Monday, October 27, 2008

Race Report: Smithville Cross Festival Day 2

In retrospect, it might not have been the best plan to drive 4 hours each way to and from a race that only lasted 30 minutes. And I had to go alone. My Cross Yoda had a busy weekend, and my parents wanted to go to church. It would have been a great time to have a supportive girlfriend.

Anyway, the day was ridiculously windy. Like can't walk in a straight line kind of windy. Like trouble staying upright kind of windy. And the course was also much more exposed to the wind than the course at Chris Cross.

I'll only talk briefly about the course, because I just don't have the energy tonight. It wound back and forth quite a bit. Like a very long snake. It made for some pretty sharp turns. There was some off-camber riding, as well. And, in one part, a realllly steep run-up. You'll see that in the video, when I post it (it'll be a short one).

So my race, once again, was the last one of the day. Our race left five seconds after the masters' men and five seconds before the juniors. Eight juniors in the field, by the way, and that was really cool.

I probably went out too hard on the first lap. I was in third place for a while. But after that first lap, I knew I had pushed too hard. The second lap was really hard. I wanted it to be over. But coming to the end of the second lap and seeing that were only two laps left gave me . . . well, let's call it hope. So I was able to push through the final two laps. There was one other woman whom I passed in the first lap and then worked really hard to hold her off through the next three laps. And I did!

I managed to finish in 6th place out of 12, which is a far cry from second-to-last. And I was happy with my performance. I still think that I can do better. I think I could win. But it's only my second race, still, and there's still plenty of time for that later. I'm extremely happy with the way my cycling skills are coming along--my handling, my cornering, my accerating, my body position. It's all coming together, and it feels awesome, especially after so little time doing it. Also? Totally nailed the mounts and dismounts. Didn't so much nail the run up. My borrowed mountain biking shoes are about half a size too big, and my feet kept sliding out of them while I was trying to run up this super steep hill. Had to pause and jam my feet back into them a couple times. But once I got past that run up, I was golden.

Unfortunately, I think the racing and driving, combined with two cycling classes and a 4 mile run today, may have taken some kind of toll on my body. All day, I've felt sluggish, hungry, thirsty, and cold. It may just be low blood sugar and dehydration, but I'm a little concerned that I'm getting sick. At any rate, I'm exhausted right now, and that's why this race report is so boring.

Note: Thanks to Lanterne Rouge Racing for the pictures, again!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pre-Race: Smithville Cross Festival, Day 2

Note: In my haste to get this post up last night, I failed to link to the rightful owner of this picture (whose cross photos are way better than mine). Sorry, Cross Guru!


Big thanks to Jamie, whose race report inspired me to go out and practice mounting and dismounting this afternoon.

I am totally going to own those flying mounts tomorrow!

Also, if you haven't checked out Manda Pants's blog yet, go read it! She was kind enough to accept some of my mediocre writing for a guest post to her blog (thanks, Pants!)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Runner's High: Sara Ramirez

It was a good day. It began with a few miles of cross-specific bike training (which was quite the cold, muddy, rainy adventure). In the middle there was some core training (not like that) and a kick-ass cycling class. Seriously. Kick. Ass. I kicked my students asses. And they were kind enough to return the favor. I could have had a swim workout in the lake underneath my bike when I was done.

But the best part of the day was the end. The part after my 7:00 client. You know. When Grey's Anatomy came on and I decided to do a long run on the treadmill because if I drove home to watch it I would miss the first half.

Now I was really hating the treadmill tonight. But I had no problem running fast after that, I can tell you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recipe File: Buffalo Chili

I love this chili. It's adapted from a recipe I found in Men's Health. The taste is fresh and lean, and benefits greatly from sour cream, parmesan cheese, or corn chips. And I'm sure that crackers would also be delicious (if predictable).


