Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cross Noob Project Update

About six weeks ago I wrote about getting a cycl0cross bike put together. The project has finally come together. It's a frankenbike if there ever was one.

The Scattante frame (and fork) were practically given to me by Mike Miles.
From Jim Maaske came the Rolf wheelset, cantilever brakes and a saddle.

The 9 speed Tiagra brifter, a cane creek front brake lever, Ultegra crank, 9 spd cassette, handlebars and tires came from Mike Munson.

A carbon fiber wrapped seat tube came from Bryan Redemeske.

The Shimano 105 rear derailleur and the nine speed chain were cast down from Old Yeller.

The remaining parts came from the Trek store.

You may recall that the last post on this project had noted concerns about the integrated headset and the pitted and slightly abnormal shape of the head tube. Upon further review, it was agreed that while the integrated headset is not the best design application for a cyclocross bike, it would still work. The longevity of it is anyone's guess.

Brushing that aside, I took partially assembled bike to the High Gear shop in La Vista for a professional fitting.

After an hour of dialing in my measurements to the fit, the bike started feeling good beneath me. With the frame being slightly smaller than my road bike, a longer stem was needed to cover the difference. With that, it felt really good. I had the steer tube cut to make it permanent.

Alas, my new 'cross bike:

I took it for a spin around the block yesterday. Weighing in just under 19lbs, its 53cm aluminum frame and carbon fork provides a smooth ride with quick handling. The bike's 1x9 gearing offers enough power for the hills and its cantilever brakes are ideal for mud and gunk that off-roading brings.

And while the fit was right on -- and I'm excited to have a cyclocross bike -- something still didn't feel quite right. It needed an extra something... a final touch that would leave no doubt that this bike belonged to me.

I settled on this.

Much better.

Somebody ring a cowbell for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We got one of those in South Dakota

Years ago, my brother Matt and I were fortunate to go to Europe for a month. It was a graduation present from our parents to expand our horizons through experiencing other cultures. What a terrific time that was. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Shortly after arrival, we found ourselves swept up among a pack of fellow North Americans. While we were from all over the States and Canada, the two women from South Dakota made the only lasting impressions.

Before I write another word, let me first say that I have nothing but respect for the State of South Dakota in general. Let's face it, fellow Nebraskans, we're not much different than our northern neighbors. Sure, they've got Mt Rushmore, but we've got our own totemic monument in carhenge, and what's more excessively American than a timeless tribute to the automobile?

Now about these two SD women. Within a few days they were grating on the group's nerves. They talked incessantly. They were loud and brash. And it soon became apparent that they had dissimilar interests and budgets than the rest of the group. For example, when we wanted to go to Versailles, they wanted to shop for $1,500 Haute couture leather boots. As Matt and on were traveling on less than $15/day, even coffee became a luxury.

So by the time we arrived in Florence, there was a lot of animosity in the group towards these two. But to everyone's delight, they made an announcement on the platform that they were going to catch the next train to continue their journey to Greece.

"But what about Michelangelo's David," I suddenly blurted out.

Eyes were rolling. I could almost hear the thoughts of others telling me to shut up.

"We'd rather go lay out on the beaches in Greece"

Somebody gasped.

"But it's a masterpiece!"

"Oh the David? We've seen it already; we got one of those in South Dakota."


I was reminded of these two at the Des Moines Marathon this past weekend.

Before the race, I was among hundreds who escaped the chilly morning air by ducking into a nearby hotel lobby. Along the wall, an elite marathoner was sitting on a couch. I knew he was running the marathon because he was the only person sitting in the crowded room and distance runners value resting their legs before the race. I also knew that he was an elite athlete by his small build and his Kenyan accent. Since I also running the full marathon, I was fully qualified to sit. I plopped down next to him.

Near us was a group of women who were already mid-conversation with the Kenyan.

"What's your fastest marathon time?"

"2:22," he replied.

There was a buzz of excitement in the whispers shared among them.

"Where's your next race?"

"South Korea"

Blank looks.

"You mean South Dakota, right?" the woman inquired.

"South Korea," he reiterated.

More whispering.

Then again, this time more sheepishly, "Don't you mean South Dakota, U - S - A ?"

"No. My next race is in South Korea. It takes 13 hours to fly there."

