The Boy in the Red Tri Suit

By Tom D.
February 15, 2012 on 12:14 pm | In Random Musings | No Comments

The Emerald Health Triathlon, Ohio, 1985 or ’86. A half Ironman. That’s what they called them before “70.3’s”.

Time has distorted the memory in some ways, sharpened it in others.

The race unfolded across open farmland on smooth roads. Even though it was a major event there were only about 200 competitors. The “pro” field was three men. A lithe foreigner with a vaguely Anglo accent, favored to win. A tan man from California and a boy with a red tri suit from whom we expected little.

The sun was out. Dust from farm fields blew on breeze that gathered early. The swim was inconsequential. Empfield wasn’t around yet. We didn’t have wetsuits yet. I had been racing every weekend and had good form. We spread out quickly among the top athletes on the bike course. After the first twenty minutes I didn’t see anyone on the bike course. “Volunteers” stood at corners to direct us. They were spectators really, local farmers whose plots butted up against the roads. They watched more out of curiosity than concern for competitive outcome.

The race unfolded, the wind picked up, it got warmer. I recall being about twentieth out of the bike to run transition, that’s what we used to call “T2”.

The run was out and back, 6.5 miles each way. Good. We could get a look at who was in front of us. A mile and a half before the turnaround the kid in the red trisuit was coming back toward me. He had about eighteen minutes on me. Hmm. There was a big gap, then the foreign pro. He was fit but he looked in distress on the run, his face twisted like a forgotten fig bar. The third pro followed at a more reasonable interval.

How did that kid in the red trisuit get so far out in front?

The race ended. I don’t remember how I did. I got a plaque with green writing on it at the awards ceremony. Hanging out at the little host hotel a debate was raging between officials, race directors and the kid in the red tri suit. He had an older man with him too. Apparently the boy had won the race, but been relegated for missing a turn on the course. The other pros were adamant since there was an unprecedented $500 prize purse on the line. There was no way this kid could have won. He was only 15 I think.

A jury of sorts was assembled. An inquisition was held. Questions and accusations flew. The boy was fiery and determined to argue his case. The others were dismissive of his performance. Finally it was determined that if each of the marshals could confirm the boy completed the course his win would be bona-fide. If any volunteer did not see the boy in the red tri suit pass, he would be relegated. The survey began.

“Yeah, well… I seen him comin’. He went through here first.” The first farmer said. The survey continued. The final farmer told the officials, “Well, that boy came along before we was set up. Just puttin’ up our table to watch. He came tearin’ through here in that red suit. It was a long time ‘fore we saw anyone else.”

The other pros were deflated. The result stood. The boy in the red tri suit was awarded the check. He left in a businesslike manner.

When the results were mailed to us I saw the boy’s name at the top: Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong circa 1985/87

The Continued Ascendance of Leanda Cave

By Tom D.
November 7, 2011 on 4:07 pm | In Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | No Comments

The overnight sensation and the ascendant master live at opposite ends of the athlete spectrum. The former usually exits the way they entered, quick and loud. The later has a longer apprenticeship but more durable tenure, and greater authenticity. Leanda Cave defines the ascendant master, and her trajectory seems to be aimed toward a new high point.

Cave is coming off a strong year of top three results in the most sensational and significant races. Following an impressive 9:03:29 in early October at the Ford Ironman World Triathlon Championships in Kona, Hawaii, good for 3rd Pro, she showed continued form only 21 days later by winning the Rohto Ironman 70.3 race in Miami, Florida. No less than five days after that she podium-ed again at the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Henderson, Nevada. Despite difficult conditions that mandated a swim cancellation the resilient Cave helped spearhead winner Rachel Joyce’s “British invasion” by coming in second only 200 seconds off the win.

Conditions in Henderson, Nevada for this World Championship were decidedly rotten- but Cave was remarkably fresh given her crowded race calendar. Consider that her last two events had been in the heat of the Kona lava fields and the humidity of the Miami coast, and that Henderson was in freezing temperatures; her collective performances become even more remarkable.

Cave is refreshingly unassuming despite her upward trajectory. Her approach to the sport seems to be one of “Do the work, get the results”. She walks easily between the roles of jolly-good athlete buddy and podium pounding World Champ heir apparent. If you extrapolate Cave’s previous results forward over the next 365 days it suggests big things. She also has an odd penchant for consistency: consistent results, consistent improvement. While Rinnie and Chrissie no doubt feel Leanda nipping at their heels in Kona (OK, 8 minutes to Chrissie), what they may fail to realize is they might not have to falter for Cave to prevail given her current trajectory. She may simply beat them. Straight up, slugfest, beat them.

