Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Magnificent Kelly Williamson

Kelly Williamson has been a professional triathlete since 2002, competing in draft-legal, ITU races before shifting to long course in 2006. The move turned out to be a good one, as she’s been among the best in the business for the past few years. Last year Kelly was the US champion for the 70.3 distance and placed 2nd at the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas. She’s followed that up with several podium finishes already this year, including an epic, come from behind victory this past weekend at the inaugural Rev3 Williamsburg Half in Virginia.

Kelly is an Indiana native (she grew up an hour from my hometown) and swam collegiately for the University of Illinois. She now calls Austin, TX home, where she lives with her husband, Derick, dog Amico, and obese cat Corgi.

Do you feel that a swimming background vs. run or bike provides advantages? Additionally, many swimmers struggle on dry land but you’ve become one of the most feared runners in the sport. What’s your secret?

I think that growing up a swimmer, you learn a lot of discipline and you also gain a ton of basic physical endurance and strength. Not to say cycling and running don’t teach these things, but swimming is a pretty individual sport growing up and requires long and somewhat repetitive hours staring at a black line; if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll likely quit; and I did it from age 5-22. Swimming taught me the basic values of dedication, hard work and realizing the importance of doing something because you love it, not for the glory. And you are right; swimmers usually despise running! But I have always loved to run. I played soccer when I was young as well; I couldn’t stand to be in or near the goal because I’d get bored! I can’t say I have any real ‘secrets’ with running, just that when I took it up in high school (track, I actually ran the 400) it seemed to be something that I picked up readily and once I finished collegiate swimming, it was something I enjoyed and seemed to come fairly naturally to me. So the run has just gotten progressively a little faster over time, since picking up triathlon (as a pro) in 2002. Of course having a husband (and coach) who was a very good collegiate runner himself likely hasn’t hurt either.

What was the turning point for you, when you felt you had ‘arrived’ and could compete with anyone, and to what do you attribute your breakthrough the past few years?

I feel like 2010 was a big year for me, getting 2nd at Rev 3 Quassy and then following it up with my first Ironman (Coeur d’Alene) placing 3rd in a 9:39. I don’t know if I felt I had ‘arrived’ at that point, but it showed me that after 8 years of doing this sport, I was finally becoming a real contender at the longer distances; something I really wanted to do. I dabbled with ITU in the beginning but was never crazy about it; growing up as a kid I always said “I’ll do it myself”… ITU didn’t feel like a solo effort. I wanted to know from start to finish, it was my swim/bike/run that produced the result, not a product of drafting etc (though I admit ITU is an amazing and very respectful form of racing in its own right; just wasn’t my thing). After racing Kona in 2010 and gaining my first few 70.3 wins, I think it set me up with confidence going into 2011 and things just rolled along well from there into 2012. As for a breakthrough, I feel that stepping up to the longer distances (and the training it required) made me much stronger all-around, but really I feel like my progress was so stair-step each year that the breakthrough would happen eventually if I just kept chipping away. I also have to say the environment in Austin (we moved there in 2006) is incredible to be successful; great support from folks at Jack & Adams, ongoing support from my husband Derick, and awesome training grounds. Sure it’s hot but I think that has made me much stronger and tougher in these conditions. I feel like sometimes you have to just keep your nose to the grindstone, not look for any shortcuts, and keep things simple and progressive; and if you’re meant to be successful, you will; it just may take awhile; and patience is key in this process.

Did your 2012 success give you a boost of confidence for 2013 or has it raised expectations in a stressful way?

2012 was definitely a year that was very good to me; and I have so much to be thankful for. And of course when you win consistently and start to perform to what you feel you’ve always been capable of, it is going to raise the bar for yourself; you want to keep doing that, all the time! But that’s not realistic and it’s not life and I know that. It definitely gave me confidence in that it made me realize this is what I was meant to be doing…that finally, after so many years, I was able to truly make a career as a professional athlete. Success breeds confidence. But the real test comes when you stumble a bit and have to get back up. I feel like I have had a bit of that this season. Nothing catastrophic by any sense, just haven’t found that flow that I seemed to have in 2012. I think when this happens it makes you truly dig deep and find out how badly you want it, and in the big picture it makes you a stronger athlete all around. Nobody can be on top all the time, and if/when I do feel pressure to perform (or win) I remind myself that I know I’ll go out there and do my absolute best; and that’s all I can do. It helps me ease up on myself and just go race.

