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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.



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

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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.

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.


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 Redpoint sunglasses with bronze polarized lens
Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses, Open Road lens
Your author wearing Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses near glacial ice
Revo Redpoint sunglasses with bronze polarized lens
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.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Exercise Helps You Get in Shape for Old Age

In Exercise helps you get in shape for old age, Science News reports:

Exercise training can keep some of these effects at bay. “As soon as you hit 35 or 40, you need to start doing resistance [exercise],” ... “You muscles are being remodeled constantly. “As the muscle gets older … it gets resistant to building up.” So the older people get, the harder they have to work to get — and keep — their gains.

For VO2 max, decreases in maximum oxygen can mean decreased athletic performance. But “if people do high intensity training, that can be delayed five to 10 years,” says Michael Joyner, a physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Enough exercise can even keep older athletes racing with the pros — as long as they run far enough.

... for elite athletes, peak performance age increased as distance increased. Athletes who compete in short swimming events tended to peak at 20, while ultra-distance cyclists peaked at 39...

WIND: unfortunately my body is giving me clear indications that age 51 is not as good as age 46 and that the trend is a steady degradation.

No Single Healthy Diet Exists for dDifferent Individuals, at Least in Mice

In No one-fits-all healthy diet exists, Science News reports:

Weight gain may depend on how an individual’s genes react to certain diets, a new study in mice suggests...

One strain, the A/J mouse, was nearly impervious to dietary changes. Those mice didn’t gain much weight or have changes in insulin or cholesterol no matter what they ate: a fat-and-carbohydrate-laden Western diet, traditional Mediterranean or Japanese diet (usually considered healthy) or very low-carbohydrate, fat-rich fare known as the ketogenic diet.

In contrast, NOD/ShiLtJ mice gained weight on all but the Japanese diet. Those mice’s blood sugar shot up — a hallmark of diabetes — on a Mediterranean diet, but decreased on the Japanese diet.

... “there’s no universally healthy diet,” Barrington said. The findings echo results of a human study in which blood sugar rose in some people after eating some foods, even when the same food had no effect on other people. Such individual reactions to food suggest that diets should be personalized.

WIND: humans love to tell each other which is the “best” diet, but what if that advice is nonsense or even quite long-term dangerous, for one person vs the other? What about the gut microbiome in combination with genes?

Insanity today: for an individual, the food pyramid, diet books, “healthy eating” and so rank right up there with BMI as junk science. It’s going to take a long time to sort all this out when responses are individual.

Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge: Severe Muscle Cramps Immobilize and Debilitate—Finished 7 of 8 Passes

See my pre-ride hopes and expectations, which were dashed.

All started well. I maintained a moderate pace to start and felt fine climbing Kingsbury Grade.

My legs began to feel strange while climbing Carson Pass. But I was on track for a strong performance and it was not much more than an odd curiosity.

As I finished descending from Blue Lakes (mile 99), my right leg seized up, first the hamstring, then the vastus medialis which seized up so hard it looked like a rock-hard tennis ball. I was immobilized for a time, then the left leg seized up as the right leg relented. It was painful, but to watch a number of 8-pass riders pass on by while I remained helplessly immobilized was psychologically distressing too—I could not even lift my leg over the saddle or it would precipitate a severe muscle cramp. But after a time I was able to pedal along slowly with one (1) leg, keeping the quadriceps in the other leg contracted to ward off a painful hamstring cramp.

I scarfed 7 Endurolytes as the cramps started and this slowly seemed to help. Scarfing more, the cramps relented after about 30 minutes. I stopped for a good while back at Turtle Rock Park, had more Endurolytes, some dried bananas, a Kombucha and a GU. Being optimistic about recovery I continued on up Ebbetts East (hardest climb IMO), and got a little power back. But I faded quickly and by the summit of Ebbetts I was in sad shape, hardly able to stand up, and the cramps were sporadically hitting me again. My stomach was very unhappy, and I had no appetite.

