Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome Prendas Ciclismo to The Merckx Project

I would like to introduce you to and thank Prendas Ciclismo, a new supporter of The Merckx Project. Prendas is a UK-based online retail clothing specialist with a 'focus on the unique, most-practical, and the stylish for whatever your level of riding.'


Prendas features a selection of the utilitarian and 'retro' for all of your cycling wear needs. Obviously, as The Merckx Project, we'd be partial to the Molteni line of clothing. But the Brooklyn, Mapei, and La Vie Claire aren't bad either. We also like the Prendas-branded gloves, socks, caps, and arm warmers that do their job without the industry name markup.

So please join me in thanking them for their support, and throw a few quid their way the next time you need more kit. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Increased Miles and Lower Blood Sugars

In years past I would always hit a point in the riding season, usually late-July to early-August, where I would always struggle with extremely low fasting or overnight blood sugars. This would be a result of putting in longer miles and harder efforts on the bike during the long summer days with few family or social commitments. When I stopped riding from 2006-2010, the overnight lows also stopped. Now that I'm back on the bike and riding more consistently year round, those low spells are back, but at different times of the year.

Now, hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episodes aren't all bad despite the inherent personal safety risk. It can be an indicator that I have a pretty firm control on my diet and exercise balance. My last A1C test, a measure of the amount of glucose (sugar) that is attached to red blood cells, was 7.0. This is an acceptable number for a type 1 diabetic. The normal human body number is 5.7, but I've found anything below 6.8 leaves my blood sugar too low for my to function properly throughout the day.

With the daylight hours increasing through the spring so did my saddle time and mileage. As a result, thanks to the MapMy Ride app I use on my phone, I have been able to see that my burned calories have increased as well. Those that follow bicycle racing may know that the pros can burn through 10,000 calories during a race. For the mere mortals like the rest of us, I am using about 2000 kcal on weeknight and 3000+ kcals of effort on weekend rides. The USDA recommends 2000-2800 daily calories for most active adults depending on gender and age. So it's no stretch that I might sometimes operate at a deficit. If I needed to lose weight, this is a good thing. However; in my case, this causes a depletion of glycogen stores. Basically my body's gas tank is running on fumes at times.

The simple solution is to eat more complex carbohydrates: pasta, rice, grains. Unfortunately, since I am my own personal chef and have many other responsibilities to attend to, it's not always that easy. But it usually only takes a few adjustments to get it right. And that allows me to keep riding on and logging those beneficial miles.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blog Refresh

The blog has been a little slow lately, so I decided to take a look back and examine what I have already written about in order to find some writing creativity going forward. As I read through my posts, I noticed that 1) the subject matter was a little too repetitive (even for a blog about riding a bicycle) and 2) I never really discuss being a diabetic, which is an integral part of The Merckx Project.

So going forward, I am going to make sure I expand my focus to include how being a diabetic effects my efforts on the bike. I'm also hoping to start including before and after ride blood sugars and an estimated carbs consumed during rides counts over on twitter when I post MapMyRide results. It will be in a format like 133/112/25 to keep it simple.

I'm starting to like how I am feeling out on the bike right now, and the miles are adding up. The increased effort is starting to cause low blood sugars throughout the day, however, and I'm starting to eat like I have my late-teens/early-twenties metabolism again (see, new emphasis). But you'll have to stay tuned for the next post for more details and updates...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bicyclist's Creed

This is my bicycle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My bicycle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My bicycle, without me, is useless. Without my bicycle, I am useless. I must ride my bicycle true. I must ride harder than those who ridden before me. I must kill the hour before the hour kills me. I will...
My bicycle and I know that what counts in this race is not the type of frame, the noise of our chain, nor the saddle we ride. We know that it is the pedalling that counts. We will pedal...
My bicycle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its fit and its feel. I will keep my bicycle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before the prophet, I swear this creed. My bicycle and I are the defenders of the cog. We are the masters of our suffering. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until 49.710 kilometers is ridden, and there is a new record.

The above is my adaptation of "My Rifle (The Creed of the United States Marine)," familiar to most of us by way of Full Metal Jacket (or, perhaps, Family Guy). It is written specific to my hour attempt. There are some other versions on the internet that are also "Bicyclist's Creed" adaptations, such as this one from Peter Bay.

The modified creed is one of many tricks I am using to keep myself motivated while whiling the hours away this winter on the trainer. It is one thing to spin on the trainer; it is another to hammer oneself every day looking towards the ultimate goal.

Starting at the beginning of the year, I instituted a 2 days on, 1 day off riding rotation to keep myself fresh and focused. My concern wasn't so much about not resting, it was about too much rest and too many days in a row off of the bike. While I haven't adhered to it perfectly, it has helped keep me from finding excuses to take "another" day off during the cold season. This is especially important on those days when it's so cold outside that I have to use leg warmers to ride the trainer in the garage.

Fortunately, I have also been able to get outdoors a few times this winter including a ride this past Sunday in 40 degrees fahrenheit and rain. My fingers and toes got soaked and nearly froze but it felt good to be out and neither my legs nor lungs had many complaints.