For the first year in a while, in 2013 you don’t have any full Ironmans on your schedule. What led to this shift and what are your “A” races for this year?

Yeah after Kona in 2012, I just felt a little demoralized…I had put together my best season to date yet got it handed to me in Kona. In hindsight I may have been a bit tired, but I stepped back and realized that I felt I needed a break from it and I also needed to have more confidence in my cycling to go there and truly feel I could be a factor. I didn’t want to keep going back to Kona to get 15th place; but go there when I believed I was capable of being within the Top 5. I also love going fast and I know that I won’t have that speed forever. So I stepped back and decided to focus on 70.3’s, HyVee and some Rev 3 events. There are so many series to choose from now that as a professional, trying to make a living, there is some strategy involved with planning a race schedule. That said I may do a late season Ironman (or early 2014 IM) if I decide to pursue Kona next year.

Can you summarize Rev 3 Quassy? What makes Rev 3 unique and how does it compare to Ironman races?

Quassy has developed a reputation as an extremely tough course with a great payout for pros, which always draws a very competitive field. It’s located in green, hilly, quaint Connecticut and the course doesn’t change much each year (if at all)…so it is a nice race to go back repeatedly and see how you measure up each season. You are hard pressed to find any half ironmans that pay as deep as this one does. Rev 3 vs. Ironman…I personally love them both for different reasons. You get a bit more of a laid back feel with Rev 3, but they still draw competitive fields and pay great so as a pro it is a win-win situation; a change of ‘feel’ but with the same level of professionalism. Ironman races are a bit more consistent across the board, and in general draw some more attention on the big scale, which I love as well; a bit more ‘tension’ sometimes on the start line…again both have positives…but I do love the laid back, grassroots vibe that Rev 3 provides.

If you could only choose one, would you say your improvements on the bike have come from long/volume rides or short intensity work?

That’s a trick question :) I think the cycling finally started to come around in 2010 when I was ‘forced’ to spend over 4 hours on a bike training for Ironman (because who in their right mind would do so if they didn’t have to?!). I’d not say ‘volume’ so much but simply those rides of 90-110 miles were a huge new stimulus to me and I think they made me stronger. That said, I train religiously with an SRM power meter and I’ve been known to do 3-4 hour trainer rides with 1.5-3 hours of interval work in there…so while that is not high intensity, it is focused sustained efforts and we (my husband/coach Derick and I) both see a lot of value in intervals on the bike mixed with long endurance rides. Little of both.

From your blog I read you were frustrated with your result at St. Anthony’s and were fully convinced you would skip St. George. To quote “I was so tired of feeling awful on the bike, with pain in my quads, I didn’t see the need to go to a huge caliber event feeling my form was lacking almost as if I knew what the outcome would be.” To what do you attribute bouncing back so well, & how do you compare St. George to Vegas?
Thank you for doing your homework! You’re correct, I wanted to pull out to spare myself a bit. I talked with my husband and he helped me realize I was not injured, nor sick…healthy as could be…just frustrated…so what good would come of ‘not racing’? And he was totally right. I did make a slight bike position change in raising up my saddle, so that may have helped a bit; but more so I did a huge ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’, stop feeling sorry for yourself and go do what you love with all you’ve got. I had trained in St. George and I was so excited for the course. It was one of those challenges you have when you have to put the past behind you and focus on the positives. I was proud of how I came back and while 5th at US Champs was not a win this year, to me it was a great race. As for how it compares to Vegas, well in some ways…swims are both in pretty flat water (though St. George can be choppy) but you’ll likely be non-wetsuit in Vegas and wetsuit swim in St. George. The bike is definitely fairly similar with some fast flats but also big challenging climbs. As for the run, I don’t think you could find two courses more similar; both of them contain long ups and long downs, both of which can really destroy your legs and make for an extremely tough (and potentially hot) run course.

Speaking of Vegas, what are your thoughts on the recent announcement that 70.3 Worlds will rotate internationally?

