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My Favorite Piece of Gear: Meredith Miller

by Meredith Miller in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

What is my favorite piece of gear? Tough question! For anyone who has been involved in cycling long term, you know all too well that there is a lot of gear that comes with the territory. In fact, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to choose the best helmet, the most comfortable shoes, the lightest bike, the coolest sunglasses or even the right bike light.

Having been in the sport for as long as I have, various pieces of gear has found its way into every nook and cranny in my house. I’m in a fortunate position that I have multiple items to pick from when I am deciding what glasses to wear that day or what wheels to use, but there is some gear that stands out in my mind as my go to gear on a daily basis and for every road trip – Thule luggage. It’s my gear of choice I use to pack the rest of my gear of choice. As Thule says, it’s

“Designed to meet the specific needs of people who take their gear from point A to points B through Z and want to make sure it gets there in one piece and ready for action.”

Thule has kept the “gear head” in mind by designing every size and shape of luggage imaginable to give every person the flexibility in packing just what he or she needs. When packing I have multiple bags to choose from – a small 56 Liter rolling duffel to carry-on, an 87 Liter rolling duffel to check-in, a 70 Liter duffel, a 30 Liter backpack. Depending on how many days or weeks I will be on the road, I might choose just the small carry-on duffel or I might have to go with all of the above for the long 3 week haul.

Regardless of the length of the trip, the one bag that stays with me at all times is my 30 Liter backpack. It fits all the small bits and pieces that I need in the front pocket, my MacBook, power cords and books in the main, spacious compartment and my glasses and other fragile items in the crush-proof compartment. The side pockets are a handy place to stash cash that I’ll find on a later trip just when I need it. Plus, it’s super comfy and fits well even when it is loaded down with all sorts of odds and ends inside.

All of the Thule bags are incredible durable, easy to maneuver, roll smoothly and are functional for any type of gear. Hands down, Thule bags are the best (and my favorite) for carrying all the rest.

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Mark

by Mark Swartzendruber in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

In honor of Oktoberfest, which is in full swing all over the world, here are some great Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Mark. Be sure to check out more Do’s and Don’ts from Keyon over here.

I find myself uniquely qualified to report on this subject. I have just recently returned from a reconnaissance mission for the Train with Grain editorial board in which I was sent to Munich, Germany and without argument the largest Beerfest in the world – Oktoberfest.  He is what I learned…

  • Dress Appropriately

  • Do your best to not attract undue attention to yourself with outlandish and inappropriate attire.  The party is about the party – not about you.
  • From time to time, take a breather.  You will never succeed at drinking all the beer in the world.  If it were possible, Munich would be a dry city by September 20thevery year.
  • If you’re in for the long haul, find a quiet place to take a nap.  You’ll wake up invigorated and ready for another round.
  • EAT!  Nothing puts a good Beerfest to an early end like a belly full of nothing but fermented grain beverage.  Beerfest is an endurance event and you need sustenance in order to perform at peak levels.  Some suggested sources for proper Beerfest nutrition…

Weisswurst und Sauerkraut

Curry Wurst

Schwein Shaxen (pork knuckle) – the undisputed king of all Beerfest cuisine

With the exception of the sprinkling of chives on the perfectly beautiful potato dumpling above, you’ll note the complete lack of anything green on the above plates.  This is intentional.  Proper Beerfest fare is specifically designed to absorb and achieve a perfect carbohydrate and protein balance.  Arugula simply has no place at the Beerfest table.

  • Enjoy the company of a few great friends
  • Dance!  The movement is necessary to stimulate your metabolism to break down and absorb the beer and sausage.

  • Finally and in all seriousness if you do not have a designated sober driver – Walk.  Cab.  Public Transportation.  There is no lower life form than one who mans the rudder while under the influence of intoxicants.
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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Keyon

by Keyon Maljai in Train With Grain, Triathlons

In honor of Oktoberfest, which is in full swing all over the world, here are some great Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Keyon. Be sure to check out more Do’s and Don’ts from Mark over here.

Wow, Beefest Do’s and Don’ts.  There’s so many Don’ts that I hope I’ll be able to help with some of the Do’s.  I guess the Do’s and Don’ts are determined by if you’re in season or if you’re out of training season.

Do’s: Get a designated driver.

