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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fat Tempo Ride

A great ride this Saturday, finally.  It's been too long since I have gone out for a long-ish ride.  I had 4 hours to use and decided to see what I could do on the fatbike in that time.  Instead of exploring side trails and risk pushing the bike I thought a tempo ride would be in order.  Something where I can see if my heart rate training and riding have made a dent of improvement.  I also wanted to assess the sodium thing.

I geared up as I were going out to race the ITI, with the exception of a sleeping bivy and chose the Teller road.  It was covered with enough snow to simulate a really solid trail ride, not enough for grinding and has great rolling hills for climbing.  The temps were a perfect 5 - 15 degrees with very little wind.  

I managed 21 miles in 2 hrs 6 min and turned around. At the turn around I drank half a liter with nuun tabs and ate a gu.  Ten miles later I drank the rest of the liter and took an S-cap.   I rode and it felt easy.  A fantastic ride completely the opposite of the other day.  I finished up at the house in 3 hrs 56 min for a total of 42 miles.  I could've gone all day at that pace.   

What I found interesting is that for longer rides I inherently go at the slower HR & wouldn't even need a monitor but it was extremely helpful in limiting a blow up on the climbs. Average was 129 with a high of 158 but mostly stayed around 140 while riding.  Initially I thought the nuun, s-cap and gu were to much sodium but felt really great with no adverse affects.  Energy levels were solid and I was able to play with the family afterwards. The next day nothing abnormal or sore.     
Ptarmigan flying off. 

Can see the Teller road snaking off in the distance.  What a great day for a ride. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gear. What piece....

.....can I buy for the throat / face climbing hold?

...I was glad to find this piece of gear though.

Put on some shades, these puppies are bright.  If I ever need to be found in the snow I think the fluorescent yellow will pop out at 10,000 ft up.  This is my latest gear addition for the clipless pedal setup.  When the weather changed to cold, wind and snow I had to do something.  Basic bike shoes weren't cutting it and I just don't know if I should stay clipless so didn't want to jump into Lake boots. I found these at Team Estrogen . com, which is a little bit funny b/c there is no Team Testosterone .com. So far they work surprisingly well.  They are cycling overboots but with windstopper and goretex material. It's light, fit well, and act as gaiters with no issues pushing the bike through deep snow.  They breath ok and good enough for any shoe, even if I wore some crocs under them they would work now. The real test will be a full day outing at -20 so we'll see.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A fools bike

Sometimes I loath snow biking.

I suppose that’s why cross training keeps me sane but the recent snows, freeze, etc.. enticed me to believe I would be jazzed about snow biking. Yesterday I was not. 

The roads are icy, the traffic scary, the larry tires are running on low PSI and by the time I was able to get to my fun climbing hill where I can bike on a steep ‘technical’ snowy road, it was only a few minutes behind my running time.  The boring part of the ride is going from my house to the base of Anvil, about 4 miles.  Normally, a nice warmup (riding or running) as it’s a gradual uphill all the way on the road.  Only now the snow on the shoulder adds resistance, the low tire pressure adds resistance and to top it off the afternoon north wind kicks up an annoying headwind.  That adds resistance.  All said and done my speed is a frustrating 6-13 mph depending when the next gust of wind decides to bear down.  If I add a bigger ring and stand up to ride it’s more comfortable but the headwind plus riding speed negates any benefit from the added power.  I wish I had a power meter, maybe looking at watts instead of speed and heart rate will make me feel better but it certainly won’t get me there faster. 

Once on the dexter bypass road the Anvil mnt turn off is a steep dirt (now snow) road about a mile to the top.  The road at the top of Anvil continues where you can ride a circle around the mountain and pop out back on the dexter bypass road a couple of miles further up.  I’ve been itching to ride the loop on snow but by the time I grind & grunt to the top of Anvil an hour has past, same as my running time.
A few hundred yards before the WWII era radar towers I see fresh muskox tracks in the snow and cautiously search for the herd or the culprit.  Sure enough he (or she) is hanging 20 yards ahead camouflaged in the thick willows next to the road.  I’ve come to dislike these critters, they have thwarted many workouts over the years in their roaming packs. These animals have a tendency to appear docile but they will charge at the drop of a hat (or at least for me) and where there’s one there’s a herd somewhere hiding around. They’ve decided to mill closer to town lately and have even gored a number of dogs this year.  In any case, they don’t seem to move for barking dogs, trucks or humans on bikes.  I went off trail pushing the bike through the willows to hike a bike around the beast. While I eventually made it, I then had to bail and head home.  Time is a factor.
From the top of Anvil without a snowy road I can zoom down and join the main road, cruising, pedaling hard (it’s generally all downhill back to town) maintain my heart rate and I’m at the house in 15 minutes.  Only the icy snow road is so treacherous I have to run down the mountain with the bike. Once on the road I have to brake constantly downhill, (no shoulder) it’s slick and not pedaling, my heart rate drops to 75.  At my house it a dissillusioned 1 hour 30 minutes total for 11 miles; my running time is faster for the same route. 
None of this is new nor unexpected but yesterday, for whatever reason, it was just plain ole frustrating.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beach Day