As much as I love the Vegas setup for my strengths, I do think it is good to see a World Championship course rotate venues. It only makes sense as it allows for a truly fair playing field, especially when it maintains the basics of being challenging and a hilly bike course to ensure that the packs get broken up a bit. So of course I’d love to see it stay in Vegas for years to come but in the big picture, I think it is best for the sport that is changes venues every few years.
From the pros I met at St. George, including yourself, I was blown away at how nice and down to earth you all were. On that note, it seems to me from afar that most of the pros are very friendly with one another. Is this true or is the competition/rivalries among the female pros much more fierce below the surface?

Well thank you for the nice words. I love to interact with age groupers (Q&A’s etc) and to me that is the most simple and ‘real’ way to give back to the sport as we have all been at that point prior to where we are now. None of us (well most of us) did not get to where we are overnight. As for rivalries etc., I know that I have a lot of respect for the fellow pro women that I toe the line with. Many of them I know, some better than others; but bottom line is that we are all out there to do our best and each and every one of us wants to win. I guess I see it like this. Before and after the race, I like to chat with the women, interact, get to know them, try to maintain a laid back vibe, etc…but I think most all of us have a pretty intense game face (I know I do!) yet that is just how we do our job. I would never want to win at the expense of seeing someone else falter; rather we all get out there and give it everything we’ve got. I think seeing that we all have ups and downs makes us all that much more human; and to be honest, we can all relate to those ups and downs; and it makes it easy to truly be happy for these fellow pro ladies when they do well. We are all fierce competitors, but I’d like to think that at the end of the day we can all shake one another’s hands and be happy for the others.

Among these options, how would you divvy up credit (100%) for a race gone extremely well? For these purposes let’s qualify that as being on the podium.
Coaching: 12%

Natural Ability: 8%

Equipment: 5%

Luck/Feeling Great on the Day: 10%

Mental Toughness: 30%

Race Strategies/Tactics: 15%

Training: 20%

Who’s the better athlete, Amico or Corgi? (fyi I’m told Corgi weighs 25 lbs/11kg)

Ha! Oh well they are both quite athletic you know. I like to tell people Corgi isn’t fat, he’s ‘strong’ :) We are convinced Amico is part Dingo and part Heeler; so he never runs out of energy, but he likes the colder weather; he can go forever; he just needs his chuckit and a river to play in. He loves when we head to Salida, CO in the summer. If Corgi were a football player, he’d be a linebacker. If he were another animal, he’d be a raccoon. In reality, Corgi is just a big loveable snuggly fatass of a cat.

Follow Kelly via Twitter handle @khwilliamson and check out her site!

Kelly is one popular girl!  Supporting in her success are the following sponsors:
Go With The Flo     
The Westin Las Vegas

who you callin' fat??

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Over the weekend I participated in the 10th annual running of Ragnar Wasatch Back. This was the original Ragnar course, which has now expanded to 21 total and counting. If you’re unfamiliar with Ragnar, it’s a relay in which teams of 12 people (and some of only 6) run day and night to cover ~200 miles. The Wasatch Back course is stunningly beautiful, and the whole event is a blast.

My team, “Boom Shakalaka,” consisted of my wife and some friends from our neighborhood. The vast majority of teams do the best they can, but the focus is more on the experience and less about competing for time or placement. That said, I wanted to use this as a measuring stick and test my fitness a bit. In place of writing a book about the entire experience, here’s a quick recap:

My first run was early Friday morning, just under 7 miles on pretty much flat terrain. I was in “van 1,” which meant I would avoid running through the middle of the night. Many of the legs have killer climbs and/or descents, but since my first two were pretty much flat I had decided to push the pace. Eventually I was passed the “baton,” (Ragnar uses slap bracelets) and after going through the first mile in 7:10, I figured I’d hold that pace throughout. It was mildly painful but nothing too crazy.

