Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Flavors of Hammer Nutrition

Cyclists have a tendency to obsesses over everything that goes into their bodies. While I don't count calories, I do try some of the groundbreaking products just for the fun of it. Keep in mind I'm not a chemist or a nutritionist but I am an athlete and I know what I like.

Endurolytes Fizz: The lovely lady at Real Bikes in Venice said that Fizz is the latest craze among riders. I tried three sample flavors - Grape, Peach and Mango. They are shaped and work just like Alka-Seltzer. You drop a tablet into your water and the Fizz brings your drink to life. This stuff tastes great in all flavors. It has a sharp bite that brings your palate to life on those long, hot rides. I highly recommend trying Fizz as a tasty, fun way way to add some electrolytes to your water bottle. Check it out.

Heed Sports Drink: When I landed on the podium in my second mountain bike race, one of my prizes was a full size container of Heed. When you read the label it is a riders dream come true - Steady energy, buffers lactic acid, Gluten Free, Vegan friendly, no MSG, Kosher Certified and won all kinds of awards. I cannot dispute its benefits in any way, except one.

Heed tastes terrible. There is no easy way for me to say it. Heed does not mix well in water or anything else and it just tastes bad. I have tried Mandarin-Orange and Lemon-Lime but it didn't matter. My face would scrunch up like I just ate a whole package of sour patch kids. I can only imagine that there are plenty of other products that deliver that same benefits and yet managed to put together a better taste. Check it out.

Recoverite: Need a quick, easy, fat free way of restoring your Carbs, Protein and Amino Acids? I tried Citrus Recoverite after a 26 mile ride in 90 degree heat. I was burnt and exhausted, I was probably pretty close to having heat exhaustion. I took a cold shower, drank a bottle of water and then mixed Recoverite with ice water for another drink.

Recoverite tastes foamy, that's only way I can describe it. It went down easy and felt satisfying in my stomach. Basically you gets a whole lot of benefits with no drawbacks. Granted I ate food that night and slept a full 8 hours but the result the next day was that I felt fine. The next day I wasn't worn out, sore or starving when I probably should have been. I know it's not very scientific but I do want to try this stuff again. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bog Dogs BMX Bike for Sale or Trade

Over the years you have no doubt heard people talk about Proper bike fit. If you have ever wondered what can happened when you spend too much time on the wrong size bike, I get to be an unfortunate example.

Let me first start by saying, "I Love my Bike!" For the last 8 months I have been racing a CycleCraft ProXL given to me by the great people of CycleCraft USA. The wheels and components came over from my old bike with the exception of new Supercross forks, new cables and and new pedals. It is beautiful in dark grey with blue accents but it does not correctly fit me.

I have been suffering from back pain for a solid year. I didn't know exactly what was causing it until now. I recently took one month off the 20 inch and rode only my Mountain Bike. I did Foundation training to strengthen my lower back and relieve the pain. My back has never felt better.

On Sunday I went to Charlotte BMX and tried my 20" to see what had changed. After only two laps my back was throbbing. I felt cramped and more out of balance than before. Perhaps I should be on a longer bike, maybe an XXL but it's too late, the damage to my confidence is irreparable. I suffered so many crashes in the last year that I just don't want to take the same chances.

I will continue to race BMX just on a larger bike. I really enjoyed my Rookie months but my timing was terrible. The ABA merger changed the rules which made it so that I was by far the least experienced Intermediate in any of my races. Most of the riders I'm up against are "Former" Experts. In addition most of the tracks are using Transfer system and now I can only make the main at locals. It's just not fun anymore.

Since I don't have the money to buy a new bike my only option is to put my bike up for trade or sale. What I'm looking for is either a 26" Mountain Bike (Single speed) capable of racing or a large 24" Cruiser. I will return to the Cruiser class on a bike that suits my size and comfort.

If you are interested in my bike get in touch with me on Facebook
or send me an E-mail with your offer or trade.

My bike is now listed on Craigslist

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August Smiles on the Tempo Time Trial

The folks from Tempo Cyclery dodged the rain yet again to put on another fun Time Trial down the beautiful  second stretch of Honore Rd in Sarasota, Florida. 61 riders gave their all in this monthly 10 mile fun race that tests an athletes top end speed plus their ability to accept pain and afterwards consume beer.

The usual mix of unusual rides livened up the field with everything from the high tech Time Trial bikes, a score of road bikes, my own Mountain Bike and even a classic Tandem.

The attendees themselves were an even more eclectic mix of personalities ranging from elite cyclists and triathletes to recreational riders and even a few BMXers. Both genders and all ages were represented as the watch clocked everyone's best efforts.

The atmosphere remained light and jovial as ever. The guys from Tempo Cyclery stepped up their precautions by having riders sign a waiver at the start of festivities, better safe than sorry. Each person was assigned a number and riders went off the line at 30 second intervals.

