Monday, December 15, 2014

Construction Underway on Red Arroyo Trail

I was part of a 25-person group of San Angelo residents who met on June 4th, 2004 to begin discussing current and future needs for non-motorized transportation infrastructure such as bike/pedestrian paths and trails in San Angelo.

This forward-thinking group realized that San Angelo lagged far behind other communities related to bike paths, sidewalks and related venues for cycling, running and fitness.

Subsequent meetings of that group, working with the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, resulted in San Angelo's City Council contracting with the Wilber Smith Associates consultant group to develop a comprehensive Bike/Pedestrian plan for the city (sanangelompo.org/plans.php). 

The consultant group's report listed the construction of a multiuse bike and pedestrian trail through the Red Arroyo 'greenbelt' area as being one of the first projects that San Angelo residents wanted the city to complete.

More than a decade after the initial focus group meeting was held, construction has finally started on that trail project with the projected completion date being mid-July 2015.
Although the Red Arroyo trail is the first major project being done as part of the Bike/Pedestrian plan implementation, it's much more than just a paved trail.

The final product will be a 'remodeled' open space area stretching from Sherwood Way to Knickerbocker Blvd that includes approximately 4 miles of meandering 14 foot wide concrete paths providing recreational and non-motorized transportation routes for cyclists, runners and walkers.

Karl Bednarz, PE, the manager of the Engineering Services Division for the city, notes that the overall trail project will include three major trailhead access points at Sul Ross, Millbrook and Unidad Park, seven neighborhood trail access points, a restroom located at Unidad Park, five bridges across the arroyo, multiple storm water detention ponds and park benches at selected locations.

"We’ve started the pond excavation, sidewalk construction, parking lot construction at Unidad Park and bridge foundation placement," says Bednarz. "Pond excavation should be completed by mid March, sidewalk construction by the end of April, bridge construction by mid March and the parking lots by mid February."

"Concrete trail construction will begin early April and be completed by early June, and the contractor is scheduled to wrap up the entire project by mid July 2015."

If you want to view the trail route and location of associated infrastructure, go to cosatx.us/departments-services/engineering-services and click on the link at the bottom right "Red Arroyo preliminary plan."

Money from several sources is being used to fund the Red Arroyo project.

"The overall project contract price is $3,870,893," says Bednarz. "Approximately 80% is funded by a Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant and 20% is funded by the City of San Angelo (approximately $325,000 from ½ cent sales tax funds designated for general park improvements and $475,000 from storm water funds)."

When completed, this project will help support San Angelo's on-going transformation to a more active community where residents spend time engaged in healthy outdoor exercise.

You'll see people on the trail as they bike commute or walk to school or work, families 'hitting the pavement' for an evening stroll, mothers pushing baby carriages along the route and groups using the trail for run/walk events.

The construction of the Red Arroyo trail may also lead to the implementation of other initiatives that leverage the paths and associated open space.

Businesses and schools near the arroyo (such as Angelo State University) will be able to establish bike/pedestrian routes from their location to the nearest trailhead, a dog park has been proposed adjacent to the trail in the arroyo and off-road cyclists and runners are envisioning a network of dirt paths through the Red Arroyo open space.

One additional benefit of the project is that the Red Arroyo trail, when completed, could relieve some of the congestion on the KOA loop by providing current KOA loop runners and walkers with an alternative car-free place to exercise.

The Red Arroyo trail is a positive step toward making San Angelo a more bikeable and walkable city, and it's the first of what will hopefully be many bike/pedestrian projects that serve all parts of our community.

Remember - the vision developed by that bike/pedestrian committee ten years ago is starting to become a reality.


Upcoming Events
Dec 13: Run Rudolph Run, conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
January 3: Resolution Run, roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals
Jan 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series, roadlizards.org

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cycling in the Wind

Over the past several weeks, I’ve listened to cycling friends curse the ‘joy’ of battling 30 mile per hour or higher winds during their bike workouts.

I’ve also been doing my share of whining about the wind.

