In Motion There is Great Potential
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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.

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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)
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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

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

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.

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
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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:

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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
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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:

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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).
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Davis Double (Finished!)

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
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Central Coast Double (Finished!)

2016 Central Coast Double
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
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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.


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.

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2016 Devil Mountain Double (Finished!)

Written prior—

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.

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

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 -

Ben Greenfield -

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 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.

NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc!

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
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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, size chart

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

FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large
Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options.
Lloyd recommends 64GB for iMac or Mac Pro for photography/videography.

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

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

Read more:

Merino Wool Caps for Under the Helmet

Ibex Woolies 2 Earflap Beanie
SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina

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.

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
USB-C Dock for MacBook

4 USB3 ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, gigabit ethernet, audio ports, HDMK 4K port!

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.

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

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

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

Blood exerts a powerful influence on the brain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FDA Panel Seeks Tougher Antibiotic Labels

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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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!

Long term: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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Coffee: New Research Shows Huge Promise for Health Benefits for Liver, Diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Lupine Rotlicht 2-Watt Tail-Light

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

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

Lupine Rotlicht

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

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

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

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

Everest Challenge jersey

Everest Challenge 2015: NOT HAPPENING?!!!!

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

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

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

Better late than never

Race flyer

Over from the Facebook page 26 Aug:

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

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

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

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Off Topic: California Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Water bill
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Alta Alpina Aborted — Stomach Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

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

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

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

Front tire choice for a double century involves competing considerations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire

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

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

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

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

Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular Tire

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

See also:

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Arrived: Veloflex Vlaanderen Tubular 700 X 27C

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

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

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

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

Veloflex Vlaanderen 700 X 27C tubular tire
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Lactate Threshold Training: 10X Repeats on upper Pave Alpine Rd

Get Shimano Di2 at

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

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

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

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

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

Ten (10) lactate threshold repeates on upper Alpine Rd
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Shimano Di2 DuraAce and Ultegra — Weights and Why and Which to Use

Get Shimano Di2 at

Update 25 May 2016: it turns out that DuraAce does support an Ultegra 11-32 cassette.


I had been running the original DuraAce Di2 10-speed on my Moots Vamoots RSL. Finally I scraped together the money for Shimano Di2 11-speed . There were several motivations, in this order:

  • I wanted the 11-32 cassette option (32-tooth cog) that is possible with Di2 Ultegra. Because on 10% to 26% grades of the Eastern Sierra, that 32 cog will be my best friend. Especially after climbing 10,000' or more already. An 11-28 is fine for most stuff or for shorter efforts, but for Alta Alpina 8 Pass Challenge and the Everest Challenge or the 26% grade of eastern Sonora Pass, that 32 cog will be lovely.
  • The 11 speed cassette means a tighter spacing when using 11-28 cog (less gappy in gear ratios in the last 3 cogs, if it weren’t for hills I’d use an 11-25 cassette).
  • The Ultegra and DuraAce derailleurs are plug-compatible, and thus the same bike and wheels are more versatile with a derailleur and cog swap (chain may have to be replaced if switching to the shorter-cage DuraAce derailleur, but the Ultegra handles a 28 or 32 cassette). In the winter, I can run the DuraAce derailleur with the 11-28 for tighter spacing; I don’t need the 32.
  • The 10-speed Di2 parts can be used for spare parts for on my Moots PsychloX RSL, which has 10-speed Di2, it’s now a sort of 2nd road bike that sees only a little dirt. With the original 10-speed Di2 getting harder and harder to find, this gives me a backup set.
  • My left Di2 shifter has been intermittently failing to shift, and I did not want buy a new 10-speed shifter.


The 11-32 Ultegra cassette delivers an entire extra gear (32 cog), but matches the last two cogs of the DuraAce 11-28 with its 25, 28 cogs. So it’s like getting three gears instead of two when climbing the steep stuff.

With a 50 X 34 compact double crankset, the gear ratios are 50:25, 50:28, 50:32, or

 DuraAce 11-1828 11,12,13,14,15,17,19,21,23,25,28

Ultegra: 11-32: 11-12-13-14-16-18-20-22-25-28-32


Weights accurate to the gram.

The weight penalty for the 32-cog Ultegra setup vs 28-cog DuraAce setup is thus (266-215) + (284-195) = 140 grams + some extra chain weight— call it 160 grams, or about 1/3 pound. Undesirable (why is there no DuraAce 32 cog support?), but a modest penalty to gain an extra gear on steep climbs to save the quads.

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2015 Central Coast Double

See also To Draft or Not to Draft: What Does it Accomplish?

I had a tough time at the 2015 Devil Mountain Double due to a delay in fueling, so for the Central Coast Double, I resolved to begin fueling early and regularly. Fuel consisted of Hammer HEED, Hammer gel and seven all natural Panda licorice sticks (100 cal each, a good portion of which is glucose equivalent), and a few minor bits at the lunch stop. This worked like a charm.

The reason I like to supplement with licorice is that by 2/3 through a double century, I lose all appetite for HEED and gels, a risky proposition when fueling is more critical than ever. The licorice does not lose appeal and seems to keep things in balance for me. There is some “junk sugar” which serves a critical role of giving the glycogen-depleted liver a job to do, and even a small amount of protein in it.

  • Solo effort: I accepted no drafts/pacelining as is my wont. While I pulled the lead group for some miles up the Pacific coast into a stiff headwind, they wanted to switch leaders to go faster (perfectly reasonable of course). So I dropped back, watching the paceline slowly disappear until miles out of sight by the end of the long slog up the coast. I ultimately overtook all of those riders, and finished first (Highland Route).
  • Weather: cold/foggy to start, stiff headwind heading north along the coast all the way to Nacimiento Road (the best climb of the route). At the summit, it all went sunny and warmer (but still on the cool side).
  • Clothing: Starting out, summer-weight tights, dual summer-weight jerseys (short sleeve), regular gloves. I took a sleeveless lightweight vest, but did not use it. I stripped the tights off at the summit of Nacimiento Rd. When power and fueling are good, temps down to the low 50’s are fine for me, though my arms did stay a rosy red all that cool day.
  • Minor delays: I started last in essence, dropping a baggie out of my jersey pocket early on, so I had to stop and get it, thus being dead last about 1 mile out. I also caught two red lights right before the finish. Stops were required at all rest stops, but I minimized the delays (lunch stop forced a good detour to get water unfortunately), but aside from one “pit stop” spent most of the time was on the bike.
  • Mechanical: none. The Moots Vamoots RSL with DuraAce Di2 performed flawlessly. But I do want a 32 cog for steeper climbs (to save quadriceps strength), and so I’ve sold some gear to raise funds for Di2 11-speed, which will allow an Ultegra medium cage that allows a 11-32 cassette.
  • Bike fit: I am grateful to Kevin Bailey at for his attention to details of my bike setup. A meticulous master of his craft, all aspects of my bike fit with Kevin resulted in maximum comfort, or properly speaking minimum discomfort, since 211 miles is a very long ride. The afternoon prior, my right wrist went bonkers due to continuing issues with nerve damage and I had no ability to articulate/twist it without severe pain. I considered skipping the ride entirely. But because Kevin set my bar position and reach for three hand positions all keeping the body in the same optimal position (hoods, drops, bar top) and all keeping the wrist in optimal straight/unbent position, I had zero pain in my wrist/hand—non issue. That and the other aspects of reach, saddle height, custom orthotic were all spot-on. Pretty amazing to have it all work so well. If the fit is right, the body can handle things, but if the slightest thing is off, 211 miles can be punishing by overloading some joint or muscle.
Central Coast Double 2015-05-09
199 watts @ 121bpm, 211 miles, roll time 12:17, clock ~12:40

I took NO DRAFTS WHATSOEVER, but did pull the lead group of riders for several miles into a stiff headwind up the Pacific coast. So I am rather proud of my effort this day. I felt great; everything worked well for me. Official results.

Central Coast Double 2015-05-09, results
2015 Central Coast Double route sheet

2015 Devil Mountain Double: Fuel Right or Be Slow and Cold

See also To Draft or Not to Draft: What Does it Accomplish? I do all my double centuries as solo efforts, strictly refusing to draft (I will pull), and dropping back or springing past if necessary to avoid taking a draft.

I had a tough time at the 2015 Devil Mountain Double, losing power for much of the ride and never being able to get warm, my time a good hour longer than in the 2012 Devil Mountain Double. The reasons seem pretty clear, and they were not reasons of fitness, but foolish errors in fueling.

Fueling, power, catabolic muscle damage

Steve Born of Hammer Nutrition was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing what might have gone wrong. His assessment (which dovetails with mine) on the ride and the recovery is that my foolish mistake to take in any fuel until having burned about 1300 kilojoules meant that I used up a good portion of my glycogen stores. I also worked the first part of the ride too hard sprinting past riders and always riding solo (never taking a draft as is my wont) and “burning some matches” too early.

All of which added up to greatly reduced power output for the 80-170 mile mark or so. And which it seems, forced my body to eat its own muscles for fuel (protein), which explains the swollen feel in my quads for 4-5 days following—muscle tissue damage.

