Archive for the ‘Equipment Related’ Category

Consider Snowshoeing

Posted: December 28, 2011 by court1980 in Equipment Related, Training Related

Snowshoeing

I have been snowshoeing for several years and just like the growth trend in all endurance activities (running, biking, triathlons,) snowshoeing is booming. It continues to receive a lot of press by all the various magazine and Internet sources. There are significant benefits to enhance overall body fitness and strength to complement your cycling and running.

Considerations for selecting a running snowshoe

1. Look for a lightweight snowshoe that offers stability (check the racer models)
2. Consider a snowshoe comparable for all conditions (heavy powder – breaking trail and hard pack/ice trails)
3. If possible test a few of the different models at a resort that offers snowshoes – also many of the snowshoe races allow model testing
4. Here are a few companies to check out their racing snowshoes (there are plenty of others):

a. Havlick Snowshoe Company (personally I love their snowshoes) www.havlicksnowshoe.com
b. Dion Snowshoes (I use their racing snowshoe for hardpack races) www.dionsnowshoes.com
c. Redfeather – www.redfeather.com
d. Atlas – www.atlassnowshoe.com
e. Crescent Moon Snowshoes – www.crescentmoonsnowshoes.com
f. Northern Lites – www.nothernlites.com
g. Tubbs Snowshoes – www.tubbssnowshoes.com
h. TSL Outdoors – www.tsloutdoor.com

I find that snowshoeing in heavy powder complements cycling and running as it uses the quads and lower abdominals to drive the legs through the snow. If the conditions are hard packed powder or ice/granular your running pace will increase because of the lack of resistance compared to heavy powder. Depending on conditions snowshoes may provide better overall traction without the slippage that sometimes occurs with the various types of running cleat systems (Yaktrax, Stableicers, or screws attached to the bottom of running shoes). An idea for a tougher workout is to add the use of poles for an overall upper/lower body workout. If you are using a heart rate monitor the increase in overall average heart rate can be dramatic especially with the addition of poles. Personally, my heart rate average for a longer (2 hours or more) snowshoe will be about 25% higher than without poles. The legs will feel heavy the first few times out in the powder but like all the other sports, gradually you will get the heart rate under control especially when running hills. You may want to consider using poles to replicate your hard running (interval) workout and for a more aerobic heart rate zone eliminate the poles. Snowshoe in the evening with a headlamp on trails is just priceless!

A good tip is to shorten the running stride similar to trail running. When running downhill’s focus landing with a midfoot strike (which will come more naturally than normal running) and it will allow the cleats to dig into the snow and will enable you to fly on the downhill’s. Downhill snowshoe running is a blast and provides a good complement to the “time gaining” advantage of downhill trail running. As many of us know with trail running races, it’s so important to learn how to run the downhill’s hard later into a race when the quads are crushed. It’s a great way to gain time against other competitors. Also, snowshoeing provides a great complement without the same impact of running hard dirt trails because of the benefits of the fluffy snow.

Looking for a challenge, try a snowshoe race and here are a few websites to check out for races and calendars:

1. www.peak.com (great tough snowshoe marathon!)
2. www.runwmac.com (snowshoe race series)
3. www.snowshoeracing.com (calendar)
4. www.perkinstownsnowshoerace.com
5. www.fingerlakesrunners.org/races/forms/Snowshoe.html
6. www.snowshoemag.com (calendar)

Have Fun!

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Top 10 Holiday Gifts for The Endurance Athlete

Posted: December 2, 2011 by court1980 in Equipment Related

By Wayne Kurtz

It’s the time of the year again for gift giving as part of the holiday season. Hard to believe how fast the year flew by and we are down to less than 30 days before 2011 racing season comes to a close. I hope you all met your goals for you season and remained healthy, which is so important. Did you remember what your received last year during the holidays? What items meant the most to you and are using every day. There are so many endurance sports related items to purchase today, what is on your list.

Here are top 10 tools and equipment to consider for your 2012 racing season (no specific order):

  1. New GPS watch that is not the size of an orange sitting on your arm along with total duration longer than 8 hours. The prices have come down dramatically so check one out.
  2. Compression Shorts/tights
  3. Compression Socks
  4. Cyclocomputer that has a lifetime warranty – Are they’re any? Mine is always broken.
  5. Some new sunglasses to replace the scratched pair.
  6. New high tech fast wetsuit for triathlon races
  7. Running Socks of course!
  8. Running Vest to be used during those ‘in-between” weather days.
  9. New chain for your bike – your chain is probably worn out and we all have a tendency to wait to long.
  10. A new training log book or book about a sport your not as familiar with to learn a new skill.

