Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mt Whitney training hike results: A-OK

Last night, our Mt Whitney summit team (minus one) did an overnight training hike up at Squaw Valley, USA by climbing to the four peaks that ring the Squaw Valley ski area.

I'm happy to report that the team passed the hike with flying colors.

We left the Bay Area at 8pm and arrived to Squaw Valley at midnight. We donned our boots and packs and headlamps and started hiking through the smoky pitch black up to the top of KT-22.

After bagging our first peak at KT-22, we traversed over to the top of Headwall, then across snow fields in Siberia Bowl to Squaw Peak and the Siberia Ridge and finally ended at the marker for Emigrant Pass before walking down the main jeep trail back to the Valley floor over 2700 feet below as the sun was coming up in the East (pictured above).

Why this overnight hike? I'd done the exact same training hike last summer in preparation for my first trip to the top of Mt Whitney. The training hike helped me get over my jitters that I could hike all night long (I can) as well as tested my ability to do the elevation gains and losses during the extended travel. From the sounds of it, the rest of the team appreciated being able to hike overnight, too... it was a first for everyone (and I hope not a last).

The wildfires all over Northern California made it a very hazy/smoky hike, though not to the extent that our lungs were bothered. The weather was surprisingly warm all night, yet we still had several snow fields to hike across on our adventure. In all, the team did a great job of pushing through and gaining the confidence we'll need for our single-day, overnight assault of Mt Whitney on July 11.

Personally, though... WOW, what a difference a year makes! Whereas last year I was near the beginning of my current health kick, as of today, I can say I'm now in great shape. While I struggled last year with some of the ascents at Squaw (especially from KT-22 to Headwall) with a lot of stopping and resting, this year felt like a walk in the park. Thanks to twelve months of endurance training for triathlons, my cardiovascular endurance is 1000 times better, as is my muscular strength, and I'm carry 35 pounds less on my frame than last year on the same hike.

All this has left me positively giddy about the physical progress I've made.

Most importantly, I feel like the trip up Mt Whitney in less than two weeks won't tap me out like it did last time when I bonked in the last couple miles on the return to the cars. Since I'm leading the group this year, I've got to have extra energy in my tanks to handle anything unforeseen.

And if last night's hike is any indication, I've got those reserves in spades. Can't wait to make it to Lone Pine on July 10 and the top of Whitney on July 11 at dawn!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Training for the triathlon swim (humor)

Yes, this video's been around for a while, but this past weekend's triathlon was a good reminder of how different the race is from the training.

I should get my group of friends to help me better prepare like this for the turmoil that is the triathlon swim start:

Thanks, Clif Bar!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tri for Fun Pleasanton race report

Triathlon number two, the Tri for Fun of Pleasanton, CA, is under my belt, and I think I'm hooked. For this race, there were no timing chips distributed, only a clock overhead at the finish line so you can eyeball your time and subtract out your wave start to get the total time.

I managed to finish the 400m swim, 11 mile ride and 3.1 mile run in 1:12:33 which is better than the 1:15 I was aiming for, but I think with a little more work, I can pull it closer to the 1:05 mark by the time the August race rolls around.

I wore my Timex watch to capture the splits plus or minus a second or two and they fell out like this:
  • Swim: 8:08
  • T1: 3:00 (!)
  • bike: 31:25 (avg 21.1 mph)
  • T2: 1:40
  • run: 28:20 (9:40 per mi)
The good: The swim went much better this time than last. I was a lot more comfortable in the water, and had a nice stead stroke throughout even though I took the long way around hanging on the outside of the pack. The bike was definitely my strongest and a big improvement riding my Felt instead of the K2. Happy I averaged over 21mph and with aerobars, I'll go even faster next time. Only two walking episodes on the run and these were on short uphill sections when others were barely moving faster while they were "running" up the hill.

The bad: My T1 time sucked, plain and simple. I didn't even have to wrestle with a wet suit! I do know I spent a good 30 seconds trying to get my tri shirt on, which is something I struggled with in my first race, too. I've got to work on my run pace to get that down (no walking!) and make sure I leave more of me on the race course. I again crossed the finish line (overtaking someone in the last 100 yds) with some energy left in the tank. Better planning will mean I push harder longer and bring my times down.

