Highlights of an Amazing Journey on the Underground Railroad Trail

    Posted on 19 May 2016 | No Comments »

    If you are looking for something unique and different in this world of endurance training, consider a long distance multi day bike-packing trip. As a cyclist for over 30 years, this self- journey experience was exceptional and was very helpful with respect to the uniqueness of self-supported long distance racing and no aid stations (Trans Am Bike Race). The longest self supported ride I had done in the past was a 350 mile 2 day ride on the Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

    Post ride thoughts - I will definitely include this ride annually as an after tax-season stress relief ride. I would highly recommend the route to anyone looking for a unique challenge and check out the maps for various sections of the route if you are interested in a different Midwest/Southern USA hospitality self contained ride.  There are so many food stores, campgrounds, www.warmshowers.com, hotels, restaurants, etc. along the route that it’s very manageable for anyone, if you do 25 miles a day or 200 miles a day.

    Pacing – This was a bit of a personal learning process. Trying to slow down was not that difficult on the hills with the extra 20 pounds of supplies on the bike but the mindset still was to push a bit too hard early on (just like a race)until I found the groove after 4 days of riding.   Going downhill is a thrill beyond (50 mph) with all the extra weight as descending is a blast and also with any tailwind. I would call the ride – fast-paced bike packing and definitely taking in the sights and sounds was clearly a goal to do this ride. IMG_0565 Maps and GPS methodology – Using the Garmin 1000 (I am not a techy with regards to the bike and don’t even use a cyclometer and just ride) with the Adventure Cycling Association’s maps (exceptional maps) it took a bit to get used to figure out the best process (I am anal) to not just keep looking at both the maps and GPS. It’s like everything else and after a few days it became second nature and I stopped missing turns, etc.  The maps offer various “spur” sections – additional loops and rides to see historic sites and I took full advantage of them and would recommend not just staying on the route the entire time. Actually it’s quite easy with the maps from Adventure Cycling Association Garmin 1000 GPS Quick Review – The device has many features but the most important, is the ease of use for the GPS function for me.  It does not come with a 200-page book on how to program and set it up which was a relief.   Again, I am not a computer/tech person with respect to the bike – just pedal and have fun has been my mindset.  The Garmin was fine with wind, volumes of rain and several days of hail however the battery life changed based upon the weather. When it was raining and a bit colder (40-50 degrees Fahrenheit) it lasted around 5-6 hours. Better weather got 7 hours until charge time.   So, it’s important to have chargers with you or a Dynamo hub set up.   I used portable chargers (solar and non-solar) and it worked well. Batteries– Using a battery charger – it worked well to keep the GPS charged.  However, the maps were so detailed that a GPS is not necessary Routine– Morning routine became like a work day and very similar to racing in a DECA– 7AM was the start time every day and the goal was to ride 10-12 hours a day and it was very easy to manage with respect to food/water locations and places to camp/stay. Day 1 Memory– what a way to start as I started with driving Rain from Pittsburgh to Lake Erie then over to Ohio   it was tough 170-mile ride to begin the journey that’s for sure. Must Do Campground – Eagle Valley Resort in Eagle Station, KY.  Great general store can get a small cabin real cheap for an option out of the rain for a change. Memorable Camping in Ohio at a lake – once into Ohio, first campground was fabulous and had a perfect setting on a lake.   The owner of the campground was so nice, they ordered me pizza and invited me to dinner with their family.  It was a great reminder that there are so many great people in the USA that it’s sometimes overlooked with all the negative news, etc. Getting into the groove – After day 4, the daily process remained the same: Breakfast, ride 5-6 hours, lunch, then ride 5-6 hours, and eat dinner, rest and repeat.   It actually was a blast doing this day after day! 2 Things I would not take on next trip – The leg warmers were fine and it was not necessary for bringing rain pants for the bike.   Even with driving rain and cold, legs never got cold.   For this trip, I needed only charging device vs. the 2 that I took along. 1 Thing I would take along on next trip – Because of the pulling on cleats because of the toe covers, the cleat screws do loosen and I would bring along a couple extra screws just in case if I might lose a few.   I had a screwdriver on my multi tool and it worked fine keeping them snug. People saying hello – All the worries and pre-ride warnings of dogs and trucks in Kentucky was way overblown in my experience. I did carry some pepper spray (I have been bitten on the bike before – and pepper spray will not harm a dog) just in case.   I had about 6-8 dog chases but just by slowing down, they were fine and were just playing – including Rottweiler’s.  In regards to no shoulder on the roads in Kentucky and the worries of trucks everywhere, this was a non-issue.    The roads were spectacular in terms of surface conditions.  The trucks yes plenty of F150 pickup trucks but they all moved over (coming from behind) and the opposite direction almost ever truck driver waved to me.    Bottom line, I loved Kentucky and hope you have a similar experience. Open country roads – The Underground Railroad trail is a series of open country roads, a few cross overs of state roads, and some rails to trails. Overall, the vast majority of the ride is on country roads.  Interestingly, through Ohio and Kentucky there were sections of riding for 3-4 hours without even seeing a car. Road Kill  – This was eye-opening!   As cyclists, we all know there is a different perspective of seeing things while on the bike vs. an automobile.   This was clearly evident by the massive amount of road kill, from opossum’s, raccoons, birds, deer, fox, cats, skunks they were everywhere. Interestingly, in Kentucky there is a road kill pickup truck and they just come along and scoop up everything. It’s amazing what we notice; the small things such as vultures are everywhere and eat the road kill down to the bones. IMG_0625 Amazing Towns– (sorry I did not write down the names of all the places).  Definitely stop in the local town diners and restaurants for sure and eliminate all the chain restaurants for learning about the local culture. Ohio riding through Amish country rounds was 10 star road conditions. Ashtabula, OH – great coffee shop in town that’s a must. Medina, OH – great location to load up on food and some sites West Jefferson, OH – the Rails to Trails starts here and nice with no traffic but after 100 miles it becomes a bit mindless and could not wait to get back on the roads! Cedarville, OH – great Inn on the trail (if you need a break from camping), which has everything for cyclists. Milford, OH – Just a cool town Corydon, IN – a must visit is Emery’s Ice Cream Jeffersonville and Clarksville, IN – great towns, views of Louisville and plenty to see Owensboro, KY – exceptional town, great waterfront Owensboro, KY Experience– This was to be a stopping location on my journey and what a weekend to arrive in Owensboro. I grabbed a few items to eat at a convenience store (Yahoo drink, almonds and a protein bar) and the lovely owners started to chat with me about the journey and invited me to be their guests at the International Barbeque Annual Festival in Owensboro. This was an amazing festival and the food was perfect after a very long day of riding (13 hour day). Rain Fun – There was plenty of rain because of all the storms in Texas and Oklahoma that continued to move to the north and Midwest. I had a few days of driving rain and hail but it lasted on 3-4 hours so it was not an all day rain. One thing that happened with good timing after the rain was normally wind and then the sun would come out – best solution for drying out soaking shoes, toe covers, cycling gear was the wind and sun. Wind Fun – For all the benefits of drying out clothes as I mention above, as we all know so well there are few thing worse on the bike than climbing hill after hill in a 20 mph headwind. All I could do was literally laugh, as I could not ride faster than 6mph even on the flats. One thing you do notice going that slow in the wind is more details of the road kill! Crash – Only one bike crash and typical road rash. Stupidly, I took wet train tracks not at a perpendicular angle and slid out. Of course, all that really mattered was the bike condition – it was fine and not even a scratch! Saddle sores– used Hammer Nutrition saddle balm product vs. Bag Balm only because it was a bit more packing convenient and worked extremely well. There were plenty of other great stories, but one thing stands out above anything from this experience – the people. The breakfasts (where the owners would not allow me to pay), personal food care packages, dinners, story telling, meeting athletes, and recommendations of places to see, are the reasons I will be back again next year for this ride. Please let me know if you need ideas or background related to the Underground Rail Trail ride it’s well worth checking out!

