Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 21: Review

While the scorching heat this week made things a bit challenging, the weather was more or less stable so it was easy to fit everything in as planned. I did scale back some of the running mileage as the heat is still getting to me, but on the bike I managed to squeeze in my best week in a long time - logging a little over 150 miles. That included a lot of time in 40C+ weather as well as two individual rides longer than 50 miles (Monday and Saturday).

Yesterday's ride turned out great, as the heat and humidity abated for the day so I could enjoy the session a lot more than the previous rides this week. The winds were a bit strong, but they were relatively steady so it was just a matter of pushing a bit harder on the northbound segments of the route. I also picked a bit of a hillier route than normal, as that is one aspect of my riding that I still have to work on.

The stretch along St. John's Sideroad between Yonge and Dufferin offers a couple of long stretches of unrelenting climbs that do a good job of getting the legs burning. A small downhill segment in the middle looks promising, but unfortunately the traffic lights at its base mean that it doesn't really help much (just means you have to re-climb that lost altitude). Either way, it's difficult to find a good sustained climb like that in this area so I'm hoping to give it a few more shots this summer.

Regardless, thanks to all of that this week reaches a number of milestones with my YTD running total popping its head over 500mi and cycling over 1000mi. My cycling mileage this month is also the highest that I've recorded, with a little under 380mi/611km. I would have liked to add to that total tomorrow, but unfortunately it doesn't look like the weather is going to make that feasible (will have to see - may be able to head out in the morning).

This morning the temperature and humidity decided to climb back up, so it made my planned 14 miler a bit more challenging. Fortunately, it didn't hit me quite as hard as it did last week so I was able to manage a decent pace for the distance. The temperature was a bit higher, but the humidity was much lower so it wasn't quite as bad. With that said, after a week of training in these conditions I think the body is starting to get used to it a bit. Naturally, running with humidex readings in the high 30s is never fun, but once the body acclimates to it it does get a lot easier.

Week 21 Totals:
Running: 46.9km (29.1mi)
Walking: 1.0km (0.6mi)
Cycling: 249.0km (154.7mi)
Swimming: 6.5km (4.0mi)
Total: 303.4km (188.5mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 838.8km (521.2mi)
Walking: 43.9km (27.3mi)
Cycling: 1616.5km (1004.4mi)
Swimming: 131.2km (81.5mi)
Total: 2630.4km (1634.5mi)

The upcoming week is going to be a bit more unsettled, although fortunately it looks like the temperatures will be falling quite a bit. It will make scheduling a bit more complicated, but I could really use a bit of a break from getting back home soaked every time I go out ;) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Saturday will clear up a bit, as we weren't able to get a group ride in this week due to scheduling issues (lots of races this weekend) and I'd like to get back into that this week if at all possible.

Tentative Schedule:
Mon 32.3K Ride (if I can squeeze it in, this will get me to 400mi for the month)
Tue 3.25K Swim, 6mi Recovery
Wed 30K Ride, 6mi Recovery
Thurs 3.25K Swim, 6mi GA
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 4mi Recovery, 80k Ride
Sun 15mi (24.1K) LSD

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Extreme Heat Advisory

The last few days have been brutally hot, with ambient temperatures in the low 30s and humidity in the 50-70% range. That works out to the equivalent of about 40C (~104F) and combined with the clear skies and limited wind, it gets quite uncomfortable trying to get a decent workout done. Given that we're still used to the cold temperatures, that makes it even more difficult to get used to these kind of conditions.

Fortunately, I managed to squeeze out a decent long ride on Monday before it got really hot. I brought along four 500mL bottles of water (two on the frame, two behind the saddle), and had to stop on the way back to buy some more. While I was refilling my bottles, I ran into a few other cyclists who were also going dry, including one fellow who was making his way down from Collingwood (he had traveled 115km before we met up in Kettleby). Given that we were both heading in the same direction we elected to stick together to make the trip back down a bit easier. As such, we traded pulls every 4-5K before splitting off into different directions at Kirby Sideroad.

