Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Happened to the Off Season?

I used to herald the coming of the off season as if it were the coming of Jesus Christ himself. The off season was a solace, a time for peace, love, and food. Yet there has become a movement amongst athletes to eliminate the off season.

I'm quite sure that this movement began, like most other strange fads, at the professional level. Yes, at some point, trickle down means that the aero helmet became relatively affordable, carbon race wheels are within reach, and a new triathlon bike runs that gamut from less than $1,000 all the way to $10,000. Yet we've also seen a movement towards the elite practices of elite athletes. This is by no means entirely bad, but it is certainly not all good. Age groupers get hurt trying to emulate the distances of the top professionals' practices. And increasingly, they have eliminated the off season. I now feel slightly guilty, and more than a little judged when I tell my fellow athletes that I'm taking the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January off, or whatever the period is.
Call of Duty counts as a sport, right?
None of this is the fault of the reader. Rather it's known in communication studies as the dominate culture. The dominate culture, which in this context means the top professional triathletes, imparts a sense of almost unworthiness, so that we feel that we must aspire to be them. We feel that we must train, eat, and sleep like the dominate culture because we aspire to be them.

Not all of this is a bad thing. As a result, people are more willing to push their personal limits. They tend to eat healthier, sleep more, and train harder. Yet for Joe Average, it also means that he feels an inadequacy. This constant pursuit of the professional lifestyle, whether he knows it or not, means that he is willing to do things that aren't really consistent with the lifestyle that he lives. After all, the term professional athlete means that triathlon is their job. It's not just a weekend event, every time they toe the line, they're earning sponsorship dollars and appearance fees. They also spend a significant amount of time at the computer, trying to get their name out there and be noticed. However, they are able to train four, five, even six hours a day because their professional obligation is to train.

This need for top end performance means that these triathletes spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to get a leg up on the competition. And now, instead of spending almost a month completely off, a lot of athletes spend only a week or two, here and there. In between, they race cyclocross or do Xterra (off road triathlons). Now, because they are the dominate culture, what do you suppose happens? Suddenly, Joe Average feels that to be the best that he can be, he shouldn't take time off. In fact, what I've seen many people do is skip the entire off season, all in the name of top end performance.

Of course, this ends up being costly. Joe Average is no great athlete like Craig Alexander. He doesn't have the fiery passion of Mirinda Carfrae. So Joe Average burns out. He gets tired of constantly being tired because he isn't used to a massive training load week after week. He doesn't have a coach in his ear telling him exactly what work outs to get take easily or the ones that really count. And he doesn't see the value in the off season.
You can find me in the corner, crying.
While I'm in the off season, I don't stop training. Sure, I'm not swimming eight thousand yards, biking 120 miles, and running 6 miles. Instead, I like to take some time to engage in activities that I usually wouldn't (see my article The Benefit of Off Season Cross Training). And that's what the off season should really be about.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What the Minimalists Don't Tell You

Look, I'm a minimal runner. I firmly believe that it is the best way, in terms of biomechanics and efficiency, to run. And I've converted my fair share of runners to minimal shoes. However, I never under any circumstances do so without fair disclosure. So here it is:

Humans are meant to run in the same manner that minimalists do. We evolved without shoes. We learned to put scraps of leather on our feet for protective purposes. Here's the cache: We ran on soft surfaces. Tarmac roads were first implemented in the US in 1909. For thousands of years, humans ran on primarily dirt and grass. Suddenly in the space of 100 years, we go from lithely pacing across fields back to the barn to pounding pavement with Bill Bowerman's waffle-soled Nikes after work. See the problem here?

The problem is that while we are innately designed to run on grass and dirt, our Parks and Recreation departments tell us that we should have nice, paved paths running through the city. We're sold over cushioned, overly supportive shoes that impart the notion that it's perfectly okay to run on hard cement and tarmac. Just today, I received a promotional email from Under Armour with this picture:
Really, Mike?
The problem is that we're constantly bombarded by media, pundits, and for-profit companies telling us that we can, we should, and we must run on our local streets. Until fairly recently, when people began looking for a new, crazy challenge, trail running was a sport that was only undertaken by those with questionable sanity.

Turns out these possibly insane runners were actually the smart ones. Running on those soft surfaces with little between you and the ground does a couple things: It forces you to land on your forefoot instead of your heel and it also reduces the amount of pounding your body takes. See, it isn't so much that form is the problem when it comes to minimalist runners. I've already discussed form in several other posts and won't be touching on Mr. Phelps form today (or lack thereof). The issue here is that no matter how you run, your body has to absorb a significantly higher amount of impact when you run on concrete or tarmac because those are significantly higher harder surfaces. Grass and dirt don't impart nearly the force on your bones that hard surfaces do.

The issue is that we have two conflicting pictures, and one is winning out. On one hand, we're told that minimalism is the way to go. It promotes proper form and lessens the chance of injury. On the other, we're sold the idea by contractors and developers that we should have paved "trails" everywhere. Let's add them together: Hard surface + very little cushion = higher chance of injury overall because no matter how you run, hard surfaces mean that something has to absorb the impact, and because it's not the tarmac, the impact is imparted on your body. Not so difficult to grasp.

Here's what I'm getting at: Running on concrete should not happen. Alberto Salazar, one of the most prolific coaches of all time, has his athletes running 90% of their volume on soft surfaces. It needs to be said, and I hate saying it, but if you're going to run on concrete for an extended amount of time, you need a cushioned shoe. It doesn't have to be a high drop, ultra supportive one, it can be Newton or Hoka One One. The best solution is to not run on tarmac or concrete, it's to run on some real trail, not the one Parks and Rec sold you. Run soft, run light, run on.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Running Like A Sprinter

"You learn to run like a sprinter, you'll be a great distance runner." -Alberto Salazar

Think back to when you were a child, the golden days. No responsibilities, no worries. No boss breathing down your neck about deadlines, no college professor assigning massive research papers. Just finger painting, snack time, and recess. Oh nostalgia...the things you do to me.

Once again, my undiagnosed ADHD has gotten the better of me, the point I was try to get at was at recess there were inevitably games. Whether you were a Tetherball gal or a Four Square guy, recess was a time to let loose. And while I was never particularly talented, but my game of choice was always football. I never played competitively, never got any farther than the field behind Centennial Elementary, but I loved it.

You recall that my last post focused on running with proper form. From the likes of Mirinda Carfrae and Craig Alexander, we can discern some of the subtle nuances of foot strike, posture, and even arm position that make them some of the sport's best runners.

You know who can also be some of the best runners? Small children. Kids that run around playing recess games, sprinting as far down the field as they can. Because they don't really focus on all the small things, they run, often unencumbered by those clunky things we call shoes, the way that humans were meant to run. Why is this? Because they're running the way that they find comfortable, the way we were meant to.

Running with a barefoot style, and sprinting in particular, is the execution of the best form that we can possibly achieve. Because we're trying to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, we're forced into the most efficient form possible. And while young kids usually execute the subtleties such as proper arm swing, the one thing they're really good at (and unknowingly, I might add) is execution of a generally good form, usually better than the majority of older athletes I've encountered.

Take a look at a big marathon like Chicago or Boston sometime. Watch the lead pack, because that's invariably what the television shows, and then go on to Youtube and watch the Olympic final of the 400 meter sprint. You'll notice that runners in both scenarios have a very similar gait. Remarkable, isn't it?



Now granted, the stride length of the marathoner is shorter. That is because they aren't in a full tilt sprint. If that lead pack stays together all the way to the last 200 meters though, you'd see the stride length become greater and the tempo increase as well as they tried to get to the line first.

I don't know about you, but when I ran track in high school, we were generally split (as runners) into two groups, the sprinters and the distance runners. Knowing what I do now, I wish that hadn't been the case. We can both learn things from the other group of athletes. At the end of the day, we were all runners, weren't we?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Motorist

Recently, MyID released a video on Youtube, titled "Dear Motorist." It is a plea from cyclists of all backgrounds and riding styles, you can view it here. I thought that perhaps I too could write a note to a motorist, and I would encourage my readers to do the same, and share it at www.dearmotorist.com.

