Wind in My Face
Speed To Create, Capacity To Dream

Davis Double (Finished!)

Devil Mountain Double Century power
Bib number

So far this year, I’ve done the Southern Inyo Double Century, Joshua Tree Double Century, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, and Central Coast Double and now the Davis Double. On the TO-DO list are the Eastern Sierra Double Century, then Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge and in September, perhaps the White Mountain Double Century, that is, if the Everest Challenge doesn’t happen this year.

The Davis Double was exactly one week after the Central Coast Double. I generally need 5 full days to recover fully from a double, but my quads felt a bit sore in places, so maybe that was just from stiffness from hours of being in the car and tow truck (more on that below).

Davis Double was my 5th double in 2016, and my 25th in 4 years (my first double was a self-supported Death Valley Double in March 2012).

Weather conditions were cool most of the day, for which I was very glad: 90°F would have been unpleasant. I was hit with hail twice and a drenching rain once, but briefly. I had forgotten my cycling jacket, so I took the excellent North Face Diad, but that only fits half-way into a jersey pocket, but it worked fine.

My rear tire hit a nail or whatever half way to Davis—instaflat. Towing it back towards home (I wanted a new wheel/tire which I keep at home), the two truck quit, so a tow truck for a tow truck was needed. Bottom line: I got to Davis at 02:45 AM, slept until 04:20, registered and started the course at 05:13 (riders are requires to leave by 05:15).

I had a very strong day, finishing stronger than I started, with steady power output in the ~227 watter range for the last 50 miles or so (stop signs and turn checking dropped the average as shown below, ditto for the start.

At around mile 40, I was pulling a train of people (I soloed, taking no drafts), a very careless rider yanked his bicycle in a U-turn right in front of me (he did not look) in order to apparently pick up a just-dropped water bottle from some tandem riders. I rammed into him (having no time to react), the rider behind me crashed into me and went down on the pavement. I was unhurt, but there was damage: thereafter my front derailleur was disabled in the big ring for the rest of the ride, including all the hills! Well, that's a lot better than losing the rear derailleur. It looks like the Di2 electronic cable was torn. Bike is in the shop.

At about mile 150, my power was dropping off. I jammed down two Panda licorice bars (100 calories each) and within 5 minutes my power bumped right up from ~195 watts to 230 watts. This is a valuable “feeding” clue that I am going to explore in future doubles.

There were nearly 700 riders, most of them some degree incompetent in a safety sense, meaning next to zero situational awareness: riding on steep blind curves near the center line, weaving and turning without looking, riding widely spaced side-by-side in places where it forces other riders over the center line (with no awareness of other riders), etc. It reminds me why I never have done the Death Ride—the risk factors go up by 10X from “idiots”. Case in point: the idiot who caused the crash and damaged by front shifting. I was also irritated he did not offer to pay the repair bill.

Ride report coming.

2016 Central Coast Double power (watts) and elevation

Shimano Ultegra 11-32 Cog Cassette

See also Shimano Di2 DuraAce and Ultegra — Weights and Why and Which to Use.

I’m doing all my riding with the Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette these days.

I do not like the Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur nearly as much as DuraAce rear derailleur because Ultegra lacks the quickness and crispness of DuraAce. But the DuraAce derailleur cage won’t support a 32 cog, and I did not want to get into a custom modified derailleur again as I had done for my Moots PsychloX RSL with Di2.

This image made using focus stacking for sharp detail near to far.

Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette, 9000 series

Central Coast Double (Finished!)

Devil Mountain Double Century power
2016 Central Coast Double
Devil Mountain Double Century power
Bib number

Weather conditions were beautiful. Unlike the dark gray and windy cold at the coast in 2015, the wind at the coast was minimal, the sun was out and it was beautiful all day—which mean hot too, in places. A powerful wind assist in the 2nd half was very welcome.

Two nights prior, I was so tired at 8:30 PM I could hardly sit up in a chair (this strange sudden-onset fatigue I experience randomly; it passes quickly with a short nap). I almost did not go it was that unnerving!

But Saturday morning starting CCD, I felt stronger than anytime this year; I was making power effortlessly for quite a good bit of the event (though I faded quite a lot the last 50 miles, perhaps from the harder effort the first portion). I guess those grains (sushi rice) are good for you (vs crackpot diets), since I had two sushis, kombucha, yogurt and licorice (wheat) the night before, eating in total ~1500 extra calories the day prior.

Read my ride report....

2016 Central Coast Double power (watts) and elevation

Compare below to the 2015 effort (where I won the Highland route). I have no idea how I maintained such supeb power levels in 2015, but I felt terrific that day.

2016 Central Coast Double power (watts) and elevation

2012 In Perspective: My Strongest Year, Will I Ever Get 'There' Again?

Get Sony RX100 at B&H Photo.

See my in-depth review of the Sony RX100.

Looking back at 2012, I’m just amazed at how lean and strong I was as I ask myself “will I ever be 'there' again?”. I’ve had extreme difficulty losing body fat this year, my working theory being gut biome and sleep working against me. Back then, I was down as low as 168 pounds with 8% body fat in Sept 2011, but right now I’m at 178.5, which feels downright porcine by comparison. I’ll keep at it, but being 5 years old isn’t helping things either.

I’m also still amazed at just how good the original Sony RX100 point and shoot camera is, with its built-in flash for perfect fill flash like in this shot—a huge boost to outdoor shooting quality. All four generations are still for sale: $498 RX100, $648 RX100 II, $798 RX100 III, $948 RX100 IV.

Self portrait at about 11,500' in the White Mountains of California, with White Mountain Peak (elevation 14,252') in the distance. August is the best month of the year to visit because powerful storm clouds can build up in hours—it’s stunningly beautiful on such days. On a different day, I watched (in my car) a powerful deluge carve 5-inch-deep gulleys into a freshly-grade road; storms can render some side canyon roads impassable in a single day, though White Mountain Road along the crest is relatively resistant to storm damage.

Devil Mountain Double Century power

Self portrait at about 11,000' elevation in the White Mountains of California, near Patriarch Grove. Three hours and 20 minutes later I was forced down from around 13,000' by close lightning strikes and heavy wet snow. It was really cool.When cycling it is all but mandatory to carry light winter clothing in August in the White Mountains: in 2012 it took 3 attempts on three days to summit, the first two (two days apart) dropping snow all the way as low as 8000' elevation in the middle of August. Carry a lightweight down jacket and a wind/waterproof shell with hood as shown, ditto for pants, plus a wool cap and wool gloves.

Devil Mountain Double Century power
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

2016 Devil Mountain Double (Finished!)

Written prior—

Devil Mountain Double Century power
after 2016 Devil Mountain Double Century

I am seriously intimidated by Devil Mountain Double tomorrow, mainly because I’m just recovering from a severe loss of energy and a body weight too high for 18,500 feet of climbing. The Wheat Belly diet might or might not be to blame, but the past 10 days really threw me for a loop, and undermined my confidence.

I’ve done DMD twice, and it ranks as extreme difficulty with times approaching. Last year’s DMD, I struggled with cold and fueling issues, and did not do so well, taking over 15 hours to finish, a full hour slower than 2012. Even at my strongest result in 2012, it is a long, long day, taking me over 14 hours (clock time, 13:29 roll time).

The Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is in theory the hardest due to another 2000 vertical feet of climbing, but I rate DMD as hardest, because conditions are generally less favorable, involving humidity and cold and strong winds, and sometimes rain (altitude is a non-issue for me).

2016 post ride notes

2016 route map.

2016 Devil Mountain Double results

About 190 participants for 2016, down from ~270 last year. Maybe last year’s cold is responsible? The weather for 2016 outstanding—not really possible to be better, as compared to last year’s unpleasantly cold conditions (10-15°F colder).

Start time: 6:10 AM, finish about 21:30 = 15:20. Time is clock time including stop time and the wasted time of a few short navigational errors.

Given my extreme weakness less than a week prior (hardly able to do half a ride without being wiped out afterwards), my only goal was to finish in a respectable time. Given that 2016 clock time is ~12 minutes faster than 2015, I feel good about it. However, the roll time (time on the bike) of 14:39 was 18 minutes longer in 2016 than 2015. Weighing 180 pounds (should be 173 by now) is a huge disadvantage with so much climbing. Moreover, the vigorous wind pushed us down Mines Rd quite strongly. So 2016 is probably actually weaker than 2015 in spite of the shorter start-to-finish time (clock time).

