Why I love periodization

It’s because I love to rest.  Rest is the central foundation on which the benefits of periodization are built.  You do hard workouts, you rest, your body adapts and gets stronger, repeat.  It’s such a simple concept but something that I didn’t fully appreciate until last year when I read the cyclist’s training bible.  My background is in swimming and I realized that I had actually been introduced to the concept before through that.

John, my high school swim coach, was one of the biggest influences on my life as I struggled through the mental anguish-filled identity crisis that was high school.  Swimming gives your life structure and the activity kept me sharp and prevented me from becoming overweight, like I was on track to be after middle school.  Practice was attended 4 or 5 times a week depending on my mood and how fat I was feeling.  John’s favorite past time was to pull us out of the water and talk to us about technique or tell a story using drawings on the white board.  As a former swimmer himself, John knew that pulling swimmers out of the water was akin to sentencing them to death by hypothermia.  Unfortunately for us, John had done a cost analysis and determined that the cost of us not hearing his stories was higher than the cost of possible death.

One time, he decided to pull us out to tell us how elite teams were trained (he used to be a coach at Johns Hopkins University).  At the time, our team was not considered elite (it still isn’t) or even very serious (it’s gotten a little more serious).  The premier team in our area is NBAC, the program that Michael Phelps came out of.  John explained that although they were at practice 9 times a week and their workouts looked insane to us, there was actually a method to the madness.  Their coaches would designate a couple of workouts every week as “easy” and then he backhandedly said that he doesn’t do that because we don’t show up to practice enough.  There was also some stuff about tapering but I was never really good enough to deal with that kind of crap.

I got into competitive cycling the summer after I graduated high school (2013).  My training consisted of going out and riding for the amount of free time in between shifts getting yelled at as a lifeguard.  I would ride as hard as I could, trying to hit the elusive 20 MPH average no matter what the distance was.  The problem with that was that, as a 220 lb. person riding in an area where the terrain averages ~80-100 ft. per mile, that was quite difficult.  I was able to race until mid-August with no issues that year.  That training strategy continued until the next season, when collegiate racing started in mid-February (start of 2014).  That plan cause me to burn out by mid-July and I stopped seeing improvements in performance.  I wasn’t really getting any faster and it was bumming me out.

That brings me to Fall 2014, when I read the cyclists’ training bible.  It allowed me to fully understand the concepts of rest and why intervals are important and why they work the way they do.  I went from a straggling Cat 4 to a straggling Cat 3 in one season, incredible improvement.  Looking forward to an even better 2016 season.

The Carbon Fiber 3D Printer

I entered into the field of materials engineering with the intent of studying materials for energy and specifically, photovoltaics (solar cells).  However, being exposed to a multitude of resources, activities and other students at the University of Maryland has added to my repertoire of engineering interests.  First, taking part in cycling and being consistently surrounded by carbon fiber has piqued my interest in composite structures.  Composites are materials that are formed from more than one phase (material structure) and include carbon fiber-reinforced polymer, the full term for carbon fiber.  Second, 3D printing has been coming to the forefront as a technology of the future over the past couple of years and I really like the way it represents the DIY community.  Additive manufacturing is the technology behind 3D printing and it is when material is put down onto a base layer-by-layer rather than removing it like most manufacturing techniques.

There is one major problem with most 3D printers accessible to consumers: they can only print with a classification of material known as polymers, which are low strength and low melting point.  Neither of those properties lend themselves to use in strenuous applications like carbon fiber-reinforced polymer can withstand (see: competitive cycling).   Polymers are a set of materials made from long chains of (usually) organic compounds.  The chains tangle together so that when the material is solidified, you have to first pull the chains apart then break one of the bonds in the chain to make the solid fail.  The fact that you can untangle the polymer chains easily means that it the material stretches a lot before breaking.  This is beneficial in some applications but detrimental in others.  If you add carbon fiber strands into the polymer, it means that instead of untangling the chains, any force that is put into the material will be transferred by the polymer into the carbon fiber which is incredibly strong under tension.

In this figure, polymer is the bottom line since it stretches so much. Metal would be the middle line and carbon fiber is the top. There is an explanation for why carbon bikes shatter in here as well, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Why am I telling you all this?  A company called MarkForged has been developing a 3D printer that lays down the polymer (specifically, a subset called thermosets) in addition to carbon fibers.  The printer is slated to be $5000, which is very consumer and institution friendly considering the potential for what this machine can do.  Using the Mark One (name for the printer), people will be able to rapidly create high strength parts quickly and inexpensively.  I am beyond excited for this kind of technology and what implications it will have on the bike industry in the future (can anyone say printing your own bike in the garage?).

Crazy Week

This week has been pretty crazy between getting my girlfriend’s birthday ready and our school’s first look fair, for which I had to do a lot of tabling.  We got a ton of interest in the club this year so I’m really excited and hope to get a lot of things done.  I’ll write a more thorough post about it next Thursday.  This one just ended up being too short.

Someone is always better than you

This summer, while I was sitting at my mindless job, I had a lot of time to think.  Sometimes I thought about biking, sometimes it was about a book that I was reading, sometimes about my parents.  But the thing that most frequently popped into my mind was myself.  Most of my friends were working internships over the summer at NIST, Kaydon Aerospace, labs at UMD and some other places.  Yet I was sitting there making sure that no one drowned in water that was at maximum 4’4″.

Over the spring, I sent applications to about 25 different internship programs.  I got responses from 3 of them, all rejections.  If there is one thing that my dad ensured that I was aware of by the time I moved out of his house, it’s that life is not fair.  While I understood that, I was still disappointed by my failure in this area.  There may always be someone better than you but does it have to be everyone, including your girlfriend?

Someone is always better than you has been used as an excuse and a motivational tool in my life for as long as I’ve been going to school.  But there has to be someone at the top, doesn’t there?  Someone who is the best?  Of course, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be gained from being second best or third best.  Not all of my friends can be the best, but they can be good enough to do well for themselves.  And so can I.  I don’t know where I’m going in life but I know that I have to take myself there.

I’m halphway thru kawlege, guys!

This semester, I am going to be pretty busy due to a few things:

  1. Starting to work in a composites lab
  2. Being the President of UMD Cycling
  3. Junior-Level Engineering Courses
  4. Training to kick ass at USAC Collegiate Nationals
  5. College debauchery

Despite that, I am going to make an attempt to post something every Thursday, even if it is just a picture or a short paragraph about my earwax problems.  I don’t have class on Fridays this year, so I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a hassle for future me.

The end of my summer ended up being pretty difficult because I got pretty bad poison ivy from doing some yard work.  I wasn’t really able to sleep well or recover properly so my two big events for the end of the summer, the Tour de Millersburg and Rochester Twilight Criterium, did not go that well.  I had a plan to end my season after those target events at our local race, That Dam TT, organized by local awesome person Sam Hoffberger.  The race DOUBLED in size  since its first occurrence last year and it was truly an amazing event.  There was a team from Bel Air there that I didn’t even realize existed and it was just truly very fun to see so many people from the Baltimore area out there for the event.  Can’t wait to go back next year.

So now, I am moved in at the University of Maryland for my 3rd year of college and ready to get things rolling for the year.  Thanks for reading.