Top Ten on the Day

1. John S 22:58
2. John A 23:13
3. Alex S 23:44
4. Shandor K 24:11
5. Pat R 24:18
6. Garry B 24:30
7. Brett H 24:48
8. Drew R 25:11
9. Connie M 25:41
10. Paul H 25:48

To see the Full Results click here.

To see our Photo Gallery click here.

My second experience on the TT was a great one. Shedding my noob fumblings made me more prepared for the challenge. This time my frozen water bottle was squirt ready, my gloves fit properly and my warm-up was worthy of the task ahead.

I got off to a strong start but was passed by fellow BMXers Eli Weiss and Caleb Minthorn at about the 4 mile mark. That was fine with me, now I had someone to target. Keeping my eyes locked on Caleb's black t-shirt I kept my average speed just over 18mph. My legs were on fire as I crossed the line but by then I had to do everything I could to keep from throwing up.

My training had paid off in spades - I was 5 full minutes faster than last time. The 10 miles whizzed by in a mere 33:40 slotting me in 52nd place. Big thanks again to the organizers. The confidence boost from these contests goes a long way towards future aspirations.

Be sure to visit their shop in Sarasota or come to the next TT in Sept.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Introduction to Alafia State Park

Sometimes you have to overreach in order to find out what you are capable of. Three years ago when I decided to try Downhill racing people told me that I was crazy. It was one thing to race Mountain Bikes but doing it at high speed down a mountain was suicidal. While DH was a bit too expensive to continue on a regular basis, I knew that the skills would be invaluable.

It's 2012 I'm back on a Mountain Bike looking forward to a Florida Cross Country race. The first step was get myself into XC shape but the second step was to hit some of the trails I will be facing in October. That's why I made a visit to the Alafia River State Park.

Alafia is beautiful, well run and the SWAMP club does great job tending to the trails. There is an easy to read map at the trail head, plenty of parking, bathrooms and most importantly - shade. I started my short journey in the place where I knew I would have the most trouble - the double black diamond trail known as moonscape.

Moonscape: The other worldly feel of moonscape was made even more mystifying by its loneliness. Exploring the trails under a cloudy sky made it dark, twisted and foreign. While I wasn't intimidated by any of the sharp climbs or drops, my bike was not up to the challenge. I repeatedly bottomed out the fork, dropped the chain and got frustrated with the tall, forward leaning geometry. It was an awkward refresher course but it was exactly what I needed.

Rollercoaster: Moonscape bleeds out onto the Intermediate trail known as Rollercoaster. After half a mile I learned that Rollercoaster is directional so I had to turn around to fully appreciate the flow of its curvy hips. This is where the muscle memory of 80+ bike races started kicking in. BMX has taught me the ebb and flow of short hills while my MTB training provides the necessary pedal power to overcome the rooty transitions. Rollarcoaster turns out to be a blast, a joyful ride full of fun surprises.

Sand Pines: Why take an easy trail? I figure that large sections of the upcoming race must take place on the green trails because otherwise it would be a short contest. Sand Pines is 2+ miles of swerving flatland that forces you to dodge small trees, the occasional root and other riders. It is not a boring ride, in fact, I was hauling butt down this trail. After riding Moonscape and Rollercoaster, Sand Pines makes you feel like a pro. You can pick up the speed and fly to your heart's delight.

A short ride is better than none at all. I only had time to get in about 5 miles worth but now that I know where the park is and how great the trails are, I will be back. Alafia exceeded my expectations on all levels but also due in part to the people who ride there. It is easy to strike up a conversation in the parking lot or on the trail.

In fact, I had dropped my wallet in the bathroom when I got changed and another rider returned it to me an hour later when I came back to my car. It speaks of the character of the people who frequent the park, the common bond among riders is strong there. I look forward to returning for more training before the big race.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Numb Fingers from Rough Riding

The brace was a reminder to rest my wrist
The rain cast an ominous shadow over the treeline. The constant rumble of thunder was occasionally sliced by the crack of a lightning whip. I stood on my porch and watched the activity. Under normal circumstances any sane person would lock up the bike for the night but not me. I was not convinced that it would rain.

Allow me to explain this poor decision. I live near the intercoastal waterway, we have a constant offshore breeze as well as island cover from incoming storms. In order words, an odd collection of geographic coincidences make it so that most storms pass by us to the east or the west. This looked like one of those sideswipe storms so I decided to test the trails.

Move forward your seat to center your bodyweight
I took the bike out for a tempo ride, low gears at a high cadence. I started by going around the neighborhood, after almost 2 miles there was still no rain so I decided to move a little farther out. Diving into the San Casa trails I stayed at tempo all the way around the circle and back out. 5 miles had passed, averaging 14mph and still no rain. Might as well keep going.

I crossed the street into Cedar Point and hit all the trails, when I came out the other side I was at 7 miles and still no rain. In fact, the sky had begun to lighten up a little. The thunder subsided, the lightning was absent. Might as well keep going.

