Le Tour, Beer, and Bikes – An Obsession

So, Liz and I are cycling tour geeks. Actually, we’re more like fans. We may not know everything about the teams and individual riders, but we love experiencing the competition. So much so that we’re trying to figure out a way to see a late stage of next year’s tour during our honeymoon. Speaking of honeymoon, we’re getting closer to putting together a northern european brewery tour. Between breweries we want to see random things..like Brugges. (Liz thinks In Brugges is the most hysterical movie.) 

As for this year’s tour, Froome is either not human or on the most amazing vitamins EVER. I do feel bad for all of the sprinters b/c this year was made for destroying the very best of climbers and teams. I still love Cav though. He’s been hysterical on his tweets.

Beer. Oh how we love beer. Especially good beer. Yesterday Liz and I visited the tasting room of Flying Fish Brewery. It’s a soft opening on the hottest day of the year so far, but it was awesome to get a personalized tour and a tasting. The manager of the tasting room is a cool guy who used to work for P.F. Chang’s on the west coast. Too funny. This actually relates to cycling b/c of how close the brewery is AND b/c we have their cycling jersey. One day I’ll get Liz to come with me through the back roads. 

Bikes, bikes, and more bikes. So, in the last couple weeks I have sold a Cannondale Synapse for profit, bought a Scott Team CX for cheap, and traded my Cervelo Soloist for a Fuji SL, which I will then sell for a profit. Ha! So, the Scott is my first experience of having a cross bike, and I like it. It’s  the perfect blend of training, comfort, and fun. I can’t wait to totally suck at my first cross race this year. We’ll see how long it will be until I get it upgraded. Who am I kidding, I already have parts on the way!


Not So Quick Tip #12 – Aero Bars, Aero Bike, Tri Bike, and Road Bikes for the same race?

If you’re a multisport athlete, you probably have a bunch of “stuff” that you don’t need, and even more “stuff” you forgot you had that can really help you. The bike is where you spend the most time in a triathlon and is usually the piece of equipment people know least about. Sure, you can do research and ask questions, but do you really know how to confirm or deny what they’re saying or what you’re reading is true? Too often people buy the wrong equipment based on the “I only want to buy it once” principle. So, they do some research, get the most expensive thing they can afford, and later find out they either didn’t need it, or it really doesn’t help in a race setting. As the title suggests, you’ll see all manner of bike setups at triathlons. Long or short, hilly or flat, hot or cold. The only thing that matters is what works for you, however, I highly suggest a simple path to buying your bikes for triathlon. (Yes, you will have more than one. Don’t try and argue.)

Step 1 – First, but not last, bike for you. Go inexpensive and reputable. Why? Mostly b/c you need a bike that can kinda do everything, take a beating, and be easy to sell later. Plus, if you wind up hating cycling, it’s not that big of a loss. 

Step 2 – Get a fit. With the money you saved on a bike, you can now get it dialed in. As you grow as a cyclist and get better, your fit will need to be adjusted.

Step 3 – Aerobars and shoes. These two things will make a huge difference in training and racing. Again, get refit and write down what your dimensions are for a “Tri Fit” and “Road Fit”. They will be different. Don’t skimp on the shoes. Just like the bars and pedals, you take these with you to another bike.

Step 4 – Upgrade. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT upgrade parts on your first bike. You’re just throwing money away. Sell that bike and put the money towards a new bike. It’s not worth the trouble unless your a seasoned mechanic, and even then you know it’s more cost effective to buy a whole new bike. I would suggest a really good race road bike or aero road bike. Don’t go straight to a tri bike or else you’re going to have to learn how to bike handle all over again.

Step 5 – Get fit, again. Move over your aerobars, shoes, and pedals. Here is where you may want to think about getting triathlon specific cycling shoes for race day and maybe an aero road helmet like the Giro Air Attack. Keep notes on your position. Maybe a “tri specific” saddle will be useful.

Step 6 – Get a coach. The right bike fit and coach will always help you out more than a super expensive Tri/TT bike.

Step 7 – Your Tri Bike. Before you buy, try to figure out if you really need one. Indicators are usually your run is still suffering no matter how much run training you have, you can’t go any faster and your only being passed by good people on tri bikes, you’re only 4-5 places away form a podium spot, you see yourself doing this for many more years competitively, and the races you enjoy aren’t super technical. 

