Monday, April 28, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Reece Robinson - Kansas

After 20 years of "couch potatoness," Reece Robinson has been in a state of TBM (Triathlon Beast Mode) since 2008. Among other things, he is considered an expert at wreaking havoc on his age group, having a great attitude, and pulling off the occasional epic pre-race face plant.

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

I joined the high school swim team my junior year in high school and added cross country my senior year, which summed up my sports background before 20 years of "couch potatoness”. I served in the U.S. Army for three years after high school so I did do a bit of slow running a few times a week. Then I was inactive for the next 20 years.

I got into triathlon as part of the annual Kansas City Corporate Challenge. In 2008 I signed up for the Corporate Challenge swim meet TWO weeks before the meet. I then looked for a gym with a pool and basically swam every day for 13 days to “prepare”. I ended up doing the 50 and 200 yard freestyle events. I knew how to do somewhat of a flip turn but in that 200 my last wall was an open turn because I was too out of breath. After Corporate Challenge I stuck with it, swam 3-4 times a week, spent time with a personal trainer, started going to spin class and hit the treadmill. I was doing bricks even though I didn’t know what a brick meant!

Then Corporate Challenge rolled around again and I thought to myself “I’m swimming, spinning, and running, why the heck not!” It was a short but hilly course, 500m swim, 9 mile bike and 2.4 mile run. So TWO weeks before the race I bought my very first road bike. Did the race, loved the atmosphere, the people, and the competition... coming up on 5 years now.

Before discovering triathlon, how would you largely spend the time you now put to training? Is there anything you miss from those days?

Watched a lot of TV and saw a lot of movies. I dabbled in golf a little, played some beer league softball. I would watch two or three complete games on NFL Sunday, not to mention the college games on Saturday. I still enjoy watching football but the only time I’ll see a complete game is if I’m at the stadium (I’ll usually go to one or two Chiefs games each year). Over half of those years I was living in California for which I did not take advantage of that year round weather. So I guess what I miss most is the weather.

How would you sum up your 2013 season, and what was the highlight/lowlight?

2013 was a successful year even though there was a big LOW in there. I’ll start with the lowlight first. Trained fairly well for Ironman Kansas 70.3 and was ready for a PR. I even rented some Zipp 808 wheels for some of that “free” speed just to make sure. It was kind of like prom night for my bike. While coasting down the hill to transition, my plastic transition bag which was hanging from my handlebars…….do I need to say more? Yep, got caught in the spokes and I did a head first into the asphalt. I was the med tent's first customer and the race hadn’t even started yet. I had my helmet on but not strapped... still saved serious injury. The highlight was qualifying for and participating in the U.S. 5150 Championships (Hy-Vee Triathlon). In the qualifying race the swim was cancelled which initially had me bummed a little since I’m usually FOP out of the water in local races. I ended up 4th in my age group which got me free entry to the 5150 race in Des Moines. I did podium in my Age Group in all of my local races following the 5150 qualifier and qualified for Age Group nationals this August in Milwaukee.

What’s on tap for 2014, and what are your goals?

I will once again be looking to PR at Ironman Kansas 70.3 this year and there will be NOTHING hanging from my handlebars this year. To this day I STILL get grief from my friends. I’m also signed up for a couple of Olympic distance races (the Kansas 5150 and Kansas City Triathlon) and of course the annual KC Corporate Challenge Tri. My main goal is to do a little better than last year and have some fun. Although I’m not 100% sure yet, I plan on going to Age Group Nationals in August. I might add 2 to 3 races between now and the fall, there’s a sort of randomness about my race schedule each year.

I’ve swum with masters teams for several years but have never competed at a meet. What’s the vibe like at those? Can triathletes hold their own, or would most of us receive a sound spanking from the pure swimmers?

