Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Laughed at Those Waves!


A few months ago I was dealing with some adversity and going through some especially rough times. I guess that’s called life?? When you’re going through something, at times it’s hard to think of anything else. Even if you don’t want it to be on your mind, it can kind of linger there and be hard to shake. Analyzing a situation can help to a point, but at times overanalyzing does nothing but harm.

I was feeling a little overwhelmed one day when I decided to get a ride in to try to clear my head. This is what’s so great about training… having a bad day? Go do something. You’ll feel better, I promise! Having a great day? Think big, set goals, go crush your training session and make it even better. Anyways, I was about halfway through my ride when a metaphor popped in my head. The thought was “You laughed at those waves. Why not laugh at this, too?” This was the clarity and reminder that I was looking for, and has greatly helped since.

For a little background, my first Ironman was the highest DNF % in Ironman history, with almost 1 out of 3 not crossing the finish line (I believe it may still be the highest… I haven’t heard of any higher, but to be fair I’m not 100% sure). In a nutshell, minutes into the swim the calm waters turned into a massive windstorm, causing huge swells. Completely out of the blue, not in the forecast or anything. People were clinging to buoys, several hundred were pulled from the water, and most of the volunteers either capsized or panicked themselves. In many cases athletes were helping to keep the volunteers calm as they clung to a paddleboard or kayak.

I had some moments of panic as well, and wasn’t sure if I could do it, when all of a sudden my fear turned to me literally laughing in the water. Laughing at the waves as they crashed down on me, laughing at the wind and the whole situation. Thanks to this attitude, an interesting thing happened… I calmed down. I was able to swim normally, and even have fun out there, enjoying the craziness of the moment. The mind is a powerful thing.
1:19-1:22 gives the best indication
You often hear people say “if you can do an Ironman you can do anything.” I used to kind of chuckle at that type of language. But I’m learning there’s truth in it. And it’s not just an Ironman, of course. Lots of physical challenges have parallels to real life challenges, giving you confidence that you can draw on. For me, triathlon provides the ability to go tackle other challenges as well.

So remember that. Whether it’s an Ironman or the local pool swim sprint, Triple Threat Triathlon encourages you to get out and do something new in 2016! Your training will not only make you a better athlete, but will make you stronger in every way.

Regardless what personal challenges you may face, you’re more resilient than you think!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Naughty or Nice??

I'm a pretty simple guy. An "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of guy. As I anxiously contemplate whether I've been naughty or nice each year, my letters to Santa aren't too long. One side of a page is more than sufficient. I don't need much, and he's a busy guy. I don't want to come across as a needy brat. That said, like most triathletes, my short list is usually comprised almost entirely of tri-related stuff.

People talking about what they got for Christmas is a bit like talking about your fantasy football team... not as interesting as you think. And I'm a fantasy football guy! Being fully aware of that risk, here's a quick look at my "podium" of triathlon gifts this year. I guess I snuck on the nice list after all.

1) Garmin 910XT - it's not the latest and greatest, which I applaud... excellent value, Santa! I don't need all the bells and whistles, but now have a nice upgrade and a device compatible with my STAGES power meter.
my still solid 310XT (left) will now go to my wife...
wait a minute, did Santa have a hidden agenda here??

2) Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V Carbon cycling shoes - I've loved my Shimanos, which were a gift circa 2007. I'm not quite sure what the usual cycling shoe life is, but they were getting quite ragged. Also, as someone who rides without socks, anything and everything could be growing in those things... I've never had the guts to take a close look. I now have a fresh, fly upgrade. Tri fly, that is.
3) The Sufferfest - As a huge fan of team sponsor The Sufferfest training videos, I can now wear my allegiance with pride. Among other things, the front is inscribed with "Pain Misery Agony", along with the requisite IWBMATTKYT (I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow). The sleeve proudly flies the colors of the Sufferlandrian flag, and the back reminds you that "Everybody Hurts." Pretty sick!
I actually gave the gift of suffering as well this year in the form of some new releases this year, including "The Best Thing in the World" and "Do As You're Told." My own collection is in the double digits now, and they're all awesome. Nine Hammers (below) is one of my favorites.
Hopefully you made it on the nice list as well this year... here's to a great 2016!
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Michelle Andres - Minnesota

