Sunday, July 31, 2016

Find Your Limits

On Competition
I am a competitive person. In my line of work - academia - my competitive drive serves me well. But it also tends to make many people uncomfortable. In fact, I've heard a lot of colleagues say they chose their profession for the opposite reason. Many will even say they are against competition and don't like it at all.

At the heart of my drive to compete, though, is not a will to dominate others. It's much more personal than that. 

Race for Ralya 2016, second in my age group

The roots of my personal motivation for running, cycling, and just about everything else I do that looks to the outside world like a competitive activity is this: finding my limits. What am I capable of? Where does my ability to endure, to execute, to concentrate come to its ragged edge? Every time I lace up my running shoes or ramp up the cadence on my road bike, this is what I want to know. What can I do today?

There is always an answer. And it changes with every opportunity I get to answer. It is one of the best lessons from a lifetime of searching for my limits, in fact. These change. Day to day, and over long periods of time. In those moments when I've paid extraordinary attention to monitoring my limits, I've learned I can push them back...enough to surprise myself, even.

Over the years, I've learned that everyone else's limits are subject to the same dynamics. When I compete as an athlete these days, I race. Racing teaches a lot of valuable things about limits - mine and those of others - about failure, and about how the fleeting value of the answer to "what am I capable of" that results from an event like a race can be understood as something other than a summative judgement. These are things I carry with me into my work life too.

Two Lessons On Limits and Failure I Learned from Racing

1. Limits Vary with Time
Most of the squabbling that happens over how to measure competitions is about how the measure should be done: the how. Too little attention is paid to what I understand to be the biggest challenge with measuring limits: the when.

My performance today may usefully predict my performance tomorrow, but it doesn't determine it.

It is true that for some types of competitive activity, knowing your own limits becomes clear only with a comparative measure. How do I perform in comparison to someone else? In that situation, it need not matter if those giving the performances being compared are equally invested in the competition. This, too, makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. But it happens just the same.

Where others are engaged, my best performance today may still fall short of where another person's limits are on that same day. This could be true even if I did nothing wrong and performed at the limit of my capability. When you see a competitor genuinely happy for another who has beaten him or her after a race, you see someone who has learned this lesson about limits.

But if you really want to experience this camaraderie among racers, hang out at the starting line before the race begins. There will be, among the veteran racers in particular, enormous respect for those who lace 'em up and wait for the starting gun. That respect comes from having been at one's limit and bested, and from the anticipation of same. It truly is the foundation for joy when one wins. But it isn't only the rarity of a win amidst the confrontation of limits that makes victory sweet. It is also the acknowledgement that it takes the best effort of everyone seeking those limits to make a win possible. 

2. Failure is Feedback, not an Outcome
Following from lesson 1, I would ask you to consider that to lose is to find your limit on the day. And to find your limit is to belong. 

Those are pretty heady words to write about failure, no? Now, there are plenty of narratives out there about failing these days. We are admonished to "fail fast" and "fail forward." The lessons in these stories are usually meant to emphasize the learning that comes from the reflection that follows a less-than-successful attempt at something. Occasionally, there is also the notion that failure, rather than winning, is the norm in almost every kind of competitive situation (and thus, winning is sweet).

Both of these lessons fit into a broader truth about failure for me: it is a process, not an outcome. Failing rarely happens all at once, in other words. There are confrontations with limits all along the route to failure. Each of these tends to push those limits back the next time. And each confrontation sorts us into the group of people with whom we can share the experience of coming up short. These are the faces on the starting line.

Racing is a good teacher of this lesson because, more than anything else, it reduces the range of limits on performance to a very few possibilities. In most things we do, the situation is much more complicated. Opportunities to confront limits are everywhere. Any one of these confrontations may put us in the group of the many - those who tried and failed - vs. the few who have won. But with racing we reduce the variables and control the environment to make a little more possible what everyday life confounds: a simple test of limits. A race is so pure a measure in fact, everyone save a lone individual fails. This simplicity is achieved by capturing a measure of limits in a single moment in time. Of course, this also defines the weakness of a race as a measure. Why the result can not hope to hold up. After all, the winner is the only one who walks away from a race unacquainted with her limits. 

Your Only Obligation: Find Your Limit
Lesson number two teaches us that, in racing, only a winner stands alone. Failure means belonging. And it means a clear answer, on the day, to the shared question: what can I do?

There is a curious kind of failure involved in winning a race - the failure to find one's limits - that shrouds the athlete on the top step of the podium. In most cases, the overwhelming uproar of accomplishment drowns out the much more faint signal about what might have been possible.

This is why a "good winner" is quiet. It is not just a show of humilty, but an attempt to capture the thing that racing teaches racers not just to endure, but to crave: knowing where the limit is.

I heard a very successful racer - a woman who wins a lot and in a dominant fashion - recently talk about her goals in a race. Hers were all about process, she said. Something common enough to sound like a cliché. But then she went on to explain that by this she meant that when running she paid close attention to her stride length, so that she could feel with each step she was extending her leg using the muscles in her upper leg and carrying the motion through down to her foot. Tuning in like this for every step in a ten thousand meter race. Every swing of each leg was an opportunity to get it right or to fail. A good race would mean every step, or almost every step, executed in the same way.

I think of this woman and the way she transformed the race into a near-constant stream of feedback on her limits quite often. All alone, out front, she finds a way to belong. She says having a good race is more important to her than winning. Again, we might hear it and dismiss it as hackneyed humility. But I hear it differently. I understand it.

Your only obligation is to find your limit. A good day is when you know the answer.

Do you know where yours is today?

Find Your Limits

On Competition
I am a competitive person. In my line of work - academia - my competitive drive serves me well. But it also tends to make many people uncomfortable. In fact, I've heard a lot of colleagues say they chose their profession for the opposite reason. Many will even say they are against competition and don't like it at all.

