Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nine Chicago Winter Running Tips

This is February in San Diego.

This is February in my area of Chicago.


"If Chicago had weather like San Diego there would be 40 million people living here."  True, but we don't have that kind of weather in Chicago.  Unless you bounce between San Diego and Chicago, well, you better learn to dress for the cold.  Running outside in the tundra of Chicago isn't as horrible as many would have you believe.  No need to retreat for the "dreadmill" unless you are doing a specific session.  Running in this cold actually lends to several advantages.

Cold doesn't seem to bother these Chicago area runners.

Deal with the Cold
Tony Robbins teaches about starting with your mental state.  If you are saying to yourself, "This is going to suck.  This is going to suck."  Guess what?  You may get done and feel it sucked.  Start off positive.  I run with a fun group.  Regardless of the weather I wake up thinking, "Man, I can't wait to see John and Dean and tell them that joke I heard."  My first 20 mile run was done at -10 F (warmed up to -2 by the time we were done); I've never laughed that hard in my life for that long.  (Thank you Pat and Bill.)  I didn't feel super tired until 18 and then we only had two miles to go.  The thought of warm coffee and bagels kept me going.  Laughing at breakfast and shooting coffee through my nose wasn't in that visualization - but it was fun none the less.

This is "spring" in Chicago.

There is no bad weather, just poor clothing choices and excuses.
Earlier in this blog I told you my first 20 miler was at -10 F. It isn't that hard.  Dress in layers.  Tech clothing is coming down in price and you could always add an old sweatshirt and cheapo windbreaker.  You don't need to be decked out in Craft Wind Stopper head to toe.  That said...  I LOVE the Craft winder gear.  2XU makes a great cycling vest.  Pearl Izumi has some awesome wind stopper jackets and gloves.  Find what works for you and ask for it for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries - whatever.  You'll be glad you have that gear when the first spring rides start out at 40 F or if you go to San Diego and it is "cold" in the morning before Swami's ride.  After a few runs you will be amazed at how "warm" 20 F feels.  

Start a little cold
Dress for temps about 15 degrees warmer than the current and expected outside temperature.  If you are too warm you will sweat a ton and that puts you at a greater risk of hypothermia AND in the end you will feel COLDER for dressing warmer.  I use a glove that allows air to pass through.  Once I've warmed up I really don't notice the cold.  

Warm up 
In spite of being cold at the start, allow your body to warm up.  Don't start off at 6:00/mile pace and slow back to aerobic pace.  Everything is cold.  It's only a few minutes of cold.  Suck it up.

Light up
Leave the cigarettes in the car, that's not what I mean.  I'm amazed at how stupid so many runners are.  My car doesn't have an infrared windshield.  I don't own infrared glasses for night driving.  I don't know you are out running at 6pm in 10 F weather.  Wear a reflective vest.  Get reflective tops, gloves, hats and lights.  I'm partial to the Pulsar lights by RoadID and the headlamp from Petzl.  These might just give you that extra split second to dive off the road when "Happy hour Harry" or "Harriet") heads home. **When I'm out on the road I assume EVERYONE out there a) cannot see me b) is homicidal c) is drunk and high d) has a loaded weapon in the car.**  I live where there are no street lights.  This is mandatory equipment unless you have a death wish.  Lastly, be smart.  Where I live and where my in-laws live there have been coyote attacks.  Don't think that a few hungry coyotes won't try and take you down.  Last spring I had three following me out of the forest preserve.  My easy run turned into a hard cross country run as I hoped a fence and got onto the road ASAP.  They ended their pursuit.  These animals are trying to make it through the winter.  Late December through late February they need food.  My running vest was hanging next to the dog food AND I found a few puppy cookies in the back pocket.   

Trails, Snowshoes, XC Skis and Soccer Fields
Frozen trails can be just like asphalt and concrete.  Go off roadin'.  I run around flood control "hills" and fields a lot.  It keeps me off the same old streets.  Try snowshoes.  They will get your heart pumping.  I XC ski a lot in the winter.  I live right off of a long trail.  It's wonderful fun and my dog can sniff the bushes at the side of the trail too.  Soccer fields... not just for soccer, but also running across them in the winter will get you strong.

Bring Water, Gel and a Towel
I'm amazed at how many folks don't bring water on a run in the winter.  If GSSI taught me anything, they taught me to always have something to drink and extra in the car.  I normally have extra drinks in the car.  I always have a gel with me.  A nice, big, dry towel in the car afterwards can make you feel a lot better too.

Get Loopy
Instead of running a hard loop like the Home Economist (Fisher Nut) in Barrington, IL - run the out and back first.  If you can handle that a few weeks then go for the full run.  No sense in getting eight miles from the car and realizing you are bonking badly or can't run another step and now will freeze solid as you walk back to the car.

Eat Right 
When you are expending energy to stay warm your bodies immune system will need more fuel to fight illness.  Taking something like Zone Diet's fish oil, vitamin C and CoQ10 will help you stay healthy at a cellular level.  Think this is a joke?  Look at the people around you who eat like crap relative to those who don't.  Who is sick more?  Who has more energy?  Who is happier?  Additionally, there was a recent British study that found taking fish oil helps cure the winter blues.

Lastly, when you run outside in the morning and the sun starts appearing earlier and earlier you will feel better in the spring having toughed out a winter running season in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Compression Gear

The first time I saw or heard of compression gear I saw my paternal grandfather with knee high black socks after working all day as a welder.  He told me his feet didn't get as tired or as cold on the factory floor.  Of course, neither of us foresaw the use for triathletes and dorks who wear them ALL DAY before ANY triathlon.  My personal favorite is the guy or call walking around town three days before the race in running shorts and compression sleeves.  It's the new underwear run - only this is mostly Americans.  The Germans should do a compression run.  It would be awesome fun. 

I'll cover some of the different benefits of wearing compression gear.  I encourage you to read this page before making a decision on which compression garment is best for you.  All brands have there own strengths, weaknesses and the most expensive does not always mean its the best garment for your bodies needs.

Increased Circulation:  

Faster delivery of blood to the muscle and quicker removal of waste; grandpa had it right.

The main benefit advertised are claims around the performance if you wear the garments.  The next time you are on a longer flight wear some compression socks under your jeans.  See how you feel.  The reason is that increased circulation is claimed to give you benefits in performance.  Speeding up blood flow, you get nutrients to your muscles faster and remove waste products such as lactic acid more efficiently.  This means that you should experience a higher level of performance with faster recovery times when wearing garments post exercise.  This in turn will let you train harder in your next session.  I have felt this at training camps in the past.  

In Arizona at a Coach Troy training camp, I put on compression tights and a compression top after a very cold swim and 80 mile bike ride when it SNOWED in Arizona.  I was so cold that when I returned even a hot shower didn't warm me up.  I put everything I had (that was clean) on.  The next day I felt fresh and ready to go.  The difference in my entire body from one day to the next was night and day.  Notably, my compression top made my tired arms feel awesome.  This same top is gettin' a bit ratty.  What I learned from my favorite triathlon store is that compression tops don't sell.  Interesting but not surprising.  Most amateurs don't swim enough either so why would they buy compression tops?  Swimming is a topic for another day.
It is worth pointing out that in this case often you are getting better performance from garments that have a higher price tag as more money has been put into the research and design of the product.  Some garments have features like graduated compression (tighter in extremities) and compartmental compression (meaning = tighter in certain areas), there are both positive and negative outcomes form these features.  Remember, its not always science that determines the designs.  

