Saturday, July 11, 2009


A ton of stuff to catch up on with this post, so please bear with me... :)

First of all, it was a decent training week. Not a great training week like last week by any means, but definitely not a lost week like the last two weeks of June. Sunday was a rest day, Monday was an unexpected rest day as well (i.e., work!). I got in a good run Tuesday morning. Then the piece de resistance of the week - a run at 3:30 in the morning. I knew I needed to get in a run, because Thursday was going to be another bear of a day... but I had to leave for a one and a half day business trip to Arizona on a 6am flight. So I set the alarm clock for 3:15am, and shocked myself by actually running at a decent pace:

After that small victory, I took another (scheduled) rest day on Thursday before getting in my every-three-weeks long run on Friday. 14 miles in 2:12. And then a rest day (a vacation day!) on Saturday. Sure, it was only three runs, but three pretty solid runs.

And besides, there was no way I was going to be able to ride this week... the Specialized was in the shop. I mentioned in my last post that my bike was "fixed but having some shifting problems". Unfortunately, it wasn't fixed. I took the bike into River City Bicycles on Monday to finally get it fitted and had their mechanics look at it to see if they could adjust the shifters for me. The mechanic that I got pointed out that the derailleur hanger was still bent, and I left it with them to repair. After more adjustment, and replacement of a bent derailleur, I'm finally back in action. I think... since I haven't gotten a chance to take it out on the roads yet.

Sure, I should have gotten some swimming in. There was a brief glimmer of a plan to do that Thursday afternoon, but between travel fatigue and the opportunity to attend an interesting technical lecture at work scuttled that plan.

And now for something completely different... a few weeks ago, I promised a review of the book Spent by Frank Lipman.

My overall impressions were distinctly mixed. On the plus side, he makes some very good points:
  1. "Western" medicine doesn't account for the holistic interactions of the body's systems and things like environmental contaminants, processed foods and the likes.
  2. Naturopathic and Eastern medicine offer some great complimentary approaches (not alternatives) to Western medicine in treating some of the chronic ailments that affect cube-dwellers like myself.
  3. Life has to be approached in whole - looking at diet, stress, lifestyle, habits, spirit, etc. to address quality of life. Just popping a pill (or just getting acupuncture or just _______) will not "fix" things alone.
Within the book, Dr. Lipman offers a lot of great insights into Eastern / Naturopathic remedies. That being said, I didn't find this part of the book that useful, since I've read up on a lot of his suggestions on the naturopathic side (yes, I have a naturopath, and if she suggests or prescribes something, I'm going to read up on it before ingesting it - same as I do with my general practitioner). But those not familiar with these treatments may find it useful - as long as you take some of it with a grain of salt.

Why the grain of salt? Some of the statements in the book are just flat out wrong. For example, Dr. Lipman maintains in one part of the book that homogenization of milk creates new fats. Looking at the context, it's pretty clear that he's saying that "new fats" means chemically different. I hate to tell the man that homogenization does break up fat globules into smaller globs, but it's still the same fat. If you take a stick of butter and cut it into 16 pats, it's still butter - not dynamite. I realize that taking perfectly good grain and turning it into white bread takes out a lot of the nutrients and pretty much ruins the end product health-wise, but his scattered fear mongering makes me wonder a) how many other mis-statements are in there that I didn't catch, and b) why he feels the need to scare people with falsehoods when there are plenty of scary truths out there about modern diet and stress.

Bottom line: he's got some good ideas, but I'd hesitate to recommend his book to anyone that doesn't already have a solid grounding in both diet/nutrition and naturopathy.

The last tidbit this week is something I mentioned earlier in the post... vacation! Christine, the girls and I are heading down to San Diego for a few days of R&R. A nice family road trip. Today we made it to the Redwood State and National Parks of northern California. As you can see below, we found a nice toppled tree to give us a good background for some pictures. :) I'm not sure what internet connectivity I'm going to have the rest of the trip, so I might not check in again with y'all until the 20th. Until then, aloha!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Back on track

Hi everyone! Yes, it's been a while since I last wrote. There were a couple of week-long business trips to the Midwest following my last post, and I spent the last week getting back on track both at work and with my training. But somehow, I managed to keep the important parts of training in place even during the traveling, although I definitely was scoring low on the consistency meter.

