Friday, May 20, 2011

A conversation with my running self

The other day I went out on a C210K run and, as always, got discouraged/bored with two more 2 minute intervals to go. Really? It's only 4 more minutes of running! I shouldn't be having these problems. So I sat myself down and had a little debate in the parking lot. Here's how it went:

Lazy, Running Me: This sucks! I don't want to keep running. I'll just walk home.
Motivating, Rational Me: Doing this is the only way you'll get fit for rugby season.
LRM: I wasn't fit this season and it wasn't too bad.
MRM: Wasn't too bad? You hated going to practice because the drills required running, and you were frustrated that you were much slower than everyone else only because you were too lazy to train in the off-season.
LRM: Maybe. But everyone is much better than me anyways and getting fit still won't get me a starting position.
MRM: You don't know that. And there's only one way to know for sure. Besides, running and getting fit is not just for rugby. You wished you were fitter on last week's mountain bike ride so you could enjoy it more. And you have a race coming up in a month that you wished you'd been able to run last time.
LRM: I'll just walk this part and make up the run tomorrow.
MRM: No. How about you run two more minutes and suck it up? And then you can rest a bit, and finish out the last two minutes. IT'S JUST FOUR MORE MINUTES OF RUNNING!!!
LRM: Fine.
[LRM starts jogging super, duper slowly, barely faster than a walk.]
MRM: So just because you're mad, you're going to mess up your times from the last five intervals? C'mon, you can get under a 10 min/mile pace for two minutes. It's downhill!
LRM: Hmf.

And then I started actually running. And grumbled the whole way home. But I did it and need to continue doing it until I learn to enjoy it, which better happen soon.

P.S. This is a true story. I really did talk to myself, out loud. Luckily there was no one around because people may've been concerned if they saw someone walking around in circles mumbling angrily to themselves in the church parking lot the day before doomsday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A new love, and a new money sink

My brother's company's CEO owns a really sweet condo up in the mountains of Colorado. And the CEO is so awesome that he lets other higher-ups in the company use it when he's not up there himself. And those higher-ups are equally awesome in gifting the condo to their employees for special occasions, such as my brother's 30th birthday. And my brother can't possibly enjoy his time in a 3-story condo by himself so he decided to invite all his friends.

So in short, we got to spend the weekend at a pretty sweet condo nestled between the slopes of a ski resort and a river, complete with entertainment center, board room, and outdoor hot-tub. Hell of a place to play Sardines, I tell you!

Although the condo was amazing, it's not supposed to be the entire point of the story. The main reason I'm writing about it is that it got me into mountain biking. Like, for real. My brother and all his friends are huge mountain bikers and I'd never really understood what was so special about it. But then again, I never understood road cycling either and now I'm hooked, so I guess it all takes time. Whenever they said they were going on a mountain bike ride, I always passed and told them I'd meet up for the BBQ and beer later when they got back.

This time, though, the only other option was hiking and I. Absolutely. Hate. Hiking. Have I made myself clear enough? It's like walking, which I'm also not a huge fan of, but uphill and slower. Biking, on the other hand, actually gets you places in a reasonably quick amount of time, so I'm willing to put some sweat into it. Walking and hiking, on the other hand, not so much.

(Speaking of slow activities, this whole getting somewhere very slowly with a large amount of effort is probably why I hate running. It's so unpleasant and I get nowhere slow. Eww.)

Anywhos, I borrowed a mountain bike and then agreed to go on the trail everyone else was going on. Somewhat of a big mistake. We spent the first 4 miles or so going straight uphill, and then finally got to enjoy the next 3 miles of straight downhill:

I had to change the settings on my GPS watch to auto-pause at 0 mph instead of the preset 4 mph because, as you can tell, my watch was paused for the first 1,000 feet of climbing. Yeah, I was going less than 4 mph for most of the uphill. I would've been better off walking, probably. Uphill. With my bike.

Me on the ridge after 3 miles of first mountain bike experience ever.
Even though the uphill thoroughly kicked my butt and I hated some portions of it, it was really satisfying to bike up a freaking mountain! The views were spectacular throughout and it was so much fun weaving between trees and biking over and around rocks and logs. Apparently I didn't slow the group down too much, since they didn't have to wait all that long at the top. And I beat my brother's girlfriend going downhill, not only in speed but also in guts.

Red cliffs looking the other way.
So yeah, it was an absolutely awesome weekend and now I'm in the market for a mountain bike. Yet another expensive hobby to drain my already sad-looking bank account.