Still, I forced down some Tums, then ascended Ebbetts to Hermit Valley. Resting a little, I then ascended Ebbetts West. I was now very weak; my stomach would hardly tolerate water, let alone nutrition. But I forced down more Endurolytes, 2 more Tums and half a can of Mountain Dew and then descended (slowly) Ebbetts.

Stopping at the base of Monitor West rest stop, I forced down a little fluid,, then struggled up Monitor West, very miserable and having extremely low power. I tried drinking water and got some down, but I felt like I would vomit even with plain water. Finally I reached the summit and called it a day.

What is/was disturbing is that I almost never get cramps (years go by with no issues), and these cramps were the most severe and painful I have ever experienced.

  • I had taken about 30 Endurolytes, 4 Tums, the bananas at lunch and M0untain Dew. This ultimately seemed to stave off the cramps, but my stomach was intolerant of food or drink and I had massive power loss.
  • I had 2.5 days and 3 (short) nights of acclimatization. I was urinating heavily (diuresis) those nights as is typical when I go to altitude (I was staying hydrated, but this fluid loss was not from over-drinking). That behavior is a well-known and scientifically documented aspect of hypoxia (low oxygen at high altitude) and corresponds with excretion of sodium (Na). My speculation is that my body was dumping electrolytes (perhaps mainly sodium) in excessive measure. In previous years, I had allowed 7 days to adjust. Perhaps 3 days is a transition state that is anti-optimal for pre-race?

So now I feel apprehensive about it happening again, because I have no idea what to do differently other than allow 7 days at altitude prior as has worked for me in the past.

Course map for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

Next Up, the Toughest Double Century of all: Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

Having done well at the Eastern Sierra Double Century, I am aiming for #1 at Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge Double Century. I am reasonably lean with deep aerobic fitness, so I just need to be rested and strong and have a good day to have a shot at it.

This is the toughest double century in the country. And the best. No other double century has the quality miles, the awesome views, the excellent pavement, the perfectly spaced rest stops, the heat and the cold and the sheer challenge. It is awesome, a must-do.

The Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is substantially harder than the Death Ride, with 5300' more climbing and 69 miles longer. The Devil Mountain Double is hard, but not this hard, and at much lower altitude.

  • 198 miles with 20,300 vertical feet of climbing (6187 meters).
  • Half of the course above 7000 feet / 2133m of elevation, altitude up to ~10,000' (3048 meters).
  • Can be very HOT and FREEZING the same day.
  • Kingsbury Grade aka Daggett Pass (East) + Luther Pass (South) + Carson Pass (East) + Blue Lakes Road + Ebbetts (East) + Ebbetts (West) + Monitor (West) + Monitor (East). Regrettably, eastern Sonora Pass is not included (26% grade).
  • Start/Finish at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville, CA.

You can design your own ride with any number of passes, a terrific way to slide into the event, working up to all 8 passes in subsequent years.

There are other ride variants, including the 5-Pass Challenge. But the 8-Pass jersey is available only to finishers of the 8-Pass Challenge. Fastest finishing time in 2011 was 12:23 for 8 passes— that’s fast.

More info and ride summary...

Course map for Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge

Science News: Healthiest weight just might be ‘overweight’

In Healthiest weight just might be ‘overweight’, Science News reports:

As a group, overweight people are living the longest nowadays, suggests an almost four-decade study in Denmark published May 10 in JAMA. And obese people seem to be at no higher risk of dying than those of normal weight. The new analysis fuels ongoing debate about what’s a healthy body mass index — especially in light of rising obesity rates (SN: 5/14/16, p. 5), improved heart health treatments and other factors influencing health and longevity.

... The findings underscore the idea that a person’s BMI does not tell the whole story. While this measure is good for comparing populations, it is not as useful for evaluating individuals and their risk for disease and death, Ahima says. Interpreting an individual’s BMI depends on many other factors, including “whether you are man or woman, how much muscle you have, how physically fit you are and what diseases you have.”