I may have too many pics of the beach but I just love the coast. Any beach actually though Nome's are some of the finest around, doesn't matter the time of year. The temps dropped and it's now fun riding on the runway of frozen sand, gathering & cutting wood.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Change of Heart

Aside from the electrolytes and nutrition obsession, I’ve been reevaluating my training.  A family with two little kids eats up a good chunk of time (in a good way) with little left for training and/or going out in the country.  Those fine multi-day misadventure excursions have generally eroded, for now, which is not necessarily a negative.  I am able to get out each day for 1-2 hours and a longer outings once a month. To make the most of that time I need to focus intensely on my goals.  

After placing only ~130th overall and 30th in my age group on both triathlons (at least I'm consistent) this summer, I was totally blown away at the competition.  Older men and women were blasting by me at times.  What were these folks doing in training?  It certainly wasn’t just a $10,000 bike or fancy running shoes or they all had genetically high V02 max.  I started looking a little closer at what ironman coaches were advertising on the web, what kind of research was out there to support training methods.  It certainly is a huge sport with extreme competition, $ponsor$hip and tremendous variability in coaching styles.  It’s also one of the few endurance sports with ESPN type pros that basically anyone can sign up to race.  Therefore there seems to be quite a bit of endurance physiological data out there on elite and non-elite racers.   A little online extraction from interviews, articles and blogs of the pros led to some interesting reading too.  There definitely seems to be a trend of efficiency of time, core training, (very) strong emphasis on recovery and heart rate and a number of pro’s commented on the importance of a professional bike fit with a known fitter.  Certainly nothing earth shattering but still insightful that interval training while important wasn't the most important.  
Heart Rate
I basically made a decision to try something a little different, more structured in my limited time so I could train for both the 350 ITI this winter and a full ironman in the spring.  My background is swimming and typically I’m a big fan of high intensity cross training; swimming, core workouts, biking and running- it was the hard intensity level I thought made the best use of time.  Going back to the basics of heart rate seemed like a risk.  I never trained with heart rate and kind of scoffed at it as I always thought it was the easy way out (training at a lower HR). However, it's what a lot of the endurance world does, apparently, and this past b-day I got a Suunto Heart rate monitor from my 3 yr old daughter.  The Swiss in me absolutely loves looking at my heart rate watch.  The first thing I did was wear it to sleep and got my low HR which was somewhere around 38. Interesting stuff, especially uploading my sleep HR. Almost like a sleep study, can see spikes from dreaming... or when the baby cries.  Then the following day I slammed some intervals to get my high HR. It was easy to get above 180 in running uphill but could barely get to 180 on the bike up the steepest riding hill I could find.
I’ve been doing the heart rate training for about a month now.  Essentially 3rd zone or 70-80% max HR in both running and biking, focusing on hills.  It’s hard to go slow but what a difference how I feel.  My recovery is instant, I am going longer distances and I can get up and do it again the next day or if I had time just keep going.  If I keep my HR at a low HR zone right at 146 I can climb anything.  It is also interesting to see how biking HR and running are totally different. Biking (grinding) in snow uphill at 2mph at a 146 HR is waaay easier to control HR than pushing a bike at the same speed (HR 158). Now that's interesting b/c sometimes one perceives grinding a bike harder than pushing but maybe not? It certainly would explain how depleted I am pushing over Rainy.  

We have two hills close to town called Anvil and Newton.  They are both about 1,000 ft of gain and both trails are right about a mile in length so it’s fairly steep.  I ride with the fatbike up Newton and run up Anvil usually from town.  Although the recent snow considerably slowed my pace; 4 miles in an hour while I was wandering aimlessly  pushing my bike up Newton in zero visibility-

I won’t know the effects until I race but I would cautiously say I am optimistic (unless of course I am running down tundra in a snow storm and twist my ankle as I did last Sunday or fall (again) from the clipless pedals as I did yesterday).  Theoretically, the slower pace may be good for the ITI and afterwards I can throw in interval training for the ironman to get some speed.  We'll see... as in my last post, to be continued…

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweat & Salty

I frequently obsess about the edema my body experience(s/d) in all my ITI races. I've had it in severe form and mild. While the 2008 race was the most severe, (injuries + 17 lbs of edema), the most severe form of straight-up edema (without injury) was coming into Rohn (2010) about 200 miles into the race. That was bad.
Edema in Ruby, 2008 ITI
I have asked other racers if they experience swelling. Most admit to a much milder version at one time and others, I get a shrug of the shoulders as it's par for the course. I now pay particular attention to the way people look at the end of the race in McGrath. Swelling is easily explained right? Punishing our bodies to extreme limits, days at a time on lack of sleep can certainly account for a build-up of toxins and cause some localized swelling- especially if there is an overuse injury.  But edema is the buildup of fluid in the body not localized except by gravity (my face was puffy when lying flat and my legs swollen when upright).