Anticipating warmer temps I made a crucial mistake: I stripped my tights and left them (still with a double jersey, outer one long-sleeved). But it never warmed up, with cloud cover blocking the sun too often. I never did feel warm again, not even on the climbs. My body, not properly fueled, seemingly could not both warm itself well and produce power. This is atypical for me; see the Central Coast Double discussion; I don’t have a problem staying warm down to the 50’s if properly fueled.

I had some wasted time on the ride: a stop light that would not change (most riders just run red lights and stop signs, I usually do not), a need to refuel/rest for a some minutes fairly late in the ride), and (ironically) finally feeling strong for the last 20 miles but having to back off the pace to stay with other riders who knew the route, because I could not read the route map without stopping (dark).


Recovery reflected my execution errors: it took at least a full 7 days, versus 4-5 days for all the previous doubles this year.

Unlike the three previous double centuries, I had a feeling of swelling/puffiness in my quads for 4-5 days which was fluid gain as the muscles went through a process of repairing significant damage (weight swing of 8 pounds!). This I attribute to the failure in proper fueling and the body eating muscle tissue for energy—a lot of damage incurred in a 15 hour ride.

I had a MUCH better time with the Central Coast Double.

Devil Mountain Double 2015-04-25
184 watts @ 118bpm, 209 miles, roll time 14:21, clock ~15:32
Devil Mountain Double 2015-04-25, Mt Diablo portion
257 watts @ 140 bpm, 11.14 mile,3282' ascent
Devil Mountain Double 2015-04-25, Mt Hamilton East portion
213 watts @ 123 bpm, 6.55 mile,2315” ascent
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Severe Safety Hazard at the Hwy 92 Bike Overpass

It’s good enuf for government work. You can’t make this stuff up.

What kind of nitwit would install barbed wire along a biking/skating path?

Update May 11: I learned that the county wanted to do the non-nitwit thing, but that the agency owning the land (San Francisco Water district) insisted on barbed wire. Since then, the SF district has relented, yet the county is paying for installation of non-barbed wire, the work only partially completed as yet. Sadly, there is no “negative feedback loop” whereby bureaucratic nitwits would suffer the consequences of their stupidity.


On the other side of the freeway, there is a very steep descent where speeds can approach 30 mph. Imagine flatting unexpectedly or hitting a slippery spot, and hitting the barbed wire at speed. Shredded and maybe even killed (puncture an artery, game over). Or maybe just missing the sharp turn on the descent from the overpass (on bikes or skates). A wet patch in winter—whatever.

There can be only one use for the barbed wire: to injury anyone using the path, since it won’t keep wildlife out and there are no cows—it’s 100% pointless.

Since I took this photograph, the top two wires are now non-barbed, at least on this side of the freeway, but barbed wire remains on the lower tiers (as of May 2 2015). But even those metal poles could do serious damage to anyone hitting them. They should be set back at least twenty feet, not placed so close to the edge of the path. This is a brand-new installation; the old poles and wire were ripped out. The contractor ought to have refused to perform the work for such a dangerous idea.

This is a serious safety hazard, paid for by your tax dollars. Whoever is responsible should have their paycheck docked to fix this with their personal dollars. A summary firing would be even better—this kind of judgment for public works is fatally flawed.

Barbed wire along the Hwy 92 overpass over I280, San Mateo County

Update 29 July 2015: the barbed wire is gone.

Barbed wire has been removed along the Hwy 92 overpass over I280, San Mateo County


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Training Overload and Impaired Power Output

After two demanding days of ~3 hour rides (2100 kilojoules then 2400 kilojoules), I headed out on the coast loop (locals: Kings Mtn, Tunitas, Stage Road, West Alpine, Page Mill).

My legs were clearly not recovered, but I wanted to pile on another even harder workout as an overload training cycle, for a total 3 day overload. Then two days of recovery with modest rides of 45 min or so.

The graph shown below is interesting in several ways.

First, it was a cool day and even on the climbs my heart rate averaged only 134 (78% of my 172 max HR). Similar observations as discussed in Training: Repeats with Consistent Power, Heart Rate, Time.

Second, there seems to be a base power level even when fatigued, similar to that I see in a double century. It’s one way of assessing aerobic power output, which is all I can do once the legs get tired (except for short bursts). This power level seems to have a ceiling of about 250 watts, which is just what I observed at the end of the Solvang Spring Double. 230-240 watts is more realistic though. Brief bursts higher than that, but once well fatigued (but with proper hydration and feeding), 250 watts is about all I can muster near sea level (drops to ~220 watts approaching 10,000' elevation).

The foregoing is another reason why leaning out to low body fat can make such a big difference in the Everest Challenge: by that last climb, anaerobic power has fallen off badly with severe fatigue, and so that baseline aerobic power is what yields the power to weight ratio on the last climb—and it’s average power that matters over the race.

Finally, even though my legs were reluctant to generate peak power, there is something very interesting about how a very deep aerobic base feels on such an overload; it’s very different from the early season feeling of being wiped out and totally thrashed by too hard a workload. Instead, the body just reduces output, and this wiped out feeling just doesn’t happen. That for me is one key sign that the aerobic base is highly developed and that intensive anaerobic training should be introduced.

4+ hour workout with fatigued legs, 3125 kilojoules

UPDATE: well, a rest day was the plan. But riding a bit on the 4th of 4 hard days, I just kept feeling stronger and stronger, and strongest at the very end of a 3 hour ride. Huh. Training doesn’t always grant such rewards, and such things shall not be denied, so I rode 3 hours, making it 4 hard days of 4, with about 9500 kilojoules (9000 calories) burned over 4 days—trying to bring body fat down.

3 hour workout after 3 prior long workouts—the body does surprise at times
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Training: Repeats with Consistent Power, Heart Rate, Time

This was a “fat burner” ride that I started with five repeats (upper Alpine Road for locals). Without referring to my power meter, I just tried to ride at what seemed a consistent pace. See the graph and numbers further below.

Power: 243, 244, 240, 244, 242 watts, green line
HR:    128, 125, 123, 122, 122 BPM, red line
Time:  698, 701, 712, 702, 705 seconds

Discussion below...

3 hour workout starting with 5 repeats, 2245 kilojoules

It’s interesting how my heart rate asymptotically approached 122 on the least repeat. This is something I’ve observed as my body “settles into” a workout. It’s as if the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems + cardiovascular system all settle into their jobs at some ideal agreed-upon level, and then things become very steady-state in terms of power production, at least for these not-so-hard repeats which were mainly aerobic in nature. But this seems to hold true for double centuries; see in particular the Solvang Spring Double Century graph.

The cool temperatures also greatly reduce heart rate (red line) because the body does not have to cool itself by pumping more blood. The first repeat started around 75°F, the last repeat at 64°F, to 63°F at the end of the last repeat, with rest of the ride varying from 68° down to 60°F at the end (near sunset). Heart rate reserve is more than ample (my max is about 172, but hard to reach when highly trained, unless quite hot).

Were the temperature 95° F, I’d expect heart rate to be 15-20 beats higher, just to cool the body. That’s why heart rate is such a poor metric for training; it’s highly dependent on temperature (and humidity + temperature).

Also, observe just how low the HR is later in the workout, even as the power levels approach 300 watts. The relatively low BPM indicates that the stroke volume is very powerful—highly conditioned. I’ve seen this each season as I reach very strong aerobic condition; generally there is a 15-20 beats per minute (BPM) drop in heart rate from poorest fitness to best fitness at the same power output. Such are the effects of training. Assuming similar conditions, this is one way to assess fitness gains.

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Small Details: a First Class Bike Fit Pays Dividends in Comfort and Power and Reduced Chances for Injury

Two disappointing prior years aside (medical interruptions), I’m riding strong and comfortable. All the “fit” things add up:

  • Back position is ideal (natural spine curvature), so I can use my gluteus muscles for sustained power over time with more rapid recovery (see the Solvang Spring Double solo effort).
  • Hand position can be swapped from drops to brake hoods to center of bar with almost no change in back position, for consistent power; this allows hand relief, particularly on double centuries.
  • On climbs, there is an suspension bridge effect with the back—a perfect balance that means no back fatigue no matter how long the climb. This can only happen with all the things being right in the “fit”, as I well know from prior years.
  • A shorter crank length lets me spin better.
  • New shoes with custom orthotics, the real deal hand made by 3DBikeFit and checked on the bike, tweaked until perfect.

All of this isn’t luck or my own doing; it’s due to the meticulous eye and attention to detail of Kevin Bailey over at, using his passion for getting it right, his deep experience as well as front/rear and left/right video systems to evaluate all objectively. Kudos to Kevin’s excellence.

See also:
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Another Peripheral Neuropathy Victim from Flagyl (Metronidazole)

I wrote about my experience with nerve damage from Flagyl (Metronidazole).

SG writes:

I am having the same issues after 7 days of Flagyl. Does the neuropathy goes away. I am so worried.

WIND: Stop the Flagyl (Metronidazole) immediately.

