Archive | March 2014

Running with headphones

If I am outside I don’t do this. In fact, I don’t even carry my phone. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly; all of my music is sourced from Google Music so I need a device with that app to listen. This is OK most of the time but considering I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 (remember the commercial where the lady says “Could you put down your MASSIVE phone?”) which is huge. It won’t fit in my fuel belt or the little zip pockets on my running shorts. I could get one of those arm band things which can carry your phone and ID but that looks like more work than it is worth.

More importantly though, there have been a couple of incidents recently where I really needed to convey information to a runner or a biker but as a result of having earbuds in we had the typical – wait let me pull these out of my ears and have your resend (sort of like a TCP ACK) your message now that I can hear – which resulted in precious seconds of my life wasted.

I am not going to rant about how it may be rude to have headphones in when you are in public, or how we may be digitally isolating ourselves in public and have become devoid of any human contact whilst in the presence of other humans. Someone else can handle that. What I would say is perhaps we should exercise good judgment. If you are riding your bicycle on a busy road full of cars and other cyclists, being able to hear and react to people quickly is an important safety issue. If you are running on a road with a lot of cyclists, cyclists behind you will shout at you to warn you that he/she will be passing you – probably going anywhere between 15-17 MPH. No one wants that collision.


Cadence and Heart Rate, a tale of two runs

Two things I don’t care about. Seriously, if you say ‘cadence’ to me while I am running I will be annoyed beyond belief. It would be like saying ‘watermelon’. I care about heart rate a little more because it can indicate if something is seriously wrong or if you can afford to push yourself a little harder.

To illustrate my point, I will use a tale of two runs. One run was an outdoor run and one was an indoor run. My outdoor run was baaaad according to Garmin, my cadence was too low and my heart rate was too high. Bad Cadence

Yellow is bad, green is good, according to Garmin. So I was in the green for only a little while.

My corresponding heart rate was also baaaaad, according to Garmin, somewhere around zone 8 or 9 (this is tongue and cheek).

Bad Heart Rate

Now on to my gooood run according to Garmin metrics. My cadence shows up mainly as green!

Good Cadence

The computer is much happier now. My heart rate is also better according to them. Good Heart Rate

Google “run cadence” and see the overwhelming amount of opinions on what the ideal run cadence should be. In fact, our coach insists that we pick up our cadence. I ask, however, “what scientific evidence have you that cadence matters?”. The honest answer is none. In fact, when it has been studied, it was found that coaching on run dynamics yields little benefit at all. There is a correlation that more efficient runners tend to have a higher cadence than less efficient runners. However, science is always conscience of the difference between causation and correlation. In other words, are the more efficient runners more efficient because of their cadence or is the cadence the result of something else, like higher levels of physical fitness.

So relax on the cadence, it will come (mine has gone up) as one becomes more fit.

On to the heart rate and “zone training”. The idea behind zone training is that your exertion can be measured in neat little boxes where you have a “fat burning zone” and an “anaerobic threshold zone”. heart-rate-zones1

This is why everyone and their mother wears a heart rate monitor now. When I was ripping off sub 7 minute miles in cross country I can’t remember my coach ever saying anything about heart rate zones.

Same question, “what science, have you, that backs up these findings”? There actually is quite a bit of science surrounding this (more than cadence) but, as always, it is much more nuanced than a simple box. The first nuance we have to be aware of is that at all times you are engaged in anaerobic respiration, (refer to earlier post) so it is disingenuous to make a zone called “anaerobic zone” as if it just kicks in at 160 bpm and your ATP production stops. My coach uses a term “lactate”, in reference to the time in which the amount of lactic acid produced by the cell’s fermentation process exceeds the cell’s ability to remove lactic acid from the cell.

The other disingenuous bit is the “fat burning zone”. There is no such thing. There is a zone that fat tends to be burned in, but that is more related to the fact that the average person can stay in that zone for a long time and therefore dip into their fat reserves for energy. A trained athlete will burn fat at any “zone” provided they are exercising long enough to dip into their fat stores. This is why sprinters and distance runners are both quite lean, even though their training hits much different intensities over different time intervals, they are both burning fat…and probably eating better than average.

I actually engage in a bit of zone training, I look at my watch to make sure I am not getting an abnormally high heart rate – but I don’t split hairs between 145 and 155, or even 145 and 159. At 160 I start paying attention, if the pace is good and and high and I feel OK, I let it ride out.

