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Completed: Camino Real Double Century

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

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

Ride notes:

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

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

Self Driving Cars: a Threat to Cyclists?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California DFG Heritage Trout Challenge

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

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

See also The Year in Trout, 2016.

Golden Trout for 2 Nice Dinners

Wearables for Cycling: Something Good Will Surely Evolve, but as for Now...

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

CES, Jan 5 2017: Intel’s tech for cycling metrics, collected via glasses the cyclists wears
(something badly wrong with the wattage reading)
NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc!

Preparing for Cycling 2017 — Squats and Lat Pulldowns

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

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

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

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

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

Olympic bar for squats
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Winter Weight

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

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

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

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

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Heart Damage from Excessive Endurance Training?

Mike G writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the other hand:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get MSR Guardian at Amazon.

MSR Guardian water purifier

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

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

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

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

Tiny groundwater bacterium
can slip through filters.

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

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

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

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

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

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Pot Smoking Drivers and Me on a Bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience Report: Revo Guide S Sunglasses

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

The outside world looks so crisp and colorful. Impressive!

Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses, Open Road lens
Your author wearing Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses near glacial ice
Revo Guide S polarized sunglasses
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How is Drafting in a Paceline Different from an Electric Motor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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
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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:

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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

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.

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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
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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

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.

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