Friday, November 8, 2019

Biking As An Excuse Breaker

The bike was always freedom and adventure for me.  As a kid I would ride miles to a hobby shop to buy items I was interested in, from models, to army figurines.  It allowed me to visit "far" places without relying on someone else to get me there.

Later, it allowed me to get in an extra conditions tool.  Riding it to football weight lifting practice in the summer.  I would eventually get an old map and try to make a loop in the back roads of Jackson.  I think I even got in a "long" ride of 20ish miles!  An old ROSS steel ten speed, was my partner.  On those rides, I eventually got a bike computer and had a lot of hubris in knowing I was going 16-17 miles an hour.  My first time time I payed attention to Bike Magazine and saw the Tour De France riders averaged in the upper 20mph and low 30 mph, my ego was blown away.  What!  How is this possible!

I learned about bigger rings and drafting in the peloton.  But still, man that was fast.  I was not.

I did my first bike race around 30 miles in Fenton, Michigan.  Tour de Lacs.  I thought I would do OK, because you know I rode my bike a bit and I was in football shape.  I sucked.  I remember watching a slightly over weight lady ride away from me up a hill.  My ego took another hit.  There was a lot of fast people out there, I was not one of them.

My friend took me mountain biking for the first time at 18.  I was blown away by the ability to ride your bike in the woods.  I spent most of my childhood running around the woods, exploring, building forts, climbing trees.  Combining two of my favorite things was magical.

I rode on and off through various sports but never serious, just for fun.  A lap here, a lap there.  Weekend rider with an hour of trail when I had the time.

When I moved to Grand Rapids, I started riding a bit more.  I'd try to rip a lap and see how fast I could get.  One of my first friends was a National Champion Mountain biker.  I'd ask her what a fast lap at the course I had thought I had just dominated.  After realizing I was like 15 min slower then her best time, my ego took a hit.  Even though she was "Endurance" she was fast.  I was not.

Over the years, I'd ride more and more.  Still not fast, but it confronted several ego driven beliefs.  I was to big to be fast.  I would then be passed by much larger individuals.  Ah, my bike is no where as good as theirs.  Then I would be passed by a guy on a 3 speed beach cruiser.  I'm a lot older, as I get passed by clearly a man in his 60's.  I have kids and then finding someone that can only ride from 9-11pm at night because he puts his kids to bed and he competes against pro's.  My tires are wider, and then get passed by a fat bike.

Biking has obliterated all excuses.  It points back to simply one thing.  Did you put in the time and effort.  The more you commit and ride, the faster you get.  You can't buy speed.  You can be fast at any age.  You can be fast at any gender.  You can be fast on any bike.  It's all on you.  The more you train the faster you get.

Biking has always been adventure and freedom.  It has always been a great way to improve fitness.  It's always been able to show me magical places.  It now has been a way to show me my excuses aren't valid.

....I still am not fast.

...but I am faster then last year.

...and maybe I'll be faster the coming year.

But, if I'm not, it's not because of any of the excuses that have been demolished, it simply will be because I didn't do the one simple thing,  ride my bike more.

Monday, October 21, 2019

My Random Thoughts During the Flu

There are some things I'd rather not have first hand experience with, the flu being one of them.  Sadly,  I was able to check that one of the list this past week.  I'm now a Flu veteran.  I can tell war stories of losing 14 pounds in 3 days, of your joints feeling like they will break, and the occasional movement triggered vomiting.   From what I can tell, I don't think I even had like a "serious" case.  But, you have 3 days and 4 nights of thinking about things and that is all I could do, because that is all I had the energy to do.

Here are the the things I thought about and the answer I found if they were a question.

The deadliest Flu breakout was in 1918, The Spanish Influenza.  Depending on who you read, between 20-50 million people died.   Most agree 500 million people were infected.  What made this such a troubling flu was that it not only killed the young and old, it killed just as many in their 20-30's.  Science has traced back and decided that the flu virus of the early 1900's was different from the one that showed up in 1918 and that a small piece of the bird flu combined to give the perfect killer.  Reading more and more on the research that went on and is going on to learn what we can on the Spanish Influenza made me order a book on the subject.

