Thursday, November 9, 2017

Safest cities for cycling

A thread popped up on Slowtwitch this week that piqued my interest, because the "original poster" (OP) asked the question: "What city is the safest for cycling year round?" As you can imagine, every response has been different. Everyone that enjoys the cycling where they live (and those that hate it) has responded suggesting that, in fact, THEIR city is the safest. It's a fairly self-selected "poll," as the only people that will respond are the people that likely feel strongly about their answer. Plus, most people simply "lurk" on ST anyway and don't ever post, so the ''poll'' is extremely biased.

Anyway, it got me to thinking: what makes a city safe for cyclists?

Well, it really begins and ends with the city's civic planning system and infrastructure. Certain cities will likely never be "safe" for cyclists (all cyclists, whether they be recreational, commuters, messengers, hobbyists, just a bit of fitness, etc) because the city cannot change the existing patterns. Charlotte kind of feels like this. I cannot imagine Charlotte being a safe place to ride a bicycle outdoors. There is no room to change the dynamic. There are only so many ways "in "and "out" of places in the city that are just absolutely littered with cars. New Orleans is like this as well, but more so because the streets are so rough and relatively narrow and the city itself is so "hemmed in" by the surrounding landscape (a big ass river and a big ass lake) that the number of cycling routes to even get outside the city is basically...1.

Anyway, I could make a strong case for Tucson being one of the most bicycle friendly towns in the US (that I have been to and ridden my bike in <--- a="" drastically="" for="" great="" i="" nbsp="" reduces="" s="" sample="" size="" starters="" the="" there="" this="">government website
 (hmm, oxymoron anybody?) dedicated to the "Bicycle and Pedestrian Program." I'm actually just kind of diving into this website now but man, it is extensive. You can even get a list of current projects and see what is going on as it happens and in what stage of development are individual projects. But the over-arching goal seems to be connectivity and ease of use.

Cool bridges everywhere. You can look down on cars, literally AND figuratively

Signage is solid, but having google maps handy is equally solid

If I want to, I can ride basically anywhere in Tucson and follow protected bike routes. The protection can vary from "The Loop" (fully pedestrian/bike pathways) to "Bike Boulevards" ("residential streets designed to prioritize bicycle and enhance conditions for walking") to simple bike lanes on regular streets. The key point is that I can feel safe riding all 3 of those types of routes. There are definitely sections with more vehicular traffic than others, but I can design a route to minimize those parts and favor the safer parts.

Safety first

See? Cool bridges everywhere
Not only ALL THAT, but the routes for cyclists and triathletes outside of the confines of the city proper are, for the most part, very good. Lots of choices in all directions.

At the end of the day, we - as cyclists - can only control so many variables. I can have bright clothing, bright lights (day or night), a cognizance of the rules, etc, but it really all depends on the drivers and other cyclists. Unless we are truly protected via infrastructure and's an inherently risky activity! So, ride on! (safely)

Monday, October 23, 2017

What I've learned from 130+ straight days of running

So back in mid-April I was running with Christine and Amy while they were doing a long run and another local triathlete showed up from behind us as we were just starting. Ben is a very accomplished tri guy who had just recently had a very good race in Africa. During this run I asked him a few questions about his race and one of the things he said stood out to me at the time and it was basically about how confident he was in his run because of how consistently he had been running during his big training block leading into the race. He had inadvertently (somewhat) had a running streak going that ended the day after the Africa race. I didn't think too much about the idea of a streak at the time but as the spring and summer wore on and my training kind of took a nosedive I wanted to do something that would sort of galvanize some run fitness and consistency.

So a week or two after Deuceman (which completely kicked my ass) I decided I'd start a run streak. I'd run every day for at least 20 minutes. 20 minutes seemed like a good number; not too much and not too little. Anywhere from 2 miles on a real bad day to 3 miles if I was feeling uber-sporty. I started this streak with a trip up to Wasson Peak with Ryan, which was a tough way to start because that is a legit mountain climb...

