14 December 2016

Reluctance to Train – It’s December!

It’s December and doing training can be challenging. Routines get disrupted, focus on goals can be difficult, and many outside influences can dominate. Getting in the pool, on the bike, or out the door for a run can be extra challenging right now.

The end of November and all of December tend to be a down time for many, including me. There are many time demands and things you can focus on: Holiday events and social gatherings, family get-togethers, gift shopping, etc. Poor food choices can be numerous. The weather can be bad. The daylight is short. For me, I try to help Linda with her gourd art as I play “shop assistant” during this time. I also don’t have a triathlon race for nearly 4 months and I’m not doing 3 half marathons during the early part of the year like I did in 2016.

Some people assume that I train consistently, constantly, and relentlessly. Some assume I go crazy when I CAN’T train (others assume I’m crazy because I do train so much.) Well let me set the record straight: I have been off for essentially 3 weeks! Ironman Arizona was Nov. 20. The following week was Thanksgiving which included me NOT joining in for a 5K Turkey Trot. The 2nd week post-race I was certainly not ready to train again. I did some very easy stuff as part of my coaching work but that was all (and probably too much). By the end of the week I had a cold/cough and was out of commission for a full week. Now I’m back at it… gradually. Some light strength training, some 3 mile easy runs, some easy road rides, 45 min. swims, and a spin class or two are what I’ve bitten off this week. But am I ready to get back to it?

I’ll admit it: I’m probably not. After being sick I’m probably 95% ready physically. Mentally I’d put myself at 70% ready. Most of the time when I think about it I want to get started in pursuit of goals. But some of the time I think, “Nah, I’d like to sit on the couch and watch some more TV.” I’m out of my routine. I’m out of my driven, persistent, consistent mode and it shows. I’m not mentally ready to do the hard work yet.

So this week I’ve gone into an “AS IF” mode. I’ve started training this week as if I’m ready to get back at it. I’m training as if I’m enthusiastic to put in the time. I’m training as if I am up to put down the base training work to prepare for the coming year. Getting back to a routine will probably lead me to being happy to train again. Plus there are so many rewards I get from training: health, quality of life, depression avoidance, a reason to eat healthier, pushback against the aging process, training and funny with friends, and much more. I suspect it won’t be long before the “as if” mode is replaced with the genuine passion that I feel for triathlon, for training, and for challenging myself to achieve goals.


Getting back to all this also prods me to finalize some plans for the coming year. As Linda and I have said, we hope to have the Bass Lake season details finished up very soon. And the schedule for new CrazYman Training Opportunities will be coming out with about one event each month beginning in January. These will offer you a near-term reason to train, a chance to challenge your preconceived notions of what you’re capable of in a casual, supportive environment, and an opportunity to ‘race’ with friends, all at a price you can’t beat. Stay tuned!

24 November 2016

Race Report Part 3 of 3 – Ironman Arizona 2016

 This was my 9th Ironman race, the 6th one in Arizona. I love the venue for many reasons and it didn’t disappoint. Though the conditions didn’t play to my strengths, they were very pleasant and mild. It was cloudy all day, which limited sunburn potential. The air temperature was mild: between about 60* and 80*f. And the water temp was the best we’ve had it at 65*.

We arrived at the venue on race morning a little late at 5:10am. I went to my bike first to add nutrition, check the tires, and make sure it was ready to go. For the first time at IMAZ I didn’t bring my pump so when I squeezed the tires and could push in I knew I now how to take it to the mechanic for a pump up. I wanted him to do it since I was only slightly familiar with these race wheels that Joel generously loaned to me. They had given me a little trouble 2 days before so I was a little anxious. All pumped, prepped my bike and nutrition, added to my gear bags, stood in a fast moving portapotty line, turned in Special Needs run bag, got the wetsuit on, used the resistance cords for swim warm up, turned my morning clothes bag, and lined up for the swim. Thankfully I had a ‘to do’ list with me or I would have forgotten something. Didn’t really have any extra time but had enough get it done without rushing.