7:11 pace
avg hr 157
My second run was in the late afternoon, 5 miles through a beautiful mountain town. My legs were a little tight, but I set out wanting to at least hold the same pace from my first run. If I was feeling good, the goal would be to step that up a notch and break 35 minutes. I somewhat uncomfortably went through the first mile in 7:05, and thought I’d just let it slide back to ~7:10. I could hear a guy coming up on me, and I figured the pass was imminent. About this time the guy’s support crew, rolling up in a van self-labeled the “P****WAGON” called out to him “come on you’ve got an easy kill here.” To backtrack a tad, in Ragnar speak passing someone is referred to as a “kill.” Lots of vans half-heartedly track kills, at least in the beginning, with some tally marks on their windows. Some of the douchier teams track kills religiously from start to finish. Anyways, this little comment got my competitive juices flowing a bit, so I decided to pull away. From that moment I also had the Rage Against the Machine cover of “how I could just kill a man” in my head (in a harmless Ragnar-type of way, of course :)

“Cuz I’m like an outlaw stridin, runners are hidin,
Jump behind a bush when my support van comes flyin by, h
anging out the window, and my asics gonna take you out now

Here is somethin you can’t understand
How at Ragnar I could just… kill a man!”

My legs felt great, even better than my first run, and the effort from a heart rate perspective was only slightly harder.
6:57 pace
avg hr 159

After we eventually passed the baton back to van 2, we drove up ahead and attempted to sleep at a local high school. None of the options were very appealing: A) outside in the grass on what was promising to be a chilly night  B) inside on wrestling mats on the gym floor with hundreds of people packed in, concentration camp style C) the van. One guy chose A, my wife chose B, and the remaining four of us went with C. It was tough to get comfortable, but I caught 2-3 hours of decent sleep before we received the call from van 2 around 4:00 telling us it was time to rise and shine.

My third and final run was an 8 miler with some big hills. Since I started before 6:30, I was required to rock a reflective vest and head lamp for the first few miles. My legs felt heavy, similar to the final miles of a tri, but the scenery was amazing and I enjoyed it. I decided to not try to be a hero on this one, but it still hurt in its own way.

avg hr 130’s
8:51 pace
In summary, there’s probably a Ragnar event near you. Find 11 (or 5) friends and go for it… it’s a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brian Babcock Rode the Rockies

Triple Threat team member Brian Babcock recently conquered Colorado’s “Ride the Rockies” Bike Tour, covering 556 miles, climbing over 25,000 feet, and burning 23,000 calories over a 7-day span. After giving him a couple days to recover, I tracked him down to learn about this epic experience.

What’s the history of Ride the Rockies and how long had you been aware of it?

Ride the Rockies is a week-long ride that began 28 years ago. I first became aware of it when some of my dad’s friends did it when I was in middle school, and I’ve had my eye on it for a few years now. The race is capped at 2,000 riders selected through a lottery system, and thankfully I got in.

What was the typical day’s schedule?

I’d wake up in the middle of the night, toss and turn for a while, then get up around 6 to strap on the spandex. Every day was a rolling start, and me and my buddy Brandon typically headed out around 7:30. Each day was ~ 4-5 hours of riding time, but we’d take our time at rest stops to load up on the smorgasbord of food available. In total it usually took 5-7 hours total time to get from one destination to the next. Lots of people camped, but we opted for the indoor arrangements (usually a high school gym), due to the cold temps at night. Each night we’d have a huge dinner, hit the sack and repeat.

How did you train for the event?

Rockwall (Texas) is actually pretty hilly... no long climbs, but some decent rollers. I put in ~1,300 miles of training since March, with my longest ride of 80 miles, and I’d always seek out as many hills as possible.

What were two highlights and lowlights of the week?

Highs – climbing over Wolf Creek Pass, the hardest and longest climb by far. It’s an “HC” classified climb, which is beyond your usual cat 1-5. Another highlight was riding with George Hincapie, recently retired pro and 17x Tour de France veteran, who joined the race for the first two days. I rode in a pack of about 40 riders led by him for 15 miles or so, which was awesome. Obviously finishing and seeing my family after a long week was the biggest highlight of all.

Lows – There weren’t any real lows on the ride… I enjoyed the whole thing. I guess I’d say the low points were tight quarters in the public showers and sleeping one night on high school wrestling mats. They were pretty nasty. 

Overall, was it harder or easier than you thought it would be?

