Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bike Racing and Travel

Last Thursday I was able to participate in my first bike race since...well, since the last one.  The aforementioned last one was - what felt like - a long time ago.  Marking my third attempt at racing around on two [skinny] tires this year, the first night of the Crossroads Classic was in Mocksville, NC.  The course was short and very, very fast.  The start/finish straight was a slight rise and fall (with the line being at the "crest"), into a fast and narrow bottlenecking right turn.  That road was all downhill to another fast, right turn with ample room into a flat road with - you guessed it - another right hand turn at the end of it. Post Turn 3 was all uphill into an uphill right hander to the start/finish area.

It would make a very fast course with positioning being important (admittedly, as it always is in a crit). I watched the Cat 4 race where Ross handled himself well, narrowly missing out on a crash in turn 1 on the penultimate lap.

The Cat 3 race started and - as usual - I didn't really know anyone in particular to "watch out" for.  I tried to get near the front off the start but unfortunately was not able to. I spent the next couple of laps somewhere in the middle of the pack, having to sprint out of each turn.  This would be a sucky way to race so I attacked from the middle on the climb after a few laps and ended up off the front for the start/finish road.  I ended up being off the front for a lap or two, which wasn't really my intention.

Turn 2, thanks Ross the Boss for the pic
Eventually I got swallowed back up again but tried to remain near the front now that I could choose my position a bit better.  Being on the front or near it allows you to ride the course MUCH smoother as you don't have to yo-yo off the back through and around and after the turns.  A steadier effort is always better, especially for a triathlete.  I was noticing that on this particular course I was able to make up quite a bit of distance on the turns if someone got ahead of me so it felt good to have that confidence. 

More of the race went by uneventfully and then we got to "3 laps to go" remaining.  We went through that lap and then with two laps to go the pace picked up a little bit.  On the uphill stretch I attacked and got off the front again for the start/finish line but this was responded to quickly but my goal was ultimately to get through those first two turns in the top 3-5 spots.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) I ended up being in the front spot through those two turns on the final lap.  I was able to navigate it safely and put my head down on the back stretch  and resolved to just stay at tempo/threshold on the front.  Unfortunately somebody decided this would be a good time to go sprinting past and brushed my shoulder when they did so.  I was very frustrated with a move like that because they had an entire road and had no need to cut it that close at ~35 mph (I was probably going  25ish).  I didn't feel like contesting a sprint that was full of guys like that (plus, I was tired) so I got to the finish line having been passed quite a bit in the last 400m.  

A good workout and a good week of biking. I don't get too many opportunities to race bikes anymore given that it frequently conflicts with the triathlon season's goals so it was fun to do a night race (by the last 10 laps it was basically dark with only street lights...a little sketchy) and get in a good second bike ride of the day (yes, that's another excuse for ya). 

I also took a quick trip home to New Orleans this weekend.  I haven't been home since Christmas and haven't seen a couple of my brothers since then so it was a nice opportunity to fly home and have everyone be there.  The chances of this happening with any frequency are certainly diminishing as we all get older...

Travis taking a drink. No this wasn't staged, at all..

Sailing back into the harbor after a boating dinner

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, this is just filler

A lot of people I know are currently in the throes of passion as it regards to their feelings surrounding their late season fall races.  They're still deeply in love with the thought that they have an IM (I'm just going to use that as my example here as it works better for my storyline) scheduled 8-12 weeks from now (say, Wisconsin to B2B) and the endless possibilities that event presents them in their mind sends little tingling goosebumps down their arms and the back of their neck.

It are those thoughts that currently buoy your spirits and push you through each day. You don't think about the - let's say - 11 weeks of training you have before race day. You don't think, maybe, about those races you have in between that are probably going to suck and you'll get to say stuff like:

"Well I'm training for IM so this is just a "B" race."
"I've lost all my short-course speed!"
"I didn't taper so I'm really tired!"
"Whoa that 100 mile bike ride yesterday really deadened my legs for the 5k today."

But no, you don't worry about that right now.  Right now, you're sitting there and maybe drinking some coffee.  Maybe you're at your work desk and you're staring down the barrel of a pretty ho-hum day (or maybe it's a crazy day) with that thought nestled in the back of your head that in a relatively short period of time you are going to show yourself and everyone around you what you're really made of.  Your colleagues at work may not really care or understand and that's ok.

