Cycling Through Life--cycling, triathlons, training and thoughts on an active, adventurous and healthy life!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Time to swim

Swimming for me is frustrating. It is so technical in nature where the rewards of hard work are minimized, almost made worse by flawed parts of the swim stroke. It seems easier to be a little sloppy on the bike or on the run then it does in the water.

Most triathletes have probably had some sort of swim instruction or maybe swam as a child and have incredible muscle memory that carries them fairly successfully in a race. For me I want to have a good swim and not feel like I used more energy than my time warrants so that I have plenty left for the rest of the race. I know athletes who want to kill the swim and that’s great but I would guess for the majority of us, we are hoping for the most efficient swim possible.

Swim Labs can help. I was visually able to see my deficiencies and given instructions and drills on how to improve them. I walked away with photos and video to help continue to improve. Of course each time I want to return then there is a benchmark to start with for more improvement.

Michael Mann and Giff Cutler founded Swim Labs in 2007 to bring the best technology and coaching together under one roof to offer all types of swimmers a chance to improve in such a controlled environment. They built a facility with superb video technology and well-qualified instructors with state of the art pools capable of challenging any swimmer.

Think of it as a treadmill in the water. Water circulates at a controlled speed and a mirror in front and on the bottom lets you see yourself swimming very clearly. Cameras are situated to give the instructor a 3 dimensional view to better isolate all parts of the swim stroke. After a couple of minutes of swimming, I would stop and watch myself and the instructor would point out something to work on and give me a drill and I would start swimming again. After about 20 minutes of drills and isolating opportunities to improve, I watched myself again and my stroke definitely looked better.

I found it interesting that the instructor would change the speed of the water that would then change my stroke as I would try to work harder to speed up. Think of those times in a race where you push hard to get out ahead or at least out of the fray and chances are a great deal of efficiency is sacrificed.

I then took the drills to my pool and have been working on them, so hopefully I will see improved efficiency and decreased times. This is a great time of year to visit Swim Labs and evaluate your swimming and then improve in your own workouts. Plan to come back and keep tweaking things and get better and better.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An indelible mark....

As a football fan I can recall many instances when players have taken a knee and gathered around a fallen teammate in a severe amount of pain. They look stunned and genuinely shaken knowing full well they could be next in their dangerous profession. A few minutes pass, the whistle sounds and they continue smashing each other like nothing happened. But, I have to believe somewhere in the back of their mind some image from their teammate’s injury leaves an indelible mark and thanks to instant replay we have all them too.

Last week left an indelible mark on my brain after I rode by the scene of the accident on highway 36 and Hygiene road that has received much attention this week. (Insert boulder camera link here). I don’t know how many minutes had passed before I arrived, but when I saw the dozen or so emergency vehicles I knew something bad had happened. I slowed of course and had to veer into the highway to avoid the scene and when I looked over I say an image that will be with me until I die. A large pool of blood with a shirt crumpled in the middle puddled on the side of a damaged car. With no other car around I knew it had to be a biker. I swallowed hard, especially as I am not one who handles blood well, and then I saw a cyclist sitting upright in the shoulder holding his head and thought maybe things weren’t has bad as they seemed.

I rode on trying to piece together what had happened and slowly regained my composure and had a good ride. Later a link to a blog was sent to us at 303 from a man who was riding with the person injured. I think the cyclist I saw on the road was the man who wrote the blog and presumably was crying after his friend had been rushed to the hospital. I won’t share the graphic details his blog did, the injuries to his friend are life changing and I simply keep putting myself back at the scene wondering how awful it was. She had t-boned a car pulling onto highway 36. The details of how the collision occurred seem sketchy as it was reported the car had come to a full stop before impact.

I’m not going to speculate but I can empathize as I was once t-boned a car that had turned in front of me coming down Lookout Mountain. I flew over the car and landed on the pavement and walked away a bit stiff and scuffed up but with no injuries to speak of and only a broken bike to worry about. How did I get so lucky and how it is this woman faces a major uphill medical battle?

