Jeff's wife won't let him shave his legs...

I met Jeff for the first time in February of this year.  Before meeting, we traded emails about bike fitting and overcoming our busy schedules.  Jeff had just finished his first half-iron distance triathlon in the summer of 2009. He was looking to take it to the next level with a tri-specific bike and a trip to Lake Placid to race Ironman.  Helping a rider find the perfect bike is where it all comes together for me.  I get to combine bike fit with bike design and at the same time live vicariously through someone else as they experience the pleasure of getting a new bike.  I remember the thrill of researching, testing, and buying every bike I’ve ever owned.  From my Schwinn Stingray when I was six years old, to the second hand Paramount racing bike in college, to the handmade custom built Guru Photon I ride today.  The reality is that I’ve never taken any purchase lightly, no matter who was paying for it.

We spent over three hours together, evaluating his body, the way he sits on a bike, trying out different saddles, and moving through a range of positions.  I used the data we collected along with three hours worth of discussion and designed the “ideal” custom bike for Jeff.  From there I matched the custom geometry to readily available stock bikes and sent Jeff a report.  Luckily there were a number of good choices available from current production bikes.  From race worthy entry level with the Trek Equinox, to the exotic Ceepo Venom, and a number of other bikes in between, we were able to cover all the bases.  These bikes would allow Jeff to get in the best position to not only nail the bike split, but set him up for the run.  If you know Jeff, then you know that the evaluation, design, research, and reporting was the easy part.

40+ mph on the aero bars.

Jeff is thorough to say the least.  He researched each possibility and came back to me with questions about equipment, handling, and comfort.  We discussed published bike reviews, threads on forums and the value of different frame materials.  The reality seeped in that both the most and least expensive bikes were race worthy and would allow an optimized riding position.  The less expensive bike left room for race wheels and a possible power meter down the road.  From the above photo you can see that we went with the Trek Equinox.  At the end of the day, you may be able to shave a couple of minutes off your bike split with a lighter or more aero dynamic bike, but this is nothing compared to the hour you could save with better training.

A rough count of the bikes I take credit for selling in 2010 give me nineteen.  Of those nineteen, four came from my office (3 custom Gurus and a Kuota Korsa).  The other fifteen, including Jeff’s, came from shops all over the place.  Once the bike was purchased, I set up the contact points and fine tuned his fit with the Retul system.  I warned Jeff that riding in the aero position is scary until you get used to it, then sent him on his way.

For me, the anxiety starts to build the second my client leaves the office.  There’s a saying that a lot of people use: “No news is good news”.  There’s another saying that is also relevant: “Good news travels fast”.

I basically agonized over the next couple of months.  I agonized the day of the race.  I agonized during the race.  When Jeff’s final time came in I settled down a little.  His bike split of 6:09:23 in a super hilly course was solid.  Averaging  18.19 mph after swimming for 2.4 miles and before running a marathon is great.  I could at least use this info to argue with Jeff that the equipment and position did their job.  Luckily I didn’t have to argue…

from Weir,Jeffrey S <JSWEIR@travelers.com>
to Carl Ditkoff <carl@nebikeconsulting.com>
date Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 2:01 PM
subject IM Lake Placid – Thanks!


Don’t know if I ever got this to you – I know that I meant to.  Thank you!  Thank you for helping me find the right bike, fitting me to that bike, suggesting a great saddle and for being an all around good guy.

Attached are two pictures from my Ironman Lake Placid bike.  You should know, too, that with your proper fit, I did 6:09:23 – 18.19 mph average on the super hilly bike.

Lastly, if it is okay with you, I’ve added you as my Bike Fitter on my new blog – http://triwithrecklessabandon.blogspot.com.  Please let me know if this is okay with you.

Thanks, again,


From this point I look forward to working with Jeff to further refine his fit, help him with equipment choices, and do something about those hairy legs …

That was easy...

Gone running.

Its that "dry" heat.

Last week on the way home from the office I decided to go for a run.

