Archive | May 2014

New Wetsuit and Ironman in 2015?

Last week was a rest week which was very much needed. I am not sure who came up with the 3 week build/peak with a 1 week recovery but oddly enough the third week of the build makes you feel like superman, try doing anything when you are in your rest week and its like you haven’t been training. It might be purely psychological but I can tell you that I am better doing a challenging workout in week 3 of a build than any time during the recovery week.

I finally got around to buying a wetsuit. I had been putting this off because frankly, they are expensive. I went with the Orca 3.8. 3_8wetsuit

I bought this at Colorado Multi-Sport in Boulder which is quickly becoming my go to shop for my triathlon needs. Based on my experience I am confident in recommending CMS for triathlon and biking. Also, based on my experience, I can recommend Wheat Ridge Cyclery for your cycle needs.

At any rate, I only tried on the Orca 3.8. I wanted to try on the BlueSeventy but they were sold out of my size, in every BlueSeventy they carry. Apparently a 5 foot 10 inch man is the exact average of every bloody triathlete in Colorado.

While I was at CMS I found a new pair of tri shorts that I had been looking at online. The DeSoto Riviera Tri Short is noted as one of the best tri shorts for distance triathlons on the market. On a whim I purchased them. On my Sunday ride I was flabbergasted. They are fantastic. Better than my Sugoi’s for cycling though I haven’t done a long run in them yet. desoto

On Saturday I did a long run (not supposed to do it during the rest week but it saves me from a three hour workout on a Thursday) and after that and the wetsuit/tri short purchase we went to a bike cleaning social hour hosted for our little triathlon club.

Inevitably the conversation came up about the possibility of an Ironman 140.6 in 2015. The same jerk….errr “friend”…who pressured me into doing Ironman 70.3 has committed to doing a 140.6 next year. If he follows through will be the only male not to have done an ultra-distance triathlon.

This leads me to the two obvious questions, do I care? Sort of. And, since when is long course triathlon our only options in this group? Seriously, this is not an Ironman triathlon team. It is a plain and simple triathlon team. I am not sure what has gotten into us.

I am interested then, on anyone else’s personal journeys to long course triathlon. Specifically, how did you decide to spend 10-17 hours a week dedicated to training to do an event that you are not paid for?

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Road Rash to the face

I suffered my first real wipe-out of the season on Saturday. My buddy Don and I were approaching a stop sign and coming to a stop when a truck stopped on the other side of the road waived us through. I stood up on my crank and leaned over a little bit to hustle through the intersection – something I have done thousands of times. There was some sand in my path – again something I have dealt with literally every time I ride – but this time I was right on a downstroke delivering a solid bit of power to my back wheel and the torque plus the sand caused my wheel to spin and me to slide out. For my troubles I earned some road rash, some of it to the face.

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When it was over I was staring at the sky a little disoriented, the guy in the truck popped out and a couple of cyclists stopped to attend to me. The worst of it was my knee, it hurt like a mother – and still hurts today. The rest was cosmetic, and looked worse than it was. Thankfully my bike was still in ride-able condition (the handlebars were knocked left a little bit which is annoying but fixable) and even though I looked like a bloody mess, I was still fit to train.

Wipeouts happen, normally at slow speeds (which is good) because we either forget to unclip or loose balance for one reason or another. I do it maybe once or twice a year. Don’t believe a cyclist who says he “never dropped the bike” if you are buying a used one, if he/she spent any time on it they probably did.

In order for this to be less traumatic if it happens to you, I have some tips/checklists for making sure you can continue on if you wipe.

1. Ride with a buddy or in proximity to other cyclists, they will stop and help you or you may have to stop and help someone. Always stop if you see something.

2. Stop traffic if you need too (motorists are usually good about this) and if you or your friend is in the active lane, do not move them until you are sure they can move without hurting themselves, the cars will wait.

3. Starting from the head do a check-over of yourself or your buddy. If there is an impact on the helmet, judge whether it is cosmetic or serious. Helmets are designed to take one large impact and break – if it is scratched you are OK, if it is broken, their riding day is over.

4. Check all major joints, most people can take an impact and keep going with a bruised elbow/knee/wrist etc.

5. At this point if they check out, get them and their bike out of the lane of traffic and off to the side. If they check out, they are probably physically OK to keep going. If they seem dazed do a quick neuro test (how many fingers am I holding up, who is the President, etc), if they are way off sit them down and wait two minutes and do it again. If they fail again call an ambulance.

If they are physically OK and after a few minutes they are ready to go, check the bike for damage. No maker advertises their bikes as being able to take a fall but most of them a pretty resilient.

