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Completed: Camino Real Double Century

I completed the Camino Real Double Century in Irvine, CA on Feb 18. I don’t know what the “poker run” reference is to.

Weather conditions were not good, but were not too bad either—some rain and wet roads. Of 100 or so registered riders, only a few dozen showed up, due to the monsoon wind and rain the evening prior which looked super scary for doing a double.

Ride notes:

  • Very complex route requiring many turns; this cost me tons of time checking the map, several false turns, etc. It’s really hard to read a map while riding (jiggle/bounce) so often I had to slow or even stop.
  • Extremely unpleasant loud traffic along I5 in both directions, loud enough that I think it would causing hearing damage if done too often. On the way back, we had to disobey traffic laws by riding past a posted sign that said bicyclists were prohibited on the interstate.
  • The most mundane, urban, and just plain boring and ugly double century course I’ve ever ridden. The best parts were along the Camp Pendleton airstrip and along the levees, but these are not a lot of mileage.
  • Never really possible to settle in and get into the groove. It seems liked dozens upon dozens of stop lights and stop signs. Sometimes I got lucky, other times I kept stopping, stopping, stopping... gah!
  • Hot soup at mile 170 or so in the rain really helps!
  • No flats! Always a plus with tubular tires. Flat-tire rate was very high according to the sag driver, so I got lucky.

I don’t plan on ever doing Camino Real Double Century again. There just are not any plusses.

Self Driving Cars: a Threat to Cyclists?

Self-driving cars are disquieting enough, but to have to worry about them on the road... well maybe they are better than pot smoking drivers, a frequent occurrence on my daily rides now.

IEEE Spectrum discusses how self-driving robotic cars pose a risk to bicyclists.

Robotic cars are great at monitoring other cars, and they’re getting better at noticing pedestrians, squirrels, and birds. The main challenge, though, is posed by the lightest, quietest, swerviest vehicles on the road.

Bicycles are probably the most difficult detection problem that autonomous vehicle systems face,” says UC Berkeley research engineer Steven Shladover.

Nuno Vasconcelos, a visual computing expert at the University of California, San Diego, says bikes pose a complex detection problem because they are relatively small, fast and heterogenous. “A car is basically a big block of stuff. A bicycle has much less mass and also there can be more variation in appearance — there are more shapes and colors and people hang stuff on them.”

... However, when it comes to spotting and orienting bikes and bicyclists, performance drops significantly. Deep3DBox is among the best, yet it spots only 74 percent of bikes in the benchmarking test. And though it can orient over 88 percent of the cars in the test images, it scores just 59 percent for the bikes.

Better hope your’re not in that 41% of cyclists that can’t be properly detected, by the best system. In what irresponsible world would a 1% failure to properly detect be tolerable? It’s OK to say “oops” for 1 in 100 humans on the road? But we’re talking 41 times worse than that.

Why should someone else’s convenience and/or profit-at-any-cost motive become a risk to my life?

On the other hand, at some point self-driving cars might be safer for cyclists, and then the losers of the world can smoke that joint on the way to collecting their free food and healthcare and what-not. I welcome one that won’t pass me on double yellow blind turns, for starters. But I also wonder just how much room such a car will be programmed to have vs the cyclist? The minimum required by law?

California DFG Heritage Trout Challenge

The California Department of Fish and Game has just posted a new PDF for the Heritage Trout Challenge.

It’s a well written document that anyone who likes trout fishing should find interesting. My only disappointment is that the PDF images are relatively low resolution.

See also The Year in Trout, 2016.

Golden Trout for 2 Nice Dinners
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Wearables for Cycling: Something Good Will Surely Evolve, but as for Now...

I still think my SRM head unit is the cat’s meow... runs for 200 hours on a charge, huge storage, no power-sucking GPS, and no special glasses or other crap needed, all with accuracy to within 1% for watts/KJ/KCal at a weight far less than any iPhone. And I can wear my usual excellent REVO sunglasses.