About day two, so about 48 hours of curled up under blankets without any sunlight or movement, feeling a bit sorry for myself, you start to wonder if having a good aerobic base, lifting weights etc...does anything when it comes to fighting off the flu.  From what I can tell and have read, not much.  The caveat, and it's a big one, is for older populations.  The more muscle mass you have to lose, the better health insurance you have.  Essentially any bed rest at all, sarcopenia starts kicking in fast.  Lose 50% of your muscle and the result is death.

I started to think about the great Indigenous peoples the Americas had.  Huge cities of thousands according to the book 1491.  Massive amounts of people wiped out by virus's such as small pox.  It was one of those things I was just mind wandering around, if I had been born an Inca warrior training for lifetime and one day you go to bed healthy and next you wake up shivering and body sore and everyone around you the same, and your country is being invaded.  Weird where the mind goes.  But I think I understand now, how so few conquered so many, so quickly.

Talk about weirder side thoughts.  If the body, mind and soul are one thing, does one not affect the others and vice versa?  My dreams, when the fever felt to be at it's worse, were truly twisted.  Now, I've had nightmares before, things that truly have frightened you, and I have had dreams where terrible things happened and you woke up sad, I've had majestic dreams where you go on adventures and dreams where it felt like I relived something in my past.  These were different, they left me feeling disturbed.  Things that made you feel like your soul was being attacked.  It was an interesting night contemplating if one has the belief to do so.

The Flu Vaccine.  I don't get it, at this point I probably still won't.  I read it has a 47% success rate for young healthy aged population this year.  Not as gracious for those over 65.  If it was a slam dinger of a vaccine, I'd for sure get one.  But with a 50/50 success rate and basically the symptoms are lessoned, not sure it's worth it for me.  About 5 years ago, one of my all time cool patients I had been helping with a TKR in the past,  got the shot, with in a day, was unable to move.  He didn't move again for like 9 or 10 months.  The flu shot had triggered Guillain-Barre' Syndrome.  He was in a wheelchair directed by breath for the next 9 months and was told it will leave with the suddenness that it came.  It did, but has left him in lifetime battle for the complications.  Stories like that I don't think I can shake.

But, If I had to get the shot, or if I decide to ever get it, I'd ramp up my gut health protocols for about 3 weeks.   I did find this really cool study from Onegevity journal that showed a different response in people that had taken antibiotics that year.  I first heard of Onegevity from Dr. Joel Dudley at the ALTIS High Performance Think tank.  The state of your gut microbiome when you get the shot, will influence how effective the vaccine will actually be!  Outstanding.  Now you have a gameplan if you choose to get one.

How long will the Flu influence return to baseline performance.  I recently did some testing with trap bar deadlift and have been working on 2 hour time trial style mountain biking.  A bike race in two weeks being the goal.  It will be interesting to see how it play out.

I lost 14 pounds from when I weighed myself Monday night at 196lb to when I weighed myself Friday morning, 182lb.  One of the things I tried out was a new style of recovery called RevIVe Therapy.  I went with the standard "Myers Cocktail"  B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium Calcium.  It seemed to be the one most targeted at dehydration.  It did put on 3 pounds quickly.

I've always found it interesting when your tastes change during sickness and what you eventually want to eat.  You know I'm sick when I don't want my coffee!

The lack of food for almost 3 days, most certainly acts like a fast, triggering autophagy.  Although, when you are battling a virus, trying to eat what you can, (don't force feed) is helpful.  Bacterial infections, I would avoid eating.   Two different beasts.

I wear a watch with a heart rate monitor when I sleep.  Most nights my average HR is 48, 49.  Days I work out extremely hard, like a 4 hour bike ride or a super hard 2 hour ride and it was later at night it would be in the low 60's.  The first 3 nights of dealing with the flu it was in the low 60's all 3 nights.  Shows the strain the body is going through.

I'm always surprised how olfaction changes.  The smell of lemon scented cleaning products triggered a dry heaving episode.  I'd say puking, but nothing was in me to come up.  There must be an ingrained sense of evolutionary security that warns us off irritants when we are sick. 

So the best remedy is prevention.  Concrete things.  Get outside, fresh air.  Work at keeping your gut health optimal.  I'd take a probiotic.  I personally use and recommend Sound Probiotic.  Wash your hands.  Did you know its the friction that is important, not necessarily the soap.  It takes 20 seconds of rubbing the hands together to get the desired effects, with warm water.  Get your sleep.  Sweat some.  Stay hydrated.   

