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Socks

December 28th, 2014

Photos

My actual 50 year old foot (this is not a 20-something foot model's foot)  - a product of decent socks.
My actual 50 year old foot (this is not a 20-something foot model's foot) - a product of decent socks.
They come in grey or black.
They come in grey or black.

Socks are one of life’s essentials.  They should be, anyway.

The right sock can minimize any number of foot issues including, but not limited to: hammer toes, ingrown toenails, toenail fungus, toe jam, bunions, corns, smelly feet, ugly feet, flat feet, duck feet, and smelly shoes.  I submit my nearly pristine 50 year old foot that doesn’t look a day over 20 (see picture at left), as an example of what can happen when you purchase and wear decent socks.

Finding the right sock, however, is not as easy as one would think.  Some sock makers put more love into their socks than others, and to further complicate matters – not every foot is the same. 

And then there’s the price issue.  $8 seems to be the norm for “quality” running/cycling socks.  I consider $8 my upper threshold for a sock purchase.  I borrowed a pair of $25 dollar socks (seriously) from a friend, and returned them two days later, with a hole in the toe, and a 10 dollar bill (and subsequently, 15 dollars more).  In my experience, $25 dollar socks are no better than $8 socks, and $8 is a lot to spend on a sock.

Similarly, a $1 sock is not nearly as good as an $8 sock.  The don’t last more than a couple months, and they retain foot smell, which eventually stinks up your shoes.  This said, there are decent options for less than $8, but as I mentioned earlier, they’re tough to find.

Lucky for you, I’ve spent the last 32 years searching the world for a worthy sock - one that’s both durable and reasonably priced. Along the way I’ve come across a few decent socks (obvious – based on my beautiful foot photo), but until recently, nothing that I’ve been willing to commit to.

Earlier this year, after hearing about my long and somewhat fruitless search for the perfect sock, Andrew Block, of Beaker Concepts, suggested I give his stockings a ride.  Considering the depth of my search, I was understandably skeptical about his confident claims regarding the awesomeness of his socks.  I’m happy to say, however, that Andrew’s confidence was justified.

Since April, I’ve been running these bad-boys through my rigorous quality control tests.  Trust me, no sock wants any part of this process.  Here’s a brief description of my protocol (Warning: graphic descriptions):  First, I refrain from clipping my toenails for at least two months. Then I wear the same pair of socks all day and all night for one week straight.  I don’t remove the socks for any reason (as an aside: it’s virtually impossible to wash your feet while wearing socks).

To make a long and gruesome story short – Andrew’s socks are the first ones to ever last longer than five days before my Raptor-like toenails burst through the front of the socks, or the stench became unbearable (whichever happened first).

Andrew’s socks received high marks in all areas including: toe-hole resiliency, stenchlessness (above and beyond normal foot funk), blister proofness, and comfortability.

Finally - a sock that has a good combination of durability and affordability.  I’m so impressed with these socks that I bought quite a few pairs and literally put my name on them.  To help you and your feet start the New Year off on the right foot (no pun intended), I’m offering a limited number of socks for $5.50 per pair (plus $2 for shipping), or three pair for $13.75 (plus $2 for shipping).

They come in two colors: grey or black, and two sizes: small/medium which will fit women, children, and men with small feet (just say they’re for your wife or kids), and large/extra-large which fit men with feet larger than size 10, and Sasquatch-like women (just say they’re for your husband).

If you’re interested, email me with color preference (you can mix and match), sizes, quantity and mailing address, and I’ll shoot you payment information and an invoice.

The “store” will close on Friday, January 9th, or when I’m out of socks - whichever happens first.  Grab a pair while they last.

Your feet will thank you!

Exercise: Every Little Bit Counts

December 3rd, 2014

Photos

Short and sweet swim session with Lisa
Short and sweet swim session with Lisa "Rockfish" Ribes in the Trisports.com Endless pool (swimmer's treadmill, if you will).

For the better part of 30 years, I exercised 20-40 hours per week. 45-60 minute runs were the norm, and I never rode my bike for less than 90 minutes.  Like many of us, I became committed to a mindset that believed a 15-30 minute run or ride was a worthless endeavor.

In 2004, after transitioning into life with a real job (sort of) and a family, not only was it hard for me to accept that I only had time for 3-5, 30’ runs and 2-3 hours per week instead of 20-40 hours per week, but it was hard to fathom that 3-5, 30’ runs was even worth the effort.

Fortunately, my wise friends who had busy schedules yet realized the value in exercise, convinced me that when it comes to fitting a workout into our busy schedule - every little bit counts.  It took a year or two, but I eventually embraced the “short and sweet” mentality with regard to working out. Fast forward 10 years, and I’m still fit, faster, relative to my former self, than I thought I’d be, and my love of exercise has continued to grow.

I like to repeat this message over the holidays because free-time is limited and stress levels are high. As a result, many athletes who are used to spending more than 5 hours per week training, throw in the towel for the months of November and December, convinced that a, relatively speaking, nickle and dime workout routine is not worth the effort. 

Don’t do that this holiday season. Accept that a reduced (yet more intense) workout schedule is not only fine, but may even help to get you out of a training rut, and leave you recharged and in a better place when you do commence your event specific training plan during the New Year. Accept the notion that keeping exercise in your life will make you a better parent, partner, friend, more productive at work and at home, a better holiday shopper, and allow that short and sweet exercise bouts of physical activity count as exercise. 

