Saturday, December 15, 2012

Don't Know the Man That's Living In My Head...

It's been a stressful time around here, which is why you've seen so little updating around these parts. I've been, to use lack of a better term, right straight out with work. Just been working so hard with everything that I'm doing and that with the workouts on top of it, I really haven't had any time to update anything else.

As it stands, with that amount of stress I've had a pretty good amount of time to reflect on where I am, who I am, and what I stand for. It's where the title of this post comes from: it's a really odd place to be, seeing just how confused and lost that I've been a lot of the time. Who is this person, who knows what it is he's looking for, who's confident, who's sure of what it is he wants to do with his life, etc. When did he show up?

It's been a process, for sure. I've learned an awful lot about myself through my work and life experiences. Of course, I look back on certain things (e.g., some of the relationships I had with people in college) and wish that I had been a better person then. But without the hurt that came from them, I highly doubt that I'd be the person who I am today. Sometimes, I suppose, you need the hard lesson in order to understand. And in my case, it's taken a few times to figure it out.

Now, with all the rambling psycho-babble out of the way...

Some updates to share!

  • Bike Front: Looks like I'll be riding again at some point around the first of 2013. (So long as the world doesn't end between now and then.) Just in time for Friday Night Fights to begin again. That'll be a perfect re-introduction to cycling, right? All out efforts trying to hold myself in from vomiting will be a great way back in.
  • The Running Event: If you work at all in the specialty running channel, this is a MUST DO event. Such a great time in Austin, Texas getting to see new product, get great ideas, etc. Just a phenomenal learning experience. Any event that includes people saying, "we provide alcohol for free because, as we all know, a drunk buyer is a happy buyer" is usually going to be a good time.
  • Revolution3 Update: Still looks like the 2013 schedule is going to happen as planned. Team summit to meet our phenomenal sponsors in January, and then races in May, June, August, September, and November to cap it all off.
  • Swimming Update: Completely changing my swim stroke. If it's broke, you might as well scrap it all and start from scratch. The good news? My shoulder feels great. The bad news? I'm still slower than a sloth.
  • Ski Season Update: Looks like it'll be kicking off on Monday!
Still have product reviews forthcoming: some Pearl Izumi gear, etc.

Now to start blogging with frequency...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's All Part of the Plan...

Now that we've gotten the Batman-geekness out of the way...

This physical therapy break has been really good from a mental reset standpoint. Although it was good doing some hard work in the early part of the transition phase, I was also running myself into the ground. Mental, emotional, and physical lapses were coming up quickly. I was losing sight of the goals that I have in plan for the 2013 season.

I'm starting to really come around. My body has responded extremely well to the core strength exercises and work done over at Raymond Chiropractic & Sports Injury Center. If you're an athlete in southern Maine and are having issues that don't start with the terms "torn," "stress fracture," "fracture," et. al., it's worth your time to get in and see Dr. Raymond.

My left shoulder continues to be the source of issue. As I said in the last update, a lot of it was related to my left hip. Well, now the hip stuff is cleared up, but the shoulder itself is still a steaming pile of garbage. Part of the problem: that lat was shut off for so long that the other shoulder muscles are overdeveloped and rolling the shoulder forward. So even though the lat is "turned on," I don't have an established neuromuscular connection to be able to get it to fire.

We're currently working on some exercises to improve that. It's frustrating to only be allowed to do the first two inches of a pull-up motion (only until the elbow wants to start to bend). I want to swim, but I don't want to hop into the water until I can get the shoulder under control on dry land. And even then, I'm going to need to re-learn the stroke to be able to get the shoulder in the correct position so I don't go and screw it up again.

But, it's all part of the plan. You can only make improvements when your body is healthy enough to accept them. And that has me hungry to get back at it.

As I announced previously, we're talking about a pretty hefty 2013 schedule:

  • Rev3 Knoxville Olympic: May 5, 2013
  • Rev3 Quassy Half: June 2, 2013
  • Rev3 Maine Half: August 25, 2013
  • Rev3 Cedar Point Full: September 8, 2013
  • *potentially* Rev3 Florida Half: November 3, 2013
And. while we're at it, here are the goals for 2013:

  • Break 5:00 for the half. I know with another season under the belt it'll happen. There's no doubt in my mind. The "reach:" sub-4:45.
  • Swim under 33 minutes. This is going to take a fair amount of work, especially with the shoulder stuff. But I feel like going back into the pool, almost losing where I was before, will only benefit me from a "re-learning how to swim so that it doesn't look like an attempted drowning" standpoint. This will earn my time on my competition, but also lessen the energy expenditure, which means better biking and running.
  • Run under 1:40 off the bike: the fitness has probably been there, with the main culprit (IMO) being a poor nutrition plan (only have myself to blame there) and, in one dramatic case, overbiking the first hour (Rev3 Maine). I held back by 9 minutes on the bike at Cedar Point and ran almost 20 minutes faster despite me vomiting everything I had in me during the middle miles. 
  • The full: go to race, not just "complete the distance:" this is a tough one for me to explain. I know that there are, for a lot of people, who push to complete a 140.6 as their entire goal. That their goal is to be able to have someone say that they're an Ironman, or that they've done a full, etc. My goal is to go there to race. I don't want to do 140.6 miles for the sake of being out there for 140.6 miles. My goal is to go swim, bike, and run as fast as I can on that day in September. I have an idea in mind what I'm capable of right now. I think that based on how much I improved this year, despite leaving a lot on the table, gives me a good margin.
This weekend is the Maine Running Company Turkey Trot; it's my first 5K ever.

No, stop laughing, I'm serious.

I've never raced a 5K. I'm interested to see what the hell happens, considering how little I've been allowed to do over the past month or so. Still no biking, as Wallace sits in Norcross, GA awaiting his fate.

Want to also point out the work that both PowerBar and Revolution3 have done in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: PowerBar donated all the products from the cancelled NYC Marathon as well as took donations from Team Elite members; Revolution3 loaded up a truck full of goods and bags and dropped them off this week. It's incredibly heart-warming to see the work that these folks do for others, even when it may not be the prudent business decision. Part of the reason why I'm so excited to be a part of Team Rev3 is because of how much they care beyond the athletic component, but also family, friends, and life in general.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Get What You Need...

Well, first appointment down with Raymond Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center...

I went for a run on Sunday and just had an absolutely abysmal time. Generally, I've been clipping off some great runs: right around 7:45 pace with a nice, low heart rate. Well, roll into Sunday and I couldn't do crap in terms of that: breathing was way off, heart-rate sky-high, stomach hating me. Couple that with my IT bands starting to get really angry with me, a little bit of knee pain, etc. So to add it all up:

  • No swim due to the shoulder and neck.
  • No bike because it's on the way to Georgia to get checked out with the manufacturer.
  • Now, my run's falling apart? What the hell?
I had already booked out this appointment with Dr. Jamie Raymond about a week ago, with the primary focus being on that left shoulder of mine. Guess it was convenient that my entire body decided to shut on down all at the same time.

Now, some people see the word "chiropractor" and they immediately get nervous: am I going to need to see him continuously to get re-adjusted? Could this be the wrong course of action for me?

The answer, of course, is it depends; however, Dr. Raymond is much more than just a chiropractor. Sure, he provides that service, but he also couples that with Active Release Therapy, massage, Graston technique, and exercises to help you hold onto the adjustments. Basically: trying to identify what the underlying root issue is, find exercises to help correct it and strengthen (if possible), and adjustment/release as necessary.

The initial consultation is a little longer: you talk about injury history, you talk about what you've done in general to try and correct the issue, what brought you to the office then, and then the work begins of trying to build you back up the correct way.

We started getting into some exercises, and immediately we found some fun stuff:

  • My left lat was shut off. Not weak. Not tight. No, we mean: would not fire. At all. That wouldn't have ANYTHING to do with my shoulder issue.
  • My gluteus medius wasn't firing, either. This was forcing strain elsewhere, which leads essentially to the IT band getting to do all of the work.
  • The underlying issue: we got completely locked up in the hip region: psoas, adductors were just a big hot ball of tightness. The thing is, it was causing problems in both directions: got the rib cage completely out of alignment, which turned the lat off, which then got my supraspinatus to do all of the work, resulting in impingement. Hooray!
So, now with a whole bunch of exercises to do at home, we're hopefully on the road to getting better. I'm going to run as I feel like it, but more importantly just pay attention to my body. It's been good to have this mental and physical break; it's letting me get some projects done and get myself focused for 2013.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beautifully Broken Things

Stars shine down from the black and
we're picking through this broken glass
How could we know that our lives 
would be full of beautifully broken things...

It's been a really major up-and-down stretch around the Crashing the Boards offices as of late. Crazy how high and low life can take you in such a short period of time.

At any rate, here's what's going on:

Rev3 Florida
I had the distinct pleasure of getting to fly on down to Florida to help the Revolution3 crew out with Rev3 Florida in Venice.

The seeds of this were planted back in August at Rev3 Maine. I wanted to help set-up the expo, as I could volunteer a little bit of my time beforehand. Why not? Naturally, they needed help in retail. So I got down to setting up the bike gear at the expo. If you couldn't find any spare tubes, tires, or multitools, you now know who to blame.

Well, now we roll into September at Rev3 Cedar Point, when I walked into the retail tent to merely pick up a spare tubular and some other small extras. As I was getting ready to walk on out, somebody was there asking a question about a bottle mount (the Profile Design cross mount to put a standard bottle between your aerobars). They then weren't going to use it on race day, because they didn't want to have to set it up. I offered to go out, mount it for them in transition, and have them ready to go. I got done helping him out, and by the time I got back it was "you need to work with us once..."

