After the Finish Line

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October 28, 2014 on 9:30 am | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Martin Soole. We all know what we do leading up to a race…train, train, train! But what about after? Check out Martin’s blog or follow him on Twitter – martin.soole.

There are many points in life when one must reevaluate and refocus.  I’ve recently found myself at one of those points. I spent all of last year training and racing toward an Ironman finish. It was a rather simple, lovely existence.  I woke up every morning and knew I had to train.  I put in hours and hours of work.  I bought the best gear available from TriSports.com, I learned from the best; I was the best physical version of myself capable of the world’s most challenging one day endurance race.

Before Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

If you followed my blogs last year, you know that my Ironman debut in Lake Tahoe in 2013 did not go as planned. Read that article here.

The hundreds of training hours couldn’t prepare me for a bike mechanical failure that ended my day prematurely.  I mourned that defeat for a long time. I had so many questions.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of it all and come to terms with an event that was ultimately out of my hands. I had done everything in my power to be prepared for that race.  I even trained with my coach on the course the previous month. But the Universe had other plans.  It turns out that I gained more from that defeat than I would have if I had finished.

When I was training on a daily basis I didn’t make room in my life for anything else.  I felt like a monk at times.  I stopped socializing with friends, I only ate a strict diet, I let my business dealings lag, and fell out of touch with the artistic reasons for my move to LA in the first place.  Many athletes can find balance during their Ironman journey.  I was obsessed and I could not.

I moved to LA to work in film and TV. Here I am (far right) on the Showtime show “Shameless”.

It turns out that I needed a big let down to allow me the breathing room to refocus my energy and begin anew. If I had finished the race, I would have probably gone right into the next and the next and the next and been swept up in the sport and only the sport. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but I would not have been able to walk down that path in a healthy way. I could have further alienated my friends and family and lost sight of my career goals. I can’t stress enough how obsessed and out of balance I was. But there were lessons to be learned here if I was willing to take note.

All that time spent training and racing was not lost. Ultimately, I learned what I was capable of, I found my limits, and learned how to push past them. This could not have been learned in any other way. Triathlon has many transferable life skills. Self reliance, resilience in the face of challenges, and mental toughness are just a few that come to mind. These skills have come into play in my professional life, as I am now producing a feature film called “#Speedball.”  It’s an action sports drama, think; “Fast and the Furious” meets the sport of paintball. If you think triathlon is hard, try producing a multi-million dollar movie franchise.

Despite the Heartbreak at Ironman Lake Tahoe, I knew I needed some redemption and wanted to release the pain of that event from my life.  I fulfilled that at Ironman California 70.3.  It wasn’t the full Ironman finish I had striven for, but this victory was in some ways better. I looked back at the previous year and decided to do things differently as I prepared this time. While training, I started dating a wonderful girl, I kept my relationships strong, and moved forward with all areas of my life. I was able to balance my entertainment career, my personal life, and my training.  I had learned the lesson I was meant to and found closure with the event in Lake Tahoe.

A victory kiss from my girlfriend

I still swim, bike, and run. I moved to the beach with that wonderful girl I started dating and I’ve picked up surfing. My life is more full and vibrant than it has ever been.  From my greatest disappointment came the opportunity to live the balanced life I was meant to live.

Surfing Soole

So, in the midst of heartbreak and setbacks, take a moment to stop and reevaluate. One area of your life may be out of balance.  That situation is there for a very specific purpose.  Once you’re able to release the hurt, look for the gift in the ashes. There is a lesson to be learned. Don’t mourn the failure; it might be just what you needed. Most of all, don’t forget to keep moving forward.

The Off-Season

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October 21, 2014 on 1:51 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. The off-season is coming, so what are you going to do about it? Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz (can you tell she’s a geologist?).

Some people dread the off-season, and other people love it. I usually feel a little bit of both excitement and anxiety when it’s time to transition to the off-season. Excitement because the off-season typically means sleeping in, weekends away without my swim, bike, and run gear, and maybe more than just an occasional glass of wine. Dread because the off-season also means shorter days, potential lack of motivation, and the occasional unwanted weight gain (especially around the holidays!).

In preparation for my off-season, I started looking around for some fun activities that didn’t necessarily involve swimming, biking, or running, or least not all 3 activities in the same race! Here are a few ideas for those of you who are getting ready to start your off-season, or maybe just looking for a few ideas to refresh your off-season routine.