I affectionately refer to Michelle Andres as "Andres the Triathlon Giant." She may be a few feet shorter and a few hundred lbs. lighter than the legendary WWF wrestler, but she is every bit as dominant. Michelle won Ironman Wisconsin in September... as in, first overall, with a time of 10:08. In 2013, she placed 3rd in the world in her AG at Kona. All this while balancing her teaching job and being a devoted mother of five teenage boys. In fact, virtually every time I've talked with her she's been at a son's hockey game. We're not quite sure how she does it, but we're thrilled to have her as a new member of the Triple Threat Triathlon team, repping the cold but great state of Minnesota!

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

I was a runner all through high school. After my first son was born I thought running a marathon would be fun. After a few years of having minor injuries I thought cross training would be a good idea and started adding some swimming and biking into my marathon training.

In HS one of the gym class options was a triathlon where you passed the class by completing a triathlon at the end of the semester. I signed up for the class without knowing how to swim. I was actually terrified of the water. I learned to swim that semester and finished my first triathlon my senior year in high school.

The next triathlon I did was on a rented bike, borrowed swim suit, and I actually sat down to tie my shoes. Thinking back…being so naive was actually a blessing. That was 2003 and from there I kind of fell in love with the sport. One of the things I love about triathlon is there is no right way to train or race…just the right way for ourselves. I think about triathlon training and racing as a puzzle….there are so many pieces that need to fall into place for everything to go according to plan. The sport is a lifelong sport full of learning and helps to keep all of us very humble.

How would you sum up your 2015 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight (if any)?

Ha! That’s a funny question. I had big intentions for 2015 back at the end of 2014. My plan was to race IM Canada and qualify for Kona. Race IM Wisconsin and set a new CR and then race Worlds in Chicago the following weekend. I had some other smaller races planned, but Canada, Wisconsin, Chicago and Kona were my big races for the season.

Life happened and by May I was ready to walk away from triathlon. My husband and I were in the process of buying a business and raising 5 teenage boys (17, 15, 15, 15, 14). I’m also a full time teacher and was wrapping up my master’s degree so my plate was a little full. I walked away from all the races and then the business deal fell through. I finished my master’s program and was on summer break from teaching so…. with 9 weeks until IM Wisconsin I thought…why not?!?!

I did a lot of unconventional training and race prep….some thought I was a little crazy. I did drop 20 pounds in 9 weeks to get to my racing weight and got myself into bike and run shape pretty quickly. I didn’t spend much time on the swim cause I knew I would gain about 10 minutes max with a ton of training.

My proudest moment (high) was winning IM Wisconsin….coming in first was great, but what makes me the most proud of myself from that race is where I came from in 9 weeks and how deep I had to dig on race day to pull that off. I have never had a coach and had to believe in my own training principles and plan to get me to the start line healthy both mentally and physically.

I really didn’t have a low moment. There were times I was down, for example when my 17 year old broke his leg and then got mono and my 14 year old broke his toe (all in the same week)….I had zero training that week….but I really think if we can rise above all the “stuff” and forge on it makes us stronger mentally and IM racing (in my opinion) is more about what is going on in our heads than anything else. Isn’t it the low moments where we really learn about ourselves and what is important to us? Sport is learning and through sport we can all become the best versions of ourselves.

Did you go into IMWI expecting to win?? How did Ironman treat you as the champion, and how did race day play out for you?

I don’t think expecting is the right word. That sounds like something has already been earned and should be given. I went to Wisconsin fully wanting to give 100% and dig deeper than I ever had…if I finished having done all that I knew I would be proud. On my bike I have a big sticker which says "NO REGRETS”. I even have a ring I wear which says it too. I want to live my life spending the time I get on this earth happy and giving it my all. No matter how hard something gets I don’t want to look back and regret not giving just a little bit more or taking the chance. It would have been easy for me when I canceled out of Wisconsin in early spring to not come back and race…but then I thought "why not??"

