Thursday, August 27, 2015

Supplemental thoughts

Something I actually get quizzed on quite a bit after my misadventures and recovery from my layoff is what kind of supplements I use. Let's get it out of the way first and foremost, this isn't a medical suggestion, I'm not a doctor (I don't even play one on TV) and screwing this stuff up can be detrimental to your health. So do your own research (always) and talk to your doctor before you go hog wild on some of this stuff.

So many supplements, but how much of it is quality stuff?
With that out of the way, the first thing is finding a brand you can trust. All supplements aren't created equal unfortunately, so the multivitamin from your grocery store might not be the same quality as what you get from somewhere like Thorne. It's not always a case of you get what you pay for, but there are a LOT of questionable quality pills on the market, so again... Research research research before you decide to buy. Personally, there are three companies I feel pretty safe saying I'd be using their products. This isn't exhaustive or even comprehensive, just some I like.

My personal favorite
Thorne Research / Exos - This is what I use for pretty much everything. Exos (formerly ThorneFX) even has a scheduled delivery you can setup online, (they even discount it if you commit) so you can set and forget and still not run out of product. I'll be honest, I chose Thorne out of the three companies listed because that's what my doctor uses and recommends. With similarly good reviews, I thought it was the safe play to use them.

Some of the best reviews online!
Pure Encapsulations - This is the one company I listed that I've never actually used. However, they were the first brand I came up with on my own searches. Do some googling "best quality supplements" and reviews on Pure Encapsulations and you'll likely come to the same conclusion. They have their own sports segment and everything looks to be top notch. The only thing I have against them is their website... it looks very infomercial'ish.

Simple and efficient
Now - Generally the cheapest of these companies and with a "minimalistic" style, Now nonetheless has an excellent reputation for quality products. This is the only brand of the ones listed that I can find locally in Knoxville. The products I have used have been excellent in my opinion.

So, what do I take?

Multivitamins. Capsules over pills and a morning/night mix. I think that for athletes (and especially the endurance variety) it's just a good catch all for most of us to be taking. Yes, you should be getting everything in your diet, but it's easy to let something fall through the cracks and for the most part you're pretty safe from oversupplementing to a dangerous level with a multi.

Iron. I think there is probably more low iron/ferritin in endurance athletes than most of us know about, but Iron is one of those things you shouldn't / can't guess wrong IMO. After multiple blood panels I've been set to taking two iron pills daily because I just can't seem to keep good ferritin levels while training without it. Iron sucks getting used to... headaches and constipation are fun symptoms to deal with until the body acclimates. Too much Iron is very bad as well, so again... know what you're getting into!

Vitamin D. Another thing that a lot of people seem to be lacking is "vitamin" D. I believe you want this in liquid form and start with a few drops during winter and possibly during summer as well if you are like me and avoid the sun like a vampire.

Zinc and Magnesium. I used to take ZMA's (a mix) before bed, but recently have split them up and am dosing magnesium regularly but zinc only after tough workouts. That has a lot to do with my personal levels, but I also have come to think that it's probably best overall to split them up.

Melatonin. Personally I think I sleep much better taking melatonin than when I skip it, so I use it. It's the only thing I've listed that I've continued to use since I was in high school, so I guess it has won me over.

And that's pretty much it. I take BCAA's and some protein powder post workouts, and sometimes cycle Beta-Alanine before races, but none of those are really in the same category.

That's what I take, and it has been working well keeping me healthy. Of course once again, your specific needs could be quite different, so I encourage you to do your own research and talk with somebody a bit more qualified!

Thanks for reading, I've been slammed at work this week so hopefully all this came together (after multiple stop/starts in the text.) in a coherent way! Regardless, I appreciate you slogging through it!

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tips for Triathletes first Criterium

One would think bike racing would be an easy thing for a triathlete to come to and do fairly well at, and to some extent you would be correct. However, there are many aspects that are both intimidating and frustrating for triathletes, especially for the most taboo of races... the Cat 5 crit. Road races are generally a bit smoother transition because I would guess the majority of triathletes still participate in group rides at least semi-regularly... and besides the tone of a bike race being a bit more serious, it can easily turn into a group ride with a few attacks and a sprint.