I do enjoy the occasional swim meet but for me it’s also a social event. At local meets here in the Kansas City area it’s very low key and does not have quite the energy you feel at a triathlon. We have all levels of abilities so even though I am a regular recipient of a butt kicking, it’s always a good time. It’s difficult to measure progress in open water swims, as one day an Olympic swim is actually 1400 meters, the next race it may be 1600 meters. Plus you don’t swim in a straight line etc. So meets are a good way to see progress under race pace conditions, but swimming your own 1500m time trial also lacks a little adrenaline if you know what I mean. Actually at meets I swim all 4 strokes just for fun. My 50 butterfly has been renamed the 50 "clutterfly" but hey, it’s amateur sports and just for fun, right?

The Kansas City Corporate Challenge sounds like a pretty awesome event. Can you tell us a bit about it and your involvement? 

Every metro area should have one of these! This will be the 35th annual, held during the entire months of May and June. This year there will be 200 companies in the K.C. Metro area participating, which shattered last year’s total of around 178. It’s a great way to practice team building and foster a healthy lifestyle in and around the workplace. Yes the competition is fun, but what I really like about it is that there are events for just about everyone. There are the team sports such as basketball, softball, flag football, soccer and volleyball, but also things like bowling, darts, pool, fishing, and trap shooting. Dodgeball was added three years ago; that’s quite popular as you might imagine. A couple years ago I was honored with a request to join the KCCC Board of Directors. I respectfully declined because as a board member you cannot compete, but I did accept the invitation to be a KCCC AmbassadorWhat a wonderful group of people to work with.

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

1. Swim, I usually rank the highest here, at least in my age group. My race gear includes 
Aquasphere Kayenne goggles; they are the best I’ve used in terms of not fogging up. I have 
a DeSoto 2 piece wetsuit (T1) and love it.

2. Bike, my cycling has come a long way since I’ve started, similar to most with a swim and/or run background. My ride is a Felt F75 roadie with Shimano 105 components and Profile Design T1 aerobars. I have some 30mm Neuvation wheels and the stock wheels that came with the bike. There's very little carbon on my rig. I got a Retul fitting early last year and even had to swap out my carbon seatpost for an Aluminum Fast Forward seatpost due to budget. But fit is more important that a few extra grams, especially over 56 miles.

3. Run, this is what needs the most work. A couple years ago I got a bad case of plantar fasciitis two weeks before my 2nd marathon. Since then my running volume has been pretty low, and I'm currently running 10-15 miles per week. I’ll be trying to increase mileage slowly and carefully as I’ll need it if I ever want to complete a full Ironman event. My go to shoe was the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12/13’s but recently I’ve been running Saucony Progrid Guide 6’s, a gift from a friend of mine. I’m not an all out gadget kind of guy; I have a Garmin 305 for running but haven’t used it for a while since I discovered the Strava App for my iphone.

Who were you more impressed with meeting in person, Chrissie Wellington or Craig Alexander?

That wouldn’t be a fair assessment because my meeting with Crowie was quite short. Actually I posted on his Facebook page as soon as I heard a rumor that he was doing the Kansas race (the one where I did the pre-race face dump). He actually answered my post saying he was indeed coming to Kansas, called me “mate” even! I thought that was first class, answering a random post from some nobody in Kansas. I saw him at the race expo the day before the race and introduced myself and I told him I was that “yahoo” that asked if he was doing the race. I kept the chit chat short and wished him good luck, and he did the same. He won of course. Since then he’s continued to answer my posts on his FB page, and I have so much respect for him.

I met Chrissie at my first IMKS 70.3 race in 2011 at the Friday night charity dinner benefitting the Blazeman foundation (ALS). I was able to chat with her for a few as well as have my picture taken etc. Then she honored me once again by placing the finishers’ medal around my neck after the race. Chrissie has such a great attitude on life, and gives of her time to us amateur athletes for hours on end after a race. Both of these athletes are quite humble given their accomplishments, which you don't really know for sure until you actually meet them and see the look in their eyes, their body language etc. I started rooting for Crowie during the Ironman Championship year in which he and Macca were neck and neck and he eventually won. His interviews before and after the race left quite an impression on me, so that’s part of why he’s at the top of my list. But actually my all-time favorite triathlete is Dick Hoyt; I think he defines the term Ironman quite well.

Tell us about your family, and what do they think of your transformation from the couch in 2008 to triathlon beast?