Hopefully, you all get that “perfect” training device or equipment to help you with your racing in 2012 to set some Personal Best’s!

Staying Comfortable on the Bike

Posted: November 9, 2011 by court1980 in Equipment Related
BIke Comfort on the Incline from Hell - Diabloman Triathlon

BIke Comfort on the Incline from Hell - Diabloman Triathlon

As you begin to attempt longer bike rides in preparation for events or tours, it’s imperative to focus on overall comfort on the bike.     Make sure you are fitted for you bike frame appropriately.   I see the riding positions of so many triathletes and the bikes are incorrectly sized for their specific height.   Bike fit is definitely important but there are other items to consider when you start moving up the distance on the bike to ensure you stay on the bike as long as possible.

Here are 9 areas to consider changing if experience significant fatigue, soreness, and overall reduction in comfort.

  1. Seat Type – Believe it or not a firm saddle in most cases is better for handling long distance cycling vs. all the various gel saddles and new gimmicks on the marketplace.   Personal preference of course is the most important; try several saddles at your bike store just to sit on to get an overall feel
  2. Seat Height – Along with appropriate bike fitting, seat height is crucial to ensure you don’t get additional stress on the lower back.   How many times have you seen an individual coming off the bike and they are experiencing lower back pain.    Many potential causes of lower back pain, but seat height are normally on the list.
  3. Cycling Shorts – Make sure your cycling shorts have a wicking pad along with good fit.   Any bunching can easily lead to saddle sores – trust me on this one!
  4. Cycling Shoes – Fit of cycling shoes is crucial to eliminate the common occurrence of “hot spots”.   When riding in hotter weather your feet will swell so for a long distance event in the summer you may consider a ½ size bigger shoe.
  5. Pedals – Longer events can cause foot pain and numbness.   See how your respond to using a popular Speed Play pedal vs. a large flat plated pedal.   Many athletes convert to a flat plate pedal vs. all the
  6. Helmet – Aero helmets are effective when you in the aero position only.  They are an inhibitor when riding in an upright position.
  7. Aero Bar comfort – Handle bar and aero bar height similar to saddle height can cause significant neck pain along with fingertip pain when not adjusted appropriately.   Having a bit higher position on the aero bar will
  8. Good cycling gloves – Buy a correctly fitted glove and expect numbness in the fingertips for extremely long rides over 200 miles.   It just happens!
  9. Bento Box or (food holder) – Consider using a food box on your top-tube to eliminate reaching back into your shirt pocket for food, etc.   It becomes very difficult later into a long event

Comfort on the bike is crucial to great race or event performances.  The off-season is a perfect time to experiment with some alternatives.

Gear Review – Compression Socks

Posted: June 8, 2011 by TriFREAKS Endurance Sports in Equipment Related

You may have noticed some of your fellow runners wearing a new item, knee high socks. At first I thought this was another fashion trend I had missed out on but a closer look, and some detective work, revealed the socks were performing a function. The new items are compression socks, and their functions can be particularly beneficial to runners. The socks are designed for a snug fit that compresses the muscles of the lower legs and improves circulation. As runners we demand a lot from our bodies and a product like this will help you push it a little further on that run or a little higher up that hill.

The science behind the product is pretty interesting. They use compression to help move blood in and out of your lower legs and feet more efficiently. Compression gear has its roots in medical products and is used to treat many circulatory ailments. We have recently begun seeing the benefits in the athletic realm and the technology is best suited to help endurance athletes. Gravity and the centrifugal forces created by running make it difficult for the blood that pools in your lower legs to get back to your heart. It’s important to cut down the time it takes for the blood to get to your heart and back because the blood making the return trip brings with it vital oxygen, and your muscles really want oxygen. The compression also helps to hold your muscles in place and reduce the vibrations of the muscles while you run. This function helps tremendously in the prevention of shinsplints and generally reduces the wear and tear on the muscles during activity.