Up until about the age of 23, running was an important part of my life.  I ran to stay in shape.  I ran because I enjoyed it.  I ran because I liked to thrash myself.  For as long as I can remember, I have also had a big problem with running: knee pain.  Lots of it.  Over the years I have visited many doctors and used the orthotics they prescribed.  Somewhere around the age of 23 the knee pain became bad enough and the excuses easy enough that I just stopped running.  I bought a used NordicTrack (the total body workout) to stay in shape and just kissed running goodbye.  The surprising thing was that my knee pain didn’t go away.  Yes, it was less acute, but a general achy-ness still followed me around.

Fast forward 8 years and I am living in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts with lots of time on my hands.  I decided that a slim 32 year old should be able to walk around pain free.  I made my medical care my own responsibility.  I would continue to seek help until I either had a concrete reason why my knees hurt or a detailed plan to become pain free.  Four doctors and two years later I make the biggest breakthrough of my knee-having life:  I went grocery shopping pain-free.  The short answer was that poor foot function and muscle imbalances were constantly irritating the connective tissue in my knees.  With new orthotics to address the forefooot as well as the mid/rear foot, strengthening exercises, and stretching I was literally back on my feet.

Through all of this I was studying anatomy and physiology.  I was riding my bike and swimming in the local pool.  I became certified in strength and conditioning and learned how to coach cyclists and triathletes.  I took courses on evaluating stride of foot biomenchanics.  Still, becoming a runner was a long way off.  Every time I started to run again, the pain would come back after 15 to 20 minutes.  So I went back to the beginning to learn how to run.  Focusing on form and adding volume in small increments brought me to 2 minute runs.  Really.  The nice thing about running for only 2 minutes is that it doesn’t require changing out of your street clothes.  After 6 months of small systematic increases I was able to run for over half an hour.

As someone who focuses on cycling I make sure I run twice a week so I don’t lose the “ability” to run.  I need to maintain the fitness that allows me to maintain my form.  I also need to maintain the bone modeling and tissue connections that stressing my body with running has developed.  By doing this I can go for a run when I want to.

Fast forward to last week.  I got out of the car, ate a gel, walked the dog, then went for a run.  I ran 10 miles.  I’m pretty sure this is the farthest I have ever run.  It took me 1 hour and 26 minutes.  At the end I felt a deep tiredness usually reserved for 5 plus hour bike rides.  It was definitely an efficient way to thrash myself.

If you are having knee pain or any other type of joint pain while running or cycling, let me know and I’ll do my best to help you find a solution.  Sometimes its as easy as the right foot bed or some stretching.  Other times it is more complex and requires the help of medical professionals.  I may not be able to help you directly, but I can definitely send you to the someone who can.

Go for a run.  Ride your bike.  Swim.  Do all three.  Do them fast or slow.  Enjoy.  Repeat.

What motivates you to run?

This is how we roll…

Typical view when riding in Western, MA... Really!

Before I start I need to thank Lyne Lamoureux at Podium Insight for the amazing photos.  I lifted all the photos in the article from her website.  In case you don’t know, Podium Insight is the place to go for North American bicycle racing.  Lyne travels all over the country covering as many races as her Honda CRV will let her (which is a lot).

Soooo…  I know it has been a while, but I have been very busy fitting people on their bikes, bringing my children to their activities, and riding the Jeremy Powers Grand Fundo.  If you follow my sporadic blogging at all, you know that professional cyclist, Jeremy Powers lives near my office and is patient enough to deal with me.  Ever since I met him, he has always talked about giving back to “The Valley”.  Apparently, riding bikes in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts was an important step in his cycling career.  While other pros moved to the mountains of California and Colorado, Jeremy decided to stay here.  WHY?!?!  Because it is awesome.  This place we call home may be one of the best places in the world for riding bikes.  We don’t have any 1 hour climbs (unless you are really slow), but we do have endless, barely traveled roads.  These roads are paved and maintained, but don’t go anywhere useful… for cars.  Five hour rides with only a half dozen cars is the norm for the locals.

Jeremy and his close friends, Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman put together a fund to support local riders in achieving their riding goals.  They kicked off the fundraising effort with the Grand Fundo.  Basically a fully supported charity ride with a pig roast and beer at the end.  Three weeks of planning, 120+ riders, 64 miles of riding, 20 miles of dirt, an ice cream truck, 1 roasted pig, and all the glory of the Pioneer Valley.

Famous people were there:  Jeremy Powers, Brad Huff, Jamey Driscoll, Lynne Besette, Tim Johnson, Jonny Bold.

