A Long, Long Way to Ultraman, by Craig Sheckler

By Jaclyn A.
August 31, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Sponsorship | 3 Comments

A philosophy of mine is that every once in a while you just have to do something that’s a little out there. As an endurance athlete, this means something that forces you out of your established comfort zone, compels you to confront your pre-conceived limits, and makes you truly LIVE life. Maybe even something that makes your fellow diehard endurance junkies shake their heads as if to say, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I’ve known what the next step in my own triathlon journey would be since August ‘96, when I attended an informational session about an absurdly long – yet immensely intriguing – race known as Ultraman. At the time, I was in Penticton, B.C., to compete in only my 2nd ultra-distance event ever, Ironman Canada. But I knew that one day I’d be ready to step it up.

And so on September 3-5, I will be competing in the inaugural Ultraman UK, a 3-day, 320 mile race held throughout Snowdonia National Park in Wales. Day 1 combines a 10K swim and 90 mile bike; Day 2 is a 171.4 mile bike; and Day 3 is a 52.4 mile double-marathon run. I feel honored to be among those racing, as participation is limited to only 35 individuals and is by invitation only. I’m also excited to compete in such a beautiful part of the world.

Bala Lake in Wales. Site of the very chilly 55-59°F swim leg.

This event is the newest addition to the short list of Ultraman races in the world: Ultraman Hawaii, the Championship, has been around since ’83; and Ultraman Canada began 10 years later in ’93.

The desire to do something extreme is only part of why I decided to take this on. I also wanted to return to that sense of wonderment I felt throughout my first iron-distance experience at the relatively small Great Floridian Triathlon in ‘95. Ultraman presents a similar opportunity…a new challenge among a small group of athletes, all working to achieve a goal in which, as an Ultraman motto states, “the pursuit of human excellence is the fundamental rule of the road”. Taking a leap of personal faith, not entirely sure of the outcome yet determined to see it through, apparently looks something like this:

Running toward my first iron-distance finish at the ’95 Great Floridian Triathlon. And yes, that’s a multi-colored Speedo and crop-top I’m wearing. Hey, it was the style back in the day.

As a full-time professional coach with Endurance Multisport, I’m fortunate to have the scheduling flexibility that allowed me to fit in the volume of training necessary to properly prep for an event of this nature. Time and stress management took on a new level of importance, as 9+ hour rides, 6+ hour runs, and 3+ hour swims were all on the workout menu within several 30-35 hour training weeks.

One of the L-O-N-G days in the saddle. Lower line shows ride time. This one was up and over, and up and over, etc., the IM Lake Placid course.

Support crews are a requirement for Ultraman competitors and I’m very lucky to have my crew staffed by two people I can wholeheartedly trust: my wife Erica Sheckler, who has crewed for me previously during ultramarathons and has a keen sense of what I may need even when I can’t verbalize it during a race; and Ian Mayhew, a UK tri coach who has extensive first-hand experience as both an Ultraman Canada and Ultraman Hawaii finisher. I’ll be relying on them each day.

A local pre-ride photo op with Erica – my wife, Ultraman support crew member, accomplished open water swimmer, and TriSports.com Champion all rolled into one.

Logistics for Ultraman are mind-boggling and make packing for a standard Ironman seem like you’re getting ready to do a neighborhood 5K fun run. You have to travel with everything you need for 3 consecutive days of racing and recovering, and since there’s no TriSports.com retail store in northern Wales, you have to bring backup equipment for everything you could conceivably need in case things go wrong, apparel for every possible weather condition in the Welsh mountains, a multitude of nutrition in anticipation of an ever-changing and ravenous appetite, and a wide array of personal care and medical supplies. Extra baggage fees are a given!

With less than a week before the race, my confidence is soaring because I know my fitness is higher than at any other point in my life, and I’ve made it through all my training without a single injury. After 19 years in the sport, and 15 years after first learning what Ultraman is, I’m heading to the start line. And as I do I’ll still be fighting back the nervousness of a newbie at this distance and approaching the adventure with respect and wide-eyed wonder for what is in store for me.

Ready to rock the red, white, and blue of Team TriSports.com in the UK!

Arizona State Team Time Trial: Take one for the team…and then puke.

