Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Full Disclosure

This space has been pretty quiet for a while. Some of that is because I've been trying to figure out what to say.

Hannah and I have decided to end our marriage.

We still love each other, care for one another, want the best for each other. But what we have both realized is that we are phenomenal friends: no less, but no more than that either. And that means that our marriage wasn't working, and it was having an impact on that lifelong friendship that we have crafted.

Hannah's still important to me. She always will be. And she's a fantastic person and is a great significant other for someone. But that person isn't me. We're approaching the divorce collaboratively and are working together so that we both can best move forward.

As for what the future holds for myself, this too isn't certain. I have met someone who, for lack of better words, makes me feel more like myself. For now, though, I ask for a little privacy in this slice of my life.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Equality at Ironman World Championships

In the interest of full disclosure at the beginning: I am a signatory on the official letter to Ironman's Women For Tri board, advocating for equal slots for professional men and women's fields at Kona.

As you can probably tell from my Twitter feed, I am critical of the triathlon industry as a whole. I'm critical because I care deeply about it; I didn't dedicate a decade to it (and the run industry) because I was chasing money. It's a labor of love.

I got my start in this sport because I remember watching the Wide World of Sports coverage of Kona, watching the men and women's professional field coverage, and thinking that it was astounding that people would do that. And that I wanted to do it someday. Someday became 2010 when Hannah's father died and it through into stark relief that it was damned time to turn my dreams into goals into reality, as you never know when it will all come to an end.

So when I see barriers to entry to the sport like an insistence on "needs" like aero wheels, or wetsuits, or hell, a "budget triathlon bike" for $2800, that bothers me. We can't grow the sport when we're asking people to invest thousands of dollars into one event. It's simply not a sustainable model. There will always be people willing to buy that amount of gear. But we need to make it easier for people to get hooked on the sport and then want to invest in it, rather than asking them to invest that kind of money out of the gate.

That brings us to the lack of equality at the top of the sport.

Before the introduction of the Kona points ranking system, it was pretty easy to get yourself to Hawaii as a professional. However, since the introduction of KPR (which is a genius method of WTC getting more pros to race their events, but I digress), professional slots have been allocated to 50 men and 35 women. Counting champions provisionals, it winds up being a little closer to 55-40.

The argument for that is twofold: first, that there are more male professionals; second, that the men's professional field is deeper in quality.

The quantity argument is, well, indisputable. The simple fact is that as of now, there are more male professional triathletes. The quality argument has been thoroughly debunked by those far smarter than I; for a great reading on the topic, I would suggest this post over on Trirating.com.

So, what's the hold-up? We have data over the years showing the success of Title IX in athletic sports, including a six-fold increase in participation at the collegiate level by women versus pre-Title IX levels. In other words: if you build it, they will come.

Ironman Kona is the birthplace of our sport. WTC is the primary stakeholder in the history and future (until proven otherwise). The lack of equality in slot allocation to professional women is a disgrace.

The primary argument that I have seen come is that "well, we use participation numbers to set the age-group slots, so doing it for professionals is only fair." This argument is flawed. Age-group slots are set based upon the field at any given race; if women 35-39 make up 20% of the field at one race, and 10% at another, they get 20% at one event and 10% at another. Those slots are consistently in flux; if more women start racing, they immediately get more Kona slots awarded to them.

At the professional level, this isn't the case. There are a finite number of slots determined by the KPR system. Increases in FPRO numbers do not immediately change the number of Kona slots awarded to FPRO's. It *might* have an impact for the following year, although I have the feeling the "quantity" argument that was highlighted in this letter to professional athletes would come up.

Another argument made is regarding quantity. I know of multiple female athletes who have qualified for their pro cards who have declined or delayed acceptance on it because they wanted to race Kona, and would not make the Top 35 in points. By opening up more slots to equal the numbers to the men, you encourage these women to take a crack at their professional card, opening opportunities to women who otherwise may not break through to an amateur Kona slot.