From that day forward to now, I have run about 850 miles with quite a few double run days somewhere in there. I've done one race (World Champs), which made it hard to continue the streak in the first few days after the race. I've averaged about 6.5 miles per day, with a long run of about 17 miles.

Somewhere in there I decided to do a running race or two, and the first ''test'' will be this upcoming Sunday at a flat half marathon here in Tucson. So in the previous 4 weeks I've put in about 250 miles and had some pretty solid, quality workouts in there. I know none of this has been ''a lot'' of miles for a runner, but it's been a few years since I've really put in some solid run volume and for better or for worse I just always have been a run volume fan. I ''feel'' better as a triathlete when I am running 5+ times a week.

Anyway, I haven't done a half marathon as a stand-alone event since 2010 at Charlotte's Corporate Cup. And yes, I wrote a blog about that! I've had a few half-ironman runs that were actually faster than that race, but I've never really seen how close to the envelope I can drag myself with no swimming and no biking. I don't have especially high expectations, but I know for sure I will go sub 1:20 but above 1:15. So that's my best guess ;)

Regardless, what have I learned from this streak?

1) Running more makes you faster at running
2) Staying healthy when you're building can be difficult, but prevention is the best medicine
3) Running every day sometimes really sucks
4) You need many pairs of shoes and many, many pairs of running shorts or you're going to be doing a lot of laundry
5) In reality, if you are running 40-50+ miles a week, running every day is really not a great idea
6) You will likely hurt yourself
7) and discover how gross your feet can get

I know at the end of the day 130+ days and 40+ miles/week are not, by any means, a lot for a "runner." Be that as it may, it's more than I've done in quite some time and I've noticed the effects fairly dramatically in the past month. Paces that I've not done in a while feel - practically - easy and while little aches and pains have come and gone I've managed to stay healthy and in motion during the streak.

So, here's your final lesson:

1) It doesn't matter how fast you bike if you run like ass
2) More is more, until it's not
3) Some quality is better than no quality
4) Bike for show, run for dough

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mountain Biking for Dummies - TIRES

Everything that’s been said before, be it a general comment about frame type or what type of suspension to look for, doesn’t matter.  Yes, I said that.  All thousands of words I’ve already written on mountain biking are relatively useless if you don’t get the fourth part correct.  What IS that mystical fourth part, you ask? Well, it’s tire selection.

Why are tires so important?

That’s a good question, and it’s an easy one to overlook and take for granted. You can have the nicest $10,000 mountain bike with extremely high level components, suspension, and frame and yet be totally lost if you’ve got the wrong tire for the job you’re doing. Conversely, you can have an extremely beginner bicycle but if your tire is paired perfectly to your trail and riding style you can easily drop your buddy on the ultra expensive machine and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like dropping their buddies every now and then??

I am, admittedly, being a bit dramatic (I tend to do that in these types of things) but that is ONLY to make a point! Any bike you buy will likely come with tires that are simply “pretty good” at most things.  They’ll do a fine job of accommodating your needs and desires.  That being said, as you become more and more familiar with your comfort level and appropriate riding skills you may find yourself wanting to explore tire choice and selection a bit more.  It’s different than road cycling, where tires are definitely important in terms of how fast you go or how many punctures you get but play very little role in how fast you can take a turn or how quickly you can slow down or get back up to speed.

Mountain bike tires essentially fall into two categories: tubed and tubeless (if we’re getting nitpicky you can also find tubular mountain bike tires, but those are not very common at all).  Tubed tires will be familiar to everyone that is familiar with bikes; there is an inner tube that is inflated and holds the tire’s shape.  TubeLESS tires have no inner tube; the tire hooks into the wheel’s rim and through a combination of specific rim tape and liquid sealant, stays inflated and rigid.

Tubed tires and tubes in general are the easiest from an upkeep standpoint.  If you get a flat you simply replace the tube. There is no sealant to refill and there is no difficulty in getting the tire to “attach” and inflate the first time you install it (which can be difficult with tubeless tires). The downside to a tubed system is that it generally weighs more and you run a higher risk of pinch flatting (this is what happens when you go over some sort of bump and the tire/tube compresses so much that the tire pinches the tube between the metal rim and the tire which, in turn, punctures it).  This is not particularly common in road cycling but, as you can imagine, is more common on trails as there are far more obstacles to roll over with your tires.  

