Concept2 2017 Virtual Team Challenge VTC

Join Team Grotto for the Virtual Team Challenge starting January 1

Concept2 2017 Virtual Team Challenge VTCIf you have access to a Concept2 Indoor Rower then I invite you to join Team Grotto for the Virtual Team Challenge starting January 1.  The Virtual Team Challenge (VTC), runs every year from January 1–31.  Each team completes as many meters as they can collectively between 12:00 a.m. January 1 and 11:59 p.m. January 31.

Now that I am mostly recovered from my bout of rowing pneumonia and am just starting to recover from the ravages of a full course of Levaquin, I am really looking forward to taking up the virtual oar and take to the annual Concept2 Virtual Team Challenge from January 1-31, 2017.  Please come aboard and join me on Team Grotto — we have plenty of room and we’re an open virtual team so the more the merrier. You can find Team Grotto on Facebook and on the Team Grotto Concept2 Log page.

Wow, just 7 hours at low with salt and pepper. My life is changed forever. Hail Lord Crock-Pot!

Crock-pot chicken just changed my entire life

Wondered what to do with all these chicken pieces until I remembered that I own an awesome-ass slow cooker Crock-Pot. See you in seven hours on low!

Wondered what to do with all these chicken pieces until I remembered that I own an awesome-ass slow cooker Crock-Pot.

See you in seven hours on low!

Wow, just 7 hours at low with salt and pepper. My life is changed forever.

Hail Lord Crock-Pot!

Literally the most amazingly flaky chicken falling off the bone!

7 hours, one layer, skin side up, liberally salted and peppered and then just left to be for 7 hours et voila!

Wow, just 7 hours at low with salt and pepper. My life is changed forever. Hail Lord Crock-Pot!This has changed everything.

Okay, now all my chicken drumsticks are going in for their 7-hour Crock-Pot sauna – they’ll be ready in the morning.

Getting my crock on!

I am so excited about sorting out crock-pot chicken cooking.

And I am psyched about having the perfect way of preparing dark meat drumstick and thigh meat.

Those skin-on, bone-in, pieces are cheaper, better-tasting, and make it so much easier.

Literally the most amazingly flaky chicken falling off the bone! 7 hours, one layer, skin side up, liberally salted and peppered and then just left to be for 7 hours et voila! This has changed everything.

Leave all the breast meat for the paleo yuppies and gym monkeys.

It was so easy the first time through that I just quickly cleaned the slow-cooker’s inner bowl and popped in a single layer of drumsticks.

All this chicken has been sitting frozen in my freezer for months — I didn’t know what to do with it as I am generally a breast man — but now I have a completely fool proof solution.

So excited! And I tasted some with just the salt and the pepper?

It’s so good just on its own.

How did it taste?

Slow-cooked Crock-Pot chicken and white rice with drippingsThe chicken fell off the bone. There’s a lot of liquid left in the bottom. The thighs didn’t stay intact, they all broke apart like pulled chicken. There’s only salt and pepper but the meat tastes a lot like rotisserie chicken. And it’s made dark meat chicken as edible and delicious for me, who someone’s find dark meat chicken either a little undercooked or tendony.

It’s perfect. So awesome!

The only thing I might do is put in whole cloves of garlic in with it and maybe small onions or shallots. That could be awesome. 

Next time for sure. 
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Tips to Survive City Riding

Tips to survive city riding

Surly Steamroller Chris Abraham Java ShackIf you’re in an urban environment and have taken to the streets on a pedal bike, be it through a bikeshare scheme or on your own bike, you’re going to get yourself killed unless you benefit from my decades as a devoted city-rider.

My bona fides include a couple of years as a bike messenger in Washington, D.C., in addition to the 25 years I have been riding the streets of Washington, Portland and Berlin — all without a helmet or any lycra whatsoever.

So, be it your own bike or one of the rentals such as Capital Bikeshare here in the D.C. area or Citi Bike in NY, please let me share what I know that has kept me alive for over a quarter-century.

Frozen Surly Steamroller Chris AbrahamA helmet doesn’t protect you — until you crash: It is true: helmets do save lives. On the other hand, if you need your helmet, you’ve hit something and crashed.

