Inevitably as I explain to people the reason why I spend such an enormous amount of time at the gym and especially when they find out that it is a half-marathon with some swimming and biking prep; the question arises as to why in the hell would I want to do that to myself. Often it starts with “Have you ever done anything like this before?” Which is a big fat “No”. It isn’t just that I am doing the Half Ironman but I am also doing the Triple Bypass which is not for the faint of heart, literally since you are so high in the mountains if you are faint of heart it could be a real medical problem.
The simple answer is that I am only a couple of weeks away from my thirtieth birthday and age is doing weird things to me. Some people have a quarter life crisis (early twenties) where they graduate college and figure out they can’t get paid very well for all their work and no one is lavishing praise on them anymore. I avoided that crisis but this one is hitting me harder. I am married, childless, we own our own house, we both drive German cars (they are VWs but they qualify) and we long ago stopped living paycheck to paycheck. A great many people would be very happy with this; and I am. I still can’t shake the feeling that I haven’t done anything worthwhile.
Adding a little salt to that wound, I watched Generation Like on Frontline which is a bit of a follow up to Merchants of Cool and I had a startling revelation that I related Merchants of Cool which is now close to 14 years old.
If you haven’t seen Merchants of Cool I included an embedded video, if you were a teenager in the late 90s and early 2000s and you haven’t seen it; it is worth 54 minutes of your time.
It isn’t as if Generation Like is completely alien to me. Being of the group of young people to first use Facebook so the technology doesn’t faze me. What does faze me is that it is clear that a generational shift has happened and I am no longer in the youngest one in pop culture. I remember in the 2012 Olympics they were playing a song by Phillip Phillips (who was previously unknown to me and I remember commenting “Wow he really sold out before he even got famous!” Which, of course, was meant as an insult. During Generation Like they mentioned that no one younger than a certain age even knows what selling out means. Could you imaging Rage Against the Machine trying to hock Pepsi or get corporate sponsorship? If the idea revolts you then you are over the hill…with me.
I suppose the old hippies from the late 60s had a similar reaction to the gritty late 70s and early 80s punk scene that took over from them. The difference is stark though. Both the rock of the late 60s and punk from the 80s had a cultural impact based on social movements that SET the stage for other culture which in turn informed advertisers and brands. This is the other way around, music and other culture is informed by corporate sponsors and brands.
That is all food for thought and polite conversation it only really relates to triathlons to describe my mindset in doing these activities. In my early twenties I was occupied by getting my career off the ground and establishing myself. I dare say that now that all of that is over I have grown restless. I am looking for something distinctive to help define me and the world of ultra-triathlons and endurance sports has become that differentiating factor.
The weather finally took a turn for the much better this past Sunday in Boulder. Not only was it warm, but the winds were relatively calm for the morning which meant we could finally ride on the road again. We have been relegated to the trainer or spin class for the last couple of months and that makes no one very happy. Riding the trainer sucks because you just sit in your house and sweat. Doing a spin class sucks because they have 8 good power bikes and people line up to reserve those bikes 30 minutes before class starts – then there is the crappy music and someone yelling at me, I don’t like that either.
Earlier in the week Don posted something in our training group about a group ride in Boulder and what he thought was going to be 5 or 6 of us ballooned to 15. Including someone that overheard one of our members talking about the ride in a store and invited himself to come along. Apparently the road had a strong calling for all.
Just to get this out of the way, the day was not particularly warm for cycling. It was in the mid forties when we set off with 5-10 mph winds along the foothills which could cause quite a chill. I had long fingered gloves, a pair of Pearl Izumi thermal cycling pants, and thermal warm warmers. I didn’t need a skull cap under my helmet but my hands got pretty cold. These two don’t mess around with the cold.
They look ready for straight out arctic conditions. You tend to have to over-dress for cycling where you might dress to be a little chilly for a run. If you are going 16-20 mph and there is a wind of 5-10 mph, that is potentially 30 mph of cold air hitting your body.
We weren’t the only people on the road this day, there were a TON of other cyclists, including a bunch of club teams, who were clogging up the roads.
There were some things I learned during this ride that are new or different from my last ride last year.
- I am a much stronger cyclist than I was last year just based on my training in the off season. Much better by 3-4mph. Not just am I faster, but I am cycling more confidently. My cadence is up and I am pedaling all the time, instead of pedaling-resting-repeating.
- I need to train harder on the bike. I have been working not quite as hard on my bike as I have on the swim and the run; principally because riding the trainer for more than 45 minutes really sucks. I need to get over that and button this thing down.
- Fueling is important. I bonked hard on the transition run while I had a perfectly good bonk breaker in the fuel belt on my bike. A tool does you no good if you don’t use it. I should have eaten that a mile before I finished my bike.
