fat guy on a bike

I just finished Heft on Wheels:A Field Guide to Doing a 180 by Mike Magnuson.
The "180" Magnuson is referring to is turning himself around from an obese, alcoholic, chain smoking, chain junk-food eating couch potato into a lean and uber-healthy, booze and smoke free cycling enthusiast.
The picture on the cover is that of a very large naked man in profile riding a bicycle. It's so outrageous that I thought it to be a staged shot but it is in fact of Magnuson himself when he started riding seriously but before he gave up all his bad habits. The picture was taken to accompany an article he wrote for Gentleman's Quarterly.
The author's approach to training was an unconventional one. He started out, from the very first, at 255 pounds, riding with an experienced and fit group of riders that met at the local bike shop for rides 3 days a week. Even though he was hopelessly outclassed by the other riders he wouldn't give up and always finished the rides even if far behind the others.
He also chose the hardest endurance rides he could find, like the 110 mile Bridge to Bridge Incredible Cycling Challenge in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina with over 6,800 feet of climbing. As he says, he could have seriously injured himself doing these rides in the shape he was in but that's the way he does things; all or nothing.
As you can imagine there's a lot of humor in his account but a lot of wisdom too.
I found the book very inspiring, not that I want to do what Magnuson did, but that I can certainly work a lot harder than I do and not die. :-)
It also underscored to me the importance of group riding to spur me on to push myself harder than I do when riding alone.

Why I like to read

It's really great to get reminders and encouragement from various sources. One of them being authors. I'm in the middle of reading Joe Friel's The Cyclists Training Bible and I am reminded to cross train and build up slowly during the winter season. I have been getting a little hyper about "real" bike riding as it's so much fun and so much easier to train on a real bike on a real road! After a messy winter here in the northeast I am itching to get out there and I have, in fact, been able to get out on a few nice and not so nice days but then we have had some nasty weather again and I'm frustrated and feel I'm not getting my "proper" training in. So reading Joe Friel today about periodization and the base period, which I am currently in, helped me to relax about going back in to the gym and even not worry that I didn't get an upright bike (which is most like what I ride) and had to use the recumbent. It's actually good to cross train and maybe even use the elliptical, the rowing machine or the treadmill plus a little strength training with the free weights.
It's good to have a reality check once in a while even if I don't have a real live coach!

Best ski day so far this season ... and first tracks!

Monday we went skiing at Butternut in Great Barrington, MA. We had the best day of the season so far. I'm not surprised. Based on last year's experience, the closer we got to the end of the season, the better it got!
Weatherman was predicting partly cloudy, slight chance of light rain or snow.
Never happened! 100% perfectly clear, cloudless blue, blue sky almost the whole day. Warm temps, no wind.
And best of all .... First Tracks! Yeah, the triple chair lift on the right side of the mountain as you face it (don't know what the directions are there) didn't open up until 11AM. As it turned out, we got right in line behind a couple of snowboarders. At the top, while the snowboarders were fiddling around we hit the trail, Freewheeler, it's the dark blue on the right in the map below, and quickly realized we were the first ones on it that day. Sweet! I'll tell you, I put the pedal to the metal!

A bluebird day!


View from the triple ... spring is coming! Bittersweet! It's great skiing but it signals the end of the season.


Your's truly ... Freewheelin'!


Hope you all had a nice Monday at work! Ha ha!


Oh, by the way, $20 lift tickets. ;-)

Brutal ride revisited ...

Now that I look at it, the elevation of that river ride is more than I thought initially by just a cursory look at the elevation plot. I think the 10 miles of steady climb, combined with the headwind and my lack of pacing, is what did me in. It goes from an elevation of 46 ft near the river to 655 ft. over a 10 mile stretch, pretty much due west which is where the headwind was coming from. My 25 mile ride, on the other hand goes from 210 ft. to 541 ft. and it's pretty much up and down over a series of mostly short climbs. Visually, the elevation plot of the 30 miler looked easier but when I dig down into the numbers a bit, I can see where it took it's toll.
Now I just hope I can recover enough in one day to enjoy skiing on Monday! :-)

Why was today such a brutal ride?