Find a new type of race

I recently participated in my very first ultra-marathon. I have always been intrigued by ultra-marathons, but I typically need to save my quads and knees for quality long runs during Ironman training. This means that running 50K on trails is out of the question! But once your triathlon season is done, an ultra-marathon is a great way to put your fitness into something new and different.

I had a blast in my first ultra-marathon, not to mention the fact that since I wasn’t running with the goal of winning, I had more than enough time to stop and take pictures! Who can complain about running 50K when you have beautiful scenery like this?

The view during the Mt. Taylor 50K on 9/27/2014 (mttaylor50k.com)

Also, if you live somewhere with snow, look for some winter racing options. Snowshoe and cross country ski races are a great way to have some fun and challenge yourself without the pressure or stress that can sometimes be involved with a triathlon.

The ski to snowshoe transition during the Mt. Taylor Quad a few years ago (mttaylorquad.org)

Lastly, the winter can be a great time to try a swim meet or two! I participated in my first swim meet two years ago, and while I got DQ’ed from one event and certainly didn’t win any of the other events that I entered, I had a good time and enjoyed the challenge. Check out the U.S. Masters website for a list of local Masters groups that might be sponsoring an upcoming meet.

Try something new (or go back to something old!)

A few years ago, I took an “Introduction to Kettlebells” class that was required before participating in the local YMCA’s kettlebell course. I was hooked! It was a great mix of strength training and cardio work, and the 6 AM class was a great way to kick off the workday. The off-season is the perfect time to work on strength training (which is often overlooked during triathlon training), and kettlebells is a great way to do that.

Other strength training classes include TRX, Cross Fit, and other local YMCA or gym classes. I have found that TRX is another butt-kicker of a workout, relying mostly on body weight rather than weights, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s easy!

Yoga and Pilates are additional options for new and different workouts that offer a nice variety to your typical swim, bike, and run schedule. Power and Bikram yoga can both be very challenging if you feel that you need a harder workout, and Pilates can really help with core strength, which can translate into better cycling form and faster running.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

The off-season shouldn’t be about constantly watching your food intake, weeks of difficult workouts, and a lack of social life. The off-season should be about kicking back, enjoying a treat now and then, and maybe sitting on the couch to watch a little more football than what is reasonable. Even more importantly, the off-season is about giving your mind and body a break from the rigors of triathlon training, to have some fun and not be too worried about missing a workout here and there.

Kicking back during a week-long canoe trip on Lake Mead during my winter off-season, 2012

The off-season also gives all of us triathletes time to step back, reflect on our performances over the season, and set new goals for the next year. And it’s important to remember that while we might lose a bit of fitness during the off-season, we’ll quickly gain it back at the start of the season, along with a renewed excitement for the sport and exciting goals to keep us motivated for the season.

Getting Faster in the Water

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October 13, 2014 on 10:00 am | In Product Information, Training, Water | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Tom Golden. He’ll blow most peoples’ doors off in the water, so read on and get fast.

Much like a drug addict wanting a greater high, every year we, as triathletes, evaluate how to get to get more out of our addiction and take it to the next level.  For me, I think about that every year when it comes to running, which is my need-to-improve sport.  Fortunately, I grew up as a distance swimmer and consider it the lethal part of my race. More often than not, I hear from fellow triathletes, “I wish I had your swim” and “I just can’t seem to get faster.”  When I ask what they are doing in the water, I usually hear the same thing and think to myself, “no wonder your swim has not improved, you’re not really pushing your swim.”  I am by no means an expert but I have a very simple way to improve over the course of a season.  In fact, if you have 3 months left this year you still have time.

First, get in a masters swim program. [Editor’s note: Many triathletes are intimidated by the thought of joining a Masters swim group, mostly because of the name…don’t be. There are lanes for the very fast, but also the very slow, and they welcome everyone!] There are several really reasons for this. I know it costs money, but if you get in a good program, it’s worth every penny.  I used to swim on my own and it did the trick, but getting in the water and being pushed to race others in practice is a sure fire way to improve. It builds consistency at each workout.   You also gain the confidence of swimming tactfully.  You gain insight on how to wear someone out by changing your pace, or pacing with someone and then trying to drop them as they tire out.  You also gain knowledge from other, more experienced swimmers around you.  Having a coach from the deck to correct your stroke is essential, as well. Get the right equipment – kickboard, fins, paddles, buoy, your favorite goggles, and sometimes even a snorkel, and you’ll be ready to go.

