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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Let's Not Be Too Base-ic

Don’t Let it get Too Base-ic

Case Study One – Joe Slow.

Joe Slow was a fit endurance athlete.  He had been completing events for a number of years but still hadn’t met his time goals.

“I need to do more base work – if I can get fitter then I will go fast”

And so Joe increased his long ride and run and added an extra run in each week to build up his base.

And the next year his time was virtually the same

“I need to do more base work – if I can get fitter then I will go fast”

And so Joe increased his long ride and run and added an extra run in each week to build up his base.

And the next year his time was virtually the same

Joe increased his volume again.  But now he was starting to get sick of all the sessions, his family weren’t too impressed and a nagging ankle injury kept flaring up.

Joe eventually quit having never reached his goal.

Joe made the classic mistake that equates base fitness to speed.  For new athletes, or those athletes looking to complete a longer event then base is crucial.  For experienced athletes, excess base can actually be a disadvantage for the reasons Joe experienced.

  • Excess stress on the body    
  • Lack of motivation
  • External pressures (work, family).

The pressures may not sound significant but at a hormonal level can have a negative impact by way of Cortisol.  As importantly, base training teaches the body to move efficiently at an often low aerobic pace – in short it is teaching the athlete to race slowly.

Within exercise physiology there is the concept of S.A.I.L – Specific Adaptation to Implied Load.  What this means is the body becomes more efficient at the same level of intensity.  The number of fibers recruited to perform a task decreases, the amount of oxygen required by the muscle (and therefore transported to it) decreases.

To use a car analogy imagine a car that only switched on the cylinders it needs for a given speed.  Imagine if it drove everywhere at 60kph – it may only need 2 cylinders.  If it drove at this speed for a year what would happen to the remaining cylinders ?  Eventually they would fill with gunk and stop working.  If the car suddenly wanted to accelerate to 100kph what would happen ?  The two cylinders would over work.  The same concept applies to endurance sports.  If you look at the legs of an athlete like Michael Raelert they are extremely skinny yet his speed on the bike and the run are incredible – because he has such a high percentage of fiber recruitment

Case Study Two – Mind versus Machine

I watched with interest the 2011 Hawaiian Ironman.  Two people I know were competing – both about the same age.  One has been racing for 20 years and trains approximately 35 hours a week.  He had a great performance and came in in 9:34:55.

The other has been in the sport for 4 years and has no endurance background.  He trains 12 hours a week and came in at 9:36:53

The second athlete spent time developing his base when he first started but now maintains his base and focuses on his speed and fiber recruitment

The second athlete is turning Pro next year – the first one is retiring as he doesn’t have time for “all that training”

I am sure we all know a Joe Slow.  I even know coaches who are Joe Slows – who’s times never improve and then they pass on their ‘learnings’ to their clients.

Again – Base Training is important BUT for athletes that have been in the sport for 3+ years, who can complete the distance but want to get faster the focus should be on maintaining base and developing speed.  And let’s not forget that High Intensity Training has been shown to have similar metabolic impacts on fitness markers as long aerobic training and a greated impact on Fat Loss due to EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption)

If someone tells you they rode some exorbitant number of kilometers last week ask them how much their times have improved year on year.  You may be talking to Joe…..

Monday, 17 October 2011

Specialized Shiv DI2

Last week I picked up my 2011 Specialized Shiv.  My old bike had Shimano DI2 Electronic Groupset that I wanted to install on the new bike.

The Shiv uses plastic tubes inside the frame for all cable routing.  Additionally the bottom bracket area is a sealed tube making access to the area impossible.  When I removed the forks/stem though I could see I had access to inside the frame and the cable guide tubing

First step was to run a battery wire from the seat tube to the head stem tubing.  This involved passing a gear cable through the frame to then pull the wire through.  The cable had to go to the bottom bracket area and then up the main tube as there was no access to the top tube area.  A connector was soldered and heat shrunk to the end of the wire to allow the battery/seat post to be removed.

The battery is from a radio control model car.  It is the same voltage as the standard Shimano battery but a higher amperage meaning more time between recharges.  A corresponding connector was soldered and heat shrunk to the battery leads.  The other connector is to connect to a charger

The only modification to the frame was to cut holes in the cable guide tubing to allow the cables to exit into the head stem area. (they can still be used for manual cables as the tubing wasn't cut completely through)  The cables to the front and rear derailleurs use four wires so black alarm 4 core cable was used.  This fit snuggly into the tubing.  The main control wire from the DI2 wiring kit was passed through the top cable entry point and pulled through the same hole so that all cables could be accessed via the head stem tube.

Another view of access to the cables.

At the cable exit points the wires were stripped and soldered onto the standard DI2 connectors.  The soldered joints were heat shrunk.

Once connected the joins were pushed back inside the frame for a neat appearance.  No joins were visible outside of the bike.

The standard wiring junction box was quite large.  The small square on the right is the circuit board to replace it.

Thanks to the patent database I found the circuit design from Shimano which specified the wiring in the connector that I needed to replicate

Using a 5x4 grid all of the wires were soldered into the board.  Each row was one connection/wire, each column was a colour

All wires were securely cable tied together and, after testing, the connector was wrapped in heat shrink tubing and then wedged into the main tube.

Stage II - wiring of the aerobars to come.....

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ironman 70.3 World Championships Race Report


I deliberately chose to get to the race fairly close to the day arriving on the Thursday before the race.  For the 4 weeks leading up to the race I had spent 20-30mins as often as I can in the sauna for heat acclimation.  My strategy based on years (too many) of travelling is to immediately set my clock on the destination time and then try to sleep based on that time zone.  We arrived in Vegas around 1pm so the goal was to stay awake till 9pm which was a struggle but achievable especially with a short run before dinner to shake out the cobwebs.