CES, Jan 5 2017: Intel’s tech for cycling metrics, collected via glasses the cyclists wears
(something badly wrong with the wattage reading)

Preparing for Cycling 2017 — Squats and Lat Pulldowns

I was discouraged by the severe cramping at Alta Alpina in June, my 8th double century of the year, and one I ought to have won easily. Setbacks don’t usually bother me, but this one took a toll, because it remains a mystery—and it was a really miserable time of suffering from mile 100 to mile 165 or so. I’m just not a 7 of 8 passes type of guy, but my body thwarted me that day. That out-of-the-blue failure of my body put a cloud over my thinking about cycling that caused me to divert my attention to other things more than usual (not that I stopped riding, but I stopped training seriously).

Anyway, it is now December and I am back on the training regimen, but it has been raining a lot. I dislike the grit and filth and discomfort of rain riding, so I resolved that I would resume squats and weight training, something I had been robust at 15 years ago (400 pound squats, ten or so, and 135 X 135 pounds, that range).

So I’ve done squats a few days over the course of a week and I’m now up to (as of tonight) 100 reps X 115 pounds as a set of 70 reps, then a set of 30 reps. I am hoping this strategy will help raise my top-end power for cycling in 2017. I should be able to get to at least 100 reps X 135 pounds again*, even though I am 15 years older than my peak weight-lifting days.

UPDATE, one week later: I have now worked up to 135 pounds X 115 reps in two sets: 50 reps, then 65 reps. Already I seem to be having better torque on the bike, the weights seems to have stimulated that aspect of muscle memory.

* 45 pound Olympic bar plus 2 X 45 pound weights = 135 pounds.

Olympic bar for squats
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Winter Weight

Much more hiking this fall, in the mountains, than serious cycling.

And after 3 family members got a nasty chest virus, I too succumbed after two nights of ~4 hours sleep and a long drive to the mountains. I’m still recovering, just barely able to do my standard workout at a low pace—frustrating.

Winter weight is way ahead of schedule so I need to get on it, and resume daily rides soon to keep things under control.

My favorite tire remains the Veloflex Vlaanderen—never flatted yet (aside from a pothole-caused pinch flat which is pure damage). It makes a great winter tire.

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Heart Damage from Excessive Endurance Training?

Mike G writes:

As a long time cyclist, Moots owner and Mac user, I enjoy your blogs and analytical insight. I was wondering if you ever commented on, or would be willing to offer your thoughts on the VeloNews article from last year on heart damage from excessive endurance training, or James O'Keefe's comments on the subject (Cardiovascular Damage From Extreme Endurance Exercise) who recommends limiting training to 45 minutes a day, especially for those over the age of 40.

http://velonews.competitor.com/cycling-extremes

http://stevetilford.com/2014/07/20/extreme-exercise-and-the-heart/

WIND: I need to take the time to read these articles in detail.

The sun was bright upon the upturned redrock Flatirons above Boulder, Colorado. It was a beautiful July morning in 2013. Lennard Zinn, a world-renowned technical cycling guru, founder of Zinn Cycles, longtime member of the VeloNews staff, lover of long rides, and a former member of the U.S. national cycling team, was riding hard up his beloved Flagstaff sxMountain, a ride he had done a thousand times before.

But this time, it was different. His life was about to change forever. When his heart began to flop like a fish in his chest, and his heart rate jumped from 155 to 218 beats per minute and stayed pegged there, his first reaction was simple: “I went into denial.”
...

In general, I’d call out these as context:

  • Small-scale studies are inherently questionable.
  • There is a wide range of physiology out there, intensity of workouts, diet, genetics, etc. What about alcohol or too much sugar?
  • Drugs can be involved: if anything I know that antibiotics can cause severe neuropathy (I have mostly but not fully recovered, but it took 18 months). So what other factors or drugs might associate or exacerbate issues with the heart? Including “Vitamin I” (ibuprofen and its ilk).
  • Medical science has a poor understanding of what causes disease at the specific individual level. I’m not an average; I’m me. Heck, my HDL never drops below 84 and has hit 104 or close to it on many testing occasions, so why shouldn’t all sorts of other things vary in good and bad ways for specific individuals?
  • Quality of life matters. Most people my age would suffer miserably doing the things I love (hiking at high altitude, cycling extensively, etc). The better the shape I’m in, the better I feel.
  • I personally will take on the alleged risks, and I’ll continue eating eggs which are now back in favor after being put on the food sh*t list for so many years. And I’ll enjoy salt too, which science now realizes is far more risky as for too little vs too much. So much “science” is often based on weak evidence. And then there is junk science such as BMI which is really epidemiology with the resulting medical malpractice in applying statistics to specific individuals (I have been borderline obese for years according to BMI).
  • What is “normal” anyway? These days  “normal” is a over-fed fat slob. Just take a walk through a mall, or Disneyland. I’m not sure science actually has any proper baselines in terms of humans.

All that said:

  • I love doing double centuries. What is in the article is scary stuff. I do not WANT to believe it. But that would be stupid: I take the evidence as a serious concern. I will be watching myself more carefully.
  • All my ECGs have been entirely normal.
  • Where is the Apple iWatch monitoring graph for heart oddities? That would be cool.
  • I have had an irregular heartbeat when extremely well trained (skip a beat, then a hard beat to continue). This only happens when I’m in peak condition in both in endurance and strength. This year only a little of that perhaps because I did little ultra-hard effort training.
  • Once (and only once) I felt faint and dizzy and had my heart race during a personal best effort up Old La Honda. A brief pause and I resumed without incident. It was hot and who knows, but no further thing like that.

I’ve had the “skipped beat” thing, and I’d swear it is exactly that:

When we train intensively for an endurance event, several adaptations occur in our hearts. The most common is that our resting heart rate goes down due to improved heart function. Many endurance athletes will experience what they think is the sensation of their hearts skipping a beat. Actually, this is most often due to premature beats — a premature ventricular contraction (PVC) if it originates in the ventricle or a premature atrial contraction (PAC) if it originates in the atrium. Both PACs and PVCs are quite common in well-trained athletes and often are not dangerous.

I start to get extremely skeptical when I read a passage like this, which calls a rate under 60 “ultra low”. Weird.

The athlete’s heart lurches from extreme to extreme — from spikes approaching 200bpm to long periods of ultra-low resting heart rates below 60bpm, a condition called bradycardia.

How the heck can “normal” be what physicians see every day: obese couch potatoes? Is this a case of improper context? My heart rate never goes over 175 these days, and rests from 39 to 49, depending on recovery, etc. I record everything (every beat) so I don’t think there is any doubt about the rates. I used to record morning before getting out of bed patterns, for several minutes. Nothing unusual. My last physical (for life insurance), my HR was resting at 42 at 10:00 AM.

On the other hand:

Other studies have shown that Tour de France riders and other former professional athletes live lon- ger than average, and often have lower rates of heart issues later in life. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive, because often these athletes are riding in volumes that far exceed even those of the most addicted masters endurance athlete. But there’s a key difference. The pro athletes did it, then quit and didn’t continue to do it later in life. Masters athletes? They just keep plugging away, with the mindset that if they train like Contador, they’ll be able to ride like Contador. Year after year, decade after decade, it adds up.

Still, there is no arguing that physical activity is an effective, efficient, and virtually incomparable way to care for your heart, fight cardiovascular disease, and prolong your life. For every journal article that says endurance athletics is hurting their heart, there is one that says the opposite. Or maybe two.

But, like many other medicines, more isn’t always better. Research is honing in on the issue of dosage in exercise. If you think of exercise as a drug, there is a certain threshold at which good becomes bad, when benefit becomes detriment. When is too much? Is everyone the same, or are some predisposed to risks of extreme exercise? Is intensity as bad as duration, or duration as bad as intensity? Is it only bad if repeated over years or decades? The science is new when it comes to the science of overdosing on exercise.

