Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In our last episode, I was up late-night in Monterey watching my wife at Ironman China on Ironmanlive. Now, she's here, tapping away at here blog next to me (having recorded a 4th place finish in 112-degree F temps) and we're checking in before we depart tomorrow morning for a Wi-Fi-challenged (heck, a cell phone coverage-challenged0 Wildflower—she's racing, and I'm working. Well, I guess we're both working. I spent the evening getting her bike race-ready; the team set her atop a 2009 Cervelo P3, and it's cherry.

I generally pooh-pooh sponsor-spec rides, but hers is a beaut; P3 with Oval Concepts bars, Hed Jet race clinchers, Vittoria Open Pro EVO-CX tires, Cobb Cycling V-Flow saddle and SRAM Red. And thanks to Dan Empfield for getting her set proper atop her ride... it was a longtime work in progress. And thanks to TeamTBB for providing her a bitchin battle ax. I'm the pickiest of the picky, and I'm finally happy with how her bike is set up.

I'll be at Wildflower doing more videos for the new, improving Triathlete website—I currently have some great interviews up there with Steve Larsen and Conrad Stoltz from Sea Otter, and will be doing video tours of several of the pros' bikes that I run across (perhaps including the above described one belonging to my wife).

But before that, I have a few things on that I'll be visiting when I get back. One such thing is my first test of the new Shimano 7900, set up for triathlon. Shimano was kind enough to release a test setup, which worked out perfectly, because my Guru Crono was in need of a gruppo. My buddy Andrew has been diligently building it up, and I'll be set to begin testing of the group in earnest. I'm actually keen to give it a go, as my experience lately has been on SRAM for the most part. It will be great to revisit the brand that has been the mainstay, and see what the new 7900 means to triathletes from a functional standpoint.

I have not only the group, but a few key pieces, including the PRO Missile aerobar. I was also supplied a set of the new aerobar brakes. THIS is the piece that most intrigues me.
These TT brake levers have gotten zero fanfare, and for triathletes, this is gonna be one that ranks in top-three. The Dura-Ace version has a carbon lever pull, the Ultegra version an alloy one. Both have what I would deem the strongest return spring I've felt—and I rate the Bontrager and SRAM brake levers to have among the strongest return springs.

For me, the return spring is a big deal. It means you'll have a positive feel every time you pull on the brakes. There's no rattle as I can see thus far, it's aero enough, and it has a tab at the end to prevent any last-finger slip-off. I think I'm really gonna like this lever.

Off to the land of lost cell phone signals....and a hell of a race.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monterey Musings: Sea Otter

Well, I have nothing better to do.

It’s just after midnight., I did two rides today, I’m tired… and I’m awake. My wife is racing Ironman China, and I must stay up to track Donna’s progress. Steady as she goes thus far. The only downside: I have a 3:45 wake-up call for a 6 a.m. back to Carlsbad.

I don’t know why I do this to myself.

So before I post a nice Sea Otter Redux with some gallery photos, I thought I’d give a nickel tour of my weekend. Thursday: take photos. Friday: press launches. Saturday: fun stuff. Yes, today was certainly the best day; a morning road ride, an afternoon road ride, some cool cross country race spectating,

Friday I took part in a press launch of the newly-re-designed Zipp 303 (which you’ll learn more about in my official redux). The redesign is awesome, and will be more attractive to triathletes with a slightly deeper rim section, a fully-toroidal shape (providing greater brake modulation, and a MUCH wider rim width.

So wide, in fact, that Zipp now as a 700 x 23mm Tangente tire to complement the existing 19mm tire. Aerodynamically, the 23mm tire mates perfectly with the wheel.

Zipp invited select media out for a test ride of the new 303—we were the first to ride it beyond those pros who debuted it at the Paris-Roubaix and a few other classics in the last few weeks.

Apart from the wheels being absolutely silky, we headed out toward 17-mile drive. A light fog was beginning to lift, then finally burned away as we rode along the snaky road that butts up against the Pacific. Salty sea air, sea lions barking, waves crashing against the rocky shoreline… it was a pretty ride.

Along the way back, we happened along a lone local I recognized: pro triathlete Alexis Waddel-Smith, out for a cruisy ride. It was good to catch up with her, and great to hear she’ll be at Wildflower, her first race back after dealing with some injuries. Her pink dyed hair and ever-optimistic smile are the calling card for Alexis—I’m glad to know she’ll be there. She peeled off and we continued back to town.

At the expo at Laguna Seca Raceway, the Triathlete team (myself and new media manager Kurt Hoy) were busy doing interviews. Check our site for some cool videos interviews with Conrad Stoltz and Steve Larsen, as well as a look at the new Zipp 303 (available now) and the new SRAM R2C shifters, which are coming to market very soon.

In the afternoon was the pro cross-country short track race, so I grabbed my camera and shot a bit of that, with Melanie McQuaid and Conrad Stoltz representing Xterra. And representing it well. Mel finished on the lead lap taking ninth, and Conrad (who was jazzed to get a front-row call-up and thus a good starting hole shot) and finished 16th out of 74 athletes. Conrad was jazzed to make a start against a field of top pro cross-country racers.

