Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Aberdeen Workout

Today it was time to take a break from working on my flat in Aberdeen and get out for a ride on the bike.  This was probably more a requirement for my mental health than physical health.

Late 19th century skyline! The modern flats opposite have plain simple roofs with no objects sticking out.

The past week, driving 2000 kilometres from the Alps to here via Dover, through a million speed cameras, arriving in endless pouring rain, finding a flat with the lock changed, all kitchenware stolen and various other issues, memories flooding in of things that didn’t work out 29 years ago – all made for a “week from hell” scenario.  Add to that the fact that I hate decorating and DIY because it’s indoors and absolutely not what I ever want to be doing with my time – then the endless mind numbing process of sanding, painting, cleaning and shopping for bits and pieces becomes profoundly unwelcome. All the local parking areas are now covered in parking meters and I have to park a kilometre away – so I spent a lot of time walking in the rain. Aberdeen city centre is like a magnet for degenerates.  There is a centre for junkies somewhere near the main street and they use the chemist close by my flat to get their methadone etc.  One flat owner recently found some junkies living in our basement. Needless to say my cellar has had the lock forced and everything of value stolen from it – for the second time.  Day two here I was directly propositioned for sex in Union street – “Do you want some sex?” – No thanks! – Yuck! Having to frequent McDo’s to get internet access is like making a deal with the devil. I feel sorry for the people working behind the counter, obliged to deal with some of the aggressive and nasty dregs walking, waddling or shuffling their way in there. Horrible, horrible, horrible! I’m not referring to the poor homeless and generally harmless beggars – who are quite prolific here – but the loudmouth, tattooed, ear ringed, anti-social thugs who seem sometimes to outnumber the rest here. There’s something about exceedingly fat arsed girls in tiny tight skirts with their knickers showing that would only permit regular McDo’s hardened clientele to be able to actually keep anything in their stomachs. What a vile place. I plunged myself during the week into a frenzy of stodgy comfort eating – focused on all my old familiar favourite foods – like deep fried battered Haddock and chips and Yorkie bars and must have easily gained a kilo or two of fat instantly. I really needed very badly to get out on the bike and break this cycle. Thank goodness I came here by car and brought the bike with me – and that Paul was here to provide motivation and guidance for the route.

Paul and I agreed that Tuesday would be a good day and I’d advanced enough with the work to feel comfortable about taking a day off.  It turned out to be the first day of sunshine and warmth in the whole of May here so it was very lucky. We were able to get out in summer cycling gear and just focus on the ride and not the weather.

Prior to the start of the workout I saw a young eagle overhead. I know it was young because it had white patches under each wing – but I don’t know exactly what species it was, though it appeared to be a young Golden Eagle. This reminded me of home in France where eagles have a constant presence – and today it was just outside of Aberdeen. Already the city was being cleansed from my thoughts.

Perhaps due to sleeping on an inflatable travel mattress on the floor and contorting my body during the painting – plus the horror 2000k drive – week-long junk food fest  - or from walking so much – my legs felt bad right from the start. The quads hurt the moment I started to pedal and stayed that way for the entire 4hr 18min workout. I had to compensate through using technique – working from the spine and using the core muscles – connecting the push and pull - taking the load away from the quads by using the glutes when possible. Only towards the end on the final few climbs when drinking natural tap water was upsetting my stomach did I have to back off a bit – but consuming an almond sugar bar seemed to mostly sort that out. I also felt a craving for sugar so was probably close to bonking.  It’s weird that plain water can have that effect. The first time it happened to me I thought that the water was contaminated – but now that it’s happened several times I recognise the effect. It only happens after about 4 hours of hard effort – usually after the 100k mark – perhaps of course because by then I’m out of sports drink and running on pure water. The longest ride I’d managed this year so far was only 79k so this was 50% longer and it’s not surprising that the end was getting a bit hard. Paul had been very thoughtful all the time checking to see if I wanted to take a shorter route – but it was my call to take the long one because I knew that I needed it. Despite the day being excellent and constructive I couldn’t really enjoy the workout with the struggle going on but I think that Paul managed to enjoy it. On June 10th in Mégève it will hurt a great deal more – so I don’t mind going through this for the purpose of adapting.

