Cheating Surfaces Again

People seem to always find a way to cheat.  Doping is nothing new in triathlon.  It’s clearly wrong, but it’s not new, and we all know it’s continuing.  The above is a screenshot from a post on SlowTwitch.  For anyone who can’t see the image, to summarize, a woman was caught letting air out of the tire of one of her competitors just prior to IM 70.3 Syracuse.  Thankfully, she was reported, disqualified, and the victim’s tire was reinflated.

I’m sure more reporting will come out, and I would very much like to hear from this woman why she was messing with someone else’s bike (allegedly, she claimed she was trying to inflate someone else’s tire, but got the bikes confused – if so, why did air come out of a tire and not go in?).  But the sad thing is, this isn’t a unique situation.

When athletes dope, they’re only risking their own health.  When someone messes with someone else’s equipment, they’re risking injury to that other athlete.  You might think that letting air out of someone’s tire will just make them slower, or make them have to stop to change the tube (thinking there was a puncture in it).  But this could also lead to a crash and physical injury to the athlete (or to other athletes if the crash takes down others, which can very easily happen).

You hear of all sorts of suspected sabotage.  An athlete’s seatpost suddenly drops during a race because the clamp has been loosened, even though it has never fallen before.  An athlete leaves transition and finds her brake pads are misaligned and rubbing (though this can happen from the bike being accidentally bumped in transition). Tires mysteriously go flat.  Items disappear from transition.

Of course, some of this can happen randomly or by accident.  I don’t understand how you can accidentally grab someone else’s shoes in transition, but I suppose it’s possible. And when something mechanical goes wrong on your bike, sometimes that’s just dumb luck.

But sometimes, it’s because people have decided that sabotage is a great way to cheat.  Conveniently, I’m not really competition for anyone, so let’s hope my stuff is safe.  But this really mars the spirit of triathlon.  I have seen plenty of people stop to help others during races.  We’ve all seen people helping others over the finish line.  That’s the sport I love.  And sure, you can be competitive.  You can push to be faster than someone else.  But the goal is that you are faster, not that you make someone else slower.  And there’s certainly no glory in getting there by cheating.

Race Report – Kinetic International Triathlon

Kinetic International Finishers Photo

Photo credit to Keely

Triathlon number one for the season complete!

This was the first year (I believe) for the Kinetic International distance.  I’ve done the sprint here before, and the course looked the same as Giant Acorn (though I think the bike course is reversed from the last time I raced it), so I had a general idea of what I was getting into.  And then the weather forecasts started to roll in.

Once again, I started the season with a cold, rainy triathlon.  But this year, I knew what I was getting myself into.  I was much more mentally prepared for a miserable experience, and I think that preparation made a world of difference.  Also, it wasn’t that miserable.  But I was prepared for this to be a slower race than normal.

Race morning, the temperatures were in the upper 40s, and it was raining.  Great.  Awesome.  At least the 60-something water would feel warm.  Gotta find the bright side, right?  I got in the water as early as I could, probably at least 45 minutes before my wave started.  That’s the great thing about races at Lake Anna – you can get in the water super early and just sort of splash around until your wave starts.  It’s perfect for people nervous about the open water.

I was in the very last wave, which didn’t worry me too much.  This was an international and a 70.3 distance raced together, so that meant I had no risk of being the last finisher.

When my wave finally started, I struggled to find my groove at first, most notably because it was impossible to see the buoys.  The rain had stopped for the most part, but it was foggy and just hard to sight.  Not a big deal all in all, but annoying.  The swim course was a big rectangle, so once I made the second turn to go back towards the shore, things were much easier, though at that point, the wind picked up and there was some significant chop to the water.  I can handle that as long as I can tell where I’m going.

And though it felt like it took forever, I was finally out of the water and on my way to T1.

Swim: 41:24

One downside to races at Lake Anna is the long distance to transition.  It’s paved, which is nice, but it’s just a long uphill run.  Barefoot.  And since it had rained so much, once I got to transition, everything was just a huge mudpit.  I bet the bike tracks were at least an inch deep, probably more.  So that was hilarious to deal with.  No running for me – I didn’t need to find out how much padding my wetsuit would give me if I fell.

