July 21, 2015 on 11:10 am | In Uncategorized | No Comments
This blog brought to you by former TriSports Champion Mike VanHouten. Power is definitely a buzzword in triathlon right now, but what does it all mean? Mike will explain it very simply so you can decide if power is right for you.
No matter if you have just started doing triathlons or if you have been doing them for a while, you have heard of people talking about training with power on their bike. So what does that really mean?
Very simply, a power meter measures the amount of effort you are exerting on your bike in watts. Two of the most common types of devices that you can buy today are a wheel hub or crank-based power meter. A hub-based power meter allows you to replace the existing hub on your rear wheel and replace it with the new hub that has a power meter inside of it. A crank based power meter simply replaces your existing crank and has the power meter inside your crank arms. (editor’s note: Garmin and now Powertap have introduced pedal-based power meters, allowing for increased portability between bikes.)
So which one is the best?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it really depends on what makes sense for you. One advantage of a hub-based meter is cost, they typically can be a few hundred dollars less expensive than a crank-based power meter, and another advantage is you can use that same rear wheel power meter on all of your bikes. A disadvantage is the hub can only be used for the wheel it is installed with, so if you have multiple wheels for training vs. racing, you would need to decide which wheel would have the hub power meter. For a crank-based meter, the wheels are independent of the power meter, so you can use whatever wheel you want, but if you have multiple bikes, you would have to swap out the crank from bike to bike (assuming your bikes can utilize similar cranks). While this isn’t hard to do, you may need some special tools, or you can utilize your local bike shop to quickly do the job for you.
One additional piece of equipment you will need is a bike computer or exercise watch to read the data that the power meter sends out while you are riding your bike. The good news is that you may already have a device that is compatible, just check to see if your device is “ANT+ power meter compatible.” Using your home computer, you can retrieve and review this data to see your power readings along with other information like your pedaling cadence, speed, and elevation changes.
So now that you know the basics of what a power meter is, the obvious question is… what can it do for you?
First a power meter allows you to maximize your training time and effort. Your training time is valuable, and it is important to know how hard to push and when to back off for recovery. Instead of basing your bike workouts on your perceived effort or your heart rate (which can vary day-to-day), a power meter gives you precise information on how hard you are working and how that compares to your maximum effort. This maximum effort is called your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is, simply put, the average watts you can exert over an hour with nothing left in the tank afterwards.
How do you figure out your FTP?
I like to utilize a 2×20 minute workout with 2 minutes of active rest (don’t stop pedaling) in between. Your goal in this workout is to be as consistent as possible and to be completely exhausted when you are done. After your ride is complete, you want to look at the average watts that you utilized over the 42 minutes. For example, if your average over the 42 minutes is 200 watts, this is now your FTP.
Now that you know your FTP, your workouts can be structured and precise. When your coach or training plan tells you to do a recovery ride for an hour at 60% of your FTP and your FTP is 200 watts, you simply target an average effort of 120 watts. The guessing game of knowing if you are riding too hard or not hard enough is gone.
The second thing you will gain by utilizing power on your bike is that you can now target a specific effort for your race. In a sprint race, you may ride your bike leg with an effort at 100% of your FTP, but for an full distance race you may want to target an effort of 70%. Why is this important? This will allow you to maximize your effort on the running leg of your triathlon by not going too hard on your bike leg, something that is commonly done in races.
I’ve tried to keep this description fairly simple, but if you’re interested in learning about getting a power meter, give TriSports.com a call to get advice on your existing equipment and what options are available to you. There are also great books available that can really explain the details of training with power, or if you have a coach, talk to them and understand how your training and races could benefit by utilizing this technology.
Good luck in your future training and races!
July 14, 2015 on 12:39 pm | In Community, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Random Musings, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Ali Rutledge. We all know how important it is to fuel properly for the time we put in training and racing. But have you ever thought about how those fuels affect your teeth? Luckily, Ali does! Read on to learn more! Follow Ali on Twitter – @alaida.
Ever heard that sports drinks and sports nutrition can cause you to have poor dental health, such as cavities? Research has shown us that exercise is the best preventative measure for pretty much every single disorder from cancer to heart disease.
There is evidence, though, that a potential side effect of exercise is poor dental heath.
The changes our saliva goes through during exercise is a cause of poor dental health, not the sports drink and bars we consume. During exercise, your saliva becomes more alkaline and has been associated with tarter plaques and other dental problems. All we can say is that endurance training can be a risk factor for oral health.
Certainly we are not going to stop doing endurance sports and we should not. We also must consume the proper sports nutrition products during our race and training sessions so we can be at our best. To ensure we maintain good dental health, we need to remember to brush and floss at least daily, especially after long sessions where we consume sports drink and other products such as bars and gels. As athletes, we spend so much time training our bodies, but we also need to remember to visit our dentist regularly.
June 30, 2015 on 3:51 pm | In Community, From the shop, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Races, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Lori Sherlock. We’re at that point in the season where it may be hard to drop much time on your swim, bike or run, but what about your transition? Often an afterthought, Lori gives us a few tips to help gain some free time. Follow Lori on Twitter – @tightcalves.
