Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top Posts for 2013

This year, Austin Tri-Cyclist's correspondents have reported on triathlons and crits, reviewed bikes and helmets, interviewed top endurance athletes and pros, compiled lists of Austin's cycling and swimming hotspots, and a little bit of everything between. Below are some of our most popular posts from 2013.

Happy holidays from everyone at ATC!

Friday, December 20, 2013

How to Stay Warm on the Bike

In Austin, the temperature doesn’t prevent you from riding outside; your wardrobe does.

There are a lot of ways to go wrong. Baggy clothing. Bulky clothing. Materials that don’t block the wind or that soak up moisture and leave you marinating in your own sweat, which can make you even colder. If you’re planning on braving the elements, bike-specific winter gear is well worth the investment.

If you dissect a bundled-up Austin bike racer from the top down, this is what you’re likely to find.

The ears catch a lot of wind. Even when you’re riding hard and the rest of your body feels comfortable, they can still be quite cold.

A headband is a good choice for in-between weather or for cyclists who tend to overheat. A skull cap that covers your whole head is best for really cold days.

What everyone says about heat escaping through your head—well, it’s true. A hat can make a surprising amount of difference in overall comfort. Headbands and hats are also easy to remove and put in your pocket if the weather warms up. Try a balaclava if you’re going out in truly arctic conditions.

Base layer 
It doesn’t seem to make sense that one thin layer of fabric can make you so much warmer...and yet, it does. A base layer, designed to shield you from the wind, should fit fairly tight and be made of a sweat-wicking material. Some options, like the lightweight Louis Garneau SF-2 Plastron, offer a wind-breaking surface in the front and a breathable material at the back.

A good base layer is essential for winter cycling. You can go with a long-sleeved base layer or sleeveless base layer, or wear both on especially cold days.

Typically, a long-sleeved or short-sleeved jersey is worn over the base layer, giving you another layer of warmth as well as easily accessible pockets.

Some riders like to wear a vest over a jersey or over a jersey and base layer. This offers extra wind protection and warmth for your core, and it can easily be removed and carried in a pocket. Clear vests eliminate the (pressing, we know) worry of color coordination and keep your jersey and race numbers visible.

A thin, long-sleeved windbreaker can be good for really cold days, but you’ll want one that fits snugly—not only does a baggy jacket feel like a parachute and make an annoying flapping sound, but it also can create a constant ballooning of cold air around your core. Many cycling jackets also help protect against rain.

Cycling-specific jackets typically have a tailored fit, good ventilation, and pockets. Convertible jackets with removable sleeves are practical for Texas weather; the Cannondale Morphis, with sleeves that attach with magnets, is popular.

Arm warmers
Arm warmers are especially nice when it’s just a little cold out or when you expect it to warm up significantly. If you get too hot, you can roll them down onto your wrists or stuff them in your pockets without getting off the bike.

In combination with a sleeveless base layer and jersey, arm warmers cover up all the exposed skin on your arms but let your armpits breathe. Worn over the top of a long-sleeved base layer, they offer another non-bulky, easily removable layer of warmth and wind protection.

Frozen fingers can make shifting difficult and turn an otherwise pleasant ride into a death march. Wool gloves (try the DeFeet Wool DuraGloves on for size) keep your hands warm while also letting your skin breathe. You might also want heavier-duty gloves, such as the Louis Garneau Gel Ex, on standby for very cold days. Some cyclists swear by “lobster gloves,” which sandwich your fingers together rather than separating them individually, allowing your body to do some of the work in conserving heat. The Louis Garneau Super Prestige or Cannondale 3 Season Plus are great choices, with removable “lobster” pockets that can be tucked away when not needed.

Pants/Knee warmers/Leg warmers
Leg warmers vs. knee warmers
You have a lot of options when it comes to covering up your bottom half. Not as important as your core in staying warm, your legs and butt don’t require as much layering. For extra cold days, go with long tights or knickers (3/4 tights). For chilly weather, try knee warmers or leg warmers, which can both be easily removed.

Some tights have a built-in chamois, but you can also layer your regular shorts under or over long tights or knickers without a built-in chamois. ATC has a big selection of 2XU compression tights, which work great for this type of layering.