Reduced Muscle Oscillation:

Every time you move your muscles move too.  Watch the "slo-mo" of the running in Kona.  It looks violent.  When muscles move small tears appear within the muscle tissue.  The presence of these tears along with the build up of lactic acid is what causes muscle pain both during and post exercise.   Reducing the rate at which this damage takes place allows the athlete to work longer and experience less pain following training.  The principles behind stopping body shake are very old and probably the best example is the wearing of appropriate sports bras in female athletes or the jock in male athletes.  Imagine having the wrong type of jock as a dude?  Ouch. Squish.  In the last NBC coverage of the 2010 Ironman World Championship, one female athlete very obviously didn't have enough support (or coverage for that matter).  These are the reasons that your garments must be firm fitting and appropriate for your sporting activity. 


Your body will operate best when at the right temperature, muscles must be kept warm for optimal performance and to avoid injury, but overheating is just as bad, it puts stress on your heart and slows your reactions.  Thermoregulation may be one of the most beneficial features of wearing compression garments.   Often it is overlooked.  It is important to consider where you will be wearing your compression wear because the brands all use different but similar fabrics. 

Increased Proprioception: 

Having a garment that is effectively a second skin you are heightening these senses.  This is achieved through the contact with the skin and the elastic properties of the fabric.  These are heavily used in the NBA.  Watch any game and you'll see at least two or three in use any night.

Increased Muscle Power Output:

There are claims that the stretch in the fabric will help with power output aiding the reflex and the movement in general. The suits that were tested are the ones worn by elite Olympic athletes.  These so-called "super suits" are not available in your local sports store and are much heavier and over larger amounts of compression.  The jury is still out.

So... what do you need?  I own a compression top.  Soon to be two as one may turn into a bike rag soon.  Compression shorts - not sure the comfort loss is worth it.  Perhaps in a bike time trial and certainly not in a long distance triathlon without some design changes.  Compression tights - really quite awesome except for one thing they chafe in odd areas and would not recommend them for long runs. Lastly, compression socks and sleeves - I have never raced with them.  I have worn them for long flights to Kona and the west coast as well as for recovery.  For a long day like Ironman

Before the last paragraph... I am not sponsored by these companies and have never received any free product from these companies or their subsidiaries.  

I really like the Zoot compression tights and top.  2XU makes a very good compression top.  For socks, I like the CEP socks a lot.  CEP are notably better than the Zensah in that after many wearings and washings.  The Zensah lost shape after a lot of washings.  They did still work though.  I'm convinced they work for recovery.  Racing?  Not sure personally.  My personal results for the last four years have been awful.  Maybe I'll give it a go - although if you aren't training much it will affect your results more than any compression gear.  

Credit to my friend Fernando in New Zealand and Jon at the Australian Olympic Committee for giving me the "science content" of this blog entry.  Friendships forged in the lava fields go far beyond "normal" friendships.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Lesson of Ironman Rajesh Durbal - Triple Amputee

Rajesh Durbal - triple amputee - this is his website

I have not formally met Rajesh.  I spoke to him on the road in Kona as he ran by and inspired me. If you don't get inspired by a triple amputee doing KONA in 14 hours and change check yourself into a morgue because you're a corpse.  

I took this shot of Rajesh against the sunset.

Rajesh is a guy who is getting things done in spite of EVERY possible reason to roll over and feel sorry for himself...  he doesn't.  LIFE would be hard as a triple amputee.  Rajesh is taking on things like Ironman and living.

Listen to this interview.

When I returned from Kona a few rouge people took liberties with my projects and things were in a state of chaos. (I fix chaos.)  I was asked by my client's leadership team, "How do you feel about these problems?"  My response shocked and surprised them.  "I have no problems.  I have a few things to fix from a few people who tried to help, but didn't have all the facts, while I was away.  I have no problems."  In the grand scheme of things, I have it easy.  I just have to be tough enough to tackle it.

Here is Rajesh at mile 25.2.  Carleen, Lorrie, Jay and I all told him to "soak it in" and "you are entering the greatest one mile run in the world" and "you're going to be a Kona Ironman".  He simply smiled and said, "Hey guys.  Thanks for being out here." 14 hours into Kona - most everyone is on Alii Drive, in a restaurant and certainly NOT where we were.

I then went on to explain to "leadership" what I saw in Kona.  I saw people with two arms, two legs and an amputated will to fight to a finish line.  You know those people.  The people who talk and blog tough but turn to dust when the TV lights go away.  Ironman is about when the cameras aren't watching.  When the only person out there is you.  Fatigue makes cowards of a lot of people and eventually all people.  That is when an Ironman makes their statement of who they are.  It was all there.

I saw a woman with a broken foot walking the marathon (she was featured in the NBC coverage).  Unfortunately, NBC didn't tell Rajesh's story.  Maybe they didn't think people would believe it.  Maybe he is so strong mentally that he would be a pro if he had both legs and his arm back.  NBC missed an opportunity.  Hopefully, Ironman will have Rajesh back many times.

The most amazing person I saw was Rajesh.  A triple amputee taking on Madame Pele and handling everything she had to dish out like he was out for a Sunday evening run.  Kona is amazing every year, but this year seeing this man with no legs was a turning point in my life.  This year has been tough mentally, but I see why it was and why I was supposed to be in Kona.

Here are Rajesh's times from Kona:

Swim:  1:17:54           (remember... no legs and ONE arm)
Bike:   7:07:39
Run:    5:36:18

Total: 14:19:12

1639th overall beating 234 "able bodied" qualifiers who "earned it" - yeah... they earned a beating from a guy missing three limbs.

All this and I never (really) spoke with the man.  I do feel I understand his spirit being an Ironman finisher.  I think anyone who has finished an Ironman would.  I identify with a lot of what I saw.  I am proud to be in the same fraternity with him - Ironman Hawaii Finisher.

I am a spiritual person (but don't wear it on my sleeve).  I believe your faith is a private matter.  You see all kinds of passages from various religious books.  One of my favorites is, Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall i fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?  It applies to racing as well as life.  Life being far more important.  
So... you've got problems?  No courage to try?

"This is your life.  Not some dress rehearsal."  - Jon Blais, 2005 Ironman Hawaii Finisher, ALS victim

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Athlete's Christmas List

Here are a few things I've tried and really like.  Hope to help you with last minute gift ideas for your family member or for yourself if Santa fails to bring what you want.

1) Timex Global Trainer - Timex Link to the Product

This watch is the best of 2010 in my opinion.

I've been on Team Polar.  I still love Polar's products, but as this blog is apt to do, I'll call it like I see it with no politically correct speaking.  When it comes to GPS and heart rate watches Timex wins with this watch.  If this were a professional MMA fight or boxing match - it would be a TKO.

The Timex watch is as close to "plug and play" as it gets.  Uploads to Training Peaks easily.  Has very simple interface which is near to intuitive.  I struggled with it a bit but a) I didn't read the directions first (because 1) I am male 2) I am trying to see how easy it is to figure out 3) I ultimately did read the directions and it made more sense) b) I have been using Polar watches the majority of my racing career.

I will train with this watch, but I'm not sure I would race with it.  It isn't too much bigger than my Polar 720i and is slightly smaller than my friend's Garmin 310XT.  It is larger than the smaller Timex Ironman HRM watches and my Polar RS200.  I will probably race in those and train with this one.

2) PowerCranks - PowerCranks Link to the Product

Able to buy one "athletic toy" this off season?  Make it PowerCranks.

