Jordan Rapp was born on July 28th, 1980. Three weeks later, he went for his first open water swim (sort of) in the waters of Lost Lake in Brewster, NY. Eighteen years later, he took first strokes of a different kind - in a rowing shell - on Princeton University's Lake Carnegie. After a high school career focused on squash and lacrosse, he began training for endurance athletics on a Concept II ergometer in the winter of 1998/99. Millions of meters and millions of strokes later, he was injured for the first time in his rowing career while training to make the U.S. National Team. And so, in April of 2003, he clipped a pair of aerobars onto his road bike, bought a pair of race wheels with the first tax return of his post-graduate career, and never looked back except to occasionally take a peek at the competition.
Favorite Specialized product: S-Works shoes & TT02. The first Specialized products I ever used are still my favorite. Especially the TT02. Even with all the aero helmets out there, this one still gets people's attention, especially when it goes flying by them on the road.
|Born||July 28, 1980|
|Home||Thousand Oaks, CA & Penticton, BC|
|Family||Wife Jill Savege and Son Quentin Thomas Rapp (born Jun 21, 2011)|
|2011 ITU Long Distance World Champion|
|2011 & 2009 Ironman Canada Champion|
|2011 Leadman Epic 250 Las Vegas Champion|
|2009 Ironman Arizona Champion|
Sometimes The Bar Eats YouMay 16, 2013
© 2013 Larry Rosa (endurapix.com)
Ironman 70.3 US Pro Championships
St. George, UT / 2013.05.04
After my rather ignominious finish in St. George, a single thought (well, at least a single appropriate thought) kept running through my mind. "Well, a wiser fella than myself once said, 'sometimes you eat the bar. And, well, sometimes he eats you...'" And so it goes when you are looking for solace, that "The Big Lebowski" yet again comes through in the clutch.
But rather than solely chalking up my bad race to a case of getting eaten by the "bar," which implies a bit more luck than I expect was truly at play here, I think it's important to recognize that it was not entirely surprising that I got eaten by aforementioned "bar" at this here race. This was not a case of sunning myself in Palm Beach and getting eaten by a grizzly. That is bad luck. Extraordinarily bad. And probably a case of rather lax zoo security. This was more of a case of rubbing yourself in bacon, honey, and salmon roe and laying out beneath the stars on Kodiak Island. It was more likely than not that I'd get eaten. To understand why, exactly, I made this helpful little graph.
have raced in St. George. I didn't actually get anything out of having bad race other than remembering that it's not very much fun. And I'm pretty sure I didn't need to be reminded of that. There was no "new lesson" in all of this, though there was certainly a lesson. It's just a lesson that I've been taught before. Clearly needed a refresher course, though again, I wouldn't say that having one made the race a net-positive. It was a sub-par performance - though not really a surprising one, and I have no interest in delivering sub-par performances. Accordingly, I've decided that I will not be racing in Honu, since the likelihood of getting things turned around by then is not great, and I certainly don't want to have another bad race. The long-ish view is to October 12. And the really long view is towards the October after that, and after that, and after that. How do I put myself in the best position on those days? Well, I know how I don't do it. So now let's see if I can figure out how actually to do it.
So the next race I will for sure be doing is Vineman 70.3. If things get back on track sooner rather than later, then I might add in something else. We'll see.
SpeechlessMarch 28, 2013
The final kilometers of the run course.
Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship
Melbourne, AUS ✮ Mar 24, 2013
Ironman always takes a lot out of you, though one thing I did not expect to have taken out of me was my voice, which I lost with about 5km to go (I found myself unable to ask for anything at aid stations and just had to grab-n-go), and which did not return until about an hour and a half after I'd finished. I don't know what caused it, and while it might have been a little scary for me and for those who are used to my being an incessant chatterbox at the finish, it also might have been a welcome reprieve for them as well. My words are now flowing freely once again, and I used the long flight back from Melbourne to put together some thoughts on the race.
Besides the obvious goal of racing and placing well, my other goal at the race was to learn. You generally learn something from every race - especially from an Ironman, but there are certainly races where there's much more reliance on what you know works as opposed to being willing to take what are hopefully calculated risks. I went into this race prepared to risk on the swim and early in the bike in an effort to put myself "in the race" from the outset, rather than steadily pacing myself and racing largely in isolation, as I did to a large extent at both Texas and, especially, New York last year. My plan to be aggressive in terms of pacing on the swim was foiled by very rough conditions, the likes of which I have never before swam in. I lost four minutes in a shortened 1300ish meter swim, which I truly believe was less than what I would have lost in a 3.8km swim in the smooth conditions they had last year.
While my effort was certainly high, I would not say that I swam as hard - physically - as I could; I think I swam as hard - mechanically - as I could. If that doesn't make sense, imagine running in shoes twice as big as what you normally wear. Your ability to actually run fast would be so limited by the shoes, that even running "as hard as possible," you wouldn't be able to run as hard as you were capable of. This race clearly favored those - like the large number of Aussies in the field, the majority of whom grow up on the ocean and swimming in the ocean - with extensive rough water experience. One of the most commonly repeated descriptions of the Melbourne swim course was that of a "protected bay" (Melbourne itself sits on a bay with virtually no tide) with generally excellent conditions. Not only did last year's conditions not indicate that such a rough swim was possible, the general discussions about the course also did not mention the possibility. I don't say this in an attempt to absolve myself from a lack of practice in rough seas (I live close enough to the Pacific that I could have sought out at least similar conditions), but simply as an explanation of why I didn't think that was necessary. I will certainly make sure to include that in my preparation for next year; losing four minutes on the swim is unacceptable, and I only lost four minutes because the race organizers decided to shorten the swim.
It's worth noting, however, that because Melbourne is a bay, unlike most ocean swims, where the waves are roughest at shore when they are breaking, there is no break in Melbourne. This chop was entirely from the wind, and the shore was the most protected part of the swim, meaning what you see there is actually the best conditions we had for the swim, not the worst. With that said, as I wrote on the Slowtwitch forum, I would have supported a decision to race the full 3.8km (say three loops of the 1300m course we did) *for pros.* I think the conditions did pose a risk for age-group, many of whom were first time Ironman competitors. Rough water swimming is a skill. And at the professional level, I don't think we should mitigate the impact of a lack of skill.
I bring this up to differentiate it from a water temperature issue. Too cold - and even more too warm - water is a very real concern. I'm no more or less resistant to hypo/hyperthermia than anyone else, as evidenced by the tragic death of US swimmer Fran Crippen in overly warm water at an open water swim race in the Emirates. But rough seas? That is something I feel I should be expected to manage. I think logistics thwarted this - the day before, there was no indication that we wouldn't be able to swim 3.8km on the modified course (two loops on the more sheltered southern side of the pier) to concentrate water safety personnel, and to decide on race morning to have two swims and to further delay the age-group athletes would not have been fair. But having seen what happened this year, I hope this race has a plan to execute the full 3.8km for pros if a similar situation arises again in the future. If a race encounters rough conditions for the first time, I understand being cautious. But I hope we can learn from that and make contingencies for the future that don't involve shortening the race. There's no reason that a great swimmer shouldn't get the rare chance to actually capitalize on his/her ability at a race.
As a result of the rough conditions and my lack of experience, I started the bike in a relatively typical position - down a bunch to the leaders. The most effective way to have my best ride would have been to - steadily - pace my way towards the front over 180km. But I thought that same wind that whipped up the ocean might also allow me to bridge up to the front sooner with a strong effort on the first half of the first lap of the bike, where I knew we'd be fighting a headwind. Ultimately, the gap proved too great, and I wasn't able to close the gap within one lap, and I pushed a bit hard in trying to do so and struggled to hold pace on the second lap and ended up losing time on the second outbound leg. Had I paced with the same steady and even output I used in New York or Texas, I expect I would have ridden 4:26-27 (instead of 4:30) and actually ended up essentially with the leaders by T2. But hindsight is always 20/20, and I know I can do that. I didn't know if a riskier plan might get me into the group at the front, where I could experience the jockeying at the front that typifies championship racing and which is so valuable. I also didn't know how I'd respond on the run to a more varied output - with a VI of 1.05, this was my most erratic Ironman ride ever (though a lot of that was the wind more than a hard first lap, since VI is calculated on a rolling 30s timeframe, and you can still have a low VI even with a ride that was "erratic" on a "macro-scale"). My failed bid meant I missed out on the chance to race the run with Crowie and Eneko, which also certainly would have been immensely valuable, but again, hindsight always makes things seem obvious.
The lack of being able to run at the front did not, however, diminish what I was fairly certain would happen regardless, which is that the depth of field in this race would make the whole marathon a race. There would always be someone to catch and always someone nipping at my heels, and that's exactly how it played out. I came off the bike in seventh, and found myself chasing while also being chased, exactly the sort of situation you get in Kona. Steadily chipping away while also pushing the pace to keep a hard charging Chris Legh in my sites after he passed me at about 8km in made this one of the toughest runs I've ever had in an Ironman. Add in the constant headwind due to the point-to-point run, and it was the sort of run that teaches you a lot about what you can dig out of yourself, both mentally and physically.
My fourth place finish met my expectations of myself for the race. I think had I paced the bike more evenly, I would have finished closer to first/second/third as opposed to fifth/sixth/seventh, but I think fourth was as much as I had in me on the day. I knew that if Craig, Eneko, and Marino all performed to their level, which I think they did, that I'd need to have a best ever race in order to beat them; I'd need to reach a new level of performance. I think I'm certainly capable of that, but that was certainly less likely rather than more likely given the timing of the race. I was in the best shape of my life, but I also didn't have the deep fitness that comes with a full season of preparation and which generally sets up those sort of breakthrough performances like I had at Ironman Texas last year. My goal was to win the race, and I think I am capable of that, but I just was not on the day.
My biggest frustration was that the swim conditions prevented me from showing the real improvements that I think I made in the pool this winter. However, they also exposed a clear deficiency. I knew I was not a great rough water swimmer, but I also didn't think I was that bad. And the value of a lesson like that is hard to overstate. I didn't get as much as I'd hoped out of the race in Melbourne in terms of experience, but I do think it was a valuable learning experience, which was one of my major goals. I believe that I got enough out of the race that I will be a better athlete for having done it, even if I missed out on some of the challenges that I set for myself going in.