The local  Wheelhouse Racing Team was there…

Wheelhouse racers Frances Morrison and Brad Warren.

An ice cream truck was there.

Not models... typical cyclist girlfriends helping out by manning the ice cream truck.

I was there…

That is me right behind Brad Huff's butt!

Now this is the part where I digress about Brad Huff.  Typically when pros are involved in a charity ride, they leave first and ride so fast that the “regular” people never see them.  At the Grand Fundo, the pros were spread out throughout the group and stayed that way for the whole ride.  I rode at the back to make sure no one was left behind and to help with mechanical issues while the SRAM support car was busy.  Amazingly Brad Huff did the same.  I spent about 5 hours on a 64 mile course with a professional cyclist.  Brad showed up with a saddle bag full of tubes, two tires in his jersey pocket, a frame pump, and a great attitude.  He assisted riders up the hills by pushing them, changed at least 5 flats, gave riding tips, overhauled a riders’ cleats and pedals (really), and just brought along his amazing attitude.

Lucky for me Brad’s flight was canceled and I was able to get him to the studio for a bike fit.  It was more for me than him as he is pretty dialed in at this point in his career.

Nothing to change here.

If you are ever at a race with the Jelly Belly squad present, make an effort to meet Brad and Jeremy, you won’t be disappointed.

Today was  a great day at the Ludlow Sprint Triathlon. With a fair amount of training under my belt (at least by my standards) and some good thought, preparation and support, I was able to achieve some good progress and a medal and age group placement. Not bad considering this time last year I raced the event as a relay and only braved the bike leg of the event! While the day was rainy and the swim started out with a little bit of wrestling and elbow to forehead contact, it was a fun morning filled with good work, lots of familiar and friendly faces, and a nice solid start to my 2010 season. I felt like I raced at bout  90% of my potential which I guess is okay seeing as I finished strong and felt pleased with my race.  It really seems to take a lot of time,  experience,  and teaching to really find out how to race really well. It is sometimes an elusive thing trying to find that edge of peak performance… the true limit of what you could do on that given day. So, while I am thrilled that I met my goals, stayed safe on a wet and slick bike course, and ran a solid 4 mile leg, I am hungry to race just that tiny bit harder so that I know at the end I had nothing left to give and had gained absolutely everything I could from the experience.

But for today, I am happy and grateful for the race…  I hope everyone else is out and finding what makes them happy and their bikes pedal fast!

As the weather warms and the local ponds and lakes become tolerable, triathletes everywhere are venturing out to try out their new gear and get away from the boredom of the pool and into the open water. Some people don’t love swimming in open water. I love it. Maybe I just love it because I have yet to have a bad experience in it, and one day I will cramp/panic/nearly drown and break down in tears… but for now it is a happy place.

Last Friday, my new wetsuit came in: Quintana Roo Hydroful (very pretty…and light… and pink… ) Fits like a glove!

(thanks Carl!)

fits like a glove:)

So, today I tried it out at Haviland pond with a fellow team-mate and really fast swimmer, Paulito. I don’t think that the fishermen (tons of them!) liked us, but minus a few cold spots (better than warm spots in my book) I tried out my new suit and was very happy with the results. I have a LOT of swim training to do after growing tired of the pool and neglecting this aspect of triathlon (you just don’t go very fast while swimming… no adrenaline… not as much fun…and you can’t chit chat while you swim) but I am hopeful that with my nice new suit I will be well equiped for months of swimming ahead in all the lovely ponds and lakes of the Connecticut River Valley. Up for a swim, anyone?

Laura trying out the time trial fit...

Laura trying out the time trial fit...

With less than 6 months to go and the racing season just around the corner, I am finally ready to get a fancy and fast bike. This is incredibly exciting to me, just as it is to all triathletes and bikers alike. For the last two years I have been riding an entry-level road bike which has served me well as a way to get into the sport and out on the roads. But it is kind of clunky, and it shakes something awful when I get it above 33 mph on a downhill. All winter I  have trained hard to improve my power, technique, endurance, and speed. From power cranking, hill climbing, core work, tempo riding, long riding, cadence drilling, and some contained crashing while working on my bike handling skills with Al (that was embarrassing), the team at NEBC has helped me to grow into a big girl bike. Now we get to measure me up, get me pedalling, and pick one out. 

