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


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