Paul was in good form and he set the pace from the start – he was guiding anyway because I didn’t know the route – but at least for the first half of the day I avoided slipstreaming to make sure I wasn’t being lazy. I wasn’t going to be able to take over the lead in my condition so we couldn’t work in turns to set a faster pace. Nearly all the time I was battling just to hold position – but that was good because on my own I’d definitely have dropped to a much lower pace on a day like this.

Last year I’d remarked on how I found Paul’s seemingly irregular pace on the climbs a bit difficult to adjust to and today I discovered the origins of this issue! The overall accumulated climbing was not great – only about 1100m - but it felt like we were always climbing because there were endless short and sharp hills, complimented often with long moderate gradients. Paul attacks the short hills with a high cadence and manages to maintain his speed because he knows that the climbs are short. Usually close to the summit his cadence and speed slow down. The endless “interval” style training on those hills is what has developed the same surging when climbing the long hills in the Alps. I’m the opposite in that I’m used to very long climbs so I never start a climb fast. When I get into a rhythm I usually pick up speed after several minutes and then push hard close to the summit because I know I’m going to make it without exploding. I try not to change pace too often during a climb and I’m not used to big changes of rhythm.

Regardless whether or not my legs were hurting I think that my training base of 546 miles this year to Pauls 1300 miles was more of an issue than any immediate physical discomfort. My calculator tells me that this is 9.291037331 x (10 to the power of -11) light years.

Paul seems to get his training effect from pushing constantly hard on the flats and moderate gradients. This is similar to some of the races I’ve encountered outside of the Alps and it is an art in itself. When there is a long mountain climb it’s like the effort is imposed upon you, but in gently rolling terrain you have to assert the same effort. It should be the same thing really, but it isn't.

There is no way I could retrace our route because there were so many junctions. In France all my training routes have a minimum of junctions and a maximum amount of endless climbing. I think that on the tour of Savoie (including the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de l’Isèran) in over 220km there are 2 junctions and well over 4000m climbing. I like that because even if my brain goes into a catatonic state I still don’t get lost.

We stopped at a small shop in Fettercairn for a lunch break. It is a quaint village with a small shop with one bench, table and parasol outside. This was one of the very few days of the year that a parasol would actually be used for anything other than deflecting rain. The lady in the shop made up sandwiches which Paul kindly paid for as I'd run out of sterling and only had euros or a credit card. I always take a credit card on a long ride - it's like a "get out of jail free" card if everything goes pear-shaped. Our lunch break probably dragged on a bit too long because it was too pleasant sitting outside in the sun and warmth with a lot of chat to catch up on. The roads and traffic in Scotland don't permit too much cycling side by side so there isn't a lot of talking on the bike. One of the great things about riding in the Alps is that drivers are much more aware and respectful of cyclists because cycling has always been a strong part of French culture. Road racing was banned in the UK over a century ago and reduced the UK from having the strongest competitive cycling culture in the word to zero overnight - a situation which is only starting to be reversed now due to the violent pseudo-environmentalist socialist reaction against cars and anything producing CO2. Ironically cyclists produce CO2 but that doesn't seem to matter. When we stopped to eat I wasn't hungry - which is odd - but I made myself eat. I was however drinking much more than usual and not needing to pee at all - even two coffees didn't make any difference there. I even felt a slight respiratory problem when waiting inside the shop shortly after dismounting the bike. Sometimes I get this after stopping at the end of very hard races - when I feel like I can't breathe for a minute or so - but never on training workouts. My family have a genetic disposition to very serious asthma, but other than being badly poisoned with polyurethane paint once I have only experienced very brief and very mild events a handful of times in my life. Lots of very odd things happening here. One thing for sure is that I'll not be touching another Big Mac no matter how hungry I get.

I had a few technical problems with changing up to the big chainwheel. The chain was being pushed over too far sometimes and then coming off. I'll have to tighten the range limiter screw a little. The problem with the Osymmetric chainwheel is that to go up to the big ring you have to remove all pressure off the pedals or it won't go. Even a very slight tension will stop it and then you try to force it with the dérailleur  instead of backing off with the feet. I figured out the problem when setting up the gears on the work stand when all the changing was perfect with just pressure from the hands and then impossible when pedalling. Paul's new chain was jumping badly as it was bedding in.

The only problem when slipstreaming in Scotland is that you are guaranteed to visit a few nasty potholes. The roads are generally worse than on the continent.

