Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Balance MT20 V1 Long Term Review

It's been about 6 months and 450 miles of minimalism later that I've finally come to a conclusion about the New Balance MT20 (Minimus Trail) shoes. And unlike most reviews, I won't make you read through page after page of tedious, personal opinions to hear me say something horribly generic.

So here's the bottom line: If you have narrow feet, run on grass or dirt, and want a light shoe, this is it. But these are not real trail shoes, your feet will bruise. They should call these the Minimus Fireroad, it would be more fitting. Now for the in-depth.

These are the first generation of the New Balance Minimus MT20 shoes. So I can't really speak to how NB might have improved the shoe, responded to consumer feedback, etc. But my first impression was pretty favorable. With a four millimeter heel-toe drop, and a svelte 5.8oz claimed weight, the shoes were pretty much exactly what most runners look for in a minimal shoe. My favorable impressions lasted right up until I got to the trail head and started running. The trail that most runners around Loveland choose is Devil's Backbone. It's a nice six mile loop, and by the time I finished, it was the most miserable last three miles of my life. My feet are fairly hardened from lots of time spent running barefoot and in minimal shoes, but I typically run the trail in my Nike LunarGlide 4s, so there's something there between my foot and the rocks. Given the name, I thought I'd try the MT20s on the trail. I came home with extremely bruised feet, wondering if I'd broken something in my foot.

Additionally, after running a decent number of miles in the MT20s, flaws became much more apparent. The toe box is claimed to be wider, but I've found that it's really no wider than any other shoe, if anything, it's pretty small for a minimal shoe. This has been confirmed with scans of the foot by Runner's World. It's claimed that these shoes should be comfortable for barefoot running. Not true. The tongue isn't sew in, like most minimal shoes and the result is a lot of blisters. Wear socks. The lacing doesn't provide a very snug fit through the arch and heel of the foot, causing my already cramped toes to slide even further into the toe box.

I will say that the Vibram sole was a brilliant inclusion on New Balance's part. The sole has outlasted every other pair of shoes I've owned. While thin, it will last nearly forever. Speaking of thin, that's part of the problem with the shoe. Not only have my feet come back bruised from runs, but I've also had a hole punched in my foot from a rusty nail that went through the sole like it wasn't there.

If you run on grass or dirt, this is the shoe for you. I would recommend buying from a store that guarantees satisfaction because it isn't perfect by a long shot. If you're looking for a minimal shoe that has something between you and the road, this isn't it. The shoe is a wonderful concept, the execution could use some work.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Favorite Swim Set, part 1

Over the next couple months leading up to IM Kansas 70.3 I'll be posting some of my favorite workouts for readers. Intervals aren't included on some because it's often done at your version of pink/red/purple pace. Here's one of my favorite swim sets:

400 free, every fourth 25 backstroke
6x100 kick, every third at red pace
12x50 pull with paddles and buoys, catch-up on the way down, straight arm back

100 free prep

[1x200 free, pink pace
1x100 free, red pace
1x200 free, pink pace
1x100 IM, fast]

100 free easy

12x50 IM, fly/back, back/breast, breast/free

300 cool down

4500 yards total

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

To the Disgruntled Driver

You called into the RH Line the other day, and your comment was posted in yesterday's paper (apparently the Reporter Herald is just a messenger).

"I see that the Lance Armstrong boys club is out breaking the law again riding four, five, six abreast. I'd like to suggest since they think they're above the law, they ought to have their bicycles confiscated, each be fined the minimum of $10,000 for each violation of the law and have their driver's license suspended for a year. Maybe Mr. Armstrong ... can justify why they do what they do." 

Thank you, from all us cyclists. We really do seek to encourage safe riding and driving and a mutual tolerance and respect between cyclist and drivers. As an avid cyclist, I'm perfectly okay with the purposed penalty. Cyclist that are out breaking the law are casting a bad light on the rest of us. 
But here's the thing: I'm fine with your proposed penalty, so long as you get the same treatment when I catch you rolling through a stop sign, coming within three feet of any cyclist, or parking over the line in the parking lot. After all, the law clearly states that cyclists and drivers are equal in every way and that bicycles are considered a vehicle, just like your automobile. So the penalty assessed is also equal. 

