Tuesday, August 23, 2016

2016 Mount Washington Hill Climb on my ElliptiGO

Sunday, I competed the Mount Washington Hill Climb along with two other ElliptiGO riders and about 600 cyclists. This was a huge challenge and I am happy that the event is now over. I drove my van up late Saturday night and slept a few hours in it across the street from the start.  That allowed me to wake up early to the moon shining down on the start of the Mt. Washington Auto Road.


I had done the practice ride up Mt. Washington in July and so many things went wrong. It was a good learning experience. The next couple of weeks I was fixing things on my ElliptiGO. First, the bolts on my rear axle were loose and my rear tire was rubbing at times throughout that ride, It drained me physically and I had to stop at 4 1/2 miles to borrow a tool from someone in a car to try to fix it. That only helped a little and I had to walk parts of the way to the top. I realized that this was now a huge undertaking, but I had to fix my ElliptiGO before the race. I first got the axle tightened, but I still was experiencing friction on my rides until I realized I needed a new bottom bracket (I have 19,000 miles on my ElliptiGO). I got that fixed and then I realized I needed new tracks and load wheels. My ElliptiGO rode so much better with these fixes.I was putting in great mileage (up to 250 miles/week), but preparing for the nonstop climb is something different. I was very nervous going into this race.

The morning of the hill climb, I met up with fellow GOers, Andrew Warby (who I have previously ridden a century with as well as the midnight bike ride from Boston to Hopkinton and back the night before the Boston Marathon this year) and Jim Cremer, who drove out from Iowa just to ride the hill.

Andrew and Jim at the starting line.
They would be starting in a wave 5 minutes before my start. As you can see it was a beautiful day to ride up the rock pile. When I first started planning this ride, I thought it would be nice to get the ElliptiGO record for climbing Mt.Washington. Only two people had done the ride on an ElliptiGO before and the record is 1:54:22 by Bryce Whiting during the Newton's Revenge race in 2010. After the practice ride, my new goal was just to get up without dying or walking. The record was still in the back of my mind, however. I did the practice ride in 2:20, with walking-which is not much slower than riding- and while trying to fix my ElliptiGO. I realized I would need to have an average speed of around 4 mph to do this. 


After a short easy section of about 2/10ths of a mile, the climb is nonstop with an average grade of 12%. I tried to get into a rhythm and things were going pretty well. My heart rate was calm enough and I was staying over 4 mph for the first half of the climb. I had to stop once, when a cyclist fell right in front of me, but I was able to get going. He was very apologetic and offered to push me, but I got going on my own. He was not the only cyclist I saw tumble over.

At 4 1/2 miles, I hit the dirt road section of about one mile. During the practice ride, it was pretty much impossible to ride this section as it was raining and the dirt had the consistency of wet peanut butter. This day it was dry and I was able to power right up it. I did start noticing a grabbing at my back wheel every once in awhile at this point (usually when I shifted into a higher gear) just like during the practice ride, but it would let up if I shifted the angle of my wheels to the ground or shifted to an easier gear.

I was very pleased to not stop and dismount at any of the really steep grades. Looking up ahead at a wall of road rising in front of me was very unnerving, so I tried not to look and just kept my head down on the steepest climbs. The problem with this course is that there is no place to recover or relax. You can't let up anywhere to catch your breath. When the grade was between 8-12%, I felt my best as I could move up a gear or two and try to get my average speed up.

Miles take forever when you are going so slow, but eventually I neared the top. The steepest section is the corner right before the finish line. They say the average grade here is 22%, but during the practice ride, my Garmin shows at least one bump at 39%. I went wider around the corner this time and it still registered 37.5%. But, before I got there, I was doing great with my plan of riding all the way to the top without walking.

Andrew Warby nearing the top. Photogragh by Joe Viger

What an awesome photogragh by Joe Viger of Andrew Warby.

Jim Cremer nearing the top. Epic photogragh by Joe Viger.


As you can see in this photo, I am almost to the corner, but shortly after this photo was taken, I had to dismount and walk before I got back on again and finished. 

The other side of the above photo. This one by Joe Viger.