Tubeless tires are generally considered preferable, as you eliminate the tube and any risk of pinch flatting.  You can run the tires at lower psi, which increases your available traction (the tire “grips” surfaces better) and the system usually weighs less.  There is less risk of flats as well, as the liquid sealant running around in the tire (about 2 ounces worth) rushes to the site of any small cut or puncture (think of the sealant as platelets in your blood!) and seals the hole and you can continue riding and may never even know you got a puncture.  Obviously, some cuts or punctures will be too big for the sealant and you should always run with a flat repair kit.  Installing a tube into a flat tubeless tire is very easy and is what almost everybody carries with them while riding (whether riding tubed tires or tubeless tires).

Every single mountain bike you buy, however, will come with tubes (as far as I’m aware, unless the shop has set it up tubeless out of the box). Most mountain bikes that are above $1000 or so are “tubeless” ready and you can easily ask your shop to set it up that way once you are comfortable with the idea.  You merely have to buy sealant and, potentially, rim tape; neither of these will set you back more than $30-$50 (including installation).

Tread types are very important when it comes to confidence and technical skill, so it’s important to learn some about what makes certain tires more suitable for certain conditions and different environments.

Tire tread is essentially composed of three elements: center knobs, transition knobs, and side knobs.  Each of those plays a pretty specific role in maintaining traction, which is a tire’s ultimate goal. If you are riding in loose soil you want deeper penetration. If it’s harder soil (think desert conditions) you don’t need as much penetration. So the SIZE of the knobs is important insofar as it relates to the density of your surface.

The number of knobs is also related to surface conditions; the more knobs you have the less each individual knob will penetrate the soil, which is what leads to traction.  So harder soil means you can run more knobs in your tread and maintain adequate grip. Looser soil means fewer knobs, each of which will penetrate the soil more.

The placement of those knobs is also important.  Looser soil means you generally need to have a decent amount of space between the knobs so that once the soil has been penetrated it has channels to run through, so to speak.  Loose OVER hardpack (commonly found in the southwest) generally demands this type of tire.  Nice channels that run between your side knobs and center knobs, but the center knobs can be more dense (i.e. more of them) while the side and/or transition knobs can be less dense but perhaps bigger.

Interestingly, riding style also plays a role in tire selection.  Some cyclists LEAN the bike quite a bit through turns and as a consequence they don’t really need transition knobs as they go from “upright” to leaned over and get plenty of traction and control in that leaned position.  So more “aggressive” riders tend to prefer a tire with bigger channels.  Riders who don’t lean the bike aggressively (which is most riders) find tires like that to have a sudden cliff in terms of traction.  They don’t lean the bike aggressively and therefore never really contact the side knobs, so the bigger channel robs them of confidence and traction in the corners.

Ultimately, tire choice is about experimentation.  Finding a good front/rear combination that works for you and your riding style/location is often trial and error.  Knowing certain things about tires themselves, however, can help you make more informed decisions.  I’ll give you my own personal example here:

In Tucson, leaning your bike (i.e. making aggressive turns) is difficult because it feels like there is  cactus around every corner.  So if I lean, I get spiked.  As a consequence, I do not turn or lean the bike nearly as aggressively as I did back on the east coast. So my tire choice in that respect is different.  The soil conditions here in Tucson are also wildly different than North Carolina.  The soil there was grippy, generally, and had a bit of give to it.  The soil here is extremely hard underneath a very loose layer of rock and sand.  So tire choice is different in that respect as well.  Furthermore, all of the rocks here are out to kill you and your bike.  So my tire choice needs to be a bit more durable (extra puncture layers or sidewall protection) if I want the tires to last more than a couple of weeks’ worth of riding.

So, it’s important to experiment and figure out what works best for you, where you live, and how you ride! But use some of these keys to help you make your decision!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mountain Biking for Dummies, Part 3

For reference, here are parts 1 and 2.

