Wednesday, December 28, 2016

6th post in 2016? Get addicted to riding.

Ok, I am not posting enough. As a professional writer, 6 posts in 2016 is beyond dismal. And there is so much to talk about in the world.

I understand that the TV show 60 Minutes is going to do a segment in late January about mechanical doping. Why?

Mechanical doping seems to be more of a Euro problem at the moment. While I am sure that there might be a hidden bike motor or two in the US, the reality is that someone rich has it, because the technology isnt cheap. Few if any teams have that kind of budget to fund a motor being installed.  Maybe some masters rider has one, but again, the main guy behind this that does the engineering and installs is in Europe, so it is harder for the technology to be here at the moment.

Shows like 60 Minutes should really focus on the drug culture in America. But there is too much money from drug companies in marketing right now. The public doesnt want to face the ugly truth that we are over medicated, and rely on any drug or alcohol to make us feel good or whatever. Pointing the finger at Americans and their behavior is probably not a good thing, but it is the truth. We dont want to listen about our eating habits and how obese we are. Last thing we want to hear is that doctors give us too many drugs.

Are we a nation full of addicts?

I may have written about this before, but I think the most addictive substance is sugar. I think most people are addicted to sugar as a minimum. Perhaps there are other addictions in their lives.

It would be cool if we could be addicted to healthy things, like riding our bikes. Or going to the gym. Isnt it weird that addiction doesnt seem to work that way.  We would call going to the gym every day a habit. It might be rare to even see a chemical based reaction in our bodies for this habit.

With other known addictions, a chemical reaction happens, and our brains react. I have learned that my sugar addiction starts in my intestines, and the bacteria secretes a chemical to the brain and that is where the cycle begins. Breaking the cycle is difficult, because the bacteria doesnt go away easily, and they will keep emitting the chemical to our brains requesting more and more sugar.

Back to riding...

The racing season begins in just a few days. Everyone will be amped up to race in January here. I am enthusiastic with a healthy dose of realism. I look forward to racing once or twice in January as motivation, but the reality is I want to start performing well later in March.

I think I can survive enough in the races to have a good experience and use that as motivation. I also am looking forward to racing at Ontario again. Last year there was not any events at Ontario, they were moved to Riverside. In 2017 they are back in Ontario, and I love racing there. It is just so comfortable to do so.

The Arizona racing calendar is posted. It seems like it is dwindling and becoming smaller every year. That is such a shame since there is so much potential here. Many great roads and areas, but the riders do not support events deep enough. In 2014 I put two races on here in Phoenix. We lost money. No promoter wants to lose money.

I didnt get to race enough in 2016. I look to change that in 2017.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Feeling Crappy

I was just reading Tilford's blog where he was mentioning not feeling very good for the last couple of weeks. I think something is going around, but I know where mine is from.

Last week I rode too late in the day. I got burned pretty bad, like the skin on my arms is peeling.  That doesn't happen to me very often.  Every couple of years at the most. The joy of being used to the sun around here, it is kind of automatic.

I hear other people in different parts of the country have issues, I don't generally have problems in the heat. This morning it was already 90 plus degrees early on the ride, like before 7 am. Eventually you get used to it, and it and 90 doesn't seem that hot.

Riding at 3pm isn't fun, our hottest time of the day. Even at noon it gets pretty yucky, but it still feels better than later in the afternoon.  What a weird perspective. We have already exceeded the average number of 110 degree days here.  We normally see around 30 of them, not a great statistic.

I was good for around an hour on the ride, then just didn't have anything.  I rode hard on the fast part, made it up the first hill, but then blah. I did win the sprint though, like you were all worried. Hit 39mph on it and decent wattage. A week ago I was doing better, and was through 2 hours riding harder. I did hit the wall at 2 hours though. I guess there is a time to take it easier and this is one of them.

