Monday, June 29, 2009

One And Done

I used to do more of this running - when I ran more. Traveling for work or pleasure and popping out for typically, early morning run, wherever I happen to be. In fact, I did a whole year of this in '95 when I spent the year traveling around the world running in such far flung places as India, Tanzania and New Zealand. However, it would and could also happen in more mundane places to like, Buffalo, NY!

The really great thing about running is that you could do it anywhere, at any time in any conditions. And believe me in the many years that I did this, I had seen it all from literally, breath-taking vistas at 13,000 ft elevation in Nepal, to quite unsightly slums on the outskirts of Nairobi Kenya, to boring business parks in Salt Lake City, UT. And, I had done these runs in all manner of conditions from the darkness of the down-town of a big city at night to the beauty of a sun rise at the Grand Canyon, and from frigid -30C conditions in Ottawa, ON to, blazing +45C heat of Udaipur, India.

I don't run much these days - cycling is the thing now. However, cycling is less flexible and easy to do when on the move. The bike can be a pain to travel with. You need more gear for cycling. For the most part cycling is best done, and more enjoyable on quiet country roads. So if staying in a large strange and foreign city - forget it. However, when it all comes together it's magic! The ride that I went on in Jackson, MI, last week was a great example of a great One and done ride. I had no real reason to be in Jackson, other than it was my stopping off point for the night on my drive back from Madison, WI to Aurora, ON. I drove until 7:00pm and then pulled into a nice hotel on the outskirts of Jackson, just off I-94. I checked Google Maps and it seemed on the north side of I-94 it was all country roads. I had a look at the satellite shots close up on Google Maps and they appeared to be paved.

The next morning I was up early and it was time to hit the roads. The weather was cooperating - it was sunny and about 16C. I double-checked the Google Map selection of roads. Loops are always more adventurous but, out-and-backs much safer - less chance of getting lost. There did not appear to be a clear, and easy to follow loop, so I chose one road, Rives Junction Road and decided I would do an out-and-back on it - out for 45 min and then back.

It's at times like this that Robert Frost's Poem, "The Road Not Taken", literally and figuratively comes to life. The full text of the Frost poem is here - it's worth a read. Why? Well, the road I chose was a great one, and it was less traveled, which is what you want when you are out for a bike ride, but you do always wonder about the other roads and choices that you passed by!

Rives Junction Road turned out to be perfect. Lightly traveled by car. Great pavement. For much of it it was lined with these majestic mature Maple and Oak trees who's branches arched right over the center of the road giving the sensation of cycling inside a giant and almost endless Gothic cathedral. Occasionally, I would pop out of the trees and it was wide open farmers fields. I reached my turning point just past the town of Rives Junction, itself. It would appear that the town may have been more of something in the past, as the abandoned rail station and siding would attest to.

Back I went to my hotel in Jackson. Of course, I get some odd looks from the desk staff when I trundle in and out of the lobby of the hotel with my bike and all the cycling kit on. I am sure they think me crazy. They can think what they like. I can honestly say that these are some of the most enjoyable rides that I go on these days, and I may never ride on those roads again. One and done!

Picture above taken on another One and done, ride in Southern California last year. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me on the recent ride in Jackson, MI

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Dramatic Whitfield Win

There is no triathlete in the history of this, still reasonably young sport, who has created more finish-line drama, than Canada's Simon Whitfield. He certainly has a flair for the dramatic - and winning moves at or near the finish line.

There are those who have pooh-pooed the ITU triathlon race format, but it's rare to find this sort of action near the finish line in most other Triathlons. Yes, there was the drama of Craig Alexander, tracking down Chris Leito in a 70.3 race a few weeks ago in the final 100m. However, that type of finish is an extreme rarity at the elite level in non-ITU type of races.

