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Tag Archives: fitness

One thing at a time

Mine and the boy's skates, ready for a test drive at the local outdoor rink in perfect winter weather.

Mine and the boy’s skates, ready for a test drive at the local outdoor rink in perfect winter weather.

First, the good news.

Well, it doesn’t start well. I have plantar fasciitis and it hurts a lot. When I developed this, quite a few things I love got put on the sidelines because of the pain. Skiing, skating, and hiking all got pretty difficult, for example. I would have to take my ski boots off for ten minutes after one run – not enjoyable.

Skating is a lot of fun and I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty good skater. I could never score goals, but I was fast. With the deterioration of my feet, it became too painful. We’re talking severe pain within a couple of minutes of lacing up, sometimes before I even hit the ice. I was pretty sad about it, especially since before all of this foot nonsense I’d just gotten some new CCM 652 Tacks.

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Fall Hike up Pocaterra Ridge

Route map and elevation profile.

With a glorious long fall in Alberta, we attacked Pocaterra Ridge.  I had to make a run to Canmore to pick up my trekking poles first (glad I did), so after that and a fill-up I drove out to the trailhead at Highwood Pass.  We had eight people in our group – a pretty large group!  The advantage here is that we had enough cars to do this as a point-to-point hike; we weren’t forced into an out-and-back.  I ate a Subway while I waited for the other folks to show up and set up the shuttle, and then off we went.

A beautiful hike through meadows that were full of wildflowers not a month ago led to the base of the ridge.  The smell of fall was everywhere, with the damp, moderately pungent but still refreshing odour of disappearing vegetation omnipresent.  The ridge itself climbs out of the meadows with a bit of a trudge, but when you reach the top you’re rewarded with a valley view on the left and hwy 40 on your right.  A technical – but spectacular – traverse of the ridge leads you to a steep and long downhill through trees to the north end of the trail, where we’d stashed a car for shuttling.  This descent is really made easier with trekking poles.  On the south end before the ridge, the Larch trees were still full of yellow needles, while on the north end they were bare.  Just awesome.

It’s fair to say that when I was on top of the ridge I was in exactly the place on the planet I wanted to be at exactly the time I wanted to be there.  That should be evident from my grinning like an idiot in the video, below.  I’ll get some photos up of this eventually, but here’s what Garmin and Strava had to say about the hike.  Even the drive in and out was spectacular and relaxing – given the lateness of the season, there was very little traffic; not a motor-home to be seen on highway 40, which can be a bit of a slow drive in the peak season!

Riding… Snacking…

Photo evidence! Bikes parked at the candy shop.

Well, as summer winds down, we reflect.  With family and things happening around us, we didn’t get a chance to ride as much as we wanted.  We did do a couple of great (easy, low-impact) rides with our friends Russ and Lucie though, and I thought I’d share.  We did the Canmore-Banff Legacy trail along the river, and we also did a loop from our house to downtown Calgary and back.  In both cases, we took full advantage of our surroundings halfway through the rides to snack.  Hey, if you’re riding, you need to reload, right?

Canmore-Banff Legacy Trail

Here’s the GPS plot.  First off, we need a rematch on this ride.  It was Adena’s first ride on her roadie in quite some time, and we ended up stopping a few times to make adjustments and repairs as we went.  That’s fine, but it detracted from the rhythm of riding a bit.  She was thrilled, though; she loves going fast on the road bike way more than riding her mountain bike.  Whenever we’d stop to make an adjustment, it was like she was being tortured… she wanted to go!

The only trouble is that the trail starts on the Canmore side just at the park gates.  There’s also nowhere to park there.  The way we did it was to park in Harvie Heights (right here), ride along a trail towards the park gates, and then go the wrong way over a one-way overpass to the other side of the highway.  Once there, we rode about 1km up the Trans-Canada against the flow of traffic (the move looked like this going from B to A).  A bit unnerving, but there were lots of people making the journey and it’s the only way to hook it up.  Access:  a small oversight on the trail designers’ part!

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Sacrificing fitness for fun and enjoyment.

This is just plain and simple more fun.