Do’s: Bring a lot of cash.

Do’s: Make a pretzel necklace, I don’t know why, but everyone else does.

Do’s: Remember to eat before you head out the door.

Do’s: Take a shower before you go.  I’ve been to way too many summer Beerfest’s where the overlying theme is awful B.O.

Do’s: Wear shoes.  Those things can get crowded and you have to protect your toes for your next race.

Do’s: If you’re still in training mode, rotate a cup of water every other beer. This will help cut down on the beer consumption and keep you within proper limits.

Do’s: Set a limit for how many beers you want to drink.  You can still have fun without drinking a ton during Beerfest.

Do’s: Take lots of fun pictures to remember the day.

Don’ts: Don’t drive home.  Seriously, get a Designated Driver.

Don’ts: If you’re a girl, don’t wear high heels to these things.  Especially if you have a race coming up, skip the heels.  How bad would it be if you couldn’t compete because you hurt your ankle walking on all that uneven grass during Beerfest.

Don’ts: If you have a race coming up its probably a good idea for you skip the beer altogether.  If you’re concerned with staying hydrated, skip the beer and just drink water and enjoy the scene.

Don’ts: Don’t wear your nicest clothes.  As the day progresses, spills are guaranteed, by you or by others.

Don’ts: Don’t be that guy…(you know what I mean)

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Keyon Maljai Google: Keyon Maljai
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Quinoa Salad for Madison USGP

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cyclocross, Road Cycling, Train With Grain, Triathlons

Some of our sponsored cyclocross racers got together to make this awesome video. Don’t they look great in their Bob’s Red Mill kits? Here we have Joe Czerwonka, Mo Bruno-Roy and Marne Smiley showing you how easy it is to make Quinoa Salad. You can find the full recipe here.

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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Athlete Diary: Julian Pscheid

by Julian Pscheid in Train With Grain, Triathlons

I recently completed my last triathlon of the season, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens. The race went great and was a great wrap to a very successful triathlon season.

My focus now shifts to training for Portland Marathon on October 9th, so my ratio of swim/bike/run shifts from 25%/50%/25% to 15%/25%/60%. This allows me to increase my weekly mileage and arrange my training week around my 20+ mile long runs on Saturdays. Since April I’ve been training with the Get Fit Live Fit marathon program offered by Fit Right NW, which has offered not only guidance around how to safely approach the marathon distance, but also helped me work around injuries throughout the season.

After the marathon is over I look forward to two months of strength and light base training before I kick back into high gear in January. The main race next year for me will be Ironman Canada in August, and I am extremely excited for the challenge of preparing for such a demanding race.

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Julian Pscheid Google: Julian Pscheid
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Recovery Tips

by Mark Swartzendruber in Cycling, Cyclocross, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Ahhh, it’s September.  College Football, the NFL is starting for real and a nip of fall is in the air as the temperatures cool at night and the humidity drops.  It’s just about the time for the road weary cyclists to turn his thoughts to…wait for it…wait for it…CYCLOCROSS!

What?!  Wait a minute friend.  You’ve been at this stuff for a full year.  Remember?  You finished your season last year in mid September.  You took a few weeks to just enjoy riding a bike without your power meter and heart rate monitor.  Maybe you did a couple of club century rides, making sure to stop for the strawberry rhubarb pie and apple fritters along the route.  You played a couple of rounds of golf on some gorgeous autumn afternoons because everyone knows the best time to golf is after Labor Day when the masses are off the course and you can zip around in cart or walk a round by yourself and never see another soul on the course but for an occasional worker from the greens keeping crew.

Then, November came and with it, you began to build your fitness for the upcoming season.  You worked out on the trainer, lifted weights, took some hard spin classes and put in some hellish long weekends on the trainer to get up to 15 hours a week on the bike.  When the weather warmed enough to venture outside, you made the most of it, logging 4-6 hours of road time because you didn’t know when the next time would come that the weather would allow you to ride outside.

Then March came and so did the racing season and you’ve done more than 50 races.  It’s been a good year but you’re starting to show signs of fatigue.  The power meter is showing lower numbers each effort.  Your legs never really seem to clear the lactic acid during races and your attacks just aren’t crisp any more. It’s time to take a break.

