Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Search & Rescue Mission: Triathletes MIA

I’m not pretending to have invented triathlon or anything (according to some historians that would be one Stewart Nixon), but I was slightly ahead of the curve in discovering it. When I saw that lonely flyer at the gym back in 2003, my thought wasn’t “oh yeah, these things are all the rage, everybody’s doing them.” In fact, I didn’t know anyone who had done a triathlon. It was more, “that looks fun. I’ll try that.”

That first race was the epitome of grassroots. Maaaybe 50 people. No transition zone, just lean your borrowed mountain bike against a spot on the fence. No helmet? (I forgot mine) no problem… just be careful out there, and go get’em!

Over the next couple years something strange happened… a tidal wave of people hopped on the triathlon bandwagon, and races started cropping up everywhere. It was a real phenomenon. Unlike the hipster who’s ticked off when “his” or “her” band goes mainstream, I thought it was great. I moved to Milwaukee in 2005, and despite the cold winters I found a vibrant triathlon scene, largely driven by the establishment of Ironman Wisconsin a few years prior.

I moved to Salt Lake City in late 2010, and after a visit to trifind.com I was blown away by the number of races… I was in a local tri shop one day (no longer in operation, a bad sign...) and happened to mention that, and the guys at the shop agreed. Oversaturation.

I’ve been hearing rumblings over the past couple years about race participation at “local” races being down, at least here in the US. Some states seem to be more impacted than others, but it’s definitely a general trend.

I looked at the # of participants from a few races on my local scene as a small sample (note: I've updated this small sample size for 2015, and hopefully it's a sign that triathlon is on the rebound):

Salem Spring (Sprint) 2006:   571
Salem Spring (Sprint) 2011:   308
Salem Spring (Sprint) 2014:   262

Salem Spring (Sprint) 2015:   261

Escape From Black Ridge 2011:   331
Escape From Black Ridge 2014:   211 

Escape From Black Ridge 2015:   229

The Utah Half 2011:   360
The Utah Half 2014:   232

The Utah Half 2015:   304

I’ve raced a lot since moving here, and my opinion is that the race directors do a terrific job. In addition, we have breathtaking race venues. It seems like the quality and depth towards the top of the field is very strong. For some reason, it’s largely beginners & let's say middle of the packers who have come and gone.

So why??

Well, here are a few theories:

Supply & Demand

The increase in races was a legitimate argument that held water in the past. Going back a decade, many states only had a few races to choose from. Supply ramped up quickly, however, over a short period of time. More options meant lower participation at any given race.

That said, the once oversaturated market, at least in my neck of the woods, has scaled back. The number of races has actually come down. I was signed up for the Battle at Midway in 2012, with a run course on the Winter Olympic cross country ski course at Soldier Hollow. I was stoked for it, only to receive a refund check in the mail shortly before. Four other sprint/olympic races off the top of my head are no longer around, and there are probably other more rinky dink ones I’m not aware of.

Although a bummer, I think this is a good thing that will stabilize and bolster participation at the more well-known races going forward. But we haven’t really seen that yet, so what else could it be?

Movin’ On Up

Another theory is that some people enter the sport at the sprint level, then “graduate” to the olympic, then on to focus more exclusively on 70.3 and full Ironman distances. Instead of doing several local races, they focus on maybe 1-3 big IM branded races each year, in part because they’re perceived as more prestigious. There may be some truth to this, as Ironman races continue to do very well. On average, IM races aren’t selling out as fast as they used to, but they’re generally still filling up. The competition at the IM branded races is fierce… there’s certainly no shortage of talent. Once someone’s dropped a hefty race entry fee on an IM branded race, they’re probably less likely to race as much locally. I was a culprit of this myself in 2014, racing St. George and Boise 70.3, with fewer local races. I made up for it a bit in 2015 with several local races and only one WTC branded race. Which leads me to….


I paid my dues on a “commuter bike” with clip-on aerobars for a few years before getting a clearance deal on a Felt B16. My first wetsuit was an ebay buy, and after getting stolen at a race, my 2nd was a demo suit bought at a huge discount. Other gear was bought used or was received as gifts. Triathlon doesn’t have to be expensive, but it easily can be. There’s definitely some sticker shock with race entries (almost $700 for an Ironman??) and to a lesser degree also with local races. Certainly some people have done a triathlon or two and then chosen to spend their money elsewhere. That’s totally fair... we all know the economy was in the toilet for multiple years. I do wish sometimes that there were no medals, no race shirts, etc. at races… just racing. Virtually every shirt I own is a race shirt, and after an investigative study last year I found that most were unwearable in public. My wife and I hang medals in the pain cave just for fun, cause we don’t know what else to do with them. I’d be all for lower prices for “no frills” races. More bang for your buck. But maybe I’m in the minority on that… especially when talking about beginners, that may be what they want the most. They just don’t want a lot of them, I suppose.