But these moments in time are important. Because as race day gets closer (say, late August) it certainly won't get any "easier."  You will be more tired, you will be more irritable, you may have a new baby, etc.

But support yourself with that vision you almost certainly have of your race. See yourself crossing the finish line, fatigued but exalting in your own excellence.  Hopefully you were patient on the bike and had a good run!

Monday, July 20, 2015

XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon

I can't lie, I've been pretty excited about this race for a while now. There are several reasons for this unbridled race excitement:

1) Home course advantage (huge in XTERRA)
2) Sleeping in own bed (huge in general)

Ok I lied I could only come up with two. BUT, those are two huge reasons to be excited for a race! While training for Louisville hasn't really gotten crazy or anything yet, I have been putting in some good long rides on the tri bike and some good road running and as a consequence my mountain bike and trail shoes have gotten somewhat sparing  use over the past month or so. That being said, I was excited to break them out and go for broke.

This is a pretty unique race (unique even for XTERRA) in that it has a two part swim. We would complete ~800m in the Catawba River (800m is generous) and then run probably 1/3 of a mile uphill and into the Whitewater pond area to swim a final "200m."

From there we would hop on our bikes and basically ride the Whitewater Center in order, from Figure 8 through all of North Main then into the South section of trails doing all add-ons (Carpet, Goat, Powerline, Wedge, Weigh Station, Toilet Bowl) and then completing the Lake Loop before heading into the "connector trail" that we normally start on when simply riding out at the WWC to get us back to transition area.

For the run we would loop back around the gravel path and head over onto East Main. This loop is probably the least frequented loop at the WWC. It's tough, choppy, hilly, and generally considered pretty difficult. Most of the mtb'ers don't even really admit to liking it all that much.  We would get to run it instead, which - in my head - sounded like a better proposition than riding it.

The dynamic battle of America (Caamano and myself) vs. Germany (Sebastian) would play out over the course of 2+ hours. We all arrived at the WWC sometime around 6:30 to a nice, sunny day that was already warming up relatively rapidly. It was going to be a scorcher, but luckily for us trail triathlons frequently take place in the - wait for it - shade! The great thing about trees, ya know?

I was a bit nervous as I had changed my rear tire that week to my "race" tire and it did not seem to be holding a great seal. The one risk of tubeless is that you can never be 100% positive that a seal is good until you are 100% positive that the seal is good. But other than that I was fired up to lay down some heat on some trails!

Swim 1000m - 15:11.8 (1st)

The swim was doubly unique in both its structure (2 swims) and the 1st swim itself. It was a very, very tight triangle. We all lined up in a rough line with the edge of the flatwater dock but some people lined up across the entire width of the river (maybe 50 yards). I was not sure of their reasoning for this, as they were basically in "line" with the second leg of the swim upriver.  I was a bit nervous about their ability to not hit oncoming swimmers that had made the turn ahead of them but, be that as it may, I couldn't do much about it other than look out for them once I had made the turn.

The gun sounded and everyone started out quite expeditiously. My goal was to either be first or in the top 3 around the first buoy to avoid what was sure to be extremely heavy congestion due to the turn being so tight. With that in mind, I kept the pace high and by the time I got to the first buoy I was clear to turn with no one beside me.

I kept my head up for a bit making sure oncoming swimmers weren't going to collide with me (because obviously it wouldn't be ME colliding with them...haha. jk, sorta) then put my head down and aimed back upriver.  I couldn't see the second buoy because they were so small but I knew if I headed straight along the bank I would eventually see it.

Along this section I looked back occasionally and saw my gap had grown over a couple of people in a group and I made the final turn knowing I'd get to the dock solo.

I clambered up the stairs after sifting through the silty bottomed river and put on my shoes for the run up to the pond area. I took this pretty easy as I figured gassing it then diving back in to swim might lead to some extreme discomfort...

I saw my gap was about 20-30 seconds as I got back in the water and swam to the swim exit. I encountered some underwater features that I wasn't ready for so that kind of scared me a little bit, but I made it to the end and climbed the rocky exit unscathed and ready for the bike.

T1 - 0:57

I struggled a bit to get my gloves on but otherwise had a decent enough transition.  The second group (led by Sebastian) was getting to their bikes as I was grabbing mine to head out onto the trails.

