A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Registration Deadline is Sunday at 5 p.m. Mountain!

I just registered for Ride the Rockies! If you are still on the fence, the deadline is tomorrow (Sunday, March 1) at 5:00 p.m. Mountain time. I have to admit it was an exhilarating feeling to hit submit and commit to training for and riding in what would be my ninth RTR, if we are selected in the lottery (I signed up with my friends from Team Bar2Bar). We will find out this Friday, March 6, if we are among the 2,000 riders randomly selected.

That little "bump in the ground" is Grand Mesa, the world's tallest flat top mountain.
What we never know for sure is how many riders apply. I have been selected all eight times I have registered over the past 10 years. So I am either lucky or there just aren't that many people who get turned away. My theory is that the increasingly tougher routes over the past several years (especially last year) may have scared some people away. That and the grossly overestimated elevation gain of more than 40,000 feet on this year's route may help our odds!

My first visit to The Vic in 2005
I do hope we get selected. This year's ride, the 30th Anniversary of RTR, should be a great one. The first two days are essentially a repeat of the first two days on my first RTR in 2005, including the brutal climb up Grand Mesa, considered one of the toughest climbs in the Rockies. While the Mesa doesn't look that imposing from this angle (this after the descent on day two of RTR 2005), it is a "long and relentless climb."

Other highlights include stops in Crested Butte and Salida, two of my favorite mountain towns with distinctly different vibes. Between the two is Cottonwood Pass (12,126 ft), a tough climb on a packed dirt surface (fortunately the downhill is paved). The overnight party in Salida always includes shutting down The Vic (bar at the Hotel Victoria).

At the summit of Cottonwood Pass on RTR 2008
Then there the brutal two-mile climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge, rewarded by a ride across the wooden Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in North America. hanging 856 feet above the raging Arkansas River below. It's a rush, to say the least!

At the Royal Gorge Bridge on the final day of RTR 2006
I'm even looking forward to a return to Westcliffe, an unplanned part of the 2013 tour, when the Royal Gorge fire forced a long detour through Silver Cliff and West Cliff, on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range. it's a beautiful spot to end the ride!

Riding "Woody Style" at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on RTR 2013
Now comes the wait...

Ride on!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Are You Getting Enough (Protein, that is!)?

I recently downloaded the MyFitnessPal app and started tracking my calorie consumption. As usual, I gained about 10 pounds this winter. The only problem is winter isn't over and I can't afford to gain 10 more! But mostly I wanted to start tracking my consumption of carbohydrates, fat and (especially) protein. After two weeks of recording everything that goes in my mouth I am embarrassed to admit that I, BEEFMAN, have been under consuming protein!

That's right, as much as I talk about the benefits of eat beef, I have not been eating enough beef, dairy, beans, nuts and other sources of protein. Part of the reason is because I underestimated the amount of protein my body needs every day. I had always heard that the recommended daily value (RDV) for protein was 50 grams, based on the average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet.

The first problem with that is I am not average. I am 6'4" tall, 225 lbs. (in winter) and physically active (I work out at least five times a week for 30 minutes, significantly more when I am training for an event like Ride the Rockies). When I punched this info into MyFitnessPal, with a goal to lose one pound per week, it came back with a daily calorie goal of 2,280! And that's to lose weight (the BEEFWIFE doesn't appreciate the fact that men do burn calories faster, especially big guys)!

The other problem is that is the RDV for protein is a minimum number. After doing a little research I learned about Accepted Macronutrient Distribution Ranges, or AMDRs. As it turns out the AMDR for protein is 10-35% of calories. At the low end of that range I'd need 57 grams per day (seven more than the RDV). At the high end (35%) that's 200 grams per day, or 4X the RDV!

Recent research on protein has found that "Protein at around 25-30% of calories has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 80 to 100 calories per day, compared to lower protein diets." In addition, consuming higher amount of protein helps you feel full longer, reducing overall calorie consumption.

So I decided to set my goal for protein at 30% of calories, or 171 grams. On days when I exercise like today (rode on indoor trainer for 45 minutes at 20 mph) it goes up to 250-300 grams per day. In two weeks I have yet to hit my daily goal! This protein calculator estimates my daily protein needs at 230 grams when I set it to "moderately active" and 30% of calories from protein. Basically, it comes out to one gram of protein per pound of body weight.