He’ll get the shot again tomorrow, lining up against most of them in the cross country race, as well as against one Steve Larsen, who has been hitting the MTB circuit a bit this early season. Expect to see him making some Xterra appearances this season, perhaps a few 70.3s and maybe even an Ironman… see my interview with him coming soon.

What was cool about catching with with Larsen? He was with his son Massimo—who finished second in his cross-country race on Saturday. The education has begun…

After the short-track race and a sip of water, Stoltz, his girlfriend and fellow Xterra pro Amber Monforte and I headed out for part of the cross country loop. I got to ride the new, not-yet-available Specialized S-Works 29’er hardtail. I’d never ridden a 29-inch bike, and now I can see why Conrad was lobbying so intensely to get one. The thing is FAST—the bigger wheels just cruise over stuff with greater ease, to put things simply. I’m instantly a fan—I remember when writer Roy Wallack sent us a piece on 29ers years back, saying they would be the next big thing. I thought he was talking, as Mr. T said “jibba-jabba.” Well, he was right.

I was concerned the hardtail would buck me, but I managed to stay upright. With Conrad ahead and Amber behind, I was riding a bit on edge… but had a blast anyway. And it’s always great when you have a guy of Conrad’s caliber telling you to watch out for that poison oak “leaves of three, leave them be—I’d never heard that, thanks Conrad!

But more importantly, he totally saved me on the descent to the fireroad that took us back to the expo. Sandy washboard straight downhill. I would have white-knuckled and summarily put on a yard sale if he didn’t tell me to let the front brake go and allow the front tire to surf over the sand “the moment you hit the brakes, it dives into the sand and it’ll pitch all over.”

Sure enough, against my chicken-ass instinct to grab handfuls of brake, I let it ride… as best I could. And didn’t eat shit, remarkably—the front wheel slotted into tire ruts, but it surfed right through and over everything. Again, thanks Conrad. My skin, collarbone and back thank you, too. Thanks to both Conrad and Amber for letting me tag along for a fun easy loop.

Folks, if you’re an Xterra athlete and want to have a greater race-day experience, go to one of the clincs the athletes, like Conrad put on in the days leading up to the race. You will learn something technical, and it might be the one thing that keeps skin on your forearm. I grabbed a shot of the two with my handy iPhone as we did a climb back to expo that smarted of Nasty Grade at Wildflower... it just went on and on.
The evening closer: a quiet pizza dinner with Kurt and his family, and my VeloNews compatriots; editors Ben Delaney and Matt Pacocha, and shooter Brad Kaminski. Nothing like filling the belly with Hawaiian-style pizza after a dual-ride day.

Of course, the sheer quantity of grub also helps me to be sleepy. Maybe I have to find out how China ends—in the morning. For once, though, I'm leaving Otter happy about the weather. It started cold, but it got about perfect by the end of the weekend—a rarity for a festival that is typically drenched with rain. Stay tuned for a comprehensive gallery of goods I saw that triathletes will dig.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Loop is Closed: a new Vision debut? Maybe more?

Thursday I head up to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic. A festival of all things bike.

Except triathlon.

Kidding. It's actually a fun weekend of racing for the industry and west coast cyclists who take part. For me, I love to watch the dual slalom, and it's a fun opportunity to see the top pros in mountain and road do their thing, as well as catch up with friends racing.

And there's this big-ass expo.

Historically, this event is a mud pit. I have lost shoes in the mud taking photos of dual slalom. This year, the forecast is for good weather. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I had my colleague Sean take my road bike up to join some industry folks on some cruisy social rides, and while I don't mind riding in the wet, what I detest is the inevitable cleaning that comes with it. And I don't want to have to ruin a bunch of hotel towels.

An increasing trend is to do product launches at Sea Otter, instead of Las Vegas at Interbike; with the launch, the media can then go out and test the gear with much greater ease. SRAM did this a few years ago when they debuted their Force road group.

I've several invites through the weekend, and have had to print them off so I can keep them in order. But one just came across from my good friend Max at Full Speed Ahead and Vision.

Evidently, they have a debut that they are hyping: visit to see (or more pointedly, not see) what they're up to. A whirling globe of macro images that reveal... well, nothing. I see carbon, I see aluminum, but I see nothing that represents a part or piece.

I know they're doing some thing with their FSA Gravity group—which is fine. But where Vision was also mentioned in the mix, I'm curious to see what they have on. I know there was talk long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) about a road group coming to fruition. I've been led down that road too many times... but might there be something?

Maybe not, since I doubt they'd label a road group with Vision. But I'll be jazzed to see what they have up their sleeves. To create a website hyping the debut, I'm guessing it'll be no token launch. Will be updating from Monterey to let you all know what we've discovered is coming down the pipeline for '09 and beyond.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

T.J. Tollakson's New Race Setup Revealed!

Well, well, well... time for the vocal minority to issue their .02. Tis a detailed look at T.J. Tollakson's new race setup, as raced at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans last week.