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground buffalo chuck (or any ground/chopped game you have around. My family usually has some elk in the freezer. Rabbit would be nice. Beef is acceptable, but be sure it's grass-fed and organic, or else the flavor won't be sufficiently strong.)
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and diced
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 serrano chili, seeded and diced (leave the seeds in if you want an extra kick!)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 big can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes (watch out for unnatural gunk in the ingredients list, and buy organic if you can. Or, even better, use fresh ones!)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce (again, be sure to check the ingredients)
2 cups beef stock (good luck finding all natural. Make your own if it concerns you.)
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I used dried, and it turned out okay. But I'm sure fresh would have been much better)
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1 cup cooked black beans
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat a heavy skillet with the oil and heat it on medium-high. Cook the buffalo until it's brown. Add the jalapeƱos, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook over medium until the onions turn translucent. Add the tomato sauce, beef stock, tomatillos, cilantro, paprika, and cumin. Boil. Then simmer for 1½ hours. Add beans. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6

These directions are the basic version, for those of you who aren't fortunate enough to (have parents who) own a crockpot. If you are so blessed as to have one of these ingenious devices, brown the meat in oil. When it's mostly cooked, add the peppers, garlic, and onion. After the onions turn translucent, dump all remaining ingredients with the meat mixture into the crockpot. Cover, turn on, go to work, and come home to the delicious smells of chili in your home. Particularly satisfying if it's cold outside.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Stop Slouching!": Lordosis

Note: Videos and pictures of exercises to come. Just really wanted to get this up today; I've been working on this one for weeks.

We talked a while back about kyphosis, or the "dowager hump" (which sounds like a new-fangled dance move) and some of the steps you can take to reduce that (stop slouching! I know you're slouching as you read this). Today I want to address a problem that I see occurring more frequently than kyphosis in the athletic population: lordosis.

Lordosis isn't exactly the opposite of kyphosis; it's the same thing in a different part of the spine. Where kyphosis describes an exaggeration in the primary curve of the spine, lordosis is an exaggeration of one of the secondary curves--the lumbar curve. Lordosis, like kyphosis, can be highly pronounced (don't click that unless you're ready to be grossed out), but you'll see much milder manifestations on a day-to-day basis. I get to see it everyday when I look in the mirror. You'll know that you have it if your butt sticks out (ghetto booty, natch), you thrust your stomach and hips forward when you stand, you've been told you're swaybacked, or if you've ever been mistaken for a pregnant person (if you're actually pregnant, chances are good that you're lordotic also, in which case you'll probably need to come back here in a few months and work on regaining correct posture after delivery).

What causes lordosis? There's a matrix of factors that can come together to produce this postural misalignment, but I'll focus on how it can happen for endurance athletes. At the most technical level, lordosis occurs when someone has tight hip flexors, weak abdominals, glutes, and/or hamstrings, and overactive spinal extensors (could be a combination of any of these factors). If you're reading this blog, it's totally safe to guess that your hip flexors are tight from cycling and running so much, your back extensors are overactive from swimming when you're tired, your hamstrings and glutes are weak because your run and bike form reinforce already existent biomechanical imbalances, and your abs are weak because you're too busy/tired/lazy to work in core strengthening and spinal stability with a full schedule of swimming, cycling, and running. Either that, or you're doing the wrong ab exercises.

For the majority of the population, the cure will involve strengthening the abs and glutes. And endurance athletes (particularly triathletes) will also need to do significant stretching and possibly myofascial release of the hip flexors.

But how do I do that, Jamie? Ah, fear not, gentle readers. I shall tell you how to work towards proper posture in ways that (primarily) will not require access to a gym. Here's a start:

Hip Flexor Stretch
I showed you this one a couple months back, when we discussed lumbo-pelvic stretches. Here's a refresher!

Stretch one leg back behind you, drop the knee, and tilt the top of the hips back (this is called a posterior pelvic tilt). Keep the chest lifted. Stand next to a wall if you need to hold on to something for balance. Variations: you can drop the back knee, continuing to maintain upright posture and a posterior pelvic tilt. In either position, you can lift your ipsilater (i.e. on the same side as the stretching hip) overhead and back behind you. That's a more advanced stretch, so be sure you can hold your balance before you try it. Hold that stretch 20-30 seconds 2-4 times on each side.

Pelvic Tilts
This is one of the safest and most basic abdominal exercises you can do. And I don't care if it looks too easy; it's going to be helpful for you, so do it even if you think it's too basic!

Begin by laying on your back, knees bent and feet 3-6 inches from your derriere. You'll need to keep your knees aligned with hips and feet, so if that's going to be hard for you, grab a yoga block (a thick paperback or two will also do the trick) and stick it between your legs. Squeeze together for a little bit of inner thigh work as well! Take a deep breath in, and direct the air into your stomach; make your stomach swell up with the air. As you exhale, force the air out of your stomach and keep tightening down (the rhythmic breathing is to make sure that you engage your deep abdominals). While holding your abs down (still exhaling), pull your hips towards you (posterior pelvic tilt, again) without lifting your bum from the ground. You should feel your low back press against the floor, but don't let your hips come up. On your next breath in, relax, then repeat. Do this 15-20 times, or for 30-60 seconds. Make sure you're engaging your abdominals with each repetition.