I'm right on target for protein today and
we're having beef for dinner!
Maintaining muscle mass, like bone loss (osteoporosis), gets harder as you age. There's actually a name for the condition: sarcopenia. As I age I want to maintain muscle mass so I can be physically active for a long time (I want to be one of those guys doing Ride the Rockies in my 70s!).

So the bottom line is I need to increase my protein intake and I'm trying to do it without turning to protein shakes, but it's hard. Seriously. It's hard to get enough protein while staying within calorie and fat goals, especially with plant-based sources of protein, which often come with more calories per gram of protein than beef.

With beef, especially lean cuts, I can get 8 grams of protein for just about 50 calories. Beef jerky makes a great high protein, low fat, low carb snack (I've been known to eat a whole bag for lunch!). I've also added Greek yogurt and TrueMoo Protein Plus protein fortified chocolate milk after workouts (real milk with 14 grams of protein per serving and the right amount of carbs for post workout recovery).

Have you used MyFitnessPal? Do you have a hard time getting the protein you need every day? Please share any tips you have (other than shakes and bars, I prefer real food!).

Ride on!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Elevation Gain Numbers are Way Off

UPDATED 3/1/15: Ride the Rockies just posted the following update to the route elevation gain numbers on the RTR Facebook page:
For those on the fence about applying for this year's ride due to the elevation profiles, please note the updated data we are now able to report having just returned from a route recon / community trip where we met with local PD, CSP and CDOT: Day 1 - 2,952 ft., Day 2 - 8,000 ft., Day 3 - 5,583 ft., Day 4 - 1,458 ft. and Day 7 - 4,511 ft. We will not be able to provide data for Day 5 and Day 6 until later this spring due to road / pass closures. This data captured on our own Garmin suggests these stages will equal 4,700 ft. less of climbing than previously reported. Registration closes today at 5PM MST. Best of luck in the lottery - hope to see you this June! www.ridetherockies.com

When I first saw the elevation gain number for Ride the Rockies 2015, announced a week ago, I thought they were ridiculous. More than 40,000 feet in seven days of riding is a lot (nearly 5,800 average per day). Last year's ride, at 33,000 was the most of any of the eight RTRs I have completed and more than enough for me (average 5,500 per day over 6 days). As it turns out, the 2015 numbers, as advertised aren't just ridiculous, they are off. WAY off.

To their credit, I learned about the overestimation from a post on the RTR Facebook page. The reason for the error became clear when the ride organizers explained that they used MapMyRide to chart the course and estimate the elevation gain (MapMyRide is notoriously bad at estimating elevation gain).

For example, the day five route, a mostly downhill 66 mile ride from Salida to Canon City is listed as 5,834 feet of climbing. That is simply absurd. True, it includes the steepest two mile stretch of climbing I have ever done tackled, up to the south rim of the Royal Gorge, but its not 5,800 ft. of climbing, even with the addition of Skyline Drive to the route this year. Not even close. We rode this route on the final day in 2006 and my Garmin Edge clocked it at 2,216 ft. I know Garmin is not infallible , but that's less than half the advertised gain! Conservatively, the MapMyRide estimate is off 3,000 ft.

The other obvious error is the advertised gain on day one. There is no way the ride around Colorado National Monument is 4,702 feet of elevation gain. We rode that route on day one of my first RTR in 2005 but I don't have a record of the elevation gain that day (didn't have a Garmin yet!). But according to a comment thread on the RTR Facebook page, "Ride the Rockies covered this same route five years ago (2010) at which point they (accurately) promoted it having an elevation gain of approximately 2.5k feet."  So there's another 2,000 ft. over-estimated by MapMyRide.

So the good news is that the 40,000+ estimate could be at least 5,000 feet too high. That's a lot better than last year when RTR underestimated the elevation gain by the same amount! That's right, this is not the first time the estimates have been off. Last year they estimated the route at 28,000 and it ended up being more than 33,000! That was just painful.

The bad news is RTR staff have said they won't correct the numbers until early May after they ride the course with GPS devices. Until then, your guess is as good as mine.

Ride on!