But, all you can think about is cyclocross.  Hey, give yourself a rest.  Remember your winning formula from last year.  Leisurely bike rides, golf, toss that power meter to the curb and stop pushing…just for a bit.

Most of those hard core ‘cross racers didn’t put in serious road seasons.  Sure there are the rare few who are able to move right from the road to the mud and kick butt every step of the way but remember – they’re the exception, not the rule and besides – most of the time, those guys weren’t really on top form until July.  They plan it that way.  They’re resting too but just doing it later than you are.  If you’re a dedicated road racer going hard from February to October, you can’t jump directly into another racing season and expect to be effective.  You need to recover.  Here’s how.

  • Keep yourself out of Zone 4 and 5 when you ride.  Keep things conversational. It’s important to not allow yourself to completely lose fitness but if you continue pushing, you’ll pay for it with fatigue in April.  Not good.
  • Absolutely take a day off – especially when the weather is beautiful.  Take a walk in the woods with your dog, play some golf, go kayaking, fishing—anything but riding a bike.  It will do wonders for your mental recovery too.
  • If you can stand it – do some running.  Use some different muscle groups
  • Take a yoga class that emphasizes stretching and core strength
  • Go to the gym and work on your depleted upper body.  Save the weight lifting with your legs for later.  Cyclists need to have some shoulder, back and core muscles too.
  • Take up a hobby like cooking or baking.  Challenge yourself to see how many Bob’s Red Mill grains and flours you can use.
  • Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep at night.  The HGH your body produces during deep sleep is invaluable to helping you recover after a long season
  • Go ahead and enjoy some ‘cross racing.  Why not?  Most people see it as a mental break from the road season.  It’s okay to have the occasional push, hard effort and have people ring cow bells in your ears.  Knock yourself out, but if you do a full ‘cross season, remember to take your recovery and rest period into the late winter before you start building for the road season.

Remember, even when you’re well trained and race fit and the efforts you make in races seem – well, effortless – you’re putting a lot of stress on your body and unless you give yourself a chance to recover both physically and mentally after a long season you’ll never really be able to reach peak performance next season.

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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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Recommended Reading for Triathletes

by Julian Pscheid in Train With Grain, Triathlons

No matter if you are a triathlon newbie or a seasoned athlete, there seems to always be more to learn and understand about how to best train and prepare for triathlons. If you consider yourself a self-coached athlete, books will quickly prove to be the best source of information about the sport. I learned almost everything I know about training from miscellaneous books and magazines I have read over the years, but as I have progressed as a triathlete, some books have stood out. The following three books guided me along the path from my first triathlon to training for my first Ironman:

As a newcomer to the sport of triathlon I needed a book that explained all the basics, while not overwhelming me with too much information. “Triathlete Magazine’s Complete Triathlon Book” provided me with all the knowledge needed to successfully complete my first few triathlons. The book covers everything from diet and health to equipment and safety tips.

Once I was comfortable with racing, I was ready to learn how to plan a complete season, using periodization to break up the year into different phases and correctly plan around races. The book that helped me take my training to that next level was “The Triathlete’s Training Bible.” One note though: This book has A LOT of information. Make sure you have a few triathlons under your belt before you attempt to digest it.

Over the coming year I am taking the next step–training for an Ironman. The requirements of training for that distance will add an additional levels of stress to my already busy life. Therefore I picked up “Be Iron Fit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness .” This book explains the most popular training and time management methods used by professionals with busy lives, allowing them to train 15 – 20 hours a week while still managing their careers and spending time with their family.

I highly recommend these books depending on your experience level. Also, don’t hesitate to look at your bookshop for other resources (I recommend Amazon)–there is a book for virtually every level of athlete.

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Julian Pscheid Google: Julian Pscheid
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Improve Bike Performance with these Off-Bike Activities

by Joan Hanscom in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

The end of the road season is fast upon us.  My bags for Bend are packed, my bike has been shipped and there is one race left.  But that doesn’t mean training ends.  As anybody who loves riding and racing a bike will tell you – training goes on year round though it changes some.  I start adding in more of the things that I cut back on during the summer racing season, dialing back time on the bike and increasing other activities off the bike.

Core strength and flexibility are two things that really help you as a cyclist.  Upper body strength too – despite how spindly the Tour de France riders may look on tv – makes a big difference.  You don’t need to be like Arnold in his Terminator days but you don’t want to be wet spaghetti either.  You got spaghetti arms and a weak belly you got a SLOW sprint!

