Friday, February 27, 2015

This is How We Roll

Special thanks to Joleen White for this guest post, chock-full of great tips on traveling with your bike!

Living in Alaska and being a triathlete or a cyclist means one must travel with their bike. Anyone who travels with their bike has faced the uncertainty of packing it and worrying what will happen to your well thought out & organized pack job once TSA gets their hands on it! Praying that the ticket agent gets your bike to the baggage handlers and your bike gets loaded on your flight - plus the connecting flights you might take. And finally, watching out the plane window as the baggage handlers drop your box on the ground and then throw it with all their might onto the loading belt. And it all starts again once you arrive to your destination - hopefully you thought about the rental car or shuttle you will be loading your bike into!

hey! take it easy!

My first experience traveling with my bike didn’t go that bad. I was traveling to Washington for Lake Stevens 70.3. I borrowed a Thule clamshell type bike box. This was a great box because it had a ton of cushion that you put your bike inside. The biggest problem I found with this box was that it was difficult to travel with once you got to your destination, i.e. rental car…. the second problem was that TSA opened the box to check it and somehow put the lid on completely opposite of its recommended alignment, which meant the bike was not secure and parts could have been lost. I did not have any troubles breaking down my bike; it was the basic handle bar removal, pedals, seat post, and wheels. It is important to use bubble wrap or whatever cushioning you prefer between the bike parts to prevent any scratching or damage. There really is not a lot of extra room in this box, but it is definitely a durable case.

a sample bike case offering from Thule
The second trip I went on with my bike was to Arizona where I competed in a sprint triathlon in Flagstaff. After my first trip with a bike, I decided to buy a stand up box with wheels. This box comes in a single or double option. I decided to go with the double because I figured the bigger the box, the more I could cushion the bike, which means less damage. This box is great, but you definitely have to plan ahead with the type of rental car you are getting. A full size car is great, even better if the seats drop down in the back. I have found that the Dodge Charger is a great car to travel with because my bike fits in the back, and my husband enjoys driving the car! 

Inside of the single & double boxes there are skewers to hold the front fork in place. There are also Velcro straps that you can loop into the bottom of the box in order to secure the entire bike frame. Basic break down of your bike includes removing the wheels, pedals, handle bars, and seat post. The double will carry one bike and two sets of wheels + extra room (helmet, tire pump, tools, nutrition, etc.), or 2 bikes with both sets of wheels (and not much else).

traveling with my double bike box
A couple of issues with this box are that the wheels on the bottom of the case definitely take a beating, although my bike has been on at least 6 trips out of Alaska as well as thousands of road miles (LA to Calgary and every state in between) and the wheels are doing great. Another problem is the locking mechanism located on the outside of the box, 2 on each side. These get beaten up pretty well when moved around, and eventually bend. Jamie Stull, owner of Chain Reaction in Anchorage, told me that on one trip with his bike he was not able to open the case to get the box to fit in the rental car due to the locks getting so beat up… and of course his tools were inside the box!

When traveling with this box I have found that putting the bottom half of the box into the top half helps it fit into the back seat of the car better. Unfortunately I have found the wheels to be tricky. I have had to take the wheels out to get clearance for the box to fit in the back, but this has been a manageable situation so far. This box is also great because if you shop when you travel you can fit a lot into it! Just be prepared when you check in at the airlines because you will have to pay if you exceed their weight restrictions. As Alaskan local triathlete Shannon Donley stated, “I can stop at IKEA and fill that baby up! Last time I traveled with my bike/bike case, my bike came home with two kids' comforters, two lamps, a bunch of misc. kitchen stuff and a groovy mirror. I love that hard case!” You can see how the extra space in a double bike box can help Alaskans out - shipping prices to AK are ridiculous!

I decided to write this post when I saw on Facebook that Anchorage’s local bike shop, Chain Reaction, had just posted the arrival of the Evoc travel case, so I had to check it out! This case is awesome! I love it because it fits my needs. First, you don’t have to do a ton of break down on the bike. After dropping the seat post, the handlebars, pedals, and wheels are really all that need to be removed. The bag has pockets inside for various tools, etc. On each side of the bag is a zipped compartment to place your wheels.

