Figuring calories per mile…

It’s not uncommon for people to ask how many calories they burn per mile, and if you do a few web searches, you’ll find numbers in the 35-50 cal/mile range.

Or rather, you’ll find *estimates* in that sort of range.

The problem being that the amount of calories you burn depends drastically on how hard you are riding. And if you are riding for 30 miles, you could get anywhere from 1000 calories to 1500 calories, which is a pretty big difference, if you care about how many calories you are burning.

You can also use an online calculator to figure out your calorie burn. If plug my numbers on this, I get the following values in cal/hour:

15 mph 27 cal/hr
16 mph 30 cal/hr
17 mph 33 cal/hr
18 mph 36 cal/hr
19 mph 39 cal/hr
20 mph 42 cal/hr

Now, that’s a purely flat ride. And there are obviously some aero calculations in there that may not be particularly accurate.

Another option is to use a heart rate monitor. My polar 720i claims to be able to compute the calorie burn for a ride. It knows my weight, my age, and my base HR. It also knows my altitude and speed, which could be very useful to compute calories, but AFAICT, it doesn’t use that in the calorie calculations.

On a recent ride, it claimed that I burnt 1110 calories in a 26.2 mile ride with 1445 feet of climbing, which comes out to around 42 cal/mile. How does that compare with the calculator above? Well, 1445 over 26.2 miles averages 1% over the whole climb – plug that in, and it gives an estimate of 1104 calories.

Which is really quite a bit closer than I expected.

When I was suffering up the climb to Sunrise on Ramrod, I was wondering how many calories I was burning. Given that it’s a climb and the speeds are slow, the amount of energy expended on climbing vs the energy expended overcoming air resistance is pretty high.

Here’s what the Polar says about that climb:

Duration: 95:30
Distance: 13.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2820 ft (really 3000 feet, but the polar was low on the altitude of the top).
Calories: 1146 (85 cal/mile)
Speed: 8.4 MPH

The speed calculator suggests only 905 calories, for a paltry 68 cal/mile.

My bicycle climbs wattage calculator figures the following:

Wattage(Climb): 134 watts
Wattage(Rolling): 10 watts
Wattage(Aero Drag): 14 watts
Wattage(Total): 160 watts

Now, 160 watts is 138 Kcal/hour. But humans are only about 25% efficient at converting food calories into work, so that means the food calorie expenditure is 552 Kcal/hour, and the overall expenditure = 95.5/60 * 552 = 878 calories total (66 cal/mile).

Interestingly, that’s very close to the online calculator.

So, at least for that climb, if I’m of normal efficiency, the polar calorie estimation is perhaps 50% high. If I was dehydrated (and I was, a bit), that would tend to push the HR higher than normal.

Now, of course, the real way to figure out calories burned is with a power meter, but I haven’t taken that step. yet.

Another climb showed up with Polar=603 calories (97 cal/mile), calculator=465 cal (75 cal/mile), website = 446 cal (71 cal/mile).

What does that all mean? Well, it means that cal/mile calculations aren’t really worth much – which really isn’t a surprise to me. It also means that the online calculator does a pretty good decent job on pure climbs.

It also means that the polar seemed to drastically overestimate calories on pure climbs, but it seemed to be okay on normal rides.

 


Another scandal rocks the Tour on the last day…

July 29, 2007
Paris, France

In a hastily-called press conference today after the ending of a tour rocked by doping, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme implicated Team Discovery in yet another scandal. A noticeably shaken Prudhomme read from a prepared statement:

“It has always been the goal of the tour to provide an even playing field for all riders and to vigorously prosecute any malfeasance by the teams. It is with very great regret that I announce that, based on the results of a recent investigation, Team Discovery riders Contador and Leipheimer have been stripped of their GC titles.

After the doping issues, we would have liked nothing better than to finish the tour and head off to the Riviera, but the obviousness of the incidents that occurred during the tour, and a push for action by the peleton left us with no choice but to investigate.

Based on a tip from a Bulgarian veteranarian, agents from the DGSE searched the Team Discovery European headquarters and discovered an advanced canine research center. Documents captured during the raid described prohibited research into canine mind-control, and detailed plans for using these canines to disrupt the 2007 tour and push Team Discovery riders to the top of the GC.”

 

Newly-crowned winner Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was outspoken in his criticism:

“It used to be that this sort of stuff was conducted with some subtlety, but this time it was blatant. I’d leave the house on a training ride, and there’d be dingos. On the climbs, dingos. On the descents, dingos. And that Team Discovery “film crew” that was purportedly scouting locations for a documentary, but ended up staying the whole month that I was home, in a car with suspicious amounts of dog hair.

There is simply no place for mind-controlled canines in the world of professional bicycle racing.”

 

Team Discovery directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel dismissed the charges as overblown:

“The use of canines in professional cycling has a long history, and what we are doing is totally within the rules. During the 1982 Tour Bernard Hinault traveled with a miniature Schnauzer who he had trained to fetch bidons for him, and our canines are assisting in a similar manner. For example, if a masseuse has forget his oil during a post-stage rubdown, the dog can be used to fetch it, saving valuable seconds.

We also have a separate program to quantify exactly how hard a rider must exert himself to be “working like a dog”

It is fanciful to claim that we are using these pets to disrupt the race and put riders at risk”

In a short question and answer session, Prudhomme clarified that while Team Discovery riders would be stripped of their individual titles, the team would retain their team title because, “nobody really cares about that anyway”.