Now that I'm able to train full blast again I was doing a retrospective (read: review) of my training logs.  The best results and biggest improvements came from using PowerCranks.  How much do I believe in PCs?  So much so, I'm putting ALL of my athletes on them this off season if they can afford them. 
Numbers don't lie.  Either do the results of PowerCranks users: Mirinda Carfrae, Chris McCormack, Sammy Sanchez, Paolo Bettini, Simon Whitfield, Conrad Stoltz, Melanie McQuaid, Benny VanSteelant, pitcher Randy Johnson, wide receiver Joey Galloway.  

The best reason to get these is a quote from one of the two greatest American cyclists to ever live - Greg Lemond, "If I had access to PowerCranks when I was training I never would have lost a time trial."

3) MotorTabs - Link to the MotorTabs Product

I was introduced to MotorTabs a few years ago when I was out in California.  The flavors are good.  The packets easily stuff into your jersey pocket.  They are more reasonably priced than Gatorade - unless you pack your own Gatorade powder. (Sorry, Gatorade and my friends at the GSSI.)  Additionally, you can ride all day with these babies and your stomach won't get upset.  Proof?  I have done several eight hour rides a 10 hour ride and one 16.5 hour ride all with MotorTabs and I was strong all day.  Even more important was that the day after these events I felt fine (other than a bit of fatigue) and I was willing and able to drink more MotorTabs the day after these events!

4) Lynskey Performance - Link to Lynskey Performance 

Love your carbon bike?  Weigh 130 lbs as a grown male?  If you don't have a full on sponsorship from a carbon bike manufacturer with several race frames ready for you at the drop of a hat.  Perhaps it is time to get a real bike.  If you are done with the very breakable carbon frames you have hope.

The future of titanium frames is RIGHT NOW!  My Lynskey R420 frame come in just over the UCI weight limit AND it is made of titanium.  It rides like a limo, but flies up hills, hugs corners like a formula one race car and won't crack when I put big boy watts into the frame.

Make the switch.  You'll be riding your Lynskey long after your carbon frames have gone through the recycler.

5) CompuTrainer - Link to CompuTrainer

I don't know about you, but the stories about people getting hit on their bikes are freaking me out.  Around here, about 25 people had season ending bike crashes.  Some were because the bike rider was unsafe.  Some were because the roads are increasingly unsafe.

I'm doing more and more of my quality work on the CompuTrainer.  I can concentrate on my work and not be concerned with traffic, traffic control devices, the texting teenage driver or the drunk behind the wheel headed home from Lake Geneva early on a Saturday morning.

Now with the new collaboration software, I can ride virtually with many of my triathlon friends around the globe, regardless of if they are in Berlin, Mexico D.F., Milan, Cairo, or Sydney.

6) Kurt Kinetic Trainers - Link to Kinetic Trainers 

Can't afford a CompuTrainer?  No worries.  These trainers are indestructible!  More importantly, they are power tested to be equal to riding on the road as far as resistance is concerned.

7) Spinervals - Link to Spinervals

Assume, if you want, that I'm just "shilling" for Troy.  These workouts are the real deal.  Regardless of if you are by yourself or in a group in a basement or garage.  If you ride these workouts you will improve.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Will be blogging later...

I'm taking this very patient puppy to the dog park for a couple of hours of running.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NEVER to Rent a Car From Dollar or Thrifty

Dollar Rent-a-Car and Thrifty Rent-a-Car are one in the same.  This year at Ironman Hawaii I thought I got a good deal $184 for 7.5 days for a Chrysler Seabring convertible.

Well...  the car we picked up after waiting in line for 2 hrs and 45 minutes after an 8 hour flight had bad brakes, blown rotors, shot ball joints and had cigarette ash and dirt on the inside.  Honestly, that wouldn't bother me too much.  Mistakes are forgivable as long as the company owns up to them.

After limping into the hotel lot in Kona I decided that the next day or so I would return the car.  This car was extremely unsafe.  The folks behind the counter sincerely apologized for my trouble and wasting another 90 minutes of my vacation.  They offered me a "free" upgrade to a convertible Ford Mustang.  Cool.

Fast forward to late November where I am CHARGED for the "upgrade".  I've been on the phone four times with the home office of Dollar / Thrifty - wasting another 6 hours.  I've asked for explanations.  I've been very nice.  I've been factual and mean.  The company promised to "research what happened and get back to you".  In the mean time, I received no less than FOUR letters stating that I owe them (the exact amount of the "upgrade".)  Call it bait and switch.  Call it dishonest business practices.  Call it stupid.  Just don't give them one red cent of your money.

Today, after two hours of TRYING TO JUST PAY THE DAMN BILL - I paid the bill and PROMISED to blog about the horrible customer "experience" I went through.

Do me a favor readers...

This isn't over.  I'm filing a BBB complaint next.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IF You Want To

I've had several conversations with different friends about "desire".  (Perhaps desire should be capitalized.)

When you HAD TO have something... what stopped you?  Probably not much.  As an example, at my second Ironman race (Ironman Canada) I needed water badly around mile 15 in the 95 F heat and at the aid station ran through sucking water from the sponges.  It's amazing I didn't get sick as God only knows how many pro and amateur athletes put those sponges God knows where.  I still remember getting sand in my mouth.  (Those sponges get re-used and tossed on the ground.)  Moving on...

If you WANT TO... you do it.  NOTHING stops you.  In Ironman training and racing this MUST be your drive.  If you want to be exceptional at anything, doing everything required is a "must do" and not a "should do".

Before I go over the top, let's break this down.  Think of times when you have had no money.  "Luxury" and the amount of work you are willing to do probably changed.  20 hour work days don't seem so bad.  Obese people often start to understand this when their health goes south, if they choose to see the signs of disease in their daily life.  Often too late, but occasionally not.  It's the classic underdog movie, like Rocky, situation.  The protagonist has nothing to lose.  Most important things would be housing and feeding your family.  The rest is icing on the cake.

Lately, I've had several conversations with people who are planning their 2011 season.  They are already planning to fail.  Why?  In their conversations with me they are defining what they are "willing to do" to meet their goals.  Twice, I've told people they should reconsider their goal and make it a dream.  Doing a sub-11 Ironman is extraordinarily difficult on less than 10 hours a week of training.  One guy hopes to qualify for Kona and break 11 while training only 10 hours a week.  Good luck with that.

I hear a lot of excuses on why people cannot do x or y in their preparation.  What I RARELY hear is personal accountability for the choices they made.

1) You choose to sleep in.
2) You choose to eat bad food.
3) You choose to not record your workouts and eating habits.


a) You choose to get up at 4 am and get that workout in.
b) You choose to eat a salad at Portillo's with work buddies.
c) You choose to record and review your workouts and diet.
d) You choose to make time and speak with your coach weekly.

IF you truly want to do something set up the smaller "mile markers" and knock them down one after another.  Nobody goes into an Ironman and thinks about the marathon in the swim.  (Well... not my athletes anyway.) During the swim, we go buoy to buoy.  The bike?  Aid station to aid station.  The run?  mile by mile (also, aid station to aid station).  Before you know it, you're done.

Stop talking about it and do it.  My friend Dan challenged me to change something recently.  The first thing I did when I came home was apply for jobs in a different industry - coaching.

Don't whine to people about being fat or out of shape.  If you want to, you'll make the change and it will be permanent.  Everyone struggles to be exceptional in their life.  At being a great family person.  Being athletic.  Eating right.  Balance is the key.  In the end, no one ever regrets their efforts.  People never wish they would have just stayed home.

Make the change.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coach Bob Joins Coach Troy Jacobson

I'm back with the coach who originally trained me as a coach.  Kokua Multisports is officially an associate coach of the National Triathlon Academy and the "Official Coach of Ironman" and "Lifetime Fitness Triathlon and Endurance".

