Bike 101

The bike is probably the most confusing investment a triathlete with a non cycling background can make. What kind of bike bike? Road bike or a tri bike? Carbon or Aluminium ? Why is that one more expensive that this one even though they look the same? What size fits me? Unfortunately I went through all that and spent months researching the bike and the components related to a bike , so I’ve decided to break it down which can hopefully help someone reading this make a decision and in general educate themselves about the anatomy of a bike

Road Bike vs Tri Bike

If you are just getting into triathlons, a lot of people suggest getting a road bike first and then seeing how you like the sport . If you enjoy it then go for a tri bike and they argue that handling a road bike is easier etc. In my opinion if you know you are going to complete a triathlon especially the longer distance ones ( 70.3 and 140.6), I would say just buy a tri bike even though it might be slightly expensive, rather than worrying about selling your road bike and then buying a tri bike. Also, if you are training for longer distances you are probably gonna be training most of the time indoors on a trainer ( more on that later).

Cost

At the end of the day, the difference between an entry level bike and a top end bike is the quality of components used. Yes, having carbon fibre components are light and expensive as fuck. For example carbon fibre wheels might cost you around $1600 per wheel.  Chances are that if you have a $1500 dollar bike and someone else has a $4000 dollar bike, the difference is primarily in lighter weight and better quality components and you two might have the exact same carbon frame. Items such as carbon cranks cost over $500. You can upgrade you bike slow and steady and find good deals on each individual components of the bike.  So if you are on a budget try and get an entry level carbon fibre bike ( below 2000) and then upgrade it slow and steady. Also if you get a 2-3 year old model, that’s fine, chances are the bike just had a new paint job and a newer components , and has the exact same frame.

Aero bars

if you for whatever reason decide to buy a road bike or own a road bike already and have now decided to get into triathlons, getting clip on aero bar is the best way to get aero  on your bike and shave of those precious seconds . If you have an entry level tri bike and are looking to upgrade your aero bars, it should be one of the last components you upgrade coz good aero bars start around 300 bucks and you can have better time savings by investing a lower amount in an aero helmet. Another place you could use that money is in a power meter, a power meter is THE training tool and helps you pace your self in longer races. An expensive bike or an entry level bike with a power meter, pick the one with the power meter!

Crankset

You can break down the crankset into 2 components :

1- The crank arm ( This is what the pedal is attached to )

2- Chain rings ( This is what the crank arm is attached to via a spider)

The crank-sets come in various sizes

53/39 ( standard)

52/38 ( standard)

52/36 ( Semi Compact)

50/34 ( Compact)

What the fuck are these numbers?

The first number (53,52,50) refers to the big chain ring in front. Its the number of teeth on the outer/big ring.

The second number ( 39,38,36) refers to the small chain ring on the inside.Its the number of the teeth on the inner/smaller ring.

Uh ok, so what do these numbers mean?

Well too put in bluntly, the bigger the ring the faster you can go.

So I should get a 53/39 instead of a 50/34 ? Why bother with a smaller crank?

True, but it also requires more effort 😀

So which one should I pick?

If you are on a budget, I would suggest going for a compact. If you had more money to spare I would buy a 52/36 and a 50/34. With the 52/36 you get the top speed of a standard crankset , and you have a smaller small chain ring in case you need it . I would not even worry about the 53/39 unless you are the HULK 🙂

Cog

These are the circular things at the back of your bike on which the chain runs. They are usually a 10spd or an 11 spd. And usually not all rear wheels are compatible with an 11 speed. Talk to your bike mechanic or look up details before purchasing an 11 speed cog as an upgrade to ensure your rear wheels is compatible

Cogs are denoted with a hyphen in between two numbers.

12-25 ( smallest cog/ring at the back has 12 teeth and the largest cog/ring at the back has 25 teeth ). But you must have noticed you have various cogs/rings in between. Those cogs/rings are in between the range of 12 and 25(13,14,15 etc) in this case.

Note : Over here the smaller cog/chain allows you to go faster, and the big cog/chain allows you to go up the hills and is a granny/easier gear.

Which one should I use ?

If you intend to ride or race in the flats a 12/25 is good with a 52/36 crank set.