So back to my two ones, one run Garmin tells me I “overreached” and the other was “highly improving”. One was a 6.1 mile outdoor run on varied terrain, up and down hills, with a strong uphill headwind for the first mile. The other was a 3.2 mile treadmill run. Garmin says the treadmill run was the better one. I disagree, while my heart rate was high, the run was designed to make me run at a higher tempo than normal. More importantly, I was not sore at all the next day even though according to the chart I should have been in full bore lactic acid overload.

I don’t mean to bash coaching recommendations based on zone and cadence, in fact I use those metrics myself to evaluate my progress. The exercise industry is FULL of claims about certain products and techniques where very few have been tested to a scientific standard. More importantly, we should not reduce exercise to a video game (keep your heart rate here, keep your cadence here….now you are winning!). Consistency in training is king.

New Bicycle!

I finally got it together and dropped the money for a new bicycle.

20140317_162757_W 112th Ave

There it is, mounted in my garage, a Trek Domane 5.2 frame size 56 centimeters. The pedals are Look Keo Classics. I have a fuel belt attached to the stem for snacks and gels and the standard saddle bag with a spare tube. More details from Trek here.

I have a bunch of hours logged on this particular type of bike, but that was a demo bike and this is MY bike. I have to say, the updated from the 2013 colors to 2014 (shiny finish, red and white or black and white) which has this matte black finish is a big improvement.

To be sure I didn’t just go and buy this bike because Sarah had already gotten one and she liked it. In fact, I tried a couple of different bikes before buying this one.

Cervelo R3

Newly redesigned for 2014 this bike has a huge following in the biking community. However, I was underwhelmed by the bike when I test road it. It seemed heavier than it should and power transfer was surprisingly bad. The bike fit OK but for $3700 retail, I thought it should have been nicer.

Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert

Closer to the Trek Domane than the Cervelo, this bike rode fantastically in my test ride. In fact, I remember briefly thinking I might become a Specialized convert. I would blame no person for buying this bike. Ultimately I decided on the Trek over the Roubaix based on the fact that the Trek has a FULL Ultegra setup including brakes and crankset, while the Roubaix uses a FSA crank instead. The FSA crank is probably fine, but when you make a decision you have to go by something. Additionally, this bike came with the Ultegra 11-32 cassette which cross-chained very quickly, there is a certain amount of tuning that would help that but not entirely. That bike would quickly become a 9 speed simply because I would never want to be in either the top or lowest gear due to the chatter.

You are doing a triathlon so…

Why didn’t I get a triathlon or time trial style bike? Good question, and I will answer it like this. It isn’t that serious. People do triathlons all the time on regular road bikes and you can change the drop handlebars to aero handlebars easily enough if you want to get yourself out of the wind. Road bikes are handy and flexible and Tri/TT bikes are less so. I need this bike to wear a couple of different hats, namely I need to climb some hills (I am doing the Triple Bypass this year) and be welcome in draft packs. Besides, how silly would I feel if I decided that I was one and done with the whole triathlon thing?

Newton’s and Sugoi

I originally intended on writing a follow up to my review of the Sir Isaac Newton S shoes that I wear, which I am still going to do, but I am also going to touch on my favorite brand of cycling stuff (Sugoi) because they intersect at two different points.

First of all, the shoes, I wrote a generally positive review of the shoes a while back and I still have the same general opinion of them. I am running a lot longer in them now than I was when I first wrote the review and some shoes manifest differently when you are running 3 miles or 7 miles. I am happy with the Newtons at longer distances as well as shorter distances. They are a tad bit heavier than I would like but in training conditions, who cares? The lugs are starting to show some wear patterns but the shoe is holding up well. All the stitching, fabric, and other materials are staying in place nicely. I don’t subject my shoes to the type of torture that say, a HS cross country runner might, but any manufacturing weakness or defect would show itself by now.


Here I am appearing to be a walking advertisement for Newton during the run portion of my Wednesday morning bike/run workout. I normally don’t wear a whole triathlon outfit to the gym but when you are doing a bike and a transition run, it only makes sense. Besides, I had to try my new gear, which happens to be Newton labeled.

Before you accuse me of drinking the “kool-aide” let me get to a point quickly. I like Sugoi gear quite a lot. I started liking them when I bought a pair of RPM shorts a while ago (before triathlon was on my radar) and mile over mile they were more comfortable than any other shorts I tried. Enter Newton, who sells a variety of gear with a big Newton logo on them. The production, however, is by Sugoi. When I went to the Newton Running Lab in Boulder, their Triathlon singlets and shorts were 20% off. I should say, the Sugoi Triathlon gear was 20% off, for 20% I don’t care if I look like a lime green billboard.