Well, sure! What the hell? So on down to Florida we went.

If I may make a recommendation: if you have the opportunity to volunteer or work a Rev3 event, do so. You will have more fun than you would ever think possible while working. The crew is very, very much a family. If you've raced a Rev3 event, you've probably noticed that to some extent. I know that when I first raced Rev3 Quassy in 2011, it was noticeable throughout. Well, take that, multiply it by approximately 100 times, and you get the vibe of working with Rev3.

We set up the store, got things ready to rock, had an awesome restaurant providing food for us all weekend long (and, I might add, some awesome margaritas). Then we got down to work: athlete time!

Sold a lot of shoes, set up an X-Lab Torpedo Mount for somebody (side note: these take WAY longer than the Profile Design one), chatted with who I thought was the Quintana Roo rep and actually turned out to be the head of American Bicycle Group (and hey, we share connections to Cape Cod. Small world). I'm pretty positive the picture of my face when Charlie told me when that the "QR rep" was the head of things would have been priceless...

As it turns out, things went really well. That athlete who I put the X-Lab Mount on came back after the race to thank me for helping her out, as it turns out she won her age group with it! Lots of super positive energy, despite the fact that a little storm named Sandy helped to derail a few things. Swim was cancelled due to severe riptides and surf; the wind was absolutely fierce on the bike; and our flights really got all screwed up. I had to come home earlier than expected or risk being marooned in south Florida for a few extra days. I know, the horror...but somebody needs an income! Got the last flight home to Portland Sunday night.

So, what goes up most certainly must come down...

The Beautifully Broken Things: My Shoulder
I came back from Florida having managed to get in a whole whopping one run in while I was down there with Tim and Tony. And not only that, but to use a phrase from Jordan, I had a pretty healthy case of the #pOops. Stopping twice while trying to maintain around 7:00 pace isn't an effective way to make it back. Not only that, but my shoulder was sore as hell. Great, whatever.

Well, head off to the pool on Thursday morning, get in, and my left shoulder (the one that's been giving me issue for a while now) has finally decided to shut itself down really well. The lat is simply shut off. I can't get it to fire. At all. Pull ups? Nope. Nothing in the water. I tried every trick I've got in the book. Nothing. Just all on the top side.

Shut it down.

So I guess I'm a runner for a little while. Going to see a sports injury/chiropractic/ART provider for my shoulder here in the next couple of days. Also going to have some nagging stuff opened up (my hamstrings being about as tight as the head of a snare drum, getting my hip flexors opened up, etc.) Just incredibly frustrating.

Just got to keep rolling on, I s'pose...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Thoughts on Lance

I'm a bit late to the table with this, although this morning's news release with Nike dropping their sponsorship commitment and him stepping down from LiveSTRONG's chairman position makes it a bit more timely...

This is the tale of human nature, the tale of somebody who valued winning above all else, but also the tale of somebody so profoundly impacted by his brush with death that he created a foundation for it.

I don't think Lance Armstrong is the devil if, in fact, the USADA case against him is true. It sounds like the conspiracy to dope ran through the entirety of cycling: from teams, to team leaders, to the riders, to the organization that sanctioned the professional tour. It's sickening. And it is through that lens of "doing whatever it took to win" that he valued winning over clean sport, when it sounded like there was no such thing as clean sport during that time.

That doesn't make what he did any better, though. It's cheating. It flies in the face of why I compete; to see how I stack up against my fellows, and to give every ounce of my being to it. Someone else values winning more than that, and they'll do whatever it takes to get there. That can lead to some pretty dark places, and it appears it took Lance there, too. Makes sense, if you think about it: incredibly competitive person wants to do whatever it takes to win.

But I also think that his doping history also does not disqualify him from the good that he does with LiveSTRONG, either. I'm not going to fight a LiveSTRONG argument; that organization did a lot for my family and I when we lost my father-in-law, and I'll happily continue to wear a LiveSTRONG band so long as I have one.

It goes to show that professional athletes are indeed human, and can be doomed to the pitfalls of our nature as well. But that means you be both things: Lance the doper, Lance the charitable.

I don't think it makes much sense to separate the two; nor do I think one disqualifies the other. I think he's human.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Can't Always Know What's Coming, Can't Always Trust a Twist of Fate: 2013 Racing Schedule

Yes, I know how odd that title is up above, but it really speaks volumes: You're never going to be completely sure when you're going to be prepared for something, but you also can't just hope that it's going to be OK. You need to do what you can to give yourself the confidence in your plans. It's that sensation that led to me sitting down with Doug to review the 2012 season and to start thinking ahead towards 2013.

We settled in, and the first question was about how I personally felt about the season. The big thing, to me, was being so happy with the improvement that I've made. I hit one target goal for the year (go sub-5:15), the next goal being within reach (sub-5:00), and I proved to myself that I can run pretty damn fast if I'm smart about it.

That doesn't make me satisfied, though. I'm hungry for a lot of things in the sport, and it's going to take a lot of dedicated work to get there. I knew how much time I left on the table, for instance, at Rev3 Maine. I went as fast as I could on a given day at Rev3 Cedar Point, and now it's about dialing in the nutrition plan.

So as we sat there, chatting about what I feel like I needed to do, the first thing across the mind was closing a run out: not letting the back half of the run hit me like a ton of bricks. Some of that's nutrition, some of that's fitness, and some of that's mental; the willingness to continue to meet pain head on in the face. I've done pretty well, but I want to close it on down and hammer it home.

The goals for next season?

  1. Sub 5:00 HalfRev. I think this one's right within grasp. 
  2. The Reach: Sub 4:45 Half Rev. This is in my "have a perfect day" window. I'd need to execute, execute, execute, with absolutely no room for deviation from the plan. At least, on the current levels of fitness. But we'll see how close we can come...
  3. Be competitive in my age group. What the hell's that mean?'ll find out here soon enough.
So, what's my racing schedule looking like? Well, I'm planning on a full slate of Rev3 races. Even with the team application opening up here soon (follow Rev3 on Twitter or like them on Facebook to see when that actually launches!), I'm racing Rev3 pretty exclusively for long-course triathlon. As Hannah has said in this space, it's much easier on her events-wise. It's got a vibe that I love. And the racing is second to none. So I'm going there for my racing on a pretty permanent basis.

Without further adieu, the tentative 2013 race plan:

  • Rev3 Knoxville Olympic: May 5th, 2013--I've never raced an Olympic, and looking forward to the year, we're planning on doing some speed sessions to kick off the year to carry it in to the longer efforts. 
  • Waldo County Y Sprint: May 17th, 2013--Sounds like I've been roped into this one by Adam. (His mom is the race director.) Apparently, we need to continue our little feud.
  • Rev3 Quassy HalfRev: June 2nd, 2013--I love this race. It's my favorite race. Everything about it stands out: the volunteers, the course, the diabolical signs on the run, the atmosphere. World-class event.
  • Rev3 Maine HalfRev: August 25th, 2013--A nice last hard effort leading into the "big one."
  • Rev3 Cedar Point FullRev: September 8th, 2013--Yep, now I've stepped in it. Why a Full? Well, as I was sitting there all day at Cedar Point thinking to myself, "You know, this really isn't that long..." while racing 70.3 flippin' miles probably says that you're the right kind of crazy. 
Now, if you've paid any attention to the comments over on the Rev3 Facebook page, you know that there's been some rumors floating around about a certain Maine race and a potential "filling out" of the race course, if you catch my drift. Why the hell am I going to travel out to Cedar Point?

Well, for one, where we stayed at Cedar Point this year was fantastic, and I am fully planning on staying there again. Tim, if I remember correctly, put a deposit down on the place for next year. Sign my rear end up. Where do I send the cash? In all seriousness, though, I couldn't imagine a better place to be staying the weekend of a race: right on the course, right in the middle of town, everything's pretty accessible, and it takes the stress off.

Secondly, and almost more importantly: I almost left Maine completely off my race schedule, is why. Not because I don't love the race; I do. I think that course is awesome, I think it's challenging in a way that none of the other Rev3 events I've been a part of's a great event. If I weren't racing, I'd be working. And even still, I'll probably work a bit too!

The problem, for me, is that racing at home is way more stressful than racing at a destination. You see, when you're at a destination, you have to plan. You have to get everything together, so you find it all. No stress the weekend of the race, because it's all there. You don't need to frantically search for it.

When I'm at home, I don't worry about planning as much. Where's my spare stuff? "Oh, it's in the house, I'll find it." So then you're panicking the Saturday before the race trying to find all of your crap because you didn't need to pack it and put it somewhere.

Nope, no thanks. If I'm going to be racing 140.6 miles, I need to have my plan. I need to execute my plan. Can't always trust a twist of fate...(see what I did there?)

So no, I will race Maine...just another HalfRev day to test things out before going and doing something silly at Cedar Point.

With all that in mind, time to hit the road. Goals set. There's work to be done.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Break Free: The Trail to Ale 10K Report

There are few things quite as painful as a 10K.

No, really: this is a distance that just flat-out sucks. There is no better way to describe it. It's too short of a race to really attempt a more disciplined approach, but it's too long to attempt to go balls to the wall. The best way I've heard it described, from my buddy Seth, is that "it's 5K intensity, doubled, and you're praying to hold on."

I've raced a lot this season; a marathon, three half-Revs, the Friday Night Fights series, among others. This little 10K here in Portland was one of the harder events of the year. But it also taught me a valuable lesson:

I can run pretty darn fast, when I just let my mind relax.

Now, for the actual race report:

Gearing Up: The Week Before
Unlike Rev3 Maine, where I was a hurtin' unit for the week afterwards, coming off of Cedar Point I felt good. I was contemplating signing up for another race in the Rev3 series (note: nope, not happening. You'll find out why when I reveal the 2013 race schedule next week.)