Please think next time before you open your mouth. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Secret to Success

Today I flipped on the TV to check the weather, local news, etc. Instead, I found a commercial, telling me that by buying this book, I'll magically "shed fat, gain muscle, and be more attractive" and that their success is a "closely guarded secret that was revealed to us by Doctor So-and-So that studied the ____ people and learned their secret to longevity."

Give me a break. I'll let you in on the secret to success in the triathlon world, and in fact, the world at large right now, free of charge. It's called hard work. There you have it, the only thing that will ever have a truly massive impact on your training and racing results, your career, the relationships you build. Granted, there are a million small things that can have an impact on your training, such as nutrition, equipment, etc. But without hard work, those don't mean anything. Without hard work, nutrition just becomes synonymous with meals, that treadmill just becomes a piece of furniture, and those resolution 5ks you promised yourself you'd enter (wonderful grammar on my part) just become another stroll with your dog.

If you put in the work, I promise fast results! You'll lose weight, feel better, probably do a better job at attracting the opposite sex, and feel more confident. All you need to do is work hard.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sweetheart Classic Race Tomorrow

The Loveland Road Runners and Dick's Sporting Goods will sponsor the Sweetheart Classic 4-mile run tomorrow morning at Loveland High School, 920 W. 29th Street. Race day registration begins at 8:00 am and cost $35 for individuals, with kids under 12 racing for free. The race begins at 10:00, going around Lake Loveland and the kids' fun run (one mile) begins at 11:00. Strollers and dogs are welcome! All proceeds benefit local track and cross-country teams!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Attempt at Vaughters' Stupid Training Methods

A year or two ago, CEO of Garmin Sharp and former pro cyclist on the USPS team Jonathon Vaughters wrote a guest column in Bicycing Magazine about four of the stupidest, yet effective training methods he's encountered. Read it online here.

Basically there are four stupid ways to train. Motor-pacing, not eating, riding until you puke, and doing intervals on consecutive days. I took a solid month of training and tried each one. And I can now confirm that they are amazingly stupid and extremely painful in different ways, and mentally agonizing. Here's my breakdown of each:

1. Motor Pacing: This is probably the most dangerous in terms of physical injury that could occur. Motor pacing involves sitting in the draft of a moving car. You can probably use your imagination to determine the possible consequences. But I'm told that the cerebral cortex doesn't fully develop until around age 23 and that's the part of the brain that analyzes risk vs. reward. It works, if not always tangibly. At less than ~15mph the effect isn't really felt because of the low speed, but rest assured that hiding in the draft does help you save energy. It also pushes you if you have the mental capacity to strain and not slow down on the hills. Vaughters writes, "When we analyze data from our team's power meters, we always find that the only workout that mimics a fast-moving peloton is motorpacing."

Verdict: Effective, when done on a road with almost no traffic. Otherwise: Suicidal. Vaughters offers this tip: If the car in front of you is forced to break, jump from the bike and hang on to the car or truck for dear life. Obviously your bike will be smashed, but you'll be more or less intact.

2. Not eating: Vaughters said he identifies this as bonk training. What it really does is teaches your body to use fat as a fuel at high intensity instead of pure sugar (glycogen), saving that for when it's absolutely necessary. He explains this training plan:

"On day one, do a solid, intense group ride for three to five hours. Really pour your heart into the efforts and hills. When you get home, resist the normal and completely sane urge to ingest calories. Wait a few hours, then go ahead and eat as if you hadn't skipped refueling--have a light lunch or dinner or whatever. Just don't pile on tons of carbs.

On day two, get out of bed and consume zero calories before you hit the road. You can drink plain water, even black coffee, but nothing that has any caloric value. As soon as you're warmed up, take your pace up to about 5 percent less than the maximum effort you think you could hold for a solid hour--then ride it for an hour. The first 30 minutes aren't so bad, as your body burns through the last of the stored glycogen in your muscles, but once that's gone, your body has to find alternative sources of fuel--and that ends up being fat, protein, brain cells, whatever. It's excruciating."

Was he ever right! This training method is the most mentally taxing in my opinion. And it also goes against everything I've ever been told by every coach I've ever had. I refuel ASAP after every session. It's also about 10x worse when it snow between sessions and the second ride is done on a trainer. But it also improves endurance tremendously when done about once a week. At the end, I could tell that I didn't need any gels during rides that I would usually consume two.

Verdict: Taxing and painful but it works amazingly well.