For next time: Several things I plan to do before the next triathlon on August 16, one of which is already done:
  • swim: work on the open-water swim and sighting techniques
  • T1: I stopped by Sports Basement yesterday and used my 20% off coupon to buy an Orca one-piece tri suit and a race number belt to chop a good 40 seconds off my T1
  • bike: install my aerobars and train with them
  • T2: practice dismounting technique
  • run: work on my increasing pace and continue to increase endurance
Still, I had a great time yesterday and enjoyed the camaraderie of Thom and Neil and the friendly competition between us three (Thom finished ~4 minutes ahead of me and Neil finished 30 seconds ahead). I know we'll push each other in future races, too.

I'm also so very proud of a couple of my triathlete coworkers, Linda and Dimple. Not two weeks after dismounting at the end of the 570+ mile ALC bike ride from SF to LA, Linda showed up in Pleasanton with a strong showing in the race. And Dimple notched another achievement by competing in and completing her first triathlon. I'll find out Monday if Dimple's going to become a repeat racer like Linda and I. In any case it's great to work with folks like these.

Now, it's time to focus on making it to the summit of Mt Whitney on July 11.

Friday, June 20, 2008

preparing for the Tri for Fun - Pleasanton

Tomorrow morning at 7am, I start my second ever triathlon at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park in Pleasanton, CA.

This one's a "Tri for Fun" meaning there's no competition for places or medals or prizes, you're simply competing against yourself to finish as best you can.

Tomorrow's Tri for Fun is the first of a series of three that's held on the third Saturday of each summer month in prep for the "Tri for Real" on September 20 when they'll time the field and award medals for age bracket top finishers, etc. Tomorrow's race is simply a "get out there and do it" and it's not even timed. (I'll be doing my own timing to report back).

And this triathlon's short, too. Only 400m swimming and 11 miles biking and a 3.1 mile run to finish things off. After completing the Ice Breaker Triathlon earlier this year at longer distances for each leg (800m/13mi/4mi), I'm not as concerned about finishing tomorrow's race, mostly because the swim tomorrow is so short and I've been doing the masters workouts that are five times as long the swim tomorrow.

I'm excited to do the race anyway, especially as one of my coworkers will be doing her first-ever triathlon (go, Dimple!) and I'll be racing again with Thom, my good friend who helped me through my first triathlon in April.

Can't wait to blog about the results tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

update: avoiding cramps while swimming

I'm happy to report I've made it through two consecutive Masters swim workouts of 2000m each without getting those debilitating cramps in my calves.


I attribute my success to a couple pointers I'd picked up researching the cramping-while-swimming problem:
  1. Good kick form: when switching to the breast-stroke kick mid-workout, I've concentrated on my form. Unlike before, I've kept my foot locked in place throughout the entire kick stroke. Previously, I'd relaxed the ankle, and I think that was contributing to muscle fatigue.
  2. Biting my upper lip: Really, it works! (for me) This past workout, I could feel one of my toes starting to cramp up, so I bit my upper lip as best I could for the next length of the pool (kinda hard to do that and breathe appropriately) and it worked! I don't know how or why, it just did. Yes, I must've looked like a piranha, but I was a cramp-free piranha.
I hope tomorrow's swim makes it three in a row without cramping.

Oh, and I also learned not to try to bite my upper lip while doing the breaststroke: it simply opens up the nasal passages for a good flushing of the sinuses. You're welcome!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

a new bike and a numb groin

Early Saturday morning, I took my new Felt Z35 out for a 24-mile ride. Now, four days later, I'm still feeling the lingering effects of a numb groin. Not as bad as Saturday afternoon's "can't feel a thing" but definitely not back to normal sensitivity.

Turns out this condition is technically referred to as "perineal symptoms" and there's been a lot of content around it thanks to commercial development of seats designed to relieve pressure on the perineal area.

I'm not yet ready to invest in a new saddle, so I've been looking around at what the Google has to offer in response to "bike perineal symptoms" and trying not to get scared of all the ED mentions alongside the perineal symptoms.

The best advice I've seen so far is an article over on about Groin Numbness and Bike Riding where they give the following recommendation on how to prevent perineal symptoms:
    1. Stand up frequently on the pedals to take pressure off the perineum.

