Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mud Run Triathlon

Water levels in San Angelo area lakes and rivers are dropping fast, leaving dry shorelines and mud flats where there used to be water.

The annual drag boat races have been postponed this year due to the low water level in Lake Nasworthy.

Mud flats are starting to appear in the Middle Concho Park inlet of the lake that for years has been
the swim course for the Wool Capitol Triathlon.

However, there’s a silver lining in every non-rain-producing cloud. The shrinking lakes and residual mud could provide a once-in-a-drought opportunity for a new type of event.

Given the growing popularity of ‘mud run’ obstacle courses and short course sprint distance triathlons, I propose that we leverage the emerging mud flats to combine a mud run with a sprint triathlon and hold the first ever Mud Run Triathlon right here in San Angelo.

The format would be similar to a normal triathlon with three distinct ‘legs’ that solo competitors and three-person teams must complete.

Instead of beginning the triathlon with a swim, Leg 1 of the Mud Run Triathlon would be a 400-yard slog through a section of shallow water and mud with several ‘get down and crawl’ obstacles along the route.

The second leg would be on the bike just as in a normal triathlon, but the ‘mud athletes’ would face a course that’s reminiscent of a muddy cyclocross race.

Competitors would complete 6 challenging miles during the bike leg that included several obstacles plus (you guessed it) a section or two where they had to pedal through some of our high-quality Lake Nasworthy mud.

To ensure that the event is spectator-friendly, the bike course would follow a serpentine route close to where the water used to be that lets spectators see all of the action as racers complete each lap on their muddy bikes.

After completing the mud crawl and bike leg, racers would face a final 2-mile run leg that finished by going back through (in reverse direction) the same 400-yard shallow water, mud and crawl-through section they faced at the beginning of the race.

Spectators at the Mud Run Triathlon would enjoy the event as much or more than the racers, with multiple locations on the course designated as ‘heckle zones’ where spectators would offer encouragement while commenting loudly on each racer’s skills (or the lack of).

Loudspeakers around the course would blare music such “Mud Bog” by Matt Steel and “Muddin 4x4” by Dale Rogers.

Just as at the drag boat races, spectators would be encouraged to bring large coolers filled with fermented beverages to ensure they stayed well hydrated and to help them get into proper enjoy-the-race mode.

Kids would also be able to join in on the fun — they would be recruited to help create the mud-on-white cotton T-shirts awarded to each event finisher.

Top finishers in the race would receive one-of-a-kind Mud Run Triathlon awards. Art students would be commissioned to create unique mud sculpture trophies for the top female, male and team category winners and also mud medals for first, second and third in each age group.

Holding the first-ever Mud Run Triathlon would be better than lamenting the fact that our lakes are disappearing and maybe even be something that could attract out-of-town mud-seeking visitors to our almost-waterless city.

The only potential problem might be if heavy rains fell before the mud run triathlon took place and raised the lake’s water level back to normal, thus covering up those beautiful mud flats.

We all hope that big rain happens — we’ll be glad to postpone the Mud Run Triathlon until the next severe drought.

Remember — a mud-run triathlon could be some dirty fun.

April 24: Mountain bike TT Series,
April 26: Lone Wolf Run,
April 26: Colorado River Bikefest,
May 1: R oad bike time trial,
May 15: Mountain bike time trial,
May 16: Relay for Life,
May 16: Relay for Life 5K,
June 7: Run in the Sun 8K,

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bike, Run, and Yoga

Strength and endurance are things that all cyclists and runners strive to improve.

We do long bike rides over hilly terrain, log mile after mile running, and supplement those workouts with additional strength training sessions in the gym.

You would assume that all of this strengthens every muscle fiber in out body, but ... that’s not the case.

Supporting muscles in the back, core and upper body are often underdeveloped in endurance athletes, and — even worse — the cycling and running workouts themselves may result in chronic pain or injuries resulting from tight hip flexor muscles, inflexible hamstrings and hyperextension in the lower back.