If you intend to ride or race in this hills, a 11-28 or a 12-27 with a 52/36 or a 50/34 is a good choice. If you had to make a choice and spend money on only 1 cog and 1 crankset, I would suggest go with a 50/36 and a 11-28 at the back. If you are unfortunate to have a standard crank set up on your bike with a 12-25 cog and you are planning on racing IM wisconsin or something similar, you are SCREWED because of the hills. You will probably end up walking those hills and your legs are gonna be jelly by the time you are ready for the run. So never show up under geared on your bike, you WILL regret it. So in that situation I highly recommend “investing”  in a new crankset and/or new cog which allows you to get into relatively easier gears than if you were riding a standard crank(52/36 or a 53/39).

10 spd cog vs 11 speed cog ?

Its the number of cogs available to you ? 10 simply means 10 cogs, 11 means 11 cogs. The 11 cog means you have more cogs to chose from to fine tune your ride. But you need to keep in mind, not all wheels are 11 spd compatible.

Tires

The accepted nomenclature for tires is CC*mm ( 700 * 23CC, 700 * 25CC). Ypur road/tri bike is probably riding one of these, just check the tyre and you should see the size on it.

Which one should I pick? Latest research has shown that 25CC tires are faster for the same pressure compared to 23CC’s. So if you thought thinner was faster, you are wrong. It has to do with rolling resistance, go look up rolling resistance if you are really interested in knowing why.

So what are clinchers, tubular, tubeless?

               Clinchers – Is what most bikes come with. If you get a flat you remove the tire, then fix/replace the tube and put                   the tire back on.

               Tubular – This is when the tire is somehow sewn to the tube and then glued to your bikes wheel. Tubulars are                    more expensive, slightly faster and if you get a flat, it takes time to fix them since you have to glue a new tubular                   back again.

               Tubeless – This is interesting. You glue your tire to the rim and then fill the tire with a sealant. All minute tears                       and punctures are sealed immediately.  But if you were to somehow rip this  tire in a race ( very                                           unlikely) , its a big headache to put one back.

What would I recommend?

You probably got clinchers with your bike, its best to stick to them. If you do have spare cash,try going for a better quality clincher.

Front Derailleur 

This is the metal thing which help you change the gears on the front between the big chain ring and the small chain ring. There are plenty of options to chose from and then again the question is , is it worth the money? Should you invest in another part instead of this? Well, this is one of those things which will not really make you or your bike go faster , it only helps in better quality shifting and might be made of a better alloy so might be a few grams lighter, thats about where its benefits end. So unless you are really annoyed with the way your current gear shifting is upfront, its not worth spending money here unless you just have money with you and have no idea what to do with it.

Rear Derailleur 

Well, if there is a front for the big and small chain rings, there has to be something  in the back for the cogs. So the rear derailleur helps in shifting of the gear in the back (i.e. go up or down in the cog). Upgrading this component again does not really have any benefits in terms of direct speed. A better component might just provide better shifting and might be a few grams lighter.  But if you did have spare cash for whatever reason, and you had to pick between upgrading either the front or the rear derailleur , go for the front instead.

Tubes

Tubes are what go into your tires, its a similar concept to a car tube. You can get spare tubes for under 7-8 bucks. Tubes also have a size range. So if you googled bike tubes you would see them in a range of 22-28 CC, which means they are compatible with tires upto 28CC

Shcrader vs Presta

These are the valves which allow you to pump air in your tube.

Does it matter which one you have ? No, as long as you have a device which can inflate them in a race. I recommend a buying a Co2 infiltrator and a pump which is compatible with both the valves.

Trainers vs Rollers

The trainers allow you to mount your bike and then ride your bike without really moving. In trainers as well you have a wind, magnetic and a fluid trainer. The wind trainer makes a lot of noise, the flui trainer is expensive. The magnetic trainer is a good middle ground. I recommend looking up a deal and buying one online.

The rollers require you to balance yourself on rollers.

If you are gonna be training indoors , just get yourself the trainer. You can do crazy hard intervals on it and focus on speed and one leg drills rather than worrying about balance. If you know how to balance a bike, you know how to balance it. The rollers wont make a difference.

Miscellaneous :

These are items you will need but you can do without them for the time being if you don’t have a race sometime soon and plan to train indoors:

1-  Co2 Inflators – When you get a flat during a race, what do you do? You use a Co2 cartridge which attaches to an inflator which you then use to fill air. Generally for triathlons people carry 2-3 16gms co2 cartidges.