My wife thinks I’m nuts, my kids (daughter 14 and son 17) maybe not so much but still shy away from endurance sports. My wife does not like to sweat, period, so enough on that, but I do have full support from the family. My son’s a computer geek, but keeps in shape by doing dumbbell curls and chin ups in his room while doing stuff on the computer, i.e. homework, games, etc. My daughter will ride alongside on my long runs, I just have to keep the total mileage a secret until we finish!

Do the Kansas City KS and MO folks generally get along or is there some bad blood there?

I’m not a native of Kansas, moving to Johnson County in 2003. At the time, Johnson County was one of the top 50 wealthiest counties in the U.S., something like that. Shortly after moving in, my wife bought a T-shirt that had a picture of red grapes on the front with the words “Johnson County, whine country”. So all the young folks on the Kansas side are supposedly "spoiled little brats". Here on the Kansas side we’ve got lots of graduates from the University of Kansas (KU) and Kansas State, and even that’s a rivalry. Then you have the folks from the University of Missouri (Mizzou), which is another one. From the triathlon perspective I haven’t felt any bad blood to speak of.

How is triathlon in the KC metro area?

Given that we’re mostly known for good BBQ and Jazz, the triathlon scene here is pretty good. There’s a few tri clubs, TriKC, KC Multisport and Midwest Tri Coaching to name a few. I know great people from each. There are at least 10 triathlons this spring/summer within an hour’s drive of my house in 2014. That number doubles if you extend the drive to 2-4 hours hitting Topeka, Wichita, Columbia MO and St. Louis.

Triple Threat national team interview archives:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

HITS Napa Valley Race Report - David Wild

Triple Threat team member David Wild (representing CA on our national team) recently crushed the HITS Napa Valley Half, finishing 5th overall in 4:44! 

David is currently vacationing and training in Shanghai, China, yet took the time to write up this race report. Check it out for some excellent tips on race day strategy, nutrition, and much, much more!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Buick to Maserati: Upgrading to Triathlon Race Wheels

A few months ago I posted about buying some 2014 Reynolds Strike race wheels. I was excited to get my hands on them, but had to admire them from afar for a while as I spent most of my riding time on the trainer. Thankfully spring is in full bloom, and I’ve finally been able to test them out over the last couple weeks. My initial thoughts are that they look great, are really fun to ride, and climb like a Nepalese Sherpa (wow, is that really two Sherpa references in the past two weeks??).

For various reasons I put off buying race wheels in the past. Despite doing my first race in 2003, this is my first set. This is the opposite of some people’s mentality… few of us were handed the keys to a Maserati when we turned 16, yet some newbies feel the need to rush out and buy an expensive bike and wheels for their maiden voyage! It does go both ways though. Look around transition and you’ll see a lot of shiny Maseratis, but also a number of 80’s model Buicks. I respect that! Get your feet wet in the sport and pay your dues, then reward yourself with something nice. For those of you who may soon be in the market, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the practical stuff I found to go from taking your wheels out of the box to actually going for a ride.

Valve Extenders

The main appeal of race wheels is that lighter + more aerodynamic = you go faster. As part of their aerodynamic design, they have deeper rims compared to your kid’s dirt bike or grandma’s beach cruiser. The valve stem on many tubes in a bike shop or wherever isn’t long enough for deep rims. For example, my wheels are 62mm deep, yet the valve on the tubes I had were ~40mm, making it impossible to put air in my tires without valve extenders.

I read this great article by Greg Kopecky of Slowtwitch, which went over this topic in detail. Mid-way through last season I started racing with a little Flat Attack tire sealant as insurance against a cheap flat due to a thorn or piece of glass. As such, I have tubes with a removable core valve stem (for injecting the sealant). Based on Greg’s article, I bought some Stan’s valve extenders, using Teflon tape before threading them on per his suggestion. His article is a great resource for whatever your set up is. I later discovered that valve extenders came with the wheels (I’m a genius).