Patty Browning, a San Angelo yoga instructor and former Army drill instructor, suggests that yoga sessions can help alleviate these problems and even help improve your functional strength and endurance.

“Athletes should attempt to diversify their training to avoid overworking the same major muscle groups or ignoring stabilizing muscles like those in the ankles, hips and groin,” says Browning.”

Adding a regular yoga practice to an athlete’s training regimen may increase athletic gains.”

“The stretching and breathing of a mindful yoga practice elongates shortened, contracted muscle tissue which increases the muscle’s range of motion. Yoga helps lengthen muscle fibers by focusing on the entire range of motion.”

“It is the eccentric portion of the muscle movement (lengthening against resistance) that stimulates the greatest muscle growth and increases strength. Additionally, the increased flexibility gained from yoga sessions may also help prevent more serious injuries when riders and runners experience falls.”

Browning also notes that yoga practitioners learn to be mindful (acutely aware) of their various body systems through asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control) practice.

Although yoga sessions can vary from relaxing restorative workouts to harder flexibility and strength efforts, Browning says that most of them follow a common pattern.

“We begin with a quieting of the mind through deep breathing, then perform movements that warm up the spine and joints slowly and deliberately,” she said.

 “After the warm up, we begin to raise the heart rate and generating heat in the muscles through a series of standing postures linked by the breath (Sun Salutations) and then progress through all or some of the following poses: standing, balancing, core-centric, arm-balances, seated postures, twists, backbends, inversions, reclined postures, cool down and savasana (corpse pose) at the conclusion of the session.”

One common question from athletes is how and when to fit yoga sessions into a busy week that might include cycling, running and strength workouts.

“Yoga can be tacked onto any of the days mentioned above,” says Browning. “It is a very good active recovery exercise and as little as 15-30 minutes following a workout session can prove very beneficial to the athlete. However, yoga should not be performed before a hard activity where power/strength is required.”

In addition to the yoga classes that Browning teaches professionally, she also conducts twice-weekly free yoga sessions for the San Angelo Team Red WhiteBlue chapter. Those yoga sessions are open to the public.

The locations and times for her classes are posted on her website at or you can visit the San Angelo Team RWB Facebook page at

Want to know more about yoga and the potential benefits for you? Check out the links below or attend one of the free Team RWB yoga sessions for a “test run”.
Remember — yoga may be the missing piece of your workout routine.

 Upcoming Events

April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,
April 13: 9-mile mountain bike time trial,
April 24: Mountain bike TT Series,
April 26: Lone Wolf Run,
April 26: Colorado River Bikefest,
May 16: Relay for Life,

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Social vs. Solo Workouts

I occasionally coach individuals or groups for cycling-related events, and one of the workout issues that always comes up is social vs. solo workouts.

Many people, especially individuals new to a sport, seem to prefer social group workouts.

This may be a residual philosophy from high school and collegiate sports or from military training where most workouts were group-based team activities.

Whatever the reason, individuals who want to excel in sports such as cycling, running or triathlon should do some of their workouts solo unless they have training partners who match up perfectly in terms of ability, goals, time availability and similar factors.

Note that I said “want to excel” is one of the reasons for doing some workouts solo. This may not apply to everyone because — for may people — excelling in competition isn’t the reason for working out.

Some people view workouts as simply social activities where the primary objective is to enjoy other people’s company with the quality of the workout being secondary.

Conversely, individuals who do compete seriously tend to be goal-oriented and thus their workouts are planned strategies (tasks) designed to achieve specific fitness and competition goals. Social interactions during workouts are usually secondary to completing the planned workout for these individuals.

Research such as that done by Hardy, Eys and Carron (2005) reinforces this concept. Their study suggested that “an overemphasis on social interaction (i.e., non-task related) may detract from the goals of many exercisers and, in the end, lower their attraction to the group.”

So why is solo vs. social important?

The biggest problem with social group workouts is that the group will usually dictate the duration and intensity of a workout.

A long ride planned by one individual may get shortened because some members of the group have time constraints, or the pace of a workout may be dictated by the slowest person in the group.