3. Riding until you puke: The idea here is that instead of the steady power required for longer intervals, this workout causes your wattage to fluctuate, which simultaneously forces your body to deal with the stress of producing higher power outputs and raises your ventilatory rate much higher than would a steady effort. Basically it works like this: Find a flat stretch of road with few to no stoplights (I used Country Road 21 in Fort Collins, near the Holiday Drive In theater) and ride all out for 10 seconds, then spin easily for 20 seconds. The 10 seconds are all out, the 20 seconds have to be spent spinning, no coasting. Vaughters said that the only reason he mentioned this one is because there are so few people that can mentally tolerate this workout that it really won't matter if it's published or not.

He underestimated a stupid, seventeen year old athlete with a good sense of his abilities. For a long time, I've been told that swimming is the most mentally taxing sport, and lessons learned in the pool translate to the rest of life. It's true. The mental strain wasn't too bad. Until I puked for the first time. It took about 15 minutes of this workout. And it's honestly one of the worst pains in the world. I really didn't think about the small things, like eating bland foods before, not having coffee or chocolate gels, etc. So what came up was acidic and burned like a mother. Worse, I got some of the vomit on my kit. Freshly laundered, mind you. What may be the worse part is that there's not tangibility in this experiment. No real effect or numbers to crunch.

Verdict: Painful, stupid, and no real result. Will not be repeating.

4. Intervals on consecutive days: Supposedly this is extremely taxing, painful, and improves your endurance a lot. Only the third really applies in my mind. Intervals, while painful, are nothing after throwing up acidic liquids on a previous workout. Vaughters wrote out this pair of intervals:

Day one: Do three hours total, with a 30-minute warm-up followed by three efforts of 10 minutes at 40k-time-trial speed and 100 rpm, and 10 minutes of recovery between. Cool down nice and easy.

Day two: Do two hours total, with a 30-minute warm-up followed by 10 efforts of 1 minute, all-out up a hill at 70 rpm, with two minutes of recovery between. Try not to stare at the apparitions haunting you as you cool down.

Okay, it was a pain in the ass. But isn't that what intervals are supposed to be? I didn't really feel that bad after the second day. It wasn't exactly pleasant, and I was tired as all get out, but it wasn't too bad. There is actual evidence that this works though. In a recent (more recent than the article) study, doing intervals the entire week at the beginning of the month improves V02 max more than doing spaced out intervals (four in a week, instead of one per week). Why? Because the body adapts rapidly to the amount of required oxygen and starts to think that the increased exertion is the new normal effort of a workout.

Verdict: Effective, not as painful as advertised, and not as dangerous as the other methods. Best "stupidly effective" method, in my opinion.

Disclaimer: Vaughters was right to say that these are not the smartest ways to train. They work, but are painful, and in the case of motor pacing, extremely dangerous. I would not recommend anyone try motor pacing. If you feel the absolute need to try another one of these, bring a friend as a spotter who can carry extra gels, water, etc. in case you blow up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Chris Lieto Special

Chris Lieto is well known in the triathlon as the über-biker in the wake of Normann Stadtler's departure from the sport in 2009 (although Sebastien Keinle threatens to unseat him). With the second fastest bike split at the Ironman World Championships, and course records in Japan and Canada, he's well known for going off the front on the bike leg and trying to hold off the likes of Pete Jacobs, Crowie, Macca, and the rest of the runners.

Now 41, Lieto is still putting the hammer down. In an interview he laid out his favorite bike workout:

-30-60 minute warm up

-2 minutes easy
-2 minutes moderate
-2 minutes fast
(to warm up the legs for effort)

-4x20 minute intervals
5 minutes slower than 70.3 pace
10 minutes at 70.3 pace
5 minutes over 70.3 pace


-4x60 minutes
10 slower than Ironman pace
20 at Ironman pace
10 over Ironman pace

~30 minute easy cool down

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why It Sucks to be a Junior

Warning/Disclaimer: This is a rant. If you don't feel like putting up with an angry Asian ranting about USA Cycling, then now would be a good time to find something else to read. Check out my other, more life-centered blog The Korean Opinion.