Transition is known in triathlon as the 4th discipline for a reason. It can allow you to gain time on your competitors or allow your competitors to gain time on you. These 5 simple steps, plus a properly packed transition bag, can help you to streamline your transitions to make them faster and more efficient.
Simplify your Transition
Put a lot of forethought into your transition and don’t put out anything that you don’t need. Including items that you are not planning on using will only elongate your transition times. You should make all of your decisions prior to your race and mentally review what your T1 & T2 will look like.
Your transition area should be a well-organized area with everything readily accessible to you as you are coming out of the water or moving from bike to run. Using a small towel, or transition towel, to mark your spot is always a good idea. Get a towel that is bright and unique to help you recognize your transition area and set it apart from everyone else. All of your necessities should be placed in the order you plan to use them to eliminate any confusion from your transition. Think TYPE A PERSONALITY when you are setting up your transition area.
Every step in transition should be a well-thought-out plan. This will allow for great execution come race day. As you are nearing the finish of the swim leg, picture what your transition area will look like and what you need to grab, put on, or eat. As you are coming to the end of the bike leg you should be thinking about what your next step will be. Don’t think too far ahead…that can be overwhelming and deleterious to your race performance. Use mental imagery just as you are finishing each leg to prepare yourself for what is next….bike….run….FINISH LINE!
As our parents, teachers and coaches have always told us: practice makes perfect! This motto rings true about transitions, too! There is a reason that we call this the 4th discipline!! We take time to build our fitness, practice our swimming, biking and running, we should also be putting in the extra time to practice our transitions. The clock doesn’t stop for transitions, so this can end up being time lost in our race. When you are practicing your transitions, try to mimic EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS YOU WOULD DO IT ON RACE DAY. Set out your transition towel, your bike shoes, run shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses, nutrition, gloves, whatever you plan on using for the next A-race so that when you get to your transition you know exactly what you want to do and the order you want to do it. Consider this “free time” for your next triathlon.
Packing Your Transition Bag:
When you are packing your transition bag, go through your checklist of what you will need from swim-to-bike-to-run. The amount of stuff that you load up your bag with will probably be dependent upon what distance race you are doing.
For a sprint triathlon, you should only need the basics: pre-, during- and post-race nutrition, goggles, swim cap (usually provided by the race but take one just in case), Aquaphor or BodyGlide, bike, cycling shoes (& socks if you choose), helmet, sunglasses, extra tube and the tools to change it, water bottles, running shoes, race belt and hat/visor, Garmin or heart rate monitor (if you train with them).
A half-Iron distance race is going to require a bit more planning and a lot more nutrition. Your transition bag should include: pre-, during- and post-race nutrition, goggles, swim cap (usually provided by the race but take one just in case), wetsuit or speedsuit, Aquaphor or BodyGlide, possibly cycling shorts (depending on comfort on the bike), bike, cycling shoes (& socks if you choose), helmet, sunglasses, cycling gloves (for comfort), spare tube x 2 and the tools to change it, water bottles, running shoes, tri shorts if you want to change, race belt and hat/visor, Garmin or heart rate monitor (if you train with them), salt/electrolyte tabs.
Iron-distance races are a whole different ball-game. Though there are transition areas, your gear is usually in a bag that you have to go through at T1 & T2. This makes it even more important to plan as you normally turn your bag in the day prior to your race….so check and double check that all of your necessities are in the bag before you turn it in. Everything that you need for the half-iron distance you will need for the Iron-distance plus a bunch more nutrition and maybe a few more ‘comfort items’. You will also need a pump (unless you plan on using one provided at the race venue or borrowing one from a fellow competitor) and maybe some chain lube if you want to freshen up your chain before you take off. You should probably be wearing your racing kit…and maybe some slip-on shoes that could be tossed if the walk to the swim entry is a little rough. You may also want to pack some post-race clothing or something warm if the weather is threatening. If you feel like you need someone to go over your list with you can check out www.racechecklist.com
After compiling this load of stuff into one HUGE transition bag, you will need to organize it perfectly at your race site. Rule of thumb: DON’T BE A TRANSITION HOG! Only use the space directly in front of or next to your bike (depending on transition set-up) so that you don’t infringe on another competitor’s transition space.
Race-to-Race Just in Case Bag:
This is a zip-lock bag that you keep stocked and in your transition bag for all of those just in case moments.
- Small pair of Scissors
- First Aid supplies (Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, tape)…just in case
- Black Sharpie Marker
- A copy of your USAT card
- Safety Pins
- Aquaphor or BodyGlide
- Extra Nutrition
- Clean-up kit (travel size soap, wash cloth, deodorant, comb or brush)
- Extra race belt
- Extra goggles (one thing that people have a tendency to forget a little too often)
- Duct tape/black electrical tape
- Empty water bottle (another frequently forgotten item)
May 4, 2015 on 3:34 pm | In Community, Product Information, Random Musings, Sun Protection, Sun Protection | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports friend Barry Baker. With the amount of time we spend outside, under the bright sun, we need to be way more careful that I suspect most of us are (myself included). Follow Barry on Twitter – @BrahmaBarry.
I really enjoy the people and the training we do as endurance athletes in Tucson. We are blessed to have so much great weather to swim, bike and run! We are also a very high risk group for developing skin cancer because of our hours of training under the Arizona Sun (editor: Although Barry references Tucson and AZ, we felt this topic applied to endurance athletes everywhere and was relevant to share with everyone).