There is also the important issue of being able to ‘push yourself’ during difficult workouts since you’ll have to do that during races. Doing hard solo efforts helps you develop mental toughness to ride hard when you are hurting.

Although the camaraderie of a group exercise session is healthy in a mental sense, the above-mentioned issues may result in less-than-stellar physical outcomes for people pursuing specific race-training goals.

The good news is that with a little planning you can have the best of both worlds.

An effective way to approach the social vs. solo workout issue is to categorize workouts based on if they are best done solo, with a group, or if it doesn’t matter.

Using as an example a typical week from a training plan that I’m currently developing for a group, you can see how solo vs. social applies to different workouts during the week.

 - Endurance ride in heart rate (HR) zone 2: This workout can be done solo or with a group as long as the group’s pace and ride duration don’t deviate a lot from what your planned endurance workout is.  The only caveat is 'don't let the group pace make you ride faster than planned.'

 - Recovery day with an easy walk or yoga: Prefect for socializing so hook up with other people and enjoy.

 - Bike strength workout: Although it could be done in a group environment, this is a good solo workout that both stresses the muscles and helps you practice mental toughness skills as you do ‘big gear’ intervals on the stationary bike trainer.

 - 30-minute trail run at a conversational pace: Solo or with a group, as long as the group members run at about the same pace.

 - Fast-tempo ride in HR zone 3 with several hard two-minute accelerations during the workout: This workout is best done solo to ensure that you stay in the planned HR zone during the ride. It could be done with a group, but you’ll often find that the group is going too easy or two hard for you to do the HR-specific workout as planned.

Remember — you don't always have to be social since some workouts are best done solo.

Upcoming Events

April 10: Road bike TT Series,
April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,
April 24: Mountain bike TT Series,
April 26: Lone Wolf Run,
April 26: Colorado River Bikefest,
May 16: Relay for Life,

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Power to the Pedals

Ask any cyclist what would most improve their on-the-bike performance, and the answer you’ll probably get from both casual beginner riders and experienced racers is “get stronger.”

What they’re actually referring to is power — being able to apply a greater force during
each pedal revolution for a sustainable period of time.

Generating more power is the key to climbing hills easier, pedaling into strong headwinds or going faster on flat terrain.

Although many types of training activities will help increase the amount of power a cyclist can generate, a simple way to improve power output is by doing functional strength training that targets the muscles used while cycling.

Functional strength training differs from traditional ‘go to the gym and lift weights’ in that the exercises are designed to develop sustainable strength in the upper body, core and lower body muscles.

Note that we're talking about more than just leg power - a strong upper body and core also contribute to powerful cycling.

One simple strength training workout for cyclists is a 45- to 60-minute routine that combines a series of body weight exercises with on-the-bike strength work.

Do this routine twice a week, and after a month or so, you’ll start to see improvements in your ability to put power to the pedals.

The three-part workout can be done at home using an indoor bike trainer, in a fitness club on a spin bike, or even outdoors on your bike if you have a suitable area for the strength exercises.

Start the workout by doing 15 minutes of easy spinning on the bike to warm up, gradually increasing the effort to a moderate level by the end of the warm-up period.

After warming up, get off the bike and do the following series of strength exercises, moving immediately from one exercise to the next.

 - Lunges: Take a long step forward with one leg and go down until the front knee is at an approximate 90-degree angle, then step back to an upright position and repeat the lunge with the other leg. Start with 10 lunges per leg and build to 20.

 - Push-ups: Start with 10 repetitions and add one per session until reaching 30. After finishing the last repetition, hold the push-up position for one minute.

 - Step-ups: Step up onto a platform or bench with one leg, balance briefly on that leg, and step down. Do 10-20 repetitions per leg and then repeat with the other leg. If you are new to this exercise, begin with a 6-8 inch platform and gradually build up to knee-high.

 - Bicycle core exercise: Lie on your back, raise heels 10-12 inches from the floor, and move your legs in a circular ‘pedaling’ motion. Start with 30 seconds and increase to one minute.

