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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Hook Brings You Back: 171 Miles of Racing in 8 Days Report

So desperately I sing to thee
Of love
Sure, but also of rage and hate and pain and fear of self
And I can't keep those feelings on the shelf
I've tried, well no in fact, I've lied
Could be financial suicide but I've got too much pride inside
To hide or slide
I'll do as I'll decide and let it ride till I've died
And only then shall I abide this tide...

I've made a lot of terrifically dumb decisions in my 28 years on this planet. And I'm sure I'll make many more along the way.

The past two weeks probably enter the top realm of idiocy. What kind of moron decides to race an incredibly challenging half the day after an extremely tough Olympic? And then, on a whim, decides, "Sure, you know what? I'm going to go do the dumbest, hardest race I have ever done AGAIN."

It's the hook, you see. The infectious drug of camaraderie, of competition, of the drive to make oneself and your fellow athletes better. There's something about triathlon that, during the course of racing, you're laying yourself out there to bare. You're as much of yourself out there as you are anywhere else. There's no place to hide. There's no excuses. It's you against the course, the clock, and your competitors. And you get to see where your work puts you amongst your peers.

Without further adieu...

Revolution3 Quassy
I drove down Friday after work to hit up the course and toss the race wheels onto Sam Eagle.

Sam Eagle, you ask? Well, naturally, it's another year, so it's another new bike:

I'm forever grateful to Brian Richards and the team over at MyBikeShop for the help getting on board this Speed Concept.

As we all know at this point, my bike names come after things that my late father-in-law enjoyed. So we had Kermit, Wallace, and Oddjob.

I felt compelled to go back to the Muppets. Also, with the blue-and-white paint and knowing Trek's commitment to building bikes in the US (yes, I know mine was merely "designed" here...), this came to mind:


So after a brief visit with Hannah, Alex, and the entire Rev3 crew, it was time to get my food in, packet picked-up, and away we went.

Rev3 Quassy Olympic
Quick Hits: 2:33:21 (67th OA)

Realized that I was Bib #2 for this race. Uh-oh. Guess that means I'd better go fast. However, I knew that I would not be meeting my goal of beating my bib number in the overall standings.

The day dawned cool. Perfect conditions for a guy like me. I generate a fair amount of heat and so being able to keep the temperatures down was perfect.

All of us doing the Revolution (aka double-dipping in the Olympic and the Half) were racked together. We made a fair number of jokes, and also got everyone's assessment on how we were going to try to attack the day. The majority were here to cruise today and then try to race the following day. One guy was here to crush both. There were two of us that were going to try and race our guts out on Saturday and then use Sunday effectively as a catered workout. (Note: sign you are messed up--70.3 miles is justifiable as a "catered workout.")

Waltzed on down to the water's edge and get myself into the wetsuit. I was wearing a blueseventy Reaction for this event; I'm simply not good enough for a Helix. At least, not to take advantage of a Helix.

We got into the water and did a couple of swim start efforts to warm-up. Back on the beach and we're ready to roll.

I lined up left at the swim start. I knew the gong show would be on the inside right as people jockeyed to stay right on the buoy line. I figured it'd be much clearer water for the first little bit and then start cutting the diagonal to the turn buoy.

The horn sounds. We sprint off. The super-swimmers are off the front fast. I settle in and find some feet that I'm pretty happy being on; about 15th guy back, inside edge of this front group that is starting to form. We're the chase; there's a group of 10 or so on the inside buoy line that are simply flying.

We start doing some work and we're at the first sight buoy in no time. I can tell that I've been out of the pool a little more than I wanted to be heading into this race, but we're starting to feel comfortable. I lift my head to sight and notice that the feet I'm following are going WAY left. I make the decision: get off these feet, move back towards the buoy.

I think I made four strokes before I get kicked so hard in the ribs I had to come to a full-stop and roll onto my back. Dude is just all over the place thrashing about and nailed me. It happens...and I put myself in that position. Still...getting kicked in the ribs sucks.

I roll back over and get going again. I've missed my feet, and now I'm going to have to try to work around this guy. I get close and his feet get wide again. I took a very indirect route up and around.

Finally, make it to the turn buoy...and directly into the sun. I can't see anything. (Note to all swim directors: maybe it's time we considered having some different colored buoys based on light conditions? Like, say, something more contrasted for bright sunny days? Save the yellow for when it's cloudier?) I just charge ahead and pray I'm on the right path. A yank on my foot tells me that's someone on my feet. I go to breathe again, same yank underwater. A third: same.

Now, I don't mind my swim's being a little...aggressive. But if you grab my foot three times in a row, and I don't get to breathe for triple my normal breath are going to get introduced to my foot. Hard.

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I got up and out of the water and:



I run right up the hill to transition. I get to my spot, get down to the ankles with the wetsuit and realize that I forgot to TriSlide my calves.

F***! You moron!

As you can tell by the above T1 number, I could've eaten a picnic lunch up there. I was furious with myself.

Finally, time to get on board the bike and ride. I knew this course was supremely hilly, and so I wanted to open a little more conservatively through the first 10 miles and then flip the switch to turbo.

We started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. I had a couple of the 35-39 crowd start to pass me at this point as I debated whether or not to chase them. I decided to stick to my guns. In retrospect, I probably should've attacked here. But having never raced an Olympic distance event before and really wanting to make sure I charged the run, I went with the more conservative of the options.

We finally started making some turns and I started to reel in a couple of guys that had blown up early. I kept moving at my relatively decent pace (I never actually looked at the numbers until later.) I hit mile 10 and started to lay on a little bit more power. I felt like it was a good effort, but not like I was redlining. Again, in retrospect...too conservative.

I made up some good time from miles 15 to 20 as we hauled ass down Hard Hill Road (aka the Big Hill from the Half course). Fastest time down it ever! As we started to climb back towards transition, I again opted for the spin technique, rather than putting in a little bit more effort.