Rode my first 30 miler today. Nice day; high 30s; sunshine. I mapped out a new route which went south and east to the Hudson river and then back out west then north and home. From the elevation plot (MapMyRide) I thought it would be a little easier than my usual 25 miles through the hill country but it wasn't. I'm not sure what it was. It's not even the extra 5 miles cause I was already beat half way through. There was a stiff headwind about half the ride as I was exposed going west but not that strong. Maybe I didn't pace myself. It was my first time on a long ride with my new cadence computer so maybe I was too focused on keeping my cadence up rather than with how hard I was working. Took the camera but I was too annoyed with my fatigue to bother with pictures. Wasn't fun!
Anyway, here's the route:

One good thing about the gym ...

Although I much prefer riding a real bike on a real road or trail, one good thing about working out on the stationary upright at the gym is that you can focus intently on your heart rate and cadence. On the road you have to give a fair amount of attention to where you are going and what's going on around you like traffic. Also what makes real riding more interesting is also a distraction; the scenery and so on. In the gym I'm able to pay more attention to how my body is feeling and make minor adjustments in position.
Having said all that, it's definitely more fun to ride for real and it just seems easier to work harder (maybe because of the distractions and because you're actually going somewhere).

Skiing on St. Patrick's Day at Bromley, VT

Went skiing today at Bromley Mountain in Peru, Vermont. $17 lift tickets if you show a bit o' green for St. Patrick!
Woo-hoo! A beautiful, sunny day with a deep, deep blue sky. Wide, groomed trails. Not too many people. Bit of a chilly wind here and there and the steeps tended to be a bit choppy later in the day, but a great day nonetheless. Mrs. MTBMan1 was ahead of me in technique and I was ahead of her in strength and endurance but we are starting to come together on both. We are about even in ability now so we are winding up at the bottom at about the same time. We really had a ball! Check that sky!

25 mile bike ride

I rode 25 miles today. When I started out it looked really good; sun was coming out and things were drying up. About 30 min in to the ride it started raining, then changed to sleet. I debated turning back but it seemed like one of those unsettled days where it might just as well dry up again. I figured, hey, I'm training for a 1/2 century which they said would go on rain or shine so I might as get used to the rain possibility. I'm glad I did. It wasn't too bad. Rained a bit off and on but not too heavily and I was completely dried out by the time I got back. A good workout. Lots of rollers and a couple of good climbs. Nothing that maxed out my HR though. I hope i'm not too worn out for skiing tomorrow! ;-)

Be LESS than you can be!

Perhaps I should explain. Some people who work hard and sacrifice to achieve their goals may get upset by the title of this post. Maybe "some people" are too serious! ;-)
I have related in previous articles and posts how I always thought achievement in athletics was brought about by day after day of pedal to the metal all out effort. Much like stories of the Navy Seals or Delta Force training. People running on broken legs, things like that.
It was a pleasant revelation, no, an epiphany, to find that rest and recovery were as important as pain and suffering!
The first time I heard about this was in Joe Friel's book Cycling Over 50.
The other day I picked up Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible. How can you not love a training program that specifies a midday nap every day!?
I'm all over this one.
Friel says that growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland during workouts and sleep. So he recommends that nap to get an extra "hit" of growth hormone every day. He says "Growth hormone speeds recovery, rebuilds muscles and breaks down body fat."
So, back to the title. To me it means training smart not hard; training according to a scientific plan; listening to your body, e.g. backing off when your body says "not today". Of course, all this requires some experience, teachability and constant learning, relearning and adjusting.
It's opened up a whole new world to me. I can actually become fit. Maybe even superfit. I can ride races. Maybe even win them!
What a thought!