This is the next step up from the pelvic tilts, and should activate your glutes and hamstrings along with the abs. Bonus? Do it right and you get a mild stretch through the hip flexors as well!

Start like you did with the pelvic tilts. You still need to keep your knees aligned, so keep using the block/books, if you need to. Also? Turn your toes in, a bit, so that you're pigeon-toed. Breathe in, fill the stomach with air. Breathe out, tilt the pelvis towards your chest, push through both heels at once, and lift your hips up into the air. Concentrate on squeezing your butt cheeks and pushing your knees forward (still holding them in alignment). Take a deep breath in at the top of the movement, and as you exhale press each vertebra deliberately into the ground. Repeat 6-12 times.

12 times feel too easy? Try these variations. At the top of your movement, take several deep breaths, focusing on filling your stomach with air on the inhale and tightening your abdominals down while pulling the pelvic floor up (tighten your sphincter muscles--the urethra and anus) on the exhale. You can put your feet on a bosu ("and the butt-ocks") or stability ball (and is it just me, or is that stability ball far too squishy?). You can lift one leg up (think of it as a continuation of the line of your body, i.e. don't lift it too high) and do a one-legged bridge (note that in the video the guy is lifting his leg too high) . . . Lots of options here, guys, if a plain old bridge seems too easy!

Back Extensor Stretch
First off, stop doing spinal extensions. Seriously. Stop it.

There are many stretches that will work to loosen up those erector spinae; most of them involve rounding the back like a cat. Here's my favorite one. Start in a standing position. Stretch both arms up overhead and cross one arm over the other. Flexing at the hips, knees, and back simultaneously, reach over and grab hold of your legs just above the knees (arms are still crossed). Anchor yourself there with your hands, then slowly extend the hips and knees. Allow the back to round. Do this stretch right, and you should feel it all the way up your spine, into your neck, even around the crown of your head and forehead. You might also feel the muscles across your thoracic spine and shoulder blades stretching. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then do the same thing with the arms switched. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

Self Myofascial Release
Of the thoracolumbar fascia (hell yes, I just worked that into a blog post!). Too long to put it all in a heading. This is an above-and-beyond kind of exercise. If you have access to a foam roller, it'll probably help with the posture, and if nothing else it'll feel good.

But first, do you have lower back pain? If so, don't do this one. Too risky. Go back to stretching. If not, you may proceed.

Lay with the foam roller under your low back. Gently contract your abs to support your back. Roll slightly to one side, so that the foam roller isn't contacting your spine. Slowly roll yourself on the foam roller from the top of your hips to the base of your ribs. If you find a tight spot, pause there for 30-60 seconds. Look for those little spots, and hold yourself right on it; avoid rolling back and forth over those trigger points. Switch sides. Give yourself at least 5 minutes on each side; if it's too intense, switch back and forth, side to side. Try to relax into it a little more each time, but remember to keep the core lightly engaged to support your back.

But Why?
But Jamie, you say, this just occurred to me: you are a random person on the internet. It is entirely possible that you are full of shit. Why should I listen to what you say, let alone bother fixing my supposed excessive lumbar lordosis?

A fair point, my friend. And if you're concerned about following the advice of some random person on the internet, you can feel free to come in and see me at my gym. I will be happy to train you.

As to why you should bother with correcting your posture, the first is a structural concern. The excessive curvature of your spine indicates that the space between your lumbar vertebrae is decreased on the posterior side. Couple problems with this. First off, you're at increased risk of lower back injury, particularly when performing standing or lying hip flexion exercises, spinal flexion or stabilization movements, and weighted overhead activities. Additionally, if you have some pretty serious lordosis (the kind you see when female gymnasts finish their routines), the backs of your vertebrae--the facet joints--might actually be acting to support your spine. And they weren't designed for that; they were designed to sort of steer your spine. In short, you don't want those facet joints knocking together. And apparently (I didn't know this until I researched this article) if the facet joints get too close together, they can cause pain that is very similar to the pain or herniated discs, as well as sciatica; in fact, sciatic pain is more commonly caused by facet joints rubbing together than by bulging discs. So avoiding back pain is a pretty good reason to correct your posture.

