How To Improve Your Triathlon Time

Triathlons: Swim, Bike, and Run.  Chances are good, if you are new to the sport, that you are very good at one of these three sports.  Swimming and running, while both requiring some amount of force to propel you forward, also require technique.  Good technique in swimming will enable you to float across or through the water with less drag.  Good technique in running will allow you to move forward without losing time to braking forces.  When you’re on your bike, aside from minimizing drag, about all you can do to go faster is to either pedal faster, or run a bigger gear, or both.

If you’re doing an olympic distance race, then your bike ride is 24.8 miles.  If you average 15 miles per hour (mph), then you will finish in just over 1 hour and 39 minutes.  But, if you can get your average mph up to 16 mph, then you will finish in 1 hour and 33 minutes!  That’s 6 minutes faster!  So, how do you go 1 mph faster over 24.8 miles?  Well, it really depends.  In general if you pedal 90 RPMs, then the next highest gear should get you there.  Unfortunately, most people cannot maintain the same RPM when shifting into bigger gears.  So, that should be your goal.  Increase leg strength so that you can maintain the same RPM in the next highest gear.  You can do this by riding your bike or hitting the gym and doing exercises like squats and step-ups, or by using the hip sled machine.

The one part of triathlon that happens twice in every race is the transition.  I have done about 10 sprint distance triathlons and usually end up with a T1 or T2 time less than five minutes.  Believe it or not, this is slow, but I have talked with athletes that take as much as 12 minutes!

To easily shave time off your race, look to the transitions.  See what other athletes are doing or for that matter, not doing.  Do you waste time putting on a gps in T1?  How about your bike shoes?  Do you put them on and then clomp your way out of transition before finally clipping in and hoping nobody runs you over, or do you clip them in and hold them up with rubber bands?  The latter can save you time in T1, but may slow you down on the bike.

You can see there is at least one place where you can improve time (transitions), and a second where you can really shave off time (bike), but that may take 12 weeks or more, three times a week at the gym.  If you have the time, it’s a worthwhile effort.

Another way to go faster is to lose weight.  The easiest way to do this is to buy a lighter bicycle or remove items that will not help you in the race.  Losing weight is a great way to go faster up hills too.  The down side is that when you are lighter, you will go slower down hill.  Many people like to coast down hill to save energy, so it’s a trade off.

Next week, I will discuss gear inches and gear development and how those calculations will let you know exactly how fast you can go with a given cadence.


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Posted in Introductory, Ironman, Marathon, Presta Valve, Training, Triathlon

My First Bicycle Power Meter

I have been hearing about power meters for a few years now and when I took the USAT coaching certification clinic, the coach/presenters said that the best way for athletes to train on the bike is using a power meter.  So, I finally made the leap and purchased one.

What is a power meter?  Power meters do just that – measure power.  Some, like the one I have, are integrated into the rear hub.  Newer ones are integrated into the crank and even the pedals!  There’s even one that uses chain tension and other variables to figure out how much power, you the athlete, are generating.

Typically, athletes use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to determine how hard they are working.  Heart rate monitors (HRM) add to that by telling you exactly how many beats per minute your heart is pumping.  Well, a power meter knows exactly how much power you are generating on the bike.  The idea is that in conjunction with the HRM, the power meter can tell you not only how much power you are generating, but whether or not it’s too much.  For example, if you are doing an Ironman triathlon and riding 112 miles, you don’t want to overdo it and end up with no energy for the run.  Using the power meter combined with your heart rate, you can determine what your power output should be.

I bought a book on training and racing with power and am finding the first hurdle hard to get over.  You basically have to figure our your functional threshold power (FTP) to then determine the power zones.

The power meter I bought is a CycleOps brand Elite+.  Mine came as part of a Zipp 808 rear wheel.  You can buy the power meter by itself, but unless you know how to build bicycle wheels, it’s not going to do you a lot of good.  You can, of course, take the wheel and the power meter to your local bike store and they would install it for you, though I have no idea what they charge for such service.  The next thing I bought was the Garmin 301XT fitness watch to act as the head unit.  The head unit is the device that receives the data from the power meter.  They both use the ANT+ protocol.  CycleOps sells head units with their power meters, but it’s extra cost.  So as long as I was paying more for the head, I figured I’d get the Garmin because I can use it with swimming and running too.  Another benefit is that the Garmin 310XT will get speed and cadence data from the power meter as well.

So, all told, I spent over $2000 to get the power meter, Zipp 808 wheel, and the Garmin 310XT.  At this point, I have only used the meter in two or three races and maybe two training rides.  There’s not nearly enough data to tell me anything, and I have yet to figure out my FTP or power zones.

