Sunday, December 6, 2009

Celebrating Diabetes

Celebrating my one-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes probably seems strange to most people. How can being told that you have an auto-immune disease for which there is no cure, you will have to take insulin several times a day for the rest of your life and you'll need to check your blood sugars constantly - be any reason to celebrate. Let me make it simple - TRIABETES.

Shortly after being diagnosed, my wife Carlene found out about a group of Type 1 diabetics who had raced Ironman Wisconsin in 2008. The Triabetes captains each also mentored a young Type 1 (triabuddies) and in doing so inspired everyone who heard about their story. Fast forward to March 2009 when I was lucky enough to attend Diabetes Training Camp in Tucson with the 2009 Triabetes captains (some of who had been on the original 2008 team). Attending camp and meeting those athletes changed my life - from a diabetic, athletic and personal perspective. After that, both my wife and I followed the months of training - struggles and triumphs -of those captains preparing for Ironman Arizona in November. Along the way we encountered other Type 1 athletes on the Phrendo network and the camaraderie and sense of unity grew. When I completed my first Ironman in September - even though I was in Wisconsin with just my family, the support of other Type 1's involved with Triabetes was shared via twitter and really made me feel part of something bigger.

The weekend of November 22nd Carlene and I travelled to Tempe, Arizona. It was an unbelievable way to celebrate diabetes. On the Saturday morning we went to the Valley Art Theatre to watch the premiere of the Triabetes documentary. It was an emotional experience to watch the journey that those athletes had taken in 2008 preparing for and racing Ironman Wisconsin. I couldn't help but relive my past year and my time in Madison. Afterwards we attended a reception where I was able to meet up with those I had met in Tucson and wish them well for their race the next day. The support of all the families and friends in the room was evident and I was so happy that we had made the decision to come to Tempe and cheer them on in person.

Race day was incredible. We arrived just before the start of the swim. It was my first time witnessing as a spectator the thrill of seeing over 2500 people swimming at once. My adrenaline was pumping and my heart went out to all the Triabetes athletes - especially those who had been concerned with the swim portion of the race. We found a place to watch the athletes coming out of the water and cheered wildly as we watched each teammate come through. We stayed there until the swim cutoff time 2 hours and 20 minutes later - - Carlene's eyes welled up with tears when we realized that one of the Triabetes athletes hadn't made the cutoff. She had been particularly moved by his blog posts throughout the past months, chronicling his determination to swim well enough to complete that portion of the race. Even though his race was cut short when he was just ten minutes from the swim finish, his story is one that touched us most.

The next fourteen hours were a roller coaster of excitement as we tried to catch every glimpse we could of the 14 athletes on the course. We met up with Peter Nerothin, who showed us where the Triabetes support tent was along the race course. We kept going back there to check the whiteboard they had on display -charting everyone's progress with time and blood sugars. It really was amazing how all the friends and family members kept texting in their updates so that we all knew how the race was progressing for everyone. Later we stayed with the group at the tent and waited for each athlete to pass us along the run course. At one point I was able to lend my meter so that Kevin could check his sugar, and later when we noticed John needed help, I ran to get him some GU, while another supporter got him some Smarties. We stayed with him for ten or fifteen minutes while his sugar stabilized. It was another reminder of how much we all support each other -both on and off the course.

At the end of the day, when all had crossed the finish line, it truly was a celebration of diabetes. I've never felt more a part of a team as I did that day in Tempe. We all have the same diagnosis to live with, and we will continue to prove that we won't let Type 1 stop us.

Congratulations again to everyone on their phenomenal races!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Running internationally sounds really cool

Part of the attraction of the upcoming Detroit Marathon (next Sunday October 18th) is that you run from Detroit, Michigan into Windsor, Ontario (Canada eh?) and back. You run over on the bridge and then you run back through the tunnel (the only underwater international mile in the world). Oh... and then there's another 20 miles or so built into the course along the way.

For me the attraction was the time of the year, the proximity to my house, the support of friends and family and the lure of attempting my first stand alone marathon.

The time of the year is perfect. I did Ironman Wisconsin over a month ago, so it's given me enough time to fully recover and get back to some serious run training. Plus, any later in October or into November would mean suffering with more cold and wet weather. There's been enough rain here over the past few weeks to wreak havoc on my preferred running trails. I much prefer being able to run outside than having to take it to the treadmill.