For athletes, there's an additional incentive to improve posture, and therefore stability. Ever heard of the concept of energy leaks? The idea is that there are certain points where athletes lose energy. If you've got specific shoes for cycling, you've experienced what I'm talking about: the stiff soles of your cycling shoes allow you better power transfer to the pedals than the flexible soles of regular sneakers. Same idea with your body, whether you're running, swimming, throwing shot, or swinging a golf club. If you cannot use your muscles to maintain the structural integrity of your joints, you're going to lose some of the power that you could be delivering into propulsion at your extremities. I mean, you're going to lose some of the power anyway. But the more effectively--and, for endurance athletes, the longer--you can maintain appropriate biomechanics (in this case, posture), the better you'll perform as an athlete.

And I'd never really thought about it until I started researching this article, but this is a central concept for us triathletes. Possibly one of the most central concepts. Think about it: because we do three different sports, the one commonality between everything we do is posture.  Everything comes back to that basic ability to keep your body functioning properly, and it happens from the core out.

It's for that reason that I intend to make my next installment in the "Stop Slouching!" series about spinal stability. It's a big project. It'll take a while. It'll take a lot of research. It may take multiple posts. But if we, as athletes, can nail the spinal and core strength and stability, we will all get much, much faster and be safer while we're doing it.

Other "Stop Slouching!" Articles
Lumbo-pelvic Stretches 
Winged Scapula (and the MOVIE!)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Swimming Hack: Notecard technique

Ideally, I wouldn't need to keep notecards around with my favorite swim workouts on them; ideally, I would have a photographic memory and all of my swim workouts (not to mention my splits) would be memorized.

But I do not have a photographic memory. What I do have is a plastic baggy, a stack of notecards, and a rubber band.

Each of the notecards has a swim workout written on it. The rubber band keeps the notecards together, and the plastic baggy keeps the whole thing from getting soaked.

As I was thinking about my 1-page guide to swim technique, I realized that it would be very helpful to have a list of focal points for technique that would fit in with my workout. That way, I could keep track of my workout and my form simultaneously.

With that in mind, I present to you the Single Notecard of Swimming Excellence. Actually, it's just a PDF of swimming focal points, but if you print it out, glue it to a notecard, and stick it in a plastic baggy (or laminate it!), it may become the Single Notecard of Swimming Excellence.

Because your swimming is never too good.

To get this on a notecard, right-click (or control-click, if you're a sexy mac user) and save the picture as a file. When you go to print it, set the print size to 3 x 5 inches. If you'd prefer a PDF of the notecard, you may contact me (jamielynnmorton [at] and I'll send you a link to the PDF on Google Docs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pictures from Stonebridge Ranch!

Here are pictures of the Stonebridge Ranch Tri, accompanied by some good-natured snarking.

Karma, yakking it up pre-race with some random person. So entrepreneurial, that one.

She was pretty happy with her bike split. Doesn't look so happy here, though, does she?

Wet seal!

You know, 3.1 miles never seems that far when you sign up for a race . . .

First picture of Nikki

Second picture of Nikki

Why are there so many pictures of Nikki (there are more that I didn't post)?

Is it the black fingernails?

Nope, gotta be the smile!

Doo do duh do, coming 'round the corner . . .

Oh shit! There's the photographer! Okay, look tough!

I don't care how bad this hurts; I am not getting passed in the last 100 yards!

Nnnyyyyyeeeeeeerrrrrrooommmm!" (the sound of a plane landing)

And did you see that post-season belly? Oh goodness. I am going on a diet. And by "diet" I mean that I will eat less and healthier food and work out more. You know; what "diet" is supposed to mean.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Top 5 Reasons to do Cyclocross - plus - VIDEO!

and . . .

Top 5 reasons to do a cyclocross race

5. Smaller field. Especially for women. Still very competitive, and a little intimidating to be starting on the same line as experienced women. But nowhere near as scary as a mass swim start with 100+ other women.

4. Improves bike handling skills. In the same way that throwing a toddler into the deep end of the pool improves swimming skills. By the end of the race, I was fish-tailing--nearly wiping out--and thinking, "How the hell did I do that, and how can I learn to do it again?!"

3. Cross-training. Think about it: high-intensity, anaerobic cycling (one big, long interval). Running through sand (resisted running). Jumping barriers (plyometrics). Pedaling through grass, mud, and gravel (power intervals). Yeah, go ahead and tell me this sport won't do wonders for your race performance.