We did a photo shoot with T.J . the day before the race in Nawlins. He said he'd kept his race setup pretty much on the low-low, the only folks seeing it being those in Tucson on the Shootout.

This new position, as I mentioned, was something he tested and developed on his own dime at the A2 Wind Tunnel in North Carolina. I know lots of athletes are at the tunnel at the behest of their bike sponsor, but T.J. is probably the first athlete who has gone on his own dime.

Granted, he was doing work for his front-end hydration systems, but again, I can count on one hand the athletes that are doing their own product development. So there you go.Given the steep angle of his setup, the solution of using jock cups as forearm cups certainly takes a lot potential fore/aft stress out of the equation (since he doesn't have to shift forward or back). His forearms and chest are so close, he likely doesn't get any eddying behind the arms and into the chest cavity.

T.J. said it was night and day the power numbers that I think he'll be posting soon at his Specialized Riders Club site. (After the race I hitched a ride back to transition with Chris Lieto—a guy known for being protective of his power numbers—and back to my hotel with Tollakson. As we all took off, TJ was offering up his SRM data to Lieto. Jokingly (and knowing the answer), I asked Chris what his numbers were. Nothin' doin.)

I settled into T.J.s aerobars and with the hands up so high, the custom-designed hydration system is literally inches from the face, at about chin level. To create his setup, all T.J. did was use a gasket he picked up at a store in Boulder, and insert it into the side of the bottle, allowing him a way to refill the bottle with course hydration. A straw driven in right in front, and voila, a simple but effective aero bottle. No splash, no muss, no fuss, and as he has tested, aero. Tollakson seals the deal with a bit of duct tape across the front of the extensions, sealing off the leading edge of his aerobar. I don't see a ton of age groupers running as aggressive a setup as T.J., but for those that might, it's a clever solution.

Glad I was able to spend some time with T.J. last week in New Orleans—save for the getting lost on about three highways back in to downtown. Man, his girlfriend has some patience. Kidding—it's something when you've got an athlete taking a journalist out to dinner because he's broke as piecrust. Thanks for the carbload of that alligator and pasta (or chicken and pasta in my case.. but that gator was good!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Easy, Over Easy

Didn’t think I would have anyone asking how the bet went. Good thing it turned out favorable for me; not only would I be deprived of the gloating at office, I would have been subject to Brad’s gloating. I’m trying to keep it civil. Honest. With just a little jab here or there. For now, Brad is my bitch.

Since then, he’s been threatening to throw people across the office and put people in sleeperholds. He’s clearly moved on.

So tale of the tape: Oceanside was from all accounts pretty ideal weather wise. Brad was on pace for a fast swim but was kicked in the shoulder by a woman from an earlier wave (yes, a woman), resulting in one of his frequent shoulder dislocations (I am not making this up). He found a nearby piling just 100 yards off shore and began banging his shoulder against it, trying to re-set the sucker in socket. So he accounts for five minutes of that.

On the bike, his first half was beset by a tight back. On the half marathon, his first half of the run, like the bike, was beset by the tight back. 5:19 was the final damage of his race.

My race? Considering all the travel I have undergone in the last three or four weeks (Arizona for TriFest, then Thailand and Arizona again for a couple birthdays), I was pleased that my impromptu taper on airplanes and in my car seat along Interstate 8 between Tucson and San Diego worked out so nicely. And it was nice to be on the run in Nawlins, knowing that I had run in hotter temps in Phuket two weeks earlier.

The point-to-point swim was awesome—longshore in the murky Pontchartrain without a bit of contact. Swimming was the one thing I did the least of (swimming once a week, getting in once every two weeks every so often as time didn’t permit) and I expected an ugly time. That said, I started easy and found a good set of feet that I latched onto, battering anyone who contested me for them. I wasn’t letting go of this pacesetter. Ended up with a 34-minute swim.

The bike was my favorite. I love flat courses—just love to tuck in and jam. Through 30 miles, that was it—jamming out east of town into Bayou Sauvage. Race officials said we might see crocodiles out there, and while I didn’t, a few pros said they actually saw a couple. But I saw some shit there I didn’t expect. A forest of trees, absent their foliage after the hurricane, looked like erect toothpicks. But something caught my eye; a 40-foot closed-bow boat was jammed in there behind the trees, clearly forced up nearly onto the road by the Katrina winds that shoved water high up the shore. There was no water around now, the boat stranded in a prison of trees, high and dry.

An out and back along the Bayou Sauvage was crankin at 25 mph. But I saw the guys coming back in from the turnaround at a much slower pace, and I knew what was coming: ugly headwinds. A turn onto the main highway was hoped to be a respite, but no dice; it was wind in the grill the rest of the way home. My early dreams for a sub 2:30 bike were gone, but I was happy to split 2:37. But I also wondered if I overcooked the bike.

As such, the run was gonna be the big question. At mile one, I got dehydration tingles in my arms, and expected it to be a walkfest. The sun beating down, paired with the humidity, reminded me of my run in Phuket two weeks ago. I found a cat who was cruising super easy, and just locked into his pace. I’d rather ease into the run and finish stronger, especially in the heat—at the advice of my wife. I didn’t want to walk a step of the run. At every aid station, it was water over the head, water across the chest, ice into my singlet, cool the engine room.

