Monday, May 19, 2008

San Diego Century Bike Tour

In short: Hilly. Way, way hilly. Far hillier than I expected.

Really, this post is more about me than Basta. He had a fine ride. He rode with a fellow club member, a very nice young guy named John. John is probably in his early 30's, and he's a good cyclist. He was doing the 103m (161km) course and Basta the 66m (100k), so they rode together for 66 miles. If Basta can keep up with John, he's doing well. So he worked hard to do just that.

He was able to keep up most of the time. He got dropped on the longer and steeper hills but was able to catch up once they leveled out. He said he was paying close attention to how John rode, too, trying to pick up some tips. He watched what gear John was in and when he shifted. Basta tried to match that, and found that he couldn't a lot of the time. John has some very strong legs.

They had a nice chat. A pleasant day. Basta finished in 4 hours, 20 minutes. Yes, hilly.

I, on the other hand, had a tough time of it. I did the 37 mile course, right? 37 miles. Easy peasy. About half the distance that Basta is doing. No problem.

Yeah right. Even though 37 miles isn't all that far, it's farther than I've ridden a bike in well over a year. I've been training on the Computrainer, and thank god for that. I wouldn't have survived those hills at all without that.

But I do the Computrainer for an hour, at most. This ride took me 3 hours. My crotch was killing me. I am not conditioned to sitting in that saddle for 3 hours.

After about 20 miles my legs were jelly, too. Frequent infusions of caffeinated Clif Shots and knowing that it would be over eventually got me through the ride.

Then I came home and napped most of the rest of the day. The next day I was done in, too. No energy. Napped often. Ate a lot. Climbing stairs was brutal. I need to start paying attention to my own biking career if I am going to do a triathlon myself ever again.

Enough of me. Back to the ride. It was a well-done event. This is only their second year, and it remains to be seen, of course, if it will thrive. The course was well marked and very scenic. The one sag stop on my route was well-stocked with typical ride munchies and had adequate porta-pottyage. They did say that this was an 'intermediate/advanced' course, so I should have known better. We got no t-shirts or medals but we did get a cool coffee mug with the course logo on it and colored the same as the wristband that designated your course. It's actually a very cool mug. The whole experience was worth the $30.

All in all, a lovely event. We'll do it again next year. I'll be better prepared for it. Maybe Basta will do the full Century distance.

Since all real cyclists have monster legs, I’m curious how much the bike will make Basta's legs grow. After a summer of serious hills and long-distance rides, will his legs start to explode? Or will his ectomorphic body resist that at all costs. I measured his thighs and calves tonight. We'll measure again after Cancun in September and see if there is any difference. They can't get any harder. They feel like cement pillars now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Screwed Up Swimming

Basta fights change. More than anyone I know. Or at least that I know well enough to how they feel about change.

He fights me every step of the way with his swimming. He didn't want to try bilateral breathing when I first started coaching him. "It screws me up," he said. I told him to give it a try, just to see. Sure enough, his body turned into a corkscrew and he was all over the water. He coughed and sputtered at the end of one length. He told me he'd never get it, didn't want to try, and didn't see why he should bother, anyway.

I told him that being able to breathe on either side is an advantage to a triathlete who finds themselves in an event where the waves are breaking hard on one side, the wind is blowing, or even if the sun is shining bright. If you can only breathe on one side you might spend the whole swim sucking in water or being blinded, whereas a more versatile athlete has options.

That worked, and he agreed to try it again. After maybe 3 lengths he had it figured out. At least to the point to where he wasn't struggling and it wasn't throwing off everything else about his swim. Now, these many months later, he bilateral breathes easily and routinely.

Pretty much same story with rolling his body. He was doing it on one side, not the other. I told him he had to roll evenly on both sides. He insisted he was and wasn't going to change anything. "Rolling more the other way screws me up," he said. It took a video of him to convince him he was really doing what I said he was doing. Then he started to exaggerate the side that wasn't rolling. Sometimes he exaggerated it so much that he rolled over onto his back, snorted water up his nose, thrashed his legs about to right himself, and came up sputtering. "I told you this screws me up!" Yep. All my fault, too. I told him to persevere, and soon enough he did. He rolls evenly now.

Our latest technique improvement is the high arm catch. He's still entering the water across his center line, though his glide and pull is much better. Today I told him to concentrate on making his hand entry in line with his shoulder. "I am doing that!" he said.

"No, you're not. I'm standing here 3 feet away, watching your every stroke and I assure you, you're not. You're entering more in line with your opposite ear. Focus on entering in line with your shoulder."

He did that for a lap, and he looked like a wreck. "That's screwing me up!" he said. "I can't focus on that and do everything else right, too. "

"I know. Focus on your hand entering the water in line with your shoulder. Today, nothing else matters."

"But what about my rolling? My pull? My glide? My legs?"

"Think about nothing but your hand entering the water in line with your shoulder. You swim well as it is now and your body will do all those other things naturally. Today -- focus on your hand in line with your shoulder. "

So he did. He was still corkscrewing and whipping his legs for the next lap, but his hand entry was better. No more Swimmer's Shoulder for him. Within a couple of laps his body was back to normal and the hand entry was still good. Hooray.

There is so much to swimming. You can work and work on this and that and there will still be something to improve. Overall, I think he's getting faster. He certainly looks better. We need to do another 20 lap test one of these first days to see for sure just how much faster he is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More New Stuff

A new bike necessitates all manner of other new things, as it turns out.

