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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Color Fun Fest Austin 5K


Run purely for the fun of it on the "most vibrant 5K course around." The Color Fun Fest 5K will be held in Austin on Sunday, January 11, 2015, with a day wave at 5 p.m. and a night wave (with blacklights!) at 7 p.m. The idea? Walk, run, skip, or whatever you'd like through color stations at each kilometer, with a finish-line finale that includes all the colors of the rainbow and a New Year's Celebration festival. The festival features live DJs, vendors, and food.

The event is held rain or shine. Strollers are welcome, but dogs aren't allowed. Register kids 12 and under online by January 10 and the only charge that applies is a $5 service fee (per child) on the ticketing website.

Color Fun Fest 5K supports Just Care More, a Dallas-based non-profit that aims to provide underprivileged youth with the opportunity to experience fitness-related activities.

$75 event-day reg., $60 regular online reg.
Register before Nov. 30 or enter the promotional code TRIFUN for $20 tickets.





Thursday, November 20, 2014

All About Road Bike Tires

by Jack Mott

Cycling lore is a funny thing. Question an accepted principle, and often you will get a "This is just how things are done." Or more often, some vague explanation based on "feel." Intuition plays a large part in racing and is a good basis for some equipment choices—but when it comes to tires, you should set aside the stone tablet and think about the science.  

Josh Poertner of Silca shared a story on Slowtwitch about his experience introducing Zipp 808s to a pro men's team in the 2004 Tour. He describes the scene on the morning of the prologue when he arrived: The pro mechanics and riders were in the midst of a shouting match, unable to figure out why the 808 rims were "blown up like blow-fish" and jamming the forks of the new BMC Time Machine. Nothing was making sense until Poertner discovered the fact that the pro mechanics were inflating 20mm Continental track tires (with helium!) to 280 psi. Team leadership was insistent that their choices were correct; after much argument, Poertner was able to talk them down to "only" 220 psi, but the riders were plagued by punctures and crashes in the TTs and had a near-phobia of their TT bikes by the end of the Tour. "It was ultimately the impetus for us to start a real educational process with the mechanics and directors on not only what wheels for what days, but also tire choice and the importance of pressure," Poertner writes.

Tires are the single most important part of your bike. Whether you're seeking comfort, grip, or pure speed, no single change will make as much of a difference as your tires. We all love to obsess over the latest frames and wheels, but it's the tires that dampen the bumps, hold the bike to the corners, and transmit the power from our legs to the road. While the latest frame or latest wheels might save you one minute or so per 40K thanks to their slippery aerodynamics, a tire with good rolling resistance might save you four or five. Similarly, a frame with a carefully engineered carbon fiber layup might dampen harsh road vibrations a small amount, but a well-chosen tire will have a hundred times more impact on comfort.

What Makes a Tire Fast (And Comfortable!)

It isn't the weight! It's the rolling resistance. As you bike along, your tires are constantly deforming as they come into contact with the road. Each inch you move forward on the road brings another inch of tire to the road, and the rubber has to squish a bit. This process is where energy is lost, and it can be a lot. This is also what makes some tires more comfortable than others. A tire whose material is more supple will waste less energy as it deforms and be more comfortable. These properties can be objectively measured by using a power meter and rollers. Handy tables of rolling resistance results are available online, such as this one from Tom Anhalt.

Another consideration is aerodynamics. While not as important as rolling resistance, the shape and size of a tire can significantly affect the overall performance of your wheel. A wider tire will have less rolling resistance, all else equal, but also more aero drag. So, for instance, for a time trial you wouldn't want a wide tire on the front. Some tires, such as the Continental 4000S, Attack, and Force, also have bonus aero properties due to their textured sidewalls.

What's the Catch?

The downside to fast tires is that they tend to be more delicate. The easiest way to reduce rolling resistance is to remove material from the tire—for example, to use less rubber and remove any tough, puncture-resistant layers. With some options, however, you can find a very effective compromise; some tires offer reasonable durability and puncture resistance along with very good rolling resistance. (See "Suggested Tires" below for specific models.)

