Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's Just Why I Am...

Just a fun little story from the store that really reinforces why I love working in the athletic industry:

An unnamed customer came into the store; like a lot of customers coming through the door, friends had convinced this person to take up running and had just started out. No running shoes, though, meant that the current attempt had not been going so well.

We wind up going through the gait analysis process, and we start to uncover little bits and pieces of information; asking questions about how to run, and training, and how the shoe should feel on the foot. Just little pieces of the puzzle scattered about all over the place.

We get to the end of the fitting after the end selection, and just started talking about each other's personal history with trying to get fitter, etc. (You can see my story again in this posting here on CTB). Just chatting along about the balance between willpower to get there, and discipline to keep yourself from overdoing it. And then along on our way.

I mean, getting to help somebody achieve their goals, no matter what they are? Is there a better feeling in the world than that? It's not about ego, it's not about what I did...it's about getting somebody started to doing what it is that they want.

This industry rocks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bike Maintenance: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

As the winter has begun to fade away here in New England (OK, it didn't so much fade as disappear in about three hours), it's now time to get the bikes back out on the road. But salt, sand, road grime, and other contaminants will try and spoil the party by getting into, well, everything.

After riding roughly 2,000 miles last year out on the roads, followed by a good number of miles put onto the CompuTrainers at the store, it's time for things to start wearing out. The consumables of the bike racing world, as it were.

With the help of Freeman's Bicycle Service for some of the repair knowledge and service pieces, here's just a small smattering of the things that you can expect to be doing before race season really starts to hit home:

Cleaning, Cleaning, Every Day: This is one of the easiest ways to save some cash if your bike budget is also going to be eating into your beer-drinking budget. (Hey, we all need our vices, right?)

There's tons of corrosive grime out on the roads. Salt is the primary enemy, and it just doesn't come from the coatings laid down after a snowfall. Your sweat is a big corrosive, too. And particularly with the headset, this can be a dangerous proposition. It's important to make sure that you get into the headset, clean it, re-grease it, and then tighten everything back on down. It's a little tricky, and if you're not confident in your own wrenchwork then I'd recommend heading to your favorite mechanic to get it done.

A clean bike is a fast bike, too, so after rides this time of the year it's good to take the 15 minutes to wipe down the bike (typically, I like a mix of Simple Green Extreme diluted in water, followed by Pedro's Bike Lust) to keep things tidy.

Drivetrain: All that stuff that got kicked up into your frame is also sure to be digging into your chain, cassette, and crank.

I try and keep these pretty darn clean, as the gunk and grit from the road can be hell on shifting quality, drivetrain efficiency, and the wear limit on these parts. (Who knew that metal didn't like having sand grinding over it, 95-105 times per minute?)

For cleaning purposes, I like the same Simple Green and water mixture. For lubrication, I use Chainj from Pedro's. I like it because of the really mixed conditions that come up during the course of the spring here in Maine. Also, because of temperature variations overnight as bikes are parked in transition, I find that it is resistant to lock-up from the morning dew.

Replacements and Things You Can't Do: Of course, there are things that are simply going to wear out. Chains, cassettes, and chainrings are going to get eaten up. Shifter and brake cables stretch out or can wear out. Bar tape is going to need to be replaced.

There's also things that you just may not want to mess around with. I have a good wrench space in my basement, but I also don't have a Park Stand, nor do I have the necessary tools or skills to feel confident servicing the bottom bracket on my bike. This is something I'd take to Freeman's; he has the expertise and the fair charge to do the job well.

In all, expect to be spending a fair amount on replacement parts. But with the right knowledge and right know-how and care, you can be sure to get your money's worth out of them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Sponsors!

Well, well, well! You may have noticed some fresh sidebar photos here over the past couple of days. Well, time to officially unveil some new sponsors for Team Rev3 Triathlon!

PowerBar: They've signed on as the nutrition sponsor. Super excited, as you could tell from my review of their gel products. Right in line with what I need.

NormaTecMakers of some phenomenal compression recovery boots. Get to test these out soon enough, and will put them through the standard CtB review process.

Pearl Izumi: PI will be the official uniform sponsor of the team. We'll be rocking their PRO stuff this year. How? Well, here's how:

Pretty spiffy, eh?

Full product reviews on all the team gear will be coming soon!

Coming Down the Mountain: Sugarloaf 3/13 Report

Attempting something a bit different with this report, as we're going to use a timeline of the day format. Will see if it sticks around.

4:55 AM: Attempt to throw Hannah's cell phone (our alarm clock) across the room #1.

5:00 AM: Attempt #2. OK, fine, I'll get up. Time to start the day and get packed up. Dug out the Fischer's, threw some breakfast down, made some sandwiches, and got geared up. Used my Craft baselayer and CW-X Stabilyx tights and then would layer on top of that.

5:45 AM: Josh arrives. Per usual, I'm running slightly behind schedule.

5:50 AM: On the road. Target: Sugarloaf. 136 miles to the northwest. Of course, this being Maine, we have to drive to the northeast in order to go northwest.

7:00 AM: We have this trip down pat, dividing it into three 45-minute segments: Portland to Augusta, Augusta to Farmington, Farmington to the mountain. So in this middle segment is when we listen to The Bugle: Audio Newspaper for a Visual World. If you're not listening to this, I don't know what's wrong with you. Hilarity ensues.

7:50 AM: The Bugle ends. Time to get the blood pumping with some tunes. Shout at the Devil makes an appearance or three.

8:02 AM: We round "Oh My Gosh" corner.