It paid off. After five miles, the sun tucked in behind the clouds, and the going got easier. I invited my run partner from Dalton, GA to join me when I was gonna pick things up after mile six. An aid station later, he dropped off and I never saw him again. So I picked up the pace 30 seconds per mile through the rest of the day, enjoying the shade trees that covered the rest of the run course.

Somewhere along the way, I had a laugh; some fans held out a bedsheet with YOU CAN DO IT! spraypainted across it. All I could think of was Rob Schneider’s little Cajun character in all of Adam Sandler’s flicks like The Waterboy and 50 First Dates.

I came across the finish in front of Jackson Square, the chute beset by spectators that were only a few feet wide, a Jazz band playing off to the side, and I immediately put this race in my top three of all time ever done: Monaco, Alcatraz, and New Orleans. It’s an ESPN Instant Classic. My time: 5:13. Brad spotted me 45 minutes, and I beat him outright by five minutes.

Thanks for the unofficial snag of images from Brightroom.

Some folks are bitching about not getting cold towels (queue teardrop) during the run. But goddamn it, what the hell do you want? The spirit of this event from the early days has always been one of self-sustainance (remember the days of using electrical tape to secure a banana to the stem?)

Just because you paid an entry fee does not mean it is a catered buffet with guaranteed deviled eggs, escargot and champagne flutes. Race director Bill Burke said he was shocked that so many first-timers (not first timers to that race, not first timers to the half-Ironman distance, but first-timers to triathlon) were laying out their transition race morning, and setting off for the swims start—without a bottle on their bike. And he took heat for being shocked about that. I’m as shocked. Granted, it was hot and people went through too many bottles. But sorry, no sympathy for these whingers. One bottle cage on your bike for a half Ironman? Really? Take ownership of your day—end of story. I learned it’s one more thing for my “First Timer” articles: bring nutrition. I thought it would be a no brainer, but I guess that’s what happens when you assume.

And logistics? I was from out of town, figured out the map, rode to the race start, checked in my bike and got a cab back to my hotel the day before the race. After the race, a shuttle got athletes back to transition. A point-to-point race makes the race itself greater than any out and back or loop—that’s the tradeoff. I’ll take a bit of hustle in periphery to the race in deference to the actual race experience. This is one reason this race makes my top five—I mean, we traversed town from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River and the French Quarter. Without the “inconvenience” of a finish at Jackson Square, this race is just another 70.3. With it, this race is special.

Beyond this all, the race did something else; it wrote a check to A Shared Initiative, an organization that is helping rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward. Burke took me on a personal solo tour of the Ninth Ward; upon crossing the bridge, he pointed in the direction of where a river retaining wall (which stood about 13 foot tall) failed, flooding a massive neighborhood with waters that ripped houses from their foundations, ripped the only possessions from folks, ripped folks from the lives of loved ones. Burke pointed out some green homes that Brad Pitt was having built to help rebuild the hood.

But the area still needs so much help. I’ll be doing a travel piece in Triathlete on this race. There’s so much to see, but athletes need to see this area.

I wanted to show two photos I took on my tour with Burke that resonated with me: one of a table set on its end, with a message to then-President Bush… which I am sure extends to President Obama. New Orleans is out of the media spotlight, but the area still needs help. Click on the pic to read what it says. The site was home to a headstone for one resident who died. Behind was a trailer, housing offices for the guys building some of Brad Pitt's new rebuild project homes. It was encouraging to see that, because beyond that, there was nothing but steps up to homes.. without the homes even being there.

The other is from inside a home, any home, about seven blocks inland from the wall. It wore the proverbial scarlet letter that so many of the homes wore: a spraypainted X, with numbers and codes that alerted emergency staff to status of lives—or deaths—inside. To see the waterline still set on homes was appalling.

But walking into this particular home, only held up by 2x4 supports, it hit home more. A pile of photos lay on the linoleum floor. A little girl features in the first one I see. I don’t know the status of the family, but to see this family’s belongings sitting, water-stained in this empty home was like walking on a grave—I felt like an intruder.Of course, if nobody pays notice, nothing changes.

This 70.3 race, with whatever tourism dollars were generated by athlete presence, helps rebuild the community, the city. This was my first time to New Orleans. I saw a t-shirt that said “Recover, Rebuild, Restore New Orleans” Of course, I also saw a t-shirt that said “I got Bourbon-faced on Shit Street.” Whatever your pleasure, injecting dollars, tourism or otherwise by doing as little as buying a t-shirt, or an order of beignets and a cafe au lait, helps get this great city back on its feet.

After the race, I joined the LifeSport crew—coach Lance Watson and athletes Brent McMahon (your race winner), Linsey Corbin, Chris Lieto, Magali Tisseyre and Justin Park well as elite age groupers Nat Faulkner and Sean Bechtel—for some Bourbon Street revelry. Much fun was had by all, but things, as they probably always do on Bourbon Street, devolved as the night went on. Starting the evening with Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens was great; Brent drank, hilarity ensued. Upon leaving at 2:30 a.m., you think we can get out unscathed?