(somewhat inspired by Fatty)

 


RAMROD 2007

The good part of goal events is that they give you something to focus on during your training.

The bad part of goal events is that they arrive. It was time to do RAMROD.

As usual, I slept poorly the day before the event, so instead of sleeping in until 3:30AM, I got up at 3:10AM. After a quick Clif bar for breakfast (breakfast?), I put in my contacts, pulled on an underarmour shirt (yellow), a jersey (cannondale robot), and my favorite pair of cannondale shorts (the ones with their kickin’ new flexible chamois (amazingly less chafing)), covered, of course, with a liberal application of Chamois Butt’r

By 4AM, I was sitting in the kitchen putting sunscreen on in the dark, thinking about what was to come. 144 miles, with an elevation gain of 11,000′, it was not going to be easy. And, I was worried that my preparation was something Fatty would have done…

In the interest of proper forshadowing, my preparation was:

  • Not riding more than 60 miles at a stretch this year until 3 weeks before the event
  • Trying to show off by flying up hills on our group ride 10 days before the event
  • Catching a cold from my daughter the weekend before
  • Getting a colonoscopy 3 days before the event, resulting in a full digestive reboot

A bit unorthodox, I will admit…

I got my bag of cycle stuff and took it out to the car. Then I got my food bag and bottles out of the fridge (*both* in the fridge because I forgot my bottles last year at STP). One of the bottles had a two-hour mix of Perpetuem, another had water. In the bag was:

  • A ziploc of another two hour mix of perpetuem
  • Four ziplocs of Accelerade mix (blue raspberry)
  • One bagel
  • One package of clif bloks (cran-whatever)
  • One package of beef jerky
  • A ziploc with about 30 Succeed! S!Caps

4:30AM, I’m out in front. The truck is loaded, my bike is on the rack. The stars are out. And Franklin is late. Well, he’s not technically late, as it’s only 4:30, but – okay, now it’s 4:40, and he’s officially late. He pulls up a few minutes later, we get his bike on the rack, and we head out to Enumclaw, a small farming town at the base of Mt. Rainier.

The time is a little critical, as we have tentative plans to meet a few friends to ride with them. Joe (our resident climber and holder of the “most insane cyclist” award in our little group) will be there, Per and Shanna (two of our ride leaders) are going to be there, and Reena (a friend of Franklin’s who rode on the training ride I did a few weeks ago) has also said she’ll be there.

In our favor is the fact that at 5AM, the Seattle-area rush hour is tolerable. I drive through Renton, and then out through a series of ex-small towns that are now specializing in ugly housing developments – Maple Valley, Black Diamond, and then on to Enumclaw high school.

We park three blocks from the school, and get our gear together. I pull on my arm warmers, and Franklin complains about the cold. He calls Reena, who is parked 3 cars behind us. We stuff our pockets and ride to the start line. It’s already 6AM, and I expect that everybody else will have departed.

After a quick nature break, we get on our bikes. Franklin complains about the cold again – and it is a bit chilly – but a) I don’t want to wait any more and b) I know that we’ll be doing a lot of climbing. At this point, one of the course officials approachs Franklin and asks him how old he is. Which requires a bit of explanation (not about Franklin’s age, which is a poorly-kept secret, but about why the official cares)..

RAMROD, you see, has a problem. Because it takes place in Mount Rainier National Park, they need to have a permit from the National Park Service, and that permit limits them to 900 riders. Early in the season – when the pain of the summer is only an abstraction – there are far more people who want to ride sign up. So, when you sign up for RAMROD, you go into a lottery drawing, and if you don’t, you go on a waiting list. When riders start to regain their sanity, they cancel their registrations, and they get transferred to somebody on the waiting list. This is a *huge* pain in the ass for Redmond Cycling Club, but they do it anyway.

Franklin had gone around this, and bought a registration directly from somebody. Somebody who was much older. And RAMROD assigns numbers not on the basis of registration order but on the basis of age, with the oldest riders getting the lowest numbers. My number was in the 500s. Franklin had 75, which rightfully belonged to somebody at least a decade older than he is. Or at least, how old he *claims* to be – he’s fairly reticent about revealing his age, and for all I know he is just a nicely-preserved 62 years old.

So, there was a bit of a discussion, but we ended up rolling through the start line, where they ripped off our “on the course” tags (for tracking purposes). And we we’re off.

And my stomach starts cramping. I’m not sure of the cause – it could be the pasta I had the night before, it could be the Clif bloks I ate right before starting, it could be that I’m still stick, but whatever the cause, I’m uncomfortable.

And Franklin is still complaining in a manner which I will describe later as “like a schoolgirl”.

The description of RAMROD for this year – on a different course because of the road damage of last winter makes it impossible to ride around the mountain right now – says that there are three climbs, but that’s over-simplifying things. Yes, there *are* three climbs, but to get to the base of the first climb, you have 3000-some feet of climbing to do over the first 40 miles. After a bump at the begining of about 600′, it’s a pretty steady climb for the next 30 miles. I publicly state that I’m going to be taking on the role of Iban Mayo for the ride, wheelsucking mercilessly and then fading when things get hard. I start this by sticking behind Franklin and Reena, who take easy pulls as we ride at reasonable speeds (say 18 or so) towards Greenwater, ending up with perhaps 15 riders behind us. My stomach is getting a little better, but I can’t say that the Perpetuem is going down very well (and frankly, even in the best of times, it tastes like orange-flavored slightly rancid pancake batter, which only supports my contention that cyclists love to suffer).