Dear Motorist,

I'm a student, a son, a brother, a friend. I hope to one day be a father. And I'm a cyclist. I'm known by many as a cyclist, that is perhaps the defining characteristics that people that know me associate me with. But like you, I own a car. When I turned sixteen my father and I scoured the classified ads for a car until we found a great Toyota Camry. Sure, the upholstery was a little beat up, it had almost 140,000 miles on it, but I loved that car. One of the things my drivers' ed teacher told us always stuck with me, when you're operating a motor vehicle, you are operating a weapon. And like a gun, you can injure someone in a freak accident.

I very much hope that you are never in the position of the injurer. As a cyclist, as a person, I recognize that it takes two to tango. An accident is often not caused by only one person. In fact, having served on a Bike and Pedestrian board in my hometown, I was able to ascertain that in over 50% of accidents involving a bike and a motor vehicle, both parties were at fault. This is my pledge to you, that I will do everything humanely possible to avoid putting you in that position.

Three feet. Three feet is the margin that should exist between motorist and cyclist. And while I don't always get it, I wish that you would realize that it is extraordinarily terrifying when the margin is sometimes less than six inches. I've been hit, run off the road, brake checked, and slid across the pavement as a direct result of the actions of a motorist. My greatest wish is that you would not use this as a reason to avoid but rather a reason to ride. Because the more motorists we make aware, not of the terrors, but of the joy and freedom that comes with riding a bike. The more we educate, the more we empower, the less we will have to fear the motorist. The less we fear the motorist, the more we can get out and enjoy the road. Together.

Your friend,

The Cyclist

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Benefit of Proper Run Form


For those of you that have followed this blog for a while, you know I’m a big advocate for Newton Running Co. and their shoes. Why? Because they are the perfect long distance, on-road shoe. They don’t absorb shock, but they transfer it to the shoe via their proprietary action/reaction technology. And while I enjoy my minimal shoes as much as anyone, if I know that my route will take me on pavement for an extended period of time, I’ll reach for my Newtons first.

One of the benefits of living in Colorado is that I live within an hour of Boulder, the home of Newton. Every so often, they’ll hold what’s called a form clinic. It’s an opportunity for newcomers to try their shoes, and converts like me to tweak our form with some of the best runners in the world.

I had the privilege of joining the form clinic group last month with some friends, very good runners in their own right. One of the things that was emphasized in the hour-long clinic was having proper posture. This means holding the head straight, ears directly over the collarbone, and standing tall with a slight forward lean.

Let’s break those two points down, beginning with the head. Having a neutral head that is in a good position is imperative for fast, efficient running. One of the telltale signs of fatigue is the head beginning to rock. And every movement of the head is something that the body has to compensate for, which wastes energy. Over the course of a 5k it may not be a big deal, but if the body is already in an energy deficit by the time the run is reached in a triathlon, every calorie that can be conserved is essential. 

There’s a very simple way to judge what your optimal head position is. Newton calls it the tripod. Standing tall, head held high, place the index finger of your right hand right under your chin. Then allow your middle finger and thumb to rest on the collarbone, forming a triangular shape with those three fingers. Occasionally during warm up, I’ll form the tripod just to check my head position and make sure it’s optimal.

As far as I'm concerned, their second point at the clinic is sort of redundant. If you utilize proper form by striking directly under or just slightly in front of your center of mass, you should already be leaning slightly forward. A good example of this form is Mirinda Carfrae, Ironman World Champion and record holder on the Kona course.


Another good example of proper form is Newton Athlete Craig "Crowie" Alexander, who is a 3x Ironman World Champion and Kona record holder with an impressive 8:03:56, running a 2:44 marathon en route to his win. 
Note that Crowie's right foot has not yet landed (for lack of a better term) which is why it appears to be landing slightly in front of the optimal position. However, it should be noted that the optimal position of a foot strike is not directly under the center of mass, but slightly in front of it.

I was surprised to learn this because for the longest time, I'd been told by many minimal runners that the ideal position was directly under the center of mass because the knee is a hinge joint, designed to move in only two directions (up and down). However, when we look at Mirinda Carfrae's form directly before take off, as seen in the first picture, the knee is never fully straightened. If it were completely straight, there would be additional strain on the ligaments behind the knee. Therefore, to achieve as long of flight time as possible, the foot strike should be slightly in front of the center of mass or slightly behind it to generate as much propulsive power as possible.

Additionally, landing directly under the center of mass puts more strain on the quadriceps by creating more a squat, compact form. Forcing the quadriceps into a squat after the strain of a 112mi bike leg means that they are again working, defeating the purpose of a triathlon-specific bike, which minimizes the strain on hamstrings and calves so that they are fresh for the run. The extra energy required to push oneself out of the squatting position is often the difference between winning and losing. Pete Jacobs even went in for a run form comparison after 2011 and came to the conclusion that it was his striking in front of the center of mass that was the margin between his second place and Andreas Raelert's third ,a margin of two minutes, four seconds, despite the fact that he came off the bike nearly five minutes. With the proper form, and the execution of subtle nuances, Jacobs made up the five and put an additional two minutes into Raelert, a strong runner in his own right.

One final point: Alberto Salazar, perhaps the running guru and coach of Nike's distance athletes, is well known for saying that perhaps 90% of his runner's miles come on soft surfaces. He's also known for the saying, “You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career.” The point here is that 1) you should be spending more time on trails, grass, a track, even a treadmill and 2) if you're spending time on the pavement and run with bad form, you're compounding the risk of injury. It's like doubling the size of the window, the window to injury. Correcting your form will open doors to faster, safer running.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Need for Collaboration

Victor Del Corral. Remember that name. Not necessarily because of his two Ironman wins in as many weeks, which is very memorable in its own right, but because of the controversy attached to them.

In the triathlon calendar, no race is bigger than Hawaii. The big one, the Ironman World Championships, is the race that every top professional prepares for. The buildup takes up the entire season, unless you're aspiring to reach the top ranks. Yet that race does not end the season. There are two more races, Ironman Florida and Ironman Arizona. Very few that race the World Championships race Florida or Arizona. There's simply not enough time to recover and perform well after 8+ hours in the lava fields of Kona. The only reason that people that race IWC race Florida or Arizona is to validate a slot at the next years world championship (like Mirinda Carfrae, who "raced" at Florida). As long as an ex or current world champion finishes an Ironman before the next world championship, they are automatically included in the roster of athletes.

I've digressed. Del Corral didn't race Hawaii, so he raced Florida and Arizona to gather points. For those that don't know, if you're not an ex or current champion, to get to Kona, you need to allocate points at other WTC races to qualify. Each year the top ranked pros qualify, based on the number of points. Depending on the number of past/current champions that have auto-qualified, the number of pros fighting for points qualify as well. So Florida and Arizona are great races for aspiring pros to get points to try and qualify. Hence, Del Corral now has enough points, I think, to guarantee a spot next October.

At Florida, Andrew Starykowicz came back, despite racing in Kona, to try and repeat his winning performance of 2012. He would have succeeded, with an Ironman record 4:02 bike split, had Del Corral not run him down with a blazing marathon to take the win.

However, after the race, someone noticed that the helmet that Del Corral had worn wasn't legal.

Wait, not legal? The Ekoi CXR13 helmet that Del Corral raced with was the same model as Frederick Van Lierde wore on his way to winning the world championship not a month ago. Why was this helmet legal there, but not in Florida?

FVL in route to an Ironman World Championship. Photo: Slowtwitch

The answer is complex. USA Triathlon, the stateside governing body for triathlon, sanctions both races, however, according to slowtwitch.com, they make allowances for the Ironman World Championships in regards to helmets because of the large number of foreign athletes and USAT's rules regarding the safety certification of helmets. You can read the full rules and slowtwitch.com article here (it should be noted that Del Corral's victory stood, despite the rule).

Del Corral on course in Florida. Photo: Slowtwitch

En route to a win, wearing the same Ekoi helmet as FVL. Photo: Slowtwitch

A little more background to the USAT's rule regarding helmets. The governing safety standard in the US is the CPSC. Like the metric system, almost every other country has a different safety standard, the CE. USAT requires that the helmets used (except in Hawaii) adhere to the CPSC standard and while most helmets adhere to both the CPSC and the CE standards, the Ekoi CXR13 and several other helmets, such as Specialized's McLaren helmet adhere to the CE but not the CPSC. Additionally, according to slowtwitch.com, the most stringent standards for helmet safety come from
Australia.