View from Mill Av bridge - orange wetsuit - click on picture for closer view
Finding my spot by the 1 hour sign, I got cap and goggles ready and drank my “stuff”. Spoke a little with Kellen, who was right there too. Anthem, male pros, females pros, pour water down my front, cannon shot, and then age group swim. This time they funneled the athletes through 2 small openings in the barrier. At first it was frustratingly slow, knowing how it went last year. Once I figured out what was going on I got back into focusing on what I was doing. Went down the stairs and straight into the water. It wasn’t crowded or hectic – great start for newbies and less secure swimmers. My swim was steady and uneventful, with limited contact and some opportunities to draft. I could feel a little cold in my legs and feet but nothing significant as I made the final turn towards the swim stairs exit. And NO CRAMPS, which is only the 2nd time that’s happened on a 2.4 mile swim!


I lined up on a part of the stairs that seemed empty, grabbed the step, pulled my knees up, and… began cramping! Quads and hamstrings started to seize up. The volunteers pulled me to my feet but I could not walk up the steps. No one else picked that stair location for a good minute so I stood there carefully trying, with assistance, to get to the top. Even then I couldn’t really walk at all. I just stood there waiting for the cramps to subside. Someone was telling me or telling the volunteer to get out of the way.

Eventually I made it off to the side where people tried to help me with the wetsuit. The peelers/strippers normally have you lie down and then they yank your wetsuit off in one motion. If I laid down I would probably never stand up again so I just stood at the railing. Someone put a mylar blanket over me, another guy held me, and 2 others, sitting on the ground, carefully worked on getting my wetsuit off as I stood there. Then one of the 2 on the ground started working on my quads and hammies to release the cramps. The whole time I knew the clock was running but needed to patiently wait it out. I had many thoughts running through my head since I’d had cramps before. Sometimes they've affected how I’ve been able to bike and run afterward. The key thing I did was to withhold judgment and let it play out. It can be easy to TELL someone to do that but it’s another thing to implement it in the moment. I chose not to think or dwell on the thought of “I’m screwed” or “this is not going to get better”. After this 4-5 minute challenge (it seemed like 10) I was able to move again and walked, and then jogged, to the changing tent. Briefly sitting down didn’t trigger a cramp return and I had no cramp issues until the run (which probably weren’t related anyway.) I cannot begin to express how grateful I felt towards all those volunteers who were willing to do just about anything to get me on my way.
Swim 1:01:40

Transition went fairly smoothly after the cramps subsided. I went with my normal cotton disposable arm warmers, left the hand warmer packs, wore socks and gloves, drank down my UCAN, grabbed the bike, and ran out well past the mount line (and past other fumbling cyclists).
Transition 1 11:56

It was nice to be on the bike and feeling pretty good. It took me the first ½ mile to get the Garmin watch working but once I did, it worked well all day. I rode under control the first ½ loop, trying to keep it easier than I thought I could go. There was a headwind going out on the Beeline Hwy, which made for a slow split. I remember seeing a 1:07 or so, which I knew was slow for me based on past races. As I turned and headed back down it felt like I was flying with that tailwind! Unless it’s on a steep hill I hate the sound of “pawl clicking” that comes when you are coasting (on most bikes) - it means I’m not working to propel the bike. As usual I pedaled downhill with the tailwind.
 
The 2nd loop felt faster, in part due to nutrition intake, though I think the wind may have been a little stronger. The 3rd loop was the slowest of the 3. 3 times during the ride I pushed a bit too hard (for me) when I got into a group of 3 riders who passed me and then slowed. I backed off, passed them back , and pushed another 30 sec so as not to disrupt their pedaling effort. In the process I spiked the heart rate a little but mostly just added fatigue to my legs which was probably unnecessary but I wanted to live within the spirit of the race rules. Total calorie intake was a bit short of planned: probably 900 calories. In the end my bike split was 10 min slower than last year’s. Average HR 119, Max 132; Average Speed 20.27, Max 35.3mph. (That night when we retrieved the bike, my rear tire was down at least 25 lbs of pressure. Not sure if it had a slow leak or what. It was down even more the next day.) I did not come close to even or negative splitting the bike with the 3 loops being 1:47, 1:49, and 1:55.
Bike 5:31:32

I took my feet out of my bike shoes with about ¼ mile to go and pedaled with feet on top. Dismounted just before the dismount line, walked and jogged to get my bag, and then changed outside the tent since the air was warm and it looked dark inside there. Without compression socks to put on I got out in less than 5 min. The anticipated portapotty stop was unneeded since I peed twice while riding on the bike.
T2 4:56

The run started slowly and with little promise for a good split. I was feeling the fatigue and some back discomfort. As per plan, I walked and jog a little to start. The first little uphill the legs decided it was time to cramp again. I shifted immediately to a cautious walk to let things settle down. Again, I made no judgment that this would be permanent or temporary. I just dealt with it the best I knew how. I tested it as things subsided and the legs responded. Gradually I got into a reasonable pace, taking short walk breaks as needed until I settled into an effort level and heart rate I’d planned to maintain.