No, not when there’s a bar open with a mechanical bull. Park, Tisseyre and I were dumb enough to ride the bull. I had to represent my Tucson rodeo upbringing (well, it was merely watching in the stands as a kid). I wrapped the rope around a hand and channeled Ty Murray.

I sucked. We all did. But it was fun.

Taking my Pacificos home from work now. Don’t like my choice of that beer for my race earnings? That’s ok; you don’t have to drink it, and summer is coming soon enough, it’s warm enough to start drinking it here in San Diego.

Next up: a detailed look at T.J. Tolakson’s race rig.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Aerus to New Orleans: a bike travel case review

Before I go into detail about my dusting of Brad from our little 70.3 bet this past weekend, I must, MUST announce how much I spent to fly my Specialized Transition from San Diego to New Orleans on Continental Airlines (which has a $100 bike fee each way): $50. Total. That was the extra baggage fee.

How’d I do this? Chance Regina from Blue Competiton Cycles showed me a bike case that one of their company brands, Aerus, sells: a soft-sided bike case—no fancy name, just their bike case. It doesn’t have caster wheels or a hard base, or a fork block. But if you can see past that simplicity (which is what makes this an airline charge-avoider), it has lots of padding to protect the frame, padded pockets for the wheels and skewers, and a padded shoulder strap. Without all the other reinforcement plastic and rivets, it makes the bike and case light—on the airline scale, my bike weighed in at 31 lbs, in the case. Add to that its small size and the fact that there were no bike-related logos on it, and the gate agents had no reason to suspect it was a bike.
Only things you might need after the fact? Maybe some pipe insulation for your tubesets, and brace blocks for your fork and rear dropout (so a heavy drop on your case by the luggage throwers doesn’t break your fork or rear stays), and that’s about it it. There's no room to pack extra shoes or helmet, but this is meant to hopefully skirt the airline folks—the more you want to load it down, the more it raises red flags.

Of course, they ask what it is, and here’s where you have to be clever, and state what it isn't. I have two things that two people suggested to me, each of which worked like a charm, neither of which I will share with you because, well, it's like a kid's favorite hiding place; once you tell someone, and they tell 10 of their friends, and they tell 10 of theirs, it's not much of a hiding place anymore, is it? If you're clever, you will think up what your excuse is.

I told Joanna Zeiger, and she and her husband Mark were on their iPhone, looking at it at that moment. For pros that make so little money to begin with, any way to cut crazy travel costs is huge. Hell, for any of us, any way to cut travel costs is huge.

Heading out of San Diego, I had to take a pic of the thing, sitting there, pleased that I had not been worked for yet another c-note on a flight.

Chance, thanks for the chance to test this case—it works like a charm. If you travel a lot, the TriAll3 is awesome and bombproof. But with costs as they are, a softside is worth checking out. And at just $265 for the case… how can you lose?

Well yeah, of course, the airlines can always lose your bike.

More soon on how the Brad vs. Jay battle went. And the sordid details on how Canuck Brent McMahon parties on Bourbon Street after winning his first 70.3. Hint: it involves Hurricanes mixed with Rum and Cokes at Pat O'Briens as he partied with his LifeSport posse. As a journalist, I was simply an observant, a proverbial fly-on-the-wall. A fly that Brent kept feeding Hurricanes and beers.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Eve of Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

Well, well, well. 'ol Brad, and his 45 minute buffer at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. I won't announce his result, and I never like to count my chickens before they've hatched, but... my brother, who finished his first Ironman 70.3 at Oceanside today in 5:40:09 (great job, Jon!), chimed in that even he would have fallen well, well within the 45 minute buffer had he taken the bet.

Do they sell Belgian trappist beer by the case? No, no chicken counting....

This morning, I circled with Inside Tri freelancer Stephanie Pearson, photographer Robert Murphy (he of all the kick-ass photography in the new Inside Tri) and pro T.J. Tollakson for some magazine shots. Always good to hang with T.J. because as a trained engineer, he loves to play and tinker with his bike setup. He has a wicked new Praying Landis setup that I'm sure the Slowtwich iPhone wielders in transition here in New Orleans will be running to his bike to check out. Say what you will about his setups, he does them all on his own—he doesn't wait for companies to go through tooling and prototyping—he does his own prototyping, with whatever he can find that will get the job done. He actually has several of his custom carbon Kona setups backordered for a bunch of consumers.

Here, getting the job done with a setup that works here in New Orleans means a couple of armrests comprised of jock cups, and a really, really cool bottle that refills, has a straw that is right at his head position (no ducking to take a drink) I have shots on my camera, which is currently with Stephanie, and will load to our website soon. But I'm sure the Slowtwitch-erazzi will be all over it. For it's MacGyver build, I settled into it—and can see how it's a comfortable setup for T.J. He has power numbers that back his position and prototyping. I am sure lots of companies are looking at T.J.'s ideas with careful thought; and I told him I'm sure he'd be able to find a job with any of the tri companies once he's done racing if he desired; he's a thinker and a tester of the outside-the-box variety.

