Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bikram Yoga

It’s been a year since I practiced Bikram Yoga to supplement my mountain biking and windsurfing. I was looking for a discipline that could help in my core strength, balance and flexibility. Sophia and I did some research and joined Bikram Yoga City Hall (BYCH) and what an amazing experience it has been.

I consider myself a reasonably fit athlete with a VO2 max of 69 ml/min/kg. In other words, I have good endurance threshold and recover quickly. However, nothing prepared me for how challenging Bikram Yoga would be.

Initially, I could hardly breathe and was panting heavily as I did not regulate my breathing. The 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises practised in a 40º C room in 90 minutes is my toughest physical activity - period. I feel totally spent after every session.

Here's a map of the poses to my heart rate, total calories burned is 550 calories. More data points in this Garmin link.

My favourite pose is Half Tortoise and the most intense is Triangle where my heart rate peaks at over 150 bpm. That is 90% of my maximum heart rate. The other pose that peaks my heart rate is Camel, although it is not a difficult pose.

But the "after-glow" is almost magical. I feel energized and light, much like getting a good tune-up and flushing of my entire body system. My lower back does not hurt as much now even during long hard rides and my niggling knee pain from an old ACL injury seems to be less after a session.

Sophia's occasional stiff neck dissipates after her sessions. Our little daughter May Shann has also joined Bikram Yoga and is loving it.

Thanks to all our wonderful teachers in BYCH - Marcus "Chest-Up", Tara "Grrr", Charlie the Fireman and of course Drill Instructor Diane.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

MTB and Road Training in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

As part of our training leading up to the Cape Epic in South Africa in March, Mike and I spent the Chinese New Year holidays in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Today's ride was from our base in One World Hotel to Genting Sempah - 88 km and 800 m total climb. Thanks to the local boys Edmund and Shang the Animal for their company.

Today's MTB ride was based on the the 2011 Presidential trail in Semenyih. We were led by Cas Brentjens, a Cape Epic veteran who is also racing in the 2012 edition. Despite some mechanical issues and wrong turns, we managed to complete most of the route - 55 km and over 1,000 m total climb.

Gong Xi Fa Cai and Happy Dragon Year! Today’s MTB ride at Bukit Kiara was an absolute gem – technical, lung-busting, yet flowy single-tracks in the old rubber estates and secondary jungles of Malaysia. The trails were pristine and well-drained, topped off with a bike washing bay at the foot of the hills.

Our final training was a 90 km 5 hour off-road jaunt via the Rubber Research Institute to Ijok. The terrain was mainly rubber and oil palm plantations and relatively flat, quite ideal to stay within the “Fuel Efficiency” zone of 115 bpm to build endurance.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er for Cape Epic 2012

Team Singapore Racing's bikes are now complete with Specialized 29ers, mine being the fourth bike in the line-up. And what better way to start 2012 than to have the inaugural ride on my new weapon – the S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon 29er! This hard tail features SRAM XX components plus a custom 90 mm travel RockShox SID Brain fork.

The bike is a weight-weenies wet dream because of the crazy exotic materiel, you name it and it's got it. Carbon galore - rims, crank set, hubs, seat post, shift levers, dropouts and everywhere else just to drop a gram or two. But wait, there's more - titanium bolts, quick release, saddle rails, and PF30 BB with ceramic bearings. Actual weight on a calibrated Park Tool scale is 8.6 kg without pedals!

Our support crew at Attitude Bikes tuned the bike and lovingly prepped the frame with protective stickers and converted to tubeless with Stan's.

Morten kindly accompanied me to Pulau Ubin despite completing 6 laps yesterday. Perhaps it was the wonderfully dry but tacky trail or the placebo effect, but whatever it was the bike is fast. 5 laps later, the one word to describe the bike is "precise", in the way it tracks and it's response to my inputs. So much so that one has to concentrate on proper handling and body positioning or the bike will punish you with a skid or fall, which happened to me a couple of times.

The 2 x 10 XX transmission is also precise, a little clunky compared to my XTRs but click-click-click and it just shifts like a machine gun.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the SID Brain fork, but it seem to work just fine. I found myself moving a lot more with my arms and legs and with some body English thrown in, the rear was surprisingly smooth even though it's a hard tail. I suppose it has to do with the 29er geometry and design of the stays and seat post which feels vertically compliant but without the horizontal flex. I also ran the tyres reasonably soft.

I love my Stumpy!