Step 8 – Keep, sell, or upgrade the road bike? That sometimes comes down to finances, but if you can afford it, keep the road bike. It’ll make training and year round riding that much more enjoyable. It’ll also keep you from fiddling around with your fit on either bike. It might also be beneficial to race sometimes on your road bike. Think hilly/technical courses, bad weather, or having to travel with it. 

Step 9 – Upgrades. Keep it simple stupid. Unless you’re truly good or just like to geek out on bike tech, there’s no need for that carbon stem cap or spacer. Save your money for another bike later on, or a better race. 

Ride on everybody!

(PS – There’s quite a difference between a Tri bike and a TT bike. It has to do with UCI rules and regulations for road races and really none for triathlons. Make sure your bike shop is getting you the right bike for either or. Too many time people spend oodles of money on an “illegal” frame. Oops!)

Racing Sick

There’s sometimes nothing you can do except do your best or drop out. If you decide to race, you’re probably not going to do well, but that’s if you compare yourself to your normal self. When you’re sick, you can easily lose anywhere from 20%-50% of your endurance. Not only that, but your loss increases exponentially through the race no matter how short.

This recently happened to me at my “A” race during TriRock Philly. This race was my first Olympic distance race. Two weeks out I felt great, but at 10 days I developed a sinus and upper respiratory infection. This meant lots of rest, no training, bad sleep, and a horrible taper. So, there was plenty to think about leading up to race day. I was raising money for a great cause and I knew I would be able to get through the distance, so dropping out was not an option, but I had no idea how to pace myself in order to not come in dead last.

Most Olympic distance races are still a “red-lining” endurance event, but you have to play to your advantage as much as you can. For you track and field peeps, think of this as an 800m race. Well, my breathing had cleared up a bunch by race morning, but I was still far from 100%. With that in mind, I adjusted my plan. I didn’t go out very hard on the swim and conserved a good amount of energy. I took my time in both transitions just to make sure I was fully ready for each leg. I knew the bike would be my best event, so I went for it. The course is a mix of fast flats, steep climbs, technical descents, and mass chaos. I still posted a top 200 time on the bike, so that made me happy. The run is where I knew I would struggle b/c of what I did on the bike. T2 was slow and controlled and mile one was a great warm up into mile two, but then I fell apart. I was so hot and cramped so badly, that I had to walk every aid station for the remainder of the race. At mile 4 I had to stop and stretch. Even so, I still posted a decent time and was able to “virtually” beat my brother-in-law from two years ago. Ha! (Sorry Mike)

What did I learn? First, I need a good week of solid tapering. Second, I need a warm up before go time. Third, if there’s a separate swim start, BRING WATER!!! Fourth, wear tri clothes that keep you cool. Fifth, take in more calories on the bike. Lastly, wear a hat! Visors do not work for me. Silly bald man.


Time to Catch Up

Even when I’m not in school, I still get overly busy, just like the rest of the world. You need to find time to unplug and relax every so often. After three weeks in a row of racing, fixing up the house, anniversary, soccer, birthday parties, and beer week, it’s time for a few days break. My next race is TriRock Philly, and I want to be ready b/c it’s the first Olympic distance race for me. 

So, what have I done when it comes to training and racing over the last couple months? Well, after San Diego, I had to finish up school and then everything piled on top of itself. That’s really the last time I had a good week of training, which worries me b/c I only have two weeks until Philly. So, the weekend after San Diego I had Riverwinds. This is typically my warm up race of the season that acts as a gauge on how well training is going. Then it’s usually two months until my next race to really dial everything in. I did well. I was 3 mins faster, which is great considering how short and fast the race is. I did win my age group again and placed just outside top 10. It did’t help that I dropped my chain on the first part of the bike. I lost about a minute there, but I recovered. Amazingly, my legs felt great on the run after the disaster that was San Diego. I’m finally under 7mins average. The best part, is that I rode home after. I love that hour long ride to let the legs recover. This race is interesting b/c the swim is 200m indoors and then everything else is outside. We were very fortunate to have great weather. I decided to try out my swim skin to see how well it worked swimming and how dry it might keep me for the bike. It actually works very well, so I’ll continue to use it. This will be a big help for Philly I’m sure. 

