Monthly Archives: January 2009

Specialized Rib Cage Pro Road: Water Bottle Cage to Hold Gatorade Bottles

At Ironman Florida, Gatorade was the sponsor. During the bike, they handed out those Gatorade bottles that resemble water bottles. They have this twist close top which you can suck fluid from. However, annoyingly, they have a smaller diameter than traditional re-fillable water bottles and normal water bottle cages don’t hold them securely. Upon a light bounce of the bike, they go flying much much sooner than normal water bottles. This annoyed me to no end as bounces are accentuated by the XLab Flatwing where my cages were attached to, behind my seat. The only place I’ve found that holds Gatorade bottles is in the cage attached to my seat tube, where I usually keep one in case of hot races where I want to grab a 3rd water bottle and keep it in reserve between aid stations.
However, I did see one guy who had some cages that seemed to hold Gatorade bottles tight. The unfortunate thing was that I totally forgot the brand of the cages I saw!
I finally searched around for cages that might hold Gatorade bottles. Normal ones just don’t cut it. You can bend metal ones to hold them, but then inserting regular water bottles re-bend them back to not holding Gatorade bottles.
Remember: I start with my own water bottles filled with my own formula/fluid. During the race, I pick up extra Gatorade bottles to supplement fluid when needed. So the cages need to accept both regular water bottle diameters and the lesser Gatorade bottle diameter.
I went and bought a Gatorade water bottle and brought it to my favorite bike shop, Cupertino Bike Shop, to try out a few cages. I think I found the right cage: The Specialized Rib Cage Pro Road.

It grips nicely onto the gnurling around the Gatorade bottle, and also somehow can expand to hold both normal water bottles and Gatorade bottles.

While no cage will entirely hold bottles securely on a big bounce, these should hold them in more conditions than regular cages. With many races having Gatorade as a sponsor, I am glad to have found these cages so that I can feel good about putting them on my XLab Flatwing cages instead of only in my seat tube cage.
If only Gatorade would make their bottles the same diameter as normal water bottles…