Chain Reaction owner Jamie Stull w/the Evoc
Evoc added PVC to help keep the wheels protected. There are also fiberglass struts integrated in the case for extra protection. There are small wheels on the back of the case and handles everywhere to help with moving the case. You can purchase the Evoc road bike aluminum stand, which provides a stable platform for your bike inside of the case by attaching the fork and rear triangle. The stand easily slides into the case for easy set up and take down. 

On the down side, plan on only packing one bike and one set of wheels in this case. One last highlight of this case is that it rolls up to about the size of a golf bag! This is great because not only does it take up less space than the first two cases I mentioned, but you will have more space in your hotel room! I forgot to mention - this case can carry a road bike, TT bike, Mountain bike, OR a Fat tire bike!! And I am pretty sure there is still room for your shopping purchases!

This is a very diverse bag, but not the only option from Evoc. They also have a pro travel bag, which I am definitely going to check out.

lots of room in that case!  easy and accessible

The final bike case company I researched for this post is Ruster, the brainchild of pro triathlete and former engineer TJ Tollakson. Ruster’s claim is that you can “travel the world at no additional charge.” I checked out their website to look at the products: Armored Hen House, Hen House, Coop, and Wheels Express case. I think the Ruster Hen House is a great option if you are traveling internationally or taking multiple flights and want to save on travel costs. There is also a step-by-step packing video for the Hen House case.

Seat post, pedals, front wheel, front brake from fork, stem face plate, headset cap, stem, fork, rear wheel, and rear derailleur all come off. I have not seen this case personally, but when the bike is completely broken down it definitely takes up less space than the two previous cases I discussed. I think the Ruster is a great option for bike travel, but would be hesitant for beginners who might not be comfortable with additional bike break down. On a positive note, the video to fully break down your bike appears fairly easy to follow.

I have heard many people say that the large plastic bike boxes take more of a beating because the baggage handlers use less caution due to their size/durability. Many people have mentioned to me that using the soft cases means the baggage handlers are more likely to handle your bike with care. Editor's note: once again, to our thousands of baggage handler readers out there... take it easy with our bikes!

Local Alaskan triathlete Shannon Titzel owns both the Ruster case and the double bike box. Overall she has been very happy with both. Shannon did mention the break down process with the Ruster, but in turn has saved money when traveling with her bike, especially when Alaskan Airlines is not an option. Shannon also said “American Airlines is the worst when traveling with your bike, with costs as much as $175 each way!” Choosing your airline seems to be the most important consideration when taking your bike with you. Alaskan Airlines seems to be the least expensive, with typical costs from $75-100 each way.

Traveling with your bike is definitely nerve racking, but each of these cases offers something unique to the traveler’s needs. So far my trips have only been with Alaskan Airlines, and typically one to two legs maximum. Each trip the only issues I had were TSA moving things around in my box. I realize readers of the blog and my Triple Threat teammates may be flying with other airlines that will have differing restrictions and rates, so I sought out some advice from other local triathletes. I thought the following tips from Jason Lamoreaux were especially helpful. Jason said “1) Minimize the number of legs for a flight. Fewer legs, fewer times the bike is handled and thus fewer chances for something to happen (damage, lost, etc...). 2) If you have multiple legs, especially if they are spread over multiple airlines, make sure to check the bike all the way through to the final destination. 3) Airline fees are usually charged based on the airline operating the plane you start the trip on, not necessarily the airline you booked with. Some airlines charge a lot more than others. If possible, set up trips so the first flight on any direction is with the airline that charges less.”

I realize that there are also companies who will ship your bike for you. I don’t know much about them, but am certain they would be the safest method of traveling with your bike if you are willing to pay for it. One last consideration to make if you have your sights on racing in the Kona World Championships - remember you will probably have to hop from one island to the next, so you better confirm those fees and weight restrictions! Good luck in your bike travels… I hope this post has helped! Roll on!

