Sunday, October 5, 2014

October ElliptiGO rides: fast versus scenic

There are two ways to ride an ElliptiGO. Usually, I go for the "all-out" approach and that means riding as hard as I can, being aware of my surroundings, but not really seeing the beauty of where I ride. I did a ride like this on Friday. If I am not riding the Nashua Rail Trail, I usually head out to Pepperell, MA and then back up to Hollis, NH where I ride traces of the roads I used to ride with the Nashua Velo Club 20 years ago on the Tuesday night time trials or Wednesday night club rides. I also cover the Applefest 1/2 Marathon course in Hollis as well as the Fast 5K downhill course.Many good memories fuel my rides through these wonderful and scenic roads.

Friday, I tried out an aerodynamic crouched down position on my EllipitGO. I had always been told to ride standing tall and in good posture on my ElliptiGO, so that even when facing a very strong headwind during the 2014 Seacoast Century, I never even thought of attempting to bend down and go Aerodynamic. That is until I saw a photo of last weeks ElliptiGO World Championships time trial race of winner Rick Bienias going Aero on his ElliptiGO.

Well, that photo intrigued me and I couldn't wait to go against conventional ElliptiGO wisdom and try out this aero position. So the next day I gave it a shot. It is very doable and I did go faster. Your forearms really feel the burn as you stay crouched down. I don't think it will ever be a daily riding position, but when racing, facing a headwind, or just when I want to go fast I will certainly keep working on it (I am quite positive I wasn't as low and as fast looking as Rick either). Here is my Strava ride while aero.

Today was a beautiful New England fall day, so I decided to ride the ElliptiGO the other way: to just enjoy a ride and take in the scenery. Sadly, I usually don't ride this way at all. Last week I hit the 5000 mile mark for ElliptiGO miles in 2014. It is safe to say that far fewer than 100 miles were just to get out there and look around. I also brought my camera and took some photos, but I got far less than 1% of the beauty on the my Pepperell-Hollis course. I basically did the same ride as Friday, except for a couple of extra side trips, and here are a few photos of the scenery in my neck of the woods on a sunny October day.

Here is my Strava activity for the ride, much slower than Friday, but just as rewarding.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 Granite State Grind and Roll Century on an ElliptiGO

Another week, another Century. Last week's Seacoast Century was an all out effort to go as fast as I could go on an ElliptiGO. I loved the challenge, except for the wind, and am very satisfied with the result. This weekend, I wanted to do something different and decided a few days beforehand and 5 minutes before online registration ended to ride the first year Granite State Grind and Roll which started in Franconia, NH. I have always wanted to do a fall ride in the White Mountains and another  ElliptiGO rider, Andrew Warby, was also going to do the event. It was an early morning getting up for the ride up to Franconia, but it was looking to be a gorgeous and perfect day to be outdoors. Andrew and I planned to meet at 8 am for the ride and I rolled up with two minutes to spare.

All the other full century riders (actually it was only 92 miles) had already left long before we did. It was a bit chilly at first with a morning fog, but that soon burned away and by the first aid station, we had pulled off the extra clothing. I had decided to ride this one for the fun, the scenery, to ride with a friend, and for the challenge, too! It was a completely different mindset than last week's century, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The course, of course, was beautiful and the trees were in color. The roads and views were awesome and the ride was fun. There were some steep downhills that I was cautious on, but I still hit 40 mph. Andrew was a better downhill rider and hit 45 mph. At 29 miles we hit I steep (average grade of 7%) downhill over incredibly bumpy roads that we had been warned about. Near the top of the descent, as I was being jostled over the bumps and uneven roads, I heard a tinny sound underneath my ElliptiGO, I didn't notice anything falling off my bike and couldn't see any missing parts, but stopped just the same as it was an aluminum type sound and I didn't want to lose a bike part. I walked about 50 yards up the hill to discover that my car keys had bounced out of the not fully zippered pocket of my front handlebar bag. Whew! The ElliptiGO key ring saved my day. That would have been a real long ride home (I have had problems with losing keys and taking long roads home in the past).

