Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Charity Auction Benefiting People for Bikes

I know that I declared an end to TriLoveland, but this was too good not to share. Last week, I unexpectedly received a tweet from the Garmin Sharp Store Twitter account. Apparently, they had randomly chosen my response to a trivia tweet as the winner for their Freebie Friday contest (check them out, @Shop_Argyle) and were offering me a 2014 Pro Aero jersey, the same as the Garmin Sharp team wears.
Probably the only thing I'll ever win in an online contest.
I've decided that I'd like to pay the good karma forward. Hence, I'll be auctioning off the jersey to benefit People For Bikes, an organization dedicated to bringing cyclists together and making the roads a safer place to ride for everyone. 100% of the auction will go to them, the donation will be made in honor of the top bidder. The auction can be found here. The jersey is a size large, Castelli race fit means it most likely fits more like a medium, particularly if you wear a US-made brand like Pearl Izumi.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The End of TriLoveland

After almost two years, I've decided to end TriLoveland. The site will remain up for those who have saved reviews or other articles for reference and I may continue the site at some point in the future, but right now I'm extraordinarily busy and honestly, not at a point in my life where triathlon is the top priority like it has been in years past. Thank you all for the support, and keep on tri-ing!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

TriTip #22

On Alcohol and Racing: There's nothing wrong with a little booze, or so I'm told. However, it would behoove you to remember that alcohol is a poison to your body. A beer once in a while after a hot, miserable training session is cool, refreshing, and even offers your body some carbohydrates. But as race day approaches, I would highly suggest cutting out alcohol all together. Not only is it a poison that disrupts your body's natural functions but it also is a ton of calories that even the most regimented athlete often forgets to account for.

Moderation, as always, is the key.

Monday, May 5, 2014

On Doping and Sport

Recently, Slowtwitch published an article called "The Cloud of a Doping Past." To summarize: There are several professional and amateur triathletes who are competing in races today that have been convicted of using performance enhancing drugs in other sports, namely cycling. For instance, at Ironman 70.3 Monterrey, ex-cyclist and convicted doper Hector Guerra Garcia rode to a 2:00 bike split, which was 7 minutes faster than Tim Don, the eventual winner. Antonio Colom Mas, another convicted doper who raced with Astana out biked everyone at last year's Ironman 70.3 World Championship, as an age grouper. The article goes on to quote the opinions of several current pros, amongst Rinny Carfrae and Jordan Rapp, as well as several executives, most of who share the opinion that a ban for life is in order when someone is caught blood doping.

I have to agree. Out of sheer principle, I want the sports I love the most to be the cleanest sports out there. But I also have the nagging voice in the back of my head that says that sometimes people mess up. Look at Dave Zabriske. He was pressured and pressured until he gave in, all to live his dream as a rider in the Tour de France. Sometimes dreams can be exploited. They talk about how 99% of people like to win. The remaining 1% are the ones that hate to lose. That's where the real competitors come from. Olympians, World Champions, professionals. And in a sport where literally every second counts, if you hate to lose badly enough, wouldn't it be tempting?

And then there are the accidental ones. Michael Rogers, professional cyclist for Team Saxo-Tinkoff was recently exonerated after it was determined that the banned substance in his blood had indeed come from tainted meat that he had eaten while at a race, just as he said. Many people are simply ignorant of what is actually in their food.

I like how the article ended, and I agree with it. Dopers should be allowed back in, or not, based on several factors. What did they dope with? EPO, life ban. Clenbuterol? That could be from bad meat. How did they dope? Was it a system like the Postal Service team and Lance? Stuff like that needs to be exposed.

We can all make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life. But there is a fine line between an innocent mistake and knowing full well that what you're doing carries a risk. Doping has no place in sport, but maybe we can learn to forgive.

TriTip #21

On bad days: We all have them. The legs feel heavy, the water feels unnatural, and the power just isn't there. Maybe it's a race and you can't follow the pack or chase down the guy who has been dangling in front of you for the last ten miles like a metaphorical carrot on a stick. Sometimes it's because it's just not there, sometimes it's human error like forgetting to grab that extra gel.
The important thing here is not to reminisce on the bad. The important thing is to analyze and move on. Learn from the bad and apply it to the next training session or race.
Remember: You can make a million mistakes. Just don't make the same one twice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

TriTip #21: On eBay, PayPal

(My last post concerned racing with a budget and my opinion on what you should spend your money on. I feel that this is a pretty relevant follow up)

It's not a secret to my friends, I'm an eBay and Craigslist guy. They all know that I raced triathlons and some cycling races, and most are smart enough to realize just looking at my race kit that I don't mess around when it comes to gear. If it's my one fault, it's being a perfectionist. I want to get good gear, and I'm willing to wait until I see a good deal on it.

Just recently, I joined a Facebook group for cyclists and triathletes to buy/sell/swap gear. Within 18 hours of joining, I've already seen a post in the group about a guy who is waiting for a bike frame that has apparently not shipped. Unfortunately, he's already paid the guy and now has realized that he hasn't gotten anything more than a Paypal notification that money has been withdrawn from his account. No shipping manifest, UPS tracking number, or email letting him know that his bike is on the way.

It's not the first time I've heard of something like this, and it will certainly not be the last. There are a lot of people out there willing to take advantage of others, I also just heard that a former member of the group was arrested and is awaiting trial for possession of stolen items. Be smart, I make it a habit not to buy anything from outside the US if I'm on eBay, never to give out my Paypal on Craigslist, and always email the seller independently before paying.

You can find some great deals on eBay, Craigslist, and other websites, but be wary and be smart.

Friday, April 25, 2014

TriTip #20: Racing on a Budget

Racing on a Budget: For the last two summers, I've raced as an amateur. As a younger athlete, I don't have the funds (I funded all of my training and racing myself) that the older athletes do. But that doesn't mean that I can't make up for it in other places. The key to racing on a low budget is a game of quid pro quo. With that said, here are some of the areas I think that you should be spending money, and areas you shouldn't.
Spend on: Tri Suit. If you think about it, a triathlon suit is really just a one piece women's swim suit. They're generally made of lycra, the same stuff your swim suits are a made of, but they also have a pad for your sit bones so you stay comfortable on the bike. Using discount websites like The Clymb, you can find them for as little as $75. 

Save on: Wetsuits. This is where scoping out races becomes necessary. Is it in early May? Probably not a great idea to go there without a wetsuit. But in all honesty, if you're just starting out, a wetsuit isn't necessary. Many beginners find them uncomfortable and constricting. If you have the money, great, but don't stress on the wetsuit. 

