Monday, December 22, 2008

Tri - ing Times - What's in a Name?

What's in a name? A lot of you are a triathlon shop or a business working within the sport of triathlon!

Perhaps I should have put a bit more thought into the title of my blog - but I have always been a fan of the silly pun. I could not resist - so Tri . . . This! :)

Puns aside - maybe the whole Tri thing has been done to death, but then again maybe not. There are currently fourteen, of our Nineteen dealers( that's Nineteen's dealers, not that we have nineteen dealers - we actually have 65 dealers in total!!) who use some variation of the word Tri in the name of their stores - there's three in Canada and eleven in the U.S. :

Trysports - Parry Sound, ON
Tri It - Calgary, AB
Tri-All- 3 Sports - Vancouver, BC - Santa Ana, CA
Tri Buys - Irvine, CA
Tri On The Run - Houston, TX
Tri Running and Walking - Victor, NY
Tri Speed - Timonium, MD
Tri Zombies - Manhatten Beach, CA
Triathlete Sports - Bangor, ME
Tribe Multisport - Phoenix, AZ - Tucson, AZ
Tri-Tech Multisport - Columbus, OH
Trysports - Mount Pleasent, SC

My favourite name is Tribe Multisport. It's a different word, that has the word Tri in it, but the word Tribe could also be used to describe what triathletes are and the whole triathlon scene. What we do is rather odd and people do like to think of us (triathletes) as being different. We are by definition a bit of a tribe unto our selves.

After Tribe, some of them are catchy. Tri Zombies is a classic! Tri It is a good one to.

Has it been over done? Hard to know. I do note that some of these shops are the best Tri shops around, so I would not fault them over their choice of name. For them it works. When you have the word "Tri" in your name, it's clear what you are all about!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Economy of Movement

There is no science to this, just my anecdotal observations, so take away what you will.

During my whole time as an athlete I have always trained with better/fitter people than me. I have spent countless hours, running, cycling and nordic skiing behind, many other very good athletes - in some cases some extraordinarily good ones. A constant that I have noticed, particularly with the extraordinarily good ones, is an economy of movement - an efficiency and an ease to what they are doing. They can be going very hard - but all is relaxed and flowing.

I had been aware of this for a few years, but it all came together one day on a long bike ride with my tri training group in Vancouver when former Tour de France Yellow Jersey wearer and Team 7-11 rider Alex Steida showed up for the ride. I sat on Steida's wheel for a long time on that ride as well as riding side by side with him and chatting. What was remarkable is that he always looked the same. The pedals always kept turning over in a metronome like manner at the same cadence regardless of how fast or slow we were going, whether we were going up hill or down hill or big gear or small gear. His upper body barely moved. When he did shift his upper body or reach behind to grab a snack out of his jersey pocket it was all done with a totally relaxed ease of movement.

I noticed the same thing trailing very good runners - national caliber, sub 30 minute 10K, types. We could be going all-out, right at the limit, but they just flowed along eating up big chunks of ground and more often then not, pulling away from me as the run or the interval wore on! It was the same as sitting behind Steida - legs ticking over very effciently with a light touch on the ground and the upper body, other than the arm swing, all quiet and calm with no strain

Switch to nordic skiing - a much more technical sport where technique, whether skating or classic skiing is very important. However, beyond the technique, there was this same relaxed efficiency amongst the very good. I have skied many kilometers behind some very good nordic skiers (National team level), and that was a constant amongst them - they just flowed over the snow, like they were barely touching it. It was the same up hills and down, kilometer after kilometer.

Now, I was never a good swimmer, and what I have just written about is almost impossible to see when you are swimming with other people. The a-ha, moment with swimming came for me the year after I retired from serious triathlon racing. I was working with Steve King and the race announcing team at Ironman Canada. I was asked to follow the lead swimmers in a Kayak and report back what was going on by radio. What a different world out there with the lead swimmers. Very different from the mayhem of my typical 58 min IM swims - but there at the front was the calm relaxation and efficiency of movement that we are talking about. Bryan Rhodes, while leading the swim, flips over on his back starts doing back-stroke, and calm as day, starts up a conversation with me! Rhodes does this several times during the swim. Despite swimming at sub-50 minute IM swim pace, he was completely relaxed and calm about it all.