Andrew set a great pace and I let him do a lot of the leading. We stopped at all four of the aid stations since the volunteers were so friendly and curious about our ElliptiGOs and also because they had waited for us as we were the last riders. We never do encounter an century cyclist. We did pass a few doing the shorter ride. The sun was out and I never saw a cloud in the sky all day. The variety of the course was great, many of the roads were free from automobiles, and everything was marked very well. It did get a little hot between 60-70 miles or so with the sun beating down, a bit of a headwind, and some big uphills. The last aid station was a welcome relief as we both needed some water. Eventually the course went of the roads and onto the shaded bike path starting at The Flume, going down to Profile Lake, where you used to be able to see The Old Man of the Mountain, around Cannon Moutain and Echo Lake. That was refreshing! At which point it was just a few miles of downhill to the finish back in Franconia.

Here is a short video I took while trying to use my Polaroid XS100 camera for the first time, I posted it low on my handlebar stem so I had to bend down a bit to turn it off and on, and I didn't secure it well enough so the camera kept rotating, but otherwise it took decent video.

At the end of the event, we joined the wonderful barbecue complete with music, and the two best hamburgers I have had in a while. It was fantastic to ride with Andrew, enjoy a long ride just for the fun of it, and to experience a beautiful day surrounded by the mountains, lakes, rivers, and fall foliage of the White Mountains. Andrew and I both agree that this would be a perfect event for an EllitiGO gathering next year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Seacoast Century on an EliptiGO

Saturday, I participated in the 2014 Seacoast Century for the second year in a row on my ElliptiGO and for the third time overall. I also did the 100k route of the Seacoast Century on my Kickbike 12 years ago. Last year's ride was tragic as 2 cyclists were killed by a speeding driver just minutes up the road from me. It made for a surreal day where I also plunged into the depths of energy depletion due to a lack of eating or drinking in the final hours on my part. Here is my account of that day. This year I had high expectations for a fast century. I have been putting in a tremendous amount of miles this year (closing in on 5000 miles since the beginning of the year). I also have worked very hard at my speed on the ElliptiGO. In other words, I have been thoroughly enjoying training solely as an ElliptiGO athlete! I have probably not been so consistently well trained for a sport (running was my sport) in many years! According to studies done at the University of California, San Diego, riding an ElliptiGO for 30 miles is the energy equivalent of running 10 miles. Riding at 16 mph is the equivalent of running 8 minute miles (this does not take into consideration the effects of wind or hills). Using those figures, I have been training the equivalent of 70 mile weeks at about 8 minute/mile pace for an average week this summer. Unfortunately, I don't have many opportunities to compete on the ElliptiGO. There is one race, The ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic, which I have won both years it has been held 2013 and 2014 as well as century rides (which are technically not races-but I turn them into time trials for myself). I did two centuries last year, but the Seacoast Century was to be my first and probably only century this year.

I set some high expectations for myself and I think my training backed me up. My goal was to break 6 hours for the 100 mile route. According to the ElliptiGO website, these are the fastest official times for riding a century.

5:32:35  Stuart Blofeld Thruxton 100 9/7/2014
5:50       Brent Teal Seattle to Portland Classic 7/17/2010
6:36:02  Stuart Blofeld Bucks 100 9/16/2012 
6:57:56  Hector Calvo Gonzalez Calvin's Challenge 5/5/2012

I am not sure how accurate the list is and have been told it will be updated in a couple of months. No one has mentioned going faster for 100 miles, but maybe someone else has. Actually, my time of 6:47 from last years Seacoast Century is not on the list so it may not be fully accurate. To be on the list, the time has to be made in an official event and it has to be an elapsed time (in other words if you stop and rest or eat that time counts too). The Garmin GPS makes this task easy to check. Stuart is from England and just set the new world record a couple of weeks ago. There was a little something in me thinking if everything went right: weather, mechanics on the bike, traffic, and nutrition that I had a good shot of breaking Brent's fastest time by an American. From reading about the ElliptiGO records, Brent's 100 mile time was part of a 200 mile ride he did on a point to point course from Seattle to Portland. Brent is also the engineer who along with Brian Pate designed the ElliptiGO!