Bike 23k - 1:08:08.0 (1st)

Dropping into Figure 8 I knew my game plan needed to be "out of sight out of mind" as on the trails it is both quite easy to be "out of sight" but due to the twisty turny nature of the course I would always be somewhat visible in certain sections.  This makes it MUCH easier to close gaps when you have a tangible reminder of the person in front of you.

I tried to be steady and smooth (which means fast) as I made my way through the familiar trails. I did notice, however, that my rear tire felt kind of mushy and wallowy, for lack of better descriptions. I didn't realize how mushy until, at the top of the climb out of Figure 8 (and just after Marcus had told me I had about a 30 second gap) going around a downhill right turn my rear tire slid badly and I wiped out. I recovered quite quickly and got back going again without losing any real time but this was a potent reminder that something was off with my rear tire.

I had some CO2 so I knew if it got real bad I could hop off and fill up the tire but this would cost me time and space on the trails. So I resolved to just be a little more careful.

I made my way through all of the rest of the trails without incident and got to the Lake Loop before catching a glimpse of a yellow helmet behind me on the long "fire road" section.  I knew this wasn't Sebastian so I was made a bit nervous by this stranger. I think I put a little more time into him on the Lake Loop and arrived at T2 without a 30ish second lead on second place.

Thanks Marcus for the photos, splits and encouragement!

T2 - 0:29.2

Nothing to see here, carry on!

Run 8k - 39:59.4 (5th, 1st in results not legit)

Heading out onto the run along the gravel path that runs alongside the whitewater channels was rough as it had definitely warmed up while we gallivanting through the forest.

I was hoping to have a good run and managed to stay pretty motivated into the East Main section. Unfortunately, there were a few nice climbs prior to getting to the trail and right once you entered the trail that curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

I made my way through the trails and got to about mile 2 before Justin caught me and passed me rather expeditiously. I lost a lot of excitement at that point and walked a couple of times on hills to try and get my heart rate down a bit.  Coming back out of the trails I walked up that horrific hill but then ran the rest of the way to the finish.

I usually don't talk about the run much because I can hardly remember any of it, specifically! This time was no different...

OA - 2:04:46 (2nd)

Crossing the line in second was a welcome relief and I immediately sought water and shade.  Sebastian arrived shortly thereafter and Caamano came through soon as well. A good, hot day of work for the three of us and everyone else out there!

I was, admittedly, disappointed to not win but Justin had a great race and returned the favor from XTERRA Pelham a couple of months ago where we both won our AG (25-29 and me 30-34) but I came out ahead on time.

Now we begin to get into real IM training and if I said I was really excited about that I'd be lying to you! But, I signed up for the race so it's time to get for serious!

Monday, July 13, 2015

My P5: Now it is truly simply faster

Whenever you buy a "superbike" you always buy "complications." What makes a super bike a super bike (kind of like a super car or a hyper car) is a "no compromise" attitude towards its design context.  So for a triathlon superbike, that function is aerodynamics and integration. The P5 was introduced way back when in January of 2012.  In bike terms, that's a pretty long time ago.  It, in many ways, revolutionized the aero bike segment. Well, it borrowed certain ideas and perfected some others, let's say. It wasn't the FIRST bike with an integrated front end (but it certainly had the best one, so far). It wasn't the first bike with integrated storage solutions.  It wasn't the first bike with completely hidden cabling (except for RD loop/wire, which no one has yet hidden completely on an externally geared bike).  BUT, it did all of those with a level of aerodynamic superiority that was new to the game.

Well, aerodynamic superiority insofar as it concerned "fast" riders.  If you study all of the data out there and sift out the bad testing from the good testing and the testing with acceptable context (and actual "x" and "y" graph labeling) you can discern a few "facts:"

The P5 is still the fastest bike from about -7 to +7 degrees of yaw (give or take) among factory produced bikes. Certain other bikes (IA, SC, PR, etc) are a bit better out at higher relative yaw angles.

I could find more, I am sure.  My point is not to talk about how aero or not aero one bike is vs. another (but if you want me to I am happy to blast away for a while but be prepared to get bored).  My point is that the P5 is a super bike and - like other super bikes - comes with a few interesting things that make you want to learn more about bikes...maybe.