All this time following and watching these exceptional athletes has paid off for me. I am realizing now that I was a good mimic. People have often commented to me that I have a very smooth pedal stroke on the bike and that I look relaxed, calm and comfortable on the bike. They have said similar things about me skiing - yet I never took a formal ski lesson or training. I just started in skiing with very good people. I don't run much any more, but I was out running with my son recently and, a neighbor said to me that I looked like a really good runner - I thanked him and then told him that I had just run around the block!

Take aways: Train with better athletes at every opportunity. If they are very good and you can spend a lot of time training with them, watch carefully what they do. Try and mimic their movements in a general sense. Look for the things I pointed out above when doing the various sports. I realize that everyone has subtle individualities with their technique, but what is key amongst the very good, is how they all look, more or less the same - at that level the differences come from other factors.

Picture at the top, is at a rest stop on the big group ride up Mt. Lemmon at last year's TriFest in Tucson, AZ. This is actually one of those occasions when, triathletes of all levels can get to ride with some very good and strong pro triathletes and cyclists. Don't miss it, and pay careful attention to how they ride!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hilarious and Humble Paul Huddle!!

We are lucky in the sport of triathlon to have some real characters in the sport. People who have walked the walk and can really talk the talk, and do it in a funny and enlightening way. One of these people is Paul Huddle. Huddle is a true triathlon Renaissance man. He's literally done it all in this sport and done it all extremely well, with flair, and a great sense of humor.

I first met Paul years ago at Ironman Canada ( IMC). Our bikes were racked near one another's in the Transition area. He was warming up on the morning of the race with a lumber-jack jacket and what looked like a World War II Bomber cap on. Right away, I knew this guy was different! He was the first to start listing funny past-times under "Occupation" on IM entry forms. I think that year at IMC he was a "Lounge Singer".

As I said he's truly done it all in the sport. Several top 10 finishes at Ironman Hawaii. Was Mark Allen's main training partner for years. Founded and runs one of the best coaching services around - Multisports. Columnist with Triathlete Magazine. Founder/leader of the UnderPants run. Host of the show at Ironman Hawaii. Creator, director and actor with Roch Frey, of the hilarious, "What Not To Do The Week Before Ironman" video series (viewable at the NA Sports Web Site). Key Bike/Run Course Guy for NA Sports. Race Director for Ironman Arizona. Co-Host with Bob Babbitt of "The Competitors" radio program. Married to 8-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby Fraser. Is there anything he has not done? Amazing!

Picture above is of Mr. Huddle surveying the madness before this year's Under Pants run at Ironman Hawaii. Yes, those are compression argyle socks!

Check out Huddle's most recent rant on Warning bring your tire leavers!! :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Great Solution to a Smelly Problem

I had the good fortune to be working at Sugoi back in the mid to late '90's when the use of technical fabrics for cycling, running and triathlon really started to take off. Hard to believe, but just over 10 years ago many runners still wore cotton T-Shirts almost exclusively, for training and racing. Cycling was a bit ahead of where running was at the time. And truth be told, Sugoi took much of it's expertise in cycling apparel and transferred it to running and triathlon apparel.

The newer finer polyester fabrics that were starting to become available in the mid '90's were amazing - light, fine, and with impressive powers to move moisture from one side to the other - in this case from inside a garment to the outside and away from the skin. Thus, the concept of the term, "wicking" as it pertains to technical apparel of this kind.

The one down-side to these fabrics was that over time, they started to get . . . . well . . . . . . how do I put this, . . skunky, may be the best word. Musty would be another word that comes to mind. Even with regular washing and use, these garments would after a time start to smell - somtimes badly. What was happening was that oils from your skin and, organic matter (dead skin cells), were bonding with the finer strands of the polyester in the fabric. Polyester is an oil based material, so the organic matter in the body oils and skin has a natural affinity to the oil based polyester fabric and easily bonds to it. Small amounts of bacteria would also get trapped in at this level as well. The combo of the body oils, the organic matter and the bacteria would ferment and start to smell. No amount of normal washing could get rid of this smell.

At Sugoi, we looked into some fabric based solutions - silver was one thing that was tried. We received some samples from a fabric supplier that sounded promising. Silver is anti microbial. Fine silver filaments were woven through the fabric. This fabric proved promising. Six months on and after heavy use - no smell. Minor problem, though, a basic T-Shirt was going to need to retail at $100, perhaps more, based on how expensive the "silver" wonder fabric was! I still have one of these test T-shirts - seven years on it has minimal smell. However, good it was their was no way that we were going to be able to sell $100 running T-shirts.

