Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why I hate triathletes

I’ve raced exactly 50 triathlons and by any man’s measure that would make me a “triathlete”, even though the thought of being a triathlete often makes me cringe. This past weekend was a chilling reminder of why I often hate the sport that I love. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t hate the sport as much as I frequently find myself having some serious issues with the types of people it attracts.

I spent the weekend in Madison, Wisc., at a press launch for Saris/CycleOps. I showed up to the factory and made the customary handshakes and “how ya beens” to the group of cycling journalists I often see at these types of events. After we all got caught up on who had been to the best and worse destinations over the past few months, the conversation shifted toward the inevitable—the half-dozen or so cycling writers got to making fun of triathletes. It’s not secret; cyclists hate triathletes. Maybe “hate” is a strong word…cyclists find triathletes humorous, much in the same way that Tiger Woods would find a celebrity golf tournament humorous. It’s condescending, on our one-sported counterparts part, but they have good reason. Cyclists are humored by the fact that triathletes, no matter how slow, will spend every last penny of their offspring’s college fund to boost their power by a watt or two. Cyclists are much more frugal and will let their chain wear to the point that it almost skips off the pavement with every turn of the cranks.

Part of the presentation from Saris highlighted the new Zipp Sub-9 PowerTap Disc. Add in a pair of ceramic bearings and the new PowerTap-enabled Garmin 705 Edge and the whole system will run you about five grand.

“And fat, slow triathletes will buy it,” a not-to-be-named cycling writer chimed in.

He was right and I felt just a little ashamed to be the one guy in the room associated with a group of people who won’t think twice before dropping five grand to drop their Ironman time from 16:49 to 16:42. It’s not all bad though. It’s rare to find a sport with such dedicated people, but there’s a fine line between dedication and unjustifiable obsession and triathletes are sprinting across that line in droves.

I ended the trip with a detour to Chicago to visit some family and eat some seriously unhealthy food, which is harder to come by in my new (and skinnier) home of San Diego. I headed to my favorite BBQ joint with my cousin to pick up some baby backs and coleslaw for my family. We thought raising my Dad’s cholesterol by five points was the perfect way to say “happy Father’s Day”.

We stood in a mile-long line amongst people whose average weight rivaled that of the last finisher at an IronGirl, but right in front of use stood a rail-thin, clean-shaven man in his mid-40s. I have no problem with rail-thin, clean-shaven men in their mid-40s, but the rest of this dude’s features made me want to stick a sharpened pork rib through his heart. The guy was rocking an “IRONMAN FINISHER” cut-off T-shirt, an Ironman Wisconsin visor, compression socks and an M-Dot tattoo on his shoulder. No, I’m not making any of that up.

To anyone who has ever gone out in public looking like this dude: please stop. In the big scheme of things nobody cares about your latest 140.6-mile endeavor – and nobody should care – except yourself. If you’re in this sport just so you can show off to your coworkers and a bunch of fat asses at a BBQ pit that you’re in shape, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Xterra Vendetta vs. Vector Pro X2

Xterra wetsuits has a rather convenient problem when it comes to their top end wetsuits -- they have two. Last year's Vector Pro X2 and the all-new Vendetta are both worthy of garnering "top end" status, so it may be hard to decide between the two. I've always been a fan of Xterra's suits and I've been swimming in them exclusively for the last two seasons. I spent last season racing in the Vector Pro X2 and had some of the best swim results of my career. After doing a few races in the Vendetta this season, here are my thoughts on both suits:


This suit redefines buoyancy. Wrap it around a cinderblock and I'm pretty sure the thing would float. How do they do it? Xterra Wetsuits created what they tagged XterrAir cells throughout the front of the suit, which are essentially tiny air pockets. It makes a noticeable difference. The suit feels ridiculously fast and helps you ride high on the water. I would give it an 8 out of 10 when it comes to flexibility. It's on par with just about any other top-tier suit out there, but it doesn't have quite the same flex as the VProX2.