Continues below.

2016 Devil Mountain Double Century power (watts) with elevation profile (mediocre performance)
2016 Devil Mountain Double Century power (watts) with elevation profile (mediocre performance)

I started in the 6:00 AM group (actual start time 6:10 AM). A friend and I were quickly dropped at the first small hill—the group was mostly young and lean guys—and I am neither! My power meter read 330 watts, and I was not gaining; that’s way too high a power output for a double. So I dropped back to 220-240 watts.

Hitting the climb up Mt Diablo, my friend fell behind, pacing himself due to a back problem he knew about in advance. His 49th double in 4 years! As it turns out, he would have completed nonetheless but his front brake pads vaporized by the Calaveras section about mile 160, so he ended up aborting.

Mt Diablo is one of these endless false summits—you keep thinking you are almost there, but it’s always “another 500 vertical to go”. About half-way up, I started encountering 5:00 AM riders descending, so I thought I was making great time. But what looked like only another 700 or so vertical turns out to be more like 1500! On and on I went, picking off only a lonely rider or two to the summit.

Descending Mt Diablo I saw no other riders until I passed one semi-lost rider down near the base. I proceeded apace but it was lonely riding until Morgan Territory, where I started passing intermittent riders and some more by the first rest stop. Thereafter I went on past 10-30 riders at each rest stop, making good headway (many riders linger at rest stops, so a quick stop and go at a rest top means passing 10/20/30 riders!). No one passed me; I only passed. Which is a psychological boost when riding slower than usual. However, I wasn’t “all there” descending Mt Hamilton so I was braking too much, and a rider or two passed me, but I believe I re-passed them later in the course.

In general, power output was disappointing, particularly the Mt Hamilton climb. But after a cup of noodles at Crothers rest stop, I rocketed up Sierra (relatively speaking), catching and dropping 3 riders who had passed me as I halted to fiddle with food/clothing. I remained fairly strong to the finish. Was it noodles, salt? Seems weird. As usually I have no real idea why power output is variable like this, or what to do about it.

Sierra Grade is a big plus for me—the steepness is not at all an issue and whatever has preceded, I always seem to find it a relatively brief non-event. Rather, it is the most efficient way to climb (steeply). It never bothers me, and I really don’t understand why other riders find steepness difficult, since most have ample gearing. Weird.

I ended up losing the most time backtracking—as it gets dark, I have a darned hard time reading the map in dim light (presbyopia in part), and I misread a turn, so I had to ride back to check the previous road signs. That cost me ~10 minutes or so, just after I had busted my ass putting 10 minutes on some riders! Frustrating.

I have mixed feeling about rankings. DMD is very tough, but Alpina Alpina 8 Pass Challenge is more climbing (figures for DMD are exaggerated by 2000' IMO). Given heat and altitude, I have to rate Alta Alpina as the #1 difficulty, and DMC a very close second. I would rate both as superb courses, but Alta Alpina gets my vote as #1 on route and scenery and minimal traffic.

Final note: my car died and I was left stranded at the hotel, unable to return home. AAA rejected my premier service status as unpaid, and ran me through the ringer (my bank verifies payment was made last August). I had to pay again to get (degraded) service, but by 1:00 AM I was fed up and instead went and got a room, and here I remain until Monday morning, so the billing team at AAA can fix their mess and get my car towed to the dealer across the bay. A day from 5:00 AM to 01:00 AM the next day with a 208 mile double in there is a very long day.

Huge Selection of Drones

Off Topic: High Sierra Fishing + Recommended Spinning Reel and Rod

Shimano Stella STLC2000SFI Spinning Reel

I’m cross-posting this in part because it is Shimano, maker of very fine bicycle components, also makes the finest fishing reels available, the Stella line.

Many years ago as a teenager (too many!), I used to fish every day I could. Fishing evolved out of my life over time, but the circle turns and I now find it very enjoyable again, particularly the exploration of remote areas and with my cameras—a good combination. I am most definitely not a boat or lake or chair+ice chest fisherman: if it’s easy to hike to, I’m not usually interested. And I am most interested in fishing anything that no one else fishes. The spirit of exploration intrigues me; the well-trodden path offers little appeal.

See also: Steaming Trout in a Dutch Oven over Campfire and Back Home, the Snow Show Was Fun + Lloyd’s Dutch Oven Trout Recipe

I most enjoy wily high sierra trout—Brook Trout mainly, but also Golden Trout, and sometimes Rainbow Trout (Brown Trout are generally not stocked in the Sierra). I do not fly fish because it is impossible in many of the small streams with brush and such nearby. And I do like a good trout dinner—I have yet to observe any fly fisherperson land a fish in the waters that I fish.

I buy few things, but just as with lenses, I prefer to buy quality for a lifetime of use, such as the Benchmade Osborne knife seen below (if you’re into high-end check out Benchmade Gold series). Ditto for spinning reel and rod. So here are my recommendations:

The knife is 7.75 inches, which gives an idea of the fish sizes. The two larger ones are exceptionally large for the extreme elevation at which they were caught, the largest fish I’ve caught in 30 years at similar elevations.

Golden Trout Dinner

Are Grains the Culprit in Health and Weight? Is 'Wheat Belly' a Crackpot Diet? (UPDATED through 29 April)

A helpful reader wrote today to comment on my extreme difficulty in losing weight (fat), which I alluded to in my last double century post. After three double centuries, I am more fit, but my weight sits stubbornly at ~180 pounds (I should be at 175 by now).

My comments and experience follows below the quote.

I have followed your wind in my face blog for a few years. We are similar age (52) , the same height 5 feet 11” and have had similar experiences with training and body weight. I cycle in a hilly area, that is hot in the summer, Kelowna, BC, Canada, and belong to a masters swim club.

I noticed that you had a difficult year in 2015. I had a cycling accident in June 2015 and broke my thumb. The recovery was 6 months long. In that time I went from 191 lbs to 200 lbs ! I also had very bad IBS, Acid Reflux, Asthma, 2 bouts of pneumonia and many other issues, sleepy, taking too much alcohol and pain killers.

I now weigh 169 lbs and have zero health issues. I have lost 31 lbs in 4 months. I can also ride for hours without any on bike nutrition. My recovery after workouts is super fast. I am swimming hard 2.5 to 3k workouts 3-4 times a week and 3 -4 bike rides a week.

I read Wheat Belly by William Davis MD and on Dec 7th I stopped eating Wheat and all grains. I lost 20 lbs in 4 weeks. I then moved to a low carb high fat diet. Real clean food, lots of eggs, bacon, fish, meat, veg. The Paleo definition is closest to my diet. I only counted my carbs, keeping daily consumption below 100 grams of carbs and often under 70 gms. My weight dropped off so fast. My energy level has also improved immensely. I concluded that I was insulin resistant. This often increases with age, often hitting people in their 40’s and 50’s. You can see the athletes who train incredibly hard but keep gaining weight at every tri and marathon event.

I really feel that you could look into the research. Many endurance athletes no longer carbo load and instead are keto adapted. With my keto adaptation I no longer use sugar, via carbs or gels for energy. My body uses fat instead. There is an issue with glycogen depletion on intensive efforts. My swim is often high intensity interval sets. The advice there is to have up to 30 gms carbs from say a Banana after a workout or possibly during on an effort longer than 1 hour.

I was in your situation of frustration with weight and health issues. Below are some links that may help.


Keto Talk Podcast- episode 18 deals with high intensity effort when keto adapted.

Keto Clarity Kindle

Primal Endurance Podcast

Art and Science of low carb performance - http://www.carbsmart.com/art-and-science-of-low-carbohydrate-performance.html

Ben Greenfield - https://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/product/the-low-carb-athlete/

WIND: good luck with low carbs at high altitude, where the amount of oxygen is much lower, which strictly limits aerobic energy production. This can be measured on a power meter with reliably reduced output figures with each 1000 foot gain. But you don’t need to measure it to know it: just try a hard sprint for 10 seconds at 11,000'.

I am a HUGE skeptic of such claims, but the flip side is that some claims can be right (as far as they go and with some limits and in a particular context), even if the basis for the claims is inaccurate or wrong and/or sensationalized (as Wheat Belly tends to do).