I stripped out of my wetsuit, getting it super muddy in the process and tried to clean my feet off to get my socks and shoes on.  (Yes, I wear socks on the bike leg.  I get blisters otherwise and it’s worth the few seconds it takes me.) I also watched a guy cursing at his wetsuit because he was stuck in it.

I opted to not put on my arm sleeves since the rain had stopped and I would rather be cool than overheat.  Plus they’re so annoying to put on while wet.

I definitely wasn’t hurrying in transition, which is probably something I should work on for next race.

T1: 4:39

On to the bike leg.  I was worried that because my cleats were so filled with mud that I wouldn’t be able to clip in properly.  Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad, but future me had some serious shoe cleaning ahead of her.  I headed out on the bike, which starts with a lovely uphill.  Having done the course a number of times, I was ready.

The roads were still a bit wet but not too bad, though I was still glad I had slightly underinflated my tires, especially on some of the speedy downhills.  I had a goal pace in mind and found myself just below it, but I think I tend to overestimate my goal pace in general.  I was also struggling with some tightness in my quads because I was so freaking cold.

I was pretty pleased with how I hung in during the bike, though I wished I had brought some cookies for a snack.  I forgot how much I like snacks on the bike.  Snacks are one of the best parts about biking!

Bike: 1:41:59

T2 went much better, though again, no running through the mud, so it was a slower trek.

T2: 3:15

And on to the run.  This I was familiar with.  It was a two loop course (though they tacked on a tiny bit near transition – I guess the old course was just a little short) with a grand uphill on each loop.  Hooray.  I didn’t even bother to try to run it, knowing it would shoot my heart rate up way too fast, so I just power walked it.  The downside to that is that there are tons of spectators there.  So I just chatted and said I was getting my moneys worth out of the course.

At this point, my upper hips/butt muscles were very tight (actually, using the internet I think maybe it’s my gluteus minimus? Anyone?) and I hoped I wouldn’t be fighting this the entire run.  Thankfully it just bothered me on the hill and then faded.

Because it was still cool, I was able to set into a good rhythm.  Not quite as fast as my most recent half marathon, but that wasn’t done on bike legs, so I was pleased to find a good groove.  I got tons of compliments on my Coeur team kit – it will be on sale next season!   It was awesome to feel so good out there.

The volunteers were spectacular.  As I was coming through, the pizza lunch delivery had just come for them, and I kept threatening to steal their pizza.  The tables were manned by kids with adults supervising, and these kids were great.  Sometimes, kid volunteers get sullen or bored, but I loved the enthusiasm these kids had.

Finally, FINALLY, I was cruising in to the finish.

Run: 1:20:22

Total time: 3:51:38

Not my fastest, but far from my slowest. I was thinking I would be around 4 hours with the weather, so I’m quite happy with this.  And I knew I had a good shot at placing Athena this race seeing as there weren’t a ton of entrants.  I was hoping for second.  First was unexpected and a delightful way to start the season.

Now I need a trophy shelf in my pain cave!

After the race, I got back to transition to retrieve my poor, muddy bike, and noticed they had  put down straw in transition.  SUPER nice.  Of course, my bike still had chunks of mud all over it.  That was a problem for future me too.

And my new tip: Use a blue IKEA bag as your transition mat (or stick it under your mat/towel).  Then when you’re done, you can throw all your gross gear inside it and haul it back to your car and contain the crazy amounts of mud.  When you clean your gear, just hose down the bag too.

 

Open Water Practice

This guy might be at your open water swim, but he looks friendly enough, so it’s probably okay. ArtsyBee / Pixabay

It’s that time of year!  Open water race season is starting.  And with that comes open water swimming practice.