I’m so glad I put myself out there and risked so much on that day. I have a full race report on my blog ( I started the blog back when I qualified for Kona and started to train for that race in 2012. The blog has a lot of my philosophies on training, racing, life, parenting, etc.

How would you compare/contrast the experience of winning IMWI vs. your 3rd in AG at Kona 2013?

Winning at IM Wisconsin was pretty sweet….I had a bike escort and she was fantastic! She would have the whole crowd cheering when I came through. The town of Madison was unbelievably kind to me on the course. I took the lead on the run by mile 5 and slowly built my lead to 13 minutes by the finish line.

In Kona, there are so many FAST people…I felt just like one of many. Kona is special and there is no place or race which can compare. The two races are ones I will never forget and very special to me.

The million dollar question... what are the keys to your success??

So much is mental…in training and all the other times outside of the swim, bike, run sessions. I don’t think I have any magical formula. I have never been coached and I’m pretty much self-taught in everything I do. Racing an Ironman takes believing in yourself deep down inside. It takes believing in what you are doing or eating is the formula for success. I honestly believe it is how we talk to ourselves which makes the difference.

I do consider myself to be a very hard worker, but I consider myself to be a very smart worker. All my training sessions have a plan and a goal. The majority of my training is solo. The majority of my biking is on my trainer…even in the summer. I only ride outside once or twice a week. A majority of my running is on my treadmill…all of my key sessions are for sure.

Also, I spend a lot of time of the “other” stuff – sleep especially and I do a lot of yoga and foam rolling. I’m very specific about my nutrition when it’s race season. Otherwise I’m a cookie loving pizza eating mom of 5 boys!

For the most part …. For all of us…this is our hobby and we need to find balance. My husband and I are best friends and our family of 7 has a great time together. There are some things which I will never put before my training, like family dinners. I think it’s important for people who have a family to put their training around their family rather than trying to fit their family around their training. There is a very short window where my husband and boys know that Mom has her game face on and it’s go time…but in reality that is maybe 5% of the year.

Do you have plans &/or goals looking ahead to 2016?

Of course! I’m definitely a type A triathlete who has a hard time not trying to keep being a better version of myself. However, this coming year my goal is to be present and stop trying to plan my future away. I’m letting the races come to me. I’m currently spending a lot of time in the weight room and doing other fun types of activities.

I may jump into a 50 mile trail run and do some half marathons…as for triathlons…we’ll see. We, my husband and I, only have 4 years with our boys until they are all off to college so I really want to soak up every moment I can with them. Triathlon and Ironman will always be there!

hoping this style makes a comeback in triathlon
What do your boys think of the tri life you lead and what's the secret to balancing family, work, training, etc?

I feel my training has taught my boys a lot about having dreams, setting goals, and then working hard and making sacrifices for it all to come together on race day. We are a team (Team Andres). We support each other and each other’s’ dreams and goals. They have only known me as a mom who is active. We all hunt and fish together along with being each others’ biggest fans. They have some pretty big goals for themselves with sport and I hope I have helped inspire them to set high goals for themselves.

The balance part…my blog has an article called “Getting the laundry done” I wrote back in 2013 where I explain how we get it done at the Andres house. My boys all know how to cook a full dinner, do their own laundry, and take care of themselves.

You reside in a small town of ~1,000 people, correct? Are you famous within the entire region for being the crazy triathlon chick?

Ha! No…I’m probably more known for the mom of the 5 hockey boys. The community has been great and very supportive. Our town is right next to another town which is much bigger. We have a pretty big and active triathlon club and community in our area. We had almost 20 people sign up for IM Wisconsin last year. When I was racing at IM Wisconsin I felt it was a hometown race because so many people from our area were there racing and supporting.

When you're not swimming, biking, or running, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I love hunting and fishing with my husband and boys. Also, I love my kitchen and baking. Of course, whenever I get the opportunity to travel I can’t pass that up!