The process was a thorough one, but not a tedious one. With Carl’s latest toy, fitting is quick and easy. He can tell you more about the toy, but basically it allows him to very quickly switch multiple fitting settings to change, alter, and modify detailed heights, lengths, angles, and tilts all over the bike for the best bike fit dimensions for the rider and the rider’s goals.  Using this tool along with the Retul system, it is pretty high-tech and interesting. After lots of analysis and adjustment, he also compared all my numbers, angles, pedaling efficiency, and aerodynamics against all the top female triathletes. This was pretty cool…   

The end result: a custom-built Guru Magis with really fast wheels…. yepppeeee!!!!! 

So, now I have 5 weeks while it is being built  to train really hard so that I am deserving of such a sweet bike.  I will keep you posted…   

Working to get aerodynamics down for the time trial fit

So, it happened. The thing that I have been trying to postpone, avoid, ignore, and even run away from has happened. I am no longer a 20 something chick, happy to be carded for any beer she buys with a smug gratification that she doesn’t look almost 30. No, now I am a 30-year-old woman. What does that mean? Maybe nothing? Maybe that I need a wrinkle cream? I am not sure, but over the last few weeks I have been thinking about it,  and I have decided that I am not going to search the mirror for fine lines or lament the impact of gravity. Instead, I am setting out into the 30th year looking for what is right, seeing what is good, and appreciating and being grateful for what is there. Not surprisingly, this intention was finalized in my mind while on my bike.

To celebrate my birthday I planned a number of activities including a trip to see my best friend in Portland (which is an awesome and very bike friendly city), some good Cape Cod eating, and finally a long ride on my birthday morning to give myself some time in solitude to let this whole new decade thing settle in.
I am sure that most of us who ride, get some of the same things out of our time on the road. Certainly, we all get nice legs, but I am guessing we all also get something out of the rhythmic movement of our bodies and the passing scenery that allows our minds to mull internally, while being just the right amount of focused and distracted externally. At least, that is what it does for me. About 10 miles into my birthday ride my mind had wandered into a boring and ugly place and I was unfortunately wasting the sunlight on my back and wind on my face by feeling sorry for myself. My pace was sluggish, and the words passing through my mind judged and criticized… compared and moaned. Then I heard a set of wheels coming up on me and glanced back to see the face of an old man, wrinkled deeply and worn thin with his years, riding on top of the brightest neon safety vest I could imagine.

And then he passed me.

If I saw this man sitting down in plain clothes I probably would have offered to help him stand up, expecting his joints to be stiff and his legs weak. But on a bike, all dressed in spandex ( I really love spandex, but that is another matter),  he was an animal. As he passed me I decided I would  ride with him, and we cruised along at a solid clip as my mind shifted along with my gears settling into the big ring.    I began to feel like this man was a gift and that I was ridiculous for thinking that my age even mattered. Here he was with awesome vascular calves and a skinny old man butt cranking along in the sunshine enjoying his life and not paying a moment’s attention to whether or not he was old or young. Who knows what was actually going on in his mind, but for me he was a reminder and an inspiration. Eventually he turned off and I continued north, but I am still thinking about his calves and the well-developed veins that trailed down them as he rode smoothly along, watching me in his clip-on  eye-glass mirror and not missing a single  hand signal or pothole warning.
My next source of inspiration came  another ten miles in  when I ignored a road closure sign and went to inspect a house fire. Really,   it looked much more like a huge field-wide bon fire. It was a house in Montague that had always sparked my curiosity for the people who I imagined lived there. Rambling and ramshackled, the property had been a patched together residence of junk piles, old farm machinery, and maybe  a few chickens wandering around. Not an unusual property in the hilltowns, but one that had always made me wonder. With three towns called in to fight the blaze, I got off my bike to walk it over the fire hoses and admire the fire (men). As I watched it all going down, I thought about the lives of the people who lived there and what they would do next. I wondered what they had lost, how they would rebuild, and what they must be feeling. Amongst the firefighters were townspeople people also watching, some looking horror-struck, some just curious.  Everyone was in some way drawn in and moved by the life changing destruction of the blaze…

So, my point in all of this is, well… I guess that I like being on my bike. I don’t even love my bike. But I love being on a bike.  You see things, feel things, think about things,  and experience things in a way that nothing else allows you. Running is great, but it isn’t fast enough. On a bike you are moving, thinking, seeing, and cruising. Getting tired. Feeling strong. Feeling scared of steep downhills, intimidated by trucks passing too close. You are absorbed by not taking anything for granted and being humbled quickly if and when I do. It is true that I love pretty bikes and I love pretty bodies powering those bikes like pistons of a powerful engine. The machinery of a body on a bike is awesome and sexy. The speed, the power, the design, the science… all of it excites me. But none of this  is  the reason to ride.