Tubes


The properties of rolling resistance that apply to tires also apply to tubes. Standard butyl tubes soak up significant amounts of energy as they deform along with the tire. Fast tubular tires use latex tubes instead of butyl, which can save as much as two to four watts. This is also why tubulars feel so plush. But you can get latex tubes for clinchers, too, and have just as fast and plush of a ride as any tubular. (ATC stocks Vittoria latex tubes, a good choice.) The only downside is that you must install latex tubes very carefully, as they're not as forgiving as butyl. Read our 2013 post "Tips to Avoid Flats" to avoid common installation mistakes. Once installed properly, latex tubes are just as durable as a regular tube and work better with sealant.

Pressure


Proper pressures are the final piece of the speed and comfort puzzle. Many athletes crank their tire pressures up as high as they can, thinking this will reduce rolling resistance. At first glance, it seems to make sense: higher pressure means the tire deforms less, so less energy is wasted. The catch, however, is that the imperfections and rough texture of the pavement mean that at some point higher pressure actually causes more energy to be wasted to vibration than is saved from the tire. Optimum tire pressure will be a function of how heavy the rider is, wide the tire is, and bumpy the road is. This chart by Michelin gives you an easy starting point. Keep in mind, most people find that pressures that are too high feel faster, but that is misleading. Field tests have shown this not to be true. A fast tire at optimum pressure may feel "squishy" or "dead" to riders accustomed to using higher pressures. If that describes you, stick with it and just consider it a sign that you're soon going to notice more grip and more speed.


Some Suggested Tires
  • Continental 4000S II Clincher - The ultimate jack of all trades. Great rolling resistance and great aerodynamics combined with good durability. You can train on this, race on this, time trial on this, anything at all. ATC just received a shipment of these, so they're in stock at both the Barton Springs and 360 locations. 
  • Continental Attack/Force Clincher - This is perhaps the best overall time trial setup. The narrow Attack is used on the front for aerodynamics, while the wider Force is used in the rear, where aerodynamics don't matter as much. These tires still have puncture protection, though not quite as much as the 4000S. This is the tire ATC Racing used to clinch the Texas State Time Trial record.
  • Continental SuperSonic Clincher - For those who need those last few seconds no matter the risk, the Continental SuperSonic is for you. No puncture protection layer is included at all, but rolling resistance is among the best in the world. Available in 20 and 23mm widths, this tire can make the ultimate time trial setup. While the SuperSonic Clinchers aren't suitable for regular training, professional Ironman triathletes like Thomas Gerlach do use them regularly in racing with success. If you find yourself just a few seconds from your goals and road conditions are good, give this option a look.
  • Fortezza Senso (Tubular and Clincher) - Available in Xtreme Weather, All Weather, and Superlight varieties (in increasing order of speed), these are one of ATC's most popular tires and can make a good dual purpose race/training tire and a great winter/rain tire.
  • Michelin Pro4 Clincher - Michelin offers many varieties of the Pro4, most of which have good but not great rolling resistance, falling a few watts short of the 4000S. They do make for a very nice training tire, though, with decent flat protection, comfort, and speed. They also make a "Grip" version intended specifically for wet weather grip.
  • Vittoria EVO Corsa (Tubular and Clincher) - These tires come in a few varieties as well, the CX and CS, and all are very fast. They rank among the very best in rolling resistance, just shy of the SuperSonic but with a little more flat protection. Plenty of people train on them, but they are somewhat delicate and will need to be replaced fairly often. They make a great race tire but don't have the magic aero properties of some of the Continentals, so you might avoid using them on front wheels for time trial purposes. They also tend not to fare well in wet weather chip seal areas. If you have a rainy road race, you might switch to something else.
  • 2015 Zipp Tangente (Tubular and Clincher)- Zipp has a new line of tires, and they offer some excellent choices, in various widths and levels of flat protection. Look for them to be offered in store very soon. They are optimized both for aerodynamics and rolling resistance, as Zipp was squarely targeting tires like the 4000S when they designed them.
  • Continental Gatorskin - While this tire is so slow it will make a Zipp race wheel slower than your training wheel, it does offer incredible flat protection. If you are looking for a training tire that offers flat protection and aren't concerned about comfort or speed, this is a great tire that will last a long time. They also stand up well to trainer duty, so you can use them on the trainer and on the road. Another bonus, if your significant other is faster than you like mine is, you can have her use Gatorskins so that you can ride together!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Returning to Toe Cages
A Brief Bike Experience in Monterey, California

by Kat Hunter




Ever traveled to a place that had amazing cycling routes but didn’t bring a bike with you? Day 1, a wistful stare at every bike and lycra-clad rider you see. Day 2, the deep need, like a nervous tick, to explain to the world that you too ride bikes, that you are “serious” about cycling. Day 3, true desperation sets in. Can you commandeer a road bike by force, by persuasion?