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Posted in Introductory, Ironman, Reviews, Training, Triathlon

Triathlon racing every weekend

Well, not quite, but almost. Thank goodness for and living in Florida.  I finished my last triathlon last Saturday.  The next one isn’t until 25 September.  I have done four or five sprint distance triathlons since Ironman.  Mostly they’ve been one weekend after another.  Training gets boring after a while, so it’s nice to actually race!  The last race was the Battle at Fort Desoto, which is on the Gulf side of Florida.  Very nice and flat.  I managed to break the 20 mph barrier on the bike for any triathlon!  I came in 16 out of 22 in my age group.

Right now I was about to go out and ride the bike for 1.5 hours, but it’s pouring rain – an unfortunate aspect of Florida in Summer.  So, I guess I will do the indoor trainer instead.  After that I’m going to do 30 minutes of strength training.

My next race is the Escape to Miami triathlon in Miami on 25 Sept.  I signed up for the olympic distance race.  It will be my first non-sprint race in a while.  Thankfully, I have four weeks to train for that.

The only other triathlon that I am signed up for this year is the Miami Man half iron distance triathlon in November.  It is supposed to be the best in Florida!  I can hardly wait.

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Posted in Training, Triathlon

Ironman Finisher!

This is really late, but I finished Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 15 hours 55 mins and 33 seconds. This was the best race ever! Great volunteers and awesome spectators. If you’re going to do an Ironman race, I suggest this one. But, you gotta love hills!! I’ve already signed up for next year’s race. See you there.

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Posted in Ironman, Triathlon, Uncategorized

Lake Coeur D’Alene Current Water Temperature

If you are wondering what the water temp at Lake Coeur D’Alene is right now, then you can check out this Lake CDA site.  

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Posted in Ironman, Triathlon

Pearly Izumi Sun Sleeves Review

I bought the Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves after seeing them in a magazine.  The idea is that they provide UPF 40+ sun protection and help to keep you cool.  I’ve worn them twice on long (5+ hour) bike rides and love them!  I don’t have to put sunscreen on my arms and they do seem to keep me cooler.

One thing I have not figured out is how to wear them properly.  What I mean is that one is for the left arm and the other is for the right arm, but I don’t see a difference.

Also, they come in different sizes based on arm length and girth.  I bought the medium size and they seem a tad too long, even after one washing.  I have a feeling that the small size would be too small though.

I’m still trying to figure out how to put them on in transition without losing a lot of time.  Rolling them up first doesn’t help at all.

In the end, I think it’s the best $20 I have ever spent.

Pros: Inexpensive, sun protection, keeps you cooler.

Cons: People who don’t know what they are think you look dorky.

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Posted in Ironman, Marathon, Reviews, Training, Triathlon

Rohto Ironman 70.3 Florida Recap

On Sunday, I participated in the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Florida triathlon.  This was my second half Ironman race.  My first was the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Miami last October, which like most people, I thought sucked.  The result of that suck-iness was that the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), owners of the Ironman brand, gave all participants a chance to enter another half Ironman this year for free.  Okay, so I chose the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Florida because it’s in Orlando, less than 15 miles from where I live!

The race takes place mostly at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  The swim is in Bay Lake, the bike is mostly in and around Disney property, and the run was three loops within Ft. Wilderness.

I’ve lived here for 9 years, and this is the first year that I can remember the weather being so nice in mid-May.  Low humidity and temps in the 80’s (degrees F).  There was rain the night before the race and on race morning, but it quit in time to delay the race by only 20 minutes.

Registration:  Took place at Ft. Wilderness and took less than 10 minutes.  Parking was at the Magic Kingdom parking lot.  They had shuttle buses take us the less than 1 mile across the street to within 50 yards of registration.  The volunteers and organization here were great!  The fact that they had the IronKids event going on Saturday at the same time as checkin and bike checkin speaks volumes to me.

Race day:  Parked in the same Magic Kingdom lot as for registration.  Shuttles again taking athletes to the transition area.  It was raining, so most athletes were taking shelter and waiting out the rain.  It really wasn’t that bad for Florida.  There was lightning in the area, so they ended up starting the race 20 minutes late.  No biggy.  There was more daylight by then and it was still 6:40am when the Pro’s when out.

The temp of Bay Lake was awesome.  Well over 78F, but not too hot.  I managed to get off course at least twice but still managed a 50 minute split!  I’m usually over 60 mins for 1.2 mile swim.

After leaving T1, I realized that I forgot my sunglasses on the bike rack.  That pissed me off because there were plenty of bugs in the area, but in the end, it worked out okay.  I also left my bunion toe pad in transition.  By the time I finished the bike, my toe was at an angle I’ve never seen before and it looked really bad, but it’s okay.  Lost my left armrest pad after leaving T1.  The damn “loop” material on the pad had separated from the pad, so it stuck to the “hook” side on the armrest, but the pad was gone.  That really sucked!

