Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Does Your Bike Fit?

Lasers and Focus with Aaron Hauck of Inner Strength Fitt Lab 

I mean really fit.

Because let me tell you, there's a lot more to it than a couple measurements and turns of the allen keys.

I haven't had a fit in a few years, and with a nagging pain in my left knee I thought it would be best to call in the pros. After listening to Aaron passionately discuss saddle heights and pedal mechanics at the weekly Fiesta Island workouts, I picked up the phone.

We set up an appointment and down the rabbit hole I went. Here's what you need to know if a fit is in your future:

  • Aaron suggested wearing a good cycling kit. Do this. Here's why: 
    • Before you even get on the bike, Aaron spends about an hour with you testing your strength, flexibility and skeletal structure -- best to be comfortable while you're doing one-legged squats and hip bridges
    • Your seat height is about to get dialled -- even a couple millimetres difference from your favorite chamois to the one you wore out and should have thrown away ten rides ago can make a difference. 
    • You're going to be riding. I don't mean spinning, I mean he'll say, let's see you at "RPE 6."
    • This is pretty much the worst time to forget your cycling shoes. 
  • If you have two bikes, bring both. 
    • Although I'm a mtb racer and lover, I do spend a lot of time on my road bike -- having them both set up at the same time just makes sense. 
    • But if you can only bring one, make it your road bike. We sit in one position a lot more frequently on our road bikes so better make it a good one. 
    • If you bring two bikes, bring both sets of shoes! 
  • LASERS!! 
    • In case you're worried about how *exact* Aaron is, you should know he uses lasers and he's not satisfied until your knee is tracking with laser-accuracy. 
  • New Stuff
    • If you have new pedals, or a new bar or stem, get it on the bike before you come to the fit -- you won't want to be messing with things afterwards 
    • Similarly, be prepared to take down a list in case you need to pick up a new stem or pedals or handlebar. E.g. did you know that pedals have a widely varying range of spindle lengths?! It's the number-one suspect for my knee problem! 
  • There's more to fit than fit ....
    • I had no idea but this whole time, I was pedalling in a way that wasted a bunch of power
    • Aaron showed me how to maximize my strengths and get 100% out of every pedal stroke
    • We practiced on the trainer, and we practiced on the road too .... which brings me to:
  • Bring your helmet! 
    • I didn't bring one since I naively thought I'd be sitting on a trainer all afternoon. Hopefully this post will help you not make the same mistake. 
So in sum, going to an appointment for your bike fit is a fun-filled afternoon of medium sweating, moving around, riding indoors and out. Be prepared. For example, I was all of a sudden wishing I'd waited to do my intervals AFTER the appointment because even the small amount of soreness I was carrying was distracting when Aaron asked me how things were feeling. I wanted to be able to better isolate what was a problem, and what just needed a little stretching. 

In the days since, I've been working on that proper pedalling and body position Aaron taught me. Things are settling in, I'm starting to feel pretty darn good, and Aaron has already texted me twice to check in with how things are going. You see, I also learned a proper fit is not a one time thing. It takes a little tweaking and refining to get truly dialled in. I have really appreciated Aaron's attentiveness, dedication and his clearly-demonstrated love of what he does and how he helps his clients. 

You can find out more about Aaron and Inner Strength Fitt Lab Training Systems here. I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

RACE REPORT: Inaugural Ninja Night Race

Post-race portraits by Matthew Hulet 

October 24, 2013 will go down in history as the night of the very first USAC Sanctioned Night Race. Kudos to the organizers and thanks to the sponsors, it was an awesome time.

I was doing my best to contribute to the set up in some way all afternoon (though apparently my pop-up tent skills need work ...) so I didn't really get a chance to pre-ride the course. With 40 minutes til "go" I hopped on my trusty steed and quickly went over to the second half of the loop where I heard there would be baby heads and water crossings. 

I quickly found myself alone on the trail, in the dark, with a pack of coyotes for company. Oh yeah, important to remember: I'm Scared Of The Dark. And the toothy things in it. 

I pedalled back to the start/finish area at a rate a little higher than "warm up," which by now had a very festive vibe about it. The Tamale guys had arrived and Zumwalt's was providing an awesome neutral support service. They pumped up my tires and threw in a derailleur adjust while they were at it! Thanks guys! 