Well, IMO BMI is junk science and malpractice if it in any way makes recommendations for individuals. So its good to (finally!) see several caveats to that point in that article (2nd para above). BMI may be statistically valid in some general sense for epidemiology (has this been validated for years?!), but wildlly inaccurate for many indidividuals. To even suggest that BMI is appropriate for evaluating an individual’s health is laziness bordering on malpractice: one can learn more by viewing a person’s semi-naked body than with BMI. Heck, holding breath in a swimming pool tells you a lot more about body composition! And a DEXA scan actually provides valid data for an individual.

The article above makes no reference to data validation of BMI against bone density, muscle mass, clothes on or off, time of day weighing, etc. It used Danes who might on average have higher bone density or muscle mass due to heridity or other factors. Nor does it mention any statistically valid sampling validation via DEXA. It seems to assume BMI as valid statistically, but based on what and when? It’s a huge flaw given that the article claims that a shift in “healthy” BMI has occurred. Where is the statistical validation via something like DEXA?

Finally, who says that “health” equates to the longest lifetime? That in itself is scientifically unsound and arbitrary. It might, for example, be that people with more body fat live on in in the face of pain or suffering longer (on average) because their body fat extends their lifespan in the face of difficulty eating! It’s just crazy to say that 'healthy = lifespan'.

See also:

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Iodine Deficiency from Exercise

In 2016, I had been having trouble losing weight as well as experiencing highly variable performance. I just could not make sense of it. Then I came across information with several key points:

  • Iodine can be depleted in an athlete training regularly.
  • The USA RDA of iodine is woefully low, at least in the context of regular exercise.
  • Ordinary iodized salt rapidly loses its iodine content.

Also, I struggled with all these symptoms of iodine deficiency this year: weight gain (an inability to drop body fat), sluggishness, fatigue, cold extremities. I particularly noted a problem this year with feeling cold when the temperature was reasonable, and particularly cold hands and feet. See my weight loss chart after I started eating for iodine.

According to Wikipedia:

An opened package of table salt with iodide may rapidly lose its iodine content through the process of oxidation and iodine sublimation.

According to Iodine uptake and loss-can frequent strenuous exercise induce iodine deficiency? at nih.gov:

Most of the daily dietary iodine intake (approximately 90 %) will be excreted in the urine; measurement of urinary iodine excretion is thus routinely used as an index of dietary iodine intake. However, urinary excretion is not the only means of iodine loss.

Subjects such as athletes or those participating in vigorous exercise can lose a considerable amount of iodine in sweat, depending on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. In areas of lower to moderate dietary iodine intake, loss in sweat can equal that in urine. Although electrolyte loss in sweat is well-recognized and replacement strategies are adopted, there is less recognition of potential iodine loss.

Crude calculations reveal that if sweat iodide losses are not replaced, dietary stores could be depleted in an athlete undergoing a regular training regime. The significance of these losses could be increased in areas where dietary iodine intake is lower in the summer months. Although there is little doubt that excessive sweating can induce a relative iodine deficiency state, there is no case as yet for iodine supplementation in those that take vigorous exercise. However, sustained iodine loss may have implications for thyroid status and possibly consequences for athletic performance.

What I did

I figure that 90 minute a day of vigorous exercise along with 7 double centuries in ~5 months qualifies me as being at high risk for iodine deficiency. See also Excessive Sweating, Athletic Performance, and Iodine Deficiency – Is There a Connection? and iodine lost during exercise.

I felt that there had to be a connection, so I started eating sheets of seaweed nori, and taking kelp tablets. Not long after starting, my weight began to plummet and my performance bumped up strongly.

I now use Himalayan pink salt*, which is claimed to be high in iodine and other trace minerals. And it has a goo texture and taste (some iodized salts are too fine, and taste harsh to me). A one pound bag in my local grocery store cost me $4.99. That amount lasts me a long time, so it’s plenty cheap—and it’s a good texture and taste also.

* Set aside the trendy (and moronic) labels on salt as being “gluten free and GMO free”. This catering to the scientifically ignorant is a sad state of affairs, but vendors recognize that nitwits buy stuff too, and thus have to make it easy for irrational pea brain customers too.