    2. Change your position on the saddle while biking. Shift forward and backward when you ride to eliminate pressure on just one part of the perineum.

    3. Experiment with adjusting the angle of your saddle so that it tilts slightly downward.

    4. Wear bike shorts. They have chamois padding in the perineal area that will help relieve pressure.

    5. Adjust the height of your handlebars slightly until you find a comfortable position. Handlebars below the saddle may work well for road or racing bikes, but perhaps not as well for touring or hybrids.

    6. Make sure that your seat post is adjusted to the proper height. Your knee should be just slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal cycle.

    7. Limit the number of miles that you pedal. This may not be desirable for all riders, but number of miles per week can be a factor.
I'll give items 1-3 a try next time out and report back on my results.

UPDATE: Great to see The Climb blog over on tackling this "intimacy numbness" issue today. Great content in the comments so far, especially the link to this Bicycling Magazine story debunking the link between saddle time and ED.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

intrigued by this power meter training thing

Ever since reading Your First Triathlon and following the training plan therein to help me finish my first triathlon, I've been a subscriber to Joe Friel's blog.

Joe's been talking a lot in his blog about using power meters to train better, and what he writes just makes plain sense to me. Today's post on the downside of power training includes this lovely rhyme when talking about trying to maintain speed into a headwind:
A watt is a watt. A mile-per-hour is not.
Until I start going long distances in my races (and have the time for the more involved training), I just can't see putting out that much money for a power meter (yet).

In the meantime, I'm appreciative of the frame through which to view my own training. In my own mind, at least, I think I'm moving from "I hope I finish" to "I hope I go faster."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

new bike first ride and a little crash

I didn't mean to start my first ride on my new carbon Felt Z35 with a crash within sight of my house. It just happened.

Lucky for me, it was a no-speed, can't-get-my-foot-unclipped, oh-crap-I'm-falling-over accident. No scratches to the bike (whew!), but today I've learned I bruised a rib pretty badly in the brief encounter with the asphalt. No other bumps, bruises or scrapes that I can tell.

So, I knew I needed to be careful on the Felt, as I was making a transition from my K2 hybrid bike sit-up bike to a road bike. It's been about 18 years since I last pedaled around on a road bike, not since college when I rode around with the UCSD cycling folks. And in the intervening years, I'd gotten comfortable riding motorcycles and mountain bikes and had generally forgotten what it's like to have so much weight over the handlebars. It was this weight over the bars that was my undoing at the start.

We live on a bit of a hill, and normally that's no problem as it allows me to coast down to the T intersection to start my rides.

Yesterday was different, however, as I was a little unnerved by the gearing and the shifters of my new Felt, and by the time I'd coasted down to the corner, I was in the wrong gear and desperately trying to do something, anything to maintain momentum until, shit here comes the curb, must stop. Whew stopped yet can't yank my foot out of the clip. whump.

My right side hit the ground and I was back upright before I even realized I'd hit the deck (luckily no traffic around to witness my graceless start). All seemed right with the bike (and me) so I pushed off again and there were no other problems.

The rest of the ride was rather dreamy, to be honest. The shifting was solid (thanks Shimano Dura Ace) and I love the way the bike feels underneath me. I was worried that my gearing had changed dramatically and I'd lost a lot of room in the lower gears so I'd suffer on the hills, but that didn't materialize. I wound up passing quite a few folks out on their own rides, and by the time I was screaming down the last big hill on the way home, I was really appreciating the aggressive posture I was forced into by the configuration of the bike.

Yes, my lower back hurt from the new posture on the bike, but I know I'll get used to that in a little while. The aerodynamic trade off is well worth it.

What I'd blocked out of my memory from my previous road bike days was the fact that the saddle on a road bike puts a lot of pressure on a certain nerve bundle right between your legs. So you lose all feeling down there for a good hour after the ride. Numb like someone shot it full of novacaine. I'll have to read up a bit to see if this is normal. If not, I may have to get a new saddle sooner than later.

In any case, I've posted my Garmin stats from the ride below. It shows heart rate v elevation, and you can see the initial blip in the red line from when my heart went pitter-patter thanks to the crash, then it's back to a regular workout (if a little low throughout). In any case, it was my fastest ride yet.

Now, if only my ribs will heal up enough so that it doesn't hurt when I laugh.