For now, until the weather and daylight allow more outdoor riding, it will be a lot of trainer time. Right now I'm in 'segment 2' of a loose plan i created to piggyback with the 2 on/1 off rotation. January's trainer sessions were predominantly a warm up, 45 minutes of effort, and then a cool down. Now that it is February, I've upped the time to 60 minutes, and will up it again to 75 minutes the last week of the month. That will go on until I can get out on the road with any regularity. To keep me motivated, I've been watching a mix of old races, training specific videos, and ride videos streamed from online. While I want to get stronger, i know that doing a Sufferfest-like video every day on the trainer will lead to a burnout sooner both physically and mentally. And I won't have that benefit available to motivate me when riding the hour, so I've got to condition myself to suffer within my own faculties.

I guess I'll have to memorize that creed to keep my mind busy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Putting an end to 2013 and looking toward 2014

I've reached the point in the season where it is about time to shut it down and start looking ahead to next year, and hopefully the hour attempt. The dwindling evening daylight during the week, combined with a couple of other issues cropping up, have signaled that it is time to call an end to the hard riding for the year.

Right now I am completely off the bike and likely will be through next week. Because I made the decision to shut it down, I also made the decision to take a fresh look at my fit. I had recently had some discomfort on the bike, and I'm assuming it is because I've moved things out of range on the bike. Using a combination of different bike fit calculators, I ended up dropping my saddle over 2 centimeters, and I made sure that the saddle setback is about 6.7 cm. For those not familiar with 'bike speak,' this puts the tip of the saddle at a point that is 6.7 cm behind the center of the bottom bracket, or the place where the pedals/crank arm connect to the frame.The purpose of this is prevent putting too much strain on the knees, and my particular femur length dictates the 6.7 cm number. The significant changes to the saddle position mean that I will need a few weeks off to hopefully erase muscle memory. Ideally, once I get back on and riding, it won't be to much of a shock and won't cause me to start over-fidgeting with position again.

I've also switched back to a longer 110 mm length stem to extend my reach to the handlebars, although the fit charts suggest I could go as long as 130 mm. From an aerodynamics point of view this will stretch out my form over the top of the bike. However, I'm a little concerned that I don't have the upper body flexibility to support that, and being that stretched out may cause some back and shoulder discomfort. It is something I will have to experiment with over the winter. I will also need to make sure my saddle position holds up and stays comfortable.

In addition to resetting my fit, it is about time to give the bike itself a little bit of love. The brake and derailleur cables will be replaced, as well as the cassettes (the gear cluster on the rear wheel) and tires. The miles have caught up with both, and although changing either aren't normally worth blogging about, it is always nice to get something new for the bike.

Looking ahead, the next steps for training are to take it easy out on the road when I can get out, sticking with a recreational pace. I'll also start to employ some structured workouts on the trainer to boost my endurance. As the fall and winter trainer time progress, I'm hoping to focus on a lot of endurance work with occasional strength and speed workouts. I am taking the approach of base and endurance miles all the way through May, and then integrating speed work in June and July in the buildup. It was the same tactic I was aiming for this past year, but my base work didn't suffice, and I spent the year chasing fitness. Even though I've never raced or ridden cyclocross, I may try to sneak in one just to test it out and keep things fresh.

But for now, it's all about resetting and transitioning back into base miles for next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Checking In

As the road season is winding down and I am starting to plan for a winter indoors on the trainer, I realized that I had not posted any updates in a while. Whether good or bad I simply didn't have much to share. Logging miles both out on my own and in group training rides has been the essence of my summer.

I did manage to buy a new set of wheels. I hate to admit it as they are a local company, but I honestly have no love for Zipp wheels. Too much carbon. Too many aero claims. If a wheel is round, and doesn't weigh a ton, it is good enough for me. So I ended up with a set of Weinmann rims laced to Origin-8 hubs that I got from my shop of choice, DG Bicycles. They are lightweight and durable, with a shallow 20mm or so profile. Since I'm looking to do the hour using Merckx Rules, it doesn't make much sense to train on deeper aero rims.

As for my training, the increased daylight of summer allowed me to steal an extra 16 miles by riding to and from the start point of a Tuesday/Thursday night group ride that is a staple of my routine. Unfortunately, by late July and again in late August the fatigue began to build up and I need a week or two off just to recharge. Conversely, hitting that wall gives me important information about how ineffective my trainer session were last winter, as well as how hard I can push myself and when in the lead up to my attempt next year.

Additionally, I am a bit late, but it is time to start seeking sponsors again. I can't do this without their support, so I will need to buckle down and make sure I have more direct contact with potential sponsors this time around. I've been making mental notes all summer of different local businesses to reach out to and I am thinking that expanding my focus away from companies that I thought would have a direct connection to the mission of The Merckx Project may help as well.

So if you are reading this and feel that you or your business would be interested in a different form of exposure, please feel free to contact me for more information.