By the time I got back home I was pretty much wiped, as even with proper hydration the heat takes a significant toll. It was still a great ride, but the conditions drained my energy near the end so I'll have to retry this route on a more comfortable day. Either way, these are the types of conditions that we'll likely be seeing more of in the coming months, so it's good to try and get the body used to it.

Yesterday I had a 6 mile run scheduled, but the temperatures and humidity had gone up significantly since Monday so I chopped it down to 5 miles and slowed down the pace. Even with those efforts, however, the heat was getting to me and I ended up taking a few breaks to let myself cool down. I brought along about 500mL of Gatorade which worked out to be about right, however some water would have been handy to wash the sweat out of my eyes near the end of the run ;)

This morning, I headed out for a short and easy recovery ride. Given yesterday's heat and the fact that the weather reports were calling for warmer weather today, I took it really easy from the start. I allowed myself to simply coast downhill and immediately downshifted to an easy gear for any climbs. I allowed myself to speed up a bit on the flats to generate a bit of a wind to better evaporate the sweat, but I kept the effort in check so as not to get too hot.

About 5K in, a City of Vaughan works truck slowed down alongside me and offered me a bottle of water. I declined as I hadn't even started on either of my bottles, but was quite appreciative of the simple offer. I continued on, and about 3K later another truck offered me water again - I thanked them and politely declined again. I made my way onto Weston Rd and started heading north and into King City. After clearing the large hill along this route, I made my way over to Jane and started heading back. When I turned onto Teston Rd and started heading back home, a third truck drove by and offered me water once again. I was still doing well with my own supply, so thanked them and continued on.

While I wasn't able to really take advantage of it, I do appreciate the city crews going out of their way to help. We're under an extreme heat advisory right now, which means that municipalities take extra effort to help people cope with the weather - but I didn't expect them to go to these lengths, and am very appreciative of the offers. Having their trucks acting as rolling aide stations on days like this is something that's relatively easy to do, but can make a significant difference for a cyclist who didn't bring along enough to drink. Had they been around on Monday, I most definitely would have taken them up on their offer ;)

Either way, we've got a group run scheduled for tonight that should be interesting and the weather is expected to stay in this range for the next couple of days. Fortunately, it looks like it will be cooling down a bit over the weekend so hopefully I won't have to fight through too much more of this. Unfortunately, it's just May at this point and summer hasn't even started so I'm a bit nervous about what the next few months are going to bring...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week 20: Review

It was a pretty good week overall. The heat and humidity are beginning to climb again, which made the sessions a bit more difficult, but thankfully there wasn't much rain so it was easier to get everything in. Yesterday was the only real exception to that, and while it looked like it was going to pour all day long it didn't really amount to much. To be safe, I skipped my ride yesterday (didn't want to get stuck in a downpour) after doing a longer than planned ride on Friday.

I did end up missing one of my planned 6 milers this week due to scheduling. I had a meeting in the afternoon on Thursday, so I elected to move the run back to Friday and treat it as a brick. Unfortunately I didn't account for the extra time the ride would take due to traffic (Friday before a long weekend and all), and when I did end up getting home I didn't have time to squeeze it in.

Other than that, this week pretty much went exactly to plan. This morning's 14 miler was punishing thanks to the heat and humidity, but I managed to get it all in without any problems. I was pretty much drenched by the time I got home and my shoes got saturated with about 5 miles to go, so I was sloshing around in them for the last little bit ;) Fortunately, I brought along all four bottles of Gatorade in my hydration belt, so I had plenty of fluids to take care of me for this distance (only ended up using three of them during the run, although I polished off the fourth while I stretched).