Normally, not posting in three weeks, I'd just skip to what's been going on lately, but I do need to write a little bit about the "epic" training ride that I did on June 14th. What made it epic? First of all, it was my first 50+ mile ride in... almost forever. I think I was 13 or 14 the last time I went that far. The goal for this ride was to ride from home to Forest Grove, where I'd meet up with the second half (actually the last 23 miles) of the HulaMan bike leg. That was the second piece of epic-ness, since mile 42 is where the massive Clapshaw hill is. Little did I know that as fun as climbing the hill would be, the descent would also be quite exciting.

I spent that first 70 minutes cruising at a nice 18.0 mph out to join the race course out at the metropolis of Dilley. Note to self: next time, take it easy on the way out so you don't use all your energy that you'll need for climbing! :) The nice thing about cruising the flats is that I got to take in some beautiful scenery on a misty day, with the fog shrouding the hills that I'd eventually be climbing over and through:
Once I got onto the HulaMan course, it was nothing but rollers - some small, some larger. One of the larger rollers was the exact same hill that I curse every year when I run the Oregon Road Runners Club Y2K race. (Side note: This year, it was a 10k and a 20.09k - next year it'll be a 10k and a 20.10k. See the theme? If you run the long distance, you're guaranteed a PR every year up until 2109 or 2110 when it'll be half-marathon distance!)

A little while later, I passed several vineyards, hitting a portion of Oregon wine country that I didn't realize existed. Then I turned off onto Clapshaw Hill road, and saw a hill that will surely be my arch nemesis on August 16th:

Yes, the road is perfectly flat until it hit the trees. If you look closely you can see the yellow sign that warns cars of the upcoming switchbacks. I was pretty happy getting up the first couple of switchbacks chugging along at a 7-8 mph pace, but then my over-loaded frame conspired with gravity to slow me down. Eventually, on the two steepest sections I had to actually get off an walk for about a minute on each. Fortunately, only the trees were around to snicker at me (unlike the last time I had to walk a hill, when a guy on a tractor got in a good chuckle as he was passing).

Once I got to the top, the fun really began. The descent is steep and steady. Since the road curved slightly and I had no idea what was up ahead, I rode my brakes a bit and still hit 37 mph. I did see a trio of cyclists heading up the hill in the other direction and was thinking that they've got a crazy descent ahead of them with the switchbacks! When the road flattened out again and my speed dropped a bit below 30, I was presented with a dilemma: approximately 8 teen Sunday School students from Hillside Bible Church walking almost perfectly spread out across the road.

After somehow dodging them, the road was still slightly downhill when I saw a fork in the road. I knew I was supposed to dart left on Old Clapshaw Hill Road, but the road on the left was a descent on gravel versus going straight on pavement. No way, they wouldn't do that, would they? After I flew past the fork, I saw the sign - yep, I'm supposed to go down the gravel. I slowed down, turned around, took the fork and then had the most puckering 5-10 minutes of riding in my entire life. Riding my brakes the whole way, I was still hitting 15-16 mph... and this is the first time ever I've had 1" tires on gravel.

Finally the road flattened out, and I was actually able to enjoy riding on the gravel at a steadier pace for the conditions. And right before I turned back onto the tri course, I was able to get a nice picture. Keep in mind that this is the flat part, and doesn't do any justice for the descent portion. If I ride this beast again before the tri, I'll be sure to take a good picture. :)

The last 8 miles was pretty uneventful, other than the fact I was thrashed. Between the pretty solid pace on the way out to the course, the challenging rollers, and the gnarly hill, I was done. So on the way back, I was lucky to keep a 16mph pace even on the flats. It was a solid ride, though, and I managed to do the 54.7 miles in 3:20.

Now fast forward a week - a business trip to Wisconsin left me with zero time for training, but I still managed to get in a long run the following weekend: a 12 mile jaunt in 1:53. Yes, I actually kept a 9:23 pace. I guess the week of laziness acted like a mini-taper. :)

Fast forward another week - a business trip to Minnesota, where I did manage to get in a single 5k mile run through the morning humidity. But this time, I didn't manage to get in the scheduled brick - I was hoping to ride 1-1.5 hours then run 4-5 miles, but between spending time re-acquainting myself with the family and celebrating my 38th birthday the weekend brick didn't happen.