Back to Whitfield: It takes a special athlete who can really gear up for the really big races or games in a sport. Whitfield is that sort of athlete. He has that magic, and that drive that is somehow elevated to an extraordinarily high level when the stakes are at there highest - such as yesterday when gunning for the win and getting it, at the triathlon with the highest set prize purse in the sport - the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa (picture above). Or in the two out of three Olympic Games Triathlons where it was Whitfield, who supplied all the action and the drama in 2000, in Sydney and again last year in 2008, in Beijing. Will he be able to do it again in 2012? Going from the look of grit and pure elation on his face in the picture above - don't count Whitfield out in London in three years!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stange Twists and Turns of Time

I was cruising through some photos from last weekends Rock & Roll Marathon in San Diego on the site, when I came across the above photo of Dan Browne. For a number of years, Dan has been one of the top distance runners in the U.S. However, I had first heard of him when I was working at Sugoi back in the late '90's and we did a some custom running singlets and shorts for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete program - of which Dan was part of, after he graduated from The U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I had helped put the whole program together. It was the the first time that Sugoi had ever done custom running kits like this and they created a bit of a splash at the time. To my knowledge no one was doing full, four colour sublimation on running singlets and shorts. We all thought the camo pattern was pretty cool! Sugoi was new to the running market at that time, and many people thought the stuff looked great!

I had completely forgot about this flashy matching running kit and I had not seen it in nearly ten years until today. I thought that Dan was sponsored by Nike, but maybe that had lapsed and he had to reach to the very bottom of is drawer of running gear and come up with this classic vintage Sugoi kit. The dead give-away is that the Sugoi logo has completely changed. I still like the old Sugoi logo myself like the one running across Dan's chest!

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Shoe Review

The contact points with the bike have always been important to me - pedals, shoes, handlebars, even the handle bar tape. Not that I am fanatic about these things - they just need to be comfortable and they need to work. I would rather shell out more for a really comfortable set of handlebars, that I really find comfortable and work for me, than a really fancy frame - ditto for cycling shoes. I last changed my cycling shoes up three years ago. They were the top end model for a very well known cycling shoe maker. They really worked well for me. However, I had read a review last year about the new BG S-Works road shoes by Specialized that intrigued me and I will admit that I thought the Boa closure mech seemed rather functional and cool.

Cool and functional are one thing, but cycling shoes have to fit, and fit well to really work. I knew this, so it was off to my nearest Specialized dealer to try a pair on. Sure enough, the try-on-test at the local dealer was enough for me to give the shoes a go.

Four three years now I have been using Cleat Wedges on the bottom of my shoes between the shoe bottom and the cleat to give me a bit of varus canting - see more on this at the Bike Fit Systems site. Specialized believes so much in this, that all of their high-end shoes have a slight cant built right into the shoe's sole. I normally use three wedges on each foot, and I now only needed two. These thin plastic wedges that cost only a few dollars, can have a dramatic positive impact on comfort, increased power transfer and reduced incidence of knee injuries from cycling. Perhaps the most bang for your bike in cycling!

The first thing that I noticed about the S-Works shoes was the weight - or in this case the lack of weight. Specalized calls the S-Works shoe the lightest production shoe on the market wth a mechanical closure - at 250 grams. My old shoes, a very good shoe as I have noted, felt like bricks by comparison.

The Boa closure was easy to figure out and went on and came off with ease and was easily adjustable on the fly. While I only road ride now, and I know that Specialized has a great Triathlon shoe called the Tri-Vent, the S-Works shoe is also a great shoe for triathlon. I noticed that several top triathletes, who are sponsored by Specialized, are racing in the S-Works shoe and not the Tri-Vent - most notably former Ironman World Champion and main, Specialized triathlon man, Chris McCormack, as well as top Ironman and 70.3 racer, Jordan Rapp. It was Jordan's comments on these shoes that sealed the deal for me. He's meticulous when it comes to this sort of thing. If Jordan says it's good, it has to be good!

The first"Ride" as is normal for me with any kind of new stuff like this is always on the trainer. This way I can fiddle and fine tune things just right before taking something out for a real, real ride outdoors. Cleat positioning and adjustment was very easy and smooth - as I said I reduced by one the wedges that I used between the shoes and my cleats.

The fit is a a bit different than my old shoes - with the S-Works its more glove like and the shoe seems to me overall more anatomically shaped to my foot. Once riding I could seriously note the lower weight of the S-Works shoes. I note this is rotating weight and that's always key weight to try and reduce on a bike. After riding for a bit I felt like the attachment of my foot to the pedal was more positive - which is exactly the feeling that you should get. You want to make sure that all that energy and power the you are putting out with your legs, is being delivered, directly to the bike through the foot and the pedals. When you think about it this way, it's a pretty important contact point with the bicycle.

I have yet to be for a really long ride, but based on what I have seen and felt to date I think that I have found a new favourite, in cycling foot wear - the Specialized BG S-Works Road Shoes!

I am Specialized . . . . . . .well at least my feet are!

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