I've tested at least 20 wetsuits and this is one of the only that achieves a second-skin fit. It's tight where it needs to be and flexible around around the joints (especially the shoulder). The anatomical arm design allows your shoulders to rotate free and the thinner rubber throughout the arms allows you to move you arms through your own most efficient motion. It's not quite as buoyant as the Vendetta, but you wouldn't notice it unless you put the Vendetta on right after swimming in the VProX2.


For me, the Vector Pro X2 is the way to go, but my decision comes with a caveat -- I grew up as a swimmer and I'm very comfortable in the water. I feel that the VProX2 is ideal for triathletes who deem themselves "swimmers" -- you know -- those who routinely swim around 55 minutes at Ironman. The incredible flexibility allows an experienced swimmer to perfectly mimic the stroke that they've spent years dialing in. I like to feel like I'm not wearing a wetsuit and that my stroke isn't inhibited at all.

For those who wouldn't dream of deeming themselves "swimmers" the Vendetta is probably the best bet. If your freestyle looks less like Michael Phelps and more like you're having a seizure in the water, you won't notice a suit that forces you to make minor chances in your not-so-perfect technique. Instead, you'll want to maximize you buoyancy to decrease drag and increase efficiency.

Efficiency is the key word. An experienced swimmer will be most efficient in a suit that allows them to maximize their already-efficient stroke. A less experienced swimmer can become more efficient by reducing drag, which will lower their overall energy expenditure.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wider is better...when it comes to tires

Last week I e-mailed Brett Hahn, Conti's U.S. sales rep, asking about what are the toughest tires on the planet.

"Go with our new 25cc tires," he said.

"F*** that," I replied, "I'll get made fun of at my group rides."

"Just try it," he said, "You'll be glad you did."

Brett is "the man" when it comes to bicycle tires, so I decided to take his word and give the 25cc Conti Gatorskin tires a go.

Turns out the dude knows a thing or ten about how to roll. The above chart explains why 25cc is the way to go much better than I can, but the bottom line is that they eat up the road. Toss a pair on your 1986 steel-frame Bianchi and you'll feel like you have a new carbon frame. And they're tough as nails. I run over empty beer bottles just for fun.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

High altitude and dislocated shoulders suck...

It's not that often that I get to do two races in one weekend. Sure, I had to drive nine hours to get to Show Low, Ariz. for the Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival, but I knew it would be worth the trip (and the $4.39/gallon gas). Show Low really isn't much of a town, but then again, I wasn't expecting it to be. It's hard to expect much from a town where the main street is called Deuce of Clubs Boulevard. I coerced my girlfriend into coming along, on the basis that I would go see the "Sex and the City" movie on opening night. Talk about a great way to get amped up for a race.

Race number one was an Olympic-distance affair on Saturday morning. When I woke up on race morning, my adrenaline was still pumping from wondering if Carrie was going to end up with Big...she did. The race went true to form -- great swim, great bike, disaster of a run. I swear my running is getting better but going from zero feet above sea level to 7,000 takes its toll. I managed to go from fifth overall off the bike to 19th at the finish, but I did narrowly hang onto the win in my age group.

Just in case Saturday's 10k wasn't enough of a disaster, there was XTERRA Deuces Wild on Sunday morning. This season I've decided to make XTERRA my focus, but that change of attitude doesn't mean that I can handle a bike any better on tricky surfaces. I love XTERRA because it's hard and dangerous, not because I'm any good at it. Less than two miles into the gnarly Deuces Wild course, I took a spill while heading through a concrete tunnel. I stuck out my left arm to brace my fall against the tunnel wall, which unfortunately for my labrum, shot my shoulder joint out of socket. After about three minutes of screaming like a little girl who just found out that Santa isn't real, I was able to get it back in socket and I was rolling again -- albeit very slowly. I took the rest of the 26-km bike course extremely easy, terrified of causing some more damage to my already-ruined shoulder. I made it to the finish -- with a time and place that I won't place here -- and woke up yesterday morning to realize that there's no way in hell I'm racing Escape from Alcatraz this coming weekend. Maybe it's time to let the body heal a little.