We stop at Greenwater (18.1 miles) for a “nature break”, and then head back out. I take a (slow – but do I really need to mention that?) pull at the front, and we keep rolling to the next rest stop (24 miles). At that point, I down the remaining few ounces of perpetuem, which makes me feel really sick for a few minutes, and mix two bottles of accelerade. We get on our bikes, start to ride out, and get stuck behind two guys who think that it’s a good idea to weave through a tight spot at 4mph and then stop in front of the porta-potties, blocking the exit. I barely clip out in time to avoid falling over in the parking lot. They are oblivious.

And then things start getting better. The accelerade is much better on my stomach, in combination with part of my bagel and one of the salt capsules. And the cramping seems to have gone away. We ride on to the entrance of the park (37 miles), at which point we’ve averaged 15.5 MPH.

Right after you enter the park, there is a nasty 700′ climb 2.5 miles long. I hang with Franklin and Reena for the first mile, and then realize that my legs are hurting, look down, and see that I’m riding above my lactic threshold (around 145 BPM for me), which is pretty much the definition of a bad idea on a ride like this. I back off to around 140, and settle into the climb. Near the top, I pass Per and Shanna on their *tandem*. They lead the RAMROD training series, so it’s not like they don’t have the conditioning for a ride like this, but on a tandem? Shanna says something, I recognize them, drop back, and ride with them chatting for a minute or so. I then ride off, and reach the entrance white river campground turnoff, which leads to the Sunrise climb. There’s a short little 200′ hill that leads down to the ticket booth, but it’s pretty steep and I stretch out my legs a bit and wick it up to around 30MPH.

And then *WHAM* – I hit the mother of all potholes with my back wheel. And the bike keeps rolling along, without any issues. I’m amazed that the rear wheel didn’t pinch flat (nor is there any wheel damage that I could find, surprising with a low-spoke-count wheel). I ride through the entrance and stop to fill up on water (water which Joe claims is the best water in the world). As I get off the bike, I see that the bump has unlatched my topeak seat wedge. I move to reattach my seat pack, and realize that the bump has totally fractured the plastic on the quick mount for the seat pack, so I stuff the pump in my jersey pocket, flip the pack over, and hang it off the split in my seat via the pump retention elastic.

And I head off to start Sunrise (13 miles, 2956′). Franklin and Reena aren’t quite ready, but I know that they’ll climb faster than me.

Sunrise is one of my favorite places to visit. Most tourists go to Paradise, which is on the south side of the mountain, but Sunrise feels much more wild, and has some nice hikes. And you can sometimes watch climbers on the snow fields if you remember your binoculars. I do feel obligated at this point to mention that the best close vista of Rainier is from the summit of Crystal Mountain, just one valley away from the mountain.

Given the length of the climb, my goal is to try to keep my cadence around 90, and my heart rate in the 130s.

About three miles up the mountain, I come to a mechanic stop. I pull over, wait a couple minutes, and then obtain a zip-tie to hook the pack back to me seat securely. Franklin and Reena pass me while I’m there.

And the climb continues. It’s about this time that my knee starts to hurt, on the back of my right knee. I’d had a twinge there after my hard (and stupid) workout on the hills, and now it appears that I’ve got an overuse injury. And it’s a particularly annoying one at this point. I worked hard to improve my leg strength this year so that I could use strength rather than my cardio (you generally have a choice to ride at a higher cadence and use less leg strength or a lower candence and more leg strength. The fastest way is to balance the two out for whatever length of ride you’re doing). But I can’t push hard with my right leg, so I’m stuck climbing a) slower than I had hoped and b) with a higher heart rate than I wanted. Generally, I’d just ride a little slower, but I’m already in my lowest gear and my cadence is down around 75, and going more slowly makes the knee hurt more, so I try to suck it up.

About halfway up, I catch up with Per and Shanna, who had skipped the stop after the park entrance. I’m riding at around 7MPH, and they’re going at around 5MPH. I talk for a bit, and then head off up the road. And I pass the course photographer, who took a picture I might actually pay for.

Though I am hurting, I’m passing more people than are passing me. There’s a quick water stop about 2/3rds of the way up, and I get back on the bike quickly and keep heading up. I finally reach Sunrise point (6100′ elevation), and pull into the parking lot. I pull out my jerky, eat a bit (umm, salty), take another salt pill, and chat a bit with one of the amateur radio volunteers (ramrod uses HAM radio for support because there is limited cell coverage), and head out.

And wonderfully, just at that point, the slope eases out to a couple percent, and I spin up to the summit. It has taken me 1:35 to complete the climb, averaging 8.3 MPH.

And I don’t feel bad. I eat a couple of small potatoes (with lots of salt), refill my water bottles, and talk with Franklin, Reena, and Dan (who is volunteering so he gets an automatic entry next year).

