I'm a family guy who is addicted to swim/bike/run and anything to do with getting out into the backcountry wilderness areas. This blog focuses on the swim, bike, run and other various aspects of my attempts to finish in the top ten percent of my age group in whatever race I do. It used to be all about finishing the legs of an Olympic Distance triathlon: swim in 20 minutes, bike in 60 minutes, and run in 40 minutes. Now, it's more about training well and finishing well.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gear Review: 2XU Comp Tri Shorts

While cruising on GearScan last week, I found a sweet deal on 2XU Comp Tri Shorts......$32!! I jumped on it for two pair, not really knowing what I was getting but expecting at least some nice bike shorts.
These shorts are really AWESOME!  Theyare still available for reduced price at DepartmentofGoods.


Here's a quick rundown on them. For $32, everyone should jump on this deal. Yes, I normally shop locally, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to ensure you have a nice, clean pair of good shorts laying around so you can't find a reason not to bail on a workout.

Overall thoughts:  AWESOME! These might just take over as my favorites, beating out my truly beloved and treasured DeSoto four pocket tri shorts. WOW!  When I put them on for the first time, my thought was "Ooooooh, these are niiiiicce!"

Fit: These are just a tad bigger than most size large shorts I have. They are certainly bigger than the DeSoto "large" shorts I have. I'm 6'1" and 190 pounds right now, and these are just a bit tight. Come summer when I'm 15 pounds lighter, they might be a bit loose. I'm not worried about it at all, but everyone always wonders how the sizes compare to others.

It seems that these shorts are shorter than other shorts in certain areas. The legs feel like they come down about an inch less than other shorts; not a huge problem but causes a bit of concern about sunburn lines come summer time. The waistband is a bit lower than other shorts, and this is actually a great thing for me because I don't like the waistband coming up near my bellybutton, so I normally just push them down a bit, which causing some bunching of material.

Chamois: I have three rides totalling a bit over five hours int hese shorts. No problems with pinching or rubbing. They are really nice. The tri-shorts I bought last year for the triathlon club pinches alot after 90 minutes or so. These have no stitching in any area that might pinch.

Fabric: The fabric has a nice feel to it. The product description talks about the technical aspect of the shorts. That doesn't really impress me much because I'm more into functionality and feel. These feel great. They stretch well, and it seems like they'll maintain that stretch.  All of my races require a wetsuit, so the hydraphobic characteristics of these shorts don't mean much to me, but I guess that's important to alot of people.

Coolest thing about these shorts:  POCKETS! Four total pockets!  I love pockets because I need a place to hold gels and such.  These have pockets on each leg, and even two more on the outside of the waistband on the back. The leg pockets are a bit shallow, but they work. The waistband pockets are bigger than you'd expect, but I'm not sure I could actually run with a Hammer Gel flask back there...we'll see this week.



Bottom line is that these are some sweet shorts....watch GearScan for the deal and good luck.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dumping the Kurt Kinetic bike computer...and going Garmin+Global Trainer

When I bought the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine fluid trainer two winters ago, I also got the bike computer that goes with it. The main purpose of the bike computer was to begin my foray into "training with power," even if it was "power by math," meaning the bike computer used a math formula to determine watts. Everything I read during the research and continue to read now says that the wattage is very close to real. "Close enough" was good enough as long as it was consistent.

I did find the power readings to be consistent. But I really don't like the bike computer as a bike computer. Many reviews you might read comment on the non-user-friendliness of the screens, which I find to be absolutely true. There are just too many buttons to push, and the screen is too dark to read inside on my trainer in the winter (and fumbling with the backlight is really bothersome).  

And then....this was the kicker....the thing didn't work at all during my one main race last summer...that really sealed the deal for me that this piece of gear needed to go away.  (BTW, I sarcastically maintain that I bonked on the run because I went too hard on the bike because I didn't have any data telling me I was going too hard other than my heart rate spiking...but I got that under control, and I still bonked. Well, that and it was hotter than expected, and I went out waaaay too hard on the swim, and a few other things).

