Friday, May 27, 2011

Before You Throw Stones at Lance...

I'm about fair.  I want to believe Lance is clean.  Society tells me to not believe.  There are a lot of people against him, but in this country public opinion doesn't convict you.  (Yet.)  So let's just wait and see what comes out before we get the lynch mob out.  Yes, I'm asking for patience in a world where people take supplement pills instead of eating right.

The list of people accusing him is getting longer, but again - that evidence thing gets in the way.  Have you ever been accused of something you didn't do?  How did that make you feel?  All I'm saying is to wait for the facts before we convict the man.  Does it look bad?  Yeah, a lot of what David Walsh found and George Hincapie said are the most damning.  Let's do this thing under oath.

I think another damning thing I see is that he beat guys who doped.  All of them.  Maybe he was just smarter at doping.  I don't know.  I wasn't there.  As much as I've seen Lance on TV, read about him in books and magazines, I don't know him.  At least he has been consistent in his communications and has promoted better drug testing in sport - where the testing process has been a joke.  Additionally, he didn't test positive and then say it was Jack Daniels whiskey or a "silent twin" or some other bullshit.

May I be proven wrong?  Probably.  Begs the question, if a guy in a sport with poor doping controls (at the time) beats all the guys who were doping - was doping himself - does it matter?  He is still the best of the best which is the goal of the competition - find the fastest guy.  If everyone is doping - didn't we find our champion?  Cycling has been like the SNL skit "All-Drug Olympics".

Mary Eggers had a fantastic blog about it which adds to this at

As a person who battled cancer myself (skin) and who has lost members of my family to cancer, I think we at least owe the man his day in court.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FL 70.3 Race Report

Sunday was my 7th finish at the Florida Half Ironman... now, the FL 70.3.

Pre-race was great.  Saturday afternoon we got quite a storm through.  I thought we might get lucky with weather.  Nope.  Sunday, I awoke to thunderstorm and heavy rain.  After looking at the radar, I thought we'd have a slight delay and planned for it.

Due to lightning, we weren't allowed near the water to warm up.  At least, I was told I couldn't warm up.  This is one of the problems with the FL 70.3.  Cannot swim in the lake before the race (days before - even the day before) and the warm up is usually beach.  The plan was to cruise the swim.  Relax.  Just beat the last three times there.  I did.  By about 2 minutes.  Even with the wind and waves (which weren't that bad) I swam 36:12 (I think) and it was totally easy.  Looking back... I'd pick up the pace once I warmed up.  I think I went too slow.  I saw a guy who cut a DeSoto T1 down to look like a speed suit - I'll post a picture when I can pull it off the web.  In all the swim was a bit physical and I don't remember swallowing that much lake water on an easy swim in a long time.  Once I think I coughed up a mouth full.

T1- uneventful, other than having five people jogging to T1 and I couldn't get around them.  FINALLY, people got tired and I was able to run around them.

I trained to be able to push a 56x11 this year.  I'm running 170mm cranks for the first time in my racing career and it was a very good choice.  As I have aged as an athlete I've seen changes in my flexibility and other items.  As an aging male athlete, I'm different versus when I was younger.  Gear wise, a 56x11 on 650c wheels is closer to what the big boys push.  I've got very strong legs (if not fast) and this is an asset I choose to use.  I was able to push the 56 the entire race at 85-112 rpms the entire way.  Good watts too - especially relative to heart rate and heat index.  It was a smart ride.

The plan (again) was to be very comfortable on the bike.  I cruised it.  No, cramping.  No hurting quads. (**I'm saving it for the run.) The wind was pretty awful.  It seemed like it was in our face in every direction.  Only once for about 30 seconds did I feel a tailwind.  Stick to the plan.  I'm a runner today.  Different race strategy.  When we went into a straight headwind, I attacked on the bike.  This is when I would pass a ton of people.  I did this three or four times.  I love the bike too much to not do a little hard work.  The guys who won my age group went by in a pack.  I passed them on the swim and they caught me about mile 3-5 on the bike.  I know this because they had ITU type race kits with their name on them.  

