Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pre-Race Check In: Ironman Lake Placid

Our team is excited to virtually cheer on Chad Zeman (formerly RI now North Carolina) as he tows the line at Ironman Lake Placid this weekend. I gave him a call to check in with him and actually caught him en route to the race venue... he had hopped a flight that morning, driven for a while, and was literally crossing a lake on a ferry somewhere in Vermont as we spoke. Hopefully the race itself will be far less chaotic!

So how are you feeling?

I'm ready to go! I'm feeling much more prepared than I did for my previous two Ironmans (Wisconsin). I've been resting up this week, and the legs are like "what the hell is going on?? Why aren't we working, moving, pushing??" I'm excited and feeling really optimistic.

How has training gone since Challenge Knoxville?

That was my last big race, really my only race outside of a local sprint here and there.
Since Knoxville I've ramped up my training with a little anger because I personally didn't feel that I did very well. Following a little lull, I've consistently put in 12-14 hr / week. Last week was ~10 hrs. My power numbers on the bike, heart rate, and pace have been looking good. I've also worked on my nutrition plan, my transitions, and other finer details.

Working on your transitions for Ironman? 

Yeah, I need to save any second I can!! I'm shooting for Kona, and my spot would most likely be a roll down. If there is a roll down up for grabs and there's 10 seconds between me and another guy, then I see transitions as free time that anyone can have.

What are your goals for the race?

Swim: 1:10
Bike: 5:20 - 5:25
Run: 3:30 - 3:40
Crossing the finish line at 10:00 - 10:30

The ultimate goal is Kona. I know the top 2 (in the M2529 AG) are typically under 10:00, but 3rd is usually around 10:10. You can look at results all you want, but you can only do what you can do and hope it's good enough on that day.

With your strong running background is there any chance you could you obliterate that 3:30, or is that a best case scenario after swimming and biking?

If I'm feeling really good 3:20 might be in play, but I think 3:30 is pretty much the magic number for me after hopefully biking ~5:20. Plus it is a very hilly course. Any upside would come from closing hard in final 10k... I'm not going to risk blowing up by going for it earlier than that.

Do you feel pressure or are you pretty loose?

I put a lot of pressure on myself because this is something that I've wanted for a while. I told my wife that this is the year I'm gonna go for it. If I don't make it I'll probably wait until my son is in college or something. My parents and my wife are trying to keep me calm, saying listen to the numbers, you've put in the work, now is time to have fun with it, etc. That helps to keep me grounded. I will have one more shot this year, at Ironman Chattanooga, in a friendly showdown with my teammate David Fernandez (Florida)... but I still want to make this one count.

Lake Placid is a legendary course... what do you know about it?

From what I understand it is the Kona of the continental US in terms of history. It's a very popular venue, triathletes everywhere know about it and want to race it.  

It's basically a 2-loop everything which makes it very spectator friendly. I'm not the straightest swimmer, so I'm excited about the cable (under water) that you can follow to keep you on course. In terms of the bike course, I'm a hill guy so Placid suits me. This will be my first Ironman with a power meter, so I'm excited to use that. The famous climbs known as Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear need to be respected. I'm a little worried about the hills on the run and how those will feel after 7-8 hrs. I'm not a patient person, so that's gonna be tough for me. If i'm not patient it's gonna bite me on the run even though that's my strongest discipline.

What’s your race strategy? For example, how hard will you push on the swim & bike?

Even though my goal is Kona, I would be happier going 10:35 and barely missing Kona instead of having the race done for me by mile 90 on the bike because I'm pushing too hard.  I'll get into a comfortable groove on the swim, a 6-7 on a scale from 1-10. 
I know i'm a weaker swimmer and if push harder than that my bike and run will be affected.

The "risk" will start for me on the bike, pushing around an 8 on a scale from 1-10. I'll stay around 205-210 watts, trying for consistency as opposed to big spikes. That should set me up perfectly for the run, starting around an 8 and targeting an average heart rate around 160. 

That's interesting, I know for myself I'd bonk bad trying to hold a heart rate that high for that long. Everyone's a little different with their HR zones though, right?

Yeah at Boston (marathon) I had a 175 avg hr for the whole race, and racing in college I was in the 200's... I guess i'm just used to it.