Dropping Body Fat After Fall/Winter Gains: Success!

This is an update to my January 2016 discussion. See details there about goals and habits.

WOW: look at the plummeting weight (green line). Weight as of 17 June is 2 pounds lower on the same date as my ultra-lean year of 2011/2012, where I reached 7.9% body fat as per DEXA scan. I’m not at 8% yet, but maybe I’ll get there.

Starting with the Davis Double on 21 May, I took one day off, then I entered into a 10-day aggressive calorie burning program of about 1400 calories per day with 2+ hour rides at low/moderate intensity. This was an extreme load: about 14000 calories burned (4800 calorie deficit) in 10 days on top of a 6600 calorie deficit from the Davis Double.

Next, I did the Eastern Sierra Double Century on 4 June for a calorie deficit of ~5000 calories. The next day I did a 14-mile 4000 vertical foot hike for “recovery”, so probably another 1000 calorie deficit. The following days more hiking at high altitude.

  • I’ve stayed away from grains (mostly), the exceptions being Panda licorice during double centuries and rice as part of sushi before double centuries. Otherwise, no wheat/rice/corn for a couple of months now (a few minor exceptions).
  • I noticed that I had something like 6 of 10 or so symptoms of iodine deficiency (non symptomatic as in goiter, but nonetheless having many health effects). I read that iodine is lost through exercise (and I excercise vigorously at least 90 minutes every day). Things clicked: I started eating sheets of seaweed nori, taking kelp tablets. IMO, the RDA of iodine is probably far too low.
  • I started taking 25,000 IU Vitamin D3.

I feel GOOD again. I won the Eastern Sierra Double Century and might have won the Davis Double (Davis Double is untimed, so uncertain).

As shown below, body weight has plummeted sharply (meaning body FAT). My TSH has been borderline (low) for some years as has my Vitamin D (even in summer). Those two factors figure in as likely candidates, but seasonality may play a role; my body has always responded to the mid-May/mid-October seasonal cycle in weight loss/gain.

See also Healthiest weight just might be ‘overweight’.

The 174-pound mark at right was reached after Davis Double and the following 10-day efforts. The 171.6 mark was seen after returning from the mountains after the Eastern Sierra Double.

2016: Tracking calories and caloric deficit vs body weight

Eastern Sierra Double Century: a Win in Spite of Extreme Conditions and No Aid at the Worst Section

In spite of what felt like impending heatstroke, I won the Eastern Sierra Double Century (see the page for Eastern Sierra Double Century also).

It all started out great, I was feeling strong, and by Tom’s place at mile ~45 I had dropped all the fastest riders, the fastest of which had been drafting the tandem of all things. Not my style at all: I soloed it, taking no drafts as I have done for the last 25 or so doubles. I found myself outclimbing everyone by the end of the big climb to Tom’s Place. By the Mammoth Lakes area I had passed most of the 5:00 AM riders as well. I was on a roll.

Note that most if not all of these riders drafted, and some started at 5:00 AM and so got a full hour of cooler temperatures.

Results for June 4, 2016 Eastern Sierra Double Century

As the heat began to build past mile ~100 or so, my power dropped off a little, but nothing significant. It was now getting lonely with no one else around. My choice of the Lightweight Autobahn front wheel proved a liability as gusty windys caused disconcerting instability, forcing me to scrub of speed on many downhills. I also lost time dropping my map once and my water bottle another time, forcing me to stop and backtrack.

Final leg: extreme heat and wind, no aid station

All was going well until the last checkpoint at mile 155. I knew I was somewhat dehydrated (but not thirsty). Here is what I did at the last checkpoint:

  • Rested a few minutes.
  • Drank a full can of ice cold Mountain Dew.
  • Filled two 1-liter bottles with water.
  • Filled a 3rd for dousing myself as well.
  • I do not recall any mention of further aid, so I thought the above would be plenty.