2. Builds power. Try sustaining your maximum wattage for 30 minutes and tell me what it does to your fitness. Oh yeah.

Number one reason?

Because one badass sport is simply not enough.

And to finish it all off, here are some links to other bloggers' race reports . . .

Wish you were here, don't ya? - Chris Cross

Chainring Tattoo - Chris Cross Race Report

Mark Studnicki - DeStad Series/Chris Cross-Lawrence

Bike-o-Latte: De Stad round Dos - Chris Cross 10-12-08 recap

Monday, October 13, 2008

Race Report: Chris Cross

This weekend, I did something completely new to me, something I'd never tried before (and, up until very recently, never even heard of). I did my first cyclocross race.

Let me tell you about it.

Cyclocross is structured a little differently than most races. First off, the division of racers follows the same classification structure as road cycling. So where runners and triathletes have age groups, cyclists have "cats." Cat 1 is the highest; Cat 5 is the lowest. But in cyclocross, Cat 4 is the lowest. I assume that "cat" is short for category, but I didn't think to ask, and I don't really care that much. I am a Cat 4 woman. A beginner. A n00b.

The race course for cyclocross is a circuit, and at Chris Cross, parts of the 1.5 mile course were really, really narrow--some of it resembled single track mountain bike trails. So you can see where unleashing the n00bs and the serious competitors on a narrow, winding 1.5 mile circuit might be a bad idea. Oh my God. I would have been run over for sure! I would have tire tracks all over my face and body!

All of that to say that there were eight different races, ranging in length from 30 to 60 minutes. The first one was at 10:30. The last one began at 2:45. Guess whose race was at the very, very end.

My cyclocross yoda, Brett, was racing in the men's Cat 4 field, which began at 11:30. And since the race was up in Lawrence, we made the 2.5 hour trek up together. So I got to get up at 6 a.m., even though my race didn't begin until 2:45. But not complaining. Oh no.

Actually, I'm glad my race was the last of the day. It gave me a chance to watch what other people did, and get some idea of what the hell I was supposed to do.

That's the big difference at this race--I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Triathlons are old hat to me, now. I still get nervous at some races, but it's never that first-timer feeling of "Where do I go?! What do I do?! Someone please tell me that everything is going to be all right!" And although I'm not an experienced runner when it comes to the racing thing, it's so basic: arrive in gear, line up, run, leave. Not much of a learning curve there.

Cycling is like a whole different world, though, and I felt it from the moment we left the driveway. I do not know much about bikes, or biking, and I definitely do not know much about the nooks and crannies of what is already a pretty elitist sport. So I was freaked out. But in a way it was sort of exciting. I'd forgotten what that felt like, to be coming into something so new. I mean, I encourage people to do that all the time, getting them started as a coach and trainer in triathlon. But I long ago forgot what that feels like. To be reminded of how nervous-making that can be was actually a pretty cool aspect of doing something completely new.

I got the chance to ride the course a little bit before I had to race on it, which was a very good thing. Before any of the races started, Brett and I rode part of it before they shut it down for the first race. Then again, after the women's Cat 1/2/3 (not enough women to field a race for each) I got to ride the whole thing.

The Course
Like I said, the course was a 1.5 mile loop through one of the campgrounds at Clinton Lake. For each race, the officials timed the first two laps, then from that time estimated how many loops the competitors could complete in the alotted time, and counted each racer down for that many loops. The race started on pavement, on the tarmac that ran around the camping area. From there it made a sharp right turn through some very loose, very sketchy gravel. It wound back through some trees, over some pretty awesome little rollers, and back onto the tarmac. It cut back into the gravel, down some single track goodness, over a dry creek bed (OH MY GOD THE ROCKS), and back onto the pavement. From there, it looped around into the grass, then to the first hazard--a sand pit. At the sand you're supposed to dismount, shoulder your bike, run through the sand pit, then mount and ride on again. The next major section was a long, downhill straightaway through more grass, back through some more trees (and frickin' gravel), up the same straightaway (UPHILL this time) to the second hazard: the barriers. Once again, dismount, shoulder the bike, jump the barriers, hop back on, and you're through the first lap.


I think I felt better about it before I rode the course.