1. Check the wheel trueness. This is important, wheels are stiff up and down but not laterally. Spin the wheel to make sure it doesn’t hit the frame.

2. Check the brakes. Make sure they aren’t rubbing the rim when lever isn’t engaged. If they are, the normally have to be centered, which is easy to do on the road. Simply move the whole assembly to the center of the bike, normally only a few millimeters of adjustment is necessary. If they are centered and still rubbing, check the brake cable to make sure it isn’t pinched or pulled causing to engage un-commanded. Make sure that if you command braking braking happens.

3. Handlebars, when you take a fall you might knock these to the side. If you have a road maintenance kit there are normally three bolts you need to loosen. Hold the wheel between your legs and loosen the bolts, adjust as necessary. Bike mechanics have specific torque specs for these bolts – you won’t have a torque wrench with you. Guestimate them and adjust when you have the right tools.

4. Drivetrain. If you fall on the gear side you will probably knock all of this stuff out of alignment. You won’t get it into perfect alignment on the road, check to make sure the rear derailleur is not hitting the spokes on the wheel when it is in the lowest gears (the largest rear sprocket). If you don’t check this and you aren’t on the largest sprocket you might not notice until you are climbing a hill and you need that gear. If it is hitting the spokes simply tug the derailleur outwards until this doesn’t happen anymore. Bring it to a mechanic to have it properly tuned.

5. Check your tires. Always check your tires no matter what, every time you stop you should check them just to make sure. If you slide out you might get a chunk taken out of the tire or a puncture…or both. Have a tire patch kit and a spare tube always.

The workout was actually very good. We did the Boulder 70.3 bike course which is moderately easy with some rolling hills which can be challenging. The ride along US 36 has some false flats and rollers which can make you sweat. Right after that I ran the first lap of the half marathon.

boulder70 3 bike 2014 tbt-page-001

 

boulder70 3 run 2014 tbt-page-001

Cycle class might make you a weaker cyclist

Gasp! How could that be! How dare you insult the spin class! It is so hard!! Ok, let me explain; cycle class is designed to make you a healthier you, not necessarily to make you faster on your road/tri bike. This comes up because of an interaction I had with a fellow cyclist after the first Lifetime Cycle Team (Westminster) outdoor ride of the season this past Sunday. This cyclist and I had both gone to the weekend Cycle/Triathlon camp in Scottsdale but on the rainy day when I went out on the road, he opted to ride a stationary bike. His comment was “I ended up getting a better workout indoors anyway” and I thought to myself “No you didn’t!”. I didn’t challenge him because people tend to think that they made the better decision based on the fact that they made it and being told otherwise often doesn’t end well.

On a side note, I did very much better than this cyclist on Sunday – I can’t attribute this solely or even partly on the one day of training in March but it speaks to a larger misconception. Indoor cycling < outdoor cycling. Period. The equivalent indoor workout to a good and solid outdoor effort is like…2 sessions. Maybe that is overstating it but it is similar to outdoor running and treadmill running, one is better for training and that is outdoor running. You will find few runners who disagree with this. Treadmills, however, do not have a cottage industry of products trying to convince people (OK, maybe they do but I don’t see it as pronounced as in cycling) that they are equivalent to the real foot sole on pavement/dirt/gravel running.

This isn’t to say that I don’t use stationary biking equipment, I certainly do. I have an indoor trainer (with apparently only two resistance modes, very light and unbelievably hard) and I ride indoor power metered spin bikes. I never take a class though and I try to limit indoor riding to 1.5 hours unless weather (snow, not rain) prevents it. And honestly, it is a lot easier on time to do an indoor BRICK. I also never do classes. If I am riding in the studio and a class begins/ends around me, good for them. I have a workout to do and I will stick to that.

This is also not to say that spin class does not have a fitness purpose. It does, its purpose is to get you in shape with a low risk of stress injuries. That is a great purpose to have and I applaud it. Look at your average spin class, how often do you get out of the saddle for 3 minute interval? How often are you out of your saddle on your bike for 3 minute stretches? If you go 15MPH on the spin bike do you get the requisite 15MPH wind in your face? On spin bikes, the amount of effort to accelerate from 15-16 mph is relatively easy. On a bicycle it is a different ball game, you have to add many more watts of power (or hunch down) to overcome wind resistance, assuming the terrain has stayed constant. A spin bike would have to exponentially increase resistance as your MPH increased in order to simulate actual conditions. I think there are indoor trainers that do this (fluid trainers do this to a certain extent) very well, but they are thousands of dollars and used by the pros – not at your local Lifetime Fitness.