I haven't had high expectations since my last race in California. I wanted to race this weekend, but didn't have a place to stay in San Diego. I will try to make it over at the end of the month, and maybe do Manhattan Beach GP.  A totally fun race, out of the heat and near the beach. After that, there isn't much racing for the rest of the year.

Most of our Saturday group ride in this part of town covers our old State Championship course from back in 1985. About 10 miles from my house we used to have the International Harvester proving grounds. Yes, in the desert and all that, but they were testing plows out here.
When the roads of the test track were first converted to streets. The area in the background is now an elementary and middle school. That is South Mountain in the far background, where the TV and radio towers are.

This area is now a huge housing development, and the main test track was turned into a 4 lane divided road. Soon a few miles of that road will turn into a full fledged freeway.  In areas of the development you can see graded roads on the hills where they used to test bulldozers and other earth moving equipment.

Back in '85 our championships were later in the year, like in June or May. It was super hot out. Like get a bottle on every 8 mile lap type hot. You could see riders melting, a total race of attrition.

I don't know if we need races like that still, or what.  Amazingly we had a good turn out for it, better than we see in many races now. We also had races as late as November, a split season so to speak. It was great, you would peak in the spring for a big race, chill for part of the summer, then hit it again in the fall.

It helped string the year together better. You would rest during Thanksgiving, and then get back on the bike in December to get ready for February. You never really were off the bike very long to lose fitness and go through a monster building period.  After I truly learned about periodization at the Olympic Training Center, I would just keep riding, but didn't go crazy doing intervals until early spring. That meant you could race early, but not be in peak form, and carry a bunch of stress throughout the entire season. You could ride through the waves, compete more, but not worry as much about peak form.

Now people get worried about being in peak form here in late February, and then the season falls apart right after that.  Valley of the Sun SR is their world. Such a shame as there are great races all over the west, or even back east to hit. Expand your horizons and have fun somewhere else. It also takes more than 10 races per year to become a good bike racer.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Understanding Data - Part 2 of 3,768,002

I just built up an old bike, and was lucky enough to pick up an older SRM power meter for it.  My current team race bike has a different type of power meter on it, dual sided and wireless. The sensors bond onto the crank arms with little pods that transmit to a Garmin or similar computer. A consideration is where exactly do you place those sensors onto the crank arms?

The logic is that there is an optimum placement, or sweetspot. But does that differ between both sides?  The spider plays a role in the right side crank stiffness. The left side has fewer factors. If you are off by a millimeter, you get uneven readings. In my case, I have a 58-42% balance consistently. In reality I dont know my true wattage.

Now bring in my "new" SRM. At first I forgot to set the zero offset. So going downhill or pedaling lightly had me putting out zero watts, even with the cranks moving. There should be watts displayed when the crank moves, since there has to be force involved.

I did a few hills on Wednesday. My watts were lower than my race bike.  Holding 300 seemed difficult.

So, in understanding data, how we derive it is quite important. It is very difficult to get alternate means of capture to agree.

It will take a while to iron out the issues with both bikes and hopefully I can get similar numbers from both.

Update - Losing weight with Thyroid Cancer

In 2014 I wrote this blog:

I have learned so much since 2014. While the blog above has some good information and insight, it doesn't really scratch the surface for what I have experienced. 

A few things that I want to cover:
  • Metabolism without a thyroid
  • Special diets
  • Digestion
  • Hydration
As I have stated above, this is my own experience. Everyone is different, in fact we are a puzzle that takes quite a bit to solve. Then cancer happens and your puzzle is ruined and you have to start all over again. The picture has changed, the pieces have changed, and you might even be missing a few as a result. Just lie myself, missing a few pieces.

Late in 2014 I started up with a new doctor in Portland. I was in bad shape since my previous doctor in Chandler messed up the dosing protocol for the thyroid replacement I was on. You have to remember that dealing with a lack of thyroid isn't about taking a pill and everything is cool. It is very complicated with many parts of the body competing and having influences overall with the uptake and usage of the hormones. Thyroid hormone is dosed in micrograms, which is a tenth of a milligram, and variances are usually in around a 7-12.5 microgram increment. Without significant fillers added, most thyroid hormone pills are smaller than a tic-tac.