Second, everyone has a different physiology, and perhaps more critical, a different gut biome. So what works for one person may not work for another, or may be downright bad. For example, the claim in Wheat Belly that whey protein spikes blood sugar is provably false for me, as measured by a glucose blood meter (see Day 4). I become very skeptical of any source that makes such absurd claims, particularly when it proves flat-out wrong (that it could be true for some people is irrelevant if the advice given is general makes that advice irresponsible IMO).

But something isn’t working for me any more: sleep quality has been an issue (causal or result of something?), extreme difficulty getting my weight down, highly variable energy. It may *all* be just sleep for all I know.

Worse, my fasting blood sugar is up from 88-92 as measured over a period of 15 years to 110-120 year-over-year (2015). I have a bad feeling that this sudden change was precipitated by the gut infection followed by the metronidazole nerve damage nightmare. My theory is that my gut biome was damaged and possibly my vagus nerve, since I had nerve damage to the ulnar nerves in my arms and to nerves in my feet (and while mostly recovered, issues linger).

See also:

Diet analysis

Be that as it may, and still having a healthy skepticism, I checked out my diet the day of this blog post, in terms of carbs. Today’s example is a lot lower in carbs than yesterday’s diet (lots of wheat and a terrible gut ache all night, perhaps a coincidence), and here’s how it looks on a day with a major caloric deficit.

I did not eat wheat today, but I did eat corn (tortillas). I have no real idea how I could realistically get my carbohydrate intake down from 290 grams to, say, 100 grams, particularly given the 1400 calorie deficit as shown. However, 75 of those grams are 300 calories of GU on the ride—and I discount that as problematic when consumed on a ride. I can remove wheat and corn, and see if that helps—it’s something concrete to try. As well, I can monitor my carbohydrate intake next to the calorie column, and at least keep it from being excessive with a goal of perhaps 200 grams of carbs given me 1000+ per day rides.

Day 1

Perfectly normal day, persistent gut ache but ride was strong.

2016-04-16 2:39 cycling workout of 1846 Kj at crank = ~1772 KCal.

Daily diet and exercise log on a high calorie deficit day
Excercise Kj is kilojoules at crankset as per SRM power meter.
Assuming 25% metabolic efficiency, metabolic expenditure is 4X larger, thus
Exercise Kj of 1846 equates to (1846 * 4 * 0.25 * 0.96) = ~1772 KCal

Day 2

Stomach feels fine in AM, but very uncomfortable bloating in mid-afternoon.

2016-04-16 2:39 cycling workout of 1846 Kj at crank = ~1772 KCal.

Daily diet and exercise log

Day 3

Extreme lack of energy on bike even for 30 minute ride at 158 watts. I can do better than that with the flu! Have slept poorly for four nights however. Got a blood glucose meter to begin testing blood sugar response to food.

Daily diet and exercise log

Day 4

One Touch Ultra Mini Blood sugar meter reads 79 in morning after ~14 fast. That is strangely low... could it be wrong? But the test an hour later also measures 79 (after the Whey) and the yogurt test clearly shows a change as would be expected.

Blood sugar meter refutes general claim in Wheat Belly that whey protein spikes blood sugar: 92 minutes after TWO servings of Hammer Whey (34g whey protein isolate with glutamine and Stevia), zero affect on blood sugar (79 -> 79).

Later after consuming 372g of unsweetened greek whole milk yogurt (24g carbs), blood sugar measured 102, so 25g of milk sugars affects blood sugar level. Then later, it went from 102 to 136 after a sweet potato, but note the 90 min bike ride then dropped that 136 to just 86, strongly suggesting that exercise can indeed drop blood sugar (not proof per se, since it could have dropped on its own).

I was hungry today, little different than usual, and ate most of the exercise back—my usually issue. So far, no benefits at all that I can see from eliminating grains and reducing carbs. The main thing is impaired power on the bike, as I would expect.

Daily diet and exercise log

Day 5

I’m seeing no benefits from eliminating grains at all—nothing matching the wild claims in Wheat Belly—certainly zero of the outlandish positive claims.

But surely one of the negatives: today was the weakest day on the bike all year, a power level 10 watts BELOW the worst average of the three double centuries I did in March. To be fair, I’m in an energy slump, a issue I’ve had a number of times in the past year, so I’m not ready to blame the elimination of grains and reduction in carbs for that—yet.

Allergies were severe today (runny nose and violent sneezing), the first time in years—can the diet be blamed for that? It is something very odd and unusual unprecedented for many years.

So: the advice of Wheat Belly so far means at best no improvements, and at worst, severe allergic reactions versus years of no issues and severely impaired power. It’s looking like total horse shit, but I’ll hang in there for another 4-5 days (that is, no grains), and see if any of the alleged benefits emerge.

Wheat Belly makes a boatload of unfounded claims, so I am methodically and objectively testing what I can test. So, regarding the the 18:00 blood glucose test below, I wanted to see if taking two GU packets (50 grams carbs) in a 45 minute period would spike blood sugar during a ride (at 00:00 and 00:45 ride duration 01:30). Immediately after the ride, blood sugar was 89, which is excellent for a 12-hour fasting level. So clearly exercise works to keep blood sugar normal (see previous days blood sugar spikes after carbs). As with yesterday’s whey protein blood glucose test disproving that ridiculous W.B. claim, this test repdudiates the “keep carbs extremely low” advice in Wheat Belly, at least for me on the bike.

Daily diet and exercise log

Update 29 April 2016

I've had no grains of any kind for thirteen (13) days—NONE of {wheat, rye, oatmeal, rice, etc}.

In a nutshell: this Wheat Belly diet appears to be a crackpot diet, at least for my body. Results:

  • 7-10 days of being weaker than I've been in a year (to an extreme).
  • The worst allergic issues I’ve had in 15 years.
  • Appetite rampantly out of control on some days.
  • Weight soared to within a few tenths of a pound of a five-year high.
  • No improvements of any kind or even a sense of any improvement.

In short, an unmitigated disaster. Can I blame it on the diet, or is it just coincidence? Try it yourself—maybe it works for some people, particularly anyone gorging on bread or similar. But where are the benefits? I experienced nothing but Bad Stuff and not a single thing positive. Nor did I experience any of the predicted tempory discomforts, just generally bad “behavior” as per above.

Doctors pushing their own crackpot diets ought to provide some real science and be held accountable. I have no issue with reducing excessive carb intake (a good idea), but Wheat Belly leaps from good advice into a chasm of unsubstantiated snake-oil salesmanship (read the first chapter or two, no thinking person could help but be aghast at the wild claims that are made).

I’m going to eat some sushi (with rice) before tomorrow’s Devil Mountain Double, my traditional stomach-friendly fare before a double, when I can get it.


2016 Solvang Spring Double Century

A few weeks ago I posted ride notes for 2016 Southern Inyo Double Century and Joshua Tree Double Century. Next up is Devil Mountain Double, then Central Coast Double, the Eastern Sierra Double, then Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge.

Solvang Spring Double Century went better than either, with more consistent power and much less of a power sag, though one can be seen around the 7:00 mark or so. I was far stronger for the last 30-40 miles than either of the previous doubles, so the training has paid off.

I’m going to abandon solid food (sandwiches and such) for all future efforts. It’s now pretty clear that solid food is a Bad Idea for me. I had only a small sandwich at Solvang, but even so the dropoff always comes 45 minutes or so after solid food like that. I’ll stick to liquid food, licorice and mountain dew (sparingly, 1 or 2 late in the ride).

As usual, I soloed (no drafting), and I did pull the lead pack for the first ~10 miles or so, starting at 7:00 AM with the fast pack. The fast guys are really fast and don’t waste energy when they don’t need to. So when they wanted to push the pace after the roundabout turn, I dropped back, not wanting to take the draft, watching the pack disappear at a rate of 1-2 mph faster. I am pretty sure that most of those guys that finish ahead of me only because they draft and can save huge amounts of energy by doing so. I’d like to see a double century time trial event held sometime.

Of immense frustration is my body refusing to lose weight (fat); after three double centuries my body weight has not even budged. I think my sleep issues and whacked microbiome from the metronidazole nightmare are working against me and somehow I need to fix both of those things. It just doesn’t add up; my gut physiology is off is my informed guess.

Power and speed with elevation profile for Solvang Spring Double Century 2016

2016 Southern Inyo Double Century and Joshua Tree Double Century

I’ve posted ride notes for 2016 Southern Inyo Double Century and Joshua Tree Double Century.

