Thursday, December 19, 2019

Zwift ride setup progression

My Proflex 856
I have used an indoor bike trainer ever since I started biking in the 90's, but only occasionally. I started off with my mountain bike (Proflex 856) on an old Travel Trac 3 trainer by replacing the knobby tires with smooth commuter tires, but I never found any way to make it fun. I have tried by listening to music, watching movies and reading books, but none of these were enough to keep my attention for long, so I never used the trainer regularly. In 2011, I bought a road bike (Mercier Corvus AL, purchased from BikesDirect.com) so I would not have to swap the tire on the mountain bike, but this did not get me on the trainer any more frequently--it just made it easier to get on.

In January 2017, I found something that actually worked to keep my attention and make the whole experience a lot more fun, and it turned into a rabbit hole that I am still trying to dig out of. I heard of this application called Zwift, and started looking into it. The price was right, and I very quickly determined that this was something that had a lot of potential. I was immediately drawn in deep. I already had enough gadgets to make everything work--a Garmin ANT+ heart rate monitor, and Garmin GSC 10 ANT+ speed/cadence sensors. I just needed a way to get my computer to be able to receive these signals so I ordered a generic ANT+ USB receiver and off I went. I think there were only three virtual worlds when I first started--Watopia, London and Richmond. I really enjoyed just exploring Watopia and time flew by. I was not doing any specific training--just riding to enjoy the scenery and test Zwift's limits.

Indoor setup with the Fluid2
Eventually, I upgraded my trainer to a CycleOps Fluid2 (purchased with gift cards from REI), still a wheel-on trainer, but at least this one was officially supported by Zwift, supposedly providing more accurate power information. Along the way, I picked up a tall stand for the computer keyboard and mouse, a remote controlled pedestal fan, various riser blocks and all sorts of other accessories to make the experience more comfortable (USB extension cables, wireless keyboard and mouse, etc.) I even outfitted my garage with a wall-mounted fan for the warmer months when I use Zwift out there because it is too hot to ride inside. Yes, I have two Zwift spots--my second-floor home office being my primary location.

After a year or so on the CycleOps Fluid2, I figured out that I wanted to see more accurate power information, so I started looking into power meters. I had a lot of choices to make--did I want a simple power meter, or something a little fancier that could measure left/right power so I could get more data? Being a data junkie, I opted for the Assioma Duo pedals, which measured left and right separately. I saved up and eventually found a deal to get them for 20% off from Clever Training. I needed to get a bike computer to actually read the left/right power data, so that led to another search, ultimately leading to a CatEye Stealth EVO Plus.

Current Setup with Elite Suito
This year, I wanted to take my setup even further. I started looking into controllable trainers, which means the resistance would be controlled by the incline and terrain of the Zwift courses, making the rides even more realistic. I settled on the Elite Suito, which I got in September as a combined birthday and Christmas present. I have been using the Suito for about 3 months now and I can say the experience has been amazing, although it took some getting used to at first. I learned that Zwift has a trainer difficulty setting. When I first started using the Suito, I had a lot of clicking on the lower and upper gears, but it was really smooth in the middle, so in December, I started looking into this and found out my road bike gearing was actually 10-speed, and the Suito came with an 11-speed cassette. Another search began--for a new cassette and to determine if this was something I could install myself. I chose a Shimano Ultegra 6700 10-speed cassette with 11-28 gearing, which is the same gear family, and the closest match with my road bike cassette. I was able to install it myself after grabbing the tools I needed from REI and a local bike shop. Now that the cassette is right, I have been using the trainer a lot more often--but of course, it is cold out and the right weather for it, too. Strange enough, I am actually trying to find ways to make my room colder when riding because the heat builds up in this room, but it beats riding in the 40F garage at this time of year. I may need a third fan to blow cold air in from the window!