Thanks to: Shannon Donley, Jason Lamoreaux, Jamie Stull, and Shannon Titzel for helping me with this post. And of course my husband, Jason White, for letting me pack my bike wherever we travel to!

worth the trouble!

Related Posts:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Triathlete, Olympian & Mom: Interview with Sarah Haskins

Simply put, Sarah Haskins is one of the most prolific female triathletes of all time. A few highlights on her extensive resume include the US Olympic team in 2008, a career win total too high to count, and becoming a mother in 2013. After bouncing back from an injury last year, she has her sights set on new challenges in 2015. Thanks for the time, Sarah, and best of luck this season!

photo credit Eric Wynn
You’ve been pretty unstoppable throughout your career, amazingly even last year following time away for the birth of your daughter (btw, congrats!). How frustrating was getting injured mid-way through last season after winning 6 races right out of the gate, and what’s your current status? Has juggling your profession with motherhood been easier or harder than you expected?

Thanks! When I returned back to racing last year, I knew my training had been going well and I was excited to get back onto the race course. I was more than pleased with the start to my season, but was devastated when I developed a mid-season injury. I learned so much last year about the art of balancing motherhood, training and recovery. Being a mother adds so much joy to my life, I would not want my life any other way. In some ways being a Mom and athlete is easier than expected, but in some ways it has been harder. As she has gotten older, recovery has been a little harder since she is not a little baby anymore! Now she is running around and getting into everything! I have learned to plan my training around when my body feels ready and when I know I can get in some recovery afterward. My husband/coach, Nate, is a huge help to me and we truly work together as a team. Currently, I am healthy and excited to start another season.

Living in Florida must be a double-edged sword... the climate allows you to train outside year round, but the heat and humidity has to be pretty tough in the summer. How do you view the benefits of training in Florida, versus, say, at altitude? As a side note, our team rides with Rudy Project, which has won the “Kona Count” for helmets the last 4 years thanks in part to superior ventilation. We noticed you do as well… is that a deliberate choice for dealing with Florida training and general race day heat?

We moved to FL several years ago to escape the winter! We lived in Colorado most of the year from 2005-2011. Since we have been in FL, we have not spent all summer here, so we have not experienced the full FL heat and humidity. Training in FL from Nov-March is ideal temps...60s and 70s, with low humidity. I loved training in CO in the summers and I think training at altitude has huge benefits. I do believe training at a high elevation year round, however, can be tough on the body. From a scientific standpoint, training in the heat can have the same physiological benefits as training at altitude. From a personal standpoint, I think training in the heat is tougher than training at altitude! Most of the races I compete in are in a hot environment, so I feel FL has helped me better prepare for those races. I believe in a race it is important to keep your core as low as possible (when racing in the heat), so I always choose equipment that will help give me an edge, like my Rudy Project TT helmet.

photo credit Eric Wynn

We noticed Ironman 70.3 St. George was originally on your 2014 schedule in order to earn Hy-Vee championship points, which, correct us if we’re wrong, would have been your first 70.3. Are you still interested in the 70.3 distance with Hy-Vee now out of triathlon? What are your 2015 plans?

My current 2015 plans are vastly different from years past. I am setting new challenges and goals for myself. My first four races on the schedule range from a sprint distance to an Iron distance. I am focusing on Ironman Texas in May and after that race, I will know which direction the rest of my season is headed. I am very sad that Hy-Vee will not be on the schedule this year. It was a great race with a hometown, mid-west feel (being close to St. Louis).

Prior to becoming a triathlete you were already a high school state champion (Missouri) in both cross country and swimming and a collegiate runner. Did the bike come just as naturally or did it take more work? With its combination of longer distance + non-draft legal racing, is the bike a relative vulnerability for you at the half and full Iron distance, or no cause for concern?