Spend on: Goggles. They're honestly not that expensive to begin with, but don't go to Walmart for a cheap pair of goggles. Go to a decent swim shop or Swim Outlet and get a decent pair that isn't going to snap on race day. My personal favorite is the Speedo Vanquisher

Spend on: Sunglasses. Wear them on the bike and run, save your sight, and invest in the future. Assuming you don't do anything too dumb, like lose them, sunglasses will last you many years. They protect your eyes from both the sun and debris. Invest in a pair that is polarized, which will eliminate glare and give you the intimidating Craig Alexander look. Look for 100% UVA/UVB protection, as well as ANSI impact protection and polarization. I wear the Oakley Radarlock Path, which retail for $300 but can often be found on Oakley Vault for considerably less.

Save on: Aero helmets. You'll wear it when you're racing (don't be the guy wearing them on group rides) and toss it back in the closet until next year. Often running in the $300 or above price range, it's not worth spending on, especially when you consider that these are designed to save you maybe 20 seconds on a 30 mile ride.

Spend on: Bike fit. A good bike fit is imperative. It will ensure that you are comfortable on the bike for a long period of time and can help ensure that you don't have some of the typical issues on the bike like knee and lower back pain.

Save on: Fancy aero accessories. I realize that the aero helmet could technically go under this category, but aero hydration systems and other needless trinkets are a waste of money. For example, the X-Lab Torpedo system, which puts a bottle between your arms, is around $70, and saves you a whooping 20 seconds in a 40k time trial. Save the dough for a bike fit.

The bike: I can go either way here. The gains made while riding a triathlon or time trial bike are significant enough, but if you only have the money for one bike, I would highly recommend going with a standard road bike. Slide the saddle forward (this opens up the hips, so you're fresher on the run), and add some clip on aero bars and clipless pedals. 
Spend on: Shoes. With technology making it possible to cut weight, you can now find a high mileage trainer that will still work for you on race day. No, it won't be a 5oz racing flat, but it will serve you for a lot more miles. My personal favorite is the Newton Gravity. At $175, it's pricey, but you can always find last year's model for half that and I've put over 800 miles on a pair.

Friday, April 18, 2014

TriTip #19

Work hard, play hard, and take a day. Taking a day off can be beneficial, necessary even. I'm a strong believer that Mondays are a day off. I hate Mondays enough and they're typically jam packed with even more stuff to do than the rest of the week, so I take my long rides on the weekend and take Mondays off. But on those Mondays, I don't eschew physical activity either.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TriTip #18

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment. It takes time, lots of time to figure out just what works for you, be it nutrition or what type of shoe you prefer. It literally took me over 20 different pairs of shoes to figure out which shoes I would use for training and racing (if you're curious: Newton Gravity for training, Adidas Adios or Skora Form for racing).

What you need to remember is to do this experimenting a long way away from your race so that you're adequately prepared on race day. Sometimes something you think will really work on race day won't, but you can minimize that risk by using the same stuff you would in a race in some of your important, high-level training sessions. Gels, for example, can cause some folks to have stomach problems. Yet many people buy them, assuming that using them exclusively on race day will boost their performance X percent. When it actually comes to race day, their gut isn't used to suddenly having carbohydrates to process during a workout and things go south from there.

Don't be afraid to experiment, but be smart about how you go about it.

Revisiting TriTip #16

Earlier this week I posted TriTip #16: Emulate, Emulate. In that post I talked about how studying film can benefit us as athletes when we observe those who are more experienced. This is the type of film I was talking about.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TriTip #17

Gains vs. Maintenance: You can generally maintain your fitness level and strength with as few as two sessions per week. If you're overloaded with work, school, etc. this is a good way to maintain your form. I did this a month away from my "A" race because I had to do some training sessions for work.

However, you will not make gains in your fitness. You will not increase your Vo2 max or your overall strength.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Revamping TriTips (And TriTip #16)

After receiving some feedback from you wonderful readers, I've decided to cede to the requests and make each new TriTip an independent post. This should eliminate you, the readers, having to go back and find the older post every time I update it with new tips. FrisTips and others will also remain.

With that said:

TriTip #16: Emulate, Emulate. This is actually something that we all do unconsciously, but it deserves more attention. When I started running cross country, I had no idea about what the proper form looked like. No one had ever really told me. So I looked at my coach, who is a 52 year old marathoner, Olympic Trials and Boston Marathon qualifier, and very experienced runner. I watched him for a couple practices and then started to try to emulate his form, with a fast foot strike, shorter strides, and fast arms. I immediately got faster, because good form means that less energy is wasted compensating for bad form and can be utilized instead to propel you forward.

Now, I consciously look at other people who I know are more experienced. Be it at Frisbee practice, watching someone who can huck the disc farther than me or watching some film of the Ironman World Championship, seeing how Rinny Carfrae runs, I try to emulate those who are better because doing so makes me a better athlete as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Looking Back and Learning

I was originally going to make this a TriTip (because I've been neglecting that thread, you see). But after some consideration, I decided to turn this into a full post because it's an important topic to address and I don't believe that I would be able to in a concise manner.

Yesterday, our Ultimate Frisbee team, Luther Pound, traveled to our conference tournament. Here's how a typical tournament works: teams play Saturday in what's called "pool play." That determines who they'll play on Sunday in a bracket. However, because no one likes to make an hour and half drive four times in two days, the decision was made by captains to turn conferences into a one day tournament and replicate the scores produced for Sunday's score report. There were five teams in our conference, four would qualify for regionals. Then Creighton dropped out. At the time, it seemed like a blessing. We were scheduled to have about a two hour wait between our third game and the Creighton game. This way, we could leave at 2:30pm instead of 6pm or later after facing Creighton. With Creighton out, four bids for five teams turned into three bids for four teams.

We hadn't done much scouting, but we knew Grinnell was good. Real good. That was to be expected. Drake was supposed to be an okay team, and Loras was supposed to be the bottom of the conference. We were seeded third and came in confident that we would be at regionals in less than a month.

It was supposed to be raining and windy yesterday. Only half that was right, it was windy. Really windy, like constant twenty miles an hour wind windy. Still, we were unfazed, pretty happy that it wasn't raining, and ready to grab a spot at regionals and hit the road.

Grinnell was tough, we knew. Still, optimism was the word. Pound was riding high off of a win at the Southerns tournament, in which we had won the B-team bracket. Yet the Grinnell game was a different one from the start. We knew they were good, we came out with the idea that we would give it our best shot, but that it was acceptable to lose. It was still relatively cold at this point, and the wind was gusting up to 40mph from one end of the field to the other. That meant that one team always had the wind and the other had to face a murderous headwind. It would remain this way for the rest of the day. Grinnell sent us off with a loss (13-10), the first for Pound in four games going back to spring break and Southerns.

We came out fired up for the second game against Drake, but it seemed like moral ebbed and flowed with the wind. Downwind scores by Pound were celebrated with enthusiasm while downwind scores by Drake were shrugged off with the mentality that we would get the disc back and score downwind.

Until we didn't. The O-line turned the disc five yards from the end zone and we on the sideline could only watch as Drake methodically worked the disc up the field for an upwind break. That was the difference in the game. With that point, which tied the game, we had to face the murderous wind on an offensive point, which hadn't happened yet. We lost that game 8-10 in a do or die situation with soft cap on.