By Seton
August 29, 2011 on 12:06 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, Sponsorship, TriSports.com/Eclipse Racing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This past weekend we had the Arizona Team Trial Championships that was put on by the good folks of the Southwest Hand Cycling Team.  Since I am a triathlete at heart it is always good to get out and do time trials with the roadies because they are playing in my space, not to mention the fact that in a TTT you are expected to be in a pack in your aerobars!   The TTT is a fun discipline because you start with four people and your finish time is taken by on the time of the third person.  This means you are able to lose a team member and still get an official finish. Also, in the team competition you are very limited by the weaker riders on the team because you can’t exactly shell them off the back so you need to work a bit harder (taking longer pulls at the front) to keep the team intact as long as possible.

TriSports Cycling member puking in the bushes.

The TriSports.com contingent was super strong at this event – we had 7 teams (6 of them from the TriSports Cycling Club and Team and one team of all triathletes).  Our two women’s teams took the top two spots on the podium while our best men’s team took 3rd.  It was awesome to see all of the red, white and blue out there on the road!

Billy Brendon, Seton Claggett, Steve Acuna, and Craig Pansing

BikeFit training at TriSports.com

By Erik J.
August 25, 2011 on 8:58 am | In Employee Adventures, Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Tech Tips | No Comments

TriSports.com strives to be the leader in all areas of triathlon. We recognize the value of additional education and training so that we can provide a better solution for our customer, no matter what the area of triathlon.  At the end of the day there should be no question we cannot answer.  Recently we booked Paul Swift to come and give more of our retail associates an in depth, two day fit clinic.  We locked them up in our fit studio for 17 hours over the course of these two days in order to get them comfortable with the methodology.  The class contained lecture portions that focused on the theory and anatomy behind bike fitting, and then the associates did a number of practice fits under the watchful eye of the fit guru.  The associates came away from the class overflowing with bike fit knowledge and confident and comfortable in their bike fit abilities.

As you can see in the picture above, the three ladies pictured here will all soon be certified bike fitters, and with the support of our more veteran fitters, they will be well on their way to providing exceptional fit services.  I am not sure I know of any other shop that has 3 female bike fitters, including one that also has a nutrition degree and can give you a recommendation on your race day nutrition.

Eric Mellow putting a wedge on a cleat

International Triathlon Travel with Charisa Wernick

By Jaclyn A.
August 24, 2011 on 1:10 pm | In Athlete Profile, Product Information, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

Team TriSports professional triathlete Charisa Wernick is about to hit the road on whirl wind European racing adventure! As a seasoned veteran of the sport she has learned the in’s and out’s of race travel and is here to help you take the stress out of traveling to races.

This post may more aptly be titled “Packing lots of triathlon junk to haul around the world.” However, all of these items play a huge role in training and racing, and amazingly, can be fit into a bag without looking like an overloaded sherpa schlepping through the Heathrow airport.

I’m preparing to spend three weeks in Europe where I will race Ireland 70.3, followed two weeks later by Challenege Henley. In between the two races I will spend a week in Wales training on the IM Wales course. These are a few of the key items I plan to take with me.

Thankfully, Zoot makes a travel bag I can’t live without – with wheels to easily pack everything and zip around the airport, on trains, etc. I have been using this bag all year and I am still discovering smartly created pockets, water proof compartments, and at my last race even discovered a carabineer – should I need to repel after a race, or simply hook something onto my bag.

On the airplane I always wear my compression socks, and race shoes. I make sure I have all my race gear in a separate bag on the plane with me – this way if the airline loses my baggage, I can still race! I also wear my helmet the entire time we are on the plane – in case the plane crashes. Plus, this makes me look really, really cool!

Zoot travel race bag, Ultra Compression Socks, Tri Bag, and Ultra TT 4.0 racing shoes

For the trip itself, I have stretch cords, in case I can’t locate a pool to swim in, I can still get in a swim specific workout. Not quite as good as a pool workout, but better than nothing!

I really like smoothies and so I typically pack a bit of my own protein powder to make these abroad. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps my nutrition similar to what I eat at home when I am on the road.

For those things that are small and don’t take much room, I bring an extra pair – such as goggles, tubes, and sunglasses. I’m sure I could easily buy these in Europe, but the time it would take to locate a store to purchase them isn’t really worth it for me.

Rather than packing tons of training clothes, I typically bring two bike and run outfits and try to wash each by hand after wearing it – this way I always have a clean one to wear and I don’t end up with a suitcase full of a million smelly bike jerseys.

And should I forget something – although there is not a TriSports.com in Europe, thankfully they do ship internationally!

The Shaft at Fantasy Island

By Matt D
August 23, 2011 on 4:49 pm | In Employee Adventures, Random Musings | No Comments

The Sonoran Desert covers 22.3 million acres in Arizona. The average Temperature is 100º F and is still one of the wettest deserts in North America.