Results were decent, considering that I am +5 pounds too heavy for this time of year, fat loss still a major challenge and frustration even after burning 15,000 kilocalories on these two doubles.

Fitness is/was reasonably good, but perhaps somewhat less good than last year.

Solvang Spring Double Century is up next on March 19.

Power and heart rate with elevation profile for Southern Inyo Double Century 2016
Power and heart rate with elevation profile for Joshua Tree Double Century 2016

Dropping Body Fat After Fall/Winter Gains

Year 2015 was not too kind to me physically; starting in August I felt a fatigue for ~2 months that took a while to clear, and sleep quality (mild sleep apnea) is an increasing concern. And then in the fall the usual weight gain was faster and more than it has been in some years. Frustrating.

Here in 2016, I’m still challenged by the sleep thing, but I’m working hard to bring my body fat (aka “weight”) down. Here is how I do it:

All of this involves some error and some unaccounted-for metabolic needs, particularly calorie consumption/burn, and that is the point: by using trends, all of the “noise” disappears—any consistent and/or random errors drop out of the overall gain/loss trend.

The only things that matters in this process is consistency: the body weight trend (up or down) will emerge in as little as 1-2 weeks when weight and calories are tracked consistently each day.

At times the body will gain muscle even as it loses fat; this can flatline the apparent weight loss for a time, so keep at it. The loss of muscle is a real risk (see DEXA), which is why exercise is critical: dieting alone is a self-defeating process when/if the calorie deficit is significant.

  • Shown below, the green line is the body weight trend, with its scatter plot of daily weights; observe how daily weight moves around, but the downward trend is indisputable. This is why weighing-in once or twice a week can be so discouraging: what if it’s an up-blip? Weigh in every day and plot the trend!
  • Shown below, the red line is the caloric deficit trend. All that matters is that this trendline stays below the zero mark by at least 100 calories, preferably 200 calories; assuming calories are reasonably estimated (eating and expenditure), body weight (fat) is all but guaranteed to drop steadily. A very positive reinforcement is keeping that line from starting to trend up.
Tracking calories and caloric deficit vs body weight
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

FOR SALE: LOOK 595 Ultra frameset with crank and bar, wired for Di2, $850

The LOOK 595 Ultra is a fantastic bike— see my review of the LOOK 595 Ultra including build details and image gallery.

This is the 'Ultra' which is more stiff than the regular version, but actually a more comfortable ride due to the carbon used for the frame—highly recommended versus monocoque “dead wood” carbon frames.

Bike is all but brand-new. t has a minor scratch on the frame (as it did when I bought). Has about 1500 miles on it (I keep detailed records for every ride and that’s what it adds up to, it was a spare bike). Never crashed or abused.

  • Size large (see chart below).
  • Includes DuraAce brakes front and rear.
  • Wired for 10-speed DuraAce Di2 electronic shifting (external). Wiring can be stripped to run mechanical, but you'd need mechanical shifters.
  • Includes Shimano Vibe Pro handlebar (no bar wrap, shifters NOT included).
  • Does NOT include shifters.
  • Does NOT include derailleurs or battery but the mount is in place for them.
  • Serious local buyers welcome to come see the bike.

Contact me to inquire.

FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large
FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large
FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large, size chart
FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large, size chart

Below, as I had built it below(example only, NOT for sale this as shown):

FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large, size charge
FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large

Ibex Woolies 2 Earflap Beanie: Keep Ears Warm and Perspiration Contained in the Cold, Including Under a Cycling Helmet

Added to my list of wool caps suitable for all-around use as well as under a helmet for cycling is the Ibex Woolies 2 Earflap Beanie.

Read more:

Merino Wool Caps for Under the Helmet

Ibex Woolies 2 Earflap Beanie
Save big on Used Macs at OWC!
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Ibex Woolies 3 Hoody: Outstanding for Cold Weather Cycling

While Ibex does not bill the Woolies 3 Hoody as a cycling garment, its tightly woven fabric turns out to be ideal for cold weather cycling: wind blocking is so effective that there is no reason to utilize a windproof vest. And yet, breathability is excellent.

The Ibex hoodies have the highly desirable property of fitting well under a bike helmet, such as the Lazer Genesis or Lazer Helium. In the image below, observe how the hood provides outstanding wind protection for the ears, neck and top of the head (follicly challenged) as well as eliminating drafts.

Read more:

Field test: Ibex Woolies 3 Hoody

Ibex Woolies 3 Hoody for cycling: fits under helmet, protects neck, head, forehead from drafts
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Science News: “Upending daily rhythm triggers fat cell growth”

I had trouble losing body fat this year and last, in spite of seven double centuries and extensive training. It was so much harder than four years ago (2011) where I got down to 8% body fat without undue difficulty. I also gained weight this fall much faster than usual. It has been a battle, even burning 1000 calories a day.

But I haven’t slept all that well in a couple of years. I had pretty much concluded that my unsatisfying sleep was a factor, and so I went in for a sleep study (overnight and following day). The study showed that I kick my legs in my REM sleep (the body should be paralyzed in REM sleep), though it’s not RLS. So something is off, and I feel it in the morning. It’s no fun—well, it’s rough in fact, particularly for a guy like me, who works about 80 hours a week (not really by choice).

Science news reports:

Upending daily rhythm triggers fat cell growth

New research may help explain why chronic stress, sleep deprivation and other disruptions in the body’s daily rhythms are linked to obesity.

Chronic exposure to stress hormones stimulates growth of fat cells, Mary Teruel of Stanford University reported December 16 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. Normally, stress hormones, such as cortisol, are released during waking hours in regular bursts that follow daily, or circadian, rhythms. Those regular pulses don’t cause fat growth, Teruel and colleagues discovered. But extended periods of exposure to the hormones, caused by such things as too little sleep, break up that rhythm and lead to more fat cells.

Even though only about 10 percent of fat cells are replaced each year, the body maintains a pool of prefat cells that are poised to turn into fat. “If they all differentiated at once, you’d be drowning in fat,” Teruel said.

WIND: so there it is. I have little doubt that it’s affecting me, so the sleep thing needs attention, and not just for this reason.

Keeping the Pounds Off + Fat Loss, Muscle Mass, Bone Density, Training, BMI, DEXA

Training log
Energy = Kilojoules at crankset

I generally ride between 8000 and 12000 miles per year on my bicycle. Even so, I tend to pack on the pounds starting right around the middle of October—seasonal and predictable. This year has not been kind in that regard, even though I’m presently burning about 32,000 kilojoules per week* (7700 kilocalories aka “calories”). I have to work hard at it, darn it. My SRM power meter is accurate and precise to 1%, so those are solid figures.

* 8000 KJ at the crankset as measured by SRM power meter, which accounting for muscle efficiency of ~0.25 as per a highly trained endurance athlete works out to ~32,000 KJ energy requirement, or about 7700 kilocalories (“calories”), which can vary somewhat by intensity, recovery needs, etc.

Much of my focus has been towards “leaning out” for races like the Everest Challenge where one (1) pound of weight can cost up to 6 minutes. But also for any hill climbing including or for double centuries, like Alta Alpina 8-pass. Or grueling mountain bike summitting, because it’s all about power to weight when hill climbing.

So here’ my admittedly geek approach to burning off body fat. Maybe there’s one thing in here that will be of interest to those in the same boat. From my Training and Nutrition sections:

No matter what, losing body fat is tough. But more and more research suggests that excess body weight/fat can often be blamed at least in part on the gut biome, at least for me (given my intense exercise workload). Also, be exceedingly skeptical of antibiotics as they can be nasty as the FDA is belatedly “discovering” (better late than forever incompetent).

Observe how being in the 0% percentile (!) in 2011 for body fat quickly changes to borderline overweight, just by gaining 9 pounds to 180! Doctors who use BMI as a meaningful metric are incompetent, because the value can be complete garbage for people like me (applying a mass statistical tool of dubious legitimacy to an individual is a fundamental scientific error showing gross ignorance of statistics). When I’m that lean (171 pounds), my bone density and muscle mass are such that with my lungs as full as they will go, I barely float. Exhale, and I plummet to the bottom. That, by the way, is a good test for body mass composition (floating in fresh water) with full lungs and fully exhaled.

DEXA scan for fat, lean muscle, bone density
DEXA = Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry

Mark C writes:

The depressing thing is that you can fuel 40,000 kilojoules of exercise with 1 kilogram of fat.