In the US alone, 5,000,000 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015. 150,000 of those will be the deadly form of Melanoma. 10,000 will die. I have been diagnosed and treated for five melanoma cancers and many other non-lethal skin cancers. Each surgery was invasive and sidelined me, but I caught each one before they had metastasized.
Most skin cancers are preventable through precaution. Treatment and excisions are less invasive and more successful the earlier skin cancers are detected.
Arm sleeves, leg sleeves, brimmed hats, and good sunblock are all effective measures. Getting checked by a dermatologist once per year is mandatory! We are a weird group in that we get to see a lot of each others’ skin – don’t be afraid to tell a friend to get a suspicious looking mole checked out or offer some extra sunblock if you see someone turning pink.
We earn our fitness and some of us (not me) really create amazing bodies as a result of our hard work. Finding skin cancers late can result in invasive, disfiguring surgeries that can sideline you and impact function. In some cases, it can be the fight for your life. Takeaway – be smart so you don’t lose what you have worked so hard to build!
So, enjoy your training in the sun, but use precaution and get checked!!!
This PSA has been brought to you by Buzzkill Barry Baker – seriously, check out the the U of A Skin Cancer Institute for more information.
April 21, 2015 on 11:26 am | In Community, From the shop, Product Information, Random Musings, Tech Tips | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Becky Bader. Let’s face it, as a whole, triathletes are pretty miserable at maintaining our own bikes. Becky gives us a few tips to help prevent the roadies from laughing at us. Check out Becky’s blog or follow her on Twitter – @becky_bader.
Before transitioning into iron distance triathlon, I spent many years racing bikes and occasionally working at bike shops in between jobs that some might consider to be more related to my Ph.D. When I quietly told my bike racing friends and fellow bike shop employees that I was moving to triathlon, I immediately prepared myself for the barrage of jokes related to poor bike handing skills and an inability to do something as simple as changing brake pads. I wish I could say that my years in triathlon have demonstrated to me that most triathletes are incredibly adept at maintaining their own bikes and that my bike racing friends were wrong in their perception. But no, I cannot say this, and I admit to being embarrassed for triathletes everywhere at some of the conversations about bikes I have overheard in the transition area before the start of a triathlon.
We, of course, all have to start somewhere. I was fortunate enough to be taught how to ride by a former professional cyclist who, on the day that I purchased my first road bike, suggested to me that I had better get to a bike shop and figure out how to change a flat. I completely blew him off and then cursed his name as I took a slow walk of shame back to my car in my bike shoes after getting my first flat. So I went to the shop, purchased a set of tire levers, had the mechanics show me the best way to get a tire on and off of a wheel in order to replace the tube, and then practiced until I could change a flat in minimal time. I always suggest to beginners or novice triathletes that they take the time to ask a bike mechanic for a quick how-to lesson on things they might need to know out on the road.
Many years, many bikes, and many bike shops later, I have come a long way from just being able to change a flat, and I can now build and maintain my own road and triathlon bikes. Contrary to popular belief, a vast amount of expensive tools are not necessary to get this done, and a complete set of hex wrenches can go a long way. As a rule of thumb, everything should be overhauled at least once per year (chain, cables, housing, and tires). If you are putting in some heavy mileage, I suggest investing in a quick chain checker, such as the Park Tool CC-2, to better gauge when you may need to replace the chain. This will save you from having to additionally invest in a new cassette more frequently. If you do need to change the chain, this is potentially the easiest do-it-yourself thing there is. You will need to invest in a chain tool; I use the Park Tool CT-3.2. After this purchase, changing the chain becomes somewhat self-explanatory. Simply press out one of the pins from the chain you are replacing with the tool, remove that chain, replace the chain, and insert a new pin using the tool again. Bear in mind that when you purchase a new chain, you will most definitely need to remove several links before putting on the new chain (all you need to do is compare the length of the new chain to the existing chain).
Moving on to the internal routing of cables. Yes, I am willing to admit that this is a huge hassle, but still completely doable. I recommend ordering a complete set of cables and housing that is a little bit higher end rather than using what is available stock at the bike shops. Shimano and Jag make great products that will keep you shifting cleanly for the entire year. Although cable cutters are obviously available at Lowes and Home Depot, the ones that are bike specific (such as Park Tool CN-10) will serve you much better. The key to internal routing is to take a string or dental floss and attach it to the end of the cable. If you do this to the old cable, you are left with a string that can be used to pull the new cable through the frame. Alternatively, you can simply attach the string or dental floss to the end of the new cable and then pull that through the frame using a vacuum cleaner (be careful other holes in the bike are at least partially sealed). As for the housing, simply try to cut close to the length of the housing that is being replaced.
Once the cables and housing have been replaced, getting things to shift correctly can be a tad more complicated. To set the front cable, simply put the shifter in the little ring and pull the cable as tight as possible before tightening the anchor bolt with a hex wrench. For the back, do the same, but then try to slowly shift up to the next biggest cog. If this does not occur, you are going to need to turn the barrel adjustor 1/4th of a turn counterclockwise until shifting occurs (make sure the barrel adjustor is fully turned in before tightening the anchor bolt). Repeat this process for the next cog, and eventually you will be back to a smoothly shifting bike. Slap on some new bar tape, and you are ready to roll.