In mid-October I was in Monterey, California, on assignment for an article for a lifestyle magazine. The press trip had a busy itinerary, much of it centered around food and wine. While I was a vegetarian in a region best known for its fresh seafood, Monterey County is also called the “salad bowl of the world” for the bounty produced by its inland agricultural areas. Area restaurants emphasized sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, and I was eating some of the best dishes I’d had in a long time: heirloom tomatoes, fresh artichokes, inventive salads, creamy risottos, desserts that ranged from a simple flan or plain chocolate to a seemingly bottomless trifle filled with whipped cream and a dozen delicious mystery ingredients. I’d sampled many, many glasses of the region’s legendary pinots, chardonnays, and ros├ęs. I’d seen otters, seals, and sea lions by kayak in the bay and by pontoon boat in Elkhorn Slough, and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I’d looked on in awe at giant kelp forests, shimmering funnels of anchovies, and flower-like gardens of suspended jellyfish. I’d sat around a bonfire on the white sands of Carmel Beach watching the sun go down, wine glass in hand. The weather was perfect, nothing but clear, warm days and cool nights. I was having a great time, but I kept hearing about what I was missing on the bike.
      
Monterey County is the location of the Sea Otter Classic, a popular and long-standing stage race in April that hosts mountain, cyclocross, and road events, as well as a gran fondo. Also, this year Stage 4 of the pro men’s AMGEN Tour of California, said to be the most scenic of the seven stages, started from the city of Monterey and traveled along the dramatic seaside cliffs of Big Sur to finish in Cambria. I’d neglected to do my homework prior to the trip—while I was familiar with both events, I hadn’t connected them with where I was going. Here I was staying in the heart of prime cycling real estate without so much as a pair of bike shorts.

Recreational Trail & Fisherman's Wharf
Lesson 1 for a cyclist traveling on a non-cycling trip: plan ahead. Two days of the trip, my group wasn’t scheduled to leave the hotel until after 10 a.m. Long before I stepped on the plane, I should have filled the gaps in the itinerary with “BIKE” in big block letters. Lesson 2: if you know you’re going to be obsessive about cycling, go ahead and pack pedals, shoes, jersey, and bibs even if you’re not sure you’ll have an opportunity to ride. If there’s space, I’d also add lights, a flat kit, and an Allen wrench.

I’d been jogging each day on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, a paved pedestrian and cycling path that winds along the coast for 18 miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove. Most days I trotted northwest from my hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf toward Pacific Grove, completing an out-and-back of four to six miles. My off-season run training has been spotty at best, and these were some of my longest and most successful runs to date. The cool ocean breeze and the scenery were big motivators. Waves crashed, boats bobbed in the wharf or motored far out in the bay, other tourists and locals walked, ran, and biked along the path, scuba divers strapped on their gear, sea lions barked from their perches on jetties and docks. Just off the beach, harbor seals balanced their sausage-like bodies on half-submerged rocks and looked at me with their big, wet eyes in a casually interested way, as if to say, “You’re not from around here, are you?” The trail also passes through Cannery Row, a historical sardine-packing district turned restaurant and tourist mecca. Usually I turned around somewhere near Lover’s Point, a picturesque jumble of rocks that juts out to sea in Pacific Grove.

On my next-to-last morning in Monterey, a Saturday, I saw a group ride leave from the road alongside my hotel at the same time I started my run. Solo cyclists passed me on the trail. The weather, characteristic of Monterey’s Indian summer, was achingly perfect, and what I wanted most in the world at that particular moment was to donate my running shoes to the fish and continue on two wheels, seeing more of the Recreation Trail and beyond.

With a few phone calls back at the hotel, I figured out I’d have just enough time to ride the next day if I picked up a rental bike from Adventures by the Sea the day before and kept it in my room. The biggest setback was that our group wouldn’t be back from the day’s activities until late that night, long after the bike shop had closed. I explained all this to the concierge at Portola Hotel & Spa as the van of journalists idled outside waiting for me. I hadn't realized the bike shop had a location directly next to the hotel, which probably made my request seem that much stranger. The concierge took it all in stride, though, and late that night when we returned to the hotel the bike and helmet I had rented were waiting for me in a lobby closet.