Worried? I was scared shitless at losing my ability to work at a time when just making it is hard enough—in other words, losing physically and financially in dire ways. For some weeks, 3-4 hours a day was all I could manage to work and some days hardly at all (80 hours a week had been my usual for years). When you’re making it on your own (no corporate tit), any setbacks are a BFD.

Lots of scary scenarios play themselves through your head when your hands and arms stop working properly. At least for me it did.

Doctors prescribe this dangerous stuff and don’t monitor their patients. This is why reactions to Flagyl (Metronidazole) are “rare”*: no warning, no monitoring, no reporting, no clue. In my case, a flat-out “no” answer to “are there any risks?” (I asked) and the doctor never bothered to follow up, even after I reported a reaction (and he gave me double the usual dose for double the time!). So reactions remain “rare”. Prescribe and forget*.

But worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'
He wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed'
But I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
Come back and see me later - next patient please
Send in another victim of Industrial Disease'

Dire Straits, “Industrial Disease”

Substitute “Metronidazole”.

* Rare? What are the odds, within days, of finding that my own nurse (allergy shots) had a teenage son who took Flagyl and for years after never felt right again. Doctors make cognitive commitments; hey, if decades-old medical literature says that a shit sandwich tastes good, then it must be so.

Does the neuropathy goes away?

My severe symptoms (tingling, redness, arm weakness, shooting pains) dissipated in an oscillating fashion over about 8 weeks, and I have made a “mostly” recovery. The younger and shorter (height) you are, the better your chances. Stay physically active (blood flow), avoid alcohol.

However, I was left with lingering damage to the ulnar nerve in both arms (as proven by thorough neurological testing of legs and arms), which I’m told should recover in a year or so—probably.

Bending the elbow more than about 90° for very long irritates the Ulnar nerve. For example, I cannot hold a phone to my ear for more than 15 minutes without noticing discomfort (here’s one option to mitigate). Also I have to sleep as well as I can with my arms as straight as I can. Which is not easy (or particularly comfortable), since none of us really can control body position when sleeping. I have a soft wrap/brace that resists bending the elbow more than 90° when I sleep. Oh joy. The Ulnar nerve can be irritated at the shoulder, elbow and wrist, so watch those areas for positions that stress the joint area.

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4+ Years of Road Cycling

2015 is shaping up nicely, so I thought it would be useful to look back on the past few years to get some perspective.

  • 2011: 1.2 million vertical feet climbed.
  • 2012: leanest and strongest ever, best finish at Everest Challenge, personal best on Old La Honda.
  • 2013: shoulder surgery deals a multi-month delay in training, mediocre results at Everest Challenge due to not doing double centuries.
  • 2014: shaped up very nicely thru March, but was then hit with a severe gastrointestinal problem lasting months. Training schedule hosed.
  • 2015: 3 double centuries finished in March, at least 3 more planned. Riding strong, about 1 pound ahead of the game on body weight vs 2012. But 3 years older!

Figures below are only from SRM power meter data (road bike); considerable mountain bike riding is not included in these figures, particularly 2012.

4+ Years of Road Cycling, monthly
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Anaerobic Climbing Training: 3 Ascents of Old La Honda (negative intervals), a Week Later

A week prior, I had done 3 ascents of Old La Honda to initiate the anaerobic power/strength phase of my training for the season, deeming three double centuries on top of prior training an ample aerobic base. See the comments on goals for this workout in the week prior report.

These are “negative intervals” meaning that each repeat is faster. However, the 3rd ascent took a lot more focus than the 2nd one and it just barely qualified; fatigue was definitely at play.

Judging by the effort level and feel, my lactate threshold at present is probably around 315 watts, thus each ascent was pushing somewhat beyond that threshold, and this was clearly felt by the 3rd ascent. But that was/is the goal: to stress the anaerobic system in order to raise that threshold, my season goal being around 340 watts. Decent for a 50+ year old.

Discussion continues below.
Mouse over to see ascents #1, #2, #3. Click for full size image.

Old La Honda ascents


The workout above repeats the prior weeks’s effort, but with major time reductions.

I’d like to say it’s all a magical fitness gain, but here are some considerations:

  • Total riding weight was dropped by ~2.5 pounds by leaving water and saddlebag at the bottom, and a lighter front wheel. But due to considerably cooler conditions, much less fluid was lost on the ascents, so the 2nd and 3rd ascent TRW was nearly identical. So weight is a significant factor only on the 1st ascent.
  • Crank arm lengths were reduced from 172.5mm to 170mm. All these years I’ve ridden 172.5mm cranks (DuraAce). I like 170mm and I think it helps me climb faster and spin a little easier.
  • Temperatures were considerably cooler.
  • Two relatively easy days were taken prior, though one maximal 9 minute effort the day prior to this workout was used to “open up” the muscles. Just a trace of latent muscle soreness was felt in beginning these workouts.

The time differentials showed a HUGE improvement: 118 seconds, 114 seconds, 76 seconds on the 1st/2nd/3rd ascents. That’s about 10% faster on the first two ascents, and 6.7% faster on the third. For the first two, the weight accounts for a little, but really not more than 15 seconds or so for the 1st ascent—the reset of the improvement is simply a superior result. WHY?

Maybe the improvement was more rest, maybe the temperature helped, but I have to wonder if the change to 170mm cranks from 172.5mm* is just a better length for me—right way with the change a fews a prior, I felt that I could spin and make power more easily somehow. 2.5mm doesn’t seem like much but there is definitely a change in the feel of the pedal stroke. Makes me wonder about my 175mm cranks on my mountain bikes.

I’m extremely pleased to see the huge performance improvement in one week, whatever the reason. A perfect workout all in all.

* It was Kevin at, with his meticulous attention to detail, who suggested reducing crank length to me. When Kevin suggests something, it’s worth paying attention!

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External Iliac Artery Endofibrosis and Leg Pain in Cyclists

I came across this article recently and thought it might be of interest to some. After last year’s 'trial' (gut issues and nerve damage), an older cyclist like me cannot rule out anything I guess.

External Iliac Artery Endofibrosis and Leg Pain in Cyclists

Most elite athletes are accustomed to experiencing a certain degree of muscle pain and fatigue during high intensity exercise. Recently, however, a subset of athletes (particularly cyclists, rowers and triathletes) have reported symptoms of leg pain and weakness from an unexpected cause - damage to the arteries of the pelvis, groin or lower leg.

This damage, or arteriopathy appears to cause the arteries to stretch, narrow or kink in such a way that during high-intensity exercise the athlete experiences decreased blood flow due to the constriction or obstruction of the artery in the affected leg. This lack of blood flow, or ischemia, causes pain, burning, weakness, and powerlessness during exercise. In cyclists this damage most often occurs in the iliac arteries, particularly the external iliac artery.

See also Dombrowski has surgery on leg artery, looks to future.

A cardiac surgeon comments on the treatments mentioned in the article:

Interesting problem, the treatment from a vascular surgery standpoint should NOT involve a stent. When I did this type of surgery the best long term procedure is removal of the stenosis via endarterectomy and patching with bovine pericardium (tanned with glutaraldehyde rendering it rejection free to the body).

Using a vein patch is ill advised in my opinion, because of the risk of aneurysm formation at the patch site secondary to the vein not being up to the stresses put upon it.

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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.
  • Includes brand-new Shimano DuraAce 53 X 39 crank (10 speed).
  • 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, size chart

As I had built it below(NOT for sale this way).

FOR SALE: Look 595 Ultra size large
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Analyzing Power Meter Accuracy: Time vs Weight and Watts

See the workout graphs at bottom.

One (1) pound costs time of about 6 seconds on this ascent for a Total Riding Weight (TRW) of 200 pounds at 20:00 (1200 seconds), since 1 pound is 1/200 and thus 1/200 of 1200 is 6 seconds. We can discount this a little for friction, but hard data shows this to be a reasonable figure.

The 2nd and 3rd ascents are significantly slower than they ought to be, if the SRM power meter is accurate: the drop in riding weight and the increase in watts should deliver significantly lower times than actually measured. This implies that either the scale is inaccurate (provably accurate and precise both, over years!) or the SRM wattage is wrong.

In a nutshell:

  • If total riding weight (TRW) drops by 2.3% (4.6 pounds as here), then the time should drop by about the same percentage for the same wattage (there are frictional forces , but these are all but identical for the negligible speed difference between ascents).
  • If power (watts) increases by 6% (e.g., 316 vs 298 watts), then ascent time should drop by about the ratio of the two (298/316), assuming the same weight (the wattage numbers are 3.3% and 6.0% higher for the 2nd and 3rd ascents vs the first ascent).

The numbers don’t work: the combination of lower TRW and higher watts should have dropped the time significantly more (the time should have been 30 seconds faster on ascent #3).

The scale claims a weight loss of (200.0 to 194.9 pounds over a 2-hour workout. That’s a loss of 5.1 pounds = 2.5 pounds per hour, or about 1.16 liters of fluid lost per hour (1L = 2.2 pounds). That figure is inline with years of experience. Accounting for some fluid loss before and after the ascents, and taking the average weight based on that loss range yields the table below, which shows a significant discrepancy with the actual time.