Which leads me to Win High Performance Sport Detergent. We recently bought a bottle and used it on a load of older, technical training gear of ours - stuff that, frankly was ready to be tossed based on the built up smell. We ran the load with the Win detergent, and it took almost 100% of the smell away. It was an impressive turn-around. The Win detergent specifically targets the trapped bacteria and organic matter in the fabric with it' s scientifically formulated formula. Win's super oxygenated detergent zeros in on the bacteria and other organic matter and oxidizes it and removes it all from the fabric, and for the most part removes the odors.

I was really impressed by this as there were a few cycling jerseys that I was ready to toss out or turn into rags, but the Win detergent has regenerated them, and given them a new, much cleaner, fresher smelling and longer life.

See more here:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sales & The Long Distance Endurance Athlete

The picture above is of the start of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii this year. Are there similarities between what goes on here, and in the world of business and sales?

I have, for my whole working life, worked for very small businesses and companies that essentially lived or died, based on their Sales. If you did not sell anything, the company received no business and no money, and me, the salesperson received no money - or significantly less money! It's always been a pretty straightforward relationship. I have very often thought of the parallels between working in sales and being an endurance athlete. There are more than a few similarities.

Good salespeople need to look long term. So does the endurance athlete. It's not so much the training that you do today, that matters, it is the training you do over the course of six months to a year, and year over year, that's really key. It's the same in sales - you need to often keep at it for long periods of time, to see real results. It's rare to hit the home-run in business right away, and it's rare if not impossible to win a running race or a triathlon with little or no training.

Good salespeople need to get focused on a routine. So does the endurance athlete. Training for a marathon or a long triathlon is not rocket science. It's getting out the door and getting the training done. It's the same in sales - what you do is not that complicated, but you need to be focused on what you are doing and your routine every day and keep repeating it over and over and over and . . . . . you get the picture! Training for a marathon is not about the runs you did last week. It's about the 6 months to a year of steady run training you put in.

Good salespeople need to be able to deal with set-backs. Not everyone says, "Yes". In fact, more often, people say, "No". Even deals that you think, for-sure will happen, sometimes don't. Same for the endurance athlete. There will be days of training and races that are disastrous - where nothing will go as planned. Both the salesperson and the endurance athlete need to keep going, and know that it will get better. There will be bad patches. You need to deal with them and move on. It will get better.

Good salespeople know that they are often in a real race - a race with their competitors. Few companies operate completely in a vacuum, without competition. It's hard, because you rarely if ever see your competition, in business - you only hear about them. It's more or less the same for endurance athletes. If you are serious about your performance at some level, you know that on race day its . . . well . . . . . it's a race. It's a competition. The finish line is there for a reason. In training, you may never see your competition. You may only hear that they are training hard, or slacking off, or whatever. You don't know for sure. What you do know, that come race day, it's game-on, and it's going to be competitive!

Good sales people know that their are certain techniques and tools that can be very helpful - they know that other techniques and tools are not that helpful. The successful endurance athlete also knows that certain techniques of training really do help, and that some tools are good at advancing performance. However the athlete also knows, just like the salesperson that certain training techniques and tools are useless, and that others are much more effective in yielding good results over time.

Good salespeople know that technology will only help, and get you so far. It's the same with endurance sports training. There is some technology that is helpful, but really it's about getting the hours of training in. In sales, for example, there is a tendency to rely too much on modern communication technology. However, at it's roots business success is about relationships. At some point, you need to go beyond the Blackberry, the email and the phone, and really get to know who you want to work with. With endurance training, there are all kinds of fancy tools, like heart rate monitors, and power meters, and fancy training machines to help you with your training, but these only monitor your training, you still need to get out there and do it!

So there it is. The marathon runner and the salesperson - one and the same! Who would have thought. However, as someone who has experienced and lived deeply in both worlds I know the parallels and similarities well.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

PSA - Please Shovel The Snow

Well it's that time of the year. Winter seems to have come hard, fast and early to many parts of Canada and the U.S. already. This is a Public Service Announcement to please shovel the snow from your sidewalks. As I noted in the post below, there may be runners out doing an off season run focus and running on a nicely cleared sidewalk is heaven. Running on a rutted, icey uncleared one can be crazy and down-right dangerous. So please get the shovel out of the garage or the basement and clear the sidewalks in front of your house of snow and ice.