After Riverwinds, I had about a month until Hammonton. Unfortunately, between work, house repairs, and everything else, my training never took shape. Word to the wise, build a very solid plan ahead of time that can be adapted for change. Read my previous post to understand why. Hammonton was like doing Riverwinds the year before, but everything full distance for a sprint and outside. The water was 10 degrees warmer than the air, which isn’t saying much when it’s 45 degrees outside and windy as hell. My swim was ok. I was top 10 out of the water in a huge wave, which is great, and then the bike was a simple out and back. Simple out, yes, but not simple in. Wind was gusting up to 18-20mph, so it was miserable with crosswinds. I still managed 20+ mph, which was only 3 mph slower than the fastest rider. The run was a different story. I didn’t get enough water during the bike b/c my bottle straw was too short. (Check everything!!!) And, my gel was solid b/c of how cold it was. I really don’t think that started to break down until about an hour after the race. I couldn’t feel my legs from the knees down until 2 miles into a 5k. Again, I still did well overall, and I beat Ian from work. Ha!

That next weekend, I did the Philly Classic Bicycling Open. Basically, I got to ride the Philly bike course for 1 hour 15 minutes before the pros race. It’s a 12 mile course with The Wall, Strawberry Mansion, and Lemon Hill. This was a lot of fun. I bought a new bike that week. It was a carbon Cannondale Synapse. I missed having a comfortable bike. It’s actually quite light and I can get into a very aggressive position with it, so it was perfect for this race. I averaged 18+ mph for the race, which is pretty good for me, and I got two laps in. Almost. I got pulled off course with less than 1/2 mile to go, so I rode it out on the sidewalk. Dave Angel from work rode with me and we pace lined it up Kelly drive into the wind at over 24mph. I never did that before, and it felt awesome. After the race, Liz and I walked up The Wall to go hang out at Fuji as VIP’s. If you ever have the chance to do this at a race, GO! This was the second time this year I had that treatment. Liz and I were under a shaded tent at the Start/Finish line at the top of The Wall for the entire day. We had food, beer, and an overall great time. We even brought Stig! He was the hit with everybody b/c of how good he was. After the women’s and men’s races, we walked back to the car, only to stop at Pitchers and watch the second half of USA vs. Germany friendly. Again, we brought Stig. And again, he was the hit of the bar. If we can keep getting tickets to the Fuji booth, I will keep going to that race b/c it was a great day!

Now, this began Beer Week in Philly. Liz and I love beer, so it was hard not to drink well and drink a lot leading up to our first ever Mud Run. Liz has been wanting to do an Endurance Race for a while now, and the MS Muckfest seemed like the perfect fit. Her sister did it the day before and assured us if she could do it, anybody can. Well, it wasn’t hard, but damn was it muddy and fun. I have never been that dirty in my life. I will say though, I now know better what to prepare for. I decided to wear my FIve Fingers without socks. That was a mistake. I donated them right after the race. I also need a tighter fitting shirt and shorts. Liz did great. She was so nervous right before start, but after all was said and done, her legs didn’t hurt that bad, and she was excited to do another one. I think team “Bro’Donnell” will be around for a while.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to. Time for a nap. And not to drink beer for a while.

Quick Tip #11 – iPhone for training and racing

The iPhone is a great tool, but like anything else, it can also get in the way. Make sure you read reviews on different apps that can help with your training and racing. No matter which one you choose, take the time to set it up exactly as you need it. I prefer Cyclemeter, but to each his/her own. After that, make sure you have all the necessary extras to keep your iPhone safe and usable. Now, most computers and watches work off a wireless protocol called ANT+. The iPhone uses a new wireless signal called Bluetooth Smart. I have the Lifeproof case, Jaybird BlueBud X’s, Wahoo Speed/Cadence sensor, Wahoo RFLKT, Polar H7 heart rate monitor, and the Nike iPod arm sleeve. I chose these accessories b/c of how good they are and the companies themselves really stand by their products. With this setup, I can use my iPhone for an entire race, but you have to practice, There are some downsides. The Lifeproof case can fog up under humid conditions, you have to carry the phone with you through every event (it’s not light), and you may not have enough battery depending on the event. On the plus side, it’s still the best all around computer. I’m waiting for the new TomTom watch which will also work in the BluetoothSmart World.