The run was about as expected: it was HARD and PAINFUL. I hated it and loved it, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes alternately. As is typical I would find a flow and just be moving and feeling like a runner. At other times my legs or feet or back or all of that would feel heavy, out of balance, inefficient, painful, and/or unpleasant. There were highs and lows on a regular basis. In my mind I would feel despair, defeat, confidence, and joy. I was frequently ‘checking’ myself to maintain even, level emotions.

In the end the run was not fast – 43 min. slower than my best marathon – but it was my best Ironman run split by 3 min. Considering that I had 6 weeks of actual road running training (otherwise mostly elliptical with some treadmill) I’ll accept that as not too bad. Also negative splitted the run with a 2:24:49 first ½ and 2:22:08 second ½ .
Run 4:46:57

Final Result: 11:37:01, 6th place in age group (previous best 11:29 in 2015 with full run training and no leg cramps). I feel short on many of my goals. I hit my experiential and process (execution) goals and in the end that makes missing my time and place goals far less disappointing.


In part 1 of my ‘race report’ I expressed how I was extremely grateful of all those family and friends who cheered, supported, checked on line, and/or volunteered. In part 2 I told how awesome it was to race with my friends and fellow athletes. The thing I may not have explained well was how the athletes I coached or supported gave back to me. The excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, and enthusiasm from the newbies helped remind me of my first Ironman and the MAGIC that is part of this event. While it added stress to me it ALSO added a good energy. I LOVED being able to race with them and to be there to happily cry with them at the finish line.

Bike loop splits 1:47:31, 1:49:57, 1:55:42
Run splits by mile:
1 – 11:45; HR ave 113, HR max 122
2 – 11:24; 121, 128
3 – 10:16; 124, 129
4 – 10:23; 124, 130
5 – 10:16; 125, 130
6 – 10:29; 123, 128
7 – 10:32; 124, 129
8 – 10:46; 121, 127
9 – 11:18; 120, 126
10 – 11:41; 118, 125
11 – 09:55; 125, 130
12 – 10:38; 122, 126
13 – 13:42; 117, 126
14 – 11:07; 122, 133
15 – 10:41; 124, 129
16 – 10:59; 123, 132
17 – 10:45; 121, 127
18 – 10:59; 121, 129
19 – 11:00; 121, 126
20 – 10:19; 123, 128
21 – 10:46; 120, 127
22 – 11:25; 118, 124
23 – 12:08; 116, 124
24 – 10:17; 121, 127
25 – 10:06; 126, 132
26 – 10:22; 124, 127
.2 – 9:44 pace; 129, 138

½ marathons – #1 2:24:49, #2 2:22:08

22 November 2016

Ironman Arizona 2016 Race Report Part 2 - Fellow Athletes

I want to have part 2 of this race report be about fellow athletes out there racing. As a coach I feel a strong connection to those I coach or have coached. Being able to actually race with them makes the race special on a different level. It can be challenging to be present and available to those I’m coaching because I also need to attend to my own preparation. Thankfully, Linda was also here to support not only me but all our athletes.

When you are part of a team or group of people, racing the event becomes a shared experience with the athletes you know personally, not just with the thousands of participants, volunteers, and supporters. For me it allows me to have a special glimpse into each athlete’s personal journey, challenges, and successes. If I’m their as their coach then I am invested in their success and feel responsible if they fall short of their goals or expectations.

This was my 9th Ironman and going into this I felt as excited and enthused as ever. This wasn’t just because of my performance and outcome goals but also because of the shared experience with friends and being with athletes doing their first Ironman. The concerns, questions, emotions, and enthusiasm that they have (or will have) help remind me of my own first Ironman Arizona.

