Friday, January 29, 2016

Killer Value Award: Interview with XX2i Optics

XX2i Optics is a relatively new company that has developed a strong following in the triathlon and running communities, among other sports. Founder & CEO Paul Craig was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us to talk about this exciting new brand.

What’s the history of the XX2i Optics brand?

We saw an opportunity in the market to create a brand of sunglasses that over-delivers at a very modest price. As such, XX2i Optics was launched two years ago, and we believe it is absolutely the best value you can find in our industry.

What’s the story behind the XX2i Optics name?

XX2i is simply a play on words, where “XX2” refers to 20/20 vision, and “i” refers to “eye.” Besides that, we thought it was a unique, cool name that would stand out and catch people’s attention.

How would you describe your role with regards to XX2i Optics?

From a legal perspective, I’m the founder & CEO of RACE (Running and Cycling Enterprises), which owns XX2i Optics. My role is to set the strategy & culture of XX2i Optics as the premier value brand of sunglasses. Solving problems is core to us, and I love working with our people and our customers… we really strive to go the extra mile.

What differentiates XX2i Optics from the competition?

As previously stated, the main point of differentiation is what you get with XX2i Optics for what you pay. For example, XX2i Optics sunglasses come with additional nose and temple pieces (and a small screw driver), in addition to multiple lens options, providing a wide range of customization options. They come in a nice case, and the lens cloth included is truly one of the best around. Our polarized lenses are unbelievable, and also offered as “readers” that magnify the lower portion of the lens for those who need it. That way when you’re looking down while running or riding, you can actually read your Garmin!

Our warranty and service sets us apart as well. For example, XX2i Optics has a bumper to bumper lifetime warranty, no questions asked!

What is your favorite XX2i Optics style?

I’m super excited about the France2. Maybe I’m biased, but it fits me like a glove! My wife is a triathlete herself, and she prefers the France1.

What awards has XX2i Optics won?

XX2i Optics has only been around for two years, but is already receiving accolades. The brand was awarded Gear Institute’s “Best Value” award, as well as Outside magazine’s “Killer Value” award. We’re proud to have been recognized by these publications for what we set out to do in the first place… create the best value in the industry.

What are you most proud of with the company?

I’m most proud of the way we’ve delivered on our objective to create a tremendous value brand in XX2i Optics. It’s been wonderful to watch the brand develop the following it has.

Learn more at

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Under Armour You VS. the Year Challenge

Team sponsor Under Armour has asked us to do our part in spreading the word about a great challenge for 2016: You Vs. the Year. The objective is simple: run 1,000 km (or precisely 621.37 miles) in 2016. This translates to 19 km (or just shy of 12 miles) per week.

If you're starting now from scratch, it's not too late! Three weeks into the new year, you'll need to average 12.7 miles/week to get the job done.

Check out the official site to register, learn about prizes, and more!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Top 10 Signs of a Triathlete Parent

In honor of David Fernandez (Florida) & Jeff Kirkland (Oregon) who recently welcomed children into the world!

Top 10 Signs of a Triathlete Parent

10) Pull buoy riddled with teeth marks

9) Aero helmet been worn more times as a “jousting knight” costume than actual races

8) The significance of the numbers 2.4, 112, and 26.2 mastered before multiplication tables

7) IronKids t-shirts heavily featured in wardrobe rotation

6) Routinely find toys hidden in pockets of bike jersey

these bad boys give me the energy I need to skateboard home from school

5) Generally accepted that mom will eventually return after she emerges from water only to suddenly leave us in the lurch

4) A 90-min bike ride takes exactly 90 min… not a minute wasted

3) Mutual respect in that mom and dad have “swimming lessons” (masters) on various mornings just like they do

2) Clif "Z Bars” (marketed to kids) routinely appear in workplace lunch – hey, they taste great, what can I say?

1) Daughter has mastered flying dismount off pink Barbie bike

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rudy Project Wingspan Review - Time For An Upgrade? Part II

As was explained in the Rudy Project Airstorm review, I have a tendency to follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. That review highlighted my 235K mile, 1995 Honda Accord with busted AC and no functional radio. I was reluctantly forced to part ways with that car a few months ago, after multiple failed safety tests that would’ve cost more to fix than it was worth. In addition to this car example, any new clothes I get are either gifts or race t-shirts, my “smart phone” has been reduced to a complete idiot, and I’ve had the same toothbrush since 2006. Ok, that last one is still a lie, but you get the idea.

For the Airstorm review I used an analogy of the previously mentioned ’95 Accord, and how I came to discover it was probably time for an upgrade. Along the same lines, I’d like to walk through the evidence I’ve gathered that has convinced me I need to replace my idiot phone as well. Truly a first-world problem!

Exhibit A

The first sign I had that my phone was becoming obsolete was when I entered an AT&T store looking for a new cover, only to be told that they no longer carried them for my phone. This was a few years ago, and it was a little surprising at the time. In hindsight it was my first inkling that technology had passed me by.

