Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tour of Sufferlandria 2015

The Sufferfest's annual "Tour of Sufferlandria" kicked off yesterday, with several Triple Threat Triathlon team members taking part. Here Chad Zeman (Rhode Island) gives a nice overview of an event that race director Grunter von Agony once described as being “carefully balanced between agony, misery and despair."

You may have recently read my review of Nine Hammers from The Sufferfest and may have even purchased a video or two since. Starting on January 24th, the Tour of Sufferlandria takes riders through 9 stages consisting of a total of 12 videos. Let’s check out the course, how it works, and how to participate in the social aspect of the tour.

Continue reading Chad's tour summary here!

It's technically not too late to participate, but whether or not you do, check out
The Sufferfest's training videos. Get off the couch and start your training!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Aim Higher, Dude!

The year was 1995. I was in the 10th grade at Batesville High School in southeastern Indiana, home of the mighty Bulldogs. Our cross country team was pretty solid, despite being largely made up of sophomores and freshmen. In addition to our team goals, a main individual goal that year was to earn all-conference honors (top 10) at the EIAC conference meet. Based on the competition, this seemed to be a challenging yet realistic goal. Thinking through each school in the conference, I counted 15 or so guys who would contend. As you may recall, there’s a big difference between sophomores and seniors in high school, and I’ll admit I was a bit intimidated by some of the competition. These were largely upperclassmen who drove, shaved, and stood above my 10th grade 5’6 stature, in addition to beating me in every race. I would be happy to out-lean a fellow sophomore for the 9th or 10th spot, just get me in the top 10!

cross country is a colorful sport

The day of the race arrived, held at Greensburg High School. I’d run a previous best (5k) of 17:45 on the same course earlier in the season, but this did little to calm my nerves. The gun went off and I got out quickly before settling in with the top 12 or so. More than once I counted the guys ahead of me, focused on my objective of a top 10 finish. At around the halfway point there were two guys out in front, followed by a big group of us strung out in a line. I counted once more and realized I was in 11th, with the 10th place guy a mere stride or two ahead of me. “Man, this is gonna suck” I thought. Despite having a good kick, I really didn’t want it to come down to that for the final spot. Then a light bulb went off… I looked at the line of colored jerseys strung out ahead of me and thought “aim higher, dude! You can take these guys!” I stopped focusing on 10th and decided to just go for it, picking colored jerseys off one by one. I ran the last mile like I’d stolen something, knowing the pack was in pursuit. I kicked it in with everything I had, holding off three guys by less than 10 seconds to finish 4th in 16:59, much higher and faster than I had previously allowed myself to believe.

Not every race has gone according to script since then, but the lesson I learned that day has always stuck with me...  aim high! You just may surprise yourself.

now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Originally posted Feb 2013.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Rob Forshaw - Massachusetts

Rob Forshaw is a former offensive lineman who has completely transformed his body to become a highly talented triathlete. As a recent addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon team, here he gets us up to speed on this transformation, his 2014 season, and some monster goals for the near future.

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

Growing up I was always into team sports such as baseball, basketball, and football. In high school I was all in for football, I was an offensive lineman so my primary goal was to get big and strong. I was pretty successful doing that but after my last season of playing I realized that I wasn’t going to play in college and really wanted to lose the extra weight. I started maintaining a healthy diet and eventually took up running which led to cycling. I learned about triathlon from cycling and the community around cycling. After hearing about a local triathlon in my hometown I decided to sign up. I was instantly hooked, I loved the training the technology and the community. I placed 3rd in my age group my first race which really boosted my confidence and love for the sport.

Offensive linemen can be great athletes, just in different ways. That said, do you feel like a completely different person now in what you can do? Was it a tough transition from fasttwitch, explosive training to triathlon?

