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!)?

UPDATED 4/1/15 -- Join me in taking the 30 Day Protein Challenge during the month of April!
The 30 Day Protein Challenge is an exciting, easy-to-follow plan to add protein-rich foods to your daily life. It focuses on feeling satisfied and energized after meals, which could lead to less snacking and eating out of boredom. It also helps you understand how the foods you eat affect your mood.

Start the Protein Challenge today and you'll receive a quick email every day for 30 days - each containing a goal for the day plus great tips, advice and inspiration to help keep you dialed in for the entire challenge.

What are you waiting for?! Take control of your appetite and kick start the benefits you'll get from balancing your protein consumption.

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. According to this protein calculator my daily protein needs would be 77 grams at the low end (10%) and 269 grams at the high end (35%) when I set it to "moderately active." 

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 20% of calories, or about 150-170 grams per day depending on physical activity level. That's a lot of beef! Of course, I also get protein from other sources like nuts, legumes and dairy products (love Greek yogurt and cottage cheese in the morning).

One of the reasons I am focusing on protein is that it is important to me to make sure I don't lose muscle mass as I age. Maintaining muscle mass gets harder as you age. There's actually a name for the condition: sarcopenia (like osteoporosis is to bone loss). 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

UPDATE 6/12/15: Ride the Rockies has updated the elevation gain numbers to 31,217. That's more like it. As predicted, the original estimate from MapMyRide was about 10,000 feet too high :)

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
Based on what I know about Day 6 from Salida to Canyon City (see below), you can take off another 3,000 feet, bringing the approximate elevation gain down to around 33,000!

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!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Ride the Rockies Route is Out!

The Ride the Rockies 2015 route was announce last night at the route announcement party in Denver. The 30th annual ride features a lot of familiar territory for me, including stops in two of my favorite host communities, Salida and Crested Butte. With 465 miles and more than 40,000 feet of elevation gain in seven days of riding, it will be a test of your intestinal fortitude as week as tolerance for pain in the "five points" two hands, two feet and one rear end!).

Here are some of my thoughts on the route:

Day One -- Colorado National Monument Loop (45 Miles / 4,702′ Elev. Gain). I did this ride on day one of my first Ride the Rockies in 2005. Its a scenic "warm up" ride with a fair amount of climbing.

Day Two -- Grand Junction to Hotchkiss (98 Miles / 9,069′ Elev. Gain). Day two is very similar to the second day of the 2005 ride, as well, only ending in Hotchkiss rather than Delta. The climb up Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat top mountain, is brutal. Maybe the toughest I have ever tackled. It certainly was in 2005. At 98 miles and more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain, this will be the toughest day on the 2015 ride.

Day Three -- Hotchkiss to Gunnison (78 Miles / 7,466′ Elev. Gain). I've ridden this route on a previous RTR (2010, I think). It's not terribly difficult but following the day two climb it will be tough enough! Lots of beautiful scenery.

Day Four -- Gunnison to Crested Butte (27 Miles / 1,458′ Elev. Gain). This will be a nice recovery day unless you are a masochist and go for the "Dirty 30" option (actually 35 miles) on dirt roads over Ohio and Keller Pass. Crested Butte is a beautiful spot to rest up for the remainder of the ride.

Day Five -- Crested Butte to Salida (102 Miles / 7,502′ Elev. Gain). The second hardest day on the 2015 route is a century ride including a tough climb on dirt roads over Cottonwood Pass. Hopefully you'll have enough energy to party that night in Salida, a perennial rider favorite. The overnight party in the park along the Arkansas River followed by some liquid carbo-loading at The Vic is a must.

Day Six -- Salida to Canon City (66 Miles / 5,834′ Elev. Gain). Forty-five of the 66 miles on day six are downhill but do NOT overlook the tough climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge. It's the steepest two-mile climb I've ever ridden, hitting grades of 15-20%. But the opportunity to ride across the wooden slats of the world's tallest suspension bridge is worth it!

Day Seven -- Canon City to Westcliffe (49 Miles / 4,488′ Elev. Gain). Ride director Chandler Smith's sadist tendencies (its only a matter of time before he changes the name of the ride to "50 Shades of RTR") are showing in this mostly uphill final day. The steep 29-mile climb on tired legs will be tough. However, the views of the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) range are amazing.

So, you may have noticed me say "you" and "your" a lot in this post. I am seriously considering not registering this year and heading to Iowa for RAGBRAI in July. I've wanted to do RAGBRAI for several years now and this may just be the year to do it. The 40,000+ feet of climbing is just silly for a 6'4", 215 lb. rider like me. Besides, I've ridden nearly every road on this route and I think it is time to branch out. But we have until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 1st to decide.

So, RTR friends, are you in or out?

Ride on!