Newton hitched its wagon to the Ironman train a while back so Sugoi was a natural choice. It is the official clothier of Ironman stuff as well. If you see someone with Ironman branded jackets or shorts from the last year or so, they are wearing Sugoi.

Why do I prefer Sugoi? One reason, the pad, AKA the chamois. I hate the word chamois (when pronounced the non-French way) it grates on me the way ‘moist’ grates on most people. So I will simply call it the pad. Many pads are simply foam, which is fine for like, 10 miles. After that, the pad breaks down and the seat pokes into your behind anyway. In this scenario firmer is actually better. The pad that Sugoi uses is more like a memory foam mattress, it is firm but it forms to your…shape, so the seat is both more comfortable, and there is less friction between you and the pad. I have had very few hot spots wearing Sugoi – when I have had them they were on spin bikes, which are the devil incarnate.

The only other cycling apparel I have seen with a similar pad feel is actually Specialized gear.  Someone told me once that Specialized is very good with products that touch the body. I think they are right, which is why I ride a Specialized saddle on a Trek bicycle.

To the fatty…

Earlier this week my Facebook feed blew up with this story:

This seemed to get generally favorable feedback from the Facebook community as a whole. The next day, the subject of the above post wrote a response:

To sum it up – one person thought they were handing out a compliment and the person receiving it begged to differ. I can see the perspective of the subject but I thought he was a tad bit sensitive about all of it.

My introductory post dealt with this and this is a good example of the trap of pre-judging people you see working out. I have seen people get on the treadmill for 15 minutes and then get off. Did they really do anything useful? Maybe, you have no idea where they were/are coming from. For all I know they were able to do 12 minutes last week.

Let us maintain some civility, the only conclusion you are able to draw by watching anyone running is that they are, indeed, running. Any other conclusion must be drawn by actually talking to that person.


This morning Google is drawing attention to a movement to encourage young girls to be leaders and if you visit the webpage; you will notice a ton of pictures with women holding up “BAN BOSSY” signs. The idea is that we should stop telling girls who are assertive to stop being “bossy”. This is the first time I have seen this movement and I find it interesting on a couple of levels. To be clear, this country suffers a terrible dearth of female leadership in business and science/technology for no good reason that I can think of. In no way do I support this disparity and one of my values is that women should more represented in business and technology than they are now.

I wonder, though, what the effectiveness of a campaign like #BANBOSSY could be. Real leadership skill is an important skill to develop and hone; crucially for our young girls. However, I have to point out that one of the key traits of being a leader is not telling people what to do all the time.

I grew up with a bossy-pants, probably to no ones surprise it is/was an older sister of mine. Those close to me know who I am talking about. I have a great amount of affection for my sister and at this point in her life (a mother and a principal) she actually is the boss. It occurs to me that over the last several years, even though she is the boss, traits I would normally have considered “bossy” have been less prevalent in her.

Without launching into an entire study of men and women in leadership and how we treat assertive young girls (which is often badly) compared to young boys I would say that young men who are identified as good leaders often display good decision making skills rather than telling others what to do skills. I am not talking about the decision on the scale of whether to eat a hamburger or a hot dog, I am talking about decisions that have a number of consequences including consequences of doing an action and the consequences of not doing an action. Young men are groomed this way in sports like football where they need to make quick decisions that could have certain consequences later in the game. Even in games like chess, players are required to think ahead many moves and evaluate their competitor and his/her moves. No surprise, both chess and football are dominated by men.

I would suggest that instead of attacking a phrase like “bossy”, we should invest our time in developing the types of leadership qualities in women that we have always developed in men. This is hard because it requires us to get down and dirty and be honest about the gender inequalities our society has incubated.

As a closing note I would like to say that men can be, and are, just as bossy as women. I don’t think that being bossy is an inherently female trait. I think that we disparage girls who appear to be bossy without teaching them to be true leaders – that is a paradigm that needs shifting.

Trek Domane 5.2 Review

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to ride a demo bike, a Trek Domane 5.2 which I rented from Wheat Ridge Cyclery. Over three consecutive days of riding, one in a downpour, I got a very good feeling for the bike.