I have also been using Zwift for running, and I plan to post about that soon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

My running shoe history - 2010 through early 2017

Over the last few years, I have amassed a large number of running shoes as I have been experimenting with barefoot and minimalist running. It seems like an oxymoron that I would have so many shoes yet still consider myself a barefoot and minimalist runner, but I have had small complaints or issues with almost every pair of running shoes I have tried. So, here is what I currently have in my personal inventory today and a few comments about how I use that shoe, or what I do not like about it.

Xero Shoes Prio [03/2017] (Blue/Black, 0mm drop) - Very similar to the Inov-8 Bare XF-210 (see below), but the Prio actually has a much wider foot shaped last! Very thin sole, mesh upper, with a huarache inspired lacing system that is very comfortable and adjustable. I have only worn these for casual use so far, but I am anxious to test them out on the roads and trails as soon as the weather gets warmer. These should be great for travel!

Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud [01/2017] (Charcoal/Lemon, 0mm drop) - Huaraches with built-in straps for fast entry and easy adjustments. Ideal for casual wear, hiking, short and long distance road/paved runs, and short distance trail runs. I got these as an exchange when I returned my broken Z-Trek's. The Amuri Cloud model is very comfortable for everyday use.

Skinners [01/2017] (Black, 0mm drop) - Almost not a shoe, but they are. They are essentially a thick sock with a puncture resistant sole. I now use these when going to and from fitness classes, and for quick errands They provide warmth in cold weather, and have the best barefoot feel of any shoe I have tried. I got a few short runs in them in December/January and so far, they appear to be very warm and durable. If I go for a barefoot run and want to carry something with me as backup, these will be what I will carry since they can roll up easily.

Xero Shoes Hana [10/2016] (Black/Rust, 0mm drop) - Casual shoe, no plans to use them for running although they would probably be idea for short road runs. The toe box is wide and comfortable.


Asics Gel Nimbus 17 [02/2016] (Red/Black, 10mm drop) - Ideal for long road/paved runs. Significant padding helps when my Achilles flares up, although I often get numb toes when running with these. Maybe I need to try a thinner insole?

Inov-8 Bare XF-210 [08/2014] (Black/Yellow, 0mm drop) - Ideal for short road runs and fitness classes. Very thin soles, very ventilated uppers.
 

Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa [06/2014] (Black/Grey, 0mm drop) - Ideal for hiking and short road and trail runs. Slip-on convenience! Got the second pair at a significant discount, and figured it would be good to have a spare since I used to use the other SeeYa's so frequently.

Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud [05/2014] (Black/Charcoal, 0mm drop) - Huaraches with built-in straps for fast entry and easy adjustments. Ideal for casual wear, hiking, short and long distance road/paved runs, and short distance trail runs. I have since customized this pair with Xero's updated heel straps, and red laces for a dash of color. Unfortunately, I have experienced a few breaks in the sole, where the lace connects, and Xero Shoes have replaced these twice under warranty. They tell me they have reinforced this problem, so hopefully I am good to go now!

Inov-8 Trailroc 235 [11/2013] (Yellow, 0mm drop) - Ideal for short and longer trail runs where the terrain is not too technical. Handles mud and snow very well.

Inov-8 Trailroc 245 [07/2013] (Red, 4mm drop) - Ideal for long, technical trail runs. Handles mud and snow very well.

Altra Instinct 1.0 [08/2012] (Black/Grey, 0mm drop) - Idea for short and long road/paved runs. Some padding, but not too much. My go-to casual (and sometimes work) shoe now. The toe box is wide and comfortable.
 Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa [08/2012] (Sunburst, 0mm drop) - Ideal for hiking and short road and trail runs. Slip-on convenience! My favorite VFF's!

Merrell Embark Glove [11/2012] (Orange, 0mm drop) - Gore-Tex version of the Trail Glove, perfect for cold and wet weather. Very waterproof, but not very breathable. Can wear with or without socks and still stay warm. These rub by heels and cause blisters, even with socks, because the heel cup is very rigid, but even with that problem, I still use them when conditions warrant since they are my only true waterproof shoe.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek [09/2010] (Black, 0mm drop) - Leather, ideal for colder weather hiking and short road and trail runs. These do not see much use any more, but I am holding on to them since they are discontinued and would still function well.

