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.