Thanks Chad, and good luck tomorrow!!

Chad raised $$ for MMRF in association with Lake Placid

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Ironman Itch... To Scratch or Not to Scratch?

Once again, I've recently been experiencing symptoms of a condition known as the "Ironman Itch." If it develops into a full-blown case, I will have no choice but to aggressively treat. My symptoms are fairly extreme one day and then return to mild the next... to give you another analogy, I'm the kid standing at the end of the high dive trying to decide if he/she should jump or not!

Ridding oneself of this condition is especially expensive when airfare for my elite "support crew" is involved (mine includes a moral support expert, a strategy guru trained in the arts of lego building and ninja moves, and a preschool-aged zen master mind coach). They bring a lot to the table, but also have their demands. Therefore, I'm strongly leaning towards treatment facilities that are within driving distance.

That said, here are the treatment options currently highest on my list, along with the pros and cons of each as I currently see them:

Treatment Facility: Ironman Coeur d'Alene, aka CDA

Travel required: ~10 hour drive due north, almost to the Canadian border

Some stats:

Race day: used to be late June, moved to late August for 2016 and beyond
2-loop swim
Start elevation: 2141 ft
Total bike course climbing: 5760 ft
Total run course climbing: 1026 ft

Random Trivia:

Coeur means "heart" in French. Not sure about d'Alene.  Of Alene... whoever she is.

  • By all accounts this is an amazing venue in a beautiful part of the country
  • Race has been around several years, so assuming it's very well-run
  • Everyone I've talked to raves about it
  • Later race day allows more "in season" time to prepare
  • Opportunity to benefit from training at altitude (I live at ~4500 ft above sea level)
  • A challenging, but not terrifying course

  • Seems like they've made this course harder in terms of elevation gain
  • Despite the many positive things I've heard, the race didn't sell out this year... why?
  • On top of that, it was a record 100+ degrees this year, which will irrationally scare people away
  • Many Ironman swim starts are shifting from mass starts to "rolling" starts similar to a large running race... that said, here's what the infamous Iron Cowboy (he of World Record fame with 30 IM distance races in one calendar year and now 50 IMs in 50 states in 50 days!!) had to say about the swim at CDA:

"The swim start was INSANE. I have done a lot of mass starts to this point and this one by far was the most violent. There just wasn’t any open space or free water. Usually things thin out and get less hectic. And at the very least things get spread out enough by the second lap to be less crazy. Well, not in CDA! It was a fight from the word “go” ’till I finally made it to transition. It was by far the most aggressive swim I have ever swam….by far!!!" 

  • That said, it's appears official that CDA has gone to a rolling start... 

Treatment Facility: Ironman Lake Tahoe

Travel required: ~8 hour drive west, crossing the Nevada border into California

Some stats:

Race day: mid September
2-loop swim
Start elevation: 6251 ft
Total bike course climbing: 5972 ft
Total run course climbing: 857 ft

Random Trivia: Lake Tahoe is the 2nd deepest lake in the US (500 meters)

  • A destination race, Tahoe is amazing from what I've heard
  • Shortest drive of the four treatment options
  • Epic course. It's Ironman, it's supposed to be hard! Part of me thinks the reward would be greater
  • The elevation wouldn't impact me as much as others
  • Run course on spectator-friendly trail, looks pretty sweet
  • Living in a colder climate, gives me the summer to train

  • HARD! Highest elevation + most climbing 
  • Weather can be suspect - in 2013 it was 43 degrees at the start, and last year was cancelled at the last minute due to air quality (as a result of forest fires in the proximity)
  • Inaugural race sold out well over a year ahead of time once announced. This year's has not sold out, 2 months before... folks are definitely scared off (maybe that's a pro??)