Note: Make sure to carry a spare tube with a valve that’s either long enough as it is or with valve extenders on all ready to go. This is something that can be easily overlooked. If you don't and you get a flat, your spare won't do you any good. I'll be carrying a Bontrager tube with an 80mm valve, which should work since my rims are 62mm deep. However, if your rims are 80mm deep, obviously this wouldn't work for you.

my old "Buicks"

The trend over the last few years is for race wheels to be slightly wider than they used to be. The stock aluminum wheels that came on my Felt are 23mm wide (pretty standard), yet the Reynolds Strikes are 25mm. Big deal, right? Well, if you try to put them on for the first time the morning of your race, you’ll be in panic mode screaming that they don’t fit. In reality, all it takes is widening the brake track with a few twists of an allen wrench. I had to essentially open my brakes up as wide as they go… still a pretty tight fit, but it works. Likewise, make sure to tighten the brake track up when you switch back to your more narrow tires. Just last week a friend who races in Kona every year posted on Facebook that he forgot to do this. As he tried to slow down going down a big hill his brakes were too wide to work, so he had to drag his feet to stop!

Note: You can buy 25mm tires to match 25mm race wheels if you want, but 23mm tires on 25mm rims works fine too.

Something else to consider is brake pads. My wheels came with special brake pads that are compatible with the carbon surface of the wheels. I’m not sure if all race wheels are similar in that regard, but I was told that my old, traditional brake pads for aluminum wheels could really damage the carbon. With a simple allen wrench it’s pretty easy to swap the pads, but pay your local bike shop a visit if you need help.


New wheels means you also need to transfer the cassette over from your rear wheel, unless you prefer propelling yourself forward Flintstone style. You could also buy a new one if you’ll be swapping back and forth a lot and don’t want to deal with it.

I tried to summon my inner Stewart Nixon by breaking out my "chain whip" and lock ring tools (which I owned but had never used) to remove the cassette. I thought it might be tough but it wasn't. Since it was off I figured I’d take a few minutes to clean the cassette with water and some degreaser spray.

The hub of your new wheel may be slightly longer or shorter than your old wheel. I thought that might be the case, so I put one of the 1mm spacers that came with the wheels behind the cassette. With the cassette on, I proudly went out for a test ride around the block, only to discover that the gears were rattling around and clearly needed another spacer. I removed the cassette and put on another spacer, but now I couldn’t get it to lock on.  @#*&#  Did I really need something in between 1 and 2 millimeters?? Turns out there is such a thing, as I bought a 1.75mm spacer for a couple bucks at a local shop. That 0.25mm was the difference, and I was able to lock the cassette on without any rattling from excess space.

In summary, there are some things to be aware of, but it’s really not that difficult. Ride hard, have fun, and be safe!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Gina Shand - Virginia

Gina Shand is a former police officer, a veteran triathlete, and 3x Ironman who represents Virginia on our national team. That "crazy mom on the bike trainer in the parking lot" brings a lot of energy to our team, and we are thrilled to have her on board!

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

I grew up swimming year round. I wanted to find a sport that could incorporate my love for swimming. Cycling was new to me, but hey, it is riding a bike, right? I signed up for my first triathlon in 2002 and have been hooked since. I am not one to work out for the sake of working out, so having a race on the calendar keeps me honest.

You’ve been quite vocal about holding the open water swim split title in the Shand family ;) From what you’ve told me about your fish named Molly, however, how long before you concede the crown?

As soon as that kid puts on a wetsuit, my reign will end for sure! She already has me in the pool by 4 min/mile. As long as I can stay ahead of my husband, I am good. He smokes me on everything else.

Could both of you please share a Shand Secret for getting faster in the water?

Molly: Work on kick switch drills. They force you to kick and make you focus on front quadrant swimming. 

Gina: Time and technique, no silver bullet.

How would you sum up your 2013 season, and what was the highlight/lowlight?

Busy! Across the family 13 races. Highlight - racing with Molly in her first Sprint triathlon. So cool to see her accomplish that at 12 years old (and get first in her age group!) Lowlight – Had some friends that were training with us for IMMT (Mont Tremblant) but could not compete due to injury. Missed seeing them out on the course.