I finished the ride in 2:06:17 for an average speed of 3.6 mph. I am the slowest of all five people to have ever ridden up Mt. Washington on an ElliptiGO, so I will go with being the oldest and only ElliptiGO rider from New Hampshire to ride up that beast of a hill. Andrew Warby was the first finisher in 1:56:27 coming close to the record and riding at 3.9 mph. Jim Cremer finished in 2:00:49 before jumping back into his car for the long drive back to Iowa. It was a great day for riding and for the ElliptiGO riders, proving what a versatile machine it is. Here is a video I took of the start and then the final few miles. You can scroll quickly through it to get a feel for the climb. Sorry for the smudge on the camera lens! At 8:00, I lose concentration and almost veer over the side, at 28:00 I go flying by some hikers, and at 36:00 starts the drive to the finish.




Here is my Strava map of the climb. 



Jim and I at the summit. We couldn't find Andrew for the photo.
He was already running all the way down the hill.

I am retiring from running and riding up Mt. Washington.
 Next time up, I hope to go on the Cog Railway.




Lessons learned for future riders:

DON'T!

If you must, you will need to change your gearing. Talk to Keri at ElliptiGO.
I used a 130 chainring and a 20T cog, I have an eight speed. Jim and Andrew had 11 speed GOs so their gearing would be different. Jim Cremer says he used a 38 tooth chainring and the stock sprocket on his 11 speed. He used 1st and 2nd gear most of the time, with 3rd and 4th once in a while on the rare brief mini-breaks. Andrew used a 42 tooth chainring. It still allowed him to get some speed on the flats and he kept it on for several months prior to train with it as much as possible. Note, I tried riding on regular roads with my setup, but it was nearly impossible. All of my 8 speeds were too low and unless I was going downhill, I could barely get over 10 mph, no matter how fast I was spinning,

Make sure your ElliptiGO is ready for the challenge. Mine was not for the practice ride, and even with all the repairs I made, my rear wheel was still off a bit during this ride. I should have had a professional mechanic go over it.

I did not use a heart rate monitor. I was scared of my heart rate being too high due to the practice ride and also some rides up Pack Monadnock. I think I kept it in an acceptable place the whole ride, so I am happy about that. 

You can never build momentum on this ride, if you don't move, you will stop! 

I think it would be best to lose as much weight as you can before doing this ride. I was no where near my former running weight. My ElliptiGO weighs 42 pounds so that is a disadvantage when compared to cyclists, whose bikes weigh 1/3 to 1/2 of that.

I found that on my eight speed that in the lowest gear, I could not really get over 4 mph, but you need that gear where it is steep (and that is most of the way). The second lowest gear would keep me around 4 mph. The next higher gears did not get enough use, but when they did, I could go faster. There just wasn't enough time to keep those gears engaged.

I brought water, but did not drink it while riding. I would have to stop pedaling to drink and that would cause my ElliptiGO to stop or fall over. Drink a lot before your ride. Wear sunscreen, I did not, and got sunburnt a bit.

You cannot ride an ElliptiGO or bike down the hill. You will need to find a ride down. This is not hard. Jim and I both found rides down the day of the ride.

Here are three recommendations from Andrew Warby to anyone who wants to attempt the climb in the future:

1) Gear down to something that will give you a level of resistance you are comfortable with
2) Maintain an even effort
3) Do the practice ride the month prior. It will help you know what to fix.

I am not sure which is more grueling running or riding up the mountain. They both are intense. Twenty years ago I ran up the hill in 1:22:23, which is my best running time.

Here is the strava file of my practice ride.



Check out Travis Pastrana incredible drive up the hill climb road!








Friday, July 8, 2016

Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor

I have only had Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor for a couple weeks now, but I am slowly reading and putting to use some of its exercises. I am not a person to do Yoga as a practice (I have been told that I should) so I am liking this book as as fuses yoga moves with practical advice for using it to correct imbalances and weaknesses in key body areas. It is also a book for athletes and not for people who just practice yoga. I am particularly working on the glutes right now and the book has taught me a new way to think about their recruitment and use. The book is very colorful with loads of photographs and instructions. It can sometimes be hard to find your way due to all the color as it reminds me of magazine layouts, but I am finding the knowledge and information to be both practical and useful.