Like it or not, the wind does blow a lot here in West Texas so if you enjoy cycling (especially on the road) you have to deal with the wind, use it to your advantage where possible and look forward to those great days when the wind is light.

According to weatherspark.com, our highest average wind speed occurs in late March when we often see an average daily maximum wind speed of 20 mph.

Days with stronger winds gusting to 30 mph or more can happen during any month of the year.

Combine the actual wind velocity with the ‘apparent wind’ generated by a bike’s forward motion and — on a breezy day — you may be feeling that you’re always riding into a 30 mph or stronger breeze.

There are skills and strategies that will make riding in the wind easier, and more importantly — you can also use the wind to your advantage as relates to getting stronger on the bike.

Let’s start with route selection for windy days.

Whenever possible, you want to start your ride headed into the wind. This means that you’ll be ‘riding uphill’ on the outbound leg (more on that later) and can then enjoy the tailwind ‘descent’ after you turn around and head home.

During colder months, starting out into the wind also means you’ll avoid going into a cold headwind after you work up a sweat.

A direct headwind is also a little safer since you don’t get blown side-to-side as much compared to riding with a gusty side wind.

Another smart strategy is to ride laps around a short loop on the really windy days to avoid having strong head or side winds for extended periods of time.

One of my favorite ‘windy day loops’ in San Angelo is a 5.5 mile per lap route that follows Knickerbocker Road from the swim beach past the airport to Spillway Road, through Spring Creek Park and then back to Knickerbocker via Fisherman’s Road.

Depending on your pace, each lap will require 15-25 minutes and you’ll never spend more than 1.5 miles going straight into the wind.

Smart equipment selection will also help make windy days more pleasant. Although deep section ‘aero’ wheels look good on a bike, they tend to be much harder to control in strong winds (especially side winds). If possible, save the deep section wheels for calmer days or races.

When riding into a strong wind, remember that when the wind speed doubles, the force of the wind increases by a factor of four. What that means in a practical sense is that gusts of wind or even increases in your forward speed will have a magnified effect.

The best way to deal with pedaling into the wind is to select a gear that allows you to maintain a comfortable pedaling cadence of 85-90 revolutions per minute or higher while monitoring your effort via perceived exertion (‘how hard it feels’) or by using a heart rate monitor.

Don’t ‘blow up’ by trying to go too fast or by attempting to push a very hard gear — instead, imagine that you’re pedaling up a long constant hill and try to use a similar level of effort.

Since riding into the wind is very similar to riding up a long hill, windy day rides can be beneficial related to developing bike-specific strength and power.

We don’t have long extended climbs in our part of the state, but you can use windy days to simulate climbing by doing long rides or interval repeats into the wind.

As an example, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound cyclist riding at 15-20 mph headwind will have to produce slightly more power (watts) than the same cyclist moving at 15 mph up a 6 percent grade.

If you want to compare the power required for into-the-wind vs. uphill climbs for your size and weight, try using the online calculator at kreuzotter.de/english/espeed.htm.

Remember — cyclists in West Texas have to enjoy the windy days.


Upcoming Events
Dec. 13: Run Rudolph Run: conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Dec 13: Midland cyclocross race, https://www.facebook.com/events/860369537318302/
Now-Jan. 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
Jan. 3: Resolution Run: roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/
Jan. 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships: usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Lights

For most of the year, cycling and running events are highly competitive activities with participants maxing out their heart rates as they battle for finishing positions during races.

That all changes after Thanksgiving as the holiday spirit takes over and Christmas lights start to appear at businesses, homes and along the downtown Concho River.

The two remaining cycling and running events on the local 2014 schedule have a completely different focus with the attitude of participants shifting to enjoying the seasonal festivities with family and friends.

Both of these events are part of the 2014 Concho Christmas Celebration which organizes the 2.5-mile long Tour of Lights along the banks of the Concho River.

On Sunday evening, Dec. 7, area cyclists will gather to enjoy the noncompetitive Bike Through the Lights to view the three million Christmas lights and Christmas Greeting Cards along the Concho River.