"It’s standard is called AS/NZS 2063 and it’s universally accepted as the world’s most stringent. Australia was the first country to make helmets compulsory while riding on the road, and it’s not just illegal to sell helmets that are not AS/NZS 2063-certified helmet, you must also ride a helmet bearing that certification.

Except in competition. Here’s the rule in Australia, in triathlon, per Triathlon Australia’s rulebook, (3.3): “Bicycle helmets are compulsory and must be approved by a testing authority which is recognised by a national federation that is an affiliate of the International Triathlon Union (ITU).”
In this instance, we see a great need for collaboration between the WTC and the governing bodies of triathlon in every country when Ironman is raced (the trademark, not the distance)." 

Del Corral switched it up for Arizona, wearing an approved Kask Bambino helmet. When this photo was first released, a firestorm erupted as pundits assumed it was the same Ekoi helmet. Even though USAT allowed his Florida victory to stand, speculation has it that it was because he wasn't caught until after the race was over. Best not to tempt fate. Photo: Slowtwitch

Currently, it sounds like USAT is considering the same thing as Australia. In not enforcing the illegality of Del Corral's helmet choice, they've set a precedent. The only question mark that dogs the issue is what precedent they're setting. Del Corral wasn't caught until after the race, and I'm sure that there were multiple athletes who were in violation of the rule because by the numbers, approximately half of the competitors in Florida were not from the US.

The solution here is simple: Take Australia's example and make it the USAT's own. With the WTC working with USAT instead of the two enforcing separate rules and regulations, it opens the door for international athletes to be able to ride worry free, and that's something that triathlon is truly about.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Oakley Lens Descriptions

If you ask anyone who knows me reasonably well what they see me wearing the most is, the answer would be the same for almost everyone: Oakley sunglasses. I'm almost always wearing a pair, not because they're "cool" or "hip," but because I have extremely sensitive eyes. That, and they offer an "Asian fit" line that has a definitive difference in fit that makes it ideal for Asians like myself.

I've run through about 5 pairs of Oakley, and by now, I've pretty much figured out what lenses I like, regardless of the conditions outside. In my opinion, Oakley is the industry leader in eye wear, and that's reflected in their multiple endorsements with professional athletes, from golfers to cyclist to hockey players and all other manners of athletes. One thing I struggled with initially, however, was finding the correct lens tint for me. I went simple for my first pair, with polarized black iridium, which is a black tint, what most of us imagine all sunglasses lenses looking like. Iridium is simply a coating on the lens that Oakley employs, I'm not sure as to its exact purpose.

Here are some basic descriptions of the lens tints that I've tried in my time wearing Oakley, as well as a screen shot of how they compare to the naked eye from Oakley's website:

1. Black Iridium Polarized
Light transmission: 9%
Intended conditions: Extremely bright light
Neutral or Contrast: Neutral

This is the first lens type I tried, and the non-polarized version is Oakley's most popular tint. Essentially what you think of when you think sunglasses. The extra polarization and low light transmission make it ideal for driving, where you can be blinded by the glare coming off a window or mirror. I also wear these for most days when I have contacts in, as they tend to make my eyes more sensitive to light.


2. Jade Iridium
Light transmission: 17%
Intended conditions: medium to bright light
Neutral or Contrast: Neutral

A green lens from the outside, jade iridium is favored by renowned cyclist Mark Cavendish because it emphasizes color perception across the color spectrum and makes differences in the road easier to see as a result.


3. Fire Iridium
Light transmission: 16%
Intended conditions: medium to bright light
Neutral or Contrast: Contrast

This lens tint is a favorite of a lot of baseball players that I know because it brings out the contrast between colors and white (and thus makes a small, white ball easier to see). I've been using it particularly for playing ultimate frisbee because the disc is usually white.


4. Positive Red Iridium Polarized
Light transmission: 18%
Intended conditions: N/A
Neutral or Contrast: Neutral

Probably my go-to lens before I lost the pair with this tint in the lake. It offers a nice tint that's pretty optimal for almost every situation, from sunrise to sunset without being too light during mid-day. A good all around lens tint and the polarization helps filter the glare coming off the road.


5. High Intensity Yellow and Persimmon
Light transmission: 81%/60%
Intended conditions: Flat to low light
Neutral or Contrast: Contrast

These are the lenses that came with some models that have a Switchlock technology, which allows the user to change lenses in seconds to adjust for light conditions. Both are contrast models that bring out differences in terrain in low light situations. I use these on gloomy days or when I'm indoors and need protection. Both good backup lenses, but I wouldn't recommend them for every day use. If you can afford them or they come with a pair of sunglasses, keep them, but don't shell out for them otherwise. It should also be noted that while the conditions of the other screen shots was around midday, these are from dawn/dusk. They're also good for shooting, if hitting the range is a favorite pastime.




Oakley, in my mind, represents the pinnacle of performance eyewear. If you're looking for a pair of sunglasses that will protect your vision from not only UV rays but also from flying debris, while looking stylish and "chic," I highly recommend visiting www.oakley.com or www.oakleyvault.com

(All photos courtesy of Oakley. Switchlock is a trademark of Oakley, Inc.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ironman Foundation Teams Up to Provide Relief for the Phillippines

Ironman and Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine non-profit organization are teaming up to help provide care for families affected by Typhoon Haiyen, the most powerful typhoon to ever strike the region. The death toll has been put at nearly 4,000 people and climbing. Many thousands more have been displaced from their homes and loved ones.

The Ironman Foundation has stepped up to provide relief for those affected in the area by teaming up with Gawad Kalinga and printing t-shirts for relief.



My apologies for the lousy quality of the image, but you get the idea. The shirts are sold for $30.00 at the Ironman store online and 100%, yes that's right, 100% of the profits will go straight to the Philippines. You can find the shirts here.

The Benefit of Off Season Cross Training

In my last blog post "The Benefit of Off Season Activity," I talked about using the off season to indulge in some sweets, but also stay active and engage in some fun activities you probably won't be able to during a season that is almost completely swim, bike, run.

Let's look at the calendar. Pretend we're back to training, somewhere around early January. You've taken some time off following a hard season, rested up and indulged in that piece of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner and a candy cane or two around Christmas.

Yet something doesn't feel right. It's only January after all and you're not racing an Ironman in March, no siree. In fact, you're 'A' race isn't even until July, and that's a long ways away. Why start a buildup now, when you're going to burn out around May and lose valuable deposits in the fitness bank?

The best solution I've come up with is to start your training, but not in the traditional sense. Starting in late January or early February I'll go back through my season and analyze my races. I've kept all my splits and any photos that I can find. I'll use them to try and analyze where my weaknesses lie. From there it becomes a matter of addressing them. Instead of putting in base miles or sitting on the trainer, I'll hit the gym and try to strengthen structural weaknesses which may come back to haunt me in the latter parts of longer races.
 
In this we find a true benefit of the off season. Without compromising any significant part of training or the buildup to the "A" races, we can address structural weakness while inhibiting the onset of burn out. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Benefit of Off Season Activity

Many people have concluded their seasons by now, if not, they will soon. There are a few smaller races and Ironman Arizona this weekend, but many top pros have ended their seasons, and kicked their feet up for a few weeks before beginning their build up for next season.

Similarly, most age groupers have ended their seasons, not including those crazy cyclocross racers. (Side note: Honestly, who bikes and runs? Wait a second....) Regardless, the season is over for most of us, unless you're racing Arizona this weekend. But that doesn't mean that you should snuggle up with a blanket and sip hot chocolate by the fire this winter.

My off season, which was far longer than any professional and many age groupers, used to go something like this: Kick my feet up, do almost no physical activity for six weeks or so, maybe start doing some light biking and swimming around mid-December. Follow that up by taking another week or two off around Christmas and New Years, make a New Year's Resolution to get back in shape for the upcoming season, and feel horrible in training for the next month while working off the kilos. The worst feeling in the world, in my opinion, is getting back in swimming shape.