"I TOLD YOU HE SAID SOUTH KOREA!!" she repeated triumphantly back to the group.


As for me, I completed the marathon in 3:01.25.

Overall, the race was organized well. There were plenty of aid stations along a course that was quite scenic, albeit challenging. The first half had lots of hills not unlike what you'd encounter in midtown Omaha. The second half was flat as a pancake. It was a calm and 32F at gun time; later, the 20mph southern winds brought the temperature into the mid 40s.

I had previously decided to jump in with the 3 hour pace group. By our pacer's plan, we ran the initial eight miles of hills at a slower than 3 hour pace, attacked on an upper section and the down hill portions at a 2:52 marathon pace and then settled into a 2:59 pace for the remaining 8 miles.

As reported by Athlete tracker alerts, my splits went like this:
1) 10k at 42:10; expected finish at 2:58
2) Half at 1:29:51; expected finish at 2:59
3) 19.5mi at 2:09:54; expected finish at 2:54
4) finish at 3:01:24

What happened after the 19.5 mile split actually started shortly after the hills section: around the 11th mile, my quads started feeling heavy. Then at the 16th mile, hard pounding during the quickened downhill pace also took a toll on the quads. Tightening followed. At mile 22, my calf muscles began cramping. It was at this point that I fell off the sub 3 hour pace group.

In the end, the 3:01.25 finish was a PR by over seven minutes. It's also a valid Boston Marathon qualification time, which I intend to use in 2010. I am happy about this. Of course, I would have liked to have gone 86 seconds faster to break the three hour barrier, but I gave it everything and will gladly accept the results.

For the next few days/weeks, it's time for some R&R.

Perhaps I'll go pay the David of South Dakota a visit. I hear that they got one of those there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Project X, a WSCG Experiment

Yesterday, I wrote about your life being an experiment. Through my own scientific trials, I have recently discovered that I possess mutant power.

Last month, the state championship road race fell on the same weekend as the Omaha Corporate cup 10k foot race. And in addition to that, the marathon training calendar I'd been using to prepare for an upcoming race also called for a 20 mile run that weekend.

To manage the energy requirements, I began a carbohydrate loading diet experiment.

Step 1. About a week before the event, reduce or maintain your carbohydrate intake at about 50 to 55 percent of your total calories. Increase protein and fat intake to compensate for any decrease in carbohydrates. Continue training at your normal level. This helps deplete your carbohydrate stores and make room for the loading that comes next.

Sunday and Monday came and went without much notice. In fact, I was beginning to think that the unloading phase was a bunch of hoo-ha.

I found out otherwise during Tuesday evening's 1200m repeats at UNO's track. On the last couple of intervals, my legs became heavy. As much as I tried, I couldn't keep the leg turnover speed up. A feeling of general malaise and extreme hunger had set in. Meanwhile, my senses became seemingly sharper focused. Pedaling home from the track, I could smell the Amsterdam Cafe's carbohydrate-rich falafels & curry fries from six blocks away. I was tempted, but I had one more day to go.

If I thought Tuesday was bad, Wednesday was worse. At breakfast, the fridge opened its doors to containers awash in liquid diabetes; the pantry revealed boxes of processed foods gratuitously coated in refined sugars. Meanwhile, my mind was freaking out, continuously insisting on stuffing fistfuls of this garbage into my mouth. I had no idea how much of this crap was in my kitchen, let alone my body. Yet I resisted. Barely.

This insanity continued throughout the day. At the Starbucks in my building, the pastries were the first thing I saw when I entered the store. I was unaware that they had so many varieties of scones. Back at my desk, there weren't enough celery and carrots in my lunch bag to quench the sugar cravings.

Then came the Wednesday evening Trek store group ride. Since Shim talks behind my back in front of my back when I'm not there (his words -- not mine), you may have already heard how many times I was dropped that night.

If not, it went like this: repeated drops, each time with extending distances between the group and me. At the last regrouping, somebody asked if I had flatted. Apparently they had to wait a really really long time. As we soft-pedaled away from this final grouping, I confided to another rider about experimenting with my diet. Before he could ask more about it, I was dropped again. Allow me to remind you that we were soft pedaling at that moment. Sigh. I just didn't care any more. I sat up and saw the pack pull away at 12 MPH. My leg muscles were quivering and my brain hurt. I wanted nothing else to do with that ride.


