Saturday, March 28, 2015

On the Trail: Dropping in for the first time

My wife tells everyone that I was born with a bicycle between my legs.  Well not quite but I have loved cycling for as long as I can remember.  I was a dedicated road and track snob back in my youth and my first experience on a mountain bike was lets say humbling.   It was a few years after my first mountain biking ride that I got my own and started to hit the trails  The trails back then were nothing compared to the trails today.  After a gap of more years that I care to think about I got back to mountain biking and the Pacific Northwest has some amazing trails.  I started back dedicated to my hard tail but it took one ride on a full suspension bike to change my mind. 

Crystal Mountain 2014

As my confidence grew I found myself tearing down trails and wondering why it took me so long to get back out in the woods.  The more I rode the more I encountered the new style of riding and it filled me with a mixture of abject fear and excitement.  Every fiber in my body wanted to hit those jumps but just looking at them made me go cold.  For the longest time I stuck to traditional cross country.  That is until Thanks Giving 2013 when a few friends and I rode Duthie Hill and pushed each other to do things we had avoided until then.

Duthie Hill 2013

Pandora's box was open and it felt good.  From that day on, my confidence increased and I went looking for bigger jumps and higher drops.  Each time finding that mixture of adrenaline, fear and excitement.  For me it was like a drug but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling that things could go horribly wrong.  But each time I pushed that feeling to one side and pushed harder.

Nearly every ride I would come back with a new cut or bruise but I would tell myself "if you don't mess up you are not pushing hard enough".  The harder I trained the bigger the crashes.  On one ride I split my helmet endoing at the top of a crest after getting the take off wrong.  Well the rest is history and it turns out that staying safe is a pretty sensible thing to do.

My advice to anyone getting into air and jumps is have fun but know the consequences.  I lost it because I was afraid of the jump and that fear drove me to take on a jump I was not ready for.  Ironically on another day in a parallel universe I approach it with a different mind set and crushed it.  But I live in the universe and the outcome was well not good..  What I should have done is respected the fear and accepted enough was enough.  There is always another trail and another challenge and just because you can do it does not mean you have to, or even should do it. 

Remember when you are out there your state of mind is just as much a part of safe riding as having the skills.  If you hit it, hit it with confidence and commit.

Happy trails and max life out - every day is a gift...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Training Sarah - Kinetic inRide First Impresion

One of the things I have been most excited about since my accident is Sarah's desire to ride with me as I recover.  I could not be more proud of her especially as cycling has been something she has wanted to do and struggled with for years.  With a new bike and a saddle that finally does not leave her crippled after every ride we started out by setting her up on my old Kinetic Fluid indoor trainer with a target of just riding daily for 30 minutes.

Whilst she was training this week I was left noodling on how I we were going to take her to the next level as I had no way of measuring her baseline or performance.  What I really wanted was the ability to measure heart rate, cadence and power but there was a problem.  To move her bike to my setup, change profiles etc, etc was not going to fly.  Too fiddly (she is not the geek I am) and too time consuming (fair point).  I did not want anything that would get in the way of her riding so I settled on liberating an old polar device for which I could not find the heart rate strap (go figure - never saw that coming right) so I made do with cadence for the first week.  This still left me with the problem of finding the strap and quite frankly not fully trusting the old device.  Even buying a Garmin would not solve the problem as the one thing I really wanted was power and I could not think of anything other than moving her to my Kickr as a power meter for her bike at this stage is not in the budget.

I love it when the universe steps in.  On Saturday whilst returning from a trip we stopped off in town and I could not leave without a wander around REI.  I must have been called because as I browsed the isles I don't normally browse, I came across the Kinetic inRide, a brief look suggested it would do everything I needed.  Excitedly I did a quick review search on my phone and found very mixed reviews from "love it" to "hate it".  The questions were, would it fit my older trainer? and would it work?  Well it was REI so if it did not work it would be easy to return and at $130+tax it was just too good to not try.

Now I would love to tell you I got it out of the box a boom it was awesome.  Nope it was not that simple.  One of the attractions for me was that the HRM was a Wahoo device and would work with the Wahoo fitness app I already had installed on my phone.  I put the strap on, made sure Bluetooth was enabled on my phone and fired up the app.  Nothing, fiddled a bit, nothing, fiddled a bit more, wow a heart rate of 181 bpm.    Hmmmm, unless my heart was in a parallel universe either winner a race or running for its life, that number was not right.  It then took a lot of Bluetooth fiddling and shutting down and restarting of my phone before finally I got a reading I believed.  Had I not persisted it would have been easy and honestly reasonable to give up thinking the device did not work.

Next up I loaded the Kinetic App onto my iPad expecting everything to be working.  Nope, the HRM was not working.  I checked Bluetooth and it was connected.  Long story short it took a lot more fiddling before the HRM popped into life.

Fitting the power meter on the other hand was really simple. Insert the grommet, slide in the magnet and stick on the sensor.  After a couple of false starts the app sprang to life and all the sensors were reading.