From my time living in Wisconsin, I know WI and MN triathletes are pretty die-hard & committed. What’s the tri scene like in Minnesota as a whole, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?

You are right…the MN tri crew is pretty amazing. I may be a bit biased though. When I first started back in 2003 all the races were pretty low key…very old school. The sport has changed a lot over the last 10 years and has become much more commercialized. MN hasn’t been hidden from that or left in the dark.

There are many benefits from training and racing in MN. First, everyone is really quite nice and friendly. We all race hard, but after crossing the finish line we are all still friends. Also, we are known as the land of 10,000 lakes so there is no shortage of places to swim. The drawback is you may only have 3 months to swim in them. I love my home and being from MN. The terrain is beautiful and there is always a friendly person to share the same triathlon passion with and join in on a swim, bike, and run.

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Triple Threat Resolutions: New England Style

It's that time of year again, time to set some monster goals and swear that on Jan. 1 you'll start to make them happen! Rob Forshaw (Massachusetts) has greatly improved every season, and we have no doubt the trend will continue in 2016. 

When it comes to setting goals or resolutions you have to reflect on the past year and identify what went well and what went horribly wrong. Looking at a chart from this past year’s training one thing that really stands out is an increase in bike fitness. That primarily comes from a serious emphasis on structuring my bike training.

At the beginning of 2015 I purchased a power meter and set out to increase my FTP. I started out with an initial FTP of 236 W and eventually got up to 280 W just before my last race of the year (that has dropped down since then due to off-season bluesL). Judging by my bike focus it would be expected that my race results also improved. My 3 big races of the year were all 70.3’s, and my goal was to go sub 5 hrs in all of them. I was only able to execute that in 1 of the 3, going 4:45 at Pumpkinman. Looking at it after the fact what I think truly caused this was I over emphasized the bike and my swim and run training suffered. I was extremely structured biking that during training I would set out to have a structured run or swim session but was too fatigued from a hard bike earlier in the day or week. I identified this 3 weeks before Pumpkinman and adjusted my training and believe this led me to a good finish.

So 240 words in I give you my 1st resolution, “Don’t lose focus on the entire race." I love biking, It’s really how I got into endurance sports. Going into 2016, I need to focus in on that there are still 2 other disciplines that need my attention. I decided the best way to keep this focus is to get a coach and am fortunate enough to have fellow Triple Threat Triathlon teammate Chad Zeman (North Carolina) as my coach. I have spent the past month talking with Chad about my triathlon experience and strengths and I think we have a good plan going forward working on my weaknesses and capitalizing on my strengths.

2016 will also be the year of mental toughness. I think currently compared to the average joe I am fairly tough mentally, but I think mental toughness is a low hanging fruit that all endurance athletes can utilize to become successful. It is something that many can do in a short race such as a 5k and it gets more difficult to continue to do in longer racing. I want to increase my tolerance for suffering by bettering my mental toughness. I am currently reading “How Bad do you Want it” by Matt Fitzgerald and see a lot that I can carry over into my racing and training and hope to do so in 2016.

Finally there is my last resolution for 2016. Complete my 1st Ironman, Ironman Mont Tremblant. I have for many years been so fascinated by this distance and just a few years ago I thought it would be impossible for me to complete. Now I cannot wait to take on an Ironman!

I don’t however want to just complete an Ironman, I want to be competitive. This is not me calling my Kona shot, but rather I am calling myself out. I want to be competitive with myself, I want to know after the race that I put everything into my training and race that I could and was able to complete 140.6 miles as fast as I possibly could. I see the next 35 weeks as a journey with myself both physical and mentally where I will be able to learn a lot about myself. That is what I think triathlon really is a journey with oneself. Preserving through all the physical and mental obstacles that are blocking you from crossing the finish line.

With that I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope all succeed in your 2016 resolutions!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nixon's Nuggets: Project Build It - Yes We Can!

A few weeks ago I was talking to Stewart Nixon (Colorado) about my bike upgrade for 2016. I asked him questions such as "should I go with a bike ready to ride or build up a frame myself?" and sought out his advice on components, new vs. used parts, etc, etc. After our conversation, Stewart gracefully offered to write up some of the things we discussed. Great information if you're looking to upgrade and/or build up a bike of your own for next season.