We cruised back into the chute. The guy in front of me completely locked everything up and was all over the road. I wound up coming in way hotter than I wanted to, having to bail right. My options were as follows:

1.) Lock up the brakes and take the mount/dismount penalty;
2.) Bail right into the rock wall, or;
3.) Skid as much speed as I could, jump off, and hope that I could sprint fast enough to not die.

I went with option 3. It wasn't pretty, but everyone applauded me pulling it out of my ass.

Now for the run. I pulled on my Skechers GoMeb Speeds and took off like a bat out of hell.

I flew out of transition, knowing the first two miles were going to be key to a great run split here. They needed to be hard, but not so charging that you were all blown up by the hills. I got through mile 1.5 and Team Rev3er Chris Garges went by me like I was going backwards. I yelled at him: "I HATE YOUR RUN!" He yelled back "Don't worry, I hate it too when I get to the hills!"

This course features three big hills: one at mile 2.5, one at mile 3.5, and one at mile 5.5. I hit the first one...and didn't feel great. This was more of a steepness thing than anything else. Got to the top and was able to open my stride back up.

On this next hill, I realized the guy in front of me was in my age-group. I decided to charge after him on this hill. He was hurting. I was in agony. I just kept pushing. I knew that if I could crest the hill before him, there was no way he was going to come back. Psychologically, I had to break him.

So I charged past at a completely unsustainable pace on the hill, muttering "Good job, keep it up" as I went past. I crested, looked back, and his shoulders were slumped; the stride had shortened; he had broken.

I flew down this next downhill and caught up with the guy in front of me. We were both moving at a great clip and decided we'd try and work together to hold off a hard-charging group behind us. We worked the next mile hard, trying to really push the pace. Yet these guys were just flat out faster. They caught us. We both lifted our efforts to try and stay with them. I was the first out the back; the guy I was with held on for the next half-mile.

We made the turn for home and the evil hill; it's a half-mile, it's the steepest hill on the course, it gets steeper as you make the turn, you can hear the finish line, and it just does not ever seem to end. I saw Eric, the race director, who immediately looked at his watch and went "Hurry it up!" I couldn't help but shrug and smile; my race had pretty much been decided at that point. I went hard up the hill. I couldn't lose position at this point, nor could I gain it, so as we rounded the corner for home I went with "tempo effort" into the finish.

Now, three years ago, this would've been my second-fastest 10K ever. So, to run that off the bike I'm pretty thrilled, particularly on a course as hard as that. As always, though, I'm not truly satisfied; I felt like I was way more conservative than I should have been. Then again...I only had this to do the following day...

Revolution3 Quassy HalfRev
70.3 Miles
Quick Hits: 35:55/3:10:21/1:52:19

Race morning dawned, and I got my breakfast on. I opted to wear the Pearl Izumi Octane Tri Suit for the second day. I was completely undecided on shoes. I had loved the GoMebs the day before. I also had my Mizuno Sayonara's that I had rocked in the Charleston Marathon this year. I just couldn't make up my mind. I left both in transition for the morning.

I readied the nutrition for the day. Working with Christine Lynch this off-season was the best decision I have ever made, as it helped me uncover some serious nutritional issues as well as dial in my sports nutrition. For this race, I would start with the following:

1 x EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha 4 oz flask (for electrolyte and calories)
1 x 26 oz bottle with 2 packets Skratch Labs Apple Cinnamon Drink Mix and 3 x Huma Gel Apple Cinnamon (for calories and light electrolyte).
1 x 22 oz bottle water

I would start off nursing the slurry 26 oz bottle with water, and then transition to the EFS bottle. This was to try and front load calories on the ride when it was easier to digest, and then transition to the simpler EFS fuel. Also, as the day started to warm, I would be able to replenish more electrolytes. I knew my body tolerated all of this fuel well, so I was excited to see how it would stand up in a race environment.

I made the decision that I would try and push the swim harder than the day before because I was so irritated with my result from Saturday. I would then try to get to Thomaston on the bike (the town where you start the massive climbs for this race) as conservatively as possible. I would then see how the legs responded. If they had pace, then pace. If they did not, then it was spin-city time. And then I was running every step of this run course because of how last year went.

Into the wetsuit, into the water, and time to get my ass in gear. And away...we...go.

I lined up left again, and this time had much better folks to work with. We were on the straight path to the buoy and had a good clear sight of the lead group. This is what good swimming is supposed to feel like! We had a great time out to the first buoy, rounding it at the 10 minute mark...

...and was staring directly into the sun.

I have never had to stop before to sight. But we as a group flat out could not see. Everybody picked their heads up to try and find the line. Finally, two of the group spotted the buoy, and the sprint was back on. In previous years, my age-group has been a little bit later, so we could just follow the line-up of splashing. But as the second group, we just could not see where to go. Would a different goggle have helped? Who knows. But before I knew it, I was spit out the back of my group. I have good diesel speed; efficient over the long course. But I need to do more explosive work (sprints) to be able to hang with the fish over the short haul.

At any rate, chugging along, and wound up WAY inside the buoy line. Wound up having to cut way back out to the left across the forthcoming swim caps. Still, I felt like I was in pretty good shape.

We rounded the far buoy and headed back in towards shore. This year they added a final turn buoy to make sure that nobody would hit the dock on the inside edge of the line to shore. (That was the shortest path in from the former last turn buoy.) I charged ahead, feeling like I could get out of the water around 32 and change, the same as last year. I had just felt like I settled in again, went to sight...and I was way too far right again.


At this point, I lost my cool a little bit and wound up having a pretty craptastic remainder of the swim. I got out of the water, saw 34:5X and just swore under my breath for having wasted a pretty good first half of the swim.

Up the hill we went. This time, I'd remembered to put a gallon of TriSlide on my calves. The suit came off easily.

Off and onto the bike. Two out of four years here, I have charged the first 20 miles so hard that I was completely and utterly useless getting back into town. The other two years, I reminded myself to be patient. Attack a little bit on the shorter climbs so long as it felt like a controlled effort, but otherwise get to Thomaston as easily as possible.