So anywho...I dumped that Kurt Kinetic bike computer and have gone ANT+ gear all the way.
It all started back with the Sufferfest's Tour of Sufferlandria. That's how I found out about Trainerroad.com, and how you can really train with power on the cheap....and a truly useful manner. So, I geared up with a Garmin ANT+ USB Stick, although I recommend you get the mini-version from Suunto simply because it's smaller and looks like it will stay out of the way better.  Then I got the ANT+ Garmin cadence/speed sensor (super easy to install!) and an ANT+ Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (the "premium" version!").  

As I went through the Tour of Sufferlandria, I really like the feedback I was getting with the (formula-based) power reading and heart rates and all that on the computer screen in conjunction with the Sufferfest workout....Really, that is really cool and you should check it out!

With my new-found love for the cadence/speed sensor and Heart Rate Monitor, I started looking for the perfect headset/computer to give me readouts when I was off the trainer and away from the computer screen. Alas, I found the Timex Global Trainer for $150 on Amazon! (seriously...$150 new without the HRM). Wow! I remember drooling over that when it first came out for $300. Now it's sitting on my desk waiting to be used.  I did some basic setup with it and learned how to use the most basic functions, and so far I like it (although the battery life seems short at this point....we'll see about that this summer).

I am now quite happy with my data products. It cost a few bucks to upgrade to ANT+ gear, but I like it so far. They were all so easy to setup....and I didn't have to run any wires or anything. And I can finally dump that Kurt Kinetic bike computer!

I wonder if I'm missing the opportunity to jump a tech-generation and go straight to the bluetooth products. But ultimately, I think it will be three years out til there are some good bluetooth products for Android (I'm no apple-fanboy).  And, frankly, I don't feel like keeping my 4.3"-screen-phone always out and viewable for for every bike ride.

And what about the new Kurt Kinetic inRide power meter? It's simple....I want something that goes with me when I go outside.

For now, I'm quite happy about my gear.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hump Day......

After the Tour of Sufferlandria and now building consistency in my running, I'm finding that the third day is THE CRUCIAL day in a run for consistency.  This isn't anything new...Wednesday of a standard workweek is known as Hump Day for a reason.

But in terms of building consistency, there is more to it than just looking at it as "half-way to the weekend" or half-way to my goal of "running every day this week."

I think the biggest thing is the physical aspect that, if you're just starting or getting back into a consistent routine, your body is really tired on that third morning. And all you want to do is REST. But, that rest is what will kill your run for consistency. It's best to then apply the theory that "less is more" and do any level of time and effort that allows you to maintain that consistency. If  you are starting out with a goal of running three miles each day this week, Wednesday of the first week could easily turn into a 1.5 or 2 mile walk/jog event because you probably do need to give your body a break but you want to maintain consistency. The balancing act of volume and effort is an art that you learn after a while.

My point is that consistency is key. If you're tired on day three of a new routine or cycle, dial-down your volume or effort but still do something. This  maintains your overall schedule, your mental game that keeps you on track, and your body gets the consistency it needs to make gains.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back at it...finally

A week after the Tour of Sufferlandria, I got back on the horse. I didn't intend to take a whole week off, but that's what happened. It was mostly mental, but there was also a physical aspect.

I took Monday and Tuesday off 100% as planned.

Wednesday I ran four miles. A nice and easy workout. I hadn't ran in two months or so, and I paid for it unexpectedly. I thought I might have a bit of soreness the next day. But for the next four days, I had trouble walking without a limp....after only a four mile run!

So that took out any aspect of workouts til yesterday, Monday. Yes, I know that a nice recovery ride or run would have solved the problem, but I had some sort of mental block going on.

Yesterday I wanted to do a little trainer ride in the morning. Alarm set for 5:10. Kid cries from 5:05 to 5:09, so that's a perfect setup to get out of bed and go at 5:10. I didn't. I reset the alarm for 5:40, then 6:10, then 6:40, then 7:00. Aaarggghh!!!