Still, we remained confident that it was mostly bad luck that Drake had pulled out a win and that Loras was manageable. With only five subs, and having played two games like we had, they were sure to be toast. An easy win would secure our spot in regionals.

Which is right when bad luck struck us again, this time in the form of a bad coin flip which had Loras starting on offense going downwind. For the rest of the game, we traded points, but couldn't secure the upwind break that would have put us in the lead and essentially won us the game. No upwind breaks were scored that game, but it didn't matter because Loras had started on offense and traded us points, but always with the advantage. In something that stunned most of our team, Loras secured their first bid to regionals and we failed to qualify after a 9-10 loss with another soft cap on.

In the post game huddle, emotions ran high. Tears flowed freely as seniors recounted their best memories of the past four years and many of us sat there stunned, not quite believing that we had failed in what was supposed to be an easy win.

Later, after emotions settled and tears had subsided, it was easier to see what went wrong. We may have failed to do what we had set out to, but there were lessons to be learned from this experience and concrete reasons why we didn't secure our regionals bid.

1. Mentality: Personally, it felt like we had the day planned out. Lose to Grinnell, win or lose to Drake, then destroy Loras for the easy win and a bid. When things started going south, we didn't know how to respond.

2. Attitude: Yes, this could also be part of mentality, but it merits another point. We walked onto the field to face Loras with a "we're here to win" attitude, but also the attitude that upwind points didn't matter. We weren't going to score on them if Loras turned to disc over going downwind. So until crunch time, we played hard, but if we lost a downwind point, it wasn't a heartbreaker. We were going to get the disc back and it would be our turn to play downwind and score.

3. Fundamentals: There were those there who were super fired up to play. I mean, they were raring to go. Esteban was ready to go on at any time, even with his broken foot. And sometimes that can hurt us. Yes, we played hard, but there were also some drops even if the disc hit our cutter in the chest. Being fired up doesn't compensate for not coming to many practices and then making basic mistakes.

When the dust settles, our season is over. Done. No more practices, no more scrimmages or drills until the fall. Yet the season should never be remembered for losses, failed bids, or turfed hucks. No, the season can and will be remembered for the 50 yard Boyband hucks, the incessant Esteban sideline heckling, and the massive Isaac skies. There will be lessons learned, toasts made, and fond memories looked back upon.

Pound in the fall of 2013
Boyband, our captain for the past three years, summed it up best in the post game huddle when he said two simple words: Sh*t happens. It happens to everyone. Discs aren't caught, races aren't won, records aren't broken, baskets aren't made. But looking back, there is always something to learn from, and growth as an athlete and as a person to be made.

Monday, March 31, 2014

TriTips (One Post, Multiple Updates)

So I decided to start doing a more frequent posting method, more to keep things fresh and avoid falling into the trap of doing a single, long rant every couple weeks. TriTips will be updated as often as I find the time, so check back here frequently for updates and pictures! I may also sporadically include a FrisTip (FrisbeeTip) as I see fit.
Without further ado, here is TriTips!

TriTip #1: Be consistent. There is no substitution for hard work and dedication. It sounds super cliche, but just today I found probably ten or so of these workouts populating my Pinterest feed:

Yes, I have Pinterest, get over it. Anyway, the point here is that you will never be successful in the long run if you cut corners. Yes, this is better than no workout at all, and I'm sure it's great if you're cooped up in a hotel room on business. But will it make you a good triathlete? No. It will burn some calories and maybe make you a little tired (Yes, I tried this workout. No, it wasn't difficult). Work hard, Tri hard. 

TriTip #2: Sunscreen. All the time and everywhere. You would be shocked some of the places you can burn if you're not through. And it's spring time, which means that people are out trying to get a nice base tan for the summer. Or they think that they can't get burned because it was sunny but now it's overcast. 
And while we're talking about sunscreen, let me point out that it has an awesome dual effect. Put a nice layer on your forehead. It will help neutralize the salt in your sweat and won't sting your eyes when you put in a big effort on a hot day. I like Coppertone Sport SPF 50. 

TriTip #3: Find gear you like, and stick with it. No, that doesn't mean that you should keep the 30 year old Trek for races when you have a new Speed Concept. What I mean is that your gear selection should be what you're comfortable with. I've gradually realized that there is one model of shoes I really like (Brooks PureFlow). So now, instead of going out and trying a bunch of new shoes in an effort to find a passable one, I stick with what I know. It makes my life a lot easier. Not that there's anything wrong with trying a new model, but keep the old ones around, you know, just in case. 

TriTip #4: Patience is a virtue. My high school English teacher would be "rolling in her grave" reading this. She hated cliches. But this one is worthwhile. When I started racing triathlon, my race strategy went something like: Blindly swim as fast as possible, bike as hard as I could, and hang on in the run. It take time to realize what works for you. Try something new in the next race and switch things up. Conserve on the bike for a change and hammer the run. It might not work, but it's worth exploring. 

TriTip #5: That being said, play to your strength. If you were a pro cyclist back in the day and are now looking to try some triathlons, go for the bike with confidence. 

TriTip #6: And that being said, strive to become a balanced athlete. The best triathletes in the world rarely have the best of anything. Instead, they have the second-best swim, third-best bike, and second-best run. But their opponents are having fifth-best swim, best bike, and tenth-best run. See who comes out on top? 

TriTip #7: Hills, hills, hills. I used to cringe when my coach would tell us that we were going to run 22nd Street. That meant a long uphill climb. Now, I jump at the chance. Running or biking hills quickly helps increase V02 max, while a slower pace works on strength. 

If you're curious, this hill at the 2013 Tirreno Adriatico was so steep (27%) that more than a few rider walked up it. 

FrisTip #1: There's always time to take a break and throw some disc. Case in point, I could write another daily TriTip, but you all are sick of them, and I'm getting restless.

TriTip #8: Porta-lets are a blessing. Hey, someone had to say it. You should try to pee at least once during the bike portion of a 70.3 or twice in the bike of a full Ironman. I'm told this will maximize your potential on the run. 

TriTip #9: Distance Is Essential. Despite what everyone says about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and it's affect on V02 max and all that jazz, you will not get the result you want unless you put in the miles. My rules of thumb for training and race distance are as follows:
Swim: Do the same distance as the swim in the race at least 3 times a week. 3 swim sessions is the minimum you'll need to do to maintain your swim fitness (you won't be getting any stronger or faster) and feel for the water. 
Bike: Long rides should follow this formula. For sprint distance, around 2x the distance you'll race (that's 24 miles), Olympic distance should be 1.5x, or 45 miles, half Ironman should be at least 1x or 56 miles and Ironman should be at least 1x as well. Keep in mind these are aimed at gaining enough aerobic fitness to finish the event well, not necessarily be competitive. Shorter rides through the week (I like to do my long rides on the weekend, when I have the most time) should be done with a specific purpose in mind, like training hills, holding a certain wattage, etc. 
Run: Long runs should total at least 1/2 of the race distance for half and full Ironman races, 1x an Olympic, or 1.5x a sprint. Shorter runs should again be done with purpose, focusing in on recovering from a previous effort or becoming accustomed to running right off the bike for example. 