Well, off we go...and I really try to even control the effort on the climbs here. I really was trying to be as patient as possible. I let three guys in my age-group speed off ahead, figuring "I'll see you boys on the run. Have you RACED here?"

It was the most fun I've had in a race in a while. I passed a few athletes, wishing them luck on their days. I got passed, asked whether or not they had beer hand-ups available. Joked with a few folks that "dammit, I think Eric finds a way to add elevation to this course every year." And so on. I ignored the time on my watch, figuring that if we were going to start worrying about that, it would start on the climb from Thomaston.

I absolutely hauled ass down the descent to Thomaston. It's the fastest I've ever gone on that stretch of road. Some of that has come from the confidence in riding in groups on descents (note to triathletes: yes, do group rides, and learn how to be able to slow yourself down without having to touch your brakes...) and some of that was the confidence in the positioning and handling aboard Sam Eagle there.

Finally, we make the dual left turns that marks the start of 7 miles of relentless uphill. It starts off innocently and then gradually ramps its way up. The first sign of trouble was getting dropped on the first sign of uphill. The second sign was when I went to start putting in some power...and my body responded with "uh, excuse me, sir, but there is none of that available here." I asked again. "Nope. Fresh out. Try again later." Well then.

So I sat up and spun. I tried everything in the book to jumpstart the system, but as John had warned me the day before: if you raced the Olympic well, you'll have nothing but base fitness for tomorrow. Well, whaddya know: the coach was right!

Further up the climb I got a high-five from the awesome Jamie Bull and his lovely wife Sam. I pressed onward, but started to get really negative about the way things had gone. Malaika Homo, who I'd told the day before, "see you on the climb from Thomaston," had blown my doors off about five minutes before. I was just not in the right spot...and then I dropped my chain.

Conveniently, it was at the second aid station. Last year, I muffed the bottle exchange here and paid the price dearly for it. I stopped to deal with the locked chain. In the interim, I also decided to hit the port-o-john and regroup on fluids. I figured that if we were in that spot at this point anyways, it couldn't hurt to just re-focus and re-group on the things that I could control.

After my pit stop, I rode with renewed vigor. My legs came right around with some calories, fluids, and the couple minutes of recuperation. Suddenly I felt tremendous. We got to Litchfield and made the sharp descent...

...and I hit a pothole...and a bottle ejects...with the USAT official next to me.

Now, the rule states you're supposed to stop and pick this up whenever. Obviously, that doesn't happen (have you SEEN the amount of litter after an event?) frequently. With the official right there and the knowledge of what kind of effort it takes to clean this course, I stopped, found my bottle, and hopped back on.

Now I'm fueled by anger. And we all know that you can not just be pissed off, but pissed off for greatness So I rode. Angry. Hard. Probably too hard. But I didn't care. I'd found the tunnel and was staying in it. Somehow I rode the last 28 miles of that course 20+ minutes faster than I rode the first.

Time to hop off the bike and head into transition. Much neater than the day before. I rolled in and had a decision to make: do I wear the Sayonaras, that I know have worked well for me over distance? Or do I wear the Meb's, which I had run in for the first time the day before? My body screamed "whatever is lighter" and so the Meb won.

I tore ass out of transition, slapped hands with Christine and Eric, and went on my merry way. I found a couple of people in really rough shape heading on down out of the hill, knowing that they were in for a long day on the baking hills of Quassy. I clipped off 5 before the first aid station. The last guy I passed was very much not happy to be passed by someone who had raced the day before. I smiled a little and told him to come chase me down.

I made the turn to head up to the spot where I passed out last year. It was the same aid station folks as the year before. I made sure to thank them profusely for pulling my ass out of the road and helping me out so much; they commented how much better I looked upright. Smartasses. Excellent retort, too.

First three miles down. 10 to go. 10 very hilly miles to go. I started on the uphill and just kept plugging. I promised myself that I was running every single step of this run this year whether it killed me. (Note: yeah, I sound a little morbid during my races. It's the willingness to dig as far and as deep as you can possibly ask out of yourself on a given day that draws me to naturally, you get pretty far down the rabbit hole in your head.) I kept clipping off runners who had been slowed to a power-hike by the relentless Quassy hills.

We hit the run out-and-back and I caught my first glimpse of fellow Mainer Eric Oberg. Dude is a great family guy and really genuine. Highly recommend getting to know him if you're from up here. Anyways, he looked like he was a hurting unit. I had told him out of transition that I was coming for him; now, I'd run his 5 minute lead down to nothing in 5 miles. Now, that said, he was also 10 minutes ahead of me on the course (he started two waves later). But still, it's those things that you find to motivate yourself.

I caught him at the next mile. I tried to get him to run with me, but he muttered something about "negative split" and went on his way. (Don't worry, we'll see him again.) Mile 7-8 is probably the hardest part of the course, in my opinion. You are done with the out and back, but have this long, steep grind to the aid station. I slowed my pace a bit here, trying to conserve my legs for the speedy miles ahead. I loaded up at the aid station and tried to find my fast legs again...but they weren't coming.

Well, that's OK, I said, because now we've got the downhill to find Christian Road, which is across the street from the finish line. That picks up your cadence well, and now we can just truck onward. I felt OK, not as fast as I wanted but still running reasonably well. I took the next turn and looked back...and there's Oberg. Figured he'd make a comeback!

He passed me in the course of the next mile, looking strong. I was getting close to gassed from the weekend's worth of work. My stomach started to get a little haywire, so I slowed a bit more to just get it to calm down. I wanted to make sure I'd give my best effort on the final climb of the day. It's the best I've ever run the last out-and-back, which isn't saying much.

Finally: 1 mile to go. You can hear Sean making announcements, you can hear the music. And you're staring at this massively dumb climb under this bridge, which marks only halfway to the top, because it gets steeper when you get around the corner. I love to hate this course. I dug as far down into the well as I had. I looked behind me and realized I had plenty of gap; nobody was catching me today, so I was going to enjoy this finish chute.

Salt much?
I was done. I proceeded to enjoy the ice bath, as well as a lovely Rising Tide Maine Island Trail Ale while in said ice bath. It was tremendous.