Wheels, hubs, and axles OH MY!

Here we are in our third installment of The Mountain Bike Series!  We are now deeply educated individuals when it comes to the basics of mountain bikes in general and the basics of their suspension systems.  Along those lines, we’re going to take today to look into the basics of wheel systems.

The first step is to look at the various wheel sizes offered with off-road bikes, which come in varieties of 29 inch wheels, 27.5 inch (or called 650b), and 26 inch wheels.  For quite a long time, 26” was the only option.  You will still find 26” sized wheels on entry level bikes, youth bikes, and even some (adult sized) “downhill” bikes.  With the exception of the downhill bikes, you will really only find 26” on what could be classified as “entry level” bicycles.  It has been generally agreed upon that “bigger is better” when it comes to mountain bike wheel sizing.  

So most of the choices we - as new mountain bike purchasers - will make are going to fall into either the 650b or 29” category.  Let’s examine some pros and cons of each, shall we?

When 29” wheels first came out (which was before my time) they were - like many new things in the cycling world - met with skepticism.  These huge new wheels weighed more, looked silly, and couldn’t possibly be better, could they?  Well usually: yes, they are better than 26” wheels in almost all applications.  Some of the things you might not think about at first glance are the bigger contact patch with the ground and the shallower angle of attack these wheels will have as compared to their smaller brethren.  The bigger contact patch is simply due to the larger circumference of the wheels, which results in more of the tire coming into contact with the ground.  The benefits of this are obvious, as there is more grip for cornering and braking.  The shallower angle of attack is a little more difficult to explain, but it essentially means that every object encountered on the trail is smaller as it relates to the wheel itself.  As a consequence, a 5 inch tall rock which, with a 26” wheel, would’ve been met a bit more “head on” is now lower on the 29 inch wheel.  This picture makes it more obvious, although the size disparity is a little dramatic:

angle of attack.jpg
So the bigger wheel gives the rider a little more room for error.  It makes obstacles “ride” smaller, it makes drop-offs easier to deal with, and in general it feels as though you cover more ground more quickly as compared to smaller wheels.  The wheels do, in fact, generally run a bit heavier.  Is this a big deal? In my opinion definitely not, but some may argue that the bigger wheels are more difficult to “spin up” or get up to speed, but to be honest I have not compared a 29” bike to a 26” bike so can offer no personal perspective.  It IS noticeable, however, when doing tight and twisted singletrack at slow speeds that a 29” bike can have more trouble than a smaller wheeled bike.  The bike has a longer wheelbase and bigger wheels and, as a consequence, can be more difficult to maneuver around tighter, smaller radius turns.

The 27.5” or 650b standard is newer and was created in no small part to resolve some of the concerns mentioned in the previous paragraph (or maybe it was created just to create more bikes to buy??).  Without taking into context the size or style of a bike, the 650b standard is most often viewed as a “best of all worlds.” It has many of the benefits of the larger wheels, such as better angle of attack and bigger contact patch, but with a lessening of the drawbacks such as weight and maneuverability.  It is still a bit newer but has mostly caught up in terms of availability of tire selection and wheel brand choices.

In my personal opinion, if I am looking for a cross country or trail bike I am probably going to say go with whatever size wheel “feels” appropriate.  For example, on a medium or large (or extra large) bike, 29” wheels are likely NOT going to feel “big” to you.  On the other hand, if you ride a small or extra small frame then 29” wheels likely ARE going to feel big, and as a consequence I’d say focus more on 650b bikes lineups.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for a big hitter bike (all mountain, DH, etc) then it’s much more normal to see 650b wheels on those big travel bikes.  

Let’s also take a few moments to talk about hubs.  Not just the hub itself, but how the wheels are bolted/attached to your frame.  We are ALL used to quick release skewers, as these have been used on bikes for quite some time.  The idea is pretty simple as it’s basically an axle that slots into your dropouts and is tightened using a cam pressure system.  For a long time, this was the most common thing seen on mountain bikes as well.  Nowadays, however, the system is completely different.


