First bike in SF

SF Bike Map

Routes with bike lanes in SF

Today, I did my first bike ride in SF since moving here.

The prep

I looked online for a list of good routes. Most pages I found seemed to be about good routes outside of the city, which wasn’t very helpful to me. I live near the center of the city, so I needed to know how to get out there. I found this map showing roads with bike lanes to be very useful, and I’m going to try to explore the main ones in the future to see which ones I like best.

The route

I eventually settled on commuting up and down Polk Street, a main N-S road in the city. The path unfortunately reminded me of Massachusetts Ave a bit — a road somewhat in need of paving with plenty traffic lights and stop-and-go traffic. You could easily spend 45 minutes getting across SF with this route, with a not inconsiderable amount of danger (there is a decent amount of hoping that people won’t open their car doors). However, all in all, things weren’t that bad — there is, in fact, a bike lane through the entire road, which you can’t say about many places.

The bike

Took my Specialized Allez out for the ride. This is my road bike, and the one of my two bikes that has been repaired — my Fuji tri bike needs some serious love, but I still haven’t decided what to do with it (maybe will sell it and get another tri bike that is higher quality/fits me better).

The fit of the bike was noticeably bad — I was putting nearly all my weight on my hands, rather than on the seat. That made it hard to control the bike and also to safely take my hands off the handlebars to signal turns, etc.

Was the fit always this bad? Possibly — during my half ironman, my hands started going numb. And I’ve always found it hard to balance on, and signal from, this bike. Possibly it’s simply too large for me, and so to reach the handlebars I have to move my center of gravity far too forward.

The plan

Biking during the work week is probably going to be too time-consuming, so I’ll keep it as a weekend activity.

I’ll also probably take the bike back to the shop to get it properly fitted, that is, if I can improve the fit much myself fooling around on my trainer.

Thoughts on heart rate training

There seem to be two approaches to training for speed: tempo runs and intervals. Intervals get your heart rate into its anaerobic zone, while tempo runs hit your “threshold” aerobic pace (almost anaerobic).

I’m a bit confused as to how to implement both of these techniques, however.

First, high-intensity interval training is supposed to hit 70% – 90% of your maximum heart rate during the “work” period. But 90% of my max HR of 190 is 171, which is well within my aerobic zone. Things only start getting seriously anaerobic at around 185; at least in the sense that I seem to be able to run at below that pace (under serious chest pain 180+) for at least a few minutes. So does that mean I need to up the intensity of my intervals from 171 to 185+, to keep them anaerobic?

Second, I often get my HR up to around 180 on runs. This seems close to anaerobic, and definitely higher than the “tempo” pace mentioned on Strava (153-169). I’m torn between the definition of a tempo run as one that is run at your threshold anaerobic HR, and one that seems to agree with things I’ve read elsewhere.

So the questions are: do I speed up my intervals, and/or do I slow down my tempo runs?

Timberman Part 2

I recently participated in Ironman Timberman, a half-iron distance event. I didn’t end up finishing, but I exceeded my own expectations. I managed to do the swim in 1:03 and got 53 miles on the bike course before the cutoff time.

What I learned: practice long distance cycling is key, and the good news is that it isn’t terribly hard to train. I felt confident I could have done the run section, if I had managed to finish the bike.

The swim went well, although I was clearly going too slowly. I think it shouldn’t be too hard to fix my swim form. The key, I think, is kicking from the hip — I seem to have problems with my feet dangling. Everything else about my stroke seems much better after taking those swim classes.

Owning a new wetsuit would be nice as well. My old wetsuit just seemed too tight, and I ended swimming without it.

For the rest of the year, I think I’ll focus on running, a sport that doesn’t have as high setup costs. I’m currently looking to do a 5k at the end of October, with a goal race time of 24 minutes. Perhaps I will return to Ironman next year, or the year after (depending on my travel schedule after graduation). I definitely want to do it, and I think I have a much better appreciation of exactly how much I need to train each sport, and what I need to do, to finish.

I’m going to try updating this blog more often as well, to keep myself honest about doing research. I gotta up my productivity. I’m very excited for this fall and hopefully will have more to say soon on both work and running fronts.

Much progress on running

new pr late juneI set a new PR for the mile on Monday: 6:40.

