Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fitness Grade for May 2012

At the end of April I set some goals for myself to attain in May. Let's see how well I did:


I said I would ride 160 miles on my bicycle, which would include commuting to work whenever possible. I did this, and in fact rode 166 miles in the month of May.


I said I would run 21 miles but I only did 19 miles. That's 90% of my goal. However, I had two other goals that I also did not reach. I said my longest run would be 4.8 miles (but I only did 3.74). I said I would experiment with interval training...and I did not, so I drop a letter grade!


I said I would swim 10.25 miles and I swam 13 miles. But my grade was dragged down by the fact that I did numerous short workouts rather than less numerous long ones. I also had a very specific 8-point plan for each day. I fulfilled 5 out of 8 of these on most days. I did not do as much diving, or butterfly, or IM distances as I said I would.


I'm not sure what to give myself in this area because I did go on 4 different walks totalling 10.5 miles, but my goal was mostly social and not birding.


I said I would lift weights three days a week during the month of May. Instead, I recorded 3 workouts for the entire month (grade = 25%). I saw my bicep size decrease (minus 10), my forearm size stayed the same, and my chest size increased (plus 10). I did follow through with the committment to do leg raises as a warmup each time, so plus 10. My grade is calculated as follows: 25-10+10+10 = 35%.

These grades average out to a C grade. Tomorrow is June 1. I'll come back and post some goals for June tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trek 700 "overhaul"

I own two bicycles and the oldest is a 1990 Trek Multitrack 700. Back in 1990, the concept of a hybrid bike--the combination of road bike and mountain bike--was fairly new, so I think they named this particular model "Multitrack" to help people understand why it was different. Today my bike is different not because it is a hybrid but because it is so old.

I don't know how many miles are on this bike. In the last 22 years I've had at least three bicycle computers, and as each one fails, it loses the odometer reading. My current odometer is around 600 miles. The last cycle computer didn't last long because a squirrel chewed through a wire and there was no way to repair it. But at that time (2006) I was regularly commuting to work on that bike and doing some other rides, too. So I easily had anopther 500 miles on it. In high school (1990-1992) I rode a lot, then I only did scattered rides in my college and grad school years. So adding another 800 miles I get a sum of at least 1900 miles. That's actually not a lot of miles at all for a 22 year old bicycle.

But it is a lot of miles for the drivetrain, specifically the chain. I didn't know chains could wear out until last year when someone at my bike shop told me I had a worn chain. According to Todd Downs, "as the chain wears, the inner surfaces of the chain's pins are slowly ground away, effectively increasing the center-to-center distance between the pins" (p.174). This causes the chain to elongate and not fit into the teeth of the cogs that make up the chainset and rear cassette. As I said, I hadn't noticed this until someone pointed it out. But upon inspection, I saw daylight between some chain links and my cog's teeth where there sould be none. So, off to the repair shop for a replacement chain!

Rear Cassette
I also read in Todd Downs' book that "putting more than 1,500 to 2,000 miles on a single chain and cogset will most likely [result in the] need to replace the entire cassette and chain at the same time" (p.164). Uh-oh. I put a new cassette on the list for my bike shop to tackle. I was concerned that the front chainset would also need to be replaced, as I saw the middle chainring had some broken teeth. To my surprise, the bike technician said the chainring had always been that way. The design includes having the middle chainring with a couple ground-down teeth so that the chain shifts more easily from one chainring to another. Well I'll be. I learned a lot today at my bike shop!

I still had two more items for the bike technicians to fix. First, I complained that the rear brake squealed whenever I used it, and it didn't seem that strong anymore, either. Remember, this equipment is 22 years old! The technician looked at my brake pads and didn't see excessive wear, and the rubber still seemed pliable. So he said they'd adjust them. I note on the work order that he didn't mention the squeal, so I hope they fix that.

The last thing on my list was the shifter. I showed them how the left shifter tended to skip the middle chainring so that I would downshift straight from gear 21 to gear 7 (rather than 14). When riding, this causes me to lose a lot of speed as I approach a hill. I can get to gear 14 by gently pressing the shifter, but not always. Hmmm. The technician diagnosed the problem quickly. There is some tiny part inside the shifter that is broken or otherwise not functioning right. He said they's take a look and see what they could do, but otherwise the only solution would be to replace the entire shifter/brake lever. "That would be really expensive," he said, and he seemed to dismiss that possibility outright. I appreciate his honesty and respect for my wallet's resources, but I wish I had pressed him on what "expensive" really meant. In my mind, I had already saved some expense by him telling me that my chainset could be spared. He had also relieved a concern I had about my bottom bracket, and he didn't think my brakes needed to be replaced, either. I entered the bike shop thinking my bill would be about $200--about half of what it would take to replace the entire bike with a new one. I left the bike shop with an estimate of $100. So expensive or not, I was actually ready to pay for a new shifter if he had given me that choice. Ultimately, I may have to do that anyway, but in the meantime I'll see what they can do.