At the heart of my drive to compete, though, is not a will to dominate others. It's much more personal than that. 

Race for Ralya 2016, second in my age group

The roots of my personal motivation for running, cycling, and just about everything else I do that looks to the outside world like a competitive activity is this: finding my limits. What am I capable of? Where does my ability to endure, to execute, to concentrate come to its ragged edge? Every time I lace up my running shoes or ramp up the cadence on my road bike, this is what I want to know. What can I do today?

There is always an answer. And it changes with every opportunity I get to answer. It is one of the best lessons from a lifetime of searching for my limits, in fact. These change. Day to day, and over long periods of time. In those moments when I've paid extraordinary attention to monitoring my limits, I've learned I can push them back...enough to surprise myself, even.

Over the years, I've learned that everyone else's limits are subject to the same dynamics. When I compete as an athlete these days, I race. Racing teaches a lot of valuable things about limits - mine and those of others - about failure, and about how the fleeting value of the answer to "what am I capable of" that results from an event like a race can be understood as something other than a summative judgement. These are things I carry with me into my work life too.

Two Lessons On Limits and Failure I Learned from Racing

1. Limits Vary with Time
Most of the squabbling that happens over how to measure competitions is about how the measure should be done: the how. Too little attention is paid to what I understand to be the biggest challenge with measuring limits: the when.

My performance today may usefully predict my performance tomorrow, but it doesn't determine it.

It is true that for some types of competitive activity, knowing your own limits becomes clear only with a comparative measure. How do I perform in comparison to someone else? In that situation, it need not matter if those giving the performances being compared are equally invested in the competition. This, too, makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. But it happens just the same.

Where others are engaged, my best performance today may still fall short of where another person's limits are on that same day. This could be true even if I did nothing wrong and performed at the limit of my capability. When you see a competitor genuinely happy for another who has beaten him or her after a race, you see someone who has learned this lesson about limits.

But if you really want to experience this camaraderie among racers, hang out at the starting line before the race begins. There will be, among the veteran racers in particular, enormous respect for those who lace 'em up and wait for the starting gun. That respect comes from having been at one's limit and bested, and from the anticipation of same. It truly is the foundation for joy when one wins. But it is isn't only the rarity of a win amidst the confrontation of limits that makes victory sweet. It is also the acknowledgement that it takes the best effort everyone seeking those limits to make a win possible. 

2. Failure is Feedback, not an Outcome
Following from lesson 1, I would ask you to consider that to lose is to find your limit on the day. And to find your limit is to belong. 

Those are pretty heady words to write about failure, no? Now, there are plenty of narratives out there about failing these days. We are admonished to "fail fast" and "fail forward." The lessons in these stories are usually meant to emphasize the learning that comes from either the reflection that follows a less-than-successful attempt at something. Occasionally, there is also the notion that failure, rather than winning, is the norm in almost every kind of competitive situation (and thus, winning is sweet).

Both of these lessons fit into a broader truth about failure for me: it is a process, not an outcome. Failing rarely happens all at once, in other words. There are confrontations with limits all along the route to failure. Each of these tends to push those limits back the next time. And each confrontation sorts us into the group of people with whom we can share the experience of coming up short. These are the faces on the starting line.

Racing is a good teacher of this lesson because, more than anything else, it reduces the range of limits on performance to a very few possibilities. In most things we do, the situation is much more complicated. Opportunities to confront limits are everywhere. Any one of these confrontations may put us in the group of the many - those who tried and failed - vs. the few who won. But with racing we reduce the variables and control the environment to make a little more possible what everyday life confounds: a simple test of limits. A race is so pure a measure in fact, everyone save a lone individual fails. This simplicity is achieved by capturing a measure of limits in a single moment in time. Of course, this also defines the weakness of a race as a measure. Why the result can not hope to hold up. After all, the winner is the only one who walks away from a race unacquainted with her limits. 

Your Only Obligation: Find Your Limit
Lesson number two teaches us that, in racing, only a winner stands alone. Failure means belonging. And it means a clear answer, on the day, to the shared question: what can I do?

There is a curious kind of failure involved in winning a race - the failure to find one's limits - that shrouds the athlete on the top step of the podium. In most cases, the overwhelming uproar of accomplishment drowns out the much more faint signal about what might have been possible.

This is why a "good winner" is quiet. It is not just a show of humilty, but an attempt to capture the thing that racing teaches racers not just to endure, but to crave: knowing where the limit is.

I heard a very successful racer - a woman who wins a lot and in a dominant fashion - recently talk about her goals in a race. Hers were all about process, she said. Something common enough to sound like a cliché. But then she went on to explain that by this she meant that when running she paid close attention to her stride length, so that she could feel with each step she was extending her leg using the muscles in her upper leg and carrying the motion through down to her foot. Tuning in like this for every step in a ten thousand meter race. Every swing of each leg was an opportunity to get it right or to fail. A good race would mean every step, or almost every step, executed in the same way.

I think of this woman and the way she transformed the race into a near-constant stream of feedback on her limits quite often. All alone, out front, she finds a way to belong. She says having a good race is more important to her than winning. Again, we might hear it and dismiss it as hackneyed humility. But I hear it differently. I understand it.

Your only obligation is to find your limit. A good day is when you know the answer.
Do you know where yours is t
oday?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Maslow Don't Ride

I write a lot about human motivation on this particular blog. Usually it's in a circumspect way. Sometimes I get more direct. Here lately, I've had a run of days off the bike. I can give no particular reason, except that it sometimes happens to all of us: a little dip in motivation.