In addition to the piece I wrote on here before the race, I wrote a similar (though not entirely redundant) piece for Ironman.com which you can read here: Pre-race with Jordan Rapp
And there was great post-race analysis of my own power file from the bike (as well as that of Clayton Fettell and several of the female pros) on TrainingPeaks.com and then in a related piece on Slowtwitch.com. You can find those here: TrainingPeaks.com power files initial analysis and here: Slowtwitch.com comparison of my ride with Clayton's
Thanks again for the all the well wishes leading into the race and the post race congratulations. 2013 is underway. Onwards and upwards. As Simon Whitfield likes to say, the relentless pursuit continues.
Real Kids of BAMFness: Seth GoldsteinSeptember 29, 2012
From KnoxNews.com - He had started in on his second loop, halfway through the cross country course, and Seth Goldstein liked the way the race was unfolding.
A group of kids ran just in front of him. Many more had fallen behind.
"I was feeling good," said Goldstein, 17. "That's when everything happened in front of me."
One of the kids in the pack dropped to the ground. The others raced onward toward the finish line. Goldstein did something altogether different.
He stopped racing. He went to the kid who had fallen, who by this time was in severe distress.
"His lips were turning blue and his eyes were rolled back in his head," said Goldstein. "I was terrified. But then I thought to myself, freaking out isn't going to help any here."
After taking control of the situation, directing someone to call 911, and making sure the kid was not going to asphyxiate on his own blood (he bit his tongue badly), Seth waited for EMTs to arrive. Once they had, and once they had taken over, he calmly asked if he could finish the race. That's perspective. Bravo, Seth!
Bending The SpoonSeptember 27, 2012
© Eric Wynn 2012
"Do not try to bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... Only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see it is not the spoon that bends, only yourself." - The Matrix.
"Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose their direction and begin to bend." - Walter Savage Landor
Leadman Epic 250
Bend, OR - 2012.09.22
I hope you'll forgive the somewhat pun-ny use of the word, "bend." I promise that I would not have used it if I didn't find at least somewhat apropos. Ultra-distance racing (by which I mean races longer than six to seven hours) always has some component of "bend but do not break" to it. Rarely do things go precisely according to plan, though if you are lucky, you end up having them go remarkably smoothly. Like trying to bend a cafeteria spoon to make a miniature catapult to launch food at your roommate on the other side of the dining hall. Sometimes it just is that easy. But I digress. And even earlier than normal.
I thought the two quotations captured nicely the seemingly diametrically opposed ideas that I think define long distance racing - the need to be flexible and the need to be rigid. There are parts of your approach to racing that must be unyielding. And there are parts that need to be flexible and malleable. Eight hours is a long time to win a race. And it's a long time to lose a race. It's a long time where things can go wrong. And it's a long time to make things go right. It's a little bit like a Rube Goldberg machine - lots of ways to get the ball from A to B, but ultimately confined by A, and by B, and by the fundamental laws of physics and thermodynamics. And, like designing a Rube Goldberg device, sometimes you need to bend your own perceptions in order to figure out something surprisingly simple and yet surprisingly clever. Like after Quentin somehow removed the car's review mirror, and I could not figure out how to pop it back on. And then, suddenly, I looked at the mirror, and the mount, and realized it rotated back on. And voila, a two-second fix.
Knee warmers on, arm warmers on, jacket on, gloves on. Gloves off, knee warmers off (without getting off the bike I might add), arm warmers off, and jacket off. That was how I broke up the bike ride. 138 miles is a long way to go. Amazing how your brain chooses to break it up. I couldn't feel my fingers at the start of the bike. And by the end of the run I was squeezing ice cold towels on my head and draping them on my neck. Bend is like most high deserts that way. You have to be flexible. Eat. Drink. Pedal. Run. You have to be rigid in your drive to keep moving forward and to fuel yourself to do so. No I do not want another bottle. Yes I will take another bottle anyway. No I do not want to eat anymore. Yes I will eat more anyway. But those were the intermittent thoughts. Like, "I think I need to take off some clothing." They come in to your brain. And you execute. And then they are gone.
I sometimes wish those thoughts would stick around. But they don't. Instead I'm left with the thoughts that do stick around. Most notably, in this case, "f'ing Quintana man. That creep can roll." Every time I passed someone, and once the gap started to come down to Mathias Hecht, this singular phrase kept rolling (sorry) through my head. Bowling. Cycling. The word, "roll" has many meanings. Kind of like the word run, which in the OED occupies something like three pages. Who knew triathlon could be interpreted so many ways. I have yet to understand, however, how on earth the word "swimmingly" came to mean splendidly/smoothly/etc. They are certainly not talking about the average triathlete. Nor are they talking about me. Maybe Michael Phelps. I don't know. Swimmingly? Splendidly? Not based on most of my trips to the pool... Anyway, let's get back to rolling along. If you've never ridden 138 miles in somewhat thin air (peak elevation of 6,348ft), well, it's amazing how fast it goes by when you've got images of John Turturo in a purple bowling suit with a Latino cover of The Eagle's "Hotel California" playing in the background. I suppose the net elevation descent helped as well. And a top speed of 51.5mph.
I'm not sure if I'm implying that I am somehow the triathlon version of the hair-netted Jesus Quintana. That crazy finger-wrist brace thingy certainly seems a bit like me. Sort of like the bowler's version of an aero helmet. The tall socks would also fit right in in the triathlon world. Clearly they need to be more compressive though, based on the fact that they've fallen down. The hair net? Well, I do wear a beanie for most races under my helmet. Maybe I'm stretching a bit too far. It seemed plausible during that second trip up the long Sparks Lake climb. Then again, a lot of things seemed plausible then. I'd been on the bike for a very long time.
Exiting T2, two thoughts kept running (sorry) through my mind. Don't get passed. And, of course, the only other thing that really mattered. The time on the clock. And whether or it would be enough for a BIG buckle. That's the thing about long races. You just never know. At least until you've got it in your hands. Or, as the case may be, in both hands. Remember, it's a BIG buckle...
Zomething DifferentSeptember 24, 2012
This is sort of my speech from the Leadman Epic 250 awards banquet. I say sort of because unlike most times, when I try to polish what I write and stick pretty much to the script (the day after a hard effort isn't the time to improvise), I used this more of a template for what I wanted to say. The nice thing about Leadman is that the recovery is a lot easier than an Ironman, and thankfully it wasn't only my legs that felt pretty good (I didn't need stairs or a handrail to get to the podium). My brain actually seemed to be functioning as well. So if you were in Bend, you'll probably recognize the general theme, and I hope that what I had to say was at least as good as what I wrote down. And if you weren't in Bend, I'd say this captures the gist of what I had to offer.
Coming up with something appropriate to say about yesterday’s race presented a unique challenge, because there was not just one race; there were two races, and each of them was special and significant and worth talking about in it’s own way. And while there were some obvious differences in the two courses and in the two races, I think there were also some special similarities, and I thought I’d spend the time I’m lucky to have up here speaking about them.
Given the age groups that are typically the most full at races, I think most people here are old enough to remember Zima, the not very good “alternative to beer” (and an especially poor alternative to craft brew like the good stuff served by Deschutes at yesterday’s finish line) Coors introduced in the early 90’s. Marketed with the catchy phrase, “Zomething Different,” Zima died a slow and painful death that lasted, amazingly, until 2008, when it seems like it really should have been enjoying a revival with the advent of “malted” beverages. But it did not. Thankfully, it vanished, and may it rest in peace. It does, however, still live on - like many bizarro creations - in Japan. Go figure...
So what does Zima have to do with triathlon. Well, nothing really, except for a reminder to be thankful that the finish line was stocked with various delicious Dechutes microbrews. But it was the immensely cheesy tagline that got me thinking about what to say to you all. Of all the things that pop into my head during a really, really, really long bike ride. Yes, this was one of the many random thoughts that came into my head during the race. Don’t ask me why. I’ve long given up trying to figure out what I do - and don’t - think about during races. Leadman - both 125 and 250 - is “zomething different.” Or, since we aren’t pretending to be some sort of imported European alcopop, Leadman is “SOMETHING different.” There have been five total Leadman races - the inaugural 125 and 250 in Las Vegas in 2011, the second 125 in Las Vegas earlier this year, and now the first ever Bend 250 and 125. This course is drastically different than the Vegas course, which was itself quite different between the 125 and 250 versions. It was so much different that I don’t think it’s worth comparing them at all. And I think that’s also something special about the Leadman races. They stand alone. This race does not need to be compared to Vegas. It stands on it’s own with it’s own iconic memories - like frozen fingers after the swim in the crystal clear waters of remote Cultus Lake, and the seemingly endless Sparks Lake climb, and the bomber descent back into Bend - I hit 51mph at my fastest and I gather I wasn’t even close to the fastest person, and the fantastic run along the Deschutes River and through downtown Bend. This race truly showcased the best of Bend; and the best of Bend is pretty awesome.
But it wasn’t a race to come set a PB at, though by virtue of being the first race here, everyone set a PB for this particular race. And you almost certainly would have bested your time from Vegas if you did that either this year or last. But that was not why you all showed up. The distance is unique. The course is distinct. And the race is truly something different. For the 250ers, perhaps it was a dream of a belt buckle. Congrats to those of you who earned them - big or small. And for the 125ers, maybe you just wanted to race somewhere new, somewhere beautiful, or just do something a little bit special.
There’s a place for the established races. I’m glad we have them. And maybe some day Leadman will be like that. I hope so, but I also hope it doesn’t lose it’s spirit. I think the spirit of Leadman is not about times (except for sneaking in under belt buckle time) or some larger goal or anything like that. I think it taps into the roots of triathlon. It’s about seeing if you can do it. It’s about trying something crazy, and when I saw 28 Fahrenheit on the drive to Cultus Lake, I was certain it was indeed crazy. How fast will I go? I don’t know. Will I earn a buckle? I don’t know. I would say there was more that you didn’t know than you did when you walked down that carpet into the lake yesterday morning. And I think that hopefully means you all learned a little something about yourself yesterday. That you answered some of those questions, whatever they might have been. Leadman is different. And I think that’s probably the biggest challenge thing it has to overcome. But I also think it’s one of the best things it has going for it, along with truly spectacularly beautiful courses.