Take advantage of any opportunity to move or get the heart rate up for a minute or five.  Furthermore, if your exercise bouts are short and sweet - and it doesn’t matter how old you are or how slow you are - put some umph into it! Run back to the car after dropping the kids at school or extracurricular activity. Walk with a purpose when holiday shopping.  RUN up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Walk around your office while talking on the phone.  Run 1 mile instead of 4, when you don’t have 30-40 minutes to spare - don’t even waste time putting running clothes on. Just step into a pair of running shoes and go!

Here’s some additional reading on the subject.

The bottom line: Just because circumstances prevent you from training as much as you’d like, doesn’t mean you should abandon exercise entirely. Be creative with your exercise, and remember that every little bit counts.

Thank You Kona

October 21st, 2014

Photos

Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

A few years back, I completed most of the1987 IRONMAN World Championships.  Unfortunately, I left out the most important part – the finish line.  During the process of almost finishing, I learned a couple of things.  First, not finishing something that you start is a horrible feeling, and second, I don’t enjoy IRONMAN distance triathlons.

Immediately after almost completing the event, as I watched others finish what I did not, I learned a few more things.  Primarily, IRONMAN is a race, an event, and also a journey.  I sat and watched just about every single person cross that finish line – a subconscious penance, perhaps, yet an amazing and enlightening experience.  Each person’s face and body told a story.  Some of the stories were obvious, and some were not.  Trying to figure out the stories that were not obvious, and perhaps apply them to my life, was cathartic, and reminded me of why I got involved in sport in the first place.

I started my life as a triathlete out of admiration for a college professor, and because of intrigue into the process of testing oneself – the journey, if you will.  I did “short” triathlons – one to two hours.  What started out as journeys, gradually morphed into competitions.  Accordingly, my notion of success gradually shifted from the completion of the journey, to finishing before anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that my results were directly tied to success – financial and otherwise.  But at some point, that drive obscures the real motivation.  My yearly pilgrimage to watch IRONMAN Kona reminded me that the challenge was the real reason I started.  Because of this reminder, I never tired of my life in sport.

This year in Kona, I listened to Alex Zanardi, one of the greatest sportsman of all time, who lost both of his legs in a horrific IndyCar crash, talk about his successes.  After finishing IRONMAN Kona, with no legs, in 9:47:14 (1:08, 6:07, 2:24), he was asked by a small group of inquisitive fans how he was able to go so fast.  He answered that he did not become an IndyCar Champion because he wanted to drive fast.  He drove fast because he loved the process of learning to drive a race car.  Of his experience in Kona, Mr. Zanardi said, “When I passed down that narrow lane I have never experienced anything like that. It was amazing. I was always close to crying. I am not an emotional guy for these types of things, but this was very special.”

Once again, I’m reminded – if you love the journey, you will enjoy success.

Thank you Kona.

Inside The France Camp Kitchen

October 17th, 2014

France Camp, first and foremost, is about cycling.  Food and friendship, however, are a close runner up.

Cycling up and down the mountains of the French alpes inspires tales of heroism and woe (the good kind), fosters comradery and a sense of community, and whets the appetite.

The France Camp dinner table provides both the remedy for ravenousness and the pulpit for tales.  The kitchen, of course, is the source of its delicious delectables.

At the heart of the kitchen are Chefs Michael and Alex who enthusiastically combine their love of all things food and wine, to expertly prepare what I like to call, France Camp cuisine – mostly French dishes with an English flare.

Their daily interplay, occasional debates about the source or origin of the night’s creation, and their knowledge of food, wine, and local history, are a big part of the France Camp culinary experience.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the France Camp kitchen and hope that it entices you to come and ride, eat, and tell stories with us next July (click here for France Camp details).

 

Come To France Camp 2015!

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October 16th, 2014

Photos

St. Christophe, on the way to La Berarde.
St. Christophe, on the way to La Berarde.
On top of the clouds - summer road between Villard Reculas and l'alpe d'Huez.
On top of the clouds - summer road between Villard Reculas and l'alpe d'Huez.
Lunch break - La Berarde.
Lunch break - La Berarde.
Lunch.
Lunch.
Obligatory cafe break for the three C's - coffee, cola, croissants.
Obligatory cafe break for the three C's - coffee, cola, croissants.
On the Chalet back porch.
On the Chalet back porch.

If you love cycling, you’ll love France Camp.  If you love climbing and descending – you’ll love France Camp even more.

Each day France Camp features a major climb (or two) in the French alpes.  You don’t have to be a climbing specialist to participate in France Camp, but you do have to enjoy climbing.

If you marginally enjoy climbing, remember that what goes up, must come down!  France Camp descents are just as epic, or more so, than the climbs.

Food is also a huge part of France Camp.  Chefs Michael and Alex prepare ample portions of fresh food, daily.  Food and wine comes from the region, and many of the vegetables come from the Chalet garden.

Finally, friendship and comradery are focal points of France Camp.  You will leave with lasting friendships and priceless memories.

The Tour de France route will be announced Wednesday, Oct. 22, and the route will most likely feature our home-climb of the mystical l’alpe d’Huez.  This means that there will be at least two options for up close and personal TdF viewing during Week 2 of France Camp.

Check the Photos tab of my website for pictures of France Camp 2014 and 2012, or visit Riccitello’s France Cycling Camp on Facebook.

Come and enjoy France and France Camp with us!  Check details here.

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