But I did run four miles at lunch. Actually a bit more because I had to do a short detour past my house to let the dog out. 37 minutes overall. And I'm not sore today at all!

As a side note, I think it is truly AWESOME that I can start a lunch run at work and always have the option of a detour past my house for whatever reason, to let the dog out, turn on the slowcooker, or get somthing I forgot, whatever. That is a part of the small town life that I won't ever give up.

Anyway....back on track here after a week off. Looking forward to a few days of consistency, then a few days of skiing, and then a month or mor

Monday, February 4, 2013

Race Report: Tour of Sufferlandria

Race Report: Tour of Sufferlandria
I’m putting this under race reports even though it’s not technically a race. But it felt like one. And it worked my body more than any other race.

After nine days of suffering, I’m left with just enough energy on my first day off to review the tour. My oxygen debt has cleared for the most part, and the screams from legs are at least somewhat muted.
For starters, a review of what the Tour of Sufferlandia was supposed to be, in the words of the tour organizer, the Honorable Mr Sufferfest Himself, Dave@thesufferfest.com.
“According to Grunter von Agony, race director, “The course is carefully balanced between agony, misery and despair. So, yes, the Tour of Sufferlandria is a worthwhile target for anybody looking for an early season goal. You really ought to have some solid training behind you before you start it, and you’ll surely go through a roasting in hell during the race. When you come out the other side? With a solid 9 days of effort behind you, you will be able to take an ox, tie him to your bike, drag him up and over Mt. Sufferlandria while he tries to run the other way, and drink a flagon of ale made from the bikes of all those you crushed on your way to a glorious victory. Or the Minions will eat you for lunch. But, whatever.”

To Participate:
To join the ToS, you must simply commit to following the schedule above and ride yourself into the ground each day. Join the community on our Facebook page for inspiration in those dark moments between stages to hear stories of HONOR GLORY AND VICTORY. Those who complete and register their 9 days with our partner, TrainerRoad.com, will be be eligible for daily prizes and thrown into a pool of prizes from the ‘fest, TrainerRoad and others at the end of the event.
Aahhh, yes. The expectations were SO HIGH.  I actually got really excited for this thing. My wife thought I was going crazy, probably from too much inside time with the kids and not enough outside time in the backcountry skiing. Anywho.. I NEEDED a good consistent stretch to get me to the next level on the bike, which currently sits at about 50% of the standard triathlon racers, amongst a 10% swim and a 30% run. So, you can see that my bike leg SUCKS. I need to learn how to suffer. I need to get faster, and….like immersion training for languages, the only way to get truly faster is to go to Sufferlandria and spend some time there…suffering.

The Tour beat all my expectations in much the same manner that it beat the heck out my legs over the  nine days. Truly, on the last day…a Sunday….I stood in my church during prayers, and I think everyone could hear my legs begging for mercy as they knew what was coming up on the last day of the tour…after the crushing effort put forth on the “Revolver.”   Yeah.

I had about 5-6 weeks of mostly consistent, relatively low volume and medium intensity bike riding in me, this after a two month break from the bike but with a 24-mile-per-week run average. When I started biking again in mid-December, I quite the running but added weight lifting. I hadn’t done any really hard efforts to prepare for the tour.

On the tech side, I signed up for TrainerRoad.com, which has turned out to be quite an impressive software; I will do a separate review on that later but for now JUST SIGN UP AND DO IT because it is pretty cool. 

I also bought the ANT+ Garmin cadence/speed sensor and then near the end of the Tour got the heart rate monitor after I saw how cool the data presentation is inside TrainerRoad software.  And I just now, before sitting to write this review, bought Timex Global Trainer to read the ANT+ devices when off the trainer. The ANT+ stuff is pretty easy to work with, so any non-techie can certainly figure this stuff out.