Front Row, right to left: Dan, Franklin, Eric, Reena
Back Row: Mount Rainier

The descent at 25MPH average takes 32 minutes. I experiment with an aero tuck to get extra speed, but it tires my back out. The descent is technical – there are a lot of tight turns and a fair amount of crappy pavement – so I take it easy. I regroup with Franklin and Reena at the entrance, and we head up the short climb to the highway. After a quick climb, we head back down the hill that I complained about earlier, back to the park entrance, and then right onto Crystal Mountain Boulevard (6 miles, 1700′). I feel okay strength-wise (at 78 miles), but my knee is hurting a lot.

Having skied at Crystal a bunch, I know the road fairly well, but there are things you don’t notice when you drive. For example, you don’t notice how crappy the road surface is. You don’t notice the headwind on the lower parts. You don’t notice how you’re always in the sun. etc.

I settle in for the climb, but this one is definitely no fun. It’s pretty comparable in steepness to Sunrise, but I’m stuck in a very narrow cadence band (75-80 RPM), and standing no longer makes it hurt less. I take one short break on the way up, then ride on into the parking lot, for a climb time of 52 minutes. Franklin walks over as I pull up and get off my bike, and his first words are “you don’t look too good…”.

He’s a keen observer. Not only do I not look that good, I don’t feel that good – I feel very overheated from the climb and a little dehydrated, but when I get off the bike, I start to feel much better. But the only thing that sustained me on the climb up was my full, certain confidence that I was done climbing for the day. I was happy that my knee was hurting, because it gave me a great reason to avoid the last climb – not that big overall, but with a 12% section both ways. I sent Franklin and Reena ahead, and told them that I would meet at the deli stop. I sat around in the shade for about 25 minutes, read the brochures for Crystal’s fabulous lodgings, and then decided to head out.

The descent, in a word, sucked. The road that was ugly to ride up wasn’t any better at 25MPH. I spent a lot of time weaving around to try to find the better pavement (there was no good pavement), and a lot of time standing so that the bike could move around more nicely. 15 minutes later I came to the stop sign, and turned right back onto highway 410, 88 miles into the ride, and 15 miles away from the “deli” stop. I shifted down a few gears, tried to establish a rhythm, and found that my knee had stiffened up after the rest and descent- I couldn’t spin any faster than 60RPM. It took me at least 15 minutes to get it warmed up enough to be able to spin at 90RPM. Luckily, in that section you lose another 900 feet and the notorious headwind wasn’t that bad. 42 minutes later – after a fair bit of water on the way down – I rode past the volunteers who were trying to get me to turn up the last climb, and turned into the deli stop.

The deli stop is pretty neat. They have a long table, and you start at the bread guy, move to the spread guy, the meat guy, the tomato guy, and then finally, the lettuce guy. At the end you have your sandwich, and then you grab something to drink, and go sit down in the grass (well, weeds, mostly) next to the fire station helipad (Greenwater is the closest aid station to Crystal, and they sometimes need to evac people out from there).

The sandwich was good, and helped settle my stomach down a bit. My drink of choice was a Kirkland Grape soda, and the fructose did an immediate number on my stomach (I can’t deal with a lot of fructose normally). I poured it out and went back and got a diet coke. And then, I sat around, stretched, and generally just waited for Franklin and Reena to show up. It wasn’t too hot if you were sitting up due to the wind, but whenever I went to lie down, I ended up getting too hot. And without any shade to be found, I just sat around, had a cookie, a couple of more salt pills, and waited.

Approximately 12 days later, Franklin and Reena rolled into the stop and picked up their sandwiches. I sat with them for 5 minutes, and then decided to depart to get a head start back. But I wasn’t getting excited about riding by myself for the last 20 miles, and I didn’t think I was up to hanging in a paceline.

And then something weird happened. I got out on the bike, and while my knee hurt, it hurt considerably less. I could ride at 95-100 RPM, and it felt okay. And I could run my heartrate up to 135, and *that* felt okay. I enjoyed that for perhaps 7 miles, and then a beautiful thing happened…

A paceline passed me running 3MPH faster than I was riding.

I’d been passed by 4 or 5 pacelines running 7MPH faster than I was riding, but that was faster than I was capable of riding. I could probably hang o the back of one, but wouldn’t be able to pull at the front.

I grabbed the wheel of the last rider in the group, and found that I could easily hang on. The downside was that the riders were tired and several of them didn’t have much experience in pacelines, so the line wasn’t very smooth. The upside was that I was out of the wind and feeling quite good by now. I had moved forward to third wheel (following two inexperienced riders) when we turned off the highway onto Mud Mountain Road. Whenever you make a turn like that in a paceline, if you want to keep it together you need to slow down to let the riders in the back close up the gaps, but the two in front took off. I could have taken off and caught up with them, but decided that staying in the current line was a better idea, so I waited for them to regroup behind me, and then pulled for a couple of miles until we got to the final descent back into Enumclaw. I took it easy on that, and then rolled in through the finish line, where they ripped off my “back in” tag and directed me to the ice cream van parked nearby. Joe played valet and took my bike off to the side and I got a creamsicle. And another Diet Coke. And a few handfuls of pretzels. And I felt pretty good – the salt tabs definitely made a considerable difference.

And so, that was it – 124 miles, 8200′ feel of elevation gain. Not what I had hoped to do, but given the issues I had (including my lack of long rides), pretty good.

At the finish, I ran into Per and Shana, who had finished Sunrise but had come to their senses and only sampled the other two climbs before coming back.