Despite tiredness and the difficulty I was having during the ride I felt refreshed and regenerated afterwards. It's like having the brain and body flushed out and cleaned - a very good feeling.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Went out for a standard cycling workout today as my legs started to come back to life after two days of being stone cold dead after running that 30k. They still weren't tops because I dragged myself home 12 minutes slower then the previous time at over 1hr 40mins. It really highlights how fatigue is the biggest factor in performance. You just can't do anything about it if your body is tired and trying to recover.

One very useful thing came out of this workout. I made another connection in movement pattern that once again makes sense. I suddenly realised that the pull back of the hip with rotation of the spine is linked to the push forward of the pedal over the dead spot. The movements are both in the same plane - the foot pushing forwards (not down) and the hip moving backwards. I've never enjoyed pushing the pedal forwards through the 12 O'clock position because it never felt natural for me - and likewise the pulling back of the lower pedal though the 6 o'clock position - (scraping mud off your foot). Linking this to the rotation of the spine it feels very natural and lets the core muscles engage more effectively and earlier (and later for the pull back) - or through a greater range of stroke. I  had been noticing a lack of early engagement of the core muscles and was wondering how to engage them more effectively when I spotted this. 

I experimented with reversing the hip movement to drive forward with the hip when pushing the pedal forwards and it is more powerful - but I know that it would destroy the back and stop the core muscles being exploited properly. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Recovery Walk

The great thing about walking - as opposed to running or cycling - is that you get time to observe nature!
My legs and feet needed time to recover today so a comfortable walk was in order. 

It's odd but I can guess what the eagle is thinking as it hovers above some prey, but I can't imagine what the donkey thinks as it just stands there doing nothing.

30k in Five Fingers

Went out for a test run tonight - to see if through improved form alone it would allow me to run 30k barefoot style with the Vibram Five Fingers. My running has been very low mileage so far this year so there shouldn't really be a base to support this distance and the minimalist shoes promised to make it into quite a challenge.

I ran slowly from the outset so as to be able to concentrate on form. The last 10k would be a real struggle if I was inefficient and the main limiting factor was more likely to be muscle fatigue rather than uncomfortable feet. It's 3 years since I last ran this distance when I had a much higher weekly mileage but was heel striking. It was this period of high mileage that then led to plantar fasciitis which made the following winter of 2010 very painful in my ski boots. It took a good year for the main symptoms to die away despite starting to look into running technique and experimenting with a lot of things. It probably took two years for the symptoms to go away completely. During this period the limited running that I did was always barefoot style - except for one brief period to help with an Achilles tendon problem. Even last springtime, one year ago, starting up running again it was impossible to run more than one kilometre without serious calve muscle problems. Rather than give up I dug in deeper with working on technique.

The problem with running slowly is that it goes on forever - and you end up tired anyway. The goal was to get to the end and see if it was possible to maintain good form all the way. I also wanted to try out a few things when fatigue did settle in. 

The main focuses from the start were:
Posture - lower abdomen
Breathing - mainly nasal - lower rib cage sides and back
Relaxation - trying hard not to use unnecessary muscle power (no propulsion from muscles)
Falling - feeling pull of gravity
Twist - active use of the upper body
Connect - from hands to feet through the active rotation around the spine
Lean - forwards from the ankles
Arms - bent 90° at the elbow and held close to the body - swinging behind not forward.
Feet - lifting and not pushing off
Foot strike - always directly below or slightly behind - always midfoot
Stride - opening up behind
Knees - kept down
Rotation - energy translated into pulling the feet up instead of pulling the knees up
Cadence - high 
Mind - keeping focused and trying to think positive when fatigue set in

It wasn't warm so 1/2 litre of sport drink was ample. I ate one small energy bar too. 

My stride and foot strike must have improved because there were no blisters - first time ever! Leg muscles remained fine if a bit tired. The feet ached but were generally okay - no pains. The calves were perfect. When I got tired I tilted forwards more and it did make it all easier. I avoided all "pushing off" to spare muscles and tried to relax as deeply as possible in the hips to let gravity work for me. It felt good - but I was a bit worried when 15k from home whether or not I'd make it back! There were so many things that could go wrong - if the calves seized up, foot or ankle or Achilles tendon issues developed etc. In the event the final few kilometres seemed to last forever but it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Good focus and form all the way had worked. I was very glad to get my feet off the ground afterwards though. The feet felt tired - they are just not used to this level of work. Not so long ago I'd never have believed they'd get anything like this far!

