7.28.2011

Changes "Afoot"

So, when I started this whole cycling thing I decided to go with "mountain biking" shoes and small 2-bolt SPD pedals. This set-up allows me a shoe that I can walk in with some traction and reduced risk of damaging the cleat, since the cleats are recessed into the shoe tread and are metal. Dedicated road cleats are not recessed and are plastic, so they suffer significant wear-and-tear when a person walks around in the shoes. The shoes also tend to be stiffer, which makes walking all the more difficult.

BUT road shoes and pedals can be a good deal more comfortable for longer, more intense rides, since the stiffer soles + significantly larger pedal platform help to spread pressure across a wider area and reduce strain to foot muscles.

My first pair of shoes were Sidi Dominators, a mtn. shoe. A very nice shoe, but WAY too narrow. I started having all sorts of foot/toe cramping and numbness issues, particularly with my larger right foot. After switching to a wider men's Louis Garneau shoe many of my issues disappeared, though I have still been having some soreness issues and "hot spots" through the outer sides of my foot...I suspect it's irritated peroneal tendons and/or foot muscles feeling the strain of hours of pedaling with shoes that are flexing around these relatively small pedals.

Since I have 2 bikes I started considering the switch to road-specific pedals and shoes for my road bike. This will allow me to trash my mtn. shoes with mud and slop while riding my cyclocross bike and not need to significantly clean them prior to riding indoors on the trainer during the cold months.

This should also help make my upcoming 150ish mile ride across the state a little less uncomfortable in the later miles, as I have been finding my feet starting to protest around the 50 mile mark on longer rides...100 miles of foot pain doesn't sound particularly appealing.

Louis Garneau CFS-300
The choice of shoe was easy. I really like the fit of my off-road shoes and Louis Garneau makes a road shoe with essentially the same upper.  Bonus is the white color and toe vents--black shoes during our recent heat wave got noticeably HOT inside (which served to increase my foot discomforts, as my feet would swell a bit more than usual).

Pedals made for a tougher decision.  There are so many more choices of road pedals.  Speedplay pedals have pretty much unlimited float and come in nifty colors, but our friend who owns our favorite local bike shop always had issues with even the smallest bit of dirt or sand lodging in the cleats (which are the mechanical part of the cleat/pedal interface on Speedplays).  I read at least one other similar criticism.  Given that we essentially live on a giant sand dune and our roads frequently have a dusting of sand at intersections I had to rule out Speedplay pedals.  Plus I don't actually NEED more than a few degrees of float.

I also considered Time pedals, but they aren't as common, so finding replacement cleats or parts in a pinch could be an issue.

Shimano 105 SPD-SL
DH has LOOK Keo pedals and likes them, but is already eyeballing Shimano pedals for his next pedal (to try something similar, but different).  So I decided to play guinea pig and go for Shimano 105 pedals, myself.  I found them on Amazon for <$64, so that bargain price made it an easy decision.

I also am trying a new saddle in preparation for my "epic" ride.  I really *like* my Specialized Jett 143, but I don't LOVE it.  While I need some sort of relief channel/cut-out/dip, I've long suspected that the very abrupt sides of the cut-out on my Jett are causing as many issues as the actual cut-out is solving.  Namely in the form of pinching bits that don't really want to be pinched.

I otherwise like the shape, size, and level of cushion of my Jett.  It's not soft, by any means, but it's not as rock-hard and slab-like as Specialized's Ruby saddle (I borrowed one last Summer and my sit bones HATED me...to the point where I really didn't want to ride it enough to see if my sits might acclimate).

Fizik Arione Donna
Late last year Fizik came out with a women's version of their popular men's Arione saddle with a relief channel (I believe they already had a women's version without said channel).  I had been wanting to try the Arione Donna, but couldn't justify the $160 price tag to test something that may not work.  Recently I found it from a British retailer for <$120, including free shipping.  OK, worth a try--I should be able to sell it for $100 if it doesn't work for me.

I have a test saddle of a different Fizik women's model (Vesta) with the relief channel, but that saddle is much softer and domed...and on my relatively more upright cyclocross bike, so I really couldn't get a good feel for it on the one short ride I've done on that bike (yeah, sad that I've had that bike for over a month and don't get out on it more, but it's hard to justify when it's been hot and dry and not conducive to "'cross" riding.  Once we get cooler and muddier that ride will be seeing more action, for certain).  If I fall in love with the Fizik saddle, then my Specialized saddle will likely go on the 'cross bike.