Lots of things ebb and flow, get hot, then cool off. I’m sure the triathlon community has “lost” some people to hotter trends, whether it be CrossFit, Spartan races, Dirty Dashes, or dare I say Color Runs. There’s a segment of the population that likes to dabble with new things, which is totally fine. Completing a triathlon is also a “bucket list” item for many people. I know a few people who have set out to complete an Ironman, and signed up for a few local races as checkpoints along the way. Once they crossed that finish line they were done, seldom if ever to swim, bike, or run again! I love a lot of sports, but I’m wired to try to keep improving and not bounce around too much from one craze to the next.

you're gonna get hop ons
It’s Tough

It takes a lot of focus to be consistent with training, and I’m sure many people simply fall off, whether they intended to or not. They may train for a stretch, do a couple races, then take a year or two off, only to repeat down the road. Again, I get it.

In conclusion, each of these theories most likely plays a role in participation being down. On a positive note, however, the quality of racing and the fun of it is as strong as ever, in my state and across the world. Those on the periphery will come and go, but just like Jeff Kirkland, the core is incredibly strong. Participation may fluctuate in the short term, but I'm confident will continue to trend upward with time.

A key part of Triple Threat Triathlon’s mission statement is to be ambassadors of the sport. Hopefully triathletes everywhere can play a role in encouraging and supporting others to live an active lifestyle.

Training for that local sprint is a great place to start!

caught one!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stryd Review - Running With Power

Professional triathlete and Triple Threat Triathlon friend Guilherme Ferreira Campos has the green light to contribute content whenever he wants... he's wicked fast, very knowledgable, and his reviews are among the most popular posts in our 3+ year history. Here he gives some insight into Stryd: the world's first running power meter. Thanks, G!

Hi friends of Triple Threat Triathlon! It’s always a pleasure to write here and be in touch with you guys!

A couple of years ago I introduced power into my training routine trough cycling. It helped me in many different ways, and when I recently saw the chance to incorporate power to my running as well I got immediately excited about it!

Although the concept is slightly different when we compare power in cycling vs. running, the idea of having a “raw” number I could trust and also correlate to heart rate and pace (the 2 numbers runners use to pace themselves) was a no brainer to start using Stryd right away. Power is a consistent number and it’s not directly interfered with by terrain, wind or climate conditions (heat, humidity etc.) so you can base your training and racing with reliability around it.

In cycling when you read power, the faster or harder you go, more watts you will see. Simple as that! With running your watts also “quantify” your level of effort (easy, moderate or hard) but it can also be used to work on your running form and efficiency. That being said, that’s the main reason anyone could incorporate Stryd to their training whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran runner/triathlete.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the device itself. Stryd is very easy and simple to use as soon as you take it out from the box. It works with any ant+ gps device many athletes already use for running such as the Suunto Ambit 3 or any Garmin XT series watch, and you “plug” the Stryd device on your heart rate strap. The device is light and slick and uses a regular 2032 coin battery that can be easily replaced when necessary.

Check out Stryd.com/support to learn how to pair Stryd with your gps watch, access the Stryd power center, get information about the Critical Power Test, the Stryd Power Center for workout data and much more!

Once you’re all set up Stryd suggests you find what's called your Critical Power. The test can be done by anyone at your local track and you will need to download the Stryd app (versions for both Android and IOS) and use one of those fitness bands to carry your phone while doing the test. The Stryd phone app “guides” you through the test protocol, and by the end it will not only tell you your Critical Power, but it will determine your power zones as well. Once you know your zones you’re ready to start using it for your recovery runs, intervals, hill reps and play with those numbers!

Science backs up more and more the use of tech tools for sports science and Stryd is definitely a game changer for the running community!

Stryd understands that many questions can come to your mind along the way and they’re always keen to help and give the best possible answers!

You can use the Stryd Club, which is a discussion forum where you have access to a huge data bank about questions and answers from other users and the Stryd staff! You can also join the Stryd Community, a Facebook page dedicated to Stryd users where you all can ask questions and share your experience running with power! That’s a great way not only to get more knowledge but also to get involved with other runners who are using power as well.