Overall, a hell of a weekend. An absolute blast for those that are gluttons for punishment. Quassy is magical.

White Mountains
So I get razzed a little bit while in Connecticut from Rev3 staffer Bob Balfour, who does some work at White Mountains. He, too, had raced the event last year. I told him after Quassy there was exactly a 0.0 percent chance of me going to do the race. He agreed.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and he puts up a beautiful picture from Franconia Notch, touting the race. I put out a "don't tempt me" on Facebook. He messages me back that he has a spot for me if I want it.

Oh, boy.

I texted Hannah first, who said "go for it; why not?" I then texted John, who I'm sure looked at his phone in utter bewilderment and thought "this guy is f'n nuts." And that's how I wound up doing White Mountains.

I drove over the night before, got a fitful nights sleep, and then headed to Cannon. Had a nice race morning panic attack as a tire had blown on the rear wheel. Fixed in short order. I then spotted nemesis Bob Turner coming up the hill in his truck, whom I had told there was absofnlutely no way I was doing this event. I pointed straight at him in the old-school Hulk Hogan "YOU!!!" mannerism. I'm pretty sure he broke a rib laughing.

We chatted, I put beers in his cooler, and away we went.

I don't have nearly as much to say about this event because, well, it was really more like a training day than anything else. I did swim better than either day at Quassy, coming out of the water and onto the beach in 33:XX. I then opted to shoot for the King of the Mountains award on the bike; a really hard climb up to the campground. I finished 2nd, based on the results I've seen; I got curb-stomped by the guy who won the jersey and the cash so no worries there!

I had two mechanical issues on the bike, both with the chain again. Turns out the limit screw was out of place as well as a stretched chain, leading to dropping it when throwing to the small ring and trying to do any shifting in the rear. Rode OK, but knew that the run was going to be a long day at the office.

This run course makes Quassy seem pancake flat. Just unrelenting. It was not nearly as nice of a run this year versus last, in my opinion. I got through about 8 miles and my stomach simply had had enough; I had stopped sweating. So I loaded up on ice, grabbed some water and pretzels, and just started walking until I could run again. It's the second slowest half I've ever done, but dammit it was done.

And just like that, you've got 171 miles of racing in 8 days.

I can't say I'll be doing that again...we are deep into the build for Cedar Point now and we're following the plan. Each day is a constant step forward towards a hell of a race in September. Time to enjoy the ride.

Next up on the blog: a full review of the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2.

Edited to add: this post can also be found over on the Rev3 website here--

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shipping Up to (North of) Boston...

This space has gone dormant over the past few months for a multitude of reasons. Some comes from my depression following an injury-plagued six weeks post-Charleston Marathon. Some comes from being homesick. And some others, well, elsewhere.

At any rate, things being what they were, I've been given a fantastic opportunity. So I'm proud to say that I'll be moving back to Maine at the end of the month to work for Vont Performance Digital Marketing. Hannah will follow later this summer. For the interim, I'll be couch surfing. So...if you have some space in the Portland area...can I spend a week or two at your place?

It's bittersweet to be leaving after investing so much of myself into Rev3. That said, I'm not really leaving so much as relocating. I'll be helping out with some of the races and being a brand ambassador. So you'll still see me at selected Rev3 races (Knoxville, Quassy, Maine, and Cedar Point...with who knows what else). I'll also be working a little with Maine Running Company.

There are countless people to thank here: Charlie, Carole, Alex, Tim, Ashley, Alison, Lisa, Mark, Mike, Greg, Tommy, Lenny, Senior, Debbie and the rest of the extended Rev3 family for their support over the past few years; all of the Rev3 team members (yeah, you count in the above but you all are some of the best people I've ever met); Ted, Tom and the VONT team for giving me the current opportunity; Hannah, for putting up with me and supporting me...

I'm sad, but I'm excited. Onward and upward...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monkey Wrench: Season Schedule Update

Don't wanna be your monkey wrench
One more indecent accident
I'd rather leave than suffer this
I'll never be your monkey wrench...

Well, all good things must come to an end. My streak of being injury-free lasted all of 10 months.

Last time, as you'll recall, it was my pirifomis issue that almost knocked me right out of Quassy.

Well, this time, I got lucky and unlucky.

So, as you might've read in my report from the Charleston Marathon, I ran into some issues with my Achilles during training. It started with a "short" long run in December of 10 miles, where it was a little icy on a downhill. I followed that up with a session at the Rev3 Kickr Studio where I, for some reason I  am still looking for, decided it'd be smart to try and race Tim a little bit. My Achilles swelled a bit that day. I iced, stretched, and rolled; all seemed well.

I hit the next few workouts with no more than a little mild discomfort of "hey, I guess I tweaked it a little, but it's not changing my stride and it doesn't hurt" and plowed on ahead. Recovery weeks came and all felt fantastic.

And then the wheels came apart, with a long run where it locked on up. Had to tweak the running plans to reflect that, really trying to baby it. Hit my next and final long run without any pain. No big deal.

Until, of course, it was a big deal on race day.

I've been taking it very easy on the running front since, getting some active recovery in and riding the bike a little bit. Things started to loosen on back up, although there still was some swelling.

I had a nice Battenkill training ride planned out for last Saturday. As it turns out, there was a good group ride coming together of a local cycling team. It'd be good to get to know some people in the community, as well as talk about the Kickr studio and the forthcoming store opening.

So off I went with Tim and Todd (awesome local guy who comes to the rides at the shop). We rolled through the first 20 miles in short order. Pretty fast group. Legs weren't feeling great, but we were there. Took 2nd in a KOM, pulled the chase group for a little bit, hung out in the back...just cruising with the group.

We took a turn onto some really solid rollers. The ride suddenly became surge-stall. It was sapping the crap out of my legs, but I was holding on. Until the 2nd to last roller...when I went to get out of the saddle to hit the climb hard...

...and something went "pop."