- Tri bikes have a distinct advantage going downhill and on the flats. I road with people on Cervelo P3s and Orbea Tri bikes and they exerted less energy for their speed when they started getting into the 18-20 mph range.
- The CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer is a harder workout than any spin bike or class I have taken. It just is. The resistance is harder, the bike is less comfortable, and if you stop pedaling your back wheel stops in about 2 turns as opposed to 15 seconds on the spin bike or even longer if you are on the road.
What is most important is that I feel reinvigorated with the sport. I had started to feel a little beat down with the constant workouts and 3 hour days during the middle of the week. I am far from the only one in our group with this sentiment. It is far more fun to cycle (and cycle well) out on the actual road.
Right at the beginning of my half ironman journey, I went to a local shoe store to be fitted with a proper pair of running shoes. I was videotaped on a treadmill and placed on a machine that measured my feet and my weight distribution on my feet. An hour later I walked out with a pair of Saucony Guide 6 trainers with custom insoles.
I used those for about three months and when Sarah got a really substantial coupon for Newton Running shoes over the Christmas season. Full disclosure; our coach is married to the local Newton running rep and she is a Newton evangelist. Sarah got a pair of Bocas and the Newton Distance Elites and I ended up with a pair of Sir Isaac S trainers even though my Saucony shoes were barely broken in.
Newton makes a lot of bold claims in their literature and on their website about their shoes. Two of them stand out: 1) The lugs and low heel to toe drop encourage a mid-foot strike which is preferable to a heel strike and 2) The shoe is made of a material which has a “action/reaction” effect which saves energy.
The most noticeable difference between Newtons and competitive shoes from other specialty brands are the forefoot lugs that run longitudinally under the balls of the feet. To my knowledge, no other shoe brand does this. On the Sir Issac S shoes the lugs are a little less pronounced than they are on other Newton shoes, this is purposeful. This shoe is designed to transition a runner from normal running shoes to Newtons.
My experience with this shoe are generally positive. They stand out against the Saucony pair by having a very direct road feel. I am not sure if the lugs are exactly necessary, but I can certainly feel the “action/reaction” technology at work – a claim I was especially skeptical of at the outset. When I put on my Saucony shoes they feel dull and unresponsive in comparison. This surprised me in a good way.
I was also surprised by how much lower body pain I experienced using these shoes. To be fair, Newton warns of this but it was very noticeable. Even though I am an inexperienced adult runner, I did run cross country in High School so distance runs aren’t new to me. I am familiar with the leg pain associated with running. With Newtons that soreness moves from your quads and glutes to your calves, and in a big way. I started experiencing some Achilles tendonitis wearing these shoes and I am cautious about blaming the Newtons per se but I do somewhat blame the low heel/toe ratio. This engages the Achilles more and I think as a result of running in a way that I am not used too, my Achilles tendon needed to be stretched out and strengthened. As a test, I moved back to my Saucony’s for a few training runs and decided to stick with the Newtons.
One possible drawback which is worth mentioning are the price – which I can only describe as exorbitant. The Sir Isaac S trainers retail for $150 USD which is double what I paid for the Saucony Guide 6. Even if you made the argument that the Sir Isaac S and the Guide 6 are not in the same shoe class, the Saucony Kinvara 4 – which boast the same heel to toe drop ratio (4 mm) are only $100 USD. If the Sir Isaac S shoes last substantially longer than other trainers, this cost difference may be less extreme. I haven’t had them long enough to evaluate that aspect. However, it is worth mentioning that Newton is in a crowded field of companies in the specialty running business which include Brooks, Asics, New Balance, Saucony, Mizuno, and among the giants like Nike and Addidas. Newtons are more expensive than all of them.
For now, I like my Newtons and I will continue to wear them. When it comes time to replace them, I will have a serious look at other brands but I will probably stay in the Newton brand.
Here I am, on a Friday afternoon right after work. Like – right after I got home and took the dogs out. What am I up too? A bike ride of course.
In ideal circumstances I would not be getting on my bike trainer at 5:30 pm on any day but today was special. It snowed in the Denver metro area and since Westminster can’t operate snow plows and our HOA plow people show up whenever they want, my little car got stuck in the driveway and we missed our morning training session.
After work we got a call from a friend asking us to go for a dinner, which sounded fantastic, so our options were to bike right after work or wait until 8:30 pm. One might think that it would be a relatively simple matter to simply delay the workout until tomorrow. Except tomorrow is 3 kilometers worth of swimming and an hour run. Sunday is a 2 hour bike and a 30 minute run.
At some point you take a step back and look at things with a little perspective. Sarah was frustrated because she would “only” workout five days this week (she travels for work occasionally); keep in mind two of those days are two workout sessions. Most people can’t run thirty minutes comfortably – let alone do it after swimming or biking.
This sport changes you and not only in a physical way.