SRM quotes 1% accuracy for the DA9000 power meter crankset, which is about 3 watts, or about 13 seconds on a 1300 second climb. But it should not accumulate with each ascent; the discrepancy is 24 seconds for ascent #3 (1260 seconds actual vs 1236 calculated).

Thus, the SRM power measurement seems to be out of range of the claimed 1% accuracy. Actual wattage must have been lower than recorded for ascents 2 and 3, since the times are slower than the time the watts would imply.

Calculation of ascent time variation from actual + weight + watts

Mouse over to see ascents #1, #2, #2. These are “negative intervals” meaning that each successive effort is at a lower time.


Old La Honda ascents
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Starting the Anaerobic Climbing Training: 3 Ascents of Old La Honda (negative intervals)

With three double centuries showing a strong aerobic base, I deemed the time ripe to begin anaerobic and power training on Old La Honda.

These ascents were intended to be just at or above lactate threshold, a goal the quadriceps confirmed grumpily.

My max HR is 172, so 150 bpm (first ascent) is 86% of max, and 155 bpm (3rd ascent) is 90% of max HR. But as I get in peak shape, HR does not like to go above 92% of max unless it’s quite hot, or the effort is extreme.

Observe how ascent (gray triangle) is all but a dead-straight line: since the grade varies, a straight-line rate of ascent indicates a disciplined effort to maintain a consistent power output even as the grade varies significantly (no backing off as the grade mellows), which thus results in a near constant rate of ascent.

Frictional forces are low at low speeds (8.98, 9.26, 9.48 mph here), so a consistent power output regardless of changes in grade relates directly to a consistent rate of ascent.

Mouse over to see ascents #1, #2, #3. These are “negative intervals” meaning that each successive effort is at a lower time. Weight vs watts vs time analysis.

Old La Honda ascents
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Calibrating for Distance and Speed Accuracy (Tire Circumference), 700 X 22C vs 700 X 25C

Experience proves that GPS is absolutely useless in the vast majority of my riding situations, with errors up to 20% when mountain biking under tree cover (twists and turns and switchbacks, dropped signal, canyons, etc). Even on a road bike I often ride under tree cover and there are tight turns.

GPS satellite errors are often low, but sometimes surprisingly variable. Of course, GPS has one big advantage: errors are not cumulative over a long ride. But the accuracy over distance is not very good in many cases. For wide open roads and straight lines, it is fine.

GPS total error over distance might also be affected by grade; it’s unclear that GPS ever logs road distance properly when riding on, say, an 8% or 18% grade (e.g., “as the crow flies” vs cyclist glued to undulating/climbing road). That would presumably depend on the GPS unit. But no GPS can properly measure up-and-down short-length dips in the course; the accuracy and precision are just not there.

How to measure

When I road-bike, I calibrate my SRM PC7 accurately (it reads out to 0.001 mile using a wheel sensor).

Ideally, one would have a known distance on flat ground: a 400m track or strip of pavement marked exactly for distance; ride the distance, then adjust the calibration so that it reads exactly right. I don’t have that facility anywhere nearby.

I lay down a long tape measure, then carefully roll the bike so that at least four revolutions are made of the wheel to increase accuracy. I’m on the bike so as to incur typical tire squish. I take the distance, divide by four (revolutions) and plug this number into the SRM.

The numbers will depend on body weight, inflation pressure, type of tire and its size. Thus getting your own number can yield a more accurate speed and distance than some generic assumed number.

Settings for the SRM Power Control 7 head unit

22C vs 25C circumference

Here’s what I found for myself for the front wheel (my sensor is on it).

These are pressures that I typically ride and total riding weight was ~200 pounds (~178 pound rider fully clothed, lights on bike, saddlebag, etc):

 Veloflex Record 700 X 22C @ 120 psi: 2014 mm

Veloflex Roubaix 700 X 25C @ 110 psi: 2123 mm

The difference is 0.9%. That doesn’t sound like much, but it equates to a 1.76 mile error for a 200 mile double century, which dovetails with what I’ve observed when riding a Veloflex Roubaix with the PC7 being calibrated for the Record.

Note that if you were assessing, say, an aero wheel or aero riding position, that 0.9% difference translates to 0.27 miles per hour at 30 mph. Which is of no particular interest in general, but very significant if you’re goal is to assess gear for winning, say, a time trial. Put another way, 0.9% of 30 minutes is 16 seconds—huge in a race like that.

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Three Double Centuries, a Week Apart

A double century is a great way to establish and prove out a deep aerobic base for any hard race like the Everest Challenge. I completed these three double centuries on March 7 and March 14 and March 21, 2015—three Saturdays, a week apart.

I chose to do 3 in a row with the explicit intent of reducing body fat and laying in a deep aerobic capability for more intense training for the rest of the year. The effort was a success on both counts.

See also To Draft or Not to Draft: What Does it Accomplish?

  • All of my double century efforts are solo time trials, meaning I do ZERO drafting (though I might pull others). This is much harder than expending 2/3 to 1/2 the effort in a pack. Even two riders sharing the load give each other a considerable break.
  • Actual mileage can vary from what is shown in the graph. Not having calibrated for 25C tires (vs my usual 22C), my SRM PC7 seems to have been off (low) by a percent or so.
  • All three events ridden with Veloflex Roubaix tubulars tires and a Lightweight Standard rear wheel and Lightweight Autobahn VR front wheel.


I rode all three double centuries on my usual Moots Vamoots RSL using Veloflex Roubaix tubular tires on a Lightweight Standard rear wheel and Lightweight Autobahn VR front wheel.

The Roubaix tires held up beautifully, perfect for events like these with quite a lot of road hazards. The Vamoots RSL rocks for double centuries with those pencil-thin seat stays and its double butted Ti frame, and the Lightweight wheels never break and never go out of true.

Southern Inyo Double Century, March 7 2015

This double century starts from Lone Pine, CA. This was my first double for 2015.

The far reach on the ride was to the border of Death Valley National Park. Here I had to wait briefly for a required sign-in, but I also had to take a 'dump' really badly and no restrooms, so I then had to stop again for relief about 5 minutes later. Somehow this shut me down and broke my mojo; up until then I had been feeling terrific. After that I felt marginal, and later, downright crappy. :;

Later at the high point of the course (mile ~133) I ate a sugar cookie, thus breaking the “never eat untested food” rule. I paid for it dearly with a terrible gut ache for miles 150-200 or so (after the descent).

Something went very wrong in general with fueling and hydration; I lost all appetite and sense of thirst at about mile 140, or rather I had no desire to eat or drink anything of any kind. Even Hammer gel I could scarcely gag down. It was literally having to force myself to eat and drink, but the gut ache made it a very unattractive proposition. The power decline is obvious by mile 150 but actually started earlier around mile 100 (just after the 'dump'). Physiologically I had goofed somehow: clear and excessive urine (overhydration) for the first 6 hours of the event was a constant nuisance. I did take Endurolytes so it wasn’t lack of electrolytes.

Together with painful big toes (new shoes and orthotics, 3 weeks with them prior), the last 50 miles were physically very unpleasant. I had to grin and bear it the best I could and I had to stop and just stand for 5 minutes at about mile 180, which helped. I felt like I wanted to throw up once I finished and it took about 90 minutes before I could eat. But after that, everything went back to normal.

At mile ~120, my rear tire flatted with two ~1/3mm diameter X 20mm long stainless steel wires embedded in the rear tire, just after I had missed a turn and ridden too far the wrong way. Once I got back on course, the good luck was the location—about 1/4 mile from my car (the route crosses back on itself). So I rode back to my car and swapped the rear wheel. Later, Stan’s No Tubes completely sealed the pinholes and I used this same wheel/tire for the next two double centuries as well. Stan’s NoTubes is great for such pinholes, and the tires can still take full pressure with no chance of blowing out the sealant (larger holes get you home with Stan’s, but tend to blow out the sealant sooner or later, re-flatting).

Kilojoules: 7697

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

Joshua Tree Double Century, March 14 2015

Due to a faultily memorized map lacking a “Y” turn (lacking in my mind), I took the wrong turn and did 12 extra miles and about 1400 vertical feet more than the standard course. So it was well beyond a double century.

There was no support within the park, so I rode unsupported for over 80 miles, which left me dehydrated and hot. Scarfing a liter of cold water upon reaching the interstate highway just out of the park, I partially revived, but It seemed to kill my performance for the rest of the day (120 miles or so to go after that!). Temperatures ranged from 39°F at the higher elevations at sunrise within the park to 90°F or so on the post-park outer areas. It’s never really possible to rehydrate properly while riding once too far gone, so this screwed the day. I was very, very glad to be done.

Still, I recovered faster from this one than the Southern Inyo (above). Just 48 hours later, I had a nice strong ride, albeit the muscles still need a full 4 days to be back at 90%, and probably 6 days to be truly back at 100%.