Furthermore, it creates additional value for sponsors to say that they have more athletes in Kona, whether that is a mainstream brand or the women's exclusive apparel manufacturers. Anything to add exposure to both athletes and the industry in totality is adding value, which will do nothing but create benefits down the road. Also, these women often have compelling stories about their families, or how they trained, juggling their professional, personal, and racing lives. By giving that exposure, you encourage those who are on the couch, who have done nothing but harbor that dream, to potentially give it a shot.

I'm passionate about this because we, as a sport, get so much of this right. We've had equal prize money for men and women. Women get to race the same distance as the men, which is something a lot of other endurance sports don't offer. (Cycling, here's looking at you with a death stare.) Equal slots is the last frontier to make our sport truly an equal harbor for professional men and women.

So, WTC: your move.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

FuckEulogy to 2014

For those not familiar with the concept:

This year has been the most difficult of my life. Between starting to lay down roots in Virginia, to having to uproot them again to come back to Maine, to start to put things back together, to breaking my spine and the subsequent issues around it, to the consistent struggle...

It's tiring. I'm exhausted.

So, fuck you, 2014. 2015 is going to kick ass and be awesome.


Because through all of that garbage in 2014, I had the support of so many phenomenal people. From Hannah, who I am lucky enough to love, to my family, to friends who reached out and helped out throughout the year as shit hit the fan...you made it all tolerable, to keep me moving forward.

Bring it, 2015. Let's do this.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ask Me Anything: The #OopsIBrokeMySpine Experience

Looking to put together a blog post, answering as many questions in re: what happened, recovery, insurances, etc. Either Tweet me or comment here and I'll compile them into a single post.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Heisler Declares Eligibility for #TRSDraft

Placeholder photo. Choose some budgie smuggler photo later.
Also, Photoshop down to race weight.

Publicist Note: Draft. Do not post!

I, Ryan Heisler, am hereby declaring my eligibility for the Winter 2014 The Real Starky Draft. I believe it is the correct time to take this step in my triathlon career profession hobby. Although I don't project as a first-round pick, I believe I would provide excellent value as a later-round draftee.

I am a rough three-tool prospect (editor's note: to quote one Sterling Archer...uh, phrasing?) who can activate on sponsorship, race decently, and provide excellent beer support from the great state of Maine.

To wit: after #OopsIBrokeMySpine, I attended Revolution3 Maine to cheer on friends. Additionally, having a relationship with Rising Tide Brewing Company (editor's note: you stayed on the owner's couch for a couple months; that's a little more than "a relationship"; let's rethink this passage), I determined it would be a good idea to activate on the sponsorship at mile 1 of the run course.

note: can we edit Jamie to be female?

For what it's worth, Rising Tide brews what is considered the Best Beer in Maine: Maine Island Trail Ale, which makes for phenomenal racing hand-ups, as evidenced by the above Tweets.

To answer some hand-picked questions from the media:

Why would I want to join up with what was originally a parody Twitter account? 
Because, well, triathlon needs to be more fun. Working in the running and multisport industry for as long as I have, there's one thing I've learned: there are a lot of people who take this far too seriously for what is our hobby.

Also, The Real Starky and I have done battle before:

Broken Thoracic Spine. Guess that's close enough.
Creative environments tend to have some volatility to them; by having strong voices that push one another, you wind up with a better end result rather than a bunch of lemming yes-men in the same circle. How do we think the current handling of WTC got to where it is?

Also, I do indeed dress like a champion with my TRS Shirt (blatant plug to buy yours here).

So, what do you mean by triathlon as more fun?
More trash talk before the race. More trash talk during the race. And then getting done, laughing about it, drinking a beer or four, and generally just having fun.

Look, there's a reason why Brooks has been successful in the run space. Hint: it's not by taking themselves seriously. Their tagline is "Run Happy!" We need more of that in triathlon. That's what TRS stands for.

What else can you offer The Real Starky?
Plenty of beer from Maine, of course. Also, we have Sugarloaf up here, and that mountain kicks all kinds of ass. So, a ski vacation for fellow team members.

Also, well, I'm prone to doing some relatively silly things:

Whaddya know? It's a male tree.
How're your race results?
Exceptionally, painfully average.