The TrainerRoad.com software was easy to install and all that, but the numbers looked really weird on the first day. I thought it was a data smoothing problem. In reality, it was a USB wireless mouse causing the problem. I’m also learning now that the i7 quad-core laptop I bought in August to make the MountainCruises bike videos in Yellowstone National Park is good for this sort of thing; I’ve seen some references to an i5 processor having some issues.

So, let’s get to the Tour stuff!  Each day already has its own write-up on the AmphibOps.com blog.   I’m  just going to write out my basic thoughts in no particular order.

1.  The idea of this Tour of Sufferlandria is pretty darn cool.  I owned all but two videos before the tour and never thought of a daily workout for that many days in a row.  The timing was perfect; right in the middle of the winter for me in southeast Idaho without much snow on the ground right now to lure me away for skiing.

2. I applaud anyone who did all the videos at 100%. I did them at 90%, and it really took all I had to finish the Local Hero on the last day (but I did finish! And I WON! IN GLORIOUS FASHION!). 

3. The Slowtwitch.com forum for the tour has 12,137 views and 322 comments on Monday afternoon. That’s A LOT! A few years ago I had to cut out my slowtwitch.com reading because it was a huge yet incredibly useful addiction that I needed to step away from (and that was just reading with very little posting). But I checked it out to see what the word on the street was.

4.  Plan out your schedule and nutrition and clothes BEFORE the tour starts. Nothing sucks more than letting bad organization ruin your chances of finishing the tour.  You WILL have to change your shirts because they will stink from all the sweat, tears, snot, and yes maybe some blood (if you had a slight sinus infection like I did, but that’s another story).  Don’t run out of nutrition, especially Recoverite because you will need it if you are doing the workouts correctly and you have a good FTP set.  

I recommend you set a nighttime or solid afternoon time to do the workouts each day. If you plan morning workouts and oversleep just once, you’re probably screwed. However, if you do evening workouts after all the kids are in bed and such and you can force yourself to just get on the bike, you’ll do well with consistency….except now you have to deal with how to get to sleep quickly after the workouts and your body is flush with endorphins and such. Have all the videos inside one single folder on your computer before you start, or already loaded into the TrainerRoad software. They take a while to download, so it’s something you have to think about before-hand.

  - Have that beer and chips or whatever already on-hand in your house BEFORE you start Local Hero. You won't feel like going anywhere when it's done.

5. Commit to this as if it was really a race that you paid big bucks to enter. You WILL come out of it a better bicyclist. I am fairly certain my FTP has gone for 230 to 240 at least.

6. Have fun with it. Laugh at the screen prompts. Dig into the story line. That’s the beauty of the Sufferfest videos; you can really put yourself into the race with just a little bit of imagination.

7. Think about ditching all your other workouts during this week. You’ll need the energy.

8. I wonder how this might have helped me in my running? I haven’t ran in two months, and I have 20 mile trail run race in early June. I guess it can’t have hurt it.

9. At some point in the future, I’m going to do this on my own again using the same schedule.

10. At some point in the future, I’m going to do a double-version that includes 2 – 2.5 hours of video time spread across probably 4-5 days (Thursday – Sunday) to prep for the 70.3 triathlon I want to do in September.  The easiest way to do this is to be ready whenever there is 4-5 days of rain in the forecast and then just hit that whenever the weather looks crappy.

11. I think I’m going to buy the poster that’s available. It’s just too cool. And…hey Dave!....where’s my finisher shirt?

12. 1024 registered riders. 519 finished. 505 dropped. That’s almost 50% attrition. WOW!

13. Given the above numbers, I honestly feel like I accomplished something with this. I don’t have a huge sense of pride about it, but I have the same sense of accomplishment as I did when I finished my first Olympic triathlon.

14. I didn’t win any of the daily prizes, but I’m in the running for some of the overall prizes, all of which are pretty cool. The ROCKR trainer looks pretty neat, and a year of TrainerRoad will be nice.  Of course, any of them would be really nice addition to my pain cave.