A lot easier. Day 2 was the hardest day… only a 64 mi ride, but the first 50 were uphill.

Did you have a nutrition plan that you followed or just play it day by day?

I just played it day by day. I carried GU, Bonk Breakers, and fruit, and refueled at the rest stops. I drank Cytomax and water. I never felt hungry the entire week!

Can you comment on any performance-enhancing activities you may or may not have participated in during the week?

I can neither confirm nor deny that. I did take a lot of Advil PM to help me sleep.

What role did the “stache” play during the week? Was it a source of inspiration?

It was. It made me feel like I could conquer anything. It also inspired Brandon to grow out his beard a bit.

Did you mostly ride solo or in larger packs, and how hard did you push?

Mostly alone. I took my time at rest stops, but while riding I pushed hard, always between a 7–10 I’d say. My heart rate was typically in the 140-150’s.

What surprised you most from the experience?

There were a lot of older people out there, up into the 80’s for sure, and I tip my hat to them. At the other extreme there were a couple of 10 year olds that did it!

Were there any funny moments on the course or were you strictly business?

It was pretty much business, but definitely some good laughs. Topping out at 53 mph down the back side of Wolf Creek Pass I was slobbering out both sides of my mouth like a dog sticking his head out a car window. Good times.

Which animal most closely represented your general level of hygiene on day 7?  a) wild boar  b) muskrat  c) hyena  d) sasquatch

I would have to go sasquatch. Yep… definitely sasquatch.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Flat Attack: The Sequel

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently tried to educate myself a bit on the topic of flat tires. I thought I’d follow up my interview with Flat Attack by going over some of the basic things I’ve learned. Here are the main causes of flats and what you can do about them.

Puncture – this is the variety of flat most people think about first… essentially running over something sharp. You may or may not feel or hear anything, and air may leak all at once or very slowly. The main thing I’ve learned to help prevent this type of flat is to use a quality sealant like Flat Attack. It only adds a few ounces of weight, and is an inexpensive insurance policy against a thorn or piece of glass wrecking your day.

Pinch – a pinch, also known as a “snakebite”, occurs when the tube literally gets pinched between the tire and the rim of your wheel. I put new tires on my bike a couple weeks before IMSG 70.3, and for some reason I had a really tough time getting them on. I was grunting like an Olympic power lifter, and my fingers were blistering up by the time I got the suckers on. A small part of the tube was jutting out of the tire, and I had to massage it back inside with a tire lever. My theory is that unbeknownst to me a tiny piece of the tube was still slightly pinched in there. At mile 37 with the heat rising in St. George, it decided it had had enough. Further evidence of a pinch is a loud bang, like popping a balloon, which is what happened in my case. So… to avoid this I’ve learned two things: 1) after you change your tire, go around it and look carefully… if you squeeze the tire together and can see any tube at all, it’s pinched in there. Start over. 2) If you’re struggling to put on new tires (or changing an older one) sometimes it’s worth $5 to swallow your pride and have the kid at your local bike shop do it for you!

A pinch can also occur if you aren’t watching the road and hit a big pothole, train tracks, or something else really hard. You’re more likely to flat in this situation if your tires are under-inflated, so it’s good to pump them up before each ride (I pump mine to 110 psi on tires that have a max of 120).
Tires – an old, worn-out tire is more vulnerable to flatting. When in doubt put that thing on your trainer and get new ones for the great outdoors.

Rims – this isn’t an obvious one to beginners, but your rims can be really sneaky sometimes. Two years ago my wife flatted 4 times in a row attempting to pump up her tires in transition before her race. Some good samaritans gave her spare tubes, but she just kept inexplicably flatting. Eventually someone discovered a sharp edge on one of the rim holes that was poking through her rim tape. Thankfully a piece of electrical tape did the trick, and she was able to race. Afterwards she got a longer-term fix by having the rim tape replaced.

Check your rim tape every now and then to make sure it’s effectively covering all of your wheel’s rim holes, and replace the tape when it gets ragged. Another solution that I use (that the Flat Attack guys introduced me to), is a product called Veloplugs. Veloplugs were invented in Australia and are essentially a superior solution to rim tape. They’re lighter, make it easier to change your tire (eliminating rim tape creates more room in the rim well to work with), and once installed never need to be replaced. Regardless if you use rim tape or Veloplugs, take a gander at your rims every now and then.