Friday, May 11, 2012

La Plagne Climb

Legs still tired today but took advantage of the sunshine to get out and climb up to altitude for the first time this year. It was over 33°C at 700m but arriving at la Plagne 2000 it was still cold. The snow at that altitude acts like a giant refrigerator. 

Maximum Effort
Did a maximum effort workout on the D220 climb - but my legs weren't fully charged up. Heart rate topped out at 175 bpm and stayed there for the full 5 to 6 minutes. It took about 15 minutes to recover from that while climbing afterwards.

To protect my back I worked on Chi Cycling actions - linking the push with the hip coming backwards, feeling the abdominals along with the pull up on the opposite side and the corresponding twist of the spine. It's clear there are many possible ways to move - but injury is a sure sign that you are doing something inappropriate. Contrary to that, "connection" is a feeling that lets you know that you are doing something appropriate.

There is no doubt in my mind now that in general this is the direction to take. When the push was coordinated to work along with the hip moving backwards there was a strong sense of physical connection. Pulling back the hip slightly before pushing just loses this connection - so it isn't just an alignment issue. There are so many ways to move that it might be impossible to identify which way is the right one. The key appears to lie in initiating the movement from the spine instead of the feet or knees or any other peripheral body part. At the same time the motion has to have the right intention:You turn the pelvis so that you can extend your leg - therefore during the process there is pressure on the foot.

During the climb I suddenly understood why it's necessary to to have the arms and shoulders relaxed. I'd heard this said often but couldn't feel any particular reason to do it and it also seemed to contradict the need sometimes to pull or push the handlebars. Stiffening the arms and hence the shoulders blocks the free movement of the spinal column. You then can't control or initiate your movement from there and lose out on much of the contribution of the core muscles. The resistance in the arms and shoulders swallows up energy directly as well - but more importantly it prevents the relaxed mechanisms that permit efficient mechanics thorough the whole body.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

ChiRunning Coaching

Christiane wanted to develop her running because until now she has only really concentrated on walking technique. This isn't her first session because we started to work of the basics almost a year ago with some key issues already resolved but needing to be refreshed.

After warming up the first exercise involved running on the spot. Normally people do this by lifting the knees and pushing off with the feet and lower legs. Here the aim was to just lift the feet high behind and avoid the knees coming up in front of the body. The hands should be on the thighs during this part. You can see in the video that Christiane is bobbing up and down far too much - meaning that she is pushing off even though trying not to. At first the heel was not even managing to come down to the ground and led to a slightly sprained calf muscle, but this was corrected. 

With the lower abdomen engaged for pelvic tilt, the whole body then has to incline slightly forwards in order to move forwards using gravity. The moment Christiane tilts forwards she "breaks" at the hips instead of keeping a strong column all the way down to the feet. The posture is also not held strongly enough and the lower back hollowed. The disconnection can be seen in how the legs and feet visibly work in an way that does not look natural. Even though this starts from an exercise in lifting the feet behind the body - it should still look natural - in fact that's the purpose of it.

When the body starts to move forwards the shoulders and arms should become involved as the stride extends behind the body. Christiane's postural issues prevent this from spontaneously happening and the arms lie limp and ineffective by her sides. 

Puffs of dirt can be seen as she still pushes off at the end of each stride and big marks are made on the ground. She does manage to prevent the knees from coming forwards though the foot appears to be landing when still going forwards instead of backwards - so there is still some over-reaching.

In the second part of the video things have improved a lot. 

Posture: Pelvic Tilt is corrected better at the lower abdomen
Forward Lean: The column is kept straight from the feet to the head
Feet: The feet are lifted high behind and the foot strike is mid-foot with the heel coming down
Spine: The motion comes from the central axis of the body - integrated and in harmony
Arms: The arms are bent to 90° and working actively along with the body 
Shoulders: There is an active counter-rotation of the shoulders
Cadence: Using a metronome at 170 giving 85 strides per leg per minute
Stride: Opening up behind with posture being maintained
Knee: Landing on a flexed knee below the body, stance slightly lowered
Hips: The hips don't swing to the outside now with the leg/femur staying aligned with the direction of travel
Feet: The feet stay aligned straight ahead
Joints: Relaxed - less force and resistance evident
Connection: There is a visible sense of "connection" giving purpose and function to all the movements.