This relaxed social ride, presented by the Concho Christmas Celebration and the San Angelo Bicycle Association, is free and open to the public.

The out-and-back ride through the lights will start at 5 p.m. at the entrance to the Tour of Lights route and will end by 5:40 p.m. Parking for participants is available next to the Central High tennis courts on River Drive.

All cyclists should have a front light on their bicycle, a rear reflector or light and must wear a bicycle helmet. Many participants also decorate their bikes with Christmas lights and other seasonal decorations.

For more information on Bike Through the Lights, contact John Gonzales at (325) 374-9779.

On Saturday Dec. 13, runners and walkers will take center stage for the annual Run Rudolph Run event at 5:30 p.m.

This will be a free, non-competitive run or walk that is open to everyone, including those with baby strollers and wheelchairs, so bring the whole family for an enjoyable active evening under the Christmas lights.

Participants will start in the lower parking lot below the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, cross Celebration Bridge and then follow an out-and-back route next to the river through the Tour of Lights.

You can complete the entire three-mile course or turn around at any point and head back to the start/finish location.

After finishing your run or walk, you’ll be able to enjoy the free hot chocolate, cookies, hot taco bean soup or grilled cheese sandwiches (while supplies last) served by the Lady Lions Club of San Angelo.

Although the event is free, donations will be accepted to benefit the Rust Street Ministries.

If you need more information regarding Run Rudolph Run, contact event director September Summers at (325) 374-0902.

So although the local competitive bike and run events have ended for this year, the end-of-year Ride Through the Lights and Run Rudolph Run may be the highlights of the season.

Put both events on your calendar and take the whole family when you go.

Remember — cycling, running or walking is a great way to enjoy the Christmas lights with family and friends.


Upcoming Events

Dec 7: Bike Through the Lights, conchochristmas-celebration.com/additional-activities
Dec 13: Run Rudolph Run, conchochristmas-celebration.com/additional-activities
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Physical Therapy

If you constantly have nagging aches and pains during or after workouts, your next best friend might be a physical therapist.

Competitive cyclists and runners are notorious for having a ‘train through the pain’ attitude.

After all, conventional wisdom says “no pain, no gain” — right?

We tend to ignore that lingering soreness in our feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders or neck thinking that our next bike or run session will ‘work out the kinks’ and make the aches feel better.

Instead of backing off on workouts and trying to identify the ‘root cause’ problems that led to these nagging injuries, we usually turn to pain medications such as ibuprofen to give us short-term relief.

Many athletes, however, are discovering that physical therapists can both evaluate and treat chronic sports injuries and are a great resource related to the detection and correction of biomechanical issues that cause those injuries.

Kim Martin, the director of Therapy Services at Community Hospital, says that the most common cause of non-trauma injuries to cyclists and runners is overuse (doing more than the body will tolerate).

“Training is important for success,” says Martin. “However, too much too often can lead to overuse issues that can become chronic in nature if not addressed.”

“The keys to injury prevention are warming up, stretching and not over-training.”

Martin suggests warming up for at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to strenuous activity with either light jogging/cycling and dynamic stretching to get the muscles warmed up with good blood flow to prepare the muscles for the activity.

He also recommends an easy cool-down period after the workout followed by static stretching to allow the muscles to return to pre-activity length and condition.

Dr. Kelly Moore, Assistant Clinical Professor of Physical Therapy at Angelo State University, says the most common running injuries he encounters are to the plantar fascia, hamstrings and back.

“A physical therapist can help identify the root cause of the injury, provide rehabilitation therapy and mitigate the risk of future injuries,” says Moore.

“Information such as the wear pattern on a runner’s shoe, data from a gait analysis and identification of abnormal movement patterns can all be used to develop a corrective treatment plan that might include specific stretching and strengthening exercises.”

Curtis Cramblett, a physical therapist, experienced cyclist and the founder of Revolutions in Fitness (revolutionsinfitness.com), says that cyclists can also benefit from a thorough musculoskeletal evaluation by an experienced physical therapist to identify physical limitations or weaknesses that may cause biomechanical issues and pain while cycling.