**READERS NOTE** I've come to find out that the guys who were around me had same last names and team kits.  I wasn't with the leaders early on in the bike.

One older guy (62 I believe)... on a tight section of the course.  Moved into the left to pass slower traffic right and then sat up and took a drink.  I didn't say anything at first.  I figured he'd move over.  Nope.  When he reached for his water bottle a second time I said, "You now have 12 people behind you.  It is not time to drink in the left side of the lane."  It was the nicest thing I thought of saying.  Others behind me weren't nearly as nice.  The marshals nailed a lot of people on the bike.  I think they were kind of effective.  Five marshals for 2900 people isn't nearly enough.  The bike goal was to ride comfortably and just beat my time from the last three years.  I did.

T2- Two big dudes got in a shoving match as I was leaving T2.  I got knocked into a tree as they escalated their "discussion".  My back cramped as I left T2.  Even as slow as I rode... I realized after the race that I didn't do enough big power work in the aerobars.  While my legs could turn the gears well, my funky back didn't like being stretched that long.  Lesson learned.  PS: Bob Olson from Wheel Werks fixed a few things on my bike that I couldn't get right and some other mechanics were screwing around with - this was only the third race where I had perfect gears/mechanics on the bike.

Run (ish) - The first four miles I limped along with my back LOCKED up.  My back anatomy, fatigue, still not being in great (read: good) shape, heat and getting knocked into a tree on the exit... made the first loop of four miles an excruciating slog.  I stopped five times when I saw medical and had them work on me in the first four miles.  I thought I might have to DNF.  I could barely walk.  On a positive note, they changed the run to be a ton easier.  Not as much "trail" and actual shade for one stretch of the run.

The last medical person (from Chicago by the way) fixed my back (mostly).  I was able to run the last 10% of the first loop.  Alright... let's try another one.  Second loop, I was able to run about 75% of the loop at a slower pace - but running is running and the thought of DNF was gone.  I'm going to make it.  I saw Coach Jeff and told him that I was finally "better".  He told me I was running around 10/mile now and to see what I could do.  The last loop I was able to run 90% of it - stopping only to ensure that the back cramp wouldn't return.  My last mile?  8:45  So I went from 15:10 and giving serious consideration to DNF to 8:45 in 13 miles.  Oh... and before I forget - the marshals on the run course were great!  They nailed the two people I saw with iPods with stand down penalties!  It picked up every one's spirit.

How hot was is?  Not horrible - 103-104 heat index is what I hear.  "Average"  However, how many places have you been where it rained HARD in the morning and a brush fire broke out?  Yeah... it happened on the run course.  They had to close the course early because a FIRE broke out and Mickey's fire department had to bring three trucks out to put the fire out.

I beat my goal by ~4:00 and learned some lessons on my own training.  While I'm not "happy" about 6:30:00 - it is faster than all of the last three years. I found several things I can take from this race as positive change that I've made.  Once I get to better condition... I think I can be back down around 5:30 again.

Nothing to really celebrate, however, I can smile about it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grateful for the Chance

Didn't want to have to deal with this today... but, I am being forced to make important career decisions; just what you want going into a race.  While there are taper checklist items to be checked - I have to choose a direction.  NOW.  One decision I could make is to not make a decision at all.  Then I'd be like many executives in Chicago and would be allowing the market decide what I'd have to do.  That's not me.

So... in summary - I'm grateful for the chance to be here; on the cusp of major career path decisions and racing.  On to race "stuff"... (it's a triathlon blog after all).

My swimming is the strongest it has been since 2004.  (That right there is a statement.)  It is not what I would call "good", but for a M40-44 triathlete it is good.  Cycling is what it is - all base.  Power is there - we'll see how long I can sustain it.  I am finally fit enough to turn the 56x11 for an extended effort without blowing up.  Running - better.  I'm "trail ready".  I've run on nothing but "trail" and grass since March.  While I'm not sure how fast I can be - my goal isn't to be "fast".  It's much more simple.  The goal is to "just run"- big thanks to my running coach Janet for keeping it simple.  This is the plan for the entire race - take "just" and tack on "(swim/bike/run)".  Don't over think it.