The reason to ride is for the  reminders and commitments your mind and efforts are driven towards as you pedal. Whether you are fast or slow, cranking hard or tootling along… Go outside and ride. We need reminders and gifts much more than wrinkle creams or mirrors.

This is the busiest time of the year for most things bicycle.  I have had a full schedule fitting local and not so local riders on their bikes, working with Wheelhouse Racing, bringing my kids to their various activities (none of them involving bicycles…), and a less than desired amount of riding.  So I’ve let the blog slide a bit.  It’s easy to come up with excuses when you are busy.  Unfortunately, I see this a lot with my clients.  I estimate that most of my fitting clients spend 10 to 30 hours a week on a bike.  Most of these people have other jobs and family commitments.  Obviously free time is very limited.  Here are two things you need to know:

1) If you spend 10+ hours doing a sport each week you are an athlete.

2) The time you spend maintaining your body is just as important as the time you spend training.

I’m surprised when people spending 15 hours a week working on a sport don’t consider themselves athletes.  Don’t sell yourself short, it’s possible to be a lawyer/ teacher/ bartender/ chemist and an athlete.

Maintaining your body includes stretching, core stability work, massage, and cross training.  All these things enable you to not only push harder on the pedals, but to train harder and longer while avoiding injury.  Maintaining range of motion through stretching can be accomplished with 5-10 minutes of stretching per day.  Core workouts don’t need to take more than 5-10 minutes 3-4 times per week.  Most people are fooling themselves when they say they don’t have enough time for this.  If you truly don’t have the time, you need to cut back on bike time and substitute this in.

I like it when people pay me for a bike fit.  There… I said it.  However, if you have poor range of motion and weak core stability you would likely be better served by addressing this first.  There… I said that too.

Now I’m going to go.  It’s time to make a plan to get paid for the advice I just told you to go out and get…

Same intensity, different runner...

{Editor’s note:  The following article is about running.  If all you care about is bicycles, you not may not be interested.  If you are a triathlete or enjoy reading about people who ride bikes doing other things, you will be greatly rewarded.}

So over the holidays, I decided that I needed a short-term race goal to keep me motivated to train and jump-start my larger training plans for the Ironman in November. I drew up a nine week plan that was nothing amazing, but combined the three disciplines, averaged about 9 hours a week, and fit into my “full-time job and 2 side gig jobs” life. I signed up for the Hyannis half and looked up my time from the race a few years ago (2:17 slow!), and decided that I would try to train to run a 2 hour half.  Nothing remarkable, but a jump-start to my longer IM training plan. Then, I started working with Al and Carl and my training plan was supplemented with power crank sessions, core work, coaching philosophies and racing tips; all well designed and thought out  instructions to tweak and improve my performance. I took it all in, started to see some changes in my training runs with faster times on fartlek and interval runs, and then I had the best race I have ever had. Here’s how it went.

The day before the race we had a beautiful but light snow and I went our for an “opening up run.” I felt like crap and started to worry about how the race would go… just a very heavy slugging kind of run. Not much felt opened up.  But I got through it and went  home to pack up and plan out the food I would eat for the day before the race. We drove down to Hyannis with some friends, had lunch and a tasty Allagash white  for lunch at the British Beer works, went to the expo, and then searched around for a room for the night. The room ended up being a little bit of a nightmare as the heater, among other things, was not operational. However, I am only complaining about this to highlight that you can’t worry about things when they don’t go the way you want them to… you just have to go with it and make do.

