Thursday, 24 May 2012

Strava: The Cycling Nerd's Drug.

Lately I have succumb to a new addiction. Perhaps calling it an addiction is premature. It is a fixation. This fixation was unexpected, but because I am/have a short term obsessive personality, I really should have seen this coming. By short term obsessive, I mean that I fixate on certain things for a short period of time (usually 2 to 6 weeks) until I move and discover something else. By the time I have moved on, those short term obsessions have become a part of my personality, political outlook, belief system, and philosophy, or until I have killed it and no longer want anything to do with said obsession. Usually the obsessions are about, but are not limited to, athletic pursuits.

Past/current obsessions have included (in no particular order): compression wear, the stick, trail running podcasts, merino wool, Movescount, gore-tex lined running shoes, minimalist shoes, physiotherapy, Yasso's, short sleeve collared plaid button up shirts, Pearl Jam, cooking techniques, Sugoi brand apparel, twitter, oatmeal, free public access to the Delta Watershed Springs, cyclocross, chocolate milk, sportlegs, SNL, Kristin Wiig, epsom salts, Natalie Portman, sunglasses, bicycles,, Ebay, Craigslist, Tim's French Vanilla, and the list goes on and on. The list appears to be made up of comsumables, which makes me have a bit of self loathing for being so materialistic.

Currently, I have a couple of new short term obsession. One is how to deal with the squirrels living above my garage. This one is particularly disconcerting. I have some ideas that may not be humane, such as covering the entry hole with a mixture of vasaline and cayanne, so that when the animals go to clean the vasaline off of their fur, they get a wicked spicy burning taste run through their body, and hopefully never they will never returning again. Can squirrels really make that connection? I hope that will might work, but I do not know how they are entering in the first place. Perhaps I will wait for the exterminator to show up. I digress.

This month, the obsessions range from an intense focus on the Meet Your Maker 50 mile run (4 months away), Salomon Speedcross trail runners, and at the top of the list, Strava.

Oh Strava. How you have destroyed my outlook on riding a bike for fun and for training. Now, nearly everytime I head out on a ride, I tediously plan my route, plan my attacks on established segments, figure how to manage my energy well enough to be able to recover from hard efforts, guesstimate where a segment begins and ends, and blast through segments to post up the fastest times on the leaderboard.

My use of and focus on Strava could become unhealthy. I get disappointed after hammering segments, only to find that I have come 2nd, 8th, or did not record a PB. It makes me think about how to go harder the next time, and where I can pick up time rather than just bull-blast my way up the hill or through the segment. I watch the people I am following on Strava with longing, as they are getting out to longer, more challenging rides than I can due to family committments, and I become frustrated that I too, cannot partake in those jealousy-inducing rides. I become defensive--like an irrational mother squirrel frantically defending her young from exterminators, about my turf--MY KOMs that I have earned--sweated, gutted, redlined, and puked for when it is under attack from my fellow cyclists. Once an attack on my earned KOMs come in, it is interesting how deep I have been able to dig in the pain bag to get that virtual accolade back.

On other segments, when I come close but fall short of a KOM, I agonize over where the finish line is, where I lost time on the segment, and how to approach it differently for the next attempt. This is clearly an addiction, one that I should really just forget about and go out and ride. It is especially satisfying to earn a KOM scalp from some of my highly respected buddies, whom I know are fast. Sniping segments has a very good feel to it, post ride.

At the end of my ride, like that bastard squirrel in the attic stashing it's share of nuts it has gathered, the first thing I do is scurry upstairs and sync the Garmin to my computer to upload my ride. It feels like a real life video game, where the score means more than what shows up on one's X-Box. We ride these segments for real.

Strava has forced me to make my riding count. Every ride now has value, rather than just a spin out for some junk miles. And, funny enough, after having the Garmin for over a month, I have noticed improvement in my climbing, red-lining, and stamina. My bike endurance is steadily increasing after a long winter of running. All thanks to Strava? Not quite. But Strava is helping me figure out how to go deeper in the pain cave.

Strava is a great training tool allowing me to show my cycling warts and all to my cyclist friends. I really do not want them to see those warts, as they show up on most cyclist in the form of sores in the chamois area. But figurative language is fun to use.

There is no hiding with Strava. The biggest problem is that it is fun.

Maybe it is not that big of a problem.


That is really what it is.

The real problem is that nest of squirrels in my garage attic. Exterminators have arrived. Squirrels, you time is up, and your fate is sealed. So will be your nest, sealed off from the outside.

Watershed Athlete: 1
Squirrels:                0

Cycling Tips has a great analysis of what this Strava monster has become. They pretty much nail down many of my thoughts I have had while riding. Checkit.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

2012 Vancouver Marathon Report: Success and failure within the race

After sitting on this latest post for the last 2 weeks, I suppose that it is time to release it to the masses.

For days leading up to the marathon, I was cautious with my sleep, rest, running schedule, exertion levels, and diet. My discipline regarding those areas of my life was strict. For the extracurricular activities that I indulge in, I managed to cast them all aside. Those would include going to sleep at eleven P.M., partaking in the odd brew now and again, and being carefree, within reason, of what food choices I put into my body.

I managed to get really good quality sleeps during the nights leading up to the weekend, and resisted any poor diet choices. I thought I would have this race dialed in, managing not only the fitness aspect, but the intangibles too.

Thursday came, and with it, a head cold. I fought that off. Friday I took a Peter Twist Conditioning workshop. I participated fully in it, running sprints, doing lunges, core workouts, stability and mobility drills, and probably pushing myself at a time when I needed to store all the energy I would need for Sunday. My male competitiveness got in the way and I took part in it like I thought I should. Friday I was in bed by 10 P.M.