1) Hydraulic rim brakes (Magura RT6 or RT8)

You might have heard stories of bad stuff and wondered how all that works and know someone who has said bad stuff but at the end of the day anybody that says anything negative about the Magura brakes on a P5 just probably doesn't like going fast and maybe doesn't really know what they are doing... I've had this bike for 3 years and have never, ever had a problem with these brakes. The same couldn't be said for having a certain other popular aero brake that I had for a month... (hint hint).

To route a cabled brake line on a bike like the P5 + Aduro aero bar (read: hidden and integrated) would require very tight bends that would dramatically affect the brake power and modulation at the rim.  Magura has designed a brake that gets around all of that, is easy to work on, is light, is incredible aerodynamic, and looks great too!

2) Hidden battery

The "external" Shimano Di2 battery has been placed in the seat tube cutout to remain hidden.

3) Hidden junction box/top cap

The junction box is housed under the 4 bolt stem cover which is under the bottle cage mount which is under the arm pads. So to adjust or check battery I had to remove bottle cage mount, remove arm pad cups, remove stem cover. Adjust and check, re-install.

Now I am perfectly fine with doing all of those things because I got what I paid for: the fastest bike money can buy. I want each of those little seconds. I agonize over my front tire choice for certain races because a GP4000s II may save me 20 grams of drag at 23-25mph vs. a Conti Supersonic 700x20 may save me an extra 10-15g drag at ~30 mph but I lose a little comfort/confidence. Etc. I make choices like that. Do you? Then maybe the P5 isn't for you...

(just kidding, it's definitely for you; go buy one)

I've been wanting to do a project on mine for quite some time now and finally got around to doing it last week once I had all the parts I needed:

1) Install updated Shimano Di2 "internal" battery
2) Install Junction A in the saddle area
3) Convert to "true" 1 x 11 drive train
4) Adjust front water bottle carrier to allow for tall bottles

All of those may seem rather innocuous, but when added together they make a bike that's ABOUT 100x easier to deal with in many ways and it's just plain fun to tinker.

So, step 1:

Figure out where to put battery.

Since I don't need a front derailleur anymore, I figured the easiest and most secure place to put the new internal battery was in the left aerobar extension.

The perfect fit!
Now the left shifter is simply a placeholder.  The e-tube runs out the back of the extension and into the Aduro's rat's nest area of cables, wires, hoses, maybe a bird egg or two...etc. Who knows what you may find in there:

But this is much, MUCH cleaner than it was before. Prior to this update I had the older front "harness" stuffed in there as well. Lots of e-tube was visible.

An internal junction box (Junction B) then sends one e-tube down into the bottom bracket area of the bike to another junction B.  That then sends e-tubes to the rear derailleur and the Junction A.

To house the junction A where I did (on top of the seat post) you have to do something that voids the warranty (on your seat post): drill a hole.

Now, did I have to do it this way? No. I probably could have fit Junction A somewhere else (maybe under the BB) and been fine, but this is the way I wanted to do it.

Now the e-tube runs cleanly all the way down to the BB and I can adjust and charge my bike without touching anything other than an easily accessible junction box zip-tied to my saddle rail. Sweeeeeet!

Moving on, I also addressed a huge annoyance for me when trying to combine hydration and computer placement. This is a difficult question for EVERYBODY (and I mean everybody, this is probably the most common question I hear related to bike purchase and setup) and I am not immune from the issues. The integrated bottle mount is great but when you want a computer out where you can actually see it (i.e. by your hands) you cannot fit a taller bottle or one of those stupid deer park water bottles they give you on course.

Simple solution: X Lab aero cage optimizer.  Bolts right onto the integrated bosses of the P5 and slides the bolts right back to where you need them to be.  As an added bonus, it increases the "stack height" of thebottle cage so it nestles a little bit more cleanly in between my forearms. NICE.

Last but certainly not least, I updated the drivetrain.  I was originally running a 2 x 10 system featuring SRAM Red Quarq (10 speed) 130 bcd 53/39 chainrings + a 10 speed Ultegra 6770 RD/FD with an 11-25 setup for training and racing.

I figured: why not go with a 1x setup? One of the unique things about the P series bikes from Cervelo is that you can remove the FD mount itself, which really cleans up the profile if you're going to take off the front derailleur.

Unfortunately, until recently parts to do this RIGHT weren't easily available. But now they are, and so the time had come to swap that stuff to what I really wanted.