The same thing that makes Cave so affable may also make her so threatening to her competitors. It is, for Cave, a job to get on the podium, and she does her job quite well with little fanfare. She goes from podium to podium like a longshoreman punching in at the dock. She wins at different distances and in different climates with a brand of versatility previously ascribed to athletes like Macca and Crowie- and look what they did. She simply seems more durable than some of her top competitors. This is particularly significant in Kona since previous champions tend to succumb by attrition. Carfrae and Wellington may be touching their heads on the glass ceiling of their own capabilities. Cave… still has some head room.

Like all athletes Cave has shown some vulnerability. A previous chink in her armor was nutrition/digestive issues in Hawaii. She seems to have shored that up… mostly. She suffered a brief gastric episode in Kona this year that cost her 5 bathroom stops. Do the math; if she hadn’t lost that time…

Cave knows what she has to do to keep winning up the ladder. She has room to grow. Fix the digestive issue. Continue the trajectory. History has shown this long grind of experience has built champions in Kona, and for Cave, it seems like only a matter of time before her “Kona grind” yields the perfect brew.

Good Luck…

By Tom D.
November 2, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Random Musings | No Comments

By Tom Demerly

I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in luck when racing. Not at all.

I’m also not a total idiot. So, I would never ride a green bike again.

Do a Google search on the key words “green race cars bad luck” and you get 5,570,000 results. That’s not luck, that’s data. I had a green racing bike once. I hit a concrete telephone pole at 37 M.P.H. on it. Broke my left arm in nine places, got a concussion and broke my tailbone. No green bikes. Green bikes aren’t a matter of luck. The data confirms they are dangerous. They should have a CPSC warning.

Never say “Good luck” to me on race morning.

Because I’m a pragmatist I don’t need luck. If you want to say something, say “Have a good race”, which is what I say to all my friends in a race. If I am racing a specific guy I want to beat I may tell him “Good luck” because, well, as I’ve mentioned saying “Good luck” is bad luck. But, because wishing any bad luck on your competitors by saying “Good luck” would be bad karma, I don’t do that either. It would be bad luck, which I don’t believe in anyway. Too much negative energy. So just say, “Have a good race”.

Never wear white sunglasses or a bright colored hat before your race on race morning.

Again, not being a believer in luck, this is a data-driven decision. Look at race car drivers. They always have their photo on the podium with white sunglasses and a cool sponsor hat. Before the race they wear dark framed glasses and keep a low profile. The data verifies that wearing white sunglasses and a light colored hat before a race quantifiably diminishes your performance. However, wearing white sunglasses in a race gives you power. It isn’t luck; I think it has something to do with your peripheral vision, or something…

Never shake hands before a race. It has nothing to do with luck. It, ah… messes with your aura. When a person shakes your hands or touches you before a race you can almost see the heebie-jeebies jumping off them and onto you. I know there is a scientific term for that, just can’t remember it. It is, however, steeped in physiology. Don’t shake hands before a race. Negative ions or something… bad. Nothing to do with luck.

Because my race decisions are data-driven I know that even numbered race numbers produce odd results. Not luck; math. If you get a race number like “682” something really odd is going to happen on race day. Now, if you get a race number with an “11” in it, like “511”, be ready for a PR and an age category win. That is a solid number- it’s all odd and there is an “11” in it. That is a strong numerical conversion. Nothing to do with luck, after all, numbers don’t lie.

Racing is about details, not luck or superstition. So, if you attend to the details you, ah, won’t have any bad luck.

Halloween at TriSports.com

By Tom D.
November 1, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Community, Employee Adventures, Life at TriSports.com, Uncategorized | No Comments

Treats await the tricksters at the TriSports.com Halloween Luncheon with Mrs. Green, Gina Murphy-Darling. TriSports.com was awarded “Arizona's Greenest Workplace” by Mrs. Green’s World for 2011.

There really is no place like home as Dorothy enjoys the Whole Foods Luncheon at TriSports.com in celebration of winning the “Arizona's Greenest Workplace” award at our annual Halloween Costume Contest here in Tucson, Arizona.

Apparently the lack of devil’s food sandwiches upset Adam McCreight, retail associate, during the Halloween Luncheon with Mrs. Green as TriSports.com celebrated the “Arizona's Greenest Workplace” award for 2011.

Some of the TriSports.com family dogs got into the act including this one with a fairly convincing Guernsey costume at the TriSports.com Halloween Luncheon with Mrs. Green.