Over the last couple years, I've learned some things. And now, instead of just kicking my feet up, I engage in some off season activity. Not necessarily swim, bike, run, but now instead of being stagnant for almost two months after I end my season, I'll take the time I would have used in season to train seriously and play pick up basketball or Ultimate Frisbee. And last season, instead of feel like absolute sh*t when I got back to training for a specific goal, I didn't feel too bad. I wasn't in peak condition, but I wasn't back to square one like I had been in previous years.

The take away here goes back to my last post: Do something for yourself. Enjoy yourself in the off season, indulge in some things you wouldn't in season (donuts are a personal favorite), but don't let yourself go off the edge to the deep end of laziness and inactivity. You'll thank yourself when you start the buildup for next season.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Do Something for Yourself

Here in Small Town, Iowa, it's become rather difficult for me to stay in shape. I'll be the first to admit that between a pretty heavy class load, the Caf and student housing, and not enough hours in the day, I'm losing shape and gaining weight. By my estimation, I've put on at least 4 kilos. I didn't bring a bike here and the pool has some strange hours because the swim team seems to constantly be in the facility, so I'm very behind where I should be for my 2014 season base building.

But no matter the day, I try to find the time (and I'm not always successful) to do something active. We have a culture here (yes, culture) around Ultimate Frisbee. I've found solace in that. No matter how bad the day, no matter how many assignments I have waiting on my desk, I find a sort of peace in removing myself from the outside world and throwing the disc.
I don't recommend it, but if riding a seal is your thing...
It's the same solace I found in burying myself on the bike. I enjoy suffering, that's the realization I've come to. I relish in searing lungs, a racing heart, and burning legs. The lack of oxygen in the pool was euphoric (to a point, I'm not encouraging you to stick your head under water until you black out or see unicorns), the pain in my legs was exhilarating.

So every day, I relish the opportunity to go out and be in pain. One of my uncle's favorite sayings is, "We're using acute pain to avoid chronic pain" when he describes his workouts on a TRX. For me, with young joints and healthy bones, chronic pain isn't measured in years. It may be down the road, but for me, it's painful to see a deteriorating shape. Muscles being wasted. So I try to go out every day and put myself in acute pain to avoid this chronic pain.

I think we should all do this for ourselves. To try and put yourself in acute pain to avoid pain down the road. Find your zen in it. Love the pain, embrace the pain. And realize that you're doing it for you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Take It Off

Take it off. Take it all off. Lose the watch. Do you really need that visor? It's not even sunny. And for the love of God, get rid of those sleeves.
This was the advice given to me by a friend. Actually, it was less advice, and more an order. And it worked, believe it or not. I had one of the best runs of my life, all because I got rid off all that extra stuff. For a day, I ignore the fact that I had to run forty minutes, that I was supposed to be wearing calf sleeves, and found my run in nature.

There's a lesson to be learned here: Sometimes, we don't really need the accessories that we're constantly being marketed by the mass media. At its roots, running is the most accessible sport in the world. All it requires, in terms of equipment, is shoes. Yet every day, we're marketed more and more ridiculous equipment. Cutting edge, we're told. The elite runners use it, we're told. At the last 10k I ran, I saw more than one "hydration belt," which has several small water bottles strapped to a belt.

Really? A hydration belt for a fifty minute race? World class ultra marathoners, who are running for more than several hours are the ones that are supposed to use that. World class 10k runners, who run under thirty minutes for a 10k, won't drink at all. They don't need to. And therein lies the marketing gimmick. It's not, You should use our product. It's, You need our product to be successful. 

But it's all marketing. The vast majority of these companies are not interested in how your run feels. At some level they are, but only because your enjoyment on your run is the determining factor in their bottom line. They exist, for the most part, to make a profit.

So take it off. Take off the watch. Stop looking at it. Ignore your heart rate monitor. There's a lesson here: Listen less to the advertisements, less to science, and listen instead to your body. Your body is a finely tuned machine. Enjoy it, embrace it, run with it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sports Teach What School Does Not

As some of you may remember, I used to run a blog. It went by various names, and was more of a lifestyle blog than TriLovelad, which is dedicated mostly to the endurance sports world. Nonetheless, I'd like to revisit a topic I covered under L-Town, my former blog. There was a great Youtube video called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" that went viral around a year and a half ago, to the tune of 25 million views to date. I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about the spin off, another "Spoken Word" video by Suli Breaks called "Why I Hate School But Love Education." In it, Breaks argues that while education presents some merit, it is not the facts you memorize, the problems you solve, or the exams you pass that make you an educated man. There are some things that aren't learned in a classroom. Towards the end, he recalls a moment in which he watch David Beckham take a free kick, watched the ball "change its mind" and fall into the net. Watched as the goal keeper tried to decipher the ball's trajectory, and reacted just a millisecond too late.

There are some things that we can't, that won't ever learn in a class. There are somethings that a teacher can't teach. Sure, gym class can teach you how to throw a football, spike a volleyball, hit a baseball. But what it won't teach you, what very few classes will ever teach you, is to dream. To put your mind to something, and go for it. The farthest down that road we ever got in school was a pre-school teacher telling a class of four-year-olds, "You can be whatever you want to be." But as we got older, that mantra went away and now we're told, "You're on track to be a ______." What happened there?

There are other things sports have taught me. That you don't need the latest, greatest technology for entertainment. When was the last time the design of the football changed? How about the Frisbee? It's taught me to respect even the slightest, smallest guy on the team because often, that's the guy that's kicking your ass when you least expect it. Sports have made me a team player, and a leader. Taught me that the best suffering is the kind endured in the company of others, because like the saying goes, misery loves company. But most importantly, it's made me tenacious. That's not something you learn in the classroom. How to take physical pain or mental suffering, or even monotony and JUST DEAL WITH IT. To put my mind to something I want, and go out and get it. Can all these things be taught in school? Yes. But learning it, and actually going out and doing it are two very different things. It's like driving a stick shift. I know the fundamentals of driving a stick shift, on paper, but the first time I actually tried, I killed it pretty fast. It's the same as learning how to set goals versus actually going out and putting in the work and doing it.

Sports have taught me many things, and few of them ever came up in the classroom. Think about that, intellectuals...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Building a Base...With a Base

I was recently forced, through injury and inconvenience, to take some time off of running. I literally started to go crazy...
"But when I say that you'll miss one little interval workout...well then everyone just loses their minds!"
So, after a few weeks of not running, I'm back to running pretty regularly. However, my level of fitness is not what it once was. Where I used to be able to run 5:20 pace for the better part of most of my interval workouts, now I struggle with 5:40. Where I was running 50 miles a week, I'm doing something like 30 now. So I need to build a foundation again before I can even hope to get back to speed work. Remember the parable of the houses presented in the Bible? One man builds his house on the sand, one builds it on the rock. I'm in the sand right now, and I don't want to be swept away by the flood of spring races come next year. So I'm trying to put in my base miles now, before the snow falls and I'm stuck on a treadmill.

Enter Skora. I won't bore you with the background on the company, you can read it in my review of the Form and the Phase. Minimal brand, pretty awesome. The Base is the younger brother of the Form, which I reviewed all the way back in May. Same R01 platform, which is made up of rubber and EVA foam. The ride is slightly more cushioned than the Phase and its brother, the Core, because they both are built on the R02 platform, which is all injected blown rubber.

Like all Skora shoes, the Base is designed to be worn with or without socks, something I especially enjoy as a lazy college student who has much better things to do than laundry, like procrastinate by writing this review in lieu of an actual dissertation on Darwin and Paley. Skora recommends going down a half size from what would be your size in any other Skora shoe, and though it confounds me as to why fit is not ubiquitous along the entire range of their shoes, I would definitely recommend going down a half size because the fit is very roomy.

The Base is a lot like the Form in its ride characteristics, but it looks nothing like it. The Form looked pretty radical to me when I first got the shoes, what with the asymmetric lacing, goat leather upper and what not.
Pretty radically different, right?
Wrong.
The Base looks like a water shoe or something you see Grandma going to exercise class in, albeit in a brighter, more ostentatious fashion. The velcro has become a major point of contention for me, because it's about 2 inches long and an inch wide, which doesn't leave much room for adjustment. However, it's well worth that one sticking point, because to me, running in it is almost exactly like running in the Form, but it runs $85 less. It is now the shoe I reach for most often, what with my Forms gone.