Damn it, USA Cycling! Had I known that I couldn't bring a 53x11 or any other gear ratio that pushes more than 26 gear-feet, I would have stuck to just triathlon for another year until I was 19 with no restrictions! But honestly, that shouldn't even be necessary. Come on, there's no real reason to restrict juniors. Maybe if the age groups were farther apart, like 12-18 year old racers instead of 17-18, but when the age divisions are divided by increments of two, you cannot honestly say that there's a huge difference in physiology.

I can push a 53x11 perfectly fine, thank you. I fail to understand why there's limits on the gear ratios, particularly when 90% of road racing bikes come equipped with an 11-25 cassette and a 53-39 crankset. In fact, I was debating moving up to a 56-44 Dura-Ace 7800 TT crankset to work on my strength in the off season. Screw that, no point now.

Thus, I will be racing as a nineteen year old, or not at all. It's either that or find a non sanctioned race. Blah.


PS: If anyone knows of any unsanctioned races in CO, kindly drop a comment in below.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skins Tri400 Review

I've now had the Skins Tri400 tri-suit for about 2 months. And since I'm a firm believer in the axiom that nothing should be new come race day, I've done a couple sessions in the suit. Here are my impressions.

First off, I'm 5'7", ~133lbs, which is right between XS and S on the Skins size calculator. I stuck with a size XS, the idea being to get to race weight, which is around 127lbs, putting me solidly in the XS size.

I'll say right off the bat this is hands down the most comfortable suit I've worn so far. The Memory MX material is true to it's MO, even though I stretch the suit since I'm on the far end of the size range, it has always returned to it's original shape and size. But it's also very soft and doesn't chafe, unlike many suits, whose durability comes from harsher-feeling polyester/lycra blends. The Tri400 pad is made up of high-density foam, but is also small and light, reducing drag in the water and bulk on the run, while providing enough cushioning for a 4 hour ride (the longest I've taken it) without soreness the next day.

I'm not sure that Skins "carbon-infused" fabric panels on the inner thigh are any more effective than regular panels, but to be fair, I haven't tested any others, and true to the claim, I've suffered no chafing on the run, a welcome relief. I also haven't gotten an opportunity to test the suit in the water (and I'm leery of jumping in a chlorinated pool) so like the TYR Category 5, that performance test will have to wait.

Bottom Line: I enjoy this suit immensely. The $300 price tag is hefty for aspiring racers, but I know Skins has occasional sales (I got mine for $150) when there are a few sizes left. Stay tuned for an in-water test in the spring.

Edit: I just raced IM Kansas 70.3 in the Skins Tri400 suit! While I immensely enjoyed the experience, I think I'll use it primarily for shorter triathlon events in the future. The lack of a sizable pocket for nutrition and a thin chamois bugged me almost the entire bike/run. It's a wonderful suit, and I may buy and pair the Tri400 bottoms with a top that has a bigger rear pocket for future 70.3 events as opposed to the suit, which I wore this past weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why "Minimalist" Is Somewhat Impractical

Before I get a slew of "up yours" from readers, let me clarify the title. I believe in the barefoot movement. I really do, but please take note of the use of the word "somewhat."

Why? Because much as barefoot works in some scenarios, it sucks in others. I read "Born to Run" and the thing that most proponents of the minimalist movement conveniently forget is that the Tarahumara people are running on dirt, which is over 100% softer than asphalt. Each time you pound the pavement, you transmit up to 600 lbs of pressure through your body. And while a lighter weight shoe can help you run faster, the weight reduction over standard shoes is taken from the cushioning.

I'm a minimalist runner. I typically run in New Balance MT10s. But I only do it when I know that the majority of the run is on dirt or grass. When I know that I'll be hitting the pavement, I run in Nike LunarGlide 4s. I know that minimalism has helped my form, and my fitness, but there is an inherent risk, particularly for over pronators. 

My verdict: Real minimalism works well in situations where the majority of the run is on dirt or grass. Transition shoes, such as the Saucony Kinvara and Nike Free are decent on pavement, simply because they have softer cushioning, at the expense of some durability. But I'm not entirely sold on pure minimalism.

The Michael Lovato Special

Michael Lovato came to Fort Collins on Monday and share his favorite workout with us. It's a kick in the pants, that's for sure. There was also some discussion about turning this into a pool workout, just divide the distances by four. Other possibilities include an IM swim set... Good luck!