Here is a preview of the book.
Here is the book's website.
Here is the JASYOGA Youtube page
Here is a the publisher's information on the book.

HIT RESET offers athletes new ways to find more speed, power, and endurance.Yoga coach Erin Taylor’s HIT RESET approach uses yoga to solve the specific problems you face as an athlete. Her revolutionary way to do yoga can improve functional strength, flexibility, muscle recruitment, breathing and focus, core strength, and durability.
HIT RESET starts by defining 10 problems that hold athletes back and the specific yoga solutions that can fix them. Each chapter shows you how your body should work, how to self-diagnose flaws in your movement and functional strength, and how to apply just a few specific yoga poses so you can “hit reset” and get back to peak athletic form. In just a few minutes each day, you can practice the yoga solutions in HIT RESET anytime and anywhere without a mat or studio classes.
Armed with these key, highly effective yoga fixes, you’ll begin a radical redefinition of balance that can make you a healthier, stronger, and more resilient athlete.
HIT RESET can help you solve:
  • Imbalances that lead to injury by redefining balance from head to toe
  • Feeling easily winded with deep breathing exercises
  • Feeling distracted or nervous with focus exercises
  • Poor posture with core activating and strengthening poses
  • Sleepy feet and stiff calves for a stronger foundation
  • Knee pain with better form and strength poses
  • Stiff hamstrings and sleepy glutes with activation exercises
  • Unstable hips and IT band problems with hip helpers
  • Stiff shoulders and sides with opening poses
Yoga can help you in your sport, but only if your yoga is solving the problems you face as an athlete. HIT RESET offers a yoga revolution for athletes by making yoga work for you. Join the HIT RESET revolution and you’ll find a no-nonsense approach that will make you a stronger, more resilient athlete.




Sunday, June 5, 2016

Minimalist Muscle Activation: Crush Structural Imbalances, Find Clarity in Your Movement, and Live Pain-Free and Strong Now and in the Future by Sean Schniederdjan

Minimalist Muscle Activation: Crush Structural Imbalances, Find Clarity in Your Movement, and Live Pain-Free and Strong Now and in the Future is a new ebook by Sean Schiederdjan. I just bought my copy last night and took a quick look through it. Sean usually promotes some interesting movements in each of his many books and this one includes some old and new material. What I like is that it is simple, but covers a lot of the body parts that might need work. I am always up for some new ideas, so I look forward to trying out some of Sean's moves.

As Sean says, you can find hundreds of books on stretching on Amazon, but only three books on muscle activation. I am not sure if I have any books primarily trying to teach muscle activation (I do have 2 cds), although looking at some of these moves, I think it just might be what you are calling what you do. Do not confuse these movements with Muscle Activation Technique. I did go through many sessions of MAT and it was costly and only benefited me in the short term. MAT involves testing, small movements, and retesting. The movements are done while lying down and you need a practitioner to help you. I think Sean's moves are more about loading and firing your muscles. You might find this an inexpensive way to think about your muscles in a new way, help out some weak muscles or movement problems, or deal with imbalances.




Sunday, May 29, 2016

Two great stretches for the glutes and the piriformis

Here Matt Hsu of Upright Health demonstrates a glute stretch that hits the spot! Most stretches I do irritate my glutes. This one can hit where I feel real tight without the irritation the next day. The stretch starts a little after the 2:30 mark.



YogaJP starts with a similar glute stretch to the one Matt shows, but this more well-known version irritates my glutes. However, after the glute stretch she goes into a piriformis stretch (about 1:45)  that for some reason works for me. I don't know if it helps the hips or low back along with the piriformis, but this one feels good to me too!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gun Runners: A Story about Friends, Guns, and Running

This is an interesting new documentary that was played at a Canadian Film Festival over the weekend