The TriLoveland verdict: When the fit is dialed, the Base rivals the Form, which is my all time favorite shoe. The $99 isn't the cheapest option out there, but I would also be hard pressed to find a huge difference in ride between the Base and the $185 Form.

The Base retails for $99.99 and can be purchased at www.skorarunning.com

Disclaimer: I'm now a Skora Ambassador. As such, I carry the responsibility of expanding the brand. Rest assured, I will continue to give my honest opinion of all products I test, but I feel it is only right to let you, the reader, be informed of such circumstances.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Announcement and an Even Quicker Review

My friends, lend me your ears, for I have something of a disclaimer that now takes effect. It hasn't affected my product reviews up to this point, and it will not in the future, but in the spirit of complete transparency, I feel it is only right to tell all of my readers that I recently became a Skora Brand Ambassador. What does that mean? It means that, amongst other things, I now share a responsibility to grow the brand. Will this affect my reviews? Absolutely not. I will continue to review without bias, however, I felt it was only fair to let all of you know. Take it as you will. It's no coincidence that I'm also going to use this announcement to springboard into my review of the Skora Phase. So without further ado, here it is:

For those that don't know, let me give a quick recap: Back in late April, I was about to ditch the minimalist movement and go back and try to find a decent cushioned shoe. After burning out on the New Balance Minimus line, as well as various other shoes that I never ended up buying, I was going to give Nike Pegasus another go. I discovered Skora, a premium minimalist brand in Portland, Oregon, that has a slogan that resounded: Run Real. Since then, it's become my mantra. I've digressed. Long story short, I bought a pair of their Forms, a premium minimal shoe with a premium price, $180. However, the price was well worth it. Not only are the shoes close to perfect, they also lasted me over 1,000 miles. Seeing how the Brooks PureFlow 2 lasted 350 and cost ninety dollars, you can do the math and figure out that these shoes are pretty well worth the cost.

Fast forward to August. I discovered that the sole was separating from the upper, unfortunate, but hardly unexpected after 1,075 miles. I needed shoes and I needed them fast. I went back to looking through Skora's lineup. Additionally, I inquired about become a brand ambassador for them. Skora came through in a big way and sent me two pairs of shoes and a sweet gig as an ambassador. The first shoe I'm reviewing is the Phase. Why the Phase? My thinking is simple: Skora's shoe comparison chart lists their Base model, the other pair that was sent to me, as very similar in ride characteristics to the Form. Having run in that pair for quite a while, I figure it would be nice to switch it up and try something different.

The Phase is like the Form's younger, and better looking cousin, at least in my opinion. It's a slimmed down version, weighing in at 7.2 ounces vs 8.2 for the Form. It also is slightly more flexible, according to the comparison chart and has better breathability, thanks to the mesh upper. It's also the younger brother to the Core, which is the same shoe with a leather upper, and retails for $150.
The Phase. Picture courtesy of OptimalRun.com
Now to my impressions. The first thing I noticed upon putting them on and heading out the door for an easy shake-out run was that it felt a heck of a lot like the New Balance Minimus MV10v2 that I have previously reviewed. If you recall it, I wasn't exactly a fan. The idea was solid, but the fit was lacking. The ride feels a lot like the Minimus, but the upper is far less constricting of my wide feet. Additionally, the asymmetric lacing is nearly identical to the Form, and continues to offer hot spot free running, truly a blessing on long run Sundays. The shoe is designed with a no-sew upper, so it can be worn barefoot, but I've found that the inside heel like to rub, so I wear socks with them. In the future, I'd like to see the heel of the shoe lowered a bit so it's not so high up my ankle and have a polyester backing, which has slightly stretchy properties, but good durability. Just a thought, thought it may not be practical to execute. While the mesh may not end up being as durable as the goat leather upper of the Form, I can still bet the house that there will still be tread on the sole of the shoe come (at a minimum) 600 miles, just like the Form, since they share the design.
The Skora Phase is available at www.skorarunning.com and retails for $110, which puts it within the competitive price range for most decent running shoes on the market. My verdict: Minimal bliss with less impact on the wallet than the $180 Form. Run on, Run Real!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Going Back to High-Drop

When my Skora Forms died on me (see my review here) in the last part of August, I was a little perturbed. I hadn't ordered new shoes, partially because the wear seemed insignificant (despite them having nearly 1,100 miles on them) and I thought the might last another couple months. Not the case, and due to my extremely poor planning and the fact that I had to leave the state of Colorado for college in Iowa on the 31st of August, I'm currently stuck with a pair of Nike LunarFly 3s that I bought a year or so ago just to bum around in.
Compare this (good)....
...to this (ugh, bad, blah, gross)  

The high heel-toe drop has made me extremely conscious of how I'm use to running, that is: on my forefoot with proper form. All my joints are rather tender now because the high drop and extreme cushioning is messing with my form. Even though I've run in a moderate drop before, it's pretty strange to heel-strike. In fact, I've been going barefoot as often as possible when I'm running on a track and sucking it up when I hit an errant rock or two.

Remember: Without your form, there is no base for efficient, pain-free running. Run real, my friends. Run real.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm Back!

After a month long hiatus marked by weight gain (not the good kind), injury, vacation, and illness, I'm back! Some of the new things I've learned over the past month or so:

1. Adidas Energy Boost is here to stay. Contrary to what many people (myself included) thought, Energy Boost is much more than a fad. When I first heard of this new tech, I thought marketing gimmick. It gives energy back? Please. But with a new midsole design made with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) vs EVA foam found in most shoes, Adidas has hit the jackpot. I have yet to try a pair, they run $140. But I've talked to more than a few, including several former collegiate athletes (translation: still serious runners), who have run north of 800 miles in them. That alone makes me want to try them. Combined with results from the Runners' World lab confirming their claimed cushioning, this shoe now has serious ethos. Read the Runners' World review here. Additionally, I'm told by a sales rep from Boulder Running Company that the TPU midsole will be making it's way into most Adidas models, including my beloved Adios 2 racing flats.

2. It's true, occasionally I can run faster than a bike. My former cross country put out a challenge to me. I'm known as more of a cyclist, he's an Olympic trials marathoner. There's a hill around here that he thought he could race me up and beat me. It didn't happen, he got injured and is riding a bike around now, but there's another infamous hill around these parts called Maniac. And as luck would have it, the USA Pro Challenge went up it Saturday. And believe it or not, I kept up with (by his own admission) an out of shape Chris Froome from Team Sky, running with a friend and a banana costume on.

3. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I've learned this lesson too many times, but I'm still in the mode where either I don't care enough to bring calories with me during a workout, or I'm simply negligent and forget. Either way, I need to learn to time workouts around meals so can get something in before the carbohydrate window closes.

I'm off to college in a few days, but I'll do my best to keep this up. Stay tuned for an Energy Boost review!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Adjustment

Races are all different. No two are exactly alike. I wish I had learned it earlier in my racing days. After a lackluster cross country career, which taught me much, but yielded little in the way of results, I moved to triathlon.

My first race, back in May, was a sprint distance race. The namesake is obvious, this is a fast event, you go hard from the gun. It was a lot like cross country or track, where the longest event in either is a 5k. So for 20 minutes or so in those races, you just hurt. Your lungs hurt, your legs burn, your heart beats at 180 bpm, just like your feet hit the pavement 180 times every minute.

In June, I raced Ironman 70.3 Kansas. Completely different. The only thing that was similar was the fact it was swim, bike, run. But what I wasn't really expecting was the fact that it didn't hurt. Not all the time at least. Certainly there were parts of the race, like the massive climb that showed up twice on the run that hurt like Hell. But I was used to hurting the entire time, in fact, I rather enjoyed that aspect of my previous races. Without pain, I had no measuring stick to gauge my efforts. I never raced with power, etc. and I had never raced something so long.