Course: About 68 miles is through Joshua Tree National Park, which are enjoyable miles with good pavement. The rest of the course ranges from boring to “the road never ends” slow climbs to some really unpleasant junk miles along the interstate highway, including dodging bits of tires, rocks, screws, bolts and having to wait ~5 minutes for a semi trailer truck with billowing brake smoke. By a miracle I did not flat on this section or this day.

Kilojoules: 7870

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

Solvang Spring Double Century, March 21 2015

Aside from a few badly timed stoplights, nothing untoward. No flats (first time in 3 efforts!), which was sheer luck since never in any event have I seen so many people with so many flat tires. The junk-miles portions of the course are littered with glass on some sections, with constant vigilance required. Dangerous drivers near Pismo Beach in heavy traffic cut me off three times; extreme caution is needed. I heard similar stories from other riders.

I was able to maintain good power the entire ride and even finish stronger than ever. I attribute this to a 245 calorie/hour intake of Hammer Nutrition HEED, Hammer Perpetuem solids, GU gels, and some junk candy (black licorice, two mini candy bars, 5 sticks of red vines, one small pack gummies). For me at least, gels and HEED just don’t do it fully (these are almost entirely maltodextrin); the liver should not remain idle; it has a job to do, so scarfing some sucrose and fructose at mile 80 on up at it keeps it active, converting about 60 calories/hour of those sugars into glucose—very significant in context of overall fueling intake of 245 calories/hour (which is about the limit of what the stomach can process during such an event, assuming good hydration).

This was a solo time trial (ZERO drafting though I sometimes “pull” others). Nearly all riders with faster times were pacelining (one fast group that went by had 7 or 8 riders, making it a hugely easier effort 80% of the time for all the riders). Thus their times are not comparable; a different event in the reality of actual performance (a great deal of resting/coasting!). And some riders consistently blow through stop signs and lights (*that* is outright cheating, and illegal too). I do not wish to “win” by someone else’s wind-blocking exertions, and certainly not by cheating. In a RACE, yes I *will* draft (within my racing category), since that is part of the race strategy and cannot be set aside in a race.

Solvang Spring Double 2015 results. Total clock time for me includes some bad luck with stop lights and stop signs (traffic), and some route verification.

Kilojoules: 7517

Power and heart rate with elevation profile for Solvang Spring Double Century

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See The Camera for Cycling over on my photography site.

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FOR SALE: ZIPP 404 tubular rear wheel

Cleaning out the garage, and I ride my Lightweight wheels these days.

Low miles. A steal at $450 with new tire and DuraAce cassette.

Contact me to inquire.

ZIPP 404 tubular rear wheel with DuraAce cassette and mounted new tire
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Fresh Food is Best: Additives to Keep Food Fresh May Disrupt the Gut Biome

Science new reports in Additives that keep foods fresh may sour in the gut; These compounds can disrupt intestinal bacteria, cause inflammation, mouse study suggests:

Food additives may keep snacks fresh and tasty looking, but they can wreak havoc on the gut. These additives disrupt the intestine’s protection from bacteria and boost inflammation in mice, scientists report online February 25 in Nature.

The new research “underscores the fact that a lot of things we eat … may not be as safe as we think they are,” says Eugene Chang, a gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago.

Additives called emulsifiers help many foods, including ice cream, salad dressing, pasta sauce, bread and cookies, stay fresh on supermarket shelves. To see whether the additives play a role in inflammatory conditions, researchers fed emulsifiers to mice for 12 weeks.

The mice put on weight and made proteins that signal inflammation. More inflammation-causing microbes also showed up in the bacterial communities in the mice’s guts.


The jury is out on this one. But why eat processed food with preservatives when so many fresh foods are available?

Details in Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome.

... in mice, relatively low concentrations of two commonly used emulsifiers, namely carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder.

Emulsifier-induced metabolic syndrome was associated with microbiota encroachment, altered species composition and increased pro-inflammatory potential. These results suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases

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Anti-Oxidants Might be Counterproductive for Athletes

Science new reports in For athletes, antioxidant pills may not help performance; Some supplements can blunt the positive effects of exercise training:

...the American College of Sports Medicine estimates that around half of elite athletes take vitamins in hopes of keeping their bodies fit and boosting endurance.

... It’s that American mentality,” says Jay Williams, a professor in the department of human nutrition, foods and exercise at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “If some is good, more is better.”

Except when it might be worse. In a scientific reboot, many newer, more rigorous studies are contradicting decades of previous thinking, finding little support for — if not outright harm from — antioxidant supplements for athletes. Although antioxidants obtained from food appear to do a body good, the colossal doses in supplements may disrupt a cell’s built-in system for coping with oxidative stress. And it appears that muscles under exertion may need a certain level of oxidative beating to adapt and strengthen over time. If the recent research holds up, it means one of the very things athletes commonly do to help their bodies could not only waste money but may even undermine the benefit from those hours of dedication.

Be sure to read the entire article. At best, the research suggest little harm; at worst it suggests a substantial negative.

A healthy diet surely needs little supplementation. Special cases for special reasons always exist, but it makes little sense that carefully chosen foods are somehow inadequate, especially since the body is adaptable an frugal when necessary.

Aggressive Start to 2015: Two March Double Centuries Planned, Maybe 3

I’m planning an aggressive training year, because I wish to beat my best effort in the 2012 Everest Challenge. And because the peripheral neuropathy still comes and goes, and it has degraded my ability to work at the computer. So getting on the bike makes it go away within 45 minutes, and it stays better for some days. But the P.N. still has my toes weirded out and a little uncomfortable.

Lean and strong for peak condition means 9 months of training for EC. Body weight is trending to 174-175 pounds (lost ~5 pounds of fat in ~2 months), and aerobic condition is already at very high levels (see graph below).

A couple of double centuries should bump up condition to 2012 levels by April. Hopefully 2015 won’t deliver bad luck as did 2013 (surgery) and 2014 (gut problem all year).

So I’ve signed up for the Southern Inyo Double Century on March 7, followed by the Solvang Spring Double on March 22. Possibly if the timing works and the conditions are favorable, I’ll insert the Joshua Tree Double Century on March 14. Then in April there is the grueling Devil Mountain Double, followed by Alta Alpine 8-Pass Challenge in June.

Preparing For a Double Century (Dry Run / Pre-Test)

Extensive endurance workout at 70-75% of max heart rate (fully aerobic), recovery ride
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Fitness Pre-test for a Double Century

I did this 6-hour ride in late February, having signed up for an early March double century with a similar amount of climbing, but twice the distance.

I also wanted a good “shock to the body” by doing this ride to force a bump up in fitness. The distance and power levels and feel of the legs post-ride suggest a likely 5-day recovery period which should result in a bump up in fitness. Past experience suggests that to get to the “next level” of fitness requires periodic shocks odf this kind. Double centuries are good for that, which is why I have two scheduled for March.

Preparing For a Double Century (Dry Run / Pre-Test)

Extensive endurance workout at 70-75% of max heart rate (fully aerobic), recovery ride

How to lose ~1 Pound of Body Fat in a Single Day

I discuss how a great deal of fat can be “burned” off in a single day.

Lose a Pound of Fat in ONE Day: Century Fat Burner

See also Fat Loss vs Weight Loss and Muscle Loss.

Extensive endurance workout at 70-75% of max heart rate (fully aerobic), recovery ride

Extensive Endurance Workouts: Three Examples

I discuss three endurance workouts that I performed within the past 5 days, showing how I train for the Everest Challenge and for double centuries and similar.

Extensive and Intensive Endurance Workouts, 3 Examples

Extensive endurance workout at 70-75% of max heart rate (fully aerobic), recovery ride
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Custom Orthotic Foot bed for Cyclists at 3DBikeFit: Fixing the Power Transfer Kinetic Chain

For the first time in forever, my the big metatarsal (big toe joint) in my right foot now plants my foot firmly as it ought to be, just like the left foot.

This foot placement issue has dogged as long as I can remember (forever I think), but a custom orthotic by has finally made my right foot placement symmetric with my left, fixing the weakness in the kinetic chain.


Kevin Bailey of making a custom orthotic (shaping phase)
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Training and Fitness: Why and How to Track Morning Resting Heart Rate (MRHR)

I should have been tracking this at the start of training season, but hadn’t. So I’ve just started again. So far, there are only three data points shown below, the first being the day after two very hard training days (4 hour ride and 3 hour ride on two weekend days). So the 44 figure is on another moderate day (2 hours); the 42 bpm follows an easier day, and the 41 bpm figure follows a 1/2 of baseline workout (600 kilojoules).

It's only a few beats drop, but the resting heart rate can be seen to decline a bit over the course of the week as recovery progresses from the hard ride on 16 Feb, in spite of a 6 day rolling average workout energy of 1952 kilojoules per day (1866 kilocalories/day).

3248, 2296, 1391, 667, 2541, 1573 = 1952/1866 kilojoules/kilocalories / day
(first figure 6 days old, last figure newest)

The workouts following the hardest and longest 32348 kj workout (on a Saturday) were designed as disciplined extensive endurance workouts so as to stress only the aerobic system, not muscle strength. The strategy clearly was effective.