Now, I while I am encouraging expeditious removal of snow from sidewalks and elsewhere, I would also urge caution in moving the snow around. If it's the heavy wet, concrete like snow we have on the ground here north of Toronto, be very careful. Shovelling this type of snow can blow your back out in a second. Use good form and make sure your core is strong and stable before tossing the heavy stuff around.

That's all for now in the southern Ontario Snow Belt. Picture above is my son Matthew particularly proud of his snow clearing technique last March! Yes, that's right, the snow banks are well over 5 feet tall!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Run and Done

The truly interesting thing about the run leg in triathlons is that regardless of the format of the race or the length of the race, many big, highly competitive triathlon races are always sorted out on the run. It's been this way since the early days of the sport. The run leg has always had a high importance, if for no other reason than, that it's last!

What I have noticed over the past few years is that in general, run performance in triathlon races is dropping or at the least is not getting any faster. This to me represents a great opportunity for the triathlete who is serious about increasing their place performance - in particular those looking to place on the podium in their age-group or score a qualifying spot for the IM World Championships or the 70.3 Championships. Run performance in triathlon is a complicated thing. However, the bottom line is that, however you improve your run performance, it's almost guaranteed that if you run faster, you will place higher and finish faster!

The three biggest influencers on race day, run performance are, bike fitness, appropriate bike pacing and then overall run fitness. I am going to address this last point here. Many people start out in triathlon and get a nice balanced training program from their coach or work out a nice weekly routine that works for them. Typically, this involves 2 - 3 run workouts per week. This is a great way to get things rolling and many athletes will go a long way with this sort of a program. However, often it's the run leg that is letting them down. Assuming, decent bike fitness, and appropriate race day pacing - it very well may be, overall run fitness that is holding them back.

What to do? For athletes like this, in particular those with a chronic weak run leg, those in the sport for less than 3 years, an off-season run focus can really help ramp up the fun fitness and tri-race, run leg performance. The good news is that it's a remarkably straight-forward program. The bad news is that . . . . . well, their really is no bad news other than it's going to take a few months to get some solid returns.

How to do this? Start thinking like a runner. Runners only run! That should be a clue as to where I am going here. The first thing you need to do is start running more days/week. If only running 2 or 3 days, you need to start working up 5 to 6 or even 7 days/week of running. Set a minimum, that you will call a "run" - 20 minutes is a good minimum. If you are having motivation problems, seek out friends or a running club, that will help get you out the door to get this done. There is a group over on the Slowtwitch forum working on 100 run days in a row! Once you have become comfortable running 5 - 7 days/week, then start to increase overall weekly volume - 10% week has become the standard and is a good safe target to shoot for.

Too many, worry too much about what these run workouts should be like - what pace, what heart rate, how long, how hard . . etc . A rule of thumb is that you should be not so stiff and sore so that you can't repeat that run workout the next day. A little bit of stiffness is OK. If it goes away in the first 5 - 6 minutes of running - that is about right. Just get out and run - some days you'll run faster, other days will be slower. It's not the day to day running that's important here, nor what you do week to week - it's putting together a block of time ( I would suggest a minimum of 3 months) where running is your focus. It's the total amount of running over a longer period of time that is key.

In a previous post, I talked a bit about triathletes running marathons. My suggestion would be to resist the temptation to do this - do the training for the marathon, but don't race the marathon! If you have a burning desire to do some running races, the better distances to race at would be 5K or 10K. This will allow you to run hard/fast and then allow you to get back to your run focus quickly with minimal down time.

Now, some are likly wondering what to do about swimming and cycling during this time. After all, this is the sport of triathlon we are talking about. A remarkable amount of fitness can be maintained over a long period of time with 1 or 2 very focused swim or bike workouts each week. Make them really count! For many that have to deal with a real winter( cold weather and snow etc . .), this is the perfect time of the year to do this as cycling time is going to be compromised anyway.

This is very general advice, but I almost gaurantee you, that if you do this for a minium of 3 months, and then after you get back to a more balanced three sport training program, for a period of time, that your run leg performance and indeed your overall triathlon performance will have been improved significantly.

The picture above is of my wife Paolina Allan, when she finished 2nd at Ironman Canada a few years ago. She left T2 over 20 minutes down on the lead and in 7th place. She was able to run her way all the way to second place and within 3 minutes of winning the whole race!It was a focused block of running done earlier that year that had lifted her triathlon running to a much higher level.

Best wishes. Let me know how it goes.