I <3 brains!
In fun stuff...the women from my online running log hang-out recently did our "Christmas in July" Secret Santa exchange.  My friend, Lisa, in Canada drew my name and sent me the best box of goodies...Smarties candy, a wooly black and purple scarf, and this awesome zombie heart pendant.

Homeland "Security" had a field day with the package, though...they even went so far as to slit open the enclosed card from my friend.  Sheesh.  I really wish DHS and TSA would go off in the corner and grope one another.  I've really had my fill of the fear-mongering and abuse of innocent citizens.  As the recent terrorist attack in Norway has shown, we frequently need to fear our own FAR more than we should fear those outside our borders.  Fortunately my "imported" new saddle was in no way manhandled.

7.26.2011

Do not go gentle into that good night...

This Dylan Thomas poem was featured on my late friend Ira's "Iraman" blog. It's been just over 2 days since I first learned of my friend's death from heart attack, and the raw sorrow for a great man taken much too early is slowly being replaced with gentle grief for his close friends and family who will be putting his body to rest tomorrow. Ira had so many friends from all over. He was also a devoted family man and always spoke with so much love and pride for his kids and his SO, Nicki. While I am sad for my loss, it pales in comparison to my sadness for those who called a great man father, grandfather, and partner.

I first became familiar with Ira via friends' Facebook pages. I always liked his comments and advice. Often we'd have interesting discussions about a variety of topics on friends' walls. Eventually I sent him a friend request and enjoyed being a recipient of his advice and support on my own Facebook status posts. Ira was a gifted photographer and a Mac computer guy, so he'd offer great input re: these arenas. The last piece of advice Ira shared with me was to wait a few weeks to upgrade my OS to the new OS X Lion...to let the early adopters find the bugs, first.

Ira was also immensely generous. For every race he participated in he donated $100 to the Livestrong charity. I recently benefitted personally from his generosity, as he donated to my JDRF Ride to Cure campaign. This donation forever cemented Ira on my list of "one of the good guys."

Ira was approaching his 65th birthday and had a year of races all over the country planned (half marathons, marathons, half-Ironman, full Ironman)...in large part an excuse to meet far-flung friends.

In addition to being a gifted athlete Ira was funny. Very funny with a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor. He ran into a bit of trouble with the Ironman race folks when he adapted their logo for an "Iraman" graphic. That blog entry continues to be one of the funniest things I have ever encountered on the interwebs.

So many will miss Ira's presence. A mutual friend and I were struck by the realization that Ira's passing marked the first friend that either of us has lost. We've both lost relatives to old age or battles with terminal disease. But Ira was someone we CHOSE to have in our lives. And the suddenness of his passing as an otherwise strong and healthy person made his loss all the more shocking and difficult to process.

7.15.2011

I du!

Laser-like focus...sorta.
Yep, last weekend's race confirmed it, I'm quite smitten with the duathlon!

5 days ago I woke dark and early for my 3rd ever run-bike-run race, the Grand Haven Duathlon (sprint distance, 5k - 20k - 5k. There are also 2 triathlons, sprint and olympic distance). I had a great time, even though I again had embarrassingly slow transitions. Slow enough that if they'd been as fast as the transitions of the 2 other women in my age group AND if I'd pushed to knock even 30 seconds off my time I could have taken first in my AG...hmmm... I'm learning the hard way that transitions are still part of the race. The clock is still running. Transitions can make or break a person's race position.

Part of what's slowing me down is messing around with swapping the Garmin from wrist to bike and back to wrist. Even with the quick-release base I'm wasting time changing modes. So I think I'm going to pull my old, flaky Forerunner 305 out of retirement for my next race. I'd wear that for the run portion and leave it on my wrist...having the newer device already set to go for the bike leg. Perhaps someday down the line I will look into a dedicated bike-specific Garmin or even get my hands on a cheap 205 for running (and reserve the 305 specifically for the bike), since I wouldn't need the wireless capabilities.

But I also find myself in transition trying to catch my breath and taking too much time leisurely going through the shoe change, helmet, etc. And, the biggest dumbass move from this race, untieing shoes that I had double-knotted in my sleepy morning haze...that was really a boneheaded move! I may get my hands on a pair of Yankz laces before my next race. That should help cut some time on the running shoe changes.

My run splits for this race were really bad...slower than some of my training runs. But at race start it was already pushing 80º and humid. So far I am batting 3/3 on steamy races in Grand Haven. I really held back on the first leg, as I am so prone to heat sickness and cramping (my Scandinavian and Scottish blood doesn't lend to heat tolerance--especially since we've had so little heat to acclimate to, this Summer).

