Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Girl You Know It's True

Had a race this past weekend, a local sprint.  Unlike last year, there was no partial nudity this time. In fact, everyone was relatively covered up... it was chilly!! Anyways, this classic was inexplicably in my head while I was biking and running as fast as my little legs would take me. If it's been a couple decades for you, you owe them a listen. I don't care if they were lip synching, some of those moves are pure magic.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bike Fit 101: Stack & Reach Part II

My future noble steed, the 2016 Argon 18 E-117, has arrived! Can't wait to saddle up... after talking with the guy who will do my bike fit today, thought I'd recycle an old, popular post on Bike Fit 101. More to come as I and other TTT teammates go through the fit/build process.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how my wife was in the market for a bike, and how the concept of “stack and reach” factored into the process. Our challenge was to find a bike that had the stack Lindsay needed (58cm), without being too long on the reach (40.5cm). After researching the Slowtwitch database, we were able to narrow the field down to five that were reasonably close as well as easy on the eyes:

is there a Spruce Lake Triathlon?

BH GC Aero
Blue Triad
Cannondale Slice
Felt B12
Specialized Shiv

The Blue Triad (size ML) was the best fit on paper, but it proved to be quite elusive. A local Blue retailer didn't have any in stock, and surprisingly we couldn’t find any online in that size. The next size down was also a decent fit to Lindsay's stack/reach numbers, and we found a great deal for one on eBay. However, adjustability is still important, even if the stack/reach are close. We requested the expertise of bike fitter Mike Mamales (who fitted Lindsay in the first place) who discouraged this particular one due to lack of adjustability of the aerobars.

We were also unsuccessful in finding a BH GC Aero option in Lindsay’s size, and the Shivs we saw were a bit out of our target price range. We found a great deal on a new, 2013 Felt B12, and it looked like this was the one. However, Lindsay ultimately decided it looked a little too similar to my Felt B16… it's a great looking bike, but she thought we'd look like the Bobbsey Twins showing up at the Spruce Lake Triathlon. I thought we could get matching helmets, shoes, and sunglasses as well... wouldn't that be adorable? 

No, it wouldn't.

For some reason the Cannondale Slice was the last bike on the short list that got serious consideration, but it ultimately turned out to be the prettiest girl at the ball. As a bonus, a local retailer had it in stock, and Lindsay was able to give it a test ride. She sent them the stack, reach, and other measurements from her bike fit, which helped them prep it for her. They called back saying they were able to add spacers (essentially raising the aerobars) to hit the stack number, but in its current form the reach was a bit too long. In order to make it work, they swapped out the Cannondale stem for a shorter 
Zipp stem, shortening her reach to the aerobars.

At the end of the day, Lindsay got the bike she wanted, fit specifically for her. It's literally snowing as I write this, so she has some time to hone in her new position in the pain cave before hitting the streets.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

4th Annual Ironman Challenge: Part II

I sat down for a few minutes tonight to fill out my own Ironman Challenge bracket... as a reminder, the criteria is simply to picture yourself at both races and answer the question "which one would you be more excited to be at?" 

I recommend just going with your gut feel... no real logical thinking required, just your instincts will do. The one exception for myself was Rio de Janeiro 70.3. My first instinct was to advance it in its Final Four matchup over Lanzarote 70.3. However, my logical brain kicked in when it dawned on me that I'd prefer not to get the Zika virus (if I have a choice).

Ultimately my champion this year is Lanzarote... part of the Spanish-owned Canary Islands, it's a beautiful part of the world in addition to having a notoriously challenging Ironman course. After conquering this beast I would surely lounge on the beach and watch the waves roll in.

Who do you have??

Saturday, March 19, 2016

March Madness: 4th Annual Ironman Challenge!

So, you had Michigan State winning it all, did you??

Take comfort in the fact that the 4th Annual Triple Threat Triathlon Ironman Challenge has no winners or losers. You are guaranteed to win your league!