To my opening statement, does cycle class make you a weaker cyclist? For two reasons, I think it does. First, it gives people a false sense of cycling proficiency. 21 mph on a spin bike doesn’t translate at all to real cycling. Second, there is no spin bike equivalent to maintaining balance, unclipping, stopping at red lights, eating with one hand and steering with another, dealing with cars, dealing with flats, changing gears, etc. We should be finding excuses to ride outside instead of finding excuses to ride inside. Rain? Believe it or not there are products to help you deal with that. Dark? They make headlights for bikes. Flats? Spare tubes are cheap.

OK, I am off my soapbox now Smile

Road Bike vs Tri Bike

This past Monday I had a Retul bike fit from the guys/gals at Colorado Multi-Sport in Boulder. Retul is a software that, combined with cameras and sensors, can analyze all aspects of your cycling. My request was to get into a “tri configuration” on my road bike; which included purchasing bold-on aero bars. Firstly, the guys were great and were very helpful, if you need a bike fit and are in the Colorado area I would recommend giving them a call. Secondly, the obvious question arose, why not just get a tri bike? We will get to that, but first, lets look at the fit.

Since I have been riding road bikes for a few years I can tell by feel how a road bike should fit. When I went in, my road configuration was essentially spot on. The easiest way to explain the difference in configuration is to have pictures. This is me in a standard road configuration. Road Configuration 

When riding on the top of the handlebar I have a fairly upright position. The Domane is an easy bike to fit. The reason I sit so high is that the top tube, the upper tube that connects the seat tube to the handlebars is fairly short. In road configurations you get into a more aerodynamic position by dropping the handlebars or extending the top tube a little bit to lower the upper body. In my case I ride on the “drops” to lower my body. Before you feel bad that I ride so upright, I can go pretty fast in this configuration without issue.

One of the things that people talk about all the time as a major difference between road and tri bikes is the seat tube angle.

seattube

This is a road seat tube position. Standard 74 degrees, no surprises. When they talk about the seat tube angle, what they are really saying is that they want to get you closer to the handlebars. In order to do that, you can change this angle and when you are seated, your body will be closer to the front of the bike.

Why do you want to be closer to the front of the bike. This is why: triinitial

When you bolt on aero bars and get ready to go, you are probably too far away from the front of the bike, you can see my elbow is not 90 degrees, I am low but I am reaching to get to the bars. You can’t see this but I am also way too far forward on my saddle, which is incredibly uncomfortable.

There was a solution for me, and it was very simple. First, lets look at the change.

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Now I am closer to the bars and, as you can see, my elbows are closer to 90 degrees (not perfectly) which is more comfortable. I am also not riding on the front of the saddle. So what changed?

seattubeturnedaround

We turned the seat post around. As you can see, the seat tube that comes on the Domane is set at an angle. Turning it around changes the angle from aft to fore, effectively changing the seat tube angle without much work. Just that change was enough to shove me forward. I also have some room on my saddle rails, if I have to move slightly forward I can make that adjustment with a hex wrench.

You can see the difference in the handlebar reach measurement.

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Normally the top of the saddle to the handlebar is 503 mm. Making that change adjusted that –

handlbarreachtri

If I need to close the reach a little more, I could move the saddle forward on the rails. This still isn’t a perfect tri fit – but better than I was. Specifically, my handlebars are a little bit too high. The Domane comes with spacers on the stem which can be removed in order to lower the handlebars. This is something I know a few people do because they like the Domane’s comfort and handling but want something a little more aggressive for racing. I am also still operating my brakes and shifters on the regular handlebars, I could get bar end shifters for the aero bars but that would be a pain to set up and tear down when I want to change configurations.

We went through a little science getting into this position, why wouldn’t I have just purchased a bike like that in the first place. The answer is simple, road bikes have been produced with slack seat tube angles for years because it is a very efficient position for power output. Riding in my road configuration is easy on my back and my knees. I can go up hills, stand on my crank, ride on the drops downhill, without issue. In this position if you stand up you might hit your knees on the handlebar!

I am not the only person to want it both ways. In fact, Specialized is producing a bike which does exactly what I have done to mine. The Specialized Alias is essentially a modified road frame with a seat post that can be switched out, and standard clip-on aero bars.

specializedalias

Like the Domane, the top tube is not very long. Unlike the Domane, the seat tube angle is steeper. You can look closely and notice the seat post does not have an offset angle of its own, like mine does. The handlebars don’t seem to be spaced on the head tube like mine are, although for some riders they might need it to be added.

Ultimately my goal was to ride in a comfortable aero position. You can ride on the drops and get out of the wind, but that can get uncomfortable and my hands have a tendency of going numb when I ride in the drops for a long time. With the clip-on bars, I can rest my upper body on my elbows which should be less fatiguing while getting me out of the wind.