Like a new bike rack to go on top of the new vehicle. Because there are times Basta wants to take that vehicle instead of the old vehicle which already has two bike racks on the roof, you see.

I swear, he is trying to single-handedly stimulate the economy.

But it is a nice rack. A Thule rooftop rack. Not overly expensive, in the grand scheme of things. Looks like a fine design. It's a Swedish company, so it ought to be.

Oh -- Crister --how is that properly pronounced: Thule. Is it like Thool like in Rule? Or Thoolee like in Truly? Or something else like, Tool or Toolee or Tuh-Hool maybe. We must know.

The new bike also needed new pedals and thus new clips, of course. The new clips are much, much tighter than Basta's old ones. He proved that quite spectacularly when he went down in front of a group of riders last weekend. Pulled up to a group stopped at a light, tried to clip out, didn't make it. Boom, down he went.

He with his fancy new bike, wearing his 'Look what I did!' Ironman 70.3 jersey, getting stuck on his pedal like it was his first time on a bike. Oops. He was very embarrassed. The group looked at him in amazement, then concernedly asked him if he was ok.

He was ok. He did fall properly, taking the blow with his shoulder and not trying to catch himself with his hand and thus breaking his wrist. The bike got a tear on the handlebar tape, but that's easily fixed.

Just his pride was wounded. He told his fellow tri-club members about it, the group that he thought he was pulling up to, and they all laughed at him.

I don't know why those clips are so tight. Maybe they can adjust that when he takes it in next time.

In other news, we did Wildflower a couple of weekends ago. He did the swim portion of a relay. He did the 1.2 miles in 39 minutes, knocking 4 minutes off of his Oceanside time. He is getting faster. He also found feet towards the end and experienced the joys of drafting. He says he's going to try to find feet every time now. Good.

He's also enjoying the bike. He looks forward to his rides and is doing all of them. Big progress there. He's keeping up with some of the medium-fast guys now but is still getting dropped on the hills by most of them. But he'll figure it out. His biking is dramatically better than it was a year ago. He has the machine he needs, now all he can do is improve his skills and put lots and lots of miles on that bike.

To wit, we're doing the San Diego Century Ride next weekend. He's dong the 66 mile (100km) course, deemed 'moderate to difficult.' It's a hilly course and will be a challenge to him, I'm sure.

I'm doing the 37 mile (56km) ride. I hope I finish before him.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Good God

Basta bought a new bike. A tri bike.

And what an experience that was. My god there is a lot to a bike. I mean, of course there is. If you are going to spend thousands of dollars for a product there had better be a ton of technology and pricey parts in it.

But understanding those parts? Yeesh. So much to know. So much to geek out upon. So much I just flat don't care about. Maybe I will someday, but right now the bike is not high on my list of things I want to study much further than I have already.

Better leave that to professionals who do care. Much like my taxes. I want to understand that topic well enough to understand what my accountant is telling me, but not well enough that I get all of the nuances, stay on top of the latest changes, and make the most of my tax situation. I'd rather pay someone good to do that.

Basta was counting on me to find him the right bike, me being his coach and all. I decided my job was to find him the right bike professional who would then guide him to the right bike. So I started reading about bike fit and calling local bike shops.

Long story short, I think I found them. In fact, I know I found them. The right shop with a wide selection of bikes and the right staff to help the serious triathlete find the right bike for them: The Triathlon Lab in Redondo Beach. No, they aren't giving me anything for endorsing them. They are a fair hike from home, over an hour away, and there are other triathlon shops closer, but these guys do it best. I wish they were closer. They have everything a triathlete needs and then some, a huge inventory of run/bike/swim essentials, and staff that lives and breathes triathlon.

So Basta set up an appointment with a guy there to find his own true tri bike. Larry. Larry did a fantastic job. It was Larry who helped me find the right wetsuit for me last year, when we first embarked on this triathlon adventure. He explained in detail what matters and what doesn't in triathlon wetsuit fit, why a tri-suit is so important, and how to properly put one on. They had just my suit in stock. I bought it and I still love it today. Larry's a good guy.

Larry spent 3 hours with Basta. Basta is a quite normally-shaped guy, fortunately, so many stock bikes would work for him. He's of average height (5'10") and well-proportioned. That means he doesn't have ape arms or super-long legs or anything weird that might require a custom frame. Larry put various bikes on the trainer, had Basta ride, and assessed bike fit. Eventually he decided that three bikes within our budget had the geometry that fit Basta best. The difference between them was components.

Holy crap is that component topic complex. Basta kept calling me and saying, 'this bike has this, that bike has that, which should I get??' I don't know. I've read enough about this to know that this brand is considered better than that brand, but I have no idea why. So we relied heavily on Larry. "This component is stiffer, that is more generous, these are more aerodynamic," he explained. On and on with so many components. It's enough to make the head shake.

So cut to the chase. This is what we bought: A Kuota Kalibur

The other contenders were from Scott and Felt. The Kuota just had a better combo of what Basta needs at this time for the money.

It's a beautiful bike. Basta has put a few hundred miles on it already and is absolutely in love with it. It's a much, much different ride than his Roubaix road bike. He feels fast on it. I can't wait to see how much it improves his run time.