This is my playground.

I don’t remember thinking, I don’t even remember breathing. I am just riding.  My eyes narrow as I descended down The Shaft at Fantasy Island. The Shaft is a downhill drop of 15ft cut and molded by the monsoon storms and other MTB’ers like myself. I ride to the far right of the downhill slope to start; I hold on and let the bike do most of the work as I hit the first dip. The bike reacts to the descent and begins to fight me with every rock and dip; I grab ahold of the handlebars more tightly.   Halfway down I notice that the monsoons have created a canyon drop in the middle of the slope. I shift body position adjustment and lean my weight over the left of the bike and it helps insure my safe decent down without crashing below. I dip or rather launch off a small ledge one more time before speeding to the bottom flying through the washout of rocks, branches and other unknown materials from storms past before I begin a short climb up and out of the Shaft, which can be just a tricky because it sharply turns left halfway up.  The Landscape changes so much. Mountain biking requires me to be more alert to my surroundings and the sudden changes.

It's steeper than it looks!

I reach the other side and I take a breath. I immediately replay the events in my head because now I have time to think. My first thoughts are “Did I even use my brakes?” “How did I just do that?”  The adrenaline is pumping. This is why I mountain bike.

I began riding MTBs about 2 years ago and I’m still very new. My  posts will chronicle my adventures in mountain biking.  Tucson provides a wide variety of trails. I became a mountain bike addict after many failed attempts to try my hand at triathlon (that’s another post). There is a certain rush to MTBs that I can’t explain, maybe it’s the mystery of never knowing what the next 15ft will bring but I am for sure addicted.

Where are your favorite places to ride?

2012 Team TriSports Application

By Jaclyn A.
August 16, 2011 on 1:59 pm | In Announcements, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

It’s sponsorship time! The 2012 Team TriSports application is available on our sponsorship website, and applications are being accepted until October 21.  Team TriSports is seeking 30 top age grouper and rising professionals to wear the TriSports uniform for the 2012 season. Think you can make the cut? Here are some of the accomplishments  from our current team  to see how you can stack up.

Did you qualify for Vegas at your first half Ironman and do a 4:20? Mark did.

Are you the runner up duathlon national champion? Kara is.

Did you qualify for your 5th Ironman World Championship at age 66? Karin did.

Are you crazy enough to sign up for Ultraman? Craig is.

Have you won basically every sprint race in New Mexico? Rance has.

Do you end up in a sprint finish for 1st place at the Tucson Tri’s? Mike and Leo do.

Think you can keep up with these guys? Awesome, apply.

Leadville – Race Across the Sky

By Seton
August 15, 2011 on 3:53 pm | In Random Musings | 3 Comments

I just did my first Leadville 100 mountain bike race, also known as the Race Across the Sky.  I had three goals for the race – have fun, rubber side down and go under 9 hours (the time mark for getting the big belt buckle).  I accomplished all three of these; however, the real story is in the sub-plot of the race and what made the race special for me.

Leadville Big Buckle
I have always had cowboy belt buckle envy, I was fortunate to ride my two wheeled horse fast enough to get me a big old buckle of my own! Yeeeee Hawwww.

I trained quite a bit for this race, many 300+ mile weeks on the bike with lots of climbing (most weeks had over 20,000 feet of climbing).  However, like most races it is the journey to the race that is more epic than the race itself – the race is the reward for all of the hard training.

Leadville Lube Team
Here is part of our pit crew – Brian (center) and his brother Chris made the trip and were assigned to be the Lube Men. Debbie made sure the tanks were refueled.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my very best friends do the race with me, Sandy Sweetland (he made it into Leadville just two weeks earlier when we did the Crested Butte Odyssey race), as well as a few guys that gave me lots of advice and did some of the training with me – Jake Rubelt (Tucson’s King of Leadville – this was his 10th one including several top 5 finishes), Paul Thomas (he went 7:13 on the day and it was his 2nd mountain bike race of his life), and Jimmy Riccitello (read his pre-race blog here).  Not to mention all of the other people I knew out there on the course.

The TriSports.com Race Team
The TriSports.com Leadville Race Team – Sandy, me and Jimmy. Kind of nice we represented all three colors of our kits!