Saturday. A bike ride in the South Surrey Bike Park with Nadia, and the rest of the day set aside for rest. Lor headed out early in the evening, I had the kids in bed, and managed to work on my race plan. The stress that I put on myself for this race was almost tangible. I could not sleep at all on Saturday night, opting for a 1 A.M. snack of chocolate milk and a banana. I never eat past 8. I felt like a pent up ball of nerves, and the only way to unwind was to be on course and running. The last time I had felt this wound up was before my first or second Test of Metal, or my first Sun Run in 2000. The stress was unhealthy.

Sunday Morning. I got up at 5, before my 5:30 alarm that I found out I had not set at all the night before. My clothes all laid out, my breakfast ready to be cooked downstairs. I was as ready as I was going to be. The hard time goal for a sub 3 was adjusted to 2:58:00 after looking at my pace calculator and running mile the splits. I ate my mandatory 1 cup of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, a glass of water, at 6:30, left home for King Edward Station, making a short detour/ pit stop at the River Rock's very convenient rest rooms.

Sean and I got to Queen Elizabeth Park just after 7:20, and joined out start corral, the first corral out of 5 in total. Bag check and porta-potties were a snap this year, once those chores were taken care of, Sean and I moved up the to the front near the start line and took in Mark Donnelly belt out Oh Canada to start our race. I saw Scott Rintoul at the front and wished him luck.

After the gun went off and the jog down Cambie was quick but on pace. I was pushing a 4:15 or so for the first few kms, but noticed my average at 4:19/km. I thought that I would have no problem gaining back the 4 seconds over the span of the course, and used gravity on the south slope to help hasten the pace. 21 minutes for the first 5 kms.

49th was great with some rollers and fast running downhills as we approached Camosun and UBC--where the work was about to begin. I hit 10 kms at 42 minutes, staying an even split for the first quarter of the race.    Camosun was a slug, and I was fighting off a nervous bladder. Cresting the hill and winding towards 16th avenue, I found a strip of gravel/trail on the west side of the street heading north, and managed to give my feet some reprieve from the pounding of the pavement. It almost felt like I was trail running. By the time I was well onto 16th, I hit the UEL for a pee break, and ditched the group I was running with for that pit stop.
The run around UBC was great--beautiful views, cool but sunny weather, and fast pavement as I made my way down Spanish Banks to the halfway point. Feeling great,  I tucked in a 1:31:XX for the first half.

With little climbing left, I was confident that the second half could be faster than the first, or just as fast. What I failed to take into account was "the wall", and my leg shutting themselves down. I felt good going over the Burrard Bridge, and kept pacing myself for ten kms to go. I planned that at 10 to go, I would try to maintain my pace and kick out a solid 45 minute 10km. By Siwash rock, my body started to fail me, and I was seeing my time goal slip through my fingers.

My legs began cramping--a tightening soleus calf muscle, twinging posterior right quad muscles. Every stride too long for the condition I was in, or too short, was and effort in maintaining a torturous existence. I was fighting the cramps off big time, and slowing in the process. I gave up on  my time goal in Stanley Park, trying to just finish. What I did not realize was how close I was to making a BQ with 5 kms to go. The first half of the race bought me just enough time, but now I realize that I was chipping away at myself for that opening half, and not leaving enough in the tank for the last half.

The final 2 kms were hard, to say the least. At one point I was fed up with the race, knowing that I would not meet my goal, and had a hard time staying positive, focus, and speedy. My pace slowed to 5:XX+/km. With 1km to go, I saw my good friend Jake Francis' dad, Doug. He gave me a high-five, and I managed to pick up a little something for the finish.
The bottom fell out towards the end.

I managed to cross the line with a time of 3:12:31 Chip time, 3:12:40 Gun time.

And I was okay with that. I was not even disappointed that I missed my Gold goal, my silver goal, but still made my bronze goal. I was shooting for a 2:58. If not, I wanted a BQ. If not, I would settle for something near 3:10. Looks like I pulled a 4th place on my list of goals.

Looking back now, I am (somewhat)upset without nailing that BQ. However, I'm consoled by the fact that I managed to take 18 minutes off of last years time, and I will be doing more marathons in the future, so hey, things are looking good. Especially for the Kamloops Marathon on July 29th. The next big thing, before the big thing.

Some of the numbers:

Good HR--consistent. I just needed more speedwork to give  that bit more to supplement my endurance.
The first half was easy compared to the flat, on the gas all the time second half.
You can see me tail off my speed at the end.
Like the Canucks, there is always next year. This race was amazing, beautiful, and challenging. I still will hold a Sub 3 hour goal for next year. 17-18 minutes cut off of last years time. Next year, can I cut 12 minutes off of this years time? That would be a feat.

Shoes: Asics 2160 B, size 13
Shirt: Sugoi BC
Undershirt: Defeet Un-D-Shirt
Shorts: Sugoi Tri Compression
Socks: Sugoi Compression
Glasses: Giro Havik 2
Gels: Gu x 6: 1 gel every half hour
Hydration: Water or electrolyte drink at every aid station.

Now my mind is occupied with Strava and riding wagon wheeled mountain bikes. And getting out on the road bike a tonne. Running has taken a back seat to cycling. I have only 2 runs under my belt in the last two weeks since the marathon. Tomorrow I will head out for 30k, and try to get things going again, in the lead up for the big summer runs.