If your body is not working right, such as the adrenals are overloaded from stress and other chemical factors, you will act like you are overdosed or underdosed. That happened to me this year, a couple of months ago. I was working 2 jobs, training and stressing pretty hard. My diet was too high in sugar, and my body just couldn't compensate correctly so my adrenals were overloaded. As a result I had been in a pre-diabetes state. My blood tests showed that I was pooling a portion of my thyroid hormone and severely overusing another portion. I effectively was hyperthyroid, and had difficulty sleeping, but could not lose weight.

That is when I started to learn something that I thought made sense earlier. Simply if I took more thyroid hormone, I would raise my metabolism and lose weight.  It doesnt work that way. I also learned that my thyroid balance affected my performance in specific ways. That my heart rate could be elevated or suppressed as a result.

Diet and Metabolism
I needed to help correct my adrenal issue this year, so my doctor suggested I go on a specialty diet. It is called Elemental. The goal is to detox and reset several of the bodies systems. One type of Elemental has no sugar to speak of, perhaps 10-20 grams max from honey. The other is protein specific. This is the nastiest liquid diet ever!

I lost quite a bit of weight on this diet. I was bloated very badly due to sugar and gut absorption issues. This diet is meant to starve the gut of sugar and rid itself of this bacteria overgrowth that contributes to bloating as well as severe cravings for sugar. I certainly did that and dropped quite a bit of water weight. I was astounded to find out that the gut bacteria tied to processing sugar puts out a chemical in the body requesting more and more sugar in a never ending process.

I can't recommend this diet without proper supervision. Many people get to the point where their brains do not function due to the lack of calories. Operating cars, thinking, and even functioning can be difficult if you do not know what you are doing and how to compensate. I went for over 3 weeks on this diet, and was eventually riding my bike near the end of it. I dropped a good 25 pounds, and it took a short period until I could eat and have energy again.

I learned about my metabolism during this diet. My caloric intake was far less than 500 calories per day. Perhaps 200, and the diet drink is all vitamins and amino acids.  Remember how I thought I could change my metabolism with more thyroid hormone? Well doing this diet proves something. That eating actually can raise your metabolism. Not eating can slow it down severely.

I had heard rumors about various things in regards to diets and eating and the like. But again, we are all different.  My metabolism is not normal. I cant just barely adjust my diet and lose weight. I have to be overly aggressive, and get into a depleted state until I stop losing, then I can start eating slightly to jumpstart loss again. If I just train, I dont really lose weight. If I don't control my sugar intake, I don't lose weight at all.  If I eat too much sugar and get overloaded, I bloat up and retain many pounds of water, sometimes 5 pounds or more of water per day. Yes, that is nearly a gallon of liquid, and you can hear it sloshing about. Very weird indeed.

It has been said that we have literally billions of bacteria in our digestive tract. We need it to help us break down food. There are dozens if not hundreds of varieties that work to extract everything from sugar to vitamins and minerals to even hormones for what we hope is proper absorption.

Ultimately, we cant absorb everything good in what we eat. we only get a portion. For instance if you take an iron supplement you are likely only to absorb 30% of it. Even less if you partake in caffeine.

The body loves sugar and carbs. A good deal of the energy we spend is derived from sugar and carbs. Unfortunately the upper intestine does much of the work of finding, breaking down and processing sugar for usage. For myself, the bacteria that does this work got a bit out of control, and causes me to blocked and backed up, bloating me out, and even hampering absorption of water. You could swear you are hydrated, but in reality you digestive tract is fooling you.

The elemental diet I alluded to above was part of the treatment for SIBO.  Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. This is pretty treatment is extreme, and difficult to do.