Semi-retired:

Hoka One One Challenge ATR 2 [03/2016-TBD] (Grey/Citrus, 5mm drop) - Originally purchased while I was experiencing Achilles flares, but caused other problems, so they are now gathering dust. I have kept them around because they are still fully functional. I did recently use them with my snowshoes and they worked well.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS [10/2011] (Grey/Green, 0mm drop) - I don't use these often. I keep them by the treadmill and only use them when running indoors. They are a little big on me, but I never took the time to go back and return or exchange them for a smaller size.


Merrell Trail Glove [08/2010-TBD] (Black/Red, 0mm drop) - My first minimalist trail running shoe. After trying several VFF KSO's, I found these and used them everywhere. They fit best without socks, and then they really fit like a glove. Ideal for hiking, and short and long distance trail running. I should retire these, but since they have no padding to wear out, they are still usable!

Retired:

Xero Shoes Z-Trek [03/2015-11/2016] (Red, 0mm drop) - Used for short distance trail running, but the strap eventually broke from the sole during a run, so they were returned, under warranty.

New Balance Minimus Road MR10 [03/2012-02/2017] (Red/Black, 4mm drop) - Ideal for casual walking, and short road runs when I need a little padding.

New Balance Minimus Road MR00 [01/2012-02/2017] (Yellow/White, 0mm drop) - Ideal for casual walking, and short distance road running. They have some padding, but it is very minimal.

New Balance Minimus Trail Zero [11/2010-Unknown] (Blue/Black, 4mm drop) - Retired after I wore out the uppers to the point where they were almost sandals!

Vibram FiveFingers KSO [06/2011-07/2014] (Grey/Green, 0mm drop) - Barely used this pair, and sold these to a friend at a steep discount while they were still like-new.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO [03/2011-02/2017] (Black/Grey/Camo, 0mm drop) - Idea for hiking and short road and trail runs. I just don't use them any more as I prefer the SeeYa when I want to wear FiveFingers.


Mizuno Wave Precision 11 [2011-02/2017] (White/Blue, 14mm drop) - Used for short and long distance road/paved running while I was dealing with tendonitis in my left foot many years ago.

Brooks Cascadia 6 [2011-02/2017] (Blue/Grey, 10mm drop) - Used for short and long distance trail running while I was dealing with tendonitis in my left foot many years ago.


Saucony Progrid Kinvara [09/2010-2011] (White/Red, 10.5mm drop) - My first road running shoe. Got me through some tendonitis in my left foot when I did too much too soon with the Vibram's. These were too 'squishy' for me and they fell apart quickly.

Vibram FiveFingers Classic [05/2010-2014] (Grey/Green, 0mm drop) - My first VFF's... used these for a lot of hiking (including a trip to Sedona, AZ) and lots of casual use.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Time flies when you're having fun...

My first few years of running were spent chasing down races and events because I was having fun, and that is what I was supposed to do, right? I recently realized that I have more fun running on my own, or carefully selecting specific events that have more meaning. In addition, I have been doing a lot of cross training, mostly at UFC Gym and Purenergy Studio. Most recently, I discovered the online world of Zwift and I have been putting a lot of miles on my bike without even leaving my garage!

Here are a few race reports from 2016 that I wanted to share:

I finally had the pleasure of running a trail race that I have had my eyes on for a few years--the Radnor Hunt Steeplechase. The course for this race is mostly grass fields, with a few gravel driveway crossings here and there, but the fun part is that there are horse jumps throughout the course, and a few water pits thrown in for the fun of it. I was able to run the race barefoot and had no problems. I would probably consider this race and course to be one of the most barefoot-friendly courses I have ever run. I also found out later that I was not the only barefoot runner there! The other barefoot runner must have been ahead of me because a few of the volunteers made mention of the other runner to me as I passed them. I had not trained for speed, so I was really just running this race for fun. It was a blast hopping and vaulting over the horse jumps, and the water pits were interesting--turns out they are gravel lined. This race benefits a charity called Students Run Philly Style and I think about half of the participants in the race were from this group. It was so much fun watching them have a good time, and it was also fun cheering them on after I finished. At the end of this race, there was a beer garden sponsored by Victory, one of my favorite local breweries. I was able to enjoy a post-run beer and taco and then continue on with my day.