Leadman races, to me, are about embracing the landscape, the topography, the geography, the scenery, and the culture of the venue. Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch.com calls races like this “terroir” races, since like a wine, a race offers - or rather can offer when it’s done right - a taste of what the area has to offer. Terroir races aren’t common, because it’s hard to let the venue dictate the race rather than the other way around. Most of the time, it seems races are designed almost by saying, “we need somewhere to swim that meets these requirements, and the bike course needs to be basically like this, and then the run should be a bit like this.” And I get that, because deviating away from what is known to work is a risk. Split transitions are a nuisance for everyone, especially when they are 50ish miles apart. But look at what we got as a result. Wow. You can get something truly remarkable when you go in with the attitude of, “what sort of race course does this area want us to put on? What do the locals think the race should be? What showcases what makes this place special?” It’s the race course that makes the race special, rather than the race making the course special. That isn’t to say there will only ever be one or two Leadman races, but I think the races themselves are meant to share little more than a name and a general template of distance (long swim, long bike, relatively short run). Las Vegas is not Bend. And Bend will not be Tempe. But I hope that you all might find your way back to a Leadman starting line again, because while I think there’s room for the establishment, there’s also room for something different. That’s what put me on that starting line (and some belt buckle lust), and I enjoyed sharing the experience of something different with all of you. And I hope you enjoyed it as well.
And, of course, as far as something different goes, racing around Mt. Bachelor sure beats citrusy alcoholic soda...
Two Steps Forward. One Step Short.May 8, 2012
© Timothy Carlson, Slowtwitch.com 2012
Second place can be one of the hardest places, mentally, to finish. You're left with all those questions about where you might have picked up those critical minutes or seconds needed to move up just enough to claim victory. There is a truly massive difference between winning a race and everything else - in all aspects. But looking back at the weekend, it's hard for me to find too much I'd change. Overall, I executed the race that I wanted to execute. Unfortunately, Jesse Thomas was just better on the day. There are some relatively minor - in the overall scheme of execution - things that I'd change that might have given me a better shot to win, but ultimately I went about as fast as I thought I was capable of going on this course this year given the conditions; I think with some perfect pacing, I had another 30sec or maybe a minute, but given that I lost by 1:24, I don't see that putting me across the line first. I think I might have played my cards a bit differently in an effort to slow Jesse down - I didn't do myself any favors by setting the pace for him for the first 40 miles of the ride - but whether or not those things would have changed the outcome is a total unknown. He might have paced himself exactly the same and still crossed the line first. He's a first class athlete with a first class motor, perhaps an even bigger one than he even realized after a 3:58:59, the 3rd fastest time ever on the Wildflower course.
One thing I certainly wasn't going to let happen was to have a 4:04:45 earn him another spot on the stairway of champions. 4:00:22 would have been good enough to win here on many occasions, but it wasn't this year, and my biggest takeaway is that I just need to continue to chip away and get faster. I was faster in all three disciplines than in 2009, with my run - 1:16:11 - being 5th fastest on the day, and 2nd fastest (after Thomas) among those in the hunt for the win - showing the most improvement. And I came out of the water right where I needed to be and was able to execute during the swim to stay in that group. On the bike, I had good legs, perhaps good enough to roll the dice a bit more than Idid, but it's hard for me to really do much more than nitpick in the way that I think all athletes do when they come up short. If I was truly satisfied with second, I think it'd be time for me to find something else to do. I am happy with how I finished, but I am certainly not content. Wildflower is very much a race I'd like to win, and I think it's a race that I'm very much capable of winning. But I'll just have to wait until 2013 for another crack at it.
While I don't generally like to delve into discourse of the internal business side of the sport as a pro, there are two noteworthy things about this weekend that I want to mention. The first is related to the race itself. One of the nicest things about this race is the almost non-existant cost to do the race. Tri-California provides first class accommodation (I shared a three bedroom, two bathroom house overlooking Lake Nacimiento with one other pro) to every pro, which means that even those who don't place in the top-10 aren't out of pocket much more than travel expenses. Secondly, the race pays ten deep, and it does so in a very equitable manner, which I appreciate. The breakdown of prize money can be found HERE, but it's just as easily summed up by the fact that first place gets $5000 and 10th place gets $600. One of the benchmarks for "fair" prize money payout is that place X should never get less than 1/X of first. However, that is a true rarity in triathlon, with overly top heavy purses - often egregiously so (NYC was the worst offender, in my opinion, from a percentage standpoint paying $10,000 for first and $500 for fifth and $0 for sixth; but prize purses where first place represents an overwhelming portion of the prize purse are, unfortunately, the norm). If you read this interview with Mark Montgomery, you'll see that Terry Davis has regularly gone above and beyond to "make things right" when they haven't been. And I think the distribution of the prize money and the lodging for the pros are representative of that focus. I do, however, think it's a bit unfortunate that the prize purse overall ($40,000 total) has fallen a bit behind relative to other premiere half-Ironman events put on by both Rev3 and WTC. But overall,
I'm less concerned the quantity of prize money as compared with how it is distributed and, more generally, how the pros are treated, and on both of those counts, Tri-California does a great job.
The other thing that continues to amaze me is the commitment Specialized has made to their Specialized Racing team. They were the first company to truly offer pro-cycling level support to their athletes. The team truck and the on-site mechanics that the Specialized Racing MTB team enjoyed is now a fixture at many of our biggest races. This year at Wildflower, as an added bonus, they brought in their own photographer and also a professional soigneur who has worked with the mountain bike team for a long time. The presence of a dedicated photographer shows the value that they place on their sponsored athletes, something which I feel is unparalleled in the industry, and having a soigneur on site was incredible after the race, when you are often fighting to get a 10-15 minute rubdown from someone in massage school trying to get treatment practice. I could have taken advantage of Pieter's services before the race, but having never had a soigneur at a race, I wanted to avoid trying anything "new," though with some familiarity with him - and he with me - I'd certainly do it if I needed it in the future at a race where Specialized brought him in. While none of this support really makes a big difference to anyone other than me and the other Specialized pros - though I know the mechanics do an amazing job helping to fix all bikes, both Specialized and otherwise, before the race, I do feel I'd be remiss if I didn't say thank you (again) for what Specialized does for me, and for all of their athletes. Introducing Jesse Thomas to the folks in Morgan Hill continues to seem like a worse idea all the time...
All in all, after my double-flat at Leadman, it feels like I've really kicked off 2012. Despite not racing as much to start this year as I have in years past, I was firing on all cylinders on race day and - amazingly - was actually pretty fast in transition as well. I had a successful first race on my new bike (no matter how much you train a bike, it's always a tiny bit of a question mark until you get that first race in the books). And I think I truly did learn something from the mistakes I made both leading up to and during this race last year. But as nice as all that is, there is most certainly a fire burning to get back to the top step of the podium in two weeks at Ironman Texas. After Wildflower, I said, "If we'd had to go around twice, I'd like my chances a lot better." Well, I'm about to get my wish. Bring it on.
Quick post script thanks to Trevor Wurtele, who posted this on my Facebook. Pretty much...
Looking Ahead to 2012February 3, 2012
After a stellar 2009 and a less-than-stellar 2010, I joked that I should probably only race in odd years. 2011 seemed to bear that out, being an incredible year on many fronts, both on and off the race course. I returned to the top step of an Ironman podium, I became a World Champion, and - most importantly - I became a father. Looking ahead, I have to wonder how I'll top that. Though, to be honest, I will say that topping it isn't really a priority.
I think I've found the success I have by being focused on the process, and letting the process lead me down a journey to a destination where the results are defined by the hard work, the commitment to excellence, and the relentless pursuit of... (to borrow Simon Whitfield's phrase).
When I set out on this journey, I wanted to win an Ironman. I've done that. Three times. And then I wanted, just once, to be the best in the world for just a single moment, and on a cold day in early November, I did that too. And, of course, there is the overwhelming change in perspective that accompanies becoming a parent, when suddenly, there is someone in the world who matters to you a lot more than you ever have mattered to yourself. After the best races of my career, it was still bath time at somewhere around 5:30pm. And, after my first ever Ironman DNF and one of the worst races of my career, it was still bath time at somewhere around 5:30pm. So when I think about what comes now, I know that it'll still be bath time at somewhere around 5:30pm... At least until Quentin decides that he's too big to have bath time with his dad anymore.
But until then, I get myself out the door to swim, bike, and run every day because I think I am lucky to have the greatest job in the world, a job that provides a good life for my family, and allows me to be home (almost) every night for bath time. I believe that if you do something you love, you want to do it well. In my case, I want it to do it perfectly. Despite knowing that's unattainable, it is what I strive for. That's true of both being a parent and being a professional triathlete. I want to win races because I love to race, I love to win, and I love to do my job well. And because, at varying levels of consciousness depending on the moment, I know that someone else - someone very small but very special - is counting on me.
When I look ahead to 2012, I have some big goals set out - trying to join Ray Browning as the only man to threepeat at Ironman Canada; redeeming myself at Wildflower; defending my title at Leadman; and to making sure that I'm ready for a bath at somewhere around 5:30pm.