When it comes to world-class marathon runners, Kenyans are considered the cream of the crop. Particularly those from Kenya’s Rift Valley. These athletes have won marathons in London, New York and Berlin, and have set countless world records. But some of Kenya’s top runners aren’t running for fame and fortune. Some are wanted warriors, running for their lives. For years, Julius Arile and Robert Matanda thrive among the roaming bands of warriors that terrorize the North Kenyan countryside. By the time they reach their mid-twenties, stealing cattle, raiding and running from the police is the only life they know. So when both warriors suddenly disappear from the bush, many of their peers assume they are dead or have been arrested. Instead, they trade in their rifles for sneakers—in the hopes of making it big as professional marathon runners. Years of fleeing from the police have prepared the men for running marathon distances, but do they have what it takes to overcome the corruption, mistrust and jealousy that threaten to derail their careers? Or will they give up on their dreams and return to a life of easy power and money? Told entirely by its central characters, Gun Runners is the American Dream, Kenyan-style.
From the Toronto Film Scene:
Gun Runners is an inspiring and incredible story which follows two notorious warriors and former cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya who give up their weapons to run in marathons. As part of a government sponsored program to disarm in conflict heavy regions, these once notorious warriors are given a chance to pursue their dreams of becoming professional marathon runners.
The film follows Matanda and Arile, who are looking to put their violent pasts behind them and pursue a positive path that will benefit the future of their family, livelihood and this conflict ridden region of Kenya. The audience is guided through a linear progression of events and sees Arile enter international marathons, while Matanda gets involved in the political sphere and dreams of working towards policy change.
Anjali Nayar directs a thoughtful and memorable story about leaving violent conflict behind to pursue personal passions. The documentary is set in Kenya’s picturesque Great Rift Valley which is a noted area for international arms trading and marathon running.
Gun Runners gives a face to the complexities and personal struggles in war and conflict, yet becomes an inspiring story of self perseverance in attaining a greater sense of self. 

From Hot Docs

This touching and poignant film follows two of the most notorious warriors and cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya who trade in their weapons for sneakers, as part of a government-sponsored program, to pursue their dream of becoming professional marathon runners. Filmed over eight years, Matanda and Arile face financial challenges, fierce competition and family pressure as they struggle to put their violent pasts behind them. A lot is at stake for both of them, and the whole world is watching. Set in Kenya's astoundingly beautiful Great Rift Valley, an area famous for both its international arms trade and its champion runners, and told entirely from Matanda's and Arile's points of view, Gun Runners puts a face on a nation's valiant attempts to embrace both tradition and modernity. Lynne Fernie

Here is an a longer favorable review.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Rollga: Is this the best foam roller ever made?



I have so many different kinds of foam rollers, massage sticks and balls for rolling that I could set up my own PT practice!They live all throughout my house in corners and closets and under beds, but I am always curious about new designs and whether there can ever be a better foam roller. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed an interesting and new version of a foam roller called the Rollga. I "had" to order one to give it a try and I do find it easier and more comfortable to use. It is like having massage balls mixed together with a roller. It does make it easier to target areas like a massage type ball does, without getting squirrely as it can be hard to maintain contact on the muscle you are trying to work on. I also notice that in the depressions of the roller, so much more muscle gets worked on. It feels really good on the quads and lower legs. I am not so sure on the back. I overdid it the first day using it, but that is probably more due to its effectiveness at hitting muscles and I loosened up some that were trying to hold my out-of -whack body together. There are three models: the silver Genesis which is a  lower priced softer roller, the blue ISO model, and the black Pro-series model which has a harder surface. I got the Pro model. There are good discounts currently on the Rollga website, but they are cheaper on Amazon (plus you get a carrying strap-which costs an extra $1.95 on the website).




Rollga has a Youtube channel with videos on how to use the roller on different muscle groups including a video showing a large truck rolling over one and then popping back into shape. Here is their user guide and how-to use-guide.

What is the best foam roller you have used?

     




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Resistance Band Work for Flexibility and Mobility

Despite not looking like a skinny runner, this guy gives some great tips and pointers-along with excellent reasoning.

This one is suburb for me. I put the band around a bedpost and wrap it around the top of my legs. It really get you working on the glutes and a proper hip hinge.



This one is great for my foot. It helps keep my foot for rotating out further than it already does.



I am working on this and still evaluating it for use on my hip joint (due to arthroscopic surgery), but it is a better explanation than other videos I have followed for opening up my tight hip joint.



This one is a killer for me. I did it one night and felt good, but the next morning my lower back and hip was so tight I could barely put my shoes on. It did seem to target some weak lower back muscles, so I will keep working on this to see how I progress.