TriTip #10: Heel vs Forefoot Striking. Despite all the so-called research being done by multiple people and the supposed benefits of each, it comes down to what works for you. For me, it's a forefoot strike, but I also know people who are perfectly content (and fast!) with a heel strike. Bottom line is that you're putting stress on muscles and joints, running on your heel exerts the same amount of force on your body that a forefoot strike does. Heel strikers tend to get more of the force dispersed throughout their knees, whereas forefoot strikers tend to absorb most of the shock through their metatarsals (bones in the foot). 

FrisTip #2: Layouts Are Sick. 'Nuff said. 

TriTip #11: The Most Aero Position is the One You Can Hold. Check out the difference in positions between two riders, Sebastian Kienle and Brent McMahon. Now, McMahon's position is by no means a bad one, but for the sake of argument, we're going to use it. 
Now, pretending that McMahon's position is closer to that of an age grouper. It's obvious in comparing them that Kienle has a far more refined position. His torso is almost completely level to the ground. Not many people can hold this position, but Kienle has proved over and over that he is more than capable of holding this position for the entire Ironman bike. However, McMahon's position (while less aerodynamic in the long run) is the one that he can hold the longest. This is an important lesson for every triathlete. You can have a super aerodynamic position, but if you cannot hold it and are going onto the base bar every few minutes, then you're compromising your aerodynamics. The easy solution is to sacrifice some aerodynamic advantages but being able to hold the position in the long run. The fastest position is not necessarily the most aerodynamic

TriTip #12: Cafeteria food is a no-go. This doesn't apply to everyone, because not everyone is in college, but cafeteria food should be avoided as much as possible. Even though workplace cafeterias have gone the way of the dodo, college students beware: Processed, salt-filled foods can erase gains and add pounds. 
Funny story: Over spring break I went home. Just eating regular food, I dropped 7lbs in a week. 

TriTip #13: Make Transitions Slowly. Whether it's a regular shoe to a zero drop or learning to open water swim, take things slow when you add something new to the mix. If you're transitioning from a 8 to 10mm heel to toe drop shoe to a zero drop shoe, start by doing some barefoot running after your regular run on grass and walking around the house barefoot so that your foot starts becoming accustomed to it. Then maybe cut your regular run off by a mile and change shoes and do the last mile in your zero drop shoes. 

TriTip #14: On using ice. From my own personal experience, I would highly suggest using ice sparingly. Use it in the immediate aftermath of an injury to keep the swelling down. This will make it easier to discern the nature of the injury. But research suggests that the post exercise ice bath may not be necessary and could actually inhibit recovery because it restricts blood vessels, reducing the blood flow to your muscles. 

TriTip #15: On pain medication. Ibuprofen is a wonderful thing, and yes, it can be beneficial. However, in my opinion, it should be used sparingly. For one, ibuprofen dulls pain, and pain is the body's indicator that something is hurting and should be paid attention to. Additionally, it has been shown that using ibuprofen before exercise can cause dangerous damage to the lining of your stomach. Use it when you actually need it, but be careful that it doesn't become a crutch. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Stuff: TriTips and More

In an effort to remain more consistent in posting things on this blog, I've decided to start a new style of post. Rather than writing long, arduous posts every other week or so (see, I don't even know), I'm going to make an effort to come up with a daily tip for triathletes, runner, cyclists, swimmers, etc. Heck, I may include a few tips for ultimate frisbee players.

Also, I was going to try to get out and try some of the new Skins compression socks, since I think they'll have a longer life and better resiliency than my beloved 2XU calf sleeves. However, I was hit with a $45 parking fine for being in a "permit required" zone at CSU, a whole ten minutes before it became free parking. So I'll hold off on that for now.

And, if you're wondering about the Adidas Boost shoes that I said I was going to review, I lied. Well, not exactly lied, but I never got around to it. Why? Because I tried them on at Runners' Roost, my preferred supplier for all my running gear, and decided that they didn't fit as well as the Adios 2 did. That $140 price tag suddenly looked a lot less appealing. On a side note: If anyone wants to send me some new or low mileage Boost to run in and review, I'll be more than happy to accept donations!

The Endurance Athlete's Bucket List

Spring is in the air, if not in northeast Iowa, then certainly in my home state of Colorado. With temperatures ranging from the high fifties to the mid sixties, I'm told that athletes everywhere are rejoicing after a long winter spent on the trainer and treadmill. All this talk makes me excited, I'll be heading back to my home state soon, after midterm week wraps up here at Luther College. Which is why, to celebrate, I've decided to compile a list of the must-do events for all endurance athletes. The first list is a general one, it's more of my personal bucket list of things I'd like to do before my body gives out, the second targets specific events that I feel are on a lot of bucket lists. Without further ado, my Endurance Athlete Bucket List, Version 2014.


1. Competitively Complete Every Triathlon Distance: I've competed in every distance of triathlon except Iron-distance. However, the goal here is not only to finish the race, it's to be relatively competitive in my age group. That can be interpreted in a number of ways, for me, I'll be aiming for the top 10% of the entire field. Others might not be satisfied until they are the top 1%. 

2. Run 100 miles: Unless you've been living under a rock for, well; your entire life, you know about the Leadville 100. Widely considered one of the toughest races on the face of the planet, it attracts a special kind of athlete.

3. Race Abroad: It might not seem like a huge deal for those who have a well established, fiscally stable life, but traveling and racing abroad is a huge aspiration for an 18 year old college student!

4. Win A Race: Again, for older, more experienced athletes, this might not seem like such a big deal. But I'd really like to win a race outright, just once.

5. Spartan Race/Tough Mudder: Okay, this one might not be on everyone's list, but come on. As triathletes, we are well suited to these. They make a huge deal about the obstacles on course, but at the end of the day you still have to run to and from them. And triathletes naturally have a real good amount of functional strength. Some obstacles would need specific training, but I'm confident that any competitive triathlete could go out there and kill the course.
The faster you are through these, the less they hurt, or so Matt tells me. 
6. Run A Massive Relay: If you're from northern Colorado, odds are you've at least heard of the Wild West Relay. Teams get together and run legs of four to six miles with team of about ten people, trying to get from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs the fastest. And from what I'm told, it's an absolute blast.

7. The Color Run: Okay, I know a lot of you will turn your noses up at this. Not timed? Lame. No awards? Lame. But really, this is one of the most entertaining "races" you could go to. Not only is everyone super chill there, it's more of a social event than a workout. You can always bike beforehand and not be "that guy."
See? Even I look pretty happy!