Prior to this Christiane would have felt her leg muscles very tired when running - but here she is only limited by her cardiovascular system. The integration of the active upper and lower body activity around the spine stops her hips from swinging out. The hard work at maintaining pelvic tilt stops her back from hurting. The alignment of the legs and feet stop her knees from hurting. The "picking up of the feet" instead of "pushing off" protects the calve muscles and Achilles tendon. The relaxation of the joints and overall reduction in muscular resistance.

Focus and Presence: Christiane already has good focus and presence but this gives her the tools for transforming running into an activity where those qualities take precedence instead of one where they cannot function at all.

Running with Resonance

Resonance is special. Just a tiny accurately timed and tuned impulse, repeated over and over can move mountains. Well, in that case, perhaps it can also help me cycle over them. 

The Obree WayThe Obree WayTraining is cyclic - a process of wrecking yourself and then rest, nutrition and recovery. Getting it right however is a bit of a mystery. Three years ago Bradley Wiggins did incredibly well in the Tour de France without expecting it. The following year he prepared specifically for it and got nowhere. At least we share something in common - an experience of getting nowhere though my nowhere is much more profoundly nowhere than his. Some people seem to just know how to get it right and I wonder if it's because they sense a resonance - they just know exactly when to train and how hard - so that the cycle goes into a resonance. Perhaps what counts most is the "exact" bit - because resonance doesn't happen anywhere without it. The images from Graeme Obree's website perhaps give a clue. "Training is bad for you! Training followed by rest and proper nutrition is good for and will make you better prepared for the event you are training for."

Perhaps the key is to make sure you wait until the right moment to train so that resonance kicks in and amplifies the effect. Proper rest and recovery then diligent hard workouts. Last year I definitely got it wrong and was just tired all the time - but rest and recovery were not respected. We'll see.

Working on "Presence"
Today I was still feeling tired so respecting "resonance" I didn't go out on the bike. I decided to run  because running uses different muscles. Sure enough there was no energy for going fast, but it wasn't a problem. I worked on ChiRunning principles and that means running with resonance. It was interesting to run 10k tired but with enjoyment.

Overall the goal was to work on "presence" - or awareness. Until recently that would have been accompanied with too many physical problems to really appreciate the value of it. On this run there was a feeling of relaxation the whole way - regardless of tiredness. The main focuses were on posture - forward lean - lower abdominals connecting the first two - leading activity from the centre axis, the spine - lifting the feet high behind - not pushing off - not reaching forwards - active arm use - feeling the whole action connected, hands to feet - high cadence - relaxing joints. The overall feeling was one of refreshment. This is the first time I've felt that when running - it's not a feeling of euphoria from endorphins but a feeling like having eaten good nutrition.

Around the 9k mark I started to feel the usual blister on my right big toe. This always happens when I'm barefoot inside the VFFs. I worked to avoid pushing off but the friction seemed to remain so I just observed. Eventually I could feel that the friction was caused be the foot sliding forwards inside the shoe during the foot strike. This was unexpected and the movement was tiny but noticeable. Basically it meant that I was still over-reaching ahead with the right leg. With a slight adjustment I was able to correct this. Perhaps the next full barefoot session will be less painful with this adjustment. Contrary to current wisdom on the subject I wasn't able to get this feedback when running completely barefoot! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Cycled around the local high loop in the Tarantaise valley again today. It's interesting to see the progress:

April 28 2010 5:01:33
April   5 2011 4:10:28
April   1 2012 3:46:03
May   7 2012 3:36:59

This time the main difference was that the final climb was solid. There was no big drop in performance, no fuzzy head and no physical pain. Afterwards there was no discomfort or drop in energy level - as usually happens. I don't really know why. During the workout I drank less than a litre of energy drink. It was sunny but fresh. I hadn't eaten much beforehand and afterwards didn't want to eat a meal all evening - but felt good. I suspect that I'll never fully understand those things.

Last week I deliberately did one workout on the bike when feeling tired. The aim was to test technique and find out if following through with the hip at the end of the push would compensate for tiredness. The result was that I kept a reasonable pace and even the hard Notre Dame du Pré climb was tolerable. However I was still way off the pace that is available when fresh and my back felt sore both during and after. The feeling is that this is not a good way to go. Perhaps the push through can be used for sprinting and short bursts where extra power is needed for short periods.

