Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bike Fit

So I have been playing around with my bike fit lately. I have a Trek 1220 from 1994. I have never really been that comfortable on it. I used to think that it was an issue of conditioning, but am learning that it just doesn't fit right.

When I bought my Trek I really knew nothing about bikes. I had two bikes as a child. The first on was a small single gear bike with a banana seat. I always felt pretty stupid in that bike because my older brother had a cool BMX bike, while mine had an embarrassing banana seat. Not only that, but it has these weird handlebars that consisted of an L shaped metal tube that fit into a bracket attached to the front fork. They would constantly get loose. I even crashed a few times because they would come off. My second bike was alot better. It was a french steel racing bike with 12 gears I think. I think it may have even had campy components too. In any case the top tube was too high, and I would hit myself in the crotch during dismount rather frequently. I also stored the bike outside (stupid kid) and so the bike would get rusty and the derailleurs were always out of alignment. It would cause me to drop the chain regularly. So my experience with bikes has not been good.

But back in 1996 when I was looking to do my first triathlon I picked up an issue of Triathlete magazine (I think it was April) and in the back it had an article on converting a road bike to a tri-bike by adding a new seat post and aero bars. I think the bike in the article was a Trek 1200 or 1220. I wish I still had that article. Anyways, I didn't have much money so I looked for a used road bike and came across an ad for a Trek 1220. I think it was the first bike I looked at. The fact that it was very similar to the bike in the Triathlete Magazine article influenced me and of course I was very interested. The owner lived in a trailer park and was incredibly thin. I suspected (but didn't ask) that he had some kind of disease and that was why he was selling his bike. The bike was relatively new and in great condition. The first thing I checked was the clearance between my legs, and I had a few inches. So it fit! I paid the man and road off in my new bike quite proud of myself.

But of course now I know better. After having it a while I first noticed that I couldn't get the seat high enough. No problem. I wanted to buy a new triathlon specific seat post anyways. I would just get a longer one. I found a nice Nitto 66 seat post and that is what I have been using all these years, but I now think that even it is too short. (In the photo below I think I have the height about right, but it is raised above the maximum level marked on the post.)

Part of the problem is that I have freakishly short legs. I am six feet tall, but only wear a 30 inch pant inseam. Normally a person my height would ride a 56cm or 58cm frame, but I measured my bike (seat tube center to center) and now know it is 50cm. Because on road bikes the top tube and the seat tube are proportional I have a really short top tube even though I have a relatively long torso. Fortunately on the smaller frames the Trek 1220's have proportionaly longer top tubes. Mine is 53cm, but it should probably be around 56cm or 58cm for a bike that fits me.

I put on some Profile Design aero bars, but as I have mentioned many times in this blog, I cannot hold an aero position for more than a few minutes. When I am in the aero bars I feel really compressed.

The pink line shows where I currently am. I moved the seat forward so I would not feel so compressed. But now the angle between my legs and torso is a little open. It should be around 90 degrees. Also the angle between my upper arm and torso is too tight. It also should be around 90 degrees. To get the proper position I think I should be where the green line is. That puts me quite a bit in front of the handlebars. I could put on a longer stem to extend the handle bars out farther, but not that far. The bike would have much too much weight over the front and the steering would be very unstable. I think I may be able to compromise with the position represented by the blue line. I would have to get a new stem and lower my handle bars, but it looks doable.

The other option is to just scratch the whole thing and try to get it back to a road bike position. I am not in a financial position to replace the bike right now, but I probably could get a more comfortable road position by getting a new seat post. Then I could just train in road position until I can eventually afford another bike, hopefully a tri-bike. Decisions, decisions.

If anyone has any ideas. . . now is the time.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

My New Fluid Squared CycleOps Trainer

I was excited to find my new CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer in the mail and thought I would give you some photos of me setting it up. My 2.5 year old daughter was my trusty assistant.

First off, I noticed that the box was pretty light-weight. I was surprised. I have discovered that CycleOps is very efficient in their design. Everything is very solid, but it doesn't weight very much at all. In the box was the frame with foldout legs, the resistance unit, some hardware and a CTS Time Trial DVD. My daughter wanted to pop that DVD in the player right away. She was pretty disappointed to find Chris Carmichael instead of Elmo, and gave it an overall review of "boring," but she still didn't want to turn it off. The TV is just that addictive.