Crashing doesn’t have to be vehicle versus vehicle, but often is. And no matter how right you are — how just — in your riding, lane-choice, line, and speed, you’re pretty much just skin, bones, tendons, plastic, wire, rubber, steel, vinyl, leather, and aluminum — you’re easier to crunch than a soda can.

Avoiding crashing is very important because you’re probably not armored up like a motorcyclist and your helmet, if you wear one, is made of Styrofoam. Let’s work on both riding well and also avoiding situations that’ll get you stuck in a very mortal situation.

My Stock Surly SteamrollerAnd, although, we like to blame taxis, buses, cars, and stupid pedestrians, if you think the city street is a scary, dangerous, unpredictable, and aggressive, the lowest common denominator is you: you might be reckless, you might be careless, you might assume you have a right-of-way, deserve space and respect on the street, or are even considered at all when there are coffees, radio, phone calls, Siri, passengers, traffic frustrations, indignant range, and bike-hating going on, potentially, in every single car, bus, cab, truck, and motorcycle on the road — all of which means you’re not really holding any cards at all.

Yes, if that BMW driver mows you down that driver will go to jail; however, you’ll be dead so you won’t be able to gloat from your mortal coil. Maybe down from Heaven or up from Hell.

Surly with Black Star Top Tube PadsKeep your indignant rage in check: You’re going to be cut off. People are going to “share” your lane. People will carelessly merge into you. The bike lane will be cut off. Other bikers will hurt your reputation by jumping lights, by riding contraflow, and there are always bike messengers out there to hurt your pristine bike-road-rule following-of-laws. You’ll be fine as long as you let it go. If you play Indignant Chicken, “I will stay right here, this is where I am legally entitled to ride,” you’re going to eventually get squished. On the street, you need to be grateful every moment that you’re still moving forward, unmolested, and spend more of your time and attention reinforcing good drivers by smiling, waving, and saying “thank you” to them as well as to the pedestrians, as well, who clear the way for you and enable you to flow as opposed to squealing to a halt.

Surly Steamroller with Canvas Bag and 3 speed hubAssume drivers can’t or don’t see you: They can’t or they don’t. In Berlin and most of Europe, not only are there separate roads for city cyclists, there are bike stoplights, bike turn signals, and, especially, bike-awareness. Some day, enough drivers will know enough drivers who are in prison for running over a commuting cyclist — then people will look for cyclists too. If it makes you feel any better, drivers don’t or can’t see motorcyclists either, and riders have lights, blinkers, and loud pipes. If cars don’t know how to see a motorcyclist on the road, they surely won’t notice a 155-pound person on a 30-pound bike, even if it is red or blue or yellow, even if it has LED lights or even if you wear hi-viz and use the bell liberally. My BMW is a sound-cocoon on its own, with NPR on, I can’t hear anything outside of my vehicle, sometimes not even emergency vehicles like ambulances, police cruisers, and firetrucks. D.C. is a rich city: everyone has an amazing stereo and a sound-sealed fine automobile, to say nothing of the white noise hiss of climate control.

Assume every taxi intends to kill you: they move slowly, they never signal, and they are happy to turn left from the right lane, right from the left lane, and if they see a fare, they’ll do a U-turn in the middle of the road — or just about anything else — to get it.

During rush hour, assume everyone is channeling the Hulk: Everyone’s late: for work or for home. If you’re commuting to work on your bike, you’re riding during the worst times of the day, twice.

After 4 p.m., assume all drivers, pedestrians, and riders are drunk: In fact, always assume everyone’s drunk. Really drunk. It helps with vigilance. There are a lot of drunks in the city.

Picture every pedestrian as a deer-in-the-headlights: I like to use my honed bike courier mind to anticipate the vector and acceleration of everyone around me on the street. From pedestrians to other bikes to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians are unpredictable. They tend to freeze, like a deer in the headlights, or double back or change their rate of acceleration. Cars, taxis, bikes, and buses have enough mass and momentum that one can easily make assumptions — buses are slow to start, taxis dart, and cars don’t blink. Sadly, it’s getting worse.