 - Calf raises: Using a small step or platform such as a flat 2x4, do single-leg calf raises where you go from having a dropped heel to standing on your toes. This is best done with a chair or railing in front of you for support. Start with 10 repetitions per leg and increase slowly to 30.

 - Do a second set of push-ups as described above.

 - Single leg hip lift (pelvic tilt): Lie on your back with one leg bent, foot on the floor, and the other leg extended upward. Lift your hips as high as possible using the bent leg, hold for 1-2 seconds, and lower to the ground. Start with 10 repetitions per leg and increase to 30 over time. For added difficulty, place heel of lower (bent) leg on a platform or chair.

 - Side leg raises: Lie on your side and slowly raise the upper leg as high as possible, then lower. Start with 15 repetitions per leg and increase to 30 over time. Turn onto opposite side and repeat with the other leg.

After completing the strength exercises, get back on the bike, shift into a very hard gear, and pedal at a slow cadence of 50-60 RPM. This part of the workout is called a ‘muscle tension’ (big-gear) interval, and its purpose is to train your body to push a hard gear for an extended period of time.

On an indoor trainer, you will probably be in the hardest resistance setting and in one of the hardest gears. The effort should be difficult enough that you have to really work to keep the pedals moving in circles (i.e., like climbing a steep hill).

If the workload feels easy or moderate you need to be in a much harder gear.  This should feel kike the hardest 10-15 minutes you've ever suffered through.

Start with 10 minutes of big-gear pedaling and gradually work up to 15 or 20. Stand up on the pedals every fifth minute and pedal standing for one minute, then sit back down and continue.

After the big-gear interval is completed, shift to an easy gear, spin for several minutes to cool down, and then stretch thoroughly after the workout.

When you are able to comfortably do two of the above sessions per week, increase the duration of each workout repeating part two (strength) and part three (big-gear) a second time during each session. The longer sequence will be warm-up, strength exercises, big gear, strength exercises again, and big gear again.

Give it a try for a few months — this workout will help you develop more pedaling power.

Upcoming Events

March 30: Burma Road time trial,
April 10: Road bike TT Series,
April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,
April 24: Mountain bike TT Series,
April 26: Lone Wolf Run,
April 26: Colorado River Bikefest,
May 16: Relay for Life,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guinn Road Is A Ride Through West Texas History

With the increase in truck traffic on major highways, some area cyclists have been mapping out cycling routes that take them off the beaten path on rural back country roads.

One of the newest rides, pioneered by San Angelo cyclist Rick Ogan, is on Guinn Road from the town of Knickerbocker to FM 915 southwest of Mertzon.

This 29-mile out-and-back ride offers a great combination of low-traffic smooth pavement mixed with some rough-but-scenic dirt road. Since over half of the route is unpaved, you’ll be a lot happier on a touring bike with fat tires (700x32 or larger) or on a mountain bike.

It’s also an out-and-back route so you can turn around at any time to make the distance fit your ability (

Ernest Hemingway once noted “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

Riding on Guinn Road personifies Hemingway’s statement and — even better — the route lets you pedal through some Tom Green County history.

The best place to start is at the post office in the small community of Knickerbocker. There are no public facilities there, so make sure you have water, energy bars, and visit ‘the facilities’ before you drive to the start of the ride.

From Knickerbocker, go south on the main road (FM 2355) for about 0.7 miles to the intersection with Guinn Road and turn right.

You’ll enjoy the nice pavement, lack of traffic, and rolling hills for the first six miles on this nice two-lane road. Relax, pedal smoothly, and take in the sights and scents of rural West Texas.

At about mile 6, the pavement will end and become a dirt road that has some Texas-sized potholes for a few hundred yards. No worries — just look ahead and emulate the downhill ski racers as you slalom around the craters.

As you continue riding southwest on Guinn, the potholes fade away behind you and you encounter some nice small hills on the gravel and calachie road.