After a long ride from my hotel at the Riverwalk area of town along the Mississippi River to T1 at Lake Pontchartrain (which, as you can see is a bit brackish), it was a cab home. Time to connect with T.J. for dinner right now, then chill out, watch a bit of Ironman Australia and South Africa, with a nice 4:30 alarm a fun bus ride across to the race start and a 7:20 wave start. Looking forward to that finish in the French Quarter—I love half Ironmans, but this one promises to be pretty fun.

UPDATE: Just back from dinner with T.J. and his girlfriend Ashley, and I ran into Hawaii Ironman race director Blair LaHaye and her husband (and St. Anthony's Race Director (Philip LaHaye). Seems Nawlins is Philip's hometown, so he had several tables pulled together, and several kids clawing at him.

But the cool thing about dinner? We struck out at two pasta joints (one had a line out the door, the other was completely gutted of its pasta by triathletes that beat us to it), so we went to a Southern place, Mulates. Live New Orleans band playing (complete with a guy playing the washboard). And T.J.'s dinner? Alligator, on a bed of penne. Awesome. I tried the 'gator, and... it tastes like chicken. I'm serious. I'll actually order it next time.

Unless the gators on the swampy part of the bike course (they said in the pre-race briefings that they're out there) get me first.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Garmin Loves Triathlon!!! Forerunner 310XT (finally) debuts

I've gotten to hang out with Garmin marketing man Jake Jacobson for the last few years at a bunch of the key events, from Sea Otter to the Tour de France. If you check out the blogs, Jake is the man behind them (and face on 'em). Every time we saw one another, I would ask him the same thing: "When will you cats make a Forerunner that is Mac-compatible, and when will you make one that's watertight for swimming?"

His polite reply: "I hear ya—we're working on it." Every time he saw me, he'd smile and roll his eyes, because he knew my first questions. We both knew some hearty souls would take their Forerunner 405, stick it in a Ziploc bag , shove it under the swim cap and race their entire Ironman with it—it would come out with some awesome tracking, revealing just how crooked some of us actually swim. Change it from run pace to bike pace in T1, then back to run pace at T2. Voila, a full race, GPS tracked.

Downside? The units were water resistant, not waterproof. You could race with it, but it's user risk; it dies, it was a warranty-voider, and thus your loss.

So I asked, again and again: When will you have a waterproof Forerunner? And make it Mac-compatible? I am addicted to GPS tracking; I love the wireless data, the integrated power on the bike. And I'm useless now without knowing my pace on the run, especially in a race, knowing whether my perceived effort is honest or fatigued, and when/how much to pick it up if I wanted to hit marked time.

About a month ago, Garmin quietly made their units, from the Forerunner to the Edge 705 (both of which I have been actively testing and absolutely in love with (save for the Forerunner 405's inability to get wet) Mac-compatible. The ONLY reason I have a PC was to run my data to My Garmin Connect page and MotionBased. Now, all it does is store all my music. Half the battle was won, and I was uploading through my MacBook, which I can and am now doing from the road for the first time.

So today, a miracle: this press release confirming that Garmin indeed loves triathletes, and created a product just for them. It does it all; run pacing, bike speed, calorie burn, ANT + compatible (So I can run my PowerTap data through it), 20 hours (20!!!) of battery life that will last an Ironman, wireless data transfer... this thing is going to be Nirvana. I wish I got to test it this weekend as an all-in-one. Instead I'll be patching data from my Edge 705 with my Forerunner 405 after the race at New Orleans this weekend.

Well... maybe I wouldn't want to let the new 310XT be water-devirginized in Lake Pontchartrain. Perhaps I'll wait till I get back to the Pacific.

And it's about time to get an external, dump the music on there, then dump the PC.

And Jake: you don't have to deal with my incessant questioning anymore; I think you've answered about every need from a triathlete.

About time! (And tracking, power, speed, and pace!)

To watch a video of how the 310XT works, click here.


Garmin® Gives Fitness a Facelift with Forerunner® 310XT,
the Waterproof Multi-Sport Watch with Longer Battery Life

OLATHE, Kan./April 2, 2009/Business Wire — Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced the Forerunner 310XT – the waterproof multi-sport solution in Garmin’s popular line of GPS-enabled fitness devices. Boasting up to 20 hours of battery life and a sleek, comfortable design, the Forerunner 310XT was announced in preparation for world-class marathons in Paris and Boston, where it will be on display at Garmin booths in each location. The Forerunner 310XT will be sold on its own or packaged with a new waterproof, soft-strap heart rate monitor, which will be more comfortable than previous models and is expected to be available during summer 2009.

“The waterproof Forerunner 310XT is the evolution of the iconic Forerunner 305, building off of what users love and introducing key benefits they’ve requested,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “By adding unmatched wireless connectivity, up to 20 hours of battery life and a more comfortable build, Forerunner 310XT will bring Garmin’s leading GPS technology to more athletes and events than ever imagined.”

