Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ironman Canada Bike Course Potenially Flooded?

It's still a few years away, but a new Dam on the Similkameen River in Washington State, just south of the Canada/British Columbia border, may potentially flood certain parts of the Similkameen Valley in B.C. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of Canada. It's also part of the famed Ironman Canada triathlon bike course as the 180km bike leg makes it's way north up Hwy 3 from the foot of Richters Pass to the town of Keremeos:

I will never forget the day that I first raced Ironman Canada back in 1990. I rode north through the Similkameen Valley on Hwy 3 that day, having never been on that road before! The scenery was amazing. Despite racing for a top spot in the race, I kept being distracted by the Lost Shangri-la feel of the place. It had this surrealistic look - almost too beautiful and perfect. The vineyards. The fruit trees. The meandering Similkameen River. The soaring mountains on all sides of the valley with sheer wall-like cliffs near their tops. It felt like you were in a giant room with the clear blue ski as the roof!

I would be very surprised if this ever comes to pass. However, it does cause some concern. Some say that water - something that people seem to value very little today - will become a very valuable commodity in the future. Canada, I understand has possibly, 1/4 of the worlds supply of fresh water and the U.S. has much less.

I did Ironman Canada five more times after that first year, and every year I marvelled at the beauty of the Similkameen as I rode and raced through it, heading up towards the real challenge of that bike course - the climb to Yellow Lake. I often thought that when I retire, this would be the kind of place that I would want to retire to, to live out my days in a place where almost every view from every angle is amazing!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Something Old Something New

One thing that I really love about the internet is that it's really allowed those with a bit of curiosity to re-discover old things that we thought were cool when we first found them, but in the mists of time, these things have been forgotten. It's part of the Long Tail, of which I have spoken of here before. The cataloging and indexing and search-ability of the internet has really facilitated this mucking around on the fringes of our culture and the things we like - often in very off the beaten path places. And the path that takes us there is often interesting. Here's an example:

I was reading the recent Outside Magazine( the June print version - the one they mail to your house!) a side bar about the phenomenon of Slab Breaks - waves that break from deep water over steep shallow reefs, as apposed to normal sand beach breaks. They are rare, unusual and hard to surf, but big wave surfers seek them out, still. The article mentioned one of the world's famous Slab Breaks was called Teahupoo in Tahiti.

When I finished reading the short article I loaded "Teahupoo" in Google. At the top of the search results page were some amazing still photos of people surfing at the Teahupoo Break as well as some awesome images of surfers in the water and off to the side of the wave, but up high, as the wave started to roll underneath them and them looking into this Grand Canyon of water!( See picture at top) There was then the ubiquitous Wikipedia entry, some short YouTube clips and then a listing, "Laid Hamilton at Teahupoo". This was actually a full 37 minute movie someone had up-loaded onto the Google Video pages. The link is below:

I watched the movie. I can watch surf movies like this all day. This was very nicely done with some amazing footage of Hamilton surfing a vareity of some of the famous big wave breaks around the world culminating in some stunning video of him surfing Teahupoo. The music in the video caught my ear. It was all great stuff and went well with the surf action. Two tunes really stood out. I had heard them maybe once before - but a long time ago. It sounded a lot like Ben Haper, but I was not sure. At the end of the video, in the credits, they did list two Ben Harper tunes - "Faded" and "Glory & Consequence". I wrote that info down. Next stop was at another of my favourite websites , to do some background and information checking on which of Harper's albums these tunes were from. Then it was onto YouTube to confirm, that these were the tunes that I had heard. You can hear them here: ( Faded)
( Glory & Consequence)

The first video is a live version of "Faded" recorded at a club in Italy with the intro in Italian, and Harper demonstrating some wicked lap, slide guitar chops. The second is just a straight-up studio recording of, "Glory & Consequence".

Now it was off to down-load those tunes, so I could have them as part of my mp3 collection. I have been listening to them as I write this blog post.

So the cycle was complete - a print article in Outside Magazine, ultimately, via the internet, led me to re-discovering to Ben Harper tunes that I really liked that I had long ago forgot about.


A friend commented on Twitter that I seemed to be cursed recently. I assume they were referring to the fact that, just over a month ago I severely sprained my ankle - that required three weeks to heal up. Then just yesterday after feeling like I was going to die for two days, a trip to the doctor confirmed that I had a case of pneumonia and will be down and out of it for a bit more. My Twitter tweat reply, was that,"Indeed, it's been a bit of a rough stretch"!