Up front we have a SRAM X Sync 52t 130bcd single ring (this features "narrow/wide" teeth technology which basically means the chain doesn't fall off without a front derailleur).  In the rear we have (11spd) Ultegra 6870 "GS" RD (gs = longer cage) which can accommodate up to 32t on the cassette.  So for the most part I have a 52t + 11-32t as my gearing options.  It's way, WAY cleaner looking, has a wide range, may lighten the bike, and looks sweet. Wait, I said that already.  It may be slightly more aerodynamic, although various testing has been inconclusive so far.  But, it looks awesome.  Did I say that already? I did, yea.

So fresh and so clean!!

Tools required for charge check plus RD adjustment...

Simple? Yes. 

Anyway, was all of this necessary? No. But it sure was fun. In some ways. The P5 offers limited "tinkering" abilities as it relates to fit and such so this was the next best thing I could do.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Charleston doesn't have any noseless saddles

Besides being a great place with good food, beaches, sun, and long flat roads...Charleston is a place full of something very odd when it comes to the triathletes that call it their homes. The reason for this phenomena is not clear other than to say that it's likely rooted in the fact that there is no strong triathlon retail presence in Charleston or the surrounding areas.   Well, to be honest, there may be some retail presence but the possibility that the fitting services provided by the various retail locations is sub-par.

Nobody in Charleston is riding a noseless saddle. Well, almost no one. It might as well be no one, honestly. Go to a triathlon in Charlotte and you're very likely to see what may almost be a majority of noseless saddles at this point. I haven't taken a survey and I don't have the desire to do such a thing but I would be willing to bet that I am right.

This stood out to me in no small part due to the fact that on Sunday at the sprint race I saw a great many people in what I would consider to be "sub-optimal" triathlon positions on their tri bikes.  Many were quite upright, they looked uncomfortable, many weren't in their aero bars even early on in the race (flat/safe roadway), lots of steerer tube spacers, etc.

Now, there is nothing "wrong" with this exactly. As I tell many people, there are many different ways to get from T1 to T2. I do very strongly believe, however, that if you are purchasing a bike that is expensive (of course, "expensive" is relative) then the REASON you are doing that is because you want to be more competitive.

A road bike is kind of like a swiss army knife.  It's got a bunch of really great tools and knives that will accomplish just about any task you set for it. A triathlon bike is like a samurai sword; it is good for one very specific thing.

Or maybe: a road bike is like a pickup truck. A triathlon bike is like an F1 car. Sure, you can race the pickup truck on the track but...well, it's not going to be as fast. But that F1 car can't do anything else but blister that track.

From a general purpose standpoint I VASTLY prefer riding my road bike. It's more comfortable in many ways (at least, insofar as it concerns general purpose riding), it's more dynamic, it's very nice, etc. But I purchased a tri bike to go fast between T1 and T2.

Here is the problem that I have with Chaaaahhhlestun triathlon positions:

They could be sooo much better. The first person who brings in a great position on a noseless saddle to their little circle of friends is going to be a trendsetter for the whole community.

This is John Howard; he used to be the man. In the second picture he is riding the bike in what I would deem a "triathlon appropriate" position. His body is steeper "over" the BB, his shoulders are more forward, etc. I think in the second picture he has become reach-limited to an extent but the point of his picture was a demonstration of the different posture one "should" hold on the bike.

Now, in the olden days, you were supposed to ride like this (the second picture) on a "traditional" or "nosed" saddle. Guys could get away with "picking a side" and rolling their hips forward to achieve the desired pelvic angle and overall body position.  Ladies, however, do not have the luxury of "picking a side." In their world there are NO sides. So they were left either suffering through it or sitting back on their saddle with flat hips...

You can see in this picture above that somehow I am riding the most forward 2-3" of my saddle. I am likely selecting my right seat bone as the main support mechanism but unfortunately I am also 100% sure that much of the "middle" soft tissue is also sustaining a lot of pressure.

As I have mentioned previously, the goal of a good triathlon fit centers around SUSTAINABILITY. So in the picture above I am

1) aerodynamic
2) powerful

But that is NOT sustainable. It has nothing to do with any of the "normal" issues associated with "bad" triathlon fitting is revolves completely around the fact that the saddle is putting a ton of pressure on soft tissue. On guys this leads to numbness (which is not a comfortable feeling in that and the more frontal area...), on girls this leads to not sitting like that anymore due to potentially extraordinary discomfort.