Well it's funny you mention it because when I started focusing on losing weight I only ran to burn calories. Going into for my first year of college all I cared about was getting ripped. I got really strong and my beach muscles were pretty nice. Eventually though I got sick and tired of all the micromanaging I needed to do with my diet and time in the gym to continue getting results. I one day decided to stop lifting weights and strictly run. I never really cared about time or distance I would just plan a route in my head and do it. I think it was when I was home on spring break one day I went for a run and decided to figure out how far I went. Turns out it was 6 miles and I was shocked and also proud of myself. Looking back at old photos now, I can really see a difference in my build. When I played football I had a big upper body and was pretty stocky, it’s pretty much the other way for me now.I have more of a cyclist build with big legs and a scrawny upper body.

Rob in high school
How would you sum up your 2014 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight?

Overall 2014 was a great season for me. I started off completing my first 70.3. I am a very competitive person so I wanted to have at the very least a competitive time for my age group. That goal changed a few weeks out however as I realized I was under trained. I had just graduated college, started my full time job and went on vacation to Ireland the month prior. Needless to say my running volume dropped and my Guinness consumption went up. In the end I finished and still managed 4th in my AG which I was really excited about considering how undertrained I was. The rest of the season I focused on the sprint distance and was able to get on the podium a handful of times. I really was using 2014 as an opportunity to grow and learn what my strength and weaknesses are. I learned a lot and I think it has better prepared me as I begin my base for the 2015 season.

What’s on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?

2015 is the year of the 70.3 for me. I have signed up for 3 70.3’s throughout the summer, and a handful of sprints and road races in between. My number one goal is to pull off a sub 5hr 70.3. I think with some good early year base miles and a structured training block I can reach that goal. My other goal is to place top 5 in my AG in all of my races. This is another thing I believe with a good structure to my training I should be able to do. Finally to end 2015 I want to qualify for the one of the best races in the world, the Boston Marathon. If there is one thing you need to know about Boston, it's that Bostonians love tradition. The Boston Marathon is one of those traditions. On Patriots Day, every year everyone in Boston turns into running fans. The whole city buys into the race and throughout the 26.2 miles of course there are people cheering you on and just being loud. As a spectator I get chills seeing that energy get runners through the race. As a runner myself that is something I want to experience so before I can run Boston I have to qualify!

What’s been the key for you in progressing so quickly as a relative newcomer to the sport?

My general interest for how things work has played a big factor. I’ve read up on all three disciplines; what works, what doesn’t and have tried to adapt the practices of successful swimmers, cyclists and runners. When I took up cycling I remember reading about Greg Lemond, the first American to win the Tour de France. Lemond had a quote that has really stuck with me, “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”. I see that as what training for a triathlon or any endurance sport is. You will dedicate hours upon hours to get faster and fit, but in reality the pain in your legs and lungs will still be same as when you first got into triathlon. Learning to accept the pain plays a big role in an athlete’s progression into the sport. I was able to recognize that early and constantly am trying to remember that through training. I have never let the hardships from training bring me down, instead it keeps me motivated and coming back for more.

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?

I would have to put swimming as my weakest. I pretty much taught myself to freestyle swim about a month out from my first triathlon. I actually remember the first time I went to the pool to swim laps. There was a private swim lesson for two young kids. Here I am in the lane next to them barely making it 25 yards and they are just swimming laps around me. I had to claim defeat that day and hit the showers early. I have improved quite a bit since then and have gotten pretty confident with my swimming, but confidence does not correlate to speed. I feel with time I will be able to improve because when push comes to shove it’s all about staying consistent with my swim training. Cycling and running are a close 1 & 2. I have done a lot of cyclocross racing the past two years and am pretty confident with my handling skills and being able to drop the hammer when need be.