I have found that life (my life) goes in 10 year cycles. As I proceed into my 50’s I intend to continue doing double centuries. But already I tend to make that only 3 monthf of the year (March through June). Then I enjoy hiking and such while biking “only” 60-90 minute a day or so. I’m just going to keep doing what I like to do until what I like to do changes, or until I get a bad suprise—I’m not going to do one of these unsubstantiated “what if” things, giving up something that quite possibly need not be given up.

Finally, what could I do about it anyway? I’m at least 1 in 10,000 in terms of exercise at my age, so how many doctors even exist there with the context of hard-core people like me? And no one is an average, so even the best doctor is dealing with an individual, and statistics applied to individuals are not science.

Video by Dr. James O'Keefe MD: Cardiovascular Damage from Extreme Endurance

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Maybe Your Water Filter is not Actually Filtering Out (all) Bacteria? Use a Water Purifier.

Get MSR Guardian at Amazon.

MSR Guardian water purifier

B&H Photo carries much of the MSR water filter product line including the MSR SweetWater Pump Microfilter(effective against bacteria and protozoa but not viruses), which is much less expensive than the 'Guardian'

Products like Katadyn MyBottle Water Purifier have a pore size of 30 nm which removes most viruses, but I’ll stick to my long-life MSR Guardian, pore size 20 nm because I can refill one or many bottles by pumping in a batch.

See my review of the MSR Guardian Water Purifier for Hiking and Emergencies.

I use a water purifier in the field: a purifier takes out tiny stuff, like viruses. A water filter generally takes out only large stuff, like most bacteria.

Tiny groundwater bacterium
can slip through filters.

The MSR Guardian water purifier has served me well, delivering over 100 liters this summer alone. I now use it as the only source of water while traveling in the mountains, up for two weeks at a time—nothing beats the water of the Sierra Nevada right out of the creek or lake (I also get fluid taste pleasure from GT’s Kombucha).

Now Science News reports in Microbial matter comes out of the dark that some bacteria are as tiny as viruses, at least one down to 20 microns, which is at the bottom of the 5 to 300 nanometer size range of viruses.

99% of all microbial species on Earth have yet to be discovered...

Some newly discovered organisms are so small that they barely qualify as bacteria at all. Jillian Banfield, a microbiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has long studied the microorganisms in the groundwater pumped out of an aquifer in Rifle, Colo. To filter this water, she and her colleagues used a mesh with openings 0.2 micrometers wide — tiny enough that the water coming out the other side is considered bacteria-free. Out of curiosity, Banfield’s team decided to use next-generation sequencing to identify cells that might have slipped through. Sure enough, the water contained extremely minuscule sets of genes.

Bottom line: pure drinking water is not going to come out of a water filter. Only a purifier designed to take out viruses to 10 nm is also going to take out small bacteria. Whether or not this is a concern depends on many factors, but for surety, I’ll be sticking to a water purifier just for the virus aspect—the MSR Guardian should provide me with years of service and is rated for 10,000 liters.

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Pot Smoking Drivers and Me on a Bike

I’m quite liberal, in the late 19th century meaning of the word, which is pretty much at odds with what liberal means today. So if someone wants to smoke pot, I have no objection, so long as they get off food stamps and welfare first, and get a job to pay for it. Or maybe it’s time that pot took on its full and proper role of SOMA, as in Brave New World—the timing is just about right, with the government issuing a few ounces and a welfare check as control over the masses.

Anyway, I’ve noticed an increasingly disturbing trend: just about every day now I smell marijuana stink emanating from cars while I’m cycling. If people want to be losers that’s fine with me (who the heck needs to smoke pot while driving in the middle of the day except a loser?), but I don’t want potheads driving anywhere, let alone anywhere near me.

So I sure hope the State of California starts treating these SOBs like what they are: risks for death and injury to cyclists in particular, as well as other motorists. Maybe that’s why for the first time in 20 years I saw a sunny-day accident at a T-intersection on my daily ride—just not any reason for that to happen. Stop ’em, cuff ’em, cite them and JAIL THEM just like any other irresponsible DUI driver.