Before the Susitna race this year I asked a friend of mine, who is a sports medicine doc and knows my history, to consider me a patient . He mulled it over and finally said "it's got to be hypoanatremia, there's no other explanation". Hypoanatremia is a situation where there is too little sodium in your body fluids. It is a well known condition in any endurance race and can be dangerous. You may start retaining fluid (though there are other serious conditions that cause edema in ultra's) and many ultra running races have weigh in stations to check weight for this condition.  

Nutrition is easy to blame in endurance races. Hitting the wall, bonking, dying like a pig whatever the term it's all related to reaching a point of depletion, nutritional or training related. I've spent a lot of time thinking about replenishing calories during a race and less on "electrolytes". Lately I've been more focused on electrolytes. Electrolytes are generally sodium, chloride and potassium lost by sweating. Sodium replenishment is easily overlooked, after all, every trail food on the planet has salt (sodium chloride) in peanuts, jerky, pretzels, Cheetos, potato chips, etc and every checkpoint we gorge on some super high calorie yummy sodium filled delights.  If anything I assumed I was low on potassium and that was the major reason for adding electrolyte tablets.

Occasionally, I follow some of the ultra running races and read race reports with interest in their nutrition description. I noticed that many of the top racers are "eating" not only gu packetsss an hour but also adding an S cap each hour. It seemed standard practice and I began to pay more attention to sodium. Sodium and potassium loss is entirely dependant on how much we sweat and other complicated individual physiological factors, but most directly related to sweat. According to this article in sports medicine the recommendation for endurance racing (longer than 4 hours) is to replenish 300 - 1000 ml of water an hour and about .5 up to 1 gram of sodium (~2.5 grams of salt) per hour! First of all that's quite a range and shows how varying conditions (temperature, humidity) can be in a race. Second of all that seems like a lot per hour for a lower intensity 350 or 1000 mile (cold temp) snow bike race. 

Then I read this article on horse racing and electrolyte replenishment, made me glad I wasn't a horse. A horse can sweat 10 liters / hour when racing in some cases. That's 50 grams of sodium, 83 chloride and 52 grams potassium. 50 grams of sodium would be 10 cans of spam an hour! Ouch, can you imagine carrying hydration and calories for a race with that amount to consume? Thorough bred horse racing is intriguing because there is a ton of money on a good horse.  It pays to know these things and the owner/rider is going to push that horse to its' limits.  Me, on the other hand, I ain't no thorough bred but I do put myself on the edge physically at times.  It's nice to know electrolyte replacement is not unique to human athletes. 

Na+ Calculations
In the 2008 ITI by day 10 I had been doing consecutive 18 hr days of bike pushing. When asked about my nutrition I would say “yes, I felt like I was completely replenishing my electrolytes…” Hmmm, 18 hrs a day of exhausting bike pushing through deep snow—according to the article above I should be taking in 9-18 grams of sodium/ day!!!... that’s something like 18 cans of beef broth or 18 bags mountain house meals or 30 (2 oz) bags of Cheetos or 4 complete bags of pretzel rods or 54 gu packets a DAY just to get my sodium. Not quite a horse's intake but um no, I wasn't even close not even half.

In the 2010 ITI I came into Rohn unrecognizable with swelling. It was (hot) close to 40 degrees and I had been pushing for over 24 hrs straight. It took me 16 hours to recover and keep going. And I did keep going all the way to Nome and didn't swell again after that. Why? Don't really know. The temp dropped -20 to -50 the rest of the race, maybe I didn't sweat as much?

2011 Tri's:
Lake Stevens Triathlon (Temp 60-70)    Timberman Tri (Temp 80-90)
Time:                         5 hrs 00 mi                                   5 hrs 01 min
Hydration:      2 liters with 2 nuun tabs          3 liters with 2 nuun tabs
Caloric intake:       1,000 (5 gu packets)                   1,000 (5 gu packets)
Sodium intake:          1.6 grams                                         1.6 grams
Possible Na+ Used  5 grams                                           5+ grams 
Na+ depletion:       3.4 grams                                        3.4+ grams 

It's science but not really rocket science, it's more of a "duh" moment than an "aha" one.  But we'll see if improvement is on the way. I rec'd my S Caps in the mail, now I just have to get out for a long ride....and I have another dr. f who may be willing to complete basic blood panels to check my personal electrolyte levels throughout.... be continued..