In your application you wrote “my tri goals for the future are to get faster. I know I can cover the distance, but I am working on pushing my own personal limits. I want to see what I personally can do by getting over the mental aspect of racing. I want to be a faster me.” What's your plan in working towards that goal?

I am working with a different coach this year with a different approach. For me, it’s the accountability to do the workouts right. Not just doing the time and sport, but also the prescribed workout. All the nitty gritty stuff that hurts. I keep telling myself that if I want to go faster, I have to go faster. My training plan is also in Training Peaks this season. I am a rule follower, so I can’t stand to see red!

Your team profile states that you were swore you'd be a “one and done” at the Ironman distance after Ironman Texas in 2011. Beyond being able to walk again a few days later, what changed your mind?

Peer pressure! I have an amazing group of friends that I train with. We all signed up for Florida together, but we don’t all agree on whose “fault” it was that we did IMMT in 2013. (Okay, probably mine). I was allegedly taking 2014 off from Ironman, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to race with almost 100 other people from Richmond in Chattanooga this year. Training and racing would be no fun without my ladies!

What’s been your favorite to least favorite IM? (For whatever reason – your race, venue, course, etc)

1. Mont Tremblant is hands down the favorite. Gorgeous venue, amazing volunteers, so well organized. The swim is fast in a beautifully clear, perfect temperature lake. The bike was great except for the awful stair step hills at the end and the run has a lot of shade. I volunteered while my husband raced in 2012 and we both raced in 2013. Great family vacation venue. Truly a destination race, but still drivable from the East Coast. Did I mention the poutine at the finish line?

2. Texas – crazy hot and humid, but I really enjoyed the rolling bike course and the three loop run was entertaining along the canal. The crowd support was amazing. Logistically it was difficult because The Woodlands is difficult to navigate. But is it was my first IM, so I will always have love for it. My husband and one of my friends are racing this year, so I will be volunteering and cheering. Would do it again, but would like to try some other races first.

3. Florida – windy,flat and hot. For those reasons, not my favorite race. In 2012 the swim was choppy for sure. First time I have gotten sick while swimming. Some people love the flat and windy, but I like some hills. Don’t feel the need to go back again.

In addition to local races including Rev 3 Williamsburg in June, I know you’ve got a date with the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga in Sep. What’s the scuttlebutt on the course, and will you be able to scope it out in training?

I try to stay out of the scuttlebutt about courses. Hilly/challenging means different things to different people. Even the elevation changes can be deceiving. That being said, I hear it will be a fast downstream swim, rolling bike and hilly run. Should be a good time! I probably won’t be able to get down there to ride the course prior to the race. I actually kind of like it that way. No matter what you have to ride it, so does it really matter if you know what’s coming?

You wrote “I am that crazy mom on the bike trainer in the parking lot at the swim meet between events. But if I miss a workout to be with the family, so be it. Family is key.” Do you find it stressful to balance everything or is being creative with time management part of the fun for you?

Gina on said trainer at swim meet
It is a bit stressful, but it is what we do. When I was training for my first IM, but mantra was "self-imposed” (uplifting, right?) Meaning, I am the one who signed up for this, so no griping about workouts or not wanting to do things. I committed to it, so I owned it. At this point, it is just what we do. We have discussions every night on who is doing what workout at what time and we make it work. People tell me all the time that they would do an Ironman, but they just don’t have the time to train. Really? No one has the time. You have to make a conscious choice to make the time. You have to be creative. 4 hour swim meet session? Awesome. Have an hour between events? Perfect. The trainer in the parking lot, come back in watch an event, then back out for a run. Pools even have showers. Score!! I am at the meet for the important stuff and in the process show my daughter that I have to take care of my own commitments as well.

Word on the street is you started running by chasing bad guys as a cop. What was that lifestyle like, and why the change of course?

Very true. I hate running. Only reason I started is because I knew I would have to run in the academy. My 7 years in law enforcement really shaped who I am as a person and a leader. My husband and I were in the police academy together, so that really helped a lot to understand what each other was going through. We understand each other’s often awkward sense of humor and working a crazy schedule is just what we have always done. It was a great run, but after a while, it was time to try something different and get a different experience. My husband is still a police officer, so I still am around it all the time. There are some things I miss about it, but I sure don’t miss directing traffic in the rain!