Flatting is a part of cycling, but hopefully these tips will keep you riding more and muttering obscenities on the side of the road less!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Interview with Flat Attack

Studies have shown that approximately 0% of the earth's population enjoys getting a flat tire. Flats are merciless, playing no favorites and striking at anytime. At Kona last year, Sebastian Kienle was in a great position for the win until a flat threw a wrench in his plans and he ultimately finished 4th. A few years prior, Chrissie Wellington had a dominant lead when a flat (and botched attempt to fix it) cost her serious time. She still went on to win, because, well, she's Chrissie Wellington... but I'm sure it was stressful.

Although I had a blast with my own flat at a recent race, it motivated me to learn what (if anything) can be done to help prevent such fun from occurring again. One precaution within a triathlete's control is the use of tire sealant. A friend introduced me to a company called Flat Attack, based in Salt Lake City, that makes an incredible product now in my toolkit. A few days ago I had the chance to sit down with Steve Henich, owner of Flat Attack, to learn more about this company.

When was the concept of tire sealant invented and what’s the history of Flat Attack?

The tire sealant concept has existed in one form or another for at least 80 years, but it took a while to be brought to market. Believe it or not when I was a kid we’d put canned milk in our tubes. The milk would curdle into little balls that were effective against flats, but if you had a tire blow out, man did it stink!

Flat Attack, originally known as No Flats, began in 1982 as the first of a new generation of tire sealants. Slime, a competitor that some of your readers may be aware of, was started in 1989. Slime has been marketed well over time despite what I believe to be a very inferior product. Over the years dozens of other companies have tried different formulas and ideas. For example, some use latex, which has been found to dry quickly, making it useless after 2-3 months. Others use additives that cause tire rubber to rot over time.

To those unaware, what are the pros and cons (if any) of using tire sealant?

The "con," as with any sealant, is a small amount of added weight… 2-3 ounces per tube, with the weight spread evenly around the tire. If you had two identical wheels, one with Flat Attack and the other without, you’d have a really hard time telling which is which. 

Over the course of, let’s say, an Olympic distance bike (40k, ~25mi) how much time would be lost due to the added weight?

This depends on different variables, but we’re talking an impact of seconds. 

no one wants to be this guy
The "pro" is that it keeps you in the race! Instead of being stuck on the side of the road, you just keep rollin. For a long race such as LOTOJA, the time spent changing a flat isn’t a big deal. That said, at last year's race a farmer drove onto the course and scattered hundreds of “goat heads” (a common type of thorn). Everybody was flatting, and lots of guys ran out of tubes. So flats can definitely come into play for long rides... cyclists with Flat Attack in their tubes had a huge advantage. For a triathlon? Get a flat and most likely you just lost… especially for shorter distance events.

What makes Flat Attack unique?

Flat Attack is so easy to work with and it’s totally safe. There’s nothing toxic or dangerous about it, and it lasts for years. No other product on the market lasts like ours, and most are quite toxic. For example, one teaspoon of some of the other stuff could kill a small dog.

So why don’t competitors mimic Flat Attack, is the formula proprietary?

Others have tried to copy the formula, and some even have chemists on staff.. but they can’t get it to work like Flat Attack.

How do you apply it… is it complicated to use? Any tips?

The biggest issue is you need tubes that have a removable presta valve. Within the last few years this type of tube has become more and more common as sealant becomes more mainstream. All you do is unscrew the valve and apply the directed amount to the tube, then screw the valve back on. It’s really easy. (side note: they also sell "Freedom Tubes," which are tubes pre-injected with Flat Attack). As far as tips, the only thing is it’s better to have the valve in the upper half of the tire when pumping up and letting air out. That way gravity pulls the sealant to the bottom of the tube and no sealant can get in the valve stem.

Where do you sell Flat Attack sealant and Freedom Tubes?

On-line as well as lots of bike shops.

me holding a cluster of 5 "goat heads"
When do I need to re-apply or get a new tube?