Friday, October 4, 2019

Callus of the Mind, Body and Soul

The body has a miraculous way of providing protection against the friction it encounters.  The callus. A callus is a thickening of the skin from repeated bouts of friction or pressure.  It provides a barrier of protection against the threat that is routinely there.

A runner will often develop calluses on their feet.  An extra barrier against the friction of the shoe as it strikes the hard ground over and over again.  A weight lifter or carpenter will develop them on their hands from the friction of the bar or the tool.  Every rep an irritation and trigger for the body to send a response and it lays on more skin as a result.

A callus must form from consistent effort in the correct dose.  To few effort and a callus won't form.  The stimulus isn't consistent enough.  Why put energy into creating a protective barrier if the insult doesn't come along enough.  On the other hand, if the insult comes with to much intensity, you don't get a callus, you get a blister.

A callus is a clue.  Where has the friction been coming from.  Certain coaches and therapists will tell you that looking at a callus in the wrong place may be a clue that biomechanically there is an issue.  A seasoned runner that develops a new callus creates a cause for inspection.

Why has this new friction been accumulating?

Callusing can also happen in other areas of our life.  It struck me this week as I watched a sprinter win the 100m World Championships in 9.76 seconds.  It made the SportsCenter number 7 play.  9.76 seconds! Only 5 other men in the history of the planet have run as fast or faster...ever.  A home run was like number one.  Perhaps it was because there was some controversy over some missed drug testing.  I would say we are callus to that as well.  No longer shocked when an athletic great tests positive.

One of the great things about kids is that they haven't been callused to the wonders of nature.  I don't know how many times I'm made aware of the "awesomeness" of an insect or the "prettyness" of a flower.

I can remember talking to a friend when we heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook.  It was a blister moment etched in my mind.  Sadly, I think with the news media/social media, frequency of horror, shooting are becoming less blister, more callus.

David Goggins has a saying callus your mind.  At least that is where I first heard it.  Simply means when your doing something that is hard and the voice in your mind is screaming quit, don't.  Kill that voice.  Callus your mind.  The brain is all about conservation of self.  It lies essentially to get you to slow down, reduce effort, stop.  The body can go longer, harder, if you don't let your mind stop you.  Callus it.

We need friction in life if we are ever going to do anything worthwhile.  Friction provides the resistance to get stronger.  It gives us the irritant to produce the callus if we put in the consistent work.  Callus allow us to do more work comfortably, it is a buffer.  Buffers for the most part are good. The key is allow the things that should sting us, blister us, continue too.  To not let the things that should make us take action and eliminate that friction from becoming a callus.

Honor the blister, work for the callus.  Be mindful of both.  They both have their correct place.  Choose wisely.

Friday, September 20, 2019

ALTIS High Performance Think Tank Recap

Last week I had the opportunity to fly out to Lake Tahoe and take part in the first ALTIS High Performance Think Tank.  Hosted by a combination of ALTIS and Barton Medical Center, it was the first collaboration.

The event took place over 3 days with ten speakers.  The format was nice.  Two speaker spoke individually.  Then both came up for a round robin of questions.  No days felt long, as some seminars tend to drain your brain.  This allowed plenty of time to drink coffee and get outside hiking to explore the great Tahoe landscape, the coffee was average, but the hiking more then made up for it.

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discus events, small minds discus people."
Eleanor Roosevelt

The general theme was dealing with Chaos of sport.

First: Dr. Joel Dudley.  I think 9 out of 10 presenters were Doctors of some sort.  Dr. Dudley was working in New York Mount Sinai system.  This was one of those guys that seems so smart, your like wow...I am not an intelligent man.   He talked about using Deep Learning (AI analysis) to look through 100k people over 20 years.  Things a human wouldn't be able to do.  The problem with this power is we don't know what questions to ask.  I think Einstein said something about the ideas that created the problem will not be the same ideas that solve it.  Joel used the example of trying to make a mechanical horse.  We know we need to evolve away from the horse, but we don't have the imagination of a car yet.  So we try to make a horse out of nuts, bolts and gearing.

