Archive for the ‘RAAM Team Osprey 2009’ Category

Best Bike Products for the Power-Full Person: the 2009 Review

September 11, 2009

I may not have had the best racing year in 2009, but it’s been a great learning experience nonetheless. I worked hard training through periodization, and in spite of a rocky start managed to make some gains in my speed and power. In order to do this, I did what I always do to advance my knowledge base: I read. I’ve discovered some great books this year which helped me tremendously as an athlete, and I think will make me a better coach. I’ve admired and used Coach Joe Friel’s methods for quite a few years, but I’ve added to this, a mix of well written easy to follow books which I’m reviewing today, for your enjoyment.Here now, are my impressions of the iBike, the books I used, and a few bike related products that helped turn me into a Power – full person.


iBike Aero Power Meter

This is the first year I used power as my gauge rather than heart rate training, and I agree with many other coaches, it makes a great difference. This meant that I had to buy a power meter for the first time, something that I didn’t think I was going to able to afford, but I’m here to tell you that is I indeed possible to do power training on a budget. I also read accompanying books which helped me to understand how to use the power meter in the most efficient way. I chose is an iBike Aero for my power meter, because it was the lightest and most affordable way to enter into the world of Power, that is, using watts/kg as my gauge. Unlike many other power meters, this cool little unit uses air flow through the head of the unit, combined with cadence and wheel speed to measure power. And since I’d been using a Garmin 305 for the past few years, I didn’t even have to change sensors, since the iBike can read data from the Garmin sensors (bravo, iBike; way to compliment, rather than compete with those wonderful Garmin GPS units).

I chose the iBike unit because I didn’t want to pay “double the price” for “triple the weight” units such as the CycleOps PowerTap. Though PowerTap is the professional’s “meter du jour” (and for good reason), I simply could not afford it, nor did I want to have to use a special hub (which is FAR heavier than mine), just for data. And, since the sensors for the Garmin were already on my bike, seemed the logical and frugal way to go. I chose the top of the line AERO, because it provides wind data relative to the ground or rider, and that’s important if you live in a windy area. This unit cost $800, but iBike make several units that cost a fraction of this, starting with a $200 unit. But even at $800 for the top of the line Aero, it’s still half to a third of the price of most other power meters.
Set up for the iBike was easy, and with the help of their youtube video, I was on my way to power analysis, in a few minutes. The first month of gathering data was interesting, and it truly showed me that my method for “base training” was flawed without power analysis. I was going out too hard, working on too many hills too soon, and burning out a bit, even before my season got started. On days where I thought “it’s just me, I’m just tired” and would normally have just pushed harder (NOT the thing to do in Base), but still kept within the same “heart-rate zone”. But I was able to see clearly with the iBike Aero that it was the wind pushing me hard, and that I needed to ease up in order to get the true Base workout that I needed. Because of this, I had my best base training year, EVER. The “proof of the pudding” was that my speed improved, this year, and as someone who’s  been a bike hack for a while (20+ years), that’s tremendous. If I had to pick out the one piece of equipment that made the biggest difference in my training this year, it would be the iBike Aero.

N.B. the iBike Power Meter is just that, a power meter, NOT a GPS unit. If you want a great GPS unit, consider the Garmin 705, the next generation up from my 305. The 705 can even sense the iBike data, and combine it with the GPS data to give you a full picture of your workouts. This is particularly useful if you using Training Peaks your data analysis, an EXCELLENT athletic data analysis website. I DO NOT recommend the Garmin Connect website. Garmin used to have a great association with which gave you the full spectrum of data, but this year they decided to go it on their own, and dropped important data analysis tools which left their customers well, a bit high and dry (I can’t even retrieve my old data in full). If they ever improve their website, I’ll be the first in line to use it, but until then, I choose to pay a pretty penny for Training Peaks, rather than get half data.



Training and Racing with a Power Meter
by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan
Let’s make this simple: I could not have improved my speed this year using a power meter, if I had not read this book. Allen and Coggan have written a nearly flawless book that has everything you need to get started and train with a power meter. Their methods are clear, and the language is easy enough for most people to understand. The chapter “Using Power to Change your Workouts”, changed the way I think as both a coach and rider. If you have a Power meter of any kind, you owe it to yourself to get this book (or at least make your coach read it 😉 ).

Base Building for Cyclists
by Thomas Chapple
As someone who hates “base training” but understands the need for it, I really appreciated this book. I must admit that sometimes I felt the book title should have been “Nothin’ but Base”, because Chapple labels what I would have called the “build” period as “late base” but I suppose that’s my own “base” prejudice. There were times when I thought, “oh c’mon ANOTHER week of base?” but still held true to his principles, and became a faster rider for it. Truly this was an invaluable book for me this year, and generally, a good read for any racer, or rider who has a goal of doing longer, faster rides. It won’t teach you how to ride, but it will teach you how to train smarter, and that’s exactly what it’s suppose to do.