It was really cool to get the chance to talk about Stryd here at the Triple Threat Triathlon blog and if you want to follow me go to my Facebook profile and Athlete page.

See you all out there!


Learn more at Stryd.com!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ironman Winter Motivation!

In my neck of the woods it's cold and snowy... in order to get properly amped for my run in the dark, I sought out a little motivation. Thought I'd share with you all in case it helps get you out the door as well!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Killer Value Award: Interview with XX2i Optics

XX2i Optics is a relatively new company that has developed a strong following in the triathlon and running communities, among other sports. Founder & CEO Paul Craig was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us to talk about this exciting new brand.

What’s the history of the XX2i Optics brand?

We saw an opportunity in the market to create a brand of sunglasses that over-delivers at a very modest price. As such, XX2i Optics was launched two years ago, and we believe it is absolutely the best value you can find in our industry.

What’s the story behind the XX2i Optics name?

XX2i is simply a play on words, where “XX2” refers to 20/20 vision, and “i” refers to “eye.” Besides that, we thought it was a unique, cool name that would stand out and catch people’s attention.

How would you describe your role with regards to XX2i Optics?

From a legal perspective, I’m the founder & CEO of RACE (Running and Cycling Enterprises), which owns XX2i Optics. My role is to set the strategy & culture of XX2i Optics as the premier value brand of sunglasses. Solving problems is core to us, and I love working with our people and our customers… we really strive to go the extra mile.

What differentiates XX2i Optics from the competition?

As previously stated, the main point of differentiation is what you get with XX2i Optics for what you pay. For example, XX2i Optics sunglasses come with additional nose and temple pieces (and a small screw driver), in addition to multiple lens options, providing a wide range of customization options. They come in a nice case, and the lens cloth included is truly one of the best around. Our polarized lenses are unbelievable, and also offered as “readers” that magnify the lower portion of the lens for those who need it. That way when you’re looking down while running or riding, you can actually read your Garmin!

Our warranty and service sets us apart as well. For example, XX2i Optics has a bumper to bumper lifetime warranty, no questions asked!

What is your favorite XX2i Optics style?

I’m super excited about the France2. Maybe I’m biased, but it fits me like a glove! My wife is a triathlete herself, and she prefers the France1.

What awards has XX2i Optics won?

XX2i Optics has only been around for two years, but is already receiving accolades. The brand was awarded Gear Institute’s “Best Value” award, as well as Outside magazine’s “Killer Value” award. We’re proud to have been recognized by these publications for what we set out to do in the first place… create the best value in the industry.

What are you most proud of with the company?

I’m most proud of the way we’ve delivered on our objective to create a tremendous value brand in XX2i Optics. It’s been wonderful to watch the brand develop the following it has.

Learn more at XX2i.com

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Under Armour You VS. the Year Challenge

Team sponsor Under Armour has asked us to do our part in spreading the word about a great challenge for 2016: You Vs. the Year. The objective is simple: run 1,000 km (or precisely 621.37 miles) in 2016. This translates to 19 km (or just shy of 12 miles) per week.

If you're starting now from scratch, it's not too late! Three weeks into the new year, you'll need to average 12.7 miles/week to get the job done.

Check out the official site to register, learn about prizes, and more!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Top 10 Signs of a Triathlete Parent

In honor of David Fernandez (Florida) & Jeff Kirkland (Oregon) who recently welcomed children into the world!

Top 10 Signs of a Triathlete Parent

10) Pull buoy riddled with teeth marks

9) Aero helmet been worn more times as a “jousting knight” costume than actual races

8) The significance of the numbers 2.4, 112, and 26.2 mastered before multiplication tables

7) IronKids t-shirts heavily featured in wardrobe rotation

6) Routinely find toys hidden in pockets of bike jersey

these bad boys give me the energy I need to skateboard home from school

5) Generally accepted that mom will eventually return after she emerges from water only to suddenly leave us in the lurch

4) A 90-min bike ride takes exactly 90 min… not a minute wasted

3) Mutual respect in that mom and dad have “swimming lessons” (masters) on various mornings just like they do

2) Clif "Z Bars” (marketed to kids) routinely appear in workplace lunch – hey, they taste great, what can I say?