Week 20 Totals:
Running: 47.9km (29.8mi)
Walking: 0.6km (0.4mi)
Cycling: 150.7km (93.6mi)
Swimming: 7.2km (4.5mi)
Total: 206.4km (128.3mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 791.9km (492.1mi)
Walking: 42.9km (26.7mi)
Cycling: 1367.5km (849.7mi)
Swimming: 124.7km (77.5mi)
Total: 2327.0km (1445.9mi)

The upcoming week is looking like it's going to be a scorcher, however it also looks clear of any precipitation so it will likely be good for getting everything in. Tomorrow is a holiday in these parts, so I'm hoping to squeeze in a nice long ride to take full advantage of it ;) I will have to be careful to take in lots of fluids over this week, however, as my body is still getting used to dealing with the heat and humidity again.

Tentative Schedule:
Mon 80K Ride
Tue 3.25K Swim, 6mi Recovery
Wed 30K Ride, 6mi Recovery
Thurs 3.25K Swim, 6mi GA
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 4mi Recovery, 80k Ride
Sun 14mi (22.5K) LSD

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cycling Hydration

Over the last few days we've been starting to get the hot and humid weather that summer around these parts often brings. It's certainly nowhere near as hot as it will get in the coming months, but with the body still used to the colder weather it's still a bit of a rough adjustment. The biggest adjustment to all of this is taking in enough fluids. I've done enough running in this weather to have a good feel for what works and what doesn't, however on the cycling front I'm still trying to work that out.

One of the caveats is that I find myself needing a lot more fluid on the bike than I do on the run. Thanks to the higher speeds, the continuous stream of airflow means that the sweat evaporates much quicker so it's easy to go through a good amount of water. For instance, on yesterday's 70K ride I brought along four full bottles (two on the frame, two behind the saddle) and ended up drinking pretty much all of it (~2L) before I got back. Usually I just stick with two bottles and buy more along the way if necessary, but if at all possible I'd prefer to avoid doing that.

Part of the issue is that I'm still not crazy about reaching down while I'm riding to grab a bottle and take a sip. Aside from the aerodynamic penalties of this process, when riding at speed I'm not particularly fond of taking my hands off of the controls (and attention away from the road). On a training ride this isn't a huge liability as there are enough stops (traffic lights, crossing busy streets, etc.) for me to get what I need when I'm not moving. In a race, however, there aren't any stops so taking in water/sports drinks on the move is critical. In a Triathlon this is especially important, as on the bike I have to drink enough to make up for the fluids lost during the swim stage as well.

As such, ever since I added the aerobars I've been looking at various alternative options that effectively put a straw right in the cockpit to make it easier to drink during the ride. As I wouldn't have to reach down to grab the bottle, I'd likely end up drinking a lot more often (ie taking regular sips over the whole ride rather than periodic gulps to catch up). Further, it would allow me to stick in the aero position for longer as I wouldn't have to stand up whenever I needed something to drink.

The most popular product appears to be the Profile Design Aerodrink, which mounts the reservoir directly onto the aerobars. This makes for a simple and clean installation, and is by far the easiest to fill up while on the move (as the quick fill cap is right in front of you). The downside, however, is that it adds a good deal of weight (~2.6lbs when full) to the front of the bike and is apparently prone to splashing (although it's hard to tell if this is still the case with the new plastic top, or just with the yellow sponge they used to use). It's also not a sealed container, so if the bike is knocked over (eg a careless neighbour in the transition area) you end up losing the majority of your liquids.

Bontrager appears to have a similar product called an Aero Race Pack. It holds less water (600mL vs. 1L) so it's actually a closer competitor to Profile's Aqualite, but it does have the advantage of a better designed mounting apparatus and a pocket to store gels. Either way, as it shares the same basic design as the Aerodrink, it also has the same fundamental pros and cons so there isn't a lot of point in rehashing all of that.

Inviscid Design's Speedfil system is another interesting option. Rather than mounting on the aerobars themselves, it places the reservoir inside of the front triangle and runs a straw up to the cockpit. This provides the benefit of moving the weight to a much better position (low and central) and allows for a slightly larger capacity. Normally I'd be concerned about the effort required to draw the fluids up such a long straw, but fortunately they've incorporated a bite valve so once you prime the system it shouldn't be too difficult.