DIGLLOYD: 40K kilojoules metabolic cost would means ~10,000 KJ at the crank (assuming a highly trained endurance athlete, see efficiency of muscle conversion). Flip side: not starving to death is really wonderful, if you are not overfed like here in the USA.

But the really crummy deal as that as I’ve done more and more long endurance events, my body has gotten considerably more metabolically efficient: fewer calories used for the same power output.

My double centuries average 6000 to 9500 calories burned (example, 8701 KJ at crank = 34800 KJ metabolic = ~8350 calories, see SRM graph). That's my secret weapon to losing fat: ride double centuries. I figure (and actual experience backs it up) that I burn off about 1.5 pounds of fat on a double century. That does not include recovery metabolic costs of course.

About 1/2 of the metabolic cost is aerobic (fat burning) because it is impossible to fuel the body that long with carbs*, or even to assimilate much: the stomach can accept only ~250 calories/hour (less if dehydrated). So in 10 hours I can take in 10 X 200 = 2000 calories of Hammer gel or Hammer Perpetuem or similar. The body burns carbohydrates as well as protein (gluconeogenesis) on long events (10-15% protein). That’s why something like Hammer Perpetuem is advised for long, long rides—it helps keep the body from eating its own muscle tissue.

* For endurance events, carbohydrates and protein are still mostly aerobic, excepting very steep climbing or spurts of power, etc. The issue is that the stomach can take in at most ~250 calories per hour under ideal conditions, so fat has to be the main energy source. Taking myself as an example, for double centuries I expend about 700 calories per hour. For shorter more intense races like the Everest Challenge, it is about 1100 calories per hour on the climbs.


Extreme Long term: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

See my review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular Tire as well as other blog posts on it.

I’ve grown to adore the Veloflex Vlaanderen: ride quality and handling are unmatched by any other tire in the line, and then there is durability.

My 55cm Vamoots RSL will not allow the Veloflex Vlaanderen on the rear (clearance is at its least with the 55cm frame size), so I use Veloflex Roubaix or Veloflex Sprinter on the rear mainly.


This is the tire that will not quit: never in 10 ten years of riding tubulars (5000 - 10000 miles per year) has any tire delivered half this lifespan. And it’s still going strong here in mid-December 2015.

I glued on the Veloflex Vlaanderen onto a front Lightweight Obermayer way back in June, riding it almost exclusively. It shows mild wear now after thousands of miles. I’ve run over plenty of glass and debris and yet it just doesn’t flat. And its ride quality and handling are unbeatable.

Either I’ve been exceptionally lucky (unprecedented in a decade with respect to bike tires) or the Vlaanderen has an unusual ability to shrug off materials that would normally puncture a tire. Perhaps because of its volume and running it at 100 PSI vs my usual 120 PSI for a front tire it shrugs off punctures better?

There was one slow pinhole leak thousands of miles ago (probably a tiny wire), but Stan’s No Tubes sealed that up and it never troubled me again. I love this tire. It is now my #1 choice for a front tire. If I could run it on the rear, I would.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Off Topic: California Water (followup)

Back in July I wrote about how many of my neighbors are water pigs, with green lawns and extensive landscaping (on large lots) in arid California. Since they averaged massive water use over the past year, they get to keep using hoggish amounts of water, regardless of family size or appropriateness of landscaping, albeit subject to a 33% mandated reduction as is everyone.

We are a family of five with no front or back grass lawn, just olives and oaks and scraggly weeds and some badly stressed redwood trees, a very few garden plants and fruit trees.

For years I was frugal with water. My frugality is now rewarded by getting screwed by the California Water Board (CalWater acting at their behest): if I go over the measly 13 CCF allowance, I get hit with a big surcharge. My 5-person household gets no extra water vs a single person, or two retirees with no children and extensive landscaping. How equitable.

Here is proof of how frugality is self-destructive when dealing with government mandates and public utilities; we should have made sure to irrigate extensively last year so we weren’t on a survival ration. Our family of five used just 23% of the water of “similar homes”. And most homes in my neighborhood are larger with smaller familes, or no kids at all. Our water bill in June was $197. I wonder if my redwood and fruit trees will survive; it takes 4-5 CCF* per month to water them in the summer at a bare minimum. They got ~2 CCF.

I appealed my water ration, explaining the family of five thing (hey, three teenage girls ought to count for a LOT!). I even submitted photos of my barren front and back yards with cracks and dry ground. The answer: 2 more CCF (13 up from 11) in the winter.

As part of this irritating form letter showing how we get screwed on allocation, I got helpful tips on changing my watering schedule (near zero) and replacing grass with native plants (native for 23 years now). Bureaucracy at its finest.

* 1 CCF = 748 gallons

Water usage versus neighbors.
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Science News: “A good diet for you may be bad for me”

Science news reports:

Eating the same foods can lead to different blood sugar spikes in different people

People’s blood sugar rises or falls differently even when they eat the exact same fruit, bread, deserts, pizza and many other foods, researchers in Israel report November 19 in Cell. That suggests that diets should be tailored to individuals’ personal characteristics.


Mixes of microbes living in people’s guts, known as the gut microbiome, also changed with the good and bad diets. Bacteria help break down food and have been implicated in causing obesity and diabetes. This study can’t distinguish whether the microbiome is causing differences in blood sugar responses or being influenced by how a person responds to certain foods, says Peter Turnbaugh, a microbiome researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

...It turned out that foods on the “good” diet for one person were sometimes on another participant’s “bad” list, Segal says. For instance, one woman’s blood sugar spiked when she ate tomatoes. But tomatoes were on other people’s healthy list.

“What our data suggest is that relying on population averages is not only inaccurate, but may even be dangerous in some cases,” Elinav says.

WIND: more and more evidence suggests that gut biome has a huge impact on overall health and weight.

But even more intriguing is to see a statement which finally recognizes junk science like BMI for what it is: individuals are not averages. BMI is an obviously flawed cased, but now this study shows that responses to food are highly individual. Which pretty much shows the malpractice of doctors and nutritionists who prescribe diets for an indidvidual based on population average responses. Yet generalized averages are the starting basis for medical care of many kinds—malpractice when treating an individual, just as it would be to give everyone O+ blood because most people have O+ blood. Modern medical science is only beginning to see the light yet public health discussions almost always revolve around benefits based on averages. As if any health issues can exist without individuals.

Sleep Affects Many Aspects of Physiology

The October 2015 Scientific American has a fascinating article on sleep: Beyond Memory: The Benefits of Sleep.

  • Sleep is an unconditional necessity.
  • College students given an immunization that had normal sleep had a 97% higher antibody response than subjects kept awake all night the following night (one night only!). In another study, antibody protection increased 56% for each additional hour of sleep! With less than six hours of sleep, vaccinations were ineffective (no clinically significant immune response) (Hepatitis B).
  • When sleep deprived, negative memories are formed more strongly than positive ones, and cognitive decline occurs more strongly with positive associations; negative associations are least affected.
  • Poor sleep can lead to major depression and may contribute to other psychiatric disorders; the use of CPAP (to address sleep apnea) shows a 26% reduction in depression symptoms in one study.
  • Five nights of restricted sleep with a dozen men showed that the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin increased by 28%. Amounts of leptin (decreases hunger) decline by 18%. The men reported a 23% increase in hunger. In other words, sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain (an idea supported by 50 other studies).
  • Children from 6 to 9 years old getting less than 10 hours of sleep were 1.5X to 2.5X likely to be obese. Studies in adults suggest a 50% increase in obesity with less than 6 hours of sleep (average) and an associate with Type II diabetes is also seen.
Huge Selection of Drones

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

I’ve long held the theory that the more consistently I excercise (60-90 minutes per day), the better I feel and the better everything works. I based this idea on a simple theory: increased blood flow to the body helps all sorts of systems flush toxins, repair and oxygenate tissues, deliver nutrients, etc. Along with the benefits of excercise in general.

Might my theory have a solid basis in scientific fact? If blood flow exerts the powerful effects now being discussed, then the hugely increased blood flow while vigorously excercising surely exerts side affects from pumping large amounds of blood over thousands of hours over the course of a year.

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

The brain's nerve cells have a call-and-response relationship with the blood that sustains them

Blood tells a story about the body it inhabits. As it pumps through vessels, delivering nutrients and oxygen, the ruby red liquid picks up information. Hormones carried by blood can hint at how hungry a person is, or how scared, or how sleepy. Other messages in the blood can warn of heart disease or announce a pregnancy. Immune molecules can reveal an infection. When it comes to the brain, blood also seems to be more than a traveling storyteller. In some cases, the blood may be writing the script.

