Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Difference Between Biking and Running: A Pictorial

Last summer I bought a Garmin Forerunner 305 to use when biking and running. Being a researcher, I am kind of a data nerd.  The Garmin collects a plethora of data about pace/speed, heartrate, time, and distance.  You can have it give you averages, current values, max values, etc.  Serious athletes would use this type of data to chart progress and design and follow training programs. 

I use it to make pictures.

And I've noticed these pictures provide an excellent illustration of the difference between the effort you exert while biking versus running.  Allow me to explain.

Exhibit A: Output from a cyclocross race on 1-30-11.
Note: I finished 4th in this race. The total number of participants is unimportant, but I can assure you it was more than 4.

Exhibit B: Output from a mountain bike ride at Kickapoo on 1-22-11

Exhibit C: Output from a 70 mile road ride on 9-26-10

Exhibit D: Output from a 6 mile training run on 1-29-11
Can you tell the difference?  Here's a hint - look at the red line in the charts which is showing my heartrate. The values for this series can be seen on the left axis and the scale is basically the same in all four figures, so they can be directly compared.  Bike rides, especially cyclocross and mountain bike rides, generate a much more volatile heart rate pattern than running.  Also, the peak heart rates that I hit on bike rides tends to be 10-15 bpm higher than when running (at least until my heart rate gets up to 160 during my runs).  So biking results in more anaerobic effort, while running is more aerobic.  I already knew this to be true, but it is cool to see the data support it.

The point? I think doing both cycling and running workouts is very good for me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Heat Wave

It reached the mid 30s today, and there was a strange reddish-orange thing glowing in the sky.  After a few google searches, I determined it was either a UFO or something called the sun.  I faintly remember seeing this sun thing before, although it has been a few months.

I also found my digital camera while I was organizing some things in my office. So I took the mountain bike out to Homer Lake to check out the trails.  I spent about 90 minutes riding a total of 13 miles or so.  Definitely not as technical or hilly as Kickapoo, but closer and still a lot of fun.  It would probably be boring riding at Homer in the summer, but with some snow on the ground it might become a regular winter riding spot.

The Homer Lake Trailhead
View down one of the wooded trails
The balaclava was not needed today. I got sweaty.
And, yes, that is a size L jersey fitting me quite nicely.  Thanks for asking.
The Cobia, post-ride.  Lots of slush in the drivetrain. 
Ran very low pressure (~15 psi) and just floated over the snow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Buying Groceries and Cussing in Yiddish

I have already written about my recent affinity toward applesauce. Tonight, while making a quick grocery run at Schnucks*, I noticed something.

Notice anything funny about that picture?  Take a few seconds to look it over, I'll wait.

See? Applesauce is listed specifically on the sign for aisle 3, along with much more general items - canned fruit, canned vegetables, etc.  Why is applesauce special?  Why do corn, green beans, peas, pears, and peaches all get lumped into their respective general categories?  I'll tell you why - because applesauce is awesome.

But simply listing it on its own is not enough.  Schnucks management has deemed applesauce to be so awesome that it is displayed in a noticeably larger font than the other items located in aisle 3. And rightly so.

Was applesauce on my grocery list for tonight? No, it was not.  I already have a stockpile in my pantry. 

Did I buy some more tonight anyway?  Yes, I most certainly did.

*I have a friend who has a friend who is Jewish. Very Jewish.  My friend told me that her friend told her that Schnucks is Yiddish slang for dickhead. A quick google search partially confirms that schnuck is some form of insult in Yiddish. I think of this everytime I buy groceries.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nice Little Saturday

This weekend I had a nice little Saturday planned. A six mile run in the morning, 11 am Illini basketball game vs. #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, a mountain bike ride in the snow at Kickapoo in the afternoon, and then dinner at Black Dog. But, like Frank the Tank, I just didn't know if there would be enough time.

 But the stars aligned and everything fell into place.  The run in the morning went well with me holding 9:00 pace and still feeling really good at mile 6.  The Illini game was exciting, even though they lost and there were a number of questionable calls from the officials. The mountain bike ride turned out to be really awesome, and Black Dog never disappoints on the BBQ.

The ride at Kickapoo ended up taking us just over 2 hours to do one lap.  This usually takes about 1 hour.  So after spending the past two days doing the math, I figured out that our average speed was twice as slow (or half as fast, if you prefer) than when we ride without snow.

I also gained a fascinating piece of insight during our ride - riding in the snow is different than riding when there is not snow. I told you it was fascinating and insightful.

You see snow covers up stuff. Like frozen ruts, frozen roots, and frozen water (or ice if you want to get all technical).  So when you are riding, your tires can suddenly slide (in the the case of your rear tire) or get sucked (in the case of your front tire) in random directions by said snow-covered things in the trail.  This makes riding more challenging, and watching the person in front of you ride more entertaining.  On the bright side, when you fall - and it is a question of when rather than if - it doesn't hurt.  It is actually quite fun.

So for two hours we made our way slowly through the trail system, not knowing when or if our tires would hold the lines we were on.  Really, when I think about it, that isn't much different than when I ride the trails at other times of the year.