One Arm Swimming Progression and Notes

For those who are curious, the progression I swam to build my one arm swimming strength is below:
4×100 – 25 R, 25 L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R, 25 L; RI :10
2×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 3×100 – 25 R, 25 L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R 25 L; RI :10
3×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 3×100 – 25 R, 25 L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R 25 L; RI :10
4×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 4×100 – 25 R, 25 L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R 25 L; RI :10
2×150 – 75 R, 75 L; 3×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 4×100 – 25 R, 25L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R, 25 L; RI :10
2×150 – 75 R, 75 L build 25s; 3×100 – 50 R, 50 L neg split 50s; 4×100 – 25 R, 25 L; 4×50 – 25 R, 25L; RI :10
2×150 – 75 R, 75 L build 25s; 2×150 – 75 R, 75 L mod; 3×100 – 50 R 50 L mod; 4×50 – 25 R, 25 L; RI :10
3x( 150 build 25s, 150 mod); 3×100 neg split; RI :10
2×200 – 100 R, 100 L; 2×150 – 75 R, 75 L; 2×100 – 50 R, 50 L; RI :10
3×200 – 100 R, 100 L; 3×150 – 75 R, 75 L; 3×100 – 50 R, 50 L; RI :10
2×300 – 150 R, 150 L; 2×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 4×50 – 25 R, 25 L; RI :10
1×400 – 200 R, 200 L; 2×100 – 50 R, 50 L; 2×100 – 25 R, 25 L repeat; 4×50 – 25 R, 25 L; RI :10
10×100 – 50 R, 50 L; RI :10
1×400 – 200 R, 200 L; 1×300 – 150 R, 150 L; 1×200 – 100 R, 100 L, 1×100 – 50 R, 50 L; RI :10
1. The net distance on the entire set is about 1000-1200 yards/meters. Total time to finish this workout is probably about 30-45 minutes depending on what I did after the main set.
2. I swim this workout on a 25 yard pool.
3. I started in the offseason and swam this workout 2X/week. It allowed me to focus on one arm swimming strength alone.
4. I would warm up with 400 EZ swimming, then jump into this workout.
5. I did this workout with fins, to give my body an extra push and not let me wallow in the middle of a lane when I got tired.
6. Following this workout, I would either do sprints of 50s, or pull with paddles and do 25 EZ/25 sprint alternating for about 200y. At the later stages, I would sometimes just cool down after the main set because my muscles were too tired. I did not attempt to force my tired muscles to do anything else afterwards, as I considered this a strength only workout and didn’t tie in any other elements like endurance. I would focus on that during other workouts in the week.
7. The stress on my muscles was quite high, especially after I crossed the 200y mark of 100 right arm, 100 left arm. At the same time, I started into the base phase of my training too. That’s when I started doing this workout once a week, and swimming normal Masters workouts another 2X during the week.
8. When you’re one arm swimming, you can really focus your attention on the stroke and pull of each arm. I really put my attention on each and every stroke, and try to make each one the perfect stroke and be able to repeat it through the entire set. What’s the perfect stroke for me:
a. Body form – Keeping as straight as a needle. I try not to let my flutter kick ruin my body straightness. I lay on one side and don’t let my body sway or rock. I relax and think that I am a log just floating on the water and just paddling the log.
b. Head position – I keep it aligned with my body. I don’t lift it up during any part of the stroke (another thing I found out I was doing!) but keep it in one place. I put my cheek against my bicep to maintain form and also close up the gap between my face and arm to prevent a possible place where drag from water can occur. I had to experiment with how deep my head was in order to keep my hips from dropping lower. With my body composition, I believe that my head is actually lower than many instructors might want it. But I also try to keep my forehead slightly up to cut through the water better, versus having the water barrel over my dipped head and create drag.
c. As my stroke enters the water, I try for the most quiet, non-bubble creating entry into the water. I am most successful with my right arm, not so good with my left arm. It has been talked about in other literature that creating bubbles wastes energy, and also is evidence of a messy, energy-using entry into the water. I try for perfect entry every time.
d. The moment it enters the water, I extend fully and almost immediately catch. The catch is when I bend my hand downward to “grab” water. Following next is my forearm bend to catch even more water, but as my forearm sweeps down, I also feel the actually stroke begin to work. I make sure that I bend ONLY at the elbow and keep my upper arm high. I don’t let the entire arm drop down deep into the water. This is evidence of getting tired and also will create more drag as the deep water presses against the arm.
e. I keep my elbow high as I pull back the arm, down the length of my body. I try to keep the elbow skating along the surface of the water, or perhaps less than an inch under the surface as I move my arm/hand back against the water.
f. I try to keep the stroke strong through the entire length of the stroke. In the past, I discovered that my stroke would always start strong, but then fizzle out towards the end. So I focus on using my big lat muscles to pull back and not my shoulders, which are small and would get strained. As my hand/arm passes my shoulder and towards my hip, I start thinking about using my tricep to sweep the water back behind me with the final extension of the hand. This is where I had the most problems, where I was losing energy at the end of the stroke and was just letting my hand just drift backward and not using energy to get that extra push at the end.
g. I focus on keeping the hand/arm pressing straight back against the water, and putting 100% of the backward force into exactly forward motion. In the past, my arm was drifting up and down, and even moving backward in a circle when it started getting tired. Your tired arm will start to move around in order to find the place of least resistance to move backward; this is bad! It needs to push against the area of resistance that creates 100% forward motion. I focused on making every stroke put 100% of my energy into going forward EVERY TIME.
h. The only thing missing from this type of workout is the addition of your hip roll into the force of the stroke. I only lay on my side swimming and don’t attempt to add my hip roll to give extra oomph. I focus on arm only and do not rock my body at all. I work on adding my hip roll during normal swimming.
9. It’s OK to repeat workouts until you master it from a muscle standpoint.
10. I found this workout to be extremely demanding on my swim muscles. I need adequate recovery afterwards, which is at least a day in between until my next swim workout.

One Armed Swimming

Every now and then, my swim coach would make us do what he called the “scooter drill”.
You take a pull buoy and hold it one hand in front of you, as you swim with one arm for a set number of strokes. Then you switch hands and swim with the other arm for a number of strokes. It’s sort of like getting on a scooter and pushing constantly with one leg to make it go.
It’s also an annoying drill because no one is used to swimming with one arm generally.
I hated it. As I swam down the 50m length, I would be OK for a few strokes and then I start getting tired, and get slower and slower, until I’m totally wiped out just reaching the other wall.
I grew determined. I wanted to be able to do this drill, which others seemed to do OK and seem to be so fast going down the length of the pool.
During my off season, I started doing intervals of swimming with each arm for 25m. I would successively increase both the number of intervals and the distance I swam with each arm. I eventually reached swimming a 400m with one armed swimming for 200m each. I would then do other shorter intervals for a total of a 1000m set. I would do this 2-3X a week during the off season, and as I entered into the base phase, I would do this once a week while swimming normal workouts the other 2 times.
As expected, my “scooter drill” improved greatly. I got much faster and fatigued a lot less, as I was working out with one arm a lot longer than the scooter drill intervals. But another more amazing thing happened; my regular swimming got a ton stronger and faster.
One big thing I suffered from was that my stroke would kind of fizzle out at the end of the stroke, near my hip as it exitted the water. In doing one arm swimming, I was now able to keep my stroke strong through its entire length, and for longer durations. I could still be strong swimming for workouts up to 4000m. In addition, I was able to lower my stroke rate and thus not be so out of breath and/or wiped out AND my swim speed increased.
One arm swimming really bummed me out. I rallied, took matters into my own hands, and improved my one arm swimming ability in a focused manner. But then I realized the benefits of this strength increase in both endurance and speed.