    What to Take on the Underground Railroad Bike Trail

    Posted on 04 May 2016 | No Comments »

    If you are considering a backpacking trip, the following supply list might offer some ideas for your trip.  Interestingly, using all the “stuff” I already had or received free from races, sponsors, etc. was used for the trip.  I will camp and you many be interested in a very cool site www.warmshowers.com if you interested in the backpacking experience.

    The goal was to eliminate buying a lot of new things. The supply list is for my backpacking trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Erie, PA (to connect onto the Underground Railroad Trail) then south to Mobile, Alabama.  The approximate distance is 1,750 miles.

    Have fun!

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    Underground Railroad Bike Trail Supplies List

    Sleeping Gear

    • Blackburn Twilight Bivy
    • Western Mountaineer lightweight sleeping pad
    • Inertial X- Lite Sleeping pad

     

    Food/Fuel

    • Endurolytes
    • Premium Insurance Caps
    • Endurance Amino Caps
    • Perpeteum
    • Kind Bars
    • 2 Large Water Bottles
    • CamelBak 70 oz
    • Lightweight spoon

     

    Bike Stuff

    • Specialized Tarmac Bike
    • Bontrager Tubeless Wheels
    • Maxxis Padrone Tubeless Road Tire 700 x 23c
    • Bike Oil
    • Stan’s Tubeless Tire Sealant
    • 2 tire levers
    • Multi Tool
    • Zip ties
    • Small roll of duct tape
    • Small tire Patches
    • Headlamp
    • Serfas Bike light