The best thing to do is learn from each race. What I learned in Kansas was that (despite the foreboding nature of the race) longer races aren't necessarily harder than shorter ones. They're simply different. Once you learn to make that mental adjustment, you'll grow in leaps and bounds as an athlete.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Supply and Demand

If you've been living under a rock, let me tell you, the triathlon world is about to explode. Boulder, the mecca of all things endurance, was added to the list of Ironman host cities for 2014. That's right, folks, a full distance, 140.6 mile sufferfest around Boulder and the surrounding Colorado countryside. Registration opens up on Wednesday, and is priced at $675.

Wait, what?

Six-hundred and seventy five dollars is going to be written on the line of my check?

Apparently, it is. As a member of the NoCo Tri forum pointed out, as long as there is a demand for Ironman races, WTC (World Triathlon Corporation, a for-profit company) can charge whatever they like. The sad truth, as another member pointed out, is that triathlon is a rich person's sport, and the astronomical price related to racing inhibits many athletes from competing. Athletes who could be the next Macca or Chrissie are left out simply because it's an expensive sport.

You don't have to tell me that twice. I've bankrupted myself leading up to my freshman year of college for the sport. I've spent an estimated 5k in the last two years. I've given up my job to train in pursuit of a dream of doing this full time. But as long as there are the well-off willing to pay a massive entry fee, the price will do nothing but go up. Never mind the professionals, M-dot pros are given free entry. Their presence is enough to satisfy WTC. It brings media, draws crowds.

The discussion on NoCo Tri was centered around the brand. Certainly the M-dot brand is the most recognized brand in triathlon today. And the big sell is not only the Ironman name, but the quality. As one member pointed out, people race Ironman for the same reason you buy Coke or Starbucks, the quality control. A wonderful option mentioned was to include an under-30 pricing system, so younger athletes who don't have quite the established socio-economic status could still compete without the massive price. But there isn't a good alternative. There are certainly smaller events, sprint and Olympic distance races, but there isn't a well established, full distance company aside from the Challenge family, who are gradually being taken over by WTC.

The unfortunate truth is that triathlon will remain a rich person's sport until there can be some low cost alternative. Where does the cost come from? Certainly road closures, safety personnel, and other necessities add to the cost. But would it kill WTC to take a little cut, in a tough economy, and give us a break? The inhibition of sport is something we should all be concerned with.

Think about it...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Appreciation

That's what I'm feeling right now. For the fact that I have, in fact, survived possibly the most stupid thing I've ever done. Well, I've done a lot of stupid things, but I'll detail it and let you the reader be the judge.

Today, I decided to ride to Estes Park. It's almost exactly thirty miles from my house. I left school at 3:00 (actually a little earlier, I ducked out of yearbook, judge me), got my gear in order, fixed a peanut butter sandwich for the road, filled my bottles, checked my tire pressure, etc. I made sure after Tuesday (that's another story) that I took a front and rear light, although I was anticipating that my return would be before the sun set. I was rolling out of the driveway around 3:30. Beautiful day, in the sixties. Not too bad on the traffic either. Wearing short sleeves and bib shorts with a base layer, it was comfortable with (according to NWS) a five mph headwind from the west. Highway 34 was pretty tame, but obviously with ~25 miles uphill, it wasn't exactly easy. In the back of my mind, I kept hoping the sun would magically reverse its course and climb back into the sky. Of course this didn't happen; by the time I reached the entrance to the Big Thompson Canyon, about eight miles in, the sun was already behind Mt. Olympus. Not a good sign. I didn't even reach Estes, I got to about mile marker seventy which was about twenty miles of riding. At that point, the sun was almost completely gone. Which wasn't a big deal in my mind. I slapped my lights on and turned around. But in the five minutes it took me to mount and adjust my lights and fill my main bottle from the reserve, I had gone from a miniscule amount of light from the sun to about zero.

This is Highway 34. The speed limit down the canyon varies from forty-five to fifty-five, which isn't a big deal if you're in the bike lane. Unfortunately, the bike lane is usually strewn with gravel and sand from the slow vehicle pull offs that dot the area. So I decided my best course of action would be to put the bike in the big 53x11 gear and pedal hard in the traffic lane.

That was fun. Well, not exactly. It would have been more fun in broad daylight when I would be able to see everything (which was the original plan), but I won't complain. I was spinning the big gear around 110rpm, which is pretty fast. Full tuck in the drop bars, just praying to God that the cars behind me would follow the law and wait to pass. Thankfully, because my bike has far better maneuverability than any car, I was able to descend rapidly and keep high speed through the corners. I said a lot of prayers and more than a few obscenities though, because the lights of the oncoming cars would momentarily blind me every time and I couldn't see most of the road, except what was illuminated by the headlights in front or behind me. At what I calculated to be 46mph, if I hit an errant rock in the road, I would be toast. 15 miles in 20 minutes.

By the time I hit the bottom of the canyon, I barely feel my hands on the bars, either of my knees, and I was shaking, both from the combination of fear and adrenaline, and the cold. I rode the last five miles home shivering, elated to be alive.

These experiences always have a habit of being ones that come with an activity that was planned, prepared for, and executed. But sometimes life decides to throw a curve ball into the mix. Roll with the punches and appreciate the experience.

Note: I wrote this back in November 2012 for my previous blog. An oldie, but goodie, I laugh now looking back upon the moment of idiocy that I was lucky to survive.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Newton Gravity Review

If you've read my previous blog posts, you know that I've struggled with finding the right shoe. I haven't reviewed two shoes of the same brand on this blog. Adidas, Brooks, Skora, they all have their benefits, and their drawbacks.

Newton has become synonymous with triathlon. If you've been to a triathlon, any triathlon, you've invariably seen athletes sporting these bright, ostentatious shoes. And, if you've asked, the invariable reaction is "these shoes are awesome." Triathletes love to talk, particularly about their gear, and I'd argue that Newtons are one of the most talked about pieces of kit. At Kansas 70.3, it was like talking to a thousand roaming Newton salesmen. The Newton "cult" (for lack of a better term) is a very dedicated following. Recall the "Sh*t Triathletes Say" video that went semi-viral thanks to YouTube and the line "Crowie runs in these." Craig Alexander has some serious ethos amongst endurance athletes, it's hard to ignore that every win in Kona has been while wearing Newton shoes.

Gravity has a blown rubber outsole, as opposed to the EVA on the Distance. Note the lugs. Photo: Newton Running

Bright is an understatement. Crowie wears Distance S for longer races, MV2 for shorter. Photo: Newton Running

I first encountered Newton when I first got into running, two years ago. At the time, the obnoxiously high $175 price tag put them out of reach. But after a few more miles under my belt, a coach's personal recommendation, and the promise that they would last far longer than any other minimalist shoe (Newton refuses to refer to themselves as such), I caved and purchased them.

Newton's big claim to fame is their "Action/Reaction" technology, in other words, these lugs on the bottom of the shoe, right under the ball of the foot. The lugs basically force you to run on your toes, basically a constant reminder of form. In any event, these lugs compress into a small space between them and the actual midsole of the shoe and then spring back, hence the name "Action/Reaction." In addition to providing some cushion, they also put a spring in your stride, a little bounce. It's tangible on the road, which is nice. It also absorbs a lot of the shock, which is part of the reason I picked these shoes. As a midfoot striker, a big thing I've struggled with is having the cushion for longer road runs. The minimalist is wonderful for a midfoot strike, but not having the cushioning there when I'm pounding the pavement means that my body has to absorb the shock. In addition to opening the door for injury, it also means that I'm not as efficient a runner as I could be, since part of the energy goes toward absorbing shock, and not moving forward.

The proprietary lugs can be found on all Newton shoes. Photo: Newton Running
A look at the action/reaction technology from the inside out. Photo: Newton Running

Does this mean I'm shelving my Skora Forms? Absolutely not. I think of the Gravity as a compliment to the Skoras, not the competition. For shorter runs, or ones where I find myself on a trail, Skora is still my go to for minimalist comfort. For longer runs and pavement, though, I've found myself reaching for the Gravity. It's quickly become a do-it-all shoe, and I've pared down my closet of shoes to three pairs (add the Adidas Adios 2 for racing).

At 9.1 ounces (claimed for size 9), it's not a horribly cumbersome shoe, but I'd consider going to the Distance model in the future. They're similar, the blown rubber heel is replaced by EVA in the Distance, and the heel-toe drop is 1mm less, from 3 to 2. The weight is what I'm more thinking of, the Distance is a svelte 7.8 ounces.