An impressive turnout of ghouls, goblins and get-ups for the 2011 TriSports.com Halloween Costume Contest during the Halloween Luncheon brought to us by Whole Foods, with guest Mrs. Green (AKA Gina Murphy-Darling), CEO of Mrs. Green’s World, on hand to help judge. TriSports.com won the Mrs. Green’s “Arizona's Greenest Workplace” award for 2011.

 

Street Level

By Tom D.
October 24, 2011 on 2:58 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, Random Musings | 1 Comment

By Tom Demerly

He hollered through a broken smile that looked like his brown teeth had chomped down on rock.

“Hey- how much was ‘saht bike? I seen ‘em bikes ‘sat cost eight hunder dollars and weigh three pounds. You kin pick ‘em up with yer pinky finger…”

Every morning on the commute in, and again on the way home, I see the men at the corner. They live under the bridge and sell papers to people stopped at the traffic light. Most people sitting behind safety glass in temperature controlled distance ignore them. Some buy papers, mostly tan men in pick-up trucks with ladders and tool buckets.

On a bike you are connected to the world, the environment. You sit on a bike, not in it. There is a greater level of interaction, intimacy even- with your surroundings. The interaction is both beautiful and sobering.

So it was that one morning I decided to ask one of the paper men; “How did you start selling papers on the corner and living under the bridge?”

This would seem an inappropriate question. It’s none of our business. We turn up the radio, crank the air and look away. Mind our own business. How much are tinted windows? And the Nietzsche quote, “If you stare into the Abyss long enough, the Abyss stares back” came to mind just a second after I asked him the question.

“Awww…” He started. “I’s ridin’ the buses. You ‘kin stay on ‘em all night. But they threw me off. I had a bed up in Phoenix- they let ya keep it fer a month. You get all yer own stuff, a locker too…”

The light changed. I got up on the curb with him. “But ya gotta find a job, and I ain’t had a job in eight years.” Cars were turning left now, passing inches from us. No one looked at us. It was as if he and I didn’t exist.

“Where you goin?” He asked me. I told him, “work”, pointing up the street to about where TriSports.com is. “You make bombs?”

“No, no, we sell triathlon stuff- bikes and shoes- mail order.”

Ahhh. Bikes. They make bombs over there for the Air Force Base.

He didn’t answer my question. What I wanted to know was, “How did you wind up here? What led to this? Do you ever dream of getting out- getting a job, getting an apartment?” and perhaps most importantly, “Are you happy this way- have you made this ‘work’?”

The light turned green and I had to get to work. I told him, “Listen Man, have a good one…”

OK Man,” he said through the broken tooth smile. “I’ll see you later buddy…

It was unrealistic to believe I could gain an understanding of why people are homeless in one conversation between stoplights. Like most issues in society it’s more complex than a four minute, two traffic light conversation. But it is a start. And that start is reflective of how riding a bike can connect us to our surroundings.

Kona-licious

By Tom D.
October 6, 2011 on 12:34 pm | In Random Musings | No Comments

By Tom Demerly


Why Kona? What’s the big deal?

If you designed a venue for a World Championship it would be tough to beat Kailua-Kona. The Romans have The Coliseum, Race car drivers have Indy, runners have Boston, cyclists have France. We have Kona.

No other triathlon course on earth is so purpose built to test toughness, straight line speed and heat tolerance. No other course forms as perfect an “amphitheater” for a grand spectacle.

Firstly, there is Dig Me Beach. This has everything to do with the experience of the race. You walk down narrow concrete steps- the same steps descended by every competitor and winner- to the little beach. Because this area is so small, too small really, it is a gathering place for people to watch athletes, do some conspicuous stretching and generally look buff. If you’re on the little beach in Kona you’ve arrived. People sit on the wall drinking Coffees of Kona in the morning to see who shows up. The Romans paraded their gladiators through town for people to place their bets.

The swim course has excellent visibility and is usually calm on race morning. There have been years with rollers, but this is mostly a swimmer’s course- one big rectangle in warm, crystal clear water. No wetsuits, best swimmer wins. In 1984 one of the most colorful men to race Kona did this swim course in 47:48 for 2.4 miles. Olympic swimmer Djan Madruga of Brazil was exactly what you’d expect for a man with that name, that passport and that time: A bronze statue of a lad. The day after he set the new swim course record in Kona he rescued a tourist from drowning in the Pacific. The day after…

Kailua-Kona is a safe little haven that houses the transition- or one of them depending on the race year- and the buzz of the race start. It’s the hub. Like most great dramatic venues there is mysticism and fear beyond its pretty confines. When you climb out of Kona and up to The Highway everything changes. It gets ugly. The Hawaii Belt Road or Mamalahoa Highway is made up of highways 11, 19 and 190. The Ironman uses Highway 19, the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. The road is exactly 100 miles long; Ironman uses around 35-40 miles of that road twice for the bulk of its bike course. It is bordered by hot, black lava rock, raked by trade winds and generally monotonous in appearance. No one lives out here. No water. Too hot. Too windy.