Check out the 2013 post to get some details, but the instructions are pretty simple:

Given the option of two races, which would you choose? Assume money is no object. Also assume zero travel time... a snap of the fingers and you're checking in at the race site. There are no seeds (races in random order), nor right or wrong answers. Just pick the race you'd rather do, for whatever reason. I know there are lots of great races outside of the Ironman brand, but let's face it, they have the most!  

For this year, the focus is on Ironman 70.3 races (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run). We've also made it simple with the naming... for example Pucon 70.3 is in Chile. For purposes of the bracket, it's just "Chile 70.3." That way you know where the host country is without having to look a bunch up. The only exceptions to this are races with a long history in the US, such as Eagleman 70.3 in Maryland, Oceanside 70.3 in California, etc.

It's amazing how truly global this sport is.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Breaking Swenson: You Take the Breath Right Out of Me

I randomly had this song in my head during my masters swim workout this morning. Turns out the lyrics are pretty applicable to the mild water boarding that is a tough swim session without any changes... here I've tweaked them a bit to make them even more so.

I see nothing but a black line, and the more I see the less I like.

Is it oooover yet, the maaain settt?

Water went up my nose that time, but the stinging can't relieve my state of mind.

Is it oooover yet? I caaan't swiiiiim!

So sacrifice yourself, pretend you're Michael Phelps
I know that I can find the fire in my eyes.
I'm going all the way, water aerobics class stay away, pleeeease.

You take the breath right out of me.
You leave a hole where my lungs should be.
You got to fight just to make it through,
Sometimes I really hate the pool.

Will this all be over soon?

Pour some chlorine into the open wound.

Is it oooover yet? The maaain settt?

So sacrifice yourself, pretend you're Michael Phelps
I know that I can find the fire in my eyes.
I'm going all the way, water aerobics class stay away, pleeeease.

You take the breath right out of me.
You leave a hole where my lungs should be.
You got to fight just to make it through,
Sometimes I really hate the pool.

I'm fading, I'm praying, Briiiing iiit On... no QUITTING!!!

You take the breath right out of me.

You leave a hole where my lungs should be.
It was a fight but I made it through,
Sometimes I really love the pool.

Related Posts:

Big Daddy Kane: Triathlon Trash Talk

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Choose Your Own Epic Adventure

Out of swimming, biking, and running, which is the most fun?? Which is the least fun?? Here Dave Fisher (Connecticut) hilariously addresses those questions in the first of a 2-part series on the subject. Choose wisely!


Do not read this straight through from the beginning to the end. There are many different adventures you can go on in the Adventure of the Triathlete. From time to time as you read along, you may be asked to make a choice. Your choice may lead to success or disaster! The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because it's your choice. After you make your choice follow the instructions to see what happens to you next. Remember, you cannot go back! Think before you make a move!

The Adventure of the Triathlete

Beep Beep Beep Beep. The alarm goes off on your bed stand and you smack it once. You let out a loud snore to no one in particular to convince yourself that you were sleeping and that this isn’t the beginning of a nightmare.

You yawn and open one eye. “Why am I up so early?”, you think to yourself. 
“Why is it STILL so dark out?”
 “And cold. And windy.”
“I’m going to need some reason to get out of bed here. What am I supposed to be doing again?”

No matter which sport you choose, it is definitely the least fun right now.

If you choose SWIM, go to SWIM ->
If you choose BIKE, go to BIKE ->
If you choose RUN, go to RUN ->


“Fine,” you think, “It’s a swim. I can get to the pool in 20 minutes”. You swing your legs out of bed and sit pensively. Since you won’t shower until you finish your swim, you toss on your clothes for work, march downstairs in a stupor and drive down to the pool. It’s very dark out and cold. The thought of the cold water and the pending punishment of swimming 100 repeats until you’re ready to hurl is frightening. Swimming is definitely the least fun. 