I will add a word of caution that if you continue down this path of maintaining your own bikes, you may someday end up with a dining room where the table has been turned into a mount for an axle vice for changing free hub bodies, and a living room where bike parts, tools, and bike part manuals cover every available surface. Good luck in keeping everything running smooth this season!
April 8, 2015 on 12:52 pm | In Athlete Profile, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by longtime TriSports athlete Karin Bivens. With many IRONMAN™ races under her belt, she is well-versed on training and racing. Check out her top 10 tips to ensure you are well-prepared for your next attempt at the full distance. Check out Karin’s blog or follow her on Twitter – konakarin.
As a 10-time IRONMAN™ finisher, including 5 IRONMAN™World Championships and a 3rd place podium finish in Kona in 2009, I was recently asked for training tips by someone who was planning to sign up for his first IRONMAN™ (Arizona) since, as he put it, I was a “seasoned veteran!” I was somewhat surprised and also flattered that he would value my input. I thought about it and here are my Top 10 Tips for IRONMAN™ training:
1) GET STRONG ON THE BIKE!
- Although you do need distance, put in the speed work, too. I did some Time Trials which really helped me push my pace under race conditions. If you don’t want to sign up for a Time Trial race, you can measure a 20K and/or 40K stretch of road (typical Time Trial distance) and then periodically (i.e., once every 2 or 3 weeks) do your own Time Trial and try to better your time.
- Bike with stronger people – I tend to do the hard rides (trying to include hills) with fast riders on all kinds of days (windy, hot, etc.).
- Welcome the wind – let the wind be your training friend! The wind will make you strong and also confident that you can handle it.
2) DIAL IN YOUR NUTRITION!
- I had the good fortune to hear Bob Seebohar speak (www.fuel4mance.com – Dietitian for Olympians, elite athletes and mere mortals). He indicates that much of the G.I. distress that athletes encounter is not because they eat too little, but because they eat too much! He emphasizes training your body to utilize its own stored energy. I use his book, Metabolic Efficiency Training, as a guide. Another great book of his is Nutrition Periodization for Athletes.
- Personally, I do better with “real food” and try to avoid or at least minimize products with ingredients I cannot pronounce.
- Most of my solid nutrition is on the bike. I eat the bars and gels that consist of real food without all the additives. In my bike Special Needs Bag, I pack a peanut butter and honey sandwich (cut into quarters) and really look forward to ingesting something other than nutrition bars and gels. One year at IRONMAN™ Canada, I stopped to get my sandwich from my Special Needs Bag and there was Sister Madonna Buder eating her sandwich. When I asked her what was on it, she replied, “Peanut butter and a pickle!” So eat something that works for you. I would, however, advise against putting something in your Special Needs Bag that could spoil (I’ve heard of people putting a Big Mac in their Special Needs Bag and wondered how safe it was to eat after sitting there all day and often in hot weather). I also carry my preferred Electrolyte drink on the bike and pack a frozen bottle of it in my Special Needs Bag which helps keep it cooler.
- On the run I tend to stick mostly with liquids (water, electrolyte drink) and gels. Do find out what electrolyte drink will be served on the course and train with it! It is difficult to pack enough of your preferred drink for the entire race. Also, there is a possibility that you could lose your nutrition/drink. At IRONMAN™ France, my Bike Special Needs Bag could not be located! My system hasn’t always favored the electrolyte drink served on the course, but training with it helps, as well as putting a small amount over a cup of ice or else just diluting it. You can pack some of your preferred drink in your Special Needs Bag, but you still may need to drink what is on the course. I found that sipping some Coke over ice can be a real pick-up and can be settling to the stomach! I remember doing St. Croix 70.3 and Chris “Macca” McCormack was volunteering on the run course handing out Coke (after he finished the race). He told me, “Take some as it will give you FAST LEGS!”
3) WORK ON TRANSITIONS!
- This is “free time!” I have friends who have missed out on the podium, even though they swam, biked and ran faster than their opponent. They lost it in transitions. There are lots of good videos online about efficient transitions.
- Take advantage of transition clinics. You are bound to pick up some small tip that can save time.
- Train for transitions. I keep my bike in the garage with my helmet/gloves on the aerobars and my bike shoes next to the bike. Whenever I head out on the bike, I put on my shoes while standing so that I become efficient at this. My husband will sit down in a chair to put on his bike shoes and then in a race, he still needs to sit down to put on his shoes. This takes more time and often space is tight at the bike rack, so learn to put on your shoes while standing.
4) BECOME MORE EFFICIENT AT SWIMMING!
- I am not a particularly fast swimmer, but I have learned to become efficient and come out of the swim without wasting too much energy and am ready to bike. If you can, join a Masters swim program. It will really help. Swimming is so technique-based that you might want to consider taking some lessons to make your swim more efficient. You can also read books or watch videos on swim technique (www.swimsmooth.com, www.totalimmersion.net or some of the videos by Dave Scott) or, if possible, take a Total Immersion clinic.
- Practice sighting as you will need it to make sure you are on course.