During and after the workout, Forerunner 310XT blends the best wireless connectivity of all of its predecessors in the Garmin fitness family, syncing wirelessly through ANT+™ technology with Garmin heart rate monitors and foot pods, compatible third-party fitness equipment and power meters, and the user’s PC or Mac for automatic data download.

The swimmable Forerunner 310XT is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters, so you can wear it in the pool or the lake to time your swim. And its slim design, simple interface and flexible wristband mean Forerunner is easy to wear in any conditions. When you're ready to jump out of the water and onto the bike, Forerunner 310XT moves easily from wrist to bike with the optional quick release and bike mounts, making the transition between sports effortless. Forerunner 310XT categorizes multisport activities in one workout and can also log transition time in the process, so you can analyze your performance from start to finish. And the extended battery life – up to 20 hours – means that endurance athletes can push themselves farther than ever.

Positioned around the large, vivid display, intuitive buttons provide a simple interface without sacrificing space on the customizable data screens. And even in the loudest gym or largest crowd, users won’t miss their milestones as Forerunner 310XT’s audible signals and/or vibration alerts tell them when they’ve reached integral parts of their race or workout.

Garmin is also announcing a new waterproof, soft-strap heart rate monitor that is streamlined and more comfortable than ever, yet rugged enough to withstand swimming. Though heart rate data does not transmit while underwater, this new waterproof strap means that triathletes can plan ahead by wearing the strap under a wetsuit, shaving crucial seconds off their transition time. The new soft-strap monitor is expected to be available during summer 2009.

For out-of-water activities, Forerunner 310XT tracks speed, distance and location accurately and effortlessly, and users benefit from the precision of heart rate-based calorie computation. Runners and cyclists can adjust the pace and speed of their Virtual Partner without stopping in the middle of a workout, and the Virtual Partner is always on and ready for a challenge.

The waterproof Forerunner 310XT can be used outdoors or indoors (with an optional, streamlined foot pod that can fit on laces or under certain shoes’ insoles), making it the ultimate year-round, all-weather training tool. And the high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix™ quickly acquires and sustains satellite reception, whether you’re tackling a wooded trail or jogging through the urban canyons of skyscrapers. An optional speed/cadence bike sensor helps cyclists monitor their pedaling ca
dence and wheel speed.

Once the workout is done, the training is far from over. Using ANT+ technology, the Forerunner 310XT sends workout data to the user’s PC or Mac via automatic wireless data transfer. There’s no need to take off the watch or bother with cables as the computer automatically syncs with the Forerunner 310XT once it’s in close proximity. And the data transfer is a two-way street. Runners, joggers, cyclists and hikers can send courses, goals and workouts to their Forerunner 310XT before they begin, and then the data gets sent back to the user’s computer when the workout is over. Athletes can log their workouts, track their totals, set goals, share workouts with coaches, friends and family and participate in an online fitness community at Garmin ConnectSM — Garmin’s online training site.

The wireless features of Fo
rerunner 310XT are enabled by ANT+ personal area network technology. ANT+ is a leading wireless interface protocol enabling ultra low power applications like fitness monitors. ANT+ offers all the benefits of digital wireless communications with much lower power consumption than other wireless protocols.

The Forerunner 310XT is the latest breakthrough from Garmin, which has spent 20 years using technology and innovation to enhance users’ lives, making Garmin a household name in the automotive, aviation, marine, wireless, outdoor and fitness industries. To learn more about the Forerunner 310XT and Garmin’s other products and services, go to and

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nawlins: Half Iron, Full Party

I’m starting to revisit the wisdom of the last couple weeks. I have my first race of the year coming up this Sunday at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, and in the last two weeks, I have probably 20,000 air miles logged, having gone last week to Thailand to visit Vittoria Tires production facility, Phuket for a couple days of decompression, back to San Diego. I’ve chased that with a weekend drive to Tucson for two birthday parties. My cats don’t recognize me anymore.

Regardless, I’m grateful to have the chance to be here for the debut of this race in Nawlins. I am about 99.9 percent sure this race will be a roaring success, for several reasons:

First, the race is being put on by rockstar race director Bill Burke and Premier Event Management. Throughout my career, I have been impressed by the level of energy that he puts into assembling races. He was the man behind the popular Dannon Duathlon Series a decade ago, which—while du ain’t as fly as tri—were some of the funnest races I’ve ever done. Plus it spawned some awesome talent, from Paul Thomas (former national champ and now national sales manager at Kuota Bicycles) to Kimberly Bruckner (now Baldwin, who kicked ass on the road with the T-Mobile team before retiring a couple years ago) to multi-time national champ Greg Watson. He treated the athletes like family, and does the same today with all athletes in his races. He is known for organizing great events—and doing every bit of the grunt work. I recall the LA Tri last year, watching him hustle to put on transition racks at Venice Beach the evening before the race. Bill is a high-energy hustler.

Second, New Orleans (well, Metaire specifically) is PEM’s home. Which means Burke and crew will roll out the red carpet, since this is in their backyard. No way they're not gonna put on a good show.