At last, you’ve managed to get your zombie self into your suit and into the pool. The heart attack from the cold water never came – instead you’ve woken up a bit. You push off for your warmup and feel the water slither over your body like a sexy glove. Your movement is poetry – your graceful “low gear” for warmups is a vision to behold (in your opinion) as you cut through the water. The rhythm takes over and you tickle the edges of meditation. “This is definitely the most fun sport,” you think to yourself. The whooshing noise of the water silences the world and wraps you in its cocoon. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. If only that main set wasn’t coming….



“Aha! The bike. My old friend,” you think to yourself. You throw on a pair of chamois that you’re not sure is clean – and you’re not sure you want to know. After stubbing your toe twice getting around the stuff cluttering the floor around your trainer, you nearly convulse when you switch the fan on and the cold air blows across your still sleeping skin. The heart rate monitor is registering you as ‘near death’ as you start your warmup. Fortunately, your heart rate bounces up happily, you start to warm, and eye the clock as it nears the first interval. You start bopping to the music in the earbuds, close your eyes, and let the strength pour into your muscles. A meditation and exercise, all in one. Yoga with cojones. Definitely the most fun sport. Here comes that first interval.



The run day. Curses. As you put on tights, gloves, and the crowning touch – the headlamp. The very picture of ridiculous. Out the front door and the cold slaps you in the face viciously. You realize you are breathing heavily and you haven’t even started yet. “This is going to suck,” you think. Running is definitely the least fun. Out the drive, round the corner, it’s too late to turn back. A couple of minutes later, your legs are buzzing and your breathing is settling in. Striding confidently across the ground as the trees whistle to your sides, you fall into your rhythm. Your vision narrows, and you enter The Time Suck.

You awake for a second time in one day to find yourself running. You shoot a glance down at you watch and realize you’ve been out for a half hour. It felt like 5 minutes. With a wry smile, you turn around to head back home. As you lift your head, you see the sun trickling over the top of the trees, dumping orange and blue clouds over the horizon like a spilt paint can. The first morning birds flock by and you. Feel. Fantastic. You are light, fast, and totally in control. Running is the most fun.

You are a mile from home and hit the finishing touch. The hill. The final stretch. All the feelings of lightness and speed seem to evaporate instantly as the pitch comes on. 10 strides up the hill and your calf barks like a rabid dog chewing mesquite tobacco. 10 more strides and a distinct knot starts throbbing in your left hamstring. As your breathing gets heavier, it feels like your diaphragm is twerking your rib cage. Walking is quitting. Quitting is pointless. You gut it. Almost there. Running is the toughest sport. Every heavy step is pain. There is no coasting. There is no floating. There is only running and stopping. No choices. The moment before the blood lasers erupt from ears and white light shoots from your pupils, you summit the hill. You’re home.



1 down. OK, that wasn’t exactly comfortable. But I can do this set.
2 down. Really wishing I hadn’t eaten that burrito last night.
3 down. How is it that the times in between are getting shorter but they are the same length? Is the clock broken? What the hel…whoops, time for #4.
4 down. This is really getting uncomfortable. How many is 15 minus 4? Oh geez. 
5. 6. This is definitely the toughest sport. Only a super human could withstand this punishment.
7. 8. 9. This sucks.
10. Hm, that one wasn’t TOO bad.
11. Oh yeah it was.
12. Maybe not? Am I getting stronger?
13. I AM getting stronger! Bring it!!!!
14. Brought!!! One more!!!!
15. Yeah!!!!!
Cool down. Yeah.



The soap you use could make a fish monger smell like a department store and clean the chrome off a jet engine, but it can’t remove the lingering odor of sweat and chlorine. You feel flushed and don’t really completely cool off until you already have your clothes on and manage to sweat into the back ever so slightly. All the while, the endorphins have flooded your body in victory, making you feel unbelievably happy, chill, and powerful all at once. Who else can work so hard for such minimal gain? If you even gain anything! Most of the time it feels like you just do these mornings so you don’t get slower!

“This is definitely the hardest sport,” you think to yourself. And you’re right – it’s triathlon. It’s supposed to be hard. And the most fun.