Most off road bikes (this is now beginning to include cyclocross, gravel, and even some road bikes) now use what is called a “thru-axle.” The desire for this system began with a desire to increase the overall rigidity of a bike. Dropouts (the openings into which a wheel’s hub fits) are wider on a mountain bike to help achieve this.  The thru axle is another mechanism that aids this rigidity goal, as the axle itself literally bolts the dropouts together THROUGH the wheel’s hub.

Quick releases are usually 9mm, whereas thru-axles are generally much bigger.  At first, mountain bikes began utilizing thru-axles only in the front while still keeping a quick release in the rear.  Now, however, that has changed to be thru-axles on both the front and rear.  Whereas a road bike has dropout spacing (basically the width between the dropouts) of 100mm in the front and 130mm in the rear - with 9mm quick relases - modern mountain bikes are most commonly 100mm in the front (with a 15mm thru-axle) and 142mm in the rear (with a 12mm thru axle).  


Interestingly, the rear hubs themselves are still 135mm, but the frame has 3.5mm cutouts in the rear to allow the hub to be more easily guided into place before the axle is inserted through the frame and hub and bolted tight.

All of this is to say that thru axles represent a stiffer, more robust form of wheel to frame attachment that, in general, results in a more responsive and predictable ride through the trails.  The “size” of your thru axles depends entirely on the type of bike you buy, with 15mm being a common front axle for everything except the biggest hitting (mainly downhill) bikes, which use 20mm.  In the rear, you will most often find 12mm thru axles. The only real downside to a system such as this is that it can take a bit longer to change a flat.  Especially with the axle type that’s in the middle in one of the above pictures, as it requires carrying allen keys. A little extra preparation never hurt anybody, however, and the increased stiffness and precision is DEFINITELY worth it.


Now that I’ve said that, I feel bad for my next and final section.  Like with anything in the bicycle world, nothing remains “standard” for very long.  Enter what is called “boost” spacing.  Most simply, this “standard” (ha. ha.) replaces 100/142mm with 110/148mm.  Big whoop, you say? I agree, mostly. But let’s dive into a little deeper to see what this difference REALLY means.

One of the changes between 26” and 29” wheels is the size of the wheel (umm, duh.). This larger diameter wheel has many benefits, which we’ve already highlighted.  One of the things it has that is potentially a negative, however, is longer spokes.  These spokes, despite being attached to the same width hub (100/135) are significantly longer, and are attached “further out” in the triangle.  The boost standard is designed to allow the triangle to have a wider base - as each spoke is attached to the hub a few mm further outboard - which results in a stronger, stiffer overall wheel.

What may seem like a subtle, small change actually has a huge effect on other parts of the bike.  You must now have wider frame dropouts and a crankset that moves your chainring a bit further out to accommodate the different rear hub spacing (this is done to maintain what’s called the chainline, which is chain deflection - or how straight or not straight a chain is - in the middle of a cassette).  The frame itself has a bit more clearance, which allows for wider tires and better mud clearing.  But the endgame here is that this new “standard’ (I still chuckle every time I hear that in the bicycle industry) really requires entirely new bicycles designed around the standard.  New wheels, new bike’s almost like the bike industry wants you to buy new stuff!!? Who would’ve guessed it...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Performing exceptionally or exceptionally under-performing

It's been interesting watching Christine race and being engaged in her races and who she has racing. It's a departure for me, as I usually really only care about myself. Historically, anyway, I am very selfish when it comes to racing. But over the past year I've watched her and her competition and a few things have stood out to me.

1) Women are significantly tougher than men

Now, those women out there who read this will not likely be surprised by the statement. But all the dudes out there who read that in shake their head in disbelief, I feel sorry for you. On the whole, women kick your ass up and down the [triathlon] block.

Sometimes I feel like the last 5k of a 70.3 run is pretty tough. It hurts, I'm whining, I just wanna be done. Then I imagine pushing a human out of what is essentially my butthole and I'm back to reality. I don't have it that hard.