Seeing and sharing in the successes of so many brings emotions that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Being at the finish line and feeling the joy, gratitude, pride, disbelief, and happiness that they are feeling gives me so much satisfaction and joy. I definitely cried more than once in all our celebrations.


All of you who achieved (or repeated your) Ironman status made this IM so very special. I wish congratulations and more to Bev Hess, Chris Holcroft, John Sheridan, Sally Roberts, Dave Borys, Stephanie DeSanti, Chris Holly, Kellen Arno, Hermie Banaga, Crystal Cavanagh, and Jennifer Berk (sorry to anyone I missed listing here!)

Ironman Arizona 2016 Race Report Part 1 of 3 - THANK YOU

What a weekend it was! “My athletes” finishing, friends finishing, dozens of family and friends spectathleting/supporting all of us, and knowing that so many were cheering from afar - so memorable in so many ways.

There are so many people to recognize and acknowledge. I’ll save the best for… first. Linda once again was the “cruise director” for this “Taste of Ironman” with the Crazy Train/Get Sladed Nation. She lead a large group of family members, friends, sherpas, volunteers, and spectathletes, who were there to cheer the athletes to the finish line. With so many agendas and diverse needs of everyone, she did another incredible job helping people see who they wanted and do what they wanted. It is a VERY long day and in the end we think everyone got what they wanted out of the experience. 3 things made it slightly easier this time around: a good portion were veterans of IMAZ spectating, Genna (and others) helped direct and coordinate and answer questions, and the “Beacon” that most of the athletes carried made life easier because people knew where everyone was on the course. The device worked great (as long as the athlete remembers to turn it on and carry it on the bike and run!)

Linda’s support of everyone, especially me, is beyond belief. Besides Cruise Director, she coached our athletes (especially important when it came to the mental piece), she took control of certain details of the weekend so I could focus on my own race, and she supported (some would say enabled) me to do this crazy Ironman triathlon thing. Without her love and support I’m sure I would either not be able to do these OR I would be doing them but be an unhappy single man! She is the one who makes my training and racing possible. I am blessed beyond measure.

Mom/Jayne came out yet again to cheer and enthusiastically support my racing. She enjoys seeing the process and the striving for goals, the energy, the spectacle, and the fun that is all part of the Ironman weekend. It makes me so very happy when she is there. And Corey was once again a fantastic Sherpa, making sure I had what I needed, carrying my stuff, even working on the knots in my neck post-race. He took good care of his dad! Marc and Courtney flew out again for another long weekend of Ironman racing. The support that I feel can’t be explained. Their setting up of “base camp” made things fantastic for everyone. On top of that they created “the flag” for Slade Coaching. What a great and hilarious birthday gift!

So many friends came out to the race for this 2016 edition; too many to name. We athletes felt the love, support, enthusiasm, and excitement, all of which helped propel us to the finish! All of us, especially the first-timers, will be forever grateful that all of you were part of this journey. As an athlete I know that you can not discount the power of the TRIbe, the family, the supporters. And we feel it from the people who are looking on from near and far. All of you give us a boost, a motivation to be successful, a reason to keep going when we might not have wanted to if no one was watching.

Finally let me thank those who volunteered on the course. We athletes know that this event isn’t possible without all the people who give their time to make Ironman AZ a success and make our race the best it can be. They make the athletes’ day because of their help and enthusiasm for helping US. They make us feel so special and cared for.

At the end of the day, as is true in so many things, the race and the day are what they are because everyone makes it possible. Could we get by on our own? Probably we could ‘get by’. Would it be as fun or momentous or meaningful? Not a chance! So thank you, ALL OF YOU, for making our weekend one to always remember!

10 August 2016

Perceptions

Perceptions, the kind we have of ourselves, of the people around us, and about what we think we can and cannot do, are part of our daily lives. We go through our days and hours with certain beliefs of what we're capable of. These perceptions shape us. They guide our decision making. They affect what we do. They inform our personal choices about what we try to do and what we believe is now and forever beyond us.

Where do these perceptions come from? How did we accumulate them and accept them as "the truth"? Are they real? Are they currentAre they accurate? How did they come about? Many of us are burdened with labels, expectations, and so-called truths that we learned when we were younger - they were repeatedly told to us as we were growing up or they were things we "learned" about ourselves as we went through life. Sometimes those perceptions and beliefs about ourselves came from our parents, teachers, or peers; sometimes they arose through self-awareness.