Sarah completed a 30 minute ride and it was awesome to get the data I had no idea of how I was going to get at the beginning of the week.   My first impression is that the HRM is comparable with the Garmin and Polar devices I have used.  When looking at the cadence it was reading lower and a little more erratically than the old Polar device but then it is reading it from the rear wheel and not the cranks.  The good news was that it was lower and I would rather that than the other way round.  The speed looked accurate which left the power.  I cannot say if it is accurate or not at this point without riding myself for a comparison.  It was however consistent and for training purposes that is what I was looking for.  I personally don't mind if it is high or low as all I am looking for is a relative improvement.  As long as the number is consistent I can obtain a baseline and measure improvement relative to the baseline.  For the price as long as you have the other equipment it is a great investment and by far the cheapest method of getting both power and heart rate in one bundle.

The Kinetic App is a little quirky and the data on the front page does not match the history.  It takes a while for the sensors to be found.  Sarah started the ride with a heart rate of 73 and 10 minutes in it had not changed.  She messed with the strap a few times before it popped into life.  The App is also not entirely intuitive.  However, if you are willing to overlook a few shortcomings (that I hope will be fixed in later releases) it does provide a simple platform to use.  You simply put on the HRM, fire up the app, wait for the sensors to register and select a workout.  Simple enough for Sarah to operate without having to geek out.   I really like the automatically calculated HRM and Power zones and the ability to build your own workout sessions.

Above the Lifetime Stat's (Left) show a time of 00:35 minutes and a distance of 8 miles.  The workout history (Right) shows the real duration of 00:30:06 minutes and the overview below shows the actual distance of 4.81 miles.  Not entirely sure what is going on here but I suspect it is a bug.

First Impression Conclusion
You can't beat the price if you already have a Kinetic Fluid trainer and the required technology.  You will need some patience and a little technical savvy as it was not plug a play for me. The app has a few issues that I hope will be fixed in future releases.  Overall I like what it delivers and if it continues to deliver and the software improves I will be excited.  I will reserve my final verdict for later once I have had a chance to live with it.

I am proud of the effort Sarah is putting in and now we have the numbers and ability to build a training plan to help her develop.  My fingers are crossed that it continues to perform - time will tell.

Until next time Max Life Out - Every day is a gift.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Injury Recovery Part 40 - It Just Happens

Taking the next step is sometimes calculated and other times it just happens.  Today was one of those "it just happens" days.  It is then a matter of keeping your fingers crossed and paying attention to your body in the hope that all went well.

With the clocks going forward and the sun shining, I did what any self respecting person does on a Sunday.  I slept in.  With a late start to the day and feeling apathetic I seriously considered hitting the trainer rather than going to all the effort of putting the bike on the truck, getting myself ready and going for a ride.  After all, was 40 minutes really worth all the effort.  Sad to say but that is what went through my mind.

Thankfully, I was able to talk myself into the effort, after all the sun was shining.  Just a quick side note to talk to my fellow cyclist's in shorts and T-shirts.  Just because the sun is shinning does not mean it is warm .  It made me cold just watching the number of peeps out today dressed for the 70's and 80's, whilst I was riding in my winter kit. 

I kicked off the ride fully intending to keep a steady recovery pace and feel out my body.  20 minutes into the ride with sun shining and things feeling good I applied a little more power.  As I hit my turn around point I decided I could work a little harder.  It felt great to be challenging myself and soon I had a good pace going.  Now as paces go it would not win me any prizes but for me right there and then I felt like I was flying.   All too soon the ride was over and I changed up and spun out the last mile. 

Recovery takes effort and discipline but sometimes, just sometimes you just need to let the plan unfold.  Today was a good day.  Remember to Max Life Out (every day is a gift).

Monday, March 2, 2015

Benny Adventure Planning and Early Spring Cleaning

Sometime you just have to take time out to plan for the next adventure and today was one of the days. 

Since Benny has to have his canvas replaced and a lift kit added we decided to make the most of it and take advantage of the visit.  Last week we emptied everything into boxes and left them piled in the garage.  Today I unpacked the boxes to start the evaluation of what we really need to carry.  Boy talk about a lot of stuff.    It is amazing how much you can pack into a Westy and more to the point how much is just being carried around, and that's before we even get started on the clothes :)

No planning would be complete without a trip to REI for a little inspiration.  For those of you looking for beanie's now's the time to buy them as the spring clear out has began.  We picked up a few for use during those surprisingly cold summer nights camping in Pacific Northwest forests. 

We also bit the bullet and purchased a dehydrator.  If you follow along you will know that we follow a strict diet out of choice.  The health benefits are amazing but one of our big challenges camping is being able to pack snacks and meals that are easy to prepare and eat.  Sarah does an amazing job and anything that can help is a must.  She has been looking into dehydrators for a while and today we decided to give it a go.  Stay tuned for more on this subject ...

Talking of food, we celebrated our good friends 78th birthday with a steak dinner.  Sarah made an awesome cup cake birthday cake with almond flour and she also baked me a batch of my favorite cookies.  Now that is being spoiled.

We are excited for the upcoming adventures and hope you have amazing adventures planned.  Remember to Max Life Out (every day is a gift).