- Practice bi-lateral breathing. I favor breathing on my right side and am more comfortable on swim courses that are clockwise but that isn’t always the case and sometimes things like wave action can make breathing on the other side more desirable. It also can help balance out your stroke. Your head/neck can get pretty tired of turning the same way for 2.4 miles.
5) VARY YOUR RUN TRAINING.
- When I trained for my first triathlon (with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Team-in-Training”), I was extremely fortunate to have a Pro triathlete (Tim Sheeper) as a coach. He said to regularly run coming off the bike, even if it is just for 10 minutes, to get your legs adjusted to “running after biking.” Of course, there are days when you have longer runs following the bike and days when you just focus on the run, but get accustomed to running off the bike.
- I found that doing some shorter running races (i.e., 5Ks, 10Ks) really helped with my speed as there can be a tendency to run long (but slow) distances. So train yourself to run fast, as well.
- Run hills – this will help make you stronger. Even if you are training for a flat run, think how much easier it will be, and if it’s a hilly run, you’ll be better prepared than much of your competition.
- Doing some shorter triathlons and at least one long course race prior to doing the IRONMAN™ will help with experience, training, nutrition, pacing and transitions.
7) MIMIC RACE CONDITIONS!
- Find out what conditions are highly possible on the course. Train for it. I cannot tell you how many races I have done where the winds have picked up. This year at IMAZ, the winds were fierce and there were many DNFs due to missing the bike cut-off. I always think the Pros have it easier as conditions tend to worsen as the day goes on. By training in wind (refer to the bike tips previously mentioned), you will better be able to deal with them. The same goes for heat. If it is likely to be hot on race day, train for heat. Heck, train for heat even if it isn’t usual at that particular event. One year when I did IRONMAN™ Canada, it was unseasonably hot, but not as hot as training in Tucson, so I had a good race whereas the heat, and the resulting GI distress on the run, had some calling it “Vomit-man” (yuck)! You also need to consider the opposite: cold. Be prepared. When I did IRONMAN™ Switzerland (held in July), there was a rainstorm and colder temperatures, especially as we biked into the higher elevations. I remember being cold on the bike but luckily had a cycling jersey in my bike bag (a jacket would have been even more helpful). Consider the terrain. Is it a flat course? Technical course? Hilly course? Train for it! If you are planning to do a hilly course, but live in an area where it is quite flat, you may need to bike on a trainer to mimic hill work, or find the highest point you can (i.e., ramps, bridges) and do repeats or consider another race that is less hilly. Humidity or lack thereof also plays a role. Conditions will determine nutritional needs. I find that in the hotter races, I eat less/drink more and need lots more salt supplements. So, again, train under a variety of conditions so that you will be better prepared. These races are hard under perfect conditions, throw some unexpected weather in and it can knock you out of the game. Don’t let all that training go to waste…practice!
8 ) HAVE A PLAN!
- You cannot just WING it in an IRONMAN™! Consider hiring a coach. If you cannot afford a coach, there are training plans online and books on training. Joe Friel’s The Triathlete’s Training Bible is a great guide… but there are many others out there.
9) TRAIN ALONE!
- Although training with faster people can help make you faster and keep you going, you also need to train alone and tune into your own workout so you don’t get caught up in someone else’s workout or find that you’ve extended yourself when you should have taken an easy day or a recovery workout.
- Training alone can improve your mental toughness. In an IRONMAN™, you are basically out there on your own doing your own race. You will need to dig deep, especially when your body is not saying anything nice! You can draw from the experience of having trained alone.
10) BE THANKFUL THAT YOU GET TO DO THIS!
- I’ve often said that the best part of these events is the great people you meet who share a similar lifestyle. Races often become reunions. I have made great friends along the way, some in my age group, and when we are racing, we duke it out and push each other to greater heights! The camaraderie is a bonus of these events! No matter what the outcome, be thankful of the fact that you are out there! It’s all good and you learn from every race!
March 23, 2015 on 3:53 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, From the shop, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments
This blog brought to you by former TriSports Champion Dan Dezess (former only because his wife now works for us and he gets all the benefits of being part of the team, anyway!). With the race season upon us, many people spend a ton of time researching how to travel with their bike. Ship it? Fly with it? Bike transport? Here’s one man’s experiences flying with his bike.
I love triathlons and I love to travel. Who doesn’t? Now put the two together and it could be a little intimidating, frustrating and, not to mention, stressful! Questions about how the bike will fare under the scrutiny of TSA inspections, how much it costs to ship and the horror of “what if something happens to it between point a and point b?” race through one’s mind.
I have done a few “fly-aways” throughout the years and each time I think I have it mastered, I learn something new.
The first time I flew was for the 2010 Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA. I had just bought a Velo Safe Pro-series Bike Box from TriSports.com. I packed it with care, making sure that nothing could move which could damage the bike. Flying to San Francisco was fine. Coming back, however, I found that the company outsourced by TSA to inspect baggage did not re-secure the tool bag I had packed in the box. Lesson learned – do not put excess items in the bike box! What if it had shifted during the flight or handling and had damaged the bike? Shudder!
In July of 2011 while packing for Ironman Racine 70.3, I felt like I had a handle on the travel thing. Again the box was packed with care, foam padding and all. After some thought, I also decided it couldn’t hurt to place a nice little note inside asking them to please re-secure the items and thanking them for keeping us safe. A little kindness could go a long way.
