Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Training - Fit and Thoughts

I've felt a need to push on some house stuff in the past few months - I might have mentioned trying to get some flooring done upstairs (hallway and a bedroom), some painting and trim stuff (that same bedroom), and some general clearing up. We recently got a futon for our den, a room really meant to be a master bedroom suite on the first floor. This means we can now have sleepover guests who don't have to bring their own beds with them.

One thing that kind of scares me is electricity. I don't understand it much, I don't know a volt from a watt from an amp from an ohm (but I know amps hurt). Our house came with a bunch of "distressed" exterior light fixtures. Not in a decorative good way, more like in a "it's almost 30 years old" way.

We wanted to replace those fixtures as one of the many things we wanted to get done around the house. Today I got them done, with the help of a handyman. He's a friendly customer of the store - we chat about life and stuff, and he greets me with "How's my favorite Sith?" from Robot Chicken's hilarious Star Wars skit.

(You really gotta watch that. It's the best. I'll even wait.)

Okay, now that you've watched it...

Anyway the Handyman came over and I helped him put up these fixtures the Missus and I picked out. Although one didn't work out (we picked one that hung down and we need one that points up), we got three exterior and two interior light fixtures replaced.

The new light fixture above the garage door.
Handyman did that on his own, I just handed him a few bits while he was on the ladder.

As a bonus I now know how to replace the three that desperately need replacing in the basement.

After some dinner and having the Missus smile at the new fixtures, I headed down into the basement for a planned two hour trainer ride. That's been my regular ride now. Two weeks ago I felt hard pressed to get to the 60 minute mark. It's amazing what totally nonstructured training (JRA or "Just Riding Along") will do for one's legs.

Now the 2:00 mark arrives pretty quickly, and I've had to force myself to climb off the bike, sometimes cheating and riding as long as 2:15 or 2:30.

As usual I've been using the winter to experiment with stuff on the bike, trying out whatever new things I've thought of over the last year. This year it's bars, stems (because a different reach bar needs a different length stem), and thoughts on mounting the SRM in a more secure way.

Experimenting with FSA Compact bars, therefore no tape.

You can see the Mavic 350 bars (silver) on the floor, still on the stem. I've been using those bars since 1997 when I got them on closeout. I have two of them (all they had left) and swap back and forth. The others bars are 3ttt Gimondi (crit) bend bars too - those are heat treated aluminum, sort of brownish in color, and a good deal lighter than the Mavic bars. The big floor fan ("high velocity") is essential for trainer work.

Incidentally I bought a thermometer/humidity thing a few weeks ago. I found that during a trainer ride I heat up the bike room (and the attached furnace room) from about 63 degrees to almost 70 degrees, and the humidity rises from the mid 40s to about 50%. Pretty cool, right?

Tonight I watched the last DVD of the 2011 Tour as an hors d'oeuvres. I noticed a twinge in my left knee, just under the knee cap. I remembered that I dropped my saddle a bit late last summer, a bit of desperation as I tried to find power somewhere, anywhere. I knew I'd be stressed my knee a bit more but I wasn't putting enough power down to hurt myself.

I guess now I'm hurting myself.

I grabbed a 4 mm allen wrench and raised the saddle back up the 2 mm I'd dropped it - luckily I had a tail light clamp in place as a reference point the whole season so I knew exactly how much to raise it.

I decided to really cheat on my ride and do an extra bit, whatever the movie Red took (a John Malkovich thing - not exactly a good trainer movie). That ended up giving me a total of 3:33 on the trainer (pedaling time), which probably took me close to 4 hours to accomplish.

I totally forgot about my knee twinge - the 2 mm saddle height bump was enough to erase it the twinge from my world. And, as a bonus, I spent most of the movie Red in the big ring, an untouchable chainring two weeks ago.

When I climbed off the bike I walked over to the laptop. Ironically someone emailed me with a fit question, asking about fit and such.

I thought about what just happened to me on the trainer, with my knee twinging then not. I thought about the fact that I really can't do any leg weight lifting type exercises because my very fragile knees start hurting like mad. Yet I can jump really hard in a big gear and not feel a bit of (joint) pain.

I thought of riders I've fit in the past, maybe not necessarily "the best" fit, but good fits for sure. One rider liked his fit so much he reverted to that bike from his next two (sponsored) bikes, literally giving up superior equipment for a superior fit. He couldn't replicate the position on his next two bikes so he rode his old one, the one I set up for him.

Does that make me a fit expert?

Not really.

But I understand some basic concepts with fit. Ultimately there's such a variety of fit philosophies that it comes down to selecting one person and trusting them.

I think that constantly changing position in radical manners is the worst thing to do, it's like chasing the stock market. I'm a firm believer that your body needs to adapt to a position, and that it's critical to listen to your body's feedback. Your fit can be a bit low, a bit high, a bit wide, a bit narrow; whatever it is, if you ride that set up for a bit (2-3-4 months minimum) then you can think about what changes you need to make.

So, as an example, I rode 175mm cranks for literally 4 or 5 months in the winter before deciding that they were good for me (and I was very carefully honing my saddle height and set back while I was doing this). I did much of this riding on the trainer, where I could make small adjustments and see what effect it had on my comfort.

By the spring, and after a SoCal training camp, I arrived at a small range of saddle heights that work for me, about +/- 2 or 3 mm total. When I'm weaker or very sore I tend to lower my saddle (to get more oomph through the bottom of the stroke or to spare my sore hamstrings from extending as much), when I'm feeling a bit more ambitious I raise it a touch.

As I mentioned above, tonight I had noticed my left knee twinging a bit, under the kneecap. It's a sign the saddle is too low (or that I'm pushing down at the bottom of the pedal stroke). I had lowered the saddle a few mm late last season. Therefore tonight I figured I should raise the saddle back the 2mm I lowered it late 2011; this would help extend my knee a bit and relieve the pressure pulling my kneecap into my knee. Although I noticed a slight reach down to the pedals after I got back on the bike, I was okay with it within a few minutes, and I could roll a bigger than normal gear for the next 90 minutes.

What's cool is that I actually forgot my knee had been hurting until I read the fit question email - therefore my knee didn't hurt the rest of the ride.

I started getting a bit tired at the 3:30 mark, but my knees feel fine, my Achilles good, and my groin muscles (one isn't attached well to the pelvis and hasn't been for 15 or 20 years) were okay.

A little salt on the 2012 Expo cap.
(It's from more than just one ride.)

Now for some food so I don't bonk in my sleep.

(As a side note if you feel sore under your knee cap your saddle is probably low; if it's painful at the back of the knee, or you get some Achilles stress or frequent calf cramps, your saddle is probably a bit high.)


Lee said...

After finding your blog and videos via your posts on BF a few months ago, I decided to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing. And now I have. I must admit that I feel a bit stalker-ish knowing so much about you now and yet you knowing nothing about me... However, I feel very much enriched by all that you have shared and just wanted to thank you for doing so. Maybe I'll run into you if you make it back out to SoCal again as I ride many of the roads in your latest video and probably live along your Palomar route from Vista.

Aki said...

Don't worry I got the same feeling when I got a friend's Christmas card and I felt like, "Oh, right, I read all that on Facebook".

And really, the blog is about sharing what I know and what I've learned. After listening to a lot of new riders in the past whatever years, it seems that we all repeat the same learning process. If I can accelerate it, by writing about how I went about learning something, then all the better.

For this year I'm skipping the SoCal trip but I hope to do it in the future. We can go for a ride at that point.