15. For anyone wondering what videos might be a good recovery, checkout MountainCruises.com to cruise through Yellowstone National Park for an hour and twenty minutes on your bike trainer.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tour of Sufferlandia D.U.N!Day 9 recap

** I'll write an overall review of the tour when I have a bit more energy and have fully recovered from oxygen debt. Here is today's review. ***

As my legs cried out for mercy simply by standing in church this morning, I knew Revolver had really crushed my legs yesterday. Seriously, they hurt just standing there. And then I started hurting all over thinking about the hurt that was yet to come on this final stage of the Tour.

As Noah climbed into his toddler bed that he had climbed out of at 6:15am this morning (c'mon! It's SUNDAY, KID!), I dashed to finish this tour during his nap. It was going to be close. Local Hero is 1 hour 20 minutes, but I needed 1:45 or so to change over, get going, and then shower afterwards before Noah woke up.

This was going to be an anti-climatic BIG FINISH! I was too tired to really hit it. I just wanted to finish. And I had a sleeping toddler and a four-year old upstairs I was trying to pay attention to on the baby monitor.

Then I had trouble getting the video to roll inside TrainerRoad program. Plan B! Just sync it up with my media player. That worked!

Today, even the warm-up hurt!

I got into mentally during the TT section, which is probably my overall favorite section of workout in all of the Sufferfests, except maybe the climb in The Hunted.

The 3 minute laps were brutal! Nearly as brutal as intervals 8-13 yesterday. Mentally challenging for sure, on top of the physical challenge.

The final sprints were doable, but with not-so-great power numbers because there just wasn't any power left in my legs. I did them far above the FTP, but nowhere near the 600 watt sprint from the other day.

I really feel like I accomplished something in this tour. I honestly think my FTP has improved by at least 10%, judging from the perceived effort at 230 watts today versus last weekend at the start. I'll write more about my overall thoughts on the tour.

Before I get to the data file, it looks like the tour had a nearly 50% attrition rate. Wow! Almost as high as my Marine Corps Officer Candidate Class back in the day!


Here is the roll-up of all my tour rides.


And here is today's ride file.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tour of Sufferlandria Day 8 done

This hurt as expected. There Is No Try wasn't so painful really, but it took alot out of me, considering what Revolver needs from you. I actually enjoyed There Is No Try, mostly because of the TT section in the middle.

There is a reason I hadn't purchased Revolver prior to today's tour requirements. I know what 15x1 can do to a person because we used to do wrestling matches like that in practice back in the day. Go at it really hard for a minute or two, then take that same time off. Repeat 10-15 times, whatever time is left of practice. Keep score. It works out to be about a half hour of pure pain. No, I didn't need that type of workout sitting in my house/computer making fun of me all the time because I was scared of it.
But I survived. I didn't even half-ass or skip any of the intervals. Every one of them done at 90% FTP or better for the full minute. 

Seems like the worst day was ABSOLUTELY TODAY. 

I know tomorrow will be ABSOLUTELY THE BEST DAY! I will even have some celebratory beverage awaiting for me. I didn't realize until tonight that I haven't had any alcohol since this tour started because there simply has been no time for it. I don't want to drink a beer or wine at 7pm and then workout at 9pm...what if the Tour Officials asked for a blood sample right before the race?  

Anyway, it certainly contributed to the current weight-loss of about 6.4 pounds on this tour; there must be some sort of synergistic affect happening between the timing of this being week six of a great cycle, no weight lifting since Monday, and getting average sleep.....where was I?

Oh yes, as I write this only 30 short minutes after getting off the bike, a bit of residual oxygen-debt lingers.
I'm excited about tomorrow. It's my favorite Sufferfest video for sure. I know I can get excited about it and hammer it out. And then I'll take two days off and start this running thing I've been neglecting for the past 60 days. 

Data files below.  Debating internally if I want to sleep in and go to the late church service after this morning's early rise.



Art Prints


Get it in any of the major e-book formats at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/26079