The downside to this design is that refilling it on the fly would be more difficult (as the cap is by the knee rather than right in front). I'll have to do some measurements to figure out where that inlet would line up, but I'm guessing that it would be difficult to continue pedaling while the bottle is emptying in this position. Further, it's dry weight is nearly double that of the Aerodrink (and 3X that of the Aqualite) so it means more mass to drag along. I don't think these are huge liabilities, however as this product is difficult to find in normal retail channels it's hard to evaluate these parameters.

As for the splashing aspect, I'm not sure how well this will do compared to the other products. I haven't seen much in the way of complaints on that front, but I also haven't found any real reviews on this unit as of yet so it's difficult to compare. From what I can tell, it looks to be an unsealed unit like the Aerodrink (both the straw and cap appear to be open) so if it was tipped over it would likely have the same problem as well. With that said, having never seen one in person it's difficult to tell.

The NeverReach system takes a similar approach, but places the reservoir behind the saddle rather than in the frame. This puts the weight further from the ground, but further back on the frame (likely a good thing, given how front-heavy the aero position is). It has a much larger capacity than the other systems (2L vs 1-1.2L), although whether or not I'd want to drag that much along is a question (the water alone would weigh 4.4lbs). The caveat is that it would appear to be much more difficult to refill on the fly (grabbing a bottle from behind your saddle is hard enough, never mind trying to squirt water into a cap). As with the Speedfil, I've yet to find a retailer that carries this product so it's difficult to make any evaluations on this front.

Finally, I could take the simpler course of action and simply get a bottle cage mounted between the aerobars. This naturally means I still need to manipulate the bottle to get a drink, but it saves me from having to reach down and grab it. As bottles are sealed, I wouldn't have to worry about spilling it, and when empty I could simply swap it out for another. It also makes it easier to fill up and keep clean, as there are no complex piping systems to flush out ;)

Either way, will keep digging for the time being and see what I can find on the topic. Naturally, I'm open to any input that people have on this front as it's very difficult to find any independent information on these products.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week 19: Review

Another bit of a weird week this time around, but fortunately I managed to squeeze in most of what I wanted to do. Thankfully, the weather finally gave us a decent Saturday so our cycling group managed to get together for the first time this season. Unfortunately, this was also the first ride outdoors for a couple of the guys, so the pace was pretty slow as we wanted to stick together for the duration. Either way, we managed to squeeze out a little under 73K through Bradford and Queensville and plan to up that mileage as long as the weather permits. It was nice to again have some company for these trips, and despite the slower pace it was a great ride.

I took the opportunity to try out the Edge 705's navigation features, as we wanted to do something a little different than normal. I made up a quick route on RunSaturday and after a few back and forth emails to find a consensus, I redrew it on BikeRouteToaster and loaded the TCX file into the computer. Fortunately, the mapping capacity worked flawlessly and it made it easy to find our way down an unfamiliar route. Aside from guiding us along the path, being able to see exactly what was coming up ahead was quite handy.

In this case I used the courses functionality (BRT generates the entire path and the 705 follows it), but at some point I'd like to give the routes option a shot (the route contains waypoints and the 705 navigates between them). The downside to this option is that if there are differences between the 705's routing engine and the website that generated the map, the path may vary a bit so one has to be careful. The upside, however, is that the 705 gives much more detailed turn instructions and can provide countdown readings (ie distance/time to the next turn). It also has the benefit of allowing you to go off of the route and the 705 will then try to get you back to it (with courses it just tells you you're off route and waits for you to get back to it). BRT only generates courses, however, so to try this out I'm going to have to find another website (or piece of software) that can generate the necessary files.

As Saturday was relatively cold, we elected to leave a bit later than normal (10:00am) which combined with the slow pace meant that there wasn't enough time to squeeze in my 4 mile recovery run. I also had to move around my mid-week runs a bit, but fortunately I managed to squeeze in the intended mileage. Cycling mileage is down as well this week, as between last week's long run offsetting my Monday ride and rain on other days I only managed to ride on Thursday and Saturday.