The Race

When 2:45 finally rolled around, the Cat 4 women assembled behind the line (actually, behind the Cat 4 masters, who left a minute before us). All 15 of us. But last year there were 4, so this is some serious progress, apparently. The officials blew the whistle, and we were off. Brett told me not to hold back on the first lap, to find my rhythm on the second and third laps but hammer through the first. So when it seemed like the women were getting a slow start, I jumped right into the lead pack. I was in good position going into the first turn, when the leader totally wiped out. I kept right on going and stayed on my bike. I hammered hardcore, staying right on the tail of the first 3. It felt amazing. "I'm doing great!" I thought. "Maybe I really will be good at this!"

When we got to the sand pit, I dismounted like I knew what I was doing (Brett wiped out in the sand, so at least I knew what not to do). I ran my bike through, trying hard to hold back the other women. But when I got back on the bike, something was wrong. The back wheel was sticking, and I was getting this terrible, grinding, whirring sound. I hopped off and took a look at it. Adjusted the brakes. Hopped back on. Nope, still there. Hopped off again. "Run it to the pit!" one of the women who was passing me hollered. I wheeled my bike over to the pit (what kind of endurance sport requires it's own pit?!) as fast as I could, slammed my bike down on the ground (so everyone would know how frustrated I was), and tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

It wasn't the brakes. It wasn't the hub. It wasn't the wheel out of true. Brett came over to help, but he couldn't touch or even step into the pit. Finally, after I'd taken the wheel off and put it back on, he told me to just ride on it, just get through it. So I did. And somehow, taking the wheel off and putting it back on must have done some good, because the whirring was gone.

Meanwhile, every single woman in the race had passed me. Even the fat one.

I hammered out of the pit, frustrated and pumping with adrenaline. Even though I'd just spent the last few minutes standing still, I felt like I had just sprinted a mile. My lungs burned. My quads screamed. I tasted blood. I hammered through the straightaway, pushing my wheels through the grass, grunting and swearing and screaming primal screams the likes of which I'd only uttered during some very grueling Tabata intervals.

I sounded, like Speedy once so eloquently put it, like I had Tourettes.

When I came to the barriers, Brett was there (with the video camera) shouting at me to move, because "the big girl's not that far ahead of ya!"

Which meant that I could at least pass one girl, and not come in last place. But by this time my body was absolutely revolting. "No!" it screamed at me. "I don't wanna!"

"Shut the fuck up!" I screamed back. "This is my race, and you've still got at least three laps to go!"

I got through it. The second and third laps felt like murder. They felt like hell. I swore up a storm. I slowed to a virtual crawl, even dropping into my small chainring, when I knew no one could see me. I started getting lapped by the men (I held off the other women until lap 4). I even walked my bike through the sand pits. The race was interminable. It wasn't that it seemed like a long time; it was more like time was standing perfectly still.

At the end of the third lap, just as we were going over the barriers, I passed the big girl. I feel kind of guilty, in retrospect, for making my one main goal not to get beat by the fat girl (that and not to run into any trees), but whatever. That was my goal, and I accomplished it. Call me mean, if you like. It sort of fits with the whole cyclist attitude I copped.

And then going into that fourth lap . . . I don't know if it was the adrenaline rush from passing someone, or if I was finally starting to warm up into it, but I felt a second wind coming. I pounded through the first half of the loop. I leapt off my bike and absolutely sprinted through the sand, bike on my shoulder. I cornered like a pro through the gravel, almost losing it a couple times, but adjusting my body weight so that I didn't wipe out. I leapt over the barriers. I would have actually passed another chick at the end of that last loop, except that she remounted quicker than I did after the barriers, and at that point I didn't have time to catch her, even sprinting.

But sprint I did, guys. All the way to the finish. You know me. That's how I like to end.

The Aftermath
I was in some serious pain, after that final kick. And the SPD-equipped shoes I had borrowed were too big and too narrow for my feet, so I had some blisters and soreness in the footsies. And somehow, in the course of a 30-minute ride, I managed to get ridiculously chafed. How that happened in 30 minutes, I have no idea. But I was miserable.

The race had been 30 minutes of pure hell, no doubt about it. Through most of the race, all I could think was "If Brett ever tries to get me to do something new again, I am going to kill him." And I would have thought of something much worse than death, if I had been able to spare the oxygen for it.

But after dismounting and taking my shoes off and walking barefoot for a bit, and after getting back to the car and changing into normal clothes beneath a towel like a surfer at Venice Beach, and after putting a few calories into my pie hole, I started thinking about the next race I would be able to do.

Because I got second-to-last place in this race. And it felt awful. But I started in fourth place, and there were two women, by the end, whom I would have passed, given another loop.

If I hadn't had mechanical trouble so early in the race, if I hadn't lost so much time, what might I have done?

