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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When It Doesn't Go Right

Monday I was riding with a couple friends. Two of us are doing the Lake to Lake triathlon this weekend, and one is doing Triple Bypass, so we rode the course at a fairly easy pace. Around the time we reached the point where the course descends to the Horsetooth Res, we paused. I told them about the quarter mile or so. It's a very steep descent, if you're climbing the other way you'll probably need a bigger spread than 11-23 coupled with a standard crankset, and the shoulder/bike lane is strewn with gravel. Since CO law allows cyclists to ride in the right lane of the road if the lanes are impassable, I told them they might as well stay in the road for their safety. We agreed there would be no waiting for each other until we reached the top of the next climb.

Being the most experienced rider, and the fastest, I took the lead. By the time I reached the bottom of the descent, I was hitting around 50 miles an hour, I spun out my 53-11 gear. I squeezed the brakes; there's a little right hand turn at the bottom, which isn't a big deal, the turn is shallow enough to take at 40-ish mph without a problem but it's never smart (in my experience) to come screaming through a turn as fast as possible. It leaves you open to all sorts of bad things, like hitting an errant rock at full speed.

I'm glad I did because as I came around the turn, an SUV pulled out in front of me. I hit my brakes and got as far over as I could on the road. Not far enough, I watched as the right tires of the Mercury Mountaineer went into the gravel on the side of the road. It was surreal, I felt my rear tire lock, and watched my reflection in their right mirror as my head almost hit it. Then I was in the gravel, doing everything possible to stay upright. I got out of the pedals and managed to get a foot down, coming to a halt as the SUV, either ignorant or malicious, sped off. The thought of trying to chase them and get their plates hadn't occurred to me until Matt and Patrick, my riding buddies, came screaming down the hill too and kept going, they hadn't seen it. Giving me a glance to make sure that I was okay, they kept going as I remounted my bike and followed.

That was the closest I've ever come to being hit, and there have been a fair share of close calls. Had I not been paying attention, the entire passenger side door would have hit me. After seeing the disregard with which cyclists are treated in respect to their well being and safety, the thought has occurred to me to screen print a jersey with something along the lines of "I'm a human being just like you, with a family just like you."

I'm also thankful for my Road ID, and I would encourage everyone active to get one. While I was riding with two other people who know me well, it is comforting to know that had I been hit and alone, my family would have been notified.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why CrossFit Doesn't Make Sense (For Triathletes)

For some reason, ever since I published my Kansas 70.3 race report, I've been incessantly messaged via Twitter by some trainer to try CrossFit and let him know what I think about it. Several years, as the CrossFit revolution came to the media forefront, I considered joining an affiliate, or "box."

Let me explain a little for those of you that don't know. CrossFit was originally developed in the 80s, though the term wasn't coined until later, by a fellow named Greg Glassman. The goal is simple: be competent in all ten areas of fitness. CrossFit identifies these as: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy (1). As the philosophy goes, what good does being able to dead lift 300 pounds, but be unable to run up the stairs? The workouts are a mash-up of different exercises that vary from Olympic style weight lifting to running to isometric exercises. Every "box" (gym in CrossFit lingo) has similar equipment: barbells, weights, pull up bars, medicine balls, weighted vests for running, etc.

CrossFit athletes like to argue with those who disparage their methods of training with several different examples. The one I've encountered most while talking to people who have done it and joined the "cult" (their term, not mine) is that every workout is scalable to individual needs. If you can't do the "WOD" (workout of the day, which is published by CrossFit HQ every day) to the level that the guy bench pressing 200lbs can, then bench less. If you can't run a mile, do your best, no one is judging. This mentality has attracted a large following, walk into a box and you can encounter a former bodybuilder next to a sixty year old woman. The completeness has attracted military personnel, police officers, etc. In fact, one of the most famous workouts, known as "Murph," was named after the favorite workout of Navy officer Michael Murphy, who was KIA in Afghanistan. Other workouts are named after women, similar to the way the NOAA names hurricanes.

I first encountered CrossFit while channel surfing with a friend. The CrossFit games, a national competition that crowns the "fittest man and woman on earth," was being shown on ESPN. It was fascinating. I thought about trying it, until I looked into it some more. While CrossFit seems like a great way to get in generally good shape, it isn't tailored to the specialist. CrossFit builds a complete athlete. While they may not be the strongest, fastest, most coordinated, they would supposedly get by in any of the areas mentioned.