The night before the race Sandy and I were trying to figure out what time to get there as we were slotted in the “newbie” corral with probably 900 other people – all behind the 900 people that had done the race before or had a pro card.  I got a text right before going to bed from Jimmy that he was leaving at 4AM so he could get at the front of the newbie corral (the race started at 6:30).  Jimmy also sent me one last text that he would be my domestique up until the climb to Columbine (mile 40), after that it would be every man for himself.  This audible was a good decision so Sandy and I got up early and were able to stage at the very front of the corral.

Jimmy at the pit stop
Jimmy at the Twin Lakes pit row – I think he is asking for some toilet paper. Oh yeah, side note, this is the first time Jimmy rode this bike he barrowed from Paula Newby-Fraser.

Once the race started I stayed glued to Jimmy.  If he zigged, I zigged, if he zagged, I zagged.  He guided me through hundreds of people for the first 25 miles until I had a small mechanical problem and we got separated.  Little did I know he was having a small ass problem and I passed him – he would later blow by me up Columbine.

If you don’t know Jimmy, he is one hell of an athlete.  He retired years ago but on any given day he can destroy most mortals on the bike and run.  This is the most fascinating part of my Leadville story.  Jimmy, along with a few other “old school” triathlon pros showed up, just for the spirit of the race – Paul Huddle and Mike Pigg were two of the others.  In their heyday, these guys could easily be top 20 at this race.  Here was Jimmy, however, starting in the “newbie” corral (he could have easily pulled some strings to start in the first corral) with me and the other first timers.  Not only that, he knew he was out of shape and he knew he would just have to burn the candle at both ends until he went to survival mode.  Yet in all of this, he still baby sat me from well before the start until my mechanical.  Over 40 miles after Columbine, I finally caught up to Jimmy on the last big climb of the day.  He was hurting yet he was in good spirits and offered me food and water, I was fine but was overcome with guilt that I was leaving him behind – on the same section of road that he guided me down.  He would finish just a few minutes behind me (once again reiterating how good his is b/c I am in the best bike shape of my life and he is probably in his worst).  Jimmy Riccitello is probably the most unselfish person you will meet and he, along with all of my other friends, showed me once again in the mountains of Colorado what this sport is all about.

Leadville Hug
After hanging out for 90 minutes after his finish, Paul “PT” Thomas was at the finish to welcome me home.

Angela Naeth, Ironman 70.3 Boulder Champion!

By Jaclyn A.
August 10, 2011 on 12:31 pm | In Sponsorship | No Comments

If there is one word that I can use to sum up Angela Naeth it is persistent. After 8 second place finishes in 2010 Angela headed into 2011 with a fire in her belly and desire to grab the tape at a major 70.3 event. The 2011 season started off with a 5th place finish in Abu Dhabi and the longest race she had competed in. At St. Croix 70.3 Angela set the new bike course record and finished second behind Catriona Morrison at one of the most challenging courses on the 70.3 circuit. Angela’s season got really interesting when she entered the inaugural Leadman Epic 250, a 250K race through the unforgiving Las Vegas desert where she got a taste of the 70.3 World Championship course. Angela was the first female to finish the 5k swim, 223k bike, and 22k run and was the second individual overall behind Jordan Rapp.  As news spread about Angela’s Leadman victory a quiet buzz began to surround her name, she graced the cover of Triathlon Magazine Canada where they called her “Canada’s Next,” and people wondered when she would win her first 70.3 event.

Triathlon Canada July/August 2011

A much needed mid-season break left Angela well rested, stronger, and ready to take on Boulder 70.3; a local race for the summer resident.  A strong swim put her just 2 minutes down from the leader Kelly Williams whom she overtook within the first 15 miles of the bike. Angela was true to form and once again posted the fastest bike split of the day by 6 minutes and left T2 with a 9 minute lead over second place Williams. Her 1:25:11 run was enough to hold off Williams and a teary-eyed Angela held the finishing banner over her head with a smile as big as Chrissy Wellington.  I checked in with the new champ earlier this week to get the scoop on her first big W.

A big smile from the champ! Image via Triathlete Magazine.

When did you realize you were going to win your first 70.3?

Right at the finish line! No, in all truth, I had a lot of confidence I was going to win after I passed the leader, Kelly Williamson, early on during the bike portion. She was my biggest threat and I figured if I was to catch her at all, it would take over half the ride to do so. But it only took 15 miles or so. From there, barring a flat tire or mechanical incident, I was pretty confident I had it. Of course, you’re never really certain until the finish line, but my chances improved with each passing mile.

How did you celebrate?