Proximity to my house is great- a 20min drive to the tunnel (tack on another 20 for customs/ immigration) and then a 5 minute drive to find a parking spot near the start of the race. We considered getting a hotel room in Detroit, but most of them were completely booked and there shouldn't be much traffic at 5 am (who willingly gets up on a Sunday at that hour?).

Support of friends and family has been awesome. My wife Carlene, who just started running a few months ago, decided to really start training and signed up to do the 5k - a few days ago she convinced my 12 year old daughter Malika to do the 5k with her. They joke that their goal is to complete the 5k before I finish the marathon. They've been putting in some steady training hours, so I have no doubt they'll be at the finish line much before I am. My wife's sister Alana has been training hard and will be doing her first 1/2 marathon, along with her husband Ryan. Many other friends and colleagues will be there so it will be a much different experience than when we were in Wisconsin in September.

Doing a stand alone marathon will be a great experience for me. I'm excited to see how my training this year will pay off. Sure, I had to run (walk) a marathon at the end of the Ironman, but it's completely different doing it on its own. I came to triathlons with stronger cycling and decent swimming skills - running has really been something I've had to work on the past few years. While attending Diabetes Training Camp this past March I had the great benefit of being coached by Missy Foy. Missy is an ultra-marathoner, and was the first diabetic runner in history to qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials (yeah, she's Type 1 and man, can she run). I learned a lot at the camp and especially was able to glean some great training tips from Missy. I put them to use and it's definitely helped me train for the marathon distance and gain greater confidence in my running progress. I'm also hoping all goes well with my sugar during the marathon. I was able to manage it well during the Ironman, and generally things run smoothly enough on my runs. I have no idea what my finish will be, but I'm setting a goal of 3:45 to give me something to aim for.

Oh... and running internationally just sounds really cool.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Overly detailed IM Wisconsin 2009 Race Report (for a condensed version – just read every second sentence).

Race morning:
BG at 4am 6.7 (126)
Alarm went off at 4am and for the first time since signing up, for a minute I thought “let’s just cancel it”. I don’t know if it was because it was 4 am or if it was ordinary pre-race nerves. I had a small breakfast of 1 banana, 1 Fibre One pop tart and half of a puff pastry cinnamon stick (from the Madison Farmer’s Market). Normally I would have preferred a toasted bagel with peanut butter, but these substitutions were fine. We left the hotel by 4:50 and drove the 5 minutes to Monona Terrace – the start of the race. Race morning was busy – when checking in our bikes the day before, most athletes had let some air out of their tires to prevent them from bursting due to the high temperatures. You could see most athletes walking around in the pre-dawn darkness carrying pumps. The first ten minutes in T1 were a little eerie – it was dark and it was so quiet – everyone was very seriously going about their business without a word being spoken. After those ten minutes all of a sudden more athletes were arriving, it was getting brighter outside and the pre-race rush started to kick in.

Expecting another hot day, I didn’t pump the tires to their max 120psi, I stayed on the safe side of 110psi. I had left my meter in the bike transition bag, so I went and got that to put in the pouches on my bike, while my daughter ran my special needs bag up to the designated area by the capitol building. Originally I wasn’t going to use special needs bags, but opted to fill one for the run portion – in it I packed a fresh pair of socks, a small towel, chamois butter, band-aids, extra strips for my meter and some wet wipes. I didn’t bother with a bike special needs bag, only because the weather was pretty much guaranteed to be warm and dry all day.

Nutrition on the bike:
The plan was to go with water which would hydrate without affecting BG, and powerbars which would satisfy energy needs and ease the hunger. I used Clif Builder powerbars with a higher protein content. It’s a 55g bar with only 30g of carbs. I cut them into pieces and put them in a Ziploc bag in my bento box. I used two different flavours to alternate and alleviate the monotony of eating the same thing all day. I also threw in a pack of gum. My bike was set and there was still an hour to race start. I met up with my wife Carlene and daughter Malika and we went and sat on the floor inside Monona Terrace to relax for a bit before I had to get my wetsuit on. I wanted to follow the recommendation to stay out of my tri shorts until the last possible minute, rather than putting them on before leaving the hotel. At 6:15 I changed into my tri shorts and put my wetsuit on. Normally I don’t bother with bodyglide under my wetsuit, but when I had done the practice swim two days before, I ended up with some chafing on my neck. So I greased up my neck, armpits, nipples and waistline where my shorts hit.
BG at 6:20am 10 (180) (ate a GU before getting in the water)

