Thursday, October 29, 2015

Update on new gear

In a recent post I shared my plans for new gear, and a bit later I described a bike fitting session with Ben Williams at IT&B and my purchase of a new Garmin Fenix 2 GPS heart rate monitor. Back then I knew I wanted to add a power meter to my tool bag, and a tri bike to my stable. At this point I have the power meter, and the new bike is on order.

After many weeks of use I only have two serious complaints about the Fenix 2. In other words, it is for the most part a good device for triathletes. Garmin has provided a number of software updates that add features missing at its release, so be careful when Googling for instructions on how to get something done. For example, I wanted to set up a run/walk timer and according to several posts on Garmin forums the Fenix 2 lacks such a feature. But it is there, in the Alerts section of Run settings.

Complaint #1. Stroke Length and related data during open water swimming are useless. This is not Garmin's fault. I wanted to work out a way to measure swim performance in open water that equaled the stroke per length method used in Total Immersion. The way I see it, if my SPL in a 25 yard pool goes from 20 to 18, which is a good thing, then my stroke length must have gone up. In the ocean the water is always moving, so the number of stokes to go a set distance will never be the same. But that is not the real issue. The real limiter on this approach is the inherent inaccuracy of GPS data while swimming.

Complaint #2.Alerts are so aggressive that they interfere with run interval workouts. On my FR610 I could program interval workouts on Garmin Connect where I would warm up, then run, say, 5 reps of 30 seconds hard, 1:30 recovery, with a target HR for the hard section of zone 5. Naturally, at the start of the hard interval I was never anywhere near zone 5, which would trigger a low heart rate alert. The message only stayed up a few seconds, so by the time I got near 30 seconds and wanted to check my watch I could in fact see the data I wanted to see. The Fenix 2 keeps alert messages up much longer. Seems like 30 seconds. In addition to that, the interval between alerts is very short, about one second. Which means that until I am in zone 5 I can never see the data I want to see, only the alert telling me my heart rate is too low. My work around is to not use heart rate zones as targets. Instead I select custom and enter a wide rage of heart rate. The shorter the interval the wider the zone needs to be. When I see the display read Run 0:30, 135-155 I am more interested in the high number (155) than the low number.

Room for one more complaint? Open water swim distance is always in miles. My swim brain does not think in miles. Yards, yes. Meters, sort of like yards. Tell me I swam 1,200 yards and I'll understand. Tell me I swam 0.68 miles and phttt, nothing. Hopefully I will look back at this complaint some day an chuckle.

Most triathletes want a quick release mount, a feature of the Garmin multisport line since at least the FR310xt. The Fenix 2 does not have that option. I happen to have an Edge 800, old but still going strong, so I leave that on my bike as a head unit and wear my Fenix on my wrist. I record on both, but typically only upload data from the Fenix 2.

Power Meter

After a great deal of head scratching with dog eared product reviews I finally settled on the Garmin Vector. I know that some critics say it is over priced, but I disagree. The less expensive alternatives imposed physical limitations, especially with regards to portability between bikes, or lacked the established reputation on the level of Garmin. A new entrant in the field may offer a cheaper price, but may not be there next year for updates and support.

The model I went with was the original Vector, not the Vector 2. From what I could see on the web, the mount on the 2s is less robust, even if it is simplified. That is the only difference between the original Vector and Vector 2, the way it attaches to the crank arm.

Somehow I missed the fact that I also needed to download a special app to service these pedals, and that there were already updates pending. With a GPS, as soon as you register it to Garmin Connect it tells you there are updates. The thing is, you do not register your pedals on Garmin Connect, same as you don't register your HRM strap or a foot pod. I found out about the Vector Updater App when I was troubleshooting a sensor dropout issue. My iMac is upstairs, and at first I thought the Ant+ signal would have no problem going through the wood floor to the bike downstairs, but my pedals were cranky so much to my wife's consternation I ended up hauling the bike upstairs. OK, I could have removed the pedals, but that is even more work.

As of this writing I still cannot claim to have rock solid results. But, to be fair, there are several things that could be contributing to this issue. I will be working through them, and reporting my results here.

There is much difference of opinion as to the need for a torque wrench when installing Vector pedals. Being an experienced mechanic and in possesion of a perfectly good Park Tools pedal wrench, I decided to forego purchasing one and relying instead on my highly developed sense of "tight." Believe me, I know what 25 ft. lbs. of torque feels like.Maybe those early missing left pedal issues were caused by improper torque, or maybe it was because I had not updated the software.

By the time I updated the software a new issue had appeared. The left pedal pod rubs against my Sidi bike shoe, at the metatarsal-phalangeal joint, the widest point of the foot. It is just a light brush, not every revolution, but enough so that on a long ride the pod ended up rotated until the body made contact with the crank. The right shoe is fine, missing the pod by several millimeters. When I discovered the cleat was already as far right as it could go I tried filing off the edge of the rectangular washed that fits between the cleat and the screw. This did not gain any clearance because the shoulder of the washer hitting the opening in the cleat is still a limiter. To get any movement I would have to file away some of the plastic cleat. That seemed like a bad idea, as it would create stress risers that would lead to cracks and total failure.