A coach on deck can really help you improve your stroke

Second, it’s important to know that most masters programs are not designed for triathletes or distance swimming of 1.2 or 2.4 miles.  Most programs are tailored to a mid-distance sprint of a 200 or 500 yard race.  As a distance swimmer, you may think you need to be doing long sets of 800 repeats, and sometimes that’s good, but more importantly you need to learn how to pace and hold that pace. In a masters program, you will need to modify what you are doing so that you can work on pacing.  For instance, let’s say the set calls for 8×200 descend 1-4, 5-8.  You would adapt that set to holding a solid steady pace on each repeat and then get after the last one. Or going out moderate on the first 100 and negative split by 2 seconds on the second 100.  This will teach your body how to hold a pace, which is what you want to do in a race.  Be sure to be aware of others around you who are doing the set the way the coach called for and make sure that you don’t get in their way.

Use other swimmers to learn how to pace

Third, you need to adapt over time working in a tighter interval.  For example, each season, after all the fitness is gone and I get back in the water after a month break, I will start out in the 1:15 per 100 threshold lane. I focus on that concept of holding a pace no matter what the set calls for.  After about a week, I move to the 1:10 per 100 lane, again working on holding a pace. I will spend about a month letting my body adapt to shorter rest intervals.  Then I will move to the 1:05 threshold lane and do the same for the majority of my season.  Now to be honest, the first month in that lane sucks and I may barely make the interval but that’s exactly what you want to do.  Hold a pace and let your body adapt.  Hang with it, be consistent and it will pay off.

And pay off it does...the author exiting the water at 2013 IMAZ in a faster time than most of the pro field

Finally, like the other two sports, having good form and being efficient in the water is important and should not be sacrificed.  To this day, in every workout in every set on every repeat, I am thinking about reaching out and finishing through on my stroke. How I am breathing, rotating through the water, snapping my hips and how I am catching the water.  All the tips in the world are useless if your form is a mess.  So take the time to get instruction and watch good swimmers in the water.  Good luck and I hope you get fast!

The swim is just the start of what can be a very long day...make it as easy on yourself as possible!

Quick Tips for a Faster Bike Split

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October 7, 2014 on 1:58 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Billy Oliver. As a frequent podium topper, you might just want to read what he has to say. Check out Billy’s blog or follow him on Twitter – triathltb.

We all know the most important thing is the motor. But saving watts through smart gear choices is easy to do and will maximize the efficiency of your motor, allowing you to cover the same distance faster and begin your run fresher.

Let’s start with you. Your body is the biggest thing the wind sees. A proper aero position is vital to make yourself as little to the wind as possible. A proper fit is vital so that you can hold that position for the duration of the event. If you are not comfortable in your aero position, you will not stay in that position and will lose precious time.

Head position is vital to your aero position. Holding your head high puts it in the wind. Turtling your head to keep it low and out of the airflow will save time. Add to that an aero helmet and you’re talking major time savings. Not all aero helmets work for everyone. If you ride head down, a long tailed helmet will be sticking up in the wind and a blunt tailed helmet will be a faster match. Look at photos of yourself in races to see how you ride and make the best choice for you.

Billy Oliver super aero with his dialed in position and aero helmet

The new breed of aero triathlon frames will save you time over a round tube frame. Again though, a proper fitting frame is vital. The most aero frame in the world will not save you time if you can’t get into, and comfortably hold, a good aero position.

Aero wheels are another big time saver. As deep of a wheel as your handing skills allow in the front teamed up with a disc or deep aero wheel in the rear will yield big time gains, especially in longer distance races.

Save some serious time with aero wheels

The position of your water bottles is the next area of time savings. Wind tunnel testing has shown the most aero set up is a bottle horizontally mounted between your aerobars. If an additional bottle is needed, a bottle mounted as close to horizontal as possible behind your saddle is a good choice.

Carefully select your bottle set-up to maximize aerodynamics

Your clothing choice should be tight fitting. Loose clothing will flap in the wind. Don’t spend a lot investing in your bike and getting it as lightweight and aero as possible if you put on clothing that acts like a sail…it will undo all your efforts.

The little things will clean up airflow, also. Nutrition storage in a top tube mounted holder is superior to bars/gels taped all over the top tube. Nothing at all is even better…utilize the aid stations.

Top tube mounted bag for nutrition and other necessities

Cutting your cables to proper lengths and routing them cleanly will also yield small savings as they won’t be sticking out all over the place. Each of these is a small piece of the puzzle. Each will save you small amounts of time, and the more you employ, the bigger the time savings you will enjoy!

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