One of the most well-known theories of human motivation comes from a guy whose last name you might know. Maslow. First name: Abraham. He came up with this:
Diagram of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Is it all coming back to you now? From your psych 101 class maybe? Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The pyramid shaped diagram represents what Maslow proposed to be the most basic needs at the bottom. Things like air, water, and food live there.

Just up from that is "safety" where shelter, etc. live. At higher levels, the needs are more abstract. The idea is that to "level up" on the pyramid, you have to first fulfill needs at the lower level(s).

Luckily, it's dead wrong. I ended my motivation drought today with 35 glorious miles on the hottest day of the year so far. It was, in a (compound) word, self-actualizing.

It is clear to me that Abe never rode a bike. I mean, the basic needs are solid. We need air for tires. Water for bottles. And food to make the bike go.

But after that, let's face it, the bike is an express ticket to the top of the chart. With a few gestures toward safety, most of us cyclists plot daring exploits that incur wrath from our fellow humans (mostly the ones in pickup trucks). Those bits of shiny styrofoam strapped to our heads invite as much scorn as they afford protection. 

And should we talk "esteem?" How about a triple shot of humilty? Endurance sports: where self care and self abuse meet!

But let me tell you...a few pedal strokes in, wind in your face, zipping along in a group or out alone on a lonely country road? Actualized. Oh yeah.

Just like that, I'm a cyclist again. Confident. Back on track. No need to build from the bottom of Abe's Hierarchy. Just needed to mount up and ride to the top.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

SPACE Lab: Mission Accomplished!

After 138 days, my mission is complete and like American astronaut and International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly, I'm back on Earth. Ok, he's back. I technically never got up the gravity well like Kelly did. I'm more like his twin brother Mark who stayed on Earth but performed a similar exercise regimen in order to learn how human bodies adapt to zero gravity conditions during extended space flights.

So in at least one way, Mark and Scott and I all have something in common: we're all contributing to the research that will help humans travel to Mars someday. And that's so cool I can hardly stand it.

Training Like an Astronaut
What is even better, the benefits of the study to me personally were substantial as well.  In previous posts, I've written about the exercise routines and the test regimen that evaluates the physiological results. And now we can see the outcomes for the full protocol. Here are a set of tables that summarize where I began, where I was at the midpoint of the study, and where I finished last week:

Leg Strength Baseline Midpoint Final
% of bodyweight 85 147 ??

Body Composition Baseline Midpoint Final
weight (kg) 75.6 76.4 74.3
% of fat body mass 23.1 22.3 21.3

V02Max Baseline Midpoint Final
ml/kg/min V02 43.5 48.3 51.7
METS 12.4 13.8 14.7
Peak Watts 275 325 325
MAX Heart Rate (BPM) 187 188 182

As you can see, I've continued to improve throughout the study. On Monday 3/28, I'll take my final leg strength test so those results are still pending. But the V02Max results are really encouraging. Frankly, I'm surprised at how much I was able to improve. I'm very happy to see it, mostly because while I've certainly had a sense that when I train hard I improve, I've never had the empirical evidence in this way.

Heck, very, very few people ever get anything like these results including professional bike racers. They have data, but this is a very controlled study with every outcome measure done with all of the scientific precautions one takes to control for confounding variables. So what you see is as close to what can be measured as was possible over an extended study.

So What Does It All Mean?
Well, it depends on what kind of perspective you are looking for, of course. One very important takeaway for me that I think is something for lots of people to think about is this: you can see big, measurable gains in your overall fitness with 30 minutes or less of exercise a day...IF it is at the right intensity.

What is interesting to me is that this is likely to surprise both normal folks who are just trying to get healthy by adding some exercise to their daily routines and hard core endurance athletes who were trained to believe that massive volume (lots of hours in the saddle, for example) is the only way to big improvements. I was in that latter camp. But no longer. I mean, take a look:
I'm 45 years old. Over the course of this study I moved up from Good to Excellent to Superior. I'll get a full debriefing from the scientists running this study soon (and I'll write about that!), but the lab techs who do the physiological testing - different from the lab where I completed the intervention - were already able to tell me that my performance was the best they had seen. And I didn't get there by being genetically gifted. It just took working very hard six days a week. How hard? Consistently at my limit. Pushing it every day. Needing a full shower after 4 x 4:00 intervals at an average W of 288. That kind of thing. Hard.

It makes a difference in what I can do on the bike too. Here's my 30 minuted sustained effort comparison:

3 x 30 Min Continuous Week 6 Week 12 Week 21
Avg. Watts 235.38 240.2 253.71
Avg HR (BPM) 171 162 168

I was very happy to put down 250W for 30 minutes. That's a big effort on a stationary bike where there is no coasting, there are no downhills, just you and the machine. And through it all, I stayed very close to my limit for the "damn this feels terrible" heart rate which is 166. Not all day pace by any means, but sustainable for just about as long as I would ever need on the road in a hard group ride or even in a road race unless I was in some crazy, ill-fated solo break.

Ground Control to Major Tom...
I feel really grateful for the opportunity this study has given me to explore my limits with a level of precision, intensity, and regularity that I've never had before. It will stay with me. I now know, beyond a doubt, that I can be better if I work hard. I know that I can keep getting better too. What I don't know is where the ceiling is! If I could sign up for another round to find out, you better believe I would do it.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

SPACE Mission Update: Signs of Improvement

I'm really encouraged by the improvement I've seen in my performance after I hit the halfway mark of the SPACE study. As of today, I've completed 15 of 26 weeks. And as I noted in my earlier post, I've really learned a lot. My mid-protocol test results are back too, so I thought I'd share some of that information for the data-curious among you.

The Tests
The second set of performance tests is a chance to compare my results with my baseline numbers. I wrote a bit more about those here, in case you'd like to catch up. But I'll repeat the numbers below side by side with the new results for comparison.