Wool is the secret. Also, don’t go too thick—you don’t want to impair blood circulation in your feet, so often a thin(ish) wool sock will do the trick better.

Shoe Booties
Shoe booties are nothing short of miraculous. Not only do you avoid the feeling of feet frozen solid, but your whole body feels warmer. They largely serve to protect your feet from the wind, so they don’t tend to cause you to overheat. Booties also work very well in the rain. However, you can also go with toe covers, which are effective against the cold and wind, though less so.

Finding the right combination
You’ll want to mix and match the above items according to the conditions and the effort. Generally, the less you can wear and be comfortable, the better. Being way too hot seems to negatively affect performance more than being a little cold. It’s also no fun to lug around bulky gear in your jersey pocket for most of the ride.

In chilly weather, if your core and your extremities are warm, you can afford to show some skin. A good rule of thumb—if you’re going to want to take off an item of clothing 15 or 20 minutes into the ride, it’s probably not worth putting it on. Start out a little cold and pedal hard to warm up!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gift Ideas for Endurance Athletes
Buy Local!

Endurance athletes can be hard to buy for. Their wardrobe consists primarily of race T-shirts. They don’t spend enough time on the couch for a Snuggie or slippers. It’s unlikely they’ll appreciate an electronic singing fish or iguana (Does anyone?). And cookies and sweets are out because you never know when they’re on a gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian diet of raw beets and organic kale.  

Fortunately, ATC has a variety of goods that are as appealing as they are utilitarian, making even the most unusual and extreme partisans of the endurance persuasion happy on Christmas morning.

For stocking stuffers
With a quick stroll through ATC you can find enough small and inexpensive paraphernalia to fill a stocking to the bursting point. Some of our favorites: tubes; tires; nutrition like Clif Shot Blocks and Gels, Hammer Gels, Honey Stinger waffles, salt tablets, and Beet Elite; flat kits and CO2 cartridges; socks; saddle bags; auto emblems that tell the world you've tallied up everything from 13.1 to 70.3 miles; and $1, individual packets of chamois cream.

For laughs
A bike toothbrush, Chamois Butt’r, or “The King of Lubes” (chain lubes, that is)...some bike goods make excellent conversation starters. And how cool is it to buy someone a crack pipe for Christmas? (No one in the history of the world has ever really called it a “disc wheel adapter.”)

For the ATCer
Nothing says fast and fashionable better than a scaly little armadillo. Find the ATC dillo on all types of gear, from hats, saddle bags, and jerseys to water bottles and tri suits. Our favorite is the dillo bar tape (available in white and red).

For kids
Girls' Zoot tri suit
Everyone knows the cutest stuff comes pint sized. The ATC 360 store in Westlake carries kids’ bikes in stock. At both stores you can find kids’ tri suits and other apparel, including swim gear.   

For any brand of bike lover
Find the perfect gift for cyclists of all stripes. ATC has a wide selection of bike pumps, tri and road helmets, bike lights (check out the new Light & Motion lights), bike locks, bike tools, bike shorts and other apparel, and of course Cannondale, BMC, Cervelo, Boardman, Litespeed, Fuji, Quintana Roo, and Focus bikes.

The Garmin Edge 510 ($329) makes an excellent holiday gift; it functions as a GPS device, providing distance and speed, as well as a head unit for power meters, heart rate monitors, and other ANT+ devices. Stravaholics can upload their workouts in real time.
2XU compression pants

For a creative gift, consider surprising your cyclist with coaching or a bike fit from Rothe Training.

For the all-weather cyclist
Tis the season of cold and miserable weather conditions. Easy to size without exact personal measurements, arm warmers, knee warmers, leg warmers, gloves, compression pants, shoe covers, and hats make great gifts.

A cyclist can never really have too much warm clothing, especially since arm warmers and leg warmers tend to fall into the same black hole as missing socks. Check back later this week for a full post on winter cycling apparel.   

For the aero-obsessed
Go all out and all aero with specialty water bottles, chainrings, bottle cages, or helmets like the LG Course and Giro Air Attack. Read our Aero Tune-Up post for more tips and ideas.