Nutrient Timing
by John Ivy Ph.D and Robert Portman Ph.D
I WISH I had known about this book in the beginning of the season! This year I made an unsuccessful attempt to gain some muscle mass: I thought that if just gained some weight, it didn’t matter if it was fat weight or muscle weight, because eventually it would all turn to muscle since I workout /ride so much.  OMG, wrong wrong wrong!!!! Although I paid attention to my nutritional needs, just like a comedian TIMING is EVERYTHING. This book is now my go-to book for when to eat, what to eat, and how to think about nutrition. I suspect that, with this book in my quiver, next year I will be a force to be reckoned with, even if there’s less of me (again).

And, if you really want to geek out, and get all the force and momentum cycling equations (without working through pages of equation on your own), then Bicycling Science by David Gordon Wilson is the book for you. I warn you, it’s a dry read, but if you’re truly a a science nerd, you’ll be used to it.

Bike Related Products


KT Kinesiology Tape (aka ‘lil’ pink spiders for you and me).
I am THRILLED to have discovered KT Tape this year. Ever since my snowboarding accident in 2003, I have been plagued by a number of injuries that still haunt me today. Enter KT Tape. Just before I went out on the RAAM as crew, my shoulder began hurting again. I’d been turned onto KT TAPE by one of my Twitter friends, Hilary from Outside Media (aka @outsidehilary on twitter) and thought I’d give it a try, but really didn’t expect it to make much difference. After all, it’s “just tape”, right? WRONG. KT Tape held my shoulder down and back, and allowed the flare up to heal, even though I was hauling heavy items, then sitting still in the van for many days (normally that’s a brutal combination for this injury). When mounted properly, the tape lasted 4-5 days, and performed better and longer than the tape I was given in Physical Therapy, back in 2003. Janet Christiansen, solo rider for the RAAM (who I was crewing for), also tried some on her knee and was also quite impressed. When I got home, I used KT TAPE on my knee and calf, and found that the weakness in that knee was, well, just gone.  KT TAPE is one of those products that, while I hope I never need it, do not ever want to be without it again; it will always be in my medicine cabinet, just in case.

Compression garments, for long distance riding
My first experience with compression garments came when I decided to try Etxe Ondo’s Sbaren bibs. As much as I have loved this brand, I balked at trying anything compression because I could never get passed that first impression “that can’t be comfortable”. But then I realized that if I was going to try an ultra-distance race, then it was high time I took the advice of Ultra veterans and try compression. Well, it works; it reduces vibration in the muscles, it’s comfortable, and most importantly makes a BIG difference in recovery the next day. I tried a few weeks of compression, and now I love it! Janet also tried compression this year, in the form of socks, and it helped her quite a bit in helping to prevent edema in her calves.


Action Wipes
Saddle sores suxOr, and they can stop a good training regimen cold, and take you off your bike for days, and sometimes, weeks. But saddles sores are preventable if you know the key element that causes them: bacteria. And what can save you from bacteria? Action Wipes!!! When you can’t get to a shower immediately after a ride, use an Action Wipe for a thorough aromatic cleaning, and it will be happy trails all the way. Plus Action Wipes are washable and reusable, which is awesome for the environment.

Tales from the Lack of the Peloton: Janet

July 15, 2009

It’s hard to explain what I experienced, what I saw in the Race Across AMerica; but here’s a tale of something I saw in Janet Christiansen, the solo racer I crewed for on the RAAM.

I’ve played with this blog a bit.  I hope it still reads well.

Upon a bit of reflection, I realize that what I witnessed in Janet was the ultimate in raw will and determination.
But also something more.
When there was nothing left, there was determination.
And when I say nothing, I mean riding non-stop for days and days and days, and every once in a while you get to stop, and maybe sleep a bit, but mostly, as in 21 hours a day you are riding; that kind of nothing left.
But there was always, the determination, the drive to move forward, even when exhausted beyond compare.
Janet forged ahead.

Mostly, she did not complain, but occasionally had a cursing fit. Interestingly, it has recently been found that cursing can be a type of pain reliever, and she did indeed, go through pain (Endnotes 1,  2).
One rarely comes across this breed of human, for surely no human would put herself through such hardship, such challenge, such pain; and for what?
The Honor?
No, no, wasn’t that. It is, in fact, most probably a lot closer to exactly not that.
What was it that kept her out there?
Raw will?
What gave her the fortitude, the tenacity to move forward through bone-aching exhaustion and pain?
(Will someone please let her get some sleep?)

Stories of the other riders unfold.
So many more of them then you’d think.
Not many women though.
And for these Ultra-endurances-athletes, the ultra-cyclists,
for them the RAAM is the Holy Grail;
for soloists, the end all, be all race.
It is The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race.
Yes, it is.
Really. It is.