Fully rested (taking 2 days off), I expect something around 38 (to be confirmed, but I have observed figures as low as 32 in the past).

Morning resting heart rate (bpm), start of data gathering (5 days/mornings)

Tracking Morning Resting Heart Rate (MRHR)

Tracking MRHR gives clues as to recovery or illness and other factors:

  • MRHR will be relatively high the day after a hard workout (5 to 10 beats, depending on a variety of factors).
  • MRHR will be up by 5 to 25 beats in the case of illness. Skip training if illness seems apparent; it’s a red flag.
  • MRHR can do odd things if overtrained; any significant variation from typical is cause for some thought at least. Recording heart rate overnight against a “known well rested” baseline adds a lot more insight than just a morning check.
  • Hydration and stress and medications can affect MRHR.
  • MRHR drops steadily as fitness increases, thus it is an excellent long-term tracker of fitness gains (provided one allows for full recovery).
  • MRHR is generally lower with age, at least for fit people (maximum heart rate drops by about 1 beat per year, but minimum heart rate also declines a bit).
  • Heart rate is a personal measure; don’t bother comparing your own heart rate to someone else’s; there is no real “normal”, only a very wide range of physiological normals. Do not confuse statistics of populations with your own personal physiology. This is why tracking your own normal is important.

How I measure MRHR

  1. Before rising in the morning, strap on heart rate band*.
  2. Lie flat on back, relax completely, record a multi-minute interval at rest.

Any movement (even raising an arm) can push HR up a few beats, so be consistent in position and lie still. Take the *average* (mean) heart rate over the lowest 2-minute interval. If the device does not record, observe the heart rate on the device; use the consistently lowest reading (not necessarily the lowest number).

* Counting heart beats by sensing one’s own pulse introduces error by a few beats because some muscle activation is generally required to to do (at complete rest on one’s back, even a little muscle activation can introduce 10% error, e.g., 4 beats on top of 40). But as long as done consistently each day, this is fine for the purpose of trends (but the true MRHR may be a few beats lower).

Shown below is a 3+ minute recording at rest averaging 41 beats (bpm).

Morning resting heart rate (bpm) recorded for nearly 4 minutes
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To Clot or Not to Clot: Aging Athletes and Blood Clot Prevention vs Injury/Crash

A fellow cyclist described to me a health episode involving a blood clot.

In a nutshell, he had gone for a ride and come home and then suffered through two days of intense pain in his chest/back area. Heading to urgent care when it became intense, it turned out to be a blood clot lodged in the lung, likely formed and then dislodged from a large vein in the lower body (perhaps hip area).

Clots that form in the lower body in veins travel upwards with the blood to be oxygenated and this is why they lodge in the lungs (barring a congenital heart defect). So there is little chance of such a type of clot reaching the brain; those types of strokes are caused by other factors. It is thought that small clots (1-2mm) in the lungs are fairly common, and that the body assimilates them.

Aspirin and clotting: dual edged-sword

Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related or training topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.

Being of similar age, the foregoing piqued my interest: as aging athletes, what might be the role of aspirin? Aspirin has anti-clotting properties, which is a dual-edged sword. Low-dose aspirin is used by many as a prophylactic.

Another speculative point is that highly trained aging athletes might be susceptible to blood clots while sleeping and similar because of a very low resting heart rate (venous “flushing”, my own made-up term to articulate the idea). I am researching this point.

When, how much and whether to take? (see updated notes that follow)

  • If aspirin is to be taken at all, it seems to make the most sense to take it after the effort, so as to have maximum anti-clotting effect were a clot imminent (from the effort), and yet the aspirin would have mostly dissipated prior to the next-day ride. How much to take?
  • Taking aspirin before or during a ride could be risky: if a crash were to result in a bleeding cut or laceration, aspirin could cause excessive and perhaps even dangerous bleeding.
  • If a crash results in no external bleeding but does result in impact, might immediately consuming aspirin be called for (how much?), so as to minimize the risk of a blood clot from the trauma? But this too could be risky, due to the risk of internal bleeding, say in a badly bruised area. The situation here is not at all clear-cut.

The above is speculative thinking and not advice—check with your own doctor. Hard and fast answers might prove elusive, but it’s worth pondering.

UPDATE after talking to a heart surgeon

I spoke with a heart surgeon with 35 years experience (these guys have to know clotting). What follows is my rendition of what I learned.

Aspirin works by “poisoning” the clotting receptors on platelets (drugs such as coumadin work by blocking the chemical chain for clotting, very different and much more dangerous if bleeding starts). Aspirin is thus a permanent change to platelets, regardless of when taken. But toxic doses of aspirin would have to be consumed in order to inactivate all the platelets (think 'moles' in the chemistry sense).

New platelets are constantly being created by the body; this is why surgeons ask patients to be off aspirin for a 7-10 days prior to surgery—to let the body release new platelets not previously inactivated by aspirin. Finally, about 20% of the population is non-responsive to aspirin in its platelet clotting factor inactivation (but still respond to analgesic effects).

Bottom line: barring a medical issue (bleeding gastric ulcers, sickle cell, surgery, etc—see your doctor), aspirin taken daily may be helpful and is unlikely to be harmful. And it won’t matter when taken—once platelets are inactivated, they stay that way in terms of clotting ability.

Other notes:

  • Dehydration can be a factor in clotting; stay hydrated.
  • Fixed body positions, particularly those that stress the body can cause clots (e.g. those viciously small airline seats). Such as sitting on one’s folded leg, which appears to have been the precipitating cause of the clot in the fellow cyclist narrative that starts this post (clot was in femoral vain in knee area according to an ultrasound, sat on leg folded for several hours, thus crimping the femoral vein for a long period).

A.B. writes:

The article on using aspirin to prevent a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT, AKA clot in the leg/lower extremity), or the likelihood of a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) was interesting to me. I had my first DVT and PE almost 10 years ago… I’ve had two DVTs. The first, I dismissed as a calf strain that wouldn’t go away. Ignoring it lead to a PE developing. The second DVT felt like sandpaper inside my calf… I’ve been to a hematologist twice, there’s no reason (based on current testing) for why I have a predisposition.

Not a doctor either but my recommendation is to pay attention to pain in the lower leg, rather than preventative medication that might mask an issue. If it feels different than a strain, or hasn’t left after 3 days – it’s worth pursuing an ultrasound to confirm that things are OK. People can develop thrombosis (clot in a vein) due to blood “pooling” from inactivity, and location of the clot distinguishes classification of being a DVT or not. Another preventative measure is to walk for 5 minutes every hour, especially if sedentary (IE work at a desk, traveling). Compression socks are a good idea too – medical grade is available but typically requires a doctors note/prescription. Some people have given me grief on group [cycling] rides because compression socks are en vogue, though the value depends on the amount of compression.

I haven’t encountered any issues cycling while on blood thinner (warfarin/Coumadin), but have bled into my lungs in the swim portion of a sprint triathlon. The alveoli is where oxygen transfers into the blood stream, and it is common for people to bleed a little in times of stressful breathing. My clotting factor has to be less than normal peoples’, so it stands to reason that what would have sealed without issue did not occur. I still swim, haven’t had an issue since but I also mind & manage my stress more now when swimming.

Science News: “Signs of sleep debt found in the blood”

Science News reports that Signs of sleep debt found in the blood (emphasis added):

A drop in certain fats and acids in the blood may reveal whether a person is critically sleep deprived, scientists report online February 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When people and rats skimp on slumber, two compounds involved in metabolism become depleted.

A reliable marker of sleep debt could be used to test whether pilots, truck drivers and other people who hold jobs with long hours are sufficiently well rested, says coauthor Amita Sehgal, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

WIND: the emphasis is on risky professions, but might this not be a wonderful tool for athletes in the emerging age of personalized digital medicine?

Recovering from Donating Blood? Mitigating, and perhaps a Really Bad Idea for Competing Athletes

Science News reports that Bouncing back from giving blood can take months (emphasis added):

People who donate blood can take months to recoup their stores of iron, a new study shows. But the process moves much faster if they take iron supplements afterward, scientists from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and elsewhere report in the Feb. 10 JAMA.

The findings help to explain why up to one-third of regular blood donors develop iron deficiency, which can cause fatigue, irritability and other symptoms.

In the United States, healthy people are permitted to donate blood every eight weeks. The Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether this interval should be longer, the researchers note.
IRON REBOUND Levels of the protein ferritin, which stores iron in cells, recover faster in blood donors taking daily iron pills afterward — regardless of whether they start with low or high iron levels in their blood.

WIND: Not spoken to in the above is the rapid degradation of red blood cells by athletes (physical degradation), which might entail similar risks of iron deficiency, an idea that rings a bell for me—speculating—sometimes my hematocrit has been low after some months of hard training, which always seemed odd to me. OTOH, I have always rapidly acclimatized to altitude. What does it mean? Higher hematocrit can be a huge advantage when racing, which is why I raise my hematocrit prior to the Everest Challenge the natural way: acclimatizing.

Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related or training topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.

I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but the issue of adequate iron is one I’m pondering consciously now. Excessive iron supplementation can be dangerous to kidneys, but once or twice a week might be OK, and especially since those iron-rich dark leafy greens don’t make it onto my plate as often as I’d like (and bison ribeye steaks are a distant memory!).

BMI (Body Mass Index): Junk Science

See also Screw Up Your Gut Biome with Artificial Sweeteners?

Beware “experts” (e.g., doctors) who are so smart they’ve never even considered a medical issue you might raise outside of a book—because they know less than they think they know, including the unsaid “you are igorant because you are not a doctor” atttitude. Or the inability to say “I don’t know”. Or the rigid thinking that comes with reading too many statistics and seeing only the forest, and never a tree (you, the patient).

A doctor with integrity unwilling to explore just says “dunno” (acceptable); a really good one probes and asks and then gives a considered answer (in my experience, this is rare).

It’s bad when statistics are confused with individuals, a fundamental error in cognition and judgment, most often seen in the malpractice of using the junk science of BMI (a statistical measure over a large population) to peg an individual. Yet that idiocy happens on most of my doctor visits: weight and height nonsense. How many millions of hours are wasted doing that, when a glance is more a accurate assessment?

BMI measure of body composition drives me crazy (BMI junk science). Evan at the 0th percentile for body fat (8% lean), I was/am classified by BMI as close to overweight, all the while being physically fit for my age to about 1 in 10,000 or better. That is the kind of “science” many doctors will actually defend, believe it or not.

This morning, I was weighed in at the doctor’s office at 188 pounds : with a bunch of heavy stuff in my pockets, fully clothed, shoes on, pockets full, etc—at least 10 pounds of stuff in total including 2 liters of fluid (4+ pounds) I had consumed not long before (I weigh myself on a medical grade scale every morning, 178.5 this morning). Idiots. Why do they bother with this charade? Better to ask the patient to undress and just look. I also carry my body fat as mainly “baby fat” (mostly subcutaneous under the skin, with less than 1 pound of visceral fat when I’m in race condition). Again, BMI is 100% blind to the type of fat (critical factor), as well as bone density, or even a woman with very long hair (which all adds in).

Example Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA scan for your author

Damage Your Gut Biome with Artificial Sweeteners? (make yourself more prone to diabetes)

Saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame = glucose intolerance?

Sugar (sucrose) quite likely is better for you than artificial sweeteners. This is not to say that excessive sugar is ever good. Or that no sugar is good. Or that all sugars are the same. And, yes, a Mountain Dew is very good 10 hours into a double century, proven in actual usage, repeatedly. It all depends.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

Sugar Substitutes, Gut Bacteria, and Glucose Intolerance

Non-caloric sweeteners can spur glucose intolerance in mice and some people, according to a study published today (September 17) in Nature. Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and their colleagues have uncovered “the unexpected effect that artificial sweeteners drive changes in the [gut] microbiota, which promote glucose intolerance,” said University of Chicago pathologist Cathryn Nagler, who studies how the microbiota regulate allergic responses to food and penned an editorial accompanying the study.

Although the human data provide some evidence that artificial sweeteners may have a detrimental effect on glucose metabolism in a subset of people, the authors cautioned that additional studies are needed to understand who is susceptible to the potential negative effects of artificial sweeteners and to further elucidate the mechanism by which gut microbes may drive metabolic changes.

In other words, the food industry has an enormous financial incentive to keep pushing products that may in fact be pushing entire generations towards diabetes.

The gut microbiota. So incredibly complex, yet so little study until recently. And why is there an epidemic of obesity and diabetes when untold millions have been drinking diet drinks? If diet drinks really did the trick, shouldn’t we see a correlated drop in diabetes?

The human body is very complex. It’s not just our cells, it’s a huge micro biome living inside our gut and everywhere else in our bodies. Yet we have a huge industry looking to sell us processed food, and when the financial incentive is there to sell Sugar Plus Wheat**, guess what doesn’t get funded?

* Don’t get me wrong: I just love some processed garbage, under the right circumstances. And maybe once a year.

** Wheaties (this is for you Dad): tons of sugar plus fiber plus some table sugar on top plus milk (more sugar). Have some cereal with your sugar. But at least it’s not aspartame!

To be clear: all science needs multiple repeatable confirmation to be considered solid.

Then again, we now know that idiotic advice promulgated for decades* is often bogus (eggs are bad for you, trans fats are better than butter, butter is just plain evil, high fat is bad, high fat is good, high protein is good, high carbohydrates are good**, salt raises blood pressure, and similar BS upon BS used and abused by the food industry). FUD and more FUD. A lie repeated often enough becomes believed. The bigger the lie, the more believed.

Heck, drinking pure water can kill you (hyponatremia). What’s defined as bad often depends on who’s making money on it, and that includes (at times) organic food. Food pimps. (I prefer organic as it’s often higher quality, but anyone insisting on 100% organic is irrational and irrelevant to a reasoned discussion, ditto for a blanket anti-GMO approach). But if in doubt, avoid the unproven.

* The government (which you can never trust about anything) food pyramid continues to embody stupidity in some details of its recommendations. It’s a political document in good measure.

** How do you fatten cows for hugely marbled fatty meat? Feed them a high carbohydrate diet like corn. Then the meat is rated even higher (and tastes disgusting to me). For the beef I eat, I eat only grass fed beef (preferably hard to get bison), and only lean cuts.

Natural food or products consisting essentially of natural food is the only sensible way to go, and only in moderate amounts that respond to nutritional needs. Free of growth hormones, antibiotics, excessive marbled fat (beef), pesticides, etc. Organic is good, but not the only possibility.

See also

When bacteria-killing viruses take over, it’s bad news for the gut

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

NYT: “A Prescription for Youth”

Dovetails exactly with my feeling about day in and day out cycling as I age.

A Prescription for Youth (New York Times, Jan 13, 2015)

Active older people resemble much younger people physiologically, according to a new study of the effects of exercise on aging. The findings suggest that many of our expectations about the inevitability of physical decline with advancing years may be incorrect and that how we age is, to a large degree, up to us.

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

The Joy of 50 Years: Neuropathy, Gut Ache, Gallbladder Polyps

Update 2014-02-02: right side pain has been gone for 10 days. Polyps can stay for now, will recheck in 6-9 months for stability. Neuropathy healing.

In spite of the nerve damage (Metronidazole (Flagyl) antitiotic reaction (autonomic neuropathy), I had an exceptionally strong training week around the last week of the year. A full week of very strong 2+ hour rides felt great. The Bad makes the Good even more delicious.

I had hoped that given a few weeks my body would steadily heal the nerve damage. But while the initial symptoms abated, it now seems to be regressing: no overt tingling but low level pinprick sensations in hands, a feeling of weakness in forearms, odd little sharp pains in wrists and forearms as far as the elbow, gritty feeling toes that have blotchy discolored purple areas. Not so pleasant, but all pales in comparison to the prospect of no improvement, or the disheartening prospect of worsening symptoms, or a propensity to further damage by unknown future agents.

Blood sugar

Equallly worrisome is that my blood sugar which for 12 years tested (fasting) in the low 80's to 90's historically, was tested in late December at a whopping 120 (14 hour fasting), then retested in January at 111 as a 3-month average (blood test for average glucose based on red blood cells).

I seem to be a statistical data point in a case-plot band to doctors, who seemingly consider a radical outlier (in standard deviation terms) as “normal”, because it falls just short of diabetic. Perhaps damage from the Metronidazole might not be limited to neurological effects. Or it could be something else. But my glucose was normal (85) in May 2014 in the midst of the right side gut ache issue, so that suggests some other precipitating cause. Like the neuropathy, the future prospects look uncertain. And I have felt like I’ve been carrying extra fluid for some months now; this might be related to blood sugar.

12 year of blood glucose tests (fasting)

Right side gut ache / bloating vs gallbladder

The right-side gut ache (now a 9 month ordeal) for which I took the damned antibiotic is back with a vengeance for over a week now along with uncomfortable bloating and an enervating energy drain. So while I’ve continued training, my power meter reading say it lops off 10-15%. I've had to cut back, but that isn’t solving anything—I just feel marginal when I don’t get exercise. Recovery is also impaired; whatever the root cause, that right side gut ache and bloating is exacting a significant “energy tax”.

Because the right side pain increased to a level that could not be ignored for long, I went in for an ultrasound for the gut. As an “incidental finding”, 3mm polyps were found in my gall bladder. All doctors I consulted indicate that that gall bladder ought to come out, even forgetting other symptoms. And all agree that it might have nothing to do with the right side ache / bloating symptoms, or that it might be the root cause. No one can say.

“There are multiple gallbladder polyps measuring up to 3mm. No gallstones or sludge. No gallbladder wall thickening or pericholecystic fluid to suggest cholecystitis”.

So next up is Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy). I’m going to find a very experienced surgeon, as I don’t want the common bile duct damaged or bruised.

Another possibility

Besides the gallbladder, another possibility for the right-side ache could be sphincter of ODDI disfunction.