Reader Robin K sends a note on the Weed Spit Test for detecting marijuana. Since many tests for substances or drugs can have unacceptably high false positives, this needs to be dealt with carefully, but a realiable test is a prerequisite for prosecuting DUI pot smokers.

Dorm Graffiti, circa 1983
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Experience Report: Revo Guide S Sunglasses, Particularly for Cycling

Several years back I wrote up the Revo Redpoint sunglasses. I still use them, but my preferred cycling and driving sunglass is now the Revo Guide S.

Experience Report: Revo Guide S Sunglasses

Serko A ordered the Green Water Revo Guide S and writes:

The outside world looks so crisp and colorful. Impressive!

Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses, Open Road lens
Your author wearing Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses near glacial ice
Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses

How is Drafting in a Paceline Different from an Electric Motor?

Back in May, I wrote How is Drafting in a Paceline Different from an Electric Motor?.

I’ve had time to think more about that as well as to ask a few riders. Two months later, I am more certain than ever of my view that an electric motor is not only no different in principle from drafting and team efforts, but has the potential to be more fair and equitable in a contest. That is, if it is treated as one more bike part (like bike weight), and its assistance is quantified, perhaps on a handicapping system.

My views have firmed up particularly because of highly negative reactions from others. And because the aid of an electric motor can be precisely quantified, just like the weight of the bike. At least if we are willing to admit that any kind of external assistance makes the contest unequal (e.g., drafting, one teammate giving up a bike to another, etc).

Yesterday, I brought up the topic with a strong rider who had just caught up with me and we rode side-by-side for some miles. This rider dismissed the idea out of hand, quoting tradition in essence. Frustrated in my repeating the core question about “assistance external from oneself”, he then stated that the bicycle itself was an “assist”. Which is an absurd and desparate assertion, since it is axiomatic that bicycling requires a bicycle. Unwilling and perhaps unable to conceptualize the question, he evaded it, not allowing himself even to grasp it. Cognitive dissonance precludes accepting an abstract concept, because then logic must ensue.

One might argue in favor of “team strategy” as a worthy sportsmanship goal. But when Team Sky can buy the best riders, all that’s going on is a collective effort bought by money. I see no sport in that, no fair contest.

Still, Froome acknowledged something significant the other day. He admitted that if he rode not for the well-funded Sky, which can afford to surround him with well-paid lieutenants, but for a smaller, lower-budgeted outfit, he probably would not be in the running for the yellow jersey. “If I was riding for a small team, it would be different,” Froome said.

There is no real winner in the Tour—that ostensible winner has had a massive assist from an entire team. The abdication of “let the best man win” in the Tour has long left me semi disgusted with the Tour de France, which is why I never watch it. The idea that a priori all but the annointed team leaders will not be allowed to win: “keep your place and do your job!”. Not an open contest where talent can shine when and where it is found. I find this disgusting from a sportsmanship point of view, let alone its disturbing parallels to the collectivism sweeping the world.

The 2016 Tour de France is over with Chris Froome the yellow jersey victor. Chris Froome essentially admitted that without the team funding, he would likely not have been the winner. In other words, money bought teammates who could aid him; shielding him from wind and thus personal effort. After a crash, teammate Geraint Thomas even gave Froome his bike! How is it a “win” for one individual who is shielded from effort by the most capable teammates money can buy, given a bike when his own had failed a personal effort? Why is a single person declared the winner for what is clearly a collective effort... why is Team Sky not the winner of the Tour de France?

Cycling Tour de France style is a team effort that is the antithesis of winning by one’s own unassisted efforts. That’s one type of cycling, and if it’s not obvious, one I’m not keen on—but at least it is well known to be a team effort.

And so back to the electric motor: it has no tradition and is thus open to immediate rejection. But in truth, is far more fair and equitable, since it is a device with measurable quantifiable properties that every rider could use. And in fact there would be strategy in using it wisely and well, since it has limited capacity. It might well be something to add some spice to the sport. Still, I have no desire for such a motor myself, and cheaters should be expelled for years if caught using one. Only if it were accepted as an aid with appropriate rules would it be acceptable.

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