The Specifics

1. Ironman World Championships: This is a site called "TriLoveland" so of course the first event on the list of specifics when it comes to my bucket list of racing is racing in Kona. 140.6 miles of wind, heat, and humidity, along with 1700 of the best athletes in the world. 

2. Norseman Tri: For those of you that don't know about this race, let me give the quick explanation. This is an Iron-distance triathlon. You're probably thinking, "Big deal, it's still 140.6 miles." 
Yes, however, this is 140.6 miles of pain, starting with a freezing swim and ending with a mountain summit. However, it also includes some of the most picturesque scenery you could ever imagine while delivering the most painful challenge some will ever face. For that combination, it is another Iron-distance triathlon to include on this list. 

3. Leadville 100: It's only fitting that I mentioned the Leadville 100 above in my general bucket list. However, even being from Colorado, this is still a race regarded by many as being for the "freaks." There's a reason why: I know more that have failed than have succeeded at the Leadville 100, and by succeeded, I mean finished. This race is ridiculous. So ridiculous that it was documented and immortalized in the wildly popular Born to Run. Not only is the course insanely difficult, it's held at 10,000 feet in elevation, higher than many mountains in other states. Bring on the hypoxia-induced hallucinations. 

4. Ironman 70.3 World Championships: I considered leaving this off the list, but after thinking, I decided that I wanted to keep it. Why would I consider taking it off? I really wanted to race this in Vegas, but unfortunately, Ironman has announced that the 70.3 Worlds will be rotating through various cities beginning next year. Still, Vegas remains a dream. 

Viva Las Vegas!

5. It's late and my computer is about to die, so I'll toss one more on before publication: Nolan's 14. This one probably comes as a surprise, particularly if you read my general list. No where did it say anything about Nolan's 14 or even 14ers in general. However, being from Colorado, I feel obligated to post this one. A reported 15% of the people that attempt this feat succeed. Ponder that for a moment because in order to do fourteen 14ers in less than 60 hours. Depending on the route, this can be somewhere between 88 and 104 miles. The Sawatch Mountain Range serves as the course, starting at Mt. Massive and ending at Mt. Shavano or vice versa. With ~44,000 feet of climbing, this a true mountain man's race and one to throw on the bucket list for a few years down the road. 

Legendary trail runner Anton Krupicka (also pictured above in the LT 100 post) after realizing that his attempt at Nolan's 14 wasn't meant to be. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

On Making Marginal Gains

There comes a time in every endurance athlete's career when he/she realizes that they've over trained.

For me, that was this week.

A hectic schedule, ultimate frisbee tournament, and a few papers meant I had more than enough steam to blow off to pretty much run myself into the ground. Unfortunately, that also means I'll be going stir crazy for a week and a half while I try to take a break.

It's not in our nature to sit on the sidelines and recover (unless it's with a cold brew after a long workout). Which makes it unbelievably frustrating that I pushed myself over the edge and have, in doing so, actually set myself back.

See, in today's gotta-have-this-because-it-will-make-me-faster racing culture, we talk a lot about the one or two percent, the marginal gains. Take a look at the new Rapha skinsuit Chris Froome (Sky Pro Cycling) posted from his Twitter account.

A bit much, eh? But that suit may shave a couple seconds off of an ITT or TTT that could mean the difference between the top step of the podium and third place or worse. And we see this everywhere, water bottles that are aerodynamically shaped, a storage box that actually improves low yaw angle aerodynamics, shoes that will spring you forward, goggles that give you a second in an open water swim.

But when it comes down to it, the real marginal gains are the ones you make every week, the ones that come from miles upon miles on swimming, running, and biking. The ones earned with blood, sweat, and tears, not purchased. Without the engine, the car can have a theoretical speed of 200 mph, but it still won't go anywhere without a driving force. Similarly, you can have a $10,000 bike, $1200 wetsuit, and $200 pair of shoes, but none of that will matter if you don't put in the work.

Work hard, race hard, and reap the rewards.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On Illness, Consistency, and the Little Things

I live in a college dorm. And, like most college dorms, this one is probably a lot less than sanitary. I'll be the first to admit that I'm pretty sure I've dusted my desk three times (maybe) since moving in. However, I feel that I've done a pretty good job staying healthy. Eating right and keeping clean has been a big help, and I haven't been down and out for a while. Until last week.

I got sick. Real sick, throwing up and barely-breathing sick. So I laid in bed for a solid three days. When I got up, I could barely breath because I have asthma, and illness tend to bypass my throat and and go straight to my lungs. That means that I've been out for over a week. I hate sitting on the sidelines, but I take solace in the fact that I've already put in enough work that coming back, I won't be very far behind.

Having that solace is important. Everyone gets sick, there are few that make it a calendar year without doing so, and being consistent the other 350-odd days that you're not ill is important. It allows you to focus solely on resting and healing instead of worrying about how far behind in your training you'll be.

Consistency is often what makes an athlete. The average Olympian trains six years, 350 days a year until they make it to the Olympic games. Six years, only missing 91 days (including the leap year). If my math is wrong, sue me, I'm a physiology major not a math guy. Regardless, consistency is probably the most potent weapon in an athlete's arsenal and the most important. If you feel a little niggle in your leg, it's probably best to cut the run short than have the problem blossom into a massively damaging, six week on the sideline injury.

That being said, there are a ton of things you can do to ensure that your workouts are as consistent as possible. Eating right, sleeping enough, and trying to be active every day are probably the three most important, but also put an emphasis on the things that could drag you down. Make sure that your environment is one the motivates you to work out (I still have an autographed Craig Alexander poster on my bedroom wall, right where I can see it every day. And even the small negativities, like taking your shoes off the second you walk in the door to minimize the spread of germs can be helpful in ensuring that you have a consistent and bang-on season with minimal time devoted to healing.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Evo Cursoris Update

I thought I'd take some time today to write a more in depth review of the Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris that I previewed earlier this month (and procrastinate doing some of my statistics homework). Take a look here for some of my initial thoughts after running about 14 miles total in the shoes.

If you've forgotten, here's what the shoes look like:
It's a pretty darn good looking shoe if you ask me. And even if I don't run more than 100 miles in them, they'll definitely stay in my every day rotation because I think they look freaking sweet (there's the 18 year old college student in me coming out).

In my initial review, I griped about the lack of a heel counter/heel cup/heel-anything that could help lock down my heel. That hasn't changed, if anything, my feelings about that have intensified. In fact, while it's may not be a deal breaker for some, it's definitely become such a nuisance that it would be for me. Had I had the time to try both shoes in the Wave Evo line (the Levitas has a heel cup), I'm about 99.99% sure that I would have gone with the Levitas.

As the shoe has broken in, however, I've discovered that my fears about the lacing have become less and less of an issue. Initially, I had to agree with what other runners have blogged or posted in forums, the Cursoris lacing is hit and miss. It had a tendency to be either way too tight and create uncomfortable hot spots or it was too loose and the my foot wasn't locked down. That has changed with time, now I just stay conscious of the fact that if I lace them up too quickly, I may encounter those issues.