Some aspects of the bike came easier to me than other aspects. The strength and threshold riding paralleled with my years of swimming and running and I was able to pick that up quickly. The technical skills and explosive power took a good four years to develop. Even after ten years of riding, I still have room for improvement!

photo credit Nils Nilsen

The Summer Olympics is something we always look forward to, especially since triathlon made its debut in Sydney. To be able to compete at that level must truly be something special. At what point did you realize that the Olympics were no longer a dream, but a reality? What was the greater emotion, the high of racing in Beijing in ‘08 or the low of narrowly missing the team in 2012? Do you have your sights set once again on representing the US in 2016?

In 2004 when I moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, I realized that my dream was becoming a reality. I was working every day towards becoming an Olympic athlete. My dream was not 100% sure until just six weeks before the Games when I qualified in Des Moines, Iowa (at the Hy-Vee Triathlon). Racing in 2008 was surreal. It was the kind of feeling that gave me goosebumps knowing my dream since I was a child was becoming a reality. In 2012, missing the team I had much more raw emotion. I had worked very hard leading up to the trials race and put so much effort on the line during the race. I raced with pure adrenaline, heart and emotion and gave it everything I had. I was disappointed falling short of my goal, but proud of my effort. Currently 2016 is not a primary goal of mine, but it's not completely out the door.

photo credit Eric Wynn

Follow Sarah's season, including her Ironman debut at IMTX!



The Haskins Elite Support Crew:

Rudy Project
ISM Saddles
Gear For Multisport

Friday, February 20, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Micah Noland - Oklahoma

Micah Noland was once a young buck pitching in multiple College World Series and playing professionally in baseball's minor leagues. That said, several years later Micah is now "in the best shape of his life" thanks to swimming, biking, and running. Micah was a recent addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon team, and is a terrific ambassador of the sport for both his Jr. High students and local community.

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

When my playing career in baseball ended in 2000, I started jogging and getting in shape to run the Walter Payton 5k in Chicago. I showed up at the starting line and there were 840 people. I just didn’t want to finish last, but somehow ended up 64th overall with a 21:45. I befriended a local bike shop owner in Chicago who set me up with a bike. I started doing duathlons and finished 3rd in my age group at the Duathlon State championships for Illinois and Indiana. From there I eventually added swimming to get into triathlon.

Tell us some more about your baseball career... did you enjoy life in college & the minors or was it a stressful time of constant travel and always trying to make it to the next level?

I got a scholarship to play at Cowley Junior College in Arkansas City, Kansas. I played there for 2 years and got another scholarship to pitch for Southeastern Oklahoma State University. There I got the chance to pitch in 2 College World Series and 2 National Championship games. My best 2 years of college were definitely my 2 years of Junior College… 25 guys living on the same floor, and we are to this day very close. As far as my pro days, I treated every day as if it were my last. I was not the greatest talent; I got by on hard work. I took pictures of all the stadiums and enjoyed every minute. I knew I was never going to make it to the big leagues, so I treated the minors as if it was my Major League and was very proud to ride the buses and play in front of a few thousand fans.

How would you sum up your 2014 race season, and what was the highlight & lowlight?

I have been back in school, working 2 jobs since the summer of 2013 so I really have not focused on a big race since Ironman 70.3 Kansas 2012 and the Redman 2012 National Long Course Championships. I would have to say my highlight was winning the Oklahoma State Championship Duathlon for my age group. My lowlight would have to be not competing in a “big event.”

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

I am doing the USAT Duathlon championship series and accumulating as many points for USA Triathlon as I can for the season long ranking system. I will graduate in May with a second degree, this one in Occupational Safety and Health. I plan on doing the Redman National Championship ½ Ironman distance triathlon and trying to qualify for the World Championships held at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma in 2016.

As you’ve mentioned, in addition to tris, I know you've had a lot of success at duathlons... I've personally never done one. Explain to our readers the format of a typical duathlon, and what is your strategy for those races?