What do you expect out of TRS, if selected?
Good times, an opportunity to laugh.

Oh, and hopefully a bike. I need a new one after the whole crashing thing.

Anyone else? No? Good. It's Portland Beer Week. Time to grab a drink. (Ed.: God, he sounds like a drunkard.)

Cheers! (Yep, definitely now.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Service Available: Triathlon Bike and Run Shoe Recommendations

In the market for a new bike, but don't know what will fit you? Fell in love with an old running shoe that was discontinued five years ago and are still struggling to find that new shoe that you love? You've come to the right place.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: here's what I don't do:

  • I won't attempt to re-fit you on the bike. Instead, we will be trying to find the most optimal bike to work with your current position (or slight variations of it). This theory will also not guarantee one single bike to be best; instead, there will be a range of options presented to you based on price range and flexibility of the bike to evolve with your fit.
  • I won't be doing run assessments. I have a doctorate degree, but it is not in the medical field, and therefore it isn't my job to tell you how to run. I want you to just be able to run, and to enjoy every stride while you're out pounding the pavement.
Here's what I will do:

  • Provide detailed recommendations of bikes and shoes to try, along with respective sizes.
  • Provide feedback on local shops to you to be able to purchase these items from.
  • Analyze Retul, Guru, etc. fit files, as well as photos on board of the bike to analyze potential positional errors as well as providing additional feedback on these recommendations.
  • If preferred, Skype consultation to talk about the analysis and feedback.
About Me:

  • A decade of experience in the specialty run and triathlon marketplace, working at multiple Top 50 Running Stores in America (presented by Competitor) as well as with Revolution3 Triathlon
  • Good Form Running certified
  • Worked with dozens of medical practitioners to provide best shoe fit for their clients
  • Self-proclaimed repository of useless information, shoe geek, and athlete
  • Comprehensive knowledge of FIST-method of triathlon bike fitting and how frames and component choices complement one another to provide the best overall fit for a consumer
  • Hundreds of success stories from customers in the run and bike marketplace (such as this):

Pricing for these services:

  • $40 for bike recommendations
  • $20 for shoe recommendations
  • $50 for both
Contact me via e-mail here to set up your consultation.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shoe Review: Skechers Performance Division GoMeb Speed 2

Editor's Note: I received this pair of shoes from Skechers Performance Division for the purposes of review. I was instructed to be honest. No financial considerations were offered nor would they ever be accepted.

I think I speak for a lot of people in terms of my initial reaction to Skechers launching a running shoe product line:

Skechers? REALLY? The folks who put out Shape Ups? Are you kidding me?

Yep. That was my initial attitude in the summer of 2012 as I saw the product line for the first time. I was seeded (read as: given a free pair of shoes; it is a common thing for a brand to do in the industry as hey, if you don't believe in it, you won't sell it) a pair of the GoRun Ride's.

And what do you know, they are actually pretty comfortable. Not great for me (a little too spongy underfoot, not quite moving with my foot) but a hell of a lot better than a lot of other things on the wall.

Fast forward to April of this year, and getting to see the big marketing push as Skechers segmented out the running shoe line in the new Skechers Performance Division at the Boston Marathon.

And then Meb won.

Then they signed Kara Goucher.

It was a sign of a brand that said, "We are committed to performance. We are committed to running." And now, starting in the spring, shoes will be exclusively committed to the specialty running channel. That's more than a lot of "traditional running brands" can say.

So with that in mind, I took a look at the product line, and asked if I could take the GoMeb Speed out for some testing. I figured it would be the ultimate test for the brand. At the end of the day, product is king. If your product sucks, it doesn't matter what elites are running in your shoes or how much you're trying to do for the industry. Your product better damn well be good.

The Tech Babble
Skechers Performance Division (think like the old Bowerman line in Nike running shoes; if it's not Skechers Performance Division or Bowerman in Nike-speak, odds are you're not looking at technical running product) started out introducing a line-up based on "M-Strike Technology." The "natural running" movement had really taken off, with the Saucony Kinvara, the Brooks PureProject, and New Balance Minimus product line really moving.