Bill during V02Max test
There are three measures to compare: 1) a static leg strength test, a V02Max test, and a body fat composition test. Of the three, the most dramatic and difficult - by far - is the V02Max test. This is where the goal is to pedal on a stationary bike with the resistance increasing every 2:00 minutes. The directive from the physiologist conducting the test: "Pedal to exhaustion." All of this happens while strapped to a breathing tube, nose pinched shut, so as to measure the consumption of oxygen and the composition of the gases you are inhaling and exhaling.

Well...see above for yourself! In the picture, I'd only just started, so I look rather composed. By the end, I was not in such pristine form.

The other two tests are much less demanding. The static leg strength test involves having your dominant leg strapped to a dynamometer that measures the force you exert when moving your leg. There are a series of measures, from pushing against a solid force to kicking the leg out against variable resistance. The heaviest repetitions are heavy enough that you can't move the leg fast at all. The longest test involves kicking out and pulling back as rapidly as possible twenty times against less resistance. This allows for measurement of endurance as well as peak force.

The third test is body fat percentage. This is the easiest physically. You strip down to a pair of bike shorts and sit in a big egg-shaped machine. What this test lacks in physical demands, it more than makes up for in emotional ones. Humbling. To say the least.

Results: Getting Better!
I went into the testing period thinking I might have improved some, but with modest expectations. So it was really heartening to see that I improved quite a bit on all of the measures! Results compared with baseline numbers are in the tables below, followed by some discussion.

Leg Strength Baseline Midpoint
% of bodyweight 85 147

Body Composition Baseline Midpoint
weight (kg) 75.6 76.4
% of lean body mass 23.1 22.3

V02Max Baseline Midpoint
ml/kg/min V02 43.5 48.3
METS 12.4 13.8
Peak Watts 275 325
MAX Heart Rate (BPM) 187 188

Discussion
First things first, that weight includes my clothes and shoes! As you can see, I gained about a pound between September and January. Not bad, given my usual spiral into winter. But this is one time I can say, without it being pure fabrication, that the weight gained was muscle rather than fat! Why? Because my lean body mass percentage improved over the same period. So far so good.

It makes sense that I gained some muscle when you look at the results of my leg strength test. In September, I was able to move 85 percent of my bodyweight with my right quadriceps (the machine isolates these). In January, I improved to 147% of my bodyweight. Big gain!

My V02Max numbers also improved more than I expected. I knew that I could push more Watts than before, based on what I was able to do on a day-by-day basis in the lab during my 30 minute continuous workouts. But it was nice to see this translated into a nearly 5% increase in V02, from 43.5 to 48.3. Here's what that translates to using the chart I linked to in an earlier post:
I go from the upper end of the "Good" category to the upper end of the "Excellent" category. Not bad. Knocking on the door of Superior. Maybe they'll let me in come April.

What Does It All Mean?
It's pretty clear to me that the kind of short (30 minutes or less per day), but intense and very, very consistent workouts I've been doing can translate to good results. And not just in my baseline fitness and potential, as the mid-point numbers show. I am seeing real improvement in my performances as well. Based on what I've done in my 30 minute workouts, for instance, here is a comparison with week 6 and last week:

3 x 30 Min Continuous Week 6 Week 14
Avg. Watts 235.38 240.2
Avg HR (BPM) 171 162

What that translates to is three 30 min. workouts last week, all of which topped 240W and all done at a HR that felt less like imminent death. Based on my most recent performance data, I think my functional threshold power is now somewhere between 228-232W, with peak 1 minute Watts of 325 at the end of a 30 minute effort. 30s peak power is about 375-400W. And, based on my daily experiments in pacing, I think I could do a few attacks at 300+ W in a race situation, if I rode smart and had recovery options. There will be no long breakaways above 240W, but I now see I have some tools in the toolkit to play with.

Friday, January 1, 2016

SPACE odyssey: the halfway mark

I just finished week 13 of my Mars mission (background here), so it is time for an update about how things are proceeding. I will be doing my mid-protocol tests next week, so I'll have numbers to report like I have done previously shortly. But for now, I'll stick to the things that stand out to me - either as realizations or observations - about the overall experience of being a participant in this fascinating study. And for each, I've set a little goal (it is New Year's Day, after all!) for the coming year.

1. It remains on the whole, fun for me to participate in this study.
This is not a revelation, though I am happy to report it now with more certainty than I would have had at the beginning. Working out 6 days a week and following a very structured workout each time is something I've never done with this degree of precision. Because the point of this, from a scientific point of view, is to make a dataset for the team to analyze, I am doing exactly what is called for each day with no deviations. This is true for each individual day, but also for each week with just a few exceptions when I've had to reschedule a session due to travel.

But I like the regularity of the workouts very much. I'm going to try to keep up the pattern of 6 workouts/week throughout the year even when the study is done.

2. Intensity is much much more important than I thought for producing physiological adaptations.
This is saying something, because I've understood for a long time what the point of exercise is - to create stress that causes the body to adapt. The interesting thing I've started to see now, though, due to the large amount of data I am producing from a very consistent workout regimen is just how much adaptation can come from relatively short, but hard workouts. I'll have more to say about this once I get my next set of testing data back, but here are a few bits that you might find interesting.

At the six week mark, I reported that my best 30 minute sustained efforts came when I was producing between 235-240W. Those are continuous, no coasting, no rest numbers. So they function like an FTP test. I do this workout every other day. So I've done it about 28 times now.

As I start week 14, I am consistently able to produce W in that range. One key difference though is that at Week 6 I was doing that with an average HR of 170-172. At 13 weeks, it's more like 162-164 for the same power. I haven't seen a lot of improvement in my PR for the 30 min workout. I think this is due to the fact that my regimen is not really designed to produce huge gains in performance, but is rather designed to help astronauts maintain fitness levels in zero gravity conditions. Still, I'm getting better: more efficient and better able to use more of the total power I can produce.