I don't give a shit if I'm dead last.  All the other people will be in my race against my last three years of being a pile of goo.  If I make my goal versus the clock - this race will be a success.  That goal should be achievable.

I'm grateful for the chance to do this race for the seventh year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2010 Most Violated Rules & Penalties in Triathlon

Here is my attempt to give you a better understanding of the rules and the ten most violated rules from 2010 in USAT.  I'm a CAT 2 USAT marshal.  A PRO WTC marshal and have marshaled the Ironman Triathlon World Championship the last three years, major Ironman and 70.3 events (as head official or as a staff official) and many large prize purse events several times at the elite level.  I believe in a fair race.  Period.  Paragraph.  If you doubt me on that, ask my friends and family who have had penalties from me.   Race hard.  Race clean.  

I hope this helps you in your 2011 races.  My comments will be in royal blue.

1. Helmets: 
Only helmets approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may be used in USAT sanctioned events. Helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike. This means before, during, and after the event.

Penalty: Disqualification

This is a silly penalty.  Make sure you have a legal helmet.  You have only one head.  No race is worth your life.  Yes, we all know which helmets are legal and which are not.  We are trained to know what the valid, legal stickers look like.  The fine for an illegal helmet (to the bike shop that sells you one) is $10,000 per occurrence.  

At the Chicago Triathlon, had a guy who was recently featured in Chicago Amateur Athlete bring a homemade aero helmet.  He used a skateboard helmet and fashioned the faring out of model making material from his engineering firm.  He was DQ’d and after he lied to the head official – suspended from USAT events. Dumbest thing… he had a brand new $580 LEGAL aero helmet in his transition bag. 

2. Chin Straps:
Chin straps must be buckled at all times when on a bicycle. DO NOT unbuckle your chin strap unless you are off your bicycle.

Penalty: Disqualification on the course; Variable time penalty in transition area only.

This too should be filed under “silly penalty”.  On a racecourse I once witnessed a guy unbuckle the strap when he had an enormous lead.  Instant DQ.  I felt bad, but there is no wiggle room on this penalty.  “Click it or ticket.”  Death and dismemberment is forever.

3. Outside Assistance: No assistance other than that offered by race and medical officials may be used. Triathlons and duathlons are individual tests of fitness.

Penalty: Variable time penalty (See grid below)

This penalty can be someone running next to a competitor and encouraging them.  See this a lot at Ironman Wisconsin, can result in a DQ and loss of a qualifying slot for Kona.  Have also seen families setting up a “private aid station” for their athlete.  If the race didn’t set it out… don’t take it.  In Kona, we see a certain husband (pro) and wife (pro) who have people or each other on a bike out in the lava fields giving outside assistance.  They were penalized. 

Another story was a woman who was having a real tough day at an Ironman, but was still top 20 when she started the marathon.  Her husband ran the marathon with her; encouraging her the entire way.  They were even photographed together at different places on the course.  Her RIVAL racers called this to the attention of the race marshals and she was disqualified (had qualified for Kona).  Additionally, she was due to race Kona as her next Ironman that year - she was kicked out of Kona AND was suspended for two years from ALL Ironman events.  Again... her local competition called the marshal and pointed that out.  

4. Transition Area:
All equipment must be placed in the properly designated and individually assigned bike corral. The wheel of the bicycle must be down on the side of the assigned space. All participants must return their bicycles to an upright position in their designated bicycle corral. No person shall interfere with another participant’s equipment or impede the progress of another participant. All bar ends must be solidly plugged. No participant shall bring ANY glass containers into the transition area.