I have done all distances of duathlons. My first year of the Oklahoma State Championships I did the F1 series, which was a 2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run… probably the hardest race I have ever done! Each event is short and intense; you go all out the whole time. I finished 2nd in my age group that year (2012). I have done the shorter distance the past 2 years, just a 2 mile run, 10 mile bike and 2 mile run and have won the Oklahoma State Championship in my AG both years. My strategy is to stick to your game plan on the first run. Some people take off way too fast and you think to yourself you should keep pace with them… have the confidence to know yourself; don’t overdo it. I hammer the bike, that is my favorite, and I leave it all on the line in the final run. Elastic laces are a must; with the 2 transitions it makes a big difference. My first duathlon this year in the series is a 5k run, 25k bike and 5k run.

Looking only at that Kansas 70.3 race, it would appear that your biking and running are fairly equal versus the field, but swimming is a weakness. How would you rank the 3 disciplines from strength to weakness as of today, and how is progress going with your swim?

Kansas was my first ½ Ironman ever and it was ridiculous. The swim portion was almost cancelled. 1200 people entered the water and only 800 and something came out. I have not had a swimming background; I did most of the swim with a “Navy Sidestroke,” not fast, just an efficient method I learned from a guy in the Navy during training. I did a ½ Ironman called the Redman Triathlon 3 months later and improved my time by 34 minutes, 8 minutes alone on the swim, where I was able to swim regular freestyle the whole way. I never really swam growing up and just started truly training on the swim when a fitness center opened 4 miles from my house about a year ago. I love it now, and swam my most yardage ever for a week during our recent East vs. West team swim challenge, getting in 12,000 yards in 8 days.

Speaking of that Kansas race, it seemed like a cool venue, but I can no longer find it… has it been cancelled? What are the biggest races in reach of you?

Yes it has been cancelled… they host a 5150 race (Olympic distance) there now. I guess Ironman Texas and Buffalo Springs 70.3 in Lubbock would be the next closest Ironman events. Redman Triathlon is a ½ Ironman distance that is an hour away and will be the National Championship Long Course Triathlon and host the World Championships in 2016 for those who qualify. I qualified in 2013 for the World Championships from Redman, but it was in France and I passed.

You've posted some fun workouts, such as chasing your daughters on a mountain bike, etc. What do they think about your triathlon obsession?

We have a National Park 8 miles away with awesome biking and running trails, and I spend as much time as I can there. I have my daughters every weekend, they are 7 and 9. I try to stay as active as I can when they are here. My favorite thing to do is to chase them while they are riding their bikes, and I get a good 10k in around the lake trails. They have been into 4 wheelers lately so I chase them on my mountain bike. Can’t take the weekends off from training but family is the most important.

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

We have what is the largest triathlon club in the U.S. in Tri OKC. That being said I live over an hour south. I love going to their events; they do an awesome job. No one does this triathlon insanity where I live. People do not look out for bikes and dogs are a big problem. I do most of my training in the National Park where there is a strict speed limit and no dogs.

On that note, as a teacher living in a more rural part of the country, I know you feel a responsibility to be an ambassador for swimming, biking, and running in your area for both kids and adults alike. How do you try to do that in your classroom and local community? 

We started the “HOOT” tour in the hills of Oklahoma this past year. In our first year we had 125 riders. I really believe that will at least double next year… so much positive feedback. We have a beautiful venue that is so much safer when riders are in numbers. Local company the Chickasaw Nation is promoting tourism in our area and reached out to me because I was the only local to ride the 100K distance. We filmed a commercial promoting the area and the HOOT tour, which will be airing soon and I will post to the Triple Threat Triathlon Facebook page. I try to lead by example and not say too much… I want to promote a lifelong sport to my kids that I teach and to my own children. I show them Ironman inspirational videos once a week and let them know they can do impossible things. I was about the 21st fastest guy on our 25 man roster that went to back-to-back National Championships for baseball; I would race any of them today in a 5K and guarantee I would be first! I am 42 and in the best shape of my life. I want my children and the kids I teach to understand that “anything is possible."

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

Kona Dreamin Chad Zeman - Rhode Island