Now, I would normally tell you that so much of this stuff is so fringe, so supposition. Things like gluten intolerance. Perhaps many people are searching for anything that is an answer to whatever ails them. There is an abundance of self diagnosis, and I find it less than believable. Additionally, I wouldn't believe it for myself.

Apparently having thyroid cancer is not good for the body. Newsflash there! Having gone through this has unearthed issues, and allowed some to become huge influences in my wellness. Sometimes we have to go to extremes to teach ourselves these facts, to have things pointed out with direct evidence within our own bodies.

Once I completed this SIBO diet, I found it a little easier to lose weight, and maintain a lower number. Gut and digestive issues are real! I didn't put much credence into it before. I attempted to eat Paleo previously, but I can honestly report that grains are not good for me, and cause a certain amount of inflammation. Tie that in with too much sugar consumption and you have a recipe for a mess.

I live in Arizona. During a recent heatwave that had temps reaching 120 degrees we had some deaths out on the hiking and biking trails. I did some experimentation at this time. There were times that I wouldn't drink 20oz of water during a 40 mile ride. This sounds crazy, but it isn't if you know how to monitor your body.

If you stop sweating, get chills, get brain fog and other telltale signs, yes you are dehydrated and in danger. Many heat related deaths are not entirely due to dehydration, but more of a factor of exacerbating pre-existing health concerns. Getting dehydrated puts severe stress on the body, and those health issues rear their heads and become a huge problem.

Generally, one would aim to drink somewhere around 20oz of water per half hour to an hour in this kind of heat. Some people over drink, and as a result flush valuable minerals through their body too quickly. Others do not drink enough. A key here is this: as we train, we should learn about ourselves. How to perform optimally is a set of experiments meant to teach you how you feel both bad and good.  How else do you know how little fluid you can intake, and vice versa whether drinking a lot helps?  How much is just right.

So yes, drinking so little is not a good thing. I gained knowledge though. I know how I feel, and how much my performance drops off.  Effectively my heart rate goes up around 20 bpm and I lose a good 40 or more watts. Granted, you wouldn't do this during a race. Unless you had to. But, to drop weight, and remember our bodies are over 90% water, could you use this method to reset your baseline? Potentially yes. Dangerous, but yes.

Unfortunately, it seems I have to take drastic measures now to reset my body and improve my performance. I try to do this in small increments, then recover to a new set point. I still can't control my sugar intake very well, but I am doing better.  My performance is significantly better now.  My output and work level under effort is so much higher.  I can train now to improve, rather than just get exercise that didn't lead to improvement. That is fact was hard to swallow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Understanding Data - Part 1 of 2,789,003

I got into an interesting debate with my dad yesterday. To qualify, he claims he is not all that tech savvy, but he is a better than average user of computers, phones and the like. Part of the discussion was about too much data.

I don't believe it is possible to have too much data, especially now that we have so many tools at our disposal to make sense of what we capture. I even have a spreadsheet where I try to capture all of the results of my blood tests, before and after cancer. It paints a certain picture.

Now in regards to blood tests, I can potentially see where having a test every week is overkill. I get tested at least 4 times a year, and last year had 6 or 7 tests. Through those tests I was able to detect that I had gone from being hypothyroid to hyperthyroid in early spring, and that I was actually having issues back into November 2015. Data can be good.

Back in the early 1980's we were all so happy when the Avocet computer came out. We could get miles, speed and things like that in a fairly accurate little unit. It was funny how we even advocated taking the battery out on January 1st to start over on our data collection. Now Strava does that for us.

I used to be a premium member on Strava. I recently shut that off. I didn't feel that I was getting much from this tool as I couldn't really work with my data. It was not even equal to the Garmin site where I could break down power a little bit better, see balance, and get peak numbers. I was a bit disappointed with Strava in regards to number crunching. However, I do love comparing times on segments and the like, in reality this is one type of number crunching, and kind of old school. When we didn't have power and heart rate, if you got dropped, you knew you had work to do. If you stayed on, you were doing ok.