Carlene wanted to watch the swim from the rooftop terrace to get the best view of 2406 people in the water at once, so I accepted their hugs and good lucks and made my way down the helix to the start of the swim. As soon as you got to the bottom of the helix, you could hear the announcer encouraging people to get into the water. It was 6:30 and there still weren’t very many athletes in the water near the start line. The pros were starting at 6:50 and I was just at the water’s edge when the gun went off for them to start. I made my way to a spot about 100 feet away from the buoy and maybe five rows back from the front. I remember looking back to the shore two minutes before the gun and there were still people on the shore getting into the water. The national anthem was sung and the gun went off. The worst leg of the Ironman had started. Twenty feet into the swim, I got a hard elbow dead center in the goggle of my right eye. Being a first timer, it took me awhile to adjust to the rhythm of the swim – finding the appropriate speed/placement to stay clear of those in front and those coming up behind. At the 90 degree turns, because of the congestion, a lot of the swimmers are more vertical than horizontal and as they turned they would do a breaststroke kick – right into the poor swimmer behind. I started to dog paddle the turns with one hand out in front to protect my ribs and the other hand to protect my head. I seemed to be actually moving just as fast at those turns, and then after the turn when we had more room again I could get back into my regular swimming. I finished the first loop in 38 minutes, 2 minutes quicker than I had expected. I had eaten my first GU at the 27 minute mark and the second one at about 45 or 50 minute mark. The third one I had as I was getting out of the water. Because of the traffic, I couldn’t turn on my back to eat the GU – way beyond my skillset. So I stopped at the buoys, grabbed the rope with one hand and ate the GU with the other. My swim time ended up at 1:20:36…. My goal had been 1:20

Running up the helix wasn’t long at all – with all the spectators cheering. I ran into T1, grabbed my cycling gear, made a small mistake of putting on my shoes instead of carrying them to the bike. The run from the changing room to the bike was actually quite long and it would have been easier to put them on when I got to the bike. Only the pros were allowed to have their shoes already clipped on the pedals. Running out of Monona Terrace, I heard my name and turned to see Carlene and Malika holding the big signs they had made to cheer me on. Grabbed the bike and off down the helix on the other side. Tested my sugar ten minutes into the bike. T1 9:15

Bike: BG at bike start 12.7 (228) –drank only water for an hour and half to allow it to go down
The first couple km are slower, because you’re on a narrower bike path and no pass zone. I thought I was going rather conservatively in the beginning, as was my plan, I stayed on the saddle on climbs and just reduced the gears. The bike course turned out to be much more difficult than I was prepared for and even with my “conservative” approach, I started to suffer on the second loop. At one point, whether due to heat or fatigue… I was on a straight flat section and I couldn’t pedal faster than 23km/hr. I checked my blood and I was good – 6.7 (120). I had two pieces of my powerbar, imagined mentally how the nutrition was broken down and delivered through the blood to my muscles, and I was able to get back to my regular speed. There were two large, but fun climbs lined with spectators on the course. I knew they were coming, I reduced the gears earlier and had decent rhythm and low speed going up. However just before I hit the climbs on the second loop, around mile 80 my left quads starting severely cramping up. As soon as the left eased up, the right kicked in. Even though I thought I was on regular intervals with my sodium intake, just for the mental benefit, I took two tablets. Luckily for me, the cramps didn’t last very long and I was able to keep going. The last 30 miles of the ride, it was my head that bothered me more than anything. My head felt as if it weighed 50 pounds and I couldn’t hold it up. I even rested it on the aero bottle for a few seconds, a couple times – I know it was dangerous, because my head was facing downward, but I needed the break. Carlene and Malika were waiting at the dismount line and even though my legs felt bad getting off the bike, it was a great boost to hear their cheers as I ran (stumbled) into T2 . I didn’t mind taking an extra minute or so to wipe my feet with a towel and apply extra chamois butter before the run. I also used the porta-potty there, before heading out on the run – hence the longer T2 time. Finished the bike in 5:44:27 – goal was 5:30. T2 11:15
BG in T2 7.1 (127)

The run started very well. Even though my bike split was a little longer than I hoped for, I still thought I had time to make it to my goal of 11:30 – 12 hours. I was trying to get into a good pace, so I was checking my stopwatch and looking for mile markers. The first two miles I was on target for a 4 hour marathon. But then there was no marker for the third mile for a long time. Even though my speed seemed the same , by the third mile marker the time had somehow jumped 50% more. Then there was a big hill that I had to walk or else I’d be dying. It seemed like everyone but the pros were walking it. After that, the mile markers were either not there or I couldn’t see them and I totally lost my pace and rhythm. In retrospect, it would have been smarter to purchase the foot pod for my heart rate monitor to be able to read my own distance and pace. At one point I was so out of it that when I opened the container of test strips, I didn’t bother closing it and when I tipped it they all fell on the ground – at $1/piece, I stopped and collected them all back.