So what do most people do that are new to triathlon and new to triathlon fitting when they encounter a saddle like that with aero bars?

They sit like this guy is: backwards on the saddle (because that's the only position that's sustainable from a "comfort" standpoint), hips rolled "under" them, lots of torque/tension in their middle and upper back, etc.

Here's another example:

Once you provide someone with a proper support system and instruct them on how best to utilize it, however, you can take someone that is COMPLETELY new to triathlon bikes and the position and get them more like:

It all starts at the saddle. Everything good and bad that is fit related likely has its roots somewhere in and around the saddle area. I cannot overstate that.

Chaahhhhlestun needs some noseless saddles injected into its triathlon community, STAT.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More racing with more placing

I always like to include a clever tag-line in my blogs. Something to draw you in and maybe say "Wow, that guy - he is a clever one!" Just enough (but probably said to yourself, quietly) to get you to click and read.

Sometimes, in an even more devious fashion, I like to put something in at the end that makes you remark and potentially comment so I know people ARE actually reading the whole thing! It's very secretive of me but, in the end, it works quite well.

So as you read this blog, ask yourself: "I wonder what he's going to do this time...?"

Then BAM, it hits you, right in the face. And you comment.

Williamsburg was a bit of a letdown. The sense of "I could have done much better than this" was strong in my mind after the race. That's ok though, it can definitely make a positive influence on your overall motivation.

Like seeing someone brag about their overall win when you know you got off the bike almost 10 minutes ahead of them... (but admittedly failed to execute on the run). Oh well.

I will say, not that you asked me, that one of the BIGGEST differences I've noticed in my "approach" to age-group vs elite racing is that for the most part I assume that racing AG there is always a "weakness" in my competitors.

This is obviously not always true, but for the most part athletes competing in their age-group have a weakness. There are a LOT of good bikers, but a relatively few good bikers AND runners. There are a great many "weak" swimmers.

(by the way, I realize this isn't completely fair, but bear with me as it is simply a generalization)

In the elite field, there are NO weaknesses.  Even someone that is a weak swimmer...wait, I am actually a weak swimmer. Dammit. But you get my point, right? It is very, very rare to encounter someone (in the male professional field) who has a glaring weakness and is still "good."

Luckily, I am "good" at all 3 sports. I am not especially far above average in any of the three (over any of the others) and I am not weak in any of the three, relative to my age group peers.  It is interesting to feel that way after three years of racing at the back of some pro fields. In those races I always just assumed (after the swim) that I wouldn't catch anybody. Now I assume that I will catch anybody that was ahead of me out of the swim, if anyone is ahead of me out of the swim.

Before you go thinking that I'm all elitist or something, just realize that this is a pretty realistic assessment of my thinking. I am not saying it's right or that it's wrong, just that

So now that brings us to this past weekend. Andrew Lerner, Jenny, and myself got all loaded up in a pimpin' minivan and headed down to Charleston for the weekend. There were two events on our dance card:

CCA Time Trial (this was a combined NC/SC State Championship) on Saturday and race #2 of the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series.

Jenny and I both won the overall race at the SC State TT back in 2013 (though neither of us are SC residents so we didn't get to call ourselves "state champs") so we were hoping to come in near the top again this time.  Andrew had never done a TT that wasn't multiple laps so he was hoping to find a reprieve from having to remember how many he had done...

Fast machines
Well, it was warm. Very warm. Relatively windless, flat course mostly exposed to sunlight. I suffered. I had a good ride, but not a perfect one. My time of 53:18 for the 23.4 mile course was good, but not great and netted me 3rd place Cat 3 (top 10ish OA).

I got my butt kicked but got in a good workout. Can't complain about that too much, eh?

I don't have a good picture of myself so I'll post this good picture I took instead:

The rest of the day was spent doing beach-y things: paddleboarding and going to the beach. I once again proved my prowess on the paddle and only fell off once, but it totally wasn't my fault.

We ate some delicious food courtesy of Jenny's memories of  Charleston and consumed a giant adult beverage, which - in this picture - appears to be larger than my face.

Early on Sunday morning we headed over to James Island (fitting, no?) to race the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series.  This weekend marked the second race in the extremely long-running series (25 years?) and would be a perfect cap to a solid weekend.