I set my alarm and got up early the next morning as excited to roll around for a few hours as I would have been to race the Sea Otter Classic itself. I’m usually very exact about my equipment and fit, and now I was about to embark on a Fuji Gran Fondo with toe cages and half my foot overlapping the front wheel. I was wearing a T-shirt and yoga pants. The flat kit I’d been given was the size of a small suitcase, designed to strap onto the handlebars with velcro, and contained a mountain bike tube. But I was thrilled. I put the flat kit and my heavy DSLR in a backpack and set out as soon as the sky started to lighten.  

The whole idea was so last-minute, and the coastal scenery and pre-dawn sounds of the ocean so exotic compared to my typical ride, that I was filled with a spirit of adventure. This is what travel is about: making do with what you have to explore new places, stepping out of the ordinary, regressing from bike racer to a state so Fredly that you no longer even recognize yourself. I embraced my role as tourist and made half a dozen stops in the first few miles to take photos of the sun rising above Monterey’s mist-covered hills and rocky shoreline.  Where the trail ended at Lover’s Point, I paused for a moment with a scattered group of eerily quiet onlookers, many with cameras and tripods, who must have been waiting for the exact moment the sun broke over the horizon.    

From that point I was in new territory. I took a quiet road through Pacific Grove to Sunset Drive and along the lovely, wind-swept Asilomar State Beach, the most natural and undeveloped beach I’d seen in my visit to Monterey County thus far.  I continued from there to 17 Mile Drive, still marveling at the ocean views. I was virtually the only one on the roads, and there was a dedicated bike lane for nearly all of it; the route would be very comfortable for families or inexperienced riders. There were so many places to stop along the way that I started watching the clock and limiting myself, wanting to get a workout in along with my sightseeing. The last time I stopped to take a photo of the water, a runner with an Ironman shirt offered to snap a picture for me. I almost declined, not sure I wanted photo evidence in the rental ensemble, but how can you refuse a smiling Hungarian named Zoltan?

A true explorer never consults a map once the exploration is in progress. I missed some sightseeing when I covertly followed a non-Fredly rider who turned left onto Spyglass Hill Road, but I did find the first elevation of the day. The hills were nice and steep, like some of my favorites in Austin, but many were longer. Again, there was very little traffic. Where I was riding seemed to be part golf courses, part residential neighborhoods. When I lost the riders I’d been shadowing off and on—or rather, they lost me—I was no longer sure where I was and how I’d connect back to 17 Mile Drive. Although there was frequent signage, I found it confusing, often not certain if I was twisting my way back in the direction of Pacific Grove or farther on to Carmel. Now the clock was winding down.

When I eventually found the coastal road again somewhere around Bird Rock, I booked it. It was my first time trial in toe cages and a T-shirt. Part of the rush was that I thought I’d have to turn in the bike on Cannery Row and jog about a mile back to the hotel, but when I got there an employee explained that Adventures by the Sea has multiple locations on the Recreation Trail. I dropped it off at the the shop location downstairs from the hotel, with ample time to spare for a shower and a quick breakfast before another active day with the group exploring Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Big Sur. I’d gotten about 2.5 hours of ride time.

One day I'll return to Monterey. I want to take my son to the aquarium, my husband to the fish tacos. Next time I’d also like to try some of the routes in Fort Ord National Monument, possibly by mountain bike, and a few area group rides. But in truth, for this trip I was probably happier with the impromptu, casual ride than I would have been if I’d been prepared and fully equipped with my own gear. The Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s slogan is “Grab life by the moments,” and as corny as it sounds, I think the bike ride was mine. Sometimes as a “serious” cyclist your training starts to feel more like a job than a hobby. Riding like this, you recapture something of the feeling that made you start in the first place, just a kid with tasseled handlebars and training wheels playing in the sand.


Links:

Top 10 Bike Rides from the Monterey CVB 

Bike rentals in Monterey -
Adventures by the Sea
Bay Bikes
Blazing Saddles



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hoka Halloween Run


The Wednesday ATC run was a little spooky this week—runners ran 4- and 6-mile loops en masse and in costume on the Town Lake trail, and HOKA ONE ONE and 2XU were on hand for demos and costume judging.