ITU Long Distance World ChampionshipsNovember 7, 2011
This past Saturday was the first time in my career that I've had a chance to represent the USA at a major race as I competed in the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Henderson, Nevada outside of Las Vegas. The standard distance is 4km/120km/30km, but the opening 4km swim was canceled due to unseasonably cold temperatures that dropped the water temperature to 55F, which - combined with air temperatures in the high-30s - made for potentially unsafe conditions according to the ITU's rules on air/water temperature differential. With the race being a split transition race, it was not possible to switch to a duathlon format, so the race went on a no warm-up TT start with athletes leaving every five seconds. This made for a very different race, with the bike being much faster right out of the gate, and - of course - the possibility that being first across the line wouldn't result in a win. As #11, I left relatively early, just ahead of defending world champion Sylvain Sudrie of France and well ahead of Michael Raelert, Joe Gambles, and many of the other favorites. I moved into the lead about 20miles into the bike, but then surrendered the lead to Martin Jensen of Denmark when his power trumped power-to-weight on the downhill stretch starting at about mile 32. I was able to hold onto virtual second-place during the ride, but Martin had a very good ride to come into T2 first by about 5min, giving him a virtual 6min lead with the staggered start over myself and Sylvain Sudrie, who shadowed me for almost the entire ride. I had a good transition and gapped Sudrie a bit, but then he managed to work his way back up in the first two miles. On the first of four laps of the run course, I wasn't able to make any time on Martin, but then his lead started to shrink, and I caught him midway through the third lap. But I was still unable to shake Sudrie, who would have beaten me even if I was able to cross the line ahead of him in a tight finish. So I knew I needed to gap him and also to continue to put time into Raelert and Gambles, who had started about 2.5 minutes behind with the stagger. I broke away near the end of the third lap and was able to extend my lead enough that I was pretty confident I had it wrapped up as I grabbed the stars & stripes on the way into the finish. But it was an anxious few minutes waiting for the second and third place finishers to cross. And it wasn't until we got an official printout that I was really sure I'd won, which made things a bit odd. It was nice to celebrate - but with reservations. Until, that is, I got to stand on the top of the podium, and I got to hear, for the first time ever, the Star Spangled Banner played because of me, which was a truly amazing experience.
Ironman Canada 2011September 2, 2011
Finally got around to collating my thoughts from the race. First off, I'd like to say thank you to all of you. I was asked on my "Ask me anything about Ironman Canada" thread on Slowtwitch how winning this race compared with winning in 2009. And my answer was, in numerous ways, influenced by the extraordinary commitment that everyone on this list has shown. There are a couple particular examples that I give involving Specialized, who gave me a contract after my IMC'09 win, and Zoot, who I signed with for this year, but really, those anecdotes could have been written about any of the companies that I am fortunate to represent. I take an enormous amount of confidence into each and every race from the unfailing support that you all give me. It's a lot easier to know that a subpar or even poor result won't matter when you all were willing to stick by me when it wasn't clear if I'd ever race at a high level ever again. Here is what I wrote, and I hope it reflects how much your support means to me.
I think IMC'09 was about proving things to other people. And, honestly, IMAZ'09 was a lot of "unfinished business" on that course and also proving that Canada wasn't a fluke. I think I focused a lot on what OTHER people thought. This race, IMC'11, was really about me. Proving things to myself.
I don't know that I thought about what the winning meant too much before the race in any of those years. Generally, I try to focus on "today." I learned that from Simon Whitfield. What do I need to do TODAY. That helps keep the noise of the race from interfering with getting ready to actually do it. During the race, though, while my primary focus is on execution, there are those moments - generally the ones where I actually have a rare clear memory of some section of the race because I'm not 100% focused on racing - that you think about "other" stuff, and I those cases, I'd say the other races were very much influenced by my thoughts of other people, including the athletes on the course. And this year, it was really about me. I think I kept my focus really well during this race because of that.
Afterwards, I'd say I have the most sense of "completion" after this race. Following both IMC'09 and IMAZ'09, I struggled with "what now?" I don't feel that at all after this race. I feel like because it was such a personal journey without much regard for other people, I think it's easier to be satisfied with that performance and to shift my focus to my next task, because I'm only worried about what I think, not what other people thought, and what do they think now. As a practical example, I struggled before IMC'09 to find a bike sponsor. Afterwards, I felt like I now "deserved" to find a good sponsor, but still that was stressful because what if winning IMC didn't actually result in good sponsorship? Now, I have great sponsors who supported me even when I was laying in a hospital bed and who I have long term contracts with. So it's not about proving myself and my value to the outside world. Now it's about executing and delivering on the promise that I feel I've made to these companies. To give another example, I raced in prototype Zoot shoes and a prototype Zoot race suit. They made that stuff for me because I said, "This is what I like and what I think will help me win." So they delivered it. And so it's like, they held up their end of the bargain, now I need to hold up mine. That's sort of the opposite of after IMC'09, when it was like, I've held up my end of the bargain, now who wants to hold up theirs?
I guess before I felt I had to *prove* I was a professional. Now I feel like I just have be a professional. And, thanks to [my sponsors] unwavering support, I have been able to make dealing with the accident something that was really only between me and myself. And that has been both hard - because sometimes it's nice to rail against "doubters" and "haters" - but also really rewarding, because it's been a huge opportunity to become a better athlete and better person for myself.
You can read a copy of my "race report" (though, like most of what I write, it's not really about the race, it's more "inspired by the race.") here
And I got some very positive and kind words on my speech at the race banquet, so I shared it with all of the triathlon media. Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch.com published it first, and you can find it here (and also on my blog):
You all should have gotten some low-resolution images that David McColm took and which I sent along with his contact info. If you didn't, and you want to get some images for media purposes, let me know, and I will resend.
Thank you, as always, for all your support. This victory is your as much as it is mine.
Chasing AbuMarch 18, 2011
This post is an homage to a classic 90's film, "Chasing Amy." The IMDB entry for it sums it nicely, "Holden
and Banky are comic book artists. Everything's going good for them
until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her,
but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she's a lesbian." As you
might imagine, romantically pursuing someone who prefers members of the
opposite sex is rather futile. Likewise, trying to catch up after
putting yourself down five minutes on the best field outside of Kona
within the first 40ish minutes of the race is equally hopeless. If you
combine really strong winds, the typically randomness of early season
fitness, a very long and hotly contested bike ride, and temperatures in
the high 90s, you might get lucky enough to get the equivalent of a
phone number on a napkin. In my case, that worked out to 11th, otherwise
known as Simon Whitfield's "two first places," which Hamish Carter
correctly identified as "loser math."
For the rest of Jordan's story please visit blog.rappstar.com
S-Works True Morgan Hill Stories: The AllezDecember 6, 2010
The title of this blog is a blatant ripoff of the IQ-reducing show "E True Hollywood Stories," but I promise that's where the similarities end. I wanted to come up with a thematic idea that would carry me through at least a few entries, and I decided that it might be pretty cool to tell the "story" behind some of the bikes. Catalog space is limited, dealers have - understandably - a different agenda when they talk to you about bikes than sharing the nuances of design history, and questions like "what's the headtube length" or "what cranks come on that bike" are the primary questions that most folks want answered when they peruse Specialized.com. But here on IAmSpecialized.com, things are a bit more casual. And so I pressured some folks on the engineering team to sharing some of their thoughts when designing the bikes that finally made it to the showroom floor.
The first bike covered is, to me, one of the most interesting bikes that Specialized makes, simply because it's a extremely capable bike at an extremely reasonable price. You'll recall, I hope, one of my first posts on this site - "Why Triathletes *NEED* a Road Bike." And I think the Allez, at $550 for a Comp frameset and $1400 for the very capably equipped Allez Comp Compact M2 complete bike, answers the call mightily, even for the most frugal of triathletes. But what makes the Allez so interesting is not just that it's a reasonably priced road bike. It's that it's a very well engineered reasonably priced road bike. I sat down, figuratively speaking though we were both seated at the time just not in the same place, with Mark Cote, the man behind the most recent re-engineering of what was once Specialized's flagship bike, back when carbon was almost unknown outside of forks and Cipollini was dominating sprints in his zebra patterned kit. The current Allez plays second fiddle to the Tarmac as a race-bike, but not by nearly as much as the price points ($2900 for the Tarmac SL3 frameset) would indicate.
Cote emphasized to me that "trickle down of advancements" is an inevitable part of any technological industry, and it's especially ingrained at Specialized. The former ne plus ultra of composites engineering - the Tarmac SL2 - is now found as part of a $2000 complete bike in the Tarmac Elite. Component makers have followed that same path. Cote said that SRAM's wide-range compact Apex groupset (what's appropriately spec'ed on the Allez) and it's cousin - Rival - as well as Shimano's 105 group are much better now than the highest priced groups of even a few years ago. But could the trickle down of technology make the leap from composites to aluminum? That was the question that Cote set out to answer.
Fundamentally, composites - namely, carbon & epoxy - differ massively from isotropic (exhibiting properties with the same values when measured along axes in all directions - Merriam-Webster) materials like aluminum. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty engineering of layups and fiber orientation, let's just say that composites allow you a great deal of flexibility when designing something like the, uhm, flexibility of a given tube. But what Cote was quick to point out was that, to a large extent, shape really does dictate a large part of function when it comes to structural engineering. A really large diameter composite tube is going to be quite resistant to bending. And a really large diameter aluminum tube is as well. So Cote set out to see how much of the SL3's performance he could trickle down by simply duplicating the SL3's tube shapes - hence the remarkable visual similarities between the Allez and the SL3 - and then simply tuning wall thicknesses to get the performance metrics he wanted.
Ultimately, the answer to the question of "how much?" was an emphatic, "A LOT!" For roughly a 400g (or approximately 1lb.) weight increase (obviously dependent on the size of the frame), Cote was able to design a bike that was actually 1% stiffer torsionally (what most people take a shine to when cornering and descending) than the current premier road bike offering, the SL3, and significantly stiffer than the SL2. Giving up the OSBB standard in favor of a threaded bottom bracket and, according to Cote, some slight room for improvement in chainstay design results in marginally less bottom bracket stiffness than the SL3, but it's still more than stiff enough for even the mightiest crit racer. Cote felt that with some tweaks to the chainstays and dropouts, he might even be able to come closer to the SL3's stiffness there as well. But that's a project for the future, though it does give some insight into the "never satisfied" mentality of the engineering team.
