Thursday, November 30, 2006

Subjective Training Comfort in the Cold

Isn’t it strange how different we all are in terms of what we consider “cold” for either running or cycling training? I must run on the hotter side than most because I seem to always show up for group rides with the least amount of clothing on when it’s cold. It never ceases to amaze me how early some of my friends break out their balaclavas in the fall. I would be boiling over in five minutes if I had my head completely covered at some of the temps that they pull them on for.

Here are my personal guidelines and thresholds for riding and running in the cold. (I’m not so anal that I follow these to the letter, but these are about where the thresholds are.)

For cycling:
·I use toe covers and knee warmers if the temp is between 45 and 50 degrees F
·I use booties and tights if the temp is below 45
·I use a cycling cap under my helmet if the temp is between 35 and 50
·I use a headband to cover my ears if the temp is between 28 and 34
·I put on the dreaded balaclava if the temp is below 28

For running:
·I wear shorts and short sleeves (or no sleeves) until the temp gets to about 40
·I put on a long sleeve jersey between 35 and 40
·I put on a technical undershirt at 35
·I put on tights at 32
·I put on a wind-breaker type shell at about 27
·I always wear a running cap. It’s great for wicking sweat off my head in the heat, for keeping me warm in the cold, and (by lowering the brim) for blocking out the high-beams of an on-coming car in the dark

There is a former US Olympic team 1500 meter runner who lives locally and writes a bi-weekly running column in our newspaper. She once stated that she puts on tights to run when the temp gets down to only 50 degrees. That would be a recipe for suffering for me!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Extremes & Potentials

I get up every morning at around 5:00 (I told you below that I’m a creature of habit!) and either read or train. This time of year I’m getting more reading done since the training load is a bit lighter. The book I’m reading now is Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. In the book, he describes a human phenomenon he calls “the pain-body”. Each of us has one, it’s just that some are more conscious of it than others and, thus, have mitigated it’s impact in our lives by “dis-identifying” with it. He states that “dis-identifying with the pain-body becomes an awakening and the decisive factor that forces the person into a state of Presence.” He goes on to state that the real being that is each of us is not our ego, but “consciousness that has become conscious of itself.” The worse the pain-body has become for a particular individual, the more that person has to gain and accomplish by becoming consciously aware of it and dis-identifying with it.

I was pondering all of that as it relates to sport and to triathlon. One thing that has continuously struck me as I’ve read the different blogs in this triathlon bloggers’ alliance that Kahuna has created is the number of people who seem to have come to an analogous physical consciousness and awakening through triathlon, especially as it regards losing weight and getting themselves into good physical condition. As stated above, the further a person is into lethargy or obesity, the more she/he has to gain from this awakening and path of action. I think that’s one of the great things about sport, and the welcoming aspect of the triathlon community really supports this kind of individual awakening.

Of course, it must be mentioned that the flip-side of this coin – and one just as deleterious – is the ego’s over-identification with an in-shape and conditioned physical body. I know that this is a constant struggle for me, and one that I try to stay conscious and aware of, although not always so effectively.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bike Shop Curmudgeon

Those of us that live in the particular area of the city that I live in and are avid cyclists recently had an unexpected surprise. We learned that the proprietor of a long-time area bike shop had decided to abruptly close up his shop. Since there is another bike shop – one of the big national bike chain stores – not more than ¾ of a mile from his location, you might wonder why this is a big deal to us. It’s because this guy’s store was designed to serve cycling connoisseurs. He carried high-end stuff, and was an expert mechanic. The problem is that the shop owner had a real “attitude” towards his customers and his prices tended to be a little high. Anyone who had recently visited his store would always regale us on the next group ride about how rude or opinionated the guy had been. Nevertheless, if you had some really tricky repair work to be done or wanted an informed opinion about any of the million bits of cycling minutia, he was the guy to talk to.

When I became a serious cyclist about a decade ago, I realized that I needed to become my own bike mechanic. Even though I’m not very mechanically inclined, I learned to do all of my own basic maintenance. The only things I’m not comfortable with at this point are: 1) building or truing wheels; and 2) installing or working on headsets. Still, there were many times over the years when I found it helpful to drop into the store and seek advice about some bike job I was working on, or to get him to true up a wheel. When I got hit by a car in 2003 (no injuries, thankfully), he used his precision measuring tools to confirm for me that my frame had not been bent. And if I needed new shoes, I could go to his store to actually try them on instead of taking my chances that a mail-order pair would fit.

Now we lose all that. No matter how much we all complained about his “style” of serving his customers, there is a consensus among all of us that live in this area that we’re really going to miss this guy and his store. We complain about it regularly now on rides, even though he’s only been closed about three weeks. So, the next time you’re tempted to mail-order a new chain or cassette in order to save a few bucks, think about that local bike shop guy and about how much you would miss him if he left. I find myself wishing now that I’d patronized him a little more frequently, and the cheaper mail-order shops less so.

Speaking (above) about “becoming my own bike mechanic,” the best tool that I’ve found in this regard is the book “Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance”. It’s by Leonard Zinn who is the technical guru featured in VeloNews (at least he used to be, I haven’t read that mag recently), and is an excellent “how-to” guide for almost everything you could want to do to your bike.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Take-It-Easy Blues

I’ve always said that any smart marketing program should do the exact opposite of what my own personal preferences or desires are. For as long as I can remember, my attitudes about most things have run counter to the prevailing opinion. I know – from reading training advice articles ad nauseam – that these months should be taken as R&R months. I recently read in a Triathelete magazine article by none other than Mark Allen that one should even allow oneself to gain a little weight and become “de-conditioned” so that one can reach a higher level of training in the next season.

So, here I am one week after my last race of the season, the Philadelphia Marathon, having just completed a long holiday weekend of relatively long rides (115 miles over three days after having swam twice and run twice since the marathon last Sunday). Every year at this time I find myself struggling to lay off of the training. Especially since the weather is not yet brutally cold, and I know that it will be in just a few short weeks. I always struggle with wanting to get out to take advantage of the remaining nice weather to get in a few more long rides with my cycling buddies.

This conundrum always makes me think about why I engage in the sports of triathlon. I’ve come to the conclusion that doing what is most important to me is smarter than following “expert advice” so that I can reach higher performance levels next year. I am very much a creature of habit. I absolutely love the routine of training. I also like to keep my body weight within a range band of about +/- two pounds on either side of 165. If I get lighter than 163, I notice that I start to feel weak. If I get heavier than 167, I feel bloated. The easiest way to accomplish this is to continue to work out year-round (with obvious volume adjustments, after all one simply cannot do ironman-level training year-round). Continuing to train keeps me happy, and the “lifestyle aspect” of this is more important to me than theoretically accomplishing a slight marginal performance improvement during the next race season. Am I insane for not wanting to take time off???