I was obviously ready to celebrate and get some ice cream, but my coach refocused me straightaway, and told me we should save the big celebration for later on in the season! So instead I went to get a massage, soaked my legs and spent the afternoon trying to speed my recovery. Not much fun, eh?

What was it like?

The feeling of winning is a great feeling, but it’s fleeting. I’m happy I finally won one of these darn races, but I’m happiest when I’m striving for more. I LOVE the training journey!

You had a great swim! What do you think has contributed most to your new success in the water?

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “success” in the water. But I didn’t drown, so that’s definitely a success for me! The truth is, I’ve just swum a lot of hard yards, and it seems my swim fitness is slowly coming together.

How do you feel about the upcoming 70.3 World Championships? Do you think your experience at Leadman will give you an advantage having raced part of the course before?

I’m glad I studied the course and got a taste of the conditions in Vegas. The course is one thing, but the conditions will be what decide this race. I’m expecting triple-digit temperatures and lots of wind, and that’s basically what the forecast will call for, as it has every other September there.

You always throw down on the bike, what tip would you give to triathletes who struggle on the bike?

It’s easy to relax on a bike, but the key is to find ways to push yourself. I use lots of intervals and hills to do so. While I can’t say it’s “fun,” it is beneficial.

Congratulations Angela, Ironman 70.3 Boulder Champion!

Can’t wait to see what you do at the 70.3 World Championship! Vegas, baby!

Victory is sweet. Image via Triathlete Magazine.

Jimmy Riccitello: Expert

By Tom D.
August 8, 2011 on 12:37 pm | In Announcements, Athlete Profile, Random Musings | 1 Comment

Expert.

More than any word, this describes Jimmy Riccitello. His relationship with triathlons is among the oldest and most experienced in our sport. One of the first athletes to use aerobars, top level results at every distance across two decades and collaboration with the greatest names in our sport provide Jimmy Riccitello with an unmatched level of expertise in triathlon.  He is an athlete, a coach and a maven of the sport, one of triathlon’s iconic characters- and experts.

Photo by John Segesta

In competition Riccitello has slain The Beast at the St. Croix triathlon by winning there twice. Confirming his versatility he is also an XTERRA World Champion. His wins in the formative Bud Light United States Triathlon Series (U.S.T.S.) are too numerous to list as are his long list of international results in the modern era. Riccitello’s race results are not only eclectic; they span the entire history of our sport.

In addition to Riccitello’s unsurpassed dossier in the sport his animated character brings a unique perspective to his view of triathlon. He comes from the “old school” but applies a “new world” attitude toward technology in our sport. He is a humorist with a penchant for fun analogies that drive home hard-learned lessons.

Riccitello’s longevity and experience in our sport combined with his infectious enthusiasm are impossible to resist. He is not only an authority, he is a two legged motivational machine.

TriSports.com is very excited to add Jimmy to our list of TriSports University contributors. Check out his first article for TSU on Heat Acclimatization Strategies!

Photo by John Segesta

TriSports.com Ride ‘n Slide

By Gail L
August 4, 2011 on 10:49 am | In Community, Life at TriSports.com, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

One thing about being a new club is the fact that every event we do is a new experience. Each activity comes fraught with questions and worries. Will it be successful? Fun? Worthwhile? The inaugural 5th Saturday TriSports.com shop ride was no exception. Designed as a fun way to end a hot July workout, Ride ‘n Slide 2011 sounded good on paper… what’s not to like about a giant slip ‘n slide, snow cones, water balloons and watermelon… but still  it was impossible not to wonder if anyone would actually show up.

Apparently, a benefit of arriving WAY early to set up is that it’s possible to be the only ones aware that rain is falling from the sky a mere 60 minutes before the ride is due to start. Luckily, it seemed that no one else noticed any raindrops, because cars loaded with bike racks started to arrive in great number shortly before 6:00 AM.

With over  100 participants the  three groups of riders successfully completed their respective routes. Things had been planned with the hope of all groups converging at the store at roughly the same time, overheated and ready to cool off. Amazingly, this is pretty much what occurred! By 9:30 AM, the party was in full swing.  The slip ‘n slide was standing room only. A long line of eager snow cone customers snaked across the parking lot. Watermelon was being consumed as quickly as it could be cut and 500 ice cold water balloons begged to be thrown. Which they soon were.

Although adults certainly outnumbered the youngsters, it soon became apparent that there were a whole lot of inner children being let loose and a good time was had by all.

We’re very sorry if you missed it, but no worries, count on the Ride ‘n Slide being an annual TriSports.com event!

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