Individuals with sphincter of Oddi dysfunction present with abdominal pain resembling that of structural or inflammatory disorders of the gallbladder, biliary tree or pancreas. Among other characteristics, the pain is typically in the upper part of the abdomen or in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, lasts 30 minutes or longer, and is not associated with a structural abnormality that could lead to these symptoms.

Functional disorders of the gallbladder, bile duct and pancreas have been defined and classified by the Rome criteria for functional gastrointestinal disorders.[2] The criteria outline three variants of functional disorders of the gallbladder, bile duct and pancreas, termed functional gallbladder disorder, functional biliary sphincter of Oddi disorder and functional pancreatic sphincter of Oddi disorder. All of the following criteria need to be met for as part of the definition of a functional disorder of the gallbladder:[2]

  • the pain must be located in the upper part of the abdomen and/or the right upper quadrant of the abdomen
  • episodes of pain must last at least 30 minutes
  • the symptoms must be recurrent, and occur at differing intervals
  • the pain must incrementally increase to a "steady level"
  • the pain must be severe enough the patient's daily activities are affected, or that the patient must attend the emergency department
  • the pain must not be relieved by any of bowel movements, change in posture, or antacids; and,
  • other structural disorders that could explain the symptoms must be excluded.

Metronidazole / Flagyl antibiotic: Beware Neurological Damage (autonomic neuropathy)

I’m publishing this with the goal of cautioning others who might run into something similar, because all drugs have risks, and some doctors see patients as statistics. One must be fully informed in one’s own medical decisions.

See Apparently Infection After All (Dientamoeba) and On Flagyl (Metronidazole), Dientamoeba Killed (not).

Never in my life have I had any peripheral neurological symptoms.

At day 10 of 14 of the course of Metronidazole, I developed, simultaneously, irritated swollen toes that felt almost like slight burning. The hot/burning sensation went away about a week later, but the toes have never been quite the same, still having odd purple patches in them and sometimes sensations of slight burning. The dermatologist I saw suggested a neurological issue (simultaneous synchronized perfectly symmetrical infections make no sense).

About 10 days later, I developed tingling in hands, weakness in forearms—scary stuff indeed since it would mean financial ruin quickly enough if my hands became more impaired, not to mention the rest of my life. I thought it could have been overuse injury (keyboard), but this makes no sense, because there are zero signs of carpal tunnel, or a pinched nerve, and sensation (pinprick tests) overall is normal (doctor exam). And in context of the “toes” we’re talking extremities (feet and hands). It all adds up to neurological.

As this was just written, I finished a 6-day course of MethylPREDNIsolone (a steroid course of 6/5/4/3/2/1 pills per day). The MethylPREDNIsolone eliminated the tingling within 8 hours, but the feeling of weakness in hands/forearms resumed on the last day (1 pill). According to the literature below, I have the hope of recovery which may take months, if indeed recovery is in the cards.

When I was with the gastroenterologist prescribing Metronidazole, my explicit question of “are there any risks” was summarily dismissed with “NO”. I don’t know if this doctor was uninformed, incompetent, or merely uninterested. But all drugs have risks and while doctors can make mistakes, they should also damn well be the experts. Still, I have to take responsibility for not being skeptical enough with this doctor, who always left me feeling like I learned nothing from him at each expensive visit. This same doctor could not be bothered to return my phone call on the “toes issue”: I had a call back a whopping 36 hours later from a nurse who seemed incapable of comprehending my symptoms. Never heard back from the doctor himself on the toes.

Autonomic neuropathy

So I went googling and found Metronidazole: newly recognized cause of autonomic neuropathy. Note the case cited involves “burning pain in feet”, which is/was precisely my first symptom also and the term “erythematous” describes exactly what happened to my toes.

Primum non nocere.

How could a competent doctor prescribing Metronidazole answer with a terse “NO” when asked if there are any risks with an antibiotic that is clearly dangerous?

The core problem is that doctors make the same cognitive errors as layman, e.g. once having learned The Medical Truth, it forever is so, because all evidence to the contrary cannot be seen once the cognitive context of “rare” is assimilated. E.G, peripheral neuropathy is “rare” by cognitive committment (no doubt from one dubious paper written long ago and studied once in medical school, buttressed by tens of thousands of cases where doctors never bothered to inquire or follow up as to side effects). Note that the doctors in the literature I have seen would all be highly unlikely to consider my case even possible (“large doses”, “extended use”, etc—do the google search). Will I win the lottery next? One praiseworthy exception is the neurologist from Duke University kind enough to call me and discuss the symptoms (I initiated contact); she felt that side effects were under-reported.

My prescribing doctor remains totally clueless in never having recognized the symptoms. Thus it is not reported, thus the other 1,000 or 10,000 cases or whatever are never reported, thus people are damaged by ignorant doctors who all agree on the rarity. Self-fulfilling. Don’t look, and don’t ask—why bother, it’s so damn rare. To wit: it’s night-time because it’s dark inside? No, it’s just that the window blinds are closed! It’s professionally negligent that my doctor never inquired as to the symptoms I reported, never asked how I fared on the antibiotic (which he prescribed for 2 weeks, which is double the usual time). He’ll no doubt just go on prescribing an antibiotic with side effets since there are “NO” risks (his answer to my question of risks).

Four doctors (prescribing gastroenterologist, two internists, one dermatologist) all failed to put the symptoms together when informed of the drug and the burning toes, yet there it is plain as day in case literature, if one bother to search. [To her credit, the dermatologist’s first reaction was that it looked neurological, but specialists box themselves into their own field, but this was the clue I needed to figure it out]. What does that tell you about the general diagnositc capabilities of doctors? Their willingness to ignore symptoms in the context of a powerful antibiotic? The lack of follow up by the prescribing doctor even in the face of a highly unusual symptom? I found it in under 2 minutes once I started thinking in neurological terms (google “metronidazole neuropathy”). Why can’t a doctor, theoretically trainedto diagnose, have a little question mark go off? I’d consider myself incompetent to let such things pass on my watch, were I a doctor.

Metronidazole is a commonly used antibiotic prescribed for the treatment of anaerobic and protozoal infections of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.

It is associated with numerous neurologic complications, including peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy is typically detected in patients on chronic therapy, although it has been documented in those taking large doses for acute infections.

Numerous case reports have been published describing motor and sensory neuropathy, yet autonomic neuropathy has not been described with metronidazole use. A previously healthy 15-year-old girl presented with complaints of burning pain in her feet following a short course of metronidazole for vaginitis. She could obtain pain relief only by submerging her feet in ice water. Examination revealed cold and swollen lower extremities that became erythematous and very warm when removed from the ice water. Temperature perception was reduced to the upper third of the shin bilaterally. Deep tendon reflexes and strength were preserved.

Nerve conduction studies demonstrated a peripheral neuropathy manifested by reduced sensory nerve and compound muscle action potentials. Reproducible sympathetic skin potential responses could not be obtained in the hand and foot, providing evidence of a concurrent autonomic neuropathy. A thorough evaluation revealed no other cause for her condition. Repeated nerve conduction studies and sympathetic skin potentials returned to normal over the course of 6 months, paralleling the patient's clinical improvement. Metronidazole is a potential cause of reversible autonomic neuropathy.

See also

When reviewing the literature, it becomes clear that Metronidazole (Flagyl) has severe life changing risks.

Search for Metronidazole neuropathy:

A prescribing doctor failing to mention such risks (especially when explicitly asked about risk) walks a dubious line on professionalism and ethics. My hands are irreplaceable, both professionally and for my life itself. I was not given the information needed to make an informed decision, even when I asked about risks. Only time will say whether I have permanent damage, but my experience has been that most injuries always carrying nagging issues later in life.

Art B writes:

Just a thought, when a doctor prescribes a medicine, go to the Pharmacist and discuss the side effects and dangers. Doctors are NOT as up-to-speed on the drug's risks as is your Pharmacist.

WIND: good advice.

Dan M writes:

Hell, I knew Flagyl was problematic 35 years ago.

I worked with Flagyl for six years, extensively, in reptiles. A far different
vertebrate, to be sure, but I knew that mammals processed the stuff
more efficiently than reptiles, which is the reason we calculated the dosage
down to the gram and the minimum time period. And I knew if we
went overboard on it a big part of the bad results could be neuro.

I just didn't put the two stories together. My apologies. It should have
been me telling you it was probably the Flagyl.

Telmin was another we had to measure for dosage very, very carefully,
but it had another range of side effects. I always had alarm bells in my
head when the recommendation was either of those drugs.

WIND: my just prior internist (not the gastroenterologist) did not put two and two together either (“I’m taking Metronidazole and I have these burning toes”). These doctors just don’t have quick minds even when the obvious is laid at their feet. I just can’t see being a physician (myself) and not being very concerned if any patient reports a highly unusual symptom while taking a drug. I have a word for that kind of care, but I won’t print it here.

NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc!

Awesome MTB Video: Danny McAskill: 'The Ridge'

I can get down some rough stuff, but I’m not quite this skilled on mountain bike.