This line of research is expanding scientists’ view of what makes the brain tick, and the implications for human health are enormous. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and hypertension— diseases that harm blood vessels elsewhere in the body — may afflict the brain too. What’s more, common drugs that tinker with blood flow, including statins, anti-inflammatories and even Viagra, may affect how the brain operates.

... Vast networks of endothelial cells may carry messages lightning-quick from neurons that need fuel to distant large arteries that can supply it

.. Beyond keeping neurons well fed, blood may actually tell neurons when to fire. Kind of like gasoline oozing out of a car’s gas tank and taking the wheel.

... A slight dilation or constriction of vessels reliably changes the behavior of nearby neurons.

... Abnormal blood flow in the brain is present in the five major forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies

... Other disorders, such as diabetes, might harm the brain by damaging blood vessels. Many scientists attribute the mental fuzziness that can accompany diabetes to neuron damage from excess glucose. But maybe faulty lines between unresponsive blood vessels and neurons are to blame...

... Common drugs that influence blood flow may also have unanticipated effects on the brain. In addition to statins, drugs such as Viagra, blood pressure drugs and even anti-inflammatories may unintentionally change how the brain operates. These drugs may be dampening the brain’s ability to call for blood when it needs it...

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Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Can Cause Peripheral Neuropathy, Ruptured Tendons, Cardiovascular Disease (and Flagyl/Metronidazole)

I wrote about my nasty experience with nerve damage from Flagyl (Metronidazole), and how when I asked “any risks”, my doctor lied to me with a resounding “NO”.

Fortunately, I have mostly recovered over a period of 11 months (usual prognosis for recovery is 12-18 months so that’s good), but I still suffer pain in my left arm regularly, as well as some lingering effects in my toes.

But now it turns out that my “head in the sand” theory about medical doctor ignorance has solid basis in fact—devastating side effects are in fact possible with a wide variety of antibiotics, and this has long been a blind spot with the medical profession, conveniently not reported and thus ignored.

The issues are not just with Flagyl, but with another entire class of antibiotics causing nerve damage, tendon damage, cardiovascular damage, etc. I would say this: use an antibiotic only when absolutely necessary.

FDA Panel Seeks Tougher Antibiotic Labels

Mounting evidence of previously unknown, and sometimes permanent, side effects prompted review

Food and Drug Administration advisory panel overwhelmingly called for heightened label warnings on widely prescribed antibiotics called fluoroquinolones because of unusual but sometimes devastating side effects.


Most fluoroquinolones now are sold as generic drugs, but the well-known brand names include Bayer AG’s Cipro, generically called ciprofloxacin; and Johnson & Johnson’s Levaquin, or levofloxacin. This class of powerful antibiotics has been available for nearly three decades.


These cases included weakness, numbness, pain, discomfort, burning and tingling. That office also reported the case of a man who had a hypersensitivity reaction while taking Levaquin. After getting a second treatment with the drug, he was admitted to the intensive care unit and died within two weeks, according to FDA documents.


In a more recent review, FDA staff reported that this class of drugs carries a risk of cardiovascular disease, and of tendon rupture and peripheral neuropathy.

“Over the life-cycle of these drugs, several adverse reactions have been reported and most of them were not evident in the preapproval safety databases,” the FDA reviewers wrote.

WIND: note the “previously unknown” phrase, which translates to “we are incompetent and once in a while we finally fix things that hurt people”.

My own experience with metronidazone suggests to me that doctors learn about a drug in medical school, hard code the “known” issues into their brains, and then lock down their knowledge (what exactly would cause them to do otherwise?!). Combine that with a touch of arrogance (“another hypochondriac patient imagining things”), decreasing remuneration and so on. Bad combination. How else to explain my doctor emphatically answering “NO” to my “any risks” question? A google search turns up all sort of issues with Flagyl/metronidazole. How the hell does a doctor prescribe double the usual dose for double the usual time and get away with being so ignorant?


Why Every GPS Overestimates Distance Traveled

Accurate distance: I calibrate my SRM Power Control head unit by measuring distance along a long measuring tape using at least five revolutions at a specific tire pressure while my weight is on the bike as I would ride. I then divide to get a circumference good to a millimeter or so (should be ~0.05% error or so). This delivers accuracy down to 1/1000 of a mile (5 feet) using the SRM. If I ride the same course over and over, I get the same figure every time to 0.001 mile. If I change tire size (different wheel), I can immediately see the error in distance over the same course (unless I recalibrate).

I do not use GPS for any of my cycling, having found it highly inaccurate in both distance and a bad joke as far as altitude (losing 1000' all of a sudden, reading descent while ascending steeply, etc). GPS such as the Garmin Edge 500 produces garbage data under the conditions I would most need it (mountain biking with tree cover and switchbacks, but also road biking under tree cover).

Some folks ride flat open roads, and there GPS is presumably not too bad. But all those KOM things... well now IEEE Spectrum reports on GPS inaccuracy in Why Every GPS Overestimates Distance Traveled.

Runners, mariners, airmen, and wilderness trekkers beware: Your global positioning system (GPS) is flattering you, telling you that you have run, sailed, flown, or walked significantly farther than you actually have. And it’s not the GPS’s fault, or yours.

Blame the statistics of measurement. Researchers at the University of Salzburg (UoS), Salzburg Forschungsgesellchaft (SFG), and the Delft University of Technology have done the math to prove that the distance measured by GPS over a straight line will, on average, exceed the actual distance traveled.

As an example of “lab testing blinders”, the researchers (mathematicians) quoted in the article seem to be clueless about far larger errors in the real world! Their findings are laughable in the face of actual real-world errors in the opposite direction of error (too short in distance)—real world issues that relegate their findings to a rounding error!

It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for a few sticks of wood. Their “test” consisted of having subjects walk a 10 X 10 meter square. While this validates the mathematical model (apparently), how is that realistic for anyone anywhere using a GPS to track distance? Do you walk in a 10 X 10 square, or have you ever?! Science like this which uses a context bearing no relation to actual usage conditions is devoid of knowledge.

So here is some knowledge of actual GPS performance based on real-world usage. The errors cited here dwarf the researchers mathematical masturbation, at least if the goal is relevance to the real world.

Coverage errors

First, consider GPS ridden under tree cover, or in a canyon. The GPS signal can get spotty coverage, leading to gross errors of at least 10%. This is as real-world as it gets, and these are huge errors and I have observed them firsthand.

Altitude/slope errors

Consider riding a 10% to 15% grade (or even 18% for miles)—consumer GPS cannot gauge altitude with any accuracy, so it will report a shorter distance than actually traveled (because the travel is on the hypotenuse, not the shorter “leg”).

Or consider a course consisting of frequent undulating dips in the road, rising and falling 5 to 50 feet: GPS will measure that as straight-line distance (especially downhill where the descent lasts only a few second). So the distance will again be grossly in error, with greater error the steeper the slope.


Consider a step trail consisting of tight switchbacks: what are the chance that switchbacks of, say, 20-50 feet back and forth will be measured properly (and also the altitude factor, above). Particularly if the sampling frequency is too low for the time taken to negotiate the switchbacks. When hiking or bouldering where the route is constantly wavering and wandering constantly, the same sort of thing applies.


Someone should strap a GPS to Alex Honnold and see how much distance it is from the bottom of El Capitan to the top!

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Long term: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

See my review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular Tire as well as other blog posts on it.

I’ve grown to adore the Veloflex Vlaanderen: ride quality and handling are unmatched by any other tire in the line, and then there is durability.

My 55cm Vamoots RSL will not allow the Veloflex Vlaanderen on the rear (clearance is at its least with the 55cm frame size), so I use Veloflex Roubaix or Veloflex Sprinter on the rear mainly.


I glued on the Veloflex Vlaanderen onto a front Lightweight Obermayer way back in June, riding it almost exclusively. It shows mild wear but here in late September it has performed like a champ and never needed replacement. Yet I’ve run over plenty of glass and other nasty stuff. And its ride quality and handling are unbeatable.

Either I’ve been exceptionally lucky (unprecedented in 9 years or so), or the Vlaanderen has an unusual ability to shrug off materials that would normally puncture a tire. Perhaps because of its volume and running it at 100 PSI vs my usual 120 PSI for a front tire it shrugs off punctures better?