I stopped at Special Needs and dried my feet, applied fresh chamois butter and put on fresh socks. I was debating whether I should stop or not, but that saved my feet – I didn’t have a single blister at the end of the whole race. A highlight on the second loop was when Michele Alswager jumped out of the crowd and ran with me for a bit. It was a good mental boost to chat with her and know this is where Triabetes started. Around mile 20, I was about to check my blood and noticed that the lancet was missing from my spibelt. I must have dropped that too somewhere along the course when I was checking my blood. I came up with the plan to stop at the roundabout where two police officers were controlling traffic. I figured they should have a safety pin in a first aid kit that I could use to poke my finger. Before I got to that, I decided to just try squeezing my fingers to see if I could get blood from a previous poke. Sure enough, I had blood squirting out of 3 separate holes on the same finger. My sugar levels throughout the run were between 6.1 (110) and 11.9 (214) – I checked seven times on the run. I started drinking Gatorade on the run, then 5 miles in I switched to water and every 2 or 3 miles I would have some Coca Cola and an occasional banana.

The last mile I sped up considerably and I felt good. I actually felt that I had a lot of unused energy and I regretted that I hadn’t started speeding up earlier. I crossed the finish at 12:17:29 feeling very good and overwhelmed with emotion at what a day it had been. My wife and daughter were right there at the finish, and I so appreciated all the congratulations that my wife read to me when we got back to the hotel. It was definitely special to know that so many people had been supporting me from afar and watching my progress online and via twitter. After having just been diagnosed Type 1 in October 2008, it was pretty amazing knowing that I did my first IM in Wisconsin – it was the story of the Triabetes team in 2008 that first really made me believe I could continue my road to Ironman as a diabetic.
BG at the end was 7.2 (129)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

what I've been up to

It sure has been awhile since my last post. I guess that means that I'm keeping pretty busy with training and different events. My original plan was to get those reports out one by one, but time is slipping away, so I'm going to have to give an abbreviated version of the past few months.

Tour de Cure in Brighton Michigan - It was a 100 mile ride, but I was racing it, not "touring" it. That was my first chance to check my bike fitness in reality. I did make stops at some of the rest stops, but they were brief and then I was back on the road pushing. It was a great test, because the hills there were very similar to what I'm going to face at IM Wisconsin in September. I teamed up with another cyclist and we were matched perfectly because I wanted to pull to have the full headwind effect and he said he wasn't strong enough to give me a break - it worked perfectly for both of us and we kept each other company. One very important lesson I learned is that while riding I don't burn enough calories, so if I drink Gatorade, the BG levels start to creep up past 180. At the same time a 5+ hour bike ride and I was starting to get hungry, so since then, I stick to water and power bars on long rides. My BG levels were good throughout that day (between 100-180) and I was able to average 33km/h (20.5 miles/h) which is my Ironman goal.

Johan's Trifest - Wow.... there are a lot of strong swimmers in Michigan. My time for 1.5km was 30minutes and I was in the last 20% of them out of the water. This event had a strong field of triathletes. Luckily the bike was a good confidence booster and I came in with the 14th fastest time on the bike. I was very happy with the run as well - it was my best 10k time in a triathlon at 48 minutes. I was anxious to find out in a real race situation was my BG levels for the swim would be like. Before the swim I was at 8 (144) and I had a gel before it started. After the swim finish I was 5.2 (93) at which point I started drinking Gatorade at the beginning of the bike and stayed with that throughout the bike portion. I finished the bike at 10 (180) and then switched to water for the first half of the run and then got some Gatorade from volunteers in the second half and finished the race with 7 (126). For a tough, hilly course on a windy day, I was happy with my 2:28:51 finish.