After picking we picked up our packets I headed over on a little detour to the ol' porto. I had seen one kind of nestled in the trees that wasn't very crowded and although it was still dark outside I hoped to be able to see while inside.  Unfortunately, when I opened the door I discovered that I could not, in fact, see. At that precise moment - realizing I was helpless and blind, obviously - I felt an object land on my arm.  It was a slimy, wet object. It grasped my arm. It felt to have four appendages and was kind of sticky.

I freaked the *** out, let out a little "yeeoooooOOOWWWw" and ran away from that porto. Obviously, it was merely a frog. But WHO KNOWS where that frog had been while inside the porto. It was obviously a "disgust" scream that I emitted and not an "I'm scared s*itless by a little froggie" scream.  Obviously.

Anyway, I made sure that nobody heard me and scooted off to set up my stuff for the race.  I had a small long-shot goal of holding onto Jenny's feet for the 600 yard swim so I needed to get amped up.  Luckily, the frog surprising me (note: not "scaring" me) had my adrenaline pumping through me like...

Well, I couldn't think of anything funny and/or witty.

Now here's where I tie in what I said above about weaknesses. My general assumption is that most age group triathletes are "weak" in the swim (relatively speaking). I had noticed the guy that won the Cat 5 TT on Saturday was racing so I figured he'd be a threat on the bike and, probably, on the run (since someone that's quite good at one aerobic sport is usually quite good at another aerobic sport).  BUT, until I'm proven otherwise, I figure I'll be the one being chased after the swim.

Swim - 7:54 (5th)

The swim was a very simple rectangle and we started out with a bang. Or as much of a bang as one can have when the water feels like it's ABOUT 90 degrees. I think this might take the cake as the warmest swim I've experienced.  Others in my memory are the Tuesday night JJF race last year at Cane Creek, Latta back in maybe 2011ish, and Stumpy Creek in 2012 I think.  Absolutely miserable.

Luckily, this swim was only 600 yards.  I lost the shot at Jenny's feet (plus one other guy was swimming "with" her) around the first buoy but found some feet to sit on most of the rest of the swim. The guy in front of me was not swimming a particularly straight line which made sitting on his feet pretty difficult and I lost them a bit towards the end of the swim. The swim was uneventful and I had a pretty big gap on anyone who I thought might be a contender (although to be honest I didn't know anybody at this race from a competitive standpoint).

Easily the best swim exit picture I've ever gotten (Brian Fancher Photography)

T1 - :54

Had a pretty quick transition to and came out in 3rd (after having gone in 4th) with just Jenny and one gentleman hot on her heels ahead of me.

Bike - 27:42 (1st)

The first part of the bike was pretty...interesting.  I'll call it sketchy because it kind of was. It's not a negative comment it is merely an observation on the array of stuff we could potentially encounter in the park itself. Sweeping turns and/or surprise turns, potentially debris in the road, and I myself encountered a car stopped in front of me in a median area which prompted me to swing to the left of the median.

Great photos from Brian Fancher (at a reasonable price even!)

I passed Jenny and the other guy during the park exit sequence and put my head down for the rest of the ride. There was a very short out and back  sort of triangle thingy at the other end of the course which allowed me to gauge my lead and Jenny was actually the first next athlete I saw so I figured I was doing alright against the male competition.

I held decent enough power (about in the middle of the range of what I was targeting last week at Williamsburg Half...) and maintained good miles per hour and got off the bike with a pretty strong lead on second place (who was still Jenny).

T2 - :25

I had a fast and efficient transition. Nothing to see here folks. Although I did not anticipate the bike dismount line and consequently only got one of my shoes off prior to bike dismount. D'oh!

Run - 19:23 (5th)

I headed out on the run feeling pretty smooth but ultimately slowed down pretty quickly for a few reasons:

1) I wasn't worried about being caught
2) It was stupid warm

That's pretty much all there is to say about the run. There was a brief out and back at the very end where I saw the second place guy was about 40-50 seconds behind me but I was not worried about him catching me and cruised into the finish comfortably in first.

Always good when nobody else is in the picture with you (Brian Fancher Photography)

OA - 56:16 (1st)

It was only when the second place guy crossed that I actually knew who he was: Nathan Buttrick. I remember his name because - well - it stands out and because he was 6th OA at IM Lake Placid last year, just in front of the guy who received the check from The Real Starky (and he won TryCharleston half this year very comfortably).

