Thursday, September 28, 2006

Supplementing - Antioxidant Vitamins

This quarter I'm taking a course in "Evidence Based" sports medicine of lower extremities and while flipping through the course text, I found a chapter with almost instant appeal chapter 27 "Performance-Enhancing Supplements". Seeing that title, I immediately flipped back and digested it.

I won't go into everything I found, but I will share one very cool piece of knowledge. A new tartan secret, magic of Vitamin C.

The last paragraph on Vitamin C was quite interesting, particularly in the light of my upcoming 508 adventure..
"Also, vitamin C may provide immunologic benefits to endurance athletes. Daily supplementation with vitamin C 1 to 3 weeks before participating in a marathon or ultra marathon has been shown to decrease the incidence of post race upper respiratory tract infection by as much as 33%"

Orthopaedic Knowledge Update - Sports Medicine 3 page 339
ISBN 0-89203-332-0


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Product Review: FSA - SLK Compact Mega EXO

I was hardly an early adopter of the FSA carbon cranks. Prior to purchasing my cranks I asked numerous people how they liked their cranks? Were they as stiff as the hype claimed? Eventually I too joined the party, purchasing the FSA - SLK Compact Mega EXO. The thought was the compact cranks (34/50) larger range would be better suited to ultra distance racing then traditional cranks(53/39). Many reviews one reads online often are written by people with limited exposure to products. I too must admit I've a limited exposure to the FSA cranks, I've been off and on them since 2005, I trained for RAO on these cranks, road a PAC tour, RAO camps, raced RAO solo, trained for the two man RAO, and now have trained for FC on them, ala I've logged thousands of miles on them.

First the good: The external bearing design of the cranks bottom bracket significantly reduces the total weight of the crank set and bottom bracket over traditional BB + crank set designs. But this feature is not unique to the FSA cranks; most all crank set manufactures (Shimao, Campy, etc.), have joined the external bearing bandwagon and are offering a weight saving crank sets featuring this design. As to the increased stiffness of this BB design, I'm sure the BB is stiffer, but to be honest I don't notice any real difference between it and my traditional cranks. So for practical value the FSA Crank Set stiffness is HYPE. The final good point for the FSA Cranks is they cost less then some, and are made out of swanky lighter weight carbon fiber, like the campy ones, unlike the alloy shimano ones.

The Slightly Bad: The FSA bottom bracket/crank set combination is prone to creaking. Yes, tightening the BB can help, but in general the crank set/bb design likes to talk while you pedal. Other friends who have been on FSA cranks have also experienced this wonder...

The Very Bad: The carbon/alloy bolt bindings can break. I haven't experienced this but I've witnessed this first hand at a race. Last year while riding for OSU, a women racer on our team had her FSA cranks catastrophically fail when the alloy threading connections carbon/alloy bonding failed and broke off. I also heard through the grape vine that a similar failure occurred at one of the 2006 RAO race camps.

Continuing in the very bad category is the general fixing bolt design for how the cranks are connected. Like all crank sets of this general design the crank axle is bonded to the drive side crank set spider thus removing the need for crank set fixing bolts from the drive side placing them only on the non-drive side. Now the problem with the FSA cranks that I've experienced multiple times, is that the crank fixing bolt un-threads while riding loosing up the crank set while riding. This year this has happened at least twice in the last few months out on the road, once climbing timberline at "RAO Llama camp", and once a few weeks ago I was 20 miles from home and my crank arm just sorta fell off. Is it just me who is experiencing this? Are my cranks cursed? No I don't think so, over Labor Day weekend I was up in Seattle training, and while riding with the Ti-Cycle racing team and one of the cat 3 riders had the same exact failure. Talking with Jay, he said he had attempted to have his cranks "Fixed" by sending them back to FSA and that he was now on his second set, which they had promised fixed/addressed the problem. But obviously they were incorrect as it was still was occurring.

It's worth noting an example of a superior fastening design. The shimano external BB crank set fastens the non-drive side crank arm through pinch bolts instead of a traditional crank bolt. The pinch bolts run perpendicular to the axis of rotation for the crank arm thus making it impossible to unscrew the bolts while riding.

My Review: FSA - SLK Compact Mega EXO = F-Suck-A,
Crankset itself (Two Thumbs Down) Compact Gearing ( Two Thumbs Up).


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ring of Fire - 2006 - The Inside Scoop

As part of my prep for the 508, I raced in the second annual "Ring of Fire", 12/24 hr time trial. I choose the 12 hr entry, as the 12 hr race would be long enough to warm up and a few intervals while still keeping the distance and the time in consistent with my weekly training loads and goals. On to the Fire..

The ring of fire like all real TT's started with the count down, 5, 4, 3, muscles strain, 2, 1, go! George released, and the heart rate shot up. The stated goal was to log some race training for the 508, try out some "Tartan Secrets", and have an excuse to drink 8+ cans of ensure, but a race is also just that race and one always wants to do well too..

Like all RAO events, the 2006 Ring of Fire, drew some of the biggest names in ultra. With ultra vetrans, Chris Hopkinson (RAAM Rookie of the Year), Ben Larson (Fireweed & RAO Team Records), John Spurgeon (Mr Fixxed), John Henry Maurice (Fellow 2006 FC competitor), Hugh Gapay (2006 RAO Rookie of the Year), and Urs Koenig (RAAM, Cascade 1200KM record holder), making up just some of the highly impressive field. In the ROF format, the 24 hr riders went first, followed by those of us taking the 12 hr. My start time, 7:11 AM put me dead last and meant that I had until 7:11 PM to log my miles.

Back to the Race.. With George's release I was off, Chris Hopkinson my 1 minute man, decked in a HOT PINK skin suit was already fadeing into the distance. UGH.. I knew Chris was going to be fast, but shezz, with no warm up he was already motoring away. At that point I reminded myself that this was a training race, and NOT a "A", event so it was more important to practice my 508 pace, nutrition, and avoid injury, then to spank Chris on the 12 hr.

By the top of the climb leading out of Maupin, both Chris and I had passed our 1 and 2 minute man, and I'd actually narrowed the gap between Chris and myself ever so slightly. But then the road turned down, and Chris disappeared. I wouldn't see Chris again till the end of the "Big Show".

Once over Maupin the 12 hr course took us over down through Tye Valley and then out on some new roads to Wemmic and from Wemmic it was up the hill that's called Mt. Hood, and back to Maupin over some of the "Classic" RAO course.

Climbing up hood, I briefly got to talk to the 'Legend' John Henry Maurice, John's going to also be racing at the 508, and from what I saw, John's going to be a rider to watch for at this years 508.

Bouncing over the hills leading back into Maupin, I moved into 2nd place, in the 12 hr Race. Then it was around the back side of the Maupin night loop before heading in to the ROF pit for the first check in. Time: On the day loop 110 miles ~6 hours

After grabbing a cliff bar, ensure, and some water it was off to begin looping. I estimated that in 6 hours I could do around 4-5 laps. A wind had begun to pour down over the Maupin climb, and climbing out I realized that it would be more likely somewhere around 3-4 laps.. UGH. Once over the rise, it was down the other side where the wind and then around the 40+K TT course. Motoring around the course a head wind seemed to pour in from all angles and it wasn't until the final 7 or so miles of the 27 mile loop that a tail wind developed.

In the end I made three full laps, and on my fourth and final lap made it 21 miles before my time expired.

Final: Results 2nd 211.8 miles average speed 17.65 mph (~4 miles shy of first)