It is very possible that we hold onto these perceptions (whether they were ever actually true or not) for far too long. They are there in the back of our minds when we decide our course of action or inaction. They keep us from trying something new or challenging. They keep us from achieving things we are actually capable of. They scare us into holding back and not gaining new experiences and not uncovering strengths we didn't know we had.

Of course I have to share my own example to illustrate this and of course it has to be triathlon related:
Before my 1st marathon - click pic to see shirt
As a teenager I was a competitive swimmer in San Diego. My best event was the 100 Freestyle, an event that takes less than 1 minute to race. It is a sprint race (the only event shorter is the 50 Free). As a competitive swimmer you tend to swim a large variety of events of different distances and strokes at swim meets. It might even include the "mile". This is the "endurance" event in swimming. Compared to my peers I was pretty far back in the pack in this event but was usually at or near the top in the sprint 100. So of course I considered myself a sprint athlete, not an endurance athlete. I carried this belief with me for decades.

This belief, this perception, this label was a big reason I never thought I could run a 10K, let alone a marathon. It was a big reason I never thought doing an Ironman (140.6 mile) triathlon was possible. I was a "sprinter", not an endurance athlete.  It never occurred to me that I could be both a sprinter and an endureance athlete. Never mind that as a teenage there were summer days where I trained over 4 1/2 hours in the pool. I was a "sprinter" damn it! 
Finishing my 1st marathon
Another 'limiter' I had in my head was, "How can I do an endurance race? I don't have a large intestine so of course I can't stay hydrated. Of course I can't be on the course that long without having to go to the bathroom. An Ironman? I'd probably die trying to do that!" 
Well it turns out I COULD do long distance triathlon. I COULD do an 11 or 12 hour race. I just had to learn how to do it, how to train myself properly,  how to hydrate properly, make sure there was a portapotty somewhere, and believe in my own abilities. 
Did a switch suddenly get flipped so that I knew I could do it? No. For me it was more a step-by-step process with small successes that built upon each other. There were setbacks along the way but each challenge that I met contributed to my belief that my assumptions and beliefs were absolutely WRONG! What was going on in my head -  not only was it not real, it was inaccurate and/or outdated. If I hadn't challenged those beliefs, sometimes purposely and sometimes by accident, I would never have known how wrong I was. I would not now be training for my 9th Ironman race in Arizona this November 2016.


I've had this quote near the top of this blog for a few years now...
"We limit what we can do by believing our limits are real and unmoving. These limits are self-imposed and simply need to be challenged. What if you are far greater than you think?" ~~Coach Skip Slade
What are you telling yourself that might not actually be true? What supposed truth is guiding you that is outdated and/or wrong? What limits have you imposed on yourself that merely need to be challenged? What are you afraid of that, with the right support, you could vanquish?
  • I can't swim - I'm afraid of the water!
  • I can't put my face in the water without panicking!
  • I'm not a runner - I could never run a mile/a 5K/a half marathon! 
  • I haven't ridden a bike since I was a kid. No way I could ride 12 miles!
  • I could probably swim and ride a bike but I could never run!
  • I'm not an 'athlete'. Triathlon is for someone else!
You are more powerful, more talented, more able, more capable than you believe. Change can push you into an uncomfortable or scary position but tolerating that, especially when you have role models and teammates around you supporting you, will lead to successes. Patience is required as it usually doesn't come overnight. Persistence is very helpful. Laughing at yourself and having fun can keep you going. Letting go of the self-imposed requirement of perfection will free you to improve.

What are you waiting for? Perceptions - Change Them!

20 June 2016

Thirty Years

During the past week and a half I've dealt with a case of pouchitis, which is what us folks who don't have a colon sometimes face instead of ulcerative colitis. Those 2 illnesses, colitis and pouchitis, tend to be very similar to each other. I admit that I've had a few flashbacks to some darker periods in my life. This recent bout with IBD didn't lead to this post but it has made it seem more emotional and important, at least in my own mind....