Costumes ranged from Snow White to dragons to an unidentifiable green thing. ATC Racing’s Marla Briley, president of dog-rescue organization GSP Rescue, arrived as Cruella Devil with the slightly spotty Nikita by her side. Patrick Healy made a convincing Aquaman, and the Skinner family represented the Land of Oz: little Adelyn a pint-sized Dorothy, Leah a scarecrow, and Gray a creative “tornado,” bravely running with a conical plant cage wrapped in toilet paper and dry leaves over his neck. Some costumes were so creative that we’re not even sure what they were, and other runners simply came as themselves. Tim Dove’s annual 21st birthday was also part of the celebration.

Running in HOKAs may be uber comfortable, but running in costume is not! When planning your “spirited” run wardrobe, several important matters should be taken into consideration for overall safety and comfort: Visibility! Because it’s important to be able to see when moving rapidly in a forward direction wearing a sheet over your head. Heat levels! Because Big Foots and other furry monsters aren’t always happy and healthy when it’s 80 degrees. And, last but not least...Durability! You want whatever you put on to stay on, especially if it was minimal to begin with.  

Happy Halloween from everyone at ATC!



Join the Wednesday Run: The group leaves from ATC Barton Springs every week at 6 p.m. Anyone is welcome for the run and/or beers at the shop after.

Follow Austin Tri-Cyclist on Facebook to get the latest info on other fun events, demos and more. 




Friday, October 24, 2014

An Interview with National Champ “Fast Freddie”

By Kat Hunter

Frederick Ferraro has been saying he’ll race “one more year” for so long that no one believes him. “My friends just look at me and shake their heads and laugh,” he tells me. “But my body’s had enough. I’d like to move to Florida and start a harem.”
2014 National Championships

Both of us are on speakerphone, and I pause a beat, thinking maybe I’ve misheard, but no, Freddie’s just got a sense of humor. And maybe a fair bit of confidence.

“If you’re going to race at this level, you’re a single guy,” he explains. “You don’t have much of a life outside of triathlon. So I thought, lots of single women over in Florida.”

Everyone in the triathlon community calls this dapper 65 year old “Fast Freddie.” Retired from a career in advertising, Freddie has devoted most of his time and energy the last 12 years to triathlon. He currently lives in Southwest Austin (though he’ll be moving to Dallas in a few weeks) with his two cats Thomas and Grayson, who have offered companionship without complaint throughout what he refers to as the “triathlon era.”

On August 9, Freddie won the USAT 64-69 age group Olympic distance national championship in Milwaukee with a time of 2:16:57. Previous years at nationals he’d placed second, fifth, eighth, and ninth, but had never crossed the line first; this win, the culmination of years of hard work, came on the heels of many frustrations and disappointments.

Freddie suffers from Atrial Fibrillation (often referred to as AF or AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to other complications, including stroke and heart failure. The condition is fairly common among veteran male endurance athletes, and some studies point to a causal link. Freddie has been involved in athletic competition for most of his life. He swam on a scholarship at the University of Texas in Arlington, and in 1985, he won a national championship in Hobie Catamaran racing. Over the years he also qualified for nationals in swimming and judo.

In all the sports he competed in, however, Freddie says triathlon was where he showed the most natural talent. In 2002, at 52 years old, he fell headlong into the sport, focusing on sprint and Olympic distances. He quickly hired a coach; for the last nine years, he’s worked with cogniTRI’s Stephan Schwarze. In 2005, Freddie had his first experience with AFib at the world championships in Hawaii, but he thought he might just be feeling the effects of dehydration. When it happened again at nationals the following year, he went to the doctor and found out about his heart condition.

The irony is, of course, that the habits of the life-long athlete—which likely led to the condition in the first place—don’t die any easier when the diagnosis is made. Freddie continued racing, though he says in recent years he starting going by “Not-So-Fast Freddie.” The condition and prescribed medications significantly hampered his ability to compete.

