Tuesday, May 31, 2011

These Are My Famous Last Words...

...set to the tune of Foo Fighters' "Bridge Burning"...

It all comes down to this.

Nineteen weeks of intense training, mental toughness, wanting to quit, and overall work all wrap themselves together to one day. Rev3 Quassy stands but a short few days away.

It's funny, I think that the toughest weeks have been the ones that I have not had intense training. The weeks without big blocks of training have instead allowed me to get into my own head, and I find myself thinking way too much about a whole lot of things.

Have I prepared enough? How fast can I go? What the hell am I thinking? Why am I doing this? I think every athlete goes through this stage of thought process...the nervousness of race day.

To be honest, the toughest part has been thinking about missing my father-in-law, and wishing that he was here to come see things. Although I know he's with me, it doesn't get rid of that selfishness of wanting him along for the ride. Was that messy enough way of saying things? I think it's true, though: I know he's with me, but he's not with me, you know?

At the very least, though, I get to have the wondrous support of Hannah, my lovely wife; my parents; and my extended family will be along for the ride as well. This is going to be a hell of a journey.

This will hurt, it will want to break me. There's no getting around that. But I know I have it in me to race like hell. I will finish with a giant smile on my face. I will be damned happy with what I do. And I'll celebrate for a bit.

Then it's time to get right back down to work, as I've got Timberman on the schedule too. Recovery, followed by good build again.

Will I be competitive? Hell yes. I will carry my ass to the best time that I have within me. Where will that place me? Depends on who shows up on race day. I could be in front, in the middle, hanging off the back end, who knows? All I care about is what I can do.

This is the sign-off for Crashing the Boards until post Rev3. I will have a full race report up next week. Until then, time to crawl back into my headspace, and get ready to race.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tri-Short Comparo: 2XU, Pearl Izumi, and Hincapie

Little-known fact: the tri short is the only "make-or-break" piece of equipment you own.

How so? Anybody can gut through the wrong type of shoe for their feet for one day. You can ride a triathlon on a single-speed cruiser. You can swim without a wetsuit. No need for aero helmets. Nutrition? Whatever is served on course.

But your tri short? Get this piece of equipment wrong, and either your...well...ahem, lower extremity will be either numb, or painful. Chafing. Saddle sores. Running with a diaper. Uncomfortable. In sum, screw this up and you'll be crying for weeks afterward.

Ah, but here lies the issue: what fits? This is why there are so many different companies, with different lengths of shorts, with different sized chamois, and varying materials. But first and foremost, make sure that whatever short you buy:
  1. Sits comfortably snug through the groin area. Creasing is a bad, bad, BAD sign. (Did I make that clear enough?)
  2. The chamois feels comfortable against you. If you feel like you need to adjust it constantly without movement, imagine having that up against your backside for the better part of your running experience. If this is you, move on.
  3. The elastic leg bands feel secure against the skin, but don't feel like they're peeling your skin off in the process. Yes, there is a difference, particularly those of us that have legs covered in fur. (Shut up. I'm hairy. And I refuse to shave.)
With that in mind, I've had the pleasure of testing out three shorts from different companies. They all fit me well, but each has it's merits and flaws, and I'll pick my own winner. Remember, your results can and will vary.

3. Pearl Izumi Select Tri Short $54.99, available now
This is Pearl Izumi's "entry-level" short, as their product ranges from the Select on up to the P.R.O. line (high-end, think Tim DeBoom's gear). I had gotten this as part of a package when I picked Kermit up, along with my Tri Fly III cycling cleats.

These shorts live up to the entry-level part of the equation. The chamois, although decent, is good for no more than about an hour on the bike before it feels like you have no padding there. It seems like it doesn't want to give up moisture as well as the other two shorts. However, I could see this short doing well for athletes who are racing no longer than sprint or Olympic distance events. This short is great on the run.

Pros: Great running short, short distance champion
Cons: Chamois doesn't hold up to extended cycling
Verdict: For short-coursers only.

2. 2XU Endurance Aero Tri Short, $109.99, available now
Sometimes, more is less, and here is where innovation sometimes comes at the expense of actual, practical use.

To wit: the 2XU short is a great short. But some of the "added benefits" wind up actually detrimentally impacting the short, relegating it to the second place position. But don't get me wrong: I love this short.

2XU has nailed a lot of things on this short: the chamois in these is perfect. A light perforation allows them to dry, yet it never feels like it is compressing on the saddle. Three hour efforts are extremely comfortable. The overall short is quite breathable. And the compressive nature of the garment makes the legs feel pretty darn fresh after a while.

But it's the "dimple" panels to provide a more aerodynamic benefit (yes, like the dimpled Zipp wheels) wind up giving a mild irritation on the skin after a little while. And the leg grabbers are a touch too grabby on the run, almost digging into the back of the hamstring.