The bike leg was fabulous. I was first in my age group on the bike leg by almost 2mph pace (23/46 on the bike for the entire duathlon race field...and this is including super-speedy people on dedicated time trial bikes with wheels that cost more than my entire bike). As crummy as my runs were, I actually moved up quite a few places in the field of 46 for the 2nd run (from 41 to 32), even though my pace was slower. The heat was really getting to people and it's pretty obvious that some of the field blew-up.  Perhaps some folks don't embrace the brick workout, either.  I loves me some brick workouts.  The more I do them, the better that transition from bike to 2nd run feels.  Leaden quads are not conducive to running.

My bike split was 1.3mph pace faster than my bike split from my previous duathlon--granted that was a rough race, early in the season after an endless Winter that cut into my training, brutal headwind for about a third of the course, and with foot and calf cramping issues from shoes that were too narrow.

I'm really looking forward to my next duathlon, on Labor Day.  That one is a 2.5k - 22k - 5k.  I like that it's relatively bike-heavy.  Though I'd love to see the Grand Haven race offer a 10k - 40k - 10k duathlon option.  They could easily do this, since they have the Olympic distance run and bike courses already laid-out.  They could almost bill it as a Powerman duathlon (though the bike leg would be about 20k to short to really do that), which would be a really excellent goal...though maybe not in the middle of July.  The folks coming in from the Olympic distance tri were in pretty rough shape by the end when the temps were well into the 80s.

Before the next race I REALLY want to drop at least 5#s.  I've totally slacked on my weight loss efforts.  And the few pounds I lost this Spring have returned.  Last Summer I lost weight without even trying, but I think this was in large part due to throwing a new sport at my body.  Now that my system is accustomed to the rigors of cycling the pounds are going nowhere fast.  Just losing a few pounds will make me faster for the run legs and faster on the uphills with the bike.  I really don't want to be last in my age group, next time.  And I'd like to have a whole bunch of race photos that are order-worthy.  Right now the majority of them are pretty humiliating.  Fat looks especially bad when photographically captured in-motion during a race.

7.08.2011

The dangers of being a running cyclist

Oops.
There is a very real risk that you will become so accustomed to only applying sunblock down to your sockline. This is all well and good if/when you are actually wearing socks. Kinda not so good when you are at the beach.

My beach bumming day was utterly lovely, though, aside from the random spots where I missed sunblock.  We (the rugrat and I) sat under perfectly blue skies for about 3 hours with a friend and her kids.  Really a perfect day.  Perfect temps (in the low 80s), low humidity, gentle breeze, good company (we ran into a few other friends on the shore with their kids).  Pure Michigan (love that ad campaign).

I have my 2nd sprint duathlon of the year in 2 days, so today was a rest day...and rest I did!  Rest + 2 bottles of New Glarus' finest (1 Spotted Cow and 1 Moon Man) accompanied me to the beach.

I have high hopes for this race.  My training for my last race was overly aggressive, but my taper was inadequate.  I arrived at the starting line still feeling pretty beat.  Instead of feeling jumpy with pent-up energy I felt heavy and sluggish.  I PRd my first 5k leg by a mere 1 second and the cycling leg (that wasn't any surprise...new, lighter, more aggressive bike and a full year more cycling experience)...but died by the last running leg.  This time around I am going to do my best to go out a hair slower for that first run leg...treat it a more of a tempo warm-up.  I'd prefer to have even or negative run splits, this time around.  I still plan to go gangbusters on the bike leg, though.  That's my strong suit (not that this is saying much...it's all relative).

The only bummer is that I will be missing out on a BIG JDRF training ride starting late morning.  My race is at 7:45.  I expect to be done by 9:30 or so, but I'm assuming that I won't be able to get my bike out of transition until all of the olympic distance triathlon competitors are done...so that could take a while.  I doubt I'd be able to leave earlier than 10:30 and the training ride is an hour away.  It's OK.  I won't likely want to abuse my legs more after the race, anyhow.  If I do it right I won't be able to drag more out of them.

In bittersweet news...I finally sold my original Oby bike (so now I have 2 bikes, Oby 2, the road machine, and Little Rock, the cyclocross beastie).  The bike that got me hooked.  But I'm glad that my first velo-baby went to a friend in Oregon.  If any bike can get a person feeling the bike love, it's that pretty machine.

I took $750 from the sale of that bike and dumped it right into my JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes fundraising account.  That put me just beyond the halfway mark toward my $4000 fundraising goal.  Right now I'm at about a dollar/mile pedaled in 2011, which is kind of a funny coincidence.  I still have a long way to go, though, and we're now <100 days away from the big ride.