Flat Attack seals puncture holes permanently, so hardly ever. The size of the hole is the only potential issue... a gash that's 1/4 of an inch or bigger, say from a big piece of glass, may require you to replace the tube.

Let’s say I hit one of those "goat heads," calling Flat Attack into action. What is the science behind it... how does it work?

When you begin pedaling, Flat Attack immediately starts coating the tube. The centrifugal forces cause a nice, even coat all around the tire. When something punctures the tube, air tries to escape from the hole, but in doing so it pulls sealant into the hole. The fibers in Flat Attack bind together and dry in the hole to form a permanent plug, similar to a clot.

The use of sealants is commonplace among mountain bikers, who ride bigger tires with less pressure. Is Flat Attack effective for road cyclists and triathletes riding with higher pressure, say a psi of 100-120?

Yes, it's very effective, but depends in part on the size of the hole. A while ago I hit a huge shard of glass that put a big gash in my tube. I could hear the sealant in action, but it probably took 3 revolutions of the wheel before it sealed. My tire was a bit mushier than I would have liked, but I was still able to continue on. Once I got home I checked and found that my psi was ~90-95. A little low, but still rideable. In that same example, less air would have escaped had I been riding a mountain bike.

On the other hand, for a thorn or other small puncture, the seal is immediate, with virtually no tire pressure lost. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to measure the loss... it's too fast! However, without sealant even that tiny thorn prick would have left you on the side of the road.

Will Flat Attack prevent all flats?

It can’t seal up a flat from an absolute tire blow out from a pinched tube or a faulty tire. As previously mentioned, some gashes are also too big to effectively seal. However, for run of the mill punctures (nails, bits of glass, etc.) it is very effective.

I didn’t know tire sealant existed until a year or so ago. Is educating people who are newer to cycling or triathlon a challenge?

The biggest hurdle we face is that people lump all tire sealant companies together and say 'sealants are crap' or 'sealants don’t work' when they haven’t used a good one. Overcoming that stigma is a big problem. We’re the oldest sealant company, but we're not the best known. Flat Attack is way better than the other stuff that’s out there, so we’re working to change the perception that all sealants are the same.

In summary, here's what writer Greg Kopecky had to say on the subject of tire sealants in May 2012:

"While it can’t guarantee you won’t puncture, it is cheap insurance that has a good chance of saving your race. At this time, it appears that the rolling resistance geeks are largely agnostic on the topic—there is no measurable change in Coefficient of Rolling Resistance (Crr). All it costs you is a little bit of weight. Weight that is, in my estimation, well worth carrying around.

The biggest piece of take-home advice I can give you is this: Something is better than nothing. In most every situation any sealant is better than no sealant. You can’t be sure it’ll seal, but why not take a shot? In my mind, sealant is one area of immense potential for future growth. The benefit from the fastest frame, wheels, helmet, and clothing can quickly go to waste if you’re on the side of the road fixing a flat at mile fifty."

Flat Attack

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Daybreak Race Report

Most race mornings any anxiety I feel is outweighed by excitement and feeling ready to go. For some reason Saturday I woke up to find those to be flipped. As I got ready I thought to myself “you gotta chill, man!” which made me think of the EPMD classic with a similar name. As evidenced by my Trash Talk post, I’m in a bit of an old school rap phase these days, so I promptly found it on YouTube as I made last minute preparations.

Following my debacle of a swim start at IMSG, I was motivated to get in the water plenty early. I set up transition and got a short warm-up jog in before making the ~10 min walk to the start with a friend who lives in my neighborhood. Eventually it was time to line up on the beach for the time trial start. I was maybe 30 people deep, but the line moved really quickly as a timing company guy with a computer methodically activated chip times and yelled “GO!” every 3-4 seconds. As I mentioned in my last post, this swim is pretty unique, as you make your way through various channels, under bridges, etc. There were only a couple of buoys, because for the most part you just followed the shape of the lake, like a maze with only one option. I started off fast and fought to hold the pace throughout. It definitely began to hurt towards the end, and felt good to touch sand on the north side of the lake. I waved at my son and daughter standing on the dock, and ran the 100 meters or so to the timing mat outside of T1 to lock in my split - 29:48 (44th/147).