During the season, I maintain a flexibility program.  For me it’s not that I need to be able to do splits like back in my ballet days, but it creates and maintains balance in your body.  If you are spending 15-20 hours a week in one position bent over your handlebars it does a body good to bend in the other direction every now and then!  I am a big believer in the Active-Isolated stretch technique.  It’s not static stretching like you likely remember from high school gym class.  It’s, well, ACTIVE.  The premise is relatively simple – you work across specific joints (hence isolated), pumping blood-flow through joints and muscles by working through ranges of motion, never holding a stretch for more than a couple of seconds.  As the muscles get warmer and loosen up you can stretch deeper and deeper.  A key component of this technique is utilizing the opposing muscle groups to deepen the stretch – so if you are working on hamstring flexibility you would use your quadriceps to enhance the stretch by contracting them (the theory being the contracted quad, enables the hamstring to relax and lengthen). For more information I would refer you to http://www.whartonperformance.com/page2/page2.html or to The Wharton’s Stretch Book written by Jim and Phil Wharton.  Very simple and straightforward and highlights specific flexibility practices for specific sports.  Great stuff!

The other thing that I try to focus on year round is core strength.   Sometimes when my on-the-bike time is really high it’s as simple as doing 100 crunches in the mornings sprawled across my swiss ball.  But when my bike time is cut back, during the off-season or even on a light week, I love to add in yoga practice.  Different styles of yoga for different folks – I like Vinyasa the best, but find what you like and go for it.  Core strength is so important on the bike – for climbing and sprinting.  Breathing obviously a great skill to have on the bike and off.  Upper body strength too.  All of these things you can hone and develop through your yoga practice. Say hello to Chaturanga Dandasana!

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Joan Hanscom Google: Joan Hanscom
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Recovery Tips

by Meredith Miller in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Everyone knows that in order to perform well, you must train hard and train right. What many people forget is that part of the train hard, train right formula is RECOVERY. The best laid plan isn’t complete without the proper rest and recovery. It should be part of your routine monthly, weekly and daily. Without attention to recovery, you’ll hit the wall sooner than later and all that hard work you’ve put into your training will come to naught.

REST DAYS

If your plan is to race a full season, then the best approach is to sit down with a coach to talk about the season as a whole so you can plan your peaks as well as your recovery weeks. Over the years, one thing I have heard over and over again is how little consideration people give recovery days because they think they’ll lose fitness. Rest days ARE training days. They are as important or more than the lung busting, leg burning intervals that everyone thinks are the key to going fast. Even within day-to-day training rest days are important. Do not underestimate the power of complete days off the bike and easy spinning, even if it feels like you’re going slower than your grandma. Remember that quality is more important that quantity, and this includes rest days as well.

HYDRATION

You’ve heard it before. Drink water to stay hydrated. It’s no secret. But the question during training or racing is water or drink mix? It depends. Under normal conditions water is adequate. However, when you’ve got a long day on the bike planned or the mercury has risen, ingesting calories through a drink is a good idea. I’m not an expert on prescribing hydration formulas, so I will refer you to the respected scientists who have formulated the “Secret Drink Mix” to get the information you need. I recommend reading the article on Bike Radar to get the low down on the science behind this drink mix. Bottom line…replace the fluid that was lost during exercise.

EAT

Don’t be afraid to eat carbohydrates! Carbs are the main source of fuel during exercise. You must replace what you use. It’s pretty easy. Although carbohydrates are most important, it is a combination of carbs and protein (approx a 4:1 ratio of carbs to proten) that will ensure you get what you need for proper recovery. Sure, there are formulas out there that suggest a certain amount of carbs and protein per body weight, but if you can consume any sort of healthy food (I like foods like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, chocolate milk, trail mix, and fruit) within the first 30-60 min after exercise, you are on the right track.

WARM UP/COOL DOWN

For shorter and harder races, you need more warm up. If it’s the type of race that will start off hard and fast, then you need to do a few hard efforts in warm up. After a race, especially one that made you dig deep, you’ll feel better the next day if you allow yourself 15-20 minutes to cool down by spinning at a slow speed, high cadence.