The Domane is a newish (released in 2012) road frame Trek produces as more upright and relaxed than their racer, the Madone. In order to achieve this, they fitted it with 25 millimeter road tyres, as opposed to 23 millimeter, and designed the frame to set the rider in a slightly more upright position. The 5.2 is a mid range Domane (they start at 2.2 and go up to 6.9) with a 5 series carbon frame and full Shimano Ultegra drivetrain.

The standout feature of the Domane is the “isospeed decoupler” which causes the bike to be noticeably more comfortable over bumps. In traditional road bikes, the seat tube is more or less welded to the top tube of the bike, it has been this way for years.


Take a look at this seat tube (the vertical tube), it connects to the top tube (the horizontal tube) seamlessly. This is a traditional set up and is probably the way your bike is constructed. On the Domane, they took a different approach.


 2013 Trek Domane 6.9 IsoSpeed Decoupler

If you look at this picture, you will notice that the seat tube connects to the top tube by a notch which is held in (if you removed the little cover) by a bold. There are some bearings in there which allow the tube to move about a little bit. As a result, movement in the seat tube does not necessarily translate to the rest of the frame and visa versa. In real life riding it almost feels like you are sitting on a comfort bike. In fact, you can feel the seat flexing a little bit when you sit down on it. Over the course of many miles, the stress it inflicts on your body is significantly less than regular road bikes.

Every model of Domane has this technology but not every Domane has the 5 series carbon, which seemed more than sufficient in lightness and stiffness. The bike comes equipped with a full Ultegra setup which includes an Ultegra 50/34 crankset and a 11 speed 11-27 cog cassette. The brakes are Ultegra as well. This particular model retails for about $3400. That is a lot to pay for a bike and other endurance road bikes may be a little less expensive for a similar frame. I noticed that other brands that are slightly less expensive are a similar frame, but they only run Ultegra shifters, derailleurs, and cassette; often substituting the crank with a FSA crank and brakes – thus not an entire Ultegra setup.  

Riding the bike was very pleasurable. As well as being comfortable, it was springy and fast – I had no trouble keeping up with people on proper race bikes. The Shimano group was buttoned down, reliable, and quiet. I didn’t miss any shifts on the cassette or the crank. The throw on the Ultegra is a little long but not obnoxious, if you are used to the 105 or Tiagra it will be familiar but sharper. Riding position was very slightly taller than I was used too, which wasn’t a problem. It made it much more comfortable to ride on the drops. If this represents a problem, it did come with three spacers on the head tube which could be removed to lower the handlebar position. I can’t comment on the saddle because I ride a Specialized Romin Evo which I mounted in the place of the Bontrager saddle that comes with it.

I am buying a new bike soon to replace my 2011 Gary Fisher aluminum road bike and this one is a very strong contender. The Specialized Roubaix SL4 Compact is another bike I will look at as is the Orbea Orca and the Cervelo R3. The latter two being proper race bikes. At this point; one of those bikes would have to be bloody fantastic to unseat the Domane.

You never have the wrench you need…


This past trip to Arizona marked the first time Sarah and I traveled with our bikes. We had a bout with indecisiveness regarding the travel bag/case we would use for our bikes. Nicole lent us a soft case (I forget the brand right now) and I rented a Tyco hard case from Wheat Ridge Cyclery. I also rented a demo bike from WRC, a Trek Domane 5.2, the men’s version of the bike Sarah bought last year.

We bought a little bike multi-tool which was very handy for breaking the bike down for travel. For both bikes we needed to remove the pedals, seat post, both wheels, and the handlebars. Packing the Tyco was easy, hauling it was not. The bike weighs probably 20 pounds with pedals and bike bags but the case weighed in at 48 pounds at the airport. The Tyco has only one short strap-like handle used to pull the thing behind you and it is too short – it hit the bag of my legs while we walked. This made the thing harder than it needed to be to move about. Airport park-n-ride was an adventure!

Meanwhile the soft case had none of those issues. It had plenty of handles and unloaded the bag probably weighed (at most) 10 pounds. When full of bike it was shaped like a trapezoid with a shoulder strap at the top. It was WAYYY easier to move about. There is a wheeled version of this bag and I think we will by a pair of those bags.

Re-assembling the bikes was a snap but, annoyingly, I had let the air out of my tires for transport and a pump was not readily available in the hotel room. Luckily we were not far away from a bike shop where we simply brought my wheels and they inflated them for me. Sarah wondered why I had done that – I read somewhere that I should – which the bike guy at the local shop confirmed. Sarah didn’t and her tires did not explode and the plane did not fall from the sky so on the way back I kept mine inflated.