I hanged around for a while longer, and Franklin and Reena (who had hung out at the deli stop for a long time) rolled in, and then fairly soon after that, rider #1 finished. I hope I can ride like that when I’m 70 years old…

In this picture you can see why I’m genetically disadvantaged compared to Joe when climbing…

Finally, a big thanks to the RAMROD folks, who really know how to put on a good ride. Fresh water done with food-grade equipment (no “rubber hose taste”), the great deli stop, and the food at the finish (why don’t more rides do that? That’s the time you want to eat most).

Next year? Well, it’s only three days later, and I think the answer is yes. The classic route is supposed to be a little easier than this year’s.

Ride Time: 8:21
Distance: 124 miles
Average Speed: 14.8 MPH
Calories: 5600 (though I think the polar drastically underestimates climbing calories – more on that in a later post).

I thought you might be interested in the profile for the ride. Most of it is directly from my heart rate monitor, but I had to fill in the climb I didn’t do based on what Franklin and Reena told me about it at the finish.

 


My upcoming stage…

I’m getting up at O-god-30 on Thursday morning to go ride RAMROD. This is one of the hardest single-day rides (as opposed to “races”) in Washington state – with 143 miles and about 11K in climbing.

It has one 15 mile climb of about 3000 feet (perhaps 11 miles at 8% or so), and two 2000 foot climbs.

It being the tour time, and all, I wondered how this ride stacked up against the typical Tour stages.

The answer? Well the big climb rates a cat 2, and the shorter ones are cat 3. That makes the ride a…

Medium Mountain Stage

You know, one of those stages that has a few small climbs in it but nothing very hard?

So, I guess I shouldn’t be worried about it, right?

 


CTS training tip…

When going out on a ride, always be prepared for any weather conditions that you might encounter.


A miserable but learning experience…

Yesterday I headed out with a few friends on a 120 mile 8000 ft “training ride”. The plan was to start in Enumclaw, ride up to the top of Chinook pass, descend and ride up to the top of Sunrise, eat lunch, and then return back to Enumclaw.

I was a bit worried because I was riding with my friend Joe, who not only puts in at least twice as much mileage as I do but is also perhaps 30 pounds lighter than me. Luckily, Joe doesn’t mind riding slower so that others can keep up.

My nutrition plan was to use the Perpetuem, to hopefully avoid the issues I’ve had with Accelerade in the past on long rides. I also brought a bunch of Endurolyte capsules to give me a little extra electrolyte, and some Newtons to chew on. I made up two “two hour” bottles – with enough perpetuem for two hours in each – and carried a camelback for the extra water. I usually don’t like to do that, but we were limited with water sources and it was hot hot.

Joe had written up the ride as “16-18MPH on the flat”, which is what some of our other group rides. We tended towards the upper number (well, actually, above the upper number) for the first hour, which would have been very pleasant if not for the fact that we climbed around 1000 feet during that time. But, though my HR was a bit higher than I had planned (in the mid 140s rather than the 130s), that’s still right around my lactate threshold and I felt good and spent time talking with Greg as we rolled towards our first stop at Greenwater.

The next 17 miles we picked up another 1200 feet of altitude, as we journeyed towards the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. By that point, I was starting to feel a little out of sorts – I didn’t have the same sort of snap, but I knew that I wasn’t dehydrated nor was I down on sugar. I took a few more endurolytes. Then the fun began, as we climbed up Chinook pass (9 miles, 2400 feet)

I did okay on the first part. I gapped off the back of the group – not a surprise – and just tried to ride my own pace, and finished the whole section in about 75 minutes. Not horrible, but not a lot of fun.

A quick descent back down to the white river campground, $5 to enter, and it was time to work on the Sunrise climb. By this point, I was seriously down on both oomph and motivation, and the other riders just rode away from me (partly because I forgot one of my gloves at the water fountain, but mostly because I was so down on energy). I did okay on the first 5 miles – which aren’t very steep – but then the road kicked up and it was all I could do to ride on my smallest gear (a 30/27) at perhaps 80 RPM. I rode a mile or so, and stopped to take a quick break and stretch. After another 15 minutes, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to finish the climb, and I stopped, sat for a while, phoned Joe and my wife to tell them what was up (interestingly, there was great cell coverage there. My guess is that we were using the towers at the summit of Crystal Mountain Ski area, which is just across the valley from sunrise (and sports the best view of Mt. Rainier around)). And then I descended back down, and started suffering…

It was 26 miles from where I turned around back to Greenwater, which was the first place where I could get some real food. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t fun – I stopped a couple of times to rest, but it really didn’t help much. Eventually, I made it to Greenwater and stopped by the Naches tavern for some food.

The chicken strips and fries did wonders for me, and I ate them with considerable amounts of salt. I tried a Coke but the fructose did not sit well on my stomach, so I only drank about a third of it. After about 30 minutes, I got on the bike and rode the remaining 18 miles back to Enumclaw. I got a little bit of snap back in my legs and started to feel better.

The exact distance isn’t clear – because of me not remembering to start my new HRM – but it’s pretty close to 100 miles, with about 6500 feet of climbing.

The whole experience is eerily reminiscent of my experience on STP last year. I felt good at the beginning, then after 3 or 4 hours started to really lose power. Both days were hot, and both days I sweated a lot.

On the other hand, I did another hard climbing ride earlier this year (59 miles with 4K elevation) where I felt strong, but it was cool and overcast that day.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking, that perhaps I was down on sodium?