For runners
Visit the ATC 360 store in Westlake for the latest and greatest in running shoes (check out our shoe post on brands in stock). ATC also has a treasure trove of compression socks, sunglasses, fuel belts, and other gear to get you by on foot.

For swimmers
ATC’s recent renovations are worth seeing, especially the new swim center. You’ll find a robust collection of swim accessories like swim caps, goggles, flippers, training boards, pull buoys, hand paddles, and more, as well as ATC’s famously awesome selection of wetsuits. 

For triathletes
See above. ATC also carries a variety of tri-specific brands in apparel, bike shoes, and other gear.

To really impress
If you want to go all out this holiday season, ATC has plenty of high-end options. Get your cyclist a Garmin Vector ($1,695), the pedal-based power meter that’s making waves. The Zipp Super 9 Carbon Clincher disc wheel ($2,374.99) also makes a very exciting present beneath the tree. A new bike, however, is probably the ultimate gift—buy a big red bow and put it on one of ATC’s many top-of-the-line road, time trial, mountain, or cyclocross bikes.

For easy shopping
Gift certificates, always simple and always appreciated, can be used for anything in the shop. Available online and in store.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ironman Cozumel Race Report
December 1, 2013

By Gray Skinner

Last week my wife, Leah, and I traveled to Cozumel to compete in my first full iron distance race. After completing a dress rehearsal at Leadman in September, the sole focus of the rest of the year turned to getting ready for my main goals for 2013—completing a full ironman and securing a Kona slot for 2014.

Pre Race
Leah and I arrived the Monday before the race and spent a couple of days exploring the town of Tulum before taking the ferry over to the beautiful island of Cozumel, which is just off the coast of Cancun, on Wednesday evening. We spent the next few days checking out the course, exploring the island, catching up with other competitors, and enjoying some great food. On Saturday, I was relieved to finally check in bikes and gear bags and get this thing underway. I was experimenting with a three-week taper and was very anxious to feel some sensation in the legs.

Fellow Austin triathletes, Tres Mikes (Minardi, Bruff, and Pearson), were gracious enough to open the basement of their palatial island home to Leah and me on race eve.  After a gourmet in-house meal from their personal chef, we got to sleep at a reasonable hour, just a few hundred yards from the swim start. We slept well and awoke at 4 a.m. for a pre-race breakfast of coffee, tortillas, eggs, avocado, Nutella + banana, and a Clif Bar.

On the short bus ride to the new swim start, I had another Clif Bar and my new secret weapon, BeetElite. We unloaded from the buses and made our way to the beach for the swim start. We’d received word the night before that because of strong currents, the swim course would be slightly shortened from 3.8 kilometers to 3.1 kilometers and would not require us to swim against the current. I was not terribly disappointed by this news, and was really glad to have my ROKA Viper Pro swim skin since the swim would now be even faster!

We started in the water. After an anxious 15 minutes of treading water and trying to make sure I was as close to the front line as possible, the race was under way. Nothing can prepare you for the melee that is a mass start Ironman swim—2500 nervous, tapered, full of energy people thrashing about wildly as the swim begins.

After 400m, the herd had thinned significantly, and I got about the business of proper swimming. After my sub par performance at Leadman in September, I realized that I needed to finally come to terms with the fact that there are actually three sports in triathlon, not just two! For the first time since I began racing long-distance triathlon 18 months ago, I started swimming with a group and enlisted the help of local experts James Davison, Peter Mallet, and Andrea Fisher. The improvement was swift, and after a six-week, 100-kilometer block of swimming, my times dropped significantly and my confidence in swimming grew. At Cozumel, I came out of the water in around 40 minutes for the abbreviated swim, but, more importantly, I was exactly where I wanted to be. Leah yelled that I was only five minutes down on the first amateur and around 100th overall. Coming out of the water in the top 100 out of 2500+ was a huge accomplishment for me and started me out in a good spot.

From there I made my way through the showers, picked up my race bag from the rack, went into the changing tent, and then finally moved on into the maze of bike racks. I’m not sure how my T1 was, since I didn’t get a time coming out, but I estimate it to be around three to four minutes, as I was in the hinterlands of the bike racks and had to run more than 400 meters with my bike.