I did everything wrong the day before the event. I put a new chain on my ElliptiGO, but didn't have time to seriously check it out. I also started replacing my brake pads. I got halfway done before I realized that I was late to meet my son and get to a concert: Mike Peters of the Alarm. By the time I got back home and got everything set for my ride, I didn't get to bed until 2:00 am with a 5:30 wake-up call coming.

I arrived at Hampton Beach for the start, got organized, and before getting going, made the most important decision I had at the time: how much clothing to wear. It was cold and in the 40s, but I decided not to wear a jacket thinking that if I got real cold, I would just have to ride faster. I then took off on my own for the first 16 mile loop down into Massachusetts. I immediately noticed the strong headwind along the ocean heading south. I felt good and kept a strong pace keeping even with if not passing cyclists along the way. I had mounted my phone and a sportscam on my bike, but going over a bump, the camera bounced off and I had to stop and run backto find it and then run back to my GO. I decided to stuff them both into the camera bag I had mounted to the front handlebars and forget about them the rest of the ride. I had business to do and realized I wouldn't have time to document things along the way. Once I hit the road back to NH, the wind was at my back and I started watching my average speed climb. It was a somber moment riding over the bridge where the accident happened last year and then soon I was zooming up the New Hampshire coastline hitting speeds, I would normally hit only on a downhill.

By 25 miles my average speed had climbed to 18.7 mph and by 30 miles I hit an average speed of 18.9 mph. My fastest 30 miles on the Nashua Rail Trail was at an average speed of 18.2 mph and my average speed in winning the 5 mile ElliptiGO End of Classic race this year was the same 18.9 mph so I was flying (despite a rubbing sound coming from my chain -too tight?). On Strava, one 16 mile section going north from Salisbury to the science center has my average speed clocked at 21.1 mph so the wind was really helping me along!

Soon we hit more technical riding over bridges, in traffic, and meandering down different roads. If I didn't have any cyclists ahead of me, I was worried that I might go the wrong way by missing the orange paint on the road. There is one bridge we are forced to dismount and walk across a narrow walkway. On this, I get stuck behind cyclists trying to walk in their cycling shoes and I lose about 2-3 minutes of time each time I cross coming and going. The ride takes some scenic detours once we are in Maine, but I am not one to look around as I am extremely focused on my ride. I am so focused that I find it hard to eat and drink. I downed a bottle of Gatorade when walking across the bridge, but except for drinking from my water bottle, I can't take a bottle out of my camera bag and screw off the lid. I did bring a bunch of Clif bars and Clif block energy blocks, but I didn't open them up before the ride and find it hard to ride and get them open. I ate one Clif Bar the first half of the ride and one and one-half packages of the Blocks (not nearly what I really should have eaten on the ride). I had a Camelbak filled with water, but only took a few sips out of it, and drank all the water in my large mounted water bottle. I stopped to hit the woods at about 70 miles and poured a Gatorade into my water bottle, but that was all I ate or drank this year. I think the cooler temperatures helped. 

By the time I hit the Nubble Lighthouse in Maine which was the 50 mile mark, my average speed had slowed to 18.1 mph which was world record pace, but I would no longer have a tailwind, so my time would keep getting slower from then on, but it is fun to say I was that fast for the first wind-aided half. I watched my average speed slip below the American record speed (I had these written on a paper and in view on my camera bag) at about 70 miles. Battling the headwinds along York Beach was brutal as I can't draft another bike like all the cyclists can. I have to take the wind standing up. Eventually, I helplessly watched the average speed go below what I needed to break 6 hours. I had the energy to go fast, but whenever we got near the ocean, the wind was just whipping into my face and I had to go all out just to get my speed above 10 mph. Fortunately, we took had some loops to do off route 1A so it wasn't a straight shot down to Hampton Beach to the finish. 