All was well until I boarded the airplane. As I sat down and looked out the window, I saw, much to my horror, the airline baggage handler grab the box (which was upside down on the cart) and flip it end over end onto the conveyer belt, landing on its side and up into the airplane. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded what I would find upon landing.
We arrived in Detroit and I anxiously made my way to baggage claim. I found the box and opened it. The bike was fine, but the wheels were no longer secured. The end result was a nick in each race wheel about the diameter of a pencil eraser. I immediately went to the airline baggage office to file a claim, but was told that I needed to do that at the home airport. Fortunately, I was able to patch the wheels with fiberglass filler. Meanwhile, my wife and I researched what we needed in order to file a claim. We had all of our ducks in a row, or so we thought.
Back in Tucson, we went straight to the airline baggage office to file. To make a long story short, the airline denied responsibility despite the fact that we had photos showing the box being mishandled. They stated they were not responsible for damage done due to my lack of making sure it was safely packed. Lesson #2 learned – pack your wheels in wheel bags, or a separate wheel box, and do not expect the airline to pay for damages.
Determined to finally master the art of traveling with a bike, I invested in a wheel box and decided to fly non-stop from a larger airport nearby to lessen the number of times the box would have to be moved, and thus reducing the chance of it being man-handled. At baggage check in Phoenix, on the way to the 2012 Ironman New Orleans 70.3, I was happy to see that the workers recognized that it was a bike box and knew it contained fragile cargo. Finally a problem-free trip!
After New Orleans, I read about a product called Albopads in a triathlon magazine. They are re-useable pads with Velcro that you attach to the bike frame during transport. I decided to ditch most of the worn Styrofoam padding in favor of the newer, less bulky pads.
I used the same non-stop flight strategy to travel to Ironman Steelhead 70.3, again with much success. Flying conquered. Piece of cake!
Just when you think you know it all, though, something happens. I checked in for my flight for the Rocketman 70.3 in Orlando. Not quite a non-stop flight, as it stopped in Saint Louis, but at least we got to stay on the same plane. All was well until my wife and I had to stop near where over-sized baggage was manually inspected. I was rummaging through my backpack when I overheard the TSA baggage inspector tell the other inspector, “We have a HAZMAT.”
Being a firefighter, I knew what HAZMAT meant and was a very alarmed. I looked over and them standing around my open bike box. Oh no. I wracked my brain trying to think of what I could possibly have packed that could cause such panic. What if the airport was shut down? Yikes! It turned out it was the CO2 cartridges. They are apparently banned by the FAA from being transported on aircraft. I had never heard of that before, but now I know not to pack them. Ever.
Just when you think you think you have the game figured out, you get thrown another curveball. Live and learn. I can deal with all that, though, as long as the bike gets there safely!
March 16, 2015 on 3:57 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. Feeling like you need a break to get your head on straight? Spas and vacations are overrated…just do what you already do – train! Check out Jake on Twitter – @GWoodJCG.
Recently, as I often do, I was on the spin bike watching an old Kona race video. In the 1995 video, Paula Newby-Fraser made a quote that has become synonymous with triathlon training. Frasier quips that triathlon “is one long, tedious conversation with yourself.” Others have often asked me what I think about on long training rides and runs or during an Iron distance race. Surely, anyone who does triathlon training and racing has spent hours alone with nothing more than their thoughts. During this time the mind wanders to quiet, repetitive places. The repetition becomes a mantra where counting breathes, pumping the cranks, or turning over your legs fades into the background as your wandering mind takes over and you think deep and hard in a type of dream-like state.
I started thinking about Newby-Fraser’s quote and identified with her sentiment. I have often produced, solved, and forgotten about problems all in one training session. After stressful days at work or when I’m feeling distracted, I use exercise as a mental break. I’ve always felt that exercise has left me mentally fresher and allowed my mind the needed time to seek creative solutions to problems. And so, a question arose for me, does triathlon training yield increased creativity?
In the article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” Jabr (2013) argues that the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Mental idleness is indispensable to the brain. We obsessively check and respond to emails and even feel obligated to get work done in the evenings, on weekends, and while on vacation. Personally, between my job, family, and household chores, training remains as the only quiet time I have in a week. During my training, the space and quiet that mental idleness provides is necessary to make unexpected connections and leads to strikes of inspiration. Mental downtime has been described as an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what has been recently learned, to surface unresolved tension, and to reflect internally. During these moments of mental quiet we craft fictional dialogue, mull unfinished projects, and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures. Often while training, I have found myself role playing through deep conversations that determine how I ultimately handle sticky or stressful life situations. These moments of introspection help foster a stronger sense of self, which is the story we continually tell ourselves. It seems my consciousness is awakened by the unconsciousness of the repetitive movements. During a race it is often said you will go to “dark places” within the recesses of your mind. But what is in that dark place? Perhaps the darkness is the key to light, or better yet, enlightenment.