When I was a courier in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there were very few distractions — really only Walkmen and big Nokia cellphones. Some people would read-while-walking. Now, however, your garden-variety ped is using his or her attention span to do everything outside navigating, allowing their autonomic autopilot to convey them home.

They’re plugged into music with in-ear sound-isolating buds or are so invested in conversations that they’re far off in a much different brainscape — the cloud? — and aren’t even paying attention to city buses, potholes, or even street light poles.

You need to anticipate outcome — and, if you’ve studied any quantum physics at all, consider all the possible outcomes about to spawn into new multiverse forks — and be sure to cover your brakes, be ready to panic stop or swerve, and balance your body to the read to help keep upright as you come to a halt.

Assume every driver is both texting and daydreaming: I still can’t believe how many drivers actually turn their heads to speak to their passenger. I don’t know if sound works that way. We don’t communication like directional shotgun mics.

And don’t forget: cities with bikeshare programs are tourist meccas — not only are people listening to Pandora, checking Siri, being guided by GPS and having intimate eye-contact conversations with their passengers, they’re also sightseeing, hungrily devouring monuments, points of interest, skyscrapers, museums, and statues.

Assume every parked car has a driver: I had two crashes when I was a bike courier. One was a washout on gravel when I ignored the laws of physics during a bunny-hop (90-degree turns only work on Tron) and the other was getting my front wheel pretzeled from getting doored. “Doored” refered to running into an open door of a parallel-parked car. In addition to dealing with being doored, people suddenly pull out, people walk into traffic, and run to fill up their parking meter.

People actually hang out in their cars, too. Look into the car, look at the mirrors, look for lights (brake, head, and cabin), check the angle of the car, and also notice the front tires: are they angled as if to pull out? Sometimes drivers park like that; however, wheels angled out as if ready to pull into traffic are a very good indicator as to intent.

Follow the laws of physics: know your bike. What can it do? How well can you stop your brakeless fixie? How quickly can you come to a full stop at speed? How quickly can you get out of those clipless pedals? Can you reach the ground with your foot? How aggressively can you turn? (90-degree turns only work on Tron). And, can you accelerate as fast as you think?

Turn your head: Don’t make any assumptions when you ride in the city: always check your lane, check your merge, check your angle of attack, and your follow through a turn. Turn your head, look all the way, check. Make sure you buy a helmet that doesn’t in any way obstruct your field of vision, your peripheral vision.

Always have an escape strategy: The same thing is true when you’re driving a car — and especially on a motorcycle: don’t get stuck and always have a plan B, C, D, and an exit strategy. Semis and buses take a lot of room turning or pulling up to the curb. How many times have I needed to bunny hop onto the sidewalk to avoid getting cut of by a big vehicle with zero visibility. Now, I make sure I leave room and anticipate worst case scenarios — always leave room for a swerve, for an exit, or for braking quick.

Always cover the brakes: If you ride a bike with drop bars, you need to get bar-top brake levers, too — they can work in unison with your drop levers. I have drop bars but I only have brakes on the top because when I am in a situation that requires the sort of agility being up and tall and on the tops of the bars requires, I also need the brakes; if I need to be on the drop for speed or climbing leverage, I am either in the clear or grinding slow.

Set up your turns and follow-throughs: don’t turn blind. Set up your turn, look through your line, all the way through, and then pick your new line. Try to be three-steps ahead.

Keep your eyes up: Don’t look down. Keep your eyes up, looking ahead, left, right, and turn your head. Keep your eyes off of your computer or phone. People walk into traffic from between cars all the time. The tell you the same thing when you learn to ride motorcycles and when you learn to waltz: look up, keep your eyes up, don’t look at your feet, or the bike, or the road right before you. Notice those potholes well before you need to get off the seat and brace for impact.

Your body is better suspension than the suspension: Yes, you probably have suspension; however, your arms, shoulders, and legs are much better shock-absorbers than they are. Also, changing your weight fore and aft or getting off of the saddle help lighten the bike for speed bumps, curbs, debris, and potholes.

Your saddle is too low: Finally, you’re driving me crazy: your seat’s too low! Your leg should be almost fully extended when your pedal is at the bottom of the stroke, with just a little bit of knee bend. Your seat is way too low and this puts you into a position where you’re just pedaling a bicycle and not actually piloting it. In the city, you need to pilot your bike — you need to have complete control of it, even when it is one of those ponderous city bikeshare bikes.