For whatever reason, my recent running workout regimen has been working out well, in terms of reducing my mile times. I thought I would document my running past, present, and future.

A bit of history

I began running more seriously in September 2013 after I sprained my thumb and had to stop lifting. I did my first 5k that month. I did a half-marathon in November 2013. I did a marathon in November 2014.

I’ve compiled the following graph of my run times, using runs of approximately 1, 2, and 3 miles (times are all minutes per mile):

run times

The main takeaway is that I haven’t improved much over this time period — although it’s a bit unclear, due to data problems. (I certainly improved my distances, which are not shown, but it’s not so clear about my times.)

A big problem with this data is that I don’t really have run times for these short distances around the times I was running intensively, to prep for my half-marathon and full marathon. Also, the observations we do have are sometimes instances where I got tired and had to pack my run in early — so they’re deceptively slow.

This underscores the importance of having some kind of standardized run to track one’s progress.

The present

More recently, since I’ve been doing mile runs, I have standardized tracking, and it’s clear that I’m getting better. So it’s not necessarily clear that my new regimen is helping particularly — although it certainly feels like it is — but we do know that it is a regimen that works.

I generally run 1 mile on Mondays (say at a 6:45 pace), then do 2 miles at the track doing intervals (alternating quarter mile laps of running at a 6:00 pace and walking/slow jog). I also do a longer run later in the week, at this point around 4 miles. I’ve been throwing in stadiums in the last couple weeks, and I also try biking a bit if I need a fourth or fifth workout. (I often do four.)

Future plans

Going forward, my goal has been to increase mileage by approximately 10% per week, to avoid injury (I feel like rest has helped me sustain a relatively good pace of improvement — this may also be key.)

So here are my recent mileage totals, counting stadiums as 3 miles (due to lots of injury potential):

May 25: 6.2

Jun 1: 6.8

June 8: 6 (low bc first time doing stadiums required recovery)

June 15: 5.1 (low due to carelessness)

June 22: 3 so far, will pick up another 3 on Friday due to stadiums + long bike on Sunday. Perhaps an additional easy mile run on Saturday. That will add up to 7, perhaps.

First bike ride of the season

Did my first bike ride of the season today. I rode over to the stadium area and practiced a bit to make sure my bike was in working order, then rode up to Alewife via Mass. Ave., which I’ve never done before. It was much more of a straight shot up to Alewife than the way I had gone before, which was designed to go by Fresh Pond and avoid traffic.

I ended up doing 6.4 miles, although it was actually a bit longer as I didn’t record some segments where I had to walk the bike due to the road being one way.

Surprisingly, I found that my average speed was only 10 mi/h… barely any faster than running! (That’s a 6 minute mile.) Yeah, I’m sure this had something to do with the large number of traffic lights, and the fact that I tend to obey road laws unlike most bikers, and actually stop for lights.

But when I put the run up on Strava, I saw that I was coming close to last place on most of the segments… like around 1,800/2,000. It’s somewhat discouraging to see that, since it feels like I’m just “negatively talented” and won’t get any better despite practice. Or that I have something completely wrong with my bike like my seat position. I’m starting to think the negative reinforcement of knowing just how un-fit I am is something that discourages me from continuing to exercise, but I keep doing it because I know it’s good for me.

Ultimately, another reason I’m terrible at cardio stuff is that I don’t necessarily work out consistently. I’m constantly making exceptions or excuses not to work out — and I don’t really regret them (I have to prioritize other things in my life, especially work), but it’s still a bit frustrating. Especially to finish every workout feeling like I’m doomed to never improve.

[In retrospect, the last bit of this post was super melodramatic and needlessly negative… I’m leaving it up, though, to give some insight into how my workouts and emotional state are related.]

Ride is on Strava.

Quick update

Realize I haven’t been posting much, but here’s basically what happened:

Did burpees on both Thurs and Fri to take a break from running. Was out of town this weekend.

Missed my workout yesterday since I got up too late.

Today I ran a mile, but my shins started clenching up towards the end and I actually had to stop walking afterwards. Instead of continuing my workout, I went home and did some stretches recommended by my physical therapist, and started freezing my ice pack for icing my legs later.

Probably will switch up to some more swimming to make sure these injuries don’t get too bad.