Immediately everything in the calf and Achilles region on that side got very warm, very fast, and very painful. Worse, I was off the back and twisting in the wind. It was time to bite the tip of my tongue off and try to claw my way back to the ride.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA. Well, that was futile. Took me all of about 10 seconds to realize that wasn't going to happen.

Luckily, Tim, Todd, and I had previously discussed pulling off the ride at the next route junction, which came up in about a mile. We were 30 miles into the ride and there was no way of getting out of this ride without an additional 25-30 miles worth of work.

Needless to say, the inside of my cheek is still raw from how much I gouged out of it riding. Also discovered just how much I need a new set of cleats and pedals (which may be part of the problem in the first place...anyways).

Got myself to get it checked out: partially ruptured/torn Achilles tendon. Probably from that slip on the run, made worse when I biked on it, and consistently partially healed and re-injured ever since.

The Path Forward
Allowed to aqua jog, swim, and hit the weight pile. So doing that for the time being until I can begin running and cycling rehab.

This for sure knocks me out of 140.6 training, and Battenkill may be in jeopardy as well. So currently looking at what to do in the late summer timeframe that won't majorly conflict with the race schedule of Rev3. We'll see what happens.

Until then, though, it's time to focus on the weaknesses and get back to being healthy. And then hit the training hard again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Time Bomb: Charleston Marathon Race Report

I *ahem* have a bit of a reputation for blowing up spectacularly in races. If you've been around these parts, you've seen it in the following events: Timberman 70.3 in 2011; Boston Marathon, Rev3 Maine, Rev3 Cedar Point in 2012; the Mid-Winter Classic, Rev3 Quassy (well, different story, but still), and Rev3 Cedar Point in 2013.

That's a lot of races.

Now, many of these were of my own volition. Outside of Boston, the 2011-2012 campaigns were me being an idiot on the bike and faltering on the run as I deserved. Race like a moron, suffer like a moron.

As for 2013: well, the Mid-Winter Classic featured my left calf seizing at the 7 mile mark and gutting it out to the end. Quassy had my infamous vasovagal response. And Cedar Point was a combo of pre-race exhaustion, stress, and nutrition error, coupled with probably being undertrained.

So, piling all that together, we've been working on a lot of different things: work on the nutrition front and discovering some intolerances; a new coach that has been extremely beneficial; a renewed focus on the process and taking joys in the daily training and not just the focus on the race itself. It's been extremely rewarding so far.

When starting to work with John, he wanted to put an early marathon on the calendar. Outside of Boston 2012 (news flash: it was hot as hell), I hadn't raced a marathon. So really, this would be my first serious crack at the distance and really relished the opportunity to set out a new run PR.

Training went well. I had two hiccups along the way. The first was during my elimination diet with Christine: I got incredibly sick as all of the processed foods and caffeine was cut out of my diet. Crushing migraine, fever, you name it, I had it. Knocked me out for a 4 day stretch in November. But I managed to hit all my workouts from there on out, so I felt comfortable with the amount of training.

The second was a little more worrisome. My left Achilles' had started to act up during one of my weekend long runs in December. I took it easy with it and it seemed to calm itself down. However, in my second-to-last long run, that calf/Achilles seized on up at the 14.5 mile mark. I shut that run down and focused on stretching, rolling, massaging, and otherwise keeping that as happy and as loose as I could. The next week was my last hard week, where everything felt decent again. Crisis averted, I thought.

Taper was a good hard cutdown. It felt really good to recover, do some relaxing, and otherwise bounce back from all of the mileage. Based upon the 800 prediction workout, I was in about 3:05-3:07 shape. I thought that it'd be smarter to go a little more conservative and look for 3:10-3:15 out of the race.

And then it was here: go time. We drove down on Friday to Charleston, about 7.5 hours if you don't stop or 8.5 when you have the dog with you. We brought Dylan along and he was a champ.

Saturday AM: wake up. Coffee. Had a scone. Headed over to the race site; holy crap, this race is bigger than I thought. 5000 of us idiots between the half and the full. Good times.

And soon it was time to get into the starting chute. I opted to line-up with the 3:15 pace group. There was no pace group faster than this. Also, I figured it'd be smarter to run conservatively to start off with and then pick up the pace at the end, rather than be all "bank time up front." There's no such thing.

No real warning given; just a "30 seconds to go" mark. Oh, OK, guess I should get nervous now.

Air horn, and away we go.

Everyone takes off. Sizing people up pretty quickly, you get a decent idea as to who is blowing up their 13.1 and 26.2 mile journeys in the first mile. There are some people who are blowing your doors off, huffing. Then there are others who are also blowing your doors off while having a complete conversation about how sick they were earlier in the week, and how they just want to "jog it in under 3 hours." I hate those guys.

Anyways, the first couple of miles along the waterfront are gorgeous. I felt myself very relaxed, just cruising along, ticking off miles between 7:08 and 7:15. Not focused on pace, but instead on the effort. I want this to feel a little too easy, like I have a lot more to give, like I'm not forcing the issue. I want to be able to really start putting the work in at mile 10. I kept reminding myself that I needed to remain conservative.

At about mile 3 we turn away from the water and into the wind. Charleston was getting a good 15-20 MPH wind out of the west to northwest. This meant this 7 mile stretch was directly into the wind. Luckily, the half and the full courses ran with one another to this point, so there was good conversation to be had and a good number of people to help break the wind and pace with.

10 Mile mark reached in 72:55. That was only 41 seconds slower than what I ran the Mid-Winter Classic in last year. But this time, I felt strong rather than stumbling my way on down to the finish. At this point I started to lift my effort ever so slightly. At this point, we split away from the half and onto an out-and-back; two miles down, two miles back. At 11 the mens leader was on his way back. So I was only two miles behind, which really gave me a lift. 12 was a nice clip as well.

Then we turned around and hey, what do you know, here's the headwind again. I look around and realize I'm three minutes up on the 3:15 group. Score! Halfway home and we're still feeling strong. One of the guys I'd been running with decided to put the afterburners on. He said he thought he'd see me again. He was wrong. We meandered our way back towards where we exited, and got a little shield from the breeze.