Specificity is something that is abhorred by the CrossFit community. While it may build a complete athlete, it has very little application to triathlon. In fact, perhaps the best way to go about doing both, from a beginner perspective, would be to start with CrossFit to get in generally good shape and then join the triathlon community and begin specific training. That's where the real value of CrossFit comes in.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gels for the Long Haul

After racing Kansas, I learned a lot about nutrition and holding fuel for 5+ hours. Too bad I didn't learn this beforehand, because I failed at holding it together well. But, like any competition, you live and learn. In the months leading up to Kansas I tried so many supplements, gels, and drinks it could make your head spin. Some of them made mine! But here would be my picks for a long race/training day.
Every product listed contain the same sort of ingredients, and claim (unless noted) to have the same effect. It's really down to personal choice when it come to nutrition, so here are mine.

1. GU Original chocolate and vanilla: With a hint of caffeine, but equally important, a good taste and consistency, these are a good go to option for a 2-3 hour day. Worth noting these are the only two flavors of GU I actually like, having sampled quite a few. Stay away from blackberry and strawberry-banana and you're golden.
2. Hammer Nutrition raspberry: No caffeine in this one, but I love the flavor. Hammer misses the mark with their vanilla and chocolate, vanilla is sickly sweet and chocolate is too bitter for my taste, but nail the raspberry and other fruit flavors. A little thicker than GU, but still easy to get down with a pleasant texture.
3. Powerbar strawberry-banana: This is my third and final pick. It's not a perfect gel by any stretch of the imagination, for me it's too sweet, but it's the only flavor of Powerbar I can stand. The reason I have it listed is because the consistency is so much more thin that I find when I'm struggling, this is my go-to because I can "drink" one relatively easily.

1. Skratch Labs raspberry: For me, this is the ultimate drink mix. Everything claimed about Skratch has proven true, time and time again. It's not overly sweet, it's not syrupy, it's just...well, perfect. The flavor is wonderfully refreshing, simply because it's almost underwhelming. With products like Gatorade or Ironman Perform (made by Powerbar) what often occurs is called "flavor fatigue" where athletes no longer want to ingest a product because the flavor has become overwhelming after the athlete ingests large amounts. Skratch has a light flavor profile. It's also easy to drink a large amount without bloating or other GI distress because Skratch focuses on sodium levels and keeping them regulated during exercise. It's not a calorie drink, however, it's an electrolyte drink, so bring something else to fuel with.
2. Powerbar (Ironman) Perform orange: This is on almost every Ironman event because well, Powerbar is a major sponsor. But it's also one of the only other things I'll drink and stomach okay. It's also ideal because it has a 6:1 carb to protein mix (Orange is designated as the "recovery" Perform), which your body needs after around 1.5 hours of exercise. I like it because it tastes a helluva lot like Tang, too.

Let's be honest: These things are basically expensive fruit snacks. In fact, I'd bet that I would run better with fruit snacks than these name brand chews. I also despise them for their texture, difficulty to eat, etc, but nothing personal, they might work for you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Kansas Race Report

There are some things in life that are decisions that should perhaps have been made with some forethought. This was one of those things, but in the spirit of being an immature adolescent lacking a full developed frontal lobe (which controls impulse), I decided it would be a wonderful idea to enter Ironman 70.3 Kansas. With no actual triathlon experience, but some in all three individual disciplines, the thought was "How hard can it really be?"

In a word: Very. There's a list of firsts that I'd like to point out:
1. First time regretting an 11-23 cassette (towards the end of the bike, when a 400m climb looks and feels like a mile.

2. First time racing in the heat and humidity of Kansas (and I hate humidity, even though I spend a lot of time in Kansas).

3. First time ever going through aid stations, I missed a bottle of water twice, but thankfully, there were more volunteers at the ready.

4. First time (in a long time) tapering. And man did I screw that up. I basically didn't taper at all, and what tapering I did, I'm sure I blew it. 

Now, onto the actual race:

3:27am: Hotel front desk calls three minutes ahead of scheduled wake up call. I'm rather irate, considering I could have slept another 180 seconds.

3:30am: Three additional alarms I set in a fit of paranoia the night before go off. I'm still mad about getting woken up early, but cheered somewhat by hot oatmeal and a banana with a bottle of Skratch Labs hydration.

3:45: I'm now feeling paranoid again, checking my bags of gear and my bike repeatedly, instead of packing up everything else in a suitcase like I should be doing, since we won't be coming back to the hotel post race.

4:30: Finally out the door, the van packed and off to the race. I'm still grumpy and tired, my dad is relatively cheery at the prospect of a nap while I'm racing.

5:30: Having gotten turned around twice on the way and nearly getting stuck in the muddy campground that was set up as a parking lot for the athletes, I'm now (in my mind), a good half hour behind schedule. Paranoia is setting in again.

