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.