It's at times like this that I am actually in awe of what I used to do and that many others continue to do - to train and get the training in consistently day after day and week after week. I will admit that when I was racing triathlons seriously, this was a strength of mine. I never considered myself particularly talented, but I was very consistent in my training, many weeks and even many months would go by and I would miss only a day or two for very long stretches of time. I was not obsessive about this, I always seemed to manage to carve out some time in the day to get out to do something. To me that was the beauty of triathlon - it gave me flexibility. If I could not swim, I could ride. If I could not ride I could run . . . and so on. Sometimes this took some creativity, but being flexible with the program was key.

The upside of all those years and years of consistent aerobic training, is that it left me with this deep aerobic base of fitness, that I fully admit has dropped way off, but the aerobic bank account never seems to get fully depleted. How else to describe jumping in a hard 100K group ride a few weeks ago coming off the ankle sprain and after intermittent training in the previous 6 weeks, was still able to make the front break and hang in there for the full 100K!

The take-aways - be flexible and be consistent. The really big gains, don't come from individual workouts. The big gains come from stringing together week after week and month after month of workouts and training sessions and the further good news, is that fitness will stay with you for a very long time. That deep well of fitness will not all of a sudden desert you if you need to take some time off! That if you are"cursed", as I have been recently, that you will be able to deal with that down time and bounce back quickly.

Be Consistent

Hope this helps.

Picture above is me stretching out the wonky back on a long ride in Tucson.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's All About The Fit

Shopping for a new wetsuit?

Wetsuit selling season is in full swing. If you are shopping for a new wetsuit be it your first wetsuit or a new one to replace an older one, there are certain things you need to know about buying a wetsuit. It can get very complicated and there is all kinds of choice in the market, but if you keep focused on fit, you should get the most comfortable and fastest wetsuit for you. With wetsuits, fit is everything!

However, before I go any further, I would urge you to, please shop a reputable wetsuit retailer. The good news is that by my calculations, there are between 80 - 100 good places in North America to shop for triathlon wetsuits - both bricks & mortar and on-line retailers. There is a list of Nineteen dealers here on the Nineteen home page. For many new comers to the sport, wetsuits are a dark area that they know little about. Seek out some good retail help. Take your time and shop around. Don't feel pressured to buy a wetsuit because of a great deal. Again, it has to fit you - that is the bottom line.

I'll try not to make this a blatant plug for Nineteen, but the first two points are things that I think we do well, that make it worthwhile having a look at a Nineteen wetsuit this year, if you are shopping for a new suit.

There are three key points you need to consider:

1. You need to find the brand that fits you best. Every brand fits a bit different, so it's important to find the brand that fits you best. Nineteen has been making wetsuits for nine years. Before the company even started making wetsuits, we realized that there was a bit of a problem in the business - not everyone is built and shaped like an ITU racer but at the time many of the suits available were built on the presumption that all triathletes were built this way - the same way. We took a bit of a different approach and skewed our fit so that more than just the short/long and lean can fit into the suits. We were also the first wetsuit company to have women's specific fit. So take the time and investigate how some of the different brands fit.

2. You need to find the right size for you. That's easier said than done. It's challenging when there is a disconnect between the size-chart, what the wetsuit is, and what you are. With Nineteen we have tried to connect all that up to make finding your size much easier. Our size chart is very weight-centric. In that, if you know your weight, and you are not crazy tall or short, for that weight, then that is your size. There are a few minor exceptions to this, but for 90% of people, this works very well.

3. You need to have the wetsuit fitted to you properly. Perhaps the most overlooked, but most important part of wetsuit shopping and performance. Three key points:

A) Make sure the suit is hiked up as far as you can at your waist - it should be like giving yourself a wedgie!!

B) Get the sleeves on and then either on your own, or with someones help, keep working the rubber up your arms an over your shoulders. You should keep doing this until there is loose rubber - enough to pull into a small fist with your hand - between the point of your shoulder and your neck.

C) Get the zipper done up . . . . and oh . . yea. . the zipper goes on thew back! Had to mention that because at least once a year, I get some one coming out of the change room all happy and proud with the zipper on the front!! Last thing - now bend over at your waist like you are doing a formal Japanese bow with the straight upper body. Look back at your groin area. You will see rolls of rubber there. Grab one of those rolls, and start to work it up hand over hand towards your collar bone( top of your chest). Repeat. Keep doing this until all the rolls are gone. Larger breasted women and men with broad chests - make sure you do this and get as much rubber as you can, as high up on your chest as you can.