Friday, March 4, 2016

People Watching: Top 10 Gym Species

Generally speaking, I enjoy "people watching." It's especially fun at airports, sporting events,  and other places where you're part of a large, diverse group. The gym & the "necessary evil" of the locker room are places where it's less fun. However, here are the Top 10 species I've identified from my observations.

Old Naked Guy: this is almost exclusively one of our beloved senior citizens. Always in the nude. Usually has one leg up on the bench as he attempts to engage you in small talk, takin' his sweeeeeeetass time. Seriously, don't you own a towel??

The Over-Talker: terrifyingly known to double as Old Naked Guy at times, this is the guy you just can't have a short conversation with in the locker room. Extremely hard to shake. This isn't a toga party, man, I have places to go!

Gym Rat: these are the people who either live at the gym or are somehow on the exact same schedule as you. Whether I'm swimming at 6AM or 8PM, there are 3-4 people I always see. It's uncanny.

Teenagers: Did we ever behave like this? Really? The immaturity is appalling... guess I'm just getting old. Boy, I'll wash your mouth out with soap!

The Manatee: Not known to do anything active at the gym. Similar to the Loch Ness Monster, at times you can catch a glimpse of them floating in the hot tub or lounging behind a steam-filled sauna door.

Private Ryan: the opposite of Nature Boy, this is the guy who clearly never played organized sports. Toes behind a curtain is the most I've observed of this species. I'm not complaining... maybe there should be more Private Ryans among us.

Avoid Eye Contact at All Cost: from my personal experience this is either A) a gangbanger (check out his back tats in the shower at your own risk) or B) someone with a clear mental illness. There's this one guy who constantly mutters threatening obscenities at no one in particular... upon realizing it was just him and me alone one time, I may or may not have hid behind some lockers until he left. I feel bad for him, but he's a scary dude!

Brotein Shake & Brotato Chip:

SWAG Daddy: I belong to a public rec center. It's a nice facility, and has an amazing pool, but it's not exactly a country club. That said, SWAG Daddy takes delight in making the most of the amenities, as limited as they are. My first observation with this species is always that they're using up at least 50% of the soap/shampoo in the dispensers. As I'm about to leave, I realize he must have gobbled up at least 50% of the hot water in the joint... he's full on shaving in the shower at this point and there's no end in sight. When he does finally emerge, he's often spotted with his head directly under the automatic hand dryer thing.

Too Close For Comfort Guy: this is the guy who either A) inexplicably chooses the shower next to you when there are several alternatives or B) insists on getting his stuff out of the locker next to you while you're mid-change.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Nixon's Nuggets - Spring Bike Maintenance (Advanced Course)

I recently covered some minimum items to check before your first outdoor ride as well as a “quick check” before each ride. This week, I’ll delve into some more complex items that your bike may or may not need. And by more complex I mean that they require more “bike only” tools as well as a deeper working knowledge of the different systems. I won’t go into how it’s done but rather give you an idea of the tools necessary to complete them.   

Next steps

In addition to the “minimum” guidelines, add these “next steps” for a more thorough check-up.  If you want to tackle this at home, these will require more specialized tools and a bit of bike maintenance knowledge.  

·         Inspect and clean headset bearings/cups – This requires the removal of your top cap and stem in order to access the headset bearings and the cups where the bearings reside. This can be done using regular tools (Allen wrenches) unless you have an older, threaded headset. Then you will need the proper size headset wrenches. If the bearings feel gritty or are difficult to turn in your hands, replace them, but inspection shouldn’t require their removal. 

·         Inspect and clean bottom bracket bearings/cups – Most modern cranksets have a self-extracting bolt holding the non-drive side arm to the spindle. All you need to begin crank removal is the proper size Allen wrench. If your crank is an older model where both the drive side arm and non-drive side arm are held on with bolts, you will need a crank removal tool. And if your crank is that old, you will also need the correct bottom bracket tool to remove the BB/cups from the frame. Modern systems don’t employ the use of external BB cups but they still require special tools for removal/installation of the bearings. The nice thing about today’s systems is that the tools required for the headset are also used for the bottom bracket.