They looked through the data and found that Alzheimer's had a huge correlation with patients and the HSV1 herpes virus.  They are now researching drugs along this line of thinking.

 They can now do a legit micro biome test.  In fact, everyone at the conference was given a microbiome test produced by the company Onegevity.

There needs to be more of an open health care system.  We have to much specialization.  There is no communication between practitioners and doctors.

When asked about health, he recommended people switch to the Impossible burger.  This gave me pause, my own bias says why trade a good healthy chunk of meet for fake?  Even brilliant people can be wrong.  (My own opinion)

2nd: Dr.  Duncan French.  Duncan is the  High Performance Director for the UFC Performance Institute out of Las Vegas.  His presentation was based on reverse engineering the result you are after.  This was a concept I have heard and used before, but this brought such clarity to each question or each step in the process.  MMA athletes have so many variable they have to train in that it was superbly interesting to see how all these different disciplines are thought about and trained.  Throw in, fights on short notice or different fights, fighters culture, fighters beliefs and you have one very complicated soup.  How do you navigate?  Measure and get the basics right.  This was one of my favorite talks.

An example from my own thinking.  Goal is to be a Tour De France rider.  What variable do we know.  Most have a 6 Watt per kilogram average.  If you don't have that, you probably won't be on the tour.  If I am at 4, how do I get to 6?  Can I lose weight?  Yes.  How do we lose weight?  How can I get more power on the bike?  Has the athlete every lifted?  Start at the target and work backwards.

3rd: Dr. Robin Thorpe.  Robin works from everyone from Manchester United to a few other performance teams.  He seems to be the guy that reads the data and interprets the decisions.  As in, give this guy some rest or he may get injured.  Rate of Perceived Exertion  (RPE) was highly prized.  Again, the take away was Measure and Keep it Simple.  Get your sleep, your hydration, your post game meal, your post game sleep.   Make small changes that add up to better quality of health.

4th:  Gerry Ramogida and Carl Bergstrom.  Both of these guys are Performance Members of the Golden State Warriors.  They previously were together in Seattle Seahawks.  Gerry talked mostly on the daily inputs he does with his athletes.
1.  Daily morning meeting: communication
2.  Table work:  Key area assessment
3.  Targeted Input:  tendon, activation of treatment area, stimulate
4.  Movement prep:  Step for transference
5.  Lift:  Athlete Specific
6.  Court:  Continuation of movement strategies with more effort and speed
7.  Post:  Timing dependent

Gerry is one of my favorite therapist and I feel like I learn something from him every time I get a chance to talk to him.  He's lead me to a few great seminars or concepts that have helped me improve.

5th:  Dr. Matt Jordan.  Matt may be one of the best presenters on anything I've ever had a chance to listen to.  Dynamic and smart.  He presented on data of when ACL in skiers are ready to return to play.  More specifically it was how to read stats and data as a thought process.  It really put percentages into perspective.  What does 20% mean to you.  If you had 20% chance to rain, would you carry an umbrella, probably not, if it was your wedding day, would you have a back up, probably.  The amount of data they have now on force, angles, power, symmetry and pre and post injury is truly amazing.  No more guesswork.  Measure.

6th: Dr. Sophia Nimphius.  Sophia is based out of  Australia.  She works with lots of athletes including, but not limited to Softball.  The first thing she did was show a diagram of two people squatting and we had pick the girl.  Most people picked the stick figure that had the knee cave.  As IMO this is more of a trait of girls then guys.  It was wrong.  It showed our bias.  But, I disagree with this, as yes we need to know whats more common as well.  She would like people to treat the person in front of them, not bring their bias into the situation they are evaluating.  Language matters.

7th: Dr. Dustin Nabhan.  Dustin is the lead Medical for the USOC.  He travels and works with all the teams that enter major competitions.  This one had some great practical ideas.  First and foremost, as the competition nears, the focus must shift from staying injury free, to staying healthy (not sick).
Flight Travel:  Window seats have the least amount of airborne particulates.  Aisles the most.  Limit how often you get up.  Blow the air nozzle right on you.  It provides an air barrier from said air particulates.  The air from the nozzle is filtered.  Take a hand sanitizer and wipe down everything in your seat, including the seat belt.  Avoid touching eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  If you see someone sneezing or coughing or looking rough, it is not a bad ideas to wear one of those mouth guards when the plane is getting deiced or when it sits and the air isn't going.  When 80% of training is met, the athlete is 7X more likely to meet their target goal.