2- Allen Key/Tire level – Get an Allen key set to screw water bottle cages or other things to your bike. The tire level helps you get the clincher tire of the rim when you have a flat tube.

3-  Seat Caddy – During a race you need to carry your repair kit ( Co2 inflator, spare tubes, tire levers ). All these fit into a seat caddy or if need be you can stuff all this into an empty water bottle and mount it on the water bottle cage.

4 – Pump – If you are going to be riding outdoors on indoors, tires lose pressure pretty fast. Just buy the cheapest one you can find on ebay/amazon which has a scale on it . That way you are consistent every time and you know what you are putting in and don’t burst the tire.

5 – Power Meter – This is an expensive investment. I would recommend this only after you’ve done a few shorter races and have decided to compete longer distances and wanna train seriously. The power meter will be covered in a separate post .

6- Coach – This is similar to a power meter, a coach can’t help you unless you have a power meter. But i have a heart rate monitor, uh well it isn’t accurate and the most effective way to train. If you are gonna be hiring a coach, you are probably serious , if you are serious you need a power meter.

7- Helmet – If you have a triathlon signed up, wearing a helmet is mandatory, also if you plan to ride outdoors you should wear one for your own safety. But I would recommend not buying it from your bike store and see if you can find a deal online. Also, if you are training indoors and your race is a few months away , you can space out your investments. You can try and look up deals on aero helmets ( alien ones) online and look for deals, you should get one under 300. if you are not willing to spend that much, get a road helmet, they usually run from 50-150 bucks.

8 – Saddle – You sit on this a lot, if you think you could be more comfortable on a better saddle, go to a bike shop to try and sit on a few and see what fits you best.

9- Degreaser/oil – Its only a matter of time before  which you need to clean your bike. If you been riding outdoors you might have to buy it sooner, if you been riding indoors primarily, you could wait a few months before shelling out a few bucks on this. You need a degreaser and oil.  Watch this video by GCN on how to clean your bike.

10 – Water bottle/cage – you will need a water bottle cage for races, I recommend buying a cheap one from amazon. There is a lot of hype on carbon fiber and weight. To put it simply its not worth the money. If you are training indoors you can space this investment out and just keep a bottle next to you.

11 – Speed/Cadence sensor – This isn’t the best investment when it comes to training or pacing, but if you are on a budget and do not want to invest in a power meter, you can get a speed/cadence sensor. It’s a start and you can use the speed/cadence sensor to try and stay in the 80-90 RPM range . Its suggested that the higher cadence saves your legs for the run , so rather than pounding a big gear at 60 RPM, try going in an easier gear at 90 RPM. j]Just a note, speed isn’t the most accurate way to gauge your effort, a tail wind and a downhill , you could be touching over 40 miles per hour, on a hill you could be at 10 mph, The speed varies a lot depending on terrain and wind, hence the power meter is the way to go if you really wanna train seriously since the power you generate does not change based on the terrain and wind.

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#aerobars, #cogs, #cranksets

26.2 vs 70.3

Which one is harder ? 26.2 or a 70.3? I’ve got a marathon and a half Ironman under my belt and on my car:)

When training for the marathon I had joined this running group called Fleet Feet in Pittsburgh. They met every sunday at 7 AM and we ran with our respective pace groups . It was a 16 week program designed for the Pitts Marathon in May. The biggest hurdle by far was getting up at 5:30 AM to have breakfast and then drive down to the starting point.I just don’t have it in me to go for long runs all by myself. Its something I simply cannot do. There is way too much to worry about such as but not limited to nutrition and directions, and last but not the least safety. If you live in a cold area and have signed up for a spring/summer marathon you pretty much have to train through the winter. Getting in your long runs on sunday morning is not fun. If you’re training for a marathon , chances are you will spend more time running than cross training since more or less all training plans ask you to run at least 4 days a week. If you somehow do stick to the plan and since you pretty much run the entire time, you will be faster for sure than if you were training for the run leg in in an ironman distance event. The long runs on Sunday were taking a toll on me when training for the marathon. I could not walk on Monday , was always sore. Also I learnt it the hard way that running 4 days a week is hard if you’ve not been running consistently for a few years especially if your sunday runs are long runs. All i had was a half marathon under my belt about 7 months ago and I had pretty much winged the half. As a result of not too much experience running and running too much too soon I had shin splints the entire time. I tried ice, foam rolling, compression socks and even went down to a chiropractor twice. In the end what I could conclude was running is taking a toll and I need a break , my body just cannot handle so many long runs for whatever reason. Finally on race day I had a goal to break 4 hours and I missed it by 34 seconds! My official time was 4:00:34. The hardest part in the race were the last 6 miles and that’s where the real race is, the last effing 6 miles. I was trying to makeup some time since I was running a bit conservatively the first 10 miles.

