Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Vacation Workout – isn’t that an oxymoron?

We just returned from a great week in St. John, Virgin Islands. Weather wise it was like the movie Ground Hog Day, each day pretty much a picture perfect repeat of the previous. Our days were filled with sunny beaches, snorkeling clear waters, pool-side reading, exciting excursions, and of course, plenty of food and drinks. So how does one resist the alluring call of the ocean breeze and instead head for the gym in hopes of maintaining that which you’ve worked so hard to gain?

First, cut yourself some slack. Taking even a 7 day break from your normal workout routine will not undo everything. (Uh – but watch your portions and those sugary frozen drinks I love).

Be realistic and practical. I knew from the start that I would not be working out everyday that week. We arrived Friday afternoon at the resort, but our day had started at 3AM so I had no intentions of exercising at that point.  Saturday morning was my first visit to the gym. Did 2.5 miles on the treadmill, then moved to Over-head squatted med-ball passes, then on to some machines for tricep, delts and pecs and wrapped things up with suspended leg lifts and knee tucks.  Sunday was a pretty easy workout. Walked the resort property, did 5 minutes of pick-ups on the treadmill, more med-ball passes, push-ups, and leg lift/knee tucks.  On Tuesday, I did nearly 4 miles on the treadmill including intervals.  And my final workout was on Thursday morning. I ran two laps around the resort, then moved inside for med-ball passes and oblique crunches, V-sit crunches, oblique ankle taps, iso bikes, plank up-downs, bicep curls, hammer curls, front and lateral raises. All totaled, I managed 4 days of 30-45 minutes.

Try something completely different. Pretty much all the resorts we stay at have fabulous pools and gyms with more equipment than I ever use. Just to mix things up, I’ve taken the aquarobics classes on a few stays. And this time, during my run around the resort, I realized a Zumba class was in full swing under the beach gazebo. I guess it would help if I read the daily activities flier now and then. I could have tried my first Zumba class with a full view of Cruz Bay! Doh!

Moral of the story – vacation and workout CAN be used in the same sentence!

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The Art of Stretching

Good advice for all runners and cyclists:

Your Guide to Cycling Stretches courtesy of

Stretching will make you faster, but only if you do it right and at the right time.

Do not stretch when your muscles are cold like they used to do years ago, this can cause micro-tears and damage that slows you down.

Do stretch after warming up and especially when you are done with your workout. Don’t sit on the couch, get on the floor and stretch!

There are several other great pointers in the articles referenced above.  Something  we all should pay attention to!

Battenkill! The results!

I lined up with about 36 riders in the Cat 5 M55+ (white) race and we set off behind the pace car. Initially doing about 19-20 MPH on route 313, the group warmed up, picked up the pace to the mid 20′s and chatted as we found our legs. At 5 miles, the course turns left, crosses a covered bridge then heads up a slight hill. Here the group picked up the intensity and it became apparent who the stronger riders were, as they were working the pace line and holding their own on the hills. My goal was to stay with the leaders, and at the top of the first climb (Perry Rd.) I was near the front, then down and a left turn onto the infamous dirt Juniper Swamp Rd.
At the top of the steep climb on Juniper Swamp Road I was the leader of a breakaway pack of seven riders who pace-lined together quite well. The group was working well and even pace-lined on the dirt sections.  We worked all the way to 41 miles where on Cheese Factory Road my rear tire flatted and took me out of contention. To that point, we had averaged 19.5 MPH.

After losing seven minutes to the tube change, I set out on the chase, but there is no way for a single rider to catch a group of six, so I just worked as hard as I could to finish. The climb up Meeting House Road, which was described by a friend as riding on “pebbly beach sand” instead of a road was gruesome but I did it non-stop.  At the end, I finished  in 11th place my heat with a time of 3:33:13, 15:41 behind the winner. Average pace was 18:11 MPH.

I think the training paid off well, as I was in contention before the flat. Fought off cramping for the last 10 miles so will have to work on that.

A great first tour race on a very tough course!

My next race will be the Hunter Mountain Spring Classic, May 12th.  78 miles of roads (no dirt!) with 2736 feet of climbing.


"America's Toughest 1-day Race"

It is less than 24 hours to the Tour of the Battenkill Spring Classic Pro-Am in Cambridge NY.  Over 2500 professional and amateur cyclists (including yours truly) will descend on the small village of Cambridge for 3-days of cycling  to race 62.4 miles of country roads including 10 segments of dirt roads (about 25% of the distance is dirt).  Saturday is the Pro/Am with heats going off every 10 minutest from 8am to 2:40pm. Sunday is the Pro race (29 teams will compete this year), where they will ride two laps, 124 miles.  To make it even more exciting, there are at least 3 steep(!) dirt road climbs.  Juniper Swamp Road is the first big dirt climb and has a 20+% section. As my riding/racing friend says: “Juniper Road is a Beast! Only about .4 miles but it has an extended pitch of 16-18% with a max of about 21%”.  This is were the lesser riders are separated from the stronger ones.  Stage Road is the last dirt climb starting at 56 miles for 1-1/2+ miles of up to 10% grades.  If you have any legs left that will finish them off!

I would like to think that I am one of the stronger riders.

But am I ready? I signed up for this race when the registration opened on December 22.  More than 1000 riders registered in the first ten minutes, just a measure of how popular this race is. Categories were filled in less than a day.  So after registering I looked at the calendar and thought about my training plan. How would I peak for the April 14th race, with 3-1/2 months to go.  As a base, I rode 2800 miles in 2011, with the bulk of it in the last 6 months, including several 100 milers. So I felt that my base as good, but I took most of December as a rest month riding only a couple of days/week.  But the real question is what did I need to improve? First of all: climbing ability, since Battenkill is a hilly course.  Secondly, endurance to be able to ride my goal of 19+ MPH average over 62 miles.