8th:  Todd Offenbacher.  I'd be lying if I didn't say this was my favorite presenter.  Todd is a local Tahoe legend.  An avid mountain climber, skier, and guide the world over.  North and South pole were talked extensively.  He told about surviving in such extreme conditions and what it takes.  The thought process of surviving.  Never complain.  People invite you back when your don't complain.  Adjust your goals to the new situation.  Don't dwell on mistakes or panic about the future.  Treat the moment.  What do I have to do now.  Be good at suffering.  Get comfortable with it.  Personally, I think this is a bigger deal then what we talk about as a performance world.  I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't say, "Polar bears are in the north, Penguins are in the south."

9th:  Fergus Connoly.  Fergus seems to be an advisor for many teams and organizations.  Most recently University of Michigan.  He wrote the book Game Changer.  I took quite a lot from his presentation and most impressively, Tahoe had a power outage, so his computer presentation didn't work obviously.  He busted out a white board and lectured on the topic.  My big takeaways were how important Relationships are.  How important it is to create an environment for the vision (not goal) you have or the team has.   Creating the environment you want was another them that came through.  I took it from a personal standpoint what can I change to create an environment for more reading, writing, exercise, diet, husband, father, son, writer, therapist, business owner, etc...break each one down (reverse engineering) and create and environment for that.  How can I improve my space?

Fergus stressed to have a great team, you have to understand desires and fears.  Figure out what people want, what they fear.  This person may not be money driven, but may want security.  This person may want simple recognition.

It also got me thinking.  Environment.  Our world, what are we doing.  What are we creating.  How is it influencing us.  Air we breath, the trees we see, the soil we still have.  Makes me think it's even more important.

10th:  Dawn Scott.  Dawn is the head performance leader for USA women's soccer.  She is a trailblazer.  The first one hired over a decade ago.  At the time there was about 3 staff that traveled with the team.   Now they have over 30.  To be honest, about halfway through I started saying good bye to a few friends and staff.  I had to go catch a plane home.  I left at 10am, got home a little before 1am.  The price to pay to travel west to east.

That being said I missed the last round table where all 10 presenters sat and took questions from the audience.

ALTIS and Barton did a great job hosting.  Venue was great.  Food was great.  Presenters were great. What I've come to believe is that the audience is the key.  Getting interesting people to come and having the opportunity to talk and learn from them is the true key IMO.

My takeaways were Measure.  Measure more, find out whats important.  Track it.  Look for simple things that can push you towards your end goal.  Reverse engineer that end goal.  Create an environment that helps make that end goal more probable.  Work at relationships.  Ask better questions.  Measure some more.  We can all measure stuff in our life.  Penguins are in the south, Polar bears are in the North.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Constraints for Creative Freedom

The mindset lately seems to be the more the better.  The more we have at our disposal, the more options we see, the better results we will attain.  We think the bigger menu is a better menu.  We are lead to believe the more toys we own, the more satisfied we will be.  Fill the minute.  Variation.  Choices.

Yet, we all know deep down this is a lie.  How many of us actually even try the third thing on the menu let alone the 15th.  How many of us actually get fulfillment from the 20th t-shirt we own.  Take a look in the mirror, if you are training, has it changed in 12 months?  24?  Can you look at a training log and see improvements.  Is variety in your workouts more for mental laziness, because if you did the same workout, it would show lack of improvements.  If I do new stuff every time I workout, it feels like I'm training, but deep down, it's just working out for the sake of working out.

Sure I sweated and maybe I got sore or maybe my heart rate got up there a little, but did I make incremental improvements that can be built on.

Constraints:  A limitation or restriction.

Jocko Willink has a famous quote, "Discipline equals freedom."    I agree, but I also think Constraints equals freedom is just as appropriate.  Constraints give boundaries, they give rules.  Most importantly they inspire creativity.

The first time you ever played any sport, no one really knew what they were doing.  In a game like football, there are hundreds of rules.  The sidelines gave you boundaries.  The line of scrimmage gave a boundary.  It wasn't until you knew the rules without thinking, that you could be aggressive.  You could play with abandon, you could express yourself.  Then the game became fun.  Rules or constraints gave you freedom.