Good luck and please keep the rubber down — I am proud and happy to have so many of you all around me on the city streets. Every day, my D.C. is feeling more and more like my Berlin did.

Follow Chris Abraham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisabraham

Via Huffington Post

Concept2 PM5, PM4, PM3, and PM2 Performance Monitors

Upgrade your Concept2 indoor rower to a PM5 today

Concept2 PM5

If you have a Concept2 erg and haven’t retrofitted your Model A, B, C, D, or E Indoor Rower to the PM5 performance monitor, I most highly recommend the splurge of $160-$180, depending on the model of your rowing machine.  Turnkey wireless everything you’ll need, including ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart. So now, heart rate monitors and rowing apps are a wireless snap. 

Lots of Concept2 Indoor Rowers are old and still in use.  I have a Model C erg, made from 1993-2003. The Model C came with an old PM2, a performance monitor that did have infinite battery but lacked Bluetooth, ANT+, or even wireless Polar heart rate monitor support. In order to use a chest strap, you needed to plug in a Concept2 Heart Rate Receiver and Cable (PN 1862) and string it out to under your rolling seat. And to connect to the ErgData app for Android and iPhone, you need to order either an Android connector kit or iPhone connector kit.  

Concept2 PM4

A couple years ago, I upgraded to the PM3, which really only added the LogCard, and then, finally, they added a full upgrade path, from the PM2 that came with my Model C, that took me from my current PM3 all the way to the PM5 I now run.  And I love it. I now have complete wireless and USB support. They got rid of the LogCard, but that’s cool, I never used it, but they replaced with the backup to USB thumb drive/USB flash drive. What it also offers to me is something neither the PM2 or PM3 had: always-on monitor backlight.

While the battery doesn’t last nearly as long and there’s no rechargeable battery back or A/C adapter, the D batteries do last a long time, even when running ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart. So, what I do during my rows is this: I have an iPhone 5 with a stout battery pack that I have mostly dedicated to running ErgData and a Polar HR7 chest strap that I have paired with my PM5.  

Concept2 PM3

It’s such a worthy upgrade and only costs $180, which, while expensive on its own, isn’t expensive if you think about the fact that once you own a Concept2 rowing ergometer for whatever you spend, be it used for $200 from a couple in Vancouver, Oregon, back in 2010 (to replace the Model C I bought in 2000 and gave to Scott Burns when I moved to Germany) to the still-affordable $900 it costs to grab a Model D or the $1,100 it costs to splurge on the Model E (and maybe save your knees), , any Concept2 Indoor Rower costs nothing to own outside of some D batteries, some cleaning supplies, and a little oil.  Spend for the upgrade!

And, since my erg is well over a decade old and has only required a daily wipe the rail with a cloth after use (I keep Clorox or Lysol disinfectant wipes handy because they’re perfect and keep the mess to a minimum) and a weekly or monthly lube of the chain with some TreadLife Rowing Machine Chain Oil from Amazon, though Concept2 also says you can use a teaspoon of purified mineral oil, 3-IN-ONE® oil, or 20W motor oil.

Concept2 PM2

Just apply oil to a paper towel, and rub the paper towel along entire length of chain. Wipe off the excess.

And don’t clean the chain with any kind of cleaner or solvent, e.g. WD-40.

So, $14.99 for a bottle of chain lube, a roll of paper towels, and some disinfectant wipes, which you can use in the kitchen and bathroom at home, you’ll be itching to spend some of that money you’ve saved because the gang at Concept2 have apparently never heard of planned obsolescence.  

So, save up that $180 and appreciate the fact that it’s not major surgery at all.  

Concept2 PM1While I have never actually had a natural chain or cable failure, I screwed them both up when I was moving my Model C or I have had to replace the chain and elastic cable and all that and it was minor surgery, but retrofitting a PM5 onto my Model C only required unbolting the swing-arm and then bolting on the new replacement swing arm and PM5 and then running the wire in such a way, using the built-in channels, that you don’t abrade the wires or put them under any stress. 