That being said, SPD took the tack of trying to offer more than just a "minimal" shoe. They would offer more of a range than simply going after the lightweight/minimal end of the market.

There are multiple shoes in the product line; this is their order from least to most cushioning: the GoMeb Speed, the GoRun Bionic, the GoRun, the GoRun Ride, and the GoRun Ultra. There will be more shoes launched throughout. They also range in offset from 0 to 8 millimeters.

The focus of this test, the Speed, features a 4 millimeter offset. This is similar to one of my favorite flats, the Saucony Fastwitch. The Speed features a mid foot shank of Hytrel, which gives the shoe some beef under the mid foot. A lot of times in racing shoes, the flexibility results in a shoe that gives up platform stability and efficiency. In theory, this is not the case here.

SPD, much like Pearl Izumi, does not use a "secondary" cushioning system like Air, Gel, or DNA. Instead, they rely on their blend of foam. In this case, SPD calls theirs Resalyte. Resalyte is an injection-molded compound, which according to SPD provides "memory retention [to] help absorb impacts." The beauty of foams, like the one SPD uses, is that each brand can spec different durometers, different air volume in the compound matrix, etc. that provides a unique ride.

The upper is seamless on the inner, with most overlays either printed or heat-molded onto the shoe. This in theory reduces the chances of blistering, as there are fewer places for the foot to really rub against a firm section on the interior. I wound up wearing the black-and-gold edition seen above.

The Speed weighs in at 6.8 ounces in a men's size 9. To put that in perspective, it's .9 ounces lighter than a comparable Saucony Kinvara. Versus my go-to flat, the Saucony Fastwitch, it is .1 ounces lighter. As an aside, the Speed ran large, and so I wore a 12.5. This will not give a true comparison on weight to a Fastwitch, as I wear a 13 in it, so I won't try to argue the merits. Besides, it's .1 ounces. I would never be able to tell the difference.

Enough Babble. How was the run?
In a word: brilliant.

I received these shoes on a Wednesday. That following weekend, I went down to Connecticut to tackle the Revolution at Rev3 Quassy, where I would be racing an Olympic on Saturday and a Half on Sunday.

I had made the decision that Saturday was my "race" day. My Fastwitch's were somewhere in my storage unit (I had just moved back from VA to ME), and I figured what better way to give a shoe a test than to slap 'em on and go racin'.

You put the shoe on and immediately notice...nothing. This is the best compliment you can give a shoe, in my opinion. The last thing you ever want to do when running is be worried about something on your feet. I slipped them on and just felt like the shoe and my foot were united in their job to propel me from Point A to Point B as quickly as my body could go.

Starting to stride, the shoe has a very snappy feel to it. You're going from impact to toe-off in a smooth, quick fashion. It wants to get up and play. That being said, it is incredibly well-cushioned. It felt as soft as some of my daily trainers in a much, much lighter package.

The mid foot shank works. As I started to fatigue, I could feel the shoe helping provide a stable platform for my foot to land on. It's secure and just lets you focus on turnover, breathing, and nutrition. In other words, again: you're not thinking about the shoe on your foot.

I crossed the finish line Saturday and faced a dilemma: the Speed felt so damn good, would I wear it again tomorrow on thrashed legs? For a half?

Answer: yes, yes I did.

And what do you know, it felt even better than the day before. The cushioning is incredible for a lightweight flat. It's the fastest I've ever run the half course at Quassy, and I can honestly say I ran every step of that run course for the first time. The shoe helped. It just let me go.

Would I wear this for a marathon? I was scheduled to find out the day that I broke my spine. I would guess that it would be close for me, personally, especially coming off the bike. But I can't honestly answer that question yet.

In sum, this shoe supplanted the Fastwitch as my go-to race flat. Of all of the things I'm looking forward to in my recovery, slapping these bad boys on for another race is towards the top of the list.

Skechers Performance Division GoMeb Speed 2
MSRP: $114.99
Available: Now