Friday, July 2, 2010

Heat adaptation

While living in Ottawa I've found that the temperature rises to uncomfortable levels on only a dozen or so days a year. I've also found that regardless of living in Toronto or Ottawa, I seem to have a great inability to tolerate heat very much and I generally overheat in typical fashion - by sweating profusely, a drop in blood pressure and eventually keeling over at the side of a road. Somewhere.

When I was seventeen, I wore a long, art-inspired ponytail. My hair was so thick that I had to use a helmet one size larger than when I have short hair. Seventeen was also the year that I significantly increased my coffee intake, not just because a Starbucks opened across the street from where I worked, but because the cute girl there gave me free coffee...and she was cute so I consumed more coffee than was probably healthy.

In any case, on one Saturday July morning, the donut ride wasn't moving particularly fast and the heat was pretty bearable. By the time we hit Keele just north of Major MacKenzie though, I had already drunk the two waterbottles I was carrying. I was pulling the front group at a comfortable pace (32 kph) when suddenly I felt pretty weak. I didn't have a complete feeling of bonking though, just a feeling like I should take it easy and chill at the back of the small group (we were only six guys at this point) and try to survive to the bakery at the turnaround. Fairly soon after that I found myself wondering which curb was the real curb and which one was the fake curb, since my eyes started to cross. I opted for the curb on the right, and found myself looking at the sky a few minutes later. So far I could see it seemed like I landed on the front lawn of an abandoned, boarded up house, near a quarry of some sort. I got back on my feet and tried to stand upright but found that I could only teeter "Night of the Living Dead" zombie like to the house (if you can place a zombie in spandex)... I got to the faucet, turned it on and just like you would expect, a gasp of dust hissed from the tap. I started to wonder if this experience was actually a mirage and I was still lying on the ground or something so I looked back at my bike half-expecting to see my body still there.


By this point I could feel my mouth and tongue gluing together in a dry, dusty, seizing, rusty-seatpost-to-steel-frame kind of way. I staggered to the condemned house next door, and figured maybe if the first house had its water turned off from inside, and not from some main, I might be in luck. IFs. I can't stand if statements. But you hang on to them. You hang on to them like what if the girl at Starbucks didn't smoke, would you have the balls to ask her out then?

If that tap didn't have water in it, I was going to try to make it to the office I could make out in the quarry. I remember looking at that quarry, through the heat, the white of pit, the black windows of the office, the chain-link fence. Heat waves rising out from it. I turned the tap. It squeaked, sputtered and horked out a shot of brown water. Then out gushed water! Clear water - I filled up my bottle to see what color it was and it was clear! I worried a bit about what else could be in it, but I couldn't give a shit anymore. Clear was clean and I drenched myself with it filled my bottles up and drank as much as I could fill my stomach with. Hey look at that guy hahaha! Seriously? The pack?

I made it to the bakery and stuffed as much food and drink into me and my jersey as I could. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized just how much caffeine, ephedrine, alcohol and long hair can impact high performance athleticism. Some guys can take it all in and that stuff has no ill effects but for those of us that can't handle the heat, do absolutely everything possible to limit overheating.

1) Stop drinking anything with caffeine. Seriously.
2) Stop drinking alcohol.
3) Take something other than ephedrine if you need stimulants.

In addition, other than keeping fat off your body, heat adaptation training is a must. Do it in an area that is populated so you won't die on the side of the road somewhere.

1) Overdress. Not a lot, just enough to bring your temperature up 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Aim for the hottest time of day on the hottest street. For me it was the industrial park loop.
3) Focus on a time goal and work up to it. If you often race at two o'clock in the afternoon, then you're going to have to aim to do 4 hours of heat training. Work your way up from 30 minutes.
4) Don't forget some emergency supplies - a gel shot with some caffeine in it can help stimulate enough adrenaline to get you home if you feel like you're about to faint.
5) Figure out what facilities are on your route: Bars, office buildings, recycling centers, parks - anywhere that might have a phone and water in an emergency.
6) "And Then the Vulture Eats You" is a good book on understanding not just what you're up against, but for creating a focal point on the task at hand at what kind of determination it requires to get you there.

Training to be a pro requires professional focus and a certain, well, respect for what precisely is required of you to get there. Don't short change yourself and when you size up a task to complete, consider that it will take 30% more mental fortitude to get you there then you think it would. The biggest egos in sport never get this but the best do. It's not that the best are more humble, it's just that they know better.

A couple of other things: Supplementing with glycerine (adding 1 ml/kilogram to the 1 liter of water you drink in the hour before competition) can help in water retention. The drawback? A pretty bad headache if you're a caffeine drinker, a not so bad one if you are not. While it doesn't increase performance through some stimulating effect, it does stave off heatstroke for those of us that sweat profusely. If you want info on this, google: glycerine or glycerol +hypohydration +filetype:pdf.