Penalty: Variable time penalty(See grid below)

This is a silly penalty too.  (Wow, a trend.) Basic set up of your transition area means no chairs, tubs of water in the middle, buckets in the middle (tubs, chairs, buckets and foot baths are fine IF YOU PUT THEM UNDER YOUR GEAR AS YOU PREPARE TO LEAVE TRANSITION – most people don’t do this… penalty.  Besides… do you want to be the dork with the foot washbasin and the bucket walking into transition?  If you have a medical reason why you need this – talk to the head official and the race director.  PS: it is WAY easier to bring an extra water bottle and squirt your feet if you are worried about sand on your feet. 

Bar ends – EVERY year people ask WHY they need them – until they see a person who lost a plug with their handle bars in their abdomen taking a liver core sample on themselves.  I’ve seen it.  The guy almost bleeds to death right in front of me.  If you don’t have one – use quarters and tape – officials allow that.

How many things are wrong with this picture?

5. Drafting:
Drafting--keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds. ***NOTE: WTC- 20 seconds***
YES, even on a hill.  You may not get called for it – but I cannot speak for all officials.  Depends on the wind direction and how long you are camped out behind someone.

Courses don't draft.  Athletes draft.  Take accountability for your actions.

Position--keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing. You will get a penalty if you are out there longer than 15 seconds. ***NOTE: WTC- 20 seconds***
YES, even on a hill.  Every year the pro men at Ironman Wisconsin are lapping age group athletes and one day there will be a collision.  At Racine, a certain world champion nearly got a position penalty from me as he kept swinging out to look back to watch a particular rider.  I think he would have saved a lot of energy and distance (zig zagging back and forth) if he had stayed on the right.  I counted him up to 19 three times, 18 four times, 17 three times and 16 four times.  That’s a lot of movement in 56 miles.  It wasn’t 20 seconds and he did win so perhaps his strategy worked.

The guy in blue "didn't want to draft" and stays left.  Creates other situations - blocking the person in the middle, maybe a passing on the right, and forcing a faster rider to cross the center line to pass safely.

Blocking--riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass. YES, even on a hill.  Every year the pro men at Ironman Wisconsin are lapping age group athletes and one day there will be a collision.

In Kona 2008, I gave a penalty to a German pro for blocking several other racers on the descent from Hawi.  He didn't pass anyone in 30 seconds and stopped several guys from trying to pass.  It was very dangerous as well - amateur athletes were starting the climb to Hawi, media vehicles were there blocking the center of the road.  Four other pro men sat up and started yelling at him to "move over" and "on your left". 

Overtaken--once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.
YES (guys), even if a chick passes you.  Ladies – pass guys hard and move over once you are clear.

Penalty: Variable time penalty (See grid below)

6. Course:
All competitors are required to follow the prescribed course and to stay within all coned lanes. Cutting the course is an obvious violation and going outside the course is a safety issue. Cyclists shall not cross a solid yellow center line for ANY reason. Cyclists must obey all applicable traffic laws at all times.

Penalty: Referee's discretion
This INCLUDES the swim buoys.  We are seeing more course cutting on swims as well as “crowd avoidance” by going on the inside of buoys.  Even if you “go around the corner buoys” you still aren’t “on course”.  Depends on your head marshal and boat availability regarding enforcement.  Can result in a silly penalty or DQ.  If you are a person who swims “inside” the buoys to avoid the crowds – you are gaining an unfair competitive advantage and will be penalized.  Don’t do it.

Look, everyone has to swim through the traffic!  Fair start.

EVERY race we have people trying to cut the course.  I'll let you in on a secret... there are timing mats out on the course for a reason.  They are referred to as "cheater mats". Guess who they catch?  Yep... cheaters!  Last year in Racine we had a 46 year old man and a 26 year old woman tell me they out ran Craig Alexander.  You know what else we've got?  The Internet!  On this magic Internet, we can look up your past results.  Cool stuff, huh!  Bad if you are a cheater.  Other favorites of mine are they guy claiming he did the entire bike course at 40+ mph.  The woman who swam 1.2 miles in 18:01- but curiously, she came out behind the pros even when they swam 24 minutes and she started 5:00 behind them.  Gee, that's odd.  I also like the guy who finished with a 15 minute 5k when he had averaged 9:00/mile for the whole run segment of the race.  Magically, he missed a timing mat in the closing miles.  Must have been a chip malfunction. That or he took a short cut.