Leaving the aid station at mile 155, I turned ontoHwy 6 with 34 miles to go. Temperatures were now over 100°F, and rising towards Chalfant. But there was also a “hair dryer headwind” which I estimate as at least 25 mph. Within a few miles, I realized with that kind of headwind, making even 12 mph was hard, which meant ~3 more hours to go (2:52 was the actual time for me from that point). Within a few miles my water was warm as bathwater, and with about 15 miles to go, my water was gone—all of it. I now regretted using that 3rd bottle to douse myself.

I was thirsty and hot. I stopped several times, hoping it would cool me, but each time I just got hotter: at 105°F or so and the brutal wind, my body temperature only continued to rise and my dehydration continuted unabated. I began to feel odd, and I seriously feared heatstroke. Things began to shut down badly, with massive power loss (see graph). I began to curse the race organizers for not having a crucially important aid station. I held out my water bottle to oncoming motorists, none of whom even took their foot off the gas.

Each time I stopped, I was panting like a dog just standing there. As the chart shows, my heart rate (red line) stayed practically contant at ~128 beats per minute, even when stopped and not moving at all—a clear sign that the body is having serious difficulty eliminating heat, and a likely precursor of heatstroke. Finally, for the last few miles it began to cool slightly, and the road finally turned out of the wind as Bishop was approached—this helped.

As for the finish, I was so wiped I just sat with my body drooping at the door. A few people looked concerned, but no one came out to help—I had to ask for the race organizer who was not exactly quick about it. I told her of dangerous conditions and no aid, no ice, no water (she absolved herself by saying that Chalfant had water, see next para). When I asked her for water, she brought me a 2 oz cup and left. Only by the grace of the teenage daughter of another rider did I get cup after cup of ice water until I began to recover. My entire body was shiny with heavy droplets of sweat in the now air-conditioned room. In retrospect, I am dumbfounded at the callous disregard for my condition, which might have been dangerous (me or anyone). Does this person have any medical sense at all?

No aid stations noted for 34 miles in ~105° heat and ~25 mph headwind

As noted above, the race organizer claimed (after I had finished) that there was water at Chalfant for hosing down or whatever (I’m not clear on what exactly was or was not there). But this (a) not mentioned on the cue sheet, (b) I recall no one telling me that at the last aid station, (c) I saw no signs or markings so indicating and there was no one there to flag riders, (e) when under duress, riders are less aware; they need a bit of help. Under the extreme conditions, at best this very poor planning. At worst, it was irresponsible and potentially dangerous (heatstroke and dehydration, hyponotremia).

Poor planning, particularly under the conditions

I have serious concerns about the competency of Planet Ultra in running this event. That is, poor planning and a disregard for potentially dangerous conditions. [Planet Ultra also runs the Solvang Spring Double; it is my view (which I cannot prove of course) that they made me sick two years in a row by using garden hoses to fill water jugs from a public restroom. I no longer use that rest stop, and I send ahead extra bottles].

The race details have an admonition that faster riders must start at 6:00 AM, not 5:00 AM.

“Mass” start at 5am for riders needing 12-17 hours to finish. All riders expecting to finish in under 12 hours must start at 6 AM.

When I pointed out to the race organizer this meant that the fast riders would be riding in extreme heat, I was shocked. First, it was clear that the suggestion was not even understood as to its merits; the idea was dismissed out of hand (unrelated suggestions in past years were met similar disinterest and apparent lack of comprehension, this is not the first time). Isn’t it obvious that starting one hour earlier trades one hour of the coolest part of the day for one hour of the hottest?

The last checkpoint was at mile 154.9. Then 36 miles to go in 105° F heat straight into a 25 mph (maybe stronger) headwind. Meaning a 2-3 hour effort into extreme dessication conditions with no aid station. I am certain I was losing at least 2 liters per hour of body fluid, if not 3 liters. This was/is risky to riders. The lack of an aid station was/is unacceptable, and given the extreme conditions calls into question the judgment and competence of the race organizer. See previous notes above on the claimed water at Chalfant.