Stopping Muscles from Cramping Up

A friend and I were IMing one night about her muscles cramping up. I thought that it would be interesting to write a post about it, since in my early triathlon career, I suffered from cramping in the most inopportune times during races.
I read an article in one of the popular triathlon magazines that talked about the causes of cramps and what can help prevent them. It actually showed some evidence that electrolyte supplementation didn’t help prevent cramps. Then there are all the medical research into what happens within muscles to create these painful situation. Of course, each coach and athlete has their own formula for preventing and managing muscle cramps.
In this post, I’m gonna skip all the scientific stuff and talk about my own discoveries. Note that everyone is different, and I think that applying a systematic way of figuring out why you cramp and what can prevent it can be your formula for success.
What causes cramps?
What I’ve found causes cramps are:
1. Electrolyte depletion. I sweat buckets in general and that just causes electrolytes to flow out of my body. This increases during warmer days, and seems to be less of an issue during cooler days. During races, I always build up this layer of grit on my skin, which is just the salt buildup from sweating so much and for such a long time. Thus if you don’t replace electrolytes, you’re more likely to cramp. So those who get dehydrated during races are really susceptible to cramping.
2. Over-contraction of muscles, especially muscles that are already tired and/or tight. My classic example of this is trying to stretch tight quads during a race. You reach down to grab your ankle and pull your leg back towards your butt. But since your hamstrings are also tired, they seize up in a cramp while trying to stretch your quads! Needless to say I NEVER stretch my quads now during a race. Another example is when I swam last week, and for some reason my plantar fascia was very tight. Then I shoved that foot into a fin and swam a long set with fins. The plastic boot on the fin was snug, but it also squeezed down on my foot so much while I was kicking that it caused my whole foot to cramp up. Not fun.
3. The muscles just get overtaxed and overworked, and thus cramp in protest, despite your mind willing the body to do more. This has happened to me early in my triathlon career at half and full Iron distance races. I have found two instances why this happens. The first is due to simple pushing of my body, typically my legs, and then towards the end of my race I cramp up because they are tired and I’m trying to either go faster, or go up a hill, etc. The second has to do with imbalances in my body. I have found that I naturally exert more of my right leg because it’s stronger than my left. This tires out my right leg more so than my left, and thus it can cramp up whereas my left is still OK.
What can prevent muscle cramps?
1. Electrolyte supplementation. Depending on how your body is, it could be that all you need is to drink Gatorade instead of water, or you may need take electrolyte tablets several times an hour plus electrolytes in sports drink and gels (like me). It varies widely between individuals and also in race conditions. I’ve been able to back off on electrolyte tablets during races with cool conditions successfully.
2. Get stronger. I would say that along with 1, this is the other really important measure for preventing muscle cramps. By really focusing on getting stronger during training, I have found that this has been the other major factor in preventing my muscles from getting to a potentially cramped state. So lots of hill repeats, and practicing accelerating up hills, for both running and biking. This also applies to interval work, especially on the bike, to extend the duration of maintaining watts while pedaling.
3. Kinesio tape. The curative/supportive properties of this tape are amazing. By taping from insertion to origin, you provide a slight tug to muscles in the “resting direction”, which helps muscles to relax and reduce the possibility of cramping.
4. Sportlegs pills. This amazing supplement helps minimize the production of lactate and exercise by-products in the muscles. When there is no “burn” in my muscles, it helps them stay relaxed even when tired and/or when I push hard. By not having exercise by-products in my muscles, they stay less tight and less susceptible to cramping.
5. Heat acclimatization. Adapting your body to function at high effort in hot weather helps your body figure out how to function under those conditions and not cramp, or just plain collapse. It learns how to sweat and to deliver energy and oxygen to muscles during hot weather, which is critical if you’re going to race during super hot days.
To discover what worked for me, I started experimenting. I didn’t do any kind of special blood testing. Suffice to say, it took a while to figure out what would work and what wouldn’t.
I started by upping my electrolyte intake during races and found that I got up to 3 Saltstick caps per hour, plus 2 scoops of Endurolyte powder in every tall water bottle, plus a scoop of First Endurance EFS. I also take a Powergel every 45 minutes, with its own set of extra electrolytes. I also take 3 Sportlegs capsules every 3 hours, and it’s amazing how I can push hard and barely feel any burn, but only just a general tiredness in those muscles. This works for me and keeps me going during races.
But I didn’t feel good about taking all that extra stuff, even during training. So then I made sure I got my body more adapted to the high stress of racing. I made sure I did negative split training on every long run, or would descend during loops up to 3+ hours. I did up to 4 laps up Kings Mountain and Old La Honda, which just toughened my legs to biking at continuous hard effort for long periods of time.
Then I also started running mid-afternoon, when temps were highest. I ran 3+ hours in 90+ degrees for many weeks. It was tough at first, but quickly got easier until I was able to run and do negative splits and descends.
It worked wonders for getting me through races both faster and cramp free.
A bit unscientific, and a collaboration of many different things I’ve read about or been told about. But I can’t argue with the results either.