I didn't used to be super public about the fact that I had ulcerative colitis or that I subsequently had surgery that removed my large intestine. Sure I've shared my story many times but usually I've felt a little embarrassed because, while there have been some very hard times related to the disease, the surgery, and the recovery, that also did not mean to me that I was somehow 'special'. And to be truthful, it also didn't help that I felt uncomfortable talking about poop, and colons, and blood, and diarrhea (farts were a different story). I don't view myself as anywhere close to being on the level of say a challenge athlete with an amputated limb or a cancer survivor in what I've supposedly overcome.

As a triathlete and most especially as a Team Challenge triathlon coach for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) I've learned over time that sharing the fact that I've had UC, that I have no colon, and that I still have intestinal bowel disease (IBD) is worthwhile for others to hear. I don't share my story or history for sympathy, or to impress people, or to "brag" - Look at ME! I've done 8 Ironmans without a colon. The reason I share is to help those who have Crohn's or colitis, or those who have a child (or even a friend) with one of those diseases, to be inspired, to have hope, and to believe that IBD, while often pretty horrible, is also sometimes pretty manageable; to understand that some semblance of a "normal" life is possible for many and to not give up hope.

Why am I writing this today? THIRTY years ago, on June 20, 1986, I had the first of a two-step surgery to remove my large intestine and construct a reservoir out of the end of my small intestine - an illeoanal proctocolectomy. 30 years ago the treatment options were far more limited - flagyl, sulfasalazine, prednisone, one somewhat useful antibiotic, "bowel rest", and surgery. That was pretty much it for ulcerative colitis. (The options for Crohn's were even fewer!) 30 years ago, two weeks after the birth of my first child, I went under the knife of a young, excellent surgeon, Dr Dana Launer, who would do the first J-pouch surgery in San Diego after he had traveled to Sweden to learn the new procedure. 30 years ago? That means I've lived longer WITHOUT my colon than with it. I was 29 years old at the time of that first surgery. It was devastating for my family and for me. But it was the best option available at the time.

Baby Marc visiting me in the hospital
A few days after Marc was born I had a colonoscopy scheduled as an out patient and the doctor was going to use a teaching scope so that I could also see what things looked like in there (general anesthesia wasn't used then I guess). My health had rallied for the days around Linda giving birth but now I was so bad off that I didn't have the energy to even look at or care what the doctor was doing or seeing. The bowel prep itself practically wiped me out. The result of the colonoscopy was the doc wanting to admit me to the hospital right then and there. Because I felt so bad I did not argue or put up a fight, even though this left my wife to now, somehow, hold our lives together. At first they put me on the oncology floor of the hospital because that was the bed that was available. They immediately started giving me a blood transfusion (I was 3 pints low), lipids, and glucose or whatever through an IV. Unfortunately, putting me in the oncology unit freaked Linda out even more because she thought there must be something they weren't telling her. My parents, Jayne and Hank, were also devastated but were there to support both Linda and Marc, and me. The other family members and the friends that were able to visit me were supportive but very concerned.
Linda, Marc, and me at Scripps Memorial (La Jolla)

During the next few days Linda put our baby into a 'snuggly', went to the UCSD medical library, got unhappy looks from med students studying for exams, and poured nickels into the photocopy machine to copy the research on surgical options (remember, no internet or pubmed websites back then!) so that we could make an informed decision. It took the rest of the week to make the decision to have surgery. Finally I decided to have the surgery, at least in part because of the
Images via John Hopkins Colon Cancer Center
concern/risk of colon cancer. The 1st surgery took 6 1/2 hours and included a 10" long incision through my abdominal muscles and a stoma hole for me to be able to poop into an illeostomy bag. I was in the hospital for 21 days altogether. And this didn't including the 6 weeks I spent on bowel rest earlier that year or the 10 days required 3+ months later for the 2nd part of the surgery. In between the first and 2nd surgery I returned to work as best I could. I also did my best to reclaim some part of my old self by training for and swimming the 1 mile La Jolla Rough Water Swim. It turned out to be the slowest, hardest, and best, open water swim of my life. That year, 1986, the little "survivor medal" they gave out to finishers was far more meaningful and prized by me than it had ever been.