When I wasn't planning on coaching full time, it made sense to go out on my own.  Today, in my quest to build a serious coaching business to be reckoned with, working with Troy makes sense.  Troy has many resources that make this merger a sound, strategic decision for my business and passion.

Troy's coaches are hand picked.  Most of us have been coaching for more than 10 years.  We are delivering  elite coaching quality for all levels of athlete in an international brand.  Most importantly, these coaches have the art and science of coaching multisport athletes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WTC "Oversight" Fails to Recognize Handcycle Champ in Clearwater

In an "oversight" by Clearwater organizers, there was no way to lift wheelchair champions to the stage to receive an award.  Organizers did make sure that there were no hitches with the fireworks show after the awards "dinner".

In the fifth year of a "world championship" event, this is a horrible shame in this writer's opinion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Teaching from a Great Aunt

My Aunt Hilda turned 90 on November 12.  Above is a picture of her with my cousin's fiancee and my other cousin's boyfriend.  While they are "tall"... Aunt Hilda is, um, little.

At 90 years old, Aunt Hilda lives on her own in Chicago.  Daily, she takes two buses each way to yoga, weights, spinning and a weekly balance class.  At her birthday party, my 4' 9" 93 pound great aunt was talking yoga moves and doing them as good or better then me as well.  We then talked about where the freshest produce could be found in different areas of the city.  Did I mention that my Aunt Mary is 103 years old and WALKS to church every morning at 5:30 am?

Their laughter? Infectious.  Their resolve?  Never stronger.  Their positive outlook on EVERYTHING? They don't know another way.  Complain?  Never!

Dear Aunt Hilda,

Looks like I have a new yoga workout buddy!  Happy birthday!  90 more!!  

Aunt Mary, please light a candle for me to be able to hang with you two.



Monday, November 8, 2010

21 Controversial Triathlon Thoughts

Below is a conversation I had during a cold cycling session regarding how we can "improve" modern triathlon. As the workout got longer... the ideas got more interesting. My training partners and I hope you can appreciate the humor we came up with as we froze.

1) What if Ironman LOWERED the time limit? It's happened before. Originally, the race went until you finished. Folks finished in 24 and 27 hours. Now, the bulk of people finish between 10-14 hours. What if the cutoff was 14 hours (for starters)? Would people change the way they race? How would it alter the landscape?

2) What if ALL triathlons banned wetsuits until they were REALLY needed for hypothermia? (Say 65 F.)

3) What if the draft zone (for non-drafting, "pure" triathlon) was 50 meters for EVERYONE - pro and age grouper?

4) How about ONE PENALTY and you're DQ'd?

5) What do you think about TT starts for ALL races? Race by yourself?

6) How about starting pro women a full 45 minutes before the pro men and 1 hour before the amateurs?

7) Don't like the "one penalty DQ" idea? Try stiffer penalties for violations a la "Amazing Race" (a reality show I saw for the first time yesterday - it was pretty boring, sorry Jerry Bruckheimer); 15 minutes first penalty, 30 minutes second penalty. Think the average amateur would know what the draft rules would be then? You frickin' bet they would.

8) No certified helmet. No medical support. (Until you pass out and "really" need it.) Use an illegal helmet (or no helmet) and the medical team is not allowed to help you should you need anything. What do you think compliance would be then?

9) Use (or attempt to use) illegal gear **We caught 5 pro athletes trying to use illegal speedsuits in Kona. Magically, they had legal ones in reserve in case we actually checked.** Automatic DQ and three month suspension from ALL RACES.

10) No help in transition. (unless you are a CAF athlete) Find your own damn bag. Rack your own bike.

11) For my friends in the "that's not fair crowd", make everyone ride the same bike, same wheels, same feedback (HRM or Power meters).

12) Allow only 10 hours a week to train for any racer entering.

13) Weight requirements (like horse racing). All entrants in the race must carry 250 lbs.

14) Too many rules? How about NO RULES. Swim- if I can beat the hell out of you on the swim, no autopsy - no foul. Bike- no crash = no foul. Run- slowing, stopping or tackling other competitors will be legal (as long as you don't lead with your head).

15) The location of finish lines will not be disclosed. You have to find it.

16) Open water swims will be TRULY open water; boats, jetskis and other water craft will be in the race course ON PURPOSE.

17) iPod rule? EVERYONE MUST wear an iPod; except race management gets to decide what you listen to: Tchaikovsky all day.

18) 60 days before the race all racers will be co-located in a Chilean mine.

19) All athletes must wear blackout glasses.

20) Want to finish with your family? Fine. All athletes will be provided with a 80+ year old "grandmother" with a walker, purse, 1.5 liter bottle of water and sign saying "GO (your name here)"

21) When you do find the finish line, you will have to dodge paintballs and tranquilizer darts. "OH... he was winning until he was hit with diazepam! He is now in danger of a DNF because that won't wear off for quite a while! He's also going to have to hope he isn't selected for a random drug test." DIAZEPAM - is used on "aggressive" animals.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cs Get Degrees - Ironman Access Program

A new "access program" to signing up for Ironman races came out and then was squelched last week in a short amount of time (28 hours) "on the market" proving (once again) that you don't need to be a genius to be in race management or buy a race management company. The goal of the program was to bridge the issue of someone signing up for four full Ironman races a year and then showing up to one. Three "slots" that someone who actually WOULD show up race (read: and spend money) when only one "slot" gets used.

When Ironman (WTC) rolled out the Ironman bike helmet several years ago, there were focus groups, discussion forums, surveys and a seemingly a great deal of thought behind the new product. For the Ironman Access program there was no such communication that I am aware of. You? Once again, the WTC gets a black eye.

At Apple, the moto is "we make products that we want/would buy". Apple has become the fifth largest phone manufacturer in the world based on a smart phone that plays music (among other things), computers that don't have viruses and tiny, light music players. Perhaps the issue at Providence Equity and WTC is that they no longer (if ever) consume their own product. They have so much money that they WOULD buy the Ironman Access program. It shows that Ironman management is severely out of touch with it's customers. (Not unlike any other struggling company.)

As a customer and a volunteer (marshal at in season and championship races), I've seen these races change to a cheaper "made in China" version of themselves. Races like Silverman are nipping at Ironman's heels. Even USAT National Champs is offering better swag bags and event worthy goodies. Even the medal offered at the "Big Dance" - the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, went from a GIANT SILVER MEDAL to a cheap, brass and ceramic painted medal; like any you'd find at a decent local race. What a shame. I've reduced my consumption to one family friendly race a year (even if the race is overcrowded); a guy only needs so many crappy medals and branded race t-shirts.

What is interesting... look at the parent company of WTC the list of academic achievement is staggering: Wharton, Princeton, Brown, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Missouri (really?), Berkley. What is notably missing are any athletic achievements. Interesting. This equity firm bought WTC and Ironman without ever having completed one themselves. In high school I hung out with the top 15 guys in my class. Not the top 15%. The top 15. Thankfully, my friend Tom was a 3.21 gpa and was the "dumbest" in our group of friends. I was a bit higher than Tom. (36 on the ACT = "perfect" - four of my friends had 35 or better). My point? In HS, we used to say things like, "You may be smarter than me, but I just kicked your ass in the pool." Or, "You may have just beat me in the pool, but one day, you'll call me 'boss'." Maybe we would call these (Providence Equity) people boss, but I'm pretty sure we'd all kick their ass at triathlon and common sense.