This is kind of about drinking a Dr. Pepper after going for a run.  Don’t worry, it’s not about slacking off and going on a junk food and video game binge for pure enjoyment (though, that does sound appealing).

Fun.

Partway through the summer, I realized that I had completely stopped running.  I was doing a pretty good job at this (though I don’t exactly enjoy it) through the winter, running to work at least once a week and then doing a group run on the weekend.  With all the riding I’ve been doing to work this summer though, and with all the lovely weather we’ve had in the past couple of months, I hadn’t run since February… until last week.  You see, I’d been putting it off.  I knew I hadn’t been running, and I knew that I was reaping tremendous fitness benefits from the cross-training running was providing, but it was too late.  It had been too long, and I knew I would have to work myself back into it.

I also knew that this would take time, recovery time.  So I didn’t care, I just kept riding.  Getting out of work to 30 degrees and sun outside with mostly east winds meant glorious long commutes home through wonderful Calgary pathways… with a tail wind.  Winter loves to beat me down with cold and headwinds, so the warmth coupled with the conditions made for some purely glorious rides.  My fitness was and is excellent, but I was no longer getting the boost of the cross training, but I also didn’t care.  I just kept riding because it was so nice out.  I knew I was setting myself up for an eventual fall…

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We rode the Big Dipper.

Our 12-Mile Coulee mashup. Because of construction, the “scoop” of our route turned into a “well now where do we go?” mashup.

Okay, that title makes absolutely no sense, but check out the plot of this ride that Russ and I did yesterday.  I’ve seen some impressive GPS plot routes in my time (Space Invaders ftw!), but those are intentional from what I’ve seen.  If they’re not, that’s a series of miracles of coincidence and all parties involved should likely buy lottery tickets.  Ours was accidental.  It’s mirrored, as you can see, but it’s pretty darn close.  Ursa Major mirrored on Earth!  One minor difference is that in our dipper, the ladle has some steaming soup in it.  Nice.

Or it’s a steaming pile of something else, because what that ladle represents on our ride is a big pile of fail.  We wanted to do a fast mountain bike ride, and what easier target than the Coulee?  Heck, we’ve even ridden it in the pitch black in winter.  Summer should be an easy rip, right?  Well, with the City finishing off their ring road by removing the light at Nose Hill Dr. and Stoney Trail, they’ve completely blown up the nice meadow and tree-covered brook that used to make up the bottom of the trail in the park.  In fact, we had to trespass across the construction site to even get to the base of the trail to climb up (it was an up and down trek).

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New Ride – 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

Well, the time has come.  After a lot of years riding my excellent and faithful Trek 2200, it’s time for a bit of a technology leap.  I went out looking with only a couple of requirements in mind:  I wanted carbon to improve my ride quality/comfort (not just to have carbon), and I wanted Shimano Ultegra.  Well, it’s landed, and I ended up with a 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert X2, in American Flyer Red:

The New Hotness, 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

I had expected when I started poking around last year that I would end up in the Trek camp again after I shopped around for a while.  The Trek Madone 5.2 was right around the requirements spec, and at the time the 2011 models were being blown out.  By the time I got to it, they were sold out everywhere, otherwise I would likely be riding one now.  I was offered a blow-out deal on a 2012 , but I didn’t pull the trigger as the two bikes I wanted to sell to help fund this project didn’t sell in the fall.  I test rode the 2012 Madone and I liked it, so I sat back to wait until spring.  Now, even the regular price on the 5.2 is good (it’s one of the better mid-high-end values out there), but when the blow-out offer was rescinded when I started to look a few weeks ago, I began to explore a bit more.  Boy, am I glad I did.

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Yoga for Toddlers

Graham is very health conscious.  Here you can see him winding down from the busy day with his favorite wind-down exercise: yoga. Every time I see him pull a pose, I am jealous of his strength and flexibility. I guess that your strength to weight ratio at 30 pounds is a little better than decent. Hopefully he keeps up with his regime, so he won’t be quite as creaky as me when he reaches my age. 🙂

image

More of his amazing skill after the break.