Where does fate, some may call it luck, play into our lives and how do we be more thankful for the place we are at and try not worry about the future and learn from the past but not dwell on it?

As a road cyclist we know we play in a dangerous playground at times. We can only control what we do, and I try to always ride like a motorist. I don’t blow through stoplights and admittedly I don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs much of the time, but I do think of myself as a car and take the lane when I have to, signal most of the time and simply try to ride with confidence.

Seeing the aftermath of such a terrible accident makes me want to ride with more precision and care and do everything possible to simply be aware of potential hazards. I think all of us as cyclists need to ride with more care and be respectful of the rules and motorists and not think of ourselves any differently or better than anyone behind the wheel.

We all know motorist who don’t like us, who try to intimidate us or make us feel unwanted on “their” roads. There is nothing we can do about those sentiments but we must simply be aware and be bigger than cars in attitude and be mindful of the dangers we face but not be afraid to take to the roads. Accidents happen in all facets of life despite the best prevention possible.

Let us mourn the losses but move forward to make a difference and try not to rely on fate to tempt us but rather rely on experiences to shape us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where have I been?

I know it has been quite sometime since I posted on this site. I have written some articles for 303triathlon under my pen name of TriHearter. I wanted to share a couple of things with you, so different in nature that I thought it might be a way for me to get back on this blog. I'm trying to find some new slants to offer while also writing for 303triathlon.

I have been riding and running and simply enjoying the amazing fall colors and so forth. I of course kept up the world triathlon championships in Kona and followed my friends Randy and Bob which renewed my desire to get there. Not that I had lost it, so maybe re-energized me is a better term.

The other day I happened to ride into a scene that threw me for a loop. A biker had just been hit on highway 36 between Boulder and Lyons. I will never forget the huge pool of blood and clothing piled in it. Haunting and last night I read the account from the friend riding with this woman who lived but will undoubtedly never be quite the same.

Here is the facts story if you will from the Boulder Daily Camera: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/boulder/ci_26754100

The account I read describes her injuries in graphic detail and I can't in good conscience put a link to the blog it is located on. I guess it's public. but, wow, it is horrifying to think of, especially after I was hit by a car two years ago and barely was scratched! I will write a more thoughtful piece on how this makes me feel, but as road by, I felt like a football player who seems shaken when there is a serious injury on the field. You know, when the stretcher is wheeled out and everyone takes a knee and looks dazed knowing it could've been them. But then a few minutes later they play on, just like I rode on.

The other link I wanted to share was this incredible video of a mountain biker doing unimaginable things on a bike. His precision and control are mind blowing and the serenity of his ride knowing he is one with the bike is inspiring to say the least.


Time to get back in the grove....enjoy this amazing fall!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dave Weins West Elk Bicycling Classic--a classic!

The West Elk Bicycle Classic showcases remote parts of the Rocky Mountains and treats riders to a nostalgic ride through Colorado history where the past lives of miners, ranchers and pioneers have transformed into a timeless lifestyle rare to many of the riders who traveled from Colorado’s populated Front Range cities such as Denver. At every turn and climb a “different” Colorado greeted us, unveiling a rich history giving way to modern prosperity and vibrancy sprinkled with doses of past isolation, tranquility and even desolation.

The West Elk Classic brings a timeless Colorado into full focus beginning with the end in Crested Butte, a storied mining town turned ski resort. I was immediately struck by its genuine charm with so many old buildings and homes seemingly unfazed by the 20th Century. Crested Butte is nestled in a Cul-de-sac of mountains feeding the Taylor River heading 28 miles south to the race start in Gunnison. The topography of the West Elk Bike Classic speaks for itself with 134 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, but the map doesn’t tell the story of what makes this ride the best one I’ve ever done.