Not all compression socks are created equal. There are specific properties to look for in a product that will ensure you get the maximum benefit. All compression socks are going to help reduce the vibrations of the muscles and help with things like shinsplints. The difference between a good compression products and a great one is how tailored the compression is to the size and shape of your leg. The level of compression on certain parts of your lower legs needs to be exact. The best products will have graded compression throughout the sock and an exact level of compression on the calf itself.
Graded compression means it is actually a little tighter around the ankle than the calf to help your veins get blood back to your heart. The exact level of
compression on the calf is extremely important for your arteries, which bring blood back from your heart. A specific amount of compression will help the arteries in your calf dilate and be able to bring more oxygen-rich blood back to your leg. The best products will be sized by doing a measurement of your calf to make sure the level of compression is enough to make your arteries dilate but not too tight to inhibit circulation.

Compression socks are a completely natural way to get a little more out of your runs. They feel great and the difference a good product can make to your runs is noticeable. They are also a great recovery tool and help to flush out the lactic acid in your muscles so you can get back out there faster and stay on track with your training goals. So give them a shot! Here are some products we tested…

Zensah

-They feel great on your legs. The compression is noticeable but not overpowering. They use a heavier fabric and the thick air channels that run the length of the sock make sure they aren’t too stuffy on long runs. The sizing is based on your shoe size and the sock part is fitted to be left-right specific. Zensah’s will effectively reduce muscle vibrations, reducing wear and tear while providing graded compression to help get blood back to your heart.

3/5 Medals

Injinji

-This brand is famous for making socks with individual toes and they make a compression toe sock too. Injinji uses a heavier fabric, which is great for warmth but can leave your leg feeling sweaty and itchy after a long run or on a warm day. The compression is less noticeable in this product. The sizing is based on your shoe size. If you have enjoyed toe socks in the past then the Injinji’s product will give you a toe sock with some added benefits.

2/5 Medals

CEP

-This product really incorporates all aspects of a compression sock. It requires a measurement of your calf for an accurate compression level to help dilate the arteries and bring blood back to the leg and graded compression to help the veins get that blood back to the heart. The sock itself is comfortable and breathable making it ideal for long runs or for use as a recovery tool. CEP makes the most technically sound compression sock incorporating medical grade compression into their socks.

5/5 Medals

CWX

-A lighter sock made of a thinner fabric. A little less durable and I occasionally had to pull them up during runs but the lightness of the fabric makes them extremely comfortable. The compression id graded and enough to reduce muscle vibrations while you are running. The comfort of the fabric makes them a great recovery sock.

 

3/5 Medals

By Dan Schade

The Indoor Bike Trainer

Posted: April 13, 2011 by TriFREAKS Endurance Sports in Equipment Related, Training Related

Many of us dread the indoor trainer, but don’t discount the benefits year-round not just in the winter season. I know many hard-core cyclists who will ride outside in every condition imaginable and are much braver than me to deal with the elements. I think it’s the years of suffering – 25 years ago I would always go out and ride in 30 degree cold weather.  The technology advancements of indoor trainers have improved dramatically over the years and can be used to maintain and improve cycling fitness during every training season.

There are so many different theories of the “cross-over” effect of indoor cycling. For example: 1 hour of indoor cycling equals 1.5 hours of outdoor riding (no coasting indoors). We have all heard the various equivalent formulas of riding inside vs. outdoor riding. In my opinion, it’s just easier to keep it equal for both types of riding. For my training, 1 hour of riding indoors is equal to 1 hour of riding outside. It’s just easier and when training for long distance races “time is time”. A friend/fellow competitor from Sweden mentioned to me that his indoor cycling sessions during the winter months will have 14 hour durations. Can you imagine 14 hours on a trainer! This is mind-boggling to me. However, the training paid off and was the key reason to his success in placing second overall in the 2008 DECA Ironman.

In addition to the benefits of riding “without coasting”, I find that the mental training aspects provide a direct correlation to the cycling during an ultra-triathlon. Most of the ultra triathlon cycling courses are short loops (normally 1 mile to 5 miles) to eliminate closing down roads and monitoring traffic for such long time periods. Personally, I use indoor training sessions all year long and not only during the winter months. There is no question that my preference is riding outdoors; however with a busy work schedule, other time commitments; it is an important aspect of my year round training.