I enjoyed our snow ride immensely. To once again quote Frank the Tank:
"It's so good. Once it hits your lips, it's so good"

P.S. I really wish I had a video camera that I could bring on these rides so I could share them with others (who I am sure are dying to watch video of me trying to ride a mountain bike in central IL)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spin Class is for Pussies

At least that is what a lot of the guys at the bike shop where I do my trainer rides say.  To test this null hypothesis I decided to participate in a spin class over the lunch hour today.  Based on my experience, there are two possible outcomes:
  1. The guys at the bike shop are completely wrong, or
  2. They are right, and I am a pussy.
Based on how the other students in the class looked when we were done, I am leaning towards number 1.

First, I should explain how spin class works.  They are held in studios with spinning bikes that look something like this:

They have a small knob on the front that allows you to change the resistance, and the more expensive models can even come equipped with power meters so you can see how much wattage you are producing in addition to cadence (rpm), an estimate of calories burned, time, etc.

So you show up for class a few minutes early and pick a bike.  My strategy is to pick a bike close, but not too close to an attractive female.  I enjoy scenery, but don't want to hit anyone with my projectile sweat once we get a few minutes into the workout. Again, I sweat. A lot.

The first 5 minutes or so is usually a warm-up of easy spinning (i.e. ~90 rpm with low resistance) just to get your legs to wake up.  Then you move into different types of climbing and sprinting intervals with recovery periods in between. 

I noticed a number of differences between cyclists and spin class people today (including the instructor). 

First, most people have no idea how to adjust a bike to fit themselves.  Everyone (besides me of course) either had their seat too low so that they were being extremely inefficient, or they had the seat too high so they were literally bouncing back and forth on the saddle and most likely creating sores on their inner thighs that they will be able to enjoy later. 

Second, nobody wears cycling gear to spin classes.  Nobody wore lycra shorts with a chamois. Nobody wore cycling shoes so that they could clip in.  Well except of course for me.

Third, in spin class you move to different "positions". Our instructor today called them positions 1, 2, and 3. Cyclists would call them normal, out of the saddle, and sprinting.  I was the only person that seemed to be confused by the instructor's numerical system.

Finally, I think spin class may be designed for the following types of people:
  • Young people who enjoy pop music played at annoyingly high levels
  • People who are motivated by being yelled at (literally) by a young woman who may only weigh 75 lbs.
  • Old people who have lost their hearing and are thus either unaffected or oblivious to the first two points
It was something like this:

Despite the loud music and our pint-sized drill instructor, I could make out a number of audible groan and grunts by the end of the class from the people around me.  A few of them just completely gave up (which only seemed to fuel the instructor to continue yelling).  I finished, and my legs are beat.  More so actually than the training rides at the bike shop. And of course I won the award for largest puddle of sweat under my bike when we were done.  I guess that just means I was working harder than everyone else. 

No, spin class is definitely not for pussies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy New Year? Really!?!

This week, I had three different people wish me a happy new year. Really!?! It's the second week of January.  Maybe I am just getting crotchety, but I feel like we've reached the statute of limitations on the whole happy new year thing for 2011.

Speaking of Illinois politics, the state income tax was raised from 3% to 5% last week to help with our ridiculously embarrassing budget deficit.  There are, of course, opinions on both sides of this issue.  I am in favor of the tax increase for a number of reasons.  Whether I like them or not, I have to admit that I benefit from taxes more than most given my profession.  More importantly, budgeting is not rocket science.  You have revenues and you have expenditures.  To reduce a deficit you have two options: 1) increase revenues or 2) reduce expenditures.  It seems silly to even type that, but I am continuously amazed at how many people fail to understand this simple concept.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Merino Wool

My half-marathon training program started this morning. And it was 8 degrees. With a -2 degree wind chill.  The group met at Body N' Sole a few minutes before 8 and we headed out with our pace groups shortly after that.  It was only a 5 miler to start the program, but that is still about 45 minutes out in the cold. Unless, of course, you run faster than me which many people do.  In my defense, many people also run slower.

I was not real excited about it, but thanks to good old Mom Santa I got some great cold weather running gear for Christmas.  This morning I wore my SmartWool socks and my new Icebreaker shirt with my armwarmers under another baselayer and a windshell.  And I was totally fine, even as I started to sweat.  And I may be the sweatiest person on the planet, so that is saying something.

Both SmartWool and Icebreaker are simply brand names for products made from New Zealand merino wool.  Apparently there are quite a few sheep in New Zealand.  I love merino wool.  Like really love it.  I never thought I would reach a point in my life where I would get excited about getting socks as a gift.  But if they are made from merino wool they are cause for much rejoice.

If I could, I would drape myself in merino wool like George Costanza with velvet.

I love merino wool like Vince Vaughn loves maple syrup.

By the way, if anyone from SmartWool or Icebreaker happens to be reading this, I am totally open for sponsorship and would be willing to sign an exclusive deal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Race Schedule

There are two events which happened to me last year that I guess you could classify as being a combination of inspirational and humbling (or maybe even downright humiliating).  The first happened as I turned the last corner onto the final 400 meters or so of a half-marathon that I "ran" in July: a 60+ year old woman in a sun hat passed me.  Ouch.

