesmith duty!  

The last convert to the dark-side was a good friend of mine and an excellent runner. Two things came up in a recent conversation recently. The first was he told me that against his better nature, he really enjoyed his swim the other day.  One only hopes that his innate swimming technique is better than his innate  runnning technique which before his coach got hold of him, was best described as a frog in a blender. Apologies to South African spin bowler Paul Adams, the original sporting frog-in-a-blender.

Anyway, you get the idea.

The second thing was that a race we'd been to recently was the one local race he'd been to the most. Ten times I think.  This struck a chord with me as I've been to this race eight times in ten years and it got me to thinking.

In the same way your training goes (or should go!) through microcycles, mesocycles and macrocycles, one's running also cycles through microcycles, mesocycles and macrocycles.  The micro- and mesocycles are the cycles of getting up earlier on Saturday and Sunday to go running than one does M-F to go to work and cyclical seasonal ups and downs. 

The macrocycle is the steady annual heartbeat of the racing calendar.   In Nova Scotia it goes something like this.  March - Back to Basics 8 miler and The Moose.  Then Boston; running it for the lucky few, following them on-line for the rest of us.  Then Bluenose and the Cabot Trail Relay in May, Johnny Miles in June, Natal Day 6 miler in August, Rum Runners in September and then the three maritime marathons in October: Valley Harvest, PEI and Moncton.  Then a couple of months in hibernation before starting to train up in December to start the cycle all over again!

For some people there is comfort in this rhythm.  If it's June, it's time for a trip to New Glasgow for Johnny Miles.  I'm not sure I've ever been to New Glasgow (except for stopping for gas) at any other time.  Sometimes, it can take you by surprise; when I voluntolded to time The Moose Run this year, my first reaction was, frankly, "It's time to time The Moose Run?  Didn't I just do that?"

For some, after a while this rhythm can start to get a bit stale, and I think that's what's happening here.  For some. there's a stink of ennui about the whole "if it's Thanksgiving, it's time for Valley Harvest" thing.

Triathlon can give you a whole new perspective on your racing and training whilst keeping us true to what makes us tick in the first place.  Spiritually, a triathlon is very much like running. Sure, there'll be a winner, but it's unlikely to be you.  Did you even see the winner in Boston?  Thought not.  However, you'll still get to take away a time for that Sprint or Olympic (or whatever), a time you can use to benchmark your progress through the sport; just as your first 10K time (or whatever) did. As runners, we are  also predisposed to spending hours outside (we aren't your average gym-rats), possibly in miserable weather. Plus, we already have the lycra tights and merino wool undershirts, so we have that side of cycling nailed too!  

It also opens up a whole new calendar. now you can go to Guysborough for perhaps my favorite race in Nova Scotia (but a place I've only been to on race-day - a cruel mistake I hope to rectify one day soon).

If you don't feel like running, you can do a triathlon.  Didn't get the time in the pool?  Duathlon. Or a couple of running races.  My favourite unintended consequence is dealing with injuries.  It's been rare over the last, well too many years to count, that I've been too injured to do anything. Can't run; ride. Can't ride?  Run.  Then there's always the pool.

So there you have it.  I suspect the local triathlon scene will have to steel itself for a podium shake-up soon. There are some strong runners out there, many of them sub-three marathoners, who've been hitting the pool and getting serious about their cycling and just longing not to go to New Glasgow in June!

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The one where I run a lot

Of course, "the one where I run a lot" isn't that descriptive, as that is all I seem to do. I really wanted to keep that title for an overview of my assault on a Marathon Maniac's Iridium four-star level.  Seeing as I haven't written since then, it seemed better to start where I left off and work up.

So, that "running a lot". How far is "a lot".  This has been a monster running week; 110.92 km according to Garmin. Yeah, I "should" have done that extra 80 m but surprisingly, I'm not losing sleep over it.  Again, according to Garmin, that's 9000 calories burned.  Garmin may overestimate calorie-burn, so if we go by the 100 cal/mile R.O.T., then that's 6600 calories.  Either way, 9000 or 6600 calories, that's between two and three days-worth food burned this week just running, which explains why I can't stop eating this week.  Seriously, I could eat a horse, which of course in the UK has gone from a charming expression to a expression of reality.

It sounds like a lot, but it goes with the long run, which is supposed to be 25-30% of your weekly mileage. So that fits in nicely with that 35 km Tour de Dartmouth last Sunday with the guys.

It's funny, this monster mileage, because I'm not sure about my racing plans this spring. I'm pace-bunnying the Bluenose Full, but after that not sure.  So, why the 35km?  It was fun.  In fact, all this pace-bunnying has had an unintended consequence. I think I've become lazy.  I've realised just how much fun running, and running a marathon, can be when you're not turning yourself inside out to get a BQ.  Denise and I had a chat about this last week, and it seems that she has also re-discovered a joy of running for running's sake.  Where running is not a means to an end, but the end itself.

Last week's long run started at 07:20; early enough for a Monty Python Four Yorkshireman reference about having to get up half an hour before going to bed.

By 'eck tha' Tim Brooke-Taylor 'as an awful Yorkshu accent!

Starting that early made me think of a trend that I'm starting to see.  Not in my group necessarily, but in conversations I have and overhear.  It can be distilled simply to the phrase; 

"we're going to start early so I can get it [my long run, by bike ride] out of the way and have the rest of my day"

Sure, once in a while it may be necessary to start early so you can get something else done that day; last week one of our number had to be out at the airport at 10 and, all grumbling aside, we were happy to accommodate him.  On a regular basis though?  I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to hand in your running (or cycling) card. 

Running (or cycling) is the reason why we get up on a Sunday earlier than we do to go to work.  Running (or cycling) is the objective of the day.   Running (or cycling) is a pleasurable activity in and of itself.  If its important to you, give it the time it deserves.   I will agree that as something large, like a marathon or an Ironman hoves into view, workouts may become longer, harder, more brutal, and I'm certainly not advocating not taking a two hour run lightly, but once this attitude starts, then running (or cycling) becomes a chore, viz "I have to go running" rather than "Yey, let's go running".

So, let's put the fun back in running.  You don't have to do it; this isn't some junior-high gym-period. You made a choice, as a grown adult, to be here so quit whinging and have fun!