An area where I have seen consistent improvement is the 4x4:00 interval workouts, with 3:00 active recovery in between. These long intervals are done at a Wattage level of my choosing (unlike the other two intervals, which are set by the computer), so I can dial them up to 11. I think about these days as the days I get better. Early on, I was doing these at 240 or 250W. In week 3, I started at 268 W for interval one and had to drop way back in subsequent intervals to try and recover from that first one.

But these days, I'm doing 4x4:00 at 283W. That's a big difference. Considering that in my baseline max test, I was only able to get to 275W (for 2:00), it's a noticeable change (though not necessarily a big change in my V02Max). I think by the end of the study, I'll be able to do 300W for all 16:00 worth of work interval. That's my goal, at least.

3. Making the Science is Weird.
First, I want to say that everyone I see as part of the study - all of the research assistants, post-docs, and others who run the project on a day-to-day basis - has been extremely nice, courteous, generous, grateful, and professional. They have clearly been very well prepared by the folks in the lab. But they are also, in general, super nice folks. They go out of their way to treat us like people (not like gerbils running on a wheel) and to express their gratitude for our effort and commitment to the project.

I can see why the PI's on the project spend time training the research staff to be like this. Because it is just a little bit weird to be a research subject. Some of the measurements - like blood pressure, etc. - feel like a visit to the Dr.'s office. But for the workouts, there are specific cues for the researchers to collect key data points such as our heart rate, cycling cadence (revolutions per minute), watts, and/or perceived exertion level (how hard we feel we are working). And so it's a little strange going full bore in front of other people who are literally measuring your effort. I think about folks being nervous to work out in a gym in front of others they don't know. Try doing it while someone is literally standing right beside you, taking your HR after every 30 second interval!

The takeaway here is simply that I've got nothing to hide any more. Now that I've been a 45 year old rat in a lab, slathered in electrode gel, huffing like a freight train in front of undergrads less than half my age (good god) writing down everything I can do or can't do on a given day...I know I can go to the pain cave now in front of anybody.

Bring it on, 2016!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

9 years of Doing Diabetes

Me, Lily, & Les at my first TdC in 2007
Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.
I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.
I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7!

Doing it for myself, and for others

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes." And as you can guess, it has made a big difference in my life. But what has made me even more proud is just how many others I know - friends, family, colleagues - who have let me know that my efforts to do this and to do it "out loud" in public, have been helpful to them as well. It is that, more than any other thing, that inspires me to ride in the Tour de Cure ride each in support of the ADA. 
And I'm doing it again this year! My campaign is underway, and you can track it here. And of course, I appreciate any support you might give in monetary form to my fundraising efforts. But...what I'd really love is for you to come ride with me!

  • Want to ride in Ann Arbor in June at the TdC with me? If so, get in touch and we can form a team. We need five riders, but we need not all do the same distance or speed. We'll cheer for one another and do more good together than any one us might do alone
  • Can't make it to Michigan? Join a Tour de Cure near you! There are events all over the country. Find one and let me know so I can cheer and lend you support 

     

Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.

I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.

I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7! 

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes" .

- See more at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=6398072&pg=personal&fr_id=11064#sthash.59KVRUim.dpuf

Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.

I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.

I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7! 

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes" .

- See more at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=6398072&pg=personal&fr_id=11064#sthash.59KVRUim.dpuf

Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.

I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.

I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7! 

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes" .

- See more at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=6398072&pg=personal&fr_id=11064#sthash.59KVRUim.dpuf

Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.

I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.

I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7! 

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes" .

- See more at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=6398072&pg=personal&fr_id=11064#sthash.59KVRUim.dpuf

Nine years ago, I made a change. My doctor, also a colleague of mine, showed me the results of my checkup. I had met the criteria for a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not a big surprise. I'd been creeping up on those numbers for several years. First, came elevated blood pressure and an anti-hypertensive. Then elevetated cardiac risk factors creeped in. All the while, my fasting glucose numbers were creeping up. So that first high HbA1c was not a surprise, but it was a signal that it was time to do something.

I knew that my family history was one of the risk factors I couldn't do much about. But everything else I could address: overweight, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and high blood lipids (fats). And the most important tool - my magic weapon - was a bike.

I participated in my first TdC in June 2007 after losing 60lbs. Since that time, I've maintained a normal A1c for the last 8 years, and have done it without medication for the last 7! 

But I'm still doing the things that made me healthy. Riding, counting carbs... "doing diabetes" so I don't "have diabetes" .

- See more at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/TourdeCure/TourAdmin?px=6398072&pg=personal&fr_id=11064#sthash.59KVRUim.dpuf

Saturday, November 7, 2015

100 Miles of Nowhere, Camp Kesem Live from Michigan Edition!

"This Wasn't Really Supposed to Be a Thing..."
Elden & I before mounting up for the 2015 100 MoN
Today, November 7 2015, all over the world folks are doing the epic event known as the 100 Miles of Nowhere. The brainchild of the brilliant, kind, and slightly deranged Elden "Fatty " Nelson of fatcyclist.com, the event challenges participants to find the shortest tolerable course imaginable to go 100 miles without going anywhere at all. It is as much a test of one's mental toughness as physical stamina, though friends and family of the dedicated riders will surely tell you that it's proof positive of a deep affliction to the bike.

Fatty did the first one all by himself in his garage, and he wrote about it. To his surprise, it caught on. And now this thing that, according to Elden "wasn't even supposed to be a thing" is very much a big thing. 

Readers of this humble blog will recall that I've done this thing before. More than once, in fact. There was the time when I rode 3000 laps in my circle driveway, for instance. And the time I rode on a stationary trainer in front of my local bike shop. I like to make it a spectacle.