and wanted to negative split my race. So what I can conclude from the race was and I still feel today that the marathon requires you to put in those long runs and you need to suck it up on the Sunday mornings. 26.2 is a totally different ball game. You can get away by not doing speed work and tempo runs, but you can not be running a marathon without pain and agony if you’ve not gone on those long runs.

Triathlon is an expensive sport. If you do not know how to swim , you need to get a swim coach. if you’ve been a swimmer all your life , you wont have to take swim lessons! A few open water swims with a group and you will be fine. In terms of the time and effort required. Assuming you know how to swim and how to ride a bike I personally think its easier to train for the 70.3, Again I said easier to train not necessarily easier to race.I pretty much just swam bike and ran whenever I could. The reason I say easier to train is, you can go to the pool even if its winter or summer , the pools are warm and you can go get your intervals in or whatever is is that you had planned.

As far as the bike goes, you can go down to your local gym and attend one of those spin classes for an hour or so and you should be good. Again it’s in a controlled environment , you have music , booties, hopefully a hot instructor and you’re golden. If for whatever reason you don’t wanna drive down for that, you can setup your bike on one of those indoor trainers and whip out an interval workout from youtube or just simply bike and watch a movie. The only thing you need to be concerned about is a sweat puddle. When training on an indoor trainer make sure you have at least a fan facing you or else you’re gonna be drenched in sweat. As far as the run goes, you don’t have to put in 13 miles . Your longest run can be at 6-8 miles and you will be fine. You dont have to spend 3-4 hours on your long runs. The variety breaks the monotony. You can swim easy or swim in intervals , you can bike watching a movie or just do an intense circuit. Long runs are not the bread and butter. I personally never biked 56 prior to my 70.3 race and the bike leg was just fine for me. What i did not train for was run of the bike. I felt I should have included a few more run of the bike sessions just to get used to it. In my opinion you can get away without spending too much time on one sport, if you can dedicate 2 sessions a week for each sport, you will be able to complete a 70.3. You don’t have to put in crazy 3 hour long workouts on a Sunday.  On race day I did struggle during the run, but at the end I wasn’t exhausted to a point where I did not want to walk or could not walk. I was relatively injury free during the entire training . I guess overuse wasn’t the name of the game here.

Training for a 70.3 is easier than training for a 26.2. Racing a 70.3 might be harder than a 26.2 simply because of the weather. Chances are your triathlon is during the summer because you need to swim, duh! As a result your
run leg  will be around 11 AM which means its gonna be  hot. For anyone who has run in the heat, you know the  risk of dehydration , cramping and what not. if you have to run in the heat after a 56 mile bike leg, its pretty tough. On the contrary your marathons start at 7 AM and you’re pretty much done covered majority of the course before it gets really warm.  In the end one should respect both the distances. Accomplishing one or both is a major achievement for a lot of people.

As far as race day goes, if you go out too fast too soon in a marathon, you will pay for it in the last 6 miles for sure or maybe even earlier.

If you go out too hard on the bike in a 70.3 , you will pay for it on the run . In the end you reap what you sow. The marathon requires you to put in those long runs. The 70.3 is slightly more forgiving in the sense, you don’t have to worry about the weather too much. You can pretty much swim bike and run indoors. But try getting a long run(16-20 miles) on a treadmill and you will know why its called a DREADMILL!

Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Report

This was my first 70.3 distance race. This race is proof that anything is possible. I ran my first 5k in 2012 and was dying, 2013 I ran a half marathon, 2014 I ran my first full and in 2015 I had completed a sprint and an Olympic distance tri in the last 2 months leading up to Muncie in July. Never in my wildest dreams in 2012 did I ever think that running a marathon was possible, forget completing a run after swimming and biking.It was my buddy Shariq ( my guru) who made me sign up for my first 5k and I think its  awesome to complete the 70.3 with him(its his first 70.3 as well). In Jan 2015 I could barely swim 2 laps in the pool unbroken, the thought of swimming a mile seemed insane but I did find a coach and after spending 4 days a week in the pool, things worked out well.  I did not follow a structured triathlon plan, just Swam Bike and Ran when I felt like and made sure I hit each discipline at least twice a week.I was pretty confident heading into race since whatever could have possibly gone wrong had gone wrong  in my Olympic tri in Detroit. The only thing I was concerned about was the rain, I was hoping it did not rain during the swim portion of the race.

I did a lot of research prior to deciding on taking Muncie as my first. I could drive down, I was fine with it being hot but did not want to pick a race if there was even a slight possibility of it being chilly. I guess when you’re born and brought up in the Indian subcontinent , you’re not really a big fan of the winter. Reading about Muncie in other blogs, it was crystal clear that the bike course was going to be flat and the run was hilly.

Pre Race

I had booked this place called Muncie Inn and reached Wednesday night. The place seemed pretty shady and the rooms weren’t spectacular, no microwave no fridge, but I was no in mood to figure stuff out at 11 PM and a find a better motel keeping in mind that I had to pick my buddy up the following  morning at 5 AM from Indianapolis . We just chilled on Thursday, got our bikes serviced from a bike shop, picked up my girlfriend from the greyhound station at 10 PM and hit the bed.

Friday I was all pumped for the expo/packet pickup, it wasn’t raining that much just drizzling occasionally. We got to see some kick ass bikes with shiny ass carbon wheels and all I could think was damn it makes your bike look fast , and for those of you unfamiliar with carbon wheels, its getting the latest alloy wheels but they make you go slightly faster and are expensive as fuck (~1800/wheel)!

Race packet pick up was pretty organized, we were given out swag bags, swag t shirts signed waivers,tracking anklets, bibs .

After that it was just us checking out the expo and my buddy and I were trying to figure out the swim course since they hadn’t laid out all the buoys. People were already talking about the race not being wetsuit legal since the water temperature was around 73 and it was raining the entire week. Personally I was hoping for a non wetsuit legal swim just because I felt more comfortable without the wetsuit the last time I practiced an open water swim.

In the evening, my buddy and I decided to bike for 15 min and run for about 10-15 min just to get ourselves ready for race day.

Race Day

We got up early, but not early enough. We had picked up oatmeal, bananas , bars from Walmart the night before , went down to the front desk and used the common microwave they had in some backroom. Got our breakfast in , racked our bikes, tossed everything into the car and drove down Praire Creek. It was a welcome site to see a traffic jam at 5 15 AM with bikes raced on the cars. We did find parking, unracked our bikes from the car , pumped the tires and started walking towards the transition areas to set up our bikes. My girlfriend wasn’t racing but she was equally a part of it, she carried our wetsuits , held our swim caps etc while we waited in line for the Port O Johns and took a ton of pictures of/for us.

The 25-29 was the last age group wave for the swim, so we had time to lube our necks up and take our own sweet time to get into the fucking annoying wetsuit, the swim course was marked by 19 buoys, yes 19, every 100m there was a buoy.

Swim

We got about 2 min in the water before we started, me and my buddy wished each other good luck and we just waited for the countdown so we could get started. I was aiming for a swim around 40 minutes and I knew if I felt really good I could push it to about 38. Shariq and I started somewhere in the middle of the pack towards the right hand side, I dint get punched or kicked in the face so I was happy about that. The swim was pretty smooth, it was a wave start and before the turn buoy I realized I had caught up with people from the previous age group, so it was a confidence booster. I had to maneuver around them but nothing crazy since people were spread out after the first few 100 meters. One of other goals was to try and beat Shariq in the swim and the bike coz I knew he was gonna destroy me in the run by a margin of about 25-30 minutes. The swim is an elongated rectangle but I felt reluctant to push the pace thinking what if I tire out! But i just pushed it a bit in the last 300 meters or so and I went down straight to the wetsuit strippers, it took a few tries but it was faster the time I would have taken to get out of it. I saw my watch , it said 42 minutes and change, I was satisfied with the time.