I was definitely pleased to take the W after a hard day prior and was even more pleased that everyone in the car made it onto the podium. Jenny barely won, coming in 8 minutes ahead, and Andrew narrowly missed edging out my run time to come in 2nd place in his AG.

A good trip all around!

5th, 2nd, 1st

Friday, June 19, 2015

Another thought or two

Alright, now I'm on a roll. Like I said before, I don't really blog/write too much about fitting. It's a service for which I am paid (through Inside Out Sports) and I don't really make it a habit of giving away advice for "free." Actually, I do. One of the greatest things about walking into IOS if you are a triathlete is that there is SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE housed within its walls. I'm not really even talking about me (which I usually AM doing, harr harr). So, take that for what it's worth (which is a lot, actually).

So yesterday I mentioned juggling three things when it comes to triathlon bike fitting:

1) Aerodynamics of the position (i.e. system efficiency)
2) Comfort of the position (i.e. sustainability of #1)
3) Power output

One of the more common questions I hear is "will this affect my power?"

The answer is, almost certainly, "yes."

Now, before you get all scared about it let me tell you WHY it's "yes."

First of all, your power output will most probably be lower in your aero position. How much lower is a function of a couple of things:

1) Time spent in that position doing intervals
2) How low you are in that position (and various other angle/limitations/etc, basically the fit itself)

Generally it seems like - with practice - you can get that discrepancy to at or under 5%. Using a purely personal example if I ride as hard as I can for an hour on my road bike I am likely to put out somewhere around 300 watts (give or take).  If I ride my tri position/bike as hard as I can for an hour, I am likely to put out somewhere around 280-290 watts, give or take.

I am not a shining example of practicing my tri position. Practice what I preach, not do as I do. Or something like that. In the reference above, I am averaging about 27ish mph on the tri bike. On the road bike, I'd be lucky to be much above 23-24 (on the same course with the same wheels).

So, it simply takes practice. Should you be willing to sacrifice a bit of power for the sake of a more efficient tri position? I say "yes."

Very, very rarely are you having to put out FTP+ power on your tri bike in triathlon racing. In fact, the only time I ever do that is when I am doing a sub 40k TT which essentially simply means I am doing the CMS 10 mile TT up in Concord...

See if you can tell what the difference is between these two POSITIONS (not the apparel/equipment).

In picture number 1 that is maybe mile 10 or so of the Rev3 Florida half from 2013 I believe. The second picture is somewhere in the middle of a 10 mi TT. In the first picture I am probably outputting somewhere around 80% of my FTP.  In the second picture I am probably outputting 110% of my FTP.

It is very apparent what that does to my position.  For the most part, both of these pictures have the same contact points. Or at least, within a few millimeters of being the same (slightly different aerobar extensions).

When trying to ouput that much power my upper body is completely engaged in the generation of that power. My hips have rolled "flatter," my lower back is torqued, my arms are locked and tense, my hands are gripping the extensions like they are on a roller coaster ride. My ENTIRE body is trying to put out more power.

In the first picture my hips are rolled forward a bit better, my back profile is far more relaxed (not quite as curved), my hands are resting lightly atop the extensions, my neck is a bit more relaxed, etc.

Again, nothing (much) has changed on the bike itself between those two pictures, what's changed is what my body has to do to affect power output.  Number 2 becomes unsustainable after about 20-30 minutes (I don't know exactly as I've never tried to put out 110% for more than 20 minutes...). Number 1 should - in theory - be sustainable for...ever. Now, obviously that's not completely true but it really just depends on you - the rider.

Is your longest race of the year a half distance? Then you need to spend at LEAST your projected time in your aero position.  You need to practice at race intensity. You need uninterrupted stretches of aero bar time.  It's very difficult to completely replicate a race context in the "real world" in terms of course, distractions, output, fuel, etc... but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't give it a real whirl.

That is how you help optimize that triathlon position and the resultant bike split. It involves a lot of trial and error and it involves a lot of PRACTICE. There is no magic bullet.

Find the right saddle (EVERYthing starts there). LEARN how to ride the bike in that position.

(both of those two things should be accomplished with an effective and knowledgeable fitter and a little trial and error with the saddle choice).

Then...wait for it.

Practice the s*** out of that position.