When trying a suit on dry, it should be comfortably tight in the store, with full arm mobility. It may feel a bit restrictive, but once in the water, it will loosen up.

Full Sleeve or sleevless?

Anyone that knows anything about wetsuits will want to sell you a full sleeve wetsuit. They are not trying to pull a fast one on you - if it's a well fitting full suit, it will be warmer, faster, more comfortable and with fewer neck-rash issues. Most people who buy sleeveless wetsuits are people who have had a bad experience with a ill-fitting full sleeve wetsuit and have vowed to never again wear a full sleeve wetsuit. However they most likely, were in the wrong brand of wetsuit for them, they were in the wrong size or they did not have it fitted properly - or they could have had all three things off!! I have seen that, and it's not pretty!

Larger men and women, with very big arms and broad chests( body builder types), may find sleeveless wetsuits to be a better fit.

What else?

If you live in the northern U.S., or Canada or you travel to races far away from home. It may be a good idea to have a neoprene hood in your kit bag - just in case. Some lakes and sea-side places can have OK water one day and then a wind and current change can have the water temperature drop drastically over night. This happened at Ironman Coeur D'Alene last year with a 10F drop in temperature on race morning! Nineteen does have very nice 3mm swim-hoods on offer this year.

Sometimes temperature can go the other way - get too warm and then wetsuits are not allowed. This happens at 78F for Age-Groupers and 72F for Pros. What then? This is when the new swim or speed skins can be helpful. Nineteen's Frequency SS makes it's debut this season. For a swim skin to really work, it needs to fit tight. I saw many wearing them too loose at Ironman Hawaii last year. When you try on a swim skin you are considering, make sure you wear under it, what you will be wearing in the race. Most people wear what they will wear on the bike. This simplifies things in T1 significantly.

Hopefully this has been helpful

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Best Laid Plans

There were stretches of time when I was training for triathlons seriously that I would not miss a day of training for months on end. I prided myself on my consistency. I believe it was a reason for my success. Now, I am into a different reality. Like always, I had some ambitious plans in the back of my mind about having a serious go at the Master's Road Racing circuit. Others in the club have been urging me to do so.

Winter "training" was sporadic, but I did get in a good week of riding in Tucson and the legs felt good on a few long rides down there. Then I got swamped with work for two weeks - barely any time to get any training in, I then sprained my ankle very badly(an Avulsion Fracture actually - look it up), that was three more weeks of inactivity. I then got in two decent indoor sessions, and epic 100K in Biblical rain( where I actually felt very good), a couple of commute rides to/from the office and now I am coming down with a cold that has gone deep in my chest, and some more down time. So in the past three months, I think I have got in all tolled, maybe 10 workouts! The only consistency that I have currently, is being inconsistent!

However, given the news of the week( see previous post about Steve Larsen), I am grateful to be able to get out for any ride. Just being on the bike and having the wind on my face is a enough for me. The racing will have to wait for some other time - or maybe not at all. Who knows?

Picture above is of my bike doing, what it seems to be doing a lot of - leaning up against the wall gathering dust!

Steve Larsen - March 13, 1970 – May 19, 2009

It's with a sad irony that this follows a post about my 48th Birthday.

I did not know Steve that well. I certainly knew of him, and his extraordinary accomplishments in road cycling, mountain biking and also triathlon. He was an amazing and talented athlete. I only first met Steve at Ironman Hawaii last year. At the Pro meeting, I introduced myself to him. Before my time at Nineteen wetsuits, Steve had been one of the first and very few U.S. retailers to sell Nineteen wetsuits at his Davis Wheelworks shop. When we met in Hawaii he mentioned that he was going to be opening a new online triathlon store - He suggested that we should talk about working together again at some point.

Through the winter and the spring we chatted on the phone several times - most recently just a few weeks ago. What amazed me about these conversations was that we really did not talk that much about the business of wetsuits, but about many other triathlon and cycling related topics, our families and being fathers, and that the conversations lasted such a long time. I felt a bit guilty. In sales, I always try and respect people's time - but Steve seemed to have all the time in the world to chat. When I would hang up, I kept thinking about, the 5 kids that he had, the realestate business, the new tri retailing business, and the training that he had to put in to be the great athlete that he was, and how it is that he could be that generous with his time to talk to little old me!

Sadly, that time is now fleeting and precious. Steve died of some form of yet undiagnosed heart complications doing a track workout on Tuesday evening this week. He was 39 years old. He leaves his wife, his five children and a legion of friends and fans.