Heatstroke. If you have heatstroke treat it like a bad fever. Drink a ton of Gatorade/Cytomax/Powerade, whatev, (or homemade concoction). Take a couple of extra strength acetaminophen. Get in the tub and fill it slowly with cool water (don't jump into a full tub of cold water unless you like shocking the shit out of yourself).

If you don't have heatstroke, cool down like you would normally. The point of heat adaptation training is to get your body used to dealing with heat on its own.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Repurposing those crappy multi-tools you get with magazine subcriptions

About the one tool I find I need on a keychain the most is a flat-head screwdriver. Using a dime can work in a pinch but it never seems to have a) enough of a flat edge and b) just lacks the right amount of leverage.

So I've had this low-quality multi-tool in my tool box for about a few years now and I've finally found a use for it. I've taken it apart.

Total time: about 5 minutes.

Step one, place two lengths of wood underneath (so you don't mar your floor and so you can take advantage of the gap in a second).

Pry off the glued-on, "put your logo here" promotional face. Sometimes this piece is made of metal, so in those cases there will be small metal tabs underneath the ends that you'll have to pry at.

Here's where you can take advantage of the gap. Pick the tool you want out of the set and punch out the rivet holding onto it. I used a three-pound hammer and placed the rivet between the gap so it would come out easily. You might need to use small vise-grips to remove the rivet completely.

Take the tool out and put it on your keychain. Done.

Ironically, a flat-head screwdriver from a multi-tool is particularly useful in opening the tools from a multi-tool. Especially if you have short fingernails and/or you're an older gentleman like my father, for whom I purchased one in anticipation of this upcoming Father's Day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

And what do you get?

...and so I tore off after them. God this shit is good this is no problem! Ephedrine is something else, it gets into your head and focuses your attention, not a single color escapes your vision c'mon fuckers you need to be chased, um, it doesn't hold back stupid ideas however. And there's something else to it, something that you feel that is inescapable as the stuff pumps through you, this feeling that its draining, squeezing, wrenching absolutely every drop of maltodextrin out of that last "power drink" you had to "top up" from that last workout. *power drink - it's a marketing term for sugar, potassium and sodium. Since I was on a budget, that's exactly what I'd mix, a quarter teaspoon of half-salt stuff ('cause it was 50/50 sodium something and potassium something) and sugar - white sugar. Sometimes maple syrup, corn syrup, brown get the idea...and top up? You need to top up? You're not doing it right and you're just chasing highs...right this ass is going to fucking get it - 65 kph? 75 kph? Dude why're you glancing in your rear view mirror so much am I freaking you out? 85 kph? You're giving up eh, ducking into a parking lot..." Well at this point what do you do? I felt like a dog that finally caught the car, and when I got close enough to see their gaping faces....well I couldn't even muster up a "Fuck You Assholes" - All I could give them was an evil-ish eye, (I think the evil-eye was the 90's version of what non-plussed is now). Anyway, I just turned around, the high of ephedrine-augmented adrenaline pumping the feelings of...of...what does smug satisfaction mixed with giving up make?...I guess the hyper version of drowning your sorrows with a few too many beers after breaking up with a girlfriend..."fuck I was right for leaving her...bitch..." - "I [almost] got those fuckers and taught them a lesson they won't soon forget [that cyclists just won't do anything anyway]..."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dropping back from the peloton

***WHACK!!*** How many hits to the head does it take to see what you're doing right now objectively? How are you supposed to just set aside your ego when you've done so many hours agonizing over a training program? Why is it that we cocoon inside our heads and detach from a searing, life changing problem?

How did I end up taking a walk to the drugstore to get my hands on as much pseudoephedrine as I could?

"Fuck it everyone's fucking doing drugs at some point."
Dust started to pop up from the road as huge droplets of rain fell onto it. I could see the small clouds of dust scatter into the air through the wheels of the guy I was riding with. Behind us I heard the sound of cars tires scratching at the gravel shoulder and a yell from some other rec rider. "HEY!" was all he could muster. I checked my shoulder. My new found eyes saw everything in a new cinematic dynamism. Some asshole dudes in a crappy, faded, white 80's Chevy Caprice were pushing cyclists off the road. The typical Toronto storm clouds were beginning to roll over the industrial park. The sun was gone but everything had this fluorescent glow - I had never seen so much contrast in gray before. They were coming for us now, me and this nice 60-something cyclist. Trying to interrupt our conversation about money and sport. Fuckers! The wheels hummed as they tried to push us over. I pulled back on the old man's arm to get behind me and away from the assholes trunk. We were supposed to be taking it easy for fuck sakes I just did hills yesterday....I should just ignore them. "Just let them go" said the guy I was riding with. "Yeah, but you're old...FUCKERS NEED TO BE CHASED" and before I could get that thought out I tore after them...