I had eased my way back into training with some light-duty stuff, all non-impact: hour long bike, a swim, some weight training. I was tired from the couple of half-distance efforts, but otherwise the body felt very strong, and very good.

I went for my first run following Cedar Point the day before the race, just a nice 30-minute cruise with a couple sets of striders. I didn't know what to expect. I felt a bit tight, especially in the hips. Ruh-roh, Scooby.

So going in, I had absolutely no expectations.

Except, well, there was a matter of pride on the line. In one of my more creative moments, I decided to create a Facebook contest for the store. There were six of us from Maine Running Company involved in the event, including Adam, my friendly rival. The concept was simple: you picked which one of the six you thought would win, and their finishing time. Whoever came closest would win a gift certificate for the store.

I knew there was no chance in hell of me winning, unless I tied the shoe laces of the speedsters together. I mean, I'm not running a 36:XX 10K out of the box. I might be improving, but that just wasn't going to happen.

So my goal was simple: beat Adam.

You see, Adam and I have had a friendly rivalry for a while. It helps push each other to new heights. This started with an open 10K training run last April. Then it stretched into our Beach to Beacon last year, where (depending on who you ask), he beat me, or I beat him. He then proceeded to crush me at Timberman last year, definitively, by nearly 45 minutes. I then returned the favor in the first CompuTrainer battle at Maine Running Company.

We unfortunately didn't get to race each other all that much this year; Adam spent his winter last year in Hawaii that effectively killed his racing budget for the year. (Pity party for the poor fellow, right?) He focused on some running events, whereas I went to town racing triathlons.

It just so happened that there were slots available for Trail to Ale. We both jumped at the opportunity, and the trash talking began.

Well, guess I needed to put up or shut up.

Race Morning
I woke up early, just like I always do on race morning. I consumed my normal breakfast for race day: rice, eggs, and maple syrup (salt and pepper to taste) with my regular 32 ounces of liquid gold known as iced coffee. I'd estimate it at about 450 calories, for those wondering. (1.25 cups of rice, three eggs, 1 tbsp of syrup, coffee is black.)

I snagged a bottle of water, threw on the Rev3 team kit, and headed on out the door. My weaponry of choice for the day:

  • Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Top (Rev3 Kit)
  • Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Short (no matter what, I'm wearing tri shorts under my running shorts. Anti-chafe mechanism)
  • I forget what running short it was
  • Rev3 Black Visor (my favorite one of the visors)
  • Tifosi Roubaix sunglasses
  • Maine Running Company race number belt
  • Swiftwick Aspire One socks, size XL (technically, I should be a L. But I like the slight extra forefoot splay from the size up)
  • Pearl Izumi IsoTransition (I switched out the insoles in these to the ones from a pair of Mizuno's, just to give a touch of extra arch height underfoot.)
I had thought about my PowerBar Team Elite arm warmers, but made the call to go without about fifteen minutes before the start.

We met Adam down at the Ocean Gateway terminal. We headed out for a warm-up run of about two miles, just to shake the cobwebs out. I still felt tight, but things seemed to be improving the more I moved. I also did a set of striders, and that's when I felt the best, so I started getting some confidence that I'd be able to run decently.

Made it to the top of the hill at the start line around quarter to 9 (gun time). Ran into fellow MRCers Jon, Joey, Nick, and Maggie, who all were part of the six-pack challenge. Jon and Joey lined up on the start line. Adam, Nick, and I were about four rows back. Maggie was mid-pack.

Everything queued up, the race clock was readied, and we were ready to fly. Weird to not have a countdown to start. Just a runners set, *BOOM*, and time to go!

Race Breakdown: The Quick Hits
Gun Time: 41:15
Net Time: 41:13
Pace: 6:38/mile
Overall Place: 65th
Age-Group Place: 6th
MRC Competition Place: 4th

This year, they moved the course around a little bit at Trail to Ale. It started on top of the Eastern Promenade, went uphill a bit, then screamed downhill towards Back Cove. You completed one lap around Back Cove Trail, then looped back by East End Beach for the finish line.

This meant that you'd start out super fast, have some slight uphill around the Cove at mile 4, then uphill on the I-295 overpass until the end of mile 5, roll by the sewage treatment plant right around the same time you wanted to vomit anyways from the effort and the hill right there, and then have a big downhill to find your stride into the finish.

The gun went off, and immediately Nick, Jon, Joey, and Adam dropped me like a bad habit. I went to keep the gap for the first tenth of a mile. I then tried to take account of how I felt.

Damn, this feels fast! was all I remember thinking. So I glanced at my watch really quickly: 5:22/mi pace.


I immediately backed off the throttle. I couldn't sustain that kind of effort. I might've been able to crank out a mile, mile and a half, and then would have blown up so spectacularly I would've been scattered all over greater Portland.

I settled into a good groove, heard that a couple people around me were looking for around 42 minutes, and just hung in there. Considering all of my speedwork for the year had been focused more for longer distance events, I didn't think anything much faster than 6:50/mile pace would be happening.

Even with me settling in, the first mile went by in 6:11. That's a lot of downhill to work with. OK, no biggie.

Adam was a good 200 meters up the road. I just said to myself, "reel him in, each and every mile. No need to go and get him at mile 2." This was in opposite of our Beach to Beacon experience last year, where I went out and made a move at mile 2, had a lead, and he caught me with less than a mile to go, and we sprinted together for the finish. Later on, Adam told me his game plan was "out of sight, out of mind."

The first water stop was also the last one. I went to reach for water, but they were using the tiny Dixie cups. It just exploded in my hand. Note to self: needed to pinch the cups from the top. Adam was still hauling tail in front of me.

I could still see him as we got into mile 2. The person next to me was saying he didn't see the mile 1 sign before, so he felt really good seeing the two sign early. Works for me!

We made the curve at the soccer fields by Back Cove. I saw that Adam's gap on me had shrunk, so at the turn I counted out his lead: eleven seconds. Cool, I just need to go three seconds a mile faster than him and I can get him around mile 5.5, and may the best man win there.

Apparently, I went through the next mile a bit quicker than he did, as all of a sudden I was right behind him. I panicked for a second: have I gone too early again? I made the call to settle in again, let him lead for a little bit. I don't know if he knew it was me that was five steps behind him, but the pace quickened slightly again.

We ran together for the next mile, him just ahead of me on the right side. We then started a slight rise on the back side of Back Cove, which is about 4 miles into the race. This is where I said, you know, I don't want to turn this into a sprint finish at the end. He's been doing track work all year. He's got better top end speed than me. I need to go here and now.

I swung out a little wide, ran with three strides side-by-side, and then just kicked as we went over the rise and slight downhill. I ran scared; I didn't know where he was and I wasn't looking back. I just wanted to push through this surge. Came through the next water stop, got a quick cup of water, and started plugging away again.

The Cove then rises again. If there's one thing I need to really work on, it's being able to keep top-end speed going uphill. I've gotten better, but there's still room for some massive improvement. It was here that I figured if my move hadn't worked well, Adam was going to catch up again.

There were some friendly faces on the side of the road right here, and they started cheering for me. I kept waiting for them to say something to Adam, but they never did. Huh. He's either the feet right behind me in full on stealth mode, or the move stuck. I fought the urge to look behind me; the course was about to make a hair-pin turn and I'd be able to find out where he was anyways.

I went onto the overpass, trying to ignore my hamstring, which wanted to fall apart. Around the corner I went, and looked up.

Holy shit. He's just cresting! I've got a whole bunch of room!

I threw on the jets then and there. No way was I giving in now.

The course then rounded by the sewage treatment plan, and oh yes, it reeked to high heaven. There's also the last hill of the course to contend with, and the combination is vomit-worthy. I fought back the urge.

Bounding down the hill, I didn't realize that the finishing chute was so short away from there. I kicked as hard as I could. I thought it was further than it was, but hey, whatever! I blasted through the finish line.

Hey, who's that guy in the Rev3 kit who ran that quick?
Boom. Stick.

Adam came across the line 30 seconds later. We had pushed each other to brand new heights: this was nearly a five minute race PR for me (2:35 faster than any 10K I've run, race or training), and a 1:40 PR for Adam.

We had our rear ends handed to us by our co-workers, as Jon ran 36:20, Joey 38:15, Nick 39:45. But hey, a good day all-around.

The reward for such an effort? Free pizza and beer.

Later that day, I really got tired. I mean, nap during football games tired. If you know me, I don't fall asleep when I get the opportunity to watch football. So I was beat. Hence part of the concept of ending the race season here.

I'd like to, as always, thank all of the sponsors, friends, family, etc. that help get me on through!

Great way to cap off a banner year. I've taken an hour off of my half-distance time. I've taken five minutes off my 10K PR. What a season.

What does next year hold? Check back later this week!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Best of What's Around: The Rev3 Cedar Point Report

This is a strange sport, triathlon. It's one that can leave you beaten and bloodied if you let it. But one of the things that makes it so fun for me, personally, is the mental challenges that it brings. You must find ways to override the negative thoughts, or the desires to burn yourself out.

Heading out to Rev3 Cedar Point taught me an awful lot about myself, how my body responds to certain stimuli, and what I need to do to override some of those mental challenges. With that in mind, here begins the road trip diary.

Friday: Travel Day
The recovery from my hilariously catastrophic explosion at Rev3 Maine went pretty well. My legs felt wooden just about that whole first week, although the small brick I did the Sunday beforehand actually felt pretty good.