2) By that same token, women are much more likely to f*** themselves up from training than men

Maybe in part BECAUSE women are so tough, they seem much more inclined to treat training a little differently than men do. For example, if I don't feel that great or I don't hit my watts, I just kinda whine a little bit and either change my workout or just stop; explaining to my coach that "I didn't feel that good." The thought of Christine doing this kinda makes me chuckle, because she - like most women - will dig super deep to nail workouts. Sometimes it's detrimental. Maybe it's not "worth it" to use those little bits of toughness that you have stored in your lady genes in certain instances?

I think most coaches would agree that you tend to treat women differently from men. Men you have to encourage and mollify all while appealing to their ego and/or insecurities. Women you just have to hold back and help them not do too much damage.

There are a few women that have been on Christine's radar at most races over the past year. They are very fast and historically near the top of the female age group field. But for almost this entire year, a couple of them have had serious injuries. Injuries serious enough such that they don't race or they blame a bad race on these injuries. Even more interestingly, at least two of them are coached by the same high profile coach. When they are "on" they are VERY "on" but the downside appears to be injured and poor performances.

So the moral of this story is: it's better to be smart, consistent, and slightly back from the "over-reaching" line while maintaining an extremely tough mental focus but not at the drawback of added emotional stress all while pursuing racing at a high level!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ironman 70.3 World Championships

Well, I suppose that after all this lead up I suppose I just HAVE to recap the event. Wouldn't want to leave any one of the tens of readers out there hanging by the thin thread of blogspot anticipation.

I came into this weekend unprepared and undertrained. But that was ok! It was, in effect, on purpose. No injuries to speak of and no weird ailments to derail training were in my way; my self was in my way. But it was a low stress weekend, at least for me. My goals were simply to watch Christine dominate as much as possible and then have a solid event myself on Sunday. Getting up early Saturday to spectate and help Christine in the morning was tough knowing I'd have to do the same thing myself in 24 hours, but it was worth all the time on my feet and in the sun throughout the day to see her race so well. Not my normal pre-raceday routine, but well worth any fatigue or soreness it added to the weekend.

My own race morning dawned bright and early and everything was very smooth leading to my race start time of 8:22.

Swim - 31:07

The rolling wave start was kind of cool and unique, so I was excited to try out a new format. I figured the swim would be relatively tough, but after seeing the pro males swim 23ish I knew that we were potentially not facing as much current as the ladies did on Saturday. Given that I only had a swim skin I was pleased with that.

Further, given that over the past 13 weeks I have averaged about 1hr in the pool per week...I was thinking it might be a slow, rough swim. Be that as it may, I dove in optimistically after seeding myself in the 28-30 minute section. I ended up passing quite a lot of athletes throughout the race, so the suspicions of over-seeding by guys was very confirmed. The swim was pretty uneventful and wasn't difficult, relatively speaking. I was working a steady pace and dealing with the chop and very mild current without too much trouble, although I had no time reference until I got close to the end of the pier (about 200m to go perhaps?) and glanced at my watch, which read 29:xx so I knew my time wasn't going to be blazing fast.

T1 - 3:52

This was a pretty long run up to the transition area and a long run through transition area so my time wasn't particularly speedy, but I didn't waste any of it.

Bike - 2:42:06

The bike was where I figured I'd lose the MOST time at this race. Everyone is an uber biker at a world championship (or certainly thinks they are) so I knew with my paltry fitness that I'd have to play it safe or I'd suffer the consequences on the run. I figured 190-200w was a pretty good goal that would probably result in a 2:35-2:40.

I took the climb pretty easy and was passed quite a lot and it was a while before I got the change to enjoy some overtaking myself; on the downhill section I re-passed a few who had passed me and settled into somewhat of a rhythm. I continued on uneventfully for most of the race, taking in calories throughout and trying to make up for a dropped bottle early on in the bike meant that I was grabbing and chugging at aid stations.

There was relatively little drafting, but I was very solidly in the middle of the pack as far as the overall M30-34 race goes so I can't comment on other parts of the race. There were a few offenders who were mostly from countries in south america (I know this because they had their country on their tri kit). That was pretty annoying.