For this latest workout I decided to protect my back by using the original ChiCycling technique and focus on the hip only moving back during the extension - trying to feel the core muscles and a solid connection from the spine to the pedals generated from movement around the spine. As usual I tried to avoid using peripheral muscles. The result was that there was no back pain throughout or afterwards. I don't know to what degree the success of the workout was due to technique or improved fitness - but times were improved on every sector and both physical form and a clear head were maintained throughout. 

In running I've become much more conscious of the connection between the upper and lower body - specifically how active use of the arms transmits down to the feet. This obviously happens through the spine and core. Just as in skiing this requires a very active rotation - but to any observer it looks static because the counter rotation of the upper and lower body cancel each other out. Increasing the activity around the centre line of the body vastly reduces the PEL (Perceived Effort Level). The same thing happens on the bike. When you bring the spine into the picture instead of working just from the hip joints then you accelerate, keep a higher momentum and feel like the effort is reduced. Danny Dreyer writes about "gathering to the centre" in ChiRunning. This could be partly interpreted as the leg recovery using the psoas (hip flexors) instead of focusing on pushing off. On the bike I noticed that when you "pull up" there is a sensation of pulling inwards - towards the centre. I focused on maintaining a strong feeling of connectedness right through to the pedals - all the time. The shaped chainrings really help with this. Even though my attention would wander at times I could use the motion around the spine to keep this connection constant. I think I lost it at one point near the top of the Notre Dame climb - and then realise everything had gone slack and I was slowing down. It only happened once. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Barefoot on Tarmac - Pirie vs ChiRunning

Barefoot on Tarmac
Started my run today properly barefoot for the first 3k. The idea was to start to toughen up the skin so that this distance can be extended over the summer. The tarmac is however incredibly abrasive. It's like running on sandpaper. Quite annoyingly I was already feeling blisters after 2k on the right foot - same place as usual - the big toe and the under the second metatarsal joint. I know that this is telling me that I'm probably pushing off with the right foot - but it's so subtle that I can barely feel it. I can however really feel the blister growing. At around 3k I stopped at a park bench and put on the VFF bikilas. It's true that everything in life is relative - they felt amazingly comfortable and like super padded springy shoes despite being the most minimalist shoes on the market. Despite gravel chips and bits of trees all over the tarmac I didn't once experience any discomfort other than the abrasion. The midfoot to forefoot strike absorbs everything. 

Today I was surprised to still not have recovered my energy levels after two consecutive hard days on the bike during the week. It was a good day then to work on form and technique. The idea of starting the run barefoot is to prioritise "feeling" and to make adjustments due to clear feedback from the feet. Once the feet need to be covered then for the rest of the run there is still some resonance of the feedback to work on - especially thanks to the new set of blisters! 

I wanted to experiment between Gordon Pirie's "springing" by using the arms strongly and ChiRunning's leaning forward and lifting the feet higher behind - to see how each affected both stride length and speed. ChiRunning technique was appealing because it eased the pressure on the blisters by minimising any pushing off with the feet. In ChiRunning you are supposed to use the lower abdomen to support your posture instead of your lower back. This becomes more pronounced as you tilt more forwards from the ankles. What is interesting to feel is that the vertical crunch of the lower abdomen needed for postural control then blends into the lower abdominal action for supporting the forward tilt. It's a nice confirmation that the mechanics make good sense. When I became tired I tried to tilt more forwards and keep the feet from advancing in front - focusing on lifting them high behind. I found that could sustain a speed near 27 km/hr without much trouble over a short distance at the end of the session. It's a nice feeling of supporting posture and tilt with the abdominals in front of the body and the feet extending high and behind. It's completely counter-intuitive for me because I would have done the opposite in the past. There's no way I'd have found this sensation without learning it. I found that Pirie's arm motion was correct in that the intensity needs to be proportional to the work being done by the legs. If you get lazy with the arms then you lose it down below too. I got into a nice rhythm with the arms and slight twist of the spine during the counter rotation of the body. I looked for the sensation of connection so that the hands felt like they had weights in them all the time. Going uphill I tried ChiRunning's idea of pushing upwards with the hands - right up to face height. It works!  