4x400 (100 m recovery)
2x800 (200 m recovery)
1x1600 (400 m recovery)
2x800 (200 m recovery)
4x400 (100 m recovery)

Key is to establish your 1 mile (1600) goal time for the set. Using 6:00 min/mile as an example. Hit 1:30 on the 400's, 3:00 on the 800's and 6:00 on the 1600. Should feel easy at first then get tough.

For the recovery, NO walking. Jog/run it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Indoor Training for Newbies

I won't lie, training indoors on the bike is pretty near the bottom of my list. I make every conceivable effort to train outside, despite not even owning a pair of long fingered gloves. But inevitably, training indoors becomes a necessity. So here are some of the things I've learned since my first winter training indoors.

Try to make it interesting: This is a no-brainer. Training indoors is a sufferfest more on your mind than your body. It stinks having to be in one place, not really moving, with the same surroundings. That being said, unfortunately most people's idea of indoor riding is to put in a movie and see how long they can go. That accomplishes next to nothing, all you're doing is spinning. Try to have a purpose behind each ride. If you need ideas for training sessions, check out CycleOps workouts here. THEN put in the movie, and do the workout. It does help.

There are more essentials for riding indoor than out: My setup indoors is a pain in the ass. You probably don't need all of what I have, but it all has its purpose. I have a mat down so the trainer doesn't slip when I perspire, a riser block (the old phone book will do if you don't want to drop $25 on one), a fan to keep the rear wheel and resistance unit cool, a fan in front to keep me cool, and a couple towels on hand.

Water is key: I tend not to think about this (and I should), but you'll sweat more indoors than out. Trust me. Take more water than you think you'll need. (This advice is also applicable to riding outdoors)

Stay fresh: That catch phrase, mostly used by teens, is key to not burning out in a long session. I like to switch out shorts every hour and a half or so. It keeps me from becoming a sodden mess, and also gives you a short break from the monotony. On that note, if you have both a trainer and rollers, I like to switch that up at the same time if possible. It gives you something new to focus on, a welcome relief.

Whether you're a semi-pro training in the off season, or a newbie trying to stay fit, riding indoors is a necessity in many places unless you can travel to warmer climates, or live in one. Hopefully, these tips make your sessions easier.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Last day for tech shirts at Sweetheart Classic

Today, February 4th is the last day to register for the Sweetheart Classic 4-mile race (held on Saturday, February 16) and ensure that a tech t-shirt will be there for pickup on race day. In years past, t-shirts were ready for pickup ~3 weeks post race. So be sure to register today to ensure that that doesn't happen to you.
The Sweetheart Classic comes back from The Ranch to its roots this year, starting and finishing at Loveland High School, taking a course around Lake Loveland. Entry is $30.00 and all proceeds benefit the local high school track and cross country teams. You can register at here or send in a registration form found here. There will also be race day registration. The race will begin at 10:00 am and features prizes for top couple, fastest pup, and fastest stroller, in addition to the traditional first, second, third place, and age group awards.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Top Triathletes to Visit Fort Collins

Top professional triathletes Mary Beth Ellis, Julie Dibens, and Michael and Amanda Lovato will visit CSU on Tuesday February 4th, for the Ramin' With the Pros event, offering advice and training tips. The event will be held at CSU Plant Sciences building, Room C101 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

This is a no-cost event, so feel free to bring friends to support the Northern Colorado triathlon community!

Mary Beth Ellis finished fifth in the 2012 Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. She holds the record for the fastest female Ironman debut and fastest Ironman by an American woman, at 8:43:34. She is a member of Team TBB and has won six Ironman triathlons and multiple IM 70.3s.

Julie Dibens finished 3rd in her debut at the Ironman World Championships in 2010. She has won the Ironman 70.3 Worlds (2009) and the Xterra World Championships (2007-2009). Like her fellow pros Mary Beth Ellis, Michael Lovato, and Amanda Lovato, she lives and trains in Boulder.

Michael Lovato is a three-time Ironman champion and has compiled an impressive pro resumé with three top-ten finishes at the Ironman World Championships. He coaches triathletes in his spare time. He alternately resides in Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas with his wife, fellow professional Amanda.

Amanda Lovato began as a track athlete and after captaining her collegiate team took up triathlon. She has notched four top-ten Ironman finishes and multiple Ironman 70.3 wins. She resides with her husband Michael and helps run Lovato Coaching, the couple's joint venture.