But perhaps you are asking...Why? Why do we do it? There are many reasons, truly, but the main one is that we get to engage in something truly wonderful that a certain group of people - I call them "People of the Bike" and my friend Mike "MC" Clark calls them "Bike-Minded Individuals" - have come to learn. That the bike is a tool to make good things happen. Not just for oneself, but if you work at it, for many, many other people as well.

100 Miles of Nowhere for Camp Kesem 
Team Fatty at the Kesem Summit, 2015 100 Miles of Nowhere
This year, I got to be part of Team Fatty once again for #100MoN, along with several of my dedicated, kind, and dauntless Michigan cycling community friends. We joined Fatty himself at the National Summit meeting for Camp Kesem outside Fenton, MI and got to see and feel the amazing power the bike can generate when we turn our pedals for a great cause.

When Fatty said he'd be coming to Michigan and he could use a little logistical help, I sent him a message and said I'd be happy to do it. I knew my MI crew would be equally stoked. We are, as People of the Bike, all about being there to help, especially when we can work together to make much more of a difference than any one of us could do alone. Our team consisted of two of my colleagues from Michigan State - Bump Halbritter & Mike Ristich, and three friends from the West part of the state: Derek Dykstra, MC, and Kaat Tahy. I've shared epic days in the saddle with all of them in the past. But yesterday's ride in which we went zero miles while riding 100 miles worth may have topped them all.

Healing the Harm Cancer Does to Families
Camp Kesem has a powerful mission. They provide children who have lost parents to cancer with a place to go to help with recovery from the damage that the disease does to families, to relationships. I've been witness to this, up close, in my own life. And I have to say, it is a hard thing to talk about. We know cancer does devastating damage to those afflicted with the disease. And we rightfully focus most of our energy on the care and comfort of people who are directly affected.

But cancer is something that families get too. They get it without asking for it. And it stays around. I've watched dear friends lose partners this way, and children lose parents. I've felt devastated for those family members. The nature of the disease and our limitations, clinically speaking, in understanding at any given moment how it may or may not be progressing, how an intervention may or may not be working...these weigh on loved ones in the circle of care in unimaginably difficult ways. At the time you feel most compelled to act, to care for and comfort those you love, you may find yourself without options to do much of anything. You turn your focus outward. Love overwhelms you. All while inside you are afraid, you are frustrated, you are mourning the loss of a life that has already irrevocably changed. You too have this thing called cancer. So may your children. It may not be in your body, your cells, but it has nonetheless invaded your life, your home, and your realtionships.

I wanted to write those things, because for those who have gone or are going through this ordeal, even thinking them can seem like the wrong thing to be doing. Add guilt to the pile of emotions that one feels in that situation. And there aren't many obvious outlets, not many treatments for the violence that cancer does to families. I lost my Dad last year to cancer. And one of the things he asked me to do was to take care of everybody around him, the people who loved him so much. "Help them," he said, "help the kids."
Counselors at the Kesem Summit Cheering Us On!

I know my Dad would have been proud to learn about the powerful response to this aspect of cancer that is embodied in the healing energy, spirit, and generosity of Camp Kesem. Our group felt it yesterday - we were cheered on during our ride by hundreds of college students from all over the U.S. who had come to the Kesem Summit to train to be counselors, to prepare to meet children this Summer who will spend some time healing, learning, singing and laughing with others who share their challenge: to overcome the pain cancer brought home to them.

So we rode. And we laughed and sang along with Kesem crew. We rocked. We rolled. Not necessarily in that order.
MC brings #bikeface to 100MoN!
Fatty rocks!


DiD and Kaat ride and inspire!









Mike leads the way
And in the end, as we drained our reserve tanks to finish the ride, we left refilled, with more energy than we had coming in. Seeing people assemble to give their time, to suspend the rules of their day-to-day lives to do something improbable, to connect with one another...it's pretty great. And it reminds you that we can make amazing things happen when we combine the power of creativity and caring.
My MSU colleages with Fatty after the 100 Miles of Nowhere 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

SPACE Lab Update - After Week Six

I've now completed six weeks of training in the SPACE lab study. That means I have approximately twenty (!) more weeks to go. So I thought I'd make a few observations about how things are going. Overall, I am really enjoying it! I go and work out every day at Noon except Saturday, which is a rest day. It's a nice break in the middle of the day from work.

Going to SPACE
The Wrong Stuff? Ragtag asteroid miners
Each day I change into my cycling gear - most often in my office - and walk over to IM Circle on the MSU campus. This, as you can imagine, elicited some odd looks from some of my co-workers, especially the front office staff in the academic affairs wing of the Arts & Letters Dean's office in Linton Hall. They saw me go into the office in street clothes, and emerge wearing lycra. They were pretty sure I had a secret identity for the first week or two. Now, everybody's in the know, though, so it's mostly The Right Stuff and/or Armageddon jokes.

The Workouts
After the first couple of sessions which were mostly about calibrating my fitness level, the pattern of workouts is very steady. I alternate between a 30 minute sustained effort and intervals of various lengths. Every other day, then, it's a 30 minute ride for as much power as I can sustain over that period of time. It is very much like an FTP test, in other words, for those familiar with cycling or other endurance sports. A bit more on that later. The interval workouts are 4 x 4:00, 6 x 2:00, and 8 x :30 respectively. Each day also has a warmup, the length of which varies according to what the activity is for the day, and a cooldown that is determined by the time it takes for my heart rate to return to 120BPM - usually just a couple of minutes or so.