And if I can learn to handle my bike a little better, to corner a little more confidently, and if I can practice my mounting and dismounting, and if I can get a little more familiar with SPD cleats, and if I can practice those graceful bounds over the barriers (not like this) that the men seem to effect so effortlessly, what might I do?

And that's what's got me thinking about the next several weekends, and when and where I can try this crazy sport again.

Video to come tomorrow, along with the top 5 reasons you should try cyclocross.

Photo credits go to Lantern Rouge Racing, not to me. I did not take pictures of myself while I was biking.

Post-race: Chris Cross

Oh my gosh.

I'll keep this short, sweet, and to the point, because it's not the race report. I've got 15 minutes of video to look at and edit before I post the race report.

But I will say that this race is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Which is crazy, because the whole thing is over in 30 minutes. But it possibly hurt worse than anything else in the entire universe, with the possible exception of recovery from certain kinds of surgery. It absolutely drained me, and I felt like puking the whole time, and I was thinking as I rode, "Brett, if you try to talk me into doing anything new with you ever again, I will kill you."

And I can't wait to do it again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pre-Race: Criss Cross

This Sunday, I am doing something completely new.

I am racing my very first cyclocross race.

It is at Clinton Lake which is (incidentally) the site of the Kansas 70.3 event. In June, I sat at my campsite at said lake and drank beer as many suffering people staggered by me.

I have a feeling that this weekend is going to be slightly less relaxed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Dumbass Chronicles: Lat Pull Down

This article is the first in a series meant to correct common mistakes I (and my fellow trainers) see at the gym. Stay tuned for the whole series so that you won't be the person that everyone loves to laugh at.

First off, go read the article on Lat Pull Down at, a weight training site for women. Not so much because the descriptions are excellent (although they are) as because they are hilarious. And we could all use a little more hilarity in our lives, yes?

So here's what a dumbass does (don't worry; I'm using super-light weight on this):

By the way, please ignore the hypermobility of my shoulder joints. The kinds of people who generally do this exercise (i.e. big musclehead wannabe bodybuilder types) don't have the kind of swimmeresque flexibility in their shoulders that I do. They look much more ridiculous using this form.

I think that most of you knew already that this is an improper way to do a lat pull down. But here's the run-down from a professional point of view: it's not "wrong," per se. Check out's take on it; notice that there's a front pull down and a rear pull down. Different exercises. Different purposes (or that's what a dumbass at the gym will tell you).

The rear pull down is a high-risk movement, at least for most people; it takes the shoulders into hyperextension and forces you to use internal rotation of the shoulder under heavy load to complete the movement. And you should never ever do that--it's stoopid and makes everyone in the gym think you don't know what the hell you're doing. 

It also places unnecessary pressure on the anterior shoulder capsule, which is bound to cause problems later on, and unnecessarily stresses the muscles of the rotator cuff. If you stretch out the ligaments in the shoulder capsule, they're not going back to their original length. And if you tear the muscles of your rotator cuff, you're going to be at increased risk for subluxation and dislocation for a long, long time. 

Furthermore, although I am not a good example of this, most people don't have the functional range of motion to even externally rotate/hyperextend their shoulders far enough to yank a bar behind their neck, so they end up excessively flexing the cervical or thoracic spine. And can you imagine if the cable on the machine broke and that pull down bar came crashing down on your excessively flexed neck? And even though I have the range of motion to pull the bar behind my neck, it's because my shoulders are hypermobile; it's generally a bad idea to overload a hypermobile joint. So like I said before: it's a high-risk movement.

But there are times when it's acceptable to complete a risky movement in training. For example, it can be risky to rotate and flex your spine simultaenously. But that's a movement that's worth training if you plan to use it functionally, like for a tennis serve. With high-risk movements, the main question is whether the benefit outweighs the risk.

And in this case, it doesn't. There's no reason I can think of that you would need to torque your shoulders in this way. If you're looking to increase the size of your back by including lat pull downs in your routine, you're barking up the wrong tree. The fibers of the latissimus dorsi run in such a way that a front lat pull down is going to be more effective in increasing their strength and size. And if you're wanting to specifically train the shoulders or biceps, there are many other more effective (not to mention less risky) exercises for accomplishing that.

So to conclude a rather long-winded post on why only a dumbass would conceivably execute a lat pull down in this way, here's how you should do your lat pull downs.

