Friday, September 28, 2007

Could I be a Pro?

On one of the cycling email lists that I partake in, one of the guys had done some calculations on how fast Levi Leipheimer could complete a local TT that we hold each year.   I started pondering, “What would it take for me to get on the podium with Levi?!  Dedication, hard work, and the right diet and fitness program, right?"

Immediately I ran over to my computer (actually, I was already sitting there, so there was no “running” going on), broke out my calculator, CyclingPeaks software, and the Critical Power calculator that I got from the Google Wattage group a few months ago, and began to envision free trips to France and hot babes bending down to kiss me on the cheek as I dawned the way-too-big yellow jersey.  The more I typed, the more my dream lost focus though.  Soon, the babes morphed into a cloud of numbers and math symbols.  

Lucidity returned as my kids started to fight over who is making faces at whom.  I continued to calculate. 

I now know why I am not an international pro. It turns out to get the same power-weight ratio as the elites, I need to increase my threshold power by 93 watts.  At my peak, I maybe can get 20.  Another 70 on top of that is surely out of the question.  However, there is still hope.  I could increase my power-weight ratio by losing weight.  As long as I can maintain my current power, and I choose only the real hilly pro-tour races, I could simply hide in the peloton on the flats, and then go with the climbers on the hills.  Good plan; now let’s run the numbers.

Since my race weight is currently a scant 117 pounds, this may be a challenge.  You see, I am already freakin’ hungry just trying to lose 3 pounds.   Turns out I need to lose 33!   Tough task…  At 84 pounds, not only would I look like one of the Olsen twins, but I would lose power in the process.  Technically, I would be in a coma.  I certainly could not maintain my fitness while in a coma. 

I think I’ll go play X-box with my son.

Reconstituting Marshmallows

I have a problem that started small, but seems to have developed into a potential life-changing event.   You see, I have this bag of marshmallows that I left in the garage one day.  It subsequently melted and solidified into a gob of goo.  Although the marshmallows have retained their original form, they are glued together from all directions.   Pulling them apart is a mess; marshmallow goes everywhere (and when I write about it, my keyboard gets sticky).

I’ve spent about 2 hours trying to un-stick them from each other, and from the bag.  Now my microwave is acting strange and my oven has giant mounds of charcoal bits stuck to the bottom.  Freezing didn’t help either.  Luckily, my freezer is no worse of wear.

Does anyone know how I can get these back to their original form?  I am at my freakin' wit's end!  Geez, if the factory can make them separate, why can’t I?  This is starting to look like a failed effort.  I would hate to give up, but I am thinking maybe I need to buy another bag. 

There has got to be a lesson in all of this:  Use the right tool for the job?  Buy a new one vs.. fixing a broken one?  When your wife tells you not to put the bag in the oven, DON'T!?  Don’t leave marshmallows in the garage? 

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Performance Notes from 2007 ACSM Annual Meeting

Before reading, please heed the warnings below.
Warning: There is no entertainment value here.   Just facts.
Warning #2:  Ignorance is bliss.  Since the info below is based on science, beware that you may learn something. 

One of my favorite web sites for Sports Medicine and Nutrition is  One of their contributors, Will Hopkins, recently attended the 2007 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference and brought back some notes.  Some study results were not yet substantiated, and some results were of low significance, so no conclusions yet.  The stuff I could truly understand was quite interesting.  Not that it was new information, but that known and emerging information continues to be supported.  Here is a synopsis:

  • 4-1 carb/protein during exercise is a good thing.  (6% and 1.2% solution respectively)  Double the protein is not-so-good.
  • Caffeine is good. You may need less than you think.
  • Anti-oxidants (like Beta carotene, Vit C and E) showed no increase in performance. (They're still good though - just for other reasons.)
  • NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) and mega-doses of Vit C reduce muscle soreness, but Vit C also delays recovery.  ("...the reactive oxygen species in inflammation have a positive role in adaptation," which is what Vit C is trying to inhibit.)
  • Q: How do you know when you are overreaching (good) and when you are overtraining(bad), when both yield performance impacts?  A: "...the closest thing is a downturn in mood state, especially in the depression dimension"

To read the details, including how to use this info to be a better cyclist, go here:  Note that in Mr. Hopkin's notes, there are also some unsubstantiated studies that show amazing results (I did not include those in my summary), 

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I am such a dead man.

Those of you who know me well are probably aware of my deepest and darkest secret.  Although I am somewhat embarrassed to admit it, I feel that with a recent medical discovery, I must acknowledge the issue and try to let people with the same problem feel comfortable in coming forward.  Acknowledging the problem is the first step in recovery.


You see, I am an early riser.  Get your mind out of the gutter!  Not in that way (though I was in my younger days).  Nowadays, I wake up way-too-early in the morning and ride my bike to work.   I justify this behavior because I get extra miles in, save some commute time, and save the ozone all at the same time.   Unfortunately, the world is not all sunshine and roses.  There is a dark side.  It turns out that in trying to save a little time for my family, I am not only a hazard to myself, but probably a contributor to the health care crisis in the United States today.


It turns out that scientists recently discovered that getting out of bed before 5 am is bad for your health.  That’s right, doing so poses a 1.7 times greater risk of high blood pressure and 2 times greater risk to development of hardened arteries.  Not only that, but there is “a possible link between vascular disease and early birds who began the day with vigorous exercise.”  OMIGOD!  I’m not joking here folks; check out the news report.


Should I wake up early?  Should I ride to work and save the planet?  What am I doing to myself and to society?    Then I got to thinking, what about people who participate in 24 hour races.  Not only do they begin the day with vigorous exercise, but they must be infinitely more at risk than early risers, because technically, they never even went to bed!  Maybe, this is a question better left unasked.


Pondering this led me to a more revealing and far-reaching problem.  What is the point of this story, is to educate us, or is it to confuse us?   I’ll tell you: These people don’t want answers, they want more funding.  They don’t want an informed public, but a semi-informed public; not smart enough to know the answers, but just smart enough to know we need more studies.  


Think about it, even on should-be non-controversial issues like space aliens and Bigfoot, they leave the door open.  Do you ever hear a scientist say something like, “There is no Bigfoot,” or does he really say, “We haven’t found any additional evidence confirming the existence of Bigfoot.”  Do they ever say, “People claiming to be abducted by aliens are freakin’ nut-jobs,” or do they say, “With the billions of stars in each galaxy and the billions of galaxies, the chances of their not being life on other plants seems infinitesimally small.”  …Just enough ambiguity to keep us guessing - and them working.


In case you are wondering, the physician that led the “early riser is a dead man” study called for more studies.