What had me more nervous than anything else was Wallace the Blue. You see, that Sunday it POURED rain. But I wasn't about to not get this ride in, as I felt like I needed to continue to shake off the cobwebs from Maine. So out we went, rode around, got caught by a group ride towards the end which was actually perfect, as then I got to take a couple pulls off the front with them. I got home, got my quick run in (hey, my legs actually don't feel bad!), and then got to cleaning out the bike.

I noticed that the seat mast had a whole bunch of dirt and grime on it, so I took it off, and then turned the frame upside down.

I could've filled a 20 oz. water bottle with the amount of water and road grime that came pouring out. OK, not a big deal, whatever. Shook it out, cleaned every square inch of the bike, etc. Everything seemed normal.

Fast forward to later on in the week, and I go for a ride: bike will shift up the rear cassette, but won't shift down. Play around with the barrel adjuster. Nope. Nothing. The only thing that seems to help is being overly aggressive with the pressure on the shifter. Even played with the pin in the shifter so that it would act as friction, not indexed: nope. No dice.

Fine. Eff it. I'll figure it out when I get home.

Tune the bike, adjust everything, all is fine. Great!

Come back the next morning, go for a spin around the block, same thing happens. WHAT THE HELL.

I get it squared away again, come back the next day, and it works! OK, we got it settled then! But I was planning on keeping an eye on it all weekend long. (You can probably guess here that yes, this will come up again.)

I was fully packed and ready to be on the road by 7:30 AM. Filled up the car (all 13.2 gallons of glory), and was rolling down the interstate.

My teammate, Tim Andrus, had stayed with me here at Maine. As I was talking about road-tripping on out to Cedar Point, he had the brilliant idea of having me drive to his place, rather than me hauling the whole way to Sandusky. Tim lives just outside Watkins Glen, New York, so it's pretty familiar territory for me.

This still meant, though, that I'd be trekking from Portland to his place, which involves making my way through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, dive into Pennsyltucky for a minute (yes, that's what I said), and then back into New York.

The driving was fine until I-88, which runs from Schenectady down to Binghamton, where you pick up NY-17 (aka Future I-86, which it's been future 86 for oh...forever). It all looked the same. I had to make sure I wasn't in Groundhog Day a few times just by looking at the time and mileage to say, yes, we are moving forward.

Made it to Horseheads, NY by 3 PM. Made it almost the entire way without needing to stop for gas, too. Just needed a splash to give it something to be able to start when I got back to the car on Monday. Meet Tim's family, he rolled in, we transferred everything into his Suburban, and back on the road we went!

The trip from his place to Sandusky was rather smooth, except for the endless miles of construction. Apparently, Ohio likes to have the entire stretch of I-90 under construction at once, rather than completing one section at a time and moving forward. I swear, I saw 130,000 orange construction barrels along the way.

We made it into Cleveland, and that's when I caught my first scent of the city. I can now officially replace the phrase "It smells like Newark, NJ" to "It smells like Cleveland." I mean that in the nicest way possible; when you have that many refineries and import/exports coming through there...of course it's going to have a distinct scent. Part of what makes Cleveland what it is, I suppose.

Rolled straight into our place in Sandusky, and discovered a few things about our place out of the gate:

  • There was a tiki bar, and countless Buffett/Maragaritaville signs EVERYWHERE.
  • There was a wind turbine across the bay from us that sounded exactly like a disc wheel blowing past you.
  • Our teammates Heidi, Anthony, Jeff, Elizabeth and her significant other Chris had ordered pizza. Tim and I took one look, and a 2nd pizza immediately got ordered.
  • There was a significant amount of beer in the fridge that was crying to be consumed. Mission accomplished.
  • In other words, by about 10 PM that night we decided that this place needed to be rented again.
We ate, grabbed beers, and then realized that there was stuff happening in the morning. Tim and I are early risers anyways, so we'd decided that we'd make it over to the races in the morning and see if we could help out.

Saturday: The Deluge 
I woke up at about 5:15 AM to the sound of a bike tipping over.

Nightmare, right?


I looked out on the porch, where Heidi and I had put our bikes overnight, to find mine had fallen against the chairs on the porch. It was extremely windy, pouring rain, and my bike was on the ground.

Panic-stricken, I got it upright, did a once over, and took a deep breath: no harm done. Checked the shifting again, just to be sure, and it was flawless. Awesome.

The water was extremely choppy. I checked the weather to find out a riptide warning had been issued. For a lake. 8 foot seas. ON A LAKE.

Needless to say, the morning tris had been cancelled. But there was still a kids race and a 5K happening instead. Tim and I were naturally awake: "HEY! The kids race is cancelled!" We got ourselves together and headed over to the race site.

What we found were tents blown all over the place, swim buoys that were halfway to Buffalo, and aid stations that needed to be created for the following day. Tim, Jeff, Anthony, Heidi, and I all decided it was time to get to work. We were all racing the following day (Tim and Anthony for the full; Jeff, Heidi and I in the half), but with the weather being what it was I saw no purpose in getting a whole bunch of fresh grime into a very clean bike. So my pre-race workout consisted of lifting things up and putting them down.

In all seriousness, I love being able to give back to the community where I can, so to have the opportunity to help this race go as seamlessly as possible was great. It really makes you appreciate the effort that goes into these events, all the while you're out there racing.

After helping out for a bit, we decided to head on back to the house to snag lunch, and get our bikes ready for the following day. (Tim's nightmare chronicles with Di2, my switch over to the Zipps for race day). Picked up our stuff, put in the race wheels, and headed back over to the expo.

After racking our bikes, I stopped over at the expo to pick up a spare tubular. (The Zipps are tubies, and I ride clinchers normally.) While there, I overheard an athlete asking questions about a hydration mounting system for the aerobars. It's the same system I use: standard bottle cage, standard bottle, bracket that gets zip-tied between them. He only had one bottle mount on his bike, and was only going to use that for the day. Recalling my under-nutrition and hydration experience at Quassy the year before, I asked him if I could install it for him. "You'd do that for me?" Of course! Team Rev3 at your service!

After finishing that up, checking Wallace one last time (and having a sweet spot in transition: first rack along the fence), it was time to head back to our house and load up on dinner. We had a sweet team dinner at the house, and then just de-compressed. Go time come morning.

Sunday: Race Time!
Alternate Title: Race Smarter = Go Faster
All weekend long, I'd been mentioning to myself that I really wanted to race this race smarter. I knew the fitness was all there, but it would take me metering my energy expenditures much better than I did at Maine. I needed to race with my head, as much as my fitness.

I've learned many things about myself, and one of them is that on race morning I need to be out of the house ASAP. So even though my swim wave wasn't until 8:40 that morning, I was up at 4:45 with Tim and Anthony to gear up as they prepared for the full. Jeff also decided to get the hell on out of dodge with us.

I prepared my breakfast (rice, eggs, honey) and my coffee. I was set and ready to roll.

We headed into transition at about 5:30. I got myself over to my bike and started setting up shop. I borrowed a pump from a neighbor. As it turns out, I couldn't reach the rear wheel without taking my bike out of the rack. So I went on over to the side wall, inflated things. And hey, what the hell, might as well check the shifting.

No shifting downward in the cassette.

You must be f***ing kidding me.

I tried everything in the short span of 10 minutes, and then made the call: heading to the bike mechanic. This flies in the face of my rule about myself and Freeman being the only ones who touch my bike. But drastic times call for drastic measures.

The guys over there couldn't have been more understanding. I explained the situation, and he started playing with it. He took the cable apart, tried to pull it, and noticed it was catching on something. He looked at his watch, and asked me if I knew whether the bike cabling required housing throughout the frame, or if it was just the cable through the frame and housing in the back. I knew from experience that it was just cable in the frame.

"OK, I can replace that. Or I'll give you a good gear for it to be a fixie. But either way we'll try."

So he went to work. He pulled the old cable out and discovered that the area by the bottom bracket and crank was just corroded as crap. Note to self: apparently, I need to powerwash the inside of my frame. Good to know.

By 6:30, the bike was restored, good as new. WHEW! Crisis averted!

I finished changing, getting myself together, ran into Ryan Oilar, another Rev3er, and got ready to head on through.

The last few minutes before the race are always tough: you need to control the mind, you need to stay relaxed. Trust in all of the work that you have done. After all, it can't be that bad. You've been here before.

You hear the countdown begin: one minute. Thirty seconds.

Ten seconds...nine, eight...*relax, relax, relax*


The Race: Quick Hits
Swim: 35:38
T1: 2:29
Bike: 2:39:38 (21.1 MPH)
T2: 2:02
Run: 1:52:50
Final Time: 5:12:37 (16th in AG, 97th OA).

The water at Cedar Point is pretty shallow for a while, so you're dolphin-diving and running for a fair bit.

One of the first things you notice is that the water is a little murky. You definitely can still tell if somebody is near you, but it's difficult to get a gauge where exactly that person's feet or arms might be.

I settled into a rhythm pretty quickly. One of the things I learned from Maine was when to sight: about every 8 breaths seemed to be most effective at keeping me on course. I was really diligent about this here because I hadn't had the opportunity to get in the water before race day.

I feel like my swimming has definitely come a long way, as I'm sticking with the front group for a good portion of the swim. I'll never lead the swim, but to be up there towards the top is definitely confidence boosting. I felt like I was really moving well.

About three-quarters of the way through the swim I could feel my calves tighten up a little bit. They wouldn't loosen their grip the entire day. I tried fiddling with my foot position to get them to open up with little success. It was during this time that I made my two big navigational errors; I forgot to sight for a bit, and all of a sudden I'm not swimming anywhere close to the direction I want to be. I easily added an extra 100 yards to my swim.