Exhibit B

Between email, basic Facebook stuff and texting, I’m on my phone a fair amount already. That said, I can’t open a single other website and have it look right. For example, a few weeks ago I tried five different sites, just trying to get the score of the Steelers game… finally on the last one I was able to see some numbers, even if the site was otherwise completely jumbled.

Exhibit C

Here’s how I currently post a picture to our team's Facebook page:

1) Take a picture with my phone
2) Text it to my wife
3) Convince her to email the picture to my gmail account
4) Open gmail on our laptop
5) Save picture to desktop
6) Post to Facebook

It has come to my attention that the process has been streamlined a bit.

Exhibit D

No ability to take a decent selfie! How do I live!?!?

Exhibit E

My downloaded apps consist of one called "guitar tuner" that I’ve used once in 5 years.

Exhibit F

My library of games consists of mini golf and “Harbor Master.” (I will say both are decently entertaining when I’m bored out of my mind).

Exhibit G

Emojis texted to me come thru as [] [] [] ... I can't tell if someone's giving me a thumbs up or flipping me the bird!

Exhibit H

No Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Exhibit I for Ironman!

The straw that brakes the camel’s back: I can’t track Ironman-racing friends & teammates on race day on my phone!!

While I'm pathetically slow with technology upgrades, one upgrade I pounced on this past year was from my circa 2008 Giro to a Rudy Project Wingspan aero helmet. I liken my old one to the phone I've been hanging onto, while the Wingspan is akin to a tried and true, mainstream iPhone.

Here are the key differences from directly comparing the Wingspan to my previous aero helmet:

Ear Flaps: the ear flaps on my old one were flimsy and brittle... in other words, they cracked!!! Every time I put the old helmet on I swear I cracked them more. They were hanging on by duct tape and bubble gum. No such problems with the Wingspan.

Overall Quality: The Wingspan is much more solidly made. Holding both side by side, it's not even close.

Ventilation: a huge front vent & 4 massive rear vents as opposed to a few tiny front vents and zero rear vents. The Wingspan also comes with vent covers that can be used depending on race distance and conditions.

Looks: look fast, feel fast!

Adjustability: there's a dial on the back that makes for an extremely comfortable fit, easy to adjust on the fly. My old helmet was much more difficult to tinker with.

Shorter Aero "Tail": t
he Wingspan was engineered by aerodynamics legend John Cobb, and the Wingspan's aero tail is right in the sweet spot... not too long and not too short. Wind tunnel studies repeatedly show benefits of the aero tail. That said, too long of a tail is detrimental, especially given how many triathletes realistically ride on race day (for example putting your head down when tired causes significant drag). 

Comfort: Just a better feel overall. Seemingly small details like a small pad on the chinstrap make a big difference.

Weight: 310g vs. 437g

Although not as BEAST MODE as Rudy Project’s Wing57, its sibling, the Wingspan is a proven, reliable, high-quality aero helmet. The Wingspan has played a huge role in Rudy Project's dominance of the prestigious Kona Count over the past 5 years. At the 2015 Ironman World Championships, for example, 639 of the world's most elite triathletes chose Rudy, smoking the competition by several hundred.

So, if your race helmet has the tail of a snow leopard, holds heat like an oven, or has ear flaps flimsier than a house of sticks, it could be time for an upgrade yourself.

Check out the Wingspan and the entire Rudy Project arsenal at! Being the offseason, there are some incredible deals to be had right now.

ps. the deed has been done. Samsung Galaxy S6... now I just need to learn how to use this thing!

Related Posts:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Should You Train When You're Sick??

'Tis the season! Flu season that is... thankfully (knock on wood) I've been able to avoid it so far, despite not getting a flu shot as I've done in past years. 

Hopefully none of us will need it, but thought I'd re-post this advice from last year just in case.

The holidays were great this year, with family coming in from the east coast and Texas for a nice gathering. Especially this time of year, when you pack a lot of people under one roof, the chance of germs spreading like wildfire increases dramatically. What seemed to start with my daughter soon was passed to me, my wife, dad, and brother-in-law. It was just your run-of-the-mill cold… sore throat turning to leaky faucet nose turning to cough, but I was feeling pretty run-down for a few days. From a training perspective the timing was good, as it was a planned recovery week for me anyways. However, I once again was faced with the age old question:

Should you or shouldn’t you train when you’re sick??

In a nutshell, I think the answer is “listen to your body.” When I feel a cold coming on, I almost always cut back volume and/or intensity, but it often helps me feel a lot better to get in a modified workout. This is of course on both a physical and psychological level. For example, I went for an easy ride last Wed, a group Thanksgiving Day run, and played a little basketball on Fri. I could tell that I wasn’t 100%, but it felt great to work up a sweat.