Cramblett and his associates provide evaluations and bike fitting services for top cyclists and cycling teams nation-wide.

In his 2013 University of California video presentation ‘Bike Fit: It’s All About the Bike,’ Cramblett explains that posture and body mechanics, both on and off the bike, play a significant role in identifying an optimal position on the bike to allow for efficient and pain-free cycling.

The video is almost an hour in length, but if you’re a serious cyclist who wants a professional explanation of bike fit and related injury issues it’s a must watch. You can view the video at
youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=oxNznrlRXGU.

One difficulty related to accessing physical therapy services is that many insurance companies and medical organizations may require a referral from a medical doctor.

If you find that’s the case, start with a visit to your primary care physician and ask for both a PT recommendation and a referral.

Remember — physical therapy might be the solution to nagging injuries.


Upcoming Events
Dec. 7: Bike Through the Lights: conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Dec. 13: Run Rudolph Run: conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Now-Jan. 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series:  http://txbra.org/events
Jan. 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships: usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The More Things Change


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Although I'm not going to 'fess up about how young (or old) I am, I've been cycling and running for long enough to see some dramatic changes in the equipment used for these sports.

The thing that hasn't changed, however, is that cyclists still have to push on their pedals and running still means quickly putting one foot in front of the other.

Like many other men my age, I learned to run (or to hate running) during basic training in the military.

The famous Nike waffle trainers didn't appear on the scene until almost a decade after I completed my 'government issue' running lessons.

Running was also much lower-tech back then - no MapMyRun web sites, heart rate monitors, GPS watches or RunTracker apps on smart phones to post each workout on Facebook.

Most runners kept track of their workouts using pencil-and-paper training logs from Runners World magazine.

To measure the length of different running routes, we simply drove around the course using our car's odometer to determine the route's length (note - gas was also less that $1 per gallon at that time).

After being a somewhat-serious runner for a few years, I decided to take up cycling as a form of cross-training.

My first adult bicycle was a 'high tech' 10-speed Sears and Roebuck bike with 36-spoke 27" wheels,

My initial cycling apparel consisted of running shorts or jeans, athletic shoes and a baseball cap (no helmet in those early days).

Today there's a company that is solely focused on manufacturing bike-friendly jeans for cyclists (osloh.com).

In the early 80s mountain bikes started growing in popularity and I upgraded my ride to a bright yellow rigid-fork off-road bike that had a seven-speed rear freewheel, big fat tires, a triple front crank, indexed thumb shifters and platform pedals with toe cages and straps.

One of the important riding skills in those days was being able to flip the pedal over and get your shoes into the toe cages while trying to get moving again after stopping.

Fast forward to today and one of the 'new' trends in fun-to-ride bicycles is a reincarnation of those original mountain bikes complete with a steel tubing frame, rigid fork, fat tires and retro-style shifting.

The road bike and multisport bug caught up with me in the late 80s and I became the proud owner of a Bridgestone RB-1. That bike, a classic that's no longer in production, was made from lightweight thin-wall steel tubing with lugged joints and outfitted with top-of-the-line Shimano 600 components that included indexed down tube shifters.

 Today you'll see carbon fiber bicycle frames and components, 11 speed shifting with integrated shift and brake levers, specialized running shoes designed for every imaginable type of running activity, high-technology electronics to track your workouts, and expensive workout clothing that's marketed as being much faster than the older apparel.

Concurrently, retro bike components such as thumb shifters are selling for a premium on eBay, old-school wool jerseys and steel-framed bikes are back in vogue and flat-sole 'zero drop' running shoes with waffle treads are the hot ticket for many runners.

And yet - some key things have not changed.