Start: Oceanside, California
End: Annapolis, Maryland
3,016 Miles
ONE Stage

And each person’s reason for being there is very different, very interesting. And each rider’s experience was unlike anything else that’s ever happened, even if they’d done the RAAM before.
This is what EPIC means.

There is no prize money to be won, nothing but some chance at doing something very special, something that few have the capability to do. No wait, make that very few.

janet 1janet 2janet 3

janet 4Janet is a smart individual. She’s a natural born problem solver and practical to the core. She cycled well through the bad weather in New Mexico,
the corn fields Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio,
where rain and thunder and lightning and hail caught up with her in the dead of night.

janet 5janet 6
She’d been asleep for over three hours.
“don’t let her oversleep. She gets three hours a night.…”
“…and hail is the only thing that stops her.  Otherwise, she’s on the bike.”
That was the advice I was given.
It was my turn to wake her. I was amazed and delighted when she arose immediately and with purpose. There it was again, that vibe of someone who was about to do something absolutely extraordinary. Without much coaxing, she was out of the van (where she slept), and on her bike.
I was watching her at a time where she had figured out “a system” for herself; she’d found her rhythm. And in the quiet, still, dark, rolling hills of Ohio,
Janet rolls her ride again…and again…and again.
janet 7janet 8


“…cursing may ease pain..”

1.  Web MD:

2.  Reuters:

Race Across AMerica – Tales From The Lack of The Peloton

June 30, 2009

Janet finished the Race Across AMerica in good time. It took her 12 days, 3 hours, and 54 minutes to ride the 3016 miles in this single stage race. I can’t help feeling that watching the Tour de France will be a disappointment for me this year, having witnessed this race up close and personal. When Janet reached the podium, she graciously thanked our Crew Chief Bill and Logistics Coordinator, Kathryn for their all out efforts throughout this past year, to bring her dream to fruition. Indeed they all deserve a hardy congratulations for making this transcontinental crossing a reality.

But there are some unsung heroes who were a part of this race, and I think it’s right and appropriate to shine a light on these people who gave their all during these past 12 days. They are the Team Osprey crew. One might refer to them as “…and the rest” which is a shame, for without them there would have been no Team Osprey, and therefore no finish line. Remember, all of the following people were volunteers; there was no payment given to any of them, save the feeling of a job well done when Janet finished. They are Patty Jo, Tom, Kat and Greg.

Patty Jo (aka Snow Kitty) – Feeder, Navigator

Fun loving, upbeat, and silly when needed (to brighten our spirits), Patty Jo was the veteran ultra-distance woman of our team. She has been in so many different ultra-distance races, that it would be difficult to name them all. She knew exactly what to do when Janet suffered from saddle sores, and did not hesitate to step in as, well, crotch expert, when we needed it most (I think this is something that only a cyclist could truly appreciate). She also understood far more than anyone else, how and when to distribute Janet’s supplements throughout the day, and gave me much needed advice on how to deal with being in the Feeder’s chair. The feeder is a very important job, as this is the person who not only hands off food to the rider, but also makes sure the the nutritional needs of the rider are balanced well, and evenly distributed throughout the day and night. Her roadside antics kept Janet laughing, awake, and most importantly on the bike. I couldn’t imagine a better team member.

Tom – Driver, Head Mechanic

Logical and serious, Tom was a true backbone of the team as Head Mechanic. Janet’s bike were not the easiest to work on; as one of the mechanics, I know this for a fact. Her main bike was an old Lemond with a ceased seatpost set too high for her leg length, and an odd combination of componentry that would have been hard for the finest mechanic to keep tuned. But Tom made sure that Janet was always rolling and that the bikes were as good to go as they could possibly be. He was also an unwaveringly good driver, in spite of insanely long hours, and sleep deprivation. He has a great sense of humor, that I was privy to as his navigator for the first seven days.

Kat – Driver, Massage Therapist (aka @Katerpillar, on twitter)

I was lucky enough to have Kat as my driver for the second half of the trip. Charming, sarcastic and quick witted, Kat kept me laughing and giggling for days. The story that few knew about, was that she became very ill due to severe dehydration in the last 48 hours of the race. I drove about 6 miles for her at one point, at about 2:00 in the morning, but then had to switch back to navigator, as the section of the route became complicated through the small town of Clarksburg, WV. As her shift partner I watched helplessly as she struggled to finish her last shift, which consisted of 26 hours of driving, with only one hour’s rest. I am beside myself in awe of her performance, as she buckled down and hid her extreme nausea from Janet, to keep the team moving forward. She is truly a gem.