MS Bike Tour -I have to write something about last weekend. My wife and I were part of a team that took part in this charity ride for Mulitple Sclerosis. Saturday we rode 85km from Grand Bend to London, Ontario - stayed overnight at the University and then rode 75km on Sunday back to Grand Bend. There were 1,550 riders and the event raised over $900,000. It was a very well organized event and part that made it even more special was that my wife rode the entire route as well. Since I was diagnosed last year, she committed to trying a tri-a-tri this August and when the opportunity came up to ride this 180km event, she signed right up. It was a pretty amazing accomplishment for her, before May 5th of this year she hadn't ridden a bike in over 10 years. She got into a great training schedule and even though the farthest she had ridden at a time was 30k, she rode hard every time she went out. Saturday was a bit of a tough ride for her, most of it was into a 20k headwind and we had some cold rain for about 40k, but she persevered and I'm very proud of her. Now she is really looking forward to the triathlon next week and I'm crossing my fingers that she's going to get hooked. As for me... this was the first time that I had bolused on a ride because the ride was long and I was riding at a much slower pace. I was testing more often and sooner after the lunch breaks and I found that I had to increase my snacking to keep the numbers around the 6.6 (120) mark.

Ironman Training - Oh, and of course, I'm trying to squeeze as much IM training in as I can. According to my countdown clock it's just 45 days away. I've been averaging 12 hours a week and it's starting to be a struggle to get all those workouts in. I've had the most consistent and best luck with BGs during my runs. I make my own Gatorade mix and I stay only with that throughout the run, no water. On my long runs (2 hours and up), I average 80g carbs/hr. Anytime I check, my sugar is between 6.4 (115) and 8.2 (147). 80 grams might be a little more than the recommended 60 but if that's what I need to keep my BGs in the safety zone, I have no problem with that. My runs have been feeling really good. I'm following a 6 week program which breaks down into 1 long, 1 mid and sprints every week. There are lots of hard, fast finishes incorporated in the long runs and the program is based on a theoretical 3.5hr marathon runner and so far I've been able to match all the times. That's not to say I can run on in 3.5, but the training is going well.
Swimming is where I'm lagging behind. The action plan for the IM swim is that I will definitely need 3 gels to get me through. I've done a 2km swim and had only one gel and walked out with 4.2 (75). I've just got to work more open water swims in over the next weeks.
For a change this year biking isn't as mentally draining because I've hooked up with some great local cycling groups. They're flexible enough to allow tri bikes in the pack as long as you restrict going aero if you're not pulling up front. These rides average 80-100k with some good sprints. All in all BGs have been good on the bike.

For some strange reason, all my BGs during training have been reasonable, but lately I've been chasing lows at work. That's weird, because technically it should be a more controlled environment. On average I've had one or two lows per week and sometimes up to three times a day. Nothing really low - nothing lower than 3.5 (63), but for me that's low.

Whew... okay now I've got to keep this updated more regularly... typing is more tiring than training.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

don't forget to hydrate

Last Sunday it was time for me to try the first "longer" 21km (half marathon) of the season. I was building slowly, being careful not to put too much stress on the knees and other joints. After my first 10k run outside, I had some gentle signals being sent by my left knee that it wasn't ready for outdoor running yet.

The run itself went very well. It was also the first time I tried tempo running within a long run (elevated speed for half the run). I was happy with the results of the tempo changes.

Even though it was quite warm out, for some strange reason I only took 1.4 litres of fluid with me. I have read a lot about nutrition, hydration and sodium replacement and I've always been a good follower of all the rules. But on that day I definitely went out short. Half of what I took was Gatorade and I also had two gel packs with me. I did the 21k in 1:51, but in the last half hour I was out of fluid. The weird thing is that the lack of fluid seemed to have an accelerating effect. As I drank the last few sips I still felt good and I thought it would be no big deal. But as I was running the last 5k I was getting thirstier and thirstier. I could still keep my speed up, so the illusion was that I would be okay. But when I got home, I was so depleted I over-hydrated to compensate. I couldn't resist drinking water.

For the next hour or so, I had all kinds of strange feelings. While eating my recovery snack, it was a big effort to chew and digest. Then I was still thirsty, but I didn't want to drink anymore because I felt like lots of fluid was already sloshing around in my stomach. So I laid down and tried to rest to let my system recover. But I had to get up to do something and I was all weak and dizzy - I felt like I was going to pass out. So I sat down and rested some more.

After about an hour and a half, I started feeling well enough to eat and had regained my wits (relatively speaking). I know that it had nothing to do with my BGs, because I had good numbers during the run and recovery time (all between 6 / 108 and 8 / 144).