I have been using the Watteam PowerBeat, a low cost ($499) power meter that is DIY installation. Easy To Use
Effectively, you are given a tool that locates the sensor on the right of the picture onto the crank arms, and then bond them into place. The sending units on the left send a signal and data to a Garmin or similar computer for calculation and storage of the data.

I have been happy somewhat, since I didn't have a powermeter for a while, and feel that when paired with many things that power can be a valuable tool.  I did have an issue with one sensor, and had to replace it. My other issue that I currently have is that the sensor placement is a little vague. If that sensor it placed a few millimeters too close to the bb, it will not register enough watts, or too close to the pedal and it will detect more flex and register too many watts. How do you really know what the most optimum placement is and get an accurate number?

Simplified Powermeter Theory

A small part of the power debate is getting a number and sticking with it. Most people are happy with that. They get their power number and they can brag or whatever. Here is the reality, why do you even capture data about your training?

I would hope that the goal with using a Garmin, or some type of computer is so that you can analyze the data, and use it to improve. Now here is where the debate begins, what data is important, how much helps, and can you focus on the data to make sense of it and derive value? How exactly do you adjust and improve? What is the best way to do so?

In our scenario, how exactly is your power meter sampling? Remember the meter is digital, and not analog. Based on the processor, it will read from its sensors so many times per second. Next, your computer is recording data, but how often? The default interval on Garmin is 2 seconds. So, your powermeter is sampling potentially 10 or more times per second, it might be sending a data point to the computer less times, and the Garmin is recording every 2 seconds. You might see a potential fallacy building there. But again, you are getting a number from your powermeter to judge performance on. Is it the best number that can be calculated, maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on the time period, and how many times it can derive that accurate number in the time frame.

Realizing this, other manufacturers spec out their own computer, such as SRM or Pioneer. While it is possible to record data from either manufacturer with a Garmin or similar computer, the results will be more accurate using the manufacturer specific computer. Like we were discussing above, the powermeter itself is capable of sending a reading multiple times per second, the sending unit may perform some localized calculations and then send data to the computer, but it is possible to get more data points with this scenario.

Data Points

So, you may hear someone on a ride or a race boasting some power number. Or you hear about watts per kilogram for Tour de France riders. What does all that matter? Well it is a relationship that we are attempting to define, and it all revolves around data points.

We all love big numbers. There is a reality though, big numbers can be nice at the right time. But think about this, I don't want big numbers all the time. Actually I want small numbers most of the time, more specifically I want small watt and heart rate numbers in the middle of a race, and to maintain those small numbers while remaining in contention for the win. At a given time, I want max or near max numbers to be available to win the race at either a climb or sprint point. A realization is that, yes, we must be able to maintain big numbers at the right times.

But big numbers. What if that number is a single data point? Is it good? Yes, it is good, you got the number, maybe one time in 50 miles. It means something. If you did it twice, even better. Maintain that number over a longer period of time (data points), and you are on to something.

But... Is your powermeter capturing your big numbers? This is where you need to record many data points. The more the better. In the case of a Pioneer unit, it attempts to capture a reading every 30 degrees throughout your pedal stroke up to 120rpm. Because it is capturing data that frequently, it can start to do more with that data. It can start to paint a picture of your pedal stroke.  
In red, it shows to varying degrees how much power is being applied, in this case during the down stroke on the left and right hand side. By having significant data points, it can draw this picture accurately and provide something that a single power number cannot.

The goal with training, and any of these tools is to improve your performance. Yes, you can improve your performance tracking a single number at a single point. Yes, you can improve by having an overwhelming amount of data as well. If you take the time to make the data mean something, build a relationship with it. Effectively Strava does that one way, which is time over distance.  We are not yet sophisticated enough to understand power over distance, or to equate with sensitivity power to effort and given results. Yes, there are a few of us that might be able to, but unfortunately the majority of us are fixated with 20 min power, or even 5 second surges. It makes us feel good, and in a way, that did improve your performance.