I asked Cote why he wasn't worried about cannibalizing sales of the higher end bikes. I almost felt like I was the keeper of what should have been a secret. I ride an SL3, and I'm reminded almost daily that the bike far exceeds my skill level. I'm certain that, even watching the Grand Tours, that the very best bikes exceed the abilities of even the best bike riders. A bike like the Allez would be way more bike, from a performance standpoint, than the vast majority of riders would ever need. But Cote was more than happy to share. "Any time you can make a better bike - at any price point - you have to do it." Alrighty then...
There will always be folks who want the pinnacle of performance, but especially for triathletes, where a road bike is really just a workhorse - though a workhorse that is missing from far too many stables - the Allez is the bike that fits the bill perfectly. It's a bike that can do anything and everything, except for breaking the bank.
Isn't engineering wonderful?
A Victory for the TechnocratsOctober 11, 2010
The 2010 Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii served as a vindication of sorts for the pro-technology crowd, those of us who insist that wind tunnel tests are relevant, that aero differences do matter, and that the time savings to be had by investing in well-designed, wind-tunnel developed products are real and significant. I bold the world development because "wind-tunnel tested" has become a bit of an industry catch phrase. As I like to point out, if I have the time, money, and the inclination, I could put my blender in the wind tunnel and test it. My blender could then carry an official wind-tunnel-tested sticker, but it would still be as unaerodynamic as it was before. A test only reveals how good - or how bad - a job you did when designed something. Testing is important, but it doesn't make products better. A wind-tunnel developed product is one where time was spent in the tunnel refining a design based of testing of prototypes, changes, tweaks, etc. Wind tunnel development is what makes the best products - from an aerodynamic perspective, and it's how the best companies design their bikes/wheels/aerobars/etc.
For the first time that I can remember, all three members of the men's podium rode wind-tunnel developed bikes, used windtunnel developed wheels, and wore windtunnel developed aerohelmets. Specialized's cutting-edge Shiv and TT02 helmet came out on top, so it's okay to mention the "other" brands used - Zipp wheels by Macca & Marino (Raelert used Shimano's latest creations - the C75), the latest wind-tunnel developed bikes from Blue (their new Triad SL) and Scott (their new Plasma 3), and Giro Advantage 2 helmets on both Marino & Raelert. In case I didn't mention it, Macca won the race...
Aero helmets were especially prevalent in the top-10 this year, with none of the top-10 athletes except Craig Alexander choosing to eschew an aero lid. The Specialized TT02 was one of the most prevalent helmet in the top-10, with both Raynard Tissink (5th) and Dirk Bockel (8th) choosing that helmet, despite not being Team Specialized riders. It's worth noting that despite the contention made every year that aerohelmets are hotter, there is a very significant difference between feeling hotter - which generally means increased skin temperature - and being hotter- which means an increased core temperature. Aero helmets certainly make you feel hotter, but I've never seen any evidence that they actually cause an increase in core temperature. Considering that from an aerodynamic perspective, they can be as significant as putting a disc wheel on your bike, that's an awful lot of time savings to leave on the table. Note the word "can" in there, though. Like wheels and bikes, not all helmets are created equal, and - to further complicate things - the very best helmet is individual, unlike a bike or wheels. But in virtually all cases, an aero helmet is going to be faster than a regular road helmet.
One of the most notable element of the bike setups, at least to me, was how "clean" Macca's bike was. He had a single bottle cage on his frame and a second regular bottle cage mounted between his arms. That's it. Many competitors had aero-drink bottles up front - which are actually a detriment on a bike with as aero a front end as the Shiv - AND rear saddle-mounted hydration systems, which are an aerodynamic disaster. The only potential improvement would have been a Virtue aero-bottle on the frame, but for a race like Kona, I can see not only wanting - but feeling as if you need - two regular bottle cages. The Virtue bottle is significant because it was designed to work with the specific tube shapes of Specialized's bikes. It does not make the bike any faster. But it also doesn't slow it down at all, something that is important to consider when you need to race the clock and worry about nutrition/hydration. Macca's ability to run a clean bike was helped by his win-or-go-home mentality (full complement of spares wasn't needed), but for most age-group athletes, a very close to equally clean bike could be achieved, especially if you run clinchers (a topic for the future), and only need a very small saddle bag to carry 1 tire level, 2 CO2, a microflate, a micro-tool, one tire boot, and a spare tube. A very small saddle bag will hold all that in an aerodynamically optimal way just under your saddle, giving you a bike that is almost as clean as what Macca rode to victory. A gel flask tucked in a back pocket, as Macca did, is probably equal to a flask mounted neatly behind the bars, but again, if you approach setting up your bike with "how little do I need to carry," you'll probably avoid setting up your bike like a grocery store with wheels. So be judicious. And remember that pacing is the number one limiter on nutrition (another topic for the future). If you pace well, you'll likely tolerate the on-course nutrition just fine. The pros seem to do just fine, and it's amazing how gatorade/etc. work just fine during training for almost everyone, but during a race - when many people push way outside their limits - their stomachs cannot tolerate it. Nutrition problems are very often (though not always) pacing problems. So pace well, and you can keep that bike nice and clean. Far better to learn to pace your race than to start adding pounds of nutrition/hydration onto it.
It's hard to know exactly what rubber shod the wheels of each bike, but I do know that the Specialized Mondo S-Works is one of the fastest rolling - from a Crr perspective - tires around. So at least I know that Macca had good treads. Gluing job makes a big impact, though, in the case of tubulars (again, something for the future), so no way of knowing who really came out ahead. But across the board, Macca made excellent equipment choices, and it paid off with his second Ironman World Championships. So kudos to Macca for sweating the details. And kudos to the geeks who helped him do so.
Getting DirtySeptember 23, 2010
Continuing a theme, I've yet again farmed out the coming-up-with-ideas part of writing. This time, my debt of gratitude is to my friend Adam Van Koeverden, who is a darn good cyclist. He's an even better kayaker, having won Gold, Silver, and Bronze over two Olympic Games and a ton of other medals at World Champs in his K1. Adam lives in Ontario, which means winter is basically 11.99 months of the year, and riding fast on clear pavement is not really an option. But even for those folks who do not call the frozen hinterland of Canada home, mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes represent two very valuable training tools. You may hearken back to my earlier post on "Why Triathletes NEED a Road Bike," which covered the importance of hip angle as an overarching determinant of biomechanics while pedaling. That same logic applies here, only it's not to say that triathletes *NEED* a mountain bike or 'cross bike (though every cyclists needs N+1 bikes, where N is the number that they have). Rather it's to say that with an appropriate fit, the miles you pedal on your MTB or 'cross bike can be very valuable for your triathlon biking, just as valuable from a physiological point of view, and more valuable from a staying safe and staying sane point of view.
Both mountain biking and 'cross work heavily on bike "skills" like balance and handling, the value of which are hard to measure, but which I personally feel offer a real benefit. I felt like I became a more confident - and thereby more speedy - descender after spending time on my mountain bike. Furthermore, both mountain bikes and cross bikes generally only punish your own bad decisions. You are not going to get into an accident on the trails because of some woman talking on her cellphone will trying to calm down her dog and finish her 7Eleven big gulp. If I sound jaded on the topic of motorists, it's because I am. I will honestly say that my goal is really to spend less and less time on the roads, while still being able to spend just as much time on my bike. And mountain bikes and 'cross bikes help to fit that bill. Depending on where you live, your training may be a lot more intense and technical singletrack or it may be more open and flowing doubletrack. If you're really lucky, you'll have access to both. Regardless of which you have access to, you can get a great training stimulus from your riding. Just be aware if your training is all Zone 1 & Zone 4/5/6 or if you can actually get in some Zone 2/3 stuff as well. The nice thing, if you're inclined to be a big spender, is that there are very good powermeters available for MTBs these days, and most road bike powermeters are more than robust enough to withstand the rigors of 'cross. Don't expect your powerfiles to look anything like your road bike files, but they can be useful for helping you track and evaluate your training. I personally just rely on my own internal gauge of "that was HARD," especially since I tend to do my dirty-wheel riding in the offseason, when just pedaling is more important than how hard you pedal.
One of the big decisions if you opt for an MTB over a 'cross bike is full-suspension vs. hardtail. Personally, I prefer a hardtail MTB, and I just got my hands on a new 29er hardtail, but I don't have any real miles on it yet to comment on it vs. my old 26er HT. There are two reasons for my preference, which may have little to no bearing on your choice. The first is simplicity. Admittedly, many rear suspension setups are set-it-and-forget-it these days, but when I first got a bike, a rear shock was another thing to worry about on a bike that I wanted to "just ride." I didn't plan on riding it enough that I wanted to fiddle with rear travel, since I knew little to nothing about it. Being overly analytical, I was paralyzed enough trying to dial in my rebound settings exactly right on my fork. If you can tolerate "good enough" suspension, this likely won't bother you, and you can enjoy all of the goodness of a full-suspension rig. The other reason I stick to riding a HT is that it keeps me from making some bad decisions. The number of things that you can ride a HT down if you are only a moderately skilled rider is less than the number of things that you can ride a FS rig down. That means that when you are tempted to ride that black diamond trail that you know in your heart of hearts is too technical for you, you probably won't make it very far on a HT. And that's if you even decide to make that decision in the first place. It's just not fun to ride stuff above your skill level on a HT. On a FS rig, you can make a lot worse decisions, because your bike will - literally - help smooth over those bad decisions, at least until you get to the point where the decision is too seriously bad for a bike to bail you out. But if you are the kind of person that is prone to getting yourself into trouble (I am), the a HT might preemptively save your behind.
One other area where your true geekiness can shine through is with tire selection. If you thought the age-old debate of tubulars vs. clinchers for road riding was bad, you haven't seen anything. There are dry hardpack, dry & loose, mud, etc. variety of tires. My best advice is to ask the locals what works best. Failing that, a good "all around" tire often really can work as well as advertised, but I will say that tires that were great all-rounders in the northwest were really lousy in the southwest. So have fun picking tires and definitely tap into local knowledge. Personally, I love choosing tires, but if you aren't so obsessed with molded rubber, let someone else make the decision for you. And while tubeless is AWESOME, remember that your spares kit needs to include a tube and boot, since if you do really badly damage your tire, a tube might be the only way you make it home without hiking a long way in shoes that weren't really meant for hiking.