I had succeeded in waking the mutant within. My liver & metabolism were undergoing lipid to glycogen regenesis. Without any quick energy (carbs) left, the body was forced to convert its fats to sugars from the liver stores. It's an inefficient process that causes significant performance degradation. In other words, a total bonk.

The time had arrived to flip the switch to begin carb-loading.

Step 2. Three to four days before the event, increase your carbohydrate intake to 70 percent of your daily calories

I rolled up to the first available convenience store. As I paid for the two bananas, a quart of Gatorade and a 16 oz bag of twizzlers, the attendant commented, "You look terrible."

A reply formed in my brain, but the synapses connecting the abstract thought to uttering a response misfired. A heavy nod simply conveyed my agreement.

Within 15 minutes, I was feeling much better. The sugars were coursing through my veins, clearing the fog in my head while providing energy for muscles. I was steadily cruising along at 20 MPH again.

Over the next three days, I was a banana-eating monkey. I had my fill of grains and pastas. I even had a falafel with curry fries. Evidenced by exclamation point abuse on my twitter feed (!!! ack !!!), a wave of ebullience overtook as my energy levels rose. I was ready to race.

The weekend's results were promising. A good Cat 4 race on Saturday was followed by a 10K PR while on the way to completing the 20 mile run on Sunday.


Fast forward to the present. I'm racing the Des Moines marathon this Sunday. I've completed a second round of carb unloading and am well into the reload phase now.

The unloading wasn't as bad this time because I was tapering. Still, I got the sugar cravings going and managed to wake the mutant within once more.

I'm expecting to see Charles Xavier at the finish line.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Experiment in One

Why does somebody forgo the convenience of their automobile to brave the daily transit on their own power?

Why does another pound the miles away on the hotel treadmill after a long day on the road?

And why does one zip up booties and apply an extra layer when the commute gets chilly?

Or another pushes it a little more during early morning runs, having just recovered from injury?

And what about the one who cycles alone over the lunch hour when it's below 40F and drizzling?

What drives that person to put in 30 minutes of cardio at least three times a week?

And how about the person who plunges in the pool at dark thirty when it's below freezing outside?

Why do we hang up our road bikes for the 'cross and mud, or mount the studs and fenders for snow and ice?

And how about those who put in 600+ hours of training a year to willingly suffer an ultra endurance event such as an Ironman?

Sound familiar?

Is it to give us something to blog/tweet/Facebook/socialize about? Maybe.

Is it for vanity? Could be.

How about ego? Perhaps.

Reduced, I say it's simply because 1) we can and 2) we're driven.

You don't have to do this stuff. It's all optional. It'd be easy to take the easy way out and quit.

But you don't give up.

Instead, you do it because you can. Somehow, despite work, family and outside commitments, you're still able to carve out enough time to make it work.

You do it because you are motivated. It's not always fun nor exhilarating. Along the way, you've learned that there are two times to stick to your goals: 1) when you feel like it, and 2) when you don't. You may be striving to achieve something that you deem to be a great feat. You may be compelled to conquer your demons. You may desire to stand alone at the top of your game. Regardless of the reason, you have passion and have found the will power to face the challenge.

Your mind and body are like a science lab. Your recorded metrics are a testimony to your endeavors. In your trials, you have encountered countless failures that have taught you something about yourself that will assist in the next challenge. And you've learned in victory that the sweet taste of success is fleeting.

There's always another goal, another test, another experiment ahead.

Indeed. Your life is an experiment in one.

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-- Steve Prefontaine

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Search Has Begun

The search has begun for Old Yeller's replacement.

It should come as no surprise that a miser like me would begin by trolling less reputable places (nearby craigslists) for a 54cm bicycle. eBay, too for that matter. So far, the results haven't been promising.

For one, I haven't settled on a frame material yet. I vacillate between not-rigid-enough steel and bone jarring aluminum. Somewhere in between is carbon fiber.

As for the latter, I can't help but think that many of the used previously owned carbon fiber bikes have also been previously compromised. I worry that there's a microscopic crack in its chassis that's like a time bomb waiting to explode.

Then again, I suppose that when that happens you can simply sweep up its plastic shards to create new one.