Registration and expo.  The american know how to organise a race.  Like Kona you have a volunteer walk you through registration.  Expo was pretty impressive as well – new newtons to be unveiled at Melbourne Marathon..

Swim, run and check in the bike.  Again there was a personal volunteer to help with check in.  I deliberately checked in the bike late.  As you check in there are people filling out stat sheets on every component on your bike.  Interestingly there were more Ceepo's than Fujis….  Didn't pig out on the day.  Ben's wife cooked us sweet potato chips cooked with coconut butter and herbs.  Awesome!

Race Day
Got up at 5am (transition closed at 6am).  Had my sweet potato mash (actually it was a jar of baby food with 100% sweet potato)

The swim was an out and back course in a freshwater lake.  As the sun was just coming up I had been experimenting with some new polarised goggles from Zoggs.  Worked well even when looking into the sun – highly recommended.  The swim course was pretty good – lots of markers.  Focused on a 4/2 breathing i.e. Alternating between breathing every 4 and every 2 strokes which I find helps me stay balanced in the water


Tough course.  Was basically out to where Hoover dam is and back.  As the race director said if you weren't riding up hill you were riding down.  The hills weren't steep – just long grinders kind of like Stromlo except for the first one which was straight out of transition!  For the first 20km I had a lot of guys going past me which typically doesn't happen.  After a while I noticed most where in the 25-29 AG so I could tell why they were going past – not because they were younger but because they were dumber :)  I stuck to my plan of riding at a HR of 3.9 (4.0 represents threshold).  First criticism of the course – aid stations were too far apart (about 20km) and the water bottles were just standard bottled water bottles which didn't fit securely on the cage.  Lost a bottle only a km or two after an aid station so had 40mins without water.  Nutrition plan was a GU Roctane every 20mins.  I used 3 flavours so I could 'cycle' them and not get sick of a flavour.  My goal was to run sub 1:30 off the bike so was very religious in my pacing so as not to tax the legs too much.  Went past a lot of the 25-29ers in the last 30km :)

I used one of the new Specialized side entry water bottle cages due to the compact frame and need to position my race number inside the triangle.  Work really well.

T2 was actually about 20km from T1 which was a bit silly for spectators.  I do like the dismount system though were you hand your bike to a volunteer at the dismount line.

Toughest run course I've seen.  First 1.5km was down hill and then a U-Turn and 3.5km uphill (again think Stromlo) and then another U-Turn and 2km down hill to the start.  3 laps of this, all on bitumen.  First lap was great.  Sat on 4:00 pace which was just above threshold.  At 5km I had a glucose shot – at 7km I felt SICK.  I think the reason is that as your body gets hotter it shunts blood away from the stomach to the skin which means 'food' isn't digested and ferments.  My only option was to drop my HR below threshold and wait for the nausea to pass.  No point sticking my fingers down my throat to chuck as that would have just expelled all my fuel..


VERY FRUSTRATED, VERY P!SSED OFF.  My legs felt fine and I knew I could hold the pace.  My running style which is a higher cadence works well on hills but my stomach didn't want to play.  Even when my stomach started to feel ok I basically couldn't be bothered running as my goal time was long gone. 


Still – Unlike others I don't quit so jogged the rest of the race. Ran up to a friend of mine - Joelene Cullen and we ran across the finish line together  Funny – unless you finish on the podium everyone seems to get the same medal.  Was proud to finish at the World Champs.

Collected my bike and found that my Garmin 800 had been stolen off it – sigh……

Interestingly, based on Tim Noakes studies, I didn't take any electrolytes.  No cramps.  My trisuit had a bit of salt on it after the bike which meant my salt reserves where already high (your body won't expel something it is short of…)

DI2 Custom Wiring


These modifications could void the warranty on all components in the DI2 Groupset.  These modification involve fine soldering – do not attempt unless you are confident in completing these steps

Make sure the battery is disconnected before cutting any wires.


The Shimano DI2 is rated at 7.4 volts / 500mAh.  This voltage is a common voltage for items such as radio control cars and video cameras.  Amperage higher than 500mAh can be safely used – in fact will give much longer battery life between recharges than the standard battery.

Choose a battery that fits best to your frame and chosen location.  I have mounted a Radio Control car battery at the top of my seat tube using double sided tape.

Ensure that you have access to the fly lead for recharging

Battery Wiring

The battery lead to the standard battery is an unshielded wire containing two finer wires.  This can be simply cut and an extension soldered to the wires to extend to your new batter mounting location. 

I solder and heat shrink each wire individually as well as a larger heat shrink tube over all  wires.  After consulting with my bicycle manufacturer a small hole was drilled near the bottom bracket and the wire fed through.  This was then sealed with silicon.

Main Wire.

The main wire to the controls is an unshielded wire consisting of 5 internal wires.  I chose not to keep the existing plug (although there is no reason why you cant).  After cutting the cable the wire is passed through the frame using one of the existing gear cable routes. The 5 wires were individually resoldered and covered in heat shrink tubing and a larger piece of heat shrink tubing was then used to cover the connections.

Hint: The internal wires are very fine – I found using children’s nail clippers worked best for stripping the wires without breaking them.

I also sourced some DI2 grommets from Shimano and used these to cover the cable exit points from the frame.


The wires to the ‘Y’ junctions are unshielded cables with 4 internal wires.  I chose to keep the existing end plugs in case I needed to quickly replace a trigger.  I cut the wires, passed through my aero bars and then resoldered and covered the individual wires with heat shrink tubing.  Larger heatshrink tubing then covered the connected wires. I chose to zip tie the small control unit to the back of the aerobar base bar.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Why Dont Thin People Get Fat

Very interesting documentary.

99% of obesity studies are on obese people but this study looked at why thin people don’t necessarily get fat.

Interested in your comments