Cyclists are still pushing on the pedals to make their bikes go forward and runners still have to quickly put one foot in front of the other

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Upcoming Events
Dec 7: Bike Through the Lights, conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Dec 13: Run Rudolph Run, conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals
flat pedals with reflectors, a heavy frame that made from cheap sewer-pipe-grade steel and friction shifters that clamped onto the stem.

completed my 'government issue' running lessons.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Layer Up for Winter Workouts

Cold fronts are coming through and the weather forecast calls for a wetter-than-normal winter, so it's time to get your outdoor winter workout wardrobe ready.

Although West Texas has (comparatively speaking) very mild winters, the next four months or so will have days when it's cold, wet, windy or all of those combined.

In fact, you may get a taste of the cold and some northerly wind during the upcoming week.

There are multiple factors to consider when selecting clothing for winter cycling and running, but the most important are wind and water resistance, warmth, moisture transfer (sweat), low light visibility and multi-use functionality (i.e., can it be used for both cycling and running).

Most of us also have to consider cost since technical workout apparel can be expensive.

You want to save the cotton sweatshirts and pants for lounging next to the fireplace after working out.  Although cotton initially feels warm, it will quickly saturate with sweat and cause you to become chilled instead of keeping you warm.

Let's start with the upper body base layer that touches the skin. Depending on the temperature, this could be as simple as wearing a short sleeve Dri-Fit T-shirt under a long sleeve top.

For cool-to-cold conditions, go with a long sleeve base layer such as the long sleeve compression tops from BCG (the Academy Sports house brand, $17). These are much less expensive than name brands such as Under Armour.

Wear this base layer under a cycling jersey or long sleeve polypro T-shirt and you'll be amazed at the added warmth and moisture transfer.

Long sleeve cycling jerseys also make great cold weather tops for both biking and running since the rear pockets serve as a 'fanny pack' to carry gloves, a cap and essentials such as an emergency rain jacket.

In colder, windy or wet weather you'll need a wind and water resistant outer shell that is lightweight and can be carried in the pocket of a cycling jersey if needed. One of my favorites is the lightweight Pearl Izumi Barrier jacket. These retail for around $70 but you find lower prices if your shop around for closeouts on previous year models.

For the really cold days, layer a lightweight shell like this over several layers of polypro or fleece long sleeve tops.

One cheap trick for an emergency rain top is to carry one of the 'disposable' vinyl ponchos. These aren't pretty and do trap moisture inside, but they'll block wind and keep you somewhat dry if you get caught in a sudden downpour.

The lower body is fairly simple since you don't need a lot of layers. A good pair of medium weight polypro tights (yep, guys - I said tights) will be all that you need to bike and run in most West Texas winter conditions. 

Cyclists should note that although there are tights with a sewn-in cycling pad, it makes more sense to go with the non-padded version so that you can wear your normal bike shorts and also use the tights for running.

For the rare conditions when tights are not warm enough, wear a thin pair of nylon wind pants over the tights or layer them over a thin pair of long underwear.

Your feet, hands and head also need to be protected during cold weather, but you don't have to break the bank to do so. For running, a single pair of mid-weight polypro or wool socks will usually keep your toes toasty.

Cyclists may need a little more foot protection in cold, windy or wet weather but be advised that thick hunting socks are usually too bulky for snug-fitting cycling shoes.

A better approach is to layer a medium-weight pair of polypro or wool socks over a thin pair of liner socks, and then - if more warmth or water protection is needed - slip a small plastic bag over the toes inside the shoes.

Long socks also help by eliminating the gap between the shoes and the tights or wind pants.

Layers also work well to keep hands warm. Many people make the mistake of wearing thick bulky ski gloves for all winter conditions, but a smarter approach is to have a thin pair of polypro liner gloves that can be worn alone under cycling gloves or layered under an insulated wind-and waterproof shell.

I've found that long-finger work gloves, especially the ones from Western Safety with non-slip dots on the palms, work great for cool weather cycling.

You'll lose a lot of body heat from the head so wearing a cap when running or under your bike helmet is a must. A simple and inexpensive polypro or wool 'watch cap' works fine for either sport and can easily be carried in a pocket if you start to overheat.