So, after a night of overwhelming heat to freezing cold air conditioning, and very little sleep in between thanks to the youth hockey team next door, it was race morning and time to go. I had my pre-planned breakfast at 7:30 of banana, protein powder and oat flour (ground up oats). It sounds gross but it really keeps me going and is easy to digest. We got to the race site and I was nervous but really excited and feeling pretty good. I made a few friends in the port-o-potty  line and snuck into a very crowded, sardine like race choral for the start. I had a gel in the start gates to begin my fueling, and when the gun finally sounded, I walked for a minute to get to the start line. It is always is a bit of an anticlimax. The race started out fast, with 10k runners, marathon relay runners, half marathoners, and marathoners alike all in the same pack. I train and run with a Garmin Forerunner 305 and kept looking at my watch and thinking I should slow down. I was at about a 8:15 clip, but it felt good and so I settled in and went with it. I saw a bunch of teammates in the race and everyone was doing great. By mile 5 or so I was still feeling good but worried because I was going too fast, felt a little hot and overdressed, and had lost my two gels somewhere on the course and had no nutrition. In the past, if this happened to me  my head would have turned into a whipping room and I would have been laying lashes on myself for sucking in every general manner imaginable.  But… for some reason… I was totally okay with myself, my potential failure, and things not going right in terms of preparation and details. I just made plans to scoop up Gatorade as I could, and keep going at whatever pace my body allowed. I wasn’t able to get in a whole lot of Gatorade, but enough. I felt some of the edges of a “bonk-ish, need water and fuel” feeling a few times in the 9-11 mile range, but I was starting to be sooo happy, that it really didn’t matter. So if you were in the race, and some weird girl was running by you saying, “I am so happy, this is my best race ever” between her heavy Lamaze breathing, that was me. When I started to realize I was going to be able to pull in a time under 1:50, I was amazed. I really thought my clock was wrong or that  it was a fluke, but I was psyched. Around mile 12 one of my new  port-o-potty buddies ran up on me.  I was still practicing Lamaze breathing and maybe starting to look a little haggard…. he was perky, 60-something, wearing all the best old school, totally loved and worn out/in running club gear, and a beanie that had “NAVY” across the front. This guy was tried and true and had the prettiest blue eyes. Now here is what is awesome about people and running: it strips us down and connects us so quickly,  intimately,  and with such genuine caring for one another’s well-being, success, and personal growth. We root for each other on every level.  This guy put his steely eyes on me and said, “You aren’t gonna let an old guy beat you are you?” He grinned and his eyes danced when I said, “Yes if it is a gnarly, fast old guy like you.” For that last mile he was right on me, keeping his pace four steps beyond mine but not letting me slow or give up and then kicking it in with me for the last 300, making my last mile average  at about a 7:30 pace. There was a group of us,all strangers now friends,  huffing, working, kicking, and searching with salt-stinging, sweat-filled eyes for the finish line (which is up a hill and .17 further than it is supposed to be). It was awesome. I worked hard, I made friends, I was a friend to myself throughout the entire race, and I ran faster than I ever had before. With a 1:49 finish, I ran 10 minutes faster than my previous best, and 30 minutes faster than how I ran the race in 2007. On all fronts, I had progressed, and for the rest of the afternoon and early workweek, those around me had to hear me chirping, “I am so proud of myself, that guy at the end was great…” every time the race replayed through my mind…

It was better than my birthday and Christmas combined.

New bike, old fit

Last year's beans.

For the most part, there are four types of bike fits that I do:

1) Something hurts, help me

2) I want a new bike, what should I get (and what size)

3) Things are good, but they could be better

4) I don’t know anything

Around this time of year I also do another type, the “make my new free bike match my old free bike” fit.  For this one, I almost don’t even need the rider.  If you are lucky (or talented) enough to get paid to ride a particular frame, you may find yourself in the same situation as Jelly Belly professional rider Jeremy Powers.  Last year he raced the road season on his GT GTR Team.  This year Focus took over and supplied him with the Izalco Team model.

I measured the GT using the Retul Zin probe.  The Zin utilizes the capabilities and sub-millimeter accuracy of the Retul motion capture system to measure the bike and its components.  Then I adjusted the components on the Focus to match the GT and confirmed it with the Zin.  After that, we put Jeremy on the bike, took a couple of captures, and made some tweaks.  I wish I could make it sound more exciting, but that is all that happened.  Ready to go until next year and a new free bike…

This year's beans.