ITU San Diego – Race Day

This is going to be a biggie.

So, the morning before a race you actually have a lot of planning and execution before the gun ever goes off. Here’s what I do: First, check transportation websites to see what’s closed and what time tables are like. If you’re not driving and don’t have a bike, this is a big deal. Check the night before if you can, but day of is always best. Next, I do a quick little 10min yoga/active stretching routine. (I knew something was wrong with how sore I felt. That and the sunburn.) Now it’s time for some striders. You want to get these in about 2-3 hours before your race. They help wake up and activate your muscles. This should take about 20mins. Then it’s time for a cool, not cold, shower. This is your last time to shave anything too, so you’re all set to show off your legs. Then, go get some breakfast. Generally you have about a 2-3 hour window before your race to get something you normally eat in, but on the lighter side. For me, it’s usually an egg, piece of toast, and coffee. Why hello again Denny’s. Then it’s one last look over your checklist and out the door with your gear. I typically wear my race shorts under a pair of sweats or workout shorts. This way I can get my chamois cream and trislide on without being all gross and greasy at transition. Besides, port-o-potties aren’t the easiest place to get changed in. Then it’s off to transition and race.

So, that part fell into place, but what happened next….not so much. All of the buses were way off time table and cabs weren’t able to get within 2 miles of transition, so I walked…..again. That’s 3 miles with my gear. Not exactly something you want to do only a couple hours before a race. Needless to say, I was sweating and exhausted getting to transition. That doesn’t help with getting your mind straight and getting your gear laid out properly. Good thing I practice this stuff and use checklists. The only thing I was worried about was using the iPhone as my race computer. This was going to be its first test in water. (Remember, never try anything new on race day!) I did have 30mins to get ready, so I wasn’t too rushed. I did, however, have to hunt down a timing chip b/c they forgot to give me one in my packet and race numbers. We all met up on the beach for swim start underneath the arch. My Chain Reaction contact pulled me aside to ask a few questions and take some pictures before the start. It was neat to be interviewed. I was the last wave, so I had to spend some time keeping myself fresh and calm. Always have a saying to repeat to yourself so you remain calm. My phrase is “Swim smooth, stay relaxed.”

There was the typical countdown before my wave. I started my timer and zipped up my suit with 30secs to go. I don’t like to overheat. Once the horn sounded I waited for about 1/3 of the crowd to enter the water first. Even though we were in a back bay, there was still some current, so I swung out wide towards the first buoy. The course was basically a giant U. 200m out, 400m swim, and another 200m back in. By swinging out wide, I was able to stay on course easier and get around a bunch of people. The water was very cold, but when you’re going that hard, you barely notice. I made it out of the water pretty quick and knew I was towards the front of my wave. The swim exit had plenty of seaweed kicked up from the waves before, but nothing too gross. I ran into transition and headed for my bike.

I was quickly able to get my wetsuit off and head right out onto the bike. Good thing I remembered to gear way down because right out of T1 is a bridge climb. Not fun. I must say, this was one of the most fun and most painful bike legs I’ve ever done. Besides falling off my bike because a guy clipped my wheel, it was a lot of climbing and hair pin turns. I fell into grass, so no biggie. I didn’t get hurt, but after the second to last climb, I could feel my calves cramping. I forgot to put on my compression sleeves.

T2 was fine. I was battling it out with three guys on the bike, so I knew I was still towards the front. Little did I know the run was going to break all of us. I was never able to fully get my legs under me the entire run. I was just mediating pain, so my run splits were so slow. Good thing for me though, everybody was slow. There was very little shade and the sun was blaring down, but what kept me in the game was the final mile. This was the same course as the pros, and it was quite an honor. Apparently, a volunteer left their post and a bunch of us wound up running an extra 1/4 mile almost. As we entered the finish area, the crowd was awesome and the feeling of running down that blue carpet was exhilarating, but as soon as I passed under the finish arch, I felt something else. Vomit.

I never ran so hard that I had to throw up. I did so into an ice bucket full of water bottles. Oops. Volunteers were not happy with me, but I apparently wasn’t the only one to do it. I was quickly taken to med tent and set to recover. Interestingly, the med tent and finish area was really poor. Philly and Jeresey State Tri do a much better job. Once the race was over, I stopped by Chain Reaction for another interview, grabbed my gear, and rode home to the hotel. I had some time to kill before the pro men’s race, so food and sleep were on my mind. Everybody has talked up In N Out burger, so I gave them a shot. (Five Guys is better.) I grabbed a beer and a very cold shower before rolling myself out and taking a nap.