Indoor cycling provides benefits such as monitoring heart rate, power, mental toughness training which is required for time trialing, performance tracking ( ex: comparing specific time trials – 10 mile time trials “testing” every 6 weeks), “dialing” in race nutrition, without the issues of dealing with traffic, stopping at lights and the effects of weather. The indoor trainer has the “hidden” benefit of toughening up the “butt”. As we all know, how important it is to stand and get off the saddle to avoid saddle pain. Using the indoor trainer will also provide safety benefits when preparing for all night riding for ultra cycling or ultra triathlons. Indoor training can supplement (not replace) riding in the dark with headlamps/bike lights to simulate race conditions.

Different types of Indoor Trainers (Pro’s and Con’s)

1. Mechanical Resistance Trainers – Computrainer/Magnetic Trainers (mechanical resistance) – I have used a Computrainer for years and there are many comparable “magnetic resistance” type trainers that will provide significant cycling benefits. Tip – always use a wheel riser or block to elevate the front of the bike to eliminate the “downhill feeling” while riding.

Pro’s – easy to keep balance, provides a full workout with adding additional resistance

Con’s – can be expensive, especially Computrainer and comparable models (can easily exceed $1,000)

2. Rollers – These are the simplest trainers and consist of just a set of rollers that you ride and balance the bike. There is nothing to hold your bike vertical so you must maintain your own balance. When first learning how to use this design, it is helpful to have a wall or table to hold on to which will reduce the chances of rolling off the sides of the rollers. There is no question that the “intimidation factor” will get your heart rate up! Expect to crash a few times as you learn to ride the rollers.

Pro’s – least expensive trainer design to choose from, it will provide a more authentic ride which requires you to exercise your upper body to maintain your balance. This lets your bike and torso shift left and right as you pedal, just like real life on the road.

Con’s – It takes some practice for even the most agile cyclist to start up and keep your balance. You will need to be ready to handle falling off. You can’t use knobby tires. Most models don’t have resistance controls and the only resistance is provided when shifting to a harder gear.

Sample Workout – I incorporate into my year round ultra triathlon training:

Mental Toughness Training Session – This is a long session to get “time” in the saddle which is so important for the long 200+ mile rides required in ultra triathlons or ultra cycling races. I will incorporate this session after base building is completed during the off-season. Also, a unique (yes, I am a bit crazy – but it’s all about preparation for riding all night!) aspect of this session is the normal start time is 2AM.

Total Time 6-8 Hours (percentages of Heart Rate (HR) are related to Threshold)

60 minutes – increase HR gradually to 75%
30 minutes with sets of 8 minutes at 85%, 4 minutes at 65%
60 minutes – spin at 90-100 RPM’s (HR goal 70%)
Run outside for 30 minute run (negative split 75% goal)
120 minutes – (sets of 15 minutes at 80% – 85%, 7 minutes at 60%)
60 minutes – (sets of 5 minutes – larger gear at 85%, 5 minutes 60%)|
Run outside 30 minutes easy 70%
30-60 minutes recovery at 60%, spin at 90-100 RPM’s

Consider incorporating indoor bike trainers into your year-round program. The focus would be to use it as a supplement to the cycling training. There are significant benefits which include recovery rides, mental toughness and tracking of fitness progression. Have fun!

By Wayne Kurtz

Wayne Kurtz is founder of RaceTwitch.com and Endurance Racing Report,  he has a lifelong passion for racing in various endurance sport races throughout the world. He is also the author of: ‘Beyond the Iron, a training guide for ultra-distance triathlons.’

Using A Wetsuit

Posted: April 12, 2011 by TriFREAKS Endurance Sports in Equipment Related, Training Related

Getting into the triathlon lifestyle can include a few considerable investments.  A good road or tri bike, comfortable racing attire, race entry fees, and if you are racing in the Pacific Northwest or in ocean water, a good wetsuit.  The world of triathlon wetsuits includes a vast array of choices – to buy or rent?  Full sleeved or sleeveless?  Spend $200 or $700?  As is the answer with so many things, it depends.

First, it makes sense to ask why wetsuits are useful.  The two main benefits they provide a triathlete in this area are warmth and buoyancy. 