Another story from my past relates to book smarts versus actually "smart". I have two friends who are fabulous doctors. If you need an abdominal surgery or a brain surgery, Dr. Julie or Dr. Dan are your people. They are smart, nice and in Julie's case... amazingly beautiful. Dr. Julie (when we were undergrads) was studying with my room mate and I when another of our roomies came around saying he was going to go fro a ride in his convertible. Julie asked if she could go topless. Without missing a beat, my room mate said, "You can go any way you want Jules." She turned bright red. Dr. Dan is one of three people in the world to go into your brain and fix things you can't even see without a microscope and not kill or paralyze you. Dan once took 90 minutes to park a car when it snowed 1/4" because he couldn't see the yellow lines in the parking lot. I suspect the equity folks are like them.

The folks at Providence Equity bought a hell of a business. They are doing a great job at sucking the life out of it and pissing off the customers that made it great. Just like companies in the airline industry and software - triathlon is following down that road too.

To all you folks who got degrees with Cs at "lower" institutions of learning (but know how to park a car or talk to your customers) thank you. You have what I call uncommon sense and you call bullshit when you see it.

PS: Many of my friends started swearing off Ironman branded races three years ago. While I still love the idea of the Ironman "struggle", the races themselves have lost a bit of the appeal they had for me in the 1990s and early 2000s. The next thing to watch for is how Ironman will improve it's customer experience. I've done this management work for years. I think I have a new prospect.

PPS: Ironman is still awesome. I'd like to be treated awesomely instead of disdain as a customer. I don't need someone kissing my ass. I just don't want the attitude when I ask a question or need something at a race I go to.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back to Reality: The Kona Wrap Up

The "Kona Experience" was awesome. Kona is NEVER dull. Even if the race were not in town (aka: the circus) - Kona and the Big Island of Hawaii is a very awesome place. If you aren't spiritual... you will be. The incredible POWER of the sun, wind, heat and sight of the volcanoes (dormant and active) show you a bit of perspective.

We started our trip OUT of town. Did some things out near Waikoloa. Then we stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa. We ate fish twice a day. (How can you not when you are eating fish at lunch that was swimming at 6am?) This year marshaling was part of a vacation to the big island. Lorrie joined me using plane tickets we won in an ALS auction in March. The last time Lorrie traveled to the big island I was racing Ironman... ancient history a decade old.

I tried to give my friends racing space. No calls. No text messages. (I hate texting - I must be old.) No Facebook or Twitter - I didn't want people to know for a week we were away. Greta was with my mom and dad - her second home as my dad continues to battle cancer. Dad (and mom too) really enjoy Greta. She listens extremely well to them. Still... Lorrie and I missed Greta very much.

Swimming in Kona is simply amazing. Corals, white sand, black lava, and tropical fish of every color. What people don't talk about in Kona is the surge. You can swim pretty hard and not move an inch - for several minutes. Waves are waves - 3-6' are "normal". So when you go to Kona you really have to be strong in the water. The salinity of the water if very high. I had read something about the salinity of the ocean being stronger near the equator. I'm not sure if that is true, but it feels that way. It is far more salty in Kona than Clearwater in my opinion.

Cycling in Kona is full of short, steep up and down rollers - as well as heat and wind. Sure... we have heat and wind here. However, combined with the enormity of the view of a mountain and a mountain range pair with the ocean - nothing nearly as stunning. Some people say the lava fields are "boring"... I'd like to know what they think is exciting. I think the lava fields are amazing! So much so that concentration can be an issue if you don't focus. Heat - the heat out there is in the low 100s and its very dry. By the time you understand you are behind in your hydration you are completely hosed. In Kona you don't have heat index, there is "radiant heat index" - the heat index when paired with heat off the lava rock. Temperature was 101. Radiant heat index was 127. Hottest I've felt since 2000. (out of 2000, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010)

A big mahalo to the guys at Bike Works in Waikoloa. I elected to rent a bike in Kona instead of bring my bike. The shop turned out to be out of bikes after they told me I had a bike. In the confusion of the week, my reservation was given away. Honest mistake. I said, "No worries man" and we started to walk out. I said to Lorrie (quietly), "I'll just ride the hotel mountain bikes." The guy at the shop ran out of the shop and said, "Do you want to rent MY bike?" I didn't even need to adjust the seat. It was the first time I rode a bike out on the Queen K since 2000. It felt good. Real good. I was reminded of the high winds, high heat (I got a mild sunburn even wearing 80 SPF on a 1 hr bike ride.) How hot is it? Whatever hydration you normally bring for a "hot" run... double it.

I ran a lot in Kona. I did two seven mile runs and a nine miler. I started each of the runs with a 2.25 section of "trail" running (large "ankle twister" type rocks, sand, Honu turtles - your normal run in Kona). It felt great. On one of the toughest runs I did, a breakthrough. I was able to put my breathing out of my head and just run. Finally. A long way back still remains, but it was very good to have "that feeling" again.

Race day went well. Marshal work was pretty good. Marshals Jimmy and Ed caught five pros trying to use illegal speedsuits (magically) they had back up speedsuits. Amateurs were busted too. Most just didn't wear one.

A group of top age group athletes came through with some of the back of the pack pro women. I gave two drafting penalties in the first 90 seconds on the bike and was looking for more people who earlier seemed to be too close. As soon as the athletes saw that the marshals were calling the race like a World Championship - they started racing cleanly. I issued 10 drafting penalties (9 male, 1 female - age group) and one penalty for littering to a guy who chucked a water bottle into the lava fields right in front of me miles from any aid station. A guy from France (who earned a draft penalty) said in perfect English, "I do not understand! I am French." I flashed the red card right in his face again and said, "Vous avez une carte rouge pour la redaction. aller a la tente de pensalisation. Exactement comme dans votre briefing d'avant course en francais." (You have a red card for drafting. Go to the next penalty tent. Just like in your pre-race briefing given in French.) He then turned to me and said, "Thank you. I will go to the penalty tent." Even my terrible French got the point through to him. The pro women I watched were just fine. I even marshaled Bree Wee. Totally clean riding when I was by her. Well done. Some of the top age group men were using EVERY single one of the seconds in the 20 second count we give. Totally legal. A certain magazine didn't think so; one of their photographers greeted every ref with an explative, "Make a f*cking call!" What this excitable photographer doesn't understand is a static view of the situation doesn't give a 20 second view of the action. A picture he didn't take was of the 25 people in the Hawi penalty box or the 80 people in the T2 penalty box. Amazing how those shots never get taken.

Later I learned of a female was getting too close and then when marshals came around she would sit up (like she was dropping out of the group). She will get caught and it will be "news", but not to any of the marshals who saw (but couldn't catch) her in Kona. I wonder if/when she will get caught?

I finished up work just before the pro men's race ended. I got to see Macca running down Palani Road. Man, that road is steep. I could tell on Kuakini that it was over. Macca was screaming, "How far is he back?!" I could tell it was over by looking at 2nd place. Macca just looked more fresh and driven.

Later that evening Lorrie, Jay and I went to Thai Rin for dinner and waited for our friend Dick Lansing. Dick had a great time in Kona - this year was his fastest of his three trips to the big island. I swam with Dick (and wrote our workouts) and did the majority of the long bike rides with him. He was well prepared. His coach did a great job.

The two most amazing finishes were of Clayton Treska (stage four, terminal, testicular cancer) and a young man who is a triple amputee. What I took from watching them race - I've got NO problems. Seriously, I me annoyed by things from time to time, but it is only whining. When the footage airs on NBC you will cry like you did when you watched Jon Blais.

There was ONE family who insisted on running with their wife/mother all the way to the finish line... they turned around when a ref came out and Mike Reilly informed them that if they crossed the line she would be disqualified. The ref was already getting his book out. Luckily, they didn't interfere with the 60-64 age group championship which was about 12 minutes behind her.