ITU San Diego – Day 2

Day before race. First thing, there’s a Denny’s next door, so time for a slam breakfast with some southern Cali flair. After breakfast, it’s time for a quick ride around the course to see what’s what. Here’s where I went a little off course. The day before a race like this you want to get some quick turnover work in. That would mean a nice literal interval set in on the bike and then some strides right off it. Did I do this? Of course not! It’s my first time on a bike in California and racing a new course, so I rode the course and then some…..stupid. (I check my HRV/Stress/HR every morning, and I should’ve just relaxed.)

Before I rode, I did have to head to a shop and get my rear hub and some other stuff fixed, thank you TSA. I’ll say this, Performance Bike doesn’t get much love, but they helped me out a lot today for nothing. Thanks! The course was great. I brought along my wetsuit just in case I decided to take a swim, but the course and scenery kept me content. The Giro Air Attack I got yesterday and the new vision Mini-TT bars were great. Once I got back to the hotel it was time to get ready for the Women’s Pro race and bike drop off. As I walked back into the room I noticed something. I noticed that I forgot to pack sun block. Ahhhhhh!!!! Well, I cleaned off my bike, clean bike = fast bike, and showered up. There’s a beer in there somewhere.

Be sure to fully understand transporting around your hotel and the race. Needless to say, all roads were completely blocked, so I had to walk about a mile with my bike after the bus dropped me off. I must have walked over 10 miles this weekend, and I believe that was my downfall. Bike drop off was interesting and was able to get my bike and swim cap numbers. This was also a chance to set up my number holder for the first time. (Again, race week/day not a time to try new things out.) that setup was nice and clean and worked out pretty well. My bike was at just the right spot for T1 and T2. The hanger was very high though, so my bike was just floating in the air. This is where a bungee cord can help so there’s not unnecessary stress put on your seat and seatpost.

I now had about 30mins until the pro women went off. I called my contact Grant from Chain Reaction Cycle, and we met up at the VIP tent. I wasn’t expecting being this much of a VIP this weekend, so I felt like a total fish out of water. I was surrounded by Olympians, World Champions, CEO’s, Sponsors, and the lot. Imagine taking your favorite sport, hobby, etc. and spending a couple hours talking to the best of the best in racing, gear, and events. It was awesome. Now, the seats are what really made this worth it. The transition and finish area isn’t that big when compared to a stadium, so when you’re on the fence, you can see every detail about every transition and lap. All the big guns except Nicola Spirug, who’s pregnant, made it out.

The race was so good that it made the Top 10 on Sport Center. That almost never happens with endurance sports, but this race deserved it. The swim was two laps and required the racers to come out of the water and run back in for the second lap which I thought was amazing. Their run into transition and onto the bike was blazingly fast, but quickly made it apparent that their was gonna be a big split in the field. The leaders were about 40secs ahead of the chase pack after 4 laps, and the trail group was basically out. I’ve never seen a draft legal triathlon race live, and it is impressive with how much power they are putting down and how so many individuals have to work together to race hard and press pace. The run into T2 and out was even faster than T1. These ladies were cooking on the run. I can’t even imagine running a 5:20 mile for a triathlon for 10k. Watching Gwen Jorgenson chase down the leaders to win the race was mesmerizing.

After the race, I also got the chance to stand in front of the podium. So many presentations, that I got a little bored. I will say this though, I did catch Gwen’s cork from her bottle of champagne. That’s a pretty cool keep sake. I’ll post pics and vids later of the race. The whole day was amazing weather, but now it was time to head back and rest up. Grant and I did a quick little interview, which will be on Facebook and their website, but after a ran to the expo to grab some sun block and ear plugs.

The night before a race can be rough. Once I got back to the hotel, I packed up my transition bag, grabbed some chips and guac from a local burrito shop, had a beer, and watched a little TV. I made sure to roll myself out, set a bunch of alarms and wake up calls, take a quick cool shower, and fall asleep. My Sleepstream App works great to allow myself to drift asleep, but my heart rate was already over 100. That’s not good.