But that shouldn’t happen, should it? The perpetuem has electrolytes in it, and I was supplementing with Endurolytes. *But*, if you look at the labels, you find that Perpetuem only has 231mg in two scoops (a one-hour dose), and the Endurolytes only have 40m each. So, that puts me at about 350mg per hour of sodium. As a comparison, the Accelerade I use has 380mg in my hourly dose.

Is that enough? I did a little research…

While there are guidelines around how much sodium is necessary to help water absorption, there are differing opinions on amounts above that. In Serious Cycling, Burke reports a recommendation of 400mg to 1000mg per liter and ACSM recommends 500 to 700mg per liter.

The amount you need depends on how acclimatized you are to the heat – more highly trained atheletes sweat more water and less salt. And it depends on your personal physiology.

The anecdotal stuff I’ve read from the ultra groups (running, cycling, triathlons) says that at least for some people, salt supplementation is pretty important.

During those long hours on the bike, I was seriously considering skipping RAMROD, but I’ve now decided I’m going to do it. But, I’m going to use a better salt supplement.

A few pages I found useful:

Ultrarunner

Ultracycling

 

 

 


What makes a good hydration drink?

There are a lot of hydration (aka “sport”) drinks out there, ranging from the common Gatorade to esoteric ones like Gleukos. All make claims around why they are the best thing around and why all the other drinks suck.

So, I thought I’d write a bit about my understanding of what makes a good drink and help you decode some of the labels out there.

Calorie Density

The first thing that you need from a hydration drink is a sufficient calorie density. Most experts suggest 250 calories perhaps up to 350 calories per hour. So, you need a drink that has that many calories when mixed with a sufficient amount of liquid to make a reasonable dent in your hydration needs (sometimes you may need more or less water). That puts carbs in the 6% to 8% range. Drinks with fewer carbs don’t provide enough energy, and those with more don’t provide enough water.

Gastric Emptying & absorption

Once you have the sugar solution in your stomach, you need to get it absorbed into the bloodstream. The absorption of the water in the hydration drink is increased both by the presence of the sugar (within reason) and by the presence of electrolytes. Fructose is a bit different than other sugars in this respect – see later in the post for more info.

Sweetness

Sweetness is a primary factor in whether you drink enough to meet your energy and hydration needs. There are two important points here:

  1. A sweetness that tastes good at rest is likely too sweet for a workout beverage, so you won’t drink enough of it…

The second point is the most important one. Sucrose (table sugar) is arbitrarily given a value of 100 on the sweetness scale. The good hydration drink makers use different sugars to give you a product that isn’t too sweet but still packs enough carbs.

Acclerade is primarly sweetened with sucrose but uses Trehalose (sweetness=45) to tone the sweetness down, and also a bit of citric acid to make it more sour.

Perpetuem is at the other end of the spectrum, using Maltodextrin, which doesn’t have much sweetness at all, and to be frank, has a bit of a weird taste to it.

Protein

There is some good research around the benefits of adding protein to hydration drinks. Accelerade claims that their 4:1 ratio (using whey protein) is the best, Hammer claims that their 7:1 ratio (using soy protein) is the best.

I like the protein, but it does make water bottles a bit messy. I soak mine full of water overnight to make them easier to clean, but you should still make sure never to put the lid on a dry bottle, lest it mold.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are added to hydration drinks to speed their absorption. They also can replace the electrolytes lost to sweat but aren’t usually present in amounts that will replace all the lost electrolytes, so you may need to supplement.

Simple or Complex carbs?

There is a lot of marketing out there on the advantages of complex carbs or glucose polymers over simpler sugars. I’m somewhat skeptical of the claims of benefits (other than their lack of sweetness) – maltodextrin is (for example) rapidly broken down into dextrose.

Food Fatigue

If you ride for long periods – say, more than 3 hours – it’s not unlikely to find yourself unable to stomach another swig of your drink. This is known as “food fatigue”, and is a good argument for a variety of foods rather than a single one. 

Bad Ideas:

Plain Water

Water by itself is bad for a few reasons.

Most obviously, water doesn’t have any caloric value, so it doesn’t help towards your energy needs. But there is a more important reason…

When you are sweating, your body is trying to maintain both your blood volume and the sodium concentration in your blood. If your blood volume goes down, you get thirsty, but if you drink plain water, that ends up diluting the sodium concentration in your blood, and your thirst is turned off.

Not to mention the fact that water is absorbed less quickly by itself, which may lead to a waterlogged (ie “sloshy”) feeling.

Now, if you’re using gels, solid food, or a concentrated drink, then when you add water, you get a good mixture, so that’s okay.

Fructose in drinks

Pre-mixed “original” Gatorade and powerade are both sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a bit of a weird sugar that has a couple of disadvantages:

First, it has a different absorption mechanism that limits how much you can absorb over time. If you get more than the amount that can be absorbed, the rest will be unabsorbed in your digestive tract, which can lead to the dreaded “GI difficulties” (typically diarrhea). Some people have fructose malabsorption which may make this worse.

Second, fructose gets processed through the liver, and is useful primarily in replacing liver glycogen rather than muscle glycogen.

In hydration drinks, the sweetness of fructose is also a severe disadvantage, and premixed gatorade is quite sweet but low on calorie density.