I’ve also done a number of running road races ranging from 5k’s to half marathons. By doing a lot of bike and running races, I have taught myself to keep pushing through and suffer, which I think has helped a lot with my triathlon racing. For all three I rock my Garmin 910XT, I love having some sort of data to look at after a workout or race and the 910XT is the perfect tool for that. For swimming, I don’t get to complicated with gear. I will generally pick up whatever goggles are on sale at the moment seeing as I continuously lose them. For biking I have my pride and joy, my Cannondale Slice. I picked it up last year with the desire of slowly upgrading components as a project for myself in the off season. I am wrapping the upgrades up now and cannot wait to race with it this year. For running all I need is a nice hat (generally in the backwards position) and whatever sneakers I am rocking at the moment. I beat my shoes up fairly easily so I will generally grab a new pair ever 3 or 4 months. I don’t have a specific pair I swear by, but just pick up what feels right from the local running store at the time.

At 23 you are officially the “young buck” of the team. Do you have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon, or will you wait a while to develop your MAN STRENGTH and as a triathlete?

I do have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon. Right now the plan is to learn as much as I can this year at the 70.3 level. Build my bike and run fitness while continuing to improve my confidence in the water. I started doing triathlon as a way to challenge myself physically and mentally and I want to continue challenging myself. In a short race like a sprint or Olympic triathlon you don’t have the time to think much... you’re just going all out. Once you get into longer distances there is a lot of exertion both physically and mentally. I think that is why a lot of guys my age stray away from longer distances like the Ironman because they don’t have the mental toughness needed to race for 10-17 hours with the pain your body is experiencing and your thoughts. I see that as an extra discipline of the sport that I am very strong at and really embrace. To summarize I cannot wait to do an Ironman in the near future!

Can you tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I am a Power Hardware quality engineer. Essentially what I do is test the reliability of power supplies that are used in data centers. Most days I test new power supplies that my company is introducing. My testing pretty much entails causing the power supplies to fail and seeing what happens and determine if this is a critical failure that needs to be prevented or if it’s acceptable. Outside of work I like to read up on a variety of things from sports, entertainment, technology, you name it. I am a big Patriots fan; some might say a huge Patriots fan as I can be rather vocal when they are playing. I have also taken up golfing and have caught the golf bug rather hard. I have a killer drive that likes to slice to the left a 100 yards (I am working on it). Regardless of how bad I play I just enjoy getting out on the golf course with my friends and family.

What is your post-race food & beverage of choice?

Post-race food most definitely is something greasy. Even though I care about my fitness and health I still have a weak spot for french fries. I am notorious for taking on an entire large pizza after a long training bike ride. My friends often joke when I get something greasy that I am going “Big-Rob Status”. After a race though I will probably be stopping somewhere for a nice burger and for hydration I will probably be reaching for a nice cold pale ale. I love this brewery that’s up in Vermont called Switchback, the brewery is only about 12 guys but their beer is to die for. Currently they only sell it in Vermont and New Hampshire, but I have some family up in New Hampshire so whenever I see them I make sure to stock up. I cannot wait for the day they start distributing to Massachusetts!

What’s triathlon like in Boston, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?

The triathlon community in Boston is great. I am literally a quarter mile away from heart break hill, one of the most iconic parts of the Boston Marathon course. I can go out on the course on any given day and see runners, cyclists and triathletes alike training. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. They are more than happy to give advice and help anyway they can. Whenever you go to a race in Massachusetts you really feel a strong sense of community when you’re in transition or waiting for the swim to start. Everyone just wants to know how your season and training has been going and what races are on tap... it really is awesome. I can’t really think of cons, maybe there are a lot of fast runners in Massachusetts. I remember reading a Runners World article that said Massachusetts has the fastest 5k time averages throughout the USA. It’s probably more of a con for myself, as I consider myself to be a back of the front of the pack runner.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Sufferfest Nine Hammers Review: Chad Zeman

The smallest state in The Union is now very well represented on our national team. Former collegiate runner, 2x Ironman, and Sufferfest aficionado Chad Zeman (Rhode Island) may be new to the team, but we've already put him to work. Here is his review of The Sufferfest's latest training video, 9 Hammers. From personal experience, what initially appears to be an interrogation technique is actually a really "fun" kind of hurt!