Chatting on the start line
It's been awhile since I felt in any way racy, but with a pile of base miles under my belt I'm finally starting to feel at least fit again so I was stoked to be on a line. Coach Richard, Ninja Boss, said "Go" and I WENT. 
... disappearing into the night off the start
Had a really fun start, and took the hole shot too. My first time through the single track wasn't pretty but it seemed to be effective as I held the lead until the second half of the first lap. That's when Lisa Hauck went by me. I hopped on her wheel, happy to hide behind her on the open section of the course. She started pulling away and I thought, that's okay, I'll get her ...

Which is a great reminder. In racing, NEVER wait. 

So, Lisa had a great race. She just kept pulling away ... away .... away ... and she was gone. Just a tiny red blinky, teasing me in the distance. (At least I think that was her ....)

For the second lap I just aimed to keep it steady and clean and even managed to stay on the course. By now, the categories were mixing up so I was riding in a constant state of readiness in case the light coming up behind me belonged to another female. With only a few minutes of racing left to go, I was feeling pretty comfortable in second. That's when Amy Comalli got around me. 

Awesome ride for her, but I sure felt that. 

I couldn't let her just have it, so I pushed with whatever I had left after an hour of dust clogging my lungs and my heart setting new records. Turns out it really was hers, but I was delighted to watch her headlight make more than one pass over her shoulder on the lookout for me. 

So I rolled through as the third fastest female of the evening feeling pretty pumped. At the awards, I got a surprise --  I actually WON my category so I got to stand on the top box anyway. Hurray for age groups! Which by the way, if you noticed the podium at the event, each box had the Japanese character for 1, 2 and 3 lit up with lime green cellophane. Pretty jazzy. Results are here.
Surprise! I win, kinda

I won a cool Ninja cup for my efforts, and enjoyed a delicious tamale which was included with each riders' entry fee. I even won a raffle prize --  a giant bag of HEED which I can't have thanks to wheat allergies, so I got the added joy of giving it away to someone else. 

All in all a super fun night. Can't wait for the next one! 

Some Ninjas, standing around. Check out more event photography by Pink Shorts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bike Touring with Synaptic Cycles and some friendly Electricians

Nice guys on nice bikes. Rest stop in Rancho Santa Fe. Ryan Brown photo.  

Monday, I had the pleasure to meet some of my first Texans, and their friends from Ohio and Kansas. All eight were in town for a conference to do with wiring/electrical work at the local luxury resort, La Costa. Every year the conference goes someplace new, and so every year, this merry peleton rents bikes, hires a guide and tours the local roads and thoroughfares. (It sure beats golf, am I right?!)

This year, those lucky roads were in SoCal, and the lucky guide was me. I was ably assisted by fellow mountain biker Ryan Brown, but we donned our roadie disguises and headed off to meet my old friend Joe (you may remember him from such blog posts as this one) of Synaptic Cycles. He was providing the fleet, which included high-end rides by Volagi, Focus and Calfee.

We headed out towards San Elijo Hills where my electrically-minded crew were quick to point out the lovely copper we have strewn about the hills in the area. My understanding from San Elijo Hills resident, Nick, is that the area was originally based on the mining of copper -- however that quickly ran its course. From there, we continued inland via Elfin Forest Road before stopping for water at famed Swami's rest stop, "The Church of God" -- featuring a potable water faucet in its parking lot.

We rolled into Rancho Santa Fe via the breathtaking Del Dios Hwy, taking in the views of Lake Hodges and marvelling at the increasingly green and lush gardens as we got closer to RSF. One of the most wealthy zip codes in America, they can afford to have water pumped in for such pursuits as golfing, gardening and pretend-orchards (I say pretend because I think most of them exist to bring down the property taxes, rather than out of enthusiasm for lemons and oranges ... they're farmers, dontchaknow).

We rolled out of RSF with Pizza Port in our sights at its original Solana Beach location. It's known for its delicious pizza pies and even better known for its delicious contributions to the hopping (see what I did there?) craft beer scene in San Diego.

Luckily, by this time, the climbs were all finished and we enjoyed a nice little tailwind along the coast, all the way back through Cardiff, downtown Encinitas, Leucadia and then back up alongside the Batiquitos Lagoon to the La Costa resort.

This loop is one of my favourites, so I was really happy to share it with such a fun group of visitors. Word has it that later that night, they became award winners with their conference, so I trust that all in all, it was a good day for Encore Wire and friends.

