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.