I didn't start feeling a bit weak until around 90 miles, but I slowed down enough to grab the one bottled water I had put in my camera bag. I eventually got the cap off and splashed half of it into my mouth so quickly I had to spit it out. I slowly drank the rest and feeling a bit refreshed headed towards the finish. Hitting the headwinds again was just nasty. I would see cyclists go by me in packs drafting off each other. If it was a lone cyclist, I was usually able to pick them off. It was a relief to finish as I was battling hard trying to break 6 hours and 20 minutes. I tapped my GPS off at the finish and was pleased to see it read 100.0 miles exactly! My time was 6:18:46! I think I gave it my all and with the wind realize my time was slower than what I could have done without  both the tailwind and the headwind. I am certain I can break 6 hours next year, but I have to find a century with a straighter course and no big winds.

Once I finished, I wanted nothing better to do than sit down. I noticed that cyclists seemed to all want to stand up after being locked into the saddle all day. One cool and unexpected thing during the ride was seeing a deer run across the road about 15 feet in front of me while in Maine! Cyclists don't say a lot about my ElliptiGO. Most just ignore me, but I am so focused I am not trying to chat up someone passing me or who I am passing, although I will say something if they talk first. After about 80 miles when the cyclists realize that I am doing the full 100, I tend to get a bit more comments. With less than 5 miles to go and riding into the headwinds, a pack of about 10 cyclists caught up. One guy slowed down and wanted me to high-five him. I told him I couldn't because if I did, at that point, I would probably fall over if I one-handed it!

So when the ride was over and until ElliptiGO updates their record page, it looks like I have the third fastest century ride ever on an ElliptiGO, the second fastest American time, and the fastest American time on a loop course! I got a note from Brian Pate, the ElliptiGO inventor, saying he wishes I were riding in the ElliptiGO World Championships this week in San Diego. He said I would be a contender, particularly for the time-trial. That was a great compliment. There are some top level world class runners, and former Olympians, who race the world championships.  Maybe one of these years, I can afford a trip out there to see what I could do in these races: there is a mountain climb up Mt. Palomar and a time trial on Fiesta Island. I know it would be fun to be around other ElliptiGO athletes and it is fun to help pioneer the sport, particularly when I found a sport I can do quite well in as long as I keep working hard. 

As a former runner, I am just pleased that I can work out with the intensity that I do and to be in "training" again. I enjoy feeling like an athlete again, and the nice part is that the ElliptiGO does not beat up my body. We just need more people riding and more races to keep that competitive fire going. I am sure that in the next few years, as the ElliptiGO gains more traction, that those 100 mile times are going to be incredibly fast! I don't mind being at the beginning years of the sport where what I can achieve is considered fast for now! If helps me not feel so old or washed up due to my injuries. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic Race

photo by Jeff Caron
When you can no longer run the way you want to or without painful consequences, you have to find a new way to move and to get the competitive juices flowing.  I have found the perfect way to train with the ElliptiGO, but I like racing too! That is where the ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic comes into play. When I first heard about the race around the time of the 2013 Boston Marathon, I knew it was something I had to try. It intrigued me so much, I got an ElliptiGO a couple of months later and raced the first ElliptiGO race ever held on the east coast that August. And won it! It was a thrill to be involved with an all out racing experience again. I continued with all my ElliptiGO training indoors throughout the winter and back outside this spring and summer. By this weekend's 2nd New England ElliptiGO Summer Classic race, I had accumulated 7000 miles on my ElliptiGO in 14 months and loved every minute of it! Of course, I kept thinking about this race, and wondered if I could repeat again (I have never come back to repeat a win in any type of race win in my 40 years of racing).

The ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic is a 5 mile race in Hingham, Ma  on the ElliptiGO, and to me that distance is a sprint. My winning time in 2013 was 16:21. Sure, I hoped to win this year, but I also dreamed about dueling it out with other racers and possibly having a sprint finish, as well as hoping to break 15 minutes, which would be a pace of 20 mph. I knew I was faster than last year, but have never gone that fast for 5 miles. Last week I did my 30 mile training route at 18 mph taking 3 minutes off my previous best time on that route. I knew I was getting ready! ElliptiGO riding is slower than riding a bike due to aerodynamics. You are standing up taking the brunt of the wind with your full body. I wasn't sure what would happen this year as I knew some serious ElliptiGO riders were coming to the race and my nerves were flying as Friday race night approached, particularly when race director John Childs announced a prize purse with three ways to win some money: the first person to reach the 2 mile point of the race would win a prime of $50, the overall winner would win $100, and anyone who broke my course record while winning the race would get another $50. I knew that would up the competitive fire in a few racers. This was all added to my even bigger worries about getting a flat, losing my chain, crashing, or not getting to the race on time due to traffic.

I arrived for the 6 pm Friday night race after a long drive through stalled 128 traffic, but this year I had enough time to do a warm-up ride and meet some of the racers who I met previously or who I knew from the ElliptiGO groups online. I did some miles with Chris from San Diego and Dan from Ohio along with a new ElliptiGO owner from the Boston area, Steve, who I knew previously from running and racing. A couple of entrants were not able to come to the race, so I think there were 16 riders ready to GO at the starting line. It was a small, but enthusiastic crowd. As my nerves were jangling, I envied the other riders who were just in it to test themselves and to have a good time out on the course.

Chris Zito, me, and eventual women's winner Julia Girman
photo by Jeff Caron
I was trying to figure out how I might do in the race while looking around. I knew I was doing a lot more miles than what I knew the other racers were doing (according to Strava). Despite that,  there were some very experienced and fit looking ElliptiGO riders riding around. All that I knew was that it was going to be fun, no matter what happened (unless I crashed). During the warm-up I noticed that the route had been changed from the previous year. Last year we had a tricky 1/4 mile segment through some dirt. This year we went another way to avoid this, but there would be a 180 degree turn-around on some grass and dirt instead. I noted that this might be slippery and told myself to be cautious and slow down when turning there. The course was well marked, but I noticed there was a bit of light wind that had a slowing effect at certain parts of the course. Although the race is basically flat, it has a few little hills and it zig-zags around a bit, so it is not as fast of a course as it might appear.

photo by Victoria Pearson
I decided that I couldn't chance things with some of the strong riders in the race, so within a few strides after the starting gun, I went into a pretty much all out sprint. I rode as hard as I could only easing up when going around corners. After about a minute, I was sucking wind pretty bad, but I was pulling away from the other racers. I kept pushing as hard as I could while following the lead motorcycle and slowly made it around the 180 degree turn where I saw a had a decent lead, but the others were also flying and in hot pursuit. Had I gone out too fast? Had they saved their speed for the final miles? It was fun to see the other riders and to cheer a few of them on when I found some air to cheer through my gulps. My Garmin got turned upside down because of all the rattling going over bumps in the road, and I had to keep using my fingers to turn it back up where I could see it. It wasn't easy to read, but the first two times I checked I was over 20 mph for an average speed (perfect for breaking 15 minutes). However, a head wind and some small hills were slowing me down. When I looked back I was still gaining ground on the other riders until we hit the second half of the course, then I couldn't see anyone behind me for the rest of the race due to the corners. It was a bit more technical riding the second half, around one corner at about 4 miles, my wheels slipped off the path and skidded in the dirt throwing my right leg right out of the toe clips and off the foot cage. I braked and almost came to a full stop, losing a lot of momentum before climbing a hill. I decided to be a bit more careful and not crash due to trying to go too fast. I was working very hard with my heart rate pounding and my breathing was furious as I tried to suck in some more oxygen. Eventually, I knew the finish line was ahead and I did the best sprint I could to end the ride as a repeat champion. I had improved my time 37 seconds from the previous year. Jeff finished second, with Andrew right behind him after having a good duel on the course. These guys are are good athletes. Jeff, who works for ElliptiGO, ran sub 31 minutes at the Beach to Beacon 10k a few years ago, Andrew raced the 5 mile running race after finishing the ElliptiGO race to do the "double". Then the next day he rode an century on his ElliptiGO through the White Mountains, and the next day after  that he ran for three hours! Phew!  Dan set the ElliptiGO world record for riding the most miles in 24 hours back in 2012. He rode 234.94 miles. Chris has ridden his ElliptiGO at 55 mph down some hill near where he lives (this is the most impressive stat of all). I was able to meet all the other ElliptiGO athletes and they are all wonderful and outstanding people. It is good to meet people who are as enthusiastic about ElliptiGOs as I am. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to push myself as hard as I could from an athletic perspective. I just miss competing these days. The race was a great thrill and anytime, I can
photo by Victoria Pearson
even be competitive or compete for a win at 55 years old can only make me think that it might be my last chance to ever do so and that is why I put so much effort into this race.  In the grand scheme of things, it is only a tiny race in a small growing sport and as much as I enjoying competing, I enjoyed getting to know all the other ElliptiGO enthusiasts even more. We are pioneering a new sport. Whether it takes off as a competitive sport or just remains as the best way to cross-train, rehab or recover from injuries or training, or just becomes the favorite fitness tool of aging athletes who have worn out body parts remains to be seen.