When you drive to Sugarloaf on Route 27, when you get to Kingfield you can almost touch the mountain. But the road follows the river, bringing you out and around to the front face of the mountain. The road is well known for the "s curves," following the flow of the former logging river. This behometh of a mountain is hidden completely from view. Then, just as you feel like you must've missed this place somewhere, you come to it:

Photo courtesy of sugarloafstickr
Oh my Gosh.

8:26 AM: Onto the SuperQuad to start the day off. We discover incredibly warm temperatures and incredibly soft snow.

8:31 AM: And let the lapping begin. Holy Christmas, can the snow seriously be this good? Yes. We hit some groomers to start off the day and catch some big air on the rollers on Timberline. How often do you get to just haul tail without anybody else around and the snow that good?

10:00 AM: I'm exhausted and we've been skiing for 90 minutes. We've covered just about everything on the mountain: Boomauger, Ripsaw, Widowmaker, Winter's Way...you could do no wrong ANYWHERE on the hill. Absolutely covered in sweat, so it's time to switch out jackets.

10:30 AM: Another trip into the snowfields? YES PLEASE. White Nitro is a dream: buttery soft on the extension, nice pillowy turns on Nitro proper, and then start running out through Boomauger and Wedge.

11:00 AM: Time for lunch. Power through the couple of sandwiches, top off the tank on water, and back out for more lapping.

11:30 AM: Uh, snowfields again? Yeppers!

The snow is unreal all over the place. You're skiing over treetops, that's how much snow is up here. It's just not fair how much fun this is.

12:00 PM: The promised rain showers begin moving in for the day. It's not bad to start, just making this soft snow a little grabby, but if you keep the skis on edge you just keep bouncing around and having a blast. We keep lapping about all over the place and run into nobody.

1:10 PM: OK. We're beat. Let's make this bad boy count. We ride Spillway...OK, I mean Skyline (I will never get used to calling it that), and decide to head down Nitro again. Then get onto Boomauger. We pass the sign that says, "Experts Only." Earlier in the day, Josh saw it and remarked, "This sounds like a challenge." It was indeed, but amazingly fun.

We work our way down onto Whiffletree, and take the hard right to head into Moose Alley. This is normally banked turn awesomeness. One problem: LOTS OF SNOW MELT. We get to one roller that usually results in speed building. It's completely bare. Immediately, panic meter pegs pretty high.


It felt like I was in air for a minute and a half. I know it was probably about a second total, simply because there was about a three foot drop from the top where I leaped to where I needed to land, and I jumped as high as I had in me.

We cleared that spot, letting out the biggest yelp I could (amazing what catching that much air can do for your adrenaline levels), and ski out.

If that was the last day of the year (and based on the long-term forecast, I'm not hopeful), what a way to go out.

5:45 PM: Time to refuel: pizza and beer. The dinner of champions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gear Review: SBR Sports TriSwim Products

Believe it or not, there are some winter sports that are actually taking place in spite of this absurdly unseasonable Maine "winter." I put the word winter in quotation marks here, simply because the triathlete in me has been so happy, but the skier in me is unquestionable depressed.

At any rate, swimming is a Maine winter sport through and through. To wit, the pools are never busier than they are during the cold months out of the year. As such, it's phenomenal training whether your race season includes a triathlon or not. Swimming is low impact on the body but provides one of the highest cardiovascular efforts around. Also, it helps develop the same core strength that is so important when it comes to getting out and running. From a muscle memory standpoint, it can also have a great impact in recruiting the back end of the leg, where a lot of runners fall flat.

What are some of the problems of the pool? Well, there's the unfortunate circumstance of the person in your lane deciding to split a lane when there's a need to circle-swim (bonking heads is not the most fun when you're underwater). Or, the person who decides that the rules regarding showering before entering the pool do not apply to them. (Ah, the fresh taste of perfume or cologne in the morning!)

But the biggest complaint: chlorine. Chlorine, of course, is the main chemical used in commercial and residential pools to help kill off any bacteria that has gotten into the water. It's a good thing for the pool and for your health.

However, the main drawback of chlorine is the effect that is has on your skin and hair. It's well-known for drying hair and skin out, and leaving an almost dry residue. It also has well-defined stench to it that, if not effectively washed off, tends to remain with you for a few days. From experience, there's nothing quite like taking a run just after a pool session and choking on the chlorine just as you were hitting your stride.

Luckily, there's a line of products that can help out from SBR Sports.

From L-R: TriSwim Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, and Lotion
How's It Work?
This review is a little bit different than normal, as it's not a true running product, so this'll encompass both the "how's it made" and the review of the product itself.

All of the products feature a detoxifying agent that encompass the chlorine itself, and flush it out of your hair and skin. The shampoo, body wash, and skin lotion then implement a mixture of vitamins and aloe vera to help re-hydrate your skin and hair. The conditioner, meanwhile, uses soybean, wheat proteins, and keratin amino acids to bring your hair back. All of them feature a citrus-based scent, rather than them being too masculine or feminine in range.

So how's it work? Like a charm. Hopping out of the pool and into the shower, this stuff simply works. None of that "straw" feeling to your hair. Skin dried out? Nope, not anymore. Typically, after a pool session, I can smell the chlorine on myself for a couple of hours afterwards, even after a long shower. This stuff takes care of it in minutes. It's another one of those examples of a product range that, when you think of it, doesn't seem like it would work (i.e., "eh, chlorine smell. Whatever. Nothing would take care of that...") But instead, it works in spades. Why hasn't somebody thought of this before?

Also, for those concerned: SBR Sports does not animal-test their products, and they are all paraben free. A percentage of their sales goes to John Wayne Cancer Foundation and to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Overall, it's a line of products that if you're swimming this season, you need to be checking out.