Here’s the plan I created:

January: Base building on the trainer, treadmill, and doing boot camp style workouts.  Workouts were focused on aerobic base with threshold-pace  intervals and longer zone-3  sessions.

February was the Build phase:  Worked on leg, upper body and core for climbing and endurance.  This was mostly weight training and intervals on the trainer.  Lots of push-ups, squats (weighted), crunches, and pull-ups. On the trainer, 2 to 3 days of either high-intensity intervals, progressive intervals, and/or threshold intervals with recover days inbetween. Most of the trainer workouts were 1 to 1-1/2 hours and exhausting.

March and April:  Speed and endurance building towards the peak. Longer rides, longer intervals. Group rides with pace-lines to improve my pace-line skills.   Now doing 40 – 50 mile rides at race pace at least once a week.   At least one day a week is interval work on hills or rolling terrain outside on the roads.   By the end of the first week in April, with 7 days to go, the fitness level is set, time to taper for the race.

From January 1st to today, I’ve ridden 1420+ miles, maxing out at 211 miles in the first week of April.  I feel stronger than I ever have, and that shows in some of the climbs I have been able to do recently.  So I’m confident I’ll be in the mix tomorrow.   The weather is ideal, mid-60’s and partly sunny, light winds. We will see what happens at 1:50 in the afternoon!

Words to Live By – #2

“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”  – Arthur Ashe

I hate math, but this formula is easy!

I’ve never been into counting calories. I like to think that’s because my weight hasn’t varied too much through the years, but it’s more likely related to my math phobia.  This is quite the stark contrast to my friend, who can rattle off the calorie count of my last meal within 20 seconds of me describing it. But the real question is should you count calories? I’ve been hearing more and more about not counting calories, but instead, “eating clean”, making smarter food choices, and increasing physical activity. All of those recommendations make sense and I support them, but can you actually ignore the calorie component? I don’t think so, at least not completely. Luckily for me, the formula for weight management is VERY simple: calories in – calories out! Which means consuming more calories (of even smart, clean foods and drinks) than your body expends each day, can result in weight gain.

Knowing where you fall in the “calories in – calories out” equation can help you make the right modifications to your current eating and exercise routines. Let’s have a look at this using my personal data to first establish what my actual daily energy needs are, and not what my stomach says, in order to maintain my current weight. I‘ll use the Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation which takes age, gender, weight, height and level of activity into consideration.

Energy Needs = Resting Metabolic Rate (breathing, circulation…) x Activity Level.  Now here comes the math… RMR = 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 4.92 x age – 161.  (Men: replace the -161 with +5). My stats (116 lbs., 5’1”, and 51 yrs) yield an RMR of 1083. Multiply that by the appropriate activity level (Little = 1.2, Light = 1.375, Moderate = 1.55, Very Active = 1.725, Extra Active = 1.9). If I rate my activity as Moderate, then my daily caloric intake should be around 1600 calories.  That number alone may surprise you, so it’s worth the calculation. The next step is to keep track of what you eat and drink for 1-2 weeks, then figure out the caloric value associated with it by going to or any another reliable nutrition site.

According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, if you’re looking to avoid gaining weight as you age, you need to decrease daily intake by 50-100 calories, largely due to limited or more restrictive activity. If you’re looking to lose weight, creating a 500 calorie per day deficit via diet and/or exercise will do the trick.

Moral of the story – too many calories, even from good foods, is bad when you’re consuming more than your body expends. So don’t obsess over calorie counting, instead, understand what your intake should be, gauge each meal accordingly and maintain that active lifestyle!

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Riding Ruby – let the training begin

On April 3rd, the MHBC started up their Tuesday night rides out of Rhinebeck. Since Glen is the ride coordinator I figured I’d join them. This was a No-drop Class B ride. The no-drop aspect was appealing, but the Class B part was going to be a stretch for me. I hadn’t ridden Ruby (my Specialized  road bike) since last September. But I thought some of the running and bootcamp I’ve been doing would serve me well in the transition to the bike.

The plan was to cover about 25 relatively flat miles. I cranked out 17.5 with an average speed (not adjusted for short intersection stops) of 13.8 mph.

The transition was harder than I thought, but the good news is that it reminded me of how beneficial it can be to cross train. This change-up in my routine will introduce new demands on the body – which is a good thing!

Even though I ended the ride early, according to my 2011 riding log, I actually did pretty well. Most of my rides had only been 7–20 miles. While the 5 organized challenges I did, like Ride the Ridge and LiveStrong Philly,  pushed me to the greater distances.  So not a bad start for early April!

I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and training with Ruby again. I’ll keep you posted on my progress toward becoming a “solid” Class B rider.

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The New, Bigger America

This comparison says it all:

So I guess I should move to Colorado.  But seriously, this says a lot about the state of the American lifestyle. Is it just a coincident that the obesity epidemic coincides with the explosion of the internet and video games (things that have us sitting rather than moving), and the up-sizing of food portions?  60 Minutes did a segment on sugar on 4/1/2012 which claims that sugar, in all its forms, is toxic , and that we eat way too much of it, and it not only contributes to obesity, but diabetes, heart disease and cancer as well (full transcript here).  Note that this chart is for 2008.

What can we do?  Think before you eat, be sensible about your sugar intake, and of course – exercise!

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Without Limits: When faced with injury, Brent jumped on bike, not couch

Without Limits: When faced with injury, Brent jumped on bike, not couch | The Poughkeepsie Journal |