I am a huge fan of The Sufferfest for the reason that they make indoor training fun. They recently came out with the video 9 HammersFor those that want the "get to the point" review - buy it! It's 9 VO2/Threshold intervals at about a 1:1 ratio. Ride it if you are at least halfway, if not done, with your base training. It will seriously kick your butt!

For those that want an in depth 9 Hammers review, here you go!

When purchasing the videos, you are able to see the duration and workout prior to downloading. In this case, 9 Hammers features 9 VO2 and Threshold intervals. What’s even cooler are the new onboarding instructions as well as the information that is provided on the screens.

As the video starts (once you download... be patient), the crisp title appears and proceeds to letting you know that you should see a doctor before attempting to ride.
What I really like about Sufferfest are the clear instructions they give before the videos starts. It sets a clear tone to you on expectations from the ride.

The ride starts out with a 6 minute warm up. If you are one who needs a longer warm up, I’d suggest riding prior to starting the video because once this warm up is done – pain is about to commence! As you warm up, you start right out in a pack and have some on screen “motivations.” I find them to be lightly humorous while motivating. Music plays in the background (the music I must admit has been getting better). About 30 seconds in, you see your workout:

6:00 – Warm up
1:30 – Recovery
yes, those are sweat drops on the screen
4:30 – Hammer 1 (Threshold)
3:00 – Hammer 2 (VO2)
3:30 – Hammer 3 (VO2)
4:30 – Hammer 4 (Threshold)
3:00 – Hammer 5 (VO2)
3:00 – Hammer 6 (VO2)
3:00 – Hammer 7 (Threshold)
3:00 – Hammer 8 (VO2)
3:00 – Hammer 9 (VO2)
3:00 – Cool Down

Don’t worry, there is some rest between the Hammers! All rides are based off of the Suffer Scale which can be either perceived effort or interchangeably with a Power Meter or Heart Rate Monitor. My personal suggestion is using a Power Meter to get really dialed in.

No more than 10 seconds after you receive your workout, you’ll get caught in a minor sprint to get the legs moving for about 5 seconds, and then moving back into warm up mode. This will happen, with an effort of 8 or higher, on three separate occasions.

After the warm up is finished, you are pushed into a group for Hammer 1. Don’t expect to “ease” into any of these Hammers either. The workout is 55 minutes long and no time to waste. There is a mixture of 7-9 RPE with upbeat music all located in a mountain/forest setting.

Enjoy the views, you’ll be staring at your stem in no time!
Remember I mentioned that there will be breaks? The first one does appear, but expect to keep your cadence up. That is another great thing about Sufferfest, they force the cadence on the bike – expect 90 RPMs throughout recovery. With a slower song, on screen instructions and riding “solo,” the heart rate should go down. Oh and don’t be surprised by some heckling from fellow cyclists!

As the second round of Hammers begins, expect to go right away. Great way to help you in the real life scenario of someone trying to take off on you or if you are a triathlete – getting out of T1! I’ve heard some people say that they don’t like the trainer because they never can stand. Well, Sufferfest forces you to stand on the bike. If you have a carbon frame, take caution in doing this with the added stress, but Hammer 2 does have you stand to push. It helps you propel into the sprint finish… if you can hold everyone off! Efforts range from 7.5-9 RPE.

Recovery 2 hits, and is the same road as Recovery 1. Don’t be fooled though, time seems to go by quicker this time around than last.

Hammer 3 starts a little more comfortably at a tempo pace. Again in a pack, but it is normal to harder efforts. As with any road racing, a group passes you and then you find yourself in last… expect to have to catch the front at some point before you go “uphill.” This segment again features efforts from 7.5-10 RPE in the short span.

he's looking back, overtake him!!

After your recovery, expect to start at threshold again and expect to get dropped, but you’ll quickly catch the pack again… you are a climber! That is what Hammer 4 is all about – low cadence but high effort. You’ll seriously feel the burn especially with the 7-8 RPE with cadence ranging from 60-90.