In retrospect, when I think back on that incident, I'm sort of glad that it happened. I got to really understand what your body goes through with even such a small physiological imbalance. It's one thing to read about under-hydration, but a totally different thing to experience it firsthand. It will definitely make me more vigilant in the future.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

you know you're from ontario or michigan when...

I know it's been awhile since I've posted here... perhaps that's because I had to wait until my fingers warmed up. Did I mention that we've had some chilly weather this spring? And speaking of chilly, I'd like to give a special shoutout to all my Triabetes teammates who train and race in tropical climates. By tropical, I mean water temperatures that sane, ordinary folks would venture into.

Fast forward to this morning, when a group of us met up at Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton Michigan. This wasn't an organized event - just 22 crazy triathletes in training that figured today was as good as any to start some good, solid training.

We left home at 8:30 to make it over the bridge and there by 10am... the weather seemed promising - 48 degrees outside and the sun was shining. I had to chuckle when the customs officer at the bridge looked at me kind of funny - not sure he really believed I was going to actually swim today. By the time we all got settled into our wetsuits ( I was the lucky one to also have "booties") and dipped our toes in, the water temperature was somewhere around 52 degrees. Good thing adrenaline kicks in fast!

Some did sprint distance, some, like me did OLY distance, and some improvised their own version. For my first time doing all three this season, it was a great day. I've never been to this place before and was happy to be riding on hills that are probably very similar to Madison. I'll definitely be training here more often. It was also my first triathlon as a diabetic, so I was eager to see how my BG was going to hang on.

At the start I was 5.9 (108), so I had one gel and headed in for the swim (with another gel tucked in my arm sleeve just in case). After the swim I was 6.5 (117). I had a strong bike leg, considering the hills and wind. I did a little extra sipping on Gatorade and at the end of the bike I was 9.8 (180). On the run I reduced the Gatorade, ran about 37 minutes and drank only 1 bottle off my fuel belt. I was 5.6(100) by the finish.

All in all, sugar-wise it was an awesome day and I was very pleased with the fitness side of it. I've been doing a lot of running over the last nine months and I can see that it's really starting to pay off. I'm able to maintain good speed off the bike without spending a lot of mental energy to fight the fatigue.

Oh... and did I mention that I did all this in my spiffy new Team Triabetes jersey? Fits like a glove, and I'm sure it had a lot to do with the good vibe today - all that positive energy coming from the team.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Solo or Group Ride?

Today I had my long ride planned in and I tried to hook up with a group ride organized by a local bike store. According to their website, it was supposed to start at 11am. Me, being new to the group, I'm not on the email list that notified everyone the time had changed to 10am. It reminded me of Heather's experience, when she had planned to ride with the group... but ended up doing a solo ride.

Triathletes, especially as diabetics, always have to be aware that things happen unexpectedly and change our plans. You have to be ready for anything and roll with the punches. So without losing a beat, I decided to go it alone today. In a way, I'm more enthusiastic about riding solo because it gives you opportunities to test different things like time speed, fitness level, bg testing on the bike etc. Still early in the season, I'm trying to find my pace and a comfortable speed for a full Ironman distance. Riding out and back on your own, you can really see the variances and effects of wind on your speed. When you're in a group the wind effect is diminished. Solo, you don't have to watch your position in the group so you can fully focus on your ride and heart rate, speed and cadence etc. Plus, riding in a group, you don't have control of the route, so you lose a little bit of that freedom to change things up spontaneously.

I've been playing around with variations on my bike. Just for practice, I often drop a gear to see how much slower or faster I need to pedal to maintain the same speed and compare the effort to determine which gear range seems more comfortable. Another little thing I do... I select the average speed setting on the bike computer and monitor it constantly. I find it makes me more aware of all the stop signs and u-turns and all the effects on average speed. For example, you're riding along and your average speed is 32km/hr. Increasing your speed for ten minutes to 35 km/hr might only affect your average by increasing it to 32.1.... meanwhile, if you slow down to 5km/hr at a stop sign, your average speed might drop to 28.8. It has really made me realize how much a quick stop for water can really affect your time. Even when you put in all that extra effort for those ten minutes... it has less of an impact than a slow down has.

Although you can't beat the camaraderie of group rides - you really need both. There is a lot of training and self-awareness that you can only master on solo rides.

Next week I'll get up an hour earlier and try to join that group again.