Since there are six workouts and I come in six days a week, the pattern looks like this for me:
MWF 30:00 sustained
Sunday 4 x 4:00 intervals
Tuesday 6 x 2:00 intervals
Thursday 8 x :30 intervals
Measuring Effort - All About the Watts
Monark LC-7 just like the one I ride.
One of the reasons I was so excited to participate in this study is to learn more about training with precise power measurement to calibrate effort. For cyclists on the road, this means using a power meter that is integrated into some bike component: the hub, the pedal, or the crank. For me, it means cycling on an ergometer - a kind of stationary bike that interfaces with a computer to both dynamically control the resistance and measure the watts produced by the rider.

This gives a very precise measurement of watts produced because there is no other form of resistance - hills, wind, or friction - just what is applied by brake in the ergometer. And unlike real rides out on the roads, the watts required are continuous (no coasting or downhills) over a 30 minute ride. If a traditional time trial is know as "the race of truth" because it is just one person against the clock, then this is the race of extreme truth...because there is no fooling the ergometer.

When it comes to learning about measuring cycling effort with power, I have not been disappointed. It's pretty amazing to see, especially when combined with other measures like cadence (revolutions per minute of the crank) and heart rate, just what I am capable of in general and on any given day. One thing I can say is that a few things I've come to understand about myself as a rider are supported by the evidence I see when I look at the cycling data I've generated so far.

So, What Have I Learned So Far?
Ranges for V02Max, from whyiexercise.com
I don't have a big engine, but I am efficient and I can use a lot of the power I am capable of making. My V02Max is not huge, which is what I mean when I say I don't have a big engine. By most folks' accounts, I am in the "good" and just short of "excellent" range, and nowhere close to "elite."

V02Max is something that varies for each individual and has a significant genetic component, which means you basically are stuck with what you have. But V02Max only defines the top end - the "max" - output you can produce in a very short, very hard effort. What is a more useful measure is how much of your maximum you can use over some longer period of time. This measure is known as your FTP - functional threshold power - and it corresponds to the level of energy you can sustain for 60 minutes. You can find this out by riding for 60 minutes, but usually a 20 minute test will do fine (for more about that, check out Allen & Coggin's book Training & Racing with a Power Meter).

My FTP looks to be about 230W at this point, but unlike V02Max, FTP is much more responsive to training so it will likely get better. Today, though, I can produce that amount of power for 60 minutes without slowing down. Based on the results of my first Max test, that's about 84% of my V02Max. So while my top-end power and my power-to-weight aren't particularly impressive, when I'm fit I can use quite a lot of the power available to me. This is not news to me, really. I always knew, for instance, that I cannot outsprint many people. And I can't overcook a ride either...trying to hang on to a pace that is too hard is a sure way for me to get dropped. But...what I can do is find a sustainable pace - and while it's not huge, it's still good - and stay there for a long time. If I can then coax someone else to go just a bit into the red, I can eventually outlast 'em.

And, I can recover really fast and at a relatively high level of activity. I don't need to back down the pace too much to get back to a decent level of effort. This means that I can attack from a fairly high pace, back off just a little and recover, and attack again...and do it over and over.

All of this I've known from experience. But now I also have some numbers. Here, for example, are all of the 30 minute sustained efforts I've done since the beginning of the study so far in a histogram, graphed along with the MaxHR for that same session.
30 minuted sustained efforts with Watts & HR
Already, an interesting trend has emerged here. I'm building fitness and improving my PR for sustained Watts over time, but I go through periods of improvement and then a moment of recovery. The ride on Monday 10/26 is a bit of an anomaly because the Saturday before I rode 55 miles, and so rather than try to go all out on that day I just set a pace for my FTP (230W). The week prior, I had set a new PR for 30 minutes each time. My best effort so far is 241.85W with a Max HR of 183BPM.

Some of the variation here is the result of me trying different pacing strategies as well. As I noted, there is no fooling the ergometer, and I dial up my own resistance (in Watts) for this workout. So if I want to ride, say, 230W for thirty minutes I can't start a whole lot lower than that or else I'll need to make that up later somewhere. That's quite hard to do in a short amount of time, obviously. It is average/normalized power we are talking about here, but there are no big spikes in effort on the ergometer.

The pacing strategy I generally pursue is to hold a relatively high rate of power - 230 or 240 W for the first 20 minutes or so - and then see where I am in the last 10 minutes. If I'm feeling strong, I can add resistance and go for a PR. Having done 240 a few times, I can say that it is very close to what I am capable of producing on any given day. There will not be huge leaps beyond this number, though I may (and I hope to) continue to improve over the course of the study. We will see where I can get in twenty more weeks.

For now, though, I am having a lot of fun. Geeking out over the numbers is part of that, so watch for more reports as we go along!








Monday, September 28, 2015

Go For Launch! My New Mission

Mars
Today was a pretty exciting day for space exploration, especially as it concerns a future manned flight to the planet Mars. No, I'm not talking about the discovery of liquid water, though that was pretty cool. I'm talking about the start of my own contribution to the Mars mission as a participant in a research project! The study will evaluate the use of feedback - including games - in the quest to keep astronauts healthy on long space missions.You can read more about the labs' work; it's fascinating stuff!

During long periods in zero gravity, humans can lose muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. To avoid these problems, astronauts do exercises in space. Keeping space explorers motivated to exercise over long periods of time and with sufficient intensity is part of that challenge. Different methods of doing that is part of what the study I am participating will evaluate.

To Boldly Go...
My mission is not five years long. It's not even as long as it would take to get to Mars, but almost. I'll be doing 26 weeks of workouts during this study, six each week, all on a stationary bike. Last week, I had my first round of physiological testing, which included V02Max - a holistic measure of overall cardiovascular fitness - as well as body composition (fat %) and leg strength. I'll post a bit about my results in a separate entry, as they are well-worth geeking out about in their own right. Suffice to say that not many amateur athletes like myself get these tests due to their costs. But that's one of the cool benefits, IMHO, of participating in this study.