With another recovery, enjoy it. Sufferfest called Hammer 5 the worst of the journey. So tough… they call it VO2 Eternity! This segment features two riders pushing the pace into the finish. Expect to go 9/10 for most of the ride and a sprint to the finish. Yes… it is okay to start grunting here. We won’t judge. Just know there is another break coming!

even Kid Cowboy is cheering for you!

Now that eternity is done, another recovery begins. Not only do you ride along the mountainous country side, but you get to swim with some sharks! Sufferfest prepares you for another hard effort by telling you that you’ll start with a 9 out of 10 RPE again… oh and it's “uphill.”

beautiful views during the recoveries
You can’t get dropped on this…it’s between you and three others in front. Get dropped and you’ll disappoint Sufferlandria! Remember that the main focus on this Hammer is strength. Big gear low cadence. It’s going to burn, the heart rate is going to be high… but keep pushing.

As you crest the hill on Hammer 6, you join a pace line that forces a cadence of 100. For me, it helps flush the lactic acid from the legs to keep going and shows a real life scenario. You’ve got to push over the hill to stay with the pack or to lose that person who is illegally drafting you in a tri! You’ll experience mainly 9 RPE during this effort.

Hammer 7 – only 3 to go! You get a nice break to start, only 7.5 RPE. You’ll position yourself in a pace line and back to a 95 cadence to resemble the flats. This will be a good time to really assess yourself when you are tired and putting in a good Olympic to 70.3 effort. Can you comfortably maintain the effort when your legs are tired? What are you thinking about? Still clear thoughts? Maybe test drinking something at this effort to see if it can be done during a race. Hammer 7 stays at a 7-7.5 RPE with high cadence. 

You’ve experienced pain and misery before, but by Hammer 8 you are wondering “how am I going to get through this?” As you prepare, this is what you see…

This phase is like that frustrating moment when you can’t really hammer a nail in right and you just bang on it harder and harder. You wail on the nail and it doesn’t move so you try to reassess, then bang on it again. That’s what Hammer 8 is like. You start at 10/10 effort then move into a tempo range pace then back to 10/10. After what seems like forever, the video pushes you back to an 8 RPE then back to a 9/10 RPE with high (95) cadence. If you aren’t chewing on your stem, you’ll see a donut taunting you. You may be asking yourself “how much longer can I hold?” before that proud moment hits when you do hold on!

Ahh… a two minute break. Then back at 8/10 RPE. After a short stint of this effort you’ll see green arrows flickering telling you that a harder effort is about to come. Early on you’ll think “oh that’s a nice feature,” but by now you’ll view it as an annoyance that never lets up! When you think you can’t go any harder (9/10 RPE), Sufferfest holds true to its glory and pushes you to 10/10 RPE with 100 cadence. Even though you may be sucking air, the final 15 seconds is in first person view finishing a race – go for glory, honor and make Sufferlandria proud!

Can you finish strong on the 9th hammer??  Test yourself!!

“Are you okay?” may be a question you get from others in the household, and the dog may look at you with concern. The lights may dim around you, but they’ll come back on during the cool down.

You’ll finish with a 3 minute cool down… or the attempt to pedal. Some inspirational quotes and a fun clip from the Omega Pharma team.

I would not suggest this video if you do not have some base training under you. In general though, just be smart, and ride within yourself and your abilities. If you are a rider who has finished phase 1 of your training and are looking to enhance your indoor rides with intervals/repeats, 9 Hammers “no bullshit” video is for you! It's an incredible workout and a lot of fun. Enhance it with basic stretching and electrolytes and you have a complete work out to be proud of!

Take the plunge and chew on that stem. Personal records are achieved in the winter and The Sufferfest will help make that happen! All of their videos are great...
check them out, you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nixon's Nuggets: Tubulars vs. Clinchers

Stewart Nixon (Colorado) is a recurring columnist on the Triple Threat blog. He's been a triathlete for 25+ years, and has a ton of knowledge on the sport. Here he breaks down a difficult question many triathletes face: "should I go with tubular or clincher wheels??"