If you haven’t already figured it out, open water swimming is very different from pool swimming.  Most notably, you don’t have a handy line at the bottom that you can follow to ensure you’re swimming in a straight line.  In fact, you probably won’t even be able to see the bottom of the body of water.  I know that most of my races aren’t that clean, and even if the water is pretty clear, once you get a bunch of triathletes churning it up, it gets pretty murky pretty fast.

So no matter how much you swim in the pool, I really recommend getting some open water practice before your first race.  I make a point to get in the water before my season starts every year.  I want to get practice in while wearing my wetsuit, and I want to remind myself how much the first minutes in cold water really really suck.  Then it gets much better.

Locally, there are a couple of practice swims that I’m planning to attend.  If you’re in the DC/MD/VA area, check out the practice swims at Fort Ritchie and Luray.  Wave One also has a couple of clinics available.  I’m sure there are others I’m missing.

If you aren’t in the area or can’t make any of these swims, definitely look for a body of water where you can swim before your season starts, even if you can’t swim very far.  Even just swimming around a dock can help you get used to the weirdness of open water.

Barring all of that, if you’re doing a race in a wetsuit, get in that wetsuit and get into the pool!  Unless it’s an outdoor pool that’s still pretty darn cold, you shouldn’t do your whole workout in the wetsuit because you’ll overheat, and no good comes from that.  Even just a few laps are better than nothing.

 

What do you need to do a triathlon?

skeeze / Pixabay

A friend of mine is interested in getting into triathlons (yay!) and he asked me what things you need for a triathlon.  I gave him a few tips, but it got me thinking.  What things do you need to do a triathlon.  And I’m not talking about the intangibles, like grit and determination and a bit of crazy, I mean the actual stuff.  So I’m going to break it down into some categories for you: Needs, Definitely Nice to Have, The Next Level, and You Don’t Need This, But It’s Cool.

Needs

  • Something to swim in
  • Goggles (thanks, Kecia!)
  • Bike
  • Bike helmet
  • Clothes to wear on the bike and the run
  • Shoes to bike and run in*
  • Bike hydration method

*I guess technically, if you’re a barefoot runner, you don’t need run shoes, but you will still need shoes while on the bike, so put something on your feet.

You don’t need to have clipless pedals or special bike shoes.  Those will appear in the next section.  Your bike doesn’t have to be fancy.  It can be a road bike or a hybrid bike or even a mountain bike.  Whatever you have, that works.  I have seen people racing on cruiser bikes.

What about clothing?  At triathlons geared towards beginners, you will see everything.  Wear what works for you.  Some women will do the entire race in a what is essentially a bathing suit (including elites).  I am not one of those women.  You will see ladies get into the swim in a bathing suit, then pull on shorts in transition.  It’s an option, but I would worry about chafing.  At the bare minimum, for women, I would recommend a pair of triathlon shorts, a sports bra, and a shirt to put on at transition.  For men, I would recommend the same, minus the sports bra.

What are triathlon shorts?  Basically, they are spandex shorts with a bit of padding in them. Not quite as much padding as bike shorts.  They’re designed so you can swim, bike, and run in them.  If you tried this in bike shorts, the padding would fill up with water on the swim and be quite uncomfortable, and you would feel like you were wearing a diaper on the run.  Technically, you can wear whatever shorts you want, but I would very much recommend tri shorts.

In most triathlons, you will find water stops on the run course.  Sometimes you will find them on the bike course, sometimes not, but either way, you’ll want to have some sort of hydration plan for riding the bike.  This doesn’t have to be fancy.  A bottle in a water bottle holder.  If you struggle to pull out a bottle on the bike, wear a Camelbak or similar hydration device.  Hydration is very important.

Definitely Nice To Have

  • Tri Kit
  • Socks (for me – others will disagree)
  • Clipless pedals
  • Bike Shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Chamois Cream to prevent chafing
  • Flat Repair Kit

A tri kit is either a two piece or a one piece outfit that is designed so you can wear it the entire race.  You know what’s hard after getting out of the swim?  Trying to pull a shirt on to your wet body.  If you wear a tri kit, you don’t have to worry about changing at all during the race.