I had just ridden through the fruit orchards of the Palisade Valley eating peaches picked from a nearby tree at a rest stop in Paonia, when a scene unfolded that summed up the West Elk Bicycle Classic for me. A boy with a fishing rod over one shoulder and two trout half his size slung over his other, was walking his dog along the highway heading toward Kebler pass. As I was anticipating the final 30 miles of the day and a bit nervous about the dirt road climbing some 4,000 feet, he seemed to not have a care in the world. He was from a time long passed to us visiting city folks; a time when little boys fished the rivers and walked to their homes in small coal towns like Somerset that I had just passed through. I was riding in his movie of life, merely a spectator to the simplicity and hardship treasured by all and experienced by few. Here I was, on a space age bike wearing synthetic materials armed with computers that so contrasted my surroundings that it was simply a beautiful moment.
This lifestyle permeated the enthusiastic staff greeting us at every pit stop. The West Elk Classic is not a race but it’s timed. Some riders make it race and others like me, soaked it in and tried to absorb the energy and spirit of all that rode and those places we passed through.

The ride simply offers a chance to experience anything and everything any road cyclists can appreciate. It begins with a gunshot and a mass exit from the Western State Colorado University campus. The group shapes into an impressive Peloton that picks up speed heading west on Highway 50 to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. I felt like a rookie as a bump ejected my water bottle causing me to leave the protective confines of the peloton to retrieve it.  200 cyclists quickly faded from sight and I realized just how powerful the slipstream of a large peloton is as it took substantial effort to catch up.

The Peloton splintered about 10 miles in and for the rest of the ride small groups or solo cyclists rode some of the most spectacular and diverse routes that could possibly exist in Colorado. From the high mesa’s overlooking the black canyon of the Gunnison to the orchards and coal mining towns in the Palisade Valley capped off by an amazing climb through the state’s largest Aspen grove, each turn of the road and climb of a hill treated the riders to a unique Colorado experience and landscape. To finish, climbing Kebler pass, a mostly dirt road canopied in Aspen and rolling into one of the most picturesque towns in Colorado, Crested Butte, ended the day perfectly.

There is not one reason why this ride felt so epic. The ride itself challenged all. The support was amazing, not because of the tootsie rolls and freshly picked fruit and icy cold cokes that I so much enjoyed, but the energetic staff really made it fun.
By starting all together and knowing some riders were there to “get a time” and compete, made the atmosphere a little more edgy and electric, but it certainly didn’t make a compelling enough case for all to find the work, many simply let the vigor of the West Elk Loop find them as they enjoyed a day of riding.

The star of the show for me was Crested Butte and its authentic charm that gives away a storied and colorful past as a tough nosed mining town turned rustic but modern ski town. It spoke to the ride and riders and mirrored the flavor and uniqueness that I believe this ride tries to encompass.

The West Elk Bicycle Classic offers a true escape from the typical century ride offered in the front range of Colorado.  It’s virtually free of car traffic and the tranquility of this remote area simply allowed me to let go of time and ride with my heart and not a care in the world.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What is being fit?

I paused, perplexed, as I stepped out of the kayak, slightly out of breath with my arms sort of quivering and feeling embarrassed at how tired I was after rowing 2.4 miles in a kayak with my daughter.  It was no coincidence we kayaked 2.4 miles, my Garmin just happened to be in the car so I figured, why not. I swam the same distance in Ironman Boulder faster than we rowed it. My chest and arm muscles hurt for days after. Wasn’t I in shape? Why do I feel so exhausted? Annoying. Specific fitness I will call it. But is that best kind of fitness for a normal age group triathlete approaching 50?

Sure, physiologically I am fit; my heart rate and blood pressure suggest that. I feel fit, look reasonably lean, but can become exhausted at the most menial of task that doesn’t involve triathlon specific muscles. Will this fitness serve me well as I age?