In 2007, he had an ablation, a type of surgery that destroys or isolates the structures responsible for triggering abnormal electrical signals in the heart. Unfortunately, as is common with this type of procedure, the arrhythmia reoccurred about a year and a half later, and he was back to square one. Afterward, he raced for two more years taking pills designed to keep his heart from going into AFib, but knew they were affecting his performance. He also felt that his heart was being pulled dangerously in two different directions during race efforts—the pills slowing it down while his body was trying to push it to its limits. In September 2013, he had a second ablation, and this time the treatment worked. On the same course and under roughly the same conditions, he was able to finish five minutes faster at nationals in 2014 than he had the previous year when he was still taking the pills.

Often the venue for nationals changes each year, but 2015 will be the third year in a row that Milwaukee will host the event. Freddie says of all the nationals he’s been to over the past 11 years, this is his favorite venue. Though the swim often becomes congested as competitors pass beneath a narrow bridge, the hilly bike course suits him, and Freddie says the city “rolls out the red carpet” for race participants. He plans to return to nationals again next year. One more time, he says.

Last year was supposed to be the finale, but his good result at nationals was tempered with an equally bad experience at the August 27 world championships in Edmonton, Canada. He came out of the water first in the swim, but then his body locked up in the cold temperatures, which hovered somewhere between 41 and 45 degrees. Cold and miserable, he didn’t finish the race. He decided he couldn’t go out on that note.

Freddie moved from Oregon to Austin in 2002 for the training opportunities and the warmer weather. He’s been a customer and friend of ATC shop owners Don and Missy Ruthven for more than a decade. “He trains like a pro,” Missy says. “Whatever he tackles, he tackles in full force.”

A common descriptor used for athletes—triathletes in particular—is “intense.” I used to worry when meeting someone for the first time who had been described in this way. I would imagine a recovering drug addict with the shakes, or one of those perpetually angry people who can’t drive a quarter mile without a road rage incident. When used for a triathlete, however, “intense” seems to describe a unique and admirable brand of overboard, a characteristic that’s essentially a prerequisite if an athlete plans to pursue the sport at an elite level. To be successful, you have to obsess about aero details and training plans; your day and your workouts must be fanatically regimented. For Freddie, triathlon has long been a full-time job.

What’s interesting about Freddie, maybe even a little refreshing, is that he doesn’t wax on about how wonderful the sport is. I think anyone who takes any type of activity to the highest possible level, whether it’s cake-making or multisport training, and can still love it day in and day out...well, good on them, but my guess is that they’re not pursuing it to the degree they could be, or they’re just plain crazy.

“It’s nothing but pain and train,” Freddie says of triathlon. “I can’t say I’m going to miss anything about this sport except the friends I’ve made and the people who’ve supported me through the years.”

I don’t know Freddie well, but I’m not sure I believe him. It’s true that at a certain point there’s more labor than love in competition, but when you devote years to a sport, it’s impossible to separate yourself from it without a little nostalgia. It’s a part of who you were, and in many ways, who you always will be.

Of course, with Freddie, the first question is whether he’ll even stop competing. If I was one of those lovely Florida ladies in contention, I think I’d jump the gun and meet him at the finish line in Milwaukee.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kona Ironman Bike Stats

by Jack Mott

A common topic of debate is how much faster modern triathletes are today thanks to fancier bike equipment. Some claim that legends like Mark Allen and Dave Scott rode their round tube frames just as fast as today's pros ride their high-tech carbon, aero equipment. Comparing bike performance is a tricky business, as a host of factors make bike times very "noisy." The winds at Kona vary greatly, which can affect bike times by as much as 15 minutes or more. Tactics also affect times, as some years the contenders will all be together on the bike course with nobody pushing the pace. To try to answer the question and make sense of it all we have put together some interactive charts.

The slowtwitch kona archive provides a handy source of data on the top 10 finishers each year since the start of Kona. We chose to look at the time period from 1988 to 2014, as this represents a period when the depth of talent was solid and the course was relatively constant. It also represents a time after the introduction of the aerobar, when professionals were already adopting bike positions similar to modern athletes. Some small course changes have occurred over these years, but the bulk of the bike course has remained the same. Before 1998, bike times used to include transition times. They generally add up to about 4 minutes, so we have subtracted 4 minutes from all bike times prior to 1998. First up, we take a look at the average bike splits among the top 10 overall finishers. Hover over a year for more info, pictures, and links when available.
You can see that there is a clear downward trend in bike times. The linear trend shown in light blue suggests that bike times have improved by about 8.3 minutes over the time period. However, that isn't necessarily all a result of improved bike gear. Records have been dropping in all sports, even those like running, in which equipment plays almost no role. Since running isn't impacted much by technical advancement, it gives us a great point of comparison. We can compare the trends in the Kona run and bike and see if one has been improving at a faster rate than the other.