And there are the “blast furnaces”. Highway 19 is on loan from the cranky island Gods who vent their anger in the form of lava flows. Sometimes they take the road back by covering it with lava. When the lava dries road crews carve a notch through the flow and re-pave the Queen K creating a 6-20 foot high black lava wall on either side of the road. The sun gets in there, heats the lava, and creates a blast furnace. You ride through it, and bake…

Now you’re on the run and it starts to get very real. It isn’t pretty anymore. Forget Hawaii. Black rock, folding table aid stations, precious bits of ice and sports drink, and a baking sun. These next few hours will be what you tell people about for the next few decades. Graduation day and final exam day all in one. Best of luck, but it won’t do you any good. You’re going to suffer. The more you can suffer, the better you’ll do.

This year the sun will set in Kona at 6:06 PM local zone time. The UV index is “10+ Extreme”. Wind only 10 M.P.H. High 85 degrees. As you head back into town at about 6:00 PM with a beautiful sunset on the horizon and a lot of pain in your legs you will see something on the horizon, like another sunset- an artificial one. Those are the lights of the finish line. In about 20-30 minutes you’ll be there. You did it.

That One in Hawaii

By Tom D.
October 3, 2011 on 3:00 am | In Random Musings | No Comments

And so it begins for most of us. Ironman is the dream anyone can achieve, and that continues to capture our imagination. Anything Is Possible.

“The Senator said you were quite the athlete. That you were a tri-athalon-er.”

The sound of wine glasses clinking on one another over the drifting muzak distracted me. Was that really an electronic version of Girl from Ipanema?  Ipanema… Beaches, small bikinis…

“Have you ever done that one in Hawaii?” The lady asked. I was snapped back to the party.

“Why, as a matter of fact…”  I told her.

It is the first question regular people ask triathletes. “Have you ever done that one in Hawaii?” Until you have you are doomed to a diatribe of disclaimers and excuses. The Senator won’t be impressed. Neither will your next door neighbor. While this sport is not about impressing others… entirely, there is an intrinsic authenticity to The Big One.

Like it, love it, bemoan it or despise it, the Ford Ironman World Championships (registered trademark) is the most recognized event in the triathlon world. If it weren’t for Ironman Hawaii- before Ford, Gatorade and Bud Light- we would not have a sport. We wouldn’t be in the Olympics. Athletes wouldn’t have “M-Dot” tattoos. Envious newbs and grouchy tri-geezers wouldn’t talk trash about The Corporation on forums as though Ironman were the prom queen in the silver sequins dress and they were the alterna-teens in goth black. Ironman is about a lot of things. Envy is one. Respect is another. Ironman deserves both.

As The Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championships gets ready to contest its 35th edition its worth looking at why this race is an icon in sport like no other.

Firstly: Access.

Whoever coined the Ironman motto “Anything is Possible” couldn’t have been more prophetic. Ironman is an icon because it is a dream anyone can achieve. Argue that it has lost its “roots” or “soul”. I say you’re wrong. Anything is still possible. If you are a fan of football you can try all you want, but the reality is you will never snap the ball on the 50-yard line at the Superbowl. You may be a huge Formula 1 fan but you will never race at Monaco. If you are dedicated and willing to chase a dream, you will be on that pier in Kona waiting for the cannon to go off with a number stenciled on your arm during the first full moon of October. Anything truly is possible at Ironman.

The prophetic thing about the Ironman motto is that it’s a double edged sword. Dreams come true on the course in Kona, and nightmares are made real. Imagine a nightmare of humiliation so grand you become an icon for pooping you pants. On international television. You know the story of Julie Moss in the 1982 Ironman. How she crawled, messed her shorts. Came in second. Wait, who won that race? What difference does it make? Moss made the race. Moss wound up on the ugly edge of Anything being Possible. People around the world somehow identified with that. For the first three years of our lives we try to unlearn that. It hit a visceral chord. She did what on network TV?

So you line up and take your chance, zero or hero. Pro athlete, Navy SEAL, Nun and paralyzed athlete. Same course. Same race. Same clock. Anything is Possible. It’s undeniably real, uniquely accessible. That’s the attraction.