June 4, 2016 Eastern Sierra Double Century: power in watts, heart rate, temperature, elevation profile
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Properly timed exercise aids memory

Science News reports in Properly timed exercise aids memory that:

If you want to lock new information into your brain, try working up a sweat four hours after first encountering it.

... Compared with both the couch potatoes and the immediate exercisers, the people who worked out four hours after their learning session better remembered the objects’ locations two days later.

WIND: there is a lot science has yet to learn about mind/body interactions.

See also:

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

Back in 2014, I wrote To Draft or Not to Draft: What Does it Accomplish?.

I’ve added an addendum to that post, excerpted here.

How is drafting different from an electric motor?

Out on a ride today, I mentioned to another rider as I briefly rode side by side that I always solo double centuries and that “drafting means you didn’t really do it”, or something similar to that.

He was wearing a double century jersey, so I suppose he didn’t like that idea much. I’m not surprised—the dogma surrounding drafting leads to knee-jerk reactions rather than applying Miller’s Law. And certainly in a sanctioned race and team cycling, drafting is part of the sport—nothing wrong with it, indeed it is mandatory to be competitive. But I separate racing from personal efforts, and just how real and legitimate those “personal” efforts are—whether they are in fact personal, or assisted:

Drafting means that you didn’t do it by your own effort. It means that you might have reduced your effort by 20%, 30% or even 50% (in longer pacelines). You did the distance and the event, but not the full effort. You didn’t push yourself to the limit; you rested some of the time. But it’s not just lower effort some of the time; it is time to recover. So drafting is a “double whammy” advantage in terms of reducing effort.

That drafting is a huge advantage is trivially seen with a power meter: pull the paceline out in front and see that the wattage is, say 260 watts. Then pull back behind just one person and you’re down to 200 watts. Get in back of 4-5-10 people and maybe 160 watts. It’s HUGE. Well, a power meter is not needed to feel that—it’s obviously far, far easier going inside a paceline. And with a headwind, the reduction in effort level is night and day from being out in front, or solo.

Drafting is an external assist: effort is reduced by means external to yourself. This is a self-evident fact. The fact that it is widely done and accepted by most riders is irrelevant to that reality; drafting is a team effort, not a personal effort. As such, I see it as antithetical to the whole idea of a double century effort as per my own goals, which is as far as it goes.

That’s crazy thinking, right? Surely drafting is not a sub-standard effort? Well, I think it is exactly that—a team effort, not a personal maximal best effort.

That encounter got me to thinking: how is drafting different from using an electric motor bicycle? Indeed, an electric motor could quantify how much aid was received (how many watt-hours); it would be full disclosure and fully honest about how much assist. As opposed to drafting in a paceline which cannot be quantified easily. And in a double century, the watt-hours in an electric motor is surely far less than drafting for even 50 miles in a paceline.

None of the foregoing should be taken as criticism of those who choose to draft. But it does lay bare the hypocrisy of considering an electric motor inappropriate, and yet doing a century or double century while drafting/pacelining, and calling it a personal effort. If one soloes a double century with a small electric motor, is that actually any different than drafting in a paceline? Both are external assists, fundamentally no different in terms of personal effort.

Racing is another ballgame of course: strategies around drafting and break-aways are part of it. Indeed, in a race like the Everest Challenge I certainly draft; that’s part of the race and it would be foolish not to draft in a competition where it is expected.

Racing could codify electric motors: the rules could, for example, allow an X watt-hour electric motor on a bike, which could be used as part of breakaway strategy. Eminently fair, but not something I am in favor of.


Shimano DuraAce Di2 Supports the Ultegra 11-32 Cog Cassette After All!

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 for the past year, cranking a SRM 9000 50 X 34 DuraAce crankset on my Moots Vamoots RSL.

For the past year, I lamented that the Di2 DuraAce derailleur would not support the Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cog cassette. That turns out to be erroneous. After hearing from two reliable sources that DuraAce + Ultegra 11-32 works, when I needed a new chain, I had the Shimano RD-9070 DuraAce Di2 derailleur installed along with it.