Treatment Facility: Ironman Arizona

Travel required: ~10 hour drive south by way of Vegas


Some stats:

Race day: mid November
1-loop swim
Start elevation: 1146 ft
Total bike course climbing: 2577 ft
Total run course climbing: 358 ft

Random Trivia: race used to be held in April

  • Drive passes through my in-laws home of St. George, so can break it up (great for my support crew)
  • Any Ironman distance race is hard, but this is the "least hard" of the courses... would be motivated to greatly improve my time from my first IM 
  • Low elevation race after training at altitude
  • Run course on spectator-friendly course, looks pretty sweet
  • Living in a colder climate, gives me the summer and early fall to train

  • Probably the least scenic of the four venues
  • 3-loop bike course = congested, drafting?? 
  • It's Arizona... I'm guessing November will still be HOT
  • Sells out in tenths of a second!  Hard to get into unless you volunteer the year before

Treatment Facility: Vineman Full (not affiliated with the Ironman brand)

Travel required: ~11 hour drive west, a little north of San Francisco

Some stats:

Race day: late July
1-loop, river swim
Total bike course climbing: ~4000 ft.

Random Trivia: Vineman gets its name due to taking place in California's wine region

  • From what I've heard, it's a great venue and a great course
  • Some rolling hills, but nothing to cry yourself to sleep about
  • Non-IM brand = cheaper entrance fee
  • Oldest full-distance Ironman distance race in continental US (1990)
  • Capped at ~1000 participants, so less congested, more "grassroots" vibe

  • Longest drive of the four treatment options
  • This is a controversial topic among triathletes, but does a race lose something (prestige? buzz?) vs. an official Ironman-branded race? I don't have the answer to that... it very well may be a better experience

In summary I'll continue to monitor my symptoms, but it's comforting to know there are four excellent treatment options on the table should the need arise!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Funky Fast: Rotor Q Rings Review

One of the great things about doing Boise 70.3 as a regional team race was being able to compare/contrast gear and talk shop. Something I quickly noticed on the noble steeds of both Jackie (Utah) and Stewart (Colorado) was the funky-looking elliptical Rotor Q Rings. I had heard of them, but didn't know much about them before Boise.

Here Jackie gives a synopsis of his experience with the product after six months of use.

In a never ending pursuit of getting faster and strengthening the bike leg, I researched any possible way to increase power while maintaining efficiency. I am not a power rider, with a current FTP of 220 watts (please do not mock) so I was looking for a way to get up the hills a little better and maintain a higher average mph on the flats.

All of the marketing and hype basically boils down to removing the dead spot of the pedal stroke and enhancing the power portion of the stroke. This is done by altering the chain ring to reduce the tooth count in the dead spot and increasing the tooth count at the down stroke. This is accomplished by moving away from the traditional round chain ring to a more oval shape.

I was willing to take the chance to increase power and save energy and drop the $250 to give them a try. Super easy to install like any ring, except you get 5 different mounting positions depending on where you want the power portion to begin. I went with the neutral recommended position 3. Spinning them in the bike stand it was a bit weird to see an out of round chain ring, giving the appearance it was bouncing up and down. 

The first test ride I thought it would be awkward, but after about 5 minutes you could not even notice them. I found a hill to see if I could notice a difference and that is where I really could feel the benefit. Once the watts required to push up the hill kicked in, the down stroke had noticeably more power per pedal and I could hold my cadence in a harder gear than normal. On the flats once I got up to speed and into my rhythm I also noticed it was easier to hold the speed.

Six months into the new rings, I rave about them to everyone and even went from a 53 to 54 big ring because of the top end benefits. The benefits are real and the hype is true. If you want more power climbing and the ability to hold a higher speed on the flats you should look into getting a set of Q rings.

Rotor site

Monday, July 13, 2015

Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini Review: Part II

As mentioned in Part I of our review, our team recently received the new SpeedForm Geminis from Under Armour. Since UA is relatively new to the runner/triathlete space, we want to share our feedback as a team to the endurance community. Ryan Nuckols (Illinois) is currently training for the Chicago Marathon and put together this video review after a few weeks of testing.

Related Posts:

Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini Review: Part I - Kristen Lodge (Arizona)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ceramic Speed Review

Triple Threat friend and professional triathlete Guilherme Ferreira Campos wrote up these thoughts on gear that will make you faster from a company called Ceramic Speed. Thanks G!

Ceramic Speed Bearings, Pulley Wheels and UFO Chain

I recently upgraded a few components of my Cervelo P5 Tri Bike with Ceramic Speed parts. That is for sure, the simplest and easiest thing I could have done to save some watts and gain the so desired “free” speed. As athletes we wanna take the most advantage we can from our equipment, and while equipment and technology doesn’t buy you fitness or substitute those hard long miles in the saddle, the best and right equipment on top of solid training leads to a huge advantage on race day!