Knoxvelo has a training crit series every year which, while having an A & B group for the more experienced, focuses on the C group and helping people get into crit racing. Unfortunately, even "beginner friendly" crits are often anything but. The key difference between a triathlon and a bike race... everyone at the bike race is there to win. (At least in theory... to accomplish a goal is more accurate) As a rule cyclists are a bit more uptight / serious business than the normal triathlete atmosphere meaning even beginner series races can feel anything except friendly. So, having done a good number of crits now and coming from the triathletes background, here are some of my tips for everyone new, but mostly those from a tri background. Most of these come from my own mistakes! :)

- It's not a time trial
There is a time to attack and TT off the front. Sometimes it even works. It usually doesn't work the first lap of the race by yourself. Beginner races may seem somewhat dull/slow for a fairly well trained triathlete, so the natural tendency is to put down some power and ride off into the sunset. The trouble is what generally ends up happening is you pull the group around until you get tired, then get popped off the back when you run out of steam. People love to see triathletes in group settings because triathletes love to take a pull and unless you are considerably stronger than multiple people in the race, you aren't getting away from the start.

- Likewise, the strongest guy isn't usually the guy that wins
You can be a beast out there, leading the race lap after lap... heck, you can have the stoutest power file after the race, and STILL come in at the back of the pack. In triathlon having a steady power means a fast bike split, in crits it means you are working too hard giving other people free rides.

- Take your free laps.
This is probably the most important thing I see new guys NOT doing in our races. They don't take their free laps to get back in the field. They get dropped and try to chase back on over and over... you don't learn anything about crit racing like that. That's time trialing... you know how to do that already. If you get popped, pull over and ask to get put back in. There's no shame in it, you're there to learn the skill set needed for fast group riding. You can't learn that riding by yourself.

When the pace slows, guys bunch up.

- Figure out whose line it is
General rule of thumb, if somebody is in front of you, it's their line to take. You are responsible for the wheel in front of you, not the wheel behind. So if somebody takes a line and it cuts you off, that's your fault. This is why staying IN the group is important, you need to learn where your line goes in regards to the rest of the pack. The best way I've heard it put over the internet is like this...

(Taken from Della Casa, great place to read some more in depth stuff)
If you're on the inside, follow the person in front of you
If you're in the middle, take a parallel line to the person beside (outside) you
If you're on the outside, follow the person in front or parallel to the man beside you

None of those are likely "optimal" lines... those exist generally only for the first person in the group or the breakaway. A lot of crit courses (most) are kind of "4 corners" Nascar style tracks and this is pretty intuitive, but (at least around here) we get a lot of S turns and 180° turns where this stuff gets much more important.

At the front of this 180° I get to take whatever line I want

Same turn 4 guys back, now I take the line of everyone else

Crash 5 gets it's nickname because of this. Guys do something stupid unpredictable and clip wheels with somebody else... then you're on the ground. Unpredictable things include straying from your line, pushing way out during a tight turn (hold your line) and generally just being where you shouldn't be. smooth.

- Sprints are for the podium
So if you come into the last straightaway in 20th, don't sprint. A lot of wrecks happen because somebody thinks they've got a shot to win a sprint starting 15 places down. If you aren't in the top few guys of the field in a Cat5 race you probably aren't going to sprint to the podium with 50 meters to go. I've heard it said (and believe) many times the most important sprint is to a good position in the final corner. If you have aspirations to be up front, be up front before you get out of that corner.

War Face for the sprint!
-Have Fun
For real... all these are tips, generalizations and things that *should* be pretty common sense. Don't show up to your first crit all nerves... take a deep breath, hang in there a few laps and get comfortable. I know I said everyone there is there to win, but more accurately everyone there should have a goal to accomplish. Your first crit... your goal is to learn, be safe and have fun. Accomplish that and your day is won.

Give it a try! It's something very different from what we are used to, and a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading!
- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Working on my mechanic game

Imagination is the only limit... well, that, money, experience, motivation...

I was hunting a Cervelo P4. At the suggestion of a few friends whose opinion's I trust, and after checking some stack/reach charts, I broadened my search to include a 7 series Speed Concept. P4's seem to be somewhat rare in small sizes, but medium 7 series are all over the place, so I quickly came up with a frame/post/fork on the cheap. It was kind of beat and ugly, but I planned to paint it anyways so right up my alley.

One of the reason's I was pushed in the Trek's direction was how crappy the P4 was to work on. Well, after some serious time spent tuning the Speed Concept I can say, this thing is a nightmare for your normal owner, and caused some serious headaches, trips to Home Depot and cases of Guinness to be consumed before I can finally say it's in acceptable riding condition. Most of this stems from two primary issues (not having the integrated front end I get to skip that)

The first is that I insist on using my Nokons. The issue with that is that the SC was really designed for you to run cable housing INTO the frame (why?) all the way. I just wanted to run the liner inside because...well that makes sense... but the large top tube hole and nearly useless rubber grommet will not accept such a setup. Something solid is needed to keep the cables from pulling through when pressure is applied. (you when you brake) I tried a couple of different solutions before finally deciding just making a carbon fiber cap would be the easiest (and pretty fly) solution. It turned out pretty well... I should really make another one to clean up some of the imperfections in it, but it will work as is.