The first ride with the DuraAce upgrade tells the story: operation is flawless including 50 X 32 and over the range, and the shifts are noticeably snappier—a nice step up from Ultegra, and 51 grams lighter as well.

See additional notes at end of post.

Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette, 9000 series
Shimano DuraAce 9000 rear derailleur with Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette

Jonathan W writes:

I think without a mid-cage RD you might encounter issues in the extreme cross-chain gear combinations (i.e. 11x39 or 32-53). I know you probably won't use those gear combinations however I have heard 'it works!' too often without a disclaimer that certain gears won't work. Below is a link on YouTube showing a guy with a 11x32 and a short-cage RD. You can see at 00:40 the shift from 12 to 11 was very slow. This is because the chain is too long and there isn't enough tension in the chain. At 1:25 you can see the drivetrain just froze as the chain is too short in this gear combo.

Do you experience such problems? I've been following your blog for a long time and this my first feedback (I just found the link!) Keep up the good work and I'm glad you weren't hurt in your crash.

WIND: my Moots Vamoots RSL runs a 50 X 34 crankset (SRM 9000). The rear derailleur is the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 RD-9070, purchased in May of 2015. And as far as I know there is only one length cage for 11-speed DuraAce.

Shimano specifications call out Max rear sprocket = 28 teeth for the Di2 Rear Derailleur 9070. That’s why I never ran it for the past year, assuming that was is true. And maybe it is true with a 53 X 39 or anything larger than a 50 X 34—I don’t know.

I’ve had nothing but fantastic snappy shifting in big ring and small (50 X 34), way better than Ultegra when I push those gear changes fast and under high wattage.

I was forced to cross-chain extensively during climbs at 50 X 32 during the 2016 Davis Double, because I lost front shifting after a collision at mile ~40. That is, only big ring for ~160 miles and 8000' of climbing. I was thus forced into 50 X 32 for any of the moderate to steep climbs.

Update 17 June 2016: two double centuries and a total of ~1000 miles of riding have shown no issues.

Important notes

Not all configurtaions may work properly:

  • The size of the chainrings almost certainly restricts things: 50 X 34 may be the only combo that works. There may be others, but it is very likely that the common 53 X 39 crankset does not work.
  • Crank offset may be a factor (some bikes are asymmetric slightly).
SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina

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 6th double in 2016, and my 26th 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.

Doing 70 mph on the freeway in heavy traffic, my car tire hit a nail or screw half way to Davis—instaflat. Towing it back towards home (I wanted a new wheel/tire which I keep at home), the tow truck quit, so a tow truck for a tow truck was needed. Then another flatbed truck back-to-back against the dead one, in order to back up my car from one flatbed to another (the dead one had no hydraulics). 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 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. I checked all the plugs but everything looked plugged in. But back in the bike shop, it turned out that the cable had just been yanked loose maybe a millimeter or less, so replugging it restored it to operation.

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 careless or fatigued or unaware riders. Fatigue is also a bad combination with poor situational awareness, but when it’s 40 miles in, that doesn’t explain it. Some of these people really are taking their own lives in their hands from what I saw.

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.

Update 25 May 2016: it turns out that DuraAce support an Ultegra 11-32 cassette, at least within some parameters.

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

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.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

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.

Update 17 June 2016

See 17 June 2016 followup.

I’ve stayed away (mostly) from grains, the exceptions being Panda licorice during double centuries and sushi with rice before double centuries. No bread for a couple of months now. At the same time, I noticed that I had something like 6 of 10 or so symptoms of iodine deficiency. I started eating sheets of seaweed nori, kelpt tablets, and taking 25,000 IU Vitamin D.

I feel GOOD again. Weight has plummeted by 8 pounds in 3 weeks. Too many factors here to say for certain, but I think it is the iodine; my TSH has been borderline (low) for some years.


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

NOTE: see 17 June 2016 followup.

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
SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina

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 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

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). 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.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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.

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.
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

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...

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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