The fist step in putting the trainer together is to place a pin in the welded tube of the frame. This pin will be used to tension the resistance unit.

The next step is to install a bolt to attach the resistance unit to frame. It is just one simple bolt. The head of the bolt recesses nicely in to the frame bracket to make it really easy to install.

It is so easy to install that I had my daughter do it!

The next step is to connect the pin on the frame to the resistance unit.

The bike is then placed on the frame. I found that the easiest way to do this was to first extend the right side, controleld by a lever, and place the right side of the rear wheel in it first.

Then tighten the left side. Remove the bike. Extend the left side a few more turns. Put the bike back on and then when the lever is extended it will make a nice tight fit.

The final step is to tighten the yellow handle on the resistance unit by rotating it until the resistance unit makes contact with the wheel.

When the wheel makes contact you lock the resistance unit in place by lifting the handle up.

I propped up the front wheel to make the bike level and gave it whirl. My daughter thought it was really cool.

The fluid in the resistance unit make progressively more resistance as the unit turns faster, so to increase the resistance all you have to do is adjust your gearing to get your wheels to turn faster relative to your crank speed. It is actually just like pedaling on flat terrain. If you want more resistance you just put the bike into a higher gear. Really cool.

My next step is to work on my bike fit. I still have hard time staying in the aerobars for more than a few minutes. I'm not sure why, but with the trainer it is really easy to change things around and try out new configurations while looking in a mirror or taking a photo. Goal number one for the pre-season is get aero!

PS: If anyone has an opinion on my bike position, speak now. I could use the input.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ironman World Championships

Now on to a different type of championship. Ironman. The big one. This is the one, the only -- Kona. Ironman, what many consider to be the pinnacle of Triathlon started in 1981 on the island of Kona with a handful of athletes doing what seeming simply crazy. Swim 2.4 miles in the ocean, cycle 112 miles along the windy and blistering hot hills, and then finish with a 26.2 mile run. The Ironman has since become an incredible icon in the world of endurance sports and now many thousands of athletes dream of their chance to go to Kona. Because of the huge demand, one can only race at Kona of one qualifies at another Ironman race or wins a precious lottery spot. The big event takes place this weekend!

I have mentioned before that I am a member of the Los Angeles Tri Club, the largest triathlon club in the US. You would expect that among the ranks of such a large club, would be quite a few athletes going to Kona, and you would be right. This year the club is sending an astounding eleven members to Kona. Seven members have qualified and four lucky souls received lottery spots.

Today I wanted to mention one of these athletes, whom I have had the pleasure of training with -- Holger Beckmann, bib number 856. This will not be the first trip to Kona for Holger. You can read about Holger's first journey to Kona here. Holger is an incredible force, and I have heard other club members literally lament that Holger will always be in his age group.

But more than just an incredible athlete, Holger is a great person. He is a regular at the LA Tri Club's "Gladstone Swim" in Pacific Palisades on Fridays. We usually swim in the ocean for just over a mile and then head up to the hills for a trail run, a great time had by all. Here I am, a total newbie who can barely run at all, and he is always encouraging and supportive with a kind word and good advice. He is very friendly and incredibly enthusiastic about the sport of triathlon. Fortunately the LA Tri Club is filled with such great people and why I love being a part of it.

Go Holger!

You can follow Holger and the other participants at Kona on race day at Ironman Live.

On a training note, I did a treadmill run for 50 minutes and 4.2 miles.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More on National Club Championships

Ok, I promise this is my last post on the National Club Championships. I just wanted to point out this article on the event from Inside Triathlon. As you can see, the LA Tri Club got plenty of members to come. LA Tri Club members also placed well in the rankings, taking some of the top overall spots. Why did the LA Tri Club take second place? Because you will note that points are given for the distance each member has to travel to the event. Because, CMC members traveled all the way from Missouri they got extra points for just showing up.