I was done swimming at 32:45. However, it takes FOREVER to get on up and out of the water. You're constantly struggling to get up and over. So I wasn't surprised to be on the beach seeing a 35 number staring me in the face. That being said, though, seeing that many bikes in transition in my age group made me smile. I was ready to rock.

I'd worked on my transitions a bit coming out of Maine, and had a much easier time getting my helmet on. I was away very quickly. Up and over the mount line, time to start the most fun part of the day.

This being Ohio, I figured the bike course would wind up being a flat affair.

You'd be wrong to think that.

The course has some roll to it! You needed to be thinking active shifting throughout the day.

As I started out, immediately the first thought in my mind was, "There's people up the road. Go get 'em!" I really had to control the urge to want to drop the hammer then and now. I decided that I'd ride based on feel, and checking my cadence every few minutes to make sure that I wasn't pushing too much gear.

I got through to the first aid station about 10 miles in in pretty short order. Unfortunately, my spare kit opened up for one reason or another here, spilling my spare tubie out. It wound up falling between the frame and my tire, so I had to pull over and pull it out. It cost me about a minute to get it back together and get going again. In the grand scheme of things, no big deal.

I kept riding in control of the effort. At about mile 20 the lead pro male came past me. When second place came up about five minutes later, I decided to put my first little surge in for the day. It was false flat, and many of my competitors were just content to spin at about 18 MPH in a rather large pack. I decided it was time to burn a match or two.

I surged for the next 10 minutes or so, until I moved through most of the main pack that I'd encountered. I then focused on nutrition, getting in my calories and electrolytes. My calves were still balky, but my quads felt very, very good.

The half course then split back away from the full course, and I spun again for the next bit. When we turned back to head towards Sandusky again, I took a mental account of how things were going: time wise, right on check; legs felt good; really in control of the day. The scary thought: "Eh, this doesn't feel all that long at all. Come on, you can push for another hour."

I made the call to put another decent surge in. I had to make sure that I was keeping the cadence up throughout the day, and whenever the muscle tension felt "good" it was definitely a bit too much gear. The shifting was flawless, thankfully.

We got back into the school area, and had my first encounter with a draft pack for the day. Luckily, an official came by just after this and carded 'em all. Haha, suckers!

With about eight miles left to go on the bike, I wanted to make one more push back to Sandusky. But the legs told me as soon as I tried that they didn't have it. Rather than force it, and pay dearly on the run, I backed off and kept myself moving at a good clip back to transition.

We made the turn into Cedar Point. I started to get out of my shoes, and my right hamstring seized. OK, THAT'S new. I stretched immediately. Crisis averted.

Off the bike, and who do I see in transition but Eric, the race director for Rev3. "Come on, you going to win this run?"

"I'm trying man, I'm trying!"


Ah, those are the things you love to hear.

I got over to my spot in transition, sat down to toss the socks and running shoes on, and was gone again.

I got out of transition and felt like I had just stolen something. I felt fantastic. My legs felt great, outside of the calves being balky. My stomach felt fine. I was really ready to rip.

I started out averaging 7:15-7:30. This was right in range with what I knew I was capable of holding based on numerous training runs and rides at this effort. I felt like I'd found my rhythm.

The first four miles just flew by. I was crushing this run. Nine more miles. You've held faster nine mile runs on worse legs; you can do this!

At mile 5, I took down a bit more nutrition, and my stomach just seized up. Complete crawl into a hole and want to vomit lock down. OK, little more Coke and water to settle.

Nope, I'm puking instead.

Back and forth over the next two miles it went like this (hence the slow from 7:30s to 8:30s all of a sudden). I had to make the call: was it going to be faster for me to take Coke, run faster, and puke? Or would I be quicker taking water, maybe a little calories, and knowing my legs would get heavy quick with the lack of calories?

I opted for column B. It was disappointing to see a bunch of people pass me that I had passed while running, but I also knew that I was having the best day I've had out racing, and that I can't make my stomach suddenly cooperate. I tried. I didn't find it.

Oh well.

At about mile 8 I started seeing some of my teammates passing behind certain points. I yelled out to each of them, "Come catch me!" The only one who responded, I think, was Heidi, who said something along the lines of "I'm trying." (It was one of the females.) Jeff was in a world of hurt with me, so at least I knew someone else was sharing in my misery.

I knew with about four miles left that the dream of getting under five hours was gone; so I just said, "Let's PR, and let's do it under 5:15. And if we can get close to 5:10..."

I was working hard, especially the last two miles, trying to get back to Cedar Point. I ran into Charlie (aka The Boss) with about a quarter-mile left to go. "Looking strong, Ryan. Only eight miles to go."

I just shook my head.

"What, not funny?"

"Not now, bud!"

I made my way towards the finish line, pouring on the gas the whole way. I had nobody else in sight as I came around the corner. The crowd seemed a bit quiet, so I yelled out, "Come on!" waving my arms. . I got another high five from Stu as I came down the chute. I pointed to Sean English as he started announcing me, and I came home across the line.

Another PR. Another 8 minutes down. Another one in the books. More lessons learned.

As it turns out, it was a very mixed bag for Team Rev3 at Cedar Point: a bunch of personal triumphs and a few disappointments as well. I beat Elizabeth by 30 seconds, which she gave me an endless amount of crap for. Heidi beat us both by under a minute, which was also an entertaining stream of conversation. We had PRs, but we also had some DNFs to go along with it, unfortunately. But that's racing, I suppose: you can only do with what you have on race day.

Conclusions on Racing
At least for me, I do far better traveling than I do racing from home. With travel, I have to pack all of my stuff, I need to be prepared. I can't put something off. It eases my mind. I'm seriously contemplating crashing at someone else's place for Maine next year just for the same purpose of having to get ready like this.

I need to hydrate more beforehand. I didn't do a good enough job keeping enough liquids coming in the days leading up to the event. You know it's a problem when you drive for 5.5 hours and you don't need to hit the bathroom.

I'm still trying to figure out the nutrition thing. I think I have a handle on what I need to do (more calories on the bike, so I need to take in less while out on the run). But I'd like to dial this nausea thing down now.

I raced this one well. I did everything I could have done on that given day. In that sense, I executed. I performed. And the chips fell exactly where they should have given those circumstances. In that sense, I am so pleased, and I can honestly say there's a sense of satisfaction this time.

It's all right there. I can feel it.

We found each other after the race. Jeff, Anthony, Tim and I decided it was time for grub, so we grabbed burgers and beers. Well worth it, me thinks.

We then headed back to our house, and unleashed a celebration for all of our hard work. Plus, hey, it's Margaritaville themed. We couldn't help ourselves.

Then, of course, there's the finish-line celebration, which is a party unlike any other. I said it on Facebook before: it's those moments that have me so happy to be a part of this organization. It really cares for everyone, whether you're crushing the half or barely making it before midnight in the full.

Monday: The Drive Home
UGH. Terrible.

Tim and I took off early, as he wanted to get back for the kids, and I wanted to get home at some relatively decent hour.

I made it to Albany by 4:30 in the afternoon, and made the executive decision to drive home through Vermont and New Hampshire, rather than the Mass Pike. The change in route helped keep me awake. It was gorgeous over there, too. Me thinks a good training camp over that neck of the woods might be in order next year...

I made it home at 9:30 PM. 1600 miles in four days. Not bad.

Of course, to my wonderful Team Rev3 mates, for such an awesome weekend.

The Rev3 crew for putting on such a fantastic event, even when Mother Nature tried to re-locate us to some place in upstate New York.

Our sponsors: PowerBar, NormaTec, Quintana Roo, Reynolds, Swiftwick, SBR Sports, Pearl Izumiblueseventy...don't know what we'd do without you all.

To coach Doug, for helping guide me to this point.

To Mr. Josh Freeman, for his awesome bike tuning skills this season.

To the many friends and family for their advice and support.

And last but certainly not least, my lovely wife, Hannah, without whom I could not do any of this.

Coming up: whether I destroyed my good friend's Adam's soul at a local 10K, and some gear reviews.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Had the Chance and Threw It Away: Rev3 Maine Report

Alternative Title: So Damned Close I Can Taste It


That was the first word that came into my mind on Sunday night, after the dust had settled following another PR at the 70.3 distance.

But it was meant in two different ways: first, there's the incredible experience of knowing that I've taken an HOUR off my best time in a year. There's an awful lot to be said for this being my second year in the sport.

Secondly, though, I knew just how much I had left on the table. There was a lot that went right on Sunday, but a lot that went wrong, too. That's racing for you; it's a cruel mistress. You'll have triumphs, and you'll have failures. This is where that tweet from my previous post makes a lot of sense:

It is not what we get but what we become by our endeavours that makes them worthwhile.
So, without further adieu, here's the race weekend recap from Rev3 Maine:

Went down to Old Orchard Beach on Friday to get the lay of the land, but also to be able to help set things up for the weekend. With this race being in my backyard, I wanted to make sure that I gave back to the series that has given me so much.

I got down to the expo set-up, and immediately couldn't believe my eyes: this was actually happening, right in my state, just down the road. Unreal. In little podunk Maine, here comes a national race series, a massive expo, etc.

I ran into Carole, aka Sharpie, aka Momma Bear (she's the head of the AG team), and introduced ourselves to one another. And away we went! I asked what could get done in a couple hours of time, as I had to work in the afternoon. Naturally, I was roped into setting up the Rev3 store. I put together a few fixtures. If you bought anything tires, rim cement, brake pads, valve extensions, CO2, etc. then blame me if you didn't like how it was laid out.

Then headed to work, got some social media work done for the store, and then headed on home. Teammate Tim Andrus arrived during dinner, and we started chatting away. I had only met Tim for a bit at Rev3 Quassy, but we hit it off pretty quick. Between that and all the e-mail banter he helps generate, it was very easy to get right into things.