As we enter the offseason, one question we often ask ourselves is that of bike upgrades. Should I get a new bike? Should I upgrade components? For the purposes of this blog, let's assume that you have decid
ed on a new bike. Should you go with one of the offered build packages or just get the frame and piece the gruppo together yourself?

Stewart is always front & center when it comes to mechanical questions for our team

Buying all new is the simplest route to go. All decisions regarding components are generally made for you if you go with a gruppo offered by the shop or frame maker. The company slaps on the parts and away you go. But if you want to save a little money (who doesn't, especially in a sport as expensive as ours), you can buy just the frame and piece together a gruppo. And you don't need to have all matching parts, nor brand new, except for a couple of instances.

First, let's go over the brand new parts you should buy:

  • Chain. These are wear items which generally get changed each year depending on how much mileage/use you put it through. If you have a few bikes you ride, which many of us do, you can extend the change time. There are inexpensive tools available which check the stretch of the chain.
  • Cassette. Another wear item like the chain, although the change interval is not nearly as often. Replacing a cassette due to wear is generally because of neglect with the chain. But since cassettes are pretty cheap nowadays, starting with new is a good idea.
the foundation on which I will build: the Argon E117 frame
  • Headset. Headsets see a lot of corrosive elements during their service life - sweat, water, dirt, sports drinks. Properly taken care of, they will give you many years of trouble free operation. New headsets are relatively cheap, however, so buying new shouldn't put a significant dent in your build budget. And with today's integrated headsets, it's just bearings to replace anyway.
  • Bottom Bracket. If your build is using an older style crank with separate bottom bracket, I would opt for new on a build. BBs see the same corrosive gunk that headsets see but with the rise in newer style cranks, their prices have fallen. If your frame utilizes one of the newer style systems (BB30, etc.) you could just buy new bearings and have them pressed in by a shop or do it yourself if you're building your own bike.
  • Cables/Housing. I almost feel as though this shouldn't get special mention, but I'll say it anyway so there is no confusion. On a new build, use new cables and housing. Mechanical shifting and brakes stretch the cable and compress the housing. Over time, brakes become spongy and shifting is not a crisp as it once was. Cables and housing are cheap, even the compressionless housing.
  • Bar tape. Buy new. New looks fresh. It feels fresh. And it's cheap. 

Now on to the components which could be purchased second hand.

Generally, purchases of this type are made through classifieds, auction sites, swap meets, or shops specializing in used parts. As you peruse used parts, pay attention to cosmetic appearance as that can often give an indication of how it was treated by the previous owner. Also, ask the approximate mileage on parts. This will tell you when serviceable parts, like the pulleys on rear derailleurs, might need to be replaced. When buying used, caveat emptor applies - do your homework.

Stewart promised I'd be able to ride like Terenzo Bozzone once my build is complete.