Depression, ongoing bowel issues, and adjustments to life followed for many years. I did not adapt well. I'm sure that being pretty inflexible and being slow to letting things go, adapt, and move forward didn't help! The depression eventually even included suicidal thoughts but with a lot of help, psychotherapy, and the unfathomable patience of Linda, I have gotten to where I am now, 30 years on. It was a hard road for a very long time but things gradually got better. Don't be fooled by how I am today: it wasn't easy - it was very hard work. All of this is sometimes hard for us to believe. We wonder how we survived it all, stayed together, continue to love each other, and how we now can't imagine being without each other.

That's the story of my ulcerative colitis and surgery. Even though what's written here is long, trust me when I say you got the abbreviated version!

Let me end by saying that, no, not everyone can be as fortunate as I am in being able to manage IBD and get through the treatment and all that's involved. But if I can show someone who is feeling depressed, or lost, or hopeless, that there are possibilities for a better future, to be inspired about possibilities, then that is a so very small price to pay for being a little less private about myself and sometimes a little uncomfortable about sharing my own IBD story or issues.

Thirty years... imagine that!

22 May 2016

Indoor Cycling/Spin Class?

I was recently asked what I thought about indoor cycling/spin/studio cycling classes. Is is okay to
Older Photo from Encinitas/Ecke YMCA
substitute a class for a bike workout?

In general I like them very much, especially as a week day substitute. They are a good way to get in a workout on a bike when you can't safely or logistically get outside and ride on the road. Of course an indoor cycling class isn't a perfect substitute. Doing a trainer ride is another great alternative. Both of these options have different advantages to go along with some shortcomings.

Indoor cycling is a good option for many reasons. Depending on the equipment, it can be a reasonably good simulation of a road ride. It can allow you to work harder and do more things that you wouldn't do on the road due to safety concerns. And it can also challenge you to work harder and longer because you have someone telling you what to do over the beat of music. Having that along with a group doing the same thing can be very motivating.

Indoor cycling classes don't take place on your own bike (well... yes, there are group classes that take place on trainers that you mount your own bike on) which is a negative. You also don't get to do you own workout (though you can fake it if the class is too intense and you want or need to go moderately.) All instructors are not the same but I suspect most are pretty decent or they won't stay employed very long. A good instructor will direct you with a warm up, cool down, effort level, cadence, technique reminders, encouragement, good music (usually) and a well-structured session.

Notes:
  • A "spin bike" is not your road or triathlon bike. It's unlikely to ever match you the same way your professionally "fitted" bike will. This means it is not a perfect simulation of a road ride... but it IS similar.
  • The clip-in pedals on "spin bikes" tend to be mountain bike-type clips so most people's road bike shoes don't work. If you don't have that type of clip on your shoes, most indoor spin bikes have straps/cages (I think) that you can use. You can also buy bike shoes appropriate for the class (make sure they are comfortable and fit properly!) or get adapters that allow you to attach the correct clips to your old road/tri shoes. Don't do this to the shoes you currently use to ride on the road. 
  • Make sure you get the seat and handle bar settings in a good position for you. Try to simulate how your own bike feels. Ask for help from the instructor if you need to. 
  • All bikes are calibrated slightly differently. The numbers help you gauge differences during a workout but aren't always transferable to the next workout because all bikes are calibrated differently. Instead...
  • Base your workout primarily on perceived effort and HR if you can. You can at least get a sense of what the bike calibration #s mean as you get into your workout. See what your HR is at a certain resistance/gear/power and work from there.
  • 1st big caution: Filter what the instructor says and consider your current abilities, needs, and experience. It's YOUR workout so use your judgement when it comes to how hard you should go, how much resistance to put on, etc. Everyone is different. An instructor can give you a sort of range to work in or tell you how hard to go, can recommend pedal cadence, and can suggest when to stand up or sit down, but ultimately it's up to you. Someone who is used to doing "sprints" can do more speed work than someone who has not done speed work in a long time (or ever). 
  • 2nd big caution: Do not do a bunch of non-cycling type moves on the bike. If an instructor starts having you do things with weights, taking weird riding positions, doing dancing-style movements, or doing super-fast pedal spins (over 120rpm), these are not going to help you and have the risk of causing injury. It's rare (I hope) but stay away from that kind of gimmicky riding.

Taking an indoor cycling class is a great substitute for a road ride as part of an overall smart, well-planned training week.