Push your shoulder into extension as far as you can.  The further you go, the more it will start to go sideways.  Now go up against a wall, so there is just enough room for your arm to go backwards.  The wall will give a constraint and guide your shoulder into complete extension.  The wall gave your shoulder constraints so you could express should extension and nothing more.

Often times to gain freedom in one joint, we put other joints under constraints.  Not allowing one joint to move, for instance, keeping you right hip glued to a squat rack can put more force and movement into working your left hip.

Walls.  They give support.  They give constraints.  What could you come up with if you had to come up with 20 exercises that have to have one body part on the wall at all times?

If your heaviest weight was a 25lb plate, what kind of workout could you come up with?

One 35lb Kettlebell and a medium band.

Taking away options, focuses your thoughts.  It allows you to start exploring.  It provides a framework to really create deep work.  If I asked me to tell me what you know, you might get stuck with indecision.  If I asked you to tell me everything you know about cooking eggs, you can immediately start unloading your information.  Constraints bring clarity.

You have 30 min to exercise everyday.  What would you do?  The goal is just to move better and have better body composition.  Can you decide what to do?  What if you were told, you have a 16kg KB and aren't allowed to leave a yoga mat or set the bell down for 30 min.  It would force a myriad of different exercises and would probably do the trick.

The next time you are in a funk, in a plateau, in lack luster workouts, bring in constraints.  Creativity will surely follow.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Biking in Iceland with Friends

"You didn't come to Iceland to ride your bike in nice weather!"

That would become prophetic.

We flew into Keflavik on a beautiful sunny day.  At 66 degrees latitude, the days were long and the sun was bright.  I was struck by the lack of trees.  A local told us the Vikings cut them down to make their ships and they have never recovered.  I have no idea if this is true.

After driving into Reykjavik we started walking around.  It is the capitol and biggest city in Iceland.  I was again struck by the quite.  You could have a normal conversation.  There were cars, but not that many.  The amount of people seemed to be about 75% less then what I was expecting in a big city.  In a country of around 300,000 I guess this makes sense when you spread them out over the size of piece of real estate the size of Ohio.  Sorry Iceland to make any comparison to one of our worse states.  (haha)

In America, you go into any store and you are blasted with music.  It seems to drown out your thoughts.  The person I was traveling with develops products as a job and stated that Europeans value quite and are always asking his company if they can make it more quite.  I get it now.  It become something I really enjoyed.  In comparison, on our way home we flew into Minneapolis airport and it was sensory overload.  Music, noise, beeps and flurry of background noise.

I don't believe I heard one siren, or one honk in a week.

Reykjavik is a super easy city to walk around.  No car needed.  Lot of small hills to navigate, but regardless, if you can walk 5-8 miles over the course of a day, you can see it all.  Found an amazing coffee spot called Reykjavik Roasters and over a day and half may have had a few (perhaps 12) cappuccinos.  I was told to try the local fair so we did.  We found a local spot that served them in tapas style.  Puffin, Lamb, Whale, Arctic Char.

The texture was not what I was expecting.  I'm not sure if it was only the place we were at, so reader beware.  N=1.  Not my favorite, any of them.  I was very happy, they came in small doses.

If you look up any top things to do in Iceland, you will eventually see, try an N1 hotdog.  N1 is a gas station.  So we did, and they were quite good.  I looked up what made them different and they are made of lamb.  Fried onions on the bottom of the bun, gave them a nice crunch.

That night we had a beer at Reykjavik Brewery where they were having a meet and greet for the riders of the bike race.  We ended up staying late there talking to the owner and his best friend from high school, who now is a Cardiac Imaging Specialist living in Iowa, who was back visiting.  (High school in Iceland is ages 16-20)  Being able to talk to locals about their country and ours, the interesting viewpoints of what you know and what they know and think is one of the greatest gifts travel can give.

"You are to big up top to make it up our climbs."

This was the first thing he told me when we told him we were doing the race.  Perhaps this was prophetic number 2.

Driving into our next stop where we would be staying for the race was quite a dramatic difference in landscape.  You started to see a few more trees and much larger mountains.  The greens became something of a mind boggling cascade of hues and highlights.  How do you describe the color green when you have never seen shades or highlights in that tone.  My best effort is some colors were so vibrant that it looked like a cheap B movies radioactive green slime was escaping the mountain side.