Ceramic Speed is a company based in Denmark, now sponsoring a few of the best pro triathletes in the business and also a couple of Pro Tour cycling teams. Their products have been tested by the fastest riders out there and below I will address why it is a “no brainer” investment for your bike.

First of all, Ceramic Speed has world class customer service and once you decide to upgrade your bike they will take care of all details for those parts to fit your BB, frameset and groupset.

They also just bought UltraFast Optimized, a company that coats chains, adding another upgrade to the race day arsenal that I will talk about by the end of the article.

The main benefits of having the whole upgrade are:
  • Save energy due to extremely low friction
  • Last 3-5 times longer than other bearings on the market
  • The lower rolling resistance increases your power transfer when pedaling
  • Increased top speed with improved power transfer
  • High performance bearings made with special quality CeramicSpeed balls

The Ceramic Speed upgrade can save from 6-9 watts when used with the UFO chain on race day, and according to the company up to 9 min on a 112mi Ironman bike! Eliminating friction plays a big role together with aerodynamics on a long course triathlon bike, allowing you not only to ride to your full potential, but also to run your best off the bike!

The UFO chain is supposed to be installed the day before the race, as it has a “lifetime” of about 200mi, used only in races!

The other parts you can leave on the bike and they have very good durability if you do regular maintainence on your bike, especially after wet rides or rain!

You can find full, detailed information at

Related Posts:

Guilherme Ferreira Campos: Pursuing the Dream

Choosing a Triathlon Wheelset

Fizik Tritone Review

Monday, July 6, 2015

Open Water Tips From a Mediocre Swimmer

First of all, let me be clear that I’m not an elite swimmer. Some people are naturally a “fish” from a young age. Not me. I hated swimming lessons as a kid. I never had a phobia of water, but just didn't like it. I casually began experimenting with swimming as a way to stay in shape after hurting my knee running in my early 20’s. A few months later I did my first triathlon and the rest is history. I joined a masters team, which helped me a ton. In addition to a handful of triathlons a year, I also raced ~20 aquathons (just swim/run) on Thursday evenings in Wisconsin's often choppy Lake Mendota. I credit these experiences with helping me stay calm during the swim at my insane, white-cap Ironman debut in 2012.

All that said, here are some things that help me tackle the infamous washing machine that is the triathlon swim:

1) Get in the water as soon as possible. I tell this to everyone. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, this time is invaluable, especially if the water is cold. Do breaststroke, tread water, whatever. Just get acclimated before the gun goes off.

2) While warming up, get your mind ready as well. It’s not an ego thing, but I often say to myself “I’m a good swimmer, I’m a good swimmer.” I’ve worked hard, and so have you! Think about all the hard practice sessions you've put in and get into that Bring It On mentality.

come on in, the water's fine
3) Position yourself well – use common sense here... if you're the fastest fish in the water then by all means, line up front and center. CAUTION: if you're not, you will get run over. Start on the side or towards the back until you've got some experience and greater confidence in open water.

4) Stay calm – get plenty of air. A couple things help me when I’m feeling short of breath: it sounds weird, but every now and then as I’m breathing I’ll take a peek up at the sky and think to myself “look at all that air up there.” It’s easy for newer triathletes to feel a bit claustrophobic at times… that little mind trick seems to help. Keep your mindset positive no matter what. At Ironman, waves were crashing in my face and I couldn’t see a thing, but I was laughing in the water saying “this is craaaaaazzyyy!!” Lastly, focus on exhaling fully in the water, which really helps regulate your breathing.

5) Play a song in your head – It helps to get you in a rhythm and can be a nice little distraction.

6) Protect yourself – the fact of the matter is, you're going to experience some incidental contact with other swimmers. It's tough to avoid that 100%. Protect your space, but if someone’s just repeatedly all over you pop up for a second and pick a new line.

7) Finish strong – keep swimming til your "hand touches sand." You’re excited to get out of the water, but you’ll be faster swimming it in than wading like a sea lion to transition just because it's shallow enough to stand.