1) Daughter has mastered flying dismount off pink Barbie bike

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rudy Project Wingspan Review - Time For An Upgrade? Part II

As was explained in the Rudy Project Airstorm review, I have a tendency to follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. That review highlighted my 235K mile, 1995 Honda Accord with busted AC and no functional radio. I was reluctantly forced to part ways with that car a few months ago, after multiple failed safety tests that would’ve cost more to fix than it was worth. In addition to this car example, any new clothes I get are either gifts or race t-shirts, my “smart phone” has been reduced to a complete idiot, and I’ve had the same toothbrush since 2006. Ok, that last one is still a lie, but you get the idea.

For the Airstorm review I used an analogy of the previously mentioned ’95 Accord, and how I came to discover it was probably time for an upgrade. Along the same lines, I’d like to walk through the evidence I’ve gathered that has convinced me I need to replace my idiot phone as well. Truly a first-world problem!

Exhibit A

The first sign I had that my phone was becoming obsolete was when I entered an AT&T store looking for a new cover, only to be told that they no longer carried them for my phone. This was a few years ago, and it was a little surprising at the time. In hindsight it was my first inkling that technology had passed me by.

Exhibit B

Between email, basic Facebook stuff and texting, I’m on my phone a fair amount already. That said, I can’t open a single other website and have it look right. For example, a few weeks ago I tried five different sites, just trying to get the score of the Steelers game… finally on the last one I was able to see some numbers, even if the site was otherwise completely jumbled.

Exhibit C

Here’s how I currently post a picture to our team's Facebook page:

1) Take a picture with my phone
2) Text it to my wife
3) Convince her to email the picture to my gmail account
4) Open gmail on our laptop
5) Save picture to desktop
6) Post to Facebook

It has come to my attention that the process has been streamlined a bit.

Exhibit D

No ability to take a decent selfie! How do I live!?!?

Exhibit E

My downloaded apps consist of one called "guitar tuner" that I’ve used once in 5 years.

Exhibit F

My library of games consists of mini golf and “Harbor Master.” (I will say both are decently entertaining when I’m bored out of my mind).

Exhibit G

Emojis texted to me come thru as [] [] [] ... I can't tell if someone's giving me a thumbs up or flipping me the bird!

Exhibit H

No Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Exhibit I for Ironman!

The straw that brakes the camel’s back: I can’t track Ironman-racing friends & teammates on race day on my phone!!

While I'm pathetically slow with technology upgrades, one upgrade I pounced on this past year was from my circa 2008 Giro to a Rudy Project Wingspan aero helmet. I liken my old one to the phone I've been hanging onto, while the Wingspan is akin to a tried and true, mainstream iPhone.

Here are the key differences from directly comparing the Wingspan to my previous aero helmet:

Ear Flaps: the ear flaps on my old one were flimsy and brittle... in other words, they cracked!!! Every time I put the old helmet on I swear I cracked them more. They were hanging on by duct tape and bubble gum. No such problems with the Wingspan.

Overall Quality: The Wingspan is much more solidly made. Holding both side by side, it's not even close.

Ventilation: a huge front vent & 4 massive rear vents as opposed to a few tiny front vents and zero rear vents. The Wingspan also comes with vent covers that can be used depending on race distance and conditions.

Looks: look fast, feel fast!

Adjustability: there's a dial on the back that makes for an extremely comfortable fit, easy to adjust on the fly. My old helmet was much more difficult to tinker with.

Shorter Aero "Tail": t
he Wingspan was engineered by aerodynamics legend John Cobb, and the Wingspan's aero tail is right in the sweet spot... not too long and not too short. Wind tunnel studies repeatedly show benefits of the aero tail. That said, too long of a tail is detrimental, especially given how many triathletes realistically ride on race day (for example putting your head down when tired causes significant drag). 

Comfort: Just a better feel overall. Seemingly small details like a small pad on the chinstrap make a big difference.

Weight: 310g vs. 437g

Although not as BEAST MODE as Rudy Project’s Wing57, its sibling, the Wingspan is a proven, reliable, high-quality aero helmet. The Wingspan has played a huge role in Rudy Project's dominance of the prestigious Kona Count over the past 5 years. At the 2015 Ironman World Championships, for example, 639 of the world's most elite triathletes chose Rudy, smoking the competition by several hundred.

So, if your race helmet has the tail of a snow leopard, holds heat like an oven, or has ear flaps flimsier than a house of sticks, it could be time for an upgrade yourself.

Check out the Wingspan and the entire Rudy Project arsenal at e-rudy.com! Being the offseason, there are some incredible deals to be had right now.

ps. the deed has been done. Samsung Galaxy S6... now I just need to learn how to use this thing!

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