So, fructose is a bad choice as a primary sweetener, but not a problem as a secondary ingredient.

Powdered Gatorade does not have fructose, and their “endurance” formula is a combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, so those are likely better choices.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice has (no surprise) a lot of fructose in it, and tends to be very sweet.

 


Bicycle Adventures San Juan Islands Family Camping Tour

My family (me, my wife, and 13-year-old daughter) spent the beginning of this week on a family tour of the San Juan Islands run by Bicycle Adventures.

This is our second tour with Bicycle Adventures – two years ago we did their Columbia River Gorge Family Tour, and had a great time. If you have an active family I heartily recommend any of their family tours – you don’t need to be a cyclist to have a lot of fun.

This one was to be a bit different, simply because it was a *camping* tour. Now, as a rule, the Gunnersons do not camp. Both my wife and I have had plenty of camping experiences in our childhoods, which I will summarize as “take a long trip to get there, set up the tent, eat some camp food, get lots of mosquito bites, and ultimately wake up in a wet sleeping bag from the rain”.

But in this case it’s “camping light” – we *did* sleep in a tent, but there was real plumbing to be had and we didn’t have to do any cooking, so, we decided to bend the rules in this case.

All the Bicycle adventures tours are multi-sport tours – which means that you do something other than riding your bicycle. For the family tours, you spend less time riding and the rides are pretty short – which means that you don’t have to be a cyclist to do one (though if you are a cyclist, you can get in a few extra miles here and there, but don’t expect to get 50 mile days on the family tour).

This trip we ended up with 8 adults and 6 kids, and 3 guides, which is a fairly big trip for BA, but small enough that you can fit in one van and actually get to know the other people on the group.

The other thing to note is that while you pay a fair amount ahead of time, you don’t pay for anything during the tour. Meals are paid for, ice cream at the end of rides, ferry fares, etc. That lets you focus on relaxing…

So, here’s what we did:

Sunday:

Sunday the group met at the Anacortes marina. We drove, but some of the other families (from New York, Austin, and Palo Alto) were picked up at their Seattle hotels. We rode to the Guemes Island ferry, took it across, and then got lunch at the General Store there. After lunch, we rode around the island a bit – a way for the guests to get used to cycling again, and for the guides to get the feel of the group. Six of the kids were on their own bikes, with the youngest two on trailercycles. The three of us were the only ones that brought our bikes (my Madone, my wife’s new Trek 5000 WSD, and my daughter’s specialized) – the rest rented them.

At the midpoint the group split – the three of us went and did the northwest side of the island, and the rest rode straight back, to catch the ferry.

Ferry rides are a fact of life in the San Juans, and you are sometime constrained by having to race to get to a specific ferry. It’s like the weather – you just learn to accept it.

So… We caught the ferry back to Anacortes, and then rode across town (perhaps 3 miles) to the Anacortes ferry, and then went on with our bikes. After about 40 minutes, we arrived at Lopez Island, our base for the next 4 days. But first, we had to ride up from the ferry dock. Lopez is one of the flattest islands, but it’s still an island, and you have to get up from the water. That took us to Lopez Farm Cottages, where we would camp.

As is typical of BA trips, the area was ready for us, with our REI tents already set up, and snacks set out in the shelter (chips, salsa, beer, etc.). A nice dinner of barbecued tri-tip finished off the day.

Monday:

Monday is spent cycling around Lopez island, visiting Spencer Spit State Park, Agate Beach State Park (for lunch), Shark Reef Sanctuary (for nice views on the hot side of the island, and a view of some stellar sea lions on nice days), and then Lopez Village for ice cream, and finally back to the campsite. That’s about 30 miles total, which may seem like a long distance if you aren’t a cyclist, but you have a long time to do it, and everybody in the group finished nicely. The traffic is fairly sparse and well behaved, though some of the road surface is chipseal (tar with gravel tossed on top of it and then rolled in), which makes it a bit rough and slow at times on a road bike. If you’re on one of the rental bikes, you won’t notice the roughness though it will make things a bit more slowly.  Dinner was pork chops and corn on the cob.

Tuesday:

Tuesday is a day spent on the water. The group gets on the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan island, where we took a whale watching tour around the island. We saw a small number of Orcas close up, and a whole lot of other whale-watching boats. After we got back in Friday harbor, we took the ferry back to Lopez for a dinner of sockeye salmon.

Wednesday:

Wednesday we… surprise! got on a ferry to travel to Orcas island, to journey to Moran State Park and climb Mt. Constitution. On our feet. We ended up with a hike of about 4.5 miles with about 2400 feet of elevation gain. The climb is well worth it, with sweeping views of the whole region from the tower at the top. If you want some pain, you can ride your bike to the top, and I understand that they allow car drivers to just drive up with it.

We had to catch an early ferry back (inter-island ferries have very sporadic schedules), and got back to the campsite at around 4PM. I headed out for a bit of training in the heat. The island is a lot nicer at normal speeds – the chipseal is less jarring with less weight on the saddle, and there is a nice selection of rolling hills to stretch your legs on. I ended up doing about 20 miles in the heat (my polar said the peak heat was 112 degrees).

Thursday:

Thursday was our last day – we got up, packed up, and headed to spencer spit to go sea kayaking. We had an nice time exploring the area around the park on the kayaks, then ferried back to Anacortes to come home.