The all-time great has to be a guy who swam one loop at Ironman Wisconsin.  Sat in an aid station for four hours.  Then ran a legit 3:18 marathon - he went from missing EVERY timing mat to hitting them all - tried to claim an Ironman World Championship "Golden ticket".  We stopped him. 

PS: I've gone off course in a race too.  At USAT Nationals for the Ironman distance, seven guys went two miles off course.  The only way back... run the two miles back and rejoin the course.  So that day at least seven of us ran 30.2 miles.  Know the course.  That mistake cost me big.  You have to think for yourself when racing. 

7. Unsportsmanlike-Like Conduct:
Foul, harsh, argumentative or abusive language or other unsportsmanlike conduct directed at race officials, USA Triathlon officials, volunteers, spectators or fellow athletes is forbidden.

Penalty: Disqualification
My delineation on this is if your language is directed at any person – DQ.  No excuses.  No mercy.  I gave a pro (leading an Ironman) a penalty for drafting the media motorcycle.  (A friend from the pro’s hometown was driving the motorcycle and letting him draft.)  I told the moto that if he was close again I’d penalize him.  Told the pro to “tell them to stay away from you” as I initially couldn’t tell if they were working together.  I dropped back to the chase pack and saw the lead pro duck into the draft of the moto about 5’ behind it.  When I penalized him he yelled, “AW that’s bullsh*t!”  No DQ. If directed it toward me (or the another person) – DQ. Other refs may be stricter.  I give a little leeway for racing “heat of battle” moments. (Hey, I race too.)

FYI - Failure to stop for a penalty is a DQ at WTC events.  If you *think* you got a penalty- stop.  Its better than a DQ after 8+ hours of racing.

8. Headphones:
Headphones, headsets, Walkmans, iPods, mp3 players, or personal audio devices, etc. are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race.

Penalty: Variable time penalty (See grid below)
Dangerous and clearly cheating.  Scientific studies have shown that an athlete can run faster and longer with music.  At Ironman Wisconsin, I caught a 55-59 female using an iPhone to get updates on her competition and then she lied to me when I told her to give me the phone, saying she was tucking in her kids for the night.  Little did she know that I heard the entire conversation as I was behind her for about four minutes.  I can run significantly faster with music blasting in my ears. Leave the Brittney Spears music at home or save it for pre-race.

Guys use iPods too.  They are super easy to spot - even if you try to hide the ear piece.

9. Race numbers:
All athletes are required to wear race numbers at all times during the run. Numbers must face the front and be clearly visible at all times. Numbers may not be cut or folded or altered in any way. DO NOT transfer your number to any other athlete or take a number from an athlete that is not competing.

Penalty: Variable time penalty for missing or altered number (see grid below), Disqualification and one year suspension from membership in USAT for transferring a number without race director permission.
How much do you think trimming your number down saves you in aerodynamics really?

10. Wetsuits:
Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, provided, however that participants who wears a wetsuit within such temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited.
WTC has DIFFERENT temperatures – 76.0 F is the cut off for wetsuits.  This aligns with FINA open water racing rules. As Ironman is an international race series, it makes more sense to align with international rules versus USA rules. 

This has yet to be an issue, but it’s just a matter of time before we have a race at 76.1 F where age groupers freak out because they cannot wear a wetsuit woobie.

11. Abandonment:
All personal equipment and belongings taken out onto the course must stay on the athlete the entire time. No garbage, clothing, etc. shall be thrown on the course.

Penalty: Variable time penalty (See grid below)
Every race someone gets nailed for this one.  Many races disappear due to towns and cities failing to renew venue permits due to litter.  Leave nothing behind except footprints.  Act like you are racing in your front yard.