The other thing is the rear brake design Trek decided on. On the positive, once you get it dialed in the performance is pretty good, certainly better than many (thinking of you original Zipp 2001 brake) and definitely enough for how much you (should) be using your rear brake. However, I guess I'm spoiled on Tririg's center pull design, which isn't adequate but excellent. I'm 99% sure I can modify an Omega to make it work on the SC, and if I get too much headache out of the stock Trek one I may explore that, but for now I'm happy with the SC's stock setup. Some Speed Concept Rear Brake tips... a little late to the game, but it might help someone else in the future.
- Many of the small pieces must be set a specific way. Mainly the little "U" cover and the small pinch bolt in the wedge. If either are installed backwards (very easy to do with the little bolt as it LOOKS like it should fit the other way.) then it will hang and you will have dragging brakes.
- You need to measure the cable and cut it nearly flush with the bottom of the wedge. Any longer and it will either catch on the return spring or get in the way of the brake cover... both leading to poor performance.
- The easiest way to set the brake up for inevitable "later" cable changes/moving is to actually get it set how you like it, then make permanent marker marks on the frame so you can quickly get it set back up without endless adjusting.
- Use spacers with the brake pads to do minor adjustments to width, useful for multiple wheelsets of varying widths.

And on a completely unrelated note, I'd like to link to this article on Slowtwitch a week or so ago.

The Kool Stop kinky Bead Jack.

This tool has long been my secret weapon for getting race tires on my wheels. Especially my current Cycleops Powertap and Zipp Powertap, both are very, very tight fits. I would guess I've probably changed a few thousand tires in the last couple of years, but only after reading this article have I ever had success changing one with JUST my hands. The secret? Really getting the bead of the tire in the center of the wheel. Things are so much easier. Admit it... how many of you are like me and have been doing it wrong?

Finally, yesterday was the last Crit of our series this year. I had a good night, finishing second in my race and holding on in the pack for the B race. This could possibly be my last race this year (sadly) but for what little bit I've had a chance to race, I've enjoyed being back in the game.

Haven't shaved my legs in a few days so I had to bring as much pain as possible!

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it
- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sad week for cycling

You probably know about Tom Danielson's current saga. Until we see the B samples I'll refrain from painting a purely black/white picture here... but it definitely doesn't look good for him, despite what his twitter posts may declare.

One bad test or one bad apple?
Certainly I'm a pessimist at my core, so "if" it turns out that TD was indeed on the good stuff, I certainly won't be shocked. I think it's actually a good run for Garmin considering the number of ex dopers they have and have had on their team... seems at least a few of the guys would turn back to their old ways even if they had started with a "I don't want to do this any more" attitude. Taking for granted of course that TD is the only one not playing fair as opposed to the only one who got caught. (Which is a big if) But of course, pro cyclists dope...riveting stuff right.

What is more interesting and perhaps troubling is Jonathan Vaughters.

Paul Giamatti should definitely play Vaughters in a movie adaptation.

I'm in a tough place as to how I feel about JV's role. "Pushing forward" is how he put it on his twitter... basically responding to the numerous times he's said "one and out" was how he approached one of his squad getting popped. As in, game over for the team. The realist in me knows that isn't exactly how a team like Garmin works... there are a lot of people's lives who you put into turmoil when you pull the plug, not to mention many big companies who get a say in this stuff... all over one guy (we hope) who did the wrong thing. Add to that what JV has tried to build (again, we hope) and it would be difficult to follow through on that kind of threat. So the sympathetic gray area seeing side of me understands and identifies with this decision.

However, part of me wonders if this wasn't one of those moments when something TRULY helpful for the future of cycling came about, where IF he had followed through maybe everyone would have took a second and say "woah... this guy was serious."  Tom on Slowtwitch pondered what might happen in that scenario years down the road if he started another team with the same ethics... then would we see some change truly come to pro cycling? Of course in the short term things would be bad... jobs lost, team in turmoil (or completely disbanded) sponsors lost (although sponsors who hopped on to a "clean" team, which is what was marketed) but what about the long term? We'll never know what would have came from that, and now JV, whether begrudgingly or not, has shown that he is not sticking to his word... at least in this scenario. I just don't have it in me to be like some twitter users who have attacked him for not following through... I guess I just sympathize too much to his situation... but nonetheless, I sort of wish he had stood behind his word and shown that some guys in the peloton don't just want to talk about clean cycling, but want to work for it.

Of course, I had blood taken this morning and have been nursing a headache all day... so maybe I'm just rambling more than usual. If so, apologies, I blame it on blood loss.

Thanks so much for reading, even if it was a departure from the norm.

- Christopher Morelock