Most people find race reports pretty boring.  So I'll sum up as it was the hardest I've ever had to work on a bike.  Climbing into headwinds for hours is not my strength.  Nor is crossing rivers.  But, I saw things and had my eyes delight in things you would not get to see if you hadn't toiled for hours getting there.  I understand the development of the Lauf gravel suspension fork after riding washboards for 20 some miles.  An example of your environment dictating function and creativity.  The Rift valley is the crest where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates bump up.  It creates some of the most spectacular landscape in the world.  We got to ride our bike in it!

The next few days were spent exploring the countryside.  With it being July, the sun really didn't feel like it "set" till after midnight Eastern time.  If you like hiking, Iceland offers a plethora of trails.  Most are interlinked somehow.  Choose your own adventure.  Short, medium, long, hours to weeks could be had.  It was quite easy to get up on the ridge line of several trails and just scan out and take in miles and miles of views.  There is something magical about looking out over a horizon and not having it stopped.  No constraints.

One highlight was hiking an hour up a mountainside and spending a few hours lounging in a hot spring river.  Heated by the Geo thermal energy coming from the earth.  The higher you went up, the hotter it got.  Natures own hot tub.  It was easy to envision ancient Vikings hanging out here.

One question that keeps getting asked and was repeatedly told to me before leaving was the cost of food.  It is more expensive.  They import almost everything.  From a personal viewpoint, some things are really bad and some were not.  I am used to paying 4 or 5 bucks for a coffee drink.  7-8 dollars for a craft beer.  This was no different there.  If you are trying to go to a sit down restaurant for dinner it will be pricey.  I'd estimate about 30-40% more.   You also do not tip in Iceland.   If you tip 20%, take this into account as it will drop your bill to only about 10-20% more.  Now if you are more of a eat on the go, you can find plenty of options on the cheaper side.

The craft beer culture has hit Iceland and it is (becoming) a known tourist attraction.  (Kind of like Grand Rapids where I live)  Siggy the owner of Reykjavik Brewery was telling it has more breweries per citizen then the United States.  They are coming of a beer prohibition that lasted until 1989.  Some interesting laws.  Gas stations and grocery stores can only sell a beer that is 2.25% ABV.  Breweries can not sell beer to go.  Verdun, their liquor stores,  are the only stores that can sell alcohol.  These are government operated and are not open on Sunday.  There is a profit margin per ABV that a brewery cannot go above.  So you won't find many super high ABV and for that matter quality craft beers will cost about the same as a cheaper beer.  One reason the craft beer culture is booming.

Driving along the country you are struck by the number of sheep roaming around and the coolest horses I've ever seen.  The horses are very unique (Don't by the way refer to it as a pony).  Smaller in stature they can have up to 5 gaits.  Most horses will have 3-4.  One unique trot is referred to as a To'lt.  It is a high stepping gait that is super smooth.  So smooth you can hold a beer and not spill it.  So I was told.  Their main is like a mohawk.  They are glamorous to see run.

In 2008 and I believe the following year, Iceland was in the news for almost a year and a half.  First with a banking crisis where they jailed their bankers for the mismanagement of the nations funds and followed up with a volcano eruption.  All the news and videos opened the eyes of the world to the beauty of this tiny island.  They went from getting 3-400 thousand tourists a year, to 3-4 million almost overnight.  It is just now that the infrastructure is starting to be in place to handle this amount of influx.  On plenty of the tourist attractions you could see old paths that lead much closer to a waterfall or tourist attraction that is now chained off.  Steps and walking paths are making it more easily accessible for the general masses.  Depending on your view points and who you are, this is good or bad.  Should nature be accessible to everyone or should you have to "work" to get there?  Should it be safe or should it carry common sense risk?

We drank out of the rivers on the bike ride.  Uncontaminated by man.  It felt weird and somewhat sad that something so natural now comes with the thoughts that I hope I don't get sick.  We had everything from 60 and sunny to 50 and rainy.  Some days, you would put on the rain jacket just in time for the sun to come out.  So be ready for all conditions.