STRETCH/MASSAGE

Stretching is not an activity that is in many cyclists’ training programs, but it helps your body stay supple and flexible. When I am home I try to get regular massages (~1/week minimum) to help work out the kinks and soreness. A good massage therapist can help you iron out small problems, help you stretch and help you relax after a hard day of training or racing. Regular massage is not cheap, but it can help you stay on top of any problems you might have or even treat issues before they become a problem.

SLEEP

Naps are my all time favorite thing to do. After a hard day on the bike, I look forward to a little sleepy time on the couch. They help me relax, recover and put my mind at ease for a little while. Most importantly, though, is to get adequate sleep nightly to best prepare mentally and physically for the stresses that lie ahead.

 

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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Injuries: They’re a Pain!

by Doug Carr in Train With Grain, Triathlons

In any sport, injuries are a fact of life. Their causes are many and not always associated with stand-alone training or participation within your particular event. In 2005, elite runner Deena Kastor stepped on a large pinecone and rolled her ankle. For anyone who’s ever done this, I don’t need to tell you how painful it is, and how tentative you become as a result of it. Through the recovery process, you’re reminded of this fact with nearly every step you take toward getting better and fully healed.

I recall our daughter’s cross-country coach reading her the riot act for training for a marathon, in her last year of high school. It was a goal she had set to complete before graduation. Training started near the end of the spring track season, into summer, and the race took place halfway through the following fall cross-country season. I was her marathon coach, and no, her high school coach knew nothing of the training…until she crossed the finish line and word started to spread amongst her friends, who hadn’t known either. To make a long story short, the words that reverberated the most came from her coach, to the effect that she could’ve injured herself. I told our daughter, “That’s true. And you could’ve injured yourself stepping off a curb too.” The point is, injuries will come from anywhere, are unplanned and can happen at some of the most inopportune moments. What’s the alternative? Stay inside and injur your thumb on the remote control button, and trip over the cat when you go to get some ice? For some, maybe?

Dealing with injuries has a profound effect on an athlete’s mental state, sometimes more so than the physical pain from the injury itself. They don’t want to sacrifice any of their fitness level, lest they suffer detraining. However – and here’s the double edge sword – some injuries are a direct result of overtraining, caused when secondary and tertiary muscles are recruited as crutches, for primary muscles that have not fully recovered. You might consider this a “senseless” injury, because it’s so easily prevented through adequate rest and recovery. The athlete might then feel foolish, and at the same time is already dealing with the mental anguish of not being able to train at 100%.

So what do we do when we get injured? First and foremost we determine how serious the injury is. Is it something that requires attention from a medical professional? Maybe an opinion is needed from a professional to determine if the injury really is what we think it is, and not something associated with another condition or the improper use of a piece of gear. Does your foot hurt because you pulled something, or is it just the wrong shoe for you? Pain is the body’s best indicator that something just isn’t right. Our immediate task is to find out what’s wrong, and begin to correct the problem before causing further damage.

Second, what is the typical course of action for your particular injury? Does the diagnosis require R.I.C.E (Rest Ice Compression Elevation), stretching, alignment (chiropractic, physical therapy, etc.), heat/cold treatments? How long can you expect to be out of commission?

Third, what types of alternate training would you be allowed to do? With a lower body injury, can you swim to maintain aerobic fitness? How about riding the trainer to deal with upper body injuries? It may feel like it, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Ultimately, you’ll have to question whether continued training is helpful (even if only mentally) or harmful.

A pulled hamstring injury severely shortened my 2006 race season, when I couldn’t complete a run without pain. I thought I was doing myself a favor by only riding the bike, and completely staying out of the running shoes. Fact is, I wasn’t allowing it to heal at all. It wasn’t until I had an assessment done that I learned something in my back was tweaked just enough to affect that area.

We will all, at one point or another, experience injuries, obstacles and setbacks. It’s the price we pay for what we do out there. How we handle the recovery and healing process is up to us. We can prolong the agony and anguish by continuing to push too hard, or we can take a step back and look at the big picture, then figure out a way to come out stronger physically and mentally.

By the way, our daughter proudly wore her finisher’s medal attached to her Honors Graduate medal at her graduation. You think I was proud to see that? Just a little!!

Train With Grain!!

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Doug Carr Google: Doug Carr
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