Don't get me wrong, this shoe has a lot of endearing qualities. It is still the same pillow-soft shoe that greeted me on my first run. But would I buy these shoes again? Probably not. For some, the large tongue, lacing issues, and lack of a heel cup will not be a huge deal. For the rest, look elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Core vs. Abs and Why You Should Know the Difference

There seems to be this fitness myth floating around. It's so prevalent that there's a good chance that you might believe it, even if you're a veteran endurance athlete. I know that up until a couple years ago, I certainly did.

A couple years ago, I got a back ache. Not a big deal, people get back aches every day. It started with my flip turns during swim practice. Just a little twinge, every time I flipped. But after 10,000 yards and 400 odd flip turns, that small twinge was a major pain. Then it would hurt during dryland, doing sit ups and leg lifts and medicine ball twists. Eventually, it became so constant that I started to question could this be something more than just a back ache?

I was right to question. Eventually I went to a doctor, then a sports physiologist, then another doctor, this time for an MRI. The results weren't good. I had stress reactions in two of my vertebrae, L4 and L5. Left untreated, these stress reactions could potentially degenerate into spondylolysis, or pars stress fractures of the spine. I was sent to see a physical therapist. What he told me change my entire perspective on what I had been doing.

Swimming is touted as a zero-impact way to remain fit, stay active, and avoid injury. And judging by the number of senior citizens I see in the pool at 5am every day, whatever they tell these elderly folk is working. But for young, ambitious swimmers, there is an increased risk of repetitive stress injuries like spondylolysis. This is because spondylolysis is generally caused by repeated bending of the spine. Adding to the problem was the dryland I was doing with the team. We would do somewhere between 120 and 180 crunches a practice. 2 practices a day, you can do the math.

See, what your coach called core work was really abdominal work, I was told. That's important because although swimming engages every muscle in your body, the extra dryland was throwing mine out of balance. The core of the body is comprised of more than just the abs that everyone seems to be obsessed with making appear.

By strengthening only our abs, in our unending pursuit of aesthetic perfection, we put ourselves at risk for back pain and injury. When our abdominal muscles are engaged and strengthened, they pull our belly in and cause the back to hunch. The stronger the back, the more this is counteracted. Todd, my physical therapist, put me through a rigorous back routine to strengthen those muscles and told me to ditch the crunches. Exercises such as the plank engage your abdominal muscles and your back. He also had me stretching like crazy because my hamstrings were also tight, which was a by product of my tight back, but also inhibiting the loosening of the spinal erectors.

See, the muscles in our core have a symbiotic relationship with one another and when we ignore one, we tend to weaken the entire core and open the door to injury. This is particularly important for triathletes. We don't just have swimming to worry about, we have a bike and run after it, and both will tax your entire core.

What does riding your bike remind you of? Imagine riding a bike upside down...see where I'm going with this? There's a reason that there's an exercise called the "bicycle crunch." The bike leg taxes your abdominal muscles quite a bit, so consequently, lots of cyclists have strong abdominals, but not much else in the way of core strength. The images above were taken from Tom Danielson's Core Advantage, a book that details his struggles with back pain, and his realization that strengthening his entire core would lead to more explosiveness and more power. Additionally, having loose hamstrings and a flexible lower back allows triathletes to get into a lower, more aerodynamic tuck and hold it longer. This is extremely important. Many athletes can get low, but can't remain there, so they go back to using the base bar. In that case, you might as well have saved your money and raced with your road bike, because your aerodynamics would be close the same with your hands on the hoods as they are resting on the base bar.

And most everyone should know that the core is the difference between a good run and a great run. Most don't know that the hamstrings are part of that equation, but they know how it feels to run with tight hammies. It's not pleasant. The other part of the core is necessary to hold you upright, and helps you maintain your form throughout the course of the run. Good form is fast form, and faster is better, right AT&T kids?

Remember, love your body, love your core, and work your core. If transition is the fourth discipline of triathlon, then you might as well make it a pentathlon because core is equally, if not more, important as the other disciplines.

Friday, January 31, 2014

14 Fitness Myths for 2014

New Year, new you? Maybe. But here are some of the more common fitness myths that I've encountered that could be holding you back. Apologies for delaying this to February, but I'm sure you're all still riding the New Year's high when you think about those resolutions anyway.

1. Crunches = Six Pack Abs

When did this misconception come around? And why do people still believe that simply doing crunches is the best way to go about getting a six pack. To be brutally honest, no exercise you do will get you a six pack. The best way to go about getting the tone and definition is by changing your diet first. The average guy needs to drop to below 8% body fat to see at least the outline of their abdominal muscles. Until then, it doesn't matter how many crunches you do or how strong your abdominals are, they're not going to show up. Which brings me to number two...

2. Abs = Core

No, no, and no. The abdomen is part of the core, however the core is actually comprised of the abdominals, abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and most importantly, back.

Simply working the abdominals by doing crunches is the reason so many people get hurt. They believe that they're working their core, but in reality, they're creating imbalances. Focusing solely on the abdominals is the reason many people suffer from poor posture and back pain because the abdominals draw the gut in and the push the back out, creating a slouch and leading to all sorts of troubles.

3. Minimalism is the (only) Way

When Born to Run was published in 2009, it suddenly became this gospel of truth for runners. Now, five years later, sales of minimal footwear have tapered off, but the movement has cemented itself in the running world. And there are still those who drink the Kool-Aid and tell every person that they know that minimalism is the best and only way to run.
What they don't tell you is that minimal running doesn't decrease the impact your body takes, it merely shifts where that shock goes. Those running in traditional, high drop running shoes typically see more knee issues. Minimal runners shouted from the rooftops that they had finally found the solution to knee injury, only to discover later that they were having an increasing number of metatarsal injuries such as stress fractures. Do some research, test the waters, and decide for yourself.

4. Cardio = Lean and Ripped

For Joe Average, cardio is awfully appealing. It's not as painful as weight training and it offers a way to slim down and get in shape over the winter to present a lean and toned body for the summer beaches. But while Joe or Jane initially sees good results, they start to taper off, and eventually, even thought Joe or Jane are in great condition, that stubborn belly fat won't disappear, no matter how far they go. Their weight loss goes from a pound a week to nearly nothing, the minor fluctuations are easily explained by water weight.
See number one for the solution (kidding), in the mean time, let's get on to number five...