Wetsuits, as the name would imply, actually work because you are wet while wearing them.  That thin layer of water inside the suit gets warmed by your body heat, creating warmth for your entire swim.  The warmth may not be important if you are doing one of the many July or August inland California or Oregon races where the swim occurs in one of our inland lakes that has a surface temp of at 72 degrees or more.  For example, the inland Rancho Seco Lake near Sacramento usually has a water temp suitable for swimming without a wetsuit for its June Sacramento Triathlon, something you’ll find in many inland lakes from California to Washington in mid-summer.  A wetsuit can be critical, however, if you are trying to tackle the Escape from Alcatraz, where water temps will likely be 55, or other early or late season or ocean races where you might be chilly even with a full wetsuit.  The Seattle Trek Womens Sprint, for example, takes place in mid-September when water temps have crept back down to the mid 60’s.  The general rule of thumb is that full sleeve wetsuits are great under 70 degrees, full or sleeveless up to 78, and no wetsuit is really needed above 78.  In fact, USAT races only allow wetsuits up to 78 degrees (there is actually a safety hazard with using a wetsuit in water that is too warm – you could pass out).  Swims under 60 degrees are generally cold even if you have a wetsuit, so in these situations you will likely want to consider a full-sleeved and full-length variety, and a higher quality one at that.  Most races in the area suggest on their websites if a wetsuit is allowed or recommended.  When a race director “recommends” a wetsuit, get one.  That usually means that the waters temps for that race have historically been frigid.  The majority of races that occur prior to Memorial Day from Northern California to Washington State have indoor swims, obviously making a wetsuit obsolete.

The second reason you may want a wetsuit is for buoyancy.  In short, a wetsuit makes you more buoyant in the water.  For beginners, this creates valuable peace of mind.  For elites, it creates a situation where you don’t need to use your legs as strenuously in the swim, saving them for the bike and run.  While many of our area races in the bays of San Francisco or the Sounds of Washington are in salt water, allowing one to take advantage of the buoyancy that comes with it, it is often offset by the colder temperatures of the ocean water mix.

While renting a triathlon wetsuit can be economical, if you think that swimming in open water will become a regular occurrence, you may want to invest in a good suit.  Do your research by researching triathlon wetsuit reviews, and find one that you think suits your skill level and racing needs.  $250 is generally the starting price range for a good entry-level suit.  There are suits available for less than that, but you might be getting a quality level that makes renting more of a sensible choice instead.  As you move up the price range, the main benefit you acquire is range-of-motion.  The top of the line $700 wetsuits feature paneling that gives you incredible flexibility in the shoulders, chest, and hips.  While a lower-end wetsuit might be just fine for sprints or short swims like Dreary Lake in Washington, if you are doing the Victoria Half Ironman or the Lake Stevens 70.3, you may want to invest in the added range of motion.

Using a wetsuit takes a little getting used to, but as many people say with tri bike aerobars, after a couple races you can’t imagine being without them.  Putting your wetsuit on is a bit of an art.  Sliding bare feet through the legs of a full wetsuit can be difficult, and you run the risk of puncturing the neoprene with a toenail.  Consider using a plastic bag on your foot or simply wearing your sock as you slide it on.  It also makes sense to use some body glide on your ankles and wrists, both to put it on but also to take it off later.  Remember, the zipper goes in the back, so you may need some help getting everything zipped up.  Once you have the wetsuit on, you won’t want to take it off until you are done swimming, so consider using the bathroom first.

Many people complain about a wetsuit being restrictive in both breathing and the swimming motion.  Wetsuits are supposed to be tight – try to work through this sensation and eventually you will be moving just fine.  If swimming in a wetsuit makes your shoulders sore, consider using a sleeveless model, especially if most of your races are inland or in the mid-summer.

Taking the wetsuit off at the first transition is also a bit of an art.  Unzip as you run out of the water.  Strip yourself down to your waist by the time you get to your bike.  Then pull the rest down to your ankles, and gently step on each leg as you pull it off.  In time, this will become a very quick thing.  At first, however, your first transition take a 3-4 minutes (more if you have to run up the steps of the Escape from Alcatraz).

After the race, bathe your suit in nice clean water, and make sure you wash it with the water both inside and out, or hose it down and dry over a towel bar or quilt rack.  This is even more important if you are swimming in the local saltwater races, as the residue can accelerate the aging of your wetsuit.  When your season is done, use a shampoo made for neoprene, which will rejuvenate your suit and keep the neoprene flexible and durable for the following season.

Written by Paul Johnson
Owner Triathlon Wetsuit Store