And by the way, let the Senator know, I have done The One in Hawaii

That's me on the pier in Kona in 1986. Only moments before I had unwittingly locked myself in a porta-john. Anything really is possible.

Erasing Boundaries

By Tom D.
September 28, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Random Musings | No Comments

What is the difference between a man and a woman? As far as the stopwatch goes: nothing. And there is opportunity in that.

Women’s participation has changed endurance sports. Within this change comes the potential for a tremendous achievement: Greater gender equality, not just in athletics, but in society. A new group of heroes that cross gender barriers are inspiring every person, male and female. The equality tendered by brute distance and the ruthless stopwatch does not discriminate. Only people do. In that is an opportunity for sport to drive social change and erase boundaries worldwide.

When women beat men boundaries and expectations are stretched.

Consider the Ironman. The person with the most Ironman wins and Ironman World Championships is a woman. Paula Newby-Fraser owns more than any man. A woman is the greatest Ironman in history. If someone had proposed that to the alcohol fortified Naval Officers who invented Ironman what kind of controversy would that have added to the mix?

But Newby Fraser won the women’s division you say- and the women’s times have always been slower than the overall men’s winner. Then consider the case of Kara Goucher at the 2009 Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was a major, big city road race with thousands of participants including elite males. Goucher won the event overall, beating every man with a half marathon time that was only the 21st fastest in women’s athletic history.  It may speak to a weak men’s field- but it also speaks to the ascent of women’s athletics. In 1998 Lori Bowden won Ironman Canada with the 3rd fastest overall run split. One race analyst observed that, had the run been four miles longer and Bowden maintained her run pace while the slowing overall winner Christian Bustos continued losing time at the same rate he did over the final miles- Bowden would have won overall.

These frontiers are worth thinking about following the decision by the International Association of Athletic Federations to only allow women to claim a world record performance in a gender specific race. If there are men in a race the female performance cannot be a World Record, only a “World Best”. While there are technical arguments for this rule change it suggests a wider segregation between standards for men’s and women’s athletic performances. It infers women can’t compete on a level playing field with men at endurance sports. And most importantly- it doesn’t push the limits at the same rate.

It is a step backward.

Diana Nyad's three attempts at swimming from Cuba to Florida stretched the concept of human endurance- for men and women.

Women’s athletics is a greater opportunity than what the IAAF rule change panders to. If athletics are blurred across gender lines there is the potential to inspire across cultures and gender roles. It’s more than distances and times; it’s about expanding possibilities and erasing boundaries. Recognize a limitation and its real. Ignore it and sooner or later it disappears.

Paula Newby- Fraser’s 1992 Ironman winning time of 8:55:28 would have won the event overall only 9 years earlier in 1983 when Dave Scott went 9:05:57 to win overall. Chrissy Wellington’s 8:54:02 at Kona 2009 would have beat Dave Scott in 1984. Someday, somewhere, that gap will close- unless it keeps getting pushed open by the artificial boundaries of excessive rules.

Do Newton MV2′s Make a Difference?

By Tom D.
September 1, 2011 on 10:19 am | In Employee Adventures, Product Information, Tech Tips | 2 Comments

Abdi Abdirahman lives down the street from me. Abdi is from Somalia and runs a 10K in 27:22. That is a 4:24 mile pace. When I see Abdi run it looks entirely different than when I run. He is lighter, leaner, taller…

Abdi Abdirahman

I know a shoe won’t make an 8:00 minute miler a 4:30 miler but I wondered if something about Abdi’s running style might benefit me.

A key thing that makes Abdi so fast is his weight. Abdi is 72 inches tall and weighs between 138 and 141 pounds or about 1.9 pounds per inch of height. I weigh 2.5 pounds per inch of height or about 24% heavier per inch.

Abdi hits the ground with less force and for a shorter period of time. At my weight and height, not much I can do about that except eat less and train more. And, while those two things are 95% of what would make me faster, there may be one additional thing that could potentially help a little…

Newton introduced a new shoe that combines a series of current trends in footwear design: low drop, ultra-light weight and the new MV2 Action/Reaction Technology tuned for minimal shoe running on hard surfaces.

Newton has done in a shoe what Abdi has done with his entire body: Lighter, more efficient, less impact, less time on the ground  and higher cadence.

Newton MV2

Will Newton’s new MV2 make me run like Abdi Abdirahman? Nope. Will it help? I’ll let you know tomorrow on TriSports University when we dissect the new Newton MV2 lightweight, natural running shoe.

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

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