At 14 we re-joined the half course. It was easy to let the pace drop here, as we really came back into the headwind again and we were mixing in with the 10:00-11:00/mile half athletes. Luckily, it is a four-lane road so it wasn't too crowded. There were four of us in a row making our way through the crowd. I was determined to stick with this group as, after conferring, we were all looking to run about the same time. That and, well, the scenery wasn't so bad, either. (I apologized to Hannah later.)

Mile 16 and we're still ticking along. The half course splits away again. Eight miles up in here and I'll see this point again. Liking it.

We're about to roll towards an aid station when...

The left Achilles goes. It wasn't a pop, or a snap. But something just went right, along with the sudden increase of what felt like something warm, like a rush of blood, to the area. It slows me down immediately. But the pain isn't unbearable. It just sucks.

I take stock of the situation. Every step hurts, but it doesn't stop me. I'm finishing this race.

I hit the aid station and make sure I get some Gatorade, some water, and some of my own calories into me. And we keep running.

At 18 the 3:15 pace group makes its way past me. They're friendly, asking how everyone's holding up. I try with every ounce of my being to stay with them. At first I'm towards the front of the group. I'm grimacing but hanging tough. I start to slide backwards through them as the pain becomes a little more intense. Soon I'm barely hanging on. I'm digging so far down into the depths of pain tears start to roll out of my eyes. I'm grinding my teeth.

And I still fall backwards out of the group and the gap starts to open. I dig further. I'm tempted to scream. But it does no good. They're pulling away.

When the elastic snaps, it snaps. Try as you might, you won't quite get there.

I re-assess. We're 19 miles in. I can survive for 7.2 miles of torture. Each and every step will be a lesson of how far I'm willing to go down the rabbit hole. Give everything you have. Empty the well. Run as fast as you can for every moment.

I grind my way through the next 5 miles. I'm in no-man's-land: I'm faster than the majority of the race but been left behind by the truly fast. I get picked off by three or four people, and pass a few others that had blown up and were walking.

Mile 24 moves us onto a twisting concrete path. This is agony. I contemplate why I do these things in the first place, but immediately find the answer: to learn more about your character and your desire. And dammit, this is fun. Most of the time.

We now move off the concrete and onto a dirt path. Oh, God, my calf is gone. Just chop it off. I won't notice. It can't hurt much worse.

At 25.5 I pick up a guy who looks like he's been miserable for a while. He told me he'd gone out way too hard and has been Gallowalking the last 4 miles. We both were in an equal amount of hell. But one look to one another at that point sealed our fate: we were going to race each other to the line.

It must've been hilarious to watch, as the pace says our "racing" may have been more like crawling. But we were going to leave it all out on the course. He took the lead to start, and then I really put on the gas as we made our third-to-last turn.

I'm pretty sure you can see how miserable I am. Also, OW.
We came into town, weaved around the block, and made it. In the end, I nipped him by two seconds. Final totals: 3:28:49, 85th OA, 10th M25-29.

I crossed the line, immediately cramped on that left side, and had to grab onto the crowd fencing. Managed to work it out enough so that I could take a finisher picture. I then got an immediate ticket to the massage and PT tent, which was awesome. Got me to a point where I could actually move a little bit.

And, of course, the reward for a hard day's work:
Michelob Ultra will never taste this decent again.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gear Review: Litespeed Ci2

Confession Time: Up until this year, I had never ridden a road bike.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In my years in triathlon, I went straight whole-hog into the game. I bought my Felt B16; when that went down, I moved to the Blue Triad EX; then to a Specialized Shiv Tri Pro; back to a Blue Triad EX. I'd figured that since I was going to be spending large amounts of time in the aero position, I might as well grow accustomed to it as well as becoming more adept at handling that type of bike.

There were, of course, drawbacks to this approach, with the largest being no group rides out of shops. Although tri bikes were welcomed, you either were 30 meters off the back or off the front in order to ride in the aerobars. And with the different seatpost angles (more on that in a minute), it is less than ideal to be cranking away for a couple of hours out of aero.

So along it went, until after Cedar Point. You see, your scribe is currently without any bike in the first place. Instead, I've been tasked (if you could call it that) with riding some of the bikes that we will be selling out of Rev3 Multisport. I've started off with two bikes from American Bicycle Group, the fine folks behind Litespeed and Quintana Roo (the latter of which is the bike sponsor of the race series).

To wit, for the purposes of full disclosure: I have not been compensated by ABG, Litespeed, Quintana Roo, or any of its representatives or subsidiaries in any way. These are bikes that are under ownership of either Rev3 Multisport or the race series. I have simply taken my fit coordinates, applied those coordinates to the bike, and gone riding.

First up: the Litespeed Ci2.

The Macro-Scale Stuff: TT/Tri vs. Road, Frame Materials, and a History of Litespeed
This part of the conversation is going to be *ahem* a bit long-winded. (I can already see the eye rolls from a bunch of you, saying "No kidding, you're always long-winded." I digress.) But bear with me.

First, let's talk about the geometry of the bike. Or, for lack of a better term, the way this bike fits and is constructed. Generally, there are two types of fit for performance riding: road position and TT/tri position. The road position will feature more pressure rearward on the bike, reaching forward towards the hoods or drops. The TT/tri position, meanwhile, shifts forward onto the aerobars and with it requires pelvic rotation on the saddle.

Now, you can ride a road position on a TT/tri bike, and you can ride a TT/tri position on a road bike. The question then is of comfort, handling, and optimization. A TT/triathlon bike will feature a steeper angle from the bottom bracket to the seatpost and saddle; this to help promote riding forward and rotating on your pelvis. It helps distribute your weight across the platform of the bike, also helping with the handling. Meanwhile, a road bike's seat tube angle is shallower, trying to put pressure towards the rear, as you lightly come forward to be able to touch the hoods/drops.

So, if you're looking to race triathlon seriously, it's worth getting a true TT/tri frame. But if you're dabbling in triathlon while also looking for something to be able to ride the roads a fair bit with groups on the weekends, then the Ci2 could be in your wheelhouse.