However, last Sunday, I managed to start one of the best training weeks I've had... since college? Here's a quick summary:
  • Sunday 4 mile run
  • Monday 3.5 mile run
  • Tuesday 5k run
  • Wednesday 2000 yards in the pool (at a speedy 500s on 8:30 pace!)
  • Thursday rest day
  • Friday long ride (more about that below)
  • Saturday 7 mile ride at a quick 18.7 mph pace (basically a TT in honor of the 1st stage of the Tour de France!)
The long ride yesterday was the best of times, the worst of times. The plan was to ride from home to Hagg Lake, do a lap around the lake (the tri is 1.5 laps) and follow the tri route back to Dilley, then hop over to the tri half-marathon course, ride it, and ride back home for a 55-60 mile ride. It started out great: I kept a 17.0-17.5 mph pace on the way out, leaving me plenty of energy left to deal with the heat (started at 70F, expecting 85F by the end of the ride) and also deal with the hills around the lake.

When I got out to the lake, I had another case of deja vu. Some of the more challenging hills on the SE shore of the lake are the same ones that I powered up on the way to my post-college 10k PR of 52:56 at the ORRC Hagg Lake runs. And once you get fully around the lake, there's another huge descent coming down off a hill, past the dam, down to the state park gate - hitting 35 mph between cars that are also going 30-40 is just a little bit nerve wracking.

Disaster hit once I made the turn onto Old Highway 47. My front derailleur has proven itself to be a little mal-adjusted, as occasionally downshifting on hills, I pop the chain off the small chainring. The first hill I hit on Old 47, it happened again. I've gotten pretty good (I thought) at slowly pedaling the chain back onto the chainring, but not this time. All my pedaling resulted in was the chain somehow jumping off the biggest rear cog into my rear hug, taking the rear derailleur with it, right into the spokes. For those of you that aren't cyclists... that means your rear wheel not longer turns. Fortunately, I had lost a lot of momentum going up the hill, and the slow motion crash that occured was basically due to me not being able to clip out of my pedals quickly enough. It was probably pretty funny, but there was only a wheat field there to watch me.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law was able to come out and get me (I never leave home on a ride without the BlackBerry!), but the bike was more than a little messed up. The force of the derailleur hitting the spokes, transferring all that angular momentum into the derailleur, managed to mangle the derailleur hanger:
Yes, that purple part is supposed to be parallel to the cogs, not crashing into them. And guess what - if that aluminum hanger breaks when you try to straighten it out, you get to buy a new frame. Yikes! Fortunately, once I got back in, I was able to head into Performance Bike in Beaverton, where a mechanic named Eric managed to straighten it out without breaking it, essentially saving a few thousand dollars in the process (for the cost of $20 labor). So other than a scary few hours where I thought the bike was a fatality, and the disappointment of cutting a 60 mile ride to a 32.5 mile ride, it was actually a pretty good day - I still had a lot of energy left after the first 30 miles, so apparently I've learned how to pace myself. :)

Today I did get in a brief ride just to check out the bike (as well as log a stage for MapMyRide's virtual Tour de France). There are still some problems shifting - the rear gears shift just fine when on the small chainring, but I have trouble getting onto the large ring, and when I'm there, there are all sorts of phantom shifts on the rear cogs. It was great fun powering up a small hill only to have my bike shift into a tougher gear all on it's own. :-| I am getting the bike fitted on Monday morning, so maybe they can do a bit of maintenance to bring it the rest of the way back from the dead!

Thus ends, the best calendar week I've had in a long while. We'll see if I can keep it up next week. I've got a long run planned for Friday before work, but have a 1.5 day business trip on Wed/Thurs, so we'll how this week goes. Hopefully I can get in a ride and a swim, along with a couple of runs... it's felt great getting in this level of fitness!

That's all for now folks - I know we've got a fun 4th of July afternoon and evening planned, and I wish all of you a great 4th as well!