Pros: Great chamois, waist is perfect, compression helps move lactic acid
Cons: Legs too grabby, materials can rub
Verdict: Nailed the big stuff. Time to focus on the minor stuff and we've got a winner.

1. Hincapie T1/Triathlon Shorts, $89.99 via custom order program, $119.99 regular retail
This short mixes the best of the Pearl Izumi shorts with the best of the 2XU's to give you a package that is nothing short of awesome.

This gives you the conforming run comfort of the Pearl Izumi with the perfect all-day long riding chamois off of the 2XU. Super breathable mesh pattern on the side, while still giving you some compression through the hamstring and quadriceps. The leg grabbers are tight, without feeling like they're ripping skin off.

The only real drawback? Cost. At $119.99 per pair, you'll have invested a ton of cash into these. But considering how wrong a bad short feels...it feels like the best investment you've made in equipment.

Pros: Great fit, all day long comfort, super breathable
Cons: Price point can leave your wallet crying for shame
Verdict: Spend the money. Be comfortable.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Knew That Law Degree Would Come in Handy...

Who knew that a $300,000 education would actually be useful at some point?

To that end, cycling as a sport is quite popular here in Southern Maine. There are plenty of good shops to choose from to purchase or service your ride here. I tend to give my money to two shops for purchases, and one for service, and it's time for shameless plugs for all three:

CycleMania: Good, solid shop with a smattering of offerings from Trek/Cervelo on the bike front, and then plenty of components kicking around.

Gorham Bike and Ski: I tend to head on over here when needing the consumable bike parts: tubes, for example. The apparel selection tends to be a bit stronger here, too.

Freeman's Bicycle Service: Josh Freeman is, well, the only mechanic I'll let touch my bike. Why? Because of his attention to detail, the appreciation you can actually feel when walking into the shop, as if to say, "Thank you so much for coming, and I'm going to reward you with putting every ounce of myself into helping you." Lots of places could learn a thing or two from the customer service Josh puts in. Small selection of parts (and you could order a whole hell of a lot more, too!), but you go here if you need the bike worked on. Go once. You won't go anywhere else after.

The reason why I post about these shops is because the Maine Legislature, in all of it's infinite wisdom (boy, the sarcasm-o-tron is on high alert today), it's decided that cyclists should be taxed more. House Proposal 880 would implement an additional two percent tax on all bicycles purchased within the state, on top of the already existing five percent sales tax.

Now, normally, this would just put me in a bad mood, but then hearing the justification for the bill from the sponsor, Rep. Ralph Sarty (R-Denmark), set me over the edge (source: Portland Press Herald):
The current laws regarding bicycle use on public ways place little if any responsibility or liability on the bicyclists. Almost all the responsibility and liability is on motorists. Perhaps we need a law stating that cyclists can't back up traffic for more than half a mile before pulling over and letting the traffic pass.
Within the same piece, Rep. Sarty tries to state that his bill is not "anti-bicycle."

Let's give this some context: Maine currently has what is called a "three-foot" law. This means a motor vehicle must give a minimum of three feet in order to pass a cyclist. Maine also does not require that the cyclist stay on the extreme right side of the shoulder; instead, a cyclist is to ride as far to the right as practicable. Given the condition of some shoulders, or roadsides, particularly after frost heave season, often times the furthest to the right a cyclist may get is the center of the traffic lane.

Nevermind that even under the current law, and riding all the way to the right, it does not prevent accidents. I was hit in the fall on Route 302 just outside of Windham. The road there has an eight-foot shoulder, plus the standard width of the traffic lane. I was about six-feet into the shoulder (so, six feet to the right of the white line marking the edge of the traffic lane) when I got hit from behind.

This proposal does nothing beyond providing a reverse incentive: don't purchase a bike, because lawmakers are trying to push you away. Rep. Sardy claims that the purpose of the money raised via the tax would be to construct "dedicated bikeways to be used by cyclists and pedestrians." Yet I don't see a proposal to, say, tax running shoes. (Note: don't send this idea to Rep. Sardy.) So cyclists will alone foot the bill?

What about the fact that most cyclists also own cars, and pay excise tax, which is meant to go towards the improvement of roads? What if Maine were simply going to take care of the roads that existed? If, say, Blackstrap Road from Westbrook to Cumberland were in better shape, I could always ride as far to the right to give more room to vehicles. It just seems that cyclists, because we are most visible on the roads, have targets on our backs.

To that end: stay vigilant. Write your lawmaker. And when out there: be aware. Stay safe. Assume the driver can't see you. Assume that you are the only one paying attention. Because odds are, unfortunately, that you are.
Programming Note: Thanks for being so patient with the lack of new material as of late. There's upcoming gear reviews, comparing three tri shorts, along with another swim post.