I choose to use my endurance training as an opportunity for much needed brain breaks. However, I often find myself almost obsessively pondering life situations at home or work as the miles tick by. I’ve often run through the door and quickly jotted down potential solutions to problems or pulled my bike over to make a quick voice memo in my phone. Opipari (2014) commented that a single workout can immediately boost higher-order thinking skills, increasing productivity and efficiency. Science supports this claim due to the fact that specific brain proteins move across brain synapses with increased blood flow that comes directly from exercise (Tomporowski, 2003). These brain proteins facilitate the growth of new brain cells and nourish existing ones. The result is improved executive functioning and higher-order thinking that allows people to formulate arguments, develop strategies, and creatively solve problems. In this way, exercise unleashes creativity. Therefore, it seems the mental idleness and increased blood flow in the brain during endurance training both physiologically and biologically yields a more creative mental space within which to solve problems.
The link between endurance training and creativity may well exist. Maybe Paula Newby-Fraser was making a deeper statement about this link in her famous quote, or perhaps she was simply using an eloquent metaphor for Jens Voight’s more concise “shut up, legs.” In any event, the next time you’re mentally stuck, stressed, or fatigued, don’t reach for caffeine or energy drinks. Grab those running shoes and leave your phone at home. You already possess the key to increased mental acuity and productivity; your legs.
Jabr, F. (2013, October 15). Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. Retrieved September 25, 2014, from Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/
Opipari, B. (2014, May 27). Need a Brain Boost? Exercise. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/need-a-brain-boost-exercise/2014/05/27/551773f4-db92-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html
Tomporowski, P. D. (2003). Effects of Acute Bouts of Exercise on Cognition. Acta Psychologica , 112, 297-324.
March 10, 2015 on 1:32 pm | In From the shop, Life at TriSports.com, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Juan Martin Tanca. Recovery is truly a buzzword in the endurance world, but what does it REALLY mean? Check out Juan’s take on it…I think he’s onto something! Check out Juan’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @jmtanca.
In recent years, recovery has been the most common topic in the endurance world, yet the most ignored and misunderstood by the majority of everyday athletes. My idea of recovery and rest is quite different from what most people do and think. A few months ago, I was reading Matt Hanson’s blog and he was explaining that for him, recovery was a whole day process, not just a single action done after a workout. When I read this, I started thinking more about it and, after some research and discussion with my coach, it made complete sense. If you integrate recuperation and rejuvenation into your lifestyle, the results in training/racing will be evident and way cheaper than getting a new “superbike” or a Star Wars-like aero helmet.
Recovery involves sleep (at least 8-9 hours/night), proper nutrition and fueling, hydration and trying to minimize life stress. We all know that it is almost impossible to have a stress-free life nowadays, but the key is trying to keep balance.
Recovery is seen sometimes as “nice to have,” but in order to be successful as an athlete, resting must be part of your plan. Viewing rest and recovery as a triathlon’s 4th discipline will have positive impacts in your training adaptation, hormonal balance, immune system and overall mood.
Sleep is the single cheapest and easiest way to boost your performance. This is where all the training adaption takes place. Sleeping 8-9 hours per night is ideal but 7 will work, too. Power naps in the afternoon are great, as well (10-20 minutes). Sleeping 60 to 90 minutes in the afternoon is not beneficial because it disrupts the sleeping cycle and it will be difficult to sleep at night.
To understand how to heal our body, we must understand what happens to it when we exercise. The body sees exercise as stress, therefore when we are training, our endocrine system secretes stress hormones (Cortisol & testosterone). The downside of this is that for our body, having a bad day at work or an argument has the same result as a hard track session or hill repeats, so if we want consistency and good health, it is vital that we must try to keep a low stress life and have “Athletic IQ.” What is this? Athletic IQ is not having a myopic look at the specific training day, but instead having a long lens view. What I mean is, for example; yesterday I went to bed at 9pm and woke up at 6am. I slept for 9 hours but woke up feeling heavy and fatigued, so I slept in, then went to work and did my workout in the afternoon instead, feeling refreshed and with a better mood. Sometimes forcing a workout with residual fatigue is useless. Tim O’Donnell says “One workout will not make you a world champion but the sum of consistent years of training, will.” By no means am I saying to be lazy, but if you know your body and your fatigue levels you will be able to make the call. Training = stress + adaptation.
There are other kinds of methods of boosting and balancing your hormonal level. My coach (Matt Dixon) likes us to go for 30-40 minutes runs, but REALLY, REALLY easy. If your running pace is 7min/mile, go for a 10min/mile pace, it will boost your mood and your endocrine system will secrete endorphins that are always awesome. Those easy runs and easy rides (coffee shop rides) will make you feel rejuvenated and fresh and will serve as a bridge for the next day. The key is to differentiate the easy workouts from the hard ones; there must be significant difference in intensity. To achieve this, it is very important to trust your coach and be brave.
Fueling, Nutrition & Hydration
What we put in our bodies is extremely important. If you want your car to run amazing, it’s better if you put super premium gas in it. Our bodies work in a similar way. Some people do not view nutrition and fueling as important, but they are extremely important. First let’s explain each of them separately.