We find that running times have improved by about 3.7% since 1988. If athletes were making 3.7% more power on the bike course, we would only expect about 4 minutes faster bike times, not 8. This suggests that bike gear could be responsible for about 4 minutes of time savings, which is in line with what we might expect given the drag improvements in gear since then. Another interesting thing to note is that there has not been any improvement in the top 10 average bike splits since 2006. This is not entirely surprising as the degree to which bike gear has improved since that time is not huge, and not every athlete has access to the very best gear.

Another way to slice the data is to look at the fastest bike split each year. In this case we took the fastest bike split each year among the top 10 finishers. Anyone setting a fast time and then blowing up on the run is thus excluded. Hover over a point below to see who set the fast time that year.
Again we see a clear downward trend in bike times, almost the same trend as in the top 10 analysis in fact. One interesting property of both the top bike splits and the average bike splits is the consistently slow times between 1997 and 2005. Wind, tactics, drugs, and talent are possible explanations that come to mind, but we really don't know. If you have any ideas, drop us a comment and let us know. Also interesting is that unlike the top 10 bike splits, the best bike split is still trending down since 2006, perhaps reflecting that the top cyclists in the sport are taking more care to get the best performing sponsors and setting up their bikes as slick as possible.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Combining Race-Day or Training Time with Fun for the Kids

by Kat Hunter

Warming up for the HEB Zoo Stampede
As a parent, sometimes competing in endurance sport is an exercise in guilt as well as physical stamina. While guilt is perhaps an innate characteristic of modern-day parenting—you’re worried about everything from whether her carrots are organic (not that she’ll eat them anyway) to what effect putting her in timeout is going to have on her future SAT scores—but being an athlete adds another half a dozen layers to an already very complicated task. You don’t want to bore your kids, or deny them their own recreational activities, or hear them complain, 20 years from now, that their typical childhood weekend consisted of getting up before dawn to stand on the side of the road in the rain and wave for two seconds as mom or dad trotted by.

If there’s one thing you learn from being around kids, though, it’s the value of compromise. And not necessarily one of those eat-your-broccoli-and-you-can-have-ice-cream kind of compromises. It’s more like sharing. What if you were to plan out your race schedule or training in a way that ensured the whole family got to do something they consider fun?


Weekend Getaway in Waco: 

Cameron Park Zoo Run

The HEB Zoo Stampede 5K/10K run on Saturday, Nov. 8, which starts at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, makes for a fun and easy weekend getaway for all ages. Strollers are okay (pets are a no), and chip timing is available for an extra $5. Awards are given to the top three male and female finishers in each age group, as well as the top overall male and female finisher. Chidren under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Keep your race bib to enter the zoo and participate in the day’s special programming, which includes special talks from keepers and enrichment activities for the animals. One of the animal activities is painting, and many of the pieces are for sale—if you ever dreamed of owning the work of a Sumatran tiger or an African elephant, this is your chance.

The 52-acre zoo, located along the Brazos River, is special because it boasts a completely natural habitat for its 1,700+ animals, which represent more than 300 species. Three highlights will steal the show with a young audience: baby orangutan Batari, who is now about five months old; a new giraffe-feeding platform; and a clear acrylic tube that allows young visitors to slide through the underwater world of the river otter habitat.


While you’re in town, don’t miss the Mayborn Museum on the Baylor campus. Many of the museum’s exhibits on the natural science and cultural history of Central Texas are hands-on and kid-friendly. A favorite is the water and bubble room, where kids can blow giant-sized bubbles and even step inside one. “Aunt Blanche’s tea room” is the place to go for imaginary refreshment, and the pioneer room, where kids can sit in a wagon, don period-style clothing, and try out pioneer tools like washboards or looms, is a good way to show how good they have it with their own household chores. This Texas Highways article describes the museum’s offerings in depth.

If your schedule allows, visit the Waco Mammoth Site to see the in situ remains of six Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals. (Note that the site is closed on Sunday and Monday.)