First order of business: got the Zipp 808s that I'd be riding for the weekend on board the bike, which turned out to be a pretty darn simple process (yes, Tim, I'm ordering the Park Tool multitool to have metric Allen wrenches kicking around...)

Then just crashed. Had an early morning to get to...

Woke up, and Tim and I headed on down to OOB to get on going.

Participated in the practice swim again. I did the same at Quassy, and I'm finding it incredibly beneficial to my mental well-being. It's really relaxing to be able to head out into the water and know what is coming to you.

Just swam out to the turn buoy, and started realizing how the current would flow, and what that would mean for sighting conditions. I also knew what this meant for the beach start, and the trip on in. When back at shore, it turned out Tim had managed to dive for a little crab. No, seriously.

Got done with the swim, then generated a small peloton of Rev3ers to head out for an easy spin on the bike. Seemed like it was split 50-50 in terms of those of us doing the half versus the Olympic.

Let me tell you, there's few things like hearing the "whoosh-whoosh" of deep carbon wheels. It's infectious.

Got back into town, racked the bike, ran into local athlete Bob Turner and realized we'd be in the same wave, which just made me chuckle. He and I attempt to destroy each other. A lot. This would be both good and bad news.

We then headed back to the house. I packed up my bags for the morning, and then we headed over to dinner with a few of the team. Had my single beer for a PR at the restaurant, ate, came home, went to bed.

Sunday: Go Time.
Woke up at 0-dark-fifteen. This one was a little earlier than normal, simply due to the nature of the wave starts. The race had to get over the Amtrak rails before the first train came through at 8:15. This meant that we were up and going early. Tim would be starting at 6:20, with me coming four minutes behind.

Parked the car. Shook out the cobwebs. Then had my normal pre-race routine of destroying the nearest port-o-john. I'd like to apologize to whomever followed after into that thing. It was ruined.

I then finished setting up transition, got the tires inflated, and was ready to rock.

Walked down towards the swim start, realized I'd left my goggles and watch behind. Got back down to where I needed to be with about 10 minutes to spare before the start. Guess the brisk walk wound up being my warm-up. But I was very, very confident following the day before.

Quick Recap:
Total Time: 5:20:50
Swim: 35:04
T1: 4:42
Bike: 2:32:29
T2: 1:39
Run: 2:06:57

Having swam the day before, I knew the current would be pushing us on the long part of the swim. That said, that also meant that the buoys would have a little play in them, as well as a push during the swim out from shore and back in.

This meant that we would need to really adjust how you sighted in order to appropriately get on course. For me, this meant that at the start I lined wide right. The current would pull me back into the turn buoy. Then, after the turn, there was a hotel directly behind the second turn buoy; sighting off it would put you right on course. After that, if you used the ferris wheel to sight, you'd be pushed directly to where the swim out was.

I have never been more by myself out in a swim. I found some feet to swim off of to start off with, and then settled into my own patterns. The fastest of the fish took off a bit, but when I got to the first buoy I was surprised to see only about 50 meters between them and me. I think some of that had to do with course correction; they needed to swim out against the current to get to the buoy, rather than using it to their advantage.

I started passing people from the wave before at the first buoy, which is when I really knew I was in good shape. Made it to the second buoy and noticed a guy who I race against a fair bit, and knew he always swam a bit faster than I. So I had some real advantages going for me.

As I got to the edge of the pier, I looked over to my right and saw a familiar goggle, wetsuit, and beard combo: Bob. I almost choked there laughing. Guess we would be racing each other.

Made the hike on up to transition (ran on the painted part: much easier on the feet than the bricks), had a brief issue getting the calf of my wetsuit off, then a second quick issue getting my helmet on. Didn't cost me more than 15 seconds. Need to have a faster transition at Cedar Point, though. Free time on the table.

Having ridden this course numerous times in the lead up to the event, I knew the opening would be quick, before building into some rolling terrain through the middle 30 miles.

This is where, IMO, the title of this post comes from: I just hit the gas too early.

My coach and I had targeted a 2:30-2:35 bike split. I came in just about as dead on in that window as you could: 2:32:29. The problem was not that this split was unattainable, it's just how I rode it on this given day that cost me.

You see, there are two ways to average 22 MPH on a bike: you can ride it as a very peaky effort, or you can ride it in a smooth power application. You can probably guess which of those I put forth on the day.

I should've known that I was flying a little too close to the sun when I met up with Bob again on the bike course. He beat me out of transition, and he's also a stronger cyclist than I. You can do the math.

The problem, of course, was that I felt like a million bucks. Unlike Timberman last year, where I felt the effort in my legs coming off the bike, I never felt anything in my legs the entire time on the bike.

At any rate, at mile 48 or so I decided to start spinning the legs out for the run upcoming, continue to reduce the muscle tension. I didn't realize it until later, but up until I made that call I was running 2nd in my AG and was JUST behind the leader. Funny how that works out sometimes...

I got off the bike 4th in AG, made my transition, and was ready to rock.

In quotes again, because it was far more survival shuffle than anything else.

I got onto course and had my cheering section on the corner of the street. I was informed that Turner was just up the road on me. My decision to spin out the legs might have cost me a minute overall. Exactly where I wanted to be.

I blew out of transition at the pace that I had trained for and targeted during bricks: 7:10-7:15. It felt super comfortable, like I was barely working.

And then it blew up.

My medial quads went from being "eh, little fatigued" into full-on lockdown mode. I immediately said, "oh, not again, I am not doing a 2:30+ 'run.'" Nope, we're going to try and work our way through it. I started getting nutrition on board as soon as I could: coke, water, salt tabs. Just going for it.

Despite my cramping up, I still caught Bob. He was in rough shape, too. So I was going to say to hell with it, we're either going to go for it or we're going to die trying. My legs felt better when I attempted to open things up, so away we went.

Made it through about half the run course, when I got to another aid station, that the wheels completely blew up again. I had attempted to adjust my stride a little bit at an aid station to be able to grab some nutrition, and it was just lights out: I couldn't find it again. I tried everything. The mind was willing, but the body would not respond.


Bob passed me at mile 7. I wanted to run with him so bad, I knew he was suffering too, but no matter what I tried nothing responded. I wished him luck and just got going.

I think a fair number of people I know recognized me on the back half of the run. I'm sorry for not acknowledging you. I was so far deep into the pain cave I couldn't possibly respond.

I suppose the proudest thing I can say is that I didn't walk between aid stations. The only walking came when trying to get salt pills (for some reason, some aid stations had them in cups, others did not). Coke. Water. More calories. More electrolytes. Pick it up, dude. It might hurt, but you're going to drag yourself to the finish line.

I realized that my goal time would come and go, but that I still had time to PR. Well, fine, that's the new target, and I will either go into full lock-down legs mode or I will get this PR.

PR it is, then.

I came down the chute, made sure Stu who was announcing me recognized the Team Rev3 Triathlon kit (earned a high five out of it, too! Thanks for making me smile there.), and crossed the line.

I made it exactly one step over the line before requesting help to get to a chair. From the med tent doctor: "I saw you come across the line, and said, 'He's going to need a little help.'"

They wanted to put me in a wheelchair. Hell no. Uh-uh. Nope, just some water, some ice, and whatnot. And then we're going to walk over to medical.

They checked up on me, made sure it was just the legs that were totally screwed (yup), and then entombed my legs in ice. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Relief.

We got to chatting about things, where people worked, etc. And just mellowed out. I hobbled my rear end out of there, got a massage from Kevin at The Athlete's Touch (highly recommend his work; he found some core issues that had an impact on the legs, too). Could then move again.

We then hung out to cheer in the last two finishers in. Let me tell you, THAT is an experience. You need to do that at least once. Seriously, seeing the look on those two ladies' faces as they came down the chute really shows you how this sport and this race series can impact people.

Lessons Learned
Well, I learned an awful lot over the course of the weekend about racing, and how even the best laid plans can blow up if you don't execute them the way that you should. That's on me. But that's OK, too, because how else will you learn? Gotta fall sometimes in order to fly.

For Cedar Point, I'm planning on evening out the bike intensity a fair bit. Don't go too crazy out of the gate, settle in. Perhaps tape the same message to my bars from Quassy: "Hour 1: EZ. Hour 2: Settle. Hour 3: PUSH." Ride smarter which means faster overall time.

I'm also looking at nutrition a fair bit. I think my current model might be a bit flawed, so I'm going to play with some of the PowerBar products to get exactly what it is I need together.

A PR is still a PR. Now it's time to do it all over again in 12 days.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dreaming Tree

Editorial Note: I'd like to apologize for the lack of blogging around these parts as of late. We've still been having a hell of a time getting any kind of settlement regarding the Great Poo Flood, as I've taken to calling it. So my spare time has been limited to dealing with a lot of insurance companies, in between training and work obligations. 

There are a lot of product reviews that are due in the next couple of weeks: Pearl Izumi Tri Fly IV Carbon bike shoes, Blue Triad EX bike, and a race report from the Falmouth Road Race. Those will all probably appear following Rev3 Maine this weekend.

Before we get going into my mindset heading into Rev3 Maine, I'd like to thank everybody who's been incredibly supportive throughout this adventurous summer. First and foremost, my friends, family, and adoring wife: couldn't do it all without you guys. Secondly, team Rev3: really, I could lump you all into the first category. But I thought you deserved an additional shout-out.

I'd also like to thank all of my sponsors, as you've all been fantastic: Rev3 Triathlon, who I owe an awful lot to; Pearl Izumi; Swiftwick; PowerBar; NormaTec; QuintanaRoo; BlueSeventy; SBR Sports; and I'm probably missing somebody in there somewhere. But I can't thank any of you enough for everything that you've done for me individually, Team Rev3 as a group, and just in general putting out fantastic products that I've had the privilege of using throughout this year. I can only hope that I've been a help in getting the word out about how awesome each and every one of you are.