Fueling is what you eat 60 minutes before a workout, what you eat and drink during the training session, what you eat and drink immediately after working out (30 minutes max!!). Like Meredith Kessler says: “The workout is not finished until the fueling is done.” During training I like to go with natural foods (Feed Zone Portables recipes are super easy and make training tastier, and Osmo nutrition is my hydration choice). As I said earlier, the body secretes cortisol when we workout, so the only thing that stops it immediately after we finish our training is protein. Having a high protein meal with carbs (4:1 ratio) within 30 minutes of finishing your training will help you to be ready to tackle the next training session feeling better. Avocados are great for recovery, as they have good fats to stabilize your metabolism and reduce muscle soreness.
Nutrition is what you eat the rest of the time. If you want to lose weight, here is where you want to cut your calorie intake – do not sacrifice your training adaptation by cutting fueling calories. If you have a healthy diet and fuel correctly your body will do its part and will put you at the correct weight. Remember, it is not a linear formula that the lighter you are, the faster you will run.
Hydration is a key component, as well. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated and your body is producing cortisol.
Personal protocol, tips and objective measurement
Immediately after I finish working out I have a pre-set protocol that I try to follow every time:
- Rehydrate and refuel
- Dynamic stretching and hip mobility exercises
- Wear recovery boots for 60-90minutes
- Rest with the feet higher than the heart
- Foam roller massage 2 or 3 times a week.
When I am on a hard training block or I feel that I have not recovered enough before going to bed, I drink Nocturne from Infinit Nutrition. This product uses tryptophan (which is found in cherries) to boost your growth hormones while you sleep so you can feel fresh and rested when you wake up.
An objective way to measure your fatigue level is to use urine strips. If, on the first pee of the day, you have protein in your urine, you are not ready to go. Sleep in and enjoy an awesome day off from triathlon. Urine strips also measure your leukocytes levels. If leukocytes are present in your urine, you might be in an early stage of sickness.
Recovery is a vital part of every training plan. It is important to understand that recovery is not only taking a day off, but an integral piece of training. It should not be hard to apply in your daily life, and your recovery protocol should not be daunting and should not cause more stress. The key is balance and planning ahead. You can be a successful triathlete with 12 hours of training a week or less. The volume of training (miles-hours) is not a very successful tool for measuring your success.
“Most triathletes are extremely fit but are chronically tired” – Matt Dixon. Don’t be one of those triathletes!
Dixon, Matt. “Recovery.” The Well-built Triathlete: Turning Potential into Performance. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Boulder2014: Velopress, n.d. 35-58. Print.
March 3, 2015 on 10:49 am | In Community, Nutrition Tips, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by Brooks Vandivort, former TriSports Champion and current TriSports fan. They say “you are what you eat,” but are you really giving your diet the attention it deserves? Read on to learn the importance of eating right while training. Check out Brooks’ blog and follow him on Twitter – @TriBrooks.
So you bought a bike, running shoes, a Speedo and more GU, Clif bars, and Honey Stinger gel than you can handle. You probably have downloaded several training programs or might even have a coach. You have read the books, blogs, and magazine articles and slowly your body has responded to become a fit age group triathlete. You probably have a full-time job, family, other hobbies and a busy schedule, but the triathlete in you wants to be even better this season. So what can you do to see a noticeable increase in fitness and performance without killing yourself in training or distancing yourself from your family?
Whatever you call your daily eating habits: fuel, diet, food, sustenance, it is probably the single biggest variable you can change in order to perform at the next level. Let’s face the facts. We wouldn’t run a race with one shoe or ride our bike with the front brakes engaged, so why do we continue to hold ourselves back by eating a poor diet? I’ll be the first to admit that diet is my biggest problem in preparing for my season. To borrow a few boxing terms, my “walk around” weight is 177 lbs. My “fighting” weight or racing weight is optimal at 165 lbs. I’m 6’2” and race in the male 40-45 age group. To the average person I look fit and to many I look a bit too much on the skinny side, but as a triathlete I know that I can be doing a much better job at what goes into my body.
Remember when you first started out in the world of triathlon and training was literally a workout? You had to push yourself to roll out of bed or mentally psych yourself out in order to finish that 5 hour bike ride, but now after a few years, training is a way of life. The same thing can happen with your diet. Make what you eat a way of life. If you are not already doing it, incorporate more fruits and vegetables along with lots of water into your daily routine. I know this is the same advice that you have probably heard a million times, but it really does make a difference. Most, if not all, age group triathletes are never going to run five minute miles or average 28 mph on the bike, but with proper daily nutrition we can begin to shave off those precious seconds that can move us to consistent podium finishers. A couple easy tips to follow that will help you on your way to feeling and racing with more energy and strength:
1. Have a food log. MyFitnessPal is an easy and free website and app that allows you to track what you are eating and drinking. Seeing the amount of calories you are taking in really sheds light on either your good or bad habits. It also tracks your workouts and weight.
2. More frequent small meals versus less frequent large meals. Given the amount of time spent training, frequent small meals really just make more sense, as well as being a better way to fuel your body. Most of us have some combination of two disciplines that we train for everyday and need to be able to fuel the body in order to maximize our training time. Small meals allow for a nice boost of energy without causing that sluggish feeling.
3. The last tip is probably the most important, but also the hardest to accomplish. Make your diet just as important as your training program. Seriously, most us obsess about what workout(s) we have planned for the day, but most of the time think of eating as the thing we do so we don’t die! This season plan your meals just as carefully as you plan your training and I guarantee you will see results. Good luck and keep your wheels on the road!