Ergonomic Grips might not look pretty but they work
I was so preoccupied by the weather, that I wasn't paying attention to something else that I had been feeling the whole time. All of this fast paced riding on bouncy trails was shaking my hands, wrists and arms with painful vigor. Unconsciously, I had been leaning heavily on the bars to maintain the tempo and ignoring the tingling warning sign that leads to numbness of the fingers.

After another 9 miles of riding, 2 more miles of which were off road, the storm caught up to me. This time there was no escape, we're talking about a full blown raging Florida downpour. The kind of rain and wind that pushes cars off the street. I saw the heavy rain on the water in Old Englewood and I sprinted to the pavilion at Indian Mound Park where I took cover.

Leaning my bike against a picnic table I sat down and watched as the cars cleared out of the parking lot and the heavens emptied themselves onto the earth. At first this was kind of fun. I love watching the Florida storms and when you are outside you can feel the crackle of the lighting while the thunder shakes the ground underneath you. For a while, this was exciting until I started getting cold.

The right air pressure can make a world of difference
After half an hour I was freezing and while the rain had slowed, it didn't stop. The last five miles getting home was painful, awkward and it was during that ride that the numbness in my fingers became pronounced. That was a rough ride, half of it off road, 5 miles of it in the rain and all of it at too fast a pace. My wrists were beat up and four of my fingers were completely numb.

Now to the solutions. I studied up on what causes this numbness and found out that it is the result of a few possibilities. One - bad seat position. I'm 5'10" riding a 19.5 inch Trek, that's a big bike and I was sitting too far back causing me to lean forward onto the bars putting pressure on my wrists. Two - constant shock. My tires had been filled to the max by the bike dealer but riding hard tires on the trails makes for a painful day. Three - bad grips. My Trek came equipped with Bontrager grips that were paper thin. I switched them up for Specialized Contour (Ergonomic) grips that are made of triple density rubber and they raise the wrists to avoid just this problem.

Now for the hardest part - Staying off the bike long enough to let my fingers heal. After one full day of rest, two of them are back to normal. The other two are being stubborn.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mountain Biking in Englewood Florida

It wasn't until I started riding again that those elusive off road paths suddenly came into view. You wouldn't see them in your everyday life where we drive from work to home but climb on some knobby tires and your eyes track the gaps between bushes and trees hoping for a little room to roam.

Englewood, Florida is a former fishing village, it is pancake flat and not a place people will ever associate with Mountain Biking. However it is my home so I started exploring. While I don't have any major parks nearby, I do have a couple small trail networks, a state forest and some bike paths. In the past weeks I've been checking out these areas and I'm happy to say they are not bad, for Florida.

Ann Dever Trails - In the woods behind the San Casa Recreational area are 2 and a half miles of fire roads connecting San Casa Drive with Placida Road. The trails are flat but wide, rolling on primarily crushed shell and pinewood needles. The coolest features are two bridges that cross waterways. These bridges are also wide but well built with decent views. I personally love these trails because I can use them to extend longer rides while enjoying a little shade.

Cedar Point Environmental Park - This small nature park across the road from Lemon Bay High School is not really made for Mountain Biking so I only use it as a ride through. Cedar Point has 2 miles worth of narrow, twisting trails riding on grass, sand, muck and pine needles. It is a slow ride best done in low gears, it can be techy in places and you are almost certain to see cool animals. I've seen a bobcat and an eagle.

Myakka State Forest - On the larger side of rides comes Myakka. With 13 miles of marked trails there is plenty to explore and you have a good shot of seeing wildlife. However, you will also get fried by the sun as there is not much cover. You can enter the park from several sides with just a bike but the rear entrance is often flooded during the summer months. The front entrance also connects to the 4 mile long bike path that lines Winchester Boulevard.

Lemon Bay Park - With over 200 acres alongside the intercoastal, Lemon Bay park has some cool bridges for easy nature walks with sweeping views of the waterway. As for biking, there is not much here. One path made of crushed shells will keep you out of the puddles but it is only a mile long. It's good for a little spinning just don't run over any pedestrians or armadillos.

Cape Haze Pioneer Trail - I've known about this bike path for a while but didn't ride it until recently because it sits in the middle of nowhere. It starts behind Wendy's Restaurant on 776 and is a 7 mile straight shot to Placida. Not much shade, only a couple turn offs, very little to look at but perfect for a long uninterrupted ride.

Boca Grande Trail - The second prettiest ride in Englewood is not off road but it is a bike trail. There is a 6 mile paved bike path that travels the length of the island. It starts before the bridge and ends at lighthouse beach. I have ridden it in the past on some terrible bikes which had no problem dodging iguanas and old rich people. A big bonus is that the path passes inches from the window of an ice cream shop in downtown Boca.

Beach Road - They could rename it paradise road if they wanted. Beach Road is seven miles of eye candy. It  rests under canopy trees, passes three beaches complete with bikini clad ladies and has views of enormous winter homes. You are almost guaranteed to see another cyclist at almost anytime on any day. Plus the rides over Lemon Bay Bridge and Manasota Key Bridge are the only climbs for many miles.

There are more places to ride in Englewood and I will find them all.
Check back for updates.