5. Intervals are for Serious Runners

This always astounds me. People are afraid to run fast. They think that long and slow is the best way to lose weight. And up to a point, it's great to be burning calories that way. But the thing about humans is, we're remarkably efficient runners. We have a number of physiological advantages that make it possible for us to theoretically run a hundred miles on our fat reserves at that long and slow pace. As a coach of mine once put it, "The point isn't to run slow. Hell, with two bad knees I could still shuffle my way to Estes Park going slow." Running over our aerobic threshold ignites our metabolism. This means that even after we stop running, our body burns more calories at rest, which in turn means that with the proper diet, you can burn that extra fat. Try adding some striders to the end of your long, slow runs.
6. Breads and Pastas are (still) Necessary

Yes, carbohydrates are necessary. But looking at new research, we've discovered that the best way to get the majority of our energy is through healthy fats. In fact, recent research has suggested that carbohydrates that are derived from grains and simple sugars are the leading cause of inflammation, i.e.: the reason our blood vessels constrict. While they are necessary, the best way to them is through fruits and some veggies, such as sweet potatoes, with the occasional bowl of rice thrown in. You wonder why the Japanese are living so long? Look no further than rice and fish, the healthy carb and the healthy fats.
Yeah, the USDA can flip the pyramid on its side, but the fundamentals remained the same, even though we do not need 6-11 servings of carbs.

7. No Carbs Are Better

Recently, we've seen a big surge in the paleo diet. In fact, that was the most searched diet term in 2013. Having had personal experience with the paleo, I can tell you that to the average person, the paleo is great (after the first two weeks). Let me give you a run down: No grains, basically no carbs what so ever. No legumes (including peanuts). No simple sugars. Fish, lean meats, chicken, limited dairy, lots of healthy fats and veggies. The idea here is that those grains and legumes are poisonous to us in their raw form and that we should only eat things that our ancestors would eat.
However, the paleo deprives you of carbohydrates. That's why it's rough for the first couple weeks, because your body is used to fueling itself from the carbohydrates and simple sugars. After that, it's pretty nice. In fact, I broke the 5% body fat barrier while on the paleo. However, as my mileage ramped up, I found that I kept bonking. See, we need some carbs. Certainly not the 300+ that we're told. What I didn't know at the time is that rice and sweet potatoes are allowed for endurance athletes. But if you're not doing crazy miles and want to lose some of that body fat, the paleo can be great.

8. We Need Stuff

We're told today that we need a lot of stuff. Particularly for a sport like triathlon. We need a special watch, a bike computer, aerodynamic hydration options, a fuel belt! Good Lord. In all honesty, we don't need any of that. The average triathlete is being bombarded by advertisements. If the pros use it, the age groupers should too. However, the vast majority of age groupers don't need that stuff. If you're just out to finish a triathlon, you don't need to save 20 seconds on a 40km course. Marginal gains are just that. Save hundreds, you'll swim/bike/run faster just knowing that in the back of your head.

9. To Do Something Well, Do It A Lot

Refer to my post regarding endurance here for more on this. The mentality needs to change here. Yes, there are certain people that can ramp up the mileage incessantly and not end up in the doctor's office, but for the most part, the mentality of doing a lot of miles is rarely scientific. Were it, we'd see a lot less injuries, but too often, we instead see people ramping up the miles too quickly and/or doing far too many at one time. The rule of thumb is: No more than 10% increase per week. Let's keep it that way.

10. Triathlons Are Hard/Scary

Triathlon is emerging as a new sport for people to try. I love nothing more than watching the kids' race before my wave because it's inspiring to see how excited these kids get over doing something they love. But when I talk to older folks, they're put off by it. "Oh, you do triathlons?" I can see what they're actually thinking is "You're insane."
That's sad to me. In all honesty, triathlons are no harder than sprinting the 400m. But for some reason, I know a lot of people who are perfectly willing to run a marathon, but not try a triathlon. They're very different, but they're both challenging in their own way. In fact, I would encourage everyone to try a sprint distance triathlon at least once. You'll learn some new things, become fit, and meet some awesome people. Let's make 2014 the year of the triathlon.

11. The Elliptical Is (still) Awesome
Anyone here watch Jimmy Tatro on YouTube? His videos are sort of niche videos, they're usually watched by the 16-25 male demographic, but I think quite a few of them are pretty hilarious even though I usually eschew that sort of humor. An excerpt from his video "Gym Etiquette" goes something like this: "I look at the ellipticals and I see girl, girl, girl, girl...and then that one guy."
Now, this isn't necessarily true, at least the part about just girls on the elliptical. I see plenty of guys at my college gym on them. But while the elliptical can be a great cross training tool (see: zero impact), I feel like a lot of people rely on it. Why? Simple, the elliptical is self regulating. You choose the pace. At least on a treadmill, you're urged along by the fact that your feet come precariously close to the edge if you slow down or start to doze off. I see girls at the gym all the time. They start out at a frenetic pace, and ten minute later, they're done. That's not cardio, that's not interval training, that's dumb. If you really want zero impact, go to the pool. Get a full body workout in.

12. Leg Day is Overrated
Clearly I spend too much time on YouTube. You're going: Really, mentioning two YouTube channels in one post? Yes, yes I am. BroScienceLife is run by a meat head named Dom, who makes all sorts of satirical videos regarding the gym life of a bro. And there's one dedicated to skipping leg day.
It's hilarious, at least to me. But I would never skip leg day. I'll be the first to tell you, I do next to zero weight training. As an endurance athlete, I find some beneficial, but 98% of my time is spent swimming, biking, or running. But fitness can be attained multiple ways. Why would you take away the biggest muscle groups, with the biggest potential and largest calorie burn by only working your upper half? Simple...

13. I Can Get This in 10 Minutes

If there's one thing that has stuck with me from the coaches I've had over the years, it's the mentality that you can't just sit around and expect results. You have to want to be better, faster, stronger. But look no further than Pinterest to see a million and one "Get this body in 20 minutes" workouts.
While these workouts may burn a quick hundred calories, what people need to know is that getting that body isn't about the workout itself, it's about the lifestyle. Are you cutting out the simple sugars, the salts, and the breads? Do you get 8 hours of sleep a night? Are you monitoring your calorie intake and adjusting it to your daily needs? Too often, I see people who these workouts and use them as an excuse to indulge.
Let me set something straight: I have nothing against these short, sweet workouts. A twenty minute workout is better than no workout but people need to be realistic when it comes to their goals. Want to drop 10 lbs. Probably not going to happen if you're just doing this workout without changing other aspects of your lifestyle.

14. Diets = Bland, Gross Foods

And finally, diets. People hear the word "diet" and immediately think "Ugh, SlimFast for breakfast again." No, no, no. A diet is way of eating, and the diets the industry is selling your are wrong. There are other diets besides the turn-breakfast-into-a-bland-shake diet. Try the paleo for a week. But regardless of what diet you choose, it should be filled with whole, natural foods, not those from a plant that were made by some machine.