There was one slow pinhole leak (probably a tiny wire), but Stan’s No Tubes sealed that up and it never troubled me again. I love this tire. It is now my #1 choice for a front tire. If I could run it on the rear, I would.

UPDATE 08 Nov 2015: the Vlaanderen is still going strong. Amazing!

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Coffee: New Research Shows Huge Promise for Health Benefits for Liver, Diabetes

Science News has a lengthy article on the health benefits of coffee. As always, research over time is what counts in proving out such things, but here is the link and some selected excerpts.

Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely elixir: From liver disease to diabetes, coffee compounds protect against an array of health conditions

Selected excerpts—be sure to read the entire article. Not also:

In earlier work, van Dam sought to establish safe upper limits for coffee intake. He and others found no added mortality risk among people who drink six cups a day.

Despite the flood of positive findings, some researchers can’t help but remain cautious. Klatsky offers an example, regarding the studies showing no link between atrial fibrillation and coffee, caffeinated or not. “People who get symptoms from coffee tend to stop drinking it,” he says. So the only coffee drinkers in some studies would be those who don’t feel any bad effects, a self-selected group. Other studies often failed to note the kind of coffee people drank, the degree of roasting or other details that can matter.

I used to drink coffee, and I am considering restarting that. My favorite coffee was Kona Coffee (web site temporarily down).

* Online, September 18. In print October 3, 2015 Science News as “The Beneficial Bean: Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely health elixir”.


Coffee drinkers who have hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to liver fibrosis and cancer, show similar benefits. Of 177 liver disease patients, most with hepatitis C, those who drank more than two cups of caffeinated coffee per day were less likely than scant drinkers to have their fibrosis become severe, according to a study in Hepatology in 2010. Curiously, other sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks, didn’t provide a benefit.

Fatty liver disease, which is rising in tandem with obesity rates, may be susceptible to coffee as well. U.S. scientists identified 306 overweight people who hadn’t been diagnosed with liver disease. Ultrasound images and biopsies revealed 180 who had fat deposits in the liver, early signs of fibrosis. Based on those tests, coffee abstainers were moving faster toward fibrosis than consumers. People who had advanced-stage fatty liver averaged less than a cup a day of caffeinated coffee, compared with nearly two cups for those who were still at an early stage of the disease, a 2012 report in Hepatology noted.

Coffee shows a stunning effect against liver cancer. Earlier this year, a European team reported that women who drank two and a half or more cups and men who drank three and a half or more daily were 72 percent less likely to develop liver cancer than people who drank less than about one-third cup a day. The study included roughly half a million healthy people monitored for 11 years. During the study, 201 people developed liver cancer. The findings remained robust even when adjusted to account for hepatitis, the scientists reported in the April 15 International Journal of Cancer.


Coffee’s protective effect against type 2 diabetes came to light in 2002. In a study of healthy people, van Dam and his Dutch colleague Edith Feskens found that those who averaged a whopping seven cups a day were half as likely to develop diabetes over several years as those who got by on two or fewer cups a day. In this study of people ages 30 to 60, protection seemed to start at three cups a day and rise with intake.

That report, published in the Lancet, triggered dozens of studies seeking to replicate it, and many have. An international review of 28 studies, published in Diabetes Care in 2014, included more than 1 million healthy people monitored for 10 months to 20 years. About 45,000 developed type 2 diabetes while in a study. The likelihood of a diabetes diagnosis was 21 percent lower in people drinking three cups a day versus none. For those drinking six cups daily, risk was 33 percent lower. Regular or decaf didn’t matter.

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Lupine Rotlicht 2-Watt Tail-Light

The Lupine Rotlicht (“red light”) is a diminutive go-anywhere tail-light with some nifty features. Made in Germany as with its headlight and headlamp siblings, it is a first class unit whose flexible strap allows it to be easily mounted to a bike frame or seat tube. The battery is integrated LiIon.

Read my review of the Lupine Rotlicht. I’ve been using it for about two months now. Highly recommended.

Elevation profile for Everest Challenge Stage 1
Lupine Rotlicht

Everest Challenge 2015: Not Happening as far as I can tell

Update August 28: see details below. EC *is* happening.

I am unable to contact Everest Challenge race organizer Steven Barnes by phone, email, or his apparent Facebook page or AntiGravityCycling blog. I am not the only one asking.

I can find no mention of an Everest Challenge 2015 anywhere on the race signup sites either. As far as I can tell, the Everest Challenge is no more.

Elevation profile for Everest Challenge Stage 1
Everest Challenge jersey

Everest Challenge 2015: NOT HAPPENING?!!!!

Fall is the most glorious time of year to be in the Eastern Sierra or White Mountains and the Everest Challenge has long been my favorite race. I’ve been training for it this year, having done (almost) seven double centuries.

Alas, it looks like the Everest Challenge for 2015 is not to be.

Well, I hope Steven Barnes is OK, because this is just weird.

Better late than never

Race flyer

Over from the Facebook page 26 Aug:

The EC flyer is still in somebody's INBOX over at USAC...I cannot post it until approved...but I will put up a "draft copy" tomorrow morning if it is not ready to go live by then.

Not quite as superlative as the traditional EC route, to be sure.
But the basics are the same. Two days (9/26-27, 2015) with checkin Friday night. Eastern Sierra and White/Inyo Mountains. 28540" of climbing, with 106 miles and 16440' on Stage 1 and then 128 miles with 12,100' for Stage 2.

With the additional choice to ride less either day and still get credited with finisher status (non-competitive and younger Juniors ONLY), and the usual festivities.
More tomorrow either way.

Off Topic: California Water

Many of my neighbors are water pigs, with green lawns and extensive landscaping (on large lots) in arid California. Since they averaged massive water use over the past year, they get to keep using hoggish amounts of water, regardless of family size or appropriateness of landscaping, albeit subject to a 33% mandated reduction as is everyone.

I have no front or back grass lawn, just olives and oaks and scraggly weeds and some badly stressed redwood trees, a very few garden plants and fruit trees.

For years I was frugal with water. My frugality is now rewarded by getting screwed by the California Water Board: if I go over the measly 13 CCF allowance, I get hit with a big surcharge. My 5-person household gets no extra water vs two retirees with no children and extensive landscaping. How equitable.

My water-pig neighbors are probably using 50 or 100 CCF vs my 13 CCF, but since they averaged high use the past year, they get an amount of water commensurate with past usage.

Not commensurate with living needs: whether they have a family or not has no bearing. Whether they have wasteful water-sucking plants has no bearing. This is government at work with its usual ' pick winners and losers' dystopian way, applying neither rules of fairness nor allowing a free market to function, but instead rewarding Water Pigs. If there is to be no free market, then the water allowance ought to be based on family size, not past usage for irrigating some absurdly extensive landscaping in an arid climate (which seemed wasteful 20 years ago no less than today).

It will probably cost me an extra $200 to save my redwood trees due to surcharges, while my Water Pig neighbors use many times the water at lower rates. Thank you, Governor 'Brown'.

California Water bill

Alta Alpina Aborted — Stomach Issues

Alta Alpina 8-Pass double century (20,500 vertical feet) was going swimmingly with outstanding cool conditions. I was in 2nd place with a substantial lead, and based on start times (I checked upon return), only 5-10 minutes behind 1st place—and that was after the trouble started which suddenly impaired my pace about half way up Ebbetts in a major way ( I dropped/passed everyone but the leader).

My stomach went south. The day before, my stomach had been bloated like a beer-drinking slob (no idea why) and the morning of the race too. I thought I could ride through it, and I did for about 150 miles and 14000 vertical feet. But it turned into a sharp right side abdominal pain and a queasy stomach that did not like food inputs, though I forced down Hammer HEED and some licorice, but my feeling was that the stomach had just shut down, so nothing worked. Power plummeted drastically and I thought I might crash descending Ebbetts such was my distress. I rested 20 minutes at the rest stop at the base of Monitor, then tried going up, but it was game over—had to bail just before the climb up Monitor Pass. Even getting back was on pathetic impulse power.

In the end I did 165 miles and just over 14,000 vertical. It was a solid ride, but it just feels like failure—I detest quitting any race. But I was in such a condition I deemed it stupid to proceed. Most frustrating is not knowing the bloating trigger.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C Tubular: Fantastic for the Alta Alpina Challenge.