Mahalo to Wendy and Bryan at Imuri at the Hilton Waikoloa; they made us feel like Ohana. Mahalo to Ken - my moto driver for the 3rd year in a row. It was great to spend time with his family again. Every year I return to Kona, I feel more a part of the town. It truly is a spiritual place.

I highly recommend visiting the big island of Hawaii. It has something for everyone; lush, tropical valleys, volcanos, snow capped mountains, lava desert, (black, green, red and white) sand beaches, big game fishing. Go for the race if you can. Life your life instead of watching others live on TV.

More to come - our fishing trip, hiking, etc.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Rant: Why Do You Race?

We race for many different reasons. Health. To beat someone. To challenge your own limits.

This last weekend I started to get offended by some folks who are having very good seasons. Why? The language choices they made regarding their race finishes at different races or workouts this last weekend.

I suppose it really made me mad because of the lack of gratitude for their a) health b) ability and c) rewards for their hard work.

Words like: "have to" when referring to a workout. You NEVER "have to". You do it because that is the "price of admission" to good results. If you feel you "have to" you might reconsider your commitment and reasons behind your efforts.

Comments like: "I won/qualified/PR'd etc. but it was a real shitty day." Any day you are racing, even if you finish dead last - is a good day. My Achilles tendons LOCK UP when I sit for 10 minutes. You have NO IDEA what pain I'm going through to race at even a LOW level again. Who knows if I'll be "back of the FOP" again or "front of the MOP". One thing I promise, you'll never hear me bitch about a workout here, on Facebook or Twitter. If I don't want to workout... I won't. I don't seem to have that problem.

I have had one client in and out of the hospital for the last six weeks. What do you think they would say about even my leg issues? At least I'm not in the hospital. I have three clients who have lost nearly 600 pounds. How do you think these folks feel about being able to participate? They have a new life. How about Jon Blais? 33 years old and DEAD from ALS. A guy who raced elite in triathlon reduced to someone wiping his ass before he choked to death on his own saliva because he couldn't control those muscles any longer. Complain about qualifying? How dare you. Try not to be such a self centered asshole. (My blog... I can swear if I want to.)

The TRULY GREAT athletes are grateful. That gratitude for simply being OUT THERE is something that is a differentiator of the great athletes. Secondly, PEOPLE are designed to move and be ACTIVE.

After I finished my fifth Ironman, I still didn't really understand or know why I liked to race Ironman distance triathlons. I suppose I never really needed to know. I just did 'em. For whatever reason, I needed to know at that point in my life. Now, I know why I do this type of stuff. I really understand it for myself. If my family doesn't understand that is really their issue. I just ask that they support me. I get that support. They get it. They get me. My suggestion if you find yourself saying things like the above - sit down and figure out why you do this. Really... why? Your reward will be far greater than qualifying or winning ANYTHING.

Tonight, I was able to run along the river trail a little over two miles in a pink, purple, and indigo sky. It was beautiful. I know why I do this. Why do you?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin from this Marshal's Perspective

A week ago the Ironman circuit came to town... sort of. It came to Madison (about 1 hour and 40 minutes north of my home). The week preceding Ironman "Moo" was a bit rough as I sprained a muscle in my back and two weeks of consistent workouts came screeching to a halt. It only hurt when I moved so at least it wasn't horrible. Wait a second, it was. Well, by Saturday I was nearly back to 80%. Saturday we held the marshal meeting. Caught up with Jimmy about details and the season and then headed off to go for a run - pain or no pain.

I made it 1.0 miles. Rapidly improving.

The evening was spent at Russ and Liz's place in Fitchburg. It was the best place I stayed for a race all year.

Race morning came after a great night of sleep and we rolled into the volunteer parking garage at 5:00am. Went to see if we could catch up with a few friends and wish them luck. Then verified the pro helmets were legal and to meet the moto drivers. As soon as the motos showed up I found someone with a bike that was comfortable. I hunted down the BMW and Honda Goldwing drivers immediately. I rode with Pat (from Sun Prairie, WI). Pat is a great guy and very good driver. He is out there every year.

As for the race, I was to cover the pro men and/or women. Jimmy took the men's leaders. I followed next then Jay and Glenn. I had the men's pro chase pack who did a very good job riding cleanly and actually - more than cleanly. They were about 11-12 meters apart and motoring. The race for those guys really came when #41 of the pro women's race came ripping through them like a hot knife through butter. She attacked them repeatedly on the steep hills trying to drop them. Other than that, my work was very quite in Madison. I wrote a total of eight penalties. I was in a lull of the athletes. I had pros that I had to watch but the amateur athletes were either behind or ahead of where we were on course. Even the crazy hills seemed less populated. No problems getting up the hills. *We did almost get "doored" by an 8 year old kid and a parent not watching for anyone other than themselves. Other than that it was very, very calm.

I did catch one bandit. A guy who looked to be 40-50, white male jumped on the wheel of #30 - about 1" off his wheel. I was going to give him a drafting penalty when I noticed he didn't have a number. This bandit did take the time to mark his calf, arms and put on a neoprene chip strap. When I asked him where his number was and if he was racing he said, "I'm just out for a ride. These are public roads." Actually no, they aren't. Ironman pays for a permit to be on those roads. While a person can ride their bike on the roads they cannot "willingly" interfere with the race and you certainly cannot take aid. I asked the man (nicely) to back off of the pro athletes if he wished to continue his ride. Then we came up to an aid station where he proceeded to take food and drinks. Now we have a situation of "theft". We rode up to the next sheriff officer and told him of the situation. At the following intersection the cyclist was arrested and his bike was confiscated. This is a typical bandit situation. If someone rides... not much we can do other than ask them to stay right. If they start taking anything from the race - we get the police involved.

I did hear many stories of crazy fans and lunatics who turned off their brain when they turned off the alarm clock. The scariest one was from Jay who saw Joe Bonness almost get killed by a stupid, female on a motor scooter with a large "W" flag. She was riding it up the hill next to athletes. She turned into oncoming athletes (several pro men and pro women) narrowly missing them as she misjudged their approaching speed, nearly ending their day, season and perhaps even a career. When I rolled through on lap number two I saw a police officer talking to the woman, but didn't think anything of it at the time.

A typical Ironman day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

You Don't Know Everything

2005, 245th of 2076 starters in the highest DNF percentage in any Ironman anywhere, ever. 49th of 384 who started in my age group. Some guys registered and didn't show up on race day - about 34 to be exact. I did alright considering the 95 F and stupid hot humidity/heat index. I did a great deal correct in my preparation for this race. I would change several things looking back.

The run went fairly well (especially compared to the race as a whole.)

Massive chaffing and the urge (yet inability) to urinate was a sign that I was suffering in the heat too.

The race (for me) was lost long before race day. Weeks before, I was severely limited in my cycling training time. Never... is it a good time to limit your training hours before an Ironman. What was interesting (and something I'll never forget) is how person after person were just drilling the bike ride. On the day, I figured that they were just having a great day or pushing too hard. After, I know they were pushing too hard. Nothing about Ironman is fast. Every one of those people went to the hospital and didn't finish the 1st 13 miles of the run. I used a Polar heart rate monitor and slowed when the heart rate didn't jive with the RPE I was experiencing. It probably saved my race. 36 guys were between Kona and me, but the worst part about the race was that I wasn't ready physically. Mentally, you bet. I used every trick in the book that I knew. (A reason I don't endorse people racing Ironman without several years of triathlon experience.)