My second attempt to gain some clearance was to install two of the washers Garmin furnishes in the box. Those are supposed to go between the pod bracket and the crank, to fill in any recess there. (My older Dura-Ace cranks do not require washers.) Installing the washers at the designated position would not increase the gap between the pod and the shoe, only move the entire assembly sightly away from the crank. My idea was to put the washers between the pod bracket and the crank. This did work, for a short time, but soon I had no output from that pedal. Investigation revealed that the washers had distorted and squeezed out of position (they are extremely narrow compared to standard washers) and the pedals were no longer tight.

I now have a proper torque wrench and removed all washers. The readings are perfect, but the shoe still rubs. My next move will be to rotate the pods 180 deg. so that the rub point happens at a different place. The Garmin web site shows them in that position. The instructions say it does not matter. My concern is that they might strike the ground when cornering. Stay tuned.

The Bike

I am not a spur-of-the-moment shopper. I have spent a great deal of time researching all three of my  new equipment purchases. For my tri bike I finally narrowed it down to a Quintana-Roo PRfive or a Cervelo P3. For a while I was attracted to the lower price point of the P2, but when I heard that the price of the P3 had dropped, but not the P2, I decided to go for the new, 2016 P3. The way I look at it, given all the time I put into preparing for these races, and the cost of going to Kona, skimping on the bike just does not make sense. One could push that thought a little harder and go for a P5, but really, I think I would look a bit foolish showing up on such a high-end bike. A manual shift Ultegra P3 with Magura hydraulic brakes and sensibly aero Mavic wheels is plenty of bike for me. When I bought my Merlin Magia road bike Frank Smith commented that it would be the last bike I would ever need to buy. He was right. I have replaced the cassette once, and the chain maybe twice. I did upgrade the wheels, to HED Ardennes, only because I was unhappy with the feel of the Mavic Ksyrium wheels I original picked out. And, yes, the HED wheels do turn in much more securly, with much less twitch. Whatever that was caused by, maybe just the combination of the frame and wheels. At my age, this will be the last tri bike I buy. But I still want a fixie ...

Mavic Cosmic Elite S

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nutrition and sleep, part 2

In my last post I set new goals for sleep and nutrition. In all honesty, I failed miserably with my sleep goal, but I did make some improvements in nutrition.

My sleep goal failed to take into account our household routine. The typical constraints of a full time job and family activities means that to get in the desired workout time I get up early and stay up a little too late. I never succeeded in getting to bed as early as my goal, and only came close a couple of times. I have tried to get to bed a little earlier than I was, and will continue to push myself in that direction.

As for eating, my renewed focus has, all by itself, resulted in a reduction in calorie intake, enough to allow a modest drop in weight. After hovering around 180 at the peak of my triathlon training period last spring, I was down around 174 this week. That might be my ideal race weight for marathon, but I'll keep trying over the next few weeks as my long run Sundays kick in.The fewer pounds to drag along, the better.

I started taking Hammer Premium Insurance Caps, starting with one a day, then two, then up to four a day which is where I am at currently. This supplement contains a lot of stuff that MyFitnessPal does not track, so I cannot offer any data there, but the two things it contains that are tracked -- Vitamin A and C, show a significant increase on days I take it. Note that this data is based on intake, not blood and urine tests. For all I know, all of the excess is getting pissed away. As for its effect, I would say that most days I feel more energetic. Less draggy. I wish I could say that the increase in sleep could be the cause, but I really have not changed my sleep time enough to matter.

Here are some numbers, sort of like last time except I show everything as percent of minimum recommended amount. Note that Hammer takes the position that endurance athletes require significantly more than the minimum dose. That makes sense to me. These numbers are the daily average for the last complete seven days, last Thursday through yesterday.

Item - % Recommended
Protein - 96%
Sodium - 103%
Potassium - 8%    :-(
Vitamin A -212%
Vitamin C -293%
Calcium - 72%
Iron - 42%

The one number that really stands out for me here is potassium. Several on-line sources give the recommended daily amount for me as 4,700mg, although the FDA puts it at 3,500 -- perhaps so that children are not over dosed --  and 3,500 is the number used on food labels and my MyFitnessPal. So, even if one were to eat 100% of the RDA they would still be a little short.

WebMD has this to say about low potassium: "Your body needs potassium to help your muscles contract, maintain fluid balance, and maintain a normal blood pressure. Normal potassium levels in the body help to keep the heart beating regularly. Potassium may help reduce your risk of kidney stones and also bone loss as you age."

This is interesting, because I track my blood pressure and it has been going up little by little all year, up to the point where it now demands intervention. Seems to me that the obvious next move is to increase my potassium intake. Maybe I can switch from toast for breakfast to bananas and a baked potato. Stay tuned.