All was looking good for my long run this morning, with a plan to get 14 miles in to make it a clean 30 for the week. In the latter half of the run, however, my heart rate was reading higher than normal so I tried to back off the pace. That didn't help a whole lot, so I took a few breaks to let it settle back down. Unfortunately, it wasn't recovering as quickly as I would have liked. Aside from being warm, I felt fine, but I figured that I didn't take in enough fluids on my ride the other day so to play it safe I cut it short at 12 miles and called it a day.

When I got back to the computer, however, I looked at the R-R plots from my HRM and it appears it was just a matter of noise in the signal. I had tightened the strap a bit before heading out as it was getting a bit loose, and that likely through off the numbers. As such, I likely should have just ignored it and did the last two miles, but given the information at the time I figured it was the best path. With that said, my weight is about 3lbs lighter than it was yesterday, so being a little low on fluids may have played a part as well (I drank about a liter during the run, but only had 500mL yesterday). Either way, I've readjusted the strap and am drinking a lot today so hopefully I can avoid this situation in the future.

Week 19 Totals:
Running: 44.7km (27.8mi)
Walking: 1.0km (0.6mi)
Cycling: 95.1km (59.1mi)
Swimming: 7.2km (4.5mi)
Total: 148.0km (92.0mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 744.0km (462.3mi)
Walking: 42.3km (26.3mi)
Cycling: 1216.8km (756.1mi)
Swimming: 117.5km (73.0mi)
Total: 2120.6km (1317.7mi)

Fortunately, the weather this week is looking pretty good so I'm hoping to begin to ramp up the cycling mileage to proper levels again. I'm still trying to find an alternative to highway 9 for my eastbound trip, but for the time being I may simply have to go back to using it as I've had no luck so far. Queensville Sideroad looks like it will be useful for my longer rides (~100+km), but when I start from home it's too far north for the shorter routes.

Tentative Schedule:
Mon 50K Ride
Tue 3.25K Swim, 6mi Recovery
Wed 30K Ride, 6mi Recovery
Thurs 3.25K Swim, 6mi GA
Fri 50K Ride
Sat 4mi Recovery, 80k Ride
Sun 14mi (22.5K) LSD

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week 18: Review

It was another somewhat unpredictable week this time around, thanks to a combination of the weather and outside circumstances. Naturally, I missed my Monday ride as I pushed back last week's long run to that day and figured trying to squeeze both in would be problematic. The next couple days went as planned, although the winds on Wednesday made my mid-week ride quite a lot more difficult than I would have liked (it's supposed to be a recovery ride, but with 30+km/h winds and heavy gusts that's not going to happen).

Later in the week, the rain started rolling in and I wanted to get the grass cut before it came down. Unfortunately, the machine stalled on me part way through and we couldn't get it started. As the mower is getting quite old (~30 years), we elected to go out and research replacing it. That took a little longer than expected, which meant that I had to put off the 6 miler I had planned for the afternoon. When we got back, after a bit of fiddling we got the old machine running again (the gap in the spark plug was closed up) but it was too late to do anything with it.

On Friday I set out to finish off the job, however after about 20 minutes it stalled out again. Pulling out the spark plug the gap was closed again, and pulling it back out got it started for a few minutes until it did it again. As it was obvious something in the engine was running into it, the repair was going to be a little more complicated. Fortunately, our neighbour was out at the same time and offered to let us borrow his to get the job done. After that, we headed back out to pick up a new one (as it was unlikely to be worth fixing the old machine) which again meant missing the pushed back run. Unfortunately the mowers they're selling now aren't nearly as well designed/built as that old one (steel vs. aluminum decks (prone to rust and much heavier), plastic wheels, overcomplicated 4 stroke motors, unnecessary (and highly annoying) safety levers, etc.) but there isn't much choice on that front anymore :(