My slowest Ironman swim of all races I've ever done. 1:00:38. I had dry heaves in the first 400 meters. Not sure (to this day) what that was about. I probably wasn't trained to race; more like participate. Yet, on race day, I showed up to race.

Recently, several friends of mine (not coached by me) and one of my athletes have decided that they know more than their coach. Racing only weeks or days from completing an Ironman. Running "every day" when running 3 days was near impossible. Lastly, letting family over commit you when recovery is in order.

There is a line from the movie Beverly Hills Cop which has always stuck with me. Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) gets chewed out by his boss (one of the experienced detectives) who says, "You're a good cop, but you don't know every f*cking thing." Many of us are very good athletes, hard workers or really smart. If you are lucky - you have two of those. If you are great... you have three. Even the great ones needed help. Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Lance Armstrong.

I start back with my coach this week. I'm keeping that in mind. Work is assigned. I do it. I ask for information purposes. Anything NOT in my plan - I don't do it or ask permission to do it. Even experienced athletes need to go back to the feeling of being new to the sport. The combination could yield strong results.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Battles with Plantar Fascitis

Oh... if it weren't everything I'm going through right now it would be funny. A few years ago my heel was swollen like a grapefruit. It didn't really hurt much. So I wedged my shoe on and did a full day's worth of presentations... standing. That's what consultants do. We gut it out in order to get paid. No guts/No work = no pay.

For more on how I train people with PF... contact me directly.

Tonight was a forced off night as my heels, achilles and arches hurt like crazy. Tomorrow a swim, water run, lift in the AM.

Here is a taste of what I'm going through. Remember... I walk 2.367 miles a day to and from the office plus walking for meetings (a lot) and food/ice water.

Plantar fasciitis is irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot.
The most common complaint is pain in the bottom of the heel. It is usually worst in the morning and may improve throughout the day. By the end of the day the pain may be replaced by a dull aching that improves with rest.
Most people complain of increased heel pain after walking for a long period of time.
Conservative treatment is almost always successful, given enough time. Treatment can last from several months to 2 years before symptoms get better. Most patients will be better in 9 months.
Initial treatment usually consists of:
Anti-inflammatory medications
Heel stretching exercises
Night splints
Shoe inserts

Got 'em all.

If these fail, putting the affected foot in a short leg cast (a cast up to but not above the knee) for 3-6 weeks is very often successful in reducing pain and inflammation. Alternatively, a cast boot (which looks like a ski boot) may be used. It is still worn full time, but can be removed for bathing.

Some physicians will offer steroid injections, which can provide lasting relief in many people. However, this injection is very painful and not for everyone.

In a few patients, non-surgical treatment fails and surgery to release the tight, inflamed fascia becomes necessary.

Causes **ALL**
The plantar fascia is a very thick band of tissue that holds up the bones on the bottom of the foot. This fascia can become inflamed and painful in some people, making walking more difficult.
Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:
Foot arch problems (both flat foot and high arches)
Sudden weight gain
Tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel)
A typical patient is an active man age 40-70.
This condition is one of the most common orthopedic complaints relating to the foot.
Plantar fasciitis is commonly thought of as being caused by a heel spur, but research has found that this is not the case. On x-ray, heel spurs are seen in people with and without plantar fasciitis.

Tests & diagnosis
Typical physical exam findings include:
Mild swelling
Tenderness on the bottom of the heel
X-rays may be taken to rule out other problems, but having a heel spur is not significant.

Nearly all patients will improve within 1 year of beginning non-surgical therapy, with no long-term problems. In the few patients requiring surgery, most have relief of their heel pain.

Maintaining good flexibility around the ankle, particularly the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, is probably the best way to prevent plantar fascitis.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Expo Uses Inappropriate Methods

If you went to the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon, you were greeted by this display. Most athletes whipped right past. I was talking to a friend who had a display very close to this set up. He said there had been "quite a commotion" since the expo opened. Hundreds of people where taking pictures of the display, pointing, laughing and commenting.

Lots of women and girls have body image problems. They don't need to be greeted with a display of D boobs on a model. So much for the "family" image they would like you to buy into. I won't go into the amateur race itself for fear of being accused of piling on.

Lifetime Fitness has done a lot for triathlon. I'm going to ask it to do one more thing; clean up their act.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Retul-ed at Wheel Werks in Crystal Lake, IL

A few Sunday's ago I got my first professional bike fit in years. I know - not what a serious racer does. Let's face it... since 2006, I haven't been a serious racer. It's ok. Life has been grand. You have to get away from the sport you love in order to learn and understand it more. Injuries are finally healed (although, some issues remain) it's the cost of racing into your 40s. Family is balanced - if not healthy. (Dad is fighting yet another cancer.)

My "home" bike shop has been (and still is) Village CycleSport in Elk Grove, Barrington and Arlington Heights. The owners are great and I am still very much a part of the Village family. I wanted to get Retuled for the last 3+ years. Village isn't a Retul shop. Additionally, the owner of Wheel Werks is Bob. Bob was the mechanic for the great Lon Haldeman.

Follow this link.

Bob's shop is on Main Street in Crystal Lake (right by the train station).

The Retul process (combined with Bob's years of experience and keen eye) made this a fast process (relative to perfect cycling fits). We managed to fit two bikes (road and time trial) in just over three hours. The fit made a difference of 15 watts at LT. An FTP of 250 is magically 265! (Now to work on the power to weight ratio.)

I highly endorse Bob and Wheel Werks. He did a fantastic job. I'll be back to have him tweak the position as I improve my fitness. Here is a shot of me in the shot and one in action for Team Marathon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Spark of Life! Bangs Lake Triathlon Festival

Thursday morning before a Sunday race I registered for my very first aqua bike. A swim bike race. Life has been rough lately and swimming and cycling (sort of) is really all I feel comfortable with. Even so, it was a bit odd toeing a starting line without being in good condition or even having a "feel" for how hard is hard.

RAM Racing out of Chicago has a few events. These events don't use USAT marshals and are a bit chaotic. No pre-race talk. No instructions. Just do a swim, bike and run... unless you are in the aqua bike and then we don't know where your finish is. More about that in a minute.

I showed up to about 1,000 people in transition. My rack was fairly empty and everyone was cool about sharing space and helping the new folks.

The swim was certainly long. Additionally, a lack of boats and marshals in the water allowed for several folks to cut some buoys. Most notably the final turn buoy. I noticed that I was one of two or three folks who actually went around the final buoy from my wave. Everyone else just went for the mucky exit. At least the high school swimmer (relay) who beat me went around the buoy. When I tried to stand up I went nearly knee deep in muck. Freaky. The weeds were pretty high in a lot of places. Not the best swim I've ever done but not the scariest. That easily goes to Lake Louisa (FL) where the water is opaque red from the cyprus trees and there are signs warning of alligators everywhere. Matter of fact, the starting line was a "WARNING: ALLIGATORS" sign. I'm pretty sure I had the third fastest overall swim that day - pros included.

After a 400m run or so, I was back at my rack and my private wrestling match with my wetsuit which seemed GLUED to my legs. It seemed like for-ever to get that damn thing off. With it off, the rest of transition went fine.