The conclusion: It's not a minimalist shoe, but the Newton Gravity has become my go-to for long distance runs. When fatigue sets in, the lugs are a friendly reminder to keep the form up to standards and keep on keeping on. The shoes aren't for everyone, they're polarizing in a way, but someone once told me, "If the shoe fits, buy it."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2XU Compression Calf Guards

I'll admit, with all the fads coming and going in the fitness world, it's often hard to buy into all the marketing jabber. From Greek yogurt, the Paleo diet, low to no carb diets to minimal running, semi-aero helmets, and other gear, the things that stick around are the ones that work. I've tried a wide variety of things in the short time I've been in the endurance community. The experimentation in the early days of swimming and running generally had a negative effect on me. The paleo, I discovered, is great if you're doing something like sprints and weight lifting, where you don't need as much carbohydrate to keep going. I dropped to low single digits in term of body fat percentage. Minimal running, when I started, was equally detrimental. My feet weren't strong enough to tolerate it.

Over time, I figured out what worked for me. It may not work for my friends, team mates, or blog readers, but it works for me. One of the things I was eager to try a year or so ago was Skins Compression gear. The science seemed solid: compression helped blood flow, encouraged recovery, and reduced muscle fatigue. To this day I race in Skins Tri400 suit, you can read a review regarding here on this blog. The first piece I bought from Skins was actually their calf sleeves. I have pretty big calves for someone so small in stature, so I figured the benefit would be pretty tangible.

What I failed to do was measure my calves. I just bought a pair of size x-smalls, which is usually what I wear in terms of this sort of gear, like my cycling jerseys. Those lasted about a month, until I realized that they were tight enough to be cutting off circulation. Not good. I passed them along to a friend with smaller calves, and decided that it probably wasn't me, even though compression has been an enduring fad that appears to be here to stay.

A few months ago, I noticed a lump on my right calf. Not a big deal, I figured it wasn't anything serious. It got bigger as training went on, but my concern didn't really grow with it. I figured that the lower part of my calf was getting more defined because of my toe off when running was slightly different between right and left foot. After Lake to Lake last weekend, I decided that I should maybe get it checked out. I wasn't in hard training anymore, which had been a concern when I thought of telling someone: It might stop training. But Cory had noticed it at Lake to Lake and commented that that was definitely not something good. So I sent a picture to a friend who's an athletic trainer and showed my mom. True to form, she freaked out and promptly called a doctor. That's how I found myself in a sterile office a few days ago. Nothing was wrong with it, he reassured me, but I had torn some connective tissue that holds the two parts of the gastrocnemius together. So he told me to go buy some calf sleeves to support them and let the tissue to heal.

Now that I've taken this post pretty far off topic, let me get back to the original purpose. Long story short, I ended up buying these 2XU calf guards. I tried Zoot socks, which are like those tall soccer socks, but decided to go with the 2XU because I like the feel better.



I've had these on now for a good five days, and they're pretty freaking sweet. They have significantly more compression than the socks, which I like. It helps that I got my calves measured before I bought them too (15.33 inches around, if you're curious), which puts me in the top end of the small range.

I've run and biked with them on ever since. The compression is actually quite nice, especially because these sleeves actually fit. I've found myself wearing them when not exercising too, they're that comfortable. Whether by placebo or science, I also find that my calves aren't nearly as tired or tight after workouts too, but I'm no scientist. I would recommend them mainly because of the support they offer, and I truly believe that these will help me keep keeping on until all is healed. Final note: They aren't cheap, at $45, but that's also comparable to anything else on the market.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Top-40

In honor of Lindsey Corbin's win at IM 70.3 Mt. Tremblant, I've put together my own list of Top 40 songs to workout to, mirroring the format of her list. You can see Corbo's picks and how we compare here.

Knew I'd find a use for that AP Econ textbook that we never used in class.


Getting In the Zone (Warm Up)
Radioactive (Synchronice Remix) - Imagine Dragons
Trying To Be Cool (Conro Remix) - Phoenix 
It's My Life - Bon Jovi
Love Somebody - Maroon 5
I Need Your Love (feat. Ellie Goulding) - Calvin Harris
Let's Go (feat. Calvin Harris) - Ne-Yo
The Fighter (feat. Ryan Tedder) - Gym Class Heroes
Waiting For the End - Linkin Park

In the Zone
Domino - Jessie J
Closer To the Edge - 30 Seconds to Mars
The Night Out (Remix) - Sammy Adams
Pound The Alarm - Nikki Minaj
Can't Hold Us - Macklemore
Hall Of Fame (feat. Will.I.Am) - The Script
Levels - Avicii
Untouched - The Veronicas
Remember the Name - Fort Minor
Up All Night - Mac Miller
Savior - Rise Against
Ocean Avenue - Yellowcard
I Love Playing Hard (Icona Pop x David Guetta x Albert Neve) - Kap Slap

Not Your Mom's Music
Dear Professor - The Dean's List
Worlds Collide - Nick Thayer
And We Danced (feat. Ziggy Stardust) - Macklemore
Bangarang - Skrillex
#thatPower (feat. Justin Beiber) - Will.I.Am
Show Me the Money - Petey Pablo
Given Up - Linkin Park
Outta Your Mind (feat. LMFAO) - Lil Jon
Ce Soir (Tonight) (feat. Dani Ummel) - The Kings Dead
Crazy Kids (feat. Will.I.Am) - Ke$ha

Time to Chill Out (Cool Down)
Dog Days Are Over - Florence + The Machine
LA Story (feat. Mike Posner) - Sammy Adams
Hotel California - Eagles
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
We Own It (feat. T Mills, Sammy Adams and Niykee Heaton) (Remix) - Mike Posner
Drops of Jupiter - Train
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Cheap Drink - Radical Something 
It's Time - Imagine Dragons

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adidas Adizero Adios 2 Review

Typically, I like to run 100 miles in my shoes before dropping a review. However, because the Adidas Adios 2 are considered racing flats, I decided that 50 miles would suffice.

I initially picked these shoes up with guidance from my Runner's Roost rep. If you're from Colorado, you know about Runner's Roost, an in-state running chain. They've been my go to for shoes, minus certain, harder to find models like my Skora Forms. I was looking for a light, stable-ish flat to race Ironman 70.3 Kansas in. My Brooks Pure Flow 2 shoes, which I loved, were falling apart. They had been relegated to gym/weigh session duty.

That kind of put my in a pickle. I had planned on racing in Kansas with those on my feet. But, with them being so worn, and Kansas over two weeks away, I need options. I was close enough that I had begun to taper, so runs were short enough I could get by in my Skora Forms for every day training. I knew that they wouldn't do for me in Kansas, though. Nothing against Skora, my feet just aren't physically strong enough yet to handle a half-marathon when I'm fatigued to begin with. So I made a trip to Runner's Roost, who set me up with a couple different options. They had the Hagio, which I've run in before, a long time ago. Unfortunately, they weren't stocked in my size. They had one that was half a size too small, which I tried without success. I'd never run in the Adios 2, but were more than willing to give them a try.

My impression: This shoe is fast. Crazy fast. The only other shoe I've ever owned that compares is probably Nike's LunarRacer. The drop was more than I'm used to, 9 mm (24mm heel, 15mm forefoot). But it didn't seem to hamper me. I've gotten to the point where I'm always on my forefoot anyway. If you look at any given pair of my shoes, the heel looks brand new, while the forefoot is trashed. And to think all through middle and high school I was mocked for walking on my toes (it's great for your posture, by the way).

So I bit the bullet, purchased the pair (they're not cheap at $115), and went on my merry way. I was pleased to see that aesthetically, they matched my Skins Tri400 suit, black and yellow. It's worth noting that while they aren't cheap, especially for a racing flat, they're not at the top end of the price spectrum (I'm looking at you, Newton).

I did a couple quick miles on a treadmill before I went to Kansas to get a general feel for the shoe with a higher turn over. Runner's Roost is always understanding and allows anyone and everyone to do a test run outside, which I did, but I didn't do any top end speed. I don't want to be that guy, looking like he's running in the Olympics, when in all reality I'm in the middle of a crowded mall in Fort Collins. These quick intervals gave me a general confirmation of what my first impression imparted: The heel drop wasn't a big deal.