Third, I think our community (not just us in triathlon, but us as Americans on the whole) wants to see the New Orleans area recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, by injecting some tourism dollars into an already depressed economy. Burke promised to take me on a tour of some of the areas ravaged by the Hurricane, including the Lower 9th Ward, an area still struggling for survival.

Fourth? Even with 70.3 Oceanside, this is turning out to be a sick field; reigning 70.3 World Champ Joanna Zeiger, Des Ficker, Natascha Badmann, Kate Major, Heather Gollnick, Nina Kraft, Yvonne Van Vlerken… this sounds like a European championship. And the guys will have Macca, Brent McMahon, Tim O’Donnell, Chris Lieto, Brian Fleischmann, Chris McDonald, Brandon Marsh, Luc Van Lierde, Joe Umphenouer—this one is revenge of the American ITU short-coursers. Looks like everyone is keen to race.

I’ll be updating here a bit on my trip last week to Bangkok and visit to the factory where they make Vittoria Tires and Geax Tires (I even got to make my own Geax mountain bike tire), as well as my quick side trip to beautiful Phuket. I must say, while I may be jetlagged and knocked sideways from my trip, there’s nothing quite like run training for a potentially humid race in New Orleans on the run course for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, in literally humid training conditions. Good practice.

Meantime, I turn my attention to gluing up tires and taking on a visual of this course, which looks on paper fairly flat (good for me), but will invariably draw those wheelsuckers with no morals (bad for me and the rest of those who hold a utopian view of a world without cheating drafters). I hope the officials do their job and sit those pack bitches on the side of the road. And if they don’t come, I hope they get stitches, cramps and GI distress that leaves them bawling.

Can you sense I loathe drafters? If I could have the guns and knives-spinning-from- wheels on my bike that my boss John Duke wishes he had on his car for shitty drivers in his way, I’d be a happy boy.

And I’m looking forward to scooping up a finish at famous Jackson Square, right down in the heart of the French Quarter. Maybe they’ll have a hurricane (the drink!) waiting for finishers! And I’m trying to envision the finishers medals… with beads?!?! Hopefully things don’t get as sideways in the finish gantry as they do during Mardi Gras….or hopefully they will!

Meantime, on to the little bet Brad Culp and I have; he’s racing Oceanside, I’m racing New Orleans. He gave me 45 minutes (45 minutes!!!) and winner gets a case of beer. This is easy money. We both just got our battle axes set up yesterday (see above).. should be fun.

Lance Armstrong's new carbon fiber clavicle!

I wonder what today is... whatever, this is awesome!


(Waterloo, WI) – Lance Armstrong and Bontrager today released more details regarding Armstrong’s recent collarbone surgery. While it was previously reported that Armstrong’s right clavicle was screwed and plated back together after his March 23rd crash at the Castilla y Leon stage race in Spain, Armstrong and equipment sponsor Bontrager, jointly announced that he was the world’s first recipient of an inForm® CarbonClavicle Upgrade.

Originally slated to be released at the AAOS (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeon) Convention May 18-24th in Las Vegas, Bontrager moved up the launch date of the inForm CarbonClavicle to aid
the return of Armstrong to the peloton.

“The original intent of the Bontrager inForm line was to use medical research to aid us in creating better cycling contact points, such as saddles, shoes, and grips. But when we did the research into the most common cycling-related injuries, the broken collarbone proved to be an area where we could actually help cyclists get back on the road sooner,” relates John Balmer, head of Bontrager Development.

The CarbonClavicle, available for both left and right shoulders in four male sizes and four WSD (Women’s Specific Design) sizes, is an actual carbon fiber replacement of the clavicle. Developed with the aid of Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Mark Timmerman, a Bontrager consultant, the inForm CarbonClavicle has greater shock absorption, greater impact strength, and a greater tensile strength—all while being grams lighter than the OEM bone.

“The installation on Armstrong was completely coincidental. But I must admit, the Bontrager marketing team was doing high-fives when we heard about Lance’s crash. It really was a marketing god-send. I mean, could there have been a better way to launch the new Bontrager medical Upgrade line?” explains Chris Clinton, Bontrager Marketing Manager.

The installation procedure is substantially quicker than the conventional collarbone repair procedures of stabilizing, drilling and pinning, as this is a full replacement. Essentially, the broken bone is completely removed and the CarbonClavicle is anchored in place. Armstrong’s procedure took approximately 30 minutes and will reduce his recovery time from 3 weeks, to 5-7 days for the sutures to fully heal.

The delay in releasing details was due to an extended approval process with the UCI, which has now ruled that since this piece is structural yet provides only minor aerodynamic advantage over the traditional ‘bump’ of a healed broken clavicle, it falls with the current parameters of the UCI rules.

Future sponsorship plans include full support and pre-emptive upgrades for the full Trek-Livestrong U23 team. “These guys are early in their careers, and if averages apply to the team, we think we can prevent about ten or more future breaks across the 12 members of the team,” adds Clinton.

Backed by Bontrager’s best-in-industry 5-year warranty, inForm CarbonClavicles will be available through referrals from Trek and Fisher dealers exclusively. Retail prices will be set by the retailer.

For more information, please visit Bontrager online at