At any rate, it was time for bike breakdown on Sunday evening. Of COURSE we waited until 9 PM because…why not? First task, use the 8 MM hex head on our little bike multi tool to remove the pedals. First pedal, pull, tug, nothing. The following three, same thing. Push harder, step on it…nothing. Watch a you tube (even though we have done this many times) and tried again. Nothing. Sarah insists she used this tool to remove her pedals in Colorado but I had used a long handled 8 MM hex wrench which gives plenty of leverage to quickly break the bolt free. Of COURSE I had not packed this wrench because someone told me she got her pedals off with the multi tool.

We are exhausted from the weekend and bewildered by our utter failure at a very basic bike mechanic task and I decided we simply needed to acquire a long handled 8 MM hex wrench to take these things off. Where does one find that tool at 2100 on Sunday night? There can only be one choice, Wal Mart! We set off to an open Wal Mart unsure if Wal Mart would carry this wrench. The first set we picked up stopped at 6 MM. Finally we found a set (because you can’t just buy the 8 MM wrench, you have to buy the whole set) which included the 8 MM wrench, but also included all the imperial sizes as well. For $16 we didn’t care (now I have 4 sets of hex wrenches) and when we got back to the hotel room the 8 MM long handled hex worked perfectly. The rest of the bikes – thankfully – came apart easily.

Controlling our arrogance

Sarah and I just got back from a Lifetime Fitness cycling camp in Scottsdale that was held from Thursday to Sunday. We were excited to go and happy to ride outside after spending months either on a trainer or a spin bike in order to complete our cycling workouts. We have a number of observations (some of them decidedly negative) which I will review in a later post but one theme jumped out that deserves some consideration.

A while back I posted a blog about “New Years Resolutioners” and how we treat newbies when they come into the gym in the January time frame. I would like to address how we treat newbies coming into endurance sports for the first time or after a long absence. Generally, we treat them poorly and with a healthy dose of arrogance; which initially surprised me. I weight lifted for 10 years before entering endurance athletics and one would expect, with all the muscle heads involved in that sport, that arrogance and narcissism would reign supreme. While that can certainly be true it is not nearly as pronounced as it is in endurance sports. A short 145 pound man who hits the weight room will shock no one when he is incapable of lifting as much weight as a 200 pound 6 foot tall cross fit veteran. My experience has been that the experienced weightlifters are all too willing to help newbies with tips and encouraging words. Not only that, they will often train with new people without too much complaint. It is not uncommon to see people share a bench press where the plates (the 45 pound weights) are shed and re-added after each set because one person is much stronger than the other.

This ties into my experience at the camp because we observed that the C level riders were left as somewhat of an after-though to the camp staff and it bothered some of them greatly enough that they complained about it. The problem was that they split the riders up by speed – which left bona fide ironman triathletes who simply rode at a slower pace with real beginners who just put on clipless pedals on their bikes. You don’t want the experienced riders to have a bad experience because of their pace and you don’t want beginner riders to be constantly dropped on roads that they are unfamiliar with riding on equipment that is new to them.

The solution is simple, break the C group into two or three groups and cater to the needs on a smaller group basis. This eventually happened organically but the ride leads were unpaid volunteers who were unfamiliar with the route and generally did a poor job. Meanwhile the A and B groups had a better experience and I had a better experience when I rode with those groups on other rides later in the camp. The message was clear – less experienced athletes or slower athletes have less value and that annoys people. We aren’t playing varsity high school sports – these people who you are annoying are often professional adults who can (and will) take their considerable recreation budget to some other more welcoming activity.

This topic has been touched upon by a popular blogger (swim bike mom, some of you are familiar with her) who, despite being an ironman and multiple 70.3 finisher, still feels shunned sometimes by her fellow endurance athletes. I can tell you with certainty that a weigh lifter who can lift the weight earns the respect of his/her fellow athletes regardless of how they look, how long they have been doing the sport, or whether or not they sport the “right” gear.

Meanwhile I had a good time over the weekend, I got three days of outdoor cycling in (one in the rain), two swims and two runs. Sarah and I were exhausted by Monday and were in desperate need of a rest day. I was also able to put a demo bike (a Trek Domane 5.2) through its paces, which I am going to write about later. We also experienced flying with bikes, which is interesting and I will also write about that later, it deserves its own post.