Driving distance from Austin to Waco — ~1.5 hrs




State Parks Perfect for Family Vacations & Training:

Bastrop State Park

Buescher State Park
Though wildfires destroyed much of Bastrop State Park’s pine forest in 2011, the 1930s-era CCC cabins were saved by firefighters, and many trails, campsites and facilities have now reopened. Park Road 1C to neighboring Buescher State Park offers about 12 paved miles of rolling hills and solitude. Since it has very little traffic, the road is both a good place to train and to bring older children or beginners to ride. 

Driving distance from Austin to park — ~45 min


Pedernales State Park

Pedernales State Park is one of the often-overlooked gems of the Texas park system. If you like clear, moving water and a little geology, this is one of the nicest places you can spend a weekend in the Hill Country. Accessed by a short nature trail, the falls area—formed by a tilted bed of layered limestone that causes the river to drop about 50 feet over a distance of 3,000 feet—is the main attraction. Water levels change this landscape dramatically, creating deep pools and rock islands. Swimming and wading aren’t allowed at the falls, but you'll find ample entertainment in exploring the steep slopes and rushing water, navigating around obstacles, fishing the banks, and searching for Cretaceous marine fossils embedded in the rock. Swimming is allowed further downriver, where the Pedernales looks more like a typical Hill Country stream—much more shallow, crystal clear, and lined by beautiful old cypress trees.

The seven-mile Wolf Mountain Trail would make a good trail run, and the park road is a good place to bike or run on pavement. You can also head east from the entrance of the park onto Fitzhugh Road, a popular cycling route. This particular stretch of Fitzhugh, from the park to Highway 12, is the nicest to ride as it has the least traffic.

Driving distance from Austin to park — ~ 1 hour


Enchanted Rock State Park

Erock is so popular that you have to plan your visit carefully. Once the park reaches capacity, you have to wait outside the park until other visitors leave; on weekends and holidays, there’s often a long line of cars idling outside the gate.

Enchanted Rock Extreme Duathlon
The area beneath the park is characterized by a huge underground formation of pink granite, and several humps of this rock—called exfoliaton domes, their layers eroding away like layers of an onion—rise above the dry grasslands and scrubby woods at the surface. Most visitors climb the Summit Trail to the top of the Big Rock and call it a day, but there’s a lot more on offer here. You’re free to explore the other formations and trails, climb the boulders, camp in primitive sites and car-accessible areas, and even explore a wild cave. (Note: The cave is a very narrow, very dark crevice in the rock that is minimally marked. Bring a headlamp and a sense of adventure, and understand that this activity is done completely at your own risk.)

The five-mile Loop Trail is a great run; this trail is the first run segment of the Enchanted Rock Extreme Duathlon, held in March. (The last run is straight up the Summit Trail to the top.) Cycling in the Fredericksburg area is very scenic, and it’s easy to get a lot of miles in.

Driving distance from Austin to park— ~1.75 hrs


Austin Events & Weekly Series:

Driveway Series

October 16 is the final Driveway Series for 2015. If you haven’t seen this friendly, fast-paced Thursday-night criterium in East Austin, you’re missing out. Free beer and bike racing—need we say more?  Spectate or race the events for the adults, which start at 5 p.m., but let the kids show you how it’s really done in the final race of the night, the Kids’ Lap at 7:11 p.m. Most participants are 5 or 6 years old, with an average age range from 3 to 8 years. This video by Wienot Films features the stars of the show.

Can’t make it next week? Check back in the spring for the 2016 schedule.


Dirt Derby

Cyclocross can be intimidating—sticks and stones will break your bones, but man, the heckling really stings, too. We hear that the fans are a little nicer to kids, though. The Dirt Derby kicks off with a kids’ race every Thursday night through November 25. Kids under 18 are free!


HITS Circuit of the Americas Events

How cool is it to race on the same track as F1 cars? HITS Austin, held on December 14 at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack, has “a distance for everyone,” offering a Friends & Family mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and sprint duathlon (2 mi run/10 mi bike/2 mi run).



We’re looking for more ideas and tried-and-true methods for balancing family life and competition in endurance sport, especially local events and destinations. Share your stories with us on the Austin Tri-Cyclist Facebook page or send an email to kat@kathrynhunter.net.