A few of these hills will make you work, so — as Hemingway noted — you “have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

The road will start to dip down at 8.5 miles into the ride as you approach the low-water crossing on Dove Creek. This crossing is concrete and (as of early March) had about eight inches of cold, clear water flowing across it.

Stop at Dove Creek and reflect on history as the crossing is very near the location where a historic battle between the Kickapoo Indians and Texas Militia took place back in January of 1865 (

After crossing Dove Creek, you’ll continue on the rough gravel road as you pass near the headwaters of Dove Creek at about 11 miles into the ride and then over rolling hills toward the turnaround point at FM 915.

Look to your left as you ride the last couple of outbound miles and you’ll see a composite of modern day West Texas — cattle feeding in pastures, pumpjacks bringing oil to the surface, and wind turbines spinning in the steady breeze a few miles to the southwest.

Although you could follow FM 915 for five miles north to highway 67 and then an additional two miles on 67 into Mertzon, you would start to encounter quite a bit of traffic on those roads.

The best option is to stop at FM 915, have an energy bar, and then follow the same Guinn Road route back to Knickerbocker.

It’s an even nicer ride headed back and maybe — just maybe — you’ll get through the Dove Creek crossing on the return trip without getting your feet wet.

Give this route a try - it's a peaceful ride through West Texas history.

Upcoming Events

March 29: Run for the Wounded Warrior 5K,
April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,
April 26: Lone Wolf Run,
May 16: Relay for Life,

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Cycling Season Is Underway

The weather is warming up, the time has changed and area cyclists are starting to come out of their winter hibernation.

With the exception of cyclocross racers and a few other hardcore bikers, most of the two-wheeled lycra-shorts crowd spent the winter going nowhere on indoor spin bikes or substituted gym and running workouts for bike rides.

That changed this past week with multiple group rides kicking off and several area bike tours and races appearing on the calendar.

For those of you new to cycling or new to this area, multiple organized group cycling rides take place each week here in San Angelo to include those listed below.

 - Monday 6 p.m., a 12 mile fun/social road bike ride through Spring Creek Park that starts and finishes at the Lake Nasworthy swim beach.

 - Wednesday 6 p.m., a moderate pace road ride that starts/finishes at Southgate Church of Christ on Country Club Road with multiple route options to include 14, 20 and 25 miles.

 - Wednesday 6 p.m., an easy pace mountain bike ride that begins at the end of the paved park road near the middle gate in Middle Concho Park. The typical ride distance is 10-12 miles and all levels of cyclists are welcome.

 - Tuesday/Thursday 6 p.m., the Loop Group ride at TxDOT (Kinckerbocker and Loop 306). This is a faster paced ride that typically splits up into different groups going 20, 28 or 35 miles.

There are also other rides that typically take place to include Sunday afternoon mountain bike rides in the State Park and one-time rides that are ‘called’ by an area cyclist.

The best way to find out about these group rides is to get on the cycling club’s email list ( or monitor the club’s Facebook page at:

Early season cycling tours and races are also showing up on area calendars.

Abilene’s Steam-N-Wheels event will take place March 22, the Bikes for Trykes cycling tour is scheduled for April 5 in San Angelo, and the Colorado River Bikefest in Ballinger will be April 26.

The Steam-N-Wheels race and tour ( is a West Texas classic that always attracts a sizable number of San Angelo cyclists. Riders can choose from 48-, 32- or 12-mile routes that all start/finish at Abilene’s Nelson Park.

Bikes for Trykes ( is a new San Angelo cycling tour organized by the San Angelo chapter of AMBUCS (, a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic trykes to children with disabilities.

The 35, 20, & 12.5 mile Bikes for Trykes routes will start and finish at Boondock’s Bar & Grill on Red Bluff Road near the entrance to Middle Concho Park. This will be a fully-supported ride with water and snack aid stations on the course.

Ballinger will host area cyclists in late April for the 39th annual Bikefest ( Activities include cycling distances of 30, 60 and 100 kilometers and a 5K fun run.