If you're from out of town and would like to head out on a road ride without the irritation of packing up your bike, give Synaptic Cycles a call and Joe will get you set up. Tell him I sent you :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arizona: A to Z

The cacti in Arizona made me feel like I was living in a cartoon. I *loved* it. Roadrunners ripping around, and yup, wiley coyotes singing us to sleep every night. I flew to Phoenix on Friday to catch up with Coach Richard et al. We slipped through the darkness outside the city limits to a quiet little campsite at McDowell Mountain Park, home to San Diego Mountain Bike Skills for the weekend.

With bikes all prepped and ready to go, it was off to bed and up with the sunrise to meet our first batch of new Ninjas. My cell phone had spotty reception at best, so rather than lie in bed playing Angry Birds, I poked my head out the camper door to get a look at what the darkness kept secret the night before. The sun was just starting to peek out from behind the mountains and the flatland between me and it was in full magic-hour glory. Cactus sentries stood guard over the neighbouring campsites. Looking west, another range of rocky mountains were lit with that same amazing light. I took a seat quietly at the picnic table and just breathed deeply with nothing in my hands except the cool concrete of the table top, while it seemed like nothing and no one was stirring for miles.

Home sweet home for Crank Cycling and SDMBS in AZ

Once the sun crept out from behind the hills, it was go time. We made breakfast, had a good dose of coffee, got kitted up and then it was off to meet our first group -- an awesome gaggle of girls ready to take their skills to the next level, or convert their roadie leanings to "the dirt side."After a lickety-split lunch break, we had a slightly more basics class and got them all turning and burning in the afternoon sun. I *love* watching how much our riders progress in only a few hours. For a couple of the ladies, I saw an improvement with every try. Once everyone went home for the evening, Coach Burke and I headed over to the "Competitive Track" to check on things before our intermediate, full-day clinic the following day. I tell ya, if you live anywhere near this park, you are a lucky duck. So many great skill-building features packed into a wicked-fun three-mile loop.

Head Coach Sean Burke of Crank Cycling spinning a sunset lap  

Making use of this resource on this particular weekend was the Arizona High School League. 150 racers ready to rip, representing 40 teams from across the state. They had a great set-up and from all the eavesdropping I did, it sounded like they had a great time. Once they'd finished with the course on Sunday afternoon, we brought some more Ninjas over to get their shred on, too. We covered skills like ratcheting, switchbacks, pumping, technical climbs, gnarly drops and finding our flow before sending them smiling out into the world while we broke camp and made for the drive back to San Diego.

Big thank you to Sean and Elaine for sharing their tremendous road-trip set-up with us. I am totally sold on campers these days -- those things are like magic. Thank you also to Sean and Crank Cycling for the amazing coaching support, and to Elaine for keeping us on track, taking photos and saving the day more than once. Big thank you to Coach Richard for having me aboard with San Diego Mountain Bike Skills, for his tireless efforts to spread the joy of mountain biking and for teaching me how to teach others.

I also want to thank all the Ninjas that came out to ride with us!! I loved meeting you, hearing your stories and watching you nail it. Keep practicing, and if you're riding in Arizona, holy smokes, keep hydrated.

Deep breaths at dawn in AZ
Finally, I want to thank my husband Gerhard and my in-laws for holding down the fort while I was away. Thanks for your patience and support this weekend, and always.

It was Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday, so those are just a few of the things I was thankful for this weekend. Could write a whole book to cover my gratitude lately. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Have you heard about prAna?

prAna ambassador Chris Sharma, solo psicobloc (climbing over deep water) in Spain

I hadn't. At least not until I arrived at their back door, here in Carlsbad, California. But the more I learned about prAna, the more they impressed me. Knowing what I know now about how our clothes are made (and who makes them), it's hard for me to reach for anything other than the few pieces I've collected since arriving from this socially minded, environmentally sustainable brand.

They use organic cotton and recycled materials.  They keep track of things like waste water and the health and safety of their workers around the world. Don't take my word for it -- prAna was actually ranked in the top 5 by Free2Work. Free2Work is a group raising awareness about how today’s top brands relate to labor issues. They evaluated 325 apparel brands and awarded prAna an A ranking. 