Concept2 PM5, PM4, PM3, and PM2 Performance Monitors

Concept2 PM5, PM4, PM3, and PM2 Performance Monitors

 

Best Erging Shoes Indoor Rowing Indoor Rowers

Best erging shoes for rowing indoor rowers

Green Saucony JazzI have been doing my erg sets rocking Saucony Jazz running shoes since I was actually running in legit waffle-soled Jazz trainers back in my University rowing team. Recently, however, I have also taken on functional training in the form of weights, boxing, TRXm and the mighty kettlebell.  

One thing I do know about shoes and the Concept2 indoor rower — at least the Model C, my erg — is that anything fatter than my retro Sauconys just don’t fit in the Flexfoot footrest (in rowing, they’re called footplates). So, Nike Airs and Hoka One Ones and any other shoe with lots of heel drop (short for heel to toe drop or ramp angle).  

So, any shoe that’s got a wide heel or a thick wedge probably won’t work well on the Concept2, and not just for reasons of fitment.

Patriotic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star high topsI have four or five pairs of shoes that I like to use. Saucony Jazz like these green beauties were always my go-to erg shoes for my Concept2 Model C with PM5 upgrade but after reading, the heel rise isn’t ideal for erging so I’m retiring them and sticking to flat-soled trainers like Converse because they also work well with kettlebell work as well, so that’s better. What do you erg in?

I like to use my red, white, and blue canvas patriotic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star high tops, great for erging, swinging kettlebells, squats, and lifting. I don’t tie them all the way to the top, leaving one or two pair of eyelets to give me more ankle flexibility.

Great find: cheap canvas martial arts Feiyue Tiger Claw canvas flat-soled shoes. Sticky rubber sole, wears fast. Cheap and durable and replaceable. Great for kettlebells and indoor rowing and TRX and, obviously, kung-fu fighting!

Tiger Claw Feivue canvas flat-soled shoesOf course my favorite erging and kettlebelling pair of flat-soled sports shoes are my bright orange low tops canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Concept2 itself endorses orange Converse All-Stars in addition to barefoot and Adidas trainers and Nike Frees.  Additionally, the Sam Lock, the author, suggests “the problem with traditional running shoes is that there is usually significant cushioning in the heel that can change the angle of the feet. This small change under the heel is less comfortable than a shoe with less thickness under the heel. I also find that most running shoes emphasize cushioning but on the Concept2 Indoor Rower, I feel they reduce the amount of force applied through the leg drive. Now, this might be a very small reduction in power efficiency, but I figure why not give myself every chance of pulling good numbers?”

Bright orange canvas Chuck Taylor All-StarsAccording to Rowing Machine King, “Extra cushion on your shoes can lead to a less efficient rowing stroke and also effect the angle of your feet which can change your bio-mechanics” and “a large cushion and big “heel-to-toe drop” can also cause a change in the angle of your feet” . . . “an erg shoe with a zero drop will have no effect but a running shoe with a large heel-to-toe drop will.”

Erg Rowing recommends, “It might be a surprise to know that when it comes to footwear for Erging the less cushioning the better” . . . “The power you apply to the foot plate on the erg is crucial to the power you are can transfer through your body and on to the handle. But imagine if a small percentage of the power you apply was being absorbed in your shoes? This can add up over a long training session and cause a lot of your rowing power to be absorbed by the cushioning of your footwear” and recommends “track shoes without the spikes, weightlifting shoes, sneakers without the insole, and tennis or squash shoes.”

Best Erging Shoes Indoor Rowing Indoor Rowers

Best Erging Shoes Indoor Rowing Indoor Rowers

Rowing pneumonia

concept2 holiday challenge 2016Last week, I felt like crap. Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, I huffed and puffed to my motorcycle and puttered down the clinic. Diagnosis: walking pneumonia. So, I am dosed with antibiotics and other drugs but missed the first day of the 2016 Concept2 Holiday Challenge.  Maybe I’ll do some really light meters tonight starting tonight, Black Friday, but either way, I’ll do my best with whatever the state of my erging pneumonia, my rowing pneumonia.  