The group at the top.
Notice the thunderstorms in the background of the pictures that we narrowly escaped. Metal bikes on the ridge + lightning = the fastest ride down ever.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bike gear ratios

On my triathlon support group someone asked about gear ratios and I wrote out this whole thing for him explaining how to calculate them. Since I'm afraid I'm going to lose my original chart and/or forget how to do it in the future, I'm going to post a copy here. This site may soon become a place I list nuggets of triathlon advice in addition to chronicling my weight-loss journey. Hopefully one doesn't take over the other.


That gearing website is over my head as well but I once took a gear class/talk/thingamabob and they greatly simplified the whole thing for newbies like me. Essentially the guy taught us how to rank our gears from lowest to highest, across all three chainrings/cranks/cassettes/whatever they're called (the name escapes me now). Out of the 30 gears I have on my bike (3 in front x 10 in back) I was able to rank them in order and can now shift more smoothly in that I don't skip gears when shifting going uphill and get less tired overall.

Here's involves a lot of counting the cogs on each ring, so beware. Unless you're a good Googler, that is.
  1. Figure out how many cogs are on each of your rings, both front and back. Usually for the front that's given in the specs for the bike (mine's 50/39/30) and for the back they give you a range (mine's 12-27, 10 speed). You can either Google that particular cassette/rear gear rings by getting the name and range off the specs website for your bike or get on your hands and knees and count them all. I recommend the latter, but I know it's not always possible. Oftentimes you can also guesstimate the spacing between the gears in the back. Steve is much better at that than I am.
  2. For each gear, divide the number of cogs from the front gear by the number of cogs on the back gear, and multiply the whole thing by wheel size. For the purposes of ranking your gears relative to each other, you don't have to multiply by the wheel size, since the order of gears comes out the same regardless. I still multiplied since it gave larger numbers and was easier to compare and rank them later. For example, for my fastest overall gear (largest front gear, smallest back gear) and what I thought were 26" wheels at the time, I did the following: 26*50/12 = 108 and do that for all your other gears as well. You don't have to convert your wheel size to metric. Or you can multiply by some random number to take care of the decimals. The important part is divide the front gear by the rear gear.
  3. Remove two gears with smallest front/smallest back and smallest front/2nd smallest back, and two gears with largest front/largest back and largest front/2nd largest back from your chart, for a total of four gears removed. You should never be riding in those gears since in those combinations, the chain is diagonal across the gear rings which is not good for either or the chain and grates on the components. So avoid at all costs.
  4. Rank your resulting numbers from highest to lowest, with the lower numbers being lowest/slowest gears (granny gears) and higher numbers being highest/fastest gears (downhills). So the granny gears (smallest front, largest back) would have low numbers and the gears for downhills (largest front, smallest back) would have super high numbers.
  5. Write it all out on a piece of paper and tape it to your handlebars. It really helps on the uphills especially with knowing into which gear you should downshift so as not to skip gears. Makes the climb smoother and more effective, in my opinion.

Below is my gear chart. The multicolored chart and numbers are the result of the formula I mentioned in #2 above: wheel size*front gear cogs/rear gear cogs. And the bottom chart is the ranking of the gears from slowest to fastest (granny gears to downhill gears). As you can see, I've crossed out the four gears I mentioned in #3 that you should never use and didn't include them in my rankings.

The numbers for the front and rear gears correspond to the number of cogs on each ring.

I've taped a little index card with the bottom chart info on my handlebars and try to shift in order. It's especially useful on uphills when I feel like I'm shifting too quickly or the one I'm in is just a tad too hard so I downshift and all is well. It's taken a little getting used to in figuring out what gear I'm actually in to be able to see where to go next, and I still find myself looking back at my rear derailleur quite often.

So during normal flats or rolling hills I don't really stick with the gear chart too much and just do it by feel, and don't really care if I'm a little bit off. As you can see in the middle gears of the middle chainring, the numbers aren't that different (first chart) and thus changing gears from say a gear combo of 39/17 to 50/21 (ranking 13 to 14) is about the same as from 39/17 to 39/16 (ranking 13 to 15). Here is where having an accurate wheel size comes in handy because you can see that 13 to 14 is 60 to 62 (not sure about the units...inches, maybe?) and 13 to 15 is 60 to 63, so only a difference of 1 inch between the two results, but you're going from 13 to 15 in just one gear change as compared to 3 for 13 to 14. So in those middle gears sometimes it's not important to go in order since the differences are slight and you can skip a ranking without feeling too much of a difference in order to shift less frequently.

Once you get to the granny gears or downhill gears, the differences are much more noticeable. Going from ranking 3 to 2 (30/21 to 30/24) is 37 inches to 33 inches, while ranking 3 to 1 (30/21 to 30/27) is 37 inches to 29 inches, a much bigger jump and thus a gear you probably don't want to skip.