10 years ago I wasn’t as fit as I am now, or was I? I hadn’t even considered participating in a triathlon yet alone an Ironman. I weighed more, couldn’t run or bike as far and it was impossible to swim more than a few laps. But, I played basketball, soccer and hockey just fine, could dig a hole, trim bushes and probably could’ve rowed across that lake more successfully. I was certainly more balanced physically.

I think triathletes probably fall victim to specific fitness more than most athletes, especially older athletes. Obviously an offensive lineman probably can’t run a 10k very successfully, but he is a great athlete who can shove around 300 pound defensive linemen with precision. But he is young and that’s his profession and of course every athlete has honed their skills to their sport of choice. But triathlon training to me at least, is part of my lifestyle, it almost has to be to find the hours to train and to work and do everything else in life. It’s easy to get stuck with the limited time doing the same things for fear of not maximizing an opportunity to improve speed or endurance.

I am old, relatively speaking, and want to live a healthy life and no doubt training for triathlons will keep me healthier than most. But with school starting, the days shortening and race season winding down, it’s transition time yet again and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s time to think about some changes to my regiment as indoor season approaches.
Every year I vow to try more yoga or Pilates or simply lift weights. The pressure of building endurance and speed for the season will have dissipated and as I face the tedious hours of being inside, I know I should try to find more balance in my workouts. But I fall victim to the temptations of spin classes and treadmills.

My plan is to at least ski more and hopefully play some basketball and those two activities alone will undoubtedly give me some variations in my training and most importantly be enjoyable!

Perhaps with a little discipline, a few alternative workouts and other activities, I will be able build a snow fort, have a snowball fight and in the spring row across a lake without feeling so tired and still be ready for tri season next year!

Plenty of great weather will provide thousands of miles of riding yet this fall, but I hope to approach the Winter with a broader perspective.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Boulder Ironman, will it sell out?

Like a gigantic ocean liner heading out of port and slowly disappearing on the horizon, the 2014 Boulder Ironman is now a memory with small bits of chatter still floating in the wake of experiences it left behind. The ship is off to different ports and it will be back in about 350 days but I wonder if it will arrive in 2015 sold out?

I find it interesting and bit puzzling that general entry spots for next year are available nearly three weeks after it opened. I can’t help but wonder why. Historically Ironman races seem to sell out in hours or in the case of some like Arizona, in seconds.  

Many reasons can be hypothesized but I will argue Boulder is a bit of a one and done kind of race for many, especially locals. I have no data to back this up but I know many people who raced and don’t plan to do it or any Ironman again. With such a huge triathlete base in Colorado, I believe many athletes want to travel for their Ironman race.  For other locals it was a bucket list race with the inaugural Boulder venue providing a good opportunity to do their first full Ironman or try one again after years of absence.

I know statistically Boulder is one of the harder Ironman’s based on time averages. But the atmosphere was the best I had experienced.  I’m not sure what factors athletes from around the country, or world for that matter, become most important when choosing a race.  Interestingly the national triathlon club of Mexico picked Boulder for their club race this year. I wondered why I saw so many Mexican tri kits on the course. There were over 200 participants from Mexico.

I believe they will have a hard time selling out the race. I think the heat, altitude and gaining notoriety of the tough course coupled with more and more choices of venues across the country will keep Boulder open for a while. No doubt a new batch of locals will make it their first Ironman but I think the draw of the first one captured more than any future races will.

I signed up 10 seconds after it opened. For me Boulder is a race I want to conquer and do well. I like not traveling for a race and prefer to use my resources and time to take actual vacations that have nothing do with racing.

I think it will be interesting to see how this race evolves over the next few years. It seemed to go very well this year and as a participant I wouldn’t change a thing. I like the energy and camaraderie that develops locally during the off season and I’m looking forward to it already.

I’m not ready to hibernate just yet as I feel fall is the best time of year to ride and run in the mountains, taking in all the colors and crisp air.

The Ironman ship may be out to sea, but now is the time to enjoy the rewards of all that training and get out and have fun before the snow flies—which of course has its own fun rewards!

Carry on mates!