 Guys, let's make 2014 our year. Let's get fitter, faster, and run longer, harder. Cheers, Logan

Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris First Impressions

My friends joke that I spend too much time shopping/looking at shoes. My response: The correct number of shoes to own is N+1 where N is the number of shoes that are currently owned. So with that in mind, and a pair of shredded Nikes in hand, I hit up to look for a new pair. I knew several things. I wanted semi-minimal, something I hadn't had in my lineup for a while. The long run space is taken up by my Newton Gravity. My pure minimal, off road shoe is the Skora Phase. My racing flat is the Adidas Adios 2. The last pair of semi minimal shoes I owned were the Brooks PureFlow 2, which I basically swooned over (you can read the full review here). But I really do enjoy trying new things and after looking around, I decided to give the Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris a try.

Mizuno has entered the minimal market with two models, the Evo Cursoris and the Evo Levitas. The Evo Cursoris is a slightly softer, more cushioned model, while the Levitas is designed as racing flat with more cushion than the Wave Universe (one of the lightest shoes of all time at 3.1 ounces).
A lot of people have raved over this shoe, and after three shorter runs (3.2, 4.7, and 5.1) I can understand some of the hype. It is ultra soft. I mean, this thing is like the Nike Pegasus of minimal shoes. It's like running on a pillow. However, I have some gripes too. The heel, I've found, is rather loose and that alone has meant that I'm not quite comfortable running faster than about a 7:00 mile. I suspect that some of the issues in the Cursoris would be solved in the Levitas, so that may be the next shoe I buy.
As you can see, the Levitas has a heel cup, something I think that the Cursoris would really benefit from to lock the heel down. The other issue I had is the tongue and it's relationship with the lacing. The tongue is massive. With most shoes, this wouldn't bother me, but with the Cursoris it does because it's not sewn into the side. Combine that with some questionable lacing and you can have a nightmare on your hands. Is that a decisive issue? Not in my opinion. It is polarizing when it comes to racing. For example, I would say that this is a shoe that I would be comfortable running double digit miles in. And because it's so soft, it could potentially be an Iron distance shoe but because of those small issues, I wouldn't feel comfortable running a half to full marathon distance, even though the upper is perfectly comfortable. But take your time lacing the Cursoris up and it's a wonderful long run shoe. 

The Cursoris retails for $120 but is $49.99 on because it's been discontinued. If you're looking into trying a semi minimal shoe, I would highly encourage grabbing a pair before they're gone!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Speed or Endurance?

Let me preface this by saying that I'm no expert in either speed or endurance. I'm not a scientist, I'm a runner who was slightly below average in high school: seven runners per varsity/JV team, I was third on JV or tenth of fourteen runners. I did okay at triathlon, won my division on one occasion at a sprint tri where the bike was cancelled and there were five guys in the division, and placed 22nd of 53 18-24 men at Ironman 70.3 Kansas.

Basically, I'm Joe Average, using my experiences to try to impart little tidbits of wisdom to my readers, most of whom I assume are a niche group of crack athletes who read this and think how did this kid do as well as he did using this training method/tool/shoe?

Regardless, there's a constant debate over endurance. I titled this post "Speed or Endurance?" but I think I really meant something more along the lines of "Why the Endurance?" See, we as a sporting community (not just triathlon, cycling and running are both guilty to some extent) have gotten obsessed with our mileage. Cycling and running are different because there are other things you can do with both, like race track vs road, etc. But triathlon is three sports in an unvarying format, so it has become easy to assume that more mileage in all three is better.

In fact, in nearly every race I attended last year, there were kids two or three years younger than me gathered around talking about that last set, what their monthly/weekly/yearly mileage looked like. It was frankly ridiculous to hear a sixteen year old talking about running north of eighty miles a week while swimming 10,000 yards a day. Not many pros reach that amount of mileage. 

Here's where elementary physiology comes into play. Humans don't fully mature until around 23 years old. However, our heart and lungs continue to get stronger well into our thirties. That's why you see many endurance athletes peak in their late twenty to mid thirties. This is why you see many cyclists move from the track to the road, and many triathletes move from ITU, draft legal races to 70.3 and Ironman as their careers progress.

So why the mega mileage? Certainly, there is a minimum needed to progress as an athlete. For years I've adhered to a simple formula: For a 5k, I try to do 10x that distance in weekly mileage. For a 10k, 8x the mileage. For an Olympic distance triathlon, about 4x for each discipline. And for 70.3, I try to triple the mileage. These are the distances I race most often, I would recommend experimenting and seeing what works for you. The other rule I have in regards to that formula is that there should be a weekly longer workout to make the body accustomed to the demands of racing that distance and building cardiovascular strength.

I believe the reason that so many younger athletes are putting themselves at risk not only for RSIs like metatarsal stress fractures but also cardiovascular damage caused by over training is because we've cultivated this idea that more mileage is better. It quantifies our performance on both ends, if we do well, it was because of those "extra credit" sessions at the end of practice, if we don't, it's because we over trained. 

However, there's no need to endlessly pile on the miles. In fact, to be a successful racer at the 70.3 distance, the best thing to do isn't to train, train, train. The best thing in my opinion would be to wait a few years and fill your time racing the shorter distances. The debate shouldn't be speed or endurance. Both have their rightful place in the triathlon world, the key is finding out when each will get its turn.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Post New Year Consumerism and Why It's Not a Good Thing

I'm here to pick a fight. A big one. Because I'm honestly sick of seeing people swindled. I'm picking a fight with the corporations, the conglomerates, and the subsidiaries. The ones that are telling you, in your post-new-year-new-you resolution, that you need something. What is that? I don't know. It could be those new Nikes. Perhaps a new Polar GPS watch, that thing tracks cadence, heart rate, speed, distance, and a whole lot of other things that I don't really need to know. Maybe it's a new waterproof jacket that will repel rain, snow, sleet, hail, and possible a tomahawk cruise missile.

See, the new year used to mean something. When my parents' parents made resolutions to do something, they got up and did it. The didn't need a $500 Nike jacket to motivate them to go outside and run. No matter what they did, it was still going to be freezing cold. No, they put on another sweatshirt and some long socks and went out and ran.

Now, the new year is the last hurrah for companies who started their holiday marketing in November. But I want to make this point in a round about way. Let me begin with a question: Why is running so attractive to us? Is it because it's easy? Maybe, running can be as easy or as difficult as you care to make it. Perhaps because it makes you fit? Running is one of the, if not the, most popular and prevalent physical activity.

Just one of many examples that Nike uses every year to rope in consumers.
I would argue that the answer is none of the above. Certainly those are factors in people choosing to run. But the reason that most people choose to run is because running is simple. It requires no mechanical devices, nothing more than a pair of shoes and some sort of active wear. Yet we're bombarded by Nike, Adidas, and Garmin telling us that we need a reflective jacket, a MiCoach, and a GPS watch just to run.

But this, this consumerism, is taking away from a beautiful sport. And beauty is found in the simplicity because, according to da Vinci, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." I love that: the ultimate sophistication. It is so very true. He also once said that the human foot is "...a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." We don't need this stuff. What we need is fresh legs, not fresh gear. Fresh foods, not fresh from a factory. In that we can rediscover the beauty of sport and that is my New Years Resolution.