Earlier in the week, I saw someone write that riding an ElliptiGO is, "Just like running, but tastes like ice cream!" That is the perfect definition for the ElliptiGO, as I enjoy riding my ElliptiGO as much and as often as I can. People that haven't tried it, do not know what they are missing. It gives a fantastic and fun workout without the stress or discomfort of running or cycling. It is my fountain of youth that restores rather than breaks down the body!

Jeff outsprinting Andrew for 2nd place
photo by Victoria Pearson
First woman, Julia finishing with Steve (before a stray dog got in their way!)
photo by Victoria Pearson
Matt Byrne (somehow missing from results) of Extreme Fitness in Newton
where I bought my ElliptiGO last year.
photo by Victoria Pearson
photo by Jeff Caron
The following morning, after the race, many of the riders got together again to ride a leisurely 20 mile ride through the beautiful seaside villages on the south shore of Boston. It was awesome to finally see other riders riding an ElliptiGO (You know what? They do look pretty cool!) and it is impressive to see the lineup of GOs tooling down the roads together. We had a chance to share stories on the ride and also when we met together for some refreshments. It is exciting to be pioneering a new sport with these enthusiasts. Jeff Caron is doing an outstanding job on the east coast promoting ElliptiGOs and race director John Childs needs to be thanked for putting this ElliptiGO race and tour together where we can have fun and meet other riders and start the growth of this sport in New England. I was just thrilled to be there!

photo by Jeff Caron
photo by Jeff Caron
photo by Jeff Caron
I have started new PT to get out of my anterior  pelvic tilt due to tight hip flexors
and weak glutes (among other imbalances). You can see I am not standing tall,
like I should be, but instead stick out my butt. Eleanor, in front or me,
has a much better stride! 
Relaxing after a group ride!
photo by Jeff Caron


ElliptiGO Time Trial

PlaceBib #First NameLast NameGun TimePaceAgeGenderCityStateAge Place
99MichaelThomas19:29.33:5443MPalm HarborFL8
102KimBrown19:36.63:5543FRocky HillCT2
155SvenjaDanforth21:59.24:2448FMansfield CenterCT5

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014 Falmouth Road Race Elite Men's Photos

Brian Baker #666 finishing his 36th straight Falmouth.

Top 10

1   Stephen Sambu726M31:46+0:00
2   Micah Kogo128M32:31+0:46
3   Emmanuel Bett429M33:01+1:15
4   Ben Bruce531M33:21+1:35
5   Andrew Colley1723M33:27+1:41
6   Jordan McNamara2427M33:47+2:01
7   Zachary Hine1426M33:54+2:08
8   Craig Leon929M34:04+2:18
9   Robert Molke9623M34:15+2:29
10 Will Leer2329M34:20+2:35