Ultimately, riding a bike is about staying fit and having fun. How you balance and weigh those factors is up to you. But, especially if you aren't in proximity to a race, a MTB or 'cross bike offers a great way to keep (or develop) great bike fitness. Given the choice between heading outdoors or riding the trainer, I always prefer to ride outside. And I feel confident that I'm doing just as much good for my fitness - and a lot better for my brain - by doing it on the trails. And I hope you all will as well. Get dirty. Have fun. Stay fit.
How Sustainable is "Accomplishment" as a Motivator for Growth in Triathlon?September 8, 2010
First off, thanks to Joe Santos for coming up with this great idea for a blog. Just over a week ago, I was lucky enough to commentate on Ironman Canada in my part-time hometown of Penticton, BC. Ironman Canada is one of the oldest triathlons in the world, and in 2012 it will celebrate its 30th anniversary. In that time, the race has grown exponentially, with over 2,800 age-group participants toeing the line in the latest running. For every participant lucky enough to cross the line on what was certainly an especially tough day with hard winds, cooler than normal temps, and a fair bit of rain, the phrase "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" came as a welcome relief. But the question that I'm often left wondering is, "is that all that some folks were seeking?" They are Ironmen (and Ironwomen), and now they can move on to the next items on their bucket lists. And they will be replaced, at least temporarily, by other folks in the same boat. But are they an endless supply of these "one-timers?" I don't know. And I don't know if anything short of relentlessly browsing Craigslists and eBay and emailing every seller of a used bike to ask if they are getting out of the sport will tell you. But those one-timers are missing out, and the rest of us owe it to them to make sure they don't walk away without some sense of what they are missing. But in order to do that, I think we all need to think hard about what this sport really means to us - if anything - or if it's simply a vehicle to fuel our type-A need for accomplishment on a continual basis.
I recall doing my very first Ironman at Ironman Canada in 2007. As I waited in line for body marking, the two guys in front of me were talking about the next Ironman they were planning to do. They hadn't even started the race, and already there eyes were 140.6 plus miles up the road. While not the same as the person who starts strictly with the idea of finishing their first - and also last - Ironman, I got a similar sense that there was a lack of appreciation for the "now." Simon Whitfield and Joel Filliol, my biggest influences in this sport, were fond of calling the here-and-now, "The Process." And I think "process" is always going to be more sustainable than accomplishment. Because "process" is the day in and day out. Process bears a lot in common, though I would say it's not identical, to what many folks call the triathlon "lifestyle." I think lifestyle is equally sustainable as a motivator for growth, but my dislike for "lifestyle" is that I think it's somewhat exclusionary. People who just want to get their training in, working it around family life, work commitments, and other hobbies are just as important as the guy who shaves his legs year round and wears his finisher's t-shirts as formal wear. I would say it's "process" that really connects those folks - those who really define themselves as "triathletes" and those for whom triathlon is simply something that they do.
In either case, it's the doing - not being done - that is the draw, and I think that's what makes something really last. Looking at other sports, I can't think of a comparable example to the typical question posed of many triathletes by co-workers and family members, "have you done a 'FULL' (or 'REAL') triathlon?" Or, the follow-up question to telling folks that you do/did a triathlon, "...like that one in Hawaii?" I'm not particularly concerned with trying to educate folks that a sprint triathlon is just as "real" as an Ironman. What really matters to me is that the people at the start line of a sprint believe that a sprint is just as much of a real triathlon as an Ironman. If you tell people you enjoy swimming, no one asks if you did a "real" swim. There's no such thing as a real bike ride, other than just getting on a bike and going for a ride, though the legions of Spinning enthusiasts might even disagree with me on that. And a 5k seems to be just as real as a marathon if you tell your friends you ran a race over the weekend. But with triathlon, this attitude of any race is a "real" race doesn't seem as prevalent. And I think that is largely perpetuated by triathletes themselves. As much as the "one-timers" who get into the sport simply to do an Ironman and be done, I think many triathletes view themselves only as triathletes because they are doing - or have done - an Ironman. And that cycle of chasing the status of "I've done an Ironman" is probably more pervasive, at least it seems to me, than the attitude of "one-and-done." And that's where I think triathletes need to have more appreciation for the "now."
This is not to lessen the extraordinary accomplishment that is an Ironman. In some ways, I'd say that we all need to recognize how much of an accomplishment that is. And to give ourself a break from, "What's next?" I say this as someone who is absolutely guilty of this. I'm an "achiever," which is not to say that I achieve great things, but rather to admit that I value myself based on what I achieve - or what I'm achieving. And I exist in what is at least a partially - and more likely an extremely - skewed community within triathlon. I spent most time interacting with other triathletes on the Slowtwitch.com forums, where lifestyle is probably inadequate as a term to define how important triathlon is - or at least seems to be - to most folks. "Life" is maybe more appropriate, though again, interacting with folks through only through a keyboard often yields a biased view of the world.
After every race, the remarkable feeling of accomplishment is always accompanied by a feeling of emptiness. And never is this more true, at least for me, than after an Ironman. But having been very close to having the chance to experience that ever again taken away permanently, I had to learn to accept some satisfaction in what I had done, rather than what I was going to do. I'm an Ironman, and nothing can take that away. I'm still not even close to all the way there, though as I prepare for my return to racing, I'm reminded much more often about how lucky I am to simply take part in the process. And I hope that the rest of you can as well. Enjoy being done. Enjoy doing. Just enjoy.
Despite the fact that it's pretty normalJuly 16, 2010
Despite the fact that it's pretty normal, I feel obliged to warn everyone anyway. I have something to tell all of you. I don't mean this in a confessional sort of way. I mean it more in the sense of, "Listen, I'm sorry that you may have done things different before, but this is how you're gonna start doing things now." I think this tends to be the way I normally speak, since while other people may believe they are correct, I *KNOW* I am correct. And here is what I'm about to school all of you non-knowers on - undershirts.
No, I'm not talking about the cheapo three-pack of A-shirts (aka "wife-beaters," to the uncouth among us). I'm talking about a proper cycling base layer. Remember those wonderful old AmEx ads - "don't leave home without it"? That's the category to which a wicking base layer belongs. If you are lucky enough to still be able to find snug-sleeved jerseys (American cyclists have destroyed this cut for the rest of us, including those of us who are American but have European-sized biceps), then a sleeveless base layer is preferred. If you have the jerseys where you need to size down one size and still feel like you need do a lot more preacher curls to fill out the sleeves, then I recommend a sleeved base layer. I have a particular affinity for the Specialized 1st Layer
The undershirt is ideally designed to work with bibs. If you wear shorts - and not bibs - then please go away. Or I will taunt you a second time. An undershirt helps prevent the bib straps from rubbing and provides an on-skin wicking layer that is much more effective than a jersey alone. A jersey - especially when worn with bibs - tends not to contact the skin directly, which is not ideal if you wish to wick sweat away from the skin. In case you weren't aware of it, this is what you wish. This is the definition of "wicking," and it is a wonderful thing avail yourself of.
The confusing part of this is that you are wearing more clothes in order to be more cool. More clothes equals less heat. And that is a baffling thing to many people. If you are baffled, fear not. It is the miracle of wicking fabrics. Wool was the original wicking fabric and that's why early cycling kit was made from wool, despite being seemingly "hotter" than something like cotton. Silk is also very nice, but should be reserved for sheets in Las Vegas penthouse suites. I think. I don't know. Yet. But I am still young.
So, all of you undershirt neophytes, get thee to a undershirtery. And let the wicking commence.
Auto Insurance For CYCLINGJune 25, 2010
As some of you may know, I was involved in a hit-and-run accident on March 23, 2010 while riding my bike. I spent 18 days in the hospital, but I'm now out and on the mend and expecting to make a full recovery. One of the most important lessons I learned is that whenever a vehicle is involved in an accident, your auto insurance is responsible for covering you. Your health insurance is also responsible, but your auto insurance is your primary insurer in the event of an accident involving a car, even if you are on your bicycle. I know this is the case in both California and New York, unfortunately due to firsthand experience. You can - and should - call your insurer to discuss with them whether or not they are liable in your home state. From speaking with other cyclists, it seems to be the norm in most - if not all - states. There are also important questions to be asked of your insurance about what happens if you travel abroad (AAA, for example, offers excellent travel insurance) and get in an accident. The best advice I can give is to know what is - and what is not - covered.
I don't think there was much - if anything - I could have done to prevent the accident I was in, except for not riding a bike, which is definitely not an option. But thankfully I had prepared myself adequately from an insurance perspective. I have since increased my policy coverage because I know how lucky I was and how much worse the accident could have been and how quickly the coverage you do have can run out. I am also investigating alternative insurance for when I do travel abroad - such as my trip to Abu Dhabi - and also for additional insurance to cover the accidents that can happen riding your bike that don't involve a car. "Accident" insurance is probably important when you are going as fast as a car, but without the safety of seatbelts and airbags.
I hope this doesn't come across as paranoid or fear-mongering, though I am sure I am slightly more paranoid than I was on Mar 22nd. I just want all of you to stay safe, and - since our safety is often affected by people other than us - I want you all to be prepared in case something does happen. Since I can't ride as much as I used to, for at least a few more days, I have more time to worry about this stuff. But hopefully my experiences and my worry can help provide someone else with peace of mind and also with protection they didn't even know they could have.
Stay safe out there. And have fun. I know that when I am allowed back on the roads by my doctors that I'll do it with some added confidence knowing that I've protected myself and my family against that worst case scenario.
First Ride Since The AccidentMay 17, 2010
45min. Not many watts. Felt awesome. And I got to be outside while riding my bike while still obeying doctors orders. :D
Probably the nicest bike ever, too, for riding without moving. I think with those particular 404 Firecrest prototypes, it's about 14.5lbs. The advantages of not needing to put on a saddle bag with spares and only having one small bottle full.