Not to mention everything looks and feels great. If I'm not in the cyclists' uniform of spandex, I'm in prAna. Here's a little something I wrote about the brand for the YogiTimes

PrAna is North America’s first apparel company to be Fair Trade Certified thanks to its dedication to sustainable business with conscience. An oasis in the active lifestyle marketplace, prAna takes away the guesswork for its customers allowing them to confidently choose yoga, climbing and athletic styles that look great and go easy on the earth. 
Started in 1993 by Beaver Theodosakis and his wife Pam, prAna began as a response by its founders to the excess of the ’80s — a time of fast cars, big hair, and taking it all for granted. Then came the ‘90s, which brought economic recession and a pack of lessons. After a time of personal reflection that included his first yoga experience, Theodosakis set to work to build a company that gave serious thought to the size of its footprint. He was concerned about how much waste it might produce, and made the decision to use organic cotton, natural fibers as well as recycled materials to deliver high-quality, technical, stylish apparel. 
Theodosakis and his wife began sewing pieces in their garage. They labeled them with tags they made from recycled newspapers, showed them on old racks they found rusting and forgotten, and shipped them in leftover orange boxes they collected from the grocery store.
Today, still based in Carlsbad, California prAna has grown to 110 employees. They have built the company on the original reuse-and-recycle ethos, though on a much larger scale. Now instead of recycling neighbors’ newspapers, they are recycling fibers. For example, the popular Quinn dress is made from recycled polyester, and stands up to tough, low-chemical, sustainability standards recognized across the textile industry. Men’s Sutra pants are made with recycled materials as well, along with the natural, environmentally friendly fiber, hemp. Once turned on to organic cotton ten years ago, they never looked back, and most recently prAna is working on further reducing its impact by using non-toxic chemicals in its dyes. 
Team members at prAna are youthful and full of passion and that’s reflected in each season’s lines through imaginative prints and attention to the tiniest of details After business hours, they’re living prAna’s mantra, “Born from Experience,” while they’re out there climbing, surfing, running, hiking and doing yoga. They also take part in their community, helping at local events, and volunteering with prAna’s many non-profit partners. Theodosakis himself is on the board of two groups — the Access Fund, which helps keep climbing areas open, and the Outdoor Foundation which helps get more kids active in the outdoors. PrAna is involved with other non-profit groups as well, including the Conservation Alliance, Keep a Breast Foundation, and Outdoor Outreach. 
Mindfulness is at the core of everything prAna does. That’s why every day, something special happens at 3:30 p.m. A gong sounds, beginning a 60 second “pattern interrupt.” The idea is to break the chain of running to a phone call, from an email to a meeting. For one minute, prAna team members take a step back, and look inside. Some choose to meditate, some think about connecting to something bigger than what’s happening in the office, and some just take a moment to daydream. 
Since prAna was started to give form and function to the connections its founders felt in their lives — to the outdoors, to themselves, and to each other — staying connected is part of how the team stays grounded. Everyone in the company owns a piece of the process — every decision, every product. As the product line evolves and its impact grows, those connections continue to guide them. 
PrAna doesn’t have all the answers, but its team will always be asking questions. Along with other brands that have made sustainability a priority, they’re working to address the issues they have in common. By sharing supply-chain sources, information and facing challenges together, they’re helping to raise the tide for all boats. Their commitment to ideals about community, sustainability and clothing with conscience continues to inspire others to think in the same way. For prAna, that’s what it’s all about.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

#TKMBD - Bike Skills Rodeo!

Gerhard Gross photo

When I first saw IMBA's posts about the October 5 Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day I knew right away I wanted to do something about it. Kids on bikes are just the best, so I recruited Coach Richard from San Diego Mountain Bike Skills and voila! We had a rodeo.

Our event had about six different skills for the kids to practice, including "Feedzone Simulation," "Granny Gear Racing," "Skinnies Riding," "Paper Boy Toss," and a couple stations to test their handling around cones and hula hoops. With a great sunny afternoon in Balboa park our excitement was only rivalled by the kids'.

We had tremendous support from the San Diego chapter (SDMBA) of the International Mountain Biking Association with number plates and Clif Z-Bars to hand out to our little riders. They also helped us get the word out, not to mention all the amazing trail/rider advocacy they do every day. Big thank you to them! Proud to be a member.

Best of all, we had a super crop of young riders -- 15!! -- and some really enthusiastic parents who helped make the event run smoothly. My favourite part of the afternoon was watching little Abby, who started the event on her strider bike, graduate to her "big girl bike" WITHOUT training wheels. What a big day!

Thanks to all our sponsors, and most importantly thanks to the kids, moms and dads for coming out to the event. We had a TON of fun, and we can't wait for Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, 2014.

Read more about our event here and check out some great photos, shot by my wonderful husband Gerhard, here.