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Trail Run on the Coulee

After not being able to run on Saturday with the other monkeys (Graham, sick, asked very sweetly to play with blocks with him and I couldn’t say no), I made it a mission to get out for a trail run on Sunday.  I know the monkeys went down and up the same trail, but I just decided to make a loop out of it from my house.  The weather was fantastic, at about 0 degrees, still cold enough that the creek was frozen enough to run on.

I decided to take out my Salomon trail runners as opposed to the regular Brooks running shoes.  They were awesome on the trail, but the second half of my loop was on pavement and they were really not good for that.  I ended up with sore knees and feet by the time I got home.  I know part of that might be my gait, and I continue to try to work on that.  I also used Yaktrax on this run, which made it much easier to keep my feet on the trail.  Still, I was surprised how much sliding out I still did on some of the really side-cut parts of the trail; definitely not safe to ride a couple parts of this right now!

Here is the loop and the run profile.  It ended up being 78ish meters of climbing  over what looks like about 2km, based on the proportion of the loop that was in the ravine.  I was too lazy to just measure the distance in the GPS software.  I loved running the coulee, but the loop back through my neighborhood was so boring.  I have a nice running loop through Silver Springs that is somehow much more satisfying.  I don’t know what it is about running around Scenic Acres, but it just sucks the will to live right out of me.  I digress, the loop:

Loop on the map, 7.2km

Run profile

Video after the break.

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Riding the Rollers

OK, with renos nearing completion, we’ve got most of our house back.  That means I’ve managed to carve out a space in the basement to set up the rollers again.  I was always big on the idea of using my own bike on a trainer indoors, as opposed to an exercise bike, but this takes it to the next level.  With a static trainer, you’re riding the geometry you’re used to, but the bike is supported by the trainer itself.  You spin, and that’s the workout.

With the rollers, it’s an entirely different story.  It’s like a treadmill for your bike.  When you supply power, that spins the two rollers supporting the rear wheel of the bike.  They are attached via belt to the front roller (which provides additional resistance).  The front roller spins the front wheel.  It’s actually a fairly simple design, and with both wheels spinning you create the force required to keep the bike upright.  In essence, you just ride the bike.

As for the workout, it’s much more intensive than a static trainer.  Because you’re riding the whole bike, you’re using stabilizer muscles to keep the bike upright and pointed straight, muscles that you could otherwise be lazy about on the static trainer.  You have to be smooth too, so it can help improve your balance, cadence and tracking on the bike.  You don’t know how bad you ride until you try to take it to a roller!

With all the benefits highlighted, some folks have said that it looks a little dangerous.  What if you fall off?  Well, I do fall off occasionally (way less than at first).  Because you have no momentum, you can just kind of step off sideways and put your foot on the ground.  If the bike wheels happen to hit the ground, you just get a “whizzzt!” as they stop suddenly, but that’s about the worst of it.  There is no flying into the wall or anything.

Hopefully I can figure out how to start without having to hold onto a chair, because I still do have to do that.  Anyways, here’s what a roller workout looks like:

Addicted to Data

No no no, I’m not talking about Star Trek TNG.  I am talking about the data that my fitness-related devices spit out.  I ran to work this morning after having to leave my bike there last night, and I felt naked.  You see, I left my Garmin attached to my bike, so for my entire run here this morning, I have no heart-rate data, and no distance data, no time data, no elevation data, no location data… it’s just wrong.  And that’s when I realized:  I’m addicted to data.

You see, I’ve run this route to work many times, and I checked the time on my phone before I left and when I got here (so I did 7.6km in 50ish minutes), but that’s no longer enough information for me.  That got me to thinking about the data itself and why I like it so much.  I think it’s the graphs.  I really like those graphs.  I like to try to make as smooth a line as possible through data.  Jaggedy spikes somehow tells me that I’m doing something wrong, or that I’m not fluid or something.  I like clean data to the point that traffic lights tick me off when I reach them on red, because it interrupts the capture of the data in a smooth fashion.  Here’s what I mean:

Green box? It's a stupid traffic light messing up my data collection! The rest of the data is on the move, as evidenced by the pace plot (blue line).

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