Also, on the uphills it's easier to know which gear I'm in since the terrain is not changing as often and thus I'm in the same gear for a longer amount of time, but also because the differences between the gear combos are so great that I can generally feel where I am on the cassette. Overall, this has been really helpful in getting myself to ride in the proper gear and thus making my riding more efficient and smoother. I would highly recommend making a chart of your own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nifty little calorie cycling site

I've always wondered where people get their calorie cycling numbers, and now I've found it!

Here is not only a calorie calculator, showing your daily needs depending on activity level, but also giving some insight into what you should be eating and when with regards to calorie cycling.

My results are as follows:

And as you can see from the very bottom of the image, you can also calculate macro nutrient ratios (carbs, protein, fat) depending on you daily calorie intake.

Here's a snapshot of that:

Pretty nifty site. I don't really need the daily calorie thing since I have a GoWear Fit that tells me exactly how many calories I burn a day. But it's really nice to see how I should be calorie cycling for those inevitable plateau weeks. And the macro nutrient breakdown is really interesting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Feeling discouraged yet again

I just got a text from The Roommie and it's somewhat disheartening:
"This is the most awkward proctor's night. The coaches are talking about recruiting another loose head and none of the team is talking to me. :("

Let me translate. Proctor's is a dive bar next to our practice field, and loose head is the position both I and The Roommie play. I actually only started playing loosehead about a month ago because my usual position is now occupied by one of the coach's favorites. Well, that's not entirely why she's starting all the time, because she is fairly good. But the fact that she's known the coach for eight years and moved out here to play for her sure doesn't help the situation.

Anywhos, I'm discouraged by that text because it's sad to hear you suck. Like, really suck. It's also another confirmation that I'm a huge outsider on this team, as if trying to hang out and talk to people but getting ignored instead wasn't indication enough. But that's a story for another day.

So I feel as if my plan to get super fit and super strong for the upcoming season is not going to be enough to get a starting position. At all. I just feel like all this is hopeless and I should just quit and wallow in my misery like I have been doing for years now.

But then I have to remember that this summer's plans are not just for rugby. Getting fit is not just for rugby. I've wanted to be thinner way before I started playing this sport so my goals shouldn't change just because there's a small kink in my plan for world domination. Well, at least on the rugby pitch.

And even if I'm not a starter on a super awesome team, I will still be thinner and fitter and (hopefully) happier. That, and I can't predict how good I'll be 50 pounds lighter. I mean, I was an All American (Second Team, but All American nonethess) when I wasn't exactly "thin" for my height. So who knows what will happen when I'm actually fit?

Blast from the past: 165+ pounds of awesomeness.
My whole goal for this summer was to come back in August and have everyone say, "Wow." I want to blow their minds by my hard work during our off-season. I want to show them what kind of rugby player I can be when I don't have all those extra pounds of padding weighing me down.

So let that be my motivation. Regardless if I make the starting side or not, I want to know that the only reason I didn't is because my skills aren't as good as someone else's, and not because my weight is slowing me down. I want to realize my full potential. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Summer plans

It's that time of year when I get super excited about it getting warm and all the fun things I can't wait to do during the summer. These thoughts happen every year, and every year I fail to make them happen. So this year I'm going to do things differently and set specific numerical goals to make sure I do all the things I want to do but have put off doing because I'm too damn lazy. (I'm a fan of lists, if you haven't noticed.)

Here goes nothing:
  • Go camping once a month.
  • Take a bike ride once a week.
  • Do a crazy hill ride twice a month.
  • Have people over or go to someone's house to grill twice a month.
  • Crew in a regatta once a month.

Mountains can be beautiful.
Some of these goals are social and others are things I've been wanting to do for a while. I keep complaining that I hate Colorado and living so far from a large body of water is torture, but I need to stop moping and make the best of living in this beautiful state. I really do enjoy it and can see myself becoming a mountain convert. That may be a stretch, but you never know. Regardless, I'm stuck here for a couple more years at least so I better start liking it sooner rather than later. I mean, I did spend most of my childhood backpacking with my parents and the view upon going over a pass is breathtaking. But c'mon, being one with sun and sea is pretty awesome too.
But nothing can beat this.

And, what inspired this post, you ask? Well, The Roommie is buying a road bike and thus I decided I needed some new cycling jerseys. Natural progression, right? So I've gotten bit by the cycling bug (from the comfort of my couch, of course) and got super excited about getting out on the road on my bike. And to make this excitement a reality, I needed some tangible but reasonable goals to work towards. Hence the list.