The bike was going to be rough. I just got Retuled last Sunday. I rode for 1 hr Saturday and didn't feel great, but I was going racing anyway. Sunday I felt a bit better. Once on the bike I started to roll past some slower folks. I wasn't in a rhythm yet and had a few folks from the earlier waves torch me before I could get the water to stop dripping from my face. By the top of the hill, I was at 19.3 mph and moving well. Top speeds of 37.1 mph was not very good. The most exciting thing is that it came at the end of my second loop and I felt I was getting stronger as the race wore on. According to my Polar CS600 (the first time I've ever raced with a computer/power meter) the largest hill was 9% and avg was 5%. Top speed of 37.1 mph and avg of 22.1 (race had me at 22.3 I believe). Wattage was kinda low for a 38k ride, but I had a few nice peaks. I did hear someone who recognized me yell out "Go get 'em Bob!" when I started my second loop. It came at a good time. I was feeling the pain. After all, this was my second ride (counting Saturday) since the first few days of July. Since my dad has been diagnosed with Cancer, I have been doing more with dad - workouts be damned from time to time. Swimming three or four days a week (this will increase shortly... namely tomorrow - going to 5 days a week. I need to pull some weight off and the pool is the best way for me to get CV fit and burn some calories.)

Here's where it gets interesting. Before the race I asked a race leader where the finish for aqua bike was. She said "T2 entrance". Cool. Simple. Easy. Upon entering T2, I was told to "run to the finish". Joke or not... I was off. So was the guy behind me in aqua bike. We ran all the way to the finish... barefoot about 600 meters or more.

Other than a few odd happenings - there wasn't a ton of drafting. A lot, but I was passing a lot of people so I didn't see any bad drafting except for a few guys who latched on to my wheel on an uphill. Unfortunately for them, my 56 tooth big ring (and gravity) helped me pull away from them on the down hill. On my second loop of the bike I was pushing hard in front of the crowd. 27.1 on the flat.

I got what I wanted. A hard open water swim effort - even if everyone I was "racing" didn't swim around all the buoys... I did. I had a good hard ride which went alright considering lack of training. No USAT marshals was very notable. I really don't like racing where there are no marshals ITU, WTC or USAT. So, my expectations were that guys would cut the course. Whatever... losers.

There's hope. Dad has an 80% chance of kicking cancer (again) and I am back on my way. Final verdict: 2nd in my AG and 10th overall.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ironman Rule Changes Effective 9/1/10

This will be my third year as an official for the pro race in Kona. This year I was the head official at the Ironman 70.3 Racine. I’ve been an official or head official at a lot of races now, and anticipate being elevated to USAT CAT 2 for 2011. I’ve seen some very interesting (and quizical) things from athletes (pro and amateur), spectators and media at just about every event. I’ve had to DQ top pros in Kona (twice) as well as age groupers just trying to finish. I hope this information helps you become more prepared mentally for the new rules moving forward in WTC races. I think you’ll have a better experience and like what the rules committee has decided.

World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), owners of the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Series, announces modifications to several rules and regulations relating to the swim at U.S. races. The first races and athletes to experience the changes will be: Ironman Wisconsin as well as 70.3 races in Muskoka, Syracuse, Cancun, Branson and Augusta.
Effective September 1, 2010, which is the start of Ironman's 2011 competition season, new rules for apparel and wetsuits will apply at all Ironman and 70.3 events in the U.S., including both World Championships. The amendments were made to further standardize rules in the Ironman/70.3 Series and ensure a fair playing field at events around the globe.
The changes will include the following:

• Swimwear and swim apparel must be comprised of 100 percent textile material, such as nylon or lycra, and may not include rubberized material such as polyurethane or neoprene. Swimwear may not cover the neck or extend past the shoulders or knees. Swimwear may contain a zipper. A race kit or trisuit may be worn underneath swimwear. **Speedsuits are most notably effected.

• Wetsuits cannot measure more than 5 millimeters thick.

• Wetsuits may be worn in water temperatures up to and including 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Athletes who choose to wear a wetsuit in water temperatures exceeding 24.5 degrees C /76.1 degrees F will not be eligible for awards, including World Championship slots. Wetsuits will be prohibited in water temperatures greater than 28.8 degrees C/84 degrees F. USAT races are still 78.0 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Ironman recognizes the importance of showcasing the competitive element at all events. We believe these amendments place more emphasis on performance and function and less on technology, therefore staying true with the Ironman spirit,” says Ironman’s Head of Officials, Jimmy Riccitello.

Ironman's rule changes are consistent with rule changes adopted by swimming and triathlon’s international governing bodies, FINA and ITU, respectively.

For athlete questions, comment here.

Originally from:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Training: What is Worse than "Pathetic"?

I saw this at my client and had to take a picture. This was a person's lunch and reading material.

In the absence of real goals we drift from our desired path. I'm so out of shape that training to get in shape to train is tough.

In life, things are alright. (Isn't that always the case?) I am working as a consultant (5 month contract) so currently, I'm working. This means looking for a full time replacement for the end of November/early December time frame. For those of you NOT in IT, this is normal. People are interchangeable and disposable. It's kinda like being a technology hooker. Got the skills the buyer is looking for? They pay. No longer have the desired skills? You are on the corner and considering "enhancements". Luckily, my current client is teaching me Oracle 10g and 11g (the bee's knees of today's database world). This combined with my deep SME (subject matter expert) project management skills and human resource management skills SHOULD make me attractive as a job candidate for the future. It all depends on the hiring manager (HM). One HM at United thought I "would be bored" and one at Disney thought I was "a perfect fit for our 2011 plans". Hooray for 2011! Wonder if the bank holding my mortgage can wait that long? Unemployment sucks the joy out of life - and I have a REALLY SUPPORTIVE WIFE. It is damn near impossible to train appropriately when I lack structure in my career. This... I have learned.

So while I have "amazing skills", I have to wonder where the future is for me. Maybe this is what happens when you get into your 40s and have been RIF'd (reduction in force) a couple times in spite of 5 out of 5 on reviews and "A+" from senior vice presidents. Wouldn't an organization that has a person (notice I didn't say resource) doing this well want to KEEP said person and cut loose the lower performing people? Apparently, tenure still has many managers staying "old school".

I'm not going to worry about it. I cannot control other people. I'll just do my job well. In the meantime, I'll look for a career path that suits me.

Family has been fun. Lorrie and I are great. We have been walking with Greta a bunch. It's been fun. The only concerns are around my dad who is battling a new form of cancer. It sucks. Can't the man enjoy at least ONE year of retirement?

My most consistent training partner (except for Dick Lansing, Jay Silber and Brad Muckerheide); Is it time to walk NOW?!

Where was I? Oh yeah... training.

I am swimming three days a week now and starting to feel good in the water. I think I'll be ready to return to masters swimming come late August. This is a very good thing. I am riding two times a week. Sometimes more, but honestly it has been tough to climb onto my bike. I'm trying to ride with Dick Lansing in his preparation for Ironman Hawaii - so my weekly long ride is normally 90% of my volume. As Dick is a bit older than I am, the heart rate numbers work in my favor. I've been down in the 130s which is just what I need to burn some fat. Running... where to begin? How about (BEEP) running?! I am walking 1.78 miles to and from the office. Evenings have had some jogging there with a laptop on (and in pants). I need to get back onto running more regularly.

This person's illegal transition area sums up my year of racing and training.

The future... of my training is to train to train properly. Wrong place to be in August (basically) of a North American triathlon season, but an honest place.

I haven't been honest with my own training since 2003. That's a long time. Trust me - I'm looking at the logs. (Insert cartoon vomit sound here.)

Right now my goal for the remainder of the 2010 season is to meet my sponsor expectations, have fun, and lastly swim the Ironman distance (open water) in under 1 hour without a wetsuit. If I can do that by October, I will declare this year a success. I am already planning changes for 2011. More to come on that...

My athletes are all having marvelous years and I have marshaled a TON of races. Great experiences.

So, to the haters, why bother reading?

To the supporters, thanks. I'll be my old self soon. Very soon.