At mile 35 or 40ish I had to pee so bad that I could barely get into my aerobars. I had to pull over at a porto into which someone had just entered so my pee break ended up being a little longer than ideal (2mins) but the relief was priceless. I needed the aerobars for the last 10 miles or so and got off the bike feeling ok with my effort although I was a little sad that my bike time was bested by Christine's from the day before :(

T2 - 2:18

Nothing to see here, except talking to a guy who had been drafting the last 10 miles on myself and a couple other guys. Someone else actually called him out in transition as well. Down with the cheaters!

Run - 1:29:03

I have been the most consistent with running over the summer, so I figured I had a decent chance at a solid run. I underestimated the difficulty of this run course, however, as I was unaware of the 2 serious climbs on the other side of the river...

I started off way too fast, for sure, as my first mile was 6:20ish and basically entirely uphill. I knew Christine and fam would be at the underpass so I made sure to "raise the roof" and yell real loudly when I passed. Unfortunately this ruined pictures of me as I look like a moron but, all in all, I'd say it was a fair trade.

I carried on for a while and the first real nut-puncher is just before mile 4ish and it was a real short but steep hustle. That was kind of the first "oh shit this could be rough" moment of the run, so I slowed down and took it conservatively before getting back on the gas and over the bridge. Shortly thereafter we had another monster climb followed by a nice descent then another monster climb then another sharp descent and then we got back to the pedestrian bridge to head back south across the river and loop #2. I was in a pretty solid rhythm and clicking off relatively consistent miles without feeling too bad. I was not enjoying my gu but I WAS enjoying red bull for the first time in a race, ever.

Normally I'm not a red bull fan, but that ice cold piss looking drink was oddly satisfying. Perhaps it was the caffeine? Lap 2 was more of the same, but slower, as I really started struggling on the uphills. I knew that my time was going to be close to what Christine told me her time was (I didn't remember specifically) so that last mile involved some hustle to try and make sure I

a) beat her


b) snuck under 1:30

I was glad to be done and honestly pretty pleased with my effort!

Overall - 4:48:26 (142/318)

So yea, not the fastest time, but it was the best slow race I've ever had! So that's fun and exciting. It was also really nice to kinda take a step back and race without the normal "nobody else matters as much as me" attitude that I have historically normally raced with. Taking the time to pee, while a bit frustrating, was amazingly revelatory as it obviously did not affect my race at all. 2 minutes is a long time but realistically, unless you are fighting for the absolute age group win (i.e. top 3) it's not such a bad thing to take a chill pill. I loved that feeling!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Exercise vs. Training

With World Championship 70.3 approaching quickly, I think I should dissect a crucial element in my preparation for the event.

I stopped "training" in mid-May. Although I ended receiving daily schedules back in November of last year after Maui, I got into pretty solid shape during the winter and early spring by hanging onto the coattails of those much better than me. By doing Christine's workouts with her and riding the various group rides occasionally along with some long stuff with some V10 powered pros I found myself to be ready for Santa Rosa. I was even pretty ready for Deuceman, as I continued to ride the wave of that fitness.

Once that was over, I got back into a groove of exercising. It's actually incredibly refreshing to work out 10-15 hours a week but completely on my own terms. You should try it sometime!

That being said, "exercising" does NOT make you ready to tackle the best age groupers in the world for 4-5 hours. I have solid run fitness due to my ongoing run streak (10+ weeks), laughable swim fitness, and a 2.5hr power on the bike that's probably dropped 20%. So, instead of trying to go sub 4:20 (or maybe sub 4:30 looking at this course), sub 4:50 is going to be a pretty solid achievement.

Which is all kind of amusing to me, in some ways, looking back on what I used to want out of triathlon. Race finishes and crushing workouts helped me define myself and my self worth. Was that healthy in the long term? Absolutely not. It "worked" for 3 or 4 years. Then my motivation and fitness fell off a cliff. But that's ok, because I know I am a good athlete who has worked hard for a while and has decided that I want different things out of my swimming, biking, and running.

So when Christine beats me next Sunday or when you pass me on the bike looking aero but moving slow don't say I didn't warn you! You get what you prepare for.