You don’t have to ride or race with a flat repair kit, but I really recommend it.  If you’re out for a ride and you get a flat tire, you’re going to need to fix it, right?  Sure, you could also just call for a Lyft, but that’s not going to work in a race.  So I recommend getting a repair kit and learning how to use it.  I will talk more about this in a later blog post (and if you’re local, will be doing a flat clinic in July).

One thing that scares a lot of cyclists is clipless pedals.  These are confusingly named – they’re called clipless because they don’t have toe clips (which are really old school).  However, you do clip your shoes into the pedals.  So you have special bike shoes with a very hard sole that have a cleat on the bottom.  This cleat will attach to the pedals so that while you ride, you get the full force of motion from your legs.  You’re not just pushing down, but you’re also pulling up.  It’s amazing how different riding feels.  Will you fall over?  Probably.  From a complete stop.  Usually in front of people.  But you will mostly just hurt your pride.

The Next Level

  • Aero bars
  • Wetsuit

If you’re taking your racing to the next level, you might want to have aero bars put onto your road bike.  This lets you ride in a much more aerodynamic position.  You will see lots of people without them, but it’s an inexpensive addition to your road bike.

I struggled with where to put “wetsuit” on this list.  Technically, you can be a triathlete and race multiple times a year and never ned a wetsuit.  They’re only absolutely needed when the water is exceptionally cold, making the race wetsuit mandatory.  You can just avoid those races.  But there are also races where the wetsuit is an option.  In these cases, I like wearing my wetsuit.  It adds buoyancy, and “free speed,” as my coach calls it, plus it makes the cold water seem less awful.

You Don’t Need This, But It’s Cool

  • Tri bike

You will see lots of triathletes with really cool bikes.  And you know what?  Every single one of them wants a newer and cooler bike.  You see, the proper number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you currently own.  Tri bikes put you in a more compact, more aerodynamic position.  The geometry lets you use your leg muscles in a way that helps save your legs for the run.  It’s not a requirement by any means, but if you’re in the sport for a while, eventually you’ll find yourself looking at tri bikes, doing the math, crunching the numbers, and deciding if it’s for you.

There are plenty of things that triathletes use that aren’t on this list: Sunscreen (wear it), towels, different little products that people use on the various legs of the race, but these are some of the big things that came to mind, things that people need or wonder if they might need.

Anything I missed or miscategorized?

Do The Hard Things

AstroPic / Pixabay

Starting this week, my training schedule has me back to swimming twice a week.  Pool workouts are always my most dreaded workouts of the week.  I do not know why.  I think part of it is because it has to be so meticulously scheduled.  For running and biking, I can sort of do them whenever I want, but when it comes to swimming, I’m either going to a pre-scheduled group swim or I’m swimming in the morning before work, which means I want to get to the pool as early as possible to ensure that I’m not super late for work (though I’m technically on a flexible schedule, so even when I’m “late,” I’m not really late).

Going to the group workout isn’t actually that bad.  I’m meeting up with a group!  It’s fun!  They’re fun people!  And all I have to do afterwards is shower and go to bed.

Morning swims though, I think I find them awful due solely to the logistics.  Get to the pool fast, hope I can get a lane, get through my workout, shower and make myself presentable, and then rush off to work.  But while I’m actually swimming, it’s not bad.  I don’t mind the workout itself.  In fact, I really enjoy swimming.  It’s a great workout, as evidenced by my wobbly arms and legs after the fact, but it doesn’t feel as rough on my body as running or biking.

But somehow, in my brain, swimming is the hard part of the three sports in triathlon.  Not the one that I’m worst at (that’s probably running), but the one that I struggle the most to train.  I’m trying to get it through my head that going to the pool isn’t that bad, that it’s great to have my workouts done early in the morning, and more importantly, the more I train my swimming, the less time I spend in an open water swim.

So I have to make myself do the hard things.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t want to.  I have to do it.  And we all have those hard things that we don’t want to do that we have to do.  So get out there.  Do the hard things.