Got all that? Sit up straight with the shoulders broad and the chest lifted. Tighten the core so you don't hyperextend the back. Keeping the shoulders broad, grasp the bar at a width about 1.5 times as wide as your shoulders (in the video, I use a bar that allows me to pull with neutral rotation, which is a more natural movement for me and much kinder to my FUBAR shoulder). Initiate the movement with your lats by pulling your shoulder blades down your back. Then allow the arms to follow, coming into a "W" shape.

And this is just me and the other trainers goofing off (we see people, usually older people, doing things like this all the time):

And remember, like (and Men's Health too, gentlemen) says: your eventual goal in all this should be doing pull-ups. You wanna take yourself from dumbass to badass? Do pullups!

I'm happy to address any questions in the comments, and if there's another exercise you'd like me to snark at, don't be shy in suggesting!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Oh yes

I just ran 2.4 miles in 22:30. And considering that this is only my second week back to running, I am very, very happy.

Besides which, the weather could not possibly be any better. It's a balmy 55 degrees F--just warm enough not to need a sweater when jogging. The wind was gusting to 40 MPH earlier today, but it's settled down now. The evening is quiet and peaceful. Except for me, panting and grunting like I'm about to win a gold medal.

That picture isn't from tonight, by the way. There is no snow on the ground here. It's there because it's pretty, and accurately illustrates the way I feel at the moment--warm and satisfied.

Monday, October 6, 2008

2008 Season Recap: What I've Done

Last tri of the season is in the bag. Here's a look back at the season that was.

I did my first half marathon.

I won my first real first place.

I got certified as an NSCA trainer.

I got my average swim time under 2:00/100 M.

I improved my butterfly.

I actually started using flip turns in workouts.

I got my body fat under 25%.

I got a little start on my six-pack :-).

I broke an 8-minute mile.

I dropped a jeans size (or two, depending on where I shop).

I started making enough money to live on.

Even though it's been a tough season, a long road, with a difficult job and very little free time, I look back on this season and I'm happy with what I've done.

May next year take us all even further.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Spinning Workout 26 - Slow Burn

Spinning Workout 26 - Slow Burn 

One Sweet Love (3:59) - Pre
Working for the Weekend (3:25) - Warm up
Supermoves (4:49) - Jumps
Welcome to the Jungle (4:34) - Climb
We're in Heaven (3:55) - TT w/ bursts of high cadence spinning
Mustang Sally (3:59) - Standing TT
Mama Told me not to Come (3:20) - Climb
Paranoid (3:03) - Fast spin w/ standing sprints
Time After Time (3:27) - Ride into wind w/ quick spinning in between
I'm Outta Love (3:49) - Hard TT w/ standing intervals
Under Pressure (4:04) - Hard Climb
Come to Me (2:49) - Cool down
The Story (3:58) - Stretch

Oh guys. Get ready for this one. This is one of those workouts where you think, "Am I going to make it all the way through this?" My cycling classes and I had a lot of fun doing this one together.

I recommend that you start with pretty high resistance on your trainer, enough that you can feel a little bit of push in your lowest gear. That should give you room to get enough resistance on the climbing tracks. And if you're on a stationary or spinning bike, you don't even have to worry about that!

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Runner's High: I Ran!

Yes indeed, after 4-6 weeks of being, for all intents and purposes, unable to run, I'm back in the saddle.

Although I suppose that being on a horse wouldn't be very helpful for my SI joint.

I haven't had any significant pain in the damn thing for a good week, now. I'm beginning (again) my build-up in volume for the Tulsa Route 66 Half Marathon. I've got 4 miles planned for tomorrow, which will be my longest run since my 15-miler almost two months ago. And we'll see how that goes.

But you know what? If getting back to running isn't legitimate cause for celebration, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Dumbass Chronicles

Speed Racer once commented that I should write a post about how to properly perform a lat pull-down so as not to simultaneously embarrass yourself and completely ruin your shoulders. And since the season is mostly over, and we're all thinking about transitioning from roads, lakes, and trails to spinning classes, treadmills, and weights, what better time to begin a new series?

A series that will teach you, in no uncertain terms, how not to be a dumbass at the gym

Seriously. Do you really want the personal trainers at the gym giggling as they walk past you, wondering WTF kind of move you're doing? Do you want to be the person who can clear the weights area out by their very presence?

No. You do not. So prepare to be snarked into appropriate gym etiquette and proper weight-lifting technique. We'll begin next time with our collective favorite: the lat pull-down.