  • Rear derailleur/Shifters. I put these together because you want to keep this part of the drivetrain in the same model line to ensure crisp, clean, accurate shifting. Pay attention to cosmetics as a heavily scuffed RD is often a sign of being involved in a crash. I would not worry about derailleur pulleys as these are inexpensive items to replace and even a shade tree mechanic could do the work themselves. Also look closely at the threads on the hanger bolt, although if cross threading has occurred, the bolt is replaceable. With regard to shifters, the same cosmetics apply, Heavily scuffed shifters would be an indication of a crash or crashes.
    Shimano Ultra Groupset or "Gruppo"
  • Front derailleur. Here is an area where you can save some money. FDs movement are not only mechanical but also friction; there is no click with shifts. If you want to stay with the same manufacturer, you can easily drop down two model lines without compromising performance. But you don't have to stay with the same manufacturer, mixing brands is perfectly fine. As with RDs and shifters, look at cosmetics of the FD you are considering.
  • Crank. Make sure the crank matches the BB of your frame, whether it's an older style or newer style. Look closely for any major scuff marks (often shoes will make contact with crank arms, leaving worn marks - nothing to worry about) and inspect the pedal threads. If there is evidence of cross threading, I would not buy it. Often you can chase the threads with a tap, but there is no guarantee that will solve the problem. You should be able to hand thread a pedal into a crank arm with little resistance.
  • Pedals. Often, new bike build options don't include pedals and would require a separate purchase. The main reason for this is personal preference - everyone has their favorite pedal system that would get swapped out for whatever is offered in the build. When buying second hand, look for scuff marks on the pedal body. The heavier the marks, the more likely they were involved in a crash. If buying in person, spin the spindle. If it is smooth, you should be fine. If gritty, question your purchase. While pedal bearings are serviceable/replaceable, it's kind of a pain. Also pay attention to the spindle threads; they should not be chewed up or worn flat.
    SRAM Red
  • Stem. Unless there are cracks in the stem, used us totally fine. Make sure to check the steerer bolts and stem plate bolts for signs of cross threading. Rusty looking bolts can be replaced and are cheap. Remember, this area of the bike does see a lot of corrosive elements as described earlier. This is also a place you could upgrade to used carbon if you so desire. Pay attention to the clearcoat if going that route.
  • Bars. Unless they have been involved in a crash or are part of a recall, used is perfectly fine. Look carefully for cracks and pay attention to the clearcoat if considering carbon. Incidental scuffs are fine and usually happen when leaning the bike against something.
  • Wheels. Many triathletes have a set of dedicated race wheels, so this could be an area for significant savings. And having a set of bombproof wheels for training won't drain your budget. Pay attention to hub spacing for your cassette. Unless you are looking specifically at vintage parts, the wheels you get will have a sealed bearing hub which means replacing the bearings is relatively easy and inexpensive.
  • Brakes and Levers. Matched sets (calipers and levers) take the guess work out of the equation but you can mix brands. (If you need brifters (brake/shifter combo), get the same model as the RD you are considering.) Just pay attention to actuation ratios as some levers won't work with some calipers. Keep in mind that Dura Ace is the stopping power standard often used when bike magazines test different brakes. With regard to levers, be sure to look for obvious signs of being involved in a crash. Pads are cheap, as you will probably install a fresh set on your build. And remember there are different compounds for carbon rims and aluminum rims.
  • Seatpost. Many newer frames utilize an integrated seatpost. If that is what you have, you can skip this section. If your build uses a separate seatpost, buying a used one is fine. If you are looking at a carbon piece, the same clearcoat guidelines for other carbon components apply here as well. One practice that happens often is cutting off some of the unused portion of the seatpost that resides inside the seat tube. This is totally fine as long as enough is left inside the frame for the binder section to clamp onto. Personally, I would steer away from a used post that has been cut; there may not be enough post left to guarantee your safety when installed and you can't be sure of the method used by the previous owner to cut it.
  • Saddle. This piece of equipment could go either way, new or used. If you like to ride a shell, with no padding, then used is just fine. Often, new bikes end up with the saddle they are sold with being swapped out for one the customer prefers. These end up being sold "like new" and a great deal can be had. Padding and covers can degrade over time and with years of regular use, so look closely at what you are considering if buying second hand.
  • Miscellaneous items. Things like water bottle cages, behind the saddle carriers, nutrition carriers can all be purchased used.
Good deals abound on the second hand market. It's best to be able to actually hold the parts you are considering so you can get a first hand look at their condition. For this, swap meets and shops specializing in used parts can be a gold mine. 

Unfortunately, these are few and far between these days. This leaves classified ads and auction sites for most of your buying with just pictures to gauge the condition of parts. So I will say again, ask questions and if there aren't enough pictures, ask for more. Most motivated sellers will accommodate this request. Don't forget to research what it costs new and what most are asking for it used. A simple search will accomplish this. And one final piece of advice (again), caveat emptor!

Nixon's Nuggets of Knowledge - Archives:

Nixon's Nuggets - Indoor Trainers... A Pain Cave Necessity

Nixon's Nuggets - Tubulars vs. Clinchers