So, every week day and every Sunday at Noon I'll go and do a workout. Three of the workouts each week will be done at a steady pace, a.k.a. "tempo" rides. The other three will include intervals of varying intensity. For some of these, I'll have feedback in the form of data, a game-like display, or both.

Day One
V02 Max test setup - mine looked a lot like this!
Today was my first workout day. The goal was to calibrate my steady-state pace. There was a target in mind derived from my Max test last week for my easy or "all day" riding pace: 130 Watts. Assuming ideal conditions (no wind, flat ground), typical rolling resistance/tires, and at my current weight of 165lbs, that's just about 17mph. I rode that pace at 96 RPM for 15 min. after a five minute easy spin warmup. The goal was to make sure my heart rate agreed with that being my "all day" pace.


After that, I was free to ramp up the resistance to find something harder for the last 15 minutes of this workout. I dialed it up a few times until I was at 200W. My goal was to keep my cadence about the same, at 96. At that pace, I'd be going just under 20MPH in perfect conditions. In the Mid-Michigan wind, probably more like 18.5-19. But it felt reasonable. Hard but not unsustainable. Three minutes of cool down followed until my HR came down.

And that was it! Calibration done. Not much feedback on this one; I could only see my cadence. Tomorrow, I am guessing we'll do an interval workout. But I don't know.

Beyond...
I won't update this blog after every workout, though I am keeping a log of all my activity during the study and I may publish some results from that as we go along. But for a while at least, I won't be doing as much posting on some other sites like Strava (though I don't have to quit riding on the road or running during the study; I only need to log this activity to the researchers know about it). But don't worry. I'm working!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Buying a Stationary Trainer - FAQ

I'm always happy to get asked about stationary cycling trainers by folks looking to start (or diversify) workouts at home. In this post, I'm mostly pitching to non-cyclists or beginners. I'll save the rollers vs. trainer debate for another time. I'm thrilled to see folks consider a trainer because I think it really is a device that just about everybody can use to get some quality exercise and at their own, preferred pace or level of intensity.

Without exaggeration, my trainer is the single best exercise equipment purchase I've ever made. I have used it for eight years now and am really happy with it. More about that in my post called "Going Nowhere: The Technology" from a few years back. 

Here, I want to offer a few thoughts on buying a trainer for yourself in response to questions I get from friends and co-workers.

1. What Kind of Trainer Should I Get?
Like bikes, I recommend buying a trainer that you will actually use.  For that reason, I recommend a fluid trainer for every one. And...this may seem counterintuitive, especially for those who are not hardcore cyclists.
And now a word about types of resistance...and what "fluid" means:  
A trainer is something you hook up to your bike's back wheel that provides enough resistance to allow you to pedal as if you were on the road. How the resistance is created is the primary way trainers vary. So when we talk about types of trainers, we are also talking about types of resistance.

All things considered, I find it is better to go with a fluid trainer which uses hydraulic resistance over the other two common types of resistance: mechanical/wind or magnetic. The other two types are much less pleasant (they are louder, and rather than a smooth resistance "curve" they offer sharper tiered or all-or-nothing resistance levels). These types also tend to be far less convenient to use. You may have to get off the bike to change resistance or you might top out, limiting the kind of riding and workouts you want to do. Fluid trainers do cost a bit more than the other two types, but not so much more that it makes the less convenient ones more attractive. This is particularly true if those features cause you to use the trainer less. 

Fluid trainers are quiet - I can watch TV at normal volume when I ride mine - and they give you "road feel" resistance that works just by changing gears on your bike. Hence the fluid model is worth the extra cost. 

2. How much is this gonna cost me? 
Fluid models start around $300 for major brands like CycleOps or Kurt. But you can get a good fluid trainer for a little over $200 bucks by discount brands like Blackburn or house branded by Nashbar or Performance bike. Wind and magnetic units will go for around $150-250. The major brands will be sold at your local bike shop, which offers a chance to go ride them and compare. I also needed a warranty repair on the resistance unit for mine after several years of heavy use, and my LBS took care of everything for free. So if you've decided to go with a fluid model, I recommend going to your LBS for it. But whatever you do, don't be the guy who goes and rides one at the LBS and then comes home and buys it on Nashbar. That's bush league, man. 

3. Are they tough to set up?
Not at all. Most (apart from pricier direct-drive units that replace your back wheel altogether) just require lining the back wheel skewer up with a collar on the trainer and using a locking lever to hold the bike in place. It's easy to take the bike on and off (or swap bikes if more than one person is riding). After you get the initial set up done, it takes literally a few seconds. 

4. Besides the trainer, what else do I need to get?
You should definitely get a riser block - a plastic cradle that raises your front wheel to make it level with the back wheel as it is suspended in trainer. These are inexpensive ($20) and work better than phone books (the wheel is secure under load and won't slide). Without a riser or climbing block, your wrists will suffer from the pressure of pointing downhill. You won't want to do more than a short ride without one. 

Optional, but recommended: 
  1. a trainer tire. Nice road bike tires are expensive (~$60 or more) and nothing wears them out faster than riding on the trainer. A trainer tire is inexpensive ($~25) and is made of thicker, harder rubber that won't wear out. 
  2. a mat to put the bike and trainer on. Especially for hard floors, this will make the area less of a mess when you sweat and it will make your whole rig more quiet.
And that's it!

5. What about used models?
If you can find a used one, go for it. You'll likely see the wind and magnetic models pop up like mushrooms on Craiglist shortly after the New Year each year...but that's because of the annoyances I mentioned above. Folks upgrade to fluid and never look back, selling their cheaper models. If cost is a big barrier, you might get started this way too. You will not see many fluid models for sale used. In fact, I'm not sure I recall ever seeing one on CL even though I check it routinely in the bikes category. This tells you something, no?