If I am going to throw my leg over my Model C Concept2 rowing ergometer with pneumonia, an infection that inflames air sacs in both of my lungs, filling them with fluid, then you can jump on your own Concept2 Indoor Rower and pull some meters between last Thursday, November 24th, through Christmas Eve, December 24, 2016.

TRX HOME Suspension Trainer

TRX suspension trainer straps review and exercises

TRX HOME Suspension Trainer

My personal TRX hanging from a real hotel door.

I love my TRX Suspension Trainer Straps. These days, I have it set permanently attached to my apartment’s front door with the included door anchor. But only when I use it. It is amazingly portable and stuffs into the included webbed pouch.  

I’ve taken it everywhere, be it in the bags of my motorcycle or in my TUMI roller of on my shoulder in a Filson bag. When it comes to training on the road, TRX straps travel much better than carrying weights or anything else with you.

Also, door-mounted exercises are limited but if you’re brave, you can walk or run to a local school or park and hang it from a tree limb or jungle gym using the included suspension anchor.

I mostly use my TRX Home Suspension Trainer for assisted push-ups, assisted curls, assisted squats, chest presses, inverted rows, tricep-presses, chest fly, chest press, shrugs — so many body weight exercises with such excellent possibilities for assistance.

My Own Personal TRX Straps

My personal TRX straps

The straps are really your friend.

It’s been a while since I have looked over the TRX site. It looks like they have three levels of TRX trainers:

If I were to do it again, I would probably just get the TRX Go as lighter is better and I am not a heavy-user or heavy abuser.

Another TRX hotel stay

Another TRX hotel stay

I might even get a TRX Go that is dedicated to travel and lives in my luggage instead of messing with the set I have set up permanently, and taped-down with duct tape, on the front door of my apartment.

That said, it’s my fault that I am not a heavier-user.

Once the grips start getting chopped up and torn and so forth, I am sure that some electrical tape or duct tape might help for a while — but I have had my TRX straps for years now and that’s never been a problem.

I am not a heavy user and I don’t so many exercises that require me to stuff my feet into the loops, so I don’t know if certain exercises wear down the foam grips/handles differently than the exercises I do on them.

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Only Put Water into Your Body in this Adapted Water Fast

I have never posted an infographic until today but this one is really smart: while a water-only fast can surely do amazing things to cleanse your body, it’s also has some potentially dangerous side-effects. How about just stop drinking anything besides water along with your normal diet?  Swap out all the soda, juice, milky tea and sugary coffee and just replace everything with water. Other than that, keep everything else the same.  The following infographic goes through the entire plan and its benefits. After the jump.

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40-4-40 Challenge Concept2 40-minute 40th anniversary

Just completed my 40-minute 40-4-40 Concept2 40th anniversary challenge!

40yr-challenge-web-hhco9I just completed the first ever — and probably only — 40-4-40 “pop-up” Challenge that Concept2 spontaneously launched on November 2.  The challenge was simple: row for 40-minutes on November 6th in honor of Concept2’s 40th anniversary.

It was slow and I broke it into two pieces, but I got it done. It’s all part of turning myself around as I have had a really anti-productive few months — actually more like six months! An entire six month since I recorded my last run! It’s been an eternity!

I am back in the saddle again. Actually, to be a little more precise, my Concept2 Model C with a brand new PM5 HR upgrade.

40-4-40 Challenge Concept2 40-minute 40th anniversary

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2016 Concept2 Skeleton Crew Challenge

Skeleton Crew Challenge today through Halloween

skeleton-2016webJoin me today, October 25, in the seat of your Concept2 Indoor Rower or standing astride your SkiErg, through Halloween October 31st, as we pull 31,000 meters in honor of all the candy and alcohol you’ll be consuming at all the Halloween parties and hand-outs you’ll be attending over the next six days.  

While 31 kilometers on their erg is nothing, the Skeleton Crew Challenge is an awesome first step towards rowing for distance and rowing for meters instead of rowing for power or speed.

Rowing for meters can even allow you to knock out meters while you’re knocking out your Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix queue.

If you think about it, it’s really only 19.2625 miles, divided by 6, only 3.21041666667 miles/day or 5166.66666667 meters/day.

Easy peasy.  

Good luck and here are all the deets!