6:00: Transition areas are set up. I eat another banana, say a prayer, and apply a liberal coating of Tri-Slide so I can get into my wetsuit.

7:07: After standing around for a considerable amount of time since being kicked out of transition by the officials, we're off! The swim is hectic, with a good number of bad swimmers out in the front, and I find myself horribly out of position. Having swum over a good number of my fellow age groupers, many of whom stop on the spot when I hit their feet, I make the turn and head for home.

7:37: I'm gutted to see 30:02 on my watch. In the back of my mind I know I'm going to lose a bet with Erik when he swims at Lake to Lake a destroys my time. I take a couple extra seconds to throw my wetsuit in my bag so it will be transported up to T2 (Kansas is a split transition race) and go.
I look so attractive coming out of the water....Not.

7:39: I see that I've wasted a lot more than a few seconds putting my wetsuit away and rush to catch up with my fellow athletes. According to the official results I was 13th in the 18-24 age group to emerge from the water, but I don't see anyone that isn't younger than 30 around me. I suck down a gel, put my head down and go.

Sometime around 10: I'm 2:20 into the bike, and it's heating up. I finally dropped the group I had been having a little back and forth war with and am feeling okay with the bike. Getting a gel down every half hour or so and drinking pretty consistently, but something in the back of my head says I'm going to regret not mixing an additional bottle of water with a packet of Skratch I brought with me on the bike.

See the bottle there? It's empty, and even though I'm only five miles from T2, I have a feeling I'm going to regret this. There's a full bottle behind me on my X-Lab wing and a packet of Skratch in my suit on my leg.

Approximately 10:20: I'm so in my zone that I nearly miss the dismount line and almost hit a volunteer as I manage to get out of one shoe, but not the other. I unclip the other and run into T2 with one shoe on, one off, and only one contact. I wear disposable, 1 day contacts when I know I'll be swimming but they have a tendency to dry up and fall out after extended amounts of time with the wind blowing in my face. The last 10 miles of the bike have been a mix of not being able to see well and suffering as I start to cramp. I'm prepared (and I'm rather proud of myself for the forethought) and put a couple extra contact lenses on my towel. I pop them in, suck down another gel and run out of transition.

11:00: After running for 40 minutes, I realize that there's no way I'm going to finish before noon, which was my initial goal. I start looking at a 1 o'clock finish. I'm cramping badly, cursing myself for not drinking more on the bike, and running nearly 10 minute miles. This sucks.

12:00: I meet another 18 year old. We run for a while and find that we're remarkable similar. He entered this race on impulse and wants to come to Colorado for his senior trip. Hallelujah! We run together a ways and I also discover that he's on his first lap. I start cramping again and tell him to go on, as I'm only a mile from the finish.

12:38: I run down the finishing straight, having spent the last mile cramping. I also observed none other then Hines Ward running along, and see his chocolate milk endorsed teammate with one leg and a prosthetic as he passed me with a friendly nod.

They say, "Respect the distance" for a reason. That was an absolute sufferfest. I cramped for the vast majority of the run, and spent the entire bike portion swamped in competitors that impeded my progress somewhat as I tried to observe the drafting zone. I did, however, learn a lot about myself, holding fuel for five hours (I failed), and that I'd rather give up time on the bike and be stronger on the run. Obviously the hills around the bike course are not conducive to holding steady power, and being a Colorado hill climber, I made up a lot of ground on the bike, but lost it all on the run. Live and learn. Til next race, ciao!

Edit: I'd also like to mention that while I do like my Skins Tri400 suit, 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.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Typical Schedule

I get this a lot from friends: How do you manage to train for a sport where you have to do three different things well? And since I'm bored, starting to taper for Kansas, and bored (oh, wait)'s last week's training, taken directly from my training notebook.

Morning swim: 5x100 IM fast, 50 recovery between each
Afternoon bike: 60 minutes on the trainer, easy spinning

Morning bike: Hard 15 mile TT, almost race pace
Afternoon run: 3x600 fast, 200 recovery between each (1-1 ratio on time spent running hard/recovery)

Swim: 5x200 pink, red, pink, red, pink

Morning bike: easy 80 minutes spinning
Afternoon swim: 2000 easy/steady freestyle

Morning run: 3 miles, split into 1 mile hard, 1 easy, 1 hard
Afternoon run: 4 miles easy, striders to end

Morning run: ~6 miles hard at Devil's Backbone (local trail)

Afternoon swim: 1 mile OWS (open water swim) in Lake Loveland