·         Inspect and clean wheel bearings/cups – You will need cone wrenches for this job.  They are essentially an open end wrench but way thinner compared to what you would find at the hardware store. The front wheel is easier to work on than the rear wheel.  For the rear wheel, you may also need a chain whip and the appropriate cassette lock ring tool to remove the cassette if you wish.  



·         Replace brake and derailleur housing – Cable housing can last many years, unlike the inner wire. This is one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” items. But if yours shows signs of breakdown: kinks, outer casing rips/tears, frayed ends, or the inner wire comes out dirty, then it’s time to replace them. Considering going “compression-less” (Nokon, I-links)? This is the time to do it. Using standard cable housing? Measure twice, cut once, or use your old housing as a measurement guide and use a quality cable cutter for clean cuts.


·         Check that wheels run true – A rough idea of the balance of your wheels can be done with the wheels still on the bike; spin them and use the brake pads to see if there are any lateral hops. You can even make rough corrections this way but you will need the proper size spoke wrench. However, to have the wheels trued precisely, you will need a truing stand. A dishing tool is helpful to align the wheel so that it runs exactly in the middle of the dropouts. Truing wheels, let alone building them from scratch, takes some skill and patience. The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt is an excellent companion.   




            In addition to the “minimums” and “next steps”, add these for a complete check-up.

·         Complete overhaul – Just about everything wear related on the bike will get replaced. This is also a good time to consider upgrading parts.    

·         Remove and clean all parts – Strip the bike down to just the frame and clean all of the parts. An old toothbrush will be helpful to get in all the tight spaces.  

·         Replace all moving parts/bearings – If you’re considering upgrading to ceramic bearings, this is the perfect time to do it. 

·         Clean and chase threads with tap and die – A tap and die set will be necessary.  Be very careful not to cross thread anything or your bike won’t go back together.  

·         Anti-seize compound, grease, and carbon paste – Have you ever tried to remove a bolt only to find it won’t budge? Sweat is corrosive and sports drink mucks things up.  It will flow into even the smallest spaces, like the threads on bolts. Anti-seize will help prevent them from corroding together and is especially important if you are connecting dissimilar metals. Are you using an aluminum or titanium bolt? Coat the threads with anti-seize. If it’s a regular stainless steel bolt, coating the threads with grease will be fine. If you are installing carbon parts, like a seat post or base bar, use a coat of carbon paste on the clamp area. The paste will help keep those parts from slipping.  

Whether you choose to do these things yourself or have your LBS (local bike shop) perform them is up to you, your abilities and your comfort level. If you do choose to undertake these at home, I will stress again the importance of a good bike repair manual.  

Lastly, many triathletes and cyclists use indoor trainers during the winter/off season. Some even use an indoor trainer during the season because of schedules, safety, and getting a more focused training session. Try these trainer tips to keep your bike cleaner while using the trainer.

·         Use a bike sweat net.  This little contraption is an absorbent towel that connects to the seat post and stretches to connect to the bar and/or brake levers, covering your top tube and stem. They work pretty well.

·         Wrap top tube, down tube, headset/stem with plastic wrap.  Use this alone or in conjunction with the sweat net. When you wrap, start at the bottom of the bike and wrap up the down tube, around the head tube and stem, continue along the top tube, and finally, wrap down the seat tube back to the starting point. Doing it this way should prevent sweat droplets from entering the wrap overlap.

·         Use personal sweat towels during rides.  This should need no extra explaining.

·         Clean your bike once every week.  Sweat is extremely corrosive. Riding inside can compound this effect because you don’t have the “luxury” of wind blowing most of that sweat off of you.  Using a fan while indoor riding helps.    

·         Use a trainer tire and/or dedicated trainer wheel.  Tires specifically designed for hometrainers withstand the heat buildup from the roller better than regular tires. If you splurge for a dedicated trainer wheel, you won’t have to swap out tires on your regular wheelset nor will you add miles to it which will prolong the life of the bearings and cassette. Add a trainer only cassette and you won’t have to worry about excessive wear on your regular cassette either.