Have fun and good luck!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rudy Project Wing57 Review: Activating Beast Mode

Being successful on race day requires equal strength in both body and mind. Let’s face it, the DNA you’re born with contributes to the equation, but regardless of the hand you’re dealt, you can train your way to huge individual improvement. On top of that is the equipment you use on race day. For example, no matter how good Mirinda Carfrae’s DNA and training may be, she’s not winning Kona on the rusted out beach cruiser in your neighbor’s garage (now that I think about it, I'm not so sure... she still might run everyone down).

The mental side is huge as well. Just like any sport, some people show up having conceded the fight before it begins. Of course everyone is there for some element of “fun,” but some show up with that X Factor, which is often described by phrases such as Marshawn Lynch (below) “activating Beast Mode,” “a little fire in your belly,” “a chip on your shoulder,” “Playing Angry," etc, etc. Basically it’s a drive or an attitude of winning, whatever “winning” means to you. On the other hand, others are afraid to really push themselves and stay comfy in “Safety Mode.” A good performance requires a huge helping of mental toughness in order to, as Macca famously puts it, “shake hands with the pain.”

regardless of the sport, we can all take a lesson in activating Beast Mode from this guy

Some days it’s easier than others to have both body and mind clicking on race day. Sometimes that’s on the physical side, if your legs just aren’t there, for example, but other times it’s more mental. It’s an interesting phenomenon: Have you ever gone for a run really pissed off about something? Or maybe really stoked about something? Suddenly you have a gear, and a drive, that you didn’t have before. For some it’s the competition, or could be a certain someone you really want to beat! For others it’s more internal, even a “look fast, feel fast” phenomenon of rocking a new race kit, new gear, etc. All of these benefits are obviously psychological, but they can sometimes play a big role in your performance.

After getting a chance to test out the Rudy Project Wing57, in my opinion the benefits are huge on both of these levels: physical as well as psychological.

On the physical side, the Wing57 has been referred to as an “absolute speed monster,” and was designed with the aid of legendary aerodynamics guru John Cobb. It underwent extensive wind tunnel testing, and it also comes with a magnetic, removable extension that can be added to the tail depending on your riding style (flat or arched back), to help break apart vortices which create a low pressure zone and drag.

In addition to its aero benefits, the ventilation is far superior to other brands I’ve worn. This is a big reason why Rudy Project has won the prestigious Kona Count 4 years in a row. Especially in hot conditions, this ventilation is crucial. That said, the Wing57 comes with vent covers so you can customize the helmet depending on race distance, conditions, etc. It comfortably fits a wide range of athletes, weighs in at a mere 300g, and features a one-touch adjustable dial in back, which makes transitions a breeze.

Lastly, the fully integrated (yet removable) optical shield obviously protects your eyes, but also enhances aerodynamics according to wind tunnel tests.

On the mental side, I’ve got to say there’s something about strapping this helmet on that immediately activates the aforementioned Beast Mode. Andy Potts touched on this power in our interview when he said “I feel like a fighter pilot when I wear it.” It’s easier to feel and be fast when you look fast! The visor is badass… I thought it might take some getting used to, but it really didn’t. You feel legit, feel fast, and it looks intimidating as hell.

Speaking of Andy Potts – He just won IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene wearing the Wing57 in one of Rudy’s 6 new limited edition colors. Check out how that wicked new Red & Black matches his kit perfectly:

photo credit: Nils Nilsen

There are reasons why some NFL players such as Marshawn Lynch (Beast Mode himself), the retired great LaDainian Tomlinson and others play with a visor, and I’d argue in many cases they are more psychological than physical. They strap that thing on and it’s go time… they look tough, intimidating, and it transforms them to another level.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

In summary, like all sports, succeeding in triathlon is both physical and mental. I would encourage you to put the Wing57 to the test and find that next level for yourself!

As previously mentioned, Rudy just released 6 new limited edition colors of the Wing57, including the slick black & red that Andy Potts is wearing in the image above. All-in-all, they now have 10 styles in stock, and I'm told they will be releasing a further line of 3 "custom" colors in August, which have been made specially for North America.

To see all the new Rudy Project Wing57 colors, head over to

Related Posts:

From Skin Hat to Speed Monster: A Brief Helmet History

Peeling Back the Onion: A Rudy Project Investigative Report

photo credit: Nils Nilsen

the magnetic, removable extension (see 1st Potts pic)