With that all in mind, here we go.

Race Week. Time to go again.

I've been awaiting this moment for a long time. Probably since the weekend after Rev3 Quassy, I've been wanting to hit a race. But I also knew that I wanted to really peak, and targeted this and Cedar Point as my two biggest races of the year.

As I've been going throughout the year, I've been noticing a massive improvement on my outlook on things, and the corresponding impact on how that outlook has had on my training. Joe Friel advocates an awful lot on each workout having a purpose behind it: whether aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, etc.

I would also posit the theory that there needs to be an additional piece added to each and every thing involved: it needs to be something that you're enjoying doing.

If you aren't enjoying it, why the hell are you beating yourself up doing it? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to impress?

There should be only one person that you're trying to impress: yourself. It is your own desire, your own enjoyment of the activity, that should be the reward for what it is that you're attempting. If you lose sight of that, you're just slogging through. You're not gaining anything beyond having spent time outdoors. (Which isn't to say that alone is a bad thing, but just that you need to be having some type of enjoyment of that activity during it.)

Which is to say that, I've been having a hell of a lot of fun out there. I've discovered that the more I'm relaxed, the more smiling I'm doing despite the work I'm doing, the more fun that I'm having, the faster and faster I'm going. It's a bit of a breakthrough, and it's resulting in impressive times during workouts, which is giving me a bunch of confidence heading into Rev3 Maine.

"The Dreaming Tree," by Dave Matthews Band, is allegedly two stories of people suffering through, and their respective lament to God about how "if I had the strength, I would leave you up to your own devices..." But I instead focus on The Dreaming Tree itself.

Chasing my dream of what it is I want out of life has really become a focus this year; understanding who I am, what I do best, and enjoying each and every second of it. I really love my job, and the new activity that I've got there. Training is FUN. I'm learning so much about how my body responds to things, and how to use my mind to help overcome some of the blocks that can come up.

That's the thing that draws me to triathlon, skiing, and what I do for work: they are all incredibly mental by their nature. You really need to THINK, and using your mind you can really excel. I've improved so much in all three things (tri, ski, work) this year and I attribute much of it to my outlook on life itself. Just staying positive, learning from mistakes (and being OK to make said mistakes every once in a while), and keep moving forward.

Jordan Rapp put out a Tweet the other day, which was a quote to a philosopher. Forget who it was, but the quote went something like this:

It is not what we get but what we become by our endeavours that makes them worthwhile.
He was using it in the context of triathletes being able to relate to it. I think anybody can.

So with that, it's time to gear up. Tune things up. Be ready to go. Come Sunday, I'll take everything I've learned and bring it to the course. I've got my dreams. I know what I'm capable of. It's time to be the best that I can be, and see where it lands me.

In effect, it's time to chase the dream again.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Crappy Day

Stepping away from product reviews for a few minutes...

Things have been going extremely well around these parts. Almost too well. My sneaking suspicion had been something would wind up taking us down a peg or three soon. Typically, that's something easy like Sallie Mae wanting some student loan money. You know, hard at the time, but in the grand scheme of things nothing all that bad.

Well, my instinct was right. It was just the scale that was wrong.

On Tuesday evening, one of our upstairs neighbors knocked on our door. This was unusual if only because we all tend to keep to ourselves and it was 9 PM. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, what's up?
Jon (neighbor): Have you been downstairs lately?
Me: No, why?
Jon: Your storage unit faces Brighton Ave, right?
Me: Yes. (sense of dread building).
Jon: You're going to want to go downstairs.
Me: Why, what's going on?
Jon: Fishman (property managers) were downstairs, found some nasty stuff in my storage. They couldn't get a hold of you to check on yours, so I said I'd tell you.
Me: Alright...I'll check.
Jon: Just, don't shoot the messenger when you get down there.

That never sounds promising, but I still held out hope that it couldn't be that bad.

I was wrong.

Yes, that is all what you think it is.

Almost half a foot deep across the majority of our storage unit was a putrid mess. The stench was horrifying. And it covered everything in its path.

I'll save you the pictures of how it covered all of the stuff that was down there. Out of everything that we had in the storage unit, only our Christmas stuff and a set of snow tires survived.

Now, here's the thing: I don't like asking for help. I hate asking for help. I'm a "pull yourself up from your bootstraps" kind of guy. I'd rather look around for something on my own, not ask for directions, etc. You know the drill. Typical "I know better and will figure it out!" male.

We lost everything. My brewing kit (apologies to the Team Rev3 mates, but there's no way in hell I can make that Revolution Rye Pale Ale now), bottles, sports equipment, electronics, all my old law notebooks (we might consider that a plus...depending on how much sarcasm I'm feeling at a particular moment), some old photos, on and on...

My insurance is not covering the losses, as this is considered a "flood." One could make the argument that sewage does not equal a flood, but knowing my insurance law like I do (hey, that law degree does pay off!), I'm not going to win that battle. As an aside: do you think I just added flood insurance to my policy? If you just nodded your head, congratulations: you're correct. No prizes, though, because...

We can't replace anything that we lost. Nothing. There's just no way for us to do it.

I don't know what exactly it is I'm asking for. Whether that's sympathy, help re-building what it is we lost, or what. I just know one thing: we can't do it alone.

I want to take a time-out to thank the folks at Fishman, our property managers, for doing the best they can with this; our landlord, Jon, who's been checking in with us to see what the situation was; and Greg over at the Bier Cellar, who helped pick out some killer brews to help dull the ache of yesterday.

Today was "throw everything out" day, and was the first time I really lost it. In some cases there's 15-20 years of life that just, quite literally, got crapped on. It's heartbreaking to have things you worked so hard for to have to be tossed into a dumpster, never to be seen again.

We'll be OK, eventually. Just really not sure how to get there.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gear Review: blueseventy Helix Wetsuit

Wetsuits are one of the larger gear investments a budding triathlete can make; behind a bike and/or race wheels (if, of course, you fall into USAT's median income range of approximately $108,000), it is likely a wetsuit will be your most expensive piece of gear.

With that kind of money on the line, then, it stands to be prudent when it comes to selection. Much like when it comes to proper triathlon bikes and running shoes, fit comes first. Then you can start worrying about the features of a particular suit versus another. This means that if you are part of the crowd screaming, "I can only wear a sleeveless," it is more likely that you either have an abnormally shaped torso (there are indeed certain people who just can't fit into a sleeved suit), or you have never had a sleeved suit that fit you properly.

But, what if you enjoy the feel of the water against your arms, or simply prefer a thinner feel to the sleeves of the suit? Most wetsuit companies really build up the forearms of their suits to create catch panels, with the theory that they will help move more water.

Enter the blueseventy Helix.

blueseventy Helix Men's 2012 Wetsuit. (image courtesy of blueseventy).
The Tech Babble
Wetsuits, at their core, have been using the same kind of material for decades: neoprene. Regardless of brand or fit, you'll be buying a suit made of this material, much like how in running shoes, you'll for the most part be buying an ethylene vinyl acetate product.

Neoprene, due to its smoothness, helps reduce drag in the water. However, because there are air molecules trapped in the rubber (much like how air molecules trapped in the midsole of a running shoe provide the cushioning), the air helps to provide lift, and therefore buoyancy.

Of course, having a whole bunch of rubber surrounding your skin in the water also helps keep you warm. Too warm, in some instances. This is why there are temperature cut-offs for wetsuits: because you run the risk of severe overheating if the water temperature is high to begin with. The suit will only make it warmer! For Rev3 events, the water temperature cut-off for awards is 78 degrees; nobody is permitted to wear a wetsuit when the water is warmer than 84 degrees. For those planning on racing say, Rev3 Maine or Rev3 Cedar Point with me: I think we have nothing to worry about. We'll be wearing wetsuits.

There is also a limit to the thickness of the wetsuit: 5 millimeters at its maximum. This is, again, to limit overheating due to the suit being too thick, and also too much buoyancy help from a wetsuit. As it is, wearing a suit with 5 millimeter thickness is impossibly buoyant; you basically need only scull with your pinkies in order to stay afloat.

That is not to say, though, that all suits with 5 millimeter thickness in them are made the same. Nor should all of the suit necessarily be made to this thickness; sure, we want the buoyancy, but we also need to be able to move in the suit! If you can't move your arms well enough to take an effective swim stroke, then you haven't made any sort of improvement by putting on a wetsuit.

Furthermore, although buoyancy can help out any swimmer, there are different types of buoyancy needed for different people. If you are like most triathletes who come from a cycling or running background, the mass will be in your legs, and you have a difficult time raising the hips to avoid the dreaded "swimming uphill" position: pushing water down with your torso, legs behind you sinking towards the bottom. However, if you have more of a swimming background, your body positioning tends to be better; you want the suit to give you some of the sleekness and buoyancy, but to some degree get out of the way.

blueseventy, named for the fact that water (blue) covers seventy percent of the Earth's surface, recognized this as well. There are two product ranges that blueseventy manufactures: the neutral buoyancy line, and the positive buoyancy line. The neutral buoyancy products are thicker in the torso and core, whereas the positive buoyancy suits focus more on buoyancy through the core, hips, and legs, much like swimming with a permanent pull buoy.

The Helix slats in as the top-of-the-line neutral buoyancy suit. It tiers the maximum thickness of the suit as 5-5-4, with the first section through the torso, the middle section as the core and hips, and the final section throughout the legs. So, the legs are a touch thinner than the top two sections. This isn't to say that they will sink when in the water; instead, blueseventy's research suggests that because the legs are constantly in motion (read: work on your kick, buster, because you're supposed to be kicking in a triathlon swim...), this thickness provides the best balance of buoyancy and freedom of motion.