Listening to your body also means knowing when to pull the plug. Saturday for example I had wanted to get in a short bike and/or run, but I was feeling completely wiped out. The thought of powering through a workout sounded terrible, and all I wanted to do was lay down. In those situations you have to be disciplined enough to let it go and rest up.

In addition to my experiences, I did a little research on the subject and found the following general info & guidelines:

  • First of all, good news: fit people recover more quickly and experience milder symptoms than more sedentary folks according to various studies, yet another benefit of exercise

  • If you feel as if you're coming down with a typical cold you can still exercise without significant limitations
  • That said, obviously cut back if you feel worse after your workout. Take a few days off or reduce your effort to 50%.
  • Remember the “above-the-neck” rule: if your symptoms include a runny nose, dry cough or sneezing you should be fine to exercise. Rest if your symptoms are below the neck, such a chest congestion, muscle aches, upset stomach, etc.
  • Stay home if you have a fever, stomach symptoms or the flu
  • If you're wiped out with fatigue there's no reason to work out. Also remember you're contagious the first 5-7 days.
  • Rest allows your immune system to recover
  • The basics: get plenty of sleep, fluids, and use OTC medications to help with symptoms
  • Don't go 100% the first three or four days back. Start at 75% and increase gradually for the first week or so.

Happy (and healthy) New Year!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Winter Running... Treadmill Drudgery vs Outdoor Running?

In need of a treadmill upgrade? Check out this excellent, thorough review!

Elaina Mertens (Iowa) is fast, as in Kona fast. She's also smart, as in PhD smart, teaching college courses in Sports Nutrition and Anatomy & Physiology. Put these two together, and she knows a thing or two about athletic performance... we'd all be wise to listen and listen good.

Is running on a treadmill the same as running outside? There are pros and cons to both outdoor running and treadmill running- we will take a scientific approach at comparing the two and what is best for maintaining your fitness through the tough winter months. 

Specificity of training

While running on a treadmill is without a doubt boring, it is an excellent tool for speed specificity. One of the best predicting factors for determining running race performance is the pace at which you complete your workouts. Interval work completed at goal race pace helps your body get accustomed to running at that specific speed. The closer this speed is to your race pace, the more comfortable this pace should theoretically be once you get in a race situation. For example, completing 800 meter repeats at your 5k race pace is a great way to physiologically prepare for this speed come race day. This type of workout is easy to replicate on a treadmill. 
Trying to hit this same particular pace while drudging through snow and ice may be nearly impossible.

In relation to training specificity, we also know that running a 7:00 mile on a treadmill is metabolically easier than running a 7:00 mile outside for a few reasons. First, even flat, fast running courses will have small amounts of incline and declines unless you are racing on a track. 

Even minor changes in terrain cause an increase in energy output when running outside. Secondly, when running on a treadmill, wind is a non-issue. Even on a still day while running outside, you must propel your body forward, resulting in a wind resistance equivocal to speed at which you are moving. When running on a treadmill, you do not propel your body forward, you stay in the same location, which equates to running with a tailwind equal to however fast you are moving (if you are running 7 mph on a treadmill, this is equal to a 7 mph tailwind outside).

To counterbalance the differences in terrain and wind resistance eliminated while running on a treadmill, complete all workouts with a grade of 1%. Research shows treadmill running with a grade of 1% is metabolically equal to outdoor running.

some have speculated this is actually
Elaina after an especially cold Iowa run

One both advantage and disadvantage to treadmill running is the pace aspect. You can set your speed at your target pace during workouts, allowing you to complete workouts at whatever your desired speed may be. The disadvantage to this is that you don’t learn pace, which may hurt you in a race situation. Developing a sense of pacing is essential in any type endurance running race.


Turns out, treadmill running biomechanics are essentially the same as outdoor running biomechanics, so long as you don’t have to leap snow piles and icy spots. Also, don’t hold on to the rails while running on the treadmill, this may decrease workload by 28%!

Elaina en route to a coveted Kona spot at IM Wisconsin
Psychological factors

Many researchers have found that time spent outside, especially in green spaces or parks, offers a variety of psychological benefits, including improved mood, improved energy levels, and better sleep. While these benefits are surely received with any mode of continuous exercise, it is unclear as to whether these benefits are as significant while running on a treadmill when compared to outdoor running.


While there are certainly pros and cons of using both modes of running, it may be smart to use a combination of the two during winter months. If the weather seems too dangerous, such as icy and extremely cold conditions, the treadmill may be a great option. Tempo or interval runs during the winter may be best completed on a treadmill in order to maintain pace specificity if conditions are bad. For easy runs, choosing the great outdoors is the best option! The treadmill can be monotonous and boring, and we also know that being outdoors can provide us with some needed psychological lifts during the dreary winter months! Happy running!!

Elaina's research ranges from compression socks to caffeine dosing. Learn more about the girl, her mad experiments, and how she can make you faster at!