In August, I ran Zane's Run, which I have participated in almost every year since I found out about it (I only missed one year because I was traveling at the time.) I have a personal connection to this race, as the person who puts on this race was in my high school class. The race is an event to raise money for SMA awareness and to help support families affected by SMA. The course used to be at a local elementary school and I used to ride my bike to the race start (they also used to have a 5-mile option which I preferred), but now it is at the district middle school which is a bit further away so I have to drive to the start (and they got rid of the 5-mile option when they moved the race here.) The organizers of this run, and the people who come to cheer others on are so nice and it is just such a positive atmosphere, which makes for a very fun race. The course is nothing fancy--a dash down the high school driveway, a connector path to a development, and then it follows a few neighborhood streets, finally making a U-turn to allow runners to return the very same way they came from. It is a somewhat fast course, but there are some hills in the development that add a little challenge for the return. I set my 5K PR on this course, and I have run it barefoot in the past (my 5K PR was set while running barefoot on this course!) I mostly enjoy this race for the people and the atmosphere--not necessarily the course.

Finally, my third and final race of the year was the Winterthur Run Inspired 10K. This run was held at the Winterthur property in Delaware, and it was beautiful. The race was in October and was very scenic. The race benefited a charity called Operation Warm, providing brand-new coats to children in need. I still prefer trail races, but every once in a while, there is a paved run that catches my attention and this one did just that. They have a video of the course on the web site and that video was what sold me. Of course, I also registered early and got a good discount on the race and that never hurts either. Run Inspired is going to be making a donation to Operation Warm for every entrant of this race, so I have already made a difference for someone in need. I was able to run this race barefoot as well, and thankfully the pavement was smooth enough everywhere except for close to the start/finish line. Again, I was not here to set a PR, but to enjoy the scenery and support a charity.

Here is an update on my past injuries and shoe preferences:

I spent most of 2015 trying to figure out how to deal with silly problems like Achilles tendinitis. I went through a phase in early 2016 where I was trying out padded shoes to attempt to combat the pain. I figured out that while they helped the symptoms for a period of time, the extra padding was causing other problems and those problems started to aggravate my Achilles again, especially when running trails, so those shoes are now pretty much retired already (although I will still use the Asics Gel Nimbus for longer road runs.) I finally found a better solution in 2016 while working with a mayofacial release therapist--she helped me find a few specific stretches to counter a leg length imbalance. Whenever I notice the pain starting to reoccur, I start doing these stretches again and find noticeable relief pretty quickly. My acupuncture therapist made the recommendation about the mayofascial release.

Right now, my favorite shoes for running are my huaraches made by Xero Shoes. I am still throwing in a few barefoot miles here and there for the fun of it (although not so much now that it is Winter.) It took me a long time to tweak my huaraches for comfort, but the time was well spent. I modified my Amuri Cloud's by replacing the rubber heel strap cover with the updated nylon straps. These straps feel so much more comfortable and provide the support that locks my foot in place and prevents any front and back sliding that I was experiencing. I also took the time to personalize the laces while I was doing this so I finally have the red color that I always wanted. These huaraches are my go-to shoe for road running and light trail use. They do not have a lot of protection for rugged trails, but that does not always stop me from using them. I did pick up the latest Xero Amuri Z-Trail model for more rugged trail runs, but I have been having problems with them rubbing uncomfortably. They eventually broke, and I exchanged them for another pair of Amuri Cloud's. When the trails get rugged, I usually just increase my cadence and I seem to do just fine with the huaraches. My go-to shoes for the trails are still my Inov-8 Trailroc's (the 235's work great for short trail runs, and 245's for longer and more rugged trails.)