 

Overall, a very enjoyable trip with a great group of people. Having a full itenerary and not having to pay for anything means that all you have to worry about is filling your water bottles and putting on sunscreen.

Definitely recommended.


Carbs – the good, the bad and the ugly

When is sugar okay

Different kinds of sugar

Sugar metabolism and absorption

 Bonk

 

Carbohydrates have gotten a pretty bad reputation in the last few years – a not entirely undeserved reputation – for the bad effects that it can have on you. What is often not appreciated is that role of carbohydrates in exercise. So, I thought I’d write a little something that (with any luck) will make the whole subject less confusing.

I’m also going to simplify a bunch of information. Let me know if I went too far.

Carbohydrates and blood sugar 

Your body has regulation mechanisms to keep your blood sugar level constant. When it gets low, you get hungry.

And then, presumably, you eat. Through a wonderful and intricate process, the food gets digested, and your blood sugar goes up. And now, the important part:

The way in which your blood sugar changes depends on what carbs you eat.

This is described in a very simplistic way by a measure known as the Glycemic Index. You determine this by giving a group of volunteers a small portion of different foods and measure how much their blood sugar goes up over a specific time.

And then you end up with a chart that gives a value for each food (well, actually, two values. There is one scale where glucose=100 and another where white bread=100).

Why does this matter? Well, if you eat high glycemic foods, you get a spike in your blood sugar, which your body tries to regulate down with the release of insulin which pulls the sugar out of your blood and stores it as fat. Unfortunately, the insulin response is too much, which causes your blood sugar to drop, which makes you hungry, so you eat again.

Over time, this is believed to lead to insulin resistance, where the body stops responding to the insulin and the blood sugar stays high. At that point, you have type 2 diabetes, or are close to it.

This effect has been immortalized in the “I ate chinese food, but an hour later I’m hungry again”. Chinese food is often eaten with a lot of white rice, which has a fairly high glycemic index.

But, it’s not as simple as all that. First of all, it’s not just the glycemic index that is important but the amount of carbs in the food you eat. Carrots have a very high glycemic index but don’t contain much carbohydrate so they have little effect. The glycemic index is also a function of the whole meal, not just one component, and fats and protein both have a moderating impact on the glycemic index of carbs.

Sugar in your diet

effects of all sugars, including fructose

Sugar Absorption & Conversion

The ultimate destination of carbs is glucose, which is either used directly in the brain (and muscles), or stored in the liver and muscles and glycogen.

But first, the carbohydrate needs to be converted to glucose.

 glycemic index drawbacks.

 

 

 

 

insulin response

 

sweetness

Bonk

 


50 nice miles, 30 bad ones…

On Saturday I went out to get some quality miles in preparation for Ramrod. Because I rode with my wife and daughter on the flying wheels 25 mile route, I didn’t get my usual century in, which means that the longest ride I’ve done this year is the 60 (ish) miles on the 7 hills 11 hills metric (ish). I felt great on that ride, but that’s far short of the 145 miles that I’ll be doing on Ramrod, and I really wanted some serious time to work on my pace and fuel strategy.

I elected to start with the FW 50 miler and add on from there. The first couple of hours was pretty nice – my strategy is to work to keep my HR below 130 BPM (higher is okay on big hills) and my cadence above 90 RPM. So, I slogged up Inglewood, flew up Ames lake, took a quick nature break in Carnation, and then rode to fall city and up fall city-issaquah.

At that point I felt pretty well, and descending back into Issaquah at 45MPH always makes me smile. But then it started to unravel.

First of all, my stomach (fueled on accelerade and a bagel) was a bit unsettled, and I seemed to be a bit dehydrated and down on salt. I had a bit of jerky which tasted great (and helped), but I’m reluctant to depend on my desire for salt because I’m a sodium-based snacker. Going through Issaquah, I went to sprint at a stoplight and manage to tweak my IT band on my right leg (I’ve been doing some PRK stretches, and I think that was contributory). Which was bad – it was twinging fairly significantly.

I had originally thought that I might climb the zoo, but decided instead to get over the hill on 164th, the easiest route. I rode very easy on my smallest gear (something like a 37/27), made it to the top, and stopped at Lewis Creek park for water and to stretch.

Which helped immensely. I descended the back side of the hill to coal creek, crossed, and then descended down and over 405. That series is probably my favorite one around – you lose 800′ on the trip from the top of Lakemont all the way down to the water, and there are few places where you need to brake.

I got on the trail, rode to Kirkland, and felt a little better up Market and up through Juanita, and then took the trail back home. But a few problems persisted:

1) My energy was really, really weird. I felt okay on the trail but had trouble keeping my speed down.

2) When I went to climb home (up 171st from W. Lake Sam), I was really out of oomph. I was clearly eating enough and had okay hydration, and my speed wasn’t that high, so I’m not sure what it was.

Anyway, checking the download on my polar, it was 80 in 5:10, which put me at about 15.5, pretty good considering how easy I rode the first 50. And I ended up with 3500 feet of vertical, more than I expected (164th added a bunch).

My analysis is that 1) The accelerade isn’t working on the longer distances and 2) I need more electrolytes. I bought some Perpetuem at Gregg’s (who inexplicably only had the unflavored), and some endurolytes, and the perpetuem worked well on my Tuesday night ride, though I had to cut it with half a scoop of accelerade to cover the weird flavor.