Bike Benchmark with the Computrainer and WKO+ Software 1/5/2009

At the start of the season, I took a bike benchmark test to set a baseline from which training levels would be calculated. We used a Computrainer hooked up to a PC to record the results. The course I used was a flat 10 mile course so that I did not get distracted by hills. WKO+ by Trainingpeaks software pulled up the data to produce the results shown below. The test was:
Warmup for about 15 minutes
10 minutes at highest maintainable, even intensity, knowing that I would have to do another 10 minutes afterwards at comparable intensity
Rest 3 minutes
10 minutes at highest maintainable, even intensity, comparable to the first 10 minute block.
If I did this right, the average watts and effort should be similar to the first 10 minute block. If I overdid it on the first 10 minute interval, I would show a marked drop in watts on the second interval, potentially meaning I should do this test again and with better pacing.
The results of the 10 minute intervals are below:

Larger WKO+ graph screenshot here
Time 0:00-10:00
Average wattage 203
Average HR 173
Baseline HR 168, but then rose to 180 as i neared end of 10 min
Highest HR 189
RPE 8->10
Time 13:00-23:00
Average wattage 192
Average HR 174
Baseline HR 174, but then went to 180 as i redlined
Highest HR 184
RPE 9->10
I used the heart rate ear clip, which got super flaky on me clipped to my ear which got sweaty during the warmup and caused the readings to fluctuate or disappear entirely. On a whim, I clipped it to my finger and that actually worked better, although I found that for best consistent results I had to keep my finger as still as possible. For the future, I ordered a HR wireless strap and adapter which should improve things dramatically. I also need to replace a chip inside the control unit – scary!
I paced myself OK, close enough that I don’t need to re-test. I did go out a bit hard on the first interval which cost me on the second interval. Making to the end of the second interval was really tough and I found myself going up and down in watts as I would lose concentration and energy and need a small recovery.
My lactate threshold HR is probably around 173-174 or so and seemed to have drifted upwards from 172 which was from a benchmark test many years ago. My 100% effort workout wattage is around 195-200, which was what I suspected as I did many of my coach’s workouts computing workout watts from a 100% level of 200. This seemed to work well with me and getting through workouts with effort but not flaming out.
By the end of the season, I hope to do one or both of two things, which is to:
1. Raise my 100% level.
2. Increase my ability to maintain a higher watts over a longer period of time, like a race.

Lance Armstrong and Chris Carmichael on Twitter!

How cool is this: both Lance Armstrong (lancearmstrong) and Chris Carmichael (trainright) are on Twitter and tweeting their training. It’s pretty amusing to follow Lance and check out what he is doing right now. Apparently he’s in Kona hanging out, but also training furiously with Chris. Heard on trainright:
good day of training for lance.. 45min climb after 4hrs in his legs, solid pace, 359avg watts for 46:44, not bad for nearly 40yrs 🙂
Geez 359 watts average for 46:44!!! I can barely get to 160 watts for that amount of time. Think I’ll just keep that tweet to myself (haha)….
Very cool to see both Lance and his coach, Chris, using the latest internet tools to keep in contact with their fans.