In an attempt to assuage my plastic bike fears, I did some homework on carbon frames. Fortunately, this year's Interbike event provided great opportunities to review the latest in carbon fiber technology. For example, here's the Delta7 Ascend:

Extremely efficient and light, the Ascend™ maximizes the IsoTruss® tube structure proving to be the best carbon fiber bike available, weighing just 2.3 lbs (1050 grams). Truly stunning visually with ride qualities and features unmatched by any other tube structures

Without doubt, it's extremely efficient. And no one can argue that 2.3 lbs is heavy. I have no problems with their claim that its visually stunning. Yet absent in their introductory paragraph is the word indestructible. Heck, I'd even settle for a less exciting word like "strong" to convey its strength, but alas, there isn't a single mention of its durability.

I have a problem with that.

As an aside, the only place I've seen a bike that comes close to resembling the Ascend is at Ironman-branded triathlons. Ironman events are great. There's a little something for everyone. Usually staged at a resort, those unwillingly dragged along are able to bail the actual event and enjoy the wonderful scenery, fine dining, shopping and all of the pampered services the resort has to offer. Meanwhile, except at Ironman Kona (where one qualifies through athletic greatness), participants fall into one of two categories: the 10% who've actually trained and the 90% who come to compete in the best of show competition. And make no mistake about it, the Ironman organizers are quite aware of this fact. Ironman officials know that while it's important to pay attention to the race leaders, the loud speaker crackles to life with new exuberance when the fat wallets on their sexy Litespeeds, Sevens, Serottas and Cervelos come rolling into the transition area. The Ironman series is wildly successful because they know their target income, I mean market.

With that, I fully expect to one day see the Delta 7 folks roll out a Triathlon bike. If they've been paying attention, they probably already have one on the drawing board. If not, here are my suggestions. To reduce drag, encapsulate its IsoTruss frame with a protective membrane not unlike the material of Michael Phelps Speedo. Next, taking a hint from the auto tire industry, fill the Delta7's covered frame with some exotic lighter-than-air gas. And you thought 2.3 lbs was light! Finally, why not capitalize on the Green Movement and pressurize it with the abundant, environmentally-friendly hydrogen?

That said, I present to you the most technically advanced carbon fiber, lighter than air Delta7 TT Green machine:

Perfect for that dentist -- the same one who failed to give you enough Novocain at your last root canal -- at his next triathlon.

Another Green Movement idea would be to create a skin from 100% post-recycled plastic. It could be made out of recycled plastic bottles, McDonalds trays or Vanilla Ice's Greatest Hits cds. It could even be reconstituted from wrecked carbon fiber bicycles.

This way, every tree hugging, Prius-driving environmental lawyer can also enjoy the carbon footprint credits on this limited Delta 7 Lite-bright rendition:

Regardless of the environmental issues plastic bikes present, my biggest hangup is in seeing them as a long term liability. Certainly, the ride and performance are spectacular. But so is its spectacular destruction. Yes, there are plenty who've crashed and lived to ride on without seeming troubles. But nobody can say a word about their longevity. The frame material just doesn't have enough of testing to be conclusive.

Still, I haven't eliminated carbon fiber as a possibility. The search continues...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Name's Not Buttons

Although recent evidence from racing could suggest that I'm growing younger and faster with age, I'm no Benjamin Buttons.
Nor is my name Ed Whitlock, but I'd be proud to run a sub 3 hour marathon at any age, let alone after a 70th birthday.
And even though the State of Nebraska once listed my birth year as 969, I didn't originate from the dark ages.
I suppose if that were true, I'd be mixed in with the occult and my name could be Frankenstein.

That's Fronk-en-shtein.

If I lived more than a 1000 years, I'd be older than that geezer of the Bible, Methuselah. But since I'm a God-fearing man, I don't want to be taken for a blasphemer.

No, my name is simply Brady and today is the final day of my youth.

Frankly, on the eve of my 14,600th day on this planet, I feel fabulous. In fact, I don't feel (act?) much differently than I did when I was 20. Actually, it's more like 14, but nobody takes a 14 year old seriously.

So, um, seriously... I have a lot to be thankful for: a wonderful wife, a supportive family, great friends and good health to name a few.

Later today, when you're compelled to strike a match while sitting on the throne, kindly wish me a happy birthday as you blow it out, for tomorrow I turn 40.