Something I crossed off my list before getting to the bike shop was an adjustment to the kickstand. My kickstand was loose on the frame and while I can temorarily fix that by tightening the bolt, it always gets loose again. Yesterday I took off the kickstand, cleaned it, and tightened the bolt again. I noticed the washer that goes on the bolt was cracked, so I assume that is the problem. It is not producing enough friction to hold the kickstand mounting bracket in place. I felt kind of silly asking the bike shop to replace a washer for me, so I've elected to do that myself when I get the bike back.

They had to order a part, so the shop will have my bike for about 10 days. Meanwhile, I've got my Trek 1.5 road bike to keep me happy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April 2012 Report and Goals for May

In April 2012 I logged a total of 140 miles in running (17 miles), swimming (9 miles), and cycling (107 miles), plus a few random hikes (7 miles). My overall total of 140 miles is the second-highest monthly total in the last year, and this is due to well-above average running miles and my highest monthly total of miles on the bike since this time last year. My April totals include two competitive swim meets and one 5K running race. At my swim meets I broke three personal short-course yards (SCY) records: (1) 100-Fly in 1:23.58, (2) 50-Back in 0:39.25--as part of a relay, and (3) 400-Free in 5:53.02. My 5K performance was stellar (for me), as I did it in 25 min at an 8:05 pace. This completely shattered my personal best pace of 8:54 in October 2011.
I'm doing the butterfly stroke during the 100-Fly event at one of my swim meets.

So that's pretty amazing, isn't it? I'm only talking about my personal improvements here, as I know there are plenty of people who go more miles, swim faster, and run faster. But overall, for me, I was pretty hot in the month of April.

I want to continue this into May...and add to it. Here are my goals:

1. Exceed 160 miles on the bike (a 50% increase). I need to train for a 2-day bike excursion in early June that will total 150 miles. It's part of the "Bike MS" program of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I plan to commute to work by bicycle whenever the weather cooperates.

2. Exceed 21 miles running (a 50% increase). I want to do an Olympic-length triathlon later in the summer, which means I've got to work up to a 10K distance. Therefore, sometime this month, my goal is to do a single run that exceeds 4.8 miles. This represents a 10% increase over the longest run I've ever done. On a separate day, I want to try to do intervals--running fast for a short burst and then running slow to recuperate before repeating the cycle. Doing intervals will increase my speed over time, but I'm more interested in increasing my distance at this point.

3. Swim an average amount: 10.25 miles. My competitive swim season is over, so I don't really need to have a stellar month of distance swimming. However, I do want to revamp my workouts and make them more thoughtful and strategic. Once school is out, I will do longer workouts (60 min) at least three times a week.  These will include:
  • 1x500 warm-up
  • 6x50s freestyle concentrating on posture
  • 2x50s breaststroke rest :15
  • 2x50s backstroke rest :15
  • 2x50s butterfly rest :15
  • 4x100 IMs rest :30
  • 2x200 free cool down
I will end each extended practice with some dives to increase the distance I travel in the air while horizontal.

4. I still plan to go on some hikes, specifically to look for birds, which is my other hobby.

5. Weight-lifting. I want to start this up again. In fact, my goal for May is to lift 3 days a week for >20 min (not including warm up). I always make weight-lifting goals and then renege on them. So with maybe with such a timid goal as this I will be able to keep it up. One problem with the above goal is that there is no reward it I attain it. With running and swimming and biking, I can measure my progress in terms of pace. I could certainly express weightlifting goals in terms of maximum pounds lifted, but I don't yet have a sense of satisfaction with that. Besides, I tend to hurt myself if I max out the weights. So, I'm going to step out on a limb and make the following measurable goal that will make me feel really good if I attain it. I will seek out bigger muscles. This strategy seemed to work for me in 2008-2009 when I saw a 1-inch increase in biceps circumference and chest size.

Today's measurements
Upper Arm = 11.5 inches. Goal at end of May: 11.75.
Lower Arm = 11.0 inches. Goal at end of May: 11.25.  (I'm measuring my left arm, prior to any workout, at the thickest point near the elbow)
Chest = 42.25 inches. Goal at end of May: 42.5 inches.

I will add leg raises to every weights workout, as this will strengthen the muscles I need to maintain proper swimming posture.