Getting to spend time with friends exploring a new country by bike and hike was quite fun.  Having an event like the bike ride created an excuse to challenge myself from an endurance standpoint, but also gave a framework for the trip that allowed us to meet interesting people and get us to an area that you wouldn't normally explore.   It was a great way to see a country and get immersed into it quickly.  I highly recommend it.

A postcard I found on the way home.  It summed it up nicely.  

More pics can be found on Instagram  @drjasonross

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Baby Steps into the Endurance World: A Few Lessons I'm Learning

The first time my middle school track coach made me run a 200 meter dash, I half jokingly told him I wasn't an endurance athlete.  I'll stick to the 70m, 100m, and the long jump.  My sophomore year of high school, my track coach added the 400 meter dash to the equation.  I actually started running a few miles for conditioning to try to get better at the event.

College brought football conditioning and more track.  I discovered mountain biking.  But, back then, I was taught that aerobic development would make me slower.  As a fast twitch speed guy, this was the last thing I wanted.  (this is all pre Internet, no real books I found, and Hillsdale had no Strength and Conditioning Coach)

Rugby brought a new way of thinking.  You had run, tackle and display ball skills for 90 minutes.  I brought biking back in and used track workouts to get in anaerobic shape.  I still pretty much shunned straight aerobic work.

Bobsled brought back pure power and speed.  Get big, get fast, run for 5 seconds.  You have 45 min to recover.  Fitness is truly defined by the parameters that you find yourself in.  I was in shape to push a sled well.  More then 5 seconds, and I was very unfit.

Decade and some change later, I find myself riding my bike for longer and longer stretches.  I have friends, that ride even longer.  Friends so good, they are Pros and win big races in the biking endurance world.

I find myself for the first time semi training to be an endurance guy.  Semi as in I try to ride my bike about 2x a week.  About two times less then is ideal.  But, in dipping my toes in this endurance world, there is some very interesting thoughts that come to mind.

Speed world is technical and done.  Mistakes mean hundredths of a second.  Gains are hard to come by.  Rhythm is big in the world.  I think this is why music is such a big deal to fast twitch archetypes.

Endurance you have time to think, I mean time.  Hours and hours.  It's the crux of being good (outside of being slow twitch monster)  It's your mental control of time.  It's your relationship to time.  Can you stay focused with each step or each pedal stroke.  I'm not sure how many times, I have zoned out on a bike, looked down and be going about 2 MPH slower.  My legs weren't tired, I wasn't tired, but my mind was.  I haven't trained the mental focus.  It too, needs to be trained.

Over the weekend I did a 100 mile gravel race as a training ride.  I purposefully went out to hard to put myself in a hole to see how my body would recover, physical and mentally.  I didn't expect to start cramping at 2.5 hours in.  My goal was 8 hours for the race.

It's really easy to project when you are in pain.  If this is how much I hurt now, in 4, 5, 6 hours what am I going to feel?  Fear.  Endurance lesson for me is stay in the moment.  Don't think about the outcome, do what you have to do right now.  Don't Project the Future.

Cramps have been my nemesis since I can remember.  Running through the woods when I was eight and getting a calf cramp.  I think most high school football games and rugby games I got calf cramps.  Every mountain bike ride over 2 hours, quad cramps.  I've tried everything under the sun.  At this point, I think I'm simply neuromuscularly under trained for the race/task at hand.  I don't do enough at the intensity I race at.

Endurance training takes time.  I miss the 45 min workouts.  Even the lung burners.   But, there are some nice life takeaways that are hard to own, when you haven't lived through them.  Be in the moment is great advice, but to shut off your anxiety of the future and work the minute is an entirely different takeaway.  Pain gets worse when we project it into the future.

I have some cool friends to bounce ideas and questions off, or just pick up some tidbits.  Here is my Matt Acker Pro Tip number 7, use loose sandwich bags to hold your snacks in.  Zip lock are hard to open with one hand when your biking down bumpy roads.  I forgot this tip going into the race.  I found myself struggling to open up my snacks.

I brought a PB&J sandwich to eat halfway of my last 100 mile race.  It may have been the 2nd most enjoyable meal of my life.  LOL.  Endurance work has a unique way of making ordinary things extraordinary.


There might not be a more fitting word to describe a successful endurance athlete.