I say this because in some ways, triathlon and time trialing have led to some revolutions on the road bike side as well. Although weight is still king for many cyclists, aerodynamics are now playing an ever-larger role in the design of road bikes. Why? Well, because drag (the force of wind applied against you while riding) costs you power. If you have less drag, more of your power translates into speed. More speed is definitely better than less, especially if it takes the same amount of power to get there. This is a large part of the success of the aero wheel industry (which we'll get into in other posts), and now you're seeing it come out more and more in actual frame building.
Image courtesy of Volvo Speed.

What helps get us there is the use of carbon fiber. Carbon is still a relative newcomer to the frame building game. Traditional, bikes have been built with metals and alloys: steel, aluminum, and titanium are three examples. But carbon is a bit of a different animal.

Carbon fiber lay-up involves the lay-up of different sheets of the polymer. You then introduce a resin, which hardens the fiber into the shape applied. In the purposes of bicycle building, there is a mold (essentially, a "negative" of the bike) that these sheets are laid into. The resin is applied, and voila! Out comes this new shape.

The advantage of carbon is that it is typically lighter than a comparable alloy frame. Also, you can mold it into different shapes. There's also flexibility and stiffness available based on the type of sheet used in a particular region. As an example, the bike can feature a different lay-up near the bottom bracket and crank, versus the stem or seatpost. You want that bottom bracket to be stiff for maximum power transfer, but you don't want the bike to ride too harshly, so you use a different lay-up to allow for more compliance in that area to smooth out rougher road surfaces. After all, a bike is only as good as it is ridden, and if the frame is so stiff that you can't ride it...well, that doesn't do anybody any good.

Which brings us all around to the manufacturer in question today: Litespeed. You see, Litespeed has been one of the finest crafters of titanium bicycles, starting in 1986. They were innovators in frame design with the alloy. Most famously, their expertise in frame building led a certain U.S. Postal Service rider to ride their frame, re-badged as a Trek, to two individual time-trial victories in the 1999 Tour de France.

However, titanium can only get you so far these days. In 2010, Litespeed introduced their first full line-up of carbon-fiber bikes. They now feature a complete line-up of road bikes: the carbon L, M, and C series and the titanium T series.

The Techno-Babble

The Ci2 sits in the aero road frame category for Litespeed. The C series is designed with aerodynamics fully in mind; every tube shape is designed to help save watts. Litespeed claims that the C series saves you 20.4 watts versus a standard, round-tube bike. I'm not here to validate that claim by saying, "Yes, it actually was worth 20.4 watts!" My purpose, instead, is to determine whether this bike is successful in its mission.

So, what exactly is the mission of the Ci2? Well, for starters, all the C series frames feature the same frame design. Where they differ is in carbon-layup. The C3, Ci2, and C1 all feature 30T modulus carbon fiber. The C1R features 60T carbon fiber. What's that mean? The C3, Ci2, and C1 will all ride a little more compliantly than the stiffer C1R.

The bike is built around the BB30 bottom bracket standard. Without diving too deep into the wormhole that is bottom bracket standards, BB30 bikes feature internal bearings that press/snap into the frame. You then have a crank with a spindle width of 68 millimeters. The advantage of those internal bearings? The bike is overall narrower, so you don't need the frame to be as stiff as it would be if it were wider there. So you get similar power transmission out of a bike that might give you a little more road compliance. It is my personal favorite bottom bracket standard.

So, if the majority of the C series features the same frame, what is the distinction between the C3, Ci2, and C1? Component specification. The C3 features Shimano's "entry-level" performance line of 105. Keep in mind, 105 is far from entry-level. But in the world of performance products, 105 from Shimano and Rival from SRAM are your starter kits. It also comes with Easton EA30/50 stem and bars and the workhorse Shimano R500 wheelset.

The Ci2 steps up to Shimano's Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting system. Yes, electronic. The advantages of electronic? Auto-trim of the front derailleur (no more chainline rub in cross-gears!) and that, once it's set, you'll have crisp shifting, every time. The disadvantage? If you run out of're hosed. This groupset doesn't eliminate the need to replace consummables (chainrings, cassettes, and chains) but it does eliminate the need to add mechanical cables to that equation. Also, we start to get a bit more aerodynamic on the wheel choice: the Easton EA50 set. It's a 30 millimeter deep aluminum set, giving you some aero benefit while still being durable enough to beat on everyday.

The C1 is Shimano Ultegra mechanical. Why is the "higher" end bike mechanical? Weight, for one. But also, some cyclists still prefer good old mechanical shifting. There's also a host of slight component spec-upgrades from the Ci2.

So, looking at the product line, the Ci2 is meant as that midline, performance model in the C series line-up. It comes with a respectable selection of components. It also helps that non-mechanically inclined athlete with the electronic shifting. Simply charge the battery, re-install, and away we go.

Competitors for this bike would include the Specialized Venge Expert Ultegra, the Cervelo S3 Ultegra Di2, and the Felt AR3 EPS. (EPS is Campagnalo's electronic shifting system.)

Here's the full component breakdown of the model, as it would stands on the sales floor of your local bike dealer:

  • Frame: Aero 30T Carbon
  • Fork: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Headset: FSA ZS Taper
  • Seatpost: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Rear Dereailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 53 x 39
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
  • Shift/Brake Levers: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-25
  • Chain: FSA Team Issue
  • Wheels: Easton EA50 Aero
  • Stem: Easton EA70
  • Bars: Easton EA70
  • Saddle: Fizik Arione
  • Tires: Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick
I test-rode both the medium-large and the large size Ci2, with the large being the preferred frame size.

The Ride: How's it feel?
Well, let's get my major niggle out of the way first: I hated the saddle. Me and Fizik just aren't friends with one another. That said, saddles are a major contact point for the bike. If you don't get your saddle selection right, nothing about the rest of the bike can be right, no matter how well it is set-up. For myself, this means I'm riding a Cobb SHC170 for road fit and an ISM Adamo Road for triathlon. The same holds true for your bars, and your pedals. If you're not comfortable on board your bike, start there.