Relieved to be out of the water, I set about the business of the day. The bike course is three loops around the island of Cozumel. The course is very exposed in places, and the winds picked up significantly throughout the day. The opening stretch was very fast, with a cross tailwind as we headed south to the tip of the island.

I was passing people from the very beginning, and fifteen minutes into the bike, I got a split that there were now only 58 people in front of me. I settled into the long ride and tried to control my early efforts. By the time I got to the end of the first lap, things started to bunch up a bit at the pointy end of the race. Coming through town, I got a split from Leah that I was around 30th overall after the first lap. Good news.

As we exited town, I looked back and noticed that several riders had queued up behind and that I was catching a group of several riders. Within a few minutes, I found myself in the middle of a group of about 12 strong riders. I started looking at my numbers; back in the tailwind section, we were going 24 to 28mph, and guys were sitting up even freewheeling at times. Myself and a few others tried a few times to go to the front and pass, but with the tailwind, the entire group would surge at once, and anytime I moved to the left to pass, everyone behind followed! I felt like I was in a bike race. It was becoming clear that a rider would have to go 28+mph to get away from these guys. With 30 guys up the road and having passed a few penalty tents with riders in them, I knew that there was probably an even faster peloton farther up the road. I could either sit here with these jokers and save my legs, or put in an extra effort to lose them.

Once the headwind section started again at mile 56, I made my move, “attacking” the group from the back through an aid station and settling into ~300 watts for 15 to 20 minutes. This was a big risk to deviate from my pacing so much, but I knew it was time to roll the dice and use my strength to try to move up through the field before the run. After 10 minutes, I looked back and saw open road; the gamble had paid off, and I was free of the wheel suckers.

Coming through town the second time, I got another split that I was now in the top 20. I kept on the pace for the third lap and was feeling great on the bike, picking guys off one by one, complicated by the fact that I was lapping other athletes in droves. I kept the pressure on, and with 10 miles to go, I came in off the bike with two other guys, Dan Morwood of Canada (second overall amateur) and Tony from Brazil (Antonio Ferreira, third overall amateur and friend of ATC), very excited to be at the front of the race top five off the bike.

The entire amateur race was now within sight, and the legs felt fast and light coming off the bike. Caught up in the excitement of the race and fueled by adrenaline, I proceeded to deviate from my race plan on running a conservative 3:15 marathon (7:27/mile) and decided to roll the dice and stay in the top three to five as long as I could. This was a big gamble, and it was paying off through mile 11 to 12 of the run. First mile was 6:50, next 7, 7, etc. I was maintaining my position and moved into top four overall.

Around mile 13, the wheels started to fall off. With the afternoon sun blazing down, the pace began to slow, slightly at first, but then I started to see 8 minute miles. I can’t describe how bad the pain in my legs was.  Each step was an effort, my brain telling my body to stop, but I still had a half marathon to go. This battle between brain and body played itself out over the next 13 miles as I held on for dear life and slowed. While I didn’t completely fall apart, my marathon splits ended up something like 1 hour 31 minutes/1 hour 53 minutes.

It’s a strange feeling when the only thing you can do to keep going is to decide how much physical pain you want to endure and at what cost to your body longer term. I discovered some new dark places in my soul during the second half of that run. The funny thing with the race is that it was pretty much effortless until that point. It really comes down to either a) how long you can delay that feeling or b) how much you can endure the pain. During the last two miles, I dug deep and found a couple of faster miles, doing mile 26 in sub 7:30.

Overall, I was very pleased with the effort. There’s so much more to learn and work to do, but I came away uninjured with a Kona slot, my first IM race experience, a marathon PR, and huge confidence in my ability to keep it together when the body starts to rebel. The Ironman experience truly is all that it’s cracked up to be, this coming from a lifelong skeptic!

Huge thanks to my amazing wife, Leah Skinner, for being the best supporter, fan, wife, cheerleader, and coach anyone could ask for! Thanks to ROKA Sports, BeetElite, Enlightened Performance Coaching, Satoshi, Scott and Sol at Austinbikes, Austin Tri Cyclist, Andrea Fisher and JCC Masters, Sam Krieg, James Davison, Jack Mott, Jack Cartwright, Peter Mallet, Ben Muniga, and Stephen Collins. Couldn’t have done it without all of you. My sincere thanks!