I remember the first time I got a “real” bike and the exhilarating feeling of riding it. It was light, (compared to my previous single speed Schwinn), sleek, had lots of gears and the tires were really skinny and fast. I was in love. Fast forward about 10 years, my second season racing triathlons. A cycling friend convinced me to build a set of dedicated, lightweight racing wheels. Mavic 531 hubs slotted by hand with DT bladed spokes laced to Matrix ISO T rims. The “T” stood for tubular; my first foray into “real” wheels. Once they were done and tires mounted, I took them for a test spin. A familiar feeling came over me as I rode around an empty parking lot on my new wheels. It was that same exhilarating feeling I experienced 10 years earlier on my first “real” bike. I was in love, again. And I haven’t ridden clinchers since then. All of my road/TT bikes, all five of them, have tubular wheels.

Tubulars or clinchers, which is better? This is an age old question almost as old as the bike itself. For a long, long time, the answer was simple; if you wanted to ride fast, you rode tubulars. After all, they were the wheel of choice of all professional riders.

tubular rim
Tubular rims required a little less material to manufacture than clinchers, so they were lighter. Most tubular tires were made from superior materials than clinchers, often using latex tubes instead of butyl, which made them lighter also. Since you mounted the tire directly to the rim, there were no pinch flats. Tubular tires often could hold a much high PSI than clinchers with no fear of them blowing off the rim. This higher PSI rating also meant lower rolling resistance. And they just felt darn FAST! The one downside was the gluing process. It was (and still is) messy and can take a while to set up a fresh pair of tires onto tubular rims. Then there was the big question, how much glue to use? Use too much and you could be stuck for quite some time if you flatted while you wrestled the tire off the rim. Use too little and you could roll a tire off the rim (I’ve seen that happen and it ain’t pretty).
clincher rim

Over the years, clincher technology closed the gap both with regard to rims and tires. Carbon rims seemed to be a major game changer, giving tubulars the advantage as the whole rim could be made from carbon, even the braking surface. All carbon clinchers had an aluminum braking surface until 2010 when Zipp debuted the first full carbon clincher rim. So performance wise, the differences are almost negligible now.

Which is best for you? I think it all boils down to two things: your mechanical abilities (read flat changing capabilities) and money. Carbon clincher wheelsets are a little more expensive that the same tubular wheelset. You then need to factor in tires and tubes. Typically, a high quality tubular racing tire is more expensive that similar quality clinchers. And clincher choices are more available at your LBS than tubulars. The initial tire mounting process for clinchers is a bit easier and less time consuming than for tubulars. If you do decide on tubulars, you are better served to learn how to glue tires yourself rather than leaving it up to your trusted mechanic. The benefit is two-fold; you’ll know how much glue you used to mount it so you’ll know the force required to take the tire off in the case of a flat and you’ll get practice mounting the tire which will help you when you have to mount a new tire after a flat. Then there is the tire changing process in the event of a flat to consider. Many feel, myself included, that changing a tubular is easier and faster than changing a tube on a clincher. Either way, practice is the key to changing a flat quickly. But with the advent of preventative tire sealant technology, unless someone litters the race course with tacks, you can pretty much sail along without worry. Finally, there is the “feel” factor. Which one feels fast to you? For me, tubulars will always win this battle.

Nixon's Nuggets of Knowledge - Archives:

Nixon's Nuggets - Indoor Trainers... A Pain Cave Necessity

Friday, January 9, 2015

Vote Noland 4 Oklahoma!

Had to share this... while Micah Noland was waiting to hear if he'd been selected for our national team, he happened to fill his 6th graders in on what was going on. Needless to say, they went the extra mile in support of their teacher (all their idea according to Noland)... if there was ever a doubt, this definitely sealed the deal!