All told, the bike course was really nice.  Very flat I guess compared to some courses, but we did hit some Florida hills for nice change.  The volunteers and aid stations were well represented.  Quite a plus over Miami last year!

Back to T2 and out to run.  Lots of spectators everywhere!  I really don’t like having that many people I don’t know yelling, but it makes for a fun race I guess.  The race bibs had first names too, so spectators could cheer you on.  We had to do three loops (approx 4.333 miles each) through Ft. Wilderness, so that got a bit old after the second loop, but at least part of it was shaded by trees.  Again, lots of great volunteers, cookies, gels, bananas, water, etc.  They even had two sprinkler stations that you could run through to get a cool down from for at least a second.

I only managed to run one mile straight, then after that I started doing 3 mins running/3 miles walking.  I had side stitches really bad and every step walking or running hurt.

On the third loop, I heard a guy ask someone if “that’s a worry”.  It took me a few seconds to realize that he was talking about the smoke and crackling of trees and brush on the other side of some water.  Yes, the forest was on fire.  Probably sparked in the a.m. by lightning.  Disney was on it quickly, but I thought that if I had to run for my life, I might be in trouble here! 🙂

Finally finished!  7 hours 14 minutes and some seconds.  They had hats, drinks, medals, and even pizza at the end.

Overall, this is one of the best race experiences I’ve ever had.  Great job well done!  Thanks to Disney, the volunteers, and everyone that made it a success.

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Posted in Ironman, Reviews, Triathlon, Uncategorized

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbell Review

Bowflex SelectTech 552

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells

I purchased the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells about 4 months ago.  I was starting a new maximum strength training program and had already surpassed the 12 pound weights that I had, and felt that these were the best option.  Benefits include: Space savings, two dumbbells (one set) replace 15 sets of weights.  The weights vary from 5 to 52 pounds, selecting a weight is as easy as dialing it in, and each dumbbell can have the same or different weight at each end!  This last benefit, as the included DVD tells us, is good for supination or pronation training.

After purchasing the weights, I decided to go with the stand at a discounted price.  I’m glad I did because it makes selecting the weight and grabbing it for each exercise, very easy.

One thing I didn’t realize until after I had the weights, was that the increment between weights is not 2.5 pounds all the way from 2.5 to 52.5.  This took me a few weeks to realize as I was progressing through the strength training program.  Once you get to 25 pounds, the increments are in 5 pounds until you reach 50.

Another thing that worried me was the scraping sound as I dialed in my weight selection.  This seems to be caused by the angle at which they are set on the stand as I can eliminate it by pushing on one end very gently.

Once a weight has been dialed in, there are safety features that prevent the weight from being removed from the base if the weight is not dialed in correctly.  This is a great feature, though more than once I have tried to grab the weight only to have it not budge and feel like my arm is going to come off.

Pros: Saves space, costs less than purchasing multiple dumbbells at the same weight, weight is easily dialed in, safety features, different weights can be dialed in at each end providing supination/pronation training.

Cons: Five pound increments from 25 to 50 pounds, a bit bigger than a regular dumbbell for lighter weights.

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Posted in Reviews

RIP Wouter Weylandt

Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died after a crash at the Giro d’Italia today.

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Posted in Uncategorized

2011 Nautica South Beach Triathlon Recap

It was a beautiful day for a triathlon.  I completed the 2011 Nautica South Beach classic distance triathlon in about 2 hours 15 minutes.  I placed 73 out of 100+ in the M45-49 age group.

The swim started off okay.  The water temp was about 78 I think.  There were some people wearing wetsuits, though they certainly were not needed.  The water was calm and most participants ran 2/3 of the way out to the first buoy.  It wasn’t until after the first turn that I took an elbow to the left eye/goggle and nearly had my goggles come off.  A quick adjustment and I was back in business.

The bike portion went over two causeways from Miami Beach to downtown Miami and back.  It was a struggle to get up the bridges, but first gear makes it easy!  The downhill side was always best and at an average of 35 mph, I made up lots of time.  Overall, I averaged just over 18 mph.

On to the run.  Four miles total – 2 out and back, finishing on the beach.  It was HOT!  I managed to run a mile, then walk about 1/10 of a mile for each of the four miles.  Going over the sand dune to get to the finisher chute was problematic when a local decided to take his beach cruiser on the same path, which by the way, is barely wide enough for two people, let alone two people AND a bicycle.

Another great finisher’s medal, cold towel, and cold water ended a near perfect day.

I highly recommend this triathlon to anyone doing their first tri or even to veteran triathletes.  This year sold out the olympic and classic distances, and had a total of 3000 participants.  In my estimation, that’s way too many people.  There were lots of drafters, mountain bikers riding two, three, even four abreast!  I’d like to see it pared back to about 1500 participants total.  Either way, it’s definitely going to be a favorite of mine.

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Posted in Reviews, Triathlon