     

    Electronics

    • Garmin 1000
    • Iphone
    • Spot Tracker
    • Power Monkey Explorer charger
    • Solar Monkey Charger
    • Charging Cords

     

    Daily Necessities

    • Hammer Nutrition Seat Saver
    • Toilet paper
    • Small Deodorant
    • Small Soap
    • Toothpaste and small brush
    • Lip Balm
    • Fingernail clipper
    • Tiny knife
    • Microfiber towel
    • Sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Ziplock bags

     

     Bags

    • Apidura Handlebar Bag
    • Apidura Seat Bag
    • Apidura Top Tube Bag
    • Apidura Small feed bag on Top tube

     

     Clothing

    • Pearl Izumi Winter Cycling gloves
    • Pearl Izumi “normal” cycling gloves
    • Bike shirt
    • 1 compression shirt
    • Cycling bibs
    • Walz Cycling cap
    • Sugoi Rain jacket
    • Down filled compression coat
    • Toe covers
    • Leg warmers
    • Cycling shoes
    • Pearl Izumi Arm Warmers
    • Icebreaker light weight short sleeve Wool shirt
    • Mountain Hardware Running shorts
    • Xero shoes
    • Catlike helmet
    • Pearl Izumi wool socks
    • Buff
    • Lightweight Xero Shoes

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    DecaManUSA 2018 Update

    Posted on 22 April 2016 | No Comments »

     

    We are working hard to try to make this race happen!

    Bike Trainer Product Review Wahoo Kickr Snap

    Posted on 07 April 2016 | No Comments »

    Don’t’ sweat the small stuff, the famous quote and list of books made popular by Richard Carlson, PhD many years ago.   Recently, I was preparing for a big time trial test on the indoor trainer and definitely did not start off as expected.   In addition to rollers, I have used a Computrainer for the last 20 years or so (2 of them).

    It just was one of thosedays; turn on the Computrainer for the warm-up and I find out that magnetic wheel was fried.   I had it 12 years and no complaints at all.   A great trainer and my estimate, 6000-7000 hours on the trainer.

    Unlike the normal method of the past with doing some research on the Computrainer new models and eBay, I decided time for a change.   The comp trainer was one of the first trainers that fully integrated technology with respect to watching on a screen  – racing against a competitor with specific customized or pre-programmed courses.   They were all the rage with the triathlon crowd when they first arrived on the scene.

    However, over the years I noticed that the racing against the competitor was not something I focused on and just used the manual mode all the time and simulated the workout per my specific goal.   Bottom line, the high cost and graphics were not a factor in the next purchase.

    There are plenty of pro’s and con’s of using a bike trainer, but personally I actually enjoy riding on the trainer during the winter months to measure workouts which is sometimes a bit difficult in the winter with the ice and snow (with the road bike).

    The help of Google and some research I settled on the Wahoo Kickr Snap and found a good deal on a refurbished one.   The company sells refurbished – defined as a decal scratch, etc.    It saved around $100 and seemed to be a no-brainer.   When the trainer arrived, I inspected it and not even a scratch on it.

    Wahoo also promotes the ease of transportation and fold up, etc.   I know one thing for sure; I don’t travel with my trainer or ever take it down and wonder how many athletes actually take the trainer down and travel with it?

    Impressions:

    1. The trainer is built like a tank even though it only weighs about 30 pounds.
    2. Once challenge with my Computrainer in the past was with the skewer system of various wheels and bikes. The bike had to be set exactly perfect with and “old style” skewer.   The Wahoo comes with a skewer that must be used to ensure a sound fit.
    3. The quick release arm (see picture) made it so much easier to get the bike set up vs. the endless cranking tight of the Comp trainer.
    4. This trainer is all about training, very basic, less features and of course not the graphic race against another athlete media.
    5. The software to control the magnetic resistance wheel (back wheel) is a simple smart phone app called Wahoo Fitness. It’s simple to set up and almost no instruction manual.
    6. The software app is basic, with watts, speed, resistance controlled by IPhone and the availability for cadence, etc. It can be integrated with other platforms such at Strava, etc.
    7. The cost was approximately $1,000 less than the Computrainer, which was a plus as I stopped using every feature on the Computrainer.
    8. A huge positive is during standing; the front wheel block and level of the back make it feel almost like being on the road for a climb. The sturdiness of the trainer makes out of the sale climbing exceptional.
    9. Sound, nothing earth shattering in terms of being quiet.
    10. Good customer service –it only took a few days before it arrived.

