Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm (mostly) a man

I read about the Genderanalyzer over on BikeSnobNYC and thought I'd try it out. Initially, I was apprehensive, because I'm sure I have stereotypical feminine qualities that pop out in my writing -- talking about shoes, for example. Luckily (for my ego), I'm definitively a dude. Well, the site is 70% sure anyway. I blame the talking about shoes and the cat (and the pictures of me in lycra) for any uncertainty.

What made my day was when I put in RDM's site.

It's always gratifying to know that you're more of a man than your brother. And he doesn't wear lycra and write about shoes, so I'm not sure what he can have as an excuse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I ordered another pair of shoes

I know, I know...

But these are so cool and they're green.

I read about END Footwear in a recent issue of Runners World that my friend gave me and my interest was piqued. The company's story is worth checking out.

Beyond the environmental impact, I was most intrigued by the minimalist design. I'm a big believer (as a result of my own injury experience) that many of today's running shoes are overbuilt. My current shoes (Vitruvian) are about as spartan as you can get and work great for me, but I wanted to try a "racier" shoe (in terms of weight, not sex-appeal). I'll be honest though -- the Vitruvians are not the coolest looking thing out there and the END shoes are pretty sharp.

On top of all that, these are $60 sneakers. For some reason, that's my "this is an awesome thing to try and if it doesn't work out, whatever"-price point (my Vitruvians are $60 -- and those worked out great). The more solid trail runners and light hikers are a little more, but the entire range is less than $100 -- that's almost unheard of in today's footwear marketplace.

Oh yeah, I ordered Hannah a pair too. Because -- clearly -- now I no longer only get excited about my own running shoes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Crushing the dream

On Friday, I was in Boulder for a bike fuel and lactate test. I wanted to do it for two reasons:
1) I feel like my training is a lot of shooting in the dark. I wanted a better sense of the efforts I should be using in my day-to-day workouts.
2) It seemed really cool and I didn't want another "thing" for my birthday. Instead, I got some neat looking spreadsheets (that you can see below -- exciting!).

What I learned: I'm not good enough to be a pro athlete. Once the shock has worn off and you've climbed back in your chair, you can read on to see what the test was like and what the results mean.

**Warning - This might be boring**
The test was basically on a very high-end stationary bike that is adjustable so it could mimic my exact position on my tri bike. After I warmed up for about 25 minutes, Mat, the tester, took a blood sample (by pricking my finger) and then measured my blood lactate for a baseline.

Then, I got all dorked out with a heart rate monitor and a mask that connected to a machine that measured my breathing output (and whatever sort of stuff is measurable when you breathe).

We started the test by ramping up to 110 watts. Every five minutes Mat would take a new blood sample then increase the resistance by 15 watts. To sum up, eventually I couldn't really turn the pedals anymore and there was all sorts of spit and sweat flying.

Here are the expensive graphs/charts:
This one shows what energy sources I'm using as the effort increases. It's good that my fat burning is pretty level the whole way across, although it could stand to be raised significantly.

I'm not exactly sure that this means in science terms, but you can see the lactate go through the roof once I pass 170 watts. In unscientific terms it means I can't go very hard for very long. And "hard" for me is not actually that many watts.

This is what I was most interested in. It gives me all the HR and wattage zones that I was looking for.

I didn't really know how to interpret all of this, so luckily, Alan, Endurance Corner's resident physio wiz, explained it to me. In a nutshell (mostly in Alan's words, pulled from the e-mails he sent me):

-My absolute power output is woeful (that's my observation; Alan was much more polite), but my power to weight ratio is decent. That means I have better potential for success on climbing courses. I have a good tolerance to a wide range of power levels and should look at courses like Placid or Canada for a best relative result. (Well, that works out).

- I have a good base-level of training. In terms of limiters, there's a lot of upside that can come from increasing my FTP (functional threshold power).

- I also need to do more at "steady" -- basically, try to close the gap between the black and gray fields in the second chart.

- More steady-state training will ultimately prove to be the quickest path to improving my short-term IM performance. Extending my FTP will help me out in the long-term.

Straight from Alan's e-mail: "In summary, you're quite 'fit' but not as 'fast' as you could be on the basis of your fitness. This is not to say that there is not more room for improvement in your 'fitness' but, IMHO, in the name of balance and getting some return on your investment, some of your basic week should be devoted to higher intensity training."

Now, everything's relative. I clearly have a lot more "fitness" I can attain. That's evidenced by the fact that I couldn't get past 215 watts (for contrast, there are a lot of people that race ironman at an average 215 watts).

So, the short answer that came out of the test for me: I need to be working harder (actual "hard" efforts or "steady." No more noodling around). There's more in the results, but it gets a lot less compelling for anyone that isn't me.

Was it worth it for me? Absolutely. I'd even consider going back a year from now to see if anything has changed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Living the dream

I was out in Colorado over the weekend living my professional triathlete dream and getting some physiological testing done. As it turns out, my pro-triathlete dream involves killing myself on a stationary bike, getting my finger pricked every five minutes, and wearing a Darth Vader mask. I should also add that this was my birthday present from Hannah. A present I asked for.

Not surprisingly, the test revealed that I don't have what it takes to be a pro triathlete. Luckily, we planned a weekend trip around it to soften the blow. I'll talk about the fun part in this post, then I'll talk hiking and beer and such, torture that it was.

I kid; I'll talk about the vacation first, then I'll talk about the fun stuff later. ;-)

Skipping around my lab test on Friday, I wandered about Boulder for a few hours, looking at all the fit people and getting accosted by what seemed like hundreds of college kids asking me if I voted yet. Seeing as how the election wasn't for a few days, I was a little confused.

Hannah came in Friday night and we went for a hike to the top of a peak (Bear Peak) on Saturday. Normally I'd post some awesome pictures, but our digital camera was playing games. When the battery indicator said it had 75% power (when I checked before we left the hotel), it actually meant it had 75% power for one more picture. So you get this one.

I was able to trick the camera into thinking it had a little more life in it once more at the top of the mountain.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Boulder, then headed back to Denver to shower and go out for dinner (elk burger = good).

Sunday was some more leisurely strolling around Denver, a visit to the REI flagship store, more people questioning us if we had voted yet, a stop in the Colorado history museum, and some more good beer and food. Then it was off to the airport and back to New Jersey/Texas.