This felt like a real start too. When I first got clearance to exercise - about a week after getting out of the hospital - I think it was largely about proving to myself that I "could." There was some denial in it. I did the stairmaster because, of course, it wasn't going to be long before I was back in the pool doing, well, something, and certainly back running. But then reality started to hit. It was going to be a while before I could do things they way I could on March 22. Running has been delayed at least three more weeks. I've been to the pool, and I can kick, though even holding the board can be a bit of a challenge. And now I'm riding my bike. And I know it may be a long time before "I'm back." Or it may not be that long. I'm okay with either. I think. At least I believe I'm in a better place about the road back, exercise, training, and my future than I was. I'm in a more honest place. And I'm ready to be patient, to struggle, and to build back step by step - or stroke by stroke or pedal by pedal as the case may be.
I'm already looking forward to riding again tomorrow so much that I thought about riding again today. And that's the best feeling I could ask for.
WE Are SpecializedApril 15, 2010
With the recent announcement of the new Specialized triathlon team, some folks have raised the logical question, "Team? What team? Triathlon is an individual sport." To many people, the new triathlon team may seem simply like a group bound together by nothing more than a common sponsor with no sense of cohesion or commonality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from being a "bigger billboard" or a "shotgun approach to marketing," the Specialized triathlon team has some very definitive elements that show it's something much more than a bunch of random athletes collected under a single marquee.
What I won't attempt to say is that the athletes on the Specialized triathlon team are all best friends who'd give the shirt off their back to a teammate. Some of us are, but that was the case before this team was ever formed. What I want to answer is what it really means to have a team in a sport where individual success is what is rewarded. What is the value of a team when only one person can win a race? That is the question I hope I can answer. I have my own ideas, some of which may be foolish, naive, etc. And you are free to disregard them as such. They are simply my opinions. However, as a part of the team, I hope that I can offer an insiders perspective on the project and share my own thoughts on what I think it means to the company, the athletes, and to the sport as a whole.
This real value of the team was most eloquently summarized in this great article which is about *countries* making a commitment to winning: http://www.sportscoachingbrain.com/high-performance-sports-systems-the-non-system-system/
Walk into Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill and there is a banner celebrating the World Championships that Specialized bikes have won. That is what matters to this company. And the team is about creating a culture that is about winning. Because a team is more than one person. A team is more than "let's hire this guy because he wins races." A team is about supporting what is required to win. It's about taking risks to build better bikes. It's about the creativity required to gain any advantage you can. Ultimately, in order to win consistently as an athlete, you need to do the same things that are required to win as a business. And that is where the Specialized team comes from. It is the manifestation of a corporate culture of winning applied to athletics and vice versa. Athletes that win help make better products. And business that win can help make better athletes. But that's a vision. And a risk. And I don't know if it will work. But I believe in what underpins it. I believe in winning. I believe in high-performance. And that is why I believe in vision of what the Specialized triathlon team aims to be. Because I think that they view athletic success as the pathway to corporate success, and I think that's a valid and proven model, and it's one that I'm excited to be a part of. I'm happy to be a cog in a machine when that machine has a singular purpose - victory.
Why Triathletes *NEED* A Road BikeFebruary 26, 2010
As much as you might read the title and expect that this is going to be a compelling (or fluff) piece on why you must buy a Specialized Tarmac SL3, that is not actually the case. Though, in the words of Ferris Bueller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." No, this is simply about why you - the regular triathlete - needs *a* road bike. Before we get into why you need a road bike, there are some of you who do not need one. If you are this person, you can stop reading right now. If you never ride more than an hour and if you never ride less than 25mph (40kph for you sensible metric folks) and if you view your bike simply as a necessary evil to get from swim to run, then you are 1) very atypical in the triathlon world, 2) probably an ex-swimmer or ex-XC runner, and 3) not the kind of person that needs a road bike. There are a few of these folks in the world. They are not the norm.
Assuming you are still reading along, I will assume that you are not one of those types of people. There are two primary reasons to own a road bike. The first is simple - if you ride with other people, it is not optimal to have your brakes and your shifters in separate places. It's also very much not optimal, unless you are participating in a Team Time Trial, to ride in your aerobars in close proximity to other people. Now, you may have an easy answer (in your own mind) to this "problem." You will just ride in the "pursuit position," which means with your hands on the brake hoods. And this is what brings us to the really real reason that you need a road bike.
Whenever you are NOT in your aerobars, you would better off on a road bike.
The reason for this has to do entirely with biomechanics. People who primarily ride their tribikes use the following argument, "I race on my tribike, so I should train on my tribike." While this is true, most people do (or at least should, assuming they have been properly fitted to their bike and their saddle) race in their aerobars. If you do not race primarily - 90%+ of the bike portion of your race - in the aerobars, then you need a fitting on your tribike, in addition to needing a road bike. But let's assume that you do have a good position on your tri bike and you do race in your aerobars. That's a big assumption, but we will make it, especially since I spent the last two posts encouraging you to get the right saddle. The position that you are fitted to when you go in for a tribike fit is your aerobar fit. It doesn't matter, really, how comfortable your pursuit position is. It just has to be "good enough." There is only ONE position on a tribike, and that is the one in the aerobars. Everything is a compromise position. The reason is that the body angles (specifically the angle of your hips relative to your torso) change a LOT when you are not in the aerobars.
The position of your hips - your hip angle - in this position:
Is very, very different than in this position:
And that is why you need a road bike. Because the latter position - the correct position - is much more similar to this position:
It's quite easy to see when you look at the pictures.
Road bikes have three positions. Hands on the hoods (Fabian in yellow), hands in the drops, and hands on the tops. In all cases, your hip angle remains largely constant, because you will slide back in the saddle when your hands are on the tops and forward when your hands are in the drops. Furthermore, you can also bend your elbows to create the appropriate hip angle. Technically, you can also bend your elbows on a tribike, but this puts a LOT of weight on your hands, which ends up being a very uncomfortable (untenably so) position, and you still aren't likely to get nearly as low as you would if you were on your aerobars.
So what this means is that every time you come up out of your aerobars, you are training in a position that is VERY different from the one you want to race in. And, ironically, in these moments, were you riding a road bike, it would be your position on that bike that would be most similar to the position you aim to race your tribike in. This is the position that will allow you to generate the most power, recruit the most musculature, and be the most comfortable. But you need to train in this position. Especially on a steep seat angle position, riding a tribike in the pursuits/hoods is really much more like this:
than like this:
It's this versatility of positions - all of which allow you to preserve a common hip angle - whether you are climbing, descending, sprinting, pack riding, or just out training that make a road bike so useful. You can train in the same position you will race in, only without needing to put your weight up on the nose of the saddle, crane your neck to see the cars and traffic lights up the road, or do any of the other things that make a tribike less than ideal for doing anything other than riding hard against the clock. And any road bike will do this for you. You can spend less than 1000. You can get entry level parts. You can even have (gasp) a triple! It doesn't matter. The most budget, non-carbon, simple roadbike is going to be the best training tool that you can buy. And it'll make you feel that much faster (because you'll actually be faster) when you do take your tribike out for the kind of ride it was designed for - a hard and fast one. Of course, a really, really, really nice road bike also works well too! But it's the positions that it offers you which make it so useful. So if you want to end up like this, well then you need to train that way, which means you need a road bike...
Swapping Saddles (A Brief Primer)February 10, 2010
In my last piece - The Importance of What's Between Your Legs - I talked about the importance of the saddle as a point of contact on the bike. And I encouraged all of you to push forward in your quest to find the correct saddle. But I realized that - in some ways - that was an incomplete task that I had saddled you all with. I hadn't given you much insight into HOW to choose a new saddle. If you have a new saddle - or saddles - to test, how do you go about doing that. Well obviously you need to ride them. But it's what goes on before all that happens that is what I'm concerned with here.
When you position a saddle on your bike, you have three primary measurements you need to concern yourself with - saddle setback from the bottom bracket, saddle height, and saddle pitch. Unfortunately, all three measurements are intertwined, so it's hard to set one and then move onto the next. It's more of an iterative process. If you have a bike with a round post, you should also center the saddle (it's okay to tilt it very slightly left or right, but again, do this cautiously, if at all). Check the bike from the front (looking backwards) to make sure the saddle is in line with the stem. You can buy a laser-line level (I have one) if you are really particular (I am), but it's amazing how accurate your eyeballs are. If you have a TT bike - or road bike - with dedicated aero seatpost, you should still check this. Make sure the clamp hardware is inline with the frame - if it's not, you should speak with your bike shop about that. And also check the saddle - if the saddle does not sit inline, you may need a new saddle, as rails are not always perfectly straight either. But most modern bikes are built quite well, and most - if not all - of you should have no problems here. Once that is done, we can move onto the actually positioning of the saddle.
Saddle pitch should be set first, since it is unaffected by height and setback, but it does influence them. I use a digital level. You can buy one from Sears, but for those of you with an iPhone or iPod Touch or an Android phone, there are numerous applications you can buy that take advantage of the built in inclinometer in each device. These apps a few dollars, which beats the $50 or so that it costs for a dedicated digital level. I use a hardcover book to span the length of the saddle, and then I rest my level on top of that. For road saddles, I span the full length of the saddle, and set that perfectly level (or even ever so slightly nose up). I just put a Romin SL - a "swoopy" saddle - on my road bike, and this is how I set it up. This is how saddles are designed to be ridden (in most cases), because this is what keeps weight off your hands and on your seat. If you get numb hands when you ride, check your saddle pitch. A saddle that is properly leveled can fix all kinds of hand, back, and neck pain, because it rests your weight where it's nice to sit - on your butt.
Axiom #1: If you can't get comfortable on a saddle when it's level, throw it away (or trade it to a friend). It's not right for you.
For tribikes, you can level the first 2/3 of the saddle, because that is where people sit. I am currently test riding a Toupe on my Transition, and I set the first 2/3 of this saddle level (it's got a very slight hammock due to the shell flex). This makes it easier to roll your pelvis when you are sitting where you actually sit when you ride a TT bike, which is nowhere near the rear of the saddle.
Axiom #2: if you sit on the back of the saddle when riding your TT bike, throw it (your saddle) away. It's not right for you.