That's fair, considering the cost of getting all your members across the country along with all the bike equipment. But just getting people to Las Vegas from Los Angeles is quite a task too, considering that every member needs a bike transport, a plane ticket and a place to stay. you add all that up and it is not much less costly that coming out from Missouri. How did CMC do it? They apparently raised over $32,000 to get their members to Nationals.

Next year Nationals will be in St. Louis in CMC's home turf. I'd say this is a great opportunity for the LA Tri Club because for every member we get to Nationals next year we will get extra points for the distance we have to travel. Come on LA, we can do it!

On a training note, today was my first day back in the pools for a few weeks. I did 1500 meters in about 35 minutes. 400m warm-up, 4x150m drills (3 stroke skate, fist swim then crawl 50m each), 4x100m descents, 2x50m sprints. Felt really good, and to top it off the gym pool wasn't even crowded. I hope this is what I can look forward to all winter.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Columbia Multisport takes the Title

Well, my tri club did not take the Division I National USAT Club Championship after all. That honor goes to Columbia Multisport, for the third time! We actually had a great of advantage of a numerically much larger club and we are not to far from the event in Las Vegas, but we just could not get all our members to the event. I am a perfect example. Another 130 club members did the Hermosa Beach Tri, so that was another hurddle for us. My hat is off to Columbia who got over a hundred participants out to Las Vegas all the way from Missuori, and by all accounts they are a great bunch of people. We'll see about next year!

I woke up too late to swim this morning, so instead I went for a bike ride to the Rose Bowl. This was my first bike ride in a month, and I could really feel the loss of fitness. I decided to be really relaxed and not worry about my heart rate or speed and just have fun. It was really too cold to be "fun." I was able to find my arm warmers that I had lost, but I didn't have anything to cover my legs, so I started to lose feeling in my knees halfway through the ride.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

No, I'm not dead!

Today is my first day back training. I hadn't scheduled a break from training, but I got one anyways. I have been sick for the past few weeks, one thing right after another. The last one was really bad. My daughter had it, and we had to take her to either the doctor's office, urgent care or the emergency room for four days in a row. She was a trouper though. She didn't complain or cry. I was very impressed, and I know how bad it was because I came down with it a few days later. I was laid up in bed for five days, and basically couldn't eat anything for three days straight. I lost 10 pounds in those three days alone.

I finally feel normal again. This morning I went for an easy run on the treadmill for 40 minutes and 3.5 miles. Tommorrow I can try swimming.

In other news, my tri-club had a really good shot at the Division One USAT National Club Championships this year held yesterday just outside of Las Vegas. I was really bummed that I couldn't sign up, but I would not have been in any condition to race in any case. I have been waiting to hear how we did, and I still haven't heard. I can't take it any longer! Arggh!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sponsorship from Cycleops!

I am excited to announce that that I am the lucky recipient of a partial sponsorship from Cycleops Power through Team Race Athlete. This is very exciting for me! I will be receiving an awesome bike trainer called the CycleOps Fluid Squared. I can really use it, since winter is coming and it gets dark earlier. Now I will be able to train at night even after those long days at the office. Now I only have to convince my wife to let me keep it in the living room!

Thanks Cycleops and Race Athlete, you're awesome!

More great sponsorships will be selected over the coming weeks. Two very lucky people will be picked for full "race like a pro" sponsorships which include an incredible array of gear, including a BMC bike, Zipp race wheels, Cycleops Power tap, 2XU wetsuit and much more. For more information check out Race Athlete.com and sign up.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Got an Ich

I have had my hands full lately. I have been recovering from the flu, but that hasn't slowed me down, I still have had a full plate, and I don't mean training. Work has been busy, I had a wedding to attend in Santa Barbara over the weekend, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, and we had relatives visiting from overseas. That's all done now, but there is still no rest for me. Sunday night my two year old daughter started throwing up, and my wife and I were up all night. She couldn't hold anything down all day, so I stayed home with her and tried to keep her as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. She was starting to look better last night, so hope she can eat something today.

Now that I am recovering, and can finally breath I have this increadible urge to get back to training. No luck today, because I don't have my gym bag with me. I was just too exhausted from going without sleep. But I went to bed early last night, and I should be able to do something tomorrow. That's going to feel awesome!