Official Time : 41:41

Here is the map of the swim course:

muncie70 3 swim tbt 2015

Bike

The bike was a 2 loop out and back course. The first stretch before you get onto the rural highway which is closed to traffic was extremely bumpy. I saw water bottles fling out and before I realized my repair kit under the seat fell of. By the time I realized what had happened, it was too late to go back and get it. From there onward I just prayed that I don’t get a flat and if I do hopefully my buddy is behind me and he sees me and throws me an extra tube, CO2 canister and a tire level.

This would have been my first 50 mile bike, the longest I had ridden outdoors was 24 miles or so in the Olympic distance race and the longest on the indoor trainer was about 26 miles.But I was confident because I knew if i could grind out 26 on the trainer which has a lot more resistance I could probably do 50 on the bike without worrying too much. I do not have a power meter, I was relying on Garmin speed/cadence sensor. My goal was to keep my cadence around 90. Strategy was simple just bike at an effort which comes naturally, if the cadence is higher than 90, go to a harder gear , if the cadence is below 90 , go to an easier gear.  I was overtaking a lot of people so that felt good , but the strong bikers from the previous age groups with bikes worth $6000 and carbon wheels were flying past me . On your way back there is a slight downhillso I decided to push a bit harder to make the most of it. My goal was to finish the bike leg in under 3 hours. In the last 1 hour I was doing the math and looking at my watch and realized I would be cutting it close to 3 hours and I ended up with a time of 3:01 with no flats and no sign of my buddy yet. I was hoping he was still behind me. In my head I was like last one mile go on an easier gear and spin so your legs are ready for the run. I was confident thinking about the run, and was thinking I feel good, I will probably have a sub 2 hour half marathon at 9:10 a mile and i am having an amazing race so far.

Here is a pic of me looking pro on my bike and overtaking some of the age groupers since ours was the last age group(25-29) !

1096_012311

Official Time : 3:01:46

Run

Here is where i was like BHENCHOD/FUCK , I cant feel my legs, this is not what I expected it to be. I’ve never had my legs feel like jelly before, this is the time I thought now I see why they ask you to do BRICK workouts! I was like its alright, it takes about 2 miles before you get into your rhythm. But wait, Muncie’s run is a rolling hill course, before I realized it I was walking up a hill ( there goes my goal for completing the the race unbroken!) ,I  looked at my watch ,was over 9:20 min a mile. I was like no biggie another mile or so, il be in my zone and I’ll be fine. But geez, the run course is like  a Sin Wave, up down up down..aagh. At 2.6 miles I heard someone say bhaag(run)! I knew it was my buddy, before I turned around he was next to me and smiled and he was flying !!. I yelled back at him, and a lady behind me was like you guys have a lot of energy. I was like not me, look at him go. To put things in perspective he ran the half in 1:34 at about 7:14 a mile. I could run that pace maybe for a 5k , but that’s about it. I knew there was no way I was gonna catch him, my new goal to try and reduce the deficit between our times and finish sub 6.

The volunteers were exceptional on the run course, they had aid stations at every mile of the course. I used everything Gatorade, flat coke., stuffed ice in my tri suit , used water sponges, gels. Anything which I thought could be useful i used it. I did have to stop for a pee break once. Finally i tried to keep up with someone ahead of me but in the end its just you confronting your inner demons. I kept  looking at my overall time and wanted to ensure I finish under 6 hours. In the end I did run the last 2 miles unbroken, tried to sprint the last quarter of a mile or so, raised my hands before the finish line, saw the photographer and decided to jump and punch the air for a good photo finish.

finish lne

Official Time : 2:07:35

Overall race result : 5:56:41

muncie

Useful Information on Muncie;

1- They did not have the pros race this year, it was just age groupers.

2- You might want to a motel in Anderson , about 20 minutes away from the the creek The motels in the area near by seemed really shady and sucked.

3- Muncie is rural, I thought I had seen rural but driving down and around Muncie I felt rural was an understatement.

4- Looking at the record so far, Muncie is expected to be non wetsuit legal and is used as a prep race for Ironman Louiville which has traditionally also been non wetsuit legal.

5- I think its a decent race for first timers, since the water is pretty calm and the bike course is flat!

#70-3, #halfironman, #muncie70-3

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