The second was an encounter with an individual who was in my MS class that I bumped into at a conference.  After finishing with the standard pleasantries he stated (I am paraphrasing): "Don't take this the wrong way, but I think you have gained a lot of weight in the last few years." Double ouch.

Before moving on to the point of today's post, let me just say that if your brain is putting together a thought which you feel requires you to preempt it with "Don't take this the wrong way", chances are you should just go ahead and keep that thought to yourself.

While neither of these two individuals probably realized the impact these events had on me, I must admit both really ate at me for the rest of the summer.  So I decided to ramp up my training and vowed to do some more serious races in the next season, or at the very least significantly improve my performance in the kinds of races I have been competing in.

Thus, my 2011 race schedule as of January 6th:
  • January 8th - half-marathon training program begins (16 organized weeks with a running club in town)
  • January 9th - cyclocross race (Bloomington, IL)
  • January 22nd - Chilly Chili run (Bloomington, IL)
  • January 30th - cyclocross race (Bloomington, IL)
  • February 20th - cyclocross race (Bloomington, IL)
  • March - nothing as of yet, I have a lot of work travel planned
  • April 29th/30th - Illinois Marathon I-Challenge, 5k on the 29th followed by half-marathon on the 30th (Champaign, IL)
  • May 15th - May Madness triathlon (Effingham, IL)
  • May 22nd - Land Between the Lakes triathlon (Albert Lea, MN)
  • June 5th - Pigman sprint triathlon (Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • June 11th - Lake Mingo trail run (Oakwood, IL)
  • July 9th? - April Sorensen Memorial half-marathon (Albert Lea, MN)
  • August 14th - Ironman Steelhead, HALF-FREAKIN-IRONMAN triathlon (Benton Harbor, MI)
  • September 4th - Hy-Vee triathlon (Des Moines, IA)
  • September 18th - Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival 40 mile mtb race, pending my lottery entry is selected (Hayward, WI)
  • September 25th - Wild Wild Wilderness trail run (Oakwood, IL)
Other potential races for which dates have not been set:
  • Kickapoo Fat Tire Festival MTB race (planning to enter either the novice or sport categories and attempt to not embarrass myself)
  • 24 Hours of Seven Oaks (24 hour team relay MTB race in Boone, IA which might be scheduled for the same weekend as the Hy-Vee triathlon)
See, I told you I was inspired.  Will be tough to get too fat following this schedule. And the number of event related t-shirts I have will increase by approximately 500%.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Year in Review

Apparently bloggers are supposed to write Year in Review posts.  I am a noobie, so was unaware.  Also, my immediate family members commonly send Christmas letters out after Christmas, so being a little late with things is ingrained in my DNA. Without further ado.

2010, Professionally

I think I would have to call 2010 a success from a career standpoint.  I still have my tenure track job and, according to my mid-term review this past spring, I am on track to not have to look for a new job in 2012/13.  That is not to say anything is guaranteed, and I am much more conservative/pessimistic than some of the folks I work with.  I still need to get some journal article hits in my professions top journal(s), something which continues to evade me.  And I would still feel a whole lot better about things if I could land, or even be involved with landing, a decent sized federal grant. 

Wait, I thought you said 2010 was a good year?  Oh yeah.  I did get 5 journal articles accepted and in print this year, with another already accepted for 2011.  So that was nice.  And I did take some students to Guatemala for a short-term study abroad trip at the beginning of the year.  This was life-changing for myself as well as the students.  And I did have a pretty good semester of teaching this past fall (I think). And I did get to take some "work" trips to Destin (FL), Boston, Denver, Banff (Canada), and fabulous Kansas City. Not too shabby. I also decided I need to force myself to take some pictures when I am on these trips, if for nothing else to post them here. 

2010, Personally

I think the year would also have to be considered a success from a personal standpoint.  In addition to some fun days added on to the work trips mentioned above, I also got to spend some time in western Colorado this summer at a friend's cabin.  And I made it for the last half of RAGBRAI again for a fun 4 days with my team from Iowa State.  I raced in a few triathlons, a couple 5k's, a marathon relay, and a half-marathon (although I don't know if you could call what I did during that 13.1 miles running).  I bought a couple of bikes, and rode them all (including the old ones) a lot throughout the year.  I discovered mountain biking.  Lots of cool things.

But the thing that may stand out the most I really had nothing to do with or responsibility for, but get to enjoy all the good things about.  In fact, I think if you look it up in the dictionary that is the definition of being an uncle.  In May, my sister and her husband had their first baby - a daughter named Nora.  She smiles a lot, and cries very little.  I have yet to change a diaper.  Yes, I think it is safe to say that I enjoy being an uncle.

Nora likes ducks, and sticking things in her mouth. Not necessarily in that order.

I have decided my next post will be a 2011 preview, focusing on my race schedule for the upcoming year.  I've got something planned for every month between triathlons, bike races, and running races.  I think 2011 will be another success, assuming I make it through without injury.