When Kansas came around, I was ready. I ran out of T2, and felt wonderful. Up until the first hill, when I more or less bonked from the exertion of chasing the pack on the bike all day. Long story short (you can read my race report for all the details) I dropped to about 10 minute miles and stayed there. Embarrassing. The Adidas were probably the only good thing about the run. I was running (well, jogging) along pretty well for someone who was dead for the first ten or so miles. Then I really started hurting. Let me explain: Bonking doesn't hurt. It just feels like there's nothing left in the tank, because there isn't. I was hurting. I had been cramping the whole run, but this was really where it hurt. My form started to disintegrate. Through all of it, the Adidas were wonderful, mainly because when I say my form started to fall apart, I started to heel strike. It was a relief to have the heel support there, even though I'm certainly not proud that I had to rely on it.

I've done a lot more speed work since Kansas, particularly because I haven't ratcheted up the mileage again. And when I know I'll be running on pavement, the Adios are the shoes I reach for. That little extra support makes them a worthwhile investment for your next speed run if you're not on the track or a soft surface.

Additional note (2/1/14): I've been using the Adios a lot more since June. They've seen me through several high tempo training sessions, more than a few double digit runs, and a PR 5k of 17:45 (in training, no less!) and I'm happy to say that they're still in my rotation. I try to use them sparingly, they are a racing flat after all, but when speed calls, the Adios answers. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lake to Lake Race Report

I have to say, of all the races I've done, the Lake to Lake is my favorite. Not only was it my first triathlon, ever, last year, it's also wonderful to get to see some familiar faces. And it's a place of stiff competition, people come from all over. From professionals testing their form for races later in the season (Chris McDonald came down in 2011) to really good age groupers, the race has a big race feel to it, while remaining a community event.

This was my first triathlon ever, and my friends and I decided to do it as a relay. If you scroll through my archives, I'm sure you can find my race report from last year. Long story short, we ended up winning our division (male relay), the overall relay competition, and came in second to the overall winner, Shannon Stallard of New Zealand. This year, we did it as a relay again, although I had initially wanted to do it solo, the pull of trying to go two in a row was too great. So I packed my bike, trainer, and assorted gear into the van, and headed to Loveland High School and the start line bright and early. A 3:30 wake up for a 7:00 race has become the norm. As has my ritual of putting on deo, despite knowing that I'll be sweating hell and high water in a few hours. What can I say, a dude's gotta be fresh, right?

Got to the transition a little later than I had anticipated, mainly because I didn't pack up the van the night before and spent a few extra minutes running around gathering gear. No big deal. Got body marked, awkwardly on my right thigh because I knew I'd be wearing a full skinsuit for the 30mi TT, and got the bike racked on the special rack for relays. Debated up to the last second, then decided to go with Vittoria PitStop taped to the top tube, like I had done at Kansas, and to be safe, an empty water bottle I stuffed with a spare tube, tire levers, C02, and inflator that was put in the XLab wing. I was taking no chances. One bottle of SkratchLabs on the XLab Torpedo, and a Hammer Gel flask in the Rocket Pocket, and I was ready to go.

After some initial confusion I managed to find Cory and Erik, and got them both body marked. Erik headed down to the swim start, while Cory kept me company as I warmed up on a trainer and my mom's MTB. We headed down to the swim start and watched Erik's wave go off and then hustled back up to T1.

Barely twenty minutes later, I watched Jessica Reed Baum run into T1 and hand off the chip to Ross Livingston. Let me digress: Last year their team, Loveland 365, came in second in the relay competition to us, but still won their division, relay co-ed. Before the race, their title sponsor had talked a bunch of crap to me, and it was enormously satisfying to beat them, even though he doesn't race, he just pays the entry fee and get's his company's name on the team. Jessica swam with Erik and me in Loveland Swim Club, and she beat Erik out of the water last year. Ross, their cyclist, beat me on the bike, and it was Brock that managed to catch their runner, who isn't very fast.

In any event, Jess beat Erik out of the water again. This time, it was by a larger margin too. Three minutes later, Erik ran into T1, handed the chip to me, and promptly puked. *sigh* My initial plan was to go for the course record, which stands at around 1:08:00, or 25.7mph. My plan went out the window when Erik came in behind JRB. The idea was to take it pretty hard until I reached Miler Mountain Ranch, at which point I would hammer the 3% grade, hammer the downhill, basically hammer it all the way home. With Ross in front, I knew I had to hammer from the start and then try to hang on, basically reversing my race strategy, which would mean I would probably lose time on the uphill at Miler.

So I hammered. Hard. The first half of the race was pretty solid. I put my head down and went hard. I had a nice little war with two fellas, one who had parked next to me that morning and asked for a hand with his S-Works Shiv. What a beaut that bike was, but it was an even better view when I dropped him and the other guy. The second half wasn't as good. I kept pushing, even though I was starting to stitch up. Not a good sign. I took a gel and kept pushing. Right past the aid station, with two guys trying hand me bottles. I tried to take one, but they hadn't bothered to dry them off from the tub of ice, and it slipped. Not a big deal, I intended to pour it over myself, not drink it.

I made it past Miler Mountain Ranch Road, and decided to keep pushing. I still hadn't gotten a good rhythm, which was immensely frustrating, and I was cramping badly. Maybe I could push out of it. The downhill was nice, I spun out my 53x11 then got in a tuck and passed about 5 people. It pays to scout this course. I hit the climb on the other side and felt it all catch up with me. My legs suddenly felt like lead. I've never gone up past my third sprocket on that climb. Today, I went all the way to my first gear. I still managed to pass people up the climb, but by this point, I was seriously hurting. Somehow I made it to the top and tried to find a rhythm on the downhill. No such luck. I felt like I was mashing the pedals, and going no where. I knew Ross was probably getting away, so I kept pushing hard. My side was killing me, and my legs just weren't there. I hit Taft Hill and finally found a rhythm at Coyote Ridge, when we finally got off  the chip and seal pavement. Thank God! I put my head down and went hard. I think I had the fastest last five miles I've ever done on that ride, ever. It was a relief to finally find the legs, but I knew it was probably too late.

I made it to transition, and handed off the chip to Cory, who took off hard. Erik gave me the good news, I had made up some time on Ross, he thought Cory was only about a minute behind their runner. I went and warmed down on the trainer, discovering that we had left a door open and the van was dead. Great...

We were walking along the finishing straight, when we found Abby. She's the assistant cross-country coach, and a fantastic runner. Her husband, Craig was racing. Craig and I go way back, he taught me how to swim as a three year old, I had his mom as a teacher in the first grade, his younger brother, Steve, taught me how to flip turn in level six swim lessons. She informed us that there was a professional runner from the Boulder Running Company named Scott Dahlberg, who runs about a 28:00 10k, had come down at the request of a relay to run. We saw him, blight orange shoes, and my heart sank. Cory came home strong 37 minutes and change, but Dahlberg ran 31 high to win the relay.

And then we got more bad news: Dahlberg had come down at the request of Loveland 365. I was furious. On any given day, I knew Cory could have beaten their runner from the last three years easily. Like we did last year, L365 came in second overall, and won the relay title and the co-ed relay title. We managed to win the male relay title, a consolation. I got my split: more bad news. The last big climb near Horsetooth with the headwind had killed me. I went slower than I had even gone in training, 1:19.

In the end, we paid for our mistakes on a course that keeps you honest. Two weeks removed from the biggest race of my life, I wasn't quite at peak form. And despite a great run, there was no way Cory would have been able to chase down a pro. I suspect this was the last year of racing for Loveland High Tri, Erik doesn't want to train next year, and I won't have access to a tri rig in college. This may be the last that's heard of us, and we had a good two year run.

Final note: I have to give major props to Derek Yorek, who won the overall. This guy came back from a horrible accident, was questioning his run form the whole week, and made the win look easy. And a shout out goes to the Lake to Lake organization who puts on an amazing event every year! Despite not racing this race in the future, I'll be around, supporting this amazing organization.