Once you get your saddle pitch set, now it's time to adjust height and setback. You may need to double check pitch again at the end, because you will be loosening and tightening the bolts that hold the saddle in place. Figuring you know about where on the seatpost your old saddle was, first check the setback. You can use a plumb bob for this, but I usually just measure from the steam clamp to the saddle nose. If you have a saddle with a very long nose or no nose at all, this can change all that. In those cases, it's a tougher job to set it up, and I'd recommend evaluating these saddles by comparing the saddles rails to a "normal" saddle to evaluate where the nose *should* (or *would*) be and measuring setback to that point (or simply add or subtract to your measurement of the nose). Adjust your new saddle until it's about the same as your old saddle, which brings up another axiom.
Axiom #3: have a record of your saddle height and setback that you can repeatably recreate. Don't just copy down what a fitter or bike shop sent you. Have a record of how YOU measure these things. And know where it is. I carry it around on my wallet, but I keep a copy in "the cloud" on Slowtwitch.com, where you can archive your fit coordinates for free if you are a registered forum member (also free).
Once you have the setback set, check the height. I always measure through the same point on the seatpost. I do not try to measure through the center of the saddle because this changes. On something like the Specialized post, I just measure through the center of the single binder bolt. It's easy and repeatable, and that is what matters. You can balance a quarter on top of the saddle to help make sure you are checking height by looking across the saddle rather than slightly up or slightly down on it. Practice this a few times before you take your old saddle off. Using the quarter trick, you should be able to see the side of the quarter, but not the face. If you see the face, you are looking down. And if you don't see the full side, you are looking up at it. It makes sense when you do it, I promise. Once you set the height, double check the setback. You'll probably need to tweak and repeat this cycle a few times to make sure you have both of them dialed in. If you are working with a bike with a round post, also check the saddle rotation at the end, since often you need to twist the post to move it up or down.
Once everything is set, get out your torque wrench. Using your torque wrench, tighten everything to the appropriate degree. You are now ready to properly evaluate your new saddle.
Axiom #4: buy a torque wrench and know how to use it and know what the torque specs for the bolts on your bike are.
Good luck! I know some stuff in here may seem confusing, so you can always get in touch with me via my other blog - http://blog.rappstar.com and the contact form on there.
The Importance of What's Between Your LegsJanuary 25, 2010
Bike fit is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. But there is something that pre-empts bike fit in terms of importance to a bike rider, and that is saddle selection. That's because you can have a bad fit on a good saddle, but you can't have a good fit on a bad saddle. If your saddle is wrong, bad things will happen. The number of injuries that started from improper saddle selection is legion. And the number of athletes that have made "miraculous" recoveries once they got on the correct saddle is also remarkable. There are very few problems, it seems, that saddles can neither cause nor correct.
However, saddles present some complications. With bike fit, folks generally fall within a relatively narrow range of body angles. You can - and people do - follow totally impersonal fit systems based off nothing but a bunch of measurements. While these methods of bike fitting are not ideal, they often do a serviceable job. But you can't do the same thing with saddles. Even as you measure someone's sitbone width, which thankfully helps offer some guidance with saddle selection, there's no way to predict if someone will like a firm saddle or a softer saddle or if a certain saddle with just rub someone the wrong way. Saddles are, unfortunately, unique. What this means is that if you don't like your saddle, try another one. Just because your buddy recommended it because he loves it, that doesn't mean it'll work for you. Many stores offer saddle rentals and/or generous return policies. And there are plenty of folks who sell lightly used saddles that just didn't work for them. So get in touch with your inner bargain hunter, whip out your tape measure and allen keys (make sure to keep your fit the same - saddle setback: nose to stem clamp & saddle height must remain the same!), and start testing!
There are two other topics that attend any discussion of saddles. The first is chamois creme. If you are not comfortable on your saddle, and you don't use chamois creme, that is the first change I'd make. There are now seemingly as many different versions of chamois creme as there are saddles. Some come "Euro-style" with the party-in-your-pants sensation that some folks really like. Others do not. I like both, depending on my mood for the day. I'm a big believer in experimentation, so whenever I use up one tube, I like to try a new brand. But if you are less of a walking version of Consumer Reports than I, feel free to stick with one if you find it works for you.
The other topic is bike shorts. Good bike shorts are one of the best investments you can make in your training. And good tri shorts (if you're a triathlete) are probably the single biggest speed gain you can make - way more than a disc wheel or new frame - because staying in your aerobars is the fastest way to get to the finish line. When I first started riding a bike, I did not have bike shorts. My first ride over an hour, I immediately bought a pair, that is once I was able to walk normally. And then I got a "nice" pair. And now I'm a bike short snob. If you haven't treated yourself to a pair of premium shorts, to quote Feris Bueller, "they're very choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking a pair up."
Saddles, shorts, and chamois creme. If you are going to invest your money in riding your bike, this is where you should start. A good fitter can help guide you, but don't be afraid - for once - to trust the judgment of what's between your legs.
Chasing GhostsJanuary 15, 2010
There's a show on SyFy (the not-so-clever new name for the Sci-Fi channel) called "Ghost Hunters." I don't actually watch it, because I don't believe in ghosts in the traditional sense. But I get the gist. Bunch of guys wander around old houses and film the whole thing on cameras equipped with night vision. I've been recreating my own version of the show on the climbs of the Santa Monica Mountains. I'm not chasing ghosts, though, in the plural. I'm chasing one ghost in particular. And he's not actually dead. He's just moved to Taos, NM and has become someone of no consequence. And I don't use a camera or night vision during my quest. I only use my SL3. And my new Joule. Tools of the trade, to be sure, but not quite up to snuff with the Proton Pack of "Ghostbusters" fame or even an Air Ion Counter, which I found for sale at the GhostHunterStore.com.
Andrew McNaughton s a name probably unfamiliar to many of you. If it's not, your name is probably Brad Kearns. If you know who Andrew is and your name isn't Brad Kearns, then you probably know Andrew as the guy who won Wildflower a whole bunch of times back in the early days of triathlon. If you are Brad Kearns, you probably know Andrew as the neon-wearing maniac who made you ride from Conejo Valley to Antelope Valley for "fun." To me, Andrew is the guy who set the times to beat on pretty much every climb in the Santa Monica Mountains. Yerba Buena. Stunt. Piuma. And Rock Store, the object of my current quest.
Rock Store gas pumps to fire hydrant. Seems simple enough. It's about 4km including the run in from the pumps until it then kicks up at about 7% grade. Eleven minutes and thirty five seconds. That's the target. And it remains a target. I'd like to blame it on the wind. Or leaving my extra heavy saddle bag on. Or slow rolling training tires. But the truth is that the ghost is just really fast. And that makes it all the more fun to chase. And that's what keeps me going up and up those climbs.
“Why Specialized”January 6, 2010
For my first contribution to the I.Am.Specialized site, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how I came to be contributing to this blog in the first place. I guess I should spend a little bit of time talking about why I think Specialized wanted me, but that’s mostly guesses. And then I’ll talk about what I know for certain, which is why I wanted to become a part of the Specialized family – why I think that I.Am.Specialized.
So let’s start with a little bit of background about me, Why did Specialized offer me a place on the triathlon team? You’d have to ask them to be certain, but I’ve got my theories. Basically, I know what I told them that I offered, and I’m writing this, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that I tricked them well enough. The interesting part of my life started in college, where I actually started to grow up and figure out what I wanted out of life. Before that, I was just a regular kid who liked sports, didn’t like school, and was at the epicenter of the occasional not-so-dramatic bit of drama. In college, I discovered two things that I became very passionate about. The first was rowing, which was my introduction to endurance racing and which was my primary interest for my four years at Princeton University in New Jersey. The second passion, which I only came to be truly passionate about after I graduated was engineering.
A year behind a desk after college was enough for me, and after discovering triathlon in early 2003, I decided that I’d see if I could make a career out of it, without really knowing what that meant. Over the next six years, I spent all of my time either training, racing, or thinking about training and racing. I didn’t come to the sport from a swim, bike, or run background. The extent of what I knew about endurance sport came from rowing, which basically means that I knew how to suffer and how to work hard, both of which would serve me well. It also became apparent that triathlon is a technology heavy sport. So I figured I could “think” my way to an advantage. I made a lot of mistakes in the process – what seems to make sense and the truth are not always the same thing. But it seemed that there were plenty of problems in triathlon that you could solve by thinking harder. At the very least, I knew that with limited experience, I needed to get the most of the training that I was doing, both by maximizing the training and by maximizing my speed for given effort in racing.
It was that approach, which defined my existence day after day, week after week, and month after month, finally paid off in a big way when I won my first Ironman in Penticton, British Columbia at the end of August 2009. It was after that win that I felt I had the results to really lend credibility to the technical approach I take to training and racing. And that’s what I felt I brought to Specialized.
But what was it that made me think that Specialized was the right fit for my approach? I think there are a few companies that follow a technical approach to building bikes. Specialized is one of them. The Shiv. The SL3. The Transition. These bikes are all works of engineering beauty. But Specialized extends that same focus to all the other products they make. I actually first started using Specialized shoes and helmets in 2008, simply because I thought they were the best available. The equipment is first rate, but it’s really the processes that lead to these products that I believe in. Process is what matters to me. Process allows you to recreate success over and over and over.
There are also a few companies that really value bike fit. But no other bike company does it to the extent that Specialized does, with SBCU. As one of the co-instructors of the Slowtwitch FIST triathlon bike fit workshops, bike fit is like a religion to me. And it’s the same way at Specialized. The bikes are made to fit. And there is a system in place to make sure that riders who end up on a Specialized fit aboard it in an optimal way. A great bike is only really great if the rider fits aboard it optimally. And Specialized is committed to that. And that is a commitment we share.
Ultimately, I felt like Specialized offered me a home. They have a long history of forging lasting relationships with athletes – Peter Reid, one of my true heroes in the sport, still is involved with Specialized, the same company whose bikes he rode to an Ironman World Championship. I hope I can have an equally successful and lasting relationship. I.Am.Specialized. And hope I will be for a long time to come.
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