Greg – Driver, GPS Tracker (aka @watchmyrace on twitter, and owner of

Greg brought a warm and calming influence to the team in the short time he was with us. He has been a “twitter friend” of mine for a while, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to meet him. He was only was us for the first five days. Unfortunately, I had little time to get to know Greg, but in the little time I spoke with him, I realized that he is a very cool individual. I find it interesting how you could tell that about him, just from twitter. An Ultra distance athlete in his own right, I’m sure he has many interesting stories to tell. Greg had broken his hip not very long ago, so for him to come out at the last minute, and do an extraordinary amount of driving for us was beyond kind; I can imagine that was physically uncomfortable or even painful, but apparently he never complained. Over a quick lunch at the airport lunch we discussed the Furnace Creek 508, and he has agreed to be one of my crew, so I’m happy to say I’ll have a chance to work with him over the course of the next few months.

Lisa – Navigation Specialist, Feeder (aka @girlmeetsbike on twitter,

Hey, dassa me!!! It would be impossible for me to say objectively how I influenced the team, so I won’t even try. I will say that I tried my very best, to do whatever I could to keep us moving forward. This included a very rare singing performance while hanging out of the window of a moving van, to keep Janet awake at 2:30am, when the sound system went. My utmost apologies go to the citizens of West Virginia, but I suppose we do what we must.

Congratulations to this amazing set of individuals. I hope your roads are as well paved as you wish them to be, and tailwinds all the way. 🙂

from right to left: Janet, Bill, Tom, Kat, and Kathryn

from right to left: Janet, Bill, Tom, Kat, and Kathryn

with the help of her crew, JAnet completed 3016 miles in 12 days, 3 hours, and 54 minutes

with the help of her crew, JAnet completed 3016 miles in 12 days, 3 hours, and 54 minutes

Patty Jo and Janet hang for a moment before the race

Patty Jo and Janet hang for a moment before the race

Bill and Janet, before the last 50 miles

Bill and Janet, before the last 50 miles

Kat cheers on Janet

Kat cheers on Janet

Tom in Beautiful Monument Valley

Tom in Beautiful Monument Valley

Race Across AMerica – The Final Hours

June 28, 2009

Within 24 hours, the Race Across AMerica will have finished for Team Osprey. Whether or not Janet makes it, we know that as a team we have tried our very best to rally around her and keep her moving forward. We know that we have played by all the rules, worked hard, and already accomplished something great. I realize that in being a part of this, I’ve witnessed a special brand of human spirit; not just in Janet, but in every member of this team. I have absolute faith that she will finish the race, with a tired and well earned smile. And we will all share in that accomplishment and joy.

Race Across AMerica- ANYTHING to Push Forward

June 27, 2009

We are all tired. I think that’s fair to say. But Janet is the only one out on the bike and therefore the only one that can move us forward, so at this point we need to motivate her. Last night it was my turn to do so, so I pulled songs I learned as a teen out of my as asbestos, and yes, I sang to her.
Now with less than 24 hours to go in this race, I wonder what we will do to keep her motivated and on her bike. I’m exhausted, and I’m probably in the best shape of the crew. This will be interesting.

Race Across AMerica: day 9

June 25, 2009

There comes a point when you witness another human do something so extraordinary, that it forces you to change your perspective of the indelible human spirit. I’ve witnessed such an event tonight.
I got on duty at about 8:00pm, and understood that there was a good chance of rain. We saw lightning off In the distance and clouds that looked ominous. Janet seemed determined to get to the next time station in spite of reports that the route was being flooded up ahead. This particular part of the course was complex, so I worked hard to keep us on course as we made it through the back roads of Ohio. Many wonderful people came out to cheer Janet on, even as we approached the impending storm. By 11:00 Lightning flashes became more frequent and rain went from light to driving as we made our way through the darkness. I was watching Janet closely as she climbed the rolling hills. The rain drops became larger. Then all of a sudden, the loud claps of thunder became muffled by a deafeningly loud sound: hail pellets hitting the top of the van. The incredible thing is that Janet didn’t stop. Seemingly oblivious to the the crazy weather around her, she kept pedaling until we told her that she had to stop. I ran out to grab her bike, feeling the ice pellets beating me silly. Once in the van, under the orders of our crew chief, Janet fell fast asleep. I can only wonder what the heck drives someone to be so determined that they have to be yanked off their bike and forced to rest in weather like this. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like Janet, but I’m I’m sure glad I have.

Race Across AMerica, day 3

June 18, 2009

Today we started out of Cortez Co, and quickly moved through Durango. The race has become very exciting as the very competitive pace is set by Janet, but we know that the other women are very close behind. As I understand it, the first three women are within 1 hour of one another. On a 3000 mile race, that’s awfully close.
Today’s weather is beautiful and warm, much warmer than it was yesterday. Navajo country was amazing to drive through visually but quite hard on the riders as they fought through rain, extreme heat and wind. Today must be a relief in comparison.

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