Heart Rate Monitor Review- Sports Instruments Fit3

My wife gave me a heart rate monitor for Christmas. A Sports Instruments FIT3. I love my HRM! This is a good quality entry-level device. The two things I like most about it is that it is simple to use and the zoom display. I'm not sure what the price is but it's on the low end of Sports Instruments product line. You can probably get one for about $30.
It comes with an instruction manual that includes a starter training plan (which I am currently using) developed by Sally Edwards of heartzones.com fame.
The device uses a wireless chest strap transmitter.
Some of the notable features are: keeps up to 7 workouts in memory in which you can view total time spent in each training zone, average heart rate and calories burned; a fitness test – the Rockport 1 mile walk test; zoom display with backlighting; displays real-time heart rate in % MHR.
The FIT3 also has an alarm which lets you know when you are outside of your selected workout zone but it doesn't do me any good because my high frequency hearing is shot. I can only hear it barely if I put my ear right up to the watch never mind on a bike ride with all kinds of ambient noise. I wish they had adjustable volume on those alarms.
The other minor gripe I have is with the documentation. When I initially setup the watch, I was able to enter my weight in pounds. Later when I went back to change it as my weight changed, I could only enter it in kilograms! What's up with that? Every time I wanted to adjust my weight I had to convert it. Finally after poring over the manual and looking online I found this little gem in the programming instructions: (NOTE: When the unit is set to
24 hour time, all User data will be set to metric units). I had set the time to 24 hour after I initially entered my weight. This may seem clear when I point it out here but what I was looking for in the instructions was something like How to set weight in pounds or kilograms.
But that's really not a show stopper. The other feature I would like to see is 5 training zones rather than the 3 broad ones they use. The watch is pre-programmed with Health zone: 50-70% MHR, Fit zone: 70-80% and Performance zone: 80-100%. 50-70% is pretty broad. I'm over 50% just getting up out of my chair. Nevertheless, it's still workable as I can read the actual percentage right off the display. The only drawback is the five zone detail isn't recorded in the logfile. I just have to keep track of it manually. Another convenience feature I would like to see in the recorded data is maximum heart rate for a workout. As it is, I have to take a look at the watch when my perceived rate of exertion is maxed out. I suppose those are features of more advanced level HRMs.
All-in-all I'm very pleased with the FIT3. For a starter unit, it's affordable, easy to use, reliable and can provide the core heart rate data to support an ongoing and successful fitness program.

Zone 2 workout

Today was a 45 minutes in heart zone 2 (60-70%MHR) day. At this time of year I'm always excited to be able to get outside on a real bike. It was a little cool but clear, about 27 degrees. OK for a one hour ride. Mostly my toes get cold during the 5 to 10 minutes or so of cooldown at the end of the ride even though I have toe covers and my ski socks. I'd like to try SmartWool socks for this. I might buy some for Sunday as it's supposed to be cold and I want to do a 20 mile ride.
Anyhow, I feel high from the ride even though zone 3 is supposed to be the endorphin zone! :-)
Can't wait for my ride tomorrow. That's a 15 zone2-15 zone3-15 zone 2 workout. Hope I can do it on the real bike. It might rain in the AM.

Getting up to the next level

This week I started a new level on my training plan. What I am doing is working with the training plan from the book that came with my heart monitor. The first few weeks I was working out exclusively in zone 2 (60-70% MHR) where I would start at 20 minutes in the zone and increase by 5 minutes each week until I was doing 45 minutes in zone 2. This week I have moved up to 15 minutes in zone 2, 15 minutes in zone 3(70-80%MHR) and then 15 minutes back in zone 2 plus warmup and cooldown at the beginning and end respectively. Today was my first day doing this workout and I was very pleased with how it went. Everything felt great. Knees didn't hurt. Seat didn't hurt or chafe. It was all very doable and I didn't feel I was pushing my limits on anything. The Zone 3 workout was fairly easy and when I went back to the last 15 minutes in zone2 it was actually difficult to keep it under 70%MHR. I increased my cadence target from 80 to 90 too and I found that easy and natural. Overall I'm very happy with my progress. By the way, the plan was put together by Sally Edwards who coauthored the Heart Rate Cycling books with Sally Reed.

My most influential books (of the moment)

Here are the books that have had the most impact recently on my training and fitness goals:
1. Cycling over 50 by Joe Friel
This was where I first got the revelation that it was not only OK but essential to incorporate rest into training and not just ride flat out as often and as long as possible. Friel also introduced me to the concepts of periodicity in training and recovery nutrition.
2. Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100 by Roy M. Wallack and Bill Katovsky
Lots of good information interspersed with inspiring interviews with accomplished older riders. A more entertaining read than Friel. What I learned indirectly from some of these stories is that it's easy for motivated cyclists to get addicted to training to the detriment of the rest of their lives (e.g. marriage, health, etc.)
3. Heart Zone Cycling by Sally Edwards and Sally Reed
How to use a heart rate monitor to setup a training plan. A bit technical and hard to understand at times but you can glean at whatever level you like. Includes a variety of training rides.
4. The Heart Rate Monitor Book for outdoor and indoor cyclist also by Edwards and Reed
Similar to heart zone cycling but I liked that it included rides using stationary bikes as well. A little easier to work with. Software included on a CD for tracking training rides. I like the variety of rides they suggest. Helps to relieve boredom especially for the stationary bike sessions.
5. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
I am basing my current "un-diet" on this book. The premise is that we don't really think about what we're doing when we're eating but are receiving subtle cues from our environment, other people and early life programming. The idea is to manipulate these cues to our benefit so we can still not think about what we're eating but eat less and better and lose weight. I'm indebted to garyd over on sweat365.com for suggesting this book