Important: see my previous notes on the Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C Tubular.

The Vlaanderen as a front tire just rocks as discussed there. Handling, comfort, rolling resistance, high speed descents—impressive. I think it will be my tire of choice for this type of event.

Outstanding handling and ride quality aside, the Vlaanderen allows me to descend significantly faster by perhaps ~5 mph. The large contact patch and ~+60g mass adds a stability over the Sprinter that to me really makes a difference in the feeling of being “hooked up” to the road.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C: Putting to the test for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

Readers know that I’m a huge fan of Veloflex tubular tires; I’ve ridden probably 60K miles on them in the past 8 years, going through at least 60 tires (I’ve lost count), and I know how each model performs (Record, Sprinter, Criterium, Roubaix, and now Vlaanderen).

See review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen now includes extensive ride notes.

Tomorrow July 18, I’m doing the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge club ride (50 qualified riders max, the usual late-June yearly event was canceled due to forest fires). Which tire to run on the front?

Front tire choice for a double century involves competing considerations:

  • Risk of flats.
  • Handling and traction.
  • Comfort and stability for fast downhills, including behavior when hitting unexpected pavement cracks and other road hazards, particularly when fatigued and a bit less alert.
  • Rolling resistance and weight.

For years my tire of choice for the front for events where I care about time and finish standing has been the Veloflex Sprinter which offers outstanding performance and low weight. When I felt the risk of flats was lower, the Veloflex Record was preferred for even lighter weight and quicker handling (front only, Sprinter on the rear).

After about 1000 miles with the Vlaanderen including usage on Sierra Nevada roads, I’ve concluded that its ~60 gram weight penalty over the Sprinter is well worth it. Moreover it seems to shrug off flats; I’ve not even had a pinhole leak as yet*. And hitting hidden cracks and such on a few occassions has shown just how nice the 27C volume can be. The large contact patch and spherical tire shape makes for superb handling on turns of any kind. The extra mass and contact patch adds a distincly more stable feel on high speed dowhnills (40+ mph), to the point that I feel comfortable at significantly higher speeds than with the lighter Sprinter and Record (and in the back of my mind is the more robust casing and higher volume for surprises at speed).

Bottom line: the sum total of the Veloflex Vlaanderen characteristics has persuaded me to use it for this Alta Alpina , in spite of its ~60g extra weight over the 20,500' of climbing.

Update, post-event: The Vlaanderen as a front tire just rocks as discussed above. Handling, comfort, rolling resistance, high speed descents—impressive. I think it will be my tire of choice for this type of event.

Outstanding handling and ride quality aside, the Vlaanderen allows me to descend significantly faster by perhaps ~5 mph. The large contact patch and ~+60g mass adds a stability over the Sprinter that to me really makes a difference in the feeling of being “hooked up” to the road, especially if there is buffeting wind or uneven pavement.

* For a double century, I generally use 1 fluid ounce (1/2 tube) of Stans NoTubes as a precaution in both front and rear tires (in advance); it’s no fun peeling a tire in a double century and the sealant usually makes pinhole punctures a non-event. This adds about 30 grams per tire, which makes the tire weight difference even less relevant in percentage terms.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C: Ride Quality on the Moots Vamoots RSL

Readers know that I’m a huge fan of Veloflex tubular tires; I’ve ridden probably 60K miles on them in the past 8 years, going through at least 60 tires (I’ve lost count), and I know how each model performs (Record, Sprinter, Criterium, Roubaix, and now Vlaanderen). So I was intrigued by the introduction of the new 700 X 27C Veloflex Vlaanderen. I requested some review samples, and Veloflex obliged.

First off, this is a beautifully made tire. All three samples were nearly flawless in symmetry, clean in design. The FMB Boyaux Paris Roubaix Pro feels almost crude by comparison and the Vlaanderen far better handling and ride feel.

My review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen now includes extensive ride notes.

Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular Tire

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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Typical American Diet Can Damage Immune System

Science News reports in Typical American diet can damage immune system yet another research finding suggesting that health is far more complex than conventionally realized, involving not just foods per se, but the gut microbiome and its interaction with those food choices. Other research goes so far as to suggest even mental health is an interactive result of bacteria in the gut, and that bad food choices can cross generations!

A tantalizing line of evidence suggests that unhealthful foods — fatty, salty, sugary, processed foods — may disrupt the body’s defenses in a way that promotes inflammation, infection, autoimmune diseases and even illnesses like cancer.


There is also evidence that certain kinds of fats and refined sugar, consumed in excess, may compromise the inner lining of the intestine, allowing microscopic leaks that trigger unrelenting immune activation. Also, adipose tissue, or body fat, is so capable of hormone production that it is often referred to as an endocrine organ by itself, able to kindle a low-grade inflammation that stresses tissues and promotes disease.

... the combination of unhealthy diet and obesity explain in part the rise in autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes and other illnesses that occur when the body turns on itself.

And perhaps most fascinating (“you are what your parents and grandparents ate”):

Other work by some of the same researchers also raises the possibility that disease risk from microbiota can cross generations... The impact of a Western diet on risk for obesity and cancer can persist for generations, and gut microbes may be responsible, a study published in April suggests. If supported by more research, the findings mean that inherited risk for some diseases is about more than genetics and may be reversible.

The gut microbiome area is a hot area of research, and it appears to hold immense promise for human health—perhaps greater than any medical advances yet seen. But it also appears that it may take a decade or two to sort out the complexity.

See also:

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Arrived: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

Readers know that I’m a huge fan of Veloflex tubular tires; I’ve ridden probably 60K miles on them in the past 8 years, going through at least 60 tires (I’ve lost count), and I know how each of them performs.

So I was intrigued by the introduction of the new 700 X 27C Veloflex Vlaanderen. I requested some review samples, and Veloflex obliged.

I received two of the new Veloflex Vlaanderen tubular tire today. Wow! I am intrigued by the supple casing and tread pattern and substantial tire volume. By palpating the tire build with my fingers I’d say that the Vlaanderen holds huge potential as about the most comfortable ride in a tubular one might find. My guess is that it will be distinctly more supple and comfortable than the Veloflex Roubaix and possibly less puncture resistant (the rubber seems less thick). But that is speculation until a road test.

Because I’m leaving on a trip I won’t have the Vlaanderen glued up until about mid June 2015, report to follow. But it looks very promising as possibly a tire of choice for anyone looking for an ultra comfy tubular with superb handling and grip. I won’t be able to test it on the rear of my Moots Vamoots RSL because it won’t fit a 700 X 27C, but it’s the front wheel that has me intrigued in terms of exploring the comfort zone.

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

Lactate Threshold Training: 10X Repeats on upper Pave Alpine Rd

Get Shimano Di2 at Amazon.com.

I’m loving the 34 cog on Shimano Di2. It lets me spin through slightly steeper pitches with a flick of the shifter. This pays off for hill repeats, and I think it will pay off for endurance events with steep climbs.

While five double centuries in two months has paid off handsomely in deep reserves of aerobic endurance, my lactate threshold and peak power now needs attention as spring waxes and summer approaches.

The next big event is Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge, and since Steven Barnes (organizer of the Everest Challenge) seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth (I hope he’s OK), the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is the only major hard-ass goal for me left this year. And one I have designs on winning. So I need to make sure my peak power and anaerobic fitness are pushed up, and I have about 3 weeks to do that.

Shown below is a 10-repeat workout, average time 9:34 @ 313 watts. I could definitely feel the burn by repeat 6, but it was perfectly tolerable. I could probably have done 12 and maybe more, but I had work to do and could not afford the time. For me, 313 watts is a bit disappointing; I should be doing at least 330 watts or so on these repeats. But, well, I’m some years older than 2012 and maybe age is acting up. More threshold training will prove or disprove that.

Besides, it was National DumbF**k Day on Alpine Road: wrong side of road drivers, dogs on leashes spanning road, and one dumbass with his car in park (you can’t make that stuff up!) on a blind corner in the middle of road, with a cyclist crashed as a result, with me narrowly missing. I yelled at this sh*t for brains to move his car over, but he wanted to argue about it while his car remained in park in the middle of the one-lane road (as it had been), a deadly obstacle for the next hapless cyclist to round the steep curve in the road. Nothing wrong the car, something seriously wrong with the brain. Where is that phaser when you need it?

Ten (10) lactate threshold repeates on upper Alpine Rd
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