The core and hips are also constructed slightly differently from the torso. The suit features what are called Aerodome panels in the midsection. Remember above how we talked about the rubber having air molecules trapped in the matrix? Well, increase the volume of those air molecules, and you have Aerodome: same thickness, more buoyancy. This is to help promote that downhill swimming position.

But what of the arms and shoulders, the part of the suit that makes people cringe? This is where blueseventy takes a completely different course as compared to other suit manufacturers. Most suits will feature a butterfly panel, opening up the shoulders and arms, before building to large "catch panels" in the forearm, designed to help move more water during the swim stroke. The problem? These catch panels also create drag in the water, particularly if you have a longer glide before initiating the pull. Also, if you don't get the suit just right in the shoulder, it will feel as if it is pulling down on the arm.

blueseventy's solution? Let's go all minimal up top! The suit has some of the butterfly in the shoulder and back, with 2 millimeter thickness there. But then there are 1.5 and 1 millimeter panels all throughout the arms. And they're not even neoprene; it's fabric! The result: supreme freedom of motion. But it also can help out from a form standpoint; it will allow you to take that swim stroke you've been honing in the pool and bring it directly into the open-water; no form modifications necessary. This can help reduce injury-risk, but also increase awareness of what is working and what's not working; it's easy to make modifications in technique when the suit is so flexible.

The Helix was designed with triathlete's in mind, as there are some answers to common problems that we tend to face. Take, for instance, the run into the water for beach starts, or the run from the water to transition. The Helix has a thinner panel behind the knee to allow you to be able to run easily with the suit on. Also, the zipper works in reverse: when putting the suit on, it zips from the neck down. To remove, pull the cord up. This makes sure that if somebody gets a hold on that pull cord during the course of the swim, it's not pulling the zipper down off your suit and letting a whole bunch of water in.

The Swim: How's It Work
This suit is FAST. As in, holy crap.

As we reviewed before, I swam in the Orca Sonar last season, and another Orca suit for part of the year this year. You would think that, being 6'3" and 158 lb., I would fit well into a suit that is pretty narrow.

And you'd be wrong: the Orca line is designed with folks who fit onto the Felt's and Cervelo's of the bicycle world in mind: long torso, shorter to average length legs. I am, of course, built the opposite way: super long legs, next to no torso. To give you an idea, when doing the Rev3 Maine bike course preview with Jen Small, her response to attempting to draft off of me while on board Wallace the Blue: "You're all legs! No draft comes off of you!"

So, in other words: the Orca line was a poor match. It resulted in some shoulder impingement, simply because I could never get the suit's torso to really match up. Orca also was a little narrower in the shoulders and chest overall. In sum: I should've gone with something different.

This is the suit.

First off, the rubber in this suit simply works. To test it out for yourself, just go for a standard beach start, run in, dive in (please, in a familiar area where you know where you won't hit your head...), and just take off.

You are GONE.

Seriously, this thing just up to speed wants to stay up at speed. And you feel that speed, too. If this is the first time you've worn a wetsuit, the phrase "this is cheating" will probably come to mind. And that's OK. It's not cheating. But it is speedy!

As you start moving into your swim stroke, you'll notice how easy it is to keep your hips high in the water. One thing that I noticed was that this suit really likes to have your head "buried," so to speak: relax your neck to allow your chin to point towards your chest. It really gets you into that downhill swimming position. The two panels on the sides of the front chest will also prevent you from jacknifing at the midsection while you turn to breather, giving you a much more effective position and forcing you into proper torso rotation.

Your legs will float behind you, but again due to some of the torso panels you will have less of the fishtail action that is incredibly common in poorer swimmers (often due to core strength issues). It's really attempting to streamline you and move you towards the direction that you want to be moving in.

And then the arms: what a difference! You really get a good idea as to where you are in the swim stroke, and also knowledge of how small changes in turnover rate and forearm placement will impact your speed in the water. It's incredible how flexible and easy it is to move in this suit. For those who have shorter torsos and have had issues with sleeved suits in the past, stop looking. Go try on a Helix.

For the rest of us, this suit will really make some improvements for you. It is a blazing fast suit that, considering the attention to small details, really pays off in the end. I couldn't be happier to have found this suit out. It makes me a better swimmer.

And when you're paying for a wetsuit, isn't that what we're looking for?

Retail: $649.99
Rental at Rev3 Events Available for $75

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi isoTransition

I've been a bad, bad product reviewer.

Two months have passed since our last gear test around the CtB offices (the SwiftWick Aspire sock review). Far, far too long.

As a make-up, though, we'll be featuring at least a product review a week for the remainder of July. There's a lot to get through: Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Carbon IVs, blueseventy Helix wetsuit, Blue Triad EX,  XPS Baking Company X-Series Cookies, as well as this review here.

So, let's get down to business, shall we?

Men's Pearl Izumi isoTransition
The Tech Babble
The first thing that generally comes to mind when you think "Pearl Izumi" is cycling, and for good reason: together with parent company Shimano, PI covers 85% of the market. To put that in perspective, the current leader in the running footwear business (Brooks) has a market share of 18%. It's a staggering number!

To no surprise, as triathlon took off Pearl Izumi went headfirst into it, creating numerous apparel and cycling shoe options. And options they have: three different product lines for apparel, three distinct options on the cycling shoe front.

However, PI's running shoes have always left something to be desired. My first experience with PI's running product line came in the form of the original SyncroSeek trail shoe. It's a shoe that makes my top 5 list of worst running shoes ever: heavy as a brick, ran a full size and a half small, and had absolutely no arch in it to speak of. It felt like PI had decided to take one of their mountain biking shoes, slapped a midsole and outsole on it, and called it good.

Not a good first impression. Hello, blacklist.

Thankfully, PI learned from these mistakes. The isoTransition still runs a little short on length, but there is an arch on the inside of the shoe, thanks to the OrthoLite insole. OrthoLite was once used by Nike and Saucony, respectively, for their insoles to their running product line.

The overall theme to the PI product line is what they call 1:1. This is, in their terms, trying to make the athlete and gear one and the same; a mating of the two that is completely natural. PI's big technology hallmark, at least for this particular shoe, is their seamless upper. There are no interior seams anywhere on the shoe. Less seams, of course, should mean less blistering, as there are fewer friction points on the interior of the shoe.

Cushioning comes from a midsole constructed solely from PI's proprietary blend of EVA. No gel pods, no Syncro cradles, no nothing extra. This is a "I'll take my meat and potatoes, thank you very much, nothing else" shoe. Don't take that as meaning that it's under-cushioned; it's just that the shoe is extremely reliant on the ability of the foam to handle the task at hand. Midsole stack heights are 19 millimeters in the heel, 10 millimeters in the forefoot, for an offset of 9 millimeters.

Drainage holes are cut through the bottom of the shoe; this has an unintended consequence which we'll get to during the running section. To complete the shoe, there is an integrated bootie tongue and elastic laces. Total weight for the shoe in a men's size 9 is 7.8 ounces; of course, my size 13 boats weigh in slightly heavier.

The Run
Well, congratulations, Pearl Izumi: you're off my blacklist.

Popping these on, the first thing you notice is, much like the K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light, is what's not there, rather than what is: there's no impinging seams. There's no pressure points. Instead, you have a shoe that hugs around the foot before opening into a wider toebox to promote forefoot splay. It's comfortable in the same way that, say, walking around in a slide sandal is comfortable: there's only one piece really holding onto your foot, and then the rest of your foot may do as it pleases.

The isoTransition is a neutral shoe, which usually would be bad news for this esteemed author. However, there's some natural stability built in here. Some of that comes from the lowered offset and the natural splay of the forefoot (the wider your toes may spread, the larger the "tripod" your foot can become and be naturally stable). But it also comes from a relatively rigid midfoot region. A small bridge exists only on the medial side of the shoe, giving it additional structure here. It's just enough to allow me to run in it without any type of additional support. I think the best corollary might be some of your structured neutral shoes, a la Asics Nimbus: even though it's neutral, there's just a touch of stability available to those who need it.

There's some serious cushioning underfoot, especially for something with only 10 millimeters of cushioning in the forefoot. The foam has some bounce to it; I'm guessing there's a bit more rubber in the blend of EVA that Pearl Izumi engineered. But the energy return does not come at the cost of pure protection from the road. This is, in my opinion, the result of the drainage holes cut underfoot: it allows the shoe a little bit more room to spread out upon impact, dispersing energy away from the foot.

These holes also make the shoe incredibly flexible in the forefoot. This is good for someone like myself, who has an inherent lack of flexibility in my big toe: I have a hard time with shoes that are very stiff in the forefoot and getting them to respond in sync with my foot. This, on the other hand, is very easy to pick up and go.

Varying stride lengths, it seems like this is a shoe that wants a pretty high cadence. Unsurprising, given some of the athlete's that Pearl Izumi has on the roster: Tim DeBoom and Cait Snow both run with very, very high cadences. Quick turnover really makes this shoe come alive with it's mix of cushioning and energy return.

I have yet to test the drainage on the shoe, as I haven't raced in them yet and that's generally the only time you'll see me dumping gallons of water over my head. But I believe it's safe to say that it will be pretty effective, given that there is drainage from heel to toe.

Overall, it's a great riding shoe for those who like a bit more of a responsive feel underfoot, but don't want to be penalized for doing so. It's a nice mix of road feel, isolation, and fit.

It's more than a triathlon shoe: it's a great running shoe.