    There are plenty of pro’s and con’s of using a bike trainer, but personally I actually enjoy riding on the trainer during the winter months to measure workouts which is sometimes a bit difficult in the winter with the ice and snow (with the road bike).   The Wahoo trainers are definitely worth checking out if you are looking for an affordable, no frills, and workhorse trainer.

    Slow Carb Eating – Personal Experiment

    Posted on 31 March 2016 | No Comments »

    The world of food and diets – Slow Carb, Gluten Free, no “White”, no sugar, Paleo, my question was how would they work for a long distance endurance athlete?   Author, vagabonder, and entrepreneur, Tim Ferris discusses this approach to eating – slow carb in his best selling book the 4-hour body.   He does not advocate long distance endurance training and is more of a HIT (high intensity training) and strength focused approach.    One thing you have to like about the Ferriss style is he tries everything to disrupt his body.

    The slow carb diet is defined by Wikipedia (excerpted by Tim Ferris):“The Slow-Carb Diet is based on eating foods with a low glycemic index. It can be summarized as the elimination of starches and anything sweet (including fruit and all artificial sweeteners) and a strong preference for lean protein, legumes and vegetables. The main foods are eggs, fish, grass-fed beef, lentils, beans, vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, radish), mushrooms, fermented foods and drinks (natto, kimchi, sauerkraut), unsweetened tea or coffee and water. Calorie-dense nuts and legumes such as pecans, chickpeas, hummus, and peanuts are allowed under careful portion control. Plain coffee is allowed, but all milk products are to be avoided except cottage cheese.”    Unlike Paleo – beans are allowed and recommended for carbohydrates and protein (lentils are a favorite).  Also, one day a week is the fun day and consuming anything without limits to food types and quantity is recommended. 

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    Ferris claims, “without doing any exercise he lost 25 pounds of body fat in 6 weeks.”    As endurance athlete, not doing any exercise is never going to happen.  This approach does not agree with my mindset and many friends and colleagues.   The idea of rushing to get the most benefits in the shortest amount of time is find for some, including Ferris but personally these longer training sessions are the most fun.   However, it was worth examining in detail through a personal experiment to see how my body would react with heavy training and the slow carb approach. My biggest concern, would I get sick of eating the same things over and over again?

    Personal Slow-Carb Experiment with Training:  8 weeks with an average of 20 hours training (75-80% endurance running, cross country skiing, cycling and 20-25% weight and intense plyometric training).   60 days of continuous training and active recovery sessions every other week – hiking on the trails.

    Daily routine:

    4AM – Eat immediately after getting out of bed – 1 chicken breast and a bean salad (same thing every day)

    1 cup of  Kimera Koffee (touted to help with energy level, athletic performance and concentration and it does!)

    Multi Vitamin: Hammer Premium Insurance Caps, Endurance Amino Caps

    3 Omax3 Fish Oil capsules

    60 ounces of ice water

    After workouts – Hammer Recoverite and Cocoa Elite, 40 ounces of water

    Mid morning snack – Bean salad

    Lunch – Green salad (Kale, parsley, dill, arugula, olive oil, salt, pepper, avocado and either pork, beef or chicken with the salad)

    Mid afternoon snack – almonds

    Dinner –Green salad, olives, and extra protein (meat, fish, chicken, pork).

    So it was fairly basic diet but without any alcohol, juices, sugar and anything white.  I did include alcohol on the weekend – red wine.

    Early on I noticed that recovering from the hard weight workouts was difficult the next day so I increased both proteins (through food and recovery drinks) and more carbohydrate from greens and lentil salads.   It just took a bit of tweaking to get the right balance of food to be able to push through the next day’s workouts.

    One big concern was that losing body weight quickly might reduce power wattage on the bike and added in extra weight work – specifically the magical kettle bell.   It’s amazing (with good form) the overall body impact that a simple kettle bell swing can do!

    Personal Test Results in 8 weeks: 26 pounds of weight loss and significant increase in muscle mass.   Clearly this was enhanced with all the strength work.   Overall body fat dropped significantly and without getting very scientific with water weight analysis, skin calipers the easiest way to determine it is with the “clothing check”.  Pretty simple, when your clothes start feeling very loose body fat is being converted to muscle.    A great motivator especially as we all know the feeling of just a bit too tight with the cycling shirt in the early season!

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    Power wattage on the bike has increased in the 15-18% range with power/weight ratio, but the key was clearly ramping up the quad strength workouts.

    Overall, I was very happy with the slow-carb approach with additional protein and carbohydrates.   The best part of the program is that when you get hungry, just eat and this was crucial during the long training sessions for adequate recovery.

    As the race season approaches, consider slow carb as it might assist you with your fitness goals.   Looking forward to the next 8 week slow-carb and training push leading up to the Trans Am Bike Race with one new tweak –  the addition of cold showers every day!  See what happens.

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