Avoiding the push-off and lifting the heels higher - but not letting the knees come high or ahead - causes a low stance with the knees slightly flexed - exactly as Pirie describes himself. It's like the spring comes automatically even without pushing off. Acceleration is not a problem even without trying to "spring" or push-off. Pirie points out that stride is lengthened by travelling further in the air between foot contacts. It seems that this can be achieved simply by lifting the feet higher and getting more speed from gravity - rather than exaggerating the spring.

In conclusion I found that Pirie's ideas seem to compliment ChiRunning but it's the ChiRunning stuff that is more insightful and fundamental.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The following article about efficient walking technique is very interesting and advocates the same use of gravity as propulsion as does ChiWalking...

The most interesting thing however is that it was written on March 29th, 1908, New York Times.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tech Post - Osymetric and Q-ring set up

Setting up DuraAce 7900 for Osymetric and Rotor Q-ring chainwheels.

This week I watched Bradley Wiggins incredible win of the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland. The final time trial was going to be the tour decider and shockingly Wiggins had to dismount his bike when his chain came off. The team mechanic was in the car following and ran out to rapidly fix it and off he went again to still win the stage by 0.7 seconds and the tour by 9 seconds - almost collapsing at the end. Wiggins uses Osymetric chainrings and I was actually relieved when I saw this happen because until then I thought that it was just my own lack of bike mechanics skill that was giving me similar problems. Bottom line is that those chainrings are very tricky to set up.

First of all I had decided to make things even more complicated than usual by combining a 50T Osymetric outer ring with a 34T Rotor Q-ring inner ring. The Osymetric ring is a special dual camber design and the Q-ring is oval. Osymetric have a 38T inner ring available but I was sure that was too big for the mountians here. The effective range this combination gives is about 54T to 31T (due to the ring geometries) That's a bigger range than a standard triple chainring set up! To begin with it seemed like getting this to work with a standard DuraAce 7900 front derailleur was next to impossible! The set up here is with a 28T to 11T ten speed cassette - but I think that any other ten speed cassette would set up the same.

The derailleur has three positions when moving from inner to in-between and outer - but steps back to the inner awlays in one movement - from either of the other positions. With the inner ring the inner position should allow the first five rear sprockets to work with no rubbing on the derailleur cage. The in-between position then lets you access from sprocket 3 up to sprocket 8 with no rubbing. For most climbing I'd keep it in this position. The limiter bolt is set to allow maximum movement to the inside. A chain catcher is also used on the frame to stop any risk of the chain dropping between the carbon frame and the inner ring. Changing up to the 50T outer ring uses the outer position only. This lets you access all the useable sprockets from 3 to 10 on the rear. The first two big sprockets don't work anyway with the Osymetric ring - they clunk all over the place. The outer limiter on derailleur needs to be set to stop the chain being pushed right off. The Osymetric supplied shims shouldn't be used to widen the space between the two chainrings because if you do then the narrow 10 speed chain falls in between the two rings and just slithers around when you pedal (I think this is what happened to Wiggins). This is also why the outer ring needs the full outer derailleur position - because then you get a clear powerful pull back right across to the small ring when changing down. When changing up to the big outer ring you need to remove all pressure from the pedals for a moment or it will not shift up. When there is no pressure it moves up easily every time. Tension adjustment is done using the trim control on the cable once the cable is secured very slightly lose in the inner position. 

It was tricky getting to this point because there are no instruction about how best to do it. I can now  say though that the combination of 34T Q-ring and 50T Osymetric (110 BCD Compact) works very well. The Osymetric is much more pronounced than the Q-ring and I prefer the feel of it, but they both seriously aid getting the feet over the "dead" spot and keeping up momentum with bigger gears or higher speed. The feeling is much more natural than for round rings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Still snowing at Tignes!

Last day of April - still dumping snow at Tignes!

Notice how the perversely self-righteous PC brigade have quietly changed "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" - now that a 10 year span of Global Cooling has been officially admitted! First time I've ever seen so much snow through the end of April - and more on the way.

What I don't get is how easily the whole of industry has meekly accepted to be crippled by unbelievably stupid carbon tax to subsidize grossly inefficient alternative energy sources. All they have to do is turn around to the governments collectively and tell them where to go. No government can close down all of industry! They can progressively destroy it - as they are doing - but they can't shut it down abruptly.