The last suggestion for winter workout clothing is 'go bright' so that motorists can see you in low-light conditions.  You can buy expensive jackets, tights and even shoes that are reflective, but a less expensive option that works as well is to wear bright colors and - for those dawn or dusk workouts - simply carry an inexpensive blinking light.

Remember - 'layer up' is the key to dressing for winter workouts.

Upcoming Events
Nov 15: West Texas Masochist Run II, roadlizards.org/events/masochists-relay-run/
Dec 13: Red Nose Rudolph Jingle Bell Run, roadlizards.org/events/red-nose-rudolph-jingle-bell-run

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Special Kind of Cyclist

It takes a special kind of cyclist to enjoy pedaling for a week through Colorado’s high country with each day’s ride being 60-100 miles over routes that include long leg-burning climbs up steep mountain roads.

Lynette Havens, a longtime friend and former faculty colleague at Aims College in Greeley,
Colorado, is one of those special cyclists.

She’s also the perfect role model for anyone who wants to challenge themselves with a lofty cycling goal and then work hard to accomplish that goal while overcoming any obstacles that might arise.

Havens has completed the week-long Ride the Rockies bike tour twice (2008 and 2012) and has also ridden numerous one-day cycling tours along Colorado’s Front Range.

However, there’s more to her story than just putting a lot of miles on her bike.

For starters, this 57-year-old grandmother has only been cycling for eight years and completed her first Ride the Rockies during her third year of cycling.

Prior to getting a bicycle, she was a recreational runner who occasionally competed in 5K and 10K fun runs until bad knees forced her to give up running.

She had her first knee replacement in 2009 and the second this past July.

“I’ve completed one Ride the Rockies with two bad knees and another with one artificial knee,” said Havens. “I’m confident that I can do it again with two artificial knees.”

When she decided to get serious about cycling her objective was to train for something ‘big’ and Ride the Rockies was what she decided to focus on.

“I’m motivated to ride long distances because of the satisfaction I feel when I’m done,” said Havens. “It’s always a lot of fun to do, especially the climbing.”

“I remember looking at my bike hanging on the back of the car after completing the last Ride the Rockies and feeling absolute amazement that such a machine could take me over the Rocky Mountains. I couldn’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.”

Havens does different types of cycling workouts depending on the time of the year.

During warm weather she rides 3-4 times per week on bike trails or on the rolling roads around her home in Greeley, and she also does workouts on hilly routes through the Front Range foothills.

Most of her training rides cover 30-40 miles at a pace of 16-18 mph on the flats and 12-13 mph on moderate inclines.

“I remember when my speed on the steeper climbs was about 4 mph,” notes Havens. “ I can now maintain 8-10 mph on a fairly serious uphill.”

Starting in October of each year and continuing through the cold winter months in Colorado, Havens rides her bicycle inside on a stationary trainer while using a video training program called Spinervals.

“The video program is designed to train participants all winter long while varying the training distances, cadences and focus," said Havens. “The shortest indoor ride workout using the videos is one hour and there is generally a two- to three-hour ride during each week.”

“After the six months of using the indoor cycling program, I’m in really good shape and ready for serious outdoor cycling when the season starts in the spring.”

Havens also notes that the physical benefits of her cycling workouts extend beyond just being able pedal up steep roads easier.

“My resting heart rate is much lower than it was a few years ago, I have definitely increased the muscle tone in my legs, and my overall endurance had increased considerably.”

When you think ‘long distance cyclist’ and ‘high mountain roads,’ the first athlete that comes to mind is typically not a petite 57-year-old lady with two artificial knees.

Think again — this lady is the real thing and she has the ride results to prove it.

Lynette Havens is a special kind of cyclist.

Upcoming Events
Nov. 1: 30K of the Dinosaur trail race, roadlizards.org
Nov. 1: Six Hours of the Dinosaur mountain bike race, angelobike.org/6hour-dinosaur
Nov. 15: West Texas Masochist Run II, roadlizards.org/events/masochists-relay-run/
Dec. 13: Red Nose Rudolph Jingle Bell Run, roadlizards.org