OK, so now that we've gotten that part out of the way:

I landed smack dab between sizes on this bike. I could use the reach (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the medium-large and the stack (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the large. After riding around a fair bit, I determined that I preferred the fit off the large. I found it easier to play around with reach here, personally, with stem length than anything else.

Alright, so we've settled the fit in, got it to the fit coordinates, and made all of the adjustments. So now, time to play around.

The first thing I noticed after clipping in was the smooth acceleration of the bike. This isn't a "snappy" frame, where you can really feel every pedal stroke. Instead, this is like a diesel: constant, continual acceleration until it hits terminal velocity.

Once up to speed, the frame really starts to shine. The tube shapes have definitely paid dividends, as this bike wants to stay at speed once it is there. It simply cuts through the wind. It also cuts out a lot of road vibration as well. Our roads here in northern Virginia make Maine's seem pristine by comparison. We're talking a little chip-seal, some dirt/gravel, some pavement from 1972, some concrete is all handled adeptly. Credit, too, those Easton wheels for helping out with compliance and without falling out of true.

Shifting is as crisp as you would expect electronic shifting to be: direct, precise, authoritative. I've personally preferred SRAM shifting for years, although Di2 might make me a believer in Shimano. The brakes scrub speed well, even in wet/muddy conditions.

Of course, there has to be some kind of trade-off when it comes to the rideability of this particular frame. After all, it can't excel at everything! This isn't the world's best climbing bike. We have a solid 1.2 mile torture chamber known as Ridge Road, featuring a deliciously nasty continual 8%+ climb. So, of course, I ride it all the time.

All of that great, smooth road compliance means the bike feels ever so slightly soft while really trying to mash on the pedals on Ridge Road. Some of that, in my opinion, lays not in the fault of the frame, but moreso of the component spec.

Although this bike is BB30, it comes with a Shimano crank on it. Shimano cranks require the Shimano Hollowtech bottom bracket, which installs outward of the frame. So remember those advantages of BB30 that we'd talked about before? Well, now it's gone. As a side note, for 2014 Litespeed has changed over to a native BB30 crank. So this part of the discussion will probably be rendered moot!

That being said, it has more than held its own on more respectable grades that you'd be more likely to find on most of your rides. It is smooth, fast, and downright fun to ride and easy to care for. What more could you ask for?

In totality, I'd highly recommend this bike for most athletes. The aerodynamic advantage is there. If you're a mountain goat, step up to the C1R. But for most people, this is going to make your life much, much easier. Spend less time wrenching. Spend more time riding.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I've Taken All and I've Endured... day it all will fade I'm sure...
         --Foo Fighters, I'll Stick Around

My coach is trying to kill me.

Let me explain.

John has, shall we say, a very *ahem* unique method of motivation:
As many of you are aware, I'm training for the Charleston, SC Marathon in January. We stand just under 4 weeks away from me toeing the line of a race again. Crazy to think! But then again, outside of a couple of 5Ks in November and December, I haven't really attempted racing since the Cedar Point disast-debacle. So...we're due.

To give you an idea of John's ideas on training load, let me illustrate using a classic from the Paulo Sousa meme thread on Slowtwitch:

 To take you through a sample week: one recovery day. Run slow. Run trails. Run uphill. Run fast. Run long. Run long with tempo. Bike hard. Bike long. Swim somewhere in there. And oh yeah, get some core work done too.

Add on top of this that I got to spend the better part of two days with a sledgehammer and a crowbar taking out about 2500 square feet worth of engineered hardwood that was overglued to the floor (evidently, the previous tenant used the glue to LEVEL THE FLOOR)...and I'm *ahem* tired.

But it's all going to the right place. I've never run this much before healthily. I feel strong. Running is coming easier and easier. On some of these long runs, I just start jamming out 7:00 pace without really thinking about it. Of course, I then slow down when I realize what the hell I'm doing (don't leave your race in a workout).

This week, though, is the test: have a predictor run tomorrow (basically, what I can punch out for that test workout is a great indicator of marathon time/pace) and a 20-mile progression run on the weekend (get to test out that indicated pace).

Bring it, John. You haven't killed me yet.

Under that same token, I've been doing a lot of work with Christine Lynch to figure out what the ruddy hell has been wrong with my stomach.

As you've probably tired of reading in this space, I've had a lot of challenges with my gut. Whether it's pre-race, during the race, post-race, cramping, vomiting, etc. I was tired of it. Plus, Christine is the one that took this phenomenal photo of me in the medical tent at Cedar Point:

So...she's seen me in some pretty bad spots before.

After some consulting, we decided that the best approach would be to follow an elimination diet for the better part of 6 weeks. What's an elimination diet, you ask? You pretty much get rid of anything and everything that could possibly be a food intolerance. So...pretty restrictive overall. You then add foods back in, one item at a time, to test how your body responds to things.

Add that on top of the training from John...and there were some days where I certainly contemplated putting my head through a wall. (There was in fact a day where I got violently ill from cutting my coffee habit off cold turkey. Worst migraine ever, fever, chills, you name it I got it.)

Well, as it turns out, I'm intolerant of soy and don't handle fructose well under training load. So, out goes soy out of the regular diet, and finding new sports nutrition that doesn't contain fructose in it. Good times. But as we've done this, we've gotten rid of almost all of the symptoms that I used to deal with. It's awesome.

Christine's also helping out on the daily diet front, trying to find some more healthy recipes, etc. that aren't simply "lay protein over massive spring mix and spinach salad, add balsamic vinaigrette (good luck finding one that doesn't have soybean oil in it!)" which, although delicious, is awfully repetitive. We're getting there.

It's been an awesome experience, getting to know what works in my system and how it responds under the volume John's putting me under. It's been, dare we say, fun. One of the biggest lessons out of all of this is enjoying the process of what works for me as an athlete, and even what doesn't work. Then taking those lessons and applying it to racing.

Still a little ways to go before that happens. Time to keep slogging onward.