In addition to the group rides and cycling events mentioned above, the San Angelo Bicycle Association will start up their monthly time trial events in April. These events include a 6-race TT series for mountain bikes in San Angelo State Park and a 6-race road bike TT series. Visit the club’s website at for specific date and location information.

If you want to find out more about local cycling activities, the bicycle club’s next monthly meeting will take place at 7 p.m. March 18 at Boondocks Bar and Grill on Red Bluff Road.

The club meetings are open to the public and are a great way to meet other area cyclists.

Remember — the days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and the cycling season is underway.

Upcoming Events

March 22: Crazy Desert Trail Race,

March 22: Steam-N-Wheels cycling race and tour, Abilene,

March 29: Run for the Wounded Warrior 5K,

April 5: Bikes for Trykes cycling tour,

April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,

April 26: Colorado River Bikefest,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Trail Running Season in Full Swing

The 2014 trail running season is in full swing in San Angelo with two of the four scheduled events completed.

The first two races of the three-event Shannon trail running series are in the books, with the third and final race of the series taking place Saturday, March 8 in San Angelo State Park.

Runners in the trail series are competing for awards in the long course category (10K, 12K, and 15K distances) and also in the shorter 5K division.

Today’s series finale race will feature a rough and rocky course that starts and finishes at the Burkett trailhead in the state park.

Both short and long-course runners will face steep climbs and descents on trails such as Playground, Flintstone, Turkey Creek, River Bend, and the infamous up and down ‘Roller Coaster’ trail before arriving back at the Burkett trailhead finish line.

The season isn’t over after the trail running series ends, however. Many of the series participants have been using these races to prepare for the upcoming Crazy Desert Trail Race scheduled for March 22 in San Angelo State Park.

The March 22 Crazy Desert event should actually be called a ‘Trail Race Festival’ because there will be four races — with four different distances — all taking place at the same time.

Runners can choose from 10K (6.2 mile), half-marathon (13.1 mile), full marathon (26.2 mile), or 50K (31 mile) distances.

Start times will be staggered, with the 50K and full marathon starting at 8 a.m., the half-marathon at 8:30 a.m., and the 10K going off at 9 a.m.

All races will start and finish at the pavilion in the equestrian camp area on the north end of the state park, with day-of-event registration opening at 6 a.m. at the pavilion.

You can also camp at the race site near the pavilion for a small $10 fee state park fee.

With generous support from title sponsor Lucid Energy Group and other event supporters, race organizer Jeff Lisson and co-directors Adam and Marie Parker have put together a great event package.

There will be custom medals for each finisher, chip timing, a long-sleeve technical T-shirt for each runner, a gift certificate from Happy Trails, coupons for ice cream from Marble Slab, a free photo download, a Thunderbird Energetica bar and bottled water.

The male and female winners of each event will also receive running shoes donated by Merrell.

There is a 300 runner overall limit for the Crazy Desert event, so you may want to preregister before the race fills up to ensure getting a spot. Go to
 to sign up ahead of time.

This year’s event will use many of the same trails as in past years including the scenic Dinosaur and Shady trails, but there will be more single track and less dirt road than in past years.

Runners competing in the Crazy Desert event will include both local residents, participants from other parts of Texas, and out-of-state runners.

If you’re not a fast runner, you may still want to think about taking part in the fun. People who run/walk or even fast hikers can easily complete one of the courses before the eight-hour time cutoff.

It’s going to be an epic day of trail running with a great post-race party, and — even better — all proceeds will benefit the Concho Valley Community Action Agency.

For more information, go to or visit the Crazy Desert Facebook page at

Remember — the local trail running season is going strong and the Crazy Desert Trail Running festival will be the capstone event.

Upcoming Events

March 15: Shamrock Run 5K,
March 22: Crazy Desert Trail Race,
March 22: Steam-N-Wheels cycling race and tour, Abilene,
March 29: Run for the Wounded Warrior 5K,
April 5: Bikes for Trykes cycling tour,
April 12: Moon Pie night trail run,