I hopped on my bike and tried to be aggressive from the start. After the first mile or so there’s a long gradual climb before getting to bigger hills at the base of the Oquirrh Mountains. I tried to stay on the gas on the climbs, getting out of the saddle from time to time. Having flatted at my last race, I also watched the road like a hawk, avoiding potholes and anything shiny like the plague. The gradual climb at the beginning of the course turns into a nice downhill section on the way back where you pick up a lot of speed. As I made the turn onto this road, I noticed two trucks ahead of me attempting to forge their way through cyclists moving in both directions. The truck in front was being ultra-conservative, and by doing so both trucks were moving a lot slower than I was. In a split second I evaluated my options: A) slam on the brakes and putt along behind them for the next several minutes B) attempt to thread the needle on the right on a road with little to no shoulder or C) pass the trucks on the left. I chose C, just as the guy driving the front truck simultaneously waved his hand as if to say “go on ahead, I’m over my skis here” and I continued on my way. A couple miles later and I was back in transition. As short-course races should be, the bike was close to a time trial effort - 1:02:47 (30th/147).

A quick transition later and I was on the run course, which consisted of two loops around the lake. The hard bike had definitely zapped my legs a bit… they felt decent, but not great from the get go. About a half mile in a guy passed me, and I decided to hang on to him and let him drag me around for a while. The heat and wind had picked up towards the end of the bike, and the backside of the loop was pretty tough. At the start of the second loop my legs came around a bit and I put in a few surges, but the guy responded each time. My heart rate was in the 170’s and I was definitely uncomfortable, but knew I needed to step it up soon. With less than a mile to go a guy went by us… I noticed he was in my age group and decided it was time. I pulled up on his shoulder and got the impression from his breathing that he was about to tap out. I started my kick in the last half mile and dropped him, then sprinted to the line (as you always should!) for a split of 48:27 (7:23 pace & 23rd/147).
I felt good about my effort, and basked in the post-race euphoria as I hung out with my family and chatted with friends. The runner in me was disappointed to see a slower split (almost 3 min) vs. two years ago on the same course, but with time I’ve learned that you have to go for it more on the bike if you want to be competitive. There’s a fine line between pushing hard and blowing up, but based on my watch time (2:23:05), I knew I was roughly 5 min faster overall despite the slower run. It’s all about balance!
After loading up my stuff, I moseyed over to where the preliminary results were being posted. I overheard a guy next to me say to his friend “oh man, I got a penalty?!? Am I disqualified for that?” I took a gander at the sheet they were looking at and assured him “you’re not disqualified, it’s just a 2 min drafting penalty.” He was relieved. I then curiously noticed a # on the same sheet with “DQ – Endangerment” next to it. My number!! I mean, danger is my middle name, but endangerment?!? My mind flashed back to those stupid trucks endangering everyone on the road, and my heart sank. You’ve gotta be kidding me! I stood there stunned for a minute, then just shook my head and laughed. Had this been Ironman I would have been devastated, but for a small, local Olympic, what’s the real impact and who cares? I was just a little bitter. I briefly considered leaving with some fingers extended in the air, but realized it may help to plead my case. At the very least I wanted to ensure that my name and splits would show up somewhere in the results. It’s early in the season, and I wanted a measuring stick of where I’m at for each discipline. I found the official guy and told him my side of the story, making an effort to be very respectful. He listened and agreed with what I was saying, but didn’t seem persuaded... I eventually relented and went on my way.

this is still cool, right?

Driving home I concluded that what happened was unfortunate, but not a big deal... I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I also found it only appropriate to make a stop at Dairy Queen (DQ, get it?).  

Later in the day I checked the official results, scrolling to the bottom where I expected to see my name and splits with the scarlet letters DQ. Instead, I was shocked to find them much higher on the page (24th, 4th in AG)… and no DQ! Even though I really was “over it,” it was definitely a pleasant surprise. I’ve wondered if it was overturned in part due to not losing my cool and being respectful of the guy. Everyone knows that the irate driver cited for speeding is more likely to get a ticket than someone who’s calm and respectful to authority. I dunno. On the other hand, it may have simply been an oversight.

Regardless, at the very least it gave me something to write about!