Today's training ride - 15 miles

Today's training ride was an easy 15 miler. Mostly flat terrain. I'm working up to a fifty mile fund-raising ride in June and then a 75 miler 2 weeks later. In addition to my 3 or 4 rides or gym workouts during the week I am doing an easy ride on Sundays, increasing my mileage by 5 miles per week. I used clipless pedals for the first time. I bought a pair of Shimano biking shoes and pedals used, on Craig's list for $20. One of the screws was missing on one of the cleats but my LBS guy gave me one he had in his odd parts bin. It was about 30 degrees out but my feet got cold near the end because I was trying to keep my HR below 65%MHR. There was a slight head wind at times but not constant. I was grateful for the decent weather and clear roads as we haven't had much of either recently.
Here are a couple of photos from the ride to give you an idea of the environment ... relatively quiet, older, suburban streets, not developments. Big trees, some old houses, light traffic. Very pleasant.





Ski Saturday at Stratton VT!

Today was a ski day. Stratton Mtn in VT gives away 10,000 lift tickets per season and my wife and I each got one. That's how we ski. As close to $0 as possible!
Well, as I am wont to say, it was a very educational day. Educational is my euphemism for a bad time. Actually, it wasn't really a bad day. I had a great time. But we got off to a rough start.
Lesson learned #1: don't show up late to a popular resort on a weekend the day after a big snowstorm.
We usually ski on Mondays but this Monday didn't look too good weather-wise ... sleet. Not too much fun in the face while riding the lift. So we went today. But because of an early morning committment we were not able to leave until 9AM and it is a 2 hour ride to the resort. When we did finally get there, parking lots 1 and 2 were filled and the third was at Sun Bowl which is a side of the mountain we had never been to before and even there it was packed! The lodge was a real zoo by 11 with no room to move or put our stuff.
Lesson #2: get your problems fixed BEFORE getting to the slope.
My wife had been having trouble clicking into her bindings the last couple of times we went out but this time she absolutely could not get into one of the skis. So we took off our skis and trotted back to the rental shop (which was absolutely packed) to try to get the bindings adjusted. I got a little pushy here and inserted myself into the queue. Fortunately we got a cooperative tech who adjusted the bindings quickly for us, no charge.

We finally got on the lift and made our first run. We're still looking for green trails at least for the warm-up runs. The conditions were difficult for us. There were several inches of fairly dry powder but the trail was really narrow and rough from use. Because of conditions and the fact that we were overdressed, we really got totally drenched with sweat and really tired out. We also didn't have any water with us so we thought we'd go back to the lodge, drink a bunch of water and regroup. I decided to go back out and scope out a different run. This was a short section of blue trail that had become essentially a field of moguls on a steep, wide trail. I wound up doing traverses back and forth across the slope and I did alright with that approach. Most of the other skiers seemed to be having the same problem with it. They were standing around wondering what their next move was going to be.
Anyhow, the long and the short of it was that it seemed to be an easier run that the first one possibly because the trails were mostly wider. I did this run a couple more times and I really kind of got to enjoy the moguls once I figured out how to ski between them. I really beat up my knees though. Don't want to do that too often. Was a good workout. Should have worn my heart rate monitor. Anyway, here are the pics:
This is the top of the "mogul field". Trail name was "Way Home". You can't see the moguls from here.

'Nother view

Another shot of the top of "Way Home"

This section gave me some trouble, choppy, fast and narrow (for me anyway)

White out from the lift! We were getting squalls off and on all day interspersed with bright sunshine!

More white out!