Saturday was pretty much a write off thanks to the weather and other scheduling issues, and with Mother's Day on Sunday I wasn't able to get out until the afternoon. Working in enough time between eating lunch and the long run would have been difficult, so I elected to do a brick ride/run instead and do the long run this morning. Fortunately, all of that worked out so I only lost one 6 mile run and a ~30K ride for the week ;)

Week 18 Totals:
Running: 44.2km (27.5mi)
Walking: 1.4km (0.9mi)
Cycling: 116.7km (72.5mi)
Swimming: 7.0km (4.3mi)
Total: 169.3km (105.2mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 699.3km (434.5mi)
Walking: 41.3km (25.7mi)
Cycling: 1121.7km (697.0mi)
Swimming: 110.3km (68.5mi)
Total: 1972.6km (1225.7mi)

Fortunately, the weather this week is starting to look a bit better and hopefully (knock on wood) Saturday will be rain free so I can get out there for a proper long ride. I'll have to talk to the guys and see if we can get a group ride going, as it would be great to get back into the full routine ;)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 17: Review

It's been a bit of a crazy week, so my mileage is a little short this time around. In addition to bringing the bike in to get the flat replaced on Monday, on Wednesday's ride I snapped the front shifter cable and had to bring it in again on Thursday to get that fixed. Given that the shop doesn't open until 10:00, that messed with my schedule enough that I ended up missing one of my scheduled runs.

The weather this week was also pretty hostile, with some incredibly powerful north winds (~45km/h with gusts up to 80km/h) to fight on my Monday and Wednesday rides. On the east-west legs of both trips, the crosswinds were so strong that I had to lean the bike on a 15 degree angle to keep it tracking in a straight line. Needless to say, this meant that the northbound leg was pretty much a continuous fight where I was actually looking forward to the steep uphill grades as they provided some shielding from the wind.

The upside, however, is that the return trip was incredibly fast thanks to those tailwinds - once I came out of the hills and onto the flats, I got down into the aerobars and easily managed to average speeds in the high 50s to low 60s. I likely could have gone faster too, but I ran out of gears (50x12) and the tired legs from the outbound trip didn't much feel like spinning out higher RPMs to squeeze a bit more speed in. Got a few confused looks from drivers when they realized that I was keeping up with them ;)

On the weekend, the reports called for rain so I wasn't able to squeeze in a Saturday ride once again. I did go out for my recovery run, and unfortunately ended up being out there for about 80% of the precipitation that we actually got :P My footpod batteries also ended up dying just before I headed out, so I managed pace by feel and figured out the distance based on the calorie computation of the wrist unit (ie I stopped when I hit 400kcal).

With the forecast calling for rain on Sunday as well, I elected to hold off my long run until this morning. While it pretty much looked like it was going to pour all day, it didn't end up amounting to much so in retrospect that wasn't really necessary - but hindsight is 20/20 and I didn't want to spend an hour and a half in the pouring rain ;)

Given the shortage of mileage in the other sessions this week I ended up adding an extra mile when I went out this morning and logged a 13.1 miler. The rain was gone today, but in its place there was lots of direct sunlight, heat and humidity. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't too bad (~27C/63%), but my body is still used to the cold weather and it's going to take some time to get it adapted to these kinds of conditions again. Either way, aside from the heat it was a great run and was nice to squeeze out a little extra distance once again.

Week 17 Totals:
Running: 44.7km (27.8mi)
Walking: 1.3km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 122.5km (76.1mi)
Swimming: 7.2km (4.5mi)
Total: 175.7km (109.2mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 655.1km (407.1mi)
Walking: 39.9km (24.8mi)
Cycling: 1005.0km (624.5mi)
Swimming: 103.3km (64.2mi)
Total: 1803.3km (1120.5mi)

The upcoming week is looking like it's going to be pretty soggy, so my cycling mileage is likely to suffer a bit again this week. Fortunately, if the current forecast holds it looks like the weekend is going to be decent for a change and hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a good long ride on Saturday ;)