From your experience do you have any advice on getting family into the sport? Do you think most kids gravitate to swim/bike/run after watching their parents or do they need a little encouragement to tri?

I think the best way to get your family involved is to lead by example and make it a family affair. We would go camping somewhere that I could race. That way we would have a vacation, and I could do my tris. I tried for 8 years to get my husband to race, but he was not interested. He would run and bike but was not interested in racing. Something clicked when he came to my first half-iron distance to support me. He saw the huge array of shapes, sizes, equipment, and ability of the participants and that day, he decided he was all in. Within 15 months he had completed all of the distances to include Ironman. As for our daughter,she was always a swimmer, but got into tri just to join in the fun. She started with the local kids tris at 9 and completed her first sprint last summer. With her, I think it was more of a “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality! She needed encouragement to “tri” but she was really proud of the accomplishment. That pride goes a long way.

From what you've told me, it sounds like our sport is alive and well in the Richmond area. What makes your stomping grounds such a great place for triathlon?

We have a lot of really good races close by. You can race all season, just about every weekend up to half-iron distance without driving more than an hour. With the James River and the great trail system, we have a ton of places to swim and ride. The Richmond Triathlon Club has over 800 members and there are no fewer than four large training teams to choose from. No matter who you train with, it is a really inclusive, close knit community. We are super excited to be hosting the 2015 UCI Road World Championships next May. That says a lot about how active our community is. Look for almost 100 RTC members at IM Chattanooga in September!

Triple Threat team interview archives:

Famous Dave Fisher - Connecticut

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Nutrition Strategy

What to eat and drink on race day is a personal thing, but one thing is clear... whatever your nutrition strategy is, have one! You can be the Tasmanian Devil at aid stations if you want, but the result of “winging” your nutrition is often less than ideal. 

With two fast approaching half Ironmans on my schedule (St. George 70.3 May 3 and Boise 70.3 Jun 7), I thought it might be helpful to share my specific nutrition plan as an example. 

As a change from prior years, I’ll be racing primarily with EFS (Electrolyte Fuel System) products from First Endurance. I interviewed Robert Kunz, head of R&D, in September and was extremely impressed. He wasn't trying to "sell" me on anything and I wasn't asking for anything... frankly, I was simply looking for an interesting interview for the blog.

First Endurance triathlete Jordan Rapp
However, I came away from our discussion sold on the company's core value of being a research-based company as opposed to a market-based company. A market-based company looks at products that people are buying and says “we need to come up with a similar product, these things sell!!” As an example, just look at how many copycat “gummy” type products are on the market right now.

On the other hand, a research-based company takes the unbeaten path, creating products based on empirical studies alone. For example, my “secret weapon,” EFS Liquid Shot, is unique in that it doesn’t contain any gumming agents, driven by research showing that such ingredients slow down absorption. Liquid Shot goes down much smoother due to its liquid nature.

My EFS drink review is also very positive. It has a much higher electrolyte profile than other drinks, also driven by research, and tastes great to boot. Everyone thinks about sodium when it comes to racing, but according to Robert, all five electrolytes work together in tandem (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride). With EFS drink and Liquid Shot, there’s no need to supplement with electrolyte pills or anything else.

Last year’s plan (product names removed):

This year’s plan:

Between EFS drink and Liquid Shot, I'm planning on up to 800 calories on the bike -  give or take 3 hours on two very hilly courses =  ~264 calories/hour  (could be up or down depending on how I’m feeling).

On the run will rely on one Liquid Shot (400 calories); will take hits as needed and drink water on the course.

Here are the upgrades I see compared to last year:

As mentioned, a lot more electrolytes, which will be especially beneficial if it’s hot on race day.

The addition of malic acid (from EFS drink), a powerful ingredient incorporated in the latest upgrade of the EFS formula.

I like the taste…  I think this matters!  I have two flavors: mild grape and orange, with grape being my favorite.