Monday, April 6, 2009

Non-skiing weekend

I had a great weekend, although I ended up missing a very good ski day yesterday, with 9" of new snow at the mountain. It was the first weekend I didn't ski at all since before Thanksgiving.

Friday night, I drove to NH to stay with some ultra friends. We got caught up on training and race plans over a couple beers and then got some sleep before our long run on Saturday. We started with a group of 10 or so. About half of the group was planning to run about 30 miles on the Trail Animals Don't Run Boston (we usually just call it DRB) 50K course. That race will be held in two weeks, the day before the Boston marathon.

It was my first trail run of the year, so my plan was to run 24 miles or so, and hopefully be out there for at least 6 hours. It is a very technical course - tough footing, tough route-finding, and lots of ups and downs that accumulate over the course of the day. The full 50K climbs about 5700 vertical feet. I mostly stayed with the group for the first 9 miles or so, but then I started to lag a bit. When we stopped at our aid station at mile 12, I said I was going to skip the next three mile section of the course and start on the next two sections, which total 12.5 miles. That would put me ahead of the other runners and I figured they'd catch me as I slowed down.

So, I headed out solo and mostly hiked, and then ran on the easier terrain. At one point, we run down a small ski slope and I was circumventing the remaining snow when I hit some mud and went down hard. That was my second fall of the day and I laughed it off and kept moving.

By the time I hit 20 miles or so, I started to run more. I was feeling beat up a bit, but pretty good overall. When I had about a mile left to the aid station, I bumped into the other group at a trail intersection. This course winds in and out of so many trails that you see certain intersections multiple times. So, I just hopped in with the group and ran with them for a while. When we got to the aid station, I was at 24 miles in 6:44, and I called it a day. The others went out for their last few miles and I relaxed in the car with a beer until they returned.

In 2005, I did the DRB race in 10:07. It was a warm day and my first time on the course, so route-finding was an issue. Last year, I ran 8:54. I was with others for the first half of the run, but solo for the second half, and route-finding was again an issue. I finished last both of these years, but most of the time, only half of the starters even finish.

In two weeks, I'll be on the course for the 4th time, and the second in a month. I'm hoping I'll spend less time looking at the map and more time running. Given my time for 24 tough miles on Saturday (I skipped one tough section and one easy section), I feel like I should be able to go faster than last year. I would have 2:10 to go an extra 7 miles, which is almost 19 mpm. We'll see how the weather cooperates in two weeks.

On Sunday, I was hoping to go for a walk with the dogs. But, I got online to check up on my buddy Joe, who was running at Umstead. Then, while waiting for updates, I started working. I had an appointment for a bike fitting in the afternoon and I ended up working right up until it was time to leave for the fitting.

The whole bike fitting process was pretty interesting. The shop starts with an interview, asking questions about your riding history, riding interests, fitness background, physical issues, etc. Then they move on to measuring and testing range of motion. Then, from those measurements, they do some adjustments on this weird bicycle where every tube length and angle can be changed. In reality, it's like a bike that can be infinitely adjusted to fit just about everyone. Then, you ride the bike and they take videos. From the videos, they measure angles while you're riding and start adjusting from there.

The initial measurements merely give them a starting place and the video allows them to fine tune everything. After the bike dimensions are set up, they focus on the pedal stroke. First, they use video to look for how the knee moves through the pedal stroke, hoping to see mostly vertical motion. I wasn't very vertical. They tried some inserts in my shoes, which didn't improve things. They told me that many athletes, especially runners, have very tight hips, which prevent them from getting the pedal stroke to be more vertical. Expensive footbeds for my shoes might help, but they might not. I decided against those for now and they said that I could try some older ski boot footbeds instead. The guy doing the fitting was a ski boot fitter earlier in his career, so I'll certainly take his advice to give that a try.

Next, they did a stroke analysis - comparing one leg vs. the other, to make sure there were no physical imbalances that would cause one leg to do most of the work. Then, they analyzed the entire pedal stroke for power output, trying to get me to smooth out the stroke and not just push, but also pull through the stroke.

Finally, they were done, and they put the whole analysis on a USB key so I could look at it more at home. But, that was just the analysis. Next, they attacked my bike to make it conform as well as possible to the ideal set-up. This ended up including some new parts, one of them very expensive, and the dollars kept adding up. By the time they were done, the bike felt completely different and very comfortable. We added a few other things - bottle cages, flat repair kit, new rear cassette so I'd have better gearing for riding hills in VT, etc. The most expensive part was new handlebars. The only bars they had in stock that fit me perfectly were carbon fiber. Those bars cost almost as much as the bike I bought in 1985 and used in my first few triathlons.

Then, the owner hit the cash register and started adding things up. When he was done, the price of my bike had doubled. He told me that was not unusual for a used bike like I had. This is a shop that sells many bikes in the $5K-$10K range, so they are used to dealing with serious cyclists with deep pockets.

I now remember part of why I quit doing triathlons years ago. I couldn't afford the bike gear any more. But, I now have a pretty sweet ride and I'm waiting for some nice weather to get out and go for a real ride.

And speaking of working out, this week will be pretty simple. I'll lift today, Wednesday and Friday. I'll run Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, probably doing 12, 10 and 20 in my runs. I might add in some short intervals on Wednesday if I have time and my legs are recovered from last weekend. And maybe, I'll get out for a bike ride, but the weather looks pretty rainy for the week.

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