A friend of mine, Jeff, was winning the Springfield (IL) Ironhorse race and launched a water bottle out of his rear bottle cage.  He didn't know he lost the bottle.  (If he knew, he could have turned around and picked it up (no penalty for picking up what you drop).  Jeff won the race by 3:56.  With the penalty, he lost by 0:04 seconds - 1st place cash?  $800.  True to Jeff's nature, the second place guy (also a great guy) said to Jeff, "Here is the money for first.  You beat me."  Jeff said, "No, I got a penalty.  You won."  I only hope I am as classy if that ever happens to me.  

Distance Category
USA Triathlon Penalties - Including 5150 and Rev3 Events
1st Offense
2nd Offense
3rd Offense
*USAT rules regarding wetsuits and equipment apply to all races - wetsuit legal temp 78.0 F

WTC Triathlon Penalties 70.3, Ironman Events      

1st Offense



2nd Offense



3rd Offense



* Penalties other than a "red card" (drafting) are a "yellow card" and that means you go to a penalty tent on course or in transition and sign your name and race number before continuing on.

**WTC rules regarding wetsuits apply (wetsuit legal temp 76.0 F)

***NOTE*** LEGAL WETSUIT TEMP FOR IRONMAN is a cut off of 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit and 28.8 degrees Celsius/ 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with the understanding that they will not be eligible for awards and/or World Championship slots.  OVER 83.8 F / 28.8 C you will NOT be allowed to ENTER the water with a wetsuit.  (Too hot / unsafe)

Are neoprene swim socks illegal?
Neoprene socks are allowed ONLY when the water temperature is 18.8 degrees Celsius/65 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.  Gloves are NEVER legal. 

 For a complete list of rules, please refer to the most up to date USA Triathlon Competitive Rules at:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Closing the Gap

Two weeks out from my first serious race and now time is flying.  There is all kinds of stuff going on - but I won't go off track.  This is a triathlon blog.

I'm not in great shape.  Heck, I'm not even in good shape, however, I am in better shape than I was a year ago going into this race.  (This only took some consistency and discipline.)  In several ways, I've closed the gap back to good fitness.

  • Down 23 pounds (good start)
  • Power up a little in watts (+ weight loss means my sustained w/kg is much better)
  • Swimming consistently again, I'm almost competitive as a swimmer again (I would have been if I would have gotten my Masters State Swimming paperwork done a week earlier anyway.)   After swimming in college, competitive swimming certainly lost some luster.  I need to swim with FUN people who don't take themselves too seriously while they are swimming VERY HARD.  If I do go back to "meets" then I'm going back with a vengeance.  Nothing less will be acceptable.  I've set my sights on a high goal for my open water swimming.  It will be fun to see if I can do it and not experience a complete meltdown on the bike and run
  • Speaking of running- its coming along.  I'm working with a running coach for the first time since high school and I'm understanding how weak I had become.  Can't go back and change things, so let us move forward.  My big running goal comes in my last race of the year
  • Heat - I'm sitting in my home office with the space heater cranked... all day.  It is 90 F in here from 8am to 8pm as I write out workout plans and talk to clients.  Will it help in Florida?  Maybe, maybe not.  I'll say this, 50 F doesn't feel very warm to me anymore as it did two weeks ago
So what's left?  
Plenty!  This is why I love triathlon.  As an athlete I have to balance many things: diet, sleep/recovery, strength, endurance (in three sports).  It isn't showing up to the pool over and over for a beating.  Physically - I still have much to improve.  I'm a much better athlete than I have shown.  The haters will be out and commenting on that for sure.  The important thing is that I completely understand and apply what an old pro told me about competition; "It's you against the clock.  Everyone else can go to hell."  In a more emotionally intelligent answer I would rephrase it to, "The only performance that matters is the one you are putting in."  As a Type A personality (or a person with Type A aspects of their personality) I think it is important to understand what you can control and what you cannot.

How will I do in